Commentary Magazine


Topic: American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations

Obama — a Weak Advocate for Free Trade

Obama’s international endeavors are going about as well as his party’s electoral efforts. The latest flop: “The presidents of the U.S. and South Korea were unable to overcome disputes over cars, cattle and domestic politics, potentially killing the biggest bilateral trade deal the U.S. has taken up in more than a decade.” It is worth examining why the president couldn’t make a deal.

In essence, Obama has refused to stand up to domestic advocates of protectionism — a failure that stands in contrast to the actions of past presidents from both parties. And, no doubt, the South Koreans calculated that they might as well try to wait him out. It sure doesn’t seem that Obama was on the side of the angels — or of free trade. This tells you all you need to know:

Labor leaders and some powerful politicians from both parties praised Mr. Obama for not going ahead with a deal they characterized as bad for U.S. workers. “President Obama is exactly right in holding out for a deal that puts working people’s interests first,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

Translation: Obama caved to protectionist elements in the U.S.

As a result of this and Ben Bernanke’s printing press, we are increasingly isolated and becoming the object of our trading partners’ criticism:

The trade-talk failure came on top of criticism from other G-20 nations concerning the Federal Reserve’s move to pump billions into the U.S. economy, potentially weakening the dollar.

“This reinforces the opinion of many key global and business leaders that the U.S. isn’t really committed to global engagement and is instead pushing mercantilist, beggar-thy-neighbor policies,” said Matthew Slaughter, a former member of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.

As for the particulars, it seems as though Obama wanted to hang on to some protectionist provisions just a little longer. (“One stumbling block was Korea’s refusal to change a provision in the 2007 pact that provided an immediate end to a 2.5% tariff the U.S. levies on imports of Korean cars. … The U.S. wanted the tariff reduced gradually, while Korea eliminates safety and environmental rules that U.S. auto makers, led by Ford, said help keep Korea the world’s most closed car market.”)

Congress has traditionally been more protectionist than the White House, the result of intense lobbying by both U.S. businesses and Big Labor. A strong presidential hand has been required to rebuff protectionist sentiment and negotiate free-trade agreements that are essential to America’s prosperity. To his credit, Bill Clinton did just that. But Obama has neither the will nor the interest in following this approach. This spells trouble for the U.S.:

Meanwhile, the European Union and other nations have signed far more bilateral deals than the U.S. since 1994 when the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect, displeasing some U.S. industrial companies. “We as a country have essentially taken two years off” from pursuing trade agreements while the rest of the world goes full speed ahead, said Eaton Corp. Chief Executive Alexander Cutler on Thursday. “If you want to have a vibrant economy, you have to have access to the fastest-growing parts of the world.”

You would think a president who ran on the promise to “restore our standing” in the world and end the supposed cowboy unilateralism of his predecessor would understand this.

Obama’s international endeavors are going about as well as his party’s electoral efforts. The latest flop: “The presidents of the U.S. and South Korea were unable to overcome disputes over cars, cattle and domestic politics, potentially killing the biggest bilateral trade deal the U.S. has taken up in more than a decade.” It is worth examining why the president couldn’t make a deal.

In essence, Obama has refused to stand up to domestic advocates of protectionism — a failure that stands in contrast to the actions of past presidents from both parties. And, no doubt, the South Koreans calculated that they might as well try to wait him out. It sure doesn’t seem that Obama was on the side of the angels — or of free trade. This tells you all you need to know:

Labor leaders and some powerful politicians from both parties praised Mr. Obama for not going ahead with a deal they characterized as bad for U.S. workers. “President Obama is exactly right in holding out for a deal that puts working people’s interests first,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

Translation: Obama caved to protectionist elements in the U.S.

As a result of this and Ben Bernanke’s printing press, we are increasingly isolated and becoming the object of our trading partners’ criticism:

The trade-talk failure came on top of criticism from other G-20 nations concerning the Federal Reserve’s move to pump billions into the U.S. economy, potentially weakening the dollar.

“This reinforces the opinion of many key global and business leaders that the U.S. isn’t really committed to global engagement and is instead pushing mercantilist, beggar-thy-neighbor policies,” said Matthew Slaughter, a former member of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.

As for the particulars, it seems as though Obama wanted to hang on to some protectionist provisions just a little longer. (“One stumbling block was Korea’s refusal to change a provision in the 2007 pact that provided an immediate end to a 2.5% tariff the U.S. levies on imports of Korean cars. … The U.S. wanted the tariff reduced gradually, while Korea eliminates safety and environmental rules that U.S. auto makers, led by Ford, said help keep Korea the world’s most closed car market.”)

Congress has traditionally been more protectionist than the White House, the result of intense lobbying by both U.S. businesses and Big Labor. A strong presidential hand has been required to rebuff protectionist sentiment and negotiate free-trade agreements that are essential to America’s prosperity. To his credit, Bill Clinton did just that. But Obama has neither the will nor the interest in following this approach. This spells trouble for the U.S.:

Meanwhile, the European Union and other nations have signed far more bilateral deals than the U.S. since 1994 when the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect, displeasing some U.S. industrial companies. “We as a country have essentially taken two years off” from pursuing trade agreements while the rest of the world goes full speed ahead, said Eaton Corp. Chief Executive Alexander Cutler on Thursday. “If you want to have a vibrant economy, you have to have access to the fastest-growing parts of the world.”

You would think a president who ran on the promise to “restore our standing” in the world and end the supposed cowboy unilateralism of his predecessor would understand this.

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Forget the Chamber, Look at AFSCME

The president has been telling tall tales about the Chamber of Commerce and nefarious foreign money. But the chamber and every other independent source of campaign funding are puny compared with the Democrats’ piggybank:

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections, thanks to an 11th-hour effort to boost Democrats that has vaulted the public-sector union ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and a flock of new Republican groups in campaign spending.

The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats’ hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending.

“We’re the big dog,” said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME’s political operations. “But we don’t like to brag.”

Yes, all the talk of “corporate” money and the subversion of our democratic system by Wall Street is rather amusing considering the iron grip Big Labor has on the Democratic Party. We learn that “AFSCME’s campaign push accounts for an estimated 30% of what pro-Democratic groups, including unions, plan to spend on independent campaigns to elect Democrats.” But why so little focus on that source of campaign loot? Some would say, “Unions have mostly escaped attention in that debate, in part because they traditionally have spent much of their cash on other kinds of political activities, including get-out-the-vote efforts.”

