Friday, November 05, 2010

A return to the norm

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, November 5, 2010

For all the turmoil, the spectacle, the churning - for all the old bulls slain and fuzzy-cheeked freshmen born - the great Republican wave of 2010 is simply a return to the norm. The tide had gone out; the tide came back. A center-right country restores the normal congressional map: a sea of interior red, bordered by blue coasts and dotted by blue islands of ethnic/urban density.

Or to put it numerically, the Republican wave of 2010 did little more than undo the two-stage Democratic wave of 2006-2008 in which the Democrats gained 54 House seats combined (precisely the size of the anti-Democratic wave of 1994). In 2010 the Democrats gave it all back, plus about an extra 10 seats or so for good - chastening - measure.

The conventional wisdom is that these sweeps represent something novel, exotic and very modern - the new media, faster news cycles, Internet frenzy and a public with a short attention span and even less patience with government. Or alternatively, that these violent swings reflect reduced party loyalty and more independent voters.

Nonsense. In 1946, for example, when party loyalty was much stronger and even television was largely unknown, the Republicans gained 56 seats and then lost 75 in the very next election. Waves come. Waves go. The republic endures.

Our two most recent swing cycles were triggered by unusually jarring historical events. The 2006 Republican "thumpin'" (to quote George W. Bush) was largely a reflection of the disillusionment and near-despair of a wearying war that appeared to be lost. And 2008 occurred just weeks after the worst financial collapse in eight decades.

Similarly, the massive Republican swing of 2010 was a reaction to another rather unprecedented development - a ruling party spectacularly misjudging its mandate and taking an unwilling country through a two-year experiment in hyper-liberalism.

A massive government restructuring of the health-care system. An $800 billion-plus stimulus that did not halt the rise in unemployment. And a cap-and-trade regime reviled outside the bicoastal liberal enclaves that luxuriate in environmental righteousness - so reviled that the Democratic senatorial candidate in West Virginia literally put a bullet through the bill in his own TV ad. He won. Handily.

Opposition to the policies was compounded by the breathtaking arrogance with which they were imposed. Ignored was the unmistakable message from the 2009-10 off-year elections culminating in Scott Brown's anti-Obamacare victory in bluer-than-blue Massachusetts. Moreover, Obamacare and the stimulus were passed on near-total party-line votes - legal, of course, but deeply offensive to the people's sense of democratic legitimacy. Never before had anything of this size and scope been passed on a purely partisan basis. (Social Security commanded 81 House Republicans; the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 136; Medicare, 70.)

Tuesday was the electorate's first opportunity to render a national verdict on this manner of governance. The rejection was stunning. As a result, President Obama's agenda is dead. And not just now. No future Democratic president will try to revive it - and if he does, no Congress will follow him, in view of the carnage visited upon Democrats on Tuesday.

This is not, however, a rejection of Democrats as a party. The center-left party as represented by Bill Clinton remains competitive in every cycle. (Which is why he was the most popular, sought-after Democrat in the current cycle.) The lesson of Tuesday is that the American game is played between the 40-yard lines. So long as Democrats don't repeat Obama's drive for the red zone, Democrats will cyclically prevail, just as Republicans do.

Nor should Republicans overinterpret their Tuesday mandate. They received none. They were merely rewarded for acting as the people's proxy in saying no to Obama's overreaching liberalism. As one wag put it, this wasn't an election so much as a restraining order.

The Republicans won by default. And their prize is nothing more than a two-year lease on the House. The building was available because the previous occupant had been evicted for arrogant misbehavior and, by rule, alas, the House cannot be left vacant.

The president, however, remains clueless. In his next-day news conference, he had the right demeanor - subdued, his closest approximation of humility - but was uncomprehending about what just happened. The "folks" are apparently just "frustrated" that "progress" is just too slow. Asked three times whether popular rejection of his policy agenda might have had something to do with the shellacking he took, he looked as if he'd been asked whether the sun had risen in the West. Why, no, he said.

Defeat, then Denial

Obama’s self-exonerating narrative about the midterm elections is simply wrong.

By Jonah Goldberg
November 5, 2010 12:00 A.M.

In 2007, when police busted Rep. Barney Frank’s partner for illegally growing pot, Frank waved away the controversy by saying he hadn’t noticed since he’s “not a great outdoorsman” and has trouble recognizing any plants.

Twenty years earlier, Frank endured another controversy when his one-time partner, personal aide, and roommate was revealed to be running a prostitution service out of Frank’s home. The Massachusetts congressman insisted he hadn’t noticed anything amiss until informed by his landlord.

And when Frank helped fuel a housing bubble that nearly crippled the economy for a generation, he again failed to notice anything was awry until it was obvious for all to see.

While lesser men, perhaps those not dubbed the “brainiest” man on Capitol Hill by congressional staffers, might worry about accountability, Frank considers it an affront, given his personal and professional record. In short, Frank has a very solid record of obliviousness, denial, and entitlement.

Watch his remarks from Election Night on YouTube, if you missed the spittle-flecked invective live. It’s a rare specimen: an angry victory speech. He seems simply aggrieved that he was forced to take a race seriously. Indeed, he was aggrieved that Republicans refused to get off the mat. “The collective campaigns that were run by most Republicans were beneath the dignity of a democracy,” he huffed, as if he’s a particularly respected arbiter of democratic dignity.

Frank was hardly alone in the sore-winner caucus. Democratic Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia refused to accept a congratulatory concession call from his opponent.

Why? One reason might be that Moran, like Frank, believed it was beneath him to have to compete for his seat in the people’s House. Or perhaps it was simply that his opponent, Patrick Murray, wasn’t worthy in Moran’s eyes. After all, Moran had complained that Murray was a “stealth candidate” who hadn’t “served or performed in any kind of public service.” Apparently rising to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army and serving in Iraq didn’t count as public service.

To his credit, President Obama eschewed the nasty arrogance of Frank and Moran. But his denial runs just as deep.

In a press conference that was humble in tone but myopic in substance, Obama reiterated again and again that he got all of the policies right and the American people who disagreed hadn’t studied the issues closely enough. It only “felt” like the government was getting too “intrusive,” Obama explained. Voters had misunderstood the nature of his purely “emergency” measures.

For all of the talk about how Obama has learned from the election, it’s worth remembering this was exactly the same position he held before the election, just in nicer form.

And as it was before the election, Obama’s self-exonerating narrative is simply wrong. His agenda was never back-burnered for emergency measures. If anything, emergency measures were back-burnered for his agenda. In the summer of 2009, he pushed health-care reform while his aides swore he’d eventually get around to “pivoting” to jobs. Government spending seemed to go up and get more intrusive because it did go up and did get more intrusive. Government spending went up 23 percent in two years.

And how was intrusive health-care reform an “emergency measure” to grapple with the financial crisis? It’s not slated to go fully into effect until 2014. It hasn’t had — and was never intended to have — anything like an immediate positive effect on the economy. Indeed, the chief argument for it — which Obama started making years before the financial crisis — was that it was a moral imperative pushed by progressives for generations. Did Harry Truman seek universal health care to fix the financial crisis of 2009?

Republicans — virtually all of them, not just the 60-plus winners who helped wrest control of the House — won by running against Obamacare. But Obama says: “We’d be misreading the election if we thought the American people want to see us for the next two years re-litigate arguments we had over the last two years.”

Now, I will admit that anticipating voters’ desires these days can be tricky. But given the last two years, I would sooner trust Barney Frank to spot a pot bush in his backyard, or Jim Moran to identify legitimate public service, than trust Barack Obama to spot the will of the voters.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Today's Tune: Joe Grushecky & Bruce Springsteen - Never Be Enough Time (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Concert Review: The Boss and Joe raise the roof at Soldiers & Sailors

Friday, November 05, 2010
By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Joe Grushecky and Bruce Springsteen perform "Atlantic City" at Soldiers & Sailors Hall in Oakland Thursday night. (John Heller/Post-Gazette)

With the tour itinerary for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band a blank page in 2010, The Boss has come out to play only about a dozen times this year.

He did the Hope for Haiti telethon and a handful of benefits in the Jersey area. He also made surprise appearances with Rosanne Cash and Alejandro Escovedo, and, at that Sting Rainforest Foundation gig, he actually got up with Lady Gaga.

Thursday night at the sold-out Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, he was on more familiar turf with his old pals Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, tearing through one of his longest and surely most rousing sets of the year.

The occasion was the 15th anniversary of their collaborative effort "American Babylon," but even more than that, it was that itch to get out and have some fun.

That they did.

It was another roof-raising slugfest from Joe and the Boss, who hit the stage first with his acoustic guitar, saying, "I'm opening for Joe tonight." He launched into a rare reading of "Pittsburgh" from the "Tracks" album, followed by a clenched teeth version of "For You" and a heartfelt "This Hard Land."

