Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 11, 2010

Biden in Public and Private

Joe Biden delivered his much-anticipated (and we are told, tweaked) speech in Israel today. It was the usual mix of what we have come to expect from the Obami — broad declarations of support for Israel mixed with an obsessive desire to move forward on the “peace process” and a fixation on building activity. On Iran, Biden pronounced, “The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, period.” But how, and what options remain? He didn’t say.  As for East Jerusalem, the vice president harped on what he deemed the “hardest truth.” That is parlance for the Obami’s insistence that it is building in Israel’s capital, not the persistence of terrorism or the refusal to recognize the Jewish state, that serves to “undermine trust.” As skewed and as unwelcome as much of that public message was to many onlookers here and in Israel, what went on in private was jaw-dropping. We are told:

While standing in front of the cameras, the U.S. vice president made an effort to smile at Binyamin Netanyahu even after having learned on Tuesday that the Interior Ministry had approved plans to build 1,600 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. But in closed conversations, Joe Biden took an entirely different tone.

People who heard what Biden said were stunned. “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden castigated his interlocutors. “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”

The vice president told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel’s actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism.

It’s hard to fathom that the vice president would make such a claim. Aside from its nonsensical quality (Does the Taliban attack the U.S. because of apartment building in East Jerusalem?), it is precisely the sort of ill-conceived, bullying message that certainly must convince the Israelis not to place their trust in the American negotiators. On a happier note, Biden left Israel today.

Joe Biden delivered his much-anticipated (and we are told, tweaked) speech in Israel today. It was the usual mix of what we have come to expect from the Obami — broad declarations of support for Israel mixed with an obsessive desire to move forward on the “peace process” and a fixation on building activity. On Iran, Biden pronounced, “The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, period.” But how, and what options remain? He didn’t say.  As for East Jerusalem, the vice president harped on what he deemed the “hardest truth.” That is parlance for the Obami’s insistence that it is building in Israel’s capital, not the persistence of terrorism or the refusal to recognize the Jewish state, that serves to “undermine trust.” As skewed and as unwelcome as much of that public message was to many onlookers here and in Israel, what went on in private was jaw-dropping. We are told:

While standing in front of the cameras, the U.S. vice president made an effort to smile at Binyamin Netanyahu even after having learned on Tuesday that the Interior Ministry had approved plans to build 1,600 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. But in closed conversations, Joe Biden took an entirely different tone.

People who heard what Biden said were stunned. “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden castigated his interlocutors. “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”

The vice president told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel’s actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism.

It’s hard to fathom that the vice president would make such a claim. Aside from its nonsensical quality (Does the Taliban attack the U.S. because of apartment building in East Jerusalem?), it is precisely the sort of ill-conceived, bullying message that certainly must convince the Israelis not to place their trust in the American negotiators. On a happier note, Biden left Israel today.

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The Reconciliation Jig Is Nearly Up

For a week or so now, Republicans and the conservative media have been hammering away on a procedural point, which is, in fact, vital to the whole reconcilition gambit being pushed by the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika: the president will have a bill to sign once the House passes the Senate version, making any reconciliation process irrelevant and potentially moot if the Democrats then declare “victory” and end the process. Today the senate parliamentarian agreed:

The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday.The Senate Parliamentarian’s Office was responding to questions posed by the Republican leadership. The answers were provided verbally, sources said.

So there you have it, House Democrats. Once you vote for the Senate bill, Obama will sign it, the Left will declare victory, and who knows if reconcilliation will ever happen. This confirms that the Democratic leadership has once again been hiding the ball and not leveling with either their own members or with the public about the procedural aspects of the bill. It will certainly not help to calm the nerves of House Democrats, who already suspect the “fix” is in and that they are being trapped into voting for the noxious Senate bill — Cornhusker Kickback and all.

For a week or so now, Republicans and the conservative media have been hammering away on a procedural point, which is, in fact, vital to the whole reconcilition gambit being pushed by the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika: the president will have a bill to sign once the House passes the Senate version, making any reconciliation process irrelevant and potentially moot if the Democrats then declare “victory” and end the process. Today the senate parliamentarian agreed:

The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday.The Senate Parliamentarian’s Office was responding to questions posed by the Republican leadership. The answers were provided verbally, sources said.

