Commentary Magazine


Topic: candidate

Who’s Angry Now? Brown Compares Whitman to Goebbels

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown was once known as “Governor Moonbeam” because of his eccentric manner way back in the 1970s, when he served two terms in the same office he’s trying for now. But you would think that after four decades in public life, Brown, who has always fancied himself an advocate of a purer brand of politics than the average lifetime politician, would have learned that calling your opponent a Nazi isn’t so smart.

Politico reports that, in a conversation with a reporter, Brown compared his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief who triumphed in this week’s GOP primary, to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. According to KCBS’s Doug Sovern, Brown claimed that:

She’ll have people believing whatever she wants about me. It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.

Brown’s over-the-top paranoia about his opponent speaks volumes about his own view of the world, in which any opponent who brings up the details from his own long and not terribly successful record while holding numerous public offices is a Nazi. And because inappropriate Nazi analogies are one of the few political sins that can guarantee a liberal Democrat like Brown criticism from mainstream liberal Jewish organizations, he should be expecting a call (accompanied by a news release) from the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman sometime in the next day or two, in which he will be instructed that it is not appropriate behavior to compare a former business executive to the regime that slaughtered six million Jews just because she takes Jerry Brown’s name in vain.

We can expect Brown — who hasn’t denied the slur but instead had his office issue the usual weasel-worded claim that his words were “taken out of context” — to eventually apologize. But in a year in which the liberal media have seized every opportunity to brand Republicans and the Tea Party movement as extremists and as a threat to democracy, it’s interesting to note that invariably, it is liberal Democrats like Brown who are coarsening the public square with attempts to demonize their opponents for having the temerity to question their bona fides. The ADL itself stepped into dangerous territory last fall with a report titled “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” in which it speciously linked Republican critics of the Obama administration with militias and other far-right extremists.

But contrary to the ADL’s inappropriate and highly partisan report, most of the rage this year seems to come from Democrats and liberals like Brown who are willing to say anything to besmirch those who dare to oppose them. While I don’t doubt that the ADL will rightly take Brown to task for his loose talk about Goebbels, the group ought to think seriously about the fact that most of the anger we’re hearing lately is not from Tea Partiers heading to Washington with their pitchforks but from liberals who are crying in their beer about the imminent prospect of defeat at the hands of a re-energized GOP.

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown was once known as “Governor Moonbeam” because of his eccentric manner way back in the 1970s, when he served two terms in the same office he’s trying for now. But you would think that after four decades in public life, Brown, who has always fancied himself an advocate of a purer brand of politics than the average lifetime politician, would have learned that calling your opponent a Nazi isn’t so smart.

Politico reports that, in a conversation with a reporter, Brown compared his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief who triumphed in this week’s GOP primary, to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. According to KCBS’s Doug Sovern, Brown claimed that:

She’ll have people believing whatever she wants about me. It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.

Brown’s over-the-top paranoia about his opponent speaks volumes about his own view of the world, in which any opponent who brings up the details from his own long and not terribly successful record while holding numerous public offices is a Nazi. And because inappropriate Nazi analogies are one of the few political sins that can guarantee a liberal Democrat like Brown criticism from mainstream liberal Jewish organizations, he should be expecting a call (accompanied by a news release) from the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman sometime in the next day or two, in which he will be instructed that it is not appropriate behavior to compare a former business executive to the regime that slaughtered six million Jews just because she takes Jerry Brown’s name in vain.

We can expect Brown — who hasn’t denied the slur but instead had his office issue the usual weasel-worded claim that his words were “taken out of context” — to eventually apologize. But in a year in which the liberal media have seized every opportunity to brand Republicans and the Tea Party movement as extremists and as a threat to democracy, it’s interesting to note that invariably, it is liberal Democrats like Brown who are coarsening the public square with attempts to demonize their opponents for having the temerity to question their bona fides. The ADL itself stepped into dangerous territory last fall with a report titled “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” in which it speciously linked Republican critics of the Obama administration with militias and other far-right extremists.

But contrary to the ADL’s inappropriate and highly partisan report, most of the rage this year seems to come from Democrats and liberals like Brown who are willing to say anything to besmirch those who dare to oppose them. While I don’t doubt that the ADL will rightly take Brown to task for his loose talk about Goebbels, the group ought to think seriously about the fact that most of the anger we’re hearing lately is not from Tea Partiers heading to Washington with their pitchforks but from liberals who are crying in their beer about the imminent prospect of defeat at the hands of a re-energized GOP.

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Reaction to UN Sanctions

Various lawmakers and groups  are weighing in on passage of the pitifully ineffective UN sanctions to which Brazil and Turkey refused to agree. Eric Cantor’s statement is among the better ones:

After months of delay and foot-dragging only bought time for Iran to advance its nuclear program, it is encouraging that the United Nations finally mustered the will to act. While the sanctions are a step in the right direction, they represent the lowest common denominator and are too weak to bring about a change in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Moving forward, these sanctions must serve as a floor — not as a ceiling. It’s now time for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions legislation with real teeth, and President Obama must follow suit by imposing these sanctions upon the Iranian regime. We encourage our EU allies as well as Russia and China to follow our lead by passing stronger sanctions on the Iranian regime before it is too late.

And it might be helpful to point out that for all our bowing and scraping before Russia and China, we got a UN sanctions agreement that is unlikely to do anything other than stem the calls for military action.

But the best assessment so far comes from Senate candidate Dan Coats:

The sanctions resolution passed today is too little, too late. Proactive measures such as this should have been taken years ago. Instead, with no real incentive for the Iranians to comply, we have only bought them more time to develop a nuclear weapon which they could potentially achieve yet this year. While we have been flailing away with a combination of diplomacy and weak sanctions, Iran’s centrifuges have been rapidly spinning. Real meaningful comprehensive steps must be taken immediately to address this growing threat. Iran has already ignored three sanctions — I don’t see why the fourth will make any difference.

But alas, AIPAC is cheering wildly. (“AIPAC strongly applauds today’s U.N. Security Council passage of new sanctions against Iran –  the sixth Security Council resolution demanding that Tehran immediately suspend all nuclear work and open up to full inspection. We commend the Obama administration’s strong leadership effort to secure passage of this important measure.”) AIPAC also calls for more sanctions, but it’s ludicrous to claim, “This latest Security Council action provides yet another indication of Iran’s deepening isolation.” Even the Washington Post knows this is laughable.

It’s time for Congress to man up: pass those exacting sanctions with no carve-outs. And as candidates, it’s time to distinguish the Obama cheerleaders (Great job on sanctions!) from the savvy observers.

Various lawmakers and groups  are weighing in on passage of the pitifully ineffective UN sanctions to which Brazil and Turkey refused to agree. Eric Cantor’s statement is among the better ones:

After months of delay and foot-dragging only bought time for Iran to advance its nuclear program, it is encouraging that the United Nations finally mustered the will to act. While the sanctions are a step in the right direction, they represent the lowest common denominator and are too weak to bring about a change in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Moving forward, these sanctions must serve as a floor — not as a ceiling. It’s now time for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions legislation with real teeth, and President Obama must follow suit by imposing these sanctions upon the Iranian regime. We encourage our EU allies as well as Russia and China to follow our lead by passing stronger sanctions on the Iranian regime before it is too late.

And it might be helpful to point out that for all our bowing and scraping before Russia and China, we got a UN sanctions agreement that is unlikely to do anything other than stem the calls for military action.

