Commentary Magazine


Topic: Matt Continetti

Flotsam and Jetsam

I’m sure it is going to be blamed on the Chamber of Commerce: “Gallup finds 21% of Americans satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time. If that figure does not improve considerably in the next two weeks, it would be the lowest level of U.S. satisfaction Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election in more than 30 years of tracking this measure.”

If Jimmy Carter is talking about Israel, it’s going to be slanderous: “Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians are ‘living in a cage’ in Gaza and that the militant group Hamas must be included in all major efforts for peace.” Oh, and Obama’s Medal of Freedom winner Mary Robinson was along for the trip.

Now that the PA has bugged out of direct non-peace talks, Israeli leaders are right to be concerned that the next step is going to be an attempt to impose a peace deal. Ambassador Michael Oren is having none of it: “Like Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu will not allow the United Nations, or any other organization, to dictate our borders. They will be determined through negotiations.”

If he’s not taking responsibility for the economy or his party’s train wreck now, there’s no way he’s going to be sticking around to explain the election results: “President Obama is giving Republicans a 10-day window to set the agenda for a lame-duck session and the new legislative year by leaving the country right after the midterm elections.” In short, run away!

Jack Conway is going to be the winner of one contest, according to Jason Zengerle: “There are still two weeks left until the midterm elections, but it’s not too early to declare a winner in the contest for the most despicable political ad of this campaign season. … When the debate was over, Paul refused to shake Conway’s hand. Frankly, I don’t blame him. First, no candidate over the age of, say, 30 should be held politically accountable for anything he or she did in college—short of gross academic misconduct or committing a felony. Second, and more importantly, a politician’s religious faith should simply be off-limits.”

Matt Continetti explains that it’s not going to be easy for Sarah Palin to get the GOP nod: “Palin needs to run a campaign in which she demonstrates the ability to stay on message, raise significant sums of money from a broad group of donors, demonstrate familiarity with the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy, and present a unifying theme of American strength, at home and abroad. It’s a tall order, I know. But the next Republican president will do all these things.” At least she’ll have the argument that an Ivy League degree is irrelevant to the presidency.

It’s going to be a long two years: “[T]he Obama administration is still absorbing the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date rejected a proposed American compromise package that would have offered various security and other assurances to Israel in exchange for a 60-day renewal of a partial West Bank settlement freeze that expired last month. The American team is said to be frustrated and upset at Netanyahu’s dismissal to date of the package, which was drafted by the NSC’s Dennis Ross in close consultation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho.” They didn’t see this coming? Now that is scary.

I’m sure it is going to be blamed on the Chamber of Commerce: “Gallup finds 21% of Americans satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time. If that figure does not improve considerably in the next two weeks, it would be the lowest level of U.S. satisfaction Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election in more than 30 years of tracking this measure.”

If Jimmy Carter is talking about Israel, it’s going to be slanderous: “Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians are ‘living in a cage’ in Gaza and that the militant group Hamas must be included in all major efforts for peace.” Oh, and Obama’s Medal of Freedom winner Mary Robinson was along for the trip.

Now that the PA has bugged out of direct non-peace talks, Israeli leaders are right to be concerned that the next step is going to be an attempt to impose a peace deal. Ambassador Michael Oren is having none of it: “Like Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu will not allow the United Nations, or any other organization, to dictate our borders. They will be determined through negotiations.”

If he’s not taking responsibility for the economy or his party’s train wreck now, there’s no way he’s going to be sticking around to explain the election results: “President Obama is giving Republicans a 10-day window to set the agenda for a lame-duck session and the new legislative year by leaving the country right after the midterm elections.” In short, run away!

Jack Conway is going to be the winner of one contest, according to Jason Zengerle: “There are still two weeks left until the midterm elections, but it’s not too early to declare a winner in the contest for the most despicable political ad of this campaign season. … When the debate was over, Paul refused to shake Conway’s hand. Frankly, I don’t blame him. First, no candidate over the age of, say, 30 should be held politically accountable for anything he or she did in college—short of gross academic misconduct or committing a felony. Second, and more importantly, a politician’s religious faith should simply be off-limits.”

Matt Continetti explains that it’s not going to be easy for Sarah Palin to get the GOP nod: “Palin needs to run a campaign in which she demonstrates the ability to stay on message, raise significant sums of money from a broad group of donors, demonstrate familiarity with the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy, and present a unifying theme of American strength, at home and abroad. It’s a tall order, I know. But the next Republican president will do all these things.” At least she’ll have the argument that an Ivy League degree is irrelevant to the presidency.

It’s going to be a long two years: “[T]he Obama administration is still absorbing the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date rejected a proposed American compromise package that would have offered various security and other assurances to Israel in exchange for a 60-day renewal of a partial West Bank settlement freeze that expired last month. The American team is said to be frustrated and upset at Netanyahu’s dismissal to date of the package, which was drafted by the NSC’s Dennis Ross in close consultation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho.” They didn’t see this coming? Now that is scary.

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Christie Momentum?

Earlier this week, I remarked on Chris Christie’s YouTube stardom. I’m not the only one who’s taking him seriously. Matt Continetti thinks Christie may be the candidate the GOP base is looking for:

The New Jersey governor is touring the country in support of Republican candidates. He’s taken on the public sector unions. He’s made some hard calls. He speaks in a blunt, confrontational style. Yet he remains popular. Most striking, he’s a Republican from the Northeast who has national appeal. Last week Christie won a Tea Party presidential straw poll–in Virginia. In September, he came in second in another straw poll–held in Chicago.

Christie denies any interest in the top job. But he’s clearly a born executive. A pro-lifer, he has none of the social-issues baggage that has harmed Northeast Republicans in past primaries. He has a record to be proud of. He’s incredibly well spoken. Other than Paul Ryan, I can’t think of another Republican officeholder who gets conservatives as excited as Christie does.

He doesn’t have explicit foreign policy experience, although he did successfully prosecute a terrorist. (Nor do I see many other foreign policy mavens, other than John Bolton, considering a run. Now there’s a ticket!) And he says he really isn’t interested. But then so did Barak Obama a mere two years before he was elected president.

The Christie buzz will be followed by buzz for and about other potential candidates. But it reminds us that the field has hardly been set and that conservative activists are still shopping around for someone to excite them.

Earlier this week, I remarked on Chris Christie’s YouTube stardom. I’m not the only one who’s taking him seriously. Matt Continetti thinks Christie may be the candidate the GOP base is looking for:

The New Jersey governor is touring the country in support of Republican candidates. He’s taken on the public sector unions. He’s made some hard calls. He speaks in a blunt, confrontational style. Yet he remains popular. Most striking, he’s a Republican from the Northeast who has national appeal. Last week Christie won a Tea Party presidential straw poll–in Virginia. In September, he came in second in another straw poll–held in Chicago.

Christie denies any interest in the top job. But he’s clearly a born executive. A pro-lifer, he has none of the social-issues baggage that has harmed Northeast Republicans in past primaries. He has a record to be proud of. He’s incredibly well spoken. Other than Paul Ryan, I can’t think of another Republican officeholder who gets conservatives as excited as Christie does.

He doesn’t have explicit foreign policy experience, although he did successfully prosecute a terrorist. (Nor do I see many other foreign policy mavens, other than John Bolton, considering a run. Now there’s a ticket!) And he says he really isn’t interested. But then so did Barak Obama a mere two years before he was elected president.

The Christie buzz will be followed by buzz for and about other potential candidates. But it reminds us that the field has hardly been set and that conservative activists are still shopping around for someone to excite them.

