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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: November 2009

Obama and Iran: Will the President Act?

November 29th, 2009 - 4:07 pm

On Tuesday, President Obama’s long process of dithering about Afghanistan- a process which foreign policy expert Leslie Gelb referred to as the work of a  “gang of amateurs,”- will be over. The nation will see to what extent the president will personally show that he will stand behind the decision he has made- which according to leaks-will be to send around 30 to 35,000 troops to enact the surge recommended months ago by General Stanley A. McChrystal.

On Iran, an area of equal if not greater importance, President Obama has far to go.  Politico.com columnist Laura Rozen argued last week that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s decision to censure Iran for failing to disclose its Qom nuclear facility was a political victory for Obama, since the administration could now point to concrete results in its efforts to engage Iran. “Today’s vote,” Rozen wrote, “helps the Obama administration make the case that those efforts have helped demonstrate to key members of the international community, notably Russia and China, that the U.S. is doing everything it can to work the Iran issue diplomatically in consultation with them.”

The only problem is that as before, when different international bodies threatened sanctions to force Iran to comply with international and UN decisions, the censure has fallen on deaf ears. If Iran is isolating itself, as Obama’s defenders claim, the isolation shows that the mullahs are revealing they fear little from the Obama team’s and the IAEA’s censure. Indeed, their only response, as the Tehran Times reported, is to announce that Iran will no longer voluntarily comply with the Agency. Iran sees all of this condemnation as pressure, and rather than go along, its leaders vow to continue on their march to a successful nuclear device. Thus, some of its leaders are even vowing to depart entirely from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. That would be, as has been  blogged by Harry Siegel and others, a green light for Israel and even perhaps the United States to move towards a plan to bomb Iran.

And yesterday, Iran announced that it would not only further enrich its stockpile of nuclear fuel, but would build ten new enrichment plants. Western experts were dubious. David Albright, head of a group that tracks nuclear proliferation, argues that Iran is not capable of building so many centrifugues, because it does not have the proper infrastructure. However, a new push for enrichment, he said, would end up producing  “one small plant somewhere that they’re not going to tell us about,” and it would be military in nature. What atomic agency officials fear, the New York Times report indicated, is “that the steady drumbeat of defiant declarations from Iran could lead to the one act that would truly touch off a crisis;” withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the limiting of Western atomic inspectors, thus leading to producing fuel for more nuclear weapons.

What all of these events highlights is the opposite of any success for the Obama administration’s clearly failed diplomatic track. In a particularly insightful and must-read column, Jerusalem Post columnist Barry Rubin notes what should be obvious, but to so many in our country, seems not to be:  “The great experiment of engaging Iran seems to be over.” Iran, he notes, has been given so-called final deadlines to act and cease production of nuclear material since September of 2007!

Instead of facing reality, however, Rubin argues that the Obama administration “doesn’t want to admit that the new Iranian counteroffer is unacceptable because it would have to give up its dreams of a deal and actually do something in response.” Iran, as he points out, has been negotiating for seven years, and all of this has produced nothing in return. In a reverse of the usual response, countries like Britain and France are now more willing to act, but are facing instead the reluctance of the United States to join them.

Rubin reaches a harsh conclusion, one with which I fully concur. He writes: “So America’s policy is being held hostage by a president with no experience and little understanding of international affairs, a set of ideas making failure inevitable, trying to please a country which is an ally of the adversary and misestimating a dictatorial regime with boundless ambitions and tremendous self-confidence.”

Many in our country argue that as in the Cold War of the past, the U.S. can and should adopt George F. Kennan’s famous strategy of containment. The only problem is that the mullahs are not the Soviet Politburo, who despite their Leninist ideology, did not wish to die in a nuclear holocaust.  We cannot bet on believing that Iran’s leaders are thoroughly rational. In the past week’s issue of Newsweek, the magazine runs a harrowing interview with recently freed Iranian prisoner, reporter Maziar Bahari. As editor Jon Meacham writes after asking readers to ponder the interrogation Bahari received, “read Maziar’s piece—and then imagine his captors with nuclear weapons.” Anyone who believes that people who think the way his interrogators do can understand world reality and the views of American leaders has a lot to learn.

We cannot afford, as Rubin says, to let the entire strategic balance “change against Western interests.” To fully understand what is at stake, however, it is necessary to read and ponder the analysis offered by our PJM colleague Michael A. Ledeen, whose important book Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West,  has just been published. His second chapter is appropriately titled “None So Blind As They Who Will Not See.”  After an extensive and brilliant discussion of the past and Europe’s blindness during the Holocaust, Ledeen shows that the misunderstanding of Iran goes far deeper and is more illusory than the world leaders’ view of Hitler’s agenda was in the 1930’s.

