Commentary Magazine


Topic: San Francisco

Evening Commentary

Libertarians often look to the Founding Fathers as political role models, but would the Founders have actually fit the modern definition of a libertarian? David Frum argues no — and writes that those who attribute this ideology to the Founders are simply ignoring history: “[I]f the libertarian impulse summons us to take action to contain and constrain that government, very well let us take up the task. But we can do that task without duping ourselves with a false history that denies the reality of the past and — ironically — belittles the Founders’ actual achievements by measuring them against standards they would surely have rejected, if they had ever understood them.”

A church in Egypt was bombed during New Year’s Mass, killing 21 and injuring dozens more. Authorities believe the attack was carried out by extremist Muslims who were inspired by al-Qaeda but not necessarily associated with the terror group.

Good news: A new “groundbreaking” research project has found that conservative brains are structured to be “fearful” and “reflexive,” while liberal brains are structured to be “courageous” and “optimistic.” Over at the New York Post, Kyle Smith discovers that this important study has cleared up some confusing discrepancies in his own life: “[Professor] Rees has the answer to why, in my Army career, I kept running into so many conceptual performance artists from San Francisco and Chelsea. Seldom did I do a push-up or clean my M16 without finding myself amid heated debate from the officer class about whether Walter Mondale or Eugene McCarthy was the most inspiring American political leader of our era.”

Government spending can actually help stimulate economic growth, argues George Will. But in order for progress to occur, this spending needs to fund the projects of society’s top scientific innovators and pioneers. “With populism rampant, this is not a propitious moment to defend elites, even scientific ones. Nevertheless, the nation depends on nourishing them and the institutions that sustain them,” writes Will.

Well, this was bound to happen eventually. Leftists at the Guardian are now openly opposing human rights: “[Human-rights groups] promote an absolutist view of human rights permeated by modern western ideas that westerners mistakenly call ‘universal.’ In some cases, their work, far from saving lives, actually causes more death, more repression, more brutality and an absolute weakening of human rights.” Yeah, who are we to oppress the people of Saudi Arabia and Iran with our imperialist idea that women shouldn’t be stoned for adultery?

Five members of Hamas have been charged in a plot to bomb a major Israeli stadium during a soccer game. Authorities say that the attack was meant to be in retaliation for Operation Cast Lead in 2008: “According to a statement from Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, the two main suspects were identified as Mussa Hamada of East Jerusalem, and Bassem Omri, an Israeli citizen living in Beit Tzafafa. Both are members of Hamas and the ‘Muslim Brothers’ movement in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet said.”

Libertarians often look to the Founding Fathers as political role models, but would the Founders have actually fit the modern definition of a libertarian? David Frum argues no — and writes that those who attribute this ideology to the Founders are simply ignoring history: “[I]f the libertarian impulse summons us to take action to contain and constrain that government, very well let us take up the task. But we can do that task without duping ourselves with a false history that denies the reality of the past and — ironically — belittles the Founders’ actual achievements by measuring them against standards they would surely have rejected, if they had ever understood them.”

A church in Egypt was bombed during New Year’s Mass, killing 21 and injuring dozens more. Authorities believe the attack was carried out by extremist Muslims who were inspired by al-Qaeda but not necessarily associated with the terror group.

Good news: A new “groundbreaking” research project has found that conservative brains are structured to be “fearful” and “reflexive,” while liberal brains are structured to be “courageous” and “optimistic.” Over at the New York Post, Kyle Smith discovers that this important study has cleared up some confusing discrepancies in his own life: “[Professor] Rees has the answer to why, in my Army career, I kept running into so many conceptual performance artists from San Francisco and Chelsea. Seldom did I do a push-up or clean my M16 without finding myself amid heated debate from the officer class about whether Walter Mondale or Eugene McCarthy was the most inspiring American political leader of our era.”

Government spending can actually help stimulate economic growth, argues George Will. But in order for progress to occur, this spending needs to fund the projects of society’s top scientific innovators and pioneers. “With populism rampant, this is not a propitious moment to defend elites, even scientific ones. Nevertheless, the nation depends on nourishing them and the institutions that sustain them,” writes Will.

Well, this was bound to happen eventually. Leftists at the Guardian are now openly opposing human rights: “[Human-rights groups] promote an absolutist view of human rights permeated by modern western ideas that westerners mistakenly call ‘universal.’ In some cases, their work, far from saving lives, actually causes more death, more repression, more brutality and an absolute weakening of human rights.” Yeah, who are we to oppress the people of Saudi Arabia and Iran with our imperialist idea that women shouldn’t be stoned for adultery?

Five members of Hamas have been charged in a plot to bomb a major Israeli stadium during a soccer game. Authorities say that the attack was meant to be in retaliation for Operation Cast Lead in 2008: “According to a statement from Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, the two main suspects were identified as Mussa Hamada of East Jerusalem, and Bassem Omri, an Israeli citizen living in Beit Tzafafa. Both are members of Hamas and the ‘Muslim Brothers’ movement in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet said.”

Read Less

RE: Palin’s Counterproductive Complaint

I agree with Pete that Sarah Palin is dead wrong on this one. Encouraging parents to monitor their children’s weight and to give them a healthy diet is one thing, mandating it is quite another.

That’s the difference between Michelle Obama and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which would like nothing better than to require that parents provide a prescribed diet, devoid of anything that tastes good. This group, which could with more accuracy be called the Center for the Suppression of All Pleasure in Life, is currently suing McDonald’s in California over the toys it puts in children’s “happy meals.” As detailed by my friend Walter Olson, their argument is that the toys make the meals too appealing to kids, who then bully their parents into buying the fattening meals, the parents giving in rather than face life with pouting children. They are seeking class-action status so that other parents, helpless before their children’s demands, can join in. San Francisco and Marin County (across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) have already outlawed happy meals. They certainly have a low opinion of their citizens’ parenting skills. (Personally, I can remember all too well how my mother could bring my brother and me to heel with a single glance.)

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and such organizations, it seems to me, are staffed and supported by the philosophical descendants of New England Puritans. They wanted to build a shining city on a hill and, to do so, were only too happy to run everyone’s life for them.

I agree with Pete that Sarah Palin is dead wrong on this one. Encouraging parents to monitor their children’s weight and to give them a healthy diet is one thing, mandating it is quite another.

That’s the difference between Michelle Obama and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which would like nothing better than to require that parents provide a prescribed diet, devoid of anything that tastes good. This group, which could with more accuracy be called the Center for the Suppression of All Pleasure in Life, is currently suing McDonald’s in California over the toys it puts in children’s “happy meals.” As detailed by my friend Walter Olson, their argument is that the toys make the meals too appealing to kids, who then bully their parents into buying the fattening meals, the parents giving in rather than face life with pouting children. They are seeking class-action status so that other parents, helpless before their children’s demands, can join in. San Francisco and Marin County (across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) have already outlawed happy meals. They certainly have a low opinion of their citizens’ parenting skills. (Personally, I can remember all too well how my mother could bring my brother and me to heel with a single glance.)

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and such organizations, it seems to me, are staffed and supported by the philosophical descendants of New England Puritans. They wanted to build a shining city on a hill and, to do so, were only too happy to run everyone’s life for them.

Read Less

RE: Two Big Losers: Obama and Gerrymandering

John, it is certainly the case that ultra-gerrymandered districts have left California House races largely uncompetitive. Living in California for nearly 40 years — in several locations — I never saw a competitive House race. But as bad as the gerrymandering is, there’s another more fundamental reason for uncompetitive seats: to a large degree Californians have segregated themselves by geography.

Even if all the districts were in nice rectangular shapes, rather than the grotesque shapes resembling dragons and other mythical creatures, you still would have loads of safe seats — Democrats in the larger metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, with Republicans in rural areas and the outer suburbs. In their informative book California Crackup, Joe Mathews and Mark Paul tell us:

“Redistricting is limited in its capacity to create a heavily competitive state,” wrote Bruce E. Cain, California’s leading scholar of redistricting, in a 2008 study. California’s new political geography, with Democrats controlling the coast and Republicans dominating inland areas, affords few chances to draw competitive districts. There are no Republican seats to be conjured up in the Bay Area, no Democratic seats in the Sierra or northern Sacramento Valley.

In fact, to make districts more ideologically balanced, you might want to draw even more creative district lines.

The solution, if there is one, is for the disenchanted to vote with their feet. They are already doing so in record numbers, thereby reducing California’s revenue, population, and eventually its electoral wattage. In the meantime, the new Congress should take a vow: no bailouts for California. Let Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer figure out how to get their state out of a ditch — with no help from the rest of the American taxpayers.

John, it is certainly the case that ultra-gerrymandered districts have left California House races largely uncompetitive. Living in California for nearly 40 years — in several locations — I never saw a competitive House race. But as bad as the gerrymandering is, there’s another more fundamental reason for uncompetitive seats: to a large degree Californians have segregated themselves by geography.

Even if all the districts were in nice rectangular shapes, rather than the grotesque shapes resembling dragons and other mythical creatures, you still would have loads of safe seats — Democrats in the larger metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, with Republicans in rural areas and the outer suburbs. In their informative book California Crackup, Joe Mathews and Mark Paul tell us:

“Redistricting is limited in its capacity to create a heavily competitive state,” wrote Bruce E. Cain, California’s leading scholar of redistricting, in a 2008 study. California’s new political geography, with Democrats controlling the coast and Republicans dominating inland areas, affords few chances to draw competitive districts. There are no Republican seats to be conjured up in the Bay Area, no Democratic seats in the Sierra or northern Sacramento Valley.

In fact, to make districts more ideologically balanced, you might want to draw even more creative district lines.

The solution, if there is one, is for the disenchanted to vote with their feet. They are already doing so in record numbers, thereby reducing California’s revenue, population, and eventually its electoral wattage. In the meantime, the new Congress should take a vow: no bailouts for California. Let Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer figure out how to get their state out of a ditch — with no help from the rest of the American taxpayers.

Read Less

Recap

What happened? First the body count. The GOP picked up 64, lost three, and has a net pickup so far of 61. However, about a dozen seats are still undecided. The final total is likely to be in the high 60s. In the Senate, the GOP has six pickups, no losses. Lisa Murkowski seems headed for the win to hold Alaska for the GOP. (Those wily insiders in the Senate were perhaps wise not to dump her from her committees; she will caucus with the GOP.) Ken Buck is deadlocked in Colorado, with Denver all counted. Patty Murray is leading by fewer than 15,000 votes, but much of King County, a Democratic stronghold, is only 55 percent counted. The GOP will have six to seven pickups. In the gubernatorial races, the GOP nearly ran the table. So far, it has picked up seven and lost two (in California and Hawaii), is leading Florida by about 50,000 votes and in Oregon by 2 percent, and is trailing narrowly in Illinois and Minnesota.

Did Obama help anyone? Probably not. He fundraised for Barbara Boxer, but the race turned out to be not close. California seems determined to pursue liberal statism to its logical conclusion (bankruptcy). He made multiple visits to Ohio, and Democrats lost the Senate, the governorship, and five House seats. He went to Wisconsin. Russ Feingold lost, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and two House Democrats. A slew of moderate Democrats who walked the plank for him and his agenda also lost. Those House and Senate candidates who managed to avoid the tsunami — Joe Manchin, for example — will be extremely wary of following Obama if the president continues on his leftist jaunt.

