Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ben Nelson

Even for Them, Quite Shocking

It’s hard to think how this week could be going any worse for the Democrats. They’ve gotten tangled up in a losing argument over the Slaughter Rule. The polling still looks bleak for ObamaCare. And they don’t have a bill. No, really. They are having some difficulty getting the numbers right, which — remember — is still within the artificial framework of a bill that excludes the Doc Fix and makes use of many accounting tricks. This report explains:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) alluded to the latest hurdle for the legislation in an afternoon news conference. She said Democrats were still waiting for congressional budget analysts to determine whether the package — which contains an array of amendments to the health-care bill aimed at winning over wavering House Democrats — would meet the party’s deficit-reduction goals. . . .

Instead of being measured against current law, the deficit-reduction potential of the “fixes” package will be measured against the Senate bill, which must be passed by the House before the Senate can approve the fixes. . . . But virtually everything House Democrats want to achieve in their package costs money. For example, Obama and House leaders have promised to increase government subsidies to help lower-income people purchase insurance, to fully close the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole in the Medicare prescription drug program, and to extend to all states the deal cut with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D), under which the federal government would pay for a proposed expansion of Medicaid.

In other words, the “fixes” Obama came up with to ameliorate the most politically objectionable aspects of the Senate bill have made it even less (is it possible?) fiscally defensible. Trimming back on the Cadillac Tax — that is the excise tax on generous health-care plans — has put a hole in the already suspect budgetary assumptions of the Senate bill. So the House has to come up with more revenue. The hitch:

Those changes are unlikely to match the long-term savings proposed in the Senate bill, aides and lawmakers said, leaving House leaders scrambling to come up with additional sources of cash. Failure to comply with the reconciliation rules would imperil the package in the Senate and could cause big problems in the House, where the votes of many fiscally conservative Democrats hinge on the ability of health-care legislation to rein in soaring budget deficits.

So days before voting — or not really voting — to revolutionize American health care and impose a massive new tax-and-spend scheme on the public, we still don’t really know what they are voting on. Er, not voting on. It’s remarkable and, even for this crew, quite jaw-dropping in its disregard for any semblance of seriousness. But the point is simply to pass something, after all. It’s all about saving face for the Democratic leadership. The “details” — the Constitution and the substance of the bill — will just need to take a back seat.

It’s hard to think how this week could be going any worse for the Democrats. They’ve gotten tangled up in a losing argument over the Slaughter Rule. The polling still looks bleak for ObamaCare. And they don’t have a bill. No, really. They are having some difficulty getting the numbers right, which — remember — is still within the artificial framework of a bill that excludes the Doc Fix and makes use of many accounting tricks. This report explains:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) alluded to the latest hurdle for the legislation in an afternoon news conference. She said Democrats were still waiting for congressional budget analysts to determine whether the package — which contains an array of amendments to the health-care bill aimed at winning over wavering House Democrats — would meet the party’s deficit-reduction goals. . . .

Instead of being measured against current law, the deficit-reduction potential of the “fixes” package will be measured against the Senate bill, which must be passed by the House before the Senate can approve the fixes. . . . But virtually everything House Democrats want to achieve in their package costs money. For example, Obama and House leaders have promised to increase government subsidies to help lower-income people purchase insurance, to fully close the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole in the Medicare prescription drug program, and to extend to all states the deal cut with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D), under which the federal government would pay for a proposed expansion of Medicaid.

In other words, the “fixes” Obama came up with to ameliorate the most politically objectionable aspects of the Senate bill have made it even less (is it possible?) fiscally defensible. Trimming back on the Cadillac Tax — that is the excise tax on generous health-care plans — has put a hole in the already suspect budgetary assumptions of the Senate bill. So the House has to come up with more revenue. The hitch:

Those changes are unlikely to match the long-term savings proposed in the Senate bill, aides and lawmakers said, leaving House leaders scrambling to come up with additional sources of cash. Failure to comply with the reconciliation rules would imperil the package in the Senate and could cause big problems in the House, where the votes of many fiscally conservative Democrats hinge on the ability of health-care legislation to rein in soaring budget deficits.

So days before voting — or not really voting — to revolutionize American health care and impose a massive new tax-and-spend scheme on the public, we still don’t really know what they are voting on. Er, not voting on. It’s remarkable and, even for this crew, quite jaw-dropping in its disregard for any semblance of seriousness. But the point is simply to pass something, after all. It’s all about saving face for the Democratic leadership. The “details” — the Constitution and the substance of the bill — will just need to take a back seat.

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Radical Move for a Radical Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Is the NSA helping Google fix its cyberhole? “After Chinese hackers tore Google a new cyberhole in December, the tech titan reportedly looked to an unlikely source for help: the ultra-secretive National Security Agency, better known for tapping phones than patching security holes for private companies. The connection has raised the antennae of Internet privacy experts, who now are warning of the possible risks posed by the close and as-yet undefined ties between the world’s top cybersurveillance agency and a corporate behemoth that has amassed more sensitive data about its users than most personal diaries.” If this were the Bush administration, the ACLU would be going nuts, not just writing letters to Google’s CEO.

Democrats are waking up to just how economically destructive the Obami’s gambit on CO2 is: “Eight Democratic Senators from coal states are mounting a serious challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark ruling that CO2 is a pollutant and demanding a delay in enforcing anti-global warming regulations against polluters.” Hey, they could introduce a bill, get lots of GOP support, and put an end to this.

Independents in Iowa are waking up, too: “A sharp drop in approval for President Barack Obama from Iowa’s political independents has pushed the Democrat’s approval further below 50 percent in the state and below the national average, according to the latest Iowa Poll. Approval among Iowa independents has dropped 10 percentage points since November, to 38 percent. Independents in Iowa helped Obama win the leadoff nominating caucuses in 2008 and later carry the state in the general election.”

In other words, the Left is deluded: “With Obama’s top agenda item, health care legislation, near ruins and congressional Democrats on the defensive heading into this year’s midterm elections, much of the sweeping liberal agenda some of Obama’s supporters hoped for and his enemies feared has been deferred. … And yet in a surreal twilight, issues live on, fed by a kind of mutual dependency between the liberal interest groups that exist to advance them and the conservatives for whom opposing them is a potent rallying force. There is, say liberal leaders who suffered through the drought of the Bush years, no point in giving up.”

When Republican candidates in state Senate races run against Nancy Pelosi, it’s not a good sign for the Democrats: “[Jim] Higdon, a Republican from Kentucky, won a state Senate seat in December in a largely Democratic district with an unlikely strategy: He nationalized his race, warning of one-party rule by featuring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pictures in his television advertisements and campaign literature. Higdon, who was outspent by a 4-to-1 ratio, is glad she’s so unpopular. … Expect the GOP to replicate the strategy in political races around the country this year.”

Bill Bennett explains what was wrong with Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech. A sample: “The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are. There is a difference between morning and night. There is a difference between drunk and sober. And there is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don’t exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.” Worth reading in full.

Whatever Obama is doing doesn’t seem to be working: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. That is the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded for this President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. The Approval Index has been lower only on one day during Barack Obama’s thirteen months in office.”

Sen. Ben Nelson declares, “I don’t know if there’s a happy ending for health care.” Two-thirds of the country would be happy, but Nelson and the voters (especially in his state) don’t see eye-to-eye on health-care reform. It may well be that Nelson blew up his career for nothing.

Is the NSA helping Google fix its cyberhole? “After Chinese hackers tore Google a new cyberhole in December, the tech titan reportedly looked to an unlikely source for help: the ultra-secretive National Security Agency, better known for tapping phones than patching security holes for private companies. The connection has raised the antennae of Internet privacy experts, who now are warning of the possible risks posed by the close and as-yet undefined ties between the world’s top cybersurveillance agency and a corporate behemoth that has amassed more sensitive data about its users than most personal diaries.” If this were the Bush administration, the ACLU would be going nuts, not just writing letters to Google’s CEO.

Democrats are waking up to just how economically destructive the Obami’s gambit on CO2 is: “Eight Democratic Senators from coal states are mounting a serious challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark ruling that CO2 is a pollutant and demanding a delay in enforcing anti-global warming regulations against polluters.” Hey, they could introduce a bill, get lots of GOP support, and put an end to this.

