Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bill Halter

RE: Obama’s Boring Speech

Things have gotten so bad for Obama that MSNBC pundits sound like me. The troika of Keith Olbermann, Howard Fineman, and Chris Matthews, ripping Obama’s Oval Office speech with the bitterness of spurned lovers, complain he didn’t do much or say much or project much leadership. And indeed, with his hands folded on that really big and empty desk, you got the impression not that Obama was in charge of that office but that he didn’t do much real work there.

Salon’s Joan Walsh was similarly dismissive. (“I was underwhelmed by President Obama’s first Oval Office speech, as I expected to be. From the moment he began, hands folded on his desk like a well-behaved student, the imagery and energy was off, inadequate to the visual, horror-movie scope of the Gulf oil disaster.”) Maureen Dowd remains infuriated with the hapless president. (“How can a man who was a dazzling enough politician to become the first black president at age 47 suddenly become so obdurately self-destructive about politics?”) Hmm. Because he’s in over his head? Because all he’s ever done is promote himself? Even Politico — the Daily Variety of D.C., which has few harsh words for the town’s stars — acknowledged that “this wasn’t one of Obama’s best speeches” and observed “it wasn’t entirely clear where Obama would go from here to achieve this ‘national mission.’”

This was  certainly the liberal media’s big chance to write the “Comeback Kid” story on the oil spill, as they tried to do after every equally ineffective health-care address (“Game changer!” we heard after nothing at all was changed). Instead, they informed the president that he’s no FDR. (Howard Fineman: “It was Obama who compared the Gulf disaster to World War Two, and it was, unfortunately, Obama who was unable to approach let alone match the specificity, combativeness and passion of Franklin Roosevelt.”) Have they suddenly become more savvy or recovered their objectivity? Perhaps they see it all crumbling — the generic polling, the NPR poll, and the president’s ratings slide all confirm that Obama and his party are heading for a drubbing.

Not unlike what the White House did to Creigh Deeds: rather than admit to the failure of liberal ideas, the easiest solution is to blame the candidate — in this case, the perpetual candidate who resides in the White House. So just as readily as they scrambled onto the Obama bandwagon, they are scurrying off. The MSNBC gang and liberal columnists look now to empathize with and retain the loyalty of their liberal audience, which is frustrated that the “sort of a God” has proved inept.

The same “Run for your lives!” mentality will soon take hold of the Democrats on the ballot. Whether they aim to reconnect with their base (as Bill Halter tried to do) or dash to the center of the political spectrum, they will flee from association with the president for whom they walked the plank on vote after vote. I suspect they will have as hard a time retaining voters as MSNBC, Salon, and the New York Times will in keeping their target audience and readership. The Democratic base is depressed — for good reason — and probably won’t be much interested in voting, watching gobs of cable news, or reading endless recriminations from aggrieved columnists as the liberal media tracks the descent of the Obama presidency.

Things have gotten so bad for Obama that MSNBC pundits sound like me. The troika of Keith Olbermann, Howard Fineman, and Chris Matthews, ripping Obama’s Oval Office speech with the bitterness of spurned lovers, complain he didn’t do much or say much or project much leadership. And indeed, with his hands folded on that really big and empty desk, you got the impression not that Obama was in charge of that office but that he didn’t do much real work there.

Salon’s Joan Walsh was similarly dismissive. (“I was underwhelmed by President Obama’s first Oval Office speech, as I expected to be. From the moment he began, hands folded on his desk like a well-behaved student, the imagery and energy was off, inadequate to the visual, horror-movie scope of the Gulf oil disaster.”) Maureen Dowd remains infuriated with the hapless president. (“How can a man who was a dazzling enough politician to become the first black president at age 47 suddenly become so obdurately self-destructive about politics?”) Hmm. Because he’s in over his head? Because all he’s ever done is promote himself? Even Politico — the Daily Variety of D.C., which has few harsh words for the town’s stars — acknowledged that “this wasn’t one of Obama’s best speeches” and observed “it wasn’t entirely clear where Obama would go from here to achieve this ‘national mission.’”

This was  certainly the liberal media’s big chance to write the “Comeback Kid” story on the oil spill, as they tried to do after every equally ineffective health-care address (“Game changer!” we heard after nothing at all was changed). Instead, they informed the president that he’s no FDR. (Howard Fineman: “It was Obama who compared the Gulf disaster to World War Two, and it was, unfortunately, Obama who was unable to approach let alone match the specificity, combativeness and passion of Franklin Roosevelt.”) Have they suddenly become more savvy or recovered their objectivity? Perhaps they see it all crumbling — the generic polling, the NPR poll, and the president’s ratings slide all confirm that Obama and his party are heading for a drubbing.

