Commentary Magazine


Topic: Maureen Dowd

The Liberal Wall of Benghazi Denial Cracks

On Friday, I wrote about what seemed to be a solid wall of liberal indifference to the recent revelations about Benghazi. The chorus of “move along, there’s nothing to see here” admonitions from Democrats and liberal journalists lacked credibility. As Peter Wehner said this morning, White House spokesman Jay Carney’s disgraceful “no regrets” performance Friday afternoon showed just how desperate the administration has become. But its determination to keep stonewalling and denying was rooted in a not unreasonable conviction: So long as the Democrats and liberal journalists close ranks behind the president, and more importantly, the reputation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Benghazi will be viewed as a partisan club used by Republicans rather than a genuine scandal.

But while most in the chattering classes are sticking to the new talking points, a prominent exception today marks a significant crack in that heretofore-solid wall of liberal opinion. Conservatives rightly disdain Maureen Dowd as the New York Times’s queen of snark, a writer whose work has long become the byword for pointless nastiness and deeply unserious takes on the news of the day that gives a bad name to political hatchet work. Yet, harking back to her salad days in the 1990s when she earned a reputation as the rare liberal who was willing to challenge Bill Clinton’s cult of personality, Dowd has today written what may be the first sign that Hillary is not going to be able to escape accountability for 9/11/12 and the cover-up that followed that tragedy.

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On Friday, I wrote about what seemed to be a solid wall of liberal indifference to the recent revelations about Benghazi. The chorus of “move along, there’s nothing to see here” admonitions from Democrats and liberal journalists lacked credibility. As Peter Wehner said this morning, White House spokesman Jay Carney’s disgraceful “no regrets” performance Friday afternoon showed just how desperate the administration has become. But its determination to keep stonewalling and denying was rooted in a not unreasonable conviction: So long as the Democrats and liberal journalists close ranks behind the president, and more importantly, the reputation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Benghazi will be viewed as a partisan club used by Republicans rather than a genuine scandal.

But while most in the chattering classes are sticking to the new talking points, a prominent exception today marks a significant crack in that heretofore-solid wall of liberal opinion. Conservatives rightly disdain Maureen Dowd as the New York Times’s queen of snark, a writer whose work has long become the byword for pointless nastiness and deeply unserious takes on the news of the day that gives a bad name to political hatchet work. Yet, harking back to her salad days in the 1990s when she earned a reputation as the rare liberal who was willing to challenge Bill Clinton’s cult of personality, Dowd has today written what may be the first sign that Hillary is not going to be able to escape accountability for 9/11/12 and the cover-up that followed that tragedy.

In discussing the revelations of the last week, Dowd must, of course, try to depict Republican attempts to bring accountability to the scandal as equally reprehensible as the administration’s failures and lies. But her framing the current debate as a contest between “Hillaryland” and “Foxworld” has at least the virtue of acknowledging the fact that what we are discussing is a disgraceful dereliction of duty by the administration:

The toxic theatrics, including Karl Rove’s first attack ad against Hillary, cloud a simple truth: The administration’s behavior before and during the attack in Benghazi, in which four Americans died, was unworthy of the greatest power on earth.

This is important not because Dowd’s any kind of a moral authority but because as one of the resident op-ed gods of the New York Times, her breaking of the liberal code of omerta on the subject of administration misconduct on Benghazi signals that what is unfolding is a genuine scandal with unforeseen repercussions, and not a Republican temper tantrum.

In the midst of a re-election campaign, Obama aides wanted to promote the mythology that the president who killed Osama was vanquishing terror. So they deemed it problematic to mention any possible Qaeda involvement in the Benghazi attack. … Looking ahead to 2016, Hillaryland needed to shore up the mythology that Clinton was a stellar secretary of state.

Dowd goes straight to the heart of the matter when she rightly notes that the lives of Americans were sacrificed for the sake of trying to make Libya appear as if it were a triumph of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Just as important, the subsequent cover-up was clearly intended to protect Mrs. Clinton’s reputation. The lies that were told about the attack being caused by a video and the effort to quash mention of al-Qaeda and terrorism were clearly intended to bolster the president’s re-election efforts as well as avoid damaging a future Democratic candidate.

There are three issues here that still remain unresolved.

How is it that decision makers failed to understand the danger?

How is it that forces were not made available to save four Americans when they were placed in peril?

Why did the administration fail to tell the truth about all of this?

Those questions will require the formation of a select congressional committee with subpoena power to get to the answers the American people need. Democratic counter-attacks trying to portray the effort to get those answers as mere partisan squabbling are failing. The premise of Hillary Clinton’s rhetorical question, “What difference does it make?” was the belief that the media would protect her and ensure that Americans wouldn’t care. She’s wrong, and the betting here is that Maureen Dowd won’t be the last rat to leave the sinking ship of liberal denial. 

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Liberal Smear: Romney’s War for the Jews

After all these years of endlessly repeating the same tired tropes on the New York Times op-ed page, taking Maureen Dowd’s columns seriously requires a suspension of disbelief that is normally only needed to watch science fiction. But though the Queen of Snark lacks the credibility to discuss virtually any issue in an intelligent manner, she does have a knack for picking up on whatever hateful viruses are circulating through the circulatory system of our body politic. Worried about prejudice against Mormons? Dowd was the first to provide mainstream media space to that brand of hate during the current presidential campaign. Concerned about the way some on the left are hoping to utilize the debate about Iran to delegitimize support for Israel? Dowd again is the one to ensure this nasty piece of business gets another airing by arguing that Romney wants to fight wars for the sake of the Jews.

In her column in today’s Times Sunday Review, Dowd picks up on the same theme explored on the paper’s website on Thursday that I discussed earlier today. While it can be argued that she can always be relied upon to seize upon any point, no matter how trivial, to heap scorn on any Republican (her brief stint as a bipartisan basher of Bill Clinton during l’affaire Lewinsky may have earned her a Pulitzer but since then she has stuck to snarking conservatives), her attack on Mitt Romney’s foreign policy stance is particularly creepy. Unlike the rest of the Obama cheerleading squad that occupies the Times opinion pages, she is not content to just bash him for attacking Obama’s apologies, weak leadership and disdain for Israel. Dowd sees him and running mate Paul Ryan as the cat’s-paws of a shadowy group of “powerful” Jewish “neocons” who are out to seize the country in his name and enforce, “a duty to invade and bomb Israel’s neighbors,” on Americans. In a perfect illustration of how hate for Israel shows where the left and right meet, Dowd channeled Pat Buchanan in arguing that Romney/Ryan are the “puppets” of neoconservative conspirators who want Americans to die for Israel.

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After all these years of endlessly repeating the same tired tropes on the New York Times op-ed page, taking Maureen Dowd’s columns seriously requires a suspension of disbelief that is normally only needed to watch science fiction. But though the Queen of Snark lacks the credibility to discuss virtually any issue in an intelligent manner, she does have a knack for picking up on whatever hateful viruses are circulating through the circulatory system of our body politic. Worried about prejudice against Mormons? Dowd was the first to provide mainstream media space to that brand of hate during the current presidential campaign. Concerned about the way some on the left are hoping to utilize the debate about Iran to delegitimize support for Israel? Dowd again is the one to ensure this nasty piece of business gets another airing by arguing that Romney wants to fight wars for the sake of the Jews.

In her column in today’s Times Sunday Review, Dowd picks up on the same theme explored on the paper’s website on Thursday that I discussed earlier today. While it can be argued that she can always be relied upon to seize upon any point, no matter how trivial, to heap scorn on any Republican (her brief stint as a bipartisan basher of Bill Clinton during l’affaire Lewinsky may have earned her a Pulitzer but since then she has stuck to snarking conservatives), her attack on Mitt Romney’s foreign policy stance is particularly creepy. Unlike the rest of the Obama cheerleading squad that occupies the Times opinion pages, she is not content to just bash him for attacking Obama’s apologies, weak leadership and disdain for Israel. Dowd sees him and running mate Paul Ryan as the cat’s-paws of a shadowy group of “powerful” Jewish “neocons” who are out to seize the country in his name and enforce, “a duty to invade and bomb Israel’s neighbors,” on Americans. In a perfect illustration of how hate for Israel shows where the left and right meet, Dowd channeled Pat Buchanan in arguing that Romney/Ryan are the “puppets” of neoconservative conspirators who want Americans to die for Israel.

Dowd doubled down on Eric Lewis’ point that it is “outrageous” for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to demand that the president state some red lines about Iran. But all Netanyahu is doing is asking the president to show us that he has some intention of doing something about Iran other than talking about the threat. The pushback from the pro-Obama camp against the suggestion that the administration stop pretending that failed diplomacy and unenforced sanctions will persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear ambition reinforces the suspicion that once he is re-elected, the president will have the “flexibility” to choose to “contain” rather than stop Iran. That is a position that would endanger both the U.S. and Israel.

Dowd’s biggest target is Dan Senor, an author and former Bush administration staffer who is one of Romney and Ryan’s top advisors. But neither Senor nor Romney nor any American supporter of Israel needs to apologize to the likes of Dowd for their belief that the U.S. should keep its word to stop Iran. Though those who write about “neocons slithering” are clearly intending to stoke prejudice, even Obama has paid lip service to the fact that a nuclear Iran is a deadly threat to the entire Middle East as well as to the interests of the United States. Though Romney is not always the most consistent or coherent of thinkers about foreign policy, he does seem to understand this dilemma a lot better than Obama and his hateful press hit squad.

President Obama came into office determined to try to distance the United States from Israel and to appease the Muslim world. He accomplished the former but failed miserably with the latter as the spectacle of besieged U.S. embassies in the Middle East this week has shown. Throughout the last year, Obama’s critics have noted that he seemed more interested in stopping Israel from defending itself than in halting Iran’s nuclear program. Now his supporters seek to suppress any pressure for action on Iran by branding it the work of neocon conspirators.

