Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rudy Giuliani

The Resilient City-Dwellers of New York

I would like to expand on the point that John Steele Gordon, my fellow resident of Westchester County, made in this post about the toughness of New Yorkers. It is a point I could not agree with more–and it is demonstrated not only by the response to superstorm Sandy but, even more magnificently, by the response to 9/11 which was far more devastating in terms of lives lost. Yet New Yorkers did not panic, at least not for long, and they did not flee the city in droves, as some had predicted would happen after the worst attack ever on American soil. Instead, more than a decade after 9/11 the city is more vibrant than ever–and there is no doubt that we will come back, and come back quickly, from the damage caused by this week’s storm.

All of this is, on some level, to state the obvious. But it actually runs counter to a long and important strain of American thought. From Thomas Jefferson in the eighteenth century to country and Western musicians in the present day, there has been a long line of people extolling the virtues of rural life and damning big cities, especially big Northeastern cities, as the cesspool of humanity. Many conservatives, especially in the South, Midwest, and mountain West, are especially prone to adopt the argument that small towns are the repositories of American strength, virtue, and piety while cities are dens of quasi-communism, free love, drugs, atheism, and everything else that’s wrong with humanity.

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I would like to expand on the point that John Steele Gordon, my fellow resident of Westchester County, made in this post about the toughness of New Yorkers. It is a point I could not agree with more–and it is demonstrated not only by the response to superstorm Sandy but, even more magnificently, by the response to 9/11 which was far more devastating in terms of lives lost. Yet New Yorkers did not panic, at least not for long, and they did not flee the city in droves, as some had predicted would happen after the worst attack ever on American soil. Instead, more than a decade after 9/11 the city is more vibrant than ever–and there is no doubt that we will come back, and come back quickly, from the damage caused by this week’s storm.

All of this is, on some level, to state the obvious. But it actually runs counter to a long and important strain of American thought. From Thomas Jefferson in the eighteenth century to country and Western musicians in the present day, there has been a long line of people extolling the virtues of rural life and damning big cities, especially big Northeastern cities, as the cesspool of humanity. Many conservatives, especially in the South, Midwest, and mountain West, are especially prone to adopt the argument that small towns are the repositories of American strength, virtue, and piety while cities are dens of quasi-communism, free love, drugs, atheism, and everything else that’s wrong with humanity.

This argument has a shred of truth to it, because there is no doubt that cities have generally been more tolerant of a variety of what would today be called alternative lifestyles, facilitating not only great artistic development but also brothels, drug dens, saloons, and other not-so-virtuous establishments. Those exist in small towns, too, but not in such great abundance. There is no doubt that there is a lot more sinning, if I may use that anachronistic term, in cities–but then there is a lot more of everything else too, including working out in gyms and working long hours in offices. 

Yet there is no evidence–at least none that I have found–that big city dwellers are any less virtuous on the whole, less patriotic, or less resilient than those who live on farms or in smaller communities. Indeed, just to get through their day, residents of New York have to weather all sorts of annoyances that would be unthinkable to those who live in rural areas–from having to shlep groceries home by cart or taxi to having to deal with aggressive panhandlers in the subways to having to deal with vast throngs on Fifth Avenue. Admittedly in the case of New York all those annoyances have decreased over the years, ever since Rudolph Giuliani sent crime plummeting to historic lows, and now new services like Freshdirect (for groceries) and Seamless (for restaurant delivery) have made apartment living exceedingly convenient.

Nevertheless, every day tourists are overwhelmed by the sheer scale of New York, by the number of people moving in all directions, by the endless day-and-night buzz of activity–and though most of them no doubt enjoy their New York vacations, many are also happy to go back to the less hectic pace of their lives elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with preferring to liver in a smaller community–but let’s banish the mistaken idea that those who reside in a mega-city like New York are wimps or degenerates. The kind of toughness that New Yorkers need simply to get through daily life comes shining through in a crisis, whether 9/11 or Sandy.

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NYPD Responds to the Times’s False Attacks

Though New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg often appears to be leading the charge on some of modern liberalism’s pet governing projects, there is a line that he will absolutely not cross: the sentiment, expressed often by the New York Times, that the city should reverse its successful policing tactics. The most recent controversy centers on the New York Police Department’s so-called “stop and frisk,” in which police step up their search for weapons in high-crime neighborhoods by checking the persons of some residents of these neighborhoods when following leads.

The Times has declared war on the NYPD’s effective policies, but even a May editorial, in which the Times suggested New York follow Philadelphia’s lead, was too much for Bloomberg:

“Why would any rational person want to trade what we have here for situation in Philadelphia?” Bloomberg told NY 1. “More murders, higher crime. Is that what the Times wants?”

The controversy was back in the news yesterday. The Times has written a series of stories accusing the NYPD of racism because they stop minorities so often, and yesterday published the results of the paper’s own poll showing that respondents think the NYPD favors whites. But even within this poll, in which the Times seeks to make and shape news rather than just report it, there is some inconvenient information for opponents of effective policing and lower crime:

But Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, received high marks on the crime issue: 57 percent of New Yorkers said they approved of the way the mayor was dealing with crime, and 61 percent said they approved of the way the commissioner was handling his job. Even 50 percent of the respondents who said they had been the target of a racially motivated police stop approved of Mr. Kelly’s management.

“I live in Brooklyn, in Coney Island, and everybody has guns; 3-year-old kids have guns! It’s outrageous,” said Johnny Rivera, 52, a former foreman at an aluminum company. As for the stop-and-frisk practice, he said, “the worst thing they could do is stop it.”

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Though New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg often appears to be leading the charge on some of modern liberalism’s pet governing projects, there is a line that he will absolutely not cross: the sentiment, expressed often by the New York Times, that the city should reverse its successful policing tactics. The most recent controversy centers on the New York Police Department’s so-called “stop and frisk,” in which police step up their search for weapons in high-crime neighborhoods by checking the persons of some residents of these neighborhoods when following leads.

The Times has declared war on the NYPD’s effective policies, but even a May editorial, in which the Times suggested New York follow Philadelphia’s lead, was too much for Bloomberg:

“Why would any rational person want to trade what we have here for situation in Philadelphia?” Bloomberg told NY 1. “More murders, higher crime. Is that what the Times wants?”

The controversy was back in the news yesterday. The Times has written a series of stories accusing the NYPD of racism because they stop minorities so often, and yesterday published the results of the paper’s own poll showing that respondents think the NYPD favors whites. But even within this poll, in which the Times seeks to make and shape news rather than just report it, there is some inconvenient information for opponents of effective policing and lower crime:

But Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, received high marks on the crime issue: 57 percent of New Yorkers said they approved of the way the mayor was dealing with crime, and 61 percent said they approved of the way the commissioner was handling his job. Even 50 percent of the respondents who said they had been the target of a racially motivated police stop approved of Mr. Kelly’s management.

“I live in Brooklyn, in Coney Island, and everybody has guns; 3-year-old kids have guns! It’s outrageous,” said Johnny Rivera, 52, a former foreman at an aluminum company. As for the stop-and-frisk practice, he said, “the worst thing they could do is stop it.”

The NYPD has had enough of the ignorant abuse from the Times, and responded on its Facebook page to the charge: “During the first 10 years of the Bloomberg Administration there were 5,430 murders compared to 11,058 in the 10 years prior, a reduction of 51% or 5,628 lives saved. If history is a guide, the vast majority of those lives saved were young men of color.”

Indeed, history is just such a guide. As Steven Malanga noted in City Journal in 2007, Rudy Giuliani, whose mayoralty led the policing revolution that eventually made New York one of the safest cities in the country, was also accused of such bias. But contrary to those accusations, under Giuliani the NYPD reduced crime while also reducing shootings by police and claims of excessive force dramatically. And guess who benefited the most:

Moreover, Giuliani’s policing success was a boon to minority neighborhoods. For instance, in the city’s 34th Precinct, covering the largely Hispanic Washington Heights section of Manhattan, murders dropped from 76 in 1993, Dinkins’s last year, to only seven by Giuliani’s last year, a decline of more than 90 percent. Far from being the racist that activists claimed, Giuliani had delivered to the city’s minority neighborhoods a true form of equal protection under the law.

The NYPD goes where the danger is. For that, they should be praised—and usually are. The New York Times editorialists have been railing against policing that has saved thousands of lives in New York’s minority neighborhoods. The paper’s reporting has been so inaccurate and agenda-driven it has led Michael Bloomberg to wonder aloud if what the Times wants is more murder in the city. That may sound harsh, but the great breakthrough of Giuliani’s time in office was his realization that you cannot govern effectively unless you ignore the New York Times. Nowhere is that more important, or with higher stakes, than the effort to keep New Yorkers safe.

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Yes, Rudy Is Considering Another Presidential Run

Get ready to see America’s mayor back in action. The New York Post reported this morning that Rudy Giuliani is readying himself for another presidential run in 2012, and now it sounds like his plans have been in the works for several months. A source familiar with the issue tells me that Giuliani has been reaching out to people about launching another presidential bid since at least last summer.

The former mayor would obviously be a long shot in the race — especially after his disastrous campaign in 2008 — but it may be premature to discount him entirely. One of the problems that plagued his last run was his unwillingness to mount tough attacks against his close friend Sen. John McCain. There were also reports that several of Rudy’s opponents were sitting on treasure troves of damaging opposition research on him, but I’m told that time may have made that information less of a concern.

