Commentary Magazine


Topic: New Jersey

Thanks, but I’d Rather Not

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is President Obama the New Woodrow Wilson?

Jen referred this morning to David Brooks’s column, in which he advises the President to change his ways after the midterm election, especially if it turns out to be as disastrous for Democrats as nearly everyone expects. And this means changing his politics, just as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 midterm:

Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly. This ambiguity was useful in 2008 when people could project whatever they wanted onto him. But it has been harmful since. Obama came to be defined by his emergency responses to the fiscal crisis — by the things he had to do, not by the things he wanted to do. Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.

Unlike Clinton, who doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body, I’m not sure Obama has the capacity to do that. I’ve just finished reading Louis Auchincloss’s mini-biography of Woodrow Wilson (part of the “Penguin Lives” series), and I was struck by the similarities between the country’s first liberal president and the man who might be its last (I know, I know, ever the optimist).

Wilson was, at heart, an academic, the author of several books, (including Congressional Government, still in print after 125 years). He thought and acted like a professor even after he entered politics. Wilson always took it for granted, for instance, that he was the smartest guy in the room and acted accordingly. Does that sound familiar? Wilson was a remarkably powerful orator. (It was he who revived the custom of delivering the State of the Union message in person, a custom that had been dropped by Thomas Jefferson, a poor and most reluctant public speaker.)

Both men had very short public careers before the White House. Wilson’s only pre-presidential office was two years as Governor of New Jersey. And Wilson thought he had a pipeline to God, which allowed him to divine what was best for the world and gave him a moral obligation to give it to the world whether the world wanted it or not. This last tendency, evident even when he was president of Princeton University, became more pronounced with age as a series of debilitating strokes (the first at age 40) increasingly rigidified his personality.

Both Wilson and Obama were the subjects of remarkable public adulation, and both won the Nobel Peace Prize for their aspirations rather than their accomplishments. In Wilson’s case, at least, it only increased his sense of being God’s instrument on earth. Although the Republicans had won majorities just before Armistice Day in November 1918, in both houses of Congress — and the Senate’s consent by a two-thirds majority would be necessary to ratify any treaty — Wilson shut them out of any say in the treaty he went to Paris to negotiate with the other victorious powers. Obama, of course, shut the Republicans out of any say in both the stimulus bill and ObamaCare.

The result was disastrous for Wilson’s dream of world peace. So obsessed was he with creating a League of Nations that he was willing to surrender on almost everything else enunciated in his Fourteen Points to get it. Clemenceau and Lloyd George, shrewd and ruthless negotiators, played him like a fiddle. The result was the Treaty of Versailles, perhaps the most catastrophic work of diplomacy in world history, which produced a smoldering resentment in Germany at its harshness, a resentment exploited by Adolf Hitler.

When Wilson returned home, he flatly refused to compromise with the Republicans in the Senate and embarked on a speaking tour to build public pressure to force the treaty and the League through. The result was another stroke that left him incapacitated. The treaty was defeated 55-39, and when the Republicans tried to add a “reservation” that was essentially trivial but would have resulted in ratification, Wilson would have none of it. If he could not have the treaty, word for word, that he had negotiated, then he preferred nothing. He asked Democratic senators to vote against the amended treaty, and they did so. As a result, the United States did not join the League, which was hopelessly ineffective without the world’s greatest power, and what Wilson had hoped would be eternal peace became a 20-year truce.

President Obama, so far as I know, is in the best of health, but will he be any more able to deal with a changed political reality and work with Republicans? I hope so, but even this incorrigible optimist is not too confident of that.

Jen referred this morning to David Brooks’s column, in which he advises the President to change his ways after the midterm election, especially if it turns out to be as disastrous for Democrats as nearly everyone expects. And this means changing his politics, just as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 midterm:

Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly. This ambiguity was useful in 2008 when people could project whatever they wanted onto him. But it has been harmful since. Obama came to be defined by his emergency responses to the fiscal crisis — by the things he had to do, not by the things he wanted to do. Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.

Unlike Clinton, who doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body, I’m not sure Obama has the capacity to do that. I’ve just finished reading Louis Auchincloss’s mini-biography of Woodrow Wilson (part of the “Penguin Lives” series), and I was struck by the similarities between the country’s first liberal president and the man who might be its last (I know, I know, ever the optimist).

Wilson was, at heart, an academic, the author of several books, (including Congressional Government, still in print after 125 years). He thought and acted like a professor even after he entered politics. Wilson always took it for granted, for instance, that he was the smartest guy in the room and acted accordingly. Does that sound familiar? Wilson was a remarkably powerful orator. (It was he who revived the custom of delivering the State of the Union message in person, a custom that had been dropped by Thomas Jefferson, a poor and most reluctant public speaker.)

Both men had very short public careers before the White House. Wilson’s only pre-presidential office was two years as Governor of New Jersey. And Wilson thought he had a pipeline to God, which allowed him to divine what was best for the world and gave him a moral obligation to give it to the world whether the world wanted it or not. This last tendency, evident even when he was president of Princeton University, became more pronounced with age as a series of debilitating strokes (the first at age 40) increasingly rigidified his personality.

Both Wilson and Obama were the subjects of remarkable public adulation, and both won the Nobel Peace Prize for their aspirations rather than their accomplishments. In Wilson’s case, at least, it only increased his sense of being God’s instrument on earth. Although the Republicans had won majorities just before Armistice Day in November 1918, in both houses of Congress — and the Senate’s consent by a two-thirds majority would be necessary to ratify any treaty — Wilson shut them out of any say in the treaty he went to Paris to negotiate with the other victorious powers. Obama, of course, shut the Republicans out of any say in both the stimulus bill and ObamaCare.

The result was disastrous for Wilson’s dream of world peace. So obsessed was he with creating a League of Nations that he was willing to surrender on almost everything else enunciated in his Fourteen Points to get it. Clemenceau and Lloyd George, shrewd and ruthless negotiators, played him like a fiddle. The result was the Treaty of Versailles, perhaps the most catastrophic work of diplomacy in world history, which produced a smoldering resentment in Germany at its harshness, a resentment exploited by Adolf Hitler.

When Wilson returned home, he flatly refused to compromise with the Republicans in the Senate and embarked on a speaking tour to build public pressure to force the treaty and the League through. The result was another stroke that left him incapacitated. The treaty was defeated 55-39, and when the Republicans tried to add a “reservation” that was essentially trivial but would have resulted in ratification, Wilson would have none of it. If he could not have the treaty, word for word, that he had negotiated, then he preferred nothing. He asked Democratic senators to vote against the amended treaty, and they did so. As a result, the United States did not join the League, which was hopelessly ineffective without the world’s greatest power, and what Wilson had hoped would be eternal peace became a 20-year truce.

President Obama, so far as I know, is in the best of health, but will he be any more able to deal with a changed political reality and work with Republicans? I hope so, but even this incorrigible optimist is not too confident of that.

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Performance and Politics

Chris Christie’s latest YouTube hit demonstrates the qualities that are defining his public persona and causing many a conservative to wonder whether he is “the guy” to take on Obama. (He insists he isn’t, but the conservative buzz about him has only grown.) In this clip, Christie methodically reels off a list of nonsense bills on which the New Jersey legislature has spent time, all the while ignoring major issues like property-tax relief and pension reform. Yes, what he is saying is important, but it is the how he is saying it that makes him a rising star.

His background as a U.S. attorney certainly comes through: the use of vernacular, the good humor, the methodical pacing. If the GOP wants to deliver some tough medicine in the next few years — on entitlement reform, spending discipline, etc. — they’d better find an appealing messenger and a down-to-earth manner of delivering the message.

Christie may actually mean what he says and may refuse to run. But the other 2012 contenders should take note. If you want to win an election and a mandate, you will need more than a clipboard and PowerPoint presentation. Politics is serious stuff, but it is also about performance. And with the exception of Sarah Palin, there isn’t any Republican contender for 2012 in sight who looks like he is having fun out there. There’s more to politics than a telegenic personality, a good sense of humor, and a flair for the dramatic, but none of these qualities hurt. Republican voters should look for a suitably conservative message, but they will inevitably be swayed by the skill and appeal of the messenger himself.

Chris Christie’s latest YouTube hit demonstrates the qualities that are defining his public persona and causing many a conservative to wonder whether he is “the guy” to take on Obama. (He insists he isn’t, but the conservative buzz about him has only grown.) In this clip, Christie methodically reels off a list of nonsense bills on which the New Jersey legislature has spent time, all the while ignoring major issues like property-tax relief and pension reform. Yes, what he is saying is important, but it is the how he is saying it that makes him a rising star.

His background as a U.S. attorney certainly comes through: the use of vernacular, the good humor, the methodical pacing. If the GOP wants to deliver some tough medicine in the next few years — on entitlement reform, spending discipline, etc. — they’d better find an appealing messenger and a down-to-earth manner of delivering the message.

Christie may actually mean what he says and may refuse to run. But the other 2012 contenders should take note. If you want to win an election and a mandate, you will need more than a clipboard and PowerPoint presentation. Politics is serious stuff, but it is also about performance. And with the exception of Sarah Palin, there isn’t any Republican contender for 2012 in sight who looks like he is having fun out there. There’s more to politics than a telegenic personality, a good sense of humor, and a flair for the dramatic, but none of these qualities hurt. Republican voters should look for a suitably conservative message, but they will inevitably be swayed by the skill and appeal of the messenger himself.

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Freaking Out J Street

Washington Jewish Week reports that the Emergency Committee for Israel is making quite a splash:

In the past few months, ECI has made a name for itself by assaulting Democrats in hotly contested congressional races over their support for Israel — or lack thereof, as ECI sees it. …

“There is some reason for Democrats to be concerned,” said one Democratic political strategist who would speak only on background. ECI is “going about this in an intelligent way and it’s likely to have an impact.”

“In a marginal and close race” in a niche market, the source added, “they could certainly move the needle.”