But the best assessment so far comes from Senate candidate Dan Coats:

The sanctions resolution passed today is too little, too late. Proactive measures such as this should have been taken years ago. Instead, with no real incentive for the Iranians to comply, we have only bought them more time to develop a nuclear weapon which they could potentially achieve yet this year. While we have been flailing away with a combination of diplomacy and weak sanctions, Iran’s centrifuges have been rapidly spinning. Real meaningful comprehensive steps must be taken immediately to address this growing threat. Iran has already ignored three sanctions — I don’t see why the fourth will make any difference.

But alas, AIPAC is cheering wildly. (“AIPAC strongly applauds today’s U.N. Security Council passage of new sanctions against Iran –  the sixth Security Council resolution demanding that Tehran immediately suspend all nuclear work and open up to full inspection. We commend the Obama administration’s strong leadership effort to secure passage of this important measure.”) AIPAC also calls for more sanctions, but it’s ludicrous to claim, “This latest Security Council action provides yet another indication of Iran’s deepening isolation.” Even the Washington Post knows this is laughable.

It’s time for Congress to man up: pass those exacting sanctions with no carve-outs. And as candidates, it’s time to distinguish the Obama cheerleaders (Great job on sanctions!) from the savvy observers.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

When you want clarity on the flotilla, watch Liz Cheney.

When you want moral sanity on Helen Thomas, follow Sarah Palin on Twitter: “Helen Thomas press pals condone racist rant? Heaven forbid ‘esteemed’ press corps represent society’s enlightened elite; Rest of us choose truth.” (When will liberal Jews admit they were conned by candidate Obama’s professed attachment to Israel? When they admit Palin is among the most pro-Israel political figures. Yeah, never.)

When you are prepared to scream and throw things, read Peter Beinart’s call for an end to “American dominance.” It does seem to prove the point that Beinart’s new anti-Israel bent is more about liberalism than about Israel. (A reader e-mails me: “To what does he owe his standard of living and his security?” Err … America’s superpower status? Yup.)

When reporters refer to the flotilla as “humanitarian,” you realize they are ignorant of or intentionally ignoring mounting evidence: “Accumulating evidence in the IDF’s investigation of the Gaza flotilla incident is pointing to the fact a separate group of Islamist radicals whose sole intention was to initiate a violent conflict was aboard the Mavi Marmara, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s cabinet meeting. He said that a group of street-fighters ‘boarded the ship at a separate port, did their own provisioning, and were not subject to the same security check of their luggage as all the other passengers.’ The prime minister’s remarks followed IDF reports that a group of about 50 men — of the 700 on board — had been identified as being well-trained, and a ringleader who recruited them from the northwestern Turkey city of Bursa. The group was split up into smaller squads that were distributed throughout the deck and communicated with one another with handheld communication devices. The men wore bulletproof vests and gas masks and laid an ambush for the Shayetet 13 soldiers as they rappelled onto the ship’s deck from a helicopter. The members of this violent group were not carrying identity cards or passports. Instead, each of them had an envelope in his pocket with about $10,000 in cash.”

When Obama ignores Iranian aggression and fails to come up with a reasonable plan to halt the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, you will get more of this: “Iran would be willing to send its Revolutionary Guard members to accompany further aid ships to Gaza, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday in an interview cited by Reuters.” You see, it’s not about Gaza or humanitarians – this is about Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East and Obama’s failure to do anything about it.

When Chuck Schumer calls for an investigation of the flotilla’s terrorist ties to al-Qaeda, that’s further proof that Obama is increasingly isolated in his noxious stance toward Israel. When he asks the State Department — who was willing to go along with the UN resolution – to do the investigation, you wonder if he’s serious. How about letting Israel do the investigation? You know, like America does when there is a controversial national-security incident.

When an investigation needs to be done, there really isn’t anyone better able to do it than Israel, which has already identified five flotilla passengers with prior involvement in terrorist activities. How long (if ever) would it have taken Hillary to figure that out?

When you want clarity on the flotilla, watch Liz Cheney.

When you want moral sanity on Helen Thomas, follow Sarah Palin on Twitter: “Helen Thomas press pals condone racist rant? Heaven forbid ‘esteemed’ press corps represent society’s enlightened elite; Rest of us choose truth.” (When will liberal Jews admit they were conned by candidate Obama’s professed attachment to Israel? When they admit Palin is among the most pro-Israel political figures. Yeah, never.)

When you are prepared to scream and throw things, read Peter Beinart’s call for an end to “American dominance.” It does seem to prove the point that Beinart’s new anti-Israel bent is more about liberalism than about Israel. (A reader e-mails me: “To what does he owe his standard of living and his security?” Err … America’s superpower status? Yup.)

When reporters refer to the flotilla as “humanitarian,” you realize they are ignorant of or intentionally ignoring mounting evidence: “Accumulating evidence in the IDF’s investigation of the Gaza flotilla incident is pointing to the fact a separate group of Islamist radicals whose sole intention was to initiate a violent conflict was aboard the Mavi Marmara, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s cabinet meeting. He said that a group of street-fighters ‘boarded the ship at a separate port, did their own provisioning, and were not subject to the same security check of their luggage as all the other passengers.’ The prime minister’s remarks followed IDF reports that a group of about 50 men — of the 700 on board — had been identified as being well-trained, and a ringleader who recruited them from the northwestern Turkey city of Bursa. The group was split up into smaller squads that were distributed throughout the deck and communicated with one another with handheld communication devices. The men wore bulletproof vests and gas masks and laid an ambush for the Shayetet 13 soldiers as they rappelled onto the ship’s deck from a helicopter. The members of this violent group were not carrying identity cards or passports. Instead, each of them had an envelope in his pocket with about $10,000 in cash.”

When Obama ignores Iranian aggression and fails to come up with a reasonable plan to halt the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, you will get more of this: “Iran would be willing to send its Revolutionary Guard members to accompany further aid ships to Gaza, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday in an interview cited by Reuters.” You see, it’s not about Gaza or humanitarians – this is about Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East and Obama’s failure to do anything about it.

When Chuck Schumer calls for an investigation of the flotilla’s terrorist ties to al-Qaeda, that’s further proof that Obama is increasingly isolated in his noxious stance toward Israel. When he asks the State Department — who was willing to go along with the UN resolution – to do the investigation, you wonder if he’s serious. How about letting Israel do the investigation? You know, like America does when there is a controversial national-security incident.

When an investigation needs to be done, there really isn’t anyone better able to do it than Israel, which has already identified five flotilla passengers with prior involvement in terrorist activities. How long (if ever) would it have taken Hillary to figure that out?

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The Buried Sestak Scandal

Because of the Gaza terrorist flotilla and the BP oil spill, the Joe Sestak job scandal has taken a back seat in news coverage — precisely what the White House intended when it released its counsel memo on the Friday before Memorial Day.

But in the words of Janet Napolitano, this is not a “one-off” thing. The Denver Post is on the Colorado version of SestakGate — involving Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff. The Post rightly suggests that the administration come clean on that one. But the media shows little interest in hassling Obama over allegations that, at worst, the White House violated federal law; and, at best, Obama has brought sleazy Chicago politics into the Oval Office.

Because of the Gaza terrorist flotilla and the BP oil spill, the Joe Sestak job scandal has taken a back seat in news coverage — precisely what the White House intended when it released its counsel memo on the Friday before Memorial Day.

But in the words of Janet Napolitano, this is not a “one-off” thing. The Denver Post is on the Colorado version of SestakGate — involving Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff. The Post rightly suggests that the administration come clean on that one. But the media shows little interest in hassling Obama over allegations that, at worst, the White House violated federal law; and, at best, Obama has brought sleazy Chicago politics into the Oval Office.