And according to the Post, Rudy could have other reasons to be confident. Sources told the paper that the former mayor “thinks the Republican race will be populated with far-right candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, and there’s opportunity for a moderate candidate with a background in national security.”

Which really gets down to the brass tacks of why Giuliani is probably mounting this bid: he wants to ensure that his issues — primarily national security — play a prominent role in the election. Obviously his chances of winning are small, but at least by running he can keep a foot in the game and keep his policy interests in the spotlight.

Get ready to see America’s mayor back in action. The New York Post reported this morning that Rudy Giuliani is readying himself for another presidential run in 2012, and now it sounds like his plans have been in the works for several months. A source familiar with the issue tells me that Giuliani has been reaching out to people about launching another presidential bid since at least last summer.

The former mayor would obviously be a long shot in the race — especially after his disastrous campaign in 2008 — but it may be premature to discount him entirely. One of the problems that plagued his last run was his unwillingness to mount tough attacks against his close friend Sen. John McCain. There were also reports that several of Rudy’s opponents were sitting on treasure troves of damaging opposition research on him, but I’m told that time may have made that information less of a concern.

And according to the Post, Rudy could have other reasons to be confident. Sources told the paper that the former mayor “thinks the Republican race will be populated with far-right candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, and there’s opportunity for a moderate candidate with a background in national security.”

Which really gets down to the brass tacks of why Giuliani is probably mounting this bid: he wants to ensure that his issues — primarily national security — play a prominent role in the election. Obviously his chances of winning are small, but at least by running he can keep a foot in the game and keep his policy interests in the spotlight.

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Thinking Deeply About Government’s Purpose, Not Just Its Size

My Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Yuval Levin, who is also editor of National Affairs, was interviewed by ConservativeHome’s Ryan Streeter. Yuval’s insights are typically wise and learned. I was particularly interested in his response to the question “If you could wave a wand and change one thing about the GOP, what would it be?” According to Yuval:

I would make it so that every time we are tempted to talk about the size of government we talk also (and more so) about the purpose of government. This would make us more focused on policy particulars than on vague abstractions, better able to offer an alternative to the left’s agenda rather than just slowing the pace of its implementation, and better able to speak to the aspirations of the larger public.

The out-of-control size and cost of government today are symptoms of the fact that we have lost sight of the question of what government is for. The answer to that question is not “nothing,” after all. But it is also not “everything.” A basic answer to that question, rather, is laid out pretty well in Article I, section 8 of the United States Constitution. Maybe modern life has piled some complexities and difficulties on us that require some additions to the list presented there, and of course the Constitution contains a mechanism for making such additions. But as long as we are obsessed with how much it all costs we are not able to focus on the more important question of how to make government more effective and energetic in those areas where we want it to act, and how to keep it from acting in those areas where we don’t (and where we therefore think that families, communities, and other mediating institutions should act instead).

This counsel is extremely wise. It is not as if the size of government is irrelevant; far from it. There are important fiscal and moral ramifications created by a “nanny state.” But to focus solely on the size of government rather than on its core purposes is a mistake, both philosophically and politically. God willed the state, as Edmund Burke put it; but what does He want the state to achieve? This is hardly a new question, but it is one that every serious student of politics needs to engage.

As a practical matter, take the issue of order. “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention,” John Jay wrote in Federalist Paper No. 3, “that of providing for their safety seems to be the first.” The “tranquility of order” (the phrase comes from Augustine) is the first responsibility of government; without it, we can hardly expect things like justice, prosperity, or virtue to flourish. Order, in turn, cannot be achieved without government — and among the threats to domestic order, crime surely ranks high. Read More

My Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Yuval Levin, who is also editor of National Affairs, was interviewed by ConservativeHome’s Ryan Streeter. Yuval’s insights are typically wise and learned. I was particularly interested in his response to the question “If you could wave a wand and change one thing about the GOP, what would it be?” According to Yuval:

I would make it so that every time we are tempted to talk about the size of government we talk also (and more so) about the purpose of government. This would make us more focused on policy particulars than on vague abstractions, better able to offer an alternative to the left’s agenda rather than just slowing the pace of its implementation, and better able to speak to the aspirations of the larger public.

The out-of-control size and cost of government today are symptoms of the fact that we have lost sight of the question of what government is for. The answer to that question is not “nothing,” after all. But it is also not “everything.” A basic answer to that question, rather, is laid out pretty well in Article I, section 8 of the United States Constitution. Maybe modern life has piled some complexities and difficulties on us that require some additions to the list presented there, and of course the Constitution contains a mechanism for making such additions. But as long as we are obsessed with how much it all costs we are not able to focus on the more important question of how to make government more effective and energetic in those areas where we want it to act, and how to keep it from acting in those areas where we don’t (and where we therefore think that families, communities, and other mediating institutions should act instead).

This counsel is extremely wise. It is not as if the size of government is irrelevant; far from it. There are important fiscal and moral ramifications created by a “nanny state.” But to focus solely on the size of government rather than on its core purposes is a mistake, both philosophically and politically. God willed the state, as Edmund Burke put it; but what does He want the state to achieve? This is hardly a new question, but it is one that every serious student of politics needs to engage.

As a practical matter, take the issue of order. “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention,” John Jay wrote in Federalist Paper No. 3, “that of providing for their safety seems to be the first.” The “tranquility of order” (the phrase comes from Augustine) is the first responsibility of government; without it, we can hardly expect things like justice, prosperity, or virtue to flourish. Order, in turn, cannot be achieved without government — and among the threats to domestic order, crime surely ranks high.

This line of reasoning inevitably leads us to law-enforcement policies ranging from incarceration to policing strategies to the “broken windows” theory. (In the 1980s, Professors James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling argued that public disorder — as evidenced by unrepaired broken windows — is evidence of a permissive moral environment, a signal that no one cares, and therefore acts as a magnet to criminals.) And in looking at some of the great success stories in lowering crime, such as New York City in the 1990s, one finds that the key to success wasn’t the size or cost of government, but its efficacy. The question Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his police chief, William Bratton, asked wasn’t “How big should the police department be?” but rather “What should the police department be doing?”

The answer to that question led to a policy revolution in law enforcement.

The point is that fundamental questions about the role and purpose of the state aren’t academic ones; a public philosophy needs to be at the center of our debates about public policy, and we need public figures who themselves are able to think clearly and deeply about these matters.

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Forget “Front-runner”

There is a bizarre obsession with declaring in the fall of 2010 that one candidate or another is the “front-runner” in the GOP presidential primary. Sarah Palin will be the front-runner, the pundits pronounce, because she’s so very popular with the base (but maybe not as popular as the mainstream media imagine). Mitt Romney is the front-runner, we are told, because he is “next in line” and will have loads of money and name recognition. This is all hogwash.

Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” for all of 2007 — and then the race actually started. Romney had tons of money last time, but John McCain’s pauper campaign beat him. (And if anything, Romney is in worse shape this time with the RomneyCare cloud over his head.) It’s daft to talk of front-runners when the candidates aren’t set, we are two years from any votes being cast, and there is such obvious discontent with the most likely contenders.

The 2012 polls mean absolutely nothing at this point, reflecting only current familiarity with the candidates. Bestowing front-runner status on this or that candidate provides reporters and pundits with a way of organizing their storylines (“front-runner stumbles”), but it’s not informative. What would be illuminating is to probe the strengths and weaknesses of each, the source of support (financial and otherwise) each might have, and the potential strategy for each. But, by gosh, that takes a lot of work. So much easier just to debate who the “front-runner” is and ponder whether Palin will run or not.

There is a bizarre obsession with declaring in the fall of 2010 that one candidate or another is the “front-runner” in the GOP presidential primary. Sarah Palin will be the front-runner, the pundits pronounce, because she’s so very popular with the base (but maybe not as popular as the mainstream media imagine). Mitt Romney is the front-runner, we are told, because he is “next in line” and will have loads of money and name recognition. This is all hogwash.

Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” for all of 2007 — and then the race actually started. Romney had tons of money last time, but John McCain’s pauper campaign beat him. (And if anything, Romney is in worse shape this time with the RomneyCare cloud over his head.) It’s daft to talk of front-runners when the candidates aren’t set, we are two years from any votes being cast, and there is such obvious discontent with the most likely contenders.

The 2012 polls mean absolutely nothing at this point, reflecting only current familiarity with the candidates. Bestowing front-runner status on this or that candidate provides reporters and pundits with a way of organizing their storylines (“front-runner stumbles”), but it’s not informative. What would be illuminating is to probe the strengths and weaknesses of each, the source of support (financial and otherwise) each might have, and the potential strategy for each. But, by gosh, that takes a lot of work. So much easier just to debate who the “front-runner” is and ponder whether Palin will run or not.

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Right to Be Concerned, But Not Panicked, About 2012

Monday morning I was in a supermarket parking lot in my neighborhood in Northern Virginia. An older gentleman was putting grocery bags in his truck, festooned with “NO OBAMA” and “McCain-Palin” stickers. Another shopper approached him, commenting, “I like your McCain sticker but who we gonna get this time!”

That sums up what most Republicans are wondering these days. To say that the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism would be putting it mildly. That, in part, accounts for the effort to change Chris Christie’s mind about a 2012 run or lure some other candidate(s) into the race. The media narrative that Palin would instantly be the “front runner” (I guess, in the way, Rudy Giuliani was the front runner before it meant anything) is belied by the determination by so many Republicans to find some other, not yet obvious, candidate.

