Commentary Magazine


Topic: The Heritage

Obama’s New Anti-Satellite Weapons Push to Cede Space to the Chinese?

In 2006, the Chinese reportedly used an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) to blind one of our satellites. In 2007, they definitely used an ASAT to shoot down one of their own satellites. Incidents like these led the Pentagon in 2008 and Secretary Gates in 2010 to assert that China’s ASAT program was meant, respectively, to enhance their power projection and to curtail ours.

So naturally — per Eli Lake’s extensive report this morning — the Obama administration is pushing for a U.S./EU agreement that would severely restrict our ASAT capabilities. Experts who back the administration describe it as a “not exactly binding” minor move, the upshot being that Obama wouldn’t have to secure Senate approval for the measure. But experts and congressional staffers both insist that it would significantly curb what we can do in space and would endanger our ability to develop and deploy both offensive and defensive assets:

[A] congressional staff member said: “There is a suspicion that this is a slippery slope to arms control for space-based weapons, anti-satellite weapons and a back door to potentially limiting missile defense.”… “Because it appears that they are talking about limiting operations … it could be that this is as much an agreement on the law of war as it is on arms control,” Mr. Spring [a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation] said. “If it is something more like a law-of-war agreement, then you are creating a situation of legal jeopardy for a military commander who is responsible for operating systems in space.”

Presumably, the argument is that if we give up ours, they’ll give up theirs. The muddy, cascading norms argument is always trotted out when people push for unilateral disarmament, which is what opposing space militarization means in an age of Chinese ascendancy. In a full-blown movement, you’ll find the argument buttressed by everything from “at least our side won’t be complicit” moral preening to “it’ll snowball into a global movement, then there won’t be any more sides” activist nonsense. But it’s always there, in part because we have a surplus of foreign-policy experts churning out implausible advantages for their pet policies — and then selling those fanciful pretexts as objective evaluations.

If stopping Israeli construction in a particular Jerusalem neighborhood can placate Afghanis who’ve never seen a map of Israel, is it too much to suggest that unilateral Western gestures on space militarization will cause Beijing to abandon its ASAT program?

Turns out, there’s an answer to that:

The State Department has exchanged language with the EU on the code of conduct. The U.S. and Russia also have begun talks about creating confidence-building measures regarding space-based activities. The U.S. has reached out to China on space issues, but Beijing has declined offers to discuss the issue, according to a senior State Department official. [emphasis added]

Disappointing to be sure, but I’m sure there’s still something else we can give up that would swing them.

In 2006, the Chinese reportedly used an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) to blind one of our satellites. In 2007, they definitely used an ASAT to shoot down one of their own satellites. Incidents like these led the Pentagon in 2008 and Secretary Gates in 2010 to assert that China’s ASAT program was meant, respectively, to enhance their power projection and to curtail ours.

So naturally — per Eli Lake’s extensive report this morning — the Obama administration is pushing for a U.S./EU agreement that would severely restrict our ASAT capabilities. Experts who back the administration describe it as a “not exactly binding” minor move, the upshot being that Obama wouldn’t have to secure Senate approval for the measure. But experts and congressional staffers both insist that it would significantly curb what we can do in space and would endanger our ability to develop and deploy both offensive and defensive assets:

[A] congressional staff member said: “There is a suspicion that this is a slippery slope to arms control for space-based weapons, anti-satellite weapons and a back door to potentially limiting missile defense.”… “Because it appears that they are talking about limiting operations … it could be that this is as much an agreement on the law of war as it is on arms control,” Mr. Spring [a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation] said. “If it is something more like a law-of-war agreement, then you are creating a situation of legal jeopardy for a military commander who is responsible for operating systems in space.”

Presumably, the argument is that if we give up ours, they’ll give up theirs. The muddy, cascading norms argument is always trotted out when people push for unilateral disarmament, which is what opposing space militarization means in an age of Chinese ascendancy. In a full-blown movement, you’ll find the argument buttressed by everything from “at least our side won’t be complicit” moral preening to “it’ll snowball into a global movement, then there won’t be any more sides” activist nonsense. But it’s always there, in part because we have a surplus of foreign-policy experts churning out implausible advantages for their pet policies — and then selling those fanciful pretexts as objective evaluations.

If stopping Israeli construction in a particular Jerusalem neighborhood can placate Afghanis who’ve never seen a map of Israel, is it too much to suggest that unilateral Western gestures on space militarization will cause Beijing to abandon its ASAT program?

Turns out, there’s an answer to that:

The State Department has exchanged language with the EU on the code of conduct. The U.S. and Russia also have begun talks about creating confidence-building measures regarding space-based activities. The U.S. has reached out to China on space issues, but Beijing has declined offers to discuss the issue, according to a senior State Department official. [emphasis added]

Disappointing to be sure, but I’m sure there’s still something else we can give up that would swing them.

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Fixing the Problems at the UN

There was one thing members of Congress and advocates for UN reform all agreed on at the House Foreign Affairs Committee discussion on UN funding today: the United Nations is an expensive disaster. Not only are some of its committees used as platforms to vilify Israel and undermine U.S. interests, but the American taxpayers are also subsidizing this equivalent of a frat house for totalitarian leaders.

Each year, the U.S. finances 20 percent of the UN’s total budget, plus billions in additional funds. And while some have proposed that the U.S. withhold an amount of money that’s equal to the budgets of committees that work against our interests — such as Human Rights Council and the Relief and Works Agency — this would be a largely symbolic move. Currently, these committees are funded out of the main contribution we give the UN, so any cuts would be spread around to all the programs and dull the financial blow.

In his testimony before the congressional committee, the Heritage Foundation’s Brett Schaefer suggested that the U.S. lobby for these committees to be spun out of the regular UN funding so that Congress would be able to target them easier.

This appears to be the best proposal, but it will also require a lot of support from Congress. Despite the U.S.’s significant contributions to the UN, its vote on budgetary matters doesn’t hold any more weight than other member countries. So the task at this point would be to increase the U.S.’s voting power at the UN.

And getting that done might require putting more pressure on the UN than some Democrats are comfortable with — including cutting our contributions significantly or defunding it completely. But based on House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s statements today, this sounds like a fight that Republicans are eager to have.

“In the past, Congress has gone along by willingly paying what successive Administrations asked for — without enough oversight,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “This is one of the first true U.N. reform hearings held by this Committee in almost 4 years, but it won’t be the last.”

Ros-Lehtinen said that she would be introducing legislation that would allow Congress to defund the UN entirely, so that “U.S. taxpayers can pay for the U.N. programs and activities that advance our interests and values, and if other countries want different things to be funded, they can pay for it themselves.”

And with the renewed Republican focus on fiscal issues, a proposal like this is likely to resonate with both GOP lawmakers and the conservative base.

There was one thing members of Congress and advocates for UN reform all agreed on at the House Foreign Affairs Committee discussion on UN funding today: the United Nations is an expensive disaster. Not only are some of its committees used as platforms to vilify Israel and undermine U.S. interests, but the American taxpayers are also subsidizing this equivalent of a frat house for totalitarian leaders.

Each year, the U.S. finances 20 percent of the UN’s total budget, plus billions in additional funds. And while some have proposed that the U.S. withhold an amount of money that’s equal to the budgets of committees that work against our interests — such as Human Rights Council and the Relief and Works Agency — this would be a largely symbolic move. Currently, these committees are funded out of the main contribution we give the UN, so any cuts would be spread around to all the programs and dull the financial blow.

In his testimony before the congressional committee, the Heritage Foundation’s Brett Schaefer suggested that the U.S. lobby for these committees to be spun out of the regular UN funding so that Congress would be able to target them easier.

This appears to be the best proposal, but it will also require a lot of support from Congress. Despite the U.S.’s significant contributions to the UN, its vote on budgetary matters doesn’t hold any more weight than other member countries. So the task at this point would be to increase the U.S.’s voting power at the UN.

And getting that done might require putting more pressure on the UN than some Democrats are comfortable with — including cutting our contributions significantly or defunding it completely. But based on House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s statements today, this sounds like a fight that Republicans are eager to have.

“In the past, Congress has gone along by willingly paying what successive Administrations asked for — without enough oversight,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “This is one of the first true U.N. reform hearings held by this Committee in almost 4 years, but it won’t be the last.”

Ros-Lehtinen said that she would be introducing legislation that would allow Congress to defund the UN entirely, so that “U.S. taxpayers can pay for the U.N. programs and activities that advance our interests and values, and if other countries want different things to be funded, they can pay for it themselves.”

And with the renewed Republican focus on fiscal issues, a proposal like this is likely to resonate with both GOP lawmakers and the conservative base.

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New Evidence in Daniel Pearl Murder May Be Useless in a Trial

A new report released by the Pearl Project, based on the group’s three-and-a-half-year investigation into the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, alleges that Pakistani authorities used perjured testimony and made other legal errors during the murder trial.

It also claims to have found new forensic evidence that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed committed the actual beheading of Pearl:

Mr. Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002, and a videotape of his murder was delivered to U.S. officials in Pakistan in February 2002.

FBI agents and CIA officials used a technique called “vein-matching” to compare the killer’s hands, as seen in the video, with a photograph of Mr. Mohammed’s hands.

But a legal expert with personal knowledge of the case tells me that there are several reasons why this discovery probably won’t add any legal weight to the U.S.’s prosecution of KSM.

One reason is that the vein-matching technology the group cited may not be admissible in court. “While it may have some merit in an academic study, it’s not a technology that has been subject to court scrutiny under the rules of evidence dealing with expert testimony. So I would doubt seriously whether it would be admissible in a U.S. court,” Charles “Cully” Stimson, a Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told me.

Another reason is because there’s already a staggering amount of evidence that KSM committed the murder — so the Pearl Project’s linkage is a bit superfluous.

“It’s not a whodunit. And it hasn’t been a whodunit for some time,” said Stimson, who formerly served as an adviser to the Secretary of Defense on detainee issues.

In addition to the evidence that’s already been publicized — such as KSM’s confession — Stimson says that “there’s other evidence that will come to life that has been in the government for some time now that will further link him to that gruesome murder.”

“For those of us who have been involved in detaining operations with these high-value detainees, we’ve known for a long time that KSM was the throat-cutter.”

But that, of course, does not diminish the great work the Pearl Project has done in publicizing this case. After all, it’s certainly preferable to have too much evidence against vile killers like KSM rather than too little.

The Pearl Project’s full report can be found here.

A new report released by the Pearl Project, based on the group’s three-and-a-half-year investigation into the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, alleges that Pakistani authorities used perjured testimony and made other legal errors during the murder trial.

It also claims to have found new forensic evidence that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed committed the actual beheading of Pearl:

Mr. Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002, and a videotape of his murder was delivered to U.S. officials in Pakistan in February 2002.

FBI agents and CIA officials used a technique called “vein-matching” to compare the killer’s hands, as seen in the video, with a photograph of Mr. Mohammed’s hands.

But a legal expert with personal knowledge of the case tells me that there are several reasons why this discovery probably won’t add any legal weight to the U.S.’s prosecution of KSM.

One reason is that the vein-matching technology the group cited may not be admissible in court. “While it may have some merit in an academic study, it’s not a technology that has been subject to court scrutiny under the rules of evidence dealing with expert testimony. So I would doubt seriously whether it would be admissible in a U.S. court,” Charles “Cully” Stimson, a Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told me.

Another reason is because there’s already a staggering amount of evidence that KSM committed the murder — so the Pearl Project’s linkage is a bit superfluous.

