Commentary Magazine


Topic: Robert Gibbs

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

Obama Unplugged — and Unintelligible

Before Obama’s presser on Friday, Michael Gerson wandered down the memory lane, recalling the 2008 campaign, when Obama’s “message had something to do with unity, healing and national purpose.” No more, he explained: “Obama’s initiatives … are not only unpopular; they have made it impossible for him to maintain the pretense of being a unifying, healing, once-in-a-generation leader. It is the agenda that undermined the idiom. With that image stripped away, Americans found Obama to be a somber, thoughtful, touchy, professorial, conventionally liberal political figure.”

Actually, it’s worse than that. For starters, it is hard to be “thoughtful” when you are touchy and prone to regurgitating leftist talking points. In fact, Obama’s Friday presser was at times rather incoherent — he didn’t change Washington, it’s the GOP’s fault, the stimulus isn’t really a stimulus but it is stimulating, and so forth. He insisted that, all along, he had warned that health-care costs would bend up (What!? When had that spasm of truth telling occurred?), and lamented that he couldn’t close Gitmo because of politics (i.e., there was no public support for it and no one solved the “where do we put them” problem.) At this point, all but the die-hard Obama supporters must be chagrined to find that the only straight answer he can give is on the Ground Zero mosque. (He is fine with it.)

Earlier in the week, it was pretty much the same story. In Thursday’s interview, Obama acknowledged: “If the election is a referendum on are people satisfied about the economy as it currently is, then we’re not going to do well. Because I think everybody feels like this economy needs to do better than it’s been doing.” Yup. And, after all, he said he’d be judged on the economy. That’s what a referendum is, after all — an opportunity for voters to give thumbs up or down on your performance.

Now, he wasn’t exactly taking responsibility for the economic mess. This is Obama, after all. So he insisted, “Well, look. If you’re asking are there mistakes that we made during the course of the last 19 months, I’m sure I make a mistake once a day. If you’re asking have we made the decisions that are the right decisions to move this country forward after a very devastating recession, then the answer is absolutely.” We’re still heading in the right direction, in his book. Unfortunately, he wasn’t asked which mistakes he made.

Even liberals are fed up with the excuses. Bob Herbert writes, “The Democrats are in deep, deep trouble because they have not effectively addressed the overwhelming concern of working men and women: an economy that is too weak to provide the jobs they need to support themselves and their families.” And Arianna Huffington neatly sums up:

[H]e admitted to making unspecified “mistakes,” but insisted, “if you are asking have we made the decisions that are the right decisions to move this country forward after a very devastating recession, then the answer is absolutely.”

Can he really believe that, with unemployment at 9.6 percent, underemployment at 16.7 percent, millions of homes foreclosed, millions more heading to foreclosure, and the middle class under assault?

In any case, this appears to be the administration’s story, and they are sticking to it — come hell or a double-dip recession.

The president’s comments were a continuation of the tack taken by Robert Gibbs who, when asked if the stimulus bill had been too small, offered this jaw-dropper: “I think it makes sense to step back just for a second. … Nobody had, in January of 2009, a sufficient grasp of … what we were facing.”

In other words: who could have known? So much for changing the way Washington works. The Who Could Have Known mindset is at the very heart of the failure of our political system to address our mounting problems.

Even more telling than all that, however, was this nugget on extending the Bush tax cuts:

What I am saying is that if we are going to add to our deficit by $35 billion, $95 billion, $100 billion, $700 billion, if that’s the Republican agenda, then I’ve got a whole bunch of better ways to spend that money.

“That” money is our money. But it sounds really horrid to say “I’ve got a whole bunch of better ways to spend your money.” I’d be curious to know what better ways he has in mind. More billions on another flawed stimulus plan?

There is in his pre-election spin patrol a fundamental “cognitive dissonance,” as the Wall Street Journal editors put it. He feels compelled to toss a few limited tax breaks toward businesses but that hardly makes up for the incessant shin-kicking he delivers (“urging businesses to invest and lend more while attacking them for greed and sending jobs overseas”). The jabs are not merely rhetorical. In addition to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the administration has thrown at U.S. employers “a looming increase in capital gains and personal income tax rates, roughly half of which will come from noncorporate business profits; a minimum wage increase to $7.25 an hour from $6.55 in July 2009 when the jobless rate was 9%; the oil drilling moratorium, which has hit hundreds of small energy companies; the new health insurance mandate on employers with more than 50 employees; the new ObamaCare 1099 tax filing requirements; an increase in the death tax rate to 55% next year from zero today; a Medicare payroll tax increase to 3.8% from 2.9% starting in 2013; and compulsory unionism for government contractors and federal construction projects.”

To sum it all up, the voters are going to throw out his fellow Democrats if Americans follow Obama’s advice (hold the Democrats accountable for the economy). Despite control of both the White House and Congress, Obama whines that our problems are traceable to the Republican minority. He won’t concede that there is any connection between the massive burdens heaped on businesses and the paralysis on hiring by shell-shocked employers. And his underlying philosophy is that he knows best how to spend your money. No wonder Democrats don’t want to be seen campaigning with him.

Before Obama’s presser on Friday, Michael Gerson wandered down the memory lane, recalling the 2008 campaign, when Obama’s “message had something to do with unity, healing and national purpose.” No more, he explained: “Obama’s initiatives … are not only unpopular; they have made it impossible for him to maintain the pretense of being a unifying, healing, once-in-a-generation leader. It is the agenda that undermined the idiom. With that image stripped away, Americans found Obama to be a somber, thoughtful, touchy, professorial, conventionally liberal political figure.”

Actually, it’s worse than that. For starters, it is hard to be “thoughtful” when you are touchy and prone to regurgitating leftist talking points. In fact, Obama’s Friday presser was at times rather incoherent — he didn’t change Washington, it’s the GOP’s fault, the stimulus isn’t really a stimulus but it is stimulating, and so forth. He insisted that, all along, he had warned that health-care costs would bend up (What!? When had that spasm of truth telling occurred?), and lamented that he couldn’t close Gitmo because of politics (i.e., there was no public support for it and no one solved the “where do we put them” problem.) At this point, all but the die-hard Obama supporters must be chagrined to find that the only straight answer he can give is on the Ground Zero mosque. (He is fine with it.)