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Toomey Stands with Israel

Senate candidate Pat Toomey has issued a strong statement in support of Israel’s right of self-defense in the flotilla incident. So what say you, Joe Sestak? Recall that the J Street–backed candidate signed on to a letter urging Israel to put aside security concerns and lift the blockade of Gaza. So has he changed his views on the threat posed by Hamas, or will he join the Israel-bashers and their cousins, the moral-equivalence crowd?

It is time to stand up for Israel and to examine the records of candidates as to how they’ve addressed Israeli security needs and the condemnation of the “international community” when Israel must defend itself.

Senate candidate Pat Toomey has issued a strong statement in support of Israel’s right of self-defense in the flotilla incident. So what say you, Joe Sestak? Recall that the J Street–backed candidate signed on to a letter urging Israel to put aside security concerns and lift the blockade of Gaza. So has he changed his views on the threat posed by Hamas, or will he join the Israel-bashers and their cousins, the moral-equivalence crowd?

It is time to stand up for Israel and to examine the records of candidates as to how they’ve addressed Israeli security needs and the condemnation of the “international community” when Israel must defend itself.

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Follow the CUFI Example

The “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party prevents the majority of American Jewry from recognizing who their true pro-Israel allies are. RedState reports:

Congressional candidate Pamela Gorman today signed the “Israel Pledge” sponsored by Christians United for Israel today. Gorman said, “Too many politicians are afraid to offend someone by speaking the truth about what is going on in this country with our Israel relations under this administration. I am unapologetically pro-Israel and am not afraid to publicly say it.”

Two things are noteworthy here. First, a conservative Christian is vocally opposing Obama in Arizona (not exactly the center of American Jewry):

Gorman’s publicly stated position on U.S. relations with Israel is that the Obama administration’s treatment of Israel and possible future policies are unacceptable. Israel has been our closest ally in the Middle East for many years and a key stabilizing nation as well as key partner in the war on terror. But, the U.S. Congress can, and must, do all it can to mitigate his mistakes. Gorman explains, “I feel the relationship with Israel is vital to our national security, but also that we have a moral obligation to provide protection. As an evangelical Christian, my concern for how our nation provides for Israel’s protection also reflects my firmly held belief in the Holy Scriptures where Israel is concerned. As such, my positions is both a strategic and personal.”

Second, CUFI, but no mainstream Jewish organization, has an Israel pledge. It’s not all that controversial, nor does it reference Christianity:

We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right.

We maintain that there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel and that Israel has the same right as every other nation to defend her citizens from such violent attacks.

We pledge to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel and to speak out on their behalf whenever and wherever necessary until the attacks stop and they are finally living in peace and security with their neighbors.

Perhaps some Jewish group should do the same: issue a pledge that would truly separate the pro-Israel candidates and those who proclaim their devotion to Israel but seek to hobble the Jewish state. How about it? Or would the pledge be too “controversial” and too “divisive” in the Jewish community? If so, it is a powerful and disturbing sign of the state of American Jewry.

The “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party prevents the majority of American Jewry from recognizing who their true pro-Israel allies are. RedState reports:

Congressional candidate Pamela Gorman today signed the “Israel Pledge” sponsored by Christians United for Israel today. Gorman said, “Too many politicians are afraid to offend someone by speaking the truth about what is going on in this country with our Israel relations under this administration. I am unapologetically pro-Israel and am not afraid to publicly say it.”

Two things are noteworthy here. First, a conservative Christian is vocally opposing Obama in Arizona (not exactly the center of American Jewry):

Gorman’s publicly stated position on U.S. relations with Israel is that the Obama administration’s treatment of Israel and possible future policies are unacceptable. Israel has been our closest ally in the Middle East for many years and a key stabilizing nation as well as key partner in the war on terror. But, the U.S. Congress can, and must, do all it can to mitigate his mistakes. Gorman explains, “I feel the relationship with Israel is vital to our national security, but also that we have a moral obligation to provide protection. As an evangelical Christian, my concern for how our nation provides for Israel’s protection also reflects my firmly held belief in the Holy Scriptures where Israel is concerned. As such, my positions is both a strategic and personal.”

Second, CUFI, but no mainstream Jewish organization, has an Israel pledge. It’s not all that controversial, nor does it reference Christianity:

We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right.

We maintain that there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel and that Israel has the same right as every other nation to defend her citizens from such violent attacks.

We pledge to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel and to speak out on their behalf whenever and wherever necessary until the attacks stop and they are finally living in peace and security with their neighbors.

Perhaps some Jewish group should do the same: issue a pledge that would truly separate the pro-Israel candidates and those who proclaim their devotion to Israel but seek to hobble the Jewish state. How about it? Or would the pledge be too “controversial” and too “divisive” in the Jewish community? If so, it is a powerful and disturbing sign of the state of American Jewry.

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Obama Annoys Everyone on Immigration

Obama’s decision to send 1,200 National Guard troops to patrol the border is regarded as insufficient by conservatives and even the mainstream media. But it’s also alienating his liberal base, the New York Times explains, as immigration advocates are peeved:

[Obama] has confounded allies who say he is squandering his chance to address it in a comprehensive way. …

They said that in focusing first on border security, Mr. Obama might be giving up his best leverage for winning approval of broader but more politically contentious steps to address the status of the millions of immigrants already in the United States illegally, and the needs of employers who rely on their labor.

“I’m trying to reconcile the stated belief of this president when he was a candidate, what he has said publicly — as recently as a naturalization ceremony last month — and what his actions are,” said Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning organization that is a close ally of the Obama administration. “I think there’s a big gap there.”

She shouldn’t spend much time on that endeavor. There’s a very long list of broken campaign promises, she must know. Moreover, the fact that this interest in immigration is only coming up now should clue Kelley in to the president’s underwhelming interest in fighting a touchy legislative battle on this issue. (“Since the beginning of his presidency, Mr. Obama has been dogged by questions about his commitment to immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million people who are living in this country without legal documentation.”)

This is not unlike the ObamaCare battle. He managed to infuriate conservatives and independents and also turn off many on the left who were only interested in reform if they got the public option. And it’s not all that different from his dilemma on Israel. He bashed Israel to the delight of Israel’s Arab neighbors while freaking out his Jewish supporters, whom he now must “charm.” The result is that many Jews still don’t trust him, and he’s also disappointing his Palestinian friends.

It’s quite a knack to alienate voters along the entire political spectrum. But Obama is showing how it can be done. It starts with running as a blank slate and allowing opposing groups to believe the president will be “with them.” Add in lots of insincere rhetoric, a lack of governing skills, and a tone deafness to the electorate, and you have a president whose approval ratings continue to plunge.

Obama’s decision to send 1,200 National Guard troops to patrol the border is regarded as insufficient by conservatives and even the mainstream media. But it’s also alienating his liberal base, the New York Times explains, as immigration advocates are peeved:

[Obama] has confounded allies who say he is squandering his chance to address it in a comprehensive way. …

They said that in focusing first on border security, Mr. Obama might be giving up his best leverage for winning approval of broader but more politically contentious steps to address the status of the millions of immigrants already in the United States illegally, and the needs of employers who rely on their labor.

“I’m trying to reconcile the stated belief of this president when he was a candidate, what he has said publicly — as recently as a naturalization ceremony last month — and what his actions are,” said Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning organization that is a close ally of the Obama administration. “I think there’s a big gap there.”

She shouldn’t spend much time on that endeavor. There’s a very long list of broken campaign promises, she must know. Moreover, the fact that this interest in immigration is only coming up now should clue Kelley in to the president’s underwhelming interest in fighting a touchy legislative battle on this issue. (“Since the beginning of his presidency, Mr. Obama has been dogged by questions about his commitment to immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million people who are living in this country without legal documentation.”)

