Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bob McDonnell

RE: Time for a Chief Executive

Gov. Bob McDonnell provided a good example today of what Tim Pawlenty was talking about: governors have to make hard choices, balance budgets, and take responsibility for their efforts. McDonnnell today announced that after taking over a $1.8B budget shortfall, he’s not only balanced the books for this year but also run up a $220M surplus for the remainder of this fiscal year. He has also closed a $4.2B shortfall for 2011-2012. He did this all without raising taxes. His communications director, Tucker Martin, explained via email:

The Governor’s mid-session revenue reforecast targeted state spending to the proper levels. Virginia state employees also returned $28 million to state coffers through their own savings, which they were incentivized to do by the prospect of up to a 3% one-time bonus if a surplus was achieved. The governor also instituted a strict hiring freeze in state government. So the basic factors on this surplus were the governor holding the line on new spending, accurate revenue re-forecasting, state employee savings, a hiring freeze and increases in corporate and individual tax returns, which is a small, but positive, economic signal. The increases in corporate and individual withholding and non-withholding equal 75% of the surplus money. So this is a story of conservative budgeting, and not just raising taxes to get out of trouble. As a result, our economy is starting to pick up down here. We’ve added 71,500 jobs since February, third highest amount in the nation, and you can start to see that in the slight uptick in withholding.

The list of cuts in education, health and human safety, and even in public safety are substantial. But in the end, spending in 2011-2012 in Virginia will merely return to 2005-2006 levels. Is that the end of civilization as we know it? That’s what the Democrats would have had us believe when they said it was impossible to balance the budget without huge tax hikes.

McDonnell has said he’s not running for anything in 2012, and I think this is one pol who’s telling the truth. But if you want to know what a grown-up chief executive looks like, this is it.

Gov. Bob McDonnell provided a good example today of what Tim Pawlenty was talking about: governors have to make hard choices, balance budgets, and take responsibility for their efforts. McDonnnell today announced that after taking over a $1.8B budget shortfall, he’s not only balanced the books for this year but also run up a $220M surplus for the remainder of this fiscal year. He has also closed a $4.2B shortfall for 2011-2012. He did this all without raising taxes. His communications director, Tucker Martin, explained via email:

The Governor’s mid-session revenue reforecast targeted state spending to the proper levels. Virginia state employees also returned $28 million to state coffers through their own savings, which they were incentivized to do by the prospect of up to a 3% one-time bonus if a surplus was achieved. The governor also instituted a strict hiring freeze in state government. So the basic factors on this surplus were the governor holding the line on new spending, accurate revenue re-forecasting, state employee savings, a hiring freeze and increases in corporate and individual tax returns, which is a small, but positive, economic signal. The increases in corporate and individual withholding and non-withholding equal 75% of the surplus money. So this is a story of conservative budgeting, and not just raising taxes to get out of trouble. As a result, our economy is starting to pick up down here. We’ve added 71,500 jobs since February, third highest amount in the nation, and you can start to see that in the slight uptick in withholding.

The list of cuts in education, health and human safety, and even in public safety are substantial. But in the end, spending in 2011-2012 in Virginia will merely return to 2005-2006 levels. Is that the end of civilization as we know it? That’s what the Democrats would have had us believe when they said it was impossible to balance the budget without huge tax hikes.

McDonnell has said he’s not running for anything in 2012, and I think this is one pol who’s telling the truth. But if you want to know what a grown-up chief executive looks like, this is it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Gen. Stanley McChrystal took the blame. But he isn’t the problem, says Jackson Diehl: “If anyone deserves blame for the latest airing of the administration’s internal feuds over Afghanistan, it is President Obama. For months Obama has tolerated deep divisions between his military and civilian aides over how to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he announced last December. The divide has made it practically impossible to fashion a coherent politico-military plan, led to frequent disputes over tactics and contributed to a sharp deterioration in the administration’s relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”

It took Rolling Stone to make clear “just how badly Barack Obama’s ‘good war’ in Afghanistan is going.”

Obama took office in January 2009, yet voters think Hillary Clinton is more qualified to be president: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 57% of voters feel Clinton is qualified to be president, but 34% disagree and say she is not. As for President Obama, 51% say he is fit for the job. However, 44% say he is not qualified to be president, even though he has now served 17 months in the job.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell took a few hits early in his term but his approval stands at 63%, according to an internal poll.

The North Korean soccer team took a beating. (“After an embarrassing 7-0 drubbing by Portugal yesterday, will the North Korean soccer team have to face the wrath of Kim Jong Il?”) Maybe they should have hired Chinese players instead of Chinese fans.

Obama took it on the chin in court yesterday: “A federal judge in New Orleans halted President Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium on Tuesday, saying the government never justified the ban and appeared to mislead the public in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Judge Martin L.C. Feldman issued an injunction, saying that the moratorium will hurt drilling-rig operators and suppliers and that the government has not proved an outright ban is needed, rather than a more limited moratorium. He also said the Interior Department also misstated the opinion of the experts it consulted. Those experts from the National Academy of Engineering have said they don’t support the blanket ban.”

It took the NRA to put a bullet through the heart of campaign finance “reform”: “Rep. Mike Castle (Del.), one of just two Republican sponsors of a sweeping campaign finance bill, is so upset about late changes to the measure he is considering withdrawing his support and voting against it. ‘He’s absolutely opposed to the [NRA] exemption,’ Castle spokeswoman Kate Dickens told The Hill. ‘The exemptions are getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think they are even done yet.’”

It took Obama to put Russ Feingold’s seat at risk. “Incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold is still in a virtual dead heat with endorsed Republican challenger Ron Johnson in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal took the blame. But he isn’t the problem, says Jackson Diehl: “If anyone deserves blame for the latest airing of the administration’s internal feuds over Afghanistan, it is President Obama. For months Obama has tolerated deep divisions between his military and civilian aides over how to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he announced last December. The divide has made it practically impossible to fashion a coherent politico-military plan, led to frequent disputes over tactics and contributed to a sharp deterioration in the administration’s relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”

It took Rolling Stone to make clear “just how badly Barack Obama’s ‘good war’ in Afghanistan is going.”

Obama took office in January 2009, yet voters think Hillary Clinton is more qualified to be president: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 57% of voters feel Clinton is qualified to be president, but 34% disagree and say she is not. As for President Obama, 51% say he is fit for the job. However, 44% say he is not qualified to be president, even though he has now served 17 months in the job.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell took a few hits early in his term but his approval stands at 63%, according to an internal poll.

The North Korean soccer team took a beating. (“After an embarrassing 7-0 drubbing by Portugal yesterday, will the North Korean soccer team have to face the wrath of Kim Jong Il?”) Maybe they should have hired Chinese players instead of Chinese fans.

Obama took it on the chin in court yesterday: “A federal judge in New Orleans halted President Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium on Tuesday, saying the government never justified the ban and appeared to mislead the public in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Judge Martin L.C. Feldman issued an injunction, saying that the moratorium will hurt drilling-rig operators and suppliers and that the government has not proved an outright ban is needed, rather than a more limited moratorium. He also said the Interior Department also misstated the opinion of the experts it consulted. Those experts from the National Academy of Engineering have said they don’t support the blanket ban.”

It took the NRA to put a bullet through the heart of campaign finance “reform”: “Rep. Mike Castle (Del.), one of just two Republican sponsors of a sweeping campaign finance bill, is so upset about late changes to the measure he is considering withdrawing his support and voting against it. ‘He’s absolutely opposed to the [NRA] exemption,’ Castle spokeswoman Kate Dickens told The Hill. ‘The exemptions are getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think they are even done yet.’”

It took Obama to put Russ Feingold’s seat at risk. “Incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold is still in a virtual dead heat with endorsed Republican challenger Ron Johnson in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.”

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Obama Sinks to a New Low … in the Polls

President Obama’s Gallup approval/disapproval rating is now 44 percent/48 percent, a new low.

As a reference point, Obama’s three-day average was 52 percent when Chris Christie beat Jon Corzine in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell destroyed Creigh Deeds in Virginia. And Obama’s approval/disapproval rating on January 20, 2010 — when Republican Scott Brown shocked the political world by winning the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy — Obama’s three-day average (January 19-21) was 49 percent/45 percent (it was 47/47 on January 20).

This matters because presidential approval ratings are an important, if not always a decisive, factor in political races — and right now Obama’s public standing is considerably below where it was last November and below where it was in January, when Democrats were getting pounded by GOP candidates.

The bad news for Democrats keeps rolling in, day by day. And as the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf continues unabated, the job picture remains bleak, trust in government reaches all-time lows, and disdain for Congress approaches all-time highs, there’s little reason for Democrats to view the midterm elections with anything less than anxiety bordering on panic.

That may change – but if it does, more likely than not it will change for the worse.

President Obama’s Gallup approval/disapproval rating is now 44 percent/48 percent, a new low.

As a reference point, Obama’s three-day average was 52 percent when Chris Christie beat Jon Corzine in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell destroyed Creigh Deeds in Virginia. And Obama’s approval/disapproval rating on January 20, 2010 — when Republican Scott Brown shocked the political world by winning the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy — Obama’s three-day average (January 19-21) was 49 percent/45 percent (it was 47/47 on January 20).

This matters because presidential approval ratings are an important, if not always a decisive, factor in political races — and right now Obama’s public standing is considerably below where it was last November and below where it was in January, when Democrats were getting pounded by GOP candidates.

The bad news for Democrats keeps rolling in, day by day. And as the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf continues unabated, the job picture remains bleak, trust in government reaches all-time lows, and disdain for Congress approaches all-time highs, there’s little reason for Democrats to view the midterm elections with anything less than anxiety bordering on panic.

That may change – but if it does, more likely than not it will change for the worse.

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RE: Virginia’s 11th

If you needed any reminder of the Washington Post‘s egregious cheerleading for Democrats in Virginia (which results in comical reporting and flawed analysis, as Gov. Bob McDonnell, a survivor of Post-attack syndrome, can attest), along comes this take on the contest in Virginia’s 11th:

The 11th District’s recent history suggests it is favorable to centrists. [Gerry] Connolly and his predecessor, GOP Rep. Tom Davis, lean toward the middle ideologically, and Connolly beat [Keith] Fimian in 2008 partly by arguing that the Republican was too conservative. Without explicitly calling himself a moderate, Herrity said he was the only Republican who could beat Connolly. Many national party strategists privately agreed with that assessment, although some worried about the effectiveness of [Pat] Herrity’s campaign. On Tuesday, Herrity barely scratched out a win in his home base of Fairfax County and lost by a huge margin in Prince William County.

Let’s count the ways in which this is ridiculous and misleading to voters. First, the key problem for Connolly, which the Post conceals, is that he has departed from Tom Davis’s moderate approach and aligned himself with Nancy Pelosi and the president on taxes, health care, cap-and-trade, and spending. But the Post has its narrative — Fimian is too extreme, Connolly is suited to the district — and it is not going to let facts get in the way. Second, which national party strategists are we talking about? None are named. The ones I’ve talked to knew all along that Herrity was a weak candidate, unimpressive on the stump, and unlikely to fire up the troops. That’s why Eric Cantor, among others, endorsed Fimian.

