Commentary Magazine


Topic: Arlen Specter

Santorum’s Life With a Political Cannibal

Rick Santorum has enough problems these days with his gaffe insisting on English being the official language of Puerto Rico and the impact of his insistence on raising troubling social issues such as contraception and pornography even though these discussion do him no good. But the real gift that keeps on giving for Santorum is his decision in 2004 to back Arlen Specter’s bid for re-election against an impeccable conservative challenge, then Rep. Pat Toomey. The issue has caused him no end of embarrassment in subsequent years, especially after Specter backed President Obama’s stimulus boondoggle and then ObamaCare after turning his coat and switching to the Democrats in 2009.

The issue will get another hearing this month because, as Politico reports, Specter’s political memoir Life With the Cannibals will soon be released. In it, Specter details Santorum’s help in 2004 as well as his 2009 advice about how to hold onto the seat he would lose, ironically enough, to Toomey in 2010. Specter’s book won’t help Santorum among conservatives who regard the decision as one more instance of how the Pennsylvanian’s desire to be a “team player” often came into conflict with his conservative values. But as much as Santorum deserves to be criticized for his decision, a little perspective on that race is in order.

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Rick Santorum has enough problems these days with his gaffe insisting on English being the official language of Puerto Rico and the impact of his insistence on raising troubling social issues such as contraception and pornography even though these discussion do him no good. But the real gift that keeps on giving for Santorum is his decision in 2004 to back Arlen Specter’s bid for re-election against an impeccable conservative challenge, then Rep. Pat Toomey. The issue has caused him no end of embarrassment in subsequent years, especially after Specter backed President Obama’s stimulus boondoggle and then ObamaCare after turning his coat and switching to the Democrats in 2009.

The issue will get another hearing this month because, as Politico reports, Specter’s political memoir Life With the Cannibals will soon be released. In it, Specter details Santorum’s help in 2004 as well as his 2009 advice about how to hold onto the seat he would lose, ironically enough, to Toomey in 2010. Specter’s book won’t help Santorum among conservatives who regard the decision as one more instance of how the Pennsylvanian’s desire to be a “team player” often came into conflict with his conservative values. But as much as Santorum deserves to be criticized for his decision, a little perspective on that race is in order.

First of all, though Specter credits Santorum for pulling him through a difficult primary in which he wound up beating Toomey in a close race, it should also be remembered that the most important conservative backing the incumbent in Pennsylvania that year was not Santorum. It was George W. Bush, who believed keeping Specter on the ticket was vital to his chances of winning Pennsylvania in a tough battle for re-election.

Another point often obscured in discussions of that election is that the issue was not so much, as Santorum now insists, a matter of ensuring that conservative Supreme Court justices were confirmed in Bush’s second term (though even Santorum and Specter’s most virulent conservative critics can’t fault his efforts to secure the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito) as it was giving Bush a chance in Pennsylvania and holding onto a slim GOP majority in the Senate that fall. The assumption then was that Toomey simply couldn’t hold the seat. That’s why everyone in the Republican establishment including Santorum (who was then a member of the Senate leadership) moved heaven and earth in 2003 to persuade Toomey to back off.

That assumption was incorrect, as I think Toomey could have beaten then Rep. Joseph Hoeffel, the Democrat who eventually lost to Specter in November 2004. But none of the trio of Bush, Karl Rove and Santorum thought it was worth gambling a Senate majority on Toomey when they assumed Specter would have an easy time in a general election. As it turned out, Specter didn’t win by the landslide the GOP thought he would, a result that was a harbinger of future trouble for the senator.

It should also be remembered that literally hours after declaring victory in the primary, Specter held a news conference in Philadelphia in which he repaid both Bush and Santorum by giving them the back of his hand by stating he didn’t consider himself bound to support the president’s measures in the coming years. Those who believe Specter’s recent statements about private conversations he had with Santorum about court confirmations in 2004 should remember that double cross as well as the countless other betrayals that can be credited to Specter when they take his word for it when he says he made no promises to his colleague.

As for Santorum’s intervention call in 2009 seeking to “help” Specter hold onto his seat by persuading him to vote against the stimulus, that, too, deserves some perspective. Heading into 2009, the feud between Specter and Toomey had seemingly been forgotten. At that time, a tacit agreement between the two existed in which Toomey would forgo another primary challenge against Specter in exchange for the latter’s support for the conservative’s run for the post of governor of Pennsylvania. So in urging Specter to stick with his party on the stimulus, Santorum was an advocate not so much for the “team” as for peace in a still bitterly divided Pennsylvania GOP. But once Specter left the GOP reservation on the stimulus, the anger of conservatives was such that Toomey felt obliged to abandon his plans to run for governor and instead challenge Specter. Specter rightly understood that without Bush and Santorum holding his coat, he had no chance of winning a Republican primary and jumped to the Democrats. In an act of poetic justice, Specter lost the Democratic primary the next year to a more liberal candidate, Rep. Joe Sestak, who was, in turn, defeated by Toomey in November.

Santorum deserves blame, as do Bush and Rove, for enabling Specter to survive for six more years. But the moral of the story is not so much Santorum’s lack of principle (an argument that a onetime liberal GOP Senate candidate like Mitt Romney is ill-placed to make) as it is the difficulty of dealing with as slippery a character as Specter. Though Specter now presents himself as being too pure to survive any longer in the dark world of American politics, he was himself the worst example of an unprincipled politician that we have had in the last 30 years. As his 2004 opponent Hoeffel memorably said of him, “It’s hard to run against Arlen on the issues because he’s on both sides of every one.” If Santorum is to be shamed for his 2004 decision, he is as entitled as anyone to lament how hard it was serving alongside a “cannibal”-like Specter in the Senate for 12 years.

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GOP Needs Neither Possums Nor RINOs

Earlier, Alana noted that Mitt Romney’s “indignant tone” concerning Rick Santorum’s attempt to get conservative Democrats to cross over and vote for him in the Michigan primary may embody the concerns David Brooks wrote about today in the New York Times. In his column, Brooks demanded that moderate Republicans — or as conservatives refer to them, RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only — fight back against right-wing “protesters” whom he believes are destroying the GOP and ruining its chances of beating Barack Obama. Brooks reduces the narrative of the last 50 years of American political history to a constant struggle between the grass roots and the elites in which the latter have been consistently routed. He believes this is largely the result of fear on the part of party professionals who have chosen to play possum and not fight back against the influence of people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Brooks is right that Republicans appear to be fumbling what had once seemed an excellent chance of unseating an unpopular incumbent. But he’s wrong to blame it on the unwillingness of moderates and party elites to fight back and educate the rebellious hoi polloi who are too stupid to listen to the advice of their betters.

Laments for the extinction of “Rockefeller Republicans” tell us nothing about what conservatives should be doing. What the GOP needs are not more RINOs or right-leaning Washington establishment types like Richard Lugar (whom Brooks lauds but is in fact, a more reliable indicator of conventional wisdom on most issues than any liberal establishment pundit), but leaders who care about ideas and have the ability to convince the nation to get behind them and then govern accordingly. It is the absence of such persons in the presidential race that is the GOP’s problem in 2012.

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Earlier, Alana noted that Mitt Romney’s “indignant tone” concerning Rick Santorum’s attempt to get conservative Democrats to cross over and vote for him in the Michigan primary may embody the concerns David Brooks wrote about today in the New York Times. In his column, Brooks demanded that moderate Republicans — or as conservatives refer to them, RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only — fight back against right-wing “protesters” whom he believes are destroying the GOP and ruining its chances of beating Barack Obama. Brooks reduces the narrative of the last 50 years of American political history to a constant struggle between the grass roots and the elites in which the latter have been consistently routed. He believes this is largely the result of fear on the part of party professionals who have chosen to play possum and not fight back against the influence of people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Brooks is right that Republicans appear to be fumbling what had once seemed an excellent chance of unseating an unpopular incumbent. But he’s wrong to blame it on the unwillingness of moderates and party elites to fight back and educate the rebellious hoi polloi who are too stupid to listen to the advice of their betters.

Laments for the extinction of “Rockefeller Republicans” tell us nothing about what conservatives should be doing. What the GOP needs are not more RINOs or right-leaning Washington establishment types like Richard Lugar (whom Brooks lauds but is in fact, a more reliable indicator of conventional wisdom on most issues than any liberal establishment pundit), but leaders who care about ideas and have the ability to convince the nation to get behind them and then govern accordingly. It is the absence of such persons in the presidential race that is the GOP’s problem in 2012.

The problem with the Republicans this year is their leadership choices have been politicians who were either unelectable outliers or lacked a credible conservative vision and/or principles. That means Republicans are now reduced to choosing between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Both men have their strengths, and certainly the latter is far more electable than the former, but Republicans do have a right to ask themselves why it is they had to settle for such a choice. But the fault for this dilemma cannot be laid at the door of the Tea Party or social conservatives.

The GOP need not be the slave to the Tea Party any more than Ronald Reagan was the servant of the various conservative rebel factions that united in 1980 to ensure the party would not slip back into the hands of the remnants of its once powerful establishment. What is needed is someone whose commitment to conservative ideas on governance is sufficiently passionate to harness the protesters’ enthusiasm while also putting forth a credible plan to govern the nation. If Mitt Romney has failed so far to do so, it is not because he is bowing down to the false idol of Tea Party activism, but because too few believe he is serious about governing as a conservative rather than the sort of pragmatic compromiser of principle that Brooks seems to want.

Let’s remember the “Rockefeller Republicans” weren’t merely another brand of conservative but outright liberals who had to be sent packing if the GOP was to present an actual alternative to left-wing patent nostrums that had been foisted on the country. The “moderates” who were wiped out by initial conservative uprisings were a similar obstacle to the creation of the conservative party that has won five national elections in the last three decades. If you want to know what the party would look like if this had not happened, you need only to look at Arlen Specter, the turncoat senator from Pennsylvania whose name has come up in the scrum between Romney and Santorum. For all of the current party’s ills, a Republican Party populated largely by unprincipled trimmers and place servers like Specter is what the conservative revolution has avoided. That is an achievement that should not be deprecated.

