Commentary Magazine


Topic: New Hampshire

Flotsam and Jetsam

No kidding: “The White House was more focused on victory than on any plan in particular, and — once the battle had been engaged — than in the details of the plan,” writes Ben Smith on ObamaCare.

“No surprise,” says Glenn Reynolds about this: “College students taking racial and ethnic studies courses have lower respect for members of other groups.”

“No question,” says Nancy Pelosi about how voters are in an “anti-incumbent mood.” Actually, they seem to be especially aggrieved about Democratic incumbents — otherwise Democrats wouldn’t be at risk of losing control of the House.

No love among the Democratic base for party switcher Arlen Specter: he falls nine points behind Joe Sestak in the latest Suffolk University poll.

No relief for the Democrats in Illinois, as Mob banker Alexi Giannoulias declared that “we didn’t need wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” I’m thinking Obama is going to write off this seat and not appear next to Giannoulias. Some candidates just can’t be saved, and why give the president’s 2012 opponent footage for campaign ads?

No indication that Republicans are extinct in New England: “The U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire looks largely the same way it has for months, with two of the three top Republican candidates holding double-digit leads over Democratic hopeful Paul Hodes. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in New Hampshire shows former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte at 50% for the second month in a row, with Hodes earning 38% support. Three percent (3%) favor some other candidate, and nine percent(9%) are undecided.”

No better example of the farce that is the UN: Libya has been elected to the Human Rights Council.

No “reset” here: “Calling Hamas ‘a terror organization in every way,’ Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it was ‘deeply disappointed’ that [President Dmitry] Medvedev met the group’s exiled leader Khaled Meshal during a visit to Syria this week. Russia, the United States, European Union and the United Nations make up a quartet of Middle East mediators. The U.S., EU and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group. Russia insists that Hamas should not be isolated.”

No love lost between Jeffrey Goldberg and the obsessed Beagle Blogger: Goldberg looks at “whether it is right for a journalist working for an institution that prides itself on careful journalism to float rumors about a public figure’s sexual orientation.” But if an institution houses such a “journalist,” does it really pride itself on careful journalism?

No kidding: “The White House was more focused on victory than on any plan in particular, and — once the battle had been engaged — than in the details of the plan,” writes Ben Smith on ObamaCare.

“No surprise,” says Glenn Reynolds about this: “College students taking racial and ethnic studies courses have lower respect for members of other groups.”

“No question,” says Nancy Pelosi about how voters are in an “anti-incumbent mood.” Actually, they seem to be especially aggrieved about Democratic incumbents — otherwise Democrats wouldn’t be at risk of losing control of the House.

No love among the Democratic base for party switcher Arlen Specter: he falls nine points behind Joe Sestak in the latest Suffolk University poll.

No relief for the Democrats in Illinois, as Mob banker Alexi Giannoulias declared that “we didn’t need wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” I’m thinking Obama is going to write off this seat and not appear next to Giannoulias. Some candidates just can’t be saved, and why give the president’s 2012 opponent footage for campaign ads?

No indication that Republicans are extinct in New England: “The U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire looks largely the same way it has for months, with two of the three top Republican candidates holding double-digit leads over Democratic hopeful Paul Hodes. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in New Hampshire shows former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte at 50% for the second month in a row, with Hodes earning 38% support. Three percent (3%) favor some other candidate, and nine percent(9%) are undecided.”

No better example of the farce that is the UN: Libya has been elected to the Human Rights Council.

No “reset” here: “Calling Hamas ‘a terror organization in every way,’ Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it was ‘deeply disappointed’ that [President Dmitry] Medvedev met the group’s exiled leader Khaled Meshal during a visit to Syria this week. Russia, the United States, European Union and the United Nations make up a quartet of Middle East mediators. The U.S., EU and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group. Russia insists that Hamas should not be isolated.”

No love lost between Jeffrey Goldberg and the obsessed Beagle Blogger: Goldberg looks at “whether it is right for a journalist working for an institution that prides itself on careful journalism to float rumors about a public figure’s sexual orientation.” But if an institution houses such a “journalist,” does it really pride itself on careful journalism?

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Not a Regional Party

After the 2008 election, there was much pontificating about the future of the Republican Party. It was destined, we were told, to become a rump party of the South, the last refuge of white, religious male voters. But all it took was a year and a half of Obama to convince Americans — both male and female, religious and not, in all regions of the country — that maybe it’s time to give the GOP another shot. Two states that exemplify this are New Hampshire (recall Republicans were thought to be extinct in New England) and Illinois.

Stuart Rothenberg writes, “Right now, I think the Republicans are positioned to win both Senate races.” As for New Hampshire, he comments:

I’ve met three of the four credible Republican candidates in the race — former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, millionaire businessman Bill Binnie and conservative Ovide Lamontagne, the GOP’s unsuccessful nominee for governor in 1996 — and all three should have considerable appeal in the primary and in the fall.

What about the Democrat Paul Hodes?

Hodes is poised, confident and well-spoken, but he seems to think that he can make former President George W. Bush a major issue this year and that his own accomplishments in the House will demonstrate his independence and draw a favorable contrast with his eventual GOP opponent. In fact, I think Hodes is far too optimistic about his ability to dictate what the 2010 Senate race will be about.

It seems running against Bush isn’t going to work — but it’s apparently better than running on the Democrats’ agenda and calling in Obama to vouch for him:

National political currents (including intensity) are likely to favor Republicans, and as long as the GOP nominee isn’t hemorrhaging support after the primary, Hodes, who voted for the health care bill, cap-and-trade and the stimulus, will be on the defensive when fall arrives. An improvement in the national mood would, of course, improve the congressman’s prospects.

Rothenberg says Democrats in Illinois have a better shot, given their electoral advantage. But here, too, Rothenberg says Rep. Mark Kirk is the Republicans’ “ideal candidate for this seat,” and therefore, together with Alexi Giannoulias’s banking woes, he gives Republicans a pick-up opportunity.

So how did Republicans crawl out of the ditch and reestablish themselves in what were Democratic strongholds less than two years ago? Well, politics isn’t that complicated. Get good candidates. Watch the governing party’s overreach and underperformance. Understand the public antipathy for partisan excess and ideological extremism. And bingo, you have a viable alternative for voters to choose. Republicans will have to close the sale in these and other states, but they’re most of the way home — thanks to Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership.

After the 2008 election, there was much pontificating about the future of the Republican Party. It was destined, we were told, to become a rump party of the South, the last refuge of white, religious male voters. But all it took was a year and a half of Obama to convince Americans — both male and female, religious and not, in all regions of the country — that maybe it’s time to give the GOP another shot. Two states that exemplify this are New Hampshire (recall Republicans were thought to be extinct in New England) and Illinois.

Stuart Rothenberg writes, “Right now, I think the Republicans are positioned to win both Senate races.” As for New Hampshire, he comments:

I’ve met three of the four credible Republican candidates in the race — former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, millionaire businessman Bill Binnie and conservative Ovide Lamontagne, the GOP’s unsuccessful nominee for governor in 1996 — and all three should have considerable appeal in the primary and in the fall.

What about the Democrat Paul Hodes?

Hodes is poised, confident and well-spoken, but he seems to think that he can make former President George W. Bush a major issue this year and that his own accomplishments in the House will demonstrate his independence and draw a favorable contrast with his eventual GOP opponent. In fact, I think Hodes is far too optimistic about his ability to dictate what the 2010 Senate race will be about.

It seems running against Bush isn’t going to work — but it’s apparently better than running on the Democrats’ agenda and calling in Obama to vouch for him:

National political currents (including intensity) are likely to favor Republicans, and as long as the GOP nominee isn’t hemorrhaging support after the primary, Hodes, who voted for the health care bill, cap-and-trade and the stimulus, will be on the defensive when fall arrives. An improvement in the national mood would, of course, improve the congressman’s prospects.

Rothenberg says Democrats in Illinois have a better shot, given their electoral advantage. But here, too, Rothenberg says Rep. Mark Kirk is the Republicans’ “ideal candidate for this seat,” and therefore, together with Alexi Giannoulias’s banking woes, he gives Republicans a pick-up opportunity.

So how did Republicans crawl out of the ditch and reestablish themselves in what were Democratic strongholds less than two years ago? Well, politics isn’t that complicated. Get good candidates. Watch the governing party’s overreach and underperformance. Understand the public antipathy for partisan excess and ideological extremism. And bingo, you have a viable alternative for voters to choose. Republicans will have to close the sale in these and other states, but they’re most of the way home — thanks to Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership.

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From the Horse’s Mouth: Petraeus on Israel

Back on March 13, terrorist groupie Mark Perry — a former Arafat aide who now pals around with Hamas and Hezbollah — posted an article on Foreign Policy’s website, claiming that General David Petraeus was behind the administration’s policy of getting tough with Israel. He attributed to Petraeus the view that “Israel’s intransigence” — meaning its unwillingness to give up every inch of the West Bank and East Jerusalem tomorrow — “could cost American lives.” His item received wide circulation though it may be doubted whether, as he now says, “It changed the way people think about the conflict.”

I tried to set the record straight with two Commentary items (see here and here) in which I suggested, based on talking to an officer familiar with Petraeus’s thinking, that Perry’s item was a gross distortion —in fact a fraud. I noted that in Petraeus’s view, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was only one factor among many affecting U.S. interests in the region and that Israeli settlements were far from the only, or even the main, obstacle to peace. I even suggested — again, based on inside information — that the 56-page posture statement that Central Command had submitted to Congress, which stated that the Arab-Israeli conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” was not the best indicator of his thinking. Better to look at what he actually told Congress — in a hearing he barely mentioned Israel (until prompted to do so) and never talked about settlements at all.

This brought hoots of derision from commentators on both the Left and the Right, who claimed that I was putting words into Petraeus’s mouth — that I was, in Joe Klein’s phrase, taking a “flying leap.” Predictably piling on were Andrew Sullivan, who said I was “glossing over” what Petraeus said, and Robert Wright, who claimed that, “by Boot’s lights, Petraeus is anti-Israel.” Diana West added a truly inventive spin, by suggesting that Petraeus was a protégé of Stephen Walt, who was his faculty adviser many years ago at Princeton before the good professor won renown as a leading basher of the “Israel Lobby” and the state of Israel itself. It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.”

So who was off-base here: those of us who tried to explain the nuances of General Petraeus’s thinking or those bloggers and commentators who tried to suggest that he is a strident critic of Israel?

The answer has now been publicly provided by Petraeus himself in a speech in New Hampshire. Watch it for yourself. A good summary is provided by the American Spectator’s Philip Klein, who was present at the event and asked Petraeus to clarify his thinking.

The general said that it was “unhelpful” that “bloggers” had “picked … up” what he had said and “spun it.” He noted that, aside from Israel’s actions, there are many other important factors standing in the way of peace, including “a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel’s right to exist. There’s a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place. So again we have all these factors in there. This [Israel] is just one.”

