Commentary Magazine


Topic: Big government

Why Bigger Government Does Not Equal More Services

The Democratic group Third Way is releasing the results of a survey on political “moderates,” which deviates from, and is more informative than, surveys on supposed “independents.” The Atlantic’s Molly Ball has piece discussing the survey as well as a memo Third Way officials gave Ball ahead of time to frame the results. It’s an interesting survey, especially with the parties gearing up for midterm elections. But the survey is undermined by a flaw that pervades such polls with regard to voters’ attitudes toward the size and scope of government.

That particular recurring survey question is rarely if ever challenged, but those who want an honest rendering of Americans’ political and policy preferences shouldn’t let it slide. Or, rather, conservatives shouldn’t let it slide, because the question is dishonestly designed to elicit a more favorable answer for supporters of expanding government. Here’s Ball:

Moderates’ perspective on the role of government has elements in common with both liberals and conservatives. Only 23 percent of moderates favor a larger government that provides more services (compared to 54 percent of liberals and 13 percent of conservatives); 37 percent favor a smaller government with fewer services (compared to 12 percent of liberals and 62 percent of conservatives).

As anyone who knows anything about the government can tell you, this is what our president might call a false choice. The simple fact is that the growth of the modern bureaucratic state is such that the larger government/more services vs. leaner government/fewer services framing is outdated and irrelevant. This type of poll question is trumpeted often by liberals who either don’t fully understand how the government works or who do understand but prefer not to clue their readers in on the con.

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The Democratic group Third Way is releasing the results of a survey on political “moderates,” which deviates from, and is more informative than, surveys on supposed “independents.” The Atlantic’s Molly Ball has piece discussing the survey as well as a memo Third Way officials gave Ball ahead of time to frame the results. It’s an interesting survey, especially with the parties gearing up for midterm elections. But the survey is undermined by a flaw that pervades such polls with regard to voters’ attitudes toward the size and scope of government.

That particular recurring survey question is rarely if ever challenged, but those who want an honest rendering of Americans’ political and policy preferences shouldn’t let it slide. Or, rather, conservatives shouldn’t let it slide, because the question is dishonestly designed to elicit a more favorable answer for supporters of expanding government. Here’s Ball:

Moderates’ perspective on the role of government has elements in common with both liberals and conservatives. Only 23 percent of moderates favor a larger government that provides more services (compared to 54 percent of liberals and 13 percent of conservatives); 37 percent favor a smaller government with fewer services (compared to 12 percent of liberals and 62 percent of conservatives).

As anyone who knows anything about the government can tell you, this is what our president might call a false choice. The simple fact is that the growth of the modern bureaucratic state is such that the larger government/more services vs. leaner government/fewer services framing is outdated and irrelevant. This type of poll question is trumpeted often by liberals who either don’t fully understand how the government works or who do understand but prefer not to clue their readers in on the con.

For example, during the controversy over Cliven Bundy, the New York Times’s Josh Barro was one of the commentators who sought to use the issue to make the point that limited-government conservatism, and especially libertarianism, can be explained by race. Here’s Barro:

A 2011 National Journal poll found that 42 percent of white respondents agreed with the statement, “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” Just 17 percent of blacks, 16 percent of Asians and 25 percent of Hispanics agreed. In 2011 and 2012, the Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of Asian-Americans and fully 75 percent of Hispanic-Americans say they prefer a bigger government providing more services over a smaller one providing fewer services, compared with just 41 percent of the general population.

An obvious problem is the wording of each question. The first question he uses offers two choices: government is either the problem or the solution. The lack of nuance–and, plainly, honesty–helps Barro’s argument but does a great disservice to his readers (though in fairness it’s not as though Barro himself wrote the survey question). The second question is the one that reappears in the Third Way survey.

The truth of the matter is that government has become unmanageably large in many ways, undermining the idea that a larger government necessarily results in more services.

A good resource for those who want the more accurate picture is Philip K. Howard’s The Rule of Nobody, which takes aim at the reasons government has, on important issues, ground to a halt. Howard opens with the story of the Bayonne Bridge, which spans the channel that connects New York Harbor to the port of Newark, the largest on the East Coast. The bridge, however, isn’t high enough to accommodate ships built to use the widened Panama Canal, set to be completed next year.

So what’s the solution? Howard notes that the government agency in charge decided the choices were either build a new bridge or dig a tunnel, each costing more than $4 billion. Then a new idea presented itself: raise the existing bridge roadway, at a cost of $1 billion, saving $3 billion. The resolution was “like a miracle.” And it went nowhere. The full story is worth reading and incredibly convoluted (which is Howard’s point), but here’s the gist:

Building anything important in America requires layers of approvals from multiple levels of government—in this project, forty-seven permits from nineteen different governmental entities. Environmental review has evolved into an academic exercise, like a game of who can find the most complications. Balkanization of authority among different agencies and levels of government creates a dynamic of buck-passing. “The process is aimed not at trying to solve problems,” Ms. Papageorgis observed, “but trying to find problems. You can’t get in trouble by saying no.” With any large project, something might go wrong. More studies are done.

The story of the Bayonne Bridge, and others like it–Howard’s book makes for sobering but important reading–is that the larger government got the more it cost while providing fewer services. Howard writes about school systems paralyzed by regulations, the culture of corruption fostered by the inability to navigate all the red tape, the resulting “involuntary noncompliance,” and the government’s erosion of civil society while then failing to provide the services whose responsibility was transferred from the private sphere to the public sector.

Larger government doesn’t just erode freedom. At a certain point, it begins providing fewer services than it did before it ballooned beyond manageability. Howard shows that often the only way around the most absurd bureaucratic extremism is public shaming. That should be applied to the survey questions designed to enable such bad governance as well.

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Union PSA: Show Some Appreciation, You Lachanophobic Anarchists

Imagine, for a moment, an America in which federal workers’ generous compensation and job security were closer to that of their private sector counterparts. Or, alternatively: imagine an America in which there was less redundancy in the federal workforce, saving taxpayer dollars. Or imagine an America in which there was less bureaucratic red tape to be enforced against struggling entrepreneurs or business owners, thus necessitating a less robust federal workforce. Or imagine, as John Lennon might if he were around today, there’s no TSA.

All that probably sounds delightful. Which is why unions representing federal employees don’t want you to imagine any of that. Instead, they invite you to imagine, as their new ad campaign hopes you will, “Life without federal employees.” But they mean, of course, any federal employees. That’s the basis for a renewed effort by federal unions to burnish their image in the minds of the Americans that they believe don’t fully appreciate them. As the Washington Post reports, the National Treasury Employees Union is releasing their own version of public service announcements on behalf of federal employees:

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Imagine, for a moment, an America in which federal workers’ generous compensation and job security were closer to that of their private sector counterparts. Or, alternatively: imagine an America in which there was less redundancy in the federal workforce, saving taxpayer dollars. Or imagine an America in which there was less bureaucratic red tape to be enforced against struggling entrepreneurs or business owners, thus necessitating a less robust federal workforce. Or imagine, as John Lennon might if he were around today, there’s no TSA.

All that probably sounds delightful. Which is why unions representing federal employees don’t want you to imagine any of that. Instead, they invite you to imagine, as their new ad campaign hopes you will, “Life without federal employees.” But they mean, of course, any federal employees. That’s the basis for a renewed effort by federal unions to burnish their image in the minds of the Americans that they believe don’t fully appreciate them. As the Washington Post reports, the National Treasury Employees Union is releasing their own version of public service announcements on behalf of federal employees:

For example, one 15-second PSA says:

Without us, you should be afraid of your salad.
Without us, our borders would go unprotected.
Without us, we would live in fear of a nuclear meltdown.
Federal employees. They work for U.S.
TheyWorkforUs.org

Without overpaid bureaucrats, you’d be mired in lachanophobia if you knew what was good for you. Of course, you probably wouldn’t know what was good for you without federal employees to tell you. The Post continues:

The announcements are being sent to 300 television stations and 1,000 radio stations in top markets.

This is NTEU’s third campaign “and each time it keeps getting bigger,” Kelley told reporters Wednesday. Between June 2011 and June 2012, radio, television and cable outlets ran NTEU PSAs 25,048 times, worth $7.4 million in media time, according to the labor organization, which said 292 million people saw or heard those PSAs.

The current PSAs are available on TheyWorkforUs.org. On the Web site, NTEU asks the public to imagine what life would be like without feds. NTEU also supplies the answer:

“You wouldn’t want it.”

It’s worth pointing out here just how much the union has to stack the deck to get some appreciation. Jews make a blessing on their food to thank God for it before eating; the NTEU wants you to thank a union before fearlessly diving into your leafy greens.

In reality, the choice is surely not between anarchy dominated by nightmarish salad monsters and a bureaucratic superstate that chases off your kid’s lemonade stand. What Americans don’t like about the federal workforce has more to do with the fact that government employees make more than their private-sector counterparts, generally get far better benefits, and in many cases those employees are tasked with putting up obstacles to private-sector jobs. And they tend to think private-sector employees are working harder for less money than public-sector workers.

Americans—even those who support unions—are often uneasy with certain public-sector union rights, like the right to strike. Chris Christie had success in New Jersey by asking teachers unions to pay their fair share—less than their fair share actually: anything at all—by contributing a bit to their benefits, as private-sector employees did. They realize that, as Daniel DiSalvo has written, “In today’s public sector, good pay, generous benefits, and job security make possible a stable middle-class existence for nearly everyone from janitors to jailors. In the private economy, meanwhile, cutthroat competition, increased income inequality, and layoffs squeeze the middle class.”

And Americans are sensible enough to understand the moral hazard in such a state of affairs, where powerful government employees can negotiate from their government employers more and more of the private sector’s money. But even more than the chutzpah it takes for unions to put out ads attempting to shame the public into thanking the unions for taking their money, this campaign is an indication that public-sector unions are well aware of their continued image problem. That they think equating disapproval of their work with anarchy is the way to fix it shows that it’s likely to persist.

