Commentary Magazine


Topic: political analyst

Wow, She’s Good at Manipulating the Media. Who Knew?

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

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RE: Helen Thomas Quits

I’m just thinking about her next gig. Her options surely include a guest blogger spot at Mondoweiss, a column in the Guardian, or as a political analyst for al-Manar. Or maybe as the spokesperson for the Turkish embassy in Washington.

I’m just thinking about her next gig. Her options surely include a guest blogger spot at Mondoweiss, a column in the Guardian, or as a political analyst for al-Manar. Or maybe as the spokesperson for the Turkish embassy in Washington.

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The President, the New Republic, and Dramatic Decline

In the afterglow of Barack Obama’s election, liberals were peddling a lot of bad ideas. Among them was the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, who in December 2008 wrote this:

The practical import of the Obama mandate debate has fallen on the question of whether he should pursue his goal of comprehensive health care reform, which numerous pundits and even some Democrats have tagged as dangerously ambitious. But this is one area where undiluted liberalism enjoys overwhelming public support. The public, by a roughly two-to-one margin, thinks the government has a responsibility to make sure that every American has adequate health care. Congressional Democrats fear a repeat of 1994–when, as they see it, Bill Clinton over-interpreted his mandate and therefore failed to pass health care reform. This reading has it backward. Clinton’s health care plan failed because Congress decided he didn’t have a mandate and refused to pass it. If the Democrats fail this time, it will probably be because they psyched themselves out once again.

Thirteen months later, Chait’s “undiluted liberalism” enjoys something less than overwhelming public support.

In fact, the United States has become more, not less, conservative during the Obama presidency (by a margin of 2-to-1, Americans describe themselves as conservative rather than liberal). And Obama and the Democrats, having followed Chait’s counsel, find themselves in a terrible political ditch. After a year in office, Mr. Obama has become, by a wide margin, our most polarizing president. He has the highest disapproval ratings ever recorded for an elected president beginning his second year. No other president has seen his Gallup job-approval rating drop as far as Obama’s has (21 points) in his first year. And the public overwhelmingly opposes Obama’s signature domestic initiative, health care (the approve-disapprove spread ranges from 15 to 20 points).

In addition, Democrats have suffered crushing losses in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia — and last week they suffered a particularly devastating loss in the Massachusetts Senate race. Independents are voting for Republicans by a 2-to-1 (or better) margin. Republicans are now polling better than Democrats on most issues. They are ahead on most generic congressional vote polls. The GOP’s recruiting efforts are going gangbusters, while Democrats are either withdrawing from midterm races in November or not throwing their hat into the ring at all. “I have not seen a party’s fortunes collapse so suddenly since Richard Nixon got caught up in the Watergate scandal and a president who carried 49 states was threatened with impeachment and removal from office,” according to the political analyst Michael Barone.

Democrats, rightly sensing what awaits them in November, are nearly panic-stricken.

In light of what has come to pass, Mr. Chait’s writings look comical. After a disastrous August for ObamaCare, Chait declared, against all evidence, “August moved the ball pretty far down the field.” He was issuing ominous warnings about a GOP overreach on health care in September. And in October he wrote, “We’ve had months of sturm and drang, and massive attention focused on the question, Whither health care reform? It’s just quietly turned into a fait accompli.”

Au contraire. ObamaCare, while not yet dead, is in critical and perhaps terminal condition. And the damaging effects it has had on the president and the Democratic party is beyond serious dispute. Charlie Cook of National Journal put it this way:

Honorable and intelligent people can disagree over the substance and details of what President Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to do on health care reform and climate change. But nearly a year after Obama’s inauguration, judging by where the Democrats stand today, it’s clear that they have made a colossal miscalculation.

Clear, that is, to everyone but Jonathan Chait. He is in the uncomfortable position of having to explain how the Obama presidency and liberalism have gone off the rails in the past year, a year devoted to trying to pass massively unpopular health-care legislation championed by people like Chait. Rather than coming to grips with reality, though, Chait has opted for self-delusion. In his January 19 column, for example, Jonathan was reduced to writing things like this:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

So Obama and the Democrats find themselves on the precipice, not because of health care, but because of “structural factors.” Of course. Scott Brown famously won his Massachusetts Senate race by promising to be the 41st vote against “structural factors.”

It is all rather pathetic.

The New Republic was once one of the nation’s leading journals of opinion. It was the home of first-rate thinkers and first-rate writers. Today it is the home of Jonathan Chait.