This is just one more example of why the Post‘s Virginia political reporting is routinely ignored by readers and politicians alike.

If you needed any reminder of the Washington Post‘s egregious cheerleading for Democrats in Virginia (which results in comical reporting and flawed analysis, as Gov. Bob McDonnell, a survivor of Post-attack syndrome, can attest), along comes this take on the contest in Virginia’s 11th:

The 11th District’s recent history suggests it is favorable to centrists. [Gerry] Connolly and his predecessor, GOP Rep. Tom Davis, lean toward the middle ideologically, and Connolly beat [Keith] Fimian in 2008 partly by arguing that the Republican was too conservative. Without explicitly calling himself a moderate, Herrity said he was the only Republican who could beat Connolly. Many national party strategists privately agreed with that assessment, although some worried about the effectiveness of [Pat] Herrity’s campaign. On Tuesday, Herrity barely scratched out a win in his home base of Fairfax County and lost by a huge margin in Prince William County.

Let’s count the ways in which this is ridiculous and misleading to voters. First, the key problem for Connolly, which the Post conceals, is that he has departed from Tom Davis’s moderate approach and aligned himself with Nancy Pelosi and the president on taxes, health care, cap-and-trade, and spending. But the Post has its narrative — Fimian is too extreme, Connolly is suited to the district — and it is not going to let facts get in the way. Second, which national party strategists are we talking about? None are named. The ones I’ve talked to knew all along that Herrity was a weak candidate, unimpressive on the stump, and unlikely to fire up the troops. That’s why Eric Cantor, among others, endorsed Fimian.

This is just one more example of why the Post‘s Virginia political reporting is routinely ignored by readers and politicians alike.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Gov. Bob McDonnell better get some decent staff. First, he leaves slavery out of a Confederate History Month proclamation, and then he hires Fred Malek without knowing that “in 1971 [he] compiled a list of Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the president’s request, an action that has been the subject of numerous articles and for which Malek has repeatedly apologized” or that Malek “recently paid a $100,000 civil fine related to his firm’s work with Connecticut’s pension fund.” Unforced errors will kill you in baseball and in politics.

Elena Kagan better reveal more about her judicial philosophy or a bunch of senators are going to oppose her nomination. After all, ”senators, interest groups and the media [are trying] to piece together a portrait of the solicitor general’s views from scraps of speeches, scholarly articles and actions as a member of two Democratic administrations. Because Kagan, 50, has never been a judge and has not published a major work since 2001, her record lacks the ‘paper trail’ that other nominees in recent years have had. But it also seems at times contradictory, or at least ambiguous.”

Obama better be willing to send more than 1,200 National Guard troops to secure the border. Not even CBS News thinks it’s enough. “Some law enforcement officials along the border said they worry that Mr. Obama will repeat Bush’s mistake by limiting the troops to support roles, such as conducting surveillance and installing lighting, rather than letting them make arrests and confront smugglers. They also believe the scale of the force — one-fifth of the size of the one sent by Bush — is too small to make a difference along the length of the 2,000-mile border.”  I’m not in favor of the Arizona immigration law, but it sure did get Obama’s attention.

Obama better pay attention to this poll: “Forty-five percent disapprove of the Obama administration’s handling of the spill while 35 percent approve.” And that’s the New York Times survey.

Obama better hope Democratic senators don’t pay attention to the polls: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 41% of U.S. voters now hold a favorable opinion of Kagan but 47% view her unfavorably, up from 43% a week ago and 39% just after President Obama announced her nomination. … With Senate hearings on Kagan’s nomination set to begin June 28, 36% of voters now favor her confirmation, but 39% are opposed. One-out-of-four (25%) are undecided.” For Democrats wanting to show their independence from Obama, why not vote no?

You better keep an eye on Chris Christie: “Governor Christie on Tuesday told a borough teacher to find another job if she did not feel she was compensated enough as he defended his state budget cuts and promoted a plan to cap annual growth in property tax collections. … ‘Your union said that is the greatest assault on public education in the history of the state,’ Christie said. ‘That’s why the union has no credibility, stupid statements like that.’” He keeps that up and they’ll be a “Draft Christie” movement in 2012.

Obama better knock off the self-pity — Americans don’t like whiners: Daniel Halper on Obama’s comment that this is the hardest year and a half of any president: “It shows his self-absorption and utter lack of a sense of history. … Obama’s whining is puerile. One does hope it’s been the toughest year and a half he’s ever had. He is the president, and it’s a job that requires a bit of work. But to treat the previous presidents with so little respect is unbecoming.” And this was the candidate with a “superior temperament.”

The Democrats better lock away Joe Biden and Richard Blumenthal: “Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday took an unexpected dig at Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal for misstating his military service record. … ‘I didn’t serve in Vietnam. I don’t want to make a Blumenthal mistake here,’ he said according to a pool report. ‘Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him.’” I don’t necessarily see Obama sticking with Biden in 2012, do you?

Gov. Bob McDonnell better get some decent staff. First, he leaves slavery out of a Confederate History Month proclamation, and then he hires Fred Malek without knowing that “in 1971 [he] compiled a list of Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the president’s request, an action that has been the subject of numerous articles and for which Malek has repeatedly apologized” or that Malek “recently paid a $100,000 civil fine related to his firm’s work with Connecticut’s pension fund.” Unforced errors will kill you in baseball and in politics.

Elena Kagan better reveal more about her judicial philosophy or a bunch of senators are going to oppose her nomination. After all, ”senators, interest groups and the media [are trying] to piece together a portrait of the solicitor general’s views from scraps of speeches, scholarly articles and actions as a member of two Democratic administrations. Because Kagan, 50, has never been a judge and has not published a major work since 2001, her record lacks the ‘paper trail’ that other nominees in recent years have had. But it also seems at times contradictory, or at least ambiguous.”

Obama better be willing to send more than 1,200 National Guard troops to secure the border. Not even CBS News thinks it’s enough. “Some law enforcement officials along the border said they worry that Mr. Obama will repeat Bush’s mistake by limiting the troops to support roles, such as conducting surveillance and installing lighting, rather than letting them make arrests and confront smugglers. They also believe the scale of the force — one-fifth of the size of the one sent by Bush — is too small to make a difference along the length of the 2,000-mile border.”  I’m not in favor of the Arizona immigration law, but it sure did get Obama’s attention.

Obama better pay attention to this poll: “Forty-five percent disapprove of the Obama administration’s handling of the spill while 35 percent approve.” And that’s the New York Times survey.

Obama better hope Democratic senators don’t pay attention to the polls: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 41% of U.S. voters now hold a favorable opinion of Kagan but 47% view her unfavorably, up from 43% a week ago and 39% just after President Obama announced her nomination. … With Senate hearings on Kagan’s nomination set to begin June 28, 36% of voters now favor her confirmation, but 39% are opposed. One-out-of-four (25%) are undecided.” For Democrats wanting to show their independence from Obama, why not vote no?

You better keep an eye on Chris Christie: “Governor Christie on Tuesday told a borough teacher to find another job if she did not feel she was compensated enough as he defended his state budget cuts and promoted a plan to cap annual growth in property tax collections. … ‘Your union said that is the greatest assault on public education in the history of the state,’ Christie said. ‘That’s why the union has no credibility, stupid statements like that.’” He keeps that up and they’ll be a “Draft Christie” movement in 2012.

Obama better knock off the self-pity — Americans don’t like whiners: Daniel Halper on Obama’s comment that this is the hardest year and a half of any president: “It shows his self-absorption and utter lack of a sense of history. … Obama’s whining is puerile. One does hope it’s been the toughest year and a half he’s ever had. He is the president, and it’s a job that requires a bit of work. But to treat the previous presidents with so little respect is unbecoming.” And this was the candidate with a “superior temperament.”

The Democrats better lock away Joe Biden and Richard Blumenthal: “Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday took an unexpected dig at Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal for misstating his military service record. … ‘I didn’t serve in Vietnam. I don’t want to make a Blumenthal mistake here,’ he said according to a pool report. ‘Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him.’” I don’t necessarily see Obama sticking with Biden in 2012, do you?

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Is Silence Enough?

Rand Paul is learning what it means to have the bright, hot light of national media on him. After an obnoxious outing on ABC during which Paul whined and railed at the mainstream media for outing his views on federal anti-discrimination legislation, he changed his tune and told Wolf Blitzer on CNN point blank that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. With little explanation of the quick evolution in his views, he said he’s a definite yes on whether he’d have voted for the Act in 1964. On the Americans with Disabilities Act, he flailed around for a bit and then came down on the side of maybe.

Should we be surprised, then, that Paul abruptly cancelled on short notice his appearance on Meet the Press? I suppose he could try to hide from every unsympathetic reporter in the country, but such a decision will simply underscore the fact that he can’t be trusted to go out in public.

And one other disturbing note about the Blitzer interview: he didn’t firmly disassociate himself from his father’s foreign-policy views:

BLITZER: I want you to have a chance to differentiate, if you want to differentiate, with your dad. I’ve interviewed Congressman Ron Paul on many occasions and we’ve gone through all of these issues. He’s a principled libertarian, as you well know. First of all, are you as principled a libertarian in — from your perspective, as your dad?

PAUL:  Some will say not. I call myself a constitutional conservative, which I’m — means that I believe that the constitution does restrict and restrain the federal government and we should be doing a lot less than we’re doing. And if we did so, I think we would balance the budget and we would have more local and state control…

BLITZER: All right.

PAUL: So we’ll agree on a lot of issues and we’ll disagree on some and there may be some nuance. But I would say I —  you know, he will probably still be the — the number one libertarian in the country. I’m probably not going to supplant him there.

BLITZER: You’re not going to be able to compete, because there are four votes — and I’ve discussed this with him himself — in with the vote was 425-1 or 421-1, 424-1, for example, a war — asking Arab states to acknowledge genocide in Darfur, asking Vietnam to release a political prisoner, condemning the Zimbabwe government, awarding a gold medal to Rosa Parks.

Your dad was the only member on the Democratic and Republican side to vote against that because he’s a principled libertarian and he doesn’t want the U.S. government involved in any of these issues.

Are you the same as him?

PAUL:  Probably not. And the thing is, is that he is incredibly principled. And I admire him for the stands he’s taken. Interestingly, some of those things, it sounds like how could anybody be against that? The reason he votes against it a lot of times is not that he disagrees with the position. Often, he’ll disa — he’ll agree with the position of the resolution, but just think that the government really shouldn’t be making a statement on some of these things.

I think it’s yet to be seen how I’ll vote on resolutions — non-binding resolutions. But I’m probably not going to be the great path breaker that he is. But I think he stands on principle and I think he’s well respected because he doesn’t compromise his principles.

Does this include resolutions on Israel? Is he on board with the war in Afghanistan or not? Does he think we should be promoting human rights abroad? He recently did put out a position paper on Israel — presumably drafted for him — which was a step in the right direction. So one doesn’t sense that he’s exactly in lockstep with his father on foreign policy, but neither is he interested in conducting a robust war on Islamic jihadists or promoting American values around the world. If elected, will he have more in common with Obama on foreign policy than with any other Republican senator? I would think so.

