Commentary Magazine


Topic: Meet the Press

Reporters Still Badgering Amb. Oren About U.S. Election

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren had lunch with reporters today in Washington. What was the most newsworthy bit? According to Buzzfeed’s write-up, it’s that Oren made the unambiguously true statement that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not interfere in the recent American presidential election. “Prime Minister Netanyahu went to extraordinary lengths not to be dragged into the U.S. presidential elections,” Rosie Gray quotes Oren as saying.

That this is considered news is a good demonstration of how hysterical some reporters (not Gray, I should be clear) became during the election when Netanyahu didn’t spend enough time, in their minds, praising President Obama. But Oren’s words were actually chosen carefully here, it seems. Of course Netanyahu didn’t interfere in the election, and a great many members of the press embarrassed themselves by accusing him repeatedly and falsely of doing so. But Oren is right: it’s not just that Netanyahu didn’t interfere. It’s that he had to work especially hard not to get dragged into the election. And those dragging Netanyahu into the election were none other than the media personalities accusing Netanyahu of interfering.

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Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren had lunch with reporters today in Washington. What was the most newsworthy bit? According to Buzzfeed’s write-up, it’s that Oren made the unambiguously true statement that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not interfere in the recent American presidential election. “Prime Minister Netanyahu went to extraordinary lengths not to be dragged into the U.S. presidential elections,” Rosie Gray quotes Oren as saying.

That this is considered news is a good demonstration of how hysterical some reporters (not Gray, I should be clear) became during the election when Netanyahu didn’t spend enough time, in their minds, praising President Obama. But Oren’s words were actually chosen carefully here, it seems. Of course Netanyahu didn’t interfere in the election, and a great many members of the press embarrassed themselves by accusing him repeatedly and falsely of doing so. But Oren is right: it’s not just that Netanyahu didn’t interfere. It’s that he had to work especially hard not to get dragged into the election. And those dragging Netanyahu into the election were none other than the media personalities accusing Netanyahu of interfering.

The best example of this came during a September broadcast of “Meet the Press” when host David Gregory interviewed Netanyahu, and proceeded to first criticize Netanyahu for getting involved in the election and then try to goad him into getting involved in the election–on Obama’s behalf. Gregory asked Netanyahu why he was criticizing Obama when Netanyahu talked about the need to establish red lines on Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu responded that he didn’t intend it as a criticism of Obama but actually that other (unnamed) world leaders had been accusing Netanyahu of being reckless, and he wanted to establish clearly that Israel has a right to defend itself. Gregory completely ignored the answer and proceeded as if he wasn’t even listening when Netanyahu spoke:

GREGORY:  Your criticism, your calling on President Obama to set this red line, comes in the middle of a heated presidential campaign.  You understand the American political system very well.  You’re very sophisticated in that regard.  In your view, would Governor Mitt Romney as President Romney make Israel safer?  Would he take a harder line against Iran than President Obama in your judgment?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  God, I’m– I’m not going to be drawn into the American election.  And– and what’s guiding my statements are– is not the American political calendar but the Iranian nuclear calendar.  They’re just– you know, if they stop spinning the centrifuges for– and took timeout for the American elections, I wouldn’t have to talk.  And I wouldn’t have to raise this issue.  But as the prime minister of Israel, knowing that this country committed to our destruction is getting closer to the goal of having weapons of mass destruction then I speak out.  And it’s got– it’s really not a partisan political issue.  And I think it’s important for anyone who is the president of the United States to be in that position of preventing Iran from having this nuclear weapons– nuclear weapons capability.  And I’m talking to the president.  I just talked to him the other day.  We are in close consultations.  We’re trying to prevent that.  It’s really not a partisan issue.  It’s a policy issue not a political issue.

GREGORY:  Well, but it may not be a partisan issue.  You have known Mitt Romney a long time.  The reality is– tell me if you disagree that Governor Romney just in an interview this week said that his position is very much the same as President Obama.  They are both committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  Not just as an impartial observer, as the prime minister of Israel, do you agree with that that both the president and his challenger have the same view with regard to preventing Iran from going nuclear?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  I have no doubt that they are equally committed to preventing that.  It’s a– it’s a vital American interest.  It’s a– it’s an existential interest on my case so, this isn’t the issue.  We are united on this across the board.

Netanyahu might have thought he was out of the woods, but after one more question Gregory returned the pressing matter of attempting to hector Netanyahu into praising Obama:

GREGORY:  Prime Minister, one more question on the American election.  You have been accused this week by pundits in this country of trying to interfere in this presidential election, siding with Governor Mitt Romney.  Now, Governor Romney for a year, and he said it in his convention speech, has said, quote, “President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus.”  Do you agree or disagree with Governor Romney’s charge?  It’s a serious charge.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Well, you’re– you’re trying to get me into the– into the American election and I’m not going to do that.  The relationship between Israel and the United States is a bond of– it’s just a very powerful bond.  It was, it is, and will be and will continue to be.  And I– I can tell you there’s no one– there’s no leader in the world who’s more appreciative than me of the strength of this alliance.  It’s very strong.  There’s no one in Israel who appreciates more than me the importance of American support for Israel.  It’s not a partisan issue.  In fact, we cherish the bipartisan support of Democrats and Republicans alike.  This is critical for us.

GREGORY:  But prime minister, with respect, if I may just interrupt you…

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  And– and I think it’s critical that we take…

Gregory, now agitated, interrupts again:

GREGORY:  I think this is a very important point because you say you don’t want to interfere in the election.  There are tens of millions of Americans who are watching that speech, who hear that rhetoric, who hear that charge, who may not understand the complexities of this issue.  You are the leader of the Jewish people.  You say this is not a partisan issue.  You get billions of dollars from direct foreign investment from this country, hundreds of millions of dollars from Americans, Jews and Christians alike from this country.  It seems to me for you to remain silent on whether this administration has thrown Israel under the bus is tantamount to agreeing with the sentiment.  So where do you come down on that specific charge against President Obama?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Now, there you go again, David, you’re trying to draw me into something that– that is simply not– not the case and it’s not my position.  My position is that we– we have strong cooperation.  We’ll continue to cooperate.  We’re the best of allies.  And Israel is the one reliable ally of the United States in the Middle East…

Not good enough, says Gregory:

GREGORY:  So President Obama has not thrown Israel under the bus?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  …if that wasn’t understood until yesterday.  So it’s– it’s– there’s– there’s no bus, and we’re not going to get into that discussion, except to say one thing.  We have a strong alliance and we’re going to continue to have a strong alliance.  I think the important question is where does the– the only bus that is really important is the Iranian nuclear bus.  That’s the one that we have to– to derail.  And that’s my interest.  That’s my– my only interest.

With that, Gregory was satisfied (or almost out of time). This was only the most visible case of what Oren was talking about–though of course he was too diplomatic to get into details. Netanyahu had to work to stay out of this election, and it’s because the American media so desperately wanted his interference.

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Ted Cruz Takes on DC Gimmickry

In the post-Tim Russert age, Sunday morning political talk shows are rarely revelatory or particularly educational. But that wasn’t the case yesterday for Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican and Senate nominee, who got an education in the ways of Washington. Cruz appeared on Russert’s old program, “Meet the Press,” along with the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne and a few other commentators.

Cruz is a Tea Party favorite, which means sending an “outsider” to Washington was important to his appeal. And he was presented with a pristine example of the Beltway nonsense he would be up against when he and Dionne got into a brief argument over the two parties’ different takes on the budget. Dionne insisted President Obama is a serious man with a serious plan, and thus put forth a serious budget, in keeping with his overall seriousness. Because the president’s plans are manifestly unserious, Cruz said so, and asked Dionne how many votes the president’s budget received in the Senate. Here is the exchange that followed:

MR. DIONNE:  Well, that’s– that is a side issue because…

MR. CRUZ:  It got zero votes.  Not a Democrat…

MR. DIONNE:  No, no, Obama…

MR. CRUZ:  …in the Senate voted for it.

MR. DIONNE:  Yes, because…

MR. CRUZ:  Not one.

MR. DIONNE:  …the vote was put up there as a political matter.

You’ll have to go to the program’s web page to watch the video, and I highly recommend it, because the look on Cruz’s face when Dionne said this was absolutely priceless. Cruz understands Washington business-as-usual well enough to run against it, but he seemed genuinely shocked, not that liberal pundits would believe what Dionne was saying, but that they would say it out loud.

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In the post-Tim Russert age, Sunday morning political talk shows are rarely revelatory or particularly educational. But that wasn’t the case yesterday for Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican and Senate nominee, who got an education in the ways of Washington. Cruz appeared on Russert’s old program, “Meet the Press,” along with the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne and a few other commentators.

Cruz is a Tea Party favorite, which means sending an “outsider” to Washington was important to his appeal. And he was presented with a pristine example of the Beltway nonsense he would be up against when he and Dionne got into a brief argument over the two parties’ different takes on the budget. Dionne insisted President Obama is a serious man with a serious plan, and thus put forth a serious budget, in keeping with his overall seriousness. Because the president’s plans are manifestly unserious, Cruz said so, and asked Dionne how many votes the president’s budget received in the Senate. Here is the exchange that followed:

MR. DIONNE:  Well, that’s– that is a side issue because…

MR. CRUZ:  It got zero votes.  Not a Democrat…

MR. DIONNE:  No, no, Obama…

MR. CRUZ:  …in the Senate voted for it.

MR. DIONNE:  Yes, because…

MR. CRUZ:  Not one.

MR. DIONNE:  …the vote was put up there as a political matter.

You’ll have to go to the program’s web page to watch the video, and I highly recommend it, because the look on Cruz’s face when Dionne said this was absolutely priceless. Cruz understands Washington business-as-usual well enough to run against it, but he seemed genuinely shocked, not that liberal pundits would believe what Dionne was saying, but that they would say it out loud.

You would think that the number of votes received by the president’s budget would be important, and that the president’s party would think that, since they control the Senate and since the GOP-led House has been passing budgets, they should pass a budget as well. But you would be wrong. Cruz is living in the real world, where you need concrete budgets to operate. Dionne explained to him that, first, the number of votes a budget receives is “a side issue,” and second, the only reason to put the president’s budget up for a vote is to play some kind of trick on him. The Republicans offered to have a clean vote on the president’s own budget because, well, they’re a bunch of meanies. Welcome to Washington.

In the fantasy world of liberal pundits, you don’t need to pass a budget, or enact real-world solutions to problems. You just have to make a series of grand political gestures infused with partisan demagoguery and call it “governing.” As it happens, the weekend was bookended by this behavior. On Friday, the Obama campaign, apparently without shame or a shred of self-awareness, told the Romney campaign that if Mitt Romney releases five years of tax returns the Obama campaign will stop asking for more tax returns:

“If the governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more — neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign,” Mr. Messina wrote to Matt Rhoades, Mr. Romney’s campaign manager.

Again, it’s understandable that the Obama campaign does not want to have a serious conversation about the issues, but why be so open about it? Perhaps because the press will keep writing these stories for them, so why not? What the Obama campaign letter meant, of course, is that they will criticize Romney for whatever they find in those five years of tax returns relentlessly, while their allies “outside” the campaign, like Harry Reid, continue to attack the Romney campaign—uncoordinated, they swear!—for not releasing more.

As Alana wrote on Friday, this is an indication the Obama campaign is running out of ways to change the subject. If they cannot change the subject, they will have more conversations like the one between Dionne and Cruz. And that simply can’t be good for the Obama campaign.

