Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Death of a Mideast Theory. By Greg Scoblete.

The Death of a Mideast Theory. By Greg Scoblete. Real Clear World, January 8, 2014.


Anyone paying even modest attention to the news knows that the Middle East is convulsed with violence. Iraq is battling a resurgent al-Qaeda, Syria is mired in a brutal civil war that is creeping steadily into Lebanon, Egypt is perched on the brink of violent instability. All the while, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry busies himself trying to broker a “framework agreement” between the Israelis and Palestinians. (Actually, this is what Kerry says he's doing: “We are working on a framework for negotiations that will guide and create the clear, detailed, accepted road map for the guidelines for the permanent-status negotiations and can help those negotiations move faster and more effectively.” Got it?)
There was a time, not so long ago, when many in Washington could argue with a straight face that solving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis was central to a more peaceful Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute was “linked” to regional unrest. If the U.S. would just untangle that stubborn knot, we've been told, it would set the Middle East on a more peaceful track.
If nothing else comes from the Mideast’s current orgy of violence, it should at least discredit the notion of linkage. The disparate strands of violence convulsing the region won’t end or even conceivably slow down should the Israelis and Palestinians bury the hatchet. None of the groups currently picking up arms in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, et al., are doing so on behalf of the Palestinians, though undoubtedly many would turn their guns on Israel if and when they get the chance. Secretary Kerry is, by all accounts, expending enormous amounts of time, effort and diplomatic capital on reaching his “framework for negotiations toward a roadmap for talks” – and for what?
Meanwhile, Japan – a country which the U.S. has an unambiguous stake in defending -- is inching perilously close to a confrontation with China and driving a wedge between itself and South Korea. The Middle East, for all its oil and violence, is beyond the reach of U.S. power and mediation. The kinds of state-building required to pacify the region is too costly and difficult (something you would think Washington would comprehend by now).
But Asia remains an arena where U.S. power and statecraft may actually be effective, given that the challenges are between states and not within them. At a minimum, it would be certainly be time better spent than trying to determine who lives where in the West Bank.

Insights on Peace from Avigdor Lieberman. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Insights on Peace from Avigdor Lieberman. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, January 6, 2014.


