Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ruth Marcus

The Melodramatic and Self-Important World of Ruth Marcus

In her column earlier this week Ruth Marcus wrote this:

Don Graham’s decision to sell The Washington Post was his reverse Sophie’s Choice moment.

She had to decide which cherished child to save and which to send to the gas chamber. Don and the Graham family weren’t forced to make an anguishing choice but did so anyway. They relinquished the newspaper they love in order to protect it.

If the comparison sounds hyperbolic, you don’t know the Grahams.

Now I don’t know the Grahams–but yes, the comparison does sound hyperbolic to me. Worse, actually. I for one would feel rather awkward explaining to my children why I’d consider the choice between selling a newspaper and sending one of them to Auschwitz to be a coin flip. (To be clear, the Grahams didn’t use this analogy; Ruth Marcus did.)

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In her column earlier this week Ruth Marcus wrote this:

Don Graham’s decision to sell The Washington Post was his reverse Sophie’s Choice moment.

She had to decide which cherished child to save and which to send to the gas chamber. Don and the Graham family weren’t forced to make an anguishing choice but did so anyway. They relinquished the newspaper they love in order to protect it.

If the comparison sounds hyperbolic, you don’t know the Grahams.

Now I don’t know the Grahams–but yes, the comparison does sound hyperbolic to me. Worse, actually. I for one would feel rather awkward explaining to my children why I’d consider the choice between selling a newspaper and sending one of them to Auschwitz to be a coin flip. (To be clear, the Grahams didn’t use this analogy; Ruth Marcus did.)

Ms. Marcus herself is, she informs us, “reeling.” The announcement of the sale of the Post to Jeff Bezos is “the day our earth stood still.” And then she informs us of this:

My e-mail has been buzzing, my phone ringing, with family, friends, government officials, asking the same question: Are you okay? They don’t mean economically. They mean emotionally.

The answer: Not really. Because, at least for me, after three decades here, this is a moment at once hopeful and ineffably sad.

Enough already. I understand the attachment one can feel to an institution and to individuals in that institution. But the Post is not disappearing; it’s being sold to a new owner–an individual who is very wealthy and whom Don Graham carefully selected. This move was necessary and may, in fact, end up saving the Post from ruin.  

Ms. Marcus illustrates the melodrama and self-importance that some (certainly not all) journalists are afflicted with. They live in a make-believe world in which they fashion themselves as shining knights, truth tellers, exposers of corruption, defenders of the weak.

Now I happen to like the Post as a newspaper. I’m one of the shrinking number of people in the D.C. area who still subscribe to it. I admire some of its reporters. And they are home to some outstanding columnists. But it is hardly a sacred, flawless, and fearless institution. It is, in fact, liberal in its orientation. It plays favorites. It tends to back down from speaking truth to power when those in power are of the left. And while Don Graham in particular seems like a fine man, the mythic personality some of his employees have created around him and Katherine Graham is a bit creepy.

In explaining to the rest of us why the Grahams have created such a strong bond, we’re told a couple of stories, including this one. Fifteen years ago Marcus’s book group was reading Katherine Graham’s autobiography and they asked Marcus to invite Graham to attend. Take it away Ruth:

I send a note upstairs, preemptively apologetic. I’m sure you’re too busy. Please do not feel obliged.

Perhaps 15 minutes later, a call from her assistant. That date doesn’t work, would it be possible to do it the following week? Mrs. Graham came, and she stayed for hours. I think she enjoyed herself, but I also know that she did feel, in the best possible way, a sense of noblesse oblige.

And so like God descending from heaven to earth, the Great and Mighty Kay Graham deigned to meet with mere mortals to discuss an autobiography about Kay Graham–an event that all these years later is still seared in the memory and imagination of Ruth Marcus.

What Mrs. Graham did was a nice and commendable thing. But there’s no need to invest in that act quite the saintly meaning that Ms. Marcus has. If you want to understand some of what’s gone wrong with modern journalism, you should read Ruth Marcus’s column.

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The Other Dowd

OK, it’s lazy to let a relative write your column. But we should go easy on Maureen, for her brother Kevin is plainly the political maven in the Dowd family, being the sibling who apparently observes America not merely from Manhattan taxi cabs. A  sample of the column she subcontracted to him:

On Nov. 2, voters across every spectrum loudly stated their preference for a return to American exceptionalism, self-reliance, limited government and personal freedoms. … It is probably a product of the revisionist history we now teach in our schools that the Tea Party, a replica of the beginnings of the American Revolution, was marginalized and mocked as a lunatic fringe group by a dismissive news media.

That same media is becoming increasingly aware that its creation is in over his head. He seems unaware of, or ambivalent about, the results of his actions. The last three weeks of the campaign were particularly unseemly. The vision of the President of the United States, one who spoke of civility and hope and change, exposed as just another Chicago pol, viciously and personally attacking his opponents, was undignified.

When my children were small, I used to take them to visit my mother. One of her favorite lines if they complained was, “Do you want some cheese with that whine?” We may have to call Switzerland to get enough cheese for the presidential whines. Read More

OK, it’s lazy to let a relative write your column. But we should go easy on Maureen, for her brother Kevin is plainly the political maven in the Dowd family, being the sibling who apparently observes America not merely from Manhattan taxi cabs. A  sample of the column she subcontracted to him:

On Nov. 2, voters across every spectrum loudly stated their preference for a return to American exceptionalism, self-reliance, limited government and personal freedoms. … It is probably a product of the revisionist history we now teach in our schools that the Tea Party, a replica of the beginnings of the American Revolution, was marginalized and mocked as a lunatic fringe group by a dismissive news media.

That same media is becoming increasingly aware that its creation is in over his head. He seems unaware of, or ambivalent about, the results of his actions. The last three weeks of the campaign were particularly unseemly. The vision of the President of the United States, one who spoke of civility and hope and change, exposed as just another Chicago pol, viciously and personally attacking his opponents, was undignified.

When my children were small, I used to take them to visit my mother. One of her favorite lines if they complained was, “Do you want some cheese with that whine?” We may have to call Switzerland to get enough cheese for the presidential whines.

What is interesting — aside from the usual nature/nurture debate it might provoke — is how much closer the mainstream-media narrative is to the Kevin narrative. What Kevin and many others on the right have observed for two years — an excess of dangerous presidential hubris, a tone-deaf White House, a vibrant Tea Party movement, liberal overreach – is only now becoming part of the mainstream conventional wisdom. Or as Noemie Emery points out, even Esquire concedes that The One’s “aura” has dimmed. Sounding rather Kevin-esque, the style-is-everything crowd finds Obama suddenly a disappointment:

President Obama, after all, was elected by virtue of his personality, which provided not only contrast but novelty, and was grounded in his near-perfect pitch when addressing audiences large and small. Sure, he was cool and cerebral, but he was also confident, almost cocky, because he had the power to summon inspiring rhetoric on command, which meant that he had the power to summon us on command. …

Now his gift has all but deserted him, and all that prevents the story from becoming tragic is his own apparent refusal to be affected by it. … Of course, Obama has never turned his back on us, but so many Americans have turned their backs on him that it amounts to The Anointed One, as he is sometimes referred, being stripped of something that can never return: his anointment. And without it — without his air of destiny, without the idea of Obama augmenting his actuality — the rooms he used to occupy so effortlessly have changed dimensions on him, until at times he might as well be speaking from the bottom of a well.

What Kevin observes with glee (the downsizing of The Ego), many in the national press corps now treat as fact and the left views with exasperation. Conservatives who cringed and gritted through more than one painful George W. Bush press conference can relate to how the left feels watching Obama as sulker in chief (“the press conference was so painfully incommensurate to its historical moment that one had to wonder if he knew it — if he knew that even on this observance of loss he was losing his audience”).

So you now have columns by liberals that sound identical to those written by conservatives. Take a guess as to the author of this one, who frets about “the shellackee in chief” and Nancy Pelosi’s reaction to the election:

Their instincts have tended more toward blaming the dogs for not understanding how good the food is for them, not accepting that it’s time to tweak the recipe.

