Commentary Magazine


Topic: state of the union

The President’s Speech: An Irresponsible Performance

State of the Union speeches are typically unimpressive and unmemorable. Last night’s address by President Obama was in that tradition. While his delivery was fine, the speech itself was mediocre — flat, undisciplined and unfocused, at times pedestrian and banal, with goals seemingly pulled out of thin air (e.g., by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean-energy sources).

The speech was also oddly uncreative, with Obama dusting off slogans and ideas from past State of the Union speeches. For example, on the campaign trail in 2008 and during the first two years of his presidency, Barack Obama portrayed himself as the great enemy of earmarks. Perhaps the reason he has to keep reminding us of his antipathy for earmarks is because he has repeatedly signed into law legislation that contained thousands of them.

Still, this doesn’t mean the speech was unimportant. It was, in fact, quite significant in terms of highlighting the president’s cast of mind and how he understands, or fails to understand, the moment we’re in.

The State of the Union address reaffirmed that Barack Obama remains a man of the left. He spent most of the speech championing an array of new programs, explaining why he believes we need to expand the size, reach, scope, and cost of the federal government.

It was as if the president were awakening Leviathan from a two-year slumber rather than two years of hyperactivity.

Beyond that, though, Obama spoke as if he were living in an alternate universe — one where a $14 trillion debt and trillion dollar a year deficit don’t exist; where our entitlement programs are basically solvent and sound, in need of, at most, tweaking around the margins; and where the 2010 midterm election wasn’t a repudiation of the president’s progressive agenda.

The president dealt with our fiscal crisis as if it were a triviality, its importance on par with the need for more solar panels and high-speed rails.

Mr. Obama, I think, is misreading the public mood. Many Americans are unnerved by our fiscal imbalance, which helps explain the rise of the Tea Party movement. But whether or not Obama is out of touch with the public is, in one respect, irrelevant. Facts are stubborn things — and the fact is that we’re facing a crushing entitlement crisis that is getting worse literally by the hour. If we don’t come to grips with it soon, we are likely to experience something similar to the social unrest that is sweeping Europe.

More than mediocre, then, I found the president’s speech to be irresponsible. As the elected leader of the nation — and as one of the architects of our fiscal crisis — Obama has an obligation to address it in a serious, systematic, and intellectually honest manner. Instead, he is eschewing his governing duties. He is living in a world of his own imagination. That might be fine for writers of fiction and fairy tales. But for the president of the United States, it is quite a bad thing indeed.

State of the Union speeches are typically unimpressive and unmemorable. Last night’s address by President Obama was in that tradition. While his delivery was fine, the speech itself was mediocre — flat, undisciplined and unfocused, at times pedestrian and banal, with goals seemingly pulled out of thin air (e.g., by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean-energy sources).

The speech was also oddly uncreative, with Obama dusting off slogans and ideas from past State of the Union speeches. For example, on the campaign trail in 2008 and during the first two years of his presidency, Barack Obama portrayed himself as the great enemy of earmarks. Perhaps the reason he has to keep reminding us of his antipathy for earmarks is because he has repeatedly signed into law legislation that contained thousands of them.

Still, this doesn’t mean the speech was unimportant. It was, in fact, quite significant in terms of highlighting the president’s cast of mind and how he understands, or fails to understand, the moment we’re in.

The State of the Union address reaffirmed that Barack Obama remains a man of the left. He spent most of the speech championing an array of new programs, explaining why he believes we need to expand the size, reach, scope, and cost of the federal government.

It was as if the president were awakening Leviathan from a two-year slumber rather than two years of hyperactivity.

Beyond that, though, Obama spoke as if he were living in an alternate universe — one where a $14 trillion debt and trillion dollar a year deficit don’t exist; where our entitlement programs are basically solvent and sound, in need of, at most, tweaking around the margins; and where the 2010 midterm election wasn’t a repudiation of the president’s progressive agenda.

The president dealt with our fiscal crisis as if it were a triviality, its importance on par with the need for more solar panels and high-speed rails.

Mr. Obama, I think, is misreading the public mood. Many Americans are unnerved by our fiscal imbalance, which helps explain the rise of the Tea Party movement. But whether or not Obama is out of touch with the public is, in one respect, irrelevant. Facts are stubborn things — and the fact is that we’re facing a crushing entitlement crisis that is getting worse literally by the hour. If we don’t come to grips with it soon, we are likely to experience something similar to the social unrest that is sweeping Europe.

More than mediocre, then, I found the president’s speech to be irresponsible. As the elected leader of the nation — and as one of the architects of our fiscal crisis — Obama has an obligation to address it in a serious, systematic, and intellectually honest manner. Instead, he is eschewing his governing duties. He is living in a world of his own imagination. That might be fine for writers of fiction and fairy tales. But for the president of the United States, it is quite a bad thing indeed.

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Obama’s Moment to Redefine the Modern Middle East

Somehow it’s hard to get too worked up about the formalized rituals of the State of the Union when real news is happening half a world away. In the Middle East, revolutions, for good and for ill, are breaking out, while back in Washington, President Obama is touting the latest clean-energy boondoggles. All he had to say about the ongoing, exciting events was one line: “the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of the people.” What about the people of Lebanon? Or of Egypt? Don’t they deserve support too? And don’t the Tunisians battling for democracy against the security forces of the old regime deserve more than a throwaway line near the end of an hour-long address?

It is quite possible, even likely, that recent upheavals will amount to little. Many people, myself included, got our hopes up in 2005 when the Cedar Revolution overthrew Syrian domination in Lebanon and the people of Iraq turned out in droves to vote. Those hopes were swiftly dashed; indeed, this week the representative of the Cedar Revolution, Saad Hariri, ignominiously lost the prime minister’s job as Hezbollah and its patrons in Syria and Iran flexed their muscles. But it is also possible — not likely but possible — that the toppling of the Tunisian regime could have a ripple effect in this sclerotic region. This could be the most important moment for American diplomacy since the toppling of the Berlin Wall.

Certainly there is little precedent for the mass outpouring of protest in Egypt against the Mubarak regime, which is just as decrepit as was the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia. The stakes in Egypt, however, are much higher, given that it’s much bigger than Tunisia and has a much larger, active Muslim Brotherhood that could take advantage of chaos to seize power.

At a moment like this, it would be comforting to see in the Oval Office an old diplomatic hand like George H.W. Bush — and I say this as someone who was never a big fan of the elder Bush. I do think, however, that despite some missteps (google the Chicken Kiev speech if you’re under 40), he did a brilliant job of managing a volatile situation. I do not mean to slight the contributions of brave dissidents or even of Mikhail Gorbachev, but nevertheless, the creation of democracies across Eastern Europe is in substantial measure the legacy of Ronald Reagan and his predecessors going back to Truman, who confronted the “evil empire,” and of Bush the Elder, who skillfully managed its dissolution. Read More

Somehow it’s hard to get too worked up about the formalized rituals of the State of the Union when real news is happening half a world away. In the Middle East, revolutions, for good and for ill, are breaking out, while back in Washington, President Obama is touting the latest clean-energy boondoggles. All he had to say about the ongoing, exciting events was one line: “the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of the people.” What about the people of Lebanon? Or of Egypt? Don’t they deserve support too? And don’t the Tunisians battling for democracy against the security forces of the old regime deserve more than a throwaway line near the end of an hour-long address?

It is quite possible, even likely, that recent upheavals will amount to little. Many people, myself included, got our hopes up in 2005 when the Cedar Revolution overthrew Syrian domination in Lebanon and the people of Iraq turned out in droves to vote. Those hopes were swiftly dashed; indeed, this week the representative of the Cedar Revolution, Saad Hariri, ignominiously lost the prime minister’s job as Hezbollah and its patrons in Syria and Iran flexed their muscles. But it is also possible — not likely but possible — that the toppling of the Tunisian regime could have a ripple effect in this sclerotic region. This could be the most important moment for American diplomacy since the toppling of the Berlin Wall.

