Commentary Magazine


Topic: NBC

Don’t Blame the Networks

Republicans are crying foul because ABC, CBS and NBC won’t be carrying a minute of coverage of the first night of their convention next week. That’s a blow to the GOP since it means one of their best speakers and appealing personalities — Ann Romney — will have a smaller audience watching on television than she might have gotten to kick off the Tampa event. Democrats have their own beef as it’s been announced that the following week when their own gathering convenes in Charlotte, NBC will skip the Wednesday night session in order to avoid any interruptions of the National Football League’s opening game between the Giants and the Cowboys. That means a smaller audience for former President Bill Clinton as he makes the nominating speech for President Obama.

This is seen by some as a cynical move by the networks who are accused of placing money making above their civic duty. A disgruntled Romney advisor told the New York Times, “I don’t think it’s the decision that Bill Paley would have made” — a reference to the head of CBS during its so-called “golden age” of network news with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Maybe Paley would have run coverage of Ann Romney’s convention speech instead of a rerun of “Hawaii Five-O” — the show that will be aired on CBS while the candidate’s wife talks. NBC and ABC are also running crime show reruns during this slot. But don’t blame the networks for choosing sleuths over the candidate’s spouse. If they are treating the two national party jamborees very differently from the way Paley and his colleagues did in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, it is because the conventions are different.

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Republicans are crying foul because ABC, CBS and NBC won’t be carrying a minute of coverage of the first night of their convention next week. That’s a blow to the GOP since it means one of their best speakers and appealing personalities — Ann Romney — will have a smaller audience watching on television than she might have gotten to kick off the Tampa event. Democrats have their own beef as it’s been announced that the following week when their own gathering convenes in Charlotte, NBC will skip the Wednesday night session in order to avoid any interruptions of the National Football League’s opening game between the Giants and the Cowboys. That means a smaller audience for former President Bill Clinton as he makes the nominating speech for President Obama.

This is seen by some as a cynical move by the networks who are accused of placing money making above their civic duty. A disgruntled Romney advisor told the New York Times, “I don’t think it’s the decision that Bill Paley would have made” — a reference to the head of CBS during its so-called “golden age” of network news with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Maybe Paley would have run coverage of Ann Romney’s convention speech instead of a rerun of “Hawaii Five-O” — the show that will be aired on CBS while the candidate’s wife talks. NBC and ABC are also running crime show reruns during this slot. But don’t blame the networks for choosing sleuths over the candidate’s spouse. If they are treating the two national party jamborees very differently from the way Paley and his colleagues did in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, it is because the conventions are different.

Back then, they were deliberative political bodies where real issues were debated and voted upon while other, often even more important decisions, were decided in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms off the convention floor. The broadcasts of the conventions weren’t a civics lesson so much as they were a highly dramatic and colorful display of the political system at work. Though some parts could be excruciating, they were often dramatic. And like the NFL contest that many Americans will sensibly prefer to Bill Clinton next month, the outcome won’t have already been decided before the game begins.

The last national convention whose outcome was in doubt prior to its opening was in 1976 when incumbent President Gerald Ford narrowly fended off a challenge from Ronald Reagan and his resurgent conservative movement. Through some speculated about the possibility of a brokered Republican convention this year, that mouth-watering possibility for political junkies was no more likely to happen this year than it has any other presidential year for the last generation. The parties have created a nomination process that makes such an outcome unlikely if not impossible. Neither Republicans nor Democrats will ever have any interest in producing a good spectacle that will mean their side will be unable to prepare for the general election until September. Nor do they relish the political bloodletting and internecine warfare that a deliberative convention would bring.

So they give us what makes sense for them: a highly scripted television show in which the candidate picks all the speakers and dictates the contents of their speeches. Each convention is no more than a lengthy infomercial. Their only resemblance to the past when the nation would sit by their radios or televisions listening with bated breath as the roll call of states voting is the setting in an arena.

Under these circumstances, the parties are lucky that the broadcast networks still give them three free hours of coverage for each convention. Those addicted to politics can watch the cable news networks or C-Span.

It’s true that there was something to be said for the past when anyone with a television set was forced to watch gavel-to-gavel convention coverage. But most Americans now have hundreds of channels to choose from and are no longer dependent on three middle-aged liberal white guys to tell them what the news was at 6:30 each evening.

If the parties want more coverage of their conventions, they should give us something more interesting to watch. Since that is antithetical to their political fortunes, they should pipe down and get the staged charades over with as we head to the fall campaign. And anyone who wants to watch an interesting political convention can rent “The Best Man.”

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Did Twitter Alert NBC to Critical Tweets?

The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent Guy Adams — an outspoken critic of NBC’s Olympic coverage — is claiming he was unfairly censored after he had his Twitter account shut down for tweeting an NBC executive’s corporate email address. The tweet allegedly violated Twitter’s rules, and Adams was suspended after NBC filed an official complaint.

But NBC’s communication shop is now telling the Telegraph that Twitter actually contacted NBC about Adams’ tweet, and guided them through the complaint process.

Why would this matter? Because Twitter and NBC inked a partnership over Olympic coverage that began just last week. And it has some wondering whether that relationship led Twitter to shut down Adams’ criticism of their Olympic coverage:

One of the tweets urged his followers to send their views to Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics. Adams subsequently published Zenkel’s corporate email address and a complaint was filed by NBC.

But in an email to the Daily Telegraph, Christopher McCloskey, NBC Sport’s vice-president of communications, said Twitter had actually contacted the network’s social media department to alert them to Adams’ tweets.

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The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent Guy Adams — an outspoken critic of NBC’s Olympic coverage — is claiming he was unfairly censored after he had his Twitter account shut down for tweeting an NBC executive’s corporate email address. The tweet allegedly violated Twitter’s rules, and Adams was suspended after NBC filed an official complaint.

But NBC’s communication shop is now telling the Telegraph that Twitter actually contacted NBC about Adams’ tweet, and guided them through the complaint process.

Why would this matter? Because Twitter and NBC inked a partnership over Olympic coverage that began just last week. And it has some wondering whether that relationship led Twitter to shut down Adams’ criticism of their Olympic coverage:

One of the tweets urged his followers to send their views to Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics. Adams subsequently published Zenkel’s corporate email address and a complaint was filed by NBC.

But in an email to the Daily Telegraph, Christopher McCloskey, NBC Sport’s vice-president of communications, said Twitter had actually contacted the network’s social media department to alert them to Adams’ tweets.

Some of are framing this as a free speech issue, but it’s really not. Twitter is run by a private company and has the right to suspend users from its platform. Adams, a newspaper correspondent, obviously has other outlets he can use to exercise his speech rights.

Of course, Twitter would also damage its own reputation if it decided not to reinstate Adams. Which is probably the most confusing part of this whole story. Guy Adams isn’t exactly a household name, and while his criticism of the Olympic coverage may have been an annoyance for NBC and Twitter, 99 percent of their audience probably never heard any of it. Would Twitter really risk its public image by shutting him down without cause? Or was this an honest concern about rules violations?

The company has said in the past that it “strive[s] not to remove tweets on the basis of their content.” Strives is the key word. Most Twitter users would probably be uneasy with the idea of Twitter targeting critics of its business interests, if it turns out that was what happened here. Either way, this is a reminder of what Twitter is and what it isn’t. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Twitter isn’t just a giant, unbridled chat room full of everyone you know; it’s a private company-run community with limits, and the rules may not always be enforced evenly across the board.