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Widening Conservatives’ Vision

Matt Continetti makes an extraordinarily smart point about conservatives’ agenda:

Numbercrunching is a valuable skill, but it also has a tendency to crimp the political imagination. So Republicans must be careful as they trim expenses. Otherwise they’ll fall into the austerity trap.

In the austerity trap, Republican congressmen get so outraged over earmarks to fund studies of the mating patterns of red-bellied newts, they neglect legislation that would foster long-term growth. Deficit anxiety causes conservative lawmakers to rule out sensible policies like a payroll tax cut. A myopic focus on government spending causes Republican leaders to short-change the defense budget and renege on America’s global responsibilities. The entitlement nightmare frightens GOP candidates into framing their economic agenda in strictly negative terms.

To a degree, we have already seen this in the preliminary rounds of the 2012 campaign. As Michael Barone points out, Mitch Daniels is gaining visibility as a sober-minded skinflint. No one has a better command of numbers or can come up with more creative ways of taming entitlements. But he also exhibits the danger signs that Matt enumerates. When I asked Daniels about foreign policy, it was apparent that he regarded this as a line item. He cautioned that we need to prune defense spending and also that we the need to cut back on our overseas commitments. (Which ones?)

Matt suggests one way to avoid the “austerity trap”: “The best place to combine fiscal rectitude and pro-growth economics is the tax code. After repealing Obama-care, the second agenda item for the new GOP Congress is extending current tax rates. Then, go for tax reform.”

And there is something else that is needed: a positive message centered on faith in the common man, love of liberty, and restoration of America’s greatness. Americans may be overdosed on charisma and lofty messages, you say. But perhaps it’s just substanceless rhetoric that has worn out its welcome. Conservatism needs both the notes and the melody — smart policies combined with a reminder that the rationale for limited government isn’t found in accounting manuals, but in the Preamble to the Constitution.

Matt Continetti makes an extraordinarily smart point about conservatives’ agenda:

Numbercrunching is a valuable skill, but it also has a tendency to crimp the political imagination. So Republicans must be careful as they trim expenses. Otherwise they’ll fall into the austerity trap.

In the austerity trap, Republican congressmen get so outraged over earmarks to fund studies of the mating patterns of red-bellied newts, they neglect legislation that would foster long-term growth. Deficit anxiety causes conservative lawmakers to rule out sensible policies like a payroll tax cut. A myopic focus on government spending causes Republican leaders to short-change the defense budget and renege on America’s global responsibilities. The entitlement nightmare frightens GOP candidates into framing their economic agenda in strictly negative terms.

To a degree, we have already seen this in the preliminary rounds of the 2012 campaign. As Michael Barone points out, Mitch Daniels is gaining visibility as a sober-minded skinflint. No one has a better command of numbers or can come up with more creative ways of taming entitlements. But he also exhibits the danger signs that Matt enumerates. When I asked Daniels about foreign policy, it was apparent that he regarded this as a line item. He cautioned that we need to prune defense spending and also that we the need to cut back on our overseas commitments. (Which ones?)

Matt suggests one way to avoid the “austerity trap”: “The best place to combine fiscal rectitude and pro-growth economics is the tax code. After repealing Obama-care, the second agenda item for the new GOP Congress is extending current tax rates. Then, go for tax reform.”

And there is something else that is needed: a positive message centered on faith in the common man, love of liberty, and restoration of America’s greatness. Americans may be overdosed on charisma and lofty messages, you say. But perhaps it’s just substanceless rhetoric that has worn out its welcome. Conservatism needs both the notes and the melody — smart policies combined with a reminder that the rationale for limited government isn’t found in accounting manuals, but in the Preamble to the Constitution.

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RE: No Deal, Mr. President

Matt Continetti agrees that John Boehner strayed off the “no tax hike” reservation and has been upstaged not only by other Republicans but by Democrats as well. The latest is Rep. Zack Space. (“We need to keep cutting taxes to spur our economy.”)

This afternoon, Sen. Mitch McConnell also took to the Senate floor, citing Sen. Joe Lieberman and other Democratic support for a full extension of the Bush tax cuts. (“The good news is that a growing chorus of Democrats, including at least five here in the Senate, are coming round on this issue. They oppose the tax hikes the administration is proposing. As Senator Lieberman put it earlier today, ‘I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through. The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.’”) McConnell’s remarks are worth reading in full since they represent, I would suggest, the thinking of virtually every Republican office holder and candidate:

As for the next step, Republicans stood together just before the August recess and put together a plan that would save taxpayers $300 billion over the next 10 years. That’s a good place to start.

So Democrats have a choice: they can stand with us on this proposal and show that they finally realize we can’t spend our way out of the recession. Or they can continue to stand with an administration whose policies — real and threatened — represent the greatest obstacle to our nation’s economic recovery.

In other words, no deal, Mr. President.

Matt Continetti agrees that John Boehner strayed off the “no tax hike” reservation and has been upstaged not only by other Republicans but by Democrats as well. The latest is Rep. Zack Space. (“We need to keep cutting taxes to spur our economy.”)

This afternoon, Sen. Mitch McConnell also took to the Senate floor, citing Sen. Joe Lieberman and other Democratic support for a full extension of the Bush tax cuts. (“The good news is that a growing chorus of Democrats, including at least five here in the Senate, are coming round on this issue. They oppose the tax hikes the administration is proposing. As Senator Lieberman put it earlier today, ‘I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through. The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.’”) McConnell’s remarks are worth reading in full since they represent, I would suggest, the thinking of virtually every Republican office holder and candidate:

As for the next step, Republicans stood together just before the August recess and put together a plan that would save taxpayers $300 billion over the next 10 years. That’s a good place to start.

So Democrats have a choice: they can stand with us on this proposal and show that they finally realize we can’t spend our way out of the recession. Or they can continue to stand with an administration whose policies — real and threatened — represent the greatest obstacle to our nation’s economic recovery.

In other words, no deal, Mr. President.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Warren Buffett doesn’t think Goldman Sachs did anything wrong: “t doesn’t make any difference whether it was Paulson on the other side of the deal or whether Goldman was on the other side of the deal or whether Berkshire was on the other side of the deal.”

Obama sure doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help Congressional Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s Washington-bashing could boomerang on his own party in Congress if he’s not careful, House Democratic leaders warned White House senior adviser Daivd Axelrod in a closed-door meeting Thursday. The fear — raised by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, campaign chief Chris Van Hollen and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn — is that Democrats have more to lose if anti-Washington sentiment is not directed at one party or the other.” Somehow Obama thinks voters won’t notice that he’s part of Washington.

Hezbollah and Syria have gotten the idea that the Obami aren’t going to do anything about the Scud missiles in Lebanon: “Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that the Lebanese militia had a ‘legal and humanitarian’ right to amass weapons in order to protect those ‘oppressed and threatened by Israel,’ Israel Radio reported Saturday.”

The Gray Lady criticizes Obama for not doing anything about the Florida oil spill for days: “The company, BP, seems to have been slow to ask for help, and, on Friday, both federal and state officials accused it of not moving aggressively or swiftly enough. Yet the administration should not have waited, and should have intervened much more quickly on its own initiative. A White House as politically attuned as this one should have been conscious of two obvious historical lessons. One was the Exxon Valdez, where a late and lame response by both industry and the federal government all but destroyed one of the country’s richest fishing grounds and ended up costing billions of dollars. The other was President George W. Bush’s hapless response to Hurricane Katrina.” Ouch.