This is not unlike the ObamaCare battle. He managed to infuriate conservatives and independents and also turn off many on the left who were only interested in reform if they got the public option. And it’s not all that different from his dilemma on Israel. He bashed Israel to the delight of Israel’s Arab neighbors while freaking out his Jewish supporters, whom he now must “charm.” The result is that many Jews still don’t trust him, and he’s also disappointing his Palestinian friends.

It’s quite a knack to alienate voters along the entire political spectrum. But Obama is showing how it can be done. It starts with running as a blank slate and allowing opposing groups to believe the president will be “with them.” Add in lots of insincere rhetoric, a lack of governing skills, and a tone deafness to the electorate, and you have a president whose approval ratings continue to plunge.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mia Farrow Speaks Up Again

Mia Farrow has been sounding the alarm about Sudan and risking the ire of her movie pals by calling out Obama for his abominable human rights record. She is at it again:

Last week U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that although he remains supportive of “international efforts” to bring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to justice, the Obama administration is also pursuing “locally owned accountability and reconciliation mechanisms in light of the recommendations made by the African Union’s high-level panel on Darfur.” … Perversely, Mr. Gration has now thrown U.S. government support to a [African Union] tribunal that does not and probably will never exist. Even if it did, the “locally owned accountability” he refers to is not feasible under prevailing political conditions, as any Sudan-based court will be controlled by the perpetrators themselves.

This is a far cry from candidate Obama. And Farrow isn’t shy about reminding her readers that Obama has badly let down human rights activists — and more important, the suffering 3 million Sudanese:

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, hope abounded, even in Darfur’s bleak refugee camps. Darfuris believed this son of Africa could understand their suffering, end the violence that has taken so much from them, and bring Mr. Bashir to justice. The refugees hoped that “Yes we can” was meant for them too. They believed President Obama would bring peace and protection to Darfur and would settle for nothing less than true justice. … Such hopes did not last long.

Her advice is clear-headed and equally applicable to many rogue regimes that continue to brutalize their people: “lead a diplomatic offensive to convince the world to isolate [war criminal Omar] al-Bashir as a fugitive from justice.” (I’m not a fan of the International Criminal Court, in which she suggests trying him, but in this case, there may be no alternative.) But the Obama team is not in the isolating business. Rather, Obama engages thugs, sends envoys hither and yon to accomplish nothing, and leaves the oppressed to their own devices. Obama’s academic exercise in “smart diplomacy” has failed, and in Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Burma, Eygpt, China, and elsewhere, the despots cheer.

Mia Farrow has been sounding the alarm about Sudan and risking the ire of her movie pals by calling out Obama for his abominable human rights record. She is at it again:

Last week U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that although he remains supportive of “international efforts” to bring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to justice, the Obama administration is also pursuing “locally owned accountability and reconciliation mechanisms in light of the recommendations made by the African Union’s high-level panel on Darfur.” … Perversely, Mr. Gration has now thrown U.S. government support to a [African Union] tribunal that does not and probably will never exist. Even if it did, the “locally owned accountability” he refers to is not feasible under prevailing political conditions, as any Sudan-based court will be controlled by the perpetrators themselves.

This is a far cry from candidate Obama. And Farrow isn’t shy about reminding her readers that Obama has badly let down human rights activists — and more important, the suffering 3 million Sudanese:

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, hope abounded, even in Darfur’s bleak refugee camps. Darfuris believed this son of Africa could understand their suffering, end the violence that has taken so much from them, and bring Mr. Bashir to justice. The refugees hoped that “Yes we can” was meant for them too. They believed President Obama would bring peace and protection to Darfur and would settle for nothing less than true justice. … Such hopes did not last long.

Her advice is clear-headed and equally applicable to many rogue regimes that continue to brutalize their people: “lead a diplomatic offensive to convince the world to isolate [war criminal Omar] al-Bashir as a fugitive from justice.” (I’m not a fan of the International Criminal Court, in which she suggests trying him, but in this case, there may be no alternative.) But the Obama team is not in the isolating business. Rather, Obama engages thugs, sends envoys hither and yon to accomplish nothing, and leaves the oppressed to their own devices. Obama’s academic exercise in “smart diplomacy” has failed, and in Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Burma, Eygpt, China, and elsewhere, the despots cheer.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.’” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?’” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.’” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.’” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?’” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.’” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

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George Will on the Democrats’ Situation

George Will has a wonderful column today that begins this way:

The candidate who on Tuesday won the special election in a Pennsylvania congressional district is right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat. This candidate, Mark Critz, is a Democrat.

And that just about exhausts the good news for Democrats on a surreal Tuesday when their presumptive candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut – the state’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal — chose to hold a news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall to discuss why he had falsely said he fought in a foreign war. National Democrats may try to find a less damaged candidate for Connecticut, but first they may have to do that in Illinois.

Their candidate to hold the Senate seat Obama held, Alexi Giannoulias, has a problem: The failure of the bank owned by his family — it made loans to Tony Rezko, the convicted developer who helped Obama with a 2006 property transaction — may cost taxpayers many millions. Proving his credentials as a disciple of the president, Giannoulias blamed the bank’s failure on George W. Bush. …

The whole thing is worth reading.

George Will has a wonderful column today that begins this way:

The candidate who on Tuesday won the special election in a Pennsylvania congressional district is right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat. This candidate, Mark Critz, is a Democrat.

And that just about exhausts the good news for Democrats on a surreal Tuesday when their presumptive candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut – the state’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal — chose to hold a news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall to discuss why he had falsely said he fought in a foreign war. National Democrats may try to find a less damaged candidate for Connecticut, but first they may have to do that in Illinois.

Their candidate to hold the Senate seat Obama held, Alexi Giannoulias, has a problem: The failure of the bank owned by his family — it made loans to Tony Rezko, the convicted developer who helped Obama with a 2006 property transaction — may cost taxpayers many millions. Proving his credentials as a disciple of the president, Giannoulias blamed the bank’s failure on George W. Bush. …

The whole thing is worth reading.

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Blumenthal Presser Fallout

The non-apology by Richard Blumenthal and the scandal over his lies about his service record are being assessed. The Cook Political Report (subscription required) finds:

There are some political observers who don’t believe that Blumenthal can survive this incident. Whether that’s true will be determined over the next couple of days and will depend on whether the media uncovers more examples of Blumenthal misrepresenting his service, or if doubts are raised about what the Attorney General said this afternoon.

Our early guess is that Blumenthal does survive, but that he is no longer the heavy favorite he was just 24 hours ago, and Republicans will now play on a more level playing field. As such, the race is moving to the Toss Up column.

Meanwhile, Vets for Freedom has put out a statement calling on Blumenthal to actually apologize:

He never set foot in a combat zone—even though he gladly perpetuated the politically-expedient perception that he had—and should apologize to real Vietnam combat veterans for this gross violation of honor.

After the New York Times exposed his real service record, Mr. Blumenthal remained defiant at his rebuttal press conference, saying he takes “full responsibility” for the statements, yet refuses to apologize. Mr. Blumenthal also claims he merely “misspoke” on a few occasions, and did so unknowingly. As a combat veteran of Iraq, I find this very hard to believe. All veterans know what they did and where they were. There’s a big difference between the battlefield and your hometown. … Mr. Blumenthal should apologize, and should start with his fellow Connecticut Senate candidate Rob Simmons, who served 19 months on the ground in Vietnam, earning two Bronze Stars. Mr. Simmons is a real combat veteran, and his record actually back it up.