Since he returned to his post as Israel’s foreign minister after a break to fend off failed attempts to prosecute him on corruption charges, Avigdor Lieberman has been treated with the same disdain by the international media and many of Israel’s foreign friends as he got before he was finally acquitted after a decade-long prosecution. Even in Israel’s roughhouse political scene, Lieberman is the proverbial bull in a china shop. The general assumption is that Lieberman, who does not speak fluent English and has a tough-guy political fixer image dating back to his origins in the former Soviet Union, can’t be trusted to deal with nuanced issues. Prime Minister Netanyahu stripped him of any responsibility for relations with the United States as well as the peace process with the Palestinians since he first assumed this crucial Cabinet post. But though Lieberman’s significance has more to do with domestic Israeli politics, occasionally he utters statements that show us he has a better grasp of the situation than the wise guys who often put him down as being out of his depth.
That happened yesterday when Lieberman addressed a conference of Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem and said something that you wouldn’t have expected from someone associated (at least in the view of many of his country’s critics) with something quite so sensible. As Barak Ravid wrote in Haaretz:
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday that Israel must accept U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal for a framework agreement with the Palestinians since “any other proposal from the international community won’t be as good.”
Though that is not what much of the Israeli right—with whose views he is usually associated and for whose votes he will be seeking in the next election when his Yisrael Beitenu Party competes against Netanyahu’s Likud rather than running as its partner as it did in the last two Knesset elections—wants to hear, Lieberman is correct. This does not mean, however, that he is drifting to the left. The minister also noted that although he supports Kerry’s efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace, he and his party will never support an agreement that does not involve an Israeli surrender of territory inside the 1967 lines where Arabs predominate, a position that has been called racist by his opponents. But rather than dismissing this as a poison pill that will, like the Palestinian claim to the “right of return” for the descendants of the 1948 refugees, ensure that peace will never be achieved, Lieberman’s critics should listen closely to what he says.
Lieberman has repeatedly dismissed the Palestinian Authority and its leadership as not being a peace partner, yet he praised the secretary of state for his work in trying to get them to recognize Israel as a Jewish state—a formulation that is synonymous with accepting the end of the conflict. Kerry’s pursuit of an agreement is a mistake at this point because of the division between the Fatah-controlled West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza. It’s also foolish to think that any group of Palestinian leaders can sell their people on genuine peace on any terms in the absence of a sea change in opinion that will enable them to let go of an existential conflict that is integral to their identity as a people. Nor should Israelis regard the Obama administration’s clear tilt toward the Palestinians on the issues of territory and Jerusalem with complacency.
Peace process enthusiasts who prefer to ignore the truth about the Palestinians consider such views intemperate. Yet Lieberman is correct when he notes that Kerry’s acceptance of Israel’s demand that the PA accept Israel as a Jewish state—something that its leader Mahmoud Abbas has sworn he will never do—is a victory of sorts. That is something Israel cannot expect to hear, as Lieberman notes, from anyone else in the international community.
Yet it is likely that Lieberman’s resurrection of his party’s proposal for trading the “triangle” of Arab towns adjacent to the “green line” in Israel’s central region will cause his usual detractors to dismiss him as someone seeking to sabotage chances for peace. But while it is difficult to imagine this ever happening, it is possible that this seemingly radical idea may not be as unreasonable as some think.
After all, if it is a given that peace requires some Israelis to be turned out of their homes in communities in the West Bank and that other such settlements in blocs close to the pre-1967 lines should be incorporated into the Jewish state in exchange for other Israeli territory, why should that swap involve areas where people who now call themselves Palestinians rather than “Israeli Arabs” predominate?
There are two reasons that explain why the Palestinians refuse even to consider, must less to discuss this proposal.
One is that their notion of swaps—a concept specifically endorsed by President Obama—is so minimal as to be insignificant. Even if one assumes that the PA is serious about wanting peace—something that its ongoing policy of honoring terrorists who have murdered Israeli civilians and fomenting hatred against Israel and Jews renders not credible—it has shown little willingness to accept a map based more on demographic reality than a rigid insistence on the 1967 lines.
The other is that their goal is not to have two states for two peoples—the concept that Obama, Kerry, and the Israelis have discussed—but a Jew-free Palestinian Arab state on one side of the border and a mixed Jewish-Arab nation on the other whose balance would be altered by an influx of millions of Arabs, vastly overwhelming the Jewish majority and, in the bargain, expunging the explicitly Jewish state the United Nations voted to establish in 1947. While some Israelis have spoken of accepting a token number of these so-called refugees, Lieberman is right to refuse a single one, a stance justified by the international community’s unwillingness to recognize the fact that an equal number of Jewish refugees from the Arab and Muslim world lost their homes after 1948.
Of course, it is understandable that the Arab citizens of the triangle would prefer to stay inside Israel where, despite their complaints and alienation from the Jewish state, they enjoy its democracy and equal rights that no Palestinian enjoys under the rule of either Fatah or Hamas. But the very fact that Arabs would prefer to live in a majority Jewish state than to be incorporated into the putative Palestinian one tells us a lot about what kind of country that would be.
No one should expect Netanyahu, let alone Kerry, to start listening to Lieberman. But rather than dismissing him, perhaps the secretary should be listening closely to the foreign minister’s insights. Until he can convince the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and negotiate a deal that would truly be a solution of two states for two peoples, Kerry’s peace efforts will remain a fool’s errand.

A Post-Everything Moment in the Mideast. By Rami G. Khouri.

A post-everything moment in the Mideast. By Rami G. Khouri. The Daily Star (Lebanon), January 8, 2014.


