Commentary Magazine


Topic: National Review

John Derbyshire and National Review: Why It Had to Happen

Over the weekend, my friend Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, was forced into a parting of the ways with his magazine’s and website’s long-time contributor, John Derbyshire. The dismissal was due to an article Derbyshire wrote for a site called Taki Magazine, taking off from the killing of Trayvon Martin.

I’m not going to rehash here the offense committed by the Derbyshire piece. Suffice it to say that this article, like much of what appears on that website and others like it, purports to take a “scientific” view of race relations according to which, inevitably, black people are helpless against DNA that supposedly causes them at once to be dumber and more violent than white people. These sorts of arguments are usually offered in a specious more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone or with an excruciatingly knowing world-weariness that serves as a secret club handshake with all those who know and are willing to accept the uncomfortable truths revealed by “science.”

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Over the weekend, my friend Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, was forced into a parting of the ways with his magazine’s and website’s long-time contributor, John Derbyshire. The dismissal was due to an article Derbyshire wrote for a site called Taki Magazine, taking off from the killing of Trayvon Martin.

I’m not going to rehash here the offense committed by the Derbyshire piece. Suffice it to say that this article, like much of what appears on that website and others like it, purports to take a “scientific” view of race relations according to which, inevitably, black people are helpless against DNA that supposedly causes them at once to be dumber and more violent than white people. These sorts of arguments are usually offered in a specious more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone or with an excruciatingly knowing world-weariness that serves as a secret club handshake with all those who know and are willing to accept the uncomfortable truths revealed by “science.”

What I think is worth discussing is the issue of what will be inevitably be raised in the days and weeks ahead by people discomfited by National Review‘s decision. First, they will say NR is violating Derbyshire’s freedom of speech. That is simply incorrect; freedom of speech in the United States is freedom from government coercion. It does not guarantee anyone access to a private organization’s ink and paper and server space, especially not when that private organization pays him. As Rich said in the post in which he announced the severing of NR‘s relationship with Derbyshire: “It’s a free country, and Derb can write whatever he wants, wherever he wants. Just not in the pages of NR or NRO, or as someone associated with NR any longer.”

Nonetheless, there will still be those who believe an injustice is being done to a writer who simply was telling the truth as he sees it. But websites and magazines do not exist solely to give writers a vehicle to speak to readers (though this is one of their primary intellectual, cultural, and aesthetic purposes). If they are not run to make money, but are mission-driven instead—as NR is and as COMMENTARY is as well—they exist to give shape and form and heft to a view of the world its writers and editors share. That view may be broad enough to contain contradictory opinions on various matters, but overall it is supposed to encompass a coherent vision of what the world is and what it should be. That is what we provide to our readers, and what our readers expect of us.

When a writer expresses an opinion about things that is not only different from, but in radical contradiction with the mission-driven institution’s view, that writer may be doing what he feels is necessary. But it is equally necessary for the institution to make clear whether that view can still be considered part of its overall vision or it is a pathogen that, left undisturbed, will destroy the institution’s own health.

Finally, they will say NR acted in a cowardly fashion and fell sway to political correctness; that Derbyshire was only exploring questions that discomfit the Establishment. This game of saying “I am only raising questions” has become the three-card monte of the intellectual world in recent years—a way of bringing up things in a glancing and suggestive way without taking responsibility for it. It has been deployed most egregiously by a blogger who has generated millions upon millions of page views “raising questions” for rage-fueled readers about whether Sarah Palin was in fact the mother of her own child.

Everybody makes mistakes. Writers make mistakes. Lord knows I’ve made plenty, and I am mindful of the notion that “there but for the grace of God go you.” What Derbyshire did was not a mistake. It was a coming-out. The noxious seeds that finally blossomed into full poisonous flower with his latest piece had been scattered throughout his writing for years. Recognizing his raw talent and interesting perspective on a variety of issues, Rich Lowry and National Review gave him the benefit of the doubt until there was no longer any doubt.

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Do Conservatives Want Another Goldwater?

Some conservative pundits are still mad at the editors of National Review for an editorial in which the venerable magazine urged Republicans not to back Newt Gingrich for president. Though NR didn’t endorse a candidate in the piece, many outraged conservatives who had embraced the former speaker as the leading “not Romney” in the race felt that Mitt Romney was the intended beneficiary of the broadside. The latest to vent his spleen about this alleged betrayal of conservative principle is Jeffrey Lord who wrote in the American Spectator that the attack on Gingrich was akin to NR’s founder William F. Buckley blasting Barry Goldwater in 1964 or Ronald Reagan in 1980. His point was not just that any of the other conservatives still in the race was better than Romney but that Buckley’s magazine had become the moral equivalent of the old-line GOP establishment that its founder had spent his life battling.

But Lord’s anguish is misplaced. Newt Gingrich isn’t Ronald Reagan. Neither is Rick Santorum, Michele Bachman or Rick Perry. And if you really think any of them are worthy successors to Barry Goldwater, does anyone on the right believe another 1964-style wipeout that would mean four more years of President Barack Obama is a good idea?

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Some conservative pundits are still mad at the editors of National Review for an editorial in which the venerable magazine urged Republicans not to back Newt Gingrich for president. Though NR didn’t endorse a candidate in the piece, many outraged conservatives who had embraced the former speaker as the leading “not Romney” in the race felt that Mitt Romney was the intended beneficiary of the broadside. The latest to vent his spleen about this alleged betrayal of conservative principle is Jeffrey Lord who wrote in the American Spectator that the attack on Gingrich was akin to NR’s founder William F. Buckley blasting Barry Goldwater in 1964 or Ronald Reagan in 1980. His point was not just that any of the other conservatives still in the race was better than Romney but that Buckley’s magazine had become the moral equivalent of the old-line GOP establishment that its founder had spent his life battling.

But Lord’s anguish is misplaced. Newt Gingrich isn’t Ronald Reagan. Neither is Rick Santorum, Michele Bachman or Rick Perry. And if you really think any of them are worthy successors to Barry Goldwater, does anyone on the right believe another 1964-style wipeout that would mean four more years of President Barack Obama is a good idea?

A focus on winning in 2012 is what many conservatives think is wrong with NR’s editors and others who have come to grips with the fact that Romney is the Republicans’ best chance for victory next November. Lord, and others who agree with him are not really arguing that Gingrich should be president any more than they are making a serious case for Perry, Bachmann or Santorum. None of them have a ghost of a shot at beating Obama though all of them can make a much better case than Gingrich for representing a consistent conservative stance on the majority of the issues. Rather, Lord seems to be making the case that ideological purity is a higher value than electability.

To that one can only respond with one of Buckley’s most famous sayings that instructed his followers to always back the most conservative candidate available who could win.

It should be stipulated that this didn’t mean you always backed a Republican. In Buckley’s heyday the two parties were not divided so much by ideology with conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, two now largely extinct factions, being very much a part of our political life. Buckley helped found the Conservative Party of New York to combat the leftward tilt of a Republican Party dominated by liberals like Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits.

But the notion that a relatively moderate candidate like Romney is in any way comparable to the liberal Rockefeller Republicans that the conservative moment defeated in 1964 is absurd. For all of his imperfections and flip-flopping there is no question that he is to the right of center. Like the first President George Bush whom Buckley and other conservatives backed in 1988, Romney is no favorite of the right and may disappoint them. But, as Republicans learned after 1992 when some stood by and watched Bill Clinton beat Bush, life is choice. Any conservative who would prefer to see Obama re-elected than to stomach a Romney presidency has lost perspective about the whole point of their movement.

Even more to the point, the argument that Gingrich — whose deviations from conservative principles over the years are too numerous to count — is more authentically conservative than Romney is unsustainable. As for Perry, Bachmann and Santorum, even the most fervent Romney-haters know they can’t be elected.

That may say something unflattering about the current state of American conservatism but it is no reason to willfully choose to go off the cliff with a certain loser. Unlike in 1964 when the main point of Goldwater’s candidacy was to seize control of the GOP from its liberal establishment, conservatives already run the party. To the extent that there is a Republican establishment these days (and I have argued that there is no such thing anymore), everyone that is supposedly part of  it, like Weekly Standard publisher William Kristol and the editors of NR, are all conservatives. Nominating another Goldwater (not that anybody in the race can really be compared to the Arizonan) would merely be doing a hard-core liberal like Obama a favor. Surely, that is not something Bill Buckley would ever have supported.

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Morning Commentary

On Saturday, P5+1 officials will meet with Iranian leaders to push them to ensure that their nuclear program is peaceful. But it looks like Iran is doing everything in its power not to cooperate: “Iran, however, is coming to Turkey offering no signs that it is willing to respect United Nations Security Council resolutions and suspend its production of nuclear fuel. ‘There is nothing to discuss’ about Iran’s nuclear program, an Iranian official said. ‘In Istanbul, we will speak about something else.’”

The day after President Hu Jintao was honored with a State Dinner by President Obama, the Chinese leader met privately with lawmakers who pressed him on China’s poor record on human rights: “Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emerged Thursday from his huddle with Hu optimistic and hopeful on all fronts, suggesting a major breakthrough had occurred in Hu’s recognition that his nation had a subpar human rights record and that key progress was made in making China engage other nations.”

