Commentary Magazine


Topic: Michael Steele

Obama’s “False Narrative”

Dan Balz of the Washington Post has written an article on President Obama’s dismal standing among independents (it stands at 38 percent approval according to Gallup, an 18-point difference from a year ago). Balz quotes both Republican and Democratic strategists in searching for the reason for this perilous polling condition: high unemployment, an unpopular health-care law, bigger government, a liberal governing agenda, lack of bipartisanship, and the inability to change the culture of Washington. And then we find this:

White House senior adviser David Axelrod said that the criticism of Obama as a big-spending liberal grows out of decisions the president felt he had to make to prevent a depression. “We were forced to do things from the start to deal with this economic crisis that helped create a false narrative about spending and deficits that’s had some impact on independent voters,” Axelrod said. “And that’s something we have to work on.”

Ah, yes, there’s that darn False Narrative again.

According to the True Narrative, Obama the Great acted with wisdom and courage to forestall another Great Depression. The charges of profligate spending have been manufactured out of thin air. The stimulus package has been a spectacular success. ObamaCare will bend the cost curve down. The economy is doing swimmingly. The outreach to the Muslim world has led to unprecedented breakthroughs. Nation after nation — Iran, Turkey, Russia, China, Brazil, Venezuela — are bending to Obama’s will. And all the problems America faces — from nearly 10 percent unemployment to polarization to acne among teens — are owing to Obama’s predecessor.

Yet because the Forces of Darkness so thoroughly and completely control the media and dominate the messaging wars — because Republicans have such fantastic spokesmen as RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Democrats have no bully pulpits available to them — Obama has become massively unpopular among independents. The White House, you see, has a message problem, but no other. Once they get their message out better, Obama will once again stride atop the political world.

Within the walls of the White House, it seems, Barack Obama is still viewed by people like Mr. Axelrod as a near-mythical figure. To much of the rest of the nation, he appears to be presiding over a failing presidency. If Obama and his top advisers persist in their self-delusion — which is unusual even for those working in a profession (politics) prone to self-delusion — they and their party are going to face, sooner or later, a brutal awakening.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post has written an article on President Obama’s dismal standing among independents (it stands at 38 percent approval according to Gallup, an 18-point difference from a year ago). Balz quotes both Republican and Democratic strategists in searching for the reason for this perilous polling condition: high unemployment, an unpopular health-care law, bigger government, a liberal governing agenda, lack of bipartisanship, and the inability to change the culture of Washington. And then we find this:

White House senior adviser David Axelrod said that the criticism of Obama as a big-spending liberal grows out of decisions the president felt he had to make to prevent a depression. “We were forced to do things from the start to deal with this economic crisis that helped create a false narrative about spending and deficits that’s had some impact on independent voters,” Axelrod said. “And that’s something we have to work on.”

Ah, yes, there’s that darn False Narrative again.

According to the True Narrative, Obama the Great acted with wisdom and courage to forestall another Great Depression. The charges of profligate spending have been manufactured out of thin air. The stimulus package has been a spectacular success. ObamaCare will bend the cost curve down. The economy is doing swimmingly. The outreach to the Muslim world has led to unprecedented breakthroughs. Nation after nation — Iran, Turkey, Russia, China, Brazil, Venezuela — are bending to Obama’s will. And all the problems America faces — from nearly 10 percent unemployment to polarization to acne among teens — are owing to Obama’s predecessor.

Yet because the Forces of Darkness so thoroughly and completely control the media and dominate the messaging wars — because Republicans have such fantastic spokesmen as RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Democrats have no bully pulpits available to them — Obama has become massively unpopular among independents. The White House, you see, has a message problem, but no other. Once they get their message out better, Obama will once again stride atop the political world.

Within the walls of the White House, it seems, Barack Obama is still viewed by people like Mr. Axelrod as a near-mythical figure. To much of the rest of the nation, he appears to be presiding over a failing presidency. If Obama and his top advisers persist in their self-delusion — which is unusual even for those working in a profession (politics) prone to self-delusion — they and their party are going to face, sooner or later, a brutal awakening.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

How dumb does Obama think businessmen are? “The White House has launched a coordinated campaign to push back against the perception taking hold in corporate America and on Wall Street that President Barack Obama is promoting an anti-business agenda.” Besides, wasn’t his populist, anti–Wall Street rhetoric supposed to be the key to minimizing midterm losses?

How upset do you think the White House is that the West Virginia governor has put another Senate seat at risk? “West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw (D) cleared the way for Gov. Joe Manchin (D) to call a November 2010 special election for the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) seat. The legal opinion McGraw issued Thursday did not give a specific timeline for a special election, but suggests using the already scheduled election this November.”

How slow do you think things are in Washington if the Politico forum is about whether Sarah Palin should replace Michael Steele? Yeah, like she needs, or would ever contemplate taking, that job.

How nervous do you think this Sarah Palin ad made the 2012 GOP contenders? Whatever you think of her, the ad is really good.

How much weight do you think the neo-isolationists and paleo-conservatives have in the GOP? Not much right now if Ann Coulter and Ron Paul are the only pro–Michael Steele voices. But Republicans should be wary — there is always the temptation to pull up the drawbridge.

How angry do you think Americans will be with Obama when they realize this? (More than they already are, that is): “After nearly a decade of federal tax cuts, Americans could awaken New Year’s Day with a whopper of a hangover. Breaks covering everything from child tax credits to the death tax are set to expire that day, less than six months from now, bringing higher payments for nearly every American who pays taxes. ‘We’ve never in history seen anything quite like this, where such a major portion of the tax code is set to expire on a single date and affect so many Americans all at once,’ said Scott Hodge, president of The Tax Foundation, a Washington nonprofit that tracks tax policies.”

How much trouble do you think Obama is in when Ruth Marcus sounds like John Podhoretz?

How many GOP 2012 candidates do you think will take this smart advice on immigration reform from Charles Krauthammer?It seems to me that the Republicans ought to argue enforcement first — and then a very generous, open and humane solution for those already here.” Not enough, I fear.

How dumb does Obama think businessmen are? “The White House has launched a coordinated campaign to push back against the perception taking hold in corporate America and on Wall Street that President Barack Obama is promoting an anti-business agenda.” Besides, wasn’t his populist, anti–Wall Street rhetoric supposed to be the key to minimizing midterm losses?

How upset do you think the White House is that the West Virginia governor has put another Senate seat at risk? “West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw (D) cleared the way for Gov. Joe Manchin (D) to call a November 2010 special election for the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) seat. The legal opinion McGraw issued Thursday did not give a specific timeline for a special election, but suggests using the already scheduled election this November.”

How slow do you think things are in Washington if the Politico forum is about whether Sarah Palin should replace Michael Steele? Yeah, like she needs, or would ever contemplate taking, that job.

How nervous do you think this Sarah Palin ad made the 2012 GOP contenders? Whatever you think of her, the ad is really good.

How much weight do you think the neo-isolationists and paleo-conservatives have in the GOP? Not much right now if Ann Coulter and Ron Paul are the only pro–Michael Steele voices. But Republicans should be wary — there is always the temptation to pull up the drawbridge.

How angry do you think Americans will be with Obama when they realize this? (More than they already are, that is): “After nearly a decade of federal tax cuts, Americans could awaken New Year’s Day with a whopper of a hangover. Breaks covering everything from child tax credits to the death tax are set to expire that day, less than six months from now, bringing higher payments for nearly every American who pays taxes. ‘We’ve never in history seen anything quite like this, where such a major portion of the tax code is set to expire on a single date and affect so many Americans all at once,’ said Scott Hodge, president of The Tax Foundation, a Washington nonprofit that tracks tax policies.”

How much trouble do you think Obama is in when Ruth Marcus sounds like John Podhoretz?

How many GOP 2012 candidates do you think will take this smart advice on immigration reform from Charles Krauthammer?It seems to me that the Republicans ought to argue enforcement first — and then a very generous, open and humane solution for those already here.” Not enough, I fear.

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Re: The Silver Lining

I wanted to add some thoughts to your insightful post, Jen, regarding Michael Steele. The argument that Republicans and conservatives should not aim their criticisms at the head of the RNC (or, for that matter, any other Republican) because it will divide the GOP and help Democrats is quite wrong.

Steele’s claim that “this was a war of Obama’s choosing” that the United States never really “wanted to engage in” is indefensible and contradicted by history. Republicans and conservatives are therefore right to criticize Steele.

This incident, though, touches on a deeper matter. The “don’t-criticize-Michael-Steele” argument rests on a form of intellectual dishonesty. It concedes that what Steele said may be wrong but implies that because he’s on “our” team, he ought not be subject to criticism. All our fire ought to be directed toward Democrats and liberals, who are doing great damage to our country — or so the argument goes.

In fact, intellectual honesty compels us to criticize bad arguments regardless of which political party or which individual makes them. Politics is — or at least should be — about debating issues to discern truth and understand, as best we can, the reality of things. It is not — or at least it should not be — primarily about taking and keeping power. Power for its own sake — power detached from truth and empirical evidence — leads us down a very dangerous path.

Most of us who are active in politics have a tendency to overlook the flaws of our allies and accentuate the flaws of our opponents. That is a common human tendency, and, in some instances, it becomes entangled with the issue of loyalty. In addition, very few of us are completely detached in our analysis or are free of biases and prejudices. (That is not all bad. Burke argued that reason itself is not enough. Prejudices are “the general bank and capital of nations, and of ages” and that they help create a framework to interpret events.)

At the same time, one problem with political discourse in our age is that in the heat of debate, we too easily suspend a disinterested search for the truth and advance a more narrow, partisan aim. That leads to hypocrisy and double standards.

Very few of us are completely free of such things. We view the world through a tinted lens. But we ought to at least aspire to intellectual integrity and uphold as models those who embody it.

I wanted to add some thoughts to your insightful post, Jen, regarding Michael Steele. The argument that Republicans and conservatives should not aim their criticisms at the head of the RNC (or, for that matter, any other Republican) because it will divide the GOP and help Democrats is quite wrong.

Steele’s claim that “this was a war of Obama’s choosing” that the United States never really “wanted to engage in” is indefensible and contradicted by history. Republicans and conservatives are therefore right to criticize Steele.

This incident, though, touches on a deeper matter. The “don’t-criticize-Michael-Steele” argument rests on a form of intellectual dishonesty. It concedes that what Steele said may be wrong but implies that because he’s on “our” team, he ought not be subject to criticism. All our fire ought to be directed toward Democrats and liberals, who are doing great damage to our country — or so the argument goes.

