Commentary Magazine


Topic: Washington D.C.

Palin Skips Out on CPAC Again

Sarah Palin is the latest in a string of prominent conservatives who have decided not to attend this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which takes place in Washington D.C. next week. While this will be the third year in a row that Palin has skipped the event, this year she turned down the coveted keynote-speaker slot, which was filled by Glenn Beck last year and by Rush Limbaugh in 2009:

CPAC leaders invited Palin to deliver the closing-night keynote speech on Saturday Feb. 12, immediately following the announcement of the results of CPAC’s annual presidential straw poll, but after several days of negotiations, she declined.

“We’re disappointed that she wasn’t able to make it this year,” American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene said through a spokesman on Thursday. He noted that Palin “expressed interest in wanting to come this year,” but said that it came down to “a scheduling issue.”

As ABC News noted, Palin “has a rocky history” with CPAC and skipped the event last year owing to some of the reportedly shady business dealings of the conference’s organizer, David Keene. But the fact that she hasn’t attended the event for three years in a row makes it seem like it could honestly be about scheduling issues, as opposed to any involvement in the social conservatives’ CPAC boycott.

Marco Rubio will also be absent, and it will be interesting to see if any other prominent politicians skip out. The Senate will be out of session next week — since Democrats will be away on a retreat — and it’s possible that some GOP senators slated to speak at CPAC will decide to head to their home states at the last minute. But at the moment, the conference apparently hasn’t been seriously impacted by the boycott, and organizers told ABC News that they expect around 10,000 attendees at the event.

Sarah Palin is the latest in a string of prominent conservatives who have decided not to attend this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which takes place in Washington D.C. next week. While this will be the third year in a row that Palin has skipped the event, this year she turned down the coveted keynote-speaker slot, which was filled by Glenn Beck last year and by Rush Limbaugh in 2009:

CPAC leaders invited Palin to deliver the closing-night keynote speech on Saturday Feb. 12, immediately following the announcement of the results of CPAC’s annual presidential straw poll, but after several days of negotiations, she declined.

“We’re disappointed that she wasn’t able to make it this year,” American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene said through a spokesman on Thursday. He noted that Palin “expressed interest in wanting to come this year,” but said that it came down to “a scheduling issue.”

As ABC News noted, Palin “has a rocky history” with CPAC and skipped the event last year owing to some of the reportedly shady business dealings of the conference’s organizer, David Keene. But the fact that she hasn’t attended the event for three years in a row makes it seem like it could honestly be about scheduling issues, as opposed to any involvement in the social conservatives’ CPAC boycott.

Marco Rubio will also be absent, and it will be interesting to see if any other prominent politicians skip out. The Senate will be out of session next week — since Democrats will be away on a retreat — and it’s possible that some GOP senators slated to speak at CPAC will decide to head to their home states at the last minute. But at the moment, the conference apparently hasn’t been seriously impacted by the boycott, and organizers told ABC News that they expect around 10,000 attendees at the event.

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Senate Freshmen Decline to Join Tea Party Caucus

Remember that Afghanistan trip Sen. Mitch McConnell took some of the GOP freshmen on last week? At the time, some conservative activists worried it was a “ploy” to co-opt the Tea Party members of the Senate. And now, interestingly, some of the same freshmen who went on the trip — Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Marco Rubio — have decided not to join the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus.

In an interview with a Florida political website, Tea Party favorite Rubio said he won’t be involved in the caucus, because he thinks it will “co-opt” the whole concept of the movement:

“My concern is that politicians all of a sudden start co-opting the mantle of Tea Party. If all of a sudden being in the Tea Party is not something that is happening in Main Street, but rather something that’s happening in Washington D.C.,” he said in an interview with the Shark Tank, a Florida political website. “The Tea Party all of a sudden becomes some sort of movement run by politicians. It’s gonna lose its effectiveness and I’m concerned about that.”

What Rubio says is correct on its face. The Tea Party is a ground-up movement, and it would be completely inconsistent with its platform if Washington politicians began “running” it. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of Tea Party Caucus at all. The idea of the caucus is to take direction from the grassroots of the conservative movement and carry it out in Congress — not the other way around.

So Rubio is spinning a bit. But it’s not hard to see why. Politically, it wouldn’t be the greatest move for him to tie himself to a caucus, at least not if he wants to compromise and get things done in the Senate.

That might be why the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus hasn’t been successful in drawing members. The Hill reported that it currently has only three senators committed to attending its first meeting: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint.

The House of Representatives, in comparison, has a 30-member strong Tea Party Caucus, which was created by Rep. Michele Bachmann last year. But the Senate is also a fraction of the size of the House, meaning that senators need to compromise much more with other members in order to get legislation through.

Remember that Afghanistan trip Sen. Mitch McConnell took some of the GOP freshmen on last week? At the time, some conservative activists worried it was a “ploy” to co-opt the Tea Party members of the Senate. And now, interestingly, some of the same freshmen who went on the trip — Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Marco Rubio — have decided not to join the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus.

In an interview with a Florida political website, Tea Party favorite Rubio said he won’t be involved in the caucus, because he thinks it will “co-opt” the whole concept of the movement:

“My concern is that politicians all of a sudden start co-opting the mantle of Tea Party. If all of a sudden being in the Tea Party is not something that is happening in Main Street, but rather something that’s happening in Washington D.C.,” he said in an interview with the Shark Tank, a Florida political website. “The Tea Party all of a sudden becomes some sort of movement run by politicians. It’s gonna lose its effectiveness and I’m concerned about that.”

What Rubio says is correct on its face. The Tea Party is a ground-up movement, and it would be completely inconsistent with its platform if Washington politicians began “running” it. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of Tea Party Caucus at all. The idea of the caucus is to take direction from the grassroots of the conservative movement and carry it out in Congress — not the other way around.

So Rubio is spinning a bit. But it’s not hard to see why. Politically, it wouldn’t be the greatest move for him to tie himself to a caucus, at least not if he wants to compromise and get things done in the Senate.

That might be why the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus hasn’t been successful in drawing members. The Hill reported that it currently has only three senators committed to attending its first meeting: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint.

The House of Representatives, in comparison, has a 30-member strong Tea Party Caucus, which was created by Rep. Michele Bachmann last year. But the Senate is also a fraction of the size of the House, meaning that senators need to compromise much more with other members in order to get legislation through.

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Wife of Chinese Political Prisoner Gao Zhisheng Pleads for His Release

“Mr. Obama, if you still remember the pain of the void you had growing up without your dad, maybe you can help my children reunite with their dad,” said Geng He, the wife of former human-rights attorney and Chinese political prisoner Gao Zhisheng at a press conference in Washington D.C. yesterday.

Obviously, the person she was speaking to wasn’t in the room. But it was a valiant effort to raise media awareness for her husband’s plight, one of many similar attempts over the past few weeks. As Washington prepared for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit, Geng appeared to have embarked on a campaign of her own. She’s given interviews to numerous news outlets, spoken at press conferences, and made appeals to the administration. But even though it’s crucial to speak out for political prisoners like Gao, the venture isn’t without risks. Geng’s husband could potentially bear the brunt of any anger the Chinese government may have over the public descriptions of his imprisonment.

Last week, for the first time, the AP published a 2010 interview with Gao about his previous treatment in prison. It was a story he requested they publish in only two circumstances. One was if he managed to escape from China and reunite with his wife and children in the U.S. The other was if he disappeared.

After eight months of no contact with the former human-rights attorney, AP and Geng decided enough time had gone by to go ahead with the piece. AP released the story to coincide with Hu’s visit. The account of Gao’s suffering is chilling on its own. And he admitted during the interview that there were certain aspects of the torture that he would not even divulge to the reporter.

But even though Hillary Clinton mentioned Gao’s mistreatment in a speech right before Hu’s visit, President Obama hasn’t publicly discussed the political prisoner since the Chinese leader arrived in D.C.

When Obama was pressed on human rights at a joint press conference with Hu yesterday, he offered only excuses for the Chinese government. The country, said Obama, “has a different political system than we do” and is “at a different state of development than we are.”

“We come from two different cultures and different histories,” he added.

Later that night, Obama hosted a lavish state dinner for President Hu. It looked like a beautiful event, at least from the photos. There’s even a picture of the first couple smiling as they post on either side of the Chinese leader (just a diplomatic nicety, of course).

Gao also seems to be someone who believes in the importance of smiling through unpleasant situations. “Even when I was tortured to near-death, the pain was only in the physical body,” he wrote in 2009. “A heart that is filled with God has no room to entertain pain and suffering. I often sing along loudly with my two children, but my wife never joins us. Despite all my efforts, she still feels miserable in her heart.”

Sure, the state dinner was just a matter of maintaining good relations with the Chinese government. Ensuring future stability for the U.S. and the world and all that. But with Hu returning home, and as media interest in Chinese political prisoners wanes, it’s less clear what the future holds for Gao Zhisheng and his family.