So there you have it, House Democrats. Once you vote for the Senate bill, Obama will sign it, the Left will declare victory, and who knows if reconcilliation will ever happen. This confirms that the Democratic leadership has once again been hiding the ball and not leveling with either their own members or with the public about the procedural aspects of the bill. It will certainly not help to calm the nerves of House Democrats, who already suspect the “fix” is in and that they are being trapped into voting for the noxious Senate bill — Cornhusker Kickback and all.

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Republicans Turn Up the Heat

It seems as though the Democrats haven’t quite put Eric Massa out of sight. House Republicans know a good thing when they see it:

The House voted 402 to 1 Thursday to send the ethics committee a GOP measure calling for an investigation into how Democratic leaders handled allegations of sexual misconduct by former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.). But a senior Democratic aide said the ethics committee never shut down its investigation of the Massa scandal in the first place – despite the fact that numerous sources familiar with the investigation told POLITICO, the Washington Post and other media outlets Wednesday that it had. … The GOP resolution, offered by Minority Leader John Boehner, calls on the ethics committee to create a special investigative subcommittee to look into the Massa allegations and report back to the full House by June 30 on the results of the inquiry.

This, of course, will keep the scandal brewing and test whether the Democratic leadership in fact had an inkling of what was going on. Moreover, the overwhelming vote suggests that the Democrats know they have a problem with ethics and with transparency. No longer can they strongarm the minority and rebuff the media and public with impunity. In the midst of the health-care fight, this wasn’t what the Democrats needed.

And this may not be the only ethics issue brewing. It could get worse, as we learn: “On the heels of ethics imbroglios that have ensnared a freshman Dem and a long-time committee chair, Dems could have another problem on their hands: Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI). Kilpatrick and a staffer have been summoned to give testimony before a federal grand jury, according to letters made public earlier this week.”

It seems that virtually nothing is going the Democrats’ way right now.

It seems as though the Democrats haven’t quite put Eric Massa out of sight. House Republicans know a good thing when they see it:

The House voted 402 to 1 Thursday to send the ethics committee a GOP measure calling for an investigation into how Democratic leaders handled allegations of sexual misconduct by former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.). But a senior Democratic aide said the ethics committee never shut down its investigation of the Massa scandal in the first place – despite the fact that numerous sources familiar with the investigation told POLITICO, the Washington Post and other media outlets Wednesday that it had. … The GOP resolution, offered by Minority Leader John Boehner, calls on the ethics committee to create a special investigative subcommittee to look into the Massa allegations and report back to the full House by June 30 on the results of the inquiry.

This, of course, will keep the scandal brewing and test whether the Democratic leadership in fact had an inkling of what was going on. Moreover, the overwhelming vote suggests that the Democrats know they have a problem with ethics and with transparency. No longer can they strongarm the minority and rebuff the media and public with impunity. In the midst of the health-care fight, this wasn’t what the Democrats needed.

And this may not be the only ethics issue brewing. It could get worse, as we learn: “On the heels of ethics imbroglios that have ensnared a freshman Dem and a long-time committee chair, Dems could have another problem on their hands: Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI). Kilpatrick and a staffer have been summoned to give testimony before a federal grand jury, according to letters made public earlier this week.”

It seems that virtually nothing is going the Democrats’ way right now.

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An Insignificant Truth

Al Gore has certainly lost some ground:

In a sharp turnaround from what Gallup found as recently as three years ago, Americans are now almost evenly split in their views of the cause of increases in the Earth’s temperature over the last century.

This is a welcome indication of a breaking fever, but you have to wonder what it portends. A fifty-fifty split is no match for our new summit-then-dictate democracy. Angry Americans are like American Idol judges. Their antics keep you tuned in, but they’re not voting on the outcome. First we make a colorful case that the health-care song-and-dance was the worst performance we’ve ever seen and then 535 couch potatoes show us who’s boss.

Of course, when sanity truly wins the day, the very notion that non-meteorologists ever spent time contemplating global temperatures will strike people as inexplicably bizarre. That day will come, no doubt. Centuries of empirical data are certain to change minds. But by then all the cap-and-trade, green-energy edicts will be firmly in place. Like the antiquated and nutty statutes that remain on the books today, they’ll be evidence of earlier superstitions and prejudices. But unlike, say, the prohibition on roosters crowing within city limits, these laws will have turned us into a different sort of country. Just as rule by reconciliation makes for a very different kind of democracy.

Al Gore has certainly lost some ground:

In a sharp turnaround from what Gallup found as recently as three years ago, Americans are now almost evenly split in their views of the cause of increases in the Earth’s temperature over the last century.

