Commentary Magazine


Topic: Blanche Lincoln

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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Are Democrats Cooked?

The Cook Political Report explains (subscription required):

Now that Bayh’s seat is open, we moved the race from the Lean Democratic to the Lean Republican column. As a result, we now rate eight Democratic-held seats either in the Toss Up column, or tilting in varying degrees toward Republicans. The open seat in North Dakota where Sen. Byron Dorgan is retiring is in the Solid Republican column as Democrats struggle to recruit a candidate who can compete with popular GOP Gov. John Hoeven. The open seat in Delaware, which is a special election to finish the remainder of Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate term, is now in the Likely Republican column. There are five Democratic-held seats in the Toss Up column: Sens. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, Michael Bennet in Colorado, Harry Reid in Nevada, and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, as well as the open seat in Illinois. Sen. Barbara Boxer in California and the open seat in Connecticut are in the Lean Democratic column, bringing the total to 10 seats.

Getting to 10 and flipping control of the Senate is a bit dicier, and Cook cautions that to do that, Republicans would have to put more seats in play, avoid flaky primary choices who won’t play well in the general races, improve fundraising, and maintain the political momentum they’ve been building. The bottom line: “For now, while it is theoretically possible for Republicans to gain the 10 seats they need to win a majority, it remains a very difficult task.”

With so many seats in play, the question remains how this will affect Senate Democrats in the run-up to the November elections. If Obama has his way, they’ll double down and push through his agenda. But nervous incumbents can see the trends and read the polls. For those who still have a fighting chance, the trick will be to distance themselves from their prior voting records, show they’ve heard the voters, and cast some votes that demonstrate independence and fiscal sobriety. That, however, means resisting the entreaties of their leadership and managing to get votes on legislation that will help them.

It’s not clear that incumbent Democrats who have voted in lockstep with the the Obama-Reid agenda have the moxie or skill to do that. In fact, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet joined the double-down crowd by casting their lot with not only ObamaCare but also the jam-through-on-50-votes strategy (i.e., reconciliation). That seems certain to make their precarious situations even shakier.

Democrats might retain a bare majority, provided they stop voting for legislation their constituents hate, Obama’s popularity rebounds, and unemployment begins dropping. Not all that likely? Then you can conclude that control of the Senate really might slip from the Democrats’ grasp.

The Cook Political Report explains (subscription required):

Now that Bayh’s seat is open, we moved the race from the Lean Democratic to the Lean Republican column. As a result, we now rate eight Democratic-held seats either in the Toss Up column, or tilting in varying degrees toward Republicans. The open seat in North Dakota where Sen. Byron Dorgan is retiring is in the Solid Republican column as Democrats struggle to recruit a candidate who can compete with popular GOP Gov. John Hoeven. The open seat in Delaware, which is a special election to finish the remainder of Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate term, is now in the Likely Republican column. There are five Democratic-held seats in the Toss Up column: Sens. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, Michael Bennet in Colorado, Harry Reid in Nevada, and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, as well as the open seat in Illinois. Sen. Barbara Boxer in California and the open seat in Connecticut are in the Lean Democratic column, bringing the total to 10 seats.

Getting to 10 and flipping control of the Senate is a bit dicier, and Cook cautions that to do that, Republicans would have to put more seats in play, avoid flaky primary choices who won’t play well in the general races, improve fundraising, and maintain the political momentum they’ve been building. The bottom line: “For now, while it is theoretically possible for Republicans to gain the 10 seats they need to win a majority, it remains a very difficult task.”

With so many seats in play, the question remains how this will affect Senate Democrats in the run-up to the November elections. If Obama has his way, they’ll double down and push through his agenda. But nervous incumbents can see the trends and read the polls. For those who still have a fighting chance, the trick will be to distance themselves from their prior voting records, show they’ve heard the voters, and cast some votes that demonstrate independence and fiscal sobriety. That, however, means resisting the entreaties of their leadership and managing to get votes on legislation that will help them.

It’s not clear that incumbent Democrats who have voted in lockstep with the the Obama-Reid agenda have the moxie or skill to do that. In fact, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet joined the double-down crowd by casting their lot with not only ObamaCare but also the jam-through-on-50-votes strategy (i.e., reconciliation). That seems certain to make their precarious situations even shakier.

Democrats might retain a bare majority, provided they stop voting for legislation their constituents hate, Obama’s popularity rebounds, and unemployment begins dropping. Not all that likely? Then you can conclude that control of the Senate really might slip from the Democrats’ grasp.

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Nobody Knows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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That Explains It

Media pundits and Washington insiders have been puzzling over how and why Harry Reid could have unraveled a bipartisan jobs bill and in the process potentially provoked Evan Bayh’s retirement. This report by Jay Newton-Small notes that “it was with a bit of fanfare that the White House welcomed Thursday a bipartisan Senate deal on $85 billion jobs legislation forged after weeks of negotiations between Senators Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.” The White House cheered and then — poof — “Reid hours later threw out the deal, replacing it with a stripped down $15 billion bill that would only provide scaled-back tax credits and help for small businesses, highway construction and state and local governments.” It was pure Reid — a high-profile bungle that managed to ensnare the Democrats in another round of finger-pointing.

Now perhaps he actually was pushed over the brink by scheming competitors. Newton-Small writes:

While Reid’s office says he pulled the Baucus-Grassley compromise because of opposition from GOP leaders, his left flank was also unhappy with the deal. Reid’s No. 2, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, led a group of progressive Senators against the bill, saying it gave too much away to Republicans and focused too heavily on tax cuts that had little to do with job creation. “Durbin was just trying to curry favor with the liberals,” says a senior Senate Democratic aide closely involved in the process. “Reid is hampered by Durbin and Schumer picking over his corpse right now — it’s really ugly.”

Well, that “senior Senate Democratic aide” might be Reid’s spinning an excuse and trying to tag Durbin and Schumer as the villains. Or it might be an accurate account, suggesting that Democrats aren’t as dense as they appear and would like nothing better than to see Reid get bounced from the Senate. They simply didn’t expect the loss of Bayh in the process.

In any event, Reid is once again in hot water:

“It’s a shock to us,” Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, told Fox News on Friday. “I mean, in the states we were all hoping to see a robust jobs bill, and we’re confounded by this action, absolutely confounded.” And fellow endangered incumbent, Senator Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, said in a press release that she hopes Reid “will reconsider. [The Baucus-Grassley] bill was carefully crafted to achieve significant bipartisan support.”

This hardly bodes well for the remainder of the year. If the name of the game is how to humiliate Reid (yes, yes, he often needs no assistance), then we are going to spend quite a bit of time watching Reid tied up in knots by his own side. With an invigorated Republican caucus, the loss of the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority, and a White House unable to devise, let alone shepherd through Congress, its own policies, one can expect more chaos and more episodes of pin-the-blame on Harry.

In effect, the Senate Democrats have a lame duck as their leader — someone who in the best of times was not up to the task and is now facing his own demise as successors struggle for the upper hand. It’s not pretty for Democrats, but it sure is entertaining for the rest of us.

Media pundits and Washington insiders have been puzzling over how and why Harry Reid could have unraveled a bipartisan jobs bill and in the process potentially provoked Evan Bayh’s retirement. This report by Jay Newton-Small notes that “it was with a bit of fanfare that the White House welcomed Thursday a bipartisan Senate deal on $85 billion jobs legislation forged after weeks of negotiations between Senators Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.” The White House cheered and then — poof — “Reid hours later threw out the deal, replacing it with a stripped down $15 billion bill that would only provide scaled-back tax credits and help for small businesses, highway construction and state and local governments.” It was pure Reid — a high-profile bungle that managed to ensnare the Democrats in another round of finger-pointing.

Now perhaps he actually was pushed over the brink by scheming competitors. Newton-Small writes:

While Reid’s office says he pulled the Baucus-Grassley compromise because of opposition from GOP leaders, his left flank was also unhappy with the deal. Reid’s No. 2, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, led a group of progressive Senators against the bill, saying it gave too much away to Republicans and focused too heavily on tax cuts that had little to do with job creation. “Durbin was just trying to curry favor with the liberals,” says a senior Senate Democratic aide closely involved in the process. “Reid is hampered by Durbin and Schumer picking over his corpse right now — it’s really ugly.”

Well, that “senior Senate Democratic aide” might be Reid’s spinning an excuse and trying to tag Durbin and Schumer as the villains. Or it might be an accurate account, suggesting that Democrats aren’t as dense as they appear and would like nothing better than to see Reid get bounced from the Senate. They simply didn’t expect the loss of Bayh in the process.

