Commentary Magazine


Topic: Senate

Conservative Complaints About Tax Deal Must Be Heeded by GOP

We’ve spent most of the last week hearing about how the left thinks congressional Republicans rolled President Obama on tax cuts. After Obama’s startling rant about his liberal critics last week at a White House press conference, that embarrassing topic has lost some of its currency in the mainstream media. So today’s topic is the increasing unhappiness on the Tea Party right about the compromise. It’s one thing for Sen. Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin to decry the deal; it’s quite another for Charles Krauthammer to see it as an Obama triumph.

Krauthammer made his negative opinion about the deal known early via Fox News but got little attention, since most of the negative comments about it were coming from liberals who felt betrayed by Obama’s decision not to try to increase taxes on wealthier Americans. But with articles in both the New York Times and the Washington Post today, the possibility of a conservative revolt, as opposed to a liberal one, is finally getting some notice.

Most conservatives were initially so happy about the GOP leadership’s forcing Obama to back down on his opposition to the across-the-board extension of the Bush tax cuts that they didn’t notice what else is included in the deal. As Krauthammer noted on Friday, the compromise includes a lot of things that no foe of big government ought to be willing to stomach, such as more subsidies for boondoggles like ethanol and windmills, as well as extensions of death taxes and a host of other provisions that justify the columnist’s calling it another version of Obama’s failed stimulus. Indeed, as Krauthammer points out, it might well be even more expensive than that disaster, blowing “another near-$1 trillion hole in the budget.”

Though extending the tax cuts was important and cutting payroll taxes is something that every Tea Party sympathizer ought to applaud, this deal may well be remembered as the final act of a profligate Congress whose largesse with taxpayer money will haunt the nation for decades to come.

Krauthammer fears that this second stimulus will help re-elect Obama by pumping up the economy in the next two years, even if it will lead to another disaster after November 2012. Maybe so, but that assumes that, unlike the first stimulus, this act will actually jump-start the economy. No matter how much federal money Obama or the Congress waste, it is unlikely that we will be able to spend our way to prosperity. And if unemployment and growth are still problems in the fall of 2012, no one will look back on this tax deal and think it was the decisive moment when Obama’s victory or defeat was preordained.

Despite the carping from both the right and the left, the compromise deal will probably be passed before the lame-duck Congress slinks out of Washington. But the anger on the right ought to serve as a wake-up call to the GOP leadership that they should not take the Tea Party’s support for granted in the future. The new Congress with more conservatives in the House and the Senate will be a less-hospitable place for the sort of deal in which both sides of the aisle get pet projects funded whether or not they make sense. Despite the applause for groups that preach such compromises (such as the laughable No Labels), that will be a change for the better.

We’ve spent most of the last week hearing about how the left thinks congressional Republicans rolled President Obama on tax cuts. After Obama’s startling rant about his liberal critics last week at a White House press conference, that embarrassing topic has lost some of its currency in the mainstream media. So today’s topic is the increasing unhappiness on the Tea Party right about the compromise. It’s one thing for Sen. Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin to decry the deal; it’s quite another for Charles Krauthammer to see it as an Obama triumph.

Krauthammer made his negative opinion about the deal known early via Fox News but got little attention, since most of the negative comments about it were coming from liberals who felt betrayed by Obama’s decision not to try to increase taxes on wealthier Americans. But with articles in both the New York Times and the Washington Post today, the possibility of a conservative revolt, as opposed to a liberal one, is finally getting some notice.

Most conservatives were initially so happy about the GOP leadership’s forcing Obama to back down on his opposition to the across-the-board extension of the Bush tax cuts that they didn’t notice what else is included in the deal. As Krauthammer noted on Friday, the compromise includes a lot of things that no foe of big government ought to be willing to stomach, such as more subsidies for boondoggles like ethanol and windmills, as well as extensions of death taxes and a host of other provisions that justify the columnist’s calling it another version of Obama’s failed stimulus. Indeed, as Krauthammer points out, it might well be even more expensive than that disaster, blowing “another near-$1 trillion hole in the budget.”

Though extending the tax cuts was important and cutting payroll taxes is something that every Tea Party sympathizer ought to applaud, this deal may well be remembered as the final act of a profligate Congress whose largesse with taxpayer money will haunt the nation for decades to come.

Krauthammer fears that this second stimulus will help re-elect Obama by pumping up the economy in the next two years, even if it will lead to another disaster after November 2012. Maybe so, but that assumes that, unlike the first stimulus, this act will actually jump-start the economy. No matter how much federal money Obama or the Congress waste, it is unlikely that we will be able to spend our way to prosperity. And if unemployment and growth are still problems in the fall of 2012, no one will look back on this tax deal and think it was the decisive moment when Obama’s victory or defeat was preordained.

Despite the carping from both the right and the left, the compromise deal will probably be passed before the lame-duck Congress slinks out of Washington. But the anger on the right ought to serve as a wake-up call to the GOP leadership that they should not take the Tea Party’s support for granted in the future. The new Congress with more conservatives in the House and the Senate will be a less-hospitable place for the sort of deal in which both sides of the aisle get pet projects funded whether or not they make sense. Despite the applause for groups that preach such compromises (such as the laughable No Labels), that will be a change for the better.

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No Labels? No Viewers.

Today marks the announcement of the new crusade called No Labels, which is about … well, it’s hard to say what it’s about, except that there’s too much partisanship and polarization and we need to work together to get things done. Various politicians (L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa, N.Y. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former GOP Rep. Tom Davis, and, of course, Michael Bloomberg) are speaking about moving the country forward by finding common ground without vilification.

Do they mean things like … the Iraq war, for which half the Democratic caucus in the Senate voted in 2002? Or the No Child Left Behind Act, probably the most bipartisan piece of legislation of our generation, back in 2001? Or … the TARP bailout in 2008, which had bipartisan support as well? Those votes, and the policies that followed from them, have really done a lot to advance the cause of bipartisanship, no?

Anyway, I’m watching the No Labels webcast. And guess what? At this very moment, as I type, a grand total of 508 people are watching the webcast.

Today marks the announcement of the new crusade called No Labels, which is about … well, it’s hard to say what it’s about, except that there’s too much partisanship and polarization and we need to work together to get things done. Various politicians (L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa, N.Y. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former GOP Rep. Tom Davis, and, of course, Michael Bloomberg) are speaking about moving the country forward by finding common ground without vilification.

Do they mean things like … the Iraq war, for which half the Democratic caucus in the Senate voted in 2002? Or the No Child Left Behind Act, probably the most bipartisan piece of legislation of our generation, back in 2001? Or … the TARP bailout in 2008, which had bipartisan support as well? Those votes, and the policies that followed from them, have really done a lot to advance the cause of bipartisanship, no?

Anyway, I’m watching the No Labels webcast. And guess what? At this very moment, as I type, a grand total of 508 people are watching the webcast.

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The Magic Bullet

Chris Van Hollen, who will be the ranking member of the House Budget Committee in the new Congress, was on Fox News Sunday this morning (transcript not yet available). To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, he decried extending the “tax cuts for the rich” and raising the estate tax from its present zero to 35 percent for estates over $5 million. That, too, according to Van Hollen, was an unconscionable giveaway of $26 billion to a few thousand families who already have far more than they need. John linked to Senator Bernie Sanders’s 8 1/2 hour rant on the Senate floor on Friday in which he said, less succinctly, the same. And Peter the same day linked to Congressman Alan Grayson (soon, mercifully, to be former congressman Alan Grayson) saying, again, much the same thing. Their animus against “the rich” is palpable and their adherence to the principle of high taxes on the rich (which dates back to Karl Marx in 1848) is religious rather than rational.

I carry no brief for “the rich,” although I’d be happy to be counted among them. But this all reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a close friend, now gone, on this subject. She was very liberal. (How liberal? In 1948, she not only voted for Henry Wallace; she went to the convention and worked in his campaign. That’s liberal.) I proposed a thought experiment. “Suppose,” I said, “there were an economic magic bullet — that if Congress would pass the necessary legislation and the president were to sign it, the effect would be to double everyone’s real take-home income. If you were living on $50,000 this year, you’d have $100,000 to spend next year.”

“Sounds great,” she said.

“But there’s a catch,” I answered. “The effect of the magic bullet would not double the take-home income of those earning over $1 million — it would quintuple it. In other words, the rich would make out far, far better than the average Joe. But there’s no way out, it’s all or nothing. Would you vote for the magic bullet if you were a member of Congress?”

“Certainly not!” she indignantly replied.

“Fine,” I said. “Now it’s six months later and you’re running for re-election. A constituent comes up to you and says, ‘I’m an English teacher at the local high school. I take home $50,000 a year. I have a daughter who needs serious orthodontics that’s not covered by insurance, my son has learning disabilities and has to be tutored, I’m driving a 10-year-old Buick that will have to be replaced very soon, and my mother-in-law will not be able to live on her own much longer. We never go away on vacation and seldom eat out. You voted against my earning an additional $50,000 a year because you objected to Mr. Bigbucks getting $5 million a year instead of $1 million. I don’t give a damn what the Rockefellers earn. I care about what I earn so I can take care of my family.’ What do you tell him, in order to win his vote?”

Her response: “It’s time for dinner.”