Big Insurance can’t find anything wrong with the Obami’s financial-reform bill. But “don’t expect this fact to get in the way of Obama portraying this bill as a broadside to the special interests. And that reformer-vs-industry narrative, like an old blanket or a bowl of chicken-noodle soup, is too familiar and too comfortable for the mainstream press to shed.”

Matt Continetti doesn’t see anything that will absorb Obama and his fellow Democrats as much as bullying his opponents: “Iran is close to obtaining nuclear weapons. The euro zone is in crisis. The U.S. unemployment rate is near 10 percent. America’s social insurance programs threaten to bankrupt the country. And—most unusual—the Washington Nationals are above .500. But rest easy. None of this is distracting the Obama administration and congressional Democrats from their full-time occupation: demonizing the political opposition.”

Stuart Rothenberg doesn’t think Charlie Crist’s independent run changes much of anything in the senate outlook: “Florida Governor Charlie’ Crist’s switch out of the GOP Senate race and into the Senate contest as an Independent, combined with the entry of wealthy businessman Jeff Greene into the Democrat race, adds some uncertainty into the contest. But it doesn’t, in our view, change the bottom line entirely. Move from Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party to Narrow Advantage for Incumbent Party. Marco Rubio (R) remains the favorite, but the three-way contest is more unpredictable.” He thinks “the GOP seems most likely to net 5-7 Senate seats, with a 8-seat gain certainly possible (but still short of the 10-seat gain the GOP would need for control).”

Is anything going the Democrats’ way? Not really, says Charlie Cook: “The most recent, and quite compelling, bad omen surfaced in an April 27 Gallup report. The polling organization found that, based on interviews with more than 5,000 registered voters from April 1-25, Democrats had a 4-point lead in the generic congressional ballot test among those ‘not enthusiastic about voting.’ Among the all-important ‘very enthusiastic’ crowd, aka the folks most likely to vote, Democrats trailed by a whopping 20 points, 57 percent to 37 percent. . . . Even Democratic analysts don’t express much optimism about their party’s chances this fall.”

Warren Buffett doesn’t think Goldman Sachs did anything wrong: “t doesn’t make any difference whether it was Paulson on the other side of the deal or whether Goldman was on the other side of the deal or whether Berkshire was on the other side of the deal.”

Obama sure doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help Congressional Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s Washington-bashing could boomerang on his own party in Congress if he’s not careful, House Democratic leaders warned White House senior adviser Daivd Axelrod in a closed-door meeting Thursday. The fear — raised by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, campaign chief Chris Van Hollen and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn — is that Democrats have more to lose if anti-Washington sentiment is not directed at one party or the other.” Somehow Obama thinks voters won’t notice that he’s part of Washington.

Hezbollah and Syria have gotten the idea that the Obami aren’t going to do anything about the Scud missiles in Lebanon: “Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that the Lebanese militia had a ‘legal and humanitarian’ right to amass weapons in order to protect those ‘oppressed and threatened by Israel,’ Israel Radio reported Saturday.”

The Gray Lady criticizes Obama for not doing anything about the Florida oil spill for days: “The company, BP, seems to have been slow to ask for help, and, on Friday, both federal and state officials accused it of not moving aggressively or swiftly enough. Yet the administration should not have waited, and should have intervened much more quickly on its own initiative. A White House as politically attuned as this one should have been conscious of two obvious historical lessons. One was the Exxon Valdez, where a late and lame response by both industry and the federal government all but destroyed one of the country’s richest fishing grounds and ended up costing billions of dollars. The other was President George W. Bush’s hapless response to Hurricane Katrina.” Ouch.

Big Insurance can’t find anything wrong with the Obami’s financial-reform bill. But “don’t expect this fact to get in the way of Obama portraying this bill as a broadside to the special interests. And that reformer-vs-industry narrative, like an old blanket or a bowl of chicken-noodle soup, is too familiar and too comfortable for the mainstream press to shed.”

Matt Continetti doesn’t see anything that will absorb Obama and his fellow Democrats as much as bullying his opponents: “Iran is close to obtaining nuclear weapons. The euro zone is in crisis. The U.S. unemployment rate is near 10 percent. America’s social insurance programs threaten to bankrupt the country. And—most unusual—the Washington Nationals are above .500. But rest easy. None of this is distracting the Obama administration and congressional Democrats from their full-time occupation: demonizing the political opposition.”

Stuart Rothenberg doesn’t think Charlie Crist’s independent run changes much of anything in the senate outlook: “Florida Governor Charlie’ Crist’s switch out of the GOP Senate race and into the Senate contest as an Independent, combined with the entry of wealthy businessman Jeff Greene into the Democrat race, adds some uncertainty into the contest. But it doesn’t, in our view, change the bottom line entirely. Move from Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party to Narrow Advantage for Incumbent Party. Marco Rubio (R) remains the favorite, but the three-way contest is more unpredictable.” He thinks “the GOP seems most likely to net 5-7 Senate seats, with a 8-seat gain certainly possible (but still short of the 10-seat gain the GOP would need for control).”

Is anything going the Democrats’ way? Not really, says Charlie Cook: “The most recent, and quite compelling, bad omen surfaced in an April 27 Gallup report. The polling organization found that, based on interviews with more than 5,000 registered voters from April 1-25, Democrats had a 4-point lead in the generic congressional ballot test among those ‘not enthusiastic about voting.’ Among the all-important ‘very enthusiastic’ crowd, aka the folks most likely to vote, Democrats trailed by a whopping 20 points, 57 percent to 37 percent. . . . Even Democratic analysts don’t express much optimism about their party’s chances this fall.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Disingenuous: David Axelrod claims no “snub” of Bibi Netanyahu was intended when the Obami disallowed any cameras, held no press conference, and leaked its continuing bullying of Israel.

Sadly accurate: Bill Kristol explains that the administration “is going out of its way to distance itself from the Israeli government” and that this represents “a turn against Israel” by the Obami.

Unacceptable? Stephen Hayes argues that it is inevitable: “In private, the Obama administration has repeatedly warned Israel against a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Isolating Israel in this way sends the same message publicly; it says, in effect, ‘You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.’ … They offer platitudes, and they focus obsessively on diplomacy that virtually no one thinks will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter whether China participates in a conference call about weak U.N. sanctions that will have a negligible effect on Iran’s behavior. And containment, the de facto policy on Iran today, will become the acknowledged Obama administration approach to Iran. Which means, of course, that Iran will have the bomb.”

Predictable (when you elect an ultra-liberal masquerading as a moderate): Matt Continetti explains that “gone is the charismatic young man who told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that there was no Blue America and no Red America, only the United States of America. All that remains is a partisan liberal Democrat whose health care policy bulldozed public opinion, enraged the electorate, poisoned the Congress, and set into motion a sequence of events the outcome of which cannot be foreseen.”

Silly: “No good options for President Obama in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, “blares the Politico headline. Of course, there is — send him back to a military tribunal. The fact that “there doesn’t seem to be even the dim possibility of a political upside for the White House” is frankly beside the point and a dilemma entirely of its own ideological extremism and ineptitude.

Dangerously deluded (if she believes what she is saying): Valerie Jarrett argues that “we’re seeing steady progress in terms of a world coalition that will put that pressure on Iran … I think we have a strong force in the making and Iran will back down.”

Surprising (only to the media elites and those who’ve never been to a Tea Party): “When the tea party movement burst onto the scene last year to oppose President Barack Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the health care legislation they wanted to enact, some liberal critics were quick to label its activists as angry white men. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong. Many of the tea party’s most influential grass-roots and national leaders are women, and a new poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggests that women might make up a majority of the movement as well. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong.”

