November 25, 2010

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We have found some more things for which to be thankful. We go, outside our normal sources, to Politico, Newsweek, Washington Post, Huffington Post and Time to learn some on the left have finally figured out they helped put a dud in the White House.

Ben Smith of Politico says the president has the Israelis and Palestinians in one agreement. They agree he has screwed up the Middle East.

Vowing to change a region that has resisted the best efforts of presidents and prime ministers past, Barack Obama dove head first into the Middle East peace process on his second day in office.

He was supposed to be different. His personal identity, his momentum, his charisma and his promise of a fresh start would fundamentally alter America’s relations with the Muslim world and settle one of its bitterest grievances.

Two years later, he has managed to forge surprising unanimity on at least one topic: Barack Obama. A visit here finds both Israelis and Palestinians blame him for the current stalemate – just as they blame one another.

Instead of becoming a heady triumph of his diplomatic skill and special insight, Obama’s peace process is viewed almost universally in Israel as a mistake-riddled fantasy. And far from becoming the transcendent figure in a centuries-old drama, Obama has become just another frustrated player on a hardened Mideast landscape.

The current state of play sums up the problem. Obama’s demand that the Israelis stop building settlements on the West Bank was met, at long last, by a temporary and partial freeze, but its brief renewal is now the subject of intensive negotiations.

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders have refused American demands to hold peace talks with the Israelis before the freeze is extended. Talks with Arab states over gestures intended to build Israeli confidence – a key part of Obama’s early plan — have long since been scrapped.

The political peace process to which Obama committed so much energy is considered a failure so far. And in the world’s most pro-American state, the public and its leaders have lost any faith in Obama and – increasingly — even in the notion of a politically negotiated peace.

Even those who still believe in the process that Obama has championed view his conduct as a deeply unfunny comedy of errors. …


Eleanor Clift of Newsweek thinks the president’s aides should stop telling him how wonderful he is. 

Democrats got the lowest share of the white vote in this midterm election than in any congressional election since World War II, losing key races in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Michigan, and every contested election in Ohio, which spells trouble for President Obama’s reelection. No Democrat can win the White House without these Midwestern swing states, and they are all decimated by job losses that Obama has offered no road map to recover.

Soul-searching is under way at the White House, but so far it looks pretty sterile. There’s no Dick Morris sneaking in with advice from outside the bubble, or late-night bull sessions with Terry McAuliffe about how to raise money and stage a comeback. Granted, some of the tactics these Clinton-era advisers used wouldn’t pass muster with the Obama crowd, or with Common Cause, but they shook up the White House and got Clinton out of his post-election funk and into fighting form.

Part of Obama’s problem is that there’s too much hero worship around him, and that translates into a reluctance to fault him for anything, except maybe that he didn’t make a good enough case for all the wonderful things he’s done. …


Jackson Diehl of WaPo thinks it’s time for the president to grow up.

For help understanding the foreign policy headlines of the past week, let’s return, briefly, to the spring of 1983, when Barack Obama was a student at Columbia University. What were the burning international issues of that time?

Well, first was the “nuclear freeze” movement, which was prompting mass demonstrations around the world by people worried about the standoff between the Soviet Union and the United States. Obama published an article about it in a campus magazine in which he invoked the vision of “a nuclear free world.”

The Middle East, meanwhile, was still reeling from the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon – which was the apotheosis of the Zionist right’s dream of creating a “greater Israel” including all of the Palestinian West Bank.

Back to November 2010. The Obama administration is devoting a big share of its diplomatic time and capital to curbing Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank – most recently, offering Israel’s right-wing government $3 billion in warplanes in exchange for a 90-day moratorium. Meanwhile, it has committed much of its dwindling domestic political capital to pushing a new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia through a reluctant Senate.

So has nothing changed in the past quarter-century? In fact, almost everything has – especially when it comes to nuclear arms control and Israel’s national objectives. What hasn’t changed, it seems, is Barack Obama – who has led his administration into a foreign policy time warp that is sapping its strength abroad and at home. …


Here’s Robert Kuttner, editor of the far-left American Prospect, writing in the Huffington Post.

… So as President Obama gears up for a re-election battle in 2012, the economy is unlikely to be much different than the one that sank the Democrats in 2010. The question is whether Obama and the Democrats can change the national understanding of what caused the economic collapse and who is blocking the recovery.

In this enterprise, I don’t have high expectations for Obama. I cannot recall a president who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as chief executive. Nor do his actions since the election inspire confidence that he will be reborn as a fighter.

The president’s defenders offer an assortment of alibis for the epic defeat. …


For a change of pace, Time’s Mark Halperin takes a look at some of the GOP’s new governors.

Republican governors are going to have a big hand in writing the next chapter of American history. Their GOP brethren in Washington will be tussling with President Obama to reach either stalemate or compromise (or some fitful combination of the two), thus obscuring a real test of Republican governing philosophy on the Potomac. Meanwhile, in places such as Tallahassee, Fla.; Madison, Wis.; Columbus, Ohio; Lansing, Mich.; and Santa Fe, N.M., freshly elected Republican governors will present their party’s goals and themes for a 2011 agenda. They will be focusing on the same economic issues that Republicans used to win not only gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey in 2009, but also Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat in January 2010 and races from coast to coast in the midterms: debt, deficits, Obama’s health care law, no new taxes, no expansion of government.

Much like the federal government, the state governments face a basic set of problems: sluggish or negligible job creation, simultaneous pressure for budget cuts and measures to stimulate growth, zero public appetite for more taxes, and a healthy skepticism about the government’s capacity to fix what ails America. …

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