Hmm. I don’t think that’s quite it. It might just be that in the mainstream media and White House PR machine, independent-groups-giving-to-Republicans = bad, while independent-groups-giving-to-Democrats = vibrant democracy. Aside from the hypocrisy factor, there is one overriding issue that makes unions’ giving so noxious:

Previously, most labor-sponsored campaign ads had to be funded by volunteer donations. Now, however, AFSCME can pay for ads using annual dues from members, which amount to about $390 per person. AFSCME said it will tap membership dues to pay for $17 million of ads backing Democrats this election.

The idea that working people can be forced to give up their earnings to fund campaigns that they may not personally support (or that, frankly, come much lower on their priority list than other household expenditures) is about as un-democratic as you can get.

The president has been telling tall tales about the Chamber of Commerce and nefarious foreign money. But the chamber and every other independent source of campaign funding are puny compared with the Democrats’ piggybank:

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections, thanks to an 11th-hour effort to boost Democrats that has vaulted the public-sector union ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and a flock of new Republican groups in campaign spending.

The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats’ hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending.

“We’re the big dog,” said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME’s political operations. “But we don’t like to brag.”

Yes, all the talk of “corporate” money and the subversion of our democratic system by Wall Street is rather amusing considering the iron grip Big Labor has on the Democratic Party. We learn that “AFSCME’s campaign push accounts for an estimated 30% of what pro-Democratic groups, including unions, plan to spend on independent campaigns to elect Democrats.” But why so little focus on that source of campaign loot? Some would say, “Unions have mostly escaped attention in that debate, in part because they traditionally have spent much of their cash on other kinds of political activities, including get-out-the-vote efforts.”

Hmm. I don’t think that’s quite it. It might just be that in the mainstream media and White House PR machine, independent-groups-giving-to-Republicans = bad, while independent-groups-giving-to-Democrats = vibrant democracy. Aside from the hypocrisy factor, there is one overriding issue that makes unions’ giving so noxious:

Previously, most labor-sponsored campaign ads had to be funded by volunteer donations. Now, however, AFSCME can pay for ads using annual dues from members, which amount to about $390 per person. AFSCME said it will tap membership dues to pay for $17 million of ads backing Democrats this election.

The idea that working people can be forced to give up their earnings to fund campaigns that they may not personally support (or that, frankly, come much lower on their priority list than other household expenditures) is about as un-democratic as you can get.

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Big Labor’s Big Bucks Poured Down the Drain

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

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The Anti-Israel Face of Labor

This post could be subtitled “The Deceptive Face of the Mainstream Media.” As recounted by blogger Zombie at Pajamas Media, that’s the face the media showed in its credulous news coverage of an anti-Israel protest in Oakland on Sunday. During the protest, the port’s longshoremen staged a work stoppage and refused to unload cargo from an Israeli ship. The media, notes Zombie, have depicted the stoppage as the result of pro-Palestinian protesters “convincing” the longshoremen to join them. Indeed, mainstream news outlets have obediently portrayed the event in the exact terms proffered by the protest’s organizers, from the interpretation of its meaning to the articulation of basic facts.

This faithful adherence to the organizers’ narrative is producing some unintended humor. As reported by Arutz Sheva and picked up by a number of non-traditional outlets in the U.S., the Israeli ship targeted by the protesters didn’t even reach the port until after the crowd had broken up on Sunday evening. The longshoremen’s work stoppage delayed the unloading of an unfortunate Chinese cargo ship but had no effect on the Israeli vessel’s unloading schedule. Nevertheless, in just the first two pages of results from a Google search performed this morning, I counted six mainstream outlets reporting that the protesters had delayed or blocked the unloading of an Israeli ship (see here and here, for example).

The story certainly comes off better if the impression is left that the demonstrators achieved their goal. But another aspect of this event has gone unreported by the traditional media: the attitude of international labor toward Israel and Gaza. Whatever the personal sentiments of the longshoremen manning the day shift in Oakland on Sunday, the federations and councils with which their union leaders are affiliated take a firmly anti-Israel stance. The evidence of centralized labor planning for the Oakland protest is overwhelming.

The San Francisco Labor Council, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, urged union participation with its prior advertising of the protest and work stoppage. The Labor Council’s resolution on the May 31 flotilla incident, approved on June 14, is posted at the International Journal of Socialist Renewal’s website; in it, the Longshoremen’s Local in Oakland (ILWU 10) is among the 28 U.S. and foreign-labor organizations listed as having already condemned Israel.

As Zombie notes, the international Transport Workers Solidarity Committee publicized the dockside protest in advance.  Its website also makes clear that union organizers around the world – as well as non-transport unions in the U.S. – knew of the plan days beforehand and sent encouraging messages to ILWU 10. On June 5, Jack Weyman, a member of ILWU 10’s executive board, expressed solidarity with Swedish dockworkers who announced a boycott of Israel. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) website, meanwhile, reports yesterday’s action as a “historic victory” and features the participation of labor as prominent, planned, and intentional.

It was all of those things. Days before the Sunday protest, the website of Labor for Palestine tallied up the union support “pouring in” for ILWU 10’s planned work stoppage. Labor for Palestine (LFP) is the labor-union arm of the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) Movement for Palestine, about which the Jewish Federations of North America issued a warning resolution in November 2009. LFP was founded by al-Awda (the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition) and New York City Labor Against the War in 2004.

This appears to be an emerging trend. For decades, U.S. unions have been largely inhospitable to the internationalist radicalism of most global labor federations. Their pedestrian, inward-looking character has been a source of frustration to some of their more extremist members and critics. But as international labor aligns itself firmly with the “Palestinian” cause, American organized labor is being presented with the kind of basic choice it hasn’t faced since the 1930s: whether to be politically American and affirm American policy stances, or to adhere to a radical posture that subverts national boundaries and delegitimizes national character. The Oakland work stoppage will not be the last such confrontation we see, as this defining challenge for our union work forces heads to a climax.

This post could be subtitled “The Deceptive Face of the Mainstream Media.” As recounted by blogger Zombie at Pajamas Media, that’s the face the media showed in its credulous news coverage of an anti-Israel protest in Oakland on Sunday. During the protest, the port’s longshoremen staged a work stoppage and refused to unload cargo from an Israeli ship. The media, notes Zombie, have depicted the stoppage as the result of pro-Palestinian protesters “convincing” the longshoremen to join them. Indeed, mainstream news outlets have obediently portrayed the event in the exact terms proffered by the protest’s organizers, from the interpretation of its meaning to the articulation of basic facts.