Certainly there is little precedent for the mass outpouring of protest in Egypt against the Mubarak regime, which is just as decrepit as was the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia. The stakes in Egypt, however, are much higher, given that it’s much bigger than Tunisia and has a much larger, active Muslim Brotherhood that could take advantage of chaos to seize power.

At a moment like this, it would be comforting to see in the Oval Office an old diplomatic hand like George H.W. Bush — and I say this as someone who was never a big fan of the elder Bush. I do think, however, that despite some missteps (google the Chicken Kiev speech if you’re under 40), he did a brilliant job of managing a volatile situation. I do not mean to slight the contributions of brave dissidents or even of Mikhail Gorbachev, but nevertheless, the creation of democracies across Eastern Europe is in substantial measure the legacy of Ronald Reagan and his predecessors going back to Truman, who confronted the “evil empire,” and of Bush the Elder, who skillfully managed its dissolution.

Unfortunately, instead of someone like Bush, who had served as an ambassador, CIA director, and vice president, we have in the Oval Office a president with no foreign-policy credentials. This president seems to think that the entire region revolves around the moribund Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” Already Obama missed a crucial opportunity in the summer of 2009 to encourage the Green Revolution in Iran. Let us hope that will be a learning experience. This time around, we need a president fully engaged in the moment — a president who will speak for the aspirations of the people of the Middle East (more than one line, please), while also working to provide a soft landing for longtime dictators and to ensure that radicals don’t seize power.

For all his lack of experience, Obama is no newcomer to the job. He is a fast learner, and he has a gift for rhetoric the likes of which always eluded George H.W. Bush. This may very well be his moment: the moment for redefining the modern Middle East. He should seize it — if he’s not too distracted with the domestic priorities that as usual dominated the State of the Union.

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LIVE BLOG: Paul Ryan

The Republican response — indeed, the opposition-party response — to the State of the Union is usually the graveyard of upward ambitions. Not tonight. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman, is giving what is certainly the best such response in memory, and will — and should — spark serious talk about him as the Republican nominee next year. He has said flatly he’s not running. Maybe it would be wiser for a 41-year-old like Ryan to wait until 2016. But this speech reminds us that the deep bench of younger politicians — with Ryan and Marco Rubio and Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, among many others — really belongs to the GOP.

The Republican response — indeed, the opposition-party response — to the State of the Union is usually the graveyard of upward ambitions. Not tonight. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman, is giving what is certainly the best such response in memory, and will — and should — spark serious talk about him as the Republican nominee next year. He has said flatly he’s not running. Maybe it would be wiser for a 41-year-old like Ryan to wait until 2016. But this speech reminds us that the deep bench of younger politicians — with Ryan and Marco Rubio and Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, among many others — really belongs to the GOP.

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LIVE BLOG: Congressional Autograph Hounds

Forget about the unsightly and sophomoric partisan displays at past State of the Union speeches. Nothing is as bad as the spectacle of members of our House of Representatives and Senate besieging the president asking for his autograph on his way out of the chamber. At one point, the president could be heard joking about those signed programs winding up on eBay. It was a joke, but I’d bet that most of the audience on television believes it.

Forget about the unsightly and sophomoric partisan displays at past State of the Union speeches. Nothing is as bad as the spectacle of members of our House of Representatives and Senate besieging the president asking for his autograph on his way out of the chamber. At one point, the president could be heard joking about those signed programs winding up on eBay. It was a joke, but I’d bet that most of the audience on television believes it.

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LIVE BLOG: Spending Freeze Again

Obama calls for a five-year spending freeze. Sounds a lot like the three-year spending freeze he proposed at last year’s State of the Union — and then promptly ignored.

“He came out with the same thing last year,” a key GOP-er told US News and World Report tonight, “but still came out with $70 billion in new spending.”

Obama calls for a five-year spending freeze. Sounds a lot like the three-year spending freeze he proposed at last year’s State of the Union — and then promptly ignored.

“He came out with the same thing last year,” a key GOP-er told US News and World Report tonight, “but still came out with $70 billion in new spending.”

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Forget Mixed Seating. How About the President Just Mailing It In?

In the wake of President Obama’s call for more civility in the wake of the tragedy in Arizona, some in his party are seeking a symbolic effort to play down partisanship during one of the Capitol’s annual displays of partisanship: the State of the Union speech. Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado has called for mixed seating during the event. The Democratic leaders like it, and Republicans, who are leery of being portrayed as insufficiently sensitive or overly partisan, are not opposing the plan.

Is there anything wrong with the idea? Not really. The tradition of having Democrats sit on one side of the Chamber and Republicans on the other is based on the way Congress operates when it is in a normal session. Congressional seating patterns, not to mention the existence of organized political parties, are nowhere to be found in the Constitution.

However, it is not clear that mixed seating will achieve the avowed purpose of those advocating this measure, which is to avoid the sophomoric displays of partisanship that have become a regular feature of State of the Union speeches. While representatives and senators from both parties stand and applaud, as they should, during the president’s entrance, once the speech starts, the two sides morph into a congressional version of a college football game, where the supporters of the two teams divide the stadium and engage in organized cheers. It doesn’t matter which party holds the White House or Congress. Every year, the president can count on raucous cheers and standing ovations from his fellow party members in the chamber while members of the other party ostentatiously stay seated and silent.

Will mixed seating prevent a recurrence of this nonsense? The answer here is probably not. When the president speaks a line that is designed to appeal to the sensibilities of his own party — for example, one urging Congress not to repeal his health-care program — most Democrats are likely to stand and cheer while Republicans will remain seated (and need to restrain themselves from muttering their disapproval, which would lead to accusations of bad manners, such as those aimed at Justice Samuel Alito, who silently voiced his disapproval at a presidential barb aimed at the Supreme Court last year). The odds are, Democrats will get up and applaud and Republicans will not at certain points in the speech. And they will do so even if they have not clumped together by party. Read More

In the wake of President Obama’s call for more civility in the wake of the tragedy in Arizona, some in his party are seeking a symbolic effort to play down partisanship during one of the Capitol’s annual displays of partisanship: the State of the Union speech. Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado has called for mixed seating during the event. The Democratic leaders like it, and Republicans, who are leery of being portrayed as insufficiently sensitive or overly partisan, are not opposing the plan.

Is there anything wrong with the idea? Not really. The tradition of having Democrats sit on one side of the Chamber and Republicans on the other is based on the way Congress operates when it is in a normal session. Congressional seating patterns, not to mention the existence of organized political parties, are nowhere to be found in the Constitution.

However, it is not clear that mixed seating will achieve the avowed purpose of those advocating this measure, which is to avoid the sophomoric displays of partisanship that have become a regular feature of State of the Union speeches. While representatives and senators from both parties stand and applaud, as they should, during the president’s entrance, once the speech starts, the two sides morph into a congressional version of a college football game, where the supporters of the two teams divide the stadium and engage in organized cheers. It doesn’t matter which party holds the White House or Congress. Every year, the president can count on raucous cheers and standing ovations from his fellow party members in the chamber while members of the other party ostentatiously stay seated and silent.

Will mixed seating prevent a recurrence of this nonsense? The answer here is probably not. When the president speaks a line that is designed to appeal to the sensibilities of his own party — for example, one urging Congress not to repeal his health-care program — most Democrats are likely to stand and cheer while Republicans will remain seated (and need to restrain themselves from muttering their disapproval, which would lead to accusations of bad manners, such as those aimed at Justice Samuel Alito, who silently voiced his disapproval at a presidential barb aimed at the Supreme Court last year). The odds are, Democrats will get up and applaud and Republicans will not at certain points in the speech. And they will do so even if they have not clumped together by party.