In any event, Reid is once again in hot water:

“It’s a shock to us,” Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, told Fox News on Friday. “I mean, in the states we were all hoping to see a robust jobs bill, and we’re confounded by this action, absolutely confounded.” And fellow endangered incumbent, Senator Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, said in a press release that she hopes Reid “will reconsider. [The Baucus-Grassley] bill was carefully crafted to achieve significant bipartisan support.”

This hardly bodes well for the remainder of the year. If the name of the game is how to humiliate Reid (yes, yes, he often needs no assistance), then we are going to spend quite a bit of time watching Reid tied up in knots by his own side. With an invigorated Republican caucus, the loss of the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority, and a White House unable to devise, let alone shepherd through Congress, its own policies, one can expect more chaos and more episodes of pin-the-blame on Harry.

In effect, the Senate Democrats have a lame duck as their leader — someone who in the best of times was not up to the task and is now facing his own demise as successors struggle for the upper hand. It’s not pretty for Democrats, but it sure is entertaining for the rest of us.

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Breaking the Cynicism Meter

Republicans have long suspected that the Obama health-care summit is a setup. After all, the first ground rule seems to be: “I get ObamaCare.” But sometimes even the Democrats outdo themselves in the cynicism department. Roll Call reports:

Senate Democrats say they see no need to abandon the idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform this year just because President Barack Obama has scheduled a bipartisan summit next week to try to break the impasse on Capitol Hill. . .Given the unified GOP opposition to their health care effort, Senate Democrats argued just before departing for the Presidents Day recess that Obama’s summit is no reason to shelve reconciliation as a potential strategy. The tactic would allow Democrats pass certain aspects of health care reform with just 51 votes.

“I think it should be constantly pursued,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Thursday when asked whether Democrats should take a break from drafting a reconciliation bill until after Obama’s summit.

“I think the Republicans are pretty committed to the notion that obstructing everything that President Obama would like to accomplish is very key to their base and their political success,” Whitehouse added. “I don’t see them departing from that strategy.”

Nevertheless, there is reason to believe they lack the votes to utilize reconciliation. (“Some moderate Senate Democrats have already announced their opposition to a reconciliation bill regardless of what is in it.”) And that is before we get to the merits. It isn’t at all clear that, post-Scott Brown, there are votes for what’s in ObamaCare (e.g., massive tax hikes, $500 billion in cuts to Medicare with no real reform element, forcing people to buy health-care plans they don’t want from Big Insurance). Wouldn’t Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln (and maybe others as well) jump at the chance to return to the good graces of voters whom they have enraged?

Then on the House side, we hear that Nancy Pelosi may be 100 votes short of a majority to pass ObamaCare. As Michael Barone explains:

So you, as a Democratic member with potentially serious opposition, do the political caucus. If you vote for the Senate bill, you’re voting for something that has 35% support nationwide and probably a little less than that in your district. You will have voted for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase. Your Republican opponent will ask why you voted for something that gave taxpayers in Nebraska and Louisiana better treatment than the people you represent (there are no Democratic House members running for reelection in those two states: Nebraska has only Republican House members and the single Louisiana House Democrat is running for the Senate). The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.

So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.

So the bottom line: it is hard to believe Obama is operating in good faith. But that’s OK with conservatives, independents, and the two-thirds of us who don’t want a government takeover of health care. Obama still doesn’t have the votes, and those lawmakers who see their careers passing before their eyes probably don’t even want a vote on it. Obama has done enough damage to their re-election prospects already.

Republicans have long suspected that the Obama health-care summit is a setup. After all, the first ground rule seems to be: “I get ObamaCare.” But sometimes even the Democrats outdo themselves in the cynicism department. Roll Call reports:

Senate Democrats say they see no need to abandon the idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform this year just because President Barack Obama has scheduled a bipartisan summit next week to try to break the impasse on Capitol Hill. . .Given the unified GOP opposition to their health care effort, Senate Democrats argued just before departing for the Presidents Day recess that Obama’s summit is no reason to shelve reconciliation as a potential strategy. The tactic would allow Democrats pass certain aspects of health care reform with just 51 votes.

“I think it should be constantly pursued,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Thursday when asked whether Democrats should take a break from drafting a reconciliation bill until after Obama’s summit.

“I think the Republicans are pretty committed to the notion that obstructing everything that President Obama would like to accomplish is very key to their base and their political success,” Whitehouse added. “I don’t see them departing from that strategy.”

Nevertheless, there is reason to believe they lack the votes to utilize reconciliation. (“Some moderate Senate Democrats have already announced their opposition to a reconciliation bill regardless of what is in it.”) And that is before we get to the merits. It isn’t at all clear that, post-Scott Brown, there are votes for what’s in ObamaCare (e.g., massive tax hikes, $500 billion in cuts to Medicare with no real reform element, forcing people to buy health-care plans they don’t want from Big Insurance). Wouldn’t Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln (and maybe others as well) jump at the chance to return to the good graces of voters whom they have enraged?

Then on the House side, we hear that Nancy Pelosi may be 100 votes short of a majority to pass ObamaCare. As Michael Barone explains:

So you, as a Democratic member with potentially serious opposition, do the political caucus. If you vote for the Senate bill, you’re voting for something that has 35% support nationwide and probably a little less than that in your district. You will have voted for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase. Your Republican opponent will ask why you voted for something that gave taxpayers in Nebraska and Louisiana better treatment than the people you represent (there are no Democratic House members running for reelection in those two states: Nebraska has only Republican House members and the single Louisiana House Democrat is running for the Senate). The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.

So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.

So the bottom line: it is hard to believe Obama is operating in good faith. But that’s OK with conservatives, independents, and the two-thirds of us who don’t want a government takeover of health care. Obama still doesn’t have the votes, and those lawmakers who see their careers passing before their eyes probably don’t even want a vote on it. Obama has done enough damage to their re-election prospects already.

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Re: Barack Millstone Obama

Pete, you raise a key point about Evan Bayh’s departure: his status as a “centrist” makes the retirement a particularly troubling one for Democrats. There is ample reason to dispute that label, but until now he’s been able to claim the mantle of centrism and fiscal moderation. So his departure should set off a round of soul-searching by Democrats as to whether they’ve strayed too far to the Left, have become ideological purists, and are losing their appeal to the great middle of the political spectrum. Right?

Well that was the media’s endless storyline when a host of liberal-to-moderate Republicans, especially in the northeast, lost seats or defected to the Democratic party. Then we heard the cries that the GOP was “intolerant” or becoming a “fringe” party. But consider the retirees and many of the endangered Democratic incumbents (e.g., Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Arlen Specter, Michael Bennet, Byron Dorgan). A Democratic Senate caucus without those names would be much smaller but also far more liberal in composition, at a time when the country is reasserting its basic Center-Right perspective. That seems like a recipe for more trouble, unless of course Democrats actually listen to the message being sent by voters. If they self-correct their course and moderate not only their rhetoric but also their voting records, they might save some seats and be better positioned after the election to restore the image of their party, shed the tax-and-spend and weak-on-national-security labels, and remain competitive for 2012.

To do that, however, they will have to battle the White House, which has been indifferent to the plight of its moderate congressional allies. For them, the departure of Bayh is one more lesson that the price of ideological extremism is a smaller and less viable party. But I don’t think they are listening yet. Maybe after November.

Pete, you raise a key point about Evan Bayh’s departure: his status as a “centrist” makes the retirement a particularly troubling one for Democrats. There is ample reason to dispute that label, but until now he’s been able to claim the mantle of centrism and fiscal moderation. So his departure should set off a round of soul-searching by Democrats as to whether they’ve strayed too far to the Left, have become ideological purists, and are losing their appeal to the great middle of the political spectrum. Right?

Well that was the media’s endless storyline when a host of liberal-to-moderate Republicans, especially in the northeast, lost seats or defected to the Democratic party. Then we heard the cries that the GOP was “intolerant” or becoming a “fringe” party. But consider the retirees and many of the endangered Democratic incumbents (e.g., Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Arlen Specter, Michael Bennet, Byron Dorgan). A Democratic Senate caucus without those names would be much smaller but also far more liberal in composition, at a time when the country is reasserting its basic Center-Right perspective. That seems like a recipe for more trouble, unless of course Democrats actually listen to the message being sent by voters. If they self-correct their course and moderate not only their rhetoric but also their voting records, they might save some seats and be better positioned after the election to restore the image of their party, shed the tax-and-spend and weak-on-national-security labels, and remain competitive for 2012.

