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Just received a NYT alert, with the following headline:

Netanyahu Says No Palestinian State if He Is Re-elected

The article quotes him as follows:

“I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands, is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel,” he said in a video interview published on the NRG website. “Anyone who ignores this is sticking his head in the sand. The left does this time and time again. We are realistic and understand.”
Asked if he meant that a Palestinian state would not be established if he were to continue as Israel’s prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu replied: “Correct.”
Although Netanyahu's general resistance to a Palestinian state is hardly a secret, I still find this pronouncement quite remarkable.  At the least, this stance represents an express reversal for Bibi:
The comments reversed a 2009 speech in which Mr. Netanyahu endorsed the concept of two states for two peoples between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
The article intimates that Bibi's reversal may be a move of desperation, in view of his sinking poll numbers.  

Needless to say, there has been widespread bi-partisan support in this country for a two-state solution for decades.  But given how closely aligned the GOP has been with Bibi - I have to wonder how long that will last.

Discuss

I actually laughed out loud when I saw this headline:

Good Economic News, but Democrats Differ on Whether to Take Credit

And that, my friends, really says it all.  

The article notes a handful of positive statistics:

The jobless rate, at 10 percent at its peak after Mr. Obama took office, is down to 5.8 percent with nearly 11 million new jobs. The annual deficit, which reached 10.1 percent of the gross domestic product, the measure of the economy, has fallen below 3 percent of G.D.P., the level most economists consider acceptable. Gasoline is less than $3 a gallon on average, as the United States has become the world’s top energy producer. Exports are up, and so are consumer and business confidence.
Nevertheless, the article also observes that:
voters preferred Republicans to Democrats, 39 percent to 30 percent, to deal with the economy, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll before the Nov. 4 midterm elections. This comes just a year after congressional Republicans forced a government shutdown that hurt economic growth, private forecasters said.
Hmm, I wonder what possible reason could there be for the voters giving no credit to the Democrats.   Allow me to make one modest suggestion: if one side is hammering a negative story, and the other side remains silent, then perhaps it makes sense that the public will credit the negative story.  

Now, I understand that for many people, the economy is still lousy.  And I recognize that politicians who paint an unrealistically rosy picture risk being viewed as out of touch.  

But this does not mean that Democrats should cower from taking credit for real, quantifiable improvements that are demonstrably related to Democratic policies.
 It is possible to take credit and simultaneously acknowledge that there is more work to be done.  Can't Democrats chew gum and walk at the same time?

And this is not a recent problem.  The article notes that Democrats have always had trouble balancing these messages.  In the first paragraph, though, the article says:

Democrats would like some credit for the run of good economic news. Yet the better those reports are, the more divided the party has become over how — even whether — to take any.
Let that sink in for a moment: the better the news, the MORE the Democrats wonder WHETHER to take credit.

The fact is that the economy is in much better shape now than when Obama took office.  It is simply political malpractice not to take credit when credit is due.

So who are these geniuses who can't decide whether to take any credit.  Stan Greenberg - noted advisor to the Clintons - is singled out and quoted:

“I think the economy is going to grow and unemployment drop over the next couple years, and I think by the end of his presidency, we may be surprised that his approval ratings are up because of the stronger economy,” Mr. Greenberg said. “So it’ll be a great speech as he’s leaving, or breaking ground on the Obama presidential library, but it’s not a message for Democrats now. People are in trouble.”

Yes, people are in trouble, but it is factually wrong and absurd to cede the debate and allow the other side to depict genuine improvement as failure.

Let me just close with this point: does anyone doubt that the GOP would take full credit if the economy had improved so much on their watch?

Discuss

Yesterday, the NYT ran a review of Chuck Todds' new book about Obama, entitled "The Stranger."

The book -- described as a "stinging indictment" of Obama's presidency - removes any lingering doubt (if there actually is any) about Todd's attitudes.  The book apparently is replete with conventional, inside-the-beltway type of complaints that trivialize or ignore the actual merits of any policy.  

Here are some snippets from the review:

Mr. Todd dissects “the promise versus the reality of Obama” and concludes that he will be regarded, at least in the near future, as “a president whose potential wasn’t realized.” He writes that “income inequality is worse than ever,” that the Middle East could well be “more unstable when Obama leaves office than when he took it,” and that while he “wanted to soar above partisanship,” his tenure in office will likely “be remembered as a nadir of partisan relations.”

