Commentary Magazine


Topic: Virginia

Flotsam and Jetsam

Not even Dana Milbank can make excuses for Imam Abdul Rauf: “He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he — unintentionally, he says — set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.”

Not even Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen is advocating a partial extension of the Bush tax cuts. “If [Republicans] were to come back and say, ‘hey, let’s just do one year for the top 2 percent, and permanent for the middle class,’ that would be something that obviously people would have to think about,’ Van Hollen said in an interview with Bloomberg this past weekend. Van Hollen’s suggestion partially mirrors a plan outlined by former White House budget director Peter Orszag, who argued that Democrats and Republicans should back a fixed two year extension of all the tax cuts and then end them altogether.”

Not even Senate Democrats want to end the Bush tax cuts: “[T]he list of Senate Democrats in favor of an extension is now up to five. Evan Bayh (Indiana), Kent Conrad (North Dakota) and Ben Nelson (Warren Buffett) were already on board, and this week Connecticut Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman and Virginia’s Jim Webb came around.”

Not even Connecticut is safe for the Democrats. “Pres. Obama’s poll numbers have plummeted in Connecticut, a state he carried by an overwhelming margin 2 years ago. A majority of likely voters — 52% — in the Quinnipiac poll disapprove of how Obama is handling his job as president. Only 45% approve of his performance. The Quinnipiac survey found Blumenthal leading former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 6 points — 51% to 45%.” Hey, if Scott Brown can win “Ted Kennedy’s seat” then McMahon can win ” Chris Dodd’s seat.”

Not even competent, says Mona Charen, of the president: “The president himself doesn’t at all concede that government is attempting to do too much (and failing at most of it). On the contrary, his vanity (and it is a common one for left-wingers) is that he believes his particular ideas on business investment, medical procedures, housing, and thousands of other matters are the solutions to our woes, but ‘politics’ keeps getting in the way.” All that Ivy League education did, it seems, is convince Obama of his own brilliance.

Not even Imam Abdul Rauf may be able to resist pressure to move the Ground Zero mosque. Now he’s telling us it is all about serving Lower Manhattan’s Muslim residents. Gosh, seems like there already are mosques in the neighborhood.

Not even second place for Charlie Crist if this trend continues: “The independent Senate bid of Florida Governor Charlie Crist is in serious trouble, according to a new Fox News poll. Crist drew 27 percent of likely voters in the poll of the three-way race. Republican Marco Rubio registered 43 percent support. Democrat Kendrick Meek came in third with 21 percent.” Republican Senate candidates also lead in the Fox poll in Nevada (by one point), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Barbara Boxer is up by only 2 points.

Not even Dana Milbank can make excuses for Imam Abdul Rauf: “He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he — unintentionally, he says — set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.”

Not even Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen is advocating a partial extension of the Bush tax cuts. “If [Republicans] were to come back and say, ‘hey, let’s just do one year for the top 2 percent, and permanent for the middle class,’ that would be something that obviously people would have to think about,’ Van Hollen said in an interview with Bloomberg this past weekend. Van Hollen’s suggestion partially mirrors a plan outlined by former White House budget director Peter Orszag, who argued that Democrats and Republicans should back a fixed two year extension of all the tax cuts and then end them altogether.”

Not even Senate Democrats want to end the Bush tax cuts: “[T]he list of Senate Democrats in favor of an extension is now up to five. Evan Bayh (Indiana), Kent Conrad (North Dakota) and Ben Nelson (Warren Buffett) were already on board, and this week Connecticut Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman and Virginia’s Jim Webb came around.”

Not even Connecticut is safe for the Democrats. “Pres. Obama’s poll numbers have plummeted in Connecticut, a state he carried by an overwhelming margin 2 years ago. A majority of likely voters — 52% — in the Quinnipiac poll disapprove of how Obama is handling his job as president. Only 45% approve of his performance. The Quinnipiac survey found Blumenthal leading former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 6 points — 51% to 45%.” Hey, if Scott Brown can win “Ted Kennedy’s seat” then McMahon can win ” Chris Dodd’s seat.”

Not even competent, says Mona Charen, of the president: “The president himself doesn’t at all concede that government is attempting to do too much (and failing at most of it). On the contrary, his vanity (and it is a common one for left-wingers) is that he believes his particular ideas on business investment, medical procedures, housing, and thousands of other matters are the solutions to our woes, but ‘politics’ keeps getting in the way.” All that Ivy League education did, it seems, is convince Obama of his own brilliance.

Not even Imam Abdul Rauf may be able to resist pressure to move the Ground Zero mosque. Now he’s telling us it is all about serving Lower Manhattan’s Muslim residents. Gosh, seems like there already are mosques in the neighborhood.

Not even second place for Charlie Crist if this trend continues: “The independent Senate bid of Florida Governor Charlie Crist is in serious trouble, according to a new Fox News poll. Crist drew 27 percent of likely voters in the poll of the three-way race. Republican Marco Rubio registered 43 percent support. Democrat Kendrick Meek came in third with 21 percent.” Republican Senate candidates also lead in the Fox poll in Nevada (by one point), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Barbara Boxer is up by only 2 points.

Read Less

Lending the GOP a Helping Hand

It’s becoming apparent that Obama’s latest economic plan has not won over even his own party. The latest Democrat to ditch the president is Sen. Ben Nelson, who is hinting he’d join a filibuster:

“It would be very hard for me to support that,” Nelson told reporters outside the Senate chamber before a vote this evening.

The list is growing:

“I don’t think we ought to be drawing a distinction at $250K,” Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told Fox News.

Separately, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, also expressed strong support for temporarily extending all of the tax cuts to aid the economic recovery.

“I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through,” he said. “The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.”

In the House, several rank-and-file Democrats are urging their leaders to back an extension of all of the tax cuts. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has staked out the same position as Obama, that tax cuts should only be extended for the middle class.

“Given the continued fragility of our economy and slow pace of recovery, we share their concerns,” stated a draft letter being circulated by Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and other Democrats.

Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), and Evan Bayh (Ind.) previously have questioned the wisdom of raising taxes during one of the roughest recessions on record.

One wonders exactly what the White House had in mind when they tossed this out. Did the brain trust imagine they could successfully play the class-warfare game as the economy is sinking into the abyss? Did they not understand that they have asked their congressional allies to walk the plank one too many times?

Rather than provide a rallying cry for his party, Obama has tossed yet another grenade into his own ranks. He certainly is the GOP’s greatest asset this election cycle.

It’s becoming apparent that Obama’s latest economic plan has not won over even his own party. The latest Democrat to ditch the president is Sen. Ben Nelson, who is hinting he’d join a filibuster:

“It would be very hard for me to support that,” Nelson told reporters outside the Senate chamber before a vote this evening.

The list is growing:

“I don’t think we ought to be drawing a distinction at $250K,” Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told Fox News.

Separately, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, also expressed strong support for temporarily extending all of the tax cuts to aid the economic recovery.

“I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through,” he said. “The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.”

In the House, several rank-and-file Democrats are urging their leaders to back an extension of all of the tax cuts. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has staked out the same position as Obama, that tax cuts should only be extended for the middle class.

“Given the continued fragility of our economy and slow pace of recovery, we share their concerns,” stated a draft letter being circulated by Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and other Democrats.

Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), and Evan Bayh (Ind.) previously have questioned the wisdom of raising taxes during one of the roughest recessions on record.

One wonders exactly what the White House had in mind when they tossed this out. Did the brain trust imagine they could successfully play the class-warfare game as the economy is sinking into the abyss? Did they not understand that they have asked their congressional allies to walk the plank one too many times?

Rather than provide a rallying cry for his party, Obama has tossed yet another grenade into his own ranks. He certainly is the GOP’s greatest asset this election cycle.

Read Less

Have We Got a Bridge for You!

Rep. Tom Perriello, Democrat of Virginia, is in deep political trouble. He was elected in 2008 in his central Virginia district that runs from Charlottesville down to the North Carolina border, thanks to President Obama’s coattails. He is now running as many as 26 points behind his Republican opponent in what is basically a Republican district. But as Barbara Hollingsworth points out in the Washington Examiner, last spring he made a remarkable admission.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned up here (in Washington) and I didn’t really need to come up here to learn it, is the only way to get Congress to balance the budget is to give them no choice, and the only way to keep them out of the cookie jar is to give them no choice, which is why — whether it’s balanced-budget acts or pay-as-you-go legislation or any of that — is the only thing. If you don’t tie our hands, we will keep stealing.

He is exactly right and we have forty years of sometimes grotesquely unbalanced budgets to prove it. And the stealing will go on — and in splendidly bipartisan fashion — unless it becomes impossible. But balanced-budget acts will not work (they haven’t in the past) and neither will pay-as-you-go (which likewise hasn’t worked). Whenever Congress feels enough public pressure, it passes something with a fancy now-we’re-serious-about-spending title but carefully inserts loopholes that allow billions to be spent outside the rules. The Washington press corps, with its totally inside-the-beltway mentality and priorities, pays little or no attention. Most of the Iraq war, for instance, was “emergency spending.” What, every year Congress looked out the window and perceived, much to its surprise, that there was a war raging on?

How do we change this? How do we force Congress to balance the budget or make a deliberate public decision not to?

There is only one way: the federal government must be subject to the same discipline

that every corporation in the country is subject to: an independent accounting authority that sets the rules for how the government’s books are kept and determines if those rules are being followed. In other words, it should be an independent, politically insulated, accounting board that decides what is “emergency spending,” not Congress or the President.