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Booker’s Spokeswoman Walks the Plank

Newark Mayor Cory Booker is apparently still paying penance for his blasphemy against the Obama campaign on “Meet the Press” last week. NJ.com reports that Booker’s Communications Director Anne Torres stepped down today:

“I just decided it is best if I pursued other opportunities,” Torres said by phone. “We have very different views on how communications should be run.”

While a crucial part of the administration’s public face and dealings with the press, Torres’ role is strictly confined to city business. It is unclear what role, if any, she would have had in preparing Booker’s remarks on “Meet the Press,” wherein the mayor said he had “personal” problems with President Obama’s attacks on Bain Capital — problems he called nauseating.

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Newark Mayor Cory Booker is apparently still paying penance for his blasphemy against the Obama campaign on “Meet the Press” last week. NJ.com reports that Booker’s Communications Director Anne Torres stepped down today:

“I just decided it is best if I pursued other opportunities,” Torres said by phone. “We have very different views on how communications should be run.”

While a crucial part of the administration’s public face and dealings with the press, Torres’ role is strictly confined to city business. It is unclear what role, if any, she would have had in preparing Booker’s remarks on “Meet the Press,” wherein the mayor said he had “personal” problems with President Obama’s attacks on Bain Capital — problems he called nauseating.

As NJ.com reports, it’s not clear what part Torres would have played in Booker’s “Meet the Press” remarks. The implication here is that Booker’s comments didn’t accurately reflect his own beliefs, but were instead a communications blunder by his staff. Which is ridiculous – this wasn’t a speech, it was a panel discussion. Whether or not Torres prepped the mayor on the negativity in the Obama anti-Bain ads, Booker was clearly speaking for himself when he criticized them.

While the comments weren’t particularly damaging for Booker, at least not with his constituents, they did hurt Obama and are continuing to drag down his anti-Bain strategy. Did Booker part ways with his communications director under pressure from the Obama campaign, or was it a decision he came to on his own? There’s always the possibility that Booker and his communications staff clashed over the way the initial response to the controversy was handled — the creepy hostage video, for example.

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Taking Responsibility for Inherited Problems, and Other GOP Dilemmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cut and Run Was No Strategy for Iraq and Isn’t One for Afghanistan

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has written in the Wall Street Journal that we should “un-surge” in Afghanistan. While arguing against total withdrawal, he says “the U.S. effort there should be sharply reduced.”

Mr. Haass’s recommendation on Afghanistan sounds similar to his (flawed) recommendation on Iraq during the debate about the surge.

In a November 13, 2006, interview with Der Spiegel, Haass said: “We’ve reached a point in Iraq where we’ve got to get real. … The Iraq situation is not winnable in any meaningful sense of the word ‘winnable.’ So what we need to do now is look for a way to limit the losses and costs, try to advance on other fronts in the region and try to limit the fallout of Iraq. That’s what you have to do sometimes when you’re a global power.”

A few weeks later, on November 30, Haass said, “It’s not clear to me that even if you double the level of American troops you would somehow stabilize the situation [in Iraq].”

And on December 10, 2006, on NBC’s Meet the Press, he said this:

I would perhaps do it for a short amount of time, a surge, as part, again, of this narrative, as part of saying, “We’ve gone the extra mile.” I want to take away the arguments, quite honestly, from the critics of the [Iraq Study Group] report. I want to take away the argument that if Iraq turns out as badly as I fear it might, I want to take away the argument that it was because of what we didn’t do. If Iraq doesn’t work, I think it’s incredibly important for the future of the Middle East and for the future of American foreign policy around the world that the principle lesson not be that the United States is unreliable or we lacked staying power. “If only we’d done a little bit more for a little bit longer it would’ve succeeded.” To me, it is essentially important for the future of this country that Iraq be seen, if you will, as Iraq’s failure, not as America’s failure.

So Haass supported a temporary surge in Iraq not because he thought it would work but in order to place the blame on the Iraqis when it failed. There was a notably amoral quality to Haass’s recommendation (the realpolitik Haass might accept this as a compliment). Read More

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has written in the Wall Street Journal that we should “un-surge” in Afghanistan. While arguing against total withdrawal, he says “the U.S. effort there should be sharply reduced.”

Mr. Haass’s recommendation on Afghanistan sounds similar to his (flawed) recommendation on Iraq during the debate about the surge.

In a November 13, 2006, interview with Der Spiegel, Haass said: “We’ve reached a point in Iraq where we’ve got to get real. … The Iraq situation is not winnable in any meaningful sense of the word ‘winnable.’ So what we need to do now is look for a way to limit the losses and costs, try to advance on other fronts in the region and try to limit the fallout of Iraq. That’s what you have to do sometimes when you’re a global power.”

A few weeks later, on November 30, Haass said, “It’s not clear to me that even if you double the level of American troops you would somehow stabilize the situation [in Iraq].”

And on December 10, 2006, on NBC’s Meet the Press, he said this:

I would perhaps do it for a short amount of time, a surge, as part, again, of this narrative, as part of saying, “We’ve gone the extra mile.” I want to take away the arguments, quite honestly, from the critics of the [Iraq Study Group] report. I want to take away the argument that if Iraq turns out as badly as I fear it might, I want to take away the argument that it was because of what we didn’t do. If Iraq doesn’t work, I think it’s incredibly important for the future of the Middle East and for the future of American foreign policy around the world that the principle lesson not be that the United States is unreliable or we lacked staying power. “If only we’d done a little bit more for a little bit longer it would’ve succeeded.” To me, it is essentially important for the future of this country that Iraq be seen, if you will, as Iraq’s failure, not as America’s failure.

So Haass supported a temporary surge in Iraq not because he thought it would work but in order to place the blame on the Iraqis when it failed. There was a notably amoral quality to Haass’s recommendation (the realpolitik Haass might accept this as a compliment).

In his Journal op-ed arguing for undoing the surge in Afghanistan, Haass lays out the “broader reasons to recast policy.” They include:

The greatest threat to U.S. national security stems from our own fiscal crisis. Afghanistan is a significant contributor to this situation and could play an important role in reducing it. A savings of $75 billion a year could help finance much-needed military modernization and reduce the deficit.

Another factor is the increased possibility of a conflict with a reckless North Korea and the continued possibility of a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program. U.S. military forces must be freed up to contend with these issues. The perception that we are tied down in Afghanistan makes it more difficult to threaten North Korea or Iran credibly—and makes it more difficult to muster the forces to deal with either if necessary.

Haass’s somewhat novel argument, then, is that in order to preserve our capacity to wage future wars, we should lose (in the guise of de-escalation) our current ones. He doesn’t take into account that retreating in Afghanistan would be (rightly) interpreted by nations like Iran and North Korea as weakness on the part of America, thereby emboldening our adversaries. And nowhere does Haass explain how his recommended offshore counterterrorism strategy would work, since credible counterterrorism strikes depend on good intelligence, which is best gathered by ground forces that enjoy the trust of the local population. If we pull out our troops, we lose even that capacity.

One cannot help but suspect that Haass has arrived at a position based on a theory he holds to with dogmatic certitude and has gone in search of arguments to support it. This may explain why Haass is forced to mimic David Stockman on the deficit and Richard Perle on Iran. It’s not a terribly persuasive pose.

Mr. Haass concludes his op-ed this way:

Ultimately Afghanistan is a strategic distraction. U.S. interests there are limited. So, too, are the resources available for national security. It is not surprising that the commander in the field, Gen. David Petraeus, is calling for committing greater resources to the theater. But it is the commander-in-chief’s responsibility to take into account the nation’s capacity to meet all of its challenges, national and international. It is for this reason that the perspectives of Gen. Petraeus and President Obama must necessarily diverge.

The notion that Afghanistan is nothing more than a “strategic distraction” is not terribly serious. Events of the past decade have turned it into something very much more than that.

Defeat there would have profound, negative effects on, among other nations, nuclear-armed Pakistan. While it’s obviously true that events in Afghanistan don’t have unlimited effects on Pakistan, Haass’s insistence that they are almost completely unrelated will come as news to the Pakistani government and virtually everyone else in the region. The capitulation of the United States and the fall of the existing government in a neighboring state, Afghanistan, would have significant ramifications in Pakistan. It would be an enormously important psychological victory for jihadists and the Taliban. Islamists all over the world would assume that if they wait long enough, the U.S. will cut out and move on. And defeat in Afghanistan would have baleful consequences for the people, and especially the women, of Afghanistan (though that dimension of this issue doesn’t appear to enter into Haass’s calculus at all).

When it comes to both military planning and strategic thinking, General Petraeus is simply in a different league than Mr. Haass. The four-star general and Princeton Ph.D. has proved himself to be far wiser, more prescient, and more knowledgeable than the former State Department official. Which is why I’m thankful that America’s 44th president, like America’s 43rd president, is listening to David Petraeus rather than to Richard Haass.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

“Soul-searching” at the White House? Not so much. “‘There isn’t going to be a reset button. That’s not their style,’ said a Democratic strategist who works with the White House on several issues. ‘They don’t like pivots, and they also believe they’re right.'”

Nancy Pelosi is the right leader to show the country that the Dems “get it”? Not so much, according to Heath Shuler: “Shuler believes that his party didn’t get the message on Election Day when voters kicked Democrats out of majority control of the House if his caucus keeps Pelosi at the top of their leadership team. ‘I hope that with so many members that we need to go in a different direction, that we have to be able to recruit or get back those members of Congress that lost, and I just don’t see that path happening if she’s at the top of the Democrats,’ Shuler said.” He says he’ll run against Pelosi, but maybe he’s in the wrong party.

Would Russ Feingold be a formidable primary challenger to Barack Obama? Not so much, says Mara Liasson: “There’d have to be a real anti-war movement in the country for Russ Feingold to try to capture and lead. But there’s not even that.”

Have the Obami learned anything about their Middle East policy failures? Not so much. The U.S. is goading Bibi to offer a 90-day freeze (why should this freeze produce a different result than the last one?), but the PA is already grousing. “Earlier on Sunday, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed strong reservations about the U.S. proposal, because it would only apply to the West Bank and not east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.”

Is Obama still the media’s darling? Not so much. “The Democratic president left for Asia just three days after his party suffered big defeats in mid-term elections at the hands of voters worried over the sputtering U.S. economy and unemployment stuck near 10 percent for more than a year. The trip was intended to counteract that frustration with a stress on opening new markets for American goods and improving the jobs picture, so the timing was especially tough. ‘The coverage has been quite negative. The dominant narrative is an embattled president representing a weakened nation,’ said William Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. ‘All in all, not the kind of trip a president who has just suffered an electoral rebuff needs,’ he said.”

So the Obama team is going to be more transparent and connect more successfully with the American people? Not so much. “From the administration’s stance on a presidential commission’s controversial recommendations for Social Security and Medicare cuts, to Republican demands that Obama veto any bills containing earmarks, Axelrod offered few specifics on administration plans during interviews on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ and ‘Fox News Sunday.'” So why bother going on? It’s hard to solve the alleged “communication” problem if you don’t have anything to communicate.

Iran wants to negotiate about its nuclear program? Not so much. “They have yet to agree on venue, a length for the talks or even the subject. Iran says it is willing to talk about everything but its uranium enrichment program; the other countries – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – want to talk mostly about the entire nuclear program.”

“Soul-searching” at the White House? Not so much. “‘There isn’t going to be a reset button. That’s not their style,’ said a Democratic strategist who works with the White House on several issues. ‘They don’t like pivots, and they also believe they’re right.'”