The Houserockers, still one of the best bar bands in the land, came out blazing with "American Babylon" and welcomed him back to jam together on "Another Thin Line," a "Gloria"-like stomp topped with a blistering solo from Bruce, who was clearly thrilled all night to get out front and play guitar hero.

The explosive buildup on "Atlantic City" took on a religious fervor, while "Never Be Enough Time" was another ferocious guitar summit. A tentative "Homestead" was sandwiched between the walloping "Adam Raised a Cain" and "Darkness on the Edge," both worth the price of admission.

A late set surprise was "Save My Love," a more lighthearted pop song from the forthcoming "The Promise," a collection of buried treasures from the "Darkness" era.

Grushecky's roots-rocker "Talking to the King" brought a round of smiles, as did a rumbling version of "Fire," with playful input from the loud crowd. The Grammy-winning "Code of Silence" came with guitar sparks from Rick Witkowski and a shout-out to former Penguin Bill Guerin on his 40th birthday.

The climax was pure bar-rock ecstasy with the likes of "Down the Road a Piece," "Wipeout," "Pumping Iron," "The Promised Land," "La Bamba/Twist and Shout" and a lovely conclusion of "Thunder Road," with just Bruce and the crowd.

If it had been the ol' Decade, you can bet there would have been broken bottles everywhere.

Scott Mervis:; 412-263-2576.

Read more:

Set list

For You
This Hard Land
American Babylon
East Carson Street
Another Thin Line
Atlantic City
Never Be Enough Time
What Did You Do In the War, Daddy?
Adam Raised a Cain
Darkness on the Edge of Town
I'm Not Sleeping
Save My Love
Talking to the King
Murder Incorporated
Code of Silence
Down the Road a Piece/Wipeout


Pumping Iron
The Promised Land
La Bamba/Twist and Shout
Thunder Road

Springsteen, Grushecky have rock 'n' roll bond

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Give Steve Van Zandt credit.

A little more than 30 years ago, the guitarist for the E Street Band was producing the Iron City Houserockers "Have a Good Time, But Get Out Alive" in New York City. He thought his bandleader, Bruce Springsteen, might find common ground with the scruffy group of musicians from Pittsburgh whose primal rock 'n' roll was comparable to that of the New Jersey-based band.

That first meeting, Joe Grushecky recalls, however brief, was a portent of things to come.

"I can't speak for (Springsteen), but there was a bond that was easy and pretty instant as far as the writing and music went," Grushecky says.

Joe Grushecky and Bruce Springsteen perform Thursday and Friday at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, Oakland. (John Cavanaugh)

Grushecky and Springsteen, appearing Thursday and Friday at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland, are commemorating the 15th anniversary of "American Babylon," an album that Springsteen produced and performed on with Grushecky's band. But they also are celebrating something more basic: two friends who not only enjoy performing together, but each other's company.

"Joe and Bruce seem to be kindred spirits," says Chris Phillips, the editor of Backstreets, a magazine and website ( devoted to all things Springsteen.

Noting that Grushecky's lack of success in comparison to Springsteen is not due to the quality of his work, but more of a "random fluke," Phillips says "seeing these two guys coming from a similar place, really enjoying each other's work and each other's company, has been inspiring to me in a lot of ways."

Phillips notes that Springsteen has long been generous with praise for fellow artists, including Marah, Jesse Malin, Gaslight Anthem and Grushecky. But while that draws attention to music that might not get heard in some quarters, some fans are inherently suspicious of anyone who is linked to Springsteen.

"These artists want to stand on their own," Phillips says. "With Springsteen's rabid following, a thumbs up or a pat on the back can be seen by some fans as riding on his coattails. They want to be seen as great songwriters, great performers in their own right."

Grushecky certainly has made his own mark, although on a much smaller scale than Springsteen. He's garnered critical acclaim for his recordings, and is popular in Europe, particularly in Spain, Italy and Germany.

Still, Grushecky's music occasionally is considered an offshoot, a mere tributary of Springsteen's music. While there are similarities -- both men's music is hewn from the basic, primal stuff of rock 'n' roll that can be traced back to Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, and then was refined by The Who and The Rolling Stones in the 1960s -- Grushecky's music stands alone by virtue of its simplicity. While Springsteen's sound broadened and took on aspects of a grand, quasi-religious experience, Grushecky has remained true to his roots.

"We're a bunch of bar-band guys from Pittsburgh," Grushecky says of the Houserockers. "Early on in our career, Art (Nardini, Grushecky's long-time bassist) and I decided we wanted to play. We didn't want to go weeks or months or years between gigs so we could draw a bigger crowd in Pittsburgh. In retrospect, I don't know if that was a good thing or not."

By 1995, Grushecky admits his career had reached a nadir. While his creative juices still flowed and he still loved to perform -- "I'm a lifer," he says -- there seemed to be less interest in his work. Then came Springsteen's offer to work on what would become "American Babylon," the album that features some of Grushecky's best songs, including "Dark and Bloody Ground" and "Homestead."

After the album was released, Springsteen agreed to go on tour with the band.

"For us to have an international superstar like Bruce, who is as big as big can be, come out and play in the bars with us was almost unheard of," Grushecky says. "The shows were intense and brought a lot of attention back on us. We had a pretty good run with that record, got to go to Europe and do a lot of things we weren't able to do in awhile because we were just sort of treading water with record companies.

"It gave us a different perspective on how to do business. We grew up a bit. We got a little bit smarter. We were able to take 'American Babylon' and craft the career we do have out of that record."

While Springsteen's presence undoubtedly assisted Grushecky and the Houserockers, Phillips thinks there were mutual benefits. He remembers the excitement that tour generated, how being able to see Springsteen in a club setting was a rare gift for fans.

"I think a lot of people have great memories of 15 years ago and 'American Babylon' when Bruce hit the road as an honorary Houserocker," Phillips says. "Clearly, Bruce was enjoying what he was doing, not being the frontman, not being the bandleader. It was an unusual position for him, for sure."

Far-flung fans

The announcement that Bruce Springsteen was coming to Pittsburgh to perform with Joe Grushecky was news not only in Western Pennsylvania. The concerts have excited Springsteen fans around the country and the world, especially since he's not touring this year with the E Street Band.

If Springsteen fans want to see him perform this year, the shows tonight and Friday at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland are their only chance.

"I personally know people who are coming from Europe to these shows," says Chris Phillips, the editor of Backstreets, a magazine and website ( devoted to Springsteen's music. "Anytime Springsteen plays, it's big news for us. ... These one-off shows are clearly getting a lot of attention during a year when he's not doing any shows.

Grushecky has heard from friends in Spain and Switzerland who are coming to Pittsburgh for the concerts. But this is nothing new. After "American Babylon" was released in 1995, it was not unusual for European fans to come to Pittsburgh to take in a Houserockers' show.

"One night, a guy from Norway came to see us play at a bar in Uniontown," Grushecky says. "There were people coming from Spain, coming from France and Switzerland. This isn't the first time this has happened."

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Winner: Rush Limbaugh

By Jeffrey Lord on 11.3.10 @ 6:10AM
The American Spectator

"I hope he fails."

With those famous four words, uttered January 16, 2009 -- only days before Barack Obama was to be inaugurated -- Rush Limbaugh drew a line in the sand.

And as a result, this morning it is Rush Limbaugh who is the undisputed winner of the 2010 election. The White House is repudiated. The Pelosi-run House of Representatives, supported by the Democrats' Congressional Campaign Committee, also deliberately targeted Limbaugh. Speaker Pelosi is, abruptly, now history. The Senate is richer by a still-undetermined number of conservatives as this goes to Internet press.

You might even call last night's landslide results a "Rushslide."

Unlike a number of conservatives and Republican leaders, Limbaugh understood from the moment of Obama's election what the new president and his allies represented: a radical, far-left agenda designed to, in the president-elect's own words, "transform America." Obama and his administration -- with the Pelosi-run House assisting -- were about nothing less than an attempt to re-make America as a collectivist, socialist state.

Characteristically, Limbaugh was fearless in saying so -- plainly. Asked to submit a 400-word essay for the Wall Street Journal on his hopes for the new administration, he responded on the air:

Look, what he's talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the U.S. government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things… See, here's the point. Everybody thinks it's outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, "Oh, you can't do that." Why not? Why is it any different, what's new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what's gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it?

So I can answer it, four words, "I hope he fails." And that would be the most outrageous thing anybody in this climate could say. Shows you just how far gone we are. Well, I know, I know. I am the last man standing.

The outrage was instantaneous.