This is a welcome indication of a breaking fever, but you have to wonder what it portends. A fifty-fifty split is no match for our new summit-then-dictate democracy. Angry Americans are like American Idol judges. Their antics keep you tuned in, but they’re not voting on the outcome. First we make a colorful case that the health-care song-and-dance was the worst performance we’ve ever seen and then 535 couch potatoes show us who’s boss.

Of course, when sanity truly wins the day, the very notion that non-meteorologists ever spent time contemplating global temperatures will strike people as inexplicably bizarre. That day will come, no doubt. Centuries of empirical data are certain to change minds. But by then all the cap-and-trade, green-energy edicts will be firmly in place. Like the antiquated and nutty statutes that remain on the books today, they’ll be evidence of earlier superstitions and prejudices. But unlike, say, the prohibition on roosters crowing within city limits, these laws will have turned us into a different sort of country. Just as rule by reconciliation makes for a very different kind of democracy.

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A Fiscal Suicide Pact

If you believe the Obama administration (and I doubt there is a person on the planet not in custodial care who actually does), ObamaCare will, if enacted, save the government $132 billion over the next 10 years. In the world ordinary citizens live in, one of mortgage payments and tuition bills, that sounds like a lot of money, more than the net worth of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett combined.

In the world of Washington, however, it’s chump change, an average of $13.2 billion a year, when the government will spend $3.7 trillion this year alone. Indeed, as Hotair points out, $132 billion is equal to only 59 percent of the deficit that the federal government racked up just in the month of February 2010, when the government spent $220.9 billion more than  it took in, the highest monthly shortfall in history.

As Michael Barone and others have noted, Nancy Pelosi seems to be having increasing trouble rounding up votes to jam ObamaCare through the House. The fact that it would be a political suicide pact for Democratic congressmen is surely the speaker’s biggest problem. But that it would be a fiscal suicide pact for the federal government might be an increasing factor. Only in Washington, after all, do people have trouble understanding what “we can’t afford it” means.

If you believe the Obama administration (and I doubt there is a person on the planet not in custodial care who actually does), ObamaCare will, if enacted, save the government $132 billion over the next 10 years. In the world ordinary citizens live in, one of mortgage payments and tuition bills, that sounds like a lot of money, more than the net worth of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett combined.

In the world of Washington, however, it’s chump change, an average of $13.2 billion a year, when the government will spend $3.7 trillion this year alone. Indeed, as Hotair points out, $132 billion is equal to only 59 percent of the deficit that the federal government racked up just in the month of February 2010, when the government spent $220.9 billion more than  it took in, the highest monthly shortfall in history.

As Michael Barone and others have noted, Nancy Pelosi seems to be having increasing trouble rounding up votes to jam ObamaCare through the House. The fact that it would be a political suicide pact for Democratic congressmen is surely the speaker’s biggest problem. But that it would be a fiscal suicide pact for the federal government might be an increasing factor. Only in Washington, after all, do people have trouble understanding what “we can’t afford it” means.

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No One Does Minutiae Like Hillary Clinton

The Washington Post has a puff piece on Hillary Clinton extolling her “internal outreach” to hire State Department gurus beyond her circle of Hillaryland loyalists. We hear that “Clinton has made a vigorous effort to widen her circle, wooing and pulling into her orbit the agency’s Foreign Service and civil service officials, many of whom said in interviews that she has brought a new energy to the building.” And then it’s nice to know that “those interviewed inside and outside the agency say Clinton has done a good job of heading off the historical tensions between career employees and quadrennial political newcomers by relying on the counsel of senior Foreign Service operatives and reaching out in general.” Let’s not forget:

She has walked the halls and popped into offices unexpectedly, created an electronic “sounding board,” and held seven internal town hall meetings to listen to gripes about everything from policy to cafeteria food to bullying in the workplace. She installed six new showers that joggers requested, is taking steps to remedy overseas pay inequities and instituted a policy that allows partners of gay diplomats to receive benefits. She became a heroine to the Foreign Service when she went to bat to get funding for 3,000 new Foreign Service positions for State operations and the U.S. Agency for International Development — the first boost of this magnitude in two decades.

Okay, this is a style section piece, I will grant you. But what does any of this matter? Nearly every aspect of our foreign policy is in disarray, but we should be happy to hear that she conducted “a line-by-line review that took three sessions to complete” and spent quality time with a “backbencher” on the Pakistan desk debating “non-governmental power centers in Pakistan.”