The bottom line here is the same despicable “Israel Lobby” smear that seeks to silence friends of Israel through the use of traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes. Dowd’s column marks yet another step down into the pit of hate-mongering that has become all too common at the Times. This is a tipping point that should alarm even the most stalwart liberal Jewish supporters of the president.

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For Liberals It’s Always 1936

On June 14th, 1936, two days after Alf Landon accepted the nomination of the Republican Party for president, a New York Times columnist wrote:

The stage show looked like America, but the convention hall did not. The crowd seemed like the sanctuary of a minority — economically wounded capitalists in shades from eggshell to ecru, cheering the man . . . and trying to fathom why they’re not running the country anymore. The speakers ranted about an America in decline, but the audience reflected a party in decline.

Oh, wait a minute. My mistake. That was Maureen Dowd writing yesterday. My, how time stands still when you’re having fun.

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On June 14th, 1936, two days after Alf Landon accepted the nomination of the Republican Party for president, a New York Times columnist wrote:

The stage show looked like America, but the convention hall did not. The crowd seemed like the sanctuary of a minority — economically wounded capitalists in shades from eggshell to ecru, cheering the man . . . and trying to fathom why they’re not running the country anymore. The speakers ranted about an America in decline, but the audience reflected a party in decline.

Oh, wait a minute. My mistake. That was Maureen Dowd writing yesterday. My, how time stands still when you’re having fun.

In 1936, the Republicans were indeed wondering why they weren’t still running the country. They had been, after all, since 1896, with the exception of 1913-1921, when a split in the party had given the election to Woodrow Wilson. And they certainly hankered for a return to the glory days of Calvin Coolidge, while the Democrats recognized that the Great Depression had changed things forever. While the country was still mired in depression, it was in much better shape than it had been four years earlier. In 1936, unemployment averaged a dismal 16.9 percent. But that was down from over 25 percent. The Dow reached 194.40 in June 1936. It had been at 40.21 in June 1932, barely half a point above its first-ever close in 1896.

In his great Second Inaugural Address (after trouncing Alf Landon in the election) FDR said, quite accurately, “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” But as Michael Ledeen points out, the economic world of 1936 is a vanished world. No one today in this country lives in anything like the sort of poverty that millions of sharecroppers in the South and unskilled industrial laborers in the North knew in 1936. By the standards of 1936, most American families are filthy rich and those who aren’t receive massive assistance to raise them above the poverty line.

The national debt in 1936 was 40 percent of GDP. Today it is over 100 percent. The deficit in 1936 was 5.5 percent of GDP, this year it will be over 7 percent.

But for liberals like Maureen Dowd it is always 1936. The problems of 1936 are the problems today. The solutions for 1936 are the solutions for today. And the Republicans are a few people in mink coats and dinner jackets going down to the long-vanished Trans-Lux theater to hiss Roosevelt.

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Campaign to Demonize Ryan Won’t Work

The Democratic effort to change Paul Ryan’s image from one of a choirboy intellectual to a monster threatening the rights of women is in full swing. As Politico reports, liberals are concentrating their fire not so much on the Republican vice presidential candidate’s plan to reform entitlements as on his part in the faux Republican “war on women” that they launched earlier this year. Instead of Ryan pushing granny off the cliff as part of the Mediscare smear, we’re likely to hear a lot more in the coming weeks about Ryan’s stand on abortion and efforts to depict his budget proposal as hurting women. But the question liberals need to be asking themselves today is not just if these sort of attacks will work but whether they might backfire with a crucial constituency the Democrats need desperately if President Obama is to be re-elected.

The primary obstacle to the Ryan demonization campaign is that it is difficult to whip up hatred for someone who is basically likeable. Ryan’s thought-provoking proposals are controversial because he isn’t afraid to take on hard issues and prescribe bold solutions to seemingly intractable problems. But politics is about personalities and the idea that a person like Ryan, whom has always been described even by his political foes as reasonable, cordial and respectful, can be transformed into a sinister figure is a stretch. It’s certainly not going to be accomplished by hysterical appeals from the left-wing groups or snarky columns by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd who today wrote of the GOP veep candidate as a Catholic version of arch villain Dick Cheney. The utility of this sort of cheap bile may be to rile up the liberal base. Yet the more Democrats go down this road, the danger is that they will not so much rally women to their cause as they will alienate working class Catholics, a demographic group that Democrats need to win elections.

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The Democratic effort to change Paul Ryan’s image from one of a choirboy intellectual to a monster threatening the rights of women is in full swing. As Politico reports, liberals are concentrating their fire not so much on the Republican vice presidential candidate’s plan to reform entitlements as on his part in the faux Republican “war on women” that they launched earlier this year. Instead of Ryan pushing granny off the cliff as part of the Mediscare smear, we’re likely to hear a lot more in the coming weeks about Ryan’s stand on abortion and efforts to depict his budget proposal as hurting women. But the question liberals need to be asking themselves today is not just if these sort of attacks will work but whether they might backfire with a crucial constituency the Democrats need desperately if President Obama is to be re-elected.

The primary obstacle to the Ryan demonization campaign is that it is difficult to whip up hatred for someone who is basically likeable. Ryan’s thought-provoking proposals are controversial because he isn’t afraid to take on hard issues and prescribe bold solutions to seemingly intractable problems. But politics is about personalities and the idea that a person like Ryan, whom has always been described even by his political foes as reasonable, cordial and respectful, can be transformed into a sinister figure is a stretch. It’s certainly not going to be accomplished by hysterical appeals from the left-wing groups or snarky columns by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd who today wrote of the GOP veep candidate as a Catholic version of arch villain Dick Cheney. The utility of this sort of cheap bile may be to rile up the liberal base. Yet the more Democrats go down this road, the danger is that they will not so much rally women to their cause as they will alienate working class Catholics, a demographic group that Democrats need to win elections.

Liberals always think waving the bloody shirt of the culture war works to their advantage. That’s because everyone in the circles in which they move view Americans who share Ryan’s views in the same way that candidate Barack Obama did in 2008 when he candidly dismissed them as proles “clinging to guns and their religion.” But just as President Obama is smart enough to understand that advocating restrictions on gun ownership is a political death wish in which in which the vast majority oppose such proposals, his media cheerleaders should not deceive themselves into thinking that the electorate will turn on a politician merely because he is a social conservative.

The attacks on Ryan are politically tone deaf because it is not enough to merely target a man’s views to get voters to put them down as an extremist. Those attacks must be linked to something in the candidate’s personality, demeanor or record that strikes the public as disqualifying. But in Ryan, Democrats are confronted by a person with a positive vision, intellectual depth and integrity and a nice personal touch that has been able to transcend partisan differences both in Congress and in his Wisconsin Congressional district where he has consistently won the support of Democrats and independents. Negative ads can be useful but in Ryan, Democrats may be confronting a target that is just too smart and too appealing to besmirch with impunity. Nor can they be sure that by doing so they are not hurting their party with Catholics who might otherwise be enticed to back Obama in November.

The Paul Ryan who toured Florida this week with his 78-year-old Medicare recipient mother is not one that will be so easily trashed as a threat to old people. Expecting female voters to fall in lockstep with Obama merely by screaming about abortion may be equally futile.

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Maureen Dowd, Light as Air

It’s no secret, and it’s no surprise, that liberal commentators have become enraged at the conservative members of the Supreme Court, who exposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as an unconstitutional and unholy mess in last week’s oral arguments. It would be a full-time job keeping track of the invective. But one person does deserve special mention: Maureen Dowd of the New York Times.

In her column, she says of the current Court, “It has squandered even the semi-illusion that it is the unbiased, honest guardian of the Constitution. It is run by hacks dressed up in black robes.”

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It’s no secret, and it’s no surprise, that liberal commentators have become enraged at the conservative members of the Supreme Court, who exposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as an unconstitutional and unholy mess in last week’s oral arguments. It would be a full-time job keeping track of the invective. But one person does deserve special mention: Maureen Dowd of the New York Times.

In her column, she says of the current Court, “It has squandered even the semi-illusion that it is the unbiased, honest guardian of the Constitution. It is run by hacks dressed up in black robes.”

Now that is rich. Dowd’s columns are, without exception, an intellectual content-free zone. They are mood-pieces, a window into the unstable emotional state of liberal east coast elitists. Her words are unburdened by facts, reason, or analysis.

That isn’t a crime, and it even serves a purpose of sorts. But she’s impossible to take seriously. And for her to criticize Antonin Scalia’s grasp of the law is like a third-string quarterback in middle school criticizing Peyton Manning’s grasp of football.

Dowd is as light as air.

 

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Flotsam and Jetsam

How’d they do it? By being the party of no: “It began in late January 2009, when Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a quick vote on an economic-stimulus package and Mr. Cantor helped engineer a unanimous Republican ‘no’ vote. … [T]he unified vote signaled to previously rattled Republicans that they didn’t have to go along with the big Democratic majority and the highly popular new president. The vote also set a pattern that would be repeated time and again over the next two years, with House Republicans solidly opposing one Democratic initiative after another. The strategy infuriated the White House and ran the risk Republicans would be damaged by the ‘party of no’ label.”

How’d they lose it? “A Congressional majority is a terrible thing to waste, as Rahm Emanuel might say, and yesterday the public took that lesson to heart. … Yes, the economy was the dominant issue and the root of much voter worry and frustration with Washington. But make no mistake, this was also an ideological repudiation of the Democratic agenda of the last two years. Independents turned with a vengeance on the same Democrats they had vaulted into the majority in the waning George W. Bush years, rejecting the economy-killing trio of $812 billion in stimulus spending, cap and tax and ObamaCare.”

How’d the governors do? The GOP picked up at least 10 seats.

How’d Republican New Yorkers do? They picked up five House seats, remarkable considering how badly the top of the ticket ran.

How’d they make history? “South Carolina voters have elected the first black Republican to Congress from the Deep South since Reconstruction.”

How’d it work out when he ignored the Tea Party? Obama really doesn’t like to experience bad news, but it might do him some good to hear directly what the media are saying about him. “Aides say the President received updates on races from his staff, but didn’t sit in front of the television watching the election returns himself.”

