January 5, 2009

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It can be a difficult task to describe the irrationality that confronts us from the Left, but Roger Simon does a wonderful job of it. We use him to kick off today’s Pickings where the theme is the growing realization in the media they made a mistake pushing the kid over the top. Who you ask? How about Howard Fineman, Doyle McManus, the Washington Post, and Bob Schieffer. Read on. They’re all here.

Only last September, Sam Tanenhaus – editor of The New York Times Book Review – published a book entitled The Death of Conservatism.

…Well, that’s the danger of topical political books. I feel sorry for Tanenhaus, in a way. How could he have known (well, maybe he should have) when writing his book nine or ten months ago that Barack Obama would now be manufacturing conservatives at a clip unparalleled in history? Our President is a veritable conservative mass production factory. And those conservatives, despite what Tanenhaus wrote, are Hell bent on conserving the traditional values of our society, including taxation with representation (thanks!), a common sense health care system, some modicum of transparency, and, now most clearly, honesty in national defense. (Treating Islamic radicalism as if it were house breaking is moronic behavior verging on national and cultural suicide. You don’t need to be “conservative” to see that.).

Perhaps Tanenhaus should have written “The Death of Liberalism,” because that is what is going on all around us. And it is his own media that is creating its death, their own death, because it is they that created Barack Obama, bringing out of obscurity a man less qualified to be president than the proverbial “my dead grandmother.” …

…I don’t know if the terms conservative and liberal in general are useful anymore, but Obama is certainly simplifying that conundrum but destroying the latter.

Rasmussen Reports compiled a year end review of their Strongly Approve/Strongly Disapprove poll. It is a devastating look at the country’s understanding  that a group of amateurs have the reins of the executive branch.

The president’s Approval Index ratings fell three points in December following two-point declines in both October and November. …

…As Congress has drawn closer to achieving the president’s goals on health care, unemployment also has been rising, and Obama’s ratings have reflected the turmoil.

The number who Strongly Disapprove of the president’s performance inched up a point to 41% in December. The number who Strongly Approved fell two more points to 26%. That leads to a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15, a new low for Obama.

Also in December, the president’s total approval dropped two points to 46%. His total disapproval gained a point to 53%. It’s worth noting that the Approval Index ratings have generally proven to be a good leading indicator of the president’s overall approval ratings.

In Politico, Alex Isenstadt reports on the reasons liberals dislike Rasmussen’s current polling.

…In August, for example, Rasmussen asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “It’s always better to cut taxes than to increase government spending because taxpayers, not bureaucrats, are the best judges of how to spend their money.”

“Why stop there, Rasmussen? Why not add a parenthetical phrase about how tax cuts regrow hair, whiten teeth, and ensure that your favorite team will win the Super Bowl this year?” responded Daily Kos blogger Steve Singiser, who frequently writes about polls. …

…Rasmussen, for his part, explained that his numbers are trending Republican simply because he is screening for only those voters most likely to head to the polls — a pool of respondents, he argues, that just so happens to bend more conservative this election cycle. …

Jennifer Rubin posts on the liberal criticisms of the Obami on this past Sunday’s Face the Nation.

On Face the Nation, there was some serious talk as to why the Christmas Day bombing is so perilous for the Obama team. It is not simply that once again Democrats may be perceived as weak on national security. There is a more basic issue now rumbling through not just conservative circles but also in the mainstream media: can these people be trusted to do much of anything? Jan Crawford took up the competency angle:

The reason that’s an issue for Obama is that it goes to the bigger question of the competency of his government and the trust that people have in that government. You look at polls. Polls show that the trust in government is an all time low. Domestically, obviously, stimulus plan hasn’t worked. Unemployment is high. And so now we have a situation where a terrorist can get on an airplane, seemingly could have  been caught if some officials had just done a basic Google search of the database. And the Homeland Security secretary is insisting the system worked.

…Bob Schieffer, not exactly a fire-breathing conservative, really laid into the Obami. The problem is not only competence but also trust. …

…When government officials insult us with spin they’re doing it on our dime, which is supposed to be used to operate the government, not to hold news conferences to tell us what a fine job people on the public payroll are doing. … Real security is built on trust in government. That requires truth, which should be the beginning of government presentations, not the fallback position. …

Yowser. Now that’s a narrative that should concern the Obami. Unfortunately, one wonders if they know what to do with a problem not solvable by spin and attack-dog tactics. At some point you really have to govern. Sadly, that is not their strong suit.

Toby Harnden reviews Underpantsgate.

…But the violence wasn’t senseless, it had a calculated objective – just as Abdulmutallab was not, as Obama described him, an “isolated extremist”. No wonder many Americans want to grab Obama by the lapels and scream: “It’s the Jihad, stupid.” Dick Cheney, the former vice-president, clearly struck a nerve when he charged last week that Obama was “trying to pretend we are not at war”.

The White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer eagerly descended into the political fray, responding to Cheney with the obligatory jibe about Iraq and also a litany of examples of Obama’s “public statements that explicitly state we are at war”.

It’s a sure sign that you’re losing the argument when you have to research quotes from your boss’s speeches to prove that he gets it that America is at war. The problem for Obama is that people are now judging him by his actions as well as his words.

