Commentary Magazine


Topic: campaign manager

On Ken Mehlman

The announcement that former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman is gay is garnering a fair amount of attention in the political world.

I suppose that’s predictable. He is, after all, the most powerful Republican ever to identify himself as gay. But my sense is that it’ll be a lot less of a big deal to conservatives than it might be to liberals like (just to choose one name at random) Frank Rich, for whom the political is also the personal. While it’s something that runs counter to the stereotype, most of the conservatives I know are largely to completely indifferent to a person’s sexual orientation. They are the kind of people who might even invite Elton John to perform at their weddings and not give a second thought to the fact that John is gay.

For my part, I knew Ken in the Bush White House and after that, when he was the campaign manager of the re-election campaign and RNC chairman. I’ve always liked him and found his counsel to be wise. He’s a person with very impressive political gifts and talents. Yet by his own account, the personal road he’s traveled has not been an easy one; rather than activists and commentators directing wrath and ridicule at him, I hope some measure of grace and understanding are accorded to him. I realize these qualities aren’t in oversupply in politics, but they should be more common than they are.

It’s fair to say, I think, that all sides in the same-sex marriage debate need to strive for greater respect and civility, for grounding this discussion in reason and empirical facts, in what advances self-government and the common good. And regardless of whether or not one agrees with Ken’s position, he will add to, rather than subtract from, the substance of the discussion. That is more than can be said for the haters.

The announcement that former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman is gay is garnering a fair amount of attention in the political world.

I suppose that’s predictable. He is, after all, the most powerful Republican ever to identify himself as gay. But my sense is that it’ll be a lot less of a big deal to conservatives than it might be to liberals like (just to choose one name at random) Frank Rich, for whom the political is also the personal. While it’s something that runs counter to the stereotype, most of the conservatives I know are largely to completely indifferent to a person’s sexual orientation. They are the kind of people who might even invite Elton John to perform at their weddings and not give a second thought to the fact that John is gay.

For my part, I knew Ken in the Bush White House and after that, when he was the campaign manager of the re-election campaign and RNC chairman. I’ve always liked him and found his counsel to be wise. He’s a person with very impressive political gifts and talents. Yet by his own account, the personal road he’s traveled has not been an easy one; rather than activists and commentators directing wrath and ridicule at him, I hope some measure of grace and understanding are accorded to him. I realize these qualities aren’t in oversupply in politics, but they should be more common than they are.

It’s fair to say, I think, that all sides in the same-sex marriage debate need to strive for greater respect and civility, for grounding this discussion in reason and empirical facts, in what advances self-government and the common good. And regardless of whether or not one agrees with Ken’s position, he will add to, rather than subtract from, the substance of the discussion. That is more than can be said for the haters.

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Rand Paul Will Need to Do More

The Washington Post, in an unintentionally funny report, tells us the latest on Rand Paul’s damage-control front. Despite concerns from mainstream Republicans that Paul make clear his differences with his father, Paul the Younger seems to have made things worse on that front: “Paul named Jesse Benton, one of his father’s former aides, as his campaign manager.” Not to worry, though, as Benton tries out this howler:

Despite the timing, Benton said the staffing changes have nothing to do with the postelection political firestorm. Benton replaces David Adams, who was made campaign chairman.

“Our team is remaining intact,” said Benton. “We’ve clarified some roles and will be adding even more talent to what is going to prove an extremely formidable operation.”

Yeah, right. And then there is more bad news for the Paul campaign: a libertarian (one who admits to being one) may enter the race, thereby splitting the vote of those who look with suspicion on social security, child-labor laws, and civil rights legislation. Not to fear, because the former campaign chief assures us, “If someone wants to split up Kentucky’s non-conservative vote more than it already is, that’s OK with me.” So libertarians are more like liberals?

But it would be fun to see Paul and the libertarian debate. (Are you for or against child-labor laws?) This is certainly not going to put Kentucky voters’ minds at ease. They already suspect something is more than a little “off” with Rand Paul. What will matter is whether Paul is willing to come out of hiding and take tough questions from the media and whether he can present a less-kooky vision of domestic and foreign policy. I have my doubts he can do either.

The Washington Post, in an unintentionally funny report, tells us the latest on Rand Paul’s damage-control front. Despite concerns from mainstream Republicans that Paul make clear his differences with his father, Paul the Younger seems to have made things worse on that front: “Paul named Jesse Benton, one of his father’s former aides, as his campaign manager.” Not to worry, though, as Benton tries out this howler:

Despite the timing, Benton said the staffing changes have nothing to do with the postelection political firestorm. Benton replaces David Adams, who was made campaign chairman.

“Our team is remaining intact,” said Benton. “We’ve clarified some roles and will be adding even more talent to what is going to prove an extremely formidable operation.”

Yeah, right. And then there is more bad news for the Paul campaign: a libertarian (one who admits to being one) may enter the race, thereby splitting the vote of those who look with suspicion on social security, child-labor laws, and civil rights legislation. Not to fear, because the former campaign chief assures us, “If someone wants to split up Kentucky’s non-conservative vote more than it already is, that’s OK with me.” So libertarians are more like liberals?

But it would be fun to see Paul and the libertarian debate. (Are you for or against child-labor laws?) This is certainly not going to put Kentucky voters’ minds at ease. They already suspect something is more than a little “off” with Rand Paul. What will matter is whether Paul is willing to come out of hiding and take tough questions from the media and whether he can present a less-kooky vision of domestic and foreign policy. I have my doubts he can do either.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

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California Senate Candidates Debate Campbell’s Record

California senate Republican contenders Tom Campbell, Chuck DeVore, and Carly Fiorina debated on the radio on Friday. Much of the discussion centered on Campbell’s voting record on Israel, his ties to Muslim extremists, and the charges and counter-charges that have been flying among the candidates. As the Associated Press noted:

Campbell requested the debate after his opponents began questioning his support for Israel. Their attacks were based on his voting record when he served in the House of Representatives and on campaign money given by a donor who later was revealed to have ties to a U.S.-listed terrorist organization.

(Actually, there is more than one donor, but more on that below.) Campbell accused Fiorina’s campaign manager of calling him anti-Semitic, a charge she denied. But the nub of the matter remains Campbell’s record. DeVore got into the act, as well:

He refused to back away from calling Campbell a “friend to our enemies” for his association with a University of South Florida professor who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group.

Campbell received a $1,300 campaign contribution from Sami Al-Arian in 2000 and later wrote a letter on his behalf asking the university not to fire him.

Campbell said the contribution came as the Republican Party was reaching out to Muslims and years before the criminal charges were filed.

“I certainly wish I had done a better job of finding out who he was at the time,” Campbell said.

The claim that Campbell does not view Israel as a friend is an important one in a primary in which evangelical Christians will help determine who will advance to the general election as the GOP nominee. The winner will face Democrat Barbara Boxer, who is seeking a fourth term.

Many believe strongly in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Campbell said he has never flinched from showing strong military support for Israel.

But alas, Campbell did repeatedly introduce measures to cut aid for Israel, and his association with Al-Arian is not his only troublesome relationship. And contrary to his assertion in the debate, he has supported the concept of a divided Jerusalem as the capital of both Jewish and Palestinian states. He did vote in 1990, one of only 34 lawmakers, against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As for his donors, this post notes:

Another $1,000 donor to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign was American Muslim Council member Abdurahman Alamoudi. After Alamoudi spoke out in support of terrorist organizations, Campbell refused to return the money, saying that he felt comfortable with Alamoudi’s position. In contrast, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton returned contributions they had received from Alamoudi and related parties.

In 2003, Alamoudi was caught carrying $340,000 in cash through an airport. When searched, authorities found that his electronic organizer held the names of six people who had been linked to al-Qaida financing. Alamoudi was brought to trial and pled guilty to immigration fraud and illegal business dealings with Libya. He also confessed to playing a part in an unsuccessful assassination plot on Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah. The plotters had hoped to destabilize Saudi Arabia with the prince’s death. And in 2005, authorities discovered that Alamoudi had also helped raise money for al-Qaida in the United States.

The list goes on. On February 13, 2000, Muthanna Al-Hanooti of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) contributed $2,000 to Campbell’s Senate campaign. Eight years later, Al-Hanooti was arrested for spying on the U.S. Congress for Saddam Hussein. Hanooti had even attempted to broker a secret deal with members of Congress to stop the war in Iraq from happening.