Disingenuous: David Axelrod claims no “snub” of Bibi Netanyahu was intended when the Obami disallowed any cameras, held no press conference, and leaked its continuing bullying of Israel.

Sadly accurate: Bill Kristol explains that the administration “is going out of its way to distance itself from the Israeli government” and that this represents “a turn against Israel” by the Obami.

Unacceptable? Stephen Hayes argues that it is inevitable: “In private, the Obama administration has repeatedly warned Israel against a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Isolating Israel in this way sends the same message publicly; it says, in effect, ‘You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.’ … They offer platitudes, and they focus obsessively on diplomacy that virtually no one thinks will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter whether China participates in a conference call about weak U.N. sanctions that will have a negligible effect on Iran’s behavior. And containment, the de facto policy on Iran today, will become the acknowledged Obama administration approach to Iran. Which means, of course, that Iran will have the bomb.”

Predictable (when you elect an ultra-liberal masquerading as a moderate): Matt Continetti explains that “gone is the charismatic young man who told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that there was no Blue America and no Red America, only the United States of America. All that remains is a partisan liberal Democrat whose health care policy bulldozed public opinion, enraged the electorate, poisoned the Congress, and set into motion a sequence of events the outcome of which cannot be foreseen.”

Silly: “No good options for President Obama in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, “blares the Politico headline. Of course, there is — send him back to a military tribunal. The fact that “there doesn’t seem to be even the dim possibility of a political upside for the White House” is frankly beside the point and a dilemma entirely of its own ideological extremism and ineptitude.

Dangerously deluded (if she believes what she is saying): Valerie Jarrett argues that “we’re seeing steady progress in terms of a world coalition that will put that pressure on Iran … I think we have a strong force in the making and Iran will back down.”

Surprising (only to the media elites and those who’ve never been to a Tea Party): “When the tea party movement burst onto the scene last year to oppose President Barack Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the health care legislation they wanted to enact, some liberal critics were quick to label its activists as angry white men. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong. Many of the tea party’s most influential grass-roots and national leaders are women, and a new poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggests that women might make up a majority of the movement as well. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Joe Lieberman, who continues to confound his critics, is championing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Left blogosphere will no doubt discern a plot to drive them bonkers.

The AP gets into the Rahm Emanuel drama – - “a narrative that some (though it’s still unclear who) think Obama’s chief of staff is smarter than the president, an awkward development in Washington’s deeply ingrained tradition of aides staying behind the scenes and not upstaging the boss. At the least, it creates an embarrassment and a distraction at a perilous time. And it belies Obama’s own prized no-drama culture, where neither dirty laundry nor disagreements are aired and theatrics aren’t tolerated. At worst, it sets in motion a dynamic that could lead to shakeups and further doubts about Obama’s leadership.”

Charles Krauthammer in defense of snail mail and scented love letters: “You can’t smell your e-mail.”

Scott Johnson: “The Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy K-8 public charter school in suburban St. Paul. It appears to be is an Islamic school operating illegally at taxpayer expense. Among other things, the school’s principal is an imam and almost all of its students are Muslim. It is housed in a building that was owned originally by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota (I’m not sure who owns it now). The school has in any event had a mutually beneficial relationship with MAS Minnesota since the school’s inception. The study of Arabic is required at the school. The Arabic comes in handy for the Koranic studies that follow the regular school day.” The ACLU is suing, and there is evidence that “TiZA has sought to intimidate witnesses.”

Rep. Bart Stupak says there are 12 votes that will switch from “yes” to “no” on the ObamaCare abortion-subsidy issue.

Ron Kampeas shares my amazement at Maureen Dowd’s latest column:  “To suggest [Israel] – and even its Orthodox — are sliding into theocracy is just nutty.”

The Cook Political Report (subscription required): “The retirement announcement of Democratic Rep. Eric Massa puts his Upstate New York ‘southern tier’ seat in grave jeopardy for Democrats. Massa won by only the barest of margins in 2008 after outspending a badly flawed GOP incumbent. … This seat moves from the Lean Democratic column to the Lean Republican column.”

Jonathan Capehart or Matt Continetti on Sarah Palin’s Jay Leno appearance? “Palin’s comfort in front of the camera and with the material, not to mention her don’t-mess-with-me jeans-and-heels outfit, made Palin a feast for the eyes and ears.”

Rep. Pete Stark, new House Ways and Means chairman, is too much even for Democrats who are looking for an alternative: “Looming over his bid for the top job is a long history of rash public statements. In 2004, a San Francisco talk radio station posted a voice mail message that Mr. Stark left for a constituent that said, in part: ‘Probably somebody put you up to this, and I’m not sure who it was, but I doubt if you could spell half the words in the letter and somebody wrote it for you.’  In late 2007 he apologized for saying that Republicans were sending American youth to Iraq ‘to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.’”

Joe Lieberman, who continues to confound his critics, is championing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Left blogosphere will no doubt discern a plot to drive them bonkers.

The AP gets into the Rahm Emanuel drama – - “a narrative that some (though it’s still unclear who) think Obama’s chief of staff is smarter than the president, an awkward development in Washington’s deeply ingrained tradition of aides staying behind the scenes and not upstaging the boss. At the least, it creates an embarrassment and a distraction at a perilous time. And it belies Obama’s own prized no-drama culture, where neither dirty laundry nor disagreements are aired and theatrics aren’t tolerated. At worst, it sets in motion a dynamic that could lead to shakeups and further doubts about Obama’s leadership.”

Charles Krauthammer in defense of snail mail and scented love letters: “You can’t smell your e-mail.”

Scott Johnson: “The Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy K-8 public charter school in suburban St. Paul. It appears to be is an Islamic school operating illegally at taxpayer expense. Among other things, the school’s principal is an imam and almost all of its students are Muslim. It is housed in a building that was owned originally by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota (I’m not sure who owns it now). The school has in any event had a mutually beneficial relationship with MAS Minnesota since the school’s inception. The study of Arabic is required at the school. The Arabic comes in handy for the Koranic studies that follow the regular school day.” The ACLU is suing, and there is evidence that “TiZA has sought to intimidate witnesses.”

Rep. Bart Stupak says there are 12 votes that will switch from “yes” to “no” on the ObamaCare abortion-subsidy issue.

Ron Kampeas shares my amazement at Maureen Dowd’s latest column:  “To suggest [Israel] – and even its Orthodox — are sliding into theocracy is just nutty.”

The Cook Political Report (subscription required): “The retirement announcement of Democratic Rep. Eric Massa puts his Upstate New York ‘southern tier’ seat in grave jeopardy for Democrats. Massa won by only the barest of margins in 2008 after outspending a badly flawed GOP incumbent. … This seat moves from the Lean Democratic column to the Lean Republican column.”

Jonathan Capehart or Matt Continetti on Sarah Palin’s Jay Leno appearance? “Palin’s comfort in front of the camera and with the material, not to mention her don’t-mess-with-me jeans-and-heels outfit, made Palin a feast for the eyes and ears.”

Rep. Pete Stark, new House Ways and Means chairman, is too much even for Democrats who are looking for an alternative: “Looming over his bid for the top job is a long history of rash public statements. In 2004, a San Francisco talk radio station posted a voice mail message that Mr. Stark left for a constituent that said, in part: ‘Probably somebody put you up to this, and I’m not sure who it was, but I doubt if you could spell half the words in the letter and somebody wrote it for you.’  In late 2007 he apologized for saying that Republicans were sending American youth to Iraq ‘to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.’”