To do that, however, they will have to battle the White House, which has been indifferent to the plight of its moderate congressional allies. For them, the departure of Bayh is one more lesson that the price of ideological extremism is a smaller and less viable party. But I don’t think they are listening yet. Maybe after November.

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The End of the “Not Bush” Experiment?

The Hill reports:

Rep. Pete King (N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said he would attempt to add language barring any money from being spent on trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts to the intelligence authorization bill. . . In the next week, King said, he will be fine-tuning the language to make it germane to the intelligence authorization bill. If he is unsuccessful or it doesn’t pass, he vowed to continue to offer the bill throughout the rest of the year whenever he sees an opportunity.

This seems like a fine idea. If, as Obama keeps declaring, we got “off track” during the Bush years (oh, except for the parts which the Obami claim were identical to what Obama is now doing) and betrayed our “values,” he should welcome a robust debate about the wisdom of trying jihadists in civilian courtrooms. Granted, a New York venue seems like a nonstarter now, but Eric Holder and Obama insist that that civilian trials are the way to go. They tell us that it’s going to prove (to whom?) the wonders of the American judicial system — before they absolutely, positively guarantee a conviction. (And such reasoning requires one to put aside, I suppose, that military tribunals authorized by Congress are part of that judicial system.)

The Obami must sense they are on thin ice. Sens. Pat Leahy and Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to the White House (I’m sure it was requested) singing the praises of federal court trials for terrorists. But there is a groundswell of opposition building:

King and Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.), the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, are leading the House drive to prevent any funds from being spent on prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. federal courts. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is leading a similar legislative initiative in the Senate. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is in a tight reelection race, signed on as a co-sponsor to Graham’s bill. . . . Last week, two House Democrats, Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Mike McMahon (N.Y.), jumped onto King and Wolf’s bill as co-sponsors, a sign that support in the Democratic Caucus for Obama’s detainee policies has deteriorated in recent weeks amid growing concern about how voters will view the White House’s national security policies at the polls in November

The public in survey after survey opposes the criminal-justice model Obama still clings to. The president will have the chance to make his pitch and convince the public of the merits of his view. Indeed, snatching the decision-making process away from the hapless Eric Holder, who botched the New York trial roll-out, Obama declares that he will insert himself in the process and decide the locale of the KSM trial.

But I suspect the whole experiment is unraveling as those on the ballot this year sense that there is no appetite for this sort of thing. Even Holder seemed to leave the door open to trying KSM in a military tribunal. (“‘At the end of the day, wherever this case is tried, in whatever forum, what we have to ensure is that it’s done as transparently as possible and with adherence to all the rules,’ Holder said. ‘If we do that, I’m not sure the location or even the forum is as important as what the world sees in that proceeding.'”)

Well, perhaps it was the “not Bush” approach to terrorism that was seriously off track and flew in the face of the values and common sense of the American people. If Congress is stepping up to the plate and the administration is groping for an exit plan, we may finally arrive at a rational approach to fighting Islamic fascists — one that looks a whole lot like the Bush approach.

The Hill reports:

Rep. Pete King (N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said he would attempt to add language barring any money from being spent on trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts to the intelligence authorization bill. . . In the next week, King said, he will be fine-tuning the language to make it germane to the intelligence authorization bill. If he is unsuccessful or it doesn’t pass, he vowed to continue to offer the bill throughout the rest of the year whenever he sees an opportunity.

This seems like a fine idea. If, as Obama keeps declaring, we got “off track” during the Bush years (oh, except for the parts which the Obami claim were identical to what Obama is now doing) and betrayed our “values,” he should welcome a robust debate about the wisdom of trying jihadists in civilian courtrooms. Granted, a New York venue seems like a nonstarter now, but Eric Holder and Obama insist that that civilian trials are the way to go. They tell us that it’s going to prove (to whom?) the wonders of the American judicial system — before they absolutely, positively guarantee a conviction. (And such reasoning requires one to put aside, I suppose, that military tribunals authorized by Congress are part of that judicial system.)

The Obami must sense they are on thin ice. Sens. Pat Leahy and Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to the White House (I’m sure it was requested) singing the praises of federal court trials for terrorists. But there is a groundswell of opposition building:

King and Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.), the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, are leading the House drive to prevent any funds from being spent on prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. federal courts. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is leading a similar legislative initiative in the Senate. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is in a tight reelection race, signed on as a co-sponsor to Graham’s bill. . . . Last week, two House Democrats, Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Mike McMahon (N.Y.), jumped onto King and Wolf’s bill as co-sponsors, a sign that support in the Democratic Caucus for Obama’s detainee policies has deteriorated in recent weeks amid growing concern about how voters will view the White House’s national security policies at the polls in November

The public in survey after survey opposes the criminal-justice model Obama still clings to. The president will have the chance to make his pitch and convince the public of the merits of his view. Indeed, snatching the decision-making process away from the hapless Eric Holder, who botched the New York trial roll-out, Obama declares that he will insert himself in the process and decide the locale of the KSM trial.

But I suspect the whole experiment is unraveling as those on the ballot this year sense that there is no appetite for this sort of thing. Even Holder seemed to leave the door open to trying KSM in a military tribunal. (“‘At the end of the day, wherever this case is tried, in whatever forum, what we have to ensure is that it’s done as transparently as possible and with adherence to all the rules,’ Holder said. ‘If we do that, I’m not sure the location or even the forum is as important as what the world sees in that proceeding.'”)

Well, perhaps it was the “not Bush” approach to terrorism that was seriously off track and flew in the face of the values and common sense of the American people. If Congress is stepping up to the plate and the administration is groping for an exit plan, we may finally arrive at a rational approach to fighting Islamic fascists — one that looks a whole lot like the Bush approach.

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Re: Becker Defeated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Becker Defeated

In the end, it wasn’t even close:

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

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

In the end, it wasn’t even close:

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

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

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Phony Centrists Pay the Price for ObamaCare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sorry Blanche, You’re Toast

Charles Lane catches Obama writing Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s political obituary. During the meeting Senate Democrats had with Obama, the imperiled Red State senator practically pleaded with the president to turn to the Center. (“Are we willing as Democrats to push back on our own party?”) Her request was summarily denied. Any accommodation to “centrism” is a return to Bush policies, said Obama. Lane is stunned on two grounds by Obama’s stridency:

The first was the ease with which he cast Lincoln’s plea for a bit more centrism as a call for a return to Bushism — the “exact same proposals that were in place for the last eight years.” That’s not what she was advocating. … The president set up this strawman, and he pummeled it, rather than engaging Lincoln’s valid concerns. The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off Lincoln politically. Conceding nothing, he implied that her defeat was not only a foregone conclusion, but also an acceptable price to pay for staying the course on policy.

Well, at least the Red State senators and Blue Dog Democrats know where they stand. They are about to be pushed off that “precipice” Obama keeps talking about. But, as Lane notes, the dogmatic fidelity to leftism requires Obama to ignore some fairly convincing political evidence that this is the way to ruin for the Democratic party — and for Obama. (“If Virginia and New Jersey didn’t prove that, Massachusetts did. And November could prove it again.”)

This is what happens when arrogance and political extremism meet political tone-deafness. The Obami haven’t learned anything from Massachusetts; they simply are more candid that the Blanche Lincolns have no place in their party. But in doing so, they’re also writing off the majority of the electorate, which doesn’t share their fascination with big government and doesn’t appreciate their disdain for the ability of ordinary citizens to make decisions on their own. When Obama tells Lincoln to get lost, he’s also telling the voters of Arkansas (and a bunch of other states) that his agenda and his party’s political goals aren’t for them. Does he suppose that he can govern and win re-election by dismissing all centrists in this fashion? That’s a recipe for becoming a fringe minority party, not a broad governing majority. I suspect Lane is right: it will take a November 2010 election to ram that message home.

Charles Lane catches Obama writing Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s political obituary. During the meeting Senate Democrats had with Obama, the imperiled Red State senator practically pleaded with the president to turn to the Center. (“Are we willing as Democrats to push back on our own party?”) Her request was summarily denied. Any accommodation to “centrism” is a return to Bush policies, said Obama. Lane is stunned on two grounds by Obama’s stridency:

The first was the ease with which he cast Lincoln’s plea for a bit more centrism as a call for a return to Bushism — the “exact same proposals that were in place for the last eight years.” That’s not what she was advocating. … The president set up this strawman, and he pummeled it, rather than engaging Lincoln’s valid concerns. The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off Lincoln politically. Conceding nothing, he implied that her defeat was not only a foregone conclusion, but also an acceptable price to pay for staying the course on policy.

