Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tea Party Movement

Liberal Overreach: The IRS and Race

The theme of the last couple of weeks for liberals has been “overreach.” That’s the word they’ve been using incessantly to try to depict all efforts to hold the administration accountable for a trio of scandals that have undermined the credibility of the Obama presidency. But while the lingering questions about the lies told about Benghazi as well as those about the Justice Department’s spying on journalists are troubling, the need to push back on the investigation into the IRS scandal is a particular priority for the president’s cheering section. Thus, instead of seeking to work harder to get to the bottom of the troubling targeting of conservatives by the nation’s tax agency, many Democrats and others on the left have concentrated on trying to delegitimize those asking the questions.

The principle target of those attacks has been House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa, whose reputation for partisanship and combative personality have made him an easy mark for those trying to paint the focus on scandals as merely a Republican tactic, rather than a national imperative to get the truth. Issa’s claim that White House spokesman Jay Carney was a “paid liar” added to this impression even if it is hard to argue with the truth of the accusation. That incident led to a vicious and personal counter-attack on Issa by Obama strategist David Plouffe.

But now it appears that while Democrats may have gained some initial traction with their “overreach” talking point, it’s starting to look as if it is those on the left are the ones who are doing the real overreaching in this controversy. The latest and most egregious instance of this liberal overreach comes from MSNBC host Martin Bashir, who argued on the network yesterday that the anger about the IRS’s political targeting as well as its outrageous misuse of public funds is nothing more than a racist attack on President Obama.

Read More

The theme of the last couple of weeks for liberals has been “overreach.” That’s the word they’ve been using incessantly to try to depict all efforts to hold the administration accountable for a trio of scandals that have undermined the credibility of the Obama presidency. But while the lingering questions about the lies told about Benghazi as well as those about the Justice Department’s spying on journalists are troubling, the need to push back on the investigation into the IRS scandal is a particular priority for the president’s cheering section. Thus, instead of seeking to work harder to get to the bottom of the troubling targeting of conservatives by the nation’s tax agency, many Democrats and others on the left have concentrated on trying to delegitimize those asking the questions.

The principle target of those attacks has been House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa, whose reputation for partisanship and combative personality have made him an easy mark for those trying to paint the focus on scandals as merely a Republican tactic, rather than a national imperative to get the truth. Issa’s claim that White House spokesman Jay Carney was a “paid liar” added to this impression even if it is hard to argue with the truth of the accusation. That incident led to a vicious and personal counter-attack on Issa by Obama strategist David Plouffe.

But now it appears that while Democrats may have gained some initial traction with their “overreach” talking point, it’s starting to look as if it is those on the left are the ones who are doing the real overreaching in this controversy. The latest and most egregious instance of this liberal overreach comes from MSNBC host Martin Bashir, who argued on the network yesterday that the anger about the IRS’s political targeting as well as its outrageous misuse of public funds is nothing more than a racist attack on President Obama.

Here’s what Bashir said:

MARTIN BASHIR: The IRS is being used in exactly the same way as they tried to used the president’s birth certificate. You see, for Republicans like Darrell Issa, who knows something about arson, the IRS now stands for something inflammatory. Those three letters are now on fire with political corruption and malfeasance, burning hot. Just like that suspicious fire that engulfed Mr. Issa’s warehouse back in 1982. 

And, despite the complete lack of any evidence linking the president to the targeting of tea party groups, Republicans are using it as their latest weapon in the war against the black man in the White House. …

This strategy is nothing new. And it was explained way back in 1981, by Lee Atwater, who was Bush 41′s chief strategist. In a tape recording, Mr. Atwater revealed how Republicans evolved their language to achieve the same purpose. 

He said: ‘You start out in 1954, by saying ‘n*****, n*****, n*****. By 1968, you can’t say n*****, that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like forced bussing, states rights, and all that stuff and you’re getting so abstract. Now you’re talking about cutting taxes. We want to cut this is much more abstract than even the bussing thing and a hell of a lot more abstract than n*****, n*****.’

So this afternoon, we welcomed the latest phrase in the lexicon of Republican attacks on this president: the IRS. Three letters that sound so innocent but we know what you mean.

It would be easy to dismiss Bashir as nothing more than a crackpot with a TV show, but this “dog whistle” argument is not an isolated instance. The head of the Louisiana Democratic Party made the same point when she claimed the only reason why so many Americans oppose ObamaCare is the color of the president’s skin. In other words, for the left, conservatives have no other motivation or ideology but hatred of blacks.

This is insulting and stupid. But it is also contradicted by the anger against the IRS that Rep. Elijah Cummings, the black Democrat who is the ranking member of the Oversight Committee, has expressed about the abuses of the IRS.

All Americans, no matter their race, have a vested interest in protecting their constitutional rights against a government that continues to seek more power at the expense of the individual. That’s why the majority of Americans continue to oppose ObamaCare. And it’s also why they think the abuses at the IRS must be thoroughly investigated and all those involved held accountable. Republicans like Issa must be careful to let the story tell itself as the investigation proceeds. But it is neither racist nor unreasonable for them to be asking whether those who did these acts were in any way inspired by the inflammatory rhetoric used by both the president and much of the liberal media.