Five days later, a bare 24 hours after Obama had been sworn-in, Fox News host and fellow talk radio star Sean Hannity sat down with Limbaugh in Florida. As the Fox cameras rolled, Rush elaborated in answering Hannity's questions, making himself crystal clear: in spite of the uproar created by his "I hope he fails" remark, Rush Limbaugh would not be backing down. The Obama agenda, he was certain, was doomed to inevitable failure, and if others were afraid to say so, Rush Limbaugh was not.[1]

LIMBAUGH:…When I see the media and the entire establishment on the left lay down and become cult-like and not examine who he is, what he's done, and not really examine what he says, but just praise him because of how he says it, my antenna go up.

Now I look at the things that he has said, and I'm very much concerned that our greatness is going to be redefined in such a way that it won't be great, that we're just going to become average. You cannot have this large of government role in the private sector with so many people thinking that just because they're Americans they're entitled to things, that this guy is going to pass them out and keep this country great and innovative, full of entrepreneurs, and -- these things concern me.

Now my critics, and yours, when they hear me say things like this, they -- have knee-jerk reactions. They're not listening or parsing my words, either. They're just, Limbaugh is not with the program.

…. So I shamelessly say, no, I want him to fail, if his agenda is a far-left collectivism, some people say socialism, as a conservative heartfelt, deeply, why would I want socialism to succeed?… I don't know where what he wants to try has worked…. It hasn't worked…. It doesn't work… it never has, and I don't think this is going to be the record breaker."

Hearing this, watching this, the Obama White House made a fateful decision.

As Obama and his aides began relentlessly pushing exactly the far-left agenda that Limbaugh so publicly predicted would fail, they decided to bring the hardball of Chicago politics into play: they would intimidate their opponents by making an example of America's number one conservative talk radio star. .

Which is exactly the point where the path to the conservative victory of 2010 began.

A MERE THREE DAYS after Obama took office, Republican congressional leaders were ushered into the White House for their first formal meeting with the new president. Wary of Obama proposals for a massive stimulus bill, with a huge health care bill looming beyond that, they sat quietly as Obama's Limbaugh strategy began to unfold. Borrowing a tactic from Rules for Radicals, the handbook written by Obama's hero the late Chicago radical community activist Saul Alinsky, Obama the one-time community activist become president lectured the astonished GOP leadership, saying pointedly "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done." The Republicans were barely out the door before the story leaked, causing a media feeding frenzy as the White House knew it would.

With that, the stage for the entire next two-years was set. The looming battle over the direction of America would be deliberately, willfully cast -- by the White House itself -- as a battle royal between the President of the United States and Rush Limbaugh. The specific tactic to be employed was Rule Number 12 of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. Which reads this way:

RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

The Rule 12 signal was flashed by the White House to every Democrat on Capitol Hill along with every Obama ally in the media: the President personally is going to lead the charge against Rush Limbaugh and he was inviting them to join the fray.

Whatever issue was being debated -- the stimulus, health care, immigration, the topic didn't matter -- Rush Limbaugh was to be the highly personalized target of the Obama White House and all of the American Left. They would freeze his image in the public mind in as unfavorable and polarizing a fashion as they could manage. Then Limbaugh would be assaulted repeatedly in the style of Rule 12 as the next two years unfolded.

An attempt was made to intimidate Rush by going after what Alinskyites called a target's "support network" -- which is to say the Rush Limbaugh radio show was targeted when several liberal activist groups filed a "Petition for Inquiry into Hate Speech in the Media and Request to update report on The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes" with the Federal Communications Commission -- the Obama-run government agency that regulates radio airwaves. Limbaugh was specifically cited by name. The unsubtle message: we are coming after your radio show.

To "isolate the target from sympathy" in Alinsky style, Rush was portrayed in as unflattering personal terms as the Obama allies could conjure up. The attacks were designed to be, as Alinsky stipulated, "cruel… direct… personalized" because "ridicule works."

And so the anti-Rush deluge began.

Having earlier said that it "is my job" to make Obama's presidency work, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who famously said of an Obama speech that "I felt this thrill going up my leg," went to work. He memorably described Rush as "Mr. Big," the villain played by actor Yaphet Kotto in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, taunting: "In the end they jam a big CO2 pellet in his face and he blew up. I have to tell you, Rush Limbaugh is looking more and more like Mr. Big, and at some point somebody's going to jam a CO2 pellet into his head and he's going to explode like a giant blimp. That day may come. Not yet. But we'll be there to watch. I think he's Mr. Big, I think Yaphet Kotto. Are you watching, Rush?"

"What about this bonehead Rush Limbaugh?" sneered David Letterman on his Late Night show. Newsweek, in the middle of a death spiral that eventually had it being sold by the Washington Post for one dollar plus millions in debt, produced Jonathan Alter sniggering that Rush was a "black-shirted joke" while his colleague Richard Wolffe sagely assured that Rush was an "extreme voice." On and on and on this Alinsky tactic played, with Rush depicted as everything from a "howler" to a man "transformed into [a] car-wrecking quality spectacle" -- both of these from the New York Times. Nor was the Limbaugh audience to escape this treatment, with Jack Cafferty of CNN dismissing some 20 million Americans as "right-wing nuts."

The Obama White House was eating this stuff up, convinced they had a winning strategy.

Politico reported it this way:

Top Democrats believe they have struck political gold by depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party, a full-scale effort first hatched by some of the most familiar names in politics and now being guided in part from inside the White House.[2]

The story went on to say that liberals were lining up to bash Limbaugh as the leader of the conservative opposition.

MOST SPECTACULARLY in terms of last night's results, Pelosi loyalist Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the head of the Democrat's Congressional Campaign Committee, boasted that House Democrats were key players in the anti-Rush strategy. "We helped get the ball rolling on this," bragged Van Hollen. As of last night, Van Hollen had succeeded in losing about 60 House seats to the GOP, a historic loss making Pelosi an ex-Speaker if not an ex-House member period if she decides to resign her San Francisco seat.

All of which is to say, Pelosi and Van Hollen, along with the Obama White House, bet the ranch on a strategy that featured as its centerpiece an attack on Rush Limbaugh. They didn't just lose, they were humiliated.

Also involved in setting this course for Democrats was the George Soros-funded left-wing Center for American Progress, led by ex-Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta. The group jumped aboard, launching an attack against "hate radio host Rush Limbaugh." The liberal group Americans United for Change quickly put up an ad and calling the GOP "The Rush Limbaugh Party." It accused GOP Senators and House members of repeatedly saying "no" to the Obama agenda -- because they were listening to Rush Limbaugh.[3]

Politico also named the names behind this brainchild. Specifically, in addition to the President himself, those who thought this a fabulous strategy were then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod and ex-Clinton aides James Carville and Paul Begala.

It was Begala who would provide some of the high-level reasoning behind the selection of Rush as Obama's Number One opponent.:

But here's the secret: I don't like Rush Limbaugh. Here's the other secret: He is the most powerful person in the Republican Party today, bar none.

Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, meticulously crafted an op-ed for the Washington Post that was titled "Minority Leader Limbaugh." [4] Plouffe threw down the gauntlet, portraying the battle over Obama's agenda as a one-on-one, mano-a-mano fight to the political death with Rush Limbaugh. The GOP leadership on Capitol Hill was taunted because "Rush Limbaugh has become their leader." Displaying a cocky security that can only come from drinking one's own Kool-Aid, Plouffe depicted Obama as triumphant in the polls of the moment, specifically boasting that "voters trust President Obama on the economy." Listening to Rush Limbaugh, the Obama campaign manager warned Republicans, "hardly seems like the best way out of the political wilderness."

In words that this morning look stunningly stupid, Plouffe said if the GOP kept listening to Limbaugh, the GOP was in danger of permanently losing "independent voters, who give the president high marks on his handling of the economy and his job overall." Said Plouffe of Limbaugh's challenge: "For many Americans, hungry for leadership and cooperation, this sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard…." Seemingly oblivious to the fact that leadership was exactly what Limbaugh was providing to "many Americans hungry for leadership," Plouffe vowed Republican House and Senate members would rue the day they listened to Limbaugh, all voting unanimously -- with the exception of three liberal GOP Senators -- to oppose the Obama stimulus. A stimulus which, insisted Plouffe as he dug himself even deeper, would "create or save at least 3 million jobs." Concluded Obama's campaign manager: if the GOP kept listening to Rush Limbaugh it would force the GOP to "find out what it means for a political party to hit rock bottom."

The gain, said former Speaker Newt Gingrich, would be "the largest one-party gain since 1932." The GOP needed 39-seats to win control. They were headed for at least 60 as this is written.

No word this morning whether Plouffe will be writing a piece entitled "Speaker Limbaugh."