If Paul is going to survive — and it’s an open question whether he should — he can’t hide from the media or the voters. He’s going to have to articulate a non-wacky view of foreign and domestic policy that is in line with average Kentucky voters. And if he can’t do that, or if he doesn’t really feel comfortable with non-wacky views, then Kentucky Republicans made a big mistake in nominating him. Other Republicans, conservative activists, and bloggers should consider their nominees this year and in 2012 very carefully; otherwise they will lose a golden opportunity afforded by Obama to unify conservatives and attract independent voters. They might want to consider the Republicans who won high-profile races: Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown. Yes, they ran against big government and Obamaism, but they were all well-versed in policy and ideologically well within mainstream conservatism.

And if Republicans want an example of political suicide, they can take a look at the Democrats both in and outside of Connecticut. They collectively have failed the political sobriety test. Connecticut Democrats on Friday formally nominated Richard Blumenthal. With the Democrats painting Ron Paul as the GOP’s poster boy and Republicans doing the same with Blumenthal for the Democratic Party, voters may decide that sometimes it’s better to have a candidate with a bit of experience, who’s been vetted before the primary, and who doesn’t spend his time denying that he is a liar or an extremist.

Rand Paul is learning what it means to have the bright, hot light of national media on him. After an obnoxious outing on ABC during which Paul whined and railed at the mainstream media for outing his views on federal anti-discrimination legislation, he changed his tune and told Wolf Blitzer on CNN point blank that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. With little explanation of the quick evolution in his views, he said he’s a definite yes on whether he’d have voted for the Act in 1964. On the Americans with Disabilities Act, he flailed around for a bit and then came down on the side of maybe.

Should we be surprised, then, that Paul abruptly cancelled on short notice his appearance on Meet the Press? I suppose he could try to hide from every unsympathetic reporter in the country, but such a decision will simply underscore the fact that he can’t be trusted to go out in public.

And one other disturbing note about the Blitzer interview: he didn’t firmly disassociate himself from his father’s foreign-policy views:

BLITZER: I want you to have a chance to differentiate, if you want to differentiate, with your dad. I’ve interviewed Congressman Ron Paul on many occasions and we’ve gone through all of these issues. He’s a principled libertarian, as you well know. First of all, are you as principled a libertarian in — from your perspective, as your dad?

PAUL:  Some will say not. I call myself a constitutional conservative, which I’m — means that I believe that the constitution does restrict and restrain the federal government and we should be doing a lot less than we’re doing. And if we did so, I think we would balance the budget and we would have more local and state control…

BLITZER: All right.

PAUL: So we’ll agree on a lot of issues and we’ll disagree on some and there may be some nuance. But I would say I —  you know, he will probably still be the — the number one libertarian in the country. I’m probably not going to supplant him there.

BLITZER: You’re not going to be able to compete, because there are four votes — and I’ve discussed this with him himself — in with the vote was 425-1 or 421-1, 424-1, for example, a war — asking Arab states to acknowledge genocide in Darfur, asking Vietnam to release a political prisoner, condemning the Zimbabwe government, awarding a gold medal to Rosa Parks.

Your dad was the only member on the Democratic and Republican side to vote against that because he’s a principled libertarian and he doesn’t want the U.S. government involved in any of these issues.

Are you the same as him?

PAUL:  Probably not. And the thing is, is that he is incredibly principled. And I admire him for the stands he’s taken. Interestingly, some of those things, it sounds like how could anybody be against that? The reason he votes against it a lot of times is not that he disagrees with the position. Often, he’ll disa — he’ll agree with the position of the resolution, but just think that the government really shouldn’t be making a statement on some of these things.

I think it’s yet to be seen how I’ll vote on resolutions — non-binding resolutions. But I’m probably not going to be the great path breaker that he is. But I think he stands on principle and I think he’s well respected because he doesn’t compromise his principles.

Does this include resolutions on Israel? Is he on board with the war in Afghanistan or not? Does he think we should be promoting human rights abroad? He recently did put out a position paper on Israel — presumably drafted for him — which was a step in the right direction. So one doesn’t sense that he’s exactly in lockstep with his father on foreign policy, but neither is he interested in conducting a robust war on Islamic jihadists or promoting American values around the world. If elected, will he have more in common with Obama on foreign policy than with any other Republican senator? I would think so.

If Paul is going to survive — and it’s an open question whether he should — he can’t hide from the media or the voters. He’s going to have to articulate a non-wacky view of foreign and domestic policy that is in line with average Kentucky voters. And if he can’t do that, or if he doesn’t really feel comfortable with non-wacky views, then Kentucky Republicans made a big mistake in nominating him. Other Republicans, conservative activists, and bloggers should consider their nominees this year and in 2012 very carefully; otherwise they will lose a golden opportunity afforded by Obama to unify conservatives and attract independent voters. They might want to consider the Republicans who won high-profile races: Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown. Yes, they ran against big government and Obamaism, but they were all well-versed in policy and ideologically well within mainstream conservatism.

And if Republicans want an example of political suicide, they can take a look at the Democrats both in and outside of Connecticut. They collectively have failed the political sobriety test. Connecticut Democrats on Friday formally nominated Richard Blumenthal. With the Democrats painting Ron Paul as the GOP’s poster boy and Republicans doing the same with Blumenthal for the Democratic Party, voters may decide that sometimes it’s better to have a candidate with a bit of experience, who’s been vetted before the primary, and who doesn’t spend his time denying that he is a liar or an extremist.

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Rubber-Stamping Obama’s Agenda Can Be Hazardous to Democrats

This report on the prospects for Republicans’ gains in the House in suburban districts features my home district, the 11th in northern Virginia. Represented for years by moderate Republican Tom Davis, Gerry Connolly now occupies the seat. He’s brimming with confidence — sort of:

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a liberal Democrat who won the seat by a wide margin in 2008, agrees—up to a point. “Seeing it go Republican again would be big,” he said, before adding, “I don’t expect that to happen.”

But unlike his immediate predecessor, who hewed a moderate line and often confounded the conservative base, Connolly has been a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda. And his constituents are none too pleased. At a health-care town hall, they vented their frustration:

He touted the hundreds of millions he had won for his district to expand its congested highways and intersections. He defended the president’s stimulus package, noting that $77 million was going to help build a rail line to Dulles Airport, which lies partly in Fairfax County.

He then gave a detailed defense of the health bill. “I voted for it and am proud to have voted for it,” he said.

What followed was a barrage of negative comments and questions on health care. Did he really read the whole bill? Why is my doctor now telling me that he’ll check my pacemaker only four times a year instead of monthly? What in the Constitution gives you the power to demand people pay for health insurance?

Mr. Connolly cut off questioning after 20 minutes, saying he has to get home to his wife. A knot of constituents gathered to shake his hand and to invite him to various events. One asked about his daughter, who’s now in college.

Outside, he waved off the hostility. “Yeah, they were critical in there,” he said. “But I’ve known these folks for years. You saw how they were asking about my daughter. I’ll win this precinct.”

Perhaps. Or maybe the voter was being polite. The two Republicans vying to oppose Connolly have figured out his weak spot: he’s gone far left in a moderate district. (“‘He’s been acting as Nancy Pelosi’s personal lieutenant,’ Mr. [Pat] Herrity said to a chorus of boos, speaking one morning to several hundred party faithful in the gym of West Springfield High School. ‘I call him Gerry Pelosi.’”) Keith Fimian is focusing on the deficit that the Democrats have piled up, accusing them of “preparing for the next generation a life of servitude and mediocrity.”

It is noteworthy that Obama crushed John McCain in 2008 in Fairfax County, winning by more than 20 points. But it is a different story now. Bob McDonnell won the county in the 2009 gubernatorial race. It seems that the voters have gotten a good look at Obamaism and don’t like what they see. Connolly — like Obama — took a risk that voters had moved left and would welcome a huge  expansion of federal power and shrug off the taxes to pay for it. We’ll find out in November if that was a smart bet.

This report on the prospects for Republicans’ gains in the House in suburban districts features my home district, the 11th in northern Virginia. Represented for years by moderate Republican Tom Davis, Gerry Connolly now occupies the seat. He’s brimming with confidence — sort of:

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a liberal Democrat who won the seat by a wide margin in 2008, agrees—up to a point. “Seeing it go Republican again would be big,” he said, before adding, “I don’t expect that to happen.”

But unlike his immediate predecessor, who hewed a moderate line and often confounded the conservative base, Connolly has been a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda. And his constituents are none too pleased. At a health-care town hall, they vented their frustration:

He touted the hundreds of millions he had won for his district to expand its congested highways and intersections. He defended the president’s stimulus package, noting that $77 million was going to help build a rail line to Dulles Airport, which lies partly in Fairfax County.

He then gave a detailed defense of the health bill. “I voted for it and am proud to have voted for it,” he said.

What followed was a barrage of negative comments and questions on health care. Did he really read the whole bill? Why is my doctor now telling me that he’ll check my pacemaker only four times a year instead of monthly? What in the Constitution gives you the power to demand people pay for health insurance?

Mr. Connolly cut off questioning after 20 minutes, saying he has to get home to his wife. A knot of constituents gathered to shake his hand and to invite him to various events. One asked about his daughter, who’s now in college.

Outside, he waved off the hostility. “Yeah, they were critical in there,” he said. “But I’ve known these folks for years. You saw how they were asking about my daughter. I’ll win this precinct.”

Perhaps. Or maybe the voter was being polite. The two Republicans vying to oppose Connolly have figured out his weak spot: he’s gone far left in a moderate district. (“‘He’s been acting as Nancy Pelosi’s personal lieutenant,’ Mr. [Pat] Herrity said to a chorus of boos, speaking one morning to several hundred party faithful in the gym of West Springfield High School. ‘I call him Gerry Pelosi.’”) Keith Fimian is focusing on the deficit that the Democrats have piled up, accusing them of “preparing for the next generation a life of servitude and mediocrity.”

It is noteworthy that Obama crushed John McCain in 2008 in Fairfax County, winning by more than 20 points. But it is a different story now. Bob McDonnell won the county in the 2009 gubernatorial race. It seems that the voters have gotten a good look at Obamaism and don’t like what they see. Connolly — like Obama — took a risk that voters had moved left and would welcome a huge  expansion of federal power and shrug off the taxes to pay for it. We’ll find out in November if that was a smart bet.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama loses to the movement ridiculed by the chattering class: “On major issues, 48% of voters say that the average Tea Party member is closer to their views than President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% hold the opposite view and believe the president’s views are closer to their own.”

And the movement sort of looks like America, according to Gallup: “Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. … Tea Party supporters are decidedly Republican and conservative in their leanings. Also, compared with average Americans, supporters are slightly more likely to be male and less likely to be lower-income. … In several other respects, however — their age, educational background, employment status, and race — Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large.” In other words, they are pretty much like all the other voters Obama ignores.

