Commentary Magazine


Topic: Robert Gibbs

Flotsam and Jetsam

If you give the liberal newspapers 11 months, they will eventually catch up with conservative media.

If you give Jonathan Chait a lifetime, he never will. Refusal to pursue voter-intimidation cases against nonwhite people, he says, is a “tiny matter.” (Does he know that it’s not just Fox that’s covering the scandal but the Washington Post too?)

If they gave grades for charm, Nancy Pelosi would be failing: “While trying to mend ties between her caucus and the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned her ire toward her Senate colleagues on Thursday, blaming Senate delays in passing the Democratic agenda for the disappointing jobs picture heading into the midterm elections.”

If you keep hoping for Peter Beinart to write something that is factually supported and more than an ad hominem attack on conservatives, you’ll be disappointed. He says Republicans think you have to be Christian to be American. Or something. No, don’t read the whole thing. Or any of it.

If you think liberals aren’t angst-ridden, think again. Greg Sargent complains about Robert Gibbs’s comment on losing the House: “[I]t’s pretty clear now that Dems have good reason to be furious about Gibbs’s misstep. It has forced a days-long media process story about whether they’re going to lose the House and about tensions between them and the White House. This is happening just when Dems are trying to turn the spotlight away from themselves and onto Republicans in order to persuade voters that this fall’s elections represent a choice between competing governing philosophies.”

If you also thought it was bizarre that Obama was invoking race to explain why al-Qaeda kills Africans, you are in good company. Charles Krauthammer: “I found a more interesting element in the interview when he said al-Qaeda doesn’t respect African life. I mean, it doesn’t respect Indonesian life, Pakistani life, Iraqi life, American life. Of course it doesn’t respect African life, but it’s not because of race. It doesn’t respect anyone or any organization, any people who won’t accept the extreme interpretation of Islam and the bringing on of one rule under sharia.”

If Republicans are doing this well in fundraising, you have to think they’re going to do very well in November. (That sure was the pattern for Democrats in 2008.) “Republicans are outraising Democrats in nearly a dozen open Senate races, increasing their hopes of significantly narrowing the Democrats’ majority in November.”

If you like a good news story: “A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers. Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006.” You might want to avert your eyes from the photo, however.

 

If you give the liberal newspapers 11 months, they will eventually catch up with conservative media.

If you give Jonathan Chait a lifetime, he never will. Refusal to pursue voter-intimidation cases against nonwhite people, he says, is a “tiny matter.” (Does he know that it’s not just Fox that’s covering the scandal but the Washington Post too?)

If they gave grades for charm, Nancy Pelosi would be failing: “While trying to mend ties between her caucus and the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned her ire toward her Senate colleagues on Thursday, blaming Senate delays in passing the Democratic agenda for the disappointing jobs picture heading into the midterm elections.”

If you keep hoping for Peter Beinart to write something that is factually supported and more than an ad hominem attack on conservatives, you’ll be disappointed. He says Republicans think you have to be Christian to be American. Or something. No, don’t read the whole thing. Or any of it.

If you think liberals aren’t angst-ridden, think again. Greg Sargent complains about Robert Gibbs’s comment on losing the House: “[I]t’s pretty clear now that Dems have good reason to be furious about Gibbs’s misstep. It has forced a days-long media process story about whether they’re going to lose the House and about tensions between them and the White House. This is happening just when Dems are trying to turn the spotlight away from themselves and onto Republicans in order to persuade voters that this fall’s elections represent a choice between competing governing philosophies.”

If you also thought it was bizarre that Obama was invoking race to explain why al-Qaeda kills Africans, you are in good company. Charles Krauthammer: “I found a more interesting element in the interview when he said al-Qaeda doesn’t respect African life. I mean, it doesn’t respect Indonesian life, Pakistani life, Iraqi life, American life. Of course it doesn’t respect African life, but it’s not because of race. It doesn’t respect anyone or any organization, any people who won’t accept the extreme interpretation of Islam and the bringing on of one rule under sharia.”

If Republicans are doing this well in fundraising, you have to think they’re going to do very well in November. (That sure was the pattern for Democrats in 2008.) “Republicans are outraising Democrats in nearly a dozen open Senate races, increasing their hopes of significantly narrowing the Democrats’ majority in November.”

If you like a good news story: “A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers. Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006.” You might want to avert your eyes from the photo, however.

 

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Obama’s Blame Game

“I tell you, it’s very frustrating that it’s not breaking through, when you look at these things and their scale,” said a top Obama adviser, speaking on background to Politico. “Can you imagine if Bill Clinton had achieved even one of these? Part of it is because we are divided, even on the left. … And part of it is the culture of immediate gratification.”

Let’s see if we can follow the bouncing ball.

First, the White House blamed Obama’s predecessor and the Republicans for everything that is wrong with America, from unemployment to profligate spending to diaper rash. Last November, David Axelrod felt he had to remind people that the president is “not a magician. You don’t with a wave of a wand make everything different.” This past June, President Obama offered the American people this piercing insight: “Even though I’m president of the United States, my power is not limitless.” And now, we are told by top Obama aides that they are frustrated because Obama isn’t getting his proper due. The problem doesn’t have to do with their policies, you see; it has to do with “the culture of immediate gratification.”

How difficult it must be for a demigod to be walking among mere mortals. And how frustrating it must be for Barack the Great to have done so many things so well, for the country to be prospering so much under his stewardship — and yet he doesn’t seem to get any credit for it. The world can be such a thankless and ungrateful place.

The truth is that this is all getting rather pathetic. The Democratic Party is heading for a historical repudiation in November. The White House and the Democrats on Capitol Hill are turning on each other. Obama’s press spokesman, Robert Gibbs, admits that there is “no doubt” the Republicans could regain control of the House, while former Clinton adviser William Galston is predicting that the Democrats may well lose the Senate. “If you ask me where the silver lining is for President Obama, I have to say I cannot see one,” said Galston.

What we are seeing is a president and a White House of unusual — and very nearly otherworldly — hubris being beaten down by events. Reality is slowly crushing the Obama presidency. Its policies are failing, its popularity is sinking, its excuses aren’t working, and its incompetence is showing. Yet the administration appears incapable of admitting – even to itself, even in quiet moments – that it has made mistakes, that it may be wrong, that it may be on the wrong track.

All of this, in turn, is creating considerable cognitive dissonance among Obama, his advisers, and many of his supporters. They cannot deny they are in trouble; but they continue to deny they are responsible for causing any of it. So the fault lies with Bush, or the Republicans, or the ridiculously high expectations of the public, or divisions within the Democratic Party, or with the “culture of immediate gratification.”

What President Obama desperately needs is someone with standing in his life to intervene – to say to him that the fault, dear Barack, lies not with our stars but rather with yourself and with your policies.

I rather doubt this will happen; and even if it did, I rather doubt Obama would accept any part of the critique. He is a man, after all, who sees himself as a world historical figure, as America’s philosopher-king, as Socrates on the Potomac. It is not simply that he doesn’t seem able to see his own flaws and shortcomings; it is as if he could not even process the possibility that they exist.

This is not going to end well.

“I tell you, it’s very frustrating that it’s not breaking through, when you look at these things and their scale,” said a top Obama adviser, speaking on background to Politico. “Can you imagine if Bill Clinton had achieved even one of these? Part of it is because we are divided, even on the left. … And part of it is the culture of immediate gratification.”

Let’s see if we can follow the bouncing ball.

First, the White House blamed Obama’s predecessor and the Republicans for everything that is wrong with America, from unemployment to profligate spending to diaper rash. Last November, David Axelrod felt he had to remind people that the president is “not a magician. You don’t with a wave of a wand make everything different.” This past June, President Obama offered the American people this piercing insight: “Even though I’m president of the United States, my power is not limitless.” And now, we are told by top Obama aides that they are frustrated because Obama isn’t getting his proper due. The problem doesn’t have to do with their policies, you see; it has to do with “the culture of immediate gratification.”

How difficult it must be for a demigod to be walking among mere mortals. And how frustrating it must be for Barack the Great to have done so many things so well, for the country to be prospering so much under his stewardship — and yet he doesn’t seem to get any credit for it. The world can be such a thankless and ungrateful place.

The truth is that this is all getting rather pathetic. The Democratic Party is heading for a historical repudiation in November. The White House and the Democrats on Capitol Hill are turning on each other. Obama’s press spokesman, Robert Gibbs, admits that there is “no doubt” the Republicans could regain control of the House, while former Clinton adviser William Galston is predicting that the Democrats may well lose the Senate. “If you ask me where the silver lining is for President Obama, I have to say I cannot see one,” said Galston.

What we are seeing is a president and a White House of unusual — and very nearly otherworldly — hubris being beaten down by events. Reality is slowly crushing the Obama presidency. Its policies are failing, its popularity is sinking, its excuses aren’t working, and its incompetence is showing. Yet the administration appears incapable of admitting – even to itself, even in quiet moments – that it has made mistakes, that it may be wrong, that it may be on the wrong track.

All of this, in turn, is creating considerable cognitive dissonance among Obama, his advisers, and many of his supporters. They cannot deny they are in trouble; but they continue to deny they are responsible for causing any of it. So the fault lies with Bush, or the Republicans, or the ridiculously high expectations of the public, or divisions within the Democratic Party, or with the “culture of immediate gratification.”

What President Obama desperately needs is someone with standing in his life to intervene – to say to him that the fault, dear Barack, lies not with our stars but rather with yourself and with your policies.

I rather doubt this will happen; and even if it did, I rather doubt Obama would accept any part of the critique. He is a man, after all, who sees himself as a world historical figure, as America’s philosopher-king, as Socrates on the Potomac. It is not simply that he doesn’t seem able to see his own flaws and shortcomings; it is as if he could not even process the possibility that they exist.

This is not going to end well.

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Round One of the Blame Game

The food fight between the White House and House Democrats has turned into a full-blown brawl. This report explains:

House Democrats are lashing out at the White House, venting long-suppressed anger over what they see as President Obama’s lukewarm efforts to help them win reelection — and accusing administration officials of undermining the party’s chances of retaining the majority in November’s midterm elections. … The boiling point came Tuesday night during a closed-door meeting of House Democrats in the Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) excoriated White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’s public comments over the weekend that the House majority was in doubt and that it would take “strong campaigns by Democrats” to avert dramatic losses. “What the hell do they think we’ve been doing the last 12 months? We’re the ones who have been taking the tough votes,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (N.J.) said in an interview Wednesday.

It’s devolved into a sibling-like rivalry. (“Another Democratic official, familiar with White House strategy, said that there is a “misperception” among House Democrats that Obama, a former senator, favors his old chamber over the House. The official placed the blame largely on polling data that continue to show the president and Congress in poor shape.”)

There are two noteworthy aspects to all this. First, as Pete and I observed yesterday, its a sign of the abject panic that has gripped Democrats. A party does not behave this way when things are going well. This is the first round of the blame game, which will officially start after the November election returns are in.