How’d Mitt Romney want you to reflect on the election? With a morning-after op-ed by him, touting his free-market credentials. A sample: “If the president is to become serious about spending, borrowing and deficits, he must subject government to the two budgeting rules employed by every well-run business and home.” Welcome to the 2012 GOP primary.

How’d you expect Maureen Dowd to react? Uh, not well: “Even though it was predicted, it was still a shock to see voters humiliate a brilliant and spellbinding young president, who’d had such a Kennedy-like beginning, while electing a lot of conservative nuts and promoting this central-casting congressman as the face of the future: a Republican who had vowed in a written pledge to restore America to old-fashioned values, returning to a gauzy ‘Leave It to Beaver’ image that never existed even on the set of ‘Leave It to Beaver.’” Was she really shocked? She should stop doing research in New York taxicabs. But, hey, she got the humiliation part right.

How’d they do it? By being the party of no: “It began in late January 2009, when Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a quick vote on an economic-stimulus package and Mr. Cantor helped engineer a unanimous Republican ‘no’ vote. … [T]he unified vote signaled to previously rattled Republicans that they didn’t have to go along with the big Democratic majority and the highly popular new president. The vote also set a pattern that would be repeated time and again over the next two years, with House Republicans solidly opposing one Democratic initiative after another. The strategy infuriated the White House and ran the risk Republicans would be damaged by the ‘party of no’ label.”

How’d they lose it? “A Congressional majority is a terrible thing to waste, as Rahm Emanuel might say, and yesterday the public took that lesson to heart. … Yes, the economy was the dominant issue and the root of much voter worry and frustration with Washington. But make no mistake, this was also an ideological repudiation of the Democratic agenda of the last two years. Independents turned with a vengeance on the same Democrats they had vaulted into the majority in the waning George W. Bush years, rejecting the economy-killing trio of $812 billion in stimulus spending, cap and tax and ObamaCare.”

How’d the governors do? The GOP picked up at least 10 seats.

How’d Republican New Yorkers do? They picked up five House seats, remarkable considering how badly the top of the ticket ran.

How’d they make history? “South Carolina voters have elected the first black Republican to Congress from the Deep South since Reconstruction.”

How’d it work out when he ignored the Tea Party? Obama really doesn’t like to experience bad news, but it might do him some good to hear directly what the media are saying about him. “Aides say the President received updates on races from his staff, but didn’t sit in front of the television watching the election returns himself.”

How’d Mitt Romney want you to reflect on the election? With a morning-after op-ed by him, touting his free-market credentials. A sample: “If the president is to become serious about spending, borrowing and deficits, he must subject government to the two budgeting rules employed by every well-run business and home.” Welcome to the 2012 GOP primary.

How’d you expect Maureen Dowd to react? Uh, not well: “Even though it was predicted, it was still a shock to see voters humiliate a brilliant and spellbinding young president, who’d had such a Kennedy-like beginning, while electing a lot of conservative nuts and promoting this central-casting congressman as the face of the future: a Republican who had vowed in a written pledge to restore America to old-fashioned values, returning to a gauzy ‘Leave It to Beaver’ image that never existed even on the set of ‘Leave It to Beaver.’” Was she really shocked? She should stop doing research in New York taxicabs. But, hey, she got the humiliation part right.

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Mean and Ignorant!

Fresh from a column on how mean GOP women are, Maureen Dowd today writes about how ignorant they are. She reviews the well-known list of gaffes — but only those of Republican women. Apparently Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Blanche Lincoln, and the rest are scholars one and all. But then Dowd writes something odd, even for her:

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

OK, now that’s dumb. American exceptionalism — the idea that America is endowed with great assets and plays a unique role in the world — has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea to have a Harvard grad or a University of Idaho grad in the Oval Office. The desire to dump elites in no way diminishes one’s faith in American exceptionalism. To the contrary, it is the elites who have learned to disdain the projection of American power and values. So, yes, you can in fact favor candidates without elite baggage and believe in the unique role of America in the world.

Of course, Christine O’Donnell is now the useful model for portraying all conservative women as dopes. But what will Dowd and her ilk do when O’Donnell loses? Sarah Palin, the queen bee they fear and resent the most, has been on a roll. She understood that ObamaCare meant rationing; that renunciation of first-strike nuclear power against a biological or chemical attack was daft; that Keynesian economics was bunk; and that animus toward Israel and indifference to our allies more generally was dangerous. What’s ignorant about all that?

I’m not going to defend the gaffes by conservative candidates, male or female, or make the argument that they don’t matter when running for office. They do, especially when these candidates have already been tagged by the mainstream press (whose own brilliance was so stunning that they were certain the surge would fail and that Obama was a political genius) as intellectually deficient, as Palin has. But the ideas that they embrace are not the product of ignorance. They are rooted in time-tested principles of free market economics, limited government, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

At least conservative women have not made the meta-errors of the type that imperil Obama and his Democrats (not to mention our country). So better, then, for Dowd to keep the arguments trivial, personal, and mean. Otherwise, the Gray Lady’s venom-spitting columnist might have to engage in some real policy critiques. And who thinks Dowd is remotely up to that?

Fresh from a column on how mean GOP women are, Maureen Dowd today writes about how ignorant they are. She reviews the well-known list of gaffes — but only those of Republican women. Apparently Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Blanche Lincoln, and the rest are scholars one and all. But then Dowd writes something odd, even for her:

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

OK, now that’s dumb. American exceptionalism — the idea that America is endowed with great assets and plays a unique role in the world — has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea to have a Harvard grad or a University of Idaho grad in the Oval Office. The desire to dump elites in no way diminishes one’s faith in American exceptionalism. To the contrary, it is the elites who have learned to disdain the projection of American power and values. So, yes, you can in fact favor candidates without elite baggage and believe in the unique role of America in the world.

Of course, Christine O’Donnell is now the useful model for portraying all conservative women as dopes. But what will Dowd and her ilk do when O’Donnell loses? Sarah Palin, the queen bee they fear and resent the most, has been on a roll. She understood that ObamaCare meant rationing; that renunciation of first-strike nuclear power against a biological or chemical attack was daft; that Keynesian economics was bunk; and that animus toward Israel and indifference to our allies more generally was dangerous. What’s ignorant about all that?

I’m not going to defend the gaffes by conservative candidates, male or female, or make the argument that they don’t matter when running for office. They do, especially when these candidates have already been tagged by the mainstream press (whose own brilliance was so stunning that they were certain the surge would fail and that Obama was a political genius) as intellectually deficient, as Palin has. But the ideas that they embrace are not the product of ignorance. They are rooted in time-tested principles of free market economics, limited government, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

At least conservative women have not made the meta-errors of the type that imperil Obama and his Democrats (not to mention our country). So better, then, for Dowd to keep the arguments trivial, personal, and mean. Otherwise, the Gray Lady’s venom-spitting columnist might have to engage in some real policy critiques. And who thinks Dowd is remotely up to that?

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Dowd Unhinged — Again

This is rich: Maureen Dowd is aggrieved because Republican women are insufficiently demure. The grand dame of the Gray Lady, whose columns are distinguished not by their blindingly clever policy insights (her research is confined to taxi cabs in Manhattan) but by her own particular brand of nasty armchair psychology (not to mention plagiarism), is beside herself:

We are in the era of Republican Mean Girls, grown-up versions of those teenage tormentors who would steal your boyfriend, spray-paint your locker and, just for good measure, spread rumors that you were pregnant.

These women — Jan, Meg, Carly, Sharron, Linda, Michele, Queen Bee Sarah and sweet wannabe Christine — have co-opted and ratcheted up the disgust with the status quo that originally buoyed Barack Obama. Whether they’re mistreating the help or belittling the president’s manhood, making snide comments about a rival’s hair or ripping an opponent for spending money on a men’s fashion show, the Mean Girls have replaced Hope with Spite and Cool with Cold. They are the ideal nihilistic cheerleaders for an angry electorate.

Beaten at her own game, is she? Why yes. (She does impart one piece of information: Sharron Angle “campaigns at times with a .44 Magnum revolver in her 1989 GMC pickup.” My word, what is not to like about her?!) The tough girls have not only given a clear alternative to the whiny victimhood of Dowd and her fellow gender-grievance-mongers; they have redefined political feminism. You can gain power, win the respect and affection of fellow citizens, and be pro-free market, pro-guns, and pro-life (the unholy trinity of the left).

No wonder Dowd has wigged out, feeling “jittery” after Angle demolished Harry Reid (whom Dowd bizarrely terms “the soft-spoken Mormon”). Dowd is aghast that Angle would point out that he has made a mint, thanks to his Senate career (“‘one of the richest men in the Senate’ after coming from Searchlight ‘with very little’”). This is going “for the jugular”? How sensitive Dowd has become.

But don’t you see? Only liberal women are permitted to spew bile at their male political adversaries. Heaven forbid telegenic, principled conservative women should upend their liberal opponents, ascend the political ladder, and grab the spotlight. Bad enough there was Sarah; now there is a whole flock of them. You can understand why Dowd is green with envy.

This is rich: Maureen Dowd is aggrieved because Republican women are insufficiently demure. The grand dame of the Gray Lady, whose columns are distinguished not by their blindingly clever policy insights (her research is confined to taxi cabs in Manhattan) but by her own particular brand of nasty armchair psychology (not to mention plagiarism), is beside herself:

We are in the era of Republican Mean Girls, grown-up versions of those teenage tormentors who would steal your boyfriend, spray-paint your locker and, just for good measure, spread rumors that you were pregnant.

These women — Jan, Meg, Carly, Sharron, Linda, Michele, Queen Bee Sarah and sweet wannabe Christine — have co-opted and ratcheted up the disgust with the status quo that originally buoyed Barack Obama. Whether they’re mistreating the help or belittling the president’s manhood, making snide comments about a rival’s hair or ripping an opponent for spending money on a men’s fashion show, the Mean Girls have replaced Hope with Spite and Cool with Cold. They are the ideal nihilistic cheerleaders for an angry electorate.