On one level, this could be part of the problem. Clinton is lost in the paperwork while our foreign policy is on fire (and under fire). She is consumed with trivia better left to bureaucrats but has no sense that the underpinnings of our foreign-policy approach are crumbling. Like Jimmy Carter assigning the tennis court times at the White House, Clinton’s compulsive micromanagement may be a sign that something is very wrong.

On another level, this is a telling insight into the process obsession that has gripped State and the whole administration. Success is measured by the number of meetings, not by the outcome. Who picks the appointees, rather than the track record of those selected, is what occupies everyone’s attention.

If the point of the puff piece was to assure us how much Clinton has grown, put me down as skeptical. As in campaigns, foreign-policy success is measured in results. Hers are generally disastrous. Once again, Clinton — who failed on HillaryCare and as a presidential candidate — lacks competence. But that topic probably wouldn’t make it as a Post style section story.

The Washington Post has a puff piece on Hillary Clinton extolling her “internal outreach” to hire State Department gurus beyond her circle of Hillaryland loyalists. We hear that “Clinton has made a vigorous effort to widen her circle, wooing and pulling into her orbit the agency’s Foreign Service and civil service officials, many of whom said in interviews that she has brought a new energy to the building.” And then it’s nice to know that “those interviewed inside and outside the agency say Clinton has done a good job of heading off the historical tensions between career employees and quadrennial political newcomers by relying on the counsel of senior Foreign Service operatives and reaching out in general.” Let’s not forget:

She has walked the halls and popped into offices unexpectedly, created an electronic “sounding board,” and held seven internal town hall meetings to listen to gripes about everything from policy to cafeteria food to bullying in the workplace. She installed six new showers that joggers requested, is taking steps to remedy overseas pay inequities and instituted a policy that allows partners of gay diplomats to receive benefits. She became a heroine to the Foreign Service when she went to bat to get funding for 3,000 new Foreign Service positions for State operations and the U.S. Agency for International Development — the first boost of this magnitude in two decades.

Okay, this is a style section piece, I will grant you. But what does any of this matter? Nearly every aspect of our foreign policy is in disarray, but we should be happy to hear that she conducted “a line-by-line review that took three sessions to complete” and spent quality time with a “backbencher” on the Pakistan desk debating “non-governmental power centers in Pakistan.”

On one level, this could be part of the problem. Clinton is lost in the paperwork while our foreign policy is on fire (and under fire). She is consumed with trivia better left to bureaucrats but has no sense that the underpinnings of our foreign-policy approach are crumbling. Like Jimmy Carter assigning the tennis court times at the White House, Clinton’s compulsive micromanagement may be a sign that something is very wrong.

On another level, this is a telling insight into the process obsession that has gripped State and the whole administration. Success is measured by the number of meetings, not by the outcome. Who picks the appointees, rather than the track record of those selected, is what occupies everyone’s attention.

If the point of the puff piece was to assure us how much Clinton has grown, put me down as skeptical. As in campaigns, foreign-policy success is measured in results. Hers are generally disastrous. Once again, Clinton — who failed on HillaryCare and as a presidential candidate — lacks competence. But that topic probably wouldn’t make it as a Post style section story.

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Big Labor Savages Noncompliant Democrats

Big Labor is grouchy and out to throw its muscle around. The Hill reports:

Frustrated at seeing their legislative agenda stymied, unions are becoming increasingly active in competitive Democratic Senate primaries. Across the country, labor groups are using their organizational muscle early against candidates whom they see as having walked away from their agenda. By doing so, they’re exposing schisms between centrist and liberal Democratic lawmakers who have struggled to come through on the campaign promises made to union members. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), healthcare reform and even a nominee to the little-known National Labor Relations Board have stalled in a Congress controlled by the largest majorities Democrats have enjoyed in a generation.

So the labor bosses are going to “play in the primaries,” backing candidates most enamored of stripping workers of the secret ballot and most infatuated with the special-interest group’s agenda. For incumbents that means they show independence from the Big Labor agenda at their own risk. Unions are making endorsements in the Pennsylvania and Colorado senate primaries and have backed Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Republicans no doubt are delighted. They can point to the noxious influence of the special-interest groups (e.g., the Cadillac-plan tax deal), watch imperiled incumbent Democrats squirm, and then potentially face off against even more liberal and Big Labor–beholden opponents in the general election. Some labor officials have figured this out, and moan: “It does not take a pundit to recognize that November is going to be ugly for Democrats and eating our own in primaries makes no sense.”