Populist lowbrow politicians and pundits such as Palin and Beck have always been with us and always will. They will never be able to completely control a major party such as the GOP. But in the absence of more credible conservative leaders, their influence increases. Yet rather than fight a colonial anti-insurgency campaign against the Tea Party as Brooks recommends, what Republicans need is a rebel leader who is ready to govern. People like that, such as Paul Ryan and Chris Christie, do exist. But in their absence, the GOP will have to make do and hope for the best.

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Toomey Support for DADT Repeal Highlights a Conservative’s Independent Streak

The announcement that Pennsylvania Senator-elect Pat Toomey will support repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy about gays in the military may signal the end of this pointless rule. Those who haven’t followed Toomey’s career may be surprised that a hard-core conservative Republican and devout pro-life Catholic like Toomey would support a gay-rights measure. But Toomey’s libertarian instincts and abhorrence of big government have led him to the correct conclusion that seeking to ban a portion of the population that might usefully serve their country is a mistake. Nor is this a new position for Toomey.

During his successful Senate campaign, Toomey made it clear that he wanted to end DADT. In fact, he mentioned it in an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he wrote last summer in which he detailed why he would have voted against Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In the piece, he criticized Kagan for banning military recruiters from Harvard Law School because of DADT. Toomey wrote:

I share the view that the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy regarding gay servicemen and women has outlived its usefulness and, subject to the military’s conclusion of the feasibility of removing it, I support its repeal. However, one’s disagreement with a federal law does not give one license to circumvent it.

While Toomey won’t be able to cast a vote on the repeal attempt during the lame-duck session of Congress, his willingness to do so after January may change the mathematics of this debate. Moreover, Toomey — whose reputation as a pro-life stalwart, Tea Party favorite, and libertarian hardliner on fiscal matters renders him largely impervious to attacks from the right — could help give cover to other wavering Republicans. Previously, the only Republicans to announce support for the end of DADT were the liberal Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Toomey’s stand on gays in the military might put him in conflict with conservative culture-war advocates, who will lament his willingness to put this issue to rest. Indeed, this puts him at odds with Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who has recently been beating the bushes in New Hampshire promoting a possible 2012 presidential candidacy (though not too many people are taking Santorum’s ego-trip of a campaign seriously). But the irony here is that six years ago, Santorum, the man who now proclaims himself as the true guardian of conservative values, did his best to torpedo Toomey’s primary challenge of liberal Arlen Specter. Though Santorum and President Bush urged Toomey to step aside, he wouldn’t compromise and stayed in the race, ultimately narrowly losing the primary to Specter. Six years later, Toomey, who stuck to his guns on his conservative principles, is now about to take the place of the turncoat Specter, who was beaten out for the Democratic nomination earlier this year.

Six years is a lifetime in politics, but Pennsylvania Democrats are already looking ahead to 2016, since they believe the election of a conservative like Toomey was a fluke that cannot be repeated. They may be right, but what we will see until then is a senator who denounces big government and actually means it. That may not earn Toomey many friends in a state that has long counted upon its representatives to fight for local special interests, something that Toomey is unlikely to do. But as we are seeing with the issue of gays in the military, Toomey’s principled independence is a factor that political observers ought not to take for granted.

The announcement that Pennsylvania Senator-elect Pat Toomey will support repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy about gays in the military may signal the end of this pointless rule. Those who haven’t followed Toomey’s career may be surprised that a hard-core conservative Republican and devout pro-life Catholic like Toomey would support a gay-rights measure. But Toomey’s libertarian instincts and abhorrence of big government have led him to the correct conclusion that seeking to ban a portion of the population that might usefully serve their country is a mistake. Nor is this a new position for Toomey.

During his successful Senate campaign, Toomey made it clear that he wanted to end DADT. In fact, he mentioned it in an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he wrote last summer in which he detailed why he would have voted against Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In the piece, he criticized Kagan for banning military recruiters from Harvard Law School because of DADT. Toomey wrote:

I share the view that the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy regarding gay servicemen and women has outlived its usefulness and, subject to the military’s conclusion of the feasibility of removing it, I support its repeal. However, one’s disagreement with a federal law does not give one license to circumvent it.

While Toomey won’t be able to cast a vote on the repeal attempt during the lame-duck session of Congress, his willingness to do so after January may change the mathematics of this debate. Moreover, Toomey — whose reputation as a pro-life stalwart, Tea Party favorite, and libertarian hardliner on fiscal matters renders him largely impervious to attacks from the right — could help give cover to other wavering Republicans. Previously, the only Republicans to announce support for the end of DADT were the liberal Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Toomey’s stand on gays in the military might put him in conflict with conservative culture-war advocates, who will lament his willingness to put this issue to rest. Indeed, this puts him at odds with Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who has recently been beating the bushes in New Hampshire promoting a possible 2012 presidential candidacy (though not too many people are taking Santorum’s ego-trip of a campaign seriously). But the irony here is that six years ago, Santorum, the man who now proclaims himself as the true guardian of conservative values, did his best to torpedo Toomey’s primary challenge of liberal Arlen Specter. Though Santorum and President Bush urged Toomey to step aside, he wouldn’t compromise and stayed in the race, ultimately narrowly losing the primary to Specter. Six years later, Toomey, who stuck to his guns on his conservative principles, is now about to take the place of the turncoat Specter, who was beaten out for the Democratic nomination earlier this year.

Six years is a lifetime in politics, but Pennsylvania Democrats are already looking ahead to 2016, since they believe the election of a conservative like Toomey was a fluke that cannot be repeated. They may be right, but what we will see until then is a senator who denounces big government and actually means it. That may not earn Toomey many friends in a state that has long counted upon its representatives to fight for local special interests, something that Toomey is unlikely to do. But as we are seeing with the issue of gays in the military, Toomey’s principled independence is a factor that political observers ought not to take for granted.

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Is There a Replacement for Syria’s Friend in the Senate?

As the calendar ticks off the last days of Arlen Specter’s 30-year reign in the United States Senate, it appears that one of his colleagues might be assuming a role that the Pennsylvanian had long cherished: that of the Assad clan’s American interlocutor.

For decades, Specter embarrassed the Senate and many of his Jewish supporters and donors with his regular visits to Damascus, where he schmoozed with Syrian dictator Hafez Assad and then, after the elder Assad’s death, his son Bashar, who succeeded his father as that country’s leader. It was a good deal for both the senator and the Syrians. Specter got to play diplomat, with the United States Treasury picking up the tab, while the Syrians had a permanent advocate for engagement with the Assad regime no matter how atrocious its behavior had been. To his credit, Specter did use his cordial relationship with the Assads to help rescue the remnants of Syrian Jewry, but that was accomplished 18 years ago. Since then, Specter’s frequent flyer miles to Damascus served no constructive purpose other than to further inflate the senator’s considerable ego.

But with Specter headed to retirement after losing his bid for re-election, Sen. John Kerry appears to be picking up the slack in the Syrian appeasement category. Today’s New York Times quoted the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate as saying that his recent trip to Damascus encouraged him to believe that engagement with Syria was a good idea. Syria’s return to control in Lebanon and successful efforts to undermine the international investigation of the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, as well as its refusal to distance itself from Iran as the Obama administration had hoped, have discouraged many of even the most determined Arabists in Washington. But Kerry said, “I remain absolutely convinced there is an opportunity to have a different relationship with Syria.”

As Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, Kerry can muster up a better rationale for his international travels than Specter did, and reportedly went to Syria at the behest of an Obama administration that remains desperate to preserve the illusion that its engagement policies are not a complete bust even if it is evident that Syria has no interest in abandoning its ally Iran, allowing Lebanon to be free, or making peace with Israel.

While back-channel diplomacy can have its uses every once in a while, the sort of freelance diplomacy practiced by Specter served Syria’s interests more than those of the United States. Now that he’s out of the picture, it would be unfortunate if Kerry, or any of his other colleagues who love to spend congressional recesses on taxpayer-financed road trips, allowed the Assad clan to think that they can continue to bamboozle Washington. The message from everyone in the capital to Damascus must be crystal clear: if it wants better relations with the United States, it will have to alter its behavior.

As the calendar ticks off the last days of Arlen Specter’s 30-year reign in the United States Senate, it appears that one of his colleagues might be assuming a role that the Pennsylvanian had long cherished: that of the Assad clan’s American interlocutor.

For decades, Specter embarrassed the Senate and many of his Jewish supporters and donors with his regular visits to Damascus, where he schmoozed with Syrian dictator Hafez Assad and then, after the elder Assad’s death, his son Bashar, who succeeded his father as that country’s leader. It was a good deal for both the senator and the Syrians. Specter got to play diplomat, with the United States Treasury picking up the tab, while the Syrians had a permanent advocate for engagement with the Assad regime no matter how atrocious its behavior had been. To his credit, Specter did use his cordial relationship with the Assads to help rescue the remnants of Syrian Jewry, but that was accomplished 18 years ago. Since then, Specter’s frequent flyer miles to Damascus served no constructive purpose other than to further inflate the senator’s considerable ego.

But with Specter headed to retirement after losing his bid for re-election, Sen. John Kerry appears to be picking up the slack in the Syrian appeasement category. Today’s New York Times quoted the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate as saying that his recent trip to Damascus encouraged him to believe that engagement with Syria was a good idea. Syria’s return to control in Lebanon and successful efforts to undermine the international investigation of the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, as well as its refusal to distance itself from Iran as the Obama administration had hoped, have discouraged many of even the most determined Arabists in Washington. But Kerry said, “I remain absolutely convinced there is an opportunity to have a different relationship with Syria.”

As Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, Kerry can muster up a better rationale for his international travels than Specter did, and reportedly went to Syria at the behest of an Obama administration that remains desperate to preserve the illusion that its engagement policies are not a complete bust even if it is evident that Syria has no interest in abandoning its ally Iran, allowing Lebanon to be free, or making peace with Israel.

While back-channel diplomacy can have its uses every once in a while, the sort of freelance diplomacy practiced by Specter served Syria’s interests more than those of the United States. Now that he’s out of the picture, it would be unfortunate if Kerry, or any of his other colleagues who love to spend congressional recesses on taxpayer-financed road trips, allowed the Assad clan to think that they can continue to bamboozle Washington. The message from everyone in the capital to Damascus must be crystal clear: if it wants better relations with the United States, it will have to alter its behavior.