There is an excellent example of how such a system works in practice. When New York City went broke after decades of phony accounting to hide the gathering disaster, New York State wouldn’t help until the city agreed to be subjected to a Financial Control Board and to adopt Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Today, New York City — which has a larger population than all but 11 states — is in good financial shape. New York State, which, needless to say, did not impose such restraints on itself, is a financial basket case, second only to California among the states for the depth of its financial crisis.

So pay no attention to all the blather about balancing the budget and “lock boxes” and pay-as-you-go schemes and all the rest of that nonsense you’ll be hearing in the next two months from Democrats and Republicans alike. When you hear them talk about giving up the power to cook the books, you’ll know they’re perhaps getting serious. Until then, they’re just blowing smoke. The Washington press corps will buy it (they always do — there’s apparently no limit to the number of times you can sell Washington journalists the Brooklyn Bridge) but the electorate shouldn’t be fooled. Just ask Tom Perriello.

Rep. Tom Perriello, Democrat of Virginia, is in deep political trouble. He was elected in 2008 in his central Virginia district that runs from Charlottesville down to the North Carolina border, thanks to President Obama’s coattails. He is now running as many as 26 points behind his Republican opponent in what is basically a Republican district. But as Barbara Hollingsworth points out in the Washington Examiner, last spring he made a remarkable admission.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned up here (in Washington) and I didn’t really need to come up here to learn it, is the only way to get Congress to balance the budget is to give them no choice, and the only way to keep them out of the cookie jar is to give them no choice, which is why — whether it’s balanced-budget acts or pay-as-you-go legislation or any of that — is the only thing. If you don’t tie our hands, we will keep stealing.

He is exactly right and we have forty years of sometimes grotesquely unbalanced budgets to prove it. And the stealing will go on — and in splendidly bipartisan fashion — unless it becomes impossible. But balanced-budget acts will not work (they haven’t in the past) and neither will pay-as-you-go (which likewise hasn’t worked). Whenever Congress feels enough public pressure, it passes something with a fancy now-we’re-serious-about-spending title but carefully inserts loopholes that allow billions to be spent outside the rules. The Washington press corps, with its totally inside-the-beltway mentality and priorities, pays little or no attention. Most of the Iraq war, for instance, was “emergency spending.” What, every year Congress looked out the window and perceived, much to its surprise, that there was a war raging on?

How do we change this? How do we force Congress to balance the budget or make a deliberate public decision not to?

There is only one way: the federal government must be subject to the same discipline

that every corporation in the country is subject to: an independent accounting authority that sets the rules for how the government’s books are kept and determines if those rules are being followed. In other words, it should be an independent, politically insulated, accounting board that decides what is “emergency spending,” not Congress or the President.

There is an excellent example of how such a system works in practice. When New York City went broke after decades of phony accounting to hide the gathering disaster, New York State wouldn’t help until the city agreed to be subjected to a Financial Control Board and to adopt Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Today, New York City — which has a larger population than all but 11 states — is in good financial shape. New York State, which, needless to say, did not impose such restraints on itself, is a financial basket case, second only to California among the states for the depth of its financial crisis.

So pay no attention to all the blather about balancing the budget and “lock boxes” and pay-as-you-go schemes and all the rest of that nonsense you’ll be hearing in the next two months from Democrats and Republicans alike. When you hear them talk about giving up the power to cook the books, you’ll know they’re perhaps getting serious. Until then, they’re just blowing smoke. The Washington press corps will buy it (they always do — there’s apparently no limit to the number of times you can sell Washington journalists the Brooklyn Bridge) but the electorate shouldn’t be fooled. Just ask Tom Perriello.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Nothing in common with Shakespeare except comic genius.

Nothing matches the Joe Sestak campaign for sheer incompetence. Now he’s changing his tune on a $350,000 earmark. Boy, must Arlen Specter be grinding his teeth. There is an art to flip-flops, you know!

Nothing is leaning Democratic these days: “In 10 matchups this year by Rasmussen Reports between three-term Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi, the two have never been further than 4 points apart. Now, with Rossi moving to a 2 point lead, the pollster has changed its rating of the race from ‘leans Democratic’ to ‘toss-up.’ … Polling analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com has calculated a 46 percent probability that the Democrats will lose the seat.”

Nothing but bad news for the Democrats from Charlie Cook: “[A] look at the 37 Senate races on the ballot shows some deterioration for Democrats in some of the 19 seats they are defending, while Republicans’ prospects have stayed the same or improved slightly in their most competitive seats. As such, it is now likely that Republicans will score a net gain of between seven and nine seats.”

Nothing but Red in California: SurveyUSA shows Meg Whitman up by seven and Carly Fiorina up by two.

Nothing in doubt in this race: “Robert Hurt (R) now leads [Virginia Democrat] Perriello by a whopping 61% to 35%.”

Nothing like a mosque at Ground Zero to wake up New York Jews. “As the fight over the center escalated from a zoning dispute into a battle in the culture wars, it has splintered New Yorkers along party lines. Seventy-four percent of Republicans are opposed; Democrats are split, with 43 percent for and 44 percent against. … More than half, 53 percent, of city residents with incomes over $100,000 back the center; only 31 percent of those with incomes under $50,000 agree. Protestants are evenly divided, while most Catholics and Jewish New Yorkers oppose the center.”

Nothing like a Cliff May piece on Muslim terror — and excoriating Fareed Zakaria. Read the whole thing — a few times.

Nothing in common with Shakespeare except comic genius.

Nothing matches the Joe Sestak campaign for sheer incompetence. Now he’s changing his tune on a $350,000 earmark. Boy, must Arlen Specter be grinding his teeth. There is an art to flip-flops, you know!

Nothing is leaning Democratic these days: “In 10 matchups this year by Rasmussen Reports between three-term Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi, the two have never been further than 4 points apart. Now, with Rossi moving to a 2 point lead, the pollster has changed its rating of the race from ‘leans Democratic’ to ‘toss-up.’ … Polling analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com has calculated a 46 percent probability that the Democrats will lose the seat.”

Nothing but bad news for the Democrats from Charlie Cook: “[A] look at the 37 Senate races on the ballot shows some deterioration for Democrats in some of the 19 seats they are defending, while Republicans’ prospects have stayed the same or improved slightly in their most competitive seats. As such, it is now likely that Republicans will score a net gain of between seven and nine seats.”

Nothing but Red in California: SurveyUSA shows Meg Whitman up by seven and Carly Fiorina up by two.

Nothing in doubt in this race: “Robert Hurt (R) now leads [Virginia Democrat] Perriello by a whopping 61% to 35%.”

Nothing like a mosque at Ground Zero to wake up New York Jews. “As the fight over the center escalated from a zoning dispute into a battle in the culture wars, it has splintered New Yorkers along party lines. Seventy-four percent of Republicans are opposed; Democrats are split, with 43 percent for and 44 percent against. … More than half, 53 percent, of city residents with incomes over $100,000 back the center; only 31 percent of those with incomes under $50,000 agree. Protestants are evenly divided, while most Catholics and Jewish New Yorkers oppose the center.”

Nothing like a Cliff May piece on Muslim terror — and excoriating Fareed Zakaria. Read the whole thing — a few times.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Don’t you expect Eric Holder will want to “spend more time with his family” before Republicans get a majority — and subpoena power — in the House and/or Senate? “Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is a man with blood on his hands.A year before 9/11, the Saudi al Qaeda operative masterminded the bombing of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole, killing 17 sailors as the vessel refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden.A Guantanamo tribunal was ready to arraign him last year, but since the Obama administration took office, it’s been a case of trial and error. No trial — plenty of error. … Attorney General Eric Holder said last year that because the Cole bombing was an attack on the military, Nashiri’s trial should proceed in a military tribunal. Did it really take nine months to figure that out?”

Don’t faint: “BBC Exonerates Israel.” When will J Street?

Don’t underestimate the cluelessness of liberal politicians: “The Muslim center planned near the site of the World Trade Center attack could qualify for tax-free financing, a spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday, and Liu is willing to consider approving the public subsidy.The Democratic comptroller’s spokesman, Scott Sieber, said Liu supported the project. The center has sparked an intense debate over U.S. religious freedoms and the sanctity of the Trade Center site, where nearly 3,000 perished in the September 11, 2001 attack.”

Don’t think Florida Democrats should be celebrating Rick Scott’s win: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary survey of the Florida governor’s race finds Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink in a close contest.Scott, the winner of Tuesday’s bruising GOP Primary, earns the support of 41% of Likely Voters in the state, while Sink picks up 36% of the vote.”

Don’t be surprised if Charlie Crist comes in third in the Senate race. A distant third.

Don’t you wonder what compelled James Fallows, after his magazine invited one of the most effective neocon pundits to join in a week-long symposium, to go out of his way to “disassociate” himself not once but twice from his guest’s views? Could be that the left-leaning readership threw a hissy fit (how dare Atlantic allow a conservative to make mincemeat of their arguments!), or maybe it’s just a dirth of graciousness. These are not mutually exclusive explanations. (To his credit, Jeffrey Goldberg — “kudos to the assorted luminaries” — did not follow his colleague’s lead.)

Don’t miss Peter Berkowitz’s latest column. A sample: “In late 2008 and early 2009, in the wake of Mr. Obama’s meteoric ascent, the idea that conservatism would enjoy any sort of revival in the summer of 2009 would have seemed to demoralized conservatives too much to hope for. To leading lights on the left, it would have appeared absolutely outlandish. … Messrs. [George] Packer, [E.J.] Dionne and [Sam] Tanenhaus underestimated what the conservative tradition rightly emphasizes, which is the high degree of unpredictability in human affairs. They also conflated the flagging fortunes of George W. Bush’s Republican Party with conservatism’s popular appeal.”