Nancy Pelosi is the right leader to show the country that the Dems “get it”? Not so much, according to Heath Shuler: “Shuler believes that his party didn’t get the message on Election Day when voters kicked Democrats out of majority control of the House if his caucus keeps Pelosi at the top of their leadership team. ‘I hope that with so many members that we need to go in a different direction, that we have to be able to recruit or get back those members of Congress that lost, and I just don’t see that path happening if she’s at the top of the Democrats,’ Shuler said.” He says he’ll run against Pelosi, but maybe he’s in the wrong party.

Would Russ Feingold be a formidable primary challenger to Barack Obama? Not so much, says Mara Liasson: “There’d have to be a real anti-war movement in the country for Russ Feingold to try to capture and lead. But there’s not even that.”

Have the Obami learned anything about their Middle East policy failures? Not so much. The U.S. is goading Bibi to offer a 90-day freeze (why should this freeze produce a different result than the last one?), but the PA is already grousing. “Earlier on Sunday, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed strong reservations about the U.S. proposal, because it would only apply to the West Bank and not east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.”

Is Obama still the media’s darling? Not so much. “The Democratic president left for Asia just three days after his party suffered big defeats in mid-term elections at the hands of voters worried over the sputtering U.S. economy and unemployment stuck near 10 percent for more than a year. The trip was intended to counteract that frustration with a stress on opening new markets for American goods and improving the jobs picture, so the timing was especially tough. ‘The coverage has been quite negative. The dominant narrative is an embattled president representing a weakened nation,’ said William Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. ‘All in all, not the kind of trip a president who has just suffered an electoral rebuff needs,’ he said.”

So the Obama team is going to be more transparent and connect more successfully with the American people? Not so much. “From the administration’s stance on a presidential commission’s controversial recommendations for Social Security and Medicare cuts, to Republican demands that Obama veto any bills containing earmarks, Axelrod offered few specifics on administration plans during interviews on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ and ‘Fox News Sunday.'” So why bother going on? It’s hard to solve the alleged “communication” problem if you don’t have anything to communicate.

Iran wants to negotiate about its nuclear program? Not so much. “They have yet to agree on venue, a length for the talks or even the subject. Iran says it is willing to talk about everything but its uranium enrichment program; the other countries – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – want to talk mostly about the entire nuclear program.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. ” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.'”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. “If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. ” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.'”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. “If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Other than that, he’s done just fine. Howard Fineman: “Obama misread his mandate. … Obama misread the clock. … Obama misread his surroundings.” And most of all, the mainstream media misread him.

Other than “delusional,” how would you describe this? “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that he thinks voters will eventually warm to health care reform.”

Other than the Obami, who likes ObamaCare? “Many Democrats have joined Republicans in pushing for the repeal of a tax provision in the new health care law that imposes a huge information-reporting burden on small businesses.” And that’s the New York Times reporting.

Other than Larry King, who has the good sense to retire, is there a worse interviewer than Christiane Amanpour? Not a single tough follow-up question in her chat with Imam Abdul Rauf, no queries about his funding for the Ground Zero mosque, and no questions about his statements blaming the U.S. for 9/11. ABC execs who thought putting her in the host’s chair was a great idea should be embarrassed.

Other than keeping the current line-up, what personnel decision would be a loser? “There are indications that Obama plans to replace Emanuel with a loyalist. Among the names being floated is Valerie Jarrett, whose sole qualification for having a White House job is that she is a long-time Obama friend. In one of the most hilariously revealing utterances of the Obama presidency, Jarrett stated that the White House was ‘speaking truth to power’ by castigating Fox News. To make Jarrett chief of staff would be disastrous.”

Other than this, the recovery is going swell: “President Obama’s new chairman of the Council of Economic Affairs (CEA) said Sunday that the national unemployment rate will not decrease significantly anytime soon.”

Other than losing independents, turning off his base, and energizing conservatives, Obama has been great for his party. “Obama voters evince little interest in the midterm election. When they express goodwill toward the president, it rarely extends to his allies in Congress. Many do not consider themselves Democrats. Pew’s survey experts routinely ask respondents to characterize the president in a single word. In their most recent poll, conducted this summer, more respondents than ever answered with the word ‘disappointing.’ Some who threw their lot in with Obama expressed a sense of being let down by the man who promised change and pledged to transform the country. Some attributed that to their own lofty expectations and, perhaps, their naivete. Others pointed to what they saw as his lack of focus on the still-faltering economy.” These were people who voted for him in 2008.

Other than that, he’s done just fine. Howard Fineman: “Obama misread his mandate. … Obama misread the clock. … Obama misread his surroundings.” And most of all, the mainstream media misread him.

Other than “delusional,” how would you describe this? “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that he thinks voters will eventually warm to health care reform.”

Other than the Obami, who likes ObamaCare? “Many Democrats have joined Republicans in pushing for the repeal of a tax provision in the new health care law that imposes a huge information-reporting burden on small businesses.” And that’s the New York Times reporting.

Other than Larry King, who has the good sense to retire, is there a worse interviewer than Christiane Amanpour? Not a single tough follow-up question in her chat with Imam Abdul Rauf, no queries about his funding for the Ground Zero mosque, and no questions about his statements blaming the U.S. for 9/11. ABC execs who thought putting her in the host’s chair was a great idea should be embarrassed.

Other than keeping the current line-up, what personnel decision would be a loser? “There are indications that Obama plans to replace Emanuel with a loyalist. Among the names being floated is Valerie Jarrett, whose sole qualification for having a White House job is that she is a long-time Obama friend. In one of the most hilariously revealing utterances of the Obama presidency, Jarrett stated that the White House was ‘speaking truth to power’ by castigating Fox News. To make Jarrett chief of staff would be disastrous.”

Other than this, the recovery is going swell: “President Obama’s new chairman of the Council of Economic Affairs (CEA) said Sunday that the national unemployment rate will not decrease significantly anytime soon.”

Other than losing independents, turning off his base, and energizing conservatives, Obama has been great for his party. “Obama voters evince little interest in the midterm election. When they express goodwill toward the president, it rarely extends to his allies in Congress. Many do not consider themselves Democrats. Pew’s survey experts routinely ask respondents to characterize the president in a single word. In their most recent poll, conducted this summer, more respondents than ever answered with the word ‘disappointing.’ Some who threw their lot in with Obama expressed a sense of being let down by the man who promised change and pledged to transform the country. Some attributed that to their own lofty expectations and, perhaps, their naivete. Others pointed to what they saw as his lack of focus on the still-faltering economy.” These were people who voted for him in 2008.

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Sestak Struggling

The Pennsylvania media reports that Joe Sestak is floundering:

More than midway through the political calendar, Sestak seems endlessly on the defensive. It’s partly of his own doing, but largely because Toomey, with a sharper message and flush finances, has been the aggressor.

So far, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate battle has been fought on Toomey’s terms.

Sestak has taken a beating on his Israel record, forcing him to go on MSNBC to deny that it’s a significant issue and to call in J Street for support. (The J Street gang ponied up only a tiny ad buy.) But that isn’t Sestak’s only problem:

Two days after the May 18 primary, Toomey went on the air with a commercial that highlighted Sestak’s support for health [care] reform, bailouts, and civilian trials for foreign terrorists. A few days later, after Sestak had appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, Toomey’s campaign sent out a press release saying the interview showcased Sestak’s “sham independence.” …

Toomey has aired six television commercials about Sestak, painting him as an extreme liberal to the left of most members of his political party. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce aired two commercials linking Sestak to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and calling him “anti-business.”

Sestak tried to strike back last week by enlisting the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to bandy charges that Toomey was a derivatives trader who helped sink the economy. The charges were generally derided as untrue, and Toomey surged to a nine-point lead in the race. Meanwhile, Sestak strained to explain why he had accepted campaign donations from recipients of earmarks, something he pledged to not do.

Sestak has suffered on three counts: his ultra-liberal voting record, the generally toxic political environment for the Democrats, and a certain incoherence in his own campaign. A case in point is the endorsement by former Sen. Chuck Hagel. This comes at a time when Sestak has labored to rebut attacks on his own Israel record and on his keynote address for CAIR. But Hagel seems a particularly poor messenger for Sestak. The National Democratic Jewish Council explained in 2007:

As Senator Hagel sits around for six more months and tries to decide whether to launch a futile bid for the White House, he has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.  Consider this:

– In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

– In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.

– In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yasir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.

– In December 2005, Hagel  was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.

– In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit. …

And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel:

“Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel…” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]

Not exactly an effective way to rebut arguments that his instincts lead him to positions — and allies — that are anti-Israel.

Sestak has time to recover, but he may not have the ability to. On this one, the White House might have been right: Arlen Specter was the more viable of the two Democratic contenders.

The Pennsylvania media reports that Joe Sestak is floundering:

More than midway through the political calendar, Sestak seems endlessly on the defensive. It’s partly of his own doing, but largely because Toomey, with a sharper message and flush finances, has been the aggressor.

So far, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate battle has been fought on Toomey’s terms.

Sestak has taken a beating on his Israel record, forcing him to go on MSNBC to deny that it’s a significant issue and to call in J Street for support. (The J Street gang ponied up only a tiny ad buy.) But that isn’t Sestak’s only problem:

Two days after the May 18 primary, Toomey went on the air with a commercial that highlighted Sestak’s support for health [care] reform, bailouts, and civilian trials for foreign terrorists. A few days later, after Sestak had appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, Toomey’s campaign sent out a press release saying the interview showcased Sestak’s “sham independence.” …

Toomey has aired six television commercials about Sestak, painting him as an extreme liberal to the left of most members of his political party. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce aired two commercials linking Sestak to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and calling him “anti-business.”

Sestak tried to strike back last week by enlisting the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to bandy charges that Toomey was a derivatives trader who helped sink the economy. The charges were generally derided as untrue, and Toomey surged to a nine-point lead in the race. Meanwhile, Sestak strained to explain why he had accepted campaign donations from recipients of earmarks, something he pledged to not do.

Sestak has suffered on three counts: his ultra-liberal voting record, the generally toxic political environment for the Democrats, and a certain incoherence in his own campaign. A case in point is the endorsement by former Sen. Chuck Hagel. This comes at a time when Sestak has labored to rebut attacks on his own Israel record and on his keynote address for CAIR. But Hagel seems a particularly poor messenger for Sestak. The National Democratic Jewish Council explained in 2007:

As Senator Hagel sits around for six more months and tries to decide whether to launch a futile bid for the White House, he has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.  Consider this:

– In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

– In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.

– In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yasir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.

– In December 2005, Hagel  was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.

– In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit. …

And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel:

“Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel…” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]

Not exactly an effective way to rebut arguments that his instincts lead him to positions — and allies — that are anti-Israel.

Sestak has time to recover, but he may not have the ability to. On this one, the White House might have been right: Arlen Specter was the more viable of the two Democratic contenders.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

This is presidential. This is a mensch.

Blago is right: “Well, I think the question ought to be to the prosecutor, ‘How much money of taxpayers dollars did you spend on this trial?’ I would guess tens of millions of dollars, to get a guy you targeted for — you know, for six years. And then when we didn’t even put a defense on, you could not show any corruption. And you couldn’t because it didn’t exist. The next question should be why would that person use taxpayer dollars to bring another prosecution again. The Wall Street Journal had said that this is or the Washington Post had said this has turned from a prosecution to a persecution, and should the taxpayers have to pay for a prosecutor who’s out to get somebody?”