Well, at least the Red State senators and Blue Dog Democrats know where they stand. They are about to be pushed off that “precipice” Obama keeps talking about. But, as Lane notes, the dogmatic fidelity to leftism requires Obama to ignore some fairly convincing political evidence that this is the way to ruin for the Democratic party — and for Obama. (“If Virginia and New Jersey didn’t prove that, Massachusetts did. And November could prove it again.”)

This is what happens when arrogance and political extremism meet political tone-deafness. The Obami haven’t learned anything from Massachusetts; they simply are more candid that the Blanche Lincolns have no place in their party. But in doing so, they’re also writing off the majority of the electorate, which doesn’t share their fascination with big government and doesn’t appreciate their disdain for the ability of ordinary citizens to make decisions on their own. When Obama tells Lincoln to get lost, he’s also telling the voters of Arkansas (and a bunch of other states) that his agenda and his party’s political goals aren’t for them. Does he suppose that he can govern and win re-election by dismissing all centrists in this fashion? That’s a recipe for becoming a fringe minority party, not a broad governing majority. I suspect Lane is right: it will take a November 2010 election to ram that message home.

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Democrats Seek Distance from Obama

The Associated Press is the latest to discover the potential for a Republican takeover of Congress:

Almost by the day, Republicans are sensing fresh opportunities to pick up ground. Just Wednesday, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats announced he would try to reclaim his old seat from Democrat Evan Bayh, who barely a year ago had been a finalist to be Barack Obama’s running mate. And Republicans nationwide are still celebrating Scott Brown’s January upset to take Edward Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts.

A Republican takeover on Capitol Hill is still a long shot. But strategists in both parties now see at least narrow paths by which the GOP could win the House and, if the troubled environment for Democrats deteriorates further, possibly even the Senate.

The AP is a little less candid about the reasons, however. You see, it’s “the persistent 10 percent unemployment rate, the country’s bitterness over Wall Street bailouts and voters’ anti-Washington fervor. Obama’s party, controlling both the White House and Congress, is likely to feel that fury the most. And it’s defending far more seats than the Republicans.” But why, then, is the generic congressional polling number tilting in the Republicans’ favor, a historic anomaly? Could it have something to do with what the Democrats have done in the last year? Read More

The Associated Press is the latest to discover the potential for a Republican takeover of Congress:

Almost by the day, Republicans are sensing fresh opportunities to pick up ground. Just Wednesday, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats announced he would try to reclaim his old seat from Democrat Evan Bayh, who barely a year ago had been a finalist to be Barack Obama’s running mate. And Republicans nationwide are still celebrating Scott Brown’s January upset to take Edward Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts.

A Republican takeover on Capitol Hill is still a long shot. But strategists in both parties now see at least narrow paths by which the GOP could win the House and, if the troubled environment for Democrats deteriorates further, possibly even the Senate.

The AP is a little less candid about the reasons, however. You see, it’s “the persistent 10 percent unemployment rate, the country’s bitterness over Wall Street bailouts and voters’ anti-Washington fervor. Obama’s party, controlling both the White House and Congress, is likely to feel that fury the most. And it’s defending far more seats than the Republicans.” But why, then, is the generic congressional polling number tilting in the Republicans’ favor, a historic anomaly? Could it have something to do with what the Democrats have done in the last year?

Well those incumbent Democrats struggling for their political lives don’t seem to be so confused. We’ve seen a steady drumbeat of criticism from Democrats on Obama’s anti-terrorism policies. We see that Democratic lawmakers are flexing their muscles, trying to put some daylight between themselves and the Obama-Reid-Pelosi ultra-liberal domestic agenda as well. As this report notes:

A Democratic Senate candidate in Missouri denounced the budget’s sky-high deficit. A Florida Democrat whose congressional district includes the Kennedy Space Center hit the roof over NASA budget cuts. And a headline on the 2010 campaign website of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) blares her opposition to Obama’s farm budget: “Blanche stands up for Arkansas farm families.”

And at least in the days following Scott Brown’s win, we heard a raft of Democrats suggest that maybe now it was time to move on from health-care reform to something voters actually like, maybe some pro-job measures.

The tension between the Reid-Pelosi-Obama trio, fueled by ideological determination and the fear of offending their base, and those Democrats who think that a good deal of the problem they face stems from the very agenda set out by Reid-Pelosi-Obama will, I suspect, increase throughout the year. Obama wants to “punch through” on health care; Red State Democrats want to run for their lives. Obama is touting a massive budget; Sen. Kent Conrad is already throwing cold water on it. And so it will go. The more the leadership pushes to the Left, the greater the risk for those members nervously watching the polls. And the result may well be legislative gridlock. But if the alternative is more big-government power grabs, that might not be a bad thing for at-risk Democrats.

Moreover, there is a growing realization among Democrats that the White House is vamping it — that it lacks a plan to achieve much of anything. The Hill reports that after the TV cameras left, the Democratic senators pounced on the White House aides:

Democrats expressed their frustration with the lack of a clear plan for passing healthcare reform, according to one person in the room. One Democratic senator even grew heated in his remarks, according to the source. “It wasn’t a discussion about how to get from Point A to Point B; it was a discussion about the lack of a plan to get from Point A to Point B,” said a person who attended the meeting. “Many of the members were frustrated, but one person really expressed his frustration.” Senators did not want to press Obama on healthcare reform in front of television cameras for fear of putting him in an awkward spot. “There was a vigorous discussion about that afterward with some of his top advisers and others,” Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said regarding the healthcare discussion.

Not unlike the debacle in Copenhagen (the first one mostly, but really both), the Democrats are coming to see that the White House lacks a game plan. It is not merely ideologically out of step with the country; it is also incapable of governing, and of leading the party. And that will make already skittish incumbents more likely to make their own political judgments, quite apart from whatever suggestions Obama doles out.

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Senate Up for Grabs?

Politico reports:

Republicans suddenly have a conceivable path to winning back the Senate in November, after locking in top-flight candidates overnight in Illinois and Indiana. A 10-seat pickup for the GOP — once regarded as an impossibility even by the party’s own strategists — remains very much a long shot. It would still require a win in every competitive race, something that happens only in wave elections like 1994 and 2008.

What several weeks ago seemed like crazy optimism among Republican operatives doesn’t seem so nuts after Scott Brown’s victory and in the wake of the Democrats’ decision to nominate a highly vulnerable candidate in Illinois, new polling showing Patty Murray in a potential close race in Washington, a viable challenger for Evan Bayh in Indiana, the departure of Beau Biden from the Delaware race, and continued rotten polling for Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid. Meanwhile, as COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter details, Republican Pat Toomey is riding a wave of anti-Obama sentiment in Pennsylvania. It does add up.

Charlie Cook’s Senate ratings show only four Republicans in the “toss up” category and that includes Ohio and New Hampshire, which have been trending Republican of late. The Democrats have two seats that are now “solid Republican,” five in the “toss up,” and three in the “leans Democratic” category, which would in any other year be slam-dunks (California, Indiana, and Connecticut).

In the meantime, the cumulative impact of all of this, I suspect, will be to further dampen enthusiasm for Obama’s agenda and for his monstrous budget. Some of the vulnerable Democrats may save themselves by casting votes, not simply sounding tough, to limit spending, reject tax hikes on job creators, and deprive the Obami of funds for their half-baked ideas of handling terrorists within the criminal-justice system. But simply doing no further harm may not be enough. After all, we have serious problems, including double-digit unemployment.

Challengers are going to press Democratic incumbents as to why, with all the levers of power, they did not make progress on the most critical issues we face. The answer, were the Democrats to be honest, would be that they spent a year on a flawed stimulus plan and a health-care plan that the vast majority of the country didn’t want. You can see why the Senate is in play.

Politico reports:

Republicans suddenly have a conceivable path to winning back the Senate in November, after locking in top-flight candidates overnight in Illinois and Indiana. A 10-seat pickup for the GOP — once regarded as an impossibility even by the party’s own strategists — remains very much a long shot. It would still require a win in every competitive race, something that happens only in wave elections like 1994 and 2008.