An even better suggestion than mixed seating would be to do away with this televised extravaganza altogether. While the Constitution does mandate that the president report to the Congress annually on the state of the union, it does not say he needs to go there and speak to them in person on national TV. Until the 20th century, the practice (initiated by Thomas Jefferson, who thought the speech that his two predecessors had delivered was too reminiscent of the British monarch’s annual speech from the throne) was for the president to write his report and then have it delivered via messenger to the Congress, where the Clerk of the House publicly read it. Woodrow Wilson revived the practice of delivering it in person; and as first radio and then television entered into the question, it became a highly choreographed ritual that served as a valuable PR tool for every president.

The point is, if ending the obnoxious partisanship and pointless rituals of the occasion is the goal, the president can write and then deliver his speech from the Oval Office, something that would satisfy his constitutional obligation without forcing the nation to endure a pointless spectacle. While I am sure that no president will take up this suggestion, doing so will not only end the partisanship that nobody likes but might also encourage presidents to stick to serious policy points and avoid the smarmy feel-good touches (such as singling out praiseworthy citizens who have been invited to sit in the gallery) that have made the speech an even lengthier and more boring ordeal that it needs to be.

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MSNBC’s Selective History

Courtesy of Newsbusters, MSNBC is airing a promo for President Obama’s forthcoming State of the Union. It features video from previous State of the Union speeches. The presidents you see and hear from are, in order, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

Following the clips, you read these words: “America Always Believes in a Better Future.”

So who might be missing from this pantheon? Try Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, just for starters. Perhaps at MSNBC, those Republicans are viewed as an obstacle to a better future.

The slogan “Lean Forward” might be better understood as “Lean Left.” And in MSNBC’s case, Very Left.

Courtesy of Newsbusters, MSNBC is airing a promo for President Obama’s forthcoming State of the Union. It features video from previous State of the Union speeches. The presidents you see and hear from are, in order, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

Following the clips, you read these words: “America Always Believes in a Better Future.”

So who might be missing from this pantheon? Try Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, just for starters. Perhaps at MSNBC, those Republicans are viewed as an obstacle to a better future.

The slogan “Lean Forward” might be better understood as “Lean Left.” And in MSNBC’s case, Very Left.

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LIVE BLOG: Obama and the Rhetoric Question

So, the controversial part: Obama said that “at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized,” we should not “lay the blame . . . at the feet of those who happen to think different than we do.” Moreover, we should “make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

He went on: “Bad things happen and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath. And the truth is none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind. . . . But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do.”

Then: “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and points-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle. The loss of these wonderful people should make everyone of us strive to be better. . . . And if . . . their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy. It did not. But rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud. ”

Was this a declaration that the massacre was not political? Sort of. And that’s good enough, because this was not a State of the Union address or a policy roll-out. At a service memorializing the deaths to which such a repulsive degree of politicization has already accrued, any overt political telegraphing  would be unwelcome. We need to remember, after all, it was never Barack Obama who played politics with this tragedy in the first place.

Beyond that, his words, and particularly his focus on nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green’s appreciation for America, were laudable and affecting. It is now only left to his base to be sane, respectful, and honest.

So, the controversial part: Obama said that “at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized,” we should not “lay the blame . . . at the feet of those who happen to think different than we do.” Moreover, we should “make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

He went on: “Bad things happen and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath. And the truth is none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind. . . . But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do.”

Then: “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and points-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle. The loss of these wonderful people should make everyone of us strive to be better. . . . And if . . . their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy. It did not. But rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud. ”

Was this a declaration that the massacre was not political? Sort of. And that’s good enough, because this was not a State of the Union address or a policy roll-out. At a service memorializing the deaths to which such a repulsive degree of politicization has already accrued, any overt political telegraphing  would be unwelcome. We need to remember, after all, it was never Barack Obama who played politics with this tragedy in the first place.

Beyond that, his words, and particularly his focus on nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green’s appreciation for America, were laudable and affecting. It is now only left to his base to be sane, respectful, and honest.

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Liberals, Pragmatists, and Taxes

A week ago, David Brooks revealed a “vision” that would vindicate his belief in Barack Obama as a “pragmatist”: a State of the Union address proposing comprehensive tax reform to “lower rates and make the tax code fair,” eliminating loopholes and special-interest provisions. Today the lead article in the New York Times reports that Obama is “considering whether to push early next year for an overhaul of the income tax code to lower rates and raise revenues.” As Abe notes, Obama is learning economics in spite of himself.

It was not so long ago that Obama thought higher tax rates were essential for fairness — to help spread the wealth. In his 2008 colloquy with Charlie Gibson, Obama supported doubling tax rates on capital gains even if that generated less revenue — “for purposes of fairness.” A few days ago, Obama was angry about the inability to impose higher tax rates next year; he promised to try again in two years. If Brooks’s vision proves true, it will be one of the fastest transformations of a politician from doctrinaire liberal to pragmatic tax-cutter.

Two days ago, William Galston emphasized the pragmatism more directly in a New Republic post entitled “The Only Way Obama Can Win in 2012.” Galston urged Obama to move “comprehensive tax reform to the center of his agenda” with a State of the Union speech proposing a broadened tax base and reduced rates, making the system simpler and fairer. In his column today, Brooks has a new label for Obama: “network liberal” — a liberal willing to network with non-liberals to do things such as this week’s tax deal. Brooks urges Obama to bring a “networking style” to reforming the tax code.

There is a great networking opportunity right in front of Obama: Mike Pence’s flat tax proposal. It is a progressive tax with a large standard deduction and dependent exemptions for low- and middle-income taxpayers: after that, “the more money you make, the more you pay.” The tax would be “fair, simple and effective;” and you could tweet tax returns.

Perhaps a pragmatist is simply a liberal who has been shellacked by reality and wants to network. We’ll see.

A week ago, David Brooks revealed a “vision” that would vindicate his belief in Barack Obama as a “pragmatist”: a State of the Union address proposing comprehensive tax reform to “lower rates and make the tax code fair,” eliminating loopholes and special-interest provisions. Today the lead article in the New York Times reports that Obama is “considering whether to push early next year for an overhaul of the income tax code to lower rates and raise revenues.” As Abe notes, Obama is learning economics in spite of himself.

It was not so long ago that Obama thought higher tax rates were essential for fairness — to help spread the wealth. In his 2008 colloquy with Charlie Gibson, Obama supported doubling tax rates on capital gains even if that generated less revenue — “for purposes of fairness.” A few days ago, Obama was angry about the inability to impose higher tax rates next year; he promised to try again in two years. If Brooks’s vision proves true, it will be one of the fastest transformations of a politician from doctrinaire liberal to pragmatic tax-cutter.

Two days ago, William Galston emphasized the pragmatism more directly in a New Republic post entitled “The Only Way Obama Can Win in 2012.” Galston urged Obama to move “comprehensive tax reform to the center of his agenda” with a State of the Union speech proposing a broadened tax base and reduced rates, making the system simpler and fairer. In his column today, Brooks has a new label for Obama: “network liberal” — a liberal willing to network with non-liberals to do things such as this week’s tax deal. Brooks urges Obama to bring a “networking style” to reforming the tax code.

There is a great networking opportunity right in front of Obama: Mike Pence’s flat tax proposal. It is a progressive tax with a large standard deduction and dependent exemptions for low- and middle-income taxpayers: after that, “the more money you make, the more you pay.” The tax would be “fair, simple and effective;” and you could tweet tax returns.

Perhaps a pragmatist is simply a liberal who has been shellacked by reality and wants to network. We’ll see.

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Is President Obama the New Woodrow Wilson?

Jen referred this morning to David Brooks’s column, in which he advises the President to change his ways after the midterm election, especially if it turns out to be as disastrous for Democrats as nearly everyone expects. And this means changing his politics, just as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 midterm:

Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly. This ambiguity was useful in 2008 when people could project whatever they wanted onto him. But it has been harmful since. Obama came to be defined by his emergency responses to the fiscal crisis — by the things he had to do, not by the things he wanted to do. Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.