So in the meantime, organized labor scoops up the handouts. For example, unions have prevailed upon the administration to roll back Bush-era regulations that expanded the financial-disclosure statements required of labor unions and their leaders. So much for transparency. But Big Labor is smart to get what they can now. After November, it’s likely to have far fewer sympathetic lawmakers.

Big Labor is grouchy and out to throw its muscle around. The Hill reports:

Frustrated at seeing their legislative agenda stymied, unions are becoming increasingly active in competitive Democratic Senate primaries. Across the country, labor groups are using their organizational muscle early against candidates whom they see as having walked away from their agenda. By doing so, they’re exposing schisms between centrist and liberal Democratic lawmakers who have struggled to come through on the campaign promises made to union members. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), healthcare reform and even a nominee to the little-known National Labor Relations Board have stalled in a Congress controlled by the largest majorities Democrats have enjoyed in a generation.

So the labor bosses are going to “play in the primaries,” backing candidates most enamored of stripping workers of the secret ballot and most infatuated with the special-interest group’s agenda. For incumbents that means they show independence from the Big Labor agenda at their own risk. Unions are making endorsements in the Pennsylvania and Colorado senate primaries and have backed Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Republicans no doubt are delighted. They can point to the noxious influence of the special-interest groups (e.g., the Cadillac-plan tax deal), watch imperiled incumbent Democrats squirm, and then potentially face off against even more liberal and Big Labor–beholden opponents in the general election. Some labor officials have figured this out, and moan: “It does not take a pundit to recognize that November is going to be ugly for Democrats and eating our own in primaries makes no sense.”

So in the meantime, organized labor scoops up the handouts. For example, unions have prevailed upon the administration to roll back Bush-era regulations that expanded the financial-disclosure statements required of labor unions and their leaders. So much for transparency. But Big Labor is smart to get what they can now. After November, it’s likely to have far fewer sympathetic lawmakers.

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Stalling on KSM

Julie Mason of the Washington Examiner picks up on this exchange with Robert Gibbs:

Q: Robert, do you know when we can expect a decision on the KSM trial?

Mr. Gibbs: I don’t expect a decision on that for several or many weeks.

Q: Will it be the president’s decision?

Mr. Gibbs: The president obviously has gotten involved because Congress has actively been involved in venue options for any trial involving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The president’s obviously strong equity in this is seeing that after many long years that justice is brought.

I don’t know what the faux legal-speak in the last sentence means (“strong equity”?) either. But the point here is that the administration is in stalling mode. The current approach, both as to the specific venue and a civilian trial more generally, has proved unworkable and grossly unpopular. Yet at the very time their Justice Department lawyers are under attack, in part for having come up with this screwy recommendation, the administration is loathe to retreat. Their base is semi-unhinged enough (you know, with the coming demise of health care and all), and this is no time to push the netroots over the edge.

Nevertheless, I think we’ll never see KSM in a civilian courtroom. No jurisdiction will want the headache, the public thinks the idea is dangerous, and the logistics (the cost, the potential for acquittal or any punishment less than the death penalty) — which the Justice Department brain trust failed to think through — are daunting. So the president stalls. Like so much else on the Left’s agenda (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, cap-and-trade), the president will get to it when he gets to it.

Julie Mason of the Washington Examiner picks up on this exchange with Robert Gibbs:

Q: Robert, do you know when we can expect a decision on the KSM trial?

Mr. Gibbs: I don’t expect a decision on that for several or many weeks.

Q: Will it be the president’s decision?

Mr. Gibbs: The president obviously has gotten involved because Congress has actively been involved in venue options for any trial involving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The president’s obviously strong equity in this is seeing that after many long years that justice is brought.

I don’t know what the faux legal-speak in the last sentence means (“strong equity”?) either. But the point here is that the administration is in stalling mode. The current approach, both as to the specific venue and a civilian trial more generally, has proved unworkable and grossly unpopular. Yet at the very time their Justice Department lawyers are under attack, in part for having come up with this screwy recommendation, the administration is loathe to retreat. Their base is semi-unhinged enough (you know, with the coming demise of health care and all), and this is no time to push the netroots over the edge.

Nevertheless, I think we’ll never see KSM in a civilian courtroom. No jurisdiction will want the headache, the public thinks the idea is dangerous, and the logistics (the cost, the potential for acquittal or any punishment less than the death penalty) — which the Justice Department brain trust failed to think through — are daunting. So the president stalls. Like so much else on the Left’s agenda (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, cap-and-trade), the president will get to it when he gets to it.