“Mr. Obama, if you still remember the pain of the void you had growing up without your dad, maybe you can help my children reunite with their dad,” said Geng He, the wife of former human-rights attorney and Chinese political prisoner Gao Zhisheng at a press conference in Washington D.C. yesterday.

Obviously, the person she was speaking to wasn’t in the room. But it was a valiant effort to raise media awareness for her husband’s plight, one of many similar attempts over the past few weeks. As Washington prepared for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit, Geng appeared to have embarked on a campaign of her own. She’s given interviews to numerous news outlets, spoken at press conferences, and made appeals to the administration. But even though it’s crucial to speak out for political prisoners like Gao, the venture isn’t without risks. Geng’s husband could potentially bear the brunt of any anger the Chinese government may have over the public descriptions of his imprisonment.

Last week, for the first time, the AP published a 2010 interview with Gao about his previous treatment in prison. It was a story he requested they publish in only two circumstances. One was if he managed to escape from China and reunite with his wife and children in the U.S. The other was if he disappeared.

After eight months of no contact with the former human-rights attorney, AP and Geng decided enough time had gone by to go ahead with the piece. AP released the story to coincide with Hu’s visit. The account of Gao’s suffering is chilling on its own. And he admitted during the interview that there were certain aspects of the torture that he would not even divulge to the reporter.

But even though Hillary Clinton mentioned Gao’s mistreatment in a speech right before Hu’s visit, President Obama hasn’t publicly discussed the political prisoner since the Chinese leader arrived in D.C.

When Obama was pressed on human rights at a joint press conference with Hu yesterday, he offered only excuses for the Chinese government. The country, said Obama, “has a different political system than we do” and is “at a different state of development than we are.”

“We come from two different cultures and different histories,” he added.

Later that night, Obama hosted a lavish state dinner for President Hu. It looked like a beautiful event, at least from the photos. There’s even a picture of the first couple smiling as they post on either side of the Chinese leader (just a diplomatic nicety, of course).

Gao also seems to be someone who believes in the importance of smiling through unpleasant situations. “Even when I was tortured to near-death, the pain was only in the physical body,” he wrote in 2009. “A heart that is filled with God has no room to entertain pain and suffering. I often sing along loudly with my two children, but my wife never joins us. Despite all my efforts, she still feels miserable in her heart.”

Sure, the state dinner was just a matter of maintaining good relations with the Chinese government. Ensuring future stability for the U.S. and the world and all that. But with Hu returning home, and as media interest in Chinese political prisoners wanes, it’s less clear what the future holds for Gao Zhisheng and his family.

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Portraits of the Peace Process in Its 92nd Year

In the National Interest, Benny Morris succinctly summarizes the peace process, writing that there can be disagreement about tactical mistakes made over the years, but that:

[T]here can be no serious argument about what transpired in July and December 2000, when Arafat sequentially rejected comprehensive Israeli and Israeli-American proposals for a two-state solution which would have given the Palestinians (“the Clinton Parameters”) sovereignty and independence in 95% of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip, and half of Jerusalem (including half or three-quarters of the Old City).

And further that:

[T]here can be no serious argument either about Abbas’s rejection of the similar, perhaps even slightly better deal, offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. (Indeed, these rejections of a two-state solution were already a tradition set in stone: The Palestinians’ leaders had rejected two-state compromises in 1937 (the Peel proposals), 1947 (the UN General Assembly partition resolution) and (implicitly) in 1978 (when Arafat rejected the Sadat-Begin Camp David agreement, which provided for “autonomy” in the Palestinan territories).

That is six Palestinian rejections of a Palestinian state: 1937, 1947, 1978, 2000 (twice), 2008.

Actually, the correct number is seven, since Morris omitted the first one: in 1919, Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, and Emir Feisal Ibn al-Hussein al-Hashemi signed an agreement providing for Arab recognition of the Balfour Declaration, Arab retention of the Muslim holy sites, and WZO agreement to the establishment of an Arab state. Later that year, the Arabs repudiated the agreement.

We are now in the 92nd year of a peace process in which the Palestinians are the first people in history to be offered a state seven times, reject it seven times, and set preconditions for discussing an eighth offer.

In the February 10 issue of the New York Review of Books, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley also provide an interesting analysis of the peace process. They assert the Obama administration has badly damaged U.S. credibility:

[It] was repeatedly rebuffed—by Israel, from whom it had demanded a full halt in settlement construction; by Palestinians it pressed to engage in direct negotiations; by Arab states it hoped would take steps to normalize relations with Israel. An administration that never tires of saying it cannot want peace more than the parties routinely belies that claim by the desperation it exhibits in pursuing that goal. Today, there is little trust, no direct talks, no settlement freeze, and, one at times suspects, not much of a US policy.

Agha and Malley do not recommend a policy of their own. They suggest Mahmoud Abbas is the “last Palestinian” able to end the conflict, but it is an unconvincing conclusion. He has already missed multiple moments: in 2005, he received all of Gaza and presided over its conversion into Hamastan; in 2006, he could not win an election against a terrorist group; in 2007, he got thrown out of Gaza altogether; in 2008, he received the seventh offer of a state and turned it down; in 2009, he arrived in Washington D.C. and told the Washington Post he would do nothing but wait; in 2010, he is turning to the UN rather than negotiate. His term of office ended more than two years ago.

Rather than being the key to peace, he is a reflection of the fact that on the Palestinian side, in the 92nd year, there is no one there to make it.

In the National Interest, Benny Morris succinctly summarizes the peace process, writing that there can be disagreement about tactical mistakes made over the years, but that:

[T]here can be no serious argument about what transpired in July and December 2000, when Arafat sequentially rejected comprehensive Israeli and Israeli-American proposals for a two-state solution which would have given the Palestinians (“the Clinton Parameters”) sovereignty and independence in 95% of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip, and half of Jerusalem (including half or three-quarters of the Old City).

And further that:

[T]here can be no serious argument either about Abbas’s rejection of the similar, perhaps even slightly better deal, offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. (Indeed, these rejections of a two-state solution were already a tradition set in stone: The Palestinians’ leaders had rejected two-state compromises in 1937 (the Peel proposals), 1947 (the UN General Assembly partition resolution) and (implicitly) in 1978 (when Arafat rejected the Sadat-Begin Camp David agreement, which provided for “autonomy” in the Palestinan territories).

That is six Palestinian rejections of a Palestinian state: 1937, 1947, 1978, 2000 (twice), 2008.

Actually, the correct number is seven, since Morris omitted the first one: in 1919, Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, and Emir Feisal Ibn al-Hussein al-Hashemi signed an agreement providing for Arab recognition of the Balfour Declaration, Arab retention of the Muslim holy sites, and WZO agreement to the establishment of an Arab state. Later that year, the Arabs repudiated the agreement.

We are now in the 92nd year of a peace process in which the Palestinians are the first people in history to be offered a state seven times, reject it seven times, and set preconditions for discussing an eighth offer.

In the February 10 issue of the New York Review of Books, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley also provide an interesting analysis of the peace process. They assert the Obama administration has badly damaged U.S. credibility:

[It] was repeatedly rebuffed—by Israel, from whom it had demanded a full halt in settlement construction; by Palestinians it pressed to engage in direct negotiations; by Arab states it hoped would take steps to normalize relations with Israel. An administration that never tires of saying it cannot want peace more than the parties routinely belies that claim by the desperation it exhibits in pursuing that goal. Today, there is little trust, no direct talks, no settlement freeze, and, one at times suspects, not much of a US policy.

Agha and Malley do not recommend a policy of their own. They suggest Mahmoud Abbas is the “last Palestinian” able to end the conflict, but it is an unconvincing conclusion. He has already missed multiple moments: in 2005, he received all of Gaza and presided over its conversion into Hamastan; in 2006, he could not win an election against a terrorist group; in 2007, he got thrown out of Gaza altogether; in 2008, he received the seventh offer of a state and turned it down; in 2009, he arrived in Washington D.C. and told the Washington Post he would do nothing but wait; in 2010, he is turning to the UN rather than negotiate. His term of office ended more than two years ago.

Rather than being the key to peace, he is a reflection of the fact that on the Palestinian side, in the 92nd year, there is no one there to make it.

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West Virginia Going to the GOP?

After several polls showing the race narrowing, today’s Rasmussen poll reports:

Republican John Raese has now opened up a seven-point lead over West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin in perhaps the most improbably close U.S. Senate contest in the country. It’s Raese’s biggest lead yet.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely West Virginia Voters finds Raese with 50% support to Manchin’s 43%. Two percent (2%) like some other candidate in the race, and five percent (5%) are undecided.

Maybe this is all static — slight movement within the margin of error. Or maybe in the debate, and in Manchin’s ad touting ObamaCare, voters were reminded that the way to stop the Obama agenda is to send to Washington D.C. lawmakers who, well, oppose the Obama agenda. And besides, Manchin is a popular governor (“69% of the state’s voters approve of the job Manchin is doing as governor”), so voters may have figured out that they can have both Raese and Manchin.