Earlier in the week, it was pretty much the same story. In Thursday’s interview, Obama acknowledged: “If the election is a referendum on are people satisfied about the economy as it currently is, then we’re not going to do well. Because I think everybody feels like this economy needs to do better than it’s been doing.” Yup. And, after all, he said he’d be judged on the economy. That’s what a referendum is, after all — an opportunity for voters to give thumbs up or down on your performance.

Now, he wasn’t exactly taking responsibility for the economic mess. This is Obama, after all. So he insisted, “Well, look. If you’re asking are there mistakes that we made during the course of the last 19 months, I’m sure I make a mistake once a day. If you’re asking have we made the decisions that are the right decisions to move this country forward after a very devastating recession, then the answer is absolutely.” We’re still heading in the right direction, in his book. Unfortunately, he wasn’t asked which mistakes he made.

Even liberals are fed up with the excuses. Bob Herbert writes, “The Democrats are in deep, deep trouble because they have not effectively addressed the overwhelming concern of working men and women: an economy that is too weak to provide the jobs they need to support themselves and their families.” And Arianna Huffington neatly sums up:

[H]e admitted to making unspecified “mistakes,” but insisted, “if you are asking have we made the decisions that are the right decisions to move this country forward after a very devastating recession, then the answer is absolutely.”

Can he really believe that, with unemployment at 9.6 percent, underemployment at 16.7 percent, millions of homes foreclosed, millions more heading to foreclosure, and the middle class under assault?

In any case, this appears to be the administration’s story, and they are sticking to it — come hell or a double-dip recession.

The president’s comments were a continuation of the tack taken by Robert Gibbs who, when asked if the stimulus bill had been too small, offered this jaw-dropper: “I think it makes sense to step back just for a second. … Nobody had, in January of 2009, a sufficient grasp of … what we were facing.”

In other words: who could have known? So much for changing the way Washington works. The Who Could Have Known mindset is at the very heart of the failure of our political system to address our mounting problems.

Even more telling than all that, however, was this nugget on extending the Bush tax cuts:

What I am saying is that if we are going to add to our deficit by $35 billion, $95 billion, $100 billion, $700 billion, if that’s the Republican agenda, then I’ve got a whole bunch of better ways to spend that money.

“That” money is our money. But it sounds really horrid to say “I’ve got a whole bunch of better ways to spend your money.” I’d be curious to know what better ways he has in mind. More billions on another flawed stimulus plan?

There is in his pre-election spin patrol a fundamental “cognitive dissonance,” as the Wall Street Journal editors put it. He feels compelled to toss a few limited tax breaks toward businesses but that hardly makes up for the incessant shin-kicking he delivers (“urging businesses to invest and lend more while attacking them for greed and sending jobs overseas”). The jabs are not merely rhetorical. In addition to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the administration has thrown at U.S. employers “a looming increase in capital gains and personal income tax rates, roughly half of which will come from noncorporate business profits; a minimum wage increase to $7.25 an hour from $6.55 in July 2009 when the jobless rate was 9%; the oil drilling moratorium, which has hit hundreds of small energy companies; the new health insurance mandate on employers with more than 50 employees; the new ObamaCare 1099 tax filing requirements; an increase in the death tax rate to 55% next year from zero today; a Medicare payroll tax increase to 3.8% from 2.9% starting in 2013; and compulsory unionism for government contractors and federal construction projects.”

To sum it all up, the voters are going to throw out his fellow Democrats if Americans follow Obama’s advice (hold the Democrats accountable for the economy). Despite control of both the White House and Congress, Obama whines that our problems are traceable to the Republican minority. He won’t concede that there is any connection between the massive burdens heaped on businesses and the paralysis on hiring by shell-shocked employers. And his underlying philosophy is that he knows best how to spend your money. No wonder Democrats don’t want to be seen campaigning with him.

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

Too Little, Too Late on Tax Cuts

Obama’s election-eve conversion (akin to a deathbed one) to the benefit of tax cuts seems to have come too little too late.

Business leaders were unimpressed:

Business executives said Tuesday that the measure might deliver a temporary lift to business spending. But several said a more enduring way to spur demand would be to extend the Bush administration income-tax cuts—which expire in January—for higher earners. Some also called for more permanent changes to corporate-tax rules.

It reminds some of cash for clunkers. (“Many executives … compared the speeded-up tax deduction to earlier Obama tax breaks for buyers of cars and houses. Those breaks stimulated a rush of buying that was followed by a big drop in sales once the incentives ended.”)

Nor is it clear there is support in Congress to pass the president’s proposal or time to do it. Congress returns next week and has three weeks before recessing to head for the campaign trail. I don’t think Democrats are going to be open to staying in Washington beyond that date, leaving the trail to their challengers.

The sure sign the plan is a dud? The White House is talking nonsense. Robert Gibbs says the stimulus plan is not a stimulus plan. Because it’s too small to make any difference, presumably. If this is giving you a headache, imagine how House Democrats feel.

Obama’s election-eve conversion (akin to a deathbed one) to the benefit of tax cuts seems to have come too little too late.

Business leaders were unimpressed:

Business executives said Tuesday that the measure might deliver a temporary lift to business spending. But several said a more enduring way to spur demand would be to extend the Bush administration income-tax cuts—which expire in January—for higher earners. Some also called for more permanent changes to corporate-tax rules.

It reminds some of cash for clunkers. (“Many executives … compared the speeded-up tax deduction to earlier Obama tax breaks for buyers of cars and houses. Those breaks stimulated a rush of buying that was followed by a big drop in sales once the incentives ended.”)

Nor is it clear there is support in Congress to pass the president’s proposal or time to do it. Congress returns next week and has three weeks before recessing to head for the campaign trail. I don’t think Democrats are going to be open to staying in Washington beyond that date, leaving the trail to their challengers.

The sure sign the plan is a dud? The White House is talking nonsense. Robert Gibbs says the stimulus plan is not a stimulus plan. Because it’s too small to make any difference, presumably. If this is giving you a headache, imagine how House Democrats feel.

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

Now West Virginia is in play.

Now they tell us: “The scientists involved in producing the periodic United Nations reports on climate change need to be more open to alternative views and more transparent about their own possible conflicts of interest, an independent review panel said Monday.”

Now I think we’ve had quite enough of Obama attacking the economy: “President Obama called Monday for a ‘full-scale attack’ to revive the struggling economy as Congress returns from recess with lawmakers fixated on the November election.”

But now is not the time for anything really big to help the economy. Comedy gold once again as Jake Tapper tries to pry an intelligible answer from Robert Gibbs.