This is more, I think, than the usual desire to find that mythical perfect candidate with oodles of experience, a fresh face, and no baggage. There is unease that those who are running are deeply flawed (either hobbled within the party or not viable in a general election) or unexciting, while those most attractive aren’t interested this time around (e.g., Christie, Marco Rubio).

To a large degree, the concern is premature. If 2008 showed us anything, it was that an early start, high name recognition, and gobs of organization don’t necessarily mean all that much two years before the first primary. Otherwise, Giuliani or Romney would have been the last nominee. But the concern among Republican activists is a healthy sign — a recognition that electability, personality, experience, and ideology must all be balanced and that this is a very critical election, too critical to roll the dice on a shaky candidate. Along with the sober House GOP leaders has come recognition in the GOP ranks that not any Republican on the ballot can win, no matter how badly the Obama administration performs.

There’s no rush for the Republicans to find the right candidate, but the GOP may have learned some lessons: get viable candidates into the race, choose wisely, and don’t sit around waiting for Obama to complete his meltdown.

Monday morning I was in a supermarket parking lot in my neighborhood in Northern Virginia. An older gentleman was putting grocery bags in his truck, festooned with “NO OBAMA” and “McCain-Palin” stickers. Another shopper approached him, commenting, “I like your McCain sticker but who we gonna get this time!”

That sums up what most Republicans are wondering these days. To say that the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism would be putting it mildly. That, in part, accounts for the effort to change Chris Christie’s mind about a 2012 run or lure some other candidate(s) into the race. The media narrative that Palin would instantly be the “front runner” (I guess, in the way, Rudy Giuliani was the front runner before it meant anything) is belied by the determination by so many Republicans to find some other, not yet obvious, candidate.

This is more, I think, than the usual desire to find that mythical perfect candidate with oodles of experience, a fresh face, and no baggage. There is unease that those who are running are deeply flawed (either hobbled within the party or not viable in a general election) or unexciting, while those most attractive aren’t interested this time around (e.g., Christie, Marco Rubio).

To a large degree, the concern is premature. If 2008 showed us anything, it was that an early start, high name recognition, and gobs of organization don’t necessarily mean all that much two years before the first primary. Otherwise, Giuliani or Romney would have been the last nominee. But the concern among Republican activists is a healthy sign — a recognition that electability, personality, experience, and ideology must all be balanced and that this is a very critical election, too critical to roll the dice on a shaky candidate. Along with the sober House GOP leaders has come recognition in the GOP ranks that not any Republican on the ballot can win, no matter how badly the Obama administration performs.

There’s no rush for the Republicans to find the right candidate, but the GOP may have learned some lessons: get viable candidates into the race, choose wisely, and don’t sit around waiting for Obama to complete his meltdown.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Rep. Mark Kirk is stretching out his lead in Illinois. The last time his opponent led in a poll was October 11.

Pat Toomey is finishing strong in Pennsylvania.

If Obama is thinking of dumping Joe Biden, he can select Katie Couric as his VP. She sounds just like him: “Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls ‘this great unwashed middle of the country’ in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.” Boston is the middle of the country?

Obama’s human rights policy is baffling. “On Monday, the Obama administration waived sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, paving the way for new military cooperation with four countries with poor human rights records — despite their use of underage troops. … So the Obama administration has determined that deepening military relationships with brutal dictatorships and unsavory regimes is the best way to reform them? That seems like a pretty big shift in policy. It still remains unclear what military assistance the United States actually plans to give to countries like Sudan, Chad, and Yemen, as well as how it will use its engagement to protect child soldiers.”

Rudy Giuliani (after one of the more bizarrely inept campaigns in recent memory) is considering another presidential run? I suppose this time he would compete before the Florida campaign.

Released from the hospital, Carly Fiorina is returning to the campaign. The race is still close, but no poll has shown her ahead.

If Obama is meeting with liberal bloggers less than a week before the election, the Dems are in a heap of trouble.

John Bolton sure is sounding presidential: “Dramatic developments in Europe in the past few weeks have graphically demonstrated the importance of America’s upcoming November 2 elections. Coming midway through President Obama’s term, there is little doubt these elections constitute a referendum on his philosophy, policies and performance. Any U.S. citizens who doubt the significance of their impending votes need only contemplate Europe to see the consequences of further pursuing the Obama agenda.”

Rep. Mark Kirk is stretching out his lead in Illinois. The last time his opponent led in a poll was October 11.

Pat Toomey is finishing strong in Pennsylvania.

If Obama is thinking of dumping Joe Biden, he can select Katie Couric as his VP. She sounds just like him: “Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls ‘this great unwashed middle of the country’ in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.” Boston is the middle of the country?

Obama’s human rights policy is baffling. “On Monday, the Obama administration waived sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, paving the way for new military cooperation with four countries with poor human rights records — despite their use of underage troops. … So the Obama administration has determined that deepening military relationships with brutal dictatorships and unsavory regimes is the best way to reform them? That seems like a pretty big shift in policy. It still remains unclear what military assistance the United States actually plans to give to countries like Sudan, Chad, and Yemen, as well as how it will use its engagement to protect child soldiers.”

Rudy Giuliani (after one of the more bizarrely inept campaigns in recent memory) is considering another presidential run? I suppose this time he would compete before the Florida campaign.

Released from the hospital, Carly Fiorina is returning to the campaign. The race is still close, but no poll has shown her ahead.

If Obama is meeting with liberal bloggers less than a week before the election, the Dems are in a heap of trouble.

John Bolton sure is sounding presidential: “Dramatic developments in Europe in the past few weeks have graphically demonstrated the importance of America’s upcoming November 2 elections. Coming midway through President Obama’s term, there is little doubt these elections constitute a referendum on his philosophy, policies and performance. Any U.S. citizens who doubt the significance of their impending votes need only contemplate Europe to see the consequences of further pursuing the Obama agenda.”

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Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, and America’s “Crisis in Spirit”

I’ve certainly had my run-ins with Joe Klein in recent years. But this story, written after a four-week road trip across America, is worth reading. “Topic A is the growing sense that our best days as a nation are behind us,” Klein writes, “that our kids won’t live as well as we did, that China is in the driver’s seat. … I found the same themes dominant everywhere — a rethinking of basic assumptions, a moment of national introspection.”

The reasons for this anxiety and national introspection are complicated — based in part, but certainly not solely, on the failure of our political class. Yet in the coming years, this cast of mind is going to frame politics in America, much like Jimmy Carter’s “crisis of spirit” speech framed politics at the end of the 1970s. On July 15, 1979, Carter gave his most memorable, and disastrous, speech – declaring, in part, this:

But after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can’t fix what’s wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.

I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

In the end, the public will (rightfully) insist that its political leaders not simply diagnosis such problems, but do something to solve them. Ronald Reagan did this for the country as a whole, which is one reason he’s now widely seen as having been a great president. On a smaller scale, Rudy Giuliani could have lamented the desiccated state of New York City when he became mayor. Instead, he took steps to repair it. The result was a better, stronger, prouder city. New York became great again.

So far, President Obama has fallen terribly short of what the citizenry expects of him. He has contributed rather than ameliorated the anxieties and concerns people have. His policies, especially on the economy, are holding us down. Mr. Obama doesn’t seem able to tap into America’s remarkable strengths, spirit, and resilience, which are unique in the world and virtually unmatched in history. Indeed, in some deep way, he doesn’t even seem to recognize them and can therefore hardly acknowledge them.

If the president doesn’t correct these things relatively soon – if this “crisis of confidence” continues to spread and the president seems impotent to deal with the problems we face – then Barack Obama will share a fate similar to that of Jimmy Carter.

I’ve certainly had my run-ins with Joe Klein in recent years. But this story, written after a four-week road trip across America, is worth reading. “Topic A is the growing sense that our best days as a nation are behind us,” Klein writes, “that our kids won’t live as well as we did, that China is in the driver’s seat. … I found the same themes dominant everywhere — a rethinking of basic assumptions, a moment of national introspection.”

The reasons for this anxiety and national introspection are complicated — based in part, but certainly not solely, on the failure of our political class. Yet in the coming years, this cast of mind is going to frame politics in America, much like Jimmy Carter’s “crisis of spirit” speech framed politics at the end of the 1970s. On July 15, 1979, Carter gave his most memorable, and disastrous, speech – declaring, in part, this:

But after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can’t fix what’s wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.

I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

In the end, the public will (rightfully) insist that its political leaders not simply diagnosis such problems, but do something to solve them. Ronald Reagan did this for the country as a whole, which is one reason he’s now widely seen as having been a great president. On a smaller scale, Rudy Giuliani could have lamented the desiccated state of New York City when he became mayor. Instead, he took steps to repair it. The result was a better, stronger, prouder city. New York became great again.

So far, President Obama has fallen terribly short of what the citizenry expects of him. He has contributed rather than ameliorated the anxieties and concerns people have. His policies, especially on the economy, are holding us down. Mr. Obama doesn’t seem able to tap into America’s remarkable strengths, spirit, and resilience, which are unique in the world and virtually unmatched in history. Indeed, in some deep way, he doesn’t even seem to recognize them and can therefore hardly acknowledge them.