So Ledeen concludes his chapter with words of wisdom: “We are now threatened by an Islamic version of totalitarianism that we prefer not see, just as in the fascist era and again with regard to Soviet Communism. We’re going to have to see it, understand it, and then vanquish it.”

We will, and we must. The question remains, however. Will the Obama Administration heed the call, and respond as it should? Will anyone in Obama’s administration, indeed, even consider reading Ledeen’s analysis and policy prescriptions?  As he writes at the book’s end: “If we do not bring down the Iranian regime, we will inevitably face the terrible choice so well described by French president Nicolas Sarkozy: bomb Iran, or Iran with the bomb. If we do arrive at that Hobson’s choice, it will be a fitting testament to the great failure of the West to deal with this generation’s most dangerous and most evil enemies. It will truly be Hell to pay.”

There is sufficient evidence to allow our nation’s leaders to understand the nature of the Iranian regime, and enough precedent to provide them with a path to making sound policy. If they do not do so, it is not as if they have not been warned. President Obama, are you listening? We must certainly hope so.

At first liberal pundits had a series of explanations for why Major Nidal Malik Hasan went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood. He was simply a lone deranged mental case; a Muslim furious that Army buddies discriminated against him because he was a Muslim and also made derogatory comments to his face; a doctor who had secondary traumatic stress disorder, which he suffered from due to all those returning veterans who actually had it. Or, perhaps, like the perpetual disgruntled former postal employee, he just went bonkers. Anything was possible, except to blame his actions on the radical Islamist ideology he evidently practiced.  As Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News, the Army wanted to blame it on a medical condition, in order “to avoid any implication that there was any connection between his Islamist beliefs…and his actions.”

None of these explanations washed, and the more they were made, the sillier they sounded. The connections the public made — based on clear evidence — were far superior to those made by scores of apologists. Now, this past Sunday, one liberal pundit has taken to the op-ed pages of The New York Times to offer what is perhaps the most preposterous and disingenuous explanation offered. The analysis comes from Robert Wright, a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, and editor of The Progressive Realist, a foreign policy blog.

Wright’s argument, believe it or not, is that yes—Major Hasan was an Islamic jihadist and terrorist — but his acts of terror were our fault! Wright reverts to the once popular “blame it on America” syndrome exposed years ago by the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick, during the waning days of the Cold War against the Soviet Union.   Wright’s argument goes this way: Conservatives support war in Iraq and Afghanistan; they and liberal hawks want to contain “the virus of Islamist radicalism.”

In so doing, Wright claims, the killing of innocent Muslim civilians — accidental as they may be — inflame the Muslim populace. They see battlefield video footage and are pushed “over the edge” towards the ideology of bin Laden and company, and want revenge. Major Hasan drew close to a radical imam he knew years earlier and communicated with him by e-mail; by this point, he had become “radicalized by two American wars.” Thus the Islamist terrorism he inflicted at Fort Hood was a result of our “war on terrorism.”

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The Reality of the STASI State in East Germany

November 20th, 2009 - 1:56 pm

Yesterday, I wrote about the affinity of so many on the Western Left for the old Communist East Germany. What they wish to restore, if only they could, is the nanny state without the compulsory police apparatus they claim to disdain. What they do not admit to is that to realize their people’s paradise the state would have to enforce the system by precisely those repressive mechanisms.

That is why, in fact, the DDR created the STASI, their Ministry of State Security. To gain acceptance for the socialist goals demanded by the state, they had to create an atmosphere of fear – without which, so many citizens would refuse to accept the life the regime’s rulers mandated. Of course, the rulers claimed it was done for the good of the people. When the STASI  sent its agents to Nicaragua to train its secret police during the Sandinista regime’s heyday in the 1980’s, the Sandinistas cleverly named their secret police- I kid you not- “The Sentinel of The People’s Happiness,” a slogan which was inscribed on the front of the Interior Ministry’s headquarters.