Nehad Awad, the current executive director of CAIR, contributed $2,000 dollars to Campbell’s Senate campaign in 2000. Awad and his group have been criticized for supporting both Hamas and other radical violence by Muslim extremists.

And then there is Israel-hater and organ-harvest conspirator  Alison Weir, whom Campbell has praised.  She’s now taken up defending Campbell. First, of course, she unleashes her best Stephen Walt imitation by, among other things, denouncing the “Israel Lobby.” (Just so we know where she’s coming from.) Then she explains her association with Campbell. This, she says, occurred at a speech in 2001:

When it was my turn to speak, I described what I had seen in the Palestinian Territories, showed my photographs, and read a sort of letter I had written to the American people. To my surprise, I received a standing ovation from, it appeared to me, everyone in the room. One of the first on his feet was Tom Campbell. Afterwards, a friend asked him if he would write an endorsement of my presentation, which he graciously did. Later, when I founded If Americans Knew and we created a website, we placed his comment in the “About Us” section.

She also lets on that Campbell told her, in describing of one of his proposals to cut aid to Israel, that ”many of his fellow Representatives privately told him they thought this was a wonderful plan, complimented him on his courage in proposing it, and said they didn’t’ dare vote for it. In the end, just 12 others cast affirmative votes.” Delighted he was, I suppose, to be so bold and so outside the mainstream on Israel aid.

Given her bile-spitting rendition of the Middle East conflict and desire to end American financial support for Israel, one wonders what in her speech Campbell found so praiseworthy. A Californian active in the Jewish community recounts to me the sort of presentation Weir was making those days. He attended one of her offerings at the Belvedere-Tiburon Library in Marin County:

What I remember most vividly was during her entire talk there was a slide displayed directly over her head of some stone steps with an extensive amount of recent blood visibly staining the steps. As you watched her anti-Israel diatribe being delivered, she said that blood was of martry’s slain by Israelis. The image reflected her barely supressed hatred of Israel.

The issue is not whether Campbell is anti-Semitic but whether his record and his associations of rather recent vintage are consistent with the pro-Israel rhetoric he now adopts. California Republican voters will need to decide what, if any, liability this will pose should he reach the general election. It seems, then, that the debate on Campbell’s record has just begun.

California senate Republican contenders Tom Campbell, Chuck DeVore, and Carly Fiorina debated on the radio on Friday. Much of the discussion centered on Campbell’s voting record on Israel, his ties to Muslim extremists, and the charges and counter-charges that have been flying among the candidates. As the Associated Press noted:

Campbell requested the debate after his opponents began questioning his support for Israel. Their attacks were based on his voting record when he served in the House of Representatives and on campaign money given by a donor who later was revealed to have ties to a U.S.-listed terrorist organization.

(Actually, there is more than one donor, but more on that below.) Campbell accused Fiorina’s campaign manager of calling him anti-Semitic, a charge she denied. But the nub of the matter remains Campbell’s record. DeVore got into the act, as well:

He refused to back away from calling Campbell a “friend to our enemies” for his association with a University of South Florida professor who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group.

Campbell received a $1,300 campaign contribution from Sami Al-Arian in 2000 and later wrote a letter on his behalf asking the university not to fire him.

Campbell said the contribution came as the Republican Party was reaching out to Muslims and years before the criminal charges were filed.

“I certainly wish I had done a better job of finding out who he was at the time,” Campbell said.

The claim that Campbell does not view Israel as a friend is an important one in a primary in which evangelical Christians will help determine who will advance to the general election as the GOP nominee. The winner will face Democrat Barbara Boxer, who is seeking a fourth term.

Many believe strongly in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Campbell said he has never flinched from showing strong military support for Israel.

But alas, Campbell did repeatedly introduce measures to cut aid for Israel, and his association with Al-Arian is not his only troublesome relationship. And contrary to his assertion in the debate, he has supported the concept of a divided Jerusalem as the capital of both Jewish and Palestinian states. He did vote in 1990, one of only 34 lawmakers, against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As for his donors, this post notes:

Another $1,000 donor to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign was American Muslim Council member Abdurahman Alamoudi. After Alamoudi spoke out in support of terrorist organizations, Campbell refused to return the money, saying that he felt comfortable with Alamoudi’s position. In contrast, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton returned contributions they had received from Alamoudi and related parties.

In 2003, Alamoudi was caught carrying $340,000 in cash through an airport. When searched, authorities found that his electronic organizer held the names of six people who had been linked to al-Qaida financing. Alamoudi was brought to trial and pled guilty to immigration fraud and illegal business dealings with Libya. He also confessed to playing a part in an unsuccessful assassination plot on Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah. The plotters had hoped to destabilize Saudi Arabia with the prince’s death. And in 2005, authorities discovered that Alamoudi had also helped raise money for al-Qaida in the United States.

The list goes on. On February 13, 2000, Muthanna Al-Hanooti of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) contributed $2,000 to Campbell’s Senate campaign. Eight years later, Al-Hanooti was arrested for spying on the U.S. Congress for Saddam Hussein. Hanooti had even attempted to broker a secret deal with members of Congress to stop the war in Iraq from happening.

Nehad Awad, the current executive director of CAIR, contributed $2,000 dollars to Campbell’s Senate campaign in 2000. Awad and his group have been criticized for supporting both Hamas and other radical violence by Muslim extremists.

And then there is Israel-hater and organ-harvest conspirator  Alison Weir, whom Campbell has praised.  She’s now taken up defending Campbell. First, of course, she unleashes her best Stephen Walt imitation by, among other things, denouncing the “Israel Lobby.” (Just so we know where she’s coming from.) Then she explains her association with Campbell. This, she says, occurred at a speech in 2001:

When it was my turn to speak, I described what I had seen in the Palestinian Territories, showed my photographs, and read a sort of letter I had written to the American people. To my surprise, I received a standing ovation from, it appeared to me, everyone in the room. One of the first on his feet was Tom Campbell. Afterwards, a friend asked him if he would write an endorsement of my presentation, which he graciously did. Later, when I founded If Americans Knew and we created a website, we placed his comment in the “About Us” section.

She also lets on that Campbell told her, in describing of one of his proposals to cut aid to Israel, that ”many of his fellow Representatives privately told him they thought this was a wonderful plan, complimented him on his courage in proposing it, and said they didn’t’ dare vote for it. In the end, just 12 others cast affirmative votes.” Delighted he was, I suppose, to be so bold and so outside the mainstream on Israel aid.

Given her bile-spitting rendition of the Middle East conflict and desire to end American financial support for Israel, one wonders what in her speech Campbell found so praiseworthy. A Californian active in the Jewish community recounts to me the sort of presentation Weir was making those days. He attended one of her offerings at the Belvedere-Tiburon Library in Marin County:

What I remember most vividly was during her entire talk there was a slide displayed directly over her head of some stone steps with an extensive amount of recent blood visibly staining the steps. As you watched her anti-Israel diatribe being delivered, she said that blood was of martry’s slain by Israelis. The image reflected her barely supressed hatred of Israel.

The issue is not whether Campbell is anti-Semitic but whether his record and his associations of rather recent vintage are consistent with the pro-Israel rhetoric he now adopts. California Republican voters will need to decide what, if any, liability this will pose should he reach the general election. It seems, then, that the debate on Campbell’s record has just begun.

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Tom Campbell Will Debate on Terrorism and National Security

There will be a radio debate with California Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell on Friday. The topics will be national security, foreign affairs, and terrorism. Sure to come up will be Campbell’s record. The controversy concerning his past voting record, campaign donors, and positions on Israel and the Middle East certainly will not subside so long as new facts continue to come to light.

For example, in a 2000 report for the Forward (subscription required), Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent for the Washington Times, wrote:

The California Republican who hopes to unseat Senator Feinstein this fall in the general election raised $35,000 last month at a fundraiser in Brooklyn hosted by Arab American and Muslim grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel, ease sanctions on Iraq and weaken counterterrorism legislation.

The report quotes the event’s invitation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support for Tom Campbell for Senate Fundraising Dinner. … Requested Donation $250 per person.” Lake explains that the invitation explicitly praised Campbell for “votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.” Lake noted that the American Muslim Alliance website boasted that the event raised $35,000 for Campbell.

The report also says the groups represented in the Campbell fundraiser include those who held “such events as a protest organized by the Southern California chapter of CAIR in 1998 outside a special televised event marking Israel’s 50th anniversary.  According to the CAIR website, protestors held signs that said, ’50 years of Palestinian Blood’ and ’50 years of Palestinian Disposession.’  In 1996, the American Muslim Council took out a newspaper advertisement accusing the Israeli Defense Force of ‘genocide’ in Southern Lebanon for the bombing commissioned by Prime Minister Peres.”