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Rubio’s Poverty Pitch What the GOP Needs

Marco Rubio’s 2013 was as bad as Chris Christie’s was good. The Florida senator’s annus horribillis began with his goofy water bottle problem as he delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union message. It continued when a month later he appeared equally ridiculous rushing to the floor of the Senate to support Rand Paul’s drone filibuster in order to avoid letting a rival hog all the attention, even though he actually disagreed with the libertarian. But Rubio, who began the year at the top of everyone’s list of Republican presidential hopefuls, didn’t hit bottom until he became the target of widespread conservative animus for his high-minded decision to back a bipartisan immigration reform bill. By the summer, many of his erstwhile fans on the right had buried him as a RINO and talk about his candidacy in 2016 seemed to be on hold. Even the senator began backing away from his own bill.

But if Christie has gone from GOP frontrunner to possible has-been in the wake of his Bridgegate scandal, Rubio has a chance to start over in 2014. Though it’s unlikely that many anti-immigration die-hards will forgive him for speaking common sense about the issue, Rubio’s address at the Capitol last week on the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” gave his year a promising beginning. As James Pethokoukis rightly noted at the AEI Ideas blog, his “new anti-poverty plan offers a dramatic, even radical revamp of the American welfare state” that attempts to raise the incomes of the poor without falling into the trap of big government.

It’s not clear whether his fine speech and Christie’s downfall will boost his presidential stock, but Rubio may have done more than advance a personal agenda. By calling on Republicans to address how to help Americans mired in poverty, Rubio may have started an important conversation on the right that could help make the GOP the party of ideas again.

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Marco Rubio’s 2013 was as bad as Chris Christie’s was good. The Florida senator’s annus horribillis began with his goofy water bottle problem as he delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union message. It continued when a month later he appeared equally ridiculous rushing to the floor of the Senate to support Rand Paul’s drone filibuster in order to avoid letting a rival hog all the attention, even though he actually disagreed with the libertarian. But Rubio, who began the year at the top of everyone’s list of Republican presidential hopefuls, didn’t hit bottom until he became the target of widespread conservative animus for his high-minded decision to back a bipartisan immigration reform bill. By the summer, many of his erstwhile fans on the right had buried him as a RINO and talk about his candidacy in 2016 seemed to be on hold. Even the senator began backing away from his own bill.

But if Christie has gone from GOP frontrunner to possible has-been in the wake of his Bridgegate scandal, Rubio has a chance to start over in 2014. Though it’s unlikely that many anti-immigration die-hards will forgive him for speaking common sense about the issue, Rubio’s address at the Capitol last week on the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” gave his year a promising beginning. As James Pethokoukis rightly noted at the AEI Ideas blog, his “new anti-poverty plan offers a dramatic, even radical revamp of the American welfare state” that attempts to raise the incomes of the poor without falling into the trap of big government.

It’s not clear whether his fine speech and Christie’s downfall will boost his presidential stock, but Rubio may have done more than advance a personal agenda. By calling on Republicans to address how to help Americans mired in poverty, Rubio may have started an important conversation on the right that could help make the GOP the party of ideas again.

Rubio’s approach is based on two accurate assumptions. One is that Republicans cannot hope to win national elections by playing the role of the mean party that likes the rich and considers the poor to be an incorrigible “47 percent” of takers, to quote Mitt Romney’s unfortunate gaffe. Conservatives must demonstrate that they care about people who aren’t rich or well off lest they be written off as the party of ruthless plutocrats who want to take away benefits from the poor. Though the Tea Party movement has raised important points about the dangers of uncontrolled tax and spend policies, the results of the 2012 election should have reminded Republicans that they must do more than say “no” to Democratic ideas; they must offer voters their own plans for helping the disadvantaged.

But there is more at stake here than merely a rhetorical pivot. As Rubio also makes clear, the GOP must offer an alternative to the failed liberal policies that are associated with the War on Poverty. The senator states what generations of liberals have worked hard to ignore when he says the problem with the big-government liberalism that Johnson helped unleash was not its desire to help the poor. The problem was that rather than freeing the poor from poverty, these policies, albeit unintentionally, created a new permanent underclass trapped in misery with little hope of escape. Dismantling it, or at least stripping the federal government of much of its role in anti-poverty efforts and devolving power to the states, as Rubio advocates, offers the country an opportunity to reform a failed system.

As Pethokoukis notes, the basic principles that form the foundation of this approach are irrefutable: the need to create more of the social mobility that the welfare state discourages; to increase the gap between the income of those who work and those who don’t; and to build a more efficient safety net that isn’t run by a federal bureaucracy from Washington, D.C.

These are the key talking points that every Republican should be discussing, especially as Democrats attempt to change the national political conversation from the ObamaCare disaster to a new one about income inequality. The difference between the two parties is that Rubio is proposing a genuine alternative to the status quo while all Democrats are offering is more of the same failed ideas that have done so much damage to the poor in the last half-century.

In the 1980s, Republicans assumed the mantle of the “thinking party,” as they sought to reform the welfare state under the leadership of Ronald Reagan. It’s time they started thinking again. It’s not clear whether Rubio will run in 2016 but no matter what his plans, if he can help promote this sea change away from knee-jerk opposition to all government action to a new era of GOP reform of government, he will do his party—and the country—an inestimable service.

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How Big Government Erodes Quality of Life

Homeowners who undertake construction or improvement projects on their property have noticed the proliferation of municipal regulations forbidding the removal of dirt from the property without a permit. That is, you must pay the town for the privilege of throwing away dirt–if the town engineer lets you, that is. Some towns have even formed official Soil Boards (I wish I were making that up) to oversee this process, because once you begin wasting taxpayer money as if it were, well, dirt, it can apparently become quite addictive.

When I was a reporter in New Jersey, residents of one of the towns in my coverage area began discovering this soil scheme, and at the same time the town announced it was cutting back on garbage pickup due to budget constraints. Residents quickly figured out the scam: they were not only having to do work that the township was supposed to do, but the residents were actually paying the township in order to do so. The decrease in garbage pickup wouldn’t have been so terrible but for another brilliant town rule: as in many municipalities, residents could only deposit their garbage in township-provided trash cans, and the town refused to provide additional trash cans to make up for the extra days between pickups. The government’s policies ensured that much of the town was covered by rotting garbage or unwanted dirt.

This a fairly common example of what happens when local governments overspend in times of plenty and find themselves cash-strapped after the boom. You can only raise property taxes so high–though New Jersey is perpetually testing that hypothesis. The Tax Foundation reports that “Coming in with the highest per capita collection rate is New Jersey.” But the point is that even as property and other taxes go up, the government’s balance sheet affects more than just taxes. Elected officials’ inability to budget responsibly results in numerous erosions of the quality of life of everyone except the government’s favored interest groups, to whom it has given all the money it was supposed to save or spend on you.

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Homeowners who undertake construction or improvement projects on their property have noticed the proliferation of municipal regulations forbidding the removal of dirt from the property without a permit. That is, you must pay the town for the privilege of throwing away dirt–if the town engineer lets you, that is. Some towns have even formed official Soil Boards (I wish I were making that up) to oversee this process, because once you begin wasting taxpayer money as if it were, well, dirt, it can apparently become quite addictive.

When I was a reporter in New Jersey, residents of one of the towns in my coverage area began discovering this soil scheme, and at the same time the town announced it was cutting back on garbage pickup due to budget constraints. Residents quickly figured out the scam: they were not only having to do work that the township was supposed to do, but the residents were actually paying the township in order to do so. The decrease in garbage pickup wouldn’t have been so terrible but for another brilliant town rule: as in many municipalities, residents could only deposit their garbage in township-provided trash cans, and the town refused to provide additional trash cans to make up for the extra days between pickups. The government’s policies ensured that much of the town was covered by rotting garbage or unwanted dirt.

This a fairly common example of what happens when local governments overspend in times of plenty and find themselves cash-strapped after the boom. You can only raise property taxes so high–though New Jersey is perpetually testing that hypothesis. The Tax Foundation reports that “Coming in with the highest per capita collection rate is New Jersey.” But the point is that even as property and other taxes go up, the government’s balance sheet affects more than just taxes. Elected officials’ inability to budget responsibly results in numerous erosions of the quality of life of everyone except the government’s favored interest groups, to whom it has given all the money it was supposed to save or spend on you.

In addition to the Tax Foundation’s findings, the story of big government’s failures was brought to mind by the Manhattan Institute’s Steven Malanga, who has a column today about the growth in unfunded state pension liabilities and what that is doing to the business climate–and thus the future job market–in some states. Malanga notes that courts have often sided with government employees who argue that the generous benefits formula put in place during a far different economic climate and for different workers cannot be undone, amended, or disturbed even for current and future workers.

“That’s a prescription for higher taxes, fewer services and eventual insolvency,” Malanga writes. He continues:

Large businesses that operate in multiple locations see this playing out as a new aggressiveness on the part of states. Every few years Chief Financial Officer magazine asks executives at large companies to rate the states in terms of how aggressively they pursue higher tax collections. In the last study, completed in 2011, executives told the magazine that, as one finance exec wrote: “The states are in a pure money-grab mode and don’t care about policy, the law, or fairness.” Not surprisingly, four of the five worst-rated states in that study-California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey-all have mountains of debt of one form or another.

Some state governments have switched from merely trying to collect taxes on in-state business to extending their tax arm as far as possible. That means firms with a single telecommuter in a state are being dunned for corporate income tax claims, as are firms with no physical presence in a state other than a website hosted on local server.

