Saturday, August 13, 2011

Progressives Political Equivalent of Nymphomaniacs!

And now for some corny witticisms:

If quizzes are quizzical, what are tests?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Do illiterate people get the full effect of Alphabet Soup?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets perturbed, but when you take him on a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?
This was sent to me by a family member who is quite informed and well connected: "I am horrified if the White House website has scrubbed the links that locate Jerusalem in Israel.

Jerusalem has been universally recognized as the spiritual and temporal capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years, as documented in history and religious books, and through archaeological evidence. The Jewish people once again became the majority population in Jerusalem over 150 years ago. When Israel reunited the city in 1967 it became the first government to protect the rights and holy sites of all faiths in Jerusalem."

When I get the correct e mail address for The White House I intend sending this: " When does our apologist president plan on taking DC off the map? "
Now be the first to know according to Barry Rubin. (See 1 below.)

More from Barry Rubin. (See 1a below.)
For those who still would vote for Obama, can you answer these few simple questions and would you deem them pertinent? (See 2 below.)
One of my previous JEA Speaker Series presenters recently made a trip to Lithuania and while there gave this speech, which I hope you find interesting. David is Vice President for Government and External Relations at the National Endowment for Democracy - a U.S. foundation that promotes democracy in over 90 countries around the world. (See 4 below.)
Ben Stein says he has figured out Obama. What took him so long?

Some of Sunday's talk shows were focused on the Left bashing Obama including the media and press and everyone was trying to figure out why now. Obama gave them most everything they wanted. Ah! But you can never give enough to those with an appetite for eating everything in sight.

I submit, Progressives are the political equivalent of Nymphomaniacs, ie. you can never satisfy their urgings, in this case spending OPM.(See 5 below.)
ABC goes PC and drives 'Barbwa Wawa' up the tree.

ABC reporters can be biased in their reporting but must not display a symbol of their supposed patriotism because because that is not professional and might confuse listeners.

Soon, will ABC management ask Obama to take away the American Flag at White House press conferences in order not to appear too American? We already have Muslim gold threaded curtains as the new White House backdrop. (See 6 below.)
The White House has three new pinatas - Romney, Perry and Bachmann. Get ready for the nastiest campaign on record as our 'healing, bring back civility' president turns into a ward heeling hack with the likes of Axelrod (what a descriptive name - axe and rod) leading the charge.

The first creepy Cretan to begin the hatchet process is none other than Paul Begala -slime and all.(See 7 and 7a below.)
Russia is supplying Syria against the rebels so NATO, operating through Turkey, has apparently decided to arm the Syrian resistance. Let the good times roll as a serious military challenge to Assad may be in the making.

Is it conceivable that our feckless State Department has learned what anyone with brains knew all along - Assad is a thug and cannot be reformed with State Department cocktails and cookies? (See 8 below.)
Anyone disappointed by Obama set themselves up for it because they were blind to reality. Even the Germans are now engaged in a mia culpa! (See 9 below.)
1)The Middle East Today
By Barry Rubin

Summary: Turkey moves toward Islamism; Syria heads toward bloodbath; Egypt strides toward anti-Americanism, Afghanistan heads toward a Taliban comeback. Palestinian leader threatens to murder Americans if they don’t get everything they want. Obama Administration continues to be clueless. The good news? You’re among the first to hear about it!

All of these are “little stories” that reflect wider trends.

Another day, another senior officer arrested in Turkey. This time, a top serving admiral accused of a ridiculously fabricated plot to assassinate other admirals. Get it? If the regime accuses officers of acting against others, it splits the armed forces and can claim to be acting on behalf of the military while gutting the military. Step by step Turkey is turning into an Islamist police state. Today many would mock that assertion, a year or two from now it will be obvious to all.

A friend of mine who is a close observer of Syria said it best: It doesn’t matter anymore what President Barack Obama says about Syria. As in the case of Iran’s upheaval a couple of years ago, he waited too long. The United States has no influence and no credibility with the opposition any more. The battle is going to be determined by force with massive bloodshed.

Anti-Americanism is rising in Egypt. What? Didn’t Obama support the revolution? Doesn’t he make nice speeches about how great Islam is? There are calls there to reject U.S. aid, at least to democracy-oriented groups. Of course, they will go on taking the money but reject American influence and policies. The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development has left the country as a result of these disputes.

As the U.S. begins its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban is making a comeback. The Taliban knows how to play Afghan politics, the U.S. government doesn’t. I favor a withdrawal from Afghanistan but the proper alternative has to be put into place to prevent another Taliban takeover and that isn’t’ being done. What’s needed is not U.S. troops delivering sheep for slaughter in Ramadan observances but paying off the right people there so they can fight in their own interests. If they don’t deliver, the money is cut off and they have the incentive—in Afghanistan as in Iraq—that if they lose the Islamists will cut their heads off.

Marwan Barghouti gave an interview to Egypt’s news agency from an Israeli prison, where he is serving a life sentence for organizing the 2000 intifada that cost thousands of lives. Now he’s threatening the United States. If it vetoes a unilateral Palestinian statehood proposal at the UN, Barghouti threatens, there will be massive anti-American riots around the world. To underline the point, he called such a decision a “historic, deadly mistake.” The word “deadly” here is chosen deliberately by him, a threat to kill Americans. Obama got himself (and all of us) into this mess by not acting toughly early on to squelch the Palestinian Authority (PA) attempt to violate every Palestinian commitment made in the last two decades. It is quite possible that in September the almost three years of Obama Administration attempts to apologize, flatter, and make friends with enemies policy will go up in smoke. Literally.

There’s a terrific article from Khalid Abu Toameh about this issue. Whether the statehood bid fails or succeeds, the Palestinian Authority is calling for massive demonstrations including marches on Jewish settlements. The distance between that kind of thing and violence is very short. At present, Abu Toameh notes, Palestinian leaders “have expressed disappointment over the fact that the number of foreigners and Israeli Jews participating in the protests is higher than the number of Palestinians.”

1a)The Campaign to Panic Israel Into a Bad Strategy

This article appears in the Jerusalem Post—but I have made improvements and prefer you to read and use this version. I own the rights.
By Barry Rubin

I have a high regard for Aluf Benn, a brilliant guy and one of Israel’s best journalists. He has just become editor of Haaretz, Israel’s left-wing newspaper, but is the most moderate person to hold that post in many years. Benn has written an interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times.