What about Perry’s claim that American support for Israel puts our soldiers at risk? Petraeus said, “There is no mention of lives anywhere in there. I actually reread the statement. It doesn’t say that at all.”

He concluded by noting that he had sent to General Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, the “blog by Max Boot” which, he said, had “picked apart this whole thing, as he typically does, pretty astutely.”

I hope Petraeus’s comments will put an end to this whole weird episode. Those who are either happy or unhappy about the administration’s approach to Israel should lodge their compliments or complaints where they belong — at the White House, not at Central Command.

Back on March 13, terrorist groupie Mark Perry — a former Arafat aide who now pals around with Hamas and Hezbollah — posted an article on Foreign Policy’s website, claiming that General David Petraeus was behind the administration’s policy of getting tough with Israel. He attributed to Petraeus the view that “Israel’s intransigence” — meaning its unwillingness to give up every inch of the West Bank and East Jerusalem tomorrow — “could cost American lives.” His item received wide circulation though it may be doubted whether, as he now says, “It changed the way people think about the conflict.”

I tried to set the record straight with two Commentary items (see here and here) in which I suggested, based on talking to an officer familiar with Petraeus’s thinking, that Perry’s item was a gross distortion —in fact a fraud. I noted that in Petraeus’s view, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was only one factor among many affecting U.S. interests in the region and that Israeli settlements were far from the only, or even the main, obstacle to peace. I even suggested — again, based on inside information — that the 56-page posture statement that Central Command had submitted to Congress, which stated that the Arab-Israeli conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” was not the best indicator of his thinking. Better to look at what he actually told Congress — in a hearing he barely mentioned Israel (until prompted to do so) and never talked about settlements at all.

This brought hoots of derision from commentators on both the Left and the Right, who claimed that I was putting words into Petraeus’s mouth — that I was, in Joe Klein’s phrase, taking a “flying leap.” Predictably piling on were Andrew Sullivan, who said I was “glossing over” what Petraeus said, and Robert Wright, who claimed that, “by Boot’s lights, Petraeus is anti-Israel.” Diana West added a truly inventive spin, by suggesting that Petraeus was a protégé of Stephen Walt, who was his faculty adviser many years ago at Princeton before the good professor won renown as a leading basher of the “Israel Lobby” and the state of Israel itself. It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.”

So who was off-base here: those of us who tried to explain the nuances of General Petraeus’s thinking or those bloggers and commentators who tried to suggest that he is a strident critic of Israel?

The answer has now been publicly provided by Petraeus himself in a speech in New Hampshire. Watch it for yourself. A good summary is provided by the American Spectator’s Philip Klein, who was present at the event and asked Petraeus to clarify his thinking.

The general said that it was “unhelpful” that “bloggers” had “picked … up” what he had said and “spun it.” He noted that, aside from Israel’s actions, there are many other important factors standing in the way of peace, including “a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel’s right to exist. There’s a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place. So again we have all these factors in there. This [Israel] is just one.”

What about Perry’s claim that American support for Israel puts our soldiers at risk? Petraeus said, “There is no mention of lives anywhere in there. I actually reread the statement. It doesn’t say that at all.”

He concluded by noting that he had sent to General Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, the “blog by Max Boot” which, he said, had “picked apart this whole thing, as he typically does, pretty astutely.”

I hope Petraeus’s comments will put an end to this whole weird episode. Those who are either happy or unhappy about the administration’s approach to Israel should lodge their compliments or complaints where they belong — at the White House, not at Central Command.

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The Obama Parlor Game: What’s Wrong with Him?

Al Hunt is the latest participant in the “What the heck is wrong with this presidency?” parlor game. He reviews the bidding in the Rahm Emanuel vs. People Less Smart Than Rahm controversy. But that’s beside the point, says Hunt:

Yet there is a larger self-created problem for which Emanuel and [David] Axelrod are only partly to blame. Go back to the remarkable Obama campaign of 2007-2008. More than any of its rivals, it had a strategic sense of what it was, where it wanted to go.

This provided a shield against setbacks: losing the New Hampshire primary, the candidate’s careless remarks about rural Pennsylvania voters or even the incendiary remarks of Obama’s pastor. These became speed bumps in the strategic narrative.

That is missing in the Obama presidency. Too often it seems situational rather than strategic, reactive more than proactive. Thus setbacks, from minor ones, such as the handling of the Christmas Day bomber, to major ones, like the loss of the Senate seat in Massachusetts, throw team Obama off stride, and leave voters confused.

Well, it’s arguable whether the Christmas Day bombing was a “minor” setback or a sign of a systemic failure to understand our enemy and devise appropriate responses to wage a war against Islamic fundamentalists. But Hunt insists there’s a “big picture” deficiency here. He sums up: “Most important, however, is whether the Obama administration can emulate the Obama campaign and fashion a coherent strategy for governing.” Well, that seems to be closer to the nub of the problem.

Frankly, Obama has a big picture. It’s just the wrong one — a statist spend-a-thon that seeks to reorient the balance between private and public sectors, grow the scope of the federal government, and do it all without popular support. As for the governance problem, however, Hunt is right that neither Obama nor his flock of supposedly smart people are good at devising, negotiating, and selling policy. They are at heart pols who peaked during a cynical campaign in which they sold Obama to the public as something he was not (e.g. moderate, prepared, pro-Israel). But then it’s nearly impossible to govern from the far Left of the political spectrum in a Center-Right country.

Now the Obami are trapped in a thicket of overstuffed legislation and beset upon by a public chagrined to find that Obama isn’t what he was cracked up to be. So the infighting starts. The backstabbing goes public. The excuse-mongering revs up. All that, however, stems from a central difficulty: a erudite but inexperienced president with a surplus of hubris is trying to impose a radical vision on an unwilling populace. It’s bound to fail. And so far, it is.

Al Hunt is the latest participant in the “What the heck is wrong with this presidency?” parlor game. He reviews the bidding in the Rahm Emanuel vs. People Less Smart Than Rahm controversy. But that’s beside the point, says Hunt:

Yet there is a larger self-created problem for which Emanuel and [David] Axelrod are only partly to blame. Go back to the remarkable Obama campaign of 2007-2008. More than any of its rivals, it had a strategic sense of what it was, where it wanted to go.

This provided a shield against setbacks: losing the New Hampshire primary, the candidate’s careless remarks about rural Pennsylvania voters or even the incendiary remarks of Obama’s pastor. These became speed bumps in the strategic narrative.

That is missing in the Obama presidency. Too often it seems situational rather than strategic, reactive more than proactive. Thus setbacks, from minor ones, such as the handling of the Christmas Day bomber, to major ones, like the loss of the Senate seat in Massachusetts, throw team Obama off stride, and leave voters confused.

Well, it’s arguable whether the Christmas Day bombing was a “minor” setback or a sign of a systemic failure to understand our enemy and devise appropriate responses to wage a war against Islamic fundamentalists. But Hunt insists there’s a “big picture” deficiency here. He sums up: “Most important, however, is whether the Obama administration can emulate the Obama campaign and fashion a coherent strategy for governing.” Well, that seems to be closer to the nub of the problem.

Frankly, Obama has a big picture. It’s just the wrong one — a statist spend-a-thon that seeks to reorient the balance between private and public sectors, grow the scope of the federal government, and do it all without popular support. As for the governance problem, however, Hunt is right that neither Obama nor his flock of supposedly smart people are good at devising, negotiating, and selling policy. They are at heart pols who peaked during a cynical campaign in which they sold Obama to the public as something he was not (e.g. moderate, prepared, pro-Israel). But then it’s nearly impossible to govern from the far Left of the political spectrum in a Center-Right country.

Now the Obami are trapped in a thicket of overstuffed legislation and beset upon by a public chagrined to find that Obama isn’t what he was cracked up to be. So the infighting starts. The backstabbing goes public. The excuse-mongering revs up. All that, however, stems from a central difficulty: a erudite but inexperienced president with a surplus of hubris is trying to impose a radical vision on an unwilling populace. It’s bound to fail. And so far, it is.

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The Price of Arrogance

Mark Halperin joins the chorus of those who found Obama dismissive and condescending toward the Republicans — to his own detriment. As Halperin observes, Obama is so convinced “he is right and they are wrong” that he cannot disguise his contempt. As a result, I would venture to say, there is not a single Republican who feels inclined, let alone obligated, to help Obama out of his dilemma, namely his inability to pass his signature agenda item.

Now we will put aside for a moment the question of why Obama has such an elevated sense of his own virtue and correctness (after all, he could give no response to Rep. Paul Ryan and could only offer a snotty comeback to John McCain’s critique of the backroom deals). But Obama has had this problem before. Recall the condescending performance in the New Hampshire Democratic primary? It might well have goosed up the sympathy factor for Hillary Clinton. Recall the “cling to guns or religion” comment during the campaign? Again, he can’t quite keep his contempt for his fellow citizens in check.

And this sense of superiority, which in turn has led him repeatedly to discount and ignore legitimate criticism, has proven to be his undoing. He and his equally arrogant advisers feigned ignorance about the tea party protests, wrote off the health-care town-hall attendees, sneered at Fox News, belittled the pollsters, and rolled their eyes at election returns in three states. No amount of adverse information — be it poll numbers or Ryan’s fiscal analysis — permeates the hermetically sealed bubble of hubris. Obama won, he keeps reminding us.

That’s not an attractive personality profile. And it’s a disaster in a president who must build support and alliances to achieve his objectives. He has proven exquisitely inept in governance and, to a large degree, the fault lies with his inability to cultivate a relationship of trust and afffection with voters or enlist wary skeptics. He has hardened and infuriated the opposition. And now, the reservoir of goodwill and trust which he enjoyed at the beginning of his term, is slowly running out.

In the weeks ahead he may wish he had not alienated so many. When, if the vote-counters are right, ObamaCare II comes up short, he will need to find an alternative game plan, a face saver, to prevent humiliation. And then he may wish that he had not been quite so dismissive of the Republicans, who proved themselves in a day-long summit, every bit his intellectual equals and, in a year, much more adept at rallying public opinion. Moreover, come November there will be many, many more of them and Obama will have to figure out how to make peace with those at whom he spent two years sneering.

Mark Halperin joins the chorus of those who found Obama dismissive and condescending toward the Republicans — to his own detriment. As Halperin observes, Obama is so convinced “he is right and they are wrong” that he cannot disguise his contempt. As a result, I would venture to say, there is not a single Republican who feels inclined, let alone obligated, to help Obama out of his dilemma, namely his inability to pass his signature agenda item.