Independents in Iowa are waking up, too: “A sharp drop in approval for President Barack Obama from Iowa’s political independents has pushed the Democrat’s approval further below 50 percent in the state and below the national average, according to the latest Iowa Poll. Approval among Iowa independents has dropped 10 percentage points since November, to 38 percent. Independents in Iowa helped Obama win the leadoff nominating caucuses in 2008 and later carry the state in the general election.”

In other words, the Left is deluded: “With Obama’s top agenda item, health care legislation, near ruins and congressional Democrats on the defensive heading into this year’s midterm elections, much of the sweeping liberal agenda some of Obama’s supporters hoped for and his enemies feared has been deferred. … And yet in a surreal twilight, issues live on, fed by a kind of mutual dependency between the liberal interest groups that exist to advance them and the conservatives for whom opposing them is a potent rallying force. There is, say liberal leaders who suffered through the drought of the Bush years, no point in giving up.”

When Republican candidates in state Senate races run against Nancy Pelosi, it’s not a good sign for the Democrats: “[Jim] Higdon, a Republican from Kentucky, won a state Senate seat in December in a largely Democratic district with an unlikely strategy: He nationalized his race, warning of one-party rule by featuring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pictures in his television advertisements and campaign literature. Higdon, who was outspent by a 4-to-1 ratio, is glad she’s so unpopular. … Expect the GOP to replicate the strategy in political races around the country this year.”

Bill Bennett explains what was wrong with Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech. A sample: “The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are. There is a difference between morning and night. There is a difference between drunk and sober. And there is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don’t exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.” Worth reading in full.

Whatever Obama is doing doesn’t seem to be working: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. That is the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded for this President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. The Approval Index has been lower only on one day during Barack Obama’s thirteen months in office.”

Sen. Ben Nelson declares, “I don’t know if there’s a happy ending for health care.” Two-thirds of the country would be happy, but Nelson and the voters (especially in his state) don’t see eye-to-eye on health-care reform. It may well be that Nelson blew up his career for nothing.

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Nobody Knows

Not all liberals are in denial about the fate of ObamaCare. John Heilemann fesses up:

It isn’t hard to make a list of moderate Democrats—Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson—who would find it hard to pull the lever again for the same bill for which they voted in December. Are there still even 50 votes for the Senate plan? Nobody knows.

In other words, assuming Democrats find a parliamentarily permissible way to deal with health care through reconciliation—which remains an open question—passing it will still be no slam dunk.

That brings us back, then, to the phony health-care summit. Obama doesn’t know what his own side will accept, isn’t willing to take the plan that is unacceptable to opponents off the table, and doesn’t have a plan of his own. This is pretty much par for the course with the Obami. It’s all about how to characterize the other side, how to spin themselves into appearing more reasonable than they are, and how to conceal that they haven’t a clue how to get through any significant item on their agenda.

The Obami seem to hang on these events, like expectant party planners. The visuals will be great! The media will swoon! But then everyone goes home and Obama still lacks a viable health-care plan that enjoys public support and that can pass Congress. What’s the move after they all go home? I doubt they’ve thought that far ahead. Maybe some campaign-style rallies and some more TV appearances. After all, that’s what they do.

You can understand how more sober-minded lawmakers would get disgusted. In Obama’s outlook, they’re props designed to make him look better, not calculated to achieve a specific legislative outcome. For those on the ballot this year, trying to justify their record and persuade voters they are fit to govern, that is a distressing realization.

Not all liberals are in denial about the fate of ObamaCare. John Heilemann fesses up:

It isn’t hard to make a list of moderate Democrats—Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson—who would find it hard to pull the lever again for the same bill for which they voted in December. Are there still even 50 votes for the Senate plan? Nobody knows.

In other words, assuming Democrats find a parliamentarily permissible way to deal with health care through reconciliation—which remains an open question—passing it will still be no slam dunk.

That brings us back, then, to the phony health-care summit. Obama doesn’t know what his own side will accept, isn’t willing to take the plan that is unacceptable to opponents off the table, and doesn’t have a plan of his own. This is pretty much par for the course with the Obami. It’s all about how to characterize the other side, how to spin themselves into appearing more reasonable than they are, and how to conceal that they haven’t a clue how to get through any significant item on their agenda.

The Obami seem to hang on these events, like expectant party planners. The visuals will be great! The media will swoon! But then everyone goes home and Obama still lacks a viable health-care plan that enjoys public support and that can pass Congress. What’s the move after they all go home? I doubt they’ve thought that far ahead. Maybe some campaign-style rallies and some more TV appearances. After all, that’s what they do.

You can understand how more sober-minded lawmakers would get disgusted. In Obama’s outlook, they’re props designed to make him look better, not calculated to achieve a specific legislative outcome. For those on the ballot this year, trying to justify their record and persuade voters they are fit to govern, that is a distressing realization.

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Re: Becker Defeated

Regarding the defeat of Harold Craig Becker’s nomination, the Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

Democrats Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln joined with Republicans to block cloture on a closely watched vote on the appointment of a lawyer for Andy Stern’s Service Employees International Union to a seat on the National Labor Relations Board. … The message from yesterday’s cloture motion is sobering for the White House and its union allies. Support for their antigrowth agenda, from universal health care to easier unionization rules, is collapsing on the Hill almost as quickly as in the country at large.

True, but it is equally true that a number of Democrats in competitive races went to the mat for that anti-growth agenda on Becker, just as they have on a series of items on Obama’s far-Left agenda. Voting for cloture and for Becker were Michael Bennet of Colorado, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and of course, Harry Reid of Nevada. Voters back home may wonder why it is that these self-styled moderates cast votes for Big Labor’s favorite lawyer, who thinks, surprisingly enough, just like the Big Labor bosses. (“Among the nominees for the three open seats on the five-member board, his views stood out for their radicalism. In a law review article, Mr. Becker said the NLRB could rewrite union-election rules to favor labor by fiat—for example, by removing the requirement for a secret ballot.”)

But now the ball is in Obama’s court. Does he install Becker, thereby exposing the Big Labor toadyism of his administration and highlighting the faux centrism of Bennet, Bayh, Reid, and others? Or does he take this as a sign that there is a limited appetite for his extreme vision and equally extreme appointees? There is always reason to hope that, finally, Obama will notice the blinking warning lights (Go back! Even your own party can’t defend you!). But if he didn’t take the Scott Brown win to heart, he’s probably not all that impressed that his NLRB nominee didn’t get through.

Regarding the defeat of Harold Craig Becker’s nomination, the Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

Democrats Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln joined with Republicans to block cloture on a closely watched vote on the appointment of a lawyer for Andy Stern’s Service Employees International Union to a seat on the National Labor Relations Board. … The message from yesterday’s cloture motion is sobering for the White House and its union allies. Support for their antigrowth agenda, from universal health care to easier unionization rules, is collapsing on the Hill almost as quickly as in the country at large.

True, but it is equally true that a number of Democrats in competitive races went to the mat for that anti-growth agenda on Becker, just as they have on a series of items on Obama’s far-Left agenda. Voting for cloture and for Becker were Michael Bennet of Colorado, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and of course, Harry Reid of Nevada. Voters back home may wonder why it is that these self-styled moderates cast votes for Big Labor’s favorite lawyer, who thinks, surprisingly enough, just like the Big Labor bosses. (“Among the nominees for the three open seats on the five-member board, his views stood out for their radicalism. In a law review article, Mr. Becker said the NLRB could rewrite union-election rules to favor labor by fiat—for example, by removing the requirement for a secret ballot.”)

But now the ball is in Obama’s court. Does he install Becker, thereby exposing the Big Labor toadyism of his administration and highlighting the faux centrism of Bennet, Bayh, Reid, and others? Or does he take this as a sign that there is a limited appetite for his extreme vision and equally extreme appointees? There is always reason to hope that, finally, Obama will notice the blinking warning lights (Go back! Even your own party can’t defend you!). But if he didn’t take the Scott Brown win to heart, he’s probably not all that impressed that his NLRB nominee didn’t get through.

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Becker Defeated

In the end, it wasn’t even close:

President Obama’s nominee for the National Labor Relations Board fell short of the 60 votes needed to break a Republican-led filibuster. The Senate vote was 52 yes and 33 no. Two Democrats, Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson voted against Craig Becker.

