Commentary Magazine


Topic: Washington Post

Activists Find It’s Easier to Slur Peter King than to Look in the Mirror

Ever since Rep. Peter King announced his plans to hold hearings on the influence of radical Islam on the rise of homegrown terrorism in this country, he has been subjected to a furious backlash from groups purporting to represent American Muslims and their cheerleaders in the media. In today’s Washington Post, his critics take the fight to his home ground in the form of a profile of a Long Island mosque that is represented as a peaceful congregation of perplexed King constituents who don’t know why their congressman is doing them harm.

But while the intent of the article seems to be to cast aspersions on King’s hearings, the result is not entirely flattering to the supposedly “moderate” Muslims who are angry with him. As it turns out, King was a supporter of the Westbury, N.Y., mosque and once received an award from it for his advocacy on behalf of U.S. intervention to save Bosnian Muslims. But the love affair between King and the Islamic Center of Long Island ended when leaders of the mosque reacted to the 9/11 atrocities by denying that Muslims took part in the crime, instead blaming it on Israel. In other words, far from being a source of genuine moderation, this mosque was just another venue for the anti-Zionist and anti-American conspiracy theories and hatred that are the bedrock of Islamist ideology that fuels homegrown terrorism.

King has now become the target of false charges of Islamophobia and McCarthyism, but rather than stirring up hate against Islam, what he has done is to challenge American Muslims to stand up and participate in the fight against terror. Instead, groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, which are lauded as representing “mainstream” Islam, are actually urging their members not to cooperate with federal terror probes. This is a development that proves King’s point about the need to highlight the ideological support that terrorists and their fellow travelers and apologists are getting from mosques and Muslim groups.

Instead of working hard to reinforce the myth that Muslims are being subjected to a post-9/11 discriminatory backlash, King’s Muslim critics should be devoting their energies to creating an American Islam that is hostile to Islamism and supportive of government efforts to fight it. King rightly describes arguments put forward to spike his hearings as “politically correct nonsense,” but the problem goes deeper than just an aversion to hurting the feelings of certain groups. At the heart of this fight is a false narrative of both how followers of Islam have been treated since 9/11 and the way in which American Muslim institutions have been compromised by Islamist tendencies. Unless and until the truth about both subjects is fully aired, it is Rep. King and not the troubling way mosques have been used to rationalize and support terror that will continue to be the subject of press scrutiny.

Ever since Rep. Peter King announced his plans to hold hearings on the influence of radical Islam on the rise of homegrown terrorism in this country, he has been subjected to a furious backlash from groups purporting to represent American Muslims and their cheerleaders in the media. In today’s Washington Post, his critics take the fight to his home ground in the form of a profile of a Long Island mosque that is represented as a peaceful congregation of perplexed King constituents who don’t know why their congressman is doing them harm.

But while the intent of the article seems to be to cast aspersions on King’s hearings, the result is not entirely flattering to the supposedly “moderate” Muslims who are angry with him. As it turns out, King was a supporter of the Westbury, N.Y., mosque and once received an award from it for his advocacy on behalf of U.S. intervention to save Bosnian Muslims. But the love affair between King and the Islamic Center of Long Island ended when leaders of the mosque reacted to the 9/11 atrocities by denying that Muslims took part in the crime, instead blaming it on Israel. In other words, far from being a source of genuine moderation, this mosque was just another venue for the anti-Zionist and anti-American conspiracy theories and hatred that are the bedrock of Islamist ideology that fuels homegrown terrorism.

King has now become the target of false charges of Islamophobia and McCarthyism, but rather than stirring up hate against Islam, what he has done is to challenge American Muslims to stand up and participate in the fight against terror. Instead, groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, which are lauded as representing “mainstream” Islam, are actually urging their members not to cooperate with federal terror probes. This is a development that proves King’s point about the need to highlight the ideological support that terrorists and their fellow travelers and apologists are getting from mosques and Muslim groups.

Instead of working hard to reinforce the myth that Muslims are being subjected to a post-9/11 discriminatory backlash, King’s Muslim critics should be devoting their energies to creating an American Islam that is hostile to Islamism and supportive of government efforts to fight it. King rightly describes arguments put forward to spike his hearings as “politically correct nonsense,” but the problem goes deeper than just an aversion to hurting the feelings of certain groups. At the heart of this fight is a false narrative of both how followers of Islam have been treated since 9/11 and the way in which American Muslim institutions have been compromised by Islamist tendencies. Unless and until the truth about both subjects is fully aired, it is Rep. King and not the troubling way mosques have been used to rationalize and support terror that will continue to be the subject of press scrutiny.

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The Health-Care Bill: A Millstone Around the President’s Neck

While President Obama’s overall standing with the public is increasing, his standing on health care is not.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, by a margin of 48-43 percent, the public wants Congress to repeal his health-care overhaul.

According to Quinnipiac’s analysis, the key to the public support for repealing the new health-care law is among independent voters. They want it taken off the books by a margin of 54 percent v. 37 percent. (Republicans favor repeal by a margin of 83 percent vs. 12 percent, while Democrats support the health-care reform 76 percent vs. 16 percent.)

“The Republicans pushing repeal of the health care law have more American people on their side. They may not have the votes in the Senate, but they have many on Main Street,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “While President Obama’s poll rating has improved in recent weeks, the coalition against his health care plan remains and is quite similar to the one that existed when his numbers were at their nadir.”

According to a Resurgent Republic poll, a plurality of registered voters (49 to 44 percent) supports Republican plans to repeal and replace the health-care reform bill, including a majority of independents (54 to 36 percent support). While overall intensity is balanced (37 percent strongly support and 34 percent strongly oppose), independents are more intense in their preference for repeal (39 percent strongly support and 24 percent strongly oppose).

And the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that public approval of the president’s handling of health care is 43 percent, while the percentage of people who say they trust Obama rather than the Republicans on health care stands at 42 percent — nine points lower than it was only a month ago.

“This is the first Post-ABC poll in which Obama has not led the GOP on health-care reform,” according to the Post story.

What these polls show is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remains a political millstone around the neck of Democrats. Republicans are right to push for its repeal, on both substantive and policy grounds. In the unfolding entitlement debate, ObamaCare should be front and center. Conservative lawmakers should make a very simply argument: if President Obama is serious about getting America’s fiscal house in order, he needs to repeal last year’s health-care bill and start over again. It’s a budget buster, as this op-ed makes clear. Until Obama himself admits as much, until he undoes the enormous damage of his own making, his credibility on fiscal matters is shattered beyond repair.

While President Obama’s overall standing with the public is increasing, his standing on health care is not.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, by a margin of 48-43 percent, the public wants Congress to repeal his health-care overhaul.

According to Quinnipiac’s analysis, the key to the public support for repealing the new health-care law is among independent voters. They want it taken off the books by a margin of 54 percent v. 37 percent. (Republicans favor repeal by a margin of 83 percent vs. 12 percent, while Democrats support the health-care reform 76 percent vs. 16 percent.)

“The Republicans pushing repeal of the health care law have more American people on their side. They may not have the votes in the Senate, but they have many on Main Street,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “While President Obama’s poll rating has improved in recent weeks, the coalition against his health care plan remains and is quite similar to the one that existed when his numbers were at their nadir.”

According to a Resurgent Republic poll, a plurality of registered voters (49 to 44 percent) supports Republican plans to repeal and replace the health-care reform bill, including a majority of independents (54 to 36 percent support). While overall intensity is balanced (37 percent strongly support and 34 percent strongly oppose), independents are more intense in their preference for repeal (39 percent strongly support and 24 percent strongly oppose).

And the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that public approval of the president’s handling of health care is 43 percent, while the percentage of people who say they trust Obama rather than the Republicans on health care stands at 42 percent — nine points lower than it was only a month ago.

“This is the first Post-ABC poll in which Obama has not led the GOP on health-care reform,” according to the Post story.

What these polls show is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remains a political millstone around the neck of Democrats. Republicans are right to push for its repeal, on both substantive and policy grounds. In the unfolding entitlement debate, ObamaCare should be front and center. Conservative lawmakers should make a very simply argument: if President Obama is serious about getting America’s fiscal house in order, he needs to repeal last year’s health-care bill and start over again. It’s a budget buster, as this op-ed makes clear. Until Obama himself admits as much, until he undoes the enormous damage of his own making, his credibility on fiscal matters is shattered beyond repair.

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Of Loughner and Philip K. Dick and Me

A few days ago, I speculated that, based on some things said about him by high-school friends, Jared Loughner was more likely to have been influenced by the world view of the brilliant but schizophrenic science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick than he would have been by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. For this observation, a writer at the Atlantic said my theory was one of the five strangest suggested about Loughner, along with David Frum’s speculation that marijuana might have had something to do with his behavior.

