Commentary Magazine


Topic: Valerie Jarrett

Obama Tips His Hand: No Reform, Just an Issue

The Obama team would rather fuel racial tensions than pass comprehensive immigration reform. That is the upshot of this Washington Post report:

West Wing strategists argue that the president’s call for legislation that acknowledges the role of immigrants and goes beyond punishing undocumented workers will help cement a permanent political relationship between Democrats and Hispanics — much as civil rights and voting rights legislation did for the party and African Americans in the 1960s.

As a result, although the president is unlikely to press for comprehensive immigration reform this year, he has urged his allies to keep up the pressure on Republican lawmakers. [emphasis added]

Because, you see, if he passed a bill, the issue would go away. And then Hispanics wouldn’t be mad at the GOP. It is quite a buried lede. The story here is not as the Post‘s headline reads: “Republican immigration position likely to alienate Latinos, Obama officials say.” It is, instead, “Obama Wants Divisive Racial Issue, Not Immigration Reform.”

Hispanic activists actually wanted the president to work on comprehensive immigration reform. But during a White House meeting, they learned that’s not the game here:

The activists came away from their presidential audience still convinced that he could be doing more to push the issue. But their discussion with Obama — and a lengthier one with adviser Valerie Jarrett after he left the room — made one thing clear to them: The White House plans to use the immigration debate to punish the GOP and aggressively seek the Latino vote in 2012.

“The president fundamentally understands that this is about the longer term,” said Janet Murguia, president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza, who attended the White House meeting. “This issue goes deeper than any list of needs. Your answer on this question will reveal to us whether you do or don’t understand our community.”

“Deeper” than the need to address immigration reform is the need to keep Democrats in power. It seems Obama is not the only one playing a dangerous game of racial politics.

The Obama team would rather fuel racial tensions than pass comprehensive immigration reform. That is the upshot of this Washington Post report:

West Wing strategists argue that the president’s call for legislation that acknowledges the role of immigrants and goes beyond punishing undocumented workers will help cement a permanent political relationship between Democrats and Hispanics — much as civil rights and voting rights legislation did for the party and African Americans in the 1960s.

As a result, although the president is unlikely to press for comprehensive immigration reform this year, he has urged his allies to keep up the pressure on Republican lawmakers. [emphasis added]

Because, you see, if he passed a bill, the issue would go away. And then Hispanics wouldn’t be mad at the GOP. It is quite a buried lede. The story here is not as the Post‘s headline reads: “Republican immigration position likely to alienate Latinos, Obama officials say.” It is, instead, “Obama Wants Divisive Racial Issue, Not Immigration Reform.”

Hispanic activists actually wanted the president to work on comprehensive immigration reform. But during a White House meeting, they learned that’s not the game here:

The activists came away from their presidential audience still convinced that he could be doing more to push the issue. But their discussion with Obama — and a lengthier one with adviser Valerie Jarrett after he left the room — made one thing clear to them: The White House plans to use the immigration debate to punish the GOP and aggressively seek the Latino vote in 2012.

“The president fundamentally understands that this is about the longer term,” said Janet Murguia, president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza, who attended the White House meeting. “This issue goes deeper than any list of needs. Your answer on this question will reveal to us whether you do or don’t understand our community.”

“Deeper” than the need to address immigration reform is the need to keep Democrats in power. It seems Obama is not the only one playing a dangerous game of racial politics.

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It’s OK to Say No to Obama

Business leaders, as I’ve noted, have started awakening from the dream of a productive relationship with the White House. Now, they aren’t even going through the charade of cordiality:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday rejected a request from top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett to speak at a jobs summit hosted by the business group, the latest escalation in an ongoing war between the two camps.

“We would have loved to have gone and participated. We weren’t invited. In fact we were told not to come,” Jarrett said, during an interview on Bloomberg Television.

Chamber officials said Jarrett requested that she be allowed to address their gathering, a several-hour long “Jobs for America Summit,” on Wednesday morning, a few hours before the event began. They said the program was too full to fit her in.

At the summit, Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donahue railed against President Obama’s economic policies. “Our current economic direction is not working,” Donahue said. Donahue said that Obama’s health care and financial regulation initiatives are onerous to the point that the Americans will lose freedoms unique to the country.