I asked veteran (real one) and executive director Pete Hegseth if Vets for Freedom would call on Blumenthal to get out of the race or resign as attorney general. He replied: “First and foremost, we are calling on him to actually apologize — which he has thus far refused to do. If he will not, we will look at other options.” Even on MSNBC’s Ed Shultz show last night, the host and Bill Press agreed that Blumenthal is “dead in the water.” Chris Matthews took a similar position.

If Vets for Freedom and other groups call for Blumenthal to get out, it is hard to see how he will survive. And given the reaction in the liberal network of choice, it is hard to imagine that Democrats will stick with him and go down with the man who lied about serving in Vietnam. Remarkable that MSNBC is now the voice of sanity in the Democratic Party.

The non-apology by Richard Blumenthal and the scandal over his lies about his service record are being assessed. The Cook Political Report (subscription required) finds:

There are some political observers who don’t believe that Blumenthal can survive this incident. Whether that’s true will be determined over the next couple of days and will depend on whether the media uncovers more examples of Blumenthal misrepresenting his service, or if doubts are raised about what the Attorney General said this afternoon.

Our early guess is that Blumenthal does survive, but that he is no longer the heavy favorite he was just 24 hours ago, and Republicans will now play on a more level playing field. As such, the race is moving to the Toss Up column.

Meanwhile, Vets for Freedom has put out a statement calling on Blumenthal to actually apologize:

He never set foot in a combat zone—even though he gladly perpetuated the politically-expedient perception that he had—and should apologize to real Vietnam combat veterans for this gross violation of honor.

After the New York Times exposed his real service record, Mr. Blumenthal remained defiant at his rebuttal press conference, saying he takes “full responsibility” for the statements, yet refuses to apologize. Mr. Blumenthal also claims he merely “misspoke” on a few occasions, and did so unknowingly. As a combat veteran of Iraq, I find this very hard to believe. All veterans know what they did and where they were. There’s a big difference between the battlefield and your hometown. … Mr. Blumenthal should apologize, and should start with his fellow Connecticut Senate candidate Rob Simmons, who served 19 months on the ground in Vietnam, earning two Bronze Stars. Mr. Simmons is a real combat veteran, and his record actually back it up.

I asked veteran (real one) and executive director Pete Hegseth if Vets for Freedom would call on Blumenthal to get out of the race or resign as attorney general. He replied: “First and foremost, we are calling on him to actually apologize — which he has thus far refused to do. If he will not, we will look at other options.” Even on MSNBC’s Ed Shultz show last night, the host and Bill Press agreed that Blumenthal is “dead in the water.” Chris Matthews took a similar position.

If Vets for Freedom and other groups call for Blumenthal to get out, it is hard to see how he will survive. And given the reaction in the liberal network of choice, it is hard to imagine that Democrats will stick with him and go down with the man who lied about serving in Vietnam. Remarkable that MSNBC is now the voice of sanity in the Democratic Party.

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Blumenthal Scandal: A New Version of the Suffering Wife

Connecticut’s Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal’s news conference in which he attempted to defuse the scandal over his lies about his military service provided a new version of the “suffering wife” who routinely stands by her husband as he owns up to misdeeds.

But instead of having his spouse stand painfully by him as he walked back what he now describes as “a few misplaced words,” Blumenthal had a chorus line of veterans behind him at the press conference that took place at the West Hartford Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. And rather than keep silent as he at first spoke at length touting his record and then briefly owned up to the problem, the veterans in attendance cheered Blumenthal’s statement and frequently punctuated it with applause and Marine chants.

The brief press conference that Blumenthal ended abruptly was mostly devoted to praise of his own actions in which he claimed that his military service was voluntary. His statement admitting guilt was as follows: “On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service and I take full responsibility. I will not let anyone take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.” He gave no reason for his lies about having been in Vietnam and offered no apology. And his friends behind him — who might otherwise be expected to take a dim view of those who falsely claim war-veteran status — demanded none. But the proposition that this group of veterans is representative of others around the state is yet to be proved.

This performance shows that Blumenthal’s intention is to stay in the Senate race and that he hopes the storm will blow over. However, as the New York Times story that blew the lid off of his lies shows, this one item may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Blumenthal’s record. As the Times reported, Blumenthal appears to have misled journalists about other aspects of his biography.

Slate and the Hartford Courant have both reported that Blumenthal served as captain of the swim team at Harvard, even though he was never even on the team. Blumenthal now claims to be “astonished” about this lie and disavows all responsibility for it. Yet, like his lies about Vietnam service, Blumenthal — a man who is well known for his careful use of words — never sought to correct the record. After many years of flying below the radar of the investigative press while posing as being a man above reproach, the spotlight will now be on Blumenthal. This means that if there are other lies on his record — and it is more than likely that such things are not isolated incidents — they will soon be discovered. This will make for a very uncomfortable summer and fall for a Connecticut Democratic Party that had hoped the Senate race would be a cakewalk.

Connecticut’s Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal’s news conference in which he attempted to defuse the scandal over his lies about his military service provided a new version of the “suffering wife” who routinely stands by her husband as he owns up to misdeeds.

But instead of having his spouse stand painfully by him as he walked back what he now describes as “a few misplaced words,” Blumenthal had a chorus line of veterans behind him at the press conference that took place at the West Hartford Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. And rather than keep silent as he at first spoke at length touting his record and then briefly owned up to the problem, the veterans in attendance cheered Blumenthal’s statement and frequently punctuated it with applause and Marine chants.

The brief press conference that Blumenthal ended abruptly was mostly devoted to praise of his own actions in which he claimed that his military service was voluntary. His statement admitting guilt was as follows: “On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service and I take full responsibility. I will not let anyone take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.” He gave no reason for his lies about having been in Vietnam and offered no apology. And his friends behind him — who might otherwise be expected to take a dim view of those who falsely claim war-veteran status — demanded none. But the proposition that this group of veterans is representative of others around the state is yet to be proved.

This performance shows that Blumenthal’s intention is to stay in the Senate race and that he hopes the storm will blow over. However, as the New York Times story that blew the lid off of his lies shows, this one item may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Blumenthal’s record. As the Times reported, Blumenthal appears to have misled journalists about other aspects of his biography.

Slate and the Hartford Courant have both reported that Blumenthal served as captain of the swim team at Harvard, even though he was never even on the team. Blumenthal now claims to be “astonished” about this lie and disavows all responsibility for it. Yet, like his lies about Vietnam service, Blumenthal — a man who is well known for his careful use of words — never sought to correct the record. After many years of flying below the radar of the investigative press while posing as being a man above reproach, the spotlight will now be on Blumenthal. This means that if there are other lies on his record — and it is more than likely that such things are not isolated incidents — they will soon be discovered. This will make for a very uncomfortable summer and fall for a Connecticut Democratic Party that had hoped the Senate race would be a cakewalk.

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Increasing Arabs’ Clout in Congress: The NH-1 GOP Primary

In the New Hampshire 1st congressional district, there is a spirited, multi-candidate Republican primary race to face off against Democrat Carol Shea-Porter. The most viable Republicans are Sean Mahoney, Frank Guinta, Bob Bestani, and Rich Ashooh. (Polls suggest that Shea-Porter is in trouble, and the Cook Report pegs the seat as a “toss up.”) One of the candidates, Ashooh, is being bankrolled by a curious character. Nijad Fares and his wife, who reside in Houston, donated $2,400 to Ashooh and raised thousands more for him, likely making Ashooh the GOP candidate in the race with the most donors from  Houston. (Weird, huh?)