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The Endless Campaign

It really never ends:

Mr. Obama’s sleeves were rolled up, there was an old campaign sign in the audience, and he’s talking about his “opponents.” No, this is not a flashback of the presidential campaign, but it does feel awfully similar.

While campaigning for his health care bill, President Obama has summoned up some imagery and words that has often been left on the campaign trail.  Today on the health care stump in Missouri it was Obama versus opponents. Twice today during the president’s health care speech in St. Charles, Missouri the president referred specifically to his “opponents.”

Obama and his grouchy adviser David Axelrod complain bitterly of the nonstop campaign, the partisanship of Washington, and the nonstop news cycle. But they most obviously are perpetuators of all three, and rely on campaign tactics (attack, attack, attack) in lieu of other skills — reasoned persuasion, real compromise, and legislative craftsmanship. They do it endlessly, campaign that is, because this is what they know and this is what they were good at. That it’s ill-suited to the task at hand and ultimately has diminished the president’s standing seem not to matter. Again and again Obama returns to the stump. What else is he to do? He’s proved unable to convince Blue Dogs of the merits of his bill.

The incessant campaigning hasn’t moved the public nor swayed lawmakers. In part, they’ve all grown weary of the same spin, but it’s also a matter of the wrong answer to the substantive and political questions being posed. On the substantive side, Obama has failed spectacularly to respond to the legitimate fiscal concerns raised by Rep. Paul Ryan about the budget gimmickry, and there’s also the abortion-subsidy issue that concerns pro-life Democrats. On the political side, the rally fetish isn’t helping nervous Democrats who see the poll numbers and their political lives flashing before their eyes. It’s interesting that Democrats are now reluctant to even appear with Obama. Apparently he’s less than politically reassuring.

Aside from the sheer snippiness, Obama’s retort to John McCain in the health-care summit was remarkable because, in fact, the campaign is not over. It never ends with this crowd. They’re just unaware that its utility is limited.

It really never ends:

Mr. Obama’s sleeves were rolled up, there was an old campaign sign in the audience, and he’s talking about his “opponents.” No, this is not a flashback of the presidential campaign, but it does feel awfully similar.

While campaigning for his health care bill, President Obama has summoned up some imagery and words that has often been left on the campaign trail.  Today on the health care stump in Missouri it was Obama versus opponents. Twice today during the president’s health care speech in St. Charles, Missouri the president referred specifically to his “opponents.”

Obama and his grouchy adviser David Axelrod complain bitterly of the nonstop campaign, the partisanship of Washington, and the nonstop news cycle. But they most obviously are perpetuators of all three, and rely on campaign tactics (attack, attack, attack) in lieu of other skills — reasoned persuasion, real compromise, and legislative craftsmanship. They do it endlessly, campaign that is, because this is what they know and this is what they were good at. That it’s ill-suited to the task at hand and ultimately has diminished the president’s standing seem not to matter. Again and again Obama returns to the stump. What else is he to do? He’s proved unable to convince Blue Dogs of the merits of his bill.

The incessant campaigning hasn’t moved the public nor swayed lawmakers. In part, they’ve all grown weary of the same spin, but it’s also a matter of the wrong answer to the substantive and political questions being posed. On the substantive side, Obama has failed spectacularly to respond to the legitimate fiscal concerns raised by Rep. Paul Ryan about the budget gimmickry, and there’s also the abortion-subsidy issue that concerns pro-life Democrats. On the political side, the rally fetish isn’t helping nervous Democrats who see the poll numbers and their political lives flashing before their eyes. It’s interesting that Democrats are now reluctant to even appear with Obama. Apparently he’s less than politically reassuring.

Aside from the sheer snippiness, Obama’s retort to John McCain in the health-care summit was remarkable because, in fact, the campaign is not over. It never ends with this crowd. They’re just unaware that its utility is limited.

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From the 2006 Files

When the Eric Massa scandal broke, some assured us that this was nothing like the Mark Foley scandal of 2006. After all, Foley’s were underage male victims. Massa preyed only on adult employees. (Not a great ad campaign, but a distinction nevertheless.) And besides, there was no complicity on behalf of the Democratic leadership or failure to investigate Massa, unlike what the Democrats claimed had been the case with the Republican leadership in 2006. So no problem, right? Uh … no. Politico reports:

The House ethics committee closed its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Rep. Eric Massa on Wednesday afternoon — even as an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged for the first time that her office learned of concerns about Massa far earlier than previously known.