The ads, which [executive director Noah]Pollak said will air “hundreds” of times on several networks, target Pennsylvania Senate hopeful, Rep. Joe Sestak (D) — whom ECI pegged as anti-Israel in a spot that ran during the National League Championship Series between the Phillies and Giants — as well as Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and John Tierney (D-Mass.).

The notion that, as an ECI spokesman put it, the “free ride is over” and candidates will actually be held accountable for their views, associations, and votes on Israel has left Democrats whimpering. Ira Forman, the former head of the  National Jewish Democratic Council, (who could never muster a single bad word about Obama’s assault on Israel) asserts: “Either [ECI] knows very little about what will drive Jewish votes… or they’re just cynical and this is a good opportunity for them to build their own political operation.” I actually don’t know what that means — the ECI operation obviously is designed to hold lawmakers accountable for their voting records on Israel. But Forman has a point that the left has so downgraded Israel as a priority that exposing a lawmaker’s anti-Israel voting record might not shake its followers free of the “sick addiction” to the Democratic party. But then again, the rest of American voters, including a fair number of Jews, are quite pro-Israel, so it does make a difference. Odd, isn’t it, however, that Forman assumes that ECI is only going after Jewish voters?

But the whine-a-thon really revs up when J Street’s policy director, Hadar Susskind, (I guess the credibility-challenged Jeremy Ben-Ami is at an undisclosed location these days) insists that “ECI’s primary function as not to defend Israel or sway voters, but to ‘scare legislators.’” Well, I imagine many of the J Street endorsees, including Joe Sestak, are scared because their votes and actions don’t match their pro-Israel labeling. Then Susskind comes up with this howler:

“I could list out two dozen Republicans in Congress who take a much more nuanced view on” the peace process, but can’t express it “because the majority of campaign support they get is from folks who are on the far-right, neo-conservative, Israel-right-or-wrong crowd,” Susskind said.

To adopt that view, he explained, would mean sacrificing already scant Jewish support. ECI’s “game is really to keep Republicans in line.”

These alleged GOP lawmakers can’t express that they are secretly “more nuanced”? (So how do we know they are?) Who are these people, tailgunner Susskind? Perhaps there is a list to wave before the cameras. And by the way, in case the J Street kids hadn’t noticed, J Street’s game is to hold all lawmakers accountable — including Democrats Sestak, Holt, and Tierney.

Washington Jewish Week reports that the Emergency Committee for Israel is making quite a splash:

In the past few months, ECI has made a name for itself by assaulting Democrats in hotly contested congressional races over their support for Israel — or lack thereof, as ECI sees it. …

“There is some reason for Democrats to be concerned,” said one Democratic political strategist who would speak only on background. ECI is “going about this in an intelligent way and it’s likely to have an impact.”

“In a marginal and close race” in a niche market, the source added, “they could certainly move the needle.”

The ads, which [executive director Noah]Pollak said will air “hundreds” of times on several networks, target Pennsylvania Senate hopeful, Rep. Joe Sestak (D) — whom ECI pegged as anti-Israel in a spot that ran during the National League Championship Series between the Phillies and Giants — as well as Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and John Tierney (D-Mass.).

The notion that, as an ECI spokesman put it, the “free ride is over” and candidates will actually be held accountable for their views, associations, and votes on Israel has left Democrats whimpering. Ira Forman, the former head of the  National Jewish Democratic Council, (who could never muster a single bad word about Obama’s assault on Israel) asserts: “Either [ECI] knows very little about what will drive Jewish votes… or they’re just cynical and this is a good opportunity for them to build their own political operation.” I actually don’t know what that means — the ECI operation obviously is designed to hold lawmakers accountable for their voting records on Israel. But Forman has a point that the left has so downgraded Israel as a priority that exposing a lawmaker’s anti-Israel voting record might not shake its followers free of the “sick addiction” to the Democratic party. But then again, the rest of American voters, including a fair number of Jews, are quite pro-Israel, so it does make a difference. Odd, isn’t it, however, that Forman assumes that ECI is only going after Jewish voters?

But the whine-a-thon really revs up when J Street’s policy director, Hadar Susskind, (I guess the credibility-challenged Jeremy Ben-Ami is at an undisclosed location these days) insists that “ECI’s primary function as not to defend Israel or sway voters, but to ‘scare legislators.’” Well, I imagine many of the J Street endorsees, including Joe Sestak, are scared because their votes and actions don’t match their pro-Israel labeling. Then Susskind comes up with this howler:

“I could list out two dozen Republicans in Congress who take a much more nuanced view on” the peace process, but can’t express it “because the majority of campaign support they get is from folks who are on the far-right, neo-conservative, Israel-right-or-wrong crowd,” Susskind said.

To adopt that view, he explained, would mean sacrificing already scant Jewish support. ECI’s “game is really to keep Republicans in line.”

These alleged GOP lawmakers can’t express that they are secretly “more nuanced”? (So how do we know they are?) Who are these people, tailgunner Susskind? Perhaps there is a list to wave before the cameras. And by the way, in case the J Street kids hadn’t noticed, J Street’s game is to hold all lawmakers accountable — including Democrats Sestak, Holt, and Tierney.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Rep. Mark Kirk is stretching out his lead in Illinois. The last time his opponent led in a poll was October 11.

Pat Toomey is finishing strong in Pennsylvania.

If Obama is thinking of dumping Joe Biden, he can select Katie Couric as his VP. She sounds just like him: “Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls ‘this great unwashed middle of the country’ in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.” Boston is the middle of the country?

Obama’s human rights policy is baffling. “On Monday, the Obama administration waived sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, paving the way for new military cooperation with four countries with poor human rights records — despite their use of underage troops. … So the Obama administration has determined that deepening military relationships with brutal dictatorships and unsavory regimes is the best way to reform them? That seems like a pretty big shift in policy. It still remains unclear what military assistance the United States actually plans to give to countries like Sudan, Chad, and Yemen, as well as how it will use its engagement to protect child soldiers.”

Rudy Giuliani (after one of the more bizarrely inept campaigns in recent memory) is considering another presidential run? I suppose this time he would compete before the Florida campaign.

Released from the hospital, Carly Fiorina is returning to the campaign. The race is still close, but no poll has shown her ahead.

If Obama is meeting with liberal bloggers less than a week before the election, the Dems are in a heap of trouble.

John Bolton sure is sounding presidential: “Dramatic developments in Europe in the past few weeks have graphically demonstrated the importance of America’s upcoming November 2 elections. Coming midway through President Obama’s term, there is little doubt these elections constitute a referendum on his philosophy, policies and performance. Any U.S. citizens who doubt the significance of their impending votes need only contemplate Europe to see the consequences of further pursuing the Obama agenda.”

Rep. Mark Kirk is stretching out his lead in Illinois. The last time his opponent led in a poll was October 11.

Pat Toomey is finishing strong in Pennsylvania.

If Obama is thinking of dumping Joe Biden, he can select Katie Couric as his VP. She sounds just like him: “Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls ‘this great unwashed middle of the country’ in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.” Boston is the middle of the country?

Obama’s human rights policy is baffling. “On Monday, the Obama administration waived sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, paving the way for new military cooperation with four countries with poor human rights records — despite their use of underage troops. … So the Obama administration has determined that deepening military relationships with brutal dictatorships and unsavory regimes is the best way to reform them? That seems like a pretty big shift in policy. It still remains unclear what military assistance the United States actually plans to give to countries like Sudan, Chad, and Yemen, as well as how it will use its engagement to protect child soldiers.”

Rudy Giuliani (after one of the more bizarrely inept campaigns in recent memory) is considering another presidential run? I suppose this time he would compete before the Florida campaign.

Released from the hospital, Carly Fiorina is returning to the campaign. The race is still close, but no poll has shown her ahead.

If Obama is meeting with liberal bloggers less than a week before the election, the Dems are in a heap of trouble.

John Bolton sure is sounding presidential: “Dramatic developments in Europe in the past few weeks have graphically demonstrated the importance of America’s upcoming November 2 elections. Coming midway through President Obama’s term, there is little doubt these elections constitute a referendum on his philosophy, policies and performance. Any U.S. citizens who doubt the significance of their impending votes need only contemplate Europe to see the consequences of further pursuing the Obama agenda.”

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Will Obama Learn Anything from the Midterms?

Michael Gerson conducts a must-read interview with Charlie Cook. In addition to predictions of a massive GOP wave, there is this discussion about Obama and the Democratic agenda:

Question: What lessons should Obama’s aides take away from these likely political reverses?

“It was the political aides,” counters Cook, “who lost the arguments. Rahm [Emanuel] knew they should cut a deal on health care, get to the economy.” But Obama held a different view of himself and his presidency. “He had already been first at everything. He wanted to be something other than the first — to be historical, game-changing, to have grand influence like FDR or LBJ. But he missed out on the day job,” which was jobs and economic growth.

Some, Cook says, “are told all their lives that they are the most brilliant people on the planet. They don’t get less bright, but hubris kicks in. [Obama] just assumed that he was going to be a success, as he had always been in life.”

According to Cook, this reflects a lack of experience. “Experience is not an end, it is a means to an end: judgment.” Cook said that a few years in the Senate “don’t give an understanding of institutions and their dynamics. If [Obama] had been in the Senate six or eight years, he might have accumulated the wisdom to match the intelligence.”

That’s about as devastating a critique as you are going to get from a neutral observer. Obama’s arrogance got the better of him; he knew better than everyone and will now pay the price.

But there was more going on than simply picking the wrong agenda items or refusing to temper his own ego. Obama’s ideological rigidity and policy preferences ran headlong into Americans’ skepticism about big government and their sense of moral outrage. The Tea Party is a movement grounded in the belief in limited government. But it was also born out of a sense that we have lost track of fundamental values — thrift, discipline, and humility, for starters — and as a result are seeing irresponsible spending, massive debt, and liberal statism.

Obama did not listen to the health-care town-hall attendees or to the voters of New Jersey, Virginia, or Massachusetts. Why should he? He didn’t pay attention to more sober-minded aides, polls, or his own nervous congressional allies. His absolute certainty in his own vision combined with his lack of understanding of the American polity and substantive policy (from economics to the Middle East). As his poll ratings and party’s electoral prospects continue to dive, he reacts with annoyance at the rubes in America who fail to appreciate his brilliance. Will such a president actually reverse course after an election? I have my doubts.

