Sunday, October 25, 2009

When You Have Never Run Anything - Run Your Mouth!

Grades reveal a lot of things. One of the most important is that kids need a whole, caring and demanding family environment. Kids are eager to learn. However,they need parents as well as computers, text books and good teachers (See 1 below.)

Has assuming the 'bully pulpit'turned our president into a bully?
When you have never run anything, ie. a business, government etc., I guess you run your mouth as a last resort.

However, the president who promised to be a healer knows what he is about. He intends to be a divider and thereby a conqueror. Pit American against American, heap rebuke on our nation overseas. His partisanship is not by mistake. It is both studied and purposeful.(See 2 and 2a below.)

As I have often written, Israel does a poor job of defending itself in the media but a great and invincible job on the ground and in the air. That said, in today's Topsy Turvy and amoral world, you can win the war, lose the propaganda battle and almost be worse for the experience. In Israel's case it has no choice but to defend itself regardless of the U.N. and world bias.

Arab and Muslim propagandists learned from the Nazis that if you can sully those who are moral and decent and make it stick you can get away with murder.(See 3 and 3a below.)

Obama's currying favor with Syria and his and GW's desire to wean them away from Iran has not worked. So much for appeasing diplomacy. (See 4 below.)

Out of necessity has Israel told the pusillanimous West: 'If you don't, we will?'

Western weakness is more likely to cause that which it wishes to prevent. (See 5 and 5a below.)

The ruse of a public health care option reveals how truly deaf this administration and most Liberal politicians really are.

Is our president a proctologist in disguise? (See 6,6a and 6b below.)

A recovery without job growth is suspect.

Has Obama brought us back to square one and Carter's malaise? (See 7 and 7a below.)

This president came into office with solid majorities in both houses. He received broad support from virtually every voting group in the nation and his election made most Americans proud of the fact that they had elected a man of color. In less than a year this neophyte has proven many of his critics right - experience matters and behind his meteoric rise was an empty suit. Rhetoric and Obama's two books helped get him elected. But then you must quit blaming your predecessor and start governing. It now appears Obama's two books were ghost written, revealing what a fraud he has been all along.


1)Making the Grade Isn't About Race. It's About Parents.
By Patrick Welsh

"Why don't you guys study like the kids from Africa?"

In a moment of exasperation last spring, I asked that question to a virtually all-black class of 12th-graders who had done horribly on a test I had just given. A kid who seldom came to class -- and was constantly distracting other students when he did -- shot back: "It's because they have fathers who kick their butts and make them study."

Another student angrily challenged me: "You ask the class, just ask how many of us have our fathers living with us." When I did, not one hand went up.

I was stunned. These were good kids; I had grown attached to them over the school year. It hit me that these students, at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, understood what I knew too well: The lack of a father in their lives had undermined their education. The young man who spoke up knew that with a father in his house he probably wouldn't be ending 12 years of school in the bottom 10 percent of his class with a D average. His classmate, normally a sweet young woman with a great sense of humor, must have long harbored resentment at her father's absence to speak out as she did. Both had hit upon an essential difference between the kids who make it in school and those who don't: parents.

My students knew intuitively that the reason they were lagging academically had nothing to do with race, which is the too-handy explanation for the achievement gap in Alexandria. And it wasn't because the school system had failed them. They knew that excuses about a lack of resources and access just didn't wash at the new, state-of-the-art, $100 million T.C. Williams, where every student is given a laptop and where there is open enrollment in Advanced Placement and honors courses. Rather, it was because their parents just weren't there for them -- at least not in the same way that parents of kids who were doing well tended to be.

In an example of how bad the fixation on race here has become, last year Morton Sherman, the new superintendent, ordered principals throughout the city to post huge charts in their hallways so everyone -- including 10-year-old kids -- could see differences in test scores between white, black and Hispanic students. One mother told me that a black fifth-grader at Cora Kelly Magnet School said that "whoever sees that sign will think I am stupid." A fourth-grade African American girl there looked at the sign and said to a friend: "That's not me." When black and white parents protested that impressionable young children don't need such information, administrators accused them of not facing up to the problem. Only when the local NAACP complained did Sherman have the charts removed.

Achievement gaps don't break down neatly along racial lines. Take Yasir Hussein, a student of mine last year whose parents emigrated from Sudan in the early 1990s, and who entered the engineering program at Virginia Tech this fall. "My parents were big on our family living the American dream," he said. "One quarter when I got a 3.5 grade-point average, the guys I hung around with were congratulating me, but my parents had the opposite reaction. They took my PlayStation and TV out of my bedroom and told me I could do better."

Yasir said it wasn't just fear that made him study: "Knowing how hard my parents worked simply to give me the opportunity to get an education in America, it was hard for me not to care about getting good grades."

But Yasir's experience isn't what community activists and school administrators at T.C. Williams or around the country focus on. They cast the difference between kids who are succeeding in school and those who are not in terms of race and seem obsessed with what they call "the gap" between the test scores of white and black students.

This year, community groups in St. Louis and Portland, Ore., issued reports decrying the gap. After a recent state report on test scores in California schools, Jack O'Connell, the state's superintendent of instruction, said the gap is "the biggest civil rights issue of this generation" -- a very popular phrase in education circles.
But focusing on a "racial achievement gap" is too simple; it's a gap in familial support and involvement, too. Administrators focused solely on race are stigmatizing black students. At the same time, they are encouraging the easy excuse that the kids who are not excelling are victims, as well as the idea that once schools stop being racist and raise expectations, these low achievers will suddenly blossom.

Last year, two of the finest and most dedicated teachers at my school -- one in science and one in math -- tried to move students who were failing their classes into more appropriate prerequisite courses, because the kids had none of the background knowledge essential to mastering more advanced material. Both teachers were told by a T.C. Williams administrator that the problem was not with the students but with their own low expectations.

"The real problem," says Glenn Hopkins, president of Alexandria's Hopkins House, which provides preschool and other services to low-income families, "is that school superintendents don't realize -- or won't admit -- that the education gap is symptomatic of a social gap."

Hopkins notes that student achievement is deeply affected by issues of family, income and class, things superintendents have little control over. "Even with best teachers in the world, they don't have the power to solve the problem," he says. "They naively assume that if they throw in a little tutoring and mentoring and come up with some program they can claim as their own, the gap will close."
Perhaps nothing shows how out of touch administrators are with the depth of poor students' problems more than the way they chose to start this school year. The Alexandria School Board had added two more paid work days to the calendar, a move that cost more than $1 million in teachers' salaries. So the administration decided to put on a three-day conference they dubbed "Equity and Excellence." We were promised "world-class speakers." If only that had been true. As part of the festivities, Sherman formed a choir of teachers and administrators that gave us renditions of "Imagine" and "This Land Is Your Land." Sherman closed the conference by telling us that if we didn't believe that "each and every" child in Alexandria could learn, he would give us a ticket to Fairfax County.

Now, six weeks into the academic year, some 30 fights -- two gang-related -- have taken place at T.C. Williams. I wish those three days had been spent bringing students to school to lay out clear rules and consequences, and for sessions on conflict resolution and anger management.

Last week, Sherman announced that a second installment of "Equity and Excellence" featuring a "courageous conversation" with Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, will take place at T.C. Williams tomorrow. I am eager to find ways to help my students succeed, but I am afraid that Ferguson -- whose book includes a chapter titled "Teachers' Perceptions and Expectations and the Black-White Test Score Gap" -- may underestimate what it will take to meet the challenges that we face.

There is one moment of those frivolous first days of the year that I do keep returning to: One of the speakers, Yvette Jackson, the chief executive of the National Urban Alliance, made it clear that the lip service and labels Alexandria is putting forward are not going to help children who are what she calls "school-dependent learners." These are students from low-income backgrounds who need school to give them the basic knowledge that other kids get from their families -- knowledge that schools expect students to have when they start classes. To her, the gap everyone is talking about is not a question of black and white but of the "difference between children's potential and their performance."

"No matter how poor they are, when little kids start school, they are excited; they believe they are going to learn," Jackson said. "But unless schools give them the background knowledge . . . so they can connect with what they study and feel confident, they begin to feel that school is a foreign place, and they give up."
For Junior Bailey, a senior in my Advanced Placement English class, school has never been a foreign place, a fact he attributes to his dad. "He has always been on me; it's been hard to get away with much," Junior said. He also told me that hardly any of his friends have their fathers living with them. "Their mothers are soft on them, and they don't get any push from home."

On parents' night a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to see Junior's dad, Willie Bailey, a star on T.C. Williams's 1983 basketball team, walk into my classroom. Willie told me that after seeing how the guys he grew up with were affected by not having their dads around, he promised himself that he would be a real presence in his son's life.

With more parents like Willie Bailey, someday schools might realistically talk about closing the gap between students' potential and their performance.

2)Obama a tough guy, at least with Fox News: White House tries to intimidate U.S. media while being a pushover with our foreign adversaries.
By Mark Steyn

Benjamin Disraeli's most famous advice to aspiring politicians was: "Never complain and never explain." For the greatest orator of our time, a man who makes Churchill, Lincoln and Henry V at Agincourt look like first-round rejects on "Orating With The Stars," Barack Obama seems to have pretty much given up on the explaining side. He tried it with health care with speech after speech after exclusive interview for months on end, and the more he explained the more unpopular the whole racket got. So he declared that the time for explaining is over, and it's time to sign on or else.

Meanwhile, to take the other half of the Disraeli equation, Obama and his officials and their beleaguered band of surrogates never stop complaining. If you express concerns about government health care, they complain about all these "racists" and "domestic terrorists" obstructing his agenda. If you wonder why the president can't seem to find time in his hectic schedule of international awards acceptance speeches to make a decision about Afghanistan, they complain that it's not his fault he "inherited" all these problems. And, if you wonder why his "green jobs" czar is a communist 9/11 truther, and his National Endowment for the Arts guy is leaning on grant recipients to produce Soviet-style propaganda extolling Obama policies, they complain about Fox News.

The most recent whine – the anti-Fox campaign – is, apart from anything else, unbecoming to the office. President Obama is the chief of state of one of the oldest free societies in the world, but his official White House Web site runs teasers such as: "For even more Fox lies, check out the latest 'Truth-O-Meter.'" It gives off the air of somebody only marginally less paranoid than this week's president-for-life in some basket-case banana republic ranting on the palace balcony because his interior security chief isn't doing a fast-enough job of disappearing his enemies.