Not unlike what the White House did to Creigh Deeds: rather than admit to the failure of liberal ideas, the easiest solution is to blame the candidate — in this case, the perpetual candidate who resides in the White House. So just as readily as they scrambled onto the Obama bandwagon, they are scurrying off. The MSNBC gang and liberal columnists look now to empathize with and retain the loyalty of their liberal audience, which is frustrated that the “sort of a God” has proved inept.

The same “Run for your lives!” mentality will soon take hold of the Democrats on the ballot. Whether they aim to reconnect with their base (as Bill Halter tried to do) or dash to the center of the political spectrum, they will flee from association with the president for whom they walked the plank on vote after vote. I suspect they will have as hard a time retaining voters as MSNBC, Salon, and the New York Times will in keeping their target audience and readership. The Democratic base is depressed — for good reason — and probably won’t be much interested in voting, watching gobs of cable news, or reading endless recriminations from aggrieved columnists as the liberal media tracks the descent of the Obama presidency.

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What Those Primary Results Mean

Blanche Lincoln narrowly beat her Democratic challenger Bill Halter. She is among the walking wounded stumbling into the November election and is unlikely to keep her seat. Ben Smith got the quote of the night: “A senior White House official just called me with a very pointed message for the administration’s sometime allies in organized labor, who invested heavily in beating Blanche Lincoln, Obama’s candidate, in Arkanas. ‘Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,’ the official said. ‘If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.’” I’m sure the labor bosses — like President Karzai — will adore being dissed in public. Lesson: Mushy moderates who’ve boasted about their backroom deals have a hard road ahead.

Nikki Haley overcame an adultery smear campaign and won big but fell barely short of a majority. She will have a runoff against Rep. Gresham Barrett. If she couldn’t be knocked out by rumors of a sex scandal now, she has a good chance to prevail in the runoff and become the state’s first woman governor. Lesson: Voters have become skeptical if not hostile to nasty smears; those who think that’s a winning tactic risk an equally nasty backlash. And it doesn’t hurt when you have Sarah Palin at your side to stir up the base.

In Nevada, voters dumped the incumbent, the scandal-plagued Jim Gibbons, in favor of  Brian Sandoval, who would be the state’s first Hispanic governor (and who would confuse pundits who are certain Republicans have permanently offended Hispanics). In the Senate race, Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle beat the former state chairwoman and other candidates. Lesson: Throw the bums out. And the Tea Party movement still matters.

In California, both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina (also Palin-endorsed) won big. In the Senate race, the lesson from Tom Campbell’s thumping is four-fold. First, anti-Israel votes and statements are losers with the GOP base (but can earn you a J Street endorsement, kudos from Peter Beinart, or a column in the Nation). Washington politicians are out of favor — honest. And the GOP has zero interest in mushy moderates with a mixed record on taxes (i.e., Charlie Crist isn’t the only one who missed the populist revolt). Finally, it matters how strong and creative a campaign you run — better ads, a more-engaging candidate, and sharper debating beat worse ads, a less-engaging candidate, and worse debating most of the time. And from the gubernatorial primary, we can only ponder why in the world Meg Whitman wants the job of governor of a state that most resembles Greece.

The overarching picture is a familiar one: Republicans want candidates who aren’t Democratic-lite, and incumbents are guilty until proven innocent in the minds of voters. Republican women — Haley, Fiorina, Angle, and Whitman — had a good night, so Democrats will have to find an insult other than “sexist” to hurl at the GOP.

Blanche Lincoln narrowly beat her Democratic challenger Bill Halter. She is among the walking wounded stumbling into the November election and is unlikely to keep her seat. Ben Smith got the quote of the night: “A senior White House official just called me with a very pointed message for the administration’s sometime allies in organized labor, who invested heavily in beating Blanche Lincoln, Obama’s candidate, in Arkanas. ‘Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,’ the official said. ‘If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.’” I’m sure the labor bosses — like President Karzai — will adore being dissed in public. Lesson: Mushy moderates who’ve boasted about their backroom deals have a hard road ahead.

Nikki Haley overcame an adultery smear campaign and won big but fell barely short of a majority. She will have a runoff against Rep. Gresham Barrett. If she couldn’t be knocked out by rumors of a sex scandal now, she has a good chance to prevail in the runoff and become the state’s first woman governor. Lesson: Voters have become skeptical if not hostile to nasty smears; those who think that’s a winning tactic risk an equally nasty backlash. And it doesn’t hurt when you have Sarah Palin at your side to stir up the base.