Take the realm of art, which the regime claimed thrived in the years of the socialist society being built in East Germany. As A.J. Goldmann notes in his review of a 20th anniversary art show on art in both the East and West during the years of the Wall, “in the repressive atmosphere of East Germany, artists often paid a price for making provocative art.” One artist serves as an example. Annemirl Bauer found that her drawings inflamed the STASI, especially one of a naked man suspending from a clotheslines while being pierced through his navel and feet by a guard. As a result, she was expelled from the Artists’s Association, and forbidden by the regime to paint. Another artist, Roger Loewig, was imprisoned for “agitation and propaganda endangering the state.” The STASI destroyed his novel, although a powerful triptych, displayed in the current exhibit, reveals how he composed art that meant to expose the fear that always was beneath the surface of everyday life.

As for the nature of the regime, no one has said it better than journalist John Simpson, the BBC’s World Affairs editor. Simpson knows that: “Nowadays you come across a certain amount of nostalgia for the old East Germany.” But, he writes, “in reality it was a deeply unattractive place. The secret police didn’t just watch people, they beat them up, forced confessions from them, ruined their lives. They only stopped guillotining enemies of the state in 1968, and after that they shot them. Life was full of shortages – except for the politicians and the secret police.”  Recalling what it was like to travel from West Germany to East from 1978 through the mid 80s, he talks about what an intimidating experience it was: “On the Western side, everything seemed normal and safe but as you passed into East Berlin, a huge camera lens was trained on you, searching out your thoughts and intentions. And if there was anything wrong with your visa they would keep you in solitary confinement for hours.”

Next, Simpson says, “after the men with guns had gone through everything you’d brought with you, and confiscated any books they didn’t like, you passed through a creaking gate and found yourself in a darkened street with no cars or taxis and streetlamps suffering permanent brown-out. Nothing was what it seemed.” The government assigned him an official minder, who continually told him how wonderful life was in the DDR. She and her family, he was assured, led a good life.  Later, when she was sure she was not being bugged, the minder whispered to him, “‘I’ve got to get away from here. There’s no future for our children.’”

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Part I: The Left Looks at Germany’s Socialist Path, and Finds it Worthy

Most Germans—polls show, despite current economic difficulties, do not regret the fall of the Wall, the collapse of the Communist regime in the East, and the eventual reunification of their country. What doubts there are, however,  come from the ranks of the Western Left, who seem to have the ability to regularly air their arguments in the op-ed pages of  The New York Times. I read one such report in the paper’s pages while visiting Berlin, written by Katrin Bennhold and titled “Lessons From the Former East Germany.”

Bennhold beings by noting that “Like most people, I had slept through the fall of the Berlin Wall.”  At the time, her parents, 60’s activists, sided with the millions of protesters gathered 20 years ago in East Berlin, who were demanding  what she knows was “freedom and democratic rights.”  But as activists of the Left, they feared that the collapse of the DDR (German Democratic Republic) would lead to the leaders of the West cutting apart the welfare state, and adopting a free-market capitalism influenced by what she calls the Reagan-Thatcher model. Their fear, she writes, was achieved. The West “simply swallowed East and in the process discarded 40 years of mostly bad but some good policies.”

She proceeds to identify those “good” policies that existed in the Communist East. They include child care policies that included a “network of day care centers,” paid maternity leave, and women who worked in various jobs. It was a society of both female crane operators and scientists, she writes. She gives as an example the career of the current German chancellor, Angela Merkel. Merkel was a physicist by training, but Bennhold simply ignores that even though Merkel obtained a higher education in the Communist state, she was hardly happy about her life there.

Bennhold  should look at the message that Merkel gave Germans on the anniversary of the fall; the first female chancellor told her fellow Berliners: “The great theme [of the current celebration] is happiness and satisfaction that everything developed the way that it did.”  Acknowledging that Germany has problems as a result, Merkel explained that “It was the fate of one generation that essentially had to pay for the inefficiency of the G.D.R.’s economy, and whose expectations could no longer be fulfilled.” The fall of the wall,  Merkel said, “ the end of the Socialist Unity Party dictatorship and German reunification transformed my life. In short, I would not be chancellor, nor even politically active, if the wall were still standing. After Nov. 9, 1989, thoughts became thinkable that before had been completely unthinkable. For the first time, a person like me had the opportunity to engage in community life, to take on responsibility.”  There was no alternative, she said. “Reunification in peace and freedom was a great blessing for our country. The integration process went well for the most part. I think we put things more or less on the right track at the time — otherwise the rebuilding of the Eastern states would not have gone so successfully.”