“We are seriously going to consider whether we allow employees to travel to or participate in events” in New York, one CEO recently told Chief Executive magazine. New York has the second highest per capita debt load among the states, according to a report by its comptroller, as well as one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. So it’s not surprising that the CEO explained his strategy by noting, “We can’t afford for NY to become a tax nexus for us just because our employees participate in a conference in NY or the like.”

Indebted states must eventually become money-grabbing states, if they aren’t already. Businesses that haven’t learned that lesson yet will learn it the hard way.

Malanga’s column explains that businesses are starting to understand all that goes into their decisions on where to locate their headquarters–and even, as the above quote demonstrates, which cities and states their employees travel to on business. The states dominated by big government liberalism run amok will be highly attractive to public sector workers but few others.

And that, in turn, risks perpetuating this vicious cycle by damaging the economy that would otherwise feed the government beast. The remaining taxpayers will see their taxes go up. These days that will be accompanied by cutting essential services because the contracts and pension plans can’t be touched (much like the similar predicament I’ve discussed in which New Jersey’s public school students lost out on computers, tutoring, newer books, and sports programs because the teachers union contracts couldn’t be adjusted to meet costs).

It also, once again, proves the importance of responsible budgeting in all economic climates and the foolishness of putting off possible reforms until it’s too late. The rise of conservative governors even in blue states is perhaps a hopeful sign that message is getting through.

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On Big Government, the Conservative Message Gets Through

Although there has been some heated digital confrontation between conservatives in the post-election blame game and adjustment period, it should be noted that much of the right’s recalibration since November has been quite sensible. The GOP by and large has had it wrong on immigration in recent years, and paid dearly for it at the ballot box. The sudden willingness to work toward comprehensive immigration reform may in some cases be cynical, but it is also, at the very least, logical.

And President Obama’s reelection victory exposed party weaknesses outside legislative issues, such as poor candidate recruitment and messaging. So it’s not all that surprising that a group like the one led by Karl Rove has formed with the purpose of enabling the nomination of better candidates for certain races. This has, naturally, whetted the appetite of liberals for ever more “moderation” on the part of Republicans. E.J. Dionne’s column today in the Washington Post is a good example of this mindset. Dionne writes:

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Although there has been some heated digital confrontation between conservatives in the post-election blame game and adjustment period, it should be noted that much of the right’s recalibration since November has been quite sensible. The GOP by and large has had it wrong on immigration in recent years, and paid dearly for it at the ballot box. The sudden willingness to work toward comprehensive immigration reform may in some cases be cynical, but it is also, at the very least, logical.

And President Obama’s reelection victory exposed party weaknesses outside legislative issues, such as poor candidate recruitment and messaging. So it’s not all that surprising that a group like the one led by Karl Rove has formed with the purpose of enabling the nomination of better candidates for certain races. This has, naturally, whetted the appetite of liberals for ever more “moderation” on the part of Republicans. E.J. Dionne’s column today in the Washington Post is a good example of this mindset. Dionne writes:

But there’s a big difference between rebranding and pursuing a different approach to governing.

The good news is that some Republicans have decided that the party moved too far to the right and are backing off long-standing positions on tax increases, guns and immigration….

The mixed news: A lot of the rebranding efforts are superficial yet nonetheless reflect an awareness that the party has been asking the wrong questions, talking about the wrong issues and limiting the range of voters it’s been addressing….

The bad news: In some states where Republicans control all the levers of power, they are rushing ahead with astonishingly right-wing programs to eviscerate government while shifting the tax burden toward the middle class and the poor and away from the wealthy. In trying to build the Koch brothers’ dystopias, they are turning states in (sic) laboratories of reaction.

That is, from Dionne’s perspective, the good news is that some Republicans are voting like Democrats, the mixed news is that some Republicans are merely talking like Democrats, and the bad news is that some Republicans still refuse to do either, preferring instead to live in places where government works for the people–like Texas–instead of where government works against the people–like failing states such as California.

In fairness to Dionne, he’s not wrong that Republicans have changed their tune on some issues and their tone on others, nor is there reason for him not to applaud it. But Republicans agreed to raise taxes in the fiscal cliff negotiations because without a deal taxes would have gone up even more. Aside from increased support for background checks, there isn’t much change in anyone’s position on guns–pro-gun rights Democrats haven’t really moved left either, which is why an assault weapons ban is unlikely.

And Dionne’s frustration–and that of his liberal compatriots–with conservatives’ relentless criticism of the federal government as too intrusive, expensive, and unwieldy won’t be placated by the GOP anytime soon. That’s because of what Dionne’s Post colleague Aaron Blake reported last week: for the first time in at least a couple of decades, the Pew polling organization has found that a majority of Americans–53 percent–believe the government threatens their rights and freedoms.

Blake’s post puts this poll in the context of gun rights, which makes sense given the attention the issue was receiving when this poll was conducted. But there’s every indication that this is one messaging success for the right that has wider implications. Blake writes:

And if gun rights supporters can convince the public (and members of Congress) that the legislation creates a too-powerful federal government that impinges on people’s rights and freedoms, they may help reverse their early deficit in the polls.

The American public is very receptive to such a message.

True, but why presume the American public wouldn’t be “very receptive” to the message in other contexts? After all, it’s highly unlikely that the government’s behavior on any one issue drove this result–and in fact, as the poll breakdown makes clear, gun owners didn’t skew the results. The truth is, there is a bevy of Obama infringements on personal liberty to choose from, such as the one that Jonathan wrote about this afternoon: the controversial HHS mandate that has drawn the opposition of the Catholic Church. We can add in the Obamacare mandate to purchase insurance as well. Some might be upset with the administration’s heavy-handed approach to picking winners and losers in the private sector; burdensome regulation; desire to raise and keep raising taxes; or expansive executive authority on national security issues.

Or they could simply believe that this administration’s dedication to expanding the federal deficit is a threat to their economic wellbeing and that of future generations. This is a difficult question to answer, because there are just so many possibilities. When it comes to intruding on the freedoms of the American people, this administration has something for everyone.

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Cory Booker and the Problem with Social Media-Savvy Politicking

As Jonathan wrote earlier, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s reputation among Republicans in his home state has begun to diverge from his reputation among Republicans elsewhere. Nationally, Republicans are bitter about Christie’s embrace of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which also happened to be in the last week of the presidential election campaign. But there is another popular New Jersey politician who is also perceived differently at home than on a national level: Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Whether it’s pursuing unpopular policies by having the courts, rather than voters, on his side, or grumblings that Booker’s hyperactive Twitter feed is a strategy to cover for the fact that he spends as much as one in every five days out of his state, Booker’s rock-star status among national media occasionally obscures his less sainted image in Newark. Like Christie, that has a lot to do with the difficulty of impressing a national constituency and a local one at the same time. Unlike Christie, however, in Booker’s case it reveals a politician who sometimes seems more interested in national stardom than local governance.

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As Jonathan wrote earlier, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s reputation among Republicans in his home state has begun to diverge from his reputation among Republicans elsewhere. Nationally, Republicans are bitter about Christie’s embrace of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which also happened to be in the last week of the presidential election campaign. But there is another popular New Jersey politician who is also perceived differently at home than on a national level: Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Whether it’s pursuing unpopular policies by having the courts, rather than voters, on his side, or grumblings that Booker’s hyperactive Twitter feed is a strategy to cover for the fact that he spends as much as one in every five days out of his state, Booker’s rock-star status among national media occasionally obscures his less sainted image in Newark. Like Christie, that has a lot to do with the difficulty of impressing a national constituency and a local one at the same time. Unlike Christie, however, in Booker’s case it reveals a politician who sometimes seems more interested in national stardom than local governance.

Booker’s Twitter feed isn’t the only reason for his national fame. He’s a good-humored, well spoken politician willing to tackle persistent, endemic problems and break from the city’s corrupt past. His mastery of social media has also been evidence of a City Hall with a new dedication to responsiveness and good governance.

But it also often descends into gimmickry and hectoring, as it did yesterday. As New York magazine reports:

Cory Booker’s interactions with the denizens of Twitter started out pretty typically on Sunday. First, he told a man whose transgender friends are nervous about moving to Newark that he’d be happy to give them a call, and by the evening he was offering to help a student staying up all night to write a report about him. However, things grew more contentious when he tweeted a bit of ancient Greek wisdom, courtesy of Plutarch: “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” Booker was accused of plotting to redistribute wealth and told “nutrition is not a responsibility of the government.” Since simply debating the merits of providing food assistance to impoverished Americans doesn’t fit into Booker’s ridiculously hands-on approach to governing, by the end of the night he’d challenged the Twitter user to a contest in which they’d both try to live off of food stamps for a week.

A challenge to live off of food stamps for a week seems like a great way to gain attention for a cause–until you realize that there’s nothing Booker is really advocating here except more government involvement, this time because the mayor doesn’t believe kids are eating a wholesome breakfast before school. Is he trying to show that you can’t live comfortably on food stamps? I would think that’s a no-brainer; is the purpose of food stamps to give recipients a middle-class living standard?

Is it Booker’s contention that more wealth redistribution is necessary for parents to feed their children healthier food? How does Booker know what parents spend their money on now, and how does he know how they’ll reallocate it if they get a bit more of it?

An energetic, responsive government is supposed to be the attractive alternative to Michael Bloomberg’s nanny state governance next door. At this point, both big-city mayors are advocating for liberal policies and aggressive and invasive paternalism, but the difference is that Bloomberg isn’t hounding his citizens on Twitter, shaming them for daring to dispute the wisdom of a meddlesome government with designs on more of the private sector’s cash.