Labor Party leader Michael Herzog has written something similar. The message is that Israel must rush to help create a Palestinian state as fast as possible in order to protect its own security, even survival. Of course, if this state were to demilitarize (Herzog’s proposal), end the conflict, give up the demand for Palestinians to “return” to Israel, and implement a permanent peace treaty that would be a great idea. And if such a deal would improve Israel’s regional position that, too, would be good. And if the Palestinian side was eager to make a compromise peace agreement with Israel, that would be viable.

But since none of these conditions apply this line of argument simply makes no sense at all. It would be great to have a stable peace. Unfortunately, this approach is a formula for a vastly worsened strategic position for Israel and the certainty that it would lead to another decades’-long round of conflict.

Benn makes three points:

1. Israel was very worried about the “Arab Spring.”

2. However, now Israel doesn’t have to worry.

3. Therefore Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should rush to work with President Barack Obama and get the peace process started again.

Let’s look at Benn’s point 2 and the reasons he gives for Israel no longer having to worry:

--Syria’s regime is in serious trouble and cannot use the anti-Israel card to escape. But that doesn’t change the fact that the regime is still there and can still try to use aggressive actions against Israel. Moreover, it isn’t clear the next regime in Syria will be better. And the fact that Syria is weak at present doesn’t really change anything in strategic terms since it has been weak for a long time.

It isn’t as if the Palestinian Authority has been held back by fear of Syria. In addition, neither Israel nor the United States has influence within Syria to affect events. So what great opportunity does this give Israel?

-- Hamas is “moving away from Iran and closer to Egypt.” Again, so what? The implication is that Hamas is moving from a radical patron (Iran) to a moderate one (Egypt) so that it might be more politically flexible. Yet in fact what’s happening is a sorting out of revolutionary Islamists into Sunni and Shia camps. The actual patron of Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt, since it borders the Gaza Strip, is a more dangerous ally for Hamas than is Iran. Already, arms and money flow in more freely than before. Egypt’s government won’t pressure Hamas to make peace with Israel or to stop terror attacks. That was President Husni Mubarak’s policy and he’s now on trial for his life.

-- “Turkey, cold toward Israel for a year, signaled a desire to turn from Mr. Assad and get closer to the American camp.” No. Israel’s attempts to resolve the Mavi Marmara affair with Turkey’s government failed completely because the Ankara regime didn’t want a deal. Every time it appeared Israel might meet its demands the Turkish government raised its demands.

And while Turkey has turned against the Assad regime that’s not joining the “American camp” but wanting to ensure Syria’s next government is friendly toward Turkey (but not necessarily to the United States), say a Sunni regime with Islamist leanings like the one in Ankara. And, if Turkey’s regime has influence it wants a strongly anti-Israel government.

--“Most important, the transitional rulers in Cairo stuck to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel — always Israel’s deepest concern.” The key word here is “transitional.” Since these people will be out of political power in a few months and their successors will gut the treaty of meaning even if they don’t cancel it, how’s that reassuring?

In a previous New York Times op-ed, Benn was critical of Obama and urged him to convince Israel of his own friendliness and effectiveness. That hasn’t happened yet there’s no hint in his new article that a lack of American support is another factor worrying Israel. Benn says Netanyahu: “Should have used this spring and summer to reach a new understanding with Mr. Obama based on confidence about the American-Israeli friendship. He should have worked out an agreement on how to reignite the peace process, rather than antagonize the American president.”

Perhaps, however, much of this problem is due to Obama? And how could Netanyahu get a process going since the Palestinian Authority didn’t want to talk and instead has focused on declaring unilateral independence through the UN?

Benn suggests Netanyahu can “change course,” having “reaped “diplomatic fruits” from the regional crisis. I fail to see what these fruits might be. Benn then concludes:

“His timidity and cynicism will prove costly for Israel when the Arab storm reaches its shores. Before time runs out, he must leverage Israel’s new strength to join Mr. Obama in creative diplomacy to avert a diplomatic debacle in September and pursue a stable peace with the Palestinians.”

But what could Netanyahu have done otherwise? Does “timidity” mean not to take big risks for no return and to make things worse? Does “cynicism” mean believing—correctly—that the PA isn’t ready to negotiate seriously?

When a storm is coming you don’t throw open all the doors and windows and move out onto the balcony (or porch or back deck or patio) to live in the belief that this will dispel the thunder, lightning, hailstones, hurricane, tsunami, or tornado. That would be crazy. The same applies to this bizarre piece of analysis.

I don’t get it. What’s the supposed big opportunity being missed? It is truly bizarre to claim that things are about to become much worse so Israel has to put itself in a weaker strategic position in order to prepare for the crisis. If the critics were arguing that if Israel made big concessions there would be full peace and the conflict would disappear that would be internally logical. But they don’t dare openly make such a claim since it is obviously—after the experience with the 1990s’ peace process—ludicrous.

So what are they left with? Israel will be more unpopular if it doesn’t give in? But popularity through concessions has been tried and failed.

There will be more Palestinians born? But the demographic numbers are wrong (based on PA fabrications); it doesn’t matter in practice; and a strategically weaker Israel would still be facing numerically larger neighbors that would still be hostile.

Israel will have a Palestinian Arab majority or rule over a larger population so it cannot be a democracy? But Israel doesn’t rule the Gaza Strip or the populated portion of the West Bank now. And nobody in Israel is proposing annexation.

The final assumption is that Israel must “prove” it wants peace, something it has been doing energetically for 20 years without persuading those who won’t be persuaded.

What is lacking in this attempt to panic Israel into taking extreme risks, then, is any logic whatsoever. This has nothing to do with “left” or “right” ideology but simply the nature of reality.

Certainly, it can be useful for Israel to make statements to indicate its desire for peace and its flexibility. But nobody can make a case for a desperate need to get an agreement right away or to make major concessions. The creation of a Palestinian state will not defuse the forces of revolutionary Islamism but only encourage them; it will not strengthen Israel’s stability and defense but weaken it.

If Yitzhak Rabin or Shimon Peres were prime minister could they really do anything different? Having a left-of-center government would improve Israel’s image among left-of-center Western intellectuals and leaders. But what might actually be different in diplomatic or strategic realities?

Now Israel’s government has responded, saying to the PA: If you are willing to talk about recognizing Israel as a Jewish state (by the way, the PA’s constitution says that Palestine will be an Arab and Muslim state), Israel will talk about pre-1967 borders. Within hours, this offer was turned down by the PA. Naturally, there will be no effect on the same people clamoring for more unilateral Israeli concessions.

Unless critics of Israel’s policy provide a more attractive option in real terms they’ll continue to be ignored both by Israel’s leaders and voters. Insults, false arguments, and panic do not suffice.
