“It’s not a whodunit. And it hasn’t been a whodunit for some time,” said Stimson, who formerly served as an adviser to the Secretary of Defense on detainee issues.

In addition to the evidence that’s already been publicized — such as KSM’s confession — Stimson says that “there’s other evidence that will come to life that has been in the government for some time now that will further link him to that gruesome murder.”

“For those of us who have been involved in detaining operations with these high-value detainees, we’ve known for a long time that KSM was the throat-cutter.”

But that, of course, does not diminish the great work the Pearl Project has done in publicizing this case. After all, it’s certainly preferable to have too much evidence against vile killers like KSM rather than too little.

The Pearl Project’s full report can be found here.

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‘Conversing’ About Afghanistan

I had not previously suspected that Grover Norquist has quite the sense of humor. I had thought of him as a dour ideologue, but he shows hidden strains of mirth in responding to my blog post expressing skepticism about his attempts to rally a “center-right” coalition against the Afghan war. The Daily Caller quotes him as follows:

Norquist said Boot’s comments underscore the need for a real debate on America’s strategy in the Af-Pak theatre. “OK, people for whom everything is World War II haven’t read much history. Because they have no other analogies other than things they have seen from World War II movies,” he told me. “There’s got to be a better case for what we’re doing in Afghanistan than Max Boot’s. Somewhere. ‘Shut up’, he argued. It’s, you know, it’s embarrassing.”

At the same time, Norquist insisted that he is not calling for America to pull out of the war — at least not yet. “I see enough to say that I think about it, and that’s what I’ve tossed out there,” he said. “There are guys who do this for a living, and they’re focused on it, who have strong criticisms of the status quo in different places. I’m very comfortable saying this is not for free and that the benefits are not clear to me. Could we have a conversation about the cost, and please make the benefits clear to me and others?”

“When somebody says ‘I don’t want to have a conversation about [what] this costs, I don’t want to have a conversation about what the benefits are, I surely don’t want to be asked what the point of this is’. … I think they have a weak case, because I do other things in life, right? But [proponents of the war] are focused on this all day. They think they have a weak case, and that’s scary, that’s frightening. I just think we ought to have a conversation.”

I will bypass his jape about not reading “much history,” which as it happens is what I do pretty much all day, every day — it’s necessary to read a lot of history to write your own works of history, which is what I spend most of my time doing.

I am more amused by his attempt to walk away from his viewpoint. As Alana pointed out earlier, he’s not really suggesting getting out of Afghanistan, he claims; he just wants to have a “conversation” about it. As if we had not debated it before, ad nauseum. Grover may not have noticed while he was doing “other things in life,” but this conversation has been going on for quite some time, both inside and outside the administration. I am hardly “embarrassed” to debate the merits of the war effort. If he is interested in my explanation of why we can win and why we must do so, he might start by reading two COMMENTARY articles I wrote — here and here.

I am hard put to see, however, why we must revive the debate now on Norquist’s say-so. President Obama — hardly a hawk — oversaw a fairly intensive debate within the administration in the fall of 2009. The surge strategy he approved then is only now being implemented. It makes sense to wait until we see how it plays out before starting a “conversation” about a pullout. Read More

I had not previously suspected that Grover Norquist has quite the sense of humor. I had thought of him as a dour ideologue, but he shows hidden strains of mirth in responding to my blog post expressing skepticism about his attempts to rally a “center-right” coalition against the Afghan war. The Daily Caller quotes him as follows:

Norquist said Boot’s comments underscore the need for a real debate on America’s strategy in the Af-Pak theatre. “OK, people for whom everything is World War II haven’t read much history. Because they have no other analogies other than things they have seen from World War II movies,” he told me. “There’s got to be a better case for what we’re doing in Afghanistan than Max Boot’s. Somewhere. ‘Shut up’, he argued. It’s, you know, it’s embarrassing.”

At the same time, Norquist insisted that he is not calling for America to pull out of the war — at least not yet. “I see enough to say that I think about it, and that’s what I’ve tossed out there,” he said. “There are guys who do this for a living, and they’re focused on it, who have strong criticisms of the status quo in different places. I’m very comfortable saying this is not for free and that the benefits are not clear to me. Could we have a conversation about the cost, and please make the benefits clear to me and others?”

“When somebody says ‘I don’t want to have a conversation about [what] this costs, I don’t want to have a conversation about what the benefits are, I surely don’t want to be asked what the point of this is’. … I think they have a weak case, because I do other things in life, right? But [proponents of the war] are focused on this all day. They think they have a weak case, and that’s scary, that’s frightening. I just think we ought to have a conversation.”

I will bypass his jape about not reading “much history,” which as it happens is what I do pretty much all day, every day — it’s necessary to read a lot of history to write your own works of history, which is what I spend most of my time doing.

I am more amused by his attempt to walk away from his viewpoint. As Alana pointed out earlier, he’s not really suggesting getting out of Afghanistan, he claims; he just wants to have a “conversation” about it. As if we had not debated it before, ad nauseum. Grover may not have noticed while he was doing “other things in life,” but this conversation has been going on for quite some time, both inside and outside the administration. I am hardly “embarrassed” to debate the merits of the war effort. If he is interested in my explanation of why we can win and why we must do so, he might start by reading two COMMENTARY articles I wrote — here and here.

I am hard put to see, however, why we must revive the debate now on Norquist’s say-so. President Obama — hardly a hawk — oversaw a fairly intensive debate within the administration in the fall of 2009. The surge strategy he approved then is only now being implemented. It makes sense to wait until we see how it plays out before starting a “conversation” about a pullout.

Or is the war of such urgent fiscal concern that we need to pull out tomorrow? Hardly. We are spending roughly $100 billion a year in Afghanistan. Our budget deficit last year was $1.29 trillion. So even if we suddenly stopped all spending on Afghanistan, that would reduce the deficit by less than 8 percent. But of course, not even most advocates of a troop drawdown suggest that we should abandon Afghanistan entirely. Most agree we need to keep Special Operations forces there, keep trainers there to help the Afghan Security Forces, etc. So our actual savings would be considerably less than that. There are many reasons for opposing the war effort, but Norquist’s chosen argument — calling for fiscal rectitude by withdrawing — is not terribly compelling.

Nor am I convinced by a poll sponsored by the liberal New America Foundation, with which Norquist has affiliated himself, claiming that most conservatives favor drawing down our troop numbers now. I suspect this is typical of the partisan “polls” that Washington operatives like Norquist put together to make their cause du jour appear more popular than it actually is. In reality, Republicans in Congress are solidly behind the war effort; I rather doubt they do so in the face of adamant opposition from their conservative constituents. In any case, I have not seen much sign of conservative opposition to the Afghan war effort — which is why Norquist is working with the New America Foundation, not, say, the Heritage Foundation.

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Obama Snubs Britain Yet Again

He just can’t help himself. President Obama has apparently dissed Britain once again by declaring that “[w]e don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people” during a White House appearance with the French president. And the British press has taken notice:

Barack Obama has declared that France is America’s greatest ally, undermining Britain’s Special Relationship with the U.S.

The President risked offending British troops in Afghanistan by saying that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a ‘stronger friend’ than David Cameron.

The remarks, during a White House appearance with Mr Sarkozy, will reinforce the widely-held view in British diplomatic circles that Mr Obama has less interest in the Special Relationship than any other recent American leader.

Whether or not Obama meant any offense by the statement, he obviously should have realized that his past coldness toward Britain has made the it highly sensitive to any perceived slights from the White House. The president previously declined to meet with former prime minister Gordon Brown, removed the bust of Winston Churchill from his office, and famously gave Queen Elizabeth an iPod with photos of himself on it as a gift. His latest amateur diplomatic slip-up has sparked a bit of anti-French bad-mouthing from both British lawmakers and foreign-policy experts in Washington:

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former commander of the Sherwood Foresters regiment, said: “I’m getting a bit fed up with the American President using terms like ‘best ally’ so loosely.

“It’s Britain that has had more than 300 servicemen killed in Afghanistan, not France.

“That to my mind is a lot more powerful than any political gesture making.”

The remarks also angered conservatives in Washington.

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre For Freedom at the Heritage Foundation think-tank, said: “Quite what the French have done to merit this kind of high praise from the U.S. President is difficult to fathom.

“And if the White House means what it says this represents an extraordinary sea change in foreign policy.” Dr Gardiner, a former aide to Lady Thatcher, added: “To suggest that Paris and not London is Washington’s strongest partner is simply ludicrous.

“Such a remark is not only factually wrong but insulting to Britain, not least coming just a few years after the French knifed Washington in the back over the war in Iraq.”

And it’s not hard to see why Obama’s statement provoked such a response. As the Daily Mail notes, the UK has lost nearly seven times as many troops as France in the global war on terror. I’d say that the president should choose his words more carefully next time, but in light of his numerous diplomatic flaps with Britain, I’m not sure if he has it in him.

He just can’t help himself. President Obama has apparently dissed Britain once again by declaring that “[w]e don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people” during a White House appearance with the French president. And the British press has taken notice:

Barack Obama has declared that France is America’s greatest ally, undermining Britain’s Special Relationship with the U.S.

The President risked offending British troops in Afghanistan by saying that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a ‘stronger friend’ than David Cameron.

The remarks, during a White House appearance with Mr Sarkozy, will reinforce the widely-held view in British diplomatic circles that Mr Obama has less interest in the Special Relationship than any other recent American leader.

Whether or not Obama meant any offense by the statement, he obviously should have realized that his past coldness toward Britain has made the it highly sensitive to any perceived slights from the White House. The president previously declined to meet with former prime minister Gordon Brown, removed the bust of Winston Churchill from his office, and famously gave Queen Elizabeth an iPod with photos of himself on it as a gift. His latest amateur diplomatic slip-up has sparked a bit of anti-French bad-mouthing from both British lawmakers and foreign-policy experts in Washington:

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former commander of the Sherwood Foresters regiment, said: “I’m getting a bit fed up with the American President using terms like ‘best ally’ so loosely.

“It’s Britain that has had more than 300 servicemen killed in Afghanistan, not France.

“That to my mind is a lot more powerful than any political gesture making.”

The remarks also angered conservatives in Washington.

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre For Freedom at the Heritage Foundation think-tank, said: “Quite what the French have done to merit this kind of high praise from the U.S. President is difficult to fathom.

“And if the White House means what it says this represents an extraordinary sea change in foreign policy.” Dr Gardiner, a former aide to Lady Thatcher, added: “To suggest that Paris and not London is Washington’s strongest partner is simply ludicrous.

“Such a remark is not only factually wrong but insulting to Britain, not least coming just a few years after the French knifed Washington in the back over the war in Iraq.”

And it’s not hard to see why Obama’s statement provoked such a response. As the Daily Mail notes, the UK has lost nearly seven times as many troops as France in the global war on terror. I’d say that the president should choose his words more carefully next time, but in light of his numerous diplomatic flaps with Britain, I’m not sure if he has it in him.

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Is CPAC Going to Be Hurt by the Recent Calls for Boycott?

A growing number of conservative organizations have been pulling out of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, reportedly in protest of conservative gay-rights group GOProud’s involvement in the annual event.

The Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America announced they would be boycotting the conference in December, and now two major conservative groups — the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center — have joined the boycott as well:

Two of the heavyweight groups of the broader right, the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center, have dropped out of CPAC and are expected, planners said, to add to the Value Voter Summit’s heft.