It has been a long and dramatic decline.

In the afterglow of Barack Obama’s election, liberals were peddling a lot of bad ideas. Among them was the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, who in December 2008 wrote this:

The practical import of the Obama mandate debate has fallen on the question of whether he should pursue his goal of comprehensive health care reform, which numerous pundits and even some Democrats have tagged as dangerously ambitious. But this is one area where undiluted liberalism enjoys overwhelming public support. The public, by a roughly two-to-one margin, thinks the government has a responsibility to make sure that every American has adequate health care. Congressional Democrats fear a repeat of 1994–when, as they see it, Bill Clinton over-interpreted his mandate and therefore failed to pass health care reform. This reading has it backward. Clinton’s health care plan failed because Congress decided he didn’t have a mandate and refused to pass it. If the Democrats fail this time, it will probably be because they psyched themselves out once again.

Thirteen months later, Chait’s “undiluted liberalism” enjoys something less than overwhelming public support.

In fact, the United States has become more, not less, conservative during the Obama presidency (by a margin of 2-to-1, Americans describe themselves as conservative rather than liberal). And Obama and the Democrats, having followed Chait’s counsel, find themselves in a terrible political ditch. After a year in office, Mr. Obama has become, by a wide margin, our most polarizing president. He has the highest disapproval ratings ever recorded for an elected president beginning his second year. No other president has seen his Gallup job-approval rating drop as far as Obama’s has (21 points) in his first year. And the public overwhelmingly opposes Obama’s signature domestic initiative, health care (the approve-disapprove spread ranges from 15 to 20 points).

In addition, Democrats have suffered crushing losses in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia — and last week they suffered a particularly devastating loss in the Massachusetts Senate race. Independents are voting for Republicans by a 2-to-1 (or better) margin. Republicans are now polling better than Democrats on most issues. They are ahead on most generic congressional vote polls. The GOP’s recruiting efforts are going gangbusters, while Democrats are either withdrawing from midterm races in November or not throwing their hat into the ring at all. “I have not seen a party’s fortunes collapse so suddenly since Richard Nixon got caught up in the Watergate scandal and a president who carried 49 states was threatened with impeachment and removal from office,” according to the political analyst Michael Barone.

Democrats, rightly sensing what awaits them in November, are nearly panic-stricken.

In light of what has come to pass, Mr. Chait’s writings look comical. After a disastrous August for ObamaCare, Chait declared, against all evidence, “August moved the ball pretty far down the field.” He was issuing ominous warnings about a GOP overreach on health care in September. And in October he wrote, “We’ve had months of sturm and drang, and massive attention focused on the question, Whither health care reform? It’s just quietly turned into a fait accompli.”

Au contraire. ObamaCare, while not yet dead, is in critical and perhaps terminal condition. And the damaging effects it has had on the president and the Democratic party is beyond serious dispute. Charlie Cook of National Journal put it this way:

Honorable and intelligent people can disagree over the substance and details of what President Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to do on health care reform and climate change. But nearly a year after Obama’s inauguration, judging by where the Democrats stand today, it’s clear that they have made a colossal miscalculation.

Clear, that is, to everyone but Jonathan Chait. He is in the uncomfortable position of having to explain how the Obama presidency and liberalism have gone off the rails in the past year, a year devoted to trying to pass massively unpopular health-care legislation championed by people like Chait. Rather than coming to grips with reality, though, Chait has opted for self-delusion. In his January 19 column, for example, Jonathan was reduced to writing things like this:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

So Obama and the Democrats find themselves on the precipice, not because of health care, but because of “structural factors.” Of course. Scott Brown famously won his Massachusetts Senate race by promising to be the 41st vote against “structural factors.”

It is all rather pathetic.

The New Republic was once one of the nation’s leading journals of opinion. It was the home of first-rate thinkers and first-rate writers. Today it is the home of Jonathan Chait.

It has been a long and dramatic decline.

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It’s Still Pouring Bad News for Democrats

The Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts will most likely unleash a new torrent of bad news. Nervous Democrats are getting out (Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry is retiring) or not getting into races. And Republicans are licking their chops.