Richard Falk, the UN’s Palestine investigator, once again came out as a supporter of the 9/11 “Truth movement” on his blog last week (he’s been making “truther” statements since 2004). UN Watch is now calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to fire Falk, especially in light of Ki-moon’s condemnation of Ahmadinejad for endorsing similar theories: “The effect of Mr. Falk’s conspiracy-mongering is to deny and excuse the terrorist acts committed by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. It insults the memories of those who perished on 9/11, and deeply offends their families and loved ones — as well as all decent men and women worldwide. Mr. Falk’s repulsive comments violate UNHRC Resolution 5/2, which require U.N. experts to uphold the highest standards of integrity, probity, and good faith. Indeed, they shame the United Nations.”

Rep. Steve Cohen should probably avoid making any more public statements for the next few days, because he just keeps digging himself into a bigger hole. Cohen, who compared Republicans to Nazis earlier this week, apologized that his words are being used as a “distraction” by his political opponents, in a statement he released yesterday afternoon: “It is disappointing that my comments have been used to distract from the health care reform debate. It is my hope that we can return our focus to the matter at hand — health care for 32 million Americans.”

On the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural, Mike Pence talked to National Review about how the former president inspired him: “Reagan is the reason I’m a Republican. … I was active in local Democratic politics when I was a teenager in Columbus, Indiana. Then I started to hear the voice of a B-movie actor, turned governor, turned candidate. He gave voice to the ideals and values that I was raised to believe in.”

On Saturday, P5+1 officials will meet with Iranian leaders to push them to ensure that their nuclear program is peaceful. But it looks like Iran is doing everything in its power not to cooperate: “Iran, however, is coming to Turkey offering no signs that it is willing to respect United Nations Security Council resolutions and suspend its production of nuclear fuel. ‘There is nothing to discuss’ about Iran’s nuclear program, an Iranian official said. ‘In Istanbul, we will speak about something else.’”

The day after President Hu Jintao was honored with a State Dinner by President Obama, the Chinese leader met privately with lawmakers who pressed him on China’s poor record on human rights: “Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emerged Thursday from his huddle with Hu optimistic and hopeful on all fronts, suggesting a major breakthrough had occurred in Hu’s recognition that his nation had a subpar human rights record and that key progress was made in making China engage other nations.”

Richard Falk, the UN’s Palestine investigator, once again came out as a supporter of the 9/11 “Truth movement” on his blog last week (he’s been making “truther” statements since 2004). UN Watch is now calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to fire Falk, especially in light of Ki-moon’s condemnation of Ahmadinejad for endorsing similar theories: “The effect of Mr. Falk’s conspiracy-mongering is to deny and excuse the terrorist acts committed by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. It insults the memories of those who perished on 9/11, and deeply offends their families and loved ones — as well as all decent men and women worldwide. Mr. Falk’s repulsive comments violate UNHRC Resolution 5/2, which require U.N. experts to uphold the highest standards of integrity, probity, and good faith. Indeed, they shame the United Nations.”

Rep. Steve Cohen should probably avoid making any more public statements for the next few days, because he just keeps digging himself into a bigger hole. Cohen, who compared Republicans to Nazis earlier this week, apologized that his words are being used as a “distraction” by his political opponents, in a statement he released yesterday afternoon: “It is disappointing that my comments have been used to distract from the health care reform debate. It is my hope that we can return our focus to the matter at hand — health care for 32 million Americans.”

On the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural, Mike Pence talked to National Review about how the former president inspired him: “Reagan is the reason I’m a Republican. … I was active in local Democratic politics when I was a teenager in Columbus, Indiana. Then I started to hear the voice of a B-movie actor, turned governor, turned candidate. He gave voice to the ideals and values that I was raised to believe in.”

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Morning Commentary

I’m going to guess that, for President Obama, getting praised by Dick Cheney is a whole lot worse than being criticized by him. During an interview that aired on the Today show this morning, the former vice president noted that Obama has continued many of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies (“I think he’s learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate”). Cheney also spoke about how he was perceived by the public during his last few years in office (“I was there to do a job. And if it meant I had to break some china to get the job done, I did it”).

Does Hillary Clinton’s speech on Tunisia last Thursday indicate a return of the freedom agenda? Lee Smith wonders whether her tough talk on human rights helped bring down Ben Ali: “Over the last two years the Obama administration has rightly been excoriated for ignoring human rights issues throughout the Arabic-speaking Middle East. … But Thursday afternoon in Doha Secretary Clinton fired a shot across the bow of the Arab political order.”

Ahead of Saturday’s nuclear talks between P5+1 and Tehran, Iran’s nuclear negotiator has accused the U.S. of launching a “cyberattack” against the country’s facilities and claims to have documentation of U.S. involvement in Stuxnet (where would he have gotten that impression?): “‘Those who have done that could see now that they were not successful in that and we are following our success,’ he said. He added that Iran is not the only country vulnerable to cyberattacks, as evidenced by the WikiLeaks release of U.S. diplomatic cables. ‘They are also weak and vulnerable,’ he said of the United States.”

In an interview with Just Journalism, Dr. Avner Cohen took a swipe at Jeffrey Goldberg’s Iran article from last summer, which estimated that Israel had more than a 50 percent chance of bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities by next July: “I never believed the alarmist story by Jeffrey Goldberg in July — I thought that he was speculating (or led by others to advance a highly speculative view) about issues that were not decided then, and surely much less so today.” Cohen also criticized the recent suggestion that Iran won’t be capable of building a bomb until 2015: “I think that anybody who suggests a concrete timetable is a fool. I do not take seriously any timetable.”

National Review’s Katrina Trinko explains why you should take those two new ObamaCare polls with a grain of salt: “Take the AP poll, which shows that 40 percent of adults support Obamacare and 41 percent oppose it. In November, the last time the AP polled this question, 38 percent supported Obamacare and 47 percent opposed it.  But the sample in November was very different: 38 percent Republican and 39 percent Democrat. The sample in January wasn’t so balanced, with 42 percent of the responders Democrat and 36 percent Republican.”

I’m going to guess that, for President Obama, getting praised by Dick Cheney is a whole lot worse than being criticized by him. During an interview that aired on the Today show this morning, the former vice president noted that Obama has continued many of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies (“I think he’s learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate”). Cheney also spoke about how he was perceived by the public during his last few years in office (“I was there to do a job. And if it meant I had to break some china to get the job done, I did it”).

Does Hillary Clinton’s speech on Tunisia last Thursday indicate a return of the freedom agenda? Lee Smith wonders whether her tough talk on human rights helped bring down Ben Ali: “Over the last two years the Obama administration has rightly been excoriated for ignoring human rights issues throughout the Arabic-speaking Middle East. … But Thursday afternoon in Doha Secretary Clinton fired a shot across the bow of the Arab political order.”

Ahead of Saturday’s nuclear talks between P5+1 and Tehran, Iran’s nuclear negotiator has accused the U.S. of launching a “cyberattack” against the country’s facilities and claims to have documentation of U.S. involvement in Stuxnet (where would he have gotten that impression?): “‘Those who have done that could see now that they were not successful in that and we are following our success,’ he said. He added that Iran is not the only country vulnerable to cyberattacks, as evidenced by the WikiLeaks release of U.S. diplomatic cables. ‘They are also weak and vulnerable,’ he said of the United States.”

In an interview with Just Journalism, Dr. Avner Cohen took a swipe at Jeffrey Goldberg’s Iran article from last summer, which estimated that Israel had more than a 50 percent chance of bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities by next July: “I never believed the alarmist story by Jeffrey Goldberg in July — I thought that he was speculating (or led by others to advance a highly speculative view) about issues that were not decided then, and surely much less so today.” Cohen also criticized the recent suggestion that Iran won’t be capable of building a bomb until 2015: “I think that anybody who suggests a concrete timetable is a fool. I do not take seriously any timetable.”

National Review’s Katrina Trinko explains why you should take those two new ObamaCare polls with a grain of salt: “Take the AP poll, which shows that 40 percent of adults support Obamacare and 41 percent oppose it. In November, the last time the AP polled this question, 38 percent supported Obamacare and 47 percent opposed it.  But the sample in November was very different: 38 percent Republican and 39 percent Democrat. The sample in January wasn’t so balanced, with 42 percent of the responders Democrat and 36 percent Republican.”

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Morning Commentary

House Republicans announced a vote to repeal health-care reform on Jan. 12, naming their bill the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” But even if the legislation passes the House, it’s almost certain to be blocked in the Senate: “The repeal effort is not expected to succeed, given that Democrats maintain control of the Senate and the president can veto the legislation. But Republicans could embarrass the White House if they persuade a number of Democrats to vote with them and, over the long term, plan to try to chip away at pieces of the law.”

Iran has invited Russia, China, the EU, and Arab nations on an all-expenses-paid tour of its nuclear facilities in an attempt to gain support before its next round of nuke talks with the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

It looks like Hillary Clinton’s brief meeting with Hugo Chavez over the weekend helped diffuse some of the diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela. The Obama administration announced yesterday that it is considering nominating a new ambassador to Venezuela after Chavez very publicly rejected the last proposal.