Tom Goldstein’s reading the Supreme Court retirement tea leaves: “To clear up any remaining ambiguity, if you believe or hear anyone else say that Justice Ginsburg may retire this summer, this is the appropriate response: Will. Not. Happen. No other member of the Court has any reason to retire either. By all accounts, each of the Justices is in good health. All of them feel an obligation to serve. Although the Court is divided, it’s not Congress; none is going to pull an Evan Bayh and walk away. Justice Souter’s perspective on his role and tenure was unique. And it’s a good job, so few people want to give it up. (If offered it, you should take it.)”

Liberal reporters discover Obama is a phony.

Robert Gibbs finally says something both funny and true: “I think Michael Steele’s problem isn’t the race card; it’s the credit card.”

Obama vs. Bob McDonnell: “In Washington, President Obama is borrowing, taxing, and spending with abandon — with little apparent concern about the long-term consequences of his unprecedented expansion of government control of the economy and the claims it will make on future earnings of the American people. The president’s agenda relies on one-party power and minimal attempts at compromise. In Richmond, on the other hand, Gov. Bob McDonnell has just closed a $4 billion budget deficit without raising taxes. To do so, he made significant cuts in a budget that had expanded by more than 70 percent in a decade — better than 28 percent for every citizen in Virginia (in inflation-adjusted dollars).”

Gabriel Schoenfeld on Obama’s Iran policy: “The Obama administration is dithering. Bent upon getting a Security Council resolution rather than assembling a coalition of the willing, the White House and American policy is being held hostage by Russia and most of all by China. Here’s an informed prediction: if Beijing does come around and support a new round of sanctions, it will be hailed by the White House as a major breakthrough: peace in our time. But the actual sanctions will be weak to worthless. China has too much at stake in Iran as a source of energy. It also sees an opportunity to poke us in the eye. … One question that should be asked is what we will say the day after Iran tests its first nuclear device.”

Obama loses to the movement ridiculed by the chattering class: “On major issues, 48% of voters say that the average Tea Party member is closer to their views than President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% hold the opposite view and believe the president’s views are closer to their own.”

And the movement sort of looks like America, according to Gallup: “Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. … Tea Party supporters are decidedly Republican and conservative in their leanings. Also, compared with average Americans, supporters are slightly more likely to be male and less likely to be lower-income. … In several other respects, however — their age, educational background, employment status, and race — Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large.” In other words, they are pretty much like all the other voters Obama ignores.

Tom Goldstein’s reading the Supreme Court retirement tea leaves: “To clear up any remaining ambiguity, if you believe or hear anyone else say that Justice Ginsburg may retire this summer, this is the appropriate response: Will. Not. Happen. No other member of the Court has any reason to retire either. By all accounts, each of the Justices is in good health. All of them feel an obligation to serve. Although the Court is divided, it’s not Congress; none is going to pull an Evan Bayh and walk away. Justice Souter’s perspective on his role and tenure was unique. And it’s a good job, so few people want to give it up. (If offered it, you should take it.)”

Liberal reporters discover Obama is a phony.

Robert Gibbs finally says something both funny and true: “I think Michael Steele’s problem isn’t the race card; it’s the credit card.”

Obama vs. Bob McDonnell: “In Washington, President Obama is borrowing, taxing, and spending with abandon — with little apparent concern about the long-term consequences of his unprecedented expansion of government control of the economy and the claims it will make on future earnings of the American people. The president’s agenda relies on one-party power and minimal attempts at compromise. In Richmond, on the other hand, Gov. Bob McDonnell has just closed a $4 billion budget deficit without raising taxes. To do so, he made significant cuts in a budget that had expanded by more than 70 percent in a decade — better than 28 percent for every citizen in Virginia (in inflation-adjusted dollars).”

Gabriel Schoenfeld on Obama’s Iran policy: “The Obama administration is dithering. Bent upon getting a Security Council resolution rather than assembling a coalition of the willing, the White House and American policy is being held hostage by Russia and most of all by China. Here’s an informed prediction: if Beijing does come around and support a new round of sanctions, it will be hailed by the White House as a major breakthrough: peace in our time. But the actual sanctions will be weak to worthless. China has too much at stake in Iran as a source of energy. It also sees an opportunity to poke us in the eye. … One question that should be asked is what we will say the day after Iran tests its first nuclear device.”

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Cage-Rattling Time

The debate between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio on Sunday highlighted the dilemma that Crist is facing: he is weighed down with the mantle of an establishment Republican, a go-alonger, precisely when the Republicans want  ideological clarity and rhetorical inspiration. During the discussion about the stimulus, Crist uttered this:

You can’t just be off on some limb, rattling the cage and saying you’re going to do great things. … [You can't] stand on principle or politics above the people of your state that you’re supposed to serve.

Well, the entire conservative base wants to rattle the Beltway cage and do great things — uproot the noxious ObamaCare and reestablish some semblance of fiscal sanity. Crist is telling them to pipe down and take the road money. He has a cramped view of what it is to serve — to scramble for your voters’ share of the pie rather than toss the pie and start over. And it is this attitude, coupled with the obvious disdain for conservative activists, that has dashed Crist’s prospects.

It is also a lesson for candidates in other races about self-definition. The successful GOP candidates of late — Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown — have embraced, not ridiculed, the activist base. They have wholly rejected the Obama agenda. They have looked at the larger picture, the big themes, and grasped that there is a Center-Right coalition to be forged in opposition to the liberal-statist agenda that has unnerved even some liberals. (Even Jane Hamsher gets why we shouldn’t be forcing people to buy insurance from companies they don’t want to patronize.) You can be mild mannered (McDonnell) while carrying a very conservative message. But the message, if a Republican is going to be successful, must be unequivocal and cage-rattling. That is why Marco Rubio has his lead and is headed for an impressive win.

The debate between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio on Sunday highlighted the dilemma that Crist is facing: he is weighed down with the mantle of an establishment Republican, a go-alonger, precisely when the Republicans want  ideological clarity and rhetorical inspiration. During the discussion about the stimulus, Crist uttered this:

You can’t just be off on some limb, rattling the cage and saying you’re going to do great things. … [You can't] stand on principle or politics above the people of your state that you’re supposed to serve.

Well, the entire conservative base wants to rattle the Beltway cage and do great things — uproot the noxious ObamaCare and reestablish some semblance of fiscal sanity. Crist is telling them to pipe down and take the road money. He has a cramped view of what it is to serve — to scramble for your voters’ share of the pie rather than toss the pie and start over. And it is this attitude, coupled with the obvious disdain for conservative activists, that has dashed Crist’s prospects.

It is also a lesson for candidates in other races about self-definition. The successful GOP candidates of late — Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown — have embraced, not ridiculed, the activist base. They have wholly rejected the Obama agenda. They have looked at the larger picture, the big themes, and grasped that there is a Center-Right coalition to be forged in opposition to the liberal-statist agenda that has unnerved even some liberals. (Even Jane Hamsher gets why we shouldn’t be forcing people to buy insurance from companies they don’t want to patronize.) You can be mild mannered (McDonnell) while carrying a very conservative message. But the message, if a Republican is going to be successful, must be unequivocal and cage-rattling. That is why Marco Rubio has his lead and is headed for an impressive win.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jane Hamsher or Bill Kristol? “This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. … The bill was written so that most Wal-Mart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage. … In 2009, health care costs were 17.3% of GDP [but] in 2019 [under the] Senate bill [they'll be] 20.9% of GDP. … This bill does not bring down costs.”

The end of the Blue Dogs: “The party made a concerted effort in 2006 and 2008 to recruit candidates that could win moderate or GOP-leaning districts. That’s a key reason why Democrats won such big congressional majorities. But after forging a big-tent caucus, Speaker Pelosi has not governed that way. Instead, she pushed Blue Dog and other moderate Democrats to vote as if they represented her San Francisco district.” When the Republicans did this, I think the media narrative was that the party was risking majority support for ideological extremism.

Quin Hillyer channels the anti–Bart Stupak anger: “And if he thinks he will be ever live it down or be allowed to forget it, well, maybe he doesn’t think very well.”

How incompetent is NPR to get duped by a fake AIPAC release saying the group favors a settlement freeze? Doesn’t public radio know anything about AIPAC? Your tax dollars at work.

Marco Rubio is crushing potential opponents: “Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio for now runs well ahead in a three-way race for the U.S. Senate in Florida, should Governor Charlie Crist decide to run as an independent. The first Rasmussen Repots telephone survey of a potential three-candidate Senate race finds Rubio earning 42% support from likely voters in the state. Democrat Kendrick Meek picks up 25%, and Crist runs third with 22%. Eleven percent (11%) are undecided.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell on ObamaCare: “[T]his massive and complex piece of legislation allows the federal government to exercise control over one-sixth of the United States economy. … Most disconcerting is the provision mandating that every American must purchase health insurance or face a monetary penalty. … Just a few days ago I approved a bill, passed on a bipartisan basis, which prohibits mandatory insurance purchases for Virginians. Virginia’s Attorney General has rightly chosen to challenge the constitutionality of the federal mandate. I anticipate that he will be joined by a number of other states.” It now becomes an issue in every state race.

Yuval Levin on the latest regarding the Cornhusker Kickback: “That kickback was of course offered as an enticement to win the vote of Senator Ben Nelson, and to help him forget about his pro-life principles. Well lo and behold, Nelson has now announced that he opposes the reconciliation bill and will vote against it. Apparently it taxes and spends too much. It really renews your faith in politicians, doesn’t it?”

Not just a headache or fodder but potential grounds for prosecution: “The formidable Patrick Fitzgerald is leading a probe of Guantanamo Bay defense lawyers whom the CIA accused of giving detainees photos of CIA agents in an attempt to identify interrogators. … The investigation could be a headache for the Justice Department, and fodder for the attacks from Liz Cheney and others on the Guantanamo Bay lawyers.”

Perhaps Obama picked a fight on the wrong issue. Most Israelis think Bibi Netanyahu was aware of the decision to approve additional housing units in Jerusalem, but “most of those asked by the survey supported the view that construction in east Jerusalem should be treated like construction in Tel Aviv, despite the harsh criticism launched at the government over the recent diplomatic dispute with the US. Only a quarter of those polled believe the construction project should not have been approved, with 41% saying that only the timing was wrong. The number of people supportive of the construction in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood is twice that of its objectors.”

ABC staffers are grumbling over the hiring of Christiane Amanpour for This Week. Well, if it’s any consolation to the eminently qualified Jake Tapper, the criterion used was apparently “celebrity.” It certainly wasn’t objectivity. Or accuracy. Remember this one.

Jane Hamsher or Bill Kristol? “This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. … The bill was written so that most Wal-Mart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage. … In 2009, health care costs were 17.3% of GDP [but] in 2019 [under the] Senate bill [they'll be] 20.9% of GDP. … This bill does not bring down costs.”