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Perhaps because this was the very week of the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago, attendance at the one year old Museum of the DDR (German Democratic Republic- the official name of the East German Communist government) was way above average. Virtually every space was packed this afternoon with German college students, older German adults, families with young children, and some foreign tourists.  The museum sits by the River Spree in what was once a block from the People’s Palace, the now torn down entertainment and government complex where the parliamentarians of the old regime met and grandiose Communist events were staged. It is to be found on the appropriate Karl Liebknecht Street, a block named after the martyred Red leader of the 1918 attempt at a Bolshevik style revolution led by the Spartacists in the post World War I years.

The museum catalog sets out its purpose: “The DDR Museum is the only museum which concentrates on everyday life in the GDR. We don’t only show the crimes of the State Security or the border defences at the Berlin Wall but we display the life of the people in the dictatorship: Maybe you know the spreewald pickles, nudism beaches and the Trabi – the rest of the life in this socialist state is unfamiliar to most of the people in the world.”

Going through its space is a rather surreal experience. A major success after one year in operation, the museum combines what Germans call “ostalgie” or nostalgia for the old Communist state that divided the capital of Germany with a somewhat critical perspective revealing the failure of the socialist dream.

For example, one exhibit shows a Stasi operation- in which the secret police regularly took photos of attendees at rock concerts, whom they scrupulously sought to identify, assuming that at some future time they could emerge as regime critics:

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Another exhibit covers the well known insistence of beachcombers to swim in the nude. The text explains that the nude beach movement was a form of rebellion against prudish Communist protocol, a way of asserting individuality for those who lived in a regime that sought to control most aspects of life, in order to break down any independent civil society and create as thorough a totalitarian regime as was possible.

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Strangely, though, the museum curators do not seem to realize that nudism was to some extent favored by Marxist ideologues, who building on the attempt of Wilhelm Reich to fuse Marxism and Freudianism into a coherent ideology, believed that nudism was one mechanism for advancing the cause of socialist revolution. Indeed, in the 1960s in this country, the late Lee Baxandall created a Nude Beach Movement in which he asserted just such an argument, and sought to translate the East German reality into protests in Cape Cod and elsewhere that he thought would easily move its adherents towards revolutionary socialism.

One of the most interesting exhibits takes place in a replica of an East German cinema, in which one gets to watch an official propaganda film made in the late 1970s that details the plans for future apartments and other dwellings prepared by State employed architects. The film emphasizes, as the narrator says in its closing moments, that socialism means “fulfillment of one’s dreams,” in which the Party plans massive and humane dwellings for the citizens of the future socialist Germany. By the year 2000, those who saw the film when it was made were told, the DDR would have built great new apartment dwellings in areas that were then vacant land, nicely landscaped centers that included ample space for greenery and children’s playgrounds.

In truth, those who have seen Brezhnev era worker’s homes in Moscow can see immediately that both the interior and exterior of the DDR homes and apartments were so far superior to that built by Stalin’s successors, that Russians who worked in East Germany must have been shocked at the disparity.

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The apartment shown above is supposedly typical of what the interior of the cement block apartments were like in areas like Stalin-Allee, the massive complex of worker’s homes provided by the regime for its citizens who worked in factories. Of course, the museum does not show us the mansions lived in by Erich Honecker and the top Party cadre, who lived in luxury in leafy suburbs like the Pankow area, or along Lake Wansee, where celebrity artists like the American born defector and country-folk singer, the late Dean Reed, lived.

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“The Nation,” Jihad and General Casey

November 9th, 2009 - 10:31 am

By now, most of us are tired of the continuing litany of “let’s not judge” what happened at Fort Hood, and that Major Malik Nidal Hasan was simply mentally ill and stressed out because of his impending deployment. He, like a disgruntled employee, simply snapped.

That is why it was so refreshing to hear Senator Joe Lieberman on Fox News Sunday, where the maverick Democrat now independent dissident dared to say that Hasan “reportedly showed signs of being a “self-radicalized, homegrown terrorist.’” There were indications, he noted, that Hasan “had turned to Islamist extremism” which should be investigated.  If so, his action was not that of a mentally unbalanced individual, but “a terrorist act.” The military should have acted, Lieberman added, and once they got notice of various reported signs about Hasan, he should have been gone.

Lieberman’s view is especially refreshing when compared to that offered by Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, who told CNN that “You know there’s been a lot of speculation going on, and probably the curiosity is a good thing, but we have to be careful, because we can’t jump to conclusions now based on little snippets of information that come out.” Rather than acknowledge the obvious, General Casey was concerned instead that undue speculation could “cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers,” and that while Hasan’s action was a tragedy, “it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well.”