Now, who is Fares? He’s a self-proclaimed advocate for increasing Arab clout in Congress. This report relates:

Nijad Fares bluntly laid out his strategy for increasing the clout of Arab-Americans in an opinion piece he authored that appeared in the Detroit News on Dec. 16, 1996.

“Arab-Americans must substantially increase contributions to political candidates,” he wrote. “Even modest contributions help ensure that Members of Congress and their staffs take phone calls and are more responsive to requests. Furthermore, the contributor must make explicit an interest in Middle East-related issues.”

He and his father, Issam (“known to be close to the powerful chief of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, Ghazi Kenaan”), have been implicated in some funny business with regard to campaign donations:

After the Wall Street Journal reported the inaugural donation last month, the inaugural committee said the donation listed from Issam Fares came from the Link Group, LLC, a company headed by Nijad Fares and that the son had attempted to give credit for the donation to his father.

Both father and son have a long history of intimate political connections with U.S. politicians and have been major supporters of groups promoting Lebanon’s interests. The family’s main U.S. business holding, a Houston-based firm called the Wedge Group, is a major player in the oil services industry and is headed by William White, the former number two official at the Energy Department during the Clinton administration.

So what sorts of views does Nijad Fares hope will gain traction through fundraising like that done for Ashooh? We have some clues. It seems that Nijad Fares has a track record of giving to congressional candidates, having given handsomely to Rep. Joe Knollenberg and his state legislator son. Knollenberg “put ‘Seeds of Peace’ — a summer camp founded by Yasser Arafat’s fave biographer — on the federal budget.” He also “doled out at least $86 million of our tax money [in USAID funding to southern Lebanon] … allowing Hezbollah to rebuild its strongholds in Southern Lebanon and expand.” That, it seems, is what “increasing Arabs’ clout” is all about. (Fares also gave to Obama and to the only Republican to co-host J Street’s confab, Charles Boustany. Fares is nothing if not consistent in his choice of recipients.)

And then there is this: when the fundraising brouhaha surfaced, Issam was quick to blame the Jews. Caught in a media firestorm for paying a large sum to Colin Powell for a speech five days before the 2000 election, he immediately “accused the ‘Zionist lobby’ of spreading ‘distortion and lies.’”

And the family seems to have an unusual take on Hezbollah, as well. Issam offered this:

“It is a mistake to make a comparison between the [Al Qaeda] network … which Lebanon has condemned, and Hezbollah, which Lebanon considers a resistance party fighting the Israeli occupation,” Fares told Agence France-Presse. He claimed the group has never targeted Americans, a position disputed by U.S. officials as well as Fares’s own Wedge Group CEO.

An Ashooh spokesman had this comment when I asked about the Fares fundraising:

What I can tell you is this: People donate to the Ashooh campaign based on Rich’s positions on the issues. As a candidate, he cannot possibly know or share all of the individual positions his donors may or may not have. At this time, Rich is focused on running a very positive campaign based on fiscal responsibility and bringing conservative, New Hampshire values back to Washington.

So are Ashooh’s positions the same as those of the Fares family, and is he someone ready and willing to increase the clout of Arabs? The campaign did not respond to my direct queries on these points or whether he will return the funds. If it does, I will be sure to pass it on.

In the New Hampshire 1st congressional district, there is a spirited, multi-candidate Republican primary race to face off against Democrat Carol Shea-Porter. The most viable Republicans are Sean Mahoney, Frank Guinta, Bob Bestani, and Rich Ashooh. (Polls suggest that Shea-Porter is in trouble, and the Cook Report pegs the seat as a “toss up.”) One of the candidates, Ashooh, is being bankrolled by a curious character. Nijad Fares and his wife, who reside in Houston, donated $2,400 to Ashooh and raised thousands more for him, likely making Ashooh the GOP candidate in the race with the most donors from  Houston. (Weird, huh?)

Now, who is Fares? He’s a self-proclaimed advocate for increasing Arab clout in Congress. This report relates:

Nijad Fares bluntly laid out his strategy for increasing the clout of Arab-Americans in an opinion piece he authored that appeared in the Detroit News on Dec. 16, 1996.

“Arab-Americans must substantially increase contributions to political candidates,” he wrote. “Even modest contributions help ensure that Members of Congress and their staffs take phone calls and are more responsive to requests. Furthermore, the contributor must make explicit an interest in Middle East-related issues.”

He and his father, Issam (“known to be close to the powerful chief of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, Ghazi Kenaan”), have been implicated in some funny business with regard to campaign donations:

After the Wall Street Journal reported the inaugural donation last month, the inaugural committee said the donation listed from Issam Fares came from the Link Group, LLC, a company headed by Nijad Fares and that the son had attempted to give credit for the donation to his father.

Both father and son have a long history of intimate political connections with U.S. politicians and have been major supporters of groups promoting Lebanon’s interests. The family’s main U.S. business holding, a Houston-based firm called the Wedge Group, is a major player in the oil services industry and is headed by William White, the former number two official at the Energy Department during the Clinton administration.

So what sorts of views does Nijad Fares hope will gain traction through fundraising like that done for Ashooh? We have some clues. It seems that Nijad Fares has a track record of giving to congressional candidates, having given handsomely to Rep. Joe Knollenberg and his state legislator son. Knollenberg “put ‘Seeds of Peace’ — a summer camp founded by Yasser Arafat’s fave biographer — on the federal budget.” He also “doled out at least $86 million of our tax money [in USAID funding to southern Lebanon] … allowing Hezbollah to rebuild its strongholds in Southern Lebanon and expand.” That, it seems, is what “increasing Arabs’ clout” is all about. (Fares also gave to Obama and to the only Republican to co-host J Street’s confab, Charles Boustany. Fares is nothing if not consistent in his choice of recipients.)

And then there is this: when the fundraising brouhaha surfaced, Issam was quick to blame the Jews. Caught in a media firestorm for paying a large sum to Colin Powell for a speech five days before the 2000 election, he immediately “accused the ‘Zionist lobby’ of spreading ‘distortion and lies.’”

And the family seems to have an unusual take on Hezbollah, as well. Issam offered this:

“It is a mistake to make a comparison between the [Al Qaeda] network … which Lebanon has condemned, and Hezbollah, which Lebanon considers a resistance party fighting the Israeli occupation,” Fares told Agence France-Presse. He claimed the group has never targeted Americans, a position disputed by U.S. officials as well as Fares’s own Wedge Group CEO.

An Ashooh spokesman had this comment when I asked about the Fares fundraising:

What I can tell you is this: People donate to the Ashooh campaign based on Rich’s positions on the issues. As a candidate, he cannot possibly know or share all of the individual positions his donors may or may not have. At this time, Rich is focused on running a very positive campaign based on fiscal responsibility and bringing conservative, New Hampshire values back to Washington.

So are Ashooh’s positions the same as those of the Fares family, and is he someone ready and willing to increase the clout of Arabs? The campaign did not respond to my direct queries on these points or whether he will return the funds. If it does, I will be sure to pass it on.

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Another Tom Campbell Problem

In addition to his connections to Palestinian extremists and an anti-Israel voting record, Tom Campbell has another problem: perhaps the most influential conservative group is blasting him:

The National Rifle Assn. is urging its California members to vote against Republican Senate candidate Tom Campbell “to protect your gun rights and hunting heritage in California.”

The bright orange postcard, which went out over the weekend, faults Campbell for favoring gun show regulations, a waiting period for handgun purchases and restrictions on the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons. …

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the organization gave Fiorina an “A” rating based on her answers to their questionnaire and also gave its top rating to DeVore. Because the NRA does not publicly disclose candidates’ questionnaires, the Campbell campaign has said Fiorina should release her answers.

