Tag Archives: Powerline

Egypt, In Our Eyes

ABC News:

We’ve compiled a list of all the journalist who have been in some way threatened, attacked or detained while reporting in Egypt.  When you put it all into one list, it is a rather large number in such a short period of time.  (UPDATED as of 2/4 – send us more stories if you get them)

APTN had their satellite dish agressively dismantled, leaving them and many other journalists who rely on their feed point no way to feed material.

 

ABC News international correspondent Christiane Amanpour said that on Wednesday her car was surrounded by men banging on the sides and windows, and a rock was thrown through the windshield, shattering glass on the occupants. They escaped without injury/ (wires)

Another CNN reporter, Hala Gorani, said she was shoved against a fence when demonstrators rode in on horses and camels, and feared she was going to get trampled/ (wires) 

A group of angry Egyptian men carjacked an ABC News crew and threatened to behead them on Thursday in the latest and most menacing attack on foreign reporters trying to cover the anti-government uprising. Producer Brian Hartman, cameraman Akram Abi-hanna and two other ABC News employees / (link)

ABC/Bloomberg’s Lara Setrakian also attacked by protesters

CNN’s Anderson Cooper said he, a producer and camera operator were set upon by people who began punching them and trying to break their camera. Cooper and team were targeted again on Thursday. “Situation on ground in Egypt very tense,” Cooper tweeted Thursday. “Vehicle I was in attacked. My window smashed. All OK.” /  (wires)

A photojournalist for CNN-IBN, Rajesh Bhardwaj, was detained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the site of bloody clashes between supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak. He was taken away by the Egyptian Army and later released, but only after his identification card and tapes were destroyed / (link)

 

 

Fox Business Network’s Ashley Webster reported that security officials burst into a room where he and a camera operator were observing the demonstration from a balcony. They forced the camera inside the room. He called the situation “very unnerving” and said via Twitter that he was trying to lay low    / (wires)

Fox News Channel’s foreign correspondent Greg Palkot and producer Olaf Wiig were hospitalized in Cairo after being attacked by protestors.

CBS News’ Katie Couric harassed by protesters   (link)

CBS newsman Mark Strassman said he and a camera operator were attacked as they attempted to get close to the rock-throwing and take pictures. The camera operator, who he would not name, was punched repeatedly and hit in the face with Mace.  / (wires)

CBS News’ Lara Logan, was detained along with her crew by Egyptian police outside Cairo’s Israeli embassy. / (link)

Two New York Times journalists have been arrested. (A Times spokeswoman said that the two journalists were “detained by military police overnight in Cairo and are now free.” )     (link)

Washington Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl wrote Thursday that witnesses say Leila Fadel, the paper’s Cairo bureau chief, and photographer Linda Davidson “were among two dozen journalists arrested this morning by the Egyptian Military Police.  They were later released.”   /   (link)

Max Fisher at The Atlantic:

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose overthrow the U.S. began actively seeking exactly one week after deploying Vice President Joe Biden to publicly defend him, is not the first national leader to lose U.S. patronage. Philippines strongman Ferdinand Marcos alienated Jimmy Carter and then Ronald Reagan with years of brutal rule. Indonesia’s Suharto, Zaire’s Mobutu Seko, and others found that the Americans stopped returning their calls once there was no more Soviet Union against which they could act as bulwarks. Perhaps most famously, South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem ended up in the back of a military personnel carrier where he and his brother were shot, stabbed, and photographed as part of a sudden and U.S.-approved military coup. In all of these cases, the client leaders fell without their patron. But Mubarak, of whose rule U.S. support has been a pillar for 29 years, could yet cling to power. If he does, it’s impossible to know how he will behave, but the rapidly changing internal and external pressures are likely to transform his foreign and domestic policies, and probably not for the better.

The Obama administration, by first calling for Mubarak’s “immediate transition” and then working with the Egyptian military to make that happen, has gone from the Egyptian president’s most important foreign ally to his greatest threat. If Mubarak holds on, he will reemerge into a diplomatic climate nearly the polar opposite of what it was only a week ago. Many in the U.S. and Israel are rightly concerned about where the Muslim Brotherhood, were it to come to power in a post-Mubarak democracy, would steer Egyptian foreign policy. But Mubarak, for whom the U.S. now poses a direct and possibly mortal threat, is virtually guaranteed to move away from the pro-U.S., pro-Israel policies that have been so central to his leadership.

If anything, Mubarak will be tempted to seek out other pariah states and anti-U.S. actors — fortunately for him, the Middle East has a few — to help him bolster against the West’s efforts for his removal. Mubarak could look to Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is working to suppress the country’s own protest movement, which he is likely concerned the U.S. might support if it comes close to his ouster. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has shown some support for the Egyptian protesters, calling them an “Islamic uprising” in the unlikely hope that’s what they will become. But if Mubarak holds on, some sort of Egypt-Iran partnership could serve the security and economic of both states. If Israel starts to look like a threat, Mubarak could push back by opening its border with Gaza, making it easier for groups such as Hamas to import whatever supplies it might be seeking.

Barry Rubin:

Consider the following chart:

Who in the Middle East could the United States depend on five years ago to support its basic policy goals?
Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey

Who in the Middle East can the United States basically depend on today?
Israel, Iraq (?), Jordan (until next week?), Saudi Arabia

Who in the Middle East is likely to oppose basic U.S. policy goals today?
Egypt (soon), Gaza Strip (Hamas), Iran, Lebanon (Hizballah), Libya, Sudan, Syria. Turkey

Might there be a trend here?

The United States is running out of friends in the Middle East who it can overthrow. I’d love to use the 1930s Germany analogy but it is so excessively cited as to have lost effectiveness. So let’s go to the Soviet analogy. “We were overly spooked by the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Romania….” Well, you get the idea.

But wait! The United States is not refusing to allow “Islamists to participate in democratic society,” the local regimes are doing so. Perhaps they know something about their own societies.

But wait again! Islamists do participate in elections in Jordan. Of course, the regime there makes sure they lose. So perhaps the United States should step in anhelp the Islamic Action Front wins the next election, all the better to moderate them!  I’m sure (sarcasm) that it will keep the peace treaty with Israel. Then we can keep experimenting until there are no more victims left.

“Obviously, Islam needs to make its peace with modernity and democracy. But the only way this is going to happen is when people speaking for Islam take part in the system.”

Oh, obviously. Except that it is not necessarily obvious to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, and the Iraqi insurgents, nor to non-Islamist-member-of-the- pack Syria. Why should one believe that taking part in the system will make them moderate. Is there any evidence for this? Any at all? And, no, Turkey doesn’t prove that. Quite the contrary.