This faithful adherence to the organizers’ narrative is producing some unintended humor. As reported by Arutz Sheva and picked up by a number of non-traditional outlets in the U.S., the Israeli ship targeted by the protesters didn’t even reach the port until after the crowd had broken up on Sunday evening. The longshoremen’s work stoppage delayed the unloading of an unfortunate Chinese cargo ship but had no effect on the Israeli vessel’s unloading schedule. Nevertheless, in just the first two pages of results from a Google search performed this morning, I counted six mainstream outlets reporting that the protesters had delayed or blocked the unloading of an Israeli ship (see here and here, for example).

The story certainly comes off better if the impression is left that the demonstrators achieved their goal. But another aspect of this event has gone unreported by the traditional media: the attitude of international labor toward Israel and Gaza. Whatever the personal sentiments of the longshoremen manning the day shift in Oakland on Sunday, the federations and councils with which their union leaders are affiliated take a firmly anti-Israel stance. The evidence of centralized labor planning for the Oakland protest is overwhelming.

The San Francisco Labor Council, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, urged union participation with its prior advertising of the protest and work stoppage. The Labor Council’s resolution on the May 31 flotilla incident, approved on June 14, is posted at the International Journal of Socialist Renewal’s website; in it, the Longshoremen’s Local in Oakland (ILWU 10) is among the 28 U.S. and foreign-labor organizations listed as having already condemned Israel.

As Zombie notes, the international Transport Workers Solidarity Committee publicized the dockside protest in advance.  Its website also makes clear that union organizers around the world – as well as non-transport unions in the U.S. – knew of the plan days beforehand and sent encouraging messages to ILWU 10. On June 5, Jack Weyman, a member of ILWU 10’s executive board, expressed solidarity with Swedish dockworkers who announced a boycott of Israel. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) website, meanwhile, reports yesterday’s action as a “historic victory” and features the participation of labor as prominent, planned, and intentional.

It was all of those things. Days before the Sunday protest, the website of Labor for Palestine tallied up the union support “pouring in” for ILWU 10’s planned work stoppage. Labor for Palestine (LFP) is the labor-union arm of the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) Movement for Palestine, about which the Jewish Federations of North America issued a warning resolution in November 2009. LFP was founded by al-Awda (the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition) and New York City Labor Against the War in 2004.

This appears to be an emerging trend. For decades, U.S. unions have been largely inhospitable to the internationalist radicalism of most global labor federations. Their pedestrian, inward-looking character has been a source of frustration to some of their more extremist members and critics. But as international labor aligns itself firmly with the “Palestinian” cause, American organized labor is being presented with the kind of basic choice it hasn’t faced since the 1930s: whether to be politically American and affirm American policy stances, or to adhere to a radical posture that subverts national boundaries and delegitimizes national character. The Oakland work stoppage will not be the last such confrontation we see, as this defining challenge for our union work forces heads to a climax.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jamie Fly asks, “No Daylight?” about the U.S. stance on the terrorist flotilla: “So, over the course of two days, ‘no daylight’ has essentially become ‘we told you so,’ ‘perhaps you shouldn’t have done that,’ and ‘we plan to use this to our advantage to further our agenda.’ It’s no wonder that ally after ally feels slighted by the Obama administration, because even when this White House says they are standing with you, they are simultaneously undermining you.”

No Big Labor guarantees for the Democrats in 2010: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday that he sees unions as ‘unpredictable partners’ to Democratic candidates in the coming 2010 midterm elections.”

No Democrat in a competitive seat wants to get too closely tied to Obama these days: “Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, has called on President Barack Obama to do more to contain the fallout from the Gulf oil spill. Nelson on Thursday called for the White House to send more military assets to the Gulf before the giant oil slick hits Florida’s beaches. ‘This is the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history,’ Nelson said in a statement. ‘If this doesn’t call for more organization, control and assets — like sub-sea mapping by the Navy, for instance — then nothing does.’”

No idea what he’s talking about — Turkey has been hostile to Israel for some time: “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply criticized Israel for its reaction to the Mavi Marmara raid Thursday saying that ‘Israel stands to lose its closest ally in the Middle East if it does not change its mentality.’”

No doubt about the Carly Fiorina surge: “Former eBay executive Meg Whitman holds a commanding lead over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the June 8 Republican gubernatorial primary. In the GOP Senate primary, former HP President Carly Fiorina has pulled away from rival Tom Campbell, according to the latest Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research tracking poll. … The Senate side reflects a dramatic shift toward Fiorina over the past six weeks. An April 24 Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research Poll showed Campbell with 31-17 point lead over Fiorina, and DeVore at 14 percent.”

No humanitarian goods into Gaza? Outrageous — where is the UN? Oh, wait — it’s Hamas: “Hamas will not allow goods from an aid flotilla raided by Israel to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Islamist organization said Thursday.”

No way! Really? John Judis assures us that the Tea party movement isn’t racist: “What I am suggesting is that it’s very possible to believe that the Tea Party is not the latest manifestation of the Ku Klux Klan or White Citizens’ Councils—while still believing that it is a terrible menace, nonetheless.” Whew — takes a load off the left, doesn’t it? All the fictional racial incidents were getting to be a chore.

No clear winner in the Peter Beinart–Leon Wieseltier competition for the most vile comments directed against Israel. From the latter: “Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government. The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment. Operation Make the World Hate Us, it might have been called.” To be precise, Israel has enough weaselly critics who flaunt their Judaism to establish their bona fides in order to gain legitimacy for their savage and a-factual attacks on the Jewish state.

Jamie Fly asks, “No Daylight?” about the U.S. stance on the terrorist flotilla: “So, over the course of two days, ‘no daylight’ has essentially become ‘we told you so,’ ‘perhaps you shouldn’t have done that,’ and ‘we plan to use this to our advantage to further our agenda.’ It’s no wonder that ally after ally feels slighted by the Obama administration, because even when this White House says they are standing with you, they are simultaneously undermining you.”

No Big Labor guarantees for the Democrats in 2010: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday that he sees unions as ‘unpredictable partners’ to Democratic candidates in the coming 2010 midterm elections.”

