Commentary Magazine


Flotsam and Jetsam

Whoops — we got that whole stimulus thing wrong, says Joe Biden. So can we get the trillion dollars back if it’s not working? No.

He says “everyone guessed wrong” on the unemployment numbers. Uh. No. One political party (unanimously in House and nearly so in the Senate) said it was nonsense that wouldn’t work.

78% of Jewish voters supported Obama for president but now they are “concerned,” says Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Apparently President Obama doesn’t sound anything like candidate Obama on Iran, on Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, on settlements, etc. Hmm. It seems lots of people have noticed the differences.

Tyler Cowen: “Medicare expenditures threaten to crush the federal budget, yet the Obama administration is proposing that we start by spending more now so we can spend less later. This runs the risk of becoming the new voodoo economics. If we can’t realize significant savings in health care costs now, don’t expect savings in the future, either.”

Roger Cohen is of course stunned, just stunned to find brutality going on in Iran: “Overnight, a whole movement and mood were vaporized, to the point that they appeared a hallucination.” Wait until he finds out they’re not nice to Jews.

A smart move if you are offering yourself up as an education reformer: “In keeping with his tough campaign rhetoric on public employees’ unions, Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie has declined to seek the endorsement of the New Jersey Education Association’s  (NJEA) political action committee.”

Amir Taheri: “Mr. Ahmadinejad’s victory has the merit of clarifying the situation within the Islamic Republic. The choice is now between a repressive regime based on a bizarre and obscurantist ideology and the prospect of real change and democratization. There is no halfway house.The same clarity may apply to Tehran’s foreign policy. Believing that he has already defeated the United States, Mr. Ahmadinejad will be in no mood for compromise. Moments after his victory he described the U.S. as a ‘crippled creature’ and invited President Obama to a debate at the United Nations General Assembly, ostensibly to examine ‘the injustice done by world arrogance to Muslim nations.'” The Obama administration remains undeterred.

The Washington Post editors muster up a mild warning about conferring legitimacy on highly suspect election results: “So, as a first step, the Obama administration should take care not to signal more respect for those results than they merit.” (That would be none.)

Tom Friedman throws in the towel. With the mandatory snipe at “George Bush’s costly and wrenching wars” ( Friedman didn’t like Afghanistan either?), he acknowledges: “But the fact is, in ousting Saddam in Iraq in 2003 and mobilizing the U.N. to push Syria out of Lebanon in 2005, he opened space for real democratic politics that had not existed in Iraq or Lebanon for decades. ‘Bush had a simple idea, that the Arabs could be democratic, and at that particular moment simple ideas were what was needed, even if he was disingenuous,’ said Michael Young, the opinion editor of The Beirut Daily Star. ‘It was bolstered by the presence of a U.S. Army in the center of the Middle East. It created a sense that change was possible, that things did not always have to be as they were.'” Yes, it’s hard to see how it can be “disingenuous” if it was also real and worked, but Friedman has essentially conceded Bush was right about democracy in Iraq and his critics were wrong.

The Wall Stret Journal editors get it exactly right: “In Iran today, a sham election has been met with an open revolt. This takes great courage. The world’s free nations need the courage to do better than respond with the sham policy of making nice with an illegitimate regime.”

I am not the only one pointing out Obama’s about face on Israel. Mitt Romney has noticed the Obama flip-floppery too: “During the campaign, when he spoke to AIPAC, he said he would do everything in his power to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. And then he went to Cairo and said that no single nation should have the ability to deny another nation the right to have a nuclear weapon. That is an 180-degree flip of a dangerous nature. . .But that’s not right for America. That’s not right for world security.”

Sen. Kent Conrad says the votes aren’t there for the “public option.” So what next –and does Obama try to change anyone’s mind?

Sen. Mitch McConnell says the filibuster is on the table for Sotomayor. After all, the Democrats legitimized the tactic, he reminds us: “I have consistently opposed filibustering judges – did it during the Clinton years – but I lost that fight. .  .The Senate will filibuster judges. That precedent was established – ironically enough – on a Hispanic-American nominee in Miguel Estrada. . . The Democrats have firmly established that as a precedent, but that doesn’t mean you are going to use it.”

Michael Rubin (no relation) thinks the Obama Effect isn’t working out so well: “Look carefully at how things unfolded in Tehran. Outreach to the Islamic Republic is Obama’s signature foreign policy issue. A week into his presidency, Obama extended an olive branch to Tehran, asking the regime to unclench its fist. Two months later, Obama broadcast a message to Iran, for the first time recognizing the ayatollahs as the legitimate representatives of the Iranian people. Last month, Obama acknowledged the Islamic Republic’s right to enrich uranium and, in Cairo, the he acknowledged CIA involvement in the overthrow of an Iranian government more than a half-century ago. Rhetoric, concession and apology, however, are not enough to alter reality. On Friday, millions of Iranians cast votes in hotly contested presidential elections, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Holocaust-denying president who defies nuclear safeguards and mocks U.S. weakness, won a second term.”

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