4)Vilnius: Then and Now
By Dvid Lowe

In late June, I travelled to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to participate in the biennial meetings of the Community of Democracies, an inter-governmental association begun in the year 2000 to encourage the growth and strengthening of democracies around the world. The Rabbi invited me to offer some observations about my experience, which seem particularly relevant on this Shabbat of Consolation.

The conference I attended marked the termination of Lithuania’s two-year term chairing the Community. The Lithuanians have justifiably received high marks for helping to resuscitate what was previously little more than a talking shop, and in the process have effectively showcased their own young democracy as they celebrate their twentieth year of independence from Soviet rule.

A medieval city founded in the 14th century, for much of its history Vilnius was linked to the union of Poland and Lithuania, then czarist Russia, and Poland again after World War I before being transferred to Lithuania by the Soviets after their pact with Nazi Germany on the eve of the Second World War. Since the time Lithuania declared its independence in 1991, the city has been rapidly transformed, and a visitor cannot help but be impressed by its emergence as an attractive and modern European city. Many of its older buildings have been renovated, and a business and commercial area is being developed.

Vilnius, of course, also has a deep connection to Jewish history. Jews began to migrate to the city (known in several languages as Vilna) in the 15th century, and by the year 1440 already had a place where they prayed and studied. The historian Lucy Dawidowicz notes that “their history was marked by a recurrent pattern in which a period of Christian tolerance gave way to an eruption of animosity and violence.”
In 1663, the Polish king gave Jews permission to build a synagogue, which according to the same ecclesiastical regulations that applied throughout Europe could not be built higher than any of the town’s numerous churches. The Great Synagogue of Vilna met these requirements by having its floor level well below street level such that a building with a modest exterior could accommodate as many as 5,000 worshippers on the High Holidays. When Napoleon saw this grand building 200 years ago, he dubbed Vilna the “Jerusalem of Lithuania.”

Beginning in the 18th century, Vilna became renowned among European Jews as a place that attracted famous Rabbinical scholars, none more revered than Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalmen, known simply as the Vilna Gaon (“genius”), legendary even in his own day. Believing that scientific knowledge could enhance one’s understanding of Torah and Talmud, the Gaon supplemented his mastery of sacred texts by studying astronomy, geography, algebra, and geometry. His influence was widespread, and much of it grew not only from his prodigious scholarship but also from his leadership of the Mitnagdim (“opponents”), those rationalists who fought the growing Hasidic movement in Poland. Why? For one thing, that movement argued that one could achieve holiness through piety alone without Torah study. Even more heretical and problematic was what the Mitnagdim regarded as Hasidism’s dangerous messianic character.

Thus, Lithuanian Jewry came to be identified with a rationalist approach to Judaism, which paved the way not only to advanced Rabbinical scholarship but also to the Haskalah, the movement to modernize the Jewish community through secular education. Vilna not only flourished as a center of religious study, but also became one of the great international centers of Jewish intellectual and cultural life.

By the early 20th century, Vilna had experienced a Jewish renaissance. There were over 100 synagogues and prayer houses, six daily Jewish newspapers, Yeshivot, libraries, publishing houses, theatres, museums, and medical facilities. Vilna was also a center of Yiddish writing and education, and the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) was established there in 1925 to advance scholarship in this rich literary language.

In July 1941, the Jewish Daily Forward published an item from the German-controlled radio in Warsaw that Germany’s “expert on the Jewish question,” a man named Eichman, was being sent from Warsaw to Vilna and Kovno “to solve the Jewish question.” By September two ghettos were sealed, the smaller of which lasted only six weeks, during which 10,000 men, women and children were rounded up and taken to a wooded area ten kilometers outside of the city called Paneriai, where they were murdered. By the time of the liquidation of the second ghetto in September 1944, as many as 70,000 more had met a similar fate. The remaining 8,000 or so were herded off to death camps in Poland and concentration camps in Estonia and Latvia.

Today, one functioning synagogue, Torat Hakodesh, also known as the Choral Synagogue, remains, perhaps because the Nazis chose to use it as a medical store rather than destroy it. Built in 1903, it is rather grand in style with an inscription over the door that reads in Hebrew “A house of prayer is a holy place for all peoples.” I attended services there on a Shabbat morning in early July with some 25 other adults, almost all of them men between the ages of 50 and 80.

The synagogue had been converted into a metal shop during the Soviet period, and today, it is dark and its pews are in disrepair. Still, one cannot help but be struck upon entry by the high vaulted ceiling and an imposing Moorish-style Ark. The Shabbat morning service I attended was the standard Ashkenazi Orthodox service with prayers added that day to honor the new month of Tammuz. The one variation was that just before the Torah reading, the leader chanted the Eil Moleh Rachamin, the haunting prayer that is recited at funerals and unveilings and to conclude services of remembrance but which I had heard only one other time during a regular Shabbat service, when I attended the Alt Neu Shul in Prague a couple of years ago.

We are reminded in this morning’s parsha V’etchanan, as we were during the Tisha B’Av service earlier this week, that our history has been filled with calamity and sorrow. For example, this morning we read in Deuteronomy 4:26:

“I appoint heaven and earth this day to bear witness against you that you will surely perish quickly from the Land to which you are crossing the Jordan to possess; you shall not have lengthy days upon it, for you will be destroyed.”

Still, it is hard to fathom the catastrophe that beset the Jews of Vilna and throughout the country. Over 90 percent of the quarter million Jewish population of Lithuania was eliminated, the highest proportion in any country during the Holocaust.

Later, on Shabbat afternoon, I took a three hour personally guided walking tour, most of it spent in what remains of the old Jewish neighborhoods, located in Vilnius’ Old Town. My guide was a young woman whose father is active in Vilnius’ small Jewish community of several thousand, most of whom emigrated from other parts of the former Soviet Union. She recently returned from spending over a decade in Israel and now represents an Israeli company that sells security equipment to law enforcement agencies.

Walking through its winding cobblestone streets, I felt the joys and sadness of a once vibrant community. I stood on the site of the Great Synagogue, now occupied by a Soviet-style kindergarten; passed through the courtyard near Gaon Street that is graced by an impressive bronze statue of its namesake; stood below the birthplace of the 19th century sculptor Mark Antikolski, whose work was much admired both in czarist Russia and Western Europe; passed by the one-time concert hall where the great violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz performed his first recital at the age of six; and was shown the building that once housed the Judenrat, the governing body of the ghetto that still stands, much as it did when the excruciating decisions were made about who would live and who would not.

