Commentary Magazine


Topic: Whip

Vindication for Bush’s Freedom Agenda

As popular unrest sweeps the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunisia to Yemen to Egypt, it’s worth recalling the words and warning of President George W. Bush – in this case, his November 19, 2003, address at Whitehall Palace in London, where Bush said this:

We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. …

As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own backyard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found.

Now we’re pursuing a different course, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. We will consistently challenge the enemies of reform and confront the allies of terror. We will expect a higher standard from our friends in the region, and we will meet our responsibilities in Afghanistan and in Iraq by finishing the work of democracy we have begun.

During the course of the Bush presidency, his “freedom agenda” was criticized from several different quarters, including foreign-policy “realists” who believed that the bargain Bush spoke about — tolerating oppression for the sake of “stability” — was worth it.

It wasn’t. The core argument Bush made, which is that America must stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity — the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance — was right. No people on earth long to live in oppression and servitude, as slaves instead of free people, to be kept in chains or experience the lash of the whip.

How this conviction should play itself out in the real world is not self-evident; the success of such a policy depends on the wisdom and prudence of statesmen. Implementing a policy is a good deal harder than proclaiming one. Still, it seems to be that events are vindicating the freedom agenda as a strategy and a moral insight, as even the Obama administration is coming to learn.

As popular unrest sweeps the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunisia to Yemen to Egypt, it’s worth recalling the words and warning of President George W. Bush – in this case, his November 19, 2003, address at Whitehall Palace in London, where Bush said this:

We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. …

As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own backyard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found.

Now we’re pursuing a different course, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. We will consistently challenge the enemies of reform and confront the allies of terror. We will expect a higher standard from our friends in the region, and we will meet our responsibilities in Afghanistan and in Iraq by finishing the work of democracy we have begun.

During the course of the Bush presidency, his “freedom agenda” was criticized from several different quarters, including foreign-policy “realists” who believed that the bargain Bush spoke about — tolerating oppression for the sake of “stability” — was worth it.

It wasn’t. The core argument Bush made, which is that America must stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity — the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance — was right. No people on earth long to live in oppression and servitude, as slaves instead of free people, to be kept in chains or experience the lash of the whip.

How this conviction should play itself out in the real world is not self-evident; the success of such a policy depends on the wisdom and prudence of statesmen. Implementing a policy is a good deal harder than proclaiming one. Still, it seems to be that events are vindicating the freedom agenda as a strategy and a moral insight, as even the Obama administration is coming to learn.

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Should Obama Take Soros’s Threat Seriously?

The billionaire funder of everything left-wing may be the puppet-master source of all evil to Glenn Beck and his fans, but the White House may be thinking of George Soros as more of a pain in the rear end than anything else today. Yesterday Soros spoke to a private session of wealthy lefty donors at the Democracy Alliance, a group that funnels money into various liberal causes. According to Politico, Soros merely declared, “Obama shouldn’t compromise” with the Republicans. But according to the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, Soros was a bit more blunt than that in his off-the-record remarks. According to Stein, Soros told his audience “We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line. And if this president can’t do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else.”

That sounds like a direct threat that Soros and the rest of the assembled lefty moneybags would fund a primary challenge to Obama unless he toes the line on liberal doctrine. Soros later denied that’s what he meant, but his remarks were a warning shot fired over the presidential bow.

Should Obama take the threat seriously? Soros and the rest of the crew at Democracy Alliance have the financial power to mobilize the leftist grass roots that can make the difference in any Democratic primary. If they can find a credible liberal who had the guts to run to Obama’s left on issues like a demand for an immediate U.S. pullout from Afghanistan (remember, Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination running as an anti-war candidate) or the president’s failure to ram through an even more leftist version of health care, then Obama would be in for a fight. But the idea that we are on the eve of a massive left-wing revolt against Obama in the coming year is probably more a Republican fantasy than anything else.

First, while Obama will never satisfy the hard left, the chances that he will emulate Bill Clinton and shift to the center in 2011 are slim and none. Obama’s arrogant and unrepentant view of the elections make it more likely that he will take Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel’s advice and govern largely by executive fiat in the coming months than he will make nice with the GOP, let alone steal Republicans’ thunder by signing conservative bills and claiming credit for them as Clinton did. Other than Afghanistan, which Obama may defuse as a liberal issue by starting his bugout of the country as promised in 2011, there may not be much room to the president’s left to run on in 2012.

Second, for all the big talk on the left about holding Obama’s feet to the fire and the dangers that a challenge to the incumbent presents for the White House, as John pointed out in his article in the December issue of COMMENTARY, he is still the first African-American president and, as such, has a certain immunity to criticism from Democrats that an ordinary chief executive would not have. The Moveon.org crowd’s influence cannot be underestimated, but the African-American voting bloc is still just as, if not far more, powerful in Democratic primaries. Moreover, the backlash against any white liberal who dares to challenge Obama — a move certain to be characterized by blacks as a stab in the presidential back — may be a greater deterrent to potential candidates than any of Soros’s admonitions directed at Obama. Even a fearless independent such as Russ Feingold would have to think twice about becoming the man most hated by African-Americans.

Thus, while Obama has plenty to worry about in the next two years, especially if the economy does not recover, he still has the whip hand over his party’s left. Despite the unhealthy obsession that some on the right have about the unsavory billionaire, Soros really isn’t the puppet master of the Democratic Party, let alone someone who has the power to manipulate the American political system the way he did some foreign currencies. The man to watch on the left is still Barack Obama, not George Soros.

The billionaire funder of everything left-wing may be the puppet-master source of all evil to Glenn Beck and his fans, but the White House may be thinking of George Soros as more of a pain in the rear end than anything else today. Yesterday Soros spoke to a private session of wealthy lefty donors at the Democracy Alliance, a group that funnels money into various liberal causes. According to Politico, Soros merely declared, “Obama shouldn’t compromise” with the Republicans. But according to the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, Soros was a bit more blunt than that in his off-the-record remarks. According to Stein, Soros told his audience “We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line. And if this president can’t do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else.”

That sounds like a direct threat that Soros and the rest of the assembled lefty moneybags would fund a primary challenge to Obama unless he toes the line on liberal doctrine. Soros later denied that’s what he meant, but his remarks were a warning shot fired over the presidential bow.

Should Obama take the threat seriously? Soros and the rest of the crew at Democracy Alliance have the financial power to mobilize the leftist grass roots that can make the difference in any Democratic primary. If they can find a credible liberal who had the guts to run to Obama’s left on issues like a demand for an immediate U.S. pullout from Afghanistan (remember, Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination running as an anti-war candidate) or the president’s failure to ram through an even more leftist version of health care, then Obama would be in for a fight. But the idea that we are on the eve of a massive left-wing revolt against Obama in the coming year is probably more a Republican fantasy than anything else.