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The Latest Same ObamaCare Bill

Obama has put forth another version of ObamaCare, but it’s not even sufficient to be scored by the CBO. The CBO website explains:

This morning the Obama Administration released a description of its health care proposal, and CBO has already received several requests to provide a cost estimate for that proposal. We had not previously received the proposal, and we have just begun the process of reviewing it—a process that will take some time, given the complexity of the issues involved. Although the proposal reflects many elements that were included in the health care bills passed by the House and the Senate last year, it modifies many of those elements and also includes new ones. Moreover, preparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions. Therefore, CBO cannot provide a cost estimate for the proposal without additional detail, and, even if such detail were provided, analyzing the proposal would be a time-consuming process that could not be completed this week.

We do have some idea what’s in it, however. Matt Continetti explains: “Obama’s new, improved plan is more expensive than the Senate bill, does not address the concerns of pro-life House Democrats over the Senate’s abortion language, maintains the tax exemption for the Democrats’ union friends, and will effectively turn insurance companies into heavily regulated public utilities.”

What we do know is that under ObamaCare’s latest incarnation, you really don’t get to keep your existing health-care plan. And we know that it seeks to federalize the regulation of the health-insurance industry. (“The big new idea in the president’s plan is to federalize regulation of health insurance, creating a Health Insurance Rate Authority to conduct ‘reviews of unreasonable rate increases and other unfair practices of insurance plans.’ This reflects the overall strategy to give more and more control over the health sector to Washington.”) And it seems that there are $136B worth of new taxes to be imposed on the people Obama said he’d never tax, namely those families making less than $250,000.

What we don’t know is why anyone who opposed the last version(s) of ObamaCare would accept this one. It is still a mammoth tax-and-spend bill and still seeks to federalize health care. If Nancy Pelosi has 218 votes for this, I’d be surprised. If Senate Democrats want to walk the plank for a retread of the bill that voters in Massachusetts sent Scott Brown to the Senate to oppose, I’d be surprised. But I suppose we’ll find out.

Obama has put forth another version of ObamaCare, but it’s not even sufficient to be scored by the CBO. The CBO website explains:

This morning the Obama Administration released a description of its health care proposal, and CBO has already received several requests to provide a cost estimate for that proposal. We had not previously received the proposal, and we have just begun the process of reviewing it—a process that will take some time, given the complexity of the issues involved. Although the proposal reflects many elements that were included in the health care bills passed by the House and the Senate last year, it modifies many of those elements and also includes new ones. Moreover, preparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions. Therefore, CBO cannot provide a cost estimate for the proposal without additional detail, and, even if such detail were provided, analyzing the proposal would be a time-consuming process that could not be completed this week.

We do have some idea what’s in it, however. Matt Continetti explains: “Obama’s new, improved plan is more expensive than the Senate bill, does not address the concerns of pro-life House Democrats over the Senate’s abortion language, maintains the tax exemption for the Democrats’ union friends, and will effectively turn insurance companies into heavily regulated public utilities.”

What we do know is that under ObamaCare’s latest incarnation, you really don’t get to keep your existing health-care plan. And we know that it seeks to federalize the regulation of the health-insurance industry. (“The big new idea in the president’s plan is to federalize regulation of health insurance, creating a Health Insurance Rate Authority to conduct ‘reviews of unreasonable rate increases and other unfair practices of insurance plans.’ This reflects the overall strategy to give more and more control over the health sector to Washington.”) And it seems that there are $136B worth of new taxes to be imposed on the people Obama said he’d never tax, namely those families making less than $250,000.

What we don’t know is why anyone who opposed the last version(s) of ObamaCare would accept this one. It is still a mammoth tax-and-spend bill and still seeks to federalize health care. If Nancy Pelosi has 218 votes for this, I’d be surprised. If Senate Democrats want to walk the plank for a retread of the bill that voters in Massachusetts sent Scott Brown to the Senate to oppose, I’d be surprised. But I suppose we’ll find out.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

With the death of John Murtha, the Cook Political Report moves his seat to a “toss-up.”

From Florida: “The Brevard County GOP held a straw poll Friday night that arguably is more reflective of the overall GOP electorate than other GOP straw polls in recent months, where voting was limited to executive committee members. In Brevard’s case, we’re told only about one in four voters were executive committee members. The results only include the top two vote-getters; U.S. Senate Marco Rubio: 321, Charlie Crist: 45.”

In Washington State: “Long-time WA state Sen. Don Benton (R) will challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), giving GOPers their strongest challenger yet as he hopes to take a page from Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).”

Obama’s approval drops to 44 percent, a new low, in the Marist poll. Also of concern for Obama: 57 percent of independents disapprove of his performance, and by a 47 to 42 percent margin, voters say he has fallen below their expectations. That helped push Obama’s overall RealClearPolitics approval to a new low — 47.9 percent, just a smidgen above the disapproval rating average of 47 percent.

Is this a good idea? “U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday he’ll chair the Senate campaign of fellow Democrat Alexi Giannoulias as he takes on a better-funded and more experienced Republican foe.” Seems like a big risk for both. Giannoulias is already tagged with being too insidery, and Durbin, who’s gunning for Harry Reid’s job, will take a hit if he can’t drag Giannoulias across the finish line.

Matt Continetti thinks Obama gets points for reaching out, and the congressional Republicans may score a win in the proposed health-care summit, while congressional Democrats come out the losers. (Sounds Clintonian, doesn’t it?). “If Obama hasn’t been able to convince the public his way is the right way by now, one more event won’t make a difference. Nor will a single C-SPAN broadcast alter the political dynamic that is preventing Democrats from passing a final bill. What’s more, Republicans will have an opportunity to present their ideas to lower the cost of individual health insurance and increase consumer choice.”

The most vilified male Republican is also the most effective, as “political and security realities are forcing Mr. Obama’s antiterror policies ever-closer to the former Vice President’s. … As long as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were responsible for keeping Americans safe, Democrats could pander to the U.S. and European left’s anti-antiterror views at little political cost. But now that they are responsible, American voters are able to see what the left really has in mind, and they are saying loud and clear that they prefer the Cheney method.” Well, we’ll see how close Obama gets to Cheney’s policy preferences. For now, Guantanamo is open, and it looks likes there will be no civilian KSM trial, at least in New York.

The Obama hangover sets in: “A year ago, Barack Obama’s true believers were euphoric. The huge and jubilant gathering in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night 2008 gave way to almost 2 million people on the Mall for the president’s inauguration. He took office as the most popular incoming president in a generation. A movement had become a mandate of nearly 70 million votes. People hoped the new president would bring change to Washington, the hallmark claim of his historic candidacy. Now, the mood through much of the nation seems restive, even sour. It is almost jarring to look at the photographs from Grant Park, to study those upturned beaming faces, many streaked with tears. Was that a movement? Or just a moment?”

With the death of John Murtha, the Cook Political Report moves his seat to a “toss-up.”

From Florida: “The Brevard County GOP held a straw poll Friday night that arguably is more reflective of the overall GOP electorate than other GOP straw polls in recent months, where voting was limited to executive committee members. In Brevard’s case, we’re told only about one in four voters were executive committee members. The results only include the top two vote-getters; U.S. Senate Marco Rubio: 321, Charlie Crist: 45.”

In Washington State: “Long-time WA state Sen. Don Benton (R) will challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), giving GOPers their strongest challenger yet as he hopes to take a page from Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).”

Obama’s approval drops to 44 percent, a new low, in the Marist poll. Also of concern for Obama: 57 percent of independents disapprove of his performance, and by a 47 to 42 percent margin, voters say he has fallen below their expectations. That helped push Obama’s overall RealClearPolitics approval to a new low — 47.9 percent, just a smidgen above the disapproval rating average of 47 percent.