If the president doesn’t correct these things relatively soon – if this “crisis of confidence” continues to spread and the president seems impotent to deal with the problems we face – then Barack Obama will share a fate similar to that of Jimmy Carter.

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Some Polls You Can Ignore

There is a trickle. Soon, there will be a flood. Polling for the 2012 GOP presidential contenders, that is. I’m going to ignore these for a very long time. They are meaningless at this stage. (Ask Rudy Giuliani.) They are a function of name identification. The field is not set, the candidates have not yet engaged, and the inevitable unflattering revelations haven’t come. As we learned in 2008, it is not necessarily money and a strong organization that prevail. John McCain had neither — and nearly fell out of the race altogether after the bruising immigration-reform debate. You actually have to see how the candidates perform and who cannabalizes whose voters.

And while we know the central domestic issues (e.g., economic recovery, repealing ObamaCare), we don’t yet know whether even more pressing issues will emerge. Where we will be on Iran six months or a year from now? Will the GOP manage to rip up ObamaCare, thus eliminating a huge problem for Mitt Romney? Will there be a serious terror incident? Moreover, it is very possible that some of the “I’d rather not” potential candidates (e.g., Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush) will decide, “Well if you insist…”

And the 2010 results will have much to tell us as well. If Sarah Palin’s picks cruise to victory, she’ll have bragging rights. If they do worse than “establishment” candidates, it will be one more point of criticism.

But one thing is clear: conservatives haven’t found their guy/gal yet. That will take months and months. So until then, forget about those polls. At some point they’ll become intriguing — but not for a long, long time.

There is a trickle. Soon, there will be a flood. Polling for the 2012 GOP presidential contenders, that is. I’m going to ignore these for a very long time. They are meaningless at this stage. (Ask Rudy Giuliani.) They are a function of name identification. The field is not set, the candidates have not yet engaged, and the inevitable unflattering revelations haven’t come. As we learned in 2008, it is not necessarily money and a strong organization that prevail. John McCain had neither — and nearly fell out of the race altogether after the bruising immigration-reform debate. You actually have to see how the candidates perform and who cannabalizes whose voters.

And while we know the central domestic issues (e.g., economic recovery, repealing ObamaCare), we don’t yet know whether even more pressing issues will emerge. Where we will be on Iran six months or a year from now? Will the GOP manage to rip up ObamaCare, thus eliminating a huge problem for Mitt Romney? Will there be a serious terror incident? Moreover, it is very possible that some of the “I’d rather not” potential candidates (e.g., Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush) will decide, “Well if you insist…”

And the 2010 results will have much to tell us as well. If Sarah Palin’s picks cruise to victory, she’ll have bragging rights. If they do worse than “establishment” candidates, it will be one more point of criticism.

But one thing is clear: conservatives haven’t found their guy/gal yet. That will take months and months. So until then, forget about those polls. At some point they’ll become intriguing — but not for a long, long time.

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What’s It Going to Take in 2012?

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

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The Role and Purpose of Government

On the website e21, Representative Paul Ryan has responded to a column by David Brooks, who in turn was commenting on an op-ed by Ryan and Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute. Charles Murray added his thoughts as well.

The subject they are addressing is the role and purpose of the state in our lives. I would add only a few thoughts to what these razor-sharp minds have written.

The first is this: more than at any point in our lifetime, the sheer cost and size of government matters. We face an entitlement crisis. The level of our deficit and debt are unsustainable. Demographics are working against us rather than in our favor. And the Obama presidency has made our fiscal problems more, not less, acute. Unless we begin to reverse this trend fairly significantly, America will change in deep and lasting ways. We cannot continue on our present course and remain a strong, vibrant society. There is an urgent need, then, to re-limit government simply as a matter of dollars and cents, quite apart from philosophy and the effects the nanny state has on human character and self-reliance.

That said, conservatives also need to engage in a thoroughgoing examination of the core purposes of programs and policies. And in considering how to reform government programs, we need to think in terms of what we want them to do rather than simply how large and costly they are.

Consider four successes by government in the past 20 years: welfare reform; crime reduction (including the transformation of New York City under Mayor Rudy Giuliani); the campaign against illegal drugs in the late 1980s and early 1990s led by William J. Bennett; and the surge in Iraq. In each of these instances, the key to success wasn’t limiting the size of government; in each case, after all, government spending went up, not down. What transformed failure into success was acting smarter, creating the right incentives and disincentives, attacking the problems in a comprehensive way, and thinking in terms of what works.

What we need, then, are policymakers who believe in accountability; who judge results based not on inputs (expenditures, number of caseload workers, police officers, or troops) but outputs (cutting the number of people on welfare, decreasing drug use, reducing crime rates, lowering the number of ethno-sectarian deaths, car bombings, suicide attacks, and terrorist safe havens); who are passionately empirical; and who understand that we need to craft programs so as to take into account human nature and human behavior.

When it comes to entitlement programs, our task is different from, say, an anti-crime strategy. On entitlements, our first priority needs to be cutting costs in order to avoid a fiscal calamity. That will require us to alter the way we think about the basic aims of these programs. And here, I think, is where we eventually need to go: gradually and thoughtfully transitioning toward a means-tested system of benefits in place of the current Social Security and Medicare systems.

All these matters need to be examined in more depth. My hope is that Messrs. Brooks, Ryan, Brooks, and Murray continue to deepen this discussion and, in the process, pull other thoughtful voices into it. They could hardly perform a more useful intellectual and civic role.

On the website e21, Representative Paul Ryan has responded to a column by David Brooks, who in turn was commenting on an op-ed by Ryan and Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute. Charles Murray added his thoughts as well.

The subject they are addressing is the role and purpose of the state in our lives. I would add only a few thoughts to what these razor-sharp minds have written.

The first is this: more than at any point in our lifetime, the sheer cost and size of government matters. We face an entitlement crisis. The level of our deficit and debt are unsustainable. Demographics are working against us rather than in our favor. And the Obama presidency has made our fiscal problems more, not less, acute. Unless we begin to reverse this trend fairly significantly, America will change in deep and lasting ways. We cannot continue on our present course and remain a strong, vibrant society. There is an urgent need, then, to re-limit government simply as a matter of dollars and cents, quite apart from philosophy and the effects the nanny state has on human character and self-reliance.

That said, conservatives also need to engage in a thoroughgoing examination of the core purposes of programs and policies. And in considering how to reform government programs, we need to think in terms of what we want them to do rather than simply how large and costly they are.

Consider four successes by government in the past 20 years: welfare reform; crime reduction (including the transformation of New York City under Mayor Rudy Giuliani); the campaign against illegal drugs in the late 1980s and early 1990s led by William J. Bennett; and the surge in Iraq. In each of these instances, the key to success wasn’t limiting the size of government; in each case, after all, government spending went up, not down. What transformed failure into success was acting smarter, creating the right incentives and disincentives, attacking the problems in a comprehensive way, and thinking in terms of what works.

What we need, then, are policymakers who believe in accountability; who judge results based not on inputs (expenditures, number of caseload workers, police officers, or troops) but outputs (cutting the number of people on welfare, decreasing drug use, reducing crime rates, lowering the number of ethno-sectarian deaths, car bombings, suicide attacks, and terrorist safe havens); who are passionately empirical; and who understand that we need to craft programs so as to take into account human nature and human behavior.

When it comes to entitlement programs, our task is different from, say, an anti-crime strategy. On entitlements, our first priority needs to be cutting costs in order to avoid a fiscal calamity. That will require us to alter the way we think about the basic aims of these programs. And here, I think, is where we eventually need to go: gradually and thoughtfully transitioning toward a means-tested system of benefits in place of the current Social Security and Medicare systems.

All these matters need to be examined in more depth. My hope is that Messrs. Brooks, Ryan, Brooks, and Murray continue to deepen this discussion and, in the process, pull other thoughtful voices into it. They could hardly perform a more useful intellectual and civic role.

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Why Does He Look So Uncomfortable?

Forget for a moment the substance of Obama’s Iraq war speech. A number of observers remarked that he looked plain uncomfortable and that his speech was “flat.” (Said one: “Why bother with a speech filled with the same vague generalizations he’s been saying about Iraq for the past nineteen months?”) And Michael Gerson (his excellent critique should be read in full) notes:

Obama’s speeches are oddly lacking in a sense of historical drama. His manner is always impressive and presidential. His words often are not. For the most part, the president’s language last night was flat and over-worn. The middle class is the “bedrock” of prosperity. We need to “shore up the foundation” of the economy. And when the rhetoric tried to rise, it strained — “a new beginning could be born,” “the steel in our ship of state.” Obama has a tendency to celebrate memorable historical moments with unmemorable speeches. There are exceptions — but this was not one of them.

So too with his BP oil spill speech, which was even more somnolent than Tuesday’s offer. Then the left piled on, distressed by the image of a once thrilling (to them) political figure shrunken and fairly dull.

It is no mystery why in the technical aspects of speech-giving Obama’s skills are so diminished, especially in the Oval Office. For starters, things are going poorly. Obama is — and seems — defensive. He is not a man who has shouldered adversity in public life, and it is to be expected that he now is prickly and tense.

