Friday, July 27, 2007

The Opinionator

July 27, 2007, 2:39 pm
Hillary vs. Obama? Really?
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: , , ,

While many political junkies feel that foreign policy is perhaps Hillary Clinton’s Achilles heel with Democratic primary voters, she seems to have decided to make it the centerpiece of her attacks on Barack Obama. The Times reports that the latest salvoes “stemmed from their answers at a debate Monday involving the circumstances under which each as president might meet with leaders of Syria, Cuba and Venezuela, but it has broadened into a debate over whether the nation needs experience or a fresh approach on the world stage.”

The Washington Post’s heavyweight pundits are split on the strategy, with E.J. Dionne noting that “the eagerness with which Obama’s camp kept the battle going reflected a cardinal rule in politics: Front-runners should be wary of picking fights with challengers” and Charles Krauthammer feeling that “the grizzled veteran showed up the clueless rookie.”

Others have more subtle opinions. Doren Dayton, a Republican political consultant who writes the eyeon08 blog, thinks both the YouTube debate and the resulting dustup are good for politics and the country:

I think this is a real philosophical debate about foreign policy that cuts to a real fracture in the Democratic Party between (responsible) foreign policy elites and one part of the liberal faction of the party base. And it took real people to ask this question. Why? Probably because the press is part of the same elite opinion formation apparatus as everyone else. (incidentally, that’s why they didn’t ask questions about Iraq. Very few serious people were asking questions about Iraq, so the press didn’t either) … This gimmicky debate has resulted in the first real large-scale policy clash of the 2008 cycle. Something that 8(?) media sponsored debates couldn’t really achieve.
Ezra Klein thinks the press is making much ado about very little:

So far as I can tell, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton don’t disagree at all. Barack Obama would, if made president, deploy various ambassadors and envoys to lay the diplomatic groundwork that could result in Obama meeting with leaders of countries that America doesn’t necessarily consider allies. Hillary Clinton, too, would deploy envoys and various high-level administration officials to lay the diplomatic groundwork that could result in Clinton meeting with the leaders of countries that America doesn’t necessarily consider allies … At the end of the day, this is really about Clinton and Obama demonstrating their central appeals: Change for Obama, and competence for Clinton. Both think they can win this spat. Maybe they’re both right. But I don’t think, on this point, either is indicating a radically different policy. Their main disagreement is on which of them should be President.
Scarecrow at Firedoglake agrees with Klein on the substance, but places the blame elsewhere:

We’ve been treated to a growing display of ambition and campaign stupidity, in which the campaigns have manufactured a dispute that never had to be. Last night, both campaigns sent their spokesmen onto CNN and Hardball, and both managed to make their respective candidates seem petty and silly –­ Clinton for her insincere charge of inexperience, Obama for the silliness of his comparing Clinton with Bush on this point, then Clinton for the arrogance and condescension of Wolfson’s response and finally Obama for the incoherence of his advisor’s reply. Nice going guys. And the point of this was demonstrate how wise the two of you are in talking to adversaries?

July 26, 2007, 5:07 pm
Legal in Pennsylvania
By Tobin Harshaw

An obscure federal trial in Pennsylvania may have a big impact on the Immigration Reform debate. Reuters reports that “a U.S. judge on Thursday struck down as unconstitutional a local law designed to crack down on illegal immigration, dealing a blow to similar laws passed by dozens of towns and cities across the country. U.S. District Judge James Munley said the city of Hazleton, 100 miles north of Philadelphia, was not allowed to implement a law that would fine businesses that hire illegal immigrants and penalize landlords who rent rooms to them.”

The blogger at Digger’s Realm who has been following the trial closely is struck by the judge’s insistence that “even if federal law did not conflict with Hazleton’s measures, the city could not enact an ordinance that violates rights the Constitution guarantees to every person in the United States, whether legal resident or not.”

“So the ruling seems not to state that the ordinance conflicts with federal immigration laws, but that the judge interprets the Constitution to include rights to illegal aliens,” writes Digger. “This is flawed logic in my opinion because illegal aliens have not sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution is not a human rights document as US District Judge James Munley seems to think, but is the rule of law in this land. As illegal aliens are breaking the law they should be held accountable. If it takes a local jurisdiction to do so - and uphold the Constitution - then so be it.”

James Joyner at Outside the Beltway sympathizes, but doesn’t think the judge was out of line: “This one was a no-brainer and, unless they had no brains, Hazleton’s politicians damned well knew it. One understands the frustrations of local officials, who have to bear the brunt over the inability or unwillingness of the federal government to enforce our immigration laws. Still, they obviously don’t have jurisdiction.”

Unsurprisingly, Michelle Malkin knows whom to blame: “Munley is a Clinton appointee.” Some reflexes, apparently, never get unlearned.


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