Today standing near the entrance to the ghetto is a luxury hotel just outside of which, on a cool summer day, I couldn’t help notice a group of diners enjoying a late afternoon snack. My guide explained to me that the street where the hotel is located once housed a number of glassblowing shops, a profession I had never associated with Jews. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those diners and other passers-by had any inkling that they were sitting within meters of where so many unspeakable crimes had taken place, many of them with the collaboration of their countrymen of an earlier era, some no doubt still alive.

For its part, the Lithuanian government has made an effort to preserve the memory of the great institutions that once thrived in the Jewish community. Excavation has begun on the site of the Great Synagogue, which had been demolished in the 1950s by the Soviets. The Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament) has declared the year 2011 the Year of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania, and just a week before I arrived, it passed a bill providing limited restitution to the Jewish community for properties confiscated by the Nazis and the Soviets. The chairman of the Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs is the son of Holocaust survivors.
On the other hand, anti-Semitism remains a feature of everyday life in Lithuania, with ugly stereotypes of Jews and Holocaust denial appearing even in mainstream publications. I was struck by the fact that when I asked in my hotel to see the Holocaust Museum (a small such one does exist), I was directed to the Museum of Genocide, a major tourist site that is dedicated exclusively to the crimes of the Soviet period.

Upon leaving the ghetto, I paused to gather stones to place on top of a simple monument to the memory of a once great community and to those who were its last members. While standing before the monument, and trying my best to compose myself, I recalled the Eil Moleh Rachamin prayer that had been recited that morning in the only Jewish house of worship that remains:

“Exalted, compassionate G-d, grant perfect peace among the holy and the pure, in Your sheltering Presence, to the souls of all our beloved who have gone to their eternal home. May their memory endure as inspiration for deeds of charity and goodness in our lives. May their souls thus be bound up in the bond of life. May they rest in peace.
And let us say: Amen.”

David Lowe
Congregation B’nai Tzedek
Shabbat Nechamu
August 13, 2011
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------5)CHANGE IT BACK! WE'VE FIGURED HIM OUT!
By Ben Stein

Why was President Barack Obama in such a hurry to get his socialized medicine bill passed? Because he and his cunning circle realize some basic truths:

The American people in their unimaginable kindness and trust voted for a pig in a poke in 2008.
(Pig in a poke means: an offering or deal that is foolishly accepted without being examined first. A poke means sack.)

They wanted so much to believe Barack Obama was somehow better and different from other ultra-leftists that they simply took him on faith.

They ignored his anti-white writings in his books.

They ignored his quiet acceptance of hysterical anti-American diatribes by his minister, Jeremiah Wright.

They ignored his refusal to explain years at a time of his life as a student.

They ignored his ultra-left record as a "community organizer," Illinois state legislator, and Senator.

The American people ignored his total zero of an academic record as a student and teacher, his complete lack of scholarship when he was being touted as a scholar.

Now, the American people are starting to wake up to the truth. Barack Obama is a super likeable super leftist, and not a fan of this country.

The American people have already awakened to the truth that the stimulus bill -- a great idea in theory -- was really an immense bribe to Democrat interest groups, and in no way helped all Americans.

The American people already know that Mr. Obama's plan to lower health costs while expanding coverage and bureaucracy is a myth, a promise of something that never was and never can be --
"a bureaucracy lowering costs in a free society." Either the costs go up or the free society goes away... an historical truth.

These are perilous times. Mrs. Hillary Clinton, our Secretary of State, has given Iran the go-ahead to have nuclear weapons, an unqualified betrayal of the nation. Now, we face a devastating loss of freedom at home in health care. It will be joined by controls on our lives to "protect us" from global warming, itself largely a fraud, if believed to be caused by man. She has also signed on to a Small Firearms Treaty at the U.N. This is a back door gun control move. This is approved by the Senate and a 2nd Amendment majority doesn't exist in the Senate now. It will supersede all U.S. Law and the 2nd Amendment. All citizen possession will be eliminated through confiscation. Just Like Great Britain and Australia .

Mr. Obama knows Americans are getting wise and will stop him if he delays at all in taking away our freedoms. There is his urgency and our opportunity. Once freedom is lost, America is lost. Wake up, beloved America ..

Ben Stein is a writer, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu . He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.
6)ABC News Discourages the Wearing of American Flag Pins by Reporters-True!

Summary of eRumor:
A boycott of the ABC television network is encouraged because the executives at ABC news are said to have told reporters they could not wear American flag lapel pins or any other patriotic insignia. The network said that ABC should remain as neutral as possible.

The Truth:
The terrorist attacks on America of September 11, 2001 resulted in a wave of patriotism that had not been seen in decades. The shared enthusiasm for the country and the flag were strong and widespread.

It created difficulties for reporters, however, who try to professionally earn and keep people's trust by avoiding personal partisan displays while reporting the news.

It was not only ABC but many other media outlets who struggled with trying to preserve their image as journalists while at the same time trying to avoid seeming unpatriotic in the crisis.

Associated Press writer David Bauder quoted Barbara Walters as saying that ABC discouraged its reporters from wearing the flag because " may confuse the audience." She was also quoted as saying that there was concern whether someone who decided not to wear a flag in the midst of all the others might be viewed as less patriotic.
7)Obama and the Perry Miracle
By Jeffrey Folks

Liberals have let it be known that they intend to "kill" Romney -- or any other GOP candidate who poses a threat to Obama in the 2012 election. The attack on Romney at the Iowa state fair by hecklers pretending to be ordinary retirees is prelude to what we can expect. Obama's own team are hard at work as well. Recently, they've been trying to head off the challenge posed by Gov. Rick Perry, the most successful American governor in living memory.

On Friday David Axelrod argued that Perry's record of job creation in Texas was not what it seemed. Yes, Texas has created more jobs over the last decade, while Perry has been governor, than any other state. For several of those years, in fact, it has created more jobs that all the other states combined. But, Axelrod insisted, Perry should not get any credit for that accomplishment.

After all, Texas is an oil-producing state. In fact, it is the largest oil and gas producer in the country. And, yes, Texas also benefits from the presence of large military installations. So it was more or less inevitable that Texas, with its oil production and military installations, would add jobs and enjoy strong economic growth during the past decade. Just like California.

California? Yes, California is the third largest oil and gas producing state, right behind Texas and Alaska.

California is also host to some of the nation's largest military installations. There are, in fact, 32 military bases in California, including Edwards AFB, Travis AFB, Vandenberg AFB, Camp Pendleton, the Presidio of Monterey, Fort Irwin, and the San Diego and Coronado naval bases, the largest naval installations on the west coast. By contrast, there are only 15 military installations in Texas.