In Nevada, voters dumped the incumbent, the scandal-plagued Jim Gibbons, in favor of  Brian Sandoval, who would be the state’s first Hispanic governor (and who would confuse pundits who are certain Republicans have permanently offended Hispanics). In the Senate race, Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle beat the former state chairwoman and other candidates. Lesson: Throw the bums out. And the Tea Party movement still matters.

In California, both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina (also Palin-endorsed) won big. In the Senate race, the lesson from Tom Campbell’s thumping is four-fold. First, anti-Israel votes and statements are losers with the GOP base (but can earn you a J Street endorsement, kudos from Peter Beinart, or a column in the Nation). Washington politicians are out of favor — honest. And the GOP has zero interest in mushy moderates with a mixed record on taxes (i.e., Charlie Crist isn’t the only one who missed the populist revolt). Finally, it matters how strong and creative a campaign you run — better ads, a more-engaging candidate, and sharper debating beat worse ads, a less-engaging candidate, and worse debating most of the time. And from the gubernatorial primary, we can only ponder why in the world Meg Whitman wants the job of governor of a state that most resembles Greece.

The overarching picture is a familiar one: Republicans want candidates who aren’t Democratic-lite, and incumbents are guilty until proven innocent in the minds of voters. Republican women — Haley, Fiorina, Angle, and Whitman — had a good night, so Democrats will have to find an insult other than “sexist” to hurl at the GOP.

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More Obama!

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

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Farewell, Blanche

Jane Hamsher — who is fast becoming one of the savviest liberal analysts — waves goodbye to Blanche Lincoln. She explains that the Democratic base — like the Republican — is fed up with mushy moderates, equivocators, and backroom dealers. And that means Lincoln is in deep trouble:

The people who turn out are the ones who really care about the race. Those are the people that really care about getting Blanche out of there. That’s what motivates any protest vote. The people who turn out will drive through golf-ball hail to vote against the incumbent. …

Looking at the national environment, it doesn’t look good for Blanche. If you show up to vote against somebody, you’re not going to later show up to vote [for] them. …  She is absolutely typical of the kind of politician people are absolutely sick of. Congress is always talking about belt-tightening, but they always find the money to bail out the banks.

I differ with Hamsher on her take on left-leaning Lt. Governor Bill Halter, whom she calls more “populist” than liberal and who, according to her, can hold the seat for the Democrats. I doubt there are enough voters in that state who’ll buy that relabeling and vote for a die-hard liberal. But it’s helpful for the Democrats to relearn the same lesson that the Republicans did in 2006 and 2008: you need solid candidates who are appropriate to their electorate and focused on the issues voters care most about.

But Hamsher’s observation is a keen one: while the media celebrates ”moderates,” the voters are not so enamored of them. It’s refreshing and important that each party be clear about what it stands for and what its core beliefs are. Elections should be about choices and they should provide the winner with a clear mandate to carry into office. If Halter runs, Arkansas voters are certainly going to have a stark choice.

Jane Hamsher — who is fast becoming one of the savviest liberal analysts — waves goodbye to Blanche Lincoln. She explains that the Democratic base — like the Republican — is fed up with mushy moderates, equivocators, and backroom dealers. And that means Lincoln is in deep trouble:

The people who turn out are the ones who really care about the race. Those are the people that really care about getting Blanche out of there. That’s what motivates any protest vote. The people who turn out will drive through golf-ball hail to vote against the incumbent. …

Looking at the national environment, it doesn’t look good for Blanche. If you show up to vote against somebody, you’re not going to later show up to vote [for] them. …  She is absolutely typical of the kind of politician people are absolutely sick of. Congress is always talking about belt-tightening, but they always find the money to bail out the banks.

I differ with Hamsher on her take on left-leaning Lt. Governor Bill Halter, whom she calls more “populist” than liberal and who, according to her, can hold the seat for the Democrats. I doubt there are enough voters in that state who’ll buy that relabeling and vote for a die-hard liberal. But it’s helpful for the Democrats to relearn the same lesson that the Republicans did in 2006 and 2008: you need solid candidates who are appropriate to their electorate and focused on the issues voters care most about.

But Hamsher’s observation is a keen one: while the media celebrates ”moderates,” the voters are not so enamored of them. It’s refreshing and important that each party be clear about what it stands for and what its core beliefs are. Elections should be about choices and they should provide the winner with a clear mandate to carry into office. If Halter runs, Arkansas voters are certainly going to have a stark choice.