George W Bush: Remember him? Of course, you do. He's the guy who's to blame for everything, and still will be midway through Obama's second term. It turns out he's in exile abroad. Presumably he jumped bail and snuck across the border on the roof of a box car. But, anyway, he was giving a speech in Saskatoon. That's a town in Saskatchewan. And Saskatchewan's a province in Canada apparently. And in the course of his glittering night playing the Saskatoon circuit, he was asked about media criticism of him, and he told the … Saskatoonistanies? Saskatchewannabees? Whatever. He told them the attacks never bothered him, although his dad used to get upset: "He'd read the editorial pages, he'd watch the nightly news, and I didn't. I mean, why watch the nightly news when you are the nightly news?"

That attitude, while raising a bunch of other issues, is psychologically healthier. If you're going to attack the press, you need a lightness of touch, not a ham-fisted crowbar such as the White House wielded Thursday, attempting to ban Fox from the pool interviews with the "pay czar." Another bit of venerable Disraelian insouciance, on the scribblers of Fleet Street: "Today they blacken your character, tomorrow they blacken your boots." For two years, the U.S. media have been polishing Obama's boots, mostly with their drool, to a degree unprecedented in American public life. But now it's time for the handful of holdouts to make with the Kiwi – or else.

At a superficial level, this looks tough. A famously fair-minded centrist told me the other day that he'd been taken aback by some of the near parodic examples of Leftie radicalism discovered in the White House in recent weeks. I don't know why he'd be surprised. When a man has spent his entire adult life in the "community organized" precincts of Chicago, it should hardly be news that much of his Rolodex is made up of either loons or thugs. The trick is identifying who falls into which category. Anita Dunn, the Communications Director commending Mao Zedong as a role model to graduating high school students, would seem an obvious loon. But the point about Mao, as Charles Krauthammer noted, is that he was the most ruthless imposer of mass conformity in modern history: In Mao's China, everyone wore the same clothes. So when Communications Commissar Mao Ze Dunn starts berating Fox News for not getting into the same Maosketeer costumes as the rest of the press corps, you begin to see why the Chairman might appeal to her as a favorite "political philosopher".

So the troika of Dunn, Emanuel and Axelrod were dispatched to the Sunday talk shows to lay down the law. We all know the lines from "The Untouchables" – "the Chicago way," don't bring a knife to a gunfight – and, given the pay czar's instant contract-gutting of executive compensation and the demonization of the health insurers and much else, it's easy to look on the 44th president as an old-style Cook County operator: You wanna do business in this town, you gotta do it through me. You can take the community organizer out of Chicago, but you can't take the Chicago out of the community organizer.

The trouble is it isn't tough, not where toughness counts. Who are the real "Untouchables" here? In Moscow, it's Putin and his gang, contemptuously mocking U.S. officials even when (as with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) they're still on Russian soil. In Tehran, it's Ahmadinejad and the mullahs openly nuclearizing as ever feebler warnings and woozier deadlines from the Great Powers come and go. Even Obama's Nobel Peace Prize is an exquisite act of condescension from the Norwegians, a dog biscuit and a pat on the head to the American hyperpower for agreeing to spay itself into a hyperpoodle. We were told that Obama would use "soft power" and "smart diplomacy" to get his way. Russia and Iran are big players with global ambitions, but Obama's soft power is so soft it doesn't even work its magic on a client regime in Kabul whose leaders' very lives are dependent on Western troops. If Obama's "smart diplomacy" is so smart that even Hamid Karzai ignores it with impunity, why should anyone else pay attention?

The strange disparity between the heavy-handed community organization at home and the ever cockier untouchables abroad risks making the commander in chief look like a weenie – like "President Pantywaist," as Britain's Daily Telegraph has taken to calling him.

The Chicago way? Don't bring a knife to a gunfight? In Iran, this administration won't bring a knife to a nuke fight. In Eastern Europe, it won't bring missile defense to a nuke fight. In Sudan, it won't bring a knife to a machete fight.

2a)Engage and criticize: Obama's split media strategy

The same president who aggressively harnesses the power of the press to promote his agenda has taken to lacing his comments with criticisms of the media, with no bigger target than the gabby culture of cable television.

President Barack Obama's critique is biting: The media prefer conflict over cooperation, encourage bad behavior and weaken the ability of leaders to help the nation.

The White House's attempt to discredit Fox News as an arm of the Republican Party may have been getting the headlines, but it is only one recent window into Obama's already complex and crafty relationship with those who cover him.

All of Obama's frustration comes as he not only welcomes the ratings-mad media's constant demand for his presence, but also aggressively seeks maximum exposure to serve his own agenda.

He went on Letterman and Leno. He's held as many nightly news conferences in his first six months as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did in eight years, and conducted far more interviews than either had at this point in their presidencies. He is the first Oval Office occupant to do five Sunday morning talk shows in a one day.

In essence, Obama's strategy is not to tame the media to his liking or blame it for his troubles. It is both.

Obama defends independent reporting as vital to society. He touts the value of providing more openness to the public and accountability by government — indeed, it was one of his more prominent campaign promises.

And then, he's the media's chief critic.

Lamenting the rise of instant commentary at a memorial for news anchor Walter Cronkite, Obama said that "What happened today?" is now replaced with "Who won today?"

"The public debate cheapens," he said. "The public trust falters. We fail to understand our world or one another as well as we should — and that has real consequences in our own lives in the life of our nation."

Sometimes the compliments and condemnation come in practically the same breath.

"The 24-hour news cycle and cable television and blogs and all this, they focus on the most extreme elements on both sides," Obama told CBS News, echoing those comments in the three more network interviews that made up his Sunday show blitz last month.

Blaming the media is almost tradition among politicians. It helps Obama by bonding him with his audience against a common target: the influential press, which many people consider to be biased or untrustworthy. But it does carry a risk of backfiring by elevating Obama's critics or making the White House look petty for pinning its problems on the press corps.

The president is sophisticated about what attracts coverage, what's in the media each day, and why. Unlike Bush, who publicly claimed little interest in news from papers or TV, Obama dives into it.

Aides say he reads four or five newspapers each morning. He catches bits of TV coverage on the sets around the Oval Office. Obama also goes online, has articles flagged for him by staff, reads news magazines on Air Force One and likes to hear which stories have aides buzzing.

So though he often does not differentiate in his criticism among the "media," he's well aware it is actually a diverse mix of print, TV, radio, and Web that is hardly homogenous in its choices about what story to cover or how.

But with more than 70 percent of Americans saying television is their main source of national and international news, according to a Pew Research survey, it's clear that Obama and his advisers are most riled by what's on nonstop cable.

With its hours and hours of TV time to fill, cable news and punditry can whip up public debate and then cause spillover coverage in other forms of media.

Senior White House leaders still mock the front-page coverage given to whether Obama's back-to-school speech to the nation's students was an attempt to indoctrinate them. Obama was openly incredulous over the media's minute-by-minute anticipation of Obama's so-called "beer summit" with a policeman and a professor at the center of a racial controversy.

And when the president gave a major speech to Congress on health care policy, the coverage for days centered on Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican lawmaker who had heckled Obama by shouting "You lie!"

"You've got to be careful about them cable networks," Obama cautioned a man at a Montana town hall who had just told him that cable was his main source of news. Earlier at that same event, Obama had pointed out that only the town halls where tempers were flaring were getting covered. "TV loves a ruckus," he told the crowd.

"If you replaced just a portion of the back and forth on something like Joe Wilson with coverage of the issue and some real discussion about what was at stake..." White House press secretary Robert Gibbs wished aloud.

The irritation has reached another level recently over Fox News, which Obama and his aides have brazenly tried to marginalize by calling it a Republican outlet that shouldn't be treated like a real news network. Yet publicly singling out one news organization is but the most highly publicized push-back from an Obama White House that began back during last year's campaign building a reputation for aggressively confronting reporters over stories it doesn't like and using hardball tactics to try to get its way.

Not to be lost in Obama's pique, however, is that he has a point, said Jill Geisler, a former broadcaster who teaches leadership at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalists. Noise makes news. Nuance often does not.

"I think each of us in journalism must ask: Are we contributing to a deeper understanding of complex issues?" she said.

Predictably, Obama's media coverage has turned more negative since the start of his term.

That reflects the partisan tensions in Washington, setbacks on many of his top agenda items, and the traditional adversarial, watchdog role of the White House press corps.

But even presidents who start with glowing press coverage always end up complaining about how they get beat up, said Martha Joynt Kumar, a political science professor at Towson University who studies White House communications.

"The press is there as a surrogate for the public, to ask the questions the public wants answers for," Kumar said. "Their job is not to stand there and provide him an opportunity to talk on any subject he wants."

3)Losing Israel
By Bill Warner

When America entered the war in Vietnam, Ho Chi Min said that it would be a long war and that the communists would win by using propaganda in the media and the universities. He was correct.

It is time to take stock in the war between Israelis and the Palestinians and deal with some forbidden subjects. Israel is losing the propaganda war, hasbarah, and for a very good reason.

Israel is not in the hasbarah game, unless one counts belated responses to the Palestinians' propaganda offensives. Pierre Rehov, a Moroccan French Jew, is a documentary filmmaker. He claims that the Palestinians have made over 50 propaganda movies, while Israel has done only 8. Of those eight, Mr. Rehov made six.
Why don't Jews and Israel want to deal with propaganda? Simple. It would mean talking about Islam. Jews and Israel must face the facts that the Koran and the Sunna (the actions and words of Mohammed) are filled with invectives against the Jews. At first the words were complimentary, but when the Jews of Medina rejected Mohammed as a prophet they were all enslaved, exiled, murdered and robbed -- all acts of jihad. These were not historical acts, but perfect examples of Islamic action towards Jews -- models prescribed for Muslims to follow up to the present time. To illustrate the severity of this predicament, statistically speaking, in the Koran of Medina 10.6% of the text is devoted to Jew hatred, whereas, only 6.8% of Mein Kampf is devoted to Jew hatred.

The language and actions of Palestinians and all Muslims in general are directly approved by Islamic political theological doctrine. Not only the language, but also policy is set by the Islamic political doctrine. To repeat: political doctrine -- a political theological doctrine of jihad against all kafirs.

Yet, it seems until now that both Jews and Israel choose annihilation over talking about Islam. It is simply not an acceptable subject matter. Political correctness prevails over survival. Unfortunately, these are suicidal choices. It is obvious that the ADL and the Jewish Federations for example, are only two Jewish organizations that have corporate polices of not discussing Islamic political ideology.