Those who want to see massive cuts in the defense budget are dangerously underestimating the threats the U.S. will face in the coming years, warn Alvin S. Felzenberg and Alexander B. Gray in National Review. With the growing aggression of countries like Russia, China, Venezuela, and Iran, the military needs to be able to adapt in response to new challenges: “Counterinsurgency warfare and Predator-drone strikes against transnational terrorists certainly defined much of the last decade. But the next decade will witness increasing competition among nation-states for control of valuable resources and the exertion of influence worldwide.”

Apparently, Guam is a touchy subject for Michael Steele. During an interview with the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack, the embattled RNC chair went on the defensive about his spending decisions in U.S. territories: “Okay, so when you’re chairman you make that decision, and then you deal with the chairman and the national committeeman and the national committeewoman sittin’ on the phone with you, screaming at you for not helping them for $15,000. We won the governorship. The most wins here and now you’re going to sit back here and parse? Oh, well, gee if you had taken $15,000 from there and put it over here — tell me the seat you could have won with that, when you know you could have helped them out and won a groundbreaker for them in Guam.”

The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum has an intriguing theory about what may have prompted the Kremlin’s recent bad behavior: “[P]erhaps the explanation is very simple: Oil is once again above $90 a barrel — and the price is rising. And if that’s the reason, it’s nothing new. In fact, if one were to plot the rise and fall of Soviet and Russian foreign and domestic reforms over the past 40 years on a graph, it would match the fall and rise of the international oil prices (for which domestic crude oil prices are a reasonable proxy) with astonishing precision.”

House Republicans announced a vote to repeal health-care reform on Jan. 12, naming their bill the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” But even if the legislation passes the House, it’s almost certain to be blocked in the Senate: “The repeal effort is not expected to succeed, given that Democrats maintain control of the Senate and the president can veto the legislation. But Republicans could embarrass the White House if they persuade a number of Democrats to vote with them and, over the long term, plan to try to chip away at pieces of the law.”

Iran has invited Russia, China, the EU, and Arab nations on an all-expenses-paid tour of its nuclear facilities in an attempt to gain support before its next round of nuke talks with the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

It looks like Hillary Clinton’s brief meeting with Hugo Chavez over the weekend helped diffuse some of the diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela. The Obama administration announced yesterday that it is considering nominating a new ambassador to Venezuela after Chavez very publicly rejected the last proposal.

Those who want to see massive cuts in the defense budget are dangerously underestimating the threats the U.S. will face in the coming years, warn Alvin S. Felzenberg and Alexander B. Gray in National Review. With the growing aggression of countries like Russia, China, Venezuela, and Iran, the military needs to be able to adapt in response to new challenges: “Counterinsurgency warfare and Predator-drone strikes against transnational terrorists certainly defined much of the last decade. But the next decade will witness increasing competition among nation-states for control of valuable resources and the exertion of influence worldwide.”

Apparently, Guam is a touchy subject for Michael Steele. During an interview with the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack, the embattled RNC chair went on the defensive about his spending decisions in U.S. territories: “Okay, so when you’re chairman you make that decision, and then you deal with the chairman and the national committeeman and the national committeewoman sittin’ on the phone with you, screaming at you for not helping them for $15,000. We won the governorship. The most wins here and now you’re going to sit back here and parse? Oh, well, gee if you had taken $15,000 from there and put it over here — tell me the seat you could have won with that, when you know you could have helped them out and won a groundbreaker for them in Guam.”

The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum has an intriguing theory about what may have prompted the Kremlin’s recent bad behavior: “[P]erhaps the explanation is very simple: Oil is once again above $90 a barrel — and the price is rising. And if that’s the reason, it’s nothing new. In fact, if one were to plot the rise and fall of Soviet and Russian foreign and domestic reforms over the past 40 years on a graph, it would match the fall and rise of the international oil prices (for which domestic crude oil prices are a reasonable proxy) with astonishing precision.”

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“No Labels” Is Also a Label

My friend COMMENTARY contributor David Frum (who has a piece in our upcoming January issue) is a writer both tough and fearless in his judgments. It’s one of the many reasons he’s always worth reading, disagree or no: he does not prevaricate or trim his sails. He says what he says. He is a believer in intellectual honesty, and his brief against the right over the past two years is that it is in danger of sacrificing that honesty in pursuit of a populist politics he thinks is both wrongheaded and self-defeating.

He says so in unvarnished prose and takes no prisoners, going after Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and others with a clear-eyed ferocity — just as he did at the onset of the Iraq war in a National Review piece that effectively wrote paleoconservative critics of the war out of the movement: “They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.”

It is a matter of no small intellectual interest that David has now decided to embrace the concept that American politics should move beyond ideological camps. He joined the distinguished liberal political scientist William Galston in an op-ed piece describing and advocating a new movement called “No Labels” that is to be brought into existence next week with Michael Bloomberg and Joe Scarborough as its major lead figures. They write:

Our political system does not work if politicians treat the process as a war in which the overriding goal is to thwart the adversary. … Nor does the political system work if politicians treat members of the other party as enemies to be destroyed. Labeling legitimate policy differences as “socialist” or “racist” undermines democratic discourse.

Over the next 12 months, No Labels plans to organize citizens’ groups in every state and congressional district. Among other activities, these citizens will carefully monitor the conduct of their elected representatives. They will highlight those officials who reach across the aisle to help solve the country’s problems and criticize those who do not. They will call out politicians whose rhetoric exacerbates those problems, and they will establish lines that no one should cross. Politicians, media personalities and opinion leaders who recklessly demonize their opponents should be on notice that they can no longer do so with impunity.

In the name of broadening the political discussion, a group called No Labels will come into being with the purpose of … labeling. If you “recklessly demonize” your “opponents,” you will “no longer” be able to “do so with impunity.” They will “establish bright lines no one should cross.” In other words, cross the line and we will label you a “reckless demonizer.” Dare to call Barack Obama a socialist and stand accused of exacerbating problems rather than solving them.

Nobody should be for reckless demonization, but one man’s reckless demonization is another man’s truth-telling, as the design of No Labels itself would seem to suggest. Does the No Labels style mean that, should you find Rush Limbaugh abhorrent, it is therefore acceptable to discuss his views in relation to his past prescription-drug addiction? Or Glenn Beck’s alcoholism? That would seem to be the idea, and you can see how the incivility required by the No Labels concept deconstructs it like a Rube Goldberg machine.

The drawing of bright lines is something David Frum does surpassingly well. But a group called No Labels would seem by definition to stand for the opposite — for an entirely freewheeling public conversation, which should be the opposite of a bright-line-drawing exercise. Instead, No Labels would appear to be a movement designed to give politicians space and room to hammer out compromises with each other in pursuit of the common good. That sounds nice, but it’s actually the abnegation of what a movement — an intellectual movement, a political movement, a partisan movement, or an ideological movement — actually is.

Movements arise because people believe in something in common, believe in it wholeheartedly, and want their ideas to prevail. They don’t believe in swapping out some of them for others in order to make nice to the other side. They want the other side to lose and their side to win because they believe their ideas are good and the other side’s ideas are bad.

That is why it is an oxymoron to talk about movements of the middle, or of the radical center, or whatever you want to call it, and why No Labels will never work. In the end, such movements are primarily defined by distaste. That is a powerful emotion. But in the end, distaste is primarily an aesthetic feeling, not a moral or political or ideological one. An aesthetic is not an organizing principle, because it is a principle of exclusion, not of inclusion — those bright lines are designed to keep things out, not bring them in.

David Frum, you stand accused of being an aesthete!

My friend COMMENTARY contributor David Frum (who has a piece in our upcoming January issue) is a writer both tough and fearless in his judgments. It’s one of the many reasons he’s always worth reading, disagree or no: he does not prevaricate or trim his sails. He says what he says. He is a believer in intellectual honesty, and his brief against the right over the past two years is that it is in danger of sacrificing that honesty in pursuit of a populist politics he thinks is both wrongheaded and self-defeating.

He says so in unvarnished prose and takes no prisoners, going after Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and others with a clear-eyed ferocity — just as he did at the onset of the Iraq war in a National Review piece that effectively wrote paleoconservative critics of the war out of the movement: “They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.”

It is a matter of no small intellectual interest that David has now decided to embrace the concept that American politics should move beyond ideological camps. He joined the distinguished liberal political scientist William Galston in an op-ed piece describing and advocating a new movement called “No Labels” that is to be brought into existence next week with Michael Bloomberg and Joe Scarborough as its major lead figures. They write:

Our political system does not work if politicians treat the process as a war in which the overriding goal is to thwart the adversary. … Nor does the political system work if politicians treat members of the other party as enemies to be destroyed. Labeling legitimate policy differences as “socialist” or “racist” undermines democratic discourse.

Over the next 12 months, No Labels plans to organize citizens’ groups in every state and congressional district. Among other activities, these citizens will carefully monitor the conduct of their elected representatives. They will highlight those officials who reach across the aisle to help solve the country’s problems and criticize those who do not. They will call out politicians whose rhetoric exacerbates those problems, and they will establish lines that no one should cross. Politicians, media personalities and opinion leaders who recklessly demonize their opponents should be on notice that they can no longer do so with impunity.

In the name of broadening the political discussion, a group called No Labels will come into being with the purpose of … labeling. If you “recklessly demonize” your “opponents,” you will “no longer” be able to “do so with impunity.” They will “establish bright lines no one should cross.” In other words, cross the line and we will label you a “reckless demonizer.” Dare to call Barack Obama a socialist and stand accused of exacerbating problems rather than solving them.