And with CPAC scheduled for Feb. 10, the presidential hopefuls scheduled to speak there – including Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney – will take the stage against the backdrop of a puzzlingly heated intramural conflict.

But while there’s no denying that these groups are heavily influential in the movement, how much impact will the boycott have on the actual conference?

At least at the moment, movement activists don’t seem to be too concerned that it will do much damage. “I don’t think it will have an impact at all,” a long-time D.C.-based conservative activist who is not affiliated with CPAC told me. “This thing is marketed so well, I don’t think they’re going to hurt for money. They may lose a little corporate underwriting, but they’ll make it up from other revenue sources, like single-admission fees, table sales at dinners, that sort of thing.”

According to Dave Weigel, who has been at the forefront of covering this story, it sounds like the boycott might actually benefit both the boycotters and GOProud. “This is one of those fights that produces wins for both sides — GOProud and the social conservatives — without any lasting consequences for either of them,” he wrote at Slate.

This certainly seems to be the case — by pulling out of the event, social conservatives can appear to take a principled stance on the gay-rights issue. Meanwhile, the attacks on GOProud will help the group gain sympathy from other conservatives, as well as a ton of positive media coverage.

But this might also be a sign of growing problems for CPAC. Multiple reports have noted problems with the conference that go far beyond the GOProud controversy. David Keene — the director of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the event — has been known for micromanaging it in a way that has apparently turned off some conservative groups. Keene has also been at the center of several recent financial scandals.

As of now, it doesn’t sound like the boycott will cause any long-term damage to the conference. Unless major speakers or large financial backers start to pull out, the event this year should still be a major draw, as it tends to be at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.

A growing number of conservative organizations have been pulling out of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, reportedly in protest of conservative gay-rights group GOProud’s involvement in the annual event.

The Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America announced they would be boycotting the conference in December, and now two major conservative groups — the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center — have joined the boycott as well:

Two of the heavyweight groups of the broader right, the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center, have dropped out of CPAC and are expected, planners said, to add to the Value Voter Summit’s heft.

And with CPAC scheduled for Feb. 10, the presidential hopefuls scheduled to speak there – including Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney – will take the stage against the backdrop of a puzzlingly heated intramural conflict.

But while there’s no denying that these groups are heavily influential in the movement, how much impact will the boycott have on the actual conference?

At least at the moment, movement activists don’t seem to be too concerned that it will do much damage. “I don’t think it will have an impact at all,” a long-time D.C.-based conservative activist who is not affiliated with CPAC told me. “This thing is marketed so well, I don’t think they’re going to hurt for money. They may lose a little corporate underwriting, but they’ll make it up from other revenue sources, like single-admission fees, table sales at dinners, that sort of thing.”

According to Dave Weigel, who has been at the forefront of covering this story, it sounds like the boycott might actually benefit both the boycotters and GOProud. “This is one of those fights that produces wins for both sides — GOProud and the social conservatives — without any lasting consequences for either of them,” he wrote at Slate.

This certainly seems to be the case — by pulling out of the event, social conservatives can appear to take a principled stance on the gay-rights issue. Meanwhile, the attacks on GOProud will help the group gain sympathy from other conservatives, as well as a ton of positive media coverage.

But this might also be a sign of growing problems for CPAC. Multiple reports have noted problems with the conference that go far beyond the GOProud controversy. David Keene — the director of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the event — has been known for micromanaging it in a way that has apparently turned off some conservative groups. Keene has also been at the center of several recent financial scandals.

As of now, it doesn’t sound like the boycott will cause any long-term damage to the conference. Unless major speakers or large financial backers start to pull out, the event this year should still be a major draw, as it tends to be at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.

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India’s New Position on UNSC Seen as Test for Permanent Membership

Of the five new countries just joining the UN Security Council as non-permanent members, India will definitely be the one to keep an eye on for the next two years:

After a gap of 19 years, India today formally took its place in the UN Security Council as a new non-permanent member for a two-year term, a position from which it is expected to push its agenda for UN reform.

Along with India, Germany, South Africa, Columbia and Portugal too took their places at the powerful 15-member body of the United Nations.

President Obama recently came out in support of India’s bid for permanent membership on the council, and U.S. officials are sure to be watching closely to see how the country handles itself during the next two years.

“It has new meaning now that President Obama has signaled his support for India’s candidacy as a permanent member of the council,” Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told me. “It’s kind of a test case. A lot of U.S. officials will be watching closely. That makes it a bit more notable than it was in the past.”

One of the tests will be how closely India’s votes hew to U.S. security interests. “Traditionally, India has not voted with the U.S. on the UN,” said Curtis. “The next two years will be significant in indicating how India will likely act as a permanent member of the UN.”

India has taken some hawkish stances recently, tightening its economic sanctions on Iran and indicating that it will focus on terrorism issues during its two-year stint on the UNSC. The country is also in the running to head up one of the two terrorism committees. With this new influence, Curtis said that India is expected to lobby for restrictions on Pakistani terror groups and work to continue sanctions against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But even with Obama’s support, India’s bid for permanent membership still looks like a long shot. There are obviously risks to increasing the number of permanent members on the council, said Curtis, and new additions could dilute the U.S.’s agenda and vote against our initiatives.

India will certainly have to prove itself before there is any serious discussion about giving it a permanent position, but there’s no doubt that it would be an enormous benefit to have a reliable ally in the region on the council.

Of the five new countries just joining the UN Security Council as non-permanent members, India will definitely be the one to keep an eye on for the next two years:

After a gap of 19 years, India today formally took its place in the UN Security Council as a new non-permanent member for a two-year term, a position from which it is expected to push its agenda for UN reform.

Along with India, Germany, South Africa, Columbia and Portugal too took their places at the powerful 15-member body of the United Nations.

President Obama recently came out in support of India’s bid for permanent membership on the council, and U.S. officials are sure to be watching closely to see how the country handles itself during the next two years.

“It has new meaning now that President Obama has signaled his support for India’s candidacy as a permanent member of the council,” Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told me. “It’s kind of a test case. A lot of U.S. officials will be watching closely. That makes it a bit more notable than it was in the past.”

One of the tests will be how closely India’s votes hew to U.S. security interests. “Traditionally, India has not voted with the U.S. on the UN,” said Curtis. “The next two years will be significant in indicating how India will likely act as a permanent member of the UN.”

India has taken some hawkish stances recently, tightening its economic sanctions on Iran and indicating that it will focus on terrorism issues during its two-year stint on the UNSC. The country is also in the running to head up one of the two terrorism committees. With this new influence, Curtis said that India is expected to lobby for restrictions on Pakistani terror groups and work to continue sanctions against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But even with Obama’s support, India’s bid for permanent membership still looks like a long shot. There are obviously risks to increasing the number of permanent members on the council, said Curtis, and new additions could dilute the U.S.’s agenda and vote against our initiatives.

India will certainly have to prove itself before there is any serious discussion about giving it a permanent position, but there’s no doubt that it would be an enormous benefit to have a reliable ally in the region on the council.

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ObamaCare Lawsuit Clears First Hurdle

There was a significant development in the ObamaCare lawsuit today. The attorney general of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli put out the following statement:

A federal judge ruled today that Virginia does indeed have standing to bring its lawsuit seeking to invalidate the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  The judge also ruled that Virginia had stated a legally sufficient claim in its complaint.  In doing so, federal district court judge Henry E. Hudson denied the federal government’s motion to dismiss the commonwealth’s suit. …

The U.S. Department of Justice argued that Virginia lacked the standing to bring a suit, that the suit is premature, and that the federal government had the power under the U.S. Constitution to mandate that citizens must be covered by government-approved health insurance or pay a monetary penalty.

In denying the motion to dismiss, Judge Hudson found that Virginia had alleged a legally recognized injury to its sovereignty, given the government’s assertion that the federal law invalidates a Virginia law, the Health Care Freedom Act. …

The Court recognized that the federal health care law and its associated penalty were literally unprecedented. Specifically, the Court wrote that “[n]o reported case from any federal appellate court has extended the Commerce Clause or Tax Clause to include the regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce.”

Well, well. It seems that the conservative scholars were right, and those arguing a legal challenge was frivolous were wrong. Moreover, it is not simply a procedural ruling on standing or “ripeness” (that is, whether there is an actual case at present). Todd Gaziano of the Heritage Foundation explains:

On the merits, we are surprised the judge took as much space to conclude that Virginia stated a valid cause of action, namely, that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority with the individual mandate.  At this stage in the litigation and on the particular motion that was filed (a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for the legal wonks), the judge need not and could not rule on who will win or even if one side is more likely to win.  The only question is whether Virginia stated a legal cause of action (or legal theory) that is cognizable in law.  Virginia certainly has at least a valid substantive theory to challenge the law, because someone with standing is always able to challenge the constitutionality of a statute on the ground that Congress has no constitutional authority to enact it, QED. … Judge Hudson’s discussion of the constitutional issues is somewhat instructive.  It shows he is not hostile or dismissive of Virginia’s claims, which is surely good for liberty.

Obama’s “historic” accomplishment is both legally and politically vulnerable. (Republicans aren’t waiting for the courts to rule it unconstitutional and are thinking up ways to defund ObamaCare.) It seems there really are limits to the left’s statist ambitions.

There was a significant development in the ObamaCare lawsuit today. The attorney general of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli put out the following statement:

A federal judge ruled today that Virginia does indeed have standing to bring its lawsuit seeking to invalidate the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  The judge also ruled that Virginia had stated a legally sufficient claim in its complaint.  In doing so, federal district court judge Henry E. Hudson denied the federal government’s motion to dismiss the commonwealth’s suit. …

The U.S. Department of Justice argued that Virginia lacked the standing to bring a suit, that the suit is premature, and that the federal government had the power under the U.S. Constitution to mandate that citizens must be covered by government-approved health insurance or pay a monetary penalty.

In denying the motion to dismiss, Judge Hudson found that Virginia had alleged a legally recognized injury to its sovereignty, given the government’s assertion that the federal law invalidates a Virginia law, the Health Care Freedom Act. …

The Court recognized that the federal health care law and its associated penalty were literally unprecedented. Specifically, the Court wrote that “[n]o reported case from any federal appellate court has extended the Commerce Clause or Tax Clause to include the regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce.”

Well, well. It seems that the conservative scholars were right, and those arguing a legal challenge was frivolous were wrong. Moreover, it is not simply a procedural ruling on standing or “ripeness” (that is, whether there is an actual case at present). Todd Gaziano of the Heritage Foundation explains:

On the merits, we are surprised the judge took as much space to conclude that Virginia stated a valid cause of action, namely, that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority with the individual mandate.  At this stage in the litigation and on the particular motion that was filed (a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for the legal wonks), the judge need not and could not rule on who will win or even if one side is more likely to win.  The only question is whether Virginia stated a legal cause of action (or legal theory) that is cognizable in law.  Virginia certainly has at least a valid substantive theory to challenge the law, because someone with standing is always able to challenge the constitutionality of a statute on the ground that Congress has no constitutional authority to enact it, QED. … Judge Hudson’s discussion of the constitutional issues is somewhat instructive.  It shows he is not hostile or dismissive of Virginia’s claims, which is surely good for liberty.

Obama’s “historic” accomplishment is both legally and politically vulnerable. (Republicans aren’t waiting for the courts to rule it unconstitutional and are thinking up ways to defund ObamaCare.) It seems there really are limits to the left’s statist ambitions.

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The Euro and Euro-Legitimacy

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph and Francis Cianfrocca in the New Ledger have must-read analyses of the Euro crisis. Evans-Pritchard’s essay resists easy summary, but it makes the broad and depressing point that, in Europe, the left has offered a more persuasive analysis of the crisis than the center-right.