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Reading the Election Results

Obama ignored the Tea Party movement. He ignored polls on health-care reform. He ignored the election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. And last night’s elections confirmed that now anyone associated with Washington insiderism and big-government spending is imperiled.

Arlen Specter proved that expediency and convictionless politics — as well as clinging to Obama — aren’t going to cut it with voters. Democrats wanted a dependable liberal and got one in Joe Sestak. Obama took yet another shot — showing that his political judgment is lacking and that any candidate who wraps his arms around the president is going to take a beating. In the end it wasn’t even close, with Sestak beating Specter by more than 7 points. It was an embarrassing end for an embarrassing political turncoat whose sole principle was his own political survival. Specter is finally out of the hair of both Democrats and Republicans. I wonder how he’ll vote on Elena Kagan now — who can tell? And Sestak will now have to answer some tough questions on Israel.

In Kentucky, Rand Paul embarrassed the Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who backed Rand’s opponent. It is a big win for the Tea Party movement and the fiscal conservative message. Paul also will face scrutiny on his foreign-policy views (he opposed the Iraq war). Again, if candidates want to win, they better convincingly paint themselves as outsiders.

Blanche Lincoln barely edged out Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, the darling of the left, but didn’t come close to the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff, gathering less than 45 percent. If she makes it through the runoff, she has an uphill fight just to cement the Democratic vote. Her squishy moderation proved unappealing, and her stalwart defense of ObamaCare didn’t help her a bit. It seems that even for Democrats, ObamaCare is nothing to crow about.

And in the Pennsylvania 12th, the Democrats held John Murtha’s seat with a skilled candidate who ran a well-polished campaign. (Politico notes: “Republicans were quick to point out that Critz ran on a conservative platform, highlighting his opposition to abortion and to the health care reform legislation.”) There can be no better sign of Obama’s toxic impact on his party than the fact that Democrat Mark Critz survived by running against ObamaCare. And he was smart enough to keep Obama out of the district and bring Bill Clinton in to campaign with him. It’s a reminder that despite trends, specific candidates and campaigns matter. Perhaps Clinton — another irony — will be called on by Obama to save more seats and go where Obama would do more harm than good.

Big winners: the Tea Partiers, conviction politics, anti-Washington candidates, and fiscal conservatism. Big losers: Obama, Democratic incumbents, big spenders, and endorsements by office holders. Democrats who haven’t ingested the Obama Kool Aid will — or should — start fretting about less-than-stellar candidates. Many of them are going to lose in November.

Obama ignored the Tea Party movement. He ignored polls on health-care reform. He ignored the election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. And last night’s elections confirmed that now anyone associated with Washington insiderism and big-government spending is imperiled.

Arlen Specter proved that expediency and convictionless politics — as well as clinging to Obama — aren’t going to cut it with voters. Democrats wanted a dependable liberal and got one in Joe Sestak. Obama took yet another shot — showing that his political judgment is lacking and that any candidate who wraps his arms around the president is going to take a beating. In the end it wasn’t even close, with Sestak beating Specter by more than 7 points. It was an embarrassing end for an embarrassing political turncoat whose sole principle was his own political survival. Specter is finally out of the hair of both Democrats and Republicans. I wonder how he’ll vote on Elena Kagan now — who can tell? And Sestak will now have to answer some tough questions on Israel.

In Kentucky, Rand Paul embarrassed the Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who backed Rand’s opponent. It is a big win for the Tea Party movement and the fiscal conservative message. Paul also will face scrutiny on his foreign-policy views (he opposed the Iraq war). Again, if candidates want to win, they better convincingly paint themselves as outsiders.

Blanche Lincoln barely edged out Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, the darling of the left, but didn’t come close to the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff, gathering less than 45 percent. If she makes it through the runoff, she has an uphill fight just to cement the Democratic vote. Her squishy moderation proved unappealing, and her stalwart defense of ObamaCare didn’t help her a bit. It seems that even for Democrats, ObamaCare is nothing to crow about.

And in the Pennsylvania 12th, the Democrats held John Murtha’s seat with a skilled candidate who ran a well-polished campaign. (Politico notes: “Republicans were quick to point out that Critz ran on a conservative platform, highlighting his opposition to abortion and to the health care reform legislation.”) There can be no better sign of Obama’s toxic impact on his party than the fact that Democrat Mark Critz survived by running against ObamaCare. And he was smart enough to keep Obama out of the district and bring Bill Clinton in to campaign with him. It’s a reminder that despite trends, specific candidates and campaigns matter. Perhaps Clinton — another irony — will be called on by Obama to save more seats and go where Obama would do more harm than good.