It is not surprising that many on the left would prefer to engage in ad hominem attacks and reckless use of racism accusations rather than face the facts about a government that can’t be trusted. Screaming the “n” word is an escape from the reality of a second Obama administration mired in scandal. But doing this does neither the country nor African Americans any favors.

By seeking to cast all of the president’s critics as bigots who use the “n” word, leftists like Bashir are acting as racial hucksters, exploiting fear and seeking to arouse hatred against anyone who disagrees with them. That’s what the left has been trying to do to the Tea Party movement since it began, and despite their lack of proof for their charges of racism, they have persisted in these smears.

It’s easier to live in a fantasy world where your critics are cartoon bigots than to defend the administration’s conduct. Instead of falsely crying racism, liberals should be listening to their fellow citizens who oppose Obama’s policies and engaging them in thoughtful debate about constitutional principles and policy. But if they do that, they’d have to acknowledge the legitimacy of their opponents, and that is something they’d rather not do.

The only overreaching going on about the IRS is a liberal campaign to silence administration critics with false charges of racism. As enjoyable as this escape from reality might be for the left, they have to know that the American people aren’t buying it.

Read Less

The Real Key to Victory in Wisconsin

Buried deep in a Politico article about the general gloom hanging over the left-wing Netroots convention was an import nugget of information that shed some light on this past week’s conservative victory in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election. Though it is and will remain a liberal article of faith that Scott Walker defeated the attempt by the unions and their Democratic allies to force his recall only by dint of an advantage in campaign fundraising, the main factor was something else: voter mobilization.

As Charles Mahtesian noted:

The left’s strength has always been in mobilizing voters. But the GOP managed to do that in Wisconsin. Leaders and activists frequently expressed the idea that, in the short term at least – that is, before the larger campaign finance issues that suddenly loom very large on the progressive agenda can be addressed – the movement must double-down on the organizing that it does best.

But the problem here is that the left’s problem in Wisconsin was not that it failed to bring out its voters. The unions and the Democrats did their best and contributed to a massive turnout that was extraordinary for a mid-June vote even if the whole country was focused on the state. It was that conservatives did even better, turning out an army of conservatives and centrists who have bought into Walker’s powerful logic about the necessity of clipping the unions’ wings so as to enable budget and entitlement reform. Though the Netroots crowd is looking inward to figure out why they lost Wisconsin, the real answer is one they and much of the mainstream media continues to ignore: the Tea Party revolution is not only not dead but is still going strong.

Read More

Buried deep in a Politico article about the general gloom hanging over the left-wing Netroots convention was an import nugget of information that shed some light on this past week’s conservative victory in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election. Though it is and will remain a liberal article of faith that Scott Walker defeated the attempt by the unions and their Democratic allies to force his recall only by dint of an advantage in campaign fundraising, the main factor was something else: voter mobilization.

As Charles Mahtesian noted:

The left’s strength has always been in mobilizing voters. But the GOP managed to do that in Wisconsin. Leaders and activists frequently expressed the idea that, in the short term at least – that is, before the larger campaign finance issues that suddenly loom very large on the progressive agenda can be addressed – the movement must double-down on the organizing that it does best.

But the problem here is that the left’s problem in Wisconsin was not that it failed to bring out its voters. The unions and the Democrats did their best and contributed to a massive turnout that was extraordinary for a mid-June vote even if the whole country was focused on the state. It was that conservatives did even better, turning out an army of conservatives and centrists who have bought into Walker’s powerful logic about the necessity of clipping the unions’ wings so as to enable budget and entitlement reform. Though the Netroots crowd is looking inward to figure out why they lost Wisconsin, the real answer is one they and much of the mainstream media continues to ignore: the Tea Party revolution is not only not dead but is still going strong.

It ought to be obvious, but with so much discussion about Wisconsin centering on the squabbles on the left and conservative fundraising, it seems many of the chattering classes are intent on ignoring the fact that the taxpayer anger that put people like Scott Walker in office in the first place has not disappeared. It can be argued that Walker’s majority last week required many centrists and perhaps even some supporters of President Obama who rightly thought the whole recall was appropriate. But it is also true that his win was in no small part the function of a fervent conservative base that turned out in numbers that may well have eclipsed the efforts of unionists.

The effort to probe the meaning of the Wisconsin recall for the presidential election has foundered on partisan spin, but perhaps the most consequential factor of that race for November may rest in the proof of the right’s ability to turn out in force when there is sufficient motivation. The assumption in much of the liberal media that the Tea Party phenomenon was merely a passing phase in our political drama was based on turnout in Republican primaries where conservatives had no clear choice. But the presidential election–in which they will have the opportunity to defeat President Obama–will give Tea Partiers and conservatives all the passion they need to mobilize.

This will be but one of a number of factors in determining the outcome of the election. but it would be foolish for either side to ignore it.  Whereas in 2008, it was the left that was able to produce a dramatic turnout for their messianic presidential candidate, this year it will be, as it was in 2010 and in Wisconsin on Tuesday, the right that will have most fervor.

Read Less

Reports of Tea Party’s Demise Premature

Because the Republican Party will nominate the one candidate who, at least at the outset of the contest, Tea Partiers seemed to have the least affinity for, many political observers have concluded that the movement’s time has come and gone. But as the results from a number of Senate races testify, reports of the Tea Party’s demise are, at best, premature. In Utah, longtime incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch is being forced into a Republican primary to hold on to his seat. But an even better argument for the group as a force that should be reckoned with came in Pennsylvania, where the state GOP establishment’s choice was humiliated in a primary yesterday to determine the party’s nominee to oppose Senator Bob Casey.