UNDAUNTED EVEN AS THINGS looked bleak, Rush picked up the challenge. He had spent over twenty years discussing conservative principles on his show. A book just released by New York Times Book Editor Sam Tanenhaus was getting liberal media attention. The title: The Death of Conservatism. The author told NPR: "When Rush Limbaugh said he wanted Barack Obama to fail, he was not just spitting out a provocative line, he was actually handing out a kind of marching orders to the right, which they now seem to be following." And listening to what Rush Limbaugh had to say was the death knell for conservatism because Limbaugh, Tanenhaus insisted, was far out in a "fringe orbit".

Limbaugh knew in his bones not only that conservatism was not dead, but that it was neither in need of some sort of political cosmetic surgery as some sunshine conservatives were insisting. And the real people out on a fringe orbit were liberals like Tanenhaus -- not to mention Obama, Pelosi and their media allies. In a January, 2008 monologue about Ronald Reagan and Reagan conservatism, a subject that had arisen in the presidential primaries, Rush had already touched on the subject before Obama was even nominated:

Well, conservatism isn't dead because it cannot be dead. Conservatism is not manmade. Conservatism is a philosophy. It's not a scheme. It's not a plan to figure out what the American people need and want, and then give it to them. That's populism! Conservatism is a philosophy based on God-given natural rights. The Declaration of Independence, is that dead? Of course not! What's dead is leadership on the Republican side, and because there is a lack of leadership of someone who [has] the substantive understanding of liberty and the political skills to advance it, we get all this cockamamie nonsense about the death of our principles. Our principles are not dead! Our principles cannot die.[5]

Now, under direct attack by the President and his House allies, previously scheduled to address the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) Limbaugh showed up to be greeted as the hero of the Obama Resistance. And promptly lit into the Obama agenda. By turns serious, funny, and self-mocking -- he made the case for conservatism with his typical optimistic gusto.[6] "If we're going to convince the American people what's about to happen to them is as disastrous as anything in their lives in peacetime, we're going to have to discuss philosophy with them. We are going to have to talk about principles…" The crowd roared its approval, cheering wildly as he demanded of sunshine conservatives who insisted that conservatism needed to be somehow redefined from Ronald Reagan's principles: "How do you get rid of Reagan from conservatism?"

The very next day White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel appeared on CBS's Face the Nation to proclaim Limbaugh as "the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party." It was not meant as a compliment. Once in gear, Obama's notoriously blunt top aide couldn't stop himself, going on to say:

He has laid out his vision, in my view. And he said it clearly. I compliment him for that. He's been very up front and I compliment him for that. He's not hiding. He's asked for President Obama and called for President Obama to fail. That's his view. And that's what he has enunciated. And whenever a Republican criticizes him, they have to run back and apologize to him and say they were misunderstood. He is the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party. He has been up front about what he views and hasn't stepped back from that, which is he hopes for failure. He said it and I compliment him for his honesty. But that's their philosophy that is enunciated by Rush Limbaugh and I think that's the wrong philosophy for America.

More tellingly -- particularly in light of the battles to come -- there was a shuffling of some conservative feet. When it came to defending Limbaugh and the timeless conservative principles he (and Reagan before him) had not only championed in both good times and bad for over twenty years, some flinched. To update the famous Thomas Paine reference ("These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.") there were sunshine conservatives who took one look at the rise of Obama and headed for the philosophical hills.

Even as Rush Limbaugh, the leading conservative in the country, was under attack by every conceivable gun in the arsenal of the American Left from the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House on down, there were those who wimped, whistled, or ran.

GOP consultant Mike Murphy went on NBC's Meet the Press the very same day Emanuel was attacking Limbaugh over on CBS to insist:

The country is changing…. And if we don't modernize conservatism, we are going to have a party of 25 percent of the vote going to Limbaugh rallies, joining every applause line, ripping the furniture up, we're going to be in permanent minority status.

None of this was new, of course. Days before Obama's 2008 election, sunshine conservative Ross Douthat, a member in good standing of a species American Spectator founder R. Emmett Tyrrell calls in his book After the Hangover "Reformed Conservatives" (or, more pithily, "the Benedict Arnolds, Backstabbers, Bruti, and Bums" of the conservative movement), took to the liberal pages of the Atlantic to mock Rush's insistence on adhering to principle.[7]

Over at the New York Times, David Brooks stated flatly a few days after Obama's election that it was not a good idea to be listening to conservative "traditionalists" like "Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity" but lamented that's what would happen. And in doing this, said Brooks, "….the Republican Party will probably veer right in the years ahead, and suffer more defeats."[8]

BUT MURPHY, DOUTHAT, AND BROOKS were pikers when it came to former Bush speechwriter David Frum. Handed the cover of Newsweek for a lengthy article titled "Why Rush is Wrong," in a remarkable piece of writing Frum seemed to be an eager participant in a trash-for-cash article that is standard-operating-procedure for sunshine conservatives seeking approval from the liberal media.[9] Frum chose for his venue a failing national news magazine that had traded its own reputation to the far-left in return for a soon-to-be sale by the Washington Post for -- literally - one dollar and millions in debt. The story was not only a Frum version of the personal insult-laden Alinsky strategy, also scolding Reaganites, it repeatedly insisted Rush was a distinct liability to any conservative or Republican victory -- in 2010 or any other election year.

According to Frum, who larded his three-alarm Rush-warnings throughout a piece filled with personal insults that appeared designed to appease the Washington social crowd, Rush Limbaugh was "kryptonite, weakening the GOP nationally." If the GOP listened to Limbaugh it would never win women voters who "trust and admire" Obama. Rush's CPAC speech was a terrible liability that was certain to lose votes: "Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush's every rancorous word --we'll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time." It was idiocy to be listening to Limbaugh, as so many conservatives seemed to be doing: "But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership?" And finally, the GOP could not possibly win in 2010 because "Rush Limbaugh is a seriously unpopular figure among the voters that conservatives and Republicans need to reach."

This morning, Rush Limbaugh stands vindicated.

His critics -- whether on the far-left or of the sunshine conservative variety -- have been not simply defeated but routed, humiliated. Independents fled Obama, women fled Obama, the people of Illinois fled Obama. And so on. And so on.

Yesterday wasn't just an ordinary election.

It was a "Rushslide." The latest chapter in the story not just of a conservative ascendancy, but the story of the ongoing conservative majority.

But there is one very important point here.

What Rush Limbaugh's critics have miscalculated is this. As his friend Sean Hannity says, Rush is the Babe Ruth of talk radio. It should never be forgotten that when Babe Ruth stepped onto a baseball diamond -- he was never alone. He had teammates. And the stands at Yankee Stadium and every place else he played were filled with cheering fans.

In the drive to target Rush Limbaugh, millions of Americans -- from fellow talk radio stars to Fox News to the vast audience of average Americans -- listened and watched these White House-directed anti-Limbaugh screeds first with amazement, then a growing incredulity which finally gave way to outrage.


Because all knew at the end of the day that as sure as God made little green apples what began with Rush would end with everyday Americans. You. Your friends. Your neighbors. The barber, the housewife, the independent, the Catholic, Protestant, or Jew and, yes, the law-abiding everyday Muslim. The college student, the entrepreneur, the doctor, the plumber. Americans all -- every one dreaming dreams that somebody in Washington from the President on down was scheming to control, to limit, to regulate, to tax -- and ultimately control to the point of ruin. And sure enough, like clockwork, as the Tea Party burst into existence these average Americans were targeted just as was Rush. Now it wasn't just Rush who was being smeared, the Obama/Pelosi/Reid/liberal media attack machine had turned against these everyday Americans, savaging them as nothing more than a collection of racists, Nazis, and "teabaggers," for resisting their obsession with controlling Americans' every last movement in life while spending the country into trillions of debt as far as the next several generations could see. Americans who had heard Rush predict that the Obama-era would bring an all-out assault on American values realized just short of the nick-of-time not only that he was right, but that it was up to them to stop this assault in its tracks.

And so they did.

Obama, as Rush Limbaugh predicted, has in fact now failed. Nancy Pelosi is out of a job. And thanks to Rush Limbaugh, a new generation of Americans is learning that conservatism is not simply cool -- more importantly they are learning collectivism isn't smart.

But lest there be any doubt, this fight will continue. Not all races were won last night -- not all races will ever be won. Harry Reid is still there. No one in all of American history has won a unanimous election -- with the solitary exception of George Washington. 2012 lies ahead. Fortunately for conservatives, for the Republican Party -- and America -- there is one certainty as this battle continues:

Rush Limbaugh will be on the air.

Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at











A recoil against liberalism

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Thursday, November 4, 2010;

Unwilling to delay until tomorrow mistakes that could be made immediately, Democrats used 2010 to begin losing 2012. Trying to preemptively drain the election of its dangerous (to Democrats) meaning, all autumn Democrats described the electorate as suffering a brain cramp, an apoplexy of fear, rage, paranoia, cupidity - something. Any explanation would suffice as long as it cast what voters were about to say as perhaps contemptible and certainly too trivial to be taken seriously by the serious.