So, apparently Todd subscribes to the green-lantern theory that Obama had the power. all by himself, to fix generations-old problems of income equality and Middle east strife, and deserves blame for the hyper-partisanship.  

The problems Todd identifies include:

what critics see as Mr. Obama’s passive leadership and lack of managerial experience; his disdain for, but inability to change, politics as usual in Washington; and his reluctance to reach out to Congress and members of both parties to engage in the sort of forceful horse trading (like Lyndon B. Johnson’s) and dogged retail politics (like Bill Clinton’s) that might have helped forge more legislative deals and build public consensus.
Short version, I suppose: Bill Clinton was a more successful president than Obama because he engaged in "retail politics."   Presumably, Todd measures success solely by a president's favorability ratings and relationship with the press, rather than actual policy achievements.  
Mr. Todd acknowledges the challenges the president faced entering office: a tottering economy, two wars inherited from the Bush administration, and an obstructionist Republican opposition. But he suggests that Mr. Obama was frequently his own worst enemy, allowing his temperamental inclinations (his detachment, his caution, his impatience with the often-irrational aspects of politics) to hobble the implementation of his vision of transformative change. Mr. Todd goes so far as to write that “Obama’s arrogance got the better of him,” and chides him for an unwillingness to apply the necessary elbow grease to make progress on difficult issues like gun control and immigration.
Once more, we hear the insider wisdom that Obama is too detached, too cautious, too disdainful of "irrational aspects of politics."  And it is Obama's fault that gun-control and immigration measures did not pass.  Because - you know - presidents are omnipotent.

The review reveals many other similar nuggets, but I think you get the point.

UPDATE 1:

Just thought I'd add some comments from a very well-written review at the Columbian Journalism Review:

if The Stranger is revelatory, it’s not in the way Todd intended. For all his strengths (and they are myriad), Todd has written a disappointing book, a slab of pedestrian punditry marbled with occasional insight. The Stranger purports to tell the story of a president who couldn’t transcend his environment. The story it ultimately—and unwittingly—tells is of the perceptive political geek who couldn’t escape Beltway groupthink.
This review reveals that Todd does discuss, at least in part, GOP intransigence, but:
But far too often, Todd falls back on lazy, a-pox-on-both-houses thinking. He lambasts the GOP for its obduracy but upbraids Obama for not trying harder to win Republicans over anyway—this despite Todd’s own observation that Republicans had “perfected” the strategy of total obstruction, and that Republicans had come to see opposing Obama as a simple matter of “self-interest.”
So why advise Obama to keep ramming into the wall of obstruction again and again? Here another Beltway obsession rears its head: optics. Todd reasons that “you always want to be the one that ‘gets caught trying’ ” (never mind the result). The fixation with optics also comes through in Todd’s discussion of Obama’s policies. On a range of issues, from the stimulus to healthcare reform to Syria, Todd weighs in on how the process looked, while devoting barely a second’s thought to the policy’s merits. Near the end, Todd sums up thusly: “In the Obama era and for the presidents after him, style points would take on greater weight than ever, both at home and abroad.” It’s an observation that doubles as self-justification
Discuss

This is what will happen if there is no credible voice (and by "credible voice" I mean an articulate candidate with legitimate credentials, but not necessarily someone who the odds-makers or pundits will say could prevail) to challenge Hillary from the left.

1.  Hillary will move closer to Third Way thinking, i.e., staking out positions her campaign considers "centrist" and more likely to garner support from those who identify as Republican or independent.

2.  Hillary will run a cautious campaign, trying not to offend anyone but inspiring no one.

3. Hillary will affirmatively anger the most passionate portion of the Democratic base, suppressing voter turnout (and hurting other Democratic candidates at the state and local level).

4.  Hillary will win the nomination, but be ill-prepared for the general campaign.

5.  The GOP candidate may well out-flank Hillary on populist themes, which probably won't result in a GOP victory but could muddy the waters as to which party represents The People best.

6.  Hillary will probably win the general election, but be inclined to fill her cabinet with neo-conservative types and take more "centrist positions."

This is what happens with a credible, progressive voice in the primaries.

1.  Hillary will feel pressure to move left on an assortment of issues during the primaries.

2.  Hillary will still win the primary.

3.  Hillary will be better prepared for the general election (and especially better situated to position herself as more populist).