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Manchin to Fight Obama — or Switch?

A report suggests that Senate Republicans are trying to lure Joe Manchin to switch parties:

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects — a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington. …

Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances.

For now, Manchin says he’s not switching. But he certainly didn’t close any doors:

“He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on,” said one Manchin advisor. “Now, if that doesn’t work and Democrats aren’t receptive, I don’t know what possibilities that leaves open.”

Not exactly a pledge of perpetual loyalty to his party, is it?

Manchin’s problem is not as acute as Ben Nelson’s is. Nelson infuriated his home state by caving on ObamaCare, thereby setting himself up as the  “60th vote” (as were all Democrats in the cloture vote) target in 2012. It is questionable whether a party change would save Nelson; even if he switched — à la Arlen Specter — Nelson could well face a primary challenge. And from Manchin’s perspective, he was able to swim against the tide by differentiating himself from Obama and his liberal helpmates inside the Beltway. Provided he now carries through and joins with Republicans on key votes on the budget, health care, etc., shouldn’t his chances improve in 2012?

All this raises the question as to whether a bare majority in the Senate is all that important to the GOP. The issue, aside from chairmanships of committees, is not which party “controls” the Senate. That will be a case-by-case affair, determined by the relative craftiness of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in cobbling together temporary alliances of 60 senators. In that regard, the Republicans’ policy objectives might be better served — and the image of bipartisanship enhanced — by inducing Manchin, Nelson, and Lieberman to vote with them as Democrats.

And let’s not forget the gift the Republicans have received: Harry Reid — pursed lips, perpetual gaffes, nasty demeanor, and all — retaining the Senate majority leader spot. That seems almost too good an opportunity to give up.

So I don’t expect the GOP to try all that hard to convince the three most likely candidates to switch parties. If Obama’s fortunes continue to slide, some of them may be chasing the GOP before too long.

A report suggests that Senate Republicans are trying to lure Joe Manchin to switch parties:

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects — a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington. …

Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances.

For now, Manchin says he’s not switching. But he certainly didn’t close any doors:

“He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on,” said one Manchin advisor. “Now, if that doesn’t work and Democrats aren’t receptive, I don’t know what possibilities that leaves open.”

Not exactly a pledge of perpetual loyalty to his party, is it?

Manchin’s problem is not as acute as Ben Nelson’s is. Nelson infuriated his home state by caving on ObamaCare, thereby setting himself up as the  “60th vote” (as were all Democrats in the cloture vote) target in 2012. It is questionable whether a party change would save Nelson; even if he switched — à la Arlen Specter — Nelson could well face a primary challenge. And from Manchin’s perspective, he was able to swim against the tide by differentiating himself from Obama and his liberal helpmates inside the Beltway. Provided he now carries through and joins with Republicans on key votes on the budget, health care, etc., shouldn’t his chances improve in 2012?

All this raises the question as to whether a bare majority in the Senate is all that important to the GOP. The issue, aside from chairmanships of committees, is not which party “controls” the Senate. That will be a case-by-case affair, determined by the relative craftiness of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in cobbling together temporary alliances of 60 senators. In that regard, the Republicans’ policy objectives might be better served — and the image of bipartisanship enhanced — by inducing Manchin, Nelson, and Lieberman to vote with them as Democrats.

And let’s not forget the gift the Republicans have received: Harry Reid — pursed lips, perpetual gaffes, nasty demeanor, and all — retaining the Senate majority leader spot. That seems almost too good an opportunity to give up.

So I don’t expect the GOP to try all that hard to convince the three most likely candidates to switch parties. If Obama’s fortunes continue to slide, some of them may be chasing the GOP before too long.

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ECI 1 – Soros Street 0

The leftist Tablet looks at the Senate race. The most interesting is Pennsylvania (h/t Ben Smith):

PENNSYLVANIA
Jewish candidate guy: Senator Arlen Specter (D).
People who are actually running: Joe Sestak (J Street) and Pat Toomey (Emergency Committee for Israel).
Who’s going to win? In general, a Gentile. In particular, Pat Toomey. In a way, Bill Kristol.
Why this is still a Jewish story: This race is kind of weird. Arlen Specter switched parties, robbing Republicans of their only Jewish senator, and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Then, with no Jewish candidates in the race, this became the surrogate electoral battleground for Israeli-American politics: Bill Kristol’s newly formed Pro-Israel, Pro-Committee Emergency Committee for Israel cut an ad attacking Sestak, and then the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Iffy-Soros J Street made their own defending him.
Fun fact: Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, is “an heir to America’s leading Orthodox rabbinic dynasty.”

It’s not so weird at all. As we’ve seen in recent polling, Israel enjoys broad bipartisan support. J Street does not. When ECI focused on this race, illuminating Sestak’s record, it illustrated both. Frankly, it’s weird that a Jewish magazine finds it peculiar that a race without a Jewish candidate could center on Israel. Perhaps it should take a look at the polls we’ve been examining. It seems the entire electorate of Pennsylvania has revealed itself to be part of the “Israel Lobby.” Only those who equate support for Israel solely with American Jewish political activity would fine this strange.

The leftist Tablet looks at the Senate race. The most interesting is Pennsylvania (h/t Ben Smith):

PENNSYLVANIA
Jewish candidate guy: Senator Arlen Specter (D).
People who are actually running: Joe Sestak (J Street) and Pat Toomey (Emergency Committee for Israel).
Who’s going to win? In general, a Gentile. In particular, Pat Toomey. In a way, Bill Kristol.
Why this is still a Jewish story: This race is kind of weird. Arlen Specter switched parties, robbing Republicans of their only Jewish senator, and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Then, with no Jewish candidates in the race, this became the surrogate electoral battleground for Israeli-American politics: Bill Kristol’s newly formed Pro-Israel, Pro-Committee Emergency Committee for Israel cut an ad attacking Sestak, and then the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Iffy-Soros J Street made their own defending him.
Fun fact: Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, is “an heir to America’s leading Orthodox rabbinic dynasty.”

It’s not so weird at all. As we’ve seen in recent polling, Israel enjoys broad bipartisan support. J Street does not. When ECI focused on this race, illuminating Sestak’s record, it illustrated both. Frankly, it’s weird that a Jewish magazine finds it peculiar that a race without a Jewish candidate could center on Israel. Perhaps it should take a look at the polls we’ve been examining. It seems the entire electorate of Pennsylvania has revealed itself to be part of the “Israel Lobby.” Only those who equate support for Israel solely with American Jewish political activity would fine this strange.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Joe Sestak is heading for defeat. In the latest poll, he trails Pat Toomey by nine points.

Asked about the Sestak campaign, Snarlin’ Arlen Specter tells reporters he’s heading for the squash courts.

John Boehner’s advice must have hit home. Obama says that some of his economic team may be heading home. Obama in Chicago told a town hall gathering: ”I have not made any determinations about personnel. I think Larry Summers and Tim Geithner have done an outstanding job, as have my whole economic team. This is tough, the work that they do. They’ve been at it for two years. And, you know, they’re going to have a whole range of decisions about family that’ll factor into this as well.”

Congressmen are heading for the campaign trail early. No need to stay in town to face a tough vote on the Bush tax cuts. “House leaders are considering adjourning as early as the end of this week, which would give lawmakers five and a half weeks to campaign before the Nov. 2 election but could also leave them exposed to allegations that they didn’t finish their work in Washington.” It’s pathetic, really.

Heading for 15 percent? “An estimated 192,000 Nevadans were out of work in August, pushing the state’s unemployment rate to 14.4 percent, according to the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.” Harry Reid says he’s responsible for nothing.

Obama is heading for more of this as long as unemployment remains high across the country: “President Barack Obama on Monday said times were still tough for many Americans, as he defended his policies during aggressive questioning after the worst U.S. recession since the 1930s was declared over. As audience members at a townhall-style meeting voiced exasperation and disappointment at his administration, and one woman said she was ‘exhausted’ from defending him, Obama stressed he understood that people were frustrated.”

The peace talks are heading nowhere: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a Monday night interview with Palestinian news source Ma’an that ‘Israel was free to call itself the Israeli Zionist Jewish Empire.’ The PA leader made cynical remarks to Ma’an shortly after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called upon Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Maybe Jordan should be called the Palestinian state. It is, you know.

Joe Sestak is heading for defeat. In the latest poll, he trails Pat Toomey by nine points.

Asked about the Sestak campaign, Snarlin’ Arlen Specter tells reporters he’s heading for the squash courts.

John Boehner’s advice must have hit home. Obama says that some of his economic team may be heading home. Obama in Chicago told a town hall gathering: ”I have not made any determinations about personnel. I think Larry Summers and Tim Geithner have done an outstanding job, as have my whole economic team. This is tough, the work that they do. They’ve been at it for two years. And, you know, they’re going to have a whole range of decisions about family that’ll factor into this as well.”

Congressmen are heading for the campaign trail early. No need to stay in town to face a tough vote on the Bush tax cuts. “House leaders are considering adjourning as early as the end of this week, which would give lawmakers five and a half weeks to campaign before the Nov. 2 election but could also leave them exposed to allegations that they didn’t finish their work in Washington.” It’s pathetic, really.

Heading for 15 percent? “An estimated 192,000 Nevadans were out of work in August, pushing the state’s unemployment rate to 14.4 percent, according to the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.” Harry Reid says he’s responsible for nothing.

Obama is heading for more of this as long as unemployment remains high across the country: “President Barack Obama on Monday said times were still tough for many Americans, as he defended his policies during aggressive questioning after the worst U.S. recession since the 1930s was declared over. As audience members at a townhall-style meeting voiced exasperation and disappointment at his administration, and one woman said she was ‘exhausted’ from defending him, Obama stressed he understood that people were frustrated.”

The peace talks are heading nowhere: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a Monday night interview with Palestinian news source Ma’an that ‘Israel was free to call itself the Israeli Zionist Jewish Empire.’ The PA leader made cynical remarks to Ma’an shortly after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called upon Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Maybe Jordan should be called the Palestinian state. It is, you know.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Nothing in common with Shakespeare except comic genius.

