Commentary Magazine


Topic: Newt Gingrich

Immigration, the Media, and Fictitious Conservative Heartlessness

President Obama’s threat to order an executive amnesty has touched off several simultaneous debates about the plan to legalize millions of illegal immigrants with the stroke of a pen. Left and right are arguing over: the premise of the plan that something must be done; the legality/constitutionality of the move; whether the actual policy aim would be attractive if done through Congress; whether the move would torpedo–again–comprehensive immigration reform; the resulting effect of the plan on future immigration; and other issues. And while the media have dumbed down this debate, no one has done so more plainly and in the service of self-aggrandizement than CNN’s Brian Stelter.

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President Obama’s threat to order an executive amnesty has touched off several simultaneous debates about the plan to legalize millions of illegal immigrants with the stroke of a pen. Left and right are arguing over: the premise of the plan that something must be done; the legality/constitutionality of the move; whether the actual policy aim would be attractive if done through Congress; whether the move would torpedo–again–comprehensive immigration reform; the resulting effect of the plan on future immigration; and other issues. And while the media have dumbed down this debate, no one has done so more plainly and in the service of self-aggrandizement than CNN’s Brian Stelter.

Stelter, the former New York Times media writer, hosts the Sunday morning show Reliable Sources, which examines the media coverage of major issues. Yet rather than offering some much-needed criticism, Stelter’s show has an unfortunate tendency to further elevate the media’s sense of self-importance. A case in point was yesterday’s “Red News/Blue News” segment on immigration.

The point of the regular segment is ostensibly to show how conservative and liberal outlets are covering a story, often talking right past each other. But yesterday Stelter took the opportunity to declare that the media weren’t reflecting the debate on the right and on the left; they were, instead, setting the terms of the debate for the brainwashed masses.

After playing a clip of Fox host Megyn Kelly interviewing GOP Senator Jeff Sessions about the executive amnesty and before putting up a clip of Charles Krauthammer using a form of “the I word,” as Stelter calls it–impeachment–Stelter says this:

Notice what the banner on the screen said. It said, “Plan May Let Millions of Illegals Stay,” illegals.

And when “The New York Times” confirmed FOX’s scoop in advance on Thursday, “The Times” headline said, plans may allow millions of immigrants to stay and work, immigrants.

See, it’s not really the numbers that are in dispute here. It’s not the facts or the figures. It’s the language, it’s the narrative. By Thursday, the FOX narrative was about lawlessness, President Obama acting unlawfully.

Stelter apparently wasn’t even listening to clip he played, because what he said is just plain wrong. But first, here’s how the “blue news” played it. “What you will almost never hear on FOX, though, what you’re unlikely to see on red state is the blue news narrative,” Stelter says. “That’s a very different one. That narrative is about families being wrecked by deportations and about a president standing up for what’s right and delivering on a campaign promise.”

Stelter then played a couple clips from liberal outlets, which included this exchange from MSNBC:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are American families that are being torn apart by a policy that doesn’t work.

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC: So why can’t a story like that move conservatives?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t understand how anyone couldn’t see the pro-family aspects of what we’re talking about here.

At that point, Stelter sought to wrap up the segment by imparting the following piece of wisdom to his viewers:

And I will try to answer that question for you. It’s because red news and blue news are talking about two separate things.

In this case, MSNBC is talking about what they would say is morality, while FOX is talking about what they would say is legality. Morality and legality.

There are two reactions to this. The first is that Stelter apparently believes that conservatives don’t see the liberal side of this issue because they watch Fox News, and vice versa. The idea that Fox brainwashes its viewers rather than reflecting the debate they’re having amongst themselves but can’t find on the other mainstream media channels is certainly a popular idea among leftists who want to discredit both Fox and the conservative movement.

Though most intelligent people know it’s just a caricature, the left’s extreme partisans don’t know or don’t care. For Stelter to trade in this tells you that media critics, like the supposedly nonpartisan “fact checker” columnists in newspapers, are simply joining the debate on one side, not enlightening their audience with honest assessments. And in defense of liberal viewers, the same can be said of Stelter’s judgment of “blue news.” I can assure Stelter that MSNBC and its nine viewers are not setting the agenda of American liberalism.

The second response to Stelter’s segment is to note that even the Fox programs that his staff researchers watch for his show prep don’t say what Stelter says they say. Here is the text of the brief clip Stelter played of Sessions’s response to Kelly:

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: And every one of these individuals are going to be given a photo I.D., a Social Security number, and the right to take a job in America, jobs that too few exist and too many Americans are looking for. It’s just the wrong policy and it will incentivize more illegality in the future.

So is it true that, as Stelter says, “it’s not really the numbers that are in dispute here. It’s not the facts or the figures”? Certainly not. Sessions is talking about the impact on employment and the number of jobs available as well as the warning that the practical effect of the executive amnesty will be far larger in number because it will incentivize further illegal immigration. And although Stelter would like to portray the right (with a nod to the MSNBC hosts he excerpts) as cold and impervious to the human factor, the opposite is the case. It’s just that Sessions is talking about the human cost to current citizens and future immigrants.

And it’s not as though the right doesn’t have an ongoing debate about the degree of compassion due illegal immigrants. We talk about that here at COMMENTARY quite often, but that aspect of the debate has been elevated for a couple of years now since both Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich used their 2012 presidential candidacies as a platform to advocate for keeping immigrant families together even if they came here illegally.

Maybe Stelter just watched a few minutes of Fox and didn’t see such an argument advanced. But that’s no excuse to play liberal talking heads leveling that accusation and then pretty much endorsing it (“I will try to answer that question for you”) instead of challenging it, all so conservatives could fit into the neat box that allows Stelter to condemn the supposed insularity of his cable competitors.

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New Dem Strategy: Say the Word “Impeachment” Over and Over

A recurring theme of the Obama administration and the upcoming election to succeed him is the continuing relevance of Bill Clinton and his presidency. Obama and the GOP fought over welfare reform, which Clinton signed. The president (and now Hillary Clinton) disavowed the religious freedom protections signed into law enthusiastically by Bill Clinton. On free trade, taxes, and gay marriage the Clinton presidency has been in the room.

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A recurring theme of the Obama administration and the upcoming election to succeed him is the continuing relevance of Bill Clinton and his presidency. Obama and the GOP fought over welfare reform, which Clinton signed. The president (and now Hillary Clinton) disavowed the religious freedom protections signed into law enthusiastically by Bill Clinton. On free trade, taxes, and gay marriage the Clinton presidency has been in the room.

The comparisons became particularly specific when the two sides threatened, and then went through with, a government shutdown. The parallel was invoked: Clinton is perceived to have won the battle for public opinion over the 1995 shutdown, when the president sparred with Newt Gingrich and a reenergized conservative faction in the House. Now a similar comparison is cropping up again: impeachment.

Although Republican congressional leaders are not remotely taking the idea of impeachment seriously, this issue has the very same plot twist as the debate over the government shutdown. Because history declared Clinton the victor in 1995, top Democrats in the Obama era actually wanted the shutdown, convinced it would play to their political advantage. Republican leaders were unenthusiastic about shutting down the government precisely because they agreed. (There was even a “hot stove” theory as to why Speaker Boehner eventually let it proceed: the backlash would teach the conservative supporters of the shutdown–some of whom had presidential aspirations–a lesson they’d remember.)

That’s the backdrop to Rich Lowry’s headline-question at NRO today: “Does Obama WANT to Get Impeached?” The answer, I think, was revealed during a bizarre back-and-forth at White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s briefing on Friday. Earnest was sent to the podium to convey the Looney Tunes notion that the GOP leadership was considering impeachment. Because this is flatly and demonstrably false, Earnest was challenged on his assertion.

“I think that there are senior members of the Republican political party or certainly prominent voices in the Republican Party who are calling for exactly that,” Earnest said. The reporters were slightly confused by an obviously untrue charge coming from the president’s chief spokesman. There ensued an argument that has to be seen to be believed. Via the White House transcript:

Q    And who is that?  Sarah Palin is one.

MR. EARNEST:  She mentioned it.  Somebody mentioned earlier that —

Q    She would be a prominent voice in the Republican political —

Q    Anybody in the Republican leadership seriously talking about that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think Sarah Palin considers herself to be a leader —

Q    Hang on, Jon, it’s my question.

Q    Sorry.  (Laughter.)

Q    There’s been a lot of fundraising emails from the Democratic Party with the word “impeachment” in it.  This sounds like a fundraising ploy, a political ploy, not a real thing.  You don’t really think the President is going to be impeached, do you?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, I think that there are some Republicans, including some Republicans who are running for office, hoping they can get into office so that they can impeach the President.  That is apparently a view that they hold, because it’s one that they have repeatedly expressed publicly.

I think what’s really important —

Q    Is the White House Counsel’s Office looking at this?  Are you studying the possibility of being impeached?

MR. EARNEST:  Here’s the thing that I think is important about this.  And again, we’re coming up on a pivotal week.  Next week will be the last week that Congress is in session before Labor Day.  There are at least two items of business that members of Congress themselves have identified as important priorities.

