Commentary Magazine


Topic: Byron York

Loughner’s Conspiracy-Theory Obsession

Byron York has a fascinating analysis of Jared Loughner’s obsession with the conspiracy-theory-themed Internet movie Zeitgeist, which friends say the accused shooter watched continually.

The movie is apparently made up of three parts. The first “debunks” organized religion, which is allegedly used as mind-control for the masses. The second claims that the Sept. 11 attacks were staged, in order to create an excuse to wage “constant global warfare.” And the third part alleges that greedy bankers were behind the Sept. 11 attacks:

The third and final part of the documentary is titled “Don’t Mind the Men Behind the Curtain.” Those men are central bankers and currency manipulators, the “invisible government” that controls our lives.

In the early 20th century, according to “Zeitgeist,” “ruthless banking interests” held a secret meeting to create the Federal Reserve system. The goal, beyond enriching themselves, was to debase American currency and reduce the United States to the “slavery” of ever-increasing debt. Anyone who has even sampled kooky speculations about the Fed will recognize this as very old stuff, repackaged with amateurish digital effects.

This is, indeed, repackaged old stuff. The same paranoid ramblings that have been found in anti-Semitic “New World Order” conspiracy theories for over a century.

And while you’d guess that a film like this would be popular only with the fringes of society, it actually seems to have made inroads as a political movement with some fairly mainstream progressives. The “Zeitgeist Movement,” which was created in 2007 and marketed as a progressive “sustainable living” campaign, had reportedly garnered over 300,000 registered followers as of last March. At the time, Travis Walter Donovan, the associate green editor of the Huffington Post, wrote a laudatory article about the movement that made it sound positively utopian.

According to Donovan, the Zeitgeist Movement promotes a “resource-based economy,” which means that “the world’s resources would be considered as the equal inheritance of all the world’s peoples, and would be managed as efficiently and carefully as possible through focusing on the technological potential of sustainable development.”

Donovan concluded his article with this glowing paragraph:

The members of The Zeitgeist Movement seem to face an intimidating wall of those who decree their goals as unattainable. But with 250 international chapters forming in just one year and the membership count rapidly growing, it’s undeniable that many easily identify with the message. The evidence shows that our current system is leading us on a collision course; our present model of society cannot sustain itself. While some deny this, others ignore it, and there are those who still try to profit off of it. The Zeitgeist Movement highlights that there are individuals who believe in a sustainable future where humanity is not united by religious or political ideology, but by the scientific method, venerated as the savior that can develop a system of human equality, thriving from the cooperation and balance of technology and nature.

So, basically, it’s socialism with a couple of “green” words thrown in. And also that New World Order stuff. Sounds like a safe combination to me.

And since this subject has been so hotly politicized, I just want to add that I’m not accusing the Zeitgeist Movement, progressives, the Huffington Post, or any other group of having any sort of influence on the shooting. Despite the misguided and troubling politics of Zeitgeist, it’s clear that the movement is not one that preaches violence, so it would be unfair and erroneous to blame it for the attack.

Byron York has a fascinating analysis of Jared Loughner’s obsession with the conspiracy-theory-themed Internet movie Zeitgeist, which friends say the accused shooter watched continually.

The movie is apparently made up of three parts. The first “debunks” organized religion, which is allegedly used as mind-control for the masses. The second claims that the Sept. 11 attacks were staged, in order to create an excuse to wage “constant global warfare.” And the third part alleges that greedy bankers were behind the Sept. 11 attacks:

The third and final part of the documentary is titled “Don’t Mind the Men Behind the Curtain.” Those men are central bankers and currency manipulators, the “invisible government” that controls our lives.

In the early 20th century, according to “Zeitgeist,” “ruthless banking interests” held a secret meeting to create the Federal Reserve system. The goal, beyond enriching themselves, was to debase American currency and reduce the United States to the “slavery” of ever-increasing debt. Anyone who has even sampled kooky speculations about the Fed will recognize this as very old stuff, repackaged with amateurish digital effects.

This is, indeed, repackaged old stuff. The same paranoid ramblings that have been found in anti-Semitic “New World Order” conspiracy theories for over a century.

And while you’d guess that a film like this would be popular only with the fringes of society, it actually seems to have made inroads as a political movement with some fairly mainstream progressives. The “Zeitgeist Movement,” which was created in 2007 and marketed as a progressive “sustainable living” campaign, had reportedly garnered over 300,000 registered followers as of last March. At the time, Travis Walter Donovan, the associate green editor of the Huffington Post, wrote a laudatory article about the movement that made it sound positively utopian.

According to Donovan, the Zeitgeist Movement promotes a “resource-based economy,” which means that “the world’s resources would be considered as the equal inheritance of all the world’s peoples, and would be managed as efficiently and carefully as possible through focusing on the technological potential of sustainable development.”

Donovan concluded his article with this glowing paragraph:

The members of The Zeitgeist Movement seem to face an intimidating wall of those who decree their goals as unattainable. But with 250 international chapters forming in just one year and the membership count rapidly growing, it’s undeniable that many easily identify with the message. The evidence shows that our current system is leading us on a collision course; our present model of society cannot sustain itself. While some deny this, others ignore it, and there are those who still try to profit off of it. The Zeitgeist Movement highlights that there are individuals who believe in a sustainable future where humanity is not united by religious or political ideology, but by the scientific method, venerated as the savior that can develop a system of human equality, thriving from the cooperation and balance of technology and nature.

So, basically, it’s socialism with a couple of “green” words thrown in. And also that New World Order stuff. Sounds like a safe combination to me.

And since this subject has been so hotly politicized, I just want to add that I’m not accusing the Zeitgeist Movement, progressives, the Huffington Post, or any other group of having any sort of influence on the shooting. Despite the misguided and troubling politics of Zeitgeist, it’s clear that the movement is not one that preaches violence, so it would be unfair and erroneous to blame it for the attack.

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Morning Commentary

Can Michael Steele actually win re-election as RNC chair? Chris Cilliza crunches the numbers and finds that the unpopular GOP official just doesn’t have the support: “In the most optimistic assessments of his current strength among the 168 members of the RNC, Steele has 40 hard supporters. That’s a little less than half of the 85 people he would need to win a second term. A look back at the voting in the 2009 chairman’s race suggests that Steele’s initial base of support simply isn’t big enough.”

Kissinger defends his controversial comments about Soviet Jewry — and his explanation is less than convincing: “The quotations ascribed to me in the transcript of the conversation with President Nixon must be viewed in the context of the time,” wrote Kissinger in an e-mail to the JTA. “We disagreed with the Jackson Amendment, which made Jewish emigration a foreign policy issue. We feared that the amendment would reduce emigration, which is exactly what happened. Jewish emigration never reached the level of 40,000 again until the Soviet Union collapsed. The conversation between Nixon and me must be seen in the context of that dispute and of our distinction between a foreign policy and a humanitarian approach.”

Byron York points out seven signs that the “No Labels” campaign leans left. Reason #7: “The sandwiches. At No Labels, there were stacks of box lunches on tables outside the auditorium. Politico’s Ben Smith noted that, ‘The vegetarian and chicken sandwiches were rapidly devoured at lunch time, leaving only a giant pile of roast beef.’ That’s a sure sign: If there had been more Republicans there, there would have been fewer leftover roast beef sandwiches.”

Richard Holbrooke’s last words — “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan” — may actually have been a joke as opposed to a policy prescription. According to the Washington Post: “The aide said he could not be sure of Holbrooke’s exact words. He emphasized Tuesday that the comment was made in painful banter, rather than as a serious exhortation about policy. Holbrooke also spoke extensively about his family and friends as he awaited surgery by Farzad Najam, a thoracic surgeon of Pakistani descent.”

CounterPunch writer Israel Shamir, a Holocaust denier who claimed that Julian Assange’s rape accuser had ties to the CIA, has been revealed as an employee of WikiLeaks.

Douglas Murray discusses the growing trend of Christmas-season terrorists coming out of Britain and what it needs to do to combat the crisis of radicalization in its universities.