The ADL will admit that there are a "few" radical Muslims, and would gladly argue in public that except for a few Muslim extremists, Islam is not the problem. ADL is the first to argue that Jews and Christians have their share of crazies and they are no different from the Muslims. This is the ultimate multiculturalist view, which may well lead to a disaster for Israel and aid in the demise of Western civilization.
Since a propaganda war is about the use of intelligence, one would think that the Israelis would be the world's best and the Muslims would be the worst. Look at Nobel prizes, especially in the sciences. Israelis win them by the handful compared to the Arab world. But in the hasbarah, public relations, the Israelis are lazy fools and the Palestinians are industrious geniuses.

Israeli government officials who will comment off the record say that as a government, Israel cannot launch a propaganda war over Islam.

And, if Israel were to launch an ideological war, who would be the target audience?

The ultimate target would be the secular and liberal Jews of America and Israel, who are the near enemy. If you can launch a hasbarah campaign that would open their eyes, enough of the world would tag along.

Otherwise, if the Israelis continue to think that they can keep scoring military victories and by that win this ideological war, they are fools and worse. America won the Tet offensive on the battlefield, but lost the propaganda war in the media and the universities, exactly as Ho Chi Min predicted.

As a brilliant example of ideological war, revisit Netanyahu's UN speech on September 24, 2009. He laid out the civilizational differences between Holocaust deniers and Israel. The same arguments about civilization should apply to the war between the Palestinians and Jews in Israel. This is because the Israel/Palestinian conflict is no different than the jihad in Kashmir, India, the Philippines, or in dozens of fronts in Africa.

After the Mumbai terror attack, the Jewish community in Nashville, TN had a rally at a synagogue. They prayed for peace in Israel. The same day, Christian supporters of Israel held a rally, and they prayed for Israel's victory.

Now, which one of the two maintains a stronger position -- peace or victory? Today Israel desires peace and the Palestinians insist on victory. Guess who wins? Peace is for losers. Regrettably, Israelis and American Jews are choosing to be the losers. The consequences however are too dire; ultimately, Israel may get their peace, but it may be the peace after jihad's victory.

Ironically, Israelis and Jews abroad are not the only ones in a state of denial about Islamic politics; they just happen to be at the frontline. President Bush demonstrated after 9/11 that he too had no clue how to fight this Islamic ideological war. Instead of using military force against our enemies, he and his successor- President Obama should have declared ideological war against our true enemy-political Islam.

They seem to lose their war and so will Israel unless some tough questions are faced and actions are taken.

Bill Warner is Director, Center for the Study of Political Islam

3a)'PM to assemble team of legal experts to combat Goldstone'
By Herb Keinon

Instead of an inquiry committee questioning soldiers and officers about military conduct during Operation Cast Lead, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will put together a small team of legal experts and foreign ministry officials to reassemble and reevaluate material gathered by the the IDF in its partial investigation of the fighting against Hamas, Israel Radio reported on Monday.

The team will only use existing material, such as previously unreleased drone footage of terrorists operating behind civilian lines in Gaza, and present the findings as an internal investigation refuting the allegations put forth Goldstone Commission's report.

According to a statement released on Saturday by the Prime Minister's Office, the IDF has investigated most of the incidents and accusations of human rights abuses mentioned in the report. The newly formed team, possibly headed by Justice Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman, will ensure that the military investigation was thorough and serious and that no facts were "covered up."

In related news, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on Sunday that Israel would work to fight the legitimacy of the report and change the laws of warfare to fit the new reality of terrorist combat.

Barak's comments came after a meeting Netanyahu convened in his office to weigh the ramifications of the report, proposing that a team of experts be set up to combat it.

In addition to Barak, senior officials from the Justice, Foreign and Defense ministries and the IDF were also present at the meeting, where it was decided to establish a committee to come up with effective ways to deal with the Goldstone Report.

Sunday's meeting, according to government officials, dealt with a wide range of sensitive matters stemming from the report, such as the laws of war, diplomatic issues, international law and world public opinion.

During Sunday's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu made clear that IDF soldiers and officers would not be brought before an investigatory committee. He said that the investigatory mechanisms in place today were more than sufficient to deal with the situation.

Barak - an adamant opponent of establishing an inquiry committee - issued a statement after the meeting saying, "We sent the fighters on their missions, and they deserve complete backing."

In addition to fighting the legitimacy of the Goldstone Report, Barak said, Israel would also work toward changing the laws of war to make them compatible with warfare against terrorists operating from civilian population centers.

Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi is also vehemently opposed to establishing an investigation committee.

Nevertheless, a number of cabinet members - Government Services Minister Michael Eitan (Likud), Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor) - threw their weight behind the establishment of some kind of inquiry committee on Sunday.

Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor (Likud) and National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) have also come out in favor of an internal Israeli investigation.

Speaking before Sunday's cabinet meeting, Eitan said an Israeli investigation would be in the country's national interest.

"It will serve our interests both domestically and externally," he said.

"An internal Israeli investigation is much more preferable, and those blocking it are inviting an investigation by international institutions," he added.

Eitan said that the government was giving full backing to the IDF, but that "accidents happen, and accidents have to be investigated. And in this particular instance I don't see anything wrong with Israeli officials doing the work."

Netanyahu created a storm over the weekend when excerpts of an interview with The Washington Post gave the impression that he favored such an investigation.

The full transcript of the interview, however, painted a somewhat different picture. When asked, "So you're not in favor of an independent inquiry, Dan Meridor favors one?" the prime minister replied, "It depends what he means by that. We're looking into that [the allegations] not because of the Goldstone Report but because of our own internal needs."

Herzog said on Sunday that that since the Goldstone document accused Israel of intentional destruction, Israel needed to respond and show that there was no basis for that allegations, and Braverman said an investigation should be set up to minimize the diplomatic impact of the report.

The most original idea came from Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), who reportedly told the cabinet that rather than setting up an investigation committee, Israel should release the protocols of the cabinet meetings held during the Gaza offensive last winter, which would show the degree of care Israel took during the fighting.

4)Iran buys North Korean WMD for Syria, midget submarines for both

The US Congressional Research Service reveals that Iran has helped Syria obtain "various forms of weapons of mass destruction" and missiles, as well as buying midget submarines - all from North Korea.

Military sources report that the North Korean miniature subs are capable of dropping small teams of commando forces on enemy shores, damaging large warships and mining the approaches of naval bases and harbors. They are capable of sowing EM-52 "rising mines" originally developed by China, which lurk on deep sea beds until triggered by a passing ship to release a missile which shoots up to strike its hull.

This weapon substantially enhances the Syrian and Iranian navies' menace, a development Israel will have take into account in the defenses of its Mediterranean naval bases and commercial ports.

The US CRS notes" Iran purportedly has acted as an intermediary with North Korea to supply Syria with missiles and various forms of WNMD, without specifying whether they are nuclear, chemical or biological.

To keep one of its few allies close, Tehran uses Syria as a "transit point for Iranian weapons shipments to Hizballah and both countries see Hizballah as leverage against Israel to achieve their regional and territorial aims."

The report sees the Obama administration's engagement with Syria as a bid to draw Damascus to loosen its bonds with Tehran, but sees little chance of this effort succeeding.

Syria, Iran's second ally with an Israeli border, has decided to transfer one-third of its missile stockpile to the Hizballah in Lebanon, topping up its arsenal with 250medium-range surface rockets that can cover central as well as northern Israel, which was heavily blitzed in the 2006 war.

5) France FM: Israel will strike Iran without nuke deal

Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear program if the West does not reach a deal with the Islamic Republic on uranium enrichment, France's foreign minister has warned.

"They [the Israelis] will not tolerate an Iranian bomb," Bernard Kouchner told the British paper The Daily Telegraph, in an interview published Monday.

"We know that, all of us. So that is an additional risk and that is why we must decrease the tension and solve the problem. Hopefully we are going to stop this race to a confrontation."

5a)Israel’s enemies are wrong: Don’t count on Goldstone to curb Israel’s response to attacks on Tel Aviv
By Alex Fishman

While Sderot sustained rocket attacks for eight years until the military and political conditions “were ripe” for a retaliatory strike in Gaza, Tel Aviv will not sustain such attacks for eight days; not even for eight hours.

In order to put an immediate end to missile attacks on central Israel – regardless of where they originated: Syria, Lebanon, or Gaza – we will see massive retribution that will make Operation Cast Lead appear like a tiny scratch in the Middle East’s violent history.

In order to find a defensive solution for Gaza-region residents, Israeli officials wracked their brains for about six years until “the need arouse” and the budget was found for the Iron Dome project, which may prove itself in the next decade. Maybe. Meanwhile, central Israel is already protected by the best anti-missile systems in the world.

The Juniper Cobra drill that recently got underway expresses not only America’s diplomatic and military commitment to defend Israel from long-range missiles; it also constitutes an impressive display of cutting edge technologies only possessed by a few states.

This includes the American THAAD missiles, which became operation only two years ago and are meant to intercept ballistic missiles at a 200-kilometer range, beyond the atmosphere, as well as exotic long-range radar systems and satellite-based sensors.

Yet despite all of the above, the quantity of missiles in the enemy’s arsenal at this time is so great that missiles will be landing in central Israel; this will certainly be the case if we see a surprise attack like we experienced in 1973. There will be attempts to hit strategic sites and crowded population centers. The Syrian missiles and the advanced rockets held by Hezbollah are much more accurate than Hamas’ rockets, not to mention Iran’s capabilities.

No time to waste
It is doubtful whether all our strategic sites, both military and civilian, are properly reinforced to ensure that our critical systems will not be paralyzed. There is also no solution for civilians in case of direct hits. Secure rooms are meant to protect against shrapnel, not against missiles with huge warheads. Just like what happened around Gaza, residents in central Israel will feel as though they’re taking part in a bingo contest, of an immensely more murderous scope.

It is no coincidence that Hamas is making every effort to produce or smuggle rockets with a 70-kilometer range. Bringing such missiles into the Gaza Strip is also one of Iran’s greatest challenges in the region.

Israel’s enemies are counting on Goldstone: They will fire missiles at Tel Aviv, and the world will stop Israel from punishing them for deterrence purposes. Yet they’re wrong.

Israel would not be able to afford to wait for its ground forces to successfully operate in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, or any other site in order to curb the fire. Time is a critical element, and a successful ground operation is a matter of days or weeks, which means more casualties and more critical hits sustained by the home front. The hundreds of rockets that will penetrate through the Israeli-American defense systems will require Israel to respond immediately.