Mitch McConnell is optimistic: “‘If the election were tomorrow, we’d have a very good day,’ the Kentucky senator said on NBC’s Meet the Press. ‘There are at least 12 seats in the Senate where Democrats are on defense. That’s pretty unusual.’ McConnell did add, however, that he does worry about ‘irrational exuberance.'”

The White House is delusional: “Throughout this long year, President Obama’s advisers have sometimes looked to Ronald Reagan for comparison and inspiration. If the Gipper could survive a deep recession, low approval ratings and an adverse midterm election in his first two years and win reelection handily two years later, then Obama could easily do the same, they reason.” Perhaps if Obama did a 180 on his agenda and started expressing affection for Americans and their values, he too could be popular again.

Howard Dean is partially correct: “I don’t think this is true of the president, but I do think his people, his political people, have got to go out and spend some time outside Washington for a while.”

Douglas Schoen is unpopular with his fellow Democrats for saying things like this: “The Obama administration’s policies and programs are not producing real, long lasting results, and there has been no real growth. Put another way, an unprecedented degree of federal government spending and intervention vis-à-vis the $787 billion dollar economic stimulus package, the $81 billion dollar bailouts of GM and Chrysler, and the enactment of health care and financial regulatory and reform bills have done nothing to stimulate our anemic recovery and have fundamentally failed at creating private sector jobs, or generating economic growth necessary for a sustainable, healthy recovery.”

Obama is toxic to his own party. Stephen Hayes on Fox News Sunday: “Well, what matters most is what Democrats are doing on the ground in individual districts in the states. And I was in Wisconsin this week in Menomonee Falls for President Obama’s speech there to an energy company. You know who didn’t show up? Tom Barrett, the Democrat running for governor. Didn’t want to be seen with the president.  … You have [Joe] Donnelly in Indiana who ran an ad taking a shot at the president, taking a shot at Nancy Pelosi. And that, it seems to me, tells us a lot more about what Democrats are thinking than some ad the DNC is doing against George W. Bush.”

Richard Blumenthal is “hopeless, doomed, toast.” Connecticut Democrats have only themselves to blame.

This is presidential. This is a mensch.

Blago is right: “Well, I think the question ought to be to the prosecutor, ‘How much money of taxpayers dollars did you spend on this trial?’ I would guess tens of millions of dollars, to get a guy you targeted for — you know, for six years. And then when we didn’t even put a defense on, you could not show any corruption. And you couldn’t because it didn’t exist. The next question should be why would that person use taxpayer dollars to bring another prosecution again. The Wall Street Journal had said that this is or the Washington Post had said this has turned from a prosecution to a persecution, and should the taxpayers have to pay for a prosecutor who’s out to get somebody?”

Mitch McConnell is optimistic: “‘If the election were tomorrow, we’d have a very good day,’ the Kentucky senator said on NBC’s Meet the Press. ‘There are at least 12 seats in the Senate where Democrats are on defense. That’s pretty unusual.’ McConnell did add, however, that he does worry about ‘irrational exuberance.'”

The White House is delusional: “Throughout this long year, President Obama’s advisers have sometimes looked to Ronald Reagan for comparison and inspiration. If the Gipper could survive a deep recession, low approval ratings and an adverse midterm election in his first two years and win reelection handily two years later, then Obama could easily do the same, they reason.” Perhaps if Obama did a 180 on his agenda and started expressing affection for Americans and their values, he too could be popular again.

Howard Dean is partially correct: “I don’t think this is true of the president, but I do think his people, his political people, have got to go out and spend some time outside Washington for a while.”

Douglas Schoen is unpopular with his fellow Democrats for saying things like this: “The Obama administration’s policies and programs are not producing real, long lasting results, and there has been no real growth. Put another way, an unprecedented degree of federal government spending and intervention vis-à-vis the $787 billion dollar economic stimulus package, the $81 billion dollar bailouts of GM and Chrysler, and the enactment of health care and financial regulatory and reform bills have done nothing to stimulate our anemic recovery and have fundamentally failed at creating private sector jobs, or generating economic growth necessary for a sustainable, healthy recovery.”

Obama is toxic to his own party. Stephen Hayes on Fox News Sunday: “Well, what matters most is what Democrats are doing on the ground in individual districts in the states. And I was in Wisconsin this week in Menomonee Falls for President Obama’s speech there to an energy company. You know who didn’t show up? Tom Barrett, the Democrat running for governor. Didn’t want to be seen with the president.  … You have [Joe] Donnelly in Indiana who ran an ad taking a shot at the president, taking a shot at Nancy Pelosi. And that, it seems to me, tells us a lot more about what Democrats are thinking than some ad the DNC is doing against George W. Bush.”

Richard Blumenthal is “hopeless, doomed, toast.” Connecticut Democrats have only themselves to blame.

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Petraeus on Afghanistan

This past weekend, General David Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, granted interviews to the Washington Post, New York Times, and Meet the Press [here and here].

Acknowledging that the mission is at a stage in which “what you have to do is to start turning inputs into outputs,” Petraeus said that the new U.S. war strategy is “fundamentally sound.” He sees incipient signs of progress in parts of the south, in new initiatives to create community defense forces, and in nascent steps to reintegrate low-level insurgents who want to stop fighting. According to the Post:

Petraeus contends that the counterinsurgency strategy is showing momentum in Helmand province, where about 20,000 U.S. Marines and 10,000 British troops have sought to create inkblots of security in six key districts. Some areas, such as Marja, a former Taliban stronghold, have proved to be tougher to pacify … but other places, such as the districts of Nawa and Garmsir, are becoming more stable and may feature prominently in his year-end presentation to the White House.

He also said he is encouraged by developments in Arghandab district on Kandahar’s northern fringe, where two U.S. Army battalions have been engaged in an arduous mission to clear insurgents from pomegranate orchards and vineyards seeded with makeshift but lethal anti-personnel mines.

Petraeus points out that what we face is not a monolithic Taliban enemy; he describes it more like a crime syndicate. In the southern part of the country we face the Afghan Taliban; in the eastern part, the Haqqani network linked to the Taliban but not subservient to it. There are small elements of al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and some Pakistani Taliban as well.

Petraeus, who appears intent on taking a harder line against corruption in the Karzai government than we’ve seen in the past, says his most significant accomplishment since arriving in Kabul has been to get President Karzai to endorse the creation of armed neighborhood-watch groups. He also argues against any precipitous withdrawal of forces in July 2011. When asked by NBC’s David Gregory how stifling the deadline is, Petraeus said this:

I don’t find it that stifling. I’m not bowed over by, you know, the knowledge that July 2011 is out there. In fact, the president has been very clear, Vice President Biden’s been very clear as well, more recently, that this is a date when a process begins that is conditions based. And as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our Afghan counterparts and to security forces and, and in various governmental institutions, and that enables a responsible drawdown of our forces. … I think the president’s been quite clear in explaining that it’s a process, not an event, and that it’s conditions based. … I think that we will have an enduring commitment here in some fashion, the character of which may change over time as our Afghan partners can do more and we’re able to do less in certain areas, certainly.

Articulating traditional counterinsurgency doctrine, Petraeus went on to say, “At the end of the day, it’s not about [the Afghan people’s] embrace of us, it’s not about us winning hearts and minds. It’s about the Afghan government winning hearts and minds.” And when asked if the outcome is like Iraq, whether that constitutes achieving the mission, Petraeus said this:

Well, the outcome in Iraq is still to be written, but if you could reduce the level of violence by some 90 to 95 percent, as was the case in Iraq, to below a threshold which allows commerce and business and outside investment to take place, where there is an election that’s certainly at least elected representatives, and now you have to see if they can come together and form a government that is still representative of and responsive to the people, as was the previous one. If that can all be achieved there, that would be a reasonable solution here as well.

“It’s a gradual effort,” Petraeus told the Post. “It’s a deliberate effort. There’s no hill to take and flag to plant and proclamations of victory. Rather, it’s just hard work.”

It is indeed. But America is fortunate to have one of the greatest military commanders in its history now in the lead. If we give him the tools and the time, he and the American military can finish the job.

This past weekend, General David Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, granted interviews to the Washington Post, New York Times, and Meet the Press [here and here].

Acknowledging that the mission is at a stage in which “what you have to do is to start turning inputs into outputs,” Petraeus said that the new U.S. war strategy is “fundamentally sound.” He sees incipient signs of progress in parts of the south, in new initiatives to create community defense forces, and in nascent steps to reintegrate low-level insurgents who want to stop fighting. According to the Post:

Petraeus contends that the counterinsurgency strategy is showing momentum in Helmand province, where about 20,000 U.S. Marines and 10,000 British troops have sought to create inkblots of security in six key districts. Some areas, such as Marja, a former Taliban stronghold, have proved to be tougher to pacify … but other places, such as the districts of Nawa and Garmsir, are becoming more stable and may feature prominently in his year-end presentation to the White House.

He also said he is encouraged by developments in Arghandab district on Kandahar’s northern fringe, where two U.S. Army battalions have been engaged in an arduous mission to clear insurgents from pomegranate orchards and vineyards seeded with makeshift but lethal anti-personnel mines.

Petraeus points out that what we face is not a monolithic Taliban enemy; he describes it more like a crime syndicate. In the southern part of the country we face the Afghan Taliban; in the eastern part, the Haqqani network linked to the Taliban but not subservient to it. There are small elements of al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and some Pakistani Taliban as well.

Petraeus, who appears intent on taking a harder line against corruption in the Karzai government than we’ve seen in the past, says his most significant accomplishment since arriving in Kabul has been to get President Karzai to endorse the creation of armed neighborhood-watch groups. He also argues against any precipitous withdrawal of forces in July 2011. When asked by NBC’s David Gregory how stifling the deadline is, Petraeus said this:

I don’t find it that stifling. I’m not bowed over by, you know, the knowledge that July 2011 is out there. In fact, the president has been very clear, Vice President Biden’s been very clear as well, more recently, that this is a date when a process begins that is conditions based. And as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our Afghan counterparts and to security forces and, and in various governmental institutions, and that enables a responsible drawdown of our forces. … I think the president’s been quite clear in explaining that it’s a process, not an event, and that it’s conditions based. … I think that we will have an enduring commitment here in some fashion, the character of which may change over time as our Afghan partners can do more and we’re able to do less in certain areas, certainly.

Articulating traditional counterinsurgency doctrine, Petraeus went on to say, “At the end of the day, it’s not about [the Afghan people’s] embrace of us, it’s not about us winning hearts and minds. It’s about the Afghan government winning hearts and minds.” And when asked if the outcome is like Iraq, whether that constitutes achieving the mission, Petraeus said this:

Well, the outcome in Iraq is still to be written, but if you could reduce the level of violence by some 90 to 95 percent, as was the case in Iraq, to below a threshold which allows commerce and business and outside investment to take place, where there is an election that’s certainly at least elected representatives, and now you have to see if they can come together and form a government that is still representative of and responsive to the people, as was the previous one. If that can all be achieved there, that would be a reasonable solution here as well.

“It’s a gradual effort,” Petraeus told the Post. “It’s a deliberate effort. There’s no hill to take and flag to plant and proclamations of victory. Rather, it’s just hard work.”

It is indeed. But America is fortunate to have one of the greatest military commanders in its history now in the lead. If we give him the tools and the time, he and the American military can finish the job.

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Sometimes the Sky Really Is Falling

Once upon a time conservatives who, as far back as last year, analyzed polling data and political trends and argued what was fairly obvious — that Democrats were in a perilous political position and in danger of losing the House — were mocked by Obama courtiers in the press for declaring, “The sky is falling!” Now, as Jennifer points out, comes confirmation from President Obama’s own spokesman that indeed the sky is falling. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Robert Gibbs declared:

I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall.  But I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control.