With daily car bombs, suicide bombers, assassinations, kidnappings, ethnic warfare and collapsing government control across the Middle East, we are moving into the post-everything moment of our modern history: post-colonial, post-nationalist, post-statehood, post-imperial, post-Islamist, post-revolutionary, post-developmental and post-modern. The immediate focus of most analysts is on Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where Salafist-takfiri militants, some allied with Al-Qaeda, control bits of territory and have clashed with others to expand their footholds. Constantly changing combinations of groups work together, coexist uneasily, coalesce into greater coalitions and “fronts,” or actively fight each other and ruling regimes. Leading examples include the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Nusra Front, the Tawhid Brigade, the Army of Islam, the Islamic Front, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, the Free Syrian Army, the Mujahedeen Army and many others.
The chaotic situation reflects several different but simultaneous nationalist and state dynamics, as old orders fray (the Sykes-Picot frontiers, post-World War II secular and nationalist states, the post-1970 modern Arab security state) and new organizations and movements emerge that reflect older nonstate identities (religion, tribe, ethnicity).
In some places, such as Syria, Islamists and secular nationalists battle to overthrow the incumbent regime and establish a more pluralistic and democratic governance system, while some also fight each other. In others, such as Iraq, Libya or Yemen, tribal and Islamist forces challenge the government to redress oppressive government policies or try to take over the government. In yet others, militants such as ISIS aim to control territory and establish “emirates” where fundamentalist Islamist rules rule, while also battling everyone else – Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Israelis, Kurds and any available foreigners.
As these hard-line Islamist militants battle for control of towns in western Iraq and northern Syria, such as Fallujah, Aleppo and Raqqa, six major groups of main actors seem to dominate the scene: hard-line Salafists such as ISIS, others such as Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, Arab-backed mainstream Islamists such as the Islamic Front, the Free Syrian Army and its mostly non-Islamist allies, various Kurdish groups in northeastern Syria, and tribal forces across the Syrian-Iraqi desert regions.
Syria and Iraq are the most extreme but not the only examples of chronic conflicts in Arab countries, as we can also see in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and parts of Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and Tunisia. The ordinary citizens who pay the price of conflict are mostly helpless to do anything in the face of tens of thousands of armed fighters, most of whom are supported by foreign governments or financiers. The role of regional or foreign powers that have often shaped the political configuration of the modern Middle East is a hotly debated issue today.
An intriguing front page article in the New York Times on Jan. 4, titled “Power Vacuum in Middle East Lifts Militants,” noted: “For all its echoes, the bloodshed that has engulfed Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in the past two weeks exposes something new and destabilizing: the emergence of a post-American Middle East in which no broker has the power, or the will, to contain the region’s sectarian hatreds.”
I was startled by this presumptuous attitude that exploding sectarian hatreds would worsen in a post-American Middle East, because my own impression from living through the last 45 years of American involvement in the region is precisely the opposite: that American foreign policies contributed deeply to the injustices and distortions that led to the destabilizing emergence of regional sectarian tensions, religious extremism and widespread citizen discontent. These sentiments manifest themselves today in different forms, including ISIS and similar militancy, popular revolutions to overthrow dictatorial regimes, and the patient writing of new constitutions and civil codes in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.
The deadly combination of Washington’s decades of strong support for Arab dictators and its profound pro-Israeli bias combined with the criminal and incompetent legacy of Arab autocrats to create a situation from the 1960s to the 1990s that gnawed away at the foundations and integrity of modern Arab statehood. The Anglo-American assault on Iraq and the wiping away of its state structures created an environment that allowed the birth or spread of contemporary Islamist extremists such as Al-Qaeda in Iraq and then ISIS. However, Washington is not the only miscreant; for instance Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 helped spark the birth of Al-Qaeda in the first place.
Today’s mayhem and chaos in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon result from many causes, including the impact of criminal American and British policies in Iraq in 2003 and beyond. These policies have persisted in the form of American drone assassinations that have killed Islamist fighters and many civilians, but have simultaneously led to the mobilization of many, many more militants.
It’s bad enough to have chaos, confusion and criminality in Arab political movements. We should try to avoid these things in serious journalistic analyses of the facts of history.

The Need for Pluralism in the Arab World. By Thomas L. Friedman.

Not Just About Us. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, January 7, 2014.

Pluralism Key to Real Change in Arab World. By Barbara Slavin. Voice of America, December 31, 2013.