The mention of the Democratic Party fundraising emails about impeachment hits the nail on the head. As the world burns, and as his secretary of state piles on the firewood, the president spends his time at fundraisers. Each issue can be measured not according to bedrock principles but by its monetary value with regard to raising campaign funds.

That’s how we get the White House’s “war on women” and the left acting as though the Religious Freedom Restoration Act permits–nay, requires, if the GOP has its way–the Talibanization of American life. The president’s grand vision for reelection boiled down to Big Bird and birth control. Big Bird seems to be out of the woods, so now it’s almost exclusively birth control, though this requires the left to simply make stuff up, since the truth is not offensive enough to rile the Democratic base.

And that’s how we get a fundraising scheme designed by Democrats pushing the idea of impeachment with Republicans pushing back against the idea. It would otherwise seem strange, no doubt, to see the president and his spokesmen gleefully push the idea of impeachment with Republicans trying to talk Democrats down from that ledge. Which is where we are now in this farcical saga of presidential self-pity.

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Immigration Debate Is Just Getting Started

Nearly every question of how a Republican politician’s stand will affect the 2016 presidential primaries must be qualified with “it depends who else runs.” And so it is with Jeb Bush’s comments on immigration. Although conservatives have more objections to Bush than on immigration, other issues–such as the Common Core, for example–just don’t have the visibility the immigration issue does. Nor do those other issues have the legislative and policy relevance of immigration: the Senate, after all, did pass an immigration reform bill.

Additionally, immigration arguably played a greater role than any other specific issue in sifting wheat from chaff in the 2012 Republican primaries. There were other factors, but it seems clear that Rick Perry was at least damaged by his comments on immigration–that if you don’t support in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrations “I don’t think you have a heart.” Bush’s comment–that such migration is “an act of love”–has been compared to Perry’s, and it’s also similar to a far better phrased version of the argument put forth by Newt Gingrich, who put it in terms of separating families. And we got a preview of how Bush’s comments might be countered in a 2016 version of those debates from Ted Cruz, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper:

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Nearly every question of how a Republican politician’s stand will affect the 2016 presidential primaries must be qualified with “it depends who else runs.” And so it is with Jeb Bush’s comments on immigration. Although conservatives have more objections to Bush than on immigration, other issues–such as the Common Core, for example–just don’t have the visibility the immigration issue does. Nor do those other issues have the legislative and policy relevance of immigration: the Senate, after all, did pass an immigration reform bill.

Additionally, immigration arguably played a greater role than any other specific issue in sifting wheat from chaff in the 2012 Republican primaries. There were other factors, but it seems clear that Rick Perry was at least damaged by his comments on immigration–that if you don’t support in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrations “I don’t think you have a heart.” Bush’s comment–that such migration is “an act of love”–has been compared to Perry’s, and it’s also similar to a far better phrased version of the argument put forth by Newt Gingrich, who put it in terms of separating families. And we got a preview of how Bush’s comments might be countered in a 2016 version of those debates from Ted Cruz, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper:

“We need to be a nation that welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants, people who follow the rules, and come here according to the law,” said Cruz in response.

“Rule of law matters. And if you look at any sovereign nation, securing your border is critically important,” said the freshman lawmaker.

“We need to solve the problem to secure the borders and then improve and streamline legal immigration so people can come to America consistent with the rule of law,” said Cruz.

Cruz’s response is not particularly controversial, though it’s clear he’s less concerned about fixing America’s legal immigration system–which is an unholy mess–than about securing the border. Both are important: in the age of asymmetric warfare, it makes no sense to have an unsecured border; and the current restrictions and layers of red tape on immigration are artificially distorting the market for labor and creating a black market–as overregulation almost always does–to fill the demand.

More relevant to 2016 than this argument–which goes round and round, and round again–is what it indicates about the various actors involved. And it confirms the pattern we’ve seen from Ted Cruz on his strategy for the primary contest. Cruz has not taken to promoting major reform legislation or “owning” an issue such as it is. Instead, he moves with alacrity to position himself slightly closer to the party’s grassroots when such reform is proposed.

There’s nothing objectionable about the strategy. Cruz is not required to churn out white papers or author major reform legislation, and if he does run for president he’ll do so anyway. It might not be on immigration, but in all likelihood a Cruz candidacy would include a tax plan at the very least. What the strategy is allowing Cruz to do is take the temperature of the party’s grassroots as the 2016 picture fills out.

Cruz has deployed the strategy against the candidate who would probably be his closest rival for grassroots voters, Rand Paul. When the Kentucky senator staged his famous filibuster over drones to the applause of conservatives (and a few non-conservatives as well), Cruz joined him on the chamber floor for the assist. But Paul’s response to the crisis in Ukraine was too tepid for Cruz, who staked out vague but more interventionist ground:

“I’m a big fan of Rand Paul. He and I are good friends. But I don’t agree with him on foreign policy,” Cruz said. “I think U.S. leadership is critical in the world. And I agree with him that we should be very reluctant to deploy military force abroad. But I think there is a vital role, just as Ronald Reagan did… The United States has a responsibility to defend our values.”

Cruz portrays the difference between him and Paul as a philosophical one, which is why, as I’ve argued in the past, foreign policy is likely to be a more prominent point of contention in the 2016 GOP primary season than it was in 2012. As Jeb Bush’s comments showed, the contentious domestic issue is likely to be immigration, which is why, no matter how stalled in the House immigration legislation remains, it’s an argument that will only get louder between now and 2016.

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The Hazards of Hillary Hagiography

As Mitt Romney secured the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, bringing to a close the competition to lead the GOP effort to unseat President Obama, there were all sorts of reactions from conservative voters. But the one complaint no one ever seemed to lodge was that there weren’t enough debates. No one had any reason to want to prolong the misery of that series of events. Grassroots conservatives watched in horror as the debates elevated Romney and Newt Gingrich while wrecking the candidacies of Rick Perry and Tim Pawlenty.

Liberals may have enjoyed what they thought was a clown show, but the debates went on long enough to eliminate any actual clowns from contention. (Say what you will about Romney as a candidate, but he isn’t a circus act.) The one exception to this rule might be the television networks that broadcast and moderated the debates, attracting viewers and giving liberal moderators numerous opportunities for what they actually show up to the debates to do: talk about contraception and occasionally call someone a racist.

So I am sympathetic to the idea that fewer debates next time around–especially fewer debates run by the moderators’ class of 2012, which included media personalities who threw themselves in front of Obama to shield him from any accusation unfit for royal consumption–might be worth a try. I wonder, however, if this is the way to go about it:

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As Mitt Romney secured the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, bringing to a close the competition to lead the GOP effort to unseat President Obama, there were all sorts of reactions from conservative voters. But the one complaint no one ever seemed to lodge was that there weren’t enough debates. No one had any reason to want to prolong the misery of that series of events. Grassroots conservatives watched in horror as the debates elevated Romney and Newt Gingrich while wrecking the candidacies of Rick Perry and Tim Pawlenty.

Liberals may have enjoyed what they thought was a clown show, but the debates went on long enough to eliminate any actual clowns from contention. (Say what you will about Romney as a candidate, but he isn’t a circus act.) The one exception to this rule might be the television networks that broadcast and moderated the debates, attracting viewers and giving liberal moderators numerous opportunities for what they actually show up to the debates to do: talk about contraception and occasionally call someone a racist.

So I am sympathetic to the idea that fewer debates next time around–especially fewer debates run by the moderators’ class of 2012, which included media personalities who threw themselves in front of Obama to shield him from any accusation unfit for royal consumption–might be worth a try. I wonder, however, if this is the way to go about it:

The chairman of the Republican National Committee says NBC and CNN are in the bag for Hillary Clinton, and he’s pledging to block the networks from sponsoring 2016 GOP primary debates unless they scratch their respective TV projects about the former secretary of state.

Reince Priebus accused the networks of promoting Clinton “ahead of her likely Democratic nomination for president in 2016” by airing the productions.

NBC is planning a miniseries about Clinton staring Diane Lane, and CNN has a documentary in the works about Clinton’s professional and personal life, expected to air in theaters before running on the cable network. In a letter to program executives, Priebus asserts that the networks’ plans will tip the scale toward Clinton in the next presidential election, providing unfair treatment not only to Republicans but also to other Democrats vying for the nomination. He called the networks “campaign operatives” for Clinton, and noted that Democrats protested when Citizens United tried to air a pay-per-view film about her before the 2008 election.

It’s possible this is just an easy way for Priebus and the RNC to reduce the number of debates, a prospect that was always easier said than done because the events brought revenue to local parties and gave candidates extra time in the spotlight. The debates were useful, without question, because the race was wide open and because it was important for Republican candidates–who won’t have the networks airing hagiographic propaganda on their behalf, unlike their opponents–need to be able to debate effectively. That was important in 2012 because although Obama isn’t a very good debater, the moderators intervened when they thought he was in trouble. It will be more important against Hillary Clinton, who is a far superior debater.

But 20 debates is excessive, and with few exceptions the last round of moderators didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory. It should also be noted that while the debates may have played a central role in derailing Perry’s candidacy, the later revelations about his health problems at the time suggests he might not have made it to the finish line even with fewer debates.