“Taken collectively, the regulatory activity now underway is so overwhelming and beyond anything we have ever seen, that we risk moving this country away from a government of the people to a government of regulators,” Donahue said.

Donahue balanced this by denying that Obama is anti-business, continuing the Chamber’s habit of avoiding public statements that are openly hostile to the White House. “I don’t believe the administration is anti-business. I believe the administration has a series of views of what they ought to do about social programs such as health care and environment issues,” he said.

Well, bravo! There is no rule requiring a group whose interests Obama has consistently undermined to extend an open hand to him or to afford a photo op to the very officials doing the undermining. In fact, only in Washington would it not seem like rank hypocrisy, both for the host and the guest. Now, the group may, if it wishes, open its doors with the hope that the administration might be more forthcoming. But if experience has consistently demonstrated that this is fruitless, why do it?

Donahue is also smart to go after what Obama has done rather than quibble about assigning him to a label. Obama’s anti-business moves are so extensive that to merely list them is sufficient and compelling.

Obama’s declining political standing has had a positive, immediate effect: there is a new outbreak of candor among interest groups. Establishment Jewish groups should take note. It’s fine to stand up to Obama — everyone is doing it!

Business leaders, as I’ve noted, have started awakening from the dream of a productive relationship with the White House. Now, they aren’t even going through the charade of cordiality:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday rejected a request from top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett to speak at a jobs summit hosted by the business group, the latest escalation in an ongoing war between the two camps.

“We would have loved to have gone and participated. We weren’t invited. In fact we were told not to come,” Jarrett said, during an interview on Bloomberg Television.

Chamber officials said Jarrett requested that she be allowed to address their gathering, a several-hour long “Jobs for America Summit,” on Wednesday morning, a few hours before the event began. They said the program was too full to fit her in.

At the summit, Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donahue railed against President Obama’s economic policies. “Our current economic direction is not working,” Donahue said. Donahue said that Obama’s health care and financial regulation initiatives are onerous to the point that the Americans will lose freedoms unique to the country.

“Taken collectively, the regulatory activity now underway is so overwhelming and beyond anything we have ever seen, that we risk moving this country away from a government of the people to a government of regulators,” Donahue said.

Donahue balanced this by denying that Obama is anti-business, continuing the Chamber’s habit of avoiding public statements that are openly hostile to the White House. “I don’t believe the administration is anti-business. I believe the administration has a series of views of what they ought to do about social programs such as health care and environment issues,” he said.

Well, bravo! There is no rule requiring a group whose interests Obama has consistently undermined to extend an open hand to him or to afford a photo op to the very officials doing the undermining. In fact, only in Washington would it not seem like rank hypocrisy, both for the host and the guest. Now, the group may, if it wishes, open its doors with the hope that the administration might be more forthcoming. But if experience has consistently demonstrated that this is fruitless, why do it?

Donahue is also smart to go after what Obama has done rather than quibble about assigning him to a label. Obama’s anti-business moves are so extensive that to merely list them is sufficient and compelling.

Obama’s declining political standing has had a positive, immediate effect: there is a new outbreak of candor among interest groups. Establishment Jewish groups should take note. It’s fine to stand up to Obama — everyone is doing it!

Read Less

Did Obama Try to Cover Up His Blago Contacts?

As the Obama team left for Christmas vacation in December 2008, they issued a report on its internal investigation (the administration has continued its habit of exonerating itself of scandals such as the Andrew Romanoff and Joe Sestak job offers) denying that Obama had any contact with Gov. Rod Blagojevich or his staff on the subject of his Senate replacement. Greg Craig’s memo stated:

The accounts support your statement on December 11, 2008 that you “have never spoken to the Governor on this subject [or] about these issues,” and that you “had no contact with the Governor’s office.” In addition, the accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office about a “deal” or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy. … The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat. In various conversations with transition staff and others, the President-Elect expressed his preference that Valerie Jarrett work with him in the White House. He also stated that he would neither stand in her way if she wanted to pursue the Senate seat nor actively seek to have her or any other particular candidate appointed to the vacancy.