Unlike Clinton, who doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body, I’m not sure Obama has the capacity to do that. I’ve just finished reading Louis Auchincloss’s mini-biography of Woodrow Wilson (part of the “Penguin Lives” series), and I was struck by the similarities between the country’s first liberal president and the man who might be its last (I know, I know, ever the optimist).

Wilson was, at heart, an academic, the author of several books, (including Congressional Government, still in print after 125 years). He thought and acted like a professor even after he entered politics. Wilson always took it for granted, for instance, that he was the smartest guy in the room and acted accordingly. Does that sound familiar? Wilson was a remarkably powerful orator. (It was he who revived the custom of delivering the State of the Union message in person, a custom that had been dropped by Thomas Jefferson, a poor and most reluctant public speaker.)

Both men had very short public careers before the White House. Wilson’s only pre-presidential office was two years as Governor of New Jersey. And Wilson thought he had a pipeline to God, which allowed him to divine what was best for the world and gave him a moral obligation to give it to the world whether the world wanted it or not. This last tendency, evident even when he was president of Princeton University, became more pronounced with age as a series of debilitating strokes (the first at age 40) increasingly rigidified his personality.

Both Wilson and Obama were the subjects of remarkable public adulation, and both won the Nobel Peace Prize for their aspirations rather than their accomplishments. In Wilson’s case, at least, it only increased his sense of being God’s instrument on earth. Although the Republicans had won majorities just before Armistice Day in November 1918, in both houses of Congress — and the Senate’s consent by a two-thirds majority would be necessary to ratify any treaty — Wilson shut them out of any say in the treaty he went to Paris to negotiate with the other victorious powers. Obama, of course, shut the Republicans out of any say in both the stimulus bill and ObamaCare.

The result was disastrous for Wilson’s dream of world peace. So obsessed was he with creating a League of Nations that he was willing to surrender on almost everything else enunciated in his Fourteen Points to get it. Clemenceau and Lloyd George, shrewd and ruthless negotiators, played him like a fiddle. The result was the Treaty of Versailles, perhaps the most catastrophic work of diplomacy in world history, which produced a smoldering resentment in Germany at its harshness, a resentment exploited by Adolf Hitler.

When Wilson returned home, he flatly refused to compromise with the Republicans in the Senate and embarked on a speaking tour to build public pressure to force the treaty and the League through. The result was another stroke that left him incapacitated. The treaty was defeated 55-39, and when the Republicans tried to add a “reservation” that was essentially trivial but would have resulted in ratification, Wilson would have none of it. If he could not have the treaty, word for word, that he had negotiated, then he preferred nothing. He asked Democratic senators to vote against the amended treaty, and they did so. As a result, the United States did not join the League, which was hopelessly ineffective without the world’s greatest power, and what Wilson had hoped would be eternal peace became a 20-year truce.

President Obama, so far as I know, is in the best of health, but will he be any more able to deal with a changed political reality and work with Republicans? I hope so, but even this incorrigible optimist is not too confident of that.

Jen referred this morning to David Brooks’s column, in which he advises the President to change his ways after the midterm election, especially if it turns out to be as disastrous for Democrats as nearly everyone expects. And this means changing his politics, just as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 midterm:

Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly. This ambiguity was useful in 2008 when people could project whatever they wanted onto him. But it has been harmful since. Obama came to be defined by his emergency responses to the fiscal crisis — by the things he had to do, not by the things he wanted to do. Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.

Unlike Clinton, who doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body, I’m not sure Obama has the capacity to do that. I’ve just finished reading Louis Auchincloss’s mini-biography of Woodrow Wilson (part of the “Penguin Lives” series), and I was struck by the similarities between the country’s first liberal president and the man who might be its last (I know, I know, ever the optimist).

Wilson was, at heart, an academic, the author of several books, (including Congressional Government, still in print after 125 years). He thought and acted like a professor even after he entered politics. Wilson always took it for granted, for instance, that he was the smartest guy in the room and acted accordingly. Does that sound familiar? Wilson was a remarkably powerful orator. (It was he who revived the custom of delivering the State of the Union message in person, a custom that had been dropped by Thomas Jefferson, a poor and most reluctant public speaker.)

Both men had very short public careers before the White House. Wilson’s only pre-presidential office was two years as Governor of New Jersey. And Wilson thought he had a pipeline to God, which allowed him to divine what was best for the world and gave him a moral obligation to give it to the world whether the world wanted it or not. This last tendency, evident even when he was president of Princeton University, became more pronounced with age as a series of debilitating strokes (the first at age 40) increasingly rigidified his personality.

Both Wilson and Obama were the subjects of remarkable public adulation, and both won the Nobel Peace Prize for their aspirations rather than their accomplishments. In Wilson’s case, at least, it only increased his sense of being God’s instrument on earth. Although the Republicans had won majorities just before Armistice Day in November 1918, in both houses of Congress — and the Senate’s consent by a two-thirds majority would be necessary to ratify any treaty — Wilson shut them out of any say in the treaty he went to Paris to negotiate with the other victorious powers. Obama, of course, shut the Republicans out of any say in both the stimulus bill and ObamaCare.

The result was disastrous for Wilson’s dream of world peace. So obsessed was he with creating a League of Nations that he was willing to surrender on almost everything else enunciated in his Fourteen Points to get it. Clemenceau and Lloyd George, shrewd and ruthless negotiators, played him like a fiddle. The result was the Treaty of Versailles, perhaps the most catastrophic work of diplomacy in world history, which produced a smoldering resentment in Germany at its harshness, a resentment exploited by Adolf Hitler.

When Wilson returned home, he flatly refused to compromise with the Republicans in the Senate and embarked on a speaking tour to build public pressure to force the treaty and the League through. The result was another stroke that left him incapacitated. The treaty was defeated 55-39, and when the Republicans tried to add a “reservation” that was essentially trivial but would have resulted in ratification, Wilson would have none of it. If he could not have the treaty, word for word, that he had negotiated, then he preferred nothing. He asked Democratic senators to vote against the amended treaty, and they did so. As a result, the United States did not join the League, which was hopelessly ineffective without the world’s greatest power, and what Wilson had hoped would be eternal peace became a 20-year truce.

President Obama, so far as I know, is in the best of health, but will he be any more able to deal with a changed political reality and work with Republicans? I hope so, but even this incorrigible optimist is not too confident of that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.'” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.'” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

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Tim Kaine Struggles as Dems Face Tsunami

At one time, Tim Kaine had a promising career. He was on Obama’s short list for VP and was mentioned as a possible Cabinet member. But instead, he was slotted as the head of the DNC and now watches as his party’s fortunes go down the drain. It’s hardly his fault; he’ll be no more responsible for the Democrats’ losses than Michael Steele will be for the GOP’s gains. But still, he makes a hapless spokesman for his party. And it is obvious that his task is to defend Obama, not to help his struggling congressional and Senate candidates.

On Candy Crowley’s State of the Union, he didn’t really have an explanation as to why so many Democrats are running against ObamaCare. The best he could muster was a plea to stop doing it:

KAINE: Well, Candy, I travel all over the country. I guess I’ve been in about 42 states, and most Democrats that I see on the trail are very proud of the accomplishment and they’re talking about it.

But you’re right, some, particularly House members in districts that, you know, can often get gerrymandered and become tough districts are distancing themselves from the health care bill. I don’t tell people how to run their races, but I’ve been on a ballot seven times and won seven races, and in my experience, you ought to be proud of what you’re doing and promote the accomplishments.

Now, obviously, folks who voted against health care, they’re going to talk about why. But I think for the Democratic Party, generally, this significant achievement for the uninsured, for people who have been abused by insurance company policies, for small businesses, for seniors, is something that we should be very proud of and we should be talking about.

I think he means that those in unsafe seats can’t win by defending their votes but that they should take one for the team. Then he struggled with this one:

CROWLEY: The Democrats have argued that because Republicans want to extend them for everyone, they are standing in the way of extending them for middle-class voters. Can’t you say the exact same thing about those 30-plus Democrats in the House and a handful of senators, all Democrats, who also think that even the wealthy should have their tax cuts stay in place? Aren’t they also standing in the way and holding middle-class taxes hostage?