Well, shut my mouth. Except that, in a long Washington Post story about Loughner’s descent into fantasy, there appears this passage:

Loughner’s favorite writer was Philip K. Dick, whose science-fiction tales travel a mystical path in which omnipotent governments and businesses are the bad guys and the average man is often lost in an identity-shattering swirl of paranoia, schizophrenia and questions about whether the universe and the individual are real or part of some vast conspiracy.

The point I was making is not that readers of Philip K. Dick, of whom there are many millions, are going to go out and shoot people. It’s that people who live in a disordered reality would be especially susceptible to a portrait of the world that suggests disordered realities are real and actual realities are false. That this notion seemed less plausible to many than that Loughner was driven to a murder spree by talk radio says a great deal about the reality distortions that grabbed hold of the minds of eager liberals over the past six days.

A few days ago, I speculated that, based on some things said about him by high-school friends, Jared Loughner was more likely to have been influenced by the world view of the brilliant but schizophrenic science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick than he would have been by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. For this observation, a writer at the Atlantic said my theory was one of the five strangest suggested about Loughner, along with David Frum’s speculation that marijuana might have had something to do with his behavior.

Well, shut my mouth. Except that, in a long Washington Post story about Loughner’s descent into fantasy, there appears this passage:

Loughner’s favorite writer was Philip K. Dick, whose science-fiction tales travel a mystical path in which omnipotent governments and businesses are the bad guys and the average man is often lost in an identity-shattering swirl of paranoia, schizophrenia and questions about whether the universe and the individual are real or part of some vast conspiracy.

The point I was making is not that readers of Philip K. Dick, of whom there are many millions, are going to go out and shoot people. It’s that people who live in a disordered reality would be especially susceptible to a portrait of the world that suggests disordered realities are real and actual realities are false. That this notion seemed less plausible to many than that Loughner was driven to a murder spree by talk radio says a great deal about the reality distortions that grabbed hold of the minds of eager liberals over the past six days.

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Bringing Afghans Over to the Coalition Side, One Tribe at a Time

There has been much loose talk about the possibility of reaching a high-level peace deal with the Taliban. No such effort is likely to succeed, at least not in the short run, because the Taliban do not yet feel defeated. In any case, high-level Taliban leaders, safely ensconced in Pakistan, have no incentive to give up a fight in which their foot soldiers are suffering while they enjoy shelter and subsidies from the Pakistani regime. But lower-level deals to bring tribes over to the side of the coalition are likely to prove more fruitful — just as they did in Iraq.

The Marines have just announced one such deal in Sangin, the most kinetic district in all of Afghanistan. The Marines have lost 29 men since taking over this district in Helmand Province this past summer; Britain lost some 100 troops there in prior years. Now the governor of Helmand has reached an agreement with the Alikozai, one of the main tribes in the area, to stop attacking the coalition forces and the government of Afghanistan in return for development assistance, permission to form their own security forces, and the release of an Alikozai prisoner.

As this Washington Post account by ace war correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran makes clear, this deal is the result of the Marines’ aggressive actions and also their willingness to seize political opportunities. A prior attempt by the Alikozai to reach out to the British in 2007 was rebuffed, and the Alikozai went back to fighting with the Taliban.

The dynamics changed [Chandrasekaran writes] when the Marines replaced British forces in summer 2010. They increased the tempo of offensive operations and struck back harder at the all of the insurgents, including the Alikozai. In mid-October, a Marine reconnaissance battalion swooped into the Alikozai area and conducted a blistering barrage of attacks that commanders estimate killed more than 250 insurgents.

“That convinced the elders,” said one senior Marine officer involved in the operation. “They began to see the handwriting on the wall.”

This is how counterinsurgency is supposed to work. By applying pressure on the insurgents and safeguarding the local population, a security force can change the dynamics on the ground and convince opportunists — who always make up the majority of any population — that their long-term interests lay in allying with, rather than resisting, the government. Economic aid can sweeten the deal, but what is going to make the most difference is a change in the security situation, which is what the Marines have been accomplishing by dint of hard and costly combat.

One should not make too much out of this arrangement, which may yet collapse — as have other tribal deals in Afghanistan. It may also be the case that the tribes in Afghanistan are now so weak, after decades of warfare and migration, that they do not have the power to effectively resist the Taliban. But this could also be the start of something big, possibly even a “Helmand Awakening” that will wrest this province out of insurgent hands, just as Anbar Province was wrested out of insurgent hands in 2006-2007.

There has been much loose talk about the possibility of reaching a high-level peace deal with the Taliban. No such effort is likely to succeed, at least not in the short run, because the Taliban do not yet feel defeated. In any case, high-level Taliban leaders, safely ensconced in Pakistan, have no incentive to give up a fight in which their foot soldiers are suffering while they enjoy shelter and subsidies from the Pakistani regime. But lower-level deals to bring tribes over to the side of the coalition are likely to prove more fruitful — just as they did in Iraq.

The Marines have just announced one such deal in Sangin, the most kinetic district in all of Afghanistan. The Marines have lost 29 men since taking over this district in Helmand Province this past summer; Britain lost some 100 troops there in prior years. Now the governor of Helmand has reached an agreement with the Alikozai, one of the main tribes in the area, to stop attacking the coalition forces and the government of Afghanistan in return for development assistance, permission to form their own security forces, and the release of an Alikozai prisoner.

As this Washington Post account by ace war correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran makes clear, this deal is the result of the Marines’ aggressive actions and also their willingness to seize political opportunities. A prior attempt by the Alikozai to reach out to the British in 2007 was rebuffed, and the Alikozai went back to fighting with the Taliban.

The dynamics changed [Chandrasekaran writes] when the Marines replaced British forces in summer 2010. They increased the tempo of offensive operations and struck back harder at the all of the insurgents, including the Alikozai. In mid-October, a Marine reconnaissance battalion swooped into the Alikozai area and conducted a blistering barrage of attacks that commanders estimate killed more than 250 insurgents.

“That convinced the elders,” said one senior Marine officer involved in the operation. “They began to see the handwriting on the wall.”

This is how counterinsurgency is supposed to work. By applying pressure on the insurgents and safeguarding the local population, a security force can change the dynamics on the ground and convince opportunists — who always make up the majority of any population — that their long-term interests lay in allying with, rather than resisting, the government. Economic aid can sweeten the deal, but what is going to make the most difference is a change in the security situation, which is what the Marines have been accomplishing by dint of hard and costly combat.

One should not make too much out of this arrangement, which may yet collapse — as have other tribal deals in Afghanistan. It may also be the case that the tribes in Afghanistan are now so weak, after decades of warfare and migration, that they do not have the power to effectively resist the Taliban. But this could also be the start of something big, possibly even a “Helmand Awakening” that will wrest this province out of insurgent hands, just as Anbar Province was wrested out of insurgent hands in 2006-2007.

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The Merits of Measured, Judicious, and Precise Language

In an interview with CNN, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was asked about his pre-election comments that President Obama was among the “most corrupt presidents” in modern times. Here’s what he said:

I corrected what I meant to say. … In saying that this is one of the most corrupt administrations, which is what I meant to say there, when you hand out $1 trillion in TARP just before this president came in, most of it unspent, $1 trillion nearly in stimulus that this president asked for, plus this huge expansion in health care and government, it has a corrupting effect. When I look at waste, fraud and abuse in the bureaucracy and in the government, this is like steroids to pump up the muscles of waste.

Criticisms of the president and his policies are certainly warranted. Still, Mr. Issa needs to be careful not to toss around the term “corruption” in a promiscuous manner. Corruption is commonly understood to mean extremely immoral, dishonest, or depraved; susceptible to bribery; crooked, and the like. What Richard Nixon did in Watergate and what Bill Clinton did to cover up his affair with Monica Lewinski was corrupt.

The Obama administration, whatever its errors, has not approached the level of corruption or criminality of either the Nixon or Clinton administration. And citing TARP as key evidence to prove the corruption of the Obama administration is discrediting. (For a good account of the merits of TARP, see this Washington Post editorial.)

If lawmakers hope to increase public confidence in Congress, they need to speak in measured, judicious, and precise ways. They need to resist resorting to incendiary charges. And they can’t let their rhetoric get ahead of the evidence. That was true when George W. Bush was president, and it should be true when Barack Obama is president.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to go after Mr. Obama and his administration. Charging them with being the most liberal administration in our history, or even as among the more pernicious in our lifetime, is, I think, fair. But charging them with being among the most corrupt isn’t.