First, while Obama will never satisfy the hard left, the chances that he will emulate Bill Clinton and shift to the center in 2011 are slim and none. Obama’s arrogant and unrepentant view of the elections make it more likely that he will take Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel’s advice and govern largely by executive fiat in the coming months than he will make nice with the GOP, let alone steal Republicans’ thunder by signing conservative bills and claiming credit for them as Clinton did. Other than Afghanistan, which Obama may defuse as a liberal issue by starting his bugout of the country as promised in 2011, there may not be much room to the president’s left to run on in 2012.

Second, for all the big talk on the left about holding Obama’s feet to the fire and the dangers that a challenge to the incumbent presents for the White House, as John pointed out in his article in the December issue of COMMENTARY, he is still the first African-American president and, as such, has a certain immunity to criticism from Democrats that an ordinary chief executive would not have. The Moveon.org crowd’s influence cannot be underestimated, but the African-American voting bloc is still just as, if not far more, powerful in Democratic primaries. Moreover, the backlash against any white liberal who dares to challenge Obama — a move certain to be characterized by blacks as a stab in the presidential back — may be a greater deterrent to potential candidates than any of Soros’s admonitions directed at Obama. Even a fearless independent such as Russ Feingold would have to think twice about becoming the man most hated by African-Americans.

Thus, while Obama has plenty to worry about in the next two years, especially if the economy does not recover, he still has the whip hand over his party’s left. Despite the unhealthy obsession that some on the right have about the unsavory billionaire, Soros really isn’t the puppet master of the Democratic Party, let alone someone who has the power to manipulate the American political system the way he did some foreign currencies. The man to watch on the left is still Barack Obama, not George Soros.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Hooray for Newton, Massachusetts!: “Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Newton, has abruptly canceled an event with the president of J Street, a lobbying group that supports liberal positions on Israel, because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics.” Bravo — why should Jews, even liberal ones, keep up the facade that the Soros-funded group is a legitimate, pro-Israel organization.

Three cheers for hope and change: “The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, was re-elected on Wednesday to lead the Democrats in the next Congress, despite her party’s loss of more than 60 seats and its majority control of the House in the midterm elections. Officials said that Ms. Pelosi defeated Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina in an internal party vote, 150 to 43.” We now know that there are 43 Dems who have sense enough to perhaps join their Republican colleagues on key votes.

Bingo! “The whole TSA procedure is hugely frustrating to travelers because not only is it needlessly invasive, but it is also a complete waste of time. Other countries facing similar threats respond in much less irritating and much more intelligent and effective ways. Israel, for example, does not do body scans and invasive pat-downs. If the Republicans want to cut government spending, a good place to start would be to abolish TSA. I say this as a very frequent traveler who regularly flies 150,000 miles per year.”

Wow-wee. Look what $1.5B in aid and Muslim Outreach got us: “Financial ties between Egypt and Iran have recently improved as a result of the Misr Iran Development Bank (MIDB), jointly owned by the two countries, according to a report by the Atlantic Monthly on Monday. According to the report, the MIDB, founded in 1975, has become a potential route for Teheran to bypass imposed economic sanctions with Egypt. The bank serves as evidence of the complex challenge faced by the US in enforcing international sanctions against Iran.”

Bravo, Just Journalism, for documenting 10 years of the London Review of Books‘s noxious anti-Israel screeds. “The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah. While the Palestinian narrative was fully represented, Israel’s narrative on its legitimate security concerns, Arab rejectionism and terrorism was near absent.” Do you think they could do the New York Review of Books next?

Kudos to Lela Gilbert, who highlights this: “Recent terrorist attacks against Christians in Iraq have spotlighted their desperate circumstances in the Middle East, characterized by threats of terror and bloodshed, and culminating in a silent exodus from their ancient homelands—an exodus that mirrors that of the Jews half a century before. Murders, rapes, beatings, extortions, the burning and desecration of houses of worship and mob violence are abuses are all too familiar to surviving Jews who remember their own perilous journeys.” Where’s our Islam-Explainer-in-Chief, and why doesn’t he ever talk about this topic?

Way to go! First an earmark ban and now this: “House Republicans announced Wednesday they plan to force a floor vote on defunding NPR in response to the firing of analyst Juan Williams last month. House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly ‘YouCut’ contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated.”

Whew. No candidates like Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom this year. But Stan “the Man” Musial, Yo-Yo Ma, and Angela Merkel will get their awards. Also Bush 41. Bush 43 will have to wait to get his — maybe in Marco Rubio’s first term. (Yeah, yeah — Maya Angelou is an awful poet, but harmless enough.)

Better late than never. A gathering of 100 CEOs delivered the administration some long overdue pushback: “The CEOs, in a vote, said the government’s top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.”

Hooray for Newton, Massachusetts!: “Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Newton, has abruptly canceled an event with the president of J Street, a lobbying group that supports liberal positions on Israel, because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics.” Bravo — why should Jews, even liberal ones, keep up the facade that the Soros-funded group is a legitimate, pro-Israel organization.

Three cheers for hope and change: “The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, was re-elected on Wednesday to lead the Democrats in the next Congress, despite her party’s loss of more than 60 seats and its majority control of the House in the midterm elections. Officials said that Ms. Pelosi defeated Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina in an internal party vote, 150 to 43.” We now know that there are 43 Dems who have sense enough to perhaps join their Republican colleagues on key votes.

Bingo! “The whole TSA procedure is hugely frustrating to travelers because not only is it needlessly invasive, but it is also a complete waste of time. Other countries facing similar threats respond in much less irritating and much more intelligent and effective ways. Israel, for example, does not do body scans and invasive pat-downs. If the Republicans want to cut government spending, a good place to start would be to abolish TSA. I say this as a very frequent traveler who regularly flies 150,000 miles per year.”

Wow-wee. Look what $1.5B in aid and Muslim Outreach got us: “Financial ties between Egypt and Iran have recently improved as a result of the Misr Iran Development Bank (MIDB), jointly owned by the two countries, according to a report by the Atlantic Monthly on Monday. According to the report, the MIDB, founded in 1975, has become a potential route for Teheran to bypass imposed economic sanctions with Egypt. The bank serves as evidence of the complex challenge faced by the US in enforcing international sanctions against Iran.”

Bravo, Just Journalism, for documenting 10 years of the London Review of Books‘s noxious anti-Israel screeds. “The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah. While the Palestinian narrative was fully represented, Israel’s narrative on its legitimate security concerns, Arab rejectionism and terrorism was near absent.” Do you think they could do the New York Review of Books next?