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Obama to say “victory” or “democracy” in connection with Iraq. It’s all about keeping his campaign promise. And more money spent on the VA. I had hoped he would grow into the role of commander in chief. Hasn’t happened yet.

Don’t you expect Eric Holder will want to “spend more time with his family” before Republicans get a majority — and subpoena power — in the House and/or Senate? “Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is a man with blood on his hands.A year before 9/11, the Saudi al Qaeda operative masterminded the bombing of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole, killing 17 sailors as the vessel refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden.A Guantanamo tribunal was ready to arraign him last year, but since the Obama administration took office, it’s been a case of trial and error. No trial — plenty of error. … Attorney General Eric Holder said last year that because the Cole bombing was an attack on the military, Nashiri’s trial should proceed in a military tribunal. Did it really take nine months to figure that out?”

Don’t faint: “BBC Exonerates Israel.” When will J Street?

Don’t underestimate the cluelessness of liberal politicians: “The Muslim center planned near the site of the World Trade Center attack could qualify for tax-free financing, a spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday, and Liu is willing to consider approving the public subsidy.The Democratic comptroller’s spokesman, Scott Sieber, said Liu supported the project. The center has sparked an intense debate over U.S. religious freedoms and the sanctity of the Trade Center site, where nearly 3,000 perished in the September 11, 2001 attack.”

Don’t think Florida Democrats should be celebrating Rick Scott’s win: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary survey of the Florida governor’s race finds Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink in a close contest.Scott, the winner of Tuesday’s bruising GOP Primary, earns the support of 41% of Likely Voters in the state, while Sink picks up 36% of the vote.”

Don’t be surprised if Charlie Crist comes in third in the Senate race. A distant third.

Don’t you wonder what compelled James Fallows, after his magazine invited one of the most effective neocon pundits to join in a week-long symposium, to go out of his way to “disassociate” himself not once but twice from his guest’s views? Could be that the left-leaning readership threw a hissy fit (how dare Atlantic allow a conservative to make mincemeat of their arguments!), or maybe it’s just a dirth of graciousness. These are not mutually exclusive explanations. (To his credit, Jeffrey Goldberg — “kudos to the assorted luminaries” — did not follow his colleague’s lead.)

Don’t miss Peter Berkowitz’s latest column. A sample: “In late 2008 and early 2009, in the wake of Mr. Obama’s meteoric ascent, the idea that conservatism would enjoy any sort of revival in the summer of 2009 would have seemed to demoralized conservatives too much to hope for. To leading lights on the left, it would have appeared absolutely outlandish. … Messrs. [George] Packer, [E.J.] Dionne and [Sam] Tanenhaus underestimated what the conservative tradition rightly emphasizes, which is the high degree of unpredictability in human affairs. They also conflated the flagging fortunes of George W. Bush’s Republican Party with conservatism’s popular appeal.”

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Obama to say “victory” or “democracy” in connection with Iraq. It’s all about keeping his campaign promise. And more money spent on the VA. I had hoped he would grow into the role of commander in chief. Hasn’t happened yet.

Read Less

Brutal for Obama and Joe Klein

According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), President Obama’s approval ratings in the key states of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania are “brutal.”

How brutal?

In Florida, Obama’s approval-disapproval numbers are 39 percent v. 55 percent, with independents registering a 52 disapprove v. 36 percent approve rating.

In Pennsylvania Obama’s approval is 40 percent, while 55 percent of voters disapprove of him. Independents line up against the president by a 63/32 margin.

And in Ohio, Obama’s approval is 42 percent with 54 percent of voters disapproving of him — while the split among independents is 58/33.

These findings should be combined with Jennifer’s posting on the latest analysis by The Cook Report and the story she linked to in Politico, in which a Democratic pollster working on several key races said, “The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone” and that that his data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse (“It’s spreading,” the pollster said.)

I recall that once upon a time, Obama courtiers over at the New Republic and Time magazine ridiculed the amassing evidence Jennifer and I cited, warning of the impending political problems Democrats faced in the midterm. They would have none of it. The polls were nothing more than “white noise.” It was wishful thinking on our part. The election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts were anomalous and didn’t foreshadow a thing. According to Joe Klein, we were part of the “sky is falling” crowd. Democrats would be fine; the public would learn to appreciate all the wonderful achievements off Obama and his party.

Lately, I haven’t heard much from them about how baseless and irresponsible our analyses were, or how well things are shaping up for Democrats. In fact, poor Joe now refers to the “dismal electoral shape” the Democrats are now in.

Gee, that was a quick turnabout. And it’s so unlike Klein to experience such wide emotional and analytical swings.

By the way, I’m still waiting for an apology — or at least a note of explanation — from our liberal friends, Jen.

How about you?

According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), President Obama’s approval ratings in the key states of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania are “brutal.”

How brutal?

In Florida, Obama’s approval-disapproval numbers are 39 percent v. 55 percent, with independents registering a 52 disapprove v. 36 percent approve rating.

In Pennsylvania Obama’s approval is 40 percent, while 55 percent of voters disapprove of him. Independents line up against the president by a 63/32 margin.

And in Ohio, Obama’s approval is 42 percent with 54 percent of voters disapproving of him — while the split among independents is 58/33.

These findings should be combined with Jennifer’s posting on the latest analysis by The Cook Report and the story she linked to in Politico, in which a Democratic pollster working on several key races said, “The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone” and that that his data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse (“It’s spreading,” the pollster said.)

I recall that once upon a time, Obama courtiers over at the New Republic and Time magazine ridiculed the amassing evidence Jennifer and I cited, warning of the impending political problems Democrats faced in the midterm. They would have none of it. The polls were nothing more than “white noise.” It was wishful thinking on our part. The election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts were anomalous and didn’t foreshadow a thing. According to Joe Klein, we were part of the “sky is falling” crowd. Democrats would be fine; the public would learn to appreciate all the wonderful achievements off Obama and his party.

Lately, I haven’t heard much from them about how baseless and irresponsible our analyses were, or how well things are shaping up for Democrats. In fact, poor Joe now refers to the “dismal electoral shape” the Democrats are now in.

Gee, that was a quick turnabout. And it’s so unlike Klein to experience such wide emotional and analytical swings.

By the way, I’m still waiting for an apology — or at least a note of explanation — from our liberal friends, Jen.

How about you?

Read Less

Dismantling Our NATO-Linked Infrastructure

The recent cost-cutting proposal to eliminate Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) is followed by a report this week according to which the U.S. Second Fleet staff and headquarters are on the chopping block. Second Fleet operates out of Norfolk, Virginia and exercises command and control of U.S. naval operations in the North Atlantic. During the Cold War its level of operational tasking was staggering; in 2010, its main focus shifted to fleet training. Its maritime cognizance of Latin America and the Caribbean was transferred to the resurrected Fourth Fleet in 2008. Meanwhile, Second Fleet has been used since 9/11 to command homeland-defense activities off the East coast. Its Pacific counterpart, Third Fleet in San Diego, performs similar functions on the West coast.

Like JFCOM, however, Second Fleet has a unique role in our obligations with NATO, one that confers on it the densely packed title “Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Centre of Excellence.” Wearing this hat, Second Fleet labors to improve Alliance interoperability and doctrine in naval and expeditionary operations. It performs as a naval arm of the Allied mission to which JFCOM contributes through its liaison with the Norfolk-based NATO command, Allied Command Transformation (ACT).

It may be considered a sign of sclerosis in an alliance — possibly even of senility — when the tasks assigned to its agencies can no longer be conveyed in sensible language. NATO has big plans for ACT, however, and expressed strong endorsement of its mission in May of this year. That alone ought to warrant more careful reflection over eliminating JFCOM and Second Fleet. But the proposal to gut the U.S. Navy’s command infrastructure in the Atlantic carries existential implications for our core alliance with Western Europe. The fresh perspective needed here is strategic, not budgetary.

In terms of military planning, getting rid of Second Fleet means no longer seeing the Atlantic as a threat axis or potential maritime battle space for which dedicated tactical preparation is required. Other commands can take over some of the grab-bag of functions Second Fleet has been assigned in recent years, but a numbered fleet is uniquely organized for an integrated approach to naval warfare.

Dispensing with Second Fleet appears out of step with Russian developments since 2007, when Vladimir Putin declared that he would resume the Soviet-era posture of forward operation and surveillance. Today, Russian bombers again operate close to North America and Western Europe. Russian submarines ply the Arctic, where Moscow’s claims of mineral rights conflict with those of NATO allies America, Canada, Norway, and Denmark. A year ago, the Russian navy announced its resumption of a submarine presence off the U.S. East coast, deploying its most modern submarines equipped with long-range, land-attack cruise missiles. An ambitious naval building program makes it clear that Russian leaders want to reestablish their maritime profile in multiple directions.

Under President Obama, however, the U.S. military is becoming less organized in secure the East coast and the Atlantic. The shift is not yet comprehensive, by any means, but the proposals to eliminate JFCOM and Second Fleet make it a trend. Obama’s decision last fall to abandon Bush’s missile-defense plan in Europe will leave the Eastern half of North America vulnerable — in a way the Western half is not — to ICBMs from the Eastern hemisphere. Now Obama’s Defense Department seems to be playing down the importance of training and developing joint naval tactics with NATO, at the same time it proposes to eliminate, in the Atlantic, the unique military role of the numbered fleet.