California is also home to some of the largest aerospace and high-tech contractors in the nation. Rockwell International, Lockheed, and Northrop, major defense contractors, are all located in southern California.

What California lacks is the kind of political leadership that will attract new business. Economic growth in California -- one can hardly call it "growth" -- has been stagnant or worse over the past decade. In 2008-2009 GDP growth in the state was minus 2.2%. Along with a stagnant economy comes high unemployment. In June 2011, the states's unemployment rate stood at 11.8%. That same month the unemployment rate in Texas was 8.2%, well below the national average of 9.2%.

Over the past decade California's economy has been the mirror image of that of Texas. In April 2011, California ranked last among the 50 states in job creation. In one month alone, it lost more than 11,000 jobs. During that same time period, Texas led the country in job creation, as it has done for years.

Over the last decade Texas has also been the nation's top exporting state. Obama says he wants to double U.S. exports over the next five years. There is not much evidence that he is going to succeed. But in Texas, with exports increasing at 26.7%, exports are more than doubling every four years.

That's partly because many of California's entrepreneurial businesses have fled to Texas, where Austin has become a major center of high-tech industry. Other businesses, such as Comerica, have abandoned the high-tax states of the north and northeast. When Comerica relocated to Dallas, it left its name on Tiger stadium, but that's about all it left in Detroit.

As Governor of Texas, Rick Perry helped to create a tax and regulatory environment that would attract new business to the state and allow businesses already there to flourish. Passage of robust tort reform laws -- laws which Obama has done everything possible to defeat at the national level -- has attracted thousands of physicians and other professionals to Texas.

With its zero income tax, Texas has been attractive to both working adults and to retirees. Its regulatory policies have encouraged oil and gas drilling, including the use of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" to remove previously untapped resources in the massive Barnett Shale and Eagle Glen fields.

The result of all this has been greater prosperity for everyone in the state. No, Mr. Axelrod, it was not just luck that brought about a decade of prosperity in the state of Texas. It was the leadership of Rick Perry and the passage of conservative tax and regulatory policies. It is no accident that Texas is in the catbird seat while California is in the dumpster.

Had Gov. Perry's policies of tax and regulatory reform been adopted ten years ago at the national level, and had they been maintained and expanded during the Obama administration, America as a whole would enjoy a similar level of economic growth and job creation. It's time to put Texas-style leadership to work in Washington. Maybe then we can look back ten years from now and find ourselves with a prosperous economy, with rising incomes, mounting exports, and jobs for all who want to work.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture and politics.

7a) Rick Perry's Ruthless Drive to Win
By Paul Begala

Rick Perry has called Social Security unconstitutional and presided over the execution of a man who was probably innocent. But as Paul Begala argues, that’s just the beginning.

I first met Rick Perry in 1985. He was a Democratic freshman state rep, straight off the ranch in Haskell, Texas. He wore his jeans so tight, and, umm, adjusted himself so often that my fellow young legislative aides and I used to call him Crotch. Even among state representatives, even among Texas Aggies (graduates of this cute remedial school we have in Texas), Perry stood out for his modest intellectual gifts. Hell, he got a C in animal breeding. I have goats who got an A in that subject. But lack of brains has never been a hindrance in politics.

Mitt Romney should be shaking in his Guccis.

Rick Perry threw his hair in the ring on Saturday. His entrance into the GOP presidential field can be a game changer. Perry can raise money as well as Mitt. He can rally the base as well as Michele Bachmann, and he will say or do anything—annnnnnnyyyyyyything—to win. And in today’s Republican Party, if you want to be the nominee you have to be willing to do some really crazy s--t.

You'd have thought that Mitt Romney was the guy who would do whatever it takes. Like the defendant in a Stalinist show trial, Mitt has renounced everything about his prior life: his positions on gay rights, abortion rights, TARP, gun control, campaign finance, immigration, etc. Abandoning nearly everything you have stood for certainly evinces a desire to win (if not a steely spine).

Rick Perry is not, in the main, a flip-flopper. But he takes “whatever it takes” to a whole ’nother level.

Does Michele Bachmann make conservative crowds swoon by saying the Lord told her to study tax law? Meh. Perry gathers 30,000 people to a controversial Christian prayer rally. In Houston. In August. One veteran Texas politico told me, “The guy is Elmer Gantry. He could take over a conservative megachurch tomorrow and outpreach the pastor.”

Does Tim Pawlenty rant about Social Security? Hah. Perry told The Daily Beast's Andrew Romano that Social Security is “a Ponzi scheme,” and that both it and Medicare are unconstitutional. Never mind that the Supreme Court recently ruled that Social Security is perfectly constitutional. OK, not that recently. In 1937, actually. A court with seven Republicans and just two Democrats ruled (in Helvering v. Davis) that Social Security does not violate the 10th Amendment or any other part of the Constitution.

When you’re more open to secession than Jefferson Davis was a century and a half ago, well, you’ve gone pretty far.
Does Ron Paul talk about states’ rights? Come on. Perry has already flirted with secession. Secession? Even Jefferson Davis opposed secession when he was a senator from Mississippi. When you’re more open to secession than Jefferson Davis was a century and a half ago, well, you've gone pretty far.

Does Herman Cain boast of creating jobs as a CEO? Puuhleeze. Perry will claim that Texas leads the nation in jobs created. As a joke currently circulating in the Lone Star State puts it, “Sure, Perry has created thousands of jobs. I'm working three of them.” Texas does in fact lead the nation in minimum-wage jobs and in both the number of people who are uninsured and the percentage of the population that's uninsured. Under the supposedly antigovernment Perry, government jobs grew at twice the rate of private-sector jobs.

Perry has flaws, huge flaws. Not the least of which is that he presided over the execution of one of his constituents, Cameron Todd Willingham, who was probably innocent. But I’m not sure that's a liability in today's Tea Party–obsessed GOP. There’s a legend in Lone Star politics that one of Perry’s Republican rivals in Texas tested the Willingham issue in a focus group. One Republican man, the story goes, squinted and said, “Well, I like that. Takes a lot of balls to execute an innocent man.” At that moment, folks say, Perry’s rival knew opposing him was fruitless.

Back in 1985 the Texas Legislature was crawling with ambitious young politicians—as was every legislature in America. Why would one man—albeit a handsome man with great hair and serious political skills—rise above the thousands of others? Not because of brains and not because of bipartisan appeal. Because he has the most important quality of all: the willingness to do whatever it takes.

