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Posted at 7:40 AM ET, 01/ 3/2011

Morning Bits

By Jennifer Rubin

Does it matter when a Republican senator often criticized by the base (Lindsey Graham) dubs another establishment-type Republican (Mitt Romney) as the front-runner in the 2012 race?

Does it upset the left when the president sounds like a conservative on American exceptionalism? Bill Kristol spots President Obama declaring "'we've had the good fortune to grow up in the greatest nation on Earth.' Then, in case anyone missed it, Obama repeated eight sentences later that he's confident we can 'do what it takes to make sure America remains in the 21st century what it was the 20th: the greatest country in the world.'" And, to boot, he's meeting with National Review's editor.

Does it seem like Russia has been "reset" to the Stalinist era? "Despite criticism from the U.S. and an appeal on Friday by Mikhail Khodorkovsky's lawyers, it appears the former head of the Yukos Oil Company will spend as much time in the Gulag as many Stalin-era political prisoners. His sentence of 13.5 years for fraud means that he will not be a free man until 2017, if then. The presiding judge in the case said that correcting Khodorkovsky would only be possible if he was isolated from society."

Does Pakistan's latest crisis suggest further difficulty with our Afghanistan war effort? "Pakistan was thrown into political turmoil Sunday after a coalition partner quit the government, leaving a minority administration that will struggle to survive. Political instability likely will take the government's focus off the fight against extremism and leave it weak. Pakistan's co-operation is believed to be vital in battling al Qaida and in finding a solution for Afghanistan. Washington has worked hard to build a close relationship with Asif Zardari's pro-Western government and showered it with billions of dollars of aid."

Does Obama really have the ability to rule by executive order and regulatory decree? Brit Hume injects some reality into the discussion: "Sometimes you can do that, but not very often, and not to a great extent. The problem with doing things by regulation is that if Congress has not authorized it, the agency, whatever it is, to do it, it is subject to court challenge and may be barred. So, if it were easy to do a great deal and put in place a sweeping agenda of any kind by regulation, the president wouldn't have spent the last two years going to Congress to try to get all these kinds things of things done." And, of course, a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republican can pass statutes barring legislative action.

Does this sound like a reasonable plan? Sen.-elect Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) explains that on the debt ceiling "my suggestion is that when we contemplate raising the debt limit, we do it in small increments and we do it periodically, and every time we do it, we make sure we get a major concession, concession in the direction of limiting spending so that we can get this fiscal train wreck under control. We are on a disastrous path, there's just no question about it. And so we need to take serious measures. And I, and I for one couldn't vote for an increase in the debt ceiling unless we are making really substantive progress on it."

Does Obama really mean it? Will Inboden advises Obama to continue "discovery" of the the freedom agenda. "After its initial woeful neglect of democracy and human rights promotion, earlier this year the Obama administration rediscovered -- rhetorically at least -- the importance of supporting freedom around the world. The White House should build on this, particularly with specific policies and with new resources. As events in just the past few weeks have shown, in places like Belarus, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, and China, the demands of citizens for their liberty remain embattled and in need of America support." I think the jury is out as to whether Obama actually intends to make this a priority.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 3, 2011; 7:40 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Bits  
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Next: Friday question answered


I wonder what Obama wants with Lowry? Any thoughts?

Posted by: Indy82 | January 3, 2011 8:45 AM | Report abuse

When will we realize that "making the world safe for democracy" waa cr
folly when the evil Wilson coined the phrase and is folly now. How about "Mind your own business" as a foreign policy mantra?

Posted by: GrumpyOldMan | January 3, 2011 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Pat Toomey's plan makes perfect sense.
Incremental, periodic increases and at the same time concessions that will guarantee reducing the debt in the future.
I love the way Republicans think. Yes, this is how things are Supposed to be done.
I feel better already, more optimistic
that our country is in better hands.

Posted by: ohioan | January 3, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Bill Kristol was kidding about the meeting between Obama and National Review's Rich Lowry. I suspected as much when I read it, and I see that Kristol has posted an update to clarify this.

Posted by: mattman26 | January 3, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

The Right, including you, continually misquote the president on American Exceptionalism! He talks for 5 (Five) paragraphs about how great America is after his intial answer overseas. So bring it on, Rubin. He loves "Merika" just like Righties and has the speeches to prove it!

Posted by: carolerae48 | January 3, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

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