Now that’s the sort of tin-foil-hat idea Ron Paul is known for: “Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said he plans to introduce legislation next year to force an audit of U.S. holdings of gold. Paul, a longtime critic of the Federal Reserve and U.S. monetary policy, said he believes it’s ‘a possibility’ that there might not actually be any gold in the vaults of Fort Knox or the New York Federal Reserve bank.” I think I saw this movie … Humphrey Bogart on a ship. Oh, that was strawberries.

Now where is the civility police? “Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has found another way to insult his political opponents. The outspoken New York Democrat had this to say via Twitter this morning, stirring the 140-character pot on a slow recess Monday …”

Now mainstream-media pundits say it’s a 60-seat swing in the House. (Is that 75 in real life?)

Now Charlie Crist has flip-flopped on gay marriage.

Now West Virginia is in play.

Now they tell us: “The scientists involved in producing the periodic United Nations reports on climate change need to be more open to alternative views and more transparent about their own possible conflicts of interest, an independent review panel said Monday.”

Now I think we’ve had quite enough of Obama attacking the economy: “President Obama called Monday for a ‘full-scale attack’ to revive the struggling economy as Congress returns from recess with lawmakers fixated on the November election.”

But now is not the time for anything really big to help the economy. Comedy gold once again as Jake Tapper tries to pry an intelligible answer from Robert Gibbs.

Now that’s the sort of tin-foil-hat idea Ron Paul is known for: “Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said he plans to introduce legislation next year to force an audit of U.S. holdings of gold. Paul, a longtime critic of the Federal Reserve and U.S. monetary policy, said he believes it’s ‘a possibility’ that there might not actually be any gold in the vaults of Fort Knox or the New York Federal Reserve bank.” I think I saw this movie … Humphrey Bogart on a ship. Oh, that was strawberries.

Now where is the civility police? “Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has found another way to insult his political opponents. The outspoken New York Democrat had this to say via Twitter this morning, stirring the 140-character pot on a slow recess Monday …”

Now mainstream-media pundits say it’s a 60-seat swing in the House. (Is that 75 in real life?)

Now Charlie Crist has flip-flopped on gay marriage.

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

RE: Bad News Gets Worse for Dems

As I said, things may be even worse than Nate Silver has disclosed to the glum readers of the New York Times. Politico reports:

In conversations with more than two dozen party insiders, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of play, Democrats in and out of Washington say they are increasingly alarmed about the economic and polling data they have seen in recent weeks.

They no longer believe the jobs and housing markets will recover – or that anything resembling the White House’s promise of a “recovery summer” is under way. They are even more concerned by indications that House Democrats once considered safe – such as Rep. Betty Sutton, who occupies an Ohio seat that President Barack Obama won with 57 percent of the vote in 2008 – are in real trouble.

It turns out that Robert Gibbs’s sin was not of excessive pessimism but of excessive candor. (“A Democratic pollster working on several key races said, ‘The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone.’ His data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse. ‘It’s spreading,’ the pollster said.”)

When things go south, the finger-pointing begins. Not without good reason, Democrats are “furious with the White House for keeping the debate over a New York mosque in play for two weeks — and then announcing that Obama will use a prime-time address next week to discuss Iraq, not the economy. By the calculations of House Democrats, this means that by Labor Day they will have spent nearly nine weeks this summer beating back negative or unhelpful story lines instigated, in part or in total, by the White House.” Good point on the mosque, fellas, but in Obama’s defense, what good would it do to talk about the economy? It’s sinking, and the “recovery summer” spiel is now an embarrassing reminder of the White House’s cluelessness. Things are so bad, they can’t even blame George W. Bush. (From a former state Democratic Party chairman: “You can only blame Bush for so long.”)

The extent of the unraveling and the ferocity of the infighting before the election are remarkable. Just imagine the food fight after the results are in.

As I said, things may be even worse than Nate Silver has disclosed to the glum readers of the New York Times. Politico reports:

In conversations with more than two dozen party insiders, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of play, Democrats in and out of Washington say they are increasingly alarmed about the economic and polling data they have seen in recent weeks.

They no longer believe the jobs and housing markets will recover – or that anything resembling the White House’s promise of a “recovery summer” is under way. They are even more concerned by indications that House Democrats once considered safe – such as Rep. Betty Sutton, who occupies an Ohio seat that President Barack Obama won with 57 percent of the vote in 2008 – are in real trouble.

It turns out that Robert Gibbs’s sin was not of excessive pessimism but of excessive candor. (“A Democratic pollster working on several key races said, ‘The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone.’ His data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse. ‘It’s spreading,’ the pollster said.”)

When things go south, the finger-pointing begins. Not without good reason, Democrats are “furious with the White House for keeping the debate over a New York mosque in play for two weeks — and then announcing that Obama will use a prime-time address next week to discuss Iraq, not the economy. By the calculations of House Democrats, this means that by Labor Day they will have spent nearly nine weeks this summer beating back negative or unhelpful story lines instigated, in part or in total, by the White House.” Good point on the mosque, fellas, but in Obama’s defense, what good would it do to talk about the economy? It’s sinking, and the “recovery summer” spiel is now an embarrassing reminder of the White House’s cluelessness. Things are so bad, they can’t even blame George W. Bush. (From a former state Democratic Party chairman: “You can only blame Bush for so long.”)

The extent of the unraveling and the ferocity of the infighting before the election are remarkable. Just imagine the food fight after the results are in.

Read Less

RE: How Bad?

Democrats on the ballot are understandably infuriated with the White House. First, Robert Gibbs announced that the House could well be lost. Then, after months of trying to pump up the base, the White House went after the “professional left.” Rebecca Traister (h/t Ben Smith) wailed on behalf of Democrats: “Congratulations, administration, on helping to further ensure that the only people in the country absolutely guaranteed to go out and vote for Obama will now do so with a hell of a lot less enthusiasm.” Next up was the Ground Zero mosque fiasco.

The fury among Democrats shouldn’t be underestimated. A longtime Democratic operative steamed to me: “Valerie Jarret is the Barack-whisperer-in-chief. She has nurtured the myth of Obama’s supernatural powers longer than anyone — second only to her sidekick, Axelrod — and the two of them, and their bad ideas, are at the root of virtually every mistake and overreach out there, especially the ill-fated Muslim-outreach campaign launched in the first hours of the presidency. It was probably Jarrett who told the president it was a good idea to bow down to the king of Saudi Arabia, too.” Ouch.