Any objective observer would think it a tragedy if the Army swept the motivations of someone like Hasan under the rug.  He  not only yelled out “Allahu Akbar” before his shooting spree, but told various people that American Muslims should not be fighting other Muslims abroad, and that actions taken of a violent nature like suicide bombings were justified.

But perhaps the single most egregious post on these events comes, rather predictably, from those good folks at The Nation magazine, in which John Nichols writes “the incident inspired an all-too-predictable explosion of Islamophobia.”  Nichols perceives  that what triggered Hasan’s attack was that he feared getting combat related stress as he had observed in the soldiers he had treated. Of course Hasan would have been assigned to a medical unit treating soldiers in need of psychological counseling, and he himself would not have been in a combat situation.

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What is the Matter with Thomas Frank?

November 5th, 2009 - 5:12 pm

I understand that like other op-ed pages, The Wall Street  Journal feels compelled to have at least one columnist who is an unabashed liberal.  But one wonders if they picked Thomas Frank because they wanted to choose someone whose arguments are so thin that they did so to expose the weaknesses in the arguments of our contemporary liberal pundits.

Yesterday, Frank hit rock bottom with his rather inane attack on Glenn Beck. What upsets him is Beck’s expose of Anita Dunn’s now famous remark that Chairman Mao was one of her “favorite political philosophers,” who along with Mother Teresa, she regularly turned to for inspiration. At PJM, our colleague Roger Kimball has already dealt shrewdly with the very notion that Mao could even be called a philosopher.

That definition of Mao is not what upsets Mr. Frank. Rather, he argues that to Beck, “Ms.Dunn was yet another person who deserved to be added to the long list of radicals that Mr. Beck had uncovered within the government.” Evidently, it does not disturb Frank one bit that Mao, to anyone who knows some history, was one of the bloodiest tyrants and most vicious totalitarian dictator of the last century.  The point is not that Dunn is another left-wing radical snuck into the White House, but that an individual who speaks with the President’s authority to young people can without a hint of apology be recommending Mao to them as an inspiring figure to emulate.

Second, Mr. Frank thinks it unfair that Beck did not phone those he attacks and ask them to appear on his program to defend themselves. Instead, Beck rants on the air about how the White House will not phone him to explain themselves. Two individuals whom the WH either consulted with or appointed were Robert McChesney, whom Frank simply calls “a frequent target of Mr. Beck,” and Mark Lloyd, the new Chief Diversity Officer at the FCC.

So Frank phoned them up; he calls McChesney an “old friend” and disarmingly describes him as head of an “advocacy group on media policy.”  It sounds like a simple non-partisan organization that McChesney heads. But a quick perusal of his own articles, like this one,  immediately reveal that he is an unabashed sectarian Marxist of the old school, who sees the U.S. media as a tool of the capitalist ruling class that maintains hegemonic control over society. For McChesney, journalism  “smuggles in values conducive to the commercial aims of the owners and advertisers as well as the political aims of the owning class.” Indeed, to McChesney, journalism is simply  “ideological class warfare.” As he concludes: “Our job is to make media reform part of our broader struggle for democracy, social justice, and, dare we say it, socialism.”

Now if this man has indeed been to the White House more than once to consult on media policy, shouldn’t this be a concern of ours? How ingenious of Thomas Frank to leave the details out, and simply complain about how Beck has defamed his old friend, without giving him a chance to respond.

Next Frank tells us how he e-mailed Mark Lloyd, whom Beck somehow unfairly defamed by “repeatedly airing video clips in which he appears to hold noxious views.”  Look at Frank’s words: “appears to hold.” Come on, Mr. Frank. The videos, as we all know, were shown in full. They reveal Lloyd telling an audience, fairly recently, how he admires Hugo Chavez and his ability to curb a free media in Venezuela by shutting down opposition stations. Mr. Lloyd is also shown praising Chavez’s revolution.  

In  a public and videotaped panel in 2008, Lloyd called Hugo Chavez’s government the result of “really an incredible revolution…a democratic revolution.”  As a result of his triumph, Lloyd argued that “the property owners and the folks who were then controlling the media rebelled,” with the result that Chavez and his cadre had to move and close their media outlets down. Then he said the US sought to oust him, but Chavez came back stronger than ever, “and  had another revolution,” and then “started to take the media very seriously in his country.” Viewing Chavez’s totalitarian actions favorably, Lloyd implied that opponents of the right-wing media should do the same here.