Nothing matches the Joe Sestak campaign for sheer incompetence. Now he’s changing his tune on a $350,000 earmark. Boy, must Arlen Specter be grinding his teeth. There is an art to flip-flops, you know!

Nothing is leaning Democratic these days: “In 10 matchups this year by Rasmussen Reports between three-term Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi, the two have never been further than 4 points apart. Now, with Rossi moving to a 2 point lead, the pollster has changed its rating of the race from ‘leans Democratic’ to ‘toss-up.’ … Polling analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com has calculated a 46 percent probability that the Democrats will lose the seat.”

Nothing but bad news for the Democrats from Charlie Cook: “[A] look at the 37 Senate races on the ballot shows some deterioration for Democrats in some of the 19 seats they are defending, while Republicans’ prospects have stayed the same or improved slightly in their most competitive seats. As such, it is now likely that Republicans will score a net gain of between seven and nine seats.”

Nothing but Red in California: SurveyUSA shows Meg Whitman up by seven and Carly Fiorina up by two.

Nothing in doubt in this race: “Robert Hurt (R) now leads [Virginia Democrat] Perriello by a whopping 61% to 35%.”

Nothing like a mosque at Ground Zero to wake up New York Jews. “As the fight over the center escalated from a zoning dispute into a battle in the culture wars, it has splintered New Yorkers along party lines. Seventy-four percent of Republicans are opposed; Democrats are split, with 43 percent for and 44 percent against. … More than half, 53 percent, of city residents with incomes over $100,000 back the center; only 31 percent of those with incomes under $50,000 agree. Protestants are evenly divided, while most Catholics and Jewish New Yorkers oppose the center.”

Nothing like a Cliff May piece on Muslim terror — and excoriating Fareed Zakaria. Read the whole thing — a few times.

Nothing in common with Shakespeare except comic genius.

Nothing matches the Joe Sestak campaign for sheer incompetence. Now he’s changing his tune on a $350,000 earmark. Boy, must Arlen Specter be grinding his teeth. There is an art to flip-flops, you know!

Nothing is leaning Democratic these days: “In 10 matchups this year by Rasmussen Reports between three-term Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi, the two have never been further than 4 points apart. Now, with Rossi moving to a 2 point lead, the pollster has changed its rating of the race from ‘leans Democratic’ to ‘toss-up.’ … Polling analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com has calculated a 46 percent probability that the Democrats will lose the seat.”

Nothing but bad news for the Democrats from Charlie Cook: “[A] look at the 37 Senate races on the ballot shows some deterioration for Democrats in some of the 19 seats they are defending, while Republicans’ prospects have stayed the same or improved slightly in their most competitive seats. As such, it is now likely that Republicans will score a net gain of between seven and nine seats.”

Nothing but Red in California: SurveyUSA shows Meg Whitman up by seven and Carly Fiorina up by two.

Nothing in doubt in this race: “Robert Hurt (R) now leads [Virginia Democrat] Perriello by a whopping 61% to 35%.”

Nothing like a mosque at Ground Zero to wake up New York Jews. “As the fight over the center escalated from a zoning dispute into a battle in the culture wars, it has splintered New Yorkers along party lines. Seventy-four percent of Republicans are opposed; Democrats are split, with 43 percent for and 44 percent against. … More than half, 53 percent, of city residents with incomes over $100,000 back the center; only 31 percent of those with incomes under $50,000 agree. Protestants are evenly divided, while most Catholics and Jewish New Yorkers oppose the center.”

Nothing like a Cliff May piece on Muslim terror — and excoriating Fareed Zakaria. Read the whole thing — a few times.

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Crist’s Demise

This perfectly sums up Charlie Crist:

When asked [on CNN's State of the Union] if Florida voters have a right to know which side he’d choose, Crist dodged the question. “I think they know the way I’m going to go, I’m going to go the way that is best for them,” Crist said. “[...] I don’t have to say I’m going to caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans.”

He didn’t really dodge it, then. He said, no, the voters don’t get to know which side he’d choose. It is hard to tell which is his defining characteristic — contempt for the voters or an utter lack of principle. As to the latter, here’s a Crist classic: “Crist reaffirmed that he would have voted against the bill, but stopped short of calling for its repeal — something he called for in March and something Rubio has consistently called for since launching his campaign.”

Nor does he have any views, not that he’ll tell us, on Sarah Palin:

In 2008, Crist told CNN’s “American Morning” that he thought then-vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin “would do a great job” if she had to run the country. Crist’s present thoughts on the matter were markedly different.

“Doesn’t really matter,” he said when asked if he felt the same way about Palin today.

“I’m not going to issue a statement on Sarah,” Crist added.

Even Arlen Specter was not this bad — at least he told you what his current views were. It would be hard to find a better example of what voters detest these days. Is there a yen in Florida for a squirrelly politician whose sole principle is “whatever is good for me”? I think it unlikely.

This perfectly sums up Charlie Crist:

When asked [on CNN's State of the Union] if Florida voters have a right to know which side he’d choose, Crist dodged the question. “I think they know the way I’m going to go, I’m going to go the way that is best for them,” Crist said. “[...] I don’t have to say I’m going to caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans.”

He didn’t really dodge it, then. He said, no, the voters don’t get to know which side he’d choose. It is hard to tell which is his defining characteristic — contempt for the voters or an utter lack of principle. As to the latter, here’s a Crist classic: “Crist reaffirmed that he would have voted against the bill, but stopped short of calling for its repeal — something he called for in March and something Rubio has consistently called for since launching his campaign.”

Nor does he have any views, not that he’ll tell us, on Sarah Palin:

In 2008, Crist told CNN’s “American Morning” that he thought then-vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin “would do a great job” if she had to run the country. Crist’s present thoughts on the matter were markedly different.

“Doesn’t really matter,” he said when asked if he felt the same way about Palin today.

“I’m not going to issue a statement on Sarah,” Crist added.

Even Arlen Specter was not this bad — at least he told you what his current views were. It would be hard to find a better example of what voters detest these days. Is there a yen in Florida for a squirrelly politician whose sole principle is “whatever is good for me”? I think it unlikely.

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Sestak Struggling

The Pennsylvania media reports that Joe Sestak is floundering:

More than midway through the political calendar, Sestak seems endlessly on the defensive. It’s partly of his own doing, but largely because Toomey, with a sharper message and flush finances, has been the aggressor.

So far, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate battle has been fought on Toomey’s terms.

Sestak has taken a beating on his Israel record, forcing him to go on MSNBC to deny that it’s a significant issue and to call in J Street for support. (The J Street gang ponied up only a tiny ad buy.) But that isn’t Sestak’s only problem:

Two days after the May 18 primary, Toomey went on the air with a commercial that highlighted Sestak’s support for health [care] reform, bailouts, and civilian trials for foreign terrorists. A few days later, after Sestak had appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, Toomey’s campaign sent out a press release saying the interview showcased Sestak’s “sham independence.” …

Toomey has aired six television commercials about Sestak, painting him as an extreme liberal to the left of most members of his political party. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce aired two commercials linking Sestak to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and calling him “anti-business.”

Sestak tried to strike back last week by enlisting the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to bandy charges that Toomey was a derivatives trader who helped sink the economy. The charges were generally derided as untrue, and Toomey surged to a nine-point lead in the race. Meanwhile, Sestak strained to explain why he had accepted campaign donations from recipients of earmarks, something he pledged to not do.

Sestak has suffered on three counts: his ultra-liberal voting record, the generally toxic political environment for the Democrats, and a certain incoherence in his own campaign. A case in point is the endorsement by former Sen. Chuck Hagel. This comes at a time when Sestak has labored to rebut attacks on his own Israel record and on his keynote address for CAIR. But Hagel seems a particularly poor messenger for Sestak. The National Democratic Jewish Council explained in 2007:

As Senator Hagel sits around for six more months and tries to decide whether to launch a futile bid for the White House, he has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.  Consider this:

- In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

- In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.

- In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yasir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.

- In December 2005, Hagel  was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.

- In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit. …

And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel:

“Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel…” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]

Not exactly an effective way to rebut arguments that his instincts lead him to positions — and allies — that are anti-Israel.

Sestak has time to recover, but he may not have the ability to. On this one, the White House might have been right: Arlen Specter was the more viable of the two Democratic contenders.

The Pennsylvania media reports that Joe Sestak is floundering:

More than midway through the political calendar, Sestak seems endlessly on the defensive. It’s partly of his own doing, but largely because Toomey, with a sharper message and flush finances, has been the aggressor.

So far, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate battle has been fought on Toomey’s terms.

Sestak has taken a beating on his Israel record, forcing him to go on MSNBC to deny that it’s a significant issue and to call in J Street for support. (The J Street gang ponied up only a tiny ad buy.) But that isn’t Sestak’s only problem:

Two days after the May 18 primary, Toomey went on the air with a commercial that highlighted Sestak’s support for health [care] reform, bailouts, and civilian trials for foreign terrorists. A few days later, after Sestak had appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, Toomey’s campaign sent out a press release saying the interview showcased Sestak’s “sham independence.” …

Toomey has aired six television commercials about Sestak, painting him as an extreme liberal to the left of most members of his political party. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce aired two commercials linking Sestak to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and calling him “anti-business.”

Sestak tried to strike back last week by enlisting the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to bandy charges that Toomey was a derivatives trader who helped sink the economy. The charges were generally derided as untrue, and Toomey surged to a nine-point lead in the race. Meanwhile, Sestak strained to explain why he had accepted campaign donations from recipients of earmarks, something he pledged to not do.

Sestak has suffered on three counts: his ultra-liberal voting record, the generally toxic political environment for the Democrats, and a certain incoherence in his own campaign. A case in point is the endorsement by former Sen. Chuck Hagel. This comes at a time when Sestak has labored to rebut attacks on his own Israel record and on his keynote address for CAIR. But Hagel seems a particularly poor messenger for Sestak. The National Democratic Jewish Council explained in 2007:

As Senator Hagel sits around for six more months and tries to decide whether to launch a futile bid for the White House, he has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.  Consider this:

- In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

- In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.

- In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yasir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.

- In December 2005, Hagel  was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.

- In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit. …

And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel:

“Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel…” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]

Not exactly an effective way to rebut arguments that his instincts lead him to positions — and allies — that are anti-Israel.