But what really riles me is when Westerners write a sentence like this one:

“It’s incumbent on Islamists who are elected democratically to behave democratically.”

Please contemplate those dozen words. What if they don’t? What are you going to do about it after they are in power? What if they take your concessions but not your advice? The United States conditioned the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in Egypt’s next government on that group’s abandoning violence and supporting “democratic goals.” There is no chance that it will meet those conditions and also no chance that the United States would try to enforce them.

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

The Obama administration is promoting the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood. Here, for example, is President Obama’s veiled reference to it in his remarks earlier this week on the “orderly transition” he is pursuing in Egypt: “[T]he process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties.”

The Washington Post reports on the administration’s promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood in “U.S. reexamining its relationship with Muslim Brotherhood opposition group.” It is the Obama administration’s “smart diplomacy” in action, the kind that dismays friends (like Barry Rubin) and heartens enemies (pick your choice). Richard Cohen somewhat unrealistically advises that “Obama should just shut up,” but you get his point.

In his categorization of the types of regimes, Aristotle classifies tyranny as a degraded form of monarchy. The Middle East has thrown up refinements in despotism such as the hereditary thugocracy (Syria) and the mullahcracy (Iran). Indeed, Mubarak’s desire to engineer the succession of his son to the presidency was one of the straws that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. if there is a decent way out of here, it will not be assisted by the foolish optimism that Rubin mocks or by the willful blindness from which Obama suffers.

Juan Cole:

Recently appointed prime minister, Air Force Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, expressed regret for the violence on Thursday and seemed to blame it on partisans in the Interior Ministry of ousted domestic surveillance czar Habib El Adly.

Mubarak also said he was sad to see the violence, in an interview with Christiane Amanpour. Without a trace of irony he said he was ready to retire but was afraid that if he stepped down it would cause chaos.

How stupid do they think we are? Mubarak, Shafiq and VP Omar Suleiman almost certainly sat down in a room and authorized the Ministry of Interior to try out that brutal assault on peaceful protesters.

Proof 1: The Interior Ministry in a dictatorship doesn’t go off on rogue missions; these things are tightly controlled from the top.

Proof 2: The regular army stood aside and allowed the goons to attack the demonstrators, allowing them through checkpoints for their murderous mission. Soldiers do what they are ordered to do.

But, what the apologies do suggest is that the government is attempting to distance itself from the Ministry of Interior tactics.

Adm. Mike Mullen on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show referenced Shafiq’s ridiculous ‘apology,’ apparently delivered precisely so that the wool could be pulled over the eyes of the public. The usually canny and astute Stewart did not challenge the absurd ‘apology’ meme.

In an attempt to mollify dissidents, the Shafiq government did move against some former high-level officials, freezing their bank accounts forbidding them to flee abroad. Those former cabinet members (until last week) included Interior Minister Habib Adly, Muhammad Zuhair Girana, former tourism minister, Ahmad al-Maghribi, the former minister of housing, and Ahmad Izz, former high official in the ruling National Democratic Party (the name of which is made up of three lies).

Iason Athanasiades on Aljazeera is speculating that loyalists to these figures in the Interior Ministry and among the street gangs it runs were behind Thursday’s attacks.

Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room at Wired:

Usually, when mass uprising scrambles the politics of a U.S. ally, politicians blame the nation’s spy apparatus for missing the warning signs. Only when it comes to Egypt, the CIA isn’t having it, vowing that it’s had its watchful eye on potential destabilization for decades. They just might not have known what exactly it would take to loosen Hosni Mubarak’s hold on the country.

“The ingredients of upheaval were there for a long time,” says Paul Pillar, who was the intelligence community’s top Mideast analyst from 2000 to 2005, “but it was impossible to predict in advance what particular catalyzing events would set stuff off.”

Publicly available information, like rapidly expanding opposition Facebook pages, hinted that popular anger in Egypt was bubbling over. The CIA declined to tell Danger Room what specifically it told the Obama administration about the Egyptian protests before last week. But Stephanie O’Sullivan, a longtime CIA official nominated to be intel chief James Clapper’s deputy, told a Senate panel yesterday that the agency secret warned Obama last year that anger at Mubarak’s regime was growing.

Echoing Pillar, Sullivan told senators, “We didn’t know what the triggering mechanism would be for that. And that [warning] happened at the end of the last year.” Back then, the agency concluded Mubarak was in an “untenable” situation.

Real talk: the spy service is supposed to provide big warnings when some huge geopolitical development is brewing. But it’s unfair to expect analysts to provide specific dates for when, say, Mubarak faces a breaking point. It also passes the buck away from the Obama administration, which is struggling to figure out exactly what its response to the upheaval is. If the CIA told Obama last year that Mubarak was going to have to fight to stay in power, the obvious follow-up question is what he did with that information.

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Mirengoff Out At Powerline

James Meggesto:

As an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation; as an attorney who has dedicated his life and law practice to the representation of Indian tribes, tribal organizations and tribal interests; and as a partner in the American Indian law and policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, I was shocked, appalled and embarrassed by a recent Web posting by another Akin Gump partner, Paul Mirengoff, who posted on his personal blog an insensitive and wholly inappropriate criticism of the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the recent memorial service held in Tucson, Arizona. As soon as I and the firm became aware of this posting, the firm took immediate action to deal firmly with this unfortunate situation. Accordingly, Bruce McLean, chairman of the firm, issued the following statement: “We sincerely apologize for the blog entry posted by Akin Gump partner Paul Mirengoff on his personal blog, powerlineblog.com. Akin Gump is neither affiliated with, nor a supporter of, the blog. We found his remarks to be insensitive and wholly inconsistent with Akin Gump’s values. Mr. Mirengoff regrets his poor choice of words and agreed to remove his post.”

The post was subsequently removed, and Mr. Mirengoff issued the following apology:

“In a post last night, I criticized the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the memorial service in Tucson. In doing so, I failed to give the prayer the respect it deserves. Although I did not intend this as a slight to the religion or to the Yaqui tribe, it can clearly be interpreted as one. For this, I sincerely apologize to my readers, to the Yaqui tribe, to all tribal leaders and Indian people and, specifically, to Carlos Gonzales who delivered the prayer. I regret my poor choice of words, and I have removed the post.”

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

I have made the decision to discontinue blogging at this time. I thank John and Scott for bringing me along on this ride and I thank our readers as well. I couldn’t have hoped for better writing partners or for better readers. Best regards to all.