In fact, intellectual honesty compels us to criticize bad arguments regardless of which political party or which individual makes them. Politics is — or at least should be — about debating issues to discern truth and understand, as best we can, the reality of things. It is not — or at least it should not be — primarily about taking and keeping power. Power for its own sake — power detached from truth and empirical evidence — leads us down a very dangerous path.

Most of us who are active in politics have a tendency to overlook the flaws of our allies and accentuate the flaws of our opponents. That is a common human tendency, and, in some instances, it becomes entangled with the issue of loyalty. In addition, very few of us are completely detached in our analysis or are free of biases and prejudices. (That is not all bad. Burke argued that reason itself is not enough. Prejudices are “the general bank and capital of nations, and of ages” and that they help create a framework to interpret events.)

At the same time, one problem with political discourse in our age is that in the heat of debate, we too easily suspend a disinterested search for the truth and advance a more narrow, partisan aim. That leads to hypocrisy and double standards.

Very few of us are completely free of such things. We view the world through a tinted lens. But we ought to at least aspire to intellectual integrity and uphold as models those who embody it.

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The Silver Lining

Some conservatives are miffed that Republicans are criticizing Michael Steele. Don’t fight among yourselves! The Democrats will prosper! There are three responses.

First, when your side says something more than dumb but offensive and just plain wrong — whether it’s Rand Paul on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Steele claiming that Afghanistan is Obama’s war — it’s important to speak up. The public generally respects candor and can figure out when a statement is out of bounds, so it does no good to circle the wagons or pretend it’s all the “media’s fault.” (Plenty of things are, but transmitting a politician’s words isn’t a journalistic crime.) The alternative is doing what the Democrats did with regard to Richard Blumenthal — defending the indefensible at the cost of one’s own intellectual credibility.

Second, aside from Ron Paul, who is the touchstone of foreign policy quackery, the entire Republican Party told Steele he was wrong. There was no messy food fight or any circular firing squad — just a straightaway barrage aimed at Steele. So how is it a bad thing when Republicans show they are foursquare behind a critical military operation and stalwart in the war against Islamic fascists?

Third, how is the left, which can’t decide if this is a “good war” still,  going to make hay of this? “The party is in disarray over the Afghanistan war!” applies to the Democratic Party, not to the Republicans.

And finally, this seals Steele’s fate. After the election, he can be dumped, and a less gaffe-prone, more effective chairman can be installed. That is a good thing for the GOP as well.

Some conservatives are miffed that Republicans are criticizing Michael Steele. Don’t fight among yourselves! The Democrats will prosper! There are three responses.

First, when your side says something more than dumb but offensive and just plain wrong — whether it’s Rand Paul on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Steele claiming that Afghanistan is Obama’s war — it’s important to speak up. The public generally respects candor and can figure out when a statement is out of bounds, so it does no good to circle the wagons or pretend it’s all the “media’s fault.” (Plenty of things are, but transmitting a politician’s words isn’t a journalistic crime.) The alternative is doing what the Democrats did with regard to Richard Blumenthal — defending the indefensible at the cost of one’s own intellectual credibility.

Second, aside from Ron Paul, who is the touchstone of foreign policy quackery, the entire Republican Party told Steele he was wrong. There was no messy food fight or any circular firing squad — just a straightaway barrage aimed at Steele. So how is it a bad thing when Republicans show they are foursquare behind a critical military operation and stalwart in the war against Islamic fascists?

Third, how is the left, which can’t decide if this is a “good war” still,  going to make hay of this? “The party is in disarray over the Afghanistan war!” applies to the Democratic Party, not to the Republicans.

And finally, this seals Steele’s fate. After the election, he can be dumped, and a less gaffe-prone, more effective chairman can be installed. That is a good thing for the GOP as well.

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The Breaking Point for Steele

As we headed into the Fourth of July weekend, Michael Steele was back in the news with outrageous comments at an RNC gathering, asserting: “Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” He added that Obama has “not understood that, you know, that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan.” A firestorm erupted. Bill Kristol published a letter calling for him to resign, which read in part:

Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not “a war of Obama’s choosing.” It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement “puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.”

And not on a trivial matter. At a time when Gen. Petraeus has just taken over command, when Republicans in Congress are pushing for a clean war funding resolution, when Republicans around the country are doing their best to rally their fellow citizens behind the mission, your comment is more than an embarrassment. It’s an affront, both to the honor of the Republican party and to the commitment of the soldiers fighting to accomplish the mission they’ve been asked to take on by our elected leaders.

There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they’re certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn’t be the chairman of the Republican party.

Liz Cheney echoed the call for Steele to step down.

Over the weekend, prominent conservatives followed suit. On This Week:

“It’s one thing for him personally to have that point of view, but for the chairman of the party…to advance that point of view, is indefensible,” Dan Senor, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said. “What’s striking about Steele is how fundamentally unserious” he is.

For reasons that escape me, elected officials refrained from demanding Steele’s resignation. Also on This Week, John McCain condemned the remarks but didn’t ask for Steele to leave:

“I think those statements are wildly inaccurate, and there’s no excuse for them. Chairman Steele sent me an e-mail saying that he was — his remarks were misconstrued,” McCain said. “Look, I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican. I believe we have to win here. I believe in freedom. But the fact is that I think that Mr. Steele is going to have to assess as to whether he can still lead the Republican Party as chairman of the Republican National Committee and make an appropriate decision.”

On Face the Nation, Lindsey Graham also stopped short of a call for him to resign, but only barely: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the statements about the Afghanistan war made by Republican National Committee Chairman ‘uninformed,’ ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unwise.'”

As politicians return to the campaign trail and Congress reconvenes, I suspect there will be greater pressure applied to Steele. His previous gaffes and mismanagement of the RNC have left him with few supporters, and the latest remarks are indefensible and his backtracking entirely insufficient. There is no reason why Republicans would rally to his side, and I predict few will. (No, Rep. Ron Paul’s cheers don’t really count and if anything are a sign that Steele is in deep trouble with a party that rejects Paul’s radical isolationism.) In a sense, this may be a blessing for the RNC, which was struggling to decide whether to dump a chairman who is possibly the worst since Watergate. Now a clean break for reasons all can agree on can be made.

As we headed into the Fourth of July weekend, Michael Steele was back in the news with outrageous comments at an RNC gathering, asserting: “Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” He added that Obama has “not understood that, you know, that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan.” A firestorm erupted. Bill Kristol published a letter calling for him to resign, which read in part:

Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not “a war of Obama’s choosing.” It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement “puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.”

And not on a trivial matter. At a time when Gen. Petraeus has just taken over command, when Republicans in Congress are pushing for a clean war funding resolution, when Republicans around the country are doing their best to rally their fellow citizens behind the mission, your comment is more than an embarrassment. It’s an affront, both to the honor of the Republican party and to the commitment of the soldiers fighting to accomplish the mission they’ve been asked to take on by our elected leaders.

There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they’re certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn’t be the chairman of the Republican party.

Liz Cheney echoed the call for Steele to step down.

Over the weekend, prominent conservatives followed suit. On This Week:

“It’s one thing for him personally to have that point of view, but for the chairman of the party…to advance that point of view, is indefensible,” Dan Senor, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said. “What’s striking about Steele is how fundamentally unserious” he is.

For reasons that escape me, elected officials refrained from demanding Steele’s resignation. Also on This Week, John McCain condemned the remarks but didn’t ask for Steele to leave:

“I think those statements are wildly inaccurate, and there’s no excuse for them. Chairman Steele sent me an e-mail saying that he was — his remarks were misconstrued,” McCain said. “Look, I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican. I believe we have to win here. I believe in freedom. But the fact is that I think that Mr. Steele is going to have to assess as to whether he can still lead the Republican Party as chairman of the Republican National Committee and make an appropriate decision.”

On Face the Nation, Lindsey Graham also stopped short of a call for him to resign, but only barely: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the statements about the Afghanistan war made by Republican National Committee Chairman ‘uninformed,’ ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unwise.'”

As politicians return to the campaign trail and Congress reconvenes, I suspect there will be greater pressure applied to Steele. His previous gaffes and mismanagement of the RNC have left him with few supporters, and the latest remarks are indefensible and his backtracking entirely insufficient. There is no reason why Republicans would rally to his side, and I predict few will. (No, Rep. Ron Paul’s cheers don’t really count and if anything are a sign that Steele is in deep trouble with a party that rejects Paul’s radical isolationism.) In a sense, this may be a blessing for the RNC, which was struggling to decide whether to dump a chairman who is possibly the worst since Watergate. Now a clean break for reasons all can agree on can be made.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sigh: “The heads of the Democratic and Republican parties on Sunday criticized controversial comments made by two Senate hopefuls in their own parties, but each stood behind their candidacies [Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal].” Well, party chairmen are paid to defend the indefensible, I suppose. And really, does any ordinary voter care what Michael Steele and Tim Kaine say?

Aaargh! “‘I was offered a job, and I answered that,’ [Joe] Sestak said. ‘Anything that goes beyond that is for others to talk about.'” He was bribed by the White House to get out of the Senate primary race and isn’t going to talk about it? I think an ethics probe and a special prosecutor are in order. It is a crime, after all, to bribe a candidate.

What??! Marc Ambinder, who, as Mickey Kaus once put it, spins more furiously for Obama than a dreidel, has this to say about the alleged White House offer to Sestak: “In essence, if this White House ascribes to a higher ethical standard, then it might want to agree to some investigation even if it believes there is no legal merit.” Because after all, the administration’s own conclusion about its wrongdoing is basically conclusive, right?

Whoopee! (for Republicans): “Republican Charles Djou won a special congressional election in Hawaii Saturday night, giving the GOP a boost as it attempts to retake the U.S. House in the November elections. … Mr. Djou will become the first Republican to represent Hawaii in 20 years. Hawaii is a traditionally Democratic stronghold that is President Barack Obama’s native state.” Democrats say this doesn’t really matter because the votes were divided by two feuding Democratic candidates. Besides, only special elections that Democrats win are bellwethers.

Yikes! John Kerry is back in Syria sucking up to Bashar al-Assad. And this is no comfort: “Senator Kerry has emerged as one of the primary American interlocutors with the Syrian government.” Yes, that’s part of the problem.