It is amazing the ingenuity Democrats invest in concocting explanations of voter behavior that erase what voters always care about, and this year more than ever - ideas. This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama's idea of unlimited government.

The more he denounced Republicans as the party of "no," the better Republicans did. His denunciations enabled people to support Republicans without embracing them as anything other than impediments to him.

He had defined himself as a world-class whiner even before Rahm Emanuel, a world-class flatterer, declared that Obama had dealt masterfully with "the toughest times any president has ever faced" - quite a claim, considering that before the first president from Illinois was even inaugurated, seven of the then-34 states had seceded. Today's president from Illinois, a chronic campaigner and incontinent complainer who is uninhibited by considerations of presidential dignity, has blamed his difficulties on:

George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Supreme Court, a Cincinnati congressman (John Boehner), Karl Rove, Americans for Prosperity and other "groups with harmless-sounding names" (Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy" redux), "shadowy third-party groups" (they are as shadowy as steam calliopes), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, finally, the American people. They have deeply disappointed him by being impervious to "facts and science and argument."

Actually, as the distilled essence of progressivism, he should feel ratified by Tuesday's repudiation. The point of progressivism is that the people must progress up from their backwardness. They cannot do so unless they are pulled toward the light by a government composed of the enlightened - experts coolly devoted to facts and science.

The progressive agenda is actually legitimated by the incomprehension and anger it elicits: If the people do not resent and resist what is being done on their behalf, what is being done is not properly ambitious. If it is comprehensible to its intended beneficiaries, it is the work of insufficiently advanced thinkers.

Of course the masses do not understand that the only flaw of the stimulus was its frugality, and that Obamacare's myriad coercions are akin to benevolent parental discipline. If the masses understood what progressives understand, would progressives represent a real vanguard of progress?

Of course the progressive agenda must make infinitely elastic the restraints imposed by the Founders' Constitution and its principles of limited government. Moving up from them - from the Founders and their anachronistic principles - is the definition of progress.

Recently, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter decided, as the president has decided, that what liberals need is not better ideas but better marketing of the ones they have: "It's a sign of how poorly liberals market themselves and their ideas that the word 'liberal' is still in disrepute despite the election of the most genuinely liberal president that the political culture of this country will probably allow."

"Despite"? In 2008, Democrats ran as Not George Bush. In 2010, they ran as Democrats. Hence, inescapably, as liberals, or at least as obedient to liberal leaders. Hence Democrats' difficulties.

Responding to Alter, George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux agreed that interest-group liberalism has indeed been leavened by idea-driven liberalism. Which is the problem.

"These ideas," Boudreaux says, "are almost exclusively about how other people should live their lives. These are ideas about how one group of people (the politically successful) should engineer everyone else's contracts, social relations, diets, habits, and even moral sentiments." Liberalism's ideas are "about replacing an unimaginably large multitude of diverse and competing ideas . . . with a relatively paltry set of 'Big Ideas' that are politically selected, centrally imposed, and enforced by government, not by the natural give, take and compromise of the everyday interactions of millions of people."

This was the serious concern that percolated beneath the normal froth and nonsense of the elections: Is political power - are government commands and controls - superseding and suffocating the creativity of a market society's spontaneous order? On Tuesday, a rational and alarmed American majority said "yes."

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Demography Isn’t Political Destiny

Events change and attitudes change with them, for every demographic.

By Jonah Goldberg
November 3, 2010 12:00 A.M.

After Barack Obama’s election in 2008, the phrase was on the lips of progressive prognosticators everywhere. A permanent alignment had arrived. The growing ranks of Latinos, the reliably liberal voting patterns of blacks, the Republican party’s longstanding problem with single women, plus the fact that surveys found young people — a.k.a. “millennials” — to be the most liberal generation in decades all proved that the aging, white GOP was destined for near-eternal rump status. In a Time magazine cover story featuring Obama as a Photoshopped FDR, Peter Beinart wrote that the “coalition that carried Obama to victory is every bit as sturdy as America’s last two dominant political coalitions: the ones that elected Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.”

Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg eulogized Republicans:

Their coalition no longer works in the changing demography of the day, and is dangerously old; their Southern strategy . . . has become a relic of the past; their tech and media tools have not kept up with the times; their ideas have become spent and discredited. . . . They are an aging and frayed bunch, living off the fumes of a day and politics gone by.

The New Republic’s John Judis penned an essay, “America the Liberal,” proclaiming that Obama’s

election is the culmination of a Democratic realignment that began in the 1990s, was delayed by September 11, and resumed with the 2006 election. This realignment is predicated on a change in political demography and geography. Groups that had been disproportionately Republican have become disproportionately Democratic, and red states like Virginia have turned blue. Underlying these changes has been a shift in the nation’s ‘fundamentals’ — in the structure of society and industry, and in the way Americans think of their families, jobs and government.

In fairness, most of these analyses offered the caveat that Obama could blow this golden opportunity. The problem is that most of the prognosticators advised Obama and House speaker Nancy Pelosi to do exactly what they did: Cram a hard progressive agenda down the voters’ throats.

And look at them now. Forget the fact that indispensable independents have almost completely abandoned Obama and his party. Disregard GOP victories not only in Judis’s “blue” Virginia but in Massachusetts and New Jersey. That’s old news. Also never mind that, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Monday, Pelosi has a favorability rating of 8 percent among independents.

Obama’s “sturdy” coalition is coming apart like wet Kleenex in a blender. For the first time since polling on the question began in 1982, Republicans now have a decisive advantage with women. Obama’s support among young voters is stagnating. A recent survey by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics is just one of several studies showing that millennials’ enthusiasm for politics and for Obama is waning. Young people still lean liberal, but less so and with much less enthusiasm. In a hypothetical ballot between Obama and a generic Republican, Obama leads by a whopping 1 percentage point. An economic hangover brings sobriety even to the young, it seems.

There’s much merit to the idea that “demography is destiny” (a phrase credited to Ben Wattenberg and Richard Scammon, co-authors of the 1970s book The Real Majority). But it can also lead you astray. Minus immigration, if you know how many baby girls are born in a given year, you’ll have a good idea of how many grown women there will be X number of years down the road. Ditto blacks, Latinos, etc.

But identity politics can poison demography’s predictive power. Knowing how many women there will be in 2050 won’t tell you how they’ll vote. For instance, today we assume that white Christian male voters yield conservative politics. But if that truism were a political constant, you would never have gotten the Progressive era or the New Deal.

Yes, the GOP still faces significant challenges. Heck, an electoral bonanza notwithstanding, Republicans are still fairly unpopular.

But if the first half of the Obama presidency proves anything, it is that straight-line predictions lead to political hubris. Events change and attitudes change with them, for every demographic.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Yemen/Chicago Bomb Plot: Islamic Antisemitism Metastasizes

by Robert Spencer

Bombs were sent from Yemen via UPS to synagogues in Chicago, and the recipients were confused: why should they be singled out? “We’re rather puzzled,” said Rabbi Larry Edwards of Chicago’s Congregation Or Chadash, “at how a little congregation like ours would get on the radar as a target for somebody. I’m hoping for more information.” Emanuel Congregation’s Rabbi Michael R. Zedek added: “I think we’re interesting, but not that interesting.”

Edwards and Zedek, and their congregants, may not be aware that their synagogues are not the first to be targeted by Islamic jihadists. Just two weeks ago, four converts to Islam, James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, were convicted of plotting to bomb two synagogues in Riverdale, New York, as well as use heat-seeking missiles to shoot down military planes at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York.

Demonstrators from The “Islamic Thinkers Society” call for Israel to be destroyed by a nuclear bomb (Muslim Day Parade, New York City, Saturday, July 22, 2006).

That attack, like the bombs sent to Chicago from Yemen, was foiled. But jihadists succeeded in targeting Jews in Mumbai, India, in November 2008: when jihadists attacked numerous sites and murdered 173 people in the Mumbai jihad attacks, their primary target, according to information revealed later by a key surviving attacker, was Nariman House, a small Jewish center operated by Chabad. Journalist Somendra Sharma of India’s DNA (Daily News & Analysis) reported in January 2009 that “the terrorists themselves were in no doubt that Nariman House was the prime focus.” Jihad terrorist Mohammed Amir Iman Ajmal (a.k.a. Kasab), noted Sharma, “reportedly told the police they wanted to sent a message to Jews across the world by attacking the synagogue.”

The Mumbai jihad plotters spent most of their planning time making sure that the murders at Nariman House would go off without a hitch. “The Nariman House operation has to be a success,” said Ajmal. Sharma added that according to Ajmal’s statements, “as far as Nariman House was concerned, there should not be even a minimal glitch in finding it and capturing it.” Another jihadist involved in this attack explained that he had been warned by operatives of the Pakistani jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Righteous) “that Nariman House was their most secret operation and must not be compromised at any cost.”