While the Pennsylvania GOP Senate race received minimal attention even in the Keystone state, the collapse of Governor Tom Corbett’s attempt to handpick an unknown for the nomination is noteworthy. Corbett and the state party wanted Steve Welch, a 35-year-old entrepreneur who was a registered Democrat as recently as 2009. But Tea Party activists embraced Tom Smith, a coal millionaire from the Western region of the state. Though Smith, 64, was a lifelong Democrat, he was able to harness the anger of the party’s grass roots and won by a huge margin over Welch, and Sam Rohrer, a state representative who also sought to appeal to Tea Partiers.

Read More

Because the Republican Party will nominate the one candidate who, at least at the outset of the contest, Tea Partiers seemed to have the least affinity for, many political observers have concluded that the movement’s time has come and gone. But as the results from a number of Senate races testify, reports of the Tea Party’s demise are, at best, premature. In Utah, longtime incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch is being forced into a Republican primary to hold on to his seat. But an even better argument for the group as a force that should be reckoned with came in Pennsylvania, where the state GOP establishment’s choice was humiliated in a primary yesterday to determine the party’s nominee to oppose Senator Bob Casey.

While the Pennsylvania GOP Senate race received minimal attention even in the Keystone state, the collapse of Governor Tom Corbett’s attempt to handpick an unknown for the nomination is noteworthy. Corbett and the state party wanted Steve Welch, a 35-year-old entrepreneur who was a registered Democrat as recently as 2009. But Tea Party activists embraced Tom Smith, a coal millionaire from the Western region of the state. Though Smith, 64, was a lifelong Democrat, he was able to harness the anger of the party’s grass roots and won by a huge margin over Welch, and Sam Rohrer, a state representative who also sought to appeal to Tea Partiers.

Though Casey is closely identified with President Obama and might be vulnerable if the Democratic ticket faces a strong challenge from Mitt Romney, he is probably not in much danger of being defeated. Casey, who remains popular despite a lackluster record in the Senate, has enough resources to match Smith’s wealth, and the GOP candidate is not likely to gain much traction outside of western Pennsylvania.

But no matter what happens in November in this race, the idea that the Tea Party is a spent force in the GOP is not realistic. We may get even more evidence of this when Indiana Senator Richard Lugar faces off in a May 8 primary with State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Unlike a marginal figure like Smith or Tea Party favorites who crashed and burned in the general election in 2010 such as Utah’s Sharon Angle or Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell, Mourdock has a good chance of holding the seat for the GOP if he beats Lugar. If Tea Partiers can topple a Senate institution like Lugar, it will be more proof of the staying power of the movement. As Pennsylvania Governor Corbett and his cronies can tell Lugar, underestimating the Tea Party is a mistake experienced politicians should try to avoid.

Read Less

Why Is Jim Wallis Polishing the Windows on His Glass House?

Jim Wallis of Sojourners co-wrote, with Charles Colson, a piece in Christianity Today titled “Conviction and Civility.” According to Wallis and Colson, “when we disagree, especially when we strongly disagree, we should have robust debate but not resort to personal attack, falsely impugning others’ motives, assaulting their character, questioning their faith, or doubting their patriotism.”

“Demonizing our opponents poisons the public square,” the twosome inform us.

Agreed. But what is worth noting, I think, is that Wallis (as opposed to Colson) has repeatedly violated his commitment to civility. For example, in 2007, Wallis said: “I believe that Dick Cheney is a liar; that Donald Rumsfeld is also a liar; and that George W. Bush was, and is, clueless about how to be the president of the United States. They have shamed our beloved nation in the world by this [Iraq] war and the shameful way they have fought it.”

Americans and Iraqis died “because of their lies, incompetence, and corruption.” Wallis went on to say he favors investigations of the top officials of the Bush administration on “official deception, war crimes, and corruption charges.” And if they were found guilty of these “high crimes,” Wallis wrote, “I believe they should spend the rest of their lives in prison. … Deliberately lying about going to war should not be forgiven.”

As I showed here, these statements are slanderous. Given that, how does Wallis square what he wrote with his counsel not to resort to “personal attack, falsely impugning others’ motives, [and] assaulting their character”?

More recently, Wallis strongly implied that the Tea Party movement was animated by racism. Is this the kind of thing Wallis has in mind when he cautions us against “demonizing our opponents,” which in turn “poisons the public square”?

These episodes are not isolated ones. Wallis recently accused World magazine’s Marvin Olasky of being a liar — a claim Wallis had to retract after Olasky provided indisputable evidence that it was Olasky, not Wallis, who was telling the truth.

My point here isn’t so much to call attention to the hypocrisy of Wallis, though that’s worth taking into account. Nor is it to argue that Wallis, based on his shrill outbursts, should never be able to make the case for civility in public discourse, though it would help if Wallis were to acknowledge his complicity in what he now decries. Read More

Jim Wallis of Sojourners co-wrote, with Charles Colson, a piece in Christianity Today titled “Conviction and Civility.” According to Wallis and Colson, “when we disagree, especially when we strongly disagree, we should have robust debate but not resort to personal attack, falsely impugning others’ motives, assaulting their character, questioning their faith, or doubting their patriotism.”