What several weeks ago seemed like crazy optimism among Republican operatives doesn’t seem so nuts after Scott Brown’s victory and in the wake of the Democrats’ decision to nominate a highly vulnerable candidate in Illinois, new polling showing Patty Murray in a potential close race in Washington, a viable challenger for Evan Bayh in Indiana, the departure of Beau Biden from the Delaware race, and continued rotten polling for Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid. Meanwhile, as COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter details, Republican Pat Toomey is riding a wave of anti-Obama sentiment in Pennsylvania. It does add up.

Charlie Cook’s Senate ratings show only four Republicans in the “toss up” category and that includes Ohio and New Hampshire, which have been trending Republican of late. The Democrats have two seats that are now “solid Republican,” five in the “toss up,” and three in the “leans Democratic” category, which would in any other year be slam-dunks (California, Indiana, and Connecticut).

In the meantime, the cumulative impact of all of this, I suspect, will be to further dampen enthusiasm for Obama’s agenda and for his monstrous budget. Some of the vulnerable Democrats may save themselves by casting votes, not simply sounding tough, to limit spending, reject tax hikes on job creators, and deprive the Obami of funds for their half-baked ideas of handling terrorists within the criminal-justice system. But simply doing no further harm may not be enough. After all, we have serious problems, including double-digit unemployment.

Challengers are going to press Democratic incumbents as to why, with all the levers of power, they did not make progress on the most critical issues we face. The answer, were the Democrats to be honest, would be that they spent a year on a flawed stimulus plan and a health-care plan that the vast majority of the country didn’t want. You can see why the Senate is in play.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The number of terrorists convicted in the criminal-justice system is 300. Or 195. Or 39, if you believe the ACLU.  Andy McCarthy writes: “It is disingenuous to low-ball the figure, as the ACLU does, in order to minimize the problem. It is equally disingenuous to exaggerate the figure, as DOJ is now doing, to create a myth of law-enforcement effectiveness (in order to discredit wartime military processes). Both of these plays are in the Left’s playbook. But guys, but when your objective is to hoodwink the public, you’re not supposed to run both plays at the same time! Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Obama is not turning out to be everything (anything?) the Left had hoped he’d be. Eli Lake reports: “President Obama is coming under pressure from Democrats and civil liberties groups for failing to fill positions on an oversight panel formed in 2004 to make sure the government does not spy improperly on U.S. citizens. … Since taking office, Mr. Obama has allowed the board to languish. He has not even spent the panel’s allocation from the fiscal 2010 budget.” Well, he hasn’t set up the High Value Interrogation group either, so the Left shouldn’t take it personally. He’s just not very good on following through.

But the key test for Democrats is not what they say in a hearing, but how they vote: “The Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said he is a skeptic of President Barack Obama’s long-term budget plan. Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) told White House officials Tuesday that the nation can’t accept the budget’s projected deficits at the end of this decade, which approach $1 trillion. ‘We are on an unsustainable course by any measure,’ Conrad said during his committee’s first hearing on the administration’s 2011 budget request. ‘I believe the president is taking us in the right direction over the next several years,’ he added. ‘But I must say I am very concerned about the long term.'”

More horrid polling for Blanche Lincoln: “Her GOP rivals, including Congressman John Boozman who is expected to enter the race on Saturday, all earn roughly 50% of the vote against the two-term Democrat. … Boozman, the newest entrant in the race, runs strongest among likely voters in Arkansas for now, beating Lincoln by 19 points, 54% to 35%. State Senator Gilbert Baker also leads Lincoln by 19, 52% to 33%. State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren posts a 51% to 35% lead over the incumbent.”

The Obami’s vendetta against Fox was a stunning success — for Fox. “Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year. FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.”

Sen. John Kerry: “We need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals.” It may be a daft idea to amend the Constitution so as to restrict speech, but at least he’s more honest than the president. You can’t overrule a First Amendment decision by statute.

Sen. Judd Gregg will be missed when he retires. “Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag faced the wrath of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Tuesday during the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal for 2011. Gregg was irked about President Obama’s plan to unveil a new proposal to use $30 billion from Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to help community banks lend to small businesses at an event Tuesday afternoon in Nashua, NH — Gregg’s home state. ‘This proposal violates the law,’ Gregg said. ‘The whole concept of the TARP was as we recouped the money, we would use it to pay down the debt. Now that’s not going to happen. It’s become a piggy bank. A piggy bank which adds to our deficit.'”

Yes, Richard Reid was Mirandized. So what? John McCormack: “But the fact remains that it was a mistake to mirandize Abdulmutallab — just as it was a mistake to mirandize Reid. At what point will Democrats realize that the Bush administration’s mistakes are not an excuse for the Obama administration’s failures?” The answer is never. They ran against Bush, they won being against Bush, they crafted not-Bush national-security policies, and now they are convinced they can govern being not Bush (except when they repeat an error of the Bush administration). This is what comes from Bush Derangement Syndrome, I suppose.

The number of terrorists convicted in the criminal-justice system is 300. Or 195. Or 39, if you believe the ACLU.  Andy McCarthy writes: “It is disingenuous to low-ball the figure, as the ACLU does, in order to minimize the problem. It is equally disingenuous to exaggerate the figure, as DOJ is now doing, to create a myth of law-enforcement effectiveness (in order to discredit wartime military processes). Both of these plays are in the Left’s playbook. But guys, but when your objective is to hoodwink the public, you’re not supposed to run both plays at the same time! Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Obama is not turning out to be everything (anything?) the Left had hoped he’d be. Eli Lake reports: “President Obama is coming under pressure from Democrats and civil liberties groups for failing to fill positions on an oversight panel formed in 2004 to make sure the government does not spy improperly on U.S. citizens. … Since taking office, Mr. Obama has allowed the board to languish. He has not even spent the panel’s allocation from the fiscal 2010 budget.” Well, he hasn’t set up the High Value Interrogation group either, so the Left shouldn’t take it personally. He’s just not very good on following through.

But the key test for Democrats is not what they say in a hearing, but how they vote: “The Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said he is a skeptic of President Barack Obama’s long-term budget plan. Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) told White House officials Tuesday that the nation can’t accept the budget’s projected deficits at the end of this decade, which approach $1 trillion. ‘We are on an unsustainable course by any measure,’ Conrad said during his committee’s first hearing on the administration’s 2011 budget request. ‘I believe the president is taking us in the right direction over the next several years,’ he added. ‘But I must say I am very concerned about the long term.'”

More horrid polling for Blanche Lincoln: “Her GOP rivals, including Congressman John Boozman who is expected to enter the race on Saturday, all earn roughly 50% of the vote against the two-term Democrat. … Boozman, the newest entrant in the race, runs strongest among likely voters in Arkansas for now, beating Lincoln by 19 points, 54% to 35%. State Senator Gilbert Baker also leads Lincoln by 19, 52% to 33%. State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren posts a 51% to 35% lead over the incumbent.”

The Obami’s vendetta against Fox was a stunning success — for Fox. “Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year. FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.”

Sen. John Kerry: “We need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals.” It may be a daft idea to amend the Constitution so as to restrict speech, but at least he’s more honest than the president. You can’t overrule a First Amendment decision by statute.

Sen. Judd Gregg will be missed when he retires. “Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag faced the wrath of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Tuesday during the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal for 2011. Gregg was irked about President Obama’s plan to unveil a new proposal to use $30 billion from Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to help community banks lend to small businesses at an event Tuesday afternoon in Nashua, NH — Gregg’s home state. ‘This proposal violates the law,’ Gregg said. ‘The whole concept of the TARP was as we recouped the money, we would use it to pay down the debt. Now that’s not going to happen. It’s become a piggy bank. A piggy bank which adds to our deficit.'”

Yes, Richard Reid was Mirandized. So what? John McCormack: “But the fact remains that it was a mistake to mirandize Abdulmutallab — just as it was a mistake to mirandize Reid. At what point will Democrats realize that the Bush administration’s mistakes are not an excuse for the Obama administration’s failures?” The answer is never. They ran against Bush, they won being against Bush, they crafted not-Bush national-security policies, and now they are convinced they can govern being not Bush (except when they repeat an error of the Bush administration). This is what comes from Bush Derangement Syndrome, I suppose.

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Wheels Coming off Obama Anti-Terror Approach

Democratic Sens. Jim Webb and Blanche Lincoln are joining Republicans to up-end plans for a civilian trial for KSM by denying funding to transport and try them in the U.S. ABC News reports:

It is unclear when or how this measure would come to a vote, but it is abundantly clear that President Obama’s plan to use the American justice system to try suspected 9/11 conspirators is in serious jeopardy.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark, who faces a tough reelection bid, was asked by a reporter at a press conference today if the President is being “tone deaf” in asking moderate Democrats to support his plan.