There is also the matter of the content of the CNN and NBC documentaries on Hillary Clinton. I doubt anyone thinks the network once derided as the “Clinton News Network” and the network that hired Clinton’s daughter will take a terribly critical view of the former first lady. But it’s worth keeping in mind that this is not how the Clintons will interpret the movies. Their standards for unadulterated worship are high. When Hillary Clinton spoke at the Saban Forum in late 2012 she permitted her event to be on the record–which included a film about Clinton preceding her speech whose tone was, wrote the New Yorker’s David Remnick, “so reverential that it resembled the sort of film that the Central Committee of the Communist Party might have produced for Leonid Brezhnev’s retirement party if Leonid Brezhnev would only have retired and the Soviets had been in possession of advanced video technology.”

Anything less will likely result in the expression of the typical Clinton suspicion that borders on paranoia (Clinton did, after all, introduce us to the “vast right-wing conspiracy”) and manifests in vicious public counter-attacks and character assassination. The networks are playing with fire: even the mere presumption of balance will set the Clintons fuming, and a replay of the Saban Forum’s Brezhnevite pomp will be a laughingstock.

Priebus is right to want to cut back on the debates and exert more discernment in choosing moderators and networks. He is also right to object to the hero-worship filmography of “news” networks covering the election. But the networks are probably asking for trouble, and Priebus and the RNC might end up enjoying not the films themselves, but the spectacle that follows.

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Political Debate As Theater

I’ve been critical of CNN’s Piers Morgan in the past, but his interview with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was quite good and enlightening. I say that because both men laid out reasonable arguments to support their case. 

Mr. Morgan, in response to Gingrich’s concern that politicians should not be in the business of deciding how to “permit” Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights, pointed out that Gingrich himself believes the same thing. That is, Mr. Gingrich agrees we should ban automatic weapons–which means he agrees the government ought to be in the business of drawing lines and granting, or not granting, permission to use certain types of weapons.

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I’ve been critical of CNN’s Piers Morgan in the past, but his interview with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was quite good and enlightening. I say that because both men laid out reasonable arguments to support their case. 

Mr. Morgan, in response to Gingrich’s concern that politicians should not be in the business of deciding how to “permit” Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights, pointed out that Gingrich himself believes the same thing. That is, Mr. Gingrich agrees we should ban automatic weapons–which means he agrees the government ought to be in the business of drawing lines and granting, or not granting, permission to use certain types of weapons.

On the flip side, Gingrich pressed Morgan on why he doesn’t advocate banning handguns, since the overwhelming number of gun-related homicides in America are caused not by “semi-automatic, military-style assault weapons” but handguns. And Gingrich, while conceding that he believes automatic weapons should be banned for civilian use, argued that we should be very cautious about extending to government the power to ban yet more weapons; that this step will embolden the government to further restrict the right of Americans to bear arms.

The weakest ground for Gingrich, then, was when the argument was narrowly focused on explaining why Americans should have a right to own a weapon that fires 100 rounds per minute if Americans are already banned (with some exceptions) from owning automatic weapons like machine guns. The weakest ground for Morgan was in not following the logic of his own assumptions, which would lead him to ban handguns if he could, and in not admitting how little the world would change if he got his ban on so-called assault weapons. 

As a general matter, the intensity of this debate is wildly disproportionate to the practical effects of its outcome. What we’re really talking about is precisely where to draw a line everyone concedes needs to be drawn. And whether or not we draw it where Piers Morgan wants it or Newt Gingrich wants it, it’s unlikely that very many, if any, lives will be saved. It strikes me that this is something too many people on both sides of this super-charged debate–starting with the president–won’t acknowledge.

I recognize that there’s a certain emotional satisfaction in pretending that one is either standing in solidarity with grieving parents or defending the sanctity of the Second Amendment. But that’s really not what’s happening here. It’s a public policy debate that will have very few ramifications in the real world. There’s an element to theater in this whole discussion that should end, but probably won’t.

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Akin Fiasco is Newt’s Last Stand

Today is the last day that Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin can get off the ballot in Missouri, but there is no indication that he will avail himself of the opportunity. Akin, who turned himself into a national laughing stock with his notorious comments about rape and pregnancy, appears poised to flush his party’s once bright hopes for picking up a Senate seat down the drain. But he isn’t alone. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was otherwise coming to grips with the obscurity that comes from being a presidential primary also-ran, has become Akin’s loudest supporter these days.

Gingrich is urging the national Republican Party to back off from its vows to cut Akin off from funds and says the Missouri race is still a “winnable race.” The polls would indicate he’s wrong about that as Akin’s comments quickly transformed a big GOP lead into a Democratic advantage, and there’s no sign that’s about to change. Nor is it likely many Republicans will respond positively to Gingrich’s declaration that the party has a “moral obligation” to back Akin. But his crusade on behalf of what is looking like a forlorn hope for the GOP is accomplishing one thing: it’s got Newt’s name back into the news.

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Today is the last day that Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin can get off the ballot in Missouri, but there is no indication that he will avail himself of the opportunity. Akin, who turned himself into a national laughing stock with his notorious comments about rape and pregnancy, appears poised to flush his party’s once bright hopes for picking up a Senate seat down the drain. But he isn’t alone. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was otherwise coming to grips with the obscurity that comes from being a presidential primary also-ran, has become Akin’s loudest supporter these days.

Gingrich is urging the national Republican Party to back off from its vows to cut Akin off from funds and says the Missouri race is still a “winnable race.” The polls would indicate he’s wrong about that as Akin’s comments quickly transformed a big GOP lead into a Democratic advantage, and there’s no sign that’s about to change. Nor is it likely many Republicans will respond positively to Gingrich’s declaration that the party has a “moral obligation” to back Akin. But his crusade on behalf of what is looking like a forlorn hope for the GOP is accomplishing one thing: it’s got Newt’s name back into the news.

If Akin’s determination to stay in the race is not as big a story as it was a month ago, that’s because in the intervening weeks, the Republicans have discovered they have bigger problems than Todd Akin. In August, the party’s biggest concern was whether one appalling comment would cost them a Senate seat that might be the difference between taking the Senate or of remaining in the minority. Though the GOP’s Senate hopes are not dead, they have been sidelined by fears that President Obama is assuming a lead in the presidential race that they may not be able to overcome.

But Akin’s forlorn hope is just the thing Gingrich needs to attract a little publicity. The former speaker has taken to referring to Akin’s critics the same way he bloviated about those who thought his presidential quest was hopeless. But just as those who invested heavily in Gingrich were wasting their money (yes, I’m talking about you Sheldon Adelson), the National Republican Senatorial Committee and super-PACs like Crossroads GPS would be crazy to divert any resources into the effort to defeat incumbent Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. Though she remains deeply unpopular, Akin (whose narrow primary victory was materially aided by the senator in order to give her the weakest possible opponent) is a lost cause.

It may be too late to undo the damage Akin did to the entire Republican Party by feeding into the Democrats’ faux war on women theme. But it won’t help Romney or any other Republican who still does have a chance for the party to reverse its decision to treat Akin like a pariah.

But Gingrich is, as he always has been, in business for himself here. While he is the sort of personality who may never completely fade away, this is the last election cycle in which he can credibly masquerade as a serious player. Just as he kept his presidential quest going long after he was finished, he is milking the Akin shipwreck for an extra few days or weeks of publicity. Though Republicans have bigger problems these days than Akin or Gingrich, the former speaker’s last stand in Missouri may be an appropriately disastrous finish for the GOP’s political year: 2012 began with Gingrich seeking to discredit Romney by attacking his business career in a manner that Democrats soon copied. It could end with Akin sabotaging Romney and the GOP in a state they must win.

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Paul Ryan at Full Volume

One of the most entertaining scenes of the seemingly endless Republican primary debate season was Juan Williams’s “food stamp president” question to Newt Gingrich, which Gingrich handled as Manny Ramirez used to handle unprepared pitchers: bait them into throwing the pitch he wanted, hit it out of the park, and give the pitcher a good stare-down as he began to round the bases.

It typified the reason many conservatives wanted to take on President Obama with Gingrich—namely, his ability to effectively challenge the premise of a question and change the conversation. This is a useful skill because the mainstream political press will always seek to force conservatives to play by whatever rules are most advantageous to the liberal establishment, and Gingrich was able to set his own rules, to an extent. But people tend to forget the rules automatically change during a presidential general election: the exposure nominees get, through public appearances, speeches, rallies, and debates, gives candidates an ability to speak over the din of the media and directly to the American people. It raises the volume.

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One of the most entertaining scenes of the seemingly endless Republican primary debate season was Juan Williams’s “food stamp president” question to Newt Gingrich, which Gingrich handled as Manny Ramirez used to handle unprepared pitchers: bait them into throwing the pitch he wanted, hit it out of the park, and give the pitcher a good stare-down as he began to round the bases.

It typified the reason many conservatives wanted to take on President Obama with Gingrich—namely, his ability to effectively challenge the premise of a question and change the conversation. This is a useful skill because the mainstream political press will always seek to force conservatives to play by whatever rules are most advantageous to the liberal establishment, and Gingrich was able to set his own rules, to an extent. But people tend to forget the rules automatically change during a presidential general election: the exposure nominees get, through public appearances, speeches, rallies, and debates, gives candidates an ability to speak over the din of the media and directly to the American people. It raises the volume.