The president’s self-diagnosis in his post-election news conference was dominated by the assessment that voters had simply failed to grasp — and that his failure lay chiefly in explaining clearly enough — why the administration took the steps it did.

That’s Ruth Marcus, but it could easily have been Ross Douthat or Rich Lowry — or any of us here at CONTENTIONS.

There is something rather unifying — like when the whole country watched the final M*A*S*H episode — about the emerging consensus. True, the left considers the cause of the shellacking to be insufficient liberalism, while the right views that explanation as daft. The “why” may be hotly disputed, but at least we’ve got some agreement on what is going on. On that score, there’s no denying that Obama is a unifier not a divider.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

How dumb does Obama think businessmen are? “The White House has launched a coordinated campaign to push back against the perception taking hold in corporate America and on Wall Street that President Barack Obama is promoting an anti-business agenda.” Besides, wasn’t his populist, anti–Wall Street rhetoric supposed to be the key to minimizing midterm losses?

How upset do you think the White House is that the West Virginia governor has put another Senate seat at risk? “West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw (D) cleared the way for Gov. Joe Manchin (D) to call a November 2010 special election for the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) seat. The legal opinion McGraw issued Thursday did not give a specific timeline for a special election, but suggests using the already scheduled election this November.”

How slow do you think things are in Washington if the Politico forum is about whether Sarah Palin should replace Michael Steele? Yeah, like she needs, or would ever contemplate taking, that job.

How nervous do you think this Sarah Palin ad made the 2012 GOP contenders? Whatever you think of her, the ad is really good.

How much weight do you think the neo-isolationists and paleo-conservatives have in the GOP? Not much right now if Ann Coulter and Ron Paul are the only pro–Michael Steele voices. But Republicans should be wary — there is always the temptation to pull up the drawbridge.

How angry do you think Americans will be with Obama when they realize this? (More than they already are, that is): “After nearly a decade of federal tax cuts, Americans could awaken New Year’s Day with a whopper of a hangover. Breaks covering everything from child tax credits to the death tax are set to expire that day, less than six months from now, bringing higher payments for nearly every American who pays taxes. ‘We’ve never in history seen anything quite like this, where such a major portion of the tax code is set to expire on a single date and affect so many Americans all at once,’ said Scott Hodge, president of The Tax Foundation, a Washington nonprofit that tracks tax policies.”

How much trouble do you think Obama is in when Ruth Marcus sounds like John Podhoretz?

How many GOP 2012 candidates do you think will take this smart advice on immigration reform from Charles Krauthammer?It seems to me that the Republicans ought to argue enforcement first — and then a very generous, open and humane solution for those already here.” Not enough, I fear.

How dumb does Obama think businessmen are? “The White House has launched a coordinated campaign to push back against the perception taking hold in corporate America and on Wall Street that President Barack Obama is promoting an anti-business agenda.” Besides, wasn’t his populist, anti–Wall Street rhetoric supposed to be the key to minimizing midterm losses?

How upset do you think the White House is that the West Virginia governor has put another Senate seat at risk? “West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw (D) cleared the way for Gov. Joe Manchin (D) to call a November 2010 special election for the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) seat. The legal opinion McGraw issued Thursday did not give a specific timeline for a special election, but suggests using the already scheduled election this November.”

How slow do you think things are in Washington if the Politico forum is about whether Sarah Palin should replace Michael Steele? Yeah, like she needs, or would ever contemplate taking, that job.

How nervous do you think this Sarah Palin ad made the 2012 GOP contenders? Whatever you think of her, the ad is really good.

How much weight do you think the neo-isolationists and paleo-conservatives have in the GOP? Not much right now if Ann Coulter and Ron Paul are the only pro–Michael Steele voices. But Republicans should be wary — there is always the temptation to pull up the drawbridge.

How angry do you think Americans will be with Obama when they realize this? (More than they already are, that is): “After nearly a decade of federal tax cuts, Americans could awaken New Year’s Day with a whopper of a hangover. Breaks covering everything from child tax credits to the death tax are set to expire that day, less than six months from now, bringing higher payments for nearly every American who pays taxes. ‘We’ve never in history seen anything quite like this, where such a major portion of the tax code is set to expire on a single date and affect so many Americans all at once,’ said Scott Hodge, president of The Tax Foundation, a Washington nonprofit that tracks tax policies.”

How much trouble do you think Obama is in when Ruth Marcus sounds like John Podhoretz?

How many GOP 2012 candidates do you think will take this smart advice on immigration reform from Charles Krauthammer?It seems to me that the Republicans ought to argue enforcement first — and then a very generous, open and humane solution for those already here.” Not enough, I fear.

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RE: President Obama, Meet Reality

Saner liberals are nervous. Ruth Marcus, who is rooting for ObamaCare to pass, can do the math. Yeah, there might be 50 votes to jam through the Senate whatever can be jammed through via reconciliation, but what about the House? She writes:

With the House down a few members, 217 votes will be needed for passage. The original House measure passed with 220 votes — with 39 Democrats defecting. But two of those yes votes are gone: John Murtha of Pennsylvania died; Robert Wexler of Florida resigned. A third, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, is leaving at the end of the month to run for governor. The lone Republican voting for the measure, Joseph Cao of Louisiana, is no longer on board.

Meanwhile, the president’s proposal does not include the anti-abortion language inserted in the House-passed measure by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), largely because the Senate would have difficulty fiddling with abortion language under the restrictive rules of the reconciliation process. So Stupak will be gone, and with him another five votes, perhaps more.

There are, Marcus explains, a few liberals like Dennis Kucinich to be wooed back to vote for ObamaCare this time around and some retirees who don’t care if they enrage the voters by voting for a bill they hate. But it still probably doesn’t get Obama to a majority. So Marcus frets: “My worry is that going for broke and failing will leave no time or appetite for a fallback, scaled-down plan. And the moment to do something on health care — not everything, but something significant — will have evaporated, once again.”

This is the essence of Obama: filled with grand plans and a grandiose conception of himself, but short on workable plans, legislative prowess, and strategic thinking. And underneath it all is a deep contempt for the wishes and concerns of average Americans. As Michael Gerson aptly sums up:

Americans have taken every opportunity — the town hall revolt, increasingly lopsided polling, a series of upset elections culminating in Massachusetts — to shout their second thoughts. At this point, for Democratic leaders to insist on their current approach is to insist that Americans are not only misinformed but also dimwitted. And the proposed form of this insistence — enacting health reform through the quick, dirty shove of the reconciliation process — would add coercion to arrogance.

But that, too, is quintessential Obama, the Chicago pol who never much cares what the little people think, because they and critics can be written off, delegitimized, and shouted down.

Unfortunately, with such a political persona, you generally wind up with legislative flops (e.g., the stimulus) or nothing at all. That might suit conservatives, who frankly prefer the status quo to Obama’s Brave New World of health care, but it sure must come as a blow to those who thought Obama would be a transformative president.

Saner liberals are nervous. Ruth Marcus, who is rooting for ObamaCare to pass, can do the math. Yeah, there might be 50 votes to jam through the Senate whatever can be jammed through via reconciliation, but what about the House? She writes:

With the House down a few members, 217 votes will be needed for passage. The original House measure passed with 220 votes — with 39 Democrats defecting. But two of those yes votes are gone: John Murtha of Pennsylvania died; Robert Wexler of Florida resigned. A third, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, is leaving at the end of the month to run for governor. The lone Republican voting for the measure, Joseph Cao of Louisiana, is no longer on board.

Meanwhile, the president’s proposal does not include the anti-abortion language inserted in the House-passed measure by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), largely because the Senate would have difficulty fiddling with abortion language under the restrictive rules of the reconciliation process. So Stupak will be gone, and with him another five votes, perhaps more.

There are, Marcus explains, a few liberals like Dennis Kucinich to be wooed back to vote for ObamaCare this time around and some retirees who don’t care if they enrage the voters by voting for a bill they hate. But it still probably doesn’t get Obama to a majority. So Marcus frets: “My worry is that going for broke and failing will leave no time or appetite for a fallback, scaled-down plan. And the moment to do something on health care — not everything, but something significant — will have evaporated, once again.”