Big winners: the Tea Partiers, conviction politics, anti-Washington candidates, and fiscal conservatism. Big losers: Obama, Democratic incumbents, big spenders, and endorsements by office holders. Democrats who haven’t ingested the Obama Kool Aid will — or should — start fretting about less-than-stellar candidates. Many of them are going to lose in November.

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Big Labor Savages Noncompliant Democrats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Civil War

The media and liberal punditocracy has been searching for a civil war on the Right. Tea Party protestors vs. the GOP! Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist! But the divide isn’t really as significant as the Left would hope, and the primary fights on the GOP side, far from being a bloodbath, look rather tame (and in Florida, one-sided). There really is a fight breaking out — but it’s in the Democratic Party. Politico reports:

With Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s announcement Monday that he will run against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Senate Democrats now have three colleagues facing serious primary challenges from candidates embracing distinctly anti-Washington platforms at a time when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress…. In Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak is battling White House-backed Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak has criticized the party establishment for supporting a party-switcher and for focusing too much on the political calculus of adding another Democratic Senate vote.

“The Real Arlen Specter has been a longtime Republican for 45 years and has spent the past 29 years in Washington, D.C.,” reads a website Sestak’s campaign launched, titled “The Real Arlen Specter.”

In Colorado, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, has gone so far as to denounce his own party for failing to denounce backroom deal making in health care reform negotiations. In New York, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. branded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a “parakeet” for party higher-ups before announcing Monday he wasn’t running.

Rather civil war-like, I would say. And then there is the fight over reconciliation, if we ever get that far. Roll Call reports: “Knowledgeable Senate Democratic aides have warned for weeks of the difficulty of drafting a complex health care reform bill under reconciliation rules. The challenge is to construct legislation that can satisfy Democrats, withstand Republican resistance and pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian.” But the leadership is pressing on, despite the objections of prominent Democrats like Sen. Kent Conrad.

In the short term, the primary challengers on the Left will likely jerk the besieged Democrats even further Leftward in an effort to survive their primaries. But that then leaves the playing field wide open for Republican contenders to appeal to the Center-Right majority, the very voters inflamed by the Obami’s extremist agenda.

It is the very tale the Left was pushing, but in reverse. Now it is the Democrats, beset by internal divides and ideological extremism, who are heading for a smash-up.  It is what Obama has wrought, not so long after he promised to bring us into a great post-partisan era. It seems he has instead stirred up quite a fight, in his own party no less.

The media and liberal punditocracy has been searching for a civil war on the Right. Tea Party protestors vs. the GOP! Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist! But the divide isn’t really as significant as the Left would hope, and the primary fights on the GOP side, far from being a bloodbath, look rather tame (and in Florida, one-sided). There really is a fight breaking out — but it’s in the Democratic Party. Politico reports:

With Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s announcement Monday that he will run against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Senate Democrats now have three colleagues facing serious primary challenges from candidates embracing distinctly anti-Washington platforms at a time when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress…. In Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak is battling White House-backed Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak has criticized the party establishment for supporting a party-switcher and for focusing too much on the political calculus of adding another Democratic Senate vote.

“The Real Arlen Specter has been a longtime Republican for 45 years and has spent the past 29 years in Washington, D.C.,” reads a website Sestak’s campaign launched, titled “The Real Arlen Specter.”

In Colorado, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, has gone so far as to denounce his own party for failing to denounce backroom deal making in health care reform negotiations. In New York, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. branded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a “parakeet” for party higher-ups before announcing Monday he wasn’t running.

Rather civil war-like, I would say. And then there is the fight over reconciliation, if we ever get that far. Roll Call reports: “Knowledgeable Senate Democratic aides have warned for weeks of the difficulty of drafting a complex health care reform bill under reconciliation rules. The challenge is to construct legislation that can satisfy Democrats, withstand Republican resistance and pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian.” But the leadership is pressing on, despite the objections of prominent Democrats like Sen. Kent Conrad.

In the short term, the primary challengers on the Left will likely jerk the besieged Democrats even further Leftward in an effort to survive their primaries. But that then leaves the playing field wide open for Republican contenders to appeal to the Center-Right majority, the very voters inflamed by the Obami’s extremist agenda.

It is the very tale the Left was pushing, but in reverse. Now it is the Democrats, beset by internal divides and ideological extremism, who are heading for a smash-up.  It is what Obama has wrought, not so long after he promised to bring us into a great post-partisan era. It seems he has instead stirred up quite a fight, in his own party no less.

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