“I’d be tone deaf if I didn’t speak for the people,” said Lincoln, questioning the “cost, security and appropriateness” of using civilian courts to try suspected terrorists. . .

“It’s hard to bring the people of New York City and Little Rock together but they have done that,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, of the growing opposition to civilian trials. Graham favors trying suspected 9/11 conspirators like Khalid Sheikh Mohamed in military trials at Guantanamo Bay, where they are currently held. . .

Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain were there as well. (“Lieberman said the trial of suspected 9/11 conspirators in civilian court as ‘common criminals’ would be like ‘justice in Alice in Wonderland. . . The rule of law that should be tried according to is the rule of the law of war. Justice can’t be blind to terror threat.”) McCain took the opportunity to also voice criticism of the 50-minute interrogation of the Christmas Day bomber: “I have some experience with interrogation and 50 minutes does not get you what you need.”

Meanwhile, in a senate hearing today, Secretary of Defense Gates, under questioning from McCain, was cagey about the decision to try KSM in New York, deferring to Eric Holder. McCain and Gates also went back and forth on the interrogation of Abdulmutallab.

Gates said “I think we did not have the high-level interrogators there that we now have protocols in place” to assure their presence. But he added: “I believe that a team of highly experienced FBI and other interrogators could be as effective in interrogating the prisoner as anyone operating under the (Army) field manual.”

McCain asked Gates if he agreed with an assertion by Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, that better, more complete or more useful information might have been gleaned from the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, if he had been subjected to a more intense style of interrogation.

“I’m just not in a position to know the answer to that, senator,” Gates replied. But he did reply, “Yes,” when asked if he thought a special group of more qualified interrogators, members of the High Value Interrogation Group, should have been present.

McCain said that Holder “has obviously botched this thing very, very badly,” and said he would continue to question how the man’s interrogation was handled.

It is hard to see that there is much support for the Obama anti-terror gambits. Whether discussing the KSM trial or the interrogation decisions, the Obama team is increasingly on the defensive and without vocal support even from fellow Democrats. And why would the Democrats defend Obama’s approach? It defies common sense and has proven to be politically toxic. If Obama is going to persist in applying the criminal-justice model to the war against Islamic fundamentalists, he will find himself increasingly isolated. And if Democrats actually mean what they say, they’ll act to cut off funding as well as court jurisdiction in order to prevent Obama and his Justice Department lefty lawyers from continuing on this ill-advised lark.

Democratic Sens. Jim Webb and Blanche Lincoln are joining Republicans to up-end plans for a civilian trial for KSM by denying funding to transport and try them in the U.S. ABC News reports:

It is unclear when or how this measure would come to a vote, but it is abundantly clear that President Obama’s plan to use the American justice system to try suspected 9/11 conspirators is in serious jeopardy.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark, who faces a tough reelection bid, was asked by a reporter at a press conference today if the President is being “tone deaf” in asking moderate Democrats to support his plan.

“I’d be tone deaf if I didn’t speak for the people,” said Lincoln, questioning the “cost, security and appropriateness” of using civilian courts to try suspected terrorists. . .

“It’s hard to bring the people of New York City and Little Rock together but they have done that,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, of the growing opposition to civilian trials. Graham favors trying suspected 9/11 conspirators like Khalid Sheikh Mohamed in military trials at Guantanamo Bay, where they are currently held. . .

Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain were there as well. (“Lieberman said the trial of suspected 9/11 conspirators in civilian court as ‘common criminals’ would be like ‘justice in Alice in Wonderland. . . The rule of law that should be tried according to is the rule of the law of war. Justice can’t be blind to terror threat.”) McCain took the opportunity to also voice criticism of the 50-minute interrogation of the Christmas Day bomber: “I have some experience with interrogation and 50 minutes does not get you what you need.”

Meanwhile, in a senate hearing today, Secretary of Defense Gates, under questioning from McCain, was cagey about the decision to try KSM in New York, deferring to Eric Holder. McCain and Gates also went back and forth on the interrogation of Abdulmutallab.

Gates said “I think we did not have the high-level interrogators there that we now have protocols in place” to assure their presence. But he added: “I believe that a team of highly experienced FBI and other interrogators could be as effective in interrogating the prisoner as anyone operating under the (Army) field manual.”

McCain asked Gates if he agreed with an assertion by Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, that better, more complete or more useful information might have been gleaned from the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, if he had been subjected to a more intense style of interrogation.

“I’m just not in a position to know the answer to that, senator,” Gates replied. But he did reply, “Yes,” when asked if he thought a special group of more qualified interrogators, members of the High Value Interrogation Group, should have been present.

McCain said that Holder “has obviously botched this thing very, very badly,” and said he would continue to question how the man’s interrogation was handled.

It is hard to see that there is much support for the Obama anti-terror gambits. Whether discussing the KSM trial or the interrogation decisions, the Obama team is increasingly on the defensive and without vocal support even from fellow Democrats. And why would the Democrats defend Obama’s approach? It defies common sense and has proven to be politically toxic. If Obama is going to persist in applying the criminal-justice model to the war against Islamic fundamentalists, he will find himself increasingly isolated. And if Democrats actually mean what they say, they’ll act to cut off funding as well as court jurisdiction in order to prevent Obama and his Justice Department lefty lawyers from continuing on this ill-advised lark.

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Lincoln Sinking

Another day, another poll, and another Democratic incumbent on the rocks. Public Policy Polling tells us:

John Boozman will enter the Arkansas Senate race this weekend as the frontrunner. He leads incumbent Blanche Lincoln by an amazing 56-33 margin in our first poll of the race.

Lincoln’s approval rating has sunk to just 27%, with 62% of voters in the state disapproving of her. She’s at a middling 51% even within her own party and just 17% of independents and 9% of Republicans are happy with how she’s doing.

A look inside the health care issue gives a good indication of how Lincoln has managed now to get it from all sides. 61% of voters in the state oppose the President’s plan, and among those folks Lincoln’s approval rating is just 8% with 79% of them expressing the belief that she’s too liberal.

That’s what Nancy Pelosi’s pole-vaulting is getting the Democrats: more and more endangered incumbents. There are just so many Democrats who can “retire” and be reshuffled by those not tainted with votes in favor of the Obama agenda. There are just so many candidates and just so much money to be raised to fill the slots of those being sacrificed by the Democratic leadership. And in Lincoln’s case, there is no sign she’d go quietly.

There may be no “solution” for the Democrats. The damage from a year of votes on extremist legislation is there for all to see. The Obama budget — with rampant spending, huge tax increases, and a record deficit — will be hard for most Democrats to defend. The best that some can do is to put distance between themselves and the agenda of their far-Left leadership. Here’s a suggestion for those who still have a fighting chance: cut funding for domestic trials and incarceration of Guantanamo detainees, keep the Bush tax cuts in place (at least until unemployment comes down to low single digits), come up with a short, bipartisan list of targeted health-care reforms (e.g., tort reform, removal of the ban on interstate insurance sales), and put an end to the Obama spend-athon, starting with the new budget (which includes $25 billion more in Medicaid spending, $100 billion for Son of the Stimulus, and hikes in outlays for many domestic programs). It might not be enough to save all the Democrats, but it could spare a few.

Another day, another poll, and another Democratic incumbent on the rocks. Public Policy Polling tells us:

John Boozman will enter the Arkansas Senate race this weekend as the frontrunner. He leads incumbent Blanche Lincoln by an amazing 56-33 margin in our first poll of the race.

Lincoln’s approval rating has sunk to just 27%, with 62% of voters in the state disapproving of her. She’s at a middling 51% even within her own party and just 17% of independents and 9% of Republicans are happy with how she’s doing.

A look inside the health care issue gives a good indication of how Lincoln has managed now to get it from all sides. 61% of voters in the state oppose the President’s plan, and among those folks Lincoln’s approval rating is just 8% with 79% of them expressing the belief that she’s too liberal.

That’s what Nancy Pelosi’s pole-vaulting is getting the Democrats: more and more endangered incumbents. There are just so many Democrats who can “retire” and be reshuffled by those not tainted with votes in favor of the Obama agenda. There are just so many candidates and just so much money to be raised to fill the slots of those being sacrificed by the Democratic leadership. And in Lincoln’s case, there is no sign she’d go quietly.