Arulanandam said he did not have immediate access to Campbell’s voting record and ratings during his five terms in Congress, but said his last rating was an “F.”

Campbell says he really, honestly is devoted to the Second Amendment. So the NRA must be confused. Just like pro-Israel supporters are confused. It’s all a big misunderstanding. Or, as Obama likes to say, maybe it’s a “communication” problem. Yes, Campbell has difficulty explaining why his voting record and prior statements seem to mean something different from what advocates dedicated to key issues (Israel, terrorism, the Second Amendment) think they mean.

In addition to his connections to Palestinian extremists and an anti-Israel voting record, Tom Campbell has another problem: perhaps the most influential conservative group is blasting him:

The National Rifle Assn. is urging its California members to vote against Republican Senate candidate Tom Campbell “to protect your gun rights and hunting heritage in California.”

The bright orange postcard, which went out over the weekend, faults Campbell for favoring gun show regulations, a waiting period for handgun purchases and restrictions on the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons. …

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the organization gave Fiorina an “A” rating based on her answers to their questionnaire and also gave its top rating to DeVore. Because the NRA does not publicly disclose candidates’ questionnaires, the Campbell campaign has said Fiorina should release her answers.

Arulanandam said he did not have immediate access to Campbell’s voting record and ratings during his five terms in Congress, but said his last rating was an “F.”

Campbell says he really, honestly is devoted to the Second Amendment. So the NRA must be confused. Just like pro-Israel supporters are confused. It’s all a big misunderstanding. Or, as Obama likes to say, maybe it’s a “communication” problem. Yes, Campbell has difficulty explaining why his voting record and prior statements seem to mean something different from what advocates dedicated to key issues (Israel, terrorism, the Second Amendment) think they mean.

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Specter’s Lesson: Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth Is an Ungrateful Abortion Lobby

Consistency on the issues has never been one of Arlen Specter’s character traits as a politician. Yet for all of his flips and flops on just about everything, not to mention his two changes in party affiliation, there is one issue on which the ultra-cynical senator has been fairly consistent: abortion. Indeed, if there is any one point of contention that defined him in his Senate career as a “liberal” Republican, it was his “pro-choice” beliefs. But despite three decades of such a stance and the fact that he has now joined the party that generally treats the backing for abortion as a litmus test, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the premiere pro-abortion lobby, is throwing Specter under the bus in the midst of his life-and-death struggle to hold on to his Senate seat.

NARAL endorsed Specter’s opponent Rep. Joe Sestak yesterday in a statement that dismissed the senator’s decades of work without so much as a backward glance. Indeed, far from treating the question of which pro-choice Democrat to back in the primary as a dilemma, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s president Nancy Keenan stuck the proverbial knife in the back of her group’s erstwhile loyalist by saying: “Many Pennsylvanians are under the impression that Arlen Specter might be a reliable pro-choice voice, but his record says otherwise. Pennsylvanians deserve a senator who considers being pro-choice a position of conviction, rather than a position of convenience.”

Ouch! Reading that, you have to sympathize a bit with Snarlin’ Arlen. You might well say that such a swipe at his character would be justified if you were talking about anything else, but it’s hard to argue that his stand on just about the only issue on which he has been consistent was merely a matter of convenience.

What’s NARAL’s motive? Is it belated payback for Specter’s roughing up of Anita Hill? Maybe. But according to its release, it’s the fact that Specter voted for Republican court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito and at one point voted, along with many Democrats, in favor of a ban on partial-birth abortion. But Specter’s record on court nominations has been anything but consistent, given his participation in the vicious attacks on Robert Bork in the 1980s, which pleased NARAL, and his vote in favor of the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor last year.

But the real answer may be elsewhere in the statement, where Keenan claims, “Joe Sestak is the candidate who is best positioned to defeat an anti-choice opponent in the November general election.” Which is to say that she has read the polls, which show that Specter’s lead over his opponent has evaporated and that Sestak may be a tougher opponent for likely Republican nominee Pat Toomey. Now that he really needs them, Specter is finding that NARAL, like every other political entity, prefers backing likely winners to helping out old friends.

But just to show that ingratitude and extremism aren’t confined to the pro-choicers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the long-shot challenge to Toomey in the Republican primary next week is also motivated by abortion. Activist Peg Luksik thinks that the former congressman isn’t sufficiently fanatic on the issue because despite his consistent pro-life record, he believes there should be exceptions to any potential ban on abortion in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Luksik’s claim to fame is that 20 years ago, she won 46 percent of the vote in a failed attempt to deny a GOP gubernatorial nomination to Barbara Hafer, a pro-choice Republican. Since then, she twice ran as a third-party candidate for governor against Tom Ridge.

Toomey is a prohibitive favorite and doesn’t have much to worry about in the primary. But looking ahead to November, he does seem to have a firm grasp on the difference between running against Specter and running against Sestak. While claiming that either would energize the Republican base, the Inquirer quotes Toomey as summing up the contrast between the two in this way:

“If Joe Sestak wins the nomination, I do think it will be a much more substantive discussion about policy, whereas if it was Arlen Specter, it would be a series of personal, negative ads trying to smear character. That’s the way he’s always operated.”

Consistency on the issues has never been one of Arlen Specter’s character traits as a politician. Yet for all of his flips and flops on just about everything, not to mention his two changes in party affiliation, there is one issue on which the ultra-cynical senator has been fairly consistent: abortion. Indeed, if there is any one point of contention that defined him in his Senate career as a “liberal” Republican, it was his “pro-choice” beliefs. But despite three decades of such a stance and the fact that he has now joined the party that generally treats the backing for abortion as a litmus test, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the premiere pro-abortion lobby, is throwing Specter under the bus in the midst of his life-and-death struggle to hold on to his Senate seat.

NARAL endorsed Specter’s opponent Rep. Joe Sestak yesterday in a statement that dismissed the senator’s decades of work without so much as a backward glance. Indeed, far from treating the question of which pro-choice Democrat to back in the primary as a dilemma, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s president Nancy Keenan stuck the proverbial knife in the back of her group’s erstwhile loyalist by saying: “Many Pennsylvanians are under the impression that Arlen Specter might be a reliable pro-choice voice, but his record says otherwise. Pennsylvanians deserve a senator who considers being pro-choice a position of conviction, rather than a position of convenience.”

Ouch! Reading that, you have to sympathize a bit with Snarlin’ Arlen. You might well say that such a swipe at his character would be justified if you were talking about anything else, but it’s hard to argue that his stand on just about the only issue on which he has been consistent was merely a matter of convenience.

What’s NARAL’s motive? Is it belated payback for Specter’s roughing up of Anita Hill? Maybe. But according to its release, it’s the fact that Specter voted for Republican court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito and at one point voted, along with many Democrats, in favor of a ban on partial-birth abortion. But Specter’s record on court nominations has been anything but consistent, given his participation in the vicious attacks on Robert Bork in the 1980s, which pleased NARAL, and his vote in favor of the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor last year.

But the real answer may be elsewhere in the statement, where Keenan claims, “Joe Sestak is the candidate who is best positioned to defeat an anti-choice opponent in the November general election.” Which is to say that she has read the polls, which show that Specter’s lead over his opponent has evaporated and that Sestak may be a tougher opponent for likely Republican nominee Pat Toomey. Now that he really needs them, Specter is finding that NARAL, like every other political entity, prefers backing likely winners to helping out old friends.

