Commentary Magazine


Topic: Senator

Diversity Matters Only on the Left

As the New York Post‘s editors remind us:

Remember the “angry, racist Tea Party?” For months, that was the line pushed by Democrats, the NAACP and much of the mainstream media. Funny, though: The Tea Party-inspired wave that produced historic Republican wins also revealed a substantial diversity in the movement.

Two African-Americans — Tim Scott from South Carolina and Allen West from Florida — won election to the House of Representatives, the first black Republicans to serve there in eight years. In a victory showing how far his state has come, Scott’s road to Congress included a GOP runoff win over the son of the late Strom Thurmond — once the face of Jim Crow racial intolerance.

Those new office holders also include Nikki Haley, the second Republican governor of Indian descent and the first woman governor of South Carolina, as well as “America’s first Latina governor in New Mexico’s Susana Martinez; Nevada’s first Latino governor, in Brian Sandoval; Texas Rep.-elect Francisco ‘Quico’ Canseco and, yes, the breakout Tea Party superstar of the campaign — Florida’s Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, a son of Cuban exiles.” New Hampshire has a new woman senator, Kelly Ayotte. Republican Mary Fallin was elected Oklahoma’s first woman governor, and Jan Brewer was elected in Arizona.

You missed the cheering from MALDEF and the NAACP? You didn’t hear the howls from NOW when Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle were defeated by their male opponents? You see, “diversity” is only an election issue for the left when the right is short on it. And indeed, as with Justice Clarence Thomas and Miguel Estrada, these conservatives don’t really “count” as minorities, and the women aren’t “real” women in the eyes of the left; they are sellouts or worse. Because they don’t spout the victimology mantra and are not devotees of big government, they are not “authentic.”

Aside from helping to shed the GOP’s image as a “white male only” party, the election of these individuals — in addition to the views and attributes they will bring to their jobs — have performed an important service. They will, one suspects, mute the obsessive diversity chatter that treats candidates as representatives of racial or ethnic groups rather than of the people they serve. After all, Nikki Haley isn’t actual the Indian-American governor; she’s the governor of South Carolina. And that’s exactly as it should be. Unless, of course, the point is not diversity but the endless churning of racial grievances.

As the New York Post‘s editors remind us:

Remember the “angry, racist Tea Party?” For months, that was the line pushed by Democrats, the NAACP and much of the mainstream media. Funny, though: The Tea Party-inspired wave that produced historic Republican wins also revealed a substantial diversity in the movement.

Two African-Americans — Tim Scott from South Carolina and Allen West from Florida — won election to the House of Representatives, the first black Republicans to serve there in eight years. In a victory showing how far his state has come, Scott’s road to Congress included a GOP runoff win over the son of the late Strom Thurmond — once the face of Jim Crow racial intolerance.

Those new office holders also include Nikki Haley, the second Republican governor of Indian descent and the first woman governor of South Carolina, as well as “America’s first Latina governor in New Mexico’s Susana Martinez; Nevada’s first Latino governor, in Brian Sandoval; Texas Rep.-elect Francisco ‘Quico’ Canseco and, yes, the breakout Tea Party superstar of the campaign — Florida’s Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, a son of Cuban exiles.” New Hampshire has a new woman senator, Kelly Ayotte. Republican Mary Fallin was elected Oklahoma’s first woman governor, and Jan Brewer was elected in Arizona.

You missed the cheering from MALDEF and the NAACP? You didn’t hear the howls from NOW when Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle were defeated by their male opponents? You see, “diversity” is only an election issue for the left when the right is short on it. And indeed, as with Justice Clarence Thomas and Miguel Estrada, these conservatives don’t really “count” as minorities, and the women aren’t “real” women in the eyes of the left; they are sellouts or worse. Because they don’t spout the victimology mantra and are not devotees of big government, they are not “authentic.”

Aside from helping to shed the GOP’s image as a “white male only” party, the election of these individuals — in addition to the views and attributes they will bring to their jobs — have performed an important service. They will, one suspects, mute the obsessive diversity chatter that treats candidates as representatives of racial or ethnic groups rather than of the people they serve. After all, Nikki Haley isn’t actual the Indian-American governor; she’s the governor of South Carolina. And that’s exactly as it should be. Unless, of course, the point is not diversity but the endless churning of racial grievances.

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What’s Beyond the Illusions?

Dorothy Rabinowitz, in a masterful column, sums up the undoing of Obama, or rather the undoing of  widely held misconceptions about Obama:

Whatever the outcome of today’s election, this much is clear: It will be a long time before Americans ever again decide that the leadership of the nation should go to a legislator of negligible experience—with a voting record, as state and U.S. senator, consisting largely of “present,” and an election platform based on glowing promises of transcendence. A platform vowing, unforgettably, to restore us—a country lost to arrogance and crimes against humanity—to a place of respect in the world. …

Nothing wakened [the electorate’s] instincts more than the administration’s insistence on its health-care bill—its whiff of totalitarian will, its secretiveness, its display of cold assurance that the new president’s social agenda trumped everything.

But it was about far more than health-care reform, or joblessness, or the great ideological divide between the president and the rest of the country. It was about an accumulation of facts quietly taken in that told Americans that the man they had sent to the White House had neither the character or the capacity to lead the country.

We’ve had nearly two years to observe his skills and persona. It is becoming increasingly hard to find serious people impressed with the former and enchanted by the latter. He prefers not to concern himself with the details of legislation, the character and values of his fellow citizens, or the demands of an undefined war against our civilization. Even the New York Times has grown weary of his blame-mongering and straw men. The cool kids in the Comedy Central demographic are bored with him.

The favorite guessing game is now “Can Obama shift course?” But Rabinowitz has zeroed in on the central issue. She concludes: “This election has everything to do with the man in the White House about whom Americans have lost their illusions. Illusions matter. Their loss is irrecoverable.” So the real question is: is there more to Obama than the illusions?

Dorothy Rabinowitz, in a masterful column, sums up the undoing of Obama, or rather the undoing of  widely held misconceptions about Obama:

Whatever the outcome of today’s election, this much is clear: It will be a long time before Americans ever again decide that the leadership of the nation should go to a legislator of negligible experience—with a voting record, as state and U.S. senator, consisting largely of “present,” and an election platform based on glowing promises of transcendence. A platform vowing, unforgettably, to restore us—a country lost to arrogance and crimes against humanity—to a place of respect in the world. …

Nothing wakened [the electorate’s] instincts more than the administration’s insistence on its health-care bill—its whiff of totalitarian will, its secretiveness, its display of cold assurance that the new president’s social agenda trumped everything.

But it was about far more than health-care reform, or joblessness, or the great ideological divide between the president and the rest of the country. It was about an accumulation of facts quietly taken in that told Americans that the man they had sent to the White House had neither the character or the capacity to lead the country.

We’ve had nearly two years to observe his skills and persona. It is becoming increasingly hard to find serious people impressed with the former and enchanted by the latter. He prefers not to concern himself with the details of legislation, the character and values of his fellow citizens, or the demands of an undefined war against our civilization. Even the New York Times has grown weary of his blame-mongering and straw men. The cool kids in the Comedy Central demographic are bored with him.

The favorite guessing game is now “Can Obama shift course?” But Rabinowitz has zeroed in on the central issue. She concludes: “This election has everything to do with the man in the White House about whom Americans have lost their illusions. Illusions matter. Their loss is irrecoverable.” So the real question is: is there more to Obama than the illusions?

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Israel, Iran, and Senate Races

To his credit, Ron Kampeas reverses course and supports Mark Kirk’s push-back against the assertions made by Democratic surrogates that Kirk had nothing to do with the sanctions bill. It seems as though other reports had the goods:

Let me revise my assessment Monday of the smackdown between Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), running for Illinois’ open U.S. Senate seat, is not a win for Kirk on points — it’s a knockout, for Kirk.

Folks intimately involved in preparing Kirk’s  bill sanctioning Iran’s energy sector have contacted me (and not Republicans) — and they say it indeed provided the template for Berman’s original sanctions bill. Berman says Kirk’s claims that he framed the bill are wrong, and that Kirk had nothing to do with the bill.

He continues that “I gather some of the same folks reached out to Foreign Policy The Cable’s Josh Rogin, and he had the more thorough version up first” — which actually cited JTA’s own reporting. Kudos for reversing field, but perhaps next time Kampeas can reach out to the out-reachers to confirm the facts before he writes his column.

Kampeas might consider a walk-back on his assessment of Joe Sestak as well. Kampeas thinks the newest ECI ad is too tough, asserting: “Sestak is a consistent yes vote on pro-Israel legislation so ‘record of hostility’ would seem to overstate it, even for a partisan release.” It’s really not. In fact, when Sestak asserted that he had a 100 percent pro-AIPAC voting record, Jewish officials struck back hard. A Jewish official reached out to Ben Smith on that one:

“There are serious concerns about Joe Sestak’s record related to Israel throughout the pro-Israel community,” said an official with a major pro-Israel organization in Washington. “Not only has he said that Chuck Hagel is the Senator he admires most, which is unusual enough, but when comes to actual decisions that have affected Israel and our relationship with them, he has gone the wrong way several times. It’s the height of chutzpah for him to suggest he has a good record, let alone a 100 percent one, on these issues.”