And more important, all the participants in this free-for-all are dancing around the real issue. The problem is not the number of campaign fundraisers Obama has held for Democrats. Nor is it favoritism for one house of Congress over another. It’s not even the lack of common courtesy shown by the White House, which seems to be an equal-opportunity insulter (Bibi, Democrats, the public, Republicans, the press, etc.). No, the unspoken but very obvious source of the angst is that the Obama agenda has driven the party into a ditch.

Democratic lawmakers have no one to blame but themselves on this one. They could have bucked their president, but instead they allowed themselves to be led around by the nose. And lo and behold, they are now all in a heap of political trouble. There are consequences in a democracy for using parliamentary tactics to jam through an agenda to which a majority of the citizenry object. The Democrats are getting a taste of it now. Imagine when they have to digest the election results.

The food fight between the White House and House Democrats has turned into a full-blown brawl. This report explains:

House Democrats are lashing out at the White House, venting long-suppressed anger over what they see as President Obama’s lukewarm efforts to help them win reelection — and accusing administration officials of undermining the party’s chances of retaining the majority in November’s midterm elections. … The boiling point came Tuesday night during a closed-door meeting of House Democrats in the Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) excoriated White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’s public comments over the weekend that the House majority was in doubt and that it would take “strong campaigns by Democrats” to avert dramatic losses. “What the hell do they think we’ve been doing the last 12 months? We’re the ones who have been taking the tough votes,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (N.J.) said in an interview Wednesday.

It’s devolved into a sibling-like rivalry. (“Another Democratic official, familiar with White House strategy, said that there is a “misperception” among House Democrats that Obama, a former senator, favors his old chamber over the House. The official placed the blame largely on polling data that continue to show the president and Congress in poor shape.”)

There are two noteworthy aspects to all this. First, as Pete and I observed yesterday, its a sign of the abject panic that has gripped Democrats. A party does not behave this way when things are going well. This is the first round of the blame game, which will officially start after the November election returns are in.

And more important, all the participants in this free-for-all are dancing around the real issue. The problem is not the number of campaign fundraisers Obama has held for Democrats. Nor is it favoritism for one house of Congress over another. It’s not even the lack of common courtesy shown by the White House, which seems to be an equal-opportunity insulter (Bibi, Democrats, the public, Republicans, the press, etc.). No, the unspoken but very obvious source of the angst is that the Obama agenda has driven the party into a ditch.

Democratic lawmakers have no one to blame but themselves on this one. They could have bucked their president, but instead they allowed themselves to be led around by the nose. And lo and behold, they are now all in a heap of political trouble. There are consequences in a democracy for using parliamentary tactics to jam through an agenda to which a majority of the citizenry object. The Democrats are getting a taste of it now. Imagine when they have to digest the election results.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

I suppose the GOP isn’t dead in New England. All four Republican Senate candidates lead Democrat Paul Hodes.

I suppose Obama could be the teacher-in-chief about the evils of anti-Semitism, like he is the explainer-in-chief about Islam. Instead, he’s delegated it to a low-level flunky who’s introduced with inappropriate humor by Hillary Clinton. (Not clear if she cackled as well.)

I suppose there’s some rationale for Rand Paul’s telling us he’s not being as “forthright” as his father. I just can’t think of what it might be.

I suppose nothing will move Obama to leave the UN Human Rights Council. Not even the latest episode in the Goldstone Report — the effort  “to monitor and assess all judicial and other proceedings taken by Israel to respond to the General Assembly’s endorsement of the Goldstone report and its long list of supposed Israeli crimes.” Anne Bayefsky has the goods on the council members and concludes: “The only way to respond is to challenge the legal bona fides of the report and its progeny and expose the venality of the political agenda inseparable from them. The case must begin by refusing to lend any credence to this latest mutation of the UN virus.” Leaving the council would help, but don’t get your hopes up that Obama and Hillary will carry through on pretty promises to defend Israel in international bodies.

I suppose the administration assumes this sort of thing helps: “The Obama Administration said today that its economic policies, especially the Recovery Act, have boosted growth and employment in the United States at a pace quicker than anticipated.” The average person, I think, concludes instead that they are out to lunch.

I suppose the Democrats are in full panic mode: “The House Natural Resources Committee has joined a Senate panel in approving the creation of a bipartisan oil spill commission that would effectively compete against President Obama’s.” They’ve figured out that agreeing to anything with Obama’s name attached is hazardous to their political health.

I suppose when the president is about to drag his party under, there are bound to be spats: “The White House is pushing back against complaints from House Democrats that President Obama is undermining their prospects for 2010 with a memo authored by a senior administration official detailing what the White House is doing to preserve control of Congress. … The barely-veiled reminder was circulated among senior Democrats in Washington on Tuesday, including on Capitol Hill. It was written just hours before Speaker Nancy Pelosi and angry members of her caucus lashed out at the chief House liaison for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ admission Sunday on ‘Meet the Press’ that Democrats could lose the House.” Not on the White House “look what we’ve done for the ingrates” list: passing ObamaCare, running up the debt, raising taxes. And frankly, the thought of Obama coming to their districts to campaign at their side probably makes most Democrats retch at this point.

I suppose the GOP isn’t dead in New England. All four Republican Senate candidates lead Democrat Paul Hodes.

I suppose Obama could be the teacher-in-chief about the evils of anti-Semitism, like he is the explainer-in-chief about Islam. Instead, he’s delegated it to a low-level flunky who’s introduced with inappropriate humor by Hillary Clinton. (Not clear if she cackled as well.)

I suppose there’s some rationale for Rand Paul’s telling us he’s not being as “forthright” as his father. I just can’t think of what it might be.

I suppose nothing will move Obama to leave the UN Human Rights Council. Not even the latest episode in the Goldstone Report — the effort  “to monitor and assess all judicial and other proceedings taken by Israel to respond to the General Assembly’s endorsement of the Goldstone report and its long list of supposed Israeli crimes.” Anne Bayefsky has the goods on the council members and concludes: “The only way to respond is to challenge the legal bona fides of the report and its progeny and expose the venality of the political agenda inseparable from them. The case must begin by refusing to lend any credence to this latest mutation of the UN virus.” Leaving the council would help, but don’t get your hopes up that Obama and Hillary will carry through on pretty promises to defend Israel in international bodies.

I suppose the administration assumes this sort of thing helps: “The Obama Administration said today that its economic policies, especially the Recovery Act, have boosted growth and employment in the United States at a pace quicker than anticipated.” The average person, I think, concludes instead that they are out to lunch.

I suppose the Democrats are in full panic mode: “The House Natural Resources Committee has joined a Senate panel in approving the creation of a bipartisan oil spill commission that would effectively compete against President Obama’s.” They’ve figured out that agreeing to anything with Obama’s name attached is hazardous to their political health.

I suppose when the president is about to drag his party under, there are bound to be spats: “The White House is pushing back against complaints from House Democrats that President Obama is undermining their prospects for 2010 with a memo authored by a senior administration official detailing what the White House is doing to preserve control of Congress. … The barely-veiled reminder was circulated among senior Democrats in Washington on Tuesday, including on Capitol Hill. It was written just hours before Speaker Nancy Pelosi and angry members of her caucus lashed out at the chief House liaison for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ admission Sunday on ‘Meet the Press’ that Democrats could lose the House.” Not on the White House “look what we’ve done for the ingrates” list: passing ObamaCare, running up the debt, raising taxes. And frankly, the thought of Obama coming to their districts to campaign at their side probably makes most Democrats retch at this point.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Did Obama mention this in Cairo? “A group of young Saudi men have launched a campaign to convince Saudi men of the unappreciated virtues of polygamy.  It is a response to young Saudi women uninterested in joining a polygamous marriage, older Saudi women divorcees and Saudi men unable or unwilling to support more than one woman. The campaign seeks to counter what Saudi traditionalists see as an increasingly negative stigma attached to polygamy.”

Did Democratic lawmakers actually buy the notion that the American people would learn to love ObamaCare? “Almost four months after the passage of major health care legislation, the law remains unpopular with the public. Nearly half of Americans (47%) disapprove of the health care law while just 35% approve of the measure. An overwhelming proportion of opponents of health care legislation — 37% of the public overall — favor repealing the legislation as soon as possible. Just 7% say they want to let the law stand and see how it works. Public opinion toward health care legislation remained very stable in the months leading up to the bill’s passage, and that has continued to be the case.” That miscalculation will likely end more than a few political careers.

Did you expect anything else? “South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is sending strong signals that he may again buck his party and become the lone GOP senator on the Judiciary Committee to vote for Elena Kagan to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.”

Did Gen. Stanley McChrystal do us all a big favor? Gallup reports: “[Gen. David Petraeus] takes his new job as commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan with a remarkably positive image among Americans who know who he is. At the same time, Petraeus now faces the additional challenge of commanding a mission that the majority of Americans say is going badly. Americans’ views of the situation in Iraq improved during and after Petraeus’ tenure as commander in that country. The degree to which Petraeus will be able to shift Americans’ perceptions of the war in Afghanistan in similar fashion will have important consequences in many arenas, including the politics of the war in the U.S.”

Did you think in November 2008 that Barbara Boxer would now be in a toss-up race?

Did he check with Robert Gibbs? “House Majority Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) became the latest Democratic leader to voice confidence that the party will hold its majority in the House this fall.”

Did Robert Reich ever sound so smart? “Democrats have been almost as reluctant to attack inequality or even to recognize it as the central economic and social problem of our age. … As money has risen to the top, so has political power. Politicians are more dependent than ever on big money for their campaigns. … Today’s cash comes in the form of ever increasing campaign donations from corporate executives and Wall Street, their ever larger platoons of lobbyists and their hordes of PR flacks.” Hence, the “major fault line in American politics is no longer between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, but between the ‘establishment’ and an increasingly mad-as-hell populace determined to ‘take back America’ from it.”

Did Obama mention this in Cairo? “A group of young Saudi men have launched a campaign to convince Saudi men of the unappreciated virtues of polygamy.  It is a response to young Saudi women uninterested in joining a polygamous marriage, older Saudi women divorcees and Saudi men unable or unwilling to support more than one woman. The campaign seeks to counter what Saudi traditionalists see as an increasingly negative stigma attached to polygamy.”

Did Democratic lawmakers actually buy the notion that the American people would learn to love ObamaCare? “Almost four months after the passage of major health care legislation, the law remains unpopular with the public. Nearly half of Americans (47%) disapprove of the health care law while just 35% approve of the measure. An overwhelming proportion of opponents of health care legislation — 37% of the public overall — favor repealing the legislation as soon as possible. Just 7% say they want to let the law stand and see how it works. Public opinion toward health care legislation remained very stable in the months leading up to the bill’s passage, and that has continued to be the case.” That miscalculation will likely end more than a few political careers.

Did you expect anything else? “South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is sending strong signals that he may again buck his party and become the lone GOP senator on the Judiciary Committee to vote for Elena Kagan to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.”

Did Gen. Stanley McChrystal do us all a big favor? Gallup reports: “[Gen. David Petraeus] takes his new job as commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan with a remarkably positive image among Americans who know who he is. At the same time, Petraeus now faces the additional challenge of commanding a mission that the majority of Americans say is going badly. Americans’ views of the situation in Iraq improved during and after Petraeus’ tenure as commander in that country. The degree to which Petraeus will be able to shift Americans’ perceptions of the war in Afghanistan in similar fashion will have important consequences in many arenas, including the politics of the war in the U.S.”