In Delaware, Joe Biden’s son has bugged out of the Senate race. Hotline observes:

The decision is a blow to Dems who hoped to mount a competitive race for the First State seat. [State Attorney General Beau] Biden’s decision makes Rep. Mike Castle (R) the overwhelming favorite to win the final 4 years of the senior Biden’s term, replacing Sen. Ted Kaufman (D) after the Nov. elections. Without the younger Biden in the race, Dems will likely turn to New Castle Co. exec. Chris Coons (D). Polls show Castle beating Coons by a wide margin.

And in Indiana, a new Rasmussen poll shows that it would be worth Mike Pence’s while to jump into the race against Evan Bayh:

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is another Democratic incumbent who could find himself in a tough reelection battle this fall. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds that Bayh attracts support from just 44% or 45% of voters when matched against his top potential Republican challengers. . . At this time, [Pence]e attracts 47% of the vote while Bayh picks up 44%.

Even a much lesser known former Republican congressman, John Hostettler, is trailing the incumbent senator by only 3 points (44 percent to 41 percent). As Rasmussen notes: “Any incumbent who attracts less than 50% support at this point in a campaign is considered potentially vulnerable.”

This is the snowball effect of Brown’s victory, Obama’s decline in the polls, and the recognition that this will likely be a very bad year indeed for the Democrats. As the playing field of gettable seats expands for the Republicans, the problem will only worsen. The New York Times reports:

Just since Tuesday, half a dozen Republicans have expressed interest in challenging Democrats in House races in New York, Pennsylvania and potentially Massachusetts, party officials said. …

Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, is considering challenging Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, aides said. Even in longer-shot states like New York, Republicans said they think the political climate gives them a chance to find a strong Senate candidate. … Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst who follows Congressional races, said a report he will release Monday will count 58 Democratic House seats in play, up from 47 in December. The number of Republican seats in play has held at 14 in that period, he said. And Democrats expect more of their incumbents to retire, which could put additional seats at risk.

Political fortunes can change, the economy could pick up, and Obama might yet piece together some face-saving, modest set of health-care reforms. But without viable candidates to run in competitive races, Democrats will have put themselves at a disadvantage that is not easily repaired before the November elections. And one suspects that the retirements on the Democratic side are not at an end, nor have the recruiting efforts on the GOP side slowed. The end of the bad news for the Obama Democrats is not yet in sight.

The Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts will most likely unleash a new torrent of bad news. Nervous Democrats are getting out (Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry is retiring) or not getting into races. And Republicans are licking their chops.

In Delaware, Joe Biden’s son has bugged out of the Senate race. Hotline observes:

The decision is a blow to Dems who hoped to mount a competitive race for the First State seat. [State Attorney General Beau] Biden’s decision makes Rep. Mike Castle (R) the overwhelming favorite to win the final 4 years of the senior Biden’s term, replacing Sen. Ted Kaufman (D) after the Nov. elections. Without the younger Biden in the race, Dems will likely turn to New Castle Co. exec. Chris Coons (D). Polls show Castle beating Coons by a wide margin.

And in Indiana, a new Rasmussen poll shows that it would be worth Mike Pence’s while to jump into the race against Evan Bayh:

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is another Democratic incumbent who could find himself in a tough reelection battle this fall. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds that Bayh attracts support from just 44% or 45% of voters when matched against his top potential Republican challengers. . . At this time, [Pence]e attracts 47% of the vote while Bayh picks up 44%.

Even a much lesser known former Republican congressman, John Hostettler, is trailing the incumbent senator by only 3 points (44 percent to 41 percent). As Rasmussen notes: “Any incumbent who attracts less than 50% support at this point in a campaign is considered potentially vulnerable.”

This is the snowball effect of Brown’s victory, Obama’s decline in the polls, and the recognition that this will likely be a very bad year indeed for the Democrats. As the playing field of gettable seats expands for the Republicans, the problem will only worsen. The New York Times reports:

Just since Tuesday, half a dozen Republicans have expressed interest in challenging Democrats in House races in New York, Pennsylvania and potentially Massachusetts, party officials said. …

Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, is considering challenging Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, aides said. Even in longer-shot states like New York, Republicans said they think the political climate gives them a chance to find a strong Senate candidate. … Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst who follows Congressional races, said a report he will release Monday will count 58 Democratic House seats in play, up from 47 in December. The number of Republican seats in play has held at 14 in that period, he said. And Democrats expect more of their incumbents to retire, which could put additional seats at risk.