Now we will put aside for a moment the question of why Obama has such an elevated sense of his own virtue and correctness (after all, he could give no response to Rep. Paul Ryan and could only offer a snotty comeback to John McCain’s critique of the backroom deals). But Obama has had this problem before. Recall the condescending performance in the New Hampshire Democratic primary? It might well have goosed up the sympathy factor for Hillary Clinton. Recall the “cling to guns or religion” comment during the campaign? Again, he can’t quite keep his contempt for his fellow citizens in check.

And this sense of superiority, which in turn has led him repeatedly to discount and ignore legitimate criticism, has proven to be his undoing. He and his equally arrogant advisers feigned ignorance about the tea party protests, wrote off the health-care town-hall attendees, sneered at Fox News, belittled the pollsters, and rolled their eyes at election returns in three states. No amount of adverse information — be it poll numbers or Ryan’s fiscal analysis — permeates the hermetically sealed bubble of hubris. Obama won, he keeps reminding us.

That’s not an attractive personality profile. And it’s a disaster in a president who must build support and alliances to achieve his objectives. He has proven exquisitely inept in governance and, to a large degree, the fault lies with his inability to cultivate a relationship of trust and afffection with voters or enlist wary skeptics. He has hardened and infuriated the opposition. And now, the reservoir of goodwill and trust which he enjoyed at the beginning of his term, is slowly running out.

In the weeks ahead he may wish he had not alienated so many. When, if the vote-counters are right, ObamaCare II comes up short, he will need to find an alternative game plan, a face saver, to prevent humiliation. And then he may wish that he had not been quite so dismissive of the Republicans, who proved themselves in a day-long summit, every bit his intellectual equals and, in a year, much more adept at rallying public opinion. Moreover, come November there will be many, many more of them and Obama will have to figure out how to make peace with those at whom he spent two years sneering.

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RE: Rangel Guilty of Ethics Violation

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s imperviousness to reality knows no bounds. The Hill reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s once again sticking by embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — at least for now.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a Thursday press conference that she had not yet read the full report from the ethics committee, which admonished Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for improperly accepting reimbursement for two trips to the Caribbean.

“All I saw was the press release where they said he did not violate the rules of the House,” Pelosi said. “And I think that’s an important statement that they made.”

Pelosi is flat wrong. From the House Ethics Committee press release: “The Report further finds that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated the House gift rule by accepting payment or reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences.”

Nor are Pelosi’s members as out to lunch as she is. Politico reports: “Early Friday, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) told POLITICO he wants Rangel to quit his powerful committee post — and that was quickly followed by similar statements from a pair of deep south Democrats, Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright.”

It is hard to see what Pelosi will achieve by this sort of performance — other than cement her reputation as someone who plays fast and loose with the facts and who has, after achieving the position of Speaker of the House, been rendered politically tone deaf.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s imperviousness to reality knows no bounds. The Hill reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s once again sticking by embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — at least for now.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a Thursday press conference that she had not yet read the full report from the ethics committee, which admonished Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for improperly accepting reimbursement for two trips to the Caribbean.

“All I saw was the press release where they said he did not violate the rules of the House,” Pelosi said. “And I think that’s an important statement that they made.”

Pelosi is flat wrong. From the House Ethics Committee press release: “The Report further finds that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated the House gift rule by accepting payment or reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences.”

Nor are Pelosi’s members as out to lunch as she is. Politico reports: “Early Friday, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) told POLITICO he wants Rangel to quit his powerful committee post — and that was quickly followed by similar statements from a pair of deep south Democrats, Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright.”

It is hard to see what Pelosi will achieve by this sort of performance — other than cement her reputation as someone who plays fast and loose with the facts and who has, after achieving the position of Speaker of the House, been rendered politically tone deaf.

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Heading for an Exit on ObamaCare?

James Taranto whimsically notes: “Obama is asking voters to believe that ObamaCare is a good idea and that the reason they think it is a bad idea is that he isn’t good at persuasion. But if he can convince them of that, he can convince them of anything–which means that the claim that he is bad at persuasion is wildly false.” Well, aside from recalling memories of undergraduate philosophy classes, Taranto has a point there: no one is really paying much attention to what Obama says these days.

The formerly sycophantic press has turned grumpy. The AP reports:

Starting over on health care, President Barack Obama knows his chances aren’t looking much more promising. A year after he called for a far-reaching overhaul, Obama unveiled his most detailed plan yet on Monday. Realistically, he’s just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency.

The 10-year, $1 trillion plan, like the current Democratic version in the Senate, would bring health insurance to more than 31 million Americans who now lack it. Government insurance wouldn’t be included, a problem for Democratic progressives. Republicans are skeptical about where the money would come from — and about Obama’s claim that the plan wouldn’t raise the federal deficit.

It may well be that this is not the opening bid on ObamaCare but the beginning of an exit plan. (“In the end, Americans who have listened to a year of talk about big changes in their health care, may see much smaller changes, if any. The president is likely to have to settle for much less than he wants — small-bore legislation that would smooth the rough edges of today’s system but stop well short of coverage for nearly everyone.”) Might it be that we are heading for a targeted, small-bones plan that lets Obama escape with a face-saving signing ceremony and the rest of us keep the health-care system pretty much the way it is? The Obami deny that this is what they have in mind, but the AP sniffs a sprint for the lifeboats:

If Obama ultimately settles for a pared-down plan, the final bill could look a lot like what Republicans have been calling for over many years. It would include federal funding for high-risk pools that would extend coverage to people denied because of medical problems, a new insurance marketplace for small employers and individuals buying their own policies, as well as tax credits for small businesses.

But we really don’t know what the president has in mind. His plan is 11 pages long and, therefore, can’t be scored by the CBO or tested as to whether it really is deficit neutral. “Also unclear is the extent and impact of new coverage requirements for individuals and businesses.”

That in a nutshell is Obama’s “governance” at work. He spent a year jawboning the issue only to convince most Americans they pretty much like the health-care system the way it is. He decries the lack of ideas on the other side, apparently unaware that they have lots of very detailed plans — and a website too. He then comes out with a not-very-different (except for the noxious federal regulation piece) and not-very-clear version of what voters have already rejected. As Politico reports:

The White House opened its last-ditch push for health reform Monday by releasing a $950 billion plan that signaled a new phase of hands-on presidential involvement. But by day’s end, President Barack Obama was staring down all the same old problems. Republicans called it a retread of the same bills Americans have panned, even though it included some GOP ideas. “Déjà vu all over again,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

And his allies in Congress, who stalled out with ObamaCare and then were “rewarded” with the appearance of Scott Brown as a colleague, are expected to ram it through using a parliamentary trick if the Republicans don’t sign on. Got it? I wonder if Pelosi even has 200 votes for this — whatever “this” is. (House Democrats are already squawking.)

It’s not exactly a moment of great presidential leadership. But it might be the beginning of the end of a disastrous legislative foray for the Democrats. And that would be very good for them and, more important, very good for the entire country.

James Taranto whimsically notes: “Obama is asking voters to believe that ObamaCare is a good idea and that the reason they think it is a bad idea is that he isn’t good at persuasion. But if he can convince them of that, he can convince them of anything–which means that the claim that he is bad at persuasion is wildly false.” Well, aside from recalling memories of undergraduate philosophy classes, Taranto has a point there: no one is really paying much attention to what Obama says these days.

The formerly sycophantic press has turned grumpy. The AP reports:

Starting over on health care, President Barack Obama knows his chances aren’t looking much more promising. A year after he called for a far-reaching overhaul, Obama unveiled his most detailed plan yet on Monday. Realistically, he’s just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency.

The 10-year, $1 trillion plan, like the current Democratic version in the Senate, would bring health insurance to more than 31 million Americans who now lack it. Government insurance wouldn’t be included, a problem for Democratic progressives. Republicans are skeptical about where the money would come from — and about Obama’s claim that the plan wouldn’t raise the federal deficit.

It may well be that this is not the opening bid on ObamaCare but the beginning of an exit plan. (“In the end, Americans who have listened to a year of talk about big changes in their health care, may see much smaller changes, if any. The president is likely to have to settle for much less than he wants — small-bore legislation that would smooth the rough edges of today’s system but stop well short of coverage for nearly everyone.”) Might it be that we are heading for a targeted, small-bones plan that lets Obama escape with a face-saving signing ceremony and the rest of us keep the health-care system pretty much the way it is? The Obami deny that this is what they have in mind, but the AP sniffs a sprint for the lifeboats:

If Obama ultimately settles for a pared-down plan, the final bill could look a lot like what Republicans have been calling for over many years. It would include federal funding for high-risk pools that would extend coverage to people denied because of medical problems, a new insurance marketplace for small employers and individuals buying their own policies, as well as tax credits for small businesses.

But we really don’t know what the president has in mind. His plan is 11 pages long and, therefore, can’t be scored by the CBO or tested as to whether it really is deficit neutral. “Also unclear is the extent and impact of new coverage requirements for individuals and businesses.”

That in a nutshell is Obama’s “governance” at work. He spent a year jawboning the issue only to convince most Americans they pretty much like the health-care system the way it is. He decries the lack of ideas on the other side, apparently unaware that they have lots of very detailed plans — and a website too. He then comes out with a not-very-different (except for the noxious federal regulation piece) and not-very-clear version of what voters have already rejected. As Politico reports:

The White House opened its last-ditch push for health reform Monday by releasing a $950 billion plan that signaled a new phase of hands-on presidential involvement. But by day’s end, President Barack Obama was staring down all the same old problems. Republicans called it a retread of the same bills Americans have panned, even though it included some GOP ideas. “Déjà vu all over again,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

And his allies in Congress, who stalled out with ObamaCare and then were “rewarded” with the appearance of Scott Brown as a colleague, are expected to ram it through using a parliamentary trick if the Republicans don’t sign on. Got it? I wonder if Pelosi even has 200 votes for this — whatever “this” is. (House Democrats are already squawking.)

It’s not exactly a moment of great presidential leadership. But it might be the beginning of the end of a disastrous legislative foray for the Democrats. And that would be very good for them and, more important, very good for the entire country.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What does French President Nicolas Sarakozy really think of Obama? “Obama has been in power for a year, and he has already lost three special elections. Me, I have won two legislative elections and the EU election. What can one say I’ve lost?” And as relayed by an adviser, Sarko seems to think Obama is “a charmer, a conciliator, but I am not sure that he’s a strong leader.”

Jamie Fly reports that his Israeli cabbie similarly told him: “‘With him, everything is opposite’ of what it should be and scoffed about his Nobel Peace Prize (given that he had done nothing actually to achieve peace).”

On the jobs number: “The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly declined in January, but the economy continued to shed jobs and revisions painted a bleaker picture for 2009, casting doubt over the labor market’s strength.The unemployment rate, calculated using a household survey, fell to 9.7% last month from an unrevised 10% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast the jobless rate would edge higher to 10.1%. Meantime, non-farm payrolls fell by 20,000 compared with a revised 150,000 decline in December.”

