- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

LIBERAL DISDAIN

“Sometimes political movements, as they grow old, become arrogant, insular and dismissive of criticism,” Ramesh Ponnuru writes in National Review.

“Critics said that the conservative ascendancy of the last few decades succumbed to that disease, and there is more truth in it than conservatives would like to admit. What we are seeing in Washington, D.C., right now is different: President Obama and his supporters are showing early symptoms of this syndrome in the first flush of victory. The liberal ascendancy is already becoming a liberal complacency,” Mr. Ponnuru said.

“In part this tendency reflects the character of the new president, a preternaturally self-confident man. His ambition to remake American policy and politics is staggering. His agenda for just his first year in office includes a fiscal stimulus unprecedented in size, a push for a new energy economy, and the revamping of American health care. That ambition may wreck his presidency, or it may make him the world-historical figure he aspires to be. But what is more troubling is the unwarranted intellectual self-confidence that liberalism in the age of Obama increasingly exhibits.

“The debate over the economic-stimulus plan illustrated the point. When that plan was criticized, President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin all resorted nearly immediately to the ‘argument’ that they had won the election. It is of course true that a lot of Democrats won their elections and that they will consequently get their way in most policy disputes. Yet they - and liberals generally - seem oddly exercised by the continued resistance to their policies by the small and relatively powerless minority that elected Republicans now constitute.”

THAT ‘CABAL’

Jay Cost, writing at www.realclearpolitics.com, expresses disappointment that President Obama apparently has abandoned his campaign promise of partisan reconciliation.

“In ‘The Audacity of Hope,’ Barack Obama writes: ‘[G]enuine bipartisanship … assumes an honest process of give-and-take, and that the quality of the compromise is measured by how well it serves some agreed-upon goal, whether better schools or lower deficits. This in turn assumes that the majority party will be constrained - by an exacting press corps and ultimately an informed electorate - to negotiate in good faith.’

“This argument, especially the notion of promoting good faith, was central to his star turn at the 2004 DNC, as well his presidential campaign,” Mr. Cost said.

“Contrast this with the recent comment of press secretary Robert Gibbs, who dismissed the criticisms of former Vice President Dick Cheney thusly: ‘I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy, so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal.’

“The term ‘cabal’ was popularized as an acronym for the members of Charles II’s Committee for Foreign Affairs, who were said to be running the state. Today, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as, ‘a secret or private intrigue of a sinister character formed by a small body of persons; “something less than conspiracy.” ´

“So, gone are the days of the vast right-wing conspiracy. Presumably, electoral defeat has depleted its ranks - now, it is a mere cabal. Still, it is comforting to know that, though smaller in size, its aims are as sinister as ever.

“Later in the presser, Mr. Gibbs conceded that his answer had been sarcastic. We might write this off if it were an isolated incident, but it is not. The White House is openly working to delegitimize Republican challenges to the president’s proposals, effectively to argue that the GOP is not a loyal opposition.

“Recall that the White House endeavored to label Rush Limbaugh the leader of the Republican Party; that this ‘message war’ to paint Republicans as ‘reflexively political’ continues; that one of the first White House officials to mention Limbaugh was the president himself; and that the president has also misrepresented the Republican position on big issues like the stimulus.

“So much for promoting good faith. Instead, the White House has fallen into the kinds of partisan habits the president once decried: overwrought rhetoric, misrepresentation of the other side, and ad hominem attack.”

GENERIC POLLS

“Republicans have the lead in the generic ballot in the Rasmussen poll and are running even in that question in the latest NPR poll,” Michael Barone writes in a blog at www.usnews.com.

“The Republican lead in Rasmussen is 41-39 percent, with Democrats at the low end of the 39-50 percent range they’ve been over the past year and Republicans at the top end of their 34-41 percent range,” Mr. Barone said.

“Is this just statistical noise? Quite possibly. But if I were chairman of the NRCC I would sure be looking at targeting a whole lot more races than I had imagined I would three months ago. …

“The NPR poll similarly finds party identification today at 42-42 percent, as compared to 51-40 percent Democratic in October 2006. Note that this also represents a decline for Democrats, not a gain for Republicans.

“I think there’s a danger for Republicans in overreliance on these numbers. That if they just hang back and criticize Obama or the Democrats, then everything will be all right again. That’s one possible scenario, but far from the only one, or even the most likely. If in war the enemy gets a vote, in politics the other party gets a chance to do things differently too, as Bill Clinton did successfully (for him, and almost for his party) in 1995-96.

“Republicans need to present alternative public policies and their vision for the future. Equality in the generic vote is not enough if most people scorn both parties. Which seems to be about where we are now.”

GENDER POLICE

“Overrunning the asylum, European Union thought police have issued a pamphlet to members of parliament containing guidelines for the gender-neutral-speak that will from now on be the required language of that august body,” Rachel Abrams writes in a blog at www.weeklystandard.com.

“Members will no longer be permitted to use such repulsively sexist appellations as Miss or Mrs., Frau, or Fraulein, Madame or Mademoiselle - you get the picture. Nor will the EU secretary general countenance ‘man-made,’ ‘headmistress,’ ‘statesman,’ or ‘policewoman,’ among other abhorrences.

“Sputtered one outraged Scottish Tory: ‘We will soon be told that the use of the words “man” or “woman” has been banned in case it causes offense to those who consider “gender neutrality” an essential part of life.’ Can he - oops, I mean, it - be very far off the mark?”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or e-mail Greg Pierce

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