Kudos to Lela Gilbert, who highlights this: “Recent terrorist attacks against Christians in Iraq have spotlighted their desperate circumstances in the Middle East, characterized by threats of terror and bloodshed, and culminating in a silent exodus from their ancient homelands—an exodus that mirrors that of the Jews half a century before. Murders, rapes, beatings, extortions, the burning and desecration of houses of worship and mob violence are abuses are all too familiar to surviving Jews who remember their own perilous journeys.” Where’s our Islam-Explainer-in-Chief, and why doesn’t he ever talk about this topic?

Way to go! First an earmark ban and now this: “House Republicans announced Wednesday they plan to force a floor vote on defunding NPR in response to the firing of analyst Juan Williams last month. House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly ‘YouCut’ contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated.”

Whew. No candidates like Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom this year. But Stan “the Man” Musial, Yo-Yo Ma, and Angela Merkel will get their awards. Also Bush 41. Bush 43 will have to wait to get his — maybe in Marco Rubio’s first term. (Yeah, yeah — Maya Angelou is an awful poet, but harmless enough.)

Better late than never. A gathering of 100 CEOs delivered the administration some long overdue pushback: “The CEOs, in a vote, said the government’s top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.”

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Planning Nancy’s Retirement

Democrats aren’t waiting for the election returns to start planning Nancy Pelosi’s ouster. Politico reports:

For the most part, Democrats have no obvious roadmap, no heir apparent to the Pelosi mantle, and a fairly thin bench around which to plan the future of their party. After the election, Democrats would face a power vacuum in the lower ranks – assuming current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer takes the helm as minority leader in a post-Pelosi Democratic caucus.

“This is a subject that everybody in town is thinking about,” said a former House Democrat who keeps close contact with his former colleagues. …

“If we lose it badly, Pelosi would have to leave, as might the whole leadership team,” said a veteran House Democrat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I can see Hoyer becoming Minority Leader. And I can imagine that Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) would stay as Whip, but then retire. They could become transitional leaders as we look for new leadership. It would have to sort itself out.”

Pelosi may have peaked on the day she assumed office, as an identity-politics champion. In four years she’s helped drive her party into the ground and our country deeper and deeper into debt. Rather than draining the swamp, she’s coddled corrupt pols. Her “historic” achievement — ramming through ObamaCare — may turn to dust as states opt out of the individual mandate and a new Congress defunds and then sets out to repeal the measure. Come to think of it, that may be Obama’s legacy as well.

Democrats aren’t waiting for the election returns to start planning Nancy Pelosi’s ouster. Politico reports:

For the most part, Democrats have no obvious roadmap, no heir apparent to the Pelosi mantle, and a fairly thin bench around which to plan the future of their party. After the election, Democrats would face a power vacuum in the lower ranks – assuming current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer takes the helm as minority leader in a post-Pelosi Democratic caucus.

“This is a subject that everybody in town is thinking about,” said a former House Democrat who keeps close contact with his former colleagues. …

“If we lose it badly, Pelosi would have to leave, as might the whole leadership team,” said a veteran House Democrat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I can see Hoyer becoming Minority Leader. And I can imagine that Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) would stay as Whip, but then retire. They could become transitional leaders as we look for new leadership. It would have to sort itself out.”

Pelosi may have peaked on the day she assumed office, as an identity-politics champion. In four years she’s helped drive her party into the ground and our country deeper and deeper into debt. Rather than draining the swamp, she’s coddled corrupt pols. Her “historic” achievement — ramming through ObamaCare — may turn to dust as states opt out of the individual mandate and a new Congress defunds and then sets out to repeal the measure. Come to think of it, that may be Obama’s legacy as well.

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The Recovery Summer That Wasn’t

This National Republican Senatorial Committee ad about President Obama’s much-ballyhooed “Recovery Summer” is a fairly effective one. Of course, Obama has given the GOP a whole lot of material to work with.

The “Recovery Summer” is rapidly on its way to becoming one of the worst public-relations disasters in modern American politics. As Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey points out, even Gerald Ford’s Whip Inflation Now (WIN) buttons “didn’t promise 500,000 new jobs a month if people wore buttons on their shirts.”

This National Republican Senatorial Committee ad about President Obama’s much-ballyhooed “Recovery Summer” is a fairly effective one. Of course, Obama has given the GOP a whole lot of material to work with.

The “Recovery Summer” is rapidly on its way to becoming one of the worst public-relations disasters in modern American politics. As Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey points out, even Gerald Ford’s Whip Inflation Now (WIN) buttons “didn’t promise 500,000 new jobs a month if people wore buttons on their shirts.”

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Bad News Gets Worse for Dems

Nate Silver breaks the bad news to the Gray Lady’s readers:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. … Of late, the source of the Democrats’ problems has not necessarily been in high-profile Senate races where the Republicans have nominated inexperienced but headline-grabbing candidates, like  Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky (although the model regards both Ms. Angle and Mr. Paul as slight favorites). Instead, it has been in traditional swing states like  Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So in other words, Kentucky and Nevada aren’t problems at all, notwithstanding the “headling-grabbing nominees.” And it gets worse. Those sneaky Republicans have also nominated “members of the G.O.P.’s establishment. … Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the former Republican Minority Whip, and in Ohio, Rob Portman, the former congressman who served as trade representative and budget director in the Bush administration. And so far, the Democrats’ strategy of Bush-bashing does not seem to be resonating in these states.”

To sum up, GOP establishment candidates are doing well. GOP insurgent candidates are doing well. The favorite Democratic strategy is a bust. One can imagine that this is the most optimistic version of events Silver can credibly present. (And he throws in a security blanket for panicky readers: “It could also be that the polling somewhat overstates the degree of danger that Democrats face.”) In fact, it is entirely possible that Silver’s outlook is unduly optimistic. After all, he doesn’t think much of Republican chances in Wisconsin and California, but both of those races are dead heats. And besides, many more of these kinds of columns and the Democrats will become more morose than they already are, further depressing turnout and tipping the playing field in the GOP’s favor.

All in all, the Obama era is proving to be quite a downer for liberals.

Nate Silver breaks the bad news to the Gray Lady’s readers:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. … Of late, the source of the Democrats’ problems has not necessarily been in high-profile Senate races where the Republicans have nominated inexperienced but headline-grabbing candidates, like  Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky (although the model regards both Ms. Angle and Mr. Paul as slight favorites). Instead, it has been in traditional swing states like  Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So in other words, Kentucky and Nevada aren’t problems at all, notwithstanding the “headling-grabbing nominees.” And it gets worse. Those sneaky Republicans have also nominated “members of the G.O.P.’s establishment. … Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the former Republican Minority Whip, and in Ohio, Rob Portman, the former congressman who served as trade representative and budget director in the Bush administration. And so far, the Democrats’ strategy of Bush-bashing does not seem to be resonating in these states.”