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Clinton-Obama Comparison Helps Romney

Liberal commentators could barely contain their scorn this week after hearing Mitt Romney make some unfavorable comparisons between President Obama and Bill Clinton. They do have a point. For Democrats listening to the Republican candidate praise Clinton, albeit only by contrasting him to Obama, less than two decades after the man from Hope engendered such rage on the part of conservatives, must be insufferable. The retrospective GOP affection for Clinton is as phony as the respect now given Ronald Reagan on the part of many Democrats. It is a time-honored political tradition to blast your opponents as being unworthy to be the successors of their party’s former leaders even if you happened to hate the objects of praise while they were in office. Anyone doubting this theme need only notice that even George W. Bush — a president so despised on the left that he inspired a syndrome that could only be described as derangement — is starting to get a little love from liberals because he was more civil than the current crop of Republicans.

But just because Romney’s praise of Clinton is insincere doesn’t mean he hasn’t honed in on one of the president’s problems. President Obama won in 2008 largely on the basis of the historic nature of his candidacy as the first African-American to be nominated by a major party as well as by a successful attempt to position himself as a post-partisan centrist. Though many voters may still feel the weight of history when contemplating rejecting Obama’s bid for re-election, ObamaCare, the stimulus and now his stance on gay marriage mean his pose as a moderate has been exploded. That is why the contrast between the incumbent and Clinton’s “New Democrat” efforts to distance his administration from many traditional liberal positions is helpful to Romney. Though Democrats may complain this is a bogus tactic, it helps to define Obama as a doctrinaire politician who is out of step with many centrist and independent voters.

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Liberal commentators could barely contain their scorn this week after hearing Mitt Romney make some unfavorable comparisons between President Obama and Bill Clinton. They do have a point. For Democrats listening to the Republican candidate praise Clinton, albeit only by contrasting him to Obama, less than two decades after the man from Hope engendered such rage on the part of conservatives, must be insufferable. The retrospective GOP affection for Clinton is as phony as the respect now given Ronald Reagan on the part of many Democrats. It is a time-honored political tradition to blast your opponents as being unworthy to be the successors of their party’s former leaders even if you happened to hate the objects of praise while they were in office. Anyone doubting this theme need only notice that even George W. Bush — a president so despised on the left that he inspired a syndrome that could only be described as derangement — is starting to get a little love from liberals because he was more civil than the current crop of Republicans.

But just because Romney’s praise of Clinton is insincere doesn’t mean he hasn’t honed in on one of the president’s problems. President Obama won in 2008 largely on the basis of the historic nature of his candidacy as the first African-American to be nominated by a major party as well as by a successful attempt to position himself as a post-partisan centrist. Though many voters may still feel the weight of history when contemplating rejecting Obama’s bid for re-election, ObamaCare, the stimulus and now his stance on gay marriage mean his pose as a moderate has been exploded. That is why the contrast between the incumbent and Clinton’s “New Democrat” efforts to distance his administration from many traditional liberal positions is helpful to Romney. Though Democrats may complain this is a bogus tactic, it helps to define Obama as a doctrinaire politician who is out of step with many centrist and independent voters.

Part of the Clinton-Obama contrast is one of tone. Clinton deliberately sought to persuade Americans that his approach was a departure from traditional liberalism. Indeed, it was his ability to persuade so many that he was a pragmatic centrist that drove conservatives — who saw him as the embodiment of the self-indulgent liberal Baby Boomers who came of age in the 1960s — so crazy. Clinton went out of his way to show that he was not in thrall to left-wingers. while Obama’s administration has alienated moderates.

But Romney’s not entirely wrong to point out the differences between the last two Democrats elected to the presidency.

Veterans of the Clinton administration are quick to point out that Clinton was no conservative and embraced many measures such as tax increases that Romney opposed then and now. But Clinton was also the man who told the country that “the era of big government is over,” presided over balanced budgets and signed the welfare reform bill while Obama is the quintessential big government Democrat. Though many of Clinton’s achievements were more a case of him co-opting Republican positions and taking credit for things that would have been impossible without the election of a GOP Congress (such as the balanced budget and welfare reform), they also reflected a willingness to move to the center rather than govern from the left. If Clinton had succeeded in passing his wife Hillary’s health care bill, perhaps we wouldn’t think of him as a centrist, but in contrast to Obama, the 42nd president ultimately learned that ramming such a measure down the throats of an unwilling people was a mistake and moved on to more productive matters. Most of all, Romney can contrast the relative prosperity of the 1990s to the dismal economy of 2012.

Democrats are right that the problem with Romney’s stratagem is that Clinton will be campaigning for Obama this year. But while his appeal to party loyalists is still strong, it isn’t likely that many voters believe there is any real affinity between the two Democratic presidents. Many suspect that Clinton is merely setting the stage for another try for the presidency by his wife.

Romney isn’t the only American to notice that Barack Obama is the most liberal president since Jimmy Carter and represents a different kind of Democrat than Clinton was. It may be hypocritical for Republicans to sound this theme, but it also reflects the fact that Obama doesn’t have the same appeal to moderates and independents that Clinton had. And that’s something that can make a big difference in November.

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Faith in Government Erodes

AEI’s “Political Report” is devoted to attitudes about the federal government. According to the December 2010 issue, five pollsters conducted significant surveys on the role of government this year. Among the conclusions:

[C]ontemporary criticisms of the federal government are broad and deep. Today three in ten have no confidence that when Washington tackles a problem it will be solved. That is the highest response on the question since it was first asked in 1991. Nearly three in ten say the federal government does a poor job running its programs and another 46 percent says it does an “only fair” job. A majority say it needs “very major” reform. Only 3 percent say it doesn’t need much change at all. More than twice as many say its performance is getting worse than getting better. The top criticism of government is that it is wasteful and inefficient. [emphasis added]

About 45 percent think government is a threat to personal liberty. Only 3 percent of those polled said the government did not need major reform. The recession and the cumulative impact of TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus plan, and the health-care legislation on public psychology have been “substantial.” In one survey, 50 percent now say they would prefer a smaller government with fewer services, and 39 percent a larger government with more services. The number preferring smaller government has risen dramatically since President Obama took office. The belief that government is doing too many things that are better left to individuals and businesses has also risen.

There is one other conclusion worth noting:

The public is deeply skeptical of big powerful institutions with substantial reach and diffuse missions. Big government, big labor, big business, and big media fall into this category, and public criticism of all is significant.

These results track with what others show. According to a survey done earlier this year by the Pew Research Center, for example, “By almost every conceivable measure, Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days.”

There are a number of explanations for this, including our poor-performing economy (when economic times are bad, anger at government rises). In any event, the irony can’t be lost on anyone: the president with the greatest faith in big government since Lyndon Johnson is overseeing a collapse in support for it. More than any single individual, Barack Obama — the avatar of modern liberalism — is responsible for the ascendancy of conservatism in our time.

AEI’s “Political Report” is devoted to attitudes about the federal government. According to the December 2010 issue, five pollsters conducted significant surveys on the role of government this year. Among the conclusions:

[C]ontemporary criticisms of the federal government are broad and deep. Today three in ten have no confidence that when Washington tackles a problem it will be solved. That is the highest response on the question since it was first asked in 1991. Nearly three in ten say the federal government does a poor job running its programs and another 46 percent says it does an “only fair” job. A majority say it needs “very major” reform. Only 3 percent say it doesn’t need much change at all. More than twice as many say its performance is getting worse than getting better. The top criticism of government is that it is wasteful and inefficient. [emphasis added]

About 45 percent think government is a threat to personal liberty. Only 3 percent of those polled said the government did not need major reform. The recession and the cumulative impact of TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus plan, and the health-care legislation on public psychology have been “substantial.” In one survey, 50 percent now say they would prefer a smaller government with fewer services, and 39 percent a larger government with more services. The number preferring smaller government has risen dramatically since President Obama took office. The belief that government is doing too many things that are better left to individuals and businesses has also risen.

There is one other conclusion worth noting:

The public is deeply skeptical of big powerful institutions with substantial reach and diffuse missions. Big government, big labor, big business, and big media fall into this category, and public criticism of all is significant.

These results track with what others show. According to a survey done earlier this year by the Pew Research Center, for example, “By almost every conceivable measure, Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days.”

There are a number of explanations for this, including our poor-performing economy (when economic times are bad, anger at government rises). In any event, the irony can’t be lost on anyone: the president with the greatest faith in big government since Lyndon Johnson is overseeing a collapse in support for it. More than any single individual, Barack Obama — the avatar of modern liberalism — is responsible for the ascendancy of conservatism in our time.

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Obama’s Biggest Challenge: Reselling Himself and His Party

In his column Charlie Cook writes, “Many Democrats seem to take solace in the idea that stubbornly high unemployment and the terrible economy are to blame for their midterm election losses. They are unwilling to acknowledge that there were some more fundamental factors at work, ones that may be too unpleasant for them to face.”

Among the fundamental factors at work, according to Cook, is the public’s view of government. He calls attention to one classic poll question: “Do you think that government should do more to solve problems, or is government trying to do too many things that would be better left to businesses and individuals?” (The wording of the question varies from pollster to pollster.)

In the 2008 national exit poll, 51 percent of voters surveyed said government should do more to solve problems, while 43 percent said government was trying to do too much. In 2010, only 38 percent thought government should do more, while 56 percent said government was trying to do too much. That’s a 26-point swing in just two years.

Set aside for now the reasons for why the public has turned against government; there’s simply no disputing the fact that they have. And because Barack Obama personifies Big Government in a way no other figure since Lyndon Johnson has, he and his party have suffered mightily.

President Obama’s challenge over the next two years is either to revivify the public’s faith in government or to change people’s impressions of him as the embodiment of a modern, activist liberal. Given his record over the last two years, that won’t be easy. What also complicates matters is that Obama is instinctively and intellectually a man of the left. That is apparent even in the deal he supports to cut tax rates for all Americans, including top income earners. The president cannot help but (repeatedly) express his disdain for key elements of a deal he himself is championing.