At the time, the campaign manager of Campbell’s opponent made the argument that ”Senator Feinstein’s votes on the Middle East are much more in the mainstream than Congressman Campbell’s, and I would like their records to be evaluated by the voters of California.” One can imagine Sen. Boxer’s campaign manager is readying the same spiel should Campbell be the Republican nominee.

But this, of course, was not an isolated event. Campbell was not rewarded with a lifetime achievement award by the American Muslim Alliance for nothing. He was there with the likes of Sami Al-Arian at rallies and advocated the position of these Muslim organizations in Congress. In October 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Calling themselves a “sleeping giant,” Muslims gathered Saturday in Irvine to brainstorm ways to increase their clout in the U.S. political system and the November elections. . .

“When we first started this, no one stood with us,” said Sami Al-Arian, a professor at University of Southern Florida. He told the crowd of more than 100 people that the campaign against secret evidence took persistence and eventually generated more than 55 supportive editorials and 200 positive articles in U.S. newspapers that were instrumental in raising public awareness.

Campbell, delivering the keynote luncheon address, told the Muslim crowd that such political victories could be replicated–such as fighting to end sanctions on Iraq. Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Dianne Feinstein for a Senate seat, urged Muslims to set up volunteer networks to support candidates of both major parties in every congressional district.

While Campbell now says he was unaware of the extremism of his supporters, the facts suggest otherwise. Yesterday, Philip Klein had yet another report detailing a Campbell donor, “Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.” Alamoudi appeared at a rally extolling the crowd: “We are all supporters of Hamas.  …  I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” But as Phil notes, a week later, Campbell defended Alamoudi and refused to return the donation.

Campbell has yet to explain fully his connection to these Islamic organizations, from whom he took money and for whom he was a dependable advocate at a time when these groups did not bother to hide their extreme rhetoric and views. California voters will have to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable with Campbell’s record. But I think there is little doubt that the portrait Campbell now paints of himself bears little resemblance to the one he was peddling up through 2001.

There will be a radio debate with California Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell on Friday. The topics will be national security, foreign affairs, and terrorism. Sure to come up will be Campbell’s record. The controversy concerning his past voting record, campaign donors, and positions on Israel and the Middle East certainly will not subside so long as new facts continue to come to light.

For example, in a 2000 report for the Forward (subscription required), Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent for the Washington Times, wrote:

The California Republican who hopes to unseat Senator Feinstein this fall in the general election raised $35,000 last month at a fundraiser in Brooklyn hosted by Arab American and Muslim grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel, ease sanctions on Iraq and weaken counterterrorism legislation.

The report quotes the event’s invitation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support for Tom Campbell for Senate Fundraising Dinner. … Requested Donation $250 per person.” Lake explains that the invitation explicitly praised Campbell for “votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.” Lake noted that the American Muslim Alliance website boasted that the event raised $35,000 for Campbell.

The report also says the groups represented in the Campbell fundraiser include those who held “such events as a protest organized by the Southern California chapter of CAIR in 1998 outside a special televised event marking Israel’s 50th anniversary.  According to the CAIR website, protestors held signs that said, ’50 years of Palestinian Blood’ and ’50 years of Palestinian Disposession.’  In 1996, the American Muslim Council took out a newspaper advertisement accusing the Israeli Defense Force of ‘genocide’ in Southern Lebanon for the bombing commissioned by Prime Minister Peres.”

At the time, the campaign manager of Campbell’s opponent made the argument that ”Senator Feinstein’s votes on the Middle East are much more in the mainstream than Congressman Campbell’s, and I would like their records to be evaluated by the voters of California.” One can imagine Sen. Boxer’s campaign manager is readying the same spiel should Campbell be the Republican nominee.

But this, of course, was not an isolated event. Campbell was not rewarded with a lifetime achievement award by the American Muslim Alliance for nothing. He was there with the likes of Sami Al-Arian at rallies and advocated the position of these Muslim organizations in Congress. In October 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Calling themselves a “sleeping giant,” Muslims gathered Saturday in Irvine to brainstorm ways to increase their clout in the U.S. political system and the November elections. . .

“When we first started this, no one stood with us,” said Sami Al-Arian, a professor at University of Southern Florida. He told the crowd of more than 100 people that the campaign against secret evidence took persistence and eventually generated more than 55 supportive editorials and 200 positive articles in U.S. newspapers that were instrumental in raising public awareness.

Campbell, delivering the keynote luncheon address, told the Muslim crowd that such political victories could be replicated–such as fighting to end sanctions on Iraq. Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Dianne Feinstein for a Senate seat, urged Muslims to set up volunteer networks to support candidates of both major parties in every congressional district.

While Campbell now says he was unaware of the extremism of his supporters, the facts suggest otherwise. Yesterday, Philip Klein had yet another report detailing a Campbell donor, “Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.” Alamoudi appeared at a rally extolling the crowd: “We are all supporters of Hamas.  …  I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” But as Phil notes, a week later, Campbell defended Alamoudi and refused to return the donation.

Campbell has yet to explain fully his connection to these Islamic organizations, from whom he took money and for whom he was a dependable advocate at a time when these groups did not bother to hide their extreme rhetoric and views. California voters will have to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable with Campbell’s record. But I think there is little doubt that the portrait Campbell now paints of himself bears little resemblance to the one he was peddling up through 2001.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The day after the health-care summit: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20. For President Obama, the Approval Index has been lower only once.” (Only a third of the response was post-summit, so we don’t know if he’s going downhill again because of or in spite of his latest “game changing” event.)

Not a headline the Obami want to see: “The aftermath of the health-care summit: Confusion, conflict.”

Forget about ObamaCare for a moment, Nancy Pelosi may not have votes for the jobs bill: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the $15 billion measure at a Friday news conference. But behind the scenes, House leaders were working to assuage Democratic members on the Reft and Right, whose very objections could doom the bill before it is placed on the schedule.”

Republican senate candidate Mike Castle is cruising in Delaware. House Democratic leaders are struggling to get their members to back the Senate-passed jobs bill, leadership aides said Friday.

Hillary Clinton on the administration’s efforts to aid the Iranian pro-democracy protesters doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence: “State is looking at what more we can do to work in partnership with the private sector to unblock Internet and to speak out against the abuses going on.” Looking at ways, you see. It seems there is always an excuse: “Some technology that we’d like to see used to unblock the Iranian Internet is very valuable technology. We have to be careful how it’s utilized so it doesn’t get in the wrong hands.” Like Chinese dissidents?

Phil Klein on Tom Campbell’s travails: “So, in 2000, Campbell was raising money from Muslim groups on the basis of his votes against Israel and his views on foreign policy, and now he’s claiming those same positions are being misrepresented. Meanwhile, a month after Sept. 11, he was willing to accept an award from a group that was pushing the view that the root causes of the attacks were poverty in the Muslim world as well as U.S. support for Israel. Either Campbell was misrepresenting himself then, or he’s misrepresenting himself now. It can’t be both.”

The Carly Fiorina campaign points to four Campbell donors from his 2000 failed senate campaign: “The campaign manager for former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina on Thursday criticized past donations to Campbell from four men. One was arrested for spying on Congress for Saddam Hussein. Another pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group. Campaign manager Marty Wilson said the donations reinforce a congressional voting record by Campbell that was decidedly anti-Israel. He noted that Campbell had voted to cut foreign aid to the country while he served in the House.”

After more than a year: “For the first time, former President George W. Bush has said publicly that he approves of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s high-profile role in defending the past administration’s national security policies. ‘I’m glad Cheney is out there,’ Bush said Friday morning at a reunion breakfast that was the inaugural event for the Bush-Cheney Alumni Association.”

J Street will be so disappointed if it loses a reliable Israel basher. Democrats seem to have another retirement: ”Rep. William Delahunt blew nearly $560,000 in campaign cash last year — much of it on lavish meals and a family-friendly payroll that includes his ex-wife, son-in-law and daughter — stoking speculation the Quincy Democrat is emptying his war chest and won’t seek re-election.”

