Commentary Magazine


Topic: political director

Morning Commentary

Michael Steele is expected to announce he will not run for a second term as chairman of the National Republican Committee, Fox News reports. A sizable crowd of candidates is vying for Steele’s job, including Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus, former RNC co-chair Ann Wagner, longtime Republican official Maria Cino, former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis, and former RNC political director Gentry Collins. But at the moment, no clear front-runner has emerged.

Nate Silver says that the worst thing for Obama to do right now is to take his liberal base for granted (information the president might have found more useful a week ago).

Speaking of alienating the base, Peggy Noonan writes that no president has done it quite like Obama has: “We have not in our lifetimes seen a president in this position. He spent his first year losing the center, which elected him, and his second losing his base, which is supposed to provide his troops. There isn’t much left to lose! Which may explain Tuesday’s press conference.”

While Americans mourn on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, terrorist supporters will be flocking to New York to celebrate the 10-year reunion of the Israel-bashing UN Durban Conference on Racism: “There’s only one reason the new conference will convene in New York in September 2011: to rub salt in the city’s wounds, to dance on the city’s graves,” says a New York Post editorial. “Participants at the original conference, which ended three days before 9/11, openly celebrated Islamic terrorism.”

President Obama and John Boehner’s first joint bipartisan move should be to quit smoking, says Tom Brokaw: “Tobacco kills more than 443,000 Americans a year, more than 10 times the number who die in traffic accidents. Yet for all the warnings on cigarette packages, in public-service ads and in news stories about the acute dangers of smoking, an estimated 40 million Americans still smoke.” Ah yes, nicotine withdrawal — the best way to bridge an already adversarial relationship.

Disgruntled WikiLeaks employees are defecting to a new pro-leak website, which is set to launch today: “The founders of Openleaks.org say they are former WikiLeaks members unhappy with the way WikiLeaks is being run under [Julian] Assange. ‘It has weakened the organization,’ one of those founders, Daniel Domscheit-Berg says in a documentary airing Sunday night on Swedish television network SVT. He said WikiLeaks has become ‘too much focused on one person, and one person is always much weaker than an organization.’”

Michael Steele is expected to announce he will not run for a second term as chairman of the National Republican Committee, Fox News reports. A sizable crowd of candidates is vying for Steele’s job, including Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus, former RNC co-chair Ann Wagner, longtime Republican official Maria Cino, former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis, and former RNC political director Gentry Collins. But at the moment, no clear front-runner has emerged.

Nate Silver says that the worst thing for Obama to do right now is to take his liberal base for granted (information the president might have found more useful a week ago).

Speaking of alienating the base, Peggy Noonan writes that no president has done it quite like Obama has: “We have not in our lifetimes seen a president in this position. He spent his first year losing the center, which elected him, and his second losing his base, which is supposed to provide his troops. There isn’t much left to lose! Which may explain Tuesday’s press conference.”

While Americans mourn on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, terrorist supporters will be flocking to New York to celebrate the 10-year reunion of the Israel-bashing UN Durban Conference on Racism: “There’s only one reason the new conference will convene in New York in September 2011: to rub salt in the city’s wounds, to dance on the city’s graves,” says a New York Post editorial. “Participants at the original conference, which ended three days before 9/11, openly celebrated Islamic terrorism.”

President Obama and John Boehner’s first joint bipartisan move should be to quit smoking, says Tom Brokaw: “Tobacco kills more than 443,000 Americans a year, more than 10 times the number who die in traffic accidents. Yet for all the warnings on cigarette packages, in public-service ads and in news stories about the acute dangers of smoking, an estimated 40 million Americans still smoke.” Ah yes, nicotine withdrawal — the best way to bridge an already adversarial relationship.

Disgruntled WikiLeaks employees are defecting to a new pro-leak website, which is set to launch today: “The founders of Openleaks.org say they are former WikiLeaks members unhappy with the way WikiLeaks is being run under [Julian] Assange. ‘It has weakened the organization,’ one of those founders, Daniel Domscheit-Berg says in a documentary airing Sunday night on Swedish television network SVT. He said WikiLeaks has become ‘too much focused on one person, and one person is always much weaker than an organization.’”