Which is why the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate may make it more difficult—despite what liberals think—to tag Romney with Ryan’s budget as they seek to depict it. Joining the ticket means Ryan will be at full volume, speaking directly to the voters. A poll last week found popular support for Ryan’s budget after it was described in positive terms. If Ryan has the chance to frame the debate about his budget, Democrats may find the Obama campaign’s demagoguery less effective than they think.

Some on the left are sensing this already. Here’s William Saletan on the supposed poll-tested unpopularity of entitlement reform:

So what? Screw the polls. Republicans will be on the right side of the spending debate. They’ll be on the right side of the substance debate, too. Instead of bickering about Romney’s tax returns and repeating the obvious but unhelpful observation that the unemployment rate sucks, we’ll actually have to debate serious problems and solutions. That’s great for the country.

I’d adjust that second sentence slightly: Change the polls. That’s what Ryan will seek to do with the new platform Romney has given him. Ryan has already shown his effectiveness as a spokesman for serious reform. Now he’ll be at full volume.

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Why Nothing Can Be Done About Shootings

When Brian Ross and George Stephanopolous speculated about the possibility that the tragedy was the work of a Tea Party member on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday they were probably saying aloud what most of the mainstream liberal media was thinking at the time. ABC has apologized for this irresponsible comment but now that it’s become clear that a mentally disturbed person with no apparent political agenda committed the tragedy, many on the left have fallen back on the trope that more gun control measures might have prevented the crime and are venting their frustration about the fact that the American people have little interest in more gun laws.

It is an article of faith on the left that banning certain types of weapons and making it more difficult to obtain all firearms will deter or prevent crime. The best we can say of this belief is that it is an unproven assumption. True or not, it’s clear the majority of Americans believe that government interference with gun rights scares them more than random acts of violence by the insane. But it is interesting that few seem to be speaking about a far more obvious conclusion that could be drawn from Aurora: the need to focus more attention on treating and preventing mental illness. But the problem with promoting that far more germane and productive line of inquiry is that it serves no one’s political interest.

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When Brian Ross and George Stephanopolous speculated about the possibility that the tragedy was the work of a Tea Party member on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday they were probably saying aloud what most of the mainstream liberal media was thinking at the time. ABC has apologized for this irresponsible comment but now that it’s become clear that a mentally disturbed person with no apparent political agenda committed the tragedy, many on the left have fallen back on the trope that more gun control measures might have prevented the crime and are venting their frustration about the fact that the American people have little interest in more gun laws.

It is an article of faith on the left that banning certain types of weapons and making it more difficult to obtain all firearms will deter or prevent crime. The best we can say of this belief is that it is an unproven assumption. True or not, it’s clear the majority of Americans believe that government interference with gun rights scares them more than random acts of violence by the insane. But it is interesting that few seem to be speaking about a far more obvious conclusion that could be drawn from Aurora: the need to focus more attention on treating and preventing mental illness. But the problem with promoting that far more germane and productive line of inquiry is that it serves no one’s political interest.

The impulse to politicize the non-political is not limited to the left. Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert said the tragedy was the product of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs.” No doubt that is something that many who worry about the direction of the country think whenever anything bad happens. Indeed, Gohmert’s statement recalls Newt Gingrich’s belief that Susan Smith’s murder of her two children in 1994 was the result of a sick society that could be cured by more people voting Republican. Liberals rightly mock such claims but that doesn’t stop them from riding their own favorite hobbyhorses when tragedy strikes.

If, as Politico rightly pointed out on Friday, that “nothing can be done” about such events, it is not really because of the power of the National Rifle Association but because the assumption that there is a political answer to every question is a fallacy. Many liberals may believe that it is only the evil gun lobby that enables the insane to do insane things while some conservatives may think it is the breakdown of civilization caused by liberalism. Politics and government are not the solution to everything. Senseless violence is just that. But discussing mental illness does not advance the cause of neither the left nor the right. So we are left after anything terrible happens listening to the same tired clichés about guns and liberals. The best that can be said about all of this is that the American people are far too sensible to be influenced by the sort of vapid commentary that we have been subjected to in the aftermath of Aurora.

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Obama’s Food Stamp Presidency

Back during the Republican primaries, liberals accused Newt Gingrich of racism for pointing out that more people were receiving food stamps under Barack Obama’s presidency than ever before. But as a report from CNN shows, though spending on food stamps has doubled since the end of 2008 and more than one in seven Americans are now receiving them, the administration says that isn’t enough. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is running radio ads targeting Hispanics, the elderly and the poor encouraging those who aren’t already participating to sign up.

The USDA believes that despite the massive increase in spending on food stamps that was authorized as part of President Obama’s stimulus act, many more people who are legally eligible for assistance are not getting them, prompting the government recruitment campaign. While this can be represented as an attempt to help the poor, it is also an indication that the government’s focus is on increasing dependency and not on helping people to become self-sufficient. The push to spend more on food stamps made possible by the stimulus is making it look like Gingrich was right.

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Back during the Republican primaries, liberals accused Newt Gingrich of racism for pointing out that more people were receiving food stamps under Barack Obama’s presidency than ever before. But as a report from CNN shows, though spending on food stamps has doubled since the end of 2008 and more than one in seven Americans are now receiving them, the administration says that isn’t enough. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is running radio ads targeting Hispanics, the elderly and the poor encouraging those who aren’t already participating to sign up.

The USDA believes that despite the massive increase in spending on food stamps that was authorized as part of President Obama’s stimulus act, many more people who are legally eligible for assistance are not getting them, prompting the government recruitment campaign. While this can be represented as an attempt to help the poor, it is also an indication that the government’s focus is on increasing dependency and not on helping people to become self-sufficient. The push to spend more on food stamps made possible by the stimulus is making it look like Gingrich was right.

Liberals portrayed the food stamps controversy as a diversion from more important economic issues on Gingrich’s part last winter as well as a racist “dog whistle” argument in which he was accused of trying to link President Obama to African-American poverty. But the expansion of entitlements in the last four years is no illusion.

Obama’s defenders can rightly point to the fact that the Bush administration also used advertisements to recruit more food stamps recipients. They can also note that some of the increase is due to the rise in need as the result of the economic downturn from which the country has yet to recover. But the huge increase in spending on food stamps is just part of the expansion of government spending on entitlements under this administration. Moreover, at a time when the debt is spiraling out of control as a result of entitlement spending, the spectacle of the government trying to entice more citizens to get on the dole is appalling.

While Bill Clinton, the last Democrat to sit in the White House before Obama, is remembered for signing a welfare reform act (passed by a Republican Congress over his objections) that began a historic shift away from welfare dependency, President Obama deserves the opprobrium that should attach to his efforts to reverse that trend. When the stimulus boondoggle was passed few noticed that it contained language that would allow more people to get on food stamps, especially childless and healthy unemployed adults as well as increasing the amount given away.

The Democrats have fiercely resisted Republican efforts to change the way food stamps are funded. The GOP wants to emulate the welfare reform act and send the program to the states as a block grant that would make it more accountable on the local level and decrease the power of the federal government as well as spending.

But however the money is allocated, there is no question that food stamps have become a symbol not of GOP racism but the Obama administration’s push for more dependency. Though Republicans are accused of being heartless, the result of this thralldom to the welfare state hurts the poor as well as the country.

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Newt Gingrich Needs an Intervention

Newt Gingrich has been dragging out his futile campaign, long after the rest of the world realized it was over. Long after it started getting slightly uncomfortable to see him still on TV giving speeches. But there was always some hope he might snap back to reality once the money ran out. Apparently that’s not the case:

Newt Gingrich is cutting back his campaign schedule, will lay off about a third of his cash-strapped campaign’s full-time staff, and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a “big-choice convention” strategy, communications director Joe DeSantis told POLITICO. …

“We’re focusing exclusively on what it’ll take to win what we’re going to be calling a big-choice convention in August,” DeSantis said in a phone interview Tuesday night.

There is no real reason to believe that these drastic measures to turn around a flailing campaign can save the former House speaker’s candidacy for a third time.

Following a string of embarrassing primary losses, it was only a matter of time before Gingrich had to make some kind of decision about the way forward. But the betting was on an actual withdrawal from the race rather than slapping a band-aid on the problem.

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Newt Gingrich has been dragging out his futile campaign, long after the rest of the world realized it was over. Long after it started getting slightly uncomfortable to see him still on TV giving speeches. But there was always some hope he might snap back to reality once the money ran out. Apparently that’s not the case:

Newt Gingrich is cutting back his campaign schedule, will lay off about a third of his cash-strapped campaign’s full-time staff, and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a “big-choice convention” strategy, communications director Joe DeSantis told POLITICO. …

“We’re focusing exclusively on what it’ll take to win what we’re going to be calling a big-choice convention in August,” DeSantis said in a phone interview Tuesday night.

There is no real reason to believe that these drastic measures to turn around a flailing campaign can save the former House speaker’s candidacy for a third time.