In an interview with CNN, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was asked about his pre-election comments that President Obama was among the “most corrupt presidents” in modern times. Here’s what he said:

I corrected what I meant to say. … In saying that this is one of the most corrupt administrations, which is what I meant to say there, when you hand out $1 trillion in TARP just before this president came in, most of it unspent, $1 trillion nearly in stimulus that this president asked for, plus this huge expansion in health care and government, it has a corrupting effect. When I look at waste, fraud and abuse in the bureaucracy and in the government, this is like steroids to pump up the muscles of waste.

Criticisms of the president and his policies are certainly warranted. Still, Mr. Issa needs to be careful not to toss around the term “corruption” in a promiscuous manner. Corruption is commonly understood to mean extremely immoral, dishonest, or depraved; susceptible to bribery; crooked, and the like. What Richard Nixon did in Watergate and what Bill Clinton did to cover up his affair with Monica Lewinski was corrupt.

The Obama administration, whatever its errors, has not approached the level of corruption or criminality of either the Nixon or Clinton administration. And citing TARP as key evidence to prove the corruption of the Obama administration is discrediting. (For a good account of the merits of TARP, see this Washington Post editorial.)

If lawmakers hope to increase public confidence in Congress, they need to speak in measured, judicious, and precise ways. They need to resist resorting to incendiary charges. And they can’t let their rhetoric get ahead of the evidence. That was true when George W. Bush was president, and it should be true when Barack Obama is president.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to go after Mr. Obama and his administration. Charging them with being the most liberal administration in our history, or even as among the more pernicious in our lifetime, is, I think, fair. But charging them with being among the most corrupt isn’t.

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Muslim Students, Catholic Universities

An article in today’s Washington Post notes the increase in Muslim students who attend Catholic colleges, including the flagship Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The number is now higher at some Catholic colleges than at secular institutions and poses interesting dilemmas for both the students and schools. What apparently attracts the students in the first place is the religious nature of the campuses, but it makes for some startling images, as the Post photo gallery makes clear.

Students praying to Allah under crucifixes will surely give pause to many people, but the trend may be a positive one. It suggests a bow to the pluralism that increasingly defines America. These Muslim students are not smashing idols but learning to find their own niche among others who do not share their faith but who do share a commitment to religious education.

As one Catholic U Muslim student explains it, “Because it is an overtly religious place, it’s not strange or weird to care about your religion here, to pray and make God a priority,” said Shabnan, a political science major who often covers her head with a pale beige scarf. “They have the same values we do.” Many of these students come from Saudi Arabia and other places in the Muslim world where no such religious tolerance is practiced. But clearly, these particular students are learning that we do things differently in the United States.

An article in today’s Washington Post notes the increase in Muslim students who attend Catholic colleges, including the flagship Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The number is now higher at some Catholic colleges than at secular institutions and poses interesting dilemmas for both the students and schools. What apparently attracts the students in the first place is the religious nature of the campuses, but it makes for some startling images, as the Post photo gallery makes clear.

Students praying to Allah under crucifixes will surely give pause to many people, but the trend may be a positive one. It suggests a bow to the pluralism that increasingly defines America. These Muslim students are not smashing idols but learning to find their own niche among others who do not share their faith but who do share a commitment to religious education.

As one Catholic U Muslim student explains it, “Because it is an overtly religious place, it’s not strange or weird to care about your religion here, to pray and make God a priority,” said Shabnan, a political science major who often covers her head with a pale beige scarf. “They have the same values we do.” Many of these students come from Saudi Arabia and other places in the Muslim world where no such religious tolerance is practiced. But clearly, these particular students are learning that we do things differently in the United States.

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Palin’s Got Bigger Problems Than Charles Krauthammer

Last night on Bill O’Reilly’s show, the FOX News host asked Sarah Palin what she thought about columnist Charles Krauthammer’s observation that the former Alaska governor’s reality TV show, in which she hangs out with fellow TLC network reality star Kate Gosselin, wasn’t exactly presidential.

Palin could have merely responded that she and the eminent analyst had a lot in common lately, as both have been critical of the Republican congressional leadership’s tax deal with President Obama, and that her qualifications for the presidency should be judged by her conservative policy stands, not a television show that everyone knows is meant as entertainment intended to boost her public profile.

But, as even those of us who have been inclined to judge her more favorably than much of the chattering class have come to understand, Sarah Palin is every bit as thin-skinned as the man she’d like to replace in the White House. Her response was vintage Palin, combining a sort of schoolyard banter with bristling resentment. “Oooh. Sorry that I’m not so hoity-toity,” was the best she could come up with as a retort while gesturing that she was not someone who had to put her finger in the air to determine what to think, as if the intellectual yet down-to-earth conservative sage Krauthammer was some liberal media consultant. Just as disturbing as the obnoxiousness of her response was the vague thought that perhaps she’s not quite sure who exactly Krauthammer is. I know she probably isn’t reading his columns (which ought to be required reading for every serious student of politics and policy, no matter where they are on the political spectrum), but you’d think she watches the network where both appear regularly.

But Palin has bigger problems than Krauthammer. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 60 percent of registered voters said they would “definitely not consider” voting for Palin for president and that she would lose to President Obama in a head-to-head match-up by a margin of 53-40 percent.

Palin’s popularity among Republicans continues to be high, and she will be a formidable contender for the GOP nomination if, as appears likely, she runs. But her appeal is limited to those who already share her views. Palin’s resentment of the Washington establishment and perhaps even of such intellectual gatekeepers of the conservative movement as Krauthammer may resonate with many conservative voters, but her attitude (which is the opposite of conservative icon Ronald Reagan’s genial responses to hostile media) alienates everyone else.

Everything she does and says lately seems geared toward reinforcing the negative opinion of that 60 percent already convinced that she isn’t qualified to be the commander in chief. And there’s simply no way that a person that six out of 10 voters wouldn’t vote for under any circumstances can be elected president.

So, rather than taunting people like Krauthammer, who merely said aloud what so many others are thinking about her unpresidential demeanor, maybe Sarah Palin ought to be waking up to the fact that she is simply unelectable.

Last night on Bill O’Reilly’s show, the FOX News host asked Sarah Palin what she thought about columnist Charles Krauthammer’s observation that the former Alaska governor’s reality TV show, in which she hangs out with fellow TLC network reality star Kate Gosselin, wasn’t exactly presidential.

Palin could have merely responded that she and the eminent analyst had a lot in common lately, as both have been critical of the Republican congressional leadership’s tax deal with President Obama, and that her qualifications for the presidency should be judged by her conservative policy stands, not a television show that everyone knows is meant as entertainment intended to boost her public profile.

But, as even those of us who have been inclined to judge her more favorably than much of the chattering class have come to understand, Sarah Palin is every bit as thin-skinned as the man she’d like to replace in the White House. Her response was vintage Palin, combining a sort of schoolyard banter with bristling resentment. “Oooh. Sorry that I’m not so hoity-toity,” was the best she could come up with as a retort while gesturing that she was not someone who had to put her finger in the air to determine what to think, as if the intellectual yet down-to-earth conservative sage Krauthammer was some liberal media consultant. Just as disturbing as the obnoxiousness of her response was the vague thought that perhaps she’s not quite sure who exactly Krauthammer is. I know she probably isn’t reading his columns (which ought to be required reading for every serious student of politics and policy, no matter where they are on the political spectrum), but you’d think she watches the network where both appear regularly.

But Palin has bigger problems than Krauthammer. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 60 percent of registered voters said they would “definitely not consider” voting for Palin for president and that she would lose to President Obama in a head-to-head match-up by a margin of 53-40 percent.

Palin’s popularity among Republicans continues to be high, and she will be a formidable contender for the GOP nomination if, as appears likely, she runs. But her appeal is limited to those who already share her views. Palin’s resentment of the Washington establishment and perhaps even of such intellectual gatekeepers of the conservative movement as Krauthammer may resonate with many conservative voters, but her attitude (which is the opposite of conservative icon Ronald Reagan’s genial responses to hostile media) alienates everyone else.

Everything she does and says lately seems geared toward reinforcing the negative opinion of that 60 percent already convinced that she isn’t qualified to be the commander in chief. And there’s simply no way that a person that six out of 10 voters wouldn’t vote for under any circumstances can be elected president.

So, rather than taunting people like Krauthammer, who merely said aloud what so many others are thinking about her unpresidential demeanor, maybe Sarah Palin ought to be waking up to the fact that she is simply unelectable.

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Fewer than 1 in 4 Believe Country Headed in Right Direction

According to Scott Rasmussen, just 23 percent  of voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, the lowest numbers of the Obama presidency. In addition, likely voters trust Republicans more than Democrats on seven out of the 10 most-important issues regularly surveyed by Rasmussen Reports (that’s down slightly from just before the election, when Republicans were preferred on all 10 issues).

On the economy, the issue of most importance to  voters, the GOP holds a 47 percent to
39 percent edge.