After several polls showing the race narrowing, today’s Rasmussen poll reports:

Republican John Raese has now opened up a seven-point lead over West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin in perhaps the most improbably close U.S. Senate contest in the country. It’s Raese’s biggest lead yet.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely West Virginia Voters finds Raese with 50% support to Manchin’s 43%. Two percent (2%) like some other candidate in the race, and five percent (5%) are undecided.

Maybe this is all static — slight movement within the margin of error. Or maybe in the debate, and in Manchin’s ad touting ObamaCare, voters were reminded that the way to stop the Obama agenda is to send to Washington D.C. lawmakers who, well, oppose the Obama agenda. And besides, Manchin is a popular governor (“69% of the state’s voters approve of the job Manchin is doing as governor”), so voters may have figured out that they can have both Raese and Manchin.

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Poor Joe Biden

Joe Biden was apparently selected as Obama’s running mate for his experience and foreign policy gravitas. It is only in Washington D.C. that longevity can be confused with wisdom; Biden has plenty of the former and precious little of the latter, having been wrong on almost every national security issue for the past 30 years.

But as things would work out, Biden’s running mate, known for his charisma and political prowess, is proving to be a bore and politically toxic. So the job of rallying the base for the midterms falls to Biden. As this report explains:

Now, at 67, in an election season when his party feels beaten down, when voters are angry and afraid, when the cool, cerebral detachment that seemed so appealing in Mr. Obama in 2008 is raising questions about whether he can “connect,” Mr. Biden is trying to fill the void — even as strategists in both parties see Democrats’ prospects dimming.

Mr. Biden has been zipping around the country to places like Columbia, S.C., and hard-hit Rust Belt cities like Akron, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, while Mr. Obama has been confining himself largely to friendlier settings like college campuses and big-dollar fund-raisers.

Unfortunately, Biden isn’t much better at politicking than he is at foreign policy. He tells a crowd that they are the dullest he’s ever encountered. His “recovery summer” blather is now mocked by pundits and political opponents. But just as no one ever really votes for the vice president in presidential elections, no one in the midterms really pays too much attention to the VP:

“Democrats have it in their heads that he is still more popular in a lot of blue-collar districts where Obama is having a toxic effect,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “To most voters, a Biden campaign visit doesn’t make President Obama disappear.”

For all his troubles, Biden may be traded to the State Department for Hillary Clinton in 2012. And then we can really see all that Biden knows about foreign policy. Well, he probably wouldn’t be any worse than the current secretary.

Joe Biden was apparently selected as Obama’s running mate for his experience and foreign policy gravitas. It is only in Washington D.C. that longevity can be confused with wisdom; Biden has plenty of the former and precious little of the latter, having been wrong on almost every national security issue for the past 30 years.

But as things would work out, Biden’s running mate, known for his charisma and political prowess, is proving to be a bore and politically toxic. So the job of rallying the base for the midterms falls to Biden. As this report explains:

Now, at 67, in an election season when his party feels beaten down, when voters are angry and afraid, when the cool, cerebral detachment that seemed so appealing in Mr. Obama in 2008 is raising questions about whether he can “connect,” Mr. Biden is trying to fill the void — even as strategists in both parties see Democrats’ prospects dimming.

Mr. Biden has been zipping around the country to places like Columbia, S.C., and hard-hit Rust Belt cities like Akron, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, while Mr. Obama has been confining himself largely to friendlier settings like college campuses and big-dollar fund-raisers.

Unfortunately, Biden isn’t much better at politicking than he is at foreign policy. He tells a crowd that they are the dullest he’s ever encountered. His “recovery summer” blather is now mocked by pundits and political opponents. But just as no one ever really votes for the vice president in presidential elections, no one in the midterms really pays too much attention to the VP:

“Democrats have it in their heads that he is still more popular in a lot of blue-collar districts where Obama is having a toxic effect,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “To most voters, a Biden campaign visit doesn’t make President Obama disappear.”

For all his troubles, Biden may be traded to the State Department for Hillary Clinton in 2012. And then we can really see all that Biden knows about foreign policy. Well, he probably wouldn’t be any worse than the current secretary.

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No Follow-Up on Obama’s Education Hypocrisy

The “Today Show” is belatedly celebrating our children’s return to school this month with a series on the state of the nation’s education system. So what better way to kick off a superficial look at the subject than with a superficial and fawning interview of President Barack Obama to solicit platitudes and plugs for his pet projects?

Obama was allowed to pontificate about the heroism of teachers so as to avoid antagonizing his allies in the teachers’ unions while still posing as a reformer. But in addition to calling for a longer school year, the president was still induced by Matt Lauer to say that, despite the appetite of the teachers’ unions and much of the educational establishment for more money to be poured into the public schools, many of the system’s worst problems have little to do with money and a great deal to do with the failures of parents and a culture that does not value discipline and learning. In a line that could actually be seen as a challenge to the unions, he pointed out that “You can’t defend a status quo in which a third of our kids are dropping out.” The answer was, instead, “radical change.”

But the president’s failure to draw the right conclusions about the need for such “radical change” was also highlighted by this interview for the “Today Show.” When asked on the show by Kelly Burnett of Florida whether his own children could get as good an education in the Washington, D.C. public schools as they are receiving in the elite private Sidwell Friends Academy they attend, the president bluntly said no. And though he tried to fudge this by saying that it is possible that some public schools in the district could be as good as a private school, most were not. Then, curiously, he pointed out that a person with influence such as himself could “maneuver” to get his children into such good public schools while most parents could not. He did not explain, why he, an ardent advocate of public schools, would not attempt to place his children in such a school, assuming that one actually exists.

Needless to say, there was no follow-up from Lauer about the difference between Obama and the vast majority of Washington’s parents. Even worse, there was no mention of the fact that the president had actually done his utmost to kill the District’s fledgling school-choice program, which had allowed at least some of those other parents to get their kids out of a system that Obama acknowledges is failing and into a decent private school like that frequented by Sasha and Malia Obama. That program was an example of an attempt at the sort of “radical change” which the president supposedly favors. But instead of nurturing it, Obama and his allies in Congress killed it in the name of liberal ideology and the fiat of the teachers’ unions, effectively sentencing another generation of Washington’s children to failed schools with no hope of escape.

The death of Washington D.C.’s school-choice experiment illustrates that Obama’s fealty to the unions is still the operative factor in the administration’s education policy. That he feels free to engage in this sort of hypocritical posturing about public education while placing his own children in the best possible private schools speaks volumes about the kid-glove treatment the president continues to get in the mainstream media.

The “Today Show” is belatedly celebrating our children’s return to school this month with a series on the state of the nation’s education system. So what better way to kick off a superficial look at the subject than with a superficial and fawning interview of President Barack Obama to solicit platitudes and plugs for his pet projects?

Obama was allowed to pontificate about the heroism of teachers so as to avoid antagonizing his allies in the teachers’ unions while still posing as a reformer. But in addition to calling for a longer school year, the president was still induced by Matt Lauer to say that, despite the appetite of the teachers’ unions and much of the educational establishment for more money to be poured into the public schools, many of the system’s worst problems have little to do with money and a great deal to do with the failures of parents and a culture that does not value discipline and learning. In a line that could actually be seen as a challenge to the unions, he pointed out that “You can’t defend a status quo in which a third of our kids are dropping out.” The answer was, instead, “radical change.”

But the president’s failure to draw the right conclusions about the need for such “radical change” was also highlighted by this interview for the “Today Show.” When asked on the show by Kelly Burnett of Florida whether his own children could get as good an education in the Washington, D.C. public schools as they are receiving in the elite private Sidwell Friends Academy they attend, the president bluntly said no. And though he tried to fudge this by saying that it is possible that some public schools in the district could be as good as a private school, most were not. Then, curiously, he pointed out that a person with influence such as himself could “maneuver” to get his children into such good public schools while most parents could not. He did not explain, why he, an ardent advocate of public schools, would not attempt to place his children in such a school, assuming that one actually exists.

Needless to say, there was no follow-up from Lauer about the difference between Obama and the vast majority of Washington’s parents. Even worse, there was no mention of the fact that the president had actually done his utmost to kill the District’s fledgling school-choice program, which had allowed at least some of those other parents to get their kids out of a system that Obama acknowledges is failing and into a decent private school like that frequented by Sasha and Malia Obama. That program was an example of an attempt at the sort of “radical change” which the president supposedly favors. But instead of nurturing it, Obama and his allies in Congress killed it in the name of liberal ideology and the fiat of the teachers’ unions, effectively sentencing another generation of Washington’s children to failed schools with no hope of escape.

The death of Washington D.C.’s school-choice experiment illustrates that Obama’s fealty to the unions is still the operative factor in the administration’s education policy. That he feels free to engage in this sort of hypocritical posturing about public education while placing his own children in the best possible private schools speaks volumes about the kid-glove treatment the president continues to get in the mainstream media.