Michael Gerson conducts a must-read interview with Charlie Cook. In addition to predictions of a massive GOP wave, there is this discussion about Obama and the Democratic agenda:

Question: What lessons should Obama’s aides take away from these likely political reverses?

“It was the political aides,” counters Cook, “who lost the arguments. Rahm [Emanuel] knew they should cut a deal on health care, get to the economy.” But Obama held a different view of himself and his presidency. “He had already been first at everything. He wanted to be something other than the first — to be historical, game-changing, to have grand influence like FDR or LBJ. But he missed out on the day job,” which was jobs and economic growth.

Some, Cook says, “are told all their lives that they are the most brilliant people on the planet. They don’t get less bright, but hubris kicks in. [Obama] just assumed that he was going to be a success, as he had always been in life.”

According to Cook, this reflects a lack of experience. “Experience is not an end, it is a means to an end: judgment.” Cook said that a few years in the Senate “don’t give an understanding of institutions and their dynamics. If [Obama] had been in the Senate six or eight years, he might have accumulated the wisdom to match the intelligence.”

That’s about as devastating a critique as you are going to get from a neutral observer. Obama’s arrogance got the better of him; he knew better than everyone and will now pay the price.

But there was more going on than simply picking the wrong agenda items or refusing to temper his own ego. Obama’s ideological rigidity and policy preferences ran headlong into Americans’ skepticism about big government and their sense of moral outrage. The Tea Party is a movement grounded in the belief in limited government. But it was also born out of a sense that we have lost track of fundamental values — thrift, discipline, and humility, for starters — and as a result are seeing irresponsible spending, massive debt, and liberal statism.

Obama did not listen to the health-care town-hall attendees or to the voters of New Jersey, Virginia, or Massachusetts. Why should he? He didn’t pay attention to more sober-minded aides, polls, or his own nervous congressional allies. His absolute certainty in his own vision combined with his lack of understanding of the American polity and substantive policy (from economics to the Middle East). As his poll ratings and party’s electoral prospects continue to dive, he reacts with annoyance at the rubes in America who fail to appreciate his brilliance. Will such a president actually reverse course after an election? I have my doubts.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It is getting worse, not better, for the Democrats in the congressional generic polling.

The recession has been worse for men than for women, but the Obama team needs female voters. So: “The National Economic Council released a report Thursday detailing women’s economic hardships and the different ways the administration is helping to alleviate their pain. … Economist Mark Perry, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller that the lack of attention to the economic problems of men has been foolish. ‘My initial impression of the report is that it completely ignores all of the significant and disproportionate hardships faced by men in the recession. We just went through an unprecedented ‘mancession,’ and it’s still not over.’”

There are worse things than being fired by NPR. “Fox News moved swiftly to turn the controversy over Juan Williams’s firing to its advantage, offering him an expanded role and a new three-year contract Thursday morning in a deal that amounts to nearly $2 million.”

What is worse — firing Juan Williams or concealing the underlying reason for it? Fred Barnes writes: “I have no doubt that Juan’s comments about Muslims were merely a pretext. There had been prior run-ins between NPR and Juan over his appearances on Fox. But fire him over remarks that most Americans would identify with? I didn’t think the loathing of Fox would cause NPR to do something so ideologically driven, unprofessional, and bigoted. … The motto is, Fox is fair and balanced. Mainstream media types sneer at this. Juan actually embodies it. He’s both fair and balanced. NPR is neither.”

He says he’s not running. But is there a worse nightmare for Obama in 2012? “In one long year, Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has gone from little-known prosecutor to GOP rock star. The Newark native won last November on a blunt promise to fix a ‘failed state.’ He’d stop the ‘madness’ of tax hikes and chronic overspending. He’d demand New Jersey ‘live within its means,’ tackling the rich public-employee benefits driving the state off the cliff. He’d be straight-up with voters. The promises won him election; it’s the follow-through that’s won him acclaim. Democrats were appalled when he impounded $2.2 billion in spending; taxpayers cheered. The liberal class gasped when he vetoed a ‘millionaire’s tax’; business owners hurrahed. He’s demanding government unions help close $46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. He’s tough-talking but common-sense, and his approval rating keeps going up.”

Hard to recall a worse pre-election argument than Obama’s faux science explanation for the rise of anti-Obama sentiment. A real, former psychiatrist comments: “Faced with this truly puzzling conundrum, Dr. Obama diagnoses a heretofore undiscovered psychological derangement: anxiety-induced Obama Underappreciation Syndrome, wherein an entire population is so addled by its economic anxieties as to be neurologically incapable of appreciating the ‘facts and science’ undergirding Obamacare and the other blessings their president has bestowed upon them from on high.”

If anything, a change for the worse. “A majority of voters in key battleground races say President Obama has either brought no change to Washington or has brought change for the worse. In 10 competitive House districts, 41 percent of likely voters say Obama has brought change for the worse, and 30 percent say he has made no difference.”

It is getting worse, not better, for the Democrats in the congressional generic polling.

The recession has been worse for men than for women, but the Obama team needs female voters. So: “The National Economic Council released a report Thursday detailing women’s economic hardships and the different ways the administration is helping to alleviate their pain. … Economist Mark Perry, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller that the lack of attention to the economic problems of men has been foolish. ‘My initial impression of the report is that it completely ignores all of the significant and disproportionate hardships faced by men in the recession. We just went through an unprecedented ‘mancession,’ and it’s still not over.’”

There are worse things than being fired by NPR. “Fox News moved swiftly to turn the controversy over Juan Williams’s firing to its advantage, offering him an expanded role and a new three-year contract Thursday morning in a deal that amounts to nearly $2 million.”

What is worse — firing Juan Williams or concealing the underlying reason for it? Fred Barnes writes: “I have no doubt that Juan’s comments about Muslims were merely a pretext. There had been prior run-ins between NPR and Juan over his appearances on Fox. But fire him over remarks that most Americans would identify with? I didn’t think the loathing of Fox would cause NPR to do something so ideologically driven, unprofessional, and bigoted. … The motto is, Fox is fair and balanced. Mainstream media types sneer at this. Juan actually embodies it. He’s both fair and balanced. NPR is neither.”

He says he’s not running. But is there a worse nightmare for Obama in 2012? “In one long year, Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has gone from little-known prosecutor to GOP rock star. The Newark native won last November on a blunt promise to fix a ‘failed state.’ He’d stop the ‘madness’ of tax hikes and chronic overspending. He’d demand New Jersey ‘live within its means,’ tackling the rich public-employee benefits driving the state off the cliff. He’d be straight-up with voters. The promises won him election; it’s the follow-through that’s won him acclaim. Democrats were appalled when he impounded $2.2 billion in spending; taxpayers cheered. The liberal class gasped when he vetoed a ‘millionaire’s tax’; business owners hurrahed. He’s demanding government unions help close $46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. He’s tough-talking but common-sense, and his approval rating keeps going up.”

Hard to recall a worse pre-election argument than Obama’s faux science explanation for the rise of anti-Obama sentiment. A real, former psychiatrist comments: “Faced with this truly puzzling conundrum, Dr. Obama diagnoses a heretofore undiscovered psychological derangement: anxiety-induced Obama Underappreciation Syndrome, wherein an entire population is so addled by its economic anxieties as to be neurologically incapable of appreciating the ‘facts and science’ undergirding Obamacare and the other blessings their president has bestowed upon them from on high.”

If anything, a change for the worse. “A majority of voters in key battleground races say President Obama has either brought no change to Washington or has brought change for the worse. In 10 competitive House districts, 41 percent of likely voters say Obama has brought change for the worse, and 30 percent say he has made no difference.”

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Christie Momentum?

Earlier this week, I remarked on Chris Christie’s YouTube stardom. I’m not the only one who’s taking him seriously. Matt Continetti thinks Christie may be the candidate the GOP base is looking for:

The New Jersey governor is touring the country in support of Republican candidates. He’s taken on the public sector unions. He’s made some hard calls. He speaks in a blunt, confrontational style. Yet he remains popular. Most striking, he’s a Republican from the Northeast who has national appeal. Last week Christie won a Tea Party presidential straw poll–in Virginia. In September, he came in second in another straw poll–held in Chicago.

Christie denies any interest in the top job. But he’s clearly a born executive. A pro-lifer, he has none of the social-issues baggage that has harmed Northeast Republicans in past primaries. He has a record to be proud of. He’s incredibly well spoken. Other than Paul Ryan, I can’t think of another Republican officeholder who gets conservatives as excited as Christie does.

He doesn’t have explicit foreign policy experience, although he did successfully prosecute a terrorist. (Nor do I see many other foreign policy mavens, other than John Bolton, considering a run. Now there’s a ticket!) And he says he really isn’t interested. But then so did Barak Obama a mere two years before he was elected president.

The Christie buzz will be followed by buzz for and about other potential candidates. But it reminds us that the field has hardly been set and that conservative activists are still shopping around for someone to excite them.

Earlier this week, I remarked on Chris Christie’s YouTube stardom. I’m not the only one who’s taking him seriously. Matt Continetti thinks Christie may be the candidate the GOP base is looking for:

The New Jersey governor is touring the country in support of Republican candidates. He’s taken on the public sector unions. He’s made some hard calls. He speaks in a blunt, confrontational style. Yet he remains popular. Most striking, he’s a Republican from the Northeast who has national appeal. Last week Christie won a Tea Party presidential straw poll–in Virginia. In September, he came in second in another straw poll–held in Chicago.

Christie denies any interest in the top job. But he’s clearly a born executive. A pro-lifer, he has none of the social-issues baggage that has harmed Northeast Republicans in past primaries. He has a record to be proud of. He’s incredibly well spoken. Other than Paul Ryan, I can’t think of another Republican officeholder who gets conservatives as excited as Christie does.