To sum up, GOP establishment candidates are doing well. GOP insurgent candidates are doing well. The favorite Democratic strategy is a bust. One can imagine that this is the most optimistic version of events Silver can credibly present. (And he throws in a security blanket for panicky readers: “It could also be that the polling somewhat overstates the degree of danger that Democrats face.”) In fact, it is entirely possible that Silver’s outlook is unduly optimistic. After all, he doesn’t think much of Republican chances in Wisconsin and California, but both of those races are dead heats. And besides, many more of these kinds of columns and the Democrats will become more morose than they already are, further depressing turnout and tipping the playing field in the GOP’s favor.

All in all, the Obama era is proving to be quite a downer for liberals.

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Bibi’s Visit

The do-over White House get-together between Obama and Bibi is set for today. The White House is strenuously denying that there has been any “rift” between the two countries. (But will it admit to a “shift,” as Michael Oren called it?) So there will be smiles and cameras — but what will change?

There are many ways in which the relationship can be repaired and in which Obama can rescue his Middle East policy from disarray. First, rule out any international investigation of the flotilla incident; Israel is a functioning democracy and can look after itself. Second, pull out of the UN Human Rights Council (in an op-ed, Min. Whip Eric Cantor and Rep. Peter Roskam call for that — but, alas, the letter to the president following the flotilla incident, which the AIPAC backed, left that request out). Third, insist that the PA meet face to face with Bibi, and refuse to do the Palestinians’ negotiating for them through proximity talks. Fourth, affirm that a nuclear-armed Iran will be prevented by American military action, if it comes to that. Fifth, confirm that Israel has the right to self-defense and the right to maintain a naval blockade, and that attempts by “activists” and/or state sponsors to break it are acts of aggression, which Israel, with the full support of the U.S., is entitled to counter.

These items would repair the actual rift between the two countries, which is grounded not in conflicting personalities but rather in differences in outlook and vision. You say Obama can’t do any of these things? Of course not; there is a chasm between the two governments that nothing short of a full-scale policy reversal or the 2012 election will resolve. Yeah, it’s going to have to be the latter.

The do-over White House get-together between Obama and Bibi is set for today. The White House is strenuously denying that there has been any “rift” between the two countries. (But will it admit to a “shift,” as Michael Oren called it?) So there will be smiles and cameras — but what will change?

There are many ways in which the relationship can be repaired and in which Obama can rescue his Middle East policy from disarray. First, rule out any international investigation of the flotilla incident; Israel is a functioning democracy and can look after itself. Second, pull out of the UN Human Rights Council (in an op-ed, Min. Whip Eric Cantor and Rep. Peter Roskam call for that — but, alas, the letter to the president following the flotilla incident, which the AIPAC backed, left that request out). Third, insist that the PA meet face to face with Bibi, and refuse to do the Palestinians’ negotiating for them through proximity talks. Fourth, affirm that a nuclear-armed Iran will be prevented by American military action, if it comes to that. Fifth, confirm that Israel has the right to self-defense and the right to maintain a naval blockade, and that attempts by “activists” and/or state sponsors to break it are acts of aggression, which Israel, with the full support of the U.S., is entitled to counter.

These items would repair the actual rift between the two countries, which is grounded not in conflicting personalities but rather in differences in outlook and vision. You say Obama can’t do any of these things? Of course not; there is a chasm between the two governments that nothing short of a full-scale policy reversal or the 2012 election will resolve. Yeah, it’s going to have to be the latter.

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Obama’s Bad Bet

It seems ObamaCare was not the panacea it was cracked up to be. Sam Stein reports:

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Stan Greenberg — alongside his fellow strategist and party adviser James Carville — said that the signs of electoral bloodbath exist today, though not quite as strongly as they did 16 years ago.

“We are on the edge of it, but we are not there,” Greenberg said, at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “If the election were now, we would have a change election; we would have a 1994.”

In particular, both strategists noted that the sense of economic stagnation which is depressing voters today very much resembles the political hurdle that nearly derailed Clinton (and cost Greenberg his job) during his first term in office. …

“The good news for Democrats is that, after health care passed, the Democratic intensity number went up. It still doesn’t match the Republican intensity number,” said Carville. “Now if the intensity numbers were the same in November as they are now, it does not bode well for Democrats. But if they continue to improve for Democrats, it would be better news. They are not going to pick up seats. That’s a given. But how many they lose is quite open.”

At least for now, Republicans are leading in generic polling — a rarity by historic standards. It seems that rather than endear voters to the House majority, the passage of the “historic” bill by a narrow partisan vote has only solidified opposition and alienated independents. The unpleasant task of soothing Obama’s congressional allies now falls to House leaders, who just recently were telling their colleagues what a boon ObamaCare would be to their electoral prospects:

Rep. Chris Van Hollen is seeking both to calm and unify his party as it enters what he calls “dangerous waters ahead.” With healthcare reform now  law, Democratic leaders are shifting into a new phase, reassuring and advising nervous members who have huge targets on their backs. …

With his two leadership roles, Van Hollen found himself in an unusual position on the healthcare bill. Noting Democrats had to show they can govern, Van Hollen worked hard to pass the bill, but also understood more than most Democrats why some of his colleagues opposed it.

“I’ve made it clear many times that I’m not the whip,” he said with a laugh.

But Obama’s bet — sacrifice handfuls of congressional Democrats to achieve his aim — may not be a wise one. His calculation rests on his ability to hold down the losses, maintain some semblance of support for his agenda, and defuse the opposition to his signature accomplishment and his party, which threatens to repeal and replace his legislation. Without a remarkable shift in opinion and a significant improvement in the economic picture (especially in the jobs outlook), that gamble may very well not pay off.

It seems ObamaCare was not the panacea it was cracked up to be. Sam Stein reports:

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Stan Greenberg — alongside his fellow strategist and party adviser James Carville — said that the signs of electoral bloodbath exist today, though not quite as strongly as they did 16 years ago.

“We are on the edge of it, but we are not there,” Greenberg said, at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “If the election were now, we would have a change election; we would have a 1994.”

In particular, both strategists noted that the sense of economic stagnation which is depressing voters today very much resembles the political hurdle that nearly derailed Clinton (and cost Greenberg his job) during his first term in office. …

“The good news for Democrats is that, after health care passed, the Democratic intensity number went up. It still doesn’t match the Republican intensity number,” said Carville. “Now if the intensity numbers were the same in November as they are now, it does not bode well for Democrats. But if they continue to improve for Democrats, it would be better news. They are not going to pick up seats. That’s a given. But how many they lose is quite open.”