Beaten at her own game, is she? Why yes. (She does impart one piece of information: Sharron Angle “campaigns at times with a .44 Magnum revolver in her 1989 GMC pickup.” My word, what is not to like about her?!) The tough girls have not only given a clear alternative to the whiny victimhood of Dowd and her fellow gender-grievance-mongers; they have redefined political feminism. You can gain power, win the respect and affection of fellow citizens, and be pro-free market, pro-guns, and pro-life (the unholy trinity of the left).

No wonder Dowd has wigged out, feeling “jittery” after Angle demolished Harry Reid (whom Dowd bizarrely terms “the soft-spoken Mormon”). Dowd is aghast that Angle would point out that he has made a mint, thanks to his Senate career (“‘one of the richest men in the Senate’ after coming from Searchlight ‘with very little’”). This is going “for the jugular”? How sensitive Dowd has become.

But don’t you see? Only liberal women are permitted to spew bile at their male political adversaries. Heaven forbid telegenic, principled conservative women should upend their liberal opponents, ascend the political ladder, and grab the spotlight. Bad enough there was Sarah; now there is a whole flock of them. You can understand why Dowd is green with envy.

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Not a Bush Comeback!

The left has plenty of reason to wig out. Their ideal liberal candidate is proving to be a bust as president. The public is still stubbornly center-right and suspicious of big government. The Tea Party crowd has invigorated and not divided the Republican Party. Obama has been forced to retreat, at least rhetorically, from Israel bashing. But there is one indignity too great to bear: the restoration of George W. Bush’s reputation.

Already voters in Ohio prefer Bush to Obama. Suddenly, “Bush-like” is no longer a political epithet. A chunk of Democrats are vowing to continue the Bush tax cuts. And when it comes to commander-in-chief talents and emotional connectivity to the American people, there is no contest. So be prepared for some screechy backlash.

And no one outdoes Maureen Dowd in the screechy department. She’s back to whining about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, citing a new movie that bears as much relationship to actual events as Gone With the Wind did to the Civil War. It’s really no more than an excuse to rage against the public’s newfound appreciation of  Bush. As this wit put it:

This version of the lives of these two Washington celebutaries  provides the Pulitzer-prize-winning columnist and plagiarist an opportunity to re-douse her favorite targets, the torturing malefactors George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, etc., with more than even the usual amount of spewage from her sulphur pot.

But Dowd herself gave it away in her opening graph, declaring to be “pathetic” a CNN headline and poll suggesting that, in fact, the public might think Bush a better president than his successor. It’s not “pathetic” — it is a political reality. The public is re-evaluating Bush in light of his successor and coming to appreciate that he got many (nearly all, I would argue) of the big things right (e.g., tax cuts, the surge, two qualified Supreme Court justices).

Dowd accuses the country of short-term memory loss. But perhaps her memory is as faulty as her journalistic ethics. It was, after all, Richard Armitage who was the leaker in the Plame affair. Is he in the movie?

The left has plenty of reason to wig out. Their ideal liberal candidate is proving to be a bust as president. The public is still stubbornly center-right and suspicious of big government. The Tea Party crowd has invigorated and not divided the Republican Party. Obama has been forced to retreat, at least rhetorically, from Israel bashing. But there is one indignity too great to bear: the restoration of George W. Bush’s reputation.

Already voters in Ohio prefer Bush to Obama. Suddenly, “Bush-like” is no longer a political epithet. A chunk of Democrats are vowing to continue the Bush tax cuts. And when it comes to commander-in-chief talents and emotional connectivity to the American people, there is no contest. So be prepared for some screechy backlash.

And no one outdoes Maureen Dowd in the screechy department. She’s back to whining about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, citing a new movie that bears as much relationship to actual events as Gone With the Wind did to the Civil War. It’s really no more than an excuse to rage against the public’s newfound appreciation of  Bush. As this wit put it:

This version of the lives of these two Washington celebutaries  provides the Pulitzer-prize-winning columnist and plagiarist an opportunity to re-douse her favorite targets, the torturing malefactors George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, etc., with more than even the usual amount of spewage from her sulphur pot.

But Dowd herself gave it away in her opening graph, declaring to be “pathetic” a CNN headline and poll suggesting that, in fact, the public might think Bush a better president than his successor. It’s not “pathetic” — it is a political reality. The public is re-evaluating Bush in light of his successor and coming to appreciate that he got many (nearly all, I would argue) of the big things right (e.g., tax cuts, the surge, two qualified Supreme Court justices).

Dowd accuses the country of short-term memory loss. But perhaps her memory is as faulty as her journalistic ethics. It was, after all, Richard Armitage who was the leaker in the Plame affair. Is he in the movie?

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Double Standards Regarding Political Civility

Courtesy of Hotair comes this clip of MSNBC’s Ed Schultz at the “One Nation” rally this weekend. I do hope that liberals who are so eager to argue for civility in public discourse might have a word or two to say about Mr. Schultz, who, among other things, refers to conservatives as the “forces of evil” and says that while conservatives talk about our forefathers, “they want discrimination.”

Now, I don’t expect much more from someone like Ed Schultz. But liberal commentators (E.J. Dionne, Jr., Eugene Robinson, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, Jonathan Alter, and Jim Wallis, for starters) who complain about political discourse only when the offending parties are on the right would do themselves and the nation a favor if they spoke out against haters such as Schultz and Representative Alan Grayson. (Grayson’s deeply dishonest and repulsive ad, accusing his opponent of being “Taliban Dan Webster,” can be found here.)

If pundits like E.J. Dionne and others remain silent when people who share their philosophical and ideological precepts cross the line, then it’s reasonable to assume, I think, that their counsel for civility is being driven by partisan impulses rather than a genuine concern about the quality of public discourse.

Courtesy of Hotair comes this clip of MSNBC’s Ed Schultz at the “One Nation” rally this weekend. I do hope that liberals who are so eager to argue for civility in public discourse might have a word or two to say about Mr. Schultz, who, among other things, refers to conservatives as the “forces of evil” and says that while conservatives talk about our forefathers, “they want discrimination.”

Now, I don’t expect much more from someone like Ed Schultz. But liberal commentators (E.J. Dionne, Jr., Eugene Robinson, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, Jonathan Alter, and Jim Wallis, for starters) who complain about political discourse only when the offending parties are on the right would do themselves and the nation a favor if they spoke out against haters such as Schultz and Representative Alan Grayson. (Grayson’s deeply dishonest and repulsive ad, accusing his opponent of being “Taliban Dan Webster,” can be found here.)

If pundits like E.J. Dionne and others remain silent when people who share their philosophical and ideological precepts cross the line, then it’s reasonable to assume, I think, that their counsel for civility is being driven by partisan impulses rather than a genuine concern about the quality of public discourse.

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Meet the Muslim World

Would it be Islamaphobic to call attention to this horrifying interview about wife beating according to Muhammad? Would it be too much to ask that the left and the Obama administration take a break from obsessing over apartment-building in egalitarian Israel to notice that “beating etiquette” is what passes for “honoring your wife” in the Muslim World? (No and yes, in case there was any doubt.)

But then again, this is not the worst of it for the women and girls of the Muslim World. Let’s not forget the stonings, the child brides, and the honor killings (which are the natural extension of pummeling one’s wife — “Eventually [a] husband could find he has honored wife so widely and deeply that he’s meted out an honor killing”).

You’d have to be blind or handsomely entertained to miss all that. Speaking of which, maybe next time Maureen Dowd is feted in Saudi Arabia, she can refrain from purring about the progress of Muslim women and ask about these sorts of thing. No, I don’t suppose she would.

Would it be Islamaphobic to call attention to this horrifying interview about wife beating according to Muhammad? Would it be too much to ask that the left and the Obama administration take a break from obsessing over apartment-building in egalitarian Israel to notice that “beating etiquette” is what passes for “honoring your wife” in the Muslim World? (No and yes, in case there was any doubt.)

But then again, this is not the worst of it for the women and girls of the Muslim World. Let’s not forget the stonings, the child brides, and the honor killings (which are the natural extension of pummeling one’s wife — “Eventually [a] husband could find he has honored wife so widely and deeply that he’s meted out an honor killing”).

You’d have to be blind or handsomely entertained to miss all that. Speaking of which, maybe next time Maureen Dowd is feted in Saudi Arabia, she can refrain from purring about the progress of Muslim women and ask about these sorts of thing. No, I don’t suppose she would.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree — Obama’s end-around the Senate on the zealous czarina of consumer protection is outrageous. S. 1 in the 112th Congress? Defund the consumer protection agency.

Lots of Democratic Senate candidates agree with the GOP: “Senate Democratic candidates are wavering over whether to support President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. At least seven Democrats in battleground states say they support or could support extending tax breaks for families who make more than $250,000.”

Karl Rove and his conservative critics agree — Lisa Murkowski’s independent run is “sad and sorry.”

Independents agree with Republicans: refudiate Obamanomics. “A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. … Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. … More generally, independents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship.”

Colin Powell and his (former?) party finally agree: Obama needs to “shift the way in which he has been doing things. … I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. … There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it.”

At least conservatives and Maureen Dowd can agree on this about Obama: “Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice. He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed ‘bitter’ during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.”

The left and right can agree that the latest administration move on Sudan is a disgrace: “After long, and reportedly heated, arguments inside the White House over the proper balance between carrot and stick, officials have produced a document that is highly specific about inducements and carefully vague about threats. … John Norris, a Sudan expert at the Center for American Progress and former head of the Enough Project, calls the package ‘unseemly.’”

CAIR agrees with the late Tony Snow (one of his finest moments): Hezbollah never had a better spokesperson than Helen Thomas.