Political fortunes can change, the economy could pick up, and Obama might yet piece together some face-saving, modest set of health-care reforms. But without viable candidates to run in competitive races, Democrats will have put themselves at a disadvantage that is not easily repaired before the November elections. And one suspects that the retirements on the Democratic side are not at an end, nor have the recruiting efforts on the GOP side slowed. The end of the bad news for the Obama Democrats is not yet in sight.

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Once-Triumphalist Democrats Face Bleak Election Outlook

The widely respected political analyst Charlie Cook, writing in the wake of political developments throughout the last week, says this:

In the world of economics, a virtuous circle is created when a series of positive events triggers a self-perpetuating pattern of other good occurrences — a positive feedback loop, in other words. A vicious circle, of course, is just the opposite and appears to be what Democrats are caught in these days.

Cook goes on to say that in the House, he is still forecasting that Democrats will lose “only” 20 to 30 seats (when Republicans lost 30 seats in 2006, it was said to be a landslide). But he adds:

Another half-dozen or more retirements in tough districts, however, perhaps combined with another party switch or two, would reduce Democrats’ chances of holding the House to only an even-money bet. We rate 217 seats either “Solid Democratic” or “Likely Democratic,” meaning that the GOP would have to win every single race now thought to be competitive to reach 218, the barest possible majority. But if Democrats suffer much more erosion in their “Solid” and “Likely” columns, control of the House will suddenly be up for grabs.

The political troubles for Obama and the Democrats continue to mount, so much so that many people would not be surprised by a repeat of what happened in the 1994 mid-term elections, where Democrats lost more than 50 House seats and control of the House of Representatives. Today’s Democratic Party is in worse shape — and arguably considerably worse shape — now than it was then.

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville not all that long ago, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Sidney Blumenthal, author of The Strange Death of Republican America, declared, “No one can even envision when the Republicans will control the presidency and both houses of the Congress as they did as recently as 2006.” And Michael Lind added this: “The election of Barack Obama to the presidency may signal more than the end of an era of Republican presidential dominance and conservative ideology. It may mark the beginning of a Fourth Republic of the United States.”

If so, the Fourth Republic of the United States — unlike the French Fourth Republic – will not have lasted long or turned out well.

Republicans should not succumb to the same intoxication that Democrats did in 2008. Politics is a fluid business; a lot can change in a hurry. But right now there is no question that Obamaism and the Democratic Party are in very dangerous territory — and if present trends continue, 2010 will be a monumentally bad year for both.

The widely respected political analyst Charlie Cook, writing in the wake of political developments throughout the last week, says this:

In the world of economics, a virtuous circle is created when a series of positive events triggers a self-perpetuating pattern of other good occurrences — a positive feedback loop, in other words. A vicious circle, of course, is just the opposite and appears to be what Democrats are caught in these days.

Cook goes on to say that in the House, he is still forecasting that Democrats will lose “only” 20 to 30 seats (when Republicans lost 30 seats in 2006, it was said to be a landslide). But he adds:

Another half-dozen or more retirements in tough districts, however, perhaps combined with another party switch or two, would reduce Democrats’ chances of holding the House to only an even-money bet. We rate 217 seats either “Solid Democratic” or “Likely Democratic,” meaning that the GOP would have to win every single race now thought to be competitive to reach 218, the barest possible majority. But if Democrats suffer much more erosion in their “Solid” and “Likely” columns, control of the House will suddenly be up for grabs.

The political troubles for Obama and the Democrats continue to mount, so much so that many people would not be surprised by a repeat of what happened in the 1994 mid-term elections, where Democrats lost more than 50 House seats and control of the House of Representatives. Today’s Democratic Party is in worse shape — and arguably considerably worse shape — now than it was then.

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville not all that long ago, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Sidney Blumenthal, author of The Strange Death of Republican America, declared, “No one can even envision when the Republicans will control the presidency and both houses of the Congress as they did as recently as 2006.” And Michael Lind added this: “The election of Barack Obama to the presidency may signal more than the end of an era of Republican presidential dominance and conservative ideology. It may mark the beginning of a Fourth Republic of the United States.”

If so, the Fourth Republic of the United States — unlike the French Fourth Republic – will not have lasted long or turned out well.

