Commentary Magazine


Topic: the Daily News

WEB EXCLUSIVE: The Never-Ending Worst Week Ever

Barack Obama is on an open-ended run of “worsts.” The New York Post’s Michael Goodwin opened his November 7 column thus: “He took a ‘shellacking,’ a 2012 poll shows him trailing two Republicans, and losing candidates in his own party are griping about his ‘tone deaf’ leadership. And the Mad Hatter, Nancy Pelosi, refuses to exit quietly. Welcome to Barack Obama’s worst week in the Oval Office.”

Days later, on November 12, Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio told the Daily News: “This certainly was the worst 10 days of [Obama’s] political life.” Commenting on the president’s failed Asia trip, Muzzio noted, “He came back with bupkis,” and said, “Given that he’s not going to be able to get any domestic achievements with the Republicans in control of the House … if he doesn’t do it in foreign policy that’s a big problem for him.”

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Barack Obama is on an open-ended run of “worsts.” The New York Post’s Michael Goodwin opened his November 7 column thus: “He took a ‘shellacking,’ a 2012 poll shows him trailing two Republicans, and losing candidates in his own party are griping about his ‘tone deaf’ leadership. And the Mad Hatter, Nancy Pelosi, refuses to exit quietly. Welcome to Barack Obama’s worst week in the Oval Office.”

Days later, on November 12, Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio told the Daily News: “This certainly was the worst 10 days of [Obama’s] political life.” Commenting on the president’s failed Asia trip, Muzzio noted, “He came back with bupkis,” and said, “Given that he’s not going to be able to get any domestic achievements with the Republicans in control of the House … if he doesn’t do it in foreign policy that’s a big problem for him.”

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Look Who’s Coming to the Tea Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Last Days of Arlen Specter

With only a week to go before Democratic primary voters choose a candidate for the United States Senate, the incumbent’s campaign is beginning to have a Last Days of Pompeii feel to it. In that classic old movie — the original Hollywood disaster flick — ordinary people in the ancient Roman city go about their lives without an inkling about a fact the audience knew before they entered the theater — that their world is about to blow up.

In that same way, we are now watching Arlen Specter campaign for a sixth term in the Senate as if 2010 weren’t different from any other campaign he had ever fought. The polls showing Specter now trailing challenger Rep. Joe Sestak among Democrats aren’t merely routine bad news for a failing campaign. They are a cataclysm for the senator. Specter’s greatest strength in the primary was the sense of inevitability about his victory that backers such as President Obama and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell have tried to foster. Without it, it’s going to be hard to hold the loyalty of the Philadelphia party ward bosses, whom Specter is counting on to manufacture a winning margin. While there is no sign that the state or city party is lessening its efforts on his behalf, these are exactly the kinds of people who don’t like going down with a sinking ship and who won’t go all-out for a candidate who won’t be in a position to do favors for them in the future. Without a massive turnout produced by one of the last viable urban political machines in the country, Specter is sunk. Moreover, Specter’s best argument to convince Democrats to back him — that he is a stronger candidate against Republican Pat Toomey in November — is also fading, given that a month ago polls showed Toomey with a substantial lead over either Democrat.

Ironically, the latest of the state’s leading newspapers to endorse Specter — the Philadelphia Daily News — seemed to understand that dissatisfaction with incumbents and the corruption of earmark spending that Specter exemplifies made the race “a microcosm of the American political landscape” in which the choice in November will be between “a bellwether for the nation, embodying a shift rightward, or a more moderate staying-of-the-course.”

The Daily News makes no secret that it wants the answer to be the latter, but give it credit for creative writing in its endorsement of Specter, in which it characterizes his obvious flip-flops and party switch thusly:

He comes by these changes honestly, as part of a process of finding the truth in issues that resist easy answers. He has been smart and tough enough to survive — and thrive — while resisting easy categorization.

Talk about political spin, this sort of blatantly cynical and deceptive line brings to mind H.L. Mencken’s famous (if not altogether fair) characterization of William Jennings Bryan: “If he was sincere, then so was Barnum.”

Meanwhile, there are two other interesting developments in the race.