Did you think in November 2008 that Barbara Boxer would now be in a toss-up race?

Did he check with Robert Gibbs? “House Majority Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) became the latest Democratic leader to voice confidence that the party will hold its majority in the House this fall.”

Did Robert Reich ever sound so smart? “Democrats have been almost as reluctant to attack inequality or even to recognize it as the central economic and social problem of our age. … As money has risen to the top, so has political power. Politicians are more dependent than ever on big money for their campaigns. … Today’s cash comes in the form of ever increasing campaign donations from corporate executives and Wall Street, their ever larger platoons of lobbyists and their hordes of PR flacks.” Hence, the “major fault line in American politics is no longer between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, but between the ‘establishment’ and an increasingly mad-as-hell populace determined to ‘take back America’ from it.”

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Robert Gibbs at It Again

One way in which press secretary Robert Gibbs resembles his boss, the president, is that the weaker the case they have, the more petulant and smug they both become. We saw that behavior play out again yesterday, when Gibbs was asked about the recess appointment of Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees approximately one third of all health-care spending in the United States.

Dr. Berwick is controversial because he has spoken as a besotted lover of the British health-care system. “I am romantic about the National Health Service,” he said in 2008, referring to the British single-payer system. “I love it.” Dr. Berwick went on to call it “such a seductress” and “a global treasure.” On rationing care, Dr. Berwick said that, “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.” He has argued that one of “the primary functions” of health regulation is “to constrain decentralized, individual decision making” and “to weigh public welfare against the choices of private consumers.” And Dr. Berwick insists that, “any health-care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must — must — redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate.” (For a fuller examination of Dr. Berwick’s views, see this and this.)

Now, it may be that Dr. Berwick’s views are reasonable and defensible. It may be that his quotes have been taken out of context. It may even be that Dr. Berwick is the perfect person for this job. That is what hearings are meant to determine. Yet the hearings have been bypassed.

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer blamed Republicans. “Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points,” Pfeiffer said. “But with the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors’ care under the Affordable Care Act, there’s no time to waste with Washington game-playing.”

Like so much of what the Obama administration says, this charge is flat out false. It is not the GOP that is playing games but rather the White House. As ABC’s Jake Tapper reported last week:

Republicans were not delaying or stalling Berwick’s nomination. Indeed, they were eager for his hearing, hoping to assail Berwick’s past statements about health-care rationing and his praise for the British health care system. … speaking not for attribution, Democratic officials say that neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., nor Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, were eager for an ugly confirmation fight four months before the midterm elections.

Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said that, “The nomination hasn’t been held up by Republicans in Congress and to say otherwise is misleading.” He said he requested that a hearing take place weeks ago, before this recess.

It’s obvious what’s going on here. The Obama administration is afraid to engage in another debate about ObamaCare, having been trounced in the past. The president’s team fears that Dr. Berwick’s comments are both too controversial and too revealing. So Obama decided to skip the nomination hearing. The administration, unable to defend its actions, offers up — in the person of Robert Gibbs — a testy and transparently silly explanation of its position. What Gibbs cannot answer is this: If Dr. Berwick is so qualified, why not have the hearing and, if Republicans in fact attempt to block his nomination, recess appoint him in August? Why not allow Dr. Berwick to explain, in a public setting, what his true views are?

Gibbs, unable to provide a reasonable response to these questions, reverts to behavior that seems to be a second nature to him: condescension, mockery, brittleness. And, of course, he must reach for the requisite straw man (in this instance, portraying his critics as involved in a conspiracy theory).

I imagine there have been more off-putting press secretaries than Mr. Gibbs. I just can’t think of who they might be.

One way in which press secretary Robert Gibbs resembles his boss, the president, is that the weaker the case they have, the more petulant and smug they both become. We saw that behavior play out again yesterday, when Gibbs was asked about the recess appointment of Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees approximately one third of all health-care spending in the United States.

Dr. Berwick is controversial because he has spoken as a besotted lover of the British health-care system. “I am romantic about the National Health Service,” he said in 2008, referring to the British single-payer system. “I love it.” Dr. Berwick went on to call it “such a seductress” and “a global treasure.” On rationing care, Dr. Berwick said that, “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.” He has argued that one of “the primary functions” of health regulation is “to constrain decentralized, individual decision making” and “to weigh public welfare against the choices of private consumers.” And Dr. Berwick insists that, “any health-care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must — must — redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate.” (For a fuller examination of Dr. Berwick’s views, see this and this.)

Now, it may be that Dr. Berwick’s views are reasonable and defensible. It may be that his quotes have been taken out of context. It may even be that Dr. Berwick is the perfect person for this job. That is what hearings are meant to determine. Yet the hearings have been bypassed.

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer blamed Republicans. “Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points,” Pfeiffer said. “But with the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors’ care under the Affordable Care Act, there’s no time to waste with Washington game-playing.”

Like so much of what the Obama administration says, this charge is flat out false. It is not the GOP that is playing games but rather the White House. As ABC’s Jake Tapper reported last week:

Republicans were not delaying or stalling Berwick’s nomination. Indeed, they were eager for his hearing, hoping to assail Berwick’s past statements about health-care rationing and his praise for the British health care system. … speaking not for attribution, Democratic officials say that neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., nor Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, were eager for an ugly confirmation fight four months before the midterm elections.

Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said that, “The nomination hasn’t been held up by Republicans in Congress and to say otherwise is misleading.” He said he requested that a hearing take place weeks ago, before this recess.

It’s obvious what’s going on here. The Obama administration is afraid to engage in another debate about ObamaCare, having been trounced in the past. The president’s team fears that Dr. Berwick’s comments are both too controversial and too revealing. So Obama decided to skip the nomination hearing. The administration, unable to defend its actions, offers up — in the person of Robert Gibbs — a testy and transparently silly explanation of its position. What Gibbs cannot answer is this: If Dr. Berwick is so qualified, why not have the hearing and, if Republicans in fact attempt to block his nomination, recess appoint him in August? Why not allow Dr. Berwick to explain, in a public setting, what his true views are?

Gibbs, unable to provide a reasonable response to these questions, reverts to behavior that seems to be a second nature to him: condescension, mockery, brittleness. And, of course, he must reach for the requisite straw man (in this instance, portraying his critics as involved in a conspiracy theory).

I imagine there have been more off-putting press secretaries than Mr. Gibbs. I just can’t think of who they might be.

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Sometimes the Sky Really Is Falling

Once upon a time conservatives who, as far back as last year, analyzed polling data and political trends and argued what was fairly obvious — that Democrats were in a perilous political position and in danger of losing the House — were mocked by Obama courtiers in the press for declaring, “The sky is falling!” Now, as Jennifer points out, comes confirmation from President Obama’s own spokesman that indeed the sky is falling. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Robert Gibbs declared:

I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall.  But I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control.

And in his Washington Post column, E.J. Dionne Jr. – as reliable a liberal supporter of Obama as you will find — offers the same warning:

If the midterm elections were held now, Republicans would likely take control of the House of the Representatives.  It’s as hard these days to find a Democrat who’s not alarmed as it is to find a Cleveland Cavaliers fan who’s cheering for LeBron James.

The explanations Democrats and liberals offer for why they are in this predicament (a “communications” problem, a “false narrative” that has taken hold, the failure to spend more money on the stimulus package, a bad economy that is entirely unconnected to Obama’s policies, and so forth) are flawed and at times comical. Still, the fact that some of Obama’s strongest supporters now acknowledge the depth of opposition to his policies and the battering that awaits Democrats is, I suppose, a good thing. Reality trumping self-delusion usually is. But anticipating a political drubbing is one thing; being on the receiving end of it will be quite another.

Wait until November 3 to see what I mean.

Once upon a time conservatives who, as far back as last year, analyzed polling data and political trends and argued what was fairly obvious — that Democrats were in a perilous political position and in danger of losing the House — were mocked by Obama courtiers in the press for declaring, “The sky is falling!” Now, as Jennifer points out, comes confirmation from President Obama’s own spokesman that indeed the sky is falling. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Robert Gibbs declared:

I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall.  But I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control.

And in his Washington Post column, E.J. Dionne Jr. – as reliable a liberal supporter of Obama as you will find — offers the same warning:

If the midterm elections were held now, Republicans would likely take control of the House of the Representatives.  It’s as hard these days to find a Democrat who’s not alarmed as it is to find a Cleveland Cavaliers fan who’s cheering for LeBron James.

The explanations Democrats and liberals offer for why they are in this predicament (a “communications” problem, a “false narrative” that has taken hold, the failure to spend more money on the stimulus package, a bad economy that is entirely unconnected to Obama’s policies, and so forth) are flawed and at times comical. Still, the fact that some of Obama’s strongest supporters now acknowledge the depth of opposition to his policies and the battering that awaits Democrats is, I suppose, a good thing. Reality trumping self-delusion usually is. But anticipating a political drubbing is one thing; being on the receiving end of it will be quite another.

Wait until November 3 to see what I mean.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Pay attention to how Obama behaves, not what he says.

Pay attention to the wailing on the left. “For many liberals, this is the summer of their discontent. Already disappointed with President Barack Obama’s ability to deliver on campaign promises, they now contemplate a slowing economic recovery and a good chance of Republican gains in November. Such developments would make enacting Obama’s agenda even more difficult.” It makes you wonder just how low Democratic turnout will be in November.

Pay attention to the circular firing squad — further evidence of the political damage Obama has wreaked on his party. “Democratic governors facing grim budget choices, lingering unemployment and angry voters are pointing a finger at their colleagues in Democratic-controlled Washington to explain this year’s toxic political climate. Few will directly fault President Barack Obama for their party’s plight heading into the fall midterm elections, but the state chief executives gathered here for the National Governors Association meeting believe Congress and the White House have made an already difficult year worse.”

Pay attention to how expectations have been lowered by the White House. Robert Gibbs on Meet the Press: “I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall.  But I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control. There’s no doubt about that. This will depend on strong campaigns by Democrats.” Notice how he shifts the onus to Democrats to save themselves from the negative impact of Obama.

Pay attention to the numbers. No matter how negative Obama’s rhetoric becomes, Mark McKinnon explains that: “It may not matter. The Democratic base is just not energized, unmoved by tired clichés and campaign retreads all about looking back. Blaming George W. Bush won’t help. About 132 million people voted in 2008. And if history repeats itself in the upcoming midterm elections, up to 40 million of them won’t show up again. Chances are many were one-time Obama voters.”

Pay attention to George Will on the “peace process”: “The Palestinians are holding out hoping that American pressure will be put on Israel to make concessions that they should be trying to get at the negotiating table, which makes me think that, once again, the peace process itself is the biggest impediment to peace. We’re constantly lecturing the Israelis, for whom getting up in the morning and getting on a bus can be a risk, that they ought to take a risk for peace. The Israelis say, we withdrew from Gaza. What did it get us? Hamas took over. We now have a terrorist state in Gaza armed with all kinds of rockets. We withdrew from southern Lebanon. Now we have Hezbollah dominating that with 65,000 short-range rockets and now scuds coming from Syria that can hit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.”