Oooh: “Iran’s parliament speaker earlier Sunday repeated threats that Iran would abandon a nuclear fuel swap plan brokered by Brazil and Turkey if the United States imposes new sanctions on the Islamic state.” So don’t be passing any useless sanctions or the mullahs will reject the meaningless Brazil-Turkey deal. The only thing more absurd (and more dangerous) is Obama’s Iran policy. (Come to think of it, it’s not clear he has one.)

Ouch: “‘The oil is gushing and we’re being lied to by how much oil is gushing … and the administration has now named a commission,’ Cokie Roberts said derisively. ‘Now this is what you do when you really don’t have anything else to do: you name a commission,’ she said. ‘That’s not going to stop the oil.'” Donna Brazile had harsh criticism as well, and when Obama loses Donna Brazile, you know he’s hitting rock bottom.

Awww (subscription required): “The muted conservative response is in marked contrast to the unease among some liberal activists toward [the nomination of Elena] Kagan. Obama, they say, made a ‘safe choice’ that was more appropriate for a Senate with a 52-seat Democratic majority rather than the 59-seat advantage (counting independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont) that the party holds. These disappointed liberals say that Obama, once again, has turned his back on them.”

Thunk! Maureen Dowd writes a column on Richard Blumenthal that’s daft even for her: “‘I think that lies are like wishes,’ said Bella DePaulo, a psychology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. … But chronic puffer-uppers can have impressive public service careers.” I don’t have a degree in psychology, but I think lies are like lies.

Sigh: “The heads of the Democratic and Republican parties on Sunday criticized controversial comments made by two Senate hopefuls in their own parties, but each stood behind their candidacies [Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal].” Well, party chairmen are paid to defend the indefensible, I suppose. And really, does any ordinary voter care what Michael Steele and Tim Kaine say?

Aaargh! “‘I was offered a job, and I answered that,’ [Joe] Sestak said. ‘Anything that goes beyond that is for others to talk about.'” He was bribed by the White House to get out of the Senate primary race and isn’t going to talk about it? I think an ethics probe and a special prosecutor are in order. It is a crime, after all, to bribe a candidate.

What??! Marc Ambinder, who, as Mickey Kaus once put it, spins more furiously for Obama than a dreidel, has this to say about the alleged White House offer to Sestak: “In essence, if this White House ascribes to a higher ethical standard, then it might want to agree to some investigation even if it believes there is no legal merit.” Because after all, the administration’s own conclusion about its wrongdoing is basically conclusive, right?

Whoopee! (for Republicans): “Republican Charles Djou won a special congressional election in Hawaii Saturday night, giving the GOP a boost as it attempts to retake the U.S. House in the November elections. … Mr. Djou will become the first Republican to represent Hawaii in 20 years. Hawaii is a traditionally Democratic stronghold that is President Barack Obama’s native state.” Democrats say this doesn’t really matter because the votes were divided by two feuding Democratic candidates. Besides, only special elections that Democrats win are bellwethers.

Yikes! John Kerry is back in Syria sucking up to Bashar al-Assad. And this is no comfort: “Senator Kerry has emerged as one of the primary American interlocutors with the Syrian government.” Yes, that’s part of the problem.

Oooh: “Iran’s parliament speaker earlier Sunday repeated threats that Iran would abandon a nuclear fuel swap plan brokered by Brazil and Turkey if the United States imposes new sanctions on the Islamic state.” So don’t be passing any useless sanctions or the mullahs will reject the meaningless Brazil-Turkey deal. The only thing more absurd (and more dangerous) is Obama’s Iran policy. (Come to think of it, it’s not clear he has one.)

Ouch: “‘The oil is gushing and we’re being lied to by how much oil is gushing … and the administration has now named a commission,’ Cokie Roberts said derisively. ‘Now this is what you do when you really don’t have anything else to do: you name a commission,’ she said. ‘That’s not going to stop the oil.'” Donna Brazile had harsh criticism as well, and when Obama loses Donna Brazile, you know he’s hitting rock bottom.

Awww (subscription required): “The muted conservative response is in marked contrast to the unease among some liberal activists toward [the nomination of Elena] Kagan. Obama, they say, made a ‘safe choice’ that was more appropriate for a Senate with a 52-seat Democratic majority rather than the 59-seat advantage (counting independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont) that the party holds. These disappointed liberals say that Obama, once again, has turned his back on them.”

Thunk! Maureen Dowd writes a column on Richard Blumenthal that’s daft even for her: “‘I think that lies are like wishes,’ said Bella DePaulo, a psychology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. … But chronic puffer-uppers can have impressive public service careers.” I don’t have a degree in psychology, but I think lies are like lies.

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Lying with Statistics Again

Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was on Fox News Sunday this morning, along with his Republican counterpart Michael Steele. Both men, of course, are in the job of boosting their parties, not giving non-tendentious analysis of the current political situation or honest predictions regarding the upcoming election. They’re in the rosy scenario business.

But Governor Kaine came up with a doozy of an example of lying with statistics. He said (as best I remember it, the transcript is not yet on-line): “Within the next few months the Obama administration will have created more jobs in 2010 than were created during the entire Bush presidency.” Let’s leave aside the fact that it’s the American economy that creates jobs, not administrations. The idea that a president is 100 percent responsible for the American economy is so stupid that only a member of the Washington press corps could believe it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been so far in 2010 a net creation of 573,000 jobs. In the Bush years there was a net creation of 1,086,000 jobs. So if there is an average of at least 65,000 net new jobs created per month through December, Governor Kaine’s prediction will be “true” in a strictly mathematical sense.

But there’s a reason Benjamin Disraeli divided mendacity into three categories: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Tim Kaine chooses his base lines dishonestly. Yes, there has been a net of 573,000 jobs created so far in 2010. But in the last 11 months of 2009 — while Obama was president, in other words — there were 3,961,000 jobs lost. So Obama is still in the hole to the tune of 3,388,000 jobs lost on his watch. In other words, Kaine starts the job clock running for Obama only after he had been president for more than 11 months, but George Bush’s job clock started the day he took the oath of office.

Of course, the Obama administration has been blaming George Bush for everything bad that happens on Obama’s watch. But if Obama is not responsible for the job losses in his first 11 months, then, surely, the job losses in the first 11 months of the Bush administration must be Bill Clinton’s fault. Those losses amounted to 1,746,000 jobs.  That would make Bush’s net job creation 2,832,000, still far above what is likely to be achieved in 2010.

It is fortunate for Democrats, who don’t mind bamboozling easily bamboozled Washington reporters (at least when numbers are concerned) with phony statistics, that the Bush administration started just as the recession of 2000-2001 was beginning and ended just as the recession of 2007 was kicking in big time. This allows them to bury the impressive job growth of the mid-Bush years (87,000 in 2003, 2,047,000 in 2004, 2,496,000 in 2005, 2,060,000 in 2006, 1,084,000 in 2007) beneath the job losses of the beginning and end of his term. To have two serious recessions during his presidency and still have a net job growth of over a million is, in fact, rather impressive.

What could have caused it? Well, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart on monthly unemployment shows, the unemployment rate in the Bush years began to decline in mid-2003 and continued to ratchet steadily downward for four years, until the housing bubble began to collapse. What happened in mid-2003 was that the Bush tax cuts kicked in.

That, of course, could be coincidence — not causation. But I doubt it.

Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was on Fox News Sunday this morning, along with his Republican counterpart Michael Steele. Both men, of course, are in the job of boosting their parties, not giving non-tendentious analysis of the current political situation or honest predictions regarding the upcoming election. They’re in the rosy scenario business.

But Governor Kaine came up with a doozy of an example of lying with statistics. He said (as best I remember it, the transcript is not yet on-line): “Within the next few months the Obama administration will have created more jobs in 2010 than were created during the entire Bush presidency.” Let’s leave aside the fact that it’s the American economy that creates jobs, not administrations. The idea that a president is 100 percent responsible for the American economy is so stupid that only a member of the Washington press corps could believe it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been so far in 2010 a net creation of 573,000 jobs. In the Bush years there was a net creation of 1,086,000 jobs. So if there is an average of at least 65,000 net new jobs created per month through December, Governor Kaine’s prediction will be “true” in a strictly mathematical sense.

But there’s a reason Benjamin Disraeli divided mendacity into three categories: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Tim Kaine chooses his base lines dishonestly. Yes, there has been a net of 573,000 jobs created so far in 2010. But in the last 11 months of 2009 — while Obama was president, in other words — there were 3,961,000 jobs lost. So Obama is still in the hole to the tune of 3,388,000 jobs lost on his watch. In other words, Kaine starts the job clock running for Obama only after he had been president for more than 11 months, but George Bush’s job clock started the day he took the oath of office.

Of course, the Obama administration has been blaming George Bush for everything bad that happens on Obama’s watch. But if Obama is not responsible for the job losses in his first 11 months, then, surely, the job losses in the first 11 months of the Bush administration must be Bill Clinton’s fault. Those losses amounted to 1,746,000 jobs.  That would make Bush’s net job creation 2,832,000, still far above what is likely to be achieved in 2010.

It is fortunate for Democrats, who don’t mind bamboozling easily bamboozled Washington reporters (at least when numbers are concerned) with phony statistics, that the Bush administration started just as the recession of 2000-2001 was beginning and ended just as the recession of 2007 was kicking in big time. This allows them to bury the impressive job growth of the mid-Bush years (87,000 in 2003, 2,047,000 in 2004, 2,496,000 in 2005, 2,060,000 in 2006, 1,084,000 in 2007) beneath the job losses of the beginning and end of his term. To have two serious recessions during his presidency and still have a net job growth of over a million is, in fact, rather impressive.

What could have caused it? Well, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart on monthly unemployment shows, the unemployment rate in the Bush years began to decline in mid-2003 and continued to ratchet steadily downward for four years, until the housing bubble began to collapse. What happened in mid-2003 was that the Bush tax cuts kicked in.

That, of course, could be coincidence — not causation. But I doubt it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In case you had any doubt about her political views: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has given at least $12,050 over the past decade to Democratic candidates and causes — including to the president who nominated her and a sitting senator who will get to vote on her nomination — according to federal campaign finance records.”

In case you had any doubt how indebted Obama is to Big Labor: “The National Mediation Board issued its final rule Monday that changed how workers could unionize at companies covered by the Railway Labor Act. Originally, a majority of workers at a company covered by the law had to vote for a union while those not voting were counted as ‘no’ votes. Under the new rule made final on Monday, if a majority of workers who cast votes said they wanted to form a union, the company would be unionized. Workers who fail to vote will not count for either side.”