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Oren to American Jews: Prepare Yourselves

Michael Oren in his Kol Nidre remarks at Adas Israel in Washington D.C. gave a rousing defense of Israeli democracy:

Israeli democracy is rambunctious and intensely personal, placing the premium on individual participation. In our family, I can attest, my wife and I have never voted for the same party. Our son also went his own way politically. Together with his friends, he started a political party in our living room that now holds two seats on the Jerusalem municipality.

At 62 years old, Israel’s democracy is older than more than half of the democratic governments in the world, which, in turn, account for less than half of the world’s existing nations. Israel is one of the handful of democracies that has never succumbed to periods of undemocratic rule. And Israel has achieved this extraordinary record in spite of the fact that it is the only democracy never to know a nanosecond of peace and which has endured pressures that would have crushed most other democracies long ago. In a region inhospitable—even fatal—to government by and of the people, Israel’s democracy thrives.

He had this to say about the peace process:

You know that to create that neighboring state that you’re going to have to give up some land, but not just any land, but land regarded as sacred by the majority of the Jewish people for more than three thousand years. You know that a great many of your countrymen have made their homes in these areas and that numerous Israelis have given their lives in their defense. You know that Israel has in the past withdrawn from territories in an effort to generate peace but that it received no peace but rather war. And, lastly, you know that many Arabs view the two-state solution as a two stage solution in which the ultimate stage is Israel’s dissolution.

What, then, Mr. or Ms. Prime Minister, do you do?

He didn’t actually answer the question, a telling sign that there is no good answer. But he was crystal clear on Iran:

Support us as we grapple with these towering challenges. Back us in our efforts to defend ourselves from terrorist rockets. Uphold us if we have to make painful sacrifices for peace or if we decide that the terms of the proposed treaty fail to justify those sacrifices. Stand with us as we resist Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Respect the decisions we take through our democratic system and respect the risks that we, more than any other nation, take.

Let us—Israelis and the American Jews—united by our faith, our peoplehood, and our common love for democracy. Let us assume responsibility for our decisions, crushingly difficult though they may often be, and appreciative of the quandaries our leaders face. When we call out, let us answer one another with the assurance that no challenge—no paradoxes, no Ninevehs [a reference to the Jonah story read on Yom Kippur]—can defeat us.

The final and closing comments suggest it is time to get real, to put aside the fantasy that Swiss cheese sanctions are going to break the mullahs’ will. Obama is, we are told, preparing to call for more “engagement” with Iran — a ludicrous and dangerous suggestion that indicates he’s not remotely serious about ending the threat of a nuclear Iran. So Oren is telling — perhaps pleading — with American Jews to stand by Israel if in fact Obama shirks his obligations as leader of the Free World. After all, should Israel be forced to act on its own, it will be defending our national security interests as much as its own. Someone’s got to do it, and we should count ourselves fortunate that we need not depend solely on the feckless Obama administration, which still deludes itself that we have some other viable alternative to military force if we are to stand behind two presidents’ pledges that a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable.”

Michael Oren in his Kol Nidre remarks at Adas Israel in Washington D.C. gave a rousing defense of Israeli democracy:

Israeli democracy is rambunctious and intensely personal, placing the premium on individual participation. In our family, I can attest, my wife and I have never voted for the same party. Our son also went his own way politically. Together with his friends, he started a political party in our living room that now holds two seats on the Jerusalem municipality.

At 62 years old, Israel’s democracy is older than more than half of the democratic governments in the world, which, in turn, account for less than half of the world’s existing nations. Israel is one of the handful of democracies that has never succumbed to periods of undemocratic rule. And Israel has achieved this extraordinary record in spite of the fact that it is the only democracy never to know a nanosecond of peace and which has endured pressures that would have crushed most other democracies long ago. In a region inhospitable—even fatal—to government by and of the people, Israel’s democracy thrives.

He had this to say about the peace process:

You know that to create that neighboring state that you’re going to have to give up some land, but not just any land, but land regarded as sacred by the majority of the Jewish people for more than three thousand years. You know that a great many of your countrymen have made their homes in these areas and that numerous Israelis have given their lives in their defense. You know that Israel has in the past withdrawn from territories in an effort to generate peace but that it received no peace but rather war. And, lastly, you know that many Arabs view the two-state solution as a two stage solution in which the ultimate stage is Israel’s dissolution.

What, then, Mr. or Ms. Prime Minister, do you do?

He didn’t actually answer the question, a telling sign that there is no good answer. But he was crystal clear on Iran:

Support us as we grapple with these towering challenges. Back us in our efforts to defend ourselves from terrorist rockets. Uphold us if we have to make painful sacrifices for peace or if we decide that the terms of the proposed treaty fail to justify those sacrifices. Stand with us as we resist Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Respect the decisions we take through our democratic system and respect the risks that we, more than any other nation, take.

Let us—Israelis and the American Jews—united by our faith, our peoplehood, and our common love for democracy. Let us assume responsibility for our decisions, crushingly difficult though they may often be, and appreciative of the quandaries our leaders face. When we call out, let us answer one another with the assurance that no challenge—no paradoxes, no Ninevehs [a reference to the Jonah story read on Yom Kippur]—can defeat us.

The final and closing comments suggest it is time to get real, to put aside the fantasy that Swiss cheese sanctions are going to break the mullahs’ will. Obama is, we are told, preparing to call for more “engagement” with Iran — a ludicrous and dangerous suggestion that indicates he’s not remotely serious about ending the threat of a nuclear Iran. So Oren is telling — perhaps pleading — with American Jews to stand by Israel if in fact Obama shirks his obligations as leader of the Free World. After all, should Israel be forced to act on its own, it will be defending our national security interests as much as its own. Someone’s got to do it, and we should count ourselves fortunate that we need not depend solely on the feckless Obama administration, which still deludes itself that we have some other viable alternative to military force if we are to stand behind two presidents’ pledges that a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable.”

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Who Will Get Michelle Rhee?

Michelle Rhee is expected to leave her post as chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools following the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary. Fenty had supported her aggressive reform agenda, while his primary opponent, Vincent Gray, plainly did not.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Gray, a genteel politician from the old school, has deep roots in the African American middle class that has been the heart of the District’s public school teacher corps. That constituency has been traumatized by many of Rhee’s reform efforts, which have included hundreds of layoffs, firings and outspoken comments about the poor quality of D.C. educators.

Rhee, like the mayor who hired her, had passions that veered more toward inputs and outcomes than collaboration and consensus. The record on her watch includes generally improved test scores, an enrollment that has stabilized after decades of decline, a labor contract that gives the District new power over teacher job assignments and an evaluation system that can lead to dismissal for instructors who score poorly.

Not hard to figure out which side you should be on, is it? Gray can’t fathom why Rhee would rock the boat:

The layoffs were bad enough, but Gray expressed particular concern about Rhee’s apparent disregard for the protocols, procedures and personal collaborations that Gray considered essential to smooth functioning within his political world. In this case, the process dictated that Rhee made sure that the council wasn’t blindsided by the news.

But Rhee displayed little interest in either process or political niceties as she rushed to implement an ambitious agenda. She told Gray that she wasn’t trying to embarrass the council, that she just wanted to protect the interests of children.

“You can choose to believe that or not,” Rhee said. …

Perhaps more than anything, Gray was mystified by what he regarded as her political tin ear, exemplified, in his view by her infamous Time magazine cover.

“I said, ‘Michelle, why would you agree to be photographed with a broom on the cover of Time magazine?’ ” Gray said in a 2009 interview. ‘What kind of message do you think that sends?’ “

It sends the message that she has no patience with hacks like Gray. And you can appreciate her comments at a D.C. function last night: “Yesterday’s election results were devastating, devastating. … Not for me, because I’ll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he’ll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C.” The function, by the way, was a showing of the film “‘Waiting for Superman,’ the documentary that casts her as a tart-tongued heroine of the national education reform movement.”

A few observations. First, can you just imagine a Chris Christie–Michelle Rhee administration? (I have no idea what her party affiliation is.) Big Labor bosses would have a collective heart attack. Second, Rhee can walk into any school district that isn’t hobbled by a Vincent Gray and make a huge difference. One lucky school district will demonstrate how educational reform is done. Third, the voters of D.C. frankly get the government they deserve. Yes, the teacher’s union backed and funded Gray, but he was elected with the clear understanding that Rhee would leave. They are about to experience — again — the slothful operation of their school district. And finally, any president would be wise to snap her up as education secretary. In fact, she really has unlimited career opportunities. D.C.’s loss may be the country’s gain.

Michelle Rhee is expected to leave her post as chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools following the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary. Fenty had supported her aggressive reform agenda, while his primary opponent, Vincent Gray, plainly did not.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Gray, a genteel politician from the old school, has deep roots in the African American middle class that has been the heart of the District’s public school teacher corps. That constituency has been traumatized by many of Rhee’s reform efforts, which have included hundreds of layoffs, firings and outspoken comments about the poor quality of D.C. educators.