Under oath, a union official at Blago’s trial has now testified that Obama made his preferences clear:

In testimony at Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial, Tom Balanoff said Obama — speaking a day before his Nov. 8, 2008 triumph in the presidential election — said that [Valerie] Jarrett wanted the job and was qualified, although he wanted her to join him in the White House. Balanoff, a close Obama ally and top official with the Service Employees International Union in Chicago, said Blagojevich countered by suggesting Obama appoint him Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Robert Gibbs brushed off inquiries on the testimony – hasn’t been keeping up with the trial, he says. This is ludicrous. Either the transition team and the president-elect weren’t straight with the American public or Balanoff lied under oath. And Obama is a potential witness, perhaps the only one who can help the jury decide which it is. This is not a small matter.

Now was Greg Craig playing it cute when he said that the “President-elect had no contact or communication,” because Obama wasn’t president-elect when the call was made? Well, no. In his introductory paragraph, he says Obama’s statement that he “never” had contact with Blago was true. Were they playing a Clinton-esque word game, given that Balanoff was an emissary but not on Blago’s staff? Perhaps, but whatever Craig was trying to pull, Obama gave the country the distinct impression that he had no communications with the Blago camp on the Senate pick.

The Washington press corps rolled over when the incident first surfaced and showed zero interest in following up on the many questions the review left open. The media can redeem themselves by refusing to allow Gibbs to get away with his usual dodge-the-tricky-questions game. And the president, when next he appears, should be queried on whether he really did talk to Blago’s union pal and whether he later tried to deceive the American people.

The unpleasant image of Chicago pols running their backroom deals before and after they arrived in the Oval Office is not one that the president wants to take hold. The president is low on credibility these days, and refusing to put this matter to rest isn’t going to improve things. It’s time to come clean — on this and the Sestak and Romanoff deals.

As the Obama team left for Christmas vacation in December 2008, they issued a report on its internal investigation (the administration has continued its habit of exonerating itself of scandals such as the Andrew Romanoff and Joe Sestak job offers) denying that Obama had any contact with Gov. Rod Blagojevich or his staff on the subject of his Senate replacement. Greg Craig’s memo stated:

The accounts support your statement on December 11, 2008 that you “have never spoken to the Governor on this subject [or] about these issues,” and that you “had no contact with the Governor’s office.” In addition, the accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office about a “deal” or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy. … The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat. In various conversations with transition staff and others, the President-Elect expressed his preference that Valerie Jarrett work with him in the White House. He also stated that he would neither stand in her way if she wanted to pursue the Senate seat nor actively seek to have her or any other particular candidate appointed to the vacancy.

Under oath, a union official at Blago’s trial has now testified that Obama made his preferences clear:

In testimony at Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial, Tom Balanoff said Obama — speaking a day before his Nov. 8, 2008 triumph in the presidential election — said that [Valerie] Jarrett wanted the job and was qualified, although he wanted her to join him in the White House. Balanoff, a close Obama ally and top official with the Service Employees International Union in Chicago, said Blagojevich countered by suggesting Obama appoint him Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Robert Gibbs brushed off inquiries on the testimony – hasn’t been keeping up with the trial, he says. This is ludicrous. Either the transition team and the president-elect weren’t straight with the American public or Balanoff lied under oath. And Obama is a potential witness, perhaps the only one who can help the jury decide which it is. This is not a small matter.

Now was Greg Craig playing it cute when he said that the “President-elect had no contact or communication,” because Obama wasn’t president-elect when the call was made? Well, no. In his introductory paragraph, he says Obama’s statement that he “never” had contact with Blago was true. Were they playing a Clinton-esque word game, given that Balanoff was an emissary but not on Blago’s staff? Perhaps, but whatever Craig was trying to pull, Obama gave the country the distinct impression that he had no communications with the Blago camp on the Senate pick.

The Washington press corps rolled over when the incident first surfaced and showed zero interest in following up on the many questions the review left open. The media can redeem themselves by refusing to allow Gibbs to get away with his usual dodge-the-tricky-questions game. And the president, when next he appears, should be queried on whether he really did talk to Blago’s union pal and whether he later tried to deceive the American people.

The unpleasant image of Chicago pols running their backroom deals before and after they arrived in the Oval Office is not one that the president wants to take hold. The president is low on credibility these days, and refusing to put this matter to rest isn’t going to improve things. It’s time to come clean — on this and the Sestak and Romanoff deals.

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Dialogue with the Wrong American Muslim Partners

The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration has come a long way from the president’s campaign practices that had him keeping his distance from Muslims. According to the paper’s Andrea Elliott, “his administration has reached out to this politically isolated constituency in a sustained and widening effort that has left even skeptics surprised.”