Nobody should be for reckless demonization, but one man’s reckless demonization is another man’s truth-telling, as the design of No Labels itself would seem to suggest. Does the No Labels style mean that, should you find Rush Limbaugh abhorrent, it is therefore acceptable to discuss his views in relation to his past prescription-drug addiction? Or Glenn Beck’s alcoholism? That would seem to be the idea, and you can see how the incivility required by the No Labels concept deconstructs it like a Rube Goldberg machine.

The drawing of bright lines is something David Frum does surpassingly well. But a group called No Labels would seem by definition to stand for the opposite — for an entirely freewheeling public conversation, which should be the opposite of a bright-line-drawing exercise. Instead, No Labels would appear to be a movement designed to give politicians space and room to hammer out compromises with each other in pursuit of the common good. That sounds nice, but it’s actually the abnegation of what a movement — an intellectual movement, a political movement, a partisan movement, or an ideological movement — actually is.

Movements arise because people believe in something in common, believe in it wholeheartedly, and want their ideas to prevail. They don’t believe in swapping out some of them for others in order to make nice to the other side. They want the other side to lose and their side to win because they believe their ideas are good and the other side’s ideas are bad.

That is why it is an oxymoron to talk about movements of the middle, or of the radical center, or whatever you want to call it, and why No Labels will never work. In the end, such movements are primarily defined by distaste. That is a powerful emotion. But in the end, distaste is primarily an aesthetic feeling, not a moral or political or ideological one. An aesthetic is not an organizing principle, because it is a principle of exclusion, not of inclusion — those bright lines are designed to keep things out, not bring them in.

David Frum, you stand accused of being an aesthete!

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Palin: The Opposite of Stupid

Sarah Palin in National Review:

The meaning of the 2010 election was rebuke, reject, and repeal. We rebuked Washington’s power grab, rejected this unwanted “fundamental transformation of America,” and began the process to repeal the dangerous policies inflicted on us. But this theme will only complement the theme of 2012, which is renew, revive, and restore. In 2012, we need to renew our optimistic, pioneering spirit, revive our free-market system, and restore constitutional limits and our standing in the world as the abiding beacon of freedom.

This political formulation is — I use the word advisedly — brilliant.

Sarah Palin in National Review:

The meaning of the 2010 election was rebuke, reject, and repeal. We rebuked Washington’s power grab, rejected this unwanted “fundamental transformation of America,” and began the process to repeal the dangerous policies inflicted on us. But this theme will only complement the theme of 2012, which is renew, revive, and restore. In 2012, we need to renew our optimistic, pioneering spirit, revive our free-market system, and restore constitutional limits and our standing in the world as the abiding beacon of freedom.

This political formulation is — I use the word advisedly — brilliant.

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Voters to Obama: Stop Already. No Fast Choo-Choos.

In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. inaugurated National Review—the magazine that may come to be known in the 21st Century as motive force in the rise of Marco Rubio—with this immortal description of its mission: “It stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” On Tuesday, the voters stood athwart Obama, yelling Stop. Or so I argue today in my column in the New York Post:

There was a simple message in this election — perhaps too simple for the editor of the Harvard Law Review, who probably prefers his messages ornate and laboriously complex. The message: Stop. You’ve done too much — spent too much, grown government too much, involved yourself in the inner workings of business too much. Stop. Instead, Obama talked about doing more, and said there was a “message to Republicans” in the results that they needed to compromise with him. Astonishing.

The president spent his press conference yesterday talking about ways he might look to “improve” his health-care plan around the edges, the need for middle-class tax cuts, and his desire to have government build nicer airports, high speed choo-choos, and maybe a supercomputer. (I’m not kidding. Read the transcript.) He could have said all these things at any time in the past two years. In fact, he did say all these things in the past two years. Saying them again is not an adequate response to the results on Tuesday night, to put it mildly.

In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. inaugurated National Review—the magazine that may come to be known in the 21st Century as motive force in the rise of Marco Rubio—with this immortal description of its mission: “It stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” On Tuesday, the voters stood athwart Obama, yelling Stop. Or so I argue today in my column in the New York Post:

There was a simple message in this election — perhaps too simple for the editor of the Harvard Law Review, who probably prefers his messages ornate and laboriously complex. The message: Stop. You’ve done too much — spent too much, grown government too much, involved yourself in the inner workings of business too much. Stop. Instead, Obama talked about doing more, and said there was a “message to Republicans” in the results that they needed to compromise with him. Astonishing.

The president spent his press conference yesterday talking about ways he might look to “improve” his health-care plan around the edges, the need for middle-class tax cuts, and his desire to have government build nicer airports, high speed choo-choos, and maybe a supercomputer. (I’m not kidding. Read the transcript.) He could have said all these things at any time in the past two years. In fact, he did say all these things in the past two years. Saying them again is not an adequate response to the results on Tuesday night, to put it mildly.

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LIVE BLOG: Rubio’s Victory

It’s important to note the role played in the rise of Marco Rubio, the great political story of this election cycle, by conservative publications both old (National Review) and new (Red State) undaunted by the fact that he began with 3 percent support in 2009. Rich Lowry of National Review and Erick Erickson of Red State understood that Republican Gov. Charlie Crist’s embrace of Barack Obama was not only a betrayal of Crist’s own claimed political views but also that it represented a huge opportunity for an outside candidate. Important things can happen when they begin in small offices with large ambitions.

It’s important to note the role played in the rise of Marco Rubio, the great political story of this election cycle, by conservative publications both old (National Review) and new (Red State) undaunted by the fact that he began with 3 percent support in 2009. Rich Lowry of National Review and Erick Erickson of Red State understood that Republican Gov. Charlie Crist’s embrace of Barack Obama was not only a betrayal of Crist’s own claimed political views but also that it represented a huge opportunity for an outside candidate. Important things can happen when they begin in small offices with large ambitions.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

So naturally, she had to go. “[Michelle] Rhee added a new urgency and righteous anger to the school reform movement, one that she will now take to a national platform. She asked how the District could compile an abysmal academic record and yet rate most of their teachers as meeting or exceeding expectations. She decreed that poverty was no longer a reason for expecting less of a child in Anacostia than one in Tenleytown.”

So now the New York Times sounds like National Review: “Rather than entertaining the possibility that the program they have pursued is genuinely and even legitimately unpopular, the White House and its allies have concluded that their political troubles amount to mainly a message and image problem.” The Gray Lady has also discovered Obama has an “elitism” problem. Who knew?

So smart are these Obama diplomats, we were told. Alas: “The White House spent an hour Friday afternoon trying to convince angry Hill staffers and human rights activists that ‘naming and shaming’ governments that recruit child soldiers, rather than imposing Congressionally-mandated sanctions on them, will better address the problem. But advocacy leaders are upset with the administration and rejected top White House officials’ contention that removing sanctions against four troubled states will be a positive move. … Overall, the call showed that the White House realized it botched the rollout of the decision but is standing by the decision itself. Next, they will have to defend it on Capitol Hill, where staffers are set to receive a special briefing on the issue next week.”

So let me see if I got this straight? President Obama goes to Florida in August to campaign for Rep. Kendrick Meek. Then recently, former President Clinton goes in to ‘campaign’ for Meek by trying to get him to drop out of the race. And voters this year are being accused of being ‘radical’ and ‘too angry’ because they are rejecting politics as usual?” That, from Susan Molinari.

So the administration’s flunky on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights walks out to deny a quorum, preventing a vote on the interim report concerning the New Black Panther Party scandal. (But the vice chairman is no better — she didn’t show up.) Remember, your tax dollars are paying these people to play hide and seek.

So what is not to like about this man? Nothing yet.

So Obama is no George W. Bush. “Mr. Mubarak’s tightening sharply contrasts with his behavior during Egypt’s last major election season, in 2005. Then he loosened controls on the media, introduced a constitutional amendment allowing the first contested election for president, and released his principal secular challenger from jail. He did all this under heavy pressure from then-President George W. Bush, who had publicly called on Egypt to ‘lead the way’ in Arab political reform. … Mr. Mubarak’s actions reflect a common calculation across the Middle East: that this U.S. president, unlike his predecessor, is not particularly interested in democratic change.”

So what grade does he get? Obama said we should evaluate him on the economy: “An economy growing at a sluggish 2 percent, almost all economists agree, cannot produce nearly the demand needed to lower the nation’s painfully high 9.6 percent unemployment rate. And inventories continued to grow and the trade gap remained wide, as imports outpaced exports. The numbers are not likely to provide much of a morale boost for President Obama and Democrats, who are days away from crucial midterm elections. High unemployment and soaring foreclosure numbers in the Midwest and West already made this a particularly difficult election for Democrats. Friday’s numbers offer little relief.”

So what is missing from David Brooks’s excellent advice? “First, the president is going to have to win back independents. … Second, Obama needs to redefine his identity. … Third, Obama will need to respond to the nation’s fear of decline. … Fourth, Obama has to build an institutional structure to support a more moderate approach.” Well, a president who is moderate, flexible, and self-reflective.