4.  Hillary will motivate the base, increase turnout, win by a bigger margin and help down-ticket candidates.

5.  Hillary will appoint more progressive candidates and her administration will be less interventionist in foreign policy, and take more progressive positions domestically.

Discuss

Though I believe bridgegate (and all the other associated gates) should and will likely result in Christie's resignation from office, I have been somewhat dismayed by the analysis of the letter from Wildstein's lawyer, Alan L Zegas.  

Perhaps I approach these letters differently because I am a criminal defense lawyer.  In any event, allow me to place the letter in full context.  

Below the squiggly, I engage in an exercise of extreme parsing (as we lawyers are apt to do).

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In an article just published - with the timeline 5:25 est 10/7/13 - the National Review demonstrates that the GOP is still dwelling in fantasy-land.

Here are a few excerpts to take your breath away:

“They may try to throw the kitchen sink at the debt limit, but I don’t think our conference will be amenable for settling for a collection of things after we’ve fought so hard,” says Representative Scott Garrett (R., N.J.). “If it doesn’t have a full delay or defund of Obamacare, I know I and many others will not be able to support whatever the leadership proposes. If it’s just a repeal of the medical-device tax, or chained CPI, that won’t be enough.”
Representative Paul Broun (R., Ga.) agrees, and says Boehner risks an internal rebellion if he decides to broker a compromise. “America is going to be destroyed by Obamacare, so whatever deal is put together must at least reschedule the implementation of Obamacare,” he says. “This law is going to destroy America and everything in America, and we need to stop it.”
“Stay the course, don’t give in on it, that’s what the people in my district are saying,” says Representative Ted Yoho (R., Fla.). “We did a town hall the other day, and 74 percent of people said, ‘don’t raise the debt ceiling.’”
“I think you’d see at least 50 to 60 Republicans break with Boehner if he went for something small,” predicts a House GOP aide who works closely with conservative members. “They’re also reluctant to even give Boehner a short-term debt limit extension unless he gets something big in return. But that’s the one area where Boehner may have room to maneuver. He could tell them, ‘I’m with you fighting, but let’s just extend the fight a few weeks.’”
Look, I would have to see it, but we’re at a place where we’re stronger than I thought we’d be, so I hope we stand strong,” adds Representative Steve King (R., Iowa), when I mention Boehner’s push for a bargain. “We’ve passed the witching hour, so the dynamics have changed, and we shouldn’t turn around. I think Boehner’s in a good position, and it’s important we keep up that unity.”
Discuss

To be sure, the GOP has made many wonderful compromises so far in the past few months.  Indeed, they have moved from demands that the Democrats agree to:

(1) repeal Obamacare or else they shut down the government and blow up the economy; to
(2) defund Obamacare now or else they shut down the government and blow up the economy; to
(3) delay Obamacare now or else they shut down the government and blow up the economy,

Still, I think it is only fair to point out the Democrats have made some admittedly modest compromises too.

For example, Democrats are no longer demanding - as a condition to foregoing economic Armageddon -- that the GOP:

-vote for immigration reform
-vote for gun control legislation
-vote for laws addressing climate change
-vote for a stimulus package
-vote to fund Obama's plan to invest in state pre-K programs for four-year-olds
-vote for a moratorium on foreclosures and to provide relief to home-owners
-vote to extend unemployment insurance
-vote for a financial transaction tax
-confirm the countless judicial nominees and other positions requiring confirmation

Granted, none of this is nearly as popular as depriving health care to 30 million people.  And yes, I know that the Democrats never formally made these demands.  But still, let's give them credit anyway.

Thanks for compromising, Democrats!!

Discuss

I offer you this article from today's Huffington Post, not to tear down Janet Yellen - whom I heartily endorse - but as a mild cautionary tale.

According to the article:

While supporting Yellen has become a cause célèbre for progressives opposed to Summers' regulatory hostilities, Yellen supported a host of economic policies during the Clinton era that have since become broadly unpopular. She backed the repeal of the landmark Glass-Steagall bank reform and she supported the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement. She also pressured the government to develop a new statistical metric intended to lower payments to senior citizens on Social Security.
These policies all enjoyed substantial support among economists during the 1990s, although many of those who endorsed them at the time have since recanted or criticized their implementation.
Unless I read too quickly, the article does not indicate whether or not Yellen has recanted these views.  Whether she has or not, I am still a strong supporter. The truth is that those views were solidly in the mainstream and her credentials remain impeccable.