Desiree Rogers probably got lucky to leave on the same day Gov. David Paterson announced that he won’t run for re-election. Most people won’t be focused, then, on this sort of coverage: “The security fiasco at the state dinner for the prime minister of India proved to be an embarrassment, and when she tried to reassert herself, she was quickly shot down, forced into a lower profile. ‘Once the state dinner deal went down,’ said the official, ‘people who had other political agendas started micromanaging every part of her business.’” Ouch. Maybe it was the invocation of executive privilege that rubbed people the wrong way.

The day after the health-care summit: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20. For President Obama, the Approval Index has been lower only once.” (Only a third of the response was post-summit, so we don’t know if he’s going downhill again because of or in spite of his latest “game changing” event.)

Not a headline the Obami want to see: “The aftermath of the health-care summit: Confusion, conflict.”

Forget about ObamaCare for a moment, Nancy Pelosi may not have votes for the jobs bill: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the $15 billion measure at a Friday news conference. But behind the scenes, House leaders were working to assuage Democratic members on the Reft and Right, whose very objections could doom the bill before it is placed on the schedule.”

Republican senate candidate Mike Castle is cruising in Delaware. House Democratic leaders are struggling to get their members to back the Senate-passed jobs bill, leadership aides said Friday.

Hillary Clinton on the administration’s efforts to aid the Iranian pro-democracy protesters doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence: “State is looking at what more we can do to work in partnership with the private sector to unblock Internet and to speak out against the abuses going on.” Looking at ways, you see. It seems there is always an excuse: “Some technology that we’d like to see used to unblock the Iranian Internet is very valuable technology. We have to be careful how it’s utilized so it doesn’t get in the wrong hands.” Like Chinese dissidents?

Phil Klein on Tom Campbell’s travails: “So, in 2000, Campbell was raising money from Muslim groups on the basis of his votes against Israel and his views on foreign policy, and now he’s claiming those same positions are being misrepresented. Meanwhile, a month after Sept. 11, he was willing to accept an award from a group that was pushing the view that the root causes of the attacks were poverty in the Muslim world as well as U.S. support for Israel. Either Campbell was misrepresenting himself then, or he’s misrepresenting himself now. It can’t be both.”

The Carly Fiorina campaign points to four Campbell donors from his 2000 failed senate campaign: “The campaign manager for former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina on Thursday criticized past donations to Campbell from four men. One was arrested for spying on Congress for Saddam Hussein. Another pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group. Campaign manager Marty Wilson said the donations reinforce a congressional voting record by Campbell that was decidedly anti-Israel. He noted that Campbell had voted to cut foreign aid to the country while he served in the House.”

After more than a year: “For the first time, former President George W. Bush has said publicly that he approves of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s high-profile role in defending the past administration’s national security policies. ‘I’m glad Cheney is out there,’ Bush said Friday morning at a reunion breakfast that was the inaugural event for the Bush-Cheney Alumni Association.”

J Street will be so disappointed if it loses a reliable Israel basher. Democrats seem to have another retirement: ”Rep. William Delahunt blew nearly $560,000 in campaign cash last year — much of it on lavish meals and a family-friendly payroll that includes his ex-wife, son-in-law and daughter — stoking speculation the Quincy Democrat is emptying his war chest and won’t seek re-election.”

Desiree Rogers probably got lucky to leave on the same day Gov. David Paterson announced that he won’t run for re-election. Most people won’t be focused, then, on this sort of coverage: “The security fiasco at the state dinner for the prime minister of India proved to be an embarrassment, and when she tried to reassert herself, she was quickly shot down, forced into a lower profile. ‘Once the state dinner deal went down,’ said the official, ‘people who had other political agendas started micromanaging every part of her business.’” Ouch. Maybe it was the invocation of executive privilege that rubbed people the wrong way.

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That’s What They Need — A Campaign Manager!

It is only fitting that Obama’s first significant personnel change in the wake of the Massachusetts debacle is to hire back his campaign manager. No, really. Chris Cillizza reports:

Daivd Plouffe, the man who managed President Barack Obama’s campaign, will be taking on an expanded role as an outside adviser to the White House, according to sources familiar with the plan, a move that comes just days after a stunning defeat for Democrats in a Massachusetts Senate special election.

Not a new economic team. Not a new chief of staff. Not even a new national security staff to replace the gang that dropped the ball on the Christmas Day bomber. No, with the Obami, it is never about substance or getting the policy right. It’s not about governance. It is about the perpetual campaign. So the campaign manager gets the emergency call.

Plouffe, not coincidentally, authors an op-ed in Cillizza’s paper arguing that ObamaCare was a fine idea, just misunderstood. (“It’s a good plan that’s become a demonized caricature.”) He says Democrats better pass it, or the public won’t understand how wrong Sarah Palin was. (I’m not making that up: “Only if the plan becomes law will the American people see that all the scary things Sarah Palin and others have predicted — such as the so-called death panels — were baseless.”) Where are the votes going to come from? What about the legitimate complaints from the Left and Right that the bill is an incoherent jumble? Sorry – Plouffe is in the campaign business, not the policy business. (Republicans shouldn’t get their hopes up that anyone in Congress other than Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid buys this stuff.)

It gets worse after that. He also thinks Democrats should create jobs. (Who knew you could get paid for coming up with this stuff?)  And Democrats should defend the stimulus plan. (Do we think this is a Karl Rove mind-trick game?) Democrats shouldn’t listen to complaints about spending because voters will be impressed by blaming the other party. Work on the corruption issue. (Reps. Murtha, Rangel, etc., don’t agree, I suspect.) And “run great campaigns.” (Who’d have thought?)

You see the problem. This is what passes for inspired advice, and this is the personnel slot that Obama fills first. It’s hard to believe that the candidate who ran against stale politics is now, a year into his presidency, a hackneyed pol happy to push this sort of pablum on an already disgusted public. Well, it sure does explain how Obama wound up in his current predicament.

It is only fitting that Obama’s first significant personnel change in the wake of the Massachusetts debacle is to hire back his campaign manager. No, really. Chris Cillizza reports:

Daivd Plouffe, the man who managed President Barack Obama’s campaign, will be taking on an expanded role as an outside adviser to the White House, according to sources familiar with the plan, a move that comes just days after a stunning defeat for Democrats in a Massachusetts Senate special election.

Not a new economic team. Not a new chief of staff. Not even a new national security staff to replace the gang that dropped the ball on the Christmas Day bomber. No, with the Obami, it is never about substance or getting the policy right. It’s not about governance. It is about the perpetual campaign. So the campaign manager gets the emergency call.

Plouffe, not coincidentally, authors an op-ed in Cillizza’s paper arguing that ObamaCare was a fine idea, just misunderstood. (“It’s a good plan that’s become a demonized caricature.”) He says Democrats better pass it, or the public won’t understand how wrong Sarah Palin was. (I’m not making that up: “Only if the plan becomes law will the American people see that all the scary things Sarah Palin and others have predicted — such as the so-called death panels — were baseless.”) Where are the votes going to come from? What about the legitimate complaints from the Left and Right that the bill is an incoherent jumble? Sorry – Plouffe is in the campaign business, not the policy business. (Republicans shouldn’t get their hopes up that anyone in Congress other than Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid buys this stuff.)

It gets worse after that. He also thinks Democrats should create jobs. (Who knew you could get paid for coming up with this stuff?)  And Democrats should defend the stimulus plan. (Do we think this is a Karl Rove mind-trick game?) Democrats shouldn’t listen to complaints about spending because voters will be impressed by blaming the other party. Work on the corruption issue. (Reps. Murtha, Rangel, etc., don’t agree, I suspect.) And “run great campaigns.” (Who’d have thought?)

You see the problem. This is what passes for inspired advice, and this is the personnel slot that Obama fills first. It’s hard to believe that the candidate who ran against stale politics is now, a year into his presidency, a hackneyed pol happy to push this sort of pablum on an already disgusted public. Well, it sure does explain how Obama wound up in his current predicament.

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Obama Blew His First Important Decision

The juicy Game Change book, which landed Harry Reid in political quicksand, is even more damaging to Joe Biden and, by extension, to the president’s own image as chief executive. As Politico recounts:

The relationship between Barack Obama and Joe Biden grew so strained during the 2008 campaign, according to a new book, that the two rarely spoke and aides not only kept Biden off internal conference calls but refused to even tell him they existed. Instead, a separate campaign call was regularly scheduled between the then-Delaware senator and two of Obama’s top campaign aides — “so that they could keep a tight rein on him,” write journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. … The tensions began in September of 2008 [when] word got back to Obama’s campaign headquarters that Biden had told reporters on his campaign plane that he was more qualified than his running mate to be president.