Following a string of embarrassing primary losses, it was only a matter of time before Gingrich had to make some kind of decision about the way forward. But the betting was on an actual withdrawal from the race rather than slapping a band-aid on the problem.

What exactly is Newt’s end-game here? If he was trying to pressure Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum into cutting some sort of deal with him, he missed that boat weeks ago. The only possible reasons for staying in the race at this point seem to be 1.) He’s consumed with bitterness toward Romney and Santorum, and thinks he can do more damage in the race than out of it; 2.) He figures he has nothing better to do for awhile, and might as well stick it out; 3.) He sincerely believes he still has a chance at the nomination.

But even in the implausible scenario that there is a contested convention, why would Gingrich honestly think he’s a likely choice? It’s not like Republican voters haven’t had a chance to consider his candidacy. He’s been in the race since the beginning, and if the party wanted him as the nominee, he’d have won more than two states at this point.

As Allahpundit writes, “If you’ve reached the point in a convention floor fight where, for whatever reason, both Romney and Santorum are deemed unacceptable, why wouldn’t you roll the dice on a dark horse outsider? You’re much better off with someone like Christie or Paul Ryan who’s young, appealing, superb on the seminal issue of fiscal reform, and yet to have their national image defined than you are with High-Negatives Newt.”

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Newt Gingrich’s Lament

In an interview with ABC News, Newt Gingrich complained about the negative ads being used against him.

“Politics has become a really nasty, vicious, negative business and I think it’s disgusting and I think it’s dishonest,” according to Gingrich. “And I think the people who are running the ads know they are dishonest and I think a person who will do that to try to get to be president offers you no hope that they will be any good as president,” he said. Gingrich added, “We’re gradually going to have to figure out how to essentially take apart the negative ads.”

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In an interview with ABC News, Newt Gingrich complained about the negative ads being used against him.

“Politics has become a really nasty, vicious, negative business and I think it’s disgusting and I think it’s dishonest,” according to Gingrich. “And I think the people who are running the ads know they are dishonest and I think a person who will do that to try to get to be president offers you no hope that they will be any good as president,” he said. Gingrich added, “We’re gradually going to have to figure out how to essentially take apart the negative ads.”

In responding to Gingrich’s statement, let’s start with the most obvious point first: Newt Gingrich is probably not the ideal messenger when it comes to complaining that politics is too negative. This is a man, after all, who in 1987 said, “After the first five months of this Congress, I must report to my fellow citizens that this 100th Congress may be the most irresponsible, destructive, corrupt, and unrepresentative Congress of the modern era… In future weeks, I will make a series of speeches outlining the threats of corruption, of communism, and of the left-wing machine which runs the House.”

Two years later, Gingrich put things this way: “The left-wing Democrats will represent the party of total hedonism, total exhibitionism, total bizarreness, total weirdness, and the total right to cripple innocent people in the name of letting hooligans loose.”

In 1992, Gingrich said this: “Woody Allen had non-incest with his non-daughter because they were a non-family.” He added, “It fits the Democratic Party platform perfectly.” And in 1994, after a South Carolina woman, Susan Smith, murdered her two sons, Gingrich summarized things this way: “I think that the mother killing the two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we need to change things. The only way you get change is to vote Republican.”

I could go on (for more, see this compilation), but by now you get the point. It’s fair to say, I think, that Gingrich has not been an antidote to incivility during his years in public life.

In addition, Gingrich –who refers to himself as a historian — should recognize that politics has always involved passionate collisions that sometimes devolve into ad hominem attacks. Indeed, the election of 1800, which pitted Thomas Jefferson against John Adams, is regarded by scholars as among the nastiest campaigns in American history and nearly tore apart our young nation. For a variety of reasons, politics tends to be less ugly and dishonest than it has been in the past –and it certainly hasn’t become significantly more brutal or disgusting in the last 25 days (which is roughly when Gingrich’s opponents began to target him with negative ads).

This doesn’t mean, by the way, that politics is pristine, elevated, and uplifting; it simply means Gingrich’s characterization is being distorted by the pounding he’s absorbed. As recently as a month ago, when he was leading by double digits in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida, politics was characterized in very different, and far more positive, terms by Gingrich. He’s now universalizing his own recent, unhappy experiences. He speaks as if he’s been the victim of an unprecedented smear campaign (he has not). This, in turn, is creating in Gingrich something of a martyr complex. When asked on Sunday what he perceives to be his biggest weakness , Gingrich answered, “Probably that I’m too reasonable and that I should have responded to the negative ads two weeks earlier.” (My guess is that being too reasonable is not Gingrich’s greatest weakness.)

What we’re hearing from the former Speaker is typical. He perceives every moment in which he’s involved in epic, grandiose, and world-historic terms. It’s always the Children of Light v. the Children of Darkness. There are no gradations, no shades of gray, no medium moments. In that respect, Gingrich’s disposition is profoundly unconservative. The collapse he’s experiencing isn’t due to politics suddenly becoming “disgusting and dishonest.” It’s because Gingrich has always been a target-rich environment for his opponents and during the last four weeks, the missiles fired by the other candidates have hit their targets, with fairly devastating effect.

I can understand Gingrich being upset about that. He believes his record is being unfairly portrayed, putting Gingrich in the company of virtually every person who has ever run for president. Even if you were inclined to grant Gingrich all of that and more, no one has yet done to Gingrich what Gingrich has done to others.

 

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Newt in 2007: Next President Must Listen

With the New York Times and Washington Post both examining the existence of a “new” Newt Gingrich–the Post concentrates on Nice Newt and the Times on Grandfather Newt–it’s worth remembering that the emergence of a more reflective Gingrich is not all that recent.

Though Gingrich didn’t run in 2008, he was back in the spotlight and part of the conversation again. As far back as December 2007, New Newt was already here. Gingrich was asked to participate in Foreign Policy magazine’s symposium on what the next president should do about foreign affairs once he settled in, and Gingrich’s answer was, “Listen”:

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With the New York Times and Washington Post both examining the existence of a “new” Newt Gingrich–the Post concentrates on Nice Newt and the Times on Grandfather Newt–it’s worth remembering that the emergence of a more reflective Gingrich is not all that recent.

Though Gingrich didn’t run in 2008, he was back in the spotlight and part of the conversation again. As far back as December 2007, New Newt was already here. Gingrich was asked to participate in Foreign Policy magazine’s symposium on what the next president should do about foreign affairs once he settled in, and Gingrich’s answer was, “Listen”:

As soon as the new president is elected, he or she should immediately embark on a series of pre-inauguration visits to capitals around the world: not just London, Paris, and Jerusalem, but Ankara, Amman, Beijing, and Cairo. In the span of several weeks, the president should make dozens of stops in Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia. During these visits, not one moment needs to be spent trying to prove or demonstrate American power and dominance. Instead, the president-elect should simply listen. There should be no formal agenda, only questions. How do these other leaders think the United States can be most effective with its economic, military, and cultural might? And in turn, how do they propose to help achieve mutual goals during the next four years?

Listening does not mean obeying, or even agreeing. Trust begins not with agreement, but with mutual respect, which comes from an appreciation and understanding of the other person’s point of view. There is no obligation to accept or act upon the advice that is offered. The sole obligation is to understand the other side’s perspective.

This simple exercise of asking for advice and listening carefully and sympathetically will, in almost every part of the world, lead to dramatically improved relations and perceptions. If successful, this listening tour will enable the United States to build far more effective coalitions with our allies and further our strategic goals.

Of course, Barack Obama was elected president and, rather than listen, he traveled the world pulling stunts like offering Queen Elizabeth II an iPod filled with his speeches so that more experienced and revered world leaders could listen to him, over and over again.

In any event, Gingrich’s attempt to temper his bombast with some humility is not new to 2011–that is simply when reporters started listening.

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Newt Gingrich’s Advice to Palin

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Newt Gingrich had some unsolicited words of advice for Sarah Palin, whose poll numbers have been dropping after the Tucson tragedy.

“I think that she has got to slow down and be more careful and think through what she’s saying and how she’s saying it,” said Gingrich, who will likely challenge Palin for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

And while that’s a good recommendation for any politician — something Gingrich should probably work on himself — will it do any good for Palin?

Her political troubles over the past few weeks weren’t caused by a failure to slow down and think carefully. In fact, a lot of her most controversial remarks have been well thought out. Those gun references from last spring? She used them repeatedly in her statements, especially after she saw the furious reaction they elicited from the media and Democrats. Her “target” map was designed by a professional graphic artist, probably with a good deal of input from her PAC’s communications staff. And her recent comment about blood libel was part of a pre-written speech crafted with the help of PR experts.

Again, Gingrich’s words were good advice for any politician. But at this point, is there any indication that Palin has any interest in being a politician (as opposed to just running for political office)? Her increasingly eye-popping statements can only be looked at in two ways. Either she’s a “media-manipulation genius” (as that old meme goes) interested in a career as a professional conservative pundit, or she’s a serious politician who is breathtakingly clueless about media strategy.