Can Michael Steele actually win re-election as RNC chair? Chris Cilliza crunches the numbers and finds that the unpopular GOP official just doesn’t have the support: “In the most optimistic assessments of his current strength among the 168 members of the RNC, Steele has 40 hard supporters. That’s a little less than half of the 85 people he would need to win a second term. A look back at the voting in the 2009 chairman’s race suggests that Steele’s initial base of support simply isn’t big enough.”

Kissinger defends his controversial comments about Soviet Jewry — and his explanation is less than convincing: “The quotations ascribed to me in the transcript of the conversation with President Nixon must be viewed in the context of the time,” wrote Kissinger in an e-mail to the JTA. “We disagreed with the Jackson Amendment, which made Jewish emigration a foreign policy issue. We feared that the amendment would reduce emigration, which is exactly what happened. Jewish emigration never reached the level of 40,000 again until the Soviet Union collapsed. The conversation between Nixon and me must be seen in the context of that dispute and of our distinction between a foreign policy and a humanitarian approach.”

Byron York points out seven signs that the “No Labels” campaign leans left. Reason #7: “The sandwiches. At No Labels, there were stacks of box lunches on tables outside the auditorium. Politico’s Ben Smith noted that, ‘The vegetarian and chicken sandwiches were rapidly devoured at lunch time, leaving only a giant pile of roast beef.’ That’s a sure sign: If there had been more Republicans there, there would have been fewer leftover roast beef sandwiches.”

Richard Holbrooke’s last words — “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan” — may actually have been a joke as opposed to a policy prescription. According to the Washington Post: “The aide said he could not be sure of Holbrooke’s exact words. He emphasized Tuesday that the comment was made in painful banter, rather than as a serious exhortation about policy. Holbrooke also spoke extensively about his family and friends as he awaited surgery by Farzad Najam, a thoracic surgeon of Pakistani descent.”

CounterPunch writer Israel Shamir, a Holocaust denier who claimed that Julian Assange’s rape accuser had ties to the CIA, has been revealed as an employee of WikiLeaks.

Douglas Murray discusses the growing trend of Christmas-season terrorists coming out of Britain and what it needs to do to combat the crisis of radicalization in its universities.

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In Defense of Labels

Columbia University hosted a “No Labels” conference that John and Byron York have written about. The motto of the No Labels group is “Put the Labels Aside. Do What’s Best for America.” Tom Davis, the former GOP congressman from Virginia, puts it this way: “Labels … get in the way of getting things done.”

Now, I understand people wanting to avoid using labels. For one thing, it advances the impression (which often differs from the reality) that one is independent-minded and unbiased, pragmatic rather than dogmatic, willing to judge issues on the merits and based on reason rather than on rigid ideology. The impression people want to make is obvious: my mind — unlike The Labeled — is a Dogma-Free Zone. No simplistic labels can do justice to the complexity of my beliefs. It’s all quite self-affirming.

What is also at play, I think, is an understandable reaction against hyper-partisanship and the loyalty by some to a political party and ideology that overrides independent thought. Such a mindset is often at war with empirical evidence; any data or circumstances that call into doubt one’s most deeply help convictions have to be ignored, dismissed, or ridiculed. To be in politics is to be a member of a team — and the other side is always wrong. No aspect of its argument can be seen to have merit. We all know people like this — and the truth is that many of us in politics struggle, to one degree or another, with precisely this. The temptation to twist facts and reality to fit into our preconceived notions and theories is quite strong; not many of us resist it as well as we should.

At the same time, there is something to be said in defense of labels — and George Will (not surprisingly) put it as well as anyone when several years ago he wrote:

Particular labels, like everything else, come and go. But there always are various labels because they are useful, even necessary: Politics is a varied business. If a politician’s behavior is not utterly cynical, or mindless, it will have a pattern that is related, at least a bit, to his beliefs. Political actions tend to cluster; so do political actors. Labels describe how particular people generally cluster. … Labels identify classes; but people, by acting, classify themselves.

What one hopes to achieve in politics is to develop a coherent body of thought to help interpret the world. There’s actually quite a lot to be said for having a worldview that helps make sense of unfolding events. To apply a label to oneself (like “conservative” or “liberal”) often means associating with a particular intellectual tradition and with men and women who have thoughtfully and carefully reflected on human nature, society, and the role of government. It matters if your intellectual cast of mind is shaped and informed by Burke or by Rousseau, by Madison or by Marx, by C.S. Lewis or by Ayn Rand. And so it’s only natural that in politics, people, upon reflecting on certain basic questions, would coalesce around certain parties and certain labels.

Pace Tom Davis, then, labels don’t always get in the way of getting things done. Political labels, like political parties, can serve a useful purpose. And I for one would argue that allowing certain intellectual traditions (like conservatism) to inform our current political debates is doing what’s best for America.

A final warning to those who find themselves attracted to promise of a world without labels: No Labels can easily transmute into No Convictions — and politics without convictions, uninformed by deep principles and the best that has been thought and written, becomes simply a power game. And that world is even worse than a world with labels.

Columbia University hosted a “No Labels” conference that John and Byron York have written about. The motto of the No Labels group is “Put the Labels Aside. Do What’s Best for America.” Tom Davis, the former GOP congressman from Virginia, puts it this way: “Labels … get in the way of getting things done.”

Now, I understand people wanting to avoid using labels. For one thing, it advances the impression (which often differs from the reality) that one is independent-minded and unbiased, pragmatic rather than dogmatic, willing to judge issues on the merits and based on reason rather than on rigid ideology. The impression people want to make is obvious: my mind — unlike The Labeled — is a Dogma-Free Zone. No simplistic labels can do justice to the complexity of my beliefs. It’s all quite self-affirming.

What is also at play, I think, is an understandable reaction against hyper-partisanship and the loyalty by some to a political party and ideology that overrides independent thought. Such a mindset is often at war with empirical evidence; any data or circumstances that call into doubt one’s most deeply help convictions have to be ignored, dismissed, or ridiculed. To be in politics is to be a member of a team — and the other side is always wrong. No aspect of its argument can be seen to have merit. We all know people like this — and the truth is that many of us in politics struggle, to one degree or another, with precisely this. The temptation to twist facts and reality to fit into our preconceived notions and theories is quite strong; not many of us resist it as well as we should.

At the same time, there is something to be said in defense of labels — and George Will (not surprisingly) put it as well as anyone when several years ago he wrote:

Particular labels, like everything else, come and go. But there always are various labels because they are useful, even necessary: Politics is a varied business. If a politician’s behavior is not utterly cynical, or mindless, it will have a pattern that is related, at least a bit, to his beliefs. Political actions tend to cluster; so do political actors. Labels describe how particular people generally cluster. … Labels identify classes; but people, by acting, classify themselves.

What one hopes to achieve in politics is to develop a coherent body of thought to help interpret the world. There’s actually quite a lot to be said for having a worldview that helps make sense of unfolding events. To apply a label to oneself (like “conservative” or “liberal”) often means associating with a particular intellectual tradition and with men and women who have thoughtfully and carefully reflected on human nature, society, and the role of government. It matters if your intellectual cast of mind is shaped and informed by Burke or by Rousseau, by Madison or by Marx, by C.S. Lewis or by Ayn Rand. And so it’s only natural that in politics, people, upon reflecting on certain basic questions, would coalesce around certain parties and certain labels.

Pace Tom Davis, then, labels don’t always get in the way of getting things done. Political labels, like political parties, can serve a useful purpose. And I for one would argue that allowing certain intellectual traditions (like conservatism) to inform our current political debates is doing what’s best for America.

A final warning to those who find themselves attracted to promise of a world without labels: No Labels can easily transmute into No Convictions — and politics without convictions, uninformed by deep principles and the best that has been thought and written, becomes simply a power game. And that world is even worse than a world with labels.

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Vanity Flair

The Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was rightly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. President Obama, in his statement about the award, began this way:

One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.

No kidding. And just in case we forgot that Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, he reminds us — at the end of his three-paragraph statement — “I regret that Mr. Liu and his wife were denied the opportunity to attend the ceremony that Michelle and I attended last year.”