We have lowered the marginal rates on high incomes four times since the inception of the income tax — in the 1920s, the 1960s, the 1980s, and the 2000s. In each case, the result was a much more prosperous national economy, lower unemployment, and higher tax revenues for the government. If you do A (lower marginal rates) four times, and four times, despite differing economic circumstances, B (increased prosperity) happens, a rational person might conclude, at least tentatively, that B is the result of A. Not liberals.

As I said, high tax rates on the rich is a religious principle with the left. If the poor have to suffer because of it, so be it.

Chris Van Hollen, who will be the ranking member of the House Budget Committee in the new Congress, was on Fox News Sunday this morning (transcript not yet available). To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, he decried extending the “tax cuts for the rich” and raising the estate tax from its present zero to 35 percent for estates over $5 million. That, too, according to Van Hollen, was an unconscionable giveaway of $26 billion to a few thousand families who already have far more than they need. John linked to Senator Bernie Sanders’s 8 1/2 hour rant on the Senate floor on Friday in which he said, less succinctly, the same. And Peter the same day linked to Congressman Alan Grayson (soon, mercifully, to be former congressman Alan Grayson) saying, again, much the same thing. Their animus against “the rich” is palpable and their adherence to the principle of high taxes on the rich (which dates back to Karl Marx in 1848) is religious rather than rational.

I carry no brief for “the rich,” although I’d be happy to be counted among them. But this all reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a close friend, now gone, on this subject. She was very liberal. (How liberal? In 1948, she not only voted for Henry Wallace; she went to the convention and worked in his campaign. That’s liberal.) I proposed a thought experiment. “Suppose,” I said, “there were an economic magic bullet — that if Congress would pass the necessary legislation and the president were to sign it, the effect would be to double everyone’s real take-home income. If you were living on $50,000 this year, you’d have $100,000 to spend next year.”

“Sounds great,” she said.

“But there’s a catch,” I answered. “The effect of the magic bullet would not double the take-home income of those earning over $1 million — it would quintuple it. In other words, the rich would make out far, far better than the average Joe. But there’s no way out, it’s all or nothing. Would you vote for the magic bullet if you were a member of Congress?”

“Certainly not!” she indignantly replied.

“Fine,” I said. “Now it’s six months later and you’re running for re-election. A constituent comes up to you and says, ‘I’m an English teacher at the local high school. I take home $50,000 a year. I have a daughter who needs serious orthodontics that’s not covered by insurance, my son has learning disabilities and has to be tutored, I’m driving a 10-year-old Buick that will have to be replaced very soon, and my mother-in-law will not be able to live on her own much longer. We never go away on vacation and seldom eat out. You voted against my earning an additional $50,000 a year because you objected to Mr. Bigbucks getting $5 million a year instead of $1 million. I don’t give a damn what the Rockefellers earn. I care about what I earn so I can take care of my family.’ What do you tell him, in order to win his vote?”

Her response: “It’s time for dinner.”

We have lowered the marginal rates on high incomes four times since the inception of the income tax — in the 1920s, the 1960s, the 1980s, and the 2000s. In each case, the result was a much more prosperous national economy, lower unemployment, and higher tax revenues for the government. If you do A (lower marginal rates) four times, and four times, despite differing economic circumstances, B (increased prosperity) happens, a rational person might conclude, at least tentatively, that B is the result of A. Not liberals.

As I said, high tax rates on the rich is a religious principle with the left. If the poor have to suffer because of it, so be it.

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And the Washington Madness Just Got Even Crazier

In the Senate, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders was in the seventh hour of a filibuster against the tax-cut deal, showing that when you give an old Socialist Jew a microphone, you do something more dangerous than you know. Then, suddenly, as Sanders was blathering on, the president appeared in the White House briefing room with Bill Clinton.

Clinton endorsed the tax-cut deal, and began leaning into the microphone and talking. And talking. And talking. And then…the president said, and I’m not kidding, “Michelle is waiting for me,” patted Clinton on the back, and left his predecessor there at the microphone. And he is talking and talking and talking.

“I’m out of politics now,” said Bill Clinton, two minutes after saying he did 133 events for Democrats in 2010. This is a treasure trove of self-revelatory stuff, as is Sanders’s filibuster, which features him praising a book on the Senate floor by Arianna Huffington, an article in Slate…

In the Senate, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders was in the seventh hour of a filibuster against the tax-cut deal, showing that when you give an old Socialist Jew a microphone, you do something more dangerous than you know. Then, suddenly, as Sanders was blathering on, the president appeared in the White House briefing room with Bill Clinton.

Clinton endorsed the tax-cut deal, and began leaning into the microphone and talking. And talking. And talking. And then…the president said, and I’m not kidding, “Michelle is waiting for me,” patted Clinton on the back, and left his predecessor there at the microphone. And he is talking and talking and talking.

“I’m out of politics now,” said Bill Clinton, two minutes after saying he did 133 events for Democrats in 2010. This is a treasure trove of self-revelatory stuff, as is Sanders’s filibuster, which features him praising a book on the Senate floor by Arianna Huffington, an article in Slate…

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Morning Commentary

Liberals may still be grumbling about Obama’s tax-cut deal with Republicans, but Charles Krauthammer argues that the president actually won the face-off with the GOP: “If Obama had asked for a second stimulus directly, he would have been laughed out of town. Stimulus I was so reviled that the Democrats banished the word from their lexicon throughout the 2010 campaign. And yet, despite a very weak post-election hand, Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies.”

As China escalates its crackdown on the media in preparation for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo today, Obama has issued a statement (as Pete noted here) urging China to release the laureate: “One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.”

Furthering his image as a “James Bond villain,” Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks office is literally carved into the side of a cliff 100 feet below a Stockholm park. The New York Post has photos.

With the recent masthead change at the New Republic, Ron Radosh suggests that the magazine start embracing a less-statist approach to domestic issues.

The bill to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” didn’t make it through the Senate last night, but Politico warns not to discount the legislation just yet: “[I]n a strange twist fit for a zombie movie, proponents of dismantling the law emerged from the bewildering defeat on Capitol Hill declaring that an end to the ban on gays in uniform not only isn’t dead—but that victory may finally be within sight. While that might be a tad optimistic on their part, the fact that appeal still mustered a pulse was a testament to the persistence of repeal advocates, the political risks even some Republicans see in offending gay voters, and the unpredictability of the closing days of a lame-duck congressional session.”

Hugo Chavez’s Socialist Party is seeking to censor online media in Venezuela. A bill making its way through the parliament yesterday would ban websites that the government believes could incite “violence” against Chavez.

Liberals may still be grumbling about Obama’s tax-cut deal with Republicans, but Charles Krauthammer argues that the president actually won the face-off with the GOP: “If Obama had asked for a second stimulus directly, he would have been laughed out of town. Stimulus I was so reviled that the Democrats banished the word from their lexicon throughout the 2010 campaign. And yet, despite a very weak post-election hand, Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies.”

As China escalates its crackdown on the media in preparation for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo today, Obama has issued a statement (as Pete noted here) urging China to release the laureate: “One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.”

Furthering his image as a “James Bond villain,” Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks office is literally carved into the side of a cliff 100 feet below a Stockholm park. The New York Post has photos.

With the recent masthead change at the New Republic, Ron Radosh suggests that the magazine start embracing a less-statist approach to domestic issues.

The bill to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” didn’t make it through the Senate last night, but Politico warns not to discount the legislation just yet: “[I]n a strange twist fit for a zombie movie, proponents of dismantling the law emerged from the bewildering defeat on Capitol Hill declaring that an end to the ban on gays in uniform not only isn’t dead—but that victory may finally be within sight. While that might be a tad optimistic on their part, the fact that appeal still mustered a pulse was a testament to the persistence of repeal advocates, the political risks even some Republicans see in offending gay voters, and the unpredictability of the closing days of a lame-duck congressional session.”

Hugo Chavez’s Socialist Party is seeking to censor online media in Venezuela. A bill making its way through the parliament yesterday would ban websites that the government believes could incite “violence” against Chavez.

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This Is What Happens When You Get Engulfed by a Wave

Today on Capitol Hill, the Democratic Party appears to have gone somewhat insane. The House Democratic Caucus voted to oppose the tax-cut deal struck between Barack Obama and Senate Republicans; it’s a non-binding vote, but an embarrassing one for the president. It’s not nuts — the bill is obviously problematic for liberals — but its practical political effect is negligible, and it seems more like a tantrum than anything else. Roll Call even reports that someone at the meeting shouted “—- the president”; imagine if such a thing had been reported out of a Republican caucus meeting.

In the Senate, a complicated procedural maneuver to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” failed, apparently due to as-yet incomprehensible machinations by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had some deal struck with moderate Republican Susan Collins that he decided to renege on and hold a vote anyway. Nobody understood what was happening, the vote (not to repeal, but to end debate)  failed, and Collins voted with Reid anyway.

There was more chaos relating to other legislation as well. Meanwhile, Obama press spokesman Robert Gibbs told Democrats that if they have better ideas, they should make like The Price Is Right and “come on down.”

The machinery of the Democratic Party in Washington is in desperate need of overhaul. The November 2 tsunami shorted everything out.

Today on Capitol Hill, the Democratic Party appears to have gone somewhat insane. The House Democratic Caucus voted to oppose the tax-cut deal struck between Barack Obama and Senate Republicans; it’s a non-binding vote, but an embarrassing one for the president. It’s not nuts — the bill is obviously problematic for liberals — but its practical political effect is negligible, and it seems more like a tantrum than anything else. Roll Call even reports that someone at the meeting shouted “—- the president”; imagine if such a thing had been reported out of a Republican caucus meeting.