“A chill set in between Chicago and the Biden plane,” Halperin and Heilemann write in the book, to be released Monday. “Joe and Obama barely spoke by phone, rarely campaigned together.”

And when Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was asked about having Biden dial into the nightly campaign conference call, he responded: “Nah.” Instead, Biden had his own call with Plouffe and senior campaign adviser David Axelrod.

Obama himself was growing increasingly frustrated with his running mate after Biden let loose with a string of gaffes, including a statement that paying higher taxes amounted to patriotism and criticism of one of the campaign’s own ads poking fun at John McCain.

But when Biden, at an October fund-raiser in Seattle, famously predicted that Obama would be tested with an international crisis, the then-Illinois senator had had enough.

“How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?” he demanded of his advisers on a conference call, a moment at which most people on the call said the candidate was as angry as they had ever heard him.

Well, we knew Joe Biden was a loudmouthed buffoon. Indeed, most people knew that before he was selected as Obama’s VP. His gaffes were well known, his penchant for cringe-inducing boasts was no secret, and he was, after all, bounced from one presidential campaign for appropriating Neil Kinnock’s life account as his own. But here’s the thing: Obama selected him anyway. So what is the real message here — that Biden was a goofball, or that Obama showed atrocious judgment in making the most important personnel call, one that cannot be reversed until 2012?

If Obama was furious at his VP, he should perhaps have thought back to the vetting process. Surely, Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy didn’t let him down by failing to take their candidate through Biden’s shortcomings chapter and verse, right? Obama nevertheless made the decision to hire someone for whom he had contempt. Nice work.

Moreover, in office Biden has not only lived up to his reputation for gaffes; his judgment, most especially on Afghanistan, has been (as it has been for 30 years) faulty. To Obama’s credit, Biden’s advice was rejected on the surge, although one suspects the process would have been less excruciating and prolonged had it not been for Biden’s efforts to override the advice of all our military commanders.

Obama hasn’t distinguished himself as an executive. His Afghanistan policy-making process was tortured, and he has outsourced much of that policy making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid — who proceeded to junk up the stimulus and come up with the worst-of-all-worlds health-care bill. He flunked the 3 a.m. telephone-call test on the Christmas Day bombing. But it’s in his personnel selection — from the hapless and ethically challenged Tim Geithner to the decidedly unwise Sonia Sotomayor to the goofy James Jones — where he has demonstrated his utter lack of executive competence. And the prime example is the man who sits the proverbial one heartbeat away from the presidency.

The juicy Game Change book, which landed Harry Reid in political quicksand, is even more damaging to Joe Biden and, by extension, to the president’s own image as chief executive. As Politico recounts:

The relationship between Barack Obama and Joe Biden grew so strained during the 2008 campaign, according to a new book, that the two rarely spoke and aides not only kept Biden off internal conference calls but refused to even tell him they existed. Instead, a separate campaign call was regularly scheduled between the then-Delaware senator and two of Obama’s top campaign aides — “so that they could keep a tight rein on him,” write journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. … The tensions began in September of 2008 [when] word got back to Obama’s campaign headquarters that Biden had told reporters on his campaign plane that he was more qualified than his running mate to be president.

“A chill set in between Chicago and the Biden plane,” Halperin and Heilemann write in the book, to be released Monday. “Joe and Obama barely spoke by phone, rarely campaigned together.”

And when Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was asked about having Biden dial into the nightly campaign conference call, he responded: “Nah.” Instead, Biden had his own call with Plouffe and senior campaign adviser David Axelrod.

Obama himself was growing increasingly frustrated with his running mate after Biden let loose with a string of gaffes, including a statement that paying higher taxes amounted to patriotism and criticism of one of the campaign’s own ads poking fun at John McCain.

But when Biden, at an October fund-raiser in Seattle, famously predicted that Obama would be tested with an international crisis, the then-Illinois senator had had enough.

“How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?” he demanded of his advisers on a conference call, a moment at which most people on the call said the candidate was as angry as they had ever heard him.

Well, we knew Joe Biden was a loudmouthed buffoon. Indeed, most people knew that before he was selected as Obama’s VP. His gaffes were well known, his penchant for cringe-inducing boasts was no secret, and he was, after all, bounced from one presidential campaign for appropriating Neil Kinnock’s life account as his own. But here’s the thing: Obama selected him anyway. So what is the real message here — that Biden was a goofball, or that Obama showed atrocious judgment in making the most important personnel call, one that cannot be reversed until 2012?

If Obama was furious at his VP, he should perhaps have thought back to the vetting process. Surely, Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy didn’t let him down by failing to take their candidate through Biden’s shortcomings chapter and verse, right? Obama nevertheless made the decision to hire someone for whom he had contempt. Nice work.

Moreover, in office Biden has not only lived up to his reputation for gaffes; his judgment, most especially on Afghanistan, has been (as it has been for 30 years) faulty. To Obama’s credit, Biden’s advice was rejected on the surge, although one suspects the process would have been less excruciating and prolonged had it not been for Biden’s efforts to override the advice of all our military commanders.

Obama hasn’t distinguished himself as an executive. His Afghanistan policy-making process was tortured, and he has outsourced much of that policy making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid — who proceeded to junk up the stimulus and come up with the worst-of-all-worlds health-care bill. He flunked the 3 a.m. telephone-call test on the Christmas Day bombing. But it’s in his personnel selection — from the hapless and ethically challenged Tim Geithner to the decidedly unwise Sonia Sotomayor to the goofy James Jones — where he has demonstrated his utter lack of executive competence. And the prime example is the man who sits the proverbial one heartbeat away from the presidency.

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Role Reversal

Hillary Clinton is now chiding Barack Obama for his refusal to debate. Declaring that “There’s all kinds of issues that we should be debating about right here in North Carolina,” Clinton frames Obama’s skittishness as both a lack of substance and a lack of political courage.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is getting personal, essentially calling Clinton a liar. David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s campaign manager, says this in an interview:

I think her electability issues are the following: she’s got a high unfavorable rating. It would be the highest unfavorable rating for any presidential nominee in recent history. Fairly or not, the majority of voters don’t trust Senator Clinton. Those two points are related, obviously: her unfavorable rating, and the sense that voters do not find her honest or trustworthy.

Well, we certainly aren’t hearing much of the old Barack Obama, the one who said in South Carolina:

We are up against decades of bitter partisanship that cause politicians to demonize their opponents instead of coming together to make college affordable or energy cleaner; it’s the kind of partisanship where you’re not even allowed to say that a Republican had an idea – even if it’s one you never agreed with. That kind of politics is bad for our party, it’s bad for our country, and this is our chance to end it once and for all.

Remarkable as it may seem we now have Clinton calling for debates on issues and Obama name-calling. Any wonder Paul Krugman is exasperated?

Hillary Clinton is now chiding Barack Obama for his refusal to debate. Declaring that “There’s all kinds of issues that we should be debating about right here in North Carolina,” Clinton frames Obama’s skittishness as both a lack of substance and a lack of political courage.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is getting personal, essentially calling Clinton a liar. David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s campaign manager, says this in an interview:

I think her electability issues are the following: she’s got a high unfavorable rating. It would be the highest unfavorable rating for any presidential nominee in recent history. Fairly or not, the majority of voters don’t trust Senator Clinton. Those two points are related, obviously: her unfavorable rating, and the sense that voters do not find her honest or trustworthy.

Well, we certainly aren’t hearing much of the old Barack Obama, the one who said in South Carolina:

We are up against decades of bitter partisanship that cause politicians to demonize their opponents instead of coming together to make college affordable or energy cleaner; it’s the kind of partisanship where you’re not even allowed to say that a Republican had an idea – even if it’s one you never agreed with. That kind of politics is bad for our party, it’s bad for our country, and this is our chance to end it once and for all.

Remarkable as it may seem we now have Clinton calling for debates on issues and Obama name-calling. Any wonder Paul Krugman is exasperated?

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Words Matter

Roger Simon of Politico observes:

You know a candidate is really feeling the heat when he starts complaining about the kitchen. You know a candidate is having problems when he starts complaining about the process. Wednesday night, in a debate here, Barack Obama complained a number of times about the presidential campaign process and how some people spend way too much time “obsessing” about some of the things that he and others have actually said.

Sure enough, Obama’s campaign manager came out right after the debate with a defensive-sounding statement:

Tonight we saw a real choice between the old politics of point-scoring and distraction and a politics that focuses on bringing us together to actually solve the challenges we talk about every single election.