Indeed, when the German left praises Britain for staying out of the Euro and argues that the Euro only worked as long as it did because Germany held its labor costs down and recycled the capital from its export surpluses to buy Club Med debt, it is making a dangerous amount of sense. Of course, there are plenty of conservative economists in the U.S. saying much the same thing. But as Evans-Pritchard implies in passing, the failure of the European center to acknowledge the obvious poses a serious danger to its political legitimacy.

Cianfrocca develops the point: the risks here are not simply financial or narrowly politically. They are to the lives and the expectations of millions of Europeans (and, indeed, of Americans). Fundamentally, therefore, as he puts it, the risk is to the “perceived legitimacy of current European governments.” Cianfrocca’s point is that governments have promised something — prosperity for ordinary workers, regardless of whether their productivity merits it — that they cannot deliver, because the “state simply doesn’t control the levers that lead to robust production of economic value.” In other words, they’ve written a naked call option on prosperity.

All too true. But the problem is even deeper than that. It’s not just governments that are at risk. For more than a hundred years, Europe has used social welfare as social protection. But the European center was not buying legitimacy for the governments, narrowly considered. The center was buying it for the state itself, against the extreme left. The extraordinarily inventive Bismarck created the modern welfare system to head off, as he hoped, the threat from the socialists. Of course, like every other government, he also drew on nationalism to build up a viable, non-revolutionary — though in his case not fully democratic — body politic. That wasn’t cynicism (well, maybe for Bismarck it was). It was statecraft of a high order, precisely because it was based on the recognition that modern, participatory politics must be based on a cohesive national identity.

The problem was that after World War II, nationalism lost much of its legitimacy. It survived in the U.S. and Britain, which won the war, and France, which pretended it did, and of course nationalism didn’t disappear elsewhere. But most of the European states were relegitimated not by nationalism, or by religion but rather against the extremes on the right and left by the creation of welfare systems. Instead of promising that you could belong, the European states promised that you would get along. That worked well during the post–World War II boom. But while the boom was temporary, the promise was permanent. Unfortunately, as Cianfrocca points out, the state can’t deliver on it.

Apart from its economic failings, the European solution to the problem of legitimacy was therefore deeply unwise politically. And as Evans-Pritchard points out, too much of Europe is still investing in failure. This was brought home to me last week when a group of young Europeans visited the Heritage Foundation. None of them could grasp why conservatives in the U.S. had any qualms at all about ObamaCare. As one of them put it, “But in Europe, all the conservatives would support it!” Quite so. That is the problem. The state in the U.S. doesn’t need to buy legitimacy: it has 1776. The more the center in Europe invests in the idea that it can buy legitimacy, the deeper the financial and political hole it digs — and ultimately, as Evans-Pritchard argues, the more power it gives to left.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph and Francis Cianfrocca in the New Ledger have must-read analyses of the Euro crisis. Evans-Pritchard’s essay resists easy summary, but it makes the broad and depressing point that, in Europe, the left has offered a more persuasive analysis of the crisis than the center-right.

Indeed, when the German left praises Britain for staying out of the Euro and argues that the Euro only worked as long as it did because Germany held its labor costs down and recycled the capital from its export surpluses to buy Club Med debt, it is making a dangerous amount of sense. Of course, there are plenty of conservative economists in the U.S. saying much the same thing. But as Evans-Pritchard implies in passing, the failure of the European center to acknowledge the obvious poses a serious danger to its political legitimacy.

Cianfrocca develops the point: the risks here are not simply financial or narrowly politically. They are to the lives and the expectations of millions of Europeans (and, indeed, of Americans). Fundamentally, therefore, as he puts it, the risk is to the “perceived legitimacy of current European governments.” Cianfrocca’s point is that governments have promised something — prosperity for ordinary workers, regardless of whether their productivity merits it — that they cannot deliver, because the “state simply doesn’t control the levers that lead to robust production of economic value.” In other words, they’ve written a naked call option on prosperity.

All too true. But the problem is even deeper than that. It’s not just governments that are at risk. For more than a hundred years, Europe has used social welfare as social protection. But the European center was not buying legitimacy for the governments, narrowly considered. The center was buying it for the state itself, against the extreme left. The extraordinarily inventive Bismarck created the modern welfare system to head off, as he hoped, the threat from the socialists. Of course, like every other government, he also drew on nationalism to build up a viable, non-revolutionary — though in his case not fully democratic — body politic. That wasn’t cynicism (well, maybe for Bismarck it was). It was statecraft of a high order, precisely because it was based on the recognition that modern, participatory politics must be based on a cohesive national identity.

The problem was that after World War II, nationalism lost much of its legitimacy. It survived in the U.S. and Britain, which won the war, and France, which pretended it did, and of course nationalism didn’t disappear elsewhere. But most of the European states were relegitimated not by nationalism, or by religion but rather against the extremes on the right and left by the creation of welfare systems. Instead of promising that you could belong, the European states promised that you would get along. That worked well during the post–World War II boom. But while the boom was temporary, the promise was permanent. Unfortunately, as Cianfrocca points out, the state can’t deliver on it.

Apart from its economic failings, the European solution to the problem of legitimacy was therefore deeply unwise politically. And as Evans-Pritchard points out, too much of Europe is still investing in failure. This was brought home to me last week when a group of young Europeans visited the Heritage Foundation. None of them could grasp why conservatives in the U.S. had any qualms at all about ObamaCare. As one of them put it, “But in Europe, all the conservatives would support it!” Quite so. That is the problem. The state in the U.S. doesn’t need to buy legitimacy: it has 1776. The more the center in Europe invests in the idea that it can buy legitimacy, the deeper the financial and political hole it digs — and ultimately, as Evans-Pritchard argues, the more power it gives to left.

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Is ObamaCare Enough?

That’s what the White House and its spinners are telling us — that the passage of a “historic,” albeit much reviled, health-care bill will be enough to hold back the tsunami of anti-incumbency sentiment and abject disgust which voters are expressing toward the Democrat-controlled House and Senate. The political cost-benefit analysis — are more liberals bolstered or more independents turned off? — will be debated between now and November. But meanwhile, the black cloud of unemployment looms over the Democrats, who, after all, promised to focus their attention on job creation, but never really did.

The Hill reports that unemployment figures may become especially troublesome for some already vulnerable House Democrats:

Local unemployment rates higher than the national 9.7 average are further endangering House Democrats’ re-election chances.

For these Democrats, who hail from struggling states like Florida, Michigan, West Virginia, and Nevada, a 9.7 percent jobless rate that Republicans have called “completely unacceptable” would be a welcome improvement.

Vulnerable freshman Democratic Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson represent swing districts that include parts of greater Orlando, where the unemployment rate in January 2010 was 12.4 percent.

Kosmas, a major GOP target this fall, represents a district that also contains the metropolitan area of Deltona and Daytona Beach, where 13 percent of the labor force was out of work.

“Where things are particularly bad, Democrats are in particular danger,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.

But 162,000 jobs were added last month (with the help of 50,000 temporary Census workers), boast the Democrats. Well, it’s less than meets the eye, as the Heritage Foundation (h/t Mark Hemingway) points out:

While the jobs report does indicate that 162,000 net jobs were created in March, almost 50,000 of those jobs were temporary government Census jobs that do not reflect any real economic progress. In total, the U.S. economy has now lost a total of 3.8 million jobs since President Barack Obama signed his $862 billion stimulus plan. We are 8.1 million jobs short of the 138.6 million he promised the American people. . .

And don’t fall for any White House claims that this belated recovery is due to the stimulus. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admitted last month, its analysis of the stimulus’ job creating record was simply “essentially repeating the same exercise” as the initial projections. In other words, the CBO numbers on the stimulus don’t take any actual new real world data into account. Working with actual data, Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center has found: 1) no statistical correlation between unemployment and how the $862 billion was spent; 2) that Democratic districts received one-and-a-half times as many awards as Republican ones; and 3) an average cost of $286,000 was awarded per job created. $286,000 per job created. That is simply a bad investment.

And if you think that this is only conservative nay saying, consider Robert Reich’s take on why the jobs’ picture is grim:

First, government spending on last year’s giant stimulus is still near its peak, and the Fed continues to hold down interest rates. Without these props, it’s far from clear we’d have any job growth at all.

Second, since the start of the Great Recession, the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs and failed to create another 2.7 million needed just to keep up with population growth. That means we’re more than 11 million in the hole right now. And that hole keeps deepening every month we fail to add at least 150,000 new jobs, again reflecting population growth.

A census-taking job is better than no job, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

Bottom line: This is no jobs recovery.

So while the debate rages on as to whether ObamaCare is really going to protect incumbent Democrats, what’s certain is that they will be tagged with either ignoring or aggravating (for pushing a tax-and-spend, anti employer agenda) the bleak unemployment situation. The Obami may recite ad nauseam their claim that the stimulus plan saved or created jobs, but few voters believe it, and with good reason. The Democrats will therefore face an angry electorate demanding to know why lawmakers obsessed over something voters despised (ObamaCare) and ignored something they did care deeply about (jobs).

The Democrats’ real challenge, then, may be to fend off the argument from opponents that all that time spent jamming through ObamaCare evidences a serious disconnect with voters and a failure to appreciate their primary concern — restoring the economy and re-igniting job growth. Instead of thinking up ways to promote hiring, the Democrats have spent their time passing a hugely expensive health-care bill and plotting massive tax increases (including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which will fall heavily on small businesses) and new regulatory schemes (including cap-and-trade), which will only make employers more nervous about expanding their payrolls. You can see why the Democrats are bracing for yet another “change” election.

That’s what the White House and its spinners are telling us — that the passage of a “historic,” albeit much reviled, health-care bill will be enough to hold back the tsunami of anti-incumbency sentiment and abject disgust which voters are expressing toward the Democrat-controlled House and Senate. The political cost-benefit analysis — are more liberals bolstered or more independents turned off? — will be debated between now and November. But meanwhile, the black cloud of unemployment looms over the Democrats, who, after all, promised to focus their attention on job creation, but never really did.

The Hill reports that unemployment figures may become especially troublesome for some already vulnerable House Democrats:

Local unemployment rates higher than the national 9.7 average are further endangering House Democrats’ re-election chances.

For these Democrats, who hail from struggling states like Florida, Michigan, West Virginia, and Nevada, a 9.7 percent jobless rate that Republicans have called “completely unacceptable” would be a welcome improvement.

Vulnerable freshman Democratic Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson represent swing districts that include parts of greater Orlando, where the unemployment rate in January 2010 was 12.4 percent.

Kosmas, a major GOP target this fall, represents a district that also contains the metropolitan area of Deltona and Daytona Beach, where 13 percent of the labor force was out of work.

“Where things are particularly bad, Democrats are in particular danger,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.

But 162,000 jobs were added last month (with the help of 50,000 temporary Census workers), boast the Democrats. Well, it’s less than meets the eye, as the Heritage Foundation (h/t Mark Hemingway) points out:

While the jobs report does indicate that 162,000 net jobs were created in March, almost 50,000 of those jobs were temporary government Census jobs that do not reflect any real economic progress. In total, the U.S. economy has now lost a total of 3.8 million jobs since President Barack Obama signed his $862 billion stimulus plan. We are 8.1 million jobs short of the 138.6 million he promised the American people. . .