KAINE: Well, it’s not standing in the way yet. We’re still in the debate and the dialogue place, and then we’re going to get to, eventually, having to vote. And I think that the comment that the speaker made in the clip that you showed is a good one, which is, if there’s uniform agreement — and there is — that we should extend tax cuts to middle-class folks and small businesses, then why do we need to wait until we fight out the other battle to go ahead and do what everybody agrees needs to be done?

CROWLEY: My point is that–

KAINE: I think uniform commitment by both Republicans and Democrats is important to act on, so we can give the middle class and small businesses tax relief.

CROWLEY: I guess my point is, you are slamming Republicans for holding the middle class hostage while they fight for the wealthy. Can’t the same be said for those Democrats who are now agreeing with Republicans on this extension?

KAINE: Well, they’re certainly expressing their preference. Now, I don’t think they’re expressing a preference to do exactly what the Republicans want to do. What the Republicans want to do is extend these tax cuts, make them permanent to the wealthy, and the CBO has estimated that would double the deficit projections going forward for the next couple of decades. This is from a Republican Party that’s been griping about deficits.

What I think the Democrats have been doing, that number that you mentioned, has been talking about some kind of a temporary extension for those at the top end. Obviously, this is going to be a hot debate in Congress between now and the end of the congressional session, but there isn’t any reason why if everyone agrees that tax cuts should go to middle class and small businesses, we can make that happen.

OK, she won that round. The Democrats’ class-warfare gambit doesn’t work, what with 38 Democratic House members and numerous Senate Democrats agreeing it’s dumb to raise taxes on anyone in a recession.

You see the problem. Kaine is Obama’s chosen chairman and owes his position and loyalty to the White House. But that’s not much help to Democratic candidates this year, who need to figure out how they can distance themselves from the president and his toxic agenda. As for Kaine, his mediocre tenure as Virginia governor looks positively brilliant in comparison with his current performance. Well, he’s just one of many Democrats to find their careers imperiled by Obama.

At one time, Tim Kaine had a promising career. He was on Obama’s short list for VP and was mentioned as a possible Cabinet member. But instead, he was slotted as the head of the DNC and now watches as his party’s fortunes go down the drain. It’s hardly his fault; he’ll be no more responsible for the Democrats’ losses than Michael Steele will be for the GOP’s gains. But still, he makes a hapless spokesman for his party. And it is obvious that his task is to defend Obama, not to help his struggling congressional and Senate candidates.

On Candy Crowley’s State of the Union, he didn’t really have an explanation as to why so many Democrats are running against ObamaCare. The best he could muster was a plea to stop doing it:

KAINE: Well, Candy, I travel all over the country. I guess I’ve been in about 42 states, and most Democrats that I see on the trail are very proud of the accomplishment and they’re talking about it.

But you’re right, some, particularly House members in districts that, you know, can often get gerrymandered and become tough districts are distancing themselves from the health care bill. I don’t tell people how to run their races, but I’ve been on a ballot seven times and won seven races, and in my experience, you ought to be proud of what you’re doing and promote the accomplishments.

Now, obviously, folks who voted against health care, they’re going to talk about why. But I think for the Democratic Party, generally, this significant achievement for the uninsured, for people who have been abused by insurance company policies, for small businesses, for seniors, is something that we should be very proud of and we should be talking about.

I think he means that those in unsafe seats can’t win by defending their votes but that they should take one for the team. Then he struggled with this one:

CROWLEY: The Democrats have argued that because Republicans want to extend them for everyone, they are standing in the way of extending them for middle-class voters. Can’t you say the exact same thing about those 30-plus Democrats in the House and a handful of senators, all Democrats, who also think that even the wealthy should have their tax cuts stay in place? Aren’t they also standing in the way and holding middle-class taxes hostage?

KAINE: Well, it’s not standing in the way yet. We’re still in the debate and the dialogue place, and then we’re going to get to, eventually, having to vote. And I think that the comment that the speaker made in the clip that you showed is a good one, which is, if there’s uniform agreement — and there is — that we should extend tax cuts to middle-class folks and small businesses, then why do we need to wait until we fight out the other battle to go ahead and do what everybody agrees needs to be done?

CROWLEY: My point is that–

KAINE: I think uniform commitment by both Republicans and Democrats is important to act on, so we can give the middle class and small businesses tax relief.

CROWLEY: I guess my point is, you are slamming Republicans for holding the middle class hostage while they fight for the wealthy. Can’t the same be said for those Democrats who are now agreeing with Republicans on this extension?

KAINE: Well, they’re certainly expressing their preference. Now, I don’t think they’re expressing a preference to do exactly what the Republicans want to do. What the Republicans want to do is extend these tax cuts, make them permanent to the wealthy, and the CBO has estimated that would double the deficit projections going forward for the next couple of decades. This is from a Republican Party that’s been griping about deficits.

What I think the Democrats have been doing, that number that you mentioned, has been talking about some kind of a temporary extension for those at the top end. Obviously, this is going to be a hot debate in Congress between now and the end of the congressional session, but there isn’t any reason why if everyone agrees that tax cuts should go to middle class and small businesses, we can make that happen.

OK, she won that round. The Democrats’ class-warfare gambit doesn’t work, what with 38 Democratic House members and numerous Senate Democrats agreeing it’s dumb to raise taxes on anyone in a recession.

You see the problem. Kaine is Obama’s chosen chairman and owes his position and loyalty to the White House. But that’s not much help to Democratic candidates this year, who need to figure out how they can distance themselves from the president and his toxic agenda. As for Kaine, his mediocre tenure as Virginia governor looks positively brilliant in comparison with his current performance. Well, he’s just one of many Democrats to find their careers imperiled by Obama.

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Really, Is There Any Alternative?

Candy Crowley on State of the Union had this exchange with former CIA director Michael Hayden:

COWLEY: … I mean, Iran doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to the sanctions. As far as we know, they are still trying to get nuclear capability. If it should, is there any alternative to taking out their facilities?

HAYDEN: It seems inexorable, doesn’t it?

We engage. They continue to move forward. We vote for sanctions. They continue to move forward. We try to deter, to dissuade. They continue to move forward.

My personal view is that Iran, left to its own devices, will get itself to that step right below a nuclear weapon, that permanent breakout stage, so the needle isn’t quite in the red for the international community. And, frankly, that will be as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon.

When I was in government, what we would used to mystically call “the kinetic option” was way down on our list. In my personal thinking — in my personal thinking; I need to emphasize that — I have begun to consider that that may not be the worst of all possible outcomes.

To put it differently, the most destabilizing event would be a nuclear-armed Iran, not a military strike on Iran. Hayden was not predicting what Obama would do, merely what should be done if all other options fail. It remains far from clear that the Obama team — which has been insistent on playing out engagement and then sanctions long after their utility was widely called into doubt — will act to prevent the worst of all possible outcomes.

What remains inexplicable is that the administration has openly and repeatedly pooh-poohed the idea of military action. You would think a team so desperate to avoid military conflict would recognize that a credible threat of force would be useful. But the administration can’t even bring itself to bluff. How likely is it, then, that it will deploy military force?

It is an election year, so voters have maximum leverage to extract answers and commitments from candidates. It would seem there is no more important question to ask than this: if force is needed, would you urge military action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran? For those incumbents who answer yes, the next question should be: so what are you doing to persuade the administration to do just that?

Come to think of it, that is the most telling pair of questions to pose for those lawmakers, pundits, and groups advertising themselves as pro-Israel. If the answer to the first is “no,” the respondent can’t, in any meaningful sense, be considered pro-Israel. If the answer to the second is “nothing,” then we know the respondent is too timid, too ineffective, or too shortsighted to be of any help to Israel in the Jewish state’s hour of need.