Legal Insurrection:

I’m late to this, but the story has not received a lot of coverage in the conservative blogosphere.  Paul Mirengoff of Power Line blog no longer is of Power Line blog.

Mirengoff is an attorney at Akin Gump, a big law firm with a large presence in Washington, D.C., where Mirengoff works as a partner in the employment law group.

Mirengoff was one of the founders of Power Line.  While I have disagreed with the folks there from time to time, there is no doubt that the Power Line bloggers are among the biggest names in the conservative blogosphere and make a valuable contribution to the conservative movement.  Any disagreements I have with them are disagreements among teammates.

So why is Mirengoff no longer at Power Line?

It all resulted from this blog post Mirengoff made after the Tucson shooting memorial service, in which the service was opened with a prayer, of sorts, from an American Indian tribal leader:

“As for the ‘ugly,’ I’m afraid I must cite the opening ‘prayer’ by Native American Carlos Gonzales,” Mirengoff wrote. It “apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to ‘the creator’ but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.”

The original post has been taken down, and I can’t find a Google Cache version, but the post was picked up elsewhere and is available here.

It is clear that Mirengoff was setting up a “the good, the bad, and the ugly” type of structure (originating, I think, from the movie of the same name).  Mirengoff even put the word ugly in quotation marks.  This is a very common device signalling that Mirengoff did not literally mean “ugly” but was using the term in the context of the phrase he was parodying.

Mirengoff’s post was not an attack on American Indians, the Yaqui tribe, or the participation of the tribal leader in a tribal prayer.  The point of the post quite clearly was on the absurdity of not having a Christian prayer said for Christian victims.  The lack of a Christian (or Jewish) prayer was commented on and criticized by a lot of people, and I agree with that criticism.  The American Indian leader was welcome to participate with a traditional prayer, but if you were going to have a memorial service, why not also pay religious respect to the people you were mourning?

Robert Stacy McCain:

The lawyer who denounced Mirengoff, James Meggesto, is a member of the Onondago Nation of New York who was hired by Akin Gump in February 2007 – i.e., right after Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats took over Congress. Megesto was one of three lawyers, including Vanessa Ray-Hodge and Madeline Soboleff Levy, hired by the firm at that time as part of an expansion of Akin Gump’s “American Indian law and policy practice” according to a Feb. 23, 2007, press release. Akin Gump’s total haul from lobbying in 2007 was $32 million – an increase of 25% over the previous year.

You may recall that Pelosi and Democrats were elected in 2006 on a promise to clean up the “culture of corruption” in Washington. Exhibit A in the Democrats’ case against the GOP that year? Yeah: “Casino Jack” Abramoff’s shady dealings with Indian tribes.

So in criticizing that Yaqui prayer at the Tucson memorial, Paul Mirengoff wasn’t just being politically incorrect, he was also offending a lucrative segment of Akin Gump’s lobbying clientele, whom the firm had recently hired three lawyers to service. Small wonder that Mirengoff was likely forced to choose: Quit blogging at Power Line or quit working at Akin Gump.

Dan Riehl:

It would have been good to know about the Murkowski – Akin Gump connection when Mirengoff was pushing her over Miller in the Alaska Senate race. Filed under F for transparency.

Charlie Martin at PJ Tatler:

This is what Granddaddy used to call “pissing in the soup,” and I’m not a little bit surprised, nor particularly disturbed that Mirengoff’s firm would prefer he either not piss in the soup or get the hell out of the kitchen.  And frankly, I don’t agree with either McCain or Jacobson: I think a liberal blogger who offended a big client would have something large fall from a great height upon his head.

There’s one more point, though.  As one of the differently-religioned (I’m a Buddhist, and my mother, also a Choctaw, converted to Judaism some years ago — when I say “differently-religioned” I ain’t just messing around) I may be more sensitive than some others to the general religious assumptions we make socially. On the other hand, sometimes I wonder if people pay attention to what’s being said.  Consider, for example, if we translate this by substituting references to other religions and, well, tribes:

As for the “ugly,” I’m afraid I must cite the opening “prayer” by Rabbi Schmuel Greenblatt. It was apparently was some sort of Hebrew tribal thing, with lots of references to “the Creator” but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Jew). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.

I don’t mean to excuse the organizers of this debacle; it would have been appropriate to have had a Pastor, and a Priest, and a Rabbi, and hell, an Imam and whatever, if they were going to have a Yaqui shaman. (What makes this even harder is that ever since Carlos Casteñeda, every half-pint poseur has talked about learning from the Yaqui; who the hell knows if Gonzales had any better claim to be a medicine man than I do?)

But if anyone has trouble understanding why someone might be offended, go back and read the parallel universe excoriation of poor Rabbi Greenblatt’s little prayer.

James Joyner:

On the surface, it strikes me that Akin Gump overreacted to a minor incident.  But I don’t know enough about the firm’s clientele and business model to really evaluate. And, certainly, it has every right to control its public image, to include ensuring the partners don’t write embarrassing things in public fora.  Mirengoff is a labor law specialist with a distinguished record in the field and knows that.

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom:

Doesn’t matter, really. If we’re going to pretend that language works in a way that it clearly doesn’t — and to institutionalize that idea into our very epistemology — what we will end up with is the slow erosion of our speech, as more and more of it becomes subject to “interpretations” motivated by cynicism and a will to power.

This latest is just another dismal example of how precisely such a “democratic” method of “interpretation” can and will be used to diminish the individual at the whims of a motivated collective.

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Vinson Goes The Whole Taco

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

I am not, with this post, going to attempt a detailed exposition on Judge Vinson’s ruling that declared the individual mandate unconstitutional and, due to the lack of a severability clause, struck the whole law as unconstitutional. But I will give you a brief overview and direct you to other good sources.

Here are the basics you will need to start your day.

First, you need to understand that the case before Judge Vinson was not directed at whether the federal government can involve itself in healthcare. Instead, the case was whether the individual mandate is constitutional.

The individual mandate is the keystone to the whole legislation. Without it, the funding mechanisms of the law collapse in on themselves. Judge Vinson ruled that forcing people to buy healthcare insurance, whether they want it or not, is unconstitutional.

Ilya Shapiro at Cato:

In short, if I read the opinion (plus this final judgment) correctly — quite apart from both the lofty philosophical principles I applaud Judge Vinson for adopting and the nitty-gritty technical details of his individual mandate analysis — Obamacare is dead in its tracks.  Now, Judge Vinson himself or the Eleventh Circuit (or even the Supreme Court) may issue an emergency stay of this or any other part of the ruling, but as of right now, the federal government must stop implementing Obamacare.