The attempted Chicago bombings were thus the third time that jihadists have targeted synagogues. It has the looks of a new strategy: Islamic jihadists have decided to terrorize Jews in particular, in accord with the Koran’s denunciation of Jews as “strongest among men in enmity to the believers” (5:82). The Koran contains a great deal of material that forms the foundation for a hatred of Jews that has persisted throughout Islamic history. It portrays Jews as the craftiest, most persistent, and most implacable enemies of the Muslims.

This Jew-hatred shows up even in ostensibly “moderate” Islamic forums. In 2004, Islam Online, a website founded by, among others, the internationally influential Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has won praise from Saudi-funded Islamic scholar John Esposito for engaging in a “reformist interpretation of Islam,” posted an article titled “Jews as Depicted in the Qur’an.” It depicts Jews in a chillingly negative light, illustrated with abundant quotations from the Koran. Among other charges, the article says that Jews “used to fabricate things and falsely ascribe them to Allah”; “love to listen to lies”; disobey Allah and ignore his commands; wish “evil for people” and try to “mislead them”; and “feel pain to see others in happiness and are gleeful when others are afflicted with a calamity.” It adds that “it is easy for them to slay people and kill innocents,” for “they are merciless and heartless.” And each charge is followed with numerous Koranic citations.

Now we are seeing what these beliefs mean in practice. Now jihadist groups, instead of (or perhaps in addition to) targeting economic, political, military and cultural landmarks, are going after ordinary Jews going about their business in ordinary places. It is a renewed call for all free people to stand with Jews and Israel, and for law enforcement authorities to offer them all possible special protection.

Is anyone in Washington listening? Or is Barack Obama too busy putting the finishing touches on his latest call to Israel to freeze settlement construction?

Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad (both from Regnery—a Human Events sister company) and most recently coauthor of Pamela Geller’s The Post-American Presidency (Simon & Schuster).

More Rocket, Less Docket

How to bring justice to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
November 2, 2010 4:00 A.M.

‘We need to bring him to justice as soon as we can.” In a Fox News interview Sunday, that was John Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, talking about Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri (pictured at right). He is the chief explosives designer for Osama bin Laden’s franchise in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Late last week, AQAP was foiled in what intelligence services theorize is the third attempt to bomb American targets in the last year. The incident is unlikely to have much impact on Tuesday’s U.S. elections, which are dominated by economic concerns. Still, Mr. Brennan’s comment seemed strangely political, a marker put down in a debate sure to intensify over the next two years — between President Obama and his Republican rivals, and between administration officials themselves.

No doubt we’d all like to see “justice” for al-Asiri. We just have very different ideas about what is just. When Obama officials speak of “bringing terrorists to justice,” they mean prosecuting them in civilian trials. So oriented is Brennan toward this line of thinking that he earned some unwelcome notoriety a few months back for favorably comparing the recidivism rate of released enemy combatants to that of felons sprung from American prisons — as if the 20 percent clip he optimistically pegs for terrorists returning to the jihad (i.e., one in five go back to mass-murdering Americans) were something to crow about.

To the contrary, for those of us inclined to view al-Qaeda as an enemy rather than a cabal of defendants, justice is best achieved with Predator drones. Missile strikes better reflect due process — the process that is due — for jihadists who target civilians in wartime.

Quite clearly, killing civilians is still al-Qaeda’s modus operandi. Last week’s operation involved two bombs secreted in packages sent from Yemen via air courier. One traveled on civilian passenger flights to Qatar and then on to the United Arab Emirates. That means it was missed by screening procedures, such as they are, in Sanaa and Doha. Though the suspect package was finally discovered in the Dubai, screening technology did not catch it there, either. The plot was thwarted by human intelligence.

We know that because of the other bomb package, which was routed through Europe. German officials say they were tipped by Saudi intelligence, whose informant reported that two bombs were being sent to the United States from Yemen. One, the Germans realized, had already come to and gone from Cologne by the time they figured out what happened. But agents were able to alert their counterparts in England that the package was headed their way aboard a UPS plane. The Brits were thus able to seize the explosive at the East Midlands airport (near Leicester). The UAE authorities grabbed the other device at a FedEx packaging center.

Both bombs featured the explosive known as PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate). More is publicly known about the device seized in the UAE. Ostensibly, it was an ordinary Hewlett-Packard printer, but PETN was secreted in the toner cartridge. It was designed to be triggered by a cell phone. But the phone component did not include a SIM card. That indicates the bombers were relying on the cell phone’s internal clock — i.e., the bomb rigged to be detonated by a timer alarm rather than a phone call.

This raises a nagging question for investigators. Much has been made of the fact that the packages were addressed to Jewish targets in Chicago, including a synagogue that serves a gay-and-lesbian congregation, the website for which received some unexplained heavy traffic from Egypt recently. Yet, if the bombs were not to be set off by phone calls once they got to their intended targets, the significance of those targets diminishes. The use of timers makes it probable that the devices were intended for detonation while on the planes en route from Yemen. British intelligence is said to be leaning toward that theory. On Sunday, Mr. Brennan indicated that he was inclined to agree.

In either event, al-Qaeda was again using airplanes to kill civilians. And PETN has become something of a signature for AQAP and al-Asiri. It was used when they trained Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in Yemen and then tasked him to bomb a plane over Detroit on Christmas. In addition, at the Washington Times, Bill Gertz and Eli Lake have raised a very interesting possibility: Intelligence officials now believe AQAP was probably behind the downing of another UPS cargo plane — one that crashed in Dubai on September 3, killing two crew members. A PETN bomb in the cargo bay rather than an accidental on-board fire was the likely cause.

AQAP also used PETN in an August 2009 suicide bombing. The target was Mohamed bin Nayaf, the top Saudi counterterrorism minister. At the time of the unsuccessful assassination attempt, the kingdom’s interior ministry had just begun a crackdown on al-Qaeda — arresting dozens of suspected terrorists and raiding their hideouts.

The use of PETN is alarming, and not just because it ties a string of attacks to a very determined, elusive enemy. PETN also combines high explosive intensity with low detection potential. It has repeatedly defeated multi-billion-dollar screening systems and other anti-terror redundancies. Until now, attacks have failed, barely, thanks to good fortune and terrorists’ incompetence. While this most recent attack was stopped, the invaluable intelligence responsible for that was, notably, the old-fashion kind: human beings with inside information who alert agencies about ongoing plots and, perhaps, enable them to target electronic eavesdropping more precisely.

This is why official commentary about “bringing terrorists to justice” is counterproductive. Some terrorists may be captured under circumstances in which trying them in court makes sense — particularly if they are part of U.S.-based jihadist conspiracies catalyzed by Islamist ideology. Because most such groups lack ties (beyond like-mindedness) to al-Qaeda, they can be prosecuted without disclosing intelligence about al-Qaeda. But when it comes to the terror network with which the nation remains at war — pursuant to Congress’s authorization of military force — the specter of trials can only discourage cooperation from the foreign intelligence services.

The latest plots against America and the West reaffirm that the threat to our security comes mostly from places — Yemen, northwest Pakistan, Somalia — where U.S. intelligence capabilities are paltry. We are deeply dependent on foreign services. Those services know full well that our civilian due-process rules make it very tough to conceal intelligence methods and sources. Our allies will be less apt to tell us secrets if they fear we cannot keep secrets.

The more savvy Obama officials know that. They also know that the history of bringing Yemen-based terrorists to justice is not a happy one. For example, Jamal al-Badawi, the brains behind the October 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing that killed 17 U.S. sailors, is at large now — after multiple “escapes” from Yemeni custody, the last one occurring after that government purported to sentence him to death. Yemen refused to transfer him and his confederates to the United States for trial.

And wouldn’t you know it: The lone suspect thus far detained by President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s hapless regime in connection with last week’s bombing attempts has also been released. No sooner had Yemeni authorities picked up engineering student Hanan al-Samawi, whose phone number appeared on a bomb package, than they decided some unknown person must have purloined her identity. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Yemen to crack the case. Like most of our “allies” in that part of the world, Yemen has a rabidly anti-American population, and its tottering government walks a tightrope between losing lavish American aid and being overthrown for seeming too cozy with Americans.

Thus the most interesting of the weekend’s developments: President Obama may be leaning toward extending his Pakistan strategy to Yemen. That would mean covert operations designed to kill AQAP operatives, directed by the CIA and the White House, not the Pentagon and the Justice Department.