The incompetence of the US intelligence bureaucracy is not the only thing that makes Underpantsgate so damaging for Obama. More serious is his failure to understand or acknowledge the nature of the enemy – and to view war as mere politics.

Doyle McManus guest blogs in the LA Times, and gives Obama a very limited thumbs up for his first year.

…Take the $787-billion economic stimulus plan that Obama muscled through Congress as his first item of business in February. It was big, bold and ambitious — but in political terms, it’s been a failure. Most economists say the stimulus has saved at least half a million jobs, but Obama hasn’t convinced most voters that the impact is real.

A program to save homeowners from foreclosure has mostly been a bust. The most visibly successful piece of the administration’s economic rescue plan has been its bailout of Wall Street — a favor investment bankers repaid by awarding themselves huge bonuses.

A Pew poll this month (Dec.) found that only 30% of respondents believed Obama’s policies had made the economy better. A president who made his name as a gifted speechmaker has fallen into a spectacular failure in communicating. He might have served himself better by making fewer trips to Scandinavia and more to construction sites in Middle America. …

David Gardner of the Daily Mail, UK, reports on the open resentment that the CIA has for Obama’s criticisms.

…‘One day the President is pointing the finger and blaming the intelligence services, saying there is a systemic failure,’ said one agency official. ‘Now we are heroes. The fact is that we are doing everything humanly possible to stay on top of the security situation. The deaths of our operatives shows just how involved we are on the ground.’ But CIA bosses claim they were unfairly blamed at a time the covert government agency has been stretched further than ever before in Afghanistan and Pakistan. …

…The base targeted by Wednesday’s suicide bomber was a control centre for a covert programme overseeing strikes by remote-controlled aircraft along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. ‘Those who fell were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism. We owe them our deepest gratitude,’ CIA Director Leon Panetta said.

Some CIA officials are angry at being criticised by the White House after Abdulmutallab, 23, was allowed to slip through the security net and board a US-bound flight in Amsterdam despite evidence he was a terror threat. The president complained that a warning from the former London engineering student’s father and information about an al Qaeda bomb plot involving a Nigerian were not handled properly by the intelligence networks. But CIA officials say the data was sent to the US National Counterterrorism Centre in Washington, which was set up after the 9/11 attacks as a clearing house where raw data should be analysed. Agents claim that is where the dots should have been connected to help identify Abdulmutallab as a threat.

In Newsweek, Howard Fineman thinks Obamacare is a bad idea.

…Nothing unusual about a little fawning in the Oval, but it prompts questions. Given the urgency of those challenges, underscored by the Nigerian bomber, was it wise for the president to spend most of his first year and political capital on a monumentally complicated overhaul of the nation’s health-care system? And will the results of that gamble—not fundamental reform, but rather an expensive set of patches, bypasses, and trusses bolted onto the existing system—improve the lives of Americans enough to help him or his fellow Democrats politically?

Put me down as skeptical. …

…Democrats fret that they will be blamed for those increases in the 2010 elections. Some regulations on the industry kick in immediately, but most don’t begin until at least 2013. And yet, to allow the bill to “save” money in the first decade, most new taxes and fees go into effect immediately. “We’re collecting money before we’re giving all the benefits!” lamented a Democratic senator facing reelection. “That is a political disaster.”…

In the Streetwise Professor, Craig Pirrong comments on an article in WaPo about lack of communication regarding the Afghanistan strategy.

The foundation of any military plan or strategy is The Objective.  All details of implementation are directed towards achieving it.  Any strategy that lacks a clear objective as its foundation runs extreme risks, and is likely to result in confusion, and work at cross purposes by those in charge of developing and implementing it.  If you don’t have an objective, you’re never going to achieve it.  And if you do have an objective, but don’t spell it out, you can’t count on anybody devising or implementing a strategy to achieve it.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Obama Afghanistan strategy suffers from this fundamental defect.  But don’t believe me.  Believe that right wing rag, the Washington Post.  In an article conveniently (for the administration) buried on the Saturday after Christmas, and overshadowed by the junkbomber fiasco, the Post paints a devastating picture of strategic confusion traceable directly to Obama’s complete failure to state unambiguously his objective …

…The primary job of the commander in chief is to identify the nation’s interests and specify strategic objectives intended to advance those interests.  The Post piece makes it clear that Obama is failing in that task.  Failing completely.  His seeming allergy to the very idea of victory will be self-fulfilling, because by refusing to identify an objective (i.e., what would victory look like?) he will ensure that victory by any measure is virtually impossible. …

Cliff May posts in The Corner about his joke that offended some liberal media types.

…I suggested that the Obami could have their cake and eat it, too, if they released the terrorists to Yemen and then attacked them in the baggage claim area at Sanaa International. (If it’s anything like Dulles or JFK, it’s a place they are likely to have to linger for a rather long time. Can’t you imagine the former detainees watching the bags go around the carousel? “Hey, Hamid, isn’t that your suitcase? The one with the smiley face on the luggage tag?” “No, no, Mahmoud. I always use a rainbow strap. Avoids confus — ” Kaboom.)

For this, Andrew calls me a “neo-fascist.” (To Andrew, is that worse than a neo-conservative?) …

…I also suspect people of Greenwald and Sullivan’s persuasion believe conservatives have no business emplying irony, satire, and parody. After all, If there are jokes to be made, there are qualified people on the left who can make them! …

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