What does it mean? This is a win of historic proportions, the largest in the House since World War II. There is no spinning this one; Nancy Pelosi presided over the destruction of her Democratic majority because she failed to appreciate that not every place is San Francisco. The Senate results should signal to the GOP that picking candidates who can win is not the same as picking candidates who have the least experience and the hottest rhetoric. As one GOP insider said to me last night of Nevada and Delaware, “Thanks very much, Tea Party express.” But before the GOP establishment gets too full of itself, it should recall that the Tea Party ginned up enthusiasm and made many of those big House and gubernatorial wins possible. And finally, the story of the night that had largely evaded discussion before the election is the sweep in gubernatorial races. Key battleground states in 2012 will have Republican governors. About 10 more states will now probably experience what GOP reformist government looks like, and a whole bunch of states may now opt out of the individual mandate in ObamaCare. Oh, and redistricting just got a whole lot easier for the GOP.

You’ll hear that this was a throw-the-bums-out year. But only a few Republicans were tossed. You’ll hear that this is good for Obama; don’t believe it. He and his aggressive, left-leaning agenda have been rebuked. And you’ll hear that Obama is a goner in 2012 and that the GOP has rebounded; that part is poppycock, too. Obama can rescue himself, if he is able and willing. The Republicans can do themselves in if they are not smart and disciplined. And finally,  we are remined that politics is a serious game played by real candidates in actual races. And that’s what makes it so unpredictable and so wondrously fun.

What happened? First the body count. The GOP picked up 64, lost three, and has a net pickup so far of 61. However, about a dozen seats are still undecided. The final total is likely to be in the high 60s. In the Senate, the GOP has six pickups, no losses. Lisa Murkowski seems headed for the win to hold Alaska for the GOP. (Those wily insiders in the Senate were perhaps wise not to dump her from her committees; she will caucus with the GOP.) Ken Buck is deadlocked in Colorado, with Denver all counted. Patty Murray is leading by fewer than 15,000 votes, but much of King County, a Democratic stronghold, is only 55 percent counted. The GOP will have six to seven pickups. In the gubernatorial races, the GOP nearly ran the table. So far, it has picked up seven and lost two (in California and Hawaii), is leading Florida by about 50,000 votes and in Oregon by 2 percent, and is trailing narrowly in Illinois and Minnesota.

Did Obama help anyone? Probably not. He fundraised for Barbara Boxer, but the race turned out to be not close. California seems determined to pursue liberal statism to its logical conclusion (bankruptcy). He made multiple visits to Ohio, and Democrats lost the Senate, the governorship, and five House seats. He went to Wisconsin. Russ Feingold lost, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and two House Democrats. A slew of moderate Democrats who walked the plank for him and his agenda also lost. Those House and Senate candidates who managed to avoid the tsunami — Joe Manchin, for example — will be extremely wary of following Obama if the president continues on his leftist jaunt.

What does it mean? This is a win of historic proportions, the largest in the House since World War II. There is no spinning this one; Nancy Pelosi presided over the destruction of her Democratic majority because she failed to appreciate that not every place is San Francisco. The Senate results should signal to the GOP that picking candidates who can win is not the same as picking candidates who have the least experience and the hottest rhetoric. As one GOP insider said to me last night of Nevada and Delaware, “Thanks very much, Tea Party express.” But before the GOP establishment gets too full of itself, it should recall that the Tea Party ginned up enthusiasm and made many of those big House and gubernatorial wins possible. And finally, the story of the night that had largely evaded discussion before the election is the sweep in gubernatorial races. Key battleground states in 2012 will have Republican governors. About 10 more states will now probably experience what GOP reformist government looks like, and a whole bunch of states may now opt out of the individual mandate in ObamaCare. Oh, and redistricting just got a whole lot easier for the GOP.

You’ll hear that this was a throw-the-bums-out year. But only a few Republicans were tossed. You’ll hear that this is good for Obama; don’t believe it. He and his aggressive, left-leaning agenda have been rebuked. And you’ll hear that Obama is a goner in 2012 and that the GOP has rebounded; that part is poppycock, too. Obama can rescue himself, if he is able and willing. The Republicans can do themselves in if they are not smart and disciplined. And finally,  we are remined that politics is a serious game played by real candidates in actual races. And that’s what makes it so unpredictable and so wondrously fun.

Read Less

Barack Obama Can’t Handle the Truth

In the well-known line from the movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson tells Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!” It appears as if President Obama is finding himself in a similar predicament.

I base this conclusion on the president’s comments at a fundraising event on Saturday in West Newton, Massachusetts, where he said this:

Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country’s scared.

According to press reports, the president told the several dozen donors that he was offering them his “view from the Oval Office.” He faulted the economic downturn for Americans’ inability to “think clearly” and said the burden is on the Democrats “to break through the fear and the frustration people are feeling.”

Read More

In the well-known line from the movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson tells Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!” It appears as if President Obama is finding himself in a similar predicament.

I base this conclusion on the president’s comments at a fundraising event on Saturday in West Newton, Massachusetts, where he said this:

Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country’s scared.

According to press reports, the president told the several dozen donors that he was offering them his “view from the Oval Office.” He faulted the economic downturn for Americans’ inability to “think clearly” and said the burden is on the Democrats “to break through the fear and the frustration people are feeling.”

The views expressed by Obama are not new to him; he made similar comments at a fundraising event in San Francisco during the 2008 campaign, when he said, in discussing blue-collar Pennsylvanians who had seen their standard of living decline, “It’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Mr. Obama seems to have a particular weakness for saying supremely condescending things about the American people when speaking in front of rich liberals.

Part of the explanation for this may be a tendency for the president to pander to his base. And part of it may be a variation of what psychiatrists call Impulse Control Disorder, the tendency to seek short-term gain that ultimately proves harmful. (This explanation is appealing because the strategy of painting opposition to Obama’s agenda — which now includes a clear majority of the American people — as benighted is quite insane. But Obama may believe this and find himself unable to keep those views private.)

My hunch, though, is that what’s mostly at play here is vanity on a scale we are simply not familiar with — and a need to do what academics refer to as creating a narrative.

Mr. Obama clearly views himself as a world-historical figure. His election, he informed us, was going to heal the planet and slow the rise of the oceans. “This is our moment, this is our time,” Obama said time and again during the 2008 campaign. His goal was nothing less than “a nation healed, a world repaired, an America that believes again.” He was going to put people back to work and restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace. As president, Mr. Obama would end wars and convince America’s enemies to beat their swords into plowshares.

None of this has been achieved. The president’s ambitions mostly lie in ruins, his agenda has become radioactive, his party is on the cusp of an election-year thrashing perhaps unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. For a man of Obama’s self-regard, these failures must be rooted in something other than his own mistakes in judgment. And so, according to the president, they are.

It turns out that the problems lie not with Mr. Obama or even the stars; they lie with the American polity. The country should be seen as a small child — dazed and confused, scared to the point of having lost its senses. The situation in America is so bad, the level of irrationality so great, the ignorance so widespread, that even the preternatural precision and wisdom of the president’s arguments cannot carry the day. That seems to be the cast of mind of the man now inhabiting the Oval Office.

The president is also, consciously or not, creating a narrative to explain the defeat he and his party are about to be administered. The reasons are multiple — from the latent bigotry and racism of the Tea Party movement, to the lies of the GOP, to foreign-money corruption our politics, to the inability of the voting public to think clearly.

All this is nonsense, of course – and, for Obama, it is self-destructive. All of us, including political leaders, experience hardships and setbacks in life. In order to succeed, we need to respond to them in a way that is both honest and intelligent. And for that to happen, we need to see things as they are. We need to be grounded enough, and humble enough, to comprehend errors of our making. That is the sine qua non for adjusting to new facts and circumstances and to interpreting experiences in a way that will be beneficial.

President Obama seems almost incapable of such a thing. Rather, he is busily constructing an alternate reality. He is choosing to live in a world that begins with “Once upon a time.”

The president of the United States, it appears, can’t handle the truth. He and his party will suffer mightily because of is. So, alas, will our country.

Read Less

Running on Empty

It is rare to have an election where the governing party is not (a) running on its record (six months after voting for ObamaCare, no Democrat advertises his vote), (b) promising to push the rest of its agenda (even a Congress with lopsided Democratic majorities did not enact card check and cap-and-trade), or (c) willing to risk a pre-election vote on its signature plan (tax increases for “the rich”). Five weeks before the election, the party is out of gas.

You can see this in California, where the Republican candidates for governor and senator are both first-time candidates and ex-CEOs (Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina) running against two of the state’s most famous Democrats (Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer) in races currently too close to call. In his TV ad, Jerry Brown looks straight at the camera and tells voters:

I’m Jerry Brown. California needs major changes. We have to live within our means, we have to return power and decision-making to the local level, closer to the people. And no new taxes without voter approval.

The statement is barely distinguishable from what a Tea Partier might say.

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is Gavin Newsom — the mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, the bluest of blue areas in a Blue State. Recently he had this to say about the “stimulus” that shoveled federal funds to the state for redistribution to members of public employee unions, while private unemployment in California continued to soar:

Look, I understand why people are fearful. I don’t like this spending more than anyone else … and trust me, I understand the stimulus as well or better than anybody.  I mean, [as] a mayor of a county … you really understand it.  It is not wrong to criticize parts of that stimulus as disproportionately saving jobs in the public sector and not stimulating private sector economic growth. That is not something that I am proud to say, as a Democrat; it’s not something I want to say; but it’s true and [something] I must say.

Newsom is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican opponent (Abel Maldonado); his first ad will accuse Maldonado of supporting “the biggest tax increase in California history.”

In a state that now resembles Greece more than the Golden State it once was, with a $19 billion budget deficit that a 2009 sales tax increase was supposed to cure (but that simply gave California the highest state sales tax in the United States), the Democrats have no agenda — at least not one that seeks to distinguish itself from the Tea Party.

It is rare to have an election where the governing party is not (a) running on its record (six months after voting for ObamaCare, no Democrat advertises his vote), (b) promising to push the rest of its agenda (even a Congress with lopsided Democratic majorities did not enact card check and cap-and-trade), or (c) willing to risk a pre-election vote on its signature plan (tax increases for “the rich”). Five weeks before the election, the party is out of gas.

You can see this in California, where the Republican candidates for governor and senator are both first-time candidates and ex-CEOs (Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina) running against two of the state’s most famous Democrats (Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer) in races currently too close to call. In his TV ad, Jerry Brown looks straight at the camera and tells voters:

I’m Jerry Brown. California needs major changes. We have to live within our means, we have to return power and decision-making to the local level, closer to the people. And no new taxes without voter approval.

The statement is barely distinguishable from what a Tea Partier might say.

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is Gavin Newsom — the mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, the bluest of blue areas in a Blue State. Recently he had this to say about the “stimulus” that shoveled federal funds to the state for redistribution to members of public employee unions, while private unemployment in California continued to soar:

Look, I understand why people are fearful. I don’t like this spending more than anyone else … and trust me, I understand the stimulus as well or better than anybody.  I mean, [as] a mayor of a county … you really understand it.  It is not wrong to criticize parts of that stimulus as disproportionately saving jobs in the public sector and not stimulating private sector economic growth. That is not something that I am proud to say, as a Democrat; it’s not something I want to say; but it’s true and [something] I must say.