Every day the headlines from the Arab world get worse: An Al Qaeda affiliate group, aided by foreign fighters, battles with seven different homegrown Syrian rebel groups for control of the region around Aleppo, Syria. The Iranian Embassy in Beirut is bombed. Mohamad Chatah, an enormously decent former Lebanese finance minister, is blown up after criticizing Hezbollah’s brutish tactics. Another pro-Al Qaeda group takes control of Fallujah, Iraq. Explosions rock Egypt, where the army is now jailing Islamists and secular activists. Libya is a mess of competing militias.
What’s going on? Some say it’s all because of the “power vacuum” — America has absented itself from the region. But this is not just about us. There’s also a huge “values vacuum.” The Middle East is a highly pluralistic region — Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians, Druze and various tribes — that for centuries was held together from above by iron-fisted colonial powers, kings and dictators. But now that vertical control has broken down, before this pluralistic region has developed any true bottom-up pluralism — a broad ethic of tolerance — that might enable its people to live together as equal citizens, without an iron fist from above.
For the Arab awakening to have any future, the ideology that is most needed now is the one being promoted least: Pluralism. Until that changes, argues Marwan Muasher, in his extremely relevant new book — The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism — none of the Arab uprisings will succeed.
Again, President Obama could have done more to restrain leaders in Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran or Syria from going to extremes. But, ultimately, argues Muasher, this is the Arabs’ fight for their political future. If 500,000 American troops in Iraq, and $1 trillion, could not implant lasting pluralism in the cultural soil there, no outsider can, said Muasher. There also has to be a will from within. Why is it that some 15,000 Arabs and Muslims have flocked to Syria to fight and die for jihadism and zero have flocked to Syria to fight and die for pluralism? Is it only because we didn’t give the “good guys” big enough guns?
As Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister and now a vice president at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, put it in an interview: “Three years of the Arab uprising have shown the bankruptcy of all the old political forces in the Arab world.” The corrupt secular autocrats who failed to give their young people the tools to thrive — and, as a result, triggered these uprisings — are still locked in a struggle with Islamists, who also have no clue how to deliver jobs, services, security and economic growth. (Tunisia may be an exception.) “As long as we’re in the this zero-sum game, the sum will be zero,” says Muasher.
No sustainable progress will be possible, argues Muasher, without the ethic of pluralism permeating all aspects of Arab society — pluralism of thought, pluralism in gender opportunities, pluralism in respect to other religions, pluralism in education, pluralism toward minorities, pluralism of political parties rotating in power and pluralism in the sense of everyone’s right to think differently from the collective.
The first Arab awakening in the 20th century was a fight for independence from colonial powers, says Muasher. It never continued as a fight for democracy and pluralism. That war of ideas, he insists, is what “the second Arab awakening” has to be about. Neither the autocrats nor the Islamists can deliver progress. “Pluralism is the operating system we need to solve all our problems, and as long as that operating system is not in place, we will not get there. This is an internal battle. Let’s stop hoping for delivery from the outside.” This will take time.
Naïve? No. Naïve is thinking that everything is about the absence or presence of American power, and that the people of the region have no agency. That’s wrong: Iraq is splintering because Prime Minister Maliki behaved like a Shiite militiaman, not an Iraqi Mandela. Arab youths took their future in their own hands, motivated largely by pluralistic impulses. But the old order proved to be too stubborn, yet these youth aspirations have not gone away, and will not.
“The Arab world will go through a period of turmoil in which exclusionist forces will attempt to dominate the landscape with absolute truths and new dictatorships,” writes Muasher. But “these forces will also fade, because, in the end, the exclusionist, authoritarian discourses cannot answer the people’s needs for better quality of life. ...  As history has demonstrated overwhelmingly, where there is respect for diversity, there is prosperity. Contrary to what Arab societies have been taught for decades by their governments to believe — that tolerance, acceptance of different points of view, and critical thinking are destructive to national unity and economic growth — experience proves that societies cannot keep renewing themselves and thereby thrive except through diversity.”
Muasher, who is returning to Jordan to participate in this struggle for diversity, dedicated his book to: “The youth of the Arab World — who revolted, not against their parents, but on their behalf.”

Comment by Jared:

Tom – I find it ironic that on one hand you see the picture clearly about the Arab world and how messed up things are, but on the other hand you continue to imagine that Israel can make peace with the Arabs within the context of this craziness. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be seen as an island, but rather a subset of the entire picture you paint in this article. Israel cannot and should not be expected to make agreements that will certainly end up being worthless, until the Arab world gets its house in order. When they get their house in order, and it becomes a pluralistic society not ruled by Islamists, then maybe there is a chance for a resolution to the Israeli-Arab question.

Syria and the Transition to Democracy. By Wim Roffel.

Syria and the transition to Democracy. By Wim Roffel. Conflict and Compromise, January 8, 2014.

Peace in Syria starts with building trust. By Wim Roffel. Conflict and Compromise, February 19, 2013.

Conflict and Compromise: Thoughts on ethnic and international conflicts and the democratic ideal. Blog by Wim Roffel.

Jason Riley: MSNBC Has a “Pattern” of “Hiring Black Mediocrities” to “Race-Bait.” By Noah Rothman.

WSJ Columnist: MSNBC Has a “Pattern” of “Hiring Black Mediocrities” to “Race-Bait. By Noah Rothman. Mediaite, January 7, 2014.

MSNBC, Mitt Romney, and Race. By Mary Kissel and Jason Riley. Video. WSJ Live, January 7, 2014.