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Trayvon Martin Case Highlights Why Americans Distrust Media

When Americans first heard the story of the death of Trayvon Martin, many in the public and in the media decided on a narrative for why George Zimmerman killed the unarmed black teenager in Florida on the night of February 26. It was decided that Zimmerman, a “white-Hispanic” (should we now start classifying President Obama as the first white-African American president?) pursued and shot an innocent unarmed black teen in cold blood, because of his own racial bias. Over time, details available to the public have come to light as the narrative on the night changed. Many of the new details have emerged because eyewitnesses have come forward and police reports have come to light. There are a significant number of details, however, that have been shaped and then changed by the media and the biased lens they used to frame the case.

One of the key ways in which the media portrayed the story as one driven by racial violence was by playing the audio of the 9-1-1 call Zimmerman placed the night Martin died. While covering the case, NBC played excerpts of the call which made Zimmerman sound like nothing less than an armed member of the KKK. From the call NBC played the audio:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

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When Americans first heard the story of the death of Trayvon Martin, many in the public and in the media decided on a narrative for why George Zimmerman killed the unarmed black teenager in Florida on the night of February 26. It was decided that Zimmerman, a “white-Hispanic” (should we now start classifying President Obama as the first white-African American president?) pursued and shot an innocent unarmed black teen in cold blood, because of his own racial bias. Over time, details available to the public have come to light as the narrative on the night changed. Many of the new details have emerged because eyewitnesses have come forward and police reports have come to light. There are a significant number of details, however, that have been shaped and then changed by the media and the biased lens they used to frame the case.

One of the key ways in which the media portrayed the story as one driven by racial violence was by playing the audio of the 9-1-1 call Zimmerman placed the night Martin died. While covering the case, NBC played excerpts of the call which made Zimmerman sound like nothing less than an armed member of the KKK. From the call NBC played the audio:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

After playing that phrase on-air multiple times, NBC issued an apology (of sorts). They have now admitted the audio they played to millions of Americans was edited, and the full context of the conversation between Zimmerman and the  9-1-1 operator was this:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black.

A blog post on the Washington Post website articulated what was wrong with the statement issued by NBC:

Does the statement adequately address those concerns? On the good front, it acknowledges the mistake and apologizes to viewers for the bad editing. It’s a forthright correction and spares us any excuses about the faulty portrayal. On the bad front, the statement is skimpy on the details on just how the mistake unfolded. Nor does it articulate an apology directly to George Zimmerman, the “viewer” who is most aggrieved by the screw-up. In light of all that’s happened, Zimmerman may be a tough person for a news network to apologize to, but that’s just the point: Apologies are hard.

The fact that this news broke on a Washington Post blog, and on a low traffic one at that, speaks volumes about how the Post views the NBC error as well.

Many proponents of the racial motivation theory pointed to another aspect of the 9-1-1 tape to prove that Zimmerman’s pursuit and shooting of Martin was due to Zimmerman’s bias. CNN was particularly enthusiastic about playing a segment of the 9-1-1 tape’s audio over and over and over, while trying to discern what was being said over background noise and labored breathing. In the segment, a CNN reporter asserted that he was fairly sure he heard Zimmerman mutter a racial slur while chasing after Martin. Now CNN has enhanced the audio even further, and the reporter who claimed Zimmerman used a slur is now suggesting that instead of Zimmerman complaining about “coons,” he was actually probably using the word “cold.” The likelihood of CNN playing the segment on this correction as many times as it played the alleged remarks is pretty slim.

A crucial part of the case which could establish Zimmerman’s claim that shooting Martin was in self-defense revolves around the moments before the gun went off. Was Martin being chased by Zimmerman, as his family claims, or was he pummeling Zimmerman on the ground, as Zimmerman claims? ABC released a video of Zimmerman’s arrest on the night of Martin’s death, hyping up the claim the video didn’t show any signs of injury on Zimmerman’s part, thereby invalidating his claim that Martin slammed his head against the sidewalk multiple times. Later, ABC broke the story that they themselves had edited the tape, eliminating pictures that proved Zimmerman walked into the police station with fresh head wounds. The Daily Caller remarked,

Now ABC News has reversed itself, and somehow it’s an “exclusive.” Not a correction. Not a retraction. An “exclusive.” Their big scoop is that their previous big scoop was wrong.

As with the CNN and NBC “corrections,” this reversal has received a fraction of the airtime that the original inflammatory accusations against Zimmerman received. As the case unfolds and new details emerge in the mainstream media, my immediate reaction has become: “Interesting. I wonder if it’s true.”

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Was Tim Russert Olbermann’s ‘Greatest Protector’?

The divorce between Keith Olbermann and MSNBC is no surprise. Mr. Olbermann is a notoriously difficult personality; he left on bad terms with ESPN, FOX sports, and now, for a second time, MSNBC.

Olbermann proved to be a ratings draw for MSNBC and helped it secure a solid second place among cable news networks — far behind FOX but still ahead of CNN. Yet higher ratings came at a high cost. Olbermann’s presence stained the journalistic reputation of not only MSNBC but also NBC News. After all, it was the home for, and gave a platform to, an individual who embodied liberalism at its most enraged, most extreme, and most irresponsible. Moreover, for a time Olbermann was not simply a commentator for MSNBC; he was also (with Chris Matthews) an anchor for its political coverage. Having Olbermann as one of the stars in NBC’s journalistic galaxy revealed its biases and also made them more pronounced.

One other thing is worth calling attention to — Olbermann’s statement, in his final broadcast, that Tim Russert was Olbermann’s “greatest protector and most indefatigable cheerleader.”

Since Tim died in 2008, it’s impossible to know whether he would agree with Olbermann’s characterization. But count me a skeptic.

We know Russert was himself an outstanding journalist, a man of impressive fairness who cared deeply about NBC’s reputation. It has also been widely reported that one of Russert’s best friends, Tom Brokaw, felt that Olbermann was doing significant damage to MSNBC. (“After Russert died and Brokaw appointed himself the custodian of the Russert legend, he began beating on Steve Capus and Jeff Zucker and Jeff Immelt that MSNBC was an embarrassment,” one source familiar with the inner workings of the newsroom has said.)

Is it possible that Russert saw in Olbermann what no other serious person did? Could Russert have actually considered Olbermann a jewel in the NBC News crown? Perhaps. But it would take a lot more for me to believe Russert was an “indefatigable cheerleader” for Olbermann than simply Olbermann’s claim that this was the case. After all, Olbermann fashioned himself as not simply a journalist but a modern-day Edward R. Murrow, which tells you everything you need to know about the scale of his self-deception and conceit.

The divorce between Keith Olbermann and MSNBC is no surprise. Mr. Olbermann is a notoriously difficult personality; he left on bad terms with ESPN, FOX sports, and now, for a second time, MSNBC.

Olbermann proved to be a ratings draw for MSNBC and helped it secure a solid second place among cable news networks — far behind FOX but still ahead of CNN. Yet higher ratings came at a high cost. Olbermann’s presence stained the journalistic reputation of not only MSNBC but also NBC News. After all, it was the home for, and gave a platform to, an individual who embodied liberalism at its most enraged, most extreme, and most irresponsible. Moreover, for a time Olbermann was not simply a commentator for MSNBC; he was also (with Chris Matthews) an anchor for its political coverage. Having Olbermann as one of the stars in NBC’s journalistic galaxy revealed its biases and also made them more pronounced.