Moreover, Obama has already told us, in a 60 Minutes interview, that he disapproves of “triumphalism.” So the speech Tuesday night, which was to recognize the successful conclusion (conservatives like “victory”) of our military operation after enormous adversity, was restrained, if not cramped. He did have words of praise for the troops, but then he demonstrated in his de minimus praise for George W. Bush that this is really not the standard for evaluating a president. Others, like Juan Williams, have conceded that Obama is not good in a crisis. And unfortunately, right now we have nothing but. Neither in war nor oil spills does he enjoy a comfort zone. He is in that regard the anti–Rudy Giuliani, who thrived in a crisis.

And we come back to the central Obama dilemma: he is much better on the stump than in office. When he goes out on the road in campaign-style gatherings, he may not be substantively any more convincing (e.g., no one has bought the “summer of recovery” despite a bazillion speeches), but he certainly is cheerier and more relaxed. Sitting behind that big desk, he is decidedly neither. Ed Morrissey aptly put it this way: “Barack Obama took office as supposedly one of the most well-read, inspirational figures of our time. With each speech, Obama diminishes in stature, essentially mailing in his efforts and seeming to care little if anyone notices it.”

The Obama phenomenon — great candidate/poor executive — can’t be concealed. When he speaks in the very place that personifies executive power, it becomes all too evident. Perhaps he should keep the Oval Office visits to a minimum and spend his time reflecting on why things have gone so badly. Then he might be able to regroup and rescue the final two years of his presidency.

Forget for a moment the substance of Obama’s Iraq war speech. A number of observers remarked that he looked plain uncomfortable and that his speech was “flat.” (Said one: “Why bother with a speech filled with the same vague generalizations he’s been saying about Iraq for the past nineteen months?”) And Michael Gerson (his excellent critique should be read in full) notes:

Obama’s speeches are oddly lacking in a sense of historical drama. His manner is always impressive and presidential. His words often are not. For the most part, the president’s language last night was flat and over-worn. The middle class is the “bedrock” of prosperity. We need to “shore up the foundation” of the economy. And when the rhetoric tried to rise, it strained — “a new beginning could be born,” “the steel in our ship of state.” Obama has a tendency to celebrate memorable historical moments with unmemorable speeches. There are exceptions — but this was not one of them.

So too with his BP oil spill speech, which was even more somnolent than Tuesday’s offer. Then the left piled on, distressed by the image of a once thrilling (to them) political figure shrunken and fairly dull.

It is no mystery why in the technical aspects of speech-giving Obama’s skills are so diminished, especially in the Oval Office. For starters, things are going poorly. Obama is — and seems — defensive. He is not a man who has shouldered adversity in public life, and it is to be expected that he now is prickly and tense.

Moreover, Obama has already told us, in a 60 Minutes interview, that he disapproves of “triumphalism.” So the speech Tuesday night, which was to recognize the successful conclusion (conservatives like “victory”) of our military operation after enormous adversity, was restrained, if not cramped. He did have words of praise for the troops, but then he demonstrated in his de minimus praise for George W. Bush that this is really not the standard for evaluating a president. Others, like Juan Williams, have conceded that Obama is not good in a crisis. And unfortunately, right now we have nothing but. Neither in war nor oil spills does he enjoy a comfort zone. He is in that regard the anti–Rudy Giuliani, who thrived in a crisis.

And we come back to the central Obama dilemma: he is much better on the stump than in office. When he goes out on the road in campaign-style gatherings, he may not be substantively any more convincing (e.g., no one has bought the “summer of recovery” despite a bazillion speeches), but he certainly is cheerier and more relaxed. Sitting behind that big desk, he is decidedly neither. Ed Morrissey aptly put it this way: “Barack Obama took office as supposedly one of the most well-read, inspirational figures of our time. With each speech, Obama diminishes in stature, essentially mailing in his efforts and seeming to care little if anyone notices it.”

The Obama phenomenon — great candidate/poor executive — can’t be concealed. When he speaks in the very place that personifies executive power, it becomes all too evident. Perhaps he should keep the Oval Office visits to a minimum and spend his time reflecting on why things have gone so badly. Then he might be able to regroup and rescue the final two years of his presidency.

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Hiding Behind Rudy

In the midst of the Ground Zero mosque debacle, there is, it seems, some benefit that liberals think they will derive in trying to show they are not unmoved by “reasonable” Republicans, only by those fiery, nasty ones. A case in point is Jonathan Capehart, who tells us he respects what Rudy Giuliani had to say, but he not all those conservatives deploying “needlessly inflammatory and divisive rhetoric that makes a mockery of everyone’s professed support of freedom of religion.” Well, maybe he’s referring to Newt Gingrich, whose comment, Pete pointed out, really was over the top. But I suspect he’s pointing to the broad range of conservatives — John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and the rest.

What, then, did Rudy say that meets Capehart’s test? First there was this, reported by Maggie Haberman of Politico:

He takes a very hard line, including saying that “decent Muslims” will not be offended by the opposition because they want peace as much as others do. …

[RUDY]: “So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at ground zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at ground zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is, it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

That’s OK, in Capehart’s book. Seems strong stuff compared to Palin. (“Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?”) And it’s a bit tougher than Boehner. (“The decision to build this mosque so close to ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it. The American people certainly don’t support it. The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding.”) So what’s Capehart’s beef with them?

Rudy had some additional words today:

“The question here is a question of sensitivity and are you really what you pretend to be,” Giuliani said. “The idea of this is supposed to be healing, the idea that Muslims care about what Christians and Jews do. … If you’re going to so horribly offend the people … who are most directly affected by this … then how are you healing?”

And he, like nearly every other Republican, questioned the imam’s motives:

“I’m confused by the imam,” Giuliani said. “I see all the things that you’re saying, but I also see a man that says America was an accessory to Sept. 11.”

He noted that an Arab prince who tried to give $10 million to New York had his donation returned — by Giuliani himself — for making similar points shortly after the attacks. He also noted that Rauf has refused to denounce Hamas.

“Those quotes trouble me but here’s what troubles me more — if he’s truly about healing he will not go forward with this project because this project is not healing,” he said, adding, “This project is creating tremendous pain for people who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

“The question is should they build it, are they displaying the sensitivity they claim by building it,” he said.

He added, “All this is doing is creating more division, more anger, more hatred.”

In short, there is not one iota of difference between what Rudy is saying and what virtually every other conservative critic of the Ground Zero mosque is saying. It is simply hard, terribly hard, for Capehart and other liberals to acknowledge that Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer, John Boehner, Marco Rubio, and a host of other conservatives are the nuanced, reasonable ones in the debate. But he should be honest about it rather than hiding behind Rudy.

In the midst of the Ground Zero mosque debacle, there is, it seems, some benefit that liberals think they will derive in trying to show they are not unmoved by “reasonable” Republicans, only by those fiery, nasty ones. A case in point is Jonathan Capehart, who tells us he respects what Rudy Giuliani had to say, but he not all those conservatives deploying “needlessly inflammatory and divisive rhetoric that makes a mockery of everyone’s professed support of freedom of religion.” Well, maybe he’s referring to Newt Gingrich, whose comment, Pete pointed out, really was over the top. But I suspect he’s pointing to the broad range of conservatives — John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and the rest.

What, then, did Rudy say that meets Capehart’s test? First there was this, reported by Maggie Haberman of Politico:

He takes a very hard line, including saying that “decent Muslims” will not be offended by the opposition because they want peace as much as others do. …

[RUDY]: “So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at ground zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at ground zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is, it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

That’s OK, in Capehart’s book. Seems strong stuff compared to Palin. (“Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?”) And it’s a bit tougher than Boehner. (“The decision to build this mosque so close to ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it. The American people certainly don’t support it. The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding.”) So what’s Capehart’s beef with them?

Rudy had some additional words today:

“The question here is a question of sensitivity and are you really what you pretend to be,” Giuliani said. “The idea of this is supposed to be healing, the idea that Muslims care about what Christians and Jews do. … If you’re going to so horribly offend the people … who are most directly affected by this … then how are you healing?”

And he, like nearly every other Republican, questioned the imam’s motives:

“I’m confused by the imam,” Giuliani said. “I see all the things that you’re saying, but I also see a man that says America was an accessory to Sept. 11.”

He noted that an Arab prince who tried to give $10 million to New York had his donation returned — by Giuliani himself — for making similar points shortly after the attacks. He also noted that Rauf has refused to denounce Hamas.

“Those quotes trouble me but here’s what troubles me more — if he’s truly about healing he will not go forward with this project because this project is not healing,” he said, adding, “This project is creating tremendous pain for people who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

“The question is should they build it, are they displaying the sensitivity they claim by building it,” he said.

He added, “All this is doing is creating more division, more anger, more hatred.”

In short, there is not one iota of difference between what Rudy is saying and what virtually every other conservative critic of the Ground Zero mosque is saying. It is simply hard, terribly hard, for Capehart and other liberals to acknowledge that Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer, John Boehner, Marco Rubio, and a host of other conservatives are the nuanced, reasonable ones in the debate. But he should be honest about it rather than hiding behind Rudy.

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J Street Defends Ground Zero Mosque

It’s been obvious for some time now that J Street is neither pro-peace nor pro-Israel. Its rhetoric and ideology tell us it is pro-Obama and pro-anti-Israel. The latest proof comes from a statement released by Jeremy Ben-Ami, which has nothing to do with Israel:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

This is daft. We are going to annoy Osama bin Laden if we don’t let them have the mosque steps from where his followers incinerated 3,000 Americans? I think they were annoyed before. They don’t need an excuse to whip up global jihadism. Moreover, the J Streeters refuse to acknowledge the legitimate concerns — it’s just casting aspersions, you see — of Jews and non-Jews about the associations and identity of the mosque builders.