This is the essence of Obama: filled with grand plans and a grandiose conception of himself, but short on workable plans, legislative prowess, and strategic thinking. And underneath it all is a deep contempt for the wishes and concerns of average Americans. As Michael Gerson aptly sums up:

Americans have taken every opportunity — the town hall revolt, increasingly lopsided polling, a series of upset elections culminating in Massachusetts — to shout their second thoughts. At this point, for Democratic leaders to insist on their current approach is to insist that Americans are not only misinformed but also dimwitted. And the proposed form of this insistence — enacting health reform through the quick, dirty shove of the reconciliation process — would add coercion to arrogance.

But that, too, is quintessential Obama, the Chicago pol who never much cares what the little people think, because they and critics can be written off, delegitimized, and shouted down.

Unfortunately, with such a political persona, you generally wind up with legislative flops (e.g., the stimulus) or nothing at all. That might suit conservatives, who frankly prefer the status quo to Obama’s Brave New World of health care, but it sure must come as a blow to those who thought Obama would be a transformative president.

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The “System” Failed or the Liberals Did?

Evan Bayh’s departure is unmistakably rotten news for Democrats. As the Washington Post report puts it:

Bayh dealt a triple blow to his Democratic Party and to President Obama with his announcement Monday that he is sick of the partisanship in Washington and will not seek a third term. The decision put his seat — and, some forecasters said, possibly his party’s Senate majority — in jeopardy, sent a discomforting message to already demoralized Democrats about this year’s political climate and reminded voters that Obama has yet to usher in the post-partisan era, a major theme of his 2008 campaign.

But liberals can’t accept the underlying message — that Obama and the Democratic leadership have failed to govern and are chasing moderates out of the party. So the battle is on to make this about the “system” or “partisanship” — floating and amorphous defects untraceable to Obama or any particular Democratic leader. Then there are the Republicans — the Party of No. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors sum up the spin:

Democrats have responded by blaming “obstructionist” Republicans, who lack the votes to block anything by themselves; or a failure to communicate the right message, though President Obama is a master communicator; or even Madison’s framework of checks and balances, though this system has worked better than all others for some 225 years.

John Podesta, who ran Mr. Obama’s transition and heads the Center for American Progress that has supplied the Administration’s ideas, summed up the liberal-media mood last week when he told the Financial Times that American governance now “sucks.” If you can’t blame your own ideas, blame the system.

Ruth Marcus is a case in point, whining, “The Senate, with its endless holds and 60-vote points of order, may be the epitome of a place that knows neither victory nor defeat.” She talks to Bayh, who obliges with a generic slam on the system: “The way Congress is working right now, I decided I could make a better contribution to my state and country on a smaller stage. … There are some ideologues in the Senate. There are some staunch partisans. The vast majority are good, decent people who are trapped in a system that does not let that goodness and decency translate itself into legislative accomplishments.”

So no one is responsible, or everyone is. And it’s all a generic downer. But is this right? It seems that the essence of leadership — what Obama is supposed to be providing — is to forge an agenda, corral Congress, and get stuff done. All this smacks of Obama’s “It is hard” complaint about the Middle East. Well, yes, but he also isn’t up for the job, based on what we’ve seen.

And then there’s the substance of what Congress has been doing for the past year. It’s been pursuing a far-Left agenda in the face of polling and election returns showing that the public disapproves, and strongly so, of its course. Congress then hit the wall when Massachusetts sent Scott Brown to the Senate. So now it’s stymied — no idea what to do. Gridlock is proclaimed. Well, why not head for the Center, pass that bipartisan jobs bill and a limited list of health-care reforms? Oh, can’t do that, because Reid-Obama-Pelosi won’t allow it. This then is an error of overreach and inept leadership by three Democrats who can’t shed their ideological rigidity. The system hasn’t failed — liberal rule has been repudiated. There’s a difference.

But fine. If liberals admit failure and claim that the country is ungovernable, then voters can choose another set of lawmakers and another direction. It only works, you see, to claim that the system is a mess when you don’t control everything. Otherwise, it’s an admission of incompetence.

Evan Bayh’s departure is unmistakably rotten news for Democrats. As the Washington Post report puts it:

Bayh dealt a triple blow to his Democratic Party and to President Obama with his announcement Monday that he is sick of the partisanship in Washington and will not seek a third term. The decision put his seat — and, some forecasters said, possibly his party’s Senate majority — in jeopardy, sent a discomforting message to already demoralized Democrats about this year’s political climate and reminded voters that Obama has yet to usher in the post-partisan era, a major theme of his 2008 campaign.

But liberals can’t accept the underlying message — that Obama and the Democratic leadership have failed to govern and are chasing moderates out of the party. So the battle is on to make this about the “system” or “partisanship” — floating and amorphous defects untraceable to Obama or any particular Democratic leader. Then there are the Republicans — the Party of No. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors sum up the spin:

Democrats have responded by blaming “obstructionist” Republicans, who lack the votes to block anything by themselves; or a failure to communicate the right message, though President Obama is a master communicator; or even Madison’s framework of checks and balances, though this system has worked better than all others for some 225 years.

John Podesta, who ran Mr. Obama’s transition and heads the Center for American Progress that has supplied the Administration’s ideas, summed up the liberal-media mood last week when he told the Financial Times that American governance now “sucks.” If you can’t blame your own ideas, blame the system.

Ruth Marcus is a case in point, whining, “The Senate, with its endless holds and 60-vote points of order, may be the epitome of a place that knows neither victory nor defeat.” She talks to Bayh, who obliges with a generic slam on the system: “The way Congress is working right now, I decided I could make a better contribution to my state and country on a smaller stage. … There are some ideologues in the Senate. There are some staunch partisans. The vast majority are good, decent people who are trapped in a system that does not let that goodness and decency translate itself into legislative accomplishments.”

So no one is responsible, or everyone is. And it’s all a generic downer. But is this right? It seems that the essence of leadership — what Obama is supposed to be providing — is to forge an agenda, corral Congress, and get stuff done. All this smacks of Obama’s “It is hard” complaint about the Middle East. Well, yes, but he also isn’t up for the job, based on what we’ve seen.

And then there’s the substance of what Congress has been doing for the past year. It’s been pursuing a far-Left agenda in the face of polling and election returns showing that the public disapproves, and strongly so, of its course. Congress then hit the wall when Massachusetts sent Scott Brown to the Senate. So now it’s stymied — no idea what to do. Gridlock is proclaimed. Well, why not head for the Center, pass that bipartisan jobs bill and a limited list of health-care reforms? Oh, can’t do that, because Reid-Obama-Pelosi won’t allow it. This then is an error of overreach and inept leadership by three Democrats who can’t shed their ideological rigidity. The system hasn’t failed — liberal rule has been repudiated. There’s a difference.

But fine. If liberals admit failure and claim that the country is ungovernable, then voters can choose another set of lawmakers and another direction. It only works, you see, to claim that the system is a mess when you don’t control everything. Otherwise, it’s an admission of incompetence.

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Overdosing on Summits

The White House spin machine has really broken down when the Obami can’t win over Ruth Marcus. On the health-care summit, she writes:

In case the president’s ducking of Couric’s question about his willingness to “start at square one” wasn’t clear enough, the White House came out to emphasize that, no, the president wasn’t backing away from the measures that have already passed both houses of Congress. He plans to come to the table with a merged Democratic blueprint as his starting point. Republicans should feel free to chime in, though.

To call this Kabuki is to insult the Japanese art form. I am no fan of the House Republican leadership, but under these circumstances it’s hard to fault Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia for suggesting that they might have better things to do than serve as Democratic stage props.

This is typical Obama — a useless stunt (a summit) with faux bipartisanship where he doubles down on his ultra-liberal agenda. Marcus helpfully offers that maybe Obama could throw a bone to the Republicans — tort reform, for example. Really, she pleads, it would show there is one special-interest group that Obama can stand up to! Well, don’t hold your breath.

