- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TREND GAINS SPEED

“The Republican victories in New Jersey and Virginia this month are a clarion call for centrist, bipartisan leadership - and a punctuation mark on a slow but steady movement by middle-of-the-road voters away from President Obama,” longtime Democratic consultant Douglas E. Schoen writes in the New York Daily News.

“The trend, under way since Obama took the oath, is now accelerating. Unless the president makes a course correction, he will live to regret it,” Mr. Schoen said.

“Over the course of the last 10 months, independents have abandoned Obama and the Democrats en masse. They’re not necessarily shifting to the Republican Party, but they are far less supportive of the president and the Democratic Party’s priorities.

“Back in the spring, Obama was consistently registering 60 percent approval among independents. Today, a majority of independents - 53 percent according to a recent CNN poll - actually disapprove of the president’s job performance. That erosion can only be called a cratering of support.

“The single biggest reason independents are breaking away from Democrats is that they feel he is spending too much money, increasing the deficit and not addressing the nation’s problems in a bipartisan way.

“Put simply, they think Obama is abandoning the political center he claimed to represent as a candidate.

“And when it comes to the judgment of centrists, perception is reality.”

THE ‘RECKONING’

No polls have been released on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s decision “to hold the trials of key al-Qaeda suspects in New York City, but you can bet it won’t be a popular decision in the area of the country hardest hit by 9/11,” John Fund writes at www.opinionjournal.com.

“New York City cops that I’ve spoken with are furious about the move, despite the fact that Commissioner Ray Kelly is acting like a good soldier” and supporting Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s decision to go along with the trials. …

“The decision to take the most high-profile defendants and put them in civilian courts appears strange and hardly necessary, since the Obama administration is already using military tribunals - a system codified in law by Congress in 2006 - to try other terror suspects. Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, writing at National Review Online, offers a theory about Attorney General Holder’s agenda, which amounts to putting U.S. counterterrorism efforts on trial along with the al Qaeda defendants.

“Says Mr. McCarthy: ‘The continuing investigations of Bush-era counterterrorism policies, coupled with the obsession to disclose classified national-defense information from that period, enable Holder to give the hard Left the “reckoning” that he and Obama promised during the 2008 campaign. The defendants will demand every bit of information they can get about interrogations, renditions, secret prisons, undercover operations targeting Muslims and mosques, etc., and - depending on what judge catches the case - they are likely to be given a lot of it. The administration will be able to claim that the judge, not the administration, is responsible for the exposure of our defense secrets.’ ”

WHICH IS IT?

The decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed “in a federal courthouse in Manhattan, where he and his four co-conspirators will receive the full array of rights enjoyed by American citizens, will show the world that our system of justice is an enlightened model for the rest of the world. It will ‘vindicate this country’s basic values’ and ‘stand as a symbol in the world of something different from what the terrorists represent.’ We will be adhering to the ‘rule of law.’ Or so Obama defenders argue,” Peter Wehner writes in a blog at www.commentarymagazine.

“But imagine KSM being found not guilty, which is a possibility. What happens then? According to Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, ‘under basic principles of international law, as long as these individuals pose a threat, they can be detained, and they will.’ Come again? You mean if KSM is acquitted he will still be detained? Yes indeed, according to Sen. Reed. He will not be released, ‘because under the principle of preventive detention, which is recognized during hostilities,’ we can continue to hold KSM.

“Well, now. It seems to me as though President Obama and [Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.] need to be asked whether they agree with Sen. Reed. If not - if they believe that the proud, self-confessed mastermind of the deadliest attack in history on the American homeland should be able to walk free if acquitted in this trial - then Obama and Holder should certainly say so. If KSM were acquitted, the president and his attorney general should proclaim from the rooftops that Mohammed is a free man, found innocent in a civilian court of law, and then allow voters to render a judgment on their decision,” Mr. Wehner said.

“If, on the other hand, Obama and Holder agree with Sen. Reed, they should state that as well.”

BAD BET

“Ten months ago, at the beginning of the great stimulus debate, President-elect Barack Obama’s economic advisers produced an unfortunate chart,” Ross Douthat writes in The New York Times.

“The chart plotted out two lines. One projected the unemployment rate through 2014 with a stimulus package; the other projected unemployment across the same period without it,” Mr. Douthat said.

“The first line - the hopeful line, the one that was used to sell $800 billion worth of stimulus - showed the rate of joblessness peaking this fall at 8 percent, and dropping swiftly thereafter. The second line - the no-stimulus scenario - showed unemployment peaking at 9 percent, holding there across 2010, and then declining in 2011 and 2012.

“Now reality has produced numbers of its own. In every month since May, the unemployment rate has been roughly a percentage point higher than the chart’s grimmer, stimulus-free scenario. This October, when Obama’s advisers predicted that unemployment would stand at 8 percent with the stimulus and just under 9 percent without it, the actual jobless rate leaped to 10.2 percent.

“This dire figure isn’t Barack Obama’s fault. Even in an age of near-trillion-dollar spending sprees, the president of the United States has only limited influence over the unemployment numbers. But the White House spent the winter pretending otherwise. The stimulus bill was framed and sold primarily as a jobs bill, and the Obama administration placed a substantial bet on the promise that the unemployment rate would start dropping before 2010 arrived.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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