Compare that pronouncement with Rudy Giuliani’s, who issued his first blast on the subject:

“It sends a particularly bad message, particularly (because) of the background of the Imam who is supporting this. This is an Imam who has supported radical causes, who has not been forthright in condemning Islamic (terrorism) and the worst instincts that that brings about. So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at Ground Zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an Imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at Ground Zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

Well, yeah.

But returning to J Street, how is this related to their ostensible mission? It seems — shocking, I know! — that it is indistinguishable from the leftist party line and the pro-CAIR message. Maybe they’ve given up trying to disguise themselves as liberal pro-Zionists (whatever that is). If so, it would introduce some refreshing honesty into the debate as to just which groups are “pro-Israel” and which are pro-Israel’s enemies.

But here’s the thing: is there a market for pro–Ground Zero mosque-building in American Jewry? I think not, and I think even the J Streeters get that. Their audience — yeah, another shocker — seems to be not pro-Israel Jews but leftist pro-Muslims.

It’s been obvious for some time now that J Street is neither pro-peace nor pro-Israel. Its rhetoric and ideology tell us it is pro-Obama and pro-anti-Israel. The latest proof comes from a statement released by Jeremy Ben-Ami, which has nothing to do with Israel:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

This is daft. We are going to annoy Osama bin Laden if we don’t let them have the mosque steps from where his followers incinerated 3,000 Americans? I think they were annoyed before. They don’t need an excuse to whip up global jihadism. Moreover, the J Streeters refuse to acknowledge the legitimate concerns — it’s just casting aspersions, you see — of Jews and non-Jews about the associations and identity of the mosque builders.

Compare that pronouncement with Rudy Giuliani’s, who issued his first blast on the subject:

“It sends a particularly bad message, particularly (because) of the background of the Imam who is supporting this. This is an Imam who has supported radical causes, who has not been forthright in condemning Islamic (terrorism) and the worst instincts that that brings about. So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at Ground Zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an Imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at Ground Zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

Well, yeah.

But returning to J Street, how is this related to their ostensible mission? It seems — shocking, I know! — that it is indistinguishable from the leftist party line and the pro-CAIR message. Maybe they’ve given up trying to disguise themselves as liberal pro-Zionists (whatever that is). If so, it would introduce some refreshing honesty into the debate as to just which groups are “pro-Israel” and which are pro-Israel’s enemies.

But here’s the thing: is there a market for pro–Ground Zero mosque-building in American Jewry? I think not, and I think even the J Streeters get that. Their audience — yeah, another shocker — seems to be not pro-Israel Jews but leftist pro-Muslims.

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Democrats Heap Scorn on Obama

Fareed Zakaria has become an all-purpose apologist for Obama. First it was on the flotilla.  A colleague passes on the latest one. It seems he’s now shilling for Obama on his response to the oil spill. Last time, Zakaria was dismantled by Elliott Abrams. This time it was James Carville:

Zakaria, a Newsweek editor but also host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, recently wrote a defense of Pres. Obama’s response (actually he criticized the President for his overreaction).  … King read from Zakaria’s recent column, which said “what worries me is that we have gotten to the point where we expect the president to somehow magically solve every problem in the world, appear to be doing it and to reflect our anger and emotion. This is a kind of bizarre trivializing of the presidency into some kind of national psychiatrist-in-chief.”

Carville, smiling – but only at first – responded strongly:

“Yes, he talked about an offensive linebacker. And when I read that I wanted to hit him with a football bat, okay? This guy, there’s some kind of a breakdown here, because this is a very smart man. And I don’t think that he understands exactly what is going on down here. I don’t think he understands that an entire culture is at risk, an entire way of life that there is an invasion going here and he is whining about the fact that the president had to cancel a trip to Indonesia to do something about what’s going on in Louisiana. . … If that thing was in the Long Island Sound, I guarantee you Fareed Zakaria and all his friends would be going nuts out there.”

This tells us a few things. First, we should be wary of “experts” who peddle their foreign-policy lines while reflexively defending the administration across the board. Second, Obama no longer can command respect or discretion, let alone affection, from Democrats. Granted this is Carville, whose Clinton loyalty is well known and who has likely not let bygones be bygones. But if you turn on MSNBC, you will hear plenty of Democrats heaping criticism on Obama.

Again, as I and many others have pointed out, accidents — including big and awful ones — are not necessarily the president’s fault. But neither was 9/11 Rudy Giuliani’s.  But he grabbed the crisis by the throat. He was candid, informed, and informative. He did not whine or complain. He did not treat it as a PR problem but as a civic emergency. It is the failure of leadership and of executive competence that has exposed Obama. The closet analogy is not Jimmy Carter but the emperor who had no clothes. And now everyone notices.

Fareed Zakaria has become an all-purpose apologist for Obama. First it was on the flotilla.  A colleague passes on the latest one. It seems he’s now shilling for Obama on his response to the oil spill. Last time, Zakaria was dismantled by Elliott Abrams. This time it was James Carville:

Zakaria, a Newsweek editor but also host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, recently wrote a defense of Pres. Obama’s response (actually he criticized the President for his overreaction).  … King read from Zakaria’s recent column, which said “what worries me is that we have gotten to the point where we expect the president to somehow magically solve every problem in the world, appear to be doing it and to reflect our anger and emotion. This is a kind of bizarre trivializing of the presidency into some kind of national psychiatrist-in-chief.”

Carville, smiling – but only at first – responded strongly:

“Yes, he talked about an offensive linebacker. And when I read that I wanted to hit him with a football bat, okay? This guy, there’s some kind of a breakdown here, because this is a very smart man. And I don’t think that he understands exactly what is going on down here. I don’t think he understands that an entire culture is at risk, an entire way of life that there is an invasion going here and he is whining about the fact that the president had to cancel a trip to Indonesia to do something about what’s going on in Louisiana. . … If that thing was in the Long Island Sound, I guarantee you Fareed Zakaria and all his friends would be going nuts out there.”

This tells us a few things. First, we should be wary of “experts” who peddle their foreign-policy lines while reflexively defending the administration across the board. Second, Obama no longer can command respect or discretion, let alone affection, from Democrats. Granted this is Carville, whose Clinton loyalty is well known and who has likely not let bygones be bygones. But if you turn on MSNBC, you will hear plenty of Democrats heaping criticism on Obama.

Again, as I and many others have pointed out, accidents — including big and awful ones — are not necessarily the president’s fault. But neither was 9/11 Rudy Giuliani’s.  But he grabbed the crisis by the throat. He was candid, informed, and informative. He did not whine or complain. He did not treat it as a PR problem but as a civic emergency. It is the failure of leadership and of executive competence that has exposed Obama. The closet analogy is not Jimmy Carter but the emperor who had no clothes. And now everyone notices.

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It’s Not All Under Control

Over the weekend, faced with the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the terrorist incident in Times Square, government officials at all levels sought to reassure us. In the case of the SUV on 45th Street, we were almost instantly told it was amateurish, a one-off, a lone wolf, maybe someone angry about health-care reform. In the case of the oil spill, it was that, in the words of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, “Every possible resource was being lined up on shore.”

Of course it wasn’t a one-off lone wolf mad about health care. And it turned out that every possible resource wasn’t being lined up on shore — that the main system for dealing with oil spills to keep them from the shore line, the so-called “fire booms,” were nowhere near and that no one had properly marshaled resources to get them there.

We can discuss the reasons for the bizarre assertion by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who should be lucky he will never run for office again, that the bomber was probably just a talk-radio listener driven to mass murder by the passage of Obama’s health-care measure. No matter that his own police department busted an Islamic terror ring aiming to strike the subway system just last summer. In some odd way, by pinning the possibility on, let’s face it, a white guy, Bloomberg was trying to stem panic. A lone attack by a lunatic has no larger meaning except the meaning it can be given by armchair sociologists and the politically expedient. A very nearly successful mass-murder plot arranged in Pakistan and carried out by an American citizen who bought a car for $1,200 cash off a website makes it clear just what kind of casual jeopardy we are in even now, nearly nine years after 9/11, and how fiendishly difficult it can be to prevent small-scale efforts that could bring about enormous pain and suffering and destruction.

Similarly, with the oil spill, though federal government officials say over and over again how dangerous and threatening the results are and may be, they are compulsively insistent that they are on the ball, they are competent, they are doing everything necessary — even though the fault and liability, as they make clear, is with BP, the owner of the rig. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over time, it’s that when one-of-a-kind crises occur, no one in the early stages knows what on earth he’s doing. Feds and state officials and local officials bump into one another; everybody thinks somebody else is in charge of some aspect of fixing the problem; fights break out; the media screams like banshees; and clarity is achieved only after the initial confusion can be resolved.

Instead of acknowledging this truth, government officials believe it is their role to provide reassurance even when they cannot do so. And they’re simply wrong about that. The American people are far more sophisticated about these things than those officials appear to believe, and they can be talked to like adults. That was the lesson, in part, of the immediate aftermath of September 11, when Rudy Giuliani simply said that the “number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear, ultimately.” He sugar-coated nothing. And that is the truth of crises and crisis management. When it is done well, there should be no sugar-coating. The impulse to sugar-coat is a mark of the conviction among politicians that they are in the same relation to the body politic as a parent is to a child. In our system, a politician is an employee, not a parent. For a rational employer, an employee who gives it to you straight will always be someone you take more seriously than an employee who pretends that everything is fine when everything isn’t.