Sestak has time to recover, but he may not have the ability to. On this one, the White House might have been right: Arlen Specter was the more viable of the two Democratic contenders.

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RE: Lindsay Graham Shows His True Colors

Michael Gerson perfectly sums up what’s wrong with Lindsay Graham’s head-spinning reversal on immigration. First is the hypocrisy:

After years of being a lonely voice of Republican sanity on immigration, Graham has decided to embrace the supreme symbol of nativism — changing the Fourteenth Amendment to restrict American citizenship. He has either taken leave of his senses or of his principles. … It’s called self-serving cynicism.

Yup.

Gerson then explains what is wrong with Graham’s idea. Of course, Americans can amend their Constitution, provided they meet the steep requirements for doing so (designed to fend off just this type of ill-advised proposal). But, as Gerson notes, this is a horrid idea when it comes to birthright citizenship:

The authors of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all people “born or naturalized in the United States” for a reason. They wished to directly repudiate the Dred Scott decision, which said that citizenship could be granted or denied by political caprice. They purposely chose an objective standard of citizenship — birth — that was not subject to politics. Reconstruction leaders established a firm, sound principle: To be an American citizen, you don’t have to please a majority, you just have to be born here.

It is not simply a bad Constitutional move; it is quite frankly offensive. Forget the Constitution for a moment. Is this the sort of society we want? As Gerson notes, Graham’s lunacy ”would turn hundreds of thousands of infants into ‘criminals’ — arriving, not across a border, but crying in a hospital. A whole class of people would grow up knowing they are hunted aliens, through no fault of their own. … It would be viciousness and prejudice on a grand scale.”

Graham’s naked opportunism (with Arlen Specter exiting him, Graham can become top dog in that department) and general unpopularity (the two are related) will no doubt prevent his suggestion from going anywhere. But Gerson reminds us that we should not focus merely on what we might legally do to control immigration; we need to start talking more about what we should and shouldn’t do if we are to keep our souls and our reputation as the most generous, welcoming, and decent people on the planet.

Michael Gerson perfectly sums up what’s wrong with Lindsay Graham’s head-spinning reversal on immigration. First is the hypocrisy:

After years of being a lonely voice of Republican sanity on immigration, Graham has decided to embrace the supreme symbol of nativism — changing the Fourteenth Amendment to restrict American citizenship. He has either taken leave of his senses or of his principles. … It’s called self-serving cynicism.

Yup.

Gerson then explains what is wrong with Graham’s idea. Of course, Americans can amend their Constitution, provided they meet the steep requirements for doing so (designed to fend off just this type of ill-advised proposal). But, as Gerson notes, this is a horrid idea when it comes to birthright citizenship:

The authors of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all people “born or naturalized in the United States” for a reason. They wished to directly repudiate the Dred Scott decision, which said that citizenship could be granted or denied by political caprice. They purposely chose an objective standard of citizenship — birth — that was not subject to politics. Reconstruction leaders established a firm, sound principle: To be an American citizen, you don’t have to please a majority, you just have to be born here.

It is not simply a bad Constitutional move; it is quite frankly offensive. Forget the Constitution for a moment. Is this the sort of society we want? As Gerson notes, Graham’s lunacy ”would turn hundreds of thousands of infants into ‘criminals’ — arriving, not across a border, but crying in a hospital. A whole class of people would grow up knowing they are hunted aliens, through no fault of their own. … It would be viciousness and prejudice on a grand scale.”

Graham’s naked opportunism (with Arlen Specter exiting him, Graham can become top dog in that department) and general unpopularity (the two are related) will no doubt prevent his suggestion from going anywhere. But Gerson reminds us that we should not focus merely on what we might legally do to control immigration; we need to start talking more about what we should and shouldn’t do if we are to keep our souls and our reputation as the most generous, welcoming, and decent people on the planet.

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Thumbs Down on Sestak’s “Shut Up” Strategy

Joe Sestak’s “shut up” strategy seems not to be a winner with Pennsylvania voters:

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state shows Toomey with 45% support, while Sestak earns 38% of the vote. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and 12% are undecided.

Last month, Toomey held a near-identical 45% to 39% lead.

In fact, except for a brief surge after his mid-May victory over incumbent Arlen Specter in the state’s Democratic Senate Primary, support for Sestak has remained in the 36% to 40% range in matchups with Toomey back to February. In those same surveys, Toomey has received 42% to 47% of the vote.

Sestak’s  main problem is that he has been passive and virtually invisible. What voters know about him is what third-party groups and the Toomey campaign have told them: he nearly always votes in lock-step with the Pelosi-Reid-Obama agenda (97.8 percent of the time, to be precise); he was tangled up in (and maybe exaggerated his involvement in) Jobsgate; he is as pro-Israel as J Street is (i.e., in name only); and he doesn’t want the voters to know about his Israel or anti-business voting record, and certainly not what is in his Navy records. He is probably fortunate to be only seven points back.

Joe Sestak’s “shut up” strategy seems not to be a winner with Pennsylvania voters:

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state shows Toomey with 45% support, while Sestak earns 38% of the vote. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and 12% are undecided.

Last month, Toomey held a near-identical 45% to 39% lead.

In fact, except for a brief surge after his mid-May victory over incumbent Arlen Specter in the state’s Democratic Senate Primary, support for Sestak has remained in the 36% to 40% range in matchups with Toomey back to February. In those same surveys, Toomey has received 42% to 47% of the vote.

Sestak’s  main problem is that he has been passive and virtually invisible. What voters know about him is what third-party groups and the Toomey campaign have told them: he nearly always votes in lock-step with the Pelosi-Reid-Obama agenda (97.8 percent of the time, to be precise); he was tangled up in (and maybe exaggerated his involvement in) Jobsgate; he is as pro-Israel as J Street is (i.e., in name only); and he doesn’t want the voters to know about his Israel or anti-business voting record, and certainly not what is in his Navy records. He is probably fortunate to be only seven points back.

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Shut Up, Joe Sestak Responded

Yes, it’s a trend, apparently. Run an add that hits home and the target wants to make sure viewers can’t see it so they can make up their own minds. The ECI launched its opening salvo against Joe Sestak and Sestak’s lawyer rushes in to respond, as Ben Smith reports:

A lawyer for Rep. Joe Sestak, attesting to the Senate candidate’s pro-Israel bona fides, wrote that Sestak had “put his life on the line to defend Israel” during his years in the Navy. The letter, an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Comcast not to air an attack ad from the Emergency Committee for Israel, aggressively makes Sestak’s case on several fronts, but the suggestion that his naval service* in was performed “to defend Israel” is rarely heard outside conspiracy circles.

“Congressman Joe Sestak is the only candidate in the U.S. Senate race who (as an officer of the Navy) was willing to put his life on the line to defend Israel,” Sestak lawyer Jared Solomon wrote Comcast. “It is offensive and outrageous to suggest that he does not stand with Israel.”

Solomon’s letter, obtained by POLITICO,  challenges several other portions of the attack ad, including a claim that he’d helped fundraise for the Council on American Islamic Relations (his appearance was at “a portion of the event explicitly free of fundraising”) and that the group had been called a Hamas “front group” (“the characterization came a year after the CAIR event”).

This is a bizarre and telling move by Sestak on a number of grounds. First, is Sestak saying that he was in mortal peril as commander of a  naval battle group? Sensing that this is a gross exaggeration, his spokesman piped up with a “clarification”:

Sestak spokesman Jonathan Dworkin says the reference was not to any specific conflict, but to a series of operations with the Israeli Military, including a deployment in 2003 to help protect Israel from Iraqi missiles. “There is no suggestion that he served in the Navy for the purpose of defending Israel, only that he was involved in situations with the Israeli military and while serving the United States, he was willing to lay his life on the line in defense of our ally, Israel,” he writes.

Any military service, in my book, should be commended, but we’ve had enough of puffery lately about military credentials and it sure wasn’t the case that he was crawling on his belly through Gaza to protect the Jewish state. But, frankly, it’s hard to tell precisely what he did, because Sestak has refused to release his military records. If they show that he in fact risked life and limb for Israel and put to rest the controversy as to whether he was relieved of command — or told to resign (for creating a “poor command climate”) — why isn’t he putting out his Navy records?

Nor is the lawyer’s argument compelling, let along intelligible, that Sestak wasn’t really accusing Israel of “resorting to collective punishment” when he signed a letter promoted by J Street along with 53 other Israel-bashers. That letter called on Israel to figure out an approach to Gaza “without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza strip.” Huh? I don’t see how Sestak can escape from the text he signed off on.

But that’s not the weirdest part of the letter. He’s essentially saying: “I didn’t actually raise money for CAIR (although there was an admission fee), I just spoke at an event.” And he’s arguing it wasn’t the whole FBI who called CAIR a Hamas front group — just one agent did. Sheesh. I don’t see how that is going to fly. After all, CAIR officials have been the subject of many a legal investigation and have some rather radical views.

In the campaign Sestak’s going to have some explaining to do. Really, is he going to say it was only after the fundraising event that CAIR got the moniker of “Hamas front group”? They had been under investigation, after all, for years. More to the point, does he now understand that CAIR is in fact a front group?

Also, take a look at the letter and exhibits that the ECI submitted in response to the “shut them up” plea from Sestak’s lawyer. I’m not sure how fair-minded people can look at all that and conclude that Sestak has a pro-Israel track record, unless we are willing to concede that “pro-Israel” has no meaning.

Arlen Specter tried to raise many of these same points during the primary, so this isn’t anything new. What is surprising is that Sestak thinks he can muscle his way through the campaign without revealing his Navy records, without expressing any remorse for speaking at a CAIR event (with a Muslim activist who compared Zionists to Nazis) and without explaining what exactly makes him so attractive to J Street. We’ll see if he can pull it off.

Yes, it’s a trend, apparently. Run an add that hits home and the target wants to make sure viewers can’t see it so they can make up their own minds. The ECI launched its opening salvo against Joe Sestak and Sestak’s lawyer rushes in to respond, as Ben Smith reports:

A lawyer for Rep. Joe Sestak, attesting to the Senate candidate’s pro-Israel bona fides, wrote that Sestak had “put his life on the line to defend Israel” during his years in the Navy. The letter, an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Comcast not to air an attack ad from the Emergency Committee for Israel, aggressively makes Sestak’s case on several fronts, but the suggestion that his naval service* in was performed “to defend Israel” is rarely heard outside conspiracy circles.