Pay attention – always — to Paul. “The mystic mollusc confirmed his flawless accuracy after Spain lifted the trophy, beating Holland 1-0. Paul has become England’s only hero of the tournament after accurately foretelling the result of all six matches involving Germany.”

Pay attention, Republican office holders, to Chris Christie. He’s got the right idea — be bold. “New Jersey would close its centralized car inspection lanes and motorists would pay for their own emissions tests under a sweeping set of recommendations set to be released by the Christie administration today. State parks, psychiatric hospitals and even turnpike toll booths could also be run by private operators, according to the 57-page report on privatization obtained by The Star-Ledger. Preschool classrooms would no longer be built at public expense, state employees would pay for parking and private vendors would dish out food, deliver health care and run education programs behind prison walls. All told, the report says, New Jersey could save at least $210 million a year by delivering an array of services through private hands.”

Pay attention to how Obama behaves, not what he says.

Pay attention to the wailing on the left. “For many liberals, this is the summer of their discontent. Already disappointed with President Barack Obama’s ability to deliver on campaign promises, they now contemplate a slowing economic recovery and a good chance of Republican gains in November. Such developments would make enacting Obama’s agenda even more difficult.” It makes you wonder just how low Democratic turnout will be in November.

Pay attention to the circular firing squad — further evidence of the political damage Obama has wreaked on his party. “Democratic governors facing grim budget choices, lingering unemployment and angry voters are pointing a finger at their colleagues in Democratic-controlled Washington to explain this year’s toxic political climate. Few will directly fault President Barack Obama for their party’s plight heading into the fall midterm elections, but the state chief executives gathered here for the National Governors Association meeting believe Congress and the White House have made an already difficult year worse.”

Pay attention to how expectations have been lowered by the White House. Robert Gibbs on Meet the Press: “I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall.  But I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control. There’s no doubt about that. This will depend on strong campaigns by Democrats.” Notice how he shifts the onus to Democrats to save themselves from the negative impact of Obama.

Pay attention to the numbers. No matter how negative Obama’s rhetoric becomes, Mark McKinnon explains that: “It may not matter. The Democratic base is just not energized, unmoved by tired clichés and campaign retreads all about looking back. Blaming George W. Bush won’t help. About 132 million people voted in 2008. And if history repeats itself in the upcoming midterm elections, up to 40 million of them won’t show up again. Chances are many were one-time Obama voters.”

Pay attention to George Will on the “peace process”: “The Palestinians are holding out hoping that American pressure will be put on Israel to make concessions that they should be trying to get at the negotiating table, which makes me think that, once again, the peace process itself is the biggest impediment to peace. We’re constantly lecturing the Israelis, for whom getting up in the morning and getting on a bus can be a risk, that they ought to take a risk for peace. The Israelis say, we withdrew from Gaza. What did it get us? Hamas took over. We now have a terrorist state in Gaza armed with all kinds of rockets. We withdrew from southern Lebanon. Now we have Hezbollah dominating that with 65,000 short-range rockets and now scuds coming from Syria that can hit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.”

Pay attention – always — to Paul. “The mystic mollusc confirmed his flawless accuracy after Spain lifted the trophy, beating Holland 1-0. Paul has become England’s only hero of the tournament after accurately foretelling the result of all six matches involving Germany.”

Pay attention, Republican office holders, to Chris Christie. He’s got the right idea — be bold. “New Jersey would close its centralized car inspection lanes and motorists would pay for their own emissions tests under a sweeping set of recommendations set to be released by the Christie administration today. State parks, psychiatric hospitals and even turnpike toll booths could also be run by private operators, according to the 57-page report on privatization obtained by The Star-Ledger. Preschool classrooms would no longer be built at public expense, state employees would pay for parking and private vendors would dish out food, deliver health care and run education programs behind prison walls. All told, the report says, New Jersey could save at least $210 million a year by delivering an array of services through private hands.”

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Did Obama Try to Cover Up His Blago Contacts?

As the Obama team left for Christmas vacation in December 2008, they issued a report on its internal investigation (the administration has continued its habit of exonerating itself of scandals such as the Andrew Romanoff and Joe Sestak job offers) denying that Obama had any contact with Gov. Rod Blagojevich or his staff on the subject of his Senate replacement. Greg Craig’s memo stated:

The accounts support your statement on December 11, 2008 that you “have never spoken to the Governor on this subject [or] about these issues,” and that you “had no contact with the Governor’s office.” In addition, the accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office about a “deal” or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy. … The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat. In various conversations with transition staff and others, the President-Elect expressed his preference that Valerie Jarrett work with him in the White House. He also stated that he would neither stand in her way if she wanted to pursue the Senate seat nor actively seek to have her or any other particular candidate appointed to the vacancy.

Under oath, a union official at Blago’s trial has now testified that Obama made his preferences clear:

In testimony at Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial, Tom Balanoff said Obama — speaking a day before his Nov. 8, 2008 triumph in the presidential election — said that [Valerie] Jarrett wanted the job and was qualified, although he wanted her to join him in the White House. Balanoff, a close Obama ally and top official with the Service Employees International Union in Chicago, said Blagojevich countered by suggesting Obama appoint him Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Robert Gibbs brushed off inquiries on the testimony — hasn’t been keeping up with the trial, he says. This is ludicrous. Either the transition team and the president-elect weren’t straight with the American public or Balanoff lied under oath. And Obama is a potential witness, perhaps the only one who can help the jury decide which it is. This is not a small matter.

Now was Greg Craig playing it cute when he said that the “President-elect had no contact or communication,” because Obama wasn’t president-elect when the call was made? Well, no. In his introductory paragraph, he says Obama’s statement that he “never” had contact with Blago was true. Were they playing a Clinton-esque word game, given that Balanoff was an emissary but not on Blago’s staff? Perhaps, but whatever Craig was trying to pull, Obama gave the country the distinct impression that he had no communications with the Blago camp on the Senate pick.

The Washington press corps rolled over when the incident first surfaced and showed zero interest in following up on the many questions the review left open. The media can redeem themselves by refusing to allow Gibbs to get away with his usual dodge-the-tricky-questions game. And the president, when next he appears, should be queried on whether he really did talk to Blago’s union pal and whether he later tried to deceive the American people.

The unpleasant image of Chicago pols running their backroom deals before and after they arrived in the Oval Office is not one that the president wants to take hold. The president is low on credibility these days, and refusing to put this matter to rest isn’t going to improve things. It’s time to come clean — on this and the Sestak and Romanoff deals.

As the Obama team left for Christmas vacation in December 2008, they issued a report on its internal investigation (the administration has continued its habit of exonerating itself of scandals such as the Andrew Romanoff and Joe Sestak job offers) denying that Obama had any contact with Gov. Rod Blagojevich or his staff on the subject of his Senate replacement. Greg Craig’s memo stated:

The accounts support your statement on December 11, 2008 that you “have never spoken to the Governor on this subject [or] about these issues,” and that you “had no contact with the Governor’s office.” In addition, the accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office about a “deal” or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy. … The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat. In various conversations with transition staff and others, the President-Elect expressed his preference that Valerie Jarrett work with him in the White House. He also stated that he would neither stand in her way if she wanted to pursue the Senate seat nor actively seek to have her or any other particular candidate appointed to the vacancy.

Under oath, a union official at Blago’s trial has now testified that Obama made his preferences clear:

In testimony at Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial, Tom Balanoff said Obama — speaking a day before his Nov. 8, 2008 triumph in the presidential election — said that [Valerie] Jarrett wanted the job and was qualified, although he wanted her to join him in the White House. Balanoff, a close Obama ally and top official with the Service Employees International Union in Chicago, said Blagojevich countered by suggesting Obama appoint him Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Robert Gibbs brushed off inquiries on the testimony — hasn’t been keeping up with the trial, he says. This is ludicrous. Either the transition team and the president-elect weren’t straight with the American public or Balanoff lied under oath. And Obama is a potential witness, perhaps the only one who can help the jury decide which it is. This is not a small matter.

Now was Greg Craig playing it cute when he said that the “President-elect had no contact or communication,” because Obama wasn’t president-elect when the call was made? Well, no. In his introductory paragraph, he says Obama’s statement that he “never” had contact with Blago was true. Were they playing a Clinton-esque word game, given that Balanoff was an emissary but not on Blago’s staff? Perhaps, but whatever Craig was trying to pull, Obama gave the country the distinct impression that he had no communications with the Blago camp on the Senate pick.

The Washington press corps rolled over when the incident first surfaced and showed zero interest in following up on the many questions the review left open. The media can redeem themselves by refusing to allow Gibbs to get away with his usual dodge-the-tricky-questions game. And the president, when next he appears, should be queried on whether he really did talk to Blago’s union pal and whether he later tried to deceive the American people.

The unpleasant image of Chicago pols running their backroom deals before and after they arrived in the Oval Office is not one that the president wants to take hold. The president is low on credibility these days, and refusing to put this matter to rest isn’t going to improve things. It’s time to come clean — on this and the Sestak and Romanoff deals.

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Beyond Sanctions

There was bipartisan praise for the sanctions resolution that emerged from the long-delayed House-Senate conference committee. AIPAC cheered the passage of the “toughest sanctions ever passed.” Its news release asserted:

The new legislation seeks to exploit Iranian economic vulnerabilities in order to persuade Iran’s regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism. CISAD [the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act] explicitly targets the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), requiring financial sanctions on entities that facilitate any IRGC activity. CISAD also mandates broad financial sanctions on any entity involved with Iran’s nuclear weapons program or support for terrorism. CISAD seeks to limit investments in Iran’s energy sector by sanctioning offending companies and barring them from federal contracts. The bill presumes denial of export licenses to countries permitting sensitive technology diversions to Iran. CISAD also prohibits U.S. nuclear technology export licenses to any country assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit.

CISAD provides the President with a narrow diplomatic window to significantly curb Iran’s refined petroleum imports and its ability to expand its own refinery operations; if diplomacy fails, the President must impose sanctions on companies in violation of CISAD.

But what do sanctions really mean at this stage? Not all that much, as this report explains:

Senior US officials have acknowledged that newly imposed sanctions against Iran would not be enough to end its quest for nuclear capabilities, but told Congress that the approach was bearing fruit.

“It will certainly not change the calculations of the Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea,” William Burns, under-secretary for political affairs at the State Department, said of US-backed sanctions passed by the UN Security Council earlier this month during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But it is a mark of the potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now under way.”

And the administration still wishes to see changes to the sanctions deal:

“We will continue to work with the Congress over the coming days as it finalizes work on this important bill, and in our ongoing efforts to hold Iran accountable,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in a statement.

The administration has long had reservations that the legislation would restrict the president’s ability to provide exemptions to countries considered helpful on international sanctions and which he would not want to alienate.

“It is no secret that our international partners contain their enthusiasm for extra-territorial applications of US legislation, and that’s why we continue to work closely with you and your colleagues to try to ensure that the measures are going to be targeted in a way that maximizes the goal here,” Burns told the Senate panel.