Specter has been taking a beating for his “swift-boat” ads sliming opponent Rep. Joe Sestak for his Navy record. So the Democratic establishment brought out the original “swift-boat” victim — Sen. John Kerry — to endorse Specter. While Kerry gave the usual pro forma endorsement of a fellow member of the Senate Democratic caucus, he pointedly refused to endorse Specter’s attack on Sestak or talk candidly about the obvious comparisons between the attacks he suffered and those directed at Sestak. Such an endorsement may hurt more than it helps, since it merely draws more attention to an issue that makes Specter look like a vicious incumbent willing to do or say anything to gain re-election.

Even more unhelpful for Specter is President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. As it happens, the 2009 vote to confirm Kagan as solicitor general occurred during the senator’s last weeks as a Republican, and he voted against her. This gives Sestak yet another opportunity in the last week of campaigning to hammer Specter as a cynical turncoat. Specter’s having to spend time this week dealing with yet more evidence of the insincerity of his conversion to the Democrats is a boost for Sestak.

Taken all together, these developments point to a Specter defeat next week. But while the ending is becoming increasingly clear to the rest of us, we’re left wondering whether he understands that these may well be his last days as a politician with a future.

With only a week to go before Democratic primary voters choose a candidate for the United States Senate, the incumbent’s campaign is beginning to have a Last Days of Pompeii feel to it. In that classic old movie — the original Hollywood disaster flick — ordinary people in the ancient Roman city go about their lives without an inkling about a fact the audience knew before they entered the theater — that their world is about to blow up.

In that same way, we are now watching Arlen Specter campaign for a sixth term in the Senate as if 2010 weren’t different from any other campaign he had ever fought. The polls showing Specter now trailing challenger Rep. Joe Sestak among Democrats aren’t merely routine bad news for a failing campaign. They are a cataclysm for the senator. Specter’s greatest strength in the primary was the sense of inevitability about his victory that backers such as President Obama and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell have tried to foster. Without it, it’s going to be hard to hold the loyalty of the Philadelphia party ward bosses, whom Specter is counting on to manufacture a winning margin. While there is no sign that the state or city party is lessening its efforts on his behalf, these are exactly the kinds of people who don’t like going down with a sinking ship and who won’t go all-out for a candidate who won’t be in a position to do favors for them in the future. Without a massive turnout produced by one of the last viable urban political machines in the country, Specter is sunk. Moreover, Specter’s best argument to convince Democrats to back him — that he is a stronger candidate against Republican Pat Toomey in November — is also fading, given that a month ago polls showed Toomey with a substantial lead over either Democrat.

Ironically, the latest of the state’s leading newspapers to endorse Specter — the Philadelphia Daily News — seemed to understand that dissatisfaction with incumbents and the corruption of earmark spending that Specter exemplifies made the race “a microcosm of the American political landscape” in which the choice in November will be between “a bellwether for the nation, embodying a shift rightward, or a more moderate staying-of-the-course.”

The Daily News makes no secret that it wants the answer to be the latter, but give it credit for creative writing in its endorsement of Specter, in which it characterizes his obvious flip-flops and party switch thusly:

He comes by these changes honestly, as part of a process of finding the truth in issues that resist easy answers. He has been smart and tough enough to survive — and thrive — while resisting easy categorization.

Talk about political spin, this sort of blatantly cynical and deceptive line brings to mind H.L. Mencken’s famous (if not altogether fair) characterization of William Jennings Bryan: “If he was sincere, then so was Barnum.”

Meanwhile, there are two other interesting developments in the race.

Specter has been taking a beating for his “swift-boat” ads sliming opponent Rep. Joe Sestak for his Navy record. So the Democratic establishment brought out the original “swift-boat” victim — Sen. John Kerry — to endorse Specter. While Kerry gave the usual pro forma endorsement of a fellow member of the Senate Democratic caucus, he pointedly refused to endorse Specter’s attack on Sestak or talk candidly about the obvious comparisons between the attacks he suffered and those directed at Sestak. Such an endorsement may hurt more than it helps, since it merely draws more attention to an issue that makes Specter look like a vicious incumbent willing to do or say anything to gain re-election.

Even more unhelpful for Specter is President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. As it happens, the 2009 vote to confirm Kagan as solicitor general occurred during the senator’s last weeks as a Republican, and he voted against her. This gives Sestak yet another opportunity in the last week of campaigning to hammer Specter as a cynical turncoat. Specter’s having to spend time this week dealing with yet more evidence of the insincerity of his conversion to the Democrats is a boost for Sestak.