Neither alliances nor security conditions maintain themselves. It may be true that Second Fleet has been organized out of a job over the past decade, but it’s not clear that today’s geopolitical reality validates the decisions behind that transformation. An insecure Atlantic has never been a harbinger of peace. We may well come to regret having been so shortsighted — and sooner than we think.

The recent cost-cutting proposal to eliminate Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) is followed by a report this week according to which the U.S. Second Fleet staff and headquarters are on the chopping block. Second Fleet operates out of Norfolk, Virginia and exercises command and control of U.S. naval operations in the North Atlantic. During the Cold War its level of operational tasking was staggering; in 2010, its main focus shifted to fleet training. Its maritime cognizance of Latin America and the Caribbean was transferred to the resurrected Fourth Fleet in 2008. Meanwhile, Second Fleet has been used since 9/11 to command homeland-defense activities off the East coast. Its Pacific counterpart, Third Fleet in San Diego, performs similar functions on the West coast.

Like JFCOM, however, Second Fleet has a unique role in our obligations with NATO, one that confers on it the densely packed title “Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Centre of Excellence.” Wearing this hat, Second Fleet labors to improve Alliance interoperability and doctrine in naval and expeditionary operations. It performs as a naval arm of the Allied mission to which JFCOM contributes through its liaison with the Norfolk-based NATO command, Allied Command Transformation (ACT).

It may be considered a sign of sclerosis in an alliance — possibly even of senility — when the tasks assigned to its agencies can no longer be conveyed in sensible language. NATO has big plans for ACT, however, and expressed strong endorsement of its mission in May of this year. That alone ought to warrant more careful reflection over eliminating JFCOM and Second Fleet. But the proposal to gut the U.S. Navy’s command infrastructure in the Atlantic carries existential implications for our core alliance with Western Europe. The fresh perspective needed here is strategic, not budgetary.

In terms of military planning, getting rid of Second Fleet means no longer seeing the Atlantic as a threat axis or potential maritime battle space for which dedicated tactical preparation is required. Other commands can take over some of the grab-bag of functions Second Fleet has been assigned in recent years, but a numbered fleet is uniquely organized for an integrated approach to naval warfare.

Dispensing with Second Fleet appears out of step with Russian developments since 2007, when Vladimir Putin declared that he would resume the Soviet-era posture of forward operation and surveillance. Today, Russian bombers again operate close to North America and Western Europe. Russian submarines ply the Arctic, where Moscow’s claims of mineral rights conflict with those of NATO allies America, Canada, Norway, and Denmark. A year ago, the Russian navy announced its resumption of a submarine presence off the U.S. East coast, deploying its most modern submarines equipped with long-range, land-attack cruise missiles. An ambitious naval building program makes it clear that Russian leaders want to reestablish their maritime profile in multiple directions.

Under President Obama, however, the U.S. military is becoming less organized in secure the East coast and the Atlantic. The shift is not yet comprehensive, by any means, but the proposals to eliminate JFCOM and Second Fleet make it a trend. Obama’s decision last fall to abandon Bush’s missile-defense plan in Europe will leave the Eastern half of North America vulnerable — in a way the Western half is not — to ICBMs from the Eastern hemisphere. Now Obama’s Defense Department seems to be playing down the importance of training and developing joint naval tactics with NATO, at the same time it proposes to eliminate, in the Atlantic, the unique military role of the numbered fleet.

Neither alliances nor security conditions maintain themselves. It may be true that Second Fleet has been organized out of a job over the past decade, but it’s not clear that today’s geopolitical reality validates the decisions behind that transformation. An insecure Atlantic has never been a harbinger of peace. We may well come to regret having been so shortsighted — and sooner than we think.

Read Less

Obama’s Cheerleaders Losing Steam Too

It is not only Obama who is on the skids. His biggest constituency, the mainstream media, is also in trouble. Gallup reports:

Americans continue to express near-record-low confidence in newspapers and television news — with no more than 25% of Americans saying they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in either. These views have hardly budged since falling more than 10 percentage points from 2003-2007.

You see the problem: whatever cheerleading the media are doing for Obama (granted, it was less than a year ago) isn’t doing either of them much good. The public doesn’t trust what they see or hear. And Obama no doubt mistakes liberal pundits and softball-throwing reporters for representatives of the voters at large, a delusion a less-cocooned liberal might not embrace.

We see anecdotal evidence of this as well. The Washington Post devoted its news as well as op-ed pages to defeating Bob McDonnell in the Virginia gubernatorial race. He won by 20 points.

In sum, the mainstream media are more partisan than ever, less influential then ever, and less profitable than ever. Conservative candidates and elected officials should be concerned with media bias, but they shouldn’t obsess over it. The problem, along with the number of consumers of the liberal media, will diminish over time.

It is not only Obama who is on the skids. His biggest constituency, the mainstream media, is also in trouble. Gallup reports:

Americans continue to express near-record-low confidence in newspapers and television news — with no more than 25% of Americans saying they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in either. These views have hardly budged since falling more than 10 percentage points from 2003-2007.

You see the problem: whatever cheerleading the media are doing for Obama (granted, it was less than a year ago) isn’t doing either of them much good. The public doesn’t trust what they see or hear. And Obama no doubt mistakes liberal pundits and softball-throwing reporters for representatives of the voters at large, a delusion a less-cocooned liberal might not embrace.

We see anecdotal evidence of this as well. The Washington Post devoted its news as well as op-ed pages to defeating Bob McDonnell in the Virginia gubernatorial race. He won by 20 points.

In sum, the mainstream media are more partisan than ever, less influential then ever, and less profitable than ever. Conservative candidates and elected officials should be concerned with media bias, but they shouldn’t obsess over it. The problem, along with the number of consumers of the liberal media, will diminish over time.

Read Less

RE: JFCOM to Be Shut Down?

Max raises important issues with Secretary Gates’s new proposal to shutter Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) in southeastern Virginia. I’m not convinced that Gates thinks JFCOM’s job can be done without JFCOM. I suspect he may think it’s not important enough to justify the organization and expenses of a major combatant command.

Gates’s budgetary de-emphasis on force transformation and future weapon systems has stood in contrast to the Rumsfeld-era environment in which JFCOM flourished. Gates was also the secretary of defense in the summer of 2008, when General Mattis, then the new JFCOM commander, took the unusual but necessary step — all but invisible outside military circles — of repudiating the course on which JFCOM had set the once-pervasive, cutting-edge warfare concept of “effects-based operations” (EBO). EBO had become tied, in the minds of many, to our operational failures in Iraq. A widely read U.S. Army War College paper further implicated EBO in the IDF’s failures in the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah. EBO has been a drag on the image of what JFCOM was created to do: look toward the future of joint warfare.

Rumsfeld went too far in the direction of transformation, at the expense of current operations. But Gates may well be going too far in the opposite direction. With Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia all arming up, and Russia and China accelerating their weapons-development programs, now is not a good time to preserve our defense-planning assumptions in amber. I’m not as concerned about the disestablishment of JFCOM as I am about the potential for ignoring the joint-warfighting implications of emerging trends abroad. JFCOM’s utility in that regard has been unique: unlike the Joint Staff in Washington, its principal orientation is theory, application, and the lessons from combat — not on the Defense Department budget or the programming cycle.

One feature of JFCOM is likely to slow down efforts to eliminate it. I don’t see any acknowledgment in the Gates proposal that JFCOM plays a key role with the NATO command in Norfolk, Allied Command Transformation (ACT). In the NATO reorganization of 2002, ACT was assigned a mission of training and doctrine development parallel to that of JFCOM. In fact, until 2009, when a French officer assumed command of ACT, the JFCOM commander headed it as well.

NATO’s latest round of strategic thinking produced a report, issued in May 2010, which highlights ACT’s role and calls for “a bolder mandate, greater authorities [sic], and more resources” for the command, identifying it as the key to an overdue transformation of NATO force organization and doctrine. Disestablishing JFCOM, the U.S. counterpart to ACT — in fact, the model on which ACT was designed — would put us noticeably out of step with the direction currently proposed for the NATO alliance. That’s worth a pause for reflection. There are ways to cut contractor positions and slice fat without pulling the plug on a core nexus with our NATO allies.

Max raises important issues with Secretary Gates’s new proposal to shutter Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) in southeastern Virginia. I’m not convinced that Gates thinks JFCOM’s job can be done without JFCOM. I suspect he may think it’s not important enough to justify the organization and expenses of a major combatant command.

Gates’s budgetary de-emphasis on force transformation and future weapon systems has stood in contrast to the Rumsfeld-era environment in which JFCOM flourished. Gates was also the secretary of defense in the summer of 2008, when General Mattis, then the new JFCOM commander, took the unusual but necessary step — all but invisible outside military circles — of repudiating the course on which JFCOM had set the once-pervasive, cutting-edge warfare concept of “effects-based operations” (EBO). EBO had become tied, in the minds of many, to our operational failures in Iraq. A widely read U.S. Army War College paper further implicated EBO in the IDF’s failures in the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah. EBO has been a drag on the image of what JFCOM was created to do: look toward the future of joint warfare.

Rumsfeld went too far in the direction of transformation, at the expense of current operations. But Gates may well be going too far in the opposite direction. With Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia all arming up, and Russia and China accelerating their weapons-development programs, now is not a good time to preserve our defense-planning assumptions in amber. I’m not as concerned about the disestablishment of JFCOM as I am about the potential for ignoring the joint-warfighting implications of emerging trends abroad. JFCOM’s utility in that regard has been unique: unlike the Joint Staff in Washington, its principal orientation is theory, application, and the lessons from combat — not on the Defense Department budget or the programming cycle.