That's truer than ever in relation to today's Tea Party–dominated Republican Party. You’ve gotta be willing to do anything, say anything, accept anything, propose anything, endorse anything, pledge anything. There is nothing too bats--t for these people.

Watch your back, Mitt.

Paul Begala is a Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist, a CNN contributor, an affiliated professor of public policy at Georgetown, and a senior adviser to Priorities USA Action, a progressive PAC.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------8)NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons. Syrian fight Palestinians in Latakia

For the first time in the five-month anti-Assad uprising, Syrian forces clashed with dissident Palestinians Sunday, Aug. 14, in the al-Raml a-Filistini district of Syria's biggest port Latakia. As they moved toward the town center, the two Syrian tank divisions and armored infantry were challenged by Palestinians firing heavy machine guns, anti-tank RPGs and roadside bombs. Nineteen of the 24 dead Sunday were Palestinians.

Military sources affirm that contrary to earlier reports, the Syrian missile ships cruising offshore took no part in the attack on Latakia. Their function is to blockade the port against arms smuggling. Nevertheless the weapons used by Palestinians fighting in Latakia Sunday came from Lebanon aboard smugglers' boats. There are almost daily incidents of Syrian ships firing on suspect vessels.

NATO headquarters in Brussels and the Turkish high command are meanwhile drawing up plans for their first military step in Syria, which is to arm the rebels with weapons for combating the tanks and helicopters spearheading the Assad regime's crackdown on dissent. Instead of repeating the Libyan model of air strikes, NATO strategists are thinking more in terms of pouring large quantities of anti-tank and anti-air rockets, mortars and heavy machine guns into the protest centers for beating back the government armored forces.

Since the Syrian air force would certainly shoot down air transports making the drops, the tendency is to get the weapons to their destination overland, namely through Turkey and under Turkish army protection by either of two routes: The Turkish plan drafted some months ago for establishing buffer zones inside the Syrian border, is one. The refugees from the battle zone would be given sanctuary there instead of crossing into Turkey and the protected enclaves would also serve as weapons distribution depots.

Alternatively, the arms would be trucked into Syria under Turkish military guard and transferred to rebel leaders at pre-arranged rendezvous.

NATO and Turkish military sources have declined to indicate when, how and by what means, the Syrian rebels, civilians with no experience in firearms, will receive the weapons.

For the past two weeks, at least, Syrian protest leaders and army deserters have been training in the use of the new weapons with Turkish military officers at makeshift installations in Turkish bases near the Syrian border.

Also discussed in Brussels and Ankara, our sources report, is a campaign to enlist thousands of Muslim volunteers in Middle East countries and the Muslim world to fight alongside the Syrian rebels. The Turkish army would house these volunteers, train them and secure their passage into Syria.

These NATO plans were the underlying script for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's call on unnamed nations Friday, August 12 to stop sending arms to Syria.

Sources report she was referring to Russia which has stepped up its shipments of ammunition and tank spares in the last two weeks.

All the tanks the Syrian army is using to crush protest are made in Russia. Military sources in Washington Brussels would like to put a mechanism in place for counter-balancing the Syrian army's hardware deliveries from Russia or Iran by Western supplies to the opponents of the Assad regime, turning the asymmetric contest into an arms race
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------9)Barack Obama’s Emotional State of Mind

By Peter Wehner

I’ve developed an interest in President Obama​’s speeches not because they are eloquent or uplifting — they are neither — but because of what they reveal about his emotional state of mind. And Mr. Obama’s remarks in Holland, Michigan yesterday are helpful in that respect.

After once again blaming the economic slowdown on (among other things) the Arab Spring and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Mr. Obama said this:

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in Washington the last few months has been the worst kind of partisanship, the worst kind of gridlock — and that gridlock has undermined public confidence and impeded our efforts to take the steps we need for our economy…. This downgrade you’ve been reading about could have been entirely avoided if there had been a willingness to compromise in Congress. See, it didn’t happen because we don’t have the capacity to pay our bills — it happened because Washington doesn’t have the capacity to come together and get things done. It was a self-inflicted wound. That’s why people are frustrated. Maybe you hear it in my voice — that’s why I’m frustrated. Because you deserve better. You guys deserve better.

Mr. Obama then added, “The only thing preventing these bills from being passed is the refusal of some folks in Congress to put the country ahead of party. There are some in Congress right now who would rather see their opponents lose than see America win.”

About these comments several things can be said, starting with this: There is something highly unusual in watching a president call attention to his own impotence. The president is declaring to the world that he is simply too weak to govern. Not only that, he wants all of America to know that he’s darn frustrated about it. You can even hear it in his voice. The president is frustrated that on his watch, and for the first time in history, America’s credit rating has been downgraded. He’s frustrated that the economy is getting worse rather than better. He’s frustrated taxes aren’t higher. He’s frustrated that his stewardship led to one of the worst mid-term election repudiations in history. And he’s frustrated that he’s overseeing what many people worry is the decline of the American empire.

The president, who is essentially admitting that he is unable to do anything about this, wants to make sure the country is keenly aware of the state of his emotions, the depth of his frustrations, the deep pain caused by his ineptness. But my guess is that the public isn’t particularly interested in Mr. Obama’s emotional exhibitionism. They care about jobs and growth; they don’t want to hear excuses or complaints, especially since Mr. Obama’s chief selling point in 2008 was that he alone would bring an end to partisanship and gridlock.

As for the president’s claim that some folks in Congress refuse to “put the country ahead of party” and that they would “rather see their opponents lose than see America win”: this repeats a nasty little Obama habit, which is not simply to disagree with his opponents but to impugn their character. The Tea Party and Republican Members of Congress can’t possibly believe that the federal government is too large, spending needs to be reduced, and taxes shouldn’t be raised. And they certainly can’t believe that the philosophy they hold and the policies they embrace are in the best interest of America. It’s easier to assume they are knaves and traitors to their country.

If there’s anything we have learned about Mr. Obama during the last two-and-a-half years, it is his obsessive need to advertise his moral superiority. He wants us to believe – he is desperate for us to believe – that his motivations are pure, that he is the only adult in Washington, that he is a champion for the national interest while his critics are champions of special interests. It is not enough for Obama to be president; he wants us to believe he’s Sir Galahad.