So how did Obama get his reputation as an “intellectual”? James Taranto and I agree: “Professors imagine Obama is one of them because he shares their attitudes: their politically correct opinions, their condescending view of ordinary Americans, their belief in their own authority as an intellectual elite. He is the ideal product of the homogeneous world of contemporary academia. In his importance, they see a reflection of their self-importance.”

So naturally, she had to go. “[Michelle] Rhee added a new urgency and righteous anger to the school reform movement, one that she will now take to a national platform. She asked how the District could compile an abysmal academic record and yet rate most of their teachers as meeting or exceeding expectations. She decreed that poverty was no longer a reason for expecting less of a child in Anacostia than one in Tenleytown.”

So now the New York Times sounds like National Review: “Rather than entertaining the possibility that the program they have pursued is genuinely and even legitimately unpopular, the White House and its allies have concluded that their political troubles amount to mainly a message and image problem.” The Gray Lady has also discovered Obama has an “elitism” problem. Who knew?

So smart are these Obama diplomats, we were told. Alas: “The White House spent an hour Friday afternoon trying to convince angry Hill staffers and human rights activists that ‘naming and shaming’ governments that recruit child soldiers, rather than imposing Congressionally-mandated sanctions on them, will better address the problem. But advocacy leaders are upset with the administration and rejected top White House officials’ contention that removing sanctions against four troubled states will be a positive move. … Overall, the call showed that the White House realized it botched the rollout of the decision but is standing by the decision itself. Next, they will have to defend it on Capitol Hill, where staffers are set to receive a special briefing on the issue next week.”

So let me see if I got this straight? President Obama goes to Florida in August to campaign for Rep. Kendrick Meek. Then recently, former President Clinton goes in to ‘campaign’ for Meek by trying to get him to drop out of the race. And voters this year are being accused of being ‘radical’ and ‘too angry’ because they are rejecting politics as usual?” That, from Susan Molinari.

So the administration’s flunky on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights walks out to deny a quorum, preventing a vote on the interim report concerning the New Black Panther Party scandal. (But the vice chairman is no better — she didn’t show up.) Remember, your tax dollars are paying these people to play hide and seek.

So what is not to like about this man? Nothing yet.

So Obama is no George W. Bush. “Mr. Mubarak’s tightening sharply contrasts with his behavior during Egypt’s last major election season, in 2005. Then he loosened controls on the media, introduced a constitutional amendment allowing the first contested election for president, and released his principal secular challenger from jail. He did all this under heavy pressure from then-President George W. Bush, who had publicly called on Egypt to ‘lead the way’ in Arab political reform. … Mr. Mubarak’s actions reflect a common calculation across the Middle East: that this U.S. president, unlike his predecessor, is not particularly interested in democratic change.”

So what grade does he get? Obama said we should evaluate him on the economy: “An economy growing at a sluggish 2 percent, almost all economists agree, cannot produce nearly the demand needed to lower the nation’s painfully high 9.6 percent unemployment rate. And inventories continued to grow and the trade gap remained wide, as imports outpaced exports. The numbers are not likely to provide much of a morale boost for President Obama and Democrats, who are days away from crucial midterm elections. High unemployment and soaring foreclosure numbers in the Midwest and West already made this a particularly difficult election for Democrats. Friday’s numbers offer little relief.”

So what is missing from David Brooks’s excellent advice? “First, the president is going to have to win back independents. … Second, Obama needs to redefine his identity. … Third, Obama will need to respond to the nation’s fear of decline. … Fourth, Obama has to build an institutional structure to support a more moderate approach.” Well, a president who is moderate, flexible, and self-reflective.

So how did Obama get his reputation as an “intellectual”? James Taranto and I agree: “Professors imagine Obama is one of them because he shares their attitudes: their politically correct opinions, their condescending view of ordinary Americans, their belief in their own authority as an intellectual elite. He is the ideal product of the homogeneous world of contemporary academia. In his importance, they see a reflection of their self-importance.”

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CAIR Explains to the Media: Shut Up

As I wrote yesterday, the Islamists – and their funders and enablers — have perfected the tactic of intimidating pundits and news outlets that stray from the pro-Islamist line. The Daily Caller reports:

Since their founding in 1994, CAIR has sued and/or attacked with consequence such media outlets as: The Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times, The National Post, National Review, Anti-CAIR, various talk radio hosts, and college newspapers. Recently, even The Daily Caller has found itself caught in CAIR’s cross hairs.

“It is really impossible to know how many people have been intimidated with these lawsuits because if you read the original letter they sent to me, you know, ‘don’t discuss this with anybody else.’ How many people have succumbed to that and said, ‘hey, we don’t want to get involved in this,’ and they’ve quietly gone away,” Andrew Whitehead, a blogger CAIR sued in 2004 for defamation, told The Daily Caller.
Indeed, it was difficult to find individuals to go on the record for this article about CAIR’s alleged intimidation tactics for just that reason, as well as safety concerns of sources.

(As an aside, does Joe Sestak think this is part of CAIR’s wonderful work, which he cooed about at a fundraiser for the free-speech bullies?) It is not hard to figure out the strategy here:

CAIR also has been able to terminate careers. In 2005, despite widespread listener support and lip service to the importance of free speech, ABC radio fired Michael Graham from D.C.’s 630 WMAL in the wake of threats and pressure by CAIR for his criticisms of Islam as a terrorist organization. “What was told to me by people who would have knowledge of this inside ABC Disney was, CAIR sent out an appeal to people with large stock holdings in Disney and people from the Middle East responded to the appeal and pressured ABC Disney to dump me,” Graham said.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has been observing CAIR’s tactics for years. “They are completely removed from all responsibility of reform and the ideological problem and to them it is all about intimidation and somehow putting the fear of God into people so that they think it is going to prevent it from happening again,” Jasser said. “And then they get up and start telling America about Islamaphobia, when they’re creating phobias….It almost seems like their role is to inflame Muslims against their own society.”

It is equally obvious how to combat this problem. Politicians who indulge groups like CAIR should be held responsible by voters. Media outlets that adhere to the Islamist line (notice how “Ground Zero” has disappeared and it’s all about “Park51″) should be queried and challenged by readers and competing outlets. And, most important, the scrutiny of and research into terror organizations, their sponsors and apologists should continue unabated. The accusation of “Islamophobia” should be dismissed for what it is — an unsubtle attempt to smear and silence critics.

Obama fancies himself the explainer in chief of Islam. What we need are leaders able to explain what radical Muslims are all about and denounce their thuggish tactics that bespeak of an intolerant and totalitarian outlook.

As I wrote yesterday, the Islamists – and their funders and enablers — have perfected the tactic of intimidating pundits and news outlets that stray from the pro-Islamist line. The Daily Caller reports:

Since their founding in 1994, CAIR has sued and/or attacked with consequence such media outlets as: The Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times, The National Post, National Review, Anti-CAIR, various talk radio hosts, and college newspapers. Recently, even The Daily Caller has found itself caught in CAIR’s cross hairs.

“It is really impossible to know how many people have been intimidated with these lawsuits because if you read the original letter they sent to me, you know, ‘don’t discuss this with anybody else.’ How many people have succumbed to that and said, ‘hey, we don’t want to get involved in this,’ and they’ve quietly gone away,” Andrew Whitehead, a blogger CAIR sued in 2004 for defamation, told The Daily Caller.
Indeed, it was difficult to find individuals to go on the record for this article about CAIR’s alleged intimidation tactics for just that reason, as well as safety concerns of sources.

(As an aside, does Joe Sestak think this is part of CAIR’s wonderful work, which he cooed about at a fundraiser for the free-speech bullies?) It is not hard to figure out the strategy here:

CAIR also has been able to terminate careers. In 2005, despite widespread listener support and lip service to the importance of free speech, ABC radio fired Michael Graham from D.C.’s 630 WMAL in the wake of threats and pressure by CAIR for his criticisms of Islam as a terrorist organization. “What was told to me by people who would have knowledge of this inside ABC Disney was, CAIR sent out an appeal to people with large stock holdings in Disney and people from the Middle East responded to the appeal and pressured ABC Disney to dump me,” Graham said.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has been observing CAIR’s tactics for years. “They are completely removed from all responsibility of reform and the ideological problem and to them it is all about intimidation and somehow putting the fear of God into people so that they think it is going to prevent it from happening again,” Jasser said. “And then they get up and start telling America about Islamaphobia, when they’re creating phobias….It almost seems like their role is to inflame Muslims against their own society.”

It is equally obvious how to combat this problem. Politicians who indulge groups like CAIR should be held responsible by voters. Media outlets that adhere to the Islamist line (notice how “Ground Zero” has disappeared and it’s all about “Park51″) should be queried and challenged by readers and competing outlets. And, most important, the scrutiny of and research into terror organizations, their sponsors and apologists should continue unabated. The accusation of “Islamophobia” should be dismissed for what it is — an unsubtle attempt to smear and silence critics.

Obama fancies himself the explainer in chief of Islam. What we need are leaders able to explain what radical Muslims are all about and denounce their thuggish tactics that bespeak of an intolerant and totalitarian outlook.

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What Objection to the Ground Zero Mosque Is Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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James J. Kilpatrick, R.I.P.