With a showing that shabby and with multiple Democrats not only willing to oppose but also to filibuster a nominee, it now seems unlikely that Obama will try to slip Becker in by a recess appointment. It also suggests just how out of tune the White House is with its own party. In time we may see just how isolated the Obami are, as Red State Democrats flee from the Obama agenda, afraid for their political lives. This vote is also a telling reminder that for all its millions in campaign donations to the Democrats, Big Labor has gotten precious little since the 2008 election. Its members may want to know why all that dues money was wasted.

In the end, it wasn’t even close:

President Obama’s nominee for the National Labor Relations Board fell short of the 60 votes needed to break a Republican-led filibuster. The Senate vote was 52 yes and 33 no. Two Democrats, Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson voted against Craig Becker.

With a showing that shabby and with multiple Democrats not only willing to oppose but also to filibuster a nominee, it now seems unlikely that Obama will try to slip Becker in by a recess appointment. It also suggests just how out of tune the White House is with its own party. In time we may see just how isolated the Obami are, as Red State Democrats flee from the Obama agenda, afraid for their political lives. This vote is also a telling reminder that for all its millions in campaign donations to the Democrats, Big Labor has gotten precious little since the 2008 election. Its members may want to know why all that dues money was wasted.

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Phony Centrists Pay the Price for ObamaCare

In observing the unraveling of the governing coalition and the vicious infighting breaking out in the Democratic party (“Who lost ObamaCare?” will obsess the Left for years, I suspect), James Taranto writes:

One can fault President Obama for pursuing an agenda that would be bad for the country or for his party. But one can hardly fault progressives in Congress, much less activists who don’t even hold office, for seeking to advance the ideology in which they believe–for taking their own side in an intraparty debate.

The problem is that Democratic centrists rolled over. Either they yielded their centrist principles in the face of progressive intimidation, or those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with. The most dramatic illustration of this point is the list of moderate Democrats in the Senate: Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Jim Webb. Every one of them voted for ObamaCare. Any one of them alone could have put a stop to ObamaCare simply by casting a vote against cloture. Several of them voted “yes” in exchange for special privileges for their states, making quite clear that theirs was not a principled stand.

I think the answer to that is “those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with.” Indeed, these “centrists” didn’t merely fall off the fiscal conservative bandwagon on ObamaCare — not one of them opposed the monstrous stimulus plan. Only Evan Bayh opposed the 2009 noxious $410 billion omnibus spending plan with 8,500 earmarks. In other words, the so-called moderates never demonstrated any real moderation or inclination to restrain the Reid-Pelosi-Obama juggernaut.

And when confronted with legislation their constituents hated and that defied the fiscal conservative line on which they had ridden into office, they readily complied with their liberal leadership, in no small part because they perceived the risk of crossing the president and their Democratic colleagues to be greater than the risk of angering moderate voters. This was especially true for those who would not face the voters this year. (Only Bayh and Lincoln will.)

It’s a well-known pattern for many Democrats, Harry Reid included, from Red or Purple states: talk a conservative game back home, make speeches on fiscal sobriety, and roll over for liberal leadership when it comes to actual votes. Usually they get away with it when the public is not so engaged, the legislation is not so controversial, and Republicans blur the  lines by defecting to vote with the bulk of Democrats. But here the public was vigilant, the legislation was noxious both in substance and in process, and Republicans held the line in their unanimous opposition to ObamaCare. So now these “centrists” are finding it hard to hide and explain why they threw in their lot with Reid-Pelosi-Obama. They may regret having “blown their cover” as faux fiscal conservatives for a bill that probably won’t pass and that is now the rallying point for an energized opposition.

In observing the unraveling of the governing coalition and the vicious infighting breaking out in the Democratic party (“Who lost ObamaCare?” will obsess the Left for years, I suspect), James Taranto writes:

One can fault President Obama for pursuing an agenda that would be bad for the country or for his party. But one can hardly fault progressives in Congress, much less activists who don’t even hold office, for seeking to advance the ideology in which they believe–for taking their own side in an intraparty debate.

The problem is that Democratic centrists rolled over. Either they yielded their centrist principles in the face of progressive intimidation, or those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with. The most dramatic illustration of this point is the list of moderate Democrats in the Senate: Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Jim Webb. Every one of them voted for ObamaCare. Any one of them alone could have put a stop to ObamaCare simply by casting a vote against cloture. Several of them voted “yes” in exchange for special privileges for their states, making quite clear that theirs was not a principled stand.

I think the answer to that is “those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with.” Indeed, these “centrists” didn’t merely fall off the fiscal conservative bandwagon on ObamaCare — not one of them opposed the monstrous stimulus plan. Only Evan Bayh opposed the 2009 noxious $410 billion omnibus spending plan with 8,500 earmarks. In other words, the so-called moderates never demonstrated any real moderation or inclination to restrain the Reid-Pelosi-Obama juggernaut.

And when confronted with legislation their constituents hated and that defied the fiscal conservative line on which they had ridden into office, they readily complied with their liberal leadership, in no small part because they perceived the risk of crossing the president and their Democratic colleagues to be greater than the risk of angering moderate voters. This was especially true for those who would not face the voters this year. (Only Bayh and Lincoln will.)

It’s a well-known pattern for many Democrats, Harry Reid included, from Red or Purple states: talk a conservative game back home, make speeches on fiscal sobriety, and roll over for liberal leadership when it comes to actual votes. Usually they get away with it when the public is not so engaged, the legislation is not so controversial, and Republicans blur the  lines by defecting to vote with the bulk of Democrats. But here the public was vigilant, the legislation was noxious both in substance and in process, and Republicans held the line in their unanimous opposition to ObamaCare. So now these “centrists” are finding it hard to hide and explain why they threw in their lot with Reid-Pelosi-Obama. They may regret having “blown their cover” as faux fiscal conservatives for a bill that probably won’t pass and that is now the rallying point for an energized opposition.

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Obama Labor Nominee Draws Democratic Opposition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.’” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.’” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

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Did Democrats Get the Message?

The Wall Street Journal editors note:

In their seven stages of national health-care grief, Democrats are still hovering somewhere between shock and denial. The strategy seems to be to hold off for a bit and then continue the same march—or as Mr. Obama put it in Nashua, New Hampshire earlier this week, “We’ve got to punch it through.”

The White House and Congressional leadership doesn’t seem to have learned anything substantive from an historic electoral rebuke, and even its political lessons are badly amiss. If they thought ObamaCare was controversial before, they haven’t seen anything yet.

The main liberal coping mechanism is to blame the grubby political process. Sure, 54% of the public may oppose ObamaCare, according to the latest polling average at Real Clear Politics, with only 37% in favor. But what Democrats claim really cost them was buying Ben Nelson’s vote with special Medicaid dispensations for Nebraska.

There are several problems with this. For starters, the Democrats are calling voters dopes, which is never a good idea. And second, they are highlighting their own lack of basic political skills (i.e., the inability to explain their policy ideas to the public) and confessing to their own corruption. But all this is preferable in their own minds, I suppose, to confessing that their policy judgment was flawed. Because to do that would be to acknowledge that the cornerstone of their ultra-liberal agenda is not politically viable, that the country really doesn’t want to be herded into the offices of Big Insurance, and that a jumbo tax-and-spend scheme is freaking out independent voters, who now regard the Democrats as fiscally irresponsible. Better, then, to insult the voters and cop a plea to imagined failings.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary gimmickery isn’t quite over. As the editors explain:

While Mr. Obama hasn’t taken a public position on the political way forward, we hear the White House is privately urging Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to “punch it through” with the budget reconciliation process. The House would pass the Senate’s Christmas Eve bill, then “fix” it with amendments that would require a bare partisan majority of 50 Senators (plus the Vice President) after only 20 hours of debate. Never before has this process been used for social and economic legislation of this magnitude.

This is where we left off in the Christmas-time scramble to pass ObamaCare, isn’t it? Procedural tricks, rushed votes, and no input from the minority. It doesn’t seem that the Scott Brown epic upset has really sunk in if they’re serious. But perhaps this is part of a grand show to keep the netroot base from going bonkers and to bide time. After all, who thinks the votes are still there to pass the same monstrous bill that helped vault Brown into the Senate? Not even the Pelosi-Reid-Obama triumvirate could be that daft, could it? I suppose we’ll find out if months more of pushing a grossly unpopular bill while unemployment remains sky high is really the way for Democrats to get back in the voters’ good graces.