One other thing is worth calling attention to — Olbermann’s statement, in his final broadcast, that Tim Russert was Olbermann’s “greatest protector and most indefatigable cheerleader.”

Since Tim died in 2008, it’s impossible to know whether he would agree with Olbermann’s characterization. But count me a skeptic.

We know Russert was himself an outstanding journalist, a man of impressive fairness who cared deeply about NBC’s reputation. It has also been widely reported that one of Russert’s best friends, Tom Brokaw, felt that Olbermann was doing significant damage to MSNBC. (“After Russert died and Brokaw appointed himself the custodian of the Russert legend, he began beating on Steve Capus and Jeff Zucker and Jeff Immelt that MSNBC was an embarrassment,” one source familiar with the inner workings of the newsroom has said.)

Is it possible that Russert saw in Olbermann what no other serious person did? Could Russert have actually considered Olbermann a jewel in the NBC News crown? Perhaps. But it would take a lot more for me to believe Russert was an “indefatigable cheerleader” for Olbermann than simply Olbermann’s claim that this was the case. After all, Olbermann fashioned himself as not simply a journalist but a modern-day Edward R. Murrow, which tells you everything you need to know about the scale of his self-deception and conceit.

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Taking Responsibility for Inherited Problems, and Other GOP Dilemmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Did Barack Obama Endorse Dog-Killing QB?

The New York Times’ pro football blog informed us today that reporter Peter King told a national audience on NBC’s “Football Night in America” yesterday that President Barack Obama recently called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to congratulate him on hiring convicted dog killer Michael Vick. Apparently Obama thinks that Lurie did the right thing by offering Vick a second chance in spite of the heinous nature of his crimes.

Given the intense controversy over Vick’s crimes, punishment, and apparent redemption of a sort this season, as he has led the Eagles to victories with a performance that has made him a legitimate contender for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, you might think Obama would have been wise to stay out of this fight. After all, a great many Americans love their pets and many will never forgive or forget Vick’s abominable and heartless behavior as a promoter of dog fighting.

But there is, apparently, another angle to this story that may explain Obama’s willingness to step into a nasty controversy that you might think would do him little good. As the Times’ notes, some writers have been asserting that Vick has been treated unfairly both on the field and off it since they think he is a victim of prejudice against African-Americans who have served time in prison. It’s hard to fathom how an understandable revulsion against a person who personally tortured and killed dogs can be twisted into being a form of racism. But in a liberal media culture where even the most villainous behavior can be rationalized by turning it into an issue of race, I suppose it was inevitable that Vick, rather than the dogs he murdered, would become the victim of the story. Nor should it be any surprise that someone like President Obama, whose leftist sensibilities are always on display, would embrace that dubious narrative.

Nor is it likely that Obama will suffer for endorsing Vick. While there are some animal-rights or pet-lover votes that might be affected by this bizarre presidential endorsement, they are probably outnumbered by those pro football fans who are impatient with any attempt to inject moral issues into the discussion of their favorite sport. It should also be remembered that there are probably a lot more votes in the battleground state of Pennsylvania to be won by pandering to Eagles fans than there are by catering to the feelings of animal-rights activists.

The New York Times’ pro football blog informed us today that reporter Peter King told a national audience on NBC’s “Football Night in America” yesterday that President Barack Obama recently called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to congratulate him on hiring convicted dog killer Michael Vick. Apparently Obama thinks that Lurie did the right thing by offering Vick a second chance in spite of the heinous nature of his crimes.

Given the intense controversy over Vick’s crimes, punishment, and apparent redemption of a sort this season, as he has led the Eagles to victories with a performance that has made him a legitimate contender for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, you might think Obama would have been wise to stay out of this fight. After all, a great many Americans love their pets and many will never forgive or forget Vick’s abominable and heartless behavior as a promoter of dog fighting.

But there is, apparently, another angle to this story that may explain Obama’s willingness to step into a nasty controversy that you might think would do him little good. As the Times’ notes, some writers have been asserting that Vick has been treated unfairly both on the field and off it since they think he is a victim of prejudice against African-Americans who have served time in prison. It’s hard to fathom how an understandable revulsion against a person who personally tortured and killed dogs can be twisted into being a form of racism. But in a liberal media culture where even the most villainous behavior can be rationalized by turning it into an issue of race, I suppose it was inevitable that Vick, rather than the dogs he murdered, would become the victim of the story. Nor should it be any surprise that someone like President Obama, whose leftist sensibilities are always on display, would embrace that dubious narrative.

Nor is it likely that Obama will suffer for endorsing Vick. While there are some animal-rights or pet-lover votes that might be affected by this bizarre presidential endorsement, they are probably outnumbered by those pro football fans who are impatient with any attempt to inject moral issues into the discussion of their favorite sport. It should also be remembered that there are probably a lot more votes in the battleground state of Pennsylvania to be won by pandering to Eagles fans than there are by catering to the feelings of animal-rights activists.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Haass concludes his op-ed this way:

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

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

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

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

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Guess We’re Governable After All

Don’t look now, but the American government is working as it should. Harry Reid, bending to bipartisan reality, has quit fighting for his $1.2 trillion spending bill and turned to short-term budget solutions. We can debate the merits of the $858 billion tax compromise, but it passed without any trickery and, more important, we knew what was in it. Congress now turns to genuine deliberation on the Dream Act, the repeal of DADT, and the ratification of New START. Gone are the kabuki summits, unseemly prime-time sales pitches, and abstruse parliamentary con games. Where Nancy Pelosi had wielded a giant prop gavel and boasted of “making history” with ObamaCare, one real-life federal judge just declared it unconstitutional. How did all this happen? Only a year ago, liberal pundits had pronounced America ungovernable.

What spurred magazines like Newsweek to render that judgment in the first place? A civic and governmental travesty of such gargantuan proportion that it’s chilling to think it actually happened in the United States: Massachusetts elected a Republican senator.

This left little question about whom to blame. “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain,” the magazine’s editors wrote.  Moreover, “any regular observer of Washington would conclude that congressional Republicans have no desire to be reached out to — because they aren’t actually very interested in governing the country.”

Were grapes ever so sour? President Obama and an unbridled Democratic Congress drove Massachusetts into the arms of the GOP within one year, and this meant that Republicans were a danger to the union. The case made before the people was simply an inversion of reality. While Newsweek cited the “GOP’s flagrant use of parliamentary tricks,” Democrats on the Hill were employing maneuvers so recondite, few could accurately define or explain the intricacies of what was happening.  The editors lamented the Republicans’ bullying of the “spineless Democrats,” while Nancy Pelosi bragged of her commando legislation tactics: “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in, but we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the America people.” Newsweek claimed that “congressional Republicans offered no serious counterproposals to the Democrats’ health-care initiative and sought instead to either mislead or simply lie about its key elements,” but it was President Obama who impatiently dismissed the prospect of a bipartisan effort as “another year of partisan wrangling around these issues, another six months’ or eight months’ or nine months’ worth of hearings in every single committee in the House and the Senate in which there’s a lot of posturing.”