No Democrat in a competitive seat wants to get too closely tied to Obama these days: “Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, has called on President Barack Obama to do more to contain the fallout from the Gulf oil spill. Nelson on Thursday called for the White House to send more military assets to the Gulf before the giant oil slick hits Florida’s beaches. ‘This is the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history,’ Nelson said in a statement. ‘If this doesn’t call for more organization, control and assets — like sub-sea mapping by the Navy, for instance — then nothing does.’”

No idea what he’s talking about — Turkey has been hostile to Israel for some time: “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply criticized Israel for its reaction to the Mavi Marmara raid Thursday saying that ‘Israel stands to lose its closest ally in the Middle East if it does not change its mentality.’”

No doubt about the Carly Fiorina surge: “Former eBay executive Meg Whitman holds a commanding lead over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the June 8 Republican gubernatorial primary. In the GOP Senate primary, former HP President Carly Fiorina has pulled away from rival Tom Campbell, according to the latest Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research tracking poll. … The Senate side reflects a dramatic shift toward Fiorina over the past six weeks. An April 24 Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research Poll showed Campbell with 31-17 point lead over Fiorina, and DeVore at 14 percent.”

No humanitarian goods into Gaza? Outrageous — where is the UN? Oh, wait — it’s Hamas: “Hamas will not allow goods from an aid flotilla raided by Israel to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Islamist organization said Thursday.”

No way! Really? John Judis assures us that the Tea party movement isn’t racist: “What I am suggesting is that it’s very possible to believe that the Tea Party is not the latest manifestation of the Ku Klux Klan or White Citizens’ Councils—while still believing that it is a terrible menace, nonetheless.” Whew — takes a load off the left, doesn’t it? All the fictional racial incidents were getting to be a chore.

No clear winner in the Peter Beinart–Leon Wieseltier competition for the most vile comments directed against Israel. From the latter: “Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government. The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment. Operation Make the World Hate Us, it might have been called.” To be precise, Israel has enough weaselly critics who flaunt their Judaism to establish their bona fides in order to gain legitimacy for their savage and a-factual attacks on the Jewish state.

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Unsurprisingly, Crist Is Friendless

It’s not clear to which voters Charlie Crist will appeal. He’s burned his bridges with the GOP. And his independent status isn’t gaining him any new supporters:

The labor union AFL-CIO has endorsed a Democrat in the race for Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat after an unusual sales pitch by the state’s governor, who’s running as an independent. The labor union chose on Sunday to back U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek in the Senate race. Meek served seven years in the state Legislature before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002.The decision comes two days after Gov. Charlie Crist appeared before the union’s leaders to ask for their support. Crist, a lifelong Republican until this month, had never before sought the help of the union that typically endorses Democrats.

Big Labor is savvy enough to know that Crist is an untrustworthy ally. The labor bosses, not unreasonably, may figure that Crist is headed for third place. And even if Meek loses (quite likely), Big Labor won’t have burned its bridges with its devoted beneficiary, the Democratic Party. In politics, loyalty counts for something. Perhaps Florida voters, unlike those who turned out for primaries in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, have a yen for mushy moderates with no defined ideology other than self-promotion. But I doubt it.

It’s not clear to which voters Charlie Crist will appeal. He’s burned his bridges with the GOP. And his independent status isn’t gaining him any new supporters:

The labor union AFL-CIO has endorsed a Democrat in the race for Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat after an unusual sales pitch by the state’s governor, who’s running as an independent. The labor union chose on Sunday to back U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek in the Senate race. Meek served seven years in the state Legislature before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002.The decision comes two days after Gov. Charlie Crist appeared before the union’s leaders to ask for their support. Crist, a lifelong Republican until this month, had never before sought the help of the union that typically endorses Democrats.

Big Labor is savvy enough to know that Crist is an untrustworthy ally. The labor bosses, not unreasonably, may figure that Crist is headed for third place. And even if Meek loses (quite likely), Big Labor won’t have burned its bridges with its devoted beneficiary, the Democratic Party. In politics, loyalty counts for something. Perhaps Florida voters, unlike those who turned out for primaries in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, have a yen for mushy moderates with no defined ideology other than self-promotion. But I doubt it.

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Obama’s Thugocracy

The White House chests are puffed, and they are marveling at their political muscle. Health care can be rammed through, and Israel can be bullied — so what else to do? Ah, run roughshod over the Senate. The Hill reports:

President Barack Obama on Saturday wielded his recess appointment powers for the first time, clearing 15 nominees to assume posts that have remained vacant for months due to insurmountable congressional roadblocks.

Among the 15 named just days before the Senate departs for Easter recess are Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, the White House’s two, hotly contested nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.

Big Labor bosses will coo approvingly over the NLRB appointments. After all, the SEIU and AFL-CIO’s lawyer is now going to make labor law. Meanwhile, any pretense of bipartisanship or moderation has evaporated:

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) condemned the administration’s move on Saturday, adding that Becker’s appointment “is yet another episode of [the president] choosing a partisan path despite bipartisan opposition.”

“The president previously held that appointing an individual in this manner meant that the nominee would have ‘less credibility,’ and that assessment certainly fits this nomination,” the GOP leader said. “This is a purely partisan move that will make a traditionally bipartisan labor board an unbalanced agenda-driven panel.”

The only surprise: the radical lawyer Dawn Johnsen was not named to the Office of Legal Counsel. Perhaps the Obami have had enough of the accusations that the Justice Department, far from depoliticizing, has become a hotbed of ideologues.

This is the reality of Obama — unbending, ideologically extreme, and contemptuous of the other branches. He has revealed himself to be precisely what liberals used to rail against — until they got the levers of power. The Chicago pols are certainly plying their trade.

The White House chests are puffed, and they are marveling at their political muscle. Health care can be rammed through, and Israel can be bullied — so what else to do? Ah, run roughshod over the Senate. The Hill reports:

President Barack Obama on Saturday wielded his recess appointment powers for the first time, clearing 15 nominees to assume posts that have remained vacant for months due to insurmountable congressional roadblocks.

Among the 15 named just days before the Senate departs for Easter recess are Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, the White House’s two, hotly contested nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.

Big Labor bosses will coo approvingly over the NLRB appointments. After all, the SEIU and AFL-CIO’s lawyer is now going to make labor law. Meanwhile, any pretense of bipartisanship or moderation has evaporated:

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) condemned the administration’s move on Saturday, adding that Becker’s appointment “is yet another episode of [the president] choosing a partisan path despite bipartisan opposition.”