The Wall Street Journal editors note:

In their seven stages of national health-care grief, Democrats are still hovering somewhere between shock and denial. The strategy seems to be to hold off for a bit and then continue the same march—or as Mr. Obama put it in Nashua, New Hampshire earlier this week, “We’ve got to punch it through.”

The White House and Congressional leadership doesn’t seem to have learned anything substantive from an historic electoral rebuke, and even its political lessons are badly amiss. If they thought ObamaCare was controversial before, they haven’t seen anything yet.

The main liberal coping mechanism is to blame the grubby political process. Sure, 54% of the public may oppose ObamaCare, according to the latest polling average at Real Clear Politics, with only 37% in favor. But what Democrats claim really cost them was buying Ben Nelson’s vote with special Medicaid dispensations for Nebraska.

There are several problems with this. For starters, the Democrats are calling voters dopes, which is never a good idea. And second, they are highlighting their own lack of basic political skills (i.e., the inability to explain their policy ideas to the public) and confessing to their own corruption. But all this is preferable in their own minds, I suppose, to confessing that their policy judgment was flawed. Because to do that would be to acknowledge that the cornerstone of their ultra-liberal agenda is not politically viable, that the country really doesn’t want to be herded into the offices of Big Insurance, and that a jumbo tax-and-spend scheme is freaking out independent voters, who now regard the Democrats as fiscally irresponsible. Better, then, to insult the voters and cop a plea to imagined failings.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary gimmickery isn’t quite over. As the editors explain:

While Mr. Obama hasn’t taken a public position on the political way forward, we hear the White House is privately urging Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to “punch it through” with the budget reconciliation process. The House would pass the Senate’s Christmas Eve bill, then “fix” it with amendments that would require a bare partisan majority of 50 Senators (plus the Vice President) after only 20 hours of debate. Never before has this process been used for social and economic legislation of this magnitude.

This is where we left off in the Christmas-time scramble to pass ObamaCare, isn’t it? Procedural tricks, rushed votes, and no input from the minority. It doesn’t seem that the Scott Brown epic upset has really sunk in if they’re serious. But perhaps this is part of a grand show to keep the netroot base from going bonkers and to bide time. After all, who thinks the votes are still there to pass the same monstrous bill that helped vault Brown into the Senate? Not even the Pelosi-Reid-Obama triumvirate could be that daft, could it? I suppose we’ll find out if months more of pushing a grossly unpopular bill while unemployment remains sky high is really the way for Democrats to get back in the voters’ good graces.

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The Health-Care Tipping Point

It is an irony worthy of a Greek drama that the moment ObamaCare appeared to overcome one of the final hurdles to passage may have been the one that sealed its rejection a few days later in Massachusetts. That moment occurred on the Thursday before the Massachusetts vote, as union leaders emerged from two days of secret discussions in the White House to announce that they had gotten a five-year $60 billion exemption from the “Cadillac tax” on their health-care plans. That may have been the tipping point.

The exemption — call it the Union-Label Insurance Exemption (U-LIE) — marked the culmination of a process that violated multiple Obama promises about the changes he would bring to Washington: it was not transparent, it was not post-partisan, and it did not eliminate the Blue State/Red State dichotomy. On the contrary, it followed a parade of buy-offs, kickbacks, and exemptions given to Blue State senators to garner their participation in the “historic” process: Mary Landrieu (D-La.) got her Louisiana Purchase; Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) got his Cornhusker Kickback; Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) got his Gator Aid; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) got his Longshoreman Carve-Out, etc. Then unions got a massive exemption not accorded nonunion workers, with the cost to be shifted to unknown others.

The process had previously featured bills placed in print only hours before votes were called, their text shielded not only from the public but also from those responsible for voting. The unpopularity of what was known about the pending legislation was said to be soluble by learning about it later: David Axelrod asserted Sunday that “people will never know what’s in that bill until we pass it,” but they will like it after that.

What made U-LIE the likely tipping point was that it was a quantum leap in an already corrupt process — not simply quantitatively, as a buy-off in the tens of billions on top of the hundreds of millions offered seriatim to individual senators, but qualitatively as well: this time it was not an individual buy-off in some legislative backroom over which Obama could argue (although implausibly) he had no control, but a secret conference committee in the White House, in an eight-hour meeting with Obama in attendance much of the day, ending with a massive transfer to a favored constituency, with no hearings at all, much less ones on C-SPAN. It was then simply announced to the public, including the portion residing in Massachusetts.

Coming on top of a process already appalling, U-LIE may have been the final straw, cementing a perception of Obama as a president committed to a nontransparent, partisan push of unpopular legislation, loaded with kickbacks and buy-offs and complete with assurances that people would appreciate it all later. It is not clear what tone or tack Obama will take in his State of the Union address tomorrow evening about the process over which he presided. As of yesterday, the speech was reportedly still being written. But the problem he now confronts may be one that can no longer be solved with a speech.

It is an irony worthy of a Greek drama that the moment ObamaCare appeared to overcome one of the final hurdles to passage may have been the one that sealed its rejection a few days later in Massachusetts. That moment occurred on the Thursday before the Massachusetts vote, as union leaders emerged from two days of secret discussions in the White House to announce that they had gotten a five-year $60 billion exemption from the “Cadillac tax” on their health-care plans. That may have been the tipping point.

The exemption — call it the Union-Label Insurance Exemption (U-LIE) — marked the culmination of a process that violated multiple Obama promises about the changes he would bring to Washington: it was not transparent, it was not post-partisan, and it did not eliminate the Blue State/Red State dichotomy. On the contrary, it followed a parade of buy-offs, kickbacks, and exemptions given to Blue State senators to garner their participation in the “historic” process: Mary Landrieu (D-La.) got her Louisiana Purchase; Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) got his Cornhusker Kickback; Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) got his Gator Aid; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) got his Longshoreman Carve-Out, etc. Then unions got a massive exemption not accorded nonunion workers, with the cost to be shifted to unknown others.

The process had previously featured bills placed in print only hours before votes were called, their text shielded not only from the public but also from those responsible for voting. The unpopularity of what was known about the pending legislation was said to be soluble by learning about it later: David Axelrod asserted Sunday that “people will never know what’s in that bill until we pass it,” but they will like it after that.

What made U-LIE the likely tipping point was that it was a quantum leap in an already corrupt process — not simply quantitatively, as a buy-off in the tens of billions on top of the hundreds of millions offered seriatim to individual senators, but qualitatively as well: this time it was not an individual buy-off in some legislative backroom over which Obama could argue (although implausibly) he had no control, but a secret conference committee in the White House, in an eight-hour meeting with Obama in attendance much of the day, ending with a massive transfer to a favored constituency, with no hearings at all, much less ones on C-SPAN. It was then simply announced to the public, including the portion residing in Massachusetts.

Coming on top of a process already appalling, U-LIE may have been the final straw, cementing a perception of Obama as a president committed to a nontransparent, partisan push of unpopular legislation, loaded with kickbacks and buy-offs and complete with assurances that people would appreciate it all later. It is not clear what tone or tack Obama will take in his State of the Union address tomorrow evening about the process over which he presided. As of yesterday, the speech was reportedly still being written. But the problem he now confronts may be one that can no longer be solved with a speech.

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When You Mess Up This Badly, There Are No Good Options

How badly did Obama mess up? Really badly, says David Brooks:

Instead of building trust in government, the Democrats have magnified distrust. The country already believed Washington is out of touch with its core concerns. So while most families were concerned about jobs, Democrats in Washington spent nine months arguing about health care. The country was already tired of self-serving back-room deals, so the Democrats negotiated a series of dirty deals with the pharmaceutical industry, the unions and certain senators. Americans already felt Washington doesn’t understand their fears and insecurities. So at the moment when economic insecurity was at its peak, the Democrats in Washington added another layer of insecurity by threatening to change everything at once.

Instead of building a new majority, the Democrats have set off a distrust insurrection (which is not the same as a conservative insurrection). Republicans are enraged. Independents are furious. Democrats are disheartened. Health care reform is brutally unpopular. Even voters in Massachusetts decided it was time to send a message.