When I was a young teenager in the 1970s, and just beginning to enjoy the local paper’s editorial page, I flipped past everything else to read the columns of James J. Kilpatrick. He wrote frequently for National Review, where the members of the fabled staff called him “Kilpo.” I sent a letter or two his way, care of one periodical or another, back in the days when typing laboriously on a fresh sheet of paper seemed very grown-up and important. He was kind enough to send me a handwritten answer on one occasion. Kilpatrick was born and raised in Oklahoma City, where I spent a number of my early years; but more than that, he was acerbic, illuminating, and entertaining about language and politics.

Many will remember him as the conservative debater on the “Point-Counterpoint” segment of 60 Minutes, a position he occupied from 1971 to 1979. In the quarter-century following his departure from 60 Minutes, he carved out a unique niche in the conservative punditry as an acute observer of the Supreme Court. But his first loves were obviously writing and language, and it’s for his columns on those topics — and his indispensable 1985 book, The Writer’s Art — that I remember him best.

Authors of books should not underestimate the impact they have on readers. I suspect The Writer’s Art will outlive Kilpatrick’s other contributions to our shared intellectual landscape. It is as fresh, sprightly, instructive, and funny today as it was when I bought my dog-eared copy 25 years ago. Someone has to write about writing, but not everyone makes the forensic examination an adventure. The Writer’s Art is Exhibit A in my case that Kilpatrick deserved to have his literary quirks and preferences respected — and his inconsistencies overlooked — simply because he wrote so well.

There were inconsistencies, of course. In later life, Kilpatrick urged all-out war on the semicolon, a punctuation device with which The Writer’s Art is absolutely stuffed. He rethought some of his early political ideas too: he made his name in the civil rights era as a defender of states’ rights and local sovereignty, wedding this theme with the then-respectable argument that school segregation was appropriate for the conditions of the American South. Eventually, he changed his mind on the segregation issue. Wikipedia now refers to him simply as a “segregationist,” a characterization that poignantly elides decades’ worth of serious constitutional debate and erects a victor’s monument on the unmarked grave of federalism.

But Kilpatrick rose to fame in that earlier time and was a product of it. His crotchets, like his on-screen demeanor and his political arguments, were courtly and engaging. He could eviscerate writing without denigrating the writer, a civilized skill rare in any age. He wrote about politics unhaunted by the fear of being soundbitten and misrepresented, a member of perhaps the last American generation to do so. He was the living antithesis of “snark.”

A passage I have long remembered from The Writer’s Art serves as a fitting coda to a consummate writer’s life:

Let me make the point and pass on: If you would write emotionally, be first unemotional. If you would move your readers to tears, do not let them see you cry.

I don’t think he ever did.

When I was a young teenager in the 1970s, and just beginning to enjoy the local paper’s editorial page, I flipped past everything else to read the columns of James J. Kilpatrick. He wrote frequently for National Review, where the members of the fabled staff called him “Kilpo.” I sent a letter or two his way, care of one periodical or another, back in the days when typing laboriously on a fresh sheet of paper seemed very grown-up and important. He was kind enough to send me a handwritten answer on one occasion. Kilpatrick was born and raised in Oklahoma City, where I spent a number of my early years; but more than that, he was acerbic, illuminating, and entertaining about language and politics.

Many will remember him as the conservative debater on the “Point-Counterpoint” segment of 60 Minutes, a position he occupied from 1971 to 1979. In the quarter-century following his departure from 60 Minutes, he carved out a unique niche in the conservative punditry as an acute observer of the Supreme Court. But his first loves were obviously writing and language, and it’s for his columns on those topics — and his indispensable 1985 book, The Writer’s Art — that I remember him best.

Authors of books should not underestimate the impact they have on readers. I suspect The Writer’s Art will outlive Kilpatrick’s other contributions to our shared intellectual landscape. It is as fresh, sprightly, instructive, and funny today as it was when I bought my dog-eared copy 25 years ago. Someone has to write about writing, but not everyone makes the forensic examination an adventure. The Writer’s Art is Exhibit A in my case that Kilpatrick deserved to have his literary quirks and preferences respected — and his inconsistencies overlooked — simply because he wrote so well.

There were inconsistencies, of course. In later life, Kilpatrick urged all-out war on the semicolon, a punctuation device with which The Writer’s Art is absolutely stuffed. He rethought some of his early political ideas too: he made his name in the civil rights era as a defender of states’ rights and local sovereignty, wedding this theme with the then-respectable argument that school segregation was appropriate for the conditions of the American South. Eventually, he changed his mind on the segregation issue. Wikipedia now refers to him simply as a “segregationist,” a characterization that poignantly elides decades’ worth of serious constitutional debate and erects a victor’s monument on the unmarked grave of federalism.

But Kilpatrick rose to fame in that earlier time and was a product of it. His crotchets, like his on-screen demeanor and his political arguments, were courtly and engaging. He could eviscerate writing without denigrating the writer, a civilized skill rare in any age. He wrote about politics unhaunted by the fear of being soundbitten and misrepresented, a member of perhaps the last American generation to do so. He was the living antithesis of “snark.”

A passage I have long remembered from The Writer’s Art serves as a fitting coda to a consummate writer’s life:

Let me make the point and pass on: If you would write emotionally, be first unemotional. If you would move your readers to tears, do not let them see you cry.

I don’t think he ever did.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Associated Press or National Review? On SestakGate: “Crimping his carefully crafted outsider image and undercutting a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama got caught playing the usual politics — dangling a job offer for a political favor in the hunt for power. … Obama has a political problem. Because what did take place was backroom bargaining, political maneuvering and stonewalling, all of which run counter to the higher — perhaps impossibly high — bar Obama has set for himself and his White House to do things differently. The White House’s reluctant acknowledgment of the chain of events shone a light on the unseemly, favor-trading side of politics — and at an inopportune time for Obama and Democrats as they seek to keep control of Congress.”

American Spectator or Politico? “The White House’s failure to designate a single spokesperson — with a corresponding schedule of media updates to show the administration in action — may have been intended to convey an all-hands-on-deck approach to the BP oil spill. Instead, it has created a public relations vacuum, being filled by critics of the president’s approach. And the one man who might have filled that role — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — already has had a pair of high-profile stumbles, with not one, but two of his comments effectively retracted from the White House podium.”

Maureen Dowd or Michael Gerson? “Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it. … Too often it feels as though Barry is watching from a balcony, reluctant to enter the fray until the clamor of the crowd forces him to come down. The pattern is perverse. The man whose presidency is rooted in his ability to inspire withholds that inspiration when it is most needed.”

A Hamas spokesman or a liberal Democrat candidate for the House? “For many Jews the birth of Israel is a celebration, but for the Palestinians it was the nakba, a catastrophe. There’s no safety or security in barring people from their homeland.”

The mayor of the city attacked on September 11 or a CAIR spokesman? On the proposed mosque to be built at Ground Zero: “I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming. … And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too.”

The Onion or the Associated Press? “The case against four men accused of plotting to bomb New York synagogues and shoot down military planes will not focus on whether they were members of a terrorist group, a federal prosecutor said yesterday. … The trial is ‘going to be about whether these guys were going to blow something up,’ Assistant US Attorney David Raskin.”

“Constitutional conservative” or Constitutional radical? “Rand Paul’s interview with the Russian government propaganda channel Russia Today is getting a lot of attention today for his assertion that he opposes the American tradition of granting citizenship to everyone born in the United States.” And what’s he doing talking to a Russian propaganda outfit?

Bill Clinton or spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation? On labor unions attacking Blanche Lincoln: “National labor unions [have] decided to make Lincoln ‘the poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them. … In other words, this is about using you and manipulating your votes to terrify members of Congress and members of the Senate from other states.’”

The Associated Press or National Review? On SestakGate: “Crimping his carefully crafted outsider image and undercutting a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama got caught playing the usual politics — dangling a job offer for a political favor in the hunt for power. … Obama has a political problem. Because what did take place was backroom bargaining, political maneuvering and stonewalling, all of which run counter to the higher — perhaps impossibly high — bar Obama has set for himself and his White House to do things differently. The White House’s reluctant acknowledgment of the chain of events shone a light on the unseemly, favor-trading side of politics — and at an inopportune time for Obama and Democrats as they seek to keep control of Congress.”

American Spectator or Politico? “The White House’s failure to designate a single spokesperson — with a corresponding schedule of media updates to show the administration in action — may have been intended to convey an all-hands-on-deck approach to the BP oil spill. Instead, it has created a public relations vacuum, being filled by critics of the president’s approach. And the one man who might have filled that role — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — already has had a pair of high-profile stumbles, with not one, but two of his comments effectively retracted from the White House podium.”

Maureen Dowd or Michael Gerson? “Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it. … Too often it feels as though Barry is watching from a balcony, reluctant to enter the fray until the clamor of the crowd forces him to come down. The pattern is perverse. The man whose presidency is rooted in his ability to inspire withholds that inspiration when it is most needed.”

A Hamas spokesman or a liberal Democrat candidate for the House? “For many Jews the birth of Israel is a celebration, but for the Palestinians it was the nakba, a catastrophe. There’s no safety or security in barring people from their homeland.”

The mayor of the city attacked on September 11 or a CAIR spokesman? On the proposed mosque to be built at Ground Zero: “I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming. … And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too.”