And don’t fall for any White House claims that this belated recovery is due to the stimulus. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admitted last month, its analysis of the stimulus’ job creating record was simply “essentially repeating the same exercise” as the initial projections. In other words, the CBO numbers on the stimulus don’t take any actual new real world data into account. Working with actual data, Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center has found: 1) no statistical correlation between unemployment and how the $862 billion was spent; 2) that Democratic districts received one-and-a-half times as many awards as Republican ones; and 3) an average cost of $286,000 was awarded per job created. $286,000 per job created. That is simply a bad investment.

And if you think that this is only conservative nay saying, consider Robert Reich’s take on why the jobs’ picture is grim:

First, government spending on last year’s giant stimulus is still near its peak, and the Fed continues to hold down interest rates. Without these props, it’s far from clear we’d have any job growth at all.

Second, since the start of the Great Recession, the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs and failed to create another 2.7 million needed just to keep up with population growth. That means we’re more than 11 million in the hole right now. And that hole keeps deepening every month we fail to add at least 150,000 new jobs, again reflecting population growth.

A census-taking job is better than no job, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

Bottom line: This is no jobs recovery.

So while the debate rages on as to whether ObamaCare is really going to protect incumbent Democrats, what’s certain is that they will be tagged with either ignoring or aggravating (for pushing a tax-and-spend, anti employer agenda) the bleak unemployment situation. The Obami may recite ad nauseam their claim that the stimulus plan saved or created jobs, but few voters believe it, and with good reason. The Democrats will therefore face an angry electorate demanding to know why lawmakers obsessed over something voters despised (ObamaCare) and ignored something they did care deeply about (jobs).

The Democrats’ real challenge, then, may be to fend off the argument from opponents that all that time spent jamming through ObamaCare evidences a serious disconnect with voters and a failure to appreciate their primary concern — restoring the economy and re-igniting job growth. Instead of thinking up ways to promote hiring, the Democrats have spent their time passing a hugely expensive health-care bill and plotting massive tax increases (including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which will fall heavily on small businesses) and new regulatory schemes (including cap-and-trade), which will only make employers more nervous about expanding their payrolls. You can see why the Democrats are bracing for yet another “change” election.

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Peace in Our Time: Ticker Tape, Early and Often

The hype surrounding this week’s serial announcements of a breakthrough in nuclear-arms talks is palpable. In more than 25 years of analyzing arms-control diplomacy, I don’t recall ever seeing news organizations report developments in it with so little skepticism or attention to detail. In each of its pieces on the arms treaty since the Kremlin’s announcement of the breakthrough on Wednesday, the New York Times has helpfully pointed out that this is a week of multiple triumphs for President Obama. From Newsweek’s in-house bloggers to ThinkProgress’s “Wonk Room,” the depiction of Obama’s treaty effort ranges from startlingly uncritical to hagiographic. Reports abound that Senate Republicans will fight the treaty, but outside of websites dedicated to the professional arcana of arms control and diplomacy, there is almost no discussion of the reasons why.

Those reasons matter. The ones summarized by the Heritage Foundation on Thursday –- missile defense, verification, and modernization of the U.S. arsenal –- are particularly troubling given that we don’t have a published treaty text yet. The language outlining what we’re signing up for hasn’t been made public; there has been no opportunity for open debate on its particulars or its rigor.

I would add two other troubling issues to those raised at the Heritage blog. An important point of concern in the U.S. involves the limitation on delivery platforms (missiles, aircraft, and submarines) that was announced this week. The limit of 800 platforms per side sets a boundary on America’s conventional capabilities. It also implies an agreement to parity with Russia in that regard: an effective reversal of George W. Bush’s policy in negotiating the 2002 Moscow SORT Treaty.

The other disputed issue is the handling of missile telemetry data. It was one of the main sticking points for negotiation as little as a month ago. If Russian agreement has been obtained, it’s likely that the U.S. position is the one that has softened. Readers can get a sense of the specifics on that here; basically, the way ahead appears to be acceding to Russia’s desire to revert to encrypted telemetry.

These issues seem to have evaporated without an overt explanation. That circumstance puts the Washington Post’s uniquely careful narrative in an informative light. The Post points out that the Russians were frustrated enough three weeks ago to propose breaking the talks off for a month. Obama’s White House pressed for a resolution, however –- and this week the White House appeared, in the Post’s words, to have been “surprised” when the Kremlin announced the breakthrough in negotiations. The sense is hard to avoid that the Russians got the concessions they wanted and rushed out with an announcement to preempt further haggling.

In the coming weeks we will hear about Senate Republicans objecting to the new treaty. The eventual publication of the treaty’s actual text, which we’re being asked to take on faith right now, is likely to validate senatorial concern. It’s neither curmudgeonly nor unfair to demand that the administration justify -– under critical and exacting scrutiny -– what it has agreed to. No previous administration has ever been given a pass by the press or the Senate in that regard.

Even if Senate Republicans scuttle ratification, we can expect Obama to abide by the treaty in his decisions about national-security strategy and defense priorities. The president can be stymied in his approach to national security, but it is very hard for Congress to effectively override him.

The hype surrounding this week’s serial announcements of a breakthrough in nuclear-arms talks is palpable. In more than 25 years of analyzing arms-control diplomacy, I don’t recall ever seeing news organizations report developments in it with so little skepticism or attention to detail. In each of its pieces on the arms treaty since the Kremlin’s announcement of the breakthrough on Wednesday, the New York Times has helpfully pointed out that this is a week of multiple triumphs for President Obama. From Newsweek’s in-house bloggers to ThinkProgress’s “Wonk Room,” the depiction of Obama’s treaty effort ranges from startlingly uncritical to hagiographic. Reports abound that Senate Republicans will fight the treaty, but outside of websites dedicated to the professional arcana of arms control and diplomacy, there is almost no discussion of the reasons why.

Those reasons matter. The ones summarized by the Heritage Foundation on Thursday –- missile defense, verification, and modernization of the U.S. arsenal –- are particularly troubling given that we don’t have a published treaty text yet. The language outlining what we’re signing up for hasn’t been made public; there has been no opportunity for open debate on its particulars or its rigor.

I would add two other troubling issues to those raised at the Heritage blog. An important point of concern in the U.S. involves the limitation on delivery platforms (missiles, aircraft, and submarines) that was announced this week. The limit of 800 platforms per side sets a boundary on America’s conventional capabilities. It also implies an agreement to parity with Russia in that regard: an effective reversal of George W. Bush’s policy in negotiating the 2002 Moscow SORT Treaty.

The other disputed issue is the handling of missile telemetry data. It was one of the main sticking points for negotiation as little as a month ago. If Russian agreement has been obtained, it’s likely that the U.S. position is the one that has softened. Readers can get a sense of the specifics on that here; basically, the way ahead appears to be acceding to Russia’s desire to revert to encrypted telemetry.

These issues seem to have evaporated without an overt explanation. That circumstance puts the Washington Post’s uniquely careful narrative in an informative light. The Post points out that the Russians were frustrated enough three weeks ago to propose breaking the talks off for a month. Obama’s White House pressed for a resolution, however –- and this week the White House appeared, in the Post’s words, to have been “surprised” when the Kremlin announced the breakthrough in negotiations. The sense is hard to avoid that the Russians got the concessions they wanted and rushed out with an announcement to preempt further haggling.

In the coming weeks we will hear about Senate Republicans objecting to the new treaty. The eventual publication of the treaty’s actual text, which we’re being asked to take on faith right now, is likely to validate senatorial concern. It’s neither curmudgeonly nor unfair to demand that the administration justify -– under critical and exacting scrutiny -– what it has agreed to. No previous administration has ever been given a pass by the press or the Senate in that regard.

Even if Senate Republicans scuttle ratification, we can expect Obama to abide by the treaty in his decisions about national-security strategy and defense priorities. The president can be stymied in his approach to national security, but it is very hard for Congress to effectively override him.

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Could We Get Rid of It?

Reader Renee asks me whether ObamaCare can be repealed if signed into law. The short answer is yes. First off, if they utilize the ” deem and pass” Slaughter Rule, there will be court challenges. And those states that pass prohibitions on the requirement for citizens to buy insurance will challenge the law as well. There will also be other legal challenges. But really, all it would take is a new law.

But what about those “you can’t repeal this” provisions and “supermajority requirements” snuck into the nooks and crannies of ObamaCare? They really are meaningless. Robert Alt, senior legal fellow and deputy director of the Center for Legal & Judicial Studies of the Heritage Foundation, confirms the adage that “One Congress cannot bind a future Congress.” He explains:

The only question is whether the new statute itself meets the requirements of bicameralism and presentment (ahh, something that until recently we have rather taken for granted). If it does, then it must be given effect unless it is unconstitutional — and there is nothing unconstitutional about repealing a prior bill. While the courts will give the prior statute’s language its maximum effect, the new statute would be just as much the “law of the land,” and thus a statement in the new statute that “notwithstanding the supermajority or ‘no repeal’ requirement in the health care bill, HR XXXX is hereby repealed” would have to be given effect by the courts.

Now what’s needed for that is a new Congress willing to repeal a prior Congress’s handiwork and a president willing to sign the repeal. (Or a congressional majority so large as to override a presidential veto.)  That, as Obama keeps telling us, is what elections are for.

Reader Renee asks me whether ObamaCare can be repealed if signed into law. The short answer is yes. First off, if they utilize the ” deem and pass” Slaughter Rule, there will be court challenges. And those states that pass prohibitions on the requirement for citizens to buy insurance will challenge the law as well. There will also be other legal challenges. But really, all it would take is a new law.

But what about those “you can’t repeal this” provisions and “supermajority requirements” snuck into the nooks and crannies of ObamaCare? They really are meaningless. Robert Alt, senior legal fellow and deputy director of the Center for Legal & Judicial Studies of the Heritage Foundation, confirms the adage that “One Congress cannot bind a future Congress.” He explains:

The only question is whether the new statute itself meets the requirements of bicameralism and presentment (ahh, something that until recently we have rather taken for granted). If it does, then it must be given effect unless it is unconstitutional — and there is nothing unconstitutional about repealing a prior bill. While the courts will give the prior statute’s language its maximum effect, the new statute would be just as much the “law of the land,” and thus a statement in the new statute that “notwithstanding the supermajority or ‘no repeal’ requirement in the health care bill, HR XXXX is hereby repealed” would have to be given effect by the courts.

Now what’s needed for that is a new Congress willing to repeal a prior Congress’s handiwork and a president willing to sign the repeal. (Or a congressional majority so large as to override a presidential veto.)  That, as Obama keeps telling us, is what elections are for.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Senate candidate Dan Coats thinks Obama is getting ready for a containment strategy for Iran, and he doesn’t like it: “Coats said the ‘only option’ left to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the threat of military action. Coats said most Americans agree that Iran must not be allowed to have such weapons, even though Iranian leaders continue to press forward with their nuclear program. … ‘If it’s unacceptable, what are we going to do? … And now it seems we’re being asked to accept the unacceptable.’”

Democrats tried going after the CIA again, determined to criminalize interrogation techniques: “If this Act becomes law (it may have already been killed in Congress at the time of this writing), it will surely cause confusion for interrogators who want to know where the line is, precisely, lest they be thrown in jail. This creates risk aversion among interrogators where none is warranted.”

Liz Cheney objected: “American intelligence officers do not deserve this kind of treatment from the government they honorably serve. Day in and day out, they protect our country and make difficult decisions–at times in matters of life and death. In return for their service the government rewards them with little pay and no acknowledgement of their heroic actions. Democrats in Congress now want to threaten them with criminal prosecutions and deprive them of valuable tactics that protect America.”