Brooks writes “Democrats,” but you can plug in “Obama.” These were Obama’s decisions — either affirmatively or by ceding the decision-making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It might sound less harsh to avoid using his name, but we should be clear whose fault this is. Hard to imagine that someone like Obama – who could be such a fine editor of a liberal magazine – could have made that many bad calls and been so out of touch with the American electorate’s inherent conservatism and aversion to statism. Maybe being a fine editor or a sophisticated conversationalist or living in Indonesia has nothing to do with being a good president. (Note to file: There is no correlation between Ivy League credentials and prowess as a chief executive.)

Brooks gives Obama … er, Democrats … some advice: take what he calls the Weak and Feckless Approach to health care. Admit they messed up. Say they heard the public. And get out of Dodge with a face-saving, small-beans plan. “Perhaps we will use federal money to support a series of state reform efforts — like the one in Massachusetts — which are closer to the people, ” says Brooks. Yes, that sounds just unbelievably lame. But that’s what they’re reduced to. There is no support for grandiose ObamaCare. There hasn’t been support in the country for some time, and finally the lawmakers are listening.

I personally like the temper-tantrum option, which Brooks calls the Incoherent and Internecine Approach: “This would involve settling on no coherent policy but just blaming each other for cowardice and stupidity for the next month.” It would be fun to watch, and there’s at least a grain of truth in it. Obama is to blame. Pelosi is to blame. Reid is to blame. Greedy Ben Nelson is to blame. And then the Democrats will tell us that the voters are to blame, the tiny Republican minority is to blame, and of course the cabal of Bill Kristol–Jane Hamsher–Howard Dean–MoveOn.org–Club for Growth–Jim DeMint–Mitch McConnell–etc. is to blame. In short, the Right and the Left and Independents are the villains — because they all opposed the bill. Well, that does suggest that the bill was so flawed that it could engender no support. But that sort of discussion is what makes the Incoherent and Internecine Approach so enticing.

Surveying all that and observing the unraveling of support on Capitol Hill for ObamaCare, one must agree with Brooks that there are no good options here for the Obami. Sometimes the number and magnitude of a politician’s errors are so great that all that’s left for him to do is take his lumps, express contrition, and move on. (The Humble Pie Approach?) Unfortunately, that’s the last thing this president is inclined to favor.

How badly did Obama mess up? Really badly, says David Brooks:

Instead of building trust in government, the Democrats have magnified distrust. The country already believed Washington is out of touch with its core concerns. So while most families were concerned about jobs, Democrats in Washington spent nine months arguing about health care. The country was already tired of self-serving back-room deals, so the Democrats negotiated a series of dirty deals with the pharmaceutical industry, the unions and certain senators. Americans already felt Washington doesn’t understand their fears and insecurities. So at the moment when economic insecurity was at its peak, the Democrats in Washington added another layer of insecurity by threatening to change everything at once.

Instead of building a new majority, the Democrats have set off a distrust insurrection (which is not the same as a conservative insurrection). Republicans are enraged. Independents are furious. Democrats are disheartened. Health care reform is brutally unpopular. Even voters in Massachusetts decided it was time to send a message.

Brooks writes “Democrats,” but you can plug in “Obama.” These were Obama’s decisions — either affirmatively or by ceding the decision-making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It might sound less harsh to avoid using his name, but we should be clear whose fault this is. Hard to imagine that someone like Obama – who could be such a fine editor of a liberal magazine – could have made that many bad calls and been so out of touch with the American electorate’s inherent conservatism and aversion to statism. Maybe being a fine editor or a sophisticated conversationalist or living in Indonesia has nothing to do with being a good president. (Note to file: There is no correlation between Ivy League credentials and prowess as a chief executive.)

Brooks gives Obama … er, Democrats … some advice: take what he calls the Weak and Feckless Approach to health care. Admit they messed up. Say they heard the public. And get out of Dodge with a face-saving, small-beans plan. “Perhaps we will use federal money to support a series of state reform efforts — like the one in Massachusetts — which are closer to the people, ” says Brooks. Yes, that sounds just unbelievably lame. But that’s what they’re reduced to. There is no support for grandiose ObamaCare. There hasn’t been support in the country for some time, and finally the lawmakers are listening.

I personally like the temper-tantrum option, which Brooks calls the Incoherent and Internecine Approach: “This would involve settling on no coherent policy but just blaming each other for cowardice and stupidity for the next month.” It would be fun to watch, and there’s at least a grain of truth in it. Obama is to blame. Pelosi is to blame. Reid is to blame. Greedy Ben Nelson is to blame. And then the Democrats will tell us that the voters are to blame, the tiny Republican minority is to blame, and of course the cabal of Bill Kristol–Jane Hamsher–Howard Dean–MoveOn.org–Club for Growth–Jim DeMint–Mitch McConnell–etc. is to blame. In short, the Right and the Left and Independents are the villains — because they all opposed the bill. Well, that does suggest that the bill was so flawed that it could engender no support. But that sort of discussion is what makes the Incoherent and Internecine Approach so enticing.

Surveying all that and observing the unraveling of support on Capitol Hill for ObamaCare, one must agree with Brooks that there are no good options here for the Obami. Sometimes the number and magnitude of a politician’s errors are so great that all that’s left for him to do is take his lumps, express contrition, and move on. (The Humble Pie Approach?) Unfortunately, that’s the last thing this president is inclined to favor.

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So Many Bad Deals

Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic leadership thought themselves so very clever. A deal for Sen. Ben Nelson. Another for Big Labor. Some Gator-Aid to help Bill Nelson. And presto: they’d have health-care “reform.” But in doing so they gave Scott Brown and every other Republican a juicy target, which fused together many of the themes conservatives have raised: corruption, lack of transparency, statism, and simple unfairness. To get a sense of just how unpopular these deals are, take a look at the latest Rasmussen poll:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 33% of U.S. voters support enacting a significant excise tax on the most expensive health insurance plans provided by employers. … To keep union support for the overall health care plan, President Obama and Democratic leaders agreed last week to exempt union members from the tax for five years and modify it in other ways so they don’t pay as much. Voters really frown on that action. Only 27% support the excise tax if it exempts union members, while 70% are opposed. But even more significantly, if the union members are exempt 11% Strongly Support the tax while 51% Strongly Oppose it.

In short, in an effort to pass an unpalatable bill, the Democrats have made it — and themselves — more unpalatable to the voters. (Rasmussen reminds us: “Voters generally are unhappy with special deals for favored groups. In December, Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson gained concessions for his home state in exchange for his vote to keep the health care legislation alive. Just 17% of Nebraska voters approved of his action.”) Last night Scott Brown proclaimed:

This bill is not being debated openly and fairly. It will raise taxes, hurt Medicare, destroy jobs, and run our nation deeper into debt. It is not in the interest of our state or country – we can do better. When in Washington, I will work in the Senate with Democrats and Republicans to reform health care in an open and honest way. No more closed-door meetings or back room deals by an out of touch party leadership. No more hiding costs, concealing taxes, collaborating with special interests, and leaving more trillions in debt for our children to pay.

That’s a message many candidates will sound this year. Democrats will need to scramble to dump those deals before angry voters run them over — and out of office.

Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic leadership thought themselves so very clever. A deal for Sen. Ben Nelson. Another for Big Labor. Some Gator-Aid to help Bill Nelson. And presto: they’d have health-care “reform.” But in doing so they gave Scott Brown and every other Republican a juicy target, which fused together many of the themes conservatives have raised: corruption, lack of transparency, statism, and simple unfairness. To get a sense of just how unpopular these deals are, take a look at the latest Rasmussen poll:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 33% of U.S. voters support enacting a significant excise tax on the most expensive health insurance plans provided by employers. … To keep union support for the overall health care plan, President Obama and Democratic leaders agreed last week to exempt union members from the tax for five years and modify it in other ways so they don’t pay as much. Voters really frown on that action. Only 27% support the excise tax if it exempts union members, while 70% are opposed. But even more significantly, if the union members are exempt 11% Strongly Support the tax while 51% Strongly Oppose it.

In short, in an effort to pass an unpalatable bill, the Democrats have made it — and themselves — more unpalatable to the voters. (Rasmussen reminds us: “Voters generally are unhappy with special deals for favored groups. In December, Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson gained concessions for his home state in exchange for his vote to keep the health care legislation alive. Just 17% of Nebraska voters approved of his action.”) Last night Scott Brown proclaimed:

This bill is not being debated openly and fairly. It will raise taxes, hurt Medicare, destroy jobs, and run our nation deeper into debt. It is not in the interest of our state or country – we can do better. When in Washington, I will work in the Senate with Democrats and Republicans to reform health care in an open and honest way. No more closed-door meetings or back room deals by an out of touch party leadership. No more hiding costs, concealing taxes, collaborating with special interests, and leaving more trillions in debt for our children to pay.

