Commentary Magazine


Topic: Press Secretary

Liberals’ Civility Test

A week after President Obama’s stirring remarks at the Tucson memorial service comes an important Civility Test for liberals.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports that Democratic Representative Steve Cohen went to the well of the House and compared what Republicans are saying on health care to the work of the infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels,” Cohen said. “You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like ‘blood libel.’ That’s the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care.”

In our post-Tucson world, I’m eager to see people like E.J. Dionne Jr., Dana Milbank, and Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post; George Packer of the New Yorker; James Fallows of the Atlantic; Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, and the editorial page of the New York Times; Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Ed Schultz of MSNBC, and scores of other commentators and reporters all across America both publicize and condemn Representative Cohen’s slander.

Each of them will have plenty of opportunities to do so. I hope they take advantage of it. I hope, too, that reporters ask White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs what his reaction is. And I trust President Obama, who spoke so eloquently last week about the importance of civility in our national life, has something to say about this ugly episode as well. If the president were to repudiate Mr. Cohen quickly and publicly, it would be good for him, good for politics, and good for the nation.

But if the president and his liberal allies remain silent or criticize Cohen in the gentlest way possible, it’s only reasonable to conclude that their expressions of concern about incivility in public discourse are partisan rather than genuine, that what they care about isn’t public discourse but gamesmanship, not restoring civility but gaining power.

I’m sure conservatives will face similar tests in the months ahead — and they should be held to the same standard.

For now, though — in light of the libel by Representative Cohen — it is liberals who have the opportunity to take a stand on the matter of civility in public discourse, and in the process, to clarify their intentions and demonstrate the seriousness of their commitments.

A week after President Obama’s stirring remarks at the Tucson memorial service comes an important Civility Test for liberals.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports that Democratic Representative Steve Cohen went to the well of the House and compared what Republicans are saying on health care to the work of the infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels,” Cohen said. “You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like ‘blood libel.’ That’s the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care.”

In our post-Tucson world, I’m eager to see people like E.J. Dionne Jr., Dana Milbank, and Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post; George Packer of the New Yorker; James Fallows of the Atlantic; Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, and the editorial page of the New York Times; Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Ed Schultz of MSNBC, and scores of other commentators and reporters all across America both publicize and condemn Representative Cohen’s slander.

Each of them will have plenty of opportunities to do so. I hope they take advantage of it. I hope, too, that reporters ask White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs what his reaction is. And I trust President Obama, who spoke so eloquently last week about the importance of civility in our national life, has something to say about this ugly episode as well. If the president were to repudiate Mr. Cohen quickly and publicly, it would be good for him, good for politics, and good for the nation.

But if the president and his liberal allies remain silent or criticize Cohen in the gentlest way possible, it’s only reasonable to conclude that their expressions of concern about incivility in public discourse are partisan rather than genuine, that what they care about isn’t public discourse but gamesmanship, not restoring civility but gaining power.

I’m sure conservatives will face similar tests in the months ahead — and they should be held to the same standard.

For now, though — in light of the libel by Representative Cohen — it is liberals who have the opportunity to take a stand on the matter of civility in public discourse, and in the process, to clarify their intentions and demonstrate the seriousness of their commitments.

Read Less

Morning Commentary

As the GOP prepares to read the Constitution on the floor of the House this morning — in a nod to the new Tea Party members of Congress — Seth Lipsky discusses why the reading of the founding document irks the left so much.

Robert Gibbs seems pretty excited to leave the White House for the private sector: “‘The best service I can provide this president is, for the next couple of years, outside this building,’ said Gibbs, who announced Wednesday that he would leave his press secretary job in early February. He will then hit the lucrative speaking circuit and become a paid consultant to the Obama reelection campaign.” And the search for Gibbs’s successor is on. The White House is reportedly looking past in-house candidates, like Joe Biden’s spokesman Bill Burton and Obama deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, and considering outsiders like former DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney.

Lee Smith explains the “condescending moral double standard” that allows Western intellectuals like Roger Cohen to call themselves “liberals” while ignoring, excusing, or praising the murderous actions of the Middle East’s most illiberal regimes: “[L]ike many other Western observers of the Middle East, [Cohen] uses the region as a kind of virtual reality screen on which to project a self-congratulatory vision of a world in which superior beings like himself can naturally expect to live under the sign of law, civility, and morality while lesser beings in other parts of the world are quite naturally ruled by violence.”

David Ignatius is terribly, terribly concerned that the new head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Republican Darrell Issa, may be the new Joe McCarthy: “It was scary, frankly, to hear Issa describe the executive branch under President Obama as ‘one of the most corrupt administrations.’…When you see the righteous gleam in Issa’s eye, recall other zealous congressional investigators who claimed to be doing the public’s business but ended up pursuing vendettas.”

As the GOP prepares to read the Constitution on the floor of the House this morning — in a nod to the new Tea Party members of Congress — Seth Lipsky discusses why the reading of the founding document irks the left so much.

Robert Gibbs seems pretty excited to leave the White House for the private sector: “‘The best service I can provide this president is, for the next couple of years, outside this building,’ said Gibbs, who announced Wednesday that he would leave his press secretary job in early February. He will then hit the lucrative speaking circuit and become a paid consultant to the Obama reelection campaign.” And the search for Gibbs’s successor is on. The White House is reportedly looking past in-house candidates, like Joe Biden’s spokesman Bill Burton and Obama deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, and considering outsiders like former DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney.

Lee Smith explains the “condescending moral double standard” that allows Western intellectuals like Roger Cohen to call themselves “liberals” while ignoring, excusing, or praising the murderous actions of the Middle East’s most illiberal regimes: “[L]ike many other Western observers of the Middle East, [Cohen] uses the region as a kind of virtual reality screen on which to project a self-congratulatory vision of a world in which superior beings like himself can naturally expect to live under the sign of law, civility, and morality while lesser beings in other parts of the world are quite naturally ruled by violence.”

David Ignatius is terribly, terribly concerned that the new head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Republican Darrell Issa, may be the new Joe McCarthy: “It was scary, frankly, to hear Issa describe the executive branch under President Obama as ‘one of the most corrupt administrations.’…When you see the righteous gleam in Issa’s eye, recall other zealous congressional investigators who claimed to be doing the public’s business but ended up pursuing vendettas.”

Read Less

Morning Commentary

As Max Boot noted yesterday, the assassination of Salman Taseer highlights the rise of Islamic extremists in Pakistan, who have been gaining power in the country despite the fact that their views aren’t shared by the majority of Pakistanis: “Yet in a country where Taliban militants increasingly flex their muscles through bombings, religious hard-liners have great power to intimidate even though polls show that their views are not widely shared. Last week’s strike by Islamic organizations drew few supporters to the streets, but shops in major cities closed – and many merchants said they did so under threat.”

Politico reports that Robert Gibbs’s days as White House press secretary may be numbered. Gibbs is apparently considering stepping aside within the next few weeks to concentrate on handling media strategy for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

At the Guardian, Sohrab Ahmari’s writes an excellent takedown of Stephen Kinzer’s recent column on human rights “imperialism”: “But it is Kinzer’s extreme cultural relativism that makes his argument against the human rights community particularly troubling. For he is effectively implying that some people deserve fewer individual rights than others.”

Days after dozens of Egyptian Christians were murdered in a terrorist attack during Mass, supporters of the victims protest peacefully in Cairo: “Hundreds of supporters of Egyptian Christians protesting a New Year’s bombing that killed nearly two dozen of their members marched Tuesday night on a church in a Cairo suburb, where they were met by an equal number of security officers in riot gear.”

Say what you will about Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism efforts — its intelligence service is top notch. While most spy agencies focus on tracking down human moles, the Saudis are concentrating on their avian counterparts.

As Max Boot noted yesterday, the assassination of Salman Taseer highlights the rise of Islamic extremists in Pakistan, who have been gaining power in the country despite the fact that their views aren’t shared by the majority of Pakistanis: “Yet in a country where Taliban militants increasingly flex their muscles through bombings, religious hard-liners have great power to intimidate even though polls show that their views are not widely shared. Last week’s strike by Islamic organizations drew few supporters to the streets, but shops in major cities closed – and many merchants said they did so under threat.”

Politico reports that Robert Gibbs’s days as White House press secretary may be numbered. Gibbs is apparently considering stepping aside within the next few weeks to concentrate on handling media strategy for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

At the Guardian, Sohrab Ahmari’s writes an excellent takedown of Stephen Kinzer’s recent column on human rights “imperialism”: “But it is Kinzer’s extreme cultural relativism that makes his argument against the human rights community particularly troubling. For he is effectively implying that some people deserve fewer individual rights than others.”