One feature of JFCOM is likely to slow down efforts to eliminate it. I don’t see any acknowledgment in the Gates proposal that JFCOM plays a key role with the NATO command in Norfolk, Allied Command Transformation (ACT). In the NATO reorganization of 2002, ACT was assigned a mission of training and doctrine development parallel to that of JFCOM. In fact, until 2009, when a French officer assumed command of ACT, the JFCOM commander headed it as well.

NATO’s latest round of strategic thinking produced a report, issued in May 2010, which highlights ACT’s role and calls for “a bolder mandate, greater authorities [sic], and more resources” for the command, identifying it as the key to an overdue transformation of NATO force organization and doctrine. Disestablishing JFCOM, the U.S. counterpart to ACT — in fact, the model on which ACT was designed — would put us noticeably out of step with the direction currently proposed for the NATO alliance. That’s worth a pause for reflection. There are ways to cut contractor positions and slice fat without pulling the plug on a core nexus with our NATO allies.

Read Less

ObamaCare, Missouri, and the Coming Inflection Point

What happened in Missouri yesterday is quite remarkable. By nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law. More than 70 percent of Missouri voters backed a ballot measure, Proposition C, that would prohibit the government from requiring people to have health insurance or from penalizing them for not having it.

“It is likely to give Republicans a chance to brag about the unpopularity of ObamaCare,” Karen Ball of Time reports, “but the vote will be largely symbolic.” (Courts will decide whether Missouri and other states can legally trump federal law and exempt citizens from the mandate to buy insurance.)

Symbolic is one way to describe Tuesday’s vote; ominous (for the Democrats) is another.

This is yet one more electoral manifestation of the dismal polling numbers the Democrats have been facing for many months now. We saw rising popular opposition to ObamaCare throughout last summer, which many liberals ignored or ridiculed. Then came the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey and the Senate election Massachusetts. Since then the opposition to ObamaCare specifically, and to Obama more generally, has increased; as a result we saw the 40-plus point trouncing in Missouri, a margin far higher than most people anticipated.

It is hard to overstate the toxicity of the Obama agenda. Losing a net total of 65 or more Democratic House seats is now possible (if not yet likely). We are less than 100 days away from what looks to be an inflection point, one of those rare mid-term elections that alter the trajectory of American politics.

What happened in Missouri yesterday is quite remarkable. By nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law. More than 70 percent of Missouri voters backed a ballot measure, Proposition C, that would prohibit the government from requiring people to have health insurance or from penalizing them for not having it.

“It is likely to give Republicans a chance to brag about the unpopularity of ObamaCare,” Karen Ball of Time reports, “but the vote will be largely symbolic.” (Courts will decide whether Missouri and other states can legally trump federal law and exempt citizens from the mandate to buy insurance.)

Symbolic is one way to describe Tuesday’s vote; ominous (for the Democrats) is another.

This is yet one more electoral manifestation of the dismal polling numbers the Democrats have been facing for many months now. We saw rising popular opposition to ObamaCare throughout last summer, which many liberals ignored or ridiculed. Then came the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey and the Senate election Massachusetts. Since then the opposition to ObamaCare specifically, and to Obama more generally, has increased; as a result we saw the 40-plus point trouncing in Missouri, a margin far higher than most people anticipated.

It is hard to overstate the toxicity of the Obama agenda. Losing a net total of 65 or more Democratic House seats is now possible (if not yet likely). We are less than 100 days away from what looks to be an inflection point, one of those rare mid-term elections that alter the trajectory of American politics.

Read Less

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.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Seriously? “Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s ‘not nervous at all’ about the possibility that Democrats could lose their House majority after the November elections. She says she feels ‘very confident about where we are’ when it comes to the election. Still, the California Democrat says her party isn’t taking anything for granted.”

Seriously? Not even Chris Matthews thinks Pelosi is right.

Seriously? Eleanor Clift sounds like she’s thrown in the towel on Speaker Pelosi as well: “Two freshman Democrats from Virginia, Tom Perriello and Gerry Connolly, swept into office on the wave of enthusiasm generated by Barack Obama, are now struggling to stay afloat in a sea of discontent about the president. OK, that’s a bit melodramatic, but listening to these lawmakers and what they’re up against in defending their seats is to wonder where all the magic has gone, and what can be done to recapture enough stardust to hold on to the Democratic majorities that are the bulwark of the Obama presidency.”

Seriously? John Kerry wants “Obama to resume his efforts to start a dialogue with Iran. In an interview on CNN’s ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ show Sunday, Kerry said a good place to begin with the Iranians would be discussions about the way forward in Afghanistan and that those talks could lead to discussions on other vital topics, such as Iran’s nuclear program. … There are reasons that [the Iranians] would want a stable government there. And I think that we should — you know, diplomacy is the art of playing to everybody’s interests. And everybody has some interests with respect to this outcome.”

Seriously? (snuggling up to Lindsey Graham): “Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership, voiced support Sunday for hearings on whether to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.”

Seriously? Obama says he’s not getting enough credit for saving us from “the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” (Maybe that’s because it’s not the worst downturn since the Great Depression.)

Seriously? ABC headline: “Pelosi and Gates Differ on Expectations for July 2011 Troop Withdrawal.” Yeah, when the president isn’t definitive, everyone fills in the blanks for themselves. That worked to get Obama elected, but it makes for a poor commander in chief.

Seriously? “Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s ‘not nervous at all’ about the possibility that Democrats could lose their House majority after the November elections. She says she feels ‘very confident about where we are’ when it comes to the election. Still, the California Democrat says her party isn’t taking anything for granted.”

Seriously? Not even Chris Matthews thinks Pelosi is right.

Seriously? Eleanor Clift sounds like she’s thrown in the towel on Speaker Pelosi as well: “Two freshman Democrats from Virginia, Tom Perriello and Gerry Connolly, swept into office on the wave of enthusiasm generated by Barack Obama, are now struggling to stay afloat in a sea of discontent about the president. OK, that’s a bit melodramatic, but listening to these lawmakers and what they’re up against in defending their seats is to wonder where all the magic has gone, and what can be done to recapture enough stardust to hold on to the Democratic majorities that are the bulwark of the Obama presidency.”

Seriously? John Kerry wants “Obama to resume his efforts to start a dialogue with Iran. In an interview on CNN’s ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ show Sunday, Kerry said a good place to begin with the Iranians would be discussions about the way forward in Afghanistan and that those talks could lead to discussions on other vital topics, such as Iran’s nuclear program. … There are reasons that [the Iranians] would want a stable government there. And I think that we should — you know, diplomacy is the art of playing to everybody’s interests. And everybody has some interests with respect to this outcome.”

Seriously? (snuggling up to Lindsey Graham): “Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership, voiced support Sunday for hearings on whether to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.”

Seriously? Obama says he’s not getting enough credit for saving us from “the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” (Maybe that’s because it’s not the worst downturn since the Great Depression.)

Seriously? ABC headline: “Pelosi and Gates Differ on Expectations for July 2011 Troop Withdrawal.” Yeah, when the president isn’t definitive, everyone fills in the blanks for themselves. That worked to get Obama elected, but it makes for a poor commander in chief.

Read Less

The Un-Obama Governors

Gov. Chris Christie continues to earn kudos from conservatives and liberals alike. Gov. Bob McDonnell has a 64 percent approval after less than a year as Virginia’s governor. Both Christie and McDonnell are garnering praise for doing what inside-the-Beltway Democrats refuse to do — cut spending, resist calls to hike taxes, and stand up to public-employee unions. They, and others like Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, and Tim Pawlenty, undermine the Democrats’ patter that Republicans are too wacky or too unrealistic to govern. They provide a vivid contrast to Obamaism and to the notion that only by a massive increase in the size of government and corresponding tax increases can we pull out of our economic tailspin.

Any one of these conservatives would be a formidable rival to Obama in 2012. Obama will no doubt try, as he did in 2008, to run against someone not on the ballot — George W. Bush. By 2012 that will, I suspect, provoke groans if not laughter. The choice, if Republican primary voters are savvy, will not be Obama vs. Bush but Obama vs. a not-Obama reformer.

As Noemie Emery points out, it didn’t have to be this way. She explains that Obama could have lived up to his billing as a transformative leader if, on ObamaCare, for example, he had “built the bill out from the center, in a way that held on to the unhappy left, appealed to the center, and became a wedge issue that split Republicans.” Obama, in contrast to the GOP governors who are drawing applause from those on both ends of the political spectrum, has undermined his own popularity, his party’s electoral prospects, and his own agenda. (“Since Obama became president, everything that he wants has become more unpopular: more intrusive and much bigger government, more taxing and spending, more state control.”)

In sum, Obama has opened the way for any number of reformist, grown-up Republicans to present voters with a choice in 2012 and an alternate vision to the liberal statism against which voters have already rebelled.

Gov. Chris Christie continues to earn kudos from conservatives and liberals alike. Gov. Bob McDonnell has a 64 percent approval after less than a year as Virginia’s governor. Both Christie and McDonnell are garnering praise for doing what inside-the-Beltway Democrats refuse to do — cut spending, resist calls to hike taxes, and stand up to public-employee unions. They, and others like Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, and Tim Pawlenty, undermine the Democrats’ patter that Republicans are too wacky or too unrealistic to govern. They provide a vivid contrast to Obamaism and to the notion that only by a massive increase in the size of government and corresponding tax increases can we pull out of our economic tailspin.