What Obama’s first year actually proved was that America is undictatable. Scott Brown was elected because Americans were screaming out for governance and rejecting rule by decree. If a year ago liberals were weeping for America the ungovernable, less than a year later, with the midterm-election trouncing, only celebrity activists and zombified Democratic operatives continue to make such claims. Read More

Don’t look now, but the American government is working as it should. Harry Reid, bending to bipartisan reality, has quit fighting for his $1.2 trillion spending bill and turned to short-term budget solutions. We can debate the merits of the $858 billion tax compromise, but it passed without any trickery and, more important, we knew what was in it. Congress now turns to genuine deliberation on the Dream Act, the repeal of DADT, and the ratification of New START. Gone are the kabuki summits, unseemly prime-time sales pitches, and abstruse parliamentary con games. Where Nancy Pelosi had wielded a giant prop gavel and boasted of “making history” with ObamaCare, one real-life federal judge just declared it unconstitutional. How did all this happen? Only a year ago, liberal pundits had pronounced America ungovernable.

What spurred magazines like Newsweek to render that judgment in the first place? A civic and governmental travesty of such gargantuan proportion that it’s chilling to think it actually happened in the United States: Massachusetts elected a Republican senator.

This left little question about whom to blame. “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain,” the magazine’s editors wrote.  Moreover, “any regular observer of Washington would conclude that congressional Republicans have no desire to be reached out to — because they aren’t actually very interested in governing the country.”

Were grapes ever so sour? President Obama and an unbridled Democratic Congress drove Massachusetts into the arms of the GOP within one year, and this meant that Republicans were a danger to the union. The case made before the people was simply an inversion of reality. While Newsweek cited the “GOP’s flagrant use of parliamentary tricks,” Democrats on the Hill were employing maneuvers so recondite, few could accurately define or explain the intricacies of what was happening.  The editors lamented the Republicans’ bullying of the “spineless Democrats,” while Nancy Pelosi bragged of her commando legislation tactics: “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in, but we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the America people.” Newsweek claimed that “congressional Republicans offered no serious counterproposals to the Democrats’ health-care initiative and sought instead to either mislead or simply lie about its key elements,” but it was President Obama who impatiently dismissed the prospect of a bipartisan effort as “another year of partisan wrangling around these issues, another six months’ or eight months’ or nine months’ worth of hearings in every single committee in the House and the Senate in which there’s a lot of posturing.”

What Obama’s first year actually proved was that America is undictatable. Scott Brown was elected because Americans were screaming out for governance and rejecting rule by decree. If a year ago liberals were weeping for America the ungovernable, less than a year later, with the midterm-election trouncing, only celebrity activists and zombified Democratic operatives continue to make such claims.

The present circumstance should serve as a “teachable moment” for those frustrated Obama enthusiasts who were more outraged by a non-compliant citizenry than they were by an entitled leadership. If there was a threat to the structural soundness of our democracy, it came not from voices of opposition but rather from the ideological bullies who assumed that dissent could only mean defectiveness. In a democracy, the machinery of governance comes to a halt when the people sense someone has tried to override the system. In despotic countries, friction can stop the gears. In the U.S., it’s the energy source that keeps things moving.

On matters of policy, this administration still has much to learn. A new NBC–Wall Street Journal poll shows that 63 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. This is the highest wrong-track number since Obama became president. The figure mostly reflects Americans’ concern about the economy and the government’s failure to raise employment prospects. As grim as things are, the good news is that America is now poised to tackle its toughest challenges. Accountability and ideological pluralism have come out of hiding. As Americans, we need to panic only when they go missing, not when our elected officials don’t get their way.

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Morning Commentary

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has hit the ground running as the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. First items on the agenda: cutting the State Department budget, forcing significant changes at the UN, and increasing pressure on “rogue states.”

Ron Paul is the only member of Congress to vote against a resolution honoring Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Paul has been an outspoken critic of the National Endowment of Democracy, which he claims helps stir up international conflict with taxpayer money. Much of Xiaobo’s fine work has been funded through grants from the NED.

George H.W. Bush has thrown his support behind New START, becoming the most prominent Republican figure yet to publicly back the controversial legislation.

James Fallows cautions not to put too much stock into those exceptional Shanghai test scores, noting that the students tested may not have been representative of the average Chinese student. “No doubt these results reflect something real,” wrote Fallows. “But as with just about everything concerning modern China, the results should also be viewed with some distance and possible skepticism.”

Former Army analyst Bradley Manning is facing half a century in prison for leaking secret military documents to WikiLeaks, but it seems he’s become something of a folk hero among left-wingers. The city council of Berkeley is considering a resolution honoring his “patriotism.” The Washington Examiner’s Mark Hemingway suggests: “Once they take care of this vital matter, perhaps they can get around to finally doing something about all the deranged panhandlers on Telegraph Avenue.”

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg may protest allegations that he’s running for president, but his speech yesterday sure sounded like it. And as NBC’s Mark Murray noted, the words also sounded vaguely familiar.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has hit the ground running as the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. First items on the agenda: cutting the State Department budget, forcing significant changes at the UN, and increasing pressure on “rogue states.”

Ron Paul is the only member of Congress to vote against a resolution honoring Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Paul has been an outspoken critic of the National Endowment of Democracy, which he claims helps stir up international conflict with taxpayer money. Much of Xiaobo’s fine work has been funded through grants from the NED.

George H.W. Bush has thrown his support behind New START, becoming the most prominent Republican figure yet to publicly back the controversial legislation.

James Fallows cautions not to put too much stock into those exceptional Shanghai test scores, noting that the students tested may not have been representative of the average Chinese student. “No doubt these results reflect something real,” wrote Fallows. “But as with just about everything concerning modern China, the results should also be viewed with some distance and possible skepticism.”

Former Army analyst Bradley Manning is facing half a century in prison for leaking secret military documents to WikiLeaks, but it seems he’s become something of a folk hero among left-wingers. The city council of Berkeley is considering a resolution honoring his “patriotism.” The Washington Examiner’s Mark Hemingway suggests: “Once they take care of this vital matter, perhaps they can get around to finally doing something about all the deranged panhandlers on Telegraph Avenue.”

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg may protest allegations that he’s running for president, but his speech yesterday sure sounded like it. And as NBC’s Mark Murray noted, the words also sounded vaguely familiar.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

An unnamed NBC exec explains what’s wrong with a talk show host making campaign donations. It’s sort of like Pete Rose betting on baseball. “The minute that a paid commentator starts betting on an outcome, you call into question your credibility in Republican primaries or Democratic primaries, you call into question whether an elected hopeful/official is coming on your air to win a favor, to win your endorsement and then it defeats the purpose of why you have a show in the first place.”

Jon Stewart explains to the media what’s wrong with picking on politicians’ kids. (Yes, it’s pathetic that Stewart is now among the best MSM ombudsmen out there.)

Sounds like he’s figured out what’s wrong with the RNC. “In his announcement [for RNC chairman], Saul Anuzis promised to be ‘a nuts & bolts type of Chairman.’ ‘Of course I will be happy to discuss politics and elections with the media,’ he wrote, ‘but I won’t be competing with valuable airtime from the men and women on our ticket.’ He also pledged to serve only one term.”