“The president previously held that appointing an individual in this manner meant that the nominee would have ‘less credibility,’ and that assessment certainly fits this nomination,” the GOP leader said. “This is a purely partisan move that will make a traditionally bipartisan labor board an unbalanced agenda-driven panel.”

The only surprise: the radical lawyer Dawn Johnsen was not named to the Office of Legal Counsel. Perhaps the Obami have had enough of the accusations that the Justice Department, far from depoliticizing, has become a hotbed of ideologues.

This is the reality of Obama — unbending, ideologically extreme, and contemptuous of the other branches. He has revealed himself to be precisely what liberals used to rail against — until they got the levers of power. The Chicago pols are certainly plying their trade.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

No (except from the Obami): “Does anyone think that Iran would be shipping arms to terrorists or building nuclear weapons if it was a democracy?” asks Elliott Abrams.

Predictable (when you nominate Tony Rezko’s banker): “It could be a rough few months ahead for Alexi Giannoulias. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial will proceed on June 3, as scheduled. Blagojevich’s team had been seeking a postponement until November, saying they didn’t have enough time to prepare. … But that’s not all Giannoulias will be dealing with. By late April, the Giannoulias family bank must come up with $85 million in order to comply with a federal agreement and keep operating. Giannoulias has already said that he expects the bank to fail.”

Pathetic: “Rounding up the votes for health care has also proven difficult. House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn told McClatchy Newspapers that final consideration of the bill may not occur until Easter (April 4) or later. He is dealing with dozens of members who refuse to commit to a firm position in hopes their silence will force the leadership to pull the bill and move on to other issues. ‘Just say nothing,’ is how one Democratic staffer explained the strategy being taken by many members. ‘Maybe it will just go away, and we can avoid a tough vote this close to the election.’” Maybe it will just go away? Profiles in courage they aren’t.

Close: According to Byron York, “there are 209 votes against the bill at this moment, leaving opponents seven short of being able to defeat it. By the same count, there are 204 votes for the bill, leaving the Democratic leadership 12 short of being able to pass it. There are 18 votes thought to be undecided.” In other words, seven votes away from Obama’s Waterloo.

Cranky Big Labor bosses descend on the White House: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is headed into a meeting with President Obama this afternoon after the White House and Congressional leaders have begun to discuss a higher-than-expected excise tax on some health care plans, in order to maintain their claim that health care legislation will reduce the deficit, a source involved in health care talks said.” Remember that the overwhelming support of core Democrats in midterm elections is what’s supposed to counteract the tsunami of opposition to ObamaCare. But what if that support is only lukewarm?

Obvious who you want making national-security calls. “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, contradicted the attorney general on Wednesday when he said that actually, the military still wants to capture Osama bin Laden alive. ‘I think that is something that is understood by everyone,’ he said. But perhaps not by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who on Tuesday told a House subcommittee that the chances of capturing Mr. bin Laden alive were ‘infinitesimal’ and that he would either be killed by the United States or killed by his own people.”

Common, among many observers these days: “Arab world says hopes in Obama are dwindling.”

Picky, picky: “From Maine to Hawaii, Americans send people to Washington, D.C., to be their representatives — to cast votes that represent the will of the people who elected them to do the job. But now, as the House of Representatives moves toward approving one of the most sweeping pieces of domestic legislation in U.S. history, critics are fuming that Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to usher through a health care bill … without a vote.”

No (except from the Obami): “Does anyone think that Iran would be shipping arms to terrorists or building nuclear weapons if it was a democracy?” asks Elliott Abrams.

Predictable (when you nominate Tony Rezko’s banker): “It could be a rough few months ahead for Alexi Giannoulias. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial will proceed on June 3, as scheduled. Blagojevich’s team had been seeking a postponement until November, saying they didn’t have enough time to prepare. … But that’s not all Giannoulias will be dealing with. By late April, the Giannoulias family bank must come up with $85 million in order to comply with a federal agreement and keep operating. Giannoulias has already said that he expects the bank to fail.”

Pathetic: “Rounding up the votes for health care has also proven difficult. House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn told McClatchy Newspapers that final consideration of the bill may not occur until Easter (April 4) or later. He is dealing with dozens of members who refuse to commit to a firm position in hopes their silence will force the leadership to pull the bill and move on to other issues. ‘Just say nothing,’ is how one Democratic staffer explained the strategy being taken by many members. ‘Maybe it will just go away, and we can avoid a tough vote this close to the election.’” Maybe it will just go away? Profiles in courage they aren’t.

Close: According to Byron York, “there are 209 votes against the bill at this moment, leaving opponents seven short of being able to defeat it. By the same count, there are 204 votes for the bill, leaving the Democratic leadership 12 short of being able to pass it. There are 18 votes thought to be undecided.” In other words, seven votes away from Obama’s Waterloo.

Cranky Big Labor bosses descend on the White House: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is headed into a meeting with President Obama this afternoon after the White House and Congressional leaders have begun to discuss a higher-than-expected excise tax on some health care plans, in order to maintain their claim that health care legislation will reduce the deficit, a source involved in health care talks said.” Remember that the overwhelming support of core Democrats in midterm elections is what’s supposed to counteract the tsunami of opposition to ObamaCare. But what if that support is only lukewarm?

Obvious who you want making national-security calls. “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, contradicted the attorney general on Wednesday when he said that actually, the military still wants to capture Osama bin Laden alive. ‘I think that is something that is understood by everyone,’ he said. But perhaps not by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who on Tuesday told a House subcommittee that the chances of capturing Mr. bin Laden alive were ‘infinitesimal’ and that he would either be killed by the United States or killed by his own people.”

Common, among many observers these days: “Arab world says hopes in Obama are dwindling.”

Picky, picky: “From Maine to Hawaii, Americans send people to Washington, D.C., to be their representatives — to cast votes that represent the will of the people who elected them to do the job. But now, as the House of Representatives moves toward approving one of the most sweeping pieces of domestic legislation in U.S. history, critics are fuming that Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to usher through a health care bill … without a vote.”

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Obama Labor Nominee Draws Democratic Opposition

It seems that the nomination of Harold Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board may finally be kaput. Republicans are uniformly opposed to the nominee, who is the SEIU and AFL-CIO’s lawyer and whose writings have offered the view that labor election laws can be rewritten by the NLRB without congressional authorization. Now Sen. Ben Nelson, struggling to get back into the good graces of conservatives and business groups, is coming out against Becker:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced Monday evening that he will support a Republican-led filibuster over President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. The move is likely to infuriate labor groups who have fought hard for Craig Becker’s nomination to serve on the five-member NLRB — and will likely give Republicans enough support to sustain a filibuster Tuesday.