He doesn’t have explicit foreign policy experience, although he did successfully prosecute a terrorist. (Nor do I see many other foreign policy mavens, other than John Bolton, considering a run. Now there’s a ticket!) And he says he really isn’t interested. But then so did Barak Obama a mere two years before he was elected president.

The Christie buzz will be followed by buzz for and about other potential candidates. But it reminds us that the field has hardly been set and that conservative activists are still shopping around for someone to excite them.

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Americans’ Own Experiences vs. Obama’s Rhetoric

The Obama recovery bears an uncanny resemblance to a recession. That’s the New York Times‘s take:

Less than a month before November elections, the United States is mired in a grim New Normal that could last for years. . . Call it recession or recovery, for tens of millions of Americans, there’s little difference.

Born of a record financial collapse, this recession has been more severe than any since the Great Depression and has left an enormous oversupply of houses and office buildings and crippling debt. The decision last week by leading mortgage lenders to freeze foreclosures, and calls for a national moratorium, could cast a long shadow of uncertainty over banks and the housing market. Put simply, the national economy has fallen so far that it could take years to climb back.

Or put differently, Obama’s economic policies have been entirely ineffective in addressing historically high unemployment and underemployment. The Times notes:

At the current rate of job creation, the nation would need nine more years to recapture the jobs lost during the recession. And that doesn’t even account for five million or six million jobs needed in that time to keep pace with an expanding population. Even top Obama officials concede the unemployment rate could climb higher still.

But Obama insists on a massive tax increase on the “rich” and a bevy of new regulations and mandates on employers. Certainly, nine more years of Obama-like policies aren’t going to bring unemployment down. As the Times examines the dreary economic conditions across the country, one is struck by the disconnect between the White House’s rhetoric and the economic predicament faced by Americans, as well as the equally vast disconnect between the administration’s anti-growth, anti-business policies and the economic challenges these people are facing.

In this economic climate, Obama’s hyper-partisan, desperate rhetoric seems particularly jarring. He’s talking about phony foreign donors to the Chamber of Commerce; in suburban Arizona, “subdivisions sit in the desert, some half-built and some dreamy wisps, like the emerald green putting green sitting amid acres of scrub and cacti. Signs offer discounts, distress sales and rent with the first and second month free. Discounts do not help if your income is cut in half.” Obama rails at Wall Street; in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, meanwhile, “home prices have fallen by 16 percent since 2006, and houses now take twice as long to sell as they did five years ago. That’s enough to inflict pain on homeowners who need to sell because of a job loss or drop in income. Some are being forced to get rid of their houses in short sales, asking less than they owe on a mortgage. As of last week, 10 percent of all listings in this well-tended suburb were being offered as short sales.” Obama is obsessed with George Bush and Citizens United; in Atlanta, “small banks are a particular disaster, 43 having gone under in Georgia since 2008. (Federal regulators closed 129 nationally this year, up from 25 last year.) Real estate was the beginning, the middle and the end of the troubles.”

No wonder Obama’s ratings are diving. He is talking about things that bear no relation to voters’ concerns. He insists his policies have worked, but voters’ own experiences tell them otherwise. Obama’s rhetoric against a growing list of political adversaries only reinforces the impression that he is focused on the wrong things. The analogy is not Jimmy Carter. It is Herbert Hoover by way of Richard Nixon.

The Obama recovery bears an uncanny resemblance to a recession. That’s the New York Times‘s take:

Less than a month before November elections, the United States is mired in a grim New Normal that could last for years. . . Call it recession or recovery, for tens of millions of Americans, there’s little difference.

Born of a record financial collapse, this recession has been more severe than any since the Great Depression and has left an enormous oversupply of houses and office buildings and crippling debt. The decision last week by leading mortgage lenders to freeze foreclosures, and calls for a national moratorium, could cast a long shadow of uncertainty over banks and the housing market. Put simply, the national economy has fallen so far that it could take years to climb back.

Or put differently, Obama’s economic policies have been entirely ineffective in addressing historically high unemployment and underemployment. The Times notes:

At the current rate of job creation, the nation would need nine more years to recapture the jobs lost during the recession. And that doesn’t even account for five million or six million jobs needed in that time to keep pace with an expanding population. Even top Obama officials concede the unemployment rate could climb higher still.

But Obama insists on a massive tax increase on the “rich” and a bevy of new regulations and mandates on employers. Certainly, nine more years of Obama-like policies aren’t going to bring unemployment down. As the Times examines the dreary economic conditions across the country, one is struck by the disconnect between the White House’s rhetoric and the economic predicament faced by Americans, as well as the equally vast disconnect between the administration’s anti-growth, anti-business policies and the economic challenges these people are facing.

In this economic climate, Obama’s hyper-partisan, desperate rhetoric seems particularly jarring. He’s talking about phony foreign donors to the Chamber of Commerce; in suburban Arizona, “subdivisions sit in the desert, some half-built and some dreamy wisps, like the emerald green putting green sitting amid acres of scrub and cacti. Signs offer discounts, distress sales and rent with the first and second month free. Discounts do not help if your income is cut in half.” Obama rails at Wall Street; in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, meanwhile, “home prices have fallen by 16 percent since 2006, and houses now take twice as long to sell as they did five years ago. That’s enough to inflict pain on homeowners who need to sell because of a job loss or drop in income. Some are being forced to get rid of their houses in short sales, asking less than they owe on a mortgage. As of last week, 10 percent of all listings in this well-tended suburb were being offered as short sales.” Obama is obsessed with George Bush and Citizens United; in Atlanta, “small banks are a particular disaster, 43 having gone under in Georgia since 2008. (Federal regulators closed 129 nationally this year, up from 25 last year.) Real estate was the beginning, the middle and the end of the troubles.”

No wonder Obama’s ratings are diving. He is talking about things that bear no relation to voters’ concerns. He insists his policies have worked, but voters’ own experiences tell them otherwise. Obama’s rhetoric against a growing list of political adversaries only reinforces the impression that he is focused on the wrong things. The analogy is not Jimmy Carter. It is Herbert Hoover by way of Richard Nixon.

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Excavating the Left’s Tunnel Vision

After several hysterical pieces in the New York Times denouncing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s refusal to sink his state deeper in debt to build a train tunnel to New York, David Brooks attempts to inject a little sanity into the debate in his column today. His colleagues Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert waxed hysterical about the decision, claiming that the governor’s reluctance to spend billions on the tunnel that the state doesn’t have is based on irrational hatred of government.

Both claim that the refusal is based on a lack of vision and imagination and bespeaks a smallness of spirit. But, of course, this is pure hyperbole, with Krugman claiming that the cause of potentially making his (and mine, as I wrote last week) commute a bit quicker is comparable to building the Erie Canal or the Hoover Dam, projects that transformed the American economy and its history.

Krugman downplays the cost overruns on the project (which even Christie’s much greater estimates almost certainly underestimate) and claims that New Jersey was getting a bargain; but when all is said and done, what Christie has refused to do is to spend $8 billion or more to get $3 billion in federal money. I guess you have to have won a Nobel Prize in economics to think that’s a bargain. Herbert laments the loss of 6,000 construction jobs involved in the tunnel’s cancellation but fails to note that at $1 million+ per job, what we’re talking about here is a boondoggle that might have made Tony Soprano’s fictional mobster exploitation of “The Esplanade” look like small change.

Brooks acknowledges that the tunnel is needed but rightly notes that the state’s inability to afford it stems from the fact that our states and municipalities are drowning in debt largely generated by the costs of paying government employees and their pensions (an issue that Jeff Jacoby explores at length in this month’s issue of COMMENTARY). It’s all well and good to say that big infrastructure projects are exactly the sort of thing government should be doing, but the liberal addiction to public-sector spending has made that impossible. And the public-sector unions that dominate the Democratic Party make sure this never changes.

One reader reacted to my earlier post on this subject by claiming that what Christie has done is to try and live without debt, a bad policy for any government, business, or family. In fact, what Christie is attempting to do is establish the principle that there must be a limit to debt. Unless our states free themselves from the massive debt that government unions have created, it will become increasingly difficult for government to afford the basic services they are supposed to provide, let alone money pits like the Hudson River Tunnel.

Brooks laments the fact that the left won’t make the hard choices about which government expenditures to prioritize. But the problem here isn’t about priorities but a liberal philosophy that wants no limits on government’s power to spend and therefore tax. Under these circumstances, commonsense conservatives like Christie have no choice but to simply draw a line in the sand and say “no” to the tunnel.

After several hysterical pieces in the New York Times denouncing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s refusal to sink his state deeper in debt to build a train tunnel to New York, David Brooks attempts to inject a little sanity into the debate in his column today. His colleagues Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert waxed hysterical about the decision, claiming that the governor’s reluctance to spend billions on the tunnel that the state doesn’t have is based on irrational hatred of government.

Both claim that the refusal is based on a lack of vision and imagination and bespeaks a smallness of spirit. But, of course, this is pure hyperbole, with Krugman claiming that the cause of potentially making his (and mine, as I wrote last week) commute a bit quicker is comparable to building the Erie Canal or the Hoover Dam, projects that transformed the American economy and its history.

Krugman downplays the cost overruns on the project (which even Christie’s much greater estimates almost certainly underestimate) and claims that New Jersey was getting a bargain; but when all is said and done, what Christie has refused to do is to spend $8 billion or more to get $3 billion in federal money. I guess you have to have won a Nobel Prize in economics to think that’s a bargain. Herbert laments the loss of 6,000 construction jobs involved in the tunnel’s cancellation but fails to note that at $1 million+ per job, what we’re talking about here is a boondoggle that might have made Tony Soprano’s fictional mobster exploitation of “The Esplanade” look like small change.

Brooks acknowledges that the tunnel is needed but rightly notes that the state’s inability to afford it stems from the fact that our states and municipalities are drowning in debt largely generated by the costs of paying government employees and their pensions (an issue that Jeff Jacoby explores at length in this month’s issue of COMMENTARY). It’s all well and good to say that big infrastructure projects are exactly the sort of thing government should be doing, but the liberal addiction to public-sector spending has made that impossible. And the public-sector unions that dominate the Democratic Party make sure this never changes.