Are the ECI and RJC ads tough? Yes. Do they accurately depict Sestak and reflect deep concern regarding his record by pro-Israel activists, including many Democrats? Absolutely.

To his credit, Ron Kampeas reverses course and supports Mark Kirk’s push-back against the assertions made by Democratic surrogates that Kirk had nothing to do with the sanctions bill. It seems as though other reports had the goods:

Let me revise my assessment Monday of the smackdown between Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), running for Illinois’ open U.S. Senate seat, is not a win for Kirk on points — it’s a knockout, for Kirk.

Folks intimately involved in preparing Kirk’s  bill sanctioning Iran’s energy sector have contacted me (and not Republicans) — and they say it indeed provided the template for Berman’s original sanctions bill. Berman says Kirk’s claims that he framed the bill are wrong, and that Kirk had nothing to do with the bill.

He continues that “I gather some of the same folks reached out to Foreign Policy The Cable’s Josh Rogin, and he had the more thorough version up first” — which actually cited JTA’s own reporting. Kudos for reversing field, but perhaps next time Kampeas can reach out to the out-reachers to confirm the facts before he writes his column.

Kampeas might consider a walk-back on his assessment of Joe Sestak as well. Kampeas thinks the newest ECI ad is too tough, asserting: “Sestak is a consistent yes vote on pro-Israel legislation so ‘record of hostility’ would seem to overstate it, even for a partisan release.” It’s really not. In fact, when Sestak asserted that he had a 100 percent pro-AIPAC voting record, Jewish officials struck back hard. A Jewish official reached out to Ben Smith on that one:

“There are serious concerns about Joe Sestak’s record related to Israel throughout the pro-Israel community,” said an official with a major pro-Israel organization in Washington. “Not only has he said that Chuck Hagel is the Senator he admires most, which is unusual enough, but when comes to actual decisions that have affected Israel and our relationship with them, he has gone the wrong way several times. It’s the height of chutzpah for him to suggest he has a good record, let alone a 100 percent one, on these issues.”

Are the ECI and RJC ads tough? Yes. Do they accurately depict Sestak and reflect deep concern regarding his record by pro-Israel activists, including many Democrats? Absolutely.

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Abuse of Power

It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

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It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

Set aside the hypocrisy of this whole episode. (My former White House colleague Ed Gillespie points out that no Democrats, least of all Obama, expressed concern about such outside spending in 2008, when more than $400 million was spent to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors.) Set aside the fact that Mr. Axelrod concedes that the chamber is abiding by long-standing rules, that it doesn’t have to disclose its donors list, and that no other organizations are disclosing theirs. Set aside the fact that the chamber has 115 foreign-member affiliates who pay a total of less than $100,000 in membership dues to a group whose total budget is more than $200 million. And set aside the fact that various news organizations have dismissed the charges, including the New York Times, which reports, “a closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.”

What we are witnessing is the abuse of power. We are now in a situation in which the president and his most senior advisers feel completely at liberty to throw out unsubstantiated charges and put the burden on people (and institutions) to prove their innocence. Liberals once referred to such tactics as McCarthyism. But Joseph McCarthy, for all his abuses, was “only” a United States senator, one member out of 100. The president and his advisers, on the other hand, have at their disposal far more power and the ability to inflict far more injury.

What Obama and his aides are demanding is that the Chamber of Commerce prove a negative — and in doing so, they are trying to intimidate the chamber into disclosing what is, by law, privileged information. “If the Chamber doesn’t have anything to hide about these contributions,” Mr. Axelrod says, “and I take them at their word that they don’t, then why not disclose? Why not let people see where their money is coming from?”

Let’s see if we can help Mr. Axelrod out by providing him with an explanation.

For one thing, he is employing the guilty-until-proven-innocent argument. For another, the White House’s standard is being selectively applied. And it encourages slanderous charges because it forces innocent people to disprove them. All this is troubling in any case; but it is triply pernicious when it is practiced by those with unmatched power, because they have an unparalleled capacity to intimidate American citizens.

In further answering Axelrod’s argument, consider this thought experiment. It’s the year 2021, and a partisan critic of a future president repeatedly asserts that the president is addicted to child pornography. It turns out that the critic has no proof of the charge — but when told he is asking the president to prove a negative, he responds: “I take the president at his word. But just to be sure, we’d like to examine his phone records and text messages, his computer accounts, and his credit card receipts. What we want, in other words, is full access to all the relevant information we need. After all, if he’s innocent, why not disclose this information? Why not let people see what you’re doing with your life and free time?”

It must be obvious to Messrs. Axelrod and Obama that what they are doing is irresponsible, dangerous, and deeply illiberal. It’s important to note, however, that this libel is taking place within a particular context. The attack on the Chamber of Commerce is only the most recent link in a long chain. The Obama White House has targeted Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, and John Boehner; George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; conservative talk radio; Fox News; the state of Arizona; the Supreme Court (for its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission); members of the Tea Party; critics of ObamaCare who attended town hall meetings; pharmaceutical, insurance, and oil companies; corporate executives, Wall Street, and the “rich.”

All this ugliness comes to us courtesy of a man who said during the 2008 campaign that “the times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook”; who told us that we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long”; and who assured us, on the night of his election, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”

Back in October 2009, I wrote about this White House’s burning anger and resentment toward its critics and what it foreshadowed. That inferno is burning hotter than ever – and if it goes unchecked, it will eventually lead to a crisis.

In an August 16, 1971, memorandum from White House Counsel John Dean to Lawrence Higby, titled “Dealing with our Political Enemies,” Dean wrote:

This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

At comparable stages in their first terms, the Obama administration seems to be at least as eager as the Nixon administration to use the available federal machinery to “screw our political enemies.” We know how things turned out for the Nixon administration. President Obama cannot say he hasn’t been forewarned.

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ECI 1 – Soros Street 0

The leftist Tablet looks at the Senate race. The most interesting is Pennsylvania (h/t Ben Smith):

PENNSYLVANIA
Jewish candidate guy: Senator Arlen Specter (D).
People who are actually running: Joe Sestak (J Street) and Pat Toomey (Emergency Committee for Israel).
Who’s going to win? In general, a Gentile. In particular, Pat Toomey. In a way, Bill Kristol.
Why this is still a Jewish story: This race is kind of weird. Arlen Specter switched parties, robbing Republicans of their only Jewish senator, and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Then, with no Jewish candidates in the race, this became the surrogate electoral battleground for Israeli-American politics: Bill Kristol’s newly formed Pro-Israel, Pro-Committee Emergency Committee for Israel cut an ad attacking Sestak, and then the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Iffy-Soros J Street made their own defending him.
Fun fact: Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, is “an heir to America’s leading Orthodox rabbinic dynasty.”

It’s not so weird at all. As we’ve seen in recent polling, Israel enjoys broad bipartisan support. J Street does not. When ECI focused on this race, illuminating Sestak’s record, it illustrated both. Frankly, it’s weird that a Jewish magazine finds it peculiar that a race without a Jewish candidate could center on Israel. Perhaps it should take a look at the polls we’ve been examining. It seems the entire electorate of Pennsylvania has revealed itself to be part of the “Israel Lobby.” Only those who equate support for Israel solely with American Jewish political activity would fine this strange.

The leftist Tablet looks at the Senate race. The most interesting is Pennsylvania (h/t Ben Smith):

PENNSYLVANIA
Jewish candidate guy: Senator Arlen Specter (D).
People who are actually running: Joe Sestak (J Street) and Pat Toomey (Emergency Committee for Israel).
Who’s going to win? In general, a Gentile. In particular, Pat Toomey. In a way, Bill Kristol.
Why this is still a Jewish story: This race is kind of weird. Arlen Specter switched parties, robbing Republicans of their only Jewish senator, and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Then, with no Jewish candidates in the race, this became the surrogate electoral battleground for Israeli-American politics: Bill Kristol’s newly formed Pro-Israel, Pro-Committee Emergency Committee for Israel cut an ad attacking Sestak, and then the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Iffy-Soros J Street made their own defending him.
Fun fact: Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, is “an heir to America’s leading Orthodox rabbinic dynasty.”

It’s not so weird at all. As we’ve seen in recent polling, Israel enjoys broad bipartisan support. J Street does not. When ECI focused on this race, illuminating Sestak’s record, it illustrated both. Frankly, it’s weird that a Jewish magazine finds it peculiar that a race without a Jewish candidate could center on Israel. Perhaps it should take a look at the polls we’ve been examining. It seems the entire electorate of Pennsylvania has revealed itself to be part of the “Israel Lobby.” Only those who equate support for Israel solely with American Jewish political activity would fine this strange.

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Blocking Ricciardone

So the Wall Street Journal editorial page thinks Senator Brownback is wrong to put a hold on the nomination of Frank Ricciardone as ambassador to Turkey, issuing an editorial averring that while “the Senator is free to criticize and oppose this nomination … Mr. Ricciardone deserves an up-or-down vote on the floor.” The editorial goes on to claim that Mr. Brownback’s hold on Mr. Ricciardone may “make Mr. Brownback feel good, but it undermines the executive’s ability to function and American foreign policy.”

Well, in this fight, sign me up with Senator Brownback. To begin with, the idea that American foreign policy is somehow undermined by the lack of an ambassador in Ankara is quaint. If America needs to communicate with the Turks, there are plenty of avenues, from phone calls to e-mail to the dozens of other American government officials based in Turkey.