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a man who once considered the notion that he might be a Muslim to be a “smear” now having members of his administration meet with representatives of a minority group. However, when this same administration has banned the use of language that might give anyone the notion that America is fighting Islamist extremists, it places stories such as Elliott’s in a different light. The problem here is not talking with Muslims or Arab-Americans or even attempts to rectify any potential injustices that might have occurred in the course of pursuing the war on Islamic terror. Rather it is the fact that the groups that are the subject of this attention are themselves questionable.

One example of the president’s outreach cited by the Times is the fact that senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett spoke at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America, a group that has consistently served to rationalize anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorism and that was an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation, whose leaders were convicted in 2008 of funneling American funds to Hamas terrorists. When the administration grants its official seal of approval to radical groups such as the ISNA, it helps these people drown out the voices of genuine moderates who are far more representative of most American Muslims. As investigative journalist Steve Emerson told the Times: “I think dialogue is good, but it has to be with genuine moderates. These are the wrong groups to legitimize.”

Moreover, if the influence of such people on the administration is to reinforce its desire to literally walk away from the war on terror and to pretend that radical Islam is not the driving force behind America’s foes through the banning of such terms as “jihad” and “Islamic terrorism” in comments by officials, then it must be acknowledged that the problem here goes deeper than public relations.

Yet the blame for whitewashing radical institutions and players isn’t all the fault of the White House. Another driving force behind this trend is the New York Times itself. It should be noted that Andrea Elliott, the author of today’s piece, won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for her 2007 series about the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and the lives of immigrant Muslims. Yet nowhere in the three-part 11,000-word story did she mention that one of the Islamic Society’s congregants went on a shooting spree in 1994 at the Brooklyn Bridge, where he murdered a 16-year-old Jew named Ari Halberstam after hearing an anti-Semitic sermon at this mosque. Later it turned out that Elliott was completely unaware (or at least claimed to be unaware) of the most famous incident involving the institution on which her story centered.

The point is, for those who want to ignore the truth about the danger from homegrown Islamist radicals, the tendency is to deny any link between Islam and terror, even if this means pretending that radicals who support violence are really peaceful moderates. This is a bad recipe for journalism as well as for public policy.

The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration has come a long way from the president’s campaign practices that had him keeping his distance from Muslims. According to the paper’s Andrea Elliott, “his administration has reached out to this politically isolated constituency in a sustained and widening effort that has left even skeptics surprised.”

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a man who once considered the notion that he might be a Muslim to be a “smear” now having members of his administration meet with representatives of a minority group. However, when this same administration has banned the use of language that might give anyone the notion that America is fighting Islamist extremists, it places stories such as Elliott’s in a different light. The problem here is not talking with Muslims or Arab-Americans or even attempts to rectify any potential injustices that might have occurred in the course of pursuing the war on Islamic terror. Rather it is the fact that the groups that are the subject of this attention are themselves questionable.

One example of the president’s outreach cited by the Times is the fact that senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett spoke at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America, a group that has consistently served to rationalize anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorism and that was an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation, whose leaders were convicted in 2008 of funneling American funds to Hamas terrorists. When the administration grants its official seal of approval to radical groups such as the ISNA, it helps these people drown out the voices of genuine moderates who are far more representative of most American Muslims. As investigative journalist Steve Emerson told the Times: “I think dialogue is good, but it has to be with genuine moderates. These are the wrong groups to legitimize.”

Moreover, if the influence of such people on the administration is to reinforce its desire to literally walk away from the war on terror and to pretend that radical Islam is not the driving force behind America’s foes through the banning of such terms as “jihad” and “Islamic terrorism” in comments by officials, then it must be acknowledged that the problem here goes deeper than public relations.

Yet the blame for whitewashing radical institutions and players isn’t all the fault of the White House. Another driving force behind this trend is the New York Times itself. It should be noted that Andrea Elliott, the author of today’s piece, won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for her 2007 series about the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and the lives of immigrant Muslims. Yet nowhere in the three-part 11,000-word story did she mention that one of the Islamic Society’s congregants went on a shooting spree in 1994 at the Brooklyn Bridge, where he murdered a 16-year-old Jew named Ari Halberstam after hearing an anti-Semitic sermon at this mosque. Later it turned out that Elliott was completely unaware (or at least claimed to be unaware) of the most famous incident involving the institution on which her story centered.