And here the formula is cruel and simple: The more effective the rocket terror war will be, the less “proportional” the response would be.

Under such circumstances, we will see a massive retaliatory blow, from the air and from the ground, targeting various infrastructures and sites and being painful enough to prompt the enemy to hold its fire. If the world expects Israel to only hit military targets and chase every rocket or launching site, it expects Israel to commit suicide.

The more painful the blow to the enemy’s critical sites, the greater the chance it will be convinced to hold the fire sooner.

World powers are awaiting an official Iranian response to a United Nations-drafted deal for Tehran to send low-enriched uranium abroad for further processing.

During an official visit to Beirut, the foreign minister stressed that time was running out in the negotiations.

"There is the time that Israel will offer us before reacting, because Israel will react as soon as they know clearly that there is a threat," he was quoted as saying

6)The 'Public Plan' Delusion
By Robert Samuelson

In the health care debate, the "public plan" is all things to all people. For supporters, it would discipline greedy private insurers and make health coverage affordable. For detractors, it's a way station on the path to a single-payer insurance system of government-run health care. In reality, the public plan is mostly an exercise in political avoidance: It pretends to control costs and improve access to quality care when it doesn't.

As originally conceived by Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker, the public plan would be a government-created, nonprofit insurance company providing Medicare-like coverage to the under-65 population. But unlike Medicare, benefits would be paid for mainly by premiums -- not taxes. Americans could buy coverage from the public plan or a private insurer.

Competition and choice would increase, say liberals. Facing the low-cost public plan, private insurers would hold down their own premiums, the argument goes. Health care costs for everyone would moderate. Government subsidies to provide universal coverage would be cheaper. By some estimates, Medicare's administrative costs are only 3 percent of spending compared with 13 percent or more for private insurers. A new public plan is widely presumed to enjoy an advantage in overhead.

Nonsense, retort critics. The public plan's low costs would be artificial. Its main advantage would be the congressionally mandated requirement that hospitals and doctors be reimbursed at rates at or near Medicare's. These are as much as 30 percent lower than rates paid by private insurers, says the health care consulting firm Lewin Group. With such savings, the public plan could charge much lower premiums and attract lots of customers. But health costs wouldn't subside; hospitals and doctors would offset the public plan's artificially low reimbursements by raising fees to private insurers, as already occurs with Medicare. Premiums would increase because private insurers must cover costs to survive.

As for administrative expenses, any advantage for the public plan is exaggerated, say critics. Part of the gap between private insurers and Medicare is statistical illusion: Because Medicare recipients have higher average health expenses ($10,003 in 2007) than the under-65 population ($3,946), its administrative costs are a smaller share of total spending. The public plan, with younger members, wouldn't enjoy this advantage.

Likewise, Medicare has low marketing costs because it's a monopoly. But a non-monopoly public plan would have to sell itself and would incur higher marketing costs. Private insurers' profits (included in administrative costs) also explain some of Medicare's cost advantage. But profits represent only 3 percent of the insurance industry's revenues. Moreover, accounting comparisons are misleading when they don't include the cost of Medicare's government-supplied investment capital. A public plan would also need investment capital. And suppose the public plan suffers losses. Congress would assuredly bail it out.

The promise of the public plan is a mirage. Its political brilliance is to use free-market rhetoric (more "choice" and "competition") to expand government power. But why would a plan tied to Medicare control health spending, when Medicare hasn't? From 1970 to 2007, Medicare spending per beneficiary rose 9.2 percent annually compared to the 10.4 percent of private insurers -- and the small difference partly reflects cost shifting. Congress periodically improves Medicare benefits, and there's a limit to how much squeezing reimbursement rates can check costs. Doctors and hospitals already complain that low payments limit services or discourage physicians from taking Medicare patients.

Even Hacker concedes that without reimbursement rates close to Medicare's, the public plan would founder. If it had to "negotiate rates directly with providers" -- do what private insurers do -- the public plan could have "a very hard time" making inroads, he writes. Hacker opposes such weakened versions of the public plan.

By contrast, a favored public plan would probably doom today's private insurance. Although some congressional proposals limit enrollment eligibility in the public plan, pressures to liberalize would be overwhelming. Why should some under-65 Americans enjoy lower premiums and others not? In one study that assumed widespread eligibility, the Lewin Group estimated that 103 million people -- half the number with private insurance -- would switch to the public plan. Private insurance might become a specialty product.

Many would say: Whoopee! Get rid of the sinister insurers. Bring on a government single-payer system. But if that's the agenda, why not debate it directly? It's not insurers that cause high health costs; they're simply the middlemen. It's the fragmented delivery system and open-ended reimbursement. Would strict regulation of doctors, hospitals and patients under a single-payer system provide control? Or would genuine competition among health plans over price and quality work better?

That's the debate we need, but in truth, doctors, hospitals and patients don't want to be limited, whether by government or markets. Congress reflects public opinion. Fearing a real debate, we fake it.

6a)Why Government Health Care Keeps Falling in the Polls:The health-care debate is part of a larger moral struggle over the free-enterprise system

Regardless of how President Barack Obama's health-care agenda plays out in Congress, it has not been a success in public opinion. Opposition to ObamaCare has risen all year.

According to the Gallup polling organization, the percentage of Americans who believe the cost of health care for their families will "get worse" under the proposed reforms rose to 49% from 42% in just the past month. The percentage saying it would "get better" stayed at 22%.

Many are searching for explanations. One popular notion is that demagogues in the media are stirring up falsehoods against what they say is a long-overdue solution to the country's health-care crisis.

Americans deserve more credit. They haven't been brainwashed, and they aren't upset merely over the budget-busting details. Rather, public resistance stems from the sense that the proposed reforms do violence to three core values of America's free enterprise culture: individual choice, personal accountability, and rewards for ambition.

First, Americans recoil at policies that strip choices from citizens and pass them to bureaucrats. ObamaCare systematically does so. The current proposals in Congress would effectively limit choice across the entire spectrum of health care: What kind of health insurance citizens can buy, what kind of doctors they can see, what kind of procedures their doctors will perform, what kind of drugs they can take, and what treatment options they may have.

Meanwhile, ObamaCare would limit the ability of people to choose affordable insurance coverage through less-comprehensive, consumer-driven insurance plans. And it wouldn't allow Americans to shop for better health-care plans from out-of-state carriers.

Second, Americans believe we should be responsible for the consequences of our actions. Many citizens bitterly view the auto and Wall Street bailouts as gifts to people who took imprudent risks, imperiled the entire economic system, and now appear to be walking away from the mess.

Similarly, Americans are cold to a health-care system that effectively rewards individuals for waiting to get insurance until they get sick—subsidizing their coverage by taxing those who responsibly carry insurance in good times and bad.

On its face, the reformers' promise to provide health insurance to nearly all, regardless of pre-existing conditions, is appealing. But as most instinctively realize, if people don't have to worry about carrying insurance until they need it, many won't buy it. Already, the Census Bureau tells us that 21% of the uninsured are in households earning at least $75,000. Although there are certainly plausible reasons for this in some cases, this phenomenon will worsen under ObamaCare.

Third, ObamaCare discourages personal ambition. The proposed reforms will institute a set of government mandates, price controls and other strictures that will make highly trained specialists, drug researchers and medical device makers less valued now and in the future. Americans understand that when you take away the incentive to make money while saving lots of lives, the cures, therapies and medical innovations of tomorrow may never be discovered.

Yet we are told this is all for the best. In his commencement speech at Arizona State University earlier this year, Mr. Obama told the graduates not to "fall back on the formulas of success that have been peddled so frequently in recent years": "You're taught to chase after all the usual brass rings . . . let me suggest that such an approach won't get you where you want to go."

Crass materialism is indeed a tyranny that can lead to personal misery. But most Americans believe it's up to individuals, not a nannying government, to decide what constitutes too much income and too much ambition.

An April 2009 survey conducted by the polling firm Ayers, McHenry & Associates for the conservative nonprofit group Resurgent Republic asked respondents which of the following statements about the role of government came closer to their view: (a) "Government policies should promote fairness by narrowing the gap between rich and poor, spreading the wealth, and making sure that economic outcomes are more equal"; or (b) "Government policies should promote opportunity by fostering job growth, encouraging entrepreneurs, and allowing people to keep more of what they earn." Sixty-three percent chose the second option; just 31% chose the first.

This is consistent with nonpartisan surveys showing that most Americans think our increasingly redistributionist government is overstepping its bounds. For example, a September 2009 Gallup Poll found that 57% believe the government is "doing too much"—the highest percentage in more than a decade. Just 38% said it "should do more."

We will continue to hear both sides of the health-care debate argue about particulars of insurance markets, the deficit impacts of reform, and the minutiae of budgetary assumptions. These arguments, while important, do not address the deeper issues involved.

The health-care debate is part of a moral struggle currently being played out over the free enterprise system. It will be replayed in every major policy debate in the coming months, from financial regulatory reform to a cap-and-trade system for limiting carbon emissions. The choices will ultimately always come down to competing visions of America's future. Will we strengthen freedom, individual opportunity and enterprise? Or will we expand the role of the state and its power?

Mr. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of "The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America's Future," to be published by Basic Books next June.

7)Experts see rebounding economy shedding jobs
Carolyn Lochhead

Forget a jobless recovery. The economy may be entering a recovery with job losses.

Third-quarter estimates this week are expected to show that the economy grew for the first time since the quarter ending in June 2008. Despite the estimated 3 percent expansion and a stock market that has been on a tear since March, hundreds of thousands of people are still being laid off each month.

Eight million jobs have been lost nationwide since the recession began two years ago, and by some measures workers face the worst job market since the Depression. The average laid-off worker has been without a job for 61/2 months, a post-World War II record. Many of those workers will never recover financially.

California's hole, deepened by a state budget mess and volatile tax system, is far worse: Unemployment is at

12.2 percent, third highest in the nation; and adding discouraged and part-time workers puts it over 20 percent.

"It's not even a jobless recovery; it's a recovery with more job losses," said UCLA economist Lee Ohanian. "The idea of having essentially no net job creation after a remarkably severe recession is a real pathology for the U.S. economy."

'Painfully weak' job growth
Top White House economist Christina Romer of UC Berkeley told Congress on Thursday that employment growth could remain "painfully weak" through next year, and that the largest effect from the $787 billion stimulus enacted in February, mainly aid to states, is past. By mid-2010, she said, the stimulus will no longer contribute to growth.