As Mr. Obama is increasingly overwhelmed by events, as he and his presidency shrink before our eyes, his worst tendencies are being exacerbated, his narcissism further exposed, his anger at an unaccommodating world more pronounced. A man of supreme self-regard is watching things crumble before his eyes. He is obviously not well equipped to process any of this. It is enough for one to feel, if only for a moment, some pity for Mr. Obama. These are not easy days for him, and certainly not for his country.

9a)How Obama Disappointed the World
By Marc Hujer

As America's first black president, Barack Obama electrified an entire nation. But now that the nation is in crisis, he seems unable to connect with the people. He wanted to change America and restore its reputation in the world. But now his opponents are dictating the country's political course.

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He was constrained by a number: 140, the maximum characters a Twitter message can contain. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, it was US President Barack Obama's own, self-imposed limit. Obama was hosting a "Twitter Town Hall Meeting" in the East Room of the White House, where he hoped to explain his policies through the new medium.

It's a challenge for a politician to restrict his comments to 140 characters, especially during a budget crisis in which anger and shouting seemed to prevail over actual arguments.

"I'm going to make history here as the first president to live tweet," Obama said with an amused smile, as he walked up to a laptop adorned with the presidential seal. These were big words for a particularly insignificant event.

Obama has always managed to win over Americans with big words. He used big words to raise expectations and establish a mood of change in the 2008 presidential election campaign, when he inspired the country with his slogan "Yes, we can."

Obama, who signs his tweets with "bo," began with a question: "In order to reduce the deficit, what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep?"

The tweeting session lasted more than an hour. But after his first tweet, Obama stopped typing into the laptop and, like any other politician, spoke into the microphone, giving long responses which were up to 3,900 characters in length, instead of the 140-character Twitter messages. It was a barrage of ifs and buts, that included the usual political rhetoric, and when the event drew to a close, some would have been tempted to ask what exactly was different about this first Twitter event hosted by the US president.

High Hopes

When Barack Obama was elected almost three years ago, the country seemed intoxicated. The world allowed itself to be carried along by this wave of enthusiasm, and by its hopes for a new, more peaceful America. A crowd of 200,000 people came to hear him speak at the Victory Column in Berlin; Kenyans spent the entire election night dancing in front of their television sets; in Japan, the residents of a fishing village named Obama celebrated his victory; in Gaza, where hatred for America is normally the prevailing sentiment, there were exuberant parties; and in London, Madame Tussauds wax museum handed out free tickets.

Obama's election was the self-affirmation of a nation that wanted to prove that the American dream was still alive. Not voting for Obama would have been cynical, timid and un-American.

The world also had high hopes for a changed America, a country that would be less militaristic than it was under his predecessor, George W. Bush, and one that would pursue smarter policies, both in dealing with the Islamic world and on issues of environmental protection and climate change.

This wasn't just wishful thinking on the part of his voters or his foreign admirers. In fact, it consisted of tangible promises Obama had actually made. Again and again, he talked of uniting the country and even healing the planet.

And? Did he make good on those promises?

Last week, both houses of the United States Congress approved a lazy compromise shaped by pre-election political interests. In doing so, they averted the threat of a government default, but only because no one could be sure that it might not lead directly to the collapse of the US and possibly the global financial system. The president was not even one of the main players anymore, and his fellow Democrats had already abandoned demands he had previously described as essential. Gone was the spirit of "Yes, we can." Now it seemed as if the rating agencies were dictating America's fate. The country that Obama had set out to lead to new heights now seemed to be immersed in frustration, faintheartedness and mutual finger-pointing.

Approval Ratings Plunge

The financial crisis that Obama inherited has changed America. Many citizens have been overcome by feelings of frustration and rage against people like the Wall Street elite, who continue to make money while the middle class have lost their homes and jobs. According to opinion polls, 54 percent of Americans say they have had to change their lifestyle, their American way of life, while a third of Americans say they are furious with the banks, the politicians and Obama.

Obama's approval ratings have plunged, with only 40 percent of Americans now saying they are satisfied with his performance. In April 2009, shortly after his inauguration, some 68 percent of Americans were still on Obama's side.

All that remains of the great hopes Americans and the world had pinned on Obama, inspired by his stirring campaign speeches about change and renewal, is a battlefield of unsatisfactory and contradictory compromises. Obama, who just turned 50 and was once a symbol of youthful change, suddenly seems old and worn out, as gray as his hair has become.

His decline in popularity has also destroyed the hope that Obama could bring new momentum to America and the world. With the debt-ceiling debate, the right-wing Tea Party movement has taken both Congress and Obama's presidency hostage. It is no longer the president who determines the issues and sets the tone of the debate, but a small, radicalized group of unashamedly amateur politicians who have declared the government to be their enemy. As the Tea Party gains stature, Obama loses credibility. Musician Harry Belafonte, once an ardent Obama supporter, has talked of his disappointment with the president. "He has only listened to the voices that shout the loudest, and it's all those reckless right-wing forces," Belafonte told CNN. "It's almost criminal."

The clash with the Tea Party has highlighted Obama's shortcomings. His opponents have everything he seems to lack. They are loud, confident and uncompromising, sticking to their principles while he repeatedly hesitates and delays. In the US midterm elections, dozens of Tea Party candidates managed to get elected to Congress by capitalizing on the rage of people who Obama had failed to connect with.

Creating an Emotional Vacuum

Obama has ignored this rage. Was it "Obama's original sin," as commentator Frank Rich writes in New York Magazine, that he was too restrained and not angry enough? "By failing to address that populist anger, Obama gave his enemies the opening to co-opt it and turn it against him," Rich writes. In doing so, he left behind an emotional vacuum that enabled the Tea Party to rise to prominence. In turn, the party created a political climate in which reasonable efforts became impossible.

Obamaland has turned into the Land of the Tea Party.

In this country there is no longer any hope of reconciliation and unity, which was once the biggest and most hopeful promise of his candidacy. Obama hasn't healed the planet either -- an admittedly ambitious goal. Nevertheless, many believed him, so much so that in October 2009, after he had been in office only nine months, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

At the time, he had promised to put an end to America's loud-mouthed, arrogant, moral hubris. Obama, who in 2008 had called the Iraq War a "dumb war," had come into office promising to reemphasize national interests and bring about a shift, away from a course shaped by American missionary zeal and toward one shaped by realpolitik. He wanted America to limit its involvement in foreign wars, withdraw from the Middle East and focus its energy on competing with rising economic powers China and India.