That’s a message many candidates will sound this year. Democrats will need to scramble to dump those deals before angry voters run them over — and out of office.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Charlie Cook says Scott Brown in now favored. Well, one poll has him up almost 10 points.

My, what a difference a year makes. From the Boston Globe no less: “The feverish excitement that propelled Barack Obama and scores of other Democrats to victory in 2008 has all but evaporated, worrying party leaders who are struggling to invigorate the base before Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race and November’s critical midterm contests, pollsters and party activists said.”

It might help if Obama were as good as Bill Clinton on the stump. Byron York reports that “it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that Clinton just blew Obama’s doors off. Obama’s speech was halting, wandering, and humorless; the president looked as if he didn’t want to be there. There’s no doubt the crowd was excited to see Obama, but he seemed so hesitant and out-of-rhythm at the top that it appeared he might have been having teleprompter trouble, and he was also clearly rattled and unable to handle the completely-predictable presence of a heckler.”

CNN reports: “Multiple advisers to President Obama have privately told party officials that they believe Democrat Martha Coakley is going to lose Tuesday’s special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy for more than 40 years, several Democratic sources told CNN Sunday.” Then going to Massachusetts was sort of like going to Copenhagen for the Olympics (and again for the climate-change confab) — at some point it might be a good idea to stop demonstrating Obama’s ineffectiveness.

Things have gotten so sticky for Democrats that Ben Nelson “offers to give back his ‘bribe’.” Might be too late: his job approval has dropped to 42 percent.

More from the Democrats’ gloom-and-doom file: Friday, Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) announced his retirement. Plus, a “SurveyUSA poll shows Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), a freshman Democrat who represents the Cincinnati area, losing to former Republican congressman Steve Chabot, 56 to 39 percent.” He voted for both ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.

This take from Sen. Mitch McConnell sounds right: “Massachusetts is going to be a very, very close race regardless of who wins. … Regardless of who wins, we have here in effect a referendum on this national healthcare bill. The American people are telling us: ‘Please don’t pass it.’ … I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way.”

Lanny Davis at least doesn’t sound divorced from reality, like his fellow Democrats: “If Democrats lose in Massachusetts, it will simply mean Democrats and President Obama need find a new center to enact health care and other progressive legislation – meaning, they must sit down with Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, John McCain and other GOP Senators with long records of bipartisan legislating — and moderate Democrats Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and others –and create a new health care bill that can command broad bipartisan support.” Imagine if Obama had done that from the start — New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts might have looked a whole lot different, and Byron Dorgan might be running for re-election.

Charlie Cook says Scott Brown in now favored. Well, one poll has him up almost 10 points.

My, what a difference a year makes. From the Boston Globe no less: “The feverish excitement that propelled Barack Obama and scores of other Democrats to victory in 2008 has all but evaporated, worrying party leaders who are struggling to invigorate the base before Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race and November’s critical midterm contests, pollsters and party activists said.”

It might help if Obama were as good as Bill Clinton on the stump. Byron York reports that “it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that Clinton just blew Obama’s doors off. Obama’s speech was halting, wandering, and humorless; the president looked as if he didn’t want to be there. There’s no doubt the crowd was excited to see Obama, but he seemed so hesitant and out-of-rhythm at the top that it appeared he might have been having teleprompter trouble, and he was also clearly rattled and unable to handle the completely-predictable presence of a heckler.”

CNN reports: “Multiple advisers to President Obama have privately told party officials that they believe Democrat Martha Coakley is going to lose Tuesday’s special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy for more than 40 years, several Democratic sources told CNN Sunday.” Then going to Massachusetts was sort of like going to Copenhagen for the Olympics (and again for the climate-change confab) — at some point it might be a good idea to stop demonstrating Obama’s ineffectiveness.

Things have gotten so sticky for Democrats that Ben Nelson “offers to give back his ‘bribe’.” Might be too late: his job approval has dropped to 42 percent.

More from the Democrats’ gloom-and-doom file: Friday, Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) announced his retirement. Plus, a “SurveyUSA poll shows Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), a freshman Democrat who represents the Cincinnati area, losing to former Republican congressman Steve Chabot, 56 to 39 percent.” He voted for both ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.

This take from Sen. Mitch McConnell sounds right: “Massachusetts is going to be a very, very close race regardless of who wins. … Regardless of who wins, we have here in effect a referendum on this national healthcare bill. The American people are telling us: ‘Please don’t pass it.’ … I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way.”

Lanny Davis at least doesn’t sound divorced from reality, like his fellow Democrats: “If Democrats lose in Massachusetts, it will simply mean Democrats and President Obama need find a new center to enact health care and other progressive legislation – meaning, they must sit down with Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, John McCain and other GOP Senators with long records of bipartisan legislating — and moderate Democrats Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and others –and create a new health care bill that can command broad bipartisan support.” Imagine if Obama had done that from the start — New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts might have looked a whole lot different, and Byron Dorgan might be running for re-election.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Noemie Emery says the elite pundits blew it in hawking Obama’s candidacy: “Could it be that The One has misjudged both the times and the country?; that he made a strategic mistake in pushing for health care (and a tactical one in trusting the Congress)?; that he created a nightmare for most in his party, who face epic losses this year? … To acknowledge this is to indict their own judgment, to face the fact they themselves may be less than insightful, that ‘talking like us’ means next to nothing, and that writing for magazines doesn’t equip one for greatness, or leadership. In fact, it only equips one to write for more magazines.”

Rep. Bart Stupak is holding firm for now. He isn’t buying the Reid–Ben Nelson abortion compromise language, “arguing that the Senate bill would effectively allow millions to buy insurance plans covering abortion because of federal subsidies and break the long-standing Hyde rule preventing federal funding of abortions — even if the federal government isn’t signing the checks directly, as it would have with the now-dead public insurance option.” The Democrats claim they have enough votes even without Stupak and pro-life Democrats. Really? We’ll find out.

Talking Points Memo or American Spectator? “Most campaign-type Democrats think Coakley will pull out a victory Tuesday despite a lackluster campaign and independents and undecideds rapidly slipping from their column, but some openly warn that a close race in the Bay State is a real warning sign for November’s mid-term elections.”

Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich? “That’s what’s been lost this year … that whole sense of changing how Washington works.”

A former Justice Department official doesn’t think much of the Obama team’s flurry of excuses for not responding to discovery requests in the New Black Panther Party case: “They are relying on privileges that the Office of Legal Counsel says do not exist. … There is no privilege, for instance, saying that the Justice Department will not identify personnel working on the case. … Generally, a number of these privileges [are ones] I’ve literally never heard of.” Well, who ever heard of executive privilege for a social secretary?

New Hampshire once looked like a potential lost seat for the GOP. Not anymore. The Republican front-runner, Kelly Ayotte, leads Paul Hodes by 9 points in the latest poll.

Good for him: “The top Senate Democrat in charge of military affairs on Wednesday ended a three-day trip to Afghanistan with a message of optimism that the U.S. mission can still succeed. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he sees a higher confidence among U.S. military leaders and Afghan leaders that the war against insurgents can be successful.” And a lesson for Obama: if he leads on national security, his base will follow.

Politico has a forum on: “Massachusetts: Does the closer-than-anyone-expected race jeopardize the Democratic agenda?” If you have to ask, the answer is yes.

All that groveling for nothing: “Although a State Department China hand described constructive U.S.-China cooperation on Iran in Hill testimony today, there are more signs that China is trying to put the breaks on moving forward with new Iran sanctions at this time. … But a diplomatic source tells POLITICO that China is saying its political director may not necessarily be able to come to a meeting of the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — that is scheduled for next weekend in New York.”

Noemie Emery says the elite pundits blew it in hawking Obama’s candidacy: “Could it be that The One has misjudged both the times and the country?; that he made a strategic mistake in pushing for health care (and a tactical one in trusting the Congress)?; that he created a nightmare for most in his party, who face epic losses this year? … To acknowledge this is to indict their own judgment, to face the fact they themselves may be less than insightful, that ‘talking like us’ means next to nothing, and that writing for magazines doesn’t equip one for greatness, or leadership. In fact, it only equips one to write for more magazines.”