Taken all together, these developments point to a Specter defeat next week. But while the ending is becoming increasingly clear to the rest of us, we’re left wondering whether he understands that these may well be his last days as a politician with a future.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jeffrey Herf discovers that “liberals should be willing to devote more efforts to the moral and political delegitimation of radical Islamism. It is a form of totalitarian ideology. It is profoundly reactionary and deeply anti-Semitic and, in this sense, racist. It draws on a radicalization and selective reading of the religion of Islam. During both World War II and the cold war, the United States derived great strategic value from naming its adversaries and publicly discussing and denouncing their ideologies. It fought wars of ideas that accompanied the force of arms. We need to understand the importance of doing that today as well.” Who knew?

Candidate Obama denied that Zbigniew Brzezinski was an adviser on the Middle East, but now Brzezinski’s giving Obama a nudge to impose a peace plan. It’s almost as if candidate Obama had disguised his true inclinations on Israel.

The mainstream media have hyped the comments of stray Tea Party activists but almost entirely ignored the doubling of anti-Semitic incidents in 2009. “Of course, recent history has shown American media only concerned with acts of violence when they fit into an agenda being advanced.”

Maybe we should bring back the term “Islamic radicalism“: “Chilling new details about the foiled Al Qaeda plot to blow up the city’s busiest subways have emerged as a fourth suspect was quietly arrested in Pakistan, the Daily News has learned. The unidentified man, who helped plan the plot, is expected to be extradited to the U.S. to betried in Brooklyn Federal Court with Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay of Flushing, Queens, sources said.”

Imagine the damage she’d do with a lifetime appointment: “The White House moved quickly today to squelch the widening speculation that Hillary Clinton could be nominated to the Supreme Court, as Senator Orrin Hatch suggested this morning.”

Shocking as it may seem, North Korea is not going to be sweet-talked into giving up its nuclear ambitions.

It’s not just Israel that’s staying away: “President Obama is holding one of the biggest global summits ever on U.S. soil starting Monday, but for all the hoopla, the event will be missing America’s strongest allies. As remarkable as it is, the fact that neither British Prime Minister Gordon Brown nor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are attending President Obama’s nuclear security summit in Washington Monday and Tuesday is not altogether surprising.Relations with both countries — Israel in particular — have grown strained under Obama. Combined with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent defiance of the administration, questions are growing about the president’s ability to maintain important relationships. … The president’s critics, many of them from the Bush administration, say the summit absences — heads of state from Australia and Saudia Arabia also are not attending — are the most glaring examples of a floundering foreign policy that treats rivals and enemies better than friends.”

An expensive broken promise by Obama: “Taxpayers earning less than $200,000 a year will pay roughly $3.9 billion more in taxes — in 2019 alone — because of healthcare reform, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official scorekeeper for legislation. The new law raises $15.2 billion over 10 years by limiting the medical expense deduction, a provision widely used by taxpayers who either have a serious illness or are older.”

Charles Krauthammer on Bart Stupak: “The guy’s political epitaph will read ‘A good man who played over his head.’ He held out and then he got squeezed by the president and the speaker. He caved. And the worst part of it was that he pretended that the instrument of surrender he signed was a victory. It’s a sad ending to a long career.”

Jeffrey Herf discovers that “liberals should be willing to devote more efforts to the moral and political delegitimation of radical Islamism. It is a form of totalitarian ideology. It is profoundly reactionary and deeply anti-Semitic and, in this sense, racist. It draws on a radicalization and selective reading of the religion of Islam. During both World War II and the cold war, the United States derived great strategic value from naming its adversaries and publicly discussing and denouncing their ideologies. It fought wars of ideas that accompanied the force of arms. We need to understand the importance of doing that today as well.” Who knew?

Candidate Obama denied that Zbigniew Brzezinski was an adviser on the Middle East, but now Brzezinski’s giving Obama a nudge to impose a peace plan. It’s almost as if candidate Obama had disguised his true inclinations on Israel.

The mainstream media have hyped the comments of stray Tea Party activists but almost entirely ignored the doubling of anti-Semitic incidents in 2009. “Of course, recent history has shown American media only concerned with acts of violence when they fit into an agenda being advanced.”

Maybe we should bring back the term “Islamic radicalism“: “Chilling new details about the foiled Al Qaeda plot to blow up the city’s busiest subways have emerged as a fourth suspect was quietly arrested in Pakistan, the Daily News has learned. The unidentified man, who helped plan the plot, is expected to be extradited to the U.S. to betried in Brooklyn Federal Court with Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay of Flushing, Queens, sources said.”