This statement makes one wonder if there are any limits to Mr. Obama’s narcissism. In thinking about the Obama White House, one is reminded (once again) of the words of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim, who in his dreams saw a town before him. “It bears the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter that vanity, and also because all that is sold there, or that comes there, is vanity.”

(H/T: Byron York)

The Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was rightly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. President Obama, in his statement about the award, began this way:

One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.

No kidding. And just in case we forgot that Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, he reminds us — at the end of his three-paragraph statement — “I regret that Mr. Liu and his wife were denied the opportunity to attend the ceremony that Michelle and I attended last year.”

This statement makes one wonder if there are any limits to Mr. Obama’s narcissism. In thinking about the Obama White House, one is reminded (once again) of the words of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim, who in his dreams saw a town before him. “It bears the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter that vanity, and also because all that is sold there, or that comes there, is vanity.”

(H/T: Byron York)

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A District to Watch on Nov. 2

A 14-term incumbent who is chairman of one the most powerful committees in Congress would, in an ordinary election, be a shoe-in for a 15th term unless he were under indictment. Barney Frank hasn’t faced serious opposition in the 4th district of Massachusetts since 1982, winning his races by 30-50 points when he had any opposition at all. But he’s running scared this time around. He’s brought in Bill Clinton and has raised tons of money (no problem for the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee).

But Byron York is reporting that his little-known, 35-year-old Republican opponent, Sean Bielat, is within striking distance, only 10 points behind in a recent poll.

It might be a good idea to keep an eye on results in the 4th Massachusetts. The polls close in Massachusetts at 8 p.m. eastern time, and results should come in pretty quickly. If Bielat can pull off a win there, it will be a sure sign of a blow-out election for Republicans. If he even comes close, it will mean a very good night.

A 14-term incumbent who is chairman of one the most powerful committees in Congress would, in an ordinary election, be a shoe-in for a 15th term unless he were under indictment. Barney Frank hasn’t faced serious opposition in the 4th district of Massachusetts since 1982, winning his races by 30-50 points when he had any opposition at all. But he’s running scared this time around. He’s brought in Bill Clinton and has raised tons of money (no problem for the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee).

But Byron York is reporting that his little-known, 35-year-old Republican opponent, Sean Bielat, is within striking distance, only 10 points behind in a recent poll.

It might be a good idea to keep an eye on results in the 4th Massachusetts. The polls close in Massachusetts at 8 p.m. eastern time, and results should come in pretty quickly. If Bielat can pull off a win there, it will be a sure sign of a blow-out election for Republicans. If he even comes close, it will mean a very good night.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

CONTENTIONS’ Max Boot takes Obama to task on his deadline for troop withdrawal: “The timeline is a real problem. I see no evidence that it has provided an incentive for the Karzai government to get serious about reform; if anything, it has led Karzai to try to strike deals (with Iran, Pakistan, even the Taliban) as a hedge against American withdrawal. The timeline has reinforced the feeling that the Taliban can wait us out.” Unfortunately, Obama’s Oval office speech reiterated the deadline.

Byron York takes exception to making 9/11 into a community-service day: “Turning it into another AmeriCorps project drains away its meaning, which remains as important today as it was on September 11, 2001 itself.” Well, that’s the objective of the president and those pushing community service.

Democrats don’t take Obama seriously any more. His tax-credit stimulus plan is a bust with his own party. “Even as Mr. Obama sought to unite his party around his political message and his policy agenda, there was evidence that endangered Democrats would go their own ways.” The list of Democratic opponents is sure to grow.

Will the Dems take a position? “Democrats are increasingly likely to punt the huge tax vote until a lame-duck session after the November elections. President Barack Obama is sending mixed messages about his demands, calling for a rollback of the top income tax cuts while stopping short of threatening to veto a compromise bill that would temporarily extend all tax cuts.” And to make sure they don’t have to take a vote, they are fleeing D.C. a week early.

The Washington Post editors take a look at Obama’s Iran policy and find that “the ultimate goal of Mr. Obama’s policy is not limiting Iran’s prosperity but stopping its enrichment of uranium and forcing its compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By this measure, the administration has yet to produce tangible results.”

You didn’t take Obama at his word when he said that he would keep down health-care premiums, did you? Good: “Health insurers say they plan to raise premiums for some Americans as a direct result of the health overhaul in coming weeks, complicating Democrats’ efforts to trumpet their signature achievement before the midterm elections. Aetna Inc., some BlueCross BlueShield plans and other smaller carriers have asked for premium increases of between 1% and 9% to pay for extra benefits required under the law, according to filings with state regulators.”

The Cook Report takes a look at ten more Democratic House seats. All are moving the GOP’s way.

It would be nice to have an administration which takes our enemies’ ideological motivations seriously. Leon Panetta pronounces, “The enemy is defined not by any religion, but by their actions — their atrocities. They represent no culture, but rather contempt for all cultures.” This is daft and dangerous, but not unexpected for an administration that excises “Islamic fundamentalism” from its vocabulary

Obama isn’t likely to take Doug Schoen’s advice to heart: “President Obama’s increasingly harsh campaign to revive the sagging fortunes of the Democratic Party is almost certainly going to fail. Instead of attempting to further divide an already polarized America with attacks against the Republicans for both creating the economic problems we now face and failing to propose constructive solutions to them, the president should do what Bill Clinton did in 1995 when he succeeded in winning support from Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress for a balanced budget.”

CONTENTIONS’ Max Boot takes Obama to task on his deadline for troop withdrawal: “The timeline is a real problem. I see no evidence that it has provided an incentive for the Karzai government to get serious about reform; if anything, it has led Karzai to try to strike deals (with Iran, Pakistan, even the Taliban) as a hedge against American withdrawal. The timeline has reinforced the feeling that the Taliban can wait us out.” Unfortunately, Obama’s Oval office speech reiterated the deadline.

Byron York takes exception to making 9/11 into a community-service day: “Turning it into another AmeriCorps project drains away its meaning, which remains as important today as it was on September 11, 2001 itself.” Well, that’s the objective of the president and those pushing community service.

Democrats don’t take Obama seriously any more. His tax-credit stimulus plan is a bust with his own party. “Even as Mr. Obama sought to unite his party around his political message and his policy agenda, there was evidence that endangered Democrats would go their own ways.” The list of Democratic opponents is sure to grow.

Will the Dems take a position? “Democrats are increasingly likely to punt the huge tax vote until a lame-duck session after the November elections. President Barack Obama is sending mixed messages about his demands, calling for a rollback of the top income tax cuts while stopping short of threatening to veto a compromise bill that would temporarily extend all tax cuts.” And to make sure they don’t have to take a vote, they are fleeing D.C. a week early.

The Washington Post editors take a look at Obama’s Iran policy and find that “the ultimate goal of Mr. Obama’s policy is not limiting Iran’s prosperity but stopping its enrichment of uranium and forcing its compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By this measure, the administration has yet to produce tangible results.”

You didn’t take Obama at his word when he said that he would keep down health-care premiums, did you? Good: “Health insurers say they plan to raise premiums for some Americans as a direct result of the health overhaul in coming weeks, complicating Democrats’ efforts to trumpet their signature achievement before the midterm elections. Aetna Inc., some BlueCross BlueShield plans and other smaller carriers have asked for premium increases of between 1% and 9% to pay for extra benefits required under the law, according to filings with state regulators.”

The Cook Report takes a look at ten more Democratic House seats. All are moving the GOP’s way.

It would be nice to have an administration which takes our enemies’ ideological motivations seriously. Leon Panetta pronounces, “The enemy is defined not by any religion, but by their actions — their atrocities. They represent no culture, but rather contempt for all cultures.” This is daft and dangerous, but not unexpected for an administration that excises “Islamic fundamentalism” from its vocabulary

Obama isn’t likely to take Doug Schoen’s advice to heart: “President Obama’s increasingly harsh campaign to revive the sagging fortunes of the Democratic Party is almost certainly going to fail. Instead of attempting to further divide an already polarized America with attacks against the Republicans for both creating the economic problems we now face and failing to propose constructive solutions to them, the president should do what Bill Clinton did in 1995 when he succeeded in winning support from Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress for a balanced budget.”