“Demonizing our opponents poisons the public square,” the twosome inform us.

Agreed. But what is worth noting, I think, is that Wallis (as opposed to Colson) has repeatedly violated his commitment to civility. For example, in 2007, Wallis said: “I believe that Dick Cheney is a liar; that Donald Rumsfeld is also a liar; and that George W. Bush was, and is, clueless about how to be the president of the United States. They have shamed our beloved nation in the world by this [Iraq] war and the shameful way they have fought it.”

Americans and Iraqis died “because of their lies, incompetence, and corruption.” Wallis went on to say he favors investigations of the top officials of the Bush administration on “official deception, war crimes, and corruption charges.” And if they were found guilty of these “high crimes,” Wallis wrote, “I believe they should spend the rest of their lives in prison. … Deliberately lying about going to war should not be forgiven.”

As I showed here, these statements are slanderous. Given that, how does Wallis square what he wrote with his counsel not to resort to “personal attack, falsely impugning others’ motives, [and] assaulting their character”?

More recently, Wallis strongly implied that the Tea Party movement was animated by racism. Is this the kind of thing Wallis has in mind when he cautions us against “demonizing our opponents,” which in turn “poisons the public square”?

These episodes are not isolated ones. Wallis recently accused World magazine’s Marvin Olasky of being a liar — a claim Wallis had to retract after Olasky provided indisputable evidence that it was Olasky, not Wallis, who was telling the truth.

My point here isn’t so much to call attention to the hypocrisy of Wallis, though that’s worth taking into account. Nor is it to argue that Wallis, based on his shrill outbursts, should never be able to make the case for civility in public discourse, though it would help if Wallis were to acknowledge his complicity in what he now decries.

Perhaps the deeper thing to take away from this is that civility is difficult to achieve unless we gain some mental and emotional distance from political disputes. People on both sides of the divide employ double standards to advance their cause. What a reasonable person would consider an ad hominem attack is, for an ideologue, considered a self-evident truth. If  you’re a person on the hard left, as Wallis is, accusing Rumsfeld, Cheney, a conservative journalist and the Tea Party Movement of being liars, corrupt, war criminals, and racists is giving expression to what you consider to be a self-evident truth. Wallis even goes so far as to portray himself as a force moving us to a “kinder and gentler public square.” This is self-deception of a high order.

Those on the right are susceptible to the same temptations. They can accuse Barack Obama of hating white people and of being committed to destroying the country while also believing no lines have been crossed, that the charges are themselves incontestable.

This doesn’t mean that harsh judgments are never called for. Some people are knaves, while others are fools. My point is simply that all of us in the public arena come to it with certain predispositions and tendencies through which we interpret events. As a conservative, I would be among the last people in the world to reject the use of a philosophical system, of a worldview, to help us make sense of things.

On the other hand, people like Jim Wallis provide a cautionary tale of the blinding effects of zealotry. It can become so acute that even dispensers of libel can fashion themselves as peacemakers.

Read Less

Obama After the Fall

After watching President Obama’s press conference, Democrats who are still left standing must have been mortified. The depth of his self-delusion was stunning.

To put things in perspective: the Democratic Party just suffered the worst repudiation any political party has since before the middle of the last century. The defeat was staggering in the House (where Republicans will net more than 60 seats), in the Senate (+6 for the GOP), and in races for governorships (where the GOP has a net gain of six, with a couple of contests still outstanding). Republicans also took control of at least 19 legislative chambers and gained more than 500 legislative seats. No region in America, not even the Northeast, was untouched by the Republican wave.

If you listened to the president, though, the “shellacking” was because of process rather than substance. ObamaCare, he assured us, is a sparkling, wondrous law; the only downside to it was the horse-trading that went on to secure its passage. They would be “misreading the election,” the president helpfully informed Republicans, if they decide to “relitigate the arguments of the last two years.”

The message from the voters, according to Obama, is that The Car (to use his beloved, overused analogy), while still in the ditch, is undeniably moving in the right direction. We just have to go faster than we are. Democratic losses can be explained because they lost the optics war: in pursuing so many wise and prudent policies all at once, you see, the hyperactive president and his administration only appeared as if they were profligate spenders and champions of big government. And what Mr. Obama most needs to do, we learned, is to get out of “the bubble” (read: Washington) more than he has. A few more trips to Idaho and Wyoming, it seems, and all would be right with the world once more.

And what set of Obama remarks would be complete without the requisite lecturing — in this case, on the importance of “civility in our discourse” and the importance of being able to “disagree without being disagreeable.” This admonition comes after Obama, during the last few days of the campaign, referred to his opponents as “enemies,” hinted that the Tea Party Movement is tinged with racism, charged Republicans with being dishonest, and accused, without a shred of evidence, the Chamber of Commerce of using illegal money to support Republican candidates across the country. But never mind. After his victory in 2008, Obama’s message to Republicans was: “I won.” Today, after his party was throttled, Obama’s message is: “Come let us reason together.”