The first test for Obama came in early December 2009, when it was time to realign Washington's policy on Afghanistan. For Obama, Afghanistan had always been the "good war," the war that Bush had neglected because of Iraq. Over the objections of the political realists in his own administration, he decided to increase troop numbers by 30,000 soldiers, in a "surge" that he hoped would bring the Taliban to its knees. There were some successes, but no one can claim that the enemy has been defeated. On the contrary, the country remains unstable and at war. Now the Americans are beginning their withdrawal -- and they are not leaving as victors.

In the ensuing months, Obama was forced to acknowledge again and again that the new foreign policy approach was not without its inner contradictions. He remained oddly aloof during the revolution in Iran, for fear of jeopardizing a dialogue with the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which then never materialized

In his much-celebrated Cairo speech, Obama promised a new beginning for the US's relationship with the Islamic world, a relationship "among equals," but when push came to shove, nothing much happened. In the Middle East conflict, he allowed himself to be put under so much pressure by the Israeli government, even more so than his predecessor, that a resumption of the peace process became less likely.

Obama has yet to find a convincing response to the revolutions that began with the Arab Spring. In Egypt, where he was long hesitant before eventually supporting the goals of the Arab Spring, the United States is less respected today than during the Bush administration.

It is now clear that Obama is simply not the man to help conflicting parties out of entrenched positions or give new impetus to an alliance. He instinctively leans toward measured, often delayed reactions, leaving his promises of change to fall by the wayside.

A member of his staff once characterized his foreign policy strategy as "leading from behind." It sounds contradictory, and it doesn't chime with the self-image of a nation that still believes in its role as the world's superpower and the driving force of global politics. Many of his friends, particularly those closer to him, are convinced that his ideal of bipartisanship is in fact detrimental to his own party when faced with the powerful, cynically calculating Republicans. Their goal is to show that Obama is "too weak to run a cowboy nation," writes Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.

Obama is defined more by others than by himself. Some call him a socialist who is out to destroy America, while others, including some of his fellow Democrats, say that he is in bed with the country's rich and influential. This criticism shows how great their disappointment is.

Wait-and-See Approach

Obama has always been cautious, says Douglas Baird, who recruited him to teach at his university in 1992. Baird, an expert on bankruptcy law, had been charged with finding new talent for the University of Chicago, which has produced dozens of Nobel laureates.

A colleague had drawn Baird's attention to Obama, an unusual black man who had made it into two of the country's elite institutions, Columbia University in New York and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

When it comes to making decisions, Obama takes a wait-and-see approach, weighing the options, Baird says today, referring to his former protégé. He gathers together "enough information" before he makes a decision, Baird explains.

In Baird's experience, Obama was always courageous, demanding and even audacious. He wasn't sure how seriously Obama would take his teaching job, because the promising lawyer also wanted to go into politics. It was an experiment: a black professor who taught constitutional law, which included the history of the elimination of racial barriers, at a university where more than 90 percent of the students are white. Obama was a popular teacher, Baird recalls. "The students loved him," he says. "There were never any complaints."

One of the keys to Obama's success was that he, as a black man, was reserved. He knew exactly how to handle his white students, and what appealed to or frightened them. He was the son of a black Kenyan who had left the family when Obama was two. He was raised by his white mother and, at times, his white grandparents, in Indonesia and Hawaii, and he was raised as a white person. In fact, Obama was a white man with black skin, someone who had to teach himself how to speak the way black people did, and who started playing basketball, the most popular sport in black America, to become more comfortable in his role as a black man.

His guiding principle was not to come across as unpleasant, loud or aggressive. Early on, his approach was to exercise restraint and behave in a moderate way. For six months, he looked on as the Republicans tore his healthcare reform proposal to pieces, and then he signed a law that only remotely resembled what he had first envisioned.

Steering Clear of the 'Angry Black Man' Image

"I think the most feared person in American society is the angry black man," says Hermene Hartman, editor-in-chief of the Chicago weekly newspaper N'DIGO, which targets a primarily black readership. Hartman campaigned for Obama. He was a new, friendly face that didn't scare white people.

The desire to distance himself from the image of the angry black man also prompted him to part ways with his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Wright had played an important role for Obama, even giving him the title of his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, "The Audacity of Hope." In that speech, Obama said: "There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there's the United States of America." It was the sentence that catapulted him onto the major political stage.

But then the pastor became a liability. He represented black anger. He preached against the racism which still hasn't been eradicated in America. Wright is no longer in touch with Obama, but he continues to preach throughout the country, and he likes to focus on the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:3-7. Sheep get lost "six feet at a time," he says, because they can't see very far. They see a clump of grass six feet away from the flock and move towards it. And then they see something greener still and move another six feet. Six feet by six feet, "they stray from the flock," he says.

Although Wright no longer mentions Obama by name in his sermons, it is clear to everyone who this sheep that is straying from the path is, this sheep that can only see six feet in front of him -- as far as the next compromise. Wright's sermon can be read as a parable of Obama's blocked presidency.

Compromise is the essence of democracy, but Obama's willingness to compromise has now become a problem. Critics claim to have discovered an "obsession with the political center" in Obama. His presidency today lacks a big, unifying idea.

Last Chance

His complicated identity as a black man and his moderate and conciliatory approach have become obstacles that threaten his presidency. Hartman, the editor from Chicago, says that she sometimes wishes Obama were angrier. "You did not see fists going up, you do not see pounding on the desk," she adds. "That's not his style."

An economic crisis affects any president, and a downturn is often the reason presidents are voted out of office. But because the great communicator has apparently forgotten how to talk to his voters, the crisis affects him more adversely than other presidents before him. Everything he does now is seen in a critical light, which only reinforces the impression that he doesn't understand the problems of Americans and that he is weak when it comes to making decisions.

This explains the increasingly vocal criticism of the president from within his own ranks. Democrats are frustrated over the fact that he has been forced to abandon his campaign goals, and that he is losing sight of the promises he made, especially to stimulate job growth. Is what he is doing pragmatism or capitulation? Is he merely trying to stay in power? In Washington, "compromise has become a dirty word," Obama said in his television address to the nation. He was referring to his own supporters.

But Obama could have one last chance. For one thing, his political adversaries have become too confident. And their success in the budget negotiations will only reinforce their extremism and dogmatism. Finally, if in next year's presidential election they support candidates like Sarah Palin, Rick Perry and Michele Bachman, politicians who go too far in their furious attacks against the government, they could even scare off many right-wing voters.

Could the growing divide within the country, the fiery rage of some its citizens, in fact strengthen Obama's chances of being reelected next year?

Perhaps, writes columnist Andrew Sullivan, Obama has in fact suffered something of a "pyrrhic defeat" in the debt debate. Perhaps it is a defeat that will ultimately turn into a victory.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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