One reader reacted to my earlier post on this subject by claiming that what Christie has done is to try and live without debt, a bad policy for any government, business, or family. In fact, what Christie is attempting to do is establish the principle that there must be a limit to debt. Unless our states free themselves from the massive debt that government unions have created, it will become increasingly difficult for government to afford the basic services they are supposed to provide, let alone money pits like the Hudson River Tunnel.

Brooks laments the fact that the left won’t make the hard choices about which government expenditures to prioritize. But the problem here isn’t about priorities but a liberal philosophy that wants no limits on government’s power to spend and therefore tax. Under these circumstances, commonsense conservatives like Christie have no choice but to simply draw a line in the sand and say “no” to the tunnel.

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Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert, Meet Henry Graham

Both Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert last week bemoaned the decision by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey to put the kibosh on a multi-billion-dollar project to build a second railroad tunnel under the Hudson River. The project, which was originally budgeted at $8.7 billion had crept up — in the time-honored way of government projects — to over $11 billion, and many thought it would reach $14 billion before all was said and done. New Jersey would have been responsible for much of the cost overruns, and Governor Christie thought the state, deeply mired in debt already, could not afford it. And so he killed the project.

The tunnel, to be sure, is no bridge to nowhere. The century-old tunnel now in place is very inadequate to handle the rapidly growing traffic between the country’s most densely populated state and its largest city. Krugman and Herbert both called the cancellation the end of the can-do American spirit, a failure of imagination, a disgrace. Krugman wrote:

It was a destructive and incredibly foolish decision on multiple levels. But it shouldn’t have been all that surprising. We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness.

Herbert wrote:

This is a railroad tunnel we’re talking about. We’re not trying to go to the Moon. This is not the Manhattan Project. It’s a railroad tunnel that’s needed to take people back and forth to work and to ease the pressure on the existing tunnel, a wilting two-track facility that’s about 100 years old. What is the matter with us? The Chinese could build it. The Turks could build it. We can’t build it.

Krugman and Herbert remind me of the Walter Matthau character in a delightful if now long-forgotten movie called A New Leaf, written, directed, and co-starring Elaine May. Matthau’s character, Henry Graham, has been private-jet-and-yacht rich all his life but has, unknowingly, run through all his money. When he tries to cash a check at his bank and is told that there are insufficient funds to cover it, he is simply unable to process the information. Whenever he had wanted money before, he had simply written a check and taken the money. Now, suddenly, he can’t do that, and he is utterly befuddled.

When we began the Interstate Highway System, the national debt was about 60 percent of GDP and falling. We had run budget surpluses in seven of the previous 10 years. When we went to the moon, the national debt was 39 percent of GDP and falling. It is now over 90 percent and rising rapidly. And the move from 40 percent of GDP to 90 percent was not because of moon shots or Manhattan Projects. It was so no one in Washington (and many state capitals) ever had to say no to anyone, especially public-service unions. In effect, we spent the money on the political equivalent of wine, women, and song, just as Henry Graham had spent his.

And like Henry Graham, Krugman, Herbert, and the business-as-usual political establishment they speak for are unable to process the information that there is a limit to the debt burden even so fabulously rich a country as the United States can bear without disastrous consequences, and that we are getting perilously close to that limit.

The people of New Jersey had processed that information, and that’s why they elected Governor Christie. I suspect that people in the rest of the country have also processed it, and that’s why the political establishment is going to get clobbered in three weeks.

Both Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert last week bemoaned the decision by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey to put the kibosh on a multi-billion-dollar project to build a second railroad tunnel under the Hudson River. The project, which was originally budgeted at $8.7 billion had crept up — in the time-honored way of government projects — to over $11 billion, and many thought it would reach $14 billion before all was said and done. New Jersey would have been responsible for much of the cost overruns, and Governor Christie thought the state, deeply mired in debt already, could not afford it. And so he killed the project.

The tunnel, to be sure, is no bridge to nowhere. The century-old tunnel now in place is very inadequate to handle the rapidly growing traffic between the country’s most densely populated state and its largest city. Krugman and Herbert both called the cancellation the end of the can-do American spirit, a failure of imagination, a disgrace. Krugman wrote:

It was a destructive and incredibly foolish decision on multiple levels. But it shouldn’t have been all that surprising. We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness.

Herbert wrote:

This is a railroad tunnel we’re talking about. We’re not trying to go to the Moon. This is not the Manhattan Project. It’s a railroad tunnel that’s needed to take people back and forth to work and to ease the pressure on the existing tunnel, a wilting two-track facility that’s about 100 years old. What is the matter with us? The Chinese could build it. The Turks could build it. We can’t build it.

Krugman and Herbert remind me of the Walter Matthau character in a delightful if now long-forgotten movie called A New Leaf, written, directed, and co-starring Elaine May. Matthau’s character, Henry Graham, has been private-jet-and-yacht rich all his life but has, unknowingly, run through all his money. When he tries to cash a check at his bank and is told that there are insufficient funds to cover it, he is simply unable to process the information. Whenever he had wanted money before, he had simply written a check and taken the money. Now, suddenly, he can’t do that, and he is utterly befuddled.

When we began the Interstate Highway System, the national debt was about 60 percent of GDP and falling. We had run budget surpluses in seven of the previous 10 years. When we went to the moon, the national debt was 39 percent of GDP and falling. It is now over 90 percent and rising rapidly. And the move from 40 percent of GDP to 90 percent was not because of moon shots or Manhattan Projects. It was so no one in Washington (and many state capitals) ever had to say no to anyone, especially public-service unions. In effect, we spent the money on the political equivalent of wine, women, and song, just as Henry Graham had spent his.

And like Henry Graham, Krugman, Herbert, and the business-as-usual political establishment they speak for are unable to process the information that there is a limit to the debt burden even so fabulously rich a country as the United States can bear without disastrous consequences, and that we are getting perilously close to that limit.

The people of New Jersey had processed that information, and that’s why they elected Governor Christie. I suspect that people in the rest of the country have also processed it, and that’s why the political establishment is going to get clobbered in three weeks.

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NJ-12

The New Jersey 12th is a traditionally Democratic district. Only in a wave election would the GOP contender have a shot, but this is such a year. If Democratic old-guarders like Rep. John Dingell are at risk, no seat is safe. And, in fact, RealClearPolitics currently lists the seat as just “leans Democratic.”

The Democratic incumbent is Rush Holt, a seven-termer who’s been on the defensive over his record on Israel. The Republican Scott Sipprelle, a venture-capital investor who’s never run for political office before, is campaigning as a full-throated fiscal conservative. But he made it clear that his differences with the administration and his opponent aren’t limited to domestic policy. I asked what he thought of the president’s approach to Iran. He replied: “The administration has succeeded neither in isolating Iran, slowing its nuclear ambitions, nor deflating its dangerous rhetoric. So I conclude that their approach has been a failure. Iran must understand that if it continues on this reckless path, the consequences will be unambiguously painful in terms of crippling economic sanctions and ‘effective isolation’ that will threaten the regime’s survival. America’s leadership is at stake on this issue.” And if Israel is forced to act unilaterally to prevent Iran from going nuclear? “The U.S. should stand with Israel,” he answers matter-of-factly.

Sipprelle didn’t mince words when it came to his opponent, who was a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter. “The enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Holt by J Street and his apparent desire to cling to their warm embrace and their money will be a factor that voters consider when casting their ballots in November.” But he added that his opponent’s questionable funders extend beyond the Soros Street crowd, saying that voters should also consider “Mr. Holt’s unwillingness to repudiate Charlie Rangel [or to] return his large campaign donations to Mr. Holt’s campaign.”

Sipprelle is a businessman, not a politician, who sees an opening for outsiders not immersed in Beltway squabbling. While he aggressively criticizes Obama’s policies (“We should start over [on ObamaCare],” he argues), he plainly is appealing to independent and Democratic voters who, he contends, are turned off by hyperpartisanship. At a recent fundraiser in his state, Obama asserted that a GOP-controlled House would bring on “hand to hand combat.” Sipprelle observes: “We need problem-solving in America, not rigid partisanship. I have criticized Mr. Holt for his blind party politics, voting with Nancy Pelosi 99 percent of the time, making him just a cog in the partisan machine that is tearing the country apart. He is not exercising wisdom, principle, or good judgment. And he is not putting his country first.”

In an ordinary year, the New Jersey 12th district would not be in play. But in this extraordinary election year, Holt not only has a rotten economic record to defend but the baggage of an increasingly unpopular president and a toxic J Street. We’ll see in a few weeks if, even in one of the Bluest states, that’s too big a handicap in 2010.

The New Jersey 12th is a traditionally Democratic district. Only in a wave election would the GOP contender have a shot, but this is such a year. If Democratic old-guarders like Rep. John Dingell are at risk, no seat is safe. And, in fact, RealClearPolitics currently lists the seat as just “leans Democratic.”

The Democratic incumbent is Rush Holt, a seven-termer who’s been on the defensive over his record on Israel. The Republican Scott Sipprelle, a venture-capital investor who’s never run for political office before, is campaigning as a full-throated fiscal conservative. But he made it clear that his differences with the administration and his opponent aren’t limited to domestic policy. I asked what he thought of the president’s approach to Iran. He replied: “The administration has succeeded neither in isolating Iran, slowing its nuclear ambitions, nor deflating its dangerous rhetoric. So I conclude that their approach has been a failure. Iran must understand that if it continues on this reckless path, the consequences will be unambiguously painful in terms of crippling economic sanctions and ‘effective isolation’ that will threaten the regime’s survival. America’s leadership is at stake on this issue.” And if Israel is forced to act unilaterally to prevent Iran from going nuclear? “The U.S. should stand with Israel,” he answers matter-of-factly.