Here’s one way of looking at it: “‘Things are getting bad less rapidly,’ said Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. ‘We’re sort of hitting bottom, but there is no evidence of a robust turnaround.’”

And when the 1.1 million of “discouraged job seekers” return to the workforce? “Many economists expect the jobless rate to creep higher in the months ahead as workers who had given up looking for a job out of frustration return to the labor force.” Bottom line: 15 million Americans are unemployed.

What’s the matter with Harry? “Harry Reid may soon have one more Republican opponent in Nevada’s race for the U.S. Senate, and his numbers remain in troublesome territory for an incumbent. Reid, like a number of Democratic Senate incumbents, appears to be suffering from voter unhappiness over the national health care plan and the continuing bad state of the economy.”

You can’t say Illinois politics isn’t colorful: “The Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias is trailing Republican Mark Kirk in opinion polls ahead of November’s election in which Republicans are aiming to erase Democratic majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. . . . Republicans are spotlighting the soured real estate portfolio at the Giannoulias family’s Broadway Bank, including loans to Michael ‘Jaws’ Giorango, a convicted prostitution ring operator. Broadway Bank was recently ordered by government regulators to raise additional capital — after Giannoulias received his share of $70 million in proceeds following his father’s death.”

What a difference a year makes: “There were seven states that Barack Obama won where his approval has slipped below 56%. Three of them are pretty darn predictable — North Carolina, Indiana, and Ohio — all of which saw extremely close races in 2008. Another three of them though are Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada which Obama won by commanding margins of anywhere from 9-15 points. . . . The seventh state Obama won where he’s under 56% is New Hampshire, which may help to explain why Paul Hodes is having so much trouble.”

Speculation is starting already as to whether Obama will dump Joe Biden in 2012.

It seems as though “activists and liberal Mideast policy groups” don’t like the idea of Rep. Mark Kirk getting to the U.S. Senate, given his pro-Israel voting record.” You can understand that these groups wouldn’t want someone who was the “driving force behind a host of legislative efforts to sanction Iran (he’s the founder of of the Iran Working Group),” a vocal critic of the UN, and an opponent of Chas Freeman.

What does French President Nicolas Sarakozy really think of Obama? “Obama has been in power for a year, and he has already lost three special elections. Me, I have won two legislative elections and the EU election. What can one say I’ve lost?” And as relayed by an adviser, Sarko seems to think Obama is “a charmer, a conciliator, but I am not sure that he’s a strong leader.”

Jamie Fly reports that his Israeli cabbie similarly told him: “‘With him, everything is opposite’ of what it should be and scoffed about his Nobel Peace Prize (given that he had done nothing actually to achieve peace).”

On the jobs number: “The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly declined in January, but the economy continued to shed jobs and revisions painted a bleaker picture for 2009, casting doubt over the labor market’s strength.The unemployment rate, calculated using a household survey, fell to 9.7% last month from an unrevised 10% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast the jobless rate would edge higher to 10.1%. Meantime, non-farm payrolls fell by 20,000 compared with a revised 150,000 decline in December.”

Here’s one way of looking at it: “‘Things are getting bad less rapidly,’ said Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. ‘We’re sort of hitting bottom, but there is no evidence of a robust turnaround.’”

And when the 1.1 million of “discouraged job seekers” return to the workforce? “Many economists expect the jobless rate to creep higher in the months ahead as workers who had given up looking for a job out of frustration return to the labor force.” Bottom line: 15 million Americans are unemployed.

What’s the matter with Harry? “Harry Reid may soon have one more Republican opponent in Nevada’s race for the U.S. Senate, and his numbers remain in troublesome territory for an incumbent. Reid, like a number of Democratic Senate incumbents, appears to be suffering from voter unhappiness over the national health care plan and the continuing bad state of the economy.”

You can’t say Illinois politics isn’t colorful: “The Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias is trailing Republican Mark Kirk in opinion polls ahead of November’s election in which Republicans are aiming to erase Democratic majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. . . . Republicans are spotlighting the soured real estate portfolio at the Giannoulias family’s Broadway Bank, including loans to Michael ‘Jaws’ Giorango, a convicted prostitution ring operator. Broadway Bank was recently ordered by government regulators to raise additional capital — after Giannoulias received his share of $70 million in proceeds following his father’s death.”

What a difference a year makes: “There were seven states that Barack Obama won where his approval has slipped below 56%. Three of them are pretty darn predictable — North Carolina, Indiana, and Ohio — all of which saw extremely close races in 2008. Another three of them though are Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada which Obama won by commanding margins of anywhere from 9-15 points. . . . The seventh state Obama won where he’s under 56% is New Hampshire, which may help to explain why Paul Hodes is having so much trouble.”

Speculation is starting already as to whether Obama will dump Joe Biden in 2012.

It seems as though “activists and liberal Mideast policy groups” don’t like the idea of Rep. Mark Kirk getting to the U.S. Senate, given his pro-Israel voting record.” You can understand that these groups wouldn’t want someone who was the “driving force behind a host of legislative efforts to sanction Iran (he’s the founder of of the Iran Working Group),” a vocal critic of the UN, and an opponent of Chas Freeman.

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Jobs Saved or Created?

Here is a press report on an event in New Hampshire on Tuesday:

“Now, if you hear some of the critics, they’ll say, well, the Recovery Act, I don’t know if that’s really worked, because we still have high unemployment,” the president said. “But what they fail to understand is that every economist, from the Left and the Right, has said, because of the Recovery Act, what we’ve started to see is at least a couple of million jobs that have either been created or would have been lost. The problem is, seven million jobs were lost during the course of this recession.

Uh, no. Not “every” economist has said such a thing. In fact, it might be closer to say that no serious economist has said any such thing.

For Obama to pretend that what he says is true is not only wrong; it is quite ludicrous. The “saved or created” meme has rightly evoked belly laughs from all sorts of quarters. Even the president’s own Office of Management and Budget has given up on using it. And for good reason: It is an utterly meaningless and indefensible claim. The numbers were grabbed out of thin air, made up, pure fiction. The Obama administration has proven unable to document anything like what it claims.

For Mr. Obama — who promised to do away with “phony accounting” as part of his “turn the page” politics — to continue to say such things will simply further damage to his credibility, which is already in a state of considerable disrepair.

For more on this see ABC’s Jake Tapper and Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey.

Here is a press report on an event in New Hampshire on Tuesday:

“Now, if you hear some of the critics, they’ll say, well, the Recovery Act, I don’t know if that’s really worked, because we still have high unemployment,” the president said. “But what they fail to understand is that every economist, from the Left and the Right, has said, because of the Recovery Act, what we’ve started to see is at least a couple of million jobs that have either been created or would have been lost. The problem is, seven million jobs were lost during the course of this recession.

Uh, no. Not “every” economist has said such a thing. In fact, it might be closer to say that no serious economist has said any such thing.

For Obama to pretend that what he says is true is not only wrong; it is quite ludicrous. The “saved or created” meme has rightly evoked belly laughs from all sorts of quarters. Even the president’s own Office of Management and Budget has given up on using it. And for good reason: It is an utterly meaningless and indefensible claim. The numbers were grabbed out of thin air, made up, pure fiction. The Obama administration has proven unable to document anything like what it claims.

For Mr. Obama — who promised to do away with “phony accounting” as part of his “turn the page” politics — to continue to say such things will simply further damage to his credibility, which is already in a state of considerable disrepair.

For more on this see ABC’s Jake Tapper and Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey.

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Did Democrats Get the Message?

The Wall Street Journal editors note:

In their seven stages of national health-care grief, Democrats are still hovering somewhere between shock and denial. The strategy seems to be to hold off for a bit and then continue the same march—or as Mr. Obama put it in Nashua, New Hampshire earlier this week, “We’ve got to punch it through.”

The White House and Congressional leadership doesn’t seem to have learned anything substantive from an historic electoral rebuke, and even its political lessons are badly amiss. If they thought ObamaCare was controversial before, they haven’t seen anything yet.

The main liberal coping mechanism is to blame the grubby political process. Sure, 54% of the public may oppose ObamaCare, according to the latest polling average at Real Clear Politics, with only 37% in favor. But what Democrats claim really cost them was buying Ben Nelson’s vote with special Medicaid dispensations for Nebraska.

There are several problems with this. For starters, the Democrats are calling voters dopes, which is never a good idea. And second, they are highlighting their own lack of basic political skills (i.e., the inability to explain their policy ideas to the public) and confessing to their own corruption. But all this is preferable in their own minds, I suppose, to confessing that their policy judgment was flawed. Because to do that would be to acknowledge that the cornerstone of their ultra-liberal agenda is not politically viable, that the country really doesn’t want to be herded into the offices of Big Insurance, and that a jumbo tax-and-spend scheme is freaking out independent voters, who now regard the Democrats as fiscally irresponsible. Better, then, to insult the voters and cop a plea to imagined failings.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary gimmickery isn’t quite over. As the editors explain:

While Mr. Obama hasn’t taken a public position on the political way forward, we hear the White House is privately urging Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to “punch it through” with the budget reconciliation process. The House would pass the Senate’s Christmas Eve bill, then “fix” it with amendments that would require a bare partisan majority of 50 Senators (plus the Vice President) after only 20 hours of debate. Never before has this process been used for social and economic legislation of this magnitude.

This is where we left off in the Christmas-time scramble to pass ObamaCare, isn’t it? Procedural tricks, rushed votes, and no input from the minority. It doesn’t seem that the Scott Brown epic upset has really sunk in if they’re serious. But perhaps this is part of a grand show to keep the netroot base from going bonkers and to bide time. After all, who thinks the votes are still there to pass the same monstrous bill that helped vault Brown into the Senate? Not even the Pelosi-Reid-Obama triumvirate could be that daft, could it? I suppose we’ll find out if months more of pushing a grossly unpopular bill while unemployment remains sky high is really the way for Democrats to get back in the voters’ good graces.

The Wall Street Journal editors note:

In their seven stages of national health-care grief, Democrats are still hovering somewhere between shock and denial. The strategy seems to be to hold off for a bit and then continue the same march—or as Mr. Obama put it in Nashua, New Hampshire earlier this week, “We’ve got to punch it through.”

The White House and Congressional leadership doesn’t seem to have learned anything substantive from an historic electoral rebuke, and even its political lessons are badly amiss. If they thought ObamaCare was controversial before, they haven’t seen anything yet.

The main liberal coping mechanism is to blame the grubby political process. Sure, 54% of the public may oppose ObamaCare, according to the latest polling average at Real Clear Politics, with only 37% in favor. But what Democrats claim really cost them was buying Ben Nelson’s vote with special Medicaid dispensations for Nebraska.