But wasn’t this an act of bravery and courage, as the left punditocracy has trumpeted? Not for those trying to win elections, the operative explained:

By getting involved in this issue — which was on a glide path to work out fine at the local level — the president and his team have put every Democrat running for Congress in the crosshairs of an issue that is 70-30 the wrong way. “Mr. Candidate, do you agree with your president?” This is just the latest insult these guys have hurled at Congress. And what do you get? Does your 30% base like you more? I can’t remember a White House with so much contempt for its own party. And why? Because they love the sound of their own voice.

Yowser. August is a month that in recent years has been fraught with political peril and more than a few surprises. Democrats never imagined, however, that there would be a bombardment launched at them from the head of their own party. The smarter ones will run far from the president; the survivors after the election will owe the White House no loyalty. Forget the right-wingers; Obama’s biggest problem may be preventing a mutiny in his own party.

Democrats on the ballot are understandably infuriated with the White House. First, Robert Gibbs announced that the House could well be lost. Then, after months of trying to pump up the base, the White House went after the “professional left.” Rebecca Traister (h/t Ben Smith) wailed on behalf of Democrats: “Congratulations, administration, on helping to further ensure that the only people in the country absolutely guaranteed to go out and vote for Obama will now do so with a hell of a lot less enthusiasm.” Next up was the Ground Zero mosque fiasco.

The fury among Democrats shouldn’t be underestimated. A longtime Democratic operative steamed to me: “Valerie Jarret is the Barack-whisperer-in-chief. She has nurtured the myth of Obama’s supernatural powers longer than anyone — second only to her sidekick, Axelrod — and the two of them, and their bad ideas, are at the root of virtually every mistake and overreach out there, especially the ill-fated Muslim-outreach campaign launched in the first hours of the presidency. It was probably Jarrett who told the president it was a good idea to bow down to the king of Saudi Arabia, too.” Ouch.

But wasn’t this an act of bravery and courage, as the left punditocracy has trumpeted? Not for those trying to win elections, the operative explained:

By getting involved in this issue — which was on a glide path to work out fine at the local level — the president and his team have put every Democrat running for Congress in the crosshairs of an issue that is 70-30 the wrong way. “Mr. Candidate, do you agree with your president?” This is just the latest insult these guys have hurled at Congress. And what do you get? Does your 30% base like you more? I can’t remember a White House with so much contempt for its own party. And why? Because they love the sound of their own voice.

Yowser. August is a month that in recent years has been fraught with political peril and more than a few surprises. Democrats never imagined, however, that there would be a bombardment launched at them from the head of their own party. The smarter ones will run far from the president; the survivors after the election will owe the White House no loyalty. Forget the right-wingers; Obama’s biggest problem may be preventing a mutiny in his own party.

Read Less

The New Republic’s Keith Olbermann

In a story in the Washington Examiner, Stephen Hess, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution, said Robert Gibbs’ remarks attacking the “professional left” shows how “unprepared” many in the Obama administration were for the rigors of the White House. “A lot of things had come too easy for them — a substantial election victory, and an almost messianic moment with the inauguration,” Hess said. “Governing is hard.”

The governing-is-hard theme is something some of us warned about a long time ago. And charting some of Obama’s early missteps caused commentators on the left, such as the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, enormous irritation. In May 2009 he wrote:

In anticipation of his prophesy coming true, [Wehner’s] blogging for Commentary has become a gleeful chronicle of Obama’s imagined descent into dysfunction and popular repudiation.

Well, now. The “imagined descent” into popular repudiation (and dysfunction, for that matter) is no longer imagined, is it?

Popular repudiation is precisely what Obama and Democrats are experiencing on a scale that is extremely rare — one the may prove to be unprecedented — for a president who has been in office for less than two years.

William Galston, who served in the Clinton administration, has warned his party that it might not only lose the House; its majority in the Senate is endangered, too. And the polarization some of us highlighted early on in Obama’s presidency was in fact on the mark. Chait dismissed the observation at the time, but then came (for Chait) a rather unfortunate Gallup survey released in January 2010, which reported that Barack Obama was the most polarizing first-year president in recorded history.

Now we should keep in mind that Chait is the same individual who, in December 2008, assured his readers that “undiluted liberalism” in the area of health care was hugely popular and that the path to political dominance for Obama and Democrats; and who, in February 2007, wrote that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” our modern-day Metternich insisted. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”

Such detached-from-reality insights continue apace. Earlier this year, for example, Chait wrote:

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

Of course; health-care reform has nothing to do with Obama’s plight or that of the Democratic Party. So sayeth The Great Chait.

Never mind that Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, analyzes the empirical data and declares that “the health overhaul remains a political loser in most of the country.” Or that Democratic pollster Doug Schoen writes that “recent polling shows that the [health care] bill has been a disaster for the party. … There may well be no single initiative as unpopular as the administration’s health care reform bill.” Or that Charlie Cook, who specializes in election forecasts and political trends, declared earlier this year that from a political perspective, pushing health care was a “colossal miscalculation.” Yet Chait – who doesn’t specialize in election forecasts or political trends – knows better.

And what should we make of the fact that by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters in Missouri voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law? Easy. “Missouri is not a ‘bellwether’ state right now,” Chait cheerfully informs us. Missouri, you see, has suddenly become Utah. And the individual mandate never was popular, don’t you know?

Chait has been reduced to arguing (ad nauseam) that Obama’s unpopularity has virtually nothing to do with Obama’s policies or his liberal ideology; it has to do with the very bad economy and those darn “structural factors.” Barack Obama is a fantastic president, you see; it’s just too bad the conditions in the country are miserable.

Jonathan has become something of an amusing read. It is not simply watching him try to twist reality to fit his ideological presuppositions, which is amusing enough; it is the whole packaged deal – the adolescent rage, exemplified in his “I hate Bush” rant, the playground taunts, the pretense of governing and policy expertise.

And there is the matter of Chait’s slightly peculiar personal obsessions. For example, he admits that one of his “guilty pleasures” is a “morbid fascination” with me and that one of his “shameful hobbies” is watching the “almost sensual pleasure” taken by me at the coming November elections – with the latter written under the headline “Wehner Throbs with Anticipation.” Now this doesn’t particularly bother me, but perhaps it should bother Mrs. Chait.