Imagine the damage she’d do with a lifetime appointment: “The White House moved quickly today to squelch the widening speculation that Hillary Clinton could be nominated to the Supreme Court, as Senator Orrin Hatch suggested this morning.”

Shocking as it may seem, North Korea is not going to be sweet-talked into giving up its nuclear ambitions.

It’s not just Israel that’s staying away: “President Obama is holding one of the biggest global summits ever on U.S. soil starting Monday, but for all the hoopla, the event will be missing America’s strongest allies. As remarkable as it is, the fact that neither British Prime Minister Gordon Brown nor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are attending President Obama’s nuclear security summit in Washington Monday and Tuesday is not altogether surprising.Relations with both countries — Israel in particular — have grown strained under Obama. Combined with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent defiance of the administration, questions are growing about the president’s ability to maintain important relationships. … The president’s critics, many of them from the Bush administration, say the summit absences — heads of state from Australia and Saudia Arabia also are not attending — are the most glaring examples of a floundering foreign policy that treats rivals and enemies better than friends.”

An expensive broken promise by Obama: “Taxpayers earning less than $200,000 a year will pay roughly $3.9 billion more in taxes — in 2019 alone — because of healthcare reform, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official scorekeeper for legislation. The new law raises $15.2 billion over 10 years by limiting the medical expense deduction, a provision widely used by taxpayers who either have a serious illness or are older.”

Charles Krauthammer on Bart Stupak: “The guy’s political epitaph will read ‘A good man who played over his head.’ He held out and then he got squeezed by the president and the speaker. He caved. And the worst part of it was that he pretended that the instrument of surrender he signed was a victory. It’s a sad ending to a long career.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not Chelsea . . .

There’s something depressing about Chelsea Clinton having been suddenly called upon to expand her role in Hillary’s campaign. Up until now Chelsea seemed to represent the one untainted region of the Clinton sphere. And one liked to believe that her previous media shyness (she refused to talk to the press) on the campaign trail came from a personal determination not to be sullied with the muck of her parents’ calling.

But now it looks as if Chelsea was merely being kept in the back of the Clinton arsenal, only to be used in the event of a genuine Obama showdown. It’s Chelsea’s mission to grab some of the Obama youth vote. The Daily News reports that she’s on a kind of college tour, including a recent stop at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. She has also been calling superdelegateas on her mother’s behalf.

Bill and Hillary are notoriously opinion-obsessed, and are well aware that Chelsea is probably the only Clinton left whose poll numbers show consistent low negatives. Here’s the Daily News:

Peter Ragone, a Democratic consultant who volunteered for the Clinton campaign in California and arranged several of Chelsea Clinton’s appearances there, said the former First Daughter is remarkably popular.

“What kept happening, which was astounding, is you’d expect 25 people and 200 would show up,” he said.

Chelsea is the last of her clan capable of evoking sympathy, which is why it’s a little heartbreaking to see her PR approach turn on a dime.

There’s something depressing about Chelsea Clinton having been suddenly called upon to expand her role in Hillary’s campaign. Up until now Chelsea seemed to represent the one untainted region of the Clinton sphere. And one liked to believe that her previous media shyness (she refused to talk to the press) on the campaign trail came from a personal determination not to be sullied with the muck of her parents’ calling.

But now it looks as if Chelsea was merely being kept in the back of the Clinton arsenal, only to be used in the event of a genuine Obama showdown. It’s Chelsea’s mission to grab some of the Obama youth vote. The Daily News reports that she’s on a kind of college tour, including a recent stop at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. She has also been calling superdelegateas on her mother’s behalf.

Bill and Hillary are notoriously opinion-obsessed, and are well aware that Chelsea is probably the only Clinton left whose poll numbers show consistent low negatives. Here’s the Daily News:

Peter Ragone, a Democratic consultant who volunteered for the Clinton campaign in California and arranged several of Chelsea Clinton’s appearances there, said the former First Daughter is remarkably popular.

“What kept happening, which was astounding, is you’d expect 25 people and 200 would show up,” he said.

Chelsea is the last of her clan capable of evoking sympathy, which is why it’s a little heartbreaking to see her PR approach turn on a dime.