And in his Washington Post column, E.J. Dionne Jr. – as reliable a liberal supporter of Obama as you will find — offers the same warning:

If the midterm elections were held now, Republicans would likely take control of the House of the Representatives.  It’s as hard these days to find a Democrat who’s not alarmed as it is to find a Cleveland Cavaliers fan who’s cheering for LeBron James.

The explanations Democrats and liberals offer for why they are in this predicament (a “communications” problem, a “false narrative” that has taken hold, the failure to spend more money on the stimulus package, a bad economy that is entirely unconnected to Obama’s policies, and so forth) are flawed and at times comical. Still, the fact that some of Obama’s strongest supporters now acknowledge the depth of opposition to his policies and the battering that awaits Democrats is, I suppose, a good thing. Reality trumping self-delusion usually is. But anticipating a political drubbing is one thing; being on the receiving end of it will be quite another.

Wait until November 3 to see what I mean.

Once upon a time conservatives who, as far back as last year, analyzed polling data and political trends and argued what was fairly obvious — that Democrats were in a perilous political position and in danger of losing the House — were mocked by Obama courtiers in the press for declaring, “The sky is falling!” Now, as Jennifer points out, comes confirmation from President Obama’s own spokesman that indeed the sky is falling. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Robert Gibbs declared:

I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall.  But I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control.

And in his Washington Post column, E.J. Dionne Jr. – as reliable a liberal supporter of Obama as you will find — offers the same warning:

If the midterm elections were held now, Republicans would likely take control of the House of the Representatives.  It’s as hard these days to find a Democrat who’s not alarmed as it is to find a Cleveland Cavaliers fan who’s cheering for LeBron James.

The explanations Democrats and liberals offer for why they are in this predicament (a “communications” problem, a “false narrative” that has taken hold, the failure to spend more money on the stimulus package, a bad economy that is entirely unconnected to Obama’s policies, and so forth) are flawed and at times comical. Still, the fact that some of Obama’s strongest supporters now acknowledge the depth of opposition to his policies and the battering that awaits Democrats is, I suppose, a good thing. Reality trumping self-delusion usually is. But anticipating a political drubbing is one thing; being on the receiving end of it will be quite another.

Wait until November 3 to see what I mean.

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Carly Makes the Case for Throwing Out Rude Liberals

Carly Fiorina appeared on Meet the Press and gave one of her more impressive performances, in contrast with the rudeness and perpetual interruptions of the accompanying Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Fiorina, on Republican criticism of Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill:

Well, I think there’s much in that that’s fair.  And there is a difference, obviously, between governing and leading, and running for office or campaigning.  Look, BP has huge accountability here, and they need to be held to account.  But the government has accountability as well. When we hear that there are 13 separate federal government agencies running around in confusion down there, when we hear that there is equipment that could be used to help clean up the Gulf sitting in warehouses, when we hear that there is assistance that is being pleaded for by local officials and that assistance is not coming, all of this leads to the impression that this is not yet an effort where the president is exerting as much control as is necessary to get this thing fixed.  Of course BP has responsibility, but we also need to understand, where were the government regulators?  Where was MMS, despite the fact that the leader of MMS had been brought in by Ken Salazar in a move to reform the agency, according to him?

That was followed by this exchange:

MR. GREGORY:  Well, and…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  David–right.

MR. GREGORY:  Well, hold on a minute, that’s–wait, because I wanted to go back to Carly Fiorina.  I mean, respond to that point, Carly, for one.  But for two, because there’s legitimacy to that, what, what is good government, going forward, in a crisis like this?

MS. FIORINA:  Good government needs to be efficient and effective.  I’m not talking about small or big, but I know from the real world that when things get too big and too complicated and two expensive, as our government is now, they don’t perform well.  These are vast, unaccountable bureaucracies.  They don’t coordinate with one another, and, as a result, they’re not effective. And may I just say, it was Ken Salazar who put in place the secretary or the head of MMS who just recently resigned and who came from the industry.  So I think…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, he didn’t.

MS. FIORINA:  …this is a question of the blame game to say this is all about Republicans…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  He came from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …saying small government.  This is about efficient,effective government…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Birnbaum was from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …and efficient and effective response.  And what the American people are seeing is an ineffective response.

MR. GREGORY:  Did, did that head of MMS come from–did she work on the hill or did she come from industry?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  The head of MMS was from the House of Representatives.  Liz Birnbaum came from the U.S.  House of Representatives. She was an employee for many years, and then she moved from the House of Representatives to MMS. So I don’t know what she’s talking about.  But this is a big, expensive disaster.

MS. FIORINA:  And she was forced to resign because of her failure to reform the department as she promised to.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  In the year–excuse me, excuse me–in the year that she was, that, that she was there, there definitely was not enough reform, but she was cleaning up, in the process of cleaning up from years of a totally hands-off regulatory policy by the Bush administration…

MS. FIORINA:  Then why did she resign?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …in which they had a scandal-ridden regulatory agency.

MR. GREGORY:  OK, but, Congresswoman, the reality is that if the president made a priority of reforming MMS, he also made the decision to curtail that reform, if it was incomplete, to move forward on more oil drilling, to…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Which I don’t…

MR. GREGORY:  …to achieve political consensus on climate change legislation.  So it’s a question of the choices the president made.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Look, as–well, in a–arguably in a year, you weren’t going to be able to clean up that regulatory mess that, that essentially was–left, left industry in charge of itself, and that’s why we ended up with this BP disaster.

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  But as someone, unlike Ms. Fiorina, as someone who represents a Gulf state, who is totally opposed to expanding offshore oil drilling, unlike Ms. Fiorina, who even in the face of this BP disaster, would continue to allow offshore oil drilling as a solution, it is absolutely…

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …irresponsible to do that.  We need to focus…

MS. FIORINA:  If I may–if I may just say…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, no, no.  You keep interrupting me.

MS. FIORINA:  If I may just say, actually…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Excuse me, excuse me.

MS. FIORINA:  …you–if I may just say that…

MR. GREGORY:  Hold, hold on, hold on one second.  Congressman***(as spoken)***let’s let Carly Fiorina respond.  Go ahead.

MS. FIORINA:  If I might just say, I am not defending the performance of MMS over many years.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz is absolutely correct that MMS has failed in its duties under both Republican and Democratic presidents.  That’s a fact.  It is also true that the reason President Obama reversed his decision on shallow offshore drilling is because the people in the Gulf course–Coast were pleading for jobs and we need the energy.

And on it went in this vein. Recall that Barbara Boxer drew attention to herself both by tangling with an African-American business leader and a general, revealing herself as both rude and out-of-touch. If Fiorina can repeat this MTP performance — showing that her liberal opponent is both obnoxious and uniformed — she will do very well in her race. Voters already disgusted by the political elite may welcome a Washington outsider who has a businesslike and civil approach to issues.

Carly Fiorina appeared on Meet the Press and gave one of her more impressive performances, in contrast with the rudeness and perpetual interruptions of the accompanying Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Fiorina, on Republican criticism of Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill:

Well, I think there’s much in that that’s fair.  And there is a difference, obviously, between governing and leading, and running for office or campaigning.  Look, BP has huge accountability here, and they need to be held to account.  But the government has accountability as well. When we hear that there are 13 separate federal government agencies running around in confusion down there, when we hear that there is equipment that could be used to help clean up the Gulf sitting in warehouses, when we hear that there is assistance that is being pleaded for by local officials and that assistance is not coming, all of this leads to the impression that this is not yet an effort where the president is exerting as much control as is necessary to get this thing fixed.  Of course BP has responsibility, but we also need to understand, where were the government regulators?  Where was MMS, despite the fact that the leader of MMS had been brought in by Ken Salazar in a move to reform the agency, according to him?

That was followed by this exchange:

MR. GREGORY:  Well, and…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  David–right.

MR. GREGORY:  Well, hold on a minute, that’s–wait, because I wanted to go back to Carly Fiorina.  I mean, respond to that point, Carly, for one.  But for two, because there’s legitimacy to that, what, what is good government, going forward, in a crisis like this?

MS. FIORINA:  Good government needs to be efficient and effective.  I’m not talking about small or big, but I know from the real world that when things get too big and too complicated and two expensive, as our government is now, they don’t perform well.  These are vast, unaccountable bureaucracies.  They don’t coordinate with one another, and, as a result, they’re not effective. And may I just say, it was Ken Salazar who put in place the secretary or the head of MMS who just recently resigned and who came from the industry.  So I think…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, he didn’t.

MS. FIORINA:  …this is a question of the blame game to say this is all about Republicans…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  He came from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …saying small government.  This is about efficient,effective government…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Birnbaum was from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …and efficient and effective response.  And what the American people are seeing is an ineffective response.

MR. GREGORY:  Did, did that head of MMS come from–did she work on the hill or did she come from industry?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  The head of MMS was from the House of Representatives.  Liz Birnbaum came from the U.S.  House of Representatives. She was an employee for many years, and then she moved from the House of Representatives to MMS. So I don’t know what she’s talking about.  But this is a big, expensive disaster.

MS. FIORINA:  And she was forced to resign because of her failure to reform the department as she promised to.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  In the year–excuse me, excuse me–in the year that she was, that, that she was there, there definitely was not enough reform, but she was cleaning up, in the process of cleaning up from years of a totally hands-off regulatory policy by the Bush administration…

MS. FIORINA:  Then why did she resign?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …in which they had a scandal-ridden regulatory agency.

MR. GREGORY:  OK, but, Congresswoman, the reality is that if the president made a priority of reforming MMS, he also made the decision to curtail that reform, if it was incomplete, to move forward on more oil drilling, to…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Which I don’t…

MR. GREGORY:  …to achieve political consensus on climate change legislation.  So it’s a question of the choices the president made.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Look, as–well, in a–arguably in a year, you weren’t going to be able to clean up that regulatory mess that, that essentially was–left, left industry in charge of itself, and that’s why we ended up with this BP disaster.

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  But as someone, unlike Ms. Fiorina, as someone who represents a Gulf state, who is totally opposed to expanding offshore oil drilling, unlike Ms. Fiorina, who even in the face of this BP disaster, would continue to allow offshore oil drilling as a solution, it is absolutely…

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …irresponsible to do that.  We need to focus…

MS. FIORINA:  If I may–if I may just say…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, no, no.  You keep interrupting me.

MS. FIORINA:  If I may just say, actually…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Excuse me, excuse me.

MS. FIORINA:  …you–if I may just say that…

MR. GREGORY:  Hold, hold on, hold on one second.  Congressman***(as spoken)***let’s let Carly Fiorina respond.  Go ahead.

MS. FIORINA:  If I might just say, I am not defending the performance of MMS over many years.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz is absolutely correct that MMS has failed in its duties under both Republican and Democratic presidents.  That’s a fact.  It is also true that the reason President Obama reversed his decision on shallow offshore drilling is because the people in the Gulf course–Coast were pleading for jobs and we need the energy.

And on it went in this vein. Recall that Barbara Boxer drew attention to herself both by tangling with an African-American business leader and a general, revealing herself as both rude and out-of-touch. If Fiorina can repeat this MTP performance — showing that her liberal opponent is both obnoxious and uniformed — she will do very well in her race. Voters already disgusted by the political elite may welcome a Washington outsider who has a businesslike and civil approach to issues.