The latter one seems unlikely. Not only is Palin incredibly savvy; so are the strategists around her. But in the past year, as a potential front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, she’s continued to make pre-planned comments that even the greenest City Hall candidate would have good sense to avoid. Promoting a map with crosshairs over Democratic districts during a debate as heated as the one last spring on health care? And writing the term “blood libel” into a speech? Yes, these controversies were blown way out of proportion by the media, but they were also completely unnecessary, avoidable scandals.

Conservatives who have seen how much potential Palin has as a candidate have advised her to get serious for almost two years. But is the problem that she hasn’t heard what they are saying? Or is it that she doesn’t want to hear it?

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Newt Gingrich had some unsolicited words of advice for Sarah Palin, whose poll numbers have been dropping after the Tucson tragedy.

“I think that she has got to slow down and be more careful and think through what she’s saying and how she’s saying it,” said Gingrich, who will likely challenge Palin for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

And while that’s a good recommendation for any politician — something Gingrich should probably work on himself — will it do any good for Palin?

Her political troubles over the past few weeks weren’t caused by a failure to slow down and think carefully. In fact, a lot of her most controversial remarks have been well thought out. Those gun references from last spring? She used them repeatedly in her statements, especially after she saw the furious reaction they elicited from the media and Democrats. Her “target” map was designed by a professional graphic artist, probably with a good deal of input from her PAC’s communications staff. And her recent comment about blood libel was part of a pre-written speech crafted with the help of PR experts.

Again, Gingrich’s words were good advice for any politician. But at this point, is there any indication that Palin has any interest in being a politician (as opposed to just running for political office)? Her increasingly eye-popping statements can only be looked at in two ways. Either she’s a “media-manipulation genius” (as that old meme goes) interested in a career as a professional conservative pundit, or she’s a serious politician who is breathtakingly clueless about media strategy.

The latter one seems unlikely. Not only is Palin incredibly savvy; so are the strategists around her. But in the past year, as a potential front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, she’s continued to make pre-planned comments that even the greenest City Hall candidate would have good sense to avoid. Promoting a map with crosshairs over Democratic districts during a debate as heated as the one last spring on health care? And writing the term “blood libel” into a speech? Yes, these controversies were blown way out of proportion by the media, but they were also completely unnecessary, avoidable scandals.

Conservatives who have seen how much potential Palin has as a candidate have advised her to get serious for almost two years. But is the problem that she hasn’t heard what they are saying? Or is it that she doesn’t want to hear it?

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Speaker Boehner’s Maiden Speech

In his first speech as Speaker of the House, John Boehner struck just the right tone, I thought. Though hardly a spellbinding orator, Boehner’s remarks were short and gracious, modest and at times elegant. He spoke about the power of ideas and the importance of fairness to the minority party. He also placed the job of the House within the framework of self-government, saying

The American people have humbled us. They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is. They have reminded us that everything here is on loan from them. That includes this gavel, which I accept cheerfully and gratefully, knowing I am but its caretaker. After all, this is the people’s House. This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us. What they want is a government that is honest, accountable and responsive to their needs. A government that respects individual liberty, honors our heritage, and bows before the public it serves.

Speaker Boehner appears to be, temperamentally at least, the antithesis of both his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, and Newt Gingrich, who saw himself as a world-historical figure.

That is appropriate for the times.

By the end of his tenure, what Boehner said today will be long forgotten. He will be judged on his record and that of the 112th Congress, as he should. But at the outset of this journey, Mr. Boehner struck the right notes in the right way. Plus, he didn’t cry.

In his first speech as Speaker of the House, John Boehner struck just the right tone, I thought. Though hardly a spellbinding orator, Boehner’s remarks were short and gracious, modest and at times elegant. He spoke about the power of ideas and the importance of fairness to the minority party. He also placed the job of the House within the framework of self-government, saying

The American people have humbled us. They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is. They have reminded us that everything here is on loan from them. That includes this gavel, which I accept cheerfully and gratefully, knowing I am but its caretaker. After all, this is the people’s House. This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us. What they want is a government that is honest, accountable and responsive to their needs. A government that respects individual liberty, honors our heritage, and bows before the public it serves.

Speaker Boehner appears to be, temperamentally at least, the antithesis of both his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, and Newt Gingrich, who saw himself as a world-historical figure.

That is appropriate for the times.

By the end of his tenure, what Boehner said today will be long forgotten. He will be judged on his record and that of the 112th Congress, as he should. But at the outset of this journey, Mr. Boehner struck the right notes in the right way. Plus, he didn’t cry.

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Morning Commentary

New START picked up support from Republican Sens. Scott Brown, Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, and George Voinovich on Monday, making it look like the treaty may actually get ratified before the end of the week. Sens. Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins had previously come out in favor of New START, which means Democrats now just need to pick up two more GOP “yes” votes to get the treaty ratified.

The latest Public Policy Polling survey of conservative voters in eight states found Sarah Palin to be the top pick for a 2012 presidential run. She’s followed closely by Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, with Mitt Romney in last place. PPP has more results and analysis from the poll on its blog.

Sadness: Melanie Phillips explains why the left is at war with itself over whether to canonize Julian Assange as a hero or convict him as a rapist without trial: “To understand why there is such an ear-splitting screeching of brakes from The Guardian, it is necessary to consider the mind-bending contradictions of what passes for thinking on the Left. For it believes certain things as articles of faith which cannot be denied. One is that America is a force for bad in the world and so can never be anything other than guilty. Another is that all men are potential rapists, and so can never be anything other than guilty.”

Steve Chapman discusses how political correctness in American schools helps turn top students into mediocre ones: “The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don’t elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, ‘The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There’s a long-standing attitude that, “Well, smart kids can make it on their own.”’ But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math—lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.”

Nathan Glazer reviews Kenneth Marcus’s latest book on campus anti-Semitism and the inclusion of Jews in Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An essay adapted from Marcus’s book was published in the September issue of COMMENTARY.

The nastiness of the anti-Israel fringe is now invading the morning commute. JTA reports that Seattle buses will soon be plastered with ads decrying “Israeli war-crimes.” From JTA: “The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign has paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning Dec. 27, the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities, according to Seattle’s King 5 News. The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading ‘Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.’”

New START picked up support from Republican Sens. Scott Brown, Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, and George Voinovich on Monday, making it look like the treaty may actually get ratified before the end of the week. Sens. Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins had previously come out in favor of New START, which means Democrats now just need to pick up two more GOP “yes” votes to get the treaty ratified.

The latest Public Policy Polling survey of conservative voters in eight states found Sarah Palin to be the top pick for a 2012 presidential run. She’s followed closely by Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, with Mitt Romney in last place. PPP has more results and analysis from the poll on its blog.

Sadness: Melanie Phillips explains why the left is at war with itself over whether to canonize Julian Assange as a hero or convict him as a rapist without trial: “To understand why there is such an ear-splitting screeching of brakes from The Guardian, it is necessary to consider the mind-bending contradictions of what passes for thinking on the Left. For it believes certain things as articles of faith which cannot be denied. One is that America is a force for bad in the world and so can never be anything other than guilty. Another is that all men are potential rapists, and so can never be anything other than guilty.”

Steve Chapman discusses how political correctness in American schools helps turn top students into mediocre ones: “The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don’t elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, ‘The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There’s a long-standing attitude that, “Well, smart kids can make it on their own.”’ But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math—lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.”

Nathan Glazer reviews Kenneth Marcus’s latest book on campus anti-Semitism and the inclusion of Jews in Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An essay adapted from Marcus’s book was published in the September issue of COMMENTARY.

The nastiness of the anti-Israel fringe is now invading the morning commute. JTA reports that Seattle buses will soon be plastered with ads decrying “Israeli war-crimes.” From JTA: “The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign has paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning Dec. 27, the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities, according to Seattle’s King 5 News. The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading ‘Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.’”

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Assange Now Blackmailing the U.S. Government

Some Julian Assange supporters have dismissed the potential national-security risk of WikiLeaks as an unfortunate, but unavoidable, consequence of the fight for more government transparency. But now Assange has taken his “crusade” a step further, by threatening to release even more dangerous documents if government leaders make any attempt to shut down his website or detain him. This is essentially blackmail:

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has circulated across the internet an encrypted “poison pill” cache of uncensored documents suspected to include files on BP and Guantanamo Bay.

One of the files identified this weekend by The Sunday Times — called the “insurance” file — has been downloaded from the WikiLeaks website by tens of thousands of supporters, from America to Australia.

Assange warns that any government that tries to curtail his activities risks triggering a new deluge of state and commercial secrets.

There’s a reason why this batch of information is being used as a bargaining chip:

[Assange] has suggested the contents are unredacted, posing a possible security risk for coalition partners around the world.

If Assange were merely a proponent of open government, as he has portrayed himself, he would have released all the documents at the same time — including the “insurance file” — along with the necessary redactions. What is the point of leaking the files so strategically if there wasn’t a broader strategy to inflict as much destruction on the U.S. as possible?

Assange may not share al-Qaeda’s tactics, but his intent is similar. All his fans who believe he’s a crusader for government transparency are fooling themselves. In fact, Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell are already calling Assange a terrorist: “Information warfare is warfare, and Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed, is terrorism, and Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism,” said Gingrich. “He should be treated as an enemy combatant.”