In case you had any doubt that Michael Steele is nothing but a problem for the RNC (from Abigail Thernstrom): “Mr. Steele (and RNC staff), just as a little experiment, you might try thinking before you speak. In a tribute to Justice Thurgood Marshall shortly before his death, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan quoted our first black Justice as having said the Constitution as originally conceived and drafted was ‘defective.’ ‘Does Kagan Still View Constitution “As Originally Drafted And Conceived” As “Defective”?’ the RNC now asks. A litmus test for Kagan, it implies. But of course the answer should be, yes. Might the Three-Fifths Clause have been a wee bit of a defect?”

In case you had any doubt about the nature of the Cuban thugocracy, check out this interview with Cuban bloggers.

In case you had any doubt how vapid the left’s foreign-policy vision is, Rep. Gary Ackerman argues that it’s all Bush’s fault that the Middle East is a mess and that sending an ambassador to Syria doesn’t signify much of anything. Sigh.

In case you had any doubt, there are good reasons to oppose Moses for the Supreme Court. For example, there’s the lack of transparency: “Moses went up Mount Sinai only to return with two tablets which he referred to as the Ten Commandments. These commandments were developed behind closed doors without any input from the people.”

In case you had any doubt that nothing much has changed with the “proximity talks”: “Construction of new housing for Jews in east Jerusalem will press forward, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser illustrated in a statement on Monday. This drew Palestinian accusations that the plans could undermine newly relaunched peace talks.” Are we making progress yet?

In case you had any doubt that Charles Krauthammer is the greatest pundit of his time, he sums up our economic peril and the Supreme Court nomination in one brief sentence: “Long after America goes bankrupt, she’ll still be on the court.”

In case you had any doubt about her political views: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has given at least $12,050 over the past decade to Democratic candidates and causes — including to the president who nominated her and a sitting senator who will get to vote on her nomination — according to federal campaign finance records.”

In case you had any doubt how indebted Obama is to Big Labor: “The National Mediation Board issued its final rule Monday that changed how workers could unionize at companies covered by the Railway Labor Act. Originally, a majority of workers at a company covered by the law had to vote for a union while those not voting were counted as ‘no’ votes. Under the new rule made final on Monday, if a majority of workers who cast votes said they wanted to form a union, the company would be unionized. Workers who fail to vote will not count for either side.”

In case you had any doubt that Michael Steele is nothing but a problem for the RNC (from Abigail Thernstrom): “Mr. Steele (and RNC staff), just as a little experiment, you might try thinking before you speak. In a tribute to Justice Thurgood Marshall shortly before his death, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan quoted our first black Justice as having said the Constitution as originally conceived and drafted was ‘defective.’ ‘Does Kagan Still View Constitution “As Originally Drafted And Conceived” As “Defective”?’ the RNC now asks. A litmus test for Kagan, it implies. But of course the answer should be, yes. Might the Three-Fifths Clause have been a wee bit of a defect?”

In case you had any doubt about the nature of the Cuban thugocracy, check out this interview with Cuban bloggers.

In case you had any doubt how vapid the left’s foreign-policy vision is, Rep. Gary Ackerman argues that it’s all Bush’s fault that the Middle East is a mess and that sending an ambassador to Syria doesn’t signify much of anything. Sigh.

In case you had any doubt, there are good reasons to oppose Moses for the Supreme Court. For example, there’s the lack of transparency: “Moses went up Mount Sinai only to return with two tablets which he referred to as the Ten Commandments. These commandments were developed behind closed doors without any input from the people.”

In case you had any doubt that nothing much has changed with the “proximity talks”: “Construction of new housing for Jews in east Jerusalem will press forward, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser illustrated in a statement on Monday. This drew Palestinian accusations that the plans could undermine newly relaunched peace talks.” Are we making progress yet?

In case you had any doubt that Charles Krauthammer is the greatest pundit of his time, he sums up our economic peril and the Supreme Court nomination in one brief sentence: “Long after America goes bankrupt, she’ll still be on the court.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Heck of an ad campaign: “A threatening TV commercial appearing in Pennsylvania has residents of the state spooked by its ‘Orwellian’ overtones, and critics are calling it a government attempt to scare delinquent citizens into paying back taxes. In the 30-second ad, ominous mechanical sounds whir in the background as a satellite camera zooms in through the clouds and locks onto an average Pennsylvania.”

He may be on permanent vacation soon: “Despite White House claims of all hands being on deck to respond to the oil slick crisis in the Gulf, Department of the Interior chief of staff Tom Strickland was in the Grand Canyon with his wife last week participating in activities that included white-water rafting, ABC News has learned. Other leaders of the Interior Department, not to mention other agencies, were focused on coordinating the federal response to the major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Strickland’s participation in a trip that administration officials insisted was ‘work-focused’ nonetheless raised eyebrows within even his own department, sources told ABC News.”

Chuck Schumer declares there are “better ways” than Joe Lieberman’s proposal (to strip terrorists of citizenship and forgo Miranda warnings) to obtain information from terrorists. True, but this administration already outlawed enhanced interrogation.

Not a “lone wolf” at all, it seems: “U.S. and Pakistani investigators are giving increased credence to possible links between accused Times Square bomb plotter Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistan Taliban, with one senior Pakistani official saying Mr. Faisal received instruction from the Islamist group’s suicide-bomb trainer. If the links are verified, it would mark a stark shift in how the Pakistan Taliban—an affiliate of the Taliban in Afghanistan—and related jihadist groups in Pakistan pursue their goals. Until now, they have focused on attacks within Pakistan and in India, but they appear to be ramping up efforts to attack the U.S.”

The crack reporters at the Washington Post couldn’t figure out that the conservative blogger they hired wasn’t conservative. Well, that’s what they get for listening to Ezra Klein.

You knew this was coming: “Major donors are asking Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to return money contributed to his Senate campaign now that he’s running as an independent candidate. In a letter sent Wednesday, the 20 donors say Crist broke the trust of his supporters by not staying in the Republican primary.”

The new Newsweek is a bust and goes on the auction block: “The Washington Post Co. is putting Newsweek up for sale in hopes that another owner can figure out how to stem losses at the 77-year-old weekly magazine.”

Alas, not including Michael Steele, three more people leaving the RNC, but not to worry: “The official stressed that the departures had nothing to do with the turmoil that has rocked the RNC in recent months. Several top officials were either fired or quit the committee last month in the wake of a spending scandal involving a risqué nightclub.”

Heck of an ad campaign: “A threatening TV commercial appearing in Pennsylvania has residents of the state spooked by its ‘Orwellian’ overtones, and critics are calling it a government attempt to scare delinquent citizens into paying back taxes. In the 30-second ad, ominous mechanical sounds whir in the background as a satellite camera zooms in through the clouds and locks onto an average Pennsylvania.”

He may be on permanent vacation soon: “Despite White House claims of all hands being on deck to respond to the oil slick crisis in the Gulf, Department of the Interior chief of staff Tom Strickland was in the Grand Canyon with his wife last week participating in activities that included white-water rafting, ABC News has learned. Other leaders of the Interior Department, not to mention other agencies, were focused on coordinating the federal response to the major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Strickland’s participation in a trip that administration officials insisted was ‘work-focused’ nonetheless raised eyebrows within even his own department, sources told ABC News.”

Chuck Schumer declares there are “better ways” than Joe Lieberman’s proposal (to strip terrorists of citizenship and forgo Miranda warnings) to obtain information from terrorists. True, but this administration already outlawed enhanced interrogation.

Not a “lone wolf” at all, it seems: “U.S. and Pakistani investigators are giving increased credence to possible links between accused Times Square bomb plotter Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistan Taliban, with one senior Pakistani official saying Mr. Faisal received instruction from the Islamist group’s suicide-bomb trainer. If the links are verified, it would mark a stark shift in how the Pakistan Taliban—an affiliate of the Taliban in Afghanistan—and related jihadist groups in Pakistan pursue their goals. Until now, they have focused on attacks within Pakistan and in India, but they appear to be ramping up efforts to attack the U.S.”

The crack reporters at the Washington Post couldn’t figure out that the conservative blogger they hired wasn’t conservative. Well, that’s what they get for listening to Ezra Klein.

You knew this was coming: “Major donors are asking Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to return money contributed to his Senate campaign now that he’s running as an independent candidate. In a letter sent Wednesday, the 20 donors say Crist broke the trust of his supporters by not staying in the Republican primary.”

The new Newsweek is a bust and goes on the auction block: “The Washington Post Co. is putting Newsweek up for sale in hopes that another owner can figure out how to stem losses at the 77-year-old weekly magazine.”

Alas, not including Michael Steele, three more people leaving the RNC, but not to worry: “The official stressed that the departures had nothing to do with the turmoil that has rocked the RNC in recent months. Several top officials were either fired or quit the committee last month in the wake of a spending scandal involving a risqué nightclub.”

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The Gray Lady Is Stunned: Black Republicans!

The New York Times is caught by surprise. “Unanticipated,” (by whom? liberal reporters?) the Gray Lady calls the discovery that “at least 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year as Republicans, the biggest surge since Reconstruction, according to party officials.” The Times hastens to assure us that this is Obama’s doing — inspiring and trailblazing for Republicans — but hastens to cast gloom and doom on their prospects:

But Democrats and other political experts express skepticism about black Republicans’ chances in November. “In 1994 and 2000, there were 24 black G.O.P. nominees,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign and who is black. “And you didn’t see many of them win their elections.”

Tavis Smiley, a prominent black talk show host who has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not doing more to court black voters, said, “It’s worth remembering that the last time it was declared the ‘Year of the Black Republican,’ it fizzled out.”

Well,  far down in the report, the Times lets on that these candidates actually like the Tea Parties and are getting support from supposedly racist, know-nothings (oh, oops, now the media meme tells us they are upscale, over-educated and mainstream Republicans):

The black candidates interviewed overwhelmingly called the racist narrative a news media fiction. “I have been to these rallies, and there are hot dogs and banjos,” said Mr. West, the candidate in Florida, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. “There is no violence or racism there.”

And what’s more, African Americans, the Times discovers, are attracted to conservative social positions. (“There is also some evidence that black voters rally around specific conservative causes. A case in point was a 2008 ballot initiative in California outlawing same-sex marriage that passed in large part because of support from black voters in Southern California.”)