So we have now come full circle. The candidate who cribbed the line “Words matter” and bragged that his rhetoric lifts all comers has been reduced to complaining that words–his words–don’t matter. The man who was to lead a movement, whose judgment and virtue were cause (finally) for pride in America, now says that the particulars of his past and his associations with friends and mentors are a “distraction.”

What happened? It appears that Obama believed he could skate through an entire primary (and maybe a general election) without having to answer hard questions. Last night, the ABC moderators finally put those long-avoided questions to him. The results weren’t pretty. This raises more fundamental concerns. Can he answer hard questions, regardless of the setting? Or is he only able to give the same canned “we are the change” stump speech over and over again? Judging from his track record of hiding from the media–and his debate performance–it seems the only words that matter from his perspective are the ones drafted, memorized, and rehearsed among admiring advisers and friends.

Roger Simon of Politico observes:

You know a candidate is really feeling the heat when he starts complaining about the kitchen. You know a candidate is having problems when he starts complaining about the process. Wednesday night, in a debate here, Barack Obama complained a number of times about the presidential campaign process and how some people spend way too much time “obsessing” about some of the things that he and others have actually said.

Sure enough, Obama’s campaign manager came out right after the debate with a defensive-sounding statement:

Tonight we saw a real choice between the old politics of point-scoring and distraction and a politics that focuses on bringing us together to actually solve the challenges we talk about every single election.

So we have now come full circle. The candidate who cribbed the line “Words matter” and bragged that his rhetoric lifts all comers has been reduced to complaining that words–his words–don’t matter. The man who was to lead a movement, whose judgment and virtue were cause (finally) for pride in America, now says that the particulars of his past and his associations with friends and mentors are a “distraction.”

What happened? It appears that Obama believed he could skate through an entire primary (and maybe a general election) without having to answer hard questions. Last night, the ABC moderators finally put those long-avoided questions to him. The results weren’t pretty. This raises more fundamental concerns. Can he answer hard questions, regardless of the setting? Or is he only able to give the same canned “we are the change” stump speech over and over again? Judging from his track record of hiding from the media–and his debate performance–it seems the only words that matter from his perspective are the ones drafted, memorized, and rehearsed among admiring advisers and friends.

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Worrying . . .

This Los Angeles Times report concerning Barack Obama’s relationship with the U.S. Palestinian community and his long-time friendship with Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi is worth a read.

Obama’s presence as a state senator at events in which Israel was denounced for practicing “terrorism” and his warm words of praise for Khalidi naturally left the Palestinian community believing he was sympathetic to their cause. Then came Obama’s emergence on the national stage, his presidential run and his efforts to assure the Jewish community and others that he is a stalwart defender of Israel. No more friendly meetings with Khalidi and Palestinian outreach events.

Campaign manager David Axelrod assures us that “in no way” have Obama’s private and public statements differed. But some are still concerned that his newly-expressed solicitude for Israel does not square with his associations or prior rhetoric (“nobody’s suffering more than the Palestinian people”). Somehow his hyperbole only increases my queasiness (h/t Instapundit).

Then there was Reverend Wright. As Abe Foxman of the ADL put it:

In the context of spending 20 years in a church where now it is clear the anti-Israel rhetoric was there, was repeated . . . that’s what makes his presence at an Arab American event with a Said a greater concern.

What to make of all this? Obama’s supporters will say this proves his ability to reach out to all sides. His critics will say this betrays a dangerous tendency to lead diametrically opposed camps to believe he is “with” each of them. Why dangerous? Because at some point, presidents must make their intentions and positions crystal clear and tell one side “no” or “yes” with total willingness to pay the costs inherent in any decision.

The worry here, I think, is that Obama believes geopolitics works like community activism. His lack of any foreign policy experience, combined with his track record of not standing up to anyone (including a ranting, race-baiting preacher), have given us plenty to worry about.

This Los Angeles Times report concerning Barack Obama’s relationship with the U.S. Palestinian community and his long-time friendship with Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi is worth a read.

Obama’s presence as a state senator at events in which Israel was denounced for practicing “terrorism” and his warm words of praise for Khalidi naturally left the Palestinian community believing he was sympathetic to their cause. Then came Obama’s emergence on the national stage, his presidential run and his efforts to assure the Jewish community and others that he is a stalwart defender of Israel. No more friendly meetings with Khalidi and Palestinian outreach events.

Campaign manager David Axelrod assures us that “in no way” have Obama’s private and public statements differed. But some are still concerned that his newly-expressed solicitude for Israel does not square with his associations or prior rhetoric (“nobody’s suffering more than the Palestinian people”). Somehow his hyperbole only increases my queasiness (h/t Instapundit).

Then there was Reverend Wright. As Abe Foxman of the ADL put it:

In the context of spending 20 years in a church where now it is clear the anti-Israel rhetoric was there, was repeated . . . that’s what makes his presence at an Arab American event with a Said a greater concern.

What to make of all this? Obama’s supporters will say this proves his ability to reach out to all sides. His critics will say this betrays a dangerous tendency to lead diametrically opposed camps to believe he is “with” each of them. Why dangerous? Because at some point, presidents must make their intentions and positions crystal clear and tell one side “no” or “yes” with total willingness to pay the costs inherent in any decision.

The worry here, I think, is that Obama believes geopolitics works like community activism. His lack of any foreign policy experience, combined with his track record of not standing up to anyone (including a ranting, race-baiting preacher), have given us plenty to worry about.

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Bill’s Blowing Hillary’s Superdelegate Chances

A piece on sfgate offers a telling glimpse of Clinton rage. Last weekend, Bill Clinton flew in from Chicago to California and schmoozed with superdelegates at a state convention. Mingling with the party elite, he was all grins and eye-bags until someone mentioned Hillary defector Bill Richardson:

Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how “sorry” she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a “Judas” for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

“Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that,” a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media’s unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

Let’s be honest: if Obama was conclusively behind delegate-wise and in the popular vote (as Hillary is) the only question the media would be asking him is, “to what do you attribute your loss?” Yes, Obama has received a big fat pass from the press and they softball him at every turn. But the ongoing assumption that Hillary has some legitimate claim to her continued fight is sustained by little more than the Clinton phenomenon itself. And Bill and Hillary are only called out when their antics go so far beyond the pale as to slip into tabloid-land. Speaking of, here’s more from Bill’s blow-up.

It was very, very intense,” said one attendee. “Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns.”

When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.

At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.

“It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to ‘chill out,’ ” one delegate told us.

“We couldn’t help but think he was also talking to himself.”

Isn’t he always. It’s called solipsism. The Clintons function in a world of their own. It’s what enables Bill to explode and then urge people to “chill out.” It’s what allows Hillary to recall a routine helicopter landing as a scene from Rambo. It’s what drives them to treat the desperately-needed superdelegates with the same contempt to which they subjected the regular Democratic electorate. With trademark class, Bill had someone else call Ms. Binah later in the day and apologize for him.

A piece on sfgate offers a telling glimpse of Clinton rage. Last weekend, Bill Clinton flew in from Chicago to California and schmoozed with superdelegates at a state convention. Mingling with the party elite, he was all grins and eye-bags until someone mentioned Hillary defector Bill Richardson:

Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how “sorry” she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a “Judas” for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

“Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that,” a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media’s unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

Let’s be honest: if Obama was conclusively behind delegate-wise and in the popular vote (as Hillary is) the only question the media would be asking him is, “to what do you attribute your loss?” Yes, Obama has received a big fat pass from the press and they softball him at every turn. But the ongoing assumption that Hillary has some legitimate claim to her continued fight is sustained by little more than the Clinton phenomenon itself. And Bill and Hillary are only called out when their antics go so far beyond the pale as to slip into tabloid-land. Speaking of, here’s more from Bill’s blow-up.

It was very, very intense,” said one attendee. “Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns.”

When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.

At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.

“It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to ‘chill out,’ ” one delegate told us.

“We couldn’t help but think he was also talking to himself.”

Isn’t he always. It’s called solipsism. The Clintons function in a world of their own. It’s what enables Bill to explode and then urge people to “chill out.” It’s what allows Hillary to recall a routine helicopter landing as a scene from Rambo. It’s what drives them to treat the desperately-needed superdelegates with the same contempt to which they subjected the regular Democratic electorate. With trademark class, Bill had someone else call Ms. Binah later in the day and apologize for him.