There are several problems with this. For starters, the Democrats are calling voters dopes, which is never a good idea. And second, they are highlighting their own lack of basic political skills (i.e., the inability to explain their policy ideas to the public) and confessing to their own corruption. But all this is preferable in their own minds, I suppose, to confessing that their policy judgment was flawed. Because to do that would be to acknowledge that the cornerstone of their ultra-liberal agenda is not politically viable, that the country really doesn’t want to be herded into the offices of Big Insurance, and that a jumbo tax-and-spend scheme is freaking out independent voters, who now regard the Democrats as fiscally irresponsible. Better, then, to insult the voters and cop a plea to imagined failings.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary gimmickery isn’t quite over. As the editors explain:

While Mr. Obama hasn’t taken a public position on the political way forward, we hear the White House is privately urging Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to “punch it through” with the budget reconciliation process. The House would pass the Senate’s Christmas Eve bill, then “fix” it with amendments that would require a bare partisan majority of 50 Senators (plus the Vice President) after only 20 hours of debate. Never before has this process been used for social and economic legislation of this magnitude.

This is where we left off in the Christmas-time scramble to pass ObamaCare, isn’t it? Procedural tricks, rushed votes, and no input from the minority. It doesn’t seem that the Scott Brown epic upset has really sunk in if they’re serious. But perhaps this is part of a grand show to keep the netroot base from going bonkers and to bide time. After all, who thinks the votes are still there to pass the same monstrous bill that helped vault Brown into the Senate? Not even the Pelosi-Reid-Obama triumvirate could be that daft, could it? I suppose we’ll find out if months more of pushing a grossly unpopular bill while unemployment remains sky high is really the way for Democrats to get back in the voters’ good graces.

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Senate Up for Grabs?

Politico reports:

Republicans suddenly have a conceivable path to winning back the Senate in November, after locking in top-flight candidates overnight in Illinois and Indiana. A 10-seat pickup for the GOP — once regarded as an impossibility even by the party’s own strategists — remains very much a long shot. It would still require a win in every competitive race, something that happens only in wave elections like 1994 and 2008.

What several weeks ago seemed like crazy optimism among Republican operatives doesn’t seem so nuts after Scott Brown’s victory and in the wake of the Democrats’ decision to nominate a highly vulnerable candidate in Illinois, new polling showing Patty Murray in a potential close race in Washington, a viable challenger for Evan Bayh in Indiana, the departure of Beau Biden from the Delaware race, and continued rotten polling for Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid. Meanwhile, as COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter details, Republican Pat Toomey is riding a wave of anti-Obama sentiment in Pennsylvania. It does add up.

Charlie Cook’s Senate ratings show only four Republicans in the “toss up” category and that includes Ohio and New Hampshire, which have been trending Republican of late. The Democrats have two seats that are now “solid Republican,” five in the “toss up,” and three in the “leans Democratic” category, which would in any other year be slam-dunks (California, Indiana, and Connecticut).

In the meantime, the cumulative impact of all of this, I suspect, will be to further dampen enthusiasm for Obama’s agenda and for his monstrous budget. Some of the vulnerable Democrats may save themselves by casting votes, not simply sounding tough, to limit spending, reject tax hikes on job creators, and deprive the Obami of funds for their half-baked ideas of handling terrorists within the criminal-justice system. But simply doing no further harm may not be enough. After all, we have serious problems, including double-digit unemployment.

Challengers are going to press Democratic incumbents as to why, with all the levers of power, they did not make progress on the most critical issues we face. The answer, were the Democrats to be honest, would be that they spent a year on a flawed stimulus plan and a health-care plan that the vast majority of the country didn’t want. You can see why the Senate is in play.

Politico reports:

Republicans suddenly have a conceivable path to winning back the Senate in November, after locking in top-flight candidates overnight in Illinois and Indiana. A 10-seat pickup for the GOP — once regarded as an impossibility even by the party’s own strategists — remains very much a long shot. It would still require a win in every competitive race, something that happens only in wave elections like 1994 and 2008.

What several weeks ago seemed like crazy optimism among Republican operatives doesn’t seem so nuts after Scott Brown’s victory and in the wake of the Democrats’ decision to nominate a highly vulnerable candidate in Illinois, new polling showing Patty Murray in a potential close race in Washington, a viable challenger for Evan Bayh in Indiana, the departure of Beau Biden from the Delaware race, and continued rotten polling for Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid. Meanwhile, as COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter details, Republican Pat Toomey is riding a wave of anti-Obama sentiment in Pennsylvania. It does add up.

Charlie Cook’s Senate ratings show only four Republicans in the “toss up” category and that includes Ohio and New Hampshire, which have been trending Republican of late. The Democrats have two seats that are now “solid Republican,” five in the “toss up,” and three in the “leans Democratic” category, which would in any other year be slam-dunks (California, Indiana, and Connecticut).

In the meantime, the cumulative impact of all of this, I suspect, will be to further dampen enthusiasm for Obama’s agenda and for his monstrous budget. Some of the vulnerable Democrats may save themselves by casting votes, not simply sounding tough, to limit spending, reject tax hikes on job creators, and deprive the Obami of funds for their half-baked ideas of handling terrorists within the criminal-justice system. But simply doing no further harm may not be enough. After all, we have serious problems, including double-digit unemployment.

Challengers are going to press Democratic incumbents as to why, with all the levers of power, they did not make progress on the most critical issues we face. The answer, were the Democrats to be honest, would be that they spent a year on a flawed stimulus plan and a health-care plan that the vast majority of the country didn’t want. You can see why the Senate is in play.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The number of terrorists convicted in the criminal-justice system is 300. Or 195. Or 39, if you believe the ACLU.  Andy McCarthy writes: “It is disingenuous to low-ball the figure, as the ACLU does, in order to minimize the problem. It is equally disingenuous to exaggerate the figure, as DOJ is now doing, to create a myth of law-enforcement effectiveness (in order to discredit wartime military processes). Both of these plays are in the Left’s playbook. But guys, but when your objective is to hoodwink the public, you’re not supposed to run both plays at the same time! Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Obama is not turning out to be everything (anything?) the Left had hoped he’d be. Eli Lake reports: “President Obama is coming under pressure from Democrats and civil liberties groups for failing to fill positions on an oversight panel formed in 2004 to make sure the government does not spy improperly on U.S. citizens. … Since taking office, Mr. Obama has allowed the board to languish. He has not even spent the panel’s allocation from the fiscal 2010 budget.” Well, he hasn’t set up the High Value Interrogation group either, so the Left shouldn’t take it personally. He’s just not very good on following through.

But the key test for Democrats is not what they say in a hearing, but how they vote: “The Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said he is a skeptic of President Barack Obama’s long-term budget plan. Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) told White House officials Tuesday that the nation can’t accept the budget’s projected deficits at the end of this decade, which approach $1 trillion. ‘We are on an unsustainable course by any measure,’ Conrad said during his committee’s first hearing on the administration’s 2011 budget request. ‘I believe the president is taking us in the right direction over the next several years,’ he added. ‘But I must say I am very concerned about the long term.’”

More horrid polling for Blanche Lincoln: “Her GOP rivals, including Congressman John Boozman who is expected to enter the race on Saturday, all earn roughly 50% of the vote against the two-term Democrat. … Boozman, the newest entrant in the race, runs strongest among likely voters in Arkansas for now, beating Lincoln by 19 points, 54% to 35%. State Senator Gilbert Baker also leads Lincoln by 19, 52% to 33%. State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren posts a 51% to 35% lead over the incumbent.”

The Obami’s vendetta against Fox was a stunning success — for Fox. “Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year. FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.”

Sen. John Kerry: “We need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals.” It may be a daft idea to amend the Constitution so as to restrict speech, but at least he’s more honest than the president. You can’t overrule a First Amendment decision by statute.

Sen. Judd Gregg will be missed when he retires. “Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag faced the wrath of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Tuesday during the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal for 2011. Gregg was irked about President Obama’s plan to unveil a new proposal to use $30 billion from Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to help community banks lend to small businesses at an event Tuesday afternoon in Nashua, NH — Gregg’s home state. ‘This proposal violates the law,’ Gregg said. ‘The whole concept of the TARP was as we recouped the money, we would use it to pay down the debt. Now that’s not going to happen. It’s become a piggy bank. A piggy bank which adds to our deficit.’”

Yes, Richard Reid was Mirandized. So what? John McCormack: “But the fact remains that it was a mistake to mirandize Abdulmutallab — just as it was a mistake to mirandize Reid. At what point will Democrats realize that the Bush administration’s mistakes are not an excuse for the Obama administration’s failures?” The answer is never. They ran against Bush, they won being against Bush, they crafted not-Bush national-security policies, and now they are convinced they can govern being not Bush (except when they repeat an error of the Bush administration). This is what comes from Bush Derangement Syndrome, I suppose.

The number of terrorists convicted in the criminal-justice system is 300. Or 195. Or 39, if you believe the ACLU.  Andy McCarthy writes: “It is disingenuous to low-ball the figure, as the ACLU does, in order to minimize the problem. It is equally disingenuous to exaggerate the figure, as DOJ is now doing, to create a myth of law-enforcement effectiveness (in order to discredit wartime military processes). Both of these plays are in the Left’s playbook. But guys, but when your objective is to hoodwink the public, you’re not supposed to run both plays at the same time! Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Obama is not turning out to be everything (anything?) the Left had hoped he’d be. Eli Lake reports: “President Obama is coming under pressure from Democrats and civil liberties groups for failing to fill positions on an oversight panel formed in 2004 to make sure the government does not spy improperly on U.S. citizens. … Since taking office, Mr. Obama has allowed the board to languish. He has not even spent the panel’s allocation from the fiscal 2010 budget.” Well, he hasn’t set up the High Value Interrogation group either, so the Left shouldn’t take it personally. He’s just not very good on following through.

But the key test for Democrats is not what they say in a hearing, but how they vote: “The Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said he is a skeptic of President Barack Obama’s long-term budget plan. Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) told White House officials Tuesday that the nation can’t accept the budget’s projected deficits at the end of this decade, which approach $1 trillion. ‘We are on an unsustainable course by any measure,’ Conrad said during his committee’s first hearing on the administration’s 2011 budget request. ‘I believe the president is taking us in the right direction over the next several years,’ he added. ‘But I must say I am very concerned about the long term.’”

More horrid polling for Blanche Lincoln: “Her GOP rivals, including Congressman John Boozman who is expected to enter the race on Saturday, all earn roughly 50% of the vote against the two-term Democrat. … Boozman, the newest entrant in the race, runs strongest among likely voters in Arkansas for now, beating Lincoln by 19 points, 54% to 35%. State Senator Gilbert Baker also leads Lincoln by 19, 52% to 33%. State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren posts a 51% to 35% lead over the incumbent.”

The Obami’s vendetta against Fox was a stunning success — for Fox. “Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year. FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.”

Sen. John Kerry: “We need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals.” It may be a daft idea to amend the Constitution so as to restrict speech, but at least he’s more honest than the president. You can’t overrule a First Amendment decision by statute.