In the Senate, a complicated procedural maneuver to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” failed, apparently due to as-yet incomprehensible machinations by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had some deal struck with moderate Republican Susan Collins that he decided to renege on and hold a vote anyway. Nobody understood what was happening, the vote (not to repeal, but to end debate)  failed, and Collins voted with Reid anyway.

There was more chaos relating to other legislation as well. Meanwhile, Obama press spokesman Robert Gibbs told Democrats that if they have better ideas, they should make like The Price Is Right and “come on down.”

The machinery of the Democratic Party in Washington is in desperate need of overhaul. The November 2 tsunami shorted everything out.

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A Most Curious Country It Is

Over at the Huffington Post, Sam Stein reports this:

Hoping to build support for the tax-cut deal that the president reached with Congressional Republicans, the White House has begun pressing Hill Democrats with polling data showing that extending the tax rates for the rich is politically popular.

A Senate aide sent over a copy of the email that an administration aide sent to offices on Wednesday morning. In it, the aide touts Gallup polling data showing that “Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts for all Americans for two years, and an identical number support extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.”

That an administration would promote polling data backing its policy preferences is normally not an astounding revelation. But the private push of the Gallup study struck the Senate aide as depressing if not counter-productive. Even as the president was insisting that he thought an extension of rates for the wealthy is poor economics — “I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years,” Obama said on Tuesday — his aides were privately embracing the idea that extending the Bush tax cuts across the board was politically prudent.

“We are making the argument for them,” said the Senate aide, who sent over the email on condition that it could not be reprinted. “The White House now wants us to defend extending the Bush tax cuts.”

We have officially entered Looking-Glass Land, and a most curious country it is.

Over at the Huffington Post, Sam Stein reports this:

Hoping to build support for the tax-cut deal that the president reached with Congressional Republicans, the White House has begun pressing Hill Democrats with polling data showing that extending the tax rates for the rich is politically popular.

A Senate aide sent over a copy of the email that an administration aide sent to offices on Wednesday morning. In it, the aide touts Gallup polling data showing that “Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts for all Americans for two years, and an identical number support extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.”

That an administration would promote polling data backing its policy preferences is normally not an astounding revelation. But the private push of the Gallup study struck the Senate aide as depressing if not counter-productive. Even as the president was insisting that he thought an extension of rates for the wealthy is poor economics — “I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years,” Obama said on Tuesday — his aides were privately embracing the idea that extending the Bush tax cuts across the board was politically prudent.

“We are making the argument for them,” said the Senate aide, who sent over the email on condition that it could not be reprinted. “The White House now wants us to defend extending the Bush tax cuts.”

We have officially entered Looking-Glass Land, and a most curious country it is.

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LIVE BLOG: “The American People Already Agree With Me”

Obama cites polls saying “the American people” want the top-level tax cuts to expire, but the problem is he can’t get what he wants through the Senate. So what he wants is popular, and what the Republicans want is unpopular, and yet he can’t win. Then he follows up with: “I thought this was a strong position for us to take into the election,” he says.

“The American people were persuaded by this,” he says. Oh, they were? I can understand, sort of, why he’s arguing this way, but it seems detached from elementary reality. If the American people were persuaded by him, why did he get the “shellacking” he did?

Obama cites polls saying “the American people” want the top-level tax cuts to expire, but the problem is he can’t get what he wants through the Senate. So what he wants is popular, and what the Republicans want is unpopular, and yet he can’t win. Then he follows up with: “I thought this was a strong position for us to take into the election,” he says.

“The American people were persuaded by this,” he says. Oh, they were? I can understand, sort of, why he’s arguing this way, but it seems detached from elementary reality. If the American people were persuaded by him, why did he get the “shellacking” he did?

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The Divide Between Obama and His Base Widens

Count me among those who believe the agreement by President Obama to extend the Bush tax cuts to be a huge substantive (and political) victory for the GOP. There is, I think, one fact above all others that places things in their proper perspective: arguably the most liberal president in American history, still with huge majorities in the House and Senate, agreed to extend tax cuts that he and his party have been hammering for the better part of a decade.

The tectonic plates shifted yesterday — and they shifted as a result of the epic midterm election. After two years of activist government unseen since the middle part of the 1960s, things are going in the opposite direction.

The president knows it, and he’s clearly unhappy about it. Mr. Obama was clearly annoyed with the deal he felt forced to sign, going out of his way to express his distaste for allowing tax cuts to go to high-wage earners. And of course, there was the requisite Obama vanity and self-conceit. The lack of a deal on tax cuts would “be a chilling prospect for the American people whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st because of arrangements that were made back in 2001 and 2003 under the Bush tax cuts,” Obama informed us. “I am not willing to let that happen. … I’m not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I’m not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we’re pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.”

Leave it to Barack the Great to once again hover high above politics as usual, the adult among the clamoring children, the voice of reason against the unruly political mob.

The president’s remarks were clearly aimed at his liberal base, which is terribly unhappy with him (see these stories here and here). In fact, according to the Hill, “House Democrats signaled Monday they will fight the tax-cut deal President Obama announced a day earlier with Republicans.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a post on Twitter, made clear her unhappiness with the tax deal.

This is very dangerous territory Mr. Obama is now in. He hasn’t done nearly enough to win back the confidence of independents — but he’s done more than enough to outrage his political base. We might even have the extraordinary situation of Speaker Pelosi leading the campaign to defeat a deal blessed by the president.

Obama set astronomical expectations when he ran, and so the disappointment among his core supporters is especially acute. Some on the left are eager to distance themselves from what they perceive to be a failing presidency. And we are in the midst of the weakest recovery since the government started keeping unemployment statistics. The Obama presidency is battered and adrift right now. The man who was supposed to revivify liberalism and the Democratic Party is overseeing their partial collapse. It is an amazing thing to witness.

Count me among those who believe the agreement by President Obama to extend the Bush tax cuts to be a huge substantive (and political) victory for the GOP. There is, I think, one fact above all others that places things in their proper perspective: arguably the most liberal president in American history, still with huge majorities in the House and Senate, agreed to extend tax cuts that he and his party have been hammering for the better part of a decade.

The tectonic plates shifted yesterday — and they shifted as a result of the epic midterm election. After two years of activist government unseen since the middle part of the 1960s, things are going in the opposite direction.

The president knows it, and he’s clearly unhappy about it. Mr. Obama was clearly annoyed with the deal he felt forced to sign, going out of his way to express his distaste for allowing tax cuts to go to high-wage earners. And of course, there was the requisite Obama vanity and self-conceit. The lack of a deal on tax cuts would “be a chilling prospect for the American people whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st because of arrangements that were made back in 2001 and 2003 under the Bush tax cuts,” Obama informed us. “I am not willing to let that happen. … I’m not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I’m not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we’re pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.”

Leave it to Barack the Great to once again hover high above politics as usual, the adult among the clamoring children, the voice of reason against the unruly political mob.

The president’s remarks were clearly aimed at his liberal base, which is terribly unhappy with him (see these stories here and here). In fact, according to the Hill, “House Democrats signaled Monday they will fight the tax-cut deal President Obama announced a day earlier with Republicans.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a post on Twitter, made clear her unhappiness with the tax deal.

This is very dangerous territory Mr. Obama is now in. He hasn’t done nearly enough to win back the confidence of independents — but he’s done more than enough to outrage his political base. We might even have the extraordinary situation of Speaker Pelosi leading the campaign to defeat a deal blessed by the president.

Obama set astronomical expectations when he ran, and so the disappointment among his core supporters is especially acute. Some on the left are eager to distance themselves from what they perceive to be a failing presidency. And we are in the midst of the weakest recovery since the government started keeping unemployment statistics. The Obama presidency is battered and adrift right now. The man who was supposed to revivify liberalism and the Democratic Party is overseeing their partial collapse. It is an amazing thing to witness.

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Congress Treats NASA Like a Local Jobs Program

President Obama’s announcement last April of plans to trash the Bush administration’s plans to return to the moon by 2020 in favor of planning for missions that might not take place until decades from now went largely without notice. That proposal was modified slightly by Congress to preserve a heavy-lift rocket. Although it is billed as something that will preserve manned space flight, as Robert Zubrin wrote in COMMENTARY last June (behind our pay wall), “it will be useful only as a lifeboat for bringing astronauts down from the space station, not as a craft capable of providing a ride up to orbit.” With the space shuttle being phased out by NASA, as Zubrin warned, “what this means is that the only way Americans will be able to reach even low Earth orbit will be as passengers on Russian launchers.”

But rather than worrying about why the government was scrapping practical manned flight plans in favor of building a largely useless rocket, it appears that Congress is mainly worried about the possibility that NASA might seek to preserve its options or even find a less expensive or more effective rocket. As the New York Times reported, at a Senate hearing held on Wednesday, senators of both parties berated NASA administrators about the agency’s perceived reluctance to follow this foolish course and warned them that any foot dragging about building the rocket would not be tolerated. In particular, “Congressional members from Utah, where Alliant builds the solid rocket motors, have also expressed worries that NASA is looking for a way around the law.” That is to say, they are upset about the possibility that a way will be found to stop this boondoggle. For most members of the House and the Senate, NASA-related projects are simply government jobs programs and nothing else.