Any one of these conservatives would be a formidable rival to Obama in 2012. Obama will no doubt try, as he did in 2008, to run against someone not on the ballot — George W. Bush. By 2012 that will, I suspect, provoke groans if not laughter. The choice, if Republican primary voters are savvy, will not be Obama vs. Bush but Obama vs. a not-Obama reformer.

As Noemie Emery points out, it didn’t have to be this way. She explains that Obama could have lived up to his billing as a transformative leader if, on ObamaCare, for example, he had “built the bill out from the center, in a way that held on to the unhappy left, appealed to the center, and became a wedge issue that split Republicans.” Obama, in contrast to the GOP governors who are drawing applause from those on both ends of the political spectrum, has undermined his own popularity, his party’s electoral prospects, and his own agenda. (“Since Obama became president, everything that he wants has become more unpopular: more intrusive and much bigger government, more taxing and spending, more state control.”)

In sum, Obama has opened the way for any number of reformist, grown-up Republicans to present voters with a choice in 2012 and an alternate vision to the liberal statism against which voters have already rebelled.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s not like the Constitution says “informed advice and consent.” The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to confirm Elena Kagan, even though many (Lindsey Graham for one) complained they didn’t know much about her.

It’s not like Ohio is an important bellwether state, or anything. “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Ohio finds Republican candidate Rob Portman with 45% of the vote while Democrat Lee Fisher earns 39% support this month. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and 11% more are undecided.”

It’s not like the administration listens to Israelis about Israel or businessmen about business, but still, even they should find this (from Jackson Diehl) compelling: “Those who argue that Western democracies should lift sanctions on Cuba often claim that even the island’s dissidents favor the move. So it was interesting to see the statement issued Monday by ten of the 11 political prisoners who were deported to Spain by the Castro dictatorship last week. Noting the ‘manifest willingness of some European countries’ to liberalize E.U. strictures on relations with Cuba, the dissidents said they opposed ‘an approval of this measure,’ because ‘the Cuban government has not taken steps that evidence a clear decision to advance toward the democratization of the country.'”

It’s not like a Democratic polling outfit wants to pour gasoline on the fire: Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen writes: “With Barack Obama’s polling numbers hitting the worst levels of his Presidency recently there have been a lot of calls, mostly from conservatives, for us to poll Hillary against Obama for the 2012 nomination. We’re not going to do that but even if we did I wouldn’t expect it to be very interesting.”

It’s not like we’re really going to talk to North Korea. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley explained (well, not explained, but said): “We’re always prepared to talk. But there are some definite steps that we have to see from North Korea before that becomes possible. So I think we agree fully with the South Korean foreign minister that, you know, there are conditions and obligations that North Korea has to demonstrate a willingness to tackle before we’ll consider having a follow-on conversation.”

It’s not like Obama has been great for Democrats in Virginia: “A new survey of Virginia’s 5th district race paints a tough reelection picture for freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D). Sen. Robert Hurt (R) is leading the incumbent, 58 percent to 35 percent, according to the survey, conducted by SurveyUSA for WDBJ News in Roanoke.”

It’s not like this is a bad thing for Democrats — or for the country: “Senate climate legislation appeared to be on life support Tuesday after two key advocates said they were skeptical of reaching a quick deal on a controversial bill that includes a cap on greenhouse gases from power plants.”

It’s not like the Constitution says “informed advice and consent.” The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to confirm Elena Kagan, even though many (Lindsey Graham for one) complained they didn’t know much about her.

It’s not like Ohio is an important bellwether state, or anything. “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Ohio finds Republican candidate Rob Portman with 45% of the vote while Democrat Lee Fisher earns 39% support this month. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and 11% more are undecided.”

It’s not like the administration listens to Israelis about Israel or businessmen about business, but still, even they should find this (from Jackson Diehl) compelling: “Those who argue that Western democracies should lift sanctions on Cuba often claim that even the island’s dissidents favor the move. So it was interesting to see the statement issued Monday by ten of the 11 political prisoners who were deported to Spain by the Castro dictatorship last week. Noting the ‘manifest willingness of some European countries’ to liberalize E.U. strictures on relations with Cuba, the dissidents said they opposed ‘an approval of this measure,’ because ‘the Cuban government has not taken steps that evidence a clear decision to advance toward the democratization of the country.'”

It’s not like a Democratic polling outfit wants to pour gasoline on the fire: Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen writes: “With Barack Obama’s polling numbers hitting the worst levels of his Presidency recently there have been a lot of calls, mostly from conservatives, for us to poll Hillary against Obama for the 2012 nomination. We’re not going to do that but even if we did I wouldn’t expect it to be very interesting.”

It’s not like we’re really going to talk to North Korea. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley explained (well, not explained, but said): “We’re always prepared to talk. But there are some definite steps that we have to see from North Korea before that becomes possible. So I think we agree fully with the South Korean foreign minister that, you know, there are conditions and obligations that North Korea has to demonstrate a willingness to tackle before we’ll consider having a follow-on conversation.”

It’s not like Obama has been great for Democrats in Virginia: “A new survey of Virginia’s 5th district race paints a tough reelection picture for freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D). Sen. Robert Hurt (R) is leading the incumbent, 58 percent to 35 percent, according to the survey, conducted by SurveyUSA for WDBJ News in Roanoke.”

It’s not like this is a bad thing for Democrats — or for the country: “Senate climate legislation appeared to be on life support Tuesday after two key advocates said they were skeptical of reaching a quick deal on a controversial bill that includes a cap on greenhouse gases from power plants.”

Read Less

California Dreamin’?

George Will takes a look at the Carly Fiorina/Barbara Boxer Senate race. He reminds us of Boxer’s far-left political views and of California’s miserable economic condition:

Unemployment is at least 15 percent in 21 of the state’s 58 counties. Of the 13 U.S. metropolitan areas with unemployment that high, 11 are in California, which has lost more than 400,000 jobs since passage of the $862 billion stimulus. Like Barack Obama as he campaigns in what he calls Recovery Summer for more stimulus (because the first did not ignite recovery), Boxer is vexed by the fact that California’s unemployment rate is 2.2 points higher than when stimulus was passed. When she said the stimulus was responsible for 100 jobs at a Los Angeles lithium-battery factory, the owner demurred, saying the stimulus had nothing to do with the jobs.

Republicans who have witnessed many a year when the state was declared to be in play when it really wasn’t are wary of getting their hopes up. But Fiorina has several things going for her: she is well funded, well spoken, and, well, lucky. She’s running in a year when the usual scare tactics of the Democrats seem particularly cheesy and manipulative. On the abortion issue, Will makes this observation:

It is theoretically impossible to fashion an abortion position significantly more extreme than Boxer’s, which is slightly modified infanticide. She supports “partial birth” abortion — the baby, delivered feet first, is pulled out as far as the neck, then is killed. And when asked during a Senate debate whether the baby has a right to life if it slips entirely out of the birth canal before being killed, she replied that the baby acquires that right when it leaves the hospital: “When you bring your baby home.” Fiorina believes that science — the astonishing clarity of sonograms showing the moving fingers and beating hearts of fetuses; neonatal medicine improving the viability of very premature infants; the increasing abilities of medicine to treat ailing fetuses in utero — is changing Americans’ sensibilities and enlarging the portion of the public that describes itself as pro-life.

Third-party groups and pundits can make that point, but Fiorina would do well to follow Bob McDonnell’s example from Virginia: let the Democrat obsess over hot-button social issues while keeping one’s own campaign focused on bread-and-butter issues.

California might be, as Will put it, “irredeemably blue.” But that’s what they said about New Jersey and Massachusetts.

George Will takes a look at the Carly Fiorina/Barbara Boxer Senate race. He reminds us of Boxer’s far-left political views and of California’s miserable economic condition:

Unemployment is at least 15 percent in 21 of the state’s 58 counties. Of the 13 U.S. metropolitan areas with unemployment that high, 11 are in California, which has lost more than 400,000 jobs since passage of the $862 billion stimulus. Like Barack Obama as he campaigns in what he calls Recovery Summer for more stimulus (because the first did not ignite recovery), Boxer is vexed by the fact that California’s unemployment rate is 2.2 points higher than when stimulus was passed. When she said the stimulus was responsible for 100 jobs at a Los Angeles lithium-battery factory, the owner demurred, saying the stimulus had nothing to do with the jobs.

Republicans who have witnessed many a year when the state was declared to be in play when it really wasn’t are wary of getting their hopes up. But Fiorina has several things going for her: she is well funded, well spoken, and, well, lucky. She’s running in a year when the usual scare tactics of the Democrats seem particularly cheesy and manipulative. On the abortion issue, Will makes this observation:

It is theoretically impossible to fashion an abortion position significantly more extreme than Boxer’s, which is slightly modified infanticide. She supports “partial birth” abortion — the baby, delivered feet first, is pulled out as far as the neck, then is killed. And when asked during a Senate debate whether the baby has a right to life if it slips entirely out of the birth canal before being killed, she replied that the baby acquires that right when it leaves the hospital: “When you bring your baby home.” Fiorina believes that science — the astonishing clarity of sonograms showing the moving fingers and beating hearts of fetuses; neonatal medicine improving the viability of very premature infants; the increasing abilities of medicine to treat ailing fetuses in utero — is changing Americans’ sensibilities and enlarging the portion of the public that describes itself as pro-life.