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“I’m Going to Take Off”

That’s what Barack Obama said on Friday when he ceded the podium in the White House briefing room to Bill Clinton. In the New York Post today, I analyze this rather singular moment:

The event gobsmacked the political class. On Twitter, ABC News political director Amy E. Walter wrote, “Obama just ceded the podium to Clinton. This. Is. Awesome.” Christina Bellantoni of the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call used the same punctuation trope: “This is Un. Real.”

Washington froze in wonder at this momentary trip into the past. The sheer strangeness of the sight of Clinton alone at that podium crystallized the sense that the American political system (or more specifically, the Democratic party) had spun out of control over the course of the week.

You can read the whole thing here.

That’s what Barack Obama said on Friday when he ceded the podium in the White House briefing room to Bill Clinton. In the New York Post today, I analyze this rather singular moment:

The event gobsmacked the political class. On Twitter, ABC News political director Amy E. Walter wrote, “Obama just ceded the podium to Clinton. This. Is. Awesome.” Christina Bellantoni of the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call used the same punctuation trope: “This is Un. Real.”

Washington froze in wonder at this momentary trip into the past. The sheer strangeness of the sight of Clinton alone at that podium crystallized the sense that the American political system (or more specifically, the Democratic party) had spun out of control over the course of the week.

You can read the whole thing here.

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Nerves of Steele

The contrast is great: one party can’t eliminate the personification of its problems, while the other is moving swiftly to dump its baggage. The Dems can’t bear to part with Nancy Pelosi, who gets another stint at the helm of the increasingly liberal House Democratic caucus. Yet the Republicans have no qualms when it comes to booting Michael Steele from the RNC chairmanship:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s prospects for a second term dimmed Wednesday as Republicans went public with their concerns about the committee’s fundraising and two prominent governors indicated a preference for new leadership atop the party.

Asked in an interview at the Republican Governors Association (RGA) meeting here if there should be a new chairman of the party, Mississippi Gov. and outgoing RGA Chairman Haley Barbour flatly said: “Yes.”

Tim Pawlenty echoed that sentiment, citing a letter by outgoing RNC political director Gentry Collins. (“You have to have a high-functioning, effective ground game and the RNC has to be able to deliver that consistently every cycle and it appears based on this letter that that didn’t happen.”)

Unlike Pelosi, there is no “Steele constituency” pleading to keep the gaffe-prone chairman. And unlike the House Dems, the RNC isn’t about to pretend that everything is just swell at the RNC.

The contrast is great: one party can’t eliminate the personification of its problems, while the other is moving swiftly to dump its baggage. The Dems can’t bear to part with Nancy Pelosi, who gets another stint at the helm of the increasingly liberal House Democratic caucus. Yet the Republicans have no qualms when it comes to booting Michael Steele from the RNC chairmanship:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s prospects for a second term dimmed Wednesday as Republicans went public with their concerns about the committee’s fundraising and two prominent governors indicated a preference for new leadership atop the party.

Asked in an interview at the Republican Governors Association (RGA) meeting here if there should be a new chairman of the party, Mississippi Gov. and outgoing RGA Chairman Haley Barbour flatly said: “Yes.”

Tim Pawlenty echoed that sentiment, citing a letter by outgoing RNC political director Gentry Collins. (“You have to have a high-functioning, effective ground game and the RNC has to be able to deliver that consistently every cycle and it appears based on this letter that that didn’t happen.”)

Unlike Pelosi, there is no “Steele constituency” pleading to keep the gaffe-prone chairman. And unlike the House Dems, the RNC isn’t about to pretend that everything is just swell at the RNC.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Get the feeling that Michael Steele has no friends these days? “Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins resigned from his post Tuesday morning with a stinging indictment of Chairman Michael Steele’s two-year tenure at the committee. In a four-page letter to Steele and the RNC’s executive committee obtained by POLITICO, Collins lays out inside details, previously only whispered, about the disorganization that plagues the party. He asserts that the RNC’s financial shortcomings limited GOP gains this year and reveals that the committee is deeply in debt entering the 2012 presidential election cycle.”