But beyond that, if Mr. Ricciardone isn’t a nominee worth using every parliamentary procedure available under the rules to block, who is? This blog understands this perhaps better than any other forum; it was at CONTENTIONS that Joshua Muravchik posted, back in May 2007, a report of Mr. Ricciardone’s preposterous claim, as American ambassador in Cairo, that “[h]ere in Egypt as in the U.S., there is freedom of speech.”

That post prompted a memorable New York Sun editorial headlined “Recall Ricciardone,” reporting:

In the same television interview, Mr. Ricciardone was asked how he could watch the execution of Saddam Hussein. He replied, “Personally, I’m against execution in principle. My personal reaction is that it is abominable.” It was a strange reply, since the ambassador hadn’t been asked for his personal views of the death penalty.

The interviewer also asked whether the ambassador had heard the Egyptian song “I hate Israel,” whose lyric include “I love Yasser Arafat” and “I hate Ehud Barak.” The ambassador’s response, according to the transcript on the embassy’s Web site, was “Yes. I also watched his latest movie on a web site.” He went on to say, according to the transcript, “It is sort of interesting. I enjoyed it.”

An earlier Sun editorial, in 2004, “Ricciardone’s Return,” described the diplomat’s clumsy and counterproductive performance on the Iraq front.

Anyway, I share the concern of the folks at the Journal about undermining American foreign policy. I just think that confirming Mr. Ricciardone is way more likely to undermine American foreign policy than Mr. Brownback’s hold on him will.

So the Wall Street Journal editorial page thinks Senator Brownback is wrong to put a hold on the nomination of Frank Ricciardone as ambassador to Turkey, issuing an editorial averring that while “the Senator is free to criticize and oppose this nomination … Mr. Ricciardone deserves an up-or-down vote on the floor.” The editorial goes on to claim that Mr. Brownback’s hold on Mr. Ricciardone may “make Mr. Brownback feel good, but it undermines the executive’s ability to function and American foreign policy.”

Well, in this fight, sign me up with Senator Brownback. To begin with, the idea that American foreign policy is somehow undermined by the lack of an ambassador in Ankara is quaint. If America needs to communicate with the Turks, there are plenty of avenues, from phone calls to e-mail to the dozens of other American government officials based in Turkey.

But beyond that, if Mr. Ricciardone isn’t a nominee worth using every parliamentary procedure available under the rules to block, who is? This blog understands this perhaps better than any other forum; it was at CONTENTIONS that Joshua Muravchik posted, back in May 2007, a report of Mr. Ricciardone’s preposterous claim, as American ambassador in Cairo, that “[h]ere in Egypt as in the U.S., there is freedom of speech.”

That post prompted a memorable New York Sun editorial headlined “Recall Ricciardone,” reporting:

In the same television interview, Mr. Ricciardone was asked how he could watch the execution of Saddam Hussein. He replied, “Personally, I’m against execution in principle. My personal reaction is that it is abominable.” It was a strange reply, since the ambassador hadn’t been asked for his personal views of the death penalty.

The interviewer also asked whether the ambassador had heard the Egyptian song “I hate Israel,” whose lyric include “I love Yasser Arafat” and “I hate Ehud Barak.” The ambassador’s response, according to the transcript on the embassy’s Web site, was “Yes. I also watched his latest movie on a web site.” He went on to say, according to the transcript, “It is sort of interesting. I enjoyed it.”

An earlier Sun editorial, in 2004, “Ricciardone’s Return,” described the diplomat’s clumsy and counterproductive performance on the Iraq front.

Anyway, I share the concern of the folks at the Journal about undermining American foreign policy. I just think that confirming Mr. Ricciardone is way more likely to undermine American foreign policy than Mr. Brownback’s hold on him will.

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Blumenthal Needed a Debate Knockout. He Didn’t Get It.

The Connecticut Senate race provides an interesting test case for the proposition that the old political rules don’t apply this year. As demonstrated by last night’s debate between Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republican Linda McMahon, this election seems to be a referendum on the resumes of the two candidates. Voters are being asked to choose between a man who has spent his entire adult life on the public payroll and a woman who has spent her life in the private sector. Both have serious flaws. But the question is not only which of those flaws (Blumenthal’s lying about his military service during the Vietnam War or McMahon’s involvement with the disreputable world of professional wrestling) is more damning but also what sort of a potential senator fits the mood of the electorate this fall.

Polls have fluctuated, with the latest ones showing the Democrat gaining ground after earlier surveys indicated that his lead, once huge, had shrunk down to nearly nothing. But as Paul Bass, the editor of the New Haven Independent, wrote last week in the New York Times, McMahon’s association with wrestling has helped rather than hurt her. That’s due not only to the changes in culture, which render the scripted violence of the WWE less appalling to the public, but also because its edgy tenor appeals to a wider demographic (including, as Bass notes, working-class and Hispanic voters, who are an important part of the Democrats’ base) than perhaps it once did.

As New York Times blogger Nate Silver has noted, there might be very few undecided voters left in this race, a fact that should work to Blumenthal’s advantage. But Blumenthal, the man the Times has called “Martha Coakley in Pants,” needed to demonstrate in this first debate that, whatever his own failings, his opponent was simply unsuitable to serve in the Senate. He did not do that last night and is unlikely to make that point stick in the month remaining before Election Day.

McMahon’s demonstrated ability to go toe-to-toe with Blumenthal in the debate and still emerge on her feet was crucial to her candidacy. In an election year in which even Connecticut’s liberal voters are largely dissatisfied with the political class and its addiction to spending and taxes, Blumenthal’s riposte to McMahon’s answers to a debate question about how to create jobs — “I’m not running to be an entrepreneur as a senator” — hit exactly the wrong note for 2010. If results from generic polls — such as Gallup’s survey, which showed a huge swing to the Republicans over Democrats — are credible, then there are going to be some results next month that will be driven by this wave of political sentiment in spite of the conventional wisdom about the individual candidates. For all the Democrats’ inherent advantages in that state, the Connecticut race may show how a flawed candidate running on a record of private business accomplishments and skepticism toward government will have an edge this November over another flawed one whose life has been spent in public office.

The Connecticut Senate race provides an interesting test case for the proposition that the old political rules don’t apply this year. As demonstrated by last night’s debate between Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republican Linda McMahon, this election seems to be a referendum on the resumes of the two candidates. Voters are being asked to choose between a man who has spent his entire adult life on the public payroll and a woman who has spent her life in the private sector. Both have serious flaws. But the question is not only which of those flaws (Blumenthal’s lying about his military service during the Vietnam War or McMahon’s involvement with the disreputable world of professional wrestling) is more damning but also what sort of a potential senator fits the mood of the electorate this fall.

Polls have fluctuated, with the latest ones showing the Democrat gaining ground after earlier surveys indicated that his lead, once huge, had shrunk down to nearly nothing. But as Paul Bass, the editor of the New Haven Independent, wrote last week in the New York Times, McMahon’s association with wrestling has helped rather than hurt her. That’s due not only to the changes in culture, which render the scripted violence of the WWE less appalling to the public, but also because its edgy tenor appeals to a wider demographic (including, as Bass notes, working-class and Hispanic voters, who are an important part of the Democrats’ base) than perhaps it once did.

As New York Times blogger Nate Silver has noted, there might be very few undecided voters left in this race, a fact that should work to Blumenthal’s advantage. But Blumenthal, the man the Times has called “Martha Coakley in Pants,” needed to demonstrate in this first debate that, whatever his own failings, his opponent was simply unsuitable to serve in the Senate. He did not do that last night and is unlikely to make that point stick in the month remaining before Election Day.

McMahon’s demonstrated ability to go toe-to-toe with Blumenthal in the debate and still emerge on her feet was crucial to her candidacy. In an election year in which even Connecticut’s liberal voters are largely dissatisfied with the political class and its addiction to spending and taxes, Blumenthal’s riposte to McMahon’s answers to a debate question about how to create jobs — “I’m not running to be an entrepreneur as a senator” — hit exactly the wrong note for 2010. If results from generic polls — such as Gallup’s survey, which showed a huge swing to the Republicans over Democrats — are credible, then there are going to be some results next month that will be driven by this wave of political sentiment in spite of the conventional wisdom about the individual candidates. For all the Democrats’ inherent advantages in that state, the Connecticut race may show how a flawed candidate running on a record of private business accomplishments and skepticism toward government will have an edge this November over another flawed one whose life has been spent in public office.

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A Really Big Whopper

Joe Sestak’s campaign is going down the tubes. The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee may decide to stop pouring money down the drain. So what does he do? He panics and tries to regain Jewish voters turned off by his anti-Israel positions. He makes a big error though: he drags AIPAC into it. Ben Smith writes:

The pro-Israel group AIPAC says a campaign ad from Rep. Joe Sestak that claims that, “According to AIPAC, Joe Sestak has a 100% pro-Israel voting record” is inaccurate. … “Joe Sestak does not have a 100% voting record on Israel issues according to AIPAC. I couldn’t be true, we don’t rate or endorse candidates,” said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block of the ad, which ran in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

Sestak has faced repeated attacks over his stand on Israel since signing a January letter aimed at easing Israel’s blockade of Gaza, though critics point more to letters and to sponsorship than to any votes that break with Congressional Democrats’ generally pro-Israel party line. (There haven’t been many actual difficult votes on the issue, one way or the other). And Sestak has sought in the past to associate himself with AIPAC.