Over the weekend, faced with the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the terrorist incident in Times Square, government officials at all levels sought to reassure us. In the case of the SUV on 45th Street, we were almost instantly told it was amateurish, a one-off, a lone wolf, maybe someone angry about health-care reform. In the case of the oil spill, it was that, in the words of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, “Every possible resource was being lined up on shore.”

Of course it wasn’t a one-off lone wolf mad about health care. And it turned out that every possible resource wasn’t being lined up on shore — that the main system for dealing with oil spills to keep them from the shore line, the so-called “fire booms,” were nowhere near and that no one had properly marshaled resources to get them there.

We can discuss the reasons for the bizarre assertion by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who should be lucky he will never run for office again, that the bomber was probably just a talk-radio listener driven to mass murder by the passage of Obama’s health-care measure. No matter that his own police department busted an Islamic terror ring aiming to strike the subway system just last summer. In some odd way, by pinning the possibility on, let’s face it, a white guy, Bloomberg was trying to stem panic. A lone attack by a lunatic has no larger meaning except the meaning it can be given by armchair sociologists and the politically expedient. A very nearly successful mass-murder plot arranged in Pakistan and carried out by an American citizen who bought a car for $1,200 cash off a website makes it clear just what kind of casual jeopardy we are in even now, nearly nine years after 9/11, and how fiendishly difficult it can be to prevent small-scale efforts that could bring about enormous pain and suffering and destruction.

Similarly, with the oil spill, though federal government officials say over and over again how dangerous and threatening the results are and may be, they are compulsively insistent that they are on the ball, they are competent, they are doing everything necessary — even though the fault and liability, as they make clear, is with BP, the owner of the rig. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over time, it’s that when one-of-a-kind crises occur, no one in the early stages knows what on earth he’s doing. Feds and state officials and local officials bump into one another; everybody thinks somebody else is in charge of some aspect of fixing the problem; fights break out; the media screams like banshees; and clarity is achieved only after the initial confusion can be resolved.

Instead of acknowledging this truth, government officials believe it is their role to provide reassurance even when they cannot do so. And they’re simply wrong about that. The American people are far more sophisticated about these things than those officials appear to believe, and they can be talked to like adults. That was the lesson, in part, of the immediate aftermath of September 11, when Rudy Giuliani simply said that the “number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear, ultimately.” He sugar-coated nothing. And that is the truth of crises and crisis management. When it is done well, there should be no sugar-coating. The impulse to sugar-coat is a mark of the conviction among politicians that they are in the same relation to the body politic as a parent is to a child. In our system, a politician is an employee, not a parent. For a rational employer, an employee who gives it to you straight will always be someone you take more seriously than an employee who pretends that everything is fine when everything isn’t.

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Christie Targets Public-Employee Unions

George Will, like a lot of us, is impressed with Chris Christie. He won the gubernatorial race in one of the Bluest states and is now governing like a tough fiscal conservative. Will explains:

He inherited a $2.2 billion deficit, and next year’s projected deficit of $10.7 billion is, relative to the state’s $29.3 billion budget, the nation’s worst. Democrats, with the verbal tic — “Tax the rich!” — that passes for progressive thinking, demanded that he reinstate the “millionaire’s tax,” which hit “millionaires” earning $400,000 until it expired Dec. 31. Instead, Christie noted that between 2004 and 2008 there was a net outflow of $70 billion in wealth as “the rich,” including small businesses, fled. And he said previous administrations had “raised taxes 115 times in the last eight years alone.”

So he closed the $2.2 billion gap by accepting 375 of 378 suggested spending freezes and cuts. In two weeks. By executive actions. In eight weeks he cut $13 billion — $232 million a day, $9 million an hour. Now comes the hard part.

But that’s not going to get New Jersey back to fiscal sanity. So Christie is going after public-employee unions’ gold-plated benefits:

Government employees’ health benefits are, he says, “41 percent more expensive” than those of the average Fortune 500 company. Without changes in current law, “spending will have increased 322 percent in 20 years — over 16 percent a year.” There is, he says, a connection between the state’s being No. 1 in total tax burden and being No. 1 in the proportion of college students who, after graduating, leave the state.

Partly to pay for teachers’ benefits — most contribute nothing to pay for their health insurance — property taxes have increased 70 percent in 10 years, to an average annual cost to homeowners of $7,281. Christie proposes a 2.5 percent cap on annual increases.

In the past, the “solution” to all this was to raise taxes, which created an exodus of the “rich” and small businesses to neighboring states. But Christie is taking a page from another northeastern Republican (and another former federal prosecutor) who when he came into office was told he had to raise taxes, but proceeded to show that budget discipline and tax cuts could revive the greatest of American cities. Rudy Giuliani became a conservative rock star and New York came roaring back. If Christie pulls this off, he will not only elevate himself to the top tier of Republican politicians; he will also point the way to taming state budgets (California, are you paying attention?). As Will notes:

In the state that has the nation’s fourth-highest percentage (66) of public employees who are unionized, he has joined the struggle that will dominate the nation’s domestic policymaking in this decade — to break the ruinous collaboration between elected officials and unionized state and local workers whose affections the officials purchase with taxpayers’ money.

No wonder labor leaders are going berserk. If Christie wins, Big Labor will get its comeuppance, New Jersey will prosper, and once again liberal governance will be replaced by something better — responsible fiscal conservatism.

George Will, like a lot of us, is impressed with Chris Christie. He won the gubernatorial race in one of the Bluest states and is now governing like a tough fiscal conservative. Will explains:

He inherited a $2.2 billion deficit, and next year’s projected deficit of $10.7 billion is, relative to the state’s $29.3 billion budget, the nation’s worst. Democrats, with the verbal tic — “Tax the rich!” — that passes for progressive thinking, demanded that he reinstate the “millionaire’s tax,” which hit “millionaires” earning $400,000 until it expired Dec. 31. Instead, Christie noted that between 2004 and 2008 there was a net outflow of $70 billion in wealth as “the rich,” including small businesses, fled. And he said previous administrations had “raised taxes 115 times in the last eight years alone.”

So he closed the $2.2 billion gap by accepting 375 of 378 suggested spending freezes and cuts. In two weeks. By executive actions. In eight weeks he cut $13 billion — $232 million a day, $9 million an hour. Now comes the hard part.

But that’s not going to get New Jersey back to fiscal sanity. So Christie is going after public-employee unions’ gold-plated benefits:

Government employees’ health benefits are, he says, “41 percent more expensive” than those of the average Fortune 500 company. Without changes in current law, “spending will have increased 322 percent in 20 years — over 16 percent a year.” There is, he says, a connection between the state’s being No. 1 in total tax burden and being No. 1 in the proportion of college students who, after graduating, leave the state.

Partly to pay for teachers’ benefits — most contribute nothing to pay for their health insurance — property taxes have increased 70 percent in 10 years, to an average annual cost to homeowners of $7,281. Christie proposes a 2.5 percent cap on annual increases.

In the past, the “solution” to all this was to raise taxes, which created an exodus of the “rich” and small businesses to neighboring states. But Christie is taking a page from another northeastern Republican (and another former federal prosecutor) who when he came into office was told he had to raise taxes, but proceeded to show that budget discipline and tax cuts could revive the greatest of American cities. Rudy Giuliani became a conservative rock star and New York came roaring back. If Christie pulls this off, he will not only elevate himself to the top tier of Republican politicians; he will also point the way to taming state budgets (California, are you paying attention?). As Will notes:

In the state that has the nation’s fourth-highest percentage (66) of public employees who are unionized, he has joined the struggle that will dominate the nation’s domestic policymaking in this decade — to break the ruinous collaboration between elected officials and unionized state and local workers whose affections the officials purchase with taxpayers’ money.

No wonder labor leaders are going berserk. If Christie wins, Big Labor will get its comeuppance, New Jersey will prosper, and once again liberal governance will be replaced by something better — responsible fiscal conservatism.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.'”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.'”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

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The Perry Lesson: Run a Good Campaign

Gov. Rick Perry won big last night in the Texas gubernatorial primary. Michael Barone digs into the details and concludes:

(1) Perry won this not in rural and small town Texas but in metro Houston. This bodes well for him in the general election, since it indicates strength in the home base of the well regarded Democratic nominee, former Houston Mayor Bill White, who was nominated by an overwhelming margin. (2) Medina, the candidate who wouldn’t disrespect the truthers, did best in the supposedly most sophisticated part of Texas, the Metroplex. Go figure. (3) Hutchison, supposedly the candidate of urban sophisticates, did best in metro San Antonio and rural Texas. She held Perry below the 50% level needed to avoid a runoff in approximately half of Texas’s 254 counties; unfortunately for her, those counties didn’t give her nearly a big enough margin to offset Perry’s advantage in metro Houston

Barone also observes that turnout in the Republican primary was more than double that in Democratic primary, a reversal of the huge enthusiasm generated in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

Pundits are already picking through the returns to glean evidence of larger trends. Is this further proof that Washington incumbents have an uphill climb? Probably. Does this suggest that more traditionally conservative candidates have the upper hand in a GOP primary field? That too. And does Perry have the potential to be a presidential candidate? Perry is playing coy for now, as Jonathan Martin reports:

In an interview with POLITICO Monday, Perry insisted that he would not mount a White House bid.