Rhee, like the mayor who hired her, had passions that veered more toward inputs and outcomes than collaboration and consensus. The record on her watch includes generally improved test scores, an enrollment that has stabilized after decades of decline, a labor contract that gives the District new power over teacher job assignments and an evaluation system that can lead to dismissal for instructors who score poorly.

Not hard to figure out which side you should be on, is it? Gray can’t fathom why Rhee would rock the boat:

The layoffs were bad enough, but Gray expressed particular concern about Rhee’s apparent disregard for the protocols, procedures and personal collaborations that Gray considered essential to smooth functioning within his political world. In this case, the process dictated that Rhee made sure that the council wasn’t blindsided by the news.

But Rhee displayed little interest in either process or political niceties as she rushed to implement an ambitious agenda. She told Gray that she wasn’t trying to embarrass the council, that she just wanted to protect the interests of children.

“You can choose to believe that or not,” Rhee said. …

Perhaps more than anything, Gray was mystified by what he regarded as her political tin ear, exemplified, in his view by her infamous Time magazine cover.

“I said, ‘Michelle, why would you agree to be photographed with a broom on the cover of Time magazine?’ ” Gray said in a 2009 interview. ‘What kind of message do you think that sends?’ “

It sends the message that she has no patience with hacks like Gray. And you can appreciate her comments at a D.C. function last night: “Yesterday’s election results were devastating, devastating. … Not for me, because I’ll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he’ll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C.” The function, by the way, was a showing of the film “‘Waiting for Superman,’ the documentary that casts her as a tart-tongued heroine of the national education reform movement.”

A few observations. First, can you just imagine a Chris Christie–Michelle Rhee administration? (I have no idea what her party affiliation is.) Big Labor bosses would have a collective heart attack. Second, Rhee can walk into any school district that isn’t hobbled by a Vincent Gray and make a huge difference. One lucky school district will demonstrate how educational reform is done. Third, the voters of D.C. frankly get the government they deserve. Yes, the teacher’s union backed and funded Gray, but he was elected with the clear understanding that Rhee would leave. They are about to experience — again — the slothful operation of their school district. And finally, any president would be wise to snap her up as education secretary. In fact, she really has unlimited career opportunities. D.C.’s loss may be the country’s gain.

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Are Democrats Dumping the Not-Bush National Security Policy?

In Washington D.C. parlance, “That’s not a priority” means “You think we’re dumb enough to push that?” Well, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is saying as much about what was a top Obama priority – closing Guantanamo:

In response to a question from a reporter about where shutting down Gitmo stands, Hoyer said, “I think that’s not an item, as you point out, of real current discussion. There’s some very big issues confronting us — dealing with growing the economy and Iraq and Afghanistan.” Hoyer added, “I think you’re not going to see it discussed very broadly in the near term.”

This is one more sign, although less dramatic than the Pelosi-Gibbs food fight, that congressional Democrats have had enough, thank you, of carrying Obama’s political water at their own expense. The practical problems and national security issues associated with closing Gitmo have never been resolved, but in the end it’s politics — the complete unacceptability of the undertaking — that have killed Obama’s PR gambit.

Democrats should extract from this episode the right lesson: much of Obama’s national security policy is dangerous to the country and to their political future. There is no need to support a civilian trial for KSM or senseless cuts in the Defense Department budget or the START treaty. In pursuing enlightened self-interest, to borrow a phrase, Democrats may be inching toward a bipartisan, sensible national security policy.

In Washington D.C. parlance, “That’s not a priority” means “You think we’re dumb enough to push that?” Well, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is saying as much about what was a top Obama priority – closing Guantanamo:

In response to a question from a reporter about where shutting down Gitmo stands, Hoyer said, “I think that’s not an item, as you point out, of real current discussion. There’s some very big issues confronting us — dealing with growing the economy and Iraq and Afghanistan.” Hoyer added, “I think you’re not going to see it discussed very broadly in the near term.”

This is one more sign, although less dramatic than the Pelosi-Gibbs food fight, that congressional Democrats have had enough, thank you, of carrying Obama’s political water at their own expense. The practical problems and national security issues associated with closing Gitmo have never been resolved, but in the end it’s politics — the complete unacceptability of the undertaking — that have killed Obama’s PR gambit.

Democrats should extract from this episode the right lesson: much of Obama’s national security policy is dangerous to the country and to their political future. There is no need to support a civilian trial for KSM or senseless cuts in the Defense Department budget or the START treaty. In pursuing enlightened self-interest, to borrow a phrase, Democrats may be inching toward a bipartisan, sensible national security policy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

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Where Are the Jewish Tea Parties?

It seems that at least some Jews are so mad at Obama that they’ve taken to the streets. This WPIX report from New York explains:

Thousands of Jews gathered outside the Israeli Consulate Sunday to protest President Obama’s position towards Israel.

Organizers said the event supports “Israel’s right to build and live in its own country,” as well as its right to unite Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. They are also protesting the Obama Administrations’ alleged disregard of the democratic Jewish state.

“We are outraged that President Obama is scapegoating Israel and wants to expel Jews from their homes in Jerusalem. President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton show more anger about a Jewish family building a home in Jerusalem than Iran building a nuclear bomb,” states Beth Gilinsky of the Jewish Action Alliance. “Vast segments of the Jewish community will not tolerate the President’s continuing attacks on Israel. Grassroots Jewry will not be silent.”

Meanwhile, a taped statement by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, who has openly expressed his displeasure with Obama’s policies, played for attendees. He slammed the president for his treatment of Israel and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Over 20 organizations, Jewish and other, united to support the event.

This event is newsworthy, not least because it is unique. Where have the Jewish Tea Parties been? Why haven’t we seen more of this? It was over 20 years ago that 250,000 people amassed in Washington D.C. for the cause of Soviet Jewry (for those who don’t recall 20 years’ worth of large and public protests, a useful summary can be found here), but the Obami’s pummeling of the Jewish state and its lackadaisical attitude toward a nuclear-armed Iran has not yet fully mobilized the Jewish community. Polite letters, lots of private hand-wringing, and a few pointed newspaper ads are about all we’ve seen. The response of American Jewish organizations – meek and subdued — seems grossly disproportionate to the stakes and underwhelming by historic standards.

It’s not clear what action by American Jewry, if any, would be effective with this administration. But the absence of organized protest and the subdued reaction to events that frankly should set off alarm bells with pro-Israel supporters are reminiscent of another era — the 1930s — in which American Jewry was too demure for too long. That had tragic results. Today’s reticence may as well.

It seems that at least some Jews are so mad at Obama that they’ve taken to the streets. This WPIX report from New York explains:

Thousands of Jews gathered outside the Israeli Consulate Sunday to protest President Obama’s position towards Israel.

Organizers said the event supports “Israel’s right to build and live in its own country,” as well as its right to unite Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. They are also protesting the Obama Administrations’ alleged disregard of the democratic Jewish state.

“We are outraged that President Obama is scapegoating Israel and wants to expel Jews from their homes in Jerusalem. President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton show more anger about a Jewish family building a home in Jerusalem than Iran building a nuclear bomb,” states Beth Gilinsky of the Jewish Action Alliance. “Vast segments of the Jewish community will not tolerate the President’s continuing attacks on Israel. Grassroots Jewry will not be silent.”

Meanwhile, a taped statement by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, who has openly expressed his displeasure with Obama’s policies, played for attendees. He slammed the president for his treatment of Israel and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Over 20 organizations, Jewish and other, united to support the event.

This event is newsworthy, not least because it is unique. Where have the Jewish Tea Parties been? Why haven’t we seen more of this? It was over 20 years ago that 250,000 people amassed in Washington D.C. for the cause of Soviet Jewry (for those who don’t recall 20 years’ worth of large and public protests, a useful summary can be found here), but the Obami’s pummeling of the Jewish state and its lackadaisical attitude toward a nuclear-armed Iran has not yet fully mobilized the Jewish community. Polite letters, lots of private hand-wringing, and a few pointed newspaper ads are about all we’ve seen. The response of American Jewish organizations – meek and subdued — seems grossly disproportionate to the stakes and underwhelming by historic standards.

It’s not clear what action by American Jewry, if any, would be effective with this administration. But the absence of organized protest and the subdued reaction to events that frankly should set off alarm bells with pro-Israel supporters are reminiscent of another era — the 1930s — in which American Jewry was too demure for too long. That had tragic results. Today’s reticence may as well.

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Why Didn’t Obama Call Off the Ambush?

There is an obvious reason why the Israeli prime minister canceled his attendance at President Obama’s nuclear security summit: he sought to avoid a combined Egyptian and Turkish attack on Israel’s nuclear program.

But there is an important follow-up question that is of far greater consequence: why do Egypt and Turkey, both American allies, feel at liberty to show up in Washington D.C. at a conference organized by the U.S. president and dump on one of America’s closest allies?