Sources familiar with the situation told POLITICO that the bipartisan committee decided to close its investigation into the case because Massa’s resignation — effective at 5 p.m. Monday — deprived the committee of jurisdiction over him.

But House Republicans cried foul, with one senior GOP aide saying that the new information about Pelosi’s office “further underscores” the need to find out what actually happened.

Pelosi is said not to know about the specific wrongdoing but merely “that Massa was living with several aides, had hired too many staff members and used foul language around his staff. Racalto [Massa’s chief of staff], also raised concerns about ‘the way Massa ran his office’ and informed Pelosi’s member-services staffer that he had asked Massa to move out of the group house on Capitol Hill, the Pelosi aide said.” And all this follows the revelation that Massa had a history of groping and harassment in the Navy. Switch the names and the parties, and this could be straight out of 2006 when the Republicans were under fire:

“This is completely unacceptable,” a senior GOP aide said of the committee’s decision to end its investigation. “If it’s true that Democratic members of the House ethics committee are blocking an investigation of what their own leaders knew about Massa, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Speaker Pelosi has no intention of keeping her promise to lead the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history. What are Democrats on the ethics committee afraid of? What is the Democratic leadership hiding?”

Granted, the Democrats have time to correct the problem. They could, if they are inclined to, conduct a serious investigation into who knew what and when. But the presence of a growing, nasty ethics scandal and the judgment of the House speaker at a time when the Democrats are struggling with ObamaCare smacks of the perfect storm — the convergence of bad news and awful media that has the potential to sink the majority party. And should the Democrats sweep this under the rug — for Massa is now departed — the stench will linger for months.

Arguably, 2010 isn’t like  2006 or 1994. This time there is ObamaCare, Massa, Charlie Rangel, the spigot of red ink, and sky-high unemployment. So 2010 could well be worse for the party in power, which suddenly seems as though it can’t get anything right.

When the Eric Massa scandal broke, some assured us that this was nothing like the Mark Foley scandal of 2006. After all, Foley’s were underage male victims. Massa preyed only on adult employees. (Not a great ad campaign, but a distinction nevertheless.) And besides, there was no complicity on behalf of the Democratic leadership or failure to investigate Massa, unlike what the Democrats claimed had been the case with the Republican leadership in 2006. So no problem, right? Uh … no. Politico reports:

The House ethics committee closed its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Rep. Eric Massa on Wednesday afternoon — even as an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged for the first time that her office learned of concerns about Massa far earlier than previously known.

Sources familiar with the situation told POLITICO that the bipartisan committee decided to close its investigation into the case because Massa’s resignation — effective at 5 p.m. Monday — deprived the committee of jurisdiction over him.

But House Republicans cried foul, with one senior GOP aide saying that the new information about Pelosi’s office “further underscores” the need to find out what actually happened.

Pelosi is said not to know about the specific wrongdoing but merely “that Massa was living with several aides, had hired too many staff members and used foul language around his staff. Racalto [Massa’s chief of staff], also raised concerns about ‘the way Massa ran his office’ and informed Pelosi’s member-services staffer that he had asked Massa to move out of the group house on Capitol Hill, the Pelosi aide said.” And all this follows the revelation that Massa had a history of groping and harassment in the Navy. Switch the names and the parties, and this could be straight out of 2006 when the Republicans were under fire:

“This is completely unacceptable,” a senior GOP aide said of the committee’s decision to end its investigation. “If it’s true that Democratic members of the House ethics committee are blocking an investigation of what their own leaders knew about Massa, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Speaker Pelosi has no intention of keeping her promise to lead the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history. What are Democrats on the ethics committee afraid of? What is the Democratic leadership hiding?”

Granted, the Democrats have time to correct the problem. They could, if they are inclined to, conduct a serious investigation into who knew what and when. But the presence of a growing, nasty ethics scandal and the judgment of the House speaker at a time when the Democrats are struggling with ObamaCare smacks of the perfect storm — the convergence of bad news and awful media that has the potential to sink the majority party. And should the Democrats sweep this under the rug — for Massa is now departed — the stench will linger for months.

Arguably, 2010 isn’t like  2006 or 1994. This time there is ObamaCare, Massa, Charlie Rangel, the spigot of red ink, and sky-high unemployment. So 2010 could well be worse for the party in power, which suddenly seems as though it can’t get anything right.