The task Mr. Obama faces over the next two years isn’t an impossible one, but it is formidable. He has to remake and resell himself (and his party) after two years of nearly unchecked liberalism. Having cemented this impression with the public, Obama now has the unenviable task of having to employ a political jackhammer to break it apart. Doing so is never easy or pretty.

In his column Charlie Cook writes, “Many Democrats seem to take solace in the idea that stubbornly high unemployment and the terrible economy are to blame for their midterm election losses. They are unwilling to acknowledge that there were some more fundamental factors at work, ones that may be too unpleasant for them to face.”

Among the fundamental factors at work, according to Cook, is the public’s view of government. He calls attention to one classic poll question: “Do you think that government should do more to solve problems, or is government trying to do too many things that would be better left to businesses and individuals?” (The wording of the question varies from pollster to pollster.)

In the 2008 national exit poll, 51 percent of voters surveyed said government should do more to solve problems, while 43 percent said government was trying to do too much. In 2010, only 38 percent thought government should do more, while 56 percent said government was trying to do too much. That’s a 26-point swing in just two years.

Set aside for now the reasons for why the public has turned against government; there’s simply no disputing the fact that they have. And because Barack Obama personifies Big Government in a way no other figure since Lyndon Johnson has, he and his party have suffered mightily.

President Obama’s challenge over the next two years is either to revivify the public’s faith in government or to change people’s impressions of him as the embodiment of a modern, activist liberal. Given his record over the last two years, that won’t be easy. What also complicates matters is that Obama is instinctively and intellectually a man of the left. That is apparent even in the deal he supports to cut tax rates for all Americans, including top income earners. The president cannot help but (repeatedly) express his disdain for key elements of a deal he himself is championing.

The task Mr. Obama faces over the next two years isn’t an impossible one, but it is formidable. He has to remake and resell himself (and his party) after two years of nearly unchecked liberalism. Having cemented this impression with the public, Obama now has the unenviable task of having to employ a political jackhammer to break it apart. Doing so is never easy or pretty.

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Financial Regulation Bill

In its lead editorial today, the Wall Street Journal takes aim at the financial-reform legislation that passed last week. In the words of the Journal:

The unifying theme of the Senate bill that passed last week and the House bill of last year is to hand even more discretion and authority to the same regulators who failed to foresee and in many cases created the last crisis. The Democrats who wrote the bill are selling it as new discipline for Wall Street, but Wall Street knows better. The biggest banks support the bill, and the parts they don’t like they will lobby furiously to change or water down.

Big Finance will more than hold its own with Big Government, as it always does, while politicians will have more power to exact even more campaign tribute. The losers are the overall economy, as financial costs rise, and taxpayers when the next bailout arrives.

The editorial punctures the myth that derivatives were largely unregulated. Our “new lords of the finance look an awful lot like the old lords of regulation, but with much more discretion to write the rules as they please.” And for a market that is desperately in need of clearer rules, what we now have are more opaque and subjective ones.

This legislation is among the most pernicious bills that the Democratic Congress has passed — and that Senate Republicans lacked the will to stop this is, as the Journal points out, their biggest failure this Congress.

This issue is somewhat esoteric but terribly important. In an unstable economic environment, it is making things considerably worse, not better. The liberal Obama agenda continues to roll on, and our country and economy will pay a much higher price than most could have imagined.

In its lead editorial today, the Wall Street Journal takes aim at the financial-reform legislation that passed last week. In the words of the Journal:

The unifying theme of the Senate bill that passed last week and the House bill of last year is to hand even more discretion and authority to the same regulators who failed to foresee and in many cases created the last crisis. The Democrats who wrote the bill are selling it as new discipline for Wall Street, but Wall Street knows better. The biggest banks support the bill, and the parts they don’t like they will lobby furiously to change or water down.

Big Finance will more than hold its own with Big Government, as it always does, while politicians will have more power to exact even more campaign tribute. The losers are the overall economy, as financial costs rise, and taxpayers when the next bailout arrives.

The editorial punctures the myth that derivatives were largely unregulated. Our “new lords of the finance look an awful lot like the old lords of regulation, but with much more discretion to write the rules as they please.” And for a market that is desperately in need of clearer rules, what we now have are more opaque and subjective ones.

This legislation is among the most pernicious bills that the Democratic Congress has passed — and that Senate Republicans lacked the will to stop this is, as the Journal points out, their biggest failure this Congress.

This issue is somewhat esoteric but terribly important. In an unstable economic environment, it is making things considerably worse, not better. The liberal Obama agenda continues to roll on, and our country and economy will pay a much higher price than most could have imagined.

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No Virtue in Specter’s Self-Centered “Bipartisanship”

Regarding Arlen Specter, Dana Milbank writes:

He is ornery, vain, disloyal and a brazen opportunist. He lacks a discernible ideology, puts his finger to the political winds before casting a vote and in the end does what is good for Arlen Specter.

But Milbank is going to miss him, because “whatever his faults, he fought the forces of party unity and ideological purity that are pulling the country apart.”

This is wrong for multiple reasons. First, why is party disloyalty for the sake of doing “what is good” for a pol (i.e., his own perpetual re-election) a noble thing? Sacrificing party loyalty for a principled stance is a different matter. Joe Lieberman is the quintessential example — casting aside partisan loyalty to advocate a robust foreign policy and the promotion of American values. We can say the same of pro-life Democrats when they cast aside party loyalty to uphold their core beliefs (not very often as Bart Stupak showed). Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter are simply opportunists, sniffing out the most expedient position at the moment. Even Milbank concedes: “His Democratic primary opponent, Joe Sestak, finished off the hopelessly contorted Specter with an ad showing him receiving Bush’s endorsement in 2004 and playing Specter’s boast that ‘my change in party will enable me to be reelected.’ Specter will probably be remembered for that unprincipled quote. I’d prefer to remember him for something else.” Yes, because it demonstrates how disdainful is a philosophy built purely around a pol’s self-preservation.

Milbank is also off-base, because there is nothing wrong with offering voters a rather stark ideological choice. Big government or smaller? Human rights promotion or appeasement to dictators? High or low taxes? One gains a governing majority by presenting a well-thought-out vision on both domestic and foreign policy, getting voters to agree, and then going to Washington with a mandate to govern. And if a politician misrepresents what he is about during the campaign or overreaches (as Obama has done), then a new choice, a new election, and a new mandate will follow.

And finally, the country is not being “pulled apart.” We have a revival of grassroots politics, a new crop of candidates, and a vibrant debate about the role of government and America’s role in the world. How is that bad? And why shouldn’t we see this as an affirmation of the health of our democracy and of the benefits of new media that can assist organizers and facilitate a robust debate between competing philosophies?

In sum, bipartisanship, if conducted on a principled basis for good and honorable ends (e.g., defense of the country), is to be cherished. But bipartisanship without any purpose other than self-preservation or for destructive goals is no virtue. And that’s why Arlen Specter’s defeat is to be celebrated.

Regarding Arlen Specter, Dana Milbank writes:

He is ornery, vain, disloyal and a brazen opportunist. He lacks a discernible ideology, puts his finger to the political winds before casting a vote and in the end does what is good for Arlen Specter.

But Milbank is going to miss him, because “whatever his faults, he fought the forces of party unity and ideological purity that are pulling the country apart.”

This is wrong for multiple reasons. First, why is party disloyalty for the sake of doing “what is good” for a pol (i.e., his own perpetual re-election) a noble thing? Sacrificing party loyalty for a principled stance is a different matter. Joe Lieberman is the quintessential example — casting aside partisan loyalty to advocate a robust foreign policy and the promotion of American values. We can say the same of pro-life Democrats when they cast aside party loyalty to uphold their core beliefs (not very often as Bart Stupak showed). Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter are simply opportunists, sniffing out the most expedient position at the moment. Even Milbank concedes: “His Democratic primary opponent, Joe Sestak, finished off the hopelessly contorted Specter with an ad showing him receiving Bush’s endorsement in 2004 and playing Specter’s boast that ‘my change in party will enable me to be reelected.’ Specter will probably be remembered for that unprincipled quote. I’d prefer to remember him for something else.” Yes, because it demonstrates how disdainful is a philosophy built purely around a pol’s self-preservation.

Milbank is also off-base, because there is nothing wrong with offering voters a rather stark ideological choice. Big government or smaller? Human rights promotion or appeasement to dictators? High or low taxes? One gains a governing majority by presenting a well-thought-out vision on both domestic and foreign policy, getting voters to agree, and then going to Washington with a mandate to govern. And if a politician misrepresents what he is about during the campaign or overreaches (as Obama has done), then a new choice, a new election, and a new mandate will follow.

And finally, the country is not being “pulled apart.” We have a revival of grassroots politics, a new crop of candidates, and a vibrant debate about the role of government and America’s role in the world. How is that bad? And why shouldn’t we see this as an affirmation of the health of our democracy and of the benefits of new media that can assist organizers and facilitate a robust debate between competing philosophies?

In sum, bipartisanship, if conducted on a principled basis for good and honorable ends (e.g., defense of the country), is to be cherished. But bipartisanship without any purpose other than self-preservation or for destructive goals is no virtue. And that’s why Arlen Specter’s defeat is to be celebrated.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The exception to the rule that I never mention poetry.

Dan Coats takes a big lead in Indiana. “Newly chosen Republican nominee Dan Coats earns 51% support while his Democratic rival Brad Ellsworth’s attracts 36% in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the Indiana Senate race following Tuesday’s GOP Primary.”

A huge majority — 60 to 32 percent — still favor offshore drilling. And that’s in the Daily Kos poll.