“I’m really interested in who’s going to be the next president,” he said, before quickly adding: “I have no interest in it being me in any form or fashion.”

Yet as he claimed victory here Tuesday night, Perry’s message seemed as tailored for national GOP primary voters as Texas’s general electorate.

Speaking directly to Washington he said: “Quit spending all the money, stop trying to take over our lives and our businesses.”

He also sought to position himself squarely against President Obama, warning that, “It’s clear that the Obama administration and its allies already have Texas in their cross-hairs.”

But in the lesson-divining department, Martin is correct: Perry simply ran a better campaign and Hutchison bumbled along in a Hillary-like miscalculation about an electorate angry at the status quo. (“By asserting that she would step down from her Senate seat but never actually resigning, Hutchison amplified Perry’s message as much as the millions in his war chest.”) And it is noteworthy that endorsements from Texas political stars, including George H.W. Bush, didn’t help her one bit. (“In Hutchison’s case, the endorsements may have even worked against her, serving to underscore Perry’s message about her ties to Washington.”)

And that, I think, is the key takeaway and a reminder for pundits and candidates eyeing 2012. It really does matter what sort of campaign you put together, how you size up the electorate, and whether you devise an effective message. The front runners in 2008 (Clinton and Rudy Giuliani) crashed in no small part because they ran ineffective, if not disastrous, campaigns. We have learned the hard way that a great campaigner doesn’t necessarily make for a great or competent office holder. But you still have to win the campaign — and for that, nothing beats a sharp delivery, a well-organized team, and a timely message.

Gov. Rick Perry won big last night in the Texas gubernatorial primary. Michael Barone digs into the details and concludes:

(1) Perry won this not in rural and small town Texas but in metro Houston. This bodes well for him in the general election, since it indicates strength in the home base of the well regarded Democratic nominee, former Houston Mayor Bill White, who was nominated by an overwhelming margin. (2) Medina, the candidate who wouldn’t disrespect the truthers, did best in the supposedly most sophisticated part of Texas, the Metroplex. Go figure. (3) Hutchison, supposedly the candidate of urban sophisticates, did best in metro San Antonio and rural Texas. She held Perry below the 50% level needed to avoid a runoff in approximately half of Texas’s 254 counties; unfortunately for her, those counties didn’t give her nearly a big enough margin to offset Perry’s advantage in metro Houston

Barone also observes that turnout in the Republican primary was more than double that in Democratic primary, a reversal of the huge enthusiasm generated in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

Pundits are already picking through the returns to glean evidence of larger trends. Is this further proof that Washington incumbents have an uphill climb? Probably. Does this suggest that more traditionally conservative candidates have the upper hand in a GOP primary field? That too. And does Perry have the potential to be a presidential candidate? Perry is playing coy for now, as Jonathan Martin reports:

In an interview with POLITICO Monday, Perry insisted that he would not mount a White House bid.

“I’m really interested in who’s going to be the next president,” he said, before quickly adding: “I have no interest in it being me in any form or fashion.”

Yet as he claimed victory here Tuesday night, Perry’s message seemed as tailored for national GOP primary voters as Texas’s general electorate.

Speaking directly to Washington he said: “Quit spending all the money, stop trying to take over our lives and our businesses.”

He also sought to position himself squarely against President Obama, warning that, “It’s clear that the Obama administration and its allies already have Texas in their cross-hairs.”

But in the lesson-divining department, Martin is correct: Perry simply ran a better campaign and Hutchison bumbled along in a Hillary-like miscalculation about an electorate angry at the status quo. (“By asserting that she would step down from her Senate seat but never actually resigning, Hutchison amplified Perry’s message as much as the millions in his war chest.”) And it is noteworthy that endorsements from Texas political stars, including George H.W. Bush, didn’t help her one bit. (“In Hutchison’s case, the endorsements may have even worked against her, serving to underscore Perry’s message about her ties to Washington.”)

And that, I think, is the key takeaway and a reminder for pundits and candidates eyeing 2012. It really does matter what sort of campaign you put together, how you size up the electorate, and whether you devise an effective message. The front runners in 2008 (Clinton and Rudy Giuliani) crashed in no small part because they ran ineffective, if not disastrous, campaigns. We have learned the hard way that a great campaigner doesn’t necessarily make for a great or competent office holder. But you still have to win the campaign — and for that, nothing beats a sharp delivery, a well-organized team, and a timely message.

Read Less

A New York Battle

This is going to be fun. The “this” is the New York Democratic Senate primary, which is going to make up for that Rudy Giuliani vs. Hillary Clinton matchup that political fans were deprived of when Giuliani decided not to make a Senate run in 2000. A sample:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is finally heeding New York Democrats’ advice that she get tough with Harold Ford Jr. — slamming the former Memphis congressman as an anti-gay-rights, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant tool of Wall Street money lords. The problem for Gillibrand: Ford is embracing New York’s slappy-face politics faster than she can generate the comebacks. On Monday, Ford dismissed Gillibrand as a party-controlled “parakeet.” For good measure, his spokesman told POLITICO that Gillibrand is a “desperate liar.”

Yowser. And it’s only January.

Now Gillibrand has some problems. She’s an incumbent when incumbents are out of favor. She hasn’t done anything memorable. And to a degree, Ford is right: she morphed from a moderate, somewhat independent-minded congresswoman into a loyal cog in the Reid-Pelosi-Obama machine, never raising a  fuss about the KSM trial or objecting to the ObamaCare deals that would have cost her state billions had we not been saved by the Massachusetts voters. (“The 39-year-old Ford, who relocated to New York after losing a 2006 Senate race in Tennessee, has repeatedly lampooned Gillibrand as being protected by her ‘party bosses,’ an argument that Ford advisers believe resonates with nationwide anti-Washington sentiment.”) Her gibes about Ford’s expedient transformation on hot-button issues ring a bit hollow given her conversion on Second Amendment rights (she became enamored of gun regulation only after her appointment to the Senate). You can see why Ford might think he’s got a real chance.

But Ford is not without his problems. The liberal-Democratic establishment has decided he’s too moderate and untrustworthy. For example, he eschews business-bashing at a time when that is de rigueur for Democrats.

The Republicans have yet to come up with a top-tier candidate, despite the giddy optimism circulating in Republican circles post–Scott Brown. But before we get to the general election, there should be plenty to watch and enjoy for those who love a good show. In some ways, it’s an interesting test for Democrats, just as the Florida Senate primary race is for Republicans. (Marco Rubio has come from far back to now lead the establishment favorite Crist in the latest poll.) No, neither is evidence of a “civil war” within the respective party. Rather, both will convey some key political information: whether the association with Beltway-establishment types is the kiss of death and whether a skilled challenger without that taint (Ford in New York and Rubio in Florida) can overcome the money and name recognition that also come with it.

This is going to be fun. The “this” is the New York Democratic Senate primary, which is going to make up for that Rudy Giuliani vs. Hillary Clinton matchup that political fans were deprived of when Giuliani decided not to make a Senate run in 2000. A sample:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is finally heeding New York Democrats’ advice that she get tough with Harold Ford Jr. — slamming the former Memphis congressman as an anti-gay-rights, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant tool of Wall Street money lords. The problem for Gillibrand: Ford is embracing New York’s slappy-face politics faster than she can generate the comebacks. On Monday, Ford dismissed Gillibrand as a party-controlled “parakeet.” For good measure, his spokesman told POLITICO that Gillibrand is a “desperate liar.”

Yowser. And it’s only January.

Now Gillibrand has some problems. She’s an incumbent when incumbents are out of favor. She hasn’t done anything memorable. And to a degree, Ford is right: she morphed from a moderate, somewhat independent-minded congresswoman into a loyal cog in the Reid-Pelosi-Obama machine, never raising a  fuss about the KSM trial or objecting to the ObamaCare deals that would have cost her state billions had we not been saved by the Massachusetts voters. (“The 39-year-old Ford, who relocated to New York after losing a 2006 Senate race in Tennessee, has repeatedly lampooned Gillibrand as being protected by her ‘party bosses,’ an argument that Ford advisers believe resonates with nationwide anti-Washington sentiment.”) Her gibes about Ford’s expedient transformation on hot-button issues ring a bit hollow given her conversion on Second Amendment rights (she became enamored of gun regulation only after her appointment to the Senate). You can see why Ford might think he’s got a real chance.

But Ford is not without his problems. The liberal-Democratic establishment has decided he’s too moderate and untrustworthy. For example, he eschews business-bashing at a time when that is de rigueur for Democrats.

The Republicans have yet to come up with a top-tier candidate, despite the giddy optimism circulating in Republican circles post–Scott Brown. But before we get to the general election, there should be plenty to watch and enjoy for those who love a good show. In some ways, it’s an interesting test for Democrats, just as the Florida Senate primary race is for Republicans. (Marco Rubio has come from far back to now lead the establishment favorite Crist in the latest poll.) No, neither is evidence of a “civil war” within the respective party. Rather, both will convey some key political information: whether the association with Beltway-establishment types is the kiss of death and whether a skilled challenger without that taint (Ford in New York and Rubio in Florida) can overcome the money and name recognition that also come with it.

Read Less




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