Rep. Bart Stupak is holding firm for now. He isn’t buying the Reid–Ben Nelson abortion compromise language, “arguing that the Senate bill would effectively allow millions to buy insurance plans covering abortion because of federal subsidies and break the long-standing Hyde rule preventing federal funding of abortions — even if the federal government isn’t signing the checks directly, as it would have with the now-dead public insurance option.” The Democrats claim they have enough votes even without Stupak and pro-life Democrats. Really? We’ll find out.

Talking Points Memo or American Spectator? “Most campaign-type Democrats think Coakley will pull out a victory Tuesday despite a lackluster campaign and independents and undecideds rapidly slipping from their column, but some openly warn that a close race in the Bay State is a real warning sign for November’s mid-term elections.”

Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich? “That’s what’s been lost this year … that whole sense of changing how Washington works.”

A former Justice Department official doesn’t think much of the Obama team’s flurry of excuses for not responding to discovery requests in the New Black Panther Party case: “They are relying on privileges that the Office of Legal Counsel says do not exist. … There is no privilege, for instance, saying that the Justice Department will not identify personnel working on the case. … Generally, a number of these privileges [are ones] I’ve literally never heard of.” Well, who ever heard of executive privilege for a social secretary?

New Hampshire once looked like a potential lost seat for the GOP. Not anymore. The Republican front-runner, Kelly Ayotte, leads Paul Hodes by 9 points in the latest poll.

Good for him: “The top Senate Democrat in charge of military affairs on Wednesday ended a three-day trip to Afghanistan with a message of optimism that the U.S. mission can still succeed. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he sees a higher confidence among U.S. military leaders and Afghan leaders that the war against insurgents can be successful.” And a lesson for Obama: if he leads on national security, his base will follow.

Politico has a forum on: “Massachusetts: Does the closer-than-anyone-expected race jeopardize the Democratic agenda?” If you have to ask, the answer is yes.

All that groveling for nothing: “Although a State Department China hand described constructive U.S.-China cooperation on Iran in Hill testimony today, there are more signs that China is trying to put the breaks on moving forward with new Iran sanctions at this time. … But a diplomatic source tells POLITICO that China is saying its political director may not necessarily be able to come to a meeting of the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — that is scheduled for next weekend in New York.”

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How to Save Themselves

Conservatives are debating whether ObamaCare is a done deal yet. I tend to be in the Yogi Berra club (“It ain’t over till it’s over”). In addition to the infirmities in the bill that might make it difficult for Nancy Pelosi to round up the needed votes (to replace those of Bart Stupak and other pro-life Democrats who won’t buy the Ben Nelson/Harry Reid abortion-subsidy language), consider the dynamic in the Senate. The Cornhusker Kickback has become an embarrassment, the bill is a fiscal train wreck for the country at large and specifically for Blue states (whose governors are now complaining loudly), and incumbent senators are heading for the hills because the political environment is so toxic.

So perhaps it is time for a Senate Democrat to step forward to save his or her own skin and that of some colleagues. It might be a liberal like Kirsten Gillibrand who has figured out that she could be a hero to home-state taxpayers and the new darling of the Left by voting against the bill and its ensuing bonanza for big insurance companies. (Sure, she voted for it the first time, but she’s now had time to think it over.) It might be an imperiled Red State senator like Blanche Lincoln, who has been taking pot-shots at Ben Nelson’s wheeling and dealing and needs to get out of her polling death spiral. Or maybe it is someone like Evan Bayh, who needs to fend off a serious challenge at a time voters are noticing the significant gap between his fiscal “conservative” message and his voting record.

Sure, Rahm Emanuel would go on an obscenity shout-a-thon, but he is not on the ballot in 2010. And really, wouldn’t the brave senator who finally stood up to the politically suicidal Senate leadership and the tone-deaf White House get the quiet praise of many of his or her colleagues?

There is a way out of this policy and political train wreck. All it requires is a clearheaded Democratic senator. Surely there is one, right?

Conservatives are debating whether ObamaCare is a done deal yet. I tend to be in the Yogi Berra club (“It ain’t over till it’s over”). In addition to the infirmities in the bill that might make it difficult for Nancy Pelosi to round up the needed votes (to replace those of Bart Stupak and other pro-life Democrats who won’t buy the Ben Nelson/Harry Reid abortion-subsidy language), consider the dynamic in the Senate. The Cornhusker Kickback has become an embarrassment, the bill is a fiscal train wreck for the country at large and specifically for Blue states (whose governors are now complaining loudly), and incumbent senators are heading for the hills because the political environment is so toxic.

So perhaps it is time for a Senate Democrat to step forward to save his or her own skin and that of some colleagues. It might be a liberal like Kirsten Gillibrand who has figured out that she could be a hero to home-state taxpayers and the new darling of the Left by voting against the bill and its ensuing bonanza for big insurance companies. (Sure, she voted for it the first time, but she’s now had time to think it over.) It might be an imperiled Red State senator like Blanche Lincoln, who has been taking pot-shots at Ben Nelson’s wheeling and dealing and needs to get out of her polling death spiral. Or maybe it is someone like Evan Bayh, who needs to fend off a serious challenge at a time voters are noticing the significant gap between his fiscal “conservative” message and his voting record.

Sure, Rahm Emanuel would go on an obscenity shout-a-thon, but he is not on the ballot in 2010. And really, wouldn’t the brave senator who finally stood up to the politically suicidal Senate leadership and the tone-deaf White House get the quiet praise of many of his or her colleagues?

There is a way out of this policy and political train wreck. All it requires is a clearheaded Democratic senator. Surely there is one, right?

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Ben Nelson: Confused or Lying?

“I think it was a mistake to take health care on as opposed to continuing to spend the time on the economy.” Jim DeMint? Eric Cantor? Nope — it comes from the senator who cast the 60th vote, Ben Nelson. One is tempted to ask if he’s joking, for certainly it was within his power to make sure that health-care “reform” was put aside in favor of pro-growth, pro-jobs programs. But then Nelson also says that the Cornhusker Kickback was not about getting special treatment for his state. And he says that what really nailed down his vote was the elimination of the public option and the prevention of abortion subsidies. Except the bill doesn’t satisfy the latter condition and only offers a meaningless accounting gimmick to segregate funding, as well as an “opt-out” provision for states otherwise not required by law to fund abortions. As this Heritage Foundation analysis put it:

In the House bill, by virtue of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, there is a genuine firewall between federal funding and abortion coverage. In the Senate bill, by virtue of the agreement between Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Senator Nelson, there is no such firewall; the bill allows federal taxpayer funding for abortion. For the pro-life advocates on both sides of the aisle, the Reid-Nelson language falls far short of the House language.

One wonders if Nelson is dim or thinks we are. He could have reordered the president’s priorities. He could have agreed to put his state on exactly the same footing as the others without a kickback. He could have insisted on the Stupak-Pitts abortion language. He did none of these things. But he wants to get a pass from the voters and be praised because he “took a bad bill and made it better.” Actually, he’s helping to pass a very bad bill. He may be genuinely confused, but the voters are not.

“I think it was a mistake to take health care on as opposed to continuing to spend the time on the economy.” Jim DeMint? Eric Cantor? Nope — it comes from the senator who cast the 60th vote, Ben Nelson. One is tempted to ask if he’s joking, for certainly it was within his power to make sure that health-care “reform” was put aside in favor of pro-growth, pro-jobs programs. But then Nelson also says that the Cornhusker Kickback was not about getting special treatment for his state. And he says that what really nailed down his vote was the elimination of the public option and the prevention of abortion subsidies. Except the bill doesn’t satisfy the latter condition and only offers a meaningless accounting gimmick to segregate funding, as well as an “opt-out” provision for states otherwise not required by law to fund abortions. As this Heritage Foundation analysis put it:

In the House bill, by virtue of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, there is a genuine firewall between federal funding and abortion coverage. In the Senate bill, by virtue of the agreement between Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Senator Nelson, there is no such firewall; the bill allows federal taxpayer funding for abortion. For the pro-life advocates on both sides of the aisle, the Reid-Nelson language falls far short of the House language.