Get ready for a really, really tough punishment for Charles Rangel. “A House panel on Tuesday found Representative Charles B. Rangel guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations, ruling that his failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of fund-raising donations and failure to accurately report his personal income had brought dishonor on the House. … While the committee has the power to recommend expulsion, that is highly unlikely. Ethics experts and committee members have said that Mr. Rangel, 80, is more likely to face a letter of reprimand or a formal censure.” OK, maybe just a hand slap.

Get government to downsize? Puleeze. David Malpass explains what’s so bad about the Fed’s $600B bond-purchase scheme. “By buying longer term assets, whose value will decline when interest rates rise, the Fed is engineering a fundamental change in the nature of U.S. monetary policy. This has undercut global confidence in the Fed, as reflected in high gold prices, dollar weakness, and large-scale investments abroad by U.S. companies and wealthy individuals. … Both fiscal stimulus and Fed asset purchases raise the same giant red flag. As the government expands its role in the economy, business confidence and hiring decline in the knowledge that there’s no free lunch.”

The Obama team simply doesn’t get it: once again, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates throws cold water on the use of military force for preventing Iran from going nuclear. They sure have gone out of their way to give the mullahs assurance that they can defy us without risking a military strike.

Bibi says he needs to get the U.S. bribes promises in writing. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israeli approval of a 90-day settlement freeze was contingent upon a written US pledge regarding a package of incentives that insured his country’s security and national interests, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.” Now, there’s a “rock-solid” relationship for you.

House Dems get their anger out. “Disgruntled Democrats finally had a chance to confront Speaker Nancy Pelosi face-to-face for the first time during a raucous closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday, as defeated Rep. Allen Boyd called her ‘the face of our defeat.’ ‘We need new leadership,’ Boyd, a Florida Democrat, told his colleagues, according to sources in the room. … Pelosi, her top elected lieutenants and her aides have been scrambling to defuse discontent following the election. They are actively working to prevent a delay in the leadership vote and to deny support to a slate of proposals by moderate ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats that would weaken her hand in the minority by making top appointive positions subject to caucus election.”

Investors get jittery: “Global stock markets’ steady march higher was interrupted by concerns about growth in China, debt in Europe and the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion plan to stimulate the U.S. economy. Tuesday’s world-wide selling was touched off by a 4% stock drop in Shanghai. It spread to Europe, where markets fell more than 2%, and then to the U.S., pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 1.6%, its worst point and percentage decline since August 11.”

Get the feeling that Michael Steele has no friends these days? “Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins resigned from his post Tuesday morning with a stinging indictment of Chairman Michael Steele’s two-year tenure at the committee. In a four-page letter to Steele and the RNC’s executive committee obtained by POLITICO, Collins lays out inside details, previously only whispered, about the disorganization that plagues the party. He asserts that the RNC’s financial shortcomings limited GOP gains this year and reveals that the committee is deeply in debt entering the 2012 presidential election cycle.”

Get ready for a really, really tough punishment for Charles Rangel. “A House panel on Tuesday found Representative Charles B. Rangel guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations, ruling that his failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of fund-raising donations and failure to accurately report his personal income had brought dishonor on the House. … While the committee has the power to recommend expulsion, that is highly unlikely. Ethics experts and committee members have said that Mr. Rangel, 80, is more likely to face a letter of reprimand or a formal censure.” OK, maybe just a hand slap.

Get government to downsize? Puleeze. David Malpass explains what’s so bad about the Fed’s $600B bond-purchase scheme. “By buying longer term assets, whose value will decline when interest rates rise, the Fed is engineering a fundamental change in the nature of U.S. monetary policy. This has undercut global confidence in the Fed, as reflected in high gold prices, dollar weakness, and large-scale investments abroad by U.S. companies and wealthy individuals. … Both fiscal stimulus and Fed asset purchases raise the same giant red flag. As the government expands its role in the economy, business confidence and hiring decline in the knowledge that there’s no free lunch.”

