George Mitchell

For decades, Republicans had a simple approach to debating spending cuts: Keep it abstract. Paul Ryan changes that.

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The start to the Roger Clemens trial last week was a sleepy affair. Clemens is charged with lying to Congress during a 2008 hearing on steroids, when he testified that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs in his storied pitching career. He faces up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted on all counts. But, despite the high stakes and some melodramatic rhetoric from the lead prosecutor—who built his opening statement around a quote from Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion—the courtroom lacked much buzz. At one pre-trial deliberation, I had several pews to myself.

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The other shoe has now dropped in the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. In place of the partial freeze set to expire by the end of this month, Prime Minister Netanyahu intends to adopt more limited restraints on construction in the West Bank.

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On Wednesday, The Independent announced that "Cameron uses Turkish visit to launch ferocious attack on Israel." The Guardian reports that he "likened the experience of Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip to that of a 'prison camp'." Having just been to Washington, was Cameron doing a transmission job for Barack Obama? Probably not. This missive about Israel is surely not the one that Obama really wants to transmit now.

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One of the frustrations that comes with reading a David Brooks column about policy is that inevitably it will revolve around some ill-defined distinction between good centrism and bad knee-jerk ideology. Good centrist policy is inevitably fitted with certain descriptors, like "modest," or (depending on Brooks' mood) "bold." It will be said to encourage the private sector while steering between the ideological evils of old-fashioned big government and anti-government animus.

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It is as clear as daylight, and my particular information with all the caveats and special emphases comes from the most respectable pro- Palestinian journalist there is.  His name is Tobias Buck and he writes for the Financial Times where every piece published about the Jewish state--whose capital, in case you didn't know, is Tel Aviv--is jaundiced.  Jaundiced as in exhibiting distaste and hostility. Buck has a story in today's FT about the state of the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  They are, as I've been suggesting for months they would be, going nowhere.  George Mitche

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Almost before the celebrants at Barack Obama’s inauguration had gotten over their hangovers some 15 months ago, the president designated George Mitchell as his special envoy in the Middle East. I wrote then and several times since that he would be a flop, poor man. After all, it’s not the case that he had been a great success in any of his other high-minded missions, including the investigation into steroid use by baseball heroes.

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So the Obama administration seems to believe. It has not, at least in my memory, been struck by anything the P.A. has done or said that is inimical to negotiations and to peace. While it commands this and then that from Israel just to get the Palestinians to sit down and talk, the talking will not be between the parties at all but a three-way process with George Mitchell shuttling between Ramallah and Jerusalem and back.

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Is President Obama's health care reform a moderate bill, as Democrats claim, or an something more extreme, like Republicans say? William Bennett offers up the Republican case: On Saturday, the president said “this is a middle of the road bill.” It is not. The National Journal aggregation of polls has a 7 percent national opposition deficit (50 percent oppose, 43 percent support). Not one Republican — not Olympia Snowe, not Sue Collins, not Tom Coburn, and not Jim Inhofe — is supporting this. ...

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Housing Bust

You do not need insider information to know that Hillary Clinton threw a hissy fit at Bibi Netanyahu last Friday morning. And you don’t need that kind of information to know that she was sent out to do this little job by her boss.

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