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The one thing you always knew about the Clintons and those who were close to them in the 1990s: they always, always reeked of fear. They suspected that white Americans could never vote for a black president; they believed you had to triangulate to the right of the GOP to survive; they believed that health insurance reform was political death; they held that standing up for civil rights for gay people was always stupid. And very few represent that kind of politics more than Jim Carville, Stan Greenberg and, yes, Rahm Emanuel, still traumatized after all these years.

Emanuel has a reputation for feistiness and God knows I'm not one to throw stones in my own glass House. But behind the thuggishness is a pathological fear of the right and a remarkably inept and crude set of human skills. He was hired to handle Congress; and yet his rank failure to pass a health insurance bill with a super-majority in the Senate and a big majority in the House for a full year - and the depth of the distrust between House and Senate that has emerged under his watch - reveals that his brand of cowardly principle and bullying practice is not what it is cracked up to be. Now his stupid posturing is also being used - naked in a shower no less - as a tool for Glenn Beck and the nihilist far right. 

But more disturbing is his classic Clintonian refusal to stand up against the Cheneyite right on critical matters such as national security and American values. No wonder he is so beloved of the Cheneyite rump now installed by Fred Hiatt at the Washington Post. All of which is to say: beware this poll from Greenberg on national security this morning.

The poll shows very strong credibility for the president in foreign policy and national security:

His handling of Afghanistan (58 percent), national security (57 percent), "leading America's military" (57 percent), "improving America's standing in the world" (55 percent), fighting terrorism (54 percent), and Iraq (54 percent), were all higher than his 47 percent overall approval rating.

But those numbers were down from levels in the 60s that were recorded by the same group last May. Fewer respondents now say they view Obama's handling of national-security issues as better than that of his predecessor George W. Bush -- Obama's margin here has shrunk from 22 to just 5 percent.

Good Lord. Time to adopt torture and military commissions for all terror suspects; time to keep Gitmo; time to let Emanuel run rough-shod over Holder. Please. Of course these ratings are down from last May - what do you think happens to presidents over time? Of course his lead over his predecessor has declined. It's like gravity. The response is to reiterate just how successful Obama has been in prosecuting terror suspects, killing terrorist leaders abroad, restoring America's moral credibility. But, of course, the Carville-Greenberg-Emanuel trio think it's time to bring in Dick Morris. A reader writes:

Greenberg, now a kitchen advisor to Rahm, represents all his worst instincts--avoid conflict with the GOP at all costs, adopt their national security positions to avoid their being able to make headway on them.  He was an advisor to Gore in 2000, part of the clique urging him to wear earth colors and "be nice."  He was an advisor to Kerry in 2004, strongly advising against making an issue out of torture, lest the Dems be seen as "weak"--it was Greenberg who came up with the genius strategy of saying not a critical word about Bush at the 2004 Dem convention.  The subtext of this "poll" is the same that Greenberg had been peddling for years:  cede national security to the GOP, don't make an issue out of it.

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