A report by Congressional Quarterly (subscription required) states that other Democrats may oppose Becker, although none has done so publicly. If Becker can’t get through the Senate with 60 votes to break a filibuster, there is the potential for a recess appointment. It wouldn’t be the first recess appointment in recent memory, but it does speak volumes about how extreme Becker is (two other NLRB nominees face no organized opposition) and how Obama has failed to garner even a modicum of bipartisan support, whether in matters large (health care) or relatively small (a labor board nominee).

It seems that the nomination of Harold Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board may finally be kaput. Republicans are uniformly opposed to the nominee, who is the SEIU and AFL-CIO’s lawyer and whose writings have offered the view that labor election laws can be rewritten by the NLRB without congressional authorization. Now Sen. Ben Nelson, struggling to get back into the good graces of conservatives and business groups, is coming out against Becker:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced Monday evening that he will support a Republican-led filibuster over President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. The move is likely to infuriate labor groups who have fought hard for Craig Becker’s nomination to serve on the five-member NLRB — and will likely give Republicans enough support to sustain a filibuster Tuesday.

A report by Congressional Quarterly (subscription required) states that other Democrats may oppose Becker, although none has done so publicly. If Becker can’t get through the Senate with 60 votes to break a filibuster, there is the potential for a recess appointment. It wouldn’t be the first recess appointment in recent memory, but it does speak volumes about how extreme Becker is (two other NLRB nominees face no organized opposition) and how Obama has failed to garner even a modicum of bipartisan support, whether in matters large (health care) or relatively small (a labor board nominee).

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Re: Re: Laboring for Obama

As I suspected, the nomination of Harold Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board seems to be in peril. Republican Sens. Mike Enzi and Lisa Murkowski, who previously supported his nomination last fall, voted against Becker in a straight party-line vote today in committee. Enzi in a statement explained his objections:

Mr. Becker’s answers to written questions that senators submitted previously on these views are vague, and sometimes non-responsive due to his attorney relationship with both SEIU and the AFL-CIO . . This has left open the real possibility that Mr. Becker would reinterpret the National Labor Relations Act to limit the ability of employers to participate in the process, or tilt the playing field unfairly in the direction of labor union leaders.

And today, Scott Brown joined the Senate as the 41st Republican vote, enough for a filibuster of Becker’s nomination, should it come to that. The real question for voters remains, or should remain, why every single Democrat would rubber stamp a nominee who is obviously so biased and so committed to one side in labor disputes. The NLRB is supposed to be a neutral body that interprets federal labor law. Who really thinks the associate general counsel to both the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO is going to give employers a fair shake? Can any senator buy Becker’s testimony that he no longer believes his own writings advocating that the Board can radically change labor law without Congressional authorization? Let’s be honest: this was a big giveaway to Big Labor that could only have been delivered if 60 Democrats were willing to hold their noses and vote to confirm him.

Well, Brown’s appearance will have a dramatic effect on the Senate. ObamaCare is already comatose. Perhaps without the luxury of a filibuster-proof majority, the quality of the Obama nominees will also improve.

As I suspected, the nomination of Harold Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board seems to be in peril. Republican Sens. Mike Enzi and Lisa Murkowski, who previously supported his nomination last fall, voted against Becker in a straight party-line vote today in committee. Enzi in a statement explained his objections:

Mr. Becker’s answers to written questions that senators submitted previously on these views are vague, and sometimes non-responsive due to his attorney relationship with both SEIU and the AFL-CIO . . This has left open the real possibility that Mr. Becker would reinterpret the National Labor Relations Act to limit the ability of employers to participate in the process, or tilt the playing field unfairly in the direction of labor union leaders.

And today, Scott Brown joined the Senate as the 41st Republican vote, enough for a filibuster of Becker’s nomination, should it come to that. The real question for voters remains, or should remain, why every single Democrat would rubber stamp a nominee who is obviously so biased and so committed to one side in labor disputes. The NLRB is supposed to be a neutral body that interprets federal labor law. Who really thinks the associate general counsel to both the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO is going to give employers a fair shake? Can any senator buy Becker’s testimony that he no longer believes his own writings advocating that the Board can radically change labor law without Congressional authorization? Let’s be honest: this was a big giveaway to Big Labor that could only have been delivered if 60 Democrats were willing to hold their noses and vote to confirm him.

Well, Brown’s appearance will have a dramatic effect on the Senate. ObamaCare is already comatose. Perhaps without the luxury of a filibuster-proof majority, the quality of the Obama nominees will also improve.

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Big-Labor Spin

There is no studio audience on Sunday news shows to hoot and laugh when guests say outlandish things. That’s a good thing for one of the country’s most prominent labor bosses. This reports notes:

Congress will move to pass controversial “card check” legislation this year, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka predicted Sunday.

Trumka said that lawmakers would pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as well as healthcare reform this year, despite Republicans having picked up enough votes in the Senate to sustain a filibuster.

“I think we’ll get health care done and I think we’ll get labor law reform done before the year’s up,” Trumka said during an appearance on CNN.

Let’s stipulate that there might be some form of health-care legislation, however skimpy, that gets through. But who honestly believes that Democrats, lacking 60 votes and now seeing the rising tide of populist anger, are going to muster the will and the votes to take away the secret ballot from American workers? I suppose Trumka has to keep a stiff upper lip, but this silly talk only serves to re-enforce how badly Big Labor has fared under this president.

Union ranks have shrunk by 10 percent. Card check is going nowhere. The Cadillac-plan tax exemption proved to be one of the “backroom deals” that drove the final nail in ObamaCare’s coffin. Big Labor’s campaign largesse and political influence didn’t help Democratic candidates in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races. And a plurality of union members supported Scott Brown in Massachusetts. So you can understand the urgency of keeping up the illusion that victory is just around the corner.

Union bosses have spent millions and millions of their members’ dues electing candidates and then lobbying for their agenda. They have virtually nothing to show for it. At some point union members will wonder why it is that they are allowing their money to be used in this fashion.

There is no studio audience on Sunday news shows to hoot and laugh when guests say outlandish things. That’s a good thing for one of the country’s most prominent labor bosses. This reports notes:

Congress will move to pass controversial “card check” legislation this year, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka predicted Sunday.