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Sestak Under Fire

Rep. Joe Sestak is under fire from all quarters. First, this boffo ad from Keep Israel Safe slams him for his record on Israel and on terrorism:

Then the Philly media gets on his case for JobsGate (the alleged job offer to get out of the primary race):

When asked about the accusation, as he was again Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sestak says, yes, the offer was made. But he won’t say what it was, or who made it.

This too-cute-by-half stance may allow him to tout his independence and outsider credentials — important in an anti-incumbent year like this one. But by not being specific, Sestak is covering up what appears to be the ultimate insider deal — and a potential crime.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, has every reason to capitalize on both of these points of weakness. First, Toomey has been a strong critic of Obama’s policies with respect to Iran and Israel. Second, although he previously served in Congress, in this race he’s the outsider (and former Club for Growth president) who can take on Washington’s backroom dealing and spend-a-thon. In Pennsylvania, both of those themes may be winners. And if they are, the 2012 GOP presidential contenders will take note.

UPDATE: Gov. Ed Rendell is now calling for Sestak to cough up more facts. I suspect he wouldn’t have done so if the White House was not on board. Is Obama hanging Sestak out to dry or coming up with a cover story? Stay tuned.

Rep. Joe Sestak is under fire from all quarters. First, this boffo ad from Keep Israel Safe slams him for his record on Israel and on terrorism:

Then the Philly media gets on his case for JobsGate (the alleged job offer to get out of the primary race):

When asked about the accusation, as he was again Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sestak says, yes, the offer was made. But he won’t say what it was, or who made it.

This too-cute-by-half stance may allow him to tout his independence and outsider credentials — important in an anti-incumbent year like this one. But by not being specific, Sestak is covering up what appears to be the ultimate insider deal — and a potential crime.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, has every reason to capitalize on both of these points of weakness. First, Toomey has been a strong critic of Obama’s policies with respect to Iran and Israel. Second, although he previously served in Congress, in this race he’s the outsider (and former Club for Growth president) who can take on Washington’s backroom dealing and spend-a-thon. In Pennsylvania, both of those themes may be winners. And if they are, the 2012 GOP presidential contenders will take note.

UPDATE: Gov. Ed Rendell is now calling for Sestak to cough up more facts. I suspect he wouldn’t have done so if the White House was not on board. Is Obama hanging Sestak out to dry or coming up with a cover story? Stay tuned.

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Holder on Meet the Press

Eric Holder appeared on Meet the Press. It seems that all that business about the Times Square bomber being a “one-off” incident was, well, wrong:

MR. HOLDER: Well, this is an ongoing investigation, there’s only so much that I can talk about, but I am comfortable in saying that they were involved in what Shahzad tried to do. And I think that’s an indication of the new threat that we face, these terrorist organizations, these affiliates of al-Qaeda or–these organizations are somehow connected to the kinds of things that al-Qaeda wants to do, indicates the worldwide concerns that we have to have if we’re going to be effective.

MR. GREGORY: Well, before I ask you about that changing face of terror, is it a danger when you have officials like Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano saying, at this very table last week, that this appeared to be a one-off attack, or the general of Central Command, David Petraeus saying that Shahzad appeared to be a lone wolf, and now you’re saying no, this was part of a, a Pakistani Taliban plot?

MR. HOLDER: Well, you know, the evidence develops, and I think we have to always try to be careful to make sure that the statements that we make is consistence with the evidence that we have developed. And it certainly looked, I think, at the beginning of this investigation, like it could have been a one-off. Over the course of this week, we’ve developed information, we’ve developed evidence that shows that the involved–shows the involvement of the Pakistani Taliban.

One wonders then why the administration is so quick to rush forth with pronouncements — and to make decisions about the legal status of the terrorist before it has sufficient information to make accurate comments and informed decisions.

Holder also revealed that Shahzad was, in fact, Mirandized, this time after eight hours of questioning. But we certainly didn’t know at the time that he was part of a Taliban plot. Yet we made what is likely an irreversible decision to Mirandize him and charge him in federal court. Nevertheless, after four domestic terror incidents, Holder declares a “new priority” for the administration — to explore greater flexibility in use of the Miranda rule. Good to know all the sneering at conservative critics who have been pounding this issue for months is now inoperative.

And what about KSM? Well, let it not be said that this crowd is giving up easily on a civilian trial. And here Holder is tied up in knots:

MR. GREGORY: So, if he’s acquitted, he would not be released. How is that consistent, Mr. Attorney General, with fairness and justice that you believe in of our system?

MR. HOLDER: Well, he certainly would be provided fairness and justice with regard to the trial that would occur. And with regard to the outcome of that trial, we have–if–and if he were acquitted, what I was trying to say that there are other mechanisms that we have that we might employ, immigration laws that we could use, the possibility of detaining him under the wars of law. There are a variety of things that we can do in order to protect the American people, and that is the thing that I keep uppermost in my mind.

MR. GREGORY: But, but if he’s acquitted and the United States says we will not let him free, then what is the point of having a trial?

MR. HOLDER: Well, there are other charges that are–that could be brought against him in addition to those he would stand accused of with regard to the 9/11 plot. There are a variety of other things that he could be tried for. And I think we can provide him with fairness and with justice in the systems that we now have in place.

MR. GREGORY: But you said, with regard to any KSM trial, failure is not an option, and yet you know full well you send prosecutors into court every day in this country knowing that there is plenty of uncertainty. Paul McNulty, the former deputy attorney general, said earlier this year with regard to the Moussaoui prosecution, he said, “The criminal justice process is not designed to guarantee any particular outcome. If that option (civilian court) is followed, we have to accept that it is unpredictable.” A trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court is unpredictable, isn’t it?

MR. HOLDER: Well, I’m confident that if we try him in a civilian court, given the evidence that we have amassed, given the experience of the prosecutors who would try the case, given the skills that they have, that we will stand a very, very good chance of, of convicting him.

MR. GREGORY:  But that’s not what you said.  You said failure is not an option.  You said he will not be released.  And the broader criticism is, of you, that you say you believe in our civilian justice system.  And you said when you became attorney general that “I’m going to stick to those principles even when it’s hard.” And yet, with all the political pressure to be tough on terrorists, you said “I believe in the system” at the same time you appear to be rewriting the rules of that system, which, ultimately, critics say, can undermine the system.  Even with Shahzad, before he was charged, you held a press conference announcing that he had confessed.  Shouldn’t that be a concern to those who work with you and others who believe, as you say you do, in our civilian justice system?

MR. HOLDER:  Well, I believe in the civilian justice system. I have certainly worked all my life in the civilian justice system. I have confidence in the civilian justice system’s ability to handle these new threats that our, our, our country faces with regard to Shahzad, with regard to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I think that we have conducted ourselves in a way that’s consistent with the best that is about our, our, our civilian justice system. I’m not–I don’t think that I have to take back anything that I have said in the past. One of the things that we did with regard to that press conference was to get out there early to assure the American people generally and people in New York specifically that the person we thought was responsible for that attempted bombing was, in fact, in custody.

MR. GREGORY: Will KSM be tried in New York?

MR. HOLDER: We are still in the process of trying to decide where that trial will occur.

MR. GREGORY:  What is the holdup?  Everybody seems to be saying this is a foregone conclusion, it’s never going to New York. Why won’t you say that it won’t be there?

MR. HOLDER: Well, we’re taking a look at all of our options and trying to decide where the case can best be tried. There are federal statutes that we have to deal with that dictate where the case would have to occur if we’re going to seek the death penalty, as I’ve indicated that we will. There are a variety of things that have to be taken into consideration, both–in addition to what I’ve talked about, we also have to take into account what the political leadership in these various jurisdictions wants, what the, what the people in these various. …

MR. GREGORY: New York doesn’t want it. New York doesn’t have the resources for it. You just deployed all these FBI agents to catch Shahzad. What if they had to protect a trial of KSM?  I mean, it’s fairly clear that it doesn’t belong in New York, according to elected officials and other law enforcement officials, and yet there is this basically inaction on this issue of where the trial is. Is this being overly politicized by this administration and by you?

MR. HOLDER: No, it’s not being overly politicized. What we’re trying to do is come up with the best decision that we can. We’re taking our time, we’re considering all of our options. We want to make sure that we put this trial in the place where it can best be held.

They continued in this vein for a while, convincing no one but the most deluded that there was a coherent reason to try KSM in New York.

Holder suggests that this is an administration in transition. It is becoming increasingly untenable to defend a criminal-justice model for fighting Islamic terrorism, and yet the Obama team is reluctant to let go of it. Unfortunately for the leftist ideologues, reality keeps intervening.

Eric Holder appeared on Meet the Press. It seems that all that business about the Times Square bomber being a “one-off” incident was, well, wrong:

MR. HOLDER: Well, this is an ongoing investigation, there’s only so much that I can talk about, but I am comfortable in saying that they were involved in what Shahzad tried to do. And I think that’s an indication of the new threat that we face, these terrorist organizations, these affiliates of al-Qaeda or–these organizations are somehow connected to the kinds of things that al-Qaeda wants to do, indicates the worldwide concerns that we have to have if we’re going to be effective.

MR. GREGORY: Well, before I ask you about that changing face of terror, is it a danger when you have officials like Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano saying, at this very table last week, that this appeared to be a one-off attack, or the general of Central Command, David Petraeus saying that Shahzad appeared to be a lone wolf, and now you’re saying no, this was part of a, a Pakistani Taliban plot?

MR. HOLDER: Well, you know, the evidence develops, and I think we have to always try to be careful to make sure that the statements that we make is consistence with the evidence that we have developed. And it certainly looked, I think, at the beginning of this investigation, like it could have been a one-off. Over the course of this week, we’ve developed information, we’ve developed evidence that shows that the involved–shows the involvement of the Pakistani Taliban.

One wonders then why the administration is so quick to rush forth with pronouncements — and to make decisions about the legal status of the terrorist before it has sufficient information to make accurate comments and informed decisions.

Holder also revealed that Shahzad was, in fact, Mirandized, this time after eight hours of questioning. But we certainly didn’t know at the time that he was part of a Taliban plot. Yet we made what is likely an irreversible decision to Mirandize him and charge him in federal court. Nevertheless, after four domestic terror incidents, Holder declares a “new priority” for the administration — to explore greater flexibility in use of the Miranda rule. Good to know all the sneering at conservative critics who have been pounding this issue for months is now inoperative.

And what about KSM? Well, let it not be said that this crowd is giving up easily on a civilian trial. And here Holder is tied up in knots:

MR. GREGORY: So, if he’s acquitted, he would not be released. How is that consistent, Mr. Attorney General, with fairness and justice that you believe in of our system?

MR. HOLDER: Well, he certainly would be provided fairness and justice with regard to the trial that would occur. And with regard to the outcome of that trial, we have–if–and if he were acquitted, what I was trying to say that there are other mechanisms that we have that we might employ, immigration laws that we could use, the possibility of detaining him under the wars of law. There are a variety of things that we can do in order to protect the American people, and that is the thing that I keep uppermost in my mind.

MR. GREGORY: But, but if he’s acquitted and the United States says we will not let him free, then what is the point of having a trial?

MR. HOLDER: Well, there are other charges that are–that could be brought against him in addition to those he would stand accused of with regard to the 9/11 plot. There are a variety of other things that he could be tried for. And I think we can provide him with fairness and with justice in the systems that we now have in place.

MR. GREGORY: But you said, with regard to any KSM trial, failure is not an option, and yet you know full well you send prosecutors into court every day in this country knowing that there is plenty of uncertainty. Paul McNulty, the former deputy attorney general, said earlier this year with regard to the Moussaoui prosecution, he said, “The criminal justice process is not designed to guarantee any particular outcome. If that option (civilian court) is followed, we have to accept that it is unpredictable.” A trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court is unpredictable, isn’t it?