We’ve come a long way since a bipartisan congressional consensus paved the way for Americans to land on the moon. Political logrolling has always played a role in the space program (Lyndon Johnson’s influence ensured that the program would shift from Florida to Texas in the 1960s), but Obama has essentially deep-sixed any chances for a return to manned flight in the foreseeable future. It’s a shame that the only interest that anyone in Congress seems to have in what was once America’s most innovative and glorious enterprise is merely a matter of patronage.

President Obama’s announcement last April of plans to trash the Bush administration’s plans to return to the moon by 2020 in favor of planning for missions that might not take place until decades from now went largely without notice. That proposal was modified slightly by Congress to preserve a heavy-lift rocket. Although it is billed as something that will preserve manned space flight, as Robert Zubrin wrote in COMMENTARY last June (behind our pay wall), “it will be useful only as a lifeboat for bringing astronauts down from the space station, not as a craft capable of providing a ride up to orbit.” With the space shuttle being phased out by NASA, as Zubrin warned, “what this means is that the only way Americans will be able to reach even low Earth orbit will be as passengers on Russian launchers.”

But rather than worrying about why the government was scrapping practical manned flight plans in favor of building a largely useless rocket, it appears that Congress is mainly worried about the possibility that NASA might seek to preserve its options or even find a less expensive or more effective rocket. As the New York Times reported, at a Senate hearing held on Wednesday, senators of both parties berated NASA administrators about the agency’s perceived reluctance to follow this foolish course and warned them that any foot dragging about building the rocket would not be tolerated. In particular, “Congressional members from Utah, where Alliant builds the solid rocket motors, have also expressed worries that NASA is looking for a way around the law.” That is to say, they are upset about the possibility that a way will be found to stop this boondoggle. For most members of the House and the Senate, NASA-related projects are simply government jobs programs and nothing else.

We’ve come a long way since a bipartisan congressional consensus paved the way for Americans to land on the moon. Political logrolling has always played a role in the space program (Lyndon Johnson’s influence ensured that the program would shift from Florida to Texas in the 1960s), but Obama has essentially deep-sixed any chances for a return to manned flight in the foreseeable future. It’s a shame that the only interest that anyone in Congress seems to have in what was once America’s most innovative and glorious enterprise is merely a matter of patronage.

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Dems Try to Muscle Jews into Backing Russian Treaty

The call by Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Carl Levin for AIPAC to back passage of the stalled START treaty with Russia speaks volumes about the growing desperation of both the White House and its Senate allies.

The administration is reportedly going all-out to push Jewish groups to lobby for the treaty, but it is unlikely that AIPAC will succumb to the pressure. The group has been scrupulous about sticking to its agenda of working only on behalf of Israel-related issues, a policy that keeps it strictly neutral on arms control measures like START. Nevertheless, Schumer and Levin claim that friends of Israel are obligated to back a measure that is key to Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia because it is the price the United States must pay to keep the Medvedev/Putin regime on board with the effort to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capacity.

That’s an argument that the liberal-leaning Anti-Defamation League as well as Obama’s cheering section at the National Jewish Democratic Council and J Street have accepted, though the latter group seems to be backing it more out of a knee-jerk reaction to any appeasement measure rather than concern about Iranian nukes. But this selling point is based on a false assumption about both Russia’s intentions and its interests.

While the need to build an anti-Iranian coalition is something all friends of Israel care about, it is far from clear that Obama’s impulse to sacrifice America’s own defense interests in the cause of making the authoritarian regime in Moscow more comfortable is something that will tangibly impact the ability of the international community to confront Tehran. The Russians have exacted a high price from Obama for their half-hearted support for tepid sanctions on Iran that are clearly inadequate to the task, even though it is obviously just as much in their interest to stop Tehran as it is in the rest of the international community’s.

Moreover, once we strip away the talk about this treaty’s being essential to Iran policy, it is easy to see that its passage has more to do with Obama’s fetish about arms control agreements than anything else, and it is on the merits of that issue alone that this issue should be decided.

As for Jewish groups that might be tempted to wade in on START, they also need to understand that the push to pass the treaty before the end of the year in Congress’s lame duck session smacks of the sort of partisanship that groups like AIPAC and the ADL ought to avoid. While Jewish Democrats are fond of castigating the GOP for attempting to win votes by comparing its record on Israel to that of the Democrats, what’s going on here is a far more blatant instance of Jewish groups carrying the water for one side of the political aisle. The Senate ought to wait until January, when newly elected members are seated and will have a chance to consider this treaty. And Jewish and pro-Israel organizations should stay out of a fight that has everything to do with the Obama administration’s foreign policy obsessions and little to do with the defense of Israel.

The call by Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Carl Levin for AIPAC to back passage of the stalled START treaty with Russia speaks volumes about the growing desperation of both the White House and its Senate allies.

The administration is reportedly going all-out to push Jewish groups to lobby for the treaty, but it is unlikely that AIPAC will succumb to the pressure. The group has been scrupulous about sticking to its agenda of working only on behalf of Israel-related issues, a policy that keeps it strictly neutral on arms control measures like START. Nevertheless, Schumer and Levin claim that friends of Israel are obligated to back a measure that is key to Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia because it is the price the United States must pay to keep the Medvedev/Putin regime on board with the effort to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capacity.

That’s an argument that the liberal-leaning Anti-Defamation League as well as Obama’s cheering section at the National Jewish Democratic Council and J Street have accepted, though the latter group seems to be backing it more out of a knee-jerk reaction to any appeasement measure rather than concern about Iranian nukes. But this selling point is based on a false assumption about both Russia’s intentions and its interests.

While the need to build an anti-Iranian coalition is something all friends of Israel care about, it is far from clear that Obama’s impulse to sacrifice America’s own defense interests in the cause of making the authoritarian regime in Moscow more comfortable is something that will tangibly impact the ability of the international community to confront Tehran. The Russians have exacted a high price from Obama for their half-hearted support for tepid sanctions on Iran that are clearly inadequate to the task, even though it is obviously just as much in their interest to stop Tehran as it is in the rest of the international community’s.

Moreover, once we strip away the talk about this treaty’s being essential to Iran policy, it is easy to see that its passage has more to do with Obama’s fetish about arms control agreements than anything else, and it is on the merits of that issue alone that this issue should be decided.

As for Jewish groups that might be tempted to wade in on START, they also need to understand that the push to pass the treaty before the end of the year in Congress’s lame duck session smacks of the sort of partisanship that groups like AIPAC and the ADL ought to avoid. While Jewish Democrats are fond of castigating the GOP for attempting to win votes by comparing its record on Israel to that of the Democrats, what’s going on here is a far more blatant instance of Jewish groups carrying the water for one side of the political aisle. The Senate ought to wait until January, when newly elected members are seated and will have a chance to consider this treaty. And Jewish and pro-Israel organizations should stay out of a fight that has everything to do with the Obama administration’s foreign policy obsessions and little to do with the defense of Israel.

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Earmark Vote

The Senate defeated the earmark ban. The Dems who scrambled to get on the good side of voters (i.e., voting for the ban): Evan Bayh (retiring but with political ambitions), Michael Benet (just re-elected narrowly but evidently has learned something), Russ Feingold (political aspirations?), Claire McCaskill (up in 2012), Bill Nelson (the same), Mark Udall (the invisible senator), and Mark Warner (struggling to get in line with the Virginia move to the right).

On the other side, the Republicans who voted against the ban include such giants as Robert Bennett (did Utah get it right or what?), George Voinovich (also leaving the Senate, maybe angling for a lobbyist spot?), Susan Collins (her Maine “sister” got it right, however, perhaps because Olympia Snowe faces the voters in 2012), James Inhofe (not up in 2012), Lisa Murkowski (she ran on “bring the bacon home,” so no surprise), Richard Lugar (can you say “Tea Party” challenge? Sorry, it’s not the end of civilization, Mr. Danforth), Thad Cochran (not up in 2012), and Richard Shelby (not up either).

The earmark ban, like the freeze on pay for federal workers, is largely symbolic, but let’s be honest: symbols matter, and the voters are looking for signs that their lawmakers “get it.” With the few exceptions noted above, it seems that Democratic senators by and large don’t understand what’s afoot in the country. They remain oblivious at their own peril.

The Senate defeated the earmark ban. The Dems who scrambled to get on the good side of voters (i.e., voting for the ban): Evan Bayh (retiring but with political ambitions), Michael Benet (just re-elected narrowly but evidently has learned something), Russ Feingold (political aspirations?), Claire McCaskill (up in 2012), Bill Nelson (the same), Mark Udall (the invisible senator), and Mark Warner (struggling to get in line with the Virginia move to the right).

On the other side, the Republicans who voted against the ban include such giants as Robert Bennett (did Utah get it right or what?), George Voinovich (also leaving the Senate, maybe angling for a lobbyist spot?), Susan Collins (her Maine “sister” got it right, however, perhaps because Olympia Snowe faces the voters in 2012), James Inhofe (not up in 2012), Lisa Murkowski (she ran on “bring the bacon home,” so no surprise), Richard Lugar (can you say “Tea Party” challenge? Sorry, it’s not the end of civilization, Mr. Danforth), Thad Cochran (not up in 2012), and Richard Shelby (not up either).