If a batch of these candidates wins — with support from the Tea Parties, no less — what will the liberal chattering class do then? (Cognitive dissonance alert!) You can anticipate the spin. These are not “authentic” African-American leaders, they will say. Harry Reid may point out that they don’t sound Black. And the Congressional Black Caucus will be properly recast as the Liberal Congressional Black Caucus (unless the newcomers want to join, which will bring howls of protest from the liberals, who wouldn’t want their leftism to be diluted). But the “Republicans don’t like Blacks” meme (propounded by none other than the hapless Michael Steele) will take a bruising. After all, they can’t all be “inauthentic,” can they?

The New York Times is caught by surprise. “Unanticipated,” (by whom? liberal reporters?) the Gray Lady calls the discovery that “at least 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year as Republicans, the biggest surge since Reconstruction, according to party officials.” The Times hastens to assure us that this is Obama’s doing — inspiring and trailblazing for Republicans — but hastens to cast gloom and doom on their prospects:

But Democrats and other political experts express skepticism about black Republicans’ chances in November. “In 1994 and 2000, there were 24 black G.O.P. nominees,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign and who is black. “And you didn’t see many of them win their elections.”

Tavis Smiley, a prominent black talk show host who has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not doing more to court black voters, said, “It’s worth remembering that the last time it was declared the ‘Year of the Black Republican,’ it fizzled out.”

Well,  far down in the report, the Times lets on that these candidates actually like the Tea Parties and are getting support from supposedly racist, know-nothings (oh, oops, now the media meme tells us they are upscale, over-educated and mainstream Republicans):

The black candidates interviewed overwhelmingly called the racist narrative a news media fiction. “I have been to these rallies, and there are hot dogs and banjos,” said Mr. West, the candidate in Florida, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. “There is no violence or racism there.”

And what’s more, African Americans, the Times discovers, are attracted to conservative social positions. (“There is also some evidence that black voters rally around specific conservative causes. A case in point was a 2008 ballot initiative in California outlawing same-sex marriage that passed in large part because of support from black voters in Southern California.”)

If a batch of these candidates wins — with support from the Tea Parties, no less — what will the liberal chattering class do then? (Cognitive dissonance alert!) You can anticipate the spin. These are not “authentic” African-American leaders, they will say. Harry Reid may point out that they don’t sound Black. And the Congressional Black Caucus will be properly recast as the Liberal Congressional Black Caucus (unless the newcomers want to join, which will bring howls of protest from the liberals, who wouldn’t want their leftism to be diluted). But the “Republicans don’t like Blacks” meme (propounded by none other than the hapless Michael Steele) will take a bruising. After all, they can’t all be “inauthentic,” can they?

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The Nasty Presidential Comic

Pete and I recently commented on Obama’s unfortunately snippy tone and nasty approach to his political adversaries. The evidence continues to mount that this president is lacking in basic graciousness and possesses, even for a politician, an overabundance of arrogance. The Washington Post reports on his comedy routine at the Correspondents’ Association Dinner over the weekend:

Breaking with presidential punch line tradition for the second consecutive year, Obama dropped zinger after zinger on his opponents and allies alike at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Obama went all Don Rickles on a broad range of topics and individuals: Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, presidential advisers David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, the news media, Jay Leno, and Republicans Michael Steele, Scott Brown, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Except for a mild joke pegged to his falling approval ratings, Obama mostly spared Obama during his 14-minute stand-up routine.

It did not go unnoticed by those who expect the president to be self-deprecating and ingratiating at these events:

Obama’s derisive tone surprises and dismays some of the people who’ve written jokes for presidents past.

“With these dinners you want the audience to like you more when you sit down than when you stood up,” says Landon Parvin, an author and speechwriter for politicians in both parties, and a gag writer for three Republican presidents (Reagan and Bushes I and II). “Something in [Obama’s] humor didn’t do that,” he said Sunday.

Parvin advises his political clients to practice a little partisan self-deprecation when they make lighthearted remarks: “If you’re a Democrat, you make fun of Democrats and go easy on the Republicans; if you’re a Republican, you do the opposite,” he says.

Presidents past have generally hewed to that tradition, even when they were under intense criticism or were deeply unpopular.

In isolation, one night of barbed humor doesn’t amount to much. But when seen in conjunction with his general lack of respect for adversaries and his nonstop attacks on everyone from Sarah Palin to Fox News to his predecessor, one comes away with a picture of a thin-skinned and rather nasty character. It’s not an attractive personality in a president, and he may regret having failed to extend a measure of kindness and magnanimity that we have come to expect from presidents.

Pete and I recently commented on Obama’s unfortunately snippy tone and nasty approach to his political adversaries. The evidence continues to mount that this president is lacking in basic graciousness and possesses, even for a politician, an overabundance of arrogance. The Washington Post reports on his comedy routine at the Correspondents’ Association Dinner over the weekend:

Breaking with presidential punch line tradition for the second consecutive year, Obama dropped zinger after zinger on his opponents and allies alike at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Obama went all Don Rickles on a broad range of topics and individuals: Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, presidential advisers David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, the news media, Jay Leno, and Republicans Michael Steele, Scott Brown, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Except for a mild joke pegged to his falling approval ratings, Obama mostly spared Obama during his 14-minute stand-up routine.

It did not go unnoticed by those who expect the president to be self-deprecating and ingratiating at these events:

Obama’s derisive tone surprises and dismays some of the people who’ve written jokes for presidents past.

“With these dinners you want the audience to like you more when you sit down than when you stood up,” says Landon Parvin, an author and speechwriter for politicians in both parties, and a gag writer for three Republican presidents (Reagan and Bushes I and II). “Something in [Obama’s] humor didn’t do that,” he said Sunday.

Parvin advises his political clients to practice a little partisan self-deprecation when they make lighthearted remarks: “If you’re a Democrat, you make fun of Democrats and go easy on the Republicans; if you’re a Republican, you do the opposite,” he says.

Presidents past have generally hewed to that tradition, even when they were under intense criticism or were deeply unpopular.

In isolation, one night of barbed humor doesn’t amount to much. But when seen in conjunction with his general lack of respect for adversaries and his nonstop attacks on everyone from Sarah Palin to Fox News to his predecessor, one comes away with a picture of a thin-skinned and rather nasty character. It’s not an attractive personality in a president, and he may regret having failed to extend a measure of kindness and magnanimity that we have come to expect from presidents.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

At last — conferees have been selected for the Iran sanctions legislation.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights begins to pull back the curtain on the New Black Panther case. The hearing begins today.

Didn’t we reset our relationship? A “spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry on Thursday criticized US plans to station missiles near Poland’s border with Russia, the Interfax news agency reported.” It seems that U.S. concessions beget only more Russian demands.

Nicholas Kristof learns that Obama’s a no-show on human rights. “Until he reached the White House, Barack Obama repeatedly insisted that the United States apply more pressure on Sudan so as to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur and elsewhere. Yet, as president, Mr. Obama and his aides have caved, leaving Sudan gloating at American weakness. Western monitors, Sudanese journalists and local civil society groups have all found this month’s Sudanese elections to be deeply flawed — yet Mr. Obama’s special envoy for Sudan, Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, pre-emptively defended the elections, saying they would be ‘as free and as fair as possible.'”

Michael Steele may have finally overstayed his welcome in the RNC. After all, he says there is “no reason” for African Americans to vote Republican. Well, sometimes it’s hard to figure out which party he’s chairman of.

I think this is the point: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday said the Senate is not ready to tackle immigration reform and that bringing a bill forward would be ‘CYA politics.’ … Graham also said moving ahead with immigration would scuttle the Senate’s capacity to deal with climate legislation. ‘It destroys the ability to do something like energy and climate,’ he told reporters in the Capitol.” Sounds good!

Enough with the Bush-bashing: “Most American voters think it is time for the Obama administration to start taking responsibility for the way things are going in the country. A Fox News poll released Thursday finds 66 percent of voters think President Obama should start taking responsibility. That’s more than three times as many as the 21 percent who think it’s right to continue to blame the Bush administration for the way things are going today.”

At last — conferees have been selected for the Iran sanctions legislation.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights begins to pull back the curtain on the New Black Panther case. The hearing begins today.

Didn’t we reset our relationship? A “spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry on Thursday criticized US plans to station missiles near Poland’s border with Russia, the Interfax news agency reported.” It seems that U.S. concessions beget only more Russian demands.

Nicholas Kristof learns that Obama’s a no-show on human rights. “Until he reached the White House, Barack Obama repeatedly insisted that the United States apply more pressure on Sudan so as to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur and elsewhere. Yet, as president, Mr. Obama and his aides have caved, leaving Sudan gloating at American weakness. Western monitors, Sudanese journalists and local civil society groups have all found this month’s Sudanese elections to be deeply flawed — yet Mr. Obama’s special envoy for Sudan, Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, pre-emptively defended the elections, saying they would be ‘as free and as fair as possible.'”

Michael Steele may have finally overstayed his welcome in the RNC. After all, he says there is “no reason” for African Americans to vote Republican. Well, sometimes it’s hard to figure out which party he’s chairman of.

I think this is the point: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday said the Senate is not ready to tackle immigration reform and that bringing a bill forward would be ‘CYA politics.’ … Graham also said moving ahead with immigration would scuttle the Senate’s capacity to deal with climate legislation. ‘It destroys the ability to do something like energy and climate,’ he told reporters in the Capitol.” Sounds good!

Enough with the Bush-bashing: “Most American voters think it is time for the Obama administration to start taking responsibility for the way things are going in the country. A Fox News poll released Thursday finds 66 percent of voters think President Obama should start taking responsibility. That’s more than three times as many as the 21 percent who think it’s right to continue to blame the Bush administration for the way things are going today.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not what he had in mind when he signed the “historic” health-care bill: Obama hits a new low in the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, at 43 percent approval. Only 38 percent of independents approve of his performance. Still, it’s better than Congress, which manages only a 21 percent approval.

Not what Democrats were predicting when Obama won Colorado in 2008: now all the potential Republican Senate candidates lead all the possible Democrats, and Obama’s approval is down to 43 percent.

Not what Arlen Specter was hoping for when he switched parties: “Republican Pat Toomey is back on top 46 – 41 percent over Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s seesaw U.S. Senate race, while Attorney General Tom Corbett, the leader for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, remains ahead of each of the three top Democratic contenders by double digits, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Gov. Ed Rendell’s job approval rating is 45 – 45 percent, up from a negative 43 – 49 percent last month, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds. But President Barack Obama’s approval is a negative 45 – 49 percent, down from 49 – 46 percent.”