Newsom is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican opponent (Abel Maldonado); his first ad will accuse Maldonado of supporting “the biggest tax increase in California history.”

In a state that now resembles Greece more than the Golden State it once was, with a $19 billion budget deficit that a 2009 sales tax increase was supposed to cure (but that simply gave California the highest state sales tax in the United States), the Democrats have no agenda — at least not one that seeks to distinguish itself from the Tea Party.

Read Less

Liberals Surprised Again

Liberals continually expect that conservatives will match the cartoonish image that the left has concocted. They were shocked that Christian conservatives didn’t run Sarah Palin out of town on a rail because of her pregnant unwed daughter. Aren’t conservatives prudes and intolerant misogynists? Umm, no. Now, they can’t believe conservatives are so accepting of  Ken Mehlman, who publicly announced he is gay. You can sense the disappointment and surprise on the left — aren’t conservative going to repudiate him? No, nor do most of them even care.

I think the problem is this: liberals have more friends who are gay than friends who are conservative…  or evangelical… or gun owners. They often accuse conservatives of living cloistered lives, but it is urban liberals who congregate in homogeneous communities ( e.g., San Francisco, West L.A.) and may live their entire lives without forming a serious relationship with anyone who doesn’t ascribe to their laundry list of inviolate truths (e.g., global warming is real, abortion-on-demand is sacred, government creates jobs). They don’t much bother to understand conservatives’ rationales for their positions — so much easier to assume they are rooted in ignorance or bigotry. Or as Michelle Obama put it, “meanness.”

This is why liberal media outlets try to hire reporters to cover the “conservative” beat. Like Margaret Mead, they are supposed to go trampling in far-off lands and report back on the natives’ habits and customs. If they really understood and knew conservatives, they would have no need for a special-assignment reporter.

It has been and remains a great advantage for conservatives — they understand their ideological opponents far better than their opponents understand them. That is why Harry Reid is amazed Hispanics can be Republicans, the left can’t imagine there is an explanation for Ground Zero mosque opposition other than Islamaphobia, and Obama treats his gun- and Bible-clinging countrymen as if they were aliens. Actually, to him and many of his ilk, they are.

Liberals continually expect that conservatives will match the cartoonish image that the left has concocted. They were shocked that Christian conservatives didn’t run Sarah Palin out of town on a rail because of her pregnant unwed daughter. Aren’t conservatives prudes and intolerant misogynists? Umm, no. Now, they can’t believe conservatives are so accepting of  Ken Mehlman, who publicly announced he is gay. You can sense the disappointment and surprise on the left — aren’t conservative going to repudiate him? No, nor do most of them even care.

I think the problem is this: liberals have more friends who are gay than friends who are conservative…  or evangelical… or gun owners. They often accuse conservatives of living cloistered lives, but it is urban liberals who congregate in homogeneous communities ( e.g., San Francisco, West L.A.) and may live their entire lives without forming a serious relationship with anyone who doesn’t ascribe to their laundry list of inviolate truths (e.g., global warming is real, abortion-on-demand is sacred, government creates jobs). They don’t much bother to understand conservatives’ rationales for their positions — so much easier to assume they are rooted in ignorance or bigotry. Or as Michelle Obama put it, “meanness.”

This is why liberal media outlets try to hire reporters to cover the “conservative” beat. Like Margaret Mead, they are supposed to go trampling in far-off lands and report back on the natives’ habits and customs. If they really understood and knew conservatives, they would have no need for a special-assignment reporter.

It has been and remains a great advantage for conservatives — they understand their ideological opponents far better than their opponents understand them. That is why Harry Reid is amazed Hispanics can be Republicans, the left can’t imagine there is an explanation for Ground Zero mosque opposition other than Islamaphobia, and Obama treats his gun- and Bible-clinging countrymen as if they were aliens. Actually, to him and many of his ilk, they are.

Read Less

Pelosi Angry, on the Ropes

Having just made the case that the debate about the mosque and Ground Zero needs to be conducted in a responsible, careful way by all sides, I regret to note that Speaker Nancy Pelosi now indicates that she supports an investigation into groups opposing the building of a mosque near Ground Zero. According to Politico, Pelosi told San Francisco’s KCBS radio that “there is no question there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some.”

“I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded,” she said. “How is this being ginned up?”

HotAir.com’s Ed Morrissey puts it brilliantly: “What better way to defend the First Amendment freedom of religion than to have the Speaker of the House ask the federal government investigate those exercising their First Amendment right to free speech?” And, he asked, does that mean that Pelosi wants Harry Reid investigated, too?

But of course this has a serious element to it as well. The effort to criminalize policy differences is very bad stuff for our republic and our political lives, and Pelosi’s comments are deeply irresponsible and even reckless. They are also politically stupid (70 percent of the public and 58 percent of Democrats oppose building the mosque near Ground Zero). The prospect of losing the speakership is apparently bringing out Ms. Pelosi’s dark and thuggish side, which in turn will only increase the likelihood of her losing her speakership.

The Democratic Party is angry, on the ropes, and lashing out.

It’s not a pretty sight.

Having just made the case that the debate about the mosque and Ground Zero needs to be conducted in a responsible, careful way by all sides, I regret to note that Speaker Nancy Pelosi now indicates that she supports an investigation into groups opposing the building of a mosque near Ground Zero. According to Politico, Pelosi told San Francisco’s KCBS radio that “there is no question there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some.”

“I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded,” she said. “How is this being ginned up?”

HotAir.com’s Ed Morrissey puts it brilliantly: “What better way to defend the First Amendment freedom of religion than to have the Speaker of the House ask the federal government investigate those exercising their First Amendment right to free speech?” And, he asked, does that mean that Pelosi wants Harry Reid investigated, too?

But of course this has a serious element to it as well. The effort to criminalize policy differences is very bad stuff for our republic and our political lives, and Pelosi’s comments are deeply irresponsible and even reckless. They are also politically stupid (70 percent of the public and 58 percent of Democrats oppose building the mosque near Ground Zero). The prospect of losing the speakership is apparently bringing out Ms. Pelosi’s dark and thuggish side, which in turn will only increase the likelihood of her losing her speakership.

The Democratic Party is angry, on the ropes, and lashing out.

It’s not a pretty sight.

Read Less

Democrats and the Benighted American People

“I think we’re on a different kind of a news cycle than what I’ve been used to. … And a lot of that commentary is very inflammatory,” Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who supports Obama, told Politico:

It appeals to the emotional distress that people may have. Now, we’ve had people like that in the past, don’t get me wrong. We had our Huey Longs and our Father Coughlins and our Joe McCarthys — there has always been somebody like that — but they never had a big pulpit. They never had a big audience. Now, the Glenn Becks have a big audience. And so they stir up these passions in people. And if you’re hurting, you’re out of work, sometimes they can appeal to people like that, that are anxious and worried about their future.

This quote by Sen. Harkin reveals several things. The first is that there really is no end to the self-pity of many Democrats. I’m not great fan of Glenn Beck; in fact, I’ve criticized him several times. But are liberals really that obsessed with him? And have they forgotten that Democrats have control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate? Or that the media voted overwhelmingly for Obama?

Senator Harkin is offering a variation of the “we have a communication problem” excuse Democrats use all the time. It is frankly absurd — though it’s probably reassuring to Republicans, assuming Democrats like Harkin actually believe this narrative.

Beyond that, Harkin’s quote echoes Obama’s off-the-record comment made during the 2008 campaign about people in small towns in Pennsylvania and the Midwest who are frustrated by their economic conditions. “It’s not surprising then that they get bitter,” Obama told a group of wealthy donors in San Francisco on April 6. “They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

It turns out these liberals really are elitist, and they really do look down their noses at a citizenry they consider benighted, childish, and bigoted. And they honestly believe that in times of difficulty, ordinary Americans cling to their Bibles, their guns, their antipathy toward immigrants and those who aren’t like them — and Glenn Beck.

This analysis is not only wrong; it’s politically stupid. The public doesn’t much like being viewed in such condescending and paternalistic terms. But better they know about it than not.

“I think we’re on a different kind of a news cycle than what I’ve been used to. … And a lot of that commentary is very inflammatory,” Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who supports Obama, told Politico:

It appeals to the emotional distress that people may have. Now, we’ve had people like that in the past, don’t get me wrong. We had our Huey Longs and our Father Coughlins and our Joe McCarthys — there has always been somebody like that — but they never had a big pulpit. They never had a big audience. Now, the Glenn Becks have a big audience. And so they stir up these passions in people. And if you’re hurting, you’re out of work, sometimes they can appeal to people like that, that are anxious and worried about their future.

This quote by Sen. Harkin reveals several things. The first is that there really is no end to the self-pity of many Democrats. I’m not great fan of Glenn Beck; in fact, I’ve criticized him several times. But are liberals really that obsessed with him? And have they forgotten that Democrats have control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate? Or that the media voted overwhelmingly for Obama?

Senator Harkin is offering a variation of the “we have a communication problem” excuse Democrats use all the time. It is frankly absurd — though it’s probably reassuring to Republicans, assuming Democrats like Harkin actually believe this narrative.

Beyond that, Harkin’s quote echoes Obama’s off-the-record comment made during the 2008 campaign about people in small towns in Pennsylvania and the Midwest who are frustrated by their economic conditions. “It’s not surprising then that they get bitter,” Obama told a group of wealthy donors in San Francisco on April 6. “They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

It turns out these liberals really are elitist, and they really do look down their noses at a citizenry they consider benighted, childish, and bigoted. And they honestly believe that in times of difficulty, ordinary Americans cling to their Bibles, their guns, their antipathy toward immigrants and those who aren’t like them — and Glenn Beck.

This analysis is not only wrong; it’s politically stupid. The public doesn’t much like being viewed in such condescending and paternalistic terms. But better they know about it than not.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

We all benefit when Obama goes golfing, says the White House spokesman. But not when Tony Hayward goes sailing.

The U.S. government can certainly crack down on “humanitarian” aid to terrorist groups, says the Supreme Court. But Israel is not permitted the same latitude, points out Elliott Abrams: “As Chief Justice Roberts explained, such support [for training and advice for humanitarian, non-terrorist activities] ‘also importantly helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups—legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members, and to raise funds—all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks.’ Americans inclined to think Israel has gone overboard in stopping flotillas from landing in Gaza might think again.”

Democrats have had enough of Obama’s career-killing agenda and John Kerry’s pestering them about a climate-control bill. But Jonathan Chait mocks politicians’ desire for self-preservation, “Why can’t [Kerry] let us worry about something that really matters, like the midterm election?” It’s curious whom Chait thinks will stand in the way of the conservative resurgence if all these horribly self-absorbed Democrats commit political suicide.

Obama promised that all that stimulus money would create/save millions of jobs. But this handy chart suggests we might have gotten equal or better results with no stimulus at all.

The lefty protesters in San Francisco intended to block the unloading of an Israeli ship. But they got the timing wrong and wound up protesting a Chinese ship. As Jay Nordlinger put it: “But listen, who cares about protesting the PRC — which is merely a one-party dictatorship with a gulag — when you can protest and harass Israel, that nasty Jewish state whose inhabitants (Jewish inhabitants — the Arab ones are cool) can go back to you-know-where! (Of course, when the Jews were in Europe, in great numbers, they were told to go back … to Israel, ancient and eternal land of the Jews.)”

