Commentary Magazine


Topic: state senator

Bemused and Somewhat Alarmed

In the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, Walter Russell Mead reviews David Remnick’s biography of Barack Obama and notes that “students of foreign policy will be bemused and somewhat alarmed by the near-total absence of evidence in Remnick’s book that Obama ever showed any interest in foreign policy before running for president.” Mead writes that “to judge from this book, Obama spent little time dealing with foreign policy until he failed to get the Senate committee assignment he really wanted and was forced to make the best of an appointment to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.”

Obama’s speech announcing his presidential candidacy came in February 2007, two years after he was sworn in as a United States senator – not enough time to learn much about foreign policy even if he had shown any prior interest. He had held no prior elective office other than state senator, where he became famous for voting “present.” In his presidential announcement speech, foreign affairs played almost no role – other than his “plan” to bring all combat troops home from Iraq by March 2008. The address was a checklist of domestic issues and a ringing assertion of personal responsibility for solving them:

For the last six years we’ve been told that our mounting debts don’t matter, we’ve been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion, we’ve been told that climate change is a hoax, and that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight. And when all else fails, when Katrina happens, or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we’ve been told that our crises are somebody else’s fault.

A year and a half into the Obama administration, it would be an achievement just to get back to the “mounting debts” of the past; one of Obama’s first acts in office was to adopt every Democratic pet project ready to be shoveled into the federal budget — and to call it “stimulus.” He pushed through ObamaCare even though the majority of the public opposed it; the negotiations were not carried on C-SPAN. Climate-change research was revealed as corrupt. The “ill-conceived war” was effectively won by virtue of the surge that Obama opposed. His “diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight” produced an outstretched hand to Iran and sanctions no one thinks will work, a “peace process” that cannot even get direct talks to start, and a Nobel Peace Prize he had insufficient modesty to reject. And it is all Bush’s fault, or the Republicans’, or the public’s expectations.

Students of foreign policy may be bemused and somewhat alarmed. But the American public, if the current polls are accurate, does not appear to be amused.

In the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, Walter Russell Mead reviews David Remnick’s biography of Barack Obama and notes that “students of foreign policy will be bemused and somewhat alarmed by the near-total absence of evidence in Remnick’s book that Obama ever showed any interest in foreign policy before running for president.” Mead writes that “to judge from this book, Obama spent little time dealing with foreign policy until he failed to get the Senate committee assignment he really wanted and was forced to make the best of an appointment to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.”

Obama’s speech announcing his presidential candidacy came in February 2007, two years after he was sworn in as a United States senator – not enough time to learn much about foreign policy even if he had shown any prior interest. He had held no prior elective office other than state senator, where he became famous for voting “present.” In his presidential announcement speech, foreign affairs played almost no role – other than his “plan” to bring all combat troops home from Iraq by March 2008. The address was a checklist of domestic issues and a ringing assertion of personal responsibility for solving them:

For the last six years we’ve been told that our mounting debts don’t matter, we’ve been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion, we’ve been told that climate change is a hoax, and that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight. And when all else fails, when Katrina happens, or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we’ve been told that our crises are somebody else’s fault.

A year and a half into the Obama administration, it would be an achievement just to get back to the “mounting debts” of the past; one of Obama’s first acts in office was to adopt every Democratic pet project ready to be shoveled into the federal budget — and to call it “stimulus.” He pushed through ObamaCare even though the majority of the public opposed it; the negotiations were not carried on C-SPAN. Climate-change research was revealed as corrupt. The “ill-conceived war” was effectively won by virtue of the surge that Obama opposed. His “diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight” produced an outstretched hand to Iran and sanctions no one thinks will work, a “peace process” that cannot even get direct talks to start, and a Nobel Peace Prize he had insufficient modesty to reject. And it is all Bush’s fault, or the Republicans’, or the public’s expectations.

Students of foreign policy may be bemused and somewhat alarmed. But the American public, if the current polls are accurate, does not appear to be amused.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Doesn’t sound kosher: “Decoy Jews.”

Doesn’t sound like a problem easily fixed: Noemie Emery on the oil spill writes, “Initially, the diagnosis was that Mr. Cool perhaps had an emotional deficit — the downside of all that cerebral detachment — but this wasn’t quite accurate: He had, it turned out, a lot of emotion, but most of it (like with Hayward and the rest of the people at British Petroleum) turned more or less on himself.”