But I do think her past should give pause to those who were, and are, so quick to condemn nominees either because: (a) they worked in administrations when mistakes were made; or (b) once endorsed views that, though in the mainstream before, are now viewed as errors, even serious errors.  

Indeed, I suspect that Yellen's experience may make her especially wary of future efforts at deregulation.  

Just sayin'.

Discuss

Over at the New Republic, John Judis has published a piece in which he infers from Kerry's comments Obama's "true intentions."

Judis ultimately opines that there is "coherent strategy," though one slightly different from what has been reported.  

The main takeaway is that the military campaign is not merely meant to punish Assad or deter him and others from using chemical weapons, but also to affect the balance of power in Syria with the intention of leading to a political settlement.

The point of this diary is not to commend or disapprove of the strategy, but just to point it out (at least as implied by Kerry). Below the fold are the observations from Judis that I found particularly interesting (and less well reported).

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I believe I've identified the tiny political miscalculation responsible for the apparently imminent demise of immigration reform in the GOP-controlled House. Just in case there are any GOP strategists lurking around here, let me clarify one thing:

Contrary to what you may have heard, not all us white voters are totally selfish, xenophobic racists.  Some of us are - gasp - occasionally a little concerned about other people, even if they don't look exactly like us..

Now, lest some of you doubt that this misconception does not exist, allow me to quote liberally - below the fold - from today's Plum Line.

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I know there are no shortages of analyses dissecting Woodward's descent into absurd performance art, but I still feel compelled to recommend a full reading of today's post by Jonathan Chait entitled, What the hell happened to Bob Woodward?

What Chait adds is a bit of historical context.  I'll quote a bit below Mr. Squiggly, but encourage you all to read his entire article.

Continue Reading

I wonder if the wingnuts will ever come to terms with the fact that we live in a digital age, where images tend to get preserved.

Anyway, The Daily Beast has a story this morning, entitled "The PowerPoint That Proves It’s Not Obama’s Sequester After All."

It's best to read the entire article, but here are a few snippets.  After challenging the entire logic of the claim that this is Obama's sequester, the article proceeds:

But here’s the thing. I happened to come across an old email that throws cold water on House Republicans’ attempts to call this “Obama’s Sequester.”

It’s a PowerPoint presentation that Boehner’s office developed with the Republican Policy Committee and sent out to the Capitol Hill GOP on July 31, 2011. Intended to explain the outline of the proposed debt deal, the presentation is titled: “Two Step Approach to Hold President Obama Accountable.”

It’s essentially an internal sales document from the old dealmaker Boehner to his unruly and often unreasonable Tea Party cohort. But it’s clear as day in the presentation that “sequestration” was considered a cudgel to guarantee a reduction in federal spending—the conservatives’ necessary condition for not having America default on its obligations.

The presentation lays out the deal in clear terms, describing the spending backstop as “automatic across-the-board cuts (‘sequestration’). Same mechanism used in 1997 Balanced Budget Agreement.”

The Joint Committee, ultimately misled by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) into enacting the sequester, is explained in detail under a page titled “Entitlement Reforms and Savings”:

I seem to be too inept to copy and paste the actual image from the article, but here are the bullet points of that page from the Boehner presentation, which was meant to sell his caucus on the deal:

   Sets up a new sequestration process to cut spending across-the-board—and ensure that any debt limit increase is met with greater spending cuts—IF Joint Committee fails to achieve at least $1.2T in deficit reduction.

    If this happens, POTUS may request up to $1.2T for a debt limit increase, and if granted, then across-the-board spending cuts would result that would equal the difference between $1.2T and the deficit reduction enacted as a result of Joint Committee.

    Across-the-board spending cuts would apply to FYs 2013-2021, and apply to both mandatory & discretionary programs.

    Total reductions would be equally split between defense and non-defense programs. Across-the-board cuts would also apply to Medicare. Other programs, including Social Security, Medicaid, veterans, and civil & military pay, would be exempt.

    Sequestration process is designed to guarantee that Congress acts on the Joint Committee’s legislation to cut spending.

Of course, none of this is really new to anyone in this community. But now there is evidence from Boehner's Power Point presentation to make his abject hypocrisy even more obvious.
Discuss
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