There may be no “solution” for the Democrats. The damage from a year of votes on extremist legislation is there for all to see. The Obama budget — with rampant spending, huge tax increases, and a record deficit — will be hard for most Democrats to defend. The best that some can do is to put distance between themselves and the agenda of their far-Left leadership. Here’s a suggestion for those who still have a fighting chance: cut funding for domestic trials and incarceration of Guantanamo detainees, keep the Bush tax cuts in place (at least until unemployment comes down to low single digits), come up with a short, bipartisan list of targeted health-care reforms (e.g., tort reform, removal of the ban on interstate insurance sales), and put an end to the Obama spend-athon, starting with the new budget (which includes $25 billion more in Medicaid spending, $100 billion for Son of the Stimulus, and hikes in outlays for many domestic programs). It might not be enough to save all the Democrats, but it could spare a few.

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Democrats Wake Up: “Not-Bush” Makes No Sense

It seems that Scott Brown’s election has had a liberating effect on Democratic senators. Perhaps it was Brown’s stirring call to spend money on defense and not on lawyers for terrorists. Or maybe it’s the growing awareness that Obama is not politically invincible, perhaps not even viable. It might be that they’re listening to the voters a little more carefully and are somewhat more attuned to polls that show little patience for Obama’s policy of approaching terrorism as ordinary crime-fighting.

What Democratic lawmakers were willing to mutely accept or spin on behalf of their president, they now are beginning to criticize. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

In a letter to President Obama this week, Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb, Republicans Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Susan Collins, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman wrote that “The attacks of 9/11 were acts of war, and those who planned and carried out those attacks are war criminals.”

The six Senators “strongly” urged the White House to reconsider its decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists in New York federal district court, which they argued is “without precedent in our nation’s history.”

And then there was the decision — made without reflection or input from intelligence officials — to treat the Christmas Day bomber as a common criminal defendant. This was initially the subject of criticism only from the Right. No more:

Earlier this week Mr. Lieberman and Mrs. Collins also wrote that the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a common criminal “almost certainly prevented the military and the intelligence community from obtaining information that would have been critical to learning more about how our enemy operates and to preventing future attacks.”

There’s much to be done by Congress. As the editors note: “the Members can pass a law that strips the federal courts of jurisdiction over such unlawful enemy combatants as Abdulmutallab and KSM.” It gets a bit dicey, of course, because a federal court already has jurisdiction over Abdulmutallab. A smart lawyer experienced in these cases tells me: “What they have done by indicting him, however, is injected a huge wild card into the process — a federal judge. The judge could very easily get in the way. We’ve shifted people from enemy combatant status to criminal status before, but don’t recall doing it the other way.”

That’s not to say the obstacles can’t be overcome and the effort should not be made. They should. It’s important to have the public debate and see whether we have a broad-based consensus in this country that Obama’s knee-jerk rejection to Bush-era anti-terrorism policies was foolhardy, that a military tribunal is an appropriate forum for handling al-Qaeda-supported or -trained terrorists (without regard to where they are apprehended), and that high-value detainees should be interrogated minus the Miranda warnings by trained intelligence personnel with all the available data to elicit the maximum amount of intelligence information. There is nothing contrary to our “values” or our legal precedents in any of this. It’s the Obami and their Justice Department lefty lawyers who are out of step with both. In the wake of the Massachusetts epic upset, Democratic lawmakers are starting to come to their senses. That’s a very good thing for the country and might spare a few of them Martha Coakely’s fate.

It seems that Scott Brown’s election has had a liberating effect on Democratic senators. Perhaps it was Brown’s stirring call to spend money on defense and not on lawyers for terrorists. Or maybe it’s the growing awareness that Obama is not politically invincible, perhaps not even viable. It might be that they’re listening to the voters a little more carefully and are somewhat more attuned to polls that show little patience for Obama’s policy of approaching terrorism as ordinary crime-fighting.

What Democratic lawmakers were willing to mutely accept or spin on behalf of their president, they now are beginning to criticize. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

In a letter to President Obama this week, Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb, Republicans Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Susan Collins, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman wrote that “The attacks of 9/11 were acts of war, and those who planned and carried out those attacks are war criminals.”

The six Senators “strongly” urged the White House to reconsider its decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists in New York federal district court, which they argued is “without precedent in our nation’s history.”

And then there was the decision — made without reflection or input from intelligence officials — to treat the Christmas Day bomber as a common criminal defendant. This was initially the subject of criticism only from the Right. No more:

Earlier this week Mr. Lieberman and Mrs. Collins also wrote that the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a common criminal “almost certainly prevented the military and the intelligence community from obtaining information that would have been critical to learning more about how our enemy operates and to preventing future attacks.”

There’s much to be done by Congress. As the editors note: “the Members can pass a law that strips the federal courts of jurisdiction over such unlawful enemy combatants as Abdulmutallab and KSM.” It gets a bit dicey, of course, because a federal court already has jurisdiction over Abdulmutallab. A smart lawyer experienced in these cases tells me: “What they have done by indicting him, however, is injected a huge wild card into the process — a federal judge. The judge could very easily get in the way. We’ve shifted people from enemy combatant status to criminal status before, but don’t recall doing it the other way.”

That’s not to say the obstacles can’t be overcome and the effort should not be made. They should. It’s important to have the public debate and see whether we have a broad-based consensus in this country that Obama’s knee-jerk rejection to Bush-era anti-terrorism policies was foolhardy, that a military tribunal is an appropriate forum for handling al-Qaeda-supported or -trained terrorists (without regard to where they are apprehended), and that high-value detainees should be interrogated minus the Miranda warnings by trained intelligence personnel with all the available data to elicit the maximum amount of intelligence information. There is nothing contrary to our “values” or our legal precedents in any of this. It’s the Obami and their Justice Department lefty lawyers who are out of step with both. In the wake of the Massachusetts epic upset, Democratic lawmakers are starting to come to their senses. That’s a very good thing for the country and might spare a few of them Martha Coakely’s fate.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Hardly a record the Democrats want to run on: “The 2010 federal budget deficit will be $1.35 trillion, nearly as large as last year’s record $1.4 trillion budget shortfall, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office. The CBO, in its budget outlook released Tuesday, also projected a ‘muted’ economic recovery over the next few years. The unemployment rate will average more than 10 percent for the first half of this year and then decline at a slower pace than in past recoveries, the CBO said. The jobless rate won’t return to a sustainable level of 5 percent until 2014, the budget office predicted.” No wonder “blame George W. Bush” is the crutch of choice for the Obami.

In the latest CNN poll, 50 percent of adults (not even registered voters) disapprove of Obama’s performance, and 55 percent think he didn’t focus on the most important problems in his first year.

Allan Metzer is skeptical on the “spending freeze”: “Why should one think the president is serious if he first increases discretionary spending by almost 30%, then proclaims a freeze. And he follows the freeze by announcing a pitcher full of new entitlements. I will treat his statement as the start of a serious effort to control spending when he proposes to cut entitlements.”

Sen. John McCain has a challenge: “If you really believe in freezing spending, then come out in the State of the Union address and promise to veto the Senate Democrats’ $80 billion spending bill, which they’re drawing up right now, and say you’ll veto the House’s $154 billion spending bill, too.”

But the Left really hates the idea: “Liberals are denouncing the spending freeze across blogs and airwaves. Many believe the move is all about politics, not policy. And the politics, many say, are just as clumsy as the policy.”

Meanwhile, the Senate defeated an amendment to create the Conrad-Gregg deficit-reduction commission, which Obama backed. “Supporters garnered 53 votes for the plan, which was co-sponsored by Gregg and Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. But 60 votes were required under procedural rules. Thirty-six Democrats and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted for the plan, as did 16 Republicans.” Obama can’t get even that through the Senate, but maybe on this one he wasn’t trying. (It’s getting hard to tell.)

And Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh oppose using reconciliation to pass health care. It seems Scott Brown has sent a shiver through the Congress, halting action on just about everything. Well, if the first rule of lawmaking is “do no harm,” this is a positive development.

James Taranto observes that “intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom or sense. Very intelligent people have been known to advance very compelling arguments on behalf of very bad ideas. What’s more, there is a particular type of stupidity to which intelligent people are uniquely prone: intellectual snobbery, or the tendency to cultivate an attitude of contempt toward those who are not as bright. This may appeal to New York Times readers or voters in, say, Hyde Park–that is, to people who think they’re better than everyone else too. But it may prove Barack Obama’s undoing as a national politician.” Well, that and his not accomplishing anything.