The New Republic was once the professional home to some of the nation’s preeminent intellectuals, public figures, and journalists. Today it provides a perch to Jonathan Chait, TNR’s version of Keith Olbermann

In a story in the Washington Examiner, Stephen Hess, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution, said Robert Gibbs’ remarks attacking the “professional left” shows how “unprepared” many in the Obama administration were for the rigors of the White House. “A lot of things had come too easy for them — a substantial election victory, and an almost messianic moment with the inauguration,” Hess said. “Governing is hard.”

The governing-is-hard theme is something some of us warned about a long time ago. And charting some of Obama’s early missteps caused commentators on the left, such as the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, enormous irritation. In May 2009 he wrote:

In anticipation of his prophesy coming true, [Wehner’s] blogging for Commentary has become a gleeful chronicle of Obama’s imagined descent into dysfunction and popular repudiation.

Well, now. The “imagined descent” into popular repudiation (and dysfunction, for that matter) is no longer imagined, is it?

Popular repudiation is precisely what Obama and Democrats are experiencing on a scale that is extremely rare — one the may prove to be unprecedented — for a president who has been in office for less than two years.

William Galston, who served in the Clinton administration, has warned his party that it might not only lose the House; its majority in the Senate is endangered, too. And the polarization some of us highlighted early on in Obama’s presidency was in fact on the mark. Chait dismissed the observation at the time, but then came (for Chait) a rather unfortunate Gallup survey released in January 2010, which reported that Barack Obama was the most polarizing first-year president in recorded history.

Now we should keep in mind that Chait is the same individual who, in December 2008, assured his readers that “undiluted liberalism” in the area of health care was hugely popular and that the path to political dominance for Obama and Democrats; and who, in February 2007, wrote that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” our modern-day Metternich insisted. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”

Such detached-from-reality insights continue apace. Earlier this year, for example, Chait wrote:

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

Of course; health-care reform has nothing to do with Obama’s plight or that of the Democratic Party. So sayeth The Great Chait.

Never mind that Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, analyzes the empirical data and declares that “the health overhaul remains a political loser in most of the country.” Or that Democratic pollster Doug Schoen writes that “recent polling shows that the [health care] bill has been a disaster for the party. … There may well be no single initiative as unpopular as the administration’s health care reform bill.” Or that Charlie Cook, who specializes in election forecasts and political trends, declared earlier this year that from a political perspective, pushing health care was a “colossal miscalculation.” Yet Chait – who doesn’t specialize in election forecasts or political trends – knows better.

And what should we make of the fact that by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters in Missouri voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law? Easy. “Missouri is not a ‘bellwether’ state right now,” Chait cheerfully informs us. Missouri, you see, has suddenly become Utah. And the individual mandate never was popular, don’t you know?

Chait has been reduced to arguing (ad nauseam) that Obama’s unpopularity has virtually nothing to do with Obama’s policies or his liberal ideology; it has to do with the very bad economy and those darn “structural factors.” Barack Obama is a fantastic president, you see; it’s just too bad the conditions in the country are miserable.

Jonathan has become something of an amusing read. It is not simply watching him try to twist reality to fit his ideological presuppositions, which is amusing enough; it is the whole packaged deal – the adolescent rage, exemplified in his “I hate Bush” rant, the playground taunts, the pretense of governing and policy expertise.

And there is the matter of Chait’s slightly peculiar personal obsessions. For example, he admits that one of his “guilty pleasures” is a “morbid fascination” with me and that one of his “shameful hobbies” is watching the “almost sensual pleasure” taken by me at the coming November elections – with the latter written under the headline “Wehner Throbs with Anticipation.” Now this doesn’t particularly bother me, but perhaps it should bother Mrs. Chait.

The New Republic was once the professional home to some of the nation’s preeminent intellectuals, public figures, and journalists. Today it provides a perch to Jonathan Chait, TNR’s version of Keith Olbermann

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

Flotsam and Jetsam

Ho-hum. After Journolist, a report that network execs ordered news staff to go easy on Obama doesn’t seem so shocking.

Same old. Harry Reid insults another ethnic minority group. Marco Rubio reams him, but where’s La Raza and MALDEF?

Yawn. Another horrific poll for the Democrats to ignore: “Among whites with less than a college education—a group the two parties split in the most-recent midterms—the GOP has a 16-point advantage, 49% to 33%, when voters were asked which party they wanted to control Congress. Republicans, meantime, are gaining ground on a number of issues that have traditionally been advantages for Democrats. More Americans now think the GOP would do a better job on the economy—an advantage the party last held briefly in 2004 but has not enjoyed consistently since the mid-1990s. On one of the Democrats’ core issues, Social Security, just 30% now think the party would do a better job than the GOP, compared to 26% who favor the Republicans. That margin was 28 points in 2006.”

Franco is still dead. And Congress is still unpopular. “Congress’ job rating from the American people in August remains near the historical lows seen in recent months. Nineteen percent of Americans now approve of the overall job Congress is doing, while 75% disapprove.”

Predictable. Democrats are in “panic” mode, Rep. Paul Ryan explains. “‘The Left sees their agenda being rebuked by the voters this fall,’ Ryan tells us. As their electoral worries mount, he says, Democrats are scurrying to ‘nullify any notion that there is an alternative path for America. They want to delegitimize an alternative plan and win the argument by default, making the case that there is no other path for America than what progressives have mapped out for the country, and that any other talk, of any other idea, is just fanciful. That’s what’s troubling,’ Ryan says. ‘They are trying to deny the debate that must happen if we are going to get out of the mess that we’re in.’”

Par for the course. This time using schoolyard taunts to demean the left, Robert Gibbs enrages Democrats trying to survive the coming electoral tsunami: “A number of liberal TV and radio hosts continued to process Gibbs’s comments on Wednesday, questioning everything from his motives to what effect his remarks could have on Democratic turn-out in the midterm elections. And despite several efforts at levity by the embattled press secretary at Wednesday’s briefing, a number of high-profile liberal commentators warned that Gibb’s remarks could harm liberal enthusiasm in the midterms.”

More of the same. “Reset” means a license for the Russian bear to go hunting: “Russia said on Wednesday it had deployed high-precision air defense missiles in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, sending a defiant signal to Tbilisi and the West two years after a war with Georgia. The formidable S-300 missile system bolstered Moscow’s military presence in the disputed territory and drew an angry response from Georgia.”

Cat still got his tongue? Obama silent on Ground Zero mosque.

Ho-hum. After Journolist, a report that network execs ordered news staff to go easy on Obama doesn’t seem so shocking.