And Democrats pulled the bill.

Larry Sabato (h/t Jim Geraghty): “The Crystal Ball moves five Democratic seats from a “safe” rating onto our list of competitive races: KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MA-10 (Bill Delahunt), OH-13 (Betty Sutton), SC-5 (John Spratt), and VA-9 (Rick Boucher). In addition, two already competitive races for Democrats look even worse than before—IA-3 (Leonard Boswell) and IN-8 (OPEN, Brad Ellsworth)—and two Republican incumbents have improved their reelection prospects—AL-3 (Mike Rogers) and CA-44 (Ken Calvert).”

The Orthodox Union is upset with the Obama administration for criticizing the Heritage Plan, under which Israel will invest $100 million in rehabilitating historic and religious sites throughout Israel. Netanyahu included among the sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Palestinians objected, and then the State Department chimed in and called the inclusion of such sites “provocative.” The OU responded: “It is not ‘provocative’ to invest in and rehabilitate holy/historic sites — that are open to both Jews and Muslims. Nothing PM Netanyahu has proposed precludes a peace agreement. It is provocative for the Palestinians to assert that there is no Jewish connection to these sites and for them to use this as yet another false basis for refusal to engage in peace negotiations.”

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “In equating high-risk pools to racial segregation, Senator Harkin not only betrays his ignorance of history and his tone-deafness, but a disconcerting obliviousness to the contents of the Democrats’ own health-care plan. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has sent two letters to Congress and the president detailing the various discriminatory provisions in the Democrats’ health-care plan. It’s often said that the party who first invokes Hitler has lost the argument. In this case, the party who first invoked racial discrimination has lost perspective, if not his senses.”

Part of Obama’s problem: “At the very same hour as Obama is talking about his beloved healthcare plan, out come surprising new federal numbers showing that last week new J-O-B-L-E-S-S claims unexpectedly went up — as in more of them — to nearly a half-million, 22,000 more than the previous week. And nearly 8% higher than the expected 460,000 new claims.”

Politico on Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian problem: “A bespectacled former college professor who has pleaded guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad helped tip the balance in a 2004 Senate contest in Florida. Now, six years later, Sami Al-Arian could be on the verge of doing it again, this time in California. Republican Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, a former congressman, has come under sustained attack on conservative websites and from his rivals in recent days for taking a campaign donation from Al-Arian in 2000, for backing legislation Al-Arian was lobbying for at the time and for allegedly being a less-than-steadfast supporter of Israel.”

JTA is into it too, noting how inappropriate it is for Campbell to use a selective quote from a letter of the late and very great friend of Israel Tom Lantos: “Using Lantos’ letter to bolster Campbell’s case is really icky.”

Senate candidate Dan Coats thinks Obama is getting ready for a containment strategy for Iran, and he doesn’t like it: “Coats said the ‘only option’ left to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the threat of military action. Coats said most Americans agree that Iran must not be allowed to have such weapons, even though Iranian leaders continue to press forward with their nuclear program. … ‘If it’s unacceptable, what are we going to do? … And now it seems we’re being asked to accept the unacceptable.’”

Democrats tried going after the CIA again, determined to criminalize interrogation techniques: “If this Act becomes law (it may have already been killed in Congress at the time of this writing), it will surely cause confusion for interrogators who want to know where the line is, precisely, lest they be thrown in jail. This creates risk aversion among interrogators where none is warranted.”

Liz Cheney objected: “American intelligence officers do not deserve this kind of treatment from the government they honorably serve. Day in and day out, they protect our country and make difficult decisions–at times in matters of life and death. In return for their service the government rewards them with little pay and no acknowledgement of their heroic actions. Democrats in Congress now want to threaten them with criminal prosecutions and deprive them of valuable tactics that protect America.”

And Democrats pulled the bill.

Larry Sabato (h/t Jim Geraghty): “The Crystal Ball moves five Democratic seats from a “safe” rating onto our list of competitive races: KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MA-10 (Bill Delahunt), OH-13 (Betty Sutton), SC-5 (John Spratt), and VA-9 (Rick Boucher). In addition, two already competitive races for Democrats look even worse than before—IA-3 (Leonard Boswell) and IN-8 (OPEN, Brad Ellsworth)—and two Republican incumbents have improved their reelection prospects—AL-3 (Mike Rogers) and CA-44 (Ken Calvert).”

The Orthodox Union is upset with the Obama administration for criticizing the Heritage Plan, under which Israel will invest $100 million in rehabilitating historic and religious sites throughout Israel. Netanyahu included among the sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Palestinians objected, and then the State Department chimed in and called the inclusion of such sites “provocative.” The OU responded: “It is not ‘provocative’ to invest in and rehabilitate holy/historic sites — that are open to both Jews and Muslims. Nothing PM Netanyahu has proposed precludes a peace agreement. It is provocative for the Palestinians to assert that there is no Jewish connection to these sites and for them to use this as yet another false basis for refusal to engage in peace negotiations.”

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “In equating high-risk pools to racial segregation, Senator Harkin not only betrays his ignorance of history and his tone-deafness, but a disconcerting obliviousness to the contents of the Democrats’ own health-care plan. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has sent two letters to Congress and the president detailing the various discriminatory provisions in the Democrats’ health-care plan. It’s often said that the party who first invokes Hitler has lost the argument. In this case, the party who first invoked racial discrimination has lost perspective, if not his senses.”

Part of Obama’s problem: “At the very same hour as Obama is talking about his beloved healthcare plan, out come surprising new federal numbers showing that last week new J-O-B-L-E-S-S claims unexpectedly went up — as in more of them — to nearly a half-million, 22,000 more than the previous week. And nearly 8% higher than the expected 460,000 new claims.”

Politico on Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian problem: “A bespectacled former college professor who has pleaded guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad helped tip the balance in a 2004 Senate contest in Florida. Now, six years later, Sami Al-Arian could be on the verge of doing it again, this time in California. Republican Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, a former congressman, has come under sustained attack on conservative websites and from his rivals in recent days for taking a campaign donation from Al-Arian in 2000, for backing legislation Al-Arian was lobbying for at the time and for allegedly being a less-than-steadfast supporter of Israel.”

JTA is into it too, noting how inappropriate it is for Campbell to use a selective quote from a letter of the late and very great friend of Israel Tom Lantos: “Using Lantos’ letter to bolster Campbell’s case is really icky.”

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Obama’s Political Prospects and the Claim of 1.5 Million Jobs Saved or Created

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation examines the new Congressional Budget Office finding that the stimulus package “saved or created” 1.5 million jobs and notes that CBO made a series of assumptions about the value of every dollar spent — for example, that “every $1 of government spending sent to state and local governments for infrastructure ultimately raises GDP by $1.75.” According to its calculations, the stimulus led to GDP growth of 2.6 percent.

There will be a great deal of debate and discussion about these numbers, all of which will have to do with the degree of credit that should attach to the stimulus package, those who voted for it, and President Obama for the economic growth it undoubtedly provided. But in fact, none of that debate and discussion will matter at this point except as an intellectual exercise. It will be very important in that respect for the future. But not now. Now the question is simply this: Will the voting public feel that a trillion dollars in government spending had the effect of improving things for the American people?

For the stimulus to have any political oomph, it will not be enough for the public to feel that things would have been worse without that trillion dollars. The price tag is simply too high for that, and the sense that the spending has burdened them with debt is too powerful. Without sustained economic growth and a resulting increase in employment, the stimulus will have felt like a failure, which is what it feels like today. And that feeling is the primary cause of the political crisis that Obama and his party find themselves in. They can try to argue their way out of it, or spin it — which is what Riedl accuses CBO of doing with the generosity of its assumptions — but it won’t do any good. People will make political choices based on how the world seems to them, and there will have to be a stunning acceleration of good news for those political choices to go any way but calamitously for Obama’s party for the foreseeable future.

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation examines the new Congressional Budget Office finding that the stimulus package “saved or created” 1.5 million jobs and notes that CBO made a series of assumptions about the value of every dollar spent — for example, that “every $1 of government spending sent to state and local governments for infrastructure ultimately raises GDP by $1.75.” According to its calculations, the stimulus led to GDP growth of 2.6 percent.

There will be a great deal of debate and discussion about these numbers, all of which will have to do with the degree of credit that should attach to the stimulus package, those who voted for it, and President Obama for the economic growth it undoubtedly provided. But in fact, none of that debate and discussion will matter at this point except as an intellectual exercise. It will be very important in that respect for the future. But not now. Now the question is simply this: Will the voting public feel that a trillion dollars in government spending had the effect of improving things for the American people?

For the stimulus to have any political oomph, it will not be enough for the public to feel that things would have been worse without that trillion dollars. The price tag is simply too high for that, and the sense that the spending has burdened them with debt is too powerful. Without sustained economic growth and a resulting increase in employment, the stimulus will have felt like a failure, which is what it feels like today. And that feeling is the primary cause of the political crisis that Obama and his party find themselves in. They can try to argue their way out of it, or spin it — which is what Riedl accuses CBO of doing with the generosity of its assumptions — but it won’t do any good. People will make political choices based on how the world seems to them, and there will have to be a stunning acceleration of good news for those political choices to go any way but calamitously for Obama’s party for the foreseeable future.

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Stimulus Spin, Again

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation has an easy-to-read explanation of why Obama’s claim that the stimulus saved 2 million jobs is hooey. For starters, it’s a bait-and-switch:

On the stimulus’s first anniversary, keep in mind one number: 6.3 million. That is the Obama jobs gap — the difference between the 3.3 million net jobs President Obama said would be created (not just saved) and the 3 million additional net jobs that have since been lost. By the president’s own logic, the stimulus failed. So Obama has shifted his argument. Sure, the economy lost jobs, he now says, but without the stimulus it would have lost nearly 2 million more jobs. This “it would have been worse” theory is completely unprovable. No one knows how the economy would have performed without the stimulus.

But the more fundamental problem is that there’s no evidence we’ve done anything but mush the jobs around from the private to the public sector. Riedl calls this “faith-based economics. The White House’s new estimates of ‘saving’ nearly 2 million jobs are not based on observations of the economy’s recent performance. Rather, they are based on the Obama administration’s unshakable belief that deficit spending must create jobs and growth.” If the government borrowed $300B to “create” jobs, then “the private sector now has $300 billion less to spend, which, by the same logic, means it must lose the same number of jobs, leaving a net employment impact of zero.”

But one need not have a sophisticated understanding of the flaws of Keynesian spending schemes (sometimes analogized to taking buckets of water out of one end of the lake to dump into the other end) to sense that the Obami are making stuff up — again. The public can see that unemployment is much higher than it was a year ago and much higher than the 8 percent ceiling Obama promised if the stimulus were passed. A huge majority of voters simply don’t buy what Obama is saying.

Obama feels obliged to justify his spending binge. After all, it’s the only piece of significant legislation he’s gotten through Congress. But it’s also become a symbol of his out-of-touchness and his propensity to substitute spin for reasoned policy. Moreover, by reminding voters of just how much money we’ve thrown onto the pile of debt, his stimulus-harping, I suspect, actually lowers public confidence in his handling of the economy. Goodness knows his approval ratings on the deficit and economy are already putrid.

Once again, Obama is trapped. Nothing substitutes for results — and especially not fake stimulus figures. So the public’s confidence in him deteriorates, Congress becomes more gun-shy, and nothing much gets done. Not a bad result if you think that much of what government does is unhelpful. But it’s kind of scary if you’re an incumbent lawmaker trying to convince voters to give you another term.