Days after dozens of Egyptian Christians were murdered in a terrorist attack during Mass, supporters of the victims protest peacefully in Cairo: “Hundreds of supporters of Egyptian Christians protesting a New Year’s bombing that killed nearly two dozen of their members marched Tuesday night on a church in a Cairo suburb, where they were met by an equal number of security officers in riot gear.”

Say what you will about Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism efforts — its intelligence service is top notch. While most spy agencies focus on tracking down human moles, the Saudis are concentrating on their avian counterparts.

Read Less

What We Had Here Was Not a Failure to Communicate

The day before the election, the New York Review of Books posted a rant about right-wing radio and TV hosts by Yale professor David Bromwich.

Regarding Rush Limbaugh, Bromwich mixed faux analysis (“Limbaugh seldom speaks overtly about race,” but “no careful listener can doubt that race is an element”) with personal insults (Limbaugh is a “demagogue” with a “sadistic streak” who “mixes truth and falsehood at pleasure” and is “almost infantile in his self-love”). Bromwich’s analysis of Glenn Beck was that he is a “charlatan” with an “alarmingly incoherent personality” who exerts his “strongest enchantment” when he “goes awry.” Nuanced.

It was surprising to see an article composed of little more than ad hominem attacks published in a journal with intellectual pretensions — but perhaps it simply reflected the well-known fact that left-wing intellectuals are hard-wired to write like that when they are scared.

Bromwich’s piece was a reminder of the leftist tendency to oscillate between love of the people in the abstract and disappointment in actually existing people. Two years ago, the people who attended Obama rallies were the people we were waiting for; two years later, the president’s press secretary told them to get drug-tested, the vice president lectured them to stop whining, and the president warned them he was beginning to think they were not serious. And those were the supporters; opponents were branded class enemies.

Bromwich attributes Obama’s political problems not to his policies or programs but to the absence of an effective communications strategy:

Looking back, one feels it was an astonishing negligence for the Obama White House to embark on a campaign for national health care without a solid strategy for fighting the tenacious opposition it could expect at the hands of Fox radio and TV.

Bromwich does not indicate what the strategy should have been — only that it should have been solid (solid strategies are the best kind). But if you can’t convince the public of your program when you have the mainstream media (CBS, NBC, ABC), public television (PBS), the most established cable news network (CNN), the “news” show most watched by young voters (The Daily Show), and unlimited access to the bully pulpit, it is not likely that your problem was the hands of a single network. More likely it was the people.

The day before the election, the New York Review of Books posted a rant about right-wing radio and TV hosts by Yale professor David Bromwich.

Regarding Rush Limbaugh, Bromwich mixed faux analysis (“Limbaugh seldom speaks overtly about race,” but “no careful listener can doubt that race is an element”) with personal insults (Limbaugh is a “demagogue” with a “sadistic streak” who “mixes truth and falsehood at pleasure” and is “almost infantile in his self-love”). Bromwich’s analysis of Glenn Beck was that he is a “charlatan” with an “alarmingly incoherent personality” who exerts his “strongest enchantment” when he “goes awry.” Nuanced.

It was surprising to see an article composed of little more than ad hominem attacks published in a journal with intellectual pretensions — but perhaps it simply reflected the well-known fact that left-wing intellectuals are hard-wired to write like that when they are scared.

Bromwich’s piece was a reminder of the leftist tendency to oscillate between love of the people in the abstract and disappointment in actually existing people. Two years ago, the people who attended Obama rallies were the people we were waiting for; two years later, the president’s press secretary told them to get drug-tested, the vice president lectured them to stop whining, and the president warned them he was beginning to think they were not serious. And those were the supporters; opponents were branded class enemies.

Bromwich attributes Obama’s political problems not to his policies or programs but to the absence of an effective communications strategy:

Looking back, one feels it was an astonishing negligence for the Obama White House to embark on a campaign for national health care without a solid strategy for fighting the tenacious opposition it could expect at the hands of Fox radio and TV.

Bromwich does not indicate what the strategy should have been — only that it should have been solid (solid strategies are the best kind). But if you can’t convince the public of your program when you have the mainstream media (CBS, NBC, ABC), public television (PBS), the most established cable news network (CNN), the “news” show most watched by young voters (The Daily Show), and unlimited access to the bully pulpit, it is not likely that your problem was the hands of a single network. More likely it was the people.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Without Obama, the GOP could never have gotten this far, this fast: “Two weeks before Election Day, Democrats fear their grip on the House may be gone, and Republicans are poised to celebrate big gains in the Senate and governors’ mansions as well. Analysts in both parties say all major indicators tilt toward the Republicans. President Barack Obama‘s policies are widely unpopular. Congress, run by the Democrats, rates even lower. Fear and anger over unemployment and deep deficits are energizing conservative voters; liberals are demoralized.”

The White House’s assault on the Chamber of Commerce is without evidence and without shame: “Democratic leaders in the House and Senate criticizing GOP groups for allegedly funneling foreign money into campaign ads have seen their party raise more than $1 million from political action committees affiliated with foreign companies.”

The White House truly is without friends. A New York Times reporter debunks the White House’s claim that it is all a communication problem; she says it’s really a policy problem. Yeah, the Times.

Without social and economic conservatives, it’s hard to win the GOP presidential nomination: “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has now managed to alienate prominent social and fiscal conservatives. The potential presidential candidate’s already rocky path to the Republican nomination became more treacherous this weekend after the country’s most powerful anti-tax activist and one of the House’s most respected fiscal conservatives disparaged Daniels’ openness to considering a controversial value added tax as part of a larger tax system overhaul.”

Without a doubt, Daniels would have been wise to consult with Gary Bauer before setting out on his pre-campaign tours: “I would say to Governor Mitch Daniels you know, it’s — it’s not our side that has declared war on social issues. I would love to be able to call a truce on it. The reason the social issues are in such play so many years is that others have declared war. There’s a major movement going on in this country to change the definition of marriage. Now, if — if Mitch Daniels thinks he can call a truce on that, that would be great, but as long as people are pushing to change the definition of marriage, there are going to be millions of Americans that say no; we want marriage to stay between one man and one woman.”

Without peer as the least-credible White House press secretary in recent memory: “Though Republicans across the country are hammering Democratic opponents by linking them to President Obama’s policies, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs asserted Sunday that 2010 is a ‘local’ election.”

Without independents and strong support from their base, the Dems are heading for a wipeout: “Nearly two years after putting Obama in the White House, one-quarter of those who voted for the Democrat are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall. Just half of them say they definitely will show up Nov. 2, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released two weeks before Obama’s first midterm elections.”

Without any self-awareness, Valerie Jarrett is still in messiah-mode: “‘He doesn’t have the shtick, you know, the way a lot of politicians do. He’s completely sincere and true and I think people are not used to seeing that in their politicians. So it’s taking people a while to realize that he’s actually a real person and he’s not just trying to pretend and fool them and trick them into thinking he’s something else.’ … Jarrett also blamed some of the president’s perceived problems on ‘the fact that there’s a kind of toxicity in the language.’ She said the president ‘always keeps an even tone and … he always looks for the better angels in people.'”

Without Obama, the GOP could never have gotten this far, this fast: “Two weeks before Election Day, Democrats fear their grip on the House may be gone, and Republicans are poised to celebrate big gains in the Senate and governors’ mansions as well. Analysts in both parties say all major indicators tilt toward the Republicans. President Barack Obama‘s policies are widely unpopular. Congress, run by the Democrats, rates even lower. Fear and anger over unemployment and deep deficits are energizing conservative voters; liberals are demoralized.”

The White House’s assault on the Chamber of Commerce is without evidence and without shame: “Democratic leaders in the House and Senate criticizing GOP groups for allegedly funneling foreign money into campaign ads have seen their party raise more than $1 million from political action committees affiliated with foreign companies.”

The White House truly is without friends. A New York Times reporter debunks the White House’s claim that it is all a communication problem; she says it’s really a policy problem. Yeah, the Times.

Without social and economic conservatives, it’s hard to win the GOP presidential nomination: “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has now managed to alienate prominent social and fiscal conservatives. The potential presidential candidate’s already rocky path to the Republican nomination became more treacherous this weekend after the country’s most powerful anti-tax activist and one of the House’s most respected fiscal conservatives disparaged Daniels’ openness to considering a controversial value added tax as part of a larger tax system overhaul.”