John Yoo’s take (which I am delighted matches my own) on what’s wrong with Obama’s anti-terror policies: “The near-total acquittal of an al Qaeda agent by a New York jury this week should, at a minimum, be the last gasp for President Obama’s misguided effort to wage the war on terrorism in the courtroom. But it should also spell the end for a broader law-enforcement approach that interferes with our effective prosecution of the conflict. The best course now is simply to detain al Qaeda members, exploit them for intelligence, and delay trials until the end of hostilities.”

Nothing better sums up what’s right and what’s wrong with Sarah Palin than Matt Labash’s brilliant piece on her new reality show. A sample: “Gravitas, it’s safe to say, is the enemy of freedom. And freedom is about motion—being in it, staying in it. On the show, this involves seein’, and doin’, and experiencin’ things that don’t require a ‘g’ on the end of them, such as shootin’, and rock climbin’, and snow machinin’, and clubbin’ halibut over the head (‘let me see the club, you look crazy,’ says Bristol to her mom when they do the deed on a commercial fishing boat) and media-critiquin’ and BlackBerryin’, which Palin gets caught doing even in the midst of wilderness adventures.” Read the whole thing — and prepare to roar.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth explains what’s wrong with ObamaCare: “If Obamacare offered as much choice as federal health plans, there would be no need to repeal it. Obamacare is a mandatory, one-size-fits-all, expensive, Cadillac plan. The federal health plan allows workers to sign up for low-cost catastrophic plans with health savings accounts (illegal under Obamacare) or high-cost plans with more coverage, all at different prices. Or workers can opt out altogether and pick another system without penalty (again, illegal under Obamacare). Sign-ups and plan changes are once a year, not if you get sick. If Congress replaced Obamacare with the federal plan, everyone would be better off.”

Daniel Kurtzer’s diagnosis of what’s wrong with the Obama peace-plan bribe is screwy. He thinks it “rewards” Israel for settlement-building. But it is instructive in one sense: no one seems to agree it’s a smart move.

What’s wrong with the Obama peace-plan gambit? Elliott Abrams and Michael Singh explain: “The most worrying aspect of Obama’s package is the linkages it establishes between Israeli concessions on settlements (and apparently on the pace of construction in Jerusalem as well) and other unrelated policy matters. Washington has long opposed, and frequently vetoed, U.N. Security Council initiatives targeting Israel. … The suggestion that unless there is a construction freeze America will no longer do so will make it far harder for U.S. negotiators to defeat or soften drafts put forward in the council in future years, and encourage further assaults on Israel there. Leaving Israel undefended in the United Nations will make successful negotiations less, not more, likely, for an Israel that is under constant attack will batten down the hatches not ‘take risks for peace.'” Read the whole thing.

An unnamed NBC exec explains what’s wrong with a talk show host making campaign donations. It’s sort of like Pete Rose betting on baseball. “The minute that a paid commentator starts betting on an outcome, you call into question your credibility in Republican primaries or Democratic primaries, you call into question whether an elected hopeful/official is coming on your air to win a favor, to win your endorsement and then it defeats the purpose of why you have a show in the first place.”

Jon Stewart explains to the media what’s wrong with picking on politicians’ kids. (Yes, it’s pathetic that Stewart is now among the best MSM ombudsmen out there.)

Sounds like he’s figured out what’s wrong with the RNC. “In his announcement [for RNC chairman], Saul Anuzis promised to be ‘a nuts & bolts type of Chairman.’ ‘Of course I will be happy to discuss politics and elections with the media,’ he wrote, ‘but I won’t be competing with valuable airtime from the men and women on our ticket.’ He also pledged to serve only one term.”

John Yoo’s take (which I am delighted matches my own) on what’s wrong with Obama’s anti-terror policies: “The near-total acquittal of an al Qaeda agent by a New York jury this week should, at a minimum, be the last gasp for President Obama’s misguided effort to wage the war on terrorism in the courtroom. But it should also spell the end for a broader law-enforcement approach that interferes with our effective prosecution of the conflict. The best course now is simply to detain al Qaeda members, exploit them for intelligence, and delay trials until the end of hostilities.”

Nothing better sums up what’s right and what’s wrong with Sarah Palin than Matt Labash’s brilliant piece on her new reality show. A sample: “Gravitas, it’s safe to say, is the enemy of freedom. And freedom is about motion—being in it, staying in it. On the show, this involves seein’, and doin’, and experiencin’ things that don’t require a ‘g’ on the end of them, such as shootin’, and rock climbin’, and snow machinin’, and clubbin’ halibut over the head (‘let me see the club, you look crazy,’ says Bristol to her mom when they do the deed on a commercial fishing boat) and media-critiquin’ and BlackBerryin’, which Palin gets caught doing even in the midst of wilderness adventures.” Read the whole thing — and prepare to roar.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth explains what’s wrong with ObamaCare: “If Obamacare offered as much choice as federal health plans, there would be no need to repeal it. Obamacare is a mandatory, one-size-fits-all, expensive, Cadillac plan. The federal health plan allows workers to sign up for low-cost catastrophic plans with health savings accounts (illegal under Obamacare) or high-cost plans with more coverage, all at different prices. Or workers can opt out altogether and pick another system without penalty (again, illegal under Obamacare). Sign-ups and plan changes are once a year, not if you get sick. If Congress replaced Obamacare with the federal plan, everyone would be better off.”

Daniel Kurtzer’s diagnosis of what’s wrong with the Obama peace-plan bribe is screwy. He thinks it “rewards” Israel for settlement-building. But it is instructive in one sense: no one seems to agree it’s a smart move.

What’s wrong with the Obama peace-plan gambit? Elliott Abrams and Michael Singh explain: “The most worrying aspect of Obama’s package is the linkages it establishes between Israeli concessions on settlements (and apparently on the pace of construction in Jerusalem as well) and other unrelated policy matters. Washington has long opposed, and frequently vetoed, U.N. Security Council initiatives targeting Israel. … The suggestion that unless there is a construction freeze America will no longer do so will make it far harder for U.S. negotiators to defeat or soften drafts put forward in the council in future years, and encourage further assaults on Israel there. Leaving Israel undefended in the United Nations will make successful negotiations less, not more, likely, for an Israel that is under constant attack will batten down the hatches not ‘take risks for peace.'” Read the whole thing.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Bad Idea for GOP: Early Presidential Candidate Debates

Today, NBC and Politico announced they would co-host the first Republican presidential debate sometime in the spring of 2011. Presumably they are using the benchmark of April 2007, when the first Democratic debate for 2008 was held in South Carolina. There are so many ways in which this is a terrible idea for Republicans that it’s hard to count them, but here are a few:

1) An incentive for the lunatic fringe: An announcement like this lowers the barrier for entry to the race. Anybody looking for a little attention, or to get a chance to “go viral” with a snappy video-friendly performance highlighting a candidacy with no hope of ultimate success, might be able to get himself-herself into this thing. What if, just to take one bizarre possibility, the evil-crazy pseudo-pastor Fred Phelps of Kansas were to declare himself a candidate for the presidency in the Republican Party a week before the debate so that he could preach his “God hates fags” and “God wants veterans to die” gospel?

