Archive for Politics

On Partisanship

The President’s stimulus package was passed by Congress last week with both houses voting along largely partisan lines. Every Republican in the House voted no, while only seven Democrats voted against the package. In the Senate, every Democrat voted in favor, while all the Republicans, except for three, voted against the package.

This has led some to criticize Republicans for “being partisan.”

What nonsense.

When a Senator like John McCain, who has spent his entire career opposing wasteful spending and speaking out against large deficits, votes against a massive spending plan that will lead by all accounts to an increased deficit, he is not being partisan. He is being true to his beliefs, hewing to the same ideology he has always espoused. He also his doing right by the constituents who elected him based on those long-held beliefs.

And for the record, the same applies to those Democrats who voted in favor of the plan- if a Democrat who always believed that the government should spend-spend-spend in order to deal with economic slowdowns voted for the package, he or she is not being partisan but also sticking to their guns.

I just wonder if all the Obama supporters who demand that Republicans “set aside partisanship and support the President” ever felt a similar obligation when we had a conservative Republican president. I don’t recall many of my fellow New Yorkers urging Democrats to support Ronald Reagan’s agenda, notwithstanding that Reagan twice was elected in a landslide, with far bigger margins than Obama.

Barack Obama was elected President. He won fair and square. And he ran on a specific agenda. But – news flash – every member of congress also won an election. And many of them won (especially those representing conservative districts) by promising to be fiscally conservative and promising to oppose a massive government expansion. They are not being partisan when they vote exactly the way they promised to vote.

I don’t know of any Republican member of Congress who got elected last fall by promising to support a massive government “stimulus” spending package, and promised to support legislation that would lead to a massive increase in the deficit.

Bottom line: if you didn’t demand that Democrats “set aside partisanship” and support Dubya (or Bush I, or Reagan), you have no right to demand that Republicans do the same and support Obama.

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Answers From Israel

In response to an email, two friends of StillRight who live in Israel (hereafter referred to as “C” and “M”) were kind enough to answer some questions I had about the upcoming election there and other related issues. Here’s the Q and A:

Who is going to win the election in Israel?

C: Likud looks like it will get more seats than any other party, and it seems pretty clear that right-wing bloc (Likud, Lieberman, Shas and the other religious parties) will have a majority of the 120 Knesset seats. There is still plenty of jockeying among the parties, particularly between Likud and Lieberman, but it shouldn’t affect the overall outcome of a victory for the right.
M: Probably Bibi.

Will Bibi form a true unity coalition with centrist and left parties, or a center-right coalition?

C: Bibi has, not surprisingly, spoken out of both sides of his mouth on this one. Most of the campaign he emphasized his intention to form a broad government with all “Zionist” parties of the right and left, in an attempt to be perceived as more moderate. When he saw the right-wing satellite parties gaining on him, like Lieberman, he tried to take their votes by turning right. Hard to tell what he will ultimately do.
M: Center-right.

Whom are you voting for and briefly why?

C: Still unsure, but leaning to Kadima. I’m holding out a waning hope that maybe Livni still has a shot of becoming prime minister instead of Bibi.
M: Tzippi [Livni], mostly with the hope of bringing in Labor and keeping out Lieberman.

Bibi- principled leader or total opportunist?

C: One of the interesting outcomes of Bibi serving as Finance Minister was learning that he does have some principles. He really does believe in the free-market. On land/peace issues, however, he has no principles whatsoever and will just see which way the wind blows.
M: Neither, but he’s aligned more to the right and the political system forces opportunism over true leadership.

Any chance that we will see real civil reform in Israel (marriage and other church-state matters)?

C: Unfortunately, none whatsoever. As usual, the land/peace issues will continue to dominate the political scene, even though there are parties on the right (Lieberman) and left (Meretz) who would support that agenda.
M: Not in the near future.

Was this campaign as devoid of a discussion of issues as the media here made it seem?

C: Absolutely. There is also a high percentage of undecided voters (unusual in this land of overly decisive people) and a lot of shifting voters. No one seems to have any strong feelings in favor of any particular party.
M: Issues, what issues?

Will the action in Gaza heat up or calm down in the months ahead?