The earmark ban, like the freeze on pay for federal workers, is largely symbolic, but let’s be honest: symbols matter, and the voters are looking for signs that their lawmakers “get it.” With the few exceptions noted above, it seems that Democratic senators by and large don’t understand what’s afoot in the country. They remain oblivious at their own peril.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

I’m with Ben Chandler on this one. “Kentucky Rep. Ben Chandler is blaming President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the Democrats’ poor showing nationally in the Nov. 2 elections. … ‘If not there, where else does the responsibility lie? … You’re talking about the loss of 60 or something seats held by capable public servants. There had to be something going on at a level above them. If that isn’t the lesson, I don’t know what is.’”

I’m with Jeffrey Rosen on this one. “In a 2006 opinion for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, then-Judge Samuel Alito stressed that screening procedures must be both ‘minimally intrusive’ and “effective” — in other words, they must be ‘well-tailored to protect personal privacy,’ and they must deliver on their promise of discovering serious threats. … As currently used in U.S. airports, the new full-body scanners fail all of Alito’s tests.” Read the whole thing — it’s quite persuasive.

I’m with Norm Coleman on this one. “Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman had some unsolicited advice for fellow Republican Joe Miller: It’s time to quit. ‘I think that race is over. I think the counting’s been done. I’m not sure there’s anything that would change that,’ Coleman told C-SPAN in an interview set to air on Sunday. Coleman himself fought until the bitter end of his 2008 Senate race against Democrat Al Franken, which dragged on for seven months because of a recount and legal challenges.”

I’m with John McCain on this one: “Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) argued in an interview Sunday that the U.S. has not exacted enough pressure on North Korea and that the current tensions in the region may present an opportunity for regime change. ‘I think it’s time we talked about regime change in North Korea,’ he said, quickly adding that he did not mean ‘military action.’”

I’m with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on this one. In regards to Iran, apparently he’d been warning the administration to “‘cut off the head of the snake’ while there was still time.” But the Obami are too busy obsessing over non-direct, non-peace talks that are going nowhere.

I’m with Josh Block on this one. “One of the most interesting overall themes is the restraint seen to typify the Israelis on Iran, in contrast to the typical Brzezinski, Scowcroft, Walt/Mearsheimer, Glenn Greenwald-Neo-progressive, netroots claims Israel is trying to prod us to fight and bomb Iran for them. In the end, one of the most obvious take-aways from these WikiLeaks documents is devastating to the whole Left/Realist narrative about Israeli manipulation. The Israelis come off as cool customers, while the Arabs are the ones freaking out, justifiably many would argue, and literally demanding the U.S. bomb the Iranian nuclear program.”

I’m with Lindsey Graham on this one. “I think it is a big mistake to criminalize the war, to take someone you’ve held under the law of war as an enemy combatant for six or seven years, then put them in civilian court. It is a disaster waiting to happen. I believe I got the votes to block it. I don’t think Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will ever get congressional approval to see a civilian court. He should be tried at Guantanamo Bay. He should be tried now. He was ready to plead guilty before the Obama administration stopped the trial. We should have him in a military commission trial beginning Monday and get this case behind us.”

I’m with Ben Chandler on this one. “Kentucky Rep. Ben Chandler is blaming President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the Democrats’ poor showing nationally in the Nov. 2 elections. … ‘If not there, where else does the responsibility lie? … You’re talking about the loss of 60 or something seats held by capable public servants. There had to be something going on at a level above them. If that isn’t the lesson, I don’t know what is.’”

I’m with Jeffrey Rosen on this one. “In a 2006 opinion for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, then-Judge Samuel Alito stressed that screening procedures must be both ‘minimally intrusive’ and “effective” — in other words, they must be ‘well-tailored to protect personal privacy,’ and they must deliver on their promise of discovering serious threats. … As currently used in U.S. airports, the new full-body scanners fail all of Alito’s tests.” Read the whole thing — it’s quite persuasive.

I’m with Norm Coleman on this one. “Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman had some unsolicited advice for fellow Republican Joe Miller: It’s time to quit. ‘I think that race is over. I think the counting’s been done. I’m not sure there’s anything that would change that,’ Coleman told C-SPAN in an interview set to air on Sunday. Coleman himself fought until the bitter end of his 2008 Senate race against Democrat Al Franken, which dragged on for seven months because of a recount and legal challenges.”

I’m with John McCain on this one: “Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) argued in an interview Sunday that the U.S. has not exacted enough pressure on North Korea and that the current tensions in the region may present an opportunity for regime change. ‘I think it’s time we talked about regime change in North Korea,’ he said, quickly adding that he did not mean ‘military action.’”

I’m with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on this one. In regards to Iran, apparently he’d been warning the administration to “‘cut off the head of the snake’ while there was still time.” But the Obami are too busy obsessing over non-direct, non-peace talks that are going nowhere.

I’m with Josh Block on this one. “One of the most interesting overall themes is the restraint seen to typify the Israelis on Iran, in contrast to the typical Brzezinski, Scowcroft, Walt/Mearsheimer, Glenn Greenwald-Neo-progressive, netroots claims Israel is trying to prod us to fight and bomb Iran for them. In the end, one of the most obvious take-aways from these WikiLeaks documents is devastating to the whole Left/Realist narrative about Israeli manipulation. The Israelis come off as cool customers, while the Arabs are the ones freaking out, justifiably many would argue, and literally demanding the U.S. bomb the Iranian nuclear program.”

I’m with Lindsey Graham on this one. “I think it is a big mistake to criminalize the war, to take someone you’ve held under the law of war as an enemy combatant for six or seven years, then put them in civilian court. It is a disaster waiting to happen. I believe I got the votes to block it. I don’t think Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will ever get congressional approval to see a civilian court. He should be tried at Guantanamo Bay. He should be tried now. He was ready to plead guilty before the Obama administration stopped the trial. We should have him in a military commission trial beginning Monday and get this case behind us.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

This isn’t going to win over the critics who say she lacks political judgment. “Sarah Palin dismissed Barbara Bush’s recent criticism as a matter of class privilege. … ‘I don’t want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because i don’t think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods — and i want to say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes — the blue bloods who want to pick and chose their winners instead of allowing competition’ … Palin also suggested that the Bushes upper-class status had contributed to ‘the economic policies that were in place that got us into these economic woeful times.’” Whatever you think of Bush 41, this isn’t what a presidential candidate should sound like.

This is going to give “strategic patience” (otherwise known as paralysis) a bad name. “North Korea’s latest round of saber rattling leaves a politically weakened President Obama with several unpalatable options for dealing with the unstable nuclear power. The North Korean shelling of a South Korean island follows the revelation of a new centrifuge plant that could eventually allow the North to add to its nuclear stockpile. Both developments suggest the Obama administration’s policy of’ ‘strategic patience’ with North Korea is having little impact on the regime, which is focused on the transition of power from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-un.”

This isn’t going to help the White House scare the Senate into a ratification vote: Jamie Fly writes: “New START is a rather meaningless arms-control agreement notable more for what it fails to do than what it achieves. … There remains serious criticism of New START’s merits on the right, and it is troubling that the administration is attempting to argue that Republicans such as Sen. Jon Kyl are interested only in killing the treaty. Kyl and a majority of his colleagues are just asking for more time to explore their concerns about the treaty and continue discussions with administration officials about funding levels for modernization of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. From the rhetoric of the administration and its surrogates, one would believe that if New START is not ratified by the end of the year, nuclear weapons will suddenly fall into the hands of terrorists.”

This is a sign that no one is going to bat for Joe Miller. “Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman had some unsolicited advice for fellow Republican Joe Miller: It’s time to quit.”

This verdict isn’t going to provoke much sympathy from conservatives. Tom DeLay is the type of pol the Tea Party despises, and his politics is the sort Republican lawmakers need to repudiate.

This wasn’t going to happen with Obama’s “smart diplomacy”: “When North Korea tested a nuclear device last year, China issued bland criticism and urged Pyongyang to resume diplomacy. After a South Korean navy ship was sunk, most likely by a North Korean torpedo, Beijing sent its sympathies but called the evidence inconclusive. Now that North Korea has unleashed an artillery barrage on a South Korean island that killed four people — including two civilians — and raised tensions in the heavily armed region, Beijing again appears unwilling to rein in its neighbor.”

This lame duck session isn’t going to be what the Dems had hoped. “Not so long ago, the great fear was that the Democratic Party would return from its midterm drubbing to jam all manner of odious legislation through a lame duck session of Congress. We may need to put that in the ‘wasted worry’ category.”

This isn’t going to win over the critics who say she lacks political judgment. “Sarah Palin dismissed Barbara Bush’s recent criticism as a matter of class privilege. … ‘I don’t want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because i don’t think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods — and i want to say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes — the blue bloods who want to pick and chose their winners instead of allowing competition’ … Palin also suggested that the Bushes upper-class status had contributed to ‘the economic policies that were in place that got us into these economic woeful times.’” Whatever you think of Bush 41, this isn’t what a presidential candidate should sound like.

This is going to give “strategic patience” (otherwise known as paralysis) a bad name. “North Korea’s latest round of saber rattling leaves a politically weakened President Obama with several unpalatable options for dealing with the unstable nuclear power. The North Korean shelling of a South Korean island follows the revelation of a new centrifuge plant that could eventually allow the North to add to its nuclear stockpile. Both developments suggest the Obama administration’s policy of’ ‘strategic patience’ with North Korea is having little impact on the regime, which is focused on the transition of power from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-un.”