2) The panel of pygmies: It could well be, aside from the lunatic possibility, that not a single person who might actually win the nomination would be present on the stage. It would make sense in the new political atmosphere for serious potential candidates not to declare themselves early this cycle. It’s no longer necessary for fundraising; the only thing that speaks to the need for an early declaration is getting the right kind of staff on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. But the operatives in those states would themselves be wise to keep their options open for a while in 2011 rather than commit early. It’s true that the two eventual front-runners in the 2008 Democratic primary were on that stage in April 2007. But so were Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel (remember him? of course you don’t). Was the debate of any value to any Democrat seriously thinking about whom to vote for? Was it even of any use to any of the people on stage other than Kucinich and Gravel, who got a little boost from leftist throw-your-vote-away types?

3) Party mockery: The outlier effect would have a dual purpose for the organizations running it — first, the outliers will surely make some kind of news by being ridiculous in some fashion, and that, in turn, will help cast the Republican effort to make a serious run at Barack Obama in 2012 into something of a joke.

There’s nothing to be done about this. Politico and NBC will extend whatever invitations they extend, and candidates eager for any kind of attention will appear. But very little good can come of this.

Today, NBC and Politico announced they would co-host the first Republican presidential debate sometime in the spring of 2011. Presumably they are using the benchmark of April 2007, when the first Democratic debate for 2008 was held in South Carolina. There are so many ways in which this is a terrible idea for Republicans that it’s hard to count them, but here are a few:

1) An incentive for the lunatic fringe: An announcement like this lowers the barrier for entry to the race. Anybody looking for a little attention, or to get a chance to “go viral” with a snappy video-friendly performance highlighting a candidacy with no hope of ultimate success, might be able to get himself-herself into this thing. What if, just to take one bizarre possibility, the evil-crazy pseudo-pastor Fred Phelps of Kansas were to declare himself a candidate for the presidency in the Republican Party a week before the debate so that he could preach his “God hates fags” and “God wants veterans to die” gospel?

2) The panel of pygmies: It could well be, aside from the lunatic possibility, that not a single person who might actually win the nomination would be present on the stage. It would make sense in the new political atmosphere for serious potential candidates not to declare themselves early this cycle. It’s no longer necessary for fundraising; the only thing that speaks to the need for an early declaration is getting the right kind of staff on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. But the operatives in those states would themselves be wise to keep their options open for a while in 2011 rather than commit early. It’s true that the two eventual front-runners in the 2008 Democratic primary were on that stage in April 2007. But so were Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel (remember him? of course you don’t). Was the debate of any value to any Democrat seriously thinking about whom to vote for? Was it even of any use to any of the people on stage other than Kucinich and Gravel, who got a little boost from leftist throw-your-vote-away types?

3) Party mockery: The outlier effect would have a dual purpose for the organizations running it — first, the outliers will surely make some kind of news by being ridiculous in some fashion, and that, in turn, will help cast the Republican effort to make a serious run at Barack Obama in 2012 into something of a joke.

There’s nothing to be done about this. Politico and NBC will extend whatever invitations they extend, and candidates eager for any kind of attention will appear. But very little good can come of this.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What We Had Here Was Not a Failure to Communicate

The day before the election, the New York Review of Books posted a rant about right-wing radio and TV hosts by Yale professor David Bromwich.

Regarding Rush Limbaugh, Bromwich mixed faux analysis (“Limbaugh seldom speaks overtly about race,” but “no careful listener can doubt that race is an element”) with personal insults (Limbaugh is a “demagogue” with a “sadistic streak” who “mixes truth and falsehood at pleasure” and is “almost infantile in his self-love”). Bromwich’s analysis of Glenn Beck was that he is a “charlatan” with an “alarmingly incoherent personality” who exerts his “strongest enchantment” when he “goes awry.” Nuanced.

It was surprising to see an article composed of little more than ad hominem attacks published in a journal with intellectual pretensions — but perhaps it simply reflected the well-known fact that left-wing intellectuals are hard-wired to write like that when they are scared.

Bromwich’s piece was a reminder of the leftist tendency to oscillate between love of the people in the abstract and disappointment in actually existing people. Two years ago, the people who attended Obama rallies were the people we were waiting for; two years later, the president’s press secretary told them to get drug-tested, the vice president lectured them to stop whining, and the president warned them he was beginning to think they were not serious. And those were the supporters; opponents were branded class enemies.

Bromwich attributes Obama’s political problems not to his policies or programs but to the absence of an effective communications strategy:

Looking back, one feels it was an astonishing negligence for the Obama White House to embark on a campaign for national health care without a solid strategy for fighting the tenacious opposition it could expect at the hands of Fox radio and TV.

Bromwich does not indicate what the strategy should have been — only that it should have been solid (solid strategies are the best kind). But if you can’t convince the public of your program when you have the mainstream media (CBS, NBC, ABC), public television (PBS), the most established cable news network (CNN), the “news” show most watched by young voters (The Daily Show), and unlimited access to the bully pulpit, it is not likely that your problem was the hands of a single network. More likely it was the people.

The day before the election, the New York Review of Books posted a rant about right-wing radio and TV hosts by Yale professor David Bromwich.

Regarding Rush Limbaugh, Bromwich mixed faux analysis (“Limbaugh seldom speaks overtly about race,” but “no careful listener can doubt that race is an element”) with personal insults (Limbaugh is a “demagogue” with a “sadistic streak” who “mixes truth and falsehood at pleasure” and is “almost infantile in his self-love”). Bromwich’s analysis of Glenn Beck was that he is a “charlatan” with an “alarmingly incoherent personality” who exerts his “strongest enchantment” when he “goes awry.” Nuanced.

It was surprising to see an article composed of little more than ad hominem attacks published in a journal with intellectual pretensions — but perhaps it simply reflected the well-known fact that left-wing intellectuals are hard-wired to write like that when they are scared.

Bromwich’s piece was a reminder of the leftist tendency to oscillate between love of the people in the abstract and disappointment in actually existing people. Two years ago, the people who attended Obama rallies were the people we were waiting for; two years later, the president’s press secretary told them to get drug-tested, the vice president lectured them to stop whining, and the president warned them he was beginning to think they were not serious. And those were the supporters; opponents were branded class enemies.

Bromwich attributes Obama’s political problems not to his policies or programs but to the absence of an effective communications strategy:

Looking back, one feels it was an astonishing negligence for the Obama White House to embark on a campaign for national health care without a solid strategy for fighting the tenacious opposition it could expect at the hands of Fox radio and TV.

Bromwich does not indicate what the strategy should have been — only that it should have been solid (solid strategies are the best kind). But if you can’t convince the public of your program when you have the mainstream media (CBS, NBC, ABC), public television (PBS), the most established cable news network (CNN), the “news” show most watched by young voters (The Daily Show), and unlimited access to the bully pulpit, it is not likely that your problem was the hands of a single network. More likely it was the people.

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Not Even Scare Tactics Work

Greg Sargent is down in the dumps. Turns out that the enthusiasm gap is as huge as ever. In fact, according to the recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the chasm is now 20 points. Sargent — with unintentional humor — bemoans:

[T]he enthusiasm deficit remains enormous, even though Dems have tried everything to turn this around: They’ve chanted Bush’s name in unison for months. They’ve raised the specter of foreign money rigging our elections. They’ve floated the possibility of GOP investigations that will make the 1990s look like a latter-day Era of Good Feelings. And they’ve relentlessly elevated the craziest of Tea Party crazies to iconic status. Yet Dems still aren’t goosed up about this election in anywhere near the numbers they need to be — mainly because the GOP enthusiasm levels are essentially steroidal at this point.