The Obama team simply doesn’t get it: once again, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates throws cold water on the use of military force for preventing Iran from going nuclear. They sure have gone out of their way to give the mullahs assurance that they can defy us without risking a military strike.

Bibi says he needs to get the U.S. bribes promises in writing. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israeli approval of a 90-day settlement freeze was contingent upon a written US pledge regarding a package of incentives that insured his country’s security and national interests, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.” Now, there’s a “rock-solid” relationship for you.

House Dems get their anger out. “Disgruntled Democrats finally had a chance to confront Speaker Nancy Pelosi face-to-face for the first time during a raucous closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday, as defeated Rep. Allen Boyd called her ‘the face of our defeat.’ ‘We need new leadership,’ Boyd, a Florida Democrat, told his colleagues, according to sources in the room. … Pelosi, her top elected lieutenants and her aides have been scrambling to defuse discontent following the election. They are actively working to prevent a delay in the leadership vote and to deny support to a slate of proposals by moderate ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats that would weaken her hand in the minority by making top appointive positions subject to caucus election.”

Investors get jittery: “Global stock markets’ steady march higher was interrupted by concerns about growth in China, debt in Europe and the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion plan to stimulate the U.S. economy. Tuesday’s world-wide selling was touched off by a 4% stock drop in Shanghai. It spread to Europe, where markets fell more than 2%, and then to the U.S., pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 1.6%, its worst point and percentage decline since August 11.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Christians United for Israel catches its critics practicing willful ignorance: “Despite what readers may have been led to believe, the paper has not actually visited CUFI in some time. In fact, the editorial was written in the past tense, but was published online on July 20, before the major events at our 2010 Washington Summit had even occurred. With a minimum amount of research, or even one substantive phone call to CUFI in the past 12 months, the paper would have easily received answers to the ‘unanswered questions’ its editors claim CUFI needs to address.” Ouch! Read the whole thing for an excellent debunking of critics of pro-Zionist Christians.

Peter Beinart catches the ADL not savaging Israel. And the real problem, don’t you see, is that “[i]ndifference to the rights and dignity of Palestinians is a cancer eating away at the moral pretensions of the American Jewish establishment.” Is this another in the “I bet I write a more ludicrous column than you” sweepstakes with the weaselly set at the New Republic?

The Chicago Sun Times catches another shady bank loan by Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias: “On Feb. 14, 2006, newly obtained records show, [Giannoulias's] bank made a $22.75 million loan to a company called Riverside District Development LLC, whose owners, it turns out, included [Tony] Rezko. … Not only does its disclosure come during the Senate campaign, but records show the loan was made while Broadway Bank was already having problems with an earlier loan to another Rezko company.”

The House Ethics Committee catches Rep. Maxine Waters doing bad things: “The House Ethics Committee this afternoon announced in a statement that it has formed an ‘adjudicatory subcommittee’ to consider ethics violations charges against Waters. The subcommittee has yet to determine when it will meet. The committee also today released an 80-page report, submitted in August 2009 by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), detailing the allegations against Waters.”

Jonathan Capehart catches the racial-grievance mongers being ridiculous (again). On the allegation that charges of ethics violations against Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters are racially motivated: “As an African American, I know and understand the sensitivity to unfair prosecution and persecution of blacks in the court of law and the court of public opinion. … But there are times when that sensitivity can blind us to very real questions that have nothing to do with race. In the cases of Rangel and Waters, I have to agree with a tweet by NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Their troubles have to do with ‘entrenched entitlement.’”

If CAIR catches wind of this, look out for the lawsuits: “Accused Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan Can’t Find a Bank Willing to Cash His Checks; Hasan’s Lawyer Says His Client Is Being Discriminated Against.”