This isn’t going to help the White House scare the Senate into a ratification vote: Jamie Fly writes: “New START is a rather meaningless arms-control agreement notable more for what it fails to do than what it achieves. … There remains serious criticism of New START’s merits on the right, and it is troubling that the administration is attempting to argue that Republicans such as Sen. Jon Kyl are interested only in killing the treaty. Kyl and a majority of his colleagues are just asking for more time to explore their concerns about the treaty and continue discussions with administration officials about funding levels for modernization of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. From the rhetoric of the administration and its surrogates, one would believe that if New START is not ratified by the end of the year, nuclear weapons will suddenly fall into the hands of terrorists.”

This is a sign that no one is going to bat for Joe Miller. “Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman had some unsolicited advice for fellow Republican Joe Miller: It’s time to quit.”

This verdict isn’t going to provoke much sympathy from conservatives. Tom DeLay is the type of pol the Tea Party despises, and his politics is the sort Republican lawmakers need to repudiate.

This wasn’t going to happen with Obama’s “smart diplomacy”: “When North Korea tested a nuclear device last year, China issued bland criticism and urged Pyongyang to resume diplomacy. After a South Korean navy ship was sunk, most likely by a North Korean torpedo, Beijing sent its sympathies but called the evidence inconclusive. Now that North Korea has unleashed an artillery barrage on a South Korean island that killed four people — including two civilians — and raised tensions in the heavily armed region, Beijing again appears unwilling to rein in its neighbor.”

This lame duck session isn’t going to be what the Dems had hoped. “Not so long ago, the great fear was that the Democratic Party would return from its midterm drubbing to jam all manner of odious legislation through a lame duck session of Congress. We may need to put that in the ‘wasted worry’ category.”

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The Public Be Damned

Jonathan noted yesterday that foreign critics are outraged by Israel’s passage of a law this week mandating referenda on certain types of territorial concessions. But their outrage doesn’t hold a candle to that of Israel’s own left.

In today’s editorial, for instance, Haaretz complained bitterly that “the public is being given veto power over crucial decisions on foreign policy and security issues.” By “handcuffing the political leadership’s moves in the peace process,” it charged, Israel is spitting in the world’s face.

Labor Party chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak similarly complained that “this is not a good law,” because the world will think “Israel is rejecting peace and is handcuffing itself to avoid progress in the diplomatic process.”

These arguments are mind-boggling. First, why should anyone in the democratic world object to giving the public a say in “crucial decisions on foreign policy and security”? Haaretz’s editors would evidently prefer a dictatorship of Plato’s philosopher-king, with themselves on the throne. But democracies are supposed to give the public a say in crucial decisions.

That’s why Britain, for instance, held a referendum on joining the European Economic Community, while France held one on leaving Algeria. In the U.S., this goal is achieved by requiring treaties to be ratified by a two-thirds Senate majority, which is unachievable without significant bipartisan consensus.

But the even more shocking assumption behind these plaints is that, given a choice, the public would reject any deal likely to be signed — yet the government should sign it anyway, and the public be damned.

Like Jonathan, I think Israelis would in fact support any reasonable agreement. But no reasonable agreement would ever be brought to a referendum, because the law requires a referendum only if an agreement doesn’t pass the Knesset by a two-thirds majority. And any reasonable agreement would easily surpass this threshold.

The history of Israeli diplomatic agreements amply proves this point. The treaties with both Egypt and Jordan did pass the Knesset by a two-thirds majority, and both, despite producing a colder peace than Israelis hoped, have stood the test of time. In contrast, not a single agreement with the Palestinians ever came close to achieving a two-thirds majority — and every single one has proved a bloody failure.

Nor is this mere coincidence. The Jordanian and Egyptian treaties won sweeping majorities because both countries’ leaders had proved their commitment to peace: Anwar Sadat by his dramatic visit to the Knesset, in defiance of the pan-Arab boycott on Israel, and Jordan’s King Hussein by decades of quiet security cooperation. And both treaties succeeded because these leaders truly wanted peace.

The Palestinian agreements won only narrow majorities because many Israelis weren’t convinced that the Palestinians wanted peace. And these agreements failed because this skepticism proved well-founded.

Thus the referendum law won’t prevent any deal actually worth signing. Nor will it prevent another bad deal on the West Bank, since it applies only to territory annexed by Israel. But it will at least prevent a bad deal over East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. And therefore, its passage is genuine cause for rejoicing.

Jonathan noted yesterday that foreign critics are outraged by Israel’s passage of a law this week mandating referenda on certain types of territorial concessions. But their outrage doesn’t hold a candle to that of Israel’s own left.

In today’s editorial, for instance, Haaretz complained bitterly that “the public is being given veto power over crucial decisions on foreign policy and security issues.” By “handcuffing the political leadership’s moves in the peace process,” it charged, Israel is spitting in the world’s face.

Labor Party chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak similarly complained that “this is not a good law,” because the world will think “Israel is rejecting peace and is handcuffing itself to avoid progress in the diplomatic process.”

These arguments are mind-boggling. First, why should anyone in the democratic world object to giving the public a say in “crucial decisions on foreign policy and security”? Haaretz’s editors would evidently prefer a dictatorship of Plato’s philosopher-king, with themselves on the throne. But democracies are supposed to give the public a say in crucial decisions.

That’s why Britain, for instance, held a referendum on joining the European Economic Community, while France held one on leaving Algeria. In the U.S., this goal is achieved by requiring treaties to be ratified by a two-thirds Senate majority, which is unachievable without significant bipartisan consensus.

But the even more shocking assumption behind these plaints is that, given a choice, the public would reject any deal likely to be signed — yet the government should sign it anyway, and the public be damned.

Like Jonathan, I think Israelis would in fact support any reasonable agreement. But no reasonable agreement would ever be brought to a referendum, because the law requires a referendum only if an agreement doesn’t pass the Knesset by a two-thirds majority. And any reasonable agreement would easily surpass this threshold.

The history of Israeli diplomatic agreements amply proves this point. The treaties with both Egypt and Jordan did pass the Knesset by a two-thirds majority, and both, despite producing a colder peace than Israelis hoped, have stood the test of time. In contrast, not a single agreement with the Palestinians ever came close to achieving a two-thirds majority — and every single one has proved a bloody failure.

Nor is this mere coincidence. The Jordanian and Egyptian treaties won sweeping majorities because both countries’ leaders had proved their commitment to peace: Anwar Sadat by his dramatic visit to the Knesset, in defiance of the pan-Arab boycott on Israel, and Jordan’s King Hussein by decades of quiet security cooperation. And both treaties succeeded because these leaders truly wanted peace.

The Palestinian agreements won only narrow majorities because many Israelis weren’t convinced that the Palestinians wanted peace. And these agreements failed because this skepticism proved well-founded.

Thus the referendum law won’t prevent any deal actually worth signing. Nor will it prevent another bad deal on the West Bank, since it applies only to territory annexed by Israel. But it will at least prevent a bad deal over East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. And therefore, its passage is genuine cause for rejoicing.

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START Stopped in Its Tracks?

Eli Lake reports:

A second leading Republican is opposing Senate ratification of the New START treaty based on classified intelligence that the arms pact cannot be verified and that Moscow is manipulating the treaty to prevent the U.S. from expanding missile defenses.

“New START suffers from fundamental flaws that no amount of tinkering around the edges can fix. I believe the better course for our nation, and for global stability, is to put this treaty aside and replace it with a better one,” Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said in a little-noticed floor statement last week.

Bond identifies a number of substantive concerns that the administration has not allayed:

Key intelligence assessments and testimony from analysts on the U.S. ability to monitor compliance with the treaty has left “no doubt in my mind that the United States cannot reliably verify the treaty’s 1,550 limit on deployed warheads,” Mr. Bond said. For example, the 10 annual warhead inspections in Russia will limit checks to 2 percent to 3 percent of the Russian strategic forces, he said.

Additionally, all missiles can be armed with unlimited numbers of warheads. “So even if the Russians fully cooperated in every inspection, these inspections cannot provide conclusive evidence of whether the Russians are complying with the warhead limit,” he said.

Also, the treaty provides no limits on the number of warheads Russia can place on a missile it is testing. “The Russians could deploy a missile with only one warhead, but legally flight-test it with six warheads to gain confidence in the increased capability — a practice they could not employ under the original START,” Mr. Bond said. …

Mr. Bond also dismissed administration assertions that the treaty will not limit U.S. missile defenses. He noted that Russia’s nonbinding statement that any expansion of U.S. missile defenses would lead to Moscow’s withdrawal is “manipulation” of U.S. defense policy designed to prevent building defenses.

Given this, and the certainty that other Republicans share the concern, why is the administration trying to jam a vote now? Perhaps there simply aren’t sufficient answers to the concerns Bond has raised and the administration would just as soon attribute the treaty’s defeat to GOP “intransigence” than to their own negotiating skills.

But what of the argument that without New START, we won’t have a verification system in place? Go get a better treaty, Republicans would respond. That’s no easy order, especially for an administration that contorts itself to avoid stressing its new relationship with the Russians. In sum, Obama negotiated a not-very-good treaty and now can’t get it through the Senate. Sort of a mess, isn’t it? Welcome to the Obama foreign policy brain trust.