C: Hard to imagine Gaza staying calm for long.
M: Heat up.

Will the Israeli public support a trade for Gilad Shalit even if it means giving up as many as 1000 prisoners?

C: Definitely. Israelis supported the release of the child-killer Samir Kuntar for the bodies of Goldwasser and Regev from Lebanon, and they will support the release of many murderers for Gilad. It will be very difficult for the families of the victims of these terrorists, but it will go through.
M: Yes.

Don’t Israelis feel that such trades only encourage more kidnappings?

C: Yes, and yet they keep falling into the same trap. Everyone is motivated by the fear that one day they might be in the same position as the Shalit family.
M: They don’t like to think about that, they just picture their own son being kidnapped.

Any other random thoughts/ parting shots/ or predictions?

C: Expect major tension to come almost as soon as the next government takes office, when Obama/Mitchell demand that Israel stop all new construction in the West Bank. Israel already agreed to this in the context of Bush’s road map (with Bibi voting in favor at the time as part of Ariel Sharon’s government), but they never actually lived up to their commitment. I don’t think Obama will be as accommodating.
M: The big deal here is Lieberman as the third party that will determine the direction of the government. Many people are choosing who they’ll vote for based on how scared they are of Lieberman. Personally, I see him as Jurg Haider without the boyfriend.

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Paterson v. Kennedy: The Inside Story

This article in today’s Times offers a fascinating look at the efforts made by (accidental) Governor David Paterson to “discredit” Caroline Kennedy in the days surrounding her withdrawal from consideration for the state’s vacant Senate seat.

The article reveals just how little has changed in Albany, noting that it is all reminiscent of the Spitzer administration’s efforts against political foes.

Do these guys ever learn?

Of course, Fred Dicker of the New York Post had been all over this a while ago, and called Paterson a flat-out “liar” for claiming he had no idea who was leaking anti-Kennedy information to the press. The Manhattan elite will never embrace the Post, but you will not find a better reporter on state politics than Fred Dicker.

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“He’s Going to Pay”

They’re seething in Camelot. Should the accidental governor be frightened? Too soon to say, but he clearly has been hurt by this fiasco, and it could turn out to be his own personal Hurricane Katrina, wherein the patina of incompetence never really disappears.

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Paterson v. Kennedy

Oh, the sniping is just too funny. They’re killing each other, and I can’t look away. Somebody stop me!

Was he or wasn’t he going to pick her?

Did she “withdraw” because of Ted’s illness? nanny issues? tax issues? marital issues? her inability to, you know, speak?

I’m trying to decide who looks worse, Caroline or the Accidental Governor?

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Congratulations, Governor Paterson

Let me be the first to congratulate (accidental) Governor Paterson:

With your pathetic bumbling vis-a-vis the vacant senate seat, you have actually made Rod Blagojevich look like a statesman.

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Or Did She?

Amazing.

As I type this, the AP is reporting here that Caroline Kennedy has not withdrawn her name for consideration at the same time that the New York Times is reporting here that she has withdrawn. And both stories have been posted in the last hour.

Whatever the outcome, this is a total circus and a national embarassment. Blame our accidental governor.

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Kennedy Withdraws (?)

Perhaps she realized that being a Senator is a real job – something she’s never had – or perhaps she realized that the position requires, you know, public speaking.

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The Missing Words

The biggest reason I did not vote for Barack Obama was my concern that he, like so many others, just doesn’t get it on terrorism, by failing to grasp the total and undeniable link between terrorism and Islam. You can’t deal with a problem if you are in total denial about its origin.

For that reason, I drew no comfort at all from President Obama’s fleeting references to terrorism in his speech yesterday. Here is what he said:

Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred…And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, “Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you”…To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

Granted, in an inaugural address you expect lofty rhetoric and not specific descriptions of policies or of particular enemies. But I would have felt a lot more comfortable if he had been willing to say “a far reaching network of Islamic extremists who perpetuate violence and hatred.” At some point he is going to have to give up the political correctness and face reality– unfortunately he is likely to learn this reality the hard way.