Dave Alvin: You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.

Dave Alvin: You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive. Video. davealvinofficial, April 2, 2013. YouTube. From the Justified Season 4 finale.

Kentucky Songs: You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive. By Jim Owston. Reading Between the Grooves, May 13, 2013.

Patty Loveless: You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive. By Jim Owston. Reading Between the Grooves, February 9, 2010. Video at YouTube. Live version at MerleFest 2002.

Darrell Scott: You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive. Video. Rain DogZg, April 3, 2013. YouTube.

Gangstagrass: Long Hard Times to Come (Justified Theme). Video. Garrus Vikarian, December 11, 2012. YouTube.

Justified: A compilation tribute of season 4. Video. joeyclauk, April 16, 2013. YouTube.

Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins: Funny Justified talk. Video. Ioanna ThinkNice, December 9, 2013. YouTube.

Cheering Up Frank Luntz, and Ourselves. By Jim Geraghty.

Cheering Up Frank Luntz, and Ourselves. By Jim Geraghty. National Review Online, January 8, 2014.


Assume for a moment, that the conclusions that have driven pollster Frank Luntz into deep depression and angst are true:
“I spend more time with voters than anybody else,” Luntz says. “I do more focus groups than anybody else. I do more dial sessions than anybody else. I don’t know [squat] about anything, with the exception of what the American people think.”
It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him. They were contentious and argumentative. They didn’t listen to each other as they once had. They weren’t interested in hearing other points of view. They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor. “They want to impose their opinions rather than express them,” is the way he describes what he saw. “And they’re picking up their leads from here in Washington.” Haven’t political disagreements always been contentious, I ask? “Not like this,” he says. “Not like this.”
Luntz knew that he, a maker of political messages and attacks and advertisements, had helped create this negativity, and it haunted him. But it was Obama he principally blamed. The people in his focus groups, he perceived, had absorbed the president’s message of class divisions, haves and have-nots, of redistribution.
Before we go any further, let’s look a little closer at the phenomenon Luntz describes, and how the trend probably predates the president and is driven by a lot more than just who’s sitting in the Oval Office. Let’s start with those “class divisions, haves and have-nots, of redistribution.”
Imagine if the most bland and milquetoast president had been in office since January 20, 2009. Instead of electing uber-celebrity Munificent Sun-King Barack Obama, we elected President Boring Center-Left Conventional Wisdom – the genetic hybrid of David Gergen, David Brooks, Tom Friedman and Cokie Roberts.
America would still have endured Wall Street crash of late 2008 and the Great Recession. This recession (still ongoing, in the minds and experiences of millions of Americans) was driven by many factors but largely from the bursting of the housing bubble and the mortgage securities and asset-backed derivatives that came out of that. We can argue that better policies would have generated a more significant recovery from 2009 to 2012, but indisputably, America’s economy fell far and fast, and climbing back up to say, 2007 levels of employment and average household retirement savings was destined to be a long, slow, tough slog. All those folks employed in the housing bubble – the home builders, the construction guys, the suppliers, the realtors, the house-flippers, all that real estate advertising revenue, etc. – had to find some other work. And with the exception of the energy sector, there hasn’t been much of a boom in the U.S. economy in the past five years.
At the same time, we spent most of 2001 to 2009 absorbing millions of illegal immigrants, a wave of unskilled labor flooding the market for the few unskilled labor jobs out there. The multi-decade decline of American manufacturing hasn’t abated much, schools and universities continued to pump out new American workers who are only partially prepared for the reality of the modern job market, and new technology continues to wreak havoc in established industries (ask Newsweek).  Competition from cheaper labor overseas continues unabated. The era of spending your career at one company is gone. The era of traditional defined-benefit pension plans is gone. The era of a college degree automatically providing a ticket to a white-collar job and middle class lifestyle is gone.
Economic anxiety is baked in the cake in American life right now. It’s not that surprising that a lot of our fellow countrymen are receptive to a message seeking scapegoats. In other words, even under President Cokie Gergen Friedman Brooks, Luntz would be seeing a similar cranky, resentful, demanding mood in the electorate. This president may be particularly skilled at opportunistically exploiting that anxiety to further his agenda – in fact, it may be the only thing he’s really good at – but it’s not like he invented it, nor like he’s the only one to ever practice it (Remember Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich calling Mitt Romney a ‘vulture capitalist’?), nor like he’ll be the last to try it.