Doesn’t sound like a nominee who’s going to be much help to Obama: “Forty-two percent (42%) of U.S. voters now believe Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan should not be confirmed following the Senate hearings scheduled to begin next week. That’s up nine points from the week President Obama announced her nomination and the highest level of opposition to date.” Maybe it’s not Kagan but anything Obama that so many Americans are opposed to.

Doesn’t sound like they are kidding: “Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Kathleen Parker will co-host a new hour long CNN primetime news program starting in the fall as the nation prepares for the 2010 midterm election, the network announced Wednesday morning.” I look forward to Parker’s unbiased take on Sarah Palin’s impact on the races and Spitzer’s insights on morality. Maybe John Edwards can guest-host.

Doesn’t sound like California Democrats are thrilled with their nominee: “California Democrats are starting to worry that gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown — who hasn’t had a truly competitive election in three decades — isn’t ready for the 21st-century campaign trail. Since the general election kicked off two weeks ago, Brown — the state attorney general and former governor with a well-known penchant for micromanaging all aspects of his campaigns — has made news for all the wrong reasons, while motoring along without any evidence that he is assembling a basic infrastructure for a statewide race.”

Doesn’t sound like government can spend its way out of a recession: “Purchases of U.S. new homes fell in May to the lowest level on record after a tax credit expired, showing the market remains dependent on government support.”

Doesn’t sound like switching generals is going to change things. James Carafano: “It is still the president’s job to win the war and he is the one accountable to the American people. Nothing has really changed: the timeline is bad; by the military’s own estimate there are too few enough troops; and failure is not a good option.”

Doesn’t sound like the family name is an asset: “Nevada gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid (D) is on the air with his first campaign ad and it’s missing one thing: his last name.”

Doesn’t sound like the 17 percent have been paying attention: “New York State government is dysfunctional, 83 percent of voters say, the highest number ever measured in the state, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. … ‘New Yorkers are fed up with Albany. The resentment is bigger than we’ve ever measured. Just about half think that the whole Legislature should be voted out of office — even their own state senator and Assembly member,’ said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.”

Doesn’t sound kosher: “Decoy Jews.”

Doesn’t sound like a problem easily fixed: Noemie Emery on the oil spill writes, “Initially, the diagnosis was that Mr. Cool perhaps had an emotional deficit — the downside of all that cerebral detachment — but this wasn’t quite accurate: He had, it turned out, a lot of emotion, but most of it (like with Hayward and the rest of the people at British Petroleum) turned more or less on himself.”

Doesn’t sound like a nominee who’s going to be much help to Obama: “Forty-two percent (42%) of U.S. voters now believe Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan should not be confirmed following the Senate hearings scheduled to begin next week. That’s up nine points from the week President Obama announced her nomination and the highest level of opposition to date.” Maybe it’s not Kagan but anything Obama that so many Americans are opposed to.

Doesn’t sound like they are kidding: “Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Kathleen Parker will co-host a new hour long CNN primetime news program starting in the fall as the nation prepares for the 2010 midterm election, the network announced Wednesday morning.” I look forward to Parker’s unbiased take on Sarah Palin’s impact on the races and Spitzer’s insights on morality. Maybe John Edwards can guest-host.

Doesn’t sound like California Democrats are thrilled with their nominee: “California Democrats are starting to worry that gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown — who hasn’t had a truly competitive election in three decades — isn’t ready for the 21st-century campaign trail. Since the general election kicked off two weeks ago, Brown — the state attorney general and former governor with a well-known penchant for micromanaging all aspects of his campaigns — has made news for all the wrong reasons, while motoring along without any evidence that he is assembling a basic infrastructure for a statewide race.”

Doesn’t sound like government can spend its way out of a recession: “Purchases of U.S. new homes fell in May to the lowest level on record after a tax credit expired, showing the market remains dependent on government support.”

Doesn’t sound like switching generals is going to change things. James Carafano: “It is still the president’s job to win the war and he is the one accountable to the American people. Nothing has really changed: the timeline is bad; by the military’s own estimate there are too few enough troops; and failure is not a good option.”

Doesn’t sound like the family name is an asset: “Nevada gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid (D) is on the air with his first campaign ad and it’s missing one thing: his last name.”