Aaron Worthing at Patterico:

Well, go ahead, see what happens if you try to implement Obamacare without actually overturning the decision.

And notice that term “activism.”  The correct translation when a liberal says it is “a decision I don’t like.” There is no other definition for liberals.  They don’t mind cases that overturn precedents, that overturn federal laws, and that invent rights out of thin air.  Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the judge’s opinion is supported by the constitution or precedent—they have no principled objection to that.  So their objection is merely to losing.

And meanwhile anonymous White House officials had this to say:

White House officials said that sort of “surpassingly curious reading” called into question Judge Vinson‘s entire ruling.

“There’s something thoroughly odd and unconventional about the analysis,” said a White House official who briefed reporters late Monday afternoon, speaking on condition of anonymity.

David Bernstein:

Hmm. I think it’s a bit curious that the White House would send an “anonymous” official to criticize the ruling of an Article III judge, and surpassingly curious that a gaggle of reporters would agree to respect the aide’s anonymity in exchange for the “anonymous” quotes.
Shouldn’t the reporters either tell the official to go on the record, or refuse to take part in a “briefing” that amounts to simply a colorful attack on an unfavorable opinion?

Orin Kerr:

Now let’s return to Judge Vinson’s analysis of the Necessary & Proper Clause. The words of the relevant Supreme Court cases point to an extremely broad power, and Judge Vinson is supposed to be bound by those words. But Judge Vinson concludes that these words can’t be taken at face value because “to uphold [the mandate] via application of the Necessary and Proper Clause would [be to] . . . effectively remove all limits on federal power.” Page 62. He writes:

[T]he Commerce Clause limitations on the federal government’s power would definitely be compromised by this assertion of federal power via the Necessary and Proper Clause. . . . .The defendants have asserted again and again that the individual mandate is absolutely “necessary” and “essential” for the Act to operate as it was intended by Congress. I accept that it is. Nevertheless, the individual mandate falls outside the boundary of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority and cannot be reconciled with a limited government of enumerated powers. By definition, it cannot be “proper.”

This might work as a Supreme Court opinion that can disagree with precedent. But Judge Vinson is just a District Court judge. And if you pair Justice Thomas’s dissent in Raich with Judge Vinson’s opinion today, you realize the problem: Judge Vinson is reasoning that existing law must be a particular way because he thinks it should be that way as a matter of first principles, not because the relevant Supreme Court doctrine actually points that way. Remember that in Raich, the fact that the majority opinion gave the federal government the power to “regulate virtually anything” was a reason for Justice Thomas to dissent. In Judge Vinson’s opinion, however, the fact that the government’s theory gave the federal government the power to “regulate virtually anything” was a reason it had to be inconsistent with precedent.

Obviously, I’m not arguing that Judge Vinson was bound by Justice Thomas’s dissent. Rather, my point is that Judge Vinson should not have used a first principle to trump existing Supreme Court caselaw when that principle may not be consistent with existing caselaw. Either Justice Thomas is wrong or Judge Vinson is wrong, and Judge Vinson was not making a persuasive legal argument when he followed the first principle instead of the cases. Because Judge Vinson is bound by Supreme Court precedent, I would think he should have applied the cases.

Anyway, I realize this argument will only resonate with readers who care about binding precedent, which at times seems like a vanishingly small group of readers. But it does seem to be the weak link in Judge Vinson’s opinion for the three of us who are interested in whether the decision is correct under existing law.

UPDATE: I closed the comment thread, as it featured the same commenters making the same comments that they have each made several dozen times before.

ANOTHER UPDATE: My co-blogger Ilya Somin defends Judge Vinson by pointing out that the Supreme Court’s majority opinions insist that the federal government does not have completely unlimited power. Ilya’s argument is unpersuasive because the existence of nonzero limits in no way implies the existence of major limits. The current state of Commerce Clause doctrine is that there are certain largely symbolic limits on federal power but those limits are relatively minor: As Justice Thomas put it, Congress can regulate virtually anything.  Judge Vinson says that this cannot be the law because it would make the federal government too powerful. But Judge Vinson does not consult existing doctrine before declaring the principle, and that’s the problem: If you take existing doctrine seriously, it readily fits the mandate under the Necessary and Proper clause.

Peter Suderman at Reason

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Based on existing Supreme Court precedents, Judge Vinson’s opinion strikes me as well-reasoned. But this case is different from any that have yet come before the Court, and the Court could go either way. The final decision will be essentially political.

While everyone purports to agree in principle that our federal government is one of limited, enumerated powers, the true liberal position is that there are no limits at all on what the federal government can do, except as set forth in the Bill of Rights. Thus, the delineation of the role and powers of the national government, as laid out in the main body of the Constitution, is ignored. On the other hand, the amendments are selectively given an expansive reading where necessary to prevent the government from doing something that liberals do not think is appropriate (e.g., enforcing laws against abortion). Affirming Obamacare would represent a new high-water mark for that philosophy.

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The Smoked Salmon At Iwo Jima

Alexander Burns at Politico:

THE REVIEWS ARE IN – SNAP POLL FROM CBS: “An overwhelming majority of Americans approved of President Obama’s overall message in his State of the Union on Tuesday night, according to a CBS News Poll of speech watchers. According to the poll, which was conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the president’s address, 92 percent of those who watched the speech approved of the proposals Mr. Obama put forth during his remarks, while only 8 percent disapproved. … Americans who watched the speech were generally more Democratic than the nation as a whole.” … FROM CNN: “A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey indicated that 52 percent of speech watchers had a very positive reaction, with 32 percent saying they had a somewhat positive response and 15 percent with a negative response. … Those numbers indicate that the sample is about nine to ten points more Democratic than the population as a whole.” … AND FROM GQR, VIA POLITICO44: “The firm monitored the reactions of swing voters and unmarried women from Colorado as they watched the speech. According to the analysis, before the address, the test group’s approval of the president was 30 percent – by the end of the speech, the approval rating had gone up to 56 percent.” http://bit.ly/dMdVnT and http://bit.ly/fhBhgN and http://politi.co/ffVLil

Jonathan Chait at The New Republic:

The substance of Obama’s speech was moderate liberalism — we like business, but government has a role too, neither too much nor too little, etc. It’s hard to attach that kind of case-by-case pragmatism to an overarching theme. But I do think Obama pulled it off pretty well. He took a fairly hackneyed idea — the future — and managed to weave it into issue after issue, from infrastructure to energy to deficits to education and even foreign policy.

I thought Obama explicated his idea about American unity better than he has in the past. The notion of unity has always sat in tension with the fierce ideological disagreement of American politics, and indeed the latter has served as a rebuke to the former. I thought Obama effectively communicated that the messiness of political debate is a part of what makes America great, to turn that into a source of pride. He simultaneouly placed himself both within and above the debate.