This would be good politics. It would enable the president to show anti-terror toughness, putting distance between him and his hard-Left supporters, who prefer indictments to drones. It might also remind voters that he has kept his promise to attack terror sanctuaries in Muslim countries with which the U.S. is formally at peace — a promise over which Sen. John McCain ridiculed him for showing insufficient deference to the sovereignty of fabulous allies like Pakistan, which cashes American checks while safeguarding Taliban chieftains.

Far more important, though, a covert-ops campaign could effectively address a militant threat, without trials and without enmeshing the United States in yet another thankless, ruinously expensive nation-building project in a hostile Islamic basket case where Iran is making mischief.

In bringing that kind of justice, Obama would find plenty of Republican support. Terrorists on the wrong end of a missile tend not to return to the jihad.

– Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

Guess Who?

FDR’s own treasury secretary saw through New Deal economics long ago.

By Thomas Sowell
November 2, 2010 12:00 A.M.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. (AP)

Guess who said the following: “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work.” Was it Sarah Palin? Rush Limbaugh? Karl Rove?

Not even close. It was Henry Morgenthau, secretary of the Treasury under Franklin D. Roosevelt and one of FDR’s closest advisers. He added, “after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!”

This is just one of the remarkable and eye-opening facts in New Deal or Raw Deal?, a must-read book by Prof. Burton W. Folsom Jr. of Hillsdale College.

Ordinarily, what happened in the 1930s might be something left to historians. But the very same kinds of policies that were tried — and which failed — during the 1930s are being carried out in Washington today, with the advocates of such policies often invoking FDR’s New Deal as a model.

Franklin D. Roosevelt blamed the country’s woes on the problems he inherited from his predecessor, much as Barack Obama does today. But unemployment was 20 percent in the spring of 1939, six long years after Herbert Hoover had left the White House.

Whole generations have been “educated” to believe that the Roosevelt administration got this country out of the Great Depression. History textbooks by famous scholars such as Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. of Harvard and Henry Steele Commager of Columbia have enshrined FDR as a historic savior of this country, and lesser lights in the media and elsewhere have perpetuated the legend.

Although Professor Schlesinger admitted that he had little interest in economics, that did not stop him from making sweeping statements about what a great economic achievement the New Deal was.

Professors Commager and Morris of Columbia likewise declared, “The character of the Republican ascendancy of the twenties had been pervasively negative; the character of the New Deal was overwhelmingly positive.” Anyone unfamiliar with the history of that era might never suspect from such statements that the 1920s were a decade of unprecedented prosperity and the 1930s were a decade of the deepest and longest-lasting depression in American history. But facts have taken a back seat to rhetoric.

In more recent years, there have been both academic studies and popular books debunking some of the myths about the New Deal. Nevertheless, New Deal or Raw Deal? breaks new ground. Although written by an academic scholar and based on years of documented research, it is as readable as a newspaper — and a lot more informative than most.

There are few historic events whose legends are more grossly different from the reality than the New Deal administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. And there are few men whose images have been more radically different from the men themselves.

Some of the most devastating things that were said about FDR were said not by his political enemies but by people who worked closely with him for years — Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau being just one. Morgenthau saw not only the utter failure of Roosevelt’s policies, but also the failure of Roosevelt himself, who didn’t even know enough economics to realize how little he knew.

Far from pulling the country out of the Great Depression by following Keynesian policies, FDR created policies that prolonged the depression until it was more than twice as long as any other depression in American history. Moreover, Roosevelt’s ad hoc improvisations followed nothing as coherent as Keynesian economics. To the extent that FDR followed the ideas of any economist, it was an obscure economist at the University of Wisconsin who was disdained by other economists and who was regarded with contempt by John Maynard Keynes.

President Roosevelt’s strong suit was politics, not economics. He played the political game both cleverly and ruthlessly, including using both the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service to harass and intimidate his critics and opponents.

It is not a pretty story. But we need to understand it if we want to avoid the ugly consequences of very similar policies today.

— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

San Francisco gets to celebrate as the Giants hold the Rangers at bay to win World Series

By Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 12:39 AM

ARLINGTON, TEX. - Believe it, San Francisco. Open your eyes. Let out your breath. Watch the sun hit the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning as you rub your eyes. Those of you that went to bed anyway.

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01: Edgar Renteria hits a 3-run homer to centerfield off Cliff Lee in the top of the seventh inning of Game Five. Renteria was named the MVP of the 2010 World Series. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Bobby Richardson isn't going to snag Willie McCovey's line drive to end Game 7 of the World Series with the tying and winning Giant runs at second and third base. Leave that back in '62.

A tragic earthquake isn't going to strike during the same World Series when your local rivals from Oakland sweep you. Forget it, '89 is long ago.

Please, forget '02 in particular. With a 5-0 lead and eight outs to go in Game 6 of the 2002 Series, when the odds say you have a 98.5 percent chance of becoming champions, your manager Dusty Baker isn't going to hand the ball to Russ Ortiz so he can have it for his trophy case. No, this isn't that nightmare, when the Angels got fired up at a perceived insult and stole your title.

Put the ghosts away. "Not a day in my life has gone by when I didn't have to think about the '02 Series," ex-Giants owner Peter Magowan told John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times. "Now I never have to think about it again."

This time it's real, final and official. With a 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in Game 5 of this Series, with Tim Lincecum winning his second pitching battle from October deity Cliff Lee and with Edgar Renteria supplying the three-run homer that sent shock waves all the way to California, San Francisco is finally world champion.

That wasn't so bad was it? Just a mere 52 years after the Giants arrived from Coogan's Bluff and 56 years after the last Giant title of any kind in '54 when Willie Mays was a kid.

Actually, it was mighty bad for those who lived it. That's why the Giants signs here after the final out said, "The Torture is Over!"

On Dec. 22, 1962, the "Peanuts" comic strip had Linus and Charlie Brown sitting alone and glum on a curb for three empty panels before Charlie finally says, "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball JUST THREE FEET HIGHER?"

A couple of months later, Charles Schulz, who lived nearby and rooted for the Giants, repeated his strip, but this time Charlie Brown wailed, "JUST TWO FEET HIGHER."

Now, the answer has arrived. Renteria's homer, which made him Series MVP, cleared the left field fence by a foot at most. They like that wheel of karma stuff in San Francisco. Now they get a boat load.

This final game hinged on that one Renteria at-bat and, unfortunately, will put undue weight on Texas Manager Ron Washington. The Giants were clearly the better team, holding the Rangers, who were the leading hitting team in the American League, to a .190 team batting average.

Nevertheless, Washington blundered and it decided this game. You just don't pitch to Renteria with men on second and third, two outs and No. 9 hitter Aaron Rowand on deck, a rusty vet who has barely played in a month. With first base open, you walk him. Period. When the count gets to 2-0, it's like the gods are giving you a second chance to put up four fingers and point to first base.

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01: Tim Lincecum (2-0, 3.29 ERA) went 8 innings and allowed three hits and one run in winning Game Five of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on November 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Why fear Edgar? This is the same Renteria that had the game-winning walk-off single to win the '97 Series at age 22. This is the same Renteria whose homer broke a scoreless tie in Matt Cain's Game 2 win. The same Renteria who had three hits on Sunday. And, most of all, the same Renteria who has a career .333 World Series batting average (21 for 63), the 10th-best in history, and a .417 average with six RBI to become the MVP of this Series.

But Washington, who was outmanaged by Bruce Bochy throughout this Series, decided to pitch to a man who was famous for his Series deeds over a 13-year period. "Going to hit it out," Renteria told teammate Andres Torres before he went to the plate.

"I was looking for one pitch - the cutter that comes back over the plate," Renteria said. He got it. Now, he joins Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Yogi Berra as the only players in history to get the game-winning hit in two Series-deciding victories.

"It's amazing to be in that situation," Renteria said. "Maybe my focus is just better [in the postseason]. Or maybe it's because I want to be the guy."

Don't pitch to the guy who loves to be "the guy."

This Series between underdogs, with the Rangers reaching their first Series in 50 seasons of franchise history, may not have been a baseball classic or a ratings favorite outside of the regions that love these two teams.

However, it was one of the prototype Series that followed a familiar pattern that we see every few seasons: the mighty hitting team that meets a superior pitching staff and gradually, falls into a hitting coma that seems that it could last until Thanksgiving.

Once a team gets into a slump in the Series, it's the devil to pay to get out of it, even for the greatest hitters. Or, perhaps, especially for the best, because expectations on them are highest, so pressure messes with their precise timing the most. And the Rangers' heart of the order was in misery with Josh Hamilton, Vlad Guerrero and Nelson Cruz batting .100, .071 and .200 respectively in the Series. Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, David Murphy and Bengie Molina were also under .200. The infectious hitting paralysis was almost total.