The military and sympathetic observers keep sounding the alarm over Obama’s Afghanistan timeline. But the White House keeps reinforcing it. At some point, we should take the administration at its word.

Obama says he’s doing everything possible to deal with the Gulf oil spill. But he’s refused to waive the Jones Act to allow easier passage of foreign ships between U.S. ports. So Republicans are introducing legislation. Hard to say — as it always is with Obama — whether he’s incompetent in riding herd on the federal bureaucracy or he’s ingratiating himself (again) with Big Labor. Maybe it’s both.

We can be grateful that Peter Beinart has taken a break from Israel-bashing. But his quotient of loopiness to facts is no better when he is writing about Hillary Clinton. He seems intent on debunking  “rampant” speculation (which consists of some bloggers at one website and some Peggy Noonan and Dick Morris musings) that Hillary will run for president in 2012. Well, given the inanity of the topic, he’s not likely to be embarrassed on Fareed Zakaria’s show over it.

We all benefit when Obama goes golfing, says the White House spokesman. But not when Tony Hayward goes sailing.

The U.S. government can certainly crack down on “humanitarian” aid to terrorist groups, says the Supreme Court. But Israel is not permitted the same latitude, points out Elliott Abrams: “As Chief Justice Roberts explained, such support [for training and advice for humanitarian, non-terrorist activities] ‘also importantly helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups—legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members, and to raise funds—all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks.’ Americans inclined to think Israel has gone overboard in stopping flotillas from landing in Gaza might think again.”

Democrats have had enough of Obama’s career-killing agenda and John Kerry’s pestering them about a climate-control bill. But Jonathan Chait mocks politicians’ desire for self-preservation, “Why can’t [Kerry] let us worry about something that really matters, like the midterm election?” It’s curious whom Chait thinks will stand in the way of the conservative resurgence if all these horribly self-absorbed Democrats commit political suicide.

Obama promised that all that stimulus money would create/save millions of jobs. But this handy chart suggests we might have gotten equal or better results with no stimulus at all.

The lefty protesters in San Francisco intended to block the unloading of an Israeli ship. But they got the timing wrong and wound up protesting a Chinese ship. As Jay Nordlinger put it: “But listen, who cares about protesting the PRC — which is merely a one-party dictatorship with a gulag — when you can protest and harass Israel, that nasty Jewish state whose inhabitants (Jewish inhabitants — the Arab ones are cool) can go back to you-know-where! (Of course, when the Jews were in Europe, in great numbers, they were told to go back … to Israel, ancient and eternal land of the Jews.)”

The military and sympathetic observers keep sounding the alarm over Obama’s Afghanistan timeline. But the White House keeps reinforcing it. At some point, we should take the administration at its word.

Obama says he’s doing everything possible to deal with the Gulf oil spill. But he’s refused to waive the Jones Act to allow easier passage of foreign ships between U.S. ports. So Republicans are introducing legislation. Hard to say — as it always is with Obama — whether he’s incompetent in riding herd on the federal bureaucracy or he’s ingratiating himself (again) with Big Labor. Maybe it’s both.

We can be grateful that Peter Beinart has taken a break from Israel-bashing. But his quotient of loopiness to facts is no better when he is writing about Hillary Clinton. He seems intent on debunking  “rampant” speculation (which consists of some bloggers at one website and some Peggy Noonan and Dick Morris musings) that Hillary will run for president in 2012. Well, given the inanity of the topic, he’s not likely to be embarrassed on Fareed Zakaria’s show over it.

Read Less

Look Who’s Coming to the Tea Party

Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor of New York yesterday. According to the Daily News editorial, he says:

No to raising state taxes. No to borrowing to close historic budget deficits. Yes to capping state spending. Yes to capping local property-tax hikes. Yes to freezing the salaries of state workers. Yes to trimming “benefits and pensions that are out of line with economic reality.” Yes to charter schools. Yes to slashing by 20% a state government that has, by Cuomo’s count, 1,000 agencies. Yes to nonpartisan redistricting and full financial disclosure.

That’s the platform that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey ran on as a Republican last November and beat the incumbent, deep-pocketed Jon Corzine, handily, despite the latter having President Obama campaigning for him. But Andrew Cuomo is, of course, a Democrat. He was married to a Kennedy. His father was governor from 1983 to 1995.

The father didn’t even try to reform Albany’s dysfunctional ways (although he gave nice speeches — in San Francisco and Terre Haute) but rather conducted business as usual with the state legislature and cooked the state books to hide the deepening fiscal crisis. Now his son has begun his campaign for his father’s old office by, effectively, declaring war on the legislature:

Cuomo is well aware that the Legislature — most especially [Assembly speaker Sheldon] Silver — has become expert in making stumblebums out of governors by acting as a defiantly obstructionist law unto itself. That’s why he plans to ask legislative candidates in this fall’s election to declare where they stand on his programs, with the intent of endorsing those who side with him.

I hope — for the sake of the state where I was born and have lived nearly all my life — that he means what he says. If I think he does, come November, I might even vote for him.

Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor of New York yesterday. According to the Daily News editorial, he says:

No to raising state taxes. No to borrowing to close historic budget deficits. Yes to capping state spending. Yes to capping local property-tax hikes. Yes to freezing the salaries of state workers. Yes to trimming “benefits and pensions that are out of line with economic reality.” Yes to charter schools. Yes to slashing by 20% a state government that has, by Cuomo’s count, 1,000 agencies. Yes to nonpartisan redistricting and full financial disclosure.

That’s the platform that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey ran on as a Republican last November and beat the incumbent, deep-pocketed Jon Corzine, handily, despite the latter having President Obama campaigning for him. But Andrew Cuomo is, of course, a Democrat. He was married to a Kennedy. His father was governor from 1983 to 1995.

The father didn’t even try to reform Albany’s dysfunctional ways (although he gave nice speeches — in San Francisco and Terre Haute) but rather conducted business as usual with the state legislature and cooked the state books to hide the deepening fiscal crisis. Now his son has begun his campaign for his father’s old office by, effectively, declaring war on the legislature:

Cuomo is well aware that the Legislature — most especially [Assembly speaker Sheldon] Silver — has become expert in making stumblebums out of governors by acting as a defiantly obstructionist law unto itself. That’s why he plans to ask legislative candidates in this fall’s election to declare where they stand on his programs, with the intent of endorsing those who side with him.

I hope — for the sake of the state where I was born and have lived nearly all my life — that he means what he says. If I think he does, come November, I might even vote for him.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Jane Hamsher or Bill Kristol? “This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. … The bill was written so that most Wal-Mart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage. … In 2009, health care costs were 17.3% of GDP [but] in 2019 [under the] Senate bill [they’ll be] 20.9% of GDP. … This bill does not bring down costs.”

The end of the Blue Dogs: “The party made a concerted effort in 2006 and 2008 to recruit candidates that could win moderate or GOP-leaning districts. That’s a key reason why Democrats won such big congressional majorities. But after forging a big-tent caucus, Speaker Pelosi has not governed that way. Instead, she pushed Blue Dog and other moderate Democrats to vote as if they represented her San Francisco district.” When the Republicans did this, I think the media narrative was that the party was risking majority support for ideological extremism.

Quin Hillyer channels the anti–Bart Stupak anger: “And if he thinks he will be ever live it down or be allowed to forget it, well, maybe he doesn’t think very well.”

How incompetent is NPR to get duped by a fake AIPAC release saying the group favors a settlement freeze? Doesn’t public radio know anything about AIPAC? Your tax dollars at work.

Marco Rubio is crushing potential opponents: “Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio for now runs well ahead in a three-way race for the U.S. Senate in Florida, should Governor Charlie Crist decide to run as an independent. The first Rasmussen Repots telephone survey of a potential three-candidate Senate race finds Rubio earning 42% support from likely voters in the state. Democrat Kendrick Meek picks up 25%, and Crist runs third with 22%. Eleven percent (11%) are undecided.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell on ObamaCare: “[T]his massive and complex piece of legislation allows the federal government to exercise control over one-sixth of the United States economy. … Most disconcerting is the provision mandating that every American must purchase health insurance or face a monetary penalty. … Just a few days ago I approved a bill, passed on a bipartisan basis, which prohibits mandatory insurance purchases for Virginians. Virginia’s Attorney General has rightly chosen to challenge the constitutionality of the federal mandate. I anticipate that he will be joined by a number of other states.” It now becomes an issue in every state race.

Yuval Levin on the latest regarding the Cornhusker Kickback: “That kickback was of course offered as an enticement to win the vote of Senator Ben Nelson, and to help him forget about his pro-life principles. Well lo and behold, Nelson has now announced that he opposes the reconciliation bill and will vote against it. Apparently it taxes and spends too much. It really renews your faith in politicians, doesn’t it?”

Not just a headache or fodder but potential grounds for prosecution: “The formidable Patrick Fitzgerald is leading a probe of Guantanamo Bay defense lawyers whom the CIA accused of giving detainees photos of CIA agents in an attempt to identify interrogators. … The investigation could be a headache for the Justice Department, and fodder for the attacks from Liz Cheney and others on the Guantanamo Bay lawyers.”

Perhaps Obama picked a fight on the wrong issue. Most Israelis think Bibi Netanyahu was aware of the decision to approve additional housing units in Jerusalem, but “most of those asked by the survey supported the view that construction in east Jerusalem should be treated like construction in Tel Aviv, despite the harsh criticism launched at the government over the recent diplomatic dispute with the US. Only a quarter of those polled believe the construction project should not have been approved, with 41% saying that only the timing was wrong. The number of people supportive of the construction in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood is twice that of its objectors.”

ABC staffers are grumbling over the hiring of Christiane Amanpour for This Week. Well, if it’s any consolation to the eminently qualified Jake Tapper, the criterion used was apparently “celebrity.” It certainly wasn’t objectivity. Or accuracy. Remember this one.

Jane Hamsher or Bill Kristol? “This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. … The bill was written so that most Wal-Mart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage. … In 2009, health care costs were 17.3% of GDP [but] in 2019 [under the] Senate bill [they’ll be] 20.9% of GDP. … This bill does not bring down costs.”

The end of the Blue Dogs: “The party made a concerted effort in 2006 and 2008 to recruit candidates that could win moderate or GOP-leaning districts. That’s a key reason why Democrats won such big congressional majorities. But after forging a big-tent caucus, Speaker Pelosi has not governed that way. Instead, she pushed Blue Dog and other moderate Democrats to vote as if they represented her San Francisco district.” When the Republicans did this, I think the media narrative was that the party was risking majority support for ideological extremism.

Quin Hillyer channels the anti–Bart Stupak anger: “And if he thinks he will be ever live it down or be allowed to forget it, well, maybe he doesn’t think very well.”

How incompetent is NPR to get duped by a fake AIPAC release saying the group favors a settlement freeze? Doesn’t public radio know anything about AIPAC? Your tax dollars at work.