Alarms are ringing at the White House and in Congress. But with a mind-boggling $1.4 trillion deficit this year, Democrats have used up their bullets. The word stimulus has such a bad connotation that the term has been banished from new efforts to goose the economy and help workers, such as extending unemployment benefits, sending $250 checks to seniors and a program the White House announced to help small businesses get loans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and top House Democrats met for four hours with economists Wednesday, amid criticism from the left that the stimulus was poorly targeted on jobs. Calls have mounted for a tax credit to hire workers, much like one tried three decades ago during the Carter administration, but there is little appetite in Congress or the administration for more stimulus spending.

Romer and Vice President Joe Biden's economist, Jared Bernstein, cited high deficits in downplaying calls for a new stimulus. "Remember, stimulus by definition is temporary," Bernstein said. "In the interest of fiscal rectitude, we need to ramp the spending down no later than necessary."

Even under optimistic assumptions, it could take seven straight years of solid growth just to get employment back to where it was before the downturn, a Rutgers University analysis found.

Almost no one is expecting job growth to roar back, given its anemic increase in the last decade, when the economy generated on average 1 million jobs a year, less than half as many as during the booms of the 1980s and 1990s. Median income actually fell more than $2,000 over the decade.

Employment mystery
Economists are puzzled as to why job growth has slowed, citing everything from higher health care costs, to higher productivity, to Chinese currency manipulation.

"The answer is, we don't know," said Tim Bartik, a liberal economist with the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Michigan who is proposing a tax credit for employers who hire new workers.

At a cost of $21,000 per job created, he said, a tax credit is far cheaper than the average $112,000 cost of each job created by the stimulus, as calculated by the administration.

Michael Boskin, former top economist in the George H.W. Bush administration, favors a cut in payroll taxes. He said the current stimulus has been "marginally effective at best, and at immense expense," describing it as mainly a "patchwork of wish lists for various constituencies."

University of Maryland economist Peter Morici said the administration's efforts to restore growth by directing spending to such things as alternative energy are too expensive for the number of jobs created and ignore larger problems in the economy.

'70s French model
"If we're going to have 1970s French policies, we're going to have 1970s French unemployment," Morici said, referring to government direction of investment that many people blamed for chronically high unemployment in Europe. The rapidly weakening dollar should boost exports and reduce imports, helping U.S. producers, but because China keeps its currency, the yuan, artificially pegged to the dollar, U.S. competitiveness against China will not improve.

"You can't grow with a huge trade deficit," Morici said. "If you don't revalue the Chinese yuan against the dollar you can't get out of this mess, and if you don't do something about oil imports you can't get out of this mess. Industrial policies won't fix it."

6b)More voters are souring on health ‘reform’

No wonder the Obama administration wanted the House to finish work on its health care bill before the summer recess. The more people learn about the legislative blob slouching toward passage, the less they like it.

In a recent Rasmussen tracking poll, opposition to health care reform as proposed by President Obama and the congressional Democrats had risen to 54 percent. Support dropped to 42 percent.

The bill recently endorsed by the Senate Finance Committee was hailed by some as more reasonable than the House versions, yet all these bills share provisions that will dramatically raise costs.

For example, under the Senate Finance Committee bill, insurance companies must sign up everyone who wants a policy and companies can’t vary premiums based on the customers’ risk profiles. Those are the very provisions that caused premium rates to mushroom in New York state.

And the bills impose mandates requiring everyone to buy health insurance, a rule that will lead to a de facto government takeover of the industry. If the government decrees that health insurance must be purchased, then it must say what kinds of policies are acceptable.

President Obama has said that if you like your coverage, you can keep it. But over time, tens of millions of people — especially those now buying on the individual market — will be forced into more high-dollar policies or ordered to pay a additional tax if they decline.

It’s already happening in Massachusetts, which enacted a grab-bag of rules similar to those in bills supported by congressional Democrats.

Massachusetts resident Wendy Williams, writing recently in The Wall Street Journal, told how new state rules made her bare-bones policy unacceptable. She and her husband were told to buy a pricier policy or pay $1,000.

“We hadn’t imposed our health care costs on anyone else,” she wrote, “yet we were being fined.”

There are varying estimates for how many people will face a similar choice if Congress passes health reform. A major issue is what proportion of medical claims must be covered by insurance plans, rather than through deductibles or co-insurance.

As Michael Tanner wrote in a recent Cato Institute paper, bills backed by congressional Democrats would require a level of coverage — “actuarial value” — of around 70 percent. If that finds its way into the final legislation, tens of millions of people could be forced into costlier policies.

Many employer plans, and most plans in the individual market, don’t offer coverage that comprehensive.

All of this runs counter to deep trends in the economy. For years, we have been moving from the centralized industrial state that John Kenneth Galbraith wrote about in the 1960s, to an economy based on decentralized, market-based models exemplified by the dramatic shift from mainframes to personal computers. Power and information has been moving from large institutions down to individuals.

Real health care reform would leverage these trends. Agreed: The system is flawed. Appropriate reform would require a lot of help from the taxpayer. But if we must subsidize, why can’t it be done in a way that does more to move the power of choice to individuals?

Take the tax breaks from employers and give them to the people. Let them escape the insurance cartels imposed by many state governments and buy health insurance offered in other states.

Fifteen years ago, in the midst of an earlier health care reform debate, the Congressional Budget Office observed: “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action.

“The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”

The profound implications of what the Democrats intend are dawning on more and more Americans.

7a)Is it morning in America, or has hope given way to malaise?
By Kristi Keck

Democrat Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 on a message of change.STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Presidents Obama, Carter both elected at a time when voters wanted change
Analyst: Carter comparison shows how expectations have changed since Obama's win
Obama, Reagan faced similar problems but approached them differently, Reagan aide says

Obama should worry about who he is, not who he might be, analyst David Gergen says
(CNN) -- Nearly a year after the presidential election, the excitement of Barack Obama's campaign has faded into the reality of an Obama White House.

As observers try to determine what time it is in American politics, they arrive at opposite conclusions.

To some, said Tulane University political scientist Thomas Langston, Obama is like Jimmy Carter, and the nation will soon hammer the nails into the coffin of a dying Democratic coalition just as voters, tired of the Carter "malaise" era, handed the White House to Republicans in 1980.

To others, Obama has come to usher in a new understanding of the relationship between the government and the people. To them, Langston said, it's the dawning of a new age, as depicted in a famous 1984 Ronald Reagan campaign ad that declared, "It's morning again in America."

Both Obama and Carter were elected into office at a time when voters were hungry for change. Carter represented the antithesis of President Nixon and a break from the disillusionment and mistrust of government caused by the Watergate scandal.

Carter, like Obama, learned the ropes in a state Senate. Critics accused Carter of being inexperienced, having served one term as the governor of Georgia. But the Democratic candidate presented himself as a politician outside of politics and a reformer uninterested in partisan games.

"With Carter himself, there was a sense of a kind of national renewal in some ways that people have said has been true after the very difficult years of the Bush presidency," said Russell Riley, chair of the Miller Center's Presidential Oral History Program at the University of Virginia.

Shortly after taking office, Carter's approval rating peaked at 75 percent but dropped to the low 40s in a little more than a year. He entered office weighed down by a sagging economy, and eventually, the energy crisis, the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian hostage crisis took a toll on his administration.

"He ended his presidency, of course, holed up in the White House as a virtual captive himself of the Iranian hostage takers," Langston said.

The parallels to Carter come primarily from Obama's Republican critics. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist speculated last month that a Carter-esque loss "may happen again," and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has predicted that a Republican resurgence -- like the one he led in the mid '90s -- could be just around the corner.

"Carter is held up as the model of the ineffectual president -- a saint of a man but an ineffectual president. And so when people compare Obama to Carter, that is an attack," said David Gergen, a senior political analyst for CNN who also worked in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton administrations.

Incumbent presidents who lost second-term bids
John Adams (1800)
John Quincy Adams (1828)
Martin Van Buren (1840)
Grover Cleveland (1888)
Benjamin Harrison (1892)
William Howard Taft (1912)
Herbert Hoover (1932)
Gerald Ford (1976*)
Jimmy Carter (1980)
George H.W. Bush (1992)

*Ford assumed office after Richard Nixon resigned. He ran for his first full term in 1976. The comparison to Carter, Gergen said, is more of a danger sign for Obama than it is a reality because it shows how the storyline has changed.

When Obama first came into office, observers likened him to some of the most successful presidents in U.S. history, such as Franklin Roosevelt, Gergen said. Now, Obama's also being compared to a president who didn't live up to expectations.

The Carter comparison shows how much polarization has occurred in the country since the election, Gergen said.

Under Carter, there was also a sense of polarization -- but it was in the president's party. The liberal wing of the Democrats felt abandoned to the point that Sen. Edward Kennedy, one of the top liberals in Congress, challenged Carter in his 1980 re-election bid. Kennedy came up short, but his bid severely weakened Carter and contributed to his eventual defeat in the 1980 election to Reagan, Riley said.

While the similarities are not lost on Riley, what's more telling is the "most important mistake that [Obama] didn't make."

When Carter took office, there were Democrats with executive branch experience available, but he didn't want to use them. "Carter was criticized for bringing in the 'Georgia Mafia,' " Riley said, referring to Carter's decision to give key positions to people from his home state.

Obama, however, stacked his bench with pros from the Clinton administration. He brought in some advisers from Chicago, Illinois, some from Washington and others such as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel with deep ties to both places.

That move was critical, Riley said, "because if you've got seasoned people in these positions, they're much more likely to make adjustments and to know Capitol Hill in a way that will allow them to weather the kinds of problems that were common to both Carter and Obama."

John Geer, a Vanderbilt University political scientist, said the comparisons to Carter are weak.

"Jimmy Carter is a very rare exception in American history. Most first-term presidents get a second term," he said, adding that it's especially rare since Carter's term came on the heels of previous Republican rule.

President George H.W. Bush also served one term, but it came after eight years of Republican control of the White House.

The more analogous comparison so far, Geer said, is to Reagan, who also entered the White House with a full plate of foreign policy problems -- mostly surrounding the Cold War -- and a major economic crisis at hand.

Reagan was a gifted politician, Geer said. He was known as an inspiring communicator, and his appeal crossed party lines. Like Obama, polls showed that Reagan was more popular than his policies. More than 20 years after he left the White House, Republicans still look to him as the last great face of the party.