Third-party groups and pundits can make that point, but Fiorina would do well to follow Bob McDonnell’s example from Virginia: let the Democrat obsess over hot-button social issues while keeping one’s own campaign focused on bread-and-butter issues.

California might be, as Will put it, “irredeemably blue.” But that’s what they said about New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Read Less

RE: Time for a Chief Executive

Gov. Bob McDonnell provided a good example today of what Tim Pawlenty was talking about: governors have to make hard choices, balance budgets, and take responsibility for their efforts. McDonnnell today announced that after taking over a $1.8B budget shortfall, he’s not only balanced the books for this year but also run up a $220M surplus for the remainder of this fiscal year. He has also closed a $4.2B shortfall for 2011-2012. He did this all without raising taxes. His communications director, Tucker Martin, explained via email:

The Governor’s mid-session revenue reforecast targeted state spending to the proper levels. Virginia state employees also returned $28 million to state coffers through their own savings, which they were incentivized to do by the prospect of up to a 3% one-time bonus if a surplus was achieved. The governor also instituted a strict hiring freeze in state government. So the basic factors on this surplus were the governor holding the line on new spending, accurate revenue re-forecasting, state employee savings, a hiring freeze and increases in corporate and individual tax returns, which is a small, but positive, economic signal. The increases in corporate and individual withholding and non-withholding equal 75% of the surplus money. So this is a story of conservative budgeting, and not just raising taxes to get out of trouble. As a result, our economy is starting to pick up down here. We’ve added 71,500 jobs since February, third highest amount in the nation, and you can start to see that in the slight uptick in withholding.

The list of cuts in education, health and human safety, and even in public safety are substantial. But in the end, spending in 2011-2012 in Virginia will merely return to 2005-2006 levels. Is that the end of civilization as we know it? That’s what the Democrats would have had us believe when they said it was impossible to balance the budget without huge tax hikes.

McDonnell has said he’s not running for anything in 2012, and I think this is one pol who’s telling the truth. But if you want to know what a grown-up chief executive looks like, this is it.

Gov. Bob McDonnell provided a good example today of what Tim Pawlenty was talking about: governors have to make hard choices, balance budgets, and take responsibility for their efforts. McDonnnell today announced that after taking over a $1.8B budget shortfall, he’s not only balanced the books for this year but also run up a $220M surplus for the remainder of this fiscal year. He has also closed a $4.2B shortfall for 2011-2012. He did this all without raising taxes. His communications director, Tucker Martin, explained via email:

The Governor’s mid-session revenue reforecast targeted state spending to the proper levels. Virginia state employees also returned $28 million to state coffers through their own savings, which they were incentivized to do by the prospect of up to a 3% one-time bonus if a surplus was achieved. The governor also instituted a strict hiring freeze in state government. So the basic factors on this surplus were the governor holding the line on new spending, accurate revenue re-forecasting, state employee savings, a hiring freeze and increases in corporate and individual tax returns, which is a small, but positive, economic signal. The increases in corporate and individual withholding and non-withholding equal 75% of the surplus money. So this is a story of conservative budgeting, and not just raising taxes to get out of trouble. As a result, our economy is starting to pick up down here. We’ve added 71,500 jobs since February, third highest amount in the nation, and you can start to see that in the slight uptick in withholding.

The list of cuts in education, health and human safety, and even in public safety are substantial. But in the end, spending in 2011-2012 in Virginia will merely return to 2005-2006 levels. Is that the end of civilization as we know it? That’s what the Democrats would have had us believe when they said it was impossible to balance the budget without huge tax hikes.

McDonnell has said he’s not running for anything in 2012, and I think this is one pol who’s telling the truth. But if you want to know what a grown-up chief executive looks like, this is it.

Read Less

Holder Sticks to His Guns

Attorney General Eric Holder is nothing if not persistent. Despite the logistical, national security, budgetary and political problems, he still wants a public trial for KSM. Politico notes:

The AG said the civilian court system “has proven effective in a wide range of cases over the last 200 years. Why can’t we use that system?” Asked about holding such a trial in Virginia, Holder said “there are any number of possibilities” that state, local and federal officials are discussing. … Holder’s continued support for a civilian trial isn’t a surprise, but it’s mildly surprising he’d state his personal view while the issue is still under review at the White House. Some press accounts have suggested that virtually all of Obama’s top advisers have advised him to reject Holder’s counsel.

There are three possibilities here. Holder could be off the reservation and about to “spend more time with his family” after the midterms. Holder could be letting the official policy (KSM goes to trial in a civilian court in a state Obama has no hope of winning in 2012) slip out, which the administration doesn’t have the nerve to announce before the midterms. Or, it may be that the administration has decided it’s lunacy to try KSM in civilian court and Holder is there to keep the loony left’s hopes alive — and prevent a complete meltdown in Democratic turnout. Each is plausible. But it is shocking that we have an attorney general willing to risk his own credibility and that of the entire Justice Department by spouting such hooey.

Attorney General Eric Holder is nothing if not persistent. Despite the logistical, national security, budgetary and political problems, he still wants a public trial for KSM. Politico notes:

The AG said the civilian court system “has proven effective in a wide range of cases over the last 200 years. Why can’t we use that system?” Asked about holding such a trial in Virginia, Holder said “there are any number of possibilities” that state, local and federal officials are discussing. … Holder’s continued support for a civilian trial isn’t a surprise, but it’s mildly surprising he’d state his personal view while the issue is still under review at the White House. Some press accounts have suggested that virtually all of Obama’s top advisers have advised him to reject Holder’s counsel.

There are three possibilities here. Holder could be off the reservation and about to “spend more time with his family” after the midterms. Holder could be letting the official policy (KSM goes to trial in a civilian court in a state Obama has no hope of winning in 2012) slip out, which the administration doesn’t have the nerve to announce before the midterms. Or, it may be that the administration has decided it’s lunacy to try KSM in civilian court and Holder is there to keep the loony left’s hopes alive — and prevent a complete meltdown in Democratic turnout. Each is plausible. But it is shocking that we have an attorney general willing to risk his own credibility and that of the entire Justice Department by spouting such hooey.

Read Less

Busted Tribute

Bedford, Virginia’s D-Day memorial has just been embellished. Among emotionally evocative statues of soldiers dying on the beaches of Normandy accompanied by heroic images of their leaders now stands … Joseph Stalin.

At the beginning of June, his visage was added to memorialize “the tens of millions who died under Stalin’s rule and in tribute to all whose valor, fidelity, and sacrifice denied him and his successors victory in the Cold War,” as the plaque explains. The only problem is that the statue commemorates the man, not the men who he killed. While the supervisors of the memorial condemned the statue, the artist, Richard Pumphrey, who remains in Switzerland, was not “concerned” that it might be controversial.

Regardless of what the artist may say, there are artistic conventions. A bust of Stalin commemorates Stalin, not his victims. It is the wrong image in the wrong place.

Bedford, Virginia’s D-Day memorial has just been embellished. Among emotionally evocative statues of soldiers dying on the beaches of Normandy accompanied by heroic images of their leaders now stands … Joseph Stalin.

At the beginning of June, his visage was added to memorialize “the tens of millions who died under Stalin’s rule and in tribute to all whose valor, fidelity, and sacrifice denied him and his successors victory in the Cold War,” as the plaque explains. The only problem is that the statue commemorates the man, not the men who he killed. While the supervisors of the memorial condemned the statue, the artist, Richard Pumphrey, who remains in Switzerland, was not “concerned” that it might be controversial.

Regardless of what the artist may say, there are artistic conventions. A bust of Stalin commemorates Stalin, not his victims. It is the wrong image in the wrong place.

Read Less

Democrats Adopt the Newsweek Approach

Nancy Pelosi often seems to be employing the new Newsweek formula — fewer numbers but more avowedly leftist. The latest:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doubling down on healthcare reform, betting that it will do Democrats more good than harm in November’s elections. She and her leadership team have seized on new polls that suggest healthcare overhaul’s popularity is rising, and they are urging members of Congress to use this week’s recess to tout the new law.

I’m betting that no Democrat in a competitive seat (in this election, that is most of them) is going to be taking her advice. The liberals who aren’t mad that ObamaCare didn’t include a public option don’t need reminding of what Obama did and are unlikely to produce a turnout so great as to counteract the swelling ranks of angry independents and fired-up Republicans. As for Republicans, they saw that this was a winning issue — for them — in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts and aren’t about to turn down the offer to make this a top campaign topic.

Now, lest you think the Speaker is entirely daft, remember her problem: what are Democrats supposed to run on? The debt? The tax hikes? The spending bonanza? Jobs? You see her problem. And you understand why Democrats are looking for dirt on their opponents. That’s about all they have left at this point.

Nancy Pelosi often seems to be employing the new Newsweek formula — fewer numbers but more avowedly leftist. The latest:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doubling down on healthcare reform, betting that it will do Democrats more good than harm in November’s elections. She and her leadership team have seized on new polls that suggest healthcare overhaul’s popularity is rising, and they are urging members of Congress to use this week’s recess to tout the new law.

I’m betting that no Democrat in a competitive seat (in this election, that is most of them) is going to be taking her advice. The liberals who aren’t mad that ObamaCare didn’t include a public option don’t need reminding of what Obama did and are unlikely to produce a turnout so great as to counteract the swelling ranks of angry independents and fired-up Republicans. As for Republicans, they saw that this was a winning issue — for them — in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts and aren’t about to turn down the offer to make this a top campaign topic.