That combination of swinging too soon on curveballs, yet being behind the fastball is a key tip-off that you gripping the bat too tightly from tension and also swinging too hard - an awful combination. The tight hands slow your reflexes so you can't catch up to the heat, but the subconscious desire to hit the ball 500 feet keeps you from "staying back" on breaking balls. It's the elite hitter's idea of falling into hell.

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01: Brian Wilson (1-0, 6 postseason saves) celebrates after the Giants won 3-1 against the Texas Rangers in Game Five to clinch the 2010 MLB World Series championship at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on November 1, 2010. Wilson did not allow an earned run in 10 postseason appearances.(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Once you're in that pit, has any team ever climbed out? There must be one or two. But they have escaped my attention. I saw The Thing attack the Orioles in the last three games of the '79 Series, which they blew. And I saw the O's pitchers inflict the same pain on the Rose-Morgan-Perez-Schmidt Phillies in '83, holding them to a .195 team average and Mike Schmidt to a .050 mark.

Ever since, I've looked for this monster to attack supposedly mighty Series lineups and reduce them to mush. Hitting in the clutch becomes impossible and, except for a rare solo homer - "running into a pitch" - they look like they'll never score again. In fact, that's just how Texas scored on a solo Cruz homer to left.

The beneficiary of the Rangers' pain was Lincecum. Last October, he was getting arrested for possession of marijuana, boosting his already high popularity by the Bay and giving birth to thousands of "Let Timmy Smoke" T-Shirts at Game 1.

That day, he wasn't his sharpest, yet still beat Lee in an 11-7 slugfest. But in this shut-the-door contest, Timmy really was smokin'. His fastball touched 94 mph. His change-up was wicked. And he challenged Hamilton and Guerrero, who went 0 for 8, with fastballs on the fists and sliders or change-ups away.

All Lincecum needed was one Renteria swing. Unlike unlucky McCovey, his high line drive to deep left-center field was hit exactly high enough. Now, Rangers fans can say, "If Renteria's ball had just been a foot lower, maybe two runs wouldn't have been enough to beat us." But with Lincecum dealing and Brian (Fear the Beard) Wilson ready to rule the ninth, three runs seemed like a mountain.

"When the last out is over, all kinds of emotions run through you," said a delighted Bochy. But the clearest emotion of all was the gratitude he felt to his exceptional pitching staff, led by Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez and Lincecum.

"It's unbelieveable how good they've been," Bochy said. "It's great to have those guys staring at us in the future."

So, sing "San Francisco" while hanging out of a little cable car rolling down Market Street. At the end of every chorus, chant the name of a different Giant pitcher.

But, in honor of this night, start with Lincecum, now San Francisco's greatest Freak.

Monday, November 01, 2010

And When I’m Gloomy, You Simply Gotta Listen to Me

The New York Times
October 31, 2010

The Voice
By James Kaplan
Illustrated. 786 pages. Doubleday. $35.

He provided the soundtrack for several generations of Americans trying to navigate the rocky shoals of romance and grapple with love and heartbreak. And he became one of 20th-century pop culture’s quintessential men of contradictions: the bullying tough guy whose singing could radiate a remarkable tenderness and vulnerability; the ring-a-ding-ding Vegas sophisticate with an existential outlook on life; the jaunty urbanite who could deliver a torch song like no one else. Fans could recognize his voice from two or three perfectly phrased syllables, and they knew him instantly from his style: the rakishly tilted hat, the coat slung over one shoulder, the Camels and Jack Daniel’s.

He was the original teeny-bopper heartthrob and the harbinger of a new age of celebrity. When it snowed, one writer observed, “girls fought over his footprints, which some took home and stored in refrigerators.”

The story of Frank Sinatra’s rise and self-invention and the story of his fall and remarkable comeback had the lineaments of the most essential American myths, and their telling, Pete Hamill once argued, required a novelist, “some combination of Balzac and Raymond Chandler,” who might “come closer to the elusive truth than an autobiographer as courtly as Sinatra will ever allow himself to do.”

Now, with “Frank: The Voice,” Sinatra has that chronicler in James Kaplan, a writer of fiction and nonfiction who has produced a book that has all the emotional detail and narrative momentum of a novel.

Mr. Kaplan’s spirited efforts to channel his subject’s point of view can result in some speculative scenes, which make the reader race to the book’s endnotes in an attempt to identify possible source material. For instance Mr. Kaplan tries to recreate Sinatra’s tumultuous romance with Ava Gardner and tries, not always that convincingly, to map his complicated feelings about the mob. But at the same time Mr. Kaplan writes with genuine sympathy for the singer and a deep appreciation of his musicianship, and unlike gossipy earlier biographers like Kitty Kelley and Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, he devotes the better part of his book to an explication of Sinatra’s art: the real reason readers care about him in the first place.

If there aren’t any startling new insights about the music here that haven’t been made before by critics or by Will Friedwald’s superb book “Sinatra! The Song is You” (which drew on dozens of interviews with collaborators), Mr. Kaplan nonetheless does a nimble, brightly evocative job of tracing the development of Sinatra’s craft, showing how he assimilated early influences and gradually discovered a voice of his own.

Frank Sinatra surrounded by admirers in Pasadena (1943)

He shows how Sinatra’s adolescent admiration of Bing Crosby (who pioneered a newly casual and direct form of address) and his youthful crush on Billie Holiday (whose emotionalism resonated with his own) shaped his ambitions. He shows how Sinatra emulated his early boss, the bandleader Tommy Dorsey, in everything from wardrobe and accouterments (including “Dorsey’s Courtley cologne, his Dentist Prescribed toothpaste”) to his stage presence and breath control. And he shows how diligently Sinatra worked on his diction, his phrasing and the storytelling aspects of his singing.

As Sinatra himself once explained, he usually began with a sheet of lyrics without music: “At that point, I’m looking at a poem. I’m trying to understand the point of view of the person behind the words. I want to understand his emotions. Then I start speaking, not singing the words, so I can experiment and get the right inflections. When I get with the orchestra, I sing the words without a microphone first, so I can adjust the way I’ve been practicing to the arrangement. I’m looking to fit the emotion behind the song that I’ve come up with to the music. Then it all comes together. You sing the song.”

That, of course, would remain the most singular aspect of Sinatra’s interpretive art: his ability to make each song his own, to convey its emotional essence by investing it with his own deepest feelings. The loneliness and yearning for love he felt as a child; the fear he experienced as a young singer setting out to make a name for himself; the high he enjoyed as the hot new phenom trailed by swooning girls; the pain and loss he suffered in the wake of the collapse of his marriage to Gardner: all were exposed in his singing, and combined with his extraordinary musicality and perfectionism, they gave him an intuitive connection with his audience and the abiding respect of his peers.

This book ends before Sinatra’s ascent to legendary status; it stops rather abruptly with his winning of the 1953 Academy Award for his supporting role in “From Here to Eternity,” leaving the reader thirsty for a portrait of his remaining years.

That Academy Award was Sinatra’s comeback from a disastrous fall from grace during the postwar years (that escapist era when silly novelty songs were popular, and Sinatra was forced to sing ridiculous things like the “Woody Woodpecker” song), when his divorce from his first wife, Nancy, and his turbulent relationship with Gardner (pictured at right) had turned him into tabloid fodder.

Through sheer will and talent, Sinatra would pull himself out of the career gutter — his own publicist George Evans had predicted he would soon be “dead professionally” — and by taking the sort of deal offered new artists (not onetime superstars) and covering his own recording costs, he would go on to reinvent himself, creating at Capitol Records albums like “Only the Lonely” and “In the Wee Small Hours” that would become indisputable classics.

In recounting his subject’s rise and fall and rise again — all before the age of 40 — Mr. Kaplan gives us a wonderfully vivid feel for the worlds Sinatra traversed, from Hoboken and New York to Hollywood and Las Vegas, as well as the rapidly shifting tastes in music that shaped him and were later shaped by him. He introduces us to Sinatra collaborators like Nelson Riddle and rivals like Crosby and Eddie Fisher, and along the way he scatters some delightfully vivid cameos of acquaintances and friends. For instance he describes Tommy Dorsey’s influence as the “gravitational field of an enormous dark star,” and the movie producer Sam Spiegel as “an operator straight out of a Saul Bellow novel: heavy jawed, prow nosed and pinkie ringed.”

As for Sinatra’s hot temper and cold ambition, Mr. Kaplan writes that he would “step on or over everyone in his path until he grasped the brass ring,” that “the master plan for himself was exactly that: for himself. Alone.” Mr. Kaplan also reminds us, however, that Sinatra gave “the world his best self in his music.” And that music, in the end, remains the most revealing autobiography of the singer.

“Having lived a life of violent emotional contradictions, I have an overacute capacity for sadness as well as elation,” Sinatra once observed.

“Whatever else has been said about me is unimportant,” he added. “When I sing, I believe I’m honest.”