One wonders if Nelson is dim or thinks we are. He could have reordered the president’s priorities. He could have agreed to put his state on exactly the same footing as the others without a kickback. He could have insisted on the Stupak-Pitts abortion language. He did none of these things. But he wants to get a pass from the voters and be praised because he “took a bad bill and made it better.” Actually, he’s helping to pass a very bad bill. He may be genuinely confused, but the voters are not.

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Lincoln’s “Retirement” May Be Involuntary

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is in trouble, still:

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Arkansas shows Lincoln’s support for reelection at 38% or 39% no matter which of four potential Republican challengers she is matched against. . . State Senator Gilbert Baker leads Lincoln by 12, and State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren holds an eight-point edge over the incumbent. Curtis Coleman, a private businessman, and Tom Cox, head of the Arkansas T.E.A. Party, both lead her by 10 points. In reality, however, the numbers reflect very little about the challengers and are best viewed as a referendum on the incumbent. The two-term senator, who was reelected with 54% of the vote in 2004, appears more vulnerable because of her visible and pivotal role in the Senate debate over health care.

The White House and the Democratic leadership have been telling their colleagues that health care is their political salvation, the only way of heading off the coming tidal wave election. But the voters don’t seem to agree. And those lawmakers like Lincoln, Ben Nelson (who won’t face the voters until 2012), and, yes, even Harry Reid (whose poll numbers aren’t that different from Lincoln’s) convinced themselves they could vote with the ultraliberal leadership while escaping the wrath of their own constituents. But politics doesn’t work that way.

In the day-to-day scuffle inside the Capitol domes, Reid, Pelosi, and Rahm Emanuel may seem very important to the lives of lawmakers, but the ones who really matter are back home. For them, ObamaCare is not only objectionable on its own terms; it is also symbol of what they don’t like in Washington — corruption, backroom deals, and disregard for average Americans’ views and values (e.g., the right not to be forced to buy insurance you don’t want or can’t afford).

Perhaps the stampede to the congressional retirement home or the polls will finally register with some incumbent Democrats. If not, that’s why there are elections.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is in trouble, still:

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Arkansas shows Lincoln’s support for reelection at 38% or 39% no matter which of four potential Republican challengers she is matched against. . . State Senator Gilbert Baker leads Lincoln by 12, and State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren holds an eight-point edge over the incumbent. Curtis Coleman, a private businessman, and Tom Cox, head of the Arkansas T.E.A. Party, both lead her by 10 points. In reality, however, the numbers reflect very little about the challengers and are best viewed as a referendum on the incumbent. The two-term senator, who was reelected with 54% of the vote in 2004, appears more vulnerable because of her visible and pivotal role in the Senate debate over health care.

The White House and the Democratic leadership have been telling their colleagues that health care is their political salvation, the only way of heading off the coming tidal wave election. But the voters don’t seem to agree. And those lawmakers like Lincoln, Ben Nelson (who won’t face the voters until 2012), and, yes, even Harry Reid (whose poll numbers aren’t that different from Lincoln’s) convinced themselves they could vote with the ultraliberal leadership while escaping the wrath of their own constituents. But politics doesn’t work that way.

In the day-to-day scuffle inside the Capitol domes, Reid, Pelosi, and Rahm Emanuel may seem very important to the lives of lawmakers, but the ones who really matter are back home. For them, ObamaCare is not only objectionable on its own terms; it is also symbol of what they don’t like in Washington — corruption, backroom deals, and disregard for average Americans’ views and values (e.g., the right not to be forced to buy insurance you don’t want or can’t afford).

Perhaps the stampede to the congressional retirement home or the polls will finally register with some incumbent Democrats. If not, that’s why there are elections.

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The Ballot Box Solution

The Wall Street Journal editors zero in on Sen. Ben Nelson’s infamous deal, the “Cornhusker Kickback,” which is going to replace the Bridge To Nowhere in legislative infamy. They explain:

Under the “Cornhusker Kickback,” the federal government will pay all of Nebraska’s new Medicaid costs forever, while taxpayers in the other 49 states will see their budgets explode as this safety-net program for the poor is expanded to one out of every five Americans.

“In addition to violating the most basic and universally held notions of what is fair and just,” the AGs wrote last week to the Democratic leadership, the Article I spending clause is limited to “general Welfare.” If Congress claims to be legitimately serving that interest by expanding the joint state-federal Medicaid program, then why is it relieving just one state of a mandate that otherwise applies to all states? In other words, serving the non-general welfare of Nebraska—for no other reason than political expediency—violates a basic Supreme Court check on the “display of arbitrary power” that was established in 1937′s Helvering v. Davis.

I am not a fan of reconstituting policy arguments as Constitutional claims, even when the legislative offense is as gross as this. At bottom, noxious legislation calls out for a legislative solution: a no vote by the other lawmakers whose constituents rightly see this as unfair and, at bottom, immoral. After all, why are Californians’ health needs not given the same consideration as Nebraskans’? And just because Sen. Feinstein and Boxer allowed Nelson to get away with a better deal in the Christmas rush doesn’t mean they and their colleagues shouldn’t take a second look. As the Journal‘s editors point out, Blue states really have reason to gripe:

In a December letter Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lamented that ObamaCare would impose the “crushing new burden” of as much as $4 billion per year in new Medicaid spending in a state that is already deeply in the red. And in a Christmas Day op-ed in the Buffalo News, New York Governor David A. Paterson protested the almost $1 billion in new costs as well as the “unfairness of the Senate bill” when “New York already sends significantly more money to Washington than it gets back.”

There are, after all, Senate races in New York and California this year. It seems as though it would behoove Sens. Boxer and Gillibrand to defend their taxpayers’ interests. The same goes for the 53 California House members and the 29 New York representatives. Don’t at least a handful of the Democrats in those and other states object to the fact that their voters are going to be subsidizing Nebraskans only so that the latter don’t get too mad at Ben Nelson?

Perhaps the courts will find some legal infirmity with the deal. But the ultimate solution to this sort of chicanery is found at the ballot box.

The Wall Street Journal editors zero in on Sen. Ben Nelson’s infamous deal, the “Cornhusker Kickback,” which is going to replace the Bridge To Nowhere in legislative infamy. They explain:

Under the “Cornhusker Kickback,” the federal government will pay all of Nebraska’s new Medicaid costs forever, while taxpayers in the other 49 states will see their budgets explode as this safety-net program for the poor is expanded to one out of every five Americans.

“In addition to violating the most basic and universally held notions of what is fair and just,” the AGs wrote last week to the Democratic leadership, the Article I spending clause is limited to “general Welfare.” If Congress claims to be legitimately serving that interest by expanding the joint state-federal Medicaid program, then why is it relieving just one state of a mandate that otherwise applies to all states? In other words, serving the non-general welfare of Nebraska—for no other reason than political expediency—violates a basic Supreme Court check on the “display of arbitrary power” that was established in 1937′s Helvering v. Davis.

I am not a fan of reconstituting policy arguments as Constitutional claims, even when the legislative offense is as gross as this. At bottom, noxious legislation calls out for a legislative solution: a no vote by the other lawmakers whose constituents rightly see this as unfair and, at bottom, immoral. After all, why are Californians’ health needs not given the same consideration as Nebraskans’? And just because Sen. Feinstein and Boxer allowed Nelson to get away with a better deal in the Christmas rush doesn’t mean they and their colleagues shouldn’t take a second look. As the Journal‘s editors point out, Blue states really have reason to gripe:

In a December letter Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lamented that ObamaCare would impose the “crushing new burden” of as much as $4 billion per year in new Medicaid spending in a state that is already deeply in the red. And in a Christmas Day op-ed in the Buffalo News, New York Governor David A. Paterson protested the almost $1 billion in new costs as well as the “unfairness of the Senate bill” when “New York already sends significantly more money to Washington than it gets back.”

There are, after all, Senate races in New York and California this year. It seems as though it would behoove Sens. Boxer and Gillibrand to defend their taxpayers’ interests. The same goes for the 53 California House members and the 29 New York representatives. Don’t at least a handful of the Democrats in those and other states object to the fact that their voters are going to be subsidizing Nebraskans only so that the latter don’t get too mad at Ben Nelson?

Perhaps the courts will find some legal infirmity with the deal. But the ultimate solution to this sort of chicanery is found at the ballot box.

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