Rasmussen also found that most voters have favored repeal of the new national health-care law every week since it was passed and that support for repeal has now inched up to its highest level since mid-September. Tracking with this result, this week’s ABC News/Washington Post survey found that support for ObamaCare to be at its lowest level to date, with 43 percent supporting it and 52 percent opposing it.

None of these findings is surprising; in fact, they are interconnected. The direction President Obama and his party are taking the country is unnerving and upsetting a lot of people. That unease has to be undone, at least in part, next year. Because if it’s not, then Democrats will begin to abandon the Obama ship in droves. Having experienced a historic midterm repudiation of their party, Democrats won’t be eager for another.

According to Scott Rasmussen, just 23 percent  of voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, the lowest numbers of the Obama presidency. In addition, likely voters trust Republicans more than Democrats on seven out of the 10 most-important issues regularly surveyed by Rasmussen Reports (that’s down slightly from just before the election, when Republicans were preferred on all 10 issues).

On the economy, the issue of most importance to  voters, the GOP holds a 47 percent to
39 percent edge.

Rasmussen also found that most voters have favored repeal of the new national health-care law every week since it was passed and that support for repeal has now inched up to its highest level since mid-September. Tracking with this result, this week’s ABC News/Washington Post survey found that support for ObamaCare to be at its lowest level to date, with 43 percent supporting it and 52 percent opposing it.

None of these findings is surprising; in fact, they are interconnected. The direction President Obama and his party are taking the country is unnerving and upsetting a lot of people. That unease has to be undone, at least in part, next year. Because if it’s not, then Democrats will begin to abandon the Obama ship in droves. Having experienced a historic midterm repudiation of their party, Democrats won’t be eager for another.

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Holder and Sebelius, Looking Very Weak

Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius’s Washington Post op-ed responding to yesterday’s federal court ruling on ObamaCare is arresting. Neither its style nor its force is remarkable. Rather, it is arresting in its refusal to call the decision wrong in accordance with the law. Here’s how Holder and Sebelius address yesterday’s judgment: “Opponents claim the individual responsibility provision is unlawful because it ‘regulates inactivity.’ But none of us is a bystander when it comes to health care. All of us need health care eventually.”

This is actually false. Most adults choose to seek health care eventually.  Some of us — and we all know such people — resist health care in every single circumstance. Others — a very lucky minority — are not opposed to seeking health care as a matter of personal policy but never find themselves sick enough to enlist a medical professional. All this is to say Holder and Sebelius brush rather breezily over the sticky question of what constitutes a “need,” and it is a contention about universal need on which they claim the constitutional soundness of ObamaCare. Weak stuff.

Never do they assert that it is lawful to regulate inactivity. Nor do they demonstrate that not purchasing insurance is not inactivity. They treat the issue as some sort of communally understood given, and blur the legal question out of existence. The rest of the op-ed is devoted to the economics of insurance and the mentioning of people who are ill. Both of those are of supreme importance to health-care policy as a whole. But neither has much to do with yesterday’s ruling. So the judge was wrong simply because “none of us is a bystander when it comes to health care” and because people are sick in America. That’s not legal, and if it’s the best they can do, they’re in trouble.

Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius’s Washington Post op-ed responding to yesterday’s federal court ruling on ObamaCare is arresting. Neither its style nor its force is remarkable. Rather, it is arresting in its refusal to call the decision wrong in accordance with the law. Here’s how Holder and Sebelius address yesterday’s judgment: “Opponents claim the individual responsibility provision is unlawful because it ‘regulates inactivity.’ But none of us is a bystander when it comes to health care. All of us need health care eventually.”

This is actually false. Most adults choose to seek health care eventually.  Some of us — and we all know such people — resist health care in every single circumstance. Others — a very lucky minority — are not opposed to seeking health care as a matter of personal policy but never find themselves sick enough to enlist a medical professional. All this is to say Holder and Sebelius brush rather breezily over the sticky question of what constitutes a “need,” and it is a contention about universal need on which they claim the constitutional soundness of ObamaCare. Weak stuff.

Never do they assert that it is lawful to regulate inactivity. Nor do they demonstrate that not purchasing insurance is not inactivity. They treat the issue as some sort of communally understood given, and blur the legal question out of existence. The rest of the op-ed is devoted to the economics of insurance and the mentioning of people who are ill. Both of those are of supreme importance to health-care policy as a whole. But neither has much to do with yesterday’s ruling. So the judge was wrong simply because “none of us is a bystander when it comes to health care” and because people are sick in America. That’s not legal, and if it’s the best they can do, they’re in trouble.

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Morning Commentary

You can’t make this up: Charles Rangel is now being investigated for improperly using PAC money to fund his legal defense during his recent ethics violation case.

Cables show that cash is still flowing to terrorists from Arab states, indicating that U.S. efforts to halt terror funding since 9/11 have been woefully ineffective.

Cable Gate was a diplomatic disaster with dangerous consequences for our national security, but it’s undeniable that the leaked documents have also given the public a great deal of insight into the fascinating world of international diplomacy. The Atlantic has looked beyond the political ramifications of the leaked secrets and compiled an archive of the most captivating stories from the cables.

Muslims say that their relations with the FBI have been strained after a mosque informant filed a lawsuit against the bureau alleging that he was pressured to use unfair tactics to entrap Muslims.

While most Hollywood movies that are “based on real events” tend to stretch the truth, the film about Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson, Fair Game, starring Sean Penn, went too far, according to a scathing Washington Post editorial: “Mr. Wilson claimed that he had proved that Mr. [George W.] Bush deliberately twisted the truth about Iraq, and he was eagerly embraced by those who insist the former president lied the country into a war. Though it was long ago established that Mr. Wilson himself was not telling the truth — not about his mission to Niger and not about his wife — the myth endures. We’ll join the former president in hoping that future historians get it right.”

“Three meters between life and death” — the gripping story of a Yediot Aharonot photographer who found himself trapped in the Carmel inferno.

Is the Tea Party “wrecking” traditional GOP foreign policy and support for Israel? That’s what Barry Gewen argues in the New Republic. But the Tea Partiers hold such diverse views on foreign policy that it’s impossible to typecast them on this issue. While Ron Paul certainly has some influence over the movement, hawks like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Jim DeMint seem to have a far greater pull.

You can’t make this up: Charles Rangel is now being investigated for improperly using PAC money to fund his legal defense during his recent ethics violation case.

Cables show that cash is still flowing to terrorists from Arab states, indicating that U.S. efforts to halt terror funding since 9/11 have been woefully ineffective.

Cable Gate was a diplomatic disaster with dangerous consequences for our national security, but it’s undeniable that the leaked documents have also given the public a great deal of insight into the fascinating world of international diplomacy. The Atlantic has looked beyond the political ramifications of the leaked secrets and compiled an archive of the most captivating stories from the cables.

Muslims say that their relations with the FBI have been strained after a mosque informant filed a lawsuit against the bureau alleging that he was pressured to use unfair tactics to entrap Muslims.

While most Hollywood movies that are “based on real events” tend to stretch the truth, the film about Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson, Fair Game, starring Sean Penn, went too far, according to a scathing Washington Post editorial: “Mr. Wilson claimed that he had proved that Mr. [George W.] Bush deliberately twisted the truth about Iraq, and he was eagerly embraced by those who insist the former president lied the country into a war. Though it was long ago established that Mr. Wilson himself was not telling the truth — not about his mission to Niger and not about his wife — the myth endures. We’ll join the former president in hoping that future historians get it right.”

“Three meters between life and death” — the gripping story of a Yediot Aharonot photographer who found himself trapped in the Carmel inferno.

Is the Tea Party “wrecking” traditional GOP foreign policy and support for Israel? That’s what Barry Gewen argues in the New Republic. But the Tea Partiers hold such diverse views on foreign policy that it’s impossible to typecast them on this issue. While Ron Paul certainly has some influence over the movement, hawks like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Jim DeMint seem to have a far greater pull.

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Whose America Is It?

Richard Cohen, who occasionally writes sensible things on race, suggests in his Washington Post column today that among the many reasons Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president is:

She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans — and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter.

Palin draws Cohen’s fire for a passage in her new book in which she says that President Obama “seems to believe” that “America — at least America as it currently exists — is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country.” Cohen suggests that Palin’s comment is proof that she is ignorant of America’s racial history.

I’m not a Palin fan — she lost the right to be taken seriously in my book when she gave up the governorship of Alaska to embark on her career as celebrity politician — but the idea that there is a “black America” or a “Hispanic America” is offensive. Cohen’s reference is also more than a little ironic given President Obama’s own claim that “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Cohen aside, being familiar with the racial injustices of the past and our fight to overcome them should make us more, not less, proud that we are a fundamentally just nation, where equal opportunity remains a principle more honored in the observance than the breach.