Candy Crowley on State of the Union had this exchange with former CIA director Michael Hayden:

COWLEY: … I mean, Iran doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to the sanctions. As far as we know, they are still trying to get nuclear capability. If it should, is there any alternative to taking out their facilities?

HAYDEN: It seems inexorable, doesn’t it?

We engage. They continue to move forward. We vote for sanctions. They continue to move forward. We try to deter, to dissuade. They continue to move forward.

My personal view is that Iran, left to its own devices, will get itself to that step right below a nuclear weapon, that permanent breakout stage, so the needle isn’t quite in the red for the international community. And, frankly, that will be as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon.

When I was in government, what we would used to mystically call “the kinetic option” was way down on our list. In my personal thinking — in my personal thinking; I need to emphasize that — I have begun to consider that that may not be the worst of all possible outcomes.

To put it differently, the most destabilizing event would be a nuclear-armed Iran, not a military strike on Iran. Hayden was not predicting what Obama would do, merely what should be done if all other options fail. It remains far from clear that the Obama team — which has been insistent on playing out engagement and then sanctions long after their utility was widely called into doubt — will act to prevent the worst of all possible outcomes.

What remains inexplicable is that the administration has openly and repeatedly pooh-poohed the idea of military action. You would think a team so desperate to avoid military conflict would recognize that a credible threat of force would be useful. But the administration can’t even bring itself to bluff. How likely is it, then, that it will deploy military force?

It is an election year, so voters have maximum leverage to extract answers and commitments from candidates. It would seem there is no more important question to ask than this: if force is needed, would you urge military action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran? For those incumbents who answer yes, the next question should be: so what are you doing to persuade the administration to do just that?

Come to think of it, that is the most telling pair of questions to pose for those lawmakers, pundits, and groups advertising themselves as pro-Israel. If the answer to the first is “no,” the respondent can’t, in any meaningful sense, be considered pro-Israel. If the answer to the second is “nothing,” then we know the respondent is too timid, too ineffective, or too shortsighted to be of any help to Israel in the Jewish state’s hour of need.

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Tuning Out Obama

It’s like the joke: “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” “Yeah, I know — and such small portions.” Obama’s speech was widely panned, and he had such a small audience:

Barack Obama’s first address from the Oval Office delivered 32.1 million viewers Tuesday evening. The speech ranks as the president’s second least-watched major cross-network primetime event. … The 20-minute address was viewed across 11 networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TEL, UNI, CNN, CNBC, FOXNC, MSNBC, and TWC. The audience is down 33% from Obama’s first State of the Union address in January and down 21% from his last primetime speech announcing a strategy for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan last December. Of Obama’s major addresses, last night was the least-watched telecast yet. But the president’s health care reform press conference last July pulled a smaller audience, drawing 24.7 million.

In other words, Obama is no longer a draw, and the public is tuning him out — and off. It is a function of both his overexposure and his polarizing effect. Everyone who wants to see him has seen plenty of him, and many can’t bear to watch/listen to him. Others who are sympathetic no doubt find it painful to watch him flounder. In this case, the tune-out inclination was exacerbated, I think, by the fact that the public — which is much savvier than Obama thinks — understood that the president wasn’t going to say anything of substance. This was a “save Obama” speech, not a “save the Gulf” speech.

A more self-disciplined and introspective president would know that being omnipresent isn’t the way to retain the public’s interest and affection. Quite the opposite.

It’s like the joke: “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” “Yeah, I know — and such small portions.” Obama’s speech was widely panned, and he had such a small audience:

Barack Obama’s first address from the Oval Office delivered 32.1 million viewers Tuesday evening. The speech ranks as the president’s second least-watched major cross-network primetime event. … The 20-minute address was viewed across 11 networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TEL, UNI, CNN, CNBC, FOXNC, MSNBC, and TWC. The audience is down 33% from Obama’s first State of the Union address in January and down 21% from his last primetime speech announcing a strategy for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan last December. Of Obama’s major addresses, last night was the least-watched telecast yet. But the president’s health care reform press conference last July pulled a smaller audience, drawing 24.7 million.

In other words, Obama is no longer a draw, and the public is tuning him out — and off. It is a function of both his overexposure and his polarizing effect. Everyone who wants to see him has seen plenty of him, and many can’t bear to watch/listen to him. Others who are sympathetic no doubt find it painful to watch him flounder. In this case, the tune-out inclination was exacerbated, I think, by the fact that the public — which is much savvier than Obama thinks — understood that the president wasn’t going to say anything of substance. This was a “save Obama” speech, not a “save the Gulf” speech.

A more self-disciplined and introspective president would know that being omnipresent isn’t the way to retain the public’s interest and affection. Quite the opposite.

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Oren Responds to the Obami’s Temper Tantrum

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is compelled to put the best possible face on U.S.-Israeli relations. So he tells Candy Crowely on State of the Union that the state of U.S.-Israeli relations is “great.” Well, such is the burden a diplomat must bear. But Oren was also candid and unequivocal in his reiteration of Israel’s position on Jerusalem:

Israel has a policy that goes back to 1967. This is not the policy of Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the policy of Golda Meir. It’s the policy of Yitzhak Rabin, that is, that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. Under Israeli law, it has the same status as Tel Aviv.  And our policy is that every Arab, every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as they — an Arab and Jew would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C. That’s our policy. The policy is not going to change.

And he swatted away the argument that Israel had somehow imperiled the “peace process” by continuing to allow building in the nation’s capital, as every previous government had permitted:

We understand that — we understand that we have negotiated a peace treaty with Egypt, a piece treaty with Jordan. There has been 16 years of negotiations with the Palestinians, including two cases where Israeli prime ministers put complete peace plans on the table, including Jerusalem. And throughout that entire period of peace-making, Israel’s policy on Jerusalem remained unchanged.

We feel that now we should proceed directly to peace negotiations without a change in policy. We understand that Jerusalem will be one of the core issues discussed in those peace negotiations, but the main issue is to get the peace negotiations started. We are waiting for the Palestinians to join us at the table. So far, they have not done so.

The Obami-staged fuss over building in Jerusalem was for naught, it seems. The Obami picked the wrong fight with the wrong prime minister. The Netanyahu administration is not about to be bullied; the Palestinians have only been encouraged to dig in their heels and throw stones; and the rest of the Arab world nervously eyes the U.S. as a fickle ally. Meanwhile the real threat to peace and security — the mullahs’ nuclear program — proceeds unchecked.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is compelled to put the best possible face on U.S.-Israeli relations. So he tells Candy Crowely on State of the Union that the state of U.S.-Israeli relations is “great.” Well, such is the burden a diplomat must bear. But Oren was also candid and unequivocal in his reiteration of Israel’s position on Jerusalem:

Israel has a policy that goes back to 1967. This is not the policy of Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the policy of Golda Meir. It’s the policy of Yitzhak Rabin, that is, that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. Under Israeli law, it has the same status as Tel Aviv.  And our policy is that every Arab, every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as they — an Arab and Jew would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C. That’s our policy. The policy is not going to change.

And he swatted away the argument that Israel had somehow imperiled the “peace process” by continuing to allow building in the nation’s capital, as every previous government had permitted:

We understand that — we understand that we have negotiated a peace treaty with Egypt, a piece treaty with Jordan. There has been 16 years of negotiations with the Palestinians, including two cases where Israeli prime ministers put complete peace plans on the table, including Jerusalem. And throughout that entire period of peace-making, Israel’s policy on Jerusalem remained unchanged.

We feel that now we should proceed directly to peace negotiations without a change in policy. We understand that Jerusalem will be one of the core issues discussed in those peace negotiations, but the main issue is to get the peace negotiations started. We are waiting for the Palestinians to join us at the table. So far, they have not done so.