Yeah, it is kind of pathetic that this is all the Dems have to work with. And it makes a mockery of the notion that the electorate is voting against Obama’s party out of “fear.” In fact, the fear-mongering Democrats have discovered that even their own base can’t be scared by a grab bag of bogeymen. Maybe the electorate isn’t operating from its lizard brain but with cool calculation: the Obama agenda needs to be stopped.

Now, it is worth noting that Sargent and his ilk argued strenuously that passage of ObamaCare was necessary to prevent just such malaise in the Democratic base. Turns out that all it did was juice up Republicans and infuriate independents. Who knew?

Greg Sargent is down in the dumps. Turns out that the enthusiasm gap is as huge as ever. In fact, according to the recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the chasm is now 20 points. Sargent — with unintentional humor — bemoans:

[T]he enthusiasm deficit remains enormous, even though Dems have tried everything to turn this around: They’ve chanted Bush’s name in unison for months. They’ve raised the specter of foreign money rigging our elections. They’ve floated the possibility of GOP investigations that will make the 1990s look like a latter-day Era of Good Feelings. And they’ve relentlessly elevated the craziest of Tea Party crazies to iconic status. Yet Dems still aren’t goosed up about this election in anywhere near the numbers they need to be — mainly because the GOP enthusiasm levels are essentially steroidal at this point.

Yeah, it is kind of pathetic that this is all the Dems have to work with. And it makes a mockery of the notion that the electorate is voting against Obama’s party out of “fear.” In fact, the fear-mongering Democrats have discovered that even their own base can’t be scared by a grab bag of bogeymen. Maybe the electorate isn’t operating from its lizard brain but with cool calculation: the Obama agenda needs to be stopped.

Now, it is worth noting that Sargent and his ilk argued strenuously that passage of ObamaCare was necessary to prevent just such malaise in the Democratic base. Turns out that all it did was juice up Republicans and infuriate independents. Who knew?

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Transformational All Right

If you are a Democrat, it’s painful to read the news these days. The latest survey of impending doom:

A vigorous post-Labor Day Democratic offensive has failed to diminish the resurgent Republicans’ lead among likely voters, leaving the GOP poised for major gains in congressional elections two weeks away, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Among likely voters, Republicans hold a 50% to 43% edge, up from a three-percentage-point lead a month ago.

In the broader category of registered voters, 46% favor a Democratic-controlled Congress, compared with 44% who want Republican control. But in the 92 House districts considered most competitive, the GOP’s lead among registered voters is 14 points, underscoring the Democrats’ challenge in maintaining their hold on the House.

Actually, that would mean that the “vigorous post-Labor Day Democratic offensive” made matters worse. The question is not whether the Democratic donors are lagging their Republican counterparts, but rather — why would anyone throw their money away in this fashion? I suppose hope springs eternal that suddenly the country will learn to love one-party liberal rule.

And as for the impact of the Tea Partiers:

Tea-party supporters now make up 35% of the voters likely to turn out Nov. 2. Among that group, Republicans lead 84% to 10%. Just 56% of voters who supported Mr. Obama in 2008 say they are very interested in the midterm elections, compared with 77% of those who voted for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

In other words, the Tea Party has not divided the GOP but boosted support and enthusiasm.

There are individual races and specific candidates who will provide drama and a few surprises, especially on the Senate side. For every Christine O’Donnell, there will be a Marco Rubio for the GOP. When the dust settles, Congress will be transformed. Appropriate, isn’t it, as a response to a president who sought to transform America in ways the public plainly didn’t like.

If you are a Democrat, it’s painful to read the news these days. The latest survey of impending doom:

A vigorous post-Labor Day Democratic offensive has failed to diminish the resurgent Republicans’ lead among likely voters, leaving the GOP poised for major gains in congressional elections two weeks away, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Among likely voters, Republicans hold a 50% to 43% edge, up from a three-percentage-point lead a month ago.

In the broader category of registered voters, 46% favor a Democratic-controlled Congress, compared with 44% who want Republican control. But in the 92 House districts considered most competitive, the GOP’s lead among registered voters is 14 points, underscoring the Democrats’ challenge in maintaining their hold on the House.

Actually, that would mean that the “vigorous post-Labor Day Democratic offensive” made matters worse. The question is not whether the Democratic donors are lagging their Republican counterparts, but rather — why would anyone throw their money away in this fashion? I suppose hope springs eternal that suddenly the country will learn to love one-party liberal rule.

And as for the impact of the Tea Partiers:

Tea-party supporters now make up 35% of the voters likely to turn out Nov. 2. Among that group, Republicans lead 84% to 10%. Just 56% of voters who supported Mr. Obama in 2008 say they are very interested in the midterm elections, compared with 77% of those who voted for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

In other words, the Tea Party has not divided the GOP but boosted support and enthusiasm.

There are individual races and specific candidates who will provide drama and a few surprises, especially on the Senate side. For every Christine O’Donnell, there will be a Marco Rubio for the GOP. When the dust settles, Congress will be transformed. Appropriate, isn’t it, as a response to a president who sought to transform America in ways the public plainly didn’t like.

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Tom Brokaw Discusses the Role of the Wars in the Upcoming Election

In his op-ed in the New York Times, Tom Brokaw, special correspondent for NBC News, points out that there’s no shortage of discussion about some large issues facing the country: the role and nature of the federal government in America’s future, public debt, jobs, health care, the influence of special interests, and the role of populist movements like the Tea Party. “In nearly every Congressional and Senate race, these are the issues that explode into attack ads, score points in debates and light up cable talk shows. In poll after poll, these are the issues that voters say are most important to them this year,” Brokaw writes. “Notice anything missing on the campaign landscape?”

Brokaw proceeds to answer his own question:

How about war? The United States is now in its ninth year of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the longest wars in American history. Almost 5,000 men and women have been killed. More than 30,000 have been wounded, some so gravely they’re returning home to become, effectively, wards of their families and communities.

In those nine years, the United States has spent more than $1 trillion on combat operations and other parts of the war effort, including foreign aid, reconstruction projects, embassy costs and veterans’ health care. And the end is not in sight.

So why aren’t the wars and their human and economic consequences front and center in this campaign, right up there with jobs and taxes?

Notice anything missing from the description of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?

How about something positive they have achieved — the end of two of the most malevolent regimes in modern history; a crucial defeat for al-Qaeda on a battleground of its own choosing (in Iraq); and the installation of representative governments in lands where such a thing has been alien, just for starters. In Iraq, you could add the toppling of and eventual death sentence administered to a man, Saddam Hussein, responsible for the deaths of more than a million Muslims. And in Afghanistan, you could add unprecedented rights for women.

Now, some of these gains remain tentative, and they many even prove to be temporary. We simply don’t know at this juncture. But to frame the Afghanistan and Iraq wars only in terms of their costs in American lives and treasure and to leave out any of the honorable and important achievements of the wars is irresponsible. It’s also revealing of the attitude of many contemporary liberals, who view the wars only through the lens of suffering and sacrifice.

I would add something else as well: one reason Iraq is a virtual non-issue in the 2010 election is precisely because things have improved so much from the dark days in 2006 and 2007, when Iraq, then on the edge of civil war, dominated American politics. The fact that it has dropped off the radar screen is an indication of the very progress Brokaw himself cannot seem to acknowledge.