Reagan continues to be the touchstone, the smiling Buddha figure. Everybody rubs his belly for good luck," Langston said. "Like the smiling Buddha, he is whatever you want him to be."--Thomas Langston, Tulane political scientist

In his book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama wrote that although he and Reagan had differing political viewpoints, he understands the Republican president's appeal.

"Reagan spoke to America's longing for order, our need to believe that we are not simply subject to blind, impersonal forces but that we can shape our individual and collective destinies, so long as we rediscover the traditional values of hard work, patriotism, personal responsibility, optimism, and faith," he wrote.

Gergen, who was director of communications for Reagan, said the comparisons to Reagan are strained because of their opposite governing styles. Where as Obama tries to draw consensus, Reagan drew lines, he said.

"Reagan was a conviction politician, and Barack Obama is a consensus-seeking politician," Gergen said. "Barack Obama was a magical figure in his campaign, ran an extremely good campaign, but also based it more on the sense of hope and change as ideas, the particular policy solutions, à la Reagan."

Martin Anderson, an economic policy adviser to Reagan, said Obama and Reagan faced similar problems in their first year but approached them with different solutions.

Faced with an economic crisis, Reagan's strategy was to reduce taxes, let the American people figure out what to do and then find out what went wrong, Anderson said.

After Reagan cut taxes in his first year, there were no immediate changes. "It looked terrible, and it didn't look very good during the second year. And then it began to catch and it worked ... and it was really terrific on the third and the fourth and the fifth and so on," Anderson said. As for Obama's approach to country's economic woes -- it's too early to tell what will happen, he said.

In his first few months in office, Reagan also went through a game-changing experience that had ramifications for both him and the country: He got shot.

"He came very close to dying. It was right down next to his heart. Just stunned everything, stunned everybody," Anderson recalled.

But within weeks, Reagan was back at work -- with a positive attitude and good sense of humor.

"And the Democrats -- after he came to life again -- they took a deep sigh and said, 'OK, you can do whatever you want,' " Anderson said.

As tragic as the 1981 assassination attempt was, Reagan's quick recovery -- and the sympathy from Democrats -- provided momentum for the president's agenda.

"The first year is a very tough year for any president," Anderson said, noting that each year thereafter is "dramatically different." Asked what he thinks about comparisons to Carter and Reagan, Anderson replied, "You know who he looks like? Obama."

Looking to administrations past, Obama can learn a valuable lesson, Gergen said.

"Don't spend time wallowing in arguments about who you might be -- spend time worrying about who you are and worrying about governing."

The similarities between Obama and his predecessors, while interesting to discuss, are not foreboding, Riley said.

"There is no exact historical parallel to what we are looking at right now. There are bits and pieces here and there," he said. It's impossible, however to take those similarities and "piece out from them a guaranteed scenario that he is going to end up in the same place."

That idea, he said, is perhaps best summed up in a quote attributed to Mark Twain: "History doesn't repeat itself, it rhymes."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Following Snowe Would Lead to More Republican Drift!

Obama's poll numbers are dropping for a variety of reasons but, in my humble opinion, mainly because he no longer is deemed trustworthy and/or capable of being truthful. He has proven to be what some thought and said all along -a fancy talking fraud, a neophyte fake, an inexperienced untested flash in the pan politician! (See 1 below.)

My thoughts expressed in a LTE to the local paper. (See 1a below.)

Gutless Republicans are worried that angry rhetoric directed at Obama will cause a backlash.

Rather than worry about being elected, Republicans should be on the front line presenting a cogent rebuttal as to why just about everything Obama, has done, is doing and proposes doing is a disaster for our nation and is anti-thetical to what America is about.

If Republicans could rise to the level of statesmen and get out of the warfare trenches the rest would take care of itself

Taking the Olympia Snowe copping out route simply leads to more drift!(See 2 below.)

A sad state of affairs for a great leader who made his share of mistakes but deserved better than he got. (See 3 below.)

The Obama Administration's tiff with Fox, indicates how small and petty Chicago's brand of local politics can be when elevated to the national level. Emanuel and Axelrod, are helping to sink Obama with their muck and mire approach towards back biting politics.

It is evident, Fox has gotten under the Administration's thin skin and the Administration's 'pissy fanny' response makes it look foolish. In response to a question about the Fox tiff, Obama said it was not causing him to lose any sleep. The reporter should have asked him if he is losing any sleep over Afghanistan?

This is mature leadership? How sad! (See 4 and 4a below.)

If the shoe fits wear it. Send to me by a Bostonian friend who happens to be a sensible moderate. (See 5 below.)


1)Reading Polls, Not Tea Leaves, Correctly
By Peter Wehner

The most recent data from Gallup is quite interesting. Among the findings:

In Gallup Daily tracking that spans Barack Obama’s third quarter in office (July 20 through Oct. 19), the president averaged a 53% job approval rating. That is down sharply from his prior quarterly averages, which were both above 60%. In fact, the 9-point drop in the most recent quarter is the largest Gallup ever measured for an elected president between the second and third quarters of his term, dating back to 1953. … More generally, Obama’s 9-point slide between quarters ranks as one of the steepest for a president at any point in his first year in office. … In Obama’s first quarter and second quarter, his job approval average compared favorably with those of prior presidents. But after the drop in his support during the last quarter, his average now ranks near the bottom for presidents at similar points in their presidencies. Only Clinton had a lower third-quarter average among elected presidents. … Obama’s 53% third-quarter average is substandard from a broader historical perspective that encompasses all 255 presidential quarters for which Gallup has data going back to 1945. On this basis, Obama’s most recent average ranks 144th, or in the 44th percentile, clearly below average not just for presidents’ third quarters but for all presidents. [emphasis added]

There are, I think, several conclusions we can draw from this survey.
One is that Obama’s slide, while not debilitating, is significant and serious.

Second, ObamaCare is a large part of the reason the president’s support has been crumbling.

Third, the Gallup Poll corresponds to other evidence of trouble for Obama and Democrats – including intensity and fundraising for Democrats (down); intensity and fundraising for Republicans (way up); the generic ballot (Gallup shows Democrats leading by only 2 points, a tremendous narrowing of the gap); how the two parties match up on the issues (Republicans lead in 8 out of 10, according to Rasmussen); gubernatorial races (the Republican candidate leads in the polls in Virginia, a Purple State, by a wide margin, and the Republican candidate is in a dead heat with the Democratic candidate in New Jersey, a Blue State); and a marked loss of support among independents and seniors. President Obama is viewed as liberal by much of the country – and in a center-right nation, that’s a problem. Nine months into his presidency, the public is turning against Obama and Democrats.

Fourth, Obama had an excellent chance earlier this year to lock in, at least for a time, key demographic groups for the Democrats. This would have made life very difficult for the GOP. Another opportunity may come again – but for now, it has been squandered. Obama is revivifying the GOP to an extent that few thought possible just a few months ago. It should be said, though, that Republicans still have considerable work to do to win back the confidence of the public.

Fifth, the political environment right now – from Afghanistan to the high unemployment rate – isn’t a good one for Obama and the Democrats. Passage of a health-care plan would be an impressive legislative achievement, but it would end up being, I think, a damaging substantive and political one. Passing legislation isn’t the end of the story; in some respects, it’s only the start. And I suspect that ObamaCare will become a very important and helpful issue in the 2010 elections – for Republicans, not Democrats. It will feed into the larger narrative of Obama as being reckless when it comes to the size, scope, and reach of government. Another potent issue that’s out there is taxes; the increases we are bound to see will help the GOP and frame the policy debate in a way that’s favorable to Republicans.

I’ve said it before, and it’s worth restating, that things can change dramatically for the better – and dramatically for the worse. There is a tendency among the political class to take a moment in time and assume that this is how it will always be, or make straight-line projections based on the current situation. That’s usually unwise. But what we can do with some precision is quantify and review what has unfolded. And it’s reasonable to say that, so far, the first year – and especially the third quarter – has not been a good one for Obama and the Democrats.

They have reason to be concerned, and maybe even alarmed.

1a)4)President Obama has all the time in the world to radically alter America's health care system, attack Fox, spend money as if he had been in the Navy, wreck the dollar with absurb costly policies and the list begins to be endless. Yet, he cannot find time to make a clear cut and meaningful decision on Iran and Afghanistan.

He can tell Israelis where to live, he can take over American industry after industry, he can gut salaries and fire executives but he apparently cannot take the advice of the general he selected.

He can hold dances at The White House for the artsy folk, he can attend fund raisers with his Hollywood cronies, he can even find time to tell school children to do their homework but when it comes to protecting our finest in Afghanistan he ducks, dithers and/or blames his predecessor.

Yes, he remains popular among the boot licking press and media but his poll numbers are dropping because the public are finally coming to realize he is not up to the job and his speechifying rings hollow except in Norway.

Obama copped out on the Poles and Czechs, he took a hike on protesting Iranians, and he could not even spare a few minutes to visit with the Dalai Lama but he has all the time in the world for lecturing us on the evils of Capitalism and the world on our nation's unforgivable sins of arrogance.

He treats terrorists as if they were civil criminals but is conflicted when it comes to defending those who are engaged in our nation's intelligence work.

Obama is a dreamer who lives in a mythical world where power is deemed evil, where the untrustworthy are simply misguided, where audacity is a substitute for principles, where hyperbole equates with leadership, where Russia can be trusted and where any criticism is racially motivated.

Harsh, perhaps but if you were the parent of a son or daughter in the military and specifically one serving in a 'hot spot,' I suspect you are beginning to have your own self-doubts. If not, then why not?

2)Conservatives roar; GOP trembles
By: Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen

Many top Republicans are growing worried that the party’s chances for reversing its electoral routs of 2006 and 2008 are being wounded by the flamboyant rhetoric and angry tone of conservative activists and media personalities, according to interviews with GOP officials and operatives.

Congressional leaders talk in private of being boxed in by commentators such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh — figures who are wildly popular with the conservative base but wildly controversial among other parts of the electorate, and who have proven records of making life miserable for senators and House members critical of their views or influence.

Some of the leading 2012 candidates are described by operatives as grappling with the same tension. The challenge is to tap into the richest source of energy in the party — the disgust of grass-roots conservative activists with President Barack Obama and their hunger for a full-throated attack on his agenda — without coming off to the broader public as cranky and extreme.

Mitt Romney has purposely kept a lower profile and stuck to speeches on specific policy issues, in part to avoid the early trade-off between placating party activists and appearing presidential. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, one of the most active potential opponents for Obama in 2012, said that media portrayals of a narrow-minded party could make it harder to attract the middle-of-the-road voters needed to make the GOP a majority party again.