The Obami-staged fuss over building in Jerusalem was for naught, it seems. The Obami picked the wrong fight with the wrong prime minister. The Netanyahu administration is not about to be bullied; the Palestinians have only been encouraged to dig in their heels and throw stones; and the rest of the Arab world nervously eyes the U.S. as a fickle ally. Meanwhile the real threat to peace and security — the mullahs’ nuclear program — proceeds unchecked.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RE: Lawyers Should Cheer

Jan Crawford (h/t Glenn Reynolds), among the best of the mainstream media Supreme Court reporters, socks it to the White House for its juvenile insistence on getting the last word on its running spat with the Court. After Chief Justice John Roberts made the fine suggestion that the Court should abstain from the State of the Union, Robert Gibbs seemed to make Roberts’ point for him by replaying the president’s slap at the Court. (“What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections – drowning out the voices of average Americans.”) Crawford thinks this is ridiculous:

But after Chief Justice John Roberts made some entirely reasonable remarks yesterday — and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs just had to respond — it’s now getting ridiculous. Whether the White House has a short-term or long-term strategy or no strategy at all, it’s flat-out absurd and ill-advised for the administration to think it should always have the last word. It’s like my 6-year-old: “I don’t LIKE your idea. I like MY idea.”

She continues:

This administration is going to have to be dealing with this Supreme Court for at least three more years, if not more. Its lawyers are going to have to appear before these justices to defend presidential initiatives or federal laws in case after case, big and small.

I’m not suggesting they won’t get a fair shake simply because the White House is trying to stick it to the conservative justices. George Bush repeatedly got slapped down by this Court, even though he never lashed out at the justices.

But at some point — and I’d say that point is now — the Obama Administration is working against its interests.

They’d do well to remember that on a lot of the issues they care about, the Supreme Court gets to decide. No matter how much they stomp their feet and shout, “I don’t LIKE your idea; I like MY idea,” the Supreme Court is going to get the last word.

This is par for the course at this White House. It’s the perpetual rat-tat-tat, the quintessential campaign quick-response mode. There is no respect for the Chief Justice or the Court as an institution, nor for the point the Chief Justice was making: that it’s unseemly for the Court to appear and to get dragged into partisan brawls. In their partisan vitriol, the Obami, of course, proved the Chief Justice’s case. But then, self-awareness was never the White House’s strong suit.

Jan Crawford (h/t Glenn Reynolds), among the best of the mainstream media Supreme Court reporters, socks it to the White House for its juvenile insistence on getting the last word on its running spat with the Court. After Chief Justice John Roberts made the fine suggestion that the Court should abstain from the State of the Union, Robert Gibbs seemed to make Roberts’ point for him by replaying the president’s slap at the Court. (“What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections – drowning out the voices of average Americans.”) Crawford thinks this is ridiculous:

But after Chief Justice John Roberts made some entirely reasonable remarks yesterday — and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs just had to respond — it’s now getting ridiculous. Whether the White House has a short-term or long-term strategy or no strategy at all, it’s flat-out absurd and ill-advised for the administration to think it should always have the last word. It’s like my 6-year-old: “I don’t LIKE your idea. I like MY idea.”

She continues:

This administration is going to have to be dealing with this Supreme Court for at least three more years, if not more. Its lawyers are going to have to appear before these justices to defend presidential initiatives or federal laws in case after case, big and small.

I’m not suggesting they won’t get a fair shake simply because the White House is trying to stick it to the conservative justices. George Bush repeatedly got slapped down by this Court, even though he never lashed out at the justices.

But at some point — and I’d say that point is now — the Obama Administration is working against its interests.

They’d do well to remember that on a lot of the issues they care about, the Supreme Court gets to decide. No matter how much they stomp their feet and shout, “I don’t LIKE your idea; I like MY idea,” the Supreme Court is going to get the last word.

This is par for the course at this White House. It’s the perpetual rat-tat-tat, the quintessential campaign quick-response mode. There is no respect for the Chief Justice or the Court as an institution, nor for the point the Chief Justice was making: that it’s unseemly for the Court to appear and to get dragged into partisan brawls. In their partisan vitriol, the Obami, of course, proved the Chief Justice’s case. But then, self-awareness was never the White House’s strong suit.

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Lawyers Should Cheer

Following the flap over Obama’s State of the Union attack on the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, I wrote that it would be a good idea for the justices to skip the event in the future, since it has become a partisan affair that needlessly embroils them in political matters. I am delighted to see that I am on the same wavelength as the chief justice:

Chief Justice John Roberts told students at the University of Alabama Tuesday that President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he singled out a recent Supreme Court decision on campaign finance law for criticism, was “very troubling” and said the annual event has “degenerated into a political pep rally,” the A.P. reports.

Taking a question from a law school student, Roberts said anyone is welcome to criticize the court. “I have no problems with that,” he said. “On the other hand, there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum. The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court – according the requirements of protocol – has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling. . . I’m not sure why we’re there,” he said.

This is precisely the question raised by the president’s use of the justices as props for his showboating. Shouldn’t there be universal agreement that the Court should remove itself from partisan affairs? Let’s see how the media and legal elite greet this one. At least one thing is clear: this supposedly post-partisan president, who ran for office decrying old-style politics, has hyper-charged with partisanship nearly everything with which he comes in contact — the census, the Court, and the Justice Department, for starters. It’s good to see that not everyone is playing along. And it’s better still to see Chief Justice Roberts defend the dignity and apolitical nature of the Court. Obama may lose his props, but we should all benefit from the reminder that the justices are not in the business of cheerleading the president nor duty bound to perform the role of mute extras in his political drama.

Following the flap over Obama’s State of the Union attack on the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, I wrote that it would be a good idea for the justices to skip the event in the future, since it has become a partisan affair that needlessly embroils them in political matters. I am delighted to see that I am on the same wavelength as the chief justice:

Chief Justice John Roberts told students at the University of Alabama Tuesday that President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he singled out a recent Supreme Court decision on campaign finance law for criticism, was “very troubling” and said the annual event has “degenerated into a political pep rally,” the A.P. reports.

Taking a question from a law school student, Roberts said anyone is welcome to criticize the court. “I have no problems with that,” he said. “On the other hand, there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum. The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court – according the requirements of protocol – has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling. . . I’m not sure why we’re there,” he said.

This is precisely the question raised by the president’s use of the justices as props for his showboating. Shouldn’t there be universal agreement that the Court should remove itself from partisan affairs? Let’s see how the media and legal elite greet this one. At least one thing is clear: this supposedly post-partisan president, who ran for office decrying old-style politics, has hyper-charged with partisanship nearly everything with which he comes in contact — the census, the Court, and the Justice Department, for starters. It’s good to see that not everyone is playing along. And it’s better still to see Chief Justice Roberts defend the dignity and apolitical nature of the Court. Obama may lose his props, but we should all benefit from the reminder that the justices are not in the business of cheerleading the president nor duty bound to perform the role of mute extras in his political drama.

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Doubtful Democrats

The big moment, the game changer, never comes. That’s been the story on health care for over a year. We had the September speech. We had the State of the Union. We had the health-care summit. Obama never garners the momentum from these events to change minds and votes. Indeed, the passage of time and the repetition of dubious talking points have unnerved Democrats whose votes are essential. This report explains:

On Sunday, two Democrats who hold swing votes said they were focusing on how much money the overhaul would actually save, both for employers and insured workers, and for the federal government. The House and Senate have passed competing bills, and leaders now are putting together a compromise version. Details on cost savings are still being worked out.

“If the House and Senate can’t work out cost containment, I don’t see how I could support a bill that doesn’t help our business community,” Rep. John Adler (D., N.J.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not sure we’ve gone far enough in terms of fixing the underlying system to make it affordable for businesses and taxpayers.”

Rep. Jason Altmire (D., Pa.), also appearing on Fox, said he needed “to see a much clearer picture of the cost containment.” He suggested strengthening provisions in the bill aimed at shifting the way providers are reimbursed, to be based on quality of care rather than the number of procedures performed. Critics say the government’s current fee-for-service reimbursement system within its Medicare program encourages providers to offer patients unnecessary procedures.