Trumka said that lawmakers would pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as well as healthcare reform this year, despite Republicans having picked up enough votes in the Senate to sustain a filibuster.

“I think we’ll get health care done and I think we’ll get labor law reform done before the year’s up,” Trumka said during an appearance on CNN.

Let’s stipulate that there might be some form of health-care legislation, however skimpy, that gets through. But who honestly believes that Democrats, lacking 60 votes and now seeing the rising tide of populist anger, are going to muster the will and the votes to take away the secret ballot from American workers? I suppose Trumka has to keep a stiff upper lip, but this silly talk only serves to re-enforce how badly Big Labor has fared under this president.

Union ranks have shrunk by 10 percent. Card check is going nowhere. The Cadillac-plan tax exemption proved to be one of the “backroom deals” that drove the final nail in ObamaCare’s coffin. Big Labor’s campaign largesse and political influence didn’t help Democratic candidates in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races. And a plurality of union members supported Scott Brown in Massachusetts. So you can understand the urgency of keeping up the illusion that victory is just around the corner.

Union bosses have spent millions and millions of their members’ dues electing candidates and then lobbying for their agenda. They have virtually nothing to show for it. At some point union members will wonder why it is that they are allowing their money to be used in this fashion.

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LIVE BLOG: The Warm Up

Excerpts are circulating of the president’s speech. The lawmakers are assembling. (Which incumbents want to rush to the aisle to shake the president’s hand, knowing that image wind up in some challenger’s campaign ad?) But this report sort of sums up where we are:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s guest list includes the expected array of family, political friends and a few union chiefs, including Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Anna Burger of SEIU. But interestingly, Pelosi’s guest list includes the last sitting speaker to lose election: former Rep. Tom Foley.

Nothing like having those special, special-interest folks with you when the president decries corruption and lobbyists. As for Foley, I’m sure he’s telling Pelosi she  has nothing to fear so long as the president doesn’t double down on healthcare, insist her members vote on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and attack the Supreme Court for defending the First Amendment. Oh, wait.

UPDATE: A reader sends this along: “Foley worked as a lobbyist for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld after serving as U.S. ambassador to Japan, representing clients such as AT&T, Walt Disney Co., CSX Corp. and the State University of New York. Jim Wright, a Texas Democrat who was speaker from 1987 to 1989, was a consultant for Arch Petroleum Co., although it is unclear if he was ever a registered lobbyist, said the Office of the Historian of the House.” Great image, Nancy.

Excerpts are circulating of the president’s speech. The lawmakers are assembling. (Which incumbents want to rush to the aisle to shake the president’s hand, knowing that image wind up in some challenger’s campaign ad?) But this report sort of sums up where we are:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s guest list includes the expected array of family, political friends and a few union chiefs, including Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Anna Burger of SEIU. But interestingly, Pelosi’s guest list includes the last sitting speaker to lose election: former Rep. Tom Foley.

Nothing like having those special, special-interest folks with you when the president decries corruption and lobbyists. As for Foley, I’m sure he’s telling Pelosi she  has nothing to fear so long as the president doesn’t double down on healthcare, insist her members vote on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and attack the Supreme Court for defending the First Amendment. Oh, wait.

UPDATE: A reader sends this along: “Foley worked as a lobbyist for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld after serving as U.S. ambassador to Japan, representing clients such as AT&T, Walt Disney Co., CSX Corp. and the State University of New York. Jim Wright, a Texas Democrat who was speaker from 1987 to 1989, was a consultant for Arch Petroleum Co., although it is unclear if he was ever a registered lobbyist, said the Office of the Historian of the House.” Great image, Nancy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.’”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them – unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.’”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them – unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

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Re: Promises? What Promises?

The confab between Obama and Big Labor bosses didn’t exactly go swimmingly. It seems ObamaCare is not living up to Big Labor’s expectations:

The final bill will not include the House’s government-run insurance plan, or “public option”; it will probably include the Senate’s new tax on high-cost health plans that could affect many union members. …

Three hours earlier, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a hard-edged speech at the National Press Club that discontent with the final bill, when combined with a general perception that Obama and Congress have been insufficiently populist in responding to the recession and financial crisis, could demoralize his members. The risk, he said, was a replay of the Democratic blowout in the 1994 elections, when, after the passage of NAFTA and other disappointments to unions, “there was no way to persuade enough working Americans to go to the polls when they couldn’t tell the difference between the two parties.”

Big Labor’s distaste for the bill is not so strong as to warrant the union bosses’ outright opposition to the bill — though it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t oppose a measure that focuses  taxes on many union members without any obvious benefit. Nevertheless, the warning of unenthusiasm in 2010 is not an empty or insignificant threat. Considering the millions poured into Democratic coffers and the get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of Obama and congressional candidates in 2008, it’s no small thing for Big Labor to threaten to sit on its collective hands. Democrats in virtually all polls show a lower level of enthusiasm than do Republicans, who are fired up and eager to throw the rascals out.

So once again we return to the colossal political inanity of ObamaCare. It’s the rare piece of legislation that has inflamed and energized the opposition, and depressed and divided its supporters. Republicans are fortunate indeed. Now we’ll see what, if anything, they can make of the opportunity presented by their opponents.

The confab between Obama and Big Labor bosses didn’t exactly go swimmingly. It seems ObamaCare is not living up to Big Labor’s expectations:

The final bill will not include the House’s government-run insurance plan, or “public option”; it will probably include the Senate’s new tax on high-cost health plans that could affect many union members. …

Three hours earlier, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a hard-edged speech at the National Press Club that discontent with the final bill, when combined with a general perception that Obama and Congress have been insufficiently populist in responding to the recession and financial crisis, could demoralize his members. The risk, he said, was a replay of the Democratic blowout in the 1994 elections, when, after the passage of NAFTA and other disappointments to unions, “there was no way to persuade enough working Americans to go to the polls when they couldn’t tell the difference between the two parties.”

Big Labor’s distaste for the bill is not so strong as to warrant the union bosses’ outright opposition to the bill — though it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t oppose a measure that focuses  taxes on many union members without any obvious benefit. Nevertheless, the warning of unenthusiasm in 2010 is not an empty or insignificant threat. Considering the millions poured into Democratic coffers and the get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of Obama and congressional candidates in 2008, it’s no small thing for Big Labor to threaten to sit on its collective hands. Democrats in virtually all polls show a lower level of enthusiasm than do Republicans, who are fired up and eager to throw the rascals out.