What we saw today was less a president than a dogmatist — a man who appears to have an extraordinary capacity to hermetically seal off events and evidence that call into question his governing philosophy, his policies, and his wisdom. The election yesterday was above all a referendum on the president’s policies, yet his big takeaway was not to relitigate his agenda. He speaks as if he’s a lawyer rather than a lawmaker.

There was, to be sure, a concession here and there, around this edge and that. But one could not come away from Obama’s press conference without feeling that there isn’t anything substantive he would change about the past two years — that at the core of his problems is the inability of the polity to more fully apprehend his greatness.

“During my four years at Oxford I read hard, and finished with a considerable stock of miscellaneous knowledge,” Lord Tweedsmuir wrote in his memoirs. “That mattered little, but the trend which my mind acquired mattered much. … More and more I became skeptical of dogmas, looking upon them as questions rather than answers. … The limited outlook of my early youth had broadened.”

It is the trend of Obama’s mind — rigid, ideological, and self-justifying — that should worry Democrats. The author of one of the worst political debacles in American history seems to have learned almost nothing from it.

After watching President Obama’s press conference, Democrats who are still left standing must have been mortified. The depth of his self-delusion was stunning.

To put things in perspective: the Democratic Party just suffered the worst repudiation any political party has since before the middle of the last century. The defeat was staggering in the House (where Republicans will net more than 60 seats), in the Senate (+6 for the GOP), and in races for governorships (where the GOP has a net gain of six, with a couple of contests still outstanding). Republicans also took control of at least 19 legislative chambers and gained more than 500 legislative seats. No region in America, not even the Northeast, was untouched by the Republican wave.

If you listened to the president, though, the “shellacking” was because of process rather than substance. ObamaCare, he assured us, is a sparkling, wondrous law; the only downside to it was the horse-trading that went on to secure its passage. They would be “misreading the election,” the president helpfully informed Republicans, if they decide to “relitigate the arguments of the last two years.”

The message from the voters, according to Obama, is that The Car (to use his beloved, overused analogy), while still in the ditch, is undeniably moving in the right direction. We just have to go faster than we are. Democratic losses can be explained because they lost the optics war: in pursuing so many wise and prudent policies all at once, you see, the hyperactive president and his administration only appeared as if they were profligate spenders and champions of big government. And what Mr. Obama most needs to do, we learned, is to get out of “the bubble” (read: Washington) more than he has. A few more trips to Idaho and Wyoming, it seems, and all would be right with the world once more.

And what set of Obama remarks would be complete without the requisite lecturing — in this case, on the importance of “civility in our discourse” and the importance of being able to “disagree without being disagreeable.” This admonition comes after Obama, during the last few days of the campaign, referred to his opponents as “enemies,” hinted that the Tea Party Movement is tinged with racism, charged Republicans with being dishonest, and accused, without a shred of evidence, the Chamber of Commerce of using illegal money to support Republican candidates across the country. But never mind. After his victory in 2008, Obama’s message to Republicans was: “I won.” Today, after his party was throttled, Obama’s message is: “Come let us reason together.”

What we saw today was less a president than a dogmatist — a man who appears to have an extraordinary capacity to hermetically seal off events and evidence that call into question his governing philosophy, his policies, and his wisdom. The election yesterday was above all a referendum on the president’s policies, yet his big takeaway was not to relitigate his agenda. He speaks as if he’s a lawyer rather than a lawmaker.

There was, to be sure, a concession here and there, around this edge and that. But one could not come away from Obama’s press conference without feeling that there isn’t anything substantive he would change about the past two years — that at the core of his problems is the inability of the polity to more fully apprehend his greatness.

“During my four years at Oxford I read hard, and finished with a considerable stock of miscellaneous knowledge,” Lord Tweedsmuir wrote in his memoirs. “That mattered little, but the trend which my mind acquired mattered much. … More and more I became skeptical of dogmas, looking upon them as questions rather than answers. … The limited outlook of my early youth had broadened.”

It is the trend of Obama’s mind — rigid, ideological, and self-justifying — that should worry Democrats. The author of one of the worst political debacles in American history seems to have learned almost nothing from it.

Read Less

The Latest from Pew

Some interesting finds from the latest Pew Survey:

A majority of Republicans say a candidate who received support from Obama would be less likely to get their vote (57%). By contrast, 45% of Democrats say the President’s support would make them more likely to vote for a candidate. Independent opinion about Obama’s endorsement is more mixed. Two-in-ten (20%) say it would make them more likely to vote for a candidate and 28% say it would make them less likely to do so; half of independents (50%) say an Obama campaign stop would make no difference to their vote.

Sarah Palin is similarly polarizing. A majority of Democrats (58%) say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate receiving the former vice-presidential candidate’s support. Conversely, 41% of Republicans say such an endorsement would make them more likely to give a candidate their vote. About twice as many independents say Palin’s support would make them less likely to vote for a candidate (36%) as say it would make them more likely to do so (15%), while about half of independents (47%) say Palin’s support would make no difference to their vote.

Among Republicans and Democrats, the impact of support for the Tea Party movement follows a pattern similar to Palin’s endorsement. More than four-in-ten Republicans view support for the Tea Party as a positive attribute, while nearly half of Democrats (49%) see it as a negative. Independents are split; a-quarter (25%) say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who is a supporter of the Tea Party movement, while about the same number (27%) say they are less likely to vote for a Tea Party supporter.