Lloyd  also said that the “fairness doctrine” isn’t enough, that we need new “structural rules” to put teeth into it, and that “good white people in important positions” should “step down so someone else can have power.” Is it important that a man who now is Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer of the FCC has these views, and that the public get to hear about them?

It is good journalism to report on what Lloyd believes—to show him uttering his actual words- and to call into question with editorial comment the judgment made by the Obama administration in appointing this man to an important media post.

Does Thomas Frank really think that he is making a sound explanation when he writes “that lots of people, including conservatives, have cited Mao and Lenin and other such demonic figures in all sorts of contexts.” I suspect that conservatives, and liberal democrats (with a  small d) who believe in the Western heritage of liberalism have cited these people to criticize their philosophies; quite a different thing than citing them approvingly as figures to emulate or as philosophers of class struggle who should guide our views on media policy.

So, let me close with Thomas Frank’s own words. What Frank argues is “only possible to believe after you have utterly closed yourself off to conventional ways of knowing, after you have decided that the reporting and analysis and scholarship on these subjects are not worth reading, and that you will choose ideological fairy tales over reality….”

Frank, of course, was referring with the above sentence to Glenn Beck. But his words apply to Frank himself. So here are two books he might send to Anita Dunn, Robert McChesney and Mark Lloyd. I would start with Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s acclaimed biography, Mao:The Unknown Story, followed by the book by Plino Mendoza, Carlos Alberto Montaner, and Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot.

These would be a fine start to help Thomas Frank get over what he accuses Beck of: “a new kind of ignorance.”  These authors indeed have “professional standards of inquiry,” the kinds of standards that Dunn, McChesney and Lloyd are obviously deeply in need of. I agree with Frank that “ideas have consequences.” The problem is that those Thomas Frank so admires are those whose heads are filled with bad ideas; ideas that history has shown have resulted in the horrors of the totalitarian century that just passed.

Perhaps it is not too late for Thomas Frank to do some reading himself.

The Meaning of the Republican Victory

November 4th, 2009 - 9:25 am

The election is over, and one thing is clear. Despite the attempt of the Democratic spin machine to claim that their defeat is a victory — that Republicans won the gubernatorial race in Virginia and New Jersey because of local issues alone, and that their party does not have to worry about the future — they have suffered a rousing defeat. Local issues, combined with growing unpopularity with Obama and in particular the ObamaCare health proposals, led to Republican victory.

America remains a center-right — and not a center-left — nation. Remember, in New Jersey, Obama did all he could to try and guarantee Corzine’s success. He appeared with him over and over, and tried to attach his popularity to that of the governor whose own ratings were quickly tanking to the lowest digits. It didn’t work. Christie won 50% of the vote, and Corzine got a meager 44% in a state that went overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008. How Democrats can ignore this rather obvious conclusion is an issue for the psychologists, not for election analysts.

Yet, Republicans and conservatives too have to carefully evaluate the meaning of the results, and refrain from reaching conclusions that are not warranted. On this point, I second the analysis offered today by my PJM colleague, Roger L. Simon. The reason Doug Hoffman lost in the NY 23rd Congressional District is that he ran as a purist of the take no enemies Right — that believes simple continual statements of the most far right conservative principles, particularly emphasizing so-called social conservative issues like opposition to abortion and to gay rights, would be the path to electoral triumph.

Instead, moderate and centrist voters who likely would have supported a Republican conservative like, let us say, Joe Scarborough — fiscally conservative and socially libertarian — or would have voted for the winning Bob McDonnell in Virgina, deserted the once solid Republican bastion (in that column since the end of the Civil War) and voted instead for the Democrat Bill Owens. In Virginia, although McDonnell is a traditional conservative, he downplayed the social issues and ran an effective campaign that stressed issues like transportation and jobs — issues that moderates and centrists are deeply worried about.

Here, we can learn from the analysis of a left-wing journalist like John B. Judis who writes today on TNR’s website:

If the results of New York’s 23rd are placed alongside those of New Jersey and Virginia, there is a clear lesson for the Republicans. In New Jersey and Virginia, the gubernatorial candidates ran to the center. Christie is a moderate, and McDonnell at least pretended to be. And as a result, they got the swing vote of independents and moderates. In New York-23, a diehard conservative backed by rightwing groups repudiated the center and lost to a neophyte Democratic candidate who probably could not have beaten Scozzafava in a one-to-one contest.

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