Richard Cohen, who occasionally writes sensible things on race, suggests in his Washington Post column today that among the many reasons Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president is:

She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans — and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter.

Palin draws Cohen’s fire for a passage in her new book in which she says that President Obama “seems to believe” that “America — at least America as it currently exists — is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country.” Cohen suggests that Palin’s comment is proof that she is ignorant of America’s racial history.

I’m not a Palin fan — she lost the right to be taken seriously in my book when she gave up the governorship of Alaska to embark on her career as celebrity politician — but the idea that there is a “black America” or a “Hispanic America” is offensive. Cohen’s reference is also more than a little ironic given President Obama’s own claim that “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Cohen aside, being familiar with the racial injustices of the past and our fight to overcome them should make us more, not less, proud that we are a fundamentally just nation, where equal opportunity remains a principle more honored in the observance than the breach.

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Good Works Plus Firepower Equals Effective Counterinsurgency

Among some Army traditionalists (and some ultra-hawkish conservatives), the knock on “population-centric” counterinsurgency — whose most prominent advocate is General David Petraeus — is that it is nothing more than “social work” that ignores the need to kill or capture the enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth, as current events in Afghanistan demonstrate. Yes, Petraeus has put more emphasis on securing the population, improving governance, and decreasing corruption. But, no, he hasn’t ignored the imperative to hit the enemy and to hit him hard.

That should be clear from this Washington Post article reporting on a decision to send a company of M1 Abrams tanks to assist Marine infantrymen fighting in Helmand Province. Gen. David McKiernan, a previous NATO commander who ironically had a reputation for being overly conventional, had actually turned down a prior Marine request for heavy armor because he thought it would reek too much of the Red Army’s tactics. Now Petraeus has approved the dispatch of tanks that are needed to aid Marines who are in a tough fight in places like Sangin.

That should hardly be surprising, because Petraeus is overseeing an impressive increase in overall firepower. As the Post notes:

Despite an overall counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes the use of troops to protect Afghan civilians from insurgents, statistics released by the NATO military command in Kabul and interviews with several senior commanders indicate that U.S. troop operations over the past two months have been more intense and have had a harder edge than at any point since the initial 2001 drive to oust the Taliban government.

The pace of Special Operations missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders has more than tripled over the past three months. U.S. and NATO aircraft unleashed more bombs and missiles in October – 1,000 total – than in any single month since 2001. In the districts around the southern city of Kandahar, soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division have demolished dozens of homes that were thought to be booby-trapped, and they have used scores of high-explosive line charges — a weapon that had been used only sparingly in the past — to blast through minefields.

That is not a repudiation of counterinsurgency doctrine but a good example of how it is supposed to work: melding kinetic and non-kinetic operations into a seamless whole. While more troops are among the population, and doing more civil-action projects, they are also gaining the trust and confidence of the locals and learning the lay of the land. That allows them to use firepower far more effectively than in the past, when the U.S. relied on a “small footprint,” counterterrorism-focused strategy.

In years past, air strikes resulted in many civilian deaths because we had so few boots on the ground; that meant we did not have good intelligence about where exactly the enemy was hiding. Now U.S. troops are able to call in air strikes far more precisely, which is why the considerable increase in air strikes has not led to a corresponding increase in civilian casualties or to widespread accusations of brutality, such as were common when U.S. bombs were blamed for blowing up wedding parties.

What Petraeus realizes — and his critics seem to miss — is that effective counterinsurgency can’t rely on force alone or on good works alone. Both are necessary to defeat a tenacious foe and secure a scared populace.

Among some Army traditionalists (and some ultra-hawkish conservatives), the knock on “population-centric” counterinsurgency — whose most prominent advocate is General David Petraeus — is that it is nothing more than “social work” that ignores the need to kill or capture the enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth, as current events in Afghanistan demonstrate. Yes, Petraeus has put more emphasis on securing the population, improving governance, and decreasing corruption. But, no, he hasn’t ignored the imperative to hit the enemy and to hit him hard.

That should be clear from this Washington Post article reporting on a decision to send a company of M1 Abrams tanks to assist Marine infantrymen fighting in Helmand Province. Gen. David McKiernan, a previous NATO commander who ironically had a reputation for being overly conventional, had actually turned down a prior Marine request for heavy armor because he thought it would reek too much of the Red Army’s tactics. Now Petraeus has approved the dispatch of tanks that are needed to aid Marines who are in a tough fight in places like Sangin.

That should hardly be surprising, because Petraeus is overseeing an impressive increase in overall firepower. As the Post notes:

Despite an overall counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes the use of troops to protect Afghan civilians from insurgents, statistics released by the NATO military command in Kabul and interviews with several senior commanders indicate that U.S. troop operations over the past two months have been more intense and have had a harder edge than at any point since the initial 2001 drive to oust the Taliban government.

The pace of Special Operations missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders has more than tripled over the past three months. U.S. and NATO aircraft unleashed more bombs and missiles in October – 1,000 total – than in any single month since 2001. In the districts around the southern city of Kandahar, soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division have demolished dozens of homes that were thought to be booby-trapped, and they have used scores of high-explosive line charges — a weapon that had been used only sparingly in the past — to blast through minefields.

That is not a repudiation of counterinsurgency doctrine but a good example of how it is supposed to work: melding kinetic and non-kinetic operations into a seamless whole. While more troops are among the population, and doing more civil-action projects, they are also gaining the trust and confidence of the locals and learning the lay of the land. That allows them to use firepower far more effectively than in the past, when the U.S. relied on a “small footprint,” counterterrorism-focused strategy.

In years past, air strikes resulted in many civilian deaths because we had so few boots on the ground; that meant we did not have good intelligence about where exactly the enemy was hiding. Now U.S. troops are able to call in air strikes far more precisely, which is why the considerable increase in air strikes has not led to a corresponding increase in civilian casualties or to widespread accusations of brutality, such as were common when U.S. bombs were blamed for blowing up wedding parties.

What Petraeus realizes — and his critics seem to miss — is that effective counterinsurgency can’t rely on force alone or on good works alone. Both are necessary to defeat a tenacious foe and secure a scared populace.

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Karzai’s Words, and His Actions

Hamid Karzai has caused considerable consternation with his weekend interview with the Washington Post. He told Post editors and reporters: “The time has come to reduce military operations. The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan . . . to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life…. It’s not desirable for the Afghan people either to have 100,000 or more foreign troops going around the country endlessly.” He also criticized “night raids”–Special Operations raids that occur at night–as he has in the past.

The Post reports that General Petraeus expressed “astonishment and disappointment” as his remarks which seem to fly in the face of NATO’s strategy. Today Karzai’s spokesman was rapidly backtracking, stressing that Karzai’s comments about the desirability of a troop pullout were “conditioned on the ability of the Afghan security forces to take responsibility.” The spokesman made clear that Karzai supports NATO’s goal to begin withdrawing in 2014.

This kerfuffle reminds me of many similar statements made over the years by Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq. As I noted in this 2008 Washington Post op-ed, Maliki, too, has had a history of calling for U.S. troop withdrawals:

In May 2006, shortly after becoming prime minister, he claimed, “Our forces are capable of taking over the security in all Iraqi provinces within a year and a half.”

In October 2006, when violence was spinning out of control, Maliki declared that it would be “only a matter of months” before his security forces could “take over the security portfolio entirely and keep some multinational forces only in a supporting role.”

President Bush wisely ignored Maliki. Instead of withdrawing U.S. troops, he sent more. The prime minister wasn’t happy. On Dec. 15, 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported, “Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has flatly told Gen. George Casey, the top American military commander in Iraq, that he doesn’t want more U.S. personnel deployed to the country, according to U.S. military officials.” When the surge went ahead anyway, Maliki gave it an endorsement described in news accounts as “lukewarm.”

I suggested in the op-ed that it was wise to judge Maliki by what he did, not what he said. For all of his public doubts about the U.S. troop presence he generally supported American actions behind-the-scenes–although often only after considerable arm-twisting from Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Karzai, too, should be judged by his actions, rather than by his occasional expressions of public frustration with the coalition. He has not done anything as dramatic as Maliki, who ordered his security forces to clear Basra and Sadr City of the Sadrist militia, but he has taken some positive steps such as agreeing to the setting up of the Afghan Local Police program to augment the Afghan security forces.

Moreover, some of his criticisms of international forces are on the mark–the U.S. and its allies have done much to fuel corruption in Afghanistan, as he complains, and their employment of local security forces has often been a contributor to instability. Yet at the end of the day Afghanistan would be far more insecure without an America troop presence, and that is something I suspect Karzai, for all his misguided public statements, actually realizes.