So to sum up, we have UN sanctions and are on the verge of passing unilateral sanctions. What we don’t have is an effective, timely means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. As Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative explained via e-mail, “The bottom line with this is that it is good it is finally moving and will become law, but in reality, the impact will be minimal.”

We had other options — vigorous support for the Green Movement, a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, and the use of force (or the realistic threat of force) — but instead Obama chose prolonged “engagement” and sanctions that are unlikely to slow progress on Iran’s nuclear program.

The administration must now be pressed to answer two questions: how will we know if sanctions are working? And what are we prepared to do if they don’t? One suspects the administration doesn’t have a ready answer for either and that neither Congress nor Jewish groups are all that eager to pose them. But both lawmakers and Jewish groups need to keep their eyes on the ball. The goal here was not to pass sanctions; the goal was to stop Iran from going nuclear. The former is means to the end, although “smart” diplomats often get confused when asked to distinguish between lovely paper documents and effective policy.

Those who cannot conceive of an effective “containment” policy for a nuclear Iran had better think ahead. Unless they begin to forcefully press the administration to think about options if and when sanctions fail and to commit to supporting Israel in the event that the Jewish state is forced to act on its own, they will be ill prepared for the day when Obama, as he certainly will,  moves from deterrence to containment and announces: “We tried everything we could but we told you sanctions might not work.”

There was bipartisan praise for the sanctions resolution that emerged from the long-delayed House-Senate conference committee. AIPAC cheered the passage of the “toughest sanctions ever passed.” Its news release asserted:

The new legislation seeks to exploit Iranian economic vulnerabilities in order to persuade Iran’s regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism. CISAD [the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act] explicitly targets the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), requiring financial sanctions on entities that facilitate any IRGC activity. CISAD also mandates broad financial sanctions on any entity involved with Iran’s nuclear weapons program or support for terrorism. CISAD seeks to limit investments in Iran’s energy sector by sanctioning offending companies and barring them from federal contracts. The bill presumes denial of export licenses to countries permitting sensitive technology diversions to Iran. CISAD also prohibits U.S. nuclear technology export licenses to any country assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit.

CISAD provides the President with a narrow diplomatic window to significantly curb Iran’s refined petroleum imports and its ability to expand its own refinery operations; if diplomacy fails, the President must impose sanctions on companies in violation of CISAD.

But what do sanctions really mean at this stage? Not all that much, as this report explains:

Senior US officials have acknowledged that newly imposed sanctions against Iran would not be enough to end its quest for nuclear capabilities, but told Congress that the approach was bearing fruit.

“It will certainly not change the calculations of the Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea,” William Burns, under-secretary for political affairs at the State Department, said of US-backed sanctions passed by the UN Security Council earlier this month during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But it is a mark of the potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now under way.”

And the administration still wishes to see changes to the sanctions deal:

“We will continue to work with the Congress over the coming days as it finalizes work on this important bill, and in our ongoing efforts to hold Iran accountable,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in a statement.

The administration has long had reservations that the legislation would restrict the president’s ability to provide exemptions to countries considered helpful on international sanctions and which he would not want to alienate.

“It is no secret that our international partners contain their enthusiasm for extra-territorial applications of US legislation, and that’s why we continue to work closely with you and your colleagues to try to ensure that the measures are going to be targeted in a way that maximizes the goal here,” Burns told the Senate panel.

So to sum up, we have UN sanctions and are on the verge of passing unilateral sanctions. What we don’t have is an effective, timely means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. As Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative explained via e-mail, “The bottom line with this is that it is good it is finally moving and will become law, but in reality, the impact will be minimal.”

We had other options — vigorous support for the Green Movement, a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, and the use of force (or the realistic threat of force) — but instead Obama chose prolonged “engagement” and sanctions that are unlikely to slow progress on Iran’s nuclear program.

The administration must now be pressed to answer two questions: how will we know if sanctions are working? And what are we prepared to do if they don’t? One suspects the administration doesn’t have a ready answer for either and that neither Congress nor Jewish groups are all that eager to pose them. But both lawmakers and Jewish groups need to keep their eyes on the ball. The goal here was not to pass sanctions; the goal was to stop Iran from going nuclear. The former is means to the end, although “smart” diplomats often get confused when asked to distinguish between lovely paper documents and effective policy.

Those who cannot conceive of an effective “containment” policy for a nuclear Iran had better think ahead. Unless they begin to forcefully press the administration to think about options if and when sanctions fail and to commit to supporting Israel in the event that the Jewish state is forced to act on its own, they will be ill prepared for the day when Obama, as he certainly will,  moves from deterrence to containment and announces: “We tried everything we could but we told you sanctions might not work.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not any doubt where Obama’s priorities lie. And thankfully, not everyone is confused as to who’s responsible for the flotilla incident. “Turkey sends a thugs bunch of Jew-baiting Al-Qaeda friendly street-fighters on a floating lynch party and the one party chided by name is … Israel. Well, those pesky facts aren’t too hard to pin down Mr. President–the folks you’ve pinned your peace hopes on are laughing in your face and rolling you like a duck pin.”

Not a good sign when Iran’s assessment is saner than Obama’s: “Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resolutions such as the one passed by the U.N. Security Council today ‘have no value … it is like a used handkerchief that should be thrown in the waste bin.'”

Not holding my breath: “The main issues inside the conference still include whether and how to meet the Obama administration’s demand for an exemption from new sanctions for countries that are deemed to be ‘cooperating’ with U.S. efforts. Republican lawmakers worry that the White House will use that to broadly exempt some of Iran closest business partners, such as Russia and China. ‘It is clear the president’s policy has failed. It is now time for the Congress to approve the Iran sanctions bill currently in conference committee, without watering it down or plugging it full of loopholes, and then the president should actually use it,’ said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-AZ.”

Not even her Washington Post colleagues can stomach Katrina vanden Heuvel’s “Bush is a Nazi” rant: “Mengele and his cohorts performed grotesque operations that left his victims with permanent physical, emotional and psychological scars — if they were lucky enough to survive. Most did not. Sometimes death was the objective; he would at times kill his ‘patients’ so that he could get right to the business of dissecting the body. This is monstrous. This is evil incarnate. This is not what the Bush administration did.” Why would the Post editors allow someone who can’t grasp this to write for them? (Really, a single Nation is one too many. Her role in the persecution of a Soviet dissident was covered by COMMENTARY in June 1988.)

Not a day on which this headline is inapt: “Beinart Gets It Wrong Again.” Hard to believe he knows even less about U.S. politics than he does Israeli politics, isn’t it?

Not every Democrat has lost his moral compass: “A member of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s staff, himself a former major and judge advocate in the U.S. Marines, is calling Blumenthal a liar and disgrace to the Marine Corps for representing himself repeatedly as having served in Vietnam.”

Not a friend in sight: “As Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) pivots from her surprise primary victory on Tuesday night to her general election run against Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark), she finds herself deserted both by traditional allies and outside groups that helped her win the nomination.” ( h/t Ben Smith)

Not going to waste time or money on her: “It’s nice for Blanche Lincoln that she won the runoff in Arkansas last night but I hope that no groups that care about getting Democratic Senators elected spend another dollar in the state this year. That doesn’t have anything to do with her ideology — judging her worthwhileness there is not part of my job as a pollster — but there are just a boatload of races where Democrats have a better chance to win this fall and could use their resources more wisely.”

Not winning support: “Though the vast majority of voters remain confident that Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, the number who oppose her confirmation has risen to its highest level to date. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 33% think Kagan should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. But 41% do not think she should be confirmed.”

Not a class act: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday there have been no second thoughts over President Obama’s coarse language directed at oil giant BP earlier in the week. ‘No, I have not heard any regrets about the language,’ Gibbs told reporters in his daily White House briefing.”

Not only Andrew Sullivan is obsessed with Sarah Palin’s breasts.

Not rallying around this character: “Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler asked Alvin Greene to withdraw from the race for US Senate. Greene, a resident of Manning S.C., was the apparent winner of the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in yesterday’s primary. Since the election, the Associated Press has revealed that Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity after showing obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student.”

Not any doubt where Obama’s priorities lie. And thankfully, not everyone is confused as to who’s responsible for the flotilla incident. “Turkey sends a thugs bunch of Jew-baiting Al-Qaeda friendly street-fighters on a floating lynch party and the one party chided by name is … Israel. Well, those pesky facts aren’t too hard to pin down Mr. President–the folks you’ve pinned your peace hopes on are laughing in your face and rolling you like a duck pin.”

Not a good sign when Iran’s assessment is saner than Obama’s: “Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resolutions such as the one passed by the U.N. Security Council today ‘have no value … it is like a used handkerchief that should be thrown in the waste bin.'”

Not holding my breath: “The main issues inside the conference still include whether and how to meet the Obama administration’s demand for an exemption from new sanctions for countries that are deemed to be ‘cooperating’ with U.S. efforts. Republican lawmakers worry that the White House will use that to broadly exempt some of Iran closest business partners, such as Russia and China. ‘It is clear the president’s policy has failed. It is now time for the Congress to approve the Iran sanctions bill currently in conference committee, without watering it down or plugging it full of loopholes, and then the president should actually use it,’ said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-AZ.”

Not even her Washington Post colleagues can stomach Katrina vanden Heuvel’s “Bush is a Nazi” rant: “Mengele and his cohorts performed grotesque operations that left his victims with permanent physical, emotional and psychological scars — if they were lucky enough to survive. Most did not. Sometimes death was the objective; he would at times kill his ‘patients’ so that he could get right to the business of dissecting the body. This is monstrous. This is evil incarnate. This is not what the Bush administration did.” Why would the Post editors allow someone who can’t grasp this to write for them? (Really, a single Nation is one too many. Her role in the persecution of a Soviet dissident was covered by COMMENTARY in June 1988.)

Not a day on which this headline is inapt: “Beinart Gets It Wrong Again.” Hard to believe he knows even less about U.S. politics than he does Israeli politics, isn’t it?

Not every Democrat has lost his moral compass: “A member of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s staff, himself a former major and judge advocate in the U.S. Marines, is calling Blumenthal a liar and disgrace to the Marine Corps for representing himself repeatedly as having served in Vietnam.”

Not a friend in sight: “As Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) pivots from her surprise primary victory on Tuesday night to her general election run against Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark), she finds herself deserted both by traditional allies and outside groups that helped her win the nomination.” ( h/t Ben Smith)

Not going to waste time or money on her: “It’s nice for Blanche Lincoln that she won the runoff in Arkansas last night but I hope that no groups that care about getting Democratic Senators elected spend another dollar in the state this year. That doesn’t have anything to do with her ideology — judging her worthwhileness there is not part of my job as a pollster — but there are just a boatload of races where Democrats have a better chance to win this fall and could use their resources more wisely.”

Not winning support: “Though the vast majority of voters remain confident that Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, the number who oppose her confirmation has risen to its highest level to date. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 33% think Kagan should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. But 41% do not think she should be confirmed.”

Not a class act: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday there have been no second thoughts over President Obama’s coarse language directed at oil giant BP earlier in the week. ‘No, I have not heard any regrets about the language,’ Gibbs told reporters in his daily White House briefing.”