Some interesting finds from the latest Pew Survey:

A majority of Republicans say a candidate who received support from Obama would be less likely to get their vote (57%). By contrast, 45% of Democrats say the President’s support would make them more likely to vote for a candidate. Independent opinion about Obama’s endorsement is more mixed. Two-in-ten (20%) say it would make them more likely to vote for a candidate and 28% say it would make them less likely to do so; half of independents (50%) say an Obama campaign stop would make no difference to their vote.

Sarah Palin is similarly polarizing. A majority of Democrats (58%) say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate receiving the former vice-presidential candidate’s support. Conversely, 41% of Republicans say such an endorsement would make them more likely to give a candidate their vote. About twice as many independents say Palin’s support would make them less likely to vote for a candidate (36%) as say it would make them more likely to do so (15%), while about half of independents (47%) say Palin’s support would make no difference to their vote.

Among Republicans and Democrats, the impact of support for the Tea Party movement follows a pattern similar to Palin’s endorsement. More than four-in-ten Republicans view support for the Tea Party as a positive attribute, while nearly half of Democrats (49%) see it as a negative. Independents are split; a-quarter (25%) say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who is a supporter of the Tea Party movement, while about the same number (27%) say they are less likely to vote for a Tea Party supporter.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

You can’t parody Joe Biden if he’s going to talk this way: “My grandfather used to always say, ‘Joey, you have to have somebody to beat somebody.’”

You can’t get more blunt than this ad on Iran.

You can’t find any evidence of a “civil war” between conservatives in Gallup’s polling on Tea Party activists: “Americans who say they support the Tea Party movement share a common concern about government and its scope, particularly with regard to deficit spending. Their views do set them apart from those who are neutral or opposed to the Tea Party movement, but hardly distinguish them from supporters of the Republican Party more broadly.”

You can’t be seen with Obama if you’re a Democrat who wants to win in 2010: “PPP has polled on the impact of a Barack Obama endorsement in 5 key Senate races over the last month, and it’s looking more and more clear that there’s just about nowhere Democratic candidates would benefit from having the President come to campaign with them.”

You can’t miss the telltale sign that Obama is doing something unpopular: he says it’s all Eric Holder’s idea. “The White House has said the decision to challenge Arizona’s immigration law was out of its hands, left completely up to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the lawyers at the Justice Department.”

You can’t expect the president to go, so David Axelrod will appear at a fundraiser for Tony Rezko’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias. Meanwhile: “Giannoulias’ camp released his income tax returns last Friday, which showed that the ex-banker paid neither federal nor state taxes in ’09. In fact, Giannoulias received a $30K tax return, which he promised to give to charity.”

You can’t be reading things if you want to be a cable talking head! On the lawsuit claiming that the Arizona law is pre-empted by federal immigration law, Dana Perino sanely suggests: “Perhaps we should do something novel like read the complaint before commenting … surely the administration would appreciate that courtesy?”

You can’t imagine it was a long speech: “Queen Elizabeth II of England addressed the United Nations for the first time since 1957 on Tuesday, paying homage to the organization’s accomplishments since she last stood at the famous green podium of the General Assembly.”

You can’t parody Joe Biden if he’s going to talk this way: “My grandfather used to always say, ‘Joey, you have to have somebody to beat somebody.’”

You can’t get more blunt than this ad on Iran.

You can’t find any evidence of a “civil war” between conservatives in Gallup’s polling on Tea Party activists: “Americans who say they support the Tea Party movement share a common concern about government and its scope, particularly with regard to deficit spending. Their views do set them apart from those who are neutral or opposed to the Tea Party movement, but hardly distinguish them from supporters of the Republican Party more broadly.”

You can’t be seen with Obama if you’re a Democrat who wants to win in 2010: “PPP has polled on the impact of a Barack Obama endorsement in 5 key Senate races over the last month, and it’s looking more and more clear that there’s just about nowhere Democratic candidates would benefit from having the President come to campaign with them.”

You can’t miss the telltale sign that Obama is doing something unpopular: he says it’s all Eric Holder’s idea. “The White House has said the decision to challenge Arizona’s immigration law was out of its hands, left completely up to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the lawyers at the Justice Department.”

You can’t expect the president to go, so David Axelrod will appear at a fundraiser for Tony Rezko’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias. Meanwhile: “Giannoulias’ camp released his income tax returns last Friday, which showed that the ex-banker paid neither federal nor state taxes in ’09. In fact, Giannoulias received a $30K tax return, which he promised to give to charity.”

You can’t be reading things if you want to be a cable talking head! On the lawsuit claiming that the Arizona law is pre-empted by federal immigration law, Dana Perino sanely suggests: “Perhaps we should do something novel like read the complaint before commenting … surely the administration would appreciate that courtesy?”

You can’t imagine it was a long speech: “Queen Elizabeth II of England addressed the United Nations for the first time since 1957 on Tuesday, paying homage to the organization’s accomplishments since she last stood at the famous green podium of the General Assembly.”