Sipprelle didn’t mince words when it came to his opponent, who was a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter. “The enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Holt by J Street and his apparent desire to cling to their warm embrace and their money will be a factor that voters consider when casting their ballots in November.” But he added that his opponent’s questionable funders extend beyond the Soros Street crowd, saying that voters should also consider “Mr. Holt’s unwillingness to repudiate Charlie Rangel [or to] return his large campaign donations to Mr. Holt’s campaign.”

Sipprelle is a businessman, not a politician, who sees an opening for outsiders not immersed in Beltway squabbling. While he aggressively criticizes Obama’s policies (“We should start over [on ObamaCare],” he argues), he plainly is appealing to independent and Democratic voters who, he contends, are turned off by hyperpartisanship. At a recent fundraiser in his state, Obama asserted that a GOP-controlled House would bring on “hand to hand combat.” Sipprelle observes: “We need problem-solving in America, not rigid partisanship. I have criticized Mr. Holt for his blind party politics, voting with Nancy Pelosi 99 percent of the time, making him just a cog in the partisan machine that is tearing the country apart. He is not exercising wisdom, principle, or good judgment. And he is not putting his country first.”

In an ordinary year, the New Jersey 12th district would not be in play. But in this extraordinary election year, Holt not only has a rotten economic record to defend but the baggage of an increasingly unpopular president and a toxic J Street. We’ll see in a few weeks if, even in one of the Bluest states, that’s too big a handicap in 2010.

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A Novel Idea: Pay-as-You-Go Government

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is still acting as if he means what he says about controlling the costs of government. By canceling the long-planned construction of a second commuter tunnel under the Hudson River today, Christie has reaffirmed the principle that government should not try to do more than it can afford. A close look at the finances of the scheme showed that cost overruns were likely to send the bill on the project to as much as $14 billion, almost $6 billion more than the original estimate. That means that New Jersey — which is to say, New Jersey’s taxpayers — would have to pay at least $8 billion of that amount, the remainder being contributed by New York’s Port Authority and the federal government. But in the absence of givebacks by the state’s civil-service unions, whose contracts and pensions threaten to send the state into the red even if the tunnel were not to be paid for, Christie said no, to the utter consternation of the unions, the rest of the political class, and New York Times‘s columnist Paul Krugman.

Other politicians (like Christie’s predecessor Jon Corzine, who authorized ground breaking on the project without thinking about the costs to the taxpayers) are shocked by Christie’s chutzpah. The idea that government should only undertake those projects it can pay for without having to further bilk the taxpayers is considered a shocking concept.

Krugman, the Times editorial page, the unions, and many of the politicians who have worked for this project all think the mere fact that the tunnel is needed justifies any amount of debt to build it. They also seem to think that worrying about where the extra $6 billion will come from is just silly.

They are right in that a new tunnel is desperately needed. New Jersey Transit is currently forced to share one Hudson River tunnel that is owned by Amtrak. The result is massive congestion and delays that will only get worse in the years to come. Even worse, since Amtrak owns the tunnel, to the injury of those commuters who take NJ Transit, the worst commuter line in the region (in terms of its on-time record), is added the insult of often having to wait for long periods while Amtrak trains breeze through — Amtrak always getting priority from the dispatchers. This means that there is a large (and generally ill-tempered) constituency of commuters who would like to see the tunnel built. Among them is Krugman, who confessed on his blog that: “And yes, if anyone should mention it, I am a resident of New Jersey who often visits Manhattan, and therefore has a personal stake in this project. You got a problem with that?”

As it happens, I, too, am a daily NJ Transit commuter into New York. But as much as the prospect of a better train ride in the distant future appeals to me, I’d bet that the majority of disgruntled and delayed passengers would prefer not to have their taxes raised. Nor would they like Krugman’s suggestion that Christie radically raise gasoline taxes to pay for the cost overruns, since almost all of them drive their cars to the train stations from which they start and end their daily trek to work. Voters are sick and tired of tax-and-spend politicians who think nothing about the long-term consequences of their largesse, so long as someone else is paying for it.

Christie will probably take a lot of flak for his decision, perhaps even more than the criticism he took for his confrontation with the state’s teacher unions. But the bet here is that the majority of the people of New Jersey — including many of those unhappy souls who are forced to take NJ Transit — prefer to have a governor who doesn’t think he has a right to pick their pockets in order to play the hero by championing expensive projects. In case Krugman forgot, that’s the reason Christie was elected last year and why so many other fiscal conservatives will rout free-spending liberals in the congressional elections this fall. And whether or not Krugman has a problem with that, it’s what we Americans call democracy.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is still acting as if he means what he says about controlling the costs of government. By canceling the long-planned construction of a second commuter tunnel under the Hudson River today, Christie has reaffirmed the principle that government should not try to do more than it can afford. A close look at the finances of the scheme showed that cost overruns were likely to send the bill on the project to as much as $14 billion, almost $6 billion more than the original estimate. That means that New Jersey — which is to say, New Jersey’s taxpayers — would have to pay at least $8 billion of that amount, the remainder being contributed by New York’s Port Authority and the federal government. But in the absence of givebacks by the state’s civil-service unions, whose contracts and pensions threaten to send the state into the red even if the tunnel were not to be paid for, Christie said no, to the utter consternation of the unions, the rest of the political class, and New York Times‘s columnist Paul Krugman.

Other politicians (like Christie’s predecessor Jon Corzine, who authorized ground breaking on the project without thinking about the costs to the taxpayers) are shocked by Christie’s chutzpah. The idea that government should only undertake those projects it can pay for without having to further bilk the taxpayers is considered a shocking concept.

Krugman, the Times editorial page, the unions, and many of the politicians who have worked for this project all think the mere fact that the tunnel is needed justifies any amount of debt to build it. They also seem to think that worrying about where the extra $6 billion will come from is just silly.

They are right in that a new tunnel is desperately needed. New Jersey Transit is currently forced to share one Hudson River tunnel that is owned by Amtrak. The result is massive congestion and delays that will only get worse in the years to come. Even worse, since Amtrak owns the tunnel, to the injury of those commuters who take NJ Transit, the worst commuter line in the region (in terms of its on-time record), is added the insult of often having to wait for long periods while Amtrak trains breeze through — Amtrak always getting priority from the dispatchers. This means that there is a large (and generally ill-tempered) constituency of commuters who would like to see the tunnel built. Among them is Krugman, who confessed on his blog that: “And yes, if anyone should mention it, I am a resident of New Jersey who often visits Manhattan, and therefore has a personal stake in this project. You got a problem with that?”

As it happens, I, too, am a daily NJ Transit commuter into New York. But as much as the prospect of a better train ride in the distant future appeals to me, I’d bet that the majority of disgruntled and delayed passengers would prefer not to have their taxes raised. Nor would they like Krugman’s suggestion that Christie radically raise gasoline taxes to pay for the cost overruns, since almost all of them drive their cars to the train stations from which they start and end their daily trek to work. Voters are sick and tired of tax-and-spend politicians who think nothing about the long-term consequences of their largesse, so long as someone else is paying for it.

Christie will probably take a lot of flak for his decision, perhaps even more than the criticism he took for his confrontation with the state’s teacher unions. But the bet here is that the majority of the people of New Jersey — including many of those unhappy souls who are forced to take NJ Transit — prefer to have a governor who doesn’t think he has a right to pick their pockets in order to play the hero by championing expensive projects. In case Krugman forgot, that’s the reason Christie was elected last year and why so many other fiscal conservatives will rout free-spending liberals in the congressional elections this fall. And whether or not Krugman has a problem with that, it’s what we Americans call democracy.

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“Stop Whining,” Obama Whined

He hollers at them in public. He lectures them in backyard get-togethers. And he whines at them at fundraisers. Obama is trying to nag and cajole Democrats to turn out to vote in November. But his spiel sure doesn’t sound very effective:

“One of the strengths of Democrats is that we don’t march lockstep,” Obama told New Jersey Democratic donors last night. “We like to have internal arguments and we’re very self-critical. We tend to look at the glass as half empty. And that makes us better.”

“But,” he added, “that’s also a weakness, particularly four weeks before an election.” …

The president warned fellow Democrats against “losing sight of that long game, and we start sulking and sitting back and not doing everything we can do to make sure our folks turn out.”

While extolling the stimulus bill, the health care plan, and new regulations on Wall Street, Obama also warned Democrats that big gains by Republicans on Nov. 2 will put his agenda on hold.

Actually, it is all those Democratic lawmakers who marched “lockstep” with Obama who are on the receiving end of the voters’ wrath. And really, how “self-critical” are a president and party who insist that a monstrous health-care bill will save money and become popular; that the stimulus “worked”;  that our Iran engagement policy was visionary; and that raising taxes on small businesses and higher-income taxpayers is a swell idea? If anything, this presidency has been devoid of self-reflection.

But the president has one thing right — the midterm elections could well spell the end of his agenda. And that is precisely why so many voters are setting out to vote for Republican lawmakers.

He hollers at them in public. He lectures them in backyard get-togethers. And he whines at them at fundraisers. Obama is trying to nag and cajole Democrats to turn out to vote in November. But his spiel sure doesn’t sound very effective:

“One of the strengths of Democrats is that we don’t march lockstep,” Obama told New Jersey Democratic donors last night. “We like to have internal arguments and we’re very self-critical. We tend to look at the glass as half empty. And that makes us better.”

“But,” he added, “that’s also a weakness, particularly four weeks before an election.” …

The president warned fellow Democrats against “losing sight of that long game, and we start sulking and sitting back and not doing everything we can do to make sure our folks turn out.”

While extolling the stimulus bill, the health care plan, and new regulations on Wall Street, Obama also warned Democrats that big gains by Republicans on Nov. 2 will put his agenda on hold.

Actually, it is all those Democratic lawmakers who marched “lockstep” with Obama who are on the receiving end of the voters’ wrath. And really, how “self-critical” are a president and party who insist that a monstrous health-care bill will save money and become popular; that the stimulus “worked”;  that our Iran engagement policy was visionary; and that raising taxes on small businesses and higher-income taxpayers is a swell idea? If anything, this presidency has been devoid of self-reflection.