Sen. Judd Gregg will be missed when he retires. “Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag faced the wrath of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Tuesday during the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal for 2011. Gregg was irked about President Obama’s plan to unveil a new proposal to use $30 billion from Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to help community banks lend to small businesses at an event Tuesday afternoon in Nashua, NH — Gregg’s home state. ‘This proposal violates the law,’ Gregg said. ‘The whole concept of the TARP was as we recouped the money, we would use it to pay down the debt. Now that’s not going to happen. It’s become a piggy bank. A piggy bank which adds to our deficit.’”

Yes, Richard Reid was Mirandized. So what? John McCormack: “But the fact remains that it was a mistake to mirandize Abdulmutallab — just as it was a mistake to mirandize Reid. At what point will Democrats realize that the Bush administration’s mistakes are not an excuse for the Obama administration’s failures?” The answer is never. They ran against Bush, they won being against Bush, they crafted not-Bush national-security policies, and now they are convinced they can govern being not Bush (except when they repeat an error of the Bush administration). This is what comes from Bush Derangement Syndrome, I suppose.

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Holden Caulfield, Attorney, Dies at 75

My friend Philip Terzian just posted the following obituary parody on Facebook:

Holden Caulfield, Attorney, Dies at 75

By Carl Luce

NEW YORK—Holden Caulfield, a founding partner of the Manhattan real-estate law firm of Ackley, Caulfield and Marsella PPC, died Monday in North Conway, New Hampshire. He was 75.
Mr. Caulfield, who had a vacation residence in New Hampshire, suffered massive internal injuries after slipping and falling over a cliff in the White Mountains on Saturday while trying to save a young girl, and died at a nearby hospital, according to his son, Allie Caulfield II. He lived at the Edmont Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

An attorney and litigator in New York since the mid-1960s, Mr. Caulfield joined two onetime classmates to form Ackley, Caulfield and Marsella in 1971, specializing in real-estate litigation and property management in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. “Holden was a great lawyer and a great friend,” said partner Maurice Ackley in a statement released by the firm. “He loved the majesty of the law, and he hated phonies.” The other partner, Edgar Marsella, died of colon cancer in 2002.

Mr. Caulfield, a native of Manhattan, was born in 1935 and attended a series of preparatory schools before entering Brown University, from which he graduated in 1957. After a brief period of military service he obtained his law degree at New York University and began practicing in 1962. A period as counsel to the Antolini Group, property developers on Long Island, led to Mr. Caulfield’s interest in real estate litigation and property management. In 1996 his firm won a record judgment of $118.5 million in a landmark case involving development rights, Spencer vs. Stradlater.

Mr. Caulfield was a longtime board member of the Central Park Conservancy and a trustee of Pencey Preparatory School in Agerstown, Pa.

Mr. Caulfield’s marriage to Sally Hayes ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Jane Gallagher Caulfield, of Manhattan; their son Allie II, of Brooklyn; and three grandchildren. He is also survived by a brother, the writer D.B. Caulfield of Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a sister, Phoebe Caulfield-Madoff, of West Hartford, Conn.

My friend Philip Terzian just posted the following obituary parody on Facebook:

Holden Caulfield, Attorney, Dies at 75

By Carl Luce

NEW YORK—Holden Caulfield, a founding partner of the Manhattan real-estate law firm of Ackley, Caulfield and Marsella PPC, died Monday in North Conway, New Hampshire. He was 75.
Mr. Caulfield, who had a vacation residence in New Hampshire, suffered massive internal injuries after slipping and falling over a cliff in the White Mountains on Saturday while trying to save a young girl, and died at a nearby hospital, according to his son, Allie Caulfield II. He lived at the Edmont Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

An attorney and litigator in New York since the mid-1960s, Mr. Caulfield joined two onetime classmates to form Ackley, Caulfield and Marsella in 1971, specializing in real-estate litigation and property management in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. “Holden was a great lawyer and a great friend,” said partner Maurice Ackley in a statement released by the firm. “He loved the majesty of the law, and he hated phonies.” The other partner, Edgar Marsella, died of colon cancer in 2002.

Mr. Caulfield, a native of Manhattan, was born in 1935 and attended a series of preparatory schools before entering Brown University, from which he graduated in 1957. After a brief period of military service he obtained his law degree at New York University and began practicing in 1962. A period as counsel to the Antolini Group, property developers on Long Island, led to Mr. Caulfield’s interest in real estate litigation and property management. In 1996 his firm won a record judgment of $118.5 million in a landmark case involving development rights, Spencer vs. Stradlater.

Mr. Caulfield was a longtime board member of the Central Park Conservancy and a trustee of Pencey Preparatory School in Agerstown, Pa.

Mr. Caulfield’s marriage to Sally Hayes ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Jane Gallagher Caulfield, of Manhattan; their son Allie II, of Brooklyn; and three grandchildren. He is also survived by a brother, the writer D.B. Caulfield of Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a sister, Phoebe Caulfield-Madoff, of West Hartford, Conn.

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J.D. Salinger, Dead at 91

The news that J.D. Salinger, since Greta Garbo’s passing the world’s most notable silent-by-choice person, has died comes as a bit of a shock even though he has hardly been seen and barely been heard from in 45 years. Perhaps that is because one doesn’t think of Salinger as Salinger, but rather as Holden Caulfield, the most famous fictional American teenager. Catcher in the Rye was published, think of it, 59 years ago. Reading it now, the novel certainly shows its age — what teenage boy would take a teenage girl to have hot chocolate by the Rockefeller Center Skating Rink? — but the brilliant conversational voice with which Salinger imbued Holden can be heard in every single effort by an adult to render the sensibility of adolescence.

But perhaps what is most interesting about the shock of Salinger’s passing is how his very long life reveals the philosophical weakness at the heart of his work. He was concerned almost exclusively with the travails and wounds of the very young, notably the children of the Glass family. And it was clear that his sympathy lay entirely with them, with their moods and despairs and fears and sense of the world’s impurity and falsity. To that end, Salinger was guilty of the worst kind of romanticism, with his idealization of suicide in particular.

To be sure, the wounds of youth are “sensitive as a fresh burn,” to quote the writer Isaac Rosenfeld, and therefore very powerful. But Salinger’s continuing concern with those wounds may well have been the reason he fell silent as a writer when he himself hit middle age. The life of an adult is actually so much more complex and interesting, and so much the better source of material for a writer as supernaturally gifted as Salinger was (as his own masterful youthful story, “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut,” demonstrates), that his evident refusal to grapple with it and his continued emotional investment in the increasingly distant ways of the not-yet-adult may have been what silenced him.

Perhaps there is gold to be mined in his New Hampshire home in the form of the manuscripts he was said to labor over. Maybe they will reveal the maturity that eluded him, that they will show he was a pure artist who did not need an audience to explore the deeper truths available to those who grow as they age. That would be a wonderful capstone. It’s doubtful, but just think of it — Salinger with a happy ending, at long last.

The news that J.D. Salinger, since Greta Garbo’s passing the world’s most notable silent-by-choice person, has died comes as a bit of a shock even though he has hardly been seen and barely been heard from in 45 years. Perhaps that is because one doesn’t think of Salinger as Salinger, but rather as Holden Caulfield, the most famous fictional American teenager. Catcher in the Rye was published, think of it, 59 years ago. Reading it now, the novel certainly shows its age — what teenage boy would take a teenage girl to have hot chocolate by the Rockefeller Center Skating Rink? — but the brilliant conversational voice with which Salinger imbued Holden can be heard in every single effort by an adult to render the sensibility of adolescence.

But perhaps what is most interesting about the shock of Salinger’s passing is how his very long life reveals the philosophical weakness at the heart of his work. He was concerned almost exclusively with the travails and wounds of the very young, notably the children of the Glass family. And it was clear that his sympathy lay entirely with them, with their moods and despairs and fears and sense of the world’s impurity and falsity. To that end, Salinger was guilty of the worst kind of romanticism, with his idealization of suicide in particular.

To be sure, the wounds of youth are “sensitive as a fresh burn,” to quote the writer Isaac Rosenfeld, and therefore very powerful. But Salinger’s continuing concern with those wounds may well have been the reason he fell silent as a writer when he himself hit middle age. The life of an adult is actually so much more complex and interesting, and so much the better source of material for a writer as supernaturally gifted as Salinger was (as his own masterful youthful story, “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut,” demonstrates), that his evident refusal to grapple with it and his continued emotional investment in the increasingly distant ways of the not-yet-adult may have been what silenced him.

Perhaps there is gold to be mined in his New Hampshire home in the form of the manuscripts he was said to labor over. Maybe they will reveal the maturity that eluded him, that they will show he was a pure artist who did not need an audience to explore the deeper truths available to those who grow as they age. That would be a wonderful capstone. It’s doubtful, but just think of it — Salinger with a happy ending, at long last.

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No Life Preserver for Tax-and Spend Democrats

The Democrats are frantically searching for a political lifeboat. They have been on a tax-and-spend jag, run up the debt, and only angered the public. So they latched on to a “solution” — a debt-reduction commission to recommend tax hikes and spending cuts, with a goal to report back after the congressional elections with a plan, this report explains, “for shrinking the federal budget deficit to 3% of the gross domestic product by 2015 from the current 10% level, and on steps to contain long-term budget problems through tax increases and changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” The commission would have a total of 10 Democrats (six appointed by the Congress, the rest by the president) and eight Republicans (six appointed by Republicans in Congress, the rest by the president).

Meanwhile, the Congress can go merrily along with health care and the rest of its agenda, spending to its heart’s content. As the report notes: “Underscoring the problem, the Senate is poised to vote to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, just weeks after a $290 billion increase at the end of 2009. The debt currently stands at $12.322 trillion.”

Why in the world would Republicans go along with this charade? Well, they aren’t, it seems. Their immediate concerns are the lack of statutory authority for the commission and the absence of any requirement for Congress to even vote on its recommendations:

Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire dismissed it as a political fig leaf and instead called on President Barack Obama to support enactment of a law that would establish a commission and require an up-or-down congressional vote on its recommendations. Tuesday’s plan would create the panel by executive order. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) has also withheld his support.

But even if these obstacles were overcome, there are substantive and political reasons for conservatives not to play along with this scheme. For starters, with 10 Democrats plus two Obama-handpicked Republicans, the outcome is preordained. The recommendation will include hefty tax hikes. But the crux of the problem is that it lets the big spenders off the hook. In fact, it encourages them to keep it up, since an independent commission is going to take care of all that deficit stuff. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

We can see why Democrats would love this idea. In the past year they have passed: a $447 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2009, a $787 billion stimulus, $3 billion for cash for clunkers, $75 billion in mortgage assistance, $34 billion for children’s health care (Schip), $30 billion in anticipated auto bailout losses, with another nearly 11% spending increase teed up for fiscal 2010 for domestic programs. This party was fun, but now comes the headache (see Massachusetts) and the need for GOP tax partners.