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Data Swinging Right

According to Gallup, in October 2006 Democrats held a 64 percent v. 25 percent advantage over Republicans on health care. Today the lead is 44 percent v. 43 percent, a 38-point swing in favor of the GOP. ObamaCare seems to have undone, at least for the time being, one of the Democratic Party’s most potent issue advantages. And the data on a host of other issues isn’t much better (a 29-point swing on combating terrorism, a 27-point swing on the economy, and a 26-point swing on handling corruption in government). Byron York of the Washington Examiner provides the details here.

According to Gallup, in October 2006 Democrats held a 64 percent v. 25 percent advantage over Republicans on health care. Today the lead is 44 percent v. 43 percent, a 38-point swing in favor of the GOP. ObamaCare seems to have undone, at least for the time being, one of the Democratic Party’s most potent issue advantages. And the data on a host of other issues isn’t much better (a 29-point swing on combating terrorism, a 27-point swing on the economy, and a 26-point swing on handling corruption in government). Byron York of the Washington Examiner provides the details here.

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Was It the Lavish Vacation?

Politicians of both parties fall prey to gaffes of the “lives of the rich and famous” variety. But liberals, very rich ones, are especially susceptible to flaunting their wealth because they can’t imagine that their motives and dedication to the poor and the underprivileged would be called into question. After all, they support every social engineering project of the liberal welfare state, insist that taxes (well, other people’s taxes) be increased and redistributed, and attend so many important charitable functions in each-other’s magnificent homes. Hence we have the John Kerry “park the yacht elsewhere” gambit, which was quickly reversed when the voters thought it peculiar that Kerry didn’t want to pay $500,000 in taxes that he would have be owed, had he docked his floating palace in the Commonwealth’s waters.

Then there is Michelle Obama. After a rocky campaign, she’s gone on a charm offensive that puts to shame her husband’s Jewish “make nice” outreach. She grows vegetables. She exercises with children. No more do we hear about the America she was never proud of before Hillary went down the tubes in the primary. (And really, what’s not to like about a country that elevates your husband to the White House and confers queen-bee status on you?) But there, too, the bloom is off the rose: “The first lady’s rating, a combination of the very positive and somewhat positive answers, has fallen from 64 percent in April ’09 to 55 percent in January 2010 to 50 percent today.” Byron York thinks it is the vacation that may have done it:

Mrs. Obama’s personal popularity is lower than former First Lady Laura Bush’s ratings in the same poll by the same pollsters. In December, 2001, 76 percent of those surveyed had a positive opinion of Mrs. Bush. In February 2005, that number was 65 percent. In October 2006, with her husband’s job and personal approval ratings plummeting, Mrs. Bush’s personal approval rating was 56 percent.

Michelle Obama received the first negative press of her time in the White House in recent weeks during her vacation trip to Spain. Critics questioned why the first lady chose to go to a glitzy, high-priced resort at a time when unemployment is high and many Americans are suffering economically. The White House pushed back, first giving reporters the story that Mrs. Obama made the trip to comfort a friend who had recently lost her father and then stressing that the first lady is so popular that she will be in great demand by Democrats campaigning for House and Senate seats this November. But the new Wall Street Journal/NBC numbers suggest that Mrs. Obama’s popularity is falling, not rising.

It may be that the lavish trips (maybe the date night in New York was over the top?) aren’t the only thing at work. Perhaps, unlike Laura Bush, who — feminists, hold on to your hats — carved a separate identity and established a pleasing persona, which survived her husband’s ups and downs, Michelle has not. She is the perfect distillation, as is her husband, of the elite left (don’t tell me she was raised as middle class; she was educated in the Ivy League and lived a life of privilege from Hyde Park on). She and he are two peas in a pod. And right now the public seems increasingly fed up with both of them.

Politicians of both parties fall prey to gaffes of the “lives of the rich and famous” variety. But liberals, very rich ones, are especially susceptible to flaunting their wealth because they can’t imagine that their motives and dedication to the poor and the underprivileged would be called into question. After all, they support every social engineering project of the liberal welfare state, insist that taxes (well, other people’s taxes) be increased and redistributed, and attend so many important charitable functions in each-other’s magnificent homes. Hence we have the John Kerry “park the yacht elsewhere” gambit, which was quickly reversed when the voters thought it peculiar that Kerry didn’t want to pay $500,000 in taxes that he would have be owed, had he docked his floating palace in the Commonwealth’s waters.

Then there is Michelle Obama. After a rocky campaign, she’s gone on a charm offensive that puts to shame her husband’s Jewish “make nice” outreach. She grows vegetables. She exercises with children. No more do we hear about the America she was never proud of before Hillary went down the tubes in the primary. (And really, what’s not to like about a country that elevates your husband to the White House and confers queen-bee status on you?) But there, too, the bloom is off the rose: “The first lady’s rating, a combination of the very positive and somewhat positive answers, has fallen from 64 percent in April ’09 to 55 percent in January 2010 to 50 percent today.” Byron York thinks it is the vacation that may have done it:

Mrs. Obama’s personal popularity is lower than former First Lady Laura Bush’s ratings in the same poll by the same pollsters. In December, 2001, 76 percent of those surveyed had a positive opinion of Mrs. Bush. In February 2005, that number was 65 percent. In October 2006, with her husband’s job and personal approval ratings plummeting, Mrs. Bush’s personal approval rating was 56 percent.

Michelle Obama received the first negative press of her time in the White House in recent weeks during her vacation trip to Spain. Critics questioned why the first lady chose to go to a glitzy, high-priced resort at a time when unemployment is high and many Americans are suffering economically. The White House pushed back, first giving reporters the story that Mrs. Obama made the trip to comfort a friend who had recently lost her father and then stressing that the first lady is so popular that she will be in great demand by Democrats campaigning for House and Senate seats this November. But the new Wall Street Journal/NBC numbers suggest that Mrs. Obama’s popularity is falling, not rising.

It may be that the lavish trips (maybe the date night in New York was over the top?) aren’t the only thing at work. Perhaps, unlike Laura Bush, who — feminists, hold on to your hats — carved a separate identity and established a pleasing persona, which survived her husband’s ups and downs, Michelle has not. She is the perfect distillation, as is her husband, of the elite left (don’t tell me she was raised as middle class; she was educated in the Ivy League and lived a life of privilege from Hyde Park on). She and he are two peas in a pod. And right now the public seems increasingly fed up with both of them.

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For Thee but Not for Me

The reason given by the White House for ignoring the Constitution and giving Dr. Donald Berwick a recess appointment to head Medicare and Medicaid — Republican obstructionism and delay — was transparently phony. Republicans, with only 41 senators, have no power to delay committee hearings, delay the committee vote, or delay the matter being taken up by the whole Senate.  Only then might Republicans be able to delay or obstruct by mounting a filibuster.

What the administration feared, of course, was that Republicans might use the committee hearing and the Senate debate to ask inconvenient questions about ObamaCare and to put that monumental boondoggle back on the front page only a couple of months ahead of the election.

But Byron York at the Washington Examiner reports that the Republicans would also have been asking some inconvenient questions about Dr. Berwick. As has become so characteristic of modern liberalism, Dr. Berwick is a for-thee-but-not-for-me kind of guy. He has gone on record advocating rationing of health care. (“The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”)

But there won’t be any standing in line for Dr. Berwick and his wife, nor will there be denial of treatments deemed too expensive by some bureaucrat. He and his wife will “not have to deal with the anxieties created by limited access to care and the extent of coverage. In a special benefit conferred on him by the board of directors of the Institute for Health Care Improvement, a nonprofit health care charitable organization he created and which he served as chief executive officer, Berwick and his wife will have health coverage ‘from retirement until death.'”