At least for now, Republicans are leading in generic polling — a rarity by historic standards. It seems that rather than endear voters to the House majority, the passage of the “historic” bill by a narrow partisan vote has only solidified opposition and alienated independents. The unpleasant task of soothing Obama’s congressional allies now falls to House leaders, who just recently were telling their colleagues what a boon ObamaCare would be to their electoral prospects:

Rep. Chris Van Hollen is seeking both to calm and unify his party as it enters what he calls “dangerous waters ahead.” With healthcare reform now  law, Democratic leaders are shifting into a new phase, reassuring and advising nervous members who have huge targets on their backs. …

With his two leadership roles, Van Hollen found himself in an unusual position on the healthcare bill. Noting Democrats had to show they can govern, Van Hollen worked hard to pass the bill, but also understood more than most Democrats why some of his colleagues opposed it.

“I’ve made it clear many times that I’m not the whip,” he said with a laugh.

But Obama’s bet — sacrifice handfuls of congressional Democrats to achieve his aim — may not be a wise one. His calculation rests on his ability to hold down the losses, maintain some semblance of support for his agenda, and defuse the opposition to his signature accomplishment and his party, which threatens to repeal and replace his legislation. Without a remarkable shift in opinion and a significant improvement in the economic picture (especially in the jobs outlook), that gamble may very well not pay off.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Another conservative woman drives the media elite around the bend: “Like father, like daughter, it seems. Much as Dick Cheney staked out the far right wing of the Bush administration, winning the respect and gratitude of GOP hawks despite his low popularity nationwide, Liz seems eager to make her reputation by unnerving her party’s moderates.”

Another reminder from James Capretta and Yuval Levin on the dangers of ObamaCare: “The heart of the Democratic plan is a promise to provide subsidized insurance coverage to some 35 to 40 million people. This will cost about $200 billion per year by 2019. And despite all of the talk of bending the cost curve, the Congressional Budget Office says the price will grow by 8 percent per year every year thereafter—which parallels the rapid cost growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the last four decades. In other words, the White House and congressional Democrats want to create another runaway entitlement program, piled on top of the unaffordable ones that are already slated to bankrupt the government.”

Another smart point by COMMENTARY contributor Tevi Troy: “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, health care has been a poor issue for the Democrats. A step by step approach works far better politically than attempting to redo the whole system. Given this history, Democrats interested in their political survival, not to mention the state of our health care system, should be very wary of voting yes.” And yet so many seem intent on committing political suicide.

Another way of looking at the Democratic civil war on health care, from CATO’s Michael Cannon: “The Democrats’ dogged, bloodthirsty crusade for universal coverage has been possible only because the wonks have seduced or silenced the hacks within the Democratic party. It appears the hacks may be ready to launch a rebellion.” By “hacks” he means the poor shlubs who run for office or help others to.

Another questionable Obama nominee: “Senate Republicans are preparing to challenge President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to El Salvador over her previous ties to an alleged asset of Cuban intelligence. Lawyer Mari Carmen Aponte was previously nominated to be an ambassador under President Bill Clinton, but withdrew her name from consideration after reports of her relationship with Cuban national Roberto Tamayo surfaced. … Tamayo, with whom she co-habitated for eight years starting in 1986, was an asset to the Cuban intelligence agency DGI. Former Cuban intelligence agent and defector Florentino Aspillaga also alleged Tamayo tried to recruit Aponte.” There was no other qualified nominee?

Another report suggesting that ObamaCare is a tough sell with wary Democrats: “House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided.”

Another foolish thing the Obami could do on Iran: send another New Year’s greeting to the mullahs!

Another example of what passes for “transparency” in this administration: “At Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, about Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the White House offered Sestak a high-ranking job if Sestak would drop his challenge to Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. And for the fifth time, Gibbs refused to answer the question of whether the White House offered a bribe to protect the fortunes of a key political ally.”

Another conservative woman drives the media elite around the bend: “Like father, like daughter, it seems. Much as Dick Cheney staked out the far right wing of the Bush administration, winning the respect and gratitude of GOP hawks despite his low popularity nationwide, Liz seems eager to make her reputation by unnerving her party’s moderates.”

Another reminder from James Capretta and Yuval Levin on the dangers of ObamaCare: “The heart of the Democratic plan is a promise to provide subsidized insurance coverage to some 35 to 40 million people. This will cost about $200 billion per year by 2019. And despite all of the talk of bending the cost curve, the Congressional Budget Office says the price will grow by 8 percent per year every year thereafter—which parallels the rapid cost growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the last four decades. In other words, the White House and congressional Democrats want to create another runaway entitlement program, piled on top of the unaffordable ones that are already slated to bankrupt the government.”

Another smart point by COMMENTARY contributor Tevi Troy: “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, health care has been a poor issue for the Democrats. A step by step approach works far better politically than attempting to redo the whole system. Given this history, Democrats interested in their political survival, not to mention the state of our health care system, should be very wary of voting yes.” And yet so many seem intent on committing political suicide.

Another way of looking at the Democratic civil war on health care, from CATO’s Michael Cannon: “The Democrats’ dogged, bloodthirsty crusade for universal coverage has been possible only because the wonks have seduced or silenced the hacks within the Democratic party. It appears the hacks may be ready to launch a rebellion.” By “hacks” he means the poor shlubs who run for office or help others to.

Another questionable Obama nominee: “Senate Republicans are preparing to challenge President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to El Salvador over her previous ties to an alleged asset of Cuban intelligence. Lawyer Mari Carmen Aponte was previously nominated to be an ambassador under President Bill Clinton, but withdrew her name from consideration after reports of her relationship with Cuban national Roberto Tamayo surfaced. … Tamayo, with whom she co-habitated for eight years starting in 1986, was an asset to the Cuban intelligence agency DGI. Former Cuban intelligence agent and defector Florentino Aspillaga also alleged Tamayo tried to recruit Aponte.” There was no other qualified nominee?

Another report suggesting that ObamaCare is a tough sell with wary Democrats: “House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided.”

Another foolish thing the Obami could do on Iran: send another New Year’s greeting to the mullahs!

Another example of what passes for “transparency” in this administration: “At Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, about Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the White House offered Sestak a high-ranking job if Sestak would drop his challenge to Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. And for the fifth time, Gibbs refused to answer the question of whether the White House offered a bribe to protect the fortunes of a key political ally.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Michael Barone on ObamaCare: “In fall 2009, Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead, they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes. … It’s beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There’s a reason it’s hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It’s not the Senate rules. It’s called democracy.”

Prospects don’t look bright for ObamaCare: “House Democratic leaders hoping to pass a health care reform bill by the Easter congressional recess face increasingly difficult odds, as several of the party’s rank-and-file have come out against the plan passed by the Senate in December. According to an ongoing CNN survey, 17 House Democrats indicate that they would vote no on the Senate plan as currently written, including six members who voted in favor of the House bill passed in November.”