There is no denying that there has been plenty of suffering as a result of these wars, as there are in all wars. But there have also been encouraging and heartening achievements by our troops, to which they themselves are eager to testify. The fact that Brokaw would see the sacrifice this nation and its warriors have made and yet pay no tribute to the many good things that have come to pass as a result of those sacrifices is a shame. Our troops don’t want or need to be treated as pitiable figures who have suffered in vain; most of them simply want to be treated as what they are: brave and honorable individuals who have achieved remarkable, and maybe historic, things.

In his op-ed in the New York Times, Tom Brokaw, special correspondent for NBC News, points out that there’s no shortage of discussion about some large issues facing the country: the role and nature of the federal government in America’s future, public debt, jobs, health care, the influence of special interests, and the role of populist movements like the Tea Party. “In nearly every Congressional and Senate race, these are the issues that explode into attack ads, score points in debates and light up cable talk shows. In poll after poll, these are the issues that voters say are most important to them this year,” Brokaw writes. “Notice anything missing on the campaign landscape?”

Brokaw proceeds to answer his own question:

How about war? The United States is now in its ninth year of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the longest wars in American history. Almost 5,000 men and women have been killed. More than 30,000 have been wounded, some so gravely they’re returning home to become, effectively, wards of their families and communities.

In those nine years, the United States has spent more than $1 trillion on combat operations and other parts of the war effort, including foreign aid, reconstruction projects, embassy costs and veterans’ health care. And the end is not in sight.

So why aren’t the wars and their human and economic consequences front and center in this campaign, right up there with jobs and taxes?

Notice anything missing from the description of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?

How about something positive they have achieved — the end of two of the most malevolent regimes in modern history; a crucial defeat for al-Qaeda on a battleground of its own choosing (in Iraq); and the installation of representative governments in lands where such a thing has been alien, just for starters. In Iraq, you could add the toppling of and eventual death sentence administered to a man, Saddam Hussein, responsible for the deaths of more than a million Muslims. And in Afghanistan, you could add unprecedented rights for women.

Now, some of these gains remain tentative, and they many even prove to be temporary. We simply don’t know at this juncture. But to frame the Afghanistan and Iraq wars only in terms of their costs in American lives and treasure and to leave out any of the honorable and important achievements of the wars is irresponsible. It’s also revealing of the attitude of many contemporary liberals, who view the wars only through the lens of suffering and sacrifice.

I would add something else as well: one reason Iraq is a virtual non-issue in the 2010 election is precisely because things have improved so much from the dark days in 2006 and 2007, when Iraq, then on the edge of civil war, dominated American politics. The fact that it has dropped off the radar screen is an indication of the very progress Brokaw himself cannot seem to acknowledge.

There is no denying that there has been plenty of suffering as a result of these wars, as there are in all wars. But there have also been encouraging and heartening achievements by our troops, to which they themselves are eager to testify. The fact that Brokaw would see the sacrifice this nation and its warriors have made and yet pay no tribute to the many good things that have come to pass as a result of those sacrifices is a shame. Our troops don’t want or need to be treated as pitiable figures who have suffered in vain; most of them simply want to be treated as what they are: brave and honorable individuals who have achieved remarkable, and maybe historic, things.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Big Labor’s Big Bucks Poured Down the Drain

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

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It’s Mutual

More and more Americans dislike the president’s policies. But the feeling is mutual. It seems there are more and more Americans who annoy the president. He’s been hollering at his base a lot lately. As the New York magazine headline notes, “White House Will Scold Democrats Until They Are Sufficiently Excited About Voting.” The left may be unrealistic, grouchy, and lethargic, but those were the people Obama had in the palm of his hand. His tone is hardly helping matters.

And he better be nicer to young people and groups that traditionally vote Democratic because they are all he has left:

While fully 72 percent of voters 65 and over saying they are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, only 39 percent of those under 30 share that dissatisfaction. … The numbers are part of an overall pattern that shows sharper optimism about the country and higher approval of President Obama’s job performance among younger and minority voters, contours of support that match core groups in his winning 2008 coalition. …

Along ethnic lines, Obama did best among black non-Hispanic respondents, 76 percent of whom rated his job performance positively, 21 percent negatively. Total non-white voters gave him a 58/37 approval, while his worst grades came among white non-Hispanics, 66 percent of whom said the job he was doing was only fair or poor, just 30 percent of them scoring him positively.

(And yeah, I was surprised he’s down to 76 percent approval among African-Americans.)

Nor is the irritable Obama willing to play nice with the party heading for big midterm gains:

There are conservative and Republican voters that may disagree with some of his policies but have “basically recognized we’ve got to solve some big problems,” Mr. Obama said on NBC’s “Today Show.”

Yet while regular Republicans may be willing to work together to achieve solutions, the president said that Republican leaders are instead putting forward “a set of policies that are just irresponsible.”

So he’s mad at his base — which is a sliver of its former self — and he’s making no effort to prepare for a more productive relationship with the GOP leadership. This is not a man who weathers adversity well, perhaps because he hasn’t experienced any in his political life. He got along famously with voters as long as they idolized him. He was fine with the flood of money into the political system as long as it was flowing in his direction. He was all for voter activism until they organized against him. But now, like the left blogosphere, he’s reduced to berating the voters. Maybe he really doesn’t want another term. He’s sure not acting like he does.

More and more Americans dislike the president’s policies. But the feeling is mutual. It seems there are more and more Americans who annoy the president. He’s been hollering at his base a lot lately. As the New York magazine headline notes, “White House Will Scold Democrats Until They Are Sufficiently Excited About Voting.” The left may be unrealistic, grouchy, and lethargic, but those were the people Obama had in the palm of his hand. His tone is hardly helping matters.

And he better be nicer to young people and groups that traditionally vote Democratic because they are all he has left:

While fully 72 percent of voters 65 and over saying they are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, only 39 percent of those under 30 share that dissatisfaction. … The numbers are part of an overall pattern that shows sharper optimism about the country and higher approval of President Obama’s job performance among younger and minority voters, contours of support that match core groups in his winning 2008 coalition. …

Along ethnic lines, Obama did best among black non-Hispanic respondents, 76 percent of whom rated his job performance positively, 21 percent negatively. Total non-white voters gave him a 58/37 approval, while his worst grades came among white non-Hispanics, 66 percent of whom said the job he was doing was only fair or poor, just 30 percent of them scoring him positively.

(And yeah, I was surprised he’s down to 76 percent approval among African-Americans.)

Nor is the irritable Obama willing to play nice with the party heading for big midterm gains:

There are conservative and Republican voters that may disagree with some of his policies but have “basically recognized we’ve got to solve some big problems,” Mr. Obama said on NBC’s “Today Show.”

Yet while regular Republicans may be willing to work together to achieve solutions, the president said that Republican leaders are instead putting forward “a set of policies that are just irresponsible.”

So he’s mad at his base — which is a sliver of its former self — and he’s making no effort to prepare for a more productive relationship with the GOP leadership. This is not a man who weathers adversity well, perhaps because he hasn’t experienced any in his political life. He got along famously with voters as long as they idolized him. He was fine with the flood of money into the political system as long as it was flowing in his direction. He was all for voter activism until they organized against him. But now, like the left blogosphere, he’s reduced to berating the voters. Maybe he really doesn’t want another term. He’s sure not acting like he does.

Read Less




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