Marco Rubio is crushing potential opponents: “Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio for now runs well ahead in a three-way race for the U.S. Senate in Florida, should Governor Charlie Crist decide to run as an independent. The first Rasmussen Repots telephone survey of a potential three-candidate Senate race finds Rubio earning 42% support from likely voters in the state. Democrat Kendrick Meek picks up 25%, and Crist runs third with 22%. Eleven percent (11%) are undecided.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell on ObamaCare: “[T]his massive and complex piece of legislation allows the federal government to exercise control over one-sixth of the United States economy. … Most disconcerting is the provision mandating that every American must purchase health insurance or face a monetary penalty. … Just a few days ago I approved a bill, passed on a bipartisan basis, which prohibits mandatory insurance purchases for Virginians. Virginia’s Attorney General has rightly chosen to challenge the constitutionality of the federal mandate. I anticipate that he will be joined by a number of other states.” It now becomes an issue in every state race.

Yuval Levin on the latest regarding the Cornhusker Kickback: “That kickback was of course offered as an enticement to win the vote of Senator Ben Nelson, and to help him forget about his pro-life principles. Well lo and behold, Nelson has now announced that he opposes the reconciliation bill and will vote against it. Apparently it taxes and spends too much. It really renews your faith in politicians, doesn’t it?”

Not just a headache or fodder but potential grounds for prosecution: “The formidable Patrick Fitzgerald is leading a probe of Guantanamo Bay defense lawyers whom the CIA accused of giving detainees photos of CIA agents in an attempt to identify interrogators. … The investigation could be a headache for the Justice Department, and fodder for the attacks from Liz Cheney and others on the Guantanamo Bay lawyers.”

Perhaps Obama picked a fight on the wrong issue. Most Israelis think Bibi Netanyahu was aware of the decision to approve additional housing units in Jerusalem, but “most of those asked by the survey supported the view that construction in east Jerusalem should be treated like construction in Tel Aviv, despite the harsh criticism launched at the government over the recent diplomatic dispute with the US. Only a quarter of those polled believe the construction project should not have been approved, with 41% saying that only the timing was wrong. The number of people supportive of the construction in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood is twice that of its objectors.”

ABC staffers are grumbling over the hiring of Christiane Amanpour for This Week. Well, if it’s any consolation to the eminently qualified Jake Tapper, the criterion used was apparently “celebrity.” It certainly wasn’t objectivity. Or accuracy. Remember this one.

Read Less

Not Happy to Have the Job?

I think Fred Hiatt is on to something. He muses “about why President Obama is having a tough political time right now: He doesn’t seem all that happy being president.” Well, he certainly is snarly — toward the media, the public, his political opponents, Israel, and Democrats who want to be re-elected. The list is long. He and his staff seem to forever be whining. The Middle East is “hard.” No one understands them. The public has been duped. A happy warrior he is not.

It is, in part, understandable, since Obama doesn’t have any executive experience and seems uninterested or perhaps overwhelmed by the “doing the job” part of being president. Getting to be president — the sycophantic media coverage and the swooning crowds — was one thing. Sure, he had to put up with the gun-and-Bible huggers, as he confided to his San Francisco donors. But who doesn’t like adoring fans? At least he was good at the campaigning part. In office, however, there’s nonstop criticism. And then there are all those unpleasant facts (Paul Ryan’s, for one example; Climategate’s, for another) to which he seems ill-equipped to counter. He doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of legislation and doesn’t like to compromise (he only doubles down). The adoring fans have turned sullen. He’s not a practiced or skilled executive, so maybe the job is not what he imagined. Maybe it was the campaigning and winning that held the real attraction.

Hiatt remarks that “Americans might find it easier to root for or with Obama if he’d show us, despite everything, that he’s happy we hired him.” But maybe he isn’t. He told us he’d be happy with one term. That sounded like someone not all that happy in his current job.

I think Fred Hiatt is on to something. He muses “about why President Obama is having a tough political time right now: He doesn’t seem all that happy being president.” Well, he certainly is snarly — toward the media, the public, his political opponents, Israel, and Democrats who want to be re-elected. The list is long. He and his staff seem to forever be whining. The Middle East is “hard.” No one understands them. The public has been duped. A happy warrior he is not.

It is, in part, understandable, since Obama doesn’t have any executive experience and seems uninterested or perhaps overwhelmed by the “doing the job” part of being president. Getting to be president — the sycophantic media coverage and the swooning crowds — was one thing. Sure, he had to put up with the gun-and-Bible huggers, as he confided to his San Francisco donors. But who doesn’t like adoring fans? At least he was good at the campaigning part. In office, however, there’s nonstop criticism. And then there are all those unpleasant facts (Paul Ryan’s, for one example; Climategate’s, for another) to which he seems ill-equipped to counter. He doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of legislation and doesn’t like to compromise (he only doubles down). The adoring fans have turned sullen. He’s not a practiced or skilled executive, so maybe the job is not what he imagined. Maybe it was the campaigning and winning that held the real attraction.

Hiatt remarks that “Americans might find it easier to root for or with Obama if he’d show us, despite everything, that he’s happy we hired him.” But maybe he isn’t. He told us he’d be happy with one term. That sounded like someone not all that happy in his current job.

Read Less

How Low?

Observing that Obama has hit a new low (45 percent) in Gallup, Ben Smith comments that “it sure is hard to make the case that all this health care talk is, at this point, anything but a political liability.” For Obama and the Democrats in Congress, it seems. As for the latter, the RealClearPolitics poll average has lawmakers at 19.3 percent approval and 75.7 percent disapproval. The spread has never been wider since the start of Obama’s presidency.

Democrats tell us — or tell themselves as panic grips them in the middle of the night — that this will improve once they pass an overwhelmingly unpopular bill through a series of parliamentary tricks. Yes, it sounds loony, and it is. But the hope — some would say the magical thinking that has gripped them — is that the base will recover its enthusiasm and stem the tide of rising anger. But the base isn’t that thrilled with ObamaCare. So “the Left will like us more” strikes one as the sort of desperate justification a San Francisco speaker of the House in an utterly safe seat would say. As Kim Strassel writes:

To believe this is to believe that a liberal base that remains furious with the White House on Guantanamo, on Afghanistan, on cap and trade, will turn out in enthusiastic droves because the White House passed a health bill that the same base views as a cop out. That base doesn’t want a health-care victory; it wants a public option. Unless the president is prepared to give it to them, Democrats might not want to bet November on base support.

There really is no telling how low the numbers can go for Obama and Congress. As George W. Bush’s numbers in his second term drifted lower and lower, Republicans kept waiting for the moment when they’d would recover. The Iraq war was going better, the economy hadn’t yet cratered, and Katrina was off the headlines — yet the numbers didn’t recover. Fairly or not (and deprived of the example of Obama, which has proved a boon to Bush nostalgia even among his grumpiest conservative detractors), the voters had tuned out and given up. That’s what can happen to a president.

In this case, Obama has more than two and a half years to recover. But overexposed and devoid of credibility, having frittered away precious capital on a hugely unpopular agenda item and created havoc in his own party, he cannot count on those numbers improving. Indeed, if he passes this over the protestations of the public — or if he doesn’t, and is reviled by his side as inept — he may look back fondly on the days when his approval rested in the mid 40s.

Observing that Obama has hit a new low (45 percent) in Gallup, Ben Smith comments that “it sure is hard to make the case that all this health care talk is, at this point, anything but a political liability.” For Obama and the Democrats in Congress, it seems. As for the latter, the RealClearPolitics poll average has lawmakers at 19.3 percent approval and 75.7 percent disapproval. The spread has never been wider since the start of Obama’s presidency.

Democrats tell us — or tell themselves as panic grips them in the middle of the night — that this will improve once they pass an overwhelmingly unpopular bill through a series of parliamentary tricks. Yes, it sounds loony, and it is. But the hope — some would say the magical thinking that has gripped them — is that the base will recover its enthusiasm and stem the tide of rising anger. But the base isn’t that thrilled with ObamaCare. So “the Left will like us more” strikes one as the sort of desperate justification a San Francisco speaker of the House in an utterly safe seat would say. As Kim Strassel writes:

To believe this is to believe that a liberal base that remains furious with the White House on Guantanamo, on Afghanistan, on cap and trade, will turn out in enthusiastic droves because the White House passed a health bill that the same base views as a cop out. That base doesn’t want a health-care victory; it wants a public option. Unless the president is prepared to give it to them, Democrats might not want to bet November on base support.

There really is no telling how low the numbers can go for Obama and Congress. As George W. Bush’s numbers in his second term drifted lower and lower, Republicans kept waiting for the moment when they’d would recover. The Iraq war was going better, the economy hadn’t yet cratered, and Katrina was off the headlines — yet the numbers didn’t recover. Fairly or not (and deprived of the example of Obama, which has proved a boon to Bush nostalgia even among his grumpiest conservative detractors), the voters had tuned out and given up. That’s what can happen to a president.

In this case, Obama has more than two and a half years to recover. But overexposed and devoid of credibility, having frittered away precious capital on a hugely unpopular agenda item and created havoc in his own party, he cannot count on those numbers improving. Indeed, if he passes this over the protestations of the public — or if he doesn’t, and is reviled by his side as inept — he may look back fondly on the days when his approval rested in the mid 40s.

Read Less

Pole Vaulting into the Minority

So how’s health-care reform going? When last we left Nancy Pelosi, she was pole-vaulting over the fence of public opinion, proclaiming her devotion to ObamaCare — or at least putting up a good face. But out in the country, not that far out really, not even Democrats can stomach the central pillar of ObamaCare — the requirement that Americans be forced to buy insurance they don’t want and/or can’t afford from Big Insurance. In Virginia, where the governor has declared that he’s not taking the KSM trial, Democrats joined Republicans in the state Senate in announcing that they aren’t taking ObamaCare either. The Washington Post reports:

Virginia’s Democratically controlled state Senate passed measures Monday that would make it illegal to require individuals to purchase health insurance, a direct challenge to the party’s efforts in Washington to reform health care.

The bills, a top priority of Virginia’s “tea party” movement, were approved 23 to 17 as five Democrats who represent swing areas of the state joined all 18 Republicans in the chamber in backing the legislation.

The votes came less than a week after President Obama implored Democrats in Washington not to abandon their health-care efforts, urging them in his State of the Union address not to “run for the hills” on the issue.

Well, if not running for the hills, they’re certainly taking a stand. You can imagine how nervous House and Senate Democrats inside the Beltway must feel as they fret that Nancy Pelosi might be serious about venturing into another career-ending round of health-care negotiations. In fact, you don’t have to imagine it. One of the four at-risk Virginia House Democrats is already feeling the heat:

“It doesn’t make it easier,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, who voted for health-care legislation and is one of several Virginia Democrats who faces a strong challenge this year. Each of three similar bills that passed the state Senate on Monday would run counter to legislation passed by both chambers of Congress, which would require all individuals to purchase health care.

It doesn’t make it easier to pass ObamaCare — or for Connolly to keep his seat. It seems that Democrats in state office have now adopted the arguments of House and Senate Republicans, not to mention some conservative legal scholars. (“‘I don’t believe someone should be forced to buy something they don’t want to,’ said Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, a Democrat who represents rural Russell County and backed the measures. ‘It’s un-American. And it might be unconstitutional.'”) At the very least, it’s one more indication that ObamaCare has become a nonstarter for Democrats in any locale less “safe” than Massachusetts.

And in case the Democratic leadership needed any more bad news, the Post tells us that there are similar measures pending in 29 state legislatures.