Obama is about political gamesmanship, shifting blame, and most of all, heading off calls for him to do something other than trot out the same worn-out big-government power grab. Nor is he into tackling any liberal interest groups. (Ask the D.C. school kids about that one.) But here’s the thing: the act is old, the liberal pundits now roll their eyes in disgust, and the voters have seen quite enough of Obama’s dog-and-pony shows. So when the summit ends and the leg-tingling play-by-play at MSNBC wraps up, he still won’t have a viable health-care plan, and his fellow Democrats still will have to explain to voters why they voted for a monstrous bill that 70 percent of the electorate hates. You see, after the stunts, there is still governance. Obama isn’t really so enamored of that part of the job. Which explains all the summits.

The White House spin machine has really broken down when the Obami can’t win over Ruth Marcus. On the health-care summit, she writes:

In case the president’s ducking of Couric’s question about his willingness to “start at square one” wasn’t clear enough, the White House came out to emphasize that, no, the president wasn’t backing away from the measures that have already passed both houses of Congress. He plans to come to the table with a merged Democratic blueprint as his starting point. Republicans should feel free to chime in, though.

To call this Kabuki is to insult the Japanese art form. I am no fan of the House Republican leadership, but under these circumstances it’s hard to fault Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia for suggesting that they might have better things to do than serve as Democratic stage props.

This is typical Obama — a useless stunt (a summit) with faux bipartisanship where he doubles down on his ultra-liberal agenda. Marcus helpfully offers that maybe Obama could throw a bone to the Republicans — tort reform, for example. Really, she pleads, it would show there is one special-interest group that Obama can stand up to! Well, don’t hold your breath.

Obama is about political gamesmanship, shifting blame, and most of all, heading off calls for him to do something other than trot out the same worn-out big-government power grab. Nor is he into tackling any liberal interest groups. (Ask the D.C. school kids about that one.) But here’s the thing: the act is old, the liberal pundits now roll their eyes in disgust, and the voters have seen quite enough of Obama’s dog-and-pony shows. So when the summit ends and the leg-tingling play-by-play at MSNBC wraps up, he still won’t have a viable health-care plan, and his fellow Democrats still will have to explain to voters why they voted for a monstrous bill that 70 percent of the electorate hates. You see, after the stunts, there is still governance. Obama isn’t really so enamored of that part of the job. Which explains all the summits.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ruth Marcus explains: “So can a chastened Obama regain the lost sense of excitement and opportunity? Eventually, perhaps, but never entirely. The second time is never as thrilling.” Especially when the thrill was based on cotton-candy rhetoric and a blank slate onto which Obama told us we were projecting our hopes and dreams. If there is no there there, then the thrill is not likely to return.

Michael Barone says that if the election were held today, it would be worse for the Democrats than it was 1994 or 2002. He calls it “the makings of an epic party disaster.”

Charles Krauthammer on Obama and the KSM trial: “The president is not going to admit error. He never does. He does in the abstract, but he will never admit he actually makes a human error on anything. So he won’t on this. But he knows what’s going to happen, which is the Congress will rebel on this and it will pull the funding, [and] get him off the hook. And the issue [will] end up behind him even though he doesn’t do it himself.” Noting he never mentioned terrorism in the SOTU, Krauthammer adds: “In fact, because his two decisions — the KSM trial in Manhattan and the granting of Miranda rights to the guy who tried to blow up the airplane — are indefensible.”

Matt Continetti points out that it takes Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Sen. Carl Levin look wise on national security. Levin says of Pelosi’s idea to apply Obama’s freeze to defense spending: “That’s kind of hard to do in the middle of a war.” But maybe if we hop over the Pentagon fence. And then pole vault in. And then. Yeah, she is Speaker of the House.

Liberals think Rahm Emanual’s kicking the can down the road on health-care reform (“Congress would deal first with jobs, then banking regulation, and then circle back around to health-care reform”) makes no sense. Well, only if you want to stave off an epic party disaster, I suppose.

But at least Obama still has the postgraduate-degree voters according to Gallup: “The support of postgraduates, who tend to be more liberal and Democratic in their political orientation, was important to Obama’s being elected president. Since he has become president, postgraduates have been among his more reliable supporters, backing him at higher levels than do those in other educational groups.” But that poll was taken before the SOTU and Obama flunked his midterm on the campaign-finance-reform law. That might lose him a few points.

Tom Bevan catches Obama sort of admitting that the health-care bills wouldn’t really, absolutely have allowed everyone to keep their existing health plans. Stuff “snuck in,” you see. If there has ever been a president less willing to take responsibility for anything, I’m hard pressed to recall who it was. And no — George W. Bush did admit error on the initial conduct of the Iraq war and on Katrina, so he’s not even in the ballpark of Obama blame-shifting.

Fred Barnes says Obama is trapped: “President Obama’s greatest need is to escape the ideological grip of congressional Democrats and the liberal base of the Democratic party (they’re one and the same). But he either doesn’t recognize this or, as a conventional liberal himself, isn’t so inclined. This self-inflicted difficulty has put Obama in worse political straits than President Clinton faced after the Republican landslide of 1994.” Unlike Clinton, however, Obama seems to lack the flexibility and ideological creativity to get himself out of his self-made jam.

Ruth Marcus explains: “So can a chastened Obama regain the lost sense of excitement and opportunity? Eventually, perhaps, but never entirely. The second time is never as thrilling.” Especially when the thrill was based on cotton-candy rhetoric and a blank slate onto which Obama told us we were projecting our hopes and dreams. If there is no there there, then the thrill is not likely to return.

Michael Barone says that if the election were held today, it would be worse for the Democrats than it was 1994 or 2002. He calls it “the makings of an epic party disaster.”

Charles Krauthammer on Obama and the KSM trial: “The president is not going to admit error. He never does. He does in the abstract, but he will never admit he actually makes a human error on anything. So he won’t on this. But he knows what’s going to happen, which is the Congress will rebel on this and it will pull the funding, [and] get him off the hook. And the issue [will] end up behind him even though he doesn’t do it himself.” Noting he never mentioned terrorism in the SOTU, Krauthammer adds: “In fact, because his two decisions — the KSM trial in Manhattan and the granting of Miranda rights to the guy who tried to blow up the airplane — are indefensible.”

Matt Continetti points out that it takes Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Sen. Carl Levin look wise on national security. Levin says of Pelosi’s idea to apply Obama’s freeze to defense spending: “That’s kind of hard to do in the middle of a war.” But maybe if we hop over the Pentagon fence. And then pole vault in. And then. Yeah, she is Speaker of the House.

Liberals think Rahm Emanual’s kicking the can down the road on health-care reform (“Congress would deal first with jobs, then banking regulation, and then circle back around to health-care reform”) makes no sense. Well, only if you want to stave off an epic party disaster, I suppose.

But at least Obama still has the postgraduate-degree voters according to Gallup: “The support of postgraduates, who tend to be more liberal and Democratic in their political orientation, was important to Obama’s being elected president. Since he has become president, postgraduates have been among his more reliable supporters, backing him at higher levels than do those in other educational groups.” But that poll was taken before the SOTU and Obama flunked his midterm on the campaign-finance-reform law. That might lose him a few points.

Tom Bevan catches Obama sort of admitting that the health-care bills wouldn’t really, absolutely have allowed everyone to keep their existing health plans. Stuff “snuck in,” you see. If there has ever been a president less willing to take responsibility for anything, I’m hard pressed to recall who it was. And no — George W. Bush did admit error on the initial conduct of the Iraq war and on Katrina, so he’s not even in the ballpark of Obama blame-shifting.