Bill Kristol catches Obama being a “self-centered elitist (and ageist!)” in trying to strong-arm Charlie Rangel out of office. He advises Rangel: “Defend yourself, make your case, fight for your reputation, and if need be accept a reprimand (or even censure) — but let your constituents render the real verdict, not the D.C. mob. If you do this, you have a good chance of extending your political career … beyond Obama’s. In any case, do not follow Obama’s prescription of political death with dignity. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.’”

Christians United for Israel catches its critics practicing willful ignorance: “Despite what readers may have been led to believe, the paper has not actually visited CUFI in some time. In fact, the editorial was written in the past tense, but was published online on July 20, before the major events at our 2010 Washington Summit had even occurred. With a minimum amount of research, or even one substantive phone call to CUFI in the past 12 months, the paper would have easily received answers to the ‘unanswered questions’ its editors claim CUFI needs to address.” Ouch! Read the whole thing for an excellent debunking of critics of pro-Zionist Christians.

Peter Beinart catches the ADL not savaging Israel. And the real problem, don’t you see, is that “[i]ndifference to the rights and dignity of Palestinians is a cancer eating away at the moral pretensions of the American Jewish establishment.” Is this another in the “I bet I write a more ludicrous column than you” sweepstakes with the weaselly set at the New Republic?

The Chicago Sun Times catches another shady bank loan by Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias: “On Feb. 14, 2006, newly obtained records show, [Giannoulias's] bank made a $22.75 million loan to a company called Riverside District Development LLC, whose owners, it turns out, included [Tony] Rezko. … Not only does its disclosure come during the Senate campaign, but records show the loan was made while Broadway Bank was already having problems with an earlier loan to another Rezko company.”

The House Ethics Committee catches Rep. Maxine Waters doing bad things: “The House Ethics Committee this afternoon announced in a statement that it has formed an ‘adjudicatory subcommittee’ to consider ethics violations charges against Waters. The subcommittee has yet to determine when it will meet. The committee also today released an 80-page report, submitted in August 2009 by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), detailing the allegations against Waters.”

Jonathan Capehart catches the racial-grievance mongers being ridiculous (again). On the allegation that charges of ethics violations against Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters are racially motivated: “As an African American, I know and understand the sensitivity to unfair prosecution and persecution of blacks in the court of law and the court of public opinion. … But there are times when that sensitivity can blind us to very real questions that have nothing to do with race. In the cases of Rangel and Waters, I have to agree with a tweet by NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Their troubles have to do with ‘entrenched entitlement.’”

If CAIR catches wind of this, look out for the lawsuits: “Accused Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan Can’t Find a Bank Willing to Cash His Checks; Hasan’s Lawyer Says His Client Is Being Discriminated Against.”

Bill Kristol catches Obama being a “self-centered elitist (and ageist!)” in trying to strong-arm Charlie Rangel out of office. He advises Rangel: “Defend yourself, make your case, fight for your reputation, and if need be accept a reprimand (or even censure) — but let your constituents render the real verdict, not the D.C. mob. If you do this, you have a good chance of extending your political career … beyond Obama’s. In any case, do not follow Obama’s prescription of political death with dignity. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.’”

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The Media Disinfectant

In his column in Politico today, Roger Simon writes this:

Chuck Todd, political director and chief White House correspondent for NBC News, who was not part of Journolist, told me this:

“I am sure Ezra [Klein] had good intentions when he created it, but I am offended the right is using this as a sledgehammer against those of us who don’t practice activist journalism.

“Journolist was pretty offensive. Those of us who are mainstream journalists got mixed in with journalists with an agenda. Those folks who thought they were improving journalism are destroying the credibility of journalism.

“This has kept me up nights. I try to be fair. It’s very depressing.”

Agreed. It is very depressing. But it is still a good thing that this story broke; after all, now, when it comes to key segments of the journalistic world, all of us better understand just what it is we’re dealing with. For some, what has been uncovered was a revelation. For others, it was simply a confirmation. Either way, it is useful information to have out and about. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as Justice Brandeis once said.

In his column in Politico today, Roger Simon writes this:

Chuck Todd, political director and chief White House correspondent for NBC News, who was not part of Journolist, told me this:

“I am sure Ezra [Klein] had good intentions when he created it, but I am offended the right is using this as a sledgehammer against those of us who don’t practice activist journalism.