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Life Goes On… If You Have A Life

The media certainly is rooting for Hillary Clinton to pack up and go home. The only debate is whether she has a 10% or 5% chance to win. But aside from the potential that she could, after all, still win, it seems entirely out of character for her to up and leave–except under duress. For the Clintons, not to mention their camp of advisors poised to retake the White House, it may be inconceivable to think about losing and returning to life off the presidential trail.

For others, life goes on after campaigns. Rudy Giuliani, for example, seamlessly returned to law and business. (Likewise, his communications director Katie Levinson landed at a top PR firm and his campaign manager Mike DuHaime is back at the RNC.) Yet for the Clintons and their hangers-on, giving up and going back to life before their presidential aspirations would be an exercise in time travel. For decades this is what they strived to achieve. I don’t imagine her (or him) simply walking away voluntarily.

The media certainly is rooting for Hillary Clinton to pack up and go home. The only debate is whether she has a 10% or 5% chance to win. But aside from the potential that she could, after all, still win, it seems entirely out of character for her to up and leave–except under duress. For the Clintons, not to mention their camp of advisors poised to retake the White House, it may be inconceivable to think about losing and returning to life off the presidential trail.

For others, life goes on after campaigns. Rudy Giuliani, for example, seamlessly returned to law and business. (Likewise, his communications director Katie Levinson landed at a top PR firm and his campaign manager Mike DuHaime is back at the RNC.) Yet for the Clintons and their hangers-on, giving up and going back to life before their presidential aspirations would be an exercise in time travel. For decades this is what they strived to achieve. I don’t imagine her (or him) simply walking away voluntarily.

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Not An Even Match

When Barack Obama advisor Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a “monster,” Clinton called for her head and Power was gone. (Her departure may also have been related to her suggestion that Obama was not going to stick to any silly campaign promises about getting out of Iraq.) When Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro says that Obama would not be where he is if he were white, the Obama camp goes ballistic and Clinton brushes it off. In fact, her campaign manager goes to far as to suggest Obama is playing racial politics.

Is it any wonder that observers suspect Obama is a wimp, playing by some outmoded set of rules against the in-it-to-win-it Clintons? One sign of whether he believes he can stay on cruise control all the way to the convention will be how he uses his time tonight and tomorrow after an expected win in Mississippi. He’s chosen to do cable news interviews rather than another speech, which is a smart move. More of the same rhetoric (“change,” “turn the page,” “I was right on Iraq” etc.) would, I think, be a missed opportunity. If he uses his free media time to pound home his counterattack talking points–Clinton isn’t actually that experienced and would take the country back to the bad old days of scandal and political venom–we will know he’s “in it to win it.”

When Barack Obama advisor Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a “monster,” Clinton called for her head and Power was gone. (Her departure may also have been related to her suggestion that Obama was not going to stick to any silly campaign promises about getting out of Iraq.) When Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro says that Obama would not be where he is if he were white, the Obama camp goes ballistic and Clinton brushes it off. In fact, her campaign manager goes to far as to suggest Obama is playing racial politics.

Is it any wonder that observers suspect Obama is a wimp, playing by some outmoded set of rules against the in-it-to-win-it Clintons? One sign of whether he believes he can stay on cruise control all the way to the convention will be how he uses his time tonight and tomorrow after an expected win in Mississippi. He’s chosen to do cable news interviews rather than another speech, which is a smart move. More of the same rhetoric (“change,” “turn the page,” “I was right on Iraq” etc.) would, I think, be a missed opportunity. If he uses his free media time to pound home his counterattack talking points–Clinton isn’t actually that experienced and would take the country back to the bad old days of scandal and political venom–we will know he’s “in it to win it.”

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McCain on the Offensive

The McCain campaign just completed a media call with campaign manager Rick Davis, communications director Jill Hazelbaker, and general counsel Trevor Potter. The admitted purpose and main focus of the call? “Don’t buy that smoke Howard Dean is blowing around on our withdrawal from the matching funds system.” They want the focus and the media to turn its attention back to what they consider a problem for Barack Obama: his attempt to wriggle out of his commitment to take public financing and accept the limitations that go along with it for the general election.

They repeatedly pointed out that Dean did exactly the same thing he now attacks McCain for doing, i.e. applying for and then withdrawing from the matching funds program in the primaries before he received the funds. Potter reiterated that they had a right to withdraw even without a vote from the quorum-less FEC, that they received no funds, and that they never used the matching fund certificates as collateral for loans. As for gaining ballot access in several states based on their application for matching funds, Potter contends that this consideration is not relevant for FEC purposes.

Davis put this in political terms, arguing that “the Democrats panicked” when McCain took Obama up on his offer to accept public financing for the general election and therefore cooked up this issue regarding primary matching funds. Davis declared twice that the McCain camp would “be happy to debate all day” who has broken their word on public financing and whose record of commitment to reform is stronger. (He reviewed some highlights of McCain’s career, including the Abramoff and Boeing investigations and the passage of campaign finance reform laws–which he accomplished over objections from his party and to his political detriment.)

The bottom line: the McCain people recognize they are essentially entering the general election battle and want to prevent Obama (as he did with Hillary Clinton) from stealing the mantle of reformer/change agent. I would expect to hear far more of the McCain camp line that “there is only one candidate” who broke his promise regarding campaign funding.

The McCain campaign just completed a media call with campaign manager Rick Davis, communications director Jill Hazelbaker, and general counsel Trevor Potter. The admitted purpose and main focus of the call? “Don’t buy that smoke Howard Dean is blowing around on our withdrawal from the matching funds system.” They want the focus and the media to turn its attention back to what they consider a problem for Barack Obama: his attempt to wriggle out of his commitment to take public financing and accept the limitations that go along with it for the general election.

They repeatedly pointed out that Dean did exactly the same thing he now attacks McCain for doing, i.e. applying for and then withdrawing from the matching funds program in the primaries before he received the funds. Potter reiterated that they had a right to withdraw even without a vote from the quorum-less FEC, that they received no funds, and that they never used the matching fund certificates as collateral for loans. As for gaining ballot access in several states based on their application for matching funds, Potter contends that this consideration is not relevant for FEC purposes.

Davis put this in political terms, arguing that “the Democrats panicked” when McCain took Obama up on his offer to accept public financing for the general election and therefore cooked up this issue regarding primary matching funds. Davis declared twice that the McCain camp would “be happy to debate all day” who has broken their word on public financing and whose record of commitment to reform is stronger. (He reviewed some highlights of McCain’s career, including the Abramoff and Boeing investigations and the passage of campaign finance reform laws–which he accomplished over objections from his party and to his political detriment.)

The bottom line: the McCain people recognize they are essentially entering the general election battle and want to prevent Obama (as he did with Hillary Clinton) from stealing the mantle of reformer/change agent. I would expect to hear far more of the McCain camp line that “there is only one candidate” who broke his promise regarding campaign funding.

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Why So Nice?

John McCain in the blogger call today and in a press conference earlier in the week went to great pains to avoid saying Mike Huckabee should get out of the race. He repeatedly said that he “respected” Huckabee. (Meanwhile, McCain’s campaign manager sends around a fundraising e-mail pointing out that McCain only needs 35% of the remaining delegates while Huckabee needs 123%).

This seems to be the right tactic for McCain two reasons. Much of what seems to motivate Huckabee is a chip on the shoulder, a resentment toward the GOP establishment. His constant complaint in debates that he was not getting enough questions and his obvious delight in running against “Wall Street” suggests not just a political mindset, but a tempermental outlook. (He takes great delight in describing his modest beginnings and his ability to best those more wealthy and powerful than he.) Telling him to get lost won’t help matters, but allowing him gracefully to reach the conclusion in his own time might help hasten his departure.

In addition, McCain is trying out a new persona–the gracious frontrunner and healer of the party. Critics consider him too combative with his allies and inclined to hold grudges. He intends to prove them wrong. By offering to listen to former conservative opponents and by refusing to kick sand in the eyes of a faltering rival, he furthers that effort.

All in all, it shows a measure of restraint and political maturity that may surprise his critics.

John McCain in the blogger call today and in a press conference earlier in the week went to great pains to avoid saying Mike Huckabee should get out of the race. He repeatedly said that he “respected” Huckabee. (Meanwhile, McCain’s campaign manager sends around a fundraising e-mail pointing out that McCain only needs 35% of the remaining delegates while Huckabee needs 123%).