Especially without the pro-life Democrats: “House Democratic leaders abandoned a long struggle to appease the most ardent abortion opponents in their ranks, gambling Thursday that they can secure the support for President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation with showdown votes looming next week. … Congressional leaders are hoping they can find enough support from other wavering Democrats to pass legislation that only cleared the House by five votes in an earlier incarnation.” But where are such votes?

No one has spotted them yet: “Our latest whip count shows no progress for House Dem leadership. In fact, more members are sneaking onto the watch list, as Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) voiced concern over whether the Senate would actually pass a sidecar bill.”

More cringey news from Illinois for Democrats: “The owner of the Boston Blackie’s restaurant chain — a man with strong political ties to U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias — was charged today with bank fraud, along with the owner’s son and an employee. Boston Blackie’s owner Nick Giannis, 62, his son, Chris Giannis, 38, and Boston Blackie’s manager Andy Bakopoulos, 38, allegedly defrauded Charter One and Washington Mutual banks of nearly $2 million, Cook County prosecutors said.”

In the New York Senate race: “Encouraged by state and national Republican Party leaders, Dan Senor, an author, private equity executive and Defense Department adviser in the last Bush administration, is seriously considering a political challenge against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, according to three people told of the discussions. … The Republican leaders, who cautioned that they were not backing any single candidate, have told Mr. Senor that his deep ties in the party, expertise on national security and background as a businessman would make him a formidable candidate.” Well, if you’re a Republican with political ambitions, this is certainly the year to make a run.

Mark Levin pierces the fog of sanctimony surrounding the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists: “And on what basis do we think the Obama administration selected these seven lawyers (there may be more) from 1 million other lawyers to serve in top political positions at Justice? Is it a coincidence that they had roles (direct or related) in defending detainees? … Personnel makes policy, and that includes lawyers in policy positions. So, while the selection of these lawyers clearly has some relationship to their private practices, the attempt to identify who they are and what they’re doing since being appointed is said to be off limits, unless, of course, you appointed them. Preposterous.”

Let’s face it: the”most transparent administration in history” isn’t. Sen. Jeff Sessions, for one, wants to know why Eric Holder didn’t disclose in his confirmation hearing an amicus brief in support of Jose Padilla.

A wonderful suggestion by George Will: no one should go to the State of the Union. “Next year, Roberts and the rest of the justices should stay away from the president’s address. So should the uniformed military, who are out of place in a setting of competitive political grandstanding. For that matter, the 535 legislators should boycott these undignified events. They would, if there were that many congressional grown-ups averse to being props in the childishness of popping up from their seats to cheer, or remaining sullenly seated in semi-pouts, as the politics of the moment dictates.”

Michael Barone on ObamaCare: “In fall 2009, Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead, they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes. … It’s beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There’s a reason it’s hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It’s not the Senate rules. It’s called democracy.”

Prospects don’t look bright for ObamaCare: “House Democratic leaders hoping to pass a health care reform bill by the Easter congressional recess face increasingly difficult odds, as several of the party’s rank-and-file have come out against the plan passed by the Senate in December. According to an ongoing CNN survey, 17 House Democrats indicate that they would vote no on the Senate plan as currently written, including six members who voted in favor of the House bill passed in November.”

Especially without the pro-life Democrats: “House Democratic leaders abandoned a long struggle to appease the most ardent abortion opponents in their ranks, gambling Thursday that they can secure the support for President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation with showdown votes looming next week. … Congressional leaders are hoping they can find enough support from other wavering Democrats to pass legislation that only cleared the House by five votes in an earlier incarnation.” But where are such votes?

No one has spotted them yet: “Our latest whip count shows no progress for House Dem leadership. In fact, more members are sneaking onto the watch list, as Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) voiced concern over whether the Senate would actually pass a sidecar bill.”

More cringey news from Illinois for Democrats: “The owner of the Boston Blackie’s restaurant chain — a man with strong political ties to U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias — was charged today with bank fraud, along with the owner’s son and an employee. Boston Blackie’s owner Nick Giannis, 62, his son, Chris Giannis, 38, and Boston Blackie’s manager Andy Bakopoulos, 38, allegedly defrauded Charter One and Washington Mutual banks of nearly $2 million, Cook County prosecutors said.”

In the New York Senate race: “Encouraged by state and national Republican Party leaders, Dan Senor, an author, private equity executive and Defense Department adviser in the last Bush administration, is seriously considering a political challenge against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, according to three people told of the discussions. … The Republican leaders, who cautioned that they were not backing any single candidate, have told Mr. Senor that his deep ties in the party, expertise on national security and background as a businessman would make him a formidable candidate.” Well, if you’re a Republican with political ambitions, this is certainly the year to make a run.

Mark Levin pierces the fog of sanctimony surrounding the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists: “And on what basis do we think the Obama administration selected these seven lawyers (there may be more) from 1 million other lawyers to serve in top political positions at Justice? Is it a coincidence that they had roles (direct or related) in defending detainees? … Personnel makes policy, and that includes lawyers in policy positions. So, while the selection of these lawyers clearly has some relationship to their private practices, the attempt to identify who they are and what they’re doing since being appointed is said to be off limits, unless, of course, you appointed them. Preposterous.”

Let’s face it: the”most transparent administration in history” isn’t. Sen. Jeff Sessions, for one, wants to know why Eric Holder didn’t disclose in his confirmation hearing an amicus brief in support of Jose Padilla.

A wonderful suggestion by George Will: no one should go to the State of the Union. “Next year, Roberts and the rest of the justices should stay away from the president’s address. So should the uniformed military, who are out of place in a setting of competitive political grandstanding. For that matter, the 535 legislators should boycott these undignified events. They would, if there were that many congressional grown-ups averse to being props in the childishness of popping up from their seats to cheer, or remaining sullenly seated in semi-pouts, as the politics of the moment dictates.”

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Not the Voters!

Greg Sargent observes:

One possible scenario that reform proponents dread is that Congress fails to pass reform before the Easter break — leaving Congressional Dems in the position of returning to their constituents empty-handed, just as they did over last summer’s recess. In the Capitol just now, a top spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi refused to endorse the White House’s prefered timetable for passing reform. Yesterday Robert Gibbs declared, perhaps unrealistically, that the White House would like the House to pass the Senate bill by March 18th, before the President goes abroad.