Republicans should not succumb to the same intoxication that Democrats did in 2008. Politics is a fluid business; a lot can change in a hurry. But right now there is no question that Obamaism and the Democratic Party are in very dangerous territory — and if present trends continue, 2010 will be a monumentally bad year for both.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Mitch McConnell sounds the theme for Republicans in 2010: “Every single Democrat in the Senate provided the one vote that passed this 2,700-page monstrosity. It cuts Medicare by half a trillion dollars, raises taxes by half a trillion dollars, and instead of curbing the rate of increase of insurance premiums, most Americans’ insurance premiums are going to go up. This bill is a colossal failure, and that’s why the American people were literally screaming at us, you know, please, don’t pass this bill.”

Even the New York Times figured it out: a lot of Blue State senators blew it in the health-care bill by agreeing to help fund other states’ Medicaid obligations and doing little or nothing for their own states. Perhaps if they hadn’t been in such a mad rush, the Democrats wouldn’t have missed an issue worth billions to their states.

The White House, according to A.P.’s Jennifer Loven, is worried about “getting ahead of the criticism” on the handling of our terrorist watch lists. (By the way, it seems that the “Free Mara!” campaign has plowed new ground, opening up Fox New Sunday to the A.P.’s White House reporter.) One senses that the Obami only perk up about the nature of the international threats we face after the fact, when the political fall-out mounts. And Bill Kristol points out that we are treating the bomber as a “one-off, law enforcement case.”

It is reapportionment time: “The Constitution requires, every decade, the redistribution of congressional districts to account for changes in the country’s population. The projections offer some long-term encouragement for Republicans. President Barack Obama won nine of the 10 states slated to lose seats, and Democrats hold congressional delegation majorities in all but one (Louisiana).”

Jonah Goldberg on the ever-hapless Secretary of Homeland Security: “I watched her on three shows and each time she was more annoying, maddening and absurd than the previous appearance. It is her basic position that the ‘system worked’ because the bureaucrats responded properly after the attack. That the attack was ‘foiled’ by a bad detonator and some civilian passengers is proof, she claims, that her agency is doing everything right. That is just about the dumbest thing she could say, on the merits and politically.” If not for Eric Holder, she’d be the worst cabinet secretary — by far.

Rep. Peter King doesn’t think the system worked: “One thing is clear about the attempted terror attack on Christmas Day — we need answers. There is obviously going to be a full-scale congressional investigation into how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was allowed to board Flight 253 and head to the United States with plans to incinerate 300 innocent people. Mere hours after it happened, I was told that this man was known to our government, and that there was a classified file on him that said he definitely was involved in terrorist activity. The exact words the authorities used when they told me were ‘terrorist nexus.’”

Undoing himself in the sycophantic spinning department, Marc Ambinder praises Obama for golfing the day after the Christmas bombing. It’s all part of a strategery. . .  er. . .  strategy, he says.

From Maureen Dowd’s column: “In dismissing the tea parties and pushing through plans the American people obviously don’t want, they have made the fatal disconnect between the representatives and the represented.” Okay, she subcontracted her column to her conservative brother, who apparently is the savvy political analyst in the family.

Noemie Emery explains: “The Left, which invented first ‘hate speech’ (opinions they didn’t like) and then ‘hate crimes’ (crimes judged less on the criminal’s actions than on what he was presumed to be thinking), has now gone on to its epiphany, which is “hate” defined not by your words or deeds but by what other people have decided you really think. ‘Hate’ is no longer what you do or say, but what a liberal says that you think and projects on to you. You are punished for what someone else claims you were thinking. It hardly makes sense, but it does serve a political purpose. You could call it Secondhand Hate.” And it’s all the rage, so to speak, in the Obama era.

Sen. Mitch McConnell sounds the theme for Republicans in 2010: “Every single Democrat in the Senate provided the one vote that passed this 2,700-page monstrosity. It cuts Medicare by half a trillion dollars, raises taxes by half a trillion dollars, and instead of curbing the rate of increase of insurance premiums, most Americans’ insurance premiums are going to go up. This bill is a colossal failure, and that’s why the American people were literally screaming at us, you know, please, don’t pass this bill.”

Even the New York Times figured it out: a lot of Blue State senators blew it in the health-care bill by agreeing to help fund other states’ Medicaid obligations and doing little or nothing for their own states. Perhaps if they hadn’t been in such a mad rush, the Democrats wouldn’t have missed an issue worth billions to their states.