“The commentators are part of the coalition, not the whole coalition,” Pawlenty said in a phone interview. “The party needs to be about addition, not subtraction — but not at the expense of watering down its principles.”

“We need more voices,” said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, one of the party’s up-and-coming leaders. “Our party’s challenge has been that we need to be more inclusive — we need to attract the middle again. ... When one party controls all the levers of power in Washington, they’re going to try and villainize whoever they can on our side. It gives us an opportunity now to try and harness the energy and point it in a positive direction, so that we can attract the middle of the country to the common-sense conservative views that we have been about as a party.”

Political operatives of all stripes like to fancy themselves as coolly controlling practitioners — who can shape public images and direct the activities of party regulars from their perches in Washington.

But the reality of the GOP during the Obama presidency is that the party’s image and priorities are in many ways being imposed on Washington — driven by grass-roots energies that lawmakers and strategists can scarcely control.

At the same time, there are powerful incentives for Washington politicians to play to the crowd and bow to the influence of commentators like Beck, who at the moment is far more famous than any of the GOP’s congressional leaders.

When Republicans such as Rep. Phil Gingrey have complained about these figures in public, most have quickly apologized in the face of outraged phone calls and e-mails from conservative activists.

House and Senate Republicans both seized on the issue of federal funding for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now after Obama critic Andrew Breitbart launched the controversy on his site with video of two people posing as a pimp and a prostitute in the group’s offices.

As vividly illustrated by Rep. Joe Wilson, elected Republicans are seeing the benefits — national media attention and fundraising — from embracing the trash-talking style of talk show hosts. Wilson went from being a little-known member of the House minority who had repeatedly failed to get on the A-list committees to a cause célèbre for the right wing because he shouted “You lie” at Obama during a joint session of Congress.

Though he apologized to the president through chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Wilson moved quickly to exploit his brush with fame, posting Web videos to raise money, appearing on Sean Hannity’s show, getting a coveted invite on “Fox News Sunday” — and even being asked to raise money for some of his conservative colleagues. Most rank-and-file Republicans have to spend hours on the phone pleading for money and relish the chance to be taken seriously by a major Sunday show.

But some Republicans worry the party could squander an opportunity to capitalize on voters’ concerns about Obama and the Democratic Congress because they come off looking shallow, sharply partisan or just plain odd to persuadable voters.

Warning of the influence of the Fox host, who recently accused Obama of racism against whites, George W. Bush White House veteran Peter Wehner wrote last month: “Beck seems to be a roiling mix of fear, resentment and anger — the antithesis of Ronald Reagan.”

Still, these concerns apparently are not powerful enough to prompt most elected Republicans to take public stands against the rhetoric coming from the web of conservative talk show hosts, websites and public activists.

Ed Gillespie, who was counselor to Bush and has started a conservative group called Resurgent Republicans, said his polling shows rising numbers of persuadable voters who are growing disenchanted with the Obama administration’s policies but nevertheless remain invested in the president.

“Our party has to bring those voters along with a critique of policies, not the kind of harsh rhetoric the left used against former President Bush,” Gillespie said.

“Without a good slice of the independents, we are doomed,” said former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).

The only Republicans standing up to Beck and other conservative activists right now are familiar iconoclasts like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and New York Times columnist David Brooks — both of whom are distrusted by many Republicans for their frequent departures from conservative orthodoxy.

Graham, earlier this month, mocked Beck’s famous on-air cry and warned that the Fox News talk show host is “not aligned with any party as far as I can tell. He’s aligned with cynicism.” Not long afterward, he was heckled by conservatives at a political event back home.

Brooks, a Republican who has written both favorably and critically about Obama, amplified Graham’s concern with the party’s obsequious relationship with Beck and Limbaugh. “It is a story of remarkable volume and utter weakness,” he wrote. “It is a story as old as ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ of grand illusions and small men behind the curtain.”

Allies of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have detailed for POLITICO how the former GOP presidential nominee is dismayed with the direction of the party and put an unusual amount of time and effort into trying to push the party in a more centrist direction.

All three figures are often irritants to establishment Republicans — but in this case, many Republicans said privately they were in agreement that they need to move beyond the hard-core right to succeed.

But this critique goes to a major fault line within the party. Many activists believe the party lost because McCain failed to present a clear and genuine ideological contrast — and that the party abandoned principles through excessive spending during the Bush years.

The debate means the argument over whether outspoken talk show hosts are reviving a beaten party or trashing its brand is likely to persist through the 2010 midterms and into the 2012 presidential primary.

On the one hand, the GOP seems to be surging a bit as it sharpens its attacks. The party is doing better than it has in recent history when it comes to generic matchups for the 2010 midterms. Beck, other Fox News commentators and Breitbart are clearly landing some punches on Obama.

Their efforts helped stoke turnout at the August town halls, forced the mainstream media and Obama himself to reckon with a scandal at ACORN and incendiary comments and led to the resignation of green jobs czar Van Jones.

On the other hand, the party’s image more broadly remains in the dumps. An ABC News/Washington Post poll this week found that only 20 percent of those surveyed consider themselves Republicans. A larger study by the Pew Research Center this spring captured a similar trend: The share of independents in the electorate is the highest in 70 years (36 percent), while the share of voters who call themselves Republicans is the lowest in 30 years (23 percent, compared with 35 percent for Democrats).

Republicans in Congress are even more unpopular than the very unpopular Democrats who are running the House and the Senate. This suggests something has to change for a true GOP resurgence to take place.

Karl Rove, the chief political strategist for Bush, said impressions of the Republican Party as a captive of a fringe reflect “a cynical and dismissive and small-minded view of who the American voter is.

“The question will be whether the Republican candidates next year can talk about a lot of kitchen-table issues and the deficit and spending,” Rove said. “Rush Limbaugh won’t be on the ballot.”

This big tension is playing out in a smaller way in the special election in upstate New York. Congressional leaders are backing moderate Dede Scozzafava, despite her liberal views on abortion and other issues, because they think she has the best chance of winning this swing district. Conservatives, including many who participated in the much-publicized “tea party” protests, are convinced she is insufficiently Republican, so they are throwing their support and money to third-party candidate Doug Hoffman.

The result: Polls show the Republican vote could be so split that a lackluster Democratic candidate could pull off a win. If Republicans blow this race, it will leave the GOP holding only two of New York’s 29 House seats. A decade ago, it had 14, most of which were occupied by Northeast moderates who no longer feel welcome in the party and were voted in by independents who remain very skeptical of the party’s policy solutions.

Jonathan Martin contributed to this story.

3)Ariel Sharon's Twilight Zone
By Lynn Sherr

Too healthy to die, too injured to rule, Israel’s legendary warrior and former prime minister lives in a comatose limbo—just like the Middle East peace process.

The old soldier’s eyes are open. Sometimes he’s propped up in front of a TV, where images of nature and animals, especially cows, flicker across the screen. His family tells him the day’s news, the goings on at his beloved farm. They read to him, alternating between two books at a time, just as he used to do for himself. They play classical music. When his white hair grows long, they trim it. And once in a while, when someone tells him to move a toe, he does.

Whether Ariel Sharon takes in any of this activity, no one knows for sure. Because Israel’s once-robust prime minister and legendary battlefield hero—the decorated warrior, the controversial hawk and finally, beginning in 2001, the centrist prime minister who transformed the political landscape—has been in a coma for nearly four years, felled by a massive stroke. While not brain-dead, the 81 year old exists in a persistent vegetative state. He generally breathes on his own, but must be fed by a tube. He cannot speak, walk, or think. Probably.

If Sharon hadn’t suffered a stroke? “I think we would have a Palestinian state,” says former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“There is a feeling of communication, of realization—I mean, the eyes are open and there is kind of, like, you feel that he feels your presence,” says Dr. Shlomo Segev, Sharon’s longtime personal physician and the head of the Institute of Medical Screening at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, just outside Tel Aviv, where Sharon has been hospitalized since May 2006. “So it’s not completely what we call a coma. Not a deep coma, for sure. But if you asked me to quantify that, I cannot.”

Dr. Segev is one of only four regular visitors to the former prime minister. The others are his son Omri, a former member of the Knesset who recently served four months in prison for a campaign finance scandal, and his son Gilad, who now runs the family farm, along with Gilad’s wife, Inbal. The family declined to be interviewed by The Daily Beast, but at least one of them visits every day—every day for nearly four years—at the high-tech medical center that looks like a college campus.

Wander in—as I did—through a bright, breezy lobby filled with recuperating patients, and you come to a small, institutional waiting room, where an Israeli soldier packing a rifle smilingly indicates that it would not be wise to go any further. Down the corridor, two Shin Bet guards protect his room; the staff provides regular physiotherapy. His blood pressure and heartbeat are fine, according to Dr. Segev. And “he looks about the same. You would recognize him.” He adds, with affection for his close friend, “He is a very, very healthy fat man.”

Too healthy to die, too injured to rule; he lives in limbo, just like the Israeli peace process. The irony is unavoidable. Ariel Sharon, who spent his early life expanding the territory of his native land, then abandoned his dream and evicted settlers from Gaza to shrink Israel’s borders in the quest for peace, remains locked inside the barest human boundaries, imprisoned in his own body. He was once so uncompromising—self-confident, supporters said—they called him The Bulldozer. Other names, too. “Arik, King of the Jews,” after his conquest of the Sinai during the Yom Kippur War. “Murderer,” after failing to prevent the massacres of Lebanese civilians at the Sabra and Shatila camps in 1982. Sensitive and cultured. Stubborn and cruel. No one was ever neutral about Arik Sharon. Still true.

To many, including members of the left wing who embraced Sharon when he pulled out of Gaza, he was the modern father of the nation, ultimately creating his own Nixon-in-China moment as the first to accept a two-state solution.

“I don’t want to compare him to anybody else,” says Israeli President Shimon Peres, “but there was nobody as good as he was.” Peres, 85, who joined the centrist party Sharon founded, Kadima, after decades of fighting Sharon from Labor, adds, with amusement, “You could always expect from him the unexpected. [Moshe] Dayan said about him, ‘I prefer a galloping horse which is difficult to stop than a lazy mule that doesn’t know how to start moving.’”