Read Less

Obama Should Heed His Own Advice

This weekend President Obama delivered the University of Michigan commencement address and returned to a favorite theme of his: the need for civility and respect in public discourse. In the president’s words:

The… way to keep our democracy healthy is to maintain a basic level of civility in our public debate…. we cannot expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question someone’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. Throwing around phrases like “socialist” and “Soviet-style takeover;” “fascist” and “right-wing nut” may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, or our political opponents, to authoritarian, and even murderous regimes.

… The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning — since after all, why should we listen to a “fascist” or “socialist” or “right-wing nut?” It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate that we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.

So what can we do about this?

As I’ve found out after a year in the White House, changing this type of slash and burn politics isn’t easy. And part of what civility requires is that we recall the simple lesson most of us learned from our parents: treat others as you would like to be treated, with courtesy and respect.

These are wise words that should be taken seriously. Especially by the president himself.

I say that because President Obama’s party and his chief defenders — including the DNC, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Reid — have routinely engaged in the kind of vilification the president condemns. Think of the assault on the Tea Party Movement and those who attended town-hall meetings last summer; they were accused of being racists and bigots, “an angry mob,” practitioners of “un-American tactics,” “astroturfers” and Nazi-like, and potential Timothy McVeighs. Harry Reid referred to people who showed up at town-hall meetings as “evil-mongers.” Representative Alay Grayson, in characterizing the GOP health-care plans, said that “the Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick…. This is what the Republicans want you to do.”

On and on it goes, issue after issue, slander after slander. Yet President Obama has done nothing to call off the attack dogs in his own party, despite his enormous influence with them.

In fact, Obama himself has engaged in ad hominem attacks to a degree that is unusual for a president. He constantly impugns the motives of those who have policy disagreements with him. His critics are greedy, venal, irresponsible, demagogic, cynical, bought and paid for, spreaders of misinformation, distorters of truth. “More than any President in memory,” the Wall Street Journal recently editorialized, “Mr. Obama has a tendency to vilify his opponents in personal terms and assail their arguments as dishonest, illegitimate or motivated by bad faith.”

So President Obama lacerates his critics for engaging in the very activity he indulges in. And he does so in the haughtiest way imaginable, always attempting to portray himself as hovering above us mere mortals, exasperated at the childish and petty quality of the political debate, weary of the name-calling. How hard it must be to be the embodiment of Socratic discourse, Solomonic wisdom, and Niebuhrian nuance in this fallen and broken world.

Here is the rather unpleasant reality, though: our president fancies himself a public intellectual of the highest order — think Walter Lippmann as chief executive — even as he and his team are accomplished practitioners of the Chicago Way. They relish targeting those on their enemies list. The president himself pretends to engage his critics’ arguments even as his words are used like a flamethrower in a field of straw men. It’s hard to tell if we’re watching a man engaged in an elaborate political shell game or a victim of an extraordinary, and nearly clinical, case of self-delusion. Perhaps there is some of both at play. Regardless, President Obama’s act became tiresome long ago.

I am reminded of the line from Emerson: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

This weekend President Obama delivered the University of Michigan commencement address and returned to a favorite theme of his: the need for civility and respect in public discourse. In the president’s words:

The… way to keep our democracy healthy is to maintain a basic level of civility in our public debate…. we cannot expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question someone’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. Throwing around phrases like “socialist” and “Soviet-style takeover;” “fascist” and “right-wing nut” may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, or our political opponents, to authoritarian, and even murderous regimes.

… The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning — since after all, why should we listen to a “fascist” or “socialist” or “right-wing nut?” It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate that we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.

So what can we do about this?

As I’ve found out after a year in the White House, changing this type of slash and burn politics isn’t easy. And part of what civility requires is that we recall the simple lesson most of us learned from our parents: treat others as you would like to be treated, with courtesy and respect.

These are wise words that should be taken seriously. Especially by the president himself.

I say that because President Obama’s party and his chief defenders — including the DNC, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Reid — have routinely engaged in the kind of vilification the president condemns. Think of the assault on the Tea Party Movement and those who attended town-hall meetings last summer; they were accused of being racists and bigots, “an angry mob,” practitioners of “un-American tactics,” “astroturfers” and Nazi-like, and potential Timothy McVeighs. Harry Reid referred to people who showed up at town-hall meetings as “evil-mongers.” Representative Alay Grayson, in characterizing the GOP health-care plans, said that “the Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick…. This is what the Republicans want you to do.”

On and on it goes, issue after issue, slander after slander. Yet President Obama has done nothing to call off the attack dogs in his own party, despite his enormous influence with them.

In fact, Obama himself has engaged in ad hominem attacks to a degree that is unusual for a president. He constantly impugns the motives of those who have policy disagreements with him. His critics are greedy, venal, irresponsible, demagogic, cynical, bought and paid for, spreaders of misinformation, distorters of truth. “More than any President in memory,” the Wall Street Journal recently editorialized, “Mr. Obama has a tendency to vilify his opponents in personal terms and assail their arguments as dishonest, illegitimate or motivated by bad faith.”

So President Obama lacerates his critics for engaging in the very activity he indulges in. And he does so in the haughtiest way imaginable, always attempting to portray himself as hovering above us mere mortals, exasperated at the childish and petty quality of the political debate, weary of the name-calling. How hard it must be to be the embodiment of Socratic discourse, Solomonic wisdom, and Niebuhrian nuance in this fallen and broken world.