The White House, according to A.P.’s Jennifer Loven, is worried about “getting ahead of the criticism” on the handling of our terrorist watch lists. (By the way, it seems that the “Free Mara!” campaign has plowed new ground, opening up Fox New Sunday to the A.P.’s White House reporter.) One senses that the Obami only perk up about the nature of the international threats we face after the fact, when the political fall-out mounts. And Bill Kristol points out that we are treating the bomber as a “one-off, law enforcement case.”

It is reapportionment time: “The Constitution requires, every decade, the redistribution of congressional districts to account for changes in the country’s population. The projections offer some long-term encouragement for Republicans. President Barack Obama won nine of the 10 states slated to lose seats, and Democrats hold congressional delegation majorities in all but one (Louisiana).”

Jonah Goldberg on the ever-hapless Secretary of Homeland Security: “I watched her on three shows and each time she was more annoying, maddening and absurd than the previous appearance. It is her basic position that the ‘system worked’ because the bureaucrats responded properly after the attack. That the attack was ‘foiled’ by a bad detonator and some civilian passengers is proof, she claims, that her agency is doing everything right. That is just about the dumbest thing she could say, on the merits and politically.” If not for Eric Holder, she’d be the worst cabinet secretary — by far.

Rep. Peter King doesn’t think the system worked: “One thing is clear about the attempted terror attack on Christmas Day — we need answers. There is obviously going to be a full-scale congressional investigation into how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was allowed to board Flight 253 and head to the United States with plans to incinerate 300 innocent people. Mere hours after it happened, I was told that this man was known to our government, and that there was a classified file on him that said he definitely was involved in terrorist activity. The exact words the authorities used when they told me were ‘terrorist nexus.’”

Undoing himself in the sycophantic spinning department, Marc Ambinder praises Obama for golfing the day after the Christmas bombing. It’s all part of a strategery. . .  er. . .  strategy, he says.

From Maureen Dowd’s column: “In dismissing the tea parties and pushing through plans the American people obviously don’t want, they have made the fatal disconnect between the representatives and the represented.” Okay, she subcontracted her column to her conservative brother, who apparently is the savvy political analyst in the family.

Noemie Emery explains: “The Left, which invented first ‘hate speech’ (opinions they didn’t like) and then ‘hate crimes’ (crimes judged less on the criminal’s actions than on what he was presumed to be thinking), has now gone on to its epiphany, which is “hate” defined not by your words or deeds but by what other people have decided you really think. ‘Hate’ is no longer what you do or say, but what a liberal says that you think and projects on to you. You are punished for what someone else claims you were thinking. It hardly makes sense, but it does serve a political purpose. You could call it Secondhand Hate.” And it’s all the rage, so to speak, in the Obama era.

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Assad Suckers Obama

Senator Barack Obama went on the record about the never-ending political meltdown in Lebanon, and for a moment there I thought he might have it just right.

“The ongoing political crisis is resulting in the destabilization of Lebanon,” he said, “which is an important country in the Middle East. The US cannot watch while Lebanon’s fresh democracy is about to collapse.” So far so good. “We must keep supporting the democratically-elected government of PM Fouad Siniora, strengthening the Lebanese army and insisting on the disarmament of Hezbollah before it leads Lebanon into another unnecessary war.”

This is all excellent, so let’s get something out of the way. Barack Obama is not a leftist. He is a liberal. The difference between an American liberal and an American leftist on Lebanon is enormous. I can’t tell you how many Western leftists I’ve met who ran off to Beirut where they endlessly excuse or even outright support Hezbollah. (They are “victims” of Zionism, they aren’t pro-American like those icky “right-wing” bourgeois Maronite Christians, etc.) Some of these Hezbollah supporters, tragically, are journalists. They put me in the right-wing “imperialist” and “orientalist” camp for no more than saying what Barack Obama just said.

Obama’s problem isn’t that he’s on the wrong side. His problem is he’s the latest in a seemingly limitless supply of naïve Westerners who think they can reason with Syria’s tyrant Bashar Assad.

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Senator Barack Obama went on the record about the never-ending political meltdown in Lebanon, and for a moment there I thought he might have it just right.

“The ongoing political crisis is resulting in the destabilization of Lebanon,” he said, “which is an important country in the Middle East. The US cannot watch while Lebanon’s fresh democracy is about to collapse.” So far so good. “We must keep supporting the democratically-elected government of PM Fouad Siniora, strengthening the Lebanese army and insisting on the disarmament of Hezbollah before it leads Lebanon into another unnecessary war.”