I think we can all agree that Christiane Amanpour is the weakest Sunday talk-show host. Not only does she not ask a serious follow-up question of Hillary Clinton, but Ahmadinejad runs circles around her. (The proof of her ineptitude? You don’t see Ahmadinejad submitting to an interview with Candy Crowley or Chris Wallace.)

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree — Obama’s end-around the Senate on the zealous czarina of consumer protection is outrageous. S. 1 in the 112th Congress? Defund the consumer protection agency.

Lots of Democratic Senate candidates agree with the GOP: “Senate Democratic candidates are wavering over whether to support President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. At least seven Democrats in battleground states say they support or could support extending tax breaks for families who make more than $250,000.”

Karl Rove and his conservative critics agree — Lisa Murkowski’s independent run is “sad and sorry.”

Independents agree with Republicans: refudiate Obamanomics. “A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. … Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. … More generally, independents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship.”

Colin Powell and his (former?) party finally agree: Obama needs to “shift the way in which he has been doing things. … I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. … There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it.”

At least conservatives and Maureen Dowd can agree on this about Obama: “Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice. He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed ‘bitter’ during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.”

The left and right can agree that the latest administration move on Sudan is a disgrace: “After long, and reportedly heated, arguments inside the White House over the proper balance between carrot and stick, officials have produced a document that is highly specific about inducements and carefully vague about threats. … John Norris, a Sudan expert at the Center for American Progress and former head of the Enough Project, calls the package ‘unseemly.’”

CAIR agrees with the late Tony Snow (one of his finest moments): Hezbollah never had a better spokesperson than Helen Thomas.

I think we can all agree that Christiane Amanpour is the weakest Sunday talk-show host. Not only does she not ask a serious follow-up question of Hillary Clinton, but Ahmadinejad runs circles around her. (The proof of her ineptitude? You don’t see Ahmadinejad submitting to an interview with Candy Crowley or Chris Wallace.)

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Obama Is Borrrring!

Obama’s public persona is so predictable and his image so overexposed that even the left is over him. He’s gone from fascinating and cool to a crashing bore in less than two years. Greg Sargent: “Seems the consensus is that Obama’s presser [Friday] was way too boring, substantive and unemotional to produce an abrupt and massive enough turnaround in the polls to guarantee in advance that Dems hold their majority.” Ditto, hisses Maureen Dowd: “How did the first president of color become so colorless?” Well, he ran out of catchphrases and revealed himself to be less articulate than George Bush. Dowd admits he sounds downright loopy at times:

“How have you changed Washington?” [Chuck] Todd asked.

The president answered that he is trying to help “ordinary families” and not special interests, before conceding that he, too, is frustrated by his inability to create “a greater spirit of cooperation in Washington.”

“You know, are there, you know, things that I might have done during the course of 18 months that would, you know, at the margins have improved some of the tone in Washington?” Obama asked. “Probably.” Uncharacteristically valley girl, the usually eloquent president must have, you know, had a hard time acknowledging that.

Why are liberals so bored all of a sudden? Conservatives, of course, rolled their eyes over his New Age-like campaign rhetoric and have begun to pine for Bill Clinton, who, at least, was intellectually creative and amusing. There are, I think, several things at work.

First, style — that “superior temperament” and the coolness — was what attracted many urban liberals to him in the first place. Obama was in essence the latest trend, equivalent to this season’s fashion or the newest cell phone, which they had to have. But trends by definition come and go, and surface impressions and infatuation don’t last long.

Second, it is easier to admit that the candidate they swooned for is boring than it is to say he’s incompetent (or an empty suit). The former implies that Obama has lost his charm, the latter suggests that their own judgment was faulty. This also neatly sidesteps the troubling matter that Obama’s policies have tanked. (If he could only be more eloquent about the trillions spent, the public wouldn’t dessert him, the thinking goes.)

Third, Obama just doesn’t wear well. Having never stepped out of his campaign mode or put aside his contempt for the Bible and gun clingers (that would be a large segment of America), he’s grating on the nerves. Dowd quotes a “Peggy” (that Peggy? who knows if there is a Peggy at all):

I don’t watch him anymore. I’m turned off by him. I think he’s an elitist. He went down to the gulf, telling everyone to take a vacation down there, and then he goes to Martha’s Vineyard. He does what he wants but then he tells us to do other things. I want him in that White House acting like a president, not out on the campaign trail. Not when the country is going down the toilet.

And finally, Obama thought we could never get enough of him. He has been omnipresent — everywhere from the all-star game  to People magazine. Former White House officials warned that the presidency is a commodity that should be jealously guarded. But Obama has insisted on splattering himself on every publication and appearing on virtually every cable TV station. (He might have missed Food Network, although his wife did show up there.) Even someone with something interesting to say can’t say it for two years without losing his freshness.

I’m doubtful Obama can reinvent himself, either intellectually or personally. He’s not struck us as one willing to moderate his ideology or to reflect on his own weaknesses. And it may be that just as bored as liberals are of him, he’s bored with the job and tired of the incessant criticism, fed up with unappreciative Americans, and frustrated that the country and world do not fall at his feet. Maybe one term really is enough for him — and for his disenchanted supporters.

Obama’s public persona is so predictable and his image so overexposed that even the left is over him. He’s gone from fascinating and cool to a crashing bore in less than two years. Greg Sargent: “Seems the consensus is that Obama’s presser [Friday] was way too boring, substantive and unemotional to produce an abrupt and massive enough turnaround in the polls to guarantee in advance that Dems hold their majority.” Ditto, hisses Maureen Dowd: “How did the first president of color become so colorless?” Well, he ran out of catchphrases and revealed himself to be less articulate than George Bush. Dowd admits he sounds downright loopy at times:

“How have you changed Washington?” [Chuck] Todd asked.

The president answered that he is trying to help “ordinary families” and not special interests, before conceding that he, too, is frustrated by his inability to create “a greater spirit of cooperation in Washington.”

“You know, are there, you know, things that I might have done during the course of 18 months that would, you know, at the margins have improved some of the tone in Washington?” Obama asked. “Probably.” Uncharacteristically valley girl, the usually eloquent president must have, you know, had a hard time acknowledging that.

Why are liberals so bored all of a sudden? Conservatives, of course, rolled their eyes over his New Age-like campaign rhetoric and have begun to pine for Bill Clinton, who, at least, was intellectually creative and amusing. There are, I think, several things at work.

First, style — that “superior temperament” and the coolness — was what attracted many urban liberals to him in the first place. Obama was in essence the latest trend, equivalent to this season’s fashion or the newest cell phone, which they had to have. But trends by definition come and go, and surface impressions and infatuation don’t last long.

Second, it is easier to admit that the candidate they swooned for is boring than it is to say he’s incompetent (or an empty suit). The former implies that Obama has lost his charm, the latter suggests that their own judgment was faulty. This also neatly sidesteps the troubling matter that Obama’s policies have tanked. (If he could only be more eloquent about the trillions spent, the public wouldn’t dessert him, the thinking goes.)

Third, Obama just doesn’t wear well. Having never stepped out of his campaign mode or put aside his contempt for the Bible and gun clingers (that would be a large segment of America), he’s grating on the nerves. Dowd quotes a “Peggy” (that Peggy? who knows if there is a Peggy at all):

I don’t watch him anymore. I’m turned off by him. I think he’s an elitist. He went down to the gulf, telling everyone to take a vacation down there, and then he goes to Martha’s Vineyard. He does what he wants but then he tells us to do other things. I want him in that White House acting like a president, not out on the campaign trail. Not when the country is going down the toilet.

And finally, Obama thought we could never get enough of him. He has been omnipresent — everywhere from the all-star game  to People magazine. Former White House officials warned that the presidency is a commodity that should be jealously guarded. But Obama has insisted on splattering himself on every publication and appearing on virtually every cable TV station. (He might have missed Food Network, although his wife did show up there.) Even someone with something interesting to say can’t say it for two years without losing his freshness.

I’m doubtful Obama can reinvent himself, either intellectually or personally. He’s not struck us as one willing to moderate his ideology or to reflect on his own weaknesses. And it may be that just as bored as liberals are of him, he’s bored with the job and tired of the incessant criticism, fed up with unappreciative Americans, and frustrated that the country and world do not fall at his feet. Maybe one term really is enough for him — and for his disenchanted supporters.

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Liberalism’s Existential Crisis

As the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party continue their journey into the Slough of Despond, it’s interesting to watch Obama’ supporters try to process the unfolding events.

Some blame it on a failure to communicate. E.J. Dionne, Jr., for example, ascribes the Democrats’ problems to the fact that Obama “has chosen not to engage the nation in an extended dialogue about what holds all his achievements together.” Joe Klein offers this explanation: “If Obama is not reelected, it will be because he comes across as disdaining what he does for a living.” And John Judis points to the Obama administration’s “aversion to populism.”

Others are aiming their sound and fury at the American people. According to Maureen Dowd, “Obama is the head of the dysfunctional family of America — a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age. The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown.” Jonathan Alter argues that the American people “aren’t rationally aligning belief and action; they’re tempted to lose their spleens in the polling place without fully grasping the consequences.” And Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg has written that “the biggest culprit in our current predicament” is the “childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large.” Read More

As the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party continue their journey into the Slough of Despond, it’s interesting to watch Obama’ supporters try to process the unfolding events.

Some blame it on a failure to communicate. E.J. Dionne, Jr., for example, ascribes the Democrats’ problems to the fact that Obama “has chosen not to engage the nation in an extended dialogue about what holds all his achievements together.” Joe Klein offers this explanation: “If Obama is not reelected, it will be because he comes across as disdaining what he does for a living.” And John Judis points to the Obama administration’s “aversion to populism.”

Others are aiming their sound and fury at the American people. According to Maureen Dowd, “Obama is the head of the dysfunctional family of America — a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age. The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown.” Jonathan Alter argues that the American people “aren’t rationally aligning belief and action; they’re tempted to lose their spleens in the polling place without fully grasping the consequences.” And Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg has written that “the biggest culprit in our current predicament” is the “childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large.”