Hamid Karzai has caused considerable consternation with his weekend interview with the Washington Post. He told Post editors and reporters: “The time has come to reduce military operations. The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan . . . to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life…. It’s not desirable for the Afghan people either to have 100,000 or more foreign troops going around the country endlessly.” He also criticized “night raids”–Special Operations raids that occur at night–as he has in the past.

The Post reports that General Petraeus expressed “astonishment and disappointment” as his remarks which seem to fly in the face of NATO’s strategy. Today Karzai’s spokesman was rapidly backtracking, stressing that Karzai’s comments about the desirability of a troop pullout were “conditioned on the ability of the Afghan security forces to take responsibility.” The spokesman made clear that Karzai supports NATO’s goal to begin withdrawing in 2014.

This kerfuffle reminds me of many similar statements made over the years by Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq. As I noted in this 2008 Washington Post op-ed, Maliki, too, has had a history of calling for U.S. troop withdrawals:

In May 2006, shortly after becoming prime minister, he claimed, “Our forces are capable of taking over the security in all Iraqi provinces within a year and a half.”

In October 2006, when violence was spinning out of control, Maliki declared that it would be “only a matter of months” before his security forces could “take over the security portfolio entirely and keep some multinational forces only in a supporting role.”

President Bush wisely ignored Maliki. Instead of withdrawing U.S. troops, he sent more. The prime minister wasn’t happy. On Dec. 15, 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported, “Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has flatly told Gen. George Casey, the top American military commander in Iraq, that he doesn’t want more U.S. personnel deployed to the country, according to U.S. military officials.” When the surge went ahead anyway, Maliki gave it an endorsement described in news accounts as “lukewarm.”

I suggested in the op-ed that it was wise to judge Maliki by what he did, not what he said. For all of his public doubts about the U.S. troop presence he generally supported American actions behind-the-scenes–although often only after considerable arm-twisting from Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Karzai, too, should be judged by his actions, rather than by his occasional expressions of public frustration with the coalition. He has not done anything as dramatic as Maliki, who ordered his security forces to clear Basra and Sadr City of the Sadrist militia, but he has taken some positive steps such as agreeing to the setting up of the Afghan Local Police program to augment the Afghan security forces.

Moreover, some of his criticisms of international forces are on the mark–the U.S. and its allies have done much to fuel corruption in Afghanistan, as he complains, and their employment of local security forces has often been a contributor to instability. Yet at the end of the day Afghanistan would be far more insecure without an America troop presence, and that is something I suspect Karzai, for all his misguided public statements, actually realizes.

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Money Doesn’t Buy You Love — or Votes

The Democrats’ favorite excuse in the waning days of the campaign was that foreign money was their undoing. Soon-to-be-ex-Speaker (yeah, wow) Nancy Pelosi said everything was going fine until the Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove or a mystery woman from Hong Kong (oh, wait — that was their side) opened up their wallets. Yes, it was bunk. But little did we know how much bunk it was:

In two-thirds of the House seats that Republicans picked up Tuesday, Democratic candidates had more money behind them, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission. Overall, Democratic candidates in the 63 races that flipped to the GOP had $206.4 million behind them, a tally that includes candidate fundraising and spending by parties and interests. That compares with only $171.7 million for their GOP rivals.

The pattern appears to contradict widespread complaints from Democrats that they were being unfairly overrun by wealthy Republicans, many of whom donated money to conservative groups to spend on political races — unencumbered by the limits and public-disclosure requirements that constrain most political fundraising. The data show that even in many races in which Republicans had more outside help, they still had fewer resources than their Democratic opponents.

So it was in Senate races as well. Meg Whitman’s personal fortune was of no use. Neither did it help Linda McMahon. Sharron Angle outraised Harry Reid and still lost.

It seems that, rather than money, a candidate’s voting record, the economy, and the relative levels of enthusiasm of the parties’ supporters is what mattered. (“Republicans were able to win despite being badly outspent in Democratic-leaning districts. Outside Philadelphia, Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D), the Democratic Party and groups backing them had about three times as much as conservatives and the campaign of former congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.”) Money is a convenient excuse, of course. But like blaming the voters’ “misperceptions,” it simply wasn’t the cause of the Democrats’ defeat. The voters knew exactly what they were doing, and no amount of money was going to convince them otherwise. And as for the self-financers, unless you are a solid candidate (Ron Johnson, for example), it’s better not to fritter away the family fortune.

The Democrats’ favorite excuse in the waning days of the campaign was that foreign money was their undoing. Soon-to-be-ex-Speaker (yeah, wow) Nancy Pelosi said everything was going fine until the Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove or a mystery woman from Hong Kong (oh, wait — that was their side) opened up their wallets. Yes, it was bunk. But little did we know how much bunk it was:

In two-thirds of the House seats that Republicans picked up Tuesday, Democratic candidates had more money behind them, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission. Overall, Democratic candidates in the 63 races that flipped to the GOP had $206.4 million behind them, a tally that includes candidate fundraising and spending by parties and interests. That compares with only $171.7 million for their GOP rivals.

The pattern appears to contradict widespread complaints from Democrats that they were being unfairly overrun by wealthy Republicans, many of whom donated money to conservative groups to spend on political races — unencumbered by the limits and public-disclosure requirements that constrain most political fundraising. The data show that even in many races in which Republicans had more outside help, they still had fewer resources than their Democratic opponents.

So it was in Senate races as well. Meg Whitman’s personal fortune was of no use. Neither did it help Linda McMahon. Sharron Angle outraised Harry Reid and still lost.

It seems that, rather than money, a candidate’s voting record, the economy, and the relative levels of enthusiasm of the parties’ supporters is what mattered. (“Republicans were able to win despite being badly outspent in Democratic-leaning districts. Outside Philadelphia, Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D), the Democratic Party and groups backing them had about three times as much as conservatives and the campaign of former congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.”) Money is a convenient excuse, of course. But like blaming the voters’ “misperceptions,” it simply wasn’t the cause of the Democrats’ defeat. The voters knew exactly what they were doing, and no amount of money was going to convince them otherwise. And as for the self-financers, unless you are a solid candidate (Ron Johnson, for example), it’s better not to fritter away the family fortune.

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The Chronically Unserious Dana Milbank

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

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LIVE BLOG: False Hopes, False Fears

As I write, at 6:24 pm, one can feel the last-minute manic mood of the political class doing its standard final-hours shift. To wit, Democrats and liberals are experiencing a confusing giddiness from bits of data suggesting–if you were looking at them to suggest it–that the night might not be as bad as they fear (indeed, the night is unlikely to end up as bad as they fear, since their worst fears now are losses in the range of 90 seats in the House). To wit, Ed Kilgore at The New Republic, one of the more unpleasant Democratic bloggers:

So CNN just released the first bit of actually revealing national exit poll data: President Obama’s job approval rating is 45 percent positive, 54 percent negative (looks like no one is ambivalent). Comparing this to some of the final polls, the final ABC/Washington Post poll, which gave Republicans only a 4-point advantage in House voting, had the Obama ratio at 46/52. The final Gallup “low-turnout” estimate, which gave Republicans a gigantic 15-point margin, had the Obama ratio at 40/56.  So based on this one data point, it looks like a wave, but maybe not a tsunami.

Exit polls usually skew as many as 10 points in the direction of Democrats, especially when they are done state-by-state. If CNN’s is showing Obama’s unfavorable numbers at 9 points, that’s bad, very bad for Democrats because it’s likely the data are skewed in their favor.

Similarly, emails and phone calls from conservatives and Republicans show a sudden terror that every single piece of information they’ve gotten over the past week may not actually be true — that the Real Clear Politics generic poll average doesn’t show an advantage for Republicans of 9.3 percent and that the final Gallup poll says GOP voters are twice as enthusiastic about turning up at the voting booth as Democrats.

This is always the way. The defeated get a moment to hope; the victors get a moment to fear.

As I write, at 6:24 pm, one can feel the last-minute manic mood of the political class doing its standard final-hours shift. To wit, Democrats and liberals are experiencing a confusing giddiness from bits of data suggesting–if you were looking at them to suggest it–that the night might not be as bad as they fear (indeed, the night is unlikely to end up as bad as they fear, since their worst fears now are losses in the range of 90 seats in the House). To wit, Ed Kilgore at The New Republic, one of the more unpleasant Democratic bloggers:

So CNN just released the first bit of actually revealing national exit poll data: President Obama’s job approval rating is 45 percent positive, 54 percent negative (looks like no one is ambivalent). Comparing this to some of the final polls, the final ABC/Washington Post poll, which gave Republicans only a 4-point advantage in House voting, had the Obama ratio at 46/52. The final Gallup “low-turnout” estimate, which gave Republicans a gigantic 15-point margin, had the Obama ratio at 40/56.  So based on this one data point, it looks like a wave, but maybe not a tsunami.