Not what is helpful in defeating “Islamic radicalism“: taking out any mention of that phrase from the National Security Strategy document. “But some fear sanitizing the NSS may actually confuse our allies; those within the Muslim world who oppose violent jihad and expect the US to very clearly and very publicly do the same. Elliot Abrams, Former Bush Deputy National Security Advisor says, ‘One of the things we are doing there is we’re not really helping moderates in the Islamic world. They have a fight against Islamic extremism, we’re on their side and when we are afraid to even discuss the problem we look fearful and weak.'”

Not what Obama wants to hear: Joe Lieberman wants to carefully review the START treaty: “My vote on the START Treaty will thus depend in large measure on whether I am convinced the Administration has put forward an appropriate and adequately-funded plan to sustain and modernize the smaller nuclear stockpile it envisions. I also remain deeply concerned that — regardless of the merits of the NPR and START on paper — we are losing the real world fight to prevent rogue regimes like Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If Iran continues on its current trajectory and crosses the nuclear threshold, it will inflict irreparable harm on the global nonproliferation regime.”

Not what Michael Steele wanted to hear after he played the race card: “For the first time since revelations that the RNC had spent some $1,946 at a risque L.A. nightclub, a member of the national body has called on Steele to step aside. In a letter to Steele dated today, NC GOP chair Tom Fetzer asks the chairman to step aside for what he says is the good of the party.”

Not what anyone has been waiting to hear: “Spitzer: I’ve got the urge to run again.” Free advice — stay away from words like “urge.”

Not what most Americans, I suspect, believe Congress should be spending its time on: “A Democratic member of Congress next week is holding a hearing into baseball players’ use of chewing tobacco.”

Not what Congress is spending its time on: “The nation’s fiscal path is ‘unsustainable,’ and the problem ‘cannot be solved through minor tinkering,’ the head of the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday morning. Doug Elmendorf, best known for arbitrating the costs of various health care proposals, added his voice to a growing chorus of economic experts who predict dire consequences if political leaders don’t scale back spending, increase taxes or both — and soon.”

Not what he had in mind when he signed the “historic” health-care bill: Obama hits a new low in the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, at 43 percent approval. Only 38 percent of independents approve of his performance. Still, it’s better than Congress, which manages only a 21 percent approval.

Not what Democrats were predicting when Obama won Colorado in 2008: now all the potential Republican Senate candidates lead all the possible Democrats, and Obama’s approval is down to 43 percent.

Not what Arlen Specter was hoping for when he switched parties: “Republican Pat Toomey is back on top 46 – 41 percent over Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s seesaw U.S. Senate race, while Attorney General Tom Corbett, the leader for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, remains ahead of each of the three top Democratic contenders by double digits, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Gov. Ed Rendell’s job approval rating is 45 – 45 percent, up from a negative 43 – 49 percent last month, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds. But President Barack Obama’s approval is a negative 45 – 49 percent, down from 49 – 46 percent.”

Not what is helpful in defeating “Islamic radicalism“: taking out any mention of that phrase from the National Security Strategy document. “But some fear sanitizing the NSS may actually confuse our allies; those within the Muslim world who oppose violent jihad and expect the US to very clearly and very publicly do the same. Elliot Abrams, Former Bush Deputy National Security Advisor says, ‘One of the things we are doing there is we’re not really helping moderates in the Islamic world. They have a fight against Islamic extremism, we’re on their side and when we are afraid to even discuss the problem we look fearful and weak.'”

Not what Obama wants to hear: Joe Lieberman wants to carefully review the START treaty: “My vote on the START Treaty will thus depend in large measure on whether I am convinced the Administration has put forward an appropriate and adequately-funded plan to sustain and modernize the smaller nuclear stockpile it envisions. I also remain deeply concerned that — regardless of the merits of the NPR and START on paper — we are losing the real world fight to prevent rogue regimes like Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If Iran continues on its current trajectory and crosses the nuclear threshold, it will inflict irreparable harm on the global nonproliferation regime.”

Not what Michael Steele wanted to hear after he played the race card: “For the first time since revelations that the RNC had spent some $1,946 at a risque L.A. nightclub, a member of the national body has called on Steele to step aside. In a letter to Steele dated today, NC GOP chair Tom Fetzer asks the chairman to step aside for what he says is the good of the party.”

Not what anyone has been waiting to hear: “Spitzer: I’ve got the urge to run again.” Free advice — stay away from words like “urge.”

Not what most Americans, I suspect, believe Congress should be spending its time on: “A Democratic member of Congress next week is holding a hearing into baseball players’ use of chewing tobacco.”

Not what Congress is spending its time on: “The nation’s fiscal path is ‘unsustainable,’ and the problem ‘cannot be solved through minor tinkering,’ the head of the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday morning. Doug Elmendorf, best known for arbitrating the costs of various health care proposals, added his voice to a growing chorus of economic experts who predict dire consequences if political leaders don’t scale back spending, increase taxes or both — and soon.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama loses to the movement ridiculed by the chattering class: “On major issues, 48% of voters say that the average Tea Party member is closer to their views than President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% hold the opposite view and believe the president’s views are closer to their own.”

And the movement sort of looks like America, according to Gallup: “Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. … Tea Party supporters are decidedly Republican and conservative in their leanings. Also, compared with average Americans, supporters are slightly more likely to be male and less likely to be lower-income. … In several other respects, however — their age, educational background, employment status, and race — Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large.” In other words, they are pretty much like all the other voters Obama ignores.

Tom Goldstein’s reading the Supreme Court retirement tea leaves: “To clear up any remaining ambiguity, if you believe or hear anyone else say that Justice Ginsburg may retire this summer, this is the appropriate response: Will. Not. Happen. No other member of the Court has any reason to retire either. By all accounts, each of the Justices is in good health. All of them feel an obligation to serve. Although the Court is divided, it’s not Congress; none is going to pull an Evan Bayh and walk away. Justice Souter’s perspective on his role and tenure was unique. And it’s a good job, so few people want to give it up. (If offered it, you should take it.)”

Liberal reporters discover Obama is a phony.

Robert Gibbs finally says something both funny and true: “I think Michael Steele’s problem isn’t the race card; it’s the credit card.”

Obama vs. Bob McDonnell: “In Washington, President Obama is borrowing, taxing, and spending with abandon — with little apparent concern about the long-term consequences of his unprecedented expansion of government control of the economy and the claims it will make on future earnings of the American people. The president’s agenda relies on one-party power and minimal attempts at compromise. In Richmond, on the other hand, Gov. Bob McDonnell has just closed a $4 billion budget deficit without raising taxes. To do so, he made significant cuts in a budget that had expanded by more than 70 percent in a decade — better than 28 percent for every citizen in Virginia (in inflation-adjusted dollars).”

Gabriel Schoenfeld on Obama’s Iran policy: “The Obama administration is dithering. Bent upon getting a Security Council resolution rather than assembling a coalition of the willing, the White House and American policy is being held hostage by Russia and most of all by China. Here’s an informed prediction: if Beijing does come around and support a new round of sanctions, it will be hailed by the White House as a major breakthrough: peace in our time. But the actual sanctions will be weak to worthless. China has too much at stake in Iran as a source of energy. It also sees an opportunity to poke us in the eye. … One question that should be asked is what we will say the day after Iran tests its first nuclear device.”

Obama loses to the movement ridiculed by the chattering class: “On major issues, 48% of voters say that the average Tea Party member is closer to their views than President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% hold the opposite view and believe the president’s views are closer to their own.”

And the movement sort of looks like America, according to Gallup: “Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. … Tea Party supporters are decidedly Republican and conservative in their leanings. Also, compared with average Americans, supporters are slightly more likely to be male and less likely to be lower-income. … In several other respects, however — their age, educational background, employment status, and race — Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large.” In other words, they are pretty much like all the other voters Obama ignores.

Tom Goldstein’s reading the Supreme Court retirement tea leaves: “To clear up any remaining ambiguity, if you believe or hear anyone else say that Justice Ginsburg may retire this summer, this is the appropriate response: Will. Not. Happen. No other member of the Court has any reason to retire either. By all accounts, each of the Justices is in good health. All of them feel an obligation to serve. Although the Court is divided, it’s not Congress; none is going to pull an Evan Bayh and walk away. Justice Souter’s perspective on his role and tenure was unique. And it’s a good job, so few people want to give it up. (If offered it, you should take it.)”

Liberal reporters discover Obama is a phony.

Robert Gibbs finally says something both funny and true: “I think Michael Steele’s problem isn’t the race card; it’s the credit card.”

Obama vs. Bob McDonnell: “In Washington, President Obama is borrowing, taxing, and spending with abandon — with little apparent concern about the long-term consequences of his unprecedented expansion of government control of the economy and the claims it will make on future earnings of the American people. The president’s agenda relies on one-party power and minimal attempts at compromise. In Richmond, on the other hand, Gov. Bob McDonnell has just closed a $4 billion budget deficit without raising taxes. To do so, he made significant cuts in a budget that had expanded by more than 70 percent in a decade — better than 28 percent for every citizen in Virginia (in inflation-adjusted dollars).”

Gabriel Schoenfeld on Obama’s Iran policy: “The Obama administration is dithering. Bent upon getting a Security Council resolution rather than assembling a coalition of the willing, the White House and American policy is being held hostage by Russia and most of all by China. Here’s an informed prediction: if Beijing does come around and support a new round of sanctions, it will be hailed by the White House as a major breakthrough: peace in our time. But the actual sanctions will be weak to worthless. China has too much at stake in Iran as a source of energy. It also sees an opportunity to poke us in the eye. … One question that should be asked is what we will say the day after Iran tests its first nuclear device.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s about time someone took it to Meghan McCain: “She’s an über-cool politics chick with lots to say of the conventional-thinking NYTimesish variety, and she’s got credulous lefties lapping up her disses of conservatives like kittens at cream bowls.” And what better way to get that attention than to diss the woman who drives liberals mad? Funny how liberal pundits whine that the former governor, who has articulated positions on a range of issues, doesn’t “know anything,” but they’re willing to spend endless hours talking to a 25-year-old who’s, well, never done anything.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus has the goods on the latest J Street scam: “In short, J Street manipulated the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia (of which I am a board member) into leasing to them space in the Hillel building for their J Street Local launch by entering into a firm agreement, and then ignoring that agreement to Hillel’s detriment. J Street’s deception made Hillel’s carefully planned and extensive pre-event efforts to soothe concerned donors, students, and others that there was no—and that it would be made very clear that there was no—connection between Hillel and J Street.”