I understand where Gingrich is coming from, but I don’t think Assange’s actions warrant the terrorism label just yet. He hasn’t purposely targeted specific groups of individuals with violence. However, WikiLeaks is making it easier for terror groups to target civilians, so terrorist abettor may be a better description.

Some Julian Assange supporters have dismissed the potential national-security risk of WikiLeaks as an unfortunate, but unavoidable, consequence of the fight for more government transparency. But now Assange has taken his “crusade” a step further, by threatening to release even more dangerous documents if government leaders make any attempt to shut down his website or detain him. This is essentially blackmail:

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has circulated across the internet an encrypted “poison pill” cache of uncensored documents suspected to include files on BP and Guantanamo Bay.

One of the files identified this weekend by The Sunday Times — called the “insurance” file — has been downloaded from the WikiLeaks website by tens of thousands of supporters, from America to Australia.

Assange warns that any government that tries to curtail his activities risks triggering a new deluge of state and commercial secrets.

There’s a reason why this batch of information is being used as a bargaining chip:

[Assange] has suggested the contents are unredacted, posing a possible security risk for coalition partners around the world.

If Assange were merely a proponent of open government, as he has portrayed himself, he would have released all the documents at the same time — including the “insurance file” — along with the necessary redactions. What is the point of leaking the files so strategically if there wasn’t a broader strategy to inflict as much destruction on the U.S. as possible?

Assange may not share al-Qaeda’s tactics, but his intent is similar. All his fans who believe he’s a crusader for government transparency are fooling themselves. In fact, Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell are already calling Assange a terrorist: “Information warfare is warfare, and Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed, is terrorism, and Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism,” said Gingrich. “He should be treated as an enemy combatant.”

I understand where Gingrich is coming from, but I don’t think Assange’s actions warrant the terrorism label just yet. He hasn’t purposely targeted specific groups of individuals with violence. However, WikiLeaks is making it easier for terror groups to target civilians, so terrorist abettor may be a better description.

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Will Gingrich Influence Palin?

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, former House speaker Newt Gingrich said he is “much more inclined to run” for president in 2012 than not run.

I’m curious about the effect, if any at all, Gingrich’s words may have on Sarah Palin. Of those Republicans considered the most likely to run for president, Gingrich is perhaps the one individual who can compete with Palin when it comes to exciting the GOP base and its core conservative supporters. He can send a jolt of electricity through GOP audiences that is quite impressive and unmatched by anyone, with the exception of Palin and Governor Chris Christie (who continues to rule out a race in 2012).

I continue to believe that Ms. Palin will not run for president in 2012. She has structured a very impressive and profitable post-2008 campaign life for herself. She’s influential but not fully in the arena. If she decides to run, however, her limitations (which are considerable) will overwhelm her candidacy. She will not be president of the United States. Hopefully, she’s self-aware enough to know that.

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, former House speaker Newt Gingrich said he is “much more inclined to run” for president in 2012 than not run.

I’m curious about the effect, if any at all, Gingrich’s words may have on Sarah Palin. Of those Republicans considered the most likely to run for president, Gingrich is perhaps the one individual who can compete with Palin when it comes to exciting the GOP base and its core conservative supporters. He can send a jolt of electricity through GOP audiences that is quite impressive and unmatched by anyone, with the exception of Palin and Governor Chris Christie (who continues to rule out a race in 2012).

I continue to believe that Ms. Palin will not run for president in 2012. She has structured a very impressive and profitable post-2008 campaign life for herself. She’s influential but not fully in the arena. If she decides to run, however, her limitations (which are considerable) will overwhelm her candidacy. She will not be president of the United States. Hopefully, she’s self-aware enough to know that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

So much for the notion that it wasn’t a referendum on Obama. “I’m not recommending for every future President that they take a shellacking like they — like I did last night.” Notice the “I.”

So much for the Bill Clinton–like adjustment. “Obama admits he got a ’shellacking,’ but shows no sign of budging on core agenda.”

So much for the wishful thinking of the left blogosphere: “Republicans have picked up a net gain of 53 seats and were leading for another 13 Democratic-held seats. If current trend holds, Republicans could record their largest gains in the House in more than 70 years.”

So much for historical accuracy: “The newly divided government could be a recipe for gridlock or, as some veteran Capitol Hill operatives suggest, an opportunity for President Barack Obama and Congress to improve their weak standing with the American public by working together — a la Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich.” Um, I don’t think Gingrich improved his standing.

So much for lessons learned. The left blogosphere is still spinning: “I think the root of the Democrats’ political troubles lies in the initial flurry of activity — the stimulus, restructuring TARP, and the auto bailout. In the public mind, this all become jumbled together as ‘the bailouts’ — a conflation carefully nurtured by Republicans — even though obviously Keynesian fiscal policy is not the same thing as a bailout. But the truth is that all those policies were highly unpopular, and all came to symbolize big government rescuing bad actors while average people paid the bill. It became a frame that colored perceptions of the entire Democratic agenda.” It didn’t “symbolize” big government — together with ObamaCare, it was big government.

So much for Rahm Emanuel’s handiwork. “The Democrats who handed Speaker Nancy Pelosi her majority were largely wiped out of Congress on Tuesday. Fourteen members of the freshman class of 2006, dubbed by Pelosi (D-Calif.) as her ‘majority makers,’ and 21 freshman elected in 2008 lost their seats with a handful of races still undecided. Republicans were able to win several more open seats that Democrats had won in those cycles.” No wonder Rahm developed a yen to be mayor.

So much for getting our money back. “GM said it intends to sell almost a quarter of its 1.5 billion shares of common stock, at a price between $26 to $29 a share. It also intends to sell 60 million shares of preferred stock with a liquidation value of $50 a share. That price range would suggest that the Treasury Department’s 60.8% stake in the company would be worth between $23.7 billion to $26.5 billion once the stock starts trading. That value would be well below the $40 billion in taxpayer money GM received from the government and has yet to repay.”

So much for stonewalling. Rep. Lamar Smith, who together with Rep. Frank Wolf labored to get to the bottom of the New Black Panther Party scandal, will be the House Judiciary chairman. Eric Holder therefore may be the first subpoenaed member of the administration. I sense a stampede of officials at DOJ running to spend more time with their families.

So much for the notion that it wasn’t a referendum on Obama. “I’m not recommending for every future President that they take a shellacking like they — like I did last night.” Notice the “I.”

So much for the Bill Clinton–like adjustment. “Obama admits he got a ’shellacking,’ but shows no sign of budging on core agenda.”

So much for the wishful thinking of the left blogosphere: “Republicans have picked up a net gain of 53 seats and were leading for another 13 Democratic-held seats. If current trend holds, Republicans could record their largest gains in the House in more than 70 years.”

So much for historical accuracy: “The newly divided government could be a recipe for gridlock or, as some veteran Capitol Hill operatives suggest, an opportunity for President Barack Obama and Congress to improve their weak standing with the American public by working together — a la Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich.” Um, I don’t think Gingrich improved his standing.

So much for lessons learned. The left blogosphere is still spinning: “I think the root of the Democrats’ political troubles lies in the initial flurry of activity — the stimulus, restructuring TARP, and the auto bailout. In the public mind, this all become jumbled together as ‘the bailouts’ — a conflation carefully nurtured by Republicans — even though obviously Keynesian fiscal policy is not the same thing as a bailout. But the truth is that all those policies were highly unpopular, and all came to symbolize big government rescuing bad actors while average people paid the bill. It became a frame that colored perceptions of the entire Democratic agenda.” It didn’t “symbolize” big government — together with ObamaCare, it was big government.

So much for Rahm Emanuel’s handiwork. “The Democrats who handed Speaker Nancy Pelosi her majority were largely wiped out of Congress on Tuesday. Fourteen members of the freshman class of 2006, dubbed by Pelosi (D-Calif.) as her ‘majority makers,’ and 21 freshman elected in 2008 lost their seats with a handful of races still undecided. Republicans were able to win several more open seats that Democrats had won in those cycles.” No wonder Rahm developed a yen to be mayor.

So much for getting our money back. “GM said it intends to sell almost a quarter of its 1.5 billion shares of common stock, at a price between $26 to $29 a share. It also intends to sell 60 million shares of preferred stock with a liquidation value of $50 a share. That price range would suggest that the Treasury Department’s 60.8% stake in the company would be worth between $23.7 billion to $26.5 billion once the stock starts trading. That value would be well below the $40 billion in taxpayer money GM received from the government and has yet to repay.”

So much for stonewalling. Rep. Lamar Smith, who together with Rep. Frank Wolf labored to get to the bottom of the New Black Panther Party scandal, will be the House Judiciary chairman. Eric Holder therefore may be the first subpoenaed member of the administration. I sense a stampede of officials at DOJ running to spend more time with their families.

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Sestak Struggling

The Pennsylvania media reports that Joe Sestak is floundering:

More than midway through the political calendar, Sestak seems endlessly on the defensive. It’s partly of his own doing, but largely because Toomey, with a sharper message and flush finances, has been the aggressor.