No, AIPAC generally doesn’t appreciate candidates who keynote for CAIR or sign Soros Street’s Gaza 54 letter. And they really aren’t fond of those who tout the UN Human Rights Council. But they don’t do electioneering. Still, there is no doubt what the mainstream Jewish community thinks of him:

“There are serious concerns about Joe Sestak’s record related to Israel throughout the pro-Israel community,” said an official with a major pro-Israel organization in Washington. “Not only has he said that Chuck Hagel is the Senator he admires most, which is unusual enough, but when comes to actual decisions that have affected Israel and our relationship with them, he has gone the wrong way several times. It’s the height of chutzpah for him to suggest he has a good record, let alone a 100 percent one, on these issues.”

And by the way, is he going to give Soros’s money back?

Joe Sestak’s campaign is going down the tubes. The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee may decide to stop pouring money down the drain. So what does he do? He panics and tries to regain Jewish voters turned off by his anti-Israel positions. He makes a big error though: he drags AIPAC into it. Ben Smith writes:

The pro-Israel group AIPAC says a campaign ad from Rep. Joe Sestak that claims that, “According to AIPAC, Joe Sestak has a 100% pro-Israel voting record” is inaccurate. … “Joe Sestak does not have a 100% voting record on Israel issues according to AIPAC. I couldn’t be true, we don’t rate or endorse candidates,” said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block of the ad, which ran in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

Sestak has faced repeated attacks over his stand on Israel since signing a January letter aimed at easing Israel’s blockade of Gaza, though critics point more to letters and to sponsorship than to any votes that break with Congressional Democrats’ generally pro-Israel party line. (There haven’t been many actual difficult votes on the issue, one way or the other). And Sestak has sought in the past to associate himself with AIPAC.

No, AIPAC generally doesn’t appreciate candidates who keynote for CAIR or sign Soros Street’s Gaza 54 letter. And they really aren’t fond of those who tout the UN Human Rights Council. But they don’t do electioneering. Still, there is no doubt what the mainstream Jewish community thinks of him:

“There are serious concerns about Joe Sestak’s record related to Israel throughout the pro-Israel community,” said an official with a major pro-Israel organization in Washington. “Not only has he said that Chuck Hagel is the Senator he admires most, which is unusual enough, but when comes to actual decisions that have affected Israel and our relationship with them, he has gone the wrong way several times. It’s the height of chutzpah for him to suggest he has a good record, let alone a 100 percent one, on these issues.”

And by the way, is he going to give Soros’s money back?

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Yes, We Can…Stay Home

The president, today, speaking to college newspaper editors, previewing what he will tell young voters this week: “You can’t sit it out, you can’t suddenly just check in once every ten years or so on an exciting presidential election and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans.”

The problem is that if, as Obama said, “we are the change we have been waiting for,” and the current condition of the country is the change “we’ve been waiting for,” why would “we” choose “us” again? “We” might even go with “them” even though “we” think “they”  bear a greater share of the blame for the mess you’re in. According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, “41 percent of adult Americans say congressional Republicans are more responsible for the nation’s economic problems, with 35 percent saying the Democrats are more to blame. … But 47 percent of those questioned say the economic policies of congressional Republicans are more likely to improve economic conditions, with 41 percent saying Democrats in Congress have the better prescriptions.”

In some sense, this is really Obama’s final card to play. He desperately needs to reconstitute the flash mob that arose in that stunning way in 2008 before it dissipated like vapor. Some attribute the loss of this potentially nation-changing political force to the thinness of Obama’s message — which did seem to boil down to change for the sake of change. But that actually might do the Obama voter too little credit. What kind of immediate future does a college-age or graduate-school Obama voter, piling up student-loan debt in preparation for entering a terrible job market, see for himself or herself in ObamaNation? Enough to stimulate him to go out and vote for a congressman or senator for whom he may have no particular interest or taste, but as a secondary means of expressing his enthusiasm for the 2008 vote he cast that seems to have delivered so little?

The president, today, speaking to college newspaper editors, previewing what he will tell young voters this week: “You can’t sit it out, you can’t suddenly just check in once every ten years or so on an exciting presidential election and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans.”

The problem is that if, as Obama said, “we are the change we have been waiting for,” and the current condition of the country is the change “we’ve been waiting for,” why would “we” choose “us” again? “We” might even go with “them” even though “we” think “they”  bear a greater share of the blame for the mess you’re in. According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, “41 percent of adult Americans say congressional Republicans are more responsible for the nation’s economic problems, with 35 percent saying the Democrats are more to blame. … But 47 percent of those questioned say the economic policies of congressional Republicans are more likely to improve economic conditions, with 41 percent saying Democrats in Congress have the better prescriptions.”

In some sense, this is really Obama’s final card to play. He desperately needs to reconstitute the flash mob that arose in that stunning way in 2008 before it dissipated like vapor. Some attribute the loss of this potentially nation-changing political force to the thinness of Obama’s message — which did seem to boil down to change for the sake of change. But that actually might do the Obama voter too little credit. What kind of immediate future does a college-age or graduate-school Obama voter, piling up student-loan debt in preparation for entering a terrible job market, see for himself or herself in ObamaNation? Enough to stimulate him to go out and vote for a congressman or senator for whom he may have no particular interest or taste, but as a secondary means of expressing his enthusiasm for the 2008 vote he cast that seems to have delivered so little?

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What’s Really Eating David Axelrod

In a New Republic cover story by Noam Scheiber, “What’s Really Eating David Axelrod? The Disillusionment of Obama’s Political Guru,” we are told this:

Obama and Axelrod both believe in changing Washington for its own sake. “It’s in the president’s nature, it’s also in David’s nature,” says Stephanie Cutter, a senior White House aide. … Whatever his tendency to fall in and out of love with politicians, there’s no evidence Axelrod has soured on Barack Obama. Quite the contrary — he is said to take enormous pride in the president’s legislative accomplishments. “When Obama rejects Axe’s political advice, David’s attitude is not like, ‘Why isn’t he listening to me?’” says one administra­tion official. “It’s more like, ‘This is why I love this guy. He’s willing to follow his heart even when the short-term politics are not with him.”’  Instead, the source of Axelrod’s disillusionment these days is Washington itself. … As long as he was a civilian, Axelrod could blame the pace of change on the flawed politicians he helped elect. He could always move on and invest his hopes in someone else. But now that he’s serving in government, it’s clear that the problem isn’t so much flawed people — though, like anyone, Obama has his flaws — as a ferociously stubborn, possibly irredeemable system. For an idealist like David Axelrod, that may be the most terrifying thought of all.

David Axelrod, like Obama’s other aides, begins with an unshakable premise: Barack Obama is a man of almost superhuman gifts and virtues. Yet even Axelrod cannot deny the beating the president and his party are being administered. The president has passed much of his agenda — and, in the process, he has become very nearly radioactive. Mr. Obama’s popularity is reaching new lows, distrust of the federal government is reaching new highs, independents are fleeing him and the Democratic party in striking numbers, and Democratic candidates are explicitly running against Obama and his record. The opposition to Obamaism is extraordinary in its depth and passion.

So how does someone like Axelrod reconcile his premise with this unpleasant reality? Why, blame Washington and the political establishment, of course. The system is not only “ferociously stubborn,” but quite possibly “irredeemable.” Barack Obama’s failures, you see, are the fault of the founders.

We have all heard this before — during the Carter years, when it was said the presidency was too large for any single person; and from Ronald Reagan’s first OMB director, David Stockman, who became deeply disillusioned when his budget-cutting agenda ran up against our system of checks and balances. In his book The Triumph of Politics, Stockman wrote this: “There is only one thing worse [than politicians with short time horizons], and that is ideological hubris. It is the assumption that the world can be made better by being remade overnight.”

This is precisely what Axelrod and many in Obama’s inner circle are afflicted with. And whatever problems plague Washington, they are not new. Nothing fundamental has changed about Washington since Obama ran for president in 2008, promising to drive the moneychangers out of the temple.

Governing always seems easier from afar — and every public official experiences a gap between his hopes and his achievements. But in this instance, a group of arrogant, zealous aides — devoted to an arrogant, ideological man — thought they could remake the world and transform Washington easily and instantaneously. But now that they have been at the helm for a bit more than 20 months, idealism is giving way to crushing disillusionment.

“The blind faith in, and passion for, Obama was like nothing [Anita] Dunn had ever seen before,” we read in Game Change. “Around Hopefund they joked about it all the time, praying it wouldn’t go to Obama’s head; his ego was robust enough already. They even conferred on the senator a new nickname: ‘Black Jesus.’”

Investing that much hope in a single individual was destined to end in disenchantment. There is a cautionary tale and an important reminder in all of this: The best public servants are individuals whose idealism is tempered with realism and maturity, who understand and appreciate the nature of American government, who are steady and well-grounded, and who understand the difference between politics and romantic dreams.