House Democrats aid the Justice Department in stonewalling on the New Black Panther Party case: “In their bid to protect President Obama’s liberal political appointees at the Justice Department, congressional Democrats are surrendering their responsibility to keep a presidential administration honest.”

Not so much sycophantic laughter in the White House briefing room: “‘There definitely aren’t a lot of laughs around the briefing room these days,’ says Washington Examiner White House correspondent Julie Mason. ‘Robert’s little digs and evasions have lost their power to amuse — particularly since we haven’t had a presser since July. … Reporters know how close the press secretary is to the president, and yet the quality of the information we get doesn’t often reflect that.” Well, rudeness and lack of candor are pretty much par for the course for the Obami.

Big Labor is steamed it’s gotten nothing for all those millions: “Labor groups are furious with the Democrats they helped put in office — and are threatening to stay home this fall when Democratic incumbents will need their help fending off Republican challengers. … The so-called ‘card check’ bill that would make it easier to unionize employees has gone nowhere. A pro-union Transportation Security Administration nominee quit before he even got a confirmation vote. And even though unions got a sweetheart deal to keep their health plans tax-free under the Senate health care bill, that bill has collapsed, leaving unions exposed again.” And not even Harold Craig Becker could get confirmed.

Obama is bringing people together — Paul Krugman and Bill Kristol agree that his crony-capitalism comments on Wall Street bonuses were horridly tone-deaf. Next thing you know, Jane Hamsher and Yuval Levin will agree on ObamaCare. Oh, wait. It takes real skill to build such a broad-based coalition.

It’s something, but hardly enough: “A day after Iran said it was beginning to feed low enriched uranium through centrifuges at its Natanz pilot facility to create nuclear medical isotopes, the U.S. has announced sanctions on four engineering firms said to be controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).”

Because Nancy Pelosi never met a tax cut she could support, this will be a problem: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is praising the Senate for including a payroll tax credit in its jobs package, but it could set up a battle in his House Democratic caucus. Economic conditions are ripe for a provision that serves as an incentive for employers to expand their workforces, in Hoyer’s vies. The economy is growing again, and surveys indicate growing confidence by business.” Republicans are probably lucky that Pelosi and not Hoyer is Speaker. Hoyer actually sounds in touch with reality.

Cognitive-dissonance alert! David Brooks warms to Rep. Paul Ryan’s vision: “Government would have very few decision-making powers. Instead it would essentially redistribute money so that individuals could better secure their own welfare provision. Medicare and Social Security would essentially be turned into cash programs. The elderly would receive $11,000 a year to purchase insurance. The tax code would be radically simplified.” But Obama doesn’t believe in any of that, so … ?

First, Michael Steele. Now Gov. David Paterson is playing the race card.

It’s about time someone took it to Meghan McCain: “She’s an über-cool politics chick with lots to say of the conventional-thinking NYTimesish variety, and she’s got credulous lefties lapping up her disses of conservatives like kittens at cream bowls.” And what better way to get that attention than to diss the woman who drives liberals mad? Funny how liberal pundits whine that the former governor, who has articulated positions on a range of issues, doesn’t “know anything,” but they’re willing to spend endless hours talking to a 25-year-old who’s, well, never done anything.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus has the goods on the latest J Street scam: “In short, J Street manipulated the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia (of which I am a board member) into leasing to them space in the Hillel building for their J Street Local launch by entering into a firm agreement, and then ignoring that agreement to Hillel’s detriment. J Street’s deception made Hillel’s carefully planned and extensive pre-event efforts to soothe concerned donors, students, and others that there was no—and that it would be made very clear that there was no—connection between Hillel and J Street.”

House Democrats aid the Justice Department in stonewalling on the New Black Panther Party case: “In their bid to protect President Obama’s liberal political appointees at the Justice Department, congressional Democrats are surrendering their responsibility to keep a presidential administration honest.”

Not so much sycophantic laughter in the White House briefing room: “‘There definitely aren’t a lot of laughs around the briefing room these days,’ says Washington Examiner White House correspondent Julie Mason. ‘Robert’s little digs and evasions have lost their power to amuse — particularly since we haven’t had a presser since July. … Reporters know how close the press secretary is to the president, and yet the quality of the information we get doesn’t often reflect that.” Well, rudeness and lack of candor are pretty much par for the course for the Obami.

Big Labor is steamed it’s gotten nothing for all those millions: “Labor groups are furious with the Democrats they helped put in office — and are threatening to stay home this fall when Democratic incumbents will need their help fending off Republican challengers. … The so-called ‘card check’ bill that would make it easier to unionize employees has gone nowhere. A pro-union Transportation Security Administration nominee quit before he even got a confirmation vote. And even though unions got a sweetheart deal to keep their health plans tax-free under the Senate health care bill, that bill has collapsed, leaving unions exposed again.” And not even Harold Craig Becker could get confirmed.

Obama is bringing people together — Paul Krugman and Bill Kristol agree that his crony-capitalism comments on Wall Street bonuses were horridly tone-deaf. Next thing you know, Jane Hamsher and Yuval Levin will agree on ObamaCare. Oh, wait. It takes real skill to build such a broad-based coalition.

It’s something, but hardly enough: “A day after Iran said it was beginning to feed low enriched uranium through centrifuges at its Natanz pilot facility to create nuclear medical isotopes, the U.S. has announced sanctions on four engineering firms said to be controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).”

Because Nancy Pelosi never met a tax cut she could support, this will be a problem: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is praising the Senate for including a payroll tax credit in its jobs package, but it could set up a battle in his House Democratic caucus. Economic conditions are ripe for a provision that serves as an incentive for employers to expand their workforces, in Hoyer’s vies. The economy is growing again, and surveys indicate growing confidence by business.” Republicans are probably lucky that Pelosi and not Hoyer is Speaker. Hoyer actually sounds in touch with reality.

Cognitive-dissonance alert! David Brooks warms to Rep. Paul Ryan’s vision: “Government would have very few decision-making powers. Instead it would essentially redistribute money so that individuals could better secure their own welfare provision. Medicare and Social Security would essentially be turned into cash programs. The elderly would receive $11,000 a year to purchase insurance. The tax code would be radically simplified.” But Obama doesn’t believe in any of that, so … ?

First, Michael Steele. Now Gov. David Paterson is playing the race card.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Seen the latest ad for Hugo Chavez’s oil company? Lots of happy old people given free oil by the dictator, and then: “In swoops Joe Kennedy II with Citizens Energy and the kind people of Venezuela to lend a hand (or two?) and heating oil enough for everyone. Kennedy’s all smiles but they forgot the part where Hugo Chavez shuts down the media and arrests his political opponents. I guess that would have made the ad too long.” Good thing he didn’t talk about how great families and babies are.

Oh, puhleez. Michael Steele plays the race card: “I don’t see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?”

Just a year ago Republicans were declared dead in New England. Now New Hampshire looks awfully Red. Actually, it looks Red all over. Rasmussen shows the GOP with an eight-point lead in the generic congressional poll. And John Kasich has a solid lead in the Ohio gubernatorial race.

The boys sure are obsessed with her: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs poked fun at Sarah Palin today, pretending to look to notes on his hand for a reminder during his daily briefing. The gesture was a not-so-subtle shot at Palin, whom reporters spotted using a crib sheet on her hand during a speech this weekend at the National Tea Party convention.” At least Gibbs didn’t talk about her breasts.

Rep. Peter King blasts away at “egomaniac” John Brennan for claiming that Obama’s critics are serving the “goals of al-Qaeda”: “It is ‘the most mindless, self-serving, and irresponsible statement that a homeland-security adviser can make,’ King says. … ‘Brennan is trying to be cute by saying that on Christmas Day he briefed Republicans and Democrats. Leave aside the fact that he didn’t brief me, but he didn’t tell anybody anything that day other than the bare facts that were pretty much known to the public. He said that [Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] was in FBI custody. Now he’s claiming that that means he told people that [Abdulmutallab] was receiving Miranda rights and no one objected. If that’s what Brennan considers being honest and forthright, then we know that John Brennan is not being honest and forthright.'”

The billboard says “Miss Me Yet?” Why, yes, Mr. President.

Paul Begala or Karl Rove? “Incrementalists, stunned by what they see as overly broad and rapid change, are looking for the brakes. Radicals, depressed about the snail’s pace of progress, are looking for the exits.”

Jeffrey Goldberg spots the Muslim Student Union of the University of California at Irvine condemning the appearance of Israel Ambassador Michael Oren because — but of course! — Israel has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Council. “To the Muslim Student Union, the fact that the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more than all the other countries of the world combined means that Israel is worse than all the other countries of the world combined. To more rational, less prejudiced people, this fact means that the UN Human Rights Council is not a serious organization, but one under the control of dictators and despots.” Remind me why the Obami thought it necessary to rejoin that body?

Oren was heckled, which is no surprise. But it is nice to find a college political-science professor willing to call out the thuggery: “Prof. Mark P. Petracca, chairman of the university’s Political Science department, chastised the protesters, telling them, ‘This is beyond embarrassing. … This is no way for our undergraduate students to behave. We have an opportunity to hear from a policy-maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room. Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.'”

Seen the latest ad for Hugo Chavez’s oil company? Lots of happy old people given free oil by the dictator, and then: “In swoops Joe Kennedy II with Citizens Energy and the kind people of Venezuela to lend a hand (or two?) and heating oil enough for everyone. Kennedy’s all smiles but they forgot the part where Hugo Chavez shuts down the media and arrests his political opponents. I guess that would have made the ad too long.” Good thing he didn’t talk about how great families and babies are.

Oh, puhleez. Michael Steele plays the race card: “I don’t see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?”

Just a year ago Republicans were declared dead in New England. Now New Hampshire looks awfully Red. Actually, it looks Red all over. Rasmussen shows the GOP with an eight-point lead in the generic congressional poll. And John Kasich has a solid lead in the Ohio gubernatorial race.

The boys sure are obsessed with her: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs poked fun at Sarah Palin today, pretending to look to notes on his hand for a reminder during his daily briefing. The gesture was a not-so-subtle shot at Palin, whom reporters spotted using a crib sheet on her hand during a speech this weekend at the National Tea Party convention.” At least Gibbs didn’t talk about her breasts.