“Journolist was pretty offensive. Those of us who are mainstream journalists got mixed in with journalists with an agenda. Those folks who thought they were improving journalism are destroying the credibility of journalism.

“This has kept me up nights. I try to be fair. It’s very depressing.”

Agreed. It is very depressing. But it is still a good thing that this story broke; after all, now, when it comes to key segments of the journalistic world, all of us better understand just what it is we’re dealing with. For some, what has been uncovered was a revelation. For others, it was simply a confirmation. Either way, it is useful information to have out and about. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as Justice Brandeis once said.

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You Don’t Have to Be a Harvard Think Tank

In a significant paper at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jeffrey White and Loring White discuss the results of war games on the Iranian nuclear program conducted by three think tanks — at Harvard, Tel Aviv University, and the Brookings Institute — all of which ended in defeats for the U.S. and Israel. The common results were:

  • The United States did not obtain meaningful cooperation from other countries.
  • Sanctions did not seem to work.
  • The United States was unwilling to use military force or support Israeli military action even after other measures failed.
  • U.S.-Israeli relations deteriorated dramatically.
  • Iran continued toward a nuclear weapons capability.

The paper concludes that the U.S. needs to “play” much differently in the coming months if it wants to avoid those results, and time “is running out.”

The signals sent by the State Department since the expiration of Obama’s “deadline” have only reinforced the sense that the administration has no Plan B. On January 12, the department spokesman emphasized that recourse to the “pressure track” would be “a very long process,” starting with discussions of “ideas that any of the [P-5+1] partners have on how we can get Iran to live up its international obligations.” The “discussions” have largely been phone calls, since the administration cannot get the Chinese to send their political director to a meeting.

On Friday, Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley announced that Under Secretary William Burns had a 90-minute conference call with his P-5+1 “counterparts” that discussed “both the pressure track and the negotiation track; discussed next steps in the process, both in terms of negotiation, took stock of the recent comments by Iran, but also continue to evaluate potential actions on the pressure track as well.” His statement produced this colloquy:

QUESTION: When you said counterparts, did that include the Chinese political director, or was it, in fact, the sous chef at the Embassy? (Laughter) …

QUESTION: Did they — I’m sorry if I missed it, but did they actually agree on any additional sanctions or language regarding –

MR. CROWLEY: That wasn’t the intent of the call. … It’s hard to characterize it other than they had a detailed discussion of where we are in the process and shared ideas on both tracks.

Discussions were supposed to have occurred long before this. On April 22, 2009, Hillary Clinton assured the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the administration was laying the groundwork for crippling sanctions if engagement failed:

BERMAN: … I can’t get away from the fact that Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability keep going ahead, and — and that this engagement can’t be so-open-ended that we essentially pass the threshold that we’re seeking to avoid by virtue of the engagement. … Are we pursuing the — the default position, the — the leverage that I think will make the engagement more likely as we deal with key members of the international community and the Security Council?

CLINTON: … As the president said in his inaugural address, we’ll hold out our hand. They have to unclench their fist. But we are also laying the groundwork for the kind of very tough — I think you said crippling — sanctions that might be necessary in the event that our offers are either rejected or the process is inconclusive or unsuccessful.

Nine months past Clinton’s assurance, two months past the “deadline,” it is apparent that no groundwork has been laid. The discussions are just beginning; it will be a “very long process”; the administration is unenthusiastic about pending legislation authorizing “crippling” sanctions.

You don’t have to be part of a Harvard think tank to see where this is headed.

In a significant paper at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jeffrey White and Loring White discuss the results of war games on the Iranian nuclear program conducted by three think tanks — at Harvard, Tel Aviv University, and the Brookings Institute — all of which ended in defeats for the U.S. and Israel. The common results were:

  • The United States did not obtain meaningful cooperation from other countries.
  • Sanctions did not seem to work.
  • The United States was unwilling to use military force or support Israeli military action even after other measures failed.
  • U.S.-Israeli relations deteriorated dramatically.
  • Iran continued toward a nuclear weapons capability.