Here is the rather unpleasant reality, though: our president fancies himself a public intellectual of the highest order — think Walter Lippmann as chief executive — even as he and his team are accomplished practitioners of the Chicago Way. They relish targeting those on their enemies list. The president himself pretends to engage his critics’ arguments even as his words are used like a flamethrower in a field of straw men. It’s hard to tell if we’re watching a man engaged in an elaborate political shell game or a victim of an extraordinary, and nearly clinical, case of self-delusion. Perhaps there is some of both at play. Regardless, President Obama’s act became tiresome long ago.

I am reminded of the line from Emerson: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

Read Less

Brooks Struggles to Figure Out What Went Wrong

David Brooks is on a search to find out how it was that we elected such a “moderate” president and wound up with the worst of big government liberalism and a polarized electorate. He seems stumped as he explores these questions in what can only be described as evasive phrasing:

The country had just elected a man who vowed to move past the old polarities, who valued discussion and who clearly had some sympathy with both the Burkean and Hamiltonian impulses. He staffed his administration with brilliant pragmatists whose views overlapped with mine, who differed only in that they have more faith in technocratic planning.

Yet things have not worked out for those of us in the broad middle. Politics is more polarized than ever. The two parties have drifted further to the extremes. The center is drained and depressed.

What happened?

History happened. The administration came into power at a time of economic crisis. This led it, in the first bloom of self-confidence, to attempt many big projects all at once. Each of these projects may have been defensible in isolation, but in combination they created the impression of a federal onslaught.

History happened? Oh, let’s see if we can’t be more precise than that. “As government grew [by itself? did someone grow it?], the antigovernment right mobilized. This produced the Tea Party Movement — a characteristically raw but authentically American revolt led by members of the yeoman enterprising class.” History happened and government grew. (Like magic!) And now Brooks is disappointed.

Brooks writes that the Democratic party did this and that, that opposition grew, and that we wound up in the big- vs. little-government debate. What’s missing from this autopilot version of politics? Hmm … could it be Obama, the moderate fellow, who did the government-growing?

I have a rule of thumb: when a writer, especially a good one, excessively uses evasive or convoluted rhetoric, he is hiding something. Let’s try this: Obama, a very liberal politician, was smart enough to know he couldn’t win the presidency as a hard leftist. He posed as a moderate. New York Times columnists sung his praises. Pundits assured us that he was beyond ideology, a sort of philosopher-king with very neat pants. He got into office. He governed from the far Left. The president signed bill after bill, spending money we didn’t have and running up the debt. Obama insisted on a mammoth health-care bill the country hated. He egged Congress on to pass it. Meanwhile, the country recoiled. They hired a moderate on advice of pundits and media mavens and got a far-Left liberal, a ton of debt, an expanded federal government, and a slew of new taxes.

How’s that?

The bottom line: history doesn’t just “happen.” Presidents make choices. Pundits make miscalculations. Voters exact revenge. It’s not that complicated — if you are honest about who did what to whom.

David Brooks is on a search to find out how it was that we elected such a “moderate” president and wound up with the worst of big government liberalism and a polarized electorate. He seems stumped as he explores these questions in what can only be described as evasive phrasing:

The country had just elected a man who vowed to move past the old polarities, who valued discussion and who clearly had some sympathy with both the Burkean and Hamiltonian impulses. He staffed his administration with brilliant pragmatists whose views overlapped with mine, who differed only in that they have more faith in technocratic planning.

Yet things have not worked out for those of us in the broad middle. Politics is more polarized than ever. The two parties have drifted further to the extremes. The center is drained and depressed.

What happened?

History happened. The administration came into power at a time of economic crisis. This led it, in the first bloom of self-confidence, to attempt many big projects all at once. Each of these projects may have been defensible in isolation, but in combination they created the impression of a federal onslaught.

History happened? Oh, let’s see if we can’t be more precise than that. “As government grew [by itself? did someone grow it?], the antigovernment right mobilized. This produced the Tea Party Movement — a characteristically raw but authentically American revolt led by members of the yeoman enterprising class.” History happened and government grew. (Like magic!) And now Brooks is disappointed.

Brooks writes that the Democratic party did this and that, that opposition grew, and that we wound up in the big- vs. little-government debate. What’s missing from this autopilot version of politics? Hmm … could it be Obama, the moderate fellow, who did the government-growing?

I have a rule of thumb: when a writer, especially a good one, excessively uses evasive or convoluted rhetoric, he is hiding something. Let’s try this: Obama, a very liberal politician, was smart enough to know he couldn’t win the presidency as a hard leftist. He posed as a moderate. New York Times columnists sung his praises. Pundits assured us that he was beyond ideology, a sort of philosopher-king with very neat pants. He got into office. He governed from the far Left. The president signed bill after bill, spending money we didn’t have and running up the debt. Obama insisted on a mammoth health-care bill the country hated. He egged Congress on to pass it. Meanwhile, the country recoiled. They hired a moderate on advice of pundits and media mavens and got a far-Left liberal, a ton of debt, an expanded federal government, and a slew of new taxes.

How’s that?

The bottom line: history doesn’t just “happen.” Presidents make choices. Pundits make miscalculations. Voters exact revenge. It’s not that complicated — if you are honest about who did what to whom.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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