The end of the Blue Dogs: “The party made a concerted effort in 2006 and 2008 to recruit candidates that could win moderate or GOP-leaning districts. That’s a key reason why Democrats won such big congressional majorities. But after forging a big-tent caucus, Speaker Pelosi has not governed that way. Instead, she pushed Blue Dog and other moderate Democrats to vote as if they represented her San Francisco district.” When the Republicans did this, I think the media narrative was that the party was risking majority support for ideological extremism.

Quin Hillyer channels the anti–Bart Stupak anger: “And if he thinks he will be ever live it down or be allowed to forget it, well, maybe he doesn’t think very well.”

How incompetent is NPR to get duped by a fake AIPAC release saying the group favors a settlement freeze? Doesn’t public radio know anything about AIPAC? Your tax dollars at work.

Marco Rubio is crushing potential opponents: “Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio for now runs well ahead in a three-way race for the U.S. Senate in Florida, should Governor Charlie Crist decide to run as an independent. The first Rasmussen Repots telephone survey of a potential three-candidate Senate race finds Rubio earning 42% support from likely voters in the state. Democrat Kendrick Meek picks up 25%, and Crist runs third with 22%. Eleven percent (11%) are undecided.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell on ObamaCare: “[T]his massive and complex piece of legislation allows the federal government to exercise control over one-sixth of the United States economy. … Most disconcerting is the provision mandating that every American must purchase health insurance or face a monetary penalty. … Just a few days ago I approved a bill, passed on a bipartisan basis, which prohibits mandatory insurance purchases for Virginians. Virginia’s Attorney General has rightly chosen to challenge the constitutionality of the federal mandate. I anticipate that he will be joined by a number of other states.” It now becomes an issue in every state race.

Yuval Levin on the latest regarding the Cornhusker Kickback: “That kickback was of course offered as an enticement to win the vote of Senator Ben Nelson, and to help him forget about his pro-life principles. Well lo and behold, Nelson has now announced that he opposes the reconciliation bill and will vote against it. Apparently it taxes and spends too much. It really renews your faith in politicians, doesn’t it?”

Not just a headache or fodder but potential grounds for prosecution: “The formidable Patrick Fitzgerald is leading a probe of Guantanamo Bay defense lawyers whom the CIA accused of giving detainees photos of CIA agents in an attempt to identify interrogators. … The investigation could be a headache for the Justice Department, and fodder for the attacks from Liz Cheney and others on the Guantanamo Bay lawyers.”

Perhaps Obama picked a fight on the wrong issue. Most Israelis think Bibi Netanyahu was aware of the decision to approve additional housing units in Jerusalem, but “most of those asked by the survey supported the view that construction in east Jerusalem should be treated like construction in Tel Aviv, despite the harsh criticism launched at the government over the recent diplomatic dispute with the US. Only a quarter of those polled believe the construction project should not have been approved, with 41% saying that only the timing was wrong. The number of people supportive of the construction in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood is twice that of its objectors.”

ABC staffers are grumbling over the hiring of Christiane Amanpour for This Week. Well, if it’s any consolation to the eminently qualified Jake Tapper, the criterion used was apparently “celebrity.” It certainly wasn’t objectivity. Or accuracy. Remember this one.

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What Do the “Yes” Votes Get?

Mark Hemingway’s headline reads: “Obama says he won’t campaign for Dems who vote no on healthcare.” Yes, many of us are tempted to ask why the poor lackeys who vote “yes” don’t get the same promise. Obama has been chasing off local lawmakers of late when he appears in swing states. Creigh Deeds tried to keep his distance, but Bob McDonnell still won in Virginia, running against Obamaism. Chris Christie and Scott Brown didn’t mind Obama coming to their states — it seemed to juice up the Tea Party crowd as well as the traditional conservatives and independents.

Obama-Reid-Pelosi have many weapons in their arsenal. But the president’s popularity isn’t one of them these days. Remember, we are down to the final dozen or so votes. These are lawmakers who already realize that they may be dragged down by the Obama ship. The question now is not whether Obama can save them but whether they can save themselves by voting against ObamaCare. Oh, excuse me — that would be ”deeming not hereby ruled” the monstrous bill, which requires such parliamentary gymnastics to pass. (Can we say “pass”?)

Mark Hemingway’s headline reads: “Obama says he won’t campaign for Dems who vote no on healthcare.” Yes, many of us are tempted to ask why the poor lackeys who vote “yes” don’t get the same promise. Obama has been chasing off local lawmakers of late when he appears in swing states. Creigh Deeds tried to keep his distance, but Bob McDonnell still won in Virginia, running against Obamaism. Chris Christie and Scott Brown didn’t mind Obama coming to their states — it seemed to juice up the Tea Party crowd as well as the traditional conservatives and independents.

Obama-Reid-Pelosi have many weapons in their arsenal. But the president’s popularity isn’t one of them these days. Remember, we are down to the final dozen or so votes. These are lawmakers who already realize that they may be dragged down by the Obama ship. The question now is not whether Obama can save them but whether they can save themselves by voting against ObamaCare. Oh, excuse me — that would be ”deeming not hereby ruled” the monstrous bill, which requires such parliamentary gymnastics to pass. (Can we say “pass”?)

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Wondering where the American Jewish community is on Obama’s Israel-bash-a-thon? Well, being a “wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, whose fidelity, financial and electoral, all Dem administrations can and do take fully for granted” has its drawbacks.” But perhaps, just perhaps, some in the community are starting to notice “the ill wind blowing toward Israel from Mr. Obama’s office.”

Wondering why the House hasn’t voted on ObamaCare yet? “House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that Democrats don’t have the House votes to pass the healthcare bill. ‘If she had 216 votes this bill would be long gone,’ Boehner said of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’” (Rep. James Clyburn admitted that they don’t yet have the votes.)

Wondering if the Obama terror policy is losing steam? David Axelrod seemed less than vigorous about closing Guantanamo. (“We have made good progress. You know, when we got there, the legal status of many of the people there was unclear. We had to go through a process of really sorting all of these cases out. We are beginning to work those cases.”) Boehner was blunt: “I don’t think the Congress will appropriate one dime to move those prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States.”

Wondering if Virginia Democrats are nervous about going down with the Obama ship? “U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., said Friday he could not support health care reform legislation that includes heavy cuts to Medicare, a position he has held since his first vote against the package and his party’s move to push legislation through Congress.” Boucher, an at-risk Democrat, seems unwilling to sacrifice himself for the greater glory of Obama.

Wondering why the media and Democrats are so anxious to discredit the Tea Partiers? Michael Barone says there’s their ”energy, political creativity and enthusiasm into a moribund and dejected political party, like the Democrats of 1968 and the Republicans of 2008.” And also this: “The Republicans for the last two decades have been a party whose litmus tests have been cultural issues, especially abortion. The tea partiers have helped to change their focus to issues of government overreach and spending. That may be a helpful pivot, given the emergence of a millennial generation uncomfortable with crusading cultural conservatism.”

Wondering just how inane the Obami’s argument is against political free speech? Axelrod: ”Under the ruling of the Supreme Court, any lobbyist could go in to any legislator and say, `If you don’t vote our way on this bill, we’re going to run a million-dollar campaign against you in your district.’ And that is a threat to our democracy.” Threatening legislators with ads! What’s next — citizen protests?

Wondering how that “Republican civil war” is going? It isn’t. At the GOP state convention, Carly Fiorina: “Conservatives, independents, moderates, Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, Libertarians – all of us now belong to one party: The ‘Had Enough Party.’ We have had enough, and we are at a critical point in history – in Ronald Reagan’s words: ‘a time for choosing.’ You and I will choose to make a difference this year. Not separately but together.” That was how Bob McDonnell did it. But Fiorina has a primary first.

Wondering where the American Jewish community is on Obama’s Israel-bash-a-thon? Well, being a “wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, whose fidelity, financial and electoral, all Dem administrations can and do take fully for granted” has its drawbacks.” But perhaps, just perhaps, some in the community are starting to notice “the ill wind blowing toward Israel from Mr. Obama’s office.”

Wondering why the House hasn’t voted on ObamaCare yet? “House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that Democrats don’t have the House votes to pass the healthcare bill. ‘If she had 216 votes this bill would be long gone,’ Boehner said of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’” (Rep. James Clyburn admitted that they don’t yet have the votes.)

Wondering if the Obama terror policy is losing steam? David Axelrod seemed less than vigorous about closing Guantanamo. (“We have made good progress. You know, when we got there, the legal status of many of the people there was unclear. We had to go through a process of really sorting all of these cases out. We are beginning to work those cases.”) Boehner was blunt: “I don’t think the Congress will appropriate one dime to move those prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States.”

Wondering if Virginia Democrats are nervous about going down with the Obama ship? “U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., said Friday he could not support health care reform legislation that includes heavy cuts to Medicare, a position he has held since his first vote against the package and his party’s move to push legislation through Congress.” Boucher, an at-risk Democrat, seems unwilling to sacrifice himself for the greater glory of Obama.

Wondering why the media and Democrats are so anxious to discredit the Tea Partiers? Michael Barone says there’s their ”energy, political creativity and enthusiasm into a moribund and dejected political party, like the Democrats of 1968 and the Republicans of 2008.” And also this: “The Republicans for the last two decades have been a party whose litmus tests have been cultural issues, especially abortion. The tea partiers have helped to change their focus to issues of government overreach and spending. That may be a helpful pivot, given the emergence of a millennial generation uncomfortable with crusading cultural conservatism.”

Wondering just how inane the Obami’s argument is against political free speech? Axelrod: ”Under the ruling of the Supreme Court, any lobbyist could go in to any legislator and say, `If you don’t vote our way on this bill, we’re going to run a million-dollar campaign against you in your district.’ And that is a threat to our democracy.” Threatening legislators with ads! What’s next — citizen protests?

Wondering how that “Republican civil war” is going? It isn’t. At the GOP state convention, Carly Fiorina: “Conservatives, independents, moderates, Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, Libertarians – all of us now belong to one party: The ‘Had Enough Party.’ We have had enough, and we are at a critical point in history – in Ronald Reagan’s words: ‘a time for choosing.’ You and I will choose to make a difference this year. Not separately but together.” That was how Bob McDonnell did it. But Fiorina has a primary first.

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Beltway Insiders Are Rarely Right

This is as good an analysis as any we’ve seen on what Obama is up to and why the electorate is swiftly becoming enraged with the political establishment:

“You have leaders saying, ‘We know you hate this . . . but we’re going to force it down your throat because it’s good for you.’ It’s almost an elitist attitude toward the American people . . . that they [Mr. Obama and his policy allies] are smarter than the rest of us.”

It comes from Marco Rubio, who not only has correctly analyzed the current political environment (“They voted for somebody they’d never heard of in Barack Obama because he ran on the platform of a very devoted centrist.”) but who is also adopting the same formula that helped Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown win their races:

Mr. Rubio says he won’t shy away from social issues if asked. He is pro-life and says he would support a Senate filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee under some circumstances. But his campaign is staking out an updated version of the Reagan agenda. “We’re focused on jobs and national security,” he says, “because those are the great and profound national issues of our moment and that’s what 95% of our campaign is based on.”