Fred Barnes says Obama is trapped: “President Obama’s greatest need is to escape the ideological grip of congressional Democrats and the liberal base of the Democratic party (they’re one and the same). But he either doesn’t recognize this or, as a conventional liberal himself, isn’t so inclined. This self-inflicted difficulty has put Obama in worse political straits than President Clinton faced after the Republican landslide of 1994.” Unlike Clinton, however, Obama seems to lack the flexibility and ideological creativity to get himself out of his self-made jam.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

University of Pennsylvania’s Hillel is hosting J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami. Does Hillel not know that J Street doesn’t like to be known as a “pro-Israel” organization? One wonders what those who support Hillel must be thinking.

Mitt Romney was either missing in action or responsible for Scott Brown’s success, depending on which narrative you like. If Scott Brown wins, lots of people will claim credit, but Scott Brown will be forever indebted to ObamaCare. Without that target, is there any doubt that a plain-wrap Democrat, even one as mediocre as Coakley, was going to win going away?

Martha Coakley in “free fall”? Down by 9 in one poll. And it’s a similar story in many other polls — making for one eye-opening graph.

Nate Silver also is picking Scott Brown to win.

Marty Peretz sums up: “A loss in Massachusetts for the Obami would be a disastrous event. A narrow win would be a terrible warning.”

Ruth Marcus thinks it’s a plane crash: “If the Democratic party were a plane, its captain would have gotten on the intercom and instructed passengers to brace for impact. But President Obama, in this instance, may be no Sully Sullenberger. The chances of pulling off a smooth landing seem slight. The consequences could be catastrophic. … [A] Coakley loss would not simply reflect her shortcomings; it would illustrate the desire, in Democratic Massachusetts and nationwide, to put some checks on Democratic control of the levers of government. The first victim could be the central legislative focus of Obama’s presidency.”

The Wall Street Journal editors think it’s “the classic political mistake of ideological overreach”: “Mr. Obama won the White House in part on his personal style and cool confidence amid a recession and an unpopular war. Yet liberals in Congress interpreted their victory as a mandate to repeal more or less the entire post-1980 policy era and to fulfill, at last, their dream of turning the U.S. into a cradle-to-grave entitlement state. … The lesson of Mr. Obama’s lost first year is that an economic crisis is a terrible thing to exploit. As they have each time in the last 40 years that they have had total control of Washington, Democrats are proving again that America can’t be successfully governed from the left. If that is the lesson Mr. Obama learns from Massachusetts, he might still salvage his Presidency.”

Nancy Pelosi’s not listening to a bunch of know-nothing voters. Full steam ahead! And they wonder why they’re on the verge of a political earthquake.

This suggests that a large plurality of voters want to stop ObamaCare dead in its tracks: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 49% of likely voters nationwide want Brown to win, while 34% are cheering on Coakley. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.”

University of Pennsylvania’s Hillel is hosting J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami. Does Hillel not know that J Street doesn’t like to be known as a “pro-Israel” organization? One wonders what those who support Hillel must be thinking.

Mitt Romney was either missing in action or responsible for Scott Brown’s success, depending on which narrative you like. If Scott Brown wins, lots of people will claim credit, but Scott Brown will be forever indebted to ObamaCare. Without that target, is there any doubt that a plain-wrap Democrat, even one as mediocre as Coakley, was going to win going away?

Martha Coakley in “free fall”? Down by 9 in one poll. And it’s a similar story in many other polls — making for one eye-opening graph.

Nate Silver also is picking Scott Brown to win.

Marty Peretz sums up: “A loss in Massachusetts for the Obami would be a disastrous event. A narrow win would be a terrible warning.”

Ruth Marcus thinks it’s a plane crash: “If the Democratic party were a plane, its captain would have gotten on the intercom and instructed passengers to brace for impact. But President Obama, in this instance, may be no Sully Sullenberger. The chances of pulling off a smooth landing seem slight. The consequences could be catastrophic. … [A] Coakley loss would not simply reflect her shortcomings; it would illustrate the desire, in Democratic Massachusetts and nationwide, to put some checks on Democratic control of the levers of government. The first victim could be the central legislative focus of Obama’s presidency.”

The Wall Street Journal editors think it’s “the classic political mistake of ideological overreach”: “Mr. Obama won the White House in part on his personal style and cool confidence amid a recession and an unpopular war. Yet liberals in Congress interpreted their victory as a mandate to repeal more or less the entire post-1980 policy era and to fulfill, at last, their dream of turning the U.S. into a cradle-to-grave entitlement state. … The lesson of Mr. Obama’s lost first year is that an economic crisis is a terrible thing to exploit. As they have each time in the last 40 years that they have had total control of Washington, Democrats are proving again that America can’t be successfully governed from the left. If that is the lesson Mr. Obama learns from Massachusetts, he might still salvage his Presidency.”

Nancy Pelosi’s not listening to a bunch of know-nothing voters. Full steam ahead! And they wonder why they’re on the verge of a political earthquake.

This suggests that a large plurality of voters want to stop ObamaCare dead in its tracks: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 49% of likely voters nationwide want Brown to win, while 34% are cheering on Coakley. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.”

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Is Reid the Best They Can Do?

Pundits are divided: is Harry Reid a racist or just a buffoon? I tend to agree with Mark Steyn and Matt Yglesias (hard to believe there would ever be an occasion to write those words):

It’s good that Reid apologized, but at the same time you can’t really apologize for being the sort of person who’d be inclined to use the phrase “negro dialect” and it’s more the idea of Reid being that kind of person that’s creepy here than anything else.

Ruth Marcus put it this way:

For anyone in public life to use the word “Negro” in 2008 is beyond stupid. What was once polite has become demeaning. (Although, interestingly enough, the U.S. Census chose to retain the word on the 2010 census form because so many respondents wrote it in 10 years ago.) The lame explanation offered by an aide — that the remarks were not intended for use in the book — is about as convincing as Jesse Jackson’s assertion that he did not consider his “Hymietown” comments to the Washington Post’s Milton Coleman on the record. (“Let’s talk black talk,” Jackson had said to Coleman.)

Nor is this the only time Harry Reid showed an odd obsession with the manner in which prominent African Americans express themselves. It was Reid who declared of Justice Clarence Thomas: “I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written.” (He nevertheless had kind words for Justice Scalia, the other sharp-penned conservative on the court.) And then there was his remark that Republicans who opposed ObamaCare were comparable to those who opposed the repeal of slavery. It is hard to think of another figure in public life who is so tone-deaf on matters of race.

There is something, well, just not right about Reid’s propensity to toss around incendiary racial analogies and observations. Goodness knows what’s in his heart, but this simply isn’t what we expect of public leaders, who, if they can’t think of something helpful or enlightening to say on race relations, should at the very least keep quiet. Honestly, is he the best that the Democrats can do for a majority leader, or the best the people of Nevada can do for a senator? I suppose we’ll find out in November. But the Democrats’ insistence that there’s nothing wrong with Reid aside from a slip of the tongue (well, lots and lots of them) or nothing wrong enough to be disqualifying rings hollow. You’d think they’d at least prefer someone who doesn’t absorb days of media attention in apology mode.

You might expect the Democratic establishment to quietly encourage him to follow Chris Dodd’s example. In circling the wagons around their wounded and increasingly embarrassing leader, the Democrats in D.C. are passing the buck to Nevada voters, who, I suspect, will be more anxious than ever to elect someone more in line with their views and less offensive in his public rhetoric.

Pundits are divided: is Harry Reid a racist or just a buffoon? I tend to agree with Mark Steyn and Matt Yglesias (hard to believe there would ever be an occasion to write those words):

It’s good that Reid apologized, but at the same time you can’t really apologize for being the sort of person who’d be inclined to use the phrase “negro dialect” and it’s more the idea of Reid being that kind of person that’s creepy here than anything else.

Ruth Marcus put it this way:

For anyone in public life to use the word “Negro” in 2008 is beyond stupid. What was once polite has become demeaning. (Although, interestingly enough, the U.S. Census chose to retain the word on the 2010 census form because so many respondents wrote it in 10 years ago.) The lame explanation offered by an aide — that the remarks were not intended for use in the book — is about as convincing as Jesse Jackson’s assertion that he did not consider his “Hymietown” comments to the Washington Post’s Milton Coleman on the record. (“Let’s talk black talk,” Jackson had said to Coleman.)