For still others, Obama’s failures can be traced to James Madison. George Packer complains that Obama’s failures are in part institutional. He lists a slew of items on the liberal agenda items “the world’s greatest deliberative body is incapable of addressing.” Paul Krugman warns that the Senate is “ominously dysfunctional” and insists that the way it works is “no longer consistent with a functioning government.” For Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum, “The evidence that Washington cannot function — that it’s ‘broken,’ as Vice President Joe Biden has said — is all around.” The modern presidency “has become a job of such gargantuan size, speed, and complexity as to be all but unrecognizable to most of the previous chief executives.”

Commentators such as the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein place responsibility on “powerful structural forces in American politics that seem to drag down first-term presidents” (though Klein does acknowledge other factors). The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait pins the blame on “structural factors” and “external factors” that have nothing to do with Obama’s policies.

Then there are those who see the pernicious vast right-wing conspiracy at work. Frank Rich alerts us to the fact that the problem lies with “the brothers David and Charles Koch,” the “sugar daddies” who are bankrolling the “white Tea Party America.” Newsweek‘s Michael Cohen has written that, “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain.” And Mr. Krugman offers this analysis: “What we learned from the Clinton years is that a significant number of Americans just don’t consider government by liberals — even very moderate liberals — legitimate. Mr. Obama’s election would have enraged those people even if he were white. Of course, the fact that he isn’t, and has an alien-sounding name, adds to the rage.” Krugman goes on to warn that “powerful forces are promoting and exploiting this rage” — including the “right-wing media.” And if they come to gain power, “It will be an ugly scene, and it will be dangerous, too.”

What most of these commentators are missing, I think, are two essential points. First, the public is turning against Obama and the Democratic Party because the economy is sick and, despite his assurances and projections, the president hasn’t been able to make it well. And in some important respects, especially on fiscal matters, the president and the 111th Congress have made things considerably worse. Second, an increasing number of Americans believe Obama’s policies are unwise, ineffective, and much too liberal. They connect the bad results we are seeing in America to what Obama is doing to America.

But there’s something else, and something deeper, going on here. All of us who embrace a particular religious or philosophical worldview should be prepared to judge them in light of empirical facts and reality. What if our theories seem to be failing in the real world?

The truth is that it’s rather rare to find people willing to reexamine or reinterpret their most deeply held beliefs when the mounting evidence calls those beliefs into question. That is something most of us (myself included) battle with: How to be a person of principled convictions while being intellectually honest enough to acknowledge when certain propositions (and, in some instances, foundational policies) seem to be failing or falling short.

It’s quite possible, of course, that one’s basic convictions can remain true even when events go badly. Self-government is still the best form of government even if it might fail in one nation or another. And sometimes it is simply a matter of weathering storms until certain first principles are reaffirmed. At the same time, sometimes we hold to theories that are simply wrong, that are contrary to human nature and the way the world works, but we simply can’t let go of them. We have too much invested in a particular philosophy.

President Obama’s liberal supporters understand that he is in serious trouble right now; what they are doing is scrambling to find some way to explain his problems without calling into question their underlying political philosophy (modern liberalism). If what is happening cannot be a fundamental failure of liberalism, then it must be something else — from a “communications problem” to “structural factors” to a political conspiracy. And you can bet that if things continue on their present course, ideologues on the left will increasingly argue that Obama’s failures stem from his being (a) not liberal enough or (b) incompetent.

If the Obama presidency is seen as damaging the larger liberal project, they will abandon Obama in order to try to protect liberalism. They would rather do that than face an existential crisis.

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The Cheap Mental Stimulants of the NY Times

Apropos your post, Jennifer, about Maureen Dowd’s most recent temper tantrum: it is noteworthy how liberals, in the wake of the failures of Obama and the broader liberal effort to transform America, are expressing deepening alienation from our nation and turning on the American people with a vengeance.

This type of lashing out is now fairly commonplace and, for the liberal cause they claim to speak for, insane. Voters don’t like to be condescended to by a political class that possesses unchecked moral arrogance, and they don’t appreciate their nation’s being referred to as “irrational” and suffering from “some weird mass nervous breakdown” simply because they take positions contrary to those held by denizens of the Upper West Side.

In Saul Bellow’s 1964 novel, Herzog, the main character, Moses Herzog, a philosophy professor, refers to “the cheap mental stimulants of Alienation.” A lot of the commentariat, including Ms. Dowd, are showing signs of addiction to that cheap stimulant these days.

It comes at a cost.

Apropos your post, Jennifer, about Maureen Dowd’s most recent temper tantrum: it is noteworthy how liberals, in the wake of the failures of Obama and the broader liberal effort to transform America, are expressing deepening alienation from our nation and turning on the American people with a vengeance.

This type of lashing out is now fairly commonplace and, for the liberal cause they claim to speak for, insane. Voters don’t like to be condescended to by a political class that possesses unchecked moral arrogance, and they don’t appreciate their nation’s being referred to as “irrational” and suffering from “some weird mass nervous breakdown” simply because they take positions contrary to those held by denizens of the Upper West Side.

In Saul Bellow’s 1964 novel, Herzog, the main character, Moses Herzog, a philosophy professor, refers to “the cheap mental stimulants of Alienation.” A lot of the commentariat, including Ms. Dowd, are showing signs of addiction to that cheap stimulant these days.

It comes at a cost.

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Crazy America

Maureen Dowd is a woman scorned and terribly disappointed. Like most of the left, she rails at America for being too rotten to appreciate Obama, who has the misfortune to be “a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age.” It’s not that we are merely racists; we are, Dr. Dowd declares, “having some weird mass nervous breakdown.” Perhaps we should all be institutionalized. (“The dispute over the Islamic center has tripped some deep national lunacy. The unbottled anger and suspicion concerning ground zero show that many Americans haven’t flushed the trauma of 9/11 out of their systems — making them easy prey for fearmongers.”) Yeah, she really is that bummed out.

But after going on in this vein for some time, she confesses (my comments in brackets):

The president who is always talking about wanting to be perfectly clear is ever more opaque. [As opposed to "hope and change," which was the model of intellectual precision?] The One, who owes his presidency to the intense feeling he stirred up, turns out to be a practical guy who can’t deal with intense feeling. [So who is the one who needs therapy?]

… Too lofty to pay heed to the daily bump and grind of politics, Obama has failed to present himself as someone with the common touch. [Unlike the candidate with the 37 bowling score and the contempt for Bible- and gun-huggers?] And to the extent that people don’t know him or don’t get him, he becomes easier to demonize. [Maybe the public knows him and doesn't like what it sees?]

Obama is the victim [the poor dear] of the elevated expectations he so skillfully created in 2008. [Which she and her ilk ably assisted in creating.]

He came as a redeemer and then — tied up in W.’s Gordian knots [You didn't think she could get through an entire column without blaming Bush, did you?], dragged down by an economy leeched by wars [the 9.5% unemployment rate is the fault of the surge?] and Wall Street charlatans  — didn’t redeem. And nothing bums out a nation [or a liberal columnist] that blows with the wind like a self-appointed messiah who disappoints.

If we’re not the ones we’ve been waiting for, who are we? [What's with the "we," Maureen? I thought we were simply nuts.]

Who are we? If you don’t buy the idea that we are a nation of psychotics and racists (or both), you might conclude we are a nation of decent souls who’ve just about had it with the insults hurled by the elites and the bait-and-switch president who ran as a competent moderate and turned out to be neither.

Maureen Dowd is a woman scorned and terribly disappointed. Like most of the left, she rails at America for being too rotten to appreciate Obama, who has the misfortune to be “a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age.” It’s not that we are merely racists; we are, Dr. Dowd declares, “having some weird mass nervous breakdown.” Perhaps we should all be institutionalized. (“The dispute over the Islamic center has tripped some deep national lunacy. The unbottled anger and suspicion concerning ground zero show that many Americans haven’t flushed the trauma of 9/11 out of their systems — making them easy prey for fearmongers.”) Yeah, she really is that bummed out.

But after going on in this vein for some time, she confesses (my comments in brackets):

The president who is always talking about wanting to be perfectly clear is ever more opaque. [As opposed to "hope and change," which was the model of intellectual precision?] The One, who owes his presidency to the intense feeling he stirred up, turns out to be a practical guy who can’t deal with intense feeling. [So who is the one who needs therapy?]

… Too lofty to pay heed to the daily bump and grind of politics, Obama has failed to present himself as someone with the common touch. [Unlike the candidate with the 37 bowling score and the contempt for Bible- and gun-huggers?] And to the extent that people don’t know him or don’t get him, he becomes easier to demonize. [Maybe the public knows him and doesn't like what it sees?]

Obama is the victim [the poor dear] of the elevated expectations he so skillfully created in 2008. [Which she and her ilk ably assisted in creating.]

He came as a redeemer and then — tied up in W.’s Gordian knots [You didn't think she could get through an entire column without blaming Bush, did you?], dragged down by an economy leeched by wars [the 9.5% unemployment rate is the fault of the surge?] and Wall Street charlatans  — didn’t redeem. And nothing bums out a nation [or a liberal columnist] that blows with the wind like a self-appointed messiah who disappoints.

If we’re not the ones we’ve been waiting for, who are we? [What's with the "we," Maureen? I thought we were simply nuts.]

Who are we? If you don’t buy the idea that we are a nation of psychotics and racists (or both), you might conclude we are a nation of decent souls who’ve just about had it with the insults hurled by the elites and the bait-and-switch president who ran as a competent moderate and turned out to be neither.

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What Objection to the Ground Zero Mosque Is Not

Liberals who two years ago abandoned their humdrum lives to become career alarmists about Sarah Palin’s Pentecostalism now wish to be taken seriously as misty-eyed champions of America’s tolerance of diverse faiths. Whatever the intent of the planned Cordoba House Mosque Community Center Bowling Alley Drive-in Imax Nail Salon and Day Spa actually is matters not at all. It is to be celebrated because it is Islamic and because America does not discriminate on the basis of religion. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd laments that President Obama, in his muddled failure to partake in the festivities, has “allowed himself to be weakened by perfectly predictable Republican hysteria.” After all, says Dowd,“By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.”