The Onion or the Associated Press? “The case against four men accused of plotting to bomb New York synagogues and shoot down military planes will not focus on whether they were members of a terrorist group, a federal prosecutor said yesterday. … The trial is ‘going to be about whether these guys were going to blow something up,’ Assistant US Attorney David Raskin.”

“Constitutional conservative” or Constitutional radical? “Rand Paul’s interview with the Russian government propaganda channel Russia Today is getting a lot of attention today for his assertion that he opposes the American tradition of granting citizenship to everyone born in the United States.” And what’s he doing talking to a Russian propaganda outfit?

Bill Clinton or spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation? On labor unions attacking Blanche Lincoln: “National labor unions [have] decided to make Lincoln ‘the poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them. … In other words, this is about using you and manipulating your votes to terrify members of Congress and members of the Senate from other states.’”

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Welcome, Ricochet

Peter Robinson (with whom I speak here) and Rob Long (author of, among many other things, one of the funniest books ever written about Hollywood, Conversations with My Agent) have just opened up their new group blog Ricochet for general viewing, and I have to say, as a veteran group blogger here and at National Review‘s The Corner, it’s a triumphant debut. Give it a look. There are also some very, very amusing podcasts featuring Rob, Peter, and Mark Steyn.

Peter Robinson (with whom I speak here) and Rob Long (author of, among many other things, one of the funniest books ever written about Hollywood, Conversations with My Agent) have just opened up their new group blog Ricochet for general viewing, and I have to say, as a veteran group blogger here and at National Review‘s The Corner, it’s a triumphant debut. Give it a look. There are also some very, very amusing podcasts featuring Rob, Peter, and Mark Steyn.

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Petraeus, Israel, and Facts Not in Evidence

Andy McCarthy is a great prosecutor — and a great writer on subjects related to the legal treatment of terrorists. But I fear he is misguided in his critique of American counterinsurgency strategy, which has been so effective in Iraq and can be effective again in Afghanistan, and in his larger contempt for what he calls (with mocking capitalizations) the “Islamic Democracy Project.”

Personally I side with President Bush, who realized that we had no choice but to shake up the sclerotic Middle East in our own interest. I have been greatly encouraged to see how nascent democracy has begun to take hold in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, in Afghanistan; I see very little evidence that, as McCarthy has it, “we are building sharia states hostile to American interests.”

But rather than debate our broader Middle East policy with McCarthy, I want to offer a short comment on his attempt to attack General David Petraeus for the canard — which I thought I and others had already shot down — that the general is somehow anti-Israel. In National Review, McCarthy writes in high dudgeon about a “surpassingly foolish statement in which Gen. David Petraeus cast Israel as the source of all America’s woes in the Middle East.”

His basis for this claim is an already discredited blog item by terrorist groupie Mark Perry. But McCarthy claims not to be convinced by Petraeus’s statements that he didn’t say what Perry claims he said. He insists that I am spinning away Petraeus’s true views, which are exposed on page 12 of the Central Command “posture statement” submitted to Congress. That statement lists 11 “cross-cutting challenges to security and stability,” including “insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace.”

There is one whole paragraph on Israel in this 56-page report, and here is what it has to say in its entirety:

The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.

That’s it. Even if you discount everything that Petraeus has publicly said on the topic, and you look simply at the text of this statement, I am puzzled to see how McCarthy can infer that Petraeus “cast Israel as the source of all America’s woes in the Middle East.” The statement does not blame Israel for the lack of progress on peace negotiations, much less for “all America’s woes” in the region. It simply doesn’t. Suggesting it does is to assume — as the lawyers like to say — “facts not in evidence.”

Andy McCarthy is a great prosecutor — and a great writer on subjects related to the legal treatment of terrorists. But I fear he is misguided in his critique of American counterinsurgency strategy, which has been so effective in Iraq and can be effective again in Afghanistan, and in his larger contempt for what he calls (with mocking capitalizations) the “Islamic Democracy Project.”

Personally I side with President Bush, who realized that we had no choice but to shake up the sclerotic Middle East in our own interest. I have been greatly encouraged to see how nascent democracy has begun to take hold in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, in Afghanistan; I see very little evidence that, as McCarthy has it, “we are building sharia states hostile to American interests.”

But rather than debate our broader Middle East policy with McCarthy, I want to offer a short comment on his attempt to attack General David Petraeus for the canard — which I thought I and others had already shot down — that the general is somehow anti-Israel. In National Review, McCarthy writes in high dudgeon about a “surpassingly foolish statement in which Gen. David Petraeus cast Israel as the source of all America’s woes in the Middle East.”

His basis for this claim is an already discredited blog item by terrorist groupie Mark Perry. But McCarthy claims not to be convinced by Petraeus’s statements that he didn’t say what Perry claims he said. He insists that I am spinning away Petraeus’s true views, which are exposed on page 12 of the Central Command “posture statement” submitted to Congress. That statement lists 11 “cross-cutting challenges to security and stability,” including “insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace.”

There is one whole paragraph on Israel in this 56-page report, and here is what it has to say in its entirety:

The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.

That’s it. Even if you discount everything that Petraeus has publicly said on the topic, and you look simply at the text of this statement, I am puzzled to see how McCarthy can infer that Petraeus “cast Israel as the source of all America’s woes in the Middle East.” The statement does not blame Israel for the lack of progress on peace negotiations, much less for “all America’s woes” in the region. It simply doesn’t. Suggesting it does is to assume — as the lawyers like to say — “facts not in evidence.”

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The Repulsive Politics of Tom Tancredo

I consider the Tea Party movement to be, on balance, a positive force in American politics. It is a spontaneous and fully justified response to the reckless policies, the fiscal ones in particular, of the Obama administration. It is comprised of admirable and civic-minded Americans. And as Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O’Beirne point out in National Review, it is, for the GOP, an opportunity rather than a threat.

But it is a movement, like many movements, that carries with it some risks. This weekend we learned, for example, that some Tea Party members are apparently receptive to appeals from the worst angels of our nature. I have in mind the comments at last week’s Tea Party Convention by former Representative Tom Tancredo, who told a cheering audience that “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.” The reason we elected “Barack Hussein Obama,” Tancredo went on, is “mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

This is ugly (to say nothing of stupid and ignorant) stuff. It is the manifestation of a person filled with rage and obsessions, bitter and brittle, eager to play to people’s worst instincts. Tancredo — who was a Member of the House of Representatives and ran for president in 2008 — should be condemned by all Republicans who believe that such an individual does not represent the GOP, which, after all, is the party of Lincoln and Reagan. It is inconceivable that either man on his worst day would utter anything remotely this offensive. Both Lincoln and Reagan were politicians of conviction, whose words and conduct were most often marked by grace and civility, who came across as irenic rather than enraged. They were, in other words, the polar opposite of Mr. Tancredo.

There are plenty of legitimate ways to criticize President Obama and his agenda. Leave it to Tom Tancredo to cross the line, not by inches but by miles.

No party, and no movement, should provide a home or a platform to a man who practices this kind of repulsive politics.

I consider the Tea Party movement to be, on balance, a positive force in American politics. It is a spontaneous and fully justified response to the reckless policies, the fiscal ones in particular, of the Obama administration. It is comprised of admirable and civic-minded Americans. And as Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O’Beirne point out in National Review, it is, for the GOP, an opportunity rather than a threat.

But it is a movement, like many movements, that carries with it some risks. This weekend we learned, for example, that some Tea Party members are apparently receptive to appeals from the worst angels of our nature. I have in mind the comments at last week’s Tea Party Convention by former Representative Tom Tancredo, who told a cheering audience that “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.” The reason we elected “Barack Hussein Obama,” Tancredo went on, is “mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

This is ugly (to say nothing of stupid and ignorant) stuff. It is the manifestation of a person filled with rage and obsessions, bitter and brittle, eager to play to people’s worst instincts. Tancredo — who was a Member of the House of Representatives and ran for president in 2008 — should be condemned by all Republicans who believe that such an individual does not represent the GOP, which, after all, is the party of Lincoln and Reagan. It is inconceivable that either man on his worst day would utter anything remotely this offensive. Both Lincoln and Reagan were politicians of conviction, whose words and conduct were most often marked by grace and civility, who came across as irenic rather than enraged. They were, in other words, the polar opposite of Mr. Tancredo.

There are plenty of legitimate ways to criticize President Obama and his agenda. Leave it to Tom Tancredo to cross the line, not by inches but by miles.

No party, and no movement, should provide a home or a platform to a man who practices this kind of repulsive politics.

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Will It Help Him?

The very early consensus in the mushy mainstream is that, yes, Obama did himself good tonight. (Not so in National Review’s The Corner, whose writers heard a far more acidic, petulant, and nasty speech than I did.) Given that the only memorable passage was his lovely invocation of American optimism and toughness, I’m not sure how it will. There wasn’t much to rally behind, or toward, or about. And he gave his own party no cover. Indeed, he seemed to ask them to shoulder a lot of the blame for America’s anger and cynicism, in effect offering them as a sacrificial lamb for his own standing.

The very early consensus in the mushy mainstream is that, yes, Obama did himself good tonight. (Not so in National Review’s The Corner, whose writers heard a far more acidic, petulant, and nasty speech than I did.) Given that the only memorable passage was his lovely invocation of American optimism and toughness, I’m not sure how it will. There wasn’t much to rally behind, or toward, or about. And he gave his own party no cover. Indeed, he seemed to ask them to shoulder a lot of the blame for America’s anger and cynicism, in effect offering them as a sacrificial lamb for his own standing.