The point is, for those who want to ignore the truth about the danger from homegrown Islamist radicals, the tendency is to deny any link between Islam and terror, even if this means pretending that radicals who support violence are really peaceful moderates. This is a bad recipe for journalism as well as for public policy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Disingenuous: David Axelrod claims no “snub” of Bibi Netanyahu was intended when the Obami disallowed any cameras, held no press conference, and leaked its continuing bullying of Israel.

Sadly accurate: Bill Kristol explains that the administration “is going out of its way to distance itself from the Israeli government” and that this represents “a turn against Israel” by the Obami.

Unacceptable? Stephen Hayes argues that it is inevitable: “In private, the Obama administration has repeatedly warned Israel against a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Isolating Israel in this way sends the same message publicly; it says, in effect, ‘You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.’ … They offer platitudes, and they focus obsessively on diplomacy that virtually no one thinks will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter whether China participates in a conference call about weak U.N. sanctions that will have a negligible effect on Iran’s behavior. And containment, the de facto policy on Iran today, will become the acknowledged Obama administration approach to Iran. Which means, of course, that Iran will have the bomb.”

Predictable (when you elect an ultra-liberal masquerading as a moderate): Matt Continetti explains that “gone is the charismatic young man who told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that there was no Blue America and no Red America, only the United States of America. All that remains is a partisan liberal Democrat whose health care policy bulldozed public opinion, enraged the electorate, poisoned the Congress, and set into motion a sequence of events the outcome of which cannot be foreseen.”

Silly: “No good options for President Obama in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, “blares the Politico headline. Of course, there is — send him back to a military tribunal. The fact that “there doesn’t seem to be even the dim possibility of a political upside for the White House” is frankly beside the point and a dilemma entirely of its own ideological extremism and ineptitude.

Dangerously deluded (if she believes what she is saying): Valerie Jarrett argues that “we’re seeing steady progress in terms of a world coalition that will put that pressure on Iran … I think we have a strong force in the making and Iran will back down.”

Surprising (only to the media elites and those who’ve never been to a Tea Party): “When the tea party movement burst onto the scene last year to oppose President Barack Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the health care legislation they wanted to enact, some liberal critics were quick to label its activists as angry white men. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong. Many of the tea party’s most influential grass-roots and national leaders are women, and a new poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggests that women might make up a majority of the movement as well. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong.”

Disingenuous: David Axelrod claims no “snub” of Bibi Netanyahu was intended when the Obami disallowed any cameras, held no press conference, and leaked its continuing bullying of Israel.

Sadly accurate: Bill Kristol explains that the administration “is going out of its way to distance itself from the Israeli government” and that this represents “a turn against Israel” by the Obami.

Unacceptable? Stephen Hayes argues that it is inevitable: “In private, the Obama administration has repeatedly warned Israel against a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Isolating Israel in this way sends the same message publicly; it says, in effect, ‘You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.’ … They offer platitudes, and they focus obsessively on diplomacy that virtually no one thinks will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter whether China participates in a conference call about weak U.N. sanctions that will have a negligible effect on Iran’s behavior. And containment, the de facto policy on Iran today, will become the acknowledged Obama administration approach to Iran. Which means, of course, that Iran will have the bomb.”

Predictable (when you elect an ultra-liberal masquerading as a moderate): Matt Continetti explains that “gone is the charismatic young man who told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that there was no Blue America and no Red America, only the United States of America. All that remains is a partisan liberal Democrat whose health care policy bulldozed public opinion, enraged the electorate, poisoned the Congress, and set into motion a sequence of events the outcome of which cannot be foreseen.”

Silly: “No good options for President Obama in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, “blares the Politico headline. Of course, there is — send him back to a military tribunal. The fact that “there doesn’t seem to be even the dim possibility of a political upside for the White House” is frankly beside the point and a dilemma entirely of its own ideological extremism and ineptitude.

Dangerously deluded (if she believes what she is saying): Valerie Jarrett argues that “we’re seeing steady progress in terms of a world coalition that will put that pressure on Iran … I think we have a strong force in the making and Iran will back down.”