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation has an easy-to-read explanation of why Obama’s claim that the stimulus saved 2 million jobs is hooey. For starters, it’s a bait-and-switch:

On the stimulus’s first anniversary, keep in mind one number: 6.3 million. That is the Obama jobs gap — the difference between the 3.3 million net jobs President Obama said would be created (not just saved) and the 3 million additional net jobs that have since been lost. By the president’s own logic, the stimulus failed. So Obama has shifted his argument. Sure, the economy lost jobs, he now says, but without the stimulus it would have lost nearly 2 million more jobs. This “it would have been worse” theory is completely unprovable. No one knows how the economy would have performed without the stimulus.

But the more fundamental problem is that there’s no evidence we’ve done anything but mush the jobs around from the private to the public sector. Riedl calls this “faith-based economics. The White House’s new estimates of ‘saving’ nearly 2 million jobs are not based on observations of the economy’s recent performance. Rather, they are based on the Obama administration’s unshakable belief that deficit spending must create jobs and growth.” If the government borrowed $300B to “create” jobs, then “the private sector now has $300 billion less to spend, which, by the same logic, means it must lose the same number of jobs, leaving a net employment impact of zero.”

But one need not have a sophisticated understanding of the flaws of Keynesian spending schemes (sometimes analogized to taking buckets of water out of one end of the lake to dump into the other end) to sense that the Obami are making stuff up — again. The public can see that unemployment is much higher than it was a year ago and much higher than the 8 percent ceiling Obama promised if the stimulus were passed. A huge majority of voters simply don’t buy what Obama is saying.

Obama feels obliged to justify his spending binge. After all, it’s the only piece of significant legislation he’s gotten through Congress. But it’s also become a symbol of his out-of-touchness and his propensity to substitute spin for reasoned policy. Moreover, by reminding voters of just how much money we’ve thrown onto the pile of debt, his stimulus-harping, I suspect, actually lowers public confidence in his handling of the economy. Goodness knows his approval ratings on the deficit and economy are already putrid.

Once again, Obama is trapped. Nothing substitutes for results — and especially not fake stimulus figures. So the public’s confidence in him deteriorates, Congress becomes more gun-shy, and nothing much gets done. Not a bad result if you think that much of what government does is unhelpful. But it’s kind of scary if you’re an incumbent lawmaker trying to convince voters to give you another term.

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Is Ideology Really Yesterday for the Obami?

The Obama team likes to present itself as nonideological. Whatever works. Respect science. Realism and pragmatism are to rule the day. We’ve heard it for a year now, though in practice the Obami seem much less receptive to evidence that conflicts with deeply held beliefs. For example: they don’t have much patience for news about Climategate, and their foreign policy seems to be based on a systematic denial of all available evidence about our foes and their fundamental interests. Well here is a new test for the self-proclaimed opponents of ideology. The Washington Post reports:

Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can convince a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for the nation’s embattled efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

In the first carefully designed study to evaluate the controversial approach to sex ed, researchers found that only about a third of 6th and 7th graders who went through sessions focused on abstinence started having sex in the next two years. In contrast, nearly half of students who got other classes, including those that included information about contraception, became sexually active.

The administration cut more than $150M in abstinence programs. What now? Will they put the funding back and cut programs shown to be less effective — you know, in the name of fidelity to scientific research? Some are urging them to do just that:

This takes away the main pillar of opposition to abstinence education,” said Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who wrote the criteria for federal funding of abstinence programs. “I’ve always known that abstinence programs have gotten a bad rap.”

Even long-time critics of the approach praised the new study, saying it provided strong evidence that such programs can work and may deserve taxpayer support.

We shouldn’t get our hopes up. After all, this is the gang that cut the voucher program for D.C. schools even after studies showed the program’s effectiveness. But perhaps even the Obami can learn. As Hillary Clinton put it: “Let’s put ideology aside. That is so yesterday.” In this case, let’s see if they mean it.

The Obama team likes to present itself as nonideological. Whatever works. Respect science. Realism and pragmatism are to rule the day. We’ve heard it for a year now, though in practice the Obami seem much less receptive to evidence that conflicts with deeply held beliefs. For example: they don’t have much patience for news about Climategate, and their foreign policy seems to be based on a systematic denial of all available evidence about our foes and their fundamental interests. Well here is a new test for the self-proclaimed opponents of ideology. The Washington Post reports:

Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can convince a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for the nation’s embattled efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

In the first carefully designed study to evaluate the controversial approach to sex ed, researchers found that only about a third of 6th and 7th graders who went through sessions focused on abstinence started having sex in the next two years. In contrast, nearly half of students who got other classes, including those that included information about contraception, became sexually active.

The administration cut more than $150M in abstinence programs. What now? Will they put the funding back and cut programs shown to be less effective — you know, in the name of fidelity to scientific research? Some are urging them to do just that:

This takes away the main pillar of opposition to abstinence education,” said Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who wrote the criteria for federal funding of abstinence programs. “I’ve always known that abstinence programs have gotten a bad rap.”

Even long-time critics of the approach praised the new study, saying it provided strong evidence that such programs can work and may deserve taxpayer support.

We shouldn’t get our hopes up. After all, this is the gang that cut the voucher program for D.C. schools even after studies showed the program’s effectiveness. But perhaps even the Obami can learn. As Hillary Clinton put it: “Let’s put ideology aside. That is so yesterday.” In this case, let’s see if they mean it.

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Defense Spending and Defense Needs: Not in Sync

The Conservative party in Britain has pledged to adopt the American practice of carrying out a “strategic review” every four years. Based on the latest Quadrennial Defense Review, which came out today, I’m not sure why they would bother. The QDR is not terrible or wrong-headed; in fact, I think it’s fairly sensible on the whole. But it’s also not particularly interesting or surprising — which is pretty much what you would expect from a report produced by a large committee and overseen by the same defense secretary who has put into place many of the policies under review. I agree with Robert Haddick’s take in the Small Wars Journal:

Rather than reading a document about strategies for the future, I had the sense that I was reading a business corporation’s annual report covering the past fiscal year. I stopped counting how many times the QDR said, “the Department will continue to …” or something similar.

Haddick goes on to note that the QDR “hints at, but leaves unsaid, many necessary and sometimes painful changes the Pentagon will need to make. In this sense the QDR seems incomplete; it kicks several important cans down the road, leaving important decisions that should have been in the QDR for future reports.”

Some of the challenges left unaddressed by the QDR are spelled out in this study by Mackenzie Eaglen at the Heritage Foundation. She notes a number of disturbing long-term trends, including the fact that  “core” defense spending (excluding contingencies such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) is already just 3.9 percent of GDP and set to decline under the Obama blueprint. Defense spending, even with a current budget of $690 billion, is less than 18 percent of federal spending and has been rapidly declining as a share of the federal budget over time, while entitlement spending (currently 35 percent of the budget) continues to grow.

Within the defense budget, an ever-growing share of the spending is being consumed by personnel expenditures and current operations, which leaves not enough money to recapitalize aging equipment (the U.S. Air Force continues to operate transport aircraft and tankers that are over 40 years old) and an ever-shrinking storehouse of advanced weapons systems (the U.S. Navy has the smallest number of ships since 1916). She might have mentioned, but didn’t, that the U.S. doesn’t have enough soldiers to meet all its commitments. The Army was 710,000 strong at the end of the Cold War in 1991; today it’s down 553,000 personnel.

In other words, there is a fundamental mismatch between ends and means — between what we’re willing to spend on defense and what we need to meet our global commitments. And that’s not even taking into account all the new challenges laid out in the QDR relating to areas such as cyberspace and “anti-access” threats (e.g., long-range cruise missiles that can pick off our naval ships in the Persian Gulf or the Taiwan Strait). This QDR, like the preceding QDRs, is better at laying out the challenges than it is at suggesting realistic ways they can be met. It might at least have sounded a warning about some of these looming problems. Instead, it is largely a ratification of the status quo.

The Conservative party in Britain has pledged to adopt the American practice of carrying out a “strategic review” every four years. Based on the latest Quadrennial Defense Review, which came out today, I’m not sure why they would bother. The QDR is not terrible or wrong-headed; in fact, I think it’s fairly sensible on the whole. But it’s also not particularly interesting or surprising — which is pretty much what you would expect from a report produced by a large committee and overseen by the same defense secretary who has put into place many of the policies under review. I agree with Robert Haddick’s take in the Small Wars Journal:

Rather than reading a document about strategies for the future, I had the sense that I was reading a business corporation’s annual report covering the past fiscal year. I stopped counting how many times the QDR said, “the Department will continue to …” or something similar.

Haddick goes on to note that the QDR “hints at, but leaves unsaid, many necessary and sometimes painful changes the Pentagon will need to make. In this sense the QDR seems incomplete; it kicks several important cans down the road, leaving important decisions that should have been in the QDR for future reports.”

Some of the challenges left unaddressed by the QDR are spelled out in this study by Mackenzie Eaglen at the Heritage Foundation. She notes a number of disturbing long-term trends, including the fact that  “core” defense spending (excluding contingencies such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) is already just 3.9 percent of GDP and set to decline under the Obama blueprint. Defense spending, even with a current budget of $690 billion, is less than 18 percent of federal spending and has been rapidly declining as a share of the federal budget over time, while entitlement spending (currently 35 percent of the budget) continues to grow.

Within the defense budget, an ever-growing share of the spending is being consumed by personnel expenditures and current operations, which leaves not enough money to recapitalize aging equipment (the U.S. Air Force continues to operate transport aircraft and tankers that are over 40 years old) and an ever-shrinking storehouse of advanced weapons systems (the U.S. Navy has the smallest number of ships since 1916). She might have mentioned, but didn’t, that the U.S. doesn’t have enough soldiers to meet all its commitments. The Army was 710,000 strong at the end of the Cold War in 1991; today it’s down 553,000 personnel.

In other words, there is a fundamental mismatch between ends and means — between what we’re willing to spend on defense and what we need to meet our global commitments. And that’s not even taking into account all the new challenges laid out in the QDR relating to areas such as cyberspace and “anti-access” threats (e.g., long-range cruise missiles that can pick off our naval ships in the Persian Gulf or the Taiwan Strait). This QDR, like the preceding QDRs, is better at laying out the challenges than it is at suggesting realistic ways they can be met. It might at least have sounded a warning about some of these looming problems. Instead, it is largely a ratification of the status quo.

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Lies, Big Lies and Nancy Pelosi Press Conferences

Nancy Pelosi has had a her run of memorable moments — promising to drain the swamp of corruption (no, not anytime soon), warning that we were losing 500 million jobs a month and accusing the CIA of lying to her about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Then yesterday she comes up with a doozy in responding to a letter by C-SPAN that sought to televise the conference committee (which isn’t going to happen because it’s all to be done in secret cloakroom deals): “There has never been a more open process for any legislation.”

Well, we can’t say this sort of thing is out of character, can we? She seems not to recall that the Senate hid the bill until Sen. Bill Nelson’s vote had been bought and then rushed a bill to a 1:00 a.m. vote right before Christmas. She seems not to recall that the House staged a Saturday vote and broke her pledge to post the bill online 72 hours before the vote.