Dov Weissglas, a savvy Tel Aviv attorney who became Sharon’s trusted chief of staff, recalls the days when Israel was “a teeny, tiny country, a weird strip on the map, with about a million miserable refugees from all over the world.” Because of Sharon, he says, “the whole nation regained its confidence, to successfully survive in this goddamn place in the world. He and his generation became a sort of manifestation that yes, we can live here, we can do it: We can overcome, we can retaliate. He became a myth.”

Or, an anathema.

“He is the largest vegetable in the country,” sneers Moshe Saperstein, an ousted Gaza settler and disabled war veteran who once taught Hebrew School in Brooklyn. Saperstein dissolves into tears when he compares the palmy oasis he and his wife, Rachel, built in the desert (then leveled so Palestinians couldn’t move in) to the plywood pre-fab where they now live temporarily. All because of Sharon: “We were betrayed by our own.” A different enmity comes from Ghassan Khatib, director of government media for the Palestinian Authority. From his office in Ramallah, in the West Bank, isolated from Jerusalem by checkpoints and the meandering “Separation Wall,” the soft-spoken, professor-turned-politician says “Sharon is perceived as the worst Israeli leader to the Palestinians.” The unilateral Gaza pullout, he says, undermined the Palestinian Authority’s power by “disregarding that there is a political partner on the other side. Sharon was doing the kind of things that would make the two states impossible.” To most in the region, however, he is simply forgotten. “It’s like a Greek tragedy, a tragic geschichte [story],” says Reuven Adler, Sharon’s close friend and media adviser, who repurposed the ruthless warrior as the nation’s grandpa for the 2001 campaign, with the winning slogan, "Only Sharon Can Bring Peace." Adler ticks off the misfortunes: Sharon’s first wife, Margalit, died in a car crash. Their young son, Gur, was killed in a gun accident. Sharon lost his second wife, Lily—Margalit’s sister—to cancer in 2000. And then there is Sharon himself. “He came to the top, the most popular person in Israel,” Adler tells me, “and then”—he pushes an imaginary button on the round glass table in his airy Tel Aviv advertising office—“then, he’s finished. Push the button, and that’s it.”

The last public image of Sharon was the grainy frame from a TV news camera on the night of January 3, 2006, showing his shock of white hair through the ambulance window as he arrived at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. A more revealing photograph followed the next day: Ehud Olmert, his designated deputy, looking drawn and distraught in the Cabinet Room, next to Sharon’s large, empty chair. One hundred days later, Sharon was declared permanently incapacitated, and Olmert got the big seat. Today, Olmert is on trial for corruption (amid reports of receiving “envelopes of cash”), having been replaced as prime minister by his longtime Likud rival, Benjamin Netanyahu. The center is out. There is no left left. Peace negotiations are frozen.

So, what if Sharon were still in office? Might things be different?

“I think we would have a Palestinian state,” says former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, calling it “the logical conclusion” of the Bush administration roadmap. Eager to praise her old negotiating partner (“a tough little tank driver”), she also thinks Sharon would have pulled out considerably from the West Bank. “I do,” she insists. “Now, it would have required a Palestinian partner who was prepared to take half a loaf, not a full loaf, because nobody was going to get everything they wanted. But I think the terms were available, and maybe he was strong enough to lead a consensus in Israel and get it done.” “Sharon was somebody who could deliver,” she adds. “ You could trust him to do what he said he was going to do.”

Dov Weissglas agrees, but over tea in a Tel Aviv café clarifies the terms. “Look, he didn’t believe in peace in the sense of the U.S.-Canada relationship. He wasn’t in the business of, the Israeli ballet will start to perform in Ramallah. We’ll never have peace of that kind. But he believed in a need to bring an end to this constant friction between Israelis and Palestinians, to separate those two communities who were so unable to live together.”

He continues: “Deep in his heart he understood that our historic dream of having the land of Israel from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River had ended. He believed that territorial resolution with Palestinians was a must, that the land should somehow be divided between Israelis and Palestinians. To get separated is the name of the game. And he felt that a solution of this kind is very difficult for most Israelis to accept, that it can be done only by a leader of his magnitude. Because, as he said, ‘I’m the only one who can look into the eyes of the Israelis and tell them: OK, enough, we have agreed.’ ”

So he might have withdrawn settlements from the West Bank? “I cannot tell you specifically what he would do, because the security solution in the West Bank requires a different solution from Gaza. But he would start a process of realization and create a condition that, by the end of the day, Palestinians would start to assume responsibility for it, as they do now.” Pressed for details, Weissglas pauses. “The movie I was in was ended in January 2006,” he says, shrugging, “and all the rest I’m just guessing.”

He is one of the only local players who will even guess. This is, after all, the Middle East, whose turbulent history has generated a pragmatic ability to overcome loss.

“We live here in such a hectic time, that I don’t think we Israelis have time to think, What would Sharon do?” explains Shimon Shiffer, diplomatic columnist for Israel’s largest daily, Yedioth Ahronoth. Shiffer forged a close relationship with the former prime minister, despite his scathing critiques during the war in Lebanon. And while he misses his friend’s “sense of humor and his wisdom and his courage,” he says, “I’m not sure it’s possible to assess how he would behave.” On the other hand, Shiffer continues, “One thing Mr. Sharon shares with the late Yitzhak Rabin, they belong to a generation of huge characters. The new generation of Israeli politicians, they look like dwarves when you compare them. Sharon had the possibility to lead the Israelis anywhere; you don’t have that with Netanyahu or Olmert or [Tzipi] Livni.”

That’s the political reality; here’s the psychological. Sharon’s condition—“alive and not alive” in one friend’s words—is especially frustrating because it suspended not only his ability to function, but the nation’s chance to reflect on his legacy. Without the finality of a funeral, how do you mourn—or celebrate? How do you move on when you haven’t said goodbye?

“You learn to live in uncertainty,” explains Dr. Lea Baider, an expert on bereavement therapy and professor of medical psychology at Hadassah University Hospital. “In Israel at any time there can be another war. So we learn to live in constant uncertainty. Life continues. This is a reality. And one has to face reality in order to continue living.”

For Dan Halutz, the eminent air force commander who served as Sharon’s chief of staff for the Israeli Defense Forces, that doesn’t mean putting Sharon out of his thoughts. “I don't know if he’s part of the national dialogue,” he tells me, “But no doubt he's part of the national heart. Myself? No doubt that I’m thinking about him. He's part of the history of our nation.”

Dr. Segev won’t predict how long Sharon can last. “He used to tell me about his mother and his grandmother, all these ladies they lived forever—I mean, the age of 90-something,” Dr. Segev says. “And he used to tell me that he's going to survive for years. He promised me that.”

So will he ever wake up? “He’s an exceptional man,” the doctor says. “And you know, there are what you call miracles and we call statistics. Some people have awakened after a very few years. But I have to be honest, it happened with younger people. On the other hand, I haven't seen many people in such a state survive for so long at his age. I know that his son Gilad believes he can wake up and some people in the staff, but really nobody knows. I don't know.”

In his autobiography, Warrior, Ariel Sharon writes that “political life is like a big wheel, constantly turning. At times you are up, at times down. But always the wheel keeps moving.” Throughout his career the wheel revolved, restoring Sharon to power when he seemed most defeated. Today, the wheel is at rest. Just when Israeli politics could use a jump-start, The Bulldozer is no longer in the driver’s seat.

Lynn Sherr is a former ABC News correspondent, author of Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words and Tall Blondes, a book about giraffes. She is also co-editor of Peter Jennings: A Reporter's Life. Her most recent book, a memoir—Outside the Box: My Unscripted Life of Love, Loss and Television News—is out in paperback.

4)Obama vs. Fox: White House shows immaturity, thin skin
Union Tribune Editorial

By brazenly declaring war on a member of the Fourth Estate, the Obama administration is making a first-rate error in judgment.

Just because White House officials, and maybe even President Barack Obama himself, don't like Fox News doesn't mean they have the right to decide that the network is — in the words of White House Communications Director Anita Dunn — “opinion journalism masquerading as news.” Nor does it have the right to try to isolate Fox News by urging other networks to shun their colleagues because, as White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel put it, Obama does not want “the CNNs and the others in the world [to] basically be led in following Fox.” And it certainly doesn't have the right to call on other media outlets to do what Obama senior adviser David Axelrod wants them to do: join the administration in declaring that Fox is “not a news organization.”

Come again? Did we really just hear top White House officials try to rally the media to gang up on a single network because the administration doesn't like the stories it produces? What would James Madison say? The father of the Constitution took pains to establish the idea of a free press acting as a watchdog on government. Whether the levers of power are controlled by Republicans or Democrats, and whether the press is liberal or conservative, makes no difference. What matters is that the press be able to do its job, and that government stay out of the way.

Not only is it dangerous and wildly inappropriate for the White House — any White House — to start compiling enemies lists, it's also not very smart. Government should not make a habit of insulting and isolating a major news organization. Better to just ignore whatever bothers you. Otherwise, people might get the idea you have a thin skin and that you have something against being asked tough questions.

And the next thing you know, there are tough questions coming from all directions. Earlier this week at the White House press gaggle with reporters, ABC News' Jake Tapper tore into White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. Tapper wanted to know why the administration thought it was appropriate to single out a specific news organization as inauthentic and then invite everyone to pile on in an attempt to marginalize critics. Gibbs couldn't come up with a good answer, and he frankly seemed surprised at the question. After all, isn't ABC News part of the club? Why would one of its reporters defend the opposition instead of just going along? The best that Gibbs could do was to insist that this was the White House opinion and it was sticking by it.

Bravo to Tapper. But shame on the White House. It's behavior is outrageous and petty. It can't win this battle, and it should never have engaged the fight. It's time to stop picking on Fox News, and start showing some maturity. Freedom of the press is not something to be trifled with — especially when it makes the powerful uncomfortable.

4a) "As an American I am not so shocked that Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize without any accomplishments to his name, but that America gave him the White House based on the same credentials." - - Newt Gingrich

5)Conservative vs. Liberal

If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn’t buy one.
If a liberal doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn’t eat meat.
If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

If a conservative sees a foreign threat, he thinks about how to defeat his enemy.
A liberal wonders how to surrender gracefully and still look good.

If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation.
A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a conservative doesn’t like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Liberals demand that those they don’t like be shut down.

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn’t go to church.
A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it’s a foreign religion, of course!)

If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it.
A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.

If a conservative slips and falls in a store, he gets up, laughs and is embarrassed.
If a liberal slips and falls, he grabs his neck, moans like he's in labor and then sues.

If a conservative reads this, he'll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh.
A liberal will delete it because he's "offended".