Surprising (only to the media elites and those who’ve never been to a Tea Party): “When the tea party movement burst onto the scene last year to oppose President Barack Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the health care legislation they wanted to enact, some liberal critics were quick to label its activists as angry white men. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong. Many of the tea party’s most influential grass-roots and national leaders are women, and a new poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggests that women might make up a majority of the movement as well. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A good question triggered by the assassination of the Hamas terrorist in Dubai and our decision to send an ambassador to Syria: “Will the safe haven Damascus continues to provide terrorists such as Mabhouh, who would erase Israel from the Middle-Eastern map—to say nothing of the foreign fighters trained by al Qaeda and/or armed by Iran who are still entering Iraq across the Syrian border to kill American soldiers—be a subject of discussion for America’s newly appointed ambassador to Syria once he’s presented his credentials?”

If you thought the Ivy League–educated Oval Office occupier Obama’s populism was fake: “If last year’s bailout of the financial industry caused you to start muttering words like investment banker and robber baron in the same sentence, it may cheer you to know that Timothy Geithner, the man responsible for crafting much of that bailout, agrees with you. ‘I am,’ he says, seated in his Washington, D.C., office, an intimidatingly ornate room worthy of a Hogwarts headmaster, ‘incredibly angry at what happened to our country.’”

A lot of people excited about a potential 2012 run by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will be excited to hear this: “During an interview at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association here over the weekend, Daniels said he has now been persuaded to keep open the door to a possible candidacy.”

Is Marco Rubio running away with the GOP Senate primary race? The latest Rasmussen poll has him up by 18 points.

Democrats are on the defensive in Illinois: “Illinois’ Republican Party is keeping up a steady drumbeat of pressure on Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias to answer questions about his family’s Broadway Bank. ‘Why is Alexi hiding?’ the party asked in an e-mail to reporters a week after the election and after news conferences Giannoulias had held in Chicago and Springfield. … In at least 10 e-mails sent out since the election, the party says Giannoulias is ducking questions about loans he authorized four years ago as vice-president of his family’s Broadway Bank and about the bank’s current troubled financial state.”

CATO’s Michael Tanner on the latest version of ObamaCare: “Faced with public opinion polls showing that 58 percent of the public are opposed to his health care proposal, President Obama has gone back to the drawing board and brought forth a new health care plan that looks almost exactly like his old health care bill. Actually that’s not quite true. This proposal is more expensive, pushing its cost up close to $1 trillion in the first 10 years, and raising taxes by some $629 billion.”

Some are in a tizzy: “Critics left and right are accusing Rahm Emanuel of disloyalty-by-proxy after a Dana Milbank column in Sunday’s Washington Post defended the White House chief of staff — while trashing reputed Emanuel rivals Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs. ” Actually, he’s been leaking his opposition to the entire anti-terrorism approach for some time, so this should come as no shock.

Thanks to the teachers’ union, the Los Angeles Unified School District has given up trying to fire bad teachers.

Oh good grief: “Last August, former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Leach took office as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  What exactly were his qualifications for this post, other than being an Obamaphile Republican and thus a safely ‘bipartisan’ appointment, was and remains a mystery. Since his appointment, unsurprisingly, Leach has appeared to take little interest in the actual work of the NEH—support for research, publication, and education in the humanities—and instead has been gallivanting around the country on a 50-state ‘civility tour,’ giving mostly forgettable speeches … whose goal seems to be to get Americans to stop criticizing Barack Obama in terms that offend Chairman Leach.”

A good question triggered by the assassination of the Hamas terrorist in Dubai and our decision to send an ambassador to Syria: “Will the safe haven Damascus continues to provide terrorists such as Mabhouh, who would erase Israel from the Middle-Eastern map—to say nothing of the foreign fighters trained by al Qaeda and/or armed by Iran who are still entering Iraq across the Syrian border to kill American soldiers—be a subject of discussion for America’s newly appointed ambassador to Syria once he’s presented his credentials?”

If you thought the Ivy League–educated Oval Office occupier Obama’s populism was fake: “If last year’s bailout of the financial industry caused you to start muttering words like investment banker and robber baron in the same sentence, it may cheer you to know that Timothy Geithner, the man responsible for crafting much of that bailout, agrees with you. ‘I am,’ he says, seated in his Washington, D.C., office, an intimidatingly ornate room worthy of a Hogwarts headmaster, ‘incredibly angry at what happened to our country.’”