This seems to be the right tactic for McCain two reasons. Much of what seems to motivate Huckabee is a chip on the shoulder, a resentment toward the GOP establishment. His constant complaint in debates that he was not getting enough questions and his obvious delight in running against “Wall Street” suggests not just a political mindset, but a tempermental outlook. (He takes great delight in describing his modest beginnings and his ability to best those more wealthy and powerful than he.) Telling him to get lost won’t help matters, but allowing him gracefully to reach the conclusion in his own time might help hasten his departure.

In addition, McCain is trying out a new persona–the gracious frontrunner and healer of the party. Critics consider him too combative with his allies and inclined to hold grudges. He intends to prove them wrong. By offering to listen to former conservative opponents and by refusing to kick sand in the eyes of a faltering rival, he furthers that effort.

All in all, it shows a measure of restraint and political maturity that may surprise his critics.

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Hillary’s Woes

Hillary Clinton is not amused. Her opponent, the fellow who she contends is infatuated with Ronald Reagan, handily won the Maine caucus, his fifth win since his 13 Super Tuesday wins. She sacked her campaign manager and is pleading with John Edwards for an endorsement. She has gone ballistic over David Shuster’s inappropriate remark about her daughter. (The remark was uncalled for; the reaction was over the top.) She might try to revive the Michigan and Florida delegates. However, all of her frenetic activity is somewhat beside the point: her delegate lead is slipping away.

She may be banking on Ohio and Texas on March 4 to revive her prospects. Ohio offers plenty of downscale Democrats who care more about healthcare than inspirational rhetoric. Texas offers her Hispanic voters who so far have favored her. But it might be too late by then. If she loses the Potomac primary on Tuesday as expected and Wisconsin on February 19, March 4 may be for her what Florida was for Rudy Giuliani (too little, too late).

So rather than March 4, her real firewall may be Wisconsin. Will the students and progressives of Madison spell her defeat? Or can she count on the working class voters from Milwaukee to save her candidacy? Obama has figured out the pivotal role of Wisconsin and will be there to hear the Potomac returns. If she is smart, she will head there as well and recognize that if she loses on February 19, there may not be enough lawyers (to contest Michigan and Florida) or enough superdelegates to save her.

Hillary Clinton is not amused. Her opponent, the fellow who she contends is infatuated with Ronald Reagan, handily won the Maine caucus, his fifth win since his 13 Super Tuesday wins. She sacked her campaign manager and is pleading with John Edwards for an endorsement. She has gone ballistic over David Shuster’s inappropriate remark about her daughter. (The remark was uncalled for; the reaction was over the top.) She might try to revive the Michigan and Florida delegates. However, all of her frenetic activity is somewhat beside the point: her delegate lead is slipping away.

She may be banking on Ohio and Texas on March 4 to revive her prospects. Ohio offers plenty of downscale Democrats who care more about healthcare than inspirational rhetoric. Texas offers her Hispanic voters who so far have favored her. But it might be too late by then. If she loses the Potomac primary on Tuesday as expected and Wisconsin on February 19, March 4 may be for her what Florida was for Rudy Giuliani (too little, too late).

So rather than March 4, her real firewall may be Wisconsin. Will the students and progressives of Madison spell her defeat? Or can she count on the working class voters from Milwaukee to save her candidacy? Obama has figured out the pivotal role of Wisconsin and will be there to hear the Potomac returns. If she is smart, she will head there as well and recognize that if she loses on February 19, there may not be enough lawyers (to contest Michigan and Florida) or enough superdelegates to save her.

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REPUBLICAN DEBATE: Reagan Coalition, RIP

I don’t take Ron Paul’s ideas seriously, but his presence in this debate really is the best proof that Ed Rollins, Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager, is right: The Reagan coalition is gone.  Don’t just listen to Paul.  Go read the material put out by the Cato Institute. Listen to Chuck Hagel on the war in Iraq.  Follow the debate on immigration.  Think back to Republican reaction during the Dubai Ports World debate. For a brief moment, the Reagan coalition seemed to get together again in fighting the Harriet Miers nomination. Once that was taken care of, that momentary Reaganite unity disappeared.

I don’t take Ron Paul’s ideas seriously, but his presence in this debate really is the best proof that Ed Rollins, Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager, is right: The Reagan coalition is gone.  Don’t just listen to Paul.  Go read the material put out by the Cato Institute. Listen to Chuck Hagel on the war in Iraq.  Follow the debate on immigration.  Think back to Republican reaction during the Dubai Ports World debate. For a brief moment, the Reagan coalition seemed to get together again in fighting the Harriet Miers nomination. Once that was taken care of, that momentary Reaganite unity disappeared.

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McCain and Giuliani: There Can Be Only One

With the steady decline in Rudy Giuliani’s poll numbers over the last six weeks has come the steady rise of John McCain’s, especially the latter’s vertiginous upward swing in New Hampshire — where, according to a new poll, McCain has taken the lead over Mitt Romney in the primary that will be held in six days. In the latest Pew poll of Republicans nationally, McCain and Giuliani are now tied for the lead, as they basically were during 2005 and the beginning of 2006. In those polls, they tended to split about 60 percent of the primary vote; in the latest, the number is closer to 40.

There was always a most interesting aspect to these numbers, since, for all intents and purposes, the candidacies of Giuliani and McCain are one and the same — a pitch to be the president best suited to fighting the war on terror based on strong leadership skills and personal heroism (I am not here comparing in any way Giuliani’s conduct on 9/11 with McCain’s years in the Hanoi Hilton, just noting the logic in the minds of voters). From the moment George W. Bush was reelected, the Republican voting public was offering signs that its ideal candidate would be a war candidate and that it would line up easily and quickly behind the right one. Unfortunately, McCain was saddled with a bunch of liabilities owing to his conduct as a presidential candidate in 2000, his peculiar votes against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and his full-throated support of immigration reform in a party with increasingly nativist tastes.

Giuliani’s candidacy was made possible by McCain’s weaknesses, and when the McCain campaign seemed to implode in the middle of 2006 (running out of money, firing a campaign manager and longtime aides), he seemed poised to benefit strongly from it — as voters jumped off the McCain bandwagon, it would only make sense for them to jump on Giuliani’s. And they did. But it turned out Giuliani hit his rough patch in late November and early December, with unfavorable news stories reminding people of his complex marital history and the poor behavior of some of his allies. And so it is McCain who, as New Hampshire approaches, is benefiting from Giuliani’s weakness.

McCain’s shot at becoming the Republican nominee seems dependent on Giuliani fading very fast. And Giuliani’s shot seems dependent on McCain’s surge in New Hampshire proving to be a single-state phenomenon.

With the steady decline in Rudy Giuliani’s poll numbers over the last six weeks has come the steady rise of John McCain’s, especially the latter’s vertiginous upward swing in New Hampshire — where, according to a new poll, McCain has taken the lead over Mitt Romney in the primary that will be held in six days. In the latest Pew poll of Republicans nationally, McCain and Giuliani are now tied for the lead, as they basically were during 2005 and the beginning of 2006. In those polls, they tended to split about 60 percent of the primary vote; in the latest, the number is closer to 40.

There was always a most interesting aspect to these numbers, since, for all intents and purposes, the candidacies of Giuliani and McCain are one and the same — a pitch to be the president best suited to fighting the war on terror based on strong leadership skills and personal heroism (I am not here comparing in any way Giuliani’s conduct on 9/11 with McCain’s years in the Hanoi Hilton, just noting the logic in the minds of voters). From the moment George W. Bush was reelected, the Republican voting public was offering signs that its ideal candidate would be a war candidate and that it would line up easily and quickly behind the right one. Unfortunately, McCain was saddled with a bunch of liabilities owing to his conduct as a presidential candidate in 2000, his peculiar votes against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and his full-throated support of immigration reform in a party with increasingly nativist tastes.

Giuliani’s candidacy was made possible by McCain’s weaknesses, and when the McCain campaign seemed to implode in the middle of 2006 (running out of money, firing a campaign manager and longtime aides), he seemed poised to benefit strongly from it — as voters jumped off the McCain bandwagon, it would only make sense for them to jump on Giuliani’s. And they did. But it turned out Giuliani hit his rough patch in late November and early December, with unfavorable news stories reminding people of his complex marital history and the poor behavior of some of his allies. And so it is McCain who, as New Hampshire approaches, is benefiting from Giuliani’s weakness.

McCain’s shot at becoming the Republican nominee seems dependent on Giuliani fading very fast. And Giuliani’s shot seems dependent on McCain’s surge in New Hampshire proving to be a single-state phenomenon.

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