When more people get hired, more enter the job market, and there aren’t enough new jobs to absorb them. So despite 290,000 new jobs: “The unemployment rate, however, crept up to 9.9 percent in April from 9.7 percent in March, mostly the government said, because about 805,000 people joined the labor force either working or looking for work. Yet in a sign that many will not be able to find a job even as the economy improves, the number of people who have been out of work for more than six months hit 6.7 million, nearly 46 percent of the unemployed.”

The result of 15 months of Obama’s Iran policy: “Iran will not stop enriching uranium and has a right to pursue atomic technology, the country’s foreign minister told UN Security Council diplomats at a private dinner. A US official familiar with Thursday night’s meeting in New York told The Associated Press that Manouchehr Mottaki was defiant in the face of demands that Iran halt the process that can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon. … Mottaki said Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment, according to the US official. The foreign minister said that position was firm and would not change even if Iran accepted a proposal to send uranium from a medical research reactor in Teheran abroad for reprocessing, the official said Friday.”

Maybe it is because, as Israel’s UN Ambassador says, the sanctions under contemplation “are not going to be crippling. … They’re not even going to be biting. … They’re going to be moderate, watered down, diluted.”

Eric Holder only allows career employees with nice things to say about the administration to speak up. “So here were two customs officers speaking on national television about what they did in this case, revealing to the world (and any terrorist networks) the strengths and weaknesses of our airline-security system. They obviously could not appear without having gotten permission from the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which is handling the prosecution of this case. Yet Eric Holder refuses to let his front-line Voting Section employees talk about what happened in the New Black Panther case (even purely factual matters having nothing to due with any DOJ deliberations), unlawfully defying subpoenas from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Ronald Brownstein is surprised: “The great political surprise of Obama’s presidency is that amid these hard times, the electorate has directed its frustration less against Big Business (though it is hardly popular) than against Big Government, especially as Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach in response to the economic crisis.” I think it’s because Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach.

The exception to the rule that I never mention poetry.

Dan Coats takes a big lead in Indiana. “Newly chosen Republican nominee Dan Coats earns 51% support while his Democratic rival Brad Ellsworth’s attracts 36% in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the Indiana Senate race following Tuesday’s GOP Primary.”

A huge majority — 60 to 32 percent — still favor offshore drilling. And that’s in the Daily Kos poll.

When more people get hired, more enter the job market, and there aren’t enough new jobs to absorb them. So despite 290,000 new jobs: “The unemployment rate, however, crept up to 9.9 percent in April from 9.7 percent in March, mostly the government said, because about 805,000 people joined the labor force either working or looking for work. Yet in a sign that many will not be able to find a job even as the economy improves, the number of people who have been out of work for more than six months hit 6.7 million, nearly 46 percent of the unemployed.”

The result of 15 months of Obama’s Iran policy: “Iran will not stop enriching uranium and has a right to pursue atomic technology, the country’s foreign minister told UN Security Council diplomats at a private dinner. A US official familiar with Thursday night’s meeting in New York told The Associated Press that Manouchehr Mottaki was defiant in the face of demands that Iran halt the process that can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon. … Mottaki said Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment, according to the US official. The foreign minister said that position was firm and would not change even if Iran accepted a proposal to send uranium from a medical research reactor in Teheran abroad for reprocessing, the official said Friday.”

Maybe it is because, as Israel’s UN Ambassador says, the sanctions under contemplation “are not going to be crippling. … They’re not even going to be biting. … They’re going to be moderate, watered down, diluted.”

Eric Holder only allows career employees with nice things to say about the administration to speak up. “So here were two customs officers speaking on national television about what they did in this case, revealing to the world (and any terrorist networks) the strengths and weaknesses of our airline-security system. They obviously could not appear without having gotten permission from the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which is handling the prosecution of this case. Yet Eric Holder refuses to let his front-line Voting Section employees talk about what happened in the New Black Panther case (even purely factual matters having nothing to due with any DOJ deliberations), unlawfully defying subpoenas from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Ronald Brownstein is surprised: “The great political surprise of Obama’s presidency is that amid these hard times, the electorate has directed its frustration less against Big Business (though it is hardly popular) than against Big Government, especially as Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach in response to the economic crisis.” I think it’s because Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach.

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Assassinating Tocqueville

Reading François Furstenberg’s ill-founded assault on Alexis de Tocqueville on Slate.com, one is left wondering whether the history-professor-turned-reviewer has ever actually read Democracy in America.

Furstenberg, in reviewing Tocqueville’s Discovery of America by Leo Damrosch, purports to answer “what Tocqueville and his friend really did on their travels.” Because collecting material for what would become a political-science classic must have been a paltry time commitment, the reviewer suggests that Tocqueville “flirted his way through salons and dinner parties, stumbling along in mediocre English, complaining about the prudishness of American women.”

This review makes several ungrounded criticisms of poor Alexis, who is quite regrettably too long gone to defend himself. But because Democracy in America is such an enduring work, and because some of Tocqueville’s warnings are at their most relevant today, the review deserves to be dismantled piece by piece, pairing Furstenberg’s cheap shots with Tocqueville’s actual words.

(Furstenberg might be thrilled to discover that Democracy in America is not only found in libraries around the country, including at the New York Public Library, to which he has full access through May 2010 as a fellow there — it is also available online in its entirety, both Volume 1 and Volume 2 — searchable, even, for the sake of convenience. Given Furstenberg’s demonstrated interest in the topic, I highly recommend it to him.)

Furstenberg’s criticism centers on class and race, both of which Tocqueville treats at length. He repeatedly takes out of context Tocqueville’s writings on race relations. “[Tocqueville] bumped into Native Americans being expelled from the eastern states on the infamous Trail of Tears. But he didn’t make much of it, failing to connect that experience to his own reflections on the danger of the tyranny of the majority,” writes Furstenberg.

He must have somehow missed Tocqueville’s lengthy analysis of the injustices committed against the Native Americans, to be found in Volume 1, where he describes how, through trickery and coercion, American settlers “obtain, at a very low price, whole provinces, which the richest sovereigns of Europe could not purchase. … These are great evils; and it must be added that they appear to me to be irremediable.” In fact, Tocqueville portrays the Native Americans as the last remnants of the noble warrior-aristocracy, and he bemoans their degradation and the loss of their civilization.

Yet Furstenberg continues with his race-based criticism. He wrongly implies that slavery was not a big issue for Tocqueville:

Clearly Tocqueville, unlike Beaumont, believed that slavery and racism did not touch on “the essential nature of democracy,” as Damrosch puts it. … When he did turn his mind to the subjects [of race and slavery], moreover, Tocqueville was exceedingly gloomy, convinced that a multiracial democracy was impossible. If slaves ever gained their freedom, he predicted a genocidal war: ‘the most horrible of all civil wars, and perhaps the destruction of one of the two races.’ … One of the most striking features of emancipation, as it actually happened a generation later, was the lack of violence foreseen by Tocqueville and many others.

But Democracy in America clearly outlines Tocqueville’s strong concern about slavery and its consequences for the future of American democracy. He describes slavery as a “permanent evil,” a “calamity,” and a “wound thus inflicted on humanity.” The consequences of slavery would be even more far-reaching and disastrous, Tocqueville supposes, because “the abstract and transient fact of slavery is fatally united with the physical and permanent fact of color.” He expects that “the moderns, then, after they have abolished slavery, have three prejudices to contend against, which are less easy to attack, and far less easy to conquer than the mere fact of servitude, — the prejudice of the master, the prejudice of the race, and the prejudice of color.”

Furstenberg seems to misunderstand Tocqueville entirely on this point. Far from downplaying the importance of slavery, Tocqueville questions how it can be overcome, and without the violence and devastation of the kind seen in the French Revolution. Furthermore, one might wonder what sort of historical rejiggering has led Furstenberg to think emancipation or civil-rights strides occurred in an atmosphere “lack[ing] of violence.” Democracy in America predicts the ways slavery has promoted racism and acknowledges that the abolition of slavery will not solve America’s racism problem. It is especially baffling that Furstenberg, who has written a book about slavery and U.S. nationalism, missed this.

But the writer is not only wrong about Tocqueville’s ideas about race. He also writes, “Busy chatting in the parlors of wealthy Americans, Tocqueville didn’t seem to notice the artisans slowly being forced into unskilled labor, or immigrant dockworkers, or freed blacks struggling to eke out a living on the margins of American life.” He must have missed entirely the portion of Democracy in America where Tocqueville worries about the intellectual consequences of division of labor:

What can be expected of a man who has spent twenty years of his life in making heads for pins? And to what can that mighty human intelligence, which has so often stirred the world, be applied to him, except it be to investigate the best method of making pins’ heads? … Thus at the very time at which the science of manufactures lowers the class of workmen, it raises the class of masters.

Tocqueville goes on to acknowledge that the supervisor-worker relationship begins to look like that between the aristocratic master and the “brute” — and “what is this but aristocracy?” he asks. More broadly, Furstenberg overlooks Tocqueville’s plentiful examples of working-class Americans who find both their work and the profit earned from it honorable. A close reading of Democracy in America proves the author both realistic and respectful about the working class.

The bigger point is that, read in context, Tocqueville’s writing often portrays the working class favorably and emphatically condemns slavery and racism. The advocates of Big Government may have good reason to go after Tocqueville, who was one of the first to warn about the dangers of the welfare state in democratic societies. Perhaps their bone with Tocqueville is that he prizes liberty and dares to note the risks of absolute equality, even after fairly observing the conditions of workers and minorities. If this book review is not an academic oversight on Furstenberg’s part, it is certainly character assassination.

Reading François Furstenberg’s ill-founded assault on Alexis de Tocqueville on Slate.com, one is left wondering whether the history-professor-turned-reviewer has ever actually read Democracy in America.

Furstenberg, in reviewing Tocqueville’s Discovery of America by Leo Damrosch, purports to answer “what Tocqueville and his friend really did on their travels.” Because collecting material for what would become a political-science classic must have been a paltry time commitment, the reviewer suggests that Tocqueville “flirted his way through salons and dinner parties, stumbling along in mediocre English, complaining about the prudishness of American women.”