A lot of people excited about a potential 2012 run by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will be excited to hear this: “During an interview at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association here over the weekend, Daniels said he has now been persuaded to keep open the door to a possible candidacy.”

Is Marco Rubio running away with the GOP Senate primary race? The latest Rasmussen poll has him up by 18 points.

Democrats are on the defensive in Illinois: “Illinois’ Republican Party is keeping up a steady drumbeat of pressure on Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias to answer questions about his family’s Broadway Bank. ‘Why is Alexi hiding?’ the party asked in an e-mail to reporters a week after the election and after news conferences Giannoulias had held in Chicago and Springfield. … In at least 10 e-mails sent out since the election, the party says Giannoulias is ducking questions about loans he authorized four years ago as vice-president of his family’s Broadway Bank and about the bank’s current troubled financial state.”

CATO’s Michael Tanner on the latest version of ObamaCare: “Faced with public opinion polls showing that 58 percent of the public are opposed to his health care proposal, President Obama has gone back to the drawing board and brought forth a new health care plan that looks almost exactly like his old health care bill. Actually that’s not quite true. This proposal is more expensive, pushing its cost up close to $1 trillion in the first 10 years, and raising taxes by some $629 billion.”

Some are in a tizzy: “Critics left and right are accusing Rahm Emanuel of disloyalty-by-proxy after a Dana Milbank column in Sunday’s Washington Post defended the White House chief of staff — while trashing reputed Emanuel rivals Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs. ” Actually, he’s been leaking his opposition to the entire anti-terrorism approach for some time, so this should come as no shock.

Thanks to the teachers’ union, the Los Angeles Unified School District has given up trying to fire bad teachers.

Oh good grief: “Last August, former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Leach took office as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  What exactly were his qualifications for this post, other than being an Obamaphile Republican and thus a safely ‘bipartisan’ appointment, was and remains a mystery. Since his appointment, unsurprisingly, Leach has appeared to take little interest in the actual work of the NEH—support for research, publication, and education in the humanities—and instead has been gallivanting around the country on a 50-state ‘civility tour,’ giving mostly forgettable speeches … whose goal seems to be to get Americans to stop criticizing Barack Obama in terms that offend Chairman Leach.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

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Privileged, Indeed

The Obami are pulling out all the stops to protect their social secretary and Chicago pal from further scrutiny about the lapse in security over what is now the most infamous state dinner in recent memory. Didn’t you hear, sniffs, Valerie Jarrett, who doesn’t want her confidante and Chicago pal going anywhere near a congressional hearing: Case closed! Move along. Desiree is not going to testify, the Obami say. What!? Something about the Constitution, you say? Hmm.

Bill Burck and Dan Perino dissect the Obami’s claim that they needn’t provide Desiree Rogers to testify over the party-crashing incident because of the “separation of powers.” That’s “executive privilege,” by the way, but they don’t want to say that because people would laugh. Well, more people would laugh than are already. Rogers is not exactly a close adviser, of course. But no matter:

Lest there be any doubt on this front, the White House made it clear that “staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress.” There is no qualifier of any sort in that statement. At face value, this is a breathtaking assertion that all White House staff — everyone from the chief of staff to the 22-year-old assistant just out of college — are absolutely immune from appearing before Congress to give testimony. This jaw-dropper makes the prior administration, vilified by so many Democrats in Congress as imperious and dismissive of congressional prerogatives, look positively weak-kneed and lap-doggish.

This is all quite at odds with the Democrats’ past eight years of foot-stomping and insistence that the Bush White House had to provide advisers (real ones, who advised on more than menus and guest lists) for testimony. (“Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Conyers must feel particularly double-crossed because they were the principal sponsors of a lawsuit filed in an effort to compel testimony and documents from Ms. Miers, Mr. Rove, and others concerning the U.S. attorney controversy.”)

Congress may be inclined to let this slide. But they do so at their institutional peril. The Obami are apparently serious, and Congress, unless it wants to set some new precedent, should be wary about letting the White House get away with a stunt like this. “We don’t want to embarrass our Chicago friend” simply isn’t a good enough reason to stiff Congress.

The Obami are pulling out all the stops to protect their social secretary and Chicago pal from further scrutiny about the lapse in security over what is now the most infamous state dinner in recent memory. Didn’t you hear, sniffs, Valerie Jarrett, who doesn’t want her confidante and Chicago pal going anywhere near a congressional hearing: Case closed! Move along. Desiree is not going to testify, the Obami say. What!? Something about the Constitution, you say? Hmm.