Ross Douthat:

If you were a visitor from Mars, watching tonight’s State of the Union address and Paul Ryan’s Republican response, you would have no reason to think that the looming insolvency of our entitlement system lies at the heart of the economic challenges facing the United States over the next two decades. From President Obama, we heard a reasonably eloquent case for center-left technocracy and industrial policy, punctuated by a few bipartisan flourishes, in which the entitlement issue felt like an afterthought: He took note of the problem, thanked his own fiscal commission for their work without endorsing any of their recommendations, made general, detail-free pledges to keep Medicare and Social Security solvent (but “without slashing benefits for future generations”), and then moved swiftly on to the case for tax reform. Tax reform is important, of course, and so are education and technological innovation and infrastructure and all the other issues that the president touched on in this speech. But it was still striking that in an address organized around the theme of American competitiveness, which ran to almost 7,000 words and lasted for an hour, the president spent almost as much time talking about solar power as he did about the roots of the nation’s fiscal crisis.

Ryan’s rejoinder was more urgent and more focused: America’s crippling debt was an organizing theme, and there were warnings of “painful austerity measures” and a looming “day of reckoning.” But his remarks, while rhetorically effective, were even more vague about the details of that reckoning than the president’s address. Ryan owes his prominence, in part, to his willingness to propose a very specific blueprint for addressing the entitlement system’s fiscal woes. But in his first big moment on the national stage, the words “Medicare” and “Social Security” did not pass the Wisconsin congressman’s lips.

Paul Krugman

Allah Pundit

David Frum at FrumForum:

What to like in Obama’s SOTU:

  1. The gracious congratulations to the Republicans and John Boehner.
  2. His reminders of the country’s positive accomplishments, including the country’s huge lead in labor force productivity.
  3. His explanation that the challenge to less-skilled US labor comes much more from technology than from foreign competition.
  4. Opening the door to firing bad teachers.
  5. Call for a stepped-up national infrastructure program. If only he’d explained how this would work.
  6. Call for lower corporate tax rates with fewer loopholes.
  7. Openness to amendments on healthcare reform.
  8. Endorsement of cuts to Medicare & Medicaid.
  9. Endorsement of malpractice reform.
  10. Bringing forth the designer of the Chilean miner rescue tunnel. Nice!

What’s not to like:

  1. The disingenuous suggestion that China’s growth is driven by superior Chinese education system. Don’t confuse Amy Chua’s kids with off-the-farm peasants in Chinese factories.
  2. The call for more creative thinking in American education. Creative thinking is good, obviously. But the kids who are in most trouble need more drill, not more questions about their feelings.
  3. The too clever-by-half slip from the need for government to invest in basic research (yes) to the value of government investment in development of particular energy technologies (a record of failure).
  4. The pledge to put electric vehicles on the roads. So long as 50% of our power comes from coal, electric vehicles are not “clean.”
  5. The pledge to reach 80% clean electricity by 2035. If this is done by neutral across -the-board means like carbon taxes, fine. If done by favoritism for particular energy forms – and especially by tax credits or subsidies – it’s national industrial planning and is bad.
  6. The misleading implication that bestowing more college degrees will address educational deficits. It’s the low quality of American secondary education that is the problem.
  7. The endorsement of DREAM – made worse by the total fuzz of the commitment to immigration enforcement.
  8. No mention of Colombia FTA in trade section of speech.
  9. Very backhanded comments on deregulation
  10. Repudiation of benefit cuts to future Social Security beneficiaries.
  11. Silly earmarks pledge 100% guaranteed to be broken.
  12. Graceless comment about restoring America’s standing: ill-judged from a president whose foreign policy becomes more continuous with his predecessor’s seemingly with every month.

Jennifer Rubin:

If you were expecting a moderate Obama or a bold Obama, you were disappointed, most likely, by Tuesday’s State of the Union Address. In a nutshell: Obama proposed a ton of new domestic spending, promised to freeze discretionary spending (attained by savaging defense), abstained from offering specifics on entitlement reform and largely ignored major foreign policy changes. Moreover, the delivery was so listless that this State of the Union address likely garnered less applause than any address in recent memory.

But the mystery is solved: There is no new Obama, just a less snarly one. But it was also a flat and boring speech, too long by a third. Can you recall a single line? After the Giffords memorial service, this effort seemed like Obama had phoned it in. Perhaps that is because the name of the game is to pass the buck to Congress to do the hard work of digging out of the fiscal mess we are in.

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

Obama’s domestic policy is big on “investments” — not yours, the government’s. That is, spending. It’s a throwback to the vocabulary of the Clinton era. “The kids” must not be far behind. And there they are. They need more of your dough for their education.

“We do big things,” Obama says. I think when he says “we,” he means big government. The speech is long on domestic policy cloaked in the characteristically disingenuous rhetoric designed to conceal the substance. Obama advocates some kind of a freeze in federal spending. I’m not sure how that squares with the call for more “investments.”

Obama acknowledges the tumult in Tunisia thusly: “We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.” Where does the United States of America stand tonight with respect to the people of Iran? We’re still waiting to hear from Obama on that one, but I guess we can infer he supports their aspirations as well. The people of Iran are included in “all people.”

The speech does have several good lines. Here is one of them: “I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC.” It’s a pity that Obama has to gild it with the usual gay rights boilerplate. This line also deserves a nod: “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.” Unlike most of the rest of the speech, it has the advantage, as Henry Kissinger might say, of being true.

Obama’s advent gets the usual iteration tonight: “That [American] dream is why I can stand here before you tonight.” And he includes Biden: “That dream is why a working class kid from Scranton can stand behind me.” But Biden’s rise too is a tribute to the advent of Obama.” And he includes an uncharacteristically gracious salute to Speaker Boehner: “That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.”

It’s a pity that Obama hasn’t found previous occasions to articulate American exceptionalism. Indeed, he has essentially denied it. Maybe he didn’t think it was true before the advent of the Age of Obama, or maybe he chooses not to share his innermost thoughts on the subject with his fellow citizens tonight.

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

Much has been made of Michelle Bachmann’s “Tea Party” response to the State of the Union.

For days the media has been playing this up as a major conflict within the Republican Party. In fact, a number of Republican leadership aides pulled out all the stops trying to get the networks to ignore Michelle Bachmann.

Kudos to CNN for its willingness to cover the speech in full.

I must admit I was deeply nervous about the speech, but I am delighted to say I was wrong. Michelle Bachmann gave the best speech of the night.