So far, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate battle has been fought on Toomey’s terms.

Sestak has taken a beating on his Israel record, forcing him to go on MSNBC to deny that it’s a significant issue and to call in J Street for support. (The J Street gang ponied up only a tiny ad buy.) But that isn’t Sestak’s only problem:

Two days after the May 18 primary, Toomey went on the air with a commercial that highlighted Sestak’s support for health [care] reform, bailouts, and civilian trials for foreign terrorists. A few days later, after Sestak had appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, Toomey’s campaign sent out a press release saying the interview showcased Sestak’s “sham independence.” …

Toomey has aired six television commercials about Sestak, painting him as an extreme liberal to the left of most members of his political party. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce aired two commercials linking Sestak to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and calling him “anti-business.”

Sestak tried to strike back last week by enlisting the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to bandy charges that Toomey was a derivatives trader who helped sink the economy. The charges were generally derided as untrue, and Toomey surged to a nine-point lead in the race. Meanwhile, Sestak strained to explain why he had accepted campaign donations from recipients of earmarks, something he pledged to not do.

Sestak has suffered on three counts: his ultra-liberal voting record, the generally toxic political environment for the Democrats, and a certain incoherence in his own campaign. A case in point is the endorsement by former Sen. Chuck Hagel. This comes at a time when Sestak has labored to rebut attacks on his own Israel record and on his keynote address for CAIR. But Hagel seems a particularly poor messenger for Sestak. The National Democratic Jewish Council explained in 2007:

As Senator Hagel sits around for six more months and tries to decide whether to launch a futile bid for the White House, he has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.  Consider this:

– In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

– In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.

– In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yasir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.

– In December 2005, Hagel  was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.

– In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit. …

And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel:

“Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel…” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]

Not exactly an effective way to rebut arguments that his instincts lead him to positions — and allies — that are anti-Israel.

Sestak has time to recover, but he may not have the ability to. On this one, the White House might have been right: Arlen Specter was the more viable of the two Democratic contenders.

The Pennsylvania media reports that Joe Sestak is floundering:

More than midway through the political calendar, Sestak seems endlessly on the defensive. It’s partly of his own doing, but largely because Toomey, with a sharper message and flush finances, has been the aggressor.

So far, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate battle has been fought on Toomey’s terms.

Sestak has taken a beating on his Israel record, forcing him to go on MSNBC to deny that it’s a significant issue and to call in J Street for support. (The J Street gang ponied up only a tiny ad buy.) But that isn’t Sestak’s only problem:

Two days after the May 18 primary, Toomey went on the air with a commercial that highlighted Sestak’s support for health [care] reform, bailouts, and civilian trials for foreign terrorists. A few days later, after Sestak had appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, Toomey’s campaign sent out a press release saying the interview showcased Sestak’s “sham independence.” …

Toomey has aired six television commercials about Sestak, painting him as an extreme liberal to the left of most members of his political party. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce aired two commercials linking Sestak to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and calling him “anti-business.”

Sestak tried to strike back last week by enlisting the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to bandy charges that Toomey was a derivatives trader who helped sink the economy. The charges were generally derided as untrue, and Toomey surged to a nine-point lead in the race. Meanwhile, Sestak strained to explain why he had accepted campaign donations from recipients of earmarks, something he pledged to not do.

Sestak has suffered on three counts: his ultra-liberal voting record, the generally toxic political environment for the Democrats, and a certain incoherence in his own campaign. A case in point is the endorsement by former Sen. Chuck Hagel. This comes at a time when Sestak has labored to rebut attacks on his own Israel record and on his keynote address for CAIR. But Hagel seems a particularly poor messenger for Sestak. The National Democratic Jewish Council explained in 2007:

As Senator Hagel sits around for six more months and tries to decide whether to launch a futile bid for the White House, he has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.  Consider this:

– In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

– In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.

– In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yasir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.

– In December 2005, Hagel  was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.

– In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit. …

And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel:

“Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel…” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]

Not exactly an effective way to rebut arguments that his instincts lead him to positions — and allies — that are anti-Israel.

Sestak has time to recover, but he may not have the ability to. On this one, the White House might have been right: Arlen Specter was the more viable of the two Democratic contenders.

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Hiding Behind Rudy

In the midst of the Ground Zero mosque debacle, there is, it seems, some benefit that liberals think they will derive in trying to show they are not unmoved by “reasonable” Republicans, only by those fiery, nasty ones. A case in point is Jonathan Capehart, who tells us he respects what Rudy Giuliani had to say, but he not all those conservatives deploying “needlessly inflammatory and divisive rhetoric that makes a mockery of everyone’s professed support of freedom of religion.” Well, maybe he’s referring to Newt Gingrich, whose comment, Pete pointed out, really was over the top. But I suspect he’s pointing to the broad range of conservatives — John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and the rest.

What, then, did Rudy say that meets Capehart’s test? First there was this, reported by Maggie Haberman of Politico:

He takes a very hard line, including saying that “decent Muslims” will not be offended by the opposition because they want peace as much as others do. …

[RUDY]: “So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at ground zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at ground zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is, it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

That’s OK, in Capehart’s book. Seems strong stuff compared to Palin. (“Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?”) And it’s a bit tougher than Boehner. (“The decision to build this mosque so close to ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it. The American people certainly don’t support it. The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding.”) So what’s Capehart’s beef with them?

Rudy had some additional words today:

“The question here is a question of sensitivity and are you really what you pretend to be,” Giuliani said. “The idea of this is supposed to be healing, the idea that Muslims care about what Christians and Jews do. … If you’re going to so horribly offend the people … who are most directly affected by this … then how are you healing?”

And he, like nearly every other Republican, questioned the imam’s motives:

“I’m confused by the imam,” Giuliani said. “I see all the things that you’re saying, but I also see a man that says America was an accessory to Sept. 11.”

He noted that an Arab prince who tried to give $10 million to New York had his donation returned — by Giuliani himself — for making similar points shortly after the attacks. He also noted that Rauf has refused to denounce Hamas.

“Those quotes trouble me but here’s what troubles me more — if he’s truly about healing he will not go forward with this project because this project is not healing,” he said, adding, “This project is creating tremendous pain for people who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

“The question is should they build it, are they displaying the sensitivity they claim by building it,” he said.

He added, “All this is doing is creating more division, more anger, more hatred.”

In short, there is not one iota of difference between what Rudy is saying and what virtually every other conservative critic of the Ground Zero mosque is saying. It is simply hard, terribly hard, for Capehart and other liberals to acknowledge that Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer, John Boehner, Marco Rubio, and a host of other conservatives are the nuanced, reasonable ones in the debate. But he should be honest about it rather than hiding behind Rudy.

In the midst of the Ground Zero mosque debacle, there is, it seems, some benefit that liberals think they will derive in trying to show they are not unmoved by “reasonable” Republicans, only by those fiery, nasty ones. A case in point is Jonathan Capehart, who tells us he respects what Rudy Giuliani had to say, but he not all those conservatives deploying “needlessly inflammatory and divisive rhetoric that makes a mockery of everyone’s professed support of freedom of religion.” Well, maybe he’s referring to Newt Gingrich, whose comment, Pete pointed out, really was over the top. But I suspect he’s pointing to the broad range of conservatives — John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and the rest.

What, then, did Rudy say that meets Capehart’s test? First there was this, reported by Maggie Haberman of Politico:

He takes a very hard line, including saying that “decent Muslims” will not be offended by the opposition because they want peace as much as others do. …

[RUDY]: “So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at ground zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at ground zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is, it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

That’s OK, in Capehart’s book. Seems strong stuff compared to Palin. (“Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?”) And it’s a bit tougher than Boehner. (“The decision to build this mosque so close to ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it. The American people certainly don’t support it. The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding.”) So what’s Capehart’s beef with them?

Rudy had some additional words today:

“The question here is a question of sensitivity and are you really what you pretend to be,” Giuliani said. “The idea of this is supposed to be healing, the idea that Muslims care about what Christians and Jews do. … If you’re going to so horribly offend the people … who are most directly affected by this … then how are you healing?”

And he, like nearly every other Republican, questioned the imam’s motives:

“I’m confused by the imam,” Giuliani said. “I see all the things that you’re saying, but I also see a man that says America was an accessory to Sept. 11.”

He noted that an Arab prince who tried to give $10 million to New York had his donation returned — by Giuliani himself — for making similar points shortly after the attacks. He also noted that Rauf has refused to denounce Hamas.

“Those quotes trouble me but here’s what troubles me more — if he’s truly about healing he will not go forward with this project because this project is not healing,” he said, adding, “This project is creating tremendous pain for people who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

“The question is should they build it, are they displaying the sensitivity they claim by building it,” he said.

He added, “All this is doing is creating more division, more anger, more hatred.”

In short, there is not one iota of difference between what Rudy is saying and what virtually every other conservative critic of the Ground Zero mosque is saying. It is simply hard, terribly hard, for Capehart and other liberals to acknowledge that Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer, John Boehner, Marco Rubio, and a host of other conservatives are the nuanced, reasonable ones in the debate. But he should be honest about it rather than hiding behind Rudy.

Read Less




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