Rep. Peter King blasts away at “egomaniac” John Brennan for claiming that Obama’s critics are serving the “goals of al-Qaeda”: “It is ‘the most mindless, self-serving, and irresponsible statement that a homeland-security adviser can make,’ King says. … ‘Brennan is trying to be cute by saying that on Christmas Day he briefed Republicans and Democrats. Leave aside the fact that he didn’t brief me, but he didn’t tell anybody anything that day other than the bare facts that were pretty much known to the public. He said that [Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] was in FBI custody. Now he’s claiming that that means he told people that [Abdulmutallab] was receiving Miranda rights and no one objected. If that’s what Brennan considers being honest and forthright, then we know that John Brennan is not being honest and forthright.'”

The billboard says “Miss Me Yet?” Why, yes, Mr. President.

Paul Begala or Karl Rove? “Incrementalists, stunned by what they see as overly broad and rapid change, are looking for the brakes. Radicals, depressed about the snail’s pace of progress, are looking for the exits.”

Jeffrey Goldberg spots the Muslim Student Union of the University of California at Irvine condemning the appearance of Israel Ambassador Michael Oren because — but of course! — Israel has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Council. “To the Muslim Student Union, the fact that the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more than all the other countries of the world combined means that Israel is worse than all the other countries of the world combined. To more rational, less prejudiced people, this fact means that the UN Human Rights Council is not a serious organization, but one under the control of dictators and despots.” Remind me why the Obami thought it necessary to rejoin that body?

Oren was heckled, which is no surprise. But it is nice to find a college political-science professor willing to call out the thuggery: “Prof. Mark P. Petracca, chairman of the university’s Political Science department, chastised the protesters, telling them, ‘This is beyond embarrassing. … This is no way for our undergraduate students to behave. We have an opportunity to hear from a policy-maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room. Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.'”

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Civil Rights Laws Run Only One Way?

A curious report appears over at Main Justice, a website that offers nice juicy gossip and often mirrors the liberal legal party line from the Justice Department. It seems that one of the New Black Panther Party members at issue in the controversial dismissal of the Election Day voter-intimidation case is hopping mad:

Last week in a podcast interview, [New Black Panther Party president Malik Zulu] Shabazz let loose — with a racially tinged rant against the Republicans he said are trying to turn the issue into campaign ads for this fall’s midterm elections. “These right-wing white, red-faced, red-neck Republicans are attacking the hell out of the New Black Panther Party, and we’re organizing now to fight back,” Shabazz told the podcast host, a man who calls himself “Brother Gary” and hosts a show called Conscious Chats on Blogtalk Radio.

Shabazz singled out GOP Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) — two critics on the House Judiciary Committee — along with “Old Uncle Tom, Michael Steele, the black Negro who heads the Republican National Committee.”

“We gearing up for a showdown with this cracker,” Shabazz said, although it wasn’t clear to whom he was referring. “He keep talking – we going to Capitol Hill, we’re just gearing up right now, we’ll go to Capitol Hill.”

Well, probably not what the Holder Justice Department was anxious to hear as it attempts to stonewall its way through the inquiry. But what’s even more interesting is the apparent “defense” offered by Main Justice for those Obama officials who chose to dismiss the case over the objections of career attorneys: “No actual voters came forward to complain — the objections came from white Republican poll watchers.”

So is that what’s at the root of the case here — the notion that voter-intimidation claims are less than valid if white Republicans bring them? The behavior of the New Black Panther Party members was, after all, captured on videotape, so the conduct of the defendants is really not in dispute. What seems to be gnawing at the liberal legal types, however, is that a voter-intimidation case could be instituted by whites — white Republicans no less. Read More

A curious report appears over at Main Justice, a website that offers nice juicy gossip and often mirrors the liberal legal party line from the Justice Department. It seems that one of the New Black Panther Party members at issue in the controversial dismissal of the Election Day voter-intimidation case is hopping mad:

Last week in a podcast interview, [New Black Panther Party president Malik Zulu] Shabazz let loose — with a racially tinged rant against the Republicans he said are trying to turn the issue into campaign ads for this fall’s midterm elections. “These right-wing white, red-faced, red-neck Republicans are attacking the hell out of the New Black Panther Party, and we’re organizing now to fight back,” Shabazz told the podcast host, a man who calls himself “Brother Gary” and hosts a show called Conscious Chats on Blogtalk Radio.

Shabazz singled out GOP Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) — two critics on the House Judiciary Committee — along with “Old Uncle Tom, Michael Steele, the black Negro who heads the Republican National Committee.”

“We gearing up for a showdown with this cracker,” Shabazz said, although it wasn’t clear to whom he was referring. “He keep talking – we going to Capitol Hill, we’re just gearing up right now, we’ll go to Capitol Hill.”

Well, probably not what the Holder Justice Department was anxious to hear as it attempts to stonewall its way through the inquiry. But what’s even more interesting is the apparent “defense” offered by Main Justice for those Obama officials who chose to dismiss the case over the objections of career attorneys: “No actual voters came forward to complain — the objections came from white Republican poll watchers.”

So is that what’s at the root of the case here — the notion that voter-intimidation claims are less than valid if white Republicans bring them? The behavior of the New Black Panther Party members was, after all, captured on videotape, so the conduct of the defendants is really not in dispute. What seems to be gnawing at the liberal legal types, however, is that a voter-intimidation case could be instituted by whites — white Republicans no less.

This only serves to highlight the remarks of Chris Coates, the head of the Justice Department’s trial team, who upon his departure had these pointed words for his colleagues (paraphrased by Hans von Spakovsky):

Since many minority officials are now involved in the administration of elections in many jurisdictions, it is imperative that they believe that the anti-discrimination and anti-intimidation provisions of the Voting Rights Act will be enforced against them by the Justice Department, just as it is imperative that white election officials believe that Justice will enforce the provisions of the Voting Rights Act against them. I fear that actions that indicate that the Justice Department is not in the business of suing minority election officials, or not in the business of filing suits to protect white voters from discrimination or intimidation, will only encourage election officials, who are so inclined, to violate the Voting Rights Act.

I cannot imagine that any lawyers who believe in the rule of law would want to encourage violations of the Voting Rights Act by anyone, whether the wrongdoers are members of a minority group or white people.

It’s hard to believe that had the polling place been in Alabama and the intimidators been clad in KKK garb that the Obama Justice Department would not have proceeded full steam ahead against all defendants to the full extent of the law. But when the roles were reversed, a different standard seemed to apply. Indeed, Coates is no stranger to that double standard of enforcement from the liberal civil rights lawyers who dominate the Civil Rights Division. He explained his experience in a voter-intimidation case he brought when the victims were white and the perpetrator African American:

Selective enforcement of the law, including the Voting Rights Act, on the basis of race is just not fair and does not achieve justice.

I have had many discussions concerning these cases. In one of my discussions concerning the Ike Brown case, I had a lawyer say he was opposed to our filing such suits. When I asked why, he said that only when he could go to Mississippi (perhaps 50 years from now) and find no disparities between the socioeconomic levels of black and white residents, might he support such a suit. But until that day, he did not think that we should be filing voting-rights cases against blacks or on behalf of white voters.

The problem with such enforcement is that it is not in compliance with the statute enacted by Congress. There is simply nothing in the VRA itself or its legislative history that supports the claim that it should not be equally enforced until racial socioeconomic parity is achieved. Such an enforcement policy might be consistent with certain political ideologies, but it is not consistent with the Voting Rights Act that Justice is responsible for enforcing.

And that may be what is at the root of the New Black Panther Party case — the unspoken but endemic belief on the Left that the civil rights laws run only one way. The Obama administration must sense that this is anathema to most Americans. Hence, the stonewall. But having dismissed the New Black Panther Party case, it should now explain its decision and justify that approach to civil rights enforcement. Does the administration really believe that it simply isn’t right to prosecute a case where white Republicans are bringing the claim? It sure does look that way.

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Frank Rich’s Minstrels

In his most recent New York Times column excoriating Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Frank Rich wrote:

The “compassionate conservative” [President Bush] who turned the 2000 GOP convention into a minstrel show to prove his love of diversity will exit the political stage as the man who tilted American jurisprudence against Brown v. Board of Education. He leaves no black Republican behind him in either the House or Senate.

That there are so few black Republicans is hardly for President Bush’s—or the Republican Party’s—lack of trying. In 2006, the GOP ran several black candidates for major office. Former NFL star Lynn Swann ran unsuccessfully for governor of Pennsylvania, and is now running for Congress. Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Secretary of State, also ran for governor but lost (perhaps this is the reason why Rich only makes mention of the House and Senate, and not state-level offices). And in Maryland, former lieutenant governor Michael Steele ran for Senate and lost. At a 2002 gubernatorial debate, audience members allegedly rolled Oreo cookies on the floor to signify their disgust with a black man who would dare join the Republican Party. Granted, two of these three men ran for state, and not federal offices, but Rich’s point is to impute racism and “tokenism” onto Bush and the GOP.

To those who truly believe in the principles of the Civil Rights movement, the skin color of candidates should not matter. But this is something that obviously matters very much to Frank Rich—except, (or, perhaps, especially), when those black candidates are Republicans, and thus need to be defeated.

In his most recent New York Times column excoriating Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Frank Rich wrote:

The “compassionate conservative” [President Bush] who turned the 2000 GOP convention into a minstrel show to prove his love of diversity will exit the political stage as the man who tilted American jurisprudence against Brown v. Board of Education. He leaves no black Republican behind him in either the House or Senate.

That there are so few black Republicans is hardly for President Bush’s—or the Republican Party’s—lack of trying. In 2006, the GOP ran several black candidates for major office. Former NFL star Lynn Swann ran unsuccessfully for governor of Pennsylvania, and is now running for Congress. Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Secretary of State, also ran for governor but lost (perhaps this is the reason why Rich only makes mention of the House and Senate, and not state-level offices). And in Maryland, former lieutenant governor Michael Steele ran for Senate and lost. At a 2002 gubernatorial debate, audience members allegedly rolled Oreo cookies on the floor to signify their disgust with a black man who would dare join the Republican Party. Granted, two of these three men ran for state, and not federal offices, but Rich’s point is to impute racism and “tokenism” onto Bush and the GOP.

To those who truly believe in the principles of the Civil Rights movement, the skin color of candidates should not matter. But this is something that obviously matters very much to Frank Rich—except, (or, perhaps, especially), when those black candidates are Republicans, and thus need to be defeated.

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