Doesn’t sound like the 17 percent have been paying attention: “New York State government is dysfunctional, 83 percent of voters say, the highest number ever measured in the state, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. … ‘New Yorkers are fed up with Albany. The resentment is bigger than we’ve ever measured. Just about half think that the whole Legislature should be voted out of office — even their own state senator and Assembly member,’ said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.”

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Spinning Obama’s Foreign-Policy Flops

Earlier this month, Jackson Diehl detailed Obama’s lack of success in forging productive relationships with foreign leaders. Now Obama’s dutiful flacks and media handmaidens take to the front page of Diehl’s paper to explain Obama was merely making use of his “charisma.” Now he is getting around to those relationships. There is this jaw-dropping bit of spin:

The change from a year ago is stark. In his widely broadcast address in Cairo last June, Obama called Israeli settlements in the occupied territories “illegitimate.” By contrast, he met last week at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for two hours, urging him privately to freeze Jewish settlement construction.

What relationship is Obama making use of there? If this is Obama’s idea of a forging bonds with foreign leaders (condemning his country, reading the prime minister the riot act, twice snubbing Netanyahu during his White House visits), our foreign-policy apparatus surely is guilty of gross malfeasance. Then the blind quotes are trotted out to — surprise, surprise — ding George W. Bush and explain how Obama’s newfound personal diplomacy is vastly superior to his predecessor’s:

“Obama is not the sort of guy who looks for a best buddy, and that’s very different than Bush,” said a European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about perceptions of U.S. leaders abroad. “Sometimes being too personal is not a good thing. You can make mistakes.”

No, Obama is the sort of guy who returns the Winston Churchill bust, gives Gordon Brown and the Queen of England cheap-o gifts, bows to dictators, and slams the elected prime minister of Israel. Completely different. But even the Washington Post must concede that Obama has not forged really any productive relationships with world leaders:

Obama, who was an Illinois state senator just four years before he was elected president, knew few world leaders upon taking office. Since then, he has developed mostly arm’s-length relationships with fellow heads of state, including many from developing countries that previous presidents largely ignored or shunned to protect U.S. relationships with more traditional allies.

Let’s get real — Obama has not really used his charisma to promote anything but himself:

Republican critics say the approach has unsettled the United States’ best friends, and failed more than succeeded in promoting American interests on some of the most far-reaching foreign policy challenges of the day.

Obama’s direct appeal to the people of China and Iran[ Did we miss this? Was he championing democracy at some point?], for example, has produced little change in the attitude of their governments, showing the limits of a bottom-up approach when it comes to dealing with authoritarian countries. Middle East peace talks remain moribund after the administration’s so-far-unsuccessful attempts to end Israeli settlement construction or to persuade Arab governments to make even token diplomatic gestures toward the Jewish state.

As Simon Serfaty of theCenter for Strategic and International Studies notes, “He is beginning to face a crisis of efficacy.” In other words, despite all the reverential treatment by liberal elites, Obama has yet to develop effective ties with allies or used public diplomacy to further American interests. His infatuation with dictatorial regimes, his embrace of multilateralism, and his willingness to kick allies (e.g., Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic, Britain, Honduras) in the shins have left America more isolated and rogue states more emboldened than ever before. An assessment from Der Spiegel put it this way, recalling Obama’s Cairo speech (which the Obami still laud as an achievement of some sort):

The applause for Obama’s Cairo speech died away in the vast expanses of the Arabian Desert long ago. “He says all the right things, but implementation is exactly the way it has always been,” says Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Obama’s failure in the Middle East is but one example of his weakness, though a particularly drastic and vivid one. The president, widely celebrated when he took office, cannot claim to have achieved sweeping successes in any area. When he began his term more than a year ago, he came across as an ambitious developer who had every intention of completing multiple projects at once. But after a year, none of those projects has even progressed beyond the early construction phase. And in some cases, the sites are nothing but deep excavations. … Obama can hardly count on gaining the support of allies, partly because he doesn’t pay much attention to them. The American president doesn’t have a single strong ally among European heads of state

Perhaps less time spent crafting stories for the Post and more time working on a viable foreign policy built on American interests rather than Obama’s ego would be in order.