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Rudy’s Weaknesses

Speculation is swirling about who tipped off Ben Smith of the Politico about the peculiar methods used to bill police protection for then Mayor Giuliani when he, though still married, was visiting his girlfriend Judith Nathan in the Hamptons. Was it Fran Reiter, a former Giuliani Deputy Mayor now working for the Hillary Clinton campaign? Was it New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson hoping to help his fellow Democrats? Was it former Governor George Pataki, who was either at odds with or overshadowed by Giuliani when both were in office? If this has the look of an Agatha Christie plot, where a dozen suspects all have good motives, that’s because Giuliani’s path to success was paved with the numerous enemies he made turning New York around and advancing his own ambitions.

The Politico article was not a dirty trick as Giuliani told Katie Couric, but it was a hit piece. It’s been followed in short order by another in the form of a front-page New York Times article suggesting that Giuliani sometimes exaggerates the numbers he uses to describe his successes. STOP THE PRESSES—A POLITICIAN WHO EXAGGERATES! How does this distinguish Giuliani from other politicians? Well, says the Times, he uses a lot of statistics and that means—according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania—that “He’s given us a lot of work up until now.”

Giuliani has repaid the money used for the police protection. But the peculiar billing methods go to two of his biggest vulnerabilities. First it opens the character issue by reminding people that Bernard Kerik, Rudy’s trusted lieutenant whose most recent corruption case has yet to go to trial, was also involved with a girlfriend while married during the closing years of the Giuliani administration. More importantly, it’s a back-door path into the fact, as columnist Michael Goodwin of the Daily News noted to me, that Rudy is the first serious Presidential candidate who is on his third marriage. Giuliani’s affair with Judith Nathan while in office and while still married to Donna Hanover is such an obvious vulnerability that the campaign’s inability to get its response straight suggests important weaknesses in its general operational abilities.

With such a long list of enemies, Giuliani can expect more unflattering revelations. He’s likely to weather them in a somewhat weakened state. But the effect of these political wounds is uncertain because there is no one clear alternative to Rudy. As he has from the start, Rudy is being held aloft not only by his record of achievements but by the absence of a strong alternative.

Right now Giuliani is being helped by the rise of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in Iowa. Should the former Arkansas governor win in Iowa, it would be a major blow to Giuliani’s primary rival at the moment: Mitt Romney. But while Huckabee and Giuliani have only nice things to say about each other (for the moment), if Huckabee emerges as a top tier candidate—in effect displacing the hopes once vested in Fred Thompson—he could become a serious danger to Rudy come the January 29th Florida primary. The Giuliani campaign sees Florida as its firewall, the place where it halts its foes cold and seizes the lead. But Huckabee is rising rapidly in the Florida polls gaining seven points last week alone. If his surge continues, he could reshape the election.

Speculation is swirling about who tipped off Ben Smith of the Politico about the peculiar methods used to bill police protection for then Mayor Giuliani when he, though still married, was visiting his girlfriend Judith Nathan in the Hamptons. Was it Fran Reiter, a former Giuliani Deputy Mayor now working for the Hillary Clinton campaign? Was it New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson hoping to help his fellow Democrats? Was it former Governor George Pataki, who was either at odds with or overshadowed by Giuliani when both were in office? If this has the look of an Agatha Christie plot, where a dozen suspects all have good motives, that’s because Giuliani’s path to success was paved with the numerous enemies he made turning New York around and advancing his own ambitions.

The Politico article was not a dirty trick as Giuliani told Katie Couric, but it was a hit piece. It’s been followed in short order by another in the form of a front-page New York Times article suggesting that Giuliani sometimes exaggerates the numbers he uses to describe his successes. STOP THE PRESSES—A POLITICIAN WHO EXAGGERATES! How does this distinguish Giuliani from other politicians? Well, says the Times, he uses a lot of statistics and that means—according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania—that “He’s given us a lot of work up until now.”

Giuliani has repaid the money used for the police protection. But the peculiar billing methods go to two of his biggest vulnerabilities. First it opens the character issue by reminding people that Bernard Kerik, Rudy’s trusted lieutenant whose most recent corruption case has yet to go to trial, was also involved with a girlfriend while married during the closing years of the Giuliani administration. More importantly, it’s a back-door path into the fact, as columnist Michael Goodwin of the Daily News noted to me, that Rudy is the first serious Presidential candidate who is on his third marriage. Giuliani’s affair with Judith Nathan while in office and while still married to Donna Hanover is such an obvious vulnerability that the campaign’s inability to get its response straight suggests important weaknesses in its general operational abilities.