Nor is this the only time Harry Reid showed an odd obsession with the manner in which prominent African Americans express themselves. It was Reid who declared of Justice Clarence Thomas: “I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written.” (He nevertheless had kind words for Justice Scalia, the other sharp-penned conservative on the court.) And then there was his remark that Republicans who opposed ObamaCare were comparable to those who opposed the repeal of slavery. It is hard to think of another figure in public life who is so tone-deaf on matters of race.

There is something, well, just not right about Reid’s propensity to toss around incendiary racial analogies and observations. Goodness knows what’s in his heart, but this simply isn’t what we expect of public leaders, who, if they can’t think of something helpful or enlightening to say on race relations, should at the very least keep quiet. Honestly, is he the best that the Democrats can do for a majority leader, or the best the people of Nevada can do for a senator? I suppose we’ll find out in November. But the Democrats’ insistence that there’s nothing wrong with Reid aside from a slip of the tongue (well, lots and lots of them) or nothing wrong enough to be disqualifying rings hollow. You’d think they’d at least prefer someone who doesn’t absorb days of media attention in apology mode.

You might expect the Democratic establishment to quietly encourage him to follow Chris Dodd’s example. In circling the wagons around their wounded and increasingly embarrassing leader, the Democrats in D.C. are passing the buck to Nevada voters, who, I suspect, will be more anxious than ever to elect someone more in line with their views and less offensive in his public rhetoric.

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Rethinking the Criminal-Justice Model

Many liberals are conflicted. They deride the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism paradigm and angrily deny that Obama is treating the war against Islamic fascists (whom he never identifies as such) in an unserious manner. And yet they sense something is amiss. Ruth Marcus is a case in point. She huffs that it is poppycock to suggest that the Obama administration’s conduct reveals its ”supposed law enforcement-only mindset.”  But then, turning on a dime, she sounds much like the president’s conservative critics:

Did the administration’s quick pivot to criminal charges — they were filed the next day — interfere with investigators’ ability to obtain maximum information from Abdulmutallab? What if other operatives had been deployed with similar devices? Wouldn’t it have been better to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab — without offering Miranda warnings against self-incrimination, and without providing a lawyer whose first instruction was, no doubt, to stop talking?

And she, too, has figured out the timeline:  ” ‘He proceeded to talk for quite some time and provided useful intelligence long before he obtained an attorney,’ a senior administration official assured me. But the criminal charges were filed a scant 24 hours after the incident. Was that really enough time to exhaust Abdulmutallab’s informational value, no matter how small a fish he is?” No, likely not. She makes the not unreasonable suggestion that the administration and Congress, if they don’t want to treat terrorists as enemy combatants, should come up with an appropriate hybrid system for detaining and interrogating noncitizens.

So what happened to the huffy denials that the Obami have deployed an inappropriate criminal-justice model? Well, when you leave  Bush and Cheney out of it and just talk about common sense and specific cases, there are some reasonable liberals who will agree that the Obama-Holder fixation on extending full constitutional rights to terrorists makes no sense. And it might get people killed. We have enough problems connecting dots. Perhaps then there is some basis for bipartisan discussion and another look at the assumptions that allowed Abdulmutallab to clam up and KSM to prepare for the “trial of the century.”

Many liberals are conflicted. They deride the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism paradigm and angrily deny that Obama is treating the war against Islamic fascists (whom he never identifies as such) in an unserious manner. And yet they sense something is amiss. Ruth Marcus is a case in point. She huffs that it is poppycock to suggest that the Obama administration’s conduct reveals its ”supposed law enforcement-only mindset.”  But then, turning on a dime, she sounds much like the president’s conservative critics:

Did the administration’s quick pivot to criminal charges — they were filed the next day — interfere with investigators’ ability to obtain maximum information from Abdulmutallab? What if other operatives had been deployed with similar devices? Wouldn’t it have been better to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab — without offering Miranda warnings against self-incrimination, and without providing a lawyer whose first instruction was, no doubt, to stop talking?

And she, too, has figured out the timeline:  ” ‘He proceeded to talk for quite some time and provided useful intelligence long before he obtained an attorney,’ a senior administration official assured me. But the criminal charges were filed a scant 24 hours after the incident. Was that really enough time to exhaust Abdulmutallab’s informational value, no matter how small a fish he is?” No, likely not. She makes the not unreasonable suggestion that the administration and Congress, if they don’t want to treat terrorists as enemy combatants, should come up with an appropriate hybrid system for detaining and interrogating noncitizens.

So what happened to the huffy denials that the Obami have deployed an inappropriate criminal-justice model? Well, when you leave  Bush and Cheney out of it and just talk about common sense and specific cases, there are some reasonable liberals who will agree that the Obama-Holder fixation on extending full constitutional rights to terrorists makes no sense. And it might get people killed. We have enough problems connecting dots. Perhaps then there is some basis for bipartisan discussion and another look at the assumptions that allowed Abdulmutallab to clam up and KSM to prepare for the “trial of the century.”

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The Politics of Whining

Democrats are whimpering that Obama is being treated unfairly, that George W. Bush didn’t get as much criticism in handling shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and that those nasty Republicans are ganging up on the president. Really, this is sounding remarkably akin to an eight year-old who thinks his older brother was given favorable treatment by the relatives. And let me guess: the worst possible argument that Democrats could make right now is: “The media liked Bush better!”

But let’s consider why Bush was not lambasted in the same manner as Obama. Marc Thiessen explains:

The Richard Reid attack came almost immediately after 9/11, long before we figured out that we had other options than handing him over to law enforcement. After that came Jose Padilla, who was arrested at the Chicago airport on a mission from KSM to blow up apartment buildings in the United States. He was taken out of the criminal-justice system, declared an illegal enemy combatant, and transferred to the Charleston brig for interrogation.

The reason Obama is being savaged is that he and his crew appear to have learned nothing from 9/11. As Ruth Marcus put it:

The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn in his underwear. And at the Obama administration’s initial, everything’s-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction. . .

How can it be that screening technology is so lacking so long after the 9/11 Commission called for “priority attention” to detect explosives on passengers?

How can it be that our best line of defense seems to have been a combination of incompetence and bravery — incompetence by the attacker whose device failed to detonate properly, and bravery by passengers who acted so quickly to subdue him and put out the fire?

And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration’s communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that officials were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down?

(I think we can agree that when Marcus sounds like me, the Obama administration is in deep trouble.)

And there is more than the specifics of the incident or the fact that Obama had prior experiences to guide him this time around. Very clearly, Obama simply doesn’t match up favorably to his predecessor when it comes to the war on terror. Never for a moment did we doubt that Bush understood we were at war, who we were fighting, and the need to dump the criminal-justice model. We never had the sense that Bush was engaged in some grand experiment to cajole and flatter our enemies into giving up their grievances. And never did we believe the war on terror was not his top priority. Who can say that about Obama?

If Obama wants to indulge in liberal fantasies about how to “improve our image” with would-be terrorists, revert to a pre-9/11 model and give lackadaisical press conferences, so be it. But then he can’t expect to escape criticism for being . . . well . . . not George Bush.

Democrats are whimpering that Obama is being treated unfairly, that George W. Bush didn’t get as much criticism in handling shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and that those nasty Republicans are ganging up on the president. Really, this is sounding remarkably akin to an eight year-old who thinks his older brother was given favorable treatment by the relatives. And let me guess: the worst possible argument that Democrats could make right now is “The media liked Bush better!”

But let’s consider why Bush was not lambasted in the same manner as Obama. Marc Thiessen explains:

The Richard Reid attack came almost immediately after 9/11, long before we figured out that we had other options than handing him over to law enforcement. After that came Jose Padilla, who was arrested at the Chicago airport on a mission from KSM to blow up apartment buildings in the United States. He was taken out of the criminal-justice system, declared an illegal enemy combatant, and transferred to the Charleston brig for interrogation.