Not only Andrew Sullivan is obsessed with Sarah Palin’s breasts.

Not rallying around this character: “Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler asked Alvin Greene to withdraw from the race for US Senate. Greene, a resident of Manning S.C., was the apparent winner of the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in yesterday’s primary. Since the election, the Associated Press has revealed that Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity after showing obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student.”

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We Don’t Need Clint Eastwood

It’s now come to this.

In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, President Obama said this:

I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar; we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose a** to kick.

This burst of a**-kicking anger comes after the White House leaked to the media that:

To those tasked with keeping the president apprised of the disaster, Obama’s clenched jaw is becoming an increasingly familiar sight. During one of those sessions in the Oval Office the first week after the spill, a president who rarely vents his frustration cut his aides short, according to one who was there.

“Plug the damn hole,” Obama told them.

And this, in turn, came after Senior White House aide David Axelrod told Bloomberg that the president’s outrage over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has reached “the upper scale” and is directed at both BP and federal regulators:

“His anger and frustration about those things, and his anger and frustration about any attempt to obfuscate the amount of damage that’s been done by the company is great,” Axelrod said in an interview. … Axelrod said the president’s outrage was “pretty great” when he learned of some of the “shortcomings” at the Minerals Management Service and its “coziness” with an industry it’s supposed to regulate. The president’s chief political adviser declined to quote Obama’s words, saying: “Knowing that Bloomberg is a family news service, I can’t share with you what he said.”

Just in case any of this has been lost on us, Robert Gibbs insisted that his boss was “enraged” at BP. CBS News’s Chip Reid asked Gibbs: “Have we really seen rage from the president on this? I think most people would say no.”

“I’ve seen rage from him, Chip,” Gibbs said. “I have.”

Message: I’m angry. I’m really, really anger. In fact, I’m “plug-the-damn-hole-and-whose-damn-a**-can-I-kick” angry.

This is what an impotent and increasingly desperate White House does when it has nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. It hopes that the public will grade Obama on his emotions rather than his managerial skills. But it won’t work. Having blasted the previous administration over its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and having insisted weeks ago that the federal government is firmly in control of this ecological catastrophe, the president will be judged – fairly or not – on the outcome of the oil spill. He owns it.

It is a characteristic of modern liberalism to want to be judged on feelings and intentions rather than on results and outcomes, on subjective emotions rather than on objective achievements. But many people will react to this PR offensive by wondering just how important Barack Obama’s emotional thermostat is in light of this unprecedented environmental disaster. Maureen Dowd may rank it high, but I’m not sure too many others do.

In attempting to create an image of America’s enraged commander in chief, the White House is jettisoning what was supposed to be one of the president’s impressive attributes: his calm demeanor, his detachment, his first-rate temperament. They are trying to remake Barack Obama to fit this moment. But it comes across to me, and I suspect to others, as somewhat forced, contrived, and inauthentic. It is a sign of a president who is thrashing about, frustrated he cannot extricate himself from an event that he cannot control and that is doing untold damage to him.

In the midst of this childish spin game, a person with standing in Obama’s life might whisper to him: “Mr. President, we already have one Clinton Eastwood. We don’t need you play-acting like you’re another.”

It’s now come to this.

In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, President Obama said this:

I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar; we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose a** to kick.

This burst of a**-kicking anger comes after the White House leaked to the media that:

To those tasked with keeping the president apprised of the disaster, Obama’s clenched jaw is becoming an increasingly familiar sight. During one of those sessions in the Oval Office the first week after the spill, a president who rarely vents his frustration cut his aides short, according to one who was there.

“Plug the damn hole,” Obama told them.

And this, in turn, came after Senior White House aide David Axelrod told Bloomberg that the president’s outrage over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has reached “the upper scale” and is directed at both BP and federal regulators:

“His anger and frustration about those things, and his anger and frustration about any attempt to obfuscate the amount of damage that’s been done by the company is great,” Axelrod said in an interview. … Axelrod said the president’s outrage was “pretty great” when he learned of some of the “shortcomings” at the Minerals Management Service and its “coziness” with an industry it’s supposed to regulate. The president’s chief political adviser declined to quote Obama’s words, saying: “Knowing that Bloomberg is a family news service, I can’t share with you what he said.”

Just in case any of this has been lost on us, Robert Gibbs insisted that his boss was “enraged” at BP. CBS News’s Chip Reid asked Gibbs: “Have we really seen rage from the president on this? I think most people would say no.”

“I’ve seen rage from him, Chip,” Gibbs said. “I have.”

Message: I’m angry. I’m really, really anger. In fact, I’m “plug-the-damn-hole-and-whose-damn-a**-can-I-kick” angry.

This is what an impotent and increasingly desperate White House does when it has nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. It hopes that the public will grade Obama on his emotions rather than his managerial skills. But it won’t work. Having blasted the previous administration over its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and having insisted weeks ago that the federal government is firmly in control of this ecological catastrophe, the president will be judged – fairly or not – on the outcome of the oil spill. He owns it.

It is a characteristic of modern liberalism to want to be judged on feelings and intentions rather than on results and outcomes, on subjective emotions rather than on objective achievements. But many people will react to this PR offensive by wondering just how important Barack Obama’s emotional thermostat is in light of this unprecedented environmental disaster. Maureen Dowd may rank it high, but I’m not sure too many others do.

In attempting to create an image of America’s enraged commander in chief, the White House is jettisoning what was supposed to be one of the president’s impressive attributes: his calm demeanor, his detachment, his first-rate temperament. They are trying to remake Barack Obama to fit this moment. But it comes across to me, and I suspect to others, as somewhat forced, contrived, and inauthentic. It is a sign of a president who is thrashing about, frustrated he cannot extricate himself from an event that he cannot control and that is doing untold damage to him.

In the midst of this childish spin game, a person with standing in Obama’s life might whisper to him: “Mr. President, we already have one Clinton Eastwood. We don’t need you play-acting like you’re another.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It took too long, but the myth of Obama’s competence is crumbling: “The WH political shop leaves much to be desired. Take your pick as to which is worse: The fact that Pres. Obama’s team opened itself up to GOP ridicule over feelers it put out to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) and ex-CO House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D); the fact that those feelers didn’t actually work, displaying an ineptness absent during George W. Bush’s tenure; or the fact that the WH has gone more than a week without being able to move past the story.”

It took too long, but the Obama spin on the economic “recovery” is no longer carrying the day: “Private employers did little hiring last month, undermining hopes that the economic recovery was gathering pace and helping send U.S. stocks down more than 3% on the day. The Labor Department said Friday that 431,000 jobs were added in May. But the vast majority were temporary workers hired by the government to conduct the 2010 Census. Private-sector employment rose by only 41,000, the smallest monthly increase since January. Without faster private-sector job growth, the U.S. faces a bumpy recovery restrained by households with little income to spend.”

It took too long, but even the New York Times has stopped shilling for Obama with respect to the economy: “President Obama tried to put a gloss on the jobs report, telling workers at a trucking company in Hyattsville, Md., that the numbers showed an economy that was ‘getting stronger by the day.’ Mr. Obama mentioned that Census Bureau hiring accounted for most of the new jobs, but he added that the nation had added jobs for each of the last five months. ‘These numbers do mean that we are moving in the right direction,’ he said. ‘There are going to be ups and downs.’ In fact, the May figures suggested a job market wheezing after months of more vigorous growth.”

It took too long, but the Washington Post is calling for transparency on the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff job offers:”Is President Obama comfortable with the actions of White House officials in dangling federal jobs as political inducements? An episode involving former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) is more troubling than the previously disclosed incident involving Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.). . .  White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Obama did not know about the Romanoff overtures in advance, and Mr. Gibbs blew off questions about his reaction by saying he hadn’t discussed the matter with the president. That’s not sufficient. The American people deserve to hear directly from the president about whether he is happy with this behavior.”

It took too long, but an advocate for Israel emerges in the administration: “Biden’s instinctive embrace of Israel at a moment it was under fire from the international community was the most vivid example yet of Biden’s emergence as the West Wing’s most prominent public supporter of the Jewish state. ” Too bad Obama isn’t and he ignores most of what Biden says.

It took too long, but foreign-policy gurus across the political spectrum are complaining that “when it comes to the question of democracy in the Muslim world, many see a U.S. administration more keen to reinforce status quo support for authoritarian regimes than to push for meaningful political reform.”

It took too long, but cranky Republicans are admitting that, “after this Obama nightmare, the Bush brand is looking pretty good.” (The occasion was a New York GOP convention at which Jeb Bush stole the show.)

It took too long, but there is a is a brilliant novel of teenage angst other than (and smarter than) Catcher in the Rye. (The most insightful review is, of course, in this month’s COMMENTARY.)

And with plenty of time to spare, Mitch Daniels emerges as a potential 2012 contender: “He is at once so visible and so self-effacing that he seems to have sunk into a black hole of personal magnetism and come out the other side, where the very lack of charisma becomes charismatic. He is the un-Obama. Republicans — notably some wealthy and powerful ones who have decided he should be president​ — seem to like that.”

It took too long, but the myth of Obama’s competence is crumbling: “The WH political shop leaves much to be desired. Take your pick as to which is worse: The fact that Pres. Obama’s team opened itself up to GOP ridicule over feelers it put out to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) and ex-CO House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D); the fact that those feelers didn’t actually work, displaying an ineptness absent during George W. Bush’s tenure; or the fact that the WH has gone more than a week without being able to move past the story.”

It took too long, but the Obama spin on the economic “recovery” is no longer carrying the day: “Private employers did little hiring last month, undermining hopes that the economic recovery was gathering pace and helping send U.S. stocks down more than 3% on the day. The Labor Department said Friday that 431,000 jobs were added in May. But the vast majority were temporary workers hired by the government to conduct the 2010 Census. Private-sector employment rose by only 41,000, the smallest monthly increase since January. Without faster private-sector job growth, the U.S. faces a bumpy recovery restrained by households with little income to spend.”

It took too long, but even the New York Times has stopped shilling for Obama with respect to the economy: “President Obama tried to put a gloss on the jobs report, telling workers at a trucking company in Hyattsville, Md., that the numbers showed an economy that was ‘getting stronger by the day.’ Mr. Obama mentioned that Census Bureau hiring accounted for most of the new jobs, but he added that the nation had added jobs for each of the last five months. ‘These numbers do mean that we are moving in the right direction,’ he said. ‘There are going to be ups and downs.’ In fact, the May figures suggested a job market wheezing after months of more vigorous growth.”

It took too long, but the Washington Post is calling for transparency on the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff job offers:”Is President Obama comfortable with the actions of White House officials in dangling federal jobs as political inducements? An episode involving former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) is more troubling than the previously disclosed incident involving Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.). . .  White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Obama did not know about the Romanoff overtures in advance, and Mr. Gibbs blew off questions about his reaction by saying he hadn’t discussed the matter with the president. That’s not sufficient. The American people deserve to hear directly from the president about whether he is happy with this behavior.”