“Congressman Joe Sestak is the only candidate in the U.S. Senate race who (as an officer of the Navy) was willing to put his life on the line to defend Israel,” Sestak lawyer Jared Solomon wrote Comcast. “It is offensive and outrageous to suggest that he does not stand with Israel.”

Solomon’s letter, obtained by POLITICO,  challenges several other portions of the attack ad, including a claim that he’d helped fundraise for the Council on American Islamic Relations (his appearance was at “a portion of the event explicitly free of fundraising”) and that the group had been called a Hamas “front group” (“the characterization came a year after the CAIR event”).

This is a bizarre and telling move by Sestak on a number of grounds. First, is Sestak saying that he was in mortal peril as commander of a  naval battle group? Sensing that this is a gross exaggeration, his spokesman piped up with a “clarification”:

Sestak spokesman Jonathan Dworkin says the reference was not to any specific conflict, but to a series of operations with the Israeli Military, including a deployment in 2003 to help protect Israel from Iraqi missiles. “There is no suggestion that he served in the Navy for the purpose of defending Israel, only that he was involved in situations with the Israeli military and while serving the United States, he was willing to lay his life on the line in defense of our ally, Israel,” he writes.

Any military service, in my book, should be commended, but we’ve had enough of puffery lately about military credentials and it sure wasn’t the case that he was crawling on his belly through Gaza to protect the Jewish state. But, frankly, it’s hard to tell precisely what he did, because Sestak has refused to release his military records. If they show that he in fact risked life and limb for Israel and put to rest the controversy as to whether he was relieved of command — or told to resign (for creating a “poor command climate”) — why isn’t he putting out his Navy records?

Nor is the lawyer’s argument compelling, let along intelligible, that Sestak wasn’t really accusing Israel of “resorting to collective punishment” when he signed a letter promoted by J Street along with 53 other Israel-bashers. That letter called on Israel to figure out an approach to Gaza “without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza strip.” Huh? I don’t see how Sestak can escape from the text he signed off on.

But that’s not the weirdest part of the letter. He’s essentially saying: “I didn’t actually raise money for CAIR (although there was an admission fee), I just spoke at an event.” And he’s arguing it wasn’t the whole FBI who called CAIR a Hamas front group — just one agent did. Sheesh. I don’t see how that is going to fly. After all, CAIR officials have been the subject of many a legal investigation and have some rather radical views.

In the campaign Sestak’s going to have some explaining to do. Really, is he going to say it was only after the fundraising event that CAIR got the moniker of “Hamas front group”? They had been under investigation, after all, for years. More to the point, does he now understand that CAIR is in fact a front group?

Also, take a look at the letter and exhibits that the ECI submitted in response to the “shut them up” plea from Sestak’s lawyer. I’m not sure how fair-minded people can look at all that and conclude that Sestak has a pro-Israel track record, unless we are willing to concede that “pro-Israel” has no meaning.

Arlen Specter tried to raise many of these same points during the primary, so this isn’t anything new. What is surprising is that Sestak thinks he can muscle his way through the campaign without revealing his Navy records, without expressing any remorse for speaking at a CAIR event (with a Muslim activist who compared Zionists to Nazis) and without explaining what exactly makes him so attractive to J Street. We’ll see if he can pull it off.

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Is J Street More Trouble Than It’s Worth?

J Street is backing Joe Sestak, providing both an endorsement and funding. He is their ideal candidate — willing to keynote at a CAIR fundraiser, unbothered by Obama’s Israel-bashing, happy to sign on to J Street’s letter on lifting the Gaza blockade, and left-leaning on everything else. This, of course, has raised concerns within the Jewish community. During the primary, Sen. Arlen Specter went after his opponent:

When addressing them at the May 2 forum, [Specter] went into great detail, describing his Jewish upbringing and choosing to focus much of his presentation on the issue of Israel. Responding to a question from the audience, he attacked his rival’s decision to participate at a meeting sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that critics have accused of accommodating antisemitic views. “Sestak showed a lack of experience and sensitivity,” Specter said accusingly, later adding that “in the DNA” of the Jewish people, “we have memory of the pogroms.”

In May the contrast between Sestak and Specter, an ardent Israel supporter, was quite evident in an interview with the Jewish Exponent:

Do you believe a unified Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel? If not, should Israel freeze all its building in eastern Jerusalem?

Specter: Jerusalem is the rightful capital of Israel. In 1983, I joined Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) in introducing legislation to require the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I continue to support legislation requiring such a move.

Sestak: Both issues are ones that should be worked out between Israel and the Palestinians with the United States “in the room”; nothing should be mandated — by the administration or by Congress — upon the two parties as a condition for peace or at the beginning of the peace process.

Hmm, doesn’t exactly sound like Sestak is solid on the issue. (Sestak’s office did not respond to an inquiry as to his position on this and other issues relating to Israel.)

Now, candidates are sometimes willing to take flack over their support from a politically controversial group in exchange for handsome financing. Many a Democrat, for example, has taken his lumps for ”being in the pocket of labor bosses”; the consolation is the robust funds they receive from organized labor. So has the J Street endorsement been worth the trouble it has caused Sestak?

It sure doesn’t look that way: “GOP U.S. Senate nominee Pat Toomey raised roughly $1 million more than Democratic opponent Joe Sestak in the latest fundraising quarter, according to numbers provided by each campaign Tuesday, another indication the Republican could posses a significant financial advantage in the general election race.” It seems that the J Street endorsement really isn’t paying off. It may be that pro-Israel voters in Pennsylvania are already voting — with their checkbooks — against Sestak. Unfortunately for Sestak, J Street hasn’t begun to make up the difference.

We’ll see how this plays out in Pennsylvania and in races around the country in which J Street has bestowed its endorsement, but perhaps not sufficient funds, on leftist Democrats. One lesson of this election may well be that a J Street endorsement is the kiss of political death for those foolish enough to adhere to its extreme agenda with the expectation that J Street can provide ample financial support.

J Street is backing Joe Sestak, providing both an endorsement and funding. He is their ideal candidate — willing to keynote at a CAIR fundraiser, unbothered by Obama’s Israel-bashing, happy to sign on to J Street’s letter on lifting the Gaza blockade, and left-leaning on everything else. This, of course, has raised concerns within the Jewish community. During the primary, Sen. Arlen Specter went after his opponent:

When addressing them at the May 2 forum, [Specter] went into great detail, describing his Jewish upbringing and choosing to focus much of his presentation on the issue of Israel. Responding to a question from the audience, he attacked his rival’s decision to participate at a meeting sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that critics have accused of accommodating antisemitic views. “Sestak showed a lack of experience and sensitivity,” Specter said accusingly, later adding that “in the DNA” of the Jewish people, “we have memory of the pogroms.”

In May the contrast between Sestak and Specter, an ardent Israel supporter, was quite evident in an interview with the Jewish Exponent:

Do you believe a unified Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel? If not, should Israel freeze all its building in eastern Jerusalem?

Specter: Jerusalem is the rightful capital of Israel. In 1983, I joined Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) in introducing legislation to require the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I continue to support legislation requiring such a move.

Sestak: Both issues are ones that should be worked out between Israel and the Palestinians with the United States “in the room”; nothing should be mandated — by the administration or by Congress — upon the two parties as a condition for peace or at the beginning of the peace process.

Hmm, doesn’t exactly sound like Sestak is solid on the issue. (Sestak’s office did not respond to an inquiry as to his position on this and other issues relating to Israel.)

Now, candidates are sometimes willing to take flack over their support from a politically controversial group in exchange for handsome financing. Many a Democrat, for example, has taken his lumps for ”being in the pocket of labor bosses”; the consolation is the robust funds they receive from organized labor. So has the J Street endorsement been worth the trouble it has caused Sestak?

It sure doesn’t look that way: “GOP U.S. Senate nominee Pat Toomey raised roughly $1 million more than Democratic opponent Joe Sestak in the latest fundraising quarter, according to numbers provided by each campaign Tuesday, another indication the Republican could posses a significant financial advantage in the general election race.” It seems that the J Street endorsement really isn’t paying off. It may be that pro-Israel voters in Pennsylvania are already voting — with their checkbooks — against Sestak. Unfortunately for Sestak, J Street hasn’t begun to make up the difference.

We’ll see how this plays out in Pennsylvania and in races around the country in which J Street has bestowed its endorsement, but perhaps not sufficient funds, on leftist Democrats. One lesson of this election may well be that a J Street endorsement is the kiss of political death for those foolish enough to adhere to its extreme agenda with the expectation that J Street can provide ample financial support.

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Kagan Hearing: Just Say No

That’s what Sen. Arlen Specter – unbound and without any re-election prospects — suggested the Senate do when confronted with a nominee like Elena Kagan who gives no real substantive answers. It took a defeat in a primary, but Specter has articulated a principled and highly defensible position.

As for the partial-birth-abortion controversy, Kagan fenced over whether the memo was even in her handwriting. (Is this supposed to increase our confidence in her credibility and forthrightness?) And then she gave an answer that is simply not believable: namely, that she was simply reflecting or summarizing the work of the medical experts. Shannen Coffin, who brought forth the issue, explains:

[A]ny suggestion that her work was merely the synthesis of the task force’s deliberations doesn’t account for that time line — she had no interaction with the task force itself, only the executive board of ACOG.

Second and more significant, the White House had already met with ACOG’s former president and current chief lobbyist (to whom Kagan’s revisions were addressed) in June 1996, before the special task force was even formed. At that meeting (which apparently Kagan did not attend but recounted in a memo to her bosses, dated June 22, 1996), Kagan wrote that the White House staffers were basically told that ACOG couldn’t identify any particular circumstances where the procedure was medically necessary.