Mark Hemingway asks, “It’s no secret that Pelosi and Democratic leaders are desperate to pass health care reform, but do they really think delusional lies are the best way to win over the public?” Well, yes, I think they do. That’s why they keep saying things such as “we must pass it or go bankrupt.” That’s why they deny that there will be health-care rationing while they cut $500B out of Medicare. That’s why they refuse to call taxes “taxes.” That’s why they insist we are going to keep our insurance as the Mayo Clinic gets out of the Medicare business. That is why they boast that they are cutting spending on health-care when, as the Heritage Foundation points out, “total U.S. health care spending would increase by 0.7%, or $234 billion through 2019. . . and that’s after taking into account what little savings would be achieved by cutting Medicare benefits and encouraging employer to cut health benefits by taxing private insurance plans that are ‘too generous.’”

In short, the Democrats  are reduced to making up stuff, both on substance and on process, because what is in the bill is unpalatable to a majority of voters. And they certainly don’t want to discuss the details or put any of the final back-room bribery  . . . er . . .  legislative compromising . . . on C-SPAN.

Nancy Pelosi has had a her run of memorable moments — promising to drain the swamp of corruption (no, not anytime soon), warning that we were losing 500 million jobs a month and accusing the CIA of lying to her about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Then yesterday she comes up with a doozy in responding to a letter by C-SPAN that sought to televise the conference committee (which isn’t going to happen because it’s all to be done in secret cloakroom deals): “There has never been a more open process for any legislation.”

Well, we can’t say this sort of thing is out of character, can we? She seems not to recall that the Senate hid the bill until Sen. Bill Nelson’s vote had been bought and then rushed a bill to a 1:00 a.m. vote right before Christmas. She seems not to recall that the House staged a Saturday vote and broke her pledge to post the bill online 72 hours before the vote.

Mark Hemingway asks, “It’s no secret that Pelosi and Democratic leaders are desperate to pass health care reform, but do they really think delusional lies are the best way to win over the public?” Well, yes, I think they do. That’s why they keep saying things such as “we must pass it or go bankrupt.” That’s why they deny that there will be health-care rationing while they cut $500B out of Medicare. That’s why they refuse to call taxes “taxes.” That’s why they insist we are going to keep our insurance as the Mayo Clinic gets out of the Medicare business. That is why they boast that they are cutting spending on health-care when, as the Heritage Foundation points out, “total U.S. health care spending would increase by 0.7%, or $234 billion through 2019. . . and that’s after taking into account what little savings would be achieved by cutting Medicare benefits and encouraging employer to cut health benefits by taxing private insurance plans that are ‘too generous.’”

In short, the Democrats  are reduced to making up stuff, both on substance and on process, because what is in the bill is unpalatable to a majority of voters. And they certainly don’t want to discuss the details or put any of the final back-room bribery  . . . er . . .  legislative compromising . . . on C-SPAN.

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Just a Notch on a Belt

Buried deep inside an angst-filled column complaining that Obama is underappreciated and overly criticized, Richard Cohen concedes what many on both the Right and Left suspect: “He wanted a health-care bill. Why? To cover the uncovered. Maybe. To rein in the insurance companies. Maybe. To lower costs. Maybe. What mattered most was getting a bill, any bill. This is not a cause. It’s a notch on a belt.” We suspect that is true in part because Obama never really told us what he wanted in the bill. He never sent a proposal to Congress. He didn’t spell out specific requirements for his plan in that game-changing (not) speech in September. Each time Congress moved ahead with one version or another, Obama praised the effort without much comment on the content. Some thought it was tactical. But maybe he never really cared what was in it.

That conclusion is reinforced by the bill’s content and timing. As for the content, it doesn’t do what the president in broadest strokes said he wanted to accomplish. James Capretta points out that this isn’t “universal” care:

The House and Senate bills would add 15 million or more people to [Medicaid's] rolls without any guarantee whatsoever that there will be doctors and hospitals that can see them. Ironically, the very Democrats who most frequently tout “universality” as the goal are also the ones who ensure it will never actually come about by insisting that America’s lower-income families enroll in government-run insurance — with no other options. Beyond the Medicaid expansion, Obamacare is really an obligation, not a right. Every citizen would be required to sign up with a government-approved health-insurance plan or pay a tax penalty for going without coverage.

And even its proponents concede there will still be 23 million or so uninsured. Nor does the bill meet the president’s goals of deficit neutrality or cost cutting:

[T]he claim that bill lowers the deficit means that, in addition to cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars, the Senate would also raise half a trillion in new taxes — during a recession. Only a series of accounting gimmicks — such as implementing benefits beginning in 2014 but raising taxes starting in 2010, and double-counting Medicare savings — allowed Senate majority leader Harry Reid to get a CBO cost estimate that pretends to add “not one dime” to the deficit. Medicare actuary Foster found that the Senate bill would bend the cost curve up, not down, and that the new taxes on drugs, devices, and health-insurance plans would increase prices and health-insurance costs for consumers.

But the telltale sign that Obama doesn’t really much care about the merits of the bill or any of the bill’s promised benefits is the timeline. The Heritage Foundation lays this out in detail:

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010

2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.

2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.

2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)

2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.

2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.

2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.

2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.

Bottom line: nothing but taxes and Medicare cuts begin before 2014. This is not a serious plan to address a health-care “crisis,” is it? No. It is an effort to throw something up against the wall and clean up the mess later. It won’t be proven “not to work” before Obama’s last election because it isn’t designed to really do anything, other than raise taxes, for the next four years. It is the ultimate placeholder that Obama can check off on his to-do list without the responsibility for actually solving the crisis he told us we had to fix urgently – before Christmas 2009.

It is hard, then, to quibble with Cohen. This isn’t a serious effort to reform health care. It’s lazy governance from a president who couldn’t face failure or craft a coherent bill. He and Democrats in the House and Senate imagine that the voters are too dumb to figure this out. We’ll test that proposition in November.

Buried deep inside an angst-filled column complaining that Obama is underappreciated and overly criticized, Richard Cohen concedes what many on both the Right and Left suspect: “He wanted a health-care bill. Why? To cover the uncovered. Maybe. To rein in the insurance companies. Maybe. To lower costs. Maybe. What mattered most was getting a bill, any bill. This is not a cause. It’s a notch on a belt.” We suspect that is true in part because Obama never really told us what he wanted in the bill. He never sent a proposal to Congress. He didn’t spell out specific requirements for his plan in that game-changing (not) speech in September. Each time Congress moved ahead with one version or another, Obama praised the effort without much comment on the content. Some thought it was tactical. But maybe he never really cared what was in it.

That conclusion is reinforced by the bill’s content and timing. As for the content, it doesn’t do what the president in broadest strokes said he wanted to accomplish. James Capretta points out that this isn’t “universal” care:

The House and Senate bills would add 15 million or more people to [Medicaid's] rolls without any guarantee whatsoever that there will be doctors and hospitals that can see them. Ironically, the very Democrats who most frequently tout “universality” as the goal are also the ones who ensure it will never actually come about by insisting that America’s lower-income families enroll in government-run insurance — with no other options. Beyond the Medicaid expansion, Obamacare is really an obligation, not a right. Every citizen would be required to sign up with a government-approved health-insurance plan or pay a tax penalty for going without coverage.

And even its proponents concede there will still be 23 million or so uninsured. Nor does the bill meet the president’s goals of deficit neutrality or cost cutting:

[T]he claim that bill lowers the deficit means that, in addition to cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars, the Senate would also raise half a trillion in new taxes — during a recession. Only a series of accounting gimmicks — such as implementing benefits beginning in 2014 but raising taxes starting in 2010, and double-counting Medicare savings — allowed Senate majority leader Harry Reid to get a CBO cost estimate that pretends to add “not one dime” to the deficit. Medicare actuary Foster found that the Senate bill would bend the cost curve up, not down, and that the new taxes on drugs, devices, and health-insurance plans would increase prices and health-insurance costs for consumers.

But the telltale sign that Obama doesn’t really much care about the merits of the bill or any of the bill’s promised benefits is the timeline. The Heritage Foundation lays this out in detail:

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010

2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.

2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.

2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)

2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.

2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.

2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.

2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.

Bottom line: nothing but taxes and Medicare cuts begin before 2014. This is not a serious plan to address a health-care “crisis,” is it? No. It is an effort to throw something up against the wall and clean up the mess later. It won’t be proven “not to work” before Obama’s last election because it isn’t designed to really do anything, other than raise taxes, for the next four years. It is the ultimate placeholder that Obama can check off on his to-do list without the responsibility for actually solving the crisis he told us we had to fix urgently – before Christmas 2009.

It is hard, then, to quibble with Cohen. This isn’t a serious effort to reform health care. It’s lazy governance from a president who couldn’t face failure or craft a coherent bill. He and Democrats in the House and Senate imagine that the voters are too dumb to figure this out. We’ll test that proposition in November.

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Obama’s Year of Living Blamelessly

Barack Obama has figured out what went wrong with Homeland Security this past Christmas: George W. Bush. “It’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have,” Obama said Wednesday.

When you’re president of the United States, you can’t pass the buck to your superior. In response to this frustration, President Obama has developed what systems people like to call a “workaround”: He passes the buck to his predecessor. A lot.

He started blaming Bush during the presidential campaign, which was natural enough. Here is candidate Obama on Iran, for example: “It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel.” But after becoming president, Obama just kept on going. On climate change: “After eight years in which there was resistance to even acknowledging the problem, I think my administration has been very clear that we intend to be a leader on this issue internationally.” On trying terror suspects: “The decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable.” And now, on the failed Christmas Day terror attack.

Here’s a prediction: Obama will find that he’s gone to the Blame Bush well one too many times. With the Christmas Day fiasco something has “become clear,” alright. But it’s not the failings of George W. Bush.  James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation notes, “Since 2001, there have been 28 failed terrorist attacks against the United States. That averages out to about three foiled attempts per year. That was until this year. This year there were six failed attempts that make 2009 a banner year — the most in one year.”  Unprecedented, as Obama likes to say. A historic first, as his supporters are fond of putting it. Well, you might say, that doesn’t mean that the Obama administration has necessarily opened us up to more attacks, right? Isn’t it fair to say that it has stopped more attacks? Not exactly.

Click here to read the rest of this Web Exclusive on COMMENTARY.

Barack Obama has figured out what went wrong with Homeland Security this past Christmas: George W. Bush. “It’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have,” Obama said Wednesday.

When you’re president of the United States, you can’t pass the buck to your superior. In response to this frustration, President Obama has developed what systems people like to call a “workaround”: He passes the buck to his predecessor. A lot.

He started blaming Bush during the presidential campaign, which was natural enough. Here is candidate Obama on Iran, for example: “It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel.” But after becoming president, Obama just kept on going. On climate change: “After eight years in which there was resistance to even acknowledging the problem, I think my administration has been very clear that we intend to be a leader on this issue internationally.” On trying terror suspects: “The decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable.” And now, on the failed Christmas Day terror attack.

Here’s a prediction: Obama will find that he’s gone to the Blame Bush well one too many times. With the Christmas Day fiasco something has “become clear,” alright. But it’s not the failings of George W. Bush.  James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation notes, “Since 2001, there have been 28 failed terrorist attacks against the United States. That averages out to about three foiled attempts per year. That was until this year. This year there were six failed attempts that make 2009 a banner year — the most in one year.”  Unprecedented, as Obama likes to say. A historic first, as his supporters are fond of putting it. Well, you might say, that doesn’t mean that the Obama administration has necessarily opened us up to more attacks, right? Isn’t it fair to say that it has stopped more attacks? Not exactly.

Click here to read the rest of this Web Exclusive on COMMENTARY.

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