While the President sputniked and Paul Ryan went off on some high minded rhetoric, Michelle Bachmann kept to nuts and bolts. Her speech was based on actual economic data with actual, substantive policy suggestions for change.

Paul Ryan’s speech was okay. His blood shot eyes and Eddie Munster, Jr. haircut could have used some work. But he was good. Michelle Bachmann, however, shined in an easy to understand speech with a common man touch.

I’m glad I was wrong. And it just goes to show that the narrative of concern, built up in the media in large part by nervous Republicans, was silly. It yet again shows the GOP is unwilling to seriously treat the tea party movement as a legitimate player.

Mark Joyella at Mediaite:

Rep. Michele Bachmann made history tonight–not just for being the first representative of the Tea Party to give a State of the Union response, but also for flatly refusing to look America in the eye.Bachmann, who came equipped with charts and Iwo Jima photos, began her speech looking slightly off camera. As Bachmann spoke, viewers–including the former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann–took to Twitter to ask a simple question: “what’s she looking at?”

As Olbermann tweeted, “Why isn’t Rep. Bachmann LOOKING AT THE DAMNED CAMERA?” He added later, “Seriously, somebody at the Tea Party needs to run on the stage, grab her, and POINT TO WHERE THE CAMERA IS.”

On CNN, Erick Erickson reported that Bachmann mistakenly focused on a camera recording the speech for the Tea Party Express, instead of the other camera capturing the speech live for the entire country. Jeepers.

Compared to President Obama’s traditional SOTU speech, and Rep. Ryan’s response, the Bachmann speech was unique. It had charts and multimedia, and it had the weird vibe of listening to a person who seems to be talking to somebody else.

Conor Friedersdorf at Sully’s place:

He still loves his wife. But after 25 years of marriage, he has lost his enthusiasm for sex with her. Still. It is Valentine’s Day. And she has been hinting. So he takes her to a nice dinner, uncharactertistically orders an after-dinner drink, and feels extra discouraged when it only makes him more tired. He is 55. And so tired. Upon returning home, he wants more than anything to just fall asleep, but damnit, he makes the effort. He surprises her with a gift, lights candles, and dutifully makes love to her in the fashion he thinks that she will most enjoy.

It is with similar enthusiasm that some responses to the State of the Union are penned. Everyone expects that it will be covered by political bloggers, newspaper columnists and magazine writers. Especially at movement magazines on the left and right, lots of people are going through the motions,  feigning passionate intensity that isn’t there. In marriage, it is perfectly understandable for one partner to occasionally perform despite not being in the mood. Sex is built into the expectations. Justifiably so. But I’m skeptical about the system of expectations in political letters. Fresh insights are nice. I’ve read good stuff about last night’s SOTU. We’ve linked some of it here. What I find pointless is the completely predictable boilerplate that gets published. The banal right-leaning editorial inveighing against the speech. The left-leaning editorial vaguely extolling its virtues. If every possible reader will agree with everything in a piece what exactly is the point of writing it?

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Domodedovo Airport

Video from Robert Mackey in NYT

BBC News:

Moscow’s Domodedovo airport has been rocked by a bomb explosion that an airport spokesman says has killed 35 people.

More than 100 people were injured – 20 of them critically – by the blast, which reports suggest was the work of a suicide bomber.

Russia’s chief investigator said terrorists were behind the attack.

The airport – the busiest serving Russia’s capital – is 40km (25 miles) south-east of the city centre.

President Dmitry Medvedev vowed those behind the attack would be tracked down.

He ordered increased security across Russia’s capital, its airports and other transport hubs, and called an emergency meeting with top officials. He also postponed his planned departure for this week’s World Economic Forum at Davos.

BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera said immediate suspicion about Monday’s attack would fall on militants from the Caucasus region.

Militant groups fighting in the Caucasus know how important the perception that the president and prime minister provide a secure society is, and to undermine that is a key aspect of their aims, adds our correspondent.

Last March the Russian capital’s underground system was rocked by two female suicide bombers from Russia’s volatile Dagestan region, who detonated their explosives on the busy metro system during rush hour, killing 40 people and injuring more than 80.

Ed Morrissey:

Update: Reuters also reports 10 dead, 20 injured, and that it was a suicide bomber:

At least 10 people were killed and 20 injured in a suicide bomb blast at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport Monday, Interfax news agency reported.

Update II: The AP was a little more cautious, saying that “no immediate word” on a cause had been given and not offering anything more specific than “at least 20 casualties.”

Update III: At the same link, the AP now says 23 are dead and are now including the likelihood of it being a suicide-bomber attack.

Update IV: The AP now puts the death toll to 31, with 130 injured.  They also note that Domodedovo had a reputation for lax security:

Domodedovo is generally regarded as Moscow’s most up-to-date airport, but its security procedures have been called into question.

In 2004, two suicide bombers were able to board planes at Domodedovo by buying tickets illegally from airport personnel. The bombers blew themselves up in mid-air, killing all 90 people aboard the two flights.

At least according to today’s reports, it’s also the busiest airport in Moscow, which makes it an even bigger target.

Doug Mataconis:

The most obvious suspects here would seem to be the Chechens, who have shown an ability to carry out spectacular, and deadly, terrorist attacks throughout Russia and even in Moscow itself many times over the past decade.

Michelle Malkin:

The NYTimes report doesn’t even bother to mention how Russia has been plagued by Islamic jihadist attacks.

But that’s par for the course.

The Jawa Report:

Now taking bets. The culprit is:

a. Tea Party Member

b. Someone incited by Sarah Palin’s violent rhetoric

c. A Christian

d. all of the above

e. None of the above (it wouldn’t be PC to define it)

[Update] Death toll now at 31 35. Russian President has already called the attack an act of terrorism. (In the U.S., authorities would insist it had no terrorist link until right-wing bloggers discovered direct and indisputable evidence that it was.)

Still no word – or even a hint – on motivation.

John Hinderaker at Powerline

The Gateway Pundit

Aaron Worthing at Patterico:

There are some reports around that this is a suicide bombing, which suggests a terrorist organization like al Qaeda is behind it.  But to be blunt the last time we had a breaking news story like that, the Safeway Massacre, very little of what was believed at first turned out to be true.  I mean Ms. Giffords can now use that familiar Twain joke “the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”  The fact that those rumors were published in major media outlets is correctly seen as an embarrassment.

So, take everything you are hearing as a “penciled in” report.  All of it could be wrong.  But hopefully as time goes on we will sort it out and I will try to update this post as details get clearer.