Front and center is the idea that, fiscally, the federal government is running off the rails. That Washington should be “taking borrowed money to fund the general operation of government,” he says, “and that somehow the government will build so many roads and bridges that everyone will have a job for the next 30 years is absurd.”

Rubio, of course, defies the mainstream narrative that posits a conflict between Tea Party populists and wonkish conservative reformers. He is, as the Republican Party must be, in the business of assembling a broad-based coalition. On immigration, for example, he sets forth a workable formula that other conservatives would be wise to follow:

Securing the border is critical, Mr. Rubio says, but he also recommends that Republicans keep their nativist impulses in check to avoid hurting the party with Latinos, a good chunk of whom are natural GOP allies on growth and opportunity. The rhetoric of some Republicans on immigration “has created a problem,” he says. “I don’t think the Republican Party should be the anti-illegal immigration party. We should be the pro legal immigration party, and we need to do a better job of explaining that to people.”

For the snooty conservative pundits and Republican Beltway insiders who tried to chase Rubio out of the race, this should come as a bracing reminder that there is plenty of political wisdom and talent outside Washington. It is foolish to squelch challengers or to dissuade newcomers. Where else is the next generation of conservative superstars to come from? Thankfully, Rubio ignored the naysayers and may well join Christie, McDonnell, and Brown in the group of talented new conservative leaders who owe their political emergence to the excesses of Obama.

This is as good an analysis as any we’ve seen on what Obama is up to and why the electorate is swiftly becoming enraged with the political establishment:

“You have leaders saying, ‘We know you hate this . . . but we’re going to force it down your throat because it’s good for you.’ It’s almost an elitist attitude toward the American people . . . that they [Mr. Obama and his policy allies] are smarter than the rest of us.”

It comes from Marco Rubio, who not only has correctly analyzed the current political environment (“They voted for somebody they’d never heard of in Barack Obama because he ran on the platform of a very devoted centrist.”) but who is also adopting the same formula that helped Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown win their races:

Mr. Rubio says he won’t shy away from social issues if asked. He is pro-life and says he would support a Senate filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee under some circumstances. But his campaign is staking out an updated version of the Reagan agenda. “We’re focused on jobs and national security,” he says, “because those are the great and profound national issues of our moment and that’s what 95% of our campaign is based on.”

Front and center is the idea that, fiscally, the federal government is running off the rails. That Washington should be “taking borrowed money to fund the general operation of government,” he says, “and that somehow the government will build so many roads and bridges that everyone will have a job for the next 30 years is absurd.”

Rubio, of course, defies the mainstream narrative that posits a conflict between Tea Party populists and wonkish conservative reformers. He is, as the Republican Party must be, in the business of assembling a broad-based coalition. On immigration, for example, he sets forth a workable formula that other conservatives would be wise to follow:

Securing the border is critical, Mr. Rubio says, but he also recommends that Republicans keep their nativist impulses in check to avoid hurting the party with Latinos, a good chunk of whom are natural GOP allies on growth and opportunity. The rhetoric of some Republicans on immigration “has created a problem,” he says. “I don’t think the Republican Party should be the anti-illegal immigration party. We should be the pro legal immigration party, and we need to do a better job of explaining that to people.”

For the snooty conservative pundits and Republican Beltway insiders who tried to chase Rubio out of the race, this should come as a bracing reminder that there is plenty of political wisdom and talent outside Washington. It is foolish to squelch challengers or to dissuade newcomers. Where else is the next generation of conservative superstars to come from? Thankfully, Rubio ignored the naysayers and may well join Christie, McDonnell, and Brown in the group of talented new conservative leaders who owe their political emergence to the excesses of Obama.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

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Running Against Obama

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors see a lesson in the contrasting approaches of two governors — Charlie Crist and Rick Perry:

The different political fortunes have a lot to do with their relative distance from Washington policies. While Mr. Perry has loudly condemned ObamaCare, Mr. Crist has waffled. Mr. Crist embraced not only the President’s “stimulus” bill but the President himself during a now-infamous moment. Mr. Perry refused stimulus dollars for unemployment insurance and education because the funds would simply have increased the demand for state money once the federal aid runs out.

Mr. Crist approved a $2.2 billion tax increase for the fiscal 2010 budget, even though he had promised that “stimulus” money would obviate the need for tax increases. Regardless of Washington’s plans to distribute taxpayer money, Mr. Perry has shown a willingness to cut spending, and during his tenure enacted tax relief for businesses and property owners.

The key in all this, as the editors implicitly acknowledge, is the out-of-step policies of the Obami and the Congress. If not for the spending binge, the fixation on job-killing, and hugely unpopular measures like ObamaCare, Perry would not have a target and Crist would not have been ensnared. The Democrats and their media enablers have obsessively railed at the “party of no.” Putting aside the fact that the allegation is false (Obama’s health-care summit proved this), it ignores the obvious: voters want their representatives to say no. Perry was rewarded for being a stalwart opponent of Obamaism — as were Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown. There isn’t a winning coalition out there for “More ObamaCare!” or “Give Obama all the help he needs!”

And that is a problem for congressional Democrats, who will face a nationalized election, the sole issue being — stop Obama or more of the same. Right now, that’s an untenable position for Democrats, nearly all of whom have assisted in passing one or more parts of the agenda that has riled up the electorate. They can try to put some distance between themselves and the Obama agenda, but it’s getting late in the game, and the voters are awfully mad. If you doubt it, take a look at Charlie Crist’s poll numbers.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors see a lesson in the contrasting approaches of two governors — Charlie Crist and Rick Perry:

The different political fortunes have a lot to do with their relative distance from Washington policies. While Mr. Perry has loudly condemned ObamaCare, Mr. Crist has waffled. Mr. Crist embraced not only the President’s “stimulus” bill but the President himself during a now-infamous moment. Mr. Perry refused stimulus dollars for unemployment insurance and education because the funds would simply have increased the demand for state money once the federal aid runs out.

Mr. Crist approved a $2.2 billion tax increase for the fiscal 2010 budget, even though he had promised that “stimulus” money would obviate the need for tax increases. Regardless of Washington’s plans to distribute taxpayer money, Mr. Perry has shown a willingness to cut spending, and during his tenure enacted tax relief for businesses and property owners.

The key in all this, as the editors implicitly acknowledge, is the out-of-step policies of the Obami and the Congress. If not for the spending binge, the fixation on job-killing, and hugely unpopular measures like ObamaCare, Perry would not have a target and Crist would not have been ensnared. The Democrats and their media enablers have obsessively railed at the “party of no.” Putting aside the fact that the allegation is false (Obama’s health-care summit proved this), it ignores the obvious: voters want their representatives to say no. Perry was rewarded for being a stalwart opponent of Obamaism — as were Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown. There isn’t a winning coalition out there for “More ObamaCare!” or “Give Obama all the help he needs!”

And that is a problem for congressional Democrats, who will face a nationalized election, the sole issue being — stop Obama or more of the same. Right now, that’s an untenable position for Democrats, nearly all of whom have assisted in passing one or more parts of the agenda that has riled up the electorate. They can try to put some distance between themselves and the Obama agenda, but it’s getting late in the game, and the voters are awfully mad. If you doubt it, take a look at Charlie Crist’s poll numbers.

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No Waste of Time

Both before and after the health-care summit there were those on the Left and on the Right who declared it to be a “waste of time.” On a superficial level this might be the case. After all, there was no agreement reached and no breakthrough moment (unless we are talking about the emergence of Rep. Paul Ryan as an impressive new conservative figure). But when  one considers what the summit revealed, the “waste of time” complainers — I think — have it quite wrong, and the complaint reveals much about the complainers.

On the Left many have lost patience with discussion and with democracy itself. The problem, they have convinced themselves, is that Obama isn’t rude and bullying enough. No, really. Dana Milbank encapsulates the thinking:

But now, the world’s most powerful man too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers. That’s what Mr. Cool did at the White House health-care summit on Thursday. For seven hours, he racked up debating points as he parried Republican attacks without so much as raising his voice, but the performance didn’t exactly intimidate his foes.

Actually he tried to bully the Republicans, hog the time, put down John McCain, and glare at Ryan — but he simply failed to out- debate and outshine his opponents, whose demeanor and fluidity trumped his own.

The Left doesn’t want debate in the Senate either. They want this muscled through by reconciliation. The time for debate is over, they keep saying, because — of course — they have lost the debate.

On the Right many didn’t want the summit and some grouched about it afterward. They seem to be in perpetual fear that Obama might actually make some headway with the public, or that the Republicans might reveal themselves to be what their critics accuse them of being — dull-witted, ill-informed, and unattractive. But the Republicans proved to be none of those things and Obama had a surly outing.

The aversion to making a detailed defense in a less than ideal setting is an unfortunate inclination of some on the Right. Listen, they are in the minority; so no setting other than a national convention in which they micromanage everything will be ideal. Politics requires that you show up to do battle in whatever setting you find yourself, so as to convince the persuadable, rally your side, and knock your opponents on their heels.

The “waste of time” set on the Right forget the necessity of explaining again and again the “why” behind conservative principles and values. Following the gubernatorial campaign of Bob McDonnell, his chairman Ed Gillespie explained to me why McDonnell was such an effective candidate:

We say we are for lower taxes. Vote for us, damn it! Figure it out! Bob explains he is for lower taxes because he wants to encourage more businesses and jobs. He is for charter schools because it makes all schools better. He is for offshore drilling because it can help plug the revenue hole and generate high-paying jobs. He spent a lot of time talking to independent voters about what is in it for them.

Conservatives make the mistake of assuming that the generally Center-Right country doesn’t need to be told why the liberal approach (be it on health care or other issues) is flawed; they wrongly assume that everyone understands that when the government federalizes health care, regulates and taxes insurance and the rest, bad things will result. The health-care summit was a reminder of the importance of explaining one’s positions in sober, concrete terms to the American people.

The health-care summit didn’t turn out to be a waste of time. The country learned a lot about its president (mostly not favorable), about what’s wrong with ObamaCare, about the Republicans (mostly favorable), and about the Democratic congressional leadership  (mostly awful to the point of being cringe-inducing). Compared to most of what politicians do, you would be hard pressed to find a better use of their time.

Both before and after the health-care summit there were those on the Left and on the Right who declared it to be a “waste of time.” On a superficial level this might be the case. After all, there was no agreement reached and no breakthrough moment (unless we are talking about the emergence of Rep. Paul Ryan as an impressive new conservative figure). But when  one considers what the summit revealed, the “waste of time” complainers — I think — have it quite wrong, and the complaint reveals much about the complainers.

On the Left many have lost patience with discussion and with democracy itself. The problem, they have convinced themselves, is that Obama isn’t rude and bullying enough. No, really. Dana Milbank encapsulates the thinking:

But now, the world’s most powerful man too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers. That’s what Mr. Cool did at the White House health-care summit on Thursday. For seven hours, he racked up debating points as he parried Republican attacks without so much as raising his voice, but the performance didn’t exactly intimidate his foes.

Actually he tried to bully the Republicans, hog the time, put down John McCain, and glare at Ryan — but he simply failed to out- debate and outshine his opponents, whose demeanor and fluidity trumped his own.