It took too long, but an advocate for Israel emerges in the administration: “Biden’s instinctive embrace of Israel at a moment it was under fire from the international community was the most vivid example yet of Biden’s emergence as the West Wing’s most prominent public supporter of the Jewish state. ” Too bad Obama isn’t and he ignores most of what Biden says.

It took too long, but foreign-policy gurus across the political spectrum are complaining that “when it comes to the question of democracy in the Muslim world, many see a U.S. administration more keen to reinforce status quo support for authoritarian regimes than to push for meaningful political reform.”

It took too long, but cranky Republicans are admitting that, “after this Obama nightmare, the Bush brand is looking pretty good.” (The occasion was a New York GOP convention at which Jeb Bush stole the show.)

It took too long, but there is a is a brilliant novel of teenage angst other than (and smarter than) Catcher in the Rye. (The most insightful review is, of course, in this month’s COMMENTARY.)

And with plenty of time to spare, Mitch Daniels emerges as a potential 2012 contender: “He is at once so visible and so self-effacing that he seems to have sunk into a black hole of personal magnetism and come out the other side, where the very lack of charisma becomes charismatic. He is the un-Obama. Republicans — notably some wealthy and powerful ones who have decided he should be president​ — seem to like that.”

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Will Obama Pay a Price?

The White House is in a defensive crouch over the jobs-for-primary-exit stories. As usual, Robert Gibbs is responsible for being completely nontransparent. The Daily Caller notes:

Though Gibbs is a close confidante of Obama’s, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was the first to man the briefing room podium for President George W. Bush, said it is not surprising that Gibbs may have avoided speaking to the president about the Sestak and Romanoff matters.

“That’s exactly what White Houses and press secretaries do when you either don’t want to know the answer or you want to shield the president for as long as possible from getting mired in the muck. The problem is that it is a temporary solution and it won’t hold up over time,” [Ari] Fleischer said in an interview.

“It’s inevitable over time that someone will ask a question directly of the president in an interview,” he said. “What the White House is hoping for is that it will come up at a time when there is a lot less focus and heat so they can fade the issue.”

But Congress is coming back to town next week and this is a campaign year. It’s quite likely then that the issue won’t die but will become another example for challengers to use in making the case that there is something seriously wrong with Washington pols.

As Peter Wehner meticulously lays out, the White House stonewall on both Sestak and Romanoff is a risky gambit:

We are now entering a new and dangerous phase in the Obama presidency. For one thing, it is possible that federal crimes were committed. … Obviously, members of the Obama White House considered their actions troubling enough that they went to great lengths to conceal their actions. They have been engaging in a modified limited hangout. And it is reasonable to assume, I think, that Sestak and Romanoff are not isolated examples.

And even if it does not descend into a legal investigation, the political damage is significant. Obama is refusing to answer rudimentary questions (Did he instruct aides to offer the jobs?), thereby reinforcing the image of a White House that is both ethically challenged and Nixonian in its secrecy and refusal to permit outside scrutiny. If there is not to be any legal ramifications, there is likely a political price to be paid by both Obama and his party.

The White House is in a defensive crouch over the jobs-for-primary-exit stories. As usual, Robert Gibbs is responsible for being completely nontransparent. The Daily Caller notes:

Though Gibbs is a close confidante of Obama’s, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was the first to man the briefing room podium for President George W. Bush, said it is not surprising that Gibbs may have avoided speaking to the president about the Sestak and Romanoff matters.

“That’s exactly what White Houses and press secretaries do when you either don’t want to know the answer or you want to shield the president for as long as possible from getting mired in the muck. The problem is that it is a temporary solution and it won’t hold up over time,” [Ari] Fleischer said in an interview.

“It’s inevitable over time that someone will ask a question directly of the president in an interview,” he said. “What the White House is hoping for is that it will come up at a time when there is a lot less focus and heat so they can fade the issue.”

But Congress is coming back to town next week and this is a campaign year. It’s quite likely then that the issue won’t die but will become another example for challengers to use in making the case that there is something seriously wrong with Washington pols.

As Peter Wehner meticulously lays out, the White House stonewall on both Sestak and Romanoff is a risky gambit:

We are now entering a new and dangerous phase in the Obama presidency. For one thing, it is possible that federal crimes were committed. … Obviously, members of the Obama White House considered their actions troubling enough that they went to great lengths to conceal their actions. They have been engaging in a modified limited hangout. And it is reasonable to assume, I think, that Sestak and Romanoff are not isolated examples.

And even if it does not descend into a legal investigation, the political damage is significant. Obama is refusing to answer rudimentary questions (Did he instruct aides to offer the jobs?), thereby reinforcing the image of a White House that is both ethically challenged and Nixonian in its secrecy and refusal to permit outside scrutiny. If there is not to be any legal ramifications, there is likely a political price to be paid by both Obama and his party.

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Will the Media Let Obama off the Hook on Sestak?

The White House lawyer hasn’t even convinced mainstream news reporters that nothing untoward occurred regarding the Joe Sestak job offer. On Fox News Sunday, Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post remarked:

I think there are also some still real unanswered questions here. And the biggest one, of course, is what exactly did President Obama know and when did he know it. I mean, his response in the news conference just saying, “Well, nothing improper occurred,” well, gosh, that almost raises more questions in my mind. So far, from what we’ve seen, we know this was not unprecedented. Governor Rendell actually made sort of a remarkable acknowledgment in your interview, Chris, saying, “Oh, yes, I did a similar thing a few years back.” So it’s certainly politics as usual. But as your clip illustrates, that becomes a political problem for the White House.

There are two more factors that, as Connolly said, add to the “general sense of business as usual.” First, there may be a second job-to-get-out-of-the-race deal. Last September, the Denver Post reported:

Not long after news leaked last month that Andrew Romanoff was determined to make a Democratic primary run against Sen. Michael Bennet, Romanoff received an unexpected communication from one of the most powerful men in Washington. Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.

The White House denied any job was offered to Romanoff, but “several top Colorado Democrats described Messina’s outreach to Romanoff to The Post, including the discussion of specific jobs in the administration.”

Second, in his statement on Friday, Robert Bauer admitted:

Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified.

When everyone returns from the Memorial Day weekend, we’ll see how aggressively the White House media corps pursues this with Robert Gibbs and other administration figures. What went on in those conversations, which Bauer said were also conducted through a cutout, namely Bill Clinton? When Obama gives his next interview or news conference, will he be grilled? The media is no longer so infatuated with the president, so we may actually see some dogged questioning. But don’t get your hopes up. Expect the questions to be brushed off with, “We already answered questions about all of this.” It’s the sort of thing the media, if it wants to get back its collective manhood and reputation from deep storage, shouldn’t let Obama get away with.

The White House lawyer hasn’t even convinced mainstream news reporters that nothing untoward occurred regarding the Joe Sestak job offer. On Fox News Sunday, Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post remarked:

I think there are also some still real unanswered questions here. And the biggest one, of course, is what exactly did President Obama know and when did he know it. I mean, his response in the news conference just saying, “Well, nothing improper occurred,” well, gosh, that almost raises more questions in my mind. So far, from what we’ve seen, we know this was not unprecedented. Governor Rendell actually made sort of a remarkable acknowledgment in your interview, Chris, saying, “Oh, yes, I did a similar thing a few years back.” So it’s certainly politics as usual. But as your clip illustrates, that becomes a political problem for the White House.

There are two more factors that, as Connolly said, add to the “general sense of business as usual.” First, there may be a second job-to-get-out-of-the-race deal. Last September, the Denver Post reported:

Not long after news leaked last month that Andrew Romanoff was determined to make a Democratic primary run against Sen. Michael Bennet, Romanoff received an unexpected communication from one of the most powerful men in Washington. Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.

The White House denied any job was offered to Romanoff, but “several top Colorado Democrats described Messina’s outreach to Romanoff to The Post, including the discussion of specific jobs in the administration.”

Second, in his statement on Friday, Robert Bauer admitted:

Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified.

When everyone returns from the Memorial Day weekend, we’ll see how aggressively the White House media corps pursues this with Robert Gibbs and other administration figures. What went on in those conversations, which Bauer said were also conducted through a cutout, namely Bill Clinton? When Obama gives his next interview or news conference, will he be grilled? The media is no longer so infatuated with the president, so we may actually see some dogged questioning. But don’t get your hopes up. Expect the questions to be brushed off with, “We already answered questions about all of this.” It’s the sort of thing the media, if it wants to get back its collective manhood and reputation from deep storage, shouldn’t let Obama get away with.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.'” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.'” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

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South Korea, Yes. Israel, No.

The Obama administration is perking up when it comes to North Korea:

The White House said Monday that North Korea should stop its “belligerent and threatening behavior,” and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged “unequivocal” support for Seoul in its escalating dispute with its neighbor.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that Obama “fully supports” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who on Sunday cut off trade with North Korea and shut down sea lanes to North Korean ships in response to the March 26 sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. North Korea was found responsible for the attack by an international group of investigators.

It remains to be seen what “fully supports” means, but it’s a step in the right direction.

And now it’s time to do the same with Israel. After all, Israel is an ally subjected to the “belligerent and threatening behavior” of a neighbor that seeks nuclear weapons. But Obama seems not remotely interested in providing a firm guarantee for Israel that might have some deterrent value and at the very least expanding the array of options we currently have. (Nor do American Jewish leaders demand that he do so.) Such a notion, in fact, seems nearly preposterous for this president. His antipathy for Israel is too great, as is his desperation to avoid confrontation with the thugocracy that seeks the Jewish state’s destruction, to contemplate a promise of unqualified support for our democratic ally.

If the president ever gave a press conference or faced a tough interviewer, he might be asked: why South Korea and not Israel?

The Obama administration is perking up when it comes to North Korea:

The White House said Monday that North Korea should stop its “belligerent and threatening behavior,” and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged “unequivocal” support for Seoul in its escalating dispute with its neighbor.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that Obama “fully supports” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who on Sunday cut off trade with North Korea and shut down sea lanes to North Korean ships in response to the March 26 sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. North Korea was found responsible for the attack by an international group of investigators.

It remains to be seen what “fully supports” means, but it’s a step in the right direction.

And now it’s time to do the same with Israel. After all, Israel is an ally subjected to the “belligerent and threatening behavior” of a neighbor that seeks nuclear weapons. But Obama seems not remotely interested in providing a firm guarantee for Israel that might have some deterrent value and at the very least expanding the array of options we currently have. (Nor do American Jewish leaders demand that he do so.) Such a notion, in fact, seems nearly preposterous for this president. His antipathy for Israel is too great, as is his desperation to avoid confrontation with the thugocracy that seeks the Jewish state’s destruction, to contemplate a promise of unqualified support for our democratic ally.

If the president ever gave a press conference or faced a tough interviewer, he might be asked: why South Korea and not Israel?

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White House Throws Reid Under the Bus

In a lengthy portrait of Chuck Schumer and his ambitions to be Senate majority leader, the Washington Post gets some nuggets from the White House, which make it apparent that they think Harry Reid is dead in the water. There is this:

“The president has a record of working well with both,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. “Obviously he has a longer, more personal relationship with Senator Durbin as a result of being home-state colleagues and for his help getting him elected in 2004 and 2008.”