Exit polls usually skew as many as 10 points in the direction of Democrats, especially when they are done state-by-state. If CNN’s is showing Obama’s unfavorable numbers at 9 points, that’s bad, very bad for Democrats because it’s likely the data are skewed in their favor.

Similarly, emails and phone calls from conservatives and Republicans show a sudden terror that every single piece of information they’ve gotten over the past week may not actually be true — that the Real Clear Politics generic poll average doesn’t show an advantage for Republicans of 9.3 percent and that the final Gallup poll says GOP voters are twice as enthusiastic about turning up at the voting booth as Democrats.

This is always the way. The defeated get a moment to hope; the victors get a moment to fear.

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Diversity Disappoints

Yesterday the Washington Post ran a front-page story on Thomas Jefferson High School (known commonly as “TJ”), a Fairfax County high school for select, über–academic achievers (i.e., Virginia’s Bronx Science). The curriculum is rigorous (its college-level courses are not offered at regular high schools), and the workload is grueling. The Post‘s beef is that “diversity is not working”:

[African American students] amount to less than 1 percent of the Class of 2014 at the selective public school in Fairfax County, regarded as among the nation’s best. “It’s disappointing,” said Andrea Smith, the club’s faculty sponsor. “But you work with what you got.”

The count of Hispanic freshmen is not much higher: 13.

Years of efforts to raise black and Hispanic enrollment at the regional school have failed, officials acknowledge. The number of such students admitted has fallen since 2005.

There are two major reasons. Admissions decisions are generally made without regard to race or ethnicity, despite a policy meant to promote diversity. And initiatives to enlarge the pipeline of qualified black and Hispanic students in elementary and middle school have flopped.

To be clear: admissions are made without regard to race, and the school makes every effort to ferret out every qualified minority student in the district. There are plenty of Asian students. But there are only a few African Americans and Hispanics who can meet the school’s standards. That is defined as a failure — by the school. What the Post and the controversial ex-admissions director (whose championing of diversity at the price of maintaining standards of excellence met with a furious backlash) are upset about is that, without quotas, there aren’t “enough” African Americans and Hispanics (that is, enough minority students proportionate to their percentages in the population):

For more than a decade after its founding in 1985, the school actively sought to diversify its enrollment, even if that sometimes meant admitting students with lower test scores than others. In 1997, the school admitted 24 Hispanic students and 25 black students.

That year, several federal courts struck down school affirmative action programs, and attorneys advised Fairfax school officials to end any racial or ethnic preferences. The number of black and Hispanic freshmen plummeted.

It’s not like the professional ethnic bean counters didn’t try. (“Then admissions panels, mostly teachers and administrators from other area schools, consider subjective criteria such as essays and teacher recommendations. At that point, race and ethnicity can come into play. But generally they don’t.”)

Frankly, TJ has done everything right. No one is discriminated against. (Although Asian parents complain that the number of Asian students is artificially depressed to prevent the school from becoming nearly all Asian.) There is no lack of mentoring and assistance programs for minority students. The results are not a sign of failure by the school. They are, to be blunt, a sign that students and their parents in certain ethnic and racial groups are not matching the effort and the output of those from other groups. The results should be a warning signal not to the school but to those parents and children. You want to join the elite of the elite? Work as hard, place a priority on academic achievement, and make use of the ample resources in the public schools to promote success.

The left considers “bad” numbers a sign that our institutions are biased or haven’t done enough. Maybe it’s time to ask the parents and students to do more.

Yesterday the Washington Post ran a front-page story on Thomas Jefferson High School (known commonly as “TJ”), a Fairfax County high school for select, über–academic achievers (i.e., Virginia’s Bronx Science). The curriculum is rigorous (its college-level courses are not offered at regular high schools), and the workload is grueling. The Post‘s beef is that “diversity is not working”:

[African American students] amount to less than 1 percent of the Class of 2014 at the selective public school in Fairfax County, regarded as among the nation’s best. “It’s disappointing,” said Andrea Smith, the club’s faculty sponsor. “But you work with what you got.”

The count of Hispanic freshmen is not much higher: 13.

Years of efforts to raise black and Hispanic enrollment at the regional school have failed, officials acknowledge. The number of such students admitted has fallen since 2005.

There are two major reasons. Admissions decisions are generally made without regard to race or ethnicity, despite a policy meant to promote diversity. And initiatives to enlarge the pipeline of qualified black and Hispanic students in elementary and middle school have flopped.

To be clear: admissions are made without regard to race, and the school makes every effort to ferret out every qualified minority student in the district. There are plenty of Asian students. But there are only a few African Americans and Hispanics who can meet the school’s standards. That is defined as a failure — by the school. What the Post and the controversial ex-admissions director (whose championing of diversity at the price of maintaining standards of excellence met with a furious backlash) are upset about is that, without quotas, there aren’t “enough” African Americans and Hispanics (that is, enough minority students proportionate to their percentages in the population):

For more than a decade after its founding in 1985, the school actively sought to diversify its enrollment, even if that sometimes meant admitting students with lower test scores than others. In 1997, the school admitted 24 Hispanic students and 25 black students.

That year, several federal courts struck down school affirmative action programs, and attorneys advised Fairfax school officials to end any racial or ethnic preferences. The number of black and Hispanic freshmen plummeted.

It’s not like the professional ethnic bean counters didn’t try. (“Then admissions panels, mostly teachers and administrators from other area schools, consider subjective criteria such as essays and teacher recommendations. At that point, race and ethnicity can come into play. But generally they don’t.”)

Frankly, TJ has done everything right. No one is discriminated against. (Although Asian parents complain that the number of Asian students is artificially depressed to prevent the school from becoming nearly all Asian.) There is no lack of mentoring and assistance programs for minority students. The results are not a sign of failure by the school. They are, to be blunt, a sign that students and their parents in certain ethnic and racial groups are not matching the effort and the output of those from other groups. The results should be a warning signal not to the school but to those parents and children. You want to join the elite of the elite? Work as hard, place a priority on academic achievement, and make use of the ample resources in the public schools to promote success.

The left considers “bad” numbers a sign that our institutions are biased or haven’t done enough. Maybe it’s time to ask the parents and students to do more.

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Obama Is No FDR

Jen references Michael Gerson’s devastating Washington Post column in which he calls President Obama an intellectual snob. Equally interesting, I think, is a front-page article in today’s New York Times, with its simply astonishing opening sentence: “It took President Obama 18 months to invite the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, to the White House for a one-on-one chat.” Who was it who ran for president as a “post-partisan,” and who was going to bring a new way of doing things to Washington?

The Times notes that, “Mr. Obama came to office vowing to reach across the aisle and change the tone in Washington, a goal he quickly abandoned when Republicans stood in lockstep against his stimulus bill.” The Republicans, of course, “stood in lockstep” against the stimulus bill because they were completely frozen out of any role in shaping it. (By the way, my inner copy editor shudders at the metaphor “stood in lockstep.” “Lockstep” is a mode of marching, not standing, but…) It was needless, counterproductive, and, alas, typical behavior on Obama’s part.

As Gershon points out, Franklin Roosevelt was an aristocrat to his fingertips, complete with Mayflower ancestors, a mansion overlooking the Hudson, a large trust fund, the right schools, the right clubs, and a “Park Avenue Oxford” accent. But he “was able to convince millions of average Americans that he was firmly on their side.” Obama has convinced millions of Americans that he regards them as fools, too scared to think straight.

The constitutional scholar in the White House might want to take a look at the Constitution’s preamble and refresh his memory as to who it was who ordained and established the government he heads. They’re going to be heard a week from tomorrow, and I don’t think President Obama is going to like what they have to say.

Jen references Michael Gerson’s devastating Washington Post column in which he calls President Obama an intellectual snob. Equally interesting, I think, is a front-page article in today’s New York Times, with its simply astonishing opening sentence: “It took President Obama 18 months to invite the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, to the White House for a one-on-one chat.” Who was it who ran for president as a “post-partisan,” and who was going to bring a new way of doing things to Washington?

The Times notes that, “Mr. Obama came to office vowing to reach across the aisle and change the tone in Washington, a goal he quickly abandoned when Republicans stood in lockstep against his stimulus bill.” The Republicans, of course, “stood in lockstep” against the stimulus bill because they were completely frozen out of any role in shaping it. (By the way, my inner copy editor shudders at the metaphor “stood in lockstep.” “Lockstep” is a mode of marching, not standing, but…) It was needless, counterproductive, and, alas, typical behavior on Obama’s part.

As Gershon points out, Franklin Roosevelt was an aristocrat to his fingertips, complete with Mayflower ancestors, a mansion overlooking the Hudson, a large trust fund, the right schools, the right clubs, and a “Park Avenue Oxford” accent. But he “was able to convince millions of average Americans that he was firmly on their side.” Obama has convinced millions of Americans that he regards them as fools, too scared to think straight.