There are a few points worth noting. First, it’s quite obvious that Pelosi is a long way from getting her votes lined up. There is no reason to drag this out, unless, of course, Pelosi still can’t put together a majority. Jake Tapper has been keeping an unofficial whip count and there is far more bad news than good news for Pelosi, as the no’s are hardening and previous supporters are turning undecided. Second, the underlying problem, as it was last year, is that their members need to be kept as far from the voters as possible. Send them back home with the vote still pending and they risk an avalanche of opposition. Not in recent memory (or ever?) can I recall congressional leaders so wary of their members’ encounter with the electorate. That alone should tell those wavering members something. And finally, the time when Congress took the White House very seriously is over: the White House can no longer influence the substance, let alone the timing, of the vote on the bill. Right now it comes down to House Democrats — can they be bullied into doing something so plainly not in their self-interest? Stay tuned.

Greg Sargent observes:

One possible scenario that reform proponents dread is that Congress fails to pass reform before the Easter break — leaving Congressional Dems in the position of returning to their constituents empty-handed, just as they did over last summer’s recess. In the Capitol just now, a top spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi refused to endorse the White House’s prefered timetable for passing reform. Yesterday Robert Gibbs declared, perhaps unrealistically, that the White House would like the House to pass the Senate bill by March 18th, before the President goes abroad.

There are a few points worth noting. First, it’s quite obvious that Pelosi is a long way from getting her votes lined up. There is no reason to drag this out, unless, of course, Pelosi still can’t put together a majority. Jake Tapper has been keeping an unofficial whip count and there is far more bad news than good news for Pelosi, as the no’s are hardening and previous supporters are turning undecided. Second, the underlying problem, as it was last year, is that their members need to be kept as far from the voters as possible. Send them back home with the vote still pending and they risk an avalanche of opposition. Not in recent memory (or ever?) can I recall congressional leaders so wary of their members’ encounter with the electorate. That alone should tell those wavering members something. And finally, the time when Congress took the White House very seriously is over: the White House can no longer influence the substance, let alone the timing, of the vote on the bill. Right now it comes down to House Democrats — can they be bullied into doing something so plainly not in their self-interest? Stay tuned.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

At the precise moment one of its own is collapsing in a puddle of his own ineptitude, the Left punditocracy congratulates itself that Democrats have the smartest presidents (“veritable geniuses—tops of their classes, brilliant orators, connoisseurs of facts, and champions of analysis”) who outshine the dummies the GOP produces. But let’s get real: “When you’re comparing the men who brought down the Berlin Wall and the Cold War along with it, liberated the people of Iraq from their butcher dictator and declared war against our terrorist enemies with the men who presided over the Iranian hostage crisis, gas lines, and our national malaise, and sullied the office of the president in a very big way, does it really matter who scored higher on his SATs?”

Another Nevada Senate poll, another double-digit deficit for Harry Reid. It might have something to do with the fact that Obama’s approval is only at 39 percent.

Michael Barone observes that even liberal pundits think the Republicans did quite well at the health-care summit. (Note to file: disregard Republican insiders who fear that every opportunity to talk to the American people is a “trap.”) He concludes: “Last month, we were told that Obama would switch his focus from health care to jobs. But Democrats have spent February and seem about to spend March focusing on health care. It’s hard to see how they can navigate the legislative process successfully — and even harder to see how they turn around public opinion. Summit flop indeed.”

I think most endorsements don’t matter very much. But some are downright absurd: Condi Rice backs Meg Whitman. What voter would be influenced by this?

Sometimes there is no right answer: “Republicans will win back Congress if Democrats use a majority-vote tactic on healthcare reform, according to the House GOP whip. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the second-ranking Republican in the House, tied the use of budget reconciliation rules on the healthcare bill to Democrats’ electoral fortunes this fall.” Then again, voters might punish the Democrats even if reconciliation isn’t used. You get the sense the Republicans are having fun taunting their opponents. It’s that kind of year.

Warren Buffet agrees with Republicans, suggesting that “President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats go back to the drawing board on health-care overhaul legislation and work with Republicans to come up with new legislation that deals with the ‘cost, cost, cost,’ that he calls a ‘tapeworm eating at American competitiveness.'” Not sure Obama listens to him, since Buffet went after most everything on Obama’s agenda, from card check to cap-and-trade. But really, didn’t Buffet know what Obama was all about when he backed him for president? I guess not.

Shocking, I know, but Steny Hoyer wants the deficit commission to raise taxes.

Must be George W. Bush’s fault: “Barack Obama now has a negative approval rating in every state he flipped from the Bush column to his in 2008. In each of those places his level of support is now in the 44-46% range. It’s probably a good thing he doesn’t have to run for reelection this year. He can only hope things start turning around for him once the midterms are in the rear view mirror, much as they did for Bill Clinton.”

At the precise moment one of its own is collapsing in a puddle of his own ineptitude, the Left punditocracy congratulates itself that Democrats have the smartest presidents (“veritable geniuses—tops of their classes, brilliant orators, connoisseurs of facts, and champions of analysis”) who outshine the dummies the GOP produces. But let’s get real: “When you’re comparing the men who brought down the Berlin Wall and the Cold War along with it, liberated the people of Iraq from their butcher dictator and declared war against our terrorist enemies with the men who presided over the Iranian hostage crisis, gas lines, and our national malaise, and sullied the office of the president in a very big way, does it really matter who scored higher on his SATs?”

Another Nevada Senate poll, another double-digit deficit for Harry Reid. It might have something to do with the fact that Obama’s approval is only at 39 percent.

Michael Barone observes that even liberal pundits think the Republicans did quite well at the health-care summit. (Note to file: disregard Republican insiders who fear that every opportunity to talk to the American people is a “trap.”) He concludes: “Last month, we were told that Obama would switch his focus from health care to jobs. But Democrats have spent February and seem about to spend March focusing on health care. It’s hard to see how they can navigate the legislative process successfully — and even harder to see how they turn around public opinion. Summit flop indeed.”

I think most endorsements don’t matter very much. But some are downright absurd: Condi Rice backs Meg Whitman. What voter would be influenced by this?

Sometimes there is no right answer: “Republicans will win back Congress if Democrats use a majority-vote tactic on healthcare reform, according to the House GOP whip. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the second-ranking Republican in the House, tied the use of budget reconciliation rules on the healthcare bill to Democrats’ electoral fortunes this fall.” Then again, voters might punish the Democrats even if reconciliation isn’t used. You get the sense the Republicans are having fun taunting their opponents. It’s that kind of year.

Warren Buffet agrees with Republicans, suggesting that “President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats go back to the drawing board on health-care overhaul legislation and work with Republicans to come up with new legislation that deals with the ‘cost, cost, cost,’ that he calls a ‘tapeworm eating at American competitiveness.'” Not sure Obama listens to him, since Buffet went after most everything on Obama’s agenda, from card check to cap-and-trade. But really, didn’t Buffet know what Obama was all about when he backed him for president? I guess not.

Shocking, I know, but Steny Hoyer wants the deficit commission to raise taxes.