Same old. Harry Reid insults another ethnic minority group. Marco Rubio reams him, but where’s La Raza and MALDEF?

Yawn. Another horrific poll for the Democrats to ignore: “Among whites with less than a college education—a group the two parties split in the most-recent midterms—the GOP has a 16-point advantage, 49% to 33%, when voters were asked which party they wanted to control Congress. Republicans, meantime, are gaining ground on a number of issues that have traditionally been advantages for Democrats. More Americans now think the GOP would do a better job on the economy—an advantage the party last held briefly in 2004 but has not enjoyed consistently since the mid-1990s. On one of the Democrats’ core issues, Social Security, just 30% now think the party would do a better job than the GOP, compared to 26% who favor the Republicans. That margin was 28 points in 2006.”

Franco is still dead. And Congress is still unpopular. “Congress’ job rating from the American people in August remains near the historical lows seen in recent months. Nineteen percent of Americans now approve of the overall job Congress is doing, while 75% disapprove.”

Predictable. Democrats are in “panic” mode, Rep. Paul Ryan explains. “‘The Left sees their agenda being rebuked by the voters this fall,’ Ryan tells us. As their electoral worries mount, he says, Democrats are scurrying to ‘nullify any notion that there is an alternative path for America. They want to delegitimize an alternative plan and win the argument by default, making the case that there is no other path for America than what progressives have mapped out for the country, and that any other talk, of any other idea, is just fanciful. That’s what’s troubling,’ Ryan says. ‘They are trying to deny the debate that must happen if we are going to get out of the mess that we’re in.’”

Par for the course. This time using schoolyard taunts to demean the left, Robert Gibbs enrages Democrats trying to survive the coming electoral tsunami: “A number of liberal TV and radio hosts continued to process Gibbs’s comments on Wednesday, questioning everything from his motives to what effect his remarks could have on Democratic turn-out in the midterm elections. And despite several efforts at levity by the embattled press secretary at Wednesday’s briefing, a number of high-profile liberal commentators warned that Gibb’s remarks could harm liberal enthusiasm in the midterms.”

More of the same. “Reset” means a license for the Russian bear to go hunting: “Russia said on Wednesday it had deployed high-precision air defense missiles in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, sending a defiant signal to Tbilisi and the West two years after a war with Georgia. The formidable S-300 missile system bolstered Moscow’s military presence in the disputed territory and drew an angry response from Georgia.”

Cat still got his tongue? Obama silent on Ground Zero mosque.

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

Wikibore

From the left, right, and center, we finally have consensus on Afghanistan — or at least the Wikileaks about Afghanistan. In short — as Max ably pointed out yesterday — so what? As the Washington Post editors note:

Though it may represent one of the most voluminous leaks of classified military information in U.S. history, the release by Wikileaks of 92,000 reports on the war in Afghanistan hardly merits the hype offered by the Web site’s founder. …

The Obama administration harshly condemned the release of documents, saying they “could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.” But that, too, seemed an exaggeration. Both Wikileaks and the news organizations said they had withheld documents and other information that might endanger individuals. On the whole, the reports appear likely to add modestly to public understanding of the war. But they are not likely to change many minds.

Bret Stephens was similarly bored by the Wikileaks “revelations”:

Innocent civilians become the tragic casualties of war. Insurgents plant thousands of IEDs. Special-ops teams hunt down insurgents. The Taliban may have a few Stinger missiles. Pakistan plays a double game with the Taliban. The U.S. government can’t keep its secrets. The New York Times has about as much regard for those secrets as a British tabloid has for a starlet’s privacy. The Obama administration blames everything on Bush. Is any of this news? Not exactly.

This is no doubt a downer to the antiwar left, which had hoped this would shock the administration, lawmakers, and the public, accelerating the demand for a quick retreat. But Americans know the war is tough, and are waiting — as they did on Iraq — for the administration to take charge and turn things around. There remains a curious void at the center of the Afghanistan operation — no commanding president to explain, cajole, and inspire. That void is filled with exaggerated news stories, gaffes, and leaks.

It would be helpful if the president — not Robert Gibbs, not Gen. David Petraeus, and not the media feeding frenzy — would set the tone of the debate and explain the stakes. Obama’s diminishing popularity and the impending backlash from an irate public will not make his task easier. Before he and the country are entirely absorbed by the November election, it might be a good idea for Obama to get out in front of the news, and not simply scramble to react to events.

From the left, right, and center, we finally have consensus on Afghanistan — or at least the Wikileaks about Afghanistan. In short — as Max ably pointed out yesterday — so what? As the Washington Post editors note:

Though it may represent one of the most voluminous leaks of classified military information in U.S. history, the release by Wikileaks of 92,000 reports on the war in Afghanistan hardly merits the hype offered by the Web site’s founder. …

The Obama administration harshly condemned the release of documents, saying they “could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.” But that, too, seemed an exaggeration. Both Wikileaks and the news organizations said they had withheld documents and other information that might endanger individuals. On the whole, the reports appear likely to add modestly to public understanding of the war. But they are not likely to change many minds.

Bret Stephens was similarly bored by the Wikileaks “revelations”:

Innocent civilians become the tragic casualties of war. Insurgents plant thousands of IEDs. Special-ops teams hunt down insurgents. The Taliban may have a few Stinger missiles. Pakistan plays a double game with the Taliban. The U.S. government can’t keep its secrets. The New York Times has about as much regard for those secrets as a British tabloid has for a starlet’s privacy. The Obama administration blames everything on Bush. Is any of this news? Not exactly.

This is no doubt a downer to the antiwar left, which had hoped this would shock the administration, lawmakers, and the public, accelerating the demand for a quick retreat. But Americans know the war is tough, and are waiting — as they did on Iraq — for the administration to take charge and turn things around. There remains a curious void at the center of the Afghanistan operation — no commanding president to explain, cajole, and inspire. That void is filled with exaggerated news stories, gaffes, and leaks.

It would be helpful if the president — not Robert Gibbs, not Gen. David Petraeus, and not the media feeding frenzy — would set the tone of the debate and explain the stakes. Obama’s diminishing popularity and the impending backlash from an irate public will not make his task easier. Before he and the country are entirely absorbed by the November election, it might be a good idea for Obama to get out in front of the news, and not simply scramble to react to events.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jestsam

Not like it’s out of the blue: “The number of U.S. Voters who view the issue of Taxes as Very Important has jumped 10 points from May to its highest level ever in Rasmussen Reports tracking. Still, Taxes rank fourth on a list of 10 issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.” Nothing like Democrats’ plan for a mammoth tax hike to raise the tax issue.