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Today We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 2009

Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic with a round-up. Reeve:

House Republicans will vote to repeal the health care law Wednesday–a vote widely expected to go nowhere, because the Senate won’t pass repeal, and if it did, President Obama would repeal it. But is the vote more than symbolic? It certainly won’t be the last we hear of the health care debate, The New York Times’ David M. Herszenhorn and Robert Pear report. Not by a long shot. Lawmakers will be fighting for the next two years over the government’s proper role in the health care system, and so will 2012’s presidential candidates.

The House began debating repeal Tuesday. Republicans argue that the Congressional Budget Office is underestimating the future cost of the law. Democrats say the CBO might be overestimating the price tag, because the law is meant to improve the delivery of care and thus slow the growth of its expense. Another major point of contention is whether the law will create or destroy jobs.

Andrew Stiles at The Corner:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) continues to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to take up the Republican repeal of health care reform in the Senate once it (presumably) passes the House, where a vote is currently scheduled for 6:30 this evening.

“We have [s]aid that we are going to be a results driven Congress,” Cantor told reporters this morning. “So I have a problem with the assumption here that somehow the Senate can be a place for legislation to go into a cul-de-sac or a dead-end.”

“The American people deserve a full hearing,” he continued. “Let’s see the votes.”

Reid has said he has no plans to bring repeal to the Senate floor, in part because it has no hope of passing. Cantor has urged the Democratic leader to put his money where his mouth is. “If Harry Reid is so confident that the repeal vote should die in the Senate, then he should bring it up for a vote, if he’s so confident he’s got the votes,” Cantor said Tuesday.

Jennifer Rubin:

The conventional wisdom (i.e. the consensus of wishful-thinking, generally liberal elite opinion makers) is that it then goes nowhere. But don’t be so sure. Senate leadership advisers tell me there is always a way, through amendments and other procedural efforts, to get votes. They point out that filibusters also can be mounted. That is precisely why filibuster reform is going nowhere.

The Republican Senate leadership does not expect any Senate Democrats to flip sides on the vote for an out-and-out repeal. The consolation prize is that Democratic senators such as Jim Webb, Claire McCaskill, Ben Nelson and Bill Nelson will have to defend those votes in 2012.

On votes on discrete issues, there is a high likelihood that some provisions — e.g. the massive paperwork burdens on business — will draw Democratic votes. Likewise, there may be difficult votes for Democrats on everything from Medicare Advantage to the individual mandate.

Red state Democrats up for re-election in 2012 will have a very tough time of it — back the president or help their own re-election prospects? And as this goes on, the House will be holding hearing after hearing on ObamaCare to, in Nancy Pelosi’s words, find out what is in it.

Jimmie Bise:

For reasons I can’t quite fathom, progressives have decided that one of the big stories this week should be whether or not Speaker Boehner will change the name of the “Repealing The Job Killing Health Care Law Act”. Apparently, “job killing” is now verboten speech, lest some barely-hinged right winger mistake a Democrats for a job and kill…wait…mistake a Democrat for Obamacare and…

…okay, I’m baffled here. I don’t know why this is a story except that it involves the word “killing”, which is violent rhetoric, and violent rhetoric is wrong.

To Boehner’s credit, he toyed around with a few alternate phrasings, such as “job crushing” and “job destroying”, but they didn’t send the requisite tingle down Chris Matthews leg so he went back to the original name.

However, I am in possession of a super secret, ultra-classified list of names the GOP had considered to replace the “Repealing The Job Killing Health Care Law Act”. At the risk of running afoul of Dick Cheney’s Haliburton Ninja Death Squads, I will share them with you now.

5) The “We’re Not Going to Grind Gramma Into An Edible but Nutritious Slurry Act”.
4) The “Sarah Was Right; There Really Are Death Panels Act”.
3) The “Dear God in Heaven, What Were We Thinking Act”.
2) The “We’re In Charge, So How Do You Like Us Now Act”.
1) The “Happy Cuddle Puppies Nuzzle Wuzzle Act”.

I’m glad they stuck with the original.

Philip Klein at The American Spectator:

Of all the arguments liberals have been making during the health care debate, among the most tenuous is the idea that Republican members of Congress who accept government sponsored health insurance are being hypocrites for favoring repeal of government-sponsored health insurance for other Americans. Today, bloggers over at Think Progress post what they evidently think is a clever video of them challenging Republican members to explain why they accept government health care benefits.

The explanation for this is quite simple. Most Americans receive their health insurance through their employers, and members of Congress are employees of the government. Hence, the government helps pay for their coverage.

To extend the logic being used by liberals would mean that if Democrats were to propose a law in which the federal government sends $100,000 checks to every lower-income American, any Republican members who still collected their salaries would be hypocrites for opposing it.

Peter Suderman at Reason:

Here’s Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s latest defense of the administration’s health care overhaul: If it were repealed, according to the headline from an HHS press release yesterday, “129 million Americans with a pre-existing condition could be denied coverage.” That’s roughly half of all Americans under 65 who might “be at risk of losing health insurance when they need it most, or be denied coverage altogether,” according to the release.

Or maybe it’s a little less. OK, perhaps even a lot less. The release quickly qualifies the headline estimate to indicate that it may be that as few as 50 million Americans—just 19 percent of the non-elderly population, rather than half—under 65 have “some type of pre-existing condition,” which apparently means everything from cancer to high blood pressure. It’s all rather hard to pin down, you see. 50 million. 129 million. It’s somewhere in there. With precision estimates like these, you know they’ve got the goods.

Fine. 50 million is still a big number. Should we seriously worry that almost 20 percent of Americans will lose their health coverage without the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?

Not really. As the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon points out, a 2001 study by none other than HHS noted that only 1 percent of Americans have ever been denied health coverage for any reason. And according to a just-published study in the health policy journal Health Affairs, “the fraction of nonelderly uninsured persons…who would be rated as actuarially uninsurable is generally estimated to be very small, less than 1 percent of the population.”

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

Putting Obamacare out of its misery is the critical mission that must be carried out be Republicans in the coming years. It seems to me to raise in a profound form the question Lincoln asked regarding Douglas’s professed indifference to slavery: “I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form.” The form of the question suggests that the answer is yes, as I believe it to be in both cases.

In “Buck up and stop Obamacare,” Dr Milton Wolf asserts: “Obamacare has become ground zero in the fight for America’s future.” And that’s the spirit in which the task of killing Obamcare must be approached.

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You Blog About Politics, You Blog About Sarah Palin: This Is Fact Now

The Corner at National Review:

Here’s the text:

Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims’ families as we express our sympathy.