Is this a good idea? “U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday he’ll chair the Senate campaign of fellow Democrat Alexi Giannoulias as he takes on a better-funded and more experienced Republican foe.” Seems like a big risk for both. Giannoulias is already tagged with being too insidery, and Durbin, who’s gunning for Harry Reid’s job, will take a hit if he can’t drag Giannoulias across the finish line.

Matt Continetti thinks Obama gets points for reaching out, and the congressional Republicans may score a win in the proposed health-care summit, while congressional Democrats come out the losers. (Sounds Clintonian, doesn’t it?). “If Obama hasn’t been able to convince the public his way is the right way by now, one more event won’t make a difference. Nor will a single C-SPAN broadcast alter the political dynamic that is preventing Democrats from passing a final bill. What’s more, Republicans will have an opportunity to present their ideas to lower the cost of individual health insurance and increase consumer choice.”

The most vilified male Republican is also the most effective, as “political and security realities are forcing Mr. Obama’s antiterror policies ever-closer to the former Vice President’s. … As long as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were responsible for keeping Americans safe, Democrats could pander to the U.S. and European left’s anti-antiterror views at little political cost. But now that they are responsible, American voters are able to see what the left really has in mind, and they are saying loud and clear that they prefer the Cheney method.” Well, we’ll see how close Obama gets to Cheney’s policy preferences. For now, Guantanamo is open, and it looks likes there will be no civilian KSM trial, at least in New York.

The Obama hangover sets in: “A year ago, Barack Obama’s true believers were euphoric. The huge and jubilant gathering in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night 2008 gave way to almost 2 million people on the Mall for the president’s inauguration. He took office as the most popular incoming president in a generation. A movement had become a mandate of nearly 70 million votes. People hoped the new president would bring change to Washington, the hallmark claim of his historic candidacy. Now, the mood through much of the nation seems restive, even sour. It is almost jarring to look at the photographs from Grant Park, to study those upturned beaming faces, many streaked with tears. Was that a movement? Or just a moment?”

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SOTU vs. the Budget

This analysis of the Obama budget is not unlike those circulating from conservative economists, think tanks, and commentators:

The first is the projected deficit in the coming year, nearly 11 percent of the country’s entire economic output. That is not unprecedented: During the Civil War, World War I and World War II, the United States ran soaring deficits, but usually with the expectation that they would come back down once peace was restored and war spending abated.

But the second number, buried deeper in the budget’s projections, is the one that really commands attention: By President Obama’s own optimistic projections, American deficits will not return to what are widely considered sustainable levels over the next 10 years. In fact, in 2019 and 2020 — years after Mr. Obama has left the political scene, even if he serves two terms — they start rising again sharply, to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product. His budget draws a picture of a nation that like many American homeowners simply cannot get above water.

What is noteworthy is that it comes from the New York Times. It is a stark statement from the media outlet most sympathetic to the administration that the budget is both deeply dishonest and deeply irresponsible. David Sanger nails it when he says:

Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors. Beyond that lies the possibility that the United States could begin to suffer the same disease that has afflicted Japan over the past decade. As debt grew more rapidly than income, that country’s influence around the world eroded.

Nor is Obama going to get away with passing this all off on his predecessors. (“with this budget, Mr. Obama now owns this deficit”).

Once again we see the chasim between Obama’s rhetoric and his governance. In the SOTU he delivers a stirring call for fiscal sobriety: “But understand—if we do not take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery—all of which could have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.” But a week later he delivers a budget that has a 5.7 percent increase in spending over last year’s huge budget and that will launch a path of unsustainable debt, with an ever increasing tax burden on those on whom we must rely to generate economic growth and jobs.

Gerald Seib, not a fire-breathing conservative either, makes the national security argument:

These numbers are often discussed as an economic and domestic problem. But it’s time to start thinking of the ramifications for America’s ability to continue playing its traditional global role.

The U.S. government this year will borrow one of every three dollars it spends, with many of those funds coming from foreign countries. That weakens America’s standing and its freedom to act; strengthens China and other world powers including cash-rich oil producers; puts long-term defense spending at risk; undermines the power of the American system as a model for developing countries; and reduces the aura of power that has been a great intangible asset for presidents for more than a century.

And this is the nub of the problem for Obama. At some point—now, I think—the rhetoric runs out and there are just facts left. He is president, not George W. Bush. His budget is a garngantuan and unsustainable recipe for sucking more and more resources out of the private sector, leaving us deeper in debt than ever. Pundits across the political spectrum and, more critically, voters expect him to align his speeches with his policy agenda and work on solving our problems. Yet he seems incapable of doing more than giving the good speech. When it comes to governance, he simply recycles the same shopworn tax-and-spend liberal policies. But now, the public has reached the point where they expect more. They expect Obama not to pawn off issues on others, or delegate his agenda to Congress, or slip by on trickery (Matt Continetti points out that the discretionary budget freeze comes after an 84 percent hike in discretionary spending last year). If the 2011 budget is any indication, Obama is simply not up to the task.

This analysis of the Obama budget is not unlike those circulating from conservative economists, think tanks, and commentators:

The first is the projected deficit in the coming year, nearly 11 percent of the country’s entire economic output. That is not unprecedented: During the Civil War, World War I and World War II, the United States ran soaring deficits, but usually with the expectation that they would come back down once peace was restored and war spending abated.

But the second number, buried deeper in the budget’s projections, is the one that really commands attention: By President Obama’s own optimistic projections, American deficits will not return to what are widely considered sustainable levels over the next 10 years. In fact, in 2019 and 2020 — years after Mr. Obama has left the political scene, even if he serves two terms — they start rising again sharply, to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product. His budget draws a picture of a nation that like many American homeowners simply cannot get above water.

What is noteworthy is that it comes from the New York Times. It is a stark statement from the media outlet most sympathetic to the administration that the budget is both deeply dishonest and deeply irresponsible. David Sanger nails it when he says:

Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors. Beyond that lies the possibility that the United States could begin to suffer the same disease that has afflicted Japan over the past decade. As debt grew more rapidly than income, that country’s influence around the world eroded.

Nor is Obama going to get away with passing this all off on his predecessors. (“with this budget, Mr. Obama now owns this deficit”).

Once again we see the chasim between Obama’s rhetoric and his governance. In the SOTU he delivers a stirring call for fiscal sobriety: “But understand—if we do not take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery—all of which could have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.” But a week later he delivers a budget that has a 5.7 percent increase in spending over last year’s huge budget and that will launch a path of unsustainable debt, with an ever increasing tax burden on those on whom we must rely to generate economic growth and jobs.

Gerald Seib, not a fire-breathing conservative either, makes the national security argument:

These numbers are often discussed as an economic and domestic problem. But it’s time to start thinking of the ramifications for America’s ability to continue playing its traditional global role.

The U.S. government this year will borrow one of every three dollars it spends, with many of those funds coming from foreign countries. That weakens America’s standing and its freedom to act; strengthens China and other world powers including cash-rich oil producers; puts long-term defense spending at risk; undermines the power of the American system as a model for developing countries; and reduces the aura of power that has been a great intangible asset for presidents for more than a century.

And this is the nub of the problem for Obama. At some point—now, I think—the rhetoric runs out and there are just facts left. He is president, not George W. Bush. His budget is a garngantuan and unsustainable recipe for sucking more and more resources out of the private sector, leaving us deeper in debt than ever. Pundits across the political spectrum and, more critically, voters expect him to align his speeches with his policy agenda and work on solving our problems. Yet he seems incapable of doing more than giving the good speech. When it comes to governance, he simply recycles the same shopworn tax-and-spend liberal policies. But now, the public has reached the point where they expect more. They expect Obama not to pawn off issues on others, or delegate his agenda to Congress, or slip by on trickery (Matt Continetti points out that the discretionary budget freeze comes after an 84 percent hike in discretionary spending last year). If the 2011 budget is any indication, Obama is simply not up to the task.