This latest incident is not really about Israel’s relations with Egypt and Turkey; both countries can be counted on to take cheap shots at Israel whenever they can, especially the increasingly Islamist Turkey. The critical issue is why they believed they had a green light to engage in such theatrics. Upon hearing of the ambush they were planning, Obama or Clinton could have sent a very clear message to the Turkish prime minister and the Egyptian dictator: “You either come to Washington and behave yourselves, or stay home. This is a respectable conference, not a platform for anti-Israel grandstanding.”

But clearly, Obama made no such call, and clearly he did not instruct the secretary of state to deliver a 43-minute tongue-lashing to the leaders of either country, as she has recently shown herself capable of doing. There are two possible explanations, and I’m not sure which is more disturbing. Obama either welcomed the prospect of another humiliation of Netanyahu, or he was afraid to stand up to two Muslim leaders. Perhaps both are true.

In his pettiness, Obama has once again lost perspective on what really matters. What could have been a useful opportunity to present a unified front against Iran’s nuclear ambitions has now descended into a spectacle of pointless drama not terribly dissimilar from a meeting of the Arab League. In his decision to indulge Middle East leaders in their obsessive desire to castigate Israel, Obama has once again shown his utter lack of interest in confronting the real threat to America’s national security.

There is an obvious reason why the Israeli prime minister canceled his attendance at President Obama’s nuclear security summit: he sought to avoid a combined Egyptian and Turkish attack on Israel’s nuclear program.

But there is an important follow-up question that is of far greater consequence: why do Egypt and Turkey, both American allies, feel at liberty to show up in Washington D.C. at a conference organized by the U.S. president and dump on one of America’s closest allies?

This latest incident is not really about Israel’s relations with Egypt and Turkey; both countries can be counted on to take cheap shots at Israel whenever they can, especially the increasingly Islamist Turkey. The critical issue is why they believed they had a green light to engage in such theatrics. Upon hearing of the ambush they were planning, Obama or Clinton could have sent a very clear message to the Turkish prime minister and the Egyptian dictator: “You either come to Washington and behave yourselves, or stay home. This is a respectable conference, not a platform for anti-Israel grandstanding.”

But clearly, Obama made no such call, and clearly he did not instruct the secretary of state to deliver a 43-minute tongue-lashing to the leaders of either country, as she has recently shown herself capable of doing. There are two possible explanations, and I’m not sure which is more disturbing. Obama either welcomed the prospect of another humiliation of Netanyahu, or he was afraid to stand up to two Muslim leaders. Perhaps both are true.

In his pettiness, Obama has once again lost perspective on what really matters. What could have been a useful opportunity to present a unified front against Iran’s nuclear ambitions has now descended into a spectacle of pointless drama not terribly dissimilar from a meeting of the Arab League. In his decision to indulge Middle East leaders in their obsessive desire to castigate Israel, Obama has once again shown his utter lack of interest in confronting the real threat to America’s national security.

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The AIPAC Crowd

AIPAC’s annual conference got under way today in Washington D.C. The crowd was, in contrast to past years, more on edge, more distressed, and, frankly, more anti-administration. The conference comes after an eye-opening (for some) clash between the Obami and the Israeli government. In the talk in the halls, the questions at the panels, and the crowd reaction to speakers’ remarks, one senses that these people have had quite enough of the Obami’s approach to Israel.

I spoke to a rabbi of a New Jersey Conservative synagogue and a group of his congregants. They had 65 attendees before the Obami’s war of words. That number went up to 76. What was their reaction to the Obami offensive? “Disappointed,” responded several in the group. One congregant said, “This is going to have to blow over. Everyone understands East Jerusalem is not negotiable.” I asked, “You think the administration does?” He replied, “This is just to show the Arabs how tough he is.” I asked if they were concerned about the administration’s approach on Iran. “This has all been a step backward,” another answered. “The blowup is to distract attention from the fact we’ve done nothing on Iran.” And how will they greet Hillary Clinton on Monday? The rabbi said with great deliberations: “With respect.” Another added, “She’s not getting a standing ovation.”

A woman from Atlanta, a first-time attendee, says she votes Democratic. She was obviously pained over the recent flap. “Why is Israel the only one we tell what to do?” Her group’s attendance set an all-time high of 120. (Overall, the conference has a record 7,500.)

An elderly couple from Florida were agitated by recent events. The wife explained she that had fled Nazi Germany as a child for Shanghai. “There are parallels,” she said. “This is depressing. It’s scary.”  She said that she had argued with her liberal friends during the campaign about Obama’s associations with anti-Israel figures. “My mother always said where there is smoke, there is fire,” she explained, then added wearily, “They didn’t listen.” She bemoaned the fact that Jews’ political activities are fragmented on issues like global warming. “There are plenty of people to do that,” she said. “Where are they on Israel?”

That’s just a sampling, but it gives you a sense of the angst. This is not a crowd that is celebrating. They are worried. Very worried.

AIPAC’s annual conference got under way today in Washington D.C. The crowd was, in contrast to past years, more on edge, more distressed, and, frankly, more anti-administration. The conference comes after an eye-opening (for some) clash between the Obami and the Israeli government. In the talk in the halls, the questions at the panels, and the crowd reaction to speakers’ remarks, one senses that these people have had quite enough of the Obami’s approach to Israel.

I spoke to a rabbi of a New Jersey Conservative synagogue and a group of his congregants. They had 65 attendees before the Obami’s war of words. That number went up to 76. What was their reaction to the Obami offensive? “Disappointed,” responded several in the group. One congregant said, “This is going to have to blow over. Everyone understands East Jerusalem is not negotiable.” I asked, “You think the administration does?” He replied, “This is just to show the Arabs how tough he is.” I asked if they were concerned about the administration’s approach on Iran. “This has all been a step backward,” another answered. “The blowup is to distract attention from the fact we’ve done nothing on Iran.” And how will they greet Hillary Clinton on Monday? The rabbi said with great deliberations: “With respect.” Another added, “She’s not getting a standing ovation.”

A woman from Atlanta, a first-time attendee, says she votes Democratic. She was obviously pained over the recent flap. “Why is Israel the only one we tell what to do?” Her group’s attendance set an all-time high of 120. (Overall, the conference has a record 7,500.)

An elderly couple from Florida were agitated by recent events. The wife explained she that had fled Nazi Germany as a child for Shanghai. “There are parallels,” she said. “This is depressing. It’s scary.”  She said that she had argued with her liberal friends during the campaign about Obama’s associations with anti-Israel figures. “My mother always said where there is smoke, there is fire,” she explained, then added wearily, “They didn’t listen.” She bemoaned the fact that Jews’ political activities are fragmented on issues like global warming. “There are plenty of people to do that,” she said. “Where are they on Israel?”

That’s just a sampling, but it gives you a sense of the angst. This is not a crowd that is celebrating. They are worried. Very worried.

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Brown Ripples

Scott Brown is heading for the Senate. There are obvious consequences and some immediate beneficiaries and victims. The president, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and anyone who voted to support the ultra-leftist agenda are scrambling. The tea party protesters, the candidates with populist appeal (e.g., Marco Rubio), and those opposing ObamaCare are the most immediate winners. But the ripples of the Massachusetts Miracle extend further than that.

For starters, will another liberal Supreme Court justice retire this year now that there’s no longer a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority? Maybe Justice Stevens has had enough and will hang it up, even without the assurance that a sufficiently liberal replacement can be confirmed. Or perhaps he sticks it out. And should he or another Supreme Court justice leave the Court, Obama may find his choices circumscribed. An ultra-liberal or an underqualified but politically helpful selection (e.g., a demographically desirable “wise” judge) may not be able to secure the needed votes. Obama may actually have to find an eminently qualified, non-extremist for the Court.

Then there’s the impact on the 2012 presidential contenders. Recall 1992, when few Democrats entered the field, imagining that George H.W. Bush would be unstoppable. The 2012 race may be the reverse — the field will fill up with those who imagine that this is the year for a Republican victory. I expect to see a long list of viable and semi-viable candidates lining up to take their shot at Obama. What have they got to lose?

And get ready for the media to descend on tea party protesters and conservative activists like anthropologists airlifted to a remote Pacific island. What motivates these people? Who are they? As others have noted, the press is suddenly a whole lot more respectful of those who organize, express political views, draw new voters into politics, and articulate a coherent small-government philosophy. Next thing you know, they might investigate a populist rock star who sold a lot of books and has a million and a half Facebook readers.

Finally, get ready for head-spinning hypocrisy and a spate of copy-cat candidates. Scott Brown had a truck? Other candidates will too! Brown, Bob McDonnell, and Chris Christie ran against Washington D.C. — so will lawmakers who’ve been there for years. The spin doctors and political hacks will descend and tell their clients that it’s this or that finely tuned message or a particular social network that’s the key to victory. Remember that stunningly great Scott Brown ad on taxes? I bet it’ll come back. What the hacks forget is that substance matters, and voters readily discern when someone is a conviction candidate or a fraud.