So once again we return to the colossal political inanity of ObamaCare. It’s the rare piece of legislation that has inflamed and energized the opposition, and depressed and divided its supporters. Republicans are fortunate indeed. Now we’ll see what, if anything, they can make of the opportunity presented by their opponents.

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Big Labor Sold Out by Democrats

Harold Meyerson writes of Big Labor’s reaction to ObamaCare:

Labor believes, rightly, that the cost controls in the Senate bill come chiefly from insurance policy holders (among them, labor’s members), rather than from insurance and drug companies. Both the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union have condemned these provisions, while hailing the bill’s epochal creation of affordable health insurance for 30 million Americans. They’re careful, too, to exempt President Obama from their criticisms.

Actually, if the labor bosses had their members’ interests at heart, they’d be outraged and looking to upset the deal. For starters, insurance for 30 million Americans really doesn’t do much for their members,  nearly all of whom have union contracts giving them that benefit. (Come to think of it, unions dig their own graves by supporting mandatory benefits for nonunion workers, thereby lowering the incentive to unionize.) Moreover, the excise tax on Cadillac plans hits their members disproportionately and quite severely. Having run against a similar proposal by John McCain, now Obama is delivering the same bitter pill to his political allies, as Meyerson concedes:

Politically, in fact, the tax could set in motion the kind of dynamic that undermined many Great Society anti-poverty programs: taxing the working class to provide benefits to the poor (or, in this case, the uninsured). Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan smashed the Democrats’ New Deal coalition by fanning the racial and class tensions endemic to such programs.

So what exactly is in this for union members and why aren’t their leaders trying to stop this assault on their financial interests? You got me. But union members might start to wonder why millions in union dues are being used to support candidates who back legislation so hostile to their economic well being.

Harold Meyerson writes of Big Labor’s reaction to ObamaCare:

Labor believes, rightly, that the cost controls in the Senate bill come chiefly from insurance policy holders (among them, labor’s members), rather than from insurance and drug companies. Both the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union have condemned these provisions, while hailing the bill’s epochal creation of affordable health insurance for 30 million Americans. They’re careful, too, to exempt President Obama from their criticisms.

Actually, if the labor bosses had their members’ interests at heart, they’d be outraged and looking to upset the deal. For starters, insurance for 30 million Americans really doesn’t do much for their members,  nearly all of whom have union contracts giving them that benefit. (Come to think of it, unions dig their own graves by supporting mandatory benefits for nonunion workers, thereby lowering the incentive to unionize.) Moreover, the excise tax on Cadillac plans hits their members disproportionately and quite severely. Having run against a similar proposal by John McCain, now Obama is delivering the same bitter pill to his political allies, as Meyerson concedes:

Politically, in fact, the tax could set in motion the kind of dynamic that undermined many Great Society anti-poverty programs: taxing the working class to provide benefits to the poor (or, in this case, the uninsured). Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan smashed the Democrats’ New Deal coalition by fanning the racial and class tensions endemic to such programs.

So what exactly is in this for union members and why aren’t their leaders trying to stop this assault on their financial interests? You got me. But union members might start to wonder why millions in union dues are being used to support candidates who back legislation so hostile to their economic well being.

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On The Same Team

Since John McCain wrapped up the nomination last week, his campaign and the RNC have effectively merged efforts for the 2008 election. The change is dramatic and affords McCain the assistance and research capabilities of the RNC. For example, in response to the announcement that the AFL-CIO will now spend $53M to target McCain, the RNC has put out a statement:

The AFL-CIO’s campaign against John McCain clearly demonstrates their priorities lie in attack politics as opposed to focusing on American families. Voters looking for something new will find it in John McCain’s campaign to help working families–not the AFL-CIO’s partisan attacks. Considering Senators Obama and Clinton’s frequent denunciations of special interests, they must reject the unions’ campaign against Senator McCain.

And Alex Conant, RNC Press Secretary, has come out with a nicely packaged bit of oppo research questioning whether an attack operation by big labor is really “new politics” or just the same old story of special interest money. Likewise, in response to the attack on McCain’s role in insisting that Boeing not receive a no-bid contract for a U.S. Air Force tanker, the RNC and McCain made sure to circulate this from McCain advisor Steve Schmidt:

Over the past few days, there have been a number of political attacks launched by John McCain’s political opponents attempting to blame him for the Boeing Company not being awarded the USAF tanker contract. Incredibly, several news organizations have parroted the attack. Here are the facts:

John McCain uncovered a massive taxpayer rip-off and evidence leading to corruption convictions for Boeing and Pentagon officials, some of whom went to jail for their crimes. The CEO of Boeing resigned.

John McCain’s investigation saved the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars.

So wrapping up the GOP nomination has many benefits for McCain–watching the Democrats snipe, for example–but one of them should not be underestimated: the full machinery of the the RNC is now at his disposal.

Since John McCain wrapped up the nomination last week, his campaign and the RNC have effectively merged efforts for the 2008 election. The change is dramatic and affords McCain the assistance and research capabilities of the RNC. For example, in response to the announcement that the AFL-CIO will now spend $53M to target McCain, the RNC has put out a statement:

The AFL-CIO’s campaign against John McCain clearly demonstrates their priorities lie in attack politics as opposed to focusing on American families. Voters looking for something new will find it in John McCain’s campaign to help working families–not the AFL-CIO’s partisan attacks. Considering Senators Obama and Clinton’s frequent denunciations of special interests, they must reject the unions’ campaign against Senator McCain.

And Alex Conant, RNC Press Secretary, has come out with a nicely packaged bit of oppo research questioning whether an attack operation by big labor is really “new politics” or just the same old story of special interest money. Likewise, in response to the attack on McCain’s role in insisting that Boeing not receive a no-bid contract for a U.S. Air Force tanker, the RNC and McCain made sure to circulate this from McCain advisor Steve Schmidt:

Over the past few days, there have been a number of political attacks launched by John McCain’s political opponents attempting to blame him for the Boeing Company not being awarded the USAF tanker contract. Incredibly, several news organizations have parroted the attack. Here are the facts:

John McCain uncovered a massive taxpayer rip-off and evidence leading to corruption convictions for Boeing and Pentagon officials, some of whom went to jail for their crimes. The CEO of Boeing resigned.

John McCain’s investigation saved the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars.

So wrapping up the GOP nomination has many benefits for McCain–watching the Democrats snipe, for example–but one of them should not be underestimated: the full machinery of the the RNC is now at his disposal.

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