Now, lest you think the Speaker is entirely daft, remember her problem: what are Democrats supposed to run on? The debt? The tax hikes? The spending bonanza? Jobs? You see her problem. And you understand why Democrats are looking for dirt on their opponents. That’s about all they have left at this point.

Read Less

Religious Intolerance in the Middle East: Where Should We Focus?

In the Washington Post‘s On Faith blog, Menachem Rosensaft looks at Morocco’s expulsion of  Christian missionaries who were accused of proselytizing at a Moroccan orphanage earlier this year. As Rosensaft explains:

A group of Republican members of Congress have taken up the cause of the expelled Christian missionaries, which is, of course, their right. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Anh Cao (R-La.) recently convened a [briefing] at which they urged Morocco to allow the deportees to return.

At the [briefing], some of the rhetoric turned ugly. Rep. Wolf called for the suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Morocco and compared the Moroccan government to the repressive Ceaucescu regime in Romania during the 1980’s. Rep. Pitts went further and likened the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities to “some of the tactics used by the Nazis.”

Rosensaft provides some much-needed perspective on the incident. Morocco, as he observes, is the least of our concerns when it comes to suppression of religious freedom in the Middle East:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim nation where Jews and Christian are able to practice their religions openly. Synagogues and churches stand alongside mosques, and the Moroccan government is a rare beacon of tolerance in an otherwise mostly religiously xenophobic Muslim world. Both King Muhammed VI and his late father, King Hassan, have publicly placed the Moroccan Jewish community under royal protection. As Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, reminds us, “during World War II, when Morocco was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco .” Moroccan law simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion and criminalizes proselytization. Morocco has also been a stalwart ally of the United States and the West.

Rosensaft notes that an anti-proselytizing law, common throughout the Middle East, is what is at issue and what was the basis for the missionaries’ expulsion. Rosensaft concludes:

Non-Muslims enjoy far greater freedom of religion in Morocco than in most other Muslim countries, and Americans who go there are fully aware that proselytizing is prohibited. There are no allegations that the Americans involved were tortured or physically mistreated. They were simply expelled from Morocco for refusing to abide by its laws.

Rosensaft is not alone in raising a cautionary flag. The World Jewish Congress last week wrote to the House Foreign Affairs Committee members and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Reps. Wolf and James McGovern. The letter included this:

As Chairman of the World Jewish Congress United States, I have met with Moroccan leaders on several occasions to discuss our shared commitment in building ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities. I am aware first hand that the Kingdom of Morocco is determined to strengthen interfaith relations. As has historically been the case, Morocco’s leaders continue to promote dialogue based on tolerant speech, good intention and honored objectives.

Morocco in the Middle East is a paradigm of religious freedom and tolerance. The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. During World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco. There are centuries old synagogues, old-age homes, and kosher restaurants throughout Morocco that are well kept by Muslims. And, there are close ties between Morocco and the State of Israel.

Raphael Benchimol, the rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, also wrote to Wolf this month, urging him to consider Morocco’s record on religious tolerance. He included this account of a synagogue trip this February:

We visited the sites of Moroccan synagogues, places of historic and religious importance to the Moroccan Jewish community, and the final resting places of many of the righteous Moroccan rabbis and sages who have rested in Morocco, in harmony, for thousands of years. Never once during our stay did I see any lack of religious tolerance or freedom. Never once did I sense the “precarious” situation you describe vis-à-vis our religion. To the contrary, I always felt safe and secure to pray and visit any of the Jewish sites without any fear whatsoever. The Muslim citizens of each of the cities we visited were polite, courteous and respectful of our religious tour. Indeed, I observed how many of the locals have a deep reverence for our holy sites. …

To give you an idea of how important the Jewish “minority religion” is to the King and to the Moroccan government, this past May we hosted a special event at our synagogue where several representatives of the Moroccan government, including Ambassador Mekouar, were present. Serge Berdugo, a Jewish Ambassador of the King of Morocco, beautifully presented to our congregants “His Majesty’s gracious and holy plan to identify, refurbish and protect all the Jewish cemeteries and mausoleums in Morocco.” The Ambassador also proudly announced that “as Commander of the faithful, His Majesty safeguards the sacred values of His subjects, Jew and Muslims alike.” This positive message as well as the gracious offer of the King was received with deep gratitude and sheer excitement by the entire congregation.

There is a disturbing pattern of religious oppression and intolerance in Muslim countries — but not in Morocco. The unfortunate situation at the Christian orphanage (how many of those exist in Muslim countries?) should not obscure this. As a savvy analyst explains, “They should never have let evangelicals run orphanages; that was the mistake. When a kid has no home to return to, the religious influence of those acting in loco parentis is inevitable.” But that is a discrete issue, and resolvable by the Moroccan government. It would seem that the best use of the time and focus of Congress — which is at least making a good effort to pick up the slack from an administration utterly indifferent to the issue of religious freedom — would be to focus on the worst actors in the Muslim World, not the best.

In the Washington Post‘s On Faith blog, Menachem Rosensaft looks at Morocco’s expulsion of  Christian missionaries who were accused of proselytizing at a Moroccan orphanage earlier this year. As Rosensaft explains:

A group of Republican members of Congress have taken up the cause of the expelled Christian missionaries, which is, of course, their right. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Anh Cao (R-La.) recently convened a [briefing] at which they urged Morocco to allow the deportees to return.

At the [briefing], some of the rhetoric turned ugly. Rep. Wolf called for the suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Morocco and compared the Moroccan government to the repressive Ceaucescu regime in Romania during the 1980’s. Rep. Pitts went further and likened the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities to “some of the tactics used by the Nazis.”

Rosensaft provides some much-needed perspective on the incident. Morocco, as he observes, is the least of our concerns when it comes to suppression of religious freedom in the Middle East:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim nation where Jews and Christian are able to practice their religions openly. Synagogues and churches stand alongside mosques, and the Moroccan government is a rare beacon of tolerance in an otherwise mostly religiously xenophobic Muslim world. Both King Muhammed VI and his late father, King Hassan, have publicly placed the Moroccan Jewish community under royal protection. As Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, reminds us, “during World War II, when Morocco was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco .” Moroccan law simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion and criminalizes proselytization. Morocco has also been a stalwart ally of the United States and the West.

Rosensaft notes that an anti-proselytizing law, common throughout the Middle East, is what is at issue and what was the basis for the missionaries’ expulsion. Rosensaft concludes:

Non-Muslims enjoy far greater freedom of religion in Morocco than in most other Muslim countries, and Americans who go there are fully aware that proselytizing is prohibited. There are no allegations that the Americans involved were tortured or physically mistreated. They were simply expelled from Morocco for refusing to abide by its laws.

Rosensaft is not alone in raising a cautionary flag. The World Jewish Congress last week wrote to the House Foreign Affairs Committee members and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Reps. Wolf and James McGovern. The letter included this:

As Chairman of the World Jewish Congress United States, I have met with Moroccan leaders on several occasions to discuss our shared commitment in building ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities. I am aware first hand that the Kingdom of Morocco is determined to strengthen interfaith relations. As has historically been the case, Morocco’s leaders continue to promote dialogue based on tolerant speech, good intention and honored objectives.

Morocco in the Middle East is a paradigm of religious freedom and tolerance. The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. During World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco. There are centuries old synagogues, old-age homes, and kosher restaurants throughout Morocco that are well kept by Muslims. And, there are close ties between Morocco and the State of Israel.

Raphael Benchimol, the rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, also wrote to Wolf this month, urging him to consider Morocco’s record on religious tolerance. He included this account of a synagogue trip this February:

We visited the sites of Moroccan synagogues, places of historic and religious importance to the Moroccan Jewish community, and the final resting places of many of the righteous Moroccan rabbis and sages who have rested in Morocco, in harmony, for thousands of years. Never once during our stay did I see any lack of religious tolerance or freedom. Never once did I sense the “precarious” situation you describe vis-à-vis our religion. To the contrary, I always felt safe and secure to pray and visit any of the Jewish sites without any fear whatsoever. The Muslim citizens of each of the cities we visited were polite, courteous and respectful of our religious tour. Indeed, I observed how many of the locals have a deep reverence for our holy sites. …

To give you an idea of how important the Jewish “minority religion” is to the King and to the Moroccan government, this past May we hosted a special event at our synagogue where several representatives of the Moroccan government, including Ambassador Mekouar, were present. Serge Berdugo, a Jewish Ambassador of the King of Morocco, beautifully presented to our congregants “His Majesty’s gracious and holy plan to identify, refurbish and protect all the Jewish cemeteries and mausoleums in Morocco.” The Ambassador also proudly announced that “as Commander of the faithful, His Majesty safeguards the sacred values of His subjects, Jew and Muslims alike.” This positive message as well as the gracious offer of the King was received with deep gratitude and sheer excitement by the entire congregation.

There is a disturbing pattern of religious oppression and intolerance in Muslim countries — but not in Morocco. The unfortunate situation at the Christian orphanage (how many of those exist in Muslim countries?) should not obscure this. As a savvy analyst explains, “They should never have let evangelicals run orphanages; that was the mistake. When a kid has no home to return to, the religious influence of those acting in loco parentis is inevitable.” But that is a discrete issue, and resolvable by the Moroccan government. It would seem that the best use of the time and focus of Congress — which is at least making a good effort to pick up the slack from an administration utterly indifferent to the issue of religious freedom — would be to focus on the worst actors in the Muslim World, not the best.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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