Bill Burck and Dan Perino dissect the Obami’s claim that they needn’t provide Desiree Rogers to testify over the party-crashing incident because of the “separation of powers.” That’s “executive privilege,” by the way, but they don’t want to say that because people would laugh. Well, more people would laugh than are already. Rogers is not exactly a close adviser, of course. But no matter:

Lest there be any doubt on this front, the White House made it clear that “staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress.” There is no qualifier of any sort in that statement. At face value, this is a breathtaking assertion that all White House staff — everyone from the chief of staff to the 22-year-old assistant just out of college — are absolutely immune from appearing before Congress to give testimony. This jaw-dropper makes the prior administration, vilified by so many Democrats in Congress as imperious and dismissive of congressional prerogatives, look positively weak-kneed and lap-doggish.

This is all quite at odds with the Democrats’ past eight years of foot-stomping and insistence that the Bush White House had to provide advisers (real ones, who advised on more than menus and guest lists) for testimony. (“Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Conyers must feel particularly double-crossed because they were the principal sponsors of a lawsuit filed in an effort to compel testimony and documents from Ms. Miers, Mr. Rove, and others concerning the U.S. attorney controversy.”)

Congress may be inclined to let this slide. But they do so at their institutional peril. The Obami are apparently serious, and Congress, unless it wants to set some new precedent, should be wary about letting the White House get away with a stunt like this. “We don’t want to embarrass our Chicago friend” simply isn’t a good enough reason to stiff Congress.

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Nah! Really?

The New York Times, not the Onion, reports:

The White House on Wednesday invoked the separation of powers to keep Desiree Rogers, President Obama’s social secretary, from testifying on Capitol Hill about how a couple of aspiring reality television show celebrities crashed a state dinner for the prime minister of India last week. “I think you know that, based on separation of powers, staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress,’’ Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters during his regular briefing. “She won’t — she will not be testifying in front of Congress.’’

They are kidding, right? Nope. Dead serious. Even the usually supportive media and law-professor contingent is gobsmacked by this hooey:

“I’d completely fall out of my chair if they invoked Executive privilege with regards to a social secretary arranging a party,” said Mark J. Rozell, a public-policy professor at George Mason who recently wrote a book on Executive privilege. “There is no prohibition under separation of powers against White House staff going to Capitol Hill to talk about what they know.”

You recall how loudly Democrats squawked when Karl Rove and other Bush advisers involved in real matters of executive deliberation balked at testifying before Congress. Now the most transparent administration in history is invoking executive privilege (which, according to my former Justice Department gurus, doesn’t “count” unless the president invokes it himself) to prevent the social secretary from testifying about a security breach at the White House. The arrogance and, yes, lack of transparency over an issue that has no policy implications (but that may prove embarrassing for a pal of White House honcho Valerie Jarrett) is remarkable, even for the Obami.

The New York Times, not the Onion, reports:

The White House on Wednesday invoked the separation of powers to keep Desiree Rogers, President Obama’s social secretary, from testifying on Capitol Hill about how a couple of aspiring reality television show celebrities crashed a state dinner for the prime minister of India last week. “I think you know that, based on separation of powers, staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress,’’ Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters during his regular briefing. “She won’t — she will not be testifying in front of Congress.’’

They are kidding, right? Nope. Dead serious. Even the usually supportive media and law-professor contingent is gobsmacked by this hooey:

“I’d completely fall out of my chair if they invoked Executive privilege with regards to a social secretary arranging a party,” said Mark J. Rozell, a public-policy professor at George Mason who recently wrote a book on Executive privilege. “There is no prohibition under separation of powers against White House staff going to Capitol Hill to talk about what they know.”

You recall how loudly Democrats squawked when Karl Rove and other Bush advisers involved in real matters of executive deliberation balked at testifying before Congress. Now the most transparent administration in history is invoking executive privilege (which, according to my former Justice Department gurus, doesn’t “count” unless the president invokes it himself) to prevent the social secretary from testifying about a security breach at the White House. The arrogance and, yes, lack of transparency over an issue that has no policy implications (but that may prove embarrassing for a pal of White House honcho Valerie Jarrett) is remarkable, even for the Obami.

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