This review makes several ungrounded criticisms of poor Alexis, who is quite regrettably too long gone to defend himself. But because Democracy in America is such an enduring work, and because some of Tocqueville’s warnings are at their most relevant today, the review deserves to be dismantled piece by piece, pairing Furstenberg’s cheap shots with Tocqueville’s actual words.

(Furstenberg might be thrilled to discover that Democracy in America is not only found in libraries around the country, including at the New York Public Library, to which he has full access through May 2010 as a fellow there — it is also available online in its entirety, both Volume 1 and Volume 2 — searchable, even, for the sake of convenience. Given Furstenberg’s demonstrated interest in the topic, I highly recommend it to him.)

Furstenberg’s criticism centers on class and race, both of which Tocqueville treats at length. He repeatedly takes out of context Tocqueville’s writings on race relations. “[Tocqueville] bumped into Native Americans being expelled from the eastern states on the infamous Trail of Tears. But he didn’t make much of it, failing to connect that experience to his own reflections on the danger of the tyranny of the majority,” writes Furstenberg.

He must have somehow missed Tocqueville’s lengthy analysis of the injustices committed against the Native Americans, to be found in Volume 1, where he describes how, through trickery and coercion, American settlers “obtain, at a very low price, whole provinces, which the richest sovereigns of Europe could not purchase. … These are great evils; and it must be added that they appear to me to be irremediable.” In fact, Tocqueville portrays the Native Americans as the last remnants of the noble warrior-aristocracy, and he bemoans their degradation and the loss of their civilization.

Yet Furstenberg continues with his race-based criticism. He wrongly implies that slavery was not a big issue for Tocqueville:

Clearly Tocqueville, unlike Beaumont, believed that slavery and racism did not touch on “the essential nature of democracy,” as Damrosch puts it. … When he did turn his mind to the subjects [of race and slavery], moreover, Tocqueville was exceedingly gloomy, convinced that a multiracial democracy was impossible. If slaves ever gained their freedom, he predicted a genocidal war: ‘the most horrible of all civil wars, and perhaps the destruction of one of the two races.’ … One of the most striking features of emancipation, as it actually happened a generation later, was the lack of violence foreseen by Tocqueville and many others.

But Democracy in America clearly outlines Tocqueville’s strong concern about slavery and its consequences for the future of American democracy. He describes slavery as a “permanent evil,” a “calamity,” and a “wound thus inflicted on humanity.” The consequences of slavery would be even more far-reaching and disastrous, Tocqueville supposes, because “the abstract and transient fact of slavery is fatally united with the physical and permanent fact of color.” He expects that “the moderns, then, after they have abolished slavery, have three prejudices to contend against, which are less easy to attack, and far less easy to conquer than the mere fact of servitude, — the prejudice of the master, the prejudice of the race, and the prejudice of color.”

Furstenberg seems to misunderstand Tocqueville entirely on this point. Far from downplaying the importance of slavery, Tocqueville questions how it can be overcome, and without the violence and devastation of the kind seen in the French Revolution. Furthermore, one might wonder what sort of historical rejiggering has led Furstenberg to think emancipation or civil-rights strides occurred in an atmosphere “lack[ing] of violence.” Democracy in America predicts the ways slavery has promoted racism and acknowledges that the abolition of slavery will not solve America’s racism problem. It is especially baffling that Furstenberg, who has written a book about slavery and U.S. nationalism, missed this.

But the writer is not only wrong about Tocqueville’s ideas about race. He also writes, “Busy chatting in the parlors of wealthy Americans, Tocqueville didn’t seem to notice the artisans slowly being forced into unskilled labor, or immigrant dockworkers, or freed blacks struggling to eke out a living on the margins of American life.” He must have missed entirely the portion of Democracy in America where Tocqueville worries about the intellectual consequences of division of labor:

What can be expected of a man who has spent twenty years of his life in making heads for pins? And to what can that mighty human intelligence, which has so often stirred the world, be applied to him, except it be to investigate the best method of making pins’ heads? … Thus at the very time at which the science of manufactures lowers the class of workmen, it raises the class of masters.

Tocqueville goes on to acknowledge that the supervisor-worker relationship begins to look like that between the aristocratic master and the “brute” — and “what is this but aristocracy?” he asks. More broadly, Furstenberg overlooks Tocqueville’s plentiful examples of working-class Americans who find both their work and the profit earned from it honorable. A close reading of Democracy in America proves the author both realistic and respectful about the working class.

The bigger point is that, read in context, Tocqueville’s writing often portrays the working class favorably and emphatically condemns slavery and racism. The advocates of Big Government may have good reason to go after Tocqueville, who was one of the first to warn about the dangers of the welfare state in democratic societies. Perhaps their bone with Tocqueville is that he prizes liberty and dares to note the risks of absolute equality, even after fairly observing the conditions of workers and minorities. If this book review is not an academic oversight on Furstenberg’s part, it is certainly character assassination.

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The Blame Game Continues

“If you want to be honest, face these facts: At this moment, President Obama is losing, Democrats are losing and liberals are losing.” Sen. Mitch McConnell, perhaps? A radio talk show host? No, none other than E.J. Dionne. After months of spinning for the Obami, explaining that the Republicans were on their last legs and promising we were on the brink of passing ObamaCare, he now bemoans, “Who’s winning? Republicans, conservatives, the practitioners of obstruction and the Tea Party.”

But still, Dionne won’t concede the obvious and rails at the notion that Obama and the Democrats in Congress have brought this on themselves by their ultra-liberal agenda. Instead he blames Scott Brown’s win. (OK, so how’d that happen?) And then he blames the Senate. The way it operates, you see, is the problem — all those deals and all that compromising on ObamaCare (which he previously said would have to be “sold” to voters after the fact). And then he blames the Republicans, who have bamboozled the public: “The economy is a mess. Obama and the Democrats are for big government. Big government is responsible for the mess. Therefore the mess is the fault of Obama and the Big Government Democrats. Simplistic and misleading? Absolutely.”

Actually, it is Dionne’s diagnosis that’s simplistic and misleading. The economy is a mess. And the Obama agenda has nothing to do with solving it. Instead he and Congress have gone on a leftward jag that has scared the public, exacerbated the debt problem, freaked out investors and employers, and convinced voters that Obama is divorced from the immediate economic concerns they want addressed. And the voters are mighty sick of blaming George W. Bush, the Republicans, the filibuster, and anything else that pops to mind as a diversion. They want those in power to govern already.

Dionne remains baffled that Obama, the Democrats, and their extreme agenda would be blamed for Democrats’ sinking approval. “But if liberals and Obama are so smart, how did they — or, if you prefer, ‘we’ — allow conservatives to make this argument so effectively? Why do the mainstream media give it so much credence?” Well, it could be right, you know. After all, it explains election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and matches up with polling that shows the public’s aversion to the Democrats’ agenda.

At some point, maybe after the November election, Dionne and the Obami he defends so earnestly will need to do some soul-searching and decide if they want to maintain their isolation from reality. It’s comforting to blame everyone else for their travails, but it’s ultimately not a winning political strategy.

“If you want to be honest, face these facts: At this moment, President Obama is losing, Democrats are losing and liberals are losing.” Sen. Mitch McConnell, perhaps? A radio talk show host? No, none other than E.J. Dionne. After months of spinning for the Obami, explaining that the Republicans were on their last legs and promising we were on the brink of passing ObamaCare, he now bemoans, “Who’s winning? Republicans, conservatives, the practitioners of obstruction and the Tea Party.”

But still, Dionne won’t concede the obvious and rails at the notion that Obama and the Democrats in Congress have brought this on themselves by their ultra-liberal agenda. Instead he blames Scott Brown’s win. (OK, so how’d that happen?) And then he blames the Senate. The way it operates, you see, is the problem — all those deals and all that compromising on ObamaCare (which he previously said would have to be “sold” to voters after the fact). And then he blames the Republicans, who have bamboozled the public: “The economy is a mess. Obama and the Democrats are for big government. Big government is responsible for the mess. Therefore the mess is the fault of Obama and the Big Government Democrats. Simplistic and misleading? Absolutely.”

Actually, it is Dionne’s diagnosis that’s simplistic and misleading. The economy is a mess. And the Obama agenda has nothing to do with solving it. Instead he and Congress have gone on a leftward jag that has scared the public, exacerbated the debt problem, freaked out investors and employers, and convinced voters that Obama is divorced from the immediate economic concerns they want addressed. And the voters are mighty sick of blaming George W. Bush, the Republicans, the filibuster, and anything else that pops to mind as a diversion. They want those in power to govern already.

Dionne remains baffled that Obama, the Democrats, and their extreme agenda would be blamed for Democrats’ sinking approval. “But if liberals and Obama are so smart, how did they — or, if you prefer, ‘we’ — allow conservatives to make this argument so effectively? Why do the mainstream media give it so much credence?” Well, it could be right, you know. After all, it explains election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and matches up with polling that shows the public’s aversion to the Democrats’ agenda.

At some point, maybe after the November election, Dionne and the Obami he defends so earnestly will need to do some soul-searching and decide if they want to maintain their isolation from reality. It’s comforting to blame everyone else for their travails, but it’s ultimately not a winning political strategy.

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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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Another Backroom Deal

According to this report, Big Labor bosses and the Obama administration have cut a deal on the plan to tax the so-called Cadillac health insurance plans:

Under the Senate bill, health insurers would pay a 40% tax on premiums that exceed $8,500 annually for individuals, or $23,000 for family plans. Those thresholds will increase under the agreement reached Thursday, though it could not be immediately learned by how much.