There are two ways to read the ongoing rumblings from Democratic congressional leadership and the White House that health-care reform isn’t dead yet. One, they really are out to lunch and will eventually face an embarrassing replay of 1994, when then Senate Majority leader George Mitchell had to pull HillaryCare from the floor because the votes just were not there. The alternative is that Pelosi is just biding her time, afraid to confess to the netroot Left that, in fact, the work does not go on, the cause (of universal health care) does not endure, the hope doesn’t live, and the dream for now is dead. And since that would not be well received in San Francisco or among liberal donors, she will continue her Olympian efforts to revive health-care reform. And all those Democratic lawmakers from places like Virginia will just have to fend for themselves.

So how’s health-care reform going? When last we left Nancy Pelosi, she was pole-vaulting over the fence of public opinion, proclaiming her devotion to ObamaCare — or at least putting up a good face. But out in the country, not that far out really, not even Democrats can stomach the central pillar of ObamaCare — the requirement that Americans be forced to buy insurance they don’t want and/or can’t afford from Big Insurance. In Virginia, where the governor has declared that he’s not taking the KSM trial, Democrats joined Republicans in the state Senate in announcing that they aren’t taking ObamaCare either. The Washington Post reports:

Virginia’s Democratically controlled state Senate passed measures Monday that would make it illegal to require individuals to purchase health insurance, a direct challenge to the party’s efforts in Washington to reform health care.

The bills, a top priority of Virginia’s “tea party” movement, were approved 23 to 17 as five Democrats who represent swing areas of the state joined all 18 Republicans in the chamber in backing the legislation.

The votes came less than a week after President Obama implored Democrats in Washington not to abandon their health-care efforts, urging them in his State of the Union address not to “run for the hills” on the issue.

Well, if not running for the hills, they’re certainly taking a stand. You can imagine how nervous House and Senate Democrats inside the Beltway must feel as they fret that Nancy Pelosi might be serious about venturing into another career-ending round of health-care negotiations. In fact, you don’t have to imagine it. One of the four at-risk Virginia House Democrats is already feeling the heat:

“It doesn’t make it easier,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, who voted for health-care legislation and is one of several Virginia Democrats who faces a strong challenge this year. Each of three similar bills that passed the state Senate on Monday would run counter to legislation passed by both chambers of Congress, which would require all individuals to purchase health care.

It doesn’t make it easier to pass ObamaCare — or for Connolly to keep his seat. It seems that Democrats in state office have now adopted the arguments of House and Senate Republicans, not to mention some conservative legal scholars. (“‘I don’t believe someone should be forced to buy something they don’t want to,’ said Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, a Democrat who represents rural Russell County and backed the measures. ‘It’s un-American. And it might be unconstitutional.'”) At the very least, it’s one more indication that ObamaCare has become a nonstarter for Democrats in any locale less “safe” than Massachusetts.

And in case the Democratic leadership needed any more bad news, the Post tells us that there are similar measures pending in 29 state legislatures.

There are two ways to read the ongoing rumblings from Democratic congressional leadership and the White House that health-care reform isn’t dead yet. One, they really are out to lunch and will eventually face an embarrassing replay of 1994, when then Senate Majority leader George Mitchell had to pull HillaryCare from the floor because the votes just were not there. The alternative is that Pelosi is just biding her time, afraid to confess to the netroot Left that, in fact, the work does not go on, the cause (of universal health care) does not endure, the hope doesn’t live, and the dream for now is dead. And since that would not be well received in San Francisco or among liberal donors, she will continue her Olympian efforts to revive health-care reform. And all those Democratic lawmakers from places like Virginia will just have to fend for themselves.

Read Less

A World of Difference

Throughout the campaign and much of the first year of Obama’s presidency, the media mavens who saw in Obama the perfect exemplar of themselves — urban and urbane, credentialed, culturally hip, and sufficiently disdainful of American exceptionalism — told us that Obama may have lacked experience, but he excelled in temperament and in judgment. Now it seems that isn’t so at all.

Since it’s not so cool to be seen engaging in Obama boosterism, some of the fawners are fessing up: Obama’s supposedly superior temperament wasn’t so superior. Mark Halperin (co-author of Game Change) explains:

What once seemed a refreshing confidence and placid control in Obama — his staff adopted the catch phrase ‘never too high, never too low’ to describe their boss’ temperament – – now, two years later, often translates as a detachment from the daily concerns of the American public. … A year after his inauguration, many Americans still complain they find him too remote, too removed. They want to see him show a little anger or passion when talking about lost jobs, the limping economy and terrorist threats. Obama’s tendency to rely on a small cluster of advisers has hurt him too.

The press went to the mat for Obama, yet now we learn that even during the campaign, there were signals that he lacked some important presidential qualities:

Yet there were signs along the way that Obama’s reserved demeanor might be a liability as well as an advantage. During the interminable series of Democratic debates beginning in April 2007, Obama’s professorial tone and discursive drift made him seem weak and windy. Razor-sharp Clinton bested him nearly every time.

At the height of the primary season, when Obama remarked at a fund-raiser in San Francisco that struggling small-towners in Pennsylvania and the Midwest “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” he came across as elitist and cold, unconcerned with the real lives of real people.

This is as much an indictment of Obama as of the sycophantic press that raised nary a critical word during the campaign and instead spent its investigative energies and venom on Sarah Palin (who turned out to be more in sync with the electorate on health-care reform, climate change, and anti-terrorism policy than the suave sophisticate whom the press raved about). As Halperin sheepishly concedes:

Perhaps the President needs a political upheaval to shake him up – something like what happened in September 2008, after Sarah Palin made her dramatic debut on the Republican ticket. The usually unflappable Obama suddenly found himself unbalanced in the face of a plain-speaking, instantly popular adversary. … But with his health care plan on the rocks the sudden emergence of another Republican supernova, Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who has connected with voters through optimism, defiance and cheer — and who could serve as a bellwether for 2010 and 2012 — Obama may finally be forced to take heed and make some changes himself.

So far, we see no sign of Obama taking much of anything to heart. But this time, the same members of the media may not be so forgiving. They really don’t want to be played for fools twice.

Throughout the campaign and much of the first year of Obama’s presidency, the media mavens who saw in Obama the perfect exemplar of themselves — urban and urbane, credentialed, culturally hip, and sufficiently disdainful of American exceptionalism — told us that Obama may have lacked experience, but he excelled in temperament and in judgment. Now it seems that isn’t so at all.

Since it’s not so cool to be seen engaging in Obama boosterism, some of the fawners are fessing up: Obama’s supposedly superior temperament wasn’t so superior. Mark Halperin (co-author of Game Change) explains:

What once seemed a refreshing confidence and placid control in Obama — his staff adopted the catch phrase ‘never too high, never too low’ to describe their boss’ temperament – – now, two years later, often translates as a detachment from the daily concerns of the American public. … A year after his inauguration, many Americans still complain they find him too remote, too removed. They want to see him show a little anger or passion when talking about lost jobs, the limping economy and terrorist threats. Obama’s tendency to rely on a small cluster of advisers has hurt him too.

The press went to the mat for Obama, yet now we learn that even during the campaign, there were signals that he lacked some important presidential qualities:

Yet there were signs along the way that Obama’s reserved demeanor might be a liability as well as an advantage. During the interminable series of Democratic debates beginning in April 2007, Obama’s professorial tone and discursive drift made him seem weak and windy. Razor-sharp Clinton bested him nearly every time.

At the height of the primary season, when Obama remarked at a fund-raiser in San Francisco that struggling small-towners in Pennsylvania and the Midwest “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” he came across as elitist and cold, unconcerned with the real lives of real people.

This is as much an indictment of Obama as of the sycophantic press that raised nary a critical word during the campaign and instead spent its investigative energies and venom on Sarah Palin (who turned out to be more in sync with the electorate on health-care reform, climate change, and anti-terrorism policy than the suave sophisticate whom the press raved about). As Halperin sheepishly concedes:

Perhaps the President needs a political upheaval to shake him up – something like what happened in September 2008, after Sarah Palin made her dramatic debut on the Republican ticket. The usually unflappable Obama suddenly found himself unbalanced in the face of a plain-speaking, instantly popular adversary. … But with his health care plan on the rocks the sudden emergence of another Republican supernova, Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who has connected with voters through optimism, defiance and cheer — and who could serve as a bellwether for 2010 and 2012 — Obama may finally be forced to take heed and make some changes himself.

So far, we see no sign of Obama taking much of anything to heart. But this time, the same members of the media may not be so forgiving. They really don’t want to be played for fools twice.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

It would be nice to think:  “Just as they are beginning to realize their engagement strategy with Iran, North Korea, and other rogue regimes has yielded little progress, hopefully the failed Christmas Day attack will cause the Obama administration to realize that their terrorist engagement strategy is fatally flawed as well.” Remember this is the gang that thinks the Cairo speech was one of the top three things Obama did to combat terrorism. Huh?? Jamie Fly observes: “It makes you wonder what other actions round out the top three.  Pledging to close Guantanamo Bay?  Banning enhanced interrogation procedures?” The KSM trial!

As for that trial, it is a very dangerous decision and a very expensive one: “Security for the federal trial of self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four accused cohorts will run $200 million a year, sources told the Daily News.” And no one thinks this will take only a year.

Michael Gerson writes that  “it is difficult to argue that the Obama administration has even attempted to create an atmosphere of urgency in the war on terror. The listless, coldblooded and clueless response of the Hawaii White House to the Christmas Day attack was only the most recent indication. Over the last year, nearly every rhetorical signal from the administration — from the use of war-on-terror euphemisms such as ‘overseas contingency operations’ and ‘man-caused disasters’ to its preference for immediately categorizing terrorism as the work of an ‘isolated extremist’ — has been designed to convey a return to normalcy, a contrast to the supposed fear-mongering of the past.”

Maybe it’s the terrorism or ObamaCare: “Republican candidates start the year by opening a nine-point lead over Democrats, the GOP’s biggest in several years, in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.”

Nancy Pelosi gets snippy: “Pelosi emerged from a meeting with her leadership team and committee chairs in the Capitol to face an aggressive throng of reporters who immediately hit her with C-SPAN’s request that she permit closed-door final talks on the bill to be televised. A reporter reminded the San Francisco Democrat that in 2008, then-candidate Obama opined that all such negotiations be open to C-SPAN cameras. ‘There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail,’ quipped Pelosi, who has no intention of making the deliberations public.”

But Obama was head of Harvard Law Review! We heard a lot of that during the campaign. It was supposed to be reassuring, I guess.  Wasilla’s most famous mayor isn’t impressed: “President Obama was right to change his policy and decide to send no more detainees to Yemen where they can be free to rejoin their war on America. Now he must back off his reckless plan to close Guantanamo, begin treating terrorists as wartime enemies not suspects alleged to have committed crimes, and recognize that the real nature of the terrorist threat requires a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor.”

Tom Maquire wants to know if “terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that prisoners provide just as much (or as little) information whether we observe their rights under US criminal procedures or their rights as detainees of the US military?  Do terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that all these Miranda warnings and provision of access to lawyers really doesn’t [sic] encourage anyone to keep anyone quiet?” I imagine they think it’s all worth it because we’re impressing jihadists with the wonders of our constitutional system — which they want to replace with sharia. So it doesn’t really make much sense.