We’ve run out of adjectives to describe the Brown victory. (Epic? Historic? Earth-shaking?) But whatever we call it, we’ll see its impact for months and perhaps years to come. What we still don’t know is exactly how it will affect the political landscape and how far into the future the Brown political ripples will extend.

Scott Brown is heading for the Senate. There are obvious consequences and some immediate beneficiaries and victims. The president, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and anyone who voted to support the ultra-leftist agenda are scrambling. The tea party protesters, the candidates with populist appeal (e.g., Marco Rubio), and those opposing ObamaCare are the most immediate winners. But the ripples of the Massachusetts Miracle extend further than that.

For starters, will another liberal Supreme Court justice retire this year now that there’s no longer a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority? Maybe Justice Stevens has had enough and will hang it up, even without the assurance that a sufficiently liberal replacement can be confirmed. Or perhaps he sticks it out. And should he or another Supreme Court justice leave the Court, Obama may find his choices circumscribed. An ultra-liberal or an underqualified but politically helpful selection (e.g., a demographically desirable “wise” judge) may not be able to secure the needed votes. Obama may actually have to find an eminently qualified, non-extremist for the Court.

Then there’s the impact on the 2012 presidential contenders. Recall 1992, when few Democrats entered the field, imagining that George H.W. Bush would be unstoppable. The 2012 race may be the reverse — the field will fill up with those who imagine that this is the year for a Republican victory. I expect to see a long list of viable and semi-viable candidates lining up to take their shot at Obama. What have they got to lose?

And get ready for the media to descend on tea party protesters and conservative activists like anthropologists airlifted to a remote Pacific island. What motivates these people? Who are they? As others have noted, the press is suddenly a whole lot more respectful of those who organize, express political views, draw new voters into politics, and articulate a coherent small-government philosophy. Next thing you know, they might investigate a populist rock star who sold a lot of books and has a million and a half Facebook readers.

Finally, get ready for head-spinning hypocrisy and a spate of copy-cat candidates. Scott Brown had a truck? Other candidates will too! Brown, Bob McDonnell, and Chris Christie ran against Washington D.C. — so will lawmakers who’ve been there for years. The spin doctors and political hacks will descend and tell their clients that it’s this or that finely tuned message or a particular social network that’s the key to victory. Remember that stunningly great Scott Brown ad on taxes? I bet it’ll come back. What the hacks forget is that substance matters, and voters readily discern when someone is a conviction candidate or a fraud.

We’ve run out of adjectives to describe the Brown victory. (Epic? Historic? Earth-shaking?) But whatever we call it, we’ll see its impact for months and perhaps years to come. What we still don’t know is exactly how it will affect the political landscape and how far into the future the Brown political ripples will extend.

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Fresh Faces

When a party loses a presidential election and suffers a wipeout in the Senate and the House, as the GOP did in 2008, there is, in addition to concerns about ideology, demographics, and message, a concern about where the next round of political talent will come from. But this is the most easily solved of a losing party’s dilemmas. After John Kerry lost in 2004, there was a Barack Obama. And after 2008, there are now lots and lots of viable, fresh Republican faces.

Matt Continetti spotted what I did last night — a new political rock star in Scott Brown. But he’s also right that “Brown is not alone. Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie are both fresh, likable conservatives who ran reform campaigns aimed at independent voters. In Florida, Marco Rubio is moving steadily toward victory while campaigning on similar themes. Who knows what talents will emerge in the years ahead.” The benefit of a wipeout loss is that old faces are swept from the scene and there’s room for the next generation of talent to emerge.

All these candidates — Brown, McDonnell, Christie, and Rubio defied the pundits who urged the Republicans to deploy a mushy centrism. Each of them ran conservative-themed campaigns aimed directly at the Democrats’ excesses. Nor do these figures seem bedeviled by some mythical “civil war” in conservative ranks. They’ve gathered support from Republican-establishment types and Tea Party protesters — not to mention a chunk of disaffected independent voters. None is tainted by a Washington D.C. connection (one was a U.S. attorney, the others were all state office holders). And they all have solid retail political skills and a good TV presence.

Once again, the pundits were proved wrong. There is no shortage of conservative talent out there. What those conservative up-and-comers needed was an opening to emerge on the national stage. They all found that opening a mere year into the era of the “permanent Democratic majority” — which, like so much else the chattering class has concocted, seems like a very silly notion now.

When a party loses a presidential election and suffers a wipeout in the Senate and the House, as the GOP did in 2008, there is, in addition to concerns about ideology, demographics, and message, a concern about where the next round of political talent will come from. But this is the most easily solved of a losing party’s dilemmas. After John Kerry lost in 2004, there was a Barack Obama. And after 2008, there are now lots and lots of viable, fresh Republican faces.

Matt Continetti spotted what I did last night — a new political rock star in Scott Brown. But he’s also right that “Brown is not alone. Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie are both fresh, likable conservatives who ran reform campaigns aimed at independent voters. In Florida, Marco Rubio is moving steadily toward victory while campaigning on similar themes. Who knows what talents will emerge in the years ahead.” The benefit of a wipeout loss is that old faces are swept from the scene and there’s room for the next generation of talent to emerge.

All these candidates — Brown, McDonnell, Christie, and Rubio defied the pundits who urged the Republicans to deploy a mushy centrism. Each of them ran conservative-themed campaigns aimed directly at the Democrats’ excesses. Nor do these figures seem bedeviled by some mythical “civil war” in conservative ranks. They’ve gathered support from Republican-establishment types and Tea Party protesters — not to mention a chunk of disaffected independent voters. None is tainted by a Washington D.C. connection (one was a U.S. attorney, the others were all state office holders). And they all have solid retail political skills and a good TV presence.

Once again, the pundits were proved wrong. There is no shortage of conservative talent out there. What those conservative up-and-comers needed was an opening to emerge on the national stage. They all found that opening a mere year into the era of the “permanent Democratic majority” — which, like so much else the chattering class has concocted, seems like a very silly notion now.

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Brown on Terrorism

We remarked last night that the Christmas Day bombing and the Massachusetts candidates’ differing reactions may have been more telling than political observers imagined. The Scott Brown campaign agrees, as Andy McCarthy notes:

It was national security that put real distance between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley. “People talk about the potency of the health-care issue,” Brown’s top strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, told National Review’s Robert Costa, “but from our own internal polling, the more potent issue here in Massachusetts was terrorism and the treatment of enemy combatants.” There is a powerful lesson here for Republicans, and here’s hoping they learn it.

Brown’s remarks on national security last night picked up where the campaign left off. They were noteworthy:

And let me say this, with respect to those who wish to harm us, I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation — they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.

Now that’s a message, stated simply and matter of factly, which I suspect will resonate strongly with the public in 2010, unless the Obami get off their “not Bush” anti-terrorism approach. Perhaps the Obami will retreat on giving KSM a civilian trial. Maybe they’ll decide to utilize military commissions to try terrorists. But if not, and if KSM’s trial (at the cost of at least $200M per year) moves ahead, expect it to become yet another issue that Republicans will utilize to great advantage. It’s precisely the sort of “What could they be thinking inside the Beltway?” issue that will appeal to both Republicans and independents, as well as many Democrats who can’t figure out why we’d pay hundreds of millions of dollars to provide a publicity platform to those who want nothing more than to recruit more followers to the cause of murdering Americans.

It’s not simply a national security argument, as Brown pointed out, but a financial one too. And most important, it highlights the populist message Brown rode to victory: the ultra-leftists running Washington D.C. are out of touch with ordinary Americans. Obama likes to say he’s defending “our values” when he declares his intention to close Guantanamo, cease enhanced interrogations, and give terrorists the same constitutional rights as common criminals. Brown argued that Obama has it backward. Our values and our Constitution require no such accommodation to butchers; they require we use all reasonable methods at our disposal to defend American lives and destroy the enemy. Brown’s position has the advantage of being right on the merits, and both right and potent on the politics.

We remarked last night that the Christmas Day bombing and the Massachusetts candidates’ differing reactions may have been more telling than political observers imagined. The Scott Brown campaign agrees, as Andy McCarthy notes:

It was national security that put real distance between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley. “People talk about the potency of the health-care issue,” Brown’s top strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, told National Review’s Robert Costa, “but from our own internal polling, the more potent issue here in Massachusetts was terrorism and the treatment of enemy combatants.” There is a powerful lesson here for Republicans, and here’s hoping they learn it.

Brown’s remarks on national security last night picked up where the campaign left off. They were noteworthy:

And let me say this, with respect to those who wish to harm us, I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation — they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.

Now that’s a message, stated simply and matter of factly, which I suspect will resonate strongly with the public in 2010, unless the Obami get off their “not Bush” anti-terrorism approach. Perhaps the Obami will retreat on giving KSM a civilian trial. Maybe they’ll decide to utilize military commissions to try terrorists. But if not, and if KSM’s trial (at the cost of at least $200M per year) moves ahead, expect it to become yet another issue that Republicans will utilize to great advantage. It’s precisely the sort of “What could they be thinking inside the Beltway?” issue that will appeal to both Republicans and independents, as well as many Democrats who can’t figure out why we’d pay hundreds of millions of dollars to provide a publicity platform to those who want nothing more than to recruit more followers to the cause of murdering Americans.