Dental and vision benefits won’t count toward those plans, according to Congressional sources.

Democrats also agreed to add a provision making the tax less onerous on older workers and women, a union official said. Union sources cautioned that the agreement isn’t finalized because it is still being presented to the various unions.

So Obama will still renege on his pledge not to tax those making less than$250,000 — but not as badly as before. And union members will get taxed, but a little less. Aside from the thrill of being part of a historic sellout . . . er . . . grand compromise, what is in this for Big Labor? Their members have health-care benefits. Now they are going to be taxed or have their plans trimmed to subsidize other Americans. That would include many Americans who will be forced to buy insurance they heretofore didn’t want or couldn’t afford. But now they have no choice. They must sign up with Big Insurance for a plan approved by the government.

If ever there were an example of what drives average Americans nuts, this is it. A behind-closed-door deal in which Big Labor, Big Government, and Big Insurance cut an agreement to raise taxes and tell the rest of us what insurance we are going to buy. And the elite media and liberal politicians can’t figure out why there is a rising tide of populist anger out there. Really, it’s not that hard to figure out.

According to this report, Big Labor bosses and the Obama administration have cut a deal on the plan to tax the so-called Cadillac health insurance plans:

Under the Senate bill, health insurers would pay a 40% tax on premiums that exceed $8,500 annually for individuals, or $23,000 for family plans. Those thresholds will increase under the agreement reached Thursday, though it could not be immediately learned by how much.

Dental and vision benefits won’t count toward those plans, according to Congressional sources.

Democrats also agreed to add a provision making the tax less onerous on older workers and women, a union official said. Union sources cautioned that the agreement isn’t finalized because it is still being presented to the various unions.

So Obama will still renege on his pledge not to tax those making less than$250,000 — but not as badly as before. And union members will get taxed, but a little less. Aside from the thrill of being part of a historic sellout . . . er . . . grand compromise, what is in this for Big Labor? Their members have health-care benefits. Now they are going to be taxed or have their plans trimmed to subsidize other Americans. That would include many Americans who will be forced to buy insurance they heretofore didn’t want or couldn’t afford. But now they have no choice. They must sign up with Big Insurance for a plan approved by the government.

If ever there were an example of what drives average Americans nuts, this is it. A behind-closed-door deal in which Big Labor, Big Government, and Big Insurance cut an agreement to raise taxes and tell the rest of us what insurance we are going to buy. And the elite media and liberal politicians can’t figure out why there is a rising tide of populist anger out there. Really, it’s not that hard to figure out.

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Suspending Reason

Kim Strassel notes that support for ObamaCare seems to be, well, slight. The polling is atrocious. The Left has gone bonkers over the loss of the public option. The bill’s particulars are essentially unknown. So why the furor to get it passed? Strassel suggests:

The liberal wing of the party—the Barney Franks, the David Obeys—are focused beyond November 2010, to the long-term political prize. They want a health-care program that inevitably leads to a value-added tax and a permanent welfare state. Big government then becomes fact, and another Ronald Reagan becomes impossible. See Continental Europe.

The entitlement crazes of the 1930s and 1960s also caused a backlash, but liberal Democrats know the programs of those periods survived. They are more than happy to sacrifice a few Blue Dogs, a Blanche Lincoln, a Michael Bennet, if they can expand government so that in the long run it benefits the party of government.

So why haven’t the vulnerable Democrats caught on, and why are they still supporting this? Well, the Red State Democrats may feel queasy, but they’re being cajoled and strong-armed on a daily basis. These are creatures of the party, and the party, with all its leaders, is pressing ahead, urging them to stick with their colleagues. And when the president calls you to the White House, it’s awfully hard to say no.

And then there’s the interpretation — or misinterpretation — of 1994. The White House has held up the collapse of HillaryCare and the Democratic wipeout in 1994 as evidence of what happens to an incumbent party that doesn’t do something, no matter how half-baked. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary, as Jeffrey Anderson and Andy Wickersham point out. They note that those Democrats who suffered most at the polls in 1994 were not conservative Democrats but instead those typical mainstream Democrats who supported HillaryCare.

So Red State Democrats are caught in a bind. Their president and leaders are pushing hard for them to support ObamaCare. The voters are telling them that if they vote for this monstrosity, they will suffer at the polls. If they can withstand the pressure tactics and if they think hard about 1994 and 2010, they might reconsider being sent off to political slaughter. But Harry Reid promises to keep them there 24 hours a day, just the environment that makes rational decision-making nearly impossible.

Kim Strassel notes that support for ObamaCare seems to be, well, slight. The polling is atrocious. The Left has gone bonkers over the loss of the public option. The bill’s particulars are essentially unknown. So why the furor to get it passed? Strassel suggests:

The liberal wing of the party—the Barney Franks, the David Obeys—are focused beyond November 2010, to the long-term political prize. They want a health-care program that inevitably leads to a value-added tax and a permanent welfare state. Big government then becomes fact, and another Ronald Reagan becomes impossible. See Continental Europe.

The entitlement crazes of the 1930s and 1960s also caused a backlash, but liberal Democrats know the programs of those periods survived. They are more than happy to sacrifice a few Blue Dogs, a Blanche Lincoln, a Michael Bennet, if they can expand government so that in the long run it benefits the party of government.

So why haven’t the vulnerable Democrats caught on, and why are they still supporting this? Well, the Red State Democrats may feel queasy, but they’re being cajoled and strong-armed on a daily basis. These are creatures of the party, and the party, with all its leaders, is pressing ahead, urging them to stick with their colleagues. And when the president calls you to the White House, it’s awfully hard to say no.

And then there’s the interpretation — or misinterpretation — of 1994. The White House has held up the collapse of HillaryCare and the Democratic wipeout in 1994 as evidence of what happens to an incumbent party that doesn’t do something, no matter how half-baked. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary, as Jeffrey Anderson and Andy Wickersham point out. They note that those Democrats who suffered most at the polls in 1994 were not conservative Democrats but instead those typical mainstream Democrats who supported HillaryCare.

So Red State Democrats are caught in a bind. Their president and leaders are pushing hard for them to support ObamaCare. The voters are telling them that if they vote for this monstrosity, they will suffer at the polls. If they can withstand the pressure tactics and if they think hard about 1994 and 2010, they might reconsider being sent off to political slaughter. But Harry Reid promises to keep them there 24 hours a day, just the environment that makes rational decision-making nearly impossible.

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It’s All Gone

The radiant charm; the verbal agility; the promise of change; the post-racial unity; the deferential press; and most importantly, the vagueness of character and intent that sustained the whole façade. These were the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s run for the Democratic nomination, and bit-by-bit, associate-by-associate, gaffe-by-gaffe, the junior senator from Illinois has given all of it back. The extraordinary bounty that had made his campaign a nearly unstoppable force of nature is gone.

With last Sunday’s revelation—that he looks at smalltown America and finds armed, hate-filled, irredentist religious zealots—the last piece of the Obama puzzle fell into place. He is not, it turns out, an agent of change; he is a walking checklist of modern liberal inanities. Big government: check. Crippling taxes: check. Arrogance: check. Identity divisiveness: check. Moral superiority: check. Softness on enemies: check. Shakiness on Israel: check. Questionable patriotism: check.

Half a year ago, the formula for a serious journalistic portrait of Barack Obama was as follows: one extra long cosmetic description, one detailed childhood recap, some praise for his efforts as a memoirist, and a closing discussion of a nation poised for change. No one knew enough about the man’s politics to delve further. However, in the course of a few months he has created a resume of mistakes that’s left the content of those early articles looking as relevant as the lines on a printer test. Today’s Obama portrait is of a man embattled, a candidate whose repeatedly faulty judgment demands explanation.

Yet, the math is the math is the math, and as we know the superdelegates are his to lose. While they may now realize they’ve thrown in their lot with the dazzling candidate from a few months ago, turning their backs on the candidate who can’t stop fumbling today could cause a scandal—one perhaps even bigger than the scandals repeatedly served up by Hillary and Obama. However, it’s a scandal the party leadership may decide to weather, because the man who has at last filled out the empty suit has turned out to be very very beatable.

The radiant charm; the verbal agility; the promise of change; the post-racial unity; the deferential press; and most importantly, the vagueness of character and intent that sustained the whole façade. These were the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s run for the Democratic nomination, and bit-by-bit, associate-by-associate, gaffe-by-gaffe, the junior senator from Illinois has given all of it back. The extraordinary bounty that had made his campaign a nearly unstoppable force of nature is gone.

With last Sunday’s revelation—that he looks at smalltown America and finds armed, hate-filled, irredentist religious zealots—the last piece of the Obama puzzle fell into place. He is not, it turns out, an agent of change; he is a walking checklist of modern liberal inanities. Big government: check. Crippling taxes: check. Arrogance: check. Identity divisiveness: check. Moral superiority: check. Softness on enemies: check. Shakiness on Israel: check. Questionable patriotism: check.

Half a year ago, the formula for a serious journalistic portrait of Barack Obama was as follows: one extra long cosmetic description, one detailed childhood recap, some praise for his efforts as a memoirist, and a closing discussion of a nation poised for change. No one knew enough about the man’s politics to delve further. However, in the course of a few months he has created a resume of mistakes that’s left the content of those early articles looking as relevant as the lines on a printer test. Today’s Obama portrait is of a man embattled, a candidate whose repeatedly faulty judgment demands explanation.

Yet, the math is the math is the math, and as we know the superdelegates are his to lose. While they may now realize they’ve thrown in their lot with the dazzling candidate from a few months ago, turning their backs on the candidate who can’t stop fumbling today could cause a scandal—one perhaps even bigger than the scandals repeatedly served up by Hillary and Obama. However, it’s a scandal the party leadership may decide to weather, because the man who has at last filled out the empty suit has turned out to be very very beatable.

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