But just to show that ingratitude and extremism aren’t confined to the pro-choicers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the long-shot challenge to Toomey in the Republican primary next week is also motivated by abortion. Activist Peg Luksik thinks that the former congressman isn’t sufficiently fanatic on the issue because despite his consistent pro-life record, he believes there should be exceptions to any potential ban on abortion in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Luksik’s claim to fame is that 20 years ago, she won 46 percent of the vote in a failed attempt to deny a GOP gubernatorial nomination to Barbara Hafer, a pro-choice Republican. Since then, she twice ran as a third-party candidate for governor against Tom Ridge.

Toomey is a prohibitive favorite and doesn’t have much to worry about in the primary. But looking ahead to November, he does seem to have a firm grasp on the difference between running against Specter and running against Sestak. While claiming that either would energize the Republican base, the Inquirer quotes Toomey as summing up the contrast between the two in this way:

“If Joe Sestak wins the nomination, I do think it will be a much more substantive discussion about policy, whereas if it was Arlen Specter, it would be a series of personal, negative ads trying to smear character. That’s the way he’s always operated.”

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Bellwether Battle: Sestak vs. Toomey

With the need to explain his vote against Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan when she was confirmed as solicitor general, and yet another tracking poll showing him losing even more ground to challenger Rep. Joe Sestak, Sen. Arlen Specter has officially been declared “toast” by leftist Philadelphia Daily News blogger Will Bunch.

Bunch is right about Specter being ready for a shmear of cream cheese or butter, but he failed to note the news that supporters of the incumbent must regard with special dread: a new Rasmussen poll indicates that Sestak will be a stronger opponent for Republican Pat Toomey in the fall. In the first tracking poll matching the two Democrats against their all-but-certain Republican opponent in a month, Sestak gained strength as Specter continued to lose ground. A month ago, Toomey led Specter 50 to 40 percent. The latest numbers show the margin now to be 50 to 38. While the same survey showed Sestak trailing Toomey 47-36 a month ago, a new poll shows the race to be a virtual standoff, with Toomey holding only a 42-40 lead.

Wavering Democrats who never liked the idea of the former Republican being their nominee were told by party bigwigs that Specter was their only hope to hold the seat in November, since Sestak was too weak to beat Toomey. But if Specter’s incumbency is a weakness rather than a strength in a general election, then liberals won’t hesitate to abandon him next week in droves.

These numbers just confirm what Bunch and just about everybody else who isn’t a Specter staffer have concluded: the incumbent is finished and Pennsylvania will have one of the most competitive and clearly ideological battles for the Senate in November.

Most Pennsylvania Republicans have been thoroughly enjoying Arlen Specter’s difficulties in convincing his new party’s voters to embrace him. After decades of being represented by a man who always put himself on both sides of every big issue, conservatives, who came close to knocking off Specter in a 2004 GOP primary, are getting a great deal of vicarious pleasure from Sestak’s successful challenge to a Democratic establishment that embraced the slippery incumbent with the same ardor that George W. Bush and Rick Santorum backed him six years ago. But with Sestak pulling even with Toomey in a head-to-head matchup, conservatives need to start thinking clearly about the liberal former admiral.

In the past decade, Pennsylvania’s Senate races have generally been won by whoever could claim the center. But this fall, there will be no race in the nation that presents a starker choice between the parties. In all likelihood, the matchup will feature two candidates, Toomey and Sestak, who represent the conservative and liberal wings of their parties respectively. As a man who won a seat in Congress in 2006 as an anti-war candidate, Sestak may well be able to mobilize the suburban liberal base of the Democratic Party even if he leaves urban minorities cold. And we can expect the liberal-media attack machine to go all-out to tar Toomey as a right-wing fanatic. In response, the stalwartly pro-Israel Toomey will have the chance to hold Sestak accountable for his very shaky stand on the Middle East since the congressman backed a J Street letter on Israel rather than one endorsed by the mainstream pro-Israel AIPAC. And Sestak has never backed away from his appearance in 2007 at a fundraiser for the pro-Hamas CAIR’s Philadelphia chapter.

The point is, once Specter is done, conservatives will have to stop cheering for Sestak and start taking him seriously as a formidable and dangerous opponent.

With the need to explain his vote against Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan when she was confirmed as solicitor general, and yet another tracking poll showing him losing even more ground to challenger Rep. Joe Sestak, Sen. Arlen Specter has officially been declared “toast” by leftist Philadelphia Daily News blogger Will Bunch.

Bunch is right about Specter being ready for a shmear of cream cheese or butter, but he failed to note the news that supporters of the incumbent must regard with special dread: a new Rasmussen poll indicates that Sestak will be a stronger opponent for Republican Pat Toomey in the fall. In the first tracking poll matching the two Democrats against their all-but-certain Republican opponent in a month, Sestak gained strength as Specter continued to lose ground. A month ago, Toomey led Specter 50 to 40 percent. The latest numbers show the margin now to be 50 to 38. While the same survey showed Sestak trailing Toomey 47-36 a month ago, a new poll shows the race to be a virtual standoff, with Toomey holding only a 42-40 lead.

Wavering Democrats who never liked the idea of the former Republican being their nominee were told by party bigwigs that Specter was their only hope to hold the seat in November, since Sestak was too weak to beat Toomey. But if Specter’s incumbency is a weakness rather than a strength in a general election, then liberals won’t hesitate to abandon him next week in droves.

These numbers just confirm what Bunch and just about everybody else who isn’t a Specter staffer have concluded: the incumbent is finished and Pennsylvania will have one of the most competitive and clearly ideological battles for the Senate in November.

Most Pennsylvania Republicans have been thoroughly enjoying Arlen Specter’s difficulties in convincing his new party’s voters to embrace him. After decades of being represented by a man who always put himself on both sides of every big issue, conservatives, who came close to knocking off Specter in a 2004 GOP primary, are getting a great deal of vicarious pleasure from Sestak’s successful challenge to a Democratic establishment that embraced the slippery incumbent with the same ardor that George W. Bush and Rick Santorum backed him six years ago. But with Sestak pulling even with Toomey in a head-to-head matchup, conservatives need to start thinking clearly about the liberal former admiral.

In the past decade, Pennsylvania’s Senate races have generally been won by whoever could claim the center. But this fall, there will be no race in the nation that presents a starker choice between the parties. In all likelihood, the matchup will feature two candidates, Toomey and Sestak, who represent the conservative and liberal wings of their parties respectively. As a man who won a seat in Congress in 2006 as an anti-war candidate, Sestak may well be able to mobilize the suburban liberal base of the Democratic Party even if he leaves urban minorities cold. And we can expect the liberal-media attack machine to go all-out to tar Toomey as a right-wing fanatic. In response, the stalwartly pro-Israel Toomey will have the chance to hold Sestak accountable for his very shaky stand on the Middle East since the congressman backed a J Street letter on Israel rather than one endorsed by the mainstream pro-Israel AIPAC. And Sestak has never backed away from his appearance in 2007 at a fundraiser for the pro-Hamas CAIR’s Philadelphia chapter.

The point is, once Specter is done, conservatives will have to stop cheering for Sestak and start taking him seriously as a formidable and dangerous opponent.

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The Party of Big Drug Companies

Ben Smith spots an ad from the drug companies’ lobby group, “in which the advocacy group Families USA and the drug lobby PhRMA — the latter the deep pockets behind much of media campaign for health care legislation — praise Sen. Harry Reid for his work on … jobs.” As Smith notes, it’s a big smooch for their favorite senator:

Though the ad makes a passing reference to health care, it’s basically the group’s way of saying “thank you” to Reid for pushing the health-care bill to passage.

This isn’t lobbying, technically, but from PhRMA’s perspective, it’s an interesting way to reward a powerful legislator for furthering your corporate interest.

Before the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