The reason given by the White House for ignoring the Constitution and giving Dr. Donald Berwick a recess appointment to head Medicare and Medicaid — Republican obstructionism and delay — was transparently phony. Republicans, with only 41 senators, have no power to delay committee hearings, delay the committee vote, or delay the matter being taken up by the whole Senate.  Only then might Republicans be able to delay or obstruct by mounting a filibuster.

What the administration feared, of course, was that Republicans might use the committee hearing and the Senate debate to ask inconvenient questions about ObamaCare and to put that monumental boondoggle back on the front page only a couple of months ahead of the election.

But Byron York at the Washington Examiner reports that the Republicans would also have been asking some inconvenient questions about Dr. Berwick. As has become so characteristic of modern liberalism, Dr. Berwick is a for-thee-but-not-for-me kind of guy. He has gone on record advocating rationing of health care. (“The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”)

But there won’t be any standing in line for Dr. Berwick and his wife, nor will there be denial of treatments deemed too expensive by some bureaucrat. He and his wife will “not have to deal with the anxieties created by limited access to care and the extent of coverage. In a special benefit conferred on him by the board of directors of the Institute for Health Care Improvement, a nonprofit health care charitable organization he created and which he served as chief executive officer, Berwick and his wife will have health coverage ‘from retirement until death.'”

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On Arizona’s Immigration Law

Michael Gerson of the Washington Post and Byron York of the Washington Examiner, two bright men, have engaged in a constructive debate about the Arizona immigration law. You can find the back and forth between them here, here, and here.

My own sense of the law, which is carefully written, is that it’s not nearly as draconian as its critics insist — and much of what defenders of the law have been saying about its actual meaning and effect is in fact correct. The law does not give police the right to stop anyone they want to ask for papers solely based on race or ethnicity. The charges that this law is driven by racism and that Arizona has become a “police state” are extreme and reckless. The vast majority of the people of Arizona are responding to a real and present danger — and most of the American public agrees with them (51 percent v. 39 percent, according to Gallup).

Still, I would oppose the law (as does Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, and Karl Rove, among others) on the grounds that it potentially changes for the worse the relationship between the community and the local and state police and risks treating some people as guilty until proven innocent. The Arizona law, in my estimation, nudges things a bit in that direction, which concerns me.

In the hands of responsible police officers — which is to say the vast majority of police officers — it won’t lead to abuse. In the hands of less than responsible police officers, it could, I fear, lead to trouble. The real-world effect of the law — and perhaps its unstated intentions — will be to allow police to heighten scrutiny on Hispanics in the hopes of easing the very real illegal immigration problem. That is the tension inherent in this law. To give priority to one concern over the other doesn’t mean the other argument is invalid or supported by ignorant or malevolent forces.

The final verdict on the Arizona law, I think, depends on how the law plays out in practice. So my judgment on its relative merits and demerits is tentative and open to revision, depending on what we learn from its experience — and this, in turn, depends on which parts of the law passes judicial and constitutional muster.

It’s all pretty wishy-washy, I know, but there you go.

Michael Gerson of the Washington Post and Byron York of the Washington Examiner, two bright men, have engaged in a constructive debate about the Arizona immigration law. You can find the back and forth between them here, here, and here.

My own sense of the law, which is carefully written, is that it’s not nearly as draconian as its critics insist — and much of what defenders of the law have been saying about its actual meaning and effect is in fact correct. The law does not give police the right to stop anyone they want to ask for papers solely based on race or ethnicity. The charges that this law is driven by racism and that Arizona has become a “police state” are extreme and reckless. The vast majority of the people of Arizona are responding to a real and present danger — and most of the American public agrees with them (51 percent v. 39 percent, according to Gallup).

Still, I would oppose the law (as does Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, and Karl Rove, among others) on the grounds that it potentially changes for the worse the relationship between the community and the local and state police and risks treating some people as guilty until proven innocent. The Arizona law, in my estimation, nudges things a bit in that direction, which concerns me.

In the hands of responsible police officers — which is to say the vast majority of police officers — it won’t lead to abuse. In the hands of less than responsible police officers, it could, I fear, lead to trouble. The real-world effect of the law — and perhaps its unstated intentions — will be to allow police to heighten scrutiny on Hispanics in the hopes of easing the very real illegal immigration problem. That is the tension inherent in this law. To give priority to one concern over the other doesn’t mean the other argument is invalid or supported by ignorant or malevolent forces.

The final verdict on the Arizona law, I think, depends on how the law plays out in practice. So my judgment on its relative merits and demerits is tentative and open to revision, depending on what we learn from its experience — and this, in turn, depends on which parts of the law passes judicial and constitutional muster.

It’s all pretty wishy-washy, I know, but there you go.

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The Ever-So-Convenient Myth

In an interesting article on the real reason behind ObamaCare — wealth redistribution — in today’s Washington Examiner, Byron York quotes Senator Max Baucus.

Health reform is “an income shift,” Democratic Sen. Max Baucus said on March 25. “It is a shift, a leveling, to help lower income, middle income Americans.”

In his halting, jumbled style, Baucus explained that in recent years “the mal-distribution of income in America has gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind.” The new health-care legislation, Baucus promised, “will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America.”

York quotes several others, including Howard Dean, to the same effect. This opinion, nearly universal on the Left, is implicitly based on one of the oldest, biggest, and dumbest fallacies in economics: that an economy is a zero-sum game, that for someone to get richer, some — or many — have to get poorer. Poker is a zero-sum game. So is robbery, which is why it’s illegal. And Honoré de Balzac is widely but incorrectly supposed to have said that “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.” Well, Paul McCartney was born into a poor family in rundown Liverpool and is now one of the richest men in England. Whom, exactly, did he rob?

The rich have certainly been getting richer in the last thirty years. In 1982 it took a measly $80 million or so to make it onto the Forbes 400 List. Today it takes over a billion. But this is an artifact not of crime but of the technological revolution the world is undergoing, thanks to the microprocessor. Every major technological development has produced an inflorescence of fortune making. The Industrial Revolution produced so many new rich that Benjamin Disraeli had to coin the word millionaire in 1827 to describe them. Railroads, steel, oil, automobiles, the movies, television, all produced prodigious new fortunes.

But the people who rode the railroads and automobiles, watched the movies and television didn’t get poorer by doing so. Just like the millions who so willingly bought Paul McCartney’s music, they got richer too. They had quicker, cheaper transportation, and better and cheaper entertainment. No one forced them to buy the product, which is a good deal more than can be said for ObamaCare.

As the rich got richer, of course, their tax bills got bigger, a lot bigger, and both the federal tax revenues and the percentage of those revenues paid by the top ten percent and, especially, the top one percent, have been growing swiftly. But as long as the Left clings to the ever-so-convenient myth of the zero-sum economy, that isn’t enough.

In an interesting article on the real reason behind ObamaCare — wealth redistribution — in today’s Washington Examiner, Byron York quotes Senator Max Baucus.

Health reform is “an income shift,” Democratic Sen. Max Baucus said on March 25. “It is a shift, a leveling, to help lower income, middle income Americans.”

In his halting, jumbled style, Baucus explained that in recent years “the mal-distribution of income in America has gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind.” The new health-care legislation, Baucus promised, “will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America.”

York quotes several others, including Howard Dean, to the same effect. This opinion, nearly universal on the Left, is implicitly based on one of the oldest, biggest, and dumbest fallacies in economics: that an economy is a zero-sum game, that for someone to get richer, some — or many — have to get poorer. Poker is a zero-sum game. So is robbery, which is why it’s illegal. And Honoré de Balzac is widely but incorrectly supposed to have said that “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.” Well, Paul McCartney was born into a poor family in rundown Liverpool and is now one of the richest men in England. Whom, exactly, did he rob?

The rich have certainly been getting richer in the last thirty years. In 1982 it took a measly $80 million or so to make it onto the Forbes 400 List. Today it takes over a billion. But this is an artifact not of crime but of the technological revolution the world is undergoing, thanks to the microprocessor. Every major technological development has produced an inflorescence of fortune making. The Industrial Revolution produced so many new rich that Benjamin Disraeli had to coin the word millionaire in 1827 to describe them. Railroads, steel, oil, automobiles, the movies, television, all produced prodigious new fortunes.