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Radical Move for a Radical Bill

Does she have the votes? Can she get them? That’s what everyone is wondering. “She” is Nancy Pelosi, and the votes will decide not only the fate of ObamaCare but also of Obama’s presidency. Michael Barone explores whether the votes are there to pass the Senate version of health care, as that’s what it’s come down to. (Let’s all assume for the sake of argument that reconciliation is a flimflam.) He tells us:

As of today, it’s clear there aren’t. House Democratic leaders have brushed aside White House calls to bring the bill forward by March 18, when President Barack Obama heads to Asia. Nevertheless, analysts close to the Democratic leadership tell me they’re confident the leadership will find some way to squeeze out the 216 votes needed for a majority.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indeed shown mastery at amassing majorities. But it’s hard to see how she’ll do so on this one. The arithmetic as I see it doesn’t add up.

There are Bart Stupak’s pro-life Democrats. There’s the dicey matter of voting for all those sweetheart deals. (“Voting for the Senate bill means voting for the Cornhusker kickback and the Louisiana purchase — the price Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid paid for the votes of Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu. It’s not hard to imagine the ads Republicans could run attacking House members for sending money to Nebraska and Louisiana but not their home states.”) Then there are the House Democrats in especially vulnerable districts:

More than 40 House Democrats represent districts which John McCain carried. Most voted no in November and would presumably be hurt by switching to yes now. Moreover, Mr. Obama’s job approval now hovers around 48%, five points lower than his winning percentage in 2008. His approval on health care is even lower.

Another 32 House Democrats represent districts where Mr. Obama won between 50% and 54% of the vote, and where his approval is likely to be running under 50% now. That leaves just 176 House Democrats from districts where Mr. Obama’s approval rating is not, to borrow a real-estate term, under water. That’s 40 votes less than the 216 needed.

This isn’t to say that Pelosi can’t pull it off. But if she comes up short, she and Obama will suffer a devastating blow. And if she squeaks by, the Republicans have their campaign slogan and a single, overarching issue: Repeal ObamaCare.

Obama is risking his presidency — for what will be left of his political capital and credibility if he fails? — on a monstrous tax-and-spend measure that a significant majority of voters oppose, and vehemently so. Pretty radical stuff for a candidate billed as a moderate.

Does she have the votes? Can she get them? That’s what everyone is wondering. “She” is Nancy Pelosi, and the votes will decide not only the fate of ObamaCare but also of Obama’s presidency. Michael Barone explores whether the votes are there to pass the Senate version of health care, as that’s what it’s come down to. (Let’s all assume for the sake of argument that reconciliation is a flimflam.) He tells us:

As of today, it’s clear there aren’t. House Democratic leaders have brushed aside White House calls to bring the bill forward by March 18, when President Barack Obama heads to Asia. Nevertheless, analysts close to the Democratic leadership tell me they’re confident the leadership will find some way to squeeze out the 216 votes needed for a majority.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indeed shown mastery at amassing majorities. But it’s hard to see how she’ll do so on this one. The arithmetic as I see it doesn’t add up.

There are Bart Stupak’s pro-life Democrats. There’s the dicey matter of voting for all those sweetheart deals. (“Voting for the Senate bill means voting for the Cornhusker kickback and the Louisiana purchase — the price Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid paid for the votes of Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu. It’s not hard to imagine the ads Republicans could run attacking House members for sending money to Nebraska and Louisiana but not their home states.”) Then there are the House Democrats in especially vulnerable districts:

More than 40 House Democrats represent districts which John McCain carried. Most voted no in November and would presumably be hurt by switching to yes now. Moreover, Mr. Obama’s job approval now hovers around 48%, five points lower than his winning percentage in 2008. His approval on health care is even lower.

Another 32 House Democrats represent districts where Mr. Obama won between 50% and 54% of the vote, and where his approval is likely to be running under 50% now. That leaves just 176 House Democrats from districts where Mr. Obama’s approval rating is not, to borrow a real-estate term, under water. That’s 40 votes less than the 216 needed.

This isn’t to say that Pelosi can’t pull it off. But if she comes up short, she and Obama will suffer a devastating blow. And if she squeaks by, the Republicans have their campaign slogan and a single, overarching issue: Repeal ObamaCare.

Obama is risking his presidency — for what will be left of his political capital and credibility if he fails? — on a monstrous tax-and-spend measure that a significant majority of voters oppose, and vehemently so. Pretty radical stuff for a candidate billed as a moderate.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

Read Less




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