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Looking Back on the Week

The State of the Union revealed little new about the state of the nation, but much about the Obama presidency. We already knew that the economy was hobbled, that the jihadists remain on the prowl, and that we face implacable foes, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, and a world less impressed with Obama than he imagined. We were not so certain, however, what Obama wanted to do about all that until Wednesday night. Perhaps he had discovered his inner Bill Clinton. Maybe he would declare ObamaCare and the era of hubris-driven big government to be over. Or maybe he would roll the dice and continue his increasingly solitary effort to drive his party over the proverbial political cliff.

To the abject amazement of many conservatives, Obama refused to turn back and delivered an address not so different from his February 2009 speech, in which he laid out the most ambitious liberal platform in many decades. He nevertheless managed to upset liberals, who noticed how low on the priority list was health-care reform and how serious he seemed in conceding that a spending freeze (however limited in scope) was required.

Now, the favorite parlor game in Washington is to guess whether he means to drive his party over the brink. Matt Continetti writes, “It takes time for an administration to change course; maybe Obama will drop his big government agenda and move to the center over the coming year. He doesn’t, however, seem to want to. So Republicans have every reason to be cheerful. Obama persists in laying the foundation for a house nobody wants to buy.” That sentiment — the nagging suspicion that Obama can’t really mean what he says — is not limited to the Right. Democrats who were assured that Obama was the smartest, the savviest, and the most bare-knuckled pol of them all are looking about, wondering if there is not some master plan for extracting them from the downward spiral they now find themselves in.

This is the perpetual plight of hopeful Obama-philes — the desire to believe he is smarter, more creative, and more astute than he reveals himself to be in action and in rhetoric. Oh, he’s got the Olympics in the bag or he wouldn’t go to Copenhagen. Don’t be silly — he’s got a game plan for ObamaCare. Honestly, there is some backstory to explain the Middle East blunders. These and more are the endless justifications that swirl around a president who seems never to live up to the expectations of his most fervent fans.

There have been some impressive second acts in politics. Bill Clinton’s post-1994 presidency was one. Richard Nixon’s return to politics and to the White House in 1968 was another. It’s not impossible. But so far Obama has provided little evidence that he possess the intellectual resourcefulness and the political dexterity to shift gears and rescue his presidency or his party. Obama has a brief window before the midterm elections to restore if not the excitement then at least the impression of minimal competence. If he does not, his congressional allies will continue to scatter, staking out their own positions on key issues and seeking more distance from a president sinking under the weight of misplaced expectations. And those who keep rooting against all evidence for the exceptional president to reveal himself may discover that they have been deceived by pretty packaging and their own wishful thinking.

In surveying the current state of the union, we see that we may well be on the road to economic recovery (albeit with anemic job growth). Our superb military provides reason for optimism that we will achieve victories in Iraq and Afghanistan. The state of the Obama presidency is another story. It is far from certain that he will recover his bearings or remotely meet the expectations of his supporters.

The State of the Union revealed little new about the state of the nation, but much about the Obama presidency. We already knew that the economy was hobbled, that the jihadists remain on the prowl, and that we face implacable foes, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, and a world less impressed with Obama than he imagined. We were not so certain, however, what Obama wanted to do about all that until Wednesday night. Perhaps he had discovered his inner Bill Clinton. Maybe he would declare ObamaCare and the era of hubris-driven big government to be over. Or maybe he would roll the dice and continue his increasingly solitary effort to drive his party over the proverbial political cliff.

To the abject amazement of many conservatives, Obama refused to turn back and delivered an address not so different from his February 2009 speech, in which he laid out the most ambitious liberal platform in many decades. He nevertheless managed to upset liberals, who noticed how low on the priority list was health-care reform and how serious he seemed in conceding that a spending freeze (however limited in scope) was required.

Now, the favorite parlor game in Washington is to guess whether he means to drive his party over the brink. Matt Continetti writes, “It takes time for an administration to change course; maybe Obama will drop his big government agenda and move to the center over the coming year. He doesn’t, however, seem to want to. So Republicans have every reason to be cheerful. Obama persists in laying the foundation for a house nobody wants to buy.” That sentiment — the nagging suspicion that Obama can’t really mean what he says — is not limited to the Right. Democrats who were assured that Obama was the smartest, the savviest, and the most bare-knuckled pol of them all are looking about, wondering if there is not some master plan for extracting them from the downward spiral they now find themselves in.

This is the perpetual plight of hopeful Obama-philes — the desire to believe he is smarter, more creative, and more astute than he reveals himself to be in action and in rhetoric. Oh, he’s got the Olympics in the bag or he wouldn’t go to Copenhagen. Don’t be silly — he’s got a game plan for ObamaCare. Honestly, there is some backstory to explain the Middle East blunders. These and more are the endless justifications that swirl around a president who seems never to live up to the expectations of his most fervent fans.

There have been some impressive second acts in politics. Bill Clinton’s post-1994 presidency was one. Richard Nixon’s return to politics and to the White House in 1968 was another. It’s not impossible. But so far Obama has provided little evidence that he possess the intellectual resourcefulness and the political dexterity to shift gears and rescue his presidency or his party. Obama has a brief window before the midterm elections to restore if not the excitement then at least the impression of minimal competence. If he does not, his congressional allies will continue to scatter, staking out their own positions on key issues and seeking more distance from a president sinking under the weight of misplaced expectations. And those who keep rooting against all evidence for the exceptional president to reveal himself may discover that they have been deceived by pretty packaging and their own wishful thinking.

In surveying the current state of the union, we see that we may well be on the road to economic recovery (albeit with anemic job growth). Our superb military provides reason for optimism that we will achieve victories in Iraq and Afghanistan. The state of the Obama presidency is another story. It is far from certain that he will recover his bearings or remotely meet the expectations of his supporters.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ruth Marcus explains: “So can a chastened Obama regain the lost sense of excitement and opportunity? Eventually, perhaps, but never entirely. The second time is never as thrilling.” Especially when the thrill was based on cotton-candy rhetoric and a blank slate onto which Obama told us we were projecting our hopes and dreams. If there is no there there, then the thrill is not likely to return.

Michael Barone says that if the election were held today, it would be worse for the Democrats than it was 1994 or 2002. He calls it “the makings of an epic party disaster.”

Charles Krauthammer on Obama and the KSM trial: “The president is not going to admit error. He never does. He does in the abstract, but he will never admit he actually makes a human error on anything. So he won’t on this. But he knows what’s going to happen, which is the Congress will rebel on this and it will pull the funding, [and] get him off the hook. And the issue [will] end up behind him even though he doesn’t do it himself.” Noting he never mentioned terrorism in the SOTU, Krauthammer adds: “In fact, because his two decisions — the KSM trial in Manhattan and the granting of Miranda rights to the guy who tried to blow up the airplane — are indefensible.”

Matt Continetti points out that it takes Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Sen. Carl Levin look wise on national security. Levin says of Pelosi’s idea to apply Obama’s freeze to defense spending: “That’s kind of hard to do in the middle of a war.” But maybe if we hop over the Pentagon fence. And then pole vault in. And then. Yeah, she is Speaker of the House.