The reason Obama is being savaged is that he and his crew appear to have learned nothing from 9/11. As Ruth Marcus put it:

The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn in his underwear. And at the Obama administration’s initial, everything’s-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction. . .

How can it be that screening technology is so lacking so long after the 9/11 Commission called for “priority attention” to detect explosives on passengers?

How can it be that our best line of defense seems to have been a combination of incompetence and bravery — incompetence by the attacker whose device failed to detonate properly, and bravery by passengers who acted so quickly to subdue him and put out the fire?

And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration’s communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that officials were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down?

(I think we can agree that when Marcus sounds like me, the Obama administration is in deep trouble.)

And there is more than the specifics of the incident or the fact that Obama had prior experiences to guide him this time around. Very clearly, Obama simply doesn’t match up favorably to his predecessor when it comes to the war on terror. Never for a moment did we doubt that Bush understood we were at war, who we were fighting, and the need to dump the criminal-justice model. We never had the sense that Bush was engaged in some grand experiment to cajole and flatter our enemies into giving up their grievances. And never did we believe the war on terror was not his top priority. Who can say that about Obama?

If Obama wants to indulge in liberal fantasies about how to “improve our image” with would-be terrorists, revert to a pre-9/11 model and give lackadaisical press conferences, so be it. But then he can’t expect to escape criticism for being . . . well . . . not George Bush.

Democrats are whimpering that Obama is being treated unfairly, that George W. Bush didn’t get as much criticism in handling shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and that those nasty Republicans are ganging up on the president. Really, this is sounding remarkably akin to an eight year-old who thinks his older brother was given favorable treatment by the relatives. And let me guess: the worst possible argument that Democrats could make right now is: “The media liked Bush better!”

But let’s consider why Bush was not lambasted in the same manner as Obama. Marc Thiessen explains:

The Richard Reid attack came almost immediately after 9/11, long before we figured out that we had other options than handing him over to law enforcement. After that came Jose Padilla, who was arrested at the Chicago airport on a mission from KSM to blow up apartment buildings in the United States. He was taken out of the criminal-justice system, declared an illegal enemy combatant, and transferred to the Charleston brig for interrogation.

The reason Obama is being savaged is that he and his crew appear to have learned nothing from 9/11. As Ruth Marcus put it:

The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn in his underwear. And at the Obama administration’s initial, everything’s-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction. . .

How can it be that screening technology is so lacking so long after the 9/11 Commission called for “priority attention” to detect explosives on passengers?

How can it be that our best line of defense seems to have been a combination of incompetence and bravery — incompetence by the attacker whose device failed to detonate properly, and bravery by passengers who acted so quickly to subdue him and put out the fire?

And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration’s communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that officials were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down?

(I think we can agree that when Marcus sounds like me, the Obama administration is in deep trouble.)

And there is more than the specifics of the incident or the fact that Obama had prior experiences to guide him this time around. Very clearly, Obama simply doesn’t match up favorably to his predecessor when it comes to the war on terror. Never for a moment did we doubt that Bush understood we were at war, who we were fighting, and the need to dump the criminal-justice model. We never had the sense that Bush was engaged in some grand experiment to cajole and flatter our enemies into giving up their grievances. And never did we believe the war on terror was not his top priority. Who can say that about Obama?

If Obama wants to indulge in liberal fantasies about how to “improve our image” with would-be terrorists, revert to a pre-9/11 model and give lackadaisical press conferences, so be it. But then he can’t expect to escape criticism for being . . . well . . . not George Bush.

Democrats are whimpering that Obama is being treated unfairly, that George W. Bush didn’t get as much criticism in handling shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and that those nasty Republicans are ganging up on the president. Really, this is sounding remarkably akin to an eight year-old who thinks his older brother was given favorable treatment by the relatives. And let me guess: the worst possible argument that Democrats could make right now is “The media liked Bush better!”

But let’s consider why Bush was not lambasted in the same manner as Obama. Marc Thiessen explains:

The Richard Reid attack came almost immediately after 9/11, long before we figured out that we had other options than handing him over to law enforcement. After that came Jose Padilla, who was arrested at the Chicago airport on a mission from KSM to blow up apartment buildings in the United States. He was taken out of the criminal-justice system, declared an illegal enemy combatant, and transferred to the Charleston brig for interrogation.

The reason Obama is being savaged is that he and his crew appear to have learned nothing from 9/11. As Ruth Marcus put it:

The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn in his underwear. And at the Obama administration’s initial, everything’s-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction. . .

How can it be that screening technology is so lacking so long after the 9/11 Commission called for “priority attention” to detect explosives on passengers?

How can it be that our best line of defense seems to have been a combination of incompetence and bravery — incompetence by the attacker whose device failed to detonate properly, and bravery by passengers who acted so quickly to subdue him and put out the fire?

And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration’s communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that officials were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down?

(I think we can agree that when Marcus sounds like me, the Obama administration is in deep trouble.)

And there is more than the specifics of the incident or the fact that Obama had prior experiences to guide him this time around. Very clearly, Obama simply doesn’t match up favorably to his predecessor when it comes to the war on terror. Never for a moment did we doubt that Bush understood we were at war, who we were fighting, and the need to dump the criminal-justice model. We never had the sense that Bush was engaged in some grand experiment to cajole and flatter our enemies into giving up their grievances. And never did we believe the war on terror was not his top priority. Who can say that about Obama?

If Obama wants to indulge in liberal fantasies about how to “improve our image” with would-be terrorists, revert to a pre-9/11 model and give lackadaisical press conferences, so be it. But then he can’t expect to escape criticism for being . . . well . . . not George Bush.

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Another Poll, Another Warning

The Pew Research poll has some sobering news for the Democratic Congress:

About half (52%) of registered voters would like to see their own representative re-elected next year, while 34% say that most members of Congress should be re-elected. Both measures are among the most negative in two decades of Pew Research surveys. Other low points were during the 1994 and 2006 election cycles, when the party in power suffered large losses in midterm elections.

Support for congressional incumbents is particularly low among political independents. Only 42% of independent voters want to see their own representative re-elected and just 25% would like to see most members of Congress re-elected. Both measures are near all-time lows in Pew Research surveys.

The voters are watching and don’t like what they see. They also don’t like how Obama is handling Afghanistan: “A majority (57%) now says the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan is going not too well or not at all well, up from 45% in January.” And they don’t like ObamCare either: “47% say they generally oppose the proposals being discussed in Congress, while 38% say they favor these proposals. About a third (34%) says they oppose the legislation very strongly while 24% favor it very strongly.”

Democrats in Congress can read these polls as well; unlike Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, they may decide to do something about it. That would entail attending to what concerns voters most (jobs), dumping what voters don’t like (PelosiCare), and moderating the tax-and-spend bonanza that has turned off independents.

Or they can keep on doing what their leaders ask of them and hope the voters learn to love it. Maybe New Jersey and Virginia were flukes — that’s what David Axelrod and Ruth Marcus keep telling them. Sure, that’s it. Give the voters PelosiCare as a ”present” for Christmas. And then we’ll see just how serious the voters are about jettisoning lawmakers who persist in doing things they really don’t like.

The Pew Research poll has some sobering news for the Democratic Congress:

About half (52%) of registered voters would like to see their own representative re-elected next year, while 34% say that most members of Congress should be re-elected. Both measures are among the most negative in two decades of Pew Research surveys. Other low points were during the 1994 and 2006 election cycles, when the party in power suffered large losses in midterm elections.

Support for congressional incumbents is particularly low among political independents. Only 42% of independent voters want to see their own representative re-elected and just 25% would like to see most members of Congress re-elected. Both measures are near all-time lows in Pew Research surveys.

The voters are watching and don’t like what they see. They also don’t like how Obama is handling Afghanistan: “A majority (57%) now says the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan is going not too well or not at all well, up from 45% in January.” And they don’t like ObamCare either: “47% say they generally oppose the proposals being discussed in Congress, while 38% say they favor these proposals. About a third (34%) says they oppose the legislation very strongly while 24% favor it very strongly.”