Must be George W. Bush’s fault: “Barack Obama now has a negative approval rating in every state he flipped from the Bush column to his in 2008. In each of those places his level of support is now in the 44-46% range. It’s probably a good thing he doesn’t have to run for reelection this year. He can only hope things start turning around for him once the midterms are in the rear view mirror, much as they did for Bill Clinton.”

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Madame Speaker, Meet Reality

Politico’s headline blares: “Nancy Pelosi’s Brutal Reality Check.” A big chunk of that reality is the absence in the House of votes necessary to pass ObamaCare:

Pelosi and other top House Democrats say publicly that they have the votes to push through a comprehensive package, but privately, they know they don’t. Pelosi must balance the diverging interests of her own members while simultaneously satisfying Senate Democrats and working with President Barack Obama and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a former House colleague with whom she has an uneasy relationship.

Oops. And then there are the upcoming elections, the retirements, the corruption scandals, and her own unpopularity. But she assures us that the Democrats will keep their majority. Listen, what do you expect her to say? No use turning a rout into a stampede. But it does suggest that many of the pro-Obama spinners in the media are being taken for a ride. They seem to take seriously the notion that she’s got this all lined up and that reconciliation is the magic potion for passing ObamaCare.

It isn’t clear how much in touch with reality Pelosi is. Does she buy her own spin or is she trying to make the best out of a bad situation? Maybe she is simply trying to keep her finger in the dike, preventing the dam from bursting and the liberal base from going berserk and thereby further demoralizing her caucus. But if she has some sense of her own political peril and of the near-moribund state of ObamaCare, it would be a wonder why she is not, at least quietly, trying to come up with Plan B. She’s decried incrementalism, as Obama has. But that’s her only hope if, in fact, the votes for a grandiose health-care scheme just aren’t there.

Perhaps what is required here from Pelosi is not an introduction to reality but a collision — a vote that fails or a whip count that shows she is over 15 or 20 votes shy of a majority. If that moment comes, then perhaps we will see whether Pelosi has the skill and smarts to find a way to save her own speakership, the Democratic majority, and, in a meaningful way, Obama’s presidency. And then we’ll maybe give her some praise for a health-care plan that is incremental, affordable, and reasonable — everything the current plan is not.

Politico’s headline blares: “Nancy Pelosi’s Brutal Reality Check.” A big chunk of that reality is the absence in the House of votes necessary to pass ObamaCare:

Pelosi and other top House Democrats say publicly that they have the votes to push through a comprehensive package, but privately, they know they don’t. Pelosi must balance the diverging interests of her own members while simultaneously satisfying Senate Democrats and working with President Barack Obama and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a former House colleague with whom she has an uneasy relationship.

Oops. And then there are the upcoming elections, the retirements, the corruption scandals, and her own unpopularity. But she assures us that the Democrats will keep their majority. Listen, what do you expect her to say? No use turning a rout into a stampede. But it does suggest that many of the pro-Obama spinners in the media are being taken for a ride. They seem to take seriously the notion that she’s got this all lined up and that reconciliation is the magic potion for passing ObamaCare.

It isn’t clear how much in touch with reality Pelosi is. Does she buy her own spin or is she trying to make the best out of a bad situation? Maybe she is simply trying to keep her finger in the dike, preventing the dam from bursting and the liberal base from going berserk and thereby further demoralizing her caucus. But if she has some sense of her own political peril and of the near-moribund state of ObamaCare, it would be a wonder why she is not, at least quietly, trying to come up with Plan B. She’s decried incrementalism, as Obama has. But that’s her only hope if, in fact, the votes for a grandiose health-care scheme just aren’t there.

Perhaps what is required here from Pelosi is not an introduction to reality but a collision — a vote that fails or a whip count that shows she is over 15 or 20 votes shy of a majority. If that moment comes, then perhaps we will see whether Pelosi has the skill and smarts to find a way to save her own speakership, the Democratic majority, and, in a meaningful way, Obama’s presidency. And then we’ll maybe give her some praise for a health-care plan that is incremental, affordable, and reasonable — everything the current plan is not.

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Pelosi’s Other Problem

As if Nancy Pelosi didn’t have enough problems — the polls, the retirements, the ObamaCare implosion, and the prospect of losing her speakership — she now must face a daily bashing by Republicans who sense she and her caucus are vulnerable on the ethics issue. The Hill reports:

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Sunday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was breaking the promise to have the most ethical Congress “every day.”

“Nancy Pelosi said in the very beginning this is going to be the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history,” Cantor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, “and what we’re seeing, she’s breaking that promise every day.”

Cantor and other Republicans are of course hounding Pelosi to dump Rangel, which for inexplicable reasons she is refusing to do. (Is he going to vote no on ObamaCare if she takes away his Ways and Means chairmanship? Of course not.) The Hill report then notes, ominously for the Democrats, that “Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) intends to introduce a privileged resolution next week calling for a vote on removing Charles Rangel as head of the Ways and Means panel.” Ouch. Another vote, another sticky situation for the Democrats.

Well, unfortunately for them, Pelosi didn’t take seriously her promises on transparency or corruption. Instead, we’ve seen broken promises in regard to posting key bills ahead of the votes, the perpetuation of earmarks, the refusal until the health-care summit to let the cameras into health-care deliberations, and of course the refusal to dump ethically impaired members. It’s a pattern of hubris and indifference that contributed to Republican losses in 2006. Cantor and his troops hope the same is true in 2010.

As if Nancy Pelosi didn’t have enough problems — the polls, the retirements, the ObamaCare implosion, and the prospect of losing her speakership — she now must face a daily bashing by Republicans who sense she and her caucus are vulnerable on the ethics issue. The Hill reports:

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Sunday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was breaking the promise to have the most ethical Congress “every day.”

“Nancy Pelosi said in the very beginning this is going to be the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history,” Cantor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, “and what we’re seeing, she’s breaking that promise every day.”

Cantor and other Republicans are of course hounding Pelosi to dump Rangel, which for inexplicable reasons she is refusing to do. (Is he going to vote no on ObamaCare if she takes away his Ways and Means chairmanship? Of course not.) The Hill report then notes, ominously for the Democrats, that “Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) intends to introduce a privileged resolution next week calling for a vote on removing Charles Rangel as head of the Ways and Means panel.” Ouch. Another vote, another sticky situation for the Democrats.

Well, unfortunately for them, Pelosi didn’t take seriously her promises on transparency or corruption. Instead, we’ve seen broken promises in regard to posting key bills ahead of the votes, the perpetuation of earmarks, the refusal until the health-care summit to let the cameras into health-care deliberations, and of course the refusal to dump ethically impaired members. It’s a pattern of hubris and indifference that contributed to Republican losses in 2006. Cantor and his troops hope the same is true in 2010.

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