The administration is running out of spinners. Not even the New York Times will excuse this: “A prisoner who begs to stay indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay detention center rather than be sent back to Algeria probably has a strong reason to fear the welcoming reception at home. Abdul Aziz Naji, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2002, told the Obama administration that he would be tortured if he was transferred to Algeria, by either the Algerian government or fundamentalist groups there. Though he offered to remain at the prison, the administration shipped him home last weekend and washed its hands of the man. Almost immediately upon arrival, he disappeared, and his family fears the worst. It is an act of cruelty that seems to defy explanation.”

One hundred days out, things are looking pretty gloomy for the Democrats: “Republicans have been touting their chances of retaking the House and, despite their almost 2-to-1 financial disadvantage, many observers – including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – believe it’s a possibility.”

The Obami would be wise to get the whole story out: “Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison. … The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were ‘surprised, disappointed and angry’ to learn of Megrahi’s release.”

You sense the Democrats are going to get blown out of the water in November if Obama is still trying to win over the MoveOn.org crowd.

Jake Tapper goes out in style with a grilling of Timothy Geithner on letting the Bush tax cuts expire. (“Don’t you think it will slow economic growth?”) The show is about to become unwatchable with Christiane Amanpour as host.

On Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson and Bill Kristol agree that there’s no comparison between the administration and the media on Shirley Sherrod. The media showed itself to be irresponsible; the administration, out of its depth. Kristol: “I mean, the media — I was in the Reagan administration 25 years ago. The media reported things falsely. It’s not — this is not — this is nothing new. You’re — if you are the — a cabinet secretary, you have an obligation to the people working for you to make sure that the charges being leveled against them are true. And you can wait a day and, God, it would be horrible if Glenn Beck attacked the Obama administration for one show. That never happens, you know. I mean, the idea that you panic and fire someone based on one report that hadn’t been on television yet — right?”

A former Justice Department official says Democrats strain the outer limits of voters’ credulity if they claim ignorance of the New Black Panther scandal.

Not like it’s out of the blue: “The number of U.S. Voters who view the issue of Taxes as Very Important has jumped 10 points from May to its highest level ever in Rasmussen Reports tracking. Still, Taxes rank fourth on a list of 10 issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.” Nothing like Democrats’ plan for a mammoth tax hike to raise the tax issue.

The administration is running out of spinners. Not even the New York Times will excuse this: “A prisoner who begs to stay indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay detention center rather than be sent back to Algeria probably has a strong reason to fear the welcoming reception at home. Abdul Aziz Naji, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2002, told the Obama administration that he would be tortured if he was transferred to Algeria, by either the Algerian government or fundamentalist groups there. Though he offered to remain at the prison, the administration shipped him home last weekend and washed its hands of the man. Almost immediately upon arrival, he disappeared, and his family fears the worst. It is an act of cruelty that seems to defy explanation.”

One hundred days out, things are looking pretty gloomy for the Democrats: “Republicans have been touting their chances of retaking the House and, despite their almost 2-to-1 financial disadvantage, many observers – including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – believe it’s a possibility.”

The Obami would be wise to get the whole story out: “Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison. … The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were ‘surprised, disappointed and angry’ to learn of Megrahi’s release.”

You sense the Democrats are going to get blown out of the water in November if Obama is still trying to win over the MoveOn.org crowd.

Jake Tapper goes out in style with a grilling of Timothy Geithner on letting the Bush tax cuts expire. (“Don’t you think it will slow economic growth?”) The show is about to become unwatchable with Christiane Amanpour as host.

On Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson and Bill Kristol agree that there’s no comparison between the administration and the media on Shirley Sherrod. The media showed itself to be irresponsible; the administration, out of its depth. Kristol: “I mean, the media — I was in the Reagan administration 25 years ago. The media reported things falsely. It’s not — this is not — this is nothing new. You’re — if you are the — a cabinet secretary, you have an obligation to the people working for you to make sure that the charges being leveled against them are true. And you can wait a day and, God, it would be horrible if Glenn Beck attacked the Obama administration for one show. That never happens, you know. I mean, the idea that you panic and fire someone based on one report that hadn’t been on television yet — right?”

A former Justice Department official says Democrats strain the outer limits of voters’ credulity if they claim ignorance of the New Black Panther scandal.

Read Less

White House in Panic Mode

The flap over Shirley Sherrod’s not-actually-racist remarks and her subsequent firing has likely set a record. Robert Gibbs blew it. The Secretary of Agriculture blew it. The new and the old media blew it. The NAACP blew it. Based on a snippet of video, they all concluded she was a racist, and she was forced to resign. In fact, hers was a heartfelt discussion — that conversation on race Eric Holder pines for — of her own struggle to overcome prejudice and anger. Now the apologies are flying, the president called her personally, and she has a job offer from the Ag Department.

It was a mass jump-before-you-look exercise. The administration’s culpability, however, is greatest. We’ve unfortunately come to expect very little from the media, but the government — any employer, really — should act with a modicum of care before firing someone.

This is the second jump-to-conclusion-about-race goof of the Obama administration. Both errors entailed the rush to judgment (recall Obama said the police in Gatesgate had acted “stupidly”) when the mere whiff of racism wafted through the White House. The administration has not learned or improved since Gatesgate. To the contrary, this is a White House in a defensive crouch, frenzied and running scared. It is entirely reactive and unreasoned these days. It shows.

In the aftermath of the election, maybe the White House will settle down, get some adult supervision, and stop reinforcing voters’ fears that the administration is not competent enough to handle itself, let alone whole sectors of the economy.

The flap over Shirley Sherrod’s not-actually-racist remarks and her subsequent firing has likely set a record. Robert Gibbs blew it. The Secretary of Agriculture blew it. The new and the old media blew it. The NAACP blew it. Based on a snippet of video, they all concluded she was a racist, and she was forced to resign. In fact, hers was a heartfelt discussion — that conversation on race Eric Holder pines for — of her own struggle to overcome prejudice and anger. Now the apologies are flying, the president called her personally, and she has a job offer from the Ag Department.

It was a mass jump-before-you-look exercise. The administration’s culpability, however, is greatest. We’ve unfortunately come to expect very little from the media, but the government — any employer, really — should act with a modicum of care before firing someone.