MR. HOLDER: Well, I’m confident that if we try him in a civilian court, given the evidence that we have amassed, given the experience of the prosecutors who would try the case, given the skills that they have, that we will stand a very, very good chance of, of convicting him.

MR. GREGORY:  But that’s not what you said.  You said failure is not an option.  You said he will not be released.  And the broader criticism is, of you, that you say you believe in our civilian justice system.  And you said when you became attorney general that “I’m going to stick to those principles even when it’s hard.” And yet, with all the political pressure to be tough on terrorists, you said “I believe in the system” at the same time you appear to be rewriting the rules of that system, which, ultimately, critics say, can undermine the system.  Even with Shahzad, before he was charged, you held a press conference announcing that he had confessed.  Shouldn’t that be a concern to those who work with you and others who believe, as you say you do, in our civilian justice system?

MR. HOLDER:  Well, I believe in the civilian justice system. I have certainly worked all my life in the civilian justice system. I have confidence in the civilian justice system’s ability to handle these new threats that our, our, our country faces with regard to Shahzad, with regard to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I think that we have conducted ourselves in a way that’s consistent with the best that is about our, our, our civilian justice system. I’m not–I don’t think that I have to take back anything that I have said in the past. One of the things that we did with regard to that press conference was to get out there early to assure the American people generally and people in New York specifically that the person we thought was responsible for that attempted bombing was, in fact, in custody.

MR. GREGORY: Will KSM be tried in New York?

MR. HOLDER: We are still in the process of trying to decide where that trial will occur.

MR. GREGORY:  What is the holdup?  Everybody seems to be saying this is a foregone conclusion, it’s never going to New York. Why won’t you say that it won’t be there?

MR. HOLDER: Well, we’re taking a look at all of our options and trying to decide where the case can best be tried. There are federal statutes that we have to deal with that dictate where the case would have to occur if we’re going to seek the death penalty, as I’ve indicated that we will. There are a variety of things that have to be taken into consideration, both–in addition to what I’ve talked about, we also have to take into account what the political leadership in these various jurisdictions wants, what the, what the people in these various. …

MR. GREGORY: New York doesn’t want it. New York doesn’t have the resources for it. You just deployed all these FBI agents to catch Shahzad. What if they had to protect a trial of KSM?  I mean, it’s fairly clear that it doesn’t belong in New York, according to elected officials and other law enforcement officials, and yet there is this basically inaction on this issue of where the trial is. Is this being overly politicized by this administration and by you?

MR. HOLDER: No, it’s not being overly politicized. What we’re trying to do is come up with the best decision that we can. We’re taking our time, we’re considering all of our options. We want to make sure that we put this trial in the place where it can best be held.

They continued in this vein for a while, convincing no one but the most deluded that there was a coherent reason to try KSM in New York.

Holder suggests that this is an administration in transition. It is becoming increasingly untenable to defend a criminal-justice model for fighting Islamic terrorism, and yet the Obama team is reluctant to let go of it. Unfortunately for the leftist ideologues, reality keeps intervening.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Christopher Hitchens is out hawking his book with tales of his Oxford escapades. Alas, now “he’s a Dorian-Gray picture of his former self invoking the memory of it all to sell books this time around, and he’s given it—and himself—a very bad name indeed.”

In case there was any confusion about what the enemy is up to: “Al-Qaida’s American-born spokesman on Sunday called on Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces to emulate the Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood. In a 25-minute video posted on militant Web sites, Adam Gadahn described Maj. Nidal Hasan as a pioneer who should serve as a role model for other Muslims, especially those serving Western militaries. ‘Brother Nidal is the ideal role-model for every repentant Muslim in the armies of the unbelievers and apostate regimes,’ he said.”

This was televised on C-SPAN: “Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich talked about ethics in politics. Following his remarks he responded to questions from law professors. The panel included Professors Tonja Jacobi, Donald Gordon, and Donna Leff.” (h/t Taegan Goddard) Seems better suited to Comedy Central.

Who better to send on a fool’s errand? “U.S. President Barack Obama dispatches his vice president to the Middle East on Sunday to try to build support for reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks despite deep skepticism on both sides.”

Clark Hoyt gets around to discussing the latest plagiarism scandal at the New York Times involving now departed Zachery Kouwe. He wonders: “How did his serial plagiarism happen and go undetected for so long? Why were warning signs overlooked? Was there anything at fault in the culture of DealBook, the hyper-competitive news blog on which Kouwe worked? And, now that the investigation is complete, what about a full accounting to readers?” Well, for starters, the Times let Maureen Dowd get away with plagiarism, so maybe Kouwe got the idea that it wasn’t really a “mortal journalistic sin.”

David Freddoso on the ongoing sanctimony festival: “‘Bankers don’t need another vote in the United States Senate,’ President Obama said as he urged Massachusetts voters to support Attorney General Martha Coakley over Republican Scott Brown. He also railed against ‘the same fat-cats who are getting rewarded for their failure.’ But in Illinois, Democrats have nominated a banker for Obama’s old Senate seat. Not only is Alexi Giannoulias’s family bank on the verge of failing, but he has a golden parachute made of federal tax refunds.”

Like all those Iran deadlines, no real deadline on ObamaCare: “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday dodged a series of questions about the White House’s plans for healthcare reform in the event lawmakers failed to pass it by the Easter recess. When asked on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ whether President Barack Obama would still pursue that legislation after the break, Sebelius offered no direct answer, only stressing, ‘I think we’ll have the votes when the leadership decides to call the votes, and I think it will pass.'”

Dana Perino on Fox News Sunday sums up the difficulty in rounding up votes for ObamaCare: “I think that a lot of the details just are now going past people’s heads and that the fundamental problem for the Democrats is that people do not want the big government spending. They don’t want the big program. They don’t understand why they’re pushing so hard on this and not on jobs. And it occurs to me that you can only vote against your constituents so many times before they start to vote against you.”

Robert Zelnick is very upset to learn that the Gray Lady doesn’t report news adverse to Obama. On Obama’s Medicare gimmickry: “The Times should, of course, be over this story like flies at a picnic table.Where will the money come from, Mr. President? Is there any precedent for draining funds like this from one soon-to-be insolvent program to another? Have you computed how the projected cuts in payment to doctors would affect the supply of physicians, the quality of medicine practiced, the health and longevity of the American people? Aren’t we really dealing with a series of misrepresentations — both explicit and implicit — unprecedented in the nation’s history.”

Reason to celebrate: “Defying a sustained barrage of mortars and rockets in Baghdad and other cities, Iraqis went to the polls in numbers on Sunday to choose a new parliament meant to outlast the American military presence here. … Insurgents here vowed to disrupt the election, and the concerted wave of attacks — as many as 100 thunderous blasts in the capital alone starting just before the polls opened — did frighten voters away, but only initially. The shrugging response of voters could signal a fundamental weakening of the insurgency’s potency.” And reason to be so very proud of one of the greatest military forces ever assembled, which, despite the naysayers, freed Iraqis from a brutal dictatorship.

Christopher Hitchens is out hawking his book with tales of his Oxford escapades. Alas, now “he’s a Dorian-Gray picture of his former self invoking the memory of it all to sell books this time around, and he’s given it—and himself—a very bad name indeed.”

In case there was any confusion about what the enemy is up to: “Al-Qaida’s American-born spokesman on Sunday called on Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces to emulate the Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood. In a 25-minute video posted on militant Web sites, Adam Gadahn described Maj. Nidal Hasan as a pioneer who should serve as a role model for other Muslims, especially those serving Western militaries. ‘Brother Nidal is the ideal role-model for every repentant Muslim in the armies of the unbelievers and apostate regimes,’ he said.”

This was televised on C-SPAN: “Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich talked about ethics in politics. Following his remarks he responded to questions from law professors. The panel included Professors Tonja Jacobi, Donald Gordon, and Donna Leff.” (h/t Taegan Goddard) Seems better suited to Comedy Central.

Who better to send on a fool’s errand? “U.S. President Barack Obama dispatches his vice president to the Middle East on Sunday to try to build support for reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks despite deep skepticism on both sides.”

Clark Hoyt gets around to discussing the latest plagiarism scandal at the New York Times involving now departed Zachery Kouwe. He wonders: “How did his serial plagiarism happen and go undetected for so long? Why were warning signs overlooked? Was there anything at fault in the culture of DealBook, the hyper-competitive news blog on which Kouwe worked? And, now that the investigation is complete, what about a full accounting to readers?” Well, for starters, the Times let Maureen Dowd get away with plagiarism, so maybe Kouwe got the idea that it wasn’t really a “mortal journalistic sin.”

David Freddoso on the ongoing sanctimony festival: “‘Bankers don’t need another vote in the United States Senate,’ President Obama said as he urged Massachusetts voters to support Attorney General Martha Coakley over Republican Scott Brown. He also railed against ‘the same fat-cats who are getting rewarded for their failure.’ But in Illinois, Democrats have nominated a banker for Obama’s old Senate seat. Not only is Alexi Giannoulias’s family bank on the verge of failing, but he has a golden parachute made of federal tax refunds.”

Like all those Iran deadlines, no real deadline on ObamaCare: “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday dodged a series of questions about the White House’s plans for healthcare reform in the event lawmakers failed to pass it by the Easter recess. When asked on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ whether President Barack Obama would still pursue that legislation after the break, Sebelius offered no direct answer, only stressing, ‘I think we’ll have the votes when the leadership decides to call the votes, and I think it will pass.'”

Dana Perino on Fox News Sunday sums up the difficulty in rounding up votes for ObamaCare: “I think that a lot of the details just are now going past people’s heads and that the fundamental problem for the Democrats is that people do not want the big government spending. They don’t want the big program. They don’t understand why they’re pushing so hard on this and not on jobs. And it occurs to me that you can only vote against your constituents so many times before they start to vote against you.”

Robert Zelnick is very upset to learn that the Gray Lady doesn’t report news adverse to Obama. On Obama’s Medicare gimmickry: “The Times should, of course, be over this story like flies at a picnic table.Where will the money come from, Mr. President? Is there any precedent for draining funds like this from one soon-to-be insolvent program to another? Have you computed how the projected cuts in payment to doctors would affect the supply of physicians, the quality of medicine practiced, the health and longevity of the American people? Aren’t we really dealing with a series of misrepresentations — both explicit and implicit — unprecedented in the nation’s history.”

Reason to celebrate: “Defying a sustained barrage of mortars and rockets in Baghdad and other cities, Iraqis went to the polls in numbers on Sunday to choose a new parliament meant to outlast the American military presence here. … Insurgents here vowed to disrupt the election, and the concerted wave of attacks — as many as 100 thunderous blasts in the capital alone starting just before the polls opened — did frighten voters away, but only initially. The shrugging response of voters could signal a fundamental weakening of the insurgency’s potency.” And reason to be so very proud of one of the greatest military forces ever assembled, which, despite the naysayers, freed Iraqis from a brutal dictatorship.

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Pelosi’s Other Problem

As if Nancy Pelosi didn’t have enough problems — the polls, the retirements, the ObamaCare implosion, and the prospect of losing her speakership — she now must face a daily bashing by Republicans who sense she and her caucus are vulnerable on the ethics issue. The Hill reports:

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Sunday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was breaking the promise to have the most ethical Congress “every day.”

“Nancy Pelosi said in the very beginning this is going to be the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history,” Cantor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, “and what we’re seeing, she’s breaking that promise every day.”