You’d think the White House would have had the restraint to say something like, “Of course Harry Reid is going to get re-elected. We’re not speculating on his successor.” And then it gets worse:

“Chuck Schumer is the next majority leader,” the senior administration official predicted. “He just works it.”

Ouch. I’m no cheerleader for Harry Reid, and he is likely to lose in November. But it’s a sign of how this president and this White House operate — they burn allies, are devoid of personal loyalty, and lack grace — that they would stab with such cynical dispatch the man who, after all, got ObamaCare through the Senate.

In a lengthy portrait of Chuck Schumer and his ambitions to be Senate majority leader, the Washington Post gets some nuggets from the White House, which make it apparent that they think Harry Reid is dead in the water. There is this:

“The president has a record of working well with both,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. “Obviously he has a longer, more personal relationship with Senator Durbin as a result of being home-state colleagues and for his help getting him elected in 2004 and 2008.”

You’d think the White House would have had the restraint to say something like, “Of course Harry Reid is going to get re-elected. We’re not speculating on his successor.” And then it gets worse:

“Chuck Schumer is the next majority leader,” the senior administration official predicted. “He just works it.”

Ouch. I’m no cheerleader for Harry Reid, and he is likely to lose in November. But it’s a sign of how this president and this White House operate — they burn allies, are devoid of personal loyalty, and lack grace — that they would stab with such cynical dispatch the man who, after all, got ObamaCare through the Senate.

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Can Democrats Really Replicate the PA-12?

Karl Rove reminds us of several key points regarding the Pennsylvania 12th special election. First, Mark Critz carried no water for Obama, unlike the vast majority of incumbent Democrats:

Murtha’s longtime aide, Mark Critz, won with a message that he was pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-ObamaCare, while benefiting from a sympathy vote for Murtha’s legacy. … White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “This is the type of race [the] GOP has to win.” He is right, but just how many other Democrats will be running this year as pro-life, pro-gun, anti-ObamaCare, and against cap and trade?

Second, there was a huge advantage in Democratic registration in this race (“Democrats outnumber Republicans by 137,000 voters, 62 percent to 29 percent”) — greater than what dozens of vulnerable House Democrats enjoy. And yet Tim Burns lost by only 7.5 points.

And finally, the enthusiasm gap remains a big concern for Democrats: “The Democratic turnout in Kentucky declined 8 percent from the last midterm, while GOP turnout rose 27 percent. In Arkansas, the hot Democratic Senate primary produced a 15 percent increase in turnout from four years ago — but the GOP turnout more than doubled, up 122 percent.”

To sum up, if Democrats could boost their enthusiasm, run only candidates who opposed the Obama agenda, and had in every race an advantage in registration of more than 30 points, they would be in swell shape. But back in the real world, very few races will look that way.

Karl Rove reminds us of several key points regarding the Pennsylvania 12th special election. First, Mark Critz carried no water for Obama, unlike the vast majority of incumbent Democrats:

Murtha’s longtime aide, Mark Critz, won with a message that he was pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-ObamaCare, while benefiting from a sympathy vote for Murtha’s legacy. … White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “This is the type of race [the] GOP has to win.” He is right, but just how many other Democrats will be running this year as pro-life, pro-gun, anti-ObamaCare, and against cap and trade?

Second, there was a huge advantage in Democratic registration in this race (“Democrats outnumber Republicans by 137,000 voters, 62 percent to 29 percent”) — greater than what dozens of vulnerable House Democrats enjoy. And yet Tim Burns lost by only 7.5 points.

And finally, the enthusiasm gap remains a big concern for Democrats: “The Democratic turnout in Kentucky declined 8 percent from the last midterm, while GOP turnout rose 27 percent. In Arkansas, the hot Democratic Senate primary produced a 15 percent increase in turnout from four years ago — but the GOP turnout more than doubled, up 122 percent.”

To sum up, if Democrats could boost their enthusiasm, run only candidates who opposed the Obama agenda, and had in every race an advantage in registration of more than 30 points, they would be in swell shape. But back in the real world, very few races will look that way.

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The Truth and Barack Obama

Who knew that Barack Obama’s real ambition is to be Howard Kurtz?

In his commencement address at Hampton University, the president once again decided to act as if he were America’s Media-Critic-in-Chief. In Obama’s words:

You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — (laughter) — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.

Later in the speech, Obama added this:

So, allowing you to compete in the global economy is the first way your education can prepare you. But it can also prepare you as citizens. With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, and on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. Let’s face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience in that regard.

There are several things one can take away from the president’s remarks.

The first is that there’s a certain irony in being instructed by Obama about avoiding arguments that “don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.” This instruction, after all, comes from a man who, throughout the health-care debate, repeatedly made false and misleading arguments about the effects of ObamaCare on bending the cost curve, on the deficit and debt, on whether people will be forced to leave their employer-based policies, on whether his plan advocated Medicare cuts, on whether it would subsidize abortions, and much else.

Mr. Obama is also the person who, when he was running for the presidency, promised all health-care negotiations would be broadcast on C-SPAN (They weren’t.), that he would accept public financing for his campaign (He didn’t.), that he would put an end to “phony accounting” (He hasn’t.), that lobbyists will not work in his White House (They do.), that he would slash earmarks by more than half (He has not.), that he opposed giving Miranda rights to terrorists (He favors them.), that he was against an individual health-care mandate (He supported it.), and that he would resist the temptation “to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long” (He succumbed to the temptation.).

Where, I wonder, does Mr. Obama rank these statements on his cherished Truth Meter?

And what are we to make of the fact that the very paragraph from Obama’s speech where he laments the lack of truth in public statements includes — you guessed it — a false statement by Obama?

In his commencement address, Obama insists he doesn’t know how to work an iPod. But here’s an item that appeared on the Huffington Post on June 25, 2008:

WASHINGTON — Bob Dylan. Yo-Yo Ma. Sheryl Crow. Jay-Z. These aren’t musical acts in a summer concert series: They’re artists featured on Barack Obama’s iPod.

“I have pretty eclectic tastes,” the Democratic presidential contender said in an interview to be published in Friday’s issue of Rolling Stone.

Is that distant sound we hear the Truth Meter going off again?

By now Obama has spoken out against the New Media often enough to know that he both despises it and is obsessed with it. For all of his talk about his eagerness to listen to others, “especially when we disagree,” as he put it on the night of his election, Obama clearly resents being challenged. He gets especially exasperated and condescending when his challenger has made the better argument. That is, in fact, a trait of Team Obama; we see that attitude on display almost every day in the person of Robert Gibbs, the snidest and least likable press secretary in our lifetime.

The president and his aides are clearly used to being cosseted. They seem to believe the American public should treat them as reverentially as staff members of the New Yorker do.

It may seem odd for a man who presents himself as a public intellectual who cherishes open-mindedness and vigorous debate to be so relentlessly critical of the diversity of voices and viewpoints now in the public square. But remember this: Barack Obama is a man whose attitudes and sensibilities have been shaped by the academy, an institution that is the least (classically) liberal and open-minded in American life today. A stifling conformity and an unwillingness to engage arguments on the merits, combined with a reflexive tendency to attack the motives of those who hold opposing views, are hallmarks of the modern university. They are also, alas, hallmarks of America’s 44th president. But Mr. Obama is learning the hard way that America is not one big Ivy League campus. Here, differing opinions are heard, whether they are welcomed by those in power or not. The public will not bow down before any man or any office. And politicians who treat dissenting voices as if they are a Tower of Babble, to be mocked and ridiculed into silence, eventually receive their comeuppance. So shall Obama.

Who knew that Barack Obama’s real ambition is to be Howard Kurtz?

In his commencement address at Hampton University, the president once again decided to act as if he were America’s Media-Critic-in-Chief. In Obama’s words:

You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — (laughter) — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.

Later in the speech, Obama added this:

So, allowing you to compete in the global economy is the first way your education can prepare you. But it can also prepare you as citizens. With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, and on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. Let’s face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience in that regard.

There are several things one can take away from the president’s remarks.

The first is that there’s a certain irony in being instructed by Obama about avoiding arguments that “don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.” This instruction, after all, comes from a man who, throughout the health-care debate, repeatedly made false and misleading arguments about the effects of ObamaCare on bending the cost curve, on the deficit and debt, on whether people will be forced to leave their employer-based policies, on whether his plan advocated Medicare cuts, on whether it would subsidize abortions, and much else.

Mr. Obama is also the person who, when he was running for the presidency, promised all health-care negotiations would be broadcast on C-SPAN (They weren’t.), that he would accept public financing for his campaign (He didn’t.), that he would put an end to “phony accounting” (He hasn’t.), that lobbyists will not work in his White House (They do.), that he would slash earmarks by more than half (He has not.), that he opposed giving Miranda rights to terrorists (He favors them.), that he was against an individual health-care mandate (He supported it.), and that he would resist the temptation “to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long” (He succumbed to the temptation.).

Where, I wonder, does Mr. Obama rank these statements on his cherished Truth Meter?

And what are we to make of the fact that the very paragraph from Obama’s speech where he laments the lack of truth in public statements includes — you guessed it — a false statement by Obama?

In his commencement address, Obama insists he doesn’t know how to work an iPod. But here’s an item that appeared on the Huffington Post on June 25, 2008:

WASHINGTON — Bob Dylan. Yo-Yo Ma. Sheryl Crow. Jay-Z. These aren’t musical acts in a summer concert series: They’re artists featured on Barack Obama’s iPod.

“I have pretty eclectic tastes,” the Democratic presidential contender said in an interview to be published in Friday’s issue of Rolling Stone.

Is that distant sound we hear the Truth Meter going off again?

By now Obama has spoken out against the New Media often enough to know that he both despises it and is obsessed with it. For all of his talk about his eagerness to listen to others, “especially when we disagree,” as he put it on the night of his election, Obama clearly resents being challenged. He gets especially exasperated and condescending when his challenger has made the better argument. That is, in fact, a trait of Team Obama; we see that attitude on display almost every day in the person of Robert Gibbs, the snidest and least likable press secretary in our lifetime.

The president and his aides are clearly used to being cosseted. They seem to believe the American public should treat them as reverentially as staff members of the New Yorker do.

It may seem odd for a man who presents himself as a public intellectual who cherishes open-mindedness and vigorous debate to be so relentlessly critical of the diversity of voices and viewpoints now in the public square. But remember this: Barack Obama is a man whose attitudes and sensibilities have been shaped by the academy, an institution that is the least (classically) liberal and open-minded in American life today. A stifling conformity and an unwillingness to engage arguments on the merits, combined with a reflexive tendency to attack the motives of those who hold opposing views, are hallmarks of the modern university. They are also, alas, hallmarks of America’s 44th president. But Mr. Obama is learning the hard way that America is not one big Ivy League campus. Here, differing opinions are heard, whether they are welcomed by those in power or not. The public will not bow down before any man or any office. And politicians who treat dissenting voices as if they are a Tower of Babble, to be mocked and ridiculed into silence, eventually receive their comeuppance. So shall Obama.

Read Less




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