It’s not simply a national security argument, as Brown pointed out, but a financial one too. And most important, it highlights the populist message Brown rode to victory: the ultra-leftists running Washington D.C. are out of touch with ordinary Americans. Obama likes to say he’s defending “our values” when he declares his intention to close Guantanamo, cease enhanced interrogations, and give terrorists the same constitutional rights as common criminals. Brown argued that Obama has it backward. Our values and our Constitution require no such accommodation to butchers; they require we use all reasonable methods at our disposal to defend American lives and destroy the enemy. Brown’s position has the advantage of being right on the merits, and both right and potent on the politics.

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Toss Up, It Is

Stuart Rothenberg tells us:

Democratic desperation and other compelling evidence strongly suggest that Democrats may well lose the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat in Tuesday’s special election. Because of this, we are moving our rating of the race from Narrow Advantage for the Incumbent Party to Toss-Up.

The Democrats, belatedly wise to the very real chance they’ll lose what should have been a slam-dunk seat for them, are flooding the airwaves with negative ads. (Creigh Deeds did the same thing in Virginia, which only served to confirm that he had no message of his own.) Rothenberg is skeptical that this will work:

Late Democratic efforts to demonize Republican Scott Brown, to make the race into a partisan battle and to use the Kennedy name to drive Democratic voters to the polls could still work. But the advertising clutter in the race works against them, and voters often tune out late messages, which can seem desperate.

What several weeks ago seemed like a conservative pipe dream — a Republican win in Massachusetts — is now a real possibility. And if it should come about, prepare for a tsunami to hit Washington D.C. The realization will surely sink in for each incumbent Democrat: if the Massachusetts’ Senate seat isn’t safe, then neither is theirs. And those who want to vote for ObamaCare and the rest of the Left-leaning agenda had better consider the political consequences.

Stuart Rothenberg tells us:

Democratic desperation and other compelling evidence strongly suggest that Democrats may well lose the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat in Tuesday’s special election. Because of this, we are moving our rating of the race from Narrow Advantage for the Incumbent Party to Toss-Up.

The Democrats, belatedly wise to the very real chance they’ll lose what should have been a slam-dunk seat for them, are flooding the airwaves with negative ads. (Creigh Deeds did the same thing in Virginia, which only served to confirm that he had no message of his own.) Rothenberg is skeptical that this will work:

Late Democratic efforts to demonize Republican Scott Brown, to make the race into a partisan battle and to use the Kennedy name to drive Democratic voters to the polls could still work. But the advertising clutter in the race works against them, and voters often tune out late messages, which can seem desperate.

What several weeks ago seemed like a conservative pipe dream — a Republican win in Massachusetts — is now a real possibility. And if it should come about, prepare for a tsunami to hit Washington D.C. The realization will surely sink in for each incumbent Democrat: if the Massachusetts’ Senate seat isn’t safe, then neither is theirs. And those who want to vote for ObamaCare and the rest of the Left-leaning agenda had better consider the political consequences.

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Was the Assassination Ban Covertly Repealed?

In 1981, Ronald Reagan promulgated Executive Order 12333, which, among other provisions, declared that “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

As I noted in the Weekly Standard last July, President Bush has the power to revoke it or modify it or supplant it by issuing a new executive order. Under certain circumstances, like an attack or an impending attack on the United States, such an amendment or new order need not be published in the Federal Register. It is possible, in other words, that Bush might already have qualified the ban in some instances and not let us or our adversaries know.

I have no idea if Bush has fiddled with the executive order after September 11. I do know that some of our adversaries are continuing not to play by Marquess of Queensberry rules.

Iran has been directing assassination operations in Iraq using trained snipers, in some cases killing Iraqi officials opposed to Iran, according to an officer who has recently served as a senior adviser to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

The officer in question is Army Col. H.R. McMaster, who spoke yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C.

Iran’s activities are “obvious to anyone who bothers to look into it,” and should no longer be “alleged,” he said in response to a question. Senior American military officials said last month that the U.S. military in Iraq has compiled a briefing with detailed evidence of Iran’s involvement in Iraq violence, but the briefing has yet to be made public.

Should the United States respond by assassinating the assassins and/or the taskmasters of the assassins? Or is that still against the rules?

In 1981, Ronald Reagan promulgated Executive Order 12333, which, among other provisions, declared that “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

As I noted in the Weekly Standard last July, President Bush has the power to revoke it or modify it or supplant it by issuing a new executive order. Under certain circumstances, like an attack or an impending attack on the United States, such an amendment or new order need not be published in the Federal Register. It is possible, in other words, that Bush might already have qualified the ban in some instances and not let us or our adversaries know.

I have no idea if Bush has fiddled with the executive order after September 11. I do know that some of our adversaries are continuing not to play by Marquess of Queensberry rules.

Iran has been directing assassination operations in Iraq using trained snipers, in some cases killing Iraqi officials opposed to Iran, according to an officer who has recently served as a senior adviser to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

The officer in question is Army Col. H.R. McMaster, who spoke yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C.

Iran’s activities are “obvious to anyone who bothers to look into it,” and should no longer be “alleged,” he said in response to a question. Senior American military officials said last month that the U.S. military in Iraq has compiled a briefing with detailed evidence of Iran’s involvement in Iraq violence, but the briefing has yet to be made public.

Should the United States respond by assassinating the assassins and/or the taskmasters of the assassins? Or is that still against the rules?

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Be Afraid

The November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate declared flatly in the opening sentence of its key judgments that “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” This categorical statement was accompanied by a footnote which stated that it was excluding from its appraisal “Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.” That was misleading right off the bat because Iran’s civil uranium program is an indispensable part of its nuclear-weapons effort. This “civilian” program continues apace.

But what about the covert military side of the Iranian program itself? Did it really come to a halt in 2003 as the NIE states with “high confidence”? Back in February, reports came to light that an laptop with extensive information on Iran’s covert nuclear program had fallen into the hands of U.S. intelligence in 2004. Comprehensive and alarming stories about what was contained in the laptop appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

The deputy director general of safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency briefed member states, including Iran, about the contents of the laptop in February. The briefing notes have now been posted online by the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington D.C.

The IAEA official describes, among other things, instructions on how to communicate  within the Iranian program using only first names and the “timing of firing devices-leading to an explosion at an altitude of about 600 meters.” The IAEA’s evaluation of Iran’s “Tests of High Power Explosives” is unambiguous:  

The high-tension firing systems and multiple EBW detonators fired simultaneously are key components of nuclear weapons.

There are a limited number of non-nuclear applications (high performance technique for exploratory drilling).

The elements available to the Agency are not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon.

The Agency does not have sufficient information at this stage to conclude whether the allegations are groundless or the data fabricated

Some U.S. officials initially believed the documents contained in the laptop might have been an elaborate forgery. But a consensus has emerged among Western intelligence agencies that they are in fact authentic. The documents do not indicate whether the covert nuclear program actually came to a halt in 2003 as U.S. intelligence has concluded. Nonetheless, the scale and scope of what Iran was doing up until that point is staggering. The IAEA document is essential reading.

The November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate declared flatly in the opening sentence of its key judgments that “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” This categorical statement was accompanied by a footnote which stated that it was excluding from its appraisal “Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.” That was misleading right off the bat because Iran’s civil uranium program is an indispensable part of its nuclear-weapons effort. This “civilian” program continues apace.

But what about the covert military side of the Iranian program itself? Did it really come to a halt in 2003 as the NIE states with “high confidence”? Back in February, reports came to light that an laptop with extensive information on Iran’s covert nuclear program had fallen into the hands of U.S. intelligence in 2004. Comprehensive and alarming stories about what was contained in the laptop appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

The deputy director general of safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency briefed member states, including Iran, about the contents of the laptop in February. The briefing notes have now been posted online by the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington D.C.

The IAEA official describes, among other things, instructions on how to communicate  within the Iranian program using only first names and the “timing of firing devices-leading to an explosion at an altitude of about 600 meters.” The IAEA’s evaluation of Iran’s “Tests of High Power Explosives” is unambiguous:  

The high-tension firing systems and multiple EBW detonators fired simultaneously are key components of nuclear weapons.

There are a limited number of non-nuclear applications (high performance technique for exploratory drilling).

The elements available to the Agency are not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon.

The Agency does not have sufficient information at this stage to conclude whether the allegations are groundless or the data fabricated

Some U.S. officials initially believed the documents contained in the laptop might have been an elaborate forgery. But a consensus has emerged among Western intelligence agencies that they are in fact authentic. The documents do not indicate whether the covert nuclear program actually came to a halt in 2003 as U.S. intelligence has concluded. Nonetheless, the scale and scope of what Iran was doing up until that point is staggering. The IAEA document is essential reading.

Read Less




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