I agree with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully help begin a healing process for the families touched by this tragedy and for our country.

Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.

There is a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive, and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.

Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions.  And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.

As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, “We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.

No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.

Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply “symbolic,” as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just “symbolic.” But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.

It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today.

Let us honor those precious lives cut short in Tucson by praying for them and their families and by cherishing their memories. Let us pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And let us pray for our country. In times like this we need God’s guidance and the peace He provides. We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves, or weaken our solid foundation, or provide a pretext to stifle debate.

America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Palin’s statement is, I think, very good. It emphasizes, appropriately, the victims and the nation’s political process rather than politicians, demonstrating once again that Palin is less obsessed with Sarah than her enemies are. Overall, the statement comes across as mature, balanced, sympathetic and yet strong in its rejection of the left’s opportunism.

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

I should have said this a few days ago, when my friend Glenn Reynolds introduced the term to this debate. But I think that the use of this particular term in this context isn’t ideal. Historically, the term is almost invariably used to describe anti-Semitic myths about how Jews use blood — usually from children — in their rituals. I agree entirely with Glenn’s, and now Palin’s, larger point. But I’m not sure either of them intended to redefine the phrase, or that they should have.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Sarah Palin has called the post-Tucson campaign of vilification against her and her fellow travelers a “blood libel.” On the one hand, this is unfortunate, as Jonah Goldberg points out, because it threatens to redefine the phrase, plus, what is happening to her is not precisely the byproduct of a blood libel.

On the other hand, Sarah Palin  is such an important political and cultural figure that her use of the term “blood libel” should introduce this very important historical phenomenon to a wide audience, and the ensuing discussion — about how Fox News is not actually Mendel Beilis — will serve to enlighten and inform. It is a moral necessity, I think, for Christians to understand the blood libel (Muslims, too — see the Damascus Blood Libel of 1840), not only because it is part of their history, but because the blood libel still has modern ramifications — Israel, after all, was founded as a reaction to Christian hatred, of which the blood libel was an obvious and murderous manifestation.

I mean it sincerely when I say I hope Sarah Palin, who regularly expresses love for Jews and Israel, takes the time to learn about the history of the blood libel, and shares what she has learned with her many admirers.

Instapundit:

That seems to be how it works. And here are a bunch of examples of “blood libel” used in various contexts, by people as diverse as Andrew Sullivan and Ann Coulter, as well as Alex Beam, Michael Barone, Andrew Cohen of CBS, and Les Payne. Nobody cared, because Sarah Palin wasn’t involved. Heck, I used the term myself in my WSJ column. I got a grouchy email or two, but nobody else — even among the lefties who criticized it — seemed to care about the use of the term. This is the silliest hissyfit yet, and is itself evidence that there’s no substantive response.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Okay, it’s a little over the top for Sarah Palin to accuse her critics of “blood libel.” But she does have a basic point. She had nothing to do with Jared Loughner. He was not an extremist who embraced some radical version of her ideas. And her use of targets to identify districts Republicans were, um, targetting is not exceptional or prone to incite anybody.

What’s happening is that Palin has come to represent unhinged grassroots conservatism, and people in the media immediately (and incorrectly) associated Loughner with the far right. Moreover, the Republican establishment understands her potential candidacy as a liability and is looking to snuff it out. So you have this weird moment where Palin is on trial for something she has no connection with at all.

Dan Riehl:

Last night on Twitter, Matthew Vadum and I both briefly noted a certain awkwardness with the term given its fairly precise etymology. I’m seeing critics like Jennifer Rubin point out that, while accurate, it’s inflammatory. That’s what started me to thinking about Palin’s use of the term death panels in the Obamacare debate. Isn’t she now doing very much the same thing – allegedly being inflammatory, but accurate? It is accurate. Even critics are conceding that.

shows her inflam. tendency=critics pt. she’s not serious, cert. not pres. – more G.Beck than Reagan … should note also it is tech. correct since accused of blood on her hands.. but still….

So, it’s inflammatory, but accurate – or, … how about, effective, assuming one is willing to fight the good fight for candor in honestly defining a bad health care policy, or a malicious slander meant to silence political speech?

And how in the Hell did we get to a place where a so called conservative pundit writing for the Washington Post thinks doing that is somehow not Presidential? Are we interested in leadership willing to lead, or merely wishing to please our senses? That’s not meant as necessarily backing Palin for President, or anything. I didn’t bring it up, Rubin did.

However uncomfortable it may make some feel, what Palin has done here is engage the debate candidly and head-on, just as she did during the health care debate when she invoked the term death panels.

Isn’t it possible that we need to be made to feel just a bit uncomfortable with what the Left has been doing in exploiting the Arizona tragedy in a manner which transcends simply being angry? Whatever the reason, I do believe using the term blood libel has a way of doing that, elevating the debate into one of substance, over simply feelings, or anger, as a matter of fact. That, despite its presumed inflammatory nature. Ironic, that.

Seems to me, if we’re going to now run away from that debate because it requires potentially inflammatory rhetoric to define it both precisely – and in terms with which we can win it – then how the hell are we ever to win it, hopefully stopping the Left from repeatedly using repugnant tactics just like the one they are using as regards the Arizona massacre?

I swear to God, I’m no Palin fanatic. And I’m as susceptible as the next guy or gal to the notion that she may not be the person to be America’s next President. I don’t know. But I do know that, once examined, whether through happenstance, or design, some of her tactics are absolutely brilliant, if one is willing to examine them in depth. Who knows, perhaps it’s just instinct? Nah, it can’t be that. That would almost make her Reaganesque!

Nick Gillespie at Reason:

One of the things that excited people about Sarah Palin was her apparent authenticity, her down-to-earthiness, her experience of working, living, dreaming, and achieving far from the conventional centers of power in American society. In a political age characterized by the telegenic intimacy of the 24-hour news channel, Palin seemed perfectly in synch with the sort of unmediated access viewers and voters crave. And only the most insulated chumps in the opinionating business (read: most of them) were put off by her insistence that when she graduated college she got a job, not a passport and a backpack.

But since her bravura entrance onto the national stage, virtually every interaction she has had with her public has been so tightly stage-managed and scripted that her main selling point has been swathed and suffocated in layers and layers of distance from anything approaching a real-time response to the world she lives in. When she resigned her governorship long before her first term was up, she signaled that she wasn’t so interested in being an actual legislator. Fair enough, and who can blame her? But she’s now getting to the point where she’s signaling that she is incapable of giving even her most sympathetic audience what it wants from her. Which means there’s one less interesting character on the public stage and her future, even as an entertainer, is dimmer than it once seemed.

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