This is all excellent, so let’s get something out of the way. Barack Obama is not a leftist. He is a liberal. The difference between an American liberal and an American leftist on Lebanon is enormous. I can’t tell you how many Western leftists I’ve met who ran off to Beirut where they endlessly excuse or even outright support Hezbollah. (They are “victims” of Zionism, they aren’t pro-American like those icky “right-wing” bourgeois Maronite Christians, etc.) Some of these Hezbollah supporters, tragically, are journalists. They put me in the right-wing “imperialist” and “orientalist” camp for no more than saying what Barack Obama just said.

Obama’s problem isn’t that he’s on the wrong side. His problem is he’s the latest in a seemingly limitless supply of naïve Westerners who think they can reason with Syria’s tyrant Bashar Assad.

“Washington must rectify the wrong policy of President George Bush in Lebanon and resort to an efficient and permanent diplomacy, rather than empty slogans,” he said.

“What is bizarre about this sentence,” Lebanese political analyst Tony Badran said to me in an email, “is that the Lebanon policy has been precisely that. While Sen. Obama’s statement — and indeed conventional wisdom — tries to paint all Bush administration policies with the old brush of arrogant unilateralism, in reality, the Lebanon policy has always been a multilateral policy of consensus, through the UN security council, through international law, and through close partnership with European and regional allies like France and Saudi Arabia. It is unclear how Sen. Obama wishes to ‘replace’ that. The current policy is as consensual, multilateral and internationalist as you can get. What you need to replace ‘hollow rhetoric,’ as he put it, is not more ‘diplomatic engagement,’ it’s more tools of pressure.”

This is exactly right. Pressure of one kind or another is the only thing Bashar Assad, or his more ruthless father Hafez Assad, ever responds to.

Syria has exported terrorism to almost all its neighbors – to Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey. So far only Turkey has managed to put an end to it once for all, and did so by threatening to invade. Turkey could smash Syria to pieces almost as quickly and easily as the Israelis were they so inclined. So that, as they say, was that.

Likewise, Assad withdrew all his occupation troops from Lebanon in 2005 after a million Lebanese citizens – almost a third of the total population – protested in Beirut’s Martyr’s Square and demanded their evacuation. It wasn’t the protest, though, that forced Assad out. It was what he felt was extraordinary pressure from the international community, most pointedly from the United States. “I am not Saddam Hussein,” he said at the time. “I want to cooperate.”

I doubt the Bush Administration threatened an invasion of Syria. It wasn’t necessary. The United States had just pulled the trigger in Iraq.

“We have,” Tony Badran continued, “as have our allies and friends, tried talking to the Syrians and the result is always the same: disastrous failure. Mr. Obama might think that his own personal charm is enough to turn Assad into a gushing 14 year old girl at an N’Sync concert, but he should pay close attention to the recent experience of one of our closest trans-Atlantic allies, French president Nicholas Sarkozy.”

Sarkozy thought he could achieve what Obama says he’ll achieve. After finally getting over the learning curve he decided, as have all others before him, that the only solution is a united Western front against Syria. That united Western front would join the already existing united Arab front against Syria. Every Arab government in the world is aligned against Syria already. The only Assad-friendly government in the region is the (Persian) Islamic Republic of Iran. All Arab governments are ahead of Obama, just as they were ahead of Sarkozy, who refused to listen when they warned him.

Assad is not going to break the Syrian-Iranian-Hamas-Hezbollah axis because Obama talks him into it over tea after everyone else who has ever tried has failed utterly. Obama could be counted on to iron out at least some differences with European diplomats and Republicans in Congress, but that’s because they’re democratic, civilized, and basically on the same side. Syria is an enemy state and acts accordingly. Assad isn’t a spouse in a troubled marriage on the Dr. Phil show. Obama is no more able to flip Syria into the Western camp than Syria can convince the U.S. to join Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

Common ground does not exist. We have nothing to talk about because what Assad wants first and foremost – Syria’s re-domination of Lebanon and its absorption into its state-sponsored terrorist axis – is unacceptable for everyone involved from Barack Obama to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

A united Arab-Western front against Syria might be effective. That’s what Assad is afraid of, and it’s the reason he continues to pretend what he wants is just “dialogue.” As if he just wants a friend and Bush is mean for not listening, as if “dialogue” is a cry for help so someone can help him kick his terrorist habit. There is always another sucker, somewhere, who thinks he or she can talk sense into the man and is willing to sabotage a united front in order to try.