Without a doubt, Daniels would have been wise to consult with Gary Bauer before setting out on his pre-campaign tours: “I would say to Governor Mitch Daniels you know, it’s — it’s not our side that has declared war on social issues. I would love to be able to call a truce on it. The reason the social issues are in such play so many years is that others have declared war. There’s a major movement going on in this country to change the definition of marriage. Now, if — if Mitch Daniels thinks he can call a truce on that, that would be great, but as long as people are pushing to change the definition of marriage, there are going to be millions of Americans that say no; we want marriage to stay between one man and one woman.”

Without peer as the least-credible White House press secretary in recent memory: “Though Republicans across the country are hammering Democratic opponents by linking them to President Obama’s policies, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs asserted Sunday that 2010 is a ‘local’ election.”

Without independents and strong support from their base, the Dems are heading for a wipeout: “Nearly two years after putting Obama in the White House, one-quarter of those who voted for the Democrat are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall. Just half of them say they definitely will show up Nov. 2, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released two weeks before Obama’s first midterm elections.”

Without any self-awareness, Valerie Jarrett is still in messiah-mode: “‘He doesn’t have the shtick, you know, the way a lot of politicians do. He’s completely sincere and true and I think people are not used to seeing that in their politicians. So it’s taking people a while to realize that he’s actually a real person and he’s not just trying to pretend and fool them and trick them into thinking he’s something else.’ … Jarrett also blamed some of the president’s perceived problems on ‘the fact that there’s a kind of toxicity in the language.’ She said the president ‘always keeps an even tone and … he always looks for the better angels in people.'”

Read Less

Starstruck Clooney Misses the Point About Disastrous Sudan Policy

George Clooney’s visit to the White House yesterday sent the press corps into something like a swoon as press secretary Robert Gibbs cut short the daily press conference so all present could ogle the actor and pepper him with a few easy questions. Clooney was there to talk to President Obama about the trip he had just taken to southern Sudan, a place that may soon replace Darfur as the focus of fears about the genocidal behavior of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s criminal regime.

To Clooney’s credit, his interest in Sudan seems genuine. He has lent his name and support to the Enough Project (which is run out of the left-wing Center for American Progress), a group that seeks to prevent African genocides such as the ones that have taken place in Darfur and Rwanda. But as much as Clooney’s concern about the imminent threat of war in southern Sudan between the largely Christian inhabitants of the region and the Muslim government in Khartoum is justified, his prescription for preventing it is a bit vague.

As for his reception by President Obama, Clooney was rapturous in describing his joy at what he thought was Obama’s intense interest in the subject — “You could feel the energy in the room” — and the sharpness of his questions. But what Clooney and the similarly starstruck press coverage of his visit failed to understand is that the current mess and the strength of Bashir’s current position stems in no small measure from the lack of “energy” demonstrated by the administration on this issue in the last year and a half. In case Clooney hasn’t noticed, human rights concerns have been accorded the lowest possible foreign policy priority by the Obama administration, as its stances toward Iran and China have demonstrated.

Even more to the point, the president’s special envoy to Sudan, Scot Gration, has placed the United States firmly on the side of appeasing Bashir, to the dismay of many advocates for the Darfuri people. That policy has set up the southern Sudanese as Bashir’s next likely victims, since the only way to ensure that such genocides don’t take place is by helping to get rid of Bashir and his Islamist gang, not by buying them off.

But unfortunately, Clooney’s idea of “robust diplomacy” is not designed to generate much pressure on the White House. He wants America to do something, but he’s not sure what. At one point, Clooney discussed the possibility for increased sanctions on the Sudanese government and the indicted war criminal at its head. At others, he mooted the possibility of a U.S. decision to normalize relations with Bashir and even consent to the suspension of his indictment by the International Criminal Court if the Sudanese leader makes peace with both southern Sudan and Darfur. As a last resort, he spoke of U.S. military action to interdict the Sudanese government’s forces and prevent another mass slaughter.

The answer for Clooney is that Gration has already proved that appeasement won’t work and that getting Bashir off the hook on war-crimes charges will merely give him impunity to commit future atrocities. As for the prospect of American intervention, Clooney ought not to hold his breath waiting for Obama to act. Having come in to office decrying the “neoconservative” agenda of trying to promote human rights and democracy around the world, the president has demonstrated that such causes are unlikely to generate action from this White House.

The disconnect between the sincere desire of liberals like Clooney to do something to help the Sudanese and their unwillingness to draw serious conclusions about how America should deal with Islamist mass murderers like Bashir is the problem here. If Clooney wants something more than lip service from Obama, he’s going to have to confront the administration, not lend his star power to the White House media strategy.

George Clooney’s visit to the White House yesterday sent the press corps into something like a swoon as press secretary Robert Gibbs cut short the daily press conference so all present could ogle the actor and pepper him with a few easy questions. Clooney was there to talk to President Obama about the trip he had just taken to southern Sudan, a place that may soon replace Darfur as the focus of fears about the genocidal behavior of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s criminal regime.

To Clooney’s credit, his interest in Sudan seems genuine. He has lent his name and support to the Enough Project (which is run out of the left-wing Center for American Progress), a group that seeks to prevent African genocides such as the ones that have taken place in Darfur and Rwanda. But as much as Clooney’s concern about the imminent threat of war in southern Sudan between the largely Christian inhabitants of the region and the Muslim government in Khartoum is justified, his prescription for preventing it is a bit vague.

As for his reception by President Obama, Clooney was rapturous in describing his joy at what he thought was Obama’s intense interest in the subject — “You could feel the energy in the room” — and the sharpness of his questions. But what Clooney and the similarly starstruck press coverage of his visit failed to understand is that the current mess and the strength of Bashir’s current position stems in no small measure from the lack of “energy” demonstrated by the administration on this issue in the last year and a half. In case Clooney hasn’t noticed, human rights concerns have been accorded the lowest possible foreign policy priority by the Obama administration, as its stances toward Iran and China have demonstrated.

Even more to the point, the president’s special envoy to Sudan, Scot Gration, has placed the United States firmly on the side of appeasing Bashir, to the dismay of many advocates for the Darfuri people. That policy has set up the southern Sudanese as Bashir’s next likely victims, since the only way to ensure that such genocides don’t take place is by helping to get rid of Bashir and his Islamist gang, not by buying them off.

But unfortunately, Clooney’s idea of “robust diplomacy” is not designed to generate much pressure on the White House. He wants America to do something, but he’s not sure what. At one point, Clooney discussed the possibility for increased sanctions on the Sudanese government and the indicted war criminal at its head. At others, he mooted the possibility of a U.S. decision to normalize relations with Bashir and even consent to the suspension of his indictment by the International Criminal Court if the Sudanese leader makes peace with both southern Sudan and Darfur. As a last resort, he spoke of U.S. military action to interdict the Sudanese government’s forces and prevent another mass slaughter.

The answer for Clooney is that Gration has already proved that appeasement won’t work and that getting Bashir off the hook on war-crimes charges will merely give him impunity to commit future atrocities. As for the prospect of American intervention, Clooney ought not to hold his breath waiting for Obama to act. Having come in to office decrying the “neoconservative” agenda of trying to promote human rights and democracy around the world, the president has demonstrated that such causes are unlikely to generate action from this White House.

The disconnect between the sincere desire of liberals like Clooney to do something to help the Sudanese and their unwillingness to draw serious conclusions about how America should deal with Islamist mass murderers like Bashir is the problem here. If Clooney wants something more than lip service from Obama, he’s going to have to confront the administration, not lend his star power to the White House media strategy.

Read Less

Abuse of Power

It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

Read More

It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

Set aside the hypocrisy of this whole episode. (My former White House colleague Ed Gillespie points out that no Democrats, least of all Obama, expressed concern about such outside spending in 2008, when more than $400 million was spent to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors.) Set aside the fact that Mr. Axelrod concedes that the chamber is abiding by long-standing rules, that it doesn’t have to disclose its donors list, and that no other organizations are disclosing theirs. Set aside the fact that the chamber has 115 foreign-member affiliates who pay a total of less than $100,000 in membership dues to a group whose total budget is more than $200 million. And set aside the fact that various news organizations have dismissed the charges, including the New York Times, which reports, “a closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.”

What we are witnessing is the abuse of power. We are now in a situation in which the president and his most senior advisers feel completely at liberty to throw out unsubstantiated charges and put the burden on people (and institutions) to prove their innocence. Liberals once referred to such tactics as McCarthyism. But Joseph McCarthy, for all his abuses, was “only” a United States senator, one member out of 100. The president and his advisers, on the other hand, have at their disposal far more power and the ability to inflict far more injury.

What Obama and his aides are demanding is that the Chamber of Commerce prove a negative — and in doing so, they are trying to intimidate the chamber into disclosing what is, by law, privileged information. “If the Chamber doesn’t have anything to hide about these contributions,” Mr. Axelrod says, “and I take them at their word that they don’t, then why not disclose? Why not let people see where their money is coming from?”