Braille has come a long way. When I read that Rauf refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization and that he respects the doctrine of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini I could swear I took it in with my eyes. Just as I seemed to do when in 2008 I read that Dowd, the declared enemy of predictable hysteria, asked of Sarah Palin, “When the phone rings at 3 a.m., will she call the Wasilla Assembly of God congregation and ask them to pray on a response, as she asked them to pray for a natural gas pipeline?”

Feisal Rauf is A-OK with Khomeini-ism and he’s a welcome voice of reason; Sarah Palin prays and that makes her an unhinged zealot.

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Liberals who two years ago abandoned their humdrum lives to become career alarmists about Sarah Palin’s Pentecostalism now wish to be taken seriously as misty-eyed champions of America’s tolerance of diverse faiths. Whatever the intent of the planned Cordoba House Mosque Community Center Bowling Alley Drive-in Imax Nail Salon and Day Spa actually is matters not at all. It is to be celebrated because it is Islamic and because America does not discriminate on the basis of religion. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd laments that President Obama, in his muddled failure to partake in the festivities, has “allowed himself to be weakened by perfectly predictable Republican hysteria.” After all, says Dowd,“By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.”

Braille has come a long way. When I read that Rauf refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization and that he respects the doctrine of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini I could swear I took it in with my eyes. Just as I seemed to do when in 2008 I read that Dowd, the declared enemy of predictable hysteria, asked of Sarah Palin, “When the phone rings at 3 a.m., will she call the Wasilla Assembly of God congregation and ask them to pray on a response, as she asked them to pray for a natural gas pipeline?”

Feisal Rauf is A-OK with Khomeini-ism and he’s a welcome voice of reason; Sarah Palin prays and that makes her an unhinged zealot.

Religion is  deserving of mockery at all turns—unless it is the Muslim strain to be practiced two blocks from Ground Zero. Of course, objections to the comparison are predictable. Palin was vying for the vice president’s office and Rauf is merely . . . the bridge-building embodiment of Muslim outreach that the post-9/11 world has been waiting for.

The Left’s shift from defamers of faith to champions of faith has come complete with the characterization of the Right as hateful bigots. That thousands of American liberals have in the past protested Papal visits, with some placards comparing Christianity to Nazism, is a testament to freedom of speech. That non-liberal Americans protest only the building of a specific mosque in a specific location is a testament both to prejudice and to indifference on religious freedom.  In the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart asks, in high dudgeon, “Remember when George W. Bush and his neoconservative allies used to say that the ‘war on terror; was a struggle on behalf of Muslims, decent folks who wanted nothing more than to live free like you and me?” No matter that neoconservatives like the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens writes that the problem with celebrating Rauf as a moderate is that doing so steals support and recognition from “Muslims in the U.S. like Irshad [Manji] who are working, tirelessly but mainly out of view, toward the cause of reform.” And never mind that in the New Republic Reuel Gerecht, a neoconservative,  envisions a potential mosque built by a true moderate that “would honor us all.” Dowd, Beinart, and the like can only enjoy hero status if their opponents are depicted as convincing villains.

The myths about those opposed to the mosque don’t stop there. Conservatives, we are told, are eager to invent new instruments of government to block the mosque’s construction. While fewer than a handful of conservatives have made passing references to zoning laws, the overwhelming majority have gone out of their way to note that there is no legal argument against the mosque. As Peter Kirsanow pointed out at National Review’s Corner blog, “You don’t need to have been a lecturer in constitutional law like Obama to know that the mosque’s backers have a right to build at Ground Zero.”

Those uneasy about Rauf and the Cordoba House project are not hysterical, hateful, or statist. Their objections have to do with something less devious than prejudice and simpler than the law: common sense. Here is a thought experiment: If the mosque was slated to be built not two blocks away from Ground Zero, but actually on it, would those opposed still be exposing their contemptible hysteria by complaining? The site would still be private property, after all. And if the imam of that mosque openly preached a naked form of extremist Islam, should anyone who objects still be ashamed of themselves, as New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg has suggested? Freedom of religion would still be a fundamental American tenet, would it not? In other words, there are points at which it is very clear that non-prejudiced objections to legal undertakings become common sense. For the mosque’s unflappable admirers, the current location and the current imam don’t court that tipping point. For most Americans, forever transformed by the deadly attack on our homeland, they eclipse it.

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Dowd vs. Obama

I admit it: I was looking forward to Maureen Dowd’s column today. Nothing quite gets her dander up and her claws out like a reminder that Obama is not merely a disappointment to the left but also an embarrassment. She  seethes:

When the president skittered back from his grandiose declaration at an iftar celebration at the White House Friday that Muslims enjoy freedom of religion in America and have the right to build a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan, he offered a Clintonesque parsing. …

Let me be perfectly clear, Mr. Perfectly Unclear President: You cannot take such a stand on a matter of first principle and then take it back the next morning when, lo and behold, Harry Reid goes craven and the Republicans attack.

Well he can and did, but she’s fit to be tied about it — so much so that’s she’s praising George W. Bush for saying nice things about Muslims, championing AIDS prevention in Africa, and making a real effort on immigration reform. (I was not pleased with his excessive genuflecting on the first, but we’ve certainly entered the Twilight Zone of politics when she throws Bush in Obama’s face. Nothing like a woman scorned.) Anyway, she’s not done with the unflattering comparisons. Bill Clinton, at least, “never presented himself as a moral guide to the country,” so it’s all the more painful when Obama “flops around” on the mosque and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Now this is Maureen Dowd — who is apparently so powerful that fact checkers and editors dare not raise their hands to caution her about lines like this: “By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.” Uh, not really. We’re yearning for a Muslim who specifically condemns Hamas as a terrorist group and doesn’t suggest that the U.S. is responsible for 9/11. We’re yearning for a Muslim who doesn’t use “hallowed ground” – where 3,000 Americans died at the hands of Islamist extremists — to build a “a symbol of victory for militant Muslims around the world.” (That from an American Muslim whose mother was incinerated on 9/11 by those who “believed that all non-Muslims are infidels and that the duty of Muslims is to renounce them.”) We’re yearning for a Muslim who is “desperate to reform his faith” and forthright in his assessment that the placement of the mosque at Ground Zero is based on “a belief that Islamic structures are a political statement and even Ground Zero should be looked upon through the lens of political Islam and not a solely American one.” (That from a Muslim and former U.S. Navy officer.)

So while her fury at the ever-shrinking Obama may be amusing, her analysis is about what you’d expect from someone who thinks women have it pretty good in Saudi Arabia. The most important insight to be gained from her rant-athon is this: if Democrats were depressed and faced a turnout problem before this incident, watch out. There might not be a poll model in use that accurately measures the enthusiasm gap between Democratic and Republican voters, nor, as a result, the extent of the electoral damage Obama is about to wreak on his party.

I admit it: I was looking forward to Maureen Dowd’s column today. Nothing quite gets her dander up and her claws out like a reminder that Obama is not merely a disappointment to the left but also an embarrassment. She  seethes:

When the president skittered back from his grandiose declaration at an iftar celebration at the White House Friday that Muslims enjoy freedom of religion in America and have the right to build a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan, he offered a Clintonesque parsing. …

Let me be perfectly clear, Mr. Perfectly Unclear President: You cannot take such a stand on a matter of first principle and then take it back the next morning when, lo and behold, Harry Reid goes craven and the Republicans attack.

Well he can and did, but she’s fit to be tied about it — so much so that’s she’s praising George W. Bush for saying nice things about Muslims, championing AIDS prevention in Africa, and making a real effort on immigration reform. (I was not pleased with his excessive genuflecting on the first, but we’ve certainly entered the Twilight Zone of politics when she throws Bush in Obama’s face. Nothing like a woman scorned.) Anyway, she’s not done with the unflattering comparisons. Bill Clinton, at least, “never presented himself as a moral guide to the country,” so it’s all the more painful when Obama “flops around” on the mosque and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Now this is Maureen Dowd — who is apparently so powerful that fact checkers and editors dare not raise their hands to caution her about lines like this: “By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.” Uh, not really. We’re yearning for a Muslim who specifically condemns Hamas as a terrorist group and doesn’t suggest that the U.S. is responsible for 9/11. We’re yearning for a Muslim who doesn’t use “hallowed ground” – where 3,000 Americans died at the hands of Islamist extremists — to build a “a symbol of victory for militant Muslims around the world.” (That from an American Muslim whose mother was incinerated on 9/11 by those who “believed that all non-Muslims are infidels and that the duty of Muslims is to renounce them.”) We’re yearning for a Muslim who is “desperate to reform his faith” and forthright in his assessment that the placement of the mosque at Ground Zero is based on “a belief that Islamic structures are a political statement and even Ground Zero should be looked upon through the lens of political Islam and not a solely American one.” (That from a Muslim and former U.S. Navy officer.)

So while her fury at the ever-shrinking Obama may be amusing, her analysis is about what you’d expect from someone who thinks women have it pretty good in Saudi Arabia. The most important insight to be gained from her rant-athon is this: if Democrats were depressed and faced a turnout problem before this incident, watch out. There might not be a poll model in use that accurately measures the enthusiasm gap between Democratic and Republican voters, nor, as a result, the extent of the electoral damage Obama is about to wreak on his party.

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Articulate No More

During the campaign, many conservatives, including me, were mystified by the media’s assertion that Obama was the most eloquent man of his era. He was charismatic and inspiring, we were lectured. But conservatives could barely figure out what he was saying (“We are the change we have been waiting for”) or contain their guffaws when he spouted hackneyed phrases (“This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet”) and college-freshmen (apologies to the many bright students) rhetoric (“America, this is our moment.” And, let’s not forget, “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”) It seemed gibberish to many of us. But at least it was all of the same piece, all recycled leftist sloganeering.