In a New Republic cover story by Noam Scheiber, “What’s Really Eating David Axelrod? The Disillusionment of Obama’s Political Guru,” we are told this:

Obama and Axelrod both believe in changing Washington for its own sake. “It’s in the president’s nature, it’s also in David’s nature,” says Stephanie Cutter, a senior White House aide. … Whatever his tendency to fall in and out of love with politicians, there’s no evidence Axelrod has soured on Barack Obama. Quite the contrary — he is said to take enormous pride in the president’s legislative accomplishments. “When Obama rejects Axe’s political advice, David’s attitude is not like, ‘Why isn’t he listening to me?’” says one administra­tion official. “It’s more like, ‘This is why I love this guy. He’s willing to follow his heart even when the short-term politics are not with him.”’  Instead, the source of Axelrod’s disillusionment these days is Washington itself. … As long as he was a civilian, Axelrod could blame the pace of change on the flawed politicians he helped elect. He could always move on and invest his hopes in someone else. But now that he’s serving in government, it’s clear that the problem isn’t so much flawed people — though, like anyone, Obama has his flaws — as a ferociously stubborn, possibly irredeemable system. For an idealist like David Axelrod, that may be the most terrifying thought of all.

David Axelrod, like Obama’s other aides, begins with an unshakable premise: Barack Obama is a man of almost superhuman gifts and virtues. Yet even Axelrod cannot deny the beating the president and his party are being administered. The president has passed much of his agenda — and, in the process, he has become very nearly radioactive. Mr. Obama’s popularity is reaching new lows, distrust of the federal government is reaching new highs, independents are fleeing him and the Democratic party in striking numbers, and Democratic candidates are explicitly running against Obama and his record. The opposition to Obamaism is extraordinary in its depth and passion.

So how does someone like Axelrod reconcile his premise with this unpleasant reality? Why, blame Washington and the political establishment, of course. The system is not only “ferociously stubborn,” but quite possibly “irredeemable.” Barack Obama’s failures, you see, are the fault of the founders.

We have all heard this before — during the Carter years, when it was said the presidency was too large for any single person; and from Ronald Reagan’s first OMB director, David Stockman, who became deeply disillusioned when his budget-cutting agenda ran up against our system of checks and balances. In his book The Triumph of Politics, Stockman wrote this: “There is only one thing worse [than politicians with short time horizons], and that is ideological hubris. It is the assumption that the world can be made better by being remade overnight.”

This is precisely what Axelrod and many in Obama’s inner circle are afflicted with. And whatever problems plague Washington, they are not new. Nothing fundamental has changed about Washington since Obama ran for president in 2008, promising to drive the moneychangers out of the temple.

Governing always seems easier from afar — and every public official experiences a gap between his hopes and his achievements. But in this instance, a group of arrogant, zealous aides — devoted to an arrogant, ideological man — thought they could remake the world and transform Washington easily and instantaneously. But now that they have been at the helm for a bit more than 20 months, idealism is giving way to crushing disillusionment.

“The blind faith in, and passion for, Obama was like nothing [Anita] Dunn had ever seen before,” we read in Game Change. “Around Hopefund they joked about it all the time, praying it wouldn’t go to Obama’s head; his ego was robust enough already. They even conferred on the senator a new nickname: ‘Black Jesus.’”

Investing that much hope in a single individual was destined to end in disenchantment. There is a cautionary tale and an important reminder in all of this: The best public servants are individuals whose idealism is tempered with realism and maturity, who understand and appreciate the nature of American government, who are steady and well-grounded, and who understand the difference between politics and romantic dreams.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.'” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.'” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

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Another False Defense of Obama on Terrorism

Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent has now published the full passage from Bob Woodward’s book in which the president discusses his views on terrorism, and claims it reveals the criticism of him from people like me is “thoroughly bogus.” Fine. Here is the passage Sargent quotes:

“I said very early on, as a Senator and continue to believe, as a presidential candidate and now as president, that we can absorb a terrorist attack. We will do everything we can to prevent it. but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever, that every took palce on our soil, we absorbed it, and we are stronger. This is a strong, powerful country that we live in, and our people are incredibly resilient.”

Then he addressed his big concern. “A potential game changer would be a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists, blowing up a major American city. Or a weapon of mass destruction in a major American city. and so when I go down on the list of things I have to worry about all the time, that is at the top, because that’s one area where you can’t afford any mistakes. And so right away, coming in, we said, how are we going to start ramping up and putting that at the center of a lot of our national security discussion? Making sure that that occurence, even if remote, never happens.”

Sargent says he hasn’t been able to find evidence of Obama saying we could “absorb” a terrorist attack and unless I’m very much mistaken, he never will, because it would have sunk Obama, no matter what the qualification might have been. (And if he did and the opposition researchers in the Clinton and McCain camps didn’t find it, we will have more evidence of their gross incompetence.)

But just because Obama qualified his words about absorbing an attack by saying America is resilient and we can handle anything but a nuclear attack is no comfort. It may be the opposite. His words suggest the president is engaging in false categorization that may explain why and how he and his administration felt free to define down the threat — such that it became conceivable for reasons other than simple liberal political payoff to  to end CIA interrogation programs on the grounds that they were doing more harm than help.

And the full passage from Woodward’s book reveals something else astonishing: the notion that because Obama knew this nation was so resilient it could absorb an attack and come out stronger, he could now “start ramping up and putting” the nuclear-terrorism threat “at the center of a lot of our national security discussion.”

What?

So in his view, the Bush administration wasn’t focused on the nuclear/unconventional threat? What, then, explains in the act now considered a crime by so many in Obama’s camp — taking the nation to war in Iraq in part to preempt one? What explained the persistence of the interrogation programs Obama so blithely cancelled?

The president seems to think the terrorist threat is not a continuum from box cutters to shoe bombs to potential nukes. But that is exactly what it is. And that is, if anything, even more terrifying than a president so emotionally insulated from the true aftereffects of a terrorist attack — which, as I said earlier, are not to be confused with the momentary spasm of unity and good feeling that overtook the country in the months following 9/11 —  that he seems already to have graded his own response and the country’s on a morally unforgivable curve.

Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent has now published the full passage from Bob Woodward’s book in which the president discusses his views on terrorism, and claims it reveals the criticism of him from people like me is “thoroughly bogus.” Fine. Here is the passage Sargent quotes:

“I said very early on, as a Senator and continue to believe, as a presidential candidate and now as president, that we can absorb a terrorist attack. We will do everything we can to prevent it. but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever, that every took palce on our soil, we absorbed it, and we are stronger. This is a strong, powerful country that we live in, and our people are incredibly resilient.”

Then he addressed his big concern. “A potential game changer would be a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists, blowing up a major American city. Or a weapon of mass destruction in a major American city. and so when I go down on the list of things I have to worry about all the time, that is at the top, because that’s one area where you can’t afford any mistakes. And so right away, coming in, we said, how are we going to start ramping up and putting that at the center of a lot of our national security discussion? Making sure that that occurence, even if remote, never happens.”

Sargent says he hasn’t been able to find evidence of Obama saying we could “absorb” a terrorist attack and unless I’m very much mistaken, he never will, because it would have sunk Obama, no matter what the qualification might have been. (And if he did and the opposition researchers in the Clinton and McCain camps didn’t find it, we will have more evidence of their gross incompetence.)

But just because Obama qualified his words about absorbing an attack by saying America is resilient and we can handle anything but a nuclear attack is no comfort. It may be the opposite. His words suggest the president is engaging in false categorization that may explain why and how he and his administration felt free to define down the threat — such that it became conceivable for reasons other than simple liberal political payoff to  to end CIA interrogation programs on the grounds that they were doing more harm than help.

And the full passage from Woodward’s book reveals something else astonishing: the notion that because Obama knew this nation was so resilient it could absorb an attack and come out stronger, he could now “start ramping up and putting” the nuclear-terrorism threat “at the center of a lot of our national security discussion.”

What?

So in his view, the Bush administration wasn’t focused on the nuclear/unconventional threat? What, then, explains in the act now considered a crime by so many in Obama’s camp — taking the nation to war in Iraq in part to preempt one? What explained the persistence of the interrogation programs Obama so blithely cancelled?

The president seems to think the terrorist threat is not a continuum from box cutters to shoe bombs to potential nukes. But that is exactly what it is. And that is, if anything, even more terrifying than a president so emotionally insulated from the true aftereffects of a terrorist attack — which, as I said earlier, are not to be confused with the momentary spasm of unity and good feeling that overtook the country in the months following 9/11 —  that he seems already to have graded his own response and the country’s on a morally unforgivable curve.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Christine O’Donnell, Made and Broken by TV

The Fox News poll in Delaware has parlous news for Republican senatorial nominee Christine O’Donnell — she’s 14 points behind, her opponent is well over 50 percent, and 60 percent of those polled say she is not fit to be a senator. Ninety-one percent of Delaware’s voters say their minds are made up. If this number is anywhere near right, O’Donnell needs a startling turnaround in her fortunes to win the race. Much of this, one presumes, is the fallout not only from the revelations of various irregularities in the week before the primary but also the media revelations since — her “witchcraft” comment, her remarks on masturbation, and so on.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

The Fox News poll in Delaware has parlous news for Republican senatorial nominee Christine O’Donnell — she’s 14 points behind, her opponent is well over 50 percent, and 60 percent of those polled say she is not fit to be a senator. Ninety-one percent of Delaware’s voters say their minds are made up. If this number is anywhere near right, O’Donnell needs a startling turnaround in her fortunes to win the race. Much of this, one presumes, is the fallout not only from the revelations of various irregularities in the week before the primary but also the media revelations since — her “witchcraft” comment, her remarks on masturbation, and so on.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A “primer in rotten politics”: Assemblyman Vito Lopez is captured on videotape “threatening a group of old ladies during an effort to consolidate power as Kings County kingmaker.”