Liberals think Rahm Emanual’s kicking the can down the road on health-care reform (“Congress would deal first with jobs, then banking regulation, and then circle back around to health-care reform”) makes no sense. Well, only if you want to stave off an epic party disaster, I suppose.

But at least Obama still has the postgraduate-degree voters according to Gallup: “The support of postgraduates, who tend to be more liberal and Democratic in their political orientation, was important to Obama’s being elected president. Since he has become president, postgraduates have been among his more reliable supporters, backing him at higher levels than do those in other educational groups.” But that poll was taken before the SOTU and Obama flunked his midterm on the campaign-finance-reform law. That might lose him a few points.

Tom Bevan catches Obama sort of admitting that the health-care bills wouldn’t really, absolutely have allowed everyone to keep their existing health plans. Stuff “snuck in,” you see. If there has ever been a president less willing to take responsibility for anything, I’m hard pressed to recall who it was. And no — George W. Bush did admit error on the initial conduct of the Iraq war and on Katrina, so he’s not even in the ballpark of Obama blame-shifting.

Fred Barnes says Obama is trapped: “President Obama’s greatest need is to escape the ideological grip of congressional Democrats and the liberal base of the Democratic party (they’re one and the same). But he either doesn’t recognize this or, as a conventional liberal himself, isn’t so inclined. This self-inflicted difficulty has put Obama in worse political straits than President Clinton faced after the Republican landslide of 1994.” Unlike Clinton, however, Obama seems to lack the flexibility and ideological creativity to get himself out of his self-made jam.

Ruth Marcus explains: “So can a chastened Obama regain the lost sense of excitement and opportunity? Eventually, perhaps, but never entirely. The second time is never as thrilling.” Especially when the thrill was based on cotton-candy rhetoric and a blank slate onto which Obama told us we were projecting our hopes and dreams. If there is no there there, then the thrill is not likely to return.

Michael Barone says that if the election were held today, it would be worse for the Democrats than it was 1994 or 2002. He calls it “the makings of an epic party disaster.”

Charles Krauthammer on Obama and the KSM trial: “The president is not going to admit error. He never does. He does in the abstract, but he will never admit he actually makes a human error on anything. So he won’t on this. But he knows what’s going to happen, which is the Congress will rebel on this and it will pull the funding, [and] get him off the hook. And the issue [will] end up behind him even though he doesn’t do it himself.” Noting he never mentioned terrorism in the SOTU, Krauthammer adds: “In fact, because his two decisions — the KSM trial in Manhattan and the granting of Miranda rights to the guy who tried to blow up the airplane — are indefensible.”

Matt Continetti points out that it takes Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Sen. Carl Levin look wise on national security. Levin says of Pelosi’s idea to apply Obama’s freeze to defense spending: “That’s kind of hard to do in the middle of a war.” But maybe if we hop over the Pentagon fence. And then pole vault in. And then. Yeah, she is Speaker of the House.

Liberals think Rahm Emanual’s kicking the can down the road on health-care reform (“Congress would deal first with jobs, then banking regulation, and then circle back around to health-care reform”) makes no sense. Well, only if you want to stave off an epic party disaster, I suppose.

But at least Obama still has the postgraduate-degree voters according to Gallup: “The support of postgraduates, who tend to be more liberal and Democratic in their political orientation, was important to Obama’s being elected president. Since he has become president, postgraduates have been among his more reliable supporters, backing him at higher levels than do those in other educational groups.” But that poll was taken before the SOTU and Obama flunked his midterm on the campaign-finance-reform law. That might lose him a few points.

Tom Bevan catches Obama sort of admitting that the health-care bills wouldn’t really, absolutely have allowed everyone to keep their existing health plans. Stuff “snuck in,” you see. If there has ever been a president less willing to take responsibility for anything, I’m hard pressed to recall who it was. And no — George W. Bush did admit error on the initial conduct of the Iraq war and on Katrina, so he’s not even in the ballpark of Obama blame-shifting.

Fred Barnes says Obama is trapped: “President Obama’s greatest need is to escape the ideological grip of congressional Democrats and the liberal base of the Democratic party (they’re one and the same). But he either doesn’t recognize this or, as a conventional liberal himself, isn’t so inclined. This self-inflicted difficulty has put Obama in worse political straits than President Clinton faced after the Republican landslide of 1994.” Unlike Clinton, however, Obama seems to lack the flexibility and ideological creativity to get himself out of his self-made jam.

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Fresh Faces

When a party loses a presidential election and suffers a wipeout in the Senate and the House, as the GOP did in 2008, there is, in addition to concerns about ideology, demographics, and message, a concern about where the next round of political talent will come from. But this is the most easily solved of a losing party’s dilemmas. After John Kerry lost in 2004, there was a Barack Obama. And after 2008, there are now lots and lots of viable, fresh Republican faces.

Matt Continetti spotted what I did last night — a new political rock star in Scott Brown. But he’s also right that “Brown is not alone. Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie are both fresh, likable conservatives who ran reform campaigns aimed at independent voters. In Florida, Marco Rubio is moving steadily toward victory while campaigning on similar themes. Who knows what talents will emerge in the years ahead.” The benefit of a wipeout loss is that old faces are swept from the scene and there’s room for the next generation of talent to emerge.

All these candidates — Brown, McDonnell, Christie, and Rubio defied the pundits who urged the Republicans to deploy a mushy centrism. Each of them ran conservative-themed campaigns aimed directly at the Democrats’ excesses. Nor do these figures seem bedeviled by some mythical “civil war” in conservative ranks. They’ve gathered support from Republican-establishment types and Tea Party protesters — not to mention a chunk of disaffected independent voters. None is tainted by a Washington D.C. connection (one was a U.S. attorney, the others were all state office holders). And they all have solid retail political skills and a good TV presence.

Once again, the pundits were proved wrong. There is no shortage of conservative talent out there. What those conservative up-and-comers needed was an opening to emerge on the national stage. They all found that opening a mere year into the era of the “permanent Democratic majority” — which, like so much else the chattering class has concocted, seems like a very silly notion now.

When a party loses a presidential election and suffers a wipeout in the Senate and the House, as the GOP did in 2008, there is, in addition to concerns about ideology, demographics, and message, a concern about where the next round of political talent will come from. But this is the most easily solved of a losing party’s dilemmas. After John Kerry lost in 2004, there was a Barack Obama. And after 2008, there are now lots and lots of viable, fresh Republican faces.

Matt Continetti spotted what I did last night — a new political rock star in Scott Brown. But he’s also right that “Brown is not alone. Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie are both fresh, likable conservatives who ran reform campaigns aimed at independent voters. In Florida, Marco Rubio is moving steadily toward victory while campaigning on similar themes. Who knows what talents will emerge in the years ahead.” The benefit of a wipeout loss is that old faces are swept from the scene and there’s room for the next generation of talent to emerge.

All these candidates — Brown, McDonnell, Christie, and Rubio defied the pundits who urged the Republicans to deploy a mushy centrism. Each of them ran conservative-themed campaigns aimed directly at the Democrats’ excesses. Nor do these figures seem bedeviled by some mythical “civil war” in conservative ranks. They’ve gathered support from Republican-establishment types and Tea Party protesters — not to mention a chunk of disaffected independent voters. None is tainted by a Washington D.C. connection (one was a U.S. attorney, the others were all state office holders). And they all have solid retail political skills and a good TV presence.

Once again, the pundits were proved wrong. There is no shortage of conservative talent out there. What those conservative up-and-comers needed was an opening to emerge on the national stage. They all found that opening a mere year into the era of the “permanent Democratic majority” — which, like so much else the chattering class has concocted, seems like a very silly notion now.

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