The paper concludes that the U.S. needs to “play” much differently in the coming months if it wants to avoid those results, and time “is running out.”

The signals sent by the State Department since the expiration of Obama’s “deadline” have only reinforced the sense that the administration has no Plan B. On January 12, the department spokesman emphasized that recourse to the “pressure track” would be “a very long process,” starting with discussions of “ideas that any of the [P-5+1] partners have on how we can get Iran to live up its international obligations.” The “discussions” have largely been phone calls, since the administration cannot get the Chinese to send their political director to a meeting.

On Friday, Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley announced that Under Secretary William Burns had a 90-minute conference call with his P-5+1 “counterparts” that discussed “both the pressure track and the negotiation track; discussed next steps in the process, both in terms of negotiation, took stock of the recent comments by Iran, but also continue to evaluate potential actions on the pressure track as well.” His statement produced this colloquy:

QUESTION: When you said counterparts, did that include the Chinese political director, or was it, in fact, the sous chef at the Embassy? (Laughter) …

QUESTION: Did they — I’m sorry if I missed it, but did they actually agree on any additional sanctions or language regarding –

MR. CROWLEY: That wasn’t the intent of the call. … It’s hard to characterize it other than they had a detailed discussion of where we are in the process and shared ideas on both tracks.

Discussions were supposed to have occurred long before this. On April 22, 2009, Hillary Clinton assured the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the administration was laying the groundwork for crippling sanctions if engagement failed:

BERMAN: … I can’t get away from the fact that Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability keep going ahead, and — and that this engagement can’t be so-open-ended that we essentially pass the threshold that we’re seeking to avoid by virtue of the engagement. … Are we pursuing the — the default position, the — the leverage that I think will make the engagement more likely as we deal with key members of the international community and the Security Council?

CLINTON: … As the president said in his inaugural address, we’ll hold out our hand. They have to unclench their fist. But we are also laying the groundwork for the kind of very tough — I think you said crippling — sanctions that might be necessary in the event that our offers are either rejected or the process is inconclusive or unsuccessful.

Nine months past Clinton’s assurance, two months past the “deadline,” it is apparent that no groundwork has been laid. The discussions are just beginning; it will be a “very long process”; the administration is unenthusiastic about pending legislation authorizing “crippling” sanctions.

You don’t have to be part of a Harvard think tank to see where this is headed.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.’”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.’”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

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The Touch of Political Death?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The White House is reaching into political races nationwide to urge its preferred candidates to seek election to competitive seats, while helping to nudge weak contenders out of the way, according to party officials familiar with the moves.

It isn’t unusual for a president to pick favorites, but the sense of urgency is heightened this year by Democrats’ sense that a difficult election year lies ahead.

Sometimes this might make sense, as with the effort to push Chris Dodd into retirement and potentially rescue the Connecticut Senate seat that had appeared lost as long as the senator from Countrywide remained in the race. But the danger of White House meddling is three-fold.

First, the appearance on the scene of the White House political hacks has the aura of buzzards circling a bleeding beast. For example:

In Ohio, White House political director Patrick Gaspard has been in conversations with Gov. Ted Strickland, whose approval ratings have slipped and who is facing a challenge from former Republican Rep. John Kasich. Democrats there say the White House is backing Mr. Strickland’s re-election bid but is focused on reigniting the grassroots effort that helped Mr. Obama win there in 2008 and would be necessary for success again in 2012.

Translation: Strickland is in trouble (having gone from a huge double-digit lead to a 9-point deficit in the last Rasmussen poll in his matchup against John Kasich), and the White House has now advertised that to voters and donors alike. No doubt Strickland isn’t pleased to have it known that he’s been paid a visit by the White House fix-it team.

Second, this may not be the year to be the handpicked candidate of Barack Obama. It didn’t do Jon Corzine any good. And that was in a state in which Obama is still relatively popular. Do candidates in Michigan or Ohio really want to be tied to the White House and its agenda? That seemed to work out not at all for Creigh Deeds in Virginia.