A chilling thought: Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes (who gets his Iraq info from Google) tells us that the Obami will make sure Iran’s nuclear intentions are peaceful before another fruitless round of engagement. “Just when will Iran have to demonstrate the peaceful intent of its nuclear program? After they build the bomb as a check on Israeli aggression, perhaps? And anyway, Ben Rhodes is not a national security adviser, or rather, would not be in any universe that made sense. He was Obama’s top foreign-policy speechwriter and was then made a Deputy National Security adviser … for Communications. I suppose it’s possible that he’s not only writing speeches but also dictating foreign policy, in which case it’s time I take my suicide pills.”

A dopey suggestion from Bill Clinton on the Ground Zero mosque: “Much or even most of the controversy … could have been avoided, and perhaps still can be, if the people who want to build the center were to simply say, ‘We are dedicating this center to all the Muslims who were killed on 9/11.'” Because Muslims should dedicate things only to Muslims, you see.

And a noxious analysis by the ex-president of the problem with Russian immigrants in Israel. Maybe he’s competing with Jimmy Carter for the ex-president limelight.

An exercise in self-delusion: Nate Silver says the generic polls don’t really mean that a debacle is ahead for the Democrats.

Another result of “reform” Obama-style: drug companies may hike prices to offset the ObamaCare drug discount. It was supposed to fill “the doughnut hole.” Instead, it may worsen the health-care inflation problem.

A 10-point plan for reducing unemployment: “If we truly want to create jobs, it is not enough to simply berate business to create them. We must address the dynamics that keep businesses from offering jobs and that keep people from accepting jobs. We can use policy to create jobs — we just have to care enough about the jobless to make creating jobs a political priority.”

A sign of a weak president and Senate minority leader: “In the face of a promised filibuster by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Democrats could not convince a single GOP senator to cross over and provide the 60th vote needed to begin debate on a defense spending bill containing the repeal measure. The vote to open debate failed, 56-43, with Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) joining all Republicans in opposing taking up the bill.”

An undersecretary of something’s bailiwick? No, the sort of mini-issue Hillary lives for: “She told the Clinton Global Initiative forum that the public-private clean stoves plan, dubbed ‘Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves,’ would seek to install the new, 25-dollar units by 2020.”

A “primer in rotten politics”: Assemblyman Vito Lopez is captured on videotape “threatening a group of old ladies during an effort to consolidate power as Kings County kingmaker.”

A chilling thought: Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes (who gets his Iraq info from Google) tells us that the Obami will make sure Iran’s nuclear intentions are peaceful before another fruitless round of engagement. “Just when will Iran have to demonstrate the peaceful intent of its nuclear program? After they build the bomb as a check on Israeli aggression, perhaps? And anyway, Ben Rhodes is not a national security adviser, or rather, would not be in any universe that made sense. He was Obama’s top foreign-policy speechwriter and was then made a Deputy National Security adviser … for Communications. I suppose it’s possible that he’s not only writing speeches but also dictating foreign policy, in which case it’s time I take my suicide pills.”

A dopey suggestion from Bill Clinton on the Ground Zero mosque: “Much or even most of the controversy … could have been avoided, and perhaps still can be, if the people who want to build the center were to simply say, ‘We are dedicating this center to all the Muslims who were killed on 9/11.'” Because Muslims should dedicate things only to Muslims, you see.

And a noxious analysis by the ex-president of the problem with Russian immigrants in Israel. Maybe he’s competing with Jimmy Carter for the ex-president limelight.

An exercise in self-delusion: Nate Silver says the generic polls don’t really mean that a debacle is ahead for the Democrats.

Another result of “reform” Obama-style: drug companies may hike prices to offset the ObamaCare drug discount. It was supposed to fill “the doughnut hole.” Instead, it may worsen the health-care inflation problem.

A 10-point plan for reducing unemployment: “If we truly want to create jobs, it is not enough to simply berate business to create them. We must address the dynamics that keep businesses from offering jobs and that keep people from accepting jobs. We can use policy to create jobs — we just have to care enough about the jobless to make creating jobs a political priority.”

A sign of a weak president and Senate minority leader: “In the face of a promised filibuster by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Democrats could not convince a single GOP senator to cross over and provide the 60th vote needed to begin debate on a defense spending bill containing the repeal measure. The vote to open debate failed, 56-43, with Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) joining all Republicans in opposing taking up the bill.”

An undersecretary of something’s bailiwick? No, the sort of mini-issue Hillary lives for: “She told the Clinton Global Initiative forum that the public-private clean stoves plan, dubbed ‘Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves,’ would seek to install the new, 25-dollar units by 2020.”

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Debating the DREAM Act (UPDATED)

The Defense Authorization Act, which is soon to come for a vote in the Senate, has a controversial provision added to it repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Whatever one thinks of the hot-button issue of gays in the military (personally, as I’ve written before, I believe that it is inevitable that gay service people will be allowed to serve openly), there should be much more agreement on another provision added to the bill: the DREAM Act. A good summary can be found in this Wall Street Journal article of how this provision would speed citizenship for those who arrived in the U.S. by the age of 15 if they attend college or serve in the armed forces for two years. This would open up a new avenue for service for those like David Cho, “an honor student and leader of the UCLA marching band,” who “plans to join the U.S. Air Force after he graduates in the spring — if Congress lets him.” Why it makes sense to turn away those like Cho who want to wear our nation’s uniform is beyond me. According to the Journal:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) believes passage of the Dream Act would entice more people to sneak into the U.S. “When you take a policy that says you are going to reward people who have entered our country illegally with a guaranteed pathway to citizenship, and with billions of dollars in financial aid or benefits they would not otherwise be entitled to, what message are we sending?” Sen. Sessions said.

Count me as skeptical that the prospect of attending college or serving in our armed forces will really draw more undocumented immigrants to our shores. (Plenty are coming already simply in the hope of picking lettuce or working in construction.) But if it does, so what? Aren’t these precisely the kind of productive, highly motivated individuals that we want to see in this country?

Our ability to attract and integrate immigrants gives us a key long-term advantage over more homogenous societies such as Japan, China, and Western Europe. Immigrants are already serving proudly in the U.S. armed forces — as they have since the beginning of the Republic. It makes perfect sense to continue to make use of these dedicated volunteers, especially because of the valuable cultural and linguistic knowledge they can bring to our armed forces, which find themselves in need of such skills to wage a global counterinsurgency. In the process, we can use our armed forces and our universities as they have long been used — to integrate newcomers into the mainstream of American society. If we don’t, we risk expanding the underclass of undocumented immigrants who turn to illicit activities because legal work and education are closed to them.

ADDENDUM: One of the leading legal experts on the DREAM Act e-mails me that Senator Sessions’s objection is even less to the point than I realized: “The DREAM Act doesn’t cover anyone who enters the U.S. illegally today. It has a cut-off date, so the objection that it will ‘encourage illegal immigration’ seems just a little bit ‘off.’ ”

The Defense Authorization Act, which is soon to come for a vote in the Senate, has a controversial provision added to it repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Whatever one thinks of the hot-button issue of gays in the military (personally, as I’ve written before, I believe that it is inevitable that gay service people will be allowed to serve openly), there should be much more agreement on another provision added to the bill: the DREAM Act. A good summary can be found in this Wall Street Journal article of how this provision would speed citizenship for those who arrived in the U.S. by the age of 15 if they attend college or serve in the armed forces for two years. This would open up a new avenue for service for those like David Cho, “an honor student and leader of the UCLA marching band,” who “plans to join the U.S. Air Force after he graduates in the spring — if Congress lets him.” Why it makes sense to turn away those like Cho who want to wear our nation’s uniform is beyond me. According to the Journal:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) believes passage of the Dream Act would entice more people to sneak into the U.S. “When you take a policy that says you are going to reward people who have entered our country illegally with a guaranteed pathway to citizenship, and with billions of dollars in financial aid or benefits they would not otherwise be entitled to, what message are we sending?” Sen. Sessions said.

Count me as skeptical that the prospect of attending college or serving in our armed forces will really draw more undocumented immigrants to our shores. (Plenty are coming already simply in the hope of picking lettuce or working in construction.) But if it does, so what? Aren’t these precisely the kind of productive, highly motivated individuals that we want to see in this country?

Our ability to attract and integrate immigrants gives us a key long-term advantage over more homogenous societies such as Japan, China, and Western Europe. Immigrants are already serving proudly in the U.S. armed forces — as they have since the beginning of the Republic. It makes perfect sense to continue to make use of these dedicated volunteers, especially because of the valuable cultural and linguistic knowledge they can bring to our armed forces, which find themselves in need of such skills to wage a global counterinsurgency. In the process, we can use our armed forces and our universities as they have long been used — to integrate newcomers into the mainstream of American society. If we don’t, we risk expanding the underclass of undocumented immigrants who turn to illicit activities because legal work and education are closed to them.

ADDENDUM: One of the leading legal experts on the DREAM Act e-mails me that Senator Sessions’s objection is even less to the point than I realized: “The DREAM Act doesn’t cover anyone who enters the U.S. illegally today. It has a cut-off date, so the objection that it will ‘encourage illegal immigration’ seems just a little bit ‘off.’ ”

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You Want a Bellwether?