Democrats in Congress can read these polls as well; unlike Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, they may decide to do something about it. That would entail attending to what concerns voters most (jobs), dumping what voters don’t like (PelosiCare), and moderating the tax-and-spend bonanza that has turned off independents.

Or they can keep on doing what their leaders ask of them and hope the voters learn to love it. Maybe New Jersey and Virginia were flukes — that’s what David Axelrod and Ruth Marcus keep telling them. Sure, that’s it. Give the voters PelosiCare as a ”present” for Christmas. And then we’ll see just how serious the voters are about jettisoning lawmakers who persist in doing things they really don’t like.

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More on Hillary’s Fabrication

I wanted to add my thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s fabricated story about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996. It is a damaging, and probably deeply damaging, blow to an increasingly weak and desperate candidate. It will now become fodder for late night talk show hosts. It also builds on other false claims she has made, from her role in the Northern Ireland peace talks to S-CHIP legislation. And the sniper fire tale reinforces an existing impression about the Clintons: they cannot be counted on to tell the truth in matters small or large, about them or about others, about policy or about their personal conduct. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Senator Clinton acknowledged the story was false only after indisputable video evidence (in this case from CBS News) emerged. Like her husband and the blue dress, the Clintons only concede their untruthfulness when they’ve been caught – on camera or via DNA – in their untruths.

I have thought for a long while now that Clinton Fatigue Syndrome was real, even among Democrats, and it would emerge as the campaign unfolded. It has, in many different ways – triggered by angry and false comments by Bill Clinton to this story to much else. It brings rushing back many of the bad memories from the 1990s and reminds people how the Clintons operate, both in campaigns and while in office. There is, at core, a corruption of character.

Monday night Joe Klein was on CNN downplaying the significance of Mrs. Clinton’s tall tale:

It’s a war story, and — and she exaggerated it. And it doesn’t speak well of her. And it’s very un-Hillary like. But could I just, for the sake of the fact that we’re in silly season now, and everybody — all these candidates are totally exhausted, just plead for charity, not only for her, but for the Obama supporters… I mean, these are not the important issues in the election. The important issues are two wars, an economic crisis, and — and the need for energy independence…. The question is whether you blow up these little exaggerations that everybody makes, including candidates, to the point where it obscures the real issues in the campaign. I’m willing to give her a break on this one, even though, as I said, it’s very much unlike her, and it’s clearly her telling a war story.

It’s not clear that this “exaggeration” is un-Hillary like. In fact, as I alluded to above, there are other examples. And of course she was a key figure in the Clinton White House which, as Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post wrote at the time, followed a “pattern of knowing and reckless disregard for the truth.” It strikes me that Klein was more on target when he wrote a 1994 cover story for Newsweek, “The Politics of Promiscuity,” in which he said this:

With the Clintons, the story always is subject to further revision. The misstatements are always incremental. The “misunderstandings” are always innocent – casual, irregular: promiscuous. Trust is squandered in dribs and drabs. Does this sort of behavior also infect the president’s public life, his formulation of policy? Clearly, it does.

Hillary Clinton will almost surely lose the Democratic nomination for president; the question is how much damage she will do to herself, and to Obama and her party, in the process. I suspect the answer is a fair amount.

I wanted to add my thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s fabricated story about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996. It is a damaging, and probably deeply damaging, blow to an increasingly weak and desperate candidate. It will now become fodder for late night talk show hosts. It also builds on other false claims she has made, from her role in the Northern Ireland peace talks to S-CHIP legislation. And the sniper fire tale reinforces an existing impression about the Clintons: they cannot be counted on to tell the truth in matters small or large, about them or about others, about policy or about their personal conduct. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Senator Clinton acknowledged the story was false only after indisputable video evidence (in this case from CBS News) emerged. Like her husband and the blue dress, the Clintons only concede their untruthfulness when they’ve been caught – on camera or via DNA – in their untruths.

I have thought for a long while now that Clinton Fatigue Syndrome was real, even among Democrats, and it would emerge as the campaign unfolded. It has, in many different ways – triggered by angry and false comments by Bill Clinton to this story to much else. It brings rushing back many of the bad memories from the 1990s and reminds people how the Clintons operate, both in campaigns and while in office. There is, at core, a corruption of character.

Monday night Joe Klein was on CNN downplaying the significance of Mrs. Clinton’s tall tale:

It’s a war story, and — and she exaggerated it. And it doesn’t speak well of her. And it’s very un-Hillary like. But could I just, for the sake of the fact that we’re in silly season now, and everybody — all these candidates are totally exhausted, just plead for charity, not only for her, but for the Obama supporters… I mean, these are not the important issues in the election. The important issues are two wars, an economic crisis, and — and the need for energy independence…. The question is whether you blow up these little exaggerations that everybody makes, including candidates, to the point where it obscures the real issues in the campaign. I’m willing to give her a break on this one, even though, as I said, it’s very much unlike her, and it’s clearly her telling a war story.

It’s not clear that this “exaggeration” is un-Hillary like. In fact, as I alluded to above, there are other examples. And of course she was a key figure in the Clinton White House which, as Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post wrote at the time, followed a “pattern of knowing and reckless disregard for the truth.” It strikes me that Klein was more on target when he wrote a 1994 cover story for Newsweek, “The Politics of Promiscuity,” in which he said this:

With the Clintons, the story always is subject to further revision. The misstatements are always incremental. The “misunderstandings” are always innocent – casual, irregular: promiscuous. Trust is squandered in dribs and drabs. Does this sort of behavior also infect the president’s public life, his formulation of policy? Clearly, it does.

Hillary Clinton will almost surely lose the Democratic nomination for president; the question is how much damage she will do to herself, and to Obama and her party, in the process. I suspect the answer is a fair amount.

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You Thought Hanging Chads Were A Mess

Unlike Michigan, which is inching toward a resolution of its delegate quandary, Florida is in a bit of a (dare I say it) quagmire. A mail-in re-vote has proved to be a nonstarter, an in-person re-vote is said to be too costly, and Senator Bill Nelson’s backup plan to award half of Florida’s delegates in proportion to the votes cast in January( i.e. Hillary Clinton wins but picks up 19 rather than 38 delegates) has been rejected by the Clinton camp. It is obvious why the latter is unacceptable for Clinton, especially post-Wright controversy: Clinton needs not just delegates, but new victories to demonstrate Barack Obama’s support is melting down.

In the old days, a savvy party chairman would step in and knock heads, but Howard Dean is no Bob Strauss (a point Ruth Marcus made on This Week). Dean’s shown little interest in intervening. And his suggestion that this can all be worked out by the DNC credentials committee would mean the nomination might be left undecided until August, with a gigantic rules fight dominating the Democratic Convention and the summer news.

So for Clinton either a full re-vote (perhaps funded by donors favorable to her campaign) or a quagmire leaves her alive to fight another day. For now the latter seems more likely.

Unlike Michigan, which is inching toward a resolution of its delegate quandary, Florida is in a bit of a (dare I say it) quagmire. A mail-in re-vote has proved to be a nonstarter, an in-person re-vote is said to be too costly, and Senator Bill Nelson’s backup plan to award half of Florida’s delegates in proportion to the votes cast in January( i.e. Hillary Clinton wins but picks up 19 rather than 38 delegates) has been rejected by the Clinton camp. It is obvious why the latter is unacceptable for Clinton, especially post-Wright controversy: Clinton needs not just delegates, but new victories to demonstrate Barack Obama’s support is melting down.

In the old days, a savvy party chairman would step in and knock heads, but Howard Dean is no Bob Strauss (a point Ruth Marcus made on This Week). Dean’s shown little interest in intervening. And his suggestion that this can all be worked out by the DNC credentials committee would mean the nomination might be left undecided until August, with a gigantic rules fight dominating the Democratic Convention and the summer news.

So for Clinton either a full re-vote (perhaps funded by donors favorable to her campaign) or a quagmire leaves her alive to fight another day. For now the latter seems more likely.

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