Emboldened by Scott Brown’s victory, Republicans seem poised to play it smart and not offer the drowning Democrats a life preserver. Democrats thought there was no consequence, economic or political, to their spending spree. The loyal opposition should take the rest of the year to explain why they were wrong.

The Democrats are frantically searching for a political lifeboat. They have been on a tax-and-spend jag, run up the debt, and only angered the public. So they latched on to a “solution” — a debt-reduction commission to recommend tax hikes and spending cuts, with a goal to report back after the congressional elections with a plan, this report explains, “for shrinking the federal budget deficit to 3% of the gross domestic product by 2015 from the current 10% level, and on steps to contain long-term budget problems through tax increases and changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” The commission would have a total of 10 Democrats (six appointed by the Congress, the rest by the president) and eight Republicans (six appointed by Republicans in Congress, the rest by the president).

Meanwhile, the Congress can go merrily along with health care and the rest of its agenda, spending to its heart’s content. As the report notes: “Underscoring the problem, the Senate is poised to vote to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, just weeks after a $290 billion increase at the end of 2009. The debt currently stands at $12.322 trillion.”

Why in the world would Republicans go along with this charade? Well, they aren’t, it seems. Their immediate concerns are the lack of statutory authority for the commission and the absence of any requirement for Congress to even vote on its recommendations:

Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire dismissed it as a political fig leaf and instead called on President Barack Obama to support enactment of a law that would establish a commission and require an up-or-down congressional vote on its recommendations. Tuesday’s plan would create the panel by executive order. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) has also withheld his support.

But even if these obstacles were overcome, there are substantive and political reasons for conservatives not to play along with this scheme. For starters, with 10 Democrats plus two Obama-handpicked Republicans, the outcome is preordained. The recommendation will include hefty tax hikes. But the crux of the problem is that it lets the big spenders off the hook. In fact, it encourages them to keep it up, since an independent commission is going to take care of all that deficit stuff. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

We can see why Democrats would love this idea. In the past year they have passed: a $447 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2009, a $787 billion stimulus, $3 billion for cash for clunkers, $75 billion in mortgage assistance, $34 billion for children’s health care (Schip), $30 billion in anticipated auto bailout losses, with another nearly 11% spending increase teed up for fiscal 2010 for domestic programs. This party was fun, but now comes the headache (see Massachusetts) and the need for GOP tax partners.

Emboldened by Scott Brown’s victory, Republicans seem poised to play it smart and not offer the drowning Democrats a life preserver. Democrats thought there was no consequence, economic or political, to their spending spree. The loyal opposition should take the rest of the year to explain why they were wrong.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Noemie Emery says the elite pundits blew it in hawking Obama’s candidacy: “Could it be that The One has misjudged both the times and the country?; that he made a strategic mistake in pushing for health care (and a tactical one in trusting the Congress)?; that he created a nightmare for most in his party, who face epic losses this year? … To acknowledge this is to indict their own judgment, to face the fact they themselves may be less than insightful, that ‘talking like us’ means next to nothing, and that writing for magazines doesn’t equip one for greatness, or leadership. In fact, it only equips one to write for more magazines.”

Rep. Bart Stupak is holding firm for now. He isn’t buying the Reid–Ben Nelson abortion compromise language, “arguing that the Senate bill would effectively allow millions to buy insurance plans covering abortion because of federal subsidies and break the long-standing Hyde rule preventing federal funding of abortions — even if the federal government isn’t signing the checks directly, as it would have with the now-dead public insurance option.” The Democrats claim they have enough votes even without Stupak and pro-life Democrats. Really? We’ll find out.

Talking Points Memo or American Spectator? “Most campaign-type Democrats think Coakley will pull out a victory Tuesday despite a lackluster campaign and independents and undecideds rapidly slipping from their column, but some openly warn that a close race in the Bay State is a real warning sign for November’s mid-term elections.”

Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich? “That’s what’s been lost this year … that whole sense of changing how Washington works.”

A former Justice Department official doesn’t think much of the Obama team’s flurry of excuses for not responding to discovery requests in the New Black Panther Party case: “They are relying on privileges that the Office of Legal Counsel says do not exist. … There is no privilege, for instance, saying that the Justice Department will not identify personnel working on the case. … Generally, a number of these privileges [are ones] I’ve literally never heard of.” Well, who ever heard of executive privilege for a social secretary?

New Hampshire once looked like a potential lost seat for the GOP. Not anymore. The Republican front-runner, Kelly Ayotte, leads Paul Hodes by 9 points in the latest poll.

Good for him: “The top Senate Democrat in charge of military affairs on Wednesday ended a three-day trip to Afghanistan with a message of optimism that the U.S. mission can still succeed. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he sees a higher confidence among U.S. military leaders and Afghan leaders that the war against insurgents can be successful.” And a lesson for Obama: if he leads on national security, his base will follow.

Politico has a forum on: “Massachusetts: Does the closer-than-anyone-expected race jeopardize the Democratic agenda?” If you have to ask, the answer is yes.

All that groveling for nothing: “Although a State Department China hand described constructive U.S.-China cooperation on Iran in Hill testimony today, there are more signs that China is trying to put the breaks on moving forward with new Iran sanctions at this time. … But a diplomatic source tells POLITICO that China is saying its political director may not necessarily be able to come to a meeting of the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — that is scheduled for next weekend in New York.”

Noemie Emery says the elite pundits blew it in hawking Obama’s candidacy: “Could it be that The One has misjudged both the times and the country?; that he made a strategic mistake in pushing for health care (and a tactical one in trusting the Congress)?; that he created a nightmare for most in his party, who face epic losses this year? … To acknowledge this is to indict their own judgment, to face the fact they themselves may be less than insightful, that ‘talking like us’ means next to nothing, and that writing for magazines doesn’t equip one for greatness, or leadership. In fact, it only equips one to write for more magazines.”

Rep. Bart Stupak is holding firm for now. He isn’t buying the Reid–Ben Nelson abortion compromise language, “arguing that the Senate bill would effectively allow millions to buy insurance plans covering abortion because of federal subsidies and break the long-standing Hyde rule preventing federal funding of abortions — even if the federal government isn’t signing the checks directly, as it would have with the now-dead public insurance option.” The Democrats claim they have enough votes even without Stupak and pro-life Democrats. Really? We’ll find out.

Talking Points Memo or American Spectator? “Most campaign-type Democrats think Coakley will pull out a victory Tuesday despite a lackluster campaign and independents and undecideds rapidly slipping from their column, but some openly warn that a close race in the Bay State is a real warning sign for November’s mid-term elections.”

Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich? “That’s what’s been lost this year … that whole sense of changing how Washington works.”

A former Justice Department official doesn’t think much of the Obama team’s flurry of excuses for not responding to discovery requests in the New Black Panther Party case: “They are relying on privileges that the Office of Legal Counsel says do not exist. … There is no privilege, for instance, saying that the Justice Department will not identify personnel working on the case. … Generally, a number of these privileges [are ones] I’ve literally never heard of.” Well, who ever heard of executive privilege for a social secretary?

New Hampshire once looked like a potential lost seat for the GOP. Not anymore. The Republican front-runner, Kelly Ayotte, leads Paul Hodes by 9 points in the latest poll.

Good for him: “The top Senate Democrat in charge of military affairs on Wednesday ended a three-day trip to Afghanistan with a message of optimism that the U.S. mission can still succeed. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he sees a higher confidence among U.S. military leaders and Afghan leaders that the war against insurgents can be successful.” And a lesson for Obama: if he leads on national security, his base will follow.

Politico has a forum on: “Massachusetts: Does the closer-than-anyone-expected race jeopardize the Democratic agenda?” If you have to ask, the answer is yes.

All that groveling for nothing: “Although a State Department China hand described constructive U.S.-China cooperation on Iran in Hill testimony today, there are more signs that China is trying to put the breaks on moving forward with new Iran sanctions at this time. … But a diplomatic source tells POLITICO that China is saying its political director may not necessarily be able to come to a meeting of the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — that is scheduled for next weekend in New York.”

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A Real Race in Massachusetts

One poll has Scott Brown up by 1 point in the Massachusetts Senate race, another has him down by 15, and yet another down by 9. Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com explains:

The big spread in results among the polls, and differences apparent within two of them, are all consistent in supporting one finding: The lower the turnout, the better the odds for Scott Brown. These differences indicate that the voters most interested and most likely to vote are Republican, while Democrats are more blase.

This was the same conclusion another pollster expressed to me, with the additional caveat that the Boston Globe poll, which had Martha Coakley up by 15, was taken a bit earlier (January 2-6) than the Public Policy Polling survey, which showed Brown up by 1.

But we really don’t know exactly where the race stands — a rarity in politics these days, when everyone is quite certain where races stand, except when they aren’t. (The 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary in which Barack Obama surprised all the gurus is a case in point.) What is clear is that in one of the most liberal states in the country, a Republican, running against ObamaCare and on a national-security message akin to Liz Cheney’s, is in a dogfight to replace Ted Kennedy. It doesn’t help that the Democrats are threatening to ram through ObamaCare even if Brown wins, for that’s sure to further motivate those already angry Republicans and annoyed independents. If the name of the game is turnout, then themes that aggravate the anti-Obama and anti-Beltway Democrat voters are going to play well for Brown.

The race is a reminder for the pundit class: politics is a game played in the context of specific candidates (in this case a mediocre Democrat in this case trying to hide behind an independent candidate in debates), significant national developments (the rise of angry populists and the fading fortunes of D.C. Democrats), and the relative motivation of competing parties. To the extent that Democrats are losing quality candidates (or can’t recruit them), refuse to adjust their ultra-liberal agenda, and continue to ignore the public, the travails of Martha Coakley are going to be repeated again and again — and in locales with voters much more amenable than Bay Staters to the prospect of throwing out Democrats.

One poll has Scott Brown up by 1 point in the Massachusetts Senate race, another has him down by 15, and yet another down by 9. Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com explains:

The big spread in results among the polls, and differences apparent within two of them, are all consistent in supporting one finding: The lower the turnout, the better the odds for Scott Brown. These differences indicate that the voters most interested and most likely to vote are Republican, while Democrats are more blase.

This was the same conclusion another pollster expressed to me, with the additional caveat that the Boston Globe poll, which had Martha Coakley up by 15, was taken a bit earlier (January 2-6) than the Public Policy Polling survey, which showed Brown up by 1.