But the president has one thing right — the midterm elections could well spell the end of his agenda. And that is precisely why so many voters are setting out to vote for Republican lawmakers.

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Hide Him!

So much for “getting out there more” — which Democratic leaders allegedly implored the president to do. In fact, Obama is avoiding big campaign events and swing-state districts for fear of burying those in his party who still have a fighting chance. The candidate who filled a football stadium at his Greek revival convention now has to be squirreled away in backyard mini-gatherings and “indoors … [at] a $1 million fundraising dinner in suburban New Jersey on Wednesday night.”

But isn’t he pumping up the base and getting all those college kids to go to the polls? Perhaps for every pep rally (at which a tiny fraction of the attendees will vote), Obama’s presence reminds a bunch of other, actual voters why they are unhappy (e.g., risible economic claims, hyper-partisanship). Even in his home state, he’s lying low: “Even when Obama is in his home state, he is not going to do any big public appearances for [Alexi] Giannoulias — although Illinois is a place where Obama is popular enough to help the Democratic candidate.” (Now, granted, that may be as much to preserve Obama’s reputation — which doesn’t need further Chicago-machine blemishes – as it is to prevent a backlash against the ethically challenged banker.)

It will be nearly impossible for Obama to claim credit for any Democratic survivors. But he certainly will take the lion’s share of the blame by those who’ve come to appreciate just how politically radioactive he is.

So much for “getting out there more” — which Democratic leaders allegedly implored the president to do. In fact, Obama is avoiding big campaign events and swing-state districts for fear of burying those in his party who still have a fighting chance. The candidate who filled a football stadium at his Greek revival convention now has to be squirreled away in backyard mini-gatherings and “indoors … [at] a $1 million fundraising dinner in suburban New Jersey on Wednesday night.”

But isn’t he pumping up the base and getting all those college kids to go to the polls? Perhaps for every pep rally (at which a tiny fraction of the attendees will vote), Obama’s presence reminds a bunch of other, actual voters why they are unhappy (e.g., risible economic claims, hyper-partisanship). Even in his home state, he’s lying low: “Even when Obama is in his home state, he is not going to do any big public appearances for [Alexi] Giannoulias — although Illinois is a place where Obama is popular enough to help the Democratic candidate.” (Now, granted, that may be as much to preserve Obama’s reputation — which doesn’t need further Chicago-machine blemishes – as it is to prevent a backlash against the ethically challenged banker.)

It will be nearly impossible for Obama to claim credit for any Democratic survivors. But he certainly will take the lion’s share of the blame by those who’ve come to appreciate just how politically radioactive he is.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Bill Clinton sounds like he swallowed a eugenics textbook. “[T]he most delicious part of that [slur on the Russian immigrants to Israel] performance was his extraordinary—no, his fantastical, his risible, his marvelously ludicrous—foray into sociology, with the ranking of Israelis’ attitudes toward peace according to their national origins.” Yup, it sure was a “spurious, illiterate, and really amazingly racist lesson in Israeli politics.”

But it sounds like he has an excuse: a protein deficiency. But even if he had a chicken leg now and then, I suspect he’d still say dumb things.

Rush Holt sounds like an AIPAC board member. The Emergency Committee for Israel ( whaich ran ads against him) sure does get results.

Nancy Pelosi sounds loopier than usual. “The momentum is with us.” And what’s with the Evita Peron pose?

Eliot Spitzer sounds like he’s peddling himself as a guru to “the dirtiest, nastiest” politicians. He’s found his niche.

Obama sounds like he’s got a plan to flee the midterm election recriminations. He will finally get to Indonesia — in November.

Chris Christie sounds like he’s an overachiever. “Part of Gov. Chris Christie’s belt-tightening plan for New Jersey was the termination of $7.5 million in public funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.” He says he’s not interested in running for president, but that’s what Obama said in 2006. (It doesn’t get much better than this.)

Independents sound like Republicans these days. “In an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, 58 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said politics is making them angry, compared with 31 percent of Democrats who said so. … The figures are the latest cautionary note for Democrats, who face a Nov. 2 Election Day in which the sluggish economy and President Barack Obama’s tepid popularity give Republicans a strong chance to capture control of the House and perhaps the Senate. They also help explain why independents, who can be pivotal in many congressional races, prefer their GOP candidate over the Democrat by 52 percent to 36 percent — which grows to 62 percent to 29 percent among independents considered likeliest to vote.” Wait — 62 percent?!

Bill Clinton sounds like he swallowed a eugenics textbook. “[T]he most delicious part of that [slur on the Russian immigrants to Israel] performance was his extraordinary—no, his fantastical, his risible, his marvelously ludicrous—foray into sociology, with the ranking of Israelis’ attitudes toward peace according to their national origins.” Yup, it sure was a “spurious, illiterate, and really amazingly racist lesson in Israeli politics.”

But it sounds like he has an excuse: a protein deficiency. But even if he had a chicken leg now and then, I suspect he’d still say dumb things.

Rush Holt sounds like an AIPAC board member. The Emergency Committee for Israel ( whaich ran ads against him) sure does get results.

Nancy Pelosi sounds loopier than usual. “The momentum is with us.” And what’s with the Evita Peron pose?

Eliot Spitzer sounds like he’s peddling himself as a guru to “the dirtiest, nastiest” politicians. He’s found his niche.

Obama sounds like he’s got a plan to flee the midterm election recriminations. He will finally get to Indonesia — in November.

Chris Christie sounds like he’s an overachiever. “Part of Gov. Chris Christie’s belt-tightening plan for New Jersey was the termination of $7.5 million in public funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.” He says he’s not interested in running for president, but that’s what Obama said in 2006. (It doesn’t get much better than this.)

Independents sound like Republicans these days. “In an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, 58 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said politics is making them angry, compared with 31 percent of Democrats who said so. … The figures are the latest cautionary note for Democrats, who face a Nov. 2 Election Day in which the sluggish economy and President Barack Obama’s tepid popularity give Republicans a strong chance to capture control of the House and perhaps the Senate. They also help explain why independents, who can be pivotal in many congressional races, prefer their GOP candidate over the Democrat by 52 percent to 36 percent — which grows to 62 percent to 29 percent among independents considered likeliest to vote.” Wait — 62 percent?!

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True Friends of Israel

As we have noted, a new organization, the Friends of Israel Initiative, headed by former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar has been formed to combat efforts to delegitimize Israel and to make the positive case for why Israel is critical to the West. In a remarkable speech that should be read in full, Aznar explained:

Israel is under a new kind of attack. Not conventional war as in 1948, 56, 67 or 73. Not terrorism as we saw in the 70s, 80s and 90s. But a new kind of attack — an attack on Israel’s legitimacy, on her right to exist. A “soft-war,” where many of its adversaries are employing legal tricks, multinational bodies, and an army of dubious NGO’s to present internationally Israel as an illegitimate state, as a barbarian State, a State that should be isolated and converted into a pariah State.

We think this is intolerable. It is unjust, morally wrong, and a strategic risk — not only for Israel and its people — but for all of us. Israel is an integral part of the West, and the weaker it is, the weaker the entire West will be perceived to be.

He succinctly explains why we cannot let Israel — in other words, the Zionist undertaking — fail:

We want to stand up for the right of Israel to exist. Judeo-Christian values form the roots of our civilization. Delegitimizing Israel undermines our identity, warps our values and put at risk what we are and who we are.

So, dear friends, it is not only the threat that if Israel goes down, which, make no mistake, many of its enemies would like to see happen, we all go down. It is that letting Israel be demonized will lead to the delegitimation of our own cherished values. If Israel were to disappear by the force of its enemies, I sincerely doubt the West could remain as we know it.

That is the case that is too infrequently made. The Obami posit, in essence, that we are doing Israel a favor by offering our support, at great risk to ourselves. In fact, not only is Israel a valued ally, but the Jewish state is also crucial to us.

Perhaps Congress, becoming more daring in its defiance of a failing presidency, can help in this regard. In Congress, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)  and Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) have introduced a resolution H.Con Res. 315:

“Recognizing the formation and supporting the objectives of the Friends of Israel Initiative.” It calls on Congress to recognize the formation of the Initiative, to affirm its goals as laid down in its mission statement as well as reaffirming Congress’s “enduring bipartisan support” for the US-Israeli relationship and for Israel’s right to exist as a secure and democratic Jewish state.

Sadly, this is very much needed because we have an administration that takes for granted — or abuses — our democratic ally. Caterwauling over a nonexistent wave of Islamophobia has distracted and befuddled the media (more so than usual). It is critical to redirect the public discussion and remind governments and their citizens what Israel stands for, why our relationship is essential, and why the notion of distancing ourselves from the Jewish state essentially means divorcing ourselves from the values at the core of Western civilization. The Friends of Israel couldn’t have stepped forward at a more opportune moment.

As we have noted, a new organization, the Friends of Israel Initiative, headed by former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar has been formed to combat efforts to delegitimize Israel and to make the positive case for why Israel is critical to the West. In a remarkable speech that should be read in full, Aznar explained:

Israel is under a new kind of attack. Not conventional war as in 1948, 56, 67 or 73. Not terrorism as we saw in the 70s, 80s and 90s. But a new kind of attack — an attack on Israel’s legitimacy, on her right to exist. A “soft-war,” where many of its adversaries are employing legal tricks, multinational bodies, and an army of dubious NGO’s to present internationally Israel as an illegitimate state, as a barbarian State, a State that should be isolated and converted into a pariah State.

We think this is intolerable. It is unjust, morally wrong, and a strategic risk — not only for Israel and its people — but for all of us. Israel is an integral part of the West, and the weaker it is, the weaker the entire West will be perceived to be.

He succinctly explains why we cannot let Israel — in other words, the Zionist undertaking — fail:

We want to stand up for the right of Israel to exist. Judeo-Christian values form the roots of our civilization. Delegitimizing Israel undermines our identity, warps our values and put at risk what we are and who we are.