Everyone who has ever tried to reason with Assad at length will tell you what I’m telling you now. It’s not a “liberal” or “conservative” thing, it just is. Obama is like the smart and popular college kid with a bright future, yet who still needs time to learn how the world works. He hasn’t acquired any foreign policy experience or expertise, and unfortunately his advisors are failing him here. They, of all people, should know this by now, yet they do not.

Obama desperately needs an advisor who understands Syria, and if he wants one who isn’t conservative he could could far worse than bringing on board political analyst and blogger Abu Kais, a Lebanese Shia who moved to Washington and is a critic of the Bush Administration.

“Murder has been profitable in our country, and in the region,” he wrote last month after assassins murdered anti-terrorist investigator Wissam Eid with a car bomb. “No one is going after the killers – their harshest punishment to date took the form of ‘initiatives’ and ‘dialogue.’ Lebanon, once again, is where anything goes, a free killing zone sanctioned by its enemies, and by friends who talk too much and do nothing.”

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Covertly Raiding Pakistan

Today, Islamabad issued a warning that it will not allow any other country to conduct military operations inside Pakistan’s borders. “This has been conveyed at the highest level,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq.

Conveyed to whom? The assertion of sovereignty follows yesterday’s New York Times story that senior American officials are debating whether to increase the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military’s special operations forces to operate covertly in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The paper notes that the Bush administration is concerned that al Qaeda and the Taliban are stepping up their efforts against the Pakistani government. Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, and top White House security officials met on Friday to consider the proposal. According to the Times, “Several of the participants in the meeting argued that the threat to the government of President Pervez Musharraf was now so grave that both Mr. Musharraf and Pakistan’s new military leadership were likely to give the United States more latitude, officials said.”

Well, Islamabad has now said “no thanks” to the proposed raids, and it’s not hard to see why. News of the deliberations in Washington is bound to further inflame public opinion in Pakistan. “At the moment when Musharraf is extremely unpopular, he will face more crisis,” predicts Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani military and political analyst, commenting on American plans to intervene. In short, secret American raids could lead to the downfall of the leader Washington is trying to protect.

So it’s time for the Bush administration to accept Islamabad’s “no” and move on. Covert military action for the purpose of changing the internal situation inside Pakistan was never a good idea, especially in light of Washington’s miserable track record in meddling in the country over the course of decades—and over the course of the last two weeks.

Yet we should not let the terrorists run free in Pakistan. Afghanistan has a right to defend itself, and that right includes capturing and killing militants on Pakistani soil if Islamabad cannot prevent its territory from being used as a base for attacks. There’s nothing wrong with helping Kabul destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban in their Pakistani sanctuary. Yet we should do so openly—and not for the wrong reasons.

Today, Islamabad issued a warning that it will not allow any other country to conduct military operations inside Pakistan’s borders. “This has been conveyed at the highest level,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq.

Conveyed to whom? The assertion of sovereignty follows yesterday’s New York Times story that senior American officials are debating whether to increase the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military’s special operations forces to operate covertly in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The paper notes that the Bush administration is concerned that al Qaeda and the Taliban are stepping up their efforts against the Pakistani government. Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, and top White House security officials met on Friday to consider the proposal. According to the Times, “Several of the participants in the meeting argued that the threat to the government of President Pervez Musharraf was now so grave that both Mr. Musharraf and Pakistan’s new military leadership were likely to give the United States more latitude, officials said.”

Well, Islamabad has now said “no thanks” to the proposed raids, and it’s not hard to see why. News of the deliberations in Washington is bound to further inflame public opinion in Pakistan. “At the moment when Musharraf is extremely unpopular, he will face more crisis,” predicts Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani military and political analyst, commenting on American plans to intervene. In short, secret American raids could lead to the downfall of the leader Washington is trying to protect.

So it’s time for the Bush administration to accept Islamabad’s “no” and move on. Covert military action for the purpose of changing the internal situation inside Pakistan was never a good idea, especially in light of Washington’s miserable track record in meddling in the country over the course of decades—and over the course of the last two weeks.

Yet we should not let the terrorists run free in Pakistan. Afghanistan has a right to defend itself, and that right includes capturing and killing militants on Pakistani soil if Islamabad cannot prevent its territory from being used as a base for attacks. There’s nothing wrong with helping Kabul destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban in their Pakistani sanctuary. Yet we should do so openly—and not for the wrong reasons.

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