There is no better predictor of electoral fortunes than Ohio. It is the best microcosm of the electorate we have. In 2008, Ohio told us that Obama had captured the votes of working-class whites and independents. In 2010, Ohio tells us that the president and his party are in very big trouble. The Quinnipiac poll reports:

Republican Rob Portman holds a 55 – 35 percent lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher among likely voters in the race for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat, while President Barack Obama has a 60 – 38 percent disapproval rating, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. By a 58 – 37 percent margin, likely Ohio voters want a U.S. Senator who opposes President Obama’s policies, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey, conducted by live interviewers, finds. And by 49 – 31 percent, voters want Republicans rather than Democrats to control the U.S. Senate.

“Among the likely Ohio electorate for this November, President Barack Obama is not a popular fellow. Independent likely voters disapprove 65 – 31 percent of the job he is doing. With the president such a heavy weight around the neck of Democratic candidates, it will be hard for one to win such a high-profile office this year in Ohio,” Brown said.

One reason for the president’s poor rating, at least in Ohio, is his health care overhaul plan. Likely voters disapprove of it by a 65 – 30 percent margin.

“White House senior advisor David Axelrod says Americans will come to like the health insurance plan, but it sure doesn’t look like that will be the case in Ohio by Nov. 2,” said Brown.

Overall, Ohio voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by a stunning 60 to 38 percent margin. In 2008, Obama carried the state by a 52 to 47 percent margin. That is about as stunning a reversal in political standing as you will find in American politics.

There is no better predictor of electoral fortunes than Ohio. It is the best microcosm of the electorate we have. In 2008, Ohio told us that Obama had captured the votes of working-class whites and independents. In 2010, Ohio tells us that the president and his party are in very big trouble. The Quinnipiac poll reports:

Republican Rob Portman holds a 55 – 35 percent lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher among likely voters in the race for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat, while President Barack Obama has a 60 – 38 percent disapproval rating, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. By a 58 – 37 percent margin, likely Ohio voters want a U.S. Senator who opposes President Obama’s policies, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey, conducted by live interviewers, finds. And by 49 – 31 percent, voters want Republicans rather than Democrats to control the U.S. Senate.

“Among the likely Ohio electorate for this November, President Barack Obama is not a popular fellow. Independent likely voters disapprove 65 – 31 percent of the job he is doing. With the president such a heavy weight around the neck of Democratic candidates, it will be hard for one to win such a high-profile office this year in Ohio,” Brown said.

One reason for the president’s poor rating, at least in Ohio, is his health care overhaul plan. Likely voters disapprove of it by a 65 – 30 percent margin.

“White House senior advisor David Axelrod says Americans will come to like the health insurance plan, but it sure doesn’t look like that will be the case in Ohio by Nov. 2,” said Brown.

Overall, Ohio voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by a stunning 60 to 38 percent margin. In 2008, Obama carried the state by a 52 to 47 percent margin. That is about as stunning a reversal in political standing as you will find in American politics.

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New York GOP Prefers Dem Victory to Insurgent Candidate

Dissatisfaction with President Obama and the Democrats in Congress is leading observers to give Republicans an even chance of ousting the majority in both houses. But instead of looking forward to a fall campaign in which they will be part of a national turkey shoot of Democratic incumbents, New York Republicans are already threatening to blow what little remains of their party.

The reason is the prospect that Carl Paladino, a well-funded Albany insider who has taken up the cudgels for the Tea Party, might defeat former Congressman Rick Lazio, the party regulars’ chosen candidate for governor. Lazio is best remembered as the not-ready-for-prime-time human crash dummy that collided with the Hillary Clinton juggernaut in 2000. Lazio has floundered in his run this year and hasn’t a prayer of beating Democrat Andrew Cuomo in November.

Paladino might not do better, but the GOP leadership is committed to going quietly to the slaughterhouse with Lazio rather than take a chance on a problematic wild card like Paladino. But they aren’t just working for Lazio to prevail in the primary. They are acting as if the not altogether unlikely possibility of Paladino beating Lazio is a worse calamity than a landslide loss to Cuomo. In an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Republican leaders made it clear that Paladino’s insurgent run is a greater danger to them than the Democrats. This conclusion was amplified in today’s New York Post, where Fred Dicker reports that Harry Wilson, the GOP’s candidate for state controller, will back Cuomo in the fall if Paladino bests Lazio.

Even odder is the fact that according to the Times, the head of New York’s Conservative Party, whose continued existence has always been justified by its ability to act as a check on the elitist and establishmentarian preferences of the leadership of the state’s Republican Party, is also aghast about the way Paladino is harnessing Tea Party activism.

“If Carl Paladino wins this thing, it will cause severe damage — it could be for decades — to the Republican Party of New York State,” said Michael Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party, which usually aligns with the Republicans and has nominated Mr. Lazio this year. “The party,” he added, “would live in darkness for quite some time.”

Really, Mr. Long? Despite Paladino’s checkered record, would his primary victory make things any darker for the Republicans than the current situation, which produced a certain loser like Lazio? Could Paladino’s populism be worse for the long-term future of the party than the mess left by former governor George Pataki and his mentor, former senator Al D’Amato? If the dwindling number of registered Republicans in the state are willing to embrace a character like Paladino, maybe it’s because they think of their party as having become the home of a leadership that is just as corrupt and devoted to influence-peddling as the Democrats. The prospect that Republican voters would consider such a controversial figure rather than meekly accept their leadership’s lame choice is actually a sign that their moribund party still has a pulse, not a harbinger of its doom.

Dissatisfaction with President Obama and the Democrats in Congress is leading observers to give Republicans an even chance of ousting the majority in both houses. But instead of looking forward to a fall campaign in which they will be part of a national turkey shoot of Democratic incumbents, New York Republicans are already threatening to blow what little remains of their party.

The reason is the prospect that Carl Paladino, a well-funded Albany insider who has taken up the cudgels for the Tea Party, might defeat former Congressman Rick Lazio, the party regulars’ chosen candidate for governor. Lazio is best remembered as the not-ready-for-prime-time human crash dummy that collided with the Hillary Clinton juggernaut in 2000. Lazio has floundered in his run this year and hasn’t a prayer of beating Democrat Andrew Cuomo in November.

Paladino might not do better, but the GOP leadership is committed to going quietly to the slaughterhouse with Lazio rather than take a chance on a problematic wild card like Paladino. But they aren’t just working for Lazio to prevail in the primary. They are acting as if the not altogether unlikely possibility of Paladino beating Lazio is a worse calamity than a landslide loss to Cuomo. In an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Republican leaders made it clear that Paladino’s insurgent run is a greater danger to them than the Democrats. This conclusion was amplified in today’s New York Post, where Fred Dicker reports that Harry Wilson, the GOP’s candidate for state controller, will back Cuomo in the fall if Paladino bests Lazio.

Even odder is the fact that according to the Times, the head of New York’s Conservative Party, whose continued existence has always been justified by its ability to act as a check on the elitist and establishmentarian preferences of the leadership of the state’s Republican Party, is also aghast about the way Paladino is harnessing Tea Party activism.

“If Carl Paladino wins this thing, it will cause severe damage — it could be for decades — to the Republican Party of New York State,” said Michael Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party, which usually aligns with the Republicans and has nominated Mr. Lazio this year. “The party,” he added, “would live in darkness for quite some time.”

Really, Mr. Long? Despite Paladino’s checkered record, would his primary victory make things any darker for the Republicans than the current situation, which produced a certain loser like Lazio? Could Paladino’s populism be worse for the long-term future of the party than the mess left by former governor George Pataki and his mentor, former senator Al D’Amato? If the dwindling number of registered Republicans in the state are willing to embrace a character like Paladino, maybe it’s because they think of their party as having become the home of a leadership that is just as corrupt and devoted to influence-peddling as the Democrats. The prospect that Republican voters would consider such a controversial figure rather than meekly accept their leadership’s lame choice is actually a sign that their moribund party still has a pulse, not a harbinger of its doom.

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No Deal, Mr. President (Updated)

Whatever is going on with House Republicans, Senate Republicans seem to be holding firm on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. In the Washington Post, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was emphatic:

McConnell said Democrats have zero chance of passing Obama’s plan in the Senate. He said not a single Republican would support it, leaving Democrats short of the 60 votes needed to cut off a filibuster. “That’s a debate we’re happy to have. That’s the kind of debate that unifies my caucus, from Olympia Snowe to Jim DeMint,” McConnell said, citing the most liberal and most conservative Republicans in the Senate.

That plan, of course, is a combination of new spending and selective tax cuts while allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. It is not often that Snowe and DeMint are in lockstep, but the prospect of tax hikes in a recession has that effect. Moreover, a growing number of Democrats now support a full extension of the Bush tax cuts:

Half a dozen Democratic senators and Senate candidates have voiced support for a temporary extension of tax cuts for the rich. In the House, more and more incumbents have also taken that position. Among them is Rep. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who represents a traditionally Republican seat in the Detroit suburbs. Peters told the Detroit Free Press last week that extending the cuts “is the right thing to do, as anything less jeopardizes economic recovery.”