Cantor and other Republicans are of course hounding Pelosi to dump Rangel, which for inexplicable reasons she is refusing to do. (Is he going to vote no on ObamaCare if she takes away his Ways and Means chairmanship? Of course not.) The Hill report then notes, ominously for the Democrats, that “Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) intends to introduce a privileged resolution next week calling for a vote on removing Charles Rangel as head of the Ways and Means panel.” Ouch. Another vote, another sticky situation for the Democrats.

Well, unfortunately for them, Pelosi didn’t take seriously her promises on transparency or corruption. Instead, we’ve seen broken promises in regard to posting key bills ahead of the votes, the perpetuation of earmarks, the refusal until the health-care summit to let the cameras into health-care deliberations, and of course the refusal to dump ethically impaired members. It’s a pattern of hubris and indifference that contributed to Republican losses in 2006. Cantor and his troops hope the same is true in 2010.

As if Nancy Pelosi didn’t have enough problems — the polls, the retirements, the ObamaCare implosion, and the prospect of losing her speakership — she now must face a daily bashing by Republicans who sense she and her caucus are vulnerable on the ethics issue. The Hill reports:

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Sunday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was breaking the promise to have the most ethical Congress “every day.”

“Nancy Pelosi said in the very beginning this is going to be the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history,” Cantor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, “and what we’re seeing, she’s breaking that promise every day.”

Cantor and other Republicans are of course hounding Pelosi to dump Rangel, which for inexplicable reasons she is refusing to do. (Is he going to vote no on ObamaCare if she takes away his Ways and Means chairmanship? Of course not.) The Hill report then notes, ominously for the Democrats, that “Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) intends to introduce a privileged resolution next week calling for a vote on removing Charles Rangel as head of the Ways and Means panel.” Ouch. Another vote, another sticky situation for the Democrats.

Well, unfortunately for them, Pelosi didn’t take seriously her promises on transparency or corruption. Instead, we’ve seen broken promises in regard to posting key bills ahead of the votes, the perpetuation of earmarks, the refusal until the health-care summit to let the cameras into health-care deliberations, and of course the refusal to dump ethically impaired members. It’s a pattern of hubris and indifference that contributed to Republican losses in 2006. Cantor and his troops hope the same is true in 2010.

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Obama’s Afghan Incoherence

Amid the (much justified) focus on the administration’s mishandling of the underwear-bomber, this Washington Post article, which appeared the day after Christmas, hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. It focuses on the administration’s mishandling of Afghanistan. Reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran reveals a deep disconnect between certain politicos in the White House, on the one hand, and, on the other, the military and Defense Department, regarding what exactly our policy toward Afghanistan is. The West Point address was supposed to settle all that, but it only added to the confusion. Chandrasekaran writes:

Members of Obama’s war cabinet disagree over the meaning of his pledge to begin drawing down forces in July 2011 and whether the mission has been narrowed from a proposal advanced by McChrystal in his August assessment of the war. The disagreements have opened a fault line between a desire for an early exit among several senior officials at the White House and a conviction among military commanders that victory is still achievable on their terms.

The most obvious confusion surrounds the 2011 deadline that was opposed by Generals McChrystal and Petraeus as well as by Secretary of Defense Bob Gates but was pushed by Vice President Joe Biden and the president himself. Both supporters and opponents are rushing to put their spin on the policy:

Gates, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the Sunday after the speech, said that perhaps only “some handful or some small number” would be withdrawn. Biden, during his MSNBC appearance last week, said a chart showing an increase in U.S. deployments this year would be “coming down as rapidly over the next two years.”

Both men can’t be right. The only one who knows for sure which is correct is Obama himself and he isn’t saying, perhaps because he is leaving his options open. But by putting the deadline out there at all, the president is fostering the view among our friends and allies in the region that we’re on the way out. Only he can refute that impression, and to date he hasn’t. That, in turn, makes it much harder for the troops to get the job done.

Then there is the confusion over exactly what our troops are doing. Apparently some White House officials think that they have circumscribed the troops’ mission so that McChrystal won’t be doing full-spectrum counterinsurgency — which is the only way to win (a word the president refuses to use). The article notes that Biden told MSNBC: “The strategy has fundamentally changed. This is not a COIN strategy.” But McChrystal is still planning to carry out a counterinsurgency in the east and south — and rightly so.

Which leaves the entire world wondering what exactly we’re up to. The Post account includes this telling quote:

“Is the surge a way of helping us leave more quickly, or is the timeline a way to help win support for the surge?” asked a senior Democratic staff member in Congress. “Which is the strategy and which is the head-fake? Nobody knows.”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure Obama himself knows which is the strategy and which is the head fake. He seems fundamentally ambivalent about the war in Afghanistan — as he is about the war on terror and most other military endeavors — and that ambivalence is reflected in the form of policy incoherence.

Amid the (much justified) focus on the administration’s mishandling of the underwear-bomber, this Washington Post article, which appeared the day after Christmas, hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. It focuses on the administration’s mishandling of Afghanistan. Reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran reveals a deep disconnect between certain politicos in the White House, on the one hand, and, on the other, the military and Defense Department, regarding what exactly our policy toward Afghanistan is. The West Point address was supposed to settle all that, but it only added to the confusion. Chandrasekaran writes:

Members of Obama’s war cabinet disagree over the meaning of his pledge to begin drawing down forces in July 2011 and whether the mission has been narrowed from a proposal advanced by McChrystal in his August assessment of the war. The disagreements have opened a fault line between a desire for an early exit among several senior officials at the White House and a conviction among military commanders that victory is still achievable on their terms.

The most obvious confusion surrounds the 2011 deadline that was opposed by Generals McChrystal and Petraeus as well as by Secretary of Defense Bob Gates but was pushed by Vice President Joe Biden and the president himself. Both supporters and opponents are rushing to put their spin on the policy:

Gates, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the Sunday after the speech, said that perhaps only “some handful or some small number” would be withdrawn. Biden, during his MSNBC appearance last week, said a chart showing an increase in U.S. deployments this year would be “coming down as rapidly over the next two years.”

Both men can’t be right. The only one who knows for sure which is correct is Obama himself and he isn’t saying, perhaps because he is leaving his options open. But by putting the deadline out there at all, the president is fostering the view among our friends and allies in the region that we’re on the way out. Only he can refute that impression, and to date he hasn’t. That, in turn, makes it much harder for the troops to get the job done.

Then there is the confusion over exactly what our troops are doing. Apparently some White House officials think that they have circumscribed the troops’ mission so that McChrystal won’t be doing full-spectrum counterinsurgency — which is the only way to win (a word the president refuses to use). The article notes that Biden told MSNBC: “The strategy has fundamentally changed. This is not a COIN strategy.” But McChrystal is still planning to carry out a counterinsurgency in the east and south — and rightly so.

Which leaves the entire world wondering what exactly we’re up to. The Post account includes this telling quote:

“Is the surge a way of helping us leave more quickly, or is the timeline a way to help win support for the surge?” asked a senior Democratic staff member in Congress. “Which is the strategy and which is the head-fake? Nobody knows.”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure Obama himself knows which is the strategy and which is the head fake. He seems fundamentally ambivalent about the war in Afghanistan — as he is about the war on terror and most other military endeavors — and that ambivalence is reflected in the form of policy incoherence.

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Can the Obama Administration Afford Any More Missteps?

As problems continue to mount and the president’s approval ratings continue to sink — the latest Rasmussen poll has Obama’s approval rating down to 44 percent, a new low — there are a lot of different, and damaging, story lines developing around the Obama administration. You can add a lack of basic competence to the list.

To take just one example from yesterday: on NBC’s Meet the Press, White House economic adviser Christina Romer was asked if the recession was over. Her first answer was that according to the “official definition … I think we have, at least in terms of GDP, reached that point” — before she then added qualifiers, inviting a follow-up question. When Romer was then asked, “So in your mind, this recession is not over,” she answered, “Of course not. We have — you know, for, for the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering. The unemployment rate is still 10 percent.”

Now compare that answer with what Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, said on ABC’s This Week: “Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be.” (Apparently “everybody” does not include Summers’s colleague Christina Romer.)

This is what is known as sending mixed messages; to have it done by two of the Obama administration’s leading economic spokespersons on a basic economic issue makes it all the more harmful.

The dazzling intellect and multitasking mastery of those who inhabit Obama’s World seem to be producing something less than was advertised. You can add to this the much more serious misplay by Harry Reid on his Medicare buy-in “compromise,” which has been soundly rejected by Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, two key votes Majority Leader Reid needs if he hopes to pass health-care legislation. Reid’s effort to portray health care as “inevitable” — and his effort to pressure Lieberman into supporting legislation that the Connecticut senator clearly finds unacceptable — has not only failed; it has badly backfired. And as if determined to make a bad tactical mistake even worse, Reid’s aides are now trashing Lieberman as a person who broke his word. That is something that strikes me as not only untrue — I have worked with Senator Lieberman over the years and always found him to be a man of integrity — but bordering on insane. Why do they want to attack the character of a man whose vote they presumably still need?

Governing involves missteps; that is an inherent by-product of exercising power and needs to be factored in when judging an administration. Still, add these incidents to others and you have a picture emerging of an administration and a party that are not only overmatched by events but that also look downright pitiable at times. This is the kind of thing, especially so early in the life of an administration, that can easily become a proxy for a wider inability to govern. Come 2010, voters are likely to extract a cost for this.

As problems continue to mount and the president’s approval ratings continue to sink — the latest Rasmussen poll has Obama’s approval rating down to 44 percent, a new low — there are a lot of different, and damaging, story lines developing around the Obama administration. You can add a lack of basic competence to the list.

To take just one example from yesterday: on NBC’s Meet the Press, White House economic adviser Christina Romer was asked if the recession was over. Her first answer was that according to the “official definition … I think we have, at least in terms of GDP, reached that point” — before she then added qualifiers, inviting a follow-up question. When Romer was then asked, “So in your mind, this recession is not over,” she answered, “Of course not. We have — you know, for, for the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering. The unemployment rate is still 10 percent.”

Now compare that answer with what Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, said on ABC’s This Week: “Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be.” (Apparently “everybody” does not include Summers’s colleague Christina Romer.)

This is what is known as sending mixed messages; to have it done by two of the Obama administration’s leading economic spokespersons on a basic economic issue makes it all the more harmful.

The dazzling intellect and multitasking mastery of those who inhabit Obama’s World seem to be producing something less than was advertised. You can add to this the much more serious misplay by Harry Reid on his Medicare buy-in “compromise,” which has been soundly rejected by Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, two key votes Majority Leader Reid needs if he hopes to pass health-care legislation. Reid’s effort to portray health care as “inevitable” — and his effort to pressure Lieberman into supporting legislation that the Connecticut senator clearly finds unacceptable — has not only failed; it has badly backfired. And as if determined to make a bad tactical mistake even worse, Reid’s aides are now trashing Lieberman as a person who broke his word. That is something that strikes me as not only untrue — I have worked with Senator Lieberman over the years and always found him to be a man of integrity — but bordering on insane. Why do they want to attack the character of a man whose vote they presumably still need?

Governing involves missteps; that is an inherent by-product of exercising power and needs to be factored in when judging an administration. Still, add these incidents to others and you have a picture emerging of an administration and a party that are not only overmatched by events but that also look downright pitiable at times. This is the kind of thing, especially so early in the life of an administration, that can easily become a proxy for a wider inability to govern. Come 2010, voters are likely to extract a cost for this.

Read Less




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