Earlier this month, Jackson Diehl detailed Obama’s lack of success in forging productive relationships with foreign leaders. Now Obama’s dutiful flacks and media handmaidens take to the front page of Diehl’s paper to explain Obama was merely making use of his “charisma.” Now he is getting around to those relationships. There is this jaw-dropping bit of spin:

The change from a year ago is stark. In his widely broadcast address in Cairo last June, Obama called Israeli settlements in the occupied territories “illegitimate.” By contrast, he met last week at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for two hours, urging him privately to freeze Jewish settlement construction.

What relationship is Obama making use of there? If this is Obama’s idea of a forging bonds with foreign leaders (condemning his country, reading the prime minister the riot act, twice snubbing Netanyahu during his White House visits), our foreign-policy apparatus surely is guilty of gross malfeasance. Then the blind quotes are trotted out to — surprise, surprise — ding George W. Bush and explain how Obama’s newfound personal diplomacy is vastly superior to his predecessor’s:

“Obama is not the sort of guy who looks for a best buddy, and that’s very different than Bush,” said a European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about perceptions of U.S. leaders abroad. “Sometimes being too personal is not a good thing. You can make mistakes.”

No, Obama is the sort of guy who returns the Winston Churchill bust, gives Gordon Brown and the Queen of England cheap-o gifts, bows to dictators, and slams the elected prime minister of Israel. Completely different. But even the Washington Post must concede that Obama has not forged really any productive relationships with world leaders:

Obama, who was an Illinois state senator just four years before he was elected president, knew few world leaders upon taking office. Since then, he has developed mostly arm’s-length relationships with fellow heads of state, including many from developing countries that previous presidents largely ignored or shunned to protect U.S. relationships with more traditional allies.

Let’s get real — Obama has not really used his charisma to promote anything but himself:

Republican critics say the approach has unsettled the United States’ best friends, and failed more than succeeded in promoting American interests on some of the most far-reaching foreign policy challenges of the day.

Obama’s direct appeal to the people of China and Iran[ Did we miss this? Was he championing democracy at some point?], for example, has produced little change in the attitude of their governments, showing the limits of a bottom-up approach when it comes to dealing with authoritarian countries. Middle East peace talks remain moribund after the administration’s so-far-unsuccessful attempts to end Israeli settlement construction or to persuade Arab governments to make even token diplomatic gestures toward the Jewish state.

As Simon Serfaty of theCenter for Strategic and International Studies notes, “He is beginning to face a crisis of efficacy.” In other words, despite all the reverential treatment by liberal elites, Obama has yet to develop effective ties with allies or used public diplomacy to further American interests. His infatuation with dictatorial regimes, his embrace of multilateralism, and his willingness to kick allies (e.g., Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic, Britain, Honduras) in the shins have left America more isolated and rogue states more emboldened than ever before. An assessment from Der Spiegel put it this way, recalling Obama’s Cairo speech (which the Obami still laud as an achievement of some sort):

The applause for Obama’s Cairo speech died away in the vast expanses of the Arabian Desert long ago. “He says all the right things, but implementation is exactly the way it has always been,” says Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Obama’s failure in the Middle East is but one example of his weakness, though a particularly drastic and vivid one. The president, widely celebrated when he took office, cannot claim to have achieved sweeping successes in any area. When he began his term more than a year ago, he came across as an ambitious developer who had every intention of completing multiple projects at once. But after a year, none of those projects has even progressed beyond the early construction phase. And in some cases, the sites are nothing but deep excavations. … Obama can hardly count on gaining the support of allies, partly because he doesn’t pay much attention to them. The American president doesn’t have a single strong ally among European heads of state

Perhaps less time spent crafting stories for the Post and more time working on a viable foreign policy built on American interests rather than Obama’s ego would be in order.

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Obama’s Humbling Year

Bill Sammon, in examining data from the Gallup Poll earlier this week, reported this:

President Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to 47 percent in the latest Gallup poll, the lowest ever recorded for any president at this point in his term. Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and even Richard Nixon all had higher approval ratings 10-and-a-half months into their presidencies. Obama’s immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, had an approval rating of 86 percent, or 39 points higher than Obama at this stage. Bush’s support came shortly after he launched the war in Afghanistan in response to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

President Obama’s slide has indeed been steep, steady, and historic. There are a dozen or so political data points that all point in the same direction. His act has grown tired and stale in an astonishingly short period of time. In November 2008, after Obama’s election, a Contentions blogger wrote this:

A year from now, it won’t be enough to blame the problems on others. He and other Democrats ran and won on the promise that they would turn things around, and do so quickly. Those promises can’t be reeled back. Obama in particular has set a very high bar. … The capacity to engineer constructive change may be less than Obama thought, and he will find the world will not be as malleable as hot wax. Things don’t have to be perfect, but there needs to be a sense that the trajectory is improving and that his proposals are working. If Barack Obama governs as President as he voted as a state senator and a U.S. Senator–which is to say, from the left–then today’s high hopes will come crashing down around him. … For understandable reasons, many people are being swept up in this remarkable American moment. But reality will intrude soon enough, and Barack Obama will face the same standards that every other President has faced. Incantations of “hope” and “change” can work in a campaign. They are virtually useless when it comes to governing. Barack Obama is about to enter the crucible. We’ll see how he performs.

As the president approaches the end of his first year in office, the verdict of the public is clear: Barack Obama has performed poorly. He has squandered the enormous goodwill he had. His actions have in many instances damaged his country, his presidency, and his party. And the challenges ahead will only grow. The question is: will he?

It is true enough that political leaders can expend their political capital on behalf of admirable causes. But it is also true that political leaders can expend it on behalf of unwise and unworthy causes. With the important exception of his decision on Afghanistan, what President Obama has done is, I believe, the latter. His presidency, still less than a year old, is far from broken. But it has absorbed serious blows. And that memorable November 4 evening in Grant Park — when Obama seemed on top of the world, his party fully in command, liberalism on the rise, his supporters intoxicated by the margin of his victory — now seems like a lifetime ago. Reality has indeed intruded. His perceived strengths are now seen as weaknesses. Many of his supporters are dispirited. In the aftermath of the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, his party’s skittishness has turned to deep concern. The GOP is energized and on the comeback trail. And Barack Obama, a man of almost limitless self-regard, has been humbled. He may not admit it, and he may not even know it. But it has been, in fact, a humbling year. The sooner the president understands that and understands why this moment has come to pass, the better it will be for him, and for us.

Bill Sammon, in examining data from the Gallup Poll earlier this week, reported this:

President Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to 47 percent in the latest Gallup poll, the lowest ever recorded for any president at this point in his term. Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and even Richard Nixon all had higher approval ratings 10-and-a-half months into their presidencies. Obama’s immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, had an approval rating of 86 percent, or 39 points higher than Obama at this stage. Bush’s support came shortly after he launched the war in Afghanistan in response to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

President Obama’s slide has indeed been steep, steady, and historic. There are a dozen or so political data points that all point in the same direction. His act has grown tired and stale in an astonishingly short period of time. In November 2008, after Obama’s election, a Contentions blogger wrote this:

A year from now, it won’t be enough to blame the problems on others. He and other Democrats ran and won on the promise that they would turn things around, and do so quickly. Those promises can’t be reeled back. Obama in particular has set a very high bar. … The capacity to engineer constructive change may be less than Obama thought, and he will find the world will not be as malleable as hot wax. Things don’t have to be perfect, but there needs to be a sense that the trajectory is improving and that his proposals are working. If Barack Obama governs as President as he voted as a state senator and a U.S. Senator–which is to say, from the left–then today’s high hopes will come crashing down around him. … For understandable reasons, many people are being swept up in this remarkable American moment. But reality will intrude soon enough, and Barack Obama will face the same standards that every other President has faced. Incantations of “hope” and “change” can work in a campaign. They are virtually useless when it comes to governing. Barack Obama is about to enter the crucible. We’ll see how he performs.

As the president approaches the end of his first year in office, the verdict of the public is clear: Barack Obama has performed poorly. He has squandered the enormous goodwill he had. His actions have in many instances damaged his country, his presidency, and his party. And the challenges ahead will only grow. The question is: will he?

It is true enough that political leaders can expend their political capital on behalf of admirable causes. But it is also true that political leaders can expend it on behalf of unwise and unworthy causes. With the important exception of his decision on Afghanistan, what President Obama has done is, I believe, the latter. His presidency, still less than a year old, is far from broken. But it has absorbed serious blows. And that memorable November 4 evening in Grant Park — when Obama seemed on top of the world, his party fully in command, liberalism on the rise, his supporters intoxicated by the margin of his victory — now seems like a lifetime ago. Reality has indeed intruded. His perceived strengths are now seen as weaknesses. Many of his supporters are dispirited. In the aftermath of the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, his party’s skittishness has turned to deep concern. The GOP is energized and on the comeback trail. And Barack Obama, a man of almost limitless self-regard, has been humbled. He may not admit it, and he may not even know it. But it has been, in fact, a humbling year. The sooner the president understands that and understands why this moment has come to pass, the better it will be for him, and for us.

