Commentary Magazine


Flotsam and Jetsam

Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution on Joe Biden: “An outstanding senator was elected vice president; six months later he’s the butt of late-night comics’ jokes. Craig Ferguson says, ‘Biden speaks the language of crazy'; Jimmy Fallon calls him ‘Chewbacca with fur plugs.'” Totally unfair. He was never outstanding at anything other than jaw-dropping pomposity and a lack of verbal discipline. Obama should have seen this one coming.

Obama is not merely defending the Defense of Marriage Act — he’s undermining the entire constitutional framework for pro-gay marriage advocates. Dale Carpenter explains the administration didn’t just make technical procedural arguments: “[T]he DOJ brief goes further than it needs to . . . by addressing the merits of the constitutional issues in the case, which attacks both DOMA Section 2 (interstate recognition) and DOMA Section 3 (federal recognition). There’s a hodge-podge of claims in the case. Everything from the Full Faith & Credit Clause to freedom of speech is hurled at DOMA by the claimants. Of most interest is what the DOJ has to say about the due process and equal protection claims, rejecting just about every single variation of an argument that gay-rights scholars and litigants have made over the past 30 years. . . Obama says he opposes DOMA as a policy matter and wants to repeal it. Nothing in the DOJ brief prevents him from acting on that belief. He is, he says, a ‘fierce advocate’ for gay and lesbian Americans. When does that part start?” Next to pro-Israel voters, has any group received worse treatment by Obama than gay voters?

Meanwhile, Marty Peretz seems to be harboring no illusions these days: “Four especially reassuring elections occurred at the United Nations on Wednesday. So I hasten to bring you the good news. Let me give it to you seriatim:1. Libya was elected President of the U.N. General Assembly. The Libyan minister for African affairs has been designated for the post.  2. Sudan as been elected as vice president of the General Assembly. This bodes well for Darfur.3. Algeria has been elected as chair of the Assembly’s Legal Committee, known in the U.N.’s streamlined bureaucracy as the Sixth Committee.4. Iran has been elected vice-chair of the Sixth Committee. Susan Rice will have a wonderful time engaging with these men. Especially since the president’s Cairo speech, which has changed the world.”

Yuval Levin and Bill Kristol see healthcare reform crumbling as we leave the realm of generalities. “The government insurance ‘option’ is clearly shaping up to be the first key vulnerability of ObamaCare. It is crucial to the logic of the Democrats’ approach, as it would offer convenient cover both for the move toward government financing of coverage and for the rationing of care such a move would require. The president, congressional leaders, and key liberal interest groups have insisted it be part of any reform effort. But as outside opposition grows, it is far from clear that the government option will have the votes to pass. If it were voted down or pulled out of the Democrats’ bills, the logic and the inevitability of the remainder of their reform effort would be called into question, and Republicans would face a real opportunity to make the case for their own brand of reform, and to stop the ObamaCare train in its tracks.”

And on a related note, because CBO — that is the Congressional Budget Office — may “score” the healthcare too “high” ( that is Congress-speak for “honestly tell us it will cost a fortune”) Congress may use the figures cooked up by the executive branch’s OMB. That tells you everything you need to know about which entity is more accurate and which is more politicized.

Charlie Rangel admits it will cost more than $1 trillion; Orin Hatch says $1.5 trillion. Democrats are starting the bidding at $600M in new taxes and $400M in Medicare and Medicaid. So how are they going to do that without limiting care for old and poor people?

Fred Barnes explains the lay of the land in Virginia’s gubernatorial race: “Mr. McDonnell’s task is to differentiate himself from Mr. Deeds, point out that the last two Democratic governors in the state raised taxes, and persuade voters the Democrat is far to his left. . . . Mr. McDonnell’s conservative but less ideological strategy may have implications for the GOP. He hasn’t jettisoned social issues, but he’s downplayed them in favor of basic economic, energy and education issues — those designed to attract suburban and middle-class voters. We’ll know in November if this works.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman tells the president and the rest of us that Guantanamo is a “humane” place for the detainees. Yeah, but it can’t match the beaches on Palau and Bermuda.

Speaking of which, Bermuda is in an uproar over the Uighurs. There is something unseemly about using little countries as our toxic dump for terrorists. I thought this was the administration which was going to be a good neighbor in the world community.

Sen. Lindsay Graham isn’t going away quietly on the detainee abuse photo ban: “However, Mr. Graham said he would drop his objections to the $105.6 billion spending measure on two conditions: a promise of a free-standing vote on his ban before July 8 and a commitment from the White House that President Obama would issue an executive order classifying the photos as secret should that be needed to keep them under wraps.”

Lanny Davis doesn’t buy Paul Krugman’s line that it’s the Right which is the home of anti-Semitic haters. Davis remembers the Lieberman Senate race in 2006 all too well.

Will Obama take credit for this one too? ” Defying many predictions, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a commanding lead in the presidential vote count early Saturday, election officials with Iran’s Interior Ministry said.” Be prepared for liberal pundit to reverse course and tell us none of this matters. (But weren’t they just saying that. . . . Oh, never mind.)

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