Why hasn’t the president been able to win over these and the other needed House Democrats? Well, the nature of the bill simply cannot be disguised – it’s a massive new entitlement, a huge tax increase, a whack at Medicare, and set of Rube Goldberg funding gimmicks designed to conceal the true cost. The lawmakers know it, and the public knows it.

So all that is left is to see if the congressional leaders can cajole their members into passing something that is neither substantively nor politically sound. Unfortunately, the bribery and strong-arming needed to do that only intensifies the public’s disgust for the process and for the lawmakers who are pushing this on them. The longer this goes on, the less sense ObamaCare makes, especially to those who really have no reason to throw themselves over a cliff so that Obama-Reid-Pelosi can spare themselves humiliation. After all, the troika can come up with a face-saving, bare-bones deal, the lawmakers can tell the voters they did something, and they can get back to the Democratic members’ real concern — trying to save themselves from the angry electorate.

The big moment, the game changer, never comes. That’s been the story on health care for over a year. We had the September speech. We had the State of the Union. We had the health-care summit. Obama never garners the momentum from these events to change minds and votes. Indeed, the passage of time and the repetition of dubious talking points have unnerved Democrats whose votes are essential. This report explains:

On Sunday, two Democrats who hold swing votes said they were focusing on how much money the overhaul would actually save, both for employers and insured workers, and for the federal government. The House and Senate have passed competing bills, and leaders now are putting together a compromise version. Details on cost savings are still being worked out.

“If the House and Senate can’t work out cost containment, I don’t see how I could support a bill that doesn’t help our business community,” Rep. John Adler (D., N.J.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not sure we’ve gone far enough in terms of fixing the underlying system to make it affordable for businesses and taxpayers.”

Rep. Jason Altmire (D., Pa.), also appearing on Fox, said he needed “to see a much clearer picture of the cost containment.” He suggested strengthening provisions in the bill aimed at shifting the way providers are reimbursed, to be based on quality of care rather than the number of procedures performed. Critics say the government’s current fee-for-service reimbursement system within its Medicare program encourages providers to offer patients unnecessary procedures.

Why hasn’t the president been able to win over these and the other needed House Democrats? Well, the nature of the bill simply cannot be disguised – it’s a massive new entitlement, a huge tax increase, a whack at Medicare, and set of Rube Goldberg funding gimmicks designed to conceal the true cost. The lawmakers know it, and the public knows it.

So all that is left is to see if the congressional leaders can cajole their members into passing something that is neither substantively nor politically sound. Unfortunately, the bribery and strong-arming needed to do that only intensifies the public’s disgust for the process and for the lawmakers who are pushing this on them. The longer this goes on, the less sense ObamaCare makes, especially to those who really have no reason to throw themselves over a cliff so that Obama-Reid-Pelosi can spare themselves humiliation. After all, the troika can come up with a face-saving, bare-bones deal, the lawmakers can tell the voters they did something, and they can get back to the Democratic members’ real concern — trying to save themselves from the angry electorate.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

As many predicted, Steny Hoyer says the House will go first: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Sunday that the House must pass the Senate bill before fixes to both bills can be approved. … Hoyer said that Democrats have not yet started counting votes and have not yet nailed down all the details for what they plan to pass. Both of those will be finalized soon, he said.” Well, if they ever get the votes.

As many knew, the Democrats don’t have the votes yet in the House for ObamaCare. When asked if she has the 217 votes, Nancy Pelosi replied on This Week: “Well, right now we’re working on the policy.”

As many suspected, Nancy Pelosi hasn’t got a clue: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats ‘share some of the views’ of the Tea Party movement, even though it ‘takes direction from the Republican Party.'”

As many Republicans whisper among themselves, they’re lucky she’s the face of the House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, on CNN: “I say, you can bake the pie, you can sell the pie, but you have to have a pie to sell. And when we do we will take it out there.” Got that? Try this one: “A bill can be bipartisan without bipartisan votes.”

As many Democrats feared, Pelosi isn’t giving up on Charlie Rangel: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday she wants let House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., hold onto his gavel for now, despite his admonishment by the House ethics committee last week.”

As many incumbents fret, John McCain plots to make his colleagues squirm on ObamaCare: “On the verge of a procedural fight over health care, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican’s presidential nominee in 2008, said Sunday that he plans to introduce legislation that would prevent Congress from changing Medicare through a process that only requires a simple majority in the Senate.”

As many conservatives have urged, Evan Thomas pleads with Obama to do something meaningful on tort reform: “If Obama were to come out squarely for medical-malpractice reform—in a real way—he would be making an important political statement: that as president he is willing to risk the political fortunes of his own party for the greater good. It would give him the moral standing, and the leverage, to call on the Republicans to match him by sacrificing their own political interests—by, for instance, supporting tax increases to help pay down the debt.”

As many of us have argued, there is no good option for Democrats on health-care reform. According to Mara Liasson: “Passing this bill is not going to be a political winner. I mean, either way, it’s pretty grim. But I think it’s marginally worse if they go home with nothing. They show that they cannot govern effectively.”

Not many of the chattering class anticipated this, but the health-care summit was a big plus for Republicans. Sen. Mitch McConnell on State of the Union: “We — we had a chance Thursday actually to display some of our brightest, most knowledgeable Republicans. I thought it was actually very good for us because it certainly refuted the notion that Republicans are not interested in this subject and not knowledgeable about it and don’t have alternatives. And we laid out a number of different things that we think will make a lot more sense, to go step by step to fix the cost problem.”

As many predicted, Steny Hoyer says the House will go first: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Sunday that the House must pass the Senate bill before fixes to both bills can be approved. … Hoyer said that Democrats have not yet started counting votes and have not yet nailed down all the details for what they plan to pass. Both of those will be finalized soon, he said.” Well, if they ever get the votes.

As many knew, the Democrats don’t have the votes yet in the House for ObamaCare. When asked if she has the 217 votes, Nancy Pelosi replied on This Week: “Well, right now we’re working on the policy.”

As many suspected, Nancy Pelosi hasn’t got a clue: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats ‘share some of the views’ of the Tea Party movement, even though it ‘takes direction from the Republican Party.'”

As many Republicans whisper among themselves, they’re lucky she’s the face of the House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, on CNN: “I say, you can bake the pie, you can sell the pie, but you have to have a pie to sell. And when we do we will take it out there.” Got that? Try this one: “A bill can be bipartisan without bipartisan votes.”

As many Democrats feared, Pelosi isn’t giving up on Charlie Rangel: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday she wants let House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., hold onto his gavel for now, despite his admonishment by the House ethics committee last week.”

As many incumbents fret, John McCain plots to make his colleagues squirm on ObamaCare: “On the verge of a procedural fight over health care, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican’s presidential nominee in 2008, said Sunday that he plans to introduce legislation that would prevent Congress from changing Medicare through a process that only requires a simple majority in the Senate.”

As many conservatives have urged, Evan Thomas pleads with Obama to do something meaningful on tort reform: “If Obama were to come out squarely for medical-malpractice reform—in a real way—he would be making an important political statement: that as president he is willing to risk the political fortunes of his own party for the greater good. It would give him the moral standing, and the leverage, to call on the Republicans to match him by sacrificing their own political interests—by, for instance, supporting tax increases to help pay down the debt.”

As many of us have argued, there is no good option for Democrats on health-care reform. According to Mara Liasson: “Passing this bill is not going to be a political winner. I mean, either way, it’s pretty grim. But I think it’s marginally worse if they go home with nothing. They show that they cannot govern effectively.”

Not many of the chattering class anticipated this, but the health-care summit was a big plus for Republicans. Sen. Mitch McConnell on State of the Union: “We — we had a chance Thursday actually to display some of our brightest, most knowledgeable Republicans. I thought it was actually very good for us because it certainly refuted the notion that Republicans are not interested in this subject and not knowledgeable about it and don’t have alternatives. And we laid out a number of different things that we think will make a lot more sense, to go step by step to fix the cost problem.”

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