But the people who rode the railroads and automobiles, watched the movies and television didn’t get poorer by doing so. Just like the millions who so willingly bought Paul McCartney’s music, they got richer too. They had quicker, cheaper transportation, and better and cheaper entertainment. No one forced them to buy the product, which is a good deal more than can be said for ObamaCare.

As the rich got richer, of course, their tax bills got bigger, a lot bigger, and both the federal tax revenues and the percentage of those revenues paid by the top ten percent and, especially, the top one percent, have been growing swiftly. But as long as the Left clings to the ever-so-convenient myth of the zero-sum economy, that isn’t enough.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

No (except from the Obami): “Does anyone think that Iran would be shipping arms to terrorists or building nuclear weapons if it was a democracy?” asks Elliott Abrams.

Predictable (when you nominate Tony Rezko’s banker): “It could be a rough few months ahead for Alexi Giannoulias. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial will proceed on June 3, as scheduled. Blagojevich’s team had been seeking a postponement until November, saying they didn’t have enough time to prepare. … But that’s not all Giannoulias will be dealing with. By late April, the Giannoulias family bank must come up with $85 million in order to comply with a federal agreement and keep operating. Giannoulias has already said that he expects the bank to fail.”

Pathetic: “Rounding up the votes for health care has also proven difficult. House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn told McClatchy Newspapers that final consideration of the bill may not occur until Easter (April 4) or later. He is dealing with dozens of members who refuse to commit to a firm position in hopes their silence will force the leadership to pull the bill and move on to other issues. ‘Just say nothing,’ is how one Democratic staffer explained the strategy being taken by many members. ‘Maybe it will just go away, and we can avoid a tough vote this close to the election.'” Maybe it will just go away? Profiles in courage they aren’t.

Close: According to Byron York, “there are 209 votes against the bill at this moment, leaving opponents seven short of being able to defeat it. By the same count, there are 204 votes for the bill, leaving the Democratic leadership 12 short of being able to pass it. There are 18 votes thought to be undecided.” In other words, seven votes away from Obama’s Waterloo.

Cranky Big Labor bosses descend on the White House: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is headed into a meeting with President Obama this afternoon after the White House and Congressional leaders have begun to discuss a higher-than-expected excise tax on some health care plans, in order to maintain their claim that health care legislation will reduce the deficit, a source involved in health care talks said.” Remember that the overwhelming support of core Democrats in midterm elections is what’s supposed to counteract the tsunami of opposition to ObamaCare. But what if that support is only lukewarm?

Obvious who you want making national-security calls. “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, contradicted the attorney general on Wednesday when he said that actually, the military still wants to capture Osama bin Laden alive. ‘I think that is something that is understood by everyone,’ he said. But perhaps not by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who on Tuesday told a House subcommittee that the chances of capturing Mr. bin Laden alive were ‘infinitesimal’ and that he would either be killed by the United States or killed by his own people.”

Common, among many observers these days: “Arab world says hopes in Obama are dwindling.”

Picky, picky: “From Maine to Hawaii, Americans send people to Washington, D.C., to be their representatives — to cast votes that represent the will of the people who elected them to do the job. But now, as the House of Representatives moves toward approving one of the most sweeping pieces of domestic legislation in U.S. history, critics are fuming that Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to usher through a health care bill … without a vote.”

No (except from the Obami): “Does anyone think that Iran would be shipping arms to terrorists or building nuclear weapons if it was a democracy?” asks Elliott Abrams.

Predictable (when you nominate Tony Rezko’s banker): “It could be a rough few months ahead for Alexi Giannoulias. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial will proceed on June 3, as scheduled. Blagojevich’s team had been seeking a postponement until November, saying they didn’t have enough time to prepare. … But that’s not all Giannoulias will be dealing with. By late April, the Giannoulias family bank must come up with $85 million in order to comply with a federal agreement and keep operating. Giannoulias has already said that he expects the bank to fail.”

Pathetic: “Rounding up the votes for health care has also proven difficult. House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn told McClatchy Newspapers that final consideration of the bill may not occur until Easter (April 4) or later. He is dealing with dozens of members who refuse to commit to a firm position in hopes their silence will force the leadership to pull the bill and move on to other issues. ‘Just say nothing,’ is how one Democratic staffer explained the strategy being taken by many members. ‘Maybe it will just go away, and we can avoid a tough vote this close to the election.'” Maybe it will just go away? Profiles in courage they aren’t.

Close: According to Byron York, “there are 209 votes against the bill at this moment, leaving opponents seven short of being able to defeat it. By the same count, there are 204 votes for the bill, leaving the Democratic leadership 12 short of being able to pass it. There are 18 votes thought to be undecided.” In other words, seven votes away from Obama’s Waterloo.

Cranky Big Labor bosses descend on the White House: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is headed into a meeting with President Obama this afternoon after the White House and Congressional leaders have begun to discuss a higher-than-expected excise tax on some health care plans, in order to maintain their claim that health care legislation will reduce the deficit, a source involved in health care talks said.” Remember that the overwhelming support of core Democrats in midterm elections is what’s supposed to counteract the tsunami of opposition to ObamaCare. But what if that support is only lukewarm?

Obvious who you want making national-security calls. “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, contradicted the attorney general on Wednesday when he said that actually, the military still wants to capture Osama bin Laden alive. ‘I think that is something that is understood by everyone,’ he said. But perhaps not by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who on Tuesday told a House subcommittee that the chances of capturing Mr. bin Laden alive were ‘infinitesimal’ and that he would either be killed by the United States or killed by his own people.”

Common, among many observers these days: “Arab world says hopes in Obama are dwindling.”

Picky, picky: “From Maine to Hawaii, Americans send people to Washington, D.C., to be their representatives — to cast votes that represent the will of the people who elected them to do the job. But now, as the House of Representatives moves toward approving one of the most sweeping pieces of domestic legislation in U.S. history, critics are fuming that Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to usher through a health care bill … without a vote.”

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Martha, Meet Creigh Deeds

The venom directed at a failing candidate by her own party is often directly related to the margin of the anticipated defeat. If true, then Martha Coakley is going to get thumped, according to Byron York’s report:

“Everybody is scrambling and freaking out,” says one Democratic strategist of the mood among Democrats now. Coakley’s run has taught the once-triumphant party that “a lackluster, uninspiring campaign is not going to get it done, even in the bluest states.” But with feelings running deep, some Democrats are blaming Coakley in a much more personal way.

“She’s kind of aloof,” the Democrat says. “There are people who will vote for her who don’t really have a sense that they like or trust her. The Kennedys aren’t really fond of her. She basically announced her campaign the day Ted died, and didn’t give Vicki the opportunity to think about [running to replace her husband]. From the Kennedy side of the ledger, there’s no great love for Coakley. They look at her as kind of a predatory politician.”

Well, she did win a primary, after all — by nearly 20 points, in a multi-candidate race. Just a little over a month ago, the entire Democratic establishment was backing her, and the mainstream media declared her the decided favorite in the general race. Now she’s flawed, personally defective, and unloved by everyone. I’m sure Creigh Deeds can relate. He too was beloved, yet wound up the goat as Democrats realized he was headed for a big loss. He too ran a mediocre race. But neither Deeds nor Coakley would have been caught fending off incoming artillery from the Democratic spin machine had the national political environment — namely, the Obama agenda and the public’s disdain for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama leftward lurch — not turned off voters.

Don’t get me wrong — Coakley has made her share of flubs. But in any other year, a Democrat who had committed just as many flubs would still win. That looks highly unlikely now.

The venom directed at a failing candidate by her own party is often directly related to the margin of the anticipated defeat. If true, then Martha Coakley is going to get thumped, according to Byron York’s report:

“Everybody is scrambling and freaking out,” says one Democratic strategist of the mood among Democrats now. Coakley’s run has taught the once-triumphant party that “a lackluster, uninspiring campaign is not going to get it done, even in the bluest states.” But with feelings running deep, some Democrats are blaming Coakley in a much more personal way.