Given all that, it is no surprise that Minority Whip Eric Cantor has put out a statement that makes clear he’s not about to allow a tax hike on “small business people and investors. Raising taxes in this environment is a non-starter for me and millions of American small business people who are struggling to keep the lights on and meet their payroll obligations.” Cantor is calling for “Speaker Pelosi and President Obama to allow all members of the House — Republican and Democrat — to vote on legislation that would prevent tax increases for every American.” That sounds like the emerging consensus for the GOP, as well as for moderate Democrats who want to hold on to their seats.

UPDATE: Senator Lieberman has also joined the “No Deal” bipartisan coalition. He has released a statement that reads, in part: ” I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through. The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be. And that means I will do everything I can to make sure Congress extends the so-called Bush tax cuts for another year and takes action to prevent the estate tax from rising back to where it was.”

Whatever is going on with House Republicans, Senate Republicans seem to be holding firm on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. In the Washington Post, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was emphatic:

McConnell said Democrats have zero chance of passing Obama’s plan in the Senate. He said not a single Republican would support it, leaving Democrats short of the 60 votes needed to cut off a filibuster. “That’s a debate we’re happy to have. That’s the kind of debate that unifies my caucus, from Olympia Snowe to Jim DeMint,” McConnell said, citing the most liberal and most conservative Republicans in the Senate.

That plan, of course, is a combination of new spending and selective tax cuts while allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. It is not often that Snowe and DeMint are in lockstep, but the prospect of tax hikes in a recession has that effect. Moreover, a growing number of Democrats now support a full extension of the Bush tax cuts:

Half a dozen Democratic senators and Senate candidates have voiced support for a temporary extension of tax cuts for the rich. In the House, more and more incumbents have also taken that position. Among them is Rep. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who represents a traditionally Republican seat in the Detroit suburbs. Peters told the Detroit Free Press last week that extending the cuts “is the right thing to do, as anything less jeopardizes economic recovery.”

Given all that, it is no surprise that Minority Whip Eric Cantor has put out a statement that makes clear he’s not about to allow a tax hike on “small business people and investors. Raising taxes in this environment is a non-starter for me and millions of American small business people who are struggling to keep the lights on and meet their payroll obligations.” Cantor is calling for “Speaker Pelosi and President Obama to allow all members of the House — Republican and Democrat — to vote on legislation that would prevent tax increases for every American.” That sounds like the emerging consensus for the GOP, as well as for moderate Democrats who want to hold on to their seats.

UPDATE: Senator Lieberman has also joined the “No Deal” bipartisan coalition. He has released a statement that reads, in part: ” I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through. The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be. And that means I will do everything I can to make sure Congress extends the so-called Bush tax cuts for another year and takes action to prevent the estate tax from rising back to where it was.”

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Hagel, Sestak, and Pro-Israel Groups

When Chuck Hagel threw his support to Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak and seemed to have made it into the short list for a replacement for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, alarm bells went off with pro-Israel groups. The Washington Jewish Week reports just how serious is the opposition and aversion to Hagel:

“I would regard him as the bottom of the class as far as Israel goes,” said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and treasurer of the Washington PAC, a pro-Israel political action committee.

In light of its past criticism of Hagel’s anti-Israel record, even the National Democratic Jewish Council had harsh words:

“Clearly, Hagel has a mixed record on Israel, but that record frankly puts him at variance with the president’s own policies vis-a-vis Israel,” said David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, adding that, for now, “speculation is just that.”

Well then, what does all of this say about the candidate who calls Hagel his favorite Senator and who warmly received the endorsement? If Hagel’s record is “mixed” (it used to be much worse, from the NJDC’s perspective), then isn’t there just a wee bit of concern that Sestak’s views are also at “variance” with support for Israel?

Likewise, we have this from a Democratic operative: “If he was in fact appointed [Defense Secretary], I would find his appointment difficult to reconcile with my views of the administration.” So, isn’t it also hard to reconcile with Sestak’s views?

When Chuck Hagel threw his support to Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak and seemed to have made it into the short list for a replacement for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, alarm bells went off with pro-Israel groups. The Washington Jewish Week reports just how serious is the opposition and aversion to Hagel:

“I would regard him as the bottom of the class as far as Israel goes,” said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and treasurer of the Washington PAC, a pro-Israel political action committee.

In light of its past criticism of Hagel’s anti-Israel record, even the National Democratic Jewish Council had harsh words:

“Clearly, Hagel has a mixed record on Israel, but that record frankly puts him at variance with the president’s own policies vis-a-vis Israel,” said David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, adding that, for now, “speculation is just that.”

Well then, what does all of this say about the candidate who calls Hagel his favorite Senator and who warmly received the endorsement? If Hagel’s record is “mixed” (it used to be much worse, from the NJDC’s perspective), then isn’t there just a wee bit of concern that Sestak’s views are also at “variance” with support for Israel?

Likewise, we have this from a Democratic operative: “If he was in fact appointed [Defense Secretary], I would find his appointment difficult to reconcile with my views of the administration.” So, isn’t it also hard to reconcile with Sestak’s views?

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Obama, Bush, and War

Barack Obama used a lawyer-like locution last night to avoid acknowledging the courage of his predecessor in initiating the surge that won the Iraq War:

It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it.

The key words were “from its outset.” His locution focused on his opposition to the war, while faintly praising Bush as a well-intentioned patriot. But while Obama opposed the war “at” its outset, he did not always oppose it thereafter.

In his famous 2002 speech, Obama said the war would be a “cynical attempt” by “armchair, weekend, warriors” and “political hacks like Karl Rove” to “shove their own ideological agendas down our throats” and ignore pressing domestic needs. Two years later, his position had become inconvenient. Appearing on Meet the Press before his 2004 convention speech, he attributed his prior opposition to lack of knowledge:

MR. RUSSERT: The nominee of your party, John Kerry, the nominee for vice president, John Edwards, all said [Saddam] was an imminent threat. They voted to authorize George Bush to go to war. How could they have been so wrong and you so right …

STATE REP. OBAMA: Well, I think they have access to information that I did not have. …

MR. RUSSERT: But if you had been a senator at that time, you would have voted not to authorize President Bush to go to war?

STATE REP. OBAMA: I would have voted not to authorize the president given the facts as I saw them at that time.

MR. RUSSERT: So you disagree with John Kerry and John Edwards?

STATE REP. OBAMA: At that time, but, as I said, I wasn’t there …

The change Obama believed in as of 2004 was one of “tone” and “administration.” He told Russert “if we don’t have a change in tone and a change in administration, I think we’re going to have trouble making sure that our troops are secure and that we succeed.”

Two years after that, with the war not yet won, he became the cut-and-run candidate, arguing from late 2006 through the end of 2007 that more troops would not help, that Bush’s strategy would increase sectarian violence, and that the troops should be withdrawn.

Last night, at a moment he called “historic,” Obama gracelessly refused to acknowledge his predecessor’s contribution to progress on the war, vouching simply for his patriotism. He was palpably anxious to “turn the page” on Iraq, where the book may in fact not yet be closed, and to start turning it next year in Afghanistan — where the “pace” will be “condition-based” but, “make no mistake,” we’re leaving starting in July. It was not the steadfast commitment to victory that marked George W. Bush’s approach to war, and which is necessary if a leader wants to win one.

Barack Obama used a lawyer-like locution last night to avoid acknowledging the courage of his predecessor in initiating the surge that won the Iraq War:

It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it.

The key words were “from its outset.” His locution focused on his opposition to the war, while faintly praising Bush as a well-intentioned patriot. But while Obama opposed the war “at” its outset, he did not always oppose it thereafter.

In his famous 2002 speech, Obama said the war would be a “cynical attempt” by “armchair, weekend, warriors” and “political hacks like Karl Rove” to “shove their own ideological agendas down our throats” and ignore pressing domestic needs. Two years later, his position had become inconvenient. Appearing on Meet the Press before his 2004 convention speech, he attributed his prior opposition to lack of knowledge:

MR. RUSSERT: The nominee of your party, John Kerry, the nominee for vice president, John Edwards, all said [Saddam] was an imminent threat. They voted to authorize George Bush to go to war. How could they have been so wrong and you so right …

STATE REP. OBAMA: Well, I think they have access to information that I did not have. …

MR. RUSSERT: But if you had been a senator at that time, you would have voted not to authorize President Bush to go to war?

STATE REP. OBAMA: I would have voted not to authorize the president given the facts as I saw them at that time.

MR. RUSSERT: So you disagree with John Kerry and John Edwards?

STATE REP. OBAMA: At that time, but, as I said, I wasn’t there …

The change Obama believed in as of 2004 was one of “tone” and “administration.” He told Russert “if we don’t have a change in tone and a change in administration, I think we’re going to have trouble making sure that our troops are secure and that we succeed.”

Two years after that, with the war not yet won, he became the cut-and-run candidate, arguing from late 2006 through the end of 2007 that more troops would not help, that Bush’s strategy would increase sectarian violence, and that the troops should be withdrawn.

Last night, at a moment he called “historic,” Obama gracelessly refused to acknowledge his predecessor’s contribution to progress on the war, vouching simply for his patriotism. He was palpably anxious to “turn the page” on Iraq, where the book may in fact not yet be closed, and to start turning it next year in Afghanistan — where the “pace” will be “condition-based” but, “make no mistake,” we’re leaving starting in July. It was not the steadfast commitment to victory that marked George W. Bush’s approach to war, and which is necessary if a leader wants to win one.

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