The Left doesn’t want debate in the Senate either. They want this muscled through by reconciliation. The time for debate is over, they keep saying, because — of course — they have lost the debate.

On the Right many didn’t want the summit and some grouched about it afterward. They seem to be in perpetual fear that Obama might actually make some headway with the public, or that the Republicans might reveal themselves to be what their critics accuse them of being — dull-witted, ill-informed, and unattractive. But the Republicans proved to be none of those things and Obama had a surly outing.

The aversion to making a detailed defense in a less than ideal setting is an unfortunate inclination of some on the Right. Listen, they are in the minority; so no setting other than a national convention in which they micromanage everything will be ideal. Politics requires that you show up to do battle in whatever setting you find yourself, so as to convince the persuadable, rally your side, and knock your opponents on their heels.

The “waste of time” set on the Right forget the necessity of explaining again and again the “why” behind conservative principles and values. Following the gubernatorial campaign of Bob McDonnell, his chairman Ed Gillespie explained to me why McDonnell was such an effective candidate:

We say we are for lower taxes. Vote for us, damn it! Figure it out! Bob explains he is for lower taxes because he wants to encourage more businesses and jobs. He is for charter schools because it makes all schools better. He is for offshore drilling because it can help plug the revenue hole and generate high-paying jobs. He spent a lot of time talking to independent voters about what is in it for them.

Conservatives make the mistake of assuming that the generally Center-Right country doesn’t need to be told why the liberal approach (be it on health care or other issues) is flawed; they wrongly assume that everyone understands that when the government federalizes health care, regulates and taxes insurance and the rest, bad things will result. The health-care summit was a reminder of the importance of explaining one’s positions in sober, concrete terms to the American people.

The health-care summit didn’t turn out to be a waste of time. The country learned a lot about its president (mostly not favorable), about what’s wrong with ObamaCare, about the Republicans (mostly favorable), and about the Democratic congressional leadership  (mostly awful to the point of being cringe-inducing). Compared to most of what politicians do, you would be hard pressed to find a better use of their time.

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Not Buying the Democrats’ Excuses

Democrats have two excuses for what has gone so terribly wrong in the last year. The first is the “America is ungovernable” meme. Well, it has been impossible to govern from the Left, certainly. But we have yet to see evidence that a Centrist agenda, fiscal restraint, and pro-growth policies don’t work or can’t pass. Maybe Obama-Reid-Pelosi aren’t capable of formulating or passing broadly popular proposals, but that is different from claiming that there is something broken in our constitutional system or political culture. Let’s see how Govs. Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell do. Then we can revisit whether we have an “ungovernable” problem or a competency and/or extremism problem.

The second excuse is that this is all a communications problem — from the most eloquent politician (we were told) of our time who had a sycophantic media at his feet for the better part of a year. Really, no one is buying this one. Susan Estrich is blunt:

It’s not a communications problem. What’s gone wrong is that people see the country swimming in debt, see the jobs recovery lagging, see friends and neighbors who are not even hanging on, and they just don’t know how this administration is planning to pay for a massive health care reform effort. The appointment of a bipartisan commission on the deficit only underscores the problem and makes it seem that the administration has no answer for it except another new spending program.

Makes complete sense. The White House will ignore it.

Charlie Cook agrees it’s not a communication problem. The usually mild-mannered pollster unloads:

This is a reality problem. And I think they just made some grave miscalculations and as it became more clear that they had screwed up, they just kept doubling down their bet. And so I think, no, this is one of the biggest miscalculations that we’ve seen in modern political history.

Yowser. What’s more, he says it is so bad: “And it’s very hard to come up with a scenario where Democrats don’t lose the House.” Sounds like more than a communication problem.

If Cook is right, and especially if the Democrats also lose the Senate (or come close to doing so), there will be another round of finger-pointing and excuse-mongering. There might even be some soul-searching. But until the Democrats lose enough bodies, it seems as though they aren’t going to rethink their approach and we aren’t going to get a course correction. That’s why they have elections, after all.

Democrats have two excuses for what has gone so terribly wrong in the last year. The first is the “America is ungovernable” meme. Well, it has been impossible to govern from the Left, certainly. But we have yet to see evidence that a Centrist agenda, fiscal restraint, and pro-growth policies don’t work or can’t pass. Maybe Obama-Reid-Pelosi aren’t capable of formulating or passing broadly popular proposals, but that is different from claiming that there is something broken in our constitutional system or political culture. Let’s see how Govs. Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell do. Then we can revisit whether we have an “ungovernable” problem or a competency and/or extremism problem.

The second excuse is that this is all a communications problem — from the most eloquent politician (we were told) of our time who had a sycophantic media at his feet for the better part of a year. Really, no one is buying this one. Susan Estrich is blunt:

It’s not a communications problem. What’s gone wrong is that people see the country swimming in debt, see the jobs recovery lagging, see friends and neighbors who are not even hanging on, and they just don’t know how this administration is planning to pay for a massive health care reform effort. The appointment of a bipartisan commission on the deficit only underscores the problem and makes it seem that the administration has no answer for it except another new spending program.

Makes complete sense. The White House will ignore it.

Charlie Cook agrees it’s not a communication problem. The usually mild-mannered pollster unloads:

This is a reality problem. And I think they just made some grave miscalculations and as it became more clear that they had screwed up, they just kept doubling down their bet. And so I think, no, this is one of the biggest miscalculations that we’ve seen in modern political history.

Yowser. What’s more, he says it is so bad: “And it’s very hard to come up with a scenario where Democrats don’t lose the House.” Sounds like more than a communication problem.

If Cook is right, and especially if the Democrats also lose the Senate (or come close to doing so), there will be another round of finger-pointing and excuse-mongering. There might even be some soul-searching. But until the Democrats lose enough bodies, it seems as though they aren’t going to rethink their approach and we aren’t going to get a course correction. That’s why they have elections, after all.

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Happy Anniversary, Marco Rubio

Chris Good smartly observes that yesterday was not simply the anniversary of the $787B stimulus plan but also that of the ascendancy of Marco Rubio. It was the stimulus plan that vaulted Rubio into the Senate race and now into a double-digit lead:

Much of the previously-little-known former state House speaker’s campaign against Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has focused on Crist’s support of the stimulus. Rubio has hit the governor repeatedly for it since announcing his candidacy. In November, Rubio launched the website CharlieandObama.com, dedicated entirely to tying Crist to Obama for his backing of the $787 billion package–with a now-infamous photo of Crist physically embracing Obama displayed prominently. …

Despite the money that it brought to Florida, that move proved to be an easy and effective weapon for Rubio–who wasn’t yet running for Senate–to claw his way into a competitive race with the well-known Crist. Since then, Rubio steadily hammered Crist on the stimulus, and, despite no one knowing who he was and seemingly having no chance in polls at the start of the primary race, he’s become the darling candidate not just of conservatives in Florida, but of activists and prominent conservative interest groups nationwide.

Today Rubio is the headliner at the CPAC gathering in D.C. (“A darling of the tea party movement and conservative grassroots activists who view the establishment-backed Crist as a squishy, unprincipled moderate, Rubio has suddenly emerged as the belle of the conservative ball.”) In typically tone-deaf fashion, a Crist aide put out a fake version of Rubio’s speech that began “Since my campaign began, I’ve had the privilege of becoming the latest cover boy.” Needless to say, Crist wasn’t invited to the event, and the reminder that Rubio is the latest conservative rock star probably doesn’t help Crist’s cause.

In his rise in the polls, Rubio had some help along the way, primarily from Crist, who ran a hapless race, seemed at odds with the energized conservative base, and now has to cope with a financial scandal in the state party headed by Crist’s confidante. But it was Rubio who sensed the right message well before many other Republicans did. Good explains, ”Crist’s support for the stimulus was the beginning of Florida conservatives’ discontent with their centrist governor, opening a door for Rubio, according to South Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson. ‘It was the tipping point for most conservatives, who said enough is enough,’ Wilkinson said. ‘I think Rubio came along at the right time and said, ‘I’m for smaller government, I’m for balancing the budget.’”

Rubio has proved to be a successful political fundraiser and bridge-builder, putting together inside-the-Beltway conservatives and Tea Party protesters. But recall that a contingent of the “smart” (as in the Obami’s “smart” diplomacy, which means not at all) punditocracy on the Right didn’t want him to run. He’d mess up Crist’s victory lap, they said. Then the mainstream media got into the act, predicting a civil war.

Rubio wisely ignored all that and stuck to a principled conservative platform and an upbeat tone. The latter shouldn’t be ignored. If one looks at the Republican winners of late — Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown — there wasn’t a grouchy, gloom-and-doomer in the lot. In fact, they made the other guys and gals seems like the aggrieved grumps.

So what are the political lessons from Rubio’s success for other Republicans? Ignore Republican insiders; they’re nearly always wrong. Take principled conservative stances on issues voters care most about and stick to them. Ignore early polls; they’re meaningless. Be cheery, avoid personal attacks, and never get in the way of your opponent when he’s self-destructing. That, come to think of it, was pretty close to the Christie-McDonnell-Brown model as well. Oh, and the most important thing: make sure to run when Obama-Reid-Pelosi are in charge. And that opportunity may not last much longer.

Chris Good smartly observes that yesterday was not simply the anniversary of the $787B stimulus plan but also that of the ascendancy of Marco Rubio. It was the stimulus plan that vaulted Rubio into the Senate race and now into a double-digit lead:

Much of the previously-little-known former state House speaker’s campaign against Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has focused on Crist’s support of the stimulus. Rubio has hit the governor repeatedly for it since announcing his candidacy. In November, Rubio launched the website CharlieandObama.com, dedicated entirely to tying Crist to Obama for his backing of the $787 billion package–with a now-infamous photo of Crist physically embracing Obama displayed prominently. …

Despite the money that it brought to Florida, that move proved to be an easy and effective weapon for Rubio–who wasn’t yet running for Senate–to claw his way into a competitive race with the well-known Crist. Since then, Rubio steadily hammered Crist on the stimulus, and, despite no one knowing who he was and seemingly having no chance in polls at the start of the primary race, he’s become the darling candidate not just of conservatives in Florida, but of activists and prominent conservative interest groups nationwide.

Today Rubio is the headliner at the CPAC gathering in D.C. (“A darling of the tea party movement and conservative grassroots activists who view the establishment-backed Crist as a squishy, unprincipled moderate, Rubio has suddenly emerged as the belle of the conservative ball.”) In typically tone-deaf fashion, a Crist aide put out a fake version of Rubio’s speech that began “Since my campaign began, I’ve had the privilege of becoming the latest cover boy.” Needless to say, Crist wasn’t invited to the event, and the reminder that Rubio is the latest conservative rock star probably doesn’t help Crist’s cause.