So, dear friends, it is not only the threat that if Israel goes down, which, make no mistake, many of its enemies would like to see happen, we all go down. It is that letting Israel be demonized will lead to the delegitimation of our own cherished values. If Israel were to disappear by the force of its enemies, I sincerely doubt the West could remain as we know it.

That is the case that is too infrequently made. The Obami posit, in essence, that we are doing Israel a favor by offering our support, at great risk to ourselves. In fact, not only is Israel a valued ally, but the Jewish state is also crucial to us.

Perhaps Congress, becoming more daring in its defiance of a failing presidency, can help in this regard. In Congress, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)  and Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) have introduced a resolution H.Con Res. 315:

“Recognizing the formation and supporting the objectives of the Friends of Israel Initiative.” It calls on Congress to recognize the formation of the Initiative, to affirm its goals as laid down in its mission statement as well as reaffirming Congress’s “enduring bipartisan support” for the US-Israeli relationship and for Israel’s right to exist as a secure and democratic Jewish state.

Sadly, this is very much needed because we have an administration that takes for granted — or abuses — our democratic ally. Caterwauling over a nonexistent wave of Islamophobia has distracted and befuddled the media (more so than usual). It is critical to redirect the public discussion and remind governments and their citizens what Israel stands for, why our relationship is essential, and why the notion of distancing ourselves from the Jewish state essentially means divorcing ourselves from the values at the core of Western civilization. The Friends of Israel couldn’t have stepped forward at a more opportune moment.

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The Left vs. New Yorkers

If you buy into the left punditocracy’s framing of the Ground Zero issue, there are a ton of Islamophobes in New York:

Seven in ten New Yorkers say the proposed mosque/Islamic community center near Ground Zero should be relocated because of opposition from 9/11 families — and an equal number want state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to probe the group’s finances, a new statewide poll released today found.

“Overwhelmingly — across party and regional lines — New Yorkers say the sponsors ought to voluntarily move the proposed mosque to another location,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

And women are the worst “bigots”: “By a 56-34 margin, women said the mosque should not be allowed to build near Ground Zero despite the legal right to do so. Among the men, there was a narrower 50-45 split.”

Moreover, the mosque builders appear to be the sorts of villains the left usually excoriates. The New York Post op-ed page explains that the builders are tax dodgers with a rap sheet:

Indeed, Sharif El-Gamal, who owns the site — as The Post’s Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein reported Sunday — owes nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the city in back payments. His firm, 45 Park Place Partners, simply skipped its property-tax bills in January and July, according to the Finance Department. Gamal’s folks say he delayed payments while seeking a lower tax rate, The New York Times reported.

Gamal, 37, also reportedly pleaded guilty to at least six misdemeanors while in his teens and 20s. Charges included disorderly conduct, drunk driving and attempted shoplifting.

And he was arrested once for punching a man who owed his brother money and another time for soliciting a prostitute.

And what’s more, “tenants in New Jersey buildings owned by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who’s leading the mosque project, describe him as a veritable slumlord.” This is the “moderate” imam and role model who’s been sent overseas at taxpayers’ expense:

“All he likes is money,” one tenant, Vilma Then, says. “Nothing [in her building] ever gets fixed.”

Jamie Barillas, another tenant, agrees, adding that tenants are forced to call their city officials to seek action. Barillas complains, for example, that bedbugs plague her building and that managers claim they don’t have money for an exterminator.

Not only has the left punditocracy managed to get on the opposite side of 70 percent of one of the Bluest States in the country, but it has also championed a tax cheat and exploiter of “the little guy.” I’d be hard pressed to find a better example of the rotten judgment and political extremism of what passes for the liberal intelligentsia.

If you buy into the left punditocracy’s framing of the Ground Zero issue, there are a ton of Islamophobes in New York:

Seven in ten New Yorkers say the proposed mosque/Islamic community center near Ground Zero should be relocated because of opposition from 9/11 families — and an equal number want state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to probe the group’s finances, a new statewide poll released today found.

“Overwhelmingly — across party and regional lines — New Yorkers say the sponsors ought to voluntarily move the proposed mosque to another location,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

And women are the worst “bigots”: “By a 56-34 margin, women said the mosque should not be allowed to build near Ground Zero despite the legal right to do so. Among the men, there was a narrower 50-45 split.”

Moreover, the mosque builders appear to be the sorts of villains the left usually excoriates. The New York Post op-ed page explains that the builders are tax dodgers with a rap sheet:

Indeed, Sharif El-Gamal, who owns the site — as The Post’s Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein reported Sunday — owes nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the city in back payments. His firm, 45 Park Place Partners, simply skipped its property-tax bills in January and July, according to the Finance Department. Gamal’s folks say he delayed payments while seeking a lower tax rate, The New York Times reported.

Gamal, 37, also reportedly pleaded guilty to at least six misdemeanors while in his teens and 20s. Charges included disorderly conduct, drunk driving and attempted shoplifting.

And he was arrested once for punching a man who owed his brother money and another time for soliciting a prostitute.

And what’s more, “tenants in New Jersey buildings owned by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who’s leading the mosque project, describe him as a veritable slumlord.” This is the “moderate” imam and role model who’s been sent overseas at taxpayers’ expense:

“All he likes is money,” one tenant, Vilma Then, says. “Nothing [in her building] ever gets fixed.”

Jamie Barillas, another tenant, agrees, adding that tenants are forced to call their city officials to seek action. Barillas complains, for example, that bedbugs plague her building and that managers claim they don’t have money for an exterminator.

Not only has the left punditocracy managed to get on the opposite side of 70 percent of one of the Bluest States in the country, but it has also championed a tax cheat and exploiter of “the little guy.” I’d be hard pressed to find a better example of the rotten judgment and political extremism of what passes for the liberal intelligentsia.

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Friends, Enemies, and Liberal Inanity

In reviewing the latest Emergency Committee for Israel ad and the coverage thereof, the New Jersey Jewish News editor in chief pronounces: “I think it is possible to be a friend of Israel, on the right or the left, and still take positions that are antithetical to Israel’s interests.” There’s no typo, and that’s what he said. Is he mocking the J Street set? Is this a coy parody of the not-at-all-pro-Israel set? No, he apparently is quite serious that a “friend” can want you dead or hobbled and still be a “friend.” Sort of like an enemy but more friendly-like.

He continues: “If Israel weren’t complicated, and its citizenry itself so divided over the issues, this thing would have been solved decades ago. Good friends can disagree.” Actually there’s quite a lot of agreement in Israel these days — land for peace was a bust, Iran is an existential threat, the Palestinians don’t want peace, and Obama isn’t a friend (in the old-fashioned sense). And this thing wouldn’t have been solved long ago, because Palestinians still are killing Jews and pining for the one-state solution.

And in a final tour de force of moral relativism, he sums up: “I just wish we could talk about it without labeling one another ‘enemies’ or ‘friends.’ But then I’m not trying to win elections.” Because if we start labeling who is a friend and who isn’t, we’ll know who is a friend-friend and who is an enemy-friend, right? He’s not only trying not to win elections; he’s trying not to exercise his God-given powers of moral reasoning and whatever common sense has not dribbled out on the altar of “tolerance.”

This is the best and brightest of New Jersey’s Jewish press, it seems. I would despair over yet another example of the inanity of liberal American Jewry, but thankfully not all Jews are quite this daft. And best of all, Israel has legions of supporters who have no problem calling it like they see it and figuring our who’s on the Jewish state’s side. Contrast the above drivel with this:

But while we don’t presume to dictate to Israel’s government, we have every right – and every responsibility – to speak to our own government. We have every right to demand that our government not pressure Israel into making concessions that the Israelis themselves do not wish to make. If history proves one thing, it proves that Israelis want peace so desperately that they will place themselves in peril to achieve it. If the Israelis are not willing to take a particular risk, this is a strong sign it is not a reasonable risk to take.

That sounds like a true friend — in the doesn’t-want-Israel-decimated sense of “friend.”

In reviewing the latest Emergency Committee for Israel ad and the coverage thereof, the New Jersey Jewish News editor in chief pronounces: “I think it is possible to be a friend of Israel, on the right or the left, and still take positions that are antithetical to Israel’s interests.” There’s no typo, and that’s what he said. Is he mocking the J Street set? Is this a coy parody of the not-at-all-pro-Israel set? No, he apparently is quite serious that a “friend” can want you dead or hobbled and still be a “friend.” Sort of like an enemy but more friendly-like.

He continues: “If Israel weren’t complicated, and its citizenry itself so divided over the issues, this thing would have been solved decades ago. Good friends can disagree.” Actually there’s quite a lot of agreement in Israel these days — land for peace was a bust, Iran is an existential threat, the Palestinians don’t want peace, and Obama isn’t a friend (in the old-fashioned sense). And this thing wouldn’t have been solved long ago, because Palestinians still are killing Jews and pining for the one-state solution.

And in a final tour de force of moral relativism, he sums up: “I just wish we could talk about it without labeling one another ‘enemies’ or ‘friends.’ But then I’m not trying to win elections.” Because if we start labeling who is a friend and who isn’t, we’ll know who is a friend-friend and who is an enemy-friend, right? He’s not only trying not to win elections; he’s trying not to exercise his God-given powers of moral reasoning and whatever common sense has not dribbled out on the altar of “tolerance.”

This is the best and brightest of New Jersey’s Jewish press, it seems. I would despair over yet another example of the inanity of liberal American Jewry, but thankfully not all Jews are quite this daft. And best of all, Israel has legions of supporters who have no problem calling it like they see it and figuring our who’s on the Jewish state’s side. Contrast the above drivel with this:

But while we don’t presume to dictate to Israel’s government, we have every right – and every responsibility – to speak to our own government. We have every right to demand that our government not pressure Israel into making concessions that the Israelis themselves do not wish to make. If history proves one thing, it proves that Israelis want peace so desperately that they will place themselves in peril to achieve it. If the Israelis are not willing to take a particular risk, this is a strong sign it is not a reasonable risk to take.

That sounds like a true friend — in the doesn’t-want-Israel-decimated sense of “friend.”

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