“She’s kind of aloof,” the Democrat says. “There are people who will vote for her who don’t really have a sense that they like or trust her. The Kennedys aren’t really fond of her. She basically announced her campaign the day Ted died, and didn’t give Vicki the opportunity to think about [running to replace her husband]. From the Kennedy side of the ledger, there’s no great love for Coakley. They look at her as kind of a predatory politician.”

Well, she did win a primary, after all — by nearly 20 points, in a multi-candidate race. Just a little over a month ago, the entire Democratic establishment was backing her, and the mainstream media declared her the decided favorite in the general race. Now she’s flawed, personally defective, and unloved by everyone. I’m sure Creigh Deeds can relate. He too was beloved, yet wound up the goat as Democrats realized he was headed for a big loss. He too ran a mediocre race. But neither Deeds nor Coakley would have been caught fending off incoming artillery from the Democratic spin machine had the national political environment — namely, the Obama agenda and the public’s disdain for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama leftward lurch — not turned off voters.

Don’t get me wrong — Coakley has made her share of flubs. But in any other year, a Democrat who had committed just as many flubs would still win. That looks highly unlikely now.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Coakley: The Buzzards Gather

Just as I suggested this week, Democrats are now attempting, according to Byron York, to Creigh Deeds-ize Martha Coakley. If she is in fact tanking, now is the time to write her off as a damaged and enfeebled candidate, lest anyone suspect that this is a reflection on Democrats’ political liabilities. York suggests that Coakley’s own polls show her trailing by 5 points. So the buzzards are circling:

“This is a Creigh Deeds situation,” the Democrat says. “I don’t think it says that the Obama agenda is a problem. I think it says, 1) that she’s a terrible candidate, 2) that she ran a terrible campaign, 3) that the climate is difficult but she should have been able to overcome it, and 4) that Democrats beware — you better run good campaigns, or you’re going to lose.”

They do have a point. Not only is she a lackluster candidate, she has, as Dorothy Rabinowitz documents in painstaking fashion, shown herself to be profoundly lacking in judgment, as evidenced by her conduct in a sensational child-sexual-abuse case in which horrifying, and ultimately unsubstantiated, accusations were made against the Amirault family. Rabinowitz describes Coakley’s role in the case’s unraveling as Gerald Amirault was spared his full 30-to-40-year sentence:

In 2000, the Massachusetts Governor’s Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a commutation of Gerald’s sentence. After nine months of investigation, the board, reputed to be the toughest in the country, voted 5-0, with one abstention, to commute his sentence. Still more newsworthy was an added statement, signed by a majority of the board, which pointed to the lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the “extraordinary if not bizarre allegations” on which they had been convicted.

Editorials in every major and minor paper in the state applauded the Board’s findings. District Attorney Coakley was not idle either, and quickly set about organizing the parents and children in the case, bringing them to meetings with Acting Gov. Jane Swift, to persuade her to reject the board’s ruling. Ms. Coakley also worked the press, setting up a special interview so that the now adult accusers could tell reporters, once more, of the tortures they had suffered at the hands of the Amiraults, and of their panic at the prospect of Gerald going free.

Rabinowitz argues that if Coakley believed the preposterous allegations in that case, which “no serious citizen does,” then “that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley’s concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo—her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.”

Perhaps, then, there’s a measure of truth to Democrats’ whispering campaign. Coakley may simply be in over her head, a woman of flawed judgment and limited political skills. In any other year, that might not be a barrier to election for a Democrat in a deep Blue State. But this is no ordinary year.

Just as I suggested this week, Democrats are now attempting, according to Byron York, to Creigh Deeds-ize Martha Coakley. If she is in fact tanking, now is the time to write her off as a damaged and enfeebled candidate, lest anyone suspect that this is a reflection on Democrats’ political liabilities. York suggests that Coakley’s own polls show her trailing by 5 points. So the buzzards are circling:

“This is a Creigh Deeds situation,” the Democrat says. “I don’t think it says that the Obama agenda is a problem. I think it says, 1) that she’s a terrible candidate, 2) that she ran a terrible campaign, 3) that the climate is difficult but she should have been able to overcome it, and 4) that Democrats beware — you better run good campaigns, or you’re going to lose.”

They do have a point. Not only is she a lackluster candidate, she has, as Dorothy Rabinowitz documents in painstaking fashion, shown herself to be profoundly lacking in judgment, as evidenced by her conduct in a sensational child-sexual-abuse case in which horrifying, and ultimately unsubstantiated, accusations were made against the Amirault family. Rabinowitz describes Coakley’s role in the case’s unraveling as Gerald Amirault was spared his full 30-to-40-year sentence:

In 2000, the Massachusetts Governor’s Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a commutation of Gerald’s sentence. After nine months of investigation, the board, reputed to be the toughest in the country, voted 5-0, with one abstention, to commute his sentence. Still more newsworthy was an added statement, signed by a majority of the board, which pointed to the lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the “extraordinary if not bizarre allegations” on which they had been convicted.

Editorials in every major and minor paper in the state applauded the Board’s findings. District Attorney Coakley was not idle either, and quickly set about organizing the parents and children in the case, bringing them to meetings with Acting Gov. Jane Swift, to persuade her to reject the board’s ruling. Ms. Coakley also worked the press, setting up a special interview so that the now adult accusers could tell reporters, once more, of the tortures they had suffered at the hands of the Amiraults, and of their panic at the prospect of Gerald going free.

Rabinowitz argues that if Coakley believed the preposterous allegations in that case, which “no serious citizen does,” then “that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley’s concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo—her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.”

Perhaps, then, there’s a measure of truth to Democrats’ whispering campaign. Coakley may simply be in over her head, a woman of flawed judgment and limited political skills. In any other year, that might not be a barrier to election for a Democrat in a deep Blue State. But this is no ordinary year.

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Willie Sutton Pushes Health Care

As Jennifer has pointed out, since the polls show ObamaCare becoming less and less popular almost with every passing day (the RealClearPolitics average of several polls shows the public opposed 53-38 percent, and CNN’s poll has 61 percent against — well into landslide territory), the question inevitably arises as to why the Democrats seem bent on committing political suicide by insisting on passing it anyway.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner asked that question of a Democratic strategist who, not surprisingly, wanted to be anonymous. His answer coincides with Jennifer’s, but he adds an interesting extra point: the Democrats are like bank robbers in the midst of a heist gone wrong:

… he compared congressional Democrats with robbers who have passed the point of no return in deciding to hold up a bank. Whatever they do, they’re guilty of something. “They’re in the bank, they’ve got their guns out. They can run outside with no money, or they can stick it out, go through the gunfight, and get away with the money.”

And this, remember, is a Democratic strategist talking.

As Jennifer has pointed out, since the polls show ObamaCare becoming less and less popular almost with every passing day (the RealClearPolitics average of several polls shows the public opposed 53-38 percent, and CNN’s poll has 61 percent against — well into landslide territory), the question inevitably arises as to why the Democrats seem bent on committing political suicide by insisting on passing it anyway.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner asked that question of a Democratic strategist who, not surprisingly, wanted to be anonymous. His answer coincides with Jennifer’s, but he adds an interesting extra point: the Democrats are like bank robbers in the midst of a heist gone wrong:

… he compared congressional Democrats with robbers who have passed the point of no return in deciding to hold up a bank. Whatever they do, they’re guilty of something. “They’re in the bank, they’ve got their guns out. They can run outside with no money, or they can stick it out, go through the gunfight, and get away with the money.”

And this, remember, is a Democratic strategist talking.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

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RE: Another Summit

I could hardly agree more with Jennifer that the Obama administration is clueless regarding how to repair the American economy and get the unemployment numbers moving in the right direction. Unwilling to do what needs to be done, they hold “summits” instead, as if enough photo-ops will do the trick.