Now, after 18 months, it seems as though even former advisors and much of the liberal media (OK, there is some overlap there) have given up on Obama and are pronouncing him “incoherent.” CNN (yeah, CNN) reports in the wake of the Ground Zero mosque debacle:

“The danger here is an incoherent presidency,” said David Morey, vice chairman of the Core Strategy Group, who provided communications advice to Obama’s 2008 campaign. “Simpler is better, and rising above these issues and leading by controlling the dialogue is what the presidency is all about. So I think that’s the job they have to do more effectively as they have in the past [in the campaign].” … New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in a recent column that Obama’s clarity and successful messaging during the campaign are gone. In place is a “incoherent president,” who’s “with the banks, he’s against the banks. He’s leaving Afghanistan, he’s staying in Afghanistan. He strains at being a populist, but his head is in the clouds.”

And just to twist the knife, CNN acknowledges that George W. Bush was a more effective communicator:

While many poked fun at former President George W. Bush for mispronouncing words and stumbling through sentences, observers note that he rarely had to backtrack on his answers because he employed a simple and direct messaging approach.

Yowser!

So Obama has gone from inspirational to exasperating for his followers and cheerleaders. Maybe he just ran out of left-wing bumper-sticker phrases. Perhaps, you know, there’s not a brilliant mind at work but a panicked liberal pol who can’t seem to slide through sticky situations with gauzy phrases. It is a revelation to the left and a vindication to the right. Unfortunately, we have over two more years of him, and it’s generally not a good idea to have a president who has become the object of widespread derision. It tends to embolden our foes and demoralize our friends, in this case even more than they already are.

During the campaign, many conservatives, including me, were mystified by the media’s assertion that Obama was the most eloquent man of his era. He was charismatic and inspiring, we were lectured. But conservatives could barely figure out what he was saying (“We are the change we have been waiting for”) or contain their guffaws when he spouted hackneyed phrases (“This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet”) and college-freshmen (apologies to the many bright students) rhetoric (“America, this is our moment.” And, let’s not forget, “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”) It seemed gibberish to many of us. But at least it was all of the same piece, all recycled leftist sloganeering.

Now, after 18 months, it seems as though even former advisors and much of the liberal media (OK, there is some overlap there) have given up on Obama and are pronouncing him “incoherent.” CNN (yeah, CNN) reports in the wake of the Ground Zero mosque debacle:

“The danger here is an incoherent presidency,” said David Morey, vice chairman of the Core Strategy Group, who provided communications advice to Obama’s 2008 campaign. “Simpler is better, and rising above these issues and leading by controlling the dialogue is what the presidency is all about. So I think that’s the job they have to do more effectively as they have in the past [in the campaign].” … New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in a recent column that Obama’s clarity and successful messaging during the campaign are gone. In place is a “incoherent president,” who’s “with the banks, he’s against the banks. He’s leaving Afghanistan, he’s staying in Afghanistan. He strains at being a populist, but his head is in the clouds.”

And just to twist the knife, CNN acknowledges that George W. Bush was a more effective communicator:

While many poked fun at former President George W. Bush for mispronouncing words and stumbling through sentences, observers note that he rarely had to backtrack on his answers because he employed a simple and direct messaging approach.

Yowser!

So Obama has gone from inspirational to exasperating for his followers and cheerleaders. Maybe he just ran out of left-wing bumper-sticker phrases. Perhaps, you know, there’s not a brilliant mind at work but a panicked liberal pol who can’t seem to slide through sticky situations with gauzy phrases. It is a revelation to the left and a vindication to the right. Unfortunately, we have over two more years of him, and it’s generally not a good idea to have a president who has become the object of widespread derision. It tends to embolden our foes and demoralize our friends, in this case even more than they already are.

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Smearing 68% of America

Granted, the “conservative spot” on the Gray Lady’s op-ed pages comes with plenty of caveats and handcuffs. So if a conservative columnist is going to last more than a year, he will have to suppress his harshest impulses toward the left and a great deal of his critical faculties. The result is likely to be condescending columns like today’s by Ross Douthat.

He posits two Americas: “The first America tends to make the finer-sounding speeches, and the second America often strikes cruder, more xenophobic notes.” The first cares about the Constitution, and the second is composed of a bunch of racist rubes, it seems. “The first America celebrated religious liberty; the second America persecuted Mormons and discriminated against Catholics.” Yes, you can guess which are the opponents of the Ground Zero mosque. (I was wondering if he was going to write, “The first America helped little old ladies across the street; the second America drowned puppies.)

I assume that this is what one has to do to keep your piece of turf next to such intellectual luminaries as Maureen Dowd, but it’s really the worst straw man sort of argument since, well, the last time Obama spoke. But he’s not done: “The first America is correct to insist on Muslims’ absolute right to build and worship where they wish. But the second America is right to press for something more from Muslim Americans — particularly from figures like Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the mosque — than simple protestations of good faith.” OK, on behalf of the rubes in Second America, enough!

Second America — that’s 68% of us — recognizes (and we’ve said it over and over again) that there may be little we can do legally (other than exercise eminent domain) to halt the Ground Zero mosque, but that doesn’t suspend our powers of judgment and moral persuasion. Those who oppose the mosque are not bigots or constitutional ruffians. They merely believe that our president shouldn’t be cheerleading the desecration of “hallowed ground” (“first America’s” term, articulated by Obama) or averting our eyes from the funding sources of the imam’s planned fortress.

Well, maybe all this was the price to be paid at the left’s altar for Douthat’s final two graphs — the ultimate buried lede. After acknowledging that second America has a point (“the second America is right to press for something more from Muslim Americans — particularly from figures like Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the mosque — than simple protestations of good faith”), he admits:

By global standards, Rauf may be the model of a “moderate Muslim.” But global standards and American standards are different. For Muslim Americans to integrate fully into our national life, they’ll need leaders who don’t describe America as “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11 (as Rauf did shortly after the 2001 attacks), or duck questions about whether groups like Hamas count as terrorist organizations (as Rauf did in a radio interview in June). And they’ll need leaders whose antennas are sensitive enough to recognize that the quest for inter-religious dialogue is ill served by throwing up a high-profile mosque two blocks from the site of a mass murder committed in the name of Islam.

They’ll need leaders, in other words, who understand that while the ideals of the first America protect the e pluribus, it’s the demands the second America makes of new arrivals that help create the unum.

OK, it’s something, at any rate. Think of it as a little consciousness-raising for the Upper West Side, a reminder that the object of their affection isn’t the best role model to promote religious reconciliation. No, it doesn’t excuse the rest of an obnoxious, fractured history of American history. (Which America is it that hired the infamous Israel Lobby authors to spout thinly disguised anti-Semitism from its Ivy-covered buildings? Which America does Reverend Wright belong to? Which America routinely ridicules Christian evangelicals?) But it does tell you what passes for “conservative” at the New York Times.

Granted, the “conservative spot” on the Gray Lady’s op-ed pages comes with plenty of caveats and handcuffs. So if a conservative columnist is going to last more than a year, he will have to suppress his harshest impulses toward the left and a great deal of his critical faculties. The result is likely to be condescending columns like today’s by Ross Douthat.

He posits two Americas: “The first America tends to make the finer-sounding speeches, and the second America often strikes cruder, more xenophobic notes.” The first cares about the Constitution, and the second is composed of a bunch of racist rubes, it seems. “The first America celebrated religious liberty; the second America persecuted Mormons and discriminated against Catholics.” Yes, you can guess which are the opponents of the Ground Zero mosque. (I was wondering if he was going to write, “The first America helped little old ladies across the street; the second America drowned puppies.)

I assume that this is what one has to do to keep your piece of turf next to such intellectual luminaries as Maureen Dowd, but it’s really the worst straw man sort of argument since, well, the last time Obama spoke. But he’s not done: “The first America is correct to insist on Muslims’ absolute right to build and worship where they wish. But the second America is right to press for something more from Muslim Americans — particularly from figures like Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the mosque — than simple protestations of good faith.” OK, on behalf of the rubes in Second America, enough!

Second America — that’s 68% of us — recognizes (and we’ve said it over and over again) that there may be little we can do legally (other than exercise eminent domain) to halt the Ground Zero mosque, but that doesn’t suspend our powers of judgment and moral persuasion. Those who oppose the mosque are not bigots or constitutional ruffians. They merely believe that our president shouldn’t be cheerleading the desecration of “hallowed ground” (“first America’s” term, articulated by Obama) or averting our eyes from the funding sources of the imam’s planned fortress.

Well, maybe all this was the price to be paid at the left’s altar for Douthat’s final two graphs — the ultimate buried lede. After acknowledging that second America has a point (“the second America is right to press for something more from Muslim Americans — particularly from figures like Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the mosque — than simple protestations of good faith”), he admits:

By global standards, Rauf may be the model of a “moderate Muslim.” But global standards and American standards are different. For Muslim Americans to integrate fully into our national life, they’ll need leaders who don’t describe America as “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11 (as Rauf did shortly after the 2001 attacks), or duck questions about whether groups like Hamas count as terrorist organizations (as Rauf did in a radio interview in June). And they’ll need leaders whose antennas are sensitive enough to recognize that the quest for inter-religious dialogue is ill served by throwing up a high-profile mosque two blocks from the site of a mass murder committed in the name of Islam.

They’ll need leaders, in other words, who understand that while the ideals of the first America protect the e pluribus, it’s the demands the second America makes of new arrivals that help create the unum.

OK, it’s something, at any rate. Think of it as a little consciousness-raising for the Upper West Side, a reminder that the object of their affection isn’t the best role model to promote religious reconciliation. No, it doesn’t excuse the rest of an obnoxious, fractured history of American history. (Which America is it that hired the infamous Israel Lobby authors to spout thinly disguised anti-Semitism from its Ivy-covered buildings? Which America does Reverend Wright belong to? Which America routinely ridicules Christian evangelicals?) But it does tell you what passes for “conservative” at the New York Times.

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