If Luntz’s is right that a large chunk of the American electorate has turned angry, entitled, resentful and spiteful – and I’ll bet a lot of us have suspected this in the past year or five – then it is indeed ominous for the next few elections, and suggests American life will get worse before it gets better.
But there’s also an upside to this, at least for us. Because it means large numbers of our fellow countrymen are embracing a philosophy and attitude that is destined to fail them and leave them miserable. Anybody who sits and waits for the government to improve his life is going to get stuck in endless circles of disappointment, anger, self-destructive rage and despair.
We would be foolish if we told ourselves that being conservative means we’ve got life all figured out.  We all have our flaws, our foibles, our sins, and our moments of not practicing what we preach. But if you’re conservative, you’ll probably manage to avoid certain mistakes and pitfalls on this journey called life.
If you’re conservative, you’ve probably learned that there’s no substitute for hard work. Even great talent can only get you so far, particularly if you don’t apply yourself. Yes, luck is a factor, but we also acknowledge that old saying, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
If you’re conservative, you probably at least try to embrace individual responsibility – meaning you realize the quality of your life is primarily up to you – and there’s no point in blaming mommy or daddy, no point in blaming the boss, no point in blaming society at large, no point in complaining that life isn’t fair. It isn’t. We can’t control a lot of things. The only thing we can control is how we react to things.
If you’re conservative, you hopefully don’t spend much time worrying about or grumbling about somebody else who’s doing well for themselves. You want to figure out how to join them! Or at least “do well” enough for yourself and your family, and maybe have a little something left over to help out somebody who really needs it.
If you’re conservative, you may or may not believe in a higher power, but you probably believe in right and wrong and you’re wary of people who talk about the world as a murky blur of grey and endorse a moral relativism. You know doing the wrong thing catches up with you sooner or later. You know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and life’s bad guys are always insisting that the ends justify the means.
If you’re conservative, you believe there’s evil in the world, and we’re not likely to successfully sweet-talk with it, negotiate with it, ignore it, or reason with it. Confronting it, on terms most beneficial to us, or containing it seem to be the best options.
If you’re conservative, you may or may not have the level of impulse control you wish – I sure as heck don’t at mealtimes — but you at least seem to recognize the consequences. Completely embracing “If it feels good, do it” will leave you in a dark alley, hung over and going through withdrawal, and perhaps with a venereal disease.
Individual responsibility, hard work, gratitude and appreciation, a conscience, fortitude – these things will never go out of style, no matter how cranky the electorate gets. What Luntz is witnessing is a lot of people embracing ideas that are going to fail them. At another point in that interview:
The entitlement he now hears from the focus groups he convenes amounts, in his view, to a permanent poisoning of the electorate—one that cannot be undone. “We have now created a sense of dependency and a sense of entitlement that is so great that you had, on the day that he was elected, women thinking that Obama was going to pay their mortgage payment, and that’s why they voted for him,” he says. “And that, to me, is the end of what made this country so great.”
I wonder if Luntz is referring to the oft-quoted Peggy Joseph, declaring in 2008, “I don’t have to worry about putting gas in my car, I don’t have to worry about my mortgage! If I help him, he’s going to help me.” 

Except Barack Obama never paid for Peggy Joseph’s gas or mortgage. At least on that front, she’s probably found Obama’s presidency to be deeply disappointing, presuming she never found a way to serve on the board of Solyndra. 

Both liberals and conservatives were appalled by the administration’s management and handling of Obamacare rollout, but only the liberals were surprised. (Well, maybe we were surprised at just how epic the failure was.) We don’t expect government to do a lot of things right. We don’t count on it to immanentize the eschaton – to build God’s Kingdom, or utopia, on earth. But year in and year out, the Left always convinces itself anew that government can do it – even after it completely botches a web site and fails to tell the president before the unveiling.
One final note:
Luntz lives alone. Never married, he tells me he is straight (and that no reporter has ever asked him about his sexual orientation before), just unable to sustain a romantic relationship because of all the time he spends on the road. “My parents were married for 47 years. I’m never in the same place more than 47 minutes,” he says. When I point out he’s chosen that lifestyle, he says, “You sound like my relatives.”
Marriage is a useful indicator of voting patterns. More Republicans are married than Democrats – and the benefits of marriage are enormous.
Maybe we need to set up Luntz with some nice woman, and maybe his outlook on life will brighten.