But we really don’t know exactly where the race stands — a rarity in politics these days, when everyone is quite certain where races stand, except when they aren’t. (The 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary in which Barack Obama surprised all the gurus is a case in point.) What is clear is that in one of the most liberal states in the country, a Republican, running against ObamaCare and on a national-security message akin to Liz Cheney’s, is in a dogfight to replace Ted Kennedy. It doesn’t help that the Democrats are threatening to ram through ObamaCare even if Brown wins, for that’s sure to further motivate those already angry Republicans and annoyed independents. If the name of the game is turnout, then themes that aggravate the anti-Obama and anti-Beltway Democrat voters are going to play well for Brown.

The race is a reminder for the pundit class: politics is a game played in the context of specific candidates (in this case a mediocre Democrat in this case trying to hide behind an independent candidate in debates), significant national developments (the rise of angry populists and the fading fortunes of D.C. Democrats), and the relative motivation of competing parties. To the extent that Democrats are losing quality candidates (or can’t recruit them), refuse to adjust their ultra-liberal agenda, and continue to ignore the public, the travails of Martha Coakley are going to be repeated again and again — and in locales with voters much more amenable than Bay Staters to the prospect of throwing out Democrats.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

From Fox News on your government at work: “The State Department is planning to welcome thousands of immigrants from terror-watch list countries into the United States this year through a ‘diversity visa’ lottery — a giant legal loophole some lawmakers say is a ‘serious national security threat’ that has gone unchecked for years. Ostensibly designed to increase ethnic diversity among immigrants, the program invites in thousands of poorly educated laborers with few job skills — and that’s only the beginning of its problems, according to lawmakers and government investigations.”

C-SPAN isn’t pleased with Obama’s reneging on his promise to televise the health-care debates: “C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb accused President Obama of using his network as a ‘political football’ during the presidential campaign, citing the president’s broken pledge to televise health care reform negotiations on the nonpartisan channel which is devoted to covering Washington.”

Harry Reid is trying to chase Harold Ford out of the New York Senate race.

Is Martha Coakley in trouble in Massachusetts? The New York Times frets: “The news that two senior Democratic senators will retire this year in the face of bleak re-election prospects has created anxiety and, even in this bluest of states, a sense that the balance of power has shifted dramatically from just a year ago. With the holidays over and public attention refocused on the race, Ms. Coakley’s insistence on debating her Republican opponent, Scott P. Brown, only with a third-party candidate present has drawn mounting criticism.” There is also that Rasmussen poll. The Gray Lady seems to be worrying that even a close race is bad news for the Democrats: “a tighter-than-expected margin in the closely watched race would still prompt soul-searching among Democrats nationally, since the outcome will be the first real barometer of whether problems facing the party will play out in tangible ways at the polls later this year.”

The Cook Report lists Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut as toss-up Senate races. North Dakota is “leans Republican.” Four GOP seats are listed as toss-up, but that includes New Hampshire, where the GOP candidate in the latest poll had a 7-point lead.

Max Baucus says health-care negotiations have “got a lot to cover.” Doesn’t sound like it’s a done deal yet.

Charles Krauthammer thinks Obama isn’t giving up his fixation on closing Guantanamo quite yet: “Obama will not change his determination to close Guantanamo. He is too politically committed. The only hope is that perhaps now he is offering his ‘recruiting’ rationale out of political expediency rather than real belief. With suicide bombers in the air, cynicism is far less dangerous to the country than naivete.”

But will anything really change? “The lesson of Abdulmuttalab is that rearranging the bureaucratic furniture is always the first resort of politicians who want to be seen ‘doing something’ about a problem, but it almost never works. A President has to drive the bureaucracy by making the fight against terrorism a daily, personal priority.” Yet one always senses that Obama has something else he’d rather be doing.

From Fox News on your government at work: “The State Department is planning to welcome thousands of immigrants from terror-watch list countries into the United States this year through a ‘diversity visa’ lottery — a giant legal loophole some lawmakers say is a ‘serious national security threat’ that has gone unchecked for years. Ostensibly designed to increase ethnic diversity among immigrants, the program invites in thousands of poorly educated laborers with few job skills — and that’s only the beginning of its problems, according to lawmakers and government investigations.”

C-SPAN isn’t pleased with Obama’s reneging on his promise to televise the health-care debates: “C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb accused President Obama of using his network as a ‘political football’ during the presidential campaign, citing the president’s broken pledge to televise health care reform negotiations on the nonpartisan channel which is devoted to covering Washington.”

Harry Reid is trying to chase Harold Ford out of the New York Senate race.

Is Martha Coakley in trouble in Massachusetts? The New York Times frets: “The news that two senior Democratic senators will retire this year in the face of bleak re-election prospects has created anxiety and, even in this bluest of states, a sense that the balance of power has shifted dramatically from just a year ago. With the holidays over and public attention refocused on the race, Ms. Coakley’s insistence on debating her Republican opponent, Scott P. Brown, only with a third-party candidate present has drawn mounting criticism.” There is also that Rasmussen poll. The Gray Lady seems to be worrying that even a close race is bad news for the Democrats: “a tighter-than-expected margin in the closely watched race would still prompt soul-searching among Democrats nationally, since the outcome will be the first real barometer of whether problems facing the party will play out in tangible ways at the polls later this year.”

The Cook Report lists Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut as toss-up Senate races. North Dakota is “leans Republican.” Four GOP seats are listed as toss-up, but that includes New Hampshire, where the GOP candidate in the latest poll had a 7-point lead.

Max Baucus says health-care negotiations have “got a lot to cover.” Doesn’t sound like it’s a done deal yet.

Charles Krauthammer thinks Obama isn’t giving up his fixation on closing Guantanamo quite yet: “Obama will not change his determination to close Guantanamo. He is too politically committed. The only hope is that perhaps now he is offering his ‘recruiting’ rationale out of political expediency rather than real belief. With suicide bombers in the air, cynicism is far less dangerous to the country than naivete.”

But will anything really change? “The lesson of Abdulmuttalab is that rearranging the bureaucratic furniture is always the first resort of politicians who want to be seen ‘doing something’ about a problem, but it almost never works. A President has to drive the bureaucracy by making the fight against terrorism a daily, personal priority.” Yet one always senses that Obama has something else he’d rather be doing.

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A New Ballgame, Perhaps

If one looks at the recent polling for senate and gubernatorial races in 2010, it looks like the flip side of 2008. Then it was a sea of blue; now there is a lot of red. In swing states like Ohio, John Kasich is ahead of incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland and Rob Portman has made up ground against potential Democratic opponents in the senate contest. In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble, and in Pennsylvania Pat Toomey is running strongly against both Democratic contenders. There are two noteworthy aspects to these and other races (e.g., Nevada and New Hampshire senate contests): the Republicans’ new found appeal in diverse regions and the burden of incumbency, which is currently weighing down veteran Democrats.

The worry for Republicans after the 2008 wipe out was that their base was shrinking to white, religious males from the South. Independents, women, and minorities were falling away. But the victories of Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, as well as the strong standing of 2010 Republican candidates in the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West (e.g., the Colorado and Nevada senate races), suggest that voters around the country haven’t permanently shifted loyalties. In 2008 they were miffed at the Republicans, wary of the economic collapse, and willing to give the other party a chance to get it right. If the other party is demonstrating that they can’t get it right either on jobs, spending, entitlements, and the rest, then voters are more than willing to throw them out. Democrats won’t have George W. Bush to kick around or a frantic, crotchety presidential campaign to run circles around. They will have to defend an agenda that is, at least for now, exceptionally unpopular — and an economic record that is utterly undistinguished. Republicans will seek to take their message nationally to voters who in 2008 were not willing to listen to anyone with an “R” by their name.

But what of the power of incumbency? Certainly incumbent governors and senators have the advantage of name recognition, plenty of free media, and the power to sprinkle goodies in key districts. A community center here and a bike path there, they figure, will endear voters to the bearer of the pork. But just as 2006 and 2008 were “throw the bums out” elections, 2010 may be yet another year in which incumbency is a burden, not an asset. If it’s not corruption issues (Chris Dodd) or high unemployment (Ted Strickland), it is the burden of identification with the ultra-liberal president and Congress which candidates like Sens. Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln will have to manage.

But Republicans would be foolish to think that they have a lock on 2010. Just as Democrats over-estimated the staying power of their 2008 gains, Republicans may not solidify the gains they have made or hold their position in the polls. The White House and Congress may shift gears and get off the lefty legislation binge. Unemployment may drift downward. The Democrats fumbled the ball this year by overestimating the public’s tolerance for big-government power grabs. But there is another year before the votes are cast. Republicans should know better than anyone how quickly the political landscape can change.

If one looks at the recent polling for senate and gubernatorial races in 2010, it looks like the flip side of 2008. Then it was a sea of blue; now there is a lot of red. In swing states like Ohio, John Kasich is ahead of incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland and Rob Portman has made up ground against potential Democratic opponents in the senate contest. In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble, and in Pennsylvania Pat Toomey is running strongly against both Democratic contenders. There are two noteworthy aspects to these and other races (e.g., Nevada and New Hampshire senate contests): the Republicans’ new found appeal in diverse regions and the burden of incumbency, which is currently weighing down veteran Democrats.

The worry for Republicans after the 2008 wipe out was that their base was shrinking to white, religious males from the South. Independents, women, and minorities were falling away. But the victories of Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, as well as the strong standing of 2010 Republican candidates in the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West (e.g., the Colorado and Nevada senate races), suggest that voters around the country haven’t permanently shifted loyalties. In 2008 they were miffed at the Republicans, wary of the economic collapse, and willing to give the other party a chance to get it right. If the other party is demonstrating that they can’t get it right either on jobs, spending, entitlements, and the rest, then voters are more than willing to throw them out. Democrats won’t have George W. Bush to kick around or a frantic, crotchety presidential campaign to run circles around. They will have to defend an agenda that is, at least for now, exceptionally unpopular — and an economic record that is utterly undistinguished. Republicans will seek to take their message nationally to voters who in 2008 were not willing to listen to anyone with an “R” by their name.

But what of the power of incumbency? Certainly incumbent governors and senators have the advantage of name recognition, plenty of free media, and the power to sprinkle goodies in key districts. A community center here and a bike path there, they figure, will endear voters to the bearer of the pork. But just as 2006 and 2008 were “throw the bums out” elections, 2010 may be yet another year in which incumbency is a burden, not an asset. If it’s not corruption issues (Chris Dodd) or high unemployment (Ted Strickland), it is the burden of identification with the ultra-liberal president and Congress which candidates like Sens. Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln will have to manage.

But Republicans would be foolish to think that they have a lock on 2010. Just as Democrats over-estimated the staying power of their 2008 gains, Republicans may not solidify the gains they have made or hold their position in the polls. The White House and Congress may shift gears and get off the lefty legislation binge. Unemployment may drift downward. The Democrats fumbled the ball this year by overestimating the public’s tolerance for big-government power grabs. But there is another year before the votes are cast. Republicans should know better than anyone how quickly the political landscape can change.

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