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In Big Trouble

John Judis at the New Republic doesn’t mince words:

Bill Clinton didn’t know he was in big trouble until the very eve of the November 1994 election. Barack Obama knows now, barely a year into his presidency. While the party loyalists can blame Martha Coakley’s defeat on her ignorance of Red Sox baseball, it was clearly a message to the president and his party. Yes, a less inept candidate might have beaten Scott Brown, but if Obama and his program had been more popular in Massachusetts, even Coakley could have won–and by ten points or more.

He makes a smart observation that most liberals refuse to recognize: it’s the substance of the health-care bill and the backroom dealings that have driven the enthusiasm gap on the other side and dispirited Obama’s own base:

Obama’s health care plan has provoked a combination of right-wing and left-wing populism. The middle class and senior citizens see it as a program that taxes and takes benefits away from them in order to help those without insurance–the out groups–and to enrich the insurance companies themselves. They didn’t invent this perception out of thin air: It derived in part from the plan to tax “Cadillac” health care plans (which are sometimes held by unionized middle class workers), penalize workers who don’t buy insurance, and cut future Medicare spending, while providing new subscribers and profits for the insurance companies. Undoubtedly, the prior perception of Obama’s financial policies reinforced these suspicions about his health care plan, which is now as unpopular as the bank bailout.

Oblivious White House spinners and equally dense lefty bloggers keep insisting that the answer is “More of the same!” But there’s a price to be paid for rushing through behind closed doors a bill so atrocious that it has brought together Jane Hamsher and Bill Kristol, the Nation and National Review, and other political odd couples.

Judis connects the health-care debacle to a more fundamental failing of Obama: his inability to speak to and connect with Middle America. Really, how could a Democratic president push for a bill in which middle-class Americans are required under threat of prosecution to buy expensive health-care policies they don’t want from Big Insurance? We got there because Obama never put forth a coherent plan for what he wanted, and the bill that emerged was the remnants, the lowest common denominator, of what remained after the Senate had discounted the views of Republicans and given up on the pipe dream of the Left (i.e., the public option). The White House convinced itself that middle-class voters were dupes and fools who would celebrate this awful legislation.

Instead, Obama’s sloth (or was it lack of skill and know-how?) in ceding his key policy initiative to the Congress and his contempt for the intelligence of voters — who were expected to be “sold” on a bill so bad that it required closed-door bribery to pass — has cost him dearly. Judis is right: Obama is in big trouble, as are his Democratic allies in Congress. (How long before Harry Reid announces his retirement?) Martha Coakley was a victim, not the cause, of the debacle last night. Had Obama not mishandled a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity, she’d be heading to the Senate.

John Judis at the New Republic doesn’t mince words:

Bill Clinton didn’t know he was in big trouble until the very eve of the November 1994 election. Barack Obama knows now, barely a year into his presidency. While the party loyalists can blame Martha Coakley’s defeat on her ignorance of Red Sox baseball, it was clearly a message to the president and his party. Yes, a less inept candidate might have beaten Scott Brown, but if Obama and his program had been more popular in Massachusetts, even Coakley could have won–and by ten points or more.

He makes a smart observation that most liberals refuse to recognize: it’s the substance of the health-care bill and the backroom dealings that have driven the enthusiasm gap on the other side and dispirited Obama’s own base:

Obama’s health care plan has provoked a combination of right-wing and left-wing populism. The middle class and senior citizens see it as a program that taxes and takes benefits away from them in order to help those without insurance–the out groups–and to enrich the insurance companies themselves. They didn’t invent this perception out of thin air: It derived in part from the plan to tax “Cadillac” health care plans (which are sometimes held by unionized middle class workers), penalize workers who don’t buy insurance, and cut future Medicare spending, while providing new subscribers and profits for the insurance companies. Undoubtedly, the prior perception of Obama’s financial policies reinforced these suspicions about his health care plan, which is now as unpopular as the bank bailout.

Oblivious White House spinners and equally dense lefty bloggers keep insisting that the answer is “More of the same!” But there’s a price to be paid for rushing through behind closed doors a bill so atrocious that it has brought together Jane Hamsher and Bill Kristol, the Nation and National Review, and other political odd couples.

Judis connects the health-care debacle to a more fundamental failing of Obama: his inability to speak to and connect with Middle America. Really, how could a Democratic president push for a bill in which middle-class Americans are required under threat of prosecution to buy expensive health-care policies they don’t want from Big Insurance? We got there because Obama never put forth a coherent plan for what he wanted, and the bill that emerged was the remnants, the lowest common denominator, of what remained after the Senate had discounted the views of Republicans and given up on the pipe dream of the Left (i.e., the public option). The White House convinced itself that middle-class voters were dupes and fools who would celebrate this awful legislation.

Instead, Obama’s sloth (or was it lack of skill and know-how?) in ceding his key policy initiative to the Congress and his contempt for the intelligence of voters — who were expected to be “sold” on a bill so bad that it required closed-door bribery to pass — has cost him dearly. Judis is right: Obama is in big trouble, as are his Democratic allies in Congress. (How long before Harry Reid announces his retirement?) Martha Coakley was a victim, not the cause, of the debacle last night. Had Obama not mishandled a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity, she’d be heading to the Senate.

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Brown on Terrorism

We remarked last night that the Christmas Day bombing and the Massachusetts candidates’ differing reactions may have been more telling than political observers imagined. The Scott Brown campaign agrees, as Andy McCarthy notes:

It was national security that put real distance between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley. “People talk about the potency of the health-care issue,” Brown’s top strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, told National Review’s Robert Costa, “but from our own internal polling, the more potent issue here in Massachusetts was terrorism and the treatment of enemy combatants.” There is a powerful lesson here for Republicans, and here’s hoping they learn it.

Brown’s remarks on national security last night picked up where the campaign left off. They were noteworthy:

And let me say this, with respect to those who wish to harm us, I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation — they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.

Now that’s a message, stated simply and matter of factly, which I suspect will resonate strongly with the public in 2010, unless the Obami get off their “not Bush” anti-terrorism approach. Perhaps the Obami will retreat on giving KSM a civilian trial. Maybe they’ll decide to utilize military commissions to try terrorists. But if not, and if KSM’s trial (at the cost of at least $200M per year) moves ahead, expect it to become yet another issue that Republicans will utilize to great advantage. It’s precisely the sort of “What could they be thinking inside the Beltway?” issue that will appeal to both Republicans and independents, as well as many Democrats who can’t figure out why we’d pay hundreds of millions of dollars to provide a publicity platform to those who want nothing more than to recruit more followers to the cause of murdering Americans.

It’s not simply a national security argument, as Brown pointed out, but a financial one too. And most important, it highlights the populist message Brown rode to victory: the ultra-leftists running Washington D.C. are out of touch with ordinary Americans. Obama likes to say he’s defending “our values” when he declares his intention to close Guantanamo, cease enhanced interrogations, and give terrorists the same constitutional rights as common criminals. Brown argued that Obama has it backward. Our values and our Constitution require no such accommodation to butchers; they require we use all reasonable methods at our disposal to defend American lives and destroy the enemy. Brown’s position has the advantage of being right on the merits, and both right and potent on the politics.

We remarked last night that the Christmas Day bombing and the Massachusetts candidates’ differing reactions may have been more telling than political observers imagined. The Scott Brown campaign agrees, as Andy McCarthy notes:

It was national security that put real distance between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley. “People talk about the potency of the health-care issue,” Brown’s top strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, told National Review’s Robert Costa, “but from our own internal polling, the more potent issue here in Massachusetts was terrorism and the treatment of enemy combatants.” There is a powerful lesson here for Republicans, and here’s hoping they learn it.

Brown’s remarks on national security last night picked up where the campaign left off. They were noteworthy:

And let me say this, with respect to those who wish to harm us, I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation — they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.

Now that’s a message, stated simply and matter of factly, which I suspect will resonate strongly with the public in 2010, unless the Obami get off their “not Bush” anti-terrorism approach. Perhaps the Obami will retreat on giving KSM a civilian trial. Maybe they’ll decide to utilize military commissions to try terrorists. But if not, and if KSM’s trial (at the cost of at least $200M per year) moves ahead, expect it to become yet another issue that Republicans will utilize to great advantage. It’s precisely the sort of “What could they be thinking inside the Beltway?” issue that will appeal to both Republicans and independents, as well as many Democrats who can’t figure out why we’d pay hundreds of millions of dollars to provide a publicity platform to those who want nothing more than to recruit more followers to the cause of murdering Americans.

It’s not simply a national security argument, as Brown pointed out, but a financial one too. And most important, it highlights the populist message Brown rode to victory: the ultra-leftists running Washington D.C. are out of touch with ordinary Americans. Obama likes to say he’s defending “our values” when he declares his intention to close Guantanamo, cease enhanced interrogations, and give terrorists the same constitutional rights as common criminals. Brown argued that Obama has it backward. Our values and our Constitution require no such accommodation to butchers; they require we use all reasonable methods at our disposal to defend American lives and destroy the enemy. Brown’s position has the advantage of being right on the merits, and both right and potent on the politics.

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