The constitutional scholar in the White House might want to take a look at the Constitution’s preamble and refresh his memory as to who it was who ordained and established the government he heads. They’re going to be heard a week from tomorrow, and I don’t think President Obama is going to like what they have to say.

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A Month Out

Four weeks from today (less, in states with early voting), Americans will stream to the polls and deal a blow to Obama and his agenda. That’s the conclusion of the latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll. ABC sums it up this way:

Increasingly disenchanted with President Obama’s work on the stalled economy, registered voters by an 8-point margin say they’d prefer to see the Republicans take control of Congress — the clearest sign yet of GOP opportunities and Democratic risks in the 2010 midterm elections. A year and a half into his presidency, 51 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll would rather have the Republicans run Congress “to act as a check on Obama’s policies,” vs. 43 percent who want the Democrats in charge to help support those policies. That’s accompanied by a 7-point, one-month drop in approval of Obama’s handling of the economy, to a career low. While Democrats are most at risk, the danger’s not theirs alone. Registered voters by 62-26 percent are inclined to look around for someone new for Congress rather than to re-elect their current representative — the broadest anti-incumbency on record in ABC/Post polls since 1989. …

[Obama's] job approval rating has slipped to 50 percent, tying his career low in ABC/Post polls, with 47 percent disapproving. Those who “strongly” disapprove outnumber strong approvers by 7 points, the widest such margin to date.

A few highlights: independent likely voters (who outnumber both Republicans and Democrats in the poll) favor GOP candidates by an astounding 53-36 percent margin. The president’s performance on the economy is at the root of the problem (only 43 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the most important issue to voters), but ObamaCare is none too popular either (only 45 percent approve). On every major domestic issue (health care, financial regulation, the economy, and the deficit), voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by between 50 and 56 percent. Seventy-three percent think the economy is staying the same or getting worse. His only bright spot: 55 percent approve of his performance as commander in chief.

Individual races will depend on the strengths and weaknesses of individual candidates, but the landscape is set, and it is extremely unlikely that the electorate’s mood will change. Democrats can spin all they like, but there is no sign of improvement in their fortunes. What is left to be determined is the extent of the damage and how successfully Obama can deflect blame for the implosion of his party.

Four weeks from today (less, in states with early voting), Americans will stream to the polls and deal a blow to Obama and his agenda. That’s the conclusion of the latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll. ABC sums it up this way:

Increasingly disenchanted with President Obama’s work on the stalled economy, registered voters by an 8-point margin say they’d prefer to see the Republicans take control of Congress — the clearest sign yet of GOP opportunities and Democratic risks in the 2010 midterm elections. A year and a half into his presidency, 51 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll would rather have the Republicans run Congress “to act as a check on Obama’s policies,” vs. 43 percent who want the Democrats in charge to help support those policies. That’s accompanied by a 7-point, one-month drop in approval of Obama’s handling of the economy, to a career low. While Democrats are most at risk, the danger’s not theirs alone. Registered voters by 62-26 percent are inclined to look around for someone new for Congress rather than to re-elect their current representative — the broadest anti-incumbency on record in ABC/Post polls since 1989. …

[Obama's] job approval rating has slipped to 50 percent, tying his career low in ABC/Post polls, with 47 percent disapproving. Those who “strongly” disapprove outnumber strong approvers by 7 points, the widest such margin to date.

A few highlights: independent likely voters (who outnumber both Republicans and Democrats in the poll) favor GOP candidates by an astounding 53-36 percent margin. The president’s performance on the economy is at the root of the problem (only 43 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the most important issue to voters), but ObamaCare is none too popular either (only 45 percent approve). On every major domestic issue (health care, financial regulation, the economy, and the deficit), voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by between 50 and 56 percent. Seventy-three percent think the economy is staying the same or getting worse. His only bright spot: 55 percent approve of his performance as commander in chief.

Individual races will depend on the strengths and weaknesses of individual candidates, but the landscape is set, and it is extremely unlikely that the electorate’s mood will change. Democrats can spin all they like, but there is no sign of improvement in their fortunes. What is left to be determined is the extent of the damage and how successfully Obama can deflect blame for the implosion of his party.

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Woodward’s Forgettable Writings

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran my review of Bob Woodward’s latest epic of insiderdom. Since then, I have received some interesting e-mails from informed readers who make a few points that I think are worth sharing.

I poked fun at Battlefield Bob for writing about the war in Afghanistan while making only one perfunctory visit there, which he then hyped as if he were eyeball-to-eyeball with the enemy. A veteran war correspondent points out that this isn’t at all unusual for Woodward:

As best I can tell he hasn’t gone to Iraq for a single day. Not even to the I.Z. [International Zone, or Green Zone] or to a FOB [Forward Operating Base]. I haven’t tried to confirm that, but there is no mention of it in his books that I recall. And he wrote five books on the subject if you count “The Commanders.”

This correspondent continued:

Your analytical points were on target, too. And they are related. If don’t go to these places and talk to the Iraqi or Afghan leaders, politicians, pretenders, warlords, army officers and citizens how can you begin to understand what is happening there. They and their countries become a distant backdrop for personality feuds among US officials and second-tier aides in DC.

Absolutely right, and it is this reason that, as a government official pointed out to me, “these books have no lasting impact.” Indeed, it is hard for me to remember anything about Woodward’s last dozen books. The last major revelation I remember from one of his tomes was CIA Director Bill Casey’s “deathbed confession” in Veil (1987) — and that is largely because Woodward was accused of making it up.

Woodward continues to churn out No. 1 best-sellers. But, after being avidly hyped (especially by his employer, the Washington Post), each one drops down the memory chute because his revelations about Washington infighting are so petty and so far removed from the factors that shape presidential reputations — namely how well policies work out in the real world. In the meantime, however, Woodward does real damage to our government’s ability to implement its policies — a point Eliot Cohen wittily makes in this Washington Post op-ed, which features fictional interior monologues a la Woodward.

The real question, to my mind, isn’t why Woodward does what he does — he makes jillions from his books. The question is why so many administrations so willingly cooperate with him. As Eliot notes, “Senior Washington officials, in this administration or its predecessors, talk to Bob Woodward for all kinds of reasons — to fluff up their vanity, to avenge slights, to neutralize rivals, to gratify egos or, most laughably, to shape the historical record. ” It’s high time for the Obama administration and its successors to rethink this policy of granting Woodward unlimited access.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran my review of Bob Woodward’s latest epic of insiderdom. Since then, I have received some interesting e-mails from informed readers who make a few points that I think are worth sharing.

I poked fun at Battlefield Bob for writing about the war in Afghanistan while making only one perfunctory visit there, which he then hyped as if he were eyeball-to-eyeball with the enemy. A veteran war correspondent points out that this isn’t at all unusual for Woodward:

As best I can tell he hasn’t gone to Iraq for a single day. Not even to the I.Z. [International Zone, or Green Zone] or to a FOB [Forward Operating Base]. I haven’t tried to confirm that, but there is no mention of it in his books that I recall. And he wrote five books on the subject if you count “The Commanders.”

This correspondent continued:

Your analytical points were on target, too. And they are related. If don’t go to these places and talk to the Iraqi or Afghan leaders, politicians, pretenders, warlords, army officers and citizens how can you begin to understand what is happening there. They and their countries become a distant backdrop for personality feuds among US officials and second-tier aides in DC.

Absolutely right, and it is this reason that, as a government official pointed out to me, “these books have no lasting impact.” Indeed, it is hard for me to remember anything about Woodward’s last dozen books. The last major revelation I remember from one of his tomes was CIA Director Bill Casey’s “deathbed confession” in Veil (1987) — and that is largely because Woodward was accused of making it up.

Woodward continues to churn out No. 1 best-sellers. But, after being avidly hyped (especially by his employer, the Washington Post), each one drops down the memory chute because his revelations about Washington infighting are so petty and so far removed from the factors that shape presidential reputations — namely how well policies work out in the real world. In the meantime, however, Woodward does real damage to our government’s ability to implement its policies — a point Eliot Cohen wittily makes in this Washington Post op-ed, which features fictional interior monologues a la Woodward.

The real question, to my mind, isn’t why Woodward does what he does — he makes jillions from his books. The question is why so many administrations so willingly cooperate with him. As Eliot notes, “Senior Washington officials, in this administration or its predecessors, talk to Bob Woodward for all kinds of reasons — to fluff up their vanity, to avenge slights, to neutralize rivals, to gratify egos or, most laughably, to shape the historical record. ” It’s high time for the Obama administration and its successors to rethink this policy of granting Woodward unlimited access.

Read Less




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