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A Decent Man Who Deserved Better

Here is what top adviser Mark McKinnon had to say about (now former) President Bush’s view of President Obama:

I think I can fairly report that he feels a genuine warmth for President Obama. He admires his sense of family, his relaxed and easygoing nature, and his character. He has gotten to know him during this transition period and he has a pretty good gut for people. His gut tells him Obama has what it takes to be a successful leader. Not yet tested. Not yet proved he is willing to make difficult and unpopular decisions. But the potential is clearly there.

Norman Orenstein, no Bush fan himself, adds this:

Beginning well before the election, President Bush and his chief of staff, Josh Bolten, decided to make this transition different by removing many of the usual obstacles and fostering cooperation and harmony.

What a stunning contrast between the way President Bush treated his adversaries and the way they have treated him.

Classless to the end, many of the Obama fans at yesterday’s inauguration booed and shouted obscenities when the outgoing President was introduced. I wasn’t surprised.

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Blagojevich 1, Reid 0

Clearly Rod Blagojevich got the best of Harry Reid in the Battle of Burris.

As distasteful as it appears, Blagojevich of course had every right to pick whomever he wanted to fill the Obama seat. He’s still the governor, and the law in Illinois says the governor gets to fill any Senate vacancy. End of story. Blame the people of Illinois for electing a crook. Or blame them for enacting a law which gives the governor the power to fill the seat (a handful of states call for a special election to fill such vacancies).

Harry Reid had said after the Blagojevich arrest that no Blago appointee would ever be accepted by the Senate. I wonder if Reid consulted an attorney before making that claim. I doubt it.

And Reid is as nasty and partisan as they come. Although he did not want Blagojevich to make an appointment, he also let it be known that he opposed a special election. Why? Pure partisanship- Reid knew there was a chance (though a slim one) that a Republican might win the seat.

While Burris apparently is considered a lightweight and an egomaniac, he certainly has the qualifications to serve in the Senate. It’s not like he’s an incoherent child of privilege who’s never even held a real job.

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Apologies, Please

For months, Andrew Sullivan and a host of other conspiracy theorists questioned whether Sarah Palin was really the mother of baby Trig, suggesting instead that she was covering up for the “real mother”, her daughter Bristol. Yes, some of the same people who call for more “civility” in our political discussions, and ask that campaigns be more “issue-oriented”, were engaging in this sort of disgusting and baseless insinuation.
Well now that Bristol has had a healthy 7-pound baby — just seven months after Trig’s birth, thereby rendering it impossible for Bristol to have given birth to Trig– I wonder if Sullivan et al will admit they were wrong, and apologize. Doubtful.

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At Least She’s Articulate

We know she has zero political experience. But Caroline Kennedy apparently couldn’t pass a high school debating class. Talking about New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, she offfered this gem:

“You know, I think, you know, we’re sort of, uh, sharing some of this experience. And um, as I’ve said, he was a friend, a family member, and um so, and uh obviously, he’s, you know, he’s also had an impressive career in public office.”

This was hardly an isolated moment- according to Politico.com, she managed to use the phrase “you know” 138 times during her interview with the New York Times. The folks at Gawker suggest she hire a vocal coach.

I have two thoughts on this. First, imagine how hard the media would have pounced if Sarah Palin sounded this idiotic.

My second observation is this: critics have always assumed that George W. Bush owed his Yale and Harvard degrees to his family connections. Judging from Ms. Kennedy’s inability to string together a sentence, can we now make the same assumptions about her?

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She’s A Joke

One would expect the New York Times to be a sympathetic outlet for Caroline Kennedy’s “candidacy”. Guess again. This article paints her as utterly clueless.

But the best part by far is when she insults the reporters:

But when asked Saturday morning to describe the moment she decided to seek the Senate seat, Ms. Kennedy seemed irritated by the question and said she couldn’t recall. “Have you guys ever thought about writing for, like, a woman’s magazine or something?” she asked the reporters. “I thought you were the crack political team.”

Smart move.

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Ouch!

“If [Hillary Clinton] gets a race against John Edwards and Barack Obama, she’s going to be the nominee. Gore is the only threat to her, then. … Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now.” —William Kristol, Fox News Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006

Oh my. To read this, and other amazing examples of poor foresight, check out the “10 Worst Predictions” here at Foreign Policy magazine.

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