And finally, it’s not clear that the White House has the magic touch. It seems that the White House is backing Kirsten Gillibrand against a potential challenge from Harold Ford Jr. (who doesn’t thrill the liberal base), but is Gillibrand really the strongest candidate in the field? (In December, the Quinnipiac poll reported: “New York City Comptroller William Thompson leads incumbent U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 41 – 28 percent in a possible 2010 Democratic primary race.”) And recall it was the White House, with the keen political acumen of Joe Biden, that convinced Arlen Specter to switch parties and now is backing him in the Pennsylvania primary, though he’s now tied with Republican Pat Toomey in recent polling.

The White House’s triage efforts are understandable. Democrats may be headed for a shellacking in November, so it’s time to pull out all the stops. But it’s not at all clear that candidates selected by the White House will fare any better than those whom Democratic voters, through a normal primary process, may select. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Democrats are in trouble in no small part because of the White House’s hyper-partisan tone, ultra-left-wing agenda, and fixation on a health-care bill the country doesn’t want. Democrats might do better if they distanced themselves from Obama and found candidates who weren’t propped up by the gang that thought ObamaCare and cap-and-trade were political winners.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The White House is reaching into political races nationwide to urge its preferred candidates to seek election to competitive seats, while helping to nudge weak contenders out of the way, according to party officials familiar with the moves.

It isn’t unusual for a president to pick favorites, but the sense of urgency is heightened this year by Democrats’ sense that a difficult election year lies ahead.

Sometimes this might make sense, as with the effort to push Chris Dodd into retirement and potentially rescue the Connecticut Senate seat that had appeared lost as long as the senator from Countrywide remained in the race. But the danger of White House meddling is three-fold.

First, the appearance on the scene of the White House political hacks has the aura of buzzards circling a bleeding beast. For example:

In Ohio, White House political director Patrick Gaspard has been in conversations with Gov. Ted Strickland, whose approval ratings have slipped and who is facing a challenge from former Republican Rep. John Kasich. Democrats there say the White House is backing Mr. Strickland’s re-election bid but is focused on reigniting the grassroots effort that helped Mr. Obama win there in 2008 and would be necessary for success again in 2012.

Translation: Strickland is in trouble (having gone from a huge double-digit lead to a 9-point deficit in the last Rasmussen poll in his matchup against John Kasich), and the White House has now advertised that to voters and donors alike. No doubt Strickland isn’t pleased to have it known that he’s been paid a visit by the White House fix-it team.

Second, this may not be the year to be the handpicked candidate of Barack Obama. It didn’t do Jon Corzine any good. And that was in a state in which Obama is still relatively popular. Do candidates in Michigan or Ohio really want to be tied to the White House and its agenda? That seemed to work out not at all for Creigh Deeds in Virginia.

And finally, it’s not clear that the White House has the magic touch. It seems that the White House is backing Kirsten Gillibrand against a potential challenge from Harold Ford Jr. (who doesn’t thrill the liberal base), but is Gillibrand really the strongest candidate in the field? (In December, the Quinnipiac poll reported: “New York City Comptroller William Thompson leads incumbent U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 41 – 28 percent in a possible 2010 Democratic primary race.”) And recall it was the White House, with the keen political acumen of Joe Biden, that convinced Arlen Specter to switch parties and now is backing him in the Pennsylvania primary, though he’s now tied with Republican Pat Toomey in recent polling.

The White House’s triage efforts are understandable. Democrats may be headed for a shellacking in November, so it’s time to pull out all the stops. But it’s not at all clear that candidates selected by the White House will fare any better than those whom Democratic voters, through a normal primary process, may select. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Democrats are in trouble in no small part because of the White House’s hyper-partisan tone, ultra-left-wing agenda, and fixation on a health-care bill the country doesn’t want. Democrats might do better if they distanced themselves from Obama and found candidates who weren’t propped up by the gang that thought ObamaCare and cap-and-trade were political winners.

Read Less




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