Uh-oh: “The number of people preparing to buy a home fell sharply in November, an unsettling new sign that the housing market may be headed for a “double-dip” downturn over the winter.The figures Tuesday came after a similarly discouraging report on new home sales, illustrating how heavily the housing market depends right now on government help.”

A helpful reminder here, “lest we forget just exactly with whom the Israelis are dealing.”

It would be nice to think:  “Just as they are beginning to realize their engagement strategy with Iran, North Korea, and other rogue regimes has yielded little progress, hopefully the failed Christmas Day attack will cause the Obama administration to realize that their terrorist engagement strategy is fatally flawed as well.” Remember this is the gang that thinks the Cairo speech was one of the top three things Obama did to combat terrorism. Huh?? Jamie Fly observes: “It makes you wonder what other actions round out the top three.  Pledging to close Guantanamo Bay?  Banning enhanced interrogation procedures?” The KSM trial!

As for that trial, it is a very dangerous decision and a very expensive one: “Security for the federal trial of self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four accused cohorts will run $200 million a year, sources told the Daily News.” And no one thinks this will take only a year.

Michael Gerson writes that  “it is difficult to argue that the Obama administration has even attempted to create an atmosphere of urgency in the war on terror. The listless, coldblooded and clueless response of the Hawaii White House to the Christmas Day attack was only the most recent indication. Over the last year, nearly every rhetorical signal from the administration — from the use of war-on-terror euphemisms such as ‘overseas contingency operations’ and ‘man-caused disasters’ to its preference for immediately categorizing terrorism as the work of an ‘isolated extremist’ — has been designed to convey a return to normalcy, a contrast to the supposed fear-mongering of the past.”

Maybe it’s the terrorism or ObamaCare: “Republican candidates start the year by opening a nine-point lead over Democrats, the GOP’s biggest in several years, in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.”

Nancy Pelosi gets snippy: “Pelosi emerged from a meeting with her leadership team and committee chairs in the Capitol to face an aggressive throng of reporters who immediately hit her with C-SPAN’s request that she permit closed-door final talks on the bill to be televised. A reporter reminded the San Francisco Democrat that in 2008, then-candidate Obama opined that all such negotiations be open to C-SPAN cameras. ‘There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail,’ quipped Pelosi, who has no intention of making the deliberations public.”

But Obama was head of Harvard Law Review! We heard a lot of that during the campaign. It was supposed to be reassuring, I guess.  Wasilla’s most famous mayor isn’t impressed: “President Obama was right to change his policy and decide to send no more detainees to Yemen where they can be free to rejoin their war on America. Now he must back off his reckless plan to close Guantanamo, begin treating terrorists as wartime enemies not suspects alleged to have committed crimes, and recognize that the real nature of the terrorist threat requires a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor.”

Tom Maquire wants to know if “terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that prisoners provide just as much (or as little) information whether we observe their rights under US criminal procedures or their rights as detainees of the US military?  Do terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that all these Miranda warnings and provision of access to lawyers really doesn’t [sic] encourage anyone to keep anyone quiet?” I imagine they think it’s all worth it because we’re impressing jihadists with the wonders of our constitutional system — which they want to replace with sharia. So it doesn’t really make much sense.

Uh-oh: “The number of people preparing to buy a home fell sharply in November, an unsettling new sign that the housing market may be headed for a “double-dip” downturn over the winter.The figures Tuesday came after a similarly discouraging report on new home sales, illustrating how heavily the housing market depends right now on government help.”

A helpful reminder here, “lest we forget just exactly with whom the Israelis are dealing.”

Read Less

Slavin Gets It Wrong

Barbara Slavin’s op-ed in today’s San Francisco Chronicle tackles the question of Iran in order to rebuke what she considers as growing “war talk” within the Bush Administration–although the White House Press Office today strongly rebuked the Jerusalem Post for publishing an article that attributed such war talk to the President, and denied any of its assertions. After criticizing this newfound militancy, Slavin explains why Iran would not be so much of a problem for the West after all. In her defense of Iran’s motives and intentions, Slavin mentions Tehran’s nuclear nuclear program only once–though Iran’s nuclear program is the principal reason why an outgoing Bush Administration might contemplate at all a military strike.

There are many reasons why a military strike poses significant risks and has potentially very serious consequences. But to ignore the the consequences of the alternative–that Iran succeeds in its nuclear pursuit–is not the most intellectually honest thing to write, though it spares Slavin from the troublesome exercise of having to list the likely consequences of Iranian success. And this is what’s truly missing from the debate about Iran–what would happen if Iran succeeded in its pursuit? Slavin dismisses Iran’s comparison with either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union–but while at some levels Iran may not be comparable to either, Iran remains wedded to a revolutionary ideology. A revolutionary power, by definition, will seek to change the regional status quo and to remake the world in its own image. In this trajectory, it will eventually find itself embroiled in war, even if that is the result of plain miscalculation. Slavin reassures us that the Iranians will not overstretch:

A country whose boundaries have barely changed since the 16th century, Iran is not able to or interested in recreating the Persian Empire and is not about to become a second Nazi Germany or Soviet Union. As Mohammad Atrianfar, a veteran publisher who is close to former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, told me recently in Tehran: “We are not going to stretch our legs beyond the capacity of our carpets.”

The problem with that statement is that neither Nazi Germany nor the Soviet Union believed they were overstretching until it was too late. Nuclear capability will give Iran the kind of umbrella of impunity that will allow it to double its mischief in the region without fear of retribution. Do you like the way Hezbollah and Hamas behave in their respective domains? You will love it when Iran has nukes! Do you find it hard to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict now? Try when Iran’s nukes enable its proxies to up the ante. Are you worried about Shia unrest in Kuwait and Bahrain? Prepare for more trouble when Iran’s nuclear bomb casts a shadow on those countries. Do you think oil prices are too high? Save for a cold winter, when Iran’s speedboats swarm the Gulf and harass supertankers. Do you really think anyone will risk a nuclear showdown for any of the above?

Consider this as well: Iran might lend its nukes and ballistic missiles to friends like Venezuela, to get San Francisco within range. It would not be overstretching–Hugo Chavez will surely pick up the bill to pay the costs of the exercise. Unbelievable? Why? Fidel Castro did it with the Russians in 1962–so why shouldn’t we expect a not a rerun, given that Iran’s revolutionary vocation, as an anti-Western power aspiring to change the world to its own image, does not need to overstretch. It will suffice to have some allies, friends and supporters to bankroll and supply, under its nuclear umbrella, in order to make this world an infinitely more dangerous place.

War might be premature–but war talk, as a reminder to Iran that it will pay a steep price for staying the course, is a better option than what Slavin has to offer.

Barbara Slavin’s op-ed in today’s San Francisco Chronicle tackles the question of Iran in order to rebuke what she considers as growing “war talk” within the Bush Administration–although the White House Press Office today strongly rebuked the Jerusalem Post for publishing an article that attributed such war talk to the President, and denied any of its assertions. After criticizing this newfound militancy, Slavin explains why Iran would not be so much of a problem for the West after all. In her defense of Iran’s motives and intentions, Slavin mentions Tehran’s nuclear nuclear program only once–though Iran’s nuclear program is the principal reason why an outgoing Bush Administration might contemplate at all a military strike.

There are many reasons why a military strike poses significant risks and has potentially very serious consequences. But to ignore the the consequences of the alternative–that Iran succeeds in its nuclear pursuit–is not the most intellectually honest thing to write, though it spares Slavin from the troublesome exercise of having to list the likely consequences of Iranian success. And this is what’s truly missing from the debate about Iran–what would happen if Iran succeeded in its pursuit? Slavin dismisses Iran’s comparison with either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union–but while at some levels Iran may not be comparable to either, Iran remains wedded to a revolutionary ideology. A revolutionary power, by definition, will seek to change the regional status quo and to remake the world in its own image. In this trajectory, it will eventually find itself embroiled in war, even if that is the result of plain miscalculation. Slavin reassures us that the Iranians will not overstretch:

A country whose boundaries have barely changed since the 16th century, Iran is not able to or interested in recreating the Persian Empire and is not about to become a second Nazi Germany or Soviet Union. As Mohammad Atrianfar, a veteran publisher who is close to former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, told me recently in Tehran: “We are not going to stretch our legs beyond the capacity of our carpets.”

The problem with that statement is that neither Nazi Germany nor the Soviet Union believed they were overstretching until it was too late. Nuclear capability will give Iran the kind of umbrella of impunity that will allow it to double its mischief in the region without fear of retribution. Do you like the way Hezbollah and Hamas behave in their respective domains? You will love it when Iran has nukes! Do you find it hard to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict now? Try when Iran’s nukes enable its proxies to up the ante. Are you worried about Shia unrest in Kuwait and Bahrain? Prepare for more trouble when Iran’s nuclear bomb casts a shadow on those countries. Do you think oil prices are too high? Save for a cold winter, when Iran’s speedboats swarm the Gulf and harass supertankers. Do you really think anyone will risk a nuclear showdown for any of the above?

Consider this as well: Iran might lend its nukes and ballistic missiles to friends like Venezuela, to get San Francisco within range. It would not be overstretching–Hugo Chavez will surely pick up the bill to pay the costs of the exercise. Unbelievable? Why? Fidel Castro did it with the Russians in 1962–so why shouldn’t we expect a not a rerun, given that Iran’s revolutionary vocation, as an anti-Western power aspiring to change the world to its own image, does not need to overstretch. It will suffice to have some allies, friends and supporters to bankroll and supply, under its nuclear umbrella, in order to make this world an infinitely more dangerous place.

War might be premature–but war talk, as a reminder to Iran that it will pay a steep price for staying the course, is a better option than what Slavin has to offer.

Read Less

Some Thoughts on Last Night

1. Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee for President. That was clear before yesterday; absent a complete and unforeseen disaster, it’s a certainty now. Democratic superdelegates will soon begin to break in large numbers for Obama. They have been wanting to do so for some time now; what they needed was a plausible trigger to justify publicly supporting Obama. Last night they got it. Yesterday in the voting booths of North Carolina, the last dog died.

The Clintons have done a lot of damage to our politics over the years, something which Obama tapped into with great skill. They have destroyed a lot of folks who they viewed as obstacles to their power, and so it’s good, very good, that they will not be returning to the White House.

2. Whether Hillary Clinton withdraws or not is a far less important question than it was 48 hours ago. She may formally continue in the race, but as last night’s speeches made clear, the rhetorical swords will be sheathed. And there will be a lot of energy spent in the next several days negotiating a graceful exit for Hillary and Bill Clinton. That may not be easy. Many adjectives apply to the Clintons. Graceful is not one of them.

3. Democrats will begin to rally around Obama and, once Hillarydrops out of the race, he will take a large, perhaps even a commanding, lead over John McCain. In the last month there has been some talk among Republicans that Obama will be an exceptionally weak candidate, on the order of a Dukakis (loser of 40 states), Mondale (loser of 49 states), and McGovern (loser of 49 states). That won’t be the case. Obama is far
more talented and appealing than Dukakis, Mondale, or McGovern ever were.

He also has in place one of the finest political operation the Democrats have ever put together. And beyond that, this year — unlike 1972, 1984, and 1988 — virtually every metric favors Democrats, whether we’re talking about fundraising, party identification, the public’s views on an array of issues, and the energy and excitement among base voters. In addition, it’s hard for an incumbent party to win a third term, particularly in an environment in which voters are longing for change, where the President’s popularity is extremely low, and where 80 percent of the country believes the nation is on the wrong track.