But they better do something — and fast — as their poll numbers are doing a very passable imitation of the Titanic. As Byron York points out, even Democratic strategists such as James Carville and Stanley Greenberg are now seeing the unmistakable signs of an impending election disaster next year.

Tomorrow morning the unemployment figures for November will be released. Since April 2008, when the rate was 5 percent, it has been rising inexorably. It was flat in September 2008, when it was at 6.2 percent, and declined in July 2009, from 9.5 to 9.4. Otherwise it’s been up, up, up until now it’s at 10.2 percent, up .4 percent from the previous month.

If there’s another sizable uptick tomorrow morning, can the Obami really just keep whistling and devote all their political energies — photo-ops aside — to passing a hugely expensive health-care bill?

We’ll see.

I could hardly agree more with Jennifer that the Obama administration is clueless regarding how to repair the American economy and get the unemployment numbers moving in the right direction. Unwilling to do what needs to be done, they hold “summits” instead, as if enough photo-ops will do the trick.

But they better do something — and fast — as their poll numbers are doing a very passable imitation of the Titanic. As Byron York points out, even Democratic strategists such as James Carville and Stanley Greenberg are now seeing the unmistakable signs of an impending election disaster next year.

Tomorrow morning the unemployment figures for November will be released. Since April 2008, when the rate was 5 percent, it has been rising inexorably. It was flat in September 2008, when it was at 6.2 percent, and declined in July 2009, from 9.5 to 9.4. Otherwise it’s been up, up, up until now it’s at 10.2 percent, up .4 percent from the previous month.

If there’s another sizable uptick tomorrow morning, can the Obami really just keep whistling and devote all their political energies — photo-ops aside — to passing a hugely expensive health-care bill?

We’ll see.

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Do It Now?

Byron York just doesn’t believe we’re going to get a health-care vote in the Senate, let alone a final bill, this year “for three reasons: the calendar, the Senate’s other business, and, most importantly, growing public opposition to the health bill itself.” There seem to be only a couple of work weeks left for the Senate, which will have to entertain a zillion amendments from both sides before a vote to cut off debate. He notes: “GOP lawmakers will introduce amendments to challenge some of the bill’s fundamentals: the giant cuts in Medicare spending, the array of new and higher taxes, the coerciveness of the bill’s mandates, and the intimidating new powers given to health care bureaucrats.”

Once again, one can only marvel at the Democratic leadership, which will be intent on finding 60 votes for “the giant cuts in Medicare spending, the array of new and higher taxes, the coerciveness of the bill’s mandates, and the intimidating new powers given to health care bureaucrats.” Really, an affirmative vote on any one of these toxic provisions will make for a killer campaign ad; certainly votes on all of them will be hard for Democrats to explain to incredulous voters in all but the safest seats. And time is not on the Democrats’ side. With each vote and each passing month, support for this monstrous bill and for the president (who’s going to have to come to the aid of politically at-risk Democrats) declines.

York is right that it may be near impossible to get health care done this year. The only thing tougher will be getting it done in an election year.

Byron York just doesn’t believe we’re going to get a health-care vote in the Senate, let alone a final bill, this year “for three reasons: the calendar, the Senate’s other business, and, most importantly, growing public opposition to the health bill itself.” There seem to be only a couple of work weeks left for the Senate, which will have to entertain a zillion amendments from both sides before a vote to cut off debate. He notes: “GOP lawmakers will introduce amendments to challenge some of the bill’s fundamentals: the giant cuts in Medicare spending, the array of new and higher taxes, the coerciveness of the bill’s mandates, and the intimidating new powers given to health care bureaucrats.”

Once again, one can only marvel at the Democratic leadership, which will be intent on finding 60 votes for “the giant cuts in Medicare spending, the array of new and higher taxes, the coerciveness of the bill’s mandates, and the intimidating new powers given to health care bureaucrats.” Really, an affirmative vote on any one of these toxic provisions will make for a killer campaign ad; certainly votes on all of them will be hard for Democrats to explain to incredulous voters in all but the safest seats. And time is not on the Democrats’ side. With each vote and each passing month, support for this monstrous bill and for the president (who’s going to have to come to the aid of politically at-risk Democrats) declines.

York is right that it may be near impossible to get health care done this year. The only thing tougher will be getting it done in an election year.

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The End of the Beginning

No, Democrats would not vote to humiliate their own leadership and to kill health-care reform in its crib. By a 60-39 vote, the senate agreed last night to start the health-care debate. Byron York has it right, observing:

The extraordinary thing about the dramatic events surrounding the health care bill in the Senate is that there is any drama in it at all. Lawmakers are simply voting to begin debate on their version of health care reform. Just begin debate — not end it, and not move on to a final vote.

If Democrats, with a 60-vote majority in the Senate, were not able to begin debate on the top Democratic policy priority in a generation — well, that would be a devastating turn of events, both for the party and for President Obama. And yet just starting debate has proved difficult, and only today did the 60th Democratic vote fall in place in favor of beginning the process.

The debate begins after senators go home for the Thanksgiving recess and get another earful from their constituents. Those, like Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln, who cast a “Yes, but I really don’t like it” vote to start the debate may come away with a new-found appreciation for just how angry voters can be when lawmakers seem bent on doing what they don’t want done. Republicans on this one are giving Democrats no cover, banking on voters rewarding those who stood firm against higher taxes, Medicare cuts, and a big-government power grab.

As Politico noted, the party-line vote and the apparent determination of a handful of moderate Democrats not to go along with the public option in a final vote “exposed significant divides in the party that make it all but impossible to complete work on a plan by year’s end, and could possibly even sink the bill altogether.” And abortion subsidies once again loom large. On this one, time is not on the Democrats’ side. It seems as though they may well be at this into the new year. (“That timetable has always been worrisome to the White House because it would push the delicate final passage of the legislation into an election year, with Democrats skittish about voter backlash for a plan that draws decidedly mixed reviews in the polls.”)

We will know soon enough whether on a strict party-line vote the senate will pass a hugely controversial bill, which most voters (including the most politically active among them) don’t want and which likely will be used in a furious election campaign to punish those who foisted the bill on the voters. Odder things have happened, but passing this bill would be one of the oddest in recent memory.

No, Democrats would not vote to humiliate their own leadership and to kill health-care reform in its crib. By a 60-39 vote, the senate agreed last night to start the health-care debate. Byron York has it right, observing:

The extraordinary thing about the dramatic events surrounding the health care bill in the Senate is that there is any drama in it at all. Lawmakers are simply voting to begin debate on their version of health care reform. Just begin debate — not end it, and not move on to a final vote.

If Democrats, with a 60-vote majority in the Senate, were not able to begin debate on the top Democratic policy priority in a generation — well, that would be a devastating turn of events, both for the party and for President Obama. And yet just starting debate has proved difficult, and only today did the 60th Democratic vote fall in place in favor of beginning the process.

The debate begins after senators go home for the Thanksgiving recess and get another earful from their constituents. Those, like Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln, who cast a “Yes, but I really don’t like it” vote to start the debate may come away with a new-found appreciation for just how angry voters can be when lawmakers seem bent on doing what they don’t want done. Republicans on this one are giving Democrats no cover, banking on voters rewarding those who stood firm against higher taxes, Medicare cuts, and a big-government power grab.

As Politico noted, the party-line vote and the apparent determination of a handful of moderate Democrats not to go along with the public option in a final vote “exposed significant divides in the party that make it all but impossible to complete work on a plan by year’s end, and could possibly even sink the bill altogether.” And abortion subsidies once again loom large. On this one, time is not on the Democrats’ side. It seems as though they may well be at this into the new year. (“That timetable has always been worrisome to the White House because it would push the delicate final passage of the legislation into an election year, with Democrats skittish about voter backlash for a plan that draws decidedly mixed reviews in the polls.”)

We will know soon enough whether on a strict party-line vote the senate will pass a hugely controversial bill, which most voters (including the most politically active among them) don’t want and which likely will be used in a furious election campaign to punish those who foisted the bill on the voters. Odder things have happened, but passing this bill would be one of the oddest in recent memory.

Read Less




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