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How Quickly They Forget

NARAL gave up on Hillary Clinton today and endorsed Barack Obama. It was only a year ago that pro-choice groups were targeting Obama for voting “present” on partial-birth abortion measures as a state senator. In fact, in the New Hampshire primary, Clinton used the abortion issue effectively, sending out mailers on these “present” votes.

How will this play out in the general election contest? If Obama were truly a moderate on abortion  favoring legal abortion, but approving waiting periods or parental consent measures) it might help him make some headway with moderate voters or even some socially conservative voters. But aside from his reticence to go on the record as a state senator, he’s been an absolutist on abortion, sharply criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the federal partial birth abortion ban. That will likely be more of a hindrance than a help with those Reagan Democrats.

And those “present” votes? I suspect the tactic of avoiding tough votes may not be a plus for Obama.

NARAL gave up on Hillary Clinton today and endorsed Barack Obama. It was only a year ago that pro-choice groups were targeting Obama for voting “present” on partial-birth abortion measures as a state senator. In fact, in the New Hampshire primary, Clinton used the abortion issue effectively, sending out mailers on these “present” votes.

How will this play out in the general election contest? If Obama were truly a moderate on abortion  favoring legal abortion, but approving waiting periods or parental consent measures) it might help him make some headway with moderate voters or even some socially conservative voters. But aside from his reticence to go on the record as a state senator, he’s been an absolutist on abortion, sharply criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the federal partial birth abortion ban. That will likely be more of a hindrance than a help with those Reagan Democrats.

And those “present” votes? I suspect the tactic of avoiding tough votes may not be a plus for Obama.

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Handguns

Obama, the editor of the Harvard Law Review, doesn’t have an opinion on the D.C. handgun ban. He denies that he ever favored a handgun ban. When Charlie Gibson pressed him on a questionnaire he answered as a state senator, he answers, “My handwriting wasn’t on that form.” Well, if there is no evidence. . .

After badgering from George Steph., Hillary allows that an absolute ban might not be Constitutional. Neither will likely give John McCain a run for his money with Second Amendment advocates.

Obama, the editor of the Harvard Law Review, doesn’t have an opinion on the D.C. handgun ban. He denies that he ever favored a handgun ban. When Charlie Gibson pressed him on a questionnaire he answered as a state senator, he answers, “My handwriting wasn’t on that form.” Well, if there is no evidence. . .

After badgering from George Steph., Hillary allows that an absolute ban might not be Constitutional. Neither will likely give John McCain a run for his money with Second Amendment advocates.

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Worrying . . .

This Los Angeles Times report concerning Barack Obama’s relationship with the U.S. Palestinian community and his long-time friendship with Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi is worth a read.

Obama’s presence as a state senator at events in which Israel was denounced for practicing “terrorism” and his warm words of praise for Khalidi naturally left the Palestinian community believing he was sympathetic to their cause. Then came Obama’s emergence on the national stage, his presidential run and his efforts to assure the Jewish community and others that he is a stalwart defender of Israel. No more friendly meetings with Khalidi and Palestinian outreach events.

Campaign manager David Axelrod assures us that “in no way” have Obama’s private and public statements differed. But some are still concerned that his newly-expressed solicitude for Israel does not square with his associations or prior rhetoric (“nobody’s suffering more than the Palestinian people”). Somehow his hyperbole only increases my queasiness (h/t Instapundit).

Then there was Reverend Wright. As Abe Foxman of the ADL put it:

In the context of spending 20 years in a church where now it is clear the anti-Israel rhetoric was there, was repeated . . . that’s what makes his presence at an Arab American event with a Said a greater concern.

What to make of all this? Obama’s supporters will say this proves his ability to reach out to all sides. His critics will say this betrays a dangerous tendency to lead diametrically opposed camps to believe he is “with” each of them. Why dangerous? Because at some point, presidents must make their intentions and positions crystal clear and tell one side “no” or “yes” with total willingness to pay the costs inherent in any decision.