Marty Peretz catches Obama editing Israel out of the list of countries assisting in Haiti. “The fact is that, next to our country, Israel sent the largest contingent of trained rescue workers, doctors, and other medical personnel. … So didn’t Obama notice? For God’s sake, everybody noticed the deep Israeli involvement. I understand that Obama doesn’t like Middle East narratives that do not contain ‘one side and the other side’ equal valence. But he couldn’t have that here. The Arabs don’t care a fig, not for their impoverished and backward own, and certainly not for strangers. That’s why their presence in Haiti amounted to a couple of bucks from Saudi Arabia and maybe from some other sheikhs. … Yes, I think that the labors of the Israelis were edited out of Obama’s speech, either by his speechwriters (who have made dissing Israel their forté) or by his own oh-so-delicate but dishonest censoring mechanism.”

Hardly a record the Democrats want to run on: “The 2010 federal budget deficit will be $1.35 trillion, nearly as large as last year’s record $1.4 trillion budget shortfall, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office. The CBO, in its budget outlook released Tuesday, also projected a ‘muted’ economic recovery over the next few years. The unemployment rate will average more than 10 percent for the first half of this year and then decline at a slower pace than in past recoveries, the CBO said. The jobless rate won’t return to a sustainable level of 5 percent until 2014, the budget office predicted.” No wonder “blame George W. Bush” is the crutch of choice for the Obami.

In the latest CNN poll, 50 percent of adults (not even registered voters) disapprove of Obama’s performance, and 55 percent think he didn’t focus on the most important problems in his first year.

Allan Metzer is skeptical on the “spending freeze”: “Why should one think the president is serious if he first increases discretionary spending by almost 30%, then proclaims a freeze. And he follows the freeze by announcing a pitcher full of new entitlements. I will treat his statement as the start of a serious effort to control spending when he proposes to cut entitlements.”

Sen. John McCain has a challenge: “If you really believe in freezing spending, then come out in the State of the Union address and promise to veto the Senate Democrats’ $80 billion spending bill, which they’re drawing up right now, and say you’ll veto the House’s $154 billion spending bill, too.”

But the Left really hates the idea: “Liberals are denouncing the spending freeze across blogs and airwaves. Many believe the move is all about politics, not policy. And the politics, many say, are just as clumsy as the policy.”

Meanwhile, the Senate defeated an amendment to create the Conrad-Gregg deficit-reduction commission, which Obama backed. “Supporters garnered 53 votes for the plan, which was co-sponsored by Gregg and Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. But 60 votes were required under procedural rules. Thirty-six Democrats and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted for the plan, as did 16 Republicans.” Obama can’t get even that through the Senate, but maybe on this one he wasn’t trying. (It’s getting hard to tell.)

And Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh oppose using reconciliation to pass health care. It seems Scott Brown has sent a shiver through the Congress, halting action on just about everything. Well, if the first rule of lawmaking is “do no harm,” this is a positive development.

James Taranto observes that “intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom or sense. Very intelligent people have been known to advance very compelling arguments on behalf of very bad ideas. What’s more, there is a particular type of stupidity to which intelligent people are uniquely prone: intellectual snobbery, or the tendency to cultivate an attitude of contempt toward those who are not as bright. This may appeal to New York Times readers or voters in, say, Hyde Park–that is, to people who think they’re better than everyone else too. But it may prove Barack Obama’s undoing as a national politician.” Well, that and his not accomplishing anything.

Marty Peretz catches Obama editing Israel out of the list of countries assisting in Haiti. “The fact is that, next to our country, Israel sent the largest contingent of trained rescue workers, doctors, and other medical personnel. … So didn’t Obama notice? For God’s sake, everybody noticed the deep Israeli involvement. I understand that Obama doesn’t like Middle East narratives that do not contain ‘one side and the other side’ equal valence. But he couldn’t have that here. The Arabs don’t care a fig, not for their impoverished and backward own, and certainly not for strangers. That’s why their presence in Haiti amounted to a couple of bucks from Saudi Arabia and maybe from some other sheikhs. … Yes, I think that the labors of the Israelis were edited out of Obama’s speech, either by his speechwriters (who have made dissing Israel their forté) or by his own oh-so-delicate but dishonest censoring mechanism.”

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Senators to Obama: Forget the KSM Trial

Perhaps the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts has had a liberating effect on Democrats. No longer do they cling to the notion that their political survival depends on adhering to the Obama position on everything from health care to national security. Indeed, now might be just the time to demonstrate some independence and clearheaded thinking. In that vein, a bipartisan group of senators has now called for a reversal of the decision to try KSM in civilian court. Sens. Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, Blanche Lincoln, Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham have written to Eric Holder. The letter reads in part:

We and many others have already expressed serious concerns about whether a trial in civilian court might compromise classified evidence, including revealing sources and methods used by our intelligence community.  We are also very concerned that, by bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists responsible for 9/11 to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, only blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood, you will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.  Such a trial would almost certainly become a recruitment and radicalization tool for those who wish us harm.

The security and other risks inherent in holding the trial in New York City are reflected in Mayor Bloomberg’s recent letter to the administration advising that New York City will be required to spend more than $200 million per year in security measures for the trial.  As Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly know too well, the threat of terrorist acts in New York City is a daily challenge.  Holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial in that city, and trying other enemy combatants in venues such as Washington, DC and northern Virginia, would unnecessarily increase the burden of facing those challenges, including the increased risk of terrorist attacks.

The bottom line, say the senators: “Given the risks and costs, it is far more logical, cost-effective, and strategically wise to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the military commissions that Congress and the President have now established for that very purpose.”

It is noteworthy that the junior senator from New York is not among the signatories. Perhaps her new primary opponent will weigh in.

This is the first serious bipartisan challenge to the ill-conceived decision to extend the benefits of a civilian trial to the 9/11 terrorists. The number of Democrats who now feel compelled to step forward is also noteworthy. And what will their colleagues say if this comes to a vote? Will they rise to the defense of  Holder and Obama, or will they concede this was a misguided experiment?

Perhaps the time has come for Congress to assert itself, declare its intentions regarding the jurisdiction of the federal courts, and put some daylight between the unpopular and dangerous “not-Bush” anti-terror policies of the Obami. If so, this is a critical and welcomed development and the beginning of a sane reversal of Obama policies that have proven unworkable and politically unpalatable beyond the confines of the campaign trail. There is much Congress can do: resolutions, funding, and legislation. It is not too late to correct the errors of the Obami’s first year.

Perhaps the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts has had a liberating effect on Democrats. No longer do they cling to the notion that their political survival depends on adhering to the Obama position on everything from health care to national security. Indeed, now might be just the time to demonstrate some independence and clearheaded thinking. In that vein, a bipartisan group of senators has now called for a reversal of the decision to try KSM in civilian court. Sens. Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, Blanche Lincoln, Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham have written to Eric Holder. The letter reads in part:

We and many others have already expressed serious concerns about whether a trial in civilian court might compromise classified evidence, including revealing sources and methods used by our intelligence community.  We are also very concerned that, by bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists responsible for 9/11 to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, only blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood, you will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.  Such a trial would almost certainly become a recruitment and radicalization tool for those who wish us harm.

The security and other risks inherent in holding the trial in New York City are reflected in Mayor Bloomberg’s recent letter to the administration advising that New York City will be required to spend more than $200 million per year in security measures for the trial.  As Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly know too well, the threat of terrorist acts in New York City is a daily challenge.  Holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial in that city, and trying other enemy combatants in venues such as Washington, DC and northern Virginia, would unnecessarily increase the burden of facing those challenges, including the increased risk of terrorist attacks.

The bottom line, say the senators: “Given the risks and costs, it is far more logical, cost-effective, and strategically wise to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the military commissions that Congress and the President have now established for that very purpose.”

It is noteworthy that the junior senator from New York is not among the signatories. Perhaps her new primary opponent will weigh in.

This is the first serious bipartisan challenge to the ill-conceived decision to extend the benefits of a civilian trial to the 9/11 terrorists. The number of Democrats who now feel compelled to step forward is also noteworthy. And what will their colleagues say if this comes to a vote? Will they rise to the defense of  Holder and Obama, or will they concede this was a misguided experiment?

Perhaps the time has come for Congress to assert itself, declare its intentions regarding the jurisdiction of the federal courts, and put some daylight between the unpopular and dangerous “not-Bush” anti-terror policies of the Obami. If so, this is a critical and welcomed development and the beginning of a sane reversal of Obama policies that have proven unworkable and politically unpalatable beyond the confines of the campaign trail. There is much Congress can do: resolutions, funding, and legislation. It is not too late to correct the errors of the Obami’s first year.

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