Eli Lake reports:

A second leading Republican is opposing Senate ratification of the New START treaty based on classified intelligence that the arms pact cannot be verified and that Moscow is manipulating the treaty to prevent the U.S. from expanding missile defenses.

“New START suffers from fundamental flaws that no amount of tinkering around the edges can fix. I believe the better course for our nation, and for global stability, is to put this treaty aside and replace it with a better one,” Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said in a little-noticed floor statement last week.

Bond identifies a number of substantive concerns that the administration has not allayed:

Key intelligence assessments and testimony from analysts on the U.S. ability to monitor compliance with the treaty has left “no doubt in my mind that the United States cannot reliably verify the treaty’s 1,550 limit on deployed warheads,” Mr. Bond said. For example, the 10 annual warhead inspections in Russia will limit checks to 2 percent to 3 percent of the Russian strategic forces, he said.

Additionally, all missiles can be armed with unlimited numbers of warheads. “So even if the Russians fully cooperated in every inspection, these inspections cannot provide conclusive evidence of whether the Russians are complying with the warhead limit,” he said.

Also, the treaty provides no limits on the number of warheads Russia can place on a missile it is testing. “The Russians could deploy a missile with only one warhead, but legally flight-test it with six warheads to gain confidence in the increased capability — a practice they could not employ under the original START,” Mr. Bond said. …

Mr. Bond also dismissed administration assertions that the treaty will not limit U.S. missile defenses. He noted that Russia’s nonbinding statement that any expansion of U.S. missile defenses would lead to Moscow’s withdrawal is “manipulation” of U.S. defense policy designed to prevent building defenses.

Given this, and the certainty that other Republicans share the concern, why is the administration trying to jam a vote now? Perhaps there simply aren’t sufficient answers to the concerns Bond has raised and the administration would just as soon attribute the treaty’s defeat to GOP “intransigence” than to their own negotiating skills.

But what of the argument that without New START, we won’t have a verification system in place? Go get a better treaty, Republicans would respond. That’s no easy order, especially for an administration that contorts itself to avoid stressing its new relationship with the Russians. In sum, Obama negotiated a not-very-good treaty and now can’t get it through the Senate. Sort of a mess, isn’t it? Welcome to the Obama foreign policy brain trust.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Just another charm offensive? “President Barack Obama is preparing new overtures to business that may start with a walk into the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a retreat with corporate chief executive officers, according to people familiar with his plans.” So long as he plans on keeping ObamaCare and the financial regulation bill and raises taxes, it’s hard to consider it more than atmospherics.

Just another way of spinning that the White House is getting rid of him as soon as possible. “David Axelrod’s long-anticipated departure from the White House is happening a little earlier than expected — right after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech in late January or early February — so the  senior adviser can ‘recharge his batteries,’ according to a senior administration official.”

Just another bad poll for the White House to ignore. “Just about as many Americans want Tea Party-backed members of Congress to take the lead in setting policy during the next year as choose President Obama, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. … The survey also underscores Obama’s weakened standing. His overall job approval rating, at 42%, is 1 percentage point higher than his historic low in midsummer. His 35% approval rating on the economy is the lowest of his presidency.”

Just another prominent conservative woman on the world stage? This one –Michèle Alliot-Marie, the foreign minister of France — plays rugby. ” The 64-year-old Gaullist is more than just another passive fan of the game. The normally austere MAM, as she is known in France, revealed in a rare informal television appearance in the mid-1980s that she had nearly been kicked out of school when she was young for converting the female handball squad into a rugby team. ‘I think that I’d still be able to make a pass,’ she noted.”

Just another move by Israel that’ll drive the left around the bend. How dare the Jewish state institute such democratic rules! “The Knesset passed the National Referendum Law during a late-night session Monday, approving legislation that will fundamentally alter Israeli negotiators’ ability to offer concrete peace deals involving the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem. The law, which was approved by a vote of 65-33, will require either a Knesset super-majority or a national referendum in order to hand over any annexed territories as part of a future peace deal.”

Just another day of nagging kids to eat vegetables. But is this really a job for the First Lady?

Just another human rights abomination in the “Muslim World.” Asia Bibi, a Pakistani mother of five, has been jailed for a year and sentenced to death for blasphemy. Although she might get a presidential pardon, that’s not the end of it. “Even if Ms. Bibi is pardoned or the Lahore High Court overturns the sentence, there are concerns about her safety. Many people acquitted on blasphemy charges continue to be hounded and are forced to move, change their identity or hide, the commission says.”

Just another political miscalculation and panic attack in the White House. “As the Senate’s leading Republican on nuclear security issues, Mr. Kyl has warned the White House for months that it couldn’t get its treaty ratified without addressing his concerns on warhead modernization and missile defenses. For months, the Administration gave him mere lip service. Now that it has discovered it doesn’t have the votes, the Administration is finally getting serious about Mr. Kyl’s concerns even as it is trying to bully him over immediate ratification. Republicans are right to take their time and debate this thoroughly.”

Just another charm offensive? “President Barack Obama is preparing new overtures to business that may start with a walk into the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a retreat with corporate chief executive officers, according to people familiar with his plans.” So long as he plans on keeping ObamaCare and the financial regulation bill and raises taxes, it’s hard to consider it more than atmospherics.

Just another way of spinning that the White House is getting rid of him as soon as possible. “David Axelrod’s long-anticipated departure from the White House is happening a little earlier than expected — right after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech in late January or early February — so the  senior adviser can ‘recharge his batteries,’ according to a senior administration official.”

Just another bad poll for the White House to ignore. “Just about as many Americans want Tea Party-backed members of Congress to take the lead in setting policy during the next year as choose President Obama, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. … The survey also underscores Obama’s weakened standing. His overall job approval rating, at 42%, is 1 percentage point higher than his historic low in midsummer. His 35% approval rating on the economy is the lowest of his presidency.”

Just another prominent conservative woman on the world stage? This one –Michèle Alliot-Marie, the foreign minister of France — plays rugby. ” The 64-year-old Gaullist is more than just another passive fan of the game. The normally austere MAM, as she is known in France, revealed in a rare informal television appearance in the mid-1980s that she had nearly been kicked out of school when she was young for converting the female handball squad into a rugby team. ‘I think that I’d still be able to make a pass,’ she noted.”

Just another move by Israel that’ll drive the left around the bend. How dare the Jewish state institute such democratic rules! “The Knesset passed the National Referendum Law during a late-night session Monday, approving legislation that will fundamentally alter Israeli negotiators’ ability to offer concrete peace deals involving the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem. The law, which was approved by a vote of 65-33, will require either a Knesset super-majority or a national referendum in order to hand over any annexed territories as part of a future peace deal.”

Just another day of nagging kids to eat vegetables. But is this really a job for the First Lady?

Just another human rights abomination in the “Muslim World.” Asia Bibi, a Pakistani mother of five, has been jailed for a year and sentenced to death for blasphemy. Although she might get a presidential pardon, that’s not the end of it. “Even if Ms. Bibi is pardoned or the Lahore High Court overturns the sentence, there are concerns about her safety. Many people acquitted on blasphemy charges continue to be hounded and are forced to move, change their identity or hide, the commission says.”

Just another political miscalculation and panic attack in the White House. “As the Senate’s leading Republican on nuclear security issues, Mr. Kyl has warned the White House for months that it couldn’t get its treaty ratified without addressing his concerns on warhead modernization and missile defenses. For months, the Administration gave him mere lip service. Now that it has discovered it doesn’t have the votes, the Administration is finally getting serious about Mr. Kyl’s concerns even as it is trying to bully him over immediate ratification. Republicans are right to take their time and debate this thoroughly.”

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Explaining Foreign Policy Failures

Jackson Diehl thinks Obama’s foreign policy is badly out of date. Obama is frantic to conclude an old-style nuclear arms treaty while the “threat of nuclear weapons now comes from rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and Syria, and maybe from terrorist organizations.” He’s obsessed over Israeli settlements, which leads to bizarre dealmaking efforts (“a campaign that even Palestinian and Arab leaders have watched with bafflement”), while the real threat to peace and stability in the region is the rise of the Iranian axis and a nuclear-armed, revolutionary Islamic state.

Why is Obama fixated on issues that were in vogue when he was a college student and oblivious or disinterested in the world as we find it in 2010? One can argue that this is simply a function of leftist ideology — a worldview frozen in time and sealed off from reality. In that conception, our enemies are misunderstood, America’s problems are largely of its own making, and we’d be better off re-creating the U.S. in the image of Western Europe than in pushing despotic regimes to democratize.

Then there is the rudderless-ship explanation. As Diehl observes: “this administration is notable for its lack of grand strategy — or strategists. Its top foreign-policy makers are a former senator, a Washington lawyer and a former Senate staffer. There is no Henry Kissinger, no Zbigniew Brzezinski, no Condoleezza Rice; no foreign policy scholar.” We’ve seen the same in the economic realm — there is no one who understands free markets, has experience as an entrepreneur, or questions the class warfare, anti-business stance that has characterized the first two years of Obama’s term. In short, the administration is in over its head in a very complex and dangerous world.

And then there is the possibility that there is a method, however inept, to the Obama foreign policy approach. It is the path of least resistance. We want to make progress with the Russians, so we  give them what they want. The Palestinians harp on settlements, so we become their agent. Iran isn’t amenable to sanctions or engagement, but we’d better make sure no one gets the idea that we are headed for a military confrontation. The Chinese don’t want to talk about human rights, so we don’t. It’s always easier to beat up on small allies than to stand up to intransigent bullies.