Coffin is right to focus on Kagan’s own words. She admits that the factual basis for objecting to a partial-birth-abortion ban is bogus:

First, there are an exceedingly small number of partial birth abortions that could meet the standard the President has articulated. In the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health; another option — whether another abortion procedure or, in the post-viability context, birth through a caesarean section, induced labor, or carrying the pregnancy to term — is equally safe. … I will spare you all the medical details here. Suffice it to say that we went through every circumstance imaginable — post- and pre-viability, assuming malformed fetuses, assuming other medical conditions, etc., etc. — and there just aren’t many where use of the partial-birth abortion is the least risky, let alone the “necessary,” approach. … Second and relatedly, of the five women who came to the White House, only two can truly say (though they all apparently believe) that the partial birth procedure was the least risky of their alternatives.

Then she says that, nevertheless, facts shouldn’t stand in the way:

Those present at the meeting all agreed, on the basis of the thoroughness and care of the ACOG presentation, that these two points are probably just true, rather than a matter of medical opinion. (Betsy Myers and Jeremy Ben-Ami, neither of whom attended the meeting, have expressed the view that some other doctor might say something different.) At the same time, none of us think that this information should cause us to change the standard the President has articulated or the rhetoric he has used.

So a report was crafted that did NOT reflect the ACOG’s views but instead supported the president’s political agenda. That Kagan participated in this is bad enough. That she allowed her work to be presented to a court as that of neutral experts was essentially a fraud. The ABA Model rules don’t specifically address this type of issue, but several — 3.3, 3.4, and 4.1 (an attorney shall not “fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client”) – make clear that a lawyer’s obligation is to prevent false information and specious arguments from corrupting the administration of justice. This Kagan did not do.

I don’t see how senators can conclude that this was ethical behavior or that she is entitled to sit on the highest court in the land.

That’s what Sen. Arlen Specter – unbound and without any re-election prospects — suggested the Senate do when confronted with a nominee like Elena Kagan who gives no real substantive answers. It took a defeat in a primary, but Specter has articulated a principled and highly defensible position.

As for the partial-birth-abortion controversy, Kagan fenced over whether the memo was even in her handwriting. (Is this supposed to increase our confidence in her credibility and forthrightness?) And then she gave an answer that is simply not believable: namely, that she was simply reflecting or summarizing the work of the medical experts. Shannen Coffin, who brought forth the issue, explains:

[A]ny suggestion that her work was merely the synthesis of the task force’s deliberations doesn’t account for that time line — she had no interaction with the task force itself, only the executive board of ACOG.

Second and more significant, the White House had already met with ACOG’s former president and current chief lobbyist (to whom Kagan’s revisions were addressed) in June 1996, before the special task force was even formed. At that meeting (which apparently Kagan did not attend but recounted in a memo to her bosses, dated June 22, 1996), Kagan wrote that the White House staffers were basically told that ACOG couldn’t identify any particular circumstances where the procedure was medically necessary.

Coffin is right to focus on Kagan’s own words. She admits that the factual basis for objecting to a partial-birth-abortion ban is bogus:

First, there are an exceedingly small number of partial birth abortions that could meet the standard the President has articulated. In the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health; another option — whether another abortion procedure or, in the post-viability context, birth through a caesarean section, induced labor, or carrying the pregnancy to term — is equally safe. … I will spare you all the medical details here. Suffice it to say that we went through every circumstance imaginable — post- and pre-viability, assuming malformed fetuses, assuming other medical conditions, etc., etc. — and there just aren’t many where use of the partial-birth abortion is the least risky, let alone the “necessary,” approach. … Second and relatedly, of the five women who came to the White House, only two can truly say (though they all apparently believe) that the partial birth procedure was the least risky of their alternatives.

Then she says that, nevertheless, facts shouldn’t stand in the way:

Those present at the meeting all agreed, on the basis of the thoroughness and care of the ACOG presentation, that these two points are probably just true, rather than a matter of medical opinion. (Betsy Myers and Jeremy Ben-Ami, neither of whom attended the meeting, have expressed the view that some other doctor might say something different.) At the same time, none of us think that this information should cause us to change the standard the President has articulated or the rhetoric he has used.

So a report was crafted that did NOT reflect the ACOG’s views but instead supported the president’s political agenda. That Kagan participated in this is bad enough. That she allowed her work to be presented to a court as that of neutral experts was essentially a fraud. The ABA Model rules don’t specifically address this type of issue, but several — 3.3, 3.4, and 4.1 (an attorney shall not “fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client”) – make clear that a lawyer’s obligation is to prevent false information and specious arguments from corrupting the administration of justice. This Kagan did not do.

I don’t see how senators can conclude that this was ethical behavior or that she is entitled to sit on the highest court in the land.

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Sestak Worries Democrats

Politico reports:

Four weeks after claiming the Pennsylvania Senate nomination, Rep. Joe Sestak continues to have an awkward relationship with many leaders of the state’s Democratic establishment — with the two-term congressman so far neglecting to check many of the boxes that ordinarily would be routine for a candidate trying to unify his party after a hard-fought primary.

It’s been nearly a month since the May 18 primary, and key local party leaders have not been in close contact with Sestak. His unorthodox campaign organization is unnerving Democratic officials, and his public comments suggest he hasn’t forgotten the rough treatment he received from the White House and the state party establishment, both of which worked furiously to deliver the nomination to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter. All of it has Democrats wondering about the pace and direction of his bid against Republican nominee Pat Toomey.

Perhaps this is sour grapes coming from party insiders who picked the other guy. But if the insiders are correct — that Sestak lacks staffing and an actual campaign manager — that’s a problem. And we hear that Sestak isn’t the ideal boss. (“On Capitol Hill, Sestak’s office is known for its high staff turnover rate, and several staffers left his primary campaign over the course of its nine months in existence. He has relied heavily on his brother and his sister, who manages his prolific campaign fundraising, for his House races and also for his Senate bid.”)

A bigger problem is that Toomey is beginning to set the terms of the campaign — making hay out of the job-offer scandal and painting Sestak as out of the mainstream on everything from energy to Israel. There’s still time for Sestak to get his act together, but he better do so fast before Democrats decide to spend time and money on more viable survivors of the Republican wave heading their way.

Politico reports:

Four weeks after claiming the Pennsylvania Senate nomination, Rep. Joe Sestak continues to have an awkward relationship with many leaders of the state’s Democratic establishment — with the two-term congressman so far neglecting to check many of the boxes that ordinarily would be routine for a candidate trying to unify his party after a hard-fought primary.

It’s been nearly a month since the May 18 primary, and key local party leaders have not been in close contact with Sestak. His unorthodox campaign organization is unnerving Democratic officials, and his public comments suggest he hasn’t forgotten the rough treatment he received from the White House and the state party establishment, both of which worked furiously to deliver the nomination to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter. All of it has Democrats wondering about the pace and direction of his bid against Republican nominee Pat Toomey.

Perhaps this is sour grapes coming from party insiders who picked the other guy. But if the insiders are correct — that Sestak lacks staffing and an actual campaign manager — that’s a problem. And we hear that Sestak isn’t the ideal boss. (“On Capitol Hill, Sestak’s office is known for its high staff turnover rate, and several staffers left his primary campaign over the course of its nine months in existence. He has relied heavily on his brother and his sister, who manages his prolific campaign fundraising, for his House races and also for his Senate bid.”)

A bigger problem is that Toomey is beginning to set the terms of the campaign — making hay out of the job-offer scandal and painting Sestak as out of the mainstream on everything from energy to Israel. There’s still time for Sestak to get his act together, but he better do so fast before Democrats decide to spend time and money on more viable survivors of the Republican wave heading their way.

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You Can Take the Pol Out of Chicago. . .

As he often does, Obama tried to distance himself from his own administration’s mess. He ducked a personal response and had his lawyer issue a memo on the Joe Sestak job-offer scandal on the Friday before Memorial Day. He thereby succeeded in revealing that Sestak is a fabulist, his own White House is little more than a Blago-like operation, an ex-president has been reduced to the the role of a “cut out,” and the whole lot of them practice the same sleazy-politics-as usual that Obama ran against (which, ironically, was symbolized in the primary by Hillary Clinton).

The White House counsel says it really wasn’t the secretary of the Navy post that was offered. It was an unpaid advisory-board position. A few problems there. You send a former president to offer that to avoid a primary fight? And more important, it doesn’t get over the legal hurdle. As Hans von Spakovsky explains:

[White House Counsel Robert] Bauer admits that Rahm Emanuel asked Bill Clinton to offer Sestak an appointment to a “Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board,” and that the appointment would be attractive, i.e., a benefit. The statute does not absolve you of liability if you are offering someone an uncompensated appointment. It also specifies that you are guilty of a violation if you make such an offer “directly or indirectly.” Moreover, since the executive branch may not spend money that is not appropriated by Congress, any such board would be authorized by or at least paid for by an “Act of Congress.”

And boy, did they pick the wrong election cycle to pull this. The underlying gambit is bad enough, but the roll out of the explanation is potentially worse and will be thrown in Sestak’s face in the election. The stall. The lawyer swooping in with the cover story. The process of getting everyone on the same page. It is precisely what the voters are screaming about: backroom deals, evasive pols, lack of transparency, and dishonesty. Obama has made perfect hash out of the race, first by pulling the weather vane Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party, then trying to unsuccessfully push the opponent out of the way, and finally by sullying everyone involved.

Obama has been compared to Jimmy Carter (in his misguided notions about the world), to Richard Nixon (in his sleazy backroom dealing and lack of transparency) and to LBJ (in his infatuation with government). Unfortunately, it appears that he embodies the worst of three unsuccessful presidents. And like all three, he may manage to drag his party down with him.

As he often does, Obama tried to distance himself from his own administration’s mess. He ducked a personal response and had his lawyer issue a memo on the Joe Sestak job-offer scandal on the Friday before Memorial Day. He thereby succeeded in revealing that Sestak is a fabulist, his own White House is little more than a Blago-like operation, an ex-president has been reduced to the the role of a “cut out,” and the whole lot of them practice the same sleazy-politics-as usual that Obama ran against (which, ironically, was symbolized in the primary by Hillary Clinton).