With such a long list of enemies, Giuliani can expect more unflattering revelations. He’s likely to weather them in a somewhat weakened state. But the effect of these political wounds is uncertain because there is no one clear alternative to Rudy. As he has from the start, Rudy is being held aloft not only by his record of achievements but by the absence of a strong alternative.

Right now Giuliani is being helped by the rise of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in Iowa. Should the former Arkansas governor win in Iowa, it would be a major blow to Giuliani’s primary rival at the moment: Mitt Romney. But while Huckabee and Giuliani have only nice things to say about each other (for the moment), if Huckabee emerges as a top tier candidate—in effect displacing the hopes once vested in Fred Thompson—he could become a serious danger to Rudy come the January 29th Florida primary. The Giuliani campaign sees Florida as its firewall, the place where it halts its foes cold and seizes the lead. But Huckabee is rising rapidly in the Florida polls gaining seven points last week alone. If his surge continues, he could reshape the election.

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Ripley’s Game

A front runner in a presidential campaign, such as Rudy Giuliani, has to expect robust attacks. Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney have criticized strongly his record on immigration and gun control. These are issues that create problems for Giuliani, but as long as his 9/11 reputation is secure, their effect will be limited. That’s why the recent assaults on his 9/11 record are potentially more significant. So far, however, it’s Giuliani’s good luck to have been subjected largely to inept criticism of his role at Ground Zero. Last month a video, made by the International Firefighters Association, which is tied to the Democratic Party, denounced him for failing to respond effectively to the 1993 World Trade Center Attack. Giuliani didn’t take office till January 1994.

Now comes a piece from Time magazine, written in the spirit of the Nexis word-game school of journalism. In her piece, reporter Amanda Ripley says that “an analysis of 80 of Giuliani’s major speeches from 1993 to 2001 shows that he mentioned the danger of terrorism only once, in a brief reference to emergency preparedness.” Her argument is that Giuliani has overstated his experience with and interest in terrorism.

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A front runner in a presidential campaign, such as Rudy Giuliani, has to expect robust attacks. Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney have criticized strongly his record on immigration and gun control. These are issues that create problems for Giuliani, but as long as his 9/11 reputation is secure, their effect will be limited. That’s why the recent assaults on his 9/11 record are potentially more significant. So far, however, it’s Giuliani’s good luck to have been subjected largely to inept criticism of his role at Ground Zero. Last month a video, made by the International Firefighters Association, which is tied to the Democratic Party, denounced him for failing to respond effectively to the 1993 World Trade Center Attack. Giuliani didn’t take office till January 1994.

Now comes a piece from Time magazine, written in the spirit of the Nexis word-game school of journalism. In her piece, reporter Amanda Ripley says that “an analysis of 80 of Giuliani’s major speeches from 1993 to 2001 shows that he mentioned the danger of terrorism only once, in a brief reference to emergency preparedness.” Her argument is that Giuliani has overstated his experience with and interest in terrorism.

But if Ripley had dug a little deeper, she would have discovered that pride of place in Giuliani’s 1993 inaugural speech went to the first World Trade Center attack. Her article goes on to quote former New York Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Jerry Hauer saying “We never talked about Islamic terrorism.” Hauer continued, “We talked about chemical terrorism, biological terrorism. We did talk about car bombs every now and then.” (Does Ripley think that Giuliani was preparing for attacks from Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers? Or ETA, the Basque separatist group?)

Her article also makes no mention of the controversy surrounding the command center Giuliani created in 1998 to deal with potential terror attacks. (Unfortunately, he made the mistake of placing it in 7 World Trade alongside the FBI, CIA, and FEMA offices, and it was destroyed on 9/11.) At the time, the criticism in the New York press was fierce: the conventional wisdom was that no terror danger existed outside Giuliani’s paranoia. The command center was called “Rudy’s Nuclear Palace” and “the nut shell.” Michael Daly of the Daily News compared it to Saddam Hussein’s underground shelters.

This is, no doubt, not the last of these sorts of attacks; Giuliani did make mistakes in his security policy, and he’ll pay a political price for them. But he can only hope that future hit-pieces similarly will be inept.

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