In his rise in the polls, Rubio had some help along the way, primarily from Crist, who ran a hapless race, seemed at odds with the energized conservative base, and now has to cope with a financial scandal in the state party headed by Crist’s confidante. But it was Rubio who sensed the right message well before many other Republicans did. Good explains, ”Crist’s support for the stimulus was the beginning of Florida conservatives’ discontent with their centrist governor, opening a door for Rubio, according to South Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson. ‘It was the tipping point for most conservatives, who said enough is enough,’ Wilkinson said. ‘I think Rubio came along at the right time and said, ‘I’m for smaller government, I’m for balancing the budget.’”

Rubio has proved to be a successful political fundraiser and bridge-builder, putting together inside-the-Beltway conservatives and Tea Party protesters. But recall that a contingent of the “smart” (as in the Obami’s “smart” diplomacy, which means not at all) punditocracy on the Right didn’t want him to run. He’d mess up Crist’s victory lap, they said. Then the mainstream media got into the act, predicting a civil war.

Rubio wisely ignored all that and stuck to a principled conservative platform and an upbeat tone. The latter shouldn’t be ignored. If one looks at the Republican winners of late — Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown — there wasn’t a grouchy, gloom-and-doomer in the lot. In fact, they made the other guys and gals seems like the aggrieved grumps.

So what are the political lessons from Rubio’s success for other Republicans? Ignore Republican insiders; they’re nearly always wrong. Take principled conservative stances on issues voters care most about and stick to them. Ignore early polls; they’re meaningless. Be cheery, avoid personal attacks, and never get in the way of your opponent when he’s self-destructing. That, come to think of it, was pretty close to the Christie-McDonnell-Brown model as well. Oh, and the most important thing: make sure to run when Obama-Reid-Pelosi are in charge. And that opportunity may not last much longer.

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The Tea Partiers and Their Suitors

Karl Rove has two pieces of sage advice for the Tea Party protesters. First, he cautions that they should maintain their independence from both parties and “and instead influence both parties on debt, spending and an over-reaching federal government.” And independence, he says, is wise for the Republican party as well. (“The GOP cannot possibly hope to control the dynamics of the highly decentralized galaxy of groups that make up the tea party movement. There will be troubling excesses and these will hurt Republicans if the party is formally associated with tea party groups.”) Second, Rove advises the Tea Party protesters to “begin the difficult task of disassociating themselves from cranks and conspiracy nuts. This includes 9/11 deniers, ‘birthers’ who insist Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and militia supporters espousing something vaguely close to armed rebellion.”

The other half of the equation, of course, is how politicians who share the Tea Party protesters’ agenda (generally, fiscal conservatism) should approach them while maintaining their electoral viability with Republicans and swing voters who are fleeing the Democratic party. There are, I would suggest, two ways to go — and it is not clear which one will be successful. There may be figures like Sarah Palin who in essence have become one of them and embody their populist ethos. As the champion of a growing, vibrant movement, a Palin-like figure can then build outward, scooping up voters who share small-government policy goals, if not all the anti-elite, anti-media attitudes the Tea Parties embody. Alternatively, there are candidates like Scott Brown and Bob McDonnell who appealed to but did not identify with the Tea Parties. They set forth a bread-and-butter agenda of fiscal conservatism and assembled a Center-Right coalition that was successful in states that had only a year or so earlier voted for Obama and Democratic congressional candidates.

The danger of the first model is that the candidate can become marginalized and find it difficult to pivot to a broader electorate in a general election race. The danger in the second is that those candidates lack a core base of supporters with fervor and faith. We will have to see how this plays out in 2010 and 2012 should the Tea Parties continue to build momentum. But one thing is certain: the movement has evolved past the point at which it can be derided, mocked, and ignored. And conservative politicians had better figure out a game plan to sweep up its participants.

Karl Rove has two pieces of sage advice for the Tea Party protesters. First, he cautions that they should maintain their independence from both parties and “and instead influence both parties on debt, spending and an over-reaching federal government.” And independence, he says, is wise for the Republican party as well. (“The GOP cannot possibly hope to control the dynamics of the highly decentralized galaxy of groups that make up the tea party movement. There will be troubling excesses and these will hurt Republicans if the party is formally associated with tea party groups.”) Second, Rove advises the Tea Party protesters to “begin the difficult task of disassociating themselves from cranks and conspiracy nuts. This includes 9/11 deniers, ‘birthers’ who insist Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and militia supporters espousing something vaguely close to armed rebellion.”

The other half of the equation, of course, is how politicians who share the Tea Party protesters’ agenda (generally, fiscal conservatism) should approach them while maintaining their electoral viability with Republicans and swing voters who are fleeing the Democratic party. There are, I would suggest, two ways to go — and it is not clear which one will be successful. There may be figures like Sarah Palin who in essence have become one of them and embody their populist ethos. As the champion of a growing, vibrant movement, a Palin-like figure can then build outward, scooping up voters who share small-government policy goals, if not all the anti-elite, anti-media attitudes the Tea Parties embody. Alternatively, there are candidates like Scott Brown and Bob McDonnell who appealed to but did not identify with the Tea Parties. They set forth a bread-and-butter agenda of fiscal conservatism and assembled a Center-Right coalition that was successful in states that had only a year or so earlier voted for Obama and Democratic congressional candidates.

The danger of the first model is that the candidate can become marginalized and find it difficult to pivot to a broader electorate in a general election race. The danger in the second is that those candidates lack a core base of supporters with fervor and faith. We will have to see how this plays out in 2010 and 2012 should the Tea Parties continue to build momentum. But one thing is certain: the movement has evolved past the point at which it can be derided, mocked, and ignored. And conservative politicians had better figure out a game plan to sweep up its participants.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Howard Fineman gives credit where credit is due: “In a city obsessed with visibility and celebrity, it largely goes overlooked that the plodding, unglamorous [Mitch] McConnell is Obama’s most powerful foe—the man he must outmaneuver, or at least neutralize, if he wants to reach the sunny uplands of (bipartisan) legislative accomplishment, not to mention a second term in 2012. It will not be easy.”

CONTENTIONS’s Pete Wehner writes: “Republican officeholders and candidates need to make specific, detailed criticisms of Obama’s agenda without being personally nasty toward or disrespectful of Obama himself. … To the GOP’s credit, much of this is already going on. We’ve seen it in the campaigns run by Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which will be models for others to follow; in the governing record of Indiana’s Mitch Daniels; and in the health care and budget plans put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.” The Left keeps rooting for that GOP “civil war” to break out, but so far no luck.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon on J Street: “The thing that troubles me is that they don’t present themselves as to what they really are. They should not call themselves pro-Israeli.” Actually, even the J Street gang is nervous about the “pro-Israeli” label.

CNN’s latest: “According to the poll, 44 percent of registered voters say Obama deserves re-election, with 52 percent saying the president does not deserve a second term in office. The survey also indicates that 49 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama’s doing as president, with half of the public disapproving of his job in the White House.” Congress does worse: “Fifty-six percent of people questioned in the survey say that most Democrats in Congress do not deserve to be re-elected. An equal amount also say that most congressional Republicans don’t deserve re-election.” Republicans lead in the generic polling in this survey, 47 to 45 percent, an eight-point swing their way since November.

More bad polling news the Obami will no doubt ignore: “In a brutal assessment of the Democratically authored healthcare reform bills pending in Congress and the party’s approach to healthcare, more than half of the respondents to a new Zogby International-University of Texas Health Science Center poll said that lawmakers should start from scratch.”

A fine idea that conservatives should embrace: “The Obama administration, advancing nuclear power use to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, will announce on Tuesday an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to help Southern Co. build two reactors, a government official told Reuters.” Now if we can agree on domestic oil and gas development, there could be a real bipartisan energy policy.

Even California is less Blue than it used to be: “Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman now runs dead even with likely Democratic nominee Jerry Brown in California’s gubernatorial contest.”

Hispanics aren’t thrilled with the Democrats either. Almost like there’s a wave building.

Not even Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal wants Obama’s help — in Connecticut. Well, if he doesn’t help in Massachusetts, you can understand.

James Taranto relays that Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, “admits that the periods 1860-80 and 1910-40 saw global warming on a similar scale to the 1975-98 period, that there has been no significant warming since 1995, and that the so-called Medieval Warm Period calls into question whether the currently observed warming is unprecedented. … So ‘the vast majority of climate scientists’ don’t think the debate is over? Someone had better tell the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee and most of our colleagues in the media, who have long been insisting otherwise–and indeed, who continue to do so.”

Howard Fineman gives credit where credit is due: “In a city obsessed with visibility and celebrity, it largely goes overlooked that the plodding, unglamorous [Mitch] McConnell is Obama’s most powerful foe—the man he must outmaneuver, or at least neutralize, if he wants to reach the sunny uplands of (bipartisan) legislative accomplishment, not to mention a second term in 2012. It will not be easy.”

CONTENTIONS’s Pete Wehner writes: “Republican officeholders and candidates need to make specific, detailed criticisms of Obama’s agenda without being personally nasty toward or disrespectful of Obama himself. … To the GOP’s credit, much of this is already going on. We’ve seen it in the campaigns run by Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which will be models for others to follow; in the governing record of Indiana’s Mitch Daniels; and in the health care and budget plans put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.” The Left keeps rooting for that GOP “civil war” to break out, but so far no luck.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon on J Street: “The thing that troubles me is that they don’t present themselves as to what they really are. They should not call themselves pro-Israeli.” Actually, even the J Street gang is nervous about the “pro-Israeli” label.

CNN’s latest: “According to the poll, 44 percent of registered voters say Obama deserves re-election, with 52 percent saying the president does not deserve a second term in office. The survey also indicates that 49 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama’s doing as president, with half of the public disapproving of his job in the White House.” Congress does worse: “Fifty-six percent of people questioned in the survey say that most Democrats in Congress do not deserve to be re-elected. An equal amount also say that most congressional Republicans don’t deserve re-election.” Republicans lead in the generic polling in this survey, 47 to 45 percent, an eight-point swing their way since November.

More bad polling news the Obami will no doubt ignore: “In a brutal assessment of the Democratically authored healthcare reform bills pending in Congress and the party’s approach to healthcare, more than half of the respondents to a new Zogby International-University of Texas Health Science Center poll said that lawmakers should start from scratch.”

A fine idea that conservatives should embrace: “The Obama administration, advancing nuclear power use to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, will announce on Tuesday an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to help Southern Co. build two reactors, a government official told Reuters.” Now if we can agree on domestic oil and gas development, there could be a real bipartisan energy policy.

Even California is less Blue than it used to be: “Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman now runs dead even with likely Democratic nominee Jerry Brown in California’s gubernatorial contest.”

Hispanics aren’t thrilled with the Democrats either. Almost like there’s a wave building.

Not even Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal wants Obama’s help — in Connecticut. Well, if he doesn’t help in Massachusetts, you can understand.

James Taranto relays that Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, “admits that the periods 1860-80 and 1910-40 saw global warming on a similar scale to the 1975-98 period, that there has been no significant warming since 1995, and that the so-called Medieval Warm Period calls into question whether the currently observed warming is unprecedented. … So ‘the vast majority of climate scientists’ don’t think the debate is over? Someone had better tell the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee and most of our colleagues in the media, who have long been insisting otherwise–and indeed, who continue to do so.”

Read Less