None of these explanations is entirely satisfying or mutually exclusive. Obama’s foreign policy is made all the more curious by the fact that sometimes he gets it right. Obama, however reluctantly, has followed the Bush approach in Iraq and attempted to duplicate it in Afghanistan. In these areas he’s departed from the leftist playbook and to a large extent followed the advice of the one truly expert national security guru he has: Gen. David Petraeus. So go figure.

Perhaps it comes down to this: only when faced with the prospect of a massive loss of American credibility (e.g., a defeat in Afghanistan), a severe domestic backlash (American Jews’ falling out with him), or resolute opposition (from Israel on Jerusalem) does Obama do what is smart and productive for American interests. In other words, only when exhausting all other opportunities and trying every which way to force his ideologically driven preferences does he stumble upon a reasonable outcome. This, if true, contains a powerful lesson for Israel, for Obama’s domestic critics, and for our other allies: hang tough, be clear about the Obama administration’s errors, and don’t blink. Chances are, he will instead.

Jackson Diehl thinks Obama’s foreign policy is badly out of date. Obama is frantic to conclude an old-style nuclear arms treaty while the “threat of nuclear weapons now comes from rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and Syria, and maybe from terrorist organizations.” He’s obsessed over Israeli settlements, which leads to bizarre dealmaking efforts (“a campaign that even Palestinian and Arab leaders have watched with bafflement”), while the real threat to peace and stability in the region is the rise of the Iranian axis and a nuclear-armed, revolutionary Islamic state.

Why is Obama fixated on issues that were in vogue when he was a college student and oblivious or disinterested in the world as we find it in 2010? One can argue that this is simply a function of leftist ideology — a worldview frozen in time and sealed off from reality. In that conception, our enemies are misunderstood, America’s problems are largely of its own making, and we’d be better off re-creating the U.S. in the image of Western Europe than in pushing despotic regimes to democratize.

Then there is the rudderless-ship explanation. As Diehl observes: “this administration is notable for its lack of grand strategy — or strategists. Its top foreign-policy makers are a former senator, a Washington lawyer and a former Senate staffer. There is no Henry Kissinger, no Zbigniew Brzezinski, no Condoleezza Rice; no foreign policy scholar.” We’ve seen the same in the economic realm — there is no one who understands free markets, has experience as an entrepreneur, or questions the class warfare, anti-business stance that has characterized the first two years of Obama’s term. In short, the administration is in over its head in a very complex and dangerous world.

And then there is the possibility that there is a method, however inept, to the Obama foreign policy approach. It is the path of least resistance. We want to make progress with the Russians, so we  give them what they want. The Palestinians harp on settlements, so we become their agent. Iran isn’t amenable to sanctions or engagement, but we’d better make sure no one gets the idea that we are headed for a military confrontation. The Chinese don’t want to talk about human rights, so we don’t. It’s always easier to beat up on small allies than to stand up to intransigent bullies.

None of these explanations is entirely satisfying or mutually exclusive. Obama’s foreign policy is made all the more curious by the fact that sometimes he gets it right. Obama, however reluctantly, has followed the Bush approach in Iraq and attempted to duplicate it in Afghanistan. In these areas he’s departed from the leftist playbook and to a large extent followed the advice of the one truly expert national security guru he has: Gen. David Petraeus. So go figure.

Perhaps it comes down to this: only when faced with the prospect of a massive loss of American credibility (e.g., a defeat in Afghanistan), a severe domestic backlash (American Jews’ falling out with him), or resolute opposition (from Israel on Jerusalem) does Obama do what is smart and productive for American interests. In other words, only when exhausting all other opportunities and trying every which way to force his ideologically driven preferences does he stumble upon a reasonable outcome. This, if true, contains a powerful lesson for Israel, for Obama’s domestic critics, and for our other allies: hang tough, be clear about the Obama administration’s errors, and don’t blink. Chances are, he will instead.

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Democrats’ Tax Dilemma

Where are we on an extension of the Bush tax cuts? It’s hard to know, given that the Democrats have no game plan at this point:

Obama favors renewing the tax cuts only for those at or below those level, saying the nation cannot afford to renew them for wealthier Americans.

Despite a number of options — including renewing all tax cuts or only those for the middle class or tying any extension to a renewal of jobless benefits — there is no indication a consensus is near.

“How the hell should we know when we will figure this out?” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. “This is the Democratic Party,” long known for internal struggles and diverse views.

The lack of agreement is, at bottom, a sign of the mistrust that now characterizes the relationship between Obama and what is left of his Democratic allies in the House and Senate:

“A lot of our guys, the progressives, don’t want to extend these tax cuts for anyone,” said a senior House Democratic aide. “They never liked them in the first place.” The aide said some Democrats are now wary of Obama, who convinced them to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system — a landmark achievement that backfired and hurt them with voters. “Our guys aren’t sure what comes next. Will Obama help them in 2012, or will just be focused on getting himself re-elected?” the aide said.

The liberal pro-tax-hike Democrats can posture all they like, but they don’t seem to have the votes to soak the rich. Sen. Joe Lieberman, the perennial voice of sanity in the Senate, patiently explains to his colleagues that although they might want to raise taxes on the “rich” — investors, small businesses, employers — the fact remains that “the votes are not there to do that.”

Oh, in that case, they might simply kick the can down the road and let the GOP extend all the Bush tax cuts. Well, that wouldn’t make much sense, allowing their opponents to claim credit for keeping voters’ taxes from going up. But these days, the Dems seem to specialize in not making much sense. So don’t bet against their doing just that.

Where are we on an extension of the Bush tax cuts? It’s hard to know, given that the Democrats have no game plan at this point:

Obama favors renewing the tax cuts only for those at or below those level, saying the nation cannot afford to renew them for wealthier Americans.

Despite a number of options — including renewing all tax cuts or only those for the middle class or tying any extension to a renewal of jobless benefits — there is no indication a consensus is near.

“How the hell should we know when we will figure this out?” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. “This is the Democratic Party,” long known for internal struggles and diverse views.

The lack of agreement is, at bottom, a sign of the mistrust that now characterizes the relationship between Obama and what is left of his Democratic allies in the House and Senate:

“A lot of our guys, the progressives, don’t want to extend these tax cuts for anyone,” said a senior House Democratic aide. “They never liked them in the first place.” The aide said some Democrats are now wary of Obama, who convinced them to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system — a landmark achievement that backfired and hurt them with voters. “Our guys aren’t sure what comes next. Will Obama help them in 2012, or will just be focused on getting himself re-elected?” the aide said.

The liberal pro-tax-hike Democrats can posture all they like, but they don’t seem to have the votes to soak the rich. Sen. Joe Lieberman, the perennial voice of sanity in the Senate, patiently explains to his colleagues that although they might want to raise taxes on the “rich” — investors, small businesses, employers — the fact remains that “the votes are not there to do that.”

Oh, in that case, they might simply kick the can down the road and let the GOP extend all the Bush tax cuts. Well, that wouldn’t make much sense, allowing their opponents to claim credit for keeping voters’ taxes from going up. But these days, the Dems seem to specialize in not making much sense. So don’t bet against their doing just that.

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Boneheaded Birthright Citizenship Fight

Jen is right on both the substance and politics of a GOP move to revoke birthright citizenship from children born to illegal aliens. As I’ve written here and here, the 14th Amendment was carefully drawn and debated to exclude only two categories of persons: the children of diplomats and children born on Indian reservations that were deemed sovereign territories at the time.

But the political objections are even greater. Republicans lost two Senate seats — in Nevada and Colorado — that they should have won on Election Day, largely because of the nasty tenor of debate on illegal immigration. Sharron Angle ran ads depicting illegal immigrants as gang members and criminals and accused them of stealing jobs from Nevadans in a state in which nearly one in five voters were Hispanic. Ken Buck lost in Colorado in part because former Republican congressman and anti-immigrant stalwart Tom Tancredo was on the ticket as an independent running for governor, a race that turned out Hispanic voters who do not normally vote in non-presidential years.

Bashing illegal immigrants may work in districts where Hispanics don’t vote, but it’s a loser nationally and in states that the GOP has to win in 2012 if it has any hope of replacing the current occupant in the White House.

Jen is right on both the substance and politics of a GOP move to revoke birthright citizenship from children born to illegal aliens. As I’ve written here and here, the 14th Amendment was carefully drawn and debated to exclude only two categories of persons: the children of diplomats and children born on Indian reservations that were deemed sovereign territories at the time.

But the political objections are even greater. Republicans lost two Senate seats — in Nevada and Colorado — that they should have won on Election Day, largely because of the nasty tenor of debate on illegal immigration. Sharron Angle ran ads depicting illegal immigrants as gang members and criminals and accused them of stealing jobs from Nevadans in a state in which nearly one in five voters were Hispanic. Ken Buck lost in Colorado in part because former Republican congressman and anti-immigrant stalwart Tom Tancredo was on the ticket as an independent running for governor, a race that turned out Hispanic voters who do not normally vote in non-presidential years.

Bashing illegal immigrants may work in districts where Hispanics don’t vote, but it’s a loser nationally and in states that the GOP has to win in 2012 if it has any hope of replacing the current occupant in the White House.

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