The worry here, I think, is that Obama believes geopolitics works like community activism. His lack of any foreign policy experience, combined with his track record of not standing up to anyone (including a ranting, race-baiting preacher), have given us plenty to worry about.

This Los Angeles Times report concerning Barack Obama’s relationship with the U.S. Palestinian community and his long-time friendship with Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi is worth a read.

Obama’s presence as a state senator at events in which Israel was denounced for practicing “terrorism” and his warm words of praise for Khalidi naturally left the Palestinian community believing he was sympathetic to their cause. Then came Obama’s emergence on the national stage, his presidential run and his efforts to assure the Jewish community and others that he is a stalwart defender of Israel. No more friendly meetings with Khalidi and Palestinian outreach events.

Campaign manager David Axelrod assures us that “in no way” have Obama’s private and public statements differed. But some are still concerned that his newly-expressed solicitude for Israel does not square with his associations or prior rhetoric (“nobody’s suffering more than the Palestinian people”). Somehow his hyperbole only increases my queasiness (h/t Instapundit).

Then there was Reverend Wright. As Abe Foxman of the ADL put it:

In the context of spending 20 years in a church where now it is clear the anti-Israel rhetoric was there, was repeated . . . that’s what makes his presence at an Arab American event with a Said a greater concern.

What to make of all this? Obama’s supporters will say this proves his ability to reach out to all sides. His critics will say this betrays a dangerous tendency to lead diametrically opposed camps to believe he is “with” each of them. Why dangerous? Because at some point, presidents must make their intentions and positions crystal clear and tell one side “no” or “yes” with total willingness to pay the costs inherent in any decision.

The worry here, I think, is that Obama believes geopolitics works like community activism. His lack of any foreign policy experience, combined with his track record of not standing up to anyone (including a ranting, race-baiting preacher), have given us plenty to worry about.

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Yes We Can–Cringe

Last night on MSNBC, Chris Matthews provided an indispensable peek into the chasm at the center of the Barack Obama candidacy. More than that, the following exchange between Matthews and his guest shows that most Obama voters are happy to live in that chasm. It was put-up-or-shut-up time for Obama supporter State Senator Kirk Watson (D-TX):

MATTHEWS: Well, name some of [Obama’s] legislative accomplishments.

WATSON: We, uh [stammers].

MATTHEWS: No, senator. I want you to name some of Barack Obama’s legislative accomplishments tonight if you can.

WATSON: [long silence] Well, I you know, what I will talk about is more about what he is offering the American people right now.

[…]

MATTHEWS: Sir, you have to give me his accomplishments. You supported him for president. You’re on national television. Name his legislative accomplishments, Barack Obama, sir.

WATSON: Well, I’m not going to be able to name you specific items of legislative accomplishment.

MATTHEWS: Can you name any? Can you name anything that he’s accomplishment as a senator?

WATSON: No, I’m not going to be able to do that tonight.

MATTHEWS: Well, that’s a problem isn’t it?

WATSON: Well, no I don’t think it is . . .

If a state senator supports Barack Obama despite knowing nothing of the candidate’s legislative credentials, what hope is there that the majority of Democratic voters can be convinced to care about more than “the fierce urgency of now”? This interaction demonstrates the monumental waste of time and effort in trying to convince America that Obama lacks substance.

The full clip is must-squirm viewing.

Last night on MSNBC, Chris Matthews provided an indispensable peek into the chasm at the center of the Barack Obama candidacy. More than that, the following exchange between Matthews and his guest shows that most Obama voters are happy to live in that chasm. It was put-up-or-shut-up time for Obama supporter State Senator Kirk Watson (D-TX):

MATTHEWS: Well, name some of [Obama’s] legislative accomplishments.

WATSON: We, uh [stammers].

MATTHEWS: No, senator. I want you to name some of Barack Obama’s legislative accomplishments tonight if you can.

WATSON: [long silence] Well, I you know, what I will talk about is more about what he is offering the American people right now.

[…]

MATTHEWS: Sir, you have to give me his accomplishments. You supported him for president. You’re on national television. Name his legislative accomplishments, Barack Obama, sir.

WATSON: Well, I’m not going to be able to name you specific items of legislative accomplishment.

MATTHEWS: Can you name any? Can you name anything that he’s accomplishment as a senator?