Let’s see if we can help Mr. Axelrod out by providing him with an explanation.

For one thing, he is employing the guilty-until-proven-innocent argument. For another, the White House’s standard is being selectively applied. And it encourages slanderous charges because it forces innocent people to disprove them. All this is troubling in any case; but it is triply pernicious when it is practiced by those with unmatched power, because they have an unparalleled capacity to intimidate American citizens.

In further answering Axelrod’s argument, consider this thought experiment. It’s the year 2021, and a partisan critic of a future president repeatedly asserts that the president is addicted to child pornography. It turns out that the critic has no proof of the charge — but when told he is asking the president to prove a negative, he responds: “I take the president at his word. But just to be sure, we’d like to examine his phone records and text messages, his computer accounts, and his credit card receipts. What we want, in other words, is full access to all the relevant information we need. After all, if he’s innocent, why not disclose this information? Why not let people see what you’re doing with your life and free time?”

It must be obvious to Messrs. Axelrod and Obama that what they are doing is irresponsible, dangerous, and deeply illiberal. It’s important to note, however, that this libel is taking place within a particular context. The attack on the Chamber of Commerce is only the most recent link in a long chain. The Obama White House has targeted Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, and John Boehner; George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; conservative talk radio; Fox News; the state of Arizona; the Supreme Court (for its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission); members of the Tea Party; critics of ObamaCare who attended town hall meetings; pharmaceutical, insurance, and oil companies; corporate executives, Wall Street, and the “rich.”

All this ugliness comes to us courtesy of a man who said during the 2008 campaign that “the times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook”; who told us that we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long”; and who assured us, on the night of his election, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”

Back in October 2009, I wrote about this White House’s burning anger and resentment toward its critics and what it foreshadowed. That inferno is burning hotter than ever – and if it goes unchecked, it will eventually lead to a crisis.

In an August 16, 1971, memorandum from White House Counsel John Dean to Lawrence Higby, titled “Dealing with our Political Enemies,” Dean wrote:

This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

At comparable stages in their first terms, the Obama administration seems to be at least as eager as the Nixon administration to use the available federal machinery to “screw our political enemies.” We know how things turned out for the Nixon administration. President Obama cannot say he hasn’t been forewarned.

Read Less

More on the Chamber of Commerce

I’m not sure we’ve ever had a White House press secretary like Robert Gibbs. His disdain for the media corps is only matched by his disdain for facts. On the unsubstantiated charges against the Chamber of Commerce, he blithely proclaims that “‘it doesn’t bother me at all’ that the fact-checking site PolitiFact has debunked the White House’s claim that the Chamber uses foreign donations to fund its political attacks. ‘The president will continue to make this argument,’ he said. ‘We don’t know where this money comes from.'”

That, in a nutshell, is the Obama White House. No wonder Jake Tapper asked whether this was akin to questioning Obama’s birthplace. We once expected a higher level of credibility and integrity from the White House than from a bunch of conspiracy wackos. No more.

I’m not sure we’ve ever had a White House press secretary like Robert Gibbs. His disdain for the media corps is only matched by his disdain for facts. On the unsubstantiated charges against the Chamber of Commerce, he blithely proclaims that “‘it doesn’t bother me at all’ that the fact-checking site PolitiFact has debunked the White House’s claim that the Chamber uses foreign donations to fund its political attacks. ‘The president will continue to make this argument,’ he said. ‘We don’t know where this money comes from.'”

That, in a nutshell, is the Obama White House. No wonder Jake Tapper asked whether this was akin to questioning Obama’s birthplace. We once expected a higher level of credibility and integrity from the White House than from a bunch of conspiracy wackos. No more.

Read Less

ECI 1 – Soros Street 0

The leftist Tablet looks at the Senate race. The most interesting is Pennsylvania (h/t Ben Smith):

PENNSYLVANIA
Jewish candidate guy: Senator Arlen Specter (D).
People who are actually running: Joe Sestak (J Street) and Pat Toomey (Emergency Committee for Israel).
Who’s going to win? In general, a Gentile. In particular, Pat Toomey. In a way, Bill Kristol.
Why this is still a Jewish story: This race is kind of weird. Arlen Specter switched parties, robbing Republicans of their only Jewish senator, and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Then, with no Jewish candidates in the race, this became the surrogate electoral battleground for Israeli-American politics: Bill Kristol’s newly formed Pro-Israel, Pro-Committee Emergency Committee for Israel cut an ad attacking Sestak, and then the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Iffy-Soros J Street made their own defending him.
Fun fact: Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, is “an heir to America’s leading Orthodox rabbinic dynasty.”

It’s not so weird at all. As we’ve seen in recent polling, Israel enjoys broad bipartisan support. J Street does not. When ECI focused on this race, illuminating Sestak’s record, it illustrated both. Frankly, it’s weird that a Jewish magazine finds it peculiar that a race without a Jewish candidate could center on Israel. Perhaps it should take a look at the polls we’ve been examining. It seems the entire electorate of Pennsylvania has revealed itself to be part of the “Israel Lobby.” Only those who equate support for Israel solely with American Jewish political activity would fine this strange.

The leftist Tablet looks at the Senate race. The most interesting is Pennsylvania (h/t Ben Smith):

PENNSYLVANIA
Jewish candidate guy: Senator Arlen Specter (D).
People who are actually running: Joe Sestak (J Street) and Pat Toomey (Emergency Committee for Israel).
Who’s going to win? In general, a Gentile. In particular, Pat Toomey. In a way, Bill Kristol.
Why this is still a Jewish story: This race is kind of weird. Arlen Specter switched parties, robbing Republicans of their only Jewish senator, and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Then, with no Jewish candidates in the race, this became the surrogate electoral battleground for Israeli-American politics: Bill Kristol’s newly formed Pro-Israel, Pro-Committee Emergency Committee for Israel cut an ad attacking Sestak, and then the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Iffy-Soros J Street made their own defending him.
Fun fact: Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, is “an heir to America’s leading Orthodox rabbinic dynasty.”

It’s not so weird at all. As we’ve seen in recent polling, Israel enjoys broad bipartisan support. J Street does not. When ECI focused on this race, illuminating Sestak’s record, it illustrated both. Frankly, it’s weird that a Jewish magazine finds it peculiar that a race without a Jewish candidate could center on Israel. Perhaps it should take a look at the polls we’ve been examining. It seems the entire electorate of Pennsylvania has revealed itself to be part of the “Israel Lobby.” Only those who equate support for Israel solely with American Jewish political activity would fine this strange.

Read Less

The Incompetence of Robert Gibbs

If you were uncertain about just how inept a press secretary Robert Gibbs is, watch this clip. It shows the White House media corps (to its credit) pressing Gibbs to explain how he can blame Republicans for holding middle-class tax relief “hostage” when: (a) no bill has been introduced; and (b) House Democrats have enough votes to pass legislation without any GOP support.

The problem Gibbs faces, of course, is widespread Democratic defections from Obama and Pelosi’s agenda, not GOP intransigence.

Mr. Gibbs is not only making a transparently partisan and indefensible argument; he does so with his typical condescension and eye-rolling exasperation, as if it is painful for him to engage with lesser beings. This attitude is prevalent in the Obama White House – and for many people, including I suspect the media corps, it’s all getting rather tiresome.

It helps a bit if a person’s arrogance is at least tied to real merit and achievement. In this case, we have vanity and incompetence melding together.

It’s not a pretty sight to behold.

If you were uncertain about just how inept a press secretary Robert Gibbs is, watch this clip. It shows the White House media corps (to its credit) pressing Gibbs to explain how he can blame Republicans for holding middle-class tax relief “hostage” when: (a) no bill has been introduced; and (b) House Democrats have enough votes to pass legislation without any GOP support.

The problem Gibbs faces, of course, is widespread Democratic defections from Obama and Pelosi’s agenda, not GOP intransigence.

Mr. Gibbs is not only making a transparently partisan and indefensible argument; he does so with his typical condescension and eye-rolling exasperation, as if it is painful for him to engage with lesser beings. This attitude is prevalent in the Obama White House – and for many people, including I suspect the media corps, it’s all getting rather tiresome.

It helps a bit if a person’s arrogance is at least tied to real merit and achievement. In this case, we have vanity and incompetence melding together.

It’s not a pretty sight to behold.

Read Less

Hillary the Has-Been

It’s the Mama Grizzly effect, says the Washington Post — lots of conservative women running for office:

Nearly two years after an anticipated gender bounce – with predictions that women in both parties would rush into politics inspired by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin — it turns out that the momentum is on the Republican side. If there is a Palin effect, it is not being matched by any Clinton effect at the other end of the ideological spectrum.

Ouch. Sorry, Hillary, you’re yesterday’s news. Even worse, Democratic women are enviously eyeing the Tea Party movement:

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said it is “very fair” to argue that the energy for female candidates is trending Republican, a view several other Democratic strategists shared.

“I’ve been struck by it,” said Dee Dee Myers, a former White House press secretary and author of “Why Women Should Rule the World.”

“All the momentum is on the tea party side, so why wouldn’t it also be with the women on the tea party side?”

In fact, a great number of local Tea Party organizers are women, a phenomenon little remarked upon by the mainstream media, which is intent on painting the movement as the province of angry, racist white men.

And to the dismay of feminists, it is hard to deny Palin’s role in all this:

Palin has unquestionably played an outsize role in upping the Republican numbers, endorsing several women, including [Nikki] Haley and [Christine] O’Donnell, who might never have gained sufficient attention otherwise. She has brought to the Republican Party what some members had once complained did not exist: a concerted effort to tap female candidates for promotion and lift them out of obscurity.

And then there is this: The woman most capable of counteracting a Palin bounce for Democrats — Secretary of State Clinton- is not available to campaign.

You do wonder what Hillary is thinking. She’s traded in the title of Queen Bee of American politics for Foggy Bottom errand girl in an administration that is quickly going down the tubes. She’s been dutiful, loyal, responsible — and irrelevant these past 18 months. Meanwhile, whether a 2012 contender or a king and queen maker, Palin has become the most influential woman in American politics. She is not immune from error — far from it — and she remains a problematic figure. But who can doubt that she matters. You can’t say the same about Hillary.

It’s the Mama Grizzly effect, says the Washington Post — lots of conservative women running for office:

Nearly two years after an anticipated gender bounce – with predictions that women in both parties would rush into politics inspired by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin — it turns out that the momentum is on the Republican side. If there is a Palin effect, it is not being matched by any Clinton effect at the other end of the ideological spectrum.

Ouch. Sorry, Hillary, you’re yesterday’s news. Even worse, Democratic women are enviously eyeing the Tea Party movement:

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said it is “very fair” to argue that the energy for female candidates is trending Republican, a view several other Democratic strategists shared.

“I’ve been struck by it,” said Dee Dee Myers, a former White House press secretary and author of “Why Women Should Rule the World.”

“All the momentum is on the tea party side, so why wouldn’t it also be with the women on the tea party side?”

In fact, a great number of local Tea Party organizers are women, a phenomenon little remarked upon by the mainstream media, which is intent on painting the movement as the province of angry, racist white men.

And to the dismay of feminists, it is hard to deny Palin’s role in all this:

Palin has unquestionably played an outsize role in upping the Republican numbers, endorsing several women, including [Nikki] Haley and [Christine] O’Donnell, who might never have gained sufficient attention otherwise. She has brought to the Republican Party what some members had once complained did not exist: a concerted effort to tap female candidates for promotion and lift them out of obscurity.

And then there is this: The woman most capable of counteracting a Palin bounce for Democrats — Secretary of State Clinton- is not available to campaign.

You do wonder what Hillary is thinking. She’s traded in the title of Queen Bee of American politics for Foggy Bottom errand girl in an administration that is quickly going down the tubes. She’s been dutiful, loyal, responsible — and irrelevant these past 18 months. Meanwhile, whether a 2012 contender or a king and queen maker, Palin has become the most influential woman in American politics. She is not immune from error — far from it — and she remains a problematic figure. But who can doubt that she matters. You can’t say the same about Hillary.

Read Less

Time to Panic for Dems

That is the essence of the message from Obama’s closest political guru:

President Obama’s top political guru said Tuesday that he believes 70 House races and 15 Senate races are in play this fall. … Plouffe painted a picture of a dire electoral landscape in which, if Democrats were to lose the majority of those races, their losses would be massive.

Robert Gibbs’s admission in July that the House could be lost is now becoming conventional wisdom. The best Plouffe can do, it seems, is manage expectations.

But there is no spinning this one. There will be plenty of finger-pointing, but the Democrats who blindly followed the White House and their House and Senate leadership, pooh-poohed the Tea Party movement, ignored the polling on ObamaCare, and convinced themselves that the left’s time had come have no one to blame but themselves.

As for the White House, it will no doubt declare that, however severe the thumping in November, none of this is a reflection on Obama. It is a “tough environment” and the “economy is bad” — as if these were weather phenomena, unrelated to the president’s agenda and leadership. There may be some reshuffling of the White House team, but it remains to be seen whether there will be any self-reflection. Heck, this crew can’t even admit they got the quote on the White House rug wrong. Alas, they seem more unintelligible than usual:

President Barack Obama’s spokesman said Tuesday the White House was correct to attribute a famous quotation in the rug’s pattern to Martin Luther King Jr., even though the civil rights leader acknowledged being inspired by a 19th-century abolitionist, Thomas Parker. “It was not us that thought he said it, it was many people that believed — rightly so — that he said it,” press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

At some point the “Will Hillary run?” buzz will start. But only if she starts boosting her profile and making the case that her record is something to be proud of.

That is the essence of the message from Obama’s closest political guru:

President Obama’s top political guru said Tuesday that he believes 70 House races and 15 Senate races are in play this fall. … Plouffe painted a picture of a dire electoral landscape in which, if Democrats were to lose the majority of those races, their losses would be massive.

Robert Gibbs’s admission in July that the House could be lost is now becoming conventional wisdom. The best Plouffe can do, it seems, is manage expectations.

But there is no spinning this one. There will be plenty of finger-pointing, but the Democrats who blindly followed the White House and their House and Senate leadership, pooh-poohed the Tea Party movement, ignored the polling on ObamaCare, and convinced themselves that the left’s time had come have no one to blame but themselves.

As for the White House, it will no doubt declare that, however severe the thumping in November, none of this is a reflection on Obama. It is a “tough environment” and the “economy is bad” — as if these were weather phenomena, unrelated to the president’s agenda and leadership. There may be some reshuffling of the White House team, but it remains to be seen whether there will be any self-reflection. Heck, this crew can’t even admit they got the quote on the White House rug wrong. Alas, they seem more unintelligible than usual:

President Barack Obama’s spokesman said Tuesday the White House was correct to attribute a famous quotation in the rug’s pattern to Martin Luther King Jr., even though the civil rights leader acknowledged being inspired by a 19th-century abolitionist, Thomas Parker. “It was not us that thought he said it, it was many people that believed — rightly so — that he said it,” press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

At some point the “Will Hillary run?” buzz will start. But only if she starts boosting her profile and making the case that her record is something to be proud of.

Read Less

Defining Recovery Down

What are we to make of the most recent jobs report, which shows that (a) unemployment increased from 9.5 percent to 9.6 percent and (b) nonfarm payrolls fell by 54,000 last month? If you’re White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, you tweet, “Don’t be fooled — the economy added 67,000 private sector jobs, 8th straight month of added private sector jobs, job loss came in Census work.” Picking up on this, David Mark, Politico’s senior editor, writes this:

At the White House Friday morning President Obama praised the private sector addition of 67,000 jobs in August, the eighth straight month of job growth. “That’s positive news, and it reflects the steps we’ve already taken to break the back of this recession. But it’s not good enough,” the president said. And Christina Romer, outgoing chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, said the jobs figures were “better than expected.” Do they have a point about a slowly-but-surely improving jobs situation?

The answer is “no.” To understand why, it might be helpful to put things in a wider perspective. Read More

What are we to make of the most recent jobs report, which shows that (a) unemployment increased from 9.5 percent to 9.6 percent and (b) nonfarm payrolls fell by 54,000 last month? If you’re White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, you tweet, “Don’t be fooled — the economy added 67,000 private sector jobs, 8th straight month of added private sector jobs, job loss came in Census work.” Picking up on this, David Mark, Politico’s senior editor, writes this:

At the White House Friday morning President Obama praised the private sector addition of 67,000 jobs in August, the eighth straight month of job growth. “That’s positive news, and it reflects the steps we’ve already taken to break the back of this recession. But it’s not good enough,” the president said. And Christina Romer, outgoing chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, said the jobs figures were “better than expected.” Do they have a point about a slowly-but-surely improving jobs situation?

The answer is “no.” To understand why, it might be helpful to put things in a wider perspective.

For one thing, the so-called underemployment rate, which includes workers who are working part-time but who want full-time work, increased from 16.5 percent to 16.7 percent. During our supposed “Recovery Summer,” we have lost 283,000 jobs (54,000 in June, 171,000 in July, and 54,000 in August). And for August, the employment-population ratio — the percentage of Americans with jobs — was 58.5 percent. We haven’t seen figures this low in nearly three decades. As Henry Olson of the American Enterprise Institute points out, “Since the start of this summer, nearly 400,000 Americans have entered the labor force, but only 130,000 have found jobs. … America’s adult population has risen by 2 million people since [August 2009], but the number of adults with jobs has dropped by 180,000. The unemployment rate declined slightly despite these numbers, from 9.7 percent to 9.6 percent, because over 2.3 million people have left the labor force entirely, so discouraged they are no longer even looking for work. ”

Keep in mind that all this is occurring during a period when job growth should be considerably higher, at least based on past post-recession recoveries. Former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Michael Boskin points out that “compared to the 6.2% first-year Ford recovery and 7.7% Reagan recovery, the Obama recovery at 3% is less than half speed.” Bear in mind, too, that today’s jobs report comes a week after the GDP for the second quarter was revised downward, from 2.4 percent to 1.6 percent. Economists generally agree that the economy needs to grow 2.5 percent to keep unemployment from going up, and a good deal better than that to begin to bring it substantially down.

What all this means, I think, is that we’re not in a recovery at all, at least not in any meaningful sense. And those who insist otherwise are (to amend a phrase from Daniel Patrick Moynihan) Defining Recovery Down.

The most recent GDP figures also have harmful fiscal ramifications. For example, estimates for the deficit this year (more than $1.3 trillion) are based on both the Congressional Budget Office’s and the Obama administration’s assumption of roughly 3 percent growth. If growth is well below that, government revenues are going to be lower than estimated. And so this year’s deficit and net increase in the debt are going to be worse than even the (already quite troubling) projections. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has very few, if any, arrows left in its quiver. It has done just about all that can be done.

The narrative the Obama administration is trying to sell is that we were on the edge of another Great Depression but avoided it and are now, in the president’s oft-repeated phrase, “moving in the right direction.” If we persist in following Obama’s policies on spending, taxes, and regulations, Obama assures us, we will build on this recovery and turn a sluggish one into a strong one. At the end of Obamaism lies the land of milk and honey.

This is wishful thinking. The economy right now is sick and, in some important respects, getting sicker. And the president is pursuing policies that are not only not helping; they are downright counterproductive.

Robert Gibbs can tweet away, but he cannot tweet away reality.

Read Less

Some Thoughts About Last Night’s Speech

1. The most Obama could say about George W. Bush is that “no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.” That’s correct; no one could doubt it, which is why there was no need to say it.

The real issue was whether Obama would praise Bush for the surge — one of the most courageous and wise presidential decisions in the modern era and one Bush pushed through over fierce, widespread opposition, including from Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden. But for Obama to praise Bush for the surge would be to admit his own massive error in judgment in opposing it — and a man of Obama’s vanity could not bring himself to do that. So Obama could only say that Bush was well-intentioned rather than right.

As for his own record on Iraq, the Obama administration is now trying to corrupt the historical record, with press secretary Robert Gibbs making assertions that are not only wrong but the opposite of the truth. Read More

1. The most Obama could say about George W. Bush is that “no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.” That’s correct; no one could doubt it, which is why there was no need to say it.

The real issue was whether Obama would praise Bush for the surge — one of the most courageous and wise presidential decisions in the modern era and one Bush pushed through over fierce, widespread opposition, including from Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden. But for Obama to praise Bush for the surge would be to admit his own massive error in judgment in opposing it — and a man of Obama’s vanity could not bring himself to do that. So Obama could only say that Bush was well-intentioned rather than right.

As for his own record on Iraq, the Obama administration is now trying to corrupt the historical record, with press secretary Robert Gibbs making assertions that are not only wrong but the opposite of the truth.

2. On Iraq, Obama did say that while our combat mission is ending, “our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.” But you could be forgiven for believing, amid all the talk of page-turning and missions ended and over, that Obama has detached himself from a war he opposed and wants to have nothing more to do with it. He clearly considers it a distraction from his larger ambitions to transform America here at home.

What was also notable in the speech is how Obama — apart from one perfunctory paragraph (he devoted four to the economy) — failed to appropriately acknowledge many of the estimable things that have been achieved by the Iraq war, including deposing a malevolent and aggressive dictator, helping plant a representative (if imperfect) democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and administering a military defeat to al-Qaeda on the ground of its own choosing. Obama hinted at some of this, but it was said without passion or conviction. And we all know why: for Obama, this was a war without purpose, a nihilistic misadventure whose only good result is its end. This is not only wrong; it is a disfigurement of history and a failure to acknowledge what a remarkable thing our combat troops in Iraq achieved.

3. On the most important matter before us, Afghanistan, Obama did substantial damage. The reason can be found in this paragraph:

Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who-under the command of General David Petraeus -are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future. But, as was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin – because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

What Obama did here was not simply to repeat his commitment to the (arbitrary) summer 2011 drawdown date; he underscored and deepened it. The president’s declaration that the pace of troop reductions “will be determined by conditions on the ground” was overwhelmed by Obama’s declaring that our forces will be in place for “a limited time” and that we should “make no mistake: this transition will begin because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.”

This statement occurred within a particular context. In his December 2009 address at West Point, Obama made essentially the same argument — though less emphatically than he did last night.

Many people (including me) underestimated just how harmful was Obama’s declaration that we would begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Mentioning that it would be conditions-based was almost completely overlooked by both our friends and our enemies. The message they believed was sent, and which they received, is that America’s commitment is limited and we will leave on time and on schedule, come what may.

Don’t take my word for it; here is what Marine Commandant General James Conway said a week ago about the 2011 deadline: “In some ways, we think right now it’s probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself … ‘Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.'” Conway buttressed his claim by saying that intelligence intercepts suggest that Taliban fighters have been encouraged by the talk of the U.S. beginning to withdraw troops next year.

Knowing all this, Obama not only didn’t attempt to undo his previous error; he doubled down on it. This was an injurious message to send.

The Democratic Party can count several great wartime leaders among its ranks, including Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. John F. Kennedy, while denied the time and opportunities that FDR and Truman had, understood the stakes of the Cold War struggle and spoke with force and eloquence about America’s role in the world. These were admirable leaders, presidents whom our allies could count on and our enemies respected and feared.

In Barack Obama, we have someone very different — a president who is at times more eager to apologize for America than to defend her. He is a man not yet comfortable with his role as commander in chief. Obama views war not in terms of victory; he is above all committed to finding exit ramps.

President Obama has already inflicted enormous damage to our nation; last night he added to the wreckage.

Read Less

Arrogance Doesn’t Become Him

Fox’s Gretchen Carlson was too aggressive in her interview with Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, but it did allow Gibbs to display his unparalleled snideness and condescension. For a man who is part of an administration that is unspooling, you would think Gibbs would show a bit more humility. But you would be wrong.

As for substance: Mr. Gibbs is once again out of his depth. What he can’t seem to understand – or perhaps what he has chosen to willfully ignore – is that the surge was critical in both the success of the Anbar Awakening and the political progress that we have seen in Iraq. The surge allowed everything else that is good to take place. Without it, the Iraq war would have been lost and Iraq itself would be consumed in a bloody civil war and possibly genocide. And if Gibbs’s boss had gotten his way in 2007, that is exactly where things would now stand.

As for who has handled the diplomatic/political situation better between the Bush and Obama administration: here again, the Bush record is superior. Compare Bush’s ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, who was a spectacular diplomat, with Obama’s ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill, who was not (Hill served in the Bush administration; his achievement as Ambassador to Korea and head of the U.S. delegation to the six-party talks could hardly be termed a success either).

Robert Gibbs often doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But to combine ignorance with such preening arrogance is uncommon even for Washington.

Fox’s Gretchen Carlson was too aggressive in her interview with Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, but it did allow Gibbs to display his unparalleled snideness and condescension. For a man who is part of an administration that is unspooling, you would think Gibbs would show a bit more humility. But you would be wrong.

As for substance: Mr. Gibbs is once again out of his depth. What he can’t seem to understand – or perhaps what he has chosen to willfully ignore – is that the surge was critical in both the success of the Anbar Awakening and the political progress that we have seen in Iraq. The surge allowed everything else that is good to take place. Without it, the Iraq war would have been lost and Iraq itself would be consumed in a bloody civil war and possibly genocide. And if Gibbs’s boss had gotten his way in 2007, that is exactly where things would now stand.

As for who has handled the diplomatic/political situation better between the Bush and Obama administration: here again, the Bush record is superior. Compare Bush’s ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, who was a spectacular diplomat, with Obama’s ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill, who was not (Hill served in the Bush administration; his achievement as Ambassador to Korea and head of the U.S. delegation to the six-party talks could hardly be termed a success either).

Robert Gibbs often doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But to combine ignorance with such preening arrogance is uncommon even for Washington.

Read Less

Gibbs vs. the Historical Record

“What is certainly not up for question is that President Obama, then-candidate Obama, said that adding those 20,000 troops into Iraq would, indeed, improve the security situation, and it did,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on the Today show this morning, in anticipation of Mr. Obama’s Oval Office address this evening.

That statement is false. As I pointed out in this COMMENTARY essay, on the night of President Bush’s “surge” announcement, then-Senator Obama proclaimed: “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse” [emphasis added]. It’s worth pointing out as well that in January 2007 then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.”

It would be hard to find two more vociferous critics of the surge than Obama and Biden.

It’s regrettable that Obama’s press secretary would compound his error in judgment with a shameful (and stupid) attempt to falsify the historical record.

“What is certainly not up for question is that President Obama, then-candidate Obama, said that adding those 20,000 troops into Iraq would, indeed, improve the security situation, and it did,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on the Today show this morning, in anticipation of Mr. Obama’s Oval Office address this evening.

That statement is false. As I pointed out in this COMMENTARY essay, on the night of President Bush’s “surge” announcement, then-Senator Obama proclaimed: “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse” [emphasis added]. It’s worth pointing out as well that in January 2007 then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.”

It would be hard to find two more vociferous critics of the surge than Obama and Biden.

It’s regrettable that Obama’s press secretary would compound his error in judgment with a shameful (and stupid) attempt to falsify the historical record.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

You can buy “$80 bottles of perfume, Turkish-made suits and Israeli yogurt,” and there are “toy displays, supermarket and racks of clothes … and a toy store, a perfume and accessories shop and clothing stores.” At the Gaza mall.

You can pretty much write off the Democrats’ House majority. From the Cook Political Report (subscription required): “[T]here are a whopping 32 Democratic incumbents who have trailed GOP challengers in at least one public or private poll. At this point in 2006, there were only 11 Republican incumbents who trailed in at least one public or private poll, yet 22 went on to lose. It happens every time there is a wave: as challengers get better known and voters start to zero in on their choices, the lion’s share of those undecided falls to the surging party. Today we are monitoring 120 races, the largest playing field we’ve seen in years. … And it’s a lopsided playing field: 102 of these 120 races are currently held by Democrats.” Umm, 102 Democratic seats could realistically be lost?

You can find no more honest Democratic pollster than Tom Jensen of PPP: “Barack Obama expanded the map in 2008 but for the most part you’re still going to find Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania as the most important states at the Presidential level because of their size and competitiveness and Obama’s numbers in those places right now are brutal. The trend is the same in all three states: independents are very unhappy with Obama and Republicans dislike him more than Democrats like him. And although part of the reason his numbers are so bad in these states is that they model a 2010 electorate, the polls also show him losing far more of his 2008 voters than picking up support from folks who went for John McCain.” How brutal? Thirty-nine percent approval in Florida, 40 in Pennsylvania, and 42 in Ohio.

You can move California’s gubernatorial race from Toss Up to Leans Republican: “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in California finds Whitman earning 48% support, while Democrat Jerry Brown picks up 40% of the vote. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and six percent (6%) are undecided.”

You can always blame a Republican president. Jonathan Cohn says it is Ronald Reagan’s fault there is an egg salmonella problem. Bill Clinton and Barak Obama held the White House collectively for almost 10 years, but nothing that went wrong is ever attributable to anything they did or didn’t do.

You can take lessons from Chris Christie in how to handle the media. He exudes common sense. His skewering of the mindless Washington bureaucrats is priceless. Watch the whole thing. (I vote for “mindless drones” as the best phrase.)

You can tell which Democrats are in competitive races: “Rep. John Hall argues that an Islamic community center planned for two blocks from Ground Zero should be built elsewhere out of respect for 9/11 victims and their families. ‘Freedom of religion is a bedrock principle of our democracy,’ Hall, D-Dover Plains, said in a prepared statement. ‘I think honoring those killed on Sept. 11 and showing sensitivity to their families, it would be best if the center were built at a different location.'”

You can see that the White House doesn’t even try to keep up the pretense anymore: “White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said [Major] Garrett lived up to Fox’s fair-and-balanced motto: ‘I have always thought Major was one of the smartest people in the briefing room. He’s tough, and I’d say the slogan actually did fit him.'” So, the White House’s beef with Fox was what exactly?

You can buy “$80 bottles of perfume, Turkish-made suits and Israeli yogurt,” and there are “toy displays, supermarket and racks of clothes … and a toy store, a perfume and accessories shop and clothing stores.” At the Gaza mall.

You can pretty much write off the Democrats’ House majority. From the Cook Political Report (subscription required): “[T]here are a whopping 32 Democratic incumbents who have trailed GOP challengers in at least one public or private poll. At this point in 2006, there were only 11 Republican incumbents who trailed in at least one public or private poll, yet 22 went on to lose. It happens every time there is a wave: as challengers get better known and voters start to zero in on their choices, the lion’s share of those undecided falls to the surging party. Today we are monitoring 120 races, the largest playing field we’ve seen in years. … And it’s a lopsided playing field: 102 of these 120 races are currently held by Democrats.” Umm, 102 Democratic seats could realistically be lost?

You can find no more honest Democratic pollster than Tom Jensen of PPP: “Barack Obama expanded the map in 2008 but for the most part you’re still going to find Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania as the most important states at the Presidential level because of their size and competitiveness and Obama’s numbers in those places right now are brutal. The trend is the same in all three states: independents are very unhappy with Obama and Republicans dislike him more than Democrats like him. And although part of the reason his numbers are so bad in these states is that they model a 2010 electorate, the polls also show him losing far more of his 2008 voters than picking up support from folks who went for John McCain.” How brutal? Thirty-nine percent approval in Florida, 40 in Pennsylvania, and 42 in Ohio.

You can move California’s gubernatorial race from Toss Up to Leans Republican: “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in California finds Whitman earning 48% support, while Democrat Jerry Brown picks up 40% of the vote. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and six percent (6%) are undecided.”

You can always blame a Republican president. Jonathan Cohn says it is Ronald Reagan’s fault there is an egg salmonella problem. Bill Clinton and Barak Obama held the White House collectively for almost 10 years, but nothing that went wrong is ever attributable to anything they did or didn’t do.

You can take lessons from Chris Christie in how to handle the media. He exudes common sense. His skewering of the mindless Washington bureaucrats is priceless. Watch the whole thing. (I vote for “mindless drones” as the best phrase.)

You can tell which Democrats are in competitive races: “Rep. John Hall argues that an Islamic community center planned for two blocks from Ground Zero should be built elsewhere out of respect for 9/11 victims and their families. ‘Freedom of religion is a bedrock principle of our democracy,’ Hall, D-Dover Plains, said in a prepared statement. ‘I think honoring those killed on Sept. 11 and showing sensitivity to their families, it would be best if the center were built at a different location.'”

You can see that the White House doesn’t even try to keep up the pretense anymore: “White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said [Major] Garrett lived up to Fox’s fair-and-balanced motto: ‘I have always thought Major was one of the smartest people in the briefing room. He’s tough, and I’d say the slogan actually did fit him.'” So, the White House’s beef with Fox was what exactly?

Read Less

Obama’s Ground Zero Debacle

It would be hard to think how Obama could have done a worse job on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. He took a position objectionable to the vast majority of Americans, within 24 hours chickened out, and then sent his press minions forward to assure his base and the Muslim World and its American community (over which he fawns incessantly) that he really does think we must accept a mosque that will produce nothing but pain for his countrymen and a sense of vindication to those who incinerated 3,000 Americans. It’s bad policy, bad politics, and bad execution, with a side order of political cowardice.

On Fox News Sunday’s roundtable, Ceci Connolly explained the flip-flop-flip:

CONNOLLY: I do think that the president’s remarks on Friday night — we know from our reporting they were not off the cuff. Those were written in advance. They were prepared. They were disseminated. He gave thought to what he wanted to say.

And from all indications he believes what he said on Friday night that, yes, this is hallowed ground but that he has a strong feeling not only about religious freedom and tolerance but also about outreach to the Muslim community, which he has done from the very start of his presidency.

So I don’t think there’s reason to really doubt his believing what he said on Friday.

BAIER: Other than the statement on Saturday.

CONNOLLY: The statement on Saturday — I think what happened was he got a little bit spooked by the reaction, because immediately after he did that recalibration, as you put it, sort of off the cuff with that local reporter down in Florida, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said, “Look, we’re not backing off of Friday night.” And I don’t think that they are.

That’s created angst for Democrats, as Nina Easton observed:

Well, you’ve got to feel the pain of some of these independent conservative Democrats like Martin Frost, who said, “Can’t this president be more like a politician than a law professor?” And we know that now that — as Ceci said, he wanted to weigh in on this. He wanted to weigh in on these broad religious principles.

And you know, we cite the 68 percent of people opposing this. Seventy percent of independent voters oppose this. So this is going to — it’s an issue that was local and, by the way, where in the bluest of states, New York, members of the congressional delegation is basically nowhere to be found. No one wants to weigh in on this.

But among independent voters they really, really oppose this. What this has done is nationalize a sensitive issue. The president — it’s interesting. This is the third time where he’s — in the interest of what he sees in his world of inclusion and fairness and open-mindedness, he’s actually been very polarizing and divisive.

We start with his lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law. His — the health care reform’s been very divisive. And now this. And I think it’s going to really hurt the Democratic brand in November. It’s nationalized this issue.

As Bill Kristol deadpanned: “It’s never a good moment … when Bill Burton, the White House deputy press secretary, at 6 o’clock Saturday night — I mean, I worked in a White House that had some problems in ’91, ’92, as the first Bush administration wound down, somewhat losing some popular support, let’s say. And when you put out a statement that says, ‘Just to be clear, the president is not backing off in any way,’ I mean, ‘just … to be clear’ is not a good thing to begin with if you’re the press secretary. And ‘the president is not backing off’ is not really what you want your news — your explanation to be on Saturday night.”

This reinforces several bad themes for Obama. From the right, his critics have argued that he’s less than competent,  a charge that certainly was supported by a textbook “don’t ever do this” episode in presidential history. Conservatives have also asserted that Obama’s instincts are poor (both when it come in positioning the U.S. against adversaries and in his assessments of the voters’ deeply held beliefs). That too was underlined by Obama’s indifference to the mosque’s symbolism for jihadists and to Americans’ sensibilities. And then on the left, his formerly fervent base has grown exasperated with his equivocation and failure to wholeheartedly embrace their extreme wish list. Given episodes like this one, you have to admit that they too have a point.

But really, this is precisely what we should expect if we elect someone whose executive skills are negligible and whose views come straight out of the Ivy League left. Next time, maybe voters should pay more attention to the experience and values of the person they are electing to lead the Free World.

It would be hard to think how Obama could have done a worse job on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. He took a position objectionable to the vast majority of Americans, within 24 hours chickened out, and then sent his press minions forward to assure his base and the Muslim World and its American community (over which he fawns incessantly) that he really does think we must accept a mosque that will produce nothing but pain for his countrymen and a sense of vindication to those who incinerated 3,000 Americans. It’s bad policy, bad politics, and bad execution, with a side order of political cowardice.

On Fox News Sunday’s roundtable, Ceci Connolly explained the flip-flop-flip:

CONNOLLY: I do think that the president’s remarks on Friday night — we know from our reporting they were not off the cuff. Those were written in advance. They were prepared. They were disseminated. He gave thought to what he wanted to say.

And from all indications he believes what he said on Friday night that, yes, this is hallowed ground but that he has a strong feeling not only about religious freedom and tolerance but also about outreach to the Muslim community, which he has done from the very start of his presidency.

So I don’t think there’s reason to really doubt his believing what he said on Friday.

BAIER: Other than the statement on Saturday.

CONNOLLY: The statement on Saturday — I think what happened was he got a little bit spooked by the reaction, because immediately after he did that recalibration, as you put it, sort of off the cuff with that local reporter down in Florida, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said, “Look, we’re not backing off of Friday night.” And I don’t think that they are.

That’s created angst for Democrats, as Nina Easton observed:

Well, you’ve got to feel the pain of some of these independent conservative Democrats like Martin Frost, who said, “Can’t this president be more like a politician than a law professor?” And we know that now that — as Ceci said, he wanted to weigh in on this. He wanted to weigh in on these broad religious principles.

And you know, we cite the 68 percent of people opposing this. Seventy percent of independent voters oppose this. So this is going to — it’s an issue that was local and, by the way, where in the bluest of states, New York, members of the congressional delegation is basically nowhere to be found. No one wants to weigh in on this.

But among independent voters they really, really oppose this. What this has done is nationalize a sensitive issue. The president — it’s interesting. This is the third time where he’s — in the interest of what he sees in his world of inclusion and fairness and open-mindedness, he’s actually been very polarizing and divisive.

We start with his lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law. His — the health care reform’s been very divisive. And now this. And I think it’s going to really hurt the Democratic brand in November. It’s nationalized this issue.

As Bill Kristol deadpanned: “It’s never a good moment … when Bill Burton, the White House deputy press secretary, at 6 o’clock Saturday night — I mean, I worked in a White House that had some problems in ’91, ’92, as the first Bush administration wound down, somewhat losing some popular support, let’s say. And when you put out a statement that says, ‘Just to be clear, the president is not backing off in any way,’ I mean, ‘just … to be clear’ is not a good thing to begin with if you’re the press secretary. And ‘the president is not backing off’ is not really what you want your news — your explanation to be on Saturday night.”

This reinforces several bad themes for Obama. From the right, his critics have argued that he’s less than competent,  a charge that certainly was supported by a textbook “don’t ever do this” episode in presidential history. Conservatives have also asserted that Obama’s instincts are poor (both when it come in positioning the U.S. against adversaries and in his assessments of the voters’ deeply held beliefs). That too was underlined by Obama’s indifference to the mosque’s symbolism for jihadists and to Americans’ sensibilities. And then on the left, his formerly fervent base has grown exasperated with his equivocation and failure to wholeheartedly embrace their extreme wish list. Given episodes like this one, you have to admit that they too have a point.

But really, this is precisely what we should expect if we elect someone whose executive skills are negligible and whose views come straight out of the Ivy League left. Next time, maybe voters should pay more attention to the experience and values of the person they are electing to lead the Free World.

Read Less

Krugman on Gibbs

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is angry at White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “Denouncing the people giving voice to those real concerns as the ‘professional left’ is both unfair,” Krugman writes, “and, as I’ve said, stupid. And both the president and, more important, the country deserve better.”

In this (rare) instance, I agree with Krugman. The president and the country do deserve better than Robert Gibbs.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is angry at White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “Denouncing the people giving voice to those real concerns as the ‘professional left’ is both unfair,” Krugman writes, “and, as I’ve said, stupid. And both the president and, more important, the country deserve better.”

In this (rare) instance, I agree with Krugman. The president and the country do deserve better than Robert Gibbs.

Read Less

Robert’s Rant

Apropos my posting yesterday, we read this from The Hill:

The White House is simmering with anger at criticism from liberals who say President Obama is more concerned with deal-making than ideological purity.

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Gibbs goes on to say this:

“There’s [sic] 101 things we’ve done,” said Gibbs, who then mentioned both Iraq and healthcare.

Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.

I’m not fan of the left — but it’s very unwise for President Obama’s notoriously prickly press secretary to publicly vent like this.

Among the many problems Democrats face going into the midterm election is the huge gap in voter intensity. (It favors Republicans by about a two-to-one margin.) Gibbs’ comments will only deflate the Democratic base. But Gibbs, his colleagues, and the president cannot help themselves. They are an extremely thin-skinned lot, prone to lash out at their critics. Doing so is almost always unwise. And in this instance, it is as well.

A fight with the base of the Democratic Party isn’t what Obama or Democratic candidates need right now. But thanks to Mr. Gibbs — who also succeeded in offending Speaker Pelosi recently — that’s just what they have.

Apropos my posting yesterday, we read this from The Hill:

The White House is simmering with anger at criticism from liberals who say President Obama is more concerned with deal-making than ideological purity.

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Gibbs goes on to say this:

“There’s [sic] 101 things we’ve done,” said Gibbs, who then mentioned both Iraq and healthcare.

Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.

I’m not fan of the left — but it’s very unwise for President Obama’s notoriously prickly press secretary to publicly vent like this.

Among the many problems Democrats face going into the midterm election is the huge gap in voter intensity. (It favors Republicans by about a two-to-one margin.) Gibbs’ comments will only deflate the Democratic base. But Gibbs, his colleagues, and the president cannot help themselves. They are an extremely thin-skinned lot, prone to lash out at their critics. Doing so is almost always unwise. And in this instance, it is as well.

A fight with the base of the Democratic Party isn’t what Obama or Democratic candidates need right now. But thanks to Mr. Gibbs — who also succeeded in offending Speaker Pelosi recently — that’s just what they have.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.