The White House counsel says it really wasn’t the secretary of the Navy post that was offered. It was an unpaid advisory-board position. A few problems there. You send a former president to offer that to avoid a primary fight? And more important, it doesn’t get over the legal hurdle. As Hans von Spakovsky explains:

[White House Counsel Robert] Bauer admits that Rahm Emanuel asked Bill Clinton to offer Sestak an appointment to a “Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board,” and that the appointment would be attractive, i.e., a benefit. The statute does not absolve you of liability if you are offering someone an uncompensated appointment. It also specifies that you are guilty of a violation if you make such an offer “directly or indirectly.” Moreover, since the executive branch may not spend money that is not appropriated by Congress, any such board would be authorized by or at least paid for by an “Act of Congress.”

And boy, did they pick the wrong election cycle to pull this. The underlying gambit is bad enough, but the roll out of the explanation is potentially worse and will be thrown in Sestak’s face in the election. The stall. The lawyer swooping in with the cover story. The process of getting everyone on the same page. It is precisely what the voters are screaming about: backroom deals, evasive pols, lack of transparency, and dishonesty. Obama has made perfect hash out of the race, first by pulling the weather vane Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party, then trying to unsuccessfully push the opponent out of the way, and finally by sullying everyone involved.

Obama has been compared to Jimmy Carter (in his misguided notions about the world), to Richard Nixon (in his sleazy backroom dealing and lack of transparency) and to LBJ (in his infatuation with government). Unfortunately, it appears that he embodies the worst of three unsuccessful presidents. And like all three, he may manage to drag his party down with him.

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Did Obama Lose a Vote for Kagan by Stiffing Specter?

For those who doubted that there is life after death — at least after political death — according to the Daily Beast, Arlen Specter may use his last months in office to exact revenge on President Obama for stiffing him during the last days of his ill-fated attempt to win the Democratic nomination to retain his Senate seat.

The Beast’s Benjamin Sarlin speculates that the always-shifty Specter may get even with Obama for failing to show up as promised at rallies in Pennsylvania in the waning days of the primary to boost his candidacy. After disastrous appearances boosting presidential favorites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia in the past year, Obama wisely chose to avoid a repeat of those fiascos. All this leads some Specter associates quoted by Sarlin to think that the always-cranky senator may turn on Obama and shift to the right on some votes in the seven months left to him in the upper chamber.

The first victim of Snarlin’ Arlen’s payback could be Obama’s Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan, whose nomination helped remind Pennsylvania Democrats of Specter’s GOP past, since he voted against her confirmation to the post of solicitor general only last year. Freed from the need to appease liberal Democratic voters — who wound up flocking to successful challenger Rep. Joe Sestak anyway — former Specter staffers Roger Stone and Dave Urban both say they’d bet the senator will find a reason to vote against her again, if for no other reason than to poke the White House in the eye.

But the problem with this theory is the same as any other prediction of Specter’s behavior. Anyone who tries to figure out how he will come down on an issue using any rationale other than Specter’s self-interest is bound to fail. Moreover, while it makes sense to think that the 80-year-old Specter will now fade quietly into the night after what amounts to a rejection by both parties in the past year (since the only reason he fled to the Democrats was because he knew he would be beaten in the GOP primary by Republican Pat Toomey), it’s hard to imagine how a man so addicted to the prestige and power of public office will adjust to private life. So it is just as likely that Specter may hope that a few more months as a loyal Democrat, including swallowing the bitter pill of campaigning for Sestak in the general election, will earn him something from Obama after January.

While the notion of Obama’s giving him any sort of post may be a fantasy, perhaps a man who loved foreign travel on the government’s tab as much as Specter did harbors hopes of doing so again in some capacity other than that of senator. Given his long love affair with the Assad regime in Syria, Specter may even dream of some involvement in the Middle East on behalf of Obama. Of course, Obama would have to be crazy to trust Specter in such a capacity (or any capacity, for that matter), but as tempting as revenge for his last-minute betrayal by Obama may be, the senator’s ambition to continue his career in some way might be enough to keep him in line. If Specter sticks to his pre-primary pose as a loyal supporter of Obama by voting for Kagan or working hard for Sestak, whose poor record on Israel was trashed by his own backers, then it may be that the senator hopes that we haven’t heard the last of him.

For those who doubted that there is life after death — at least after political death — according to the Daily Beast, Arlen Specter may use his last months in office to exact revenge on President Obama for stiffing him during the last days of his ill-fated attempt to win the Democratic nomination to retain his Senate seat.

The Beast’s Benjamin Sarlin speculates that the always-shifty Specter may get even with Obama for failing to show up as promised at rallies in Pennsylvania in the waning days of the primary to boost his candidacy. After disastrous appearances boosting presidential favorites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia in the past year, Obama wisely chose to avoid a repeat of those fiascos. All this leads some Specter associates quoted by Sarlin to think that the always-cranky senator may turn on Obama and shift to the right on some votes in the seven months left to him in the upper chamber.

The first victim of Snarlin’ Arlen’s payback could be Obama’s Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan, whose nomination helped remind Pennsylvania Democrats of Specter’s GOP past, since he voted against her confirmation to the post of solicitor general only last year. Freed from the need to appease liberal Democratic voters — who wound up flocking to successful challenger Rep. Joe Sestak anyway — former Specter staffers Roger Stone and Dave Urban both say they’d bet the senator will find a reason to vote against her again, if for no other reason than to poke the White House in the eye.

But the problem with this theory is the same as any other prediction of Specter’s behavior. Anyone who tries to figure out how he will come down on an issue using any rationale other than Specter’s self-interest is bound to fail. Moreover, while it makes sense to think that the 80-year-old Specter will now fade quietly into the night after what amounts to a rejection by both parties in the past year (since the only reason he fled to the Democrats was because he knew he would be beaten in the GOP primary by Republican Pat Toomey), it’s hard to imagine how a man so addicted to the prestige and power of public office will adjust to private life. So it is just as likely that Specter may hope that a few more months as a loyal Democrat, including swallowing the bitter pill of campaigning for Sestak in the general election, will earn him something from Obama after January.

While the notion of Obama’s giving him any sort of post may be a fantasy, perhaps a man who loved foreign travel on the government’s tab as much as Specter did harbors hopes of doing so again in some capacity other than that of senator. Given his long love affair with the Assad regime in Syria, Specter may even dream of some involvement in the Middle East on behalf of Obama. Of course, Obama would have to be crazy to trust Specter in such a capacity (or any capacity, for that matter), but as tempting as revenge for his last-minute betrayal by Obama may be, the senator’s ambition to continue his career in some way might be enough to keep him in line. If Specter sticks to his pre-primary pose as a loyal supporter of Obama by voting for Kagan or working hard for Sestak, whose poor record on Israel was trashed by his own backers, then it may be that the senator hopes that we haven’t heard the last of him.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? ”Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.’” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? ”Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.’” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

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Sestak’s Stall Not Working

Joe Sestak, not unlike Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal, has gotten off to a poor start, which threatens to drag him under before the general election race starts in earnest. Even the New York Times is shining a light on the cooperative stonewall going on between the least transparent White House in history and Sestak:

For three months, the White House has refused to say whether it offered a job to Representative Joe Sestak to induce him to drop his challenge to Senator Arlen Specter in a Pennsylvania Democratic primary, as Mr. Sestak has asserted. But the White House wants everyone who suspects that something untoward, or even illegal, might have happened to rest easy: it still will not reveal what happened, but the White House says it has examined its own actions and decided that it did nothing wrong. Whatever it was that it did.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the “trust us” response from the White House has not exactly put the matter to rest. Though Mr. Sestak stayed in the race, and defeated Mr. Specter in the primary last Tuesday, the questions have returned with intensity and remain unanswered. Mr. Gibbs deflected questions about the matter 13 times at a White House news briefing last Thursday, while Mr. Sestak reaffirmed his assertion without providing any specifics about what the offer was or who made it.

There are two possibilities here. One is that Sestak was embellishing or outright fibbing, and the White House doesn’t want to hang him out to dry (unlike what happened to Harry Reid). The other is that there was some kind of offer, which might be illegal but is — in any case — the epitome of Washington insiderness and backroom deals, which the voters have come to loathe.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, echoes the New York Times (yeah, it’s a weird election year all right), putting out a statement that is restrained in tone but asks for a full accounting: “My response is simply this: Congressman Sestak should tell the public everything he knows about the job he was offered, and who offered it.  To do otherwise will only continue to raise questions and continue to be a needless distraction in this campaign.”

It is a measure of how frustrated the press has become with the perpetual stonewalling and outright contempt this president has shown the media that the Times and other outlets are now aligned with a conservative Republican in demanding that one of the most liberal Democrats on the ballot come clean.

Joe Sestak, not unlike Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal, has gotten off to a poor start, which threatens to drag him under before the general election race starts in earnest. Even the New York Times is shining a light on the cooperative stonewall going on between the least transparent White House in history and Sestak:

For three months, the White House has refused to say whether it offered a job to Representative Joe Sestak to induce him to drop his challenge to Senator Arlen Specter in a Pennsylvania Democratic primary, as Mr. Sestak has asserted. But the White House wants everyone who suspects that something untoward, or even illegal, might have happened to rest easy: it still will not reveal what happened, but the White House says it has examined its own actions and decided that it did nothing wrong. Whatever it was that it did.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the “trust us” response from the White House has not exactly put the matter to rest. Though Mr. Sestak stayed in the race, and defeated Mr. Specter in the primary last Tuesday, the questions have returned with intensity and remain unanswered. Mr. Gibbs deflected questions about the matter 13 times at a White House news briefing last Thursday, while Mr. Sestak reaffirmed his assertion without providing any specifics about what the offer was or who made it.

There are two possibilities here. One is that Sestak was embellishing or outright fibbing, and the White House doesn’t want to hang him out to dry (unlike what happened to Harry Reid). The other is that there was some kind of offer, which might be illegal but is — in any case — the epitome of Washington insiderness and backroom deals, which the voters have come to loathe.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, echoes the New York Times (yeah, it’s a weird election year all right), putting out a statement that is restrained in tone but asks for a full accounting: “My response is simply this: Congressman Sestak should tell the public everything he knows about the job he was offered, and who offered it.  To do otherwise will only continue to raise questions and continue to be a needless distraction in this campaign.”

It is a measure of how frustrated the press has become with the perpetual stonewalling and outright contempt this president has shown the media that the Times and other outlets are now aligned with a conservative Republican in demanding that one of the most liberal Democrats on the ballot come clean.

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