WATSON: No, I’m not going to be able to do that tonight.

MATTHEWS: Well, that’s a problem isn’t it?

WATSON: Well, no I don’t think it is . . .

If a state senator supports Barack Obama despite knowing nothing of the candidate’s legislative credentials, what hope is there that the majority of Democratic voters can be convinced to care about more than “the fierce urgency of now”? This interaction demonstrates the monumental waste of time and effort in trying to convince America that Obama lacks substance.

The full clip is must-squirm viewing.

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Hillary’s “No”

The Washington Post and the New York Times may have missed it, but the New York Sun got it. The key moment for the Democrats as a party during last night’s debate came when Barack Obama stumbled on the same question about driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants that had tripped up Hillary Clinton two weeks earlier.

For two weeks Obama and Edwards had attacked Clinton for her flip-flopping “politics of parsing” because she seemed both to support and oppose the licenses. (Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Clinton had taken “two weeks and six different positions to answer one question.”) But last night Clinton, having pushed New York Governor Eliot Spitzer into entirely abandoning his plan to issue driver’s licenses, responded with a crisp “no” when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, the moderator, asked for a straight up-or-down answer on whether the candidates supported licenses for undocumented workers. Last night it was Obama who wanted it both ways. Asked the question, Obama launched into a discussion of how “When I was a state senator in Illinois, I voted to require that illegal aliens get trained, get a license, get insurance to protect public safety. That was my intention.” But when Blitzer pressed him for a yes-or-no answer, the usually exquisitely articulate Obama froze. Visibly off-balance, he replied that “I am not proposing that that’s what we do.” He then went on to say, “I have already said I support the notion that we have to deal with public safety.” A frustrated Blizter responded, “This is the sort of question available to a yes or no answer.”

Read More

The Washington Post and the New York Times may have missed it, but the New York Sun got it. The key moment for the Democrats as a party during last night’s debate came when Barack Obama stumbled on the same question about driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants that had tripped up Hillary Clinton two weeks earlier.

For two weeks Obama and Edwards had attacked Clinton for her flip-flopping “politics of parsing” because she seemed both to support and oppose the licenses. (Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Clinton had taken “two weeks and six different positions to answer one question.”) But last night Clinton, having pushed New York Governor Eliot Spitzer into entirely abandoning his plan to issue driver’s licenses, responded with a crisp “no” when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, the moderator, asked for a straight up-or-down answer on whether the candidates supported licenses for undocumented workers. Last night it was Obama who wanted it both ways. Asked the question, Obama launched into a discussion of how “When I was a state senator in Illinois, I voted to require that illegal aliens get trained, get a license, get insurance to protect public safety. That was my intention.” But when Blitzer pressed him for a yes-or-no answer, the usually exquisitely articulate Obama froze. Visibly off-balance, he replied that “I am not proposing that that’s what we do.” He then went on to say, “I have already said I support the notion that we have to deal with public safety.” A frustrated Blizter responded, “This is the sort of question available to a yes or no answer.”

Clinton’s definitive “no” took her partly off the general election hook. But with nearly 80 percent of voters opposing driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, her party, as represented by Obama and Bill Richardson, is still in the hot seat on this issue. Led by liberal Democrats, seventeen states have opposed a national standard for driver’s licenses. (In eight of these states, licenses are already being issued to undocumented workers.) This has led Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac Poll to analogize that, like affirmative action for racial minorities—an issue that badly damaged the Democrats in the 1970’s and 1980’s—today’s immigration issue has split the party’s working class supporters from its liberal activists. And as with affirmative action, liberal activists are quick to deride their opponents as racists.

Brown is right about the broad similarities. But there are also significant differences. Affirmative action and racial quotas pitted middle- and lower-middle-class white male Democrats against African-Americans and liberal activists. But on immigration, the remaining white working-class Democrats are aligned with most African-American voters, who are often those most directly in competition with low cost illegal immigrant labor. And this tension can only be exacerbated by the reality of black downward mobility. According to a new study from the Economic Mobility Project, “children of black parents earning in the middle 20 percent of all families in the late 1960′s had a 69 percent chance of earning less than their parents, the study found. For white children, that chance was just 32 percent.”

Hillary may have dodged a bullet for now, but the internal Democratic party debate on undocumented workers has only begun.

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