A disturbing sign was that last weekend the GOP lost its second House seat in a special election in two months – this time in Louisiana, in a seat that had been Republican for 34 years and one which Bush carried by 20 points in 2004. It’s true that most congressional races are local rather than national in nature and Woody Jenkins was a particularly weak candidate. Nevertheless, the results in Louisiana could be an ominous sign, especially for down-ballot Republicans.

Read More

1. Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee for President. That was clear before yesterday; absent a complete and unforeseen disaster, it’s a certainty now. Democratic superdelegates will soon begin to break in large numbers for Obama. They have been wanting to do so for some time now; what they needed was a plausible trigger to justify publicly supporting Obama. Last night they got it. Yesterday in the voting booths of North Carolina, the last dog died.

The Clintons have done a lot of damage to our politics over the years, something which Obama tapped into with great skill. They have destroyed a lot of folks who they viewed as obstacles to their power, and so it’s good, very good, that they will not be returning to the White House.

2. Whether Hillary Clinton withdraws or not is a far less important question than it was 48 hours ago. She may formally continue in the race, but as last night’s speeches made clear, the rhetorical swords will be sheathed. And there will be a lot of energy spent in the next several days negotiating a graceful exit for Hillary and Bill Clinton. That may not be easy. Many adjectives apply to the Clintons. Graceful is not one of them.

3. Democrats will begin to rally around Obama and, once Hillarydrops out of the race, he will take a large, perhaps even a commanding, lead over John McCain. In the last month there has been some talk among Republicans that Obama will be an exceptionally weak candidate, on the order of a Dukakis (loser of 40 states), Mondale (loser of 49 states), and McGovern (loser of 49 states). That won’t be the case. Obama is far
more talented and appealing than Dukakis, Mondale, or McGovern ever were.

He also has in place one of the finest political operation the Democrats have ever put together. And beyond that, this year — unlike 1972, 1984, and 1988 — virtually every metric favors Democrats, whether we’re talking about fundraising, party identification, the public’s views on an array of issues, and the energy and excitement among base voters. In addition, it’s hard for an incumbent party to win a third term, particularly in an environment in which voters are longing for change, where the President’s popularity is extremely low, and where 80 percent of the country believes the nation is on the wrong track.

A disturbing sign was that last weekend the GOP lost its second House seat in a special election in two months – this time in Louisiana, in a seat that had been Republican for 34 years and one which Bush carried by 20 points in 2004. It’s true that most congressional races are local rather than national in nature and Woody Jenkins was a particularly weak candidate. Nevertheless, the results in Louisiana could be an ominous sign, especially for down-ballot Republicans.

4. What Senator McCain has working in his favor is that he has the greatest potential of any Republican on the national stage to reach beyond his base. That’s especially important in a year when voters are down on the GOP. The challenge for McCain remains his capacity to energize the Republican base while appealing beyond it. That is always the task of a nominee; this year, given McCain’s history with conservatives, it will be harder than most.

Also working in McCain’s favor is that Obama is a completely orthodox liberal in a nation that remains, for the most part, center-right. And Obama’s associations with Reverend Wright, William Ayers, and Tony Rezko have raised questions about his judgment and character. It remains to be seen if, in a general election, these concerns metastasize. One more troubling revelation about Obama’s associations, it could be quite
damaging to him. Hairline fractures can easily turn into complete breaks. And of course if Jeremiah Wright decides to re-emerge and hold forth on the virtues of “black liberation theology” and the vices of America, it could have a shattering effect on the Obama campaign.

5. The other thing McCain has working in his favor is that Obama has shown a limited appeal among rural and blue-collar voters, seniors, Catholics, and Latinos. Hillary Clinton has also done much better than Obama among conservative white Democrats. These demographic groups, and hence states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, are ones McCain has a chance to win. And a state like Florida is one where Hillary Clinton would have been a far more formidable opponent than Obama.

Obama’s strength has been with African Americans; in North Carolina, for example, he won more than 90 percent of the black vote amidst record turnout. He also runs extremely strong among young voters (18-29 years old), highly educated voters, in urban areas, and among elites — voters with high incomes and graduate degrees. Obama also has a realistic chance to carry Rocky Mountain States like Colorado and Nevada.

David Brooks has said that “demography is king” in this election. That has proven mostly true, and when it comes to the general election Obama has shown some worrisome (for Democrats) signs. That doesn’t mean he can’t surmount them, especially in a year that ought to favor Democrats. But it does mean that he is not without vulnerabilities.

6. Obama’s speech last night was a revealing roadmap to what he perceives as his own weaknesses. He ridiculed the notion of using “labels” to describe himself; it is, he has insisted in the past, part of the “old politics” that Obama alone can transcend. But let’s be specific: the label Obama has in mind is “liberal,” and in this instance it fits quite nicely. As I’ve argued elsewhere, Obama is an utterly conventional liberal – arguably the most liberal person running for president since McGovern. Obama has shown no willingness to challenge liberal orthodoxy. What he does not understand, or what he will not admit, is that a person’s political ideology reveals important things not only about his stance on individual issues, but also about his worldview, his assumptions and the beliefs that animate his political activism. In the past, the “liberal” label has been politically lethal for those running for President. Obama understands this – and since he can’t alter his record, he is going to do everything he can to smash the categories.

The man who last October proudly declared that he decided he wouldn’t wear an American flag pin shortly after 9/11 because it “became a substitute for I think true patriotism” last night spoke movingly about the “flag draped over my grandfather’s coffin” and what that flag stands for.

The man whose pastor, close friend and confidant referred to the United States as the “U.S. of K.K.K.” and whose wife declared our country to be “downright mean” and who has for the first time in her adult life found reason to be proud of America spoke glowingly about “the America I know.” Obama added this: “That’s why I’m in this race. I love this country too much to see it divided and distracted at this moment in history. I believe in our ability to perfect this union because it’s the only reason I’m standing here today. And I know the promise of America because I have lived it.”

The man who in San Francisco talked about the bitterness of small-town Americans who “cling” to their religion and guns and xenophobia, told us about the “simple truth I learned all those years ago when I worked in the shadows of a shuttered steel mill on the South Side of Chicago.”

The man who believes the Iraq war is irredeemably lost and wants to withdraw all major combat troops within 16 months — which would lead to a devastating American defeat, mass death and possibly genocide, a resurgent al Qaeda and a strengthened Iran – said, “I trust the American people to recognize that it’s not surrender to end the war in Iraq so that we can rebuild our military and go after al Qaeda’s leaders.”

The man who in the first year of his presidency wants to meet individually and without preconditions with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea declared last night, “I trust the American people to understand that it’s not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but our enemies – like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did.” (The notion that Obama is in the same foreign policy tradition as FDR, JFK, and Truman is not a serious one; he is far closer to McGovern’s appeal to “Come Home, America.”)

Obama’s speech, then, was an effort to pivot to the general election and reposition himself as a post-partisan, post-ideological, mainstream, and unifying figure. That effort was fairly effective for a while. But the Obama magic is fading fast. As he showed last night, he remains an appealing figure. He is still able to make high-minded (if largely empty) appeals. Yet many of us, having watched him closely over the last few months, hear him differently than we once did. The words are largely the same; it’s the man delivering them who somehow seems different.

Barack Obama is still the favorite to be the next President. But he’s a good deal weaker than he was, and a long and withering campaign lies ahead.

Read Less

Moveon, Kos – R.I.P.

In the monomaniacal world of moveon.org and the Daily Kos, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have committed an unforgivable sin. By appearing on Fox News the Democrats have proven themselves unserious in the apocalyptically serious fight against Rupert Murdoch’s quest for world domination.

Back when Obama was the unflappable boy wonder of the Left, the Kos crowd was savoring the accumulated days (771) that the I’ll-talk-to-Tehran candidate had abstained from talking to America’s most watched news source.

Why does the far Left so despise Fox, anyway? Here’s “San Francisco’s alternative online daily” with some much needed clarity:

To understand why bloggers are so upset about Fox News’ co-sponsorship [of a since-cancelled Democratic debate] , look at how the station hosted a Democratic presidential debate last time around in 2003. During its live coverage, the Fox News graphic – as well as a banner over the stage – titled the event “Democrat Candidate Presidential Debate,” a right-wing epithet made famous most recently in George Bush’s State of the Union Address.

It doesn’t matter how many times you re-read that; it still makes no sense. Nevertheless, the Nevada debate was cancelled when the state’s Democrats caved-in to the paranoid anti-Fox campaign. Silencing open debate was the far-Left blogosphere’s crowning achievement—and the beginning of a nightmare for Democrats. With moveon.org and the Daily Kos actually being paid the respect of Democratic representatives, Hillary, Obama, and John Edwards had to maneuver gingerly around a daily barrage of whacko agit-prop that now bore the unofficial imprimatur of the Democratic Party.

Last fall, moveon.org ran the ridiculous “General Betray Us” ad, and serious Democrats began to distance themselves. But Obama’s appearance on Fox News this past Sunday was the real beginning of the end. At the very same time that Kos bloggers were melting down about Obama’s interview, the media lit-up with reports that Hillary was going on Bill O’Reilly. The Dems had moved on. The fact that Hillary thrived under O’Reilly’s cross-examination only serves to further the long-overdue marginalization of these histrionic and poisonous organizations. Their stranglehold is no more.

In the monomaniacal world of moveon.org and the Daily Kos, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have committed an unforgivable sin. By appearing on Fox News the Democrats have proven themselves unserious in the apocalyptically serious fight against Rupert Murdoch’s quest for world domination.

Back when Obama was the unflappable boy wonder of the Left, the Kos crowd was savoring the accumulated days (771) that the I’ll-talk-to-Tehran candidate had abstained from talking to America’s most watched news source.

Why does the far Left so despise Fox, anyway? Here’s “San Francisco’s alternative online daily” with some much needed clarity:

To understand why bloggers are so upset about Fox News’ co-sponsorship [of a since-cancelled Democratic debate] , look at how the station hosted a Democratic presidential debate last time around in 2003. During its live coverage, the Fox News graphic – as well as a banner over the stage – titled the event “Democrat Candidate Presidential Debate,” a right-wing epithet made famous most recently in George Bush’s State of the Union Address.

It doesn’t matter how many times you re-read that; it still makes no sense. Nevertheless, the Nevada debate was cancelled when the state’s Democrats caved-in to the paranoid anti-Fox campaign. Silencing open debate was the far-Left blogosphere’s crowning achievement—and the beginning of a nightmare for Democrats. With moveon.org and the Daily Kos actually being paid the respect of Democratic representatives, Hillary, Obama, and John Edwards had to maneuver gingerly around a daily barrage of whacko agit-prop that now bore the unofficial imprimatur of the Democratic Party.

Last fall, moveon.org ran the ridiculous “General Betray Us” ad, and serious Democrats began to distance themselves. But Obama’s appearance on Fox News this past Sunday was the real beginning of the end. At the very same time that Kos bloggers were melting down about Obama’s interview, the media lit-up with reports that Hillary was going on Bill O’Reilly. The Dems had moved on. The fact that Hillary thrived under O’Reilly’s cross-examination only serves to further the long-overdue marginalization of these histrionic and poisonous organizations. Their stranglehold is no more.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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