This is the second jump-to-conclusion-about-race goof of the Obama administration. Both errors entailed the rush to judgment (recall Obama said the police in Gatesgate had acted “stupidly”) when the mere whiff of racism wafted through the White House. The administration has not learned or improved since Gatesgate. To the contrary, this is a White House in a defensive crouch, frenzied and running scared. It is entirely reactive and unreasoned these days. It shows.

In the aftermath of the election, maybe the White House will settle down, get some adult supervision, and stop reinforcing voters’ fears that the administration is not competent enough to handle itself, let alone whole sectors of the economy.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Worst press secretary in recent memory? Chris Cillizza says he is at least the winner of the “worst week” designation: “It took only 17 words ['there is no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control' of the House] for White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to set off the circular firing squad. … Republicans, meanwhile, could barely contain their glee at seeing their message — ‘We can take the House back, really, we can’ — seconded by the official White House mouthpiece.”

Worst Middle East diplomacy rebuke to date? “Fatah spokesperson Muhammad Dahlan announced that Fatah had rejected the U.S.’s offer Saturday to broker direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Worst political advice to Obama? Mark Penn suggests: “Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.” You understand how Hillary lost the nomination.

Worst column ever from James Fallows? He hopes Dick Cheney recovers so he can change his mind and undermine all his prior views.

Worst political problem for Obama? Howard Fineman says it’s the loss of independent voters: “The Democrats’ support among this group has fallen to as low as 35 percent in some polls. The reasons are clear. They do not believe that Obama’s actions have produced results — and for these practical voters, nothing else matters. The $787 billion stimulus bill is widely regarded as an expensive, unfocused dud, even when measured against the cautious claims the Obama camp originally made for it. Health-care reform remains, for most voters, a 2,000-page, impenetrable, and largely irrelevant mystery. The BP oil spill has hurt Obama’s ability to fend off GOP charges that he’s ineffective as a leader.”

Worst thing Israel could do regarding Iran? In a definitive analysis of Israel’s options, Reuel Marc Gerecht argues it would be to do nothing: “Without a raid, if the Iranians get the bomb, Europe’s appeasement reflex will kick in and the EU sanctions regime will collapse, leaving the Americans alone to contain the Islamic Republic. Most of the Gulf Arabs will probably kowtow to Persia, having more fear of Iran than confidence in the defensive assurances of the United States. And Sunni Arabs who don’t view an Iranian bomb as a plus for the Muslim world will, at daunting speed, become much more interested in ‘nuclear energy’; the Saudis, who likely helped Islamabad go nuclear, will just call in their chits with the Pakistani military.” The best option, of course, would be for the U.S. to act, but that seems unlikely.

Worst time to have an electoral wipe-out? In a Census year: “Big Republican gains in November [in state legislative races] could have lasting consequences. Legislators elected in the fall will redraw congressional boundaries next year. Control over the redistricting process could sway outcomes in dozens of districts over the next decade. ‘If you’re going to have a good year, have it in a year that ends in zero,’ says Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman who is heading up the GOP’s state-level efforts this year.”

Worst Justice Department in history? No contest. The latest: “One of the nation’s leading producers of X-rated videos, John Stagliano, was acquitted on federal obscenity charges Friday afternoon after a series of stumbles by the prosecution. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the acquittal of Stagliano and two companies related to his Evil Angel studio on a defense motion before the defense presented any rebuttal to several days of evidence from the Justice Department. Leon called the government’s case ‘woefully lacking’ or ‘woefully inadequate,’ depending on whose account you follow.”

Worst press secretary in recent memory? Chris Cillizza says he is at least the winner of the “worst week” designation: “It took only 17 words ['there is no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control' of the House] for White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to set off the circular firing squad. … Republicans, meanwhile, could barely contain their glee at seeing their message — ‘We can take the House back, really, we can’ — seconded by the official White House mouthpiece.”

Worst Middle East diplomacy rebuke to date? “Fatah spokesperson Muhammad Dahlan announced that Fatah had rejected the U.S.’s offer Saturday to broker direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Worst political advice to Obama? Mark Penn suggests: “Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.” You understand how Hillary lost the nomination.

Worst column ever from James Fallows? He hopes Dick Cheney recovers so he can change his mind and undermine all his prior views.

Worst political problem for Obama? Howard Fineman says it’s the loss of independent voters: “The Democrats’ support among this group has fallen to as low as 35 percent in some polls. The reasons are clear. They do not believe that Obama’s actions have produced results — and for these practical voters, nothing else matters. The $787 billion stimulus bill is widely regarded as an expensive, unfocused dud, even when measured against the cautious claims the Obama camp originally made for it. Health-care reform remains, for most voters, a 2,000-page, impenetrable, and largely irrelevant mystery. The BP oil spill has hurt Obama’s ability to fend off GOP charges that he’s ineffective as a leader.”

Worst thing Israel could do regarding Iran? In a definitive analysis of Israel’s options, Reuel Marc Gerecht argues it would be to do nothing: “Without a raid, if the Iranians get the bomb, Europe’s appeasement reflex will kick in and the EU sanctions regime will collapse, leaving the Americans alone to contain the Islamic Republic. Most of the Gulf Arabs will probably kowtow to Persia, having more fear of Iran than confidence in the defensive assurances of the United States. And Sunni Arabs who don’t view an Iranian bomb as a plus for the Muslim world will, at daunting speed, become much more interested in ‘nuclear energy’; the Saudis, who likely helped Islamabad go nuclear, will just call in their chits with the Pakistani military.” The best option, of course, would be for the U.S. to act, but that seems unlikely.

Worst time to have an electoral wipe-out? In a Census year: “Big Republican gains in November [in state legislative races] could have lasting consequences. Legislators elected in the fall will redraw congressional boundaries next year. Control over the redistricting process could sway outcomes in dozens of districts over the next decade. ‘If you’re going to have a good year, have it in a year that ends in zero,’ says Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman who is heading up the GOP’s state-level efforts this year.”

Worst Justice Department in history? No contest. The latest: “One of the nation’s leading producers of X-rated videos, John Stagliano, was acquitted on federal obscenity charges Friday afternoon after a series of stumbles by the prosecution. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the acquittal of Stagliano and two companies related to his Evil Angel studio on a defense motion before the defense presented any rebuttal to several days of evidence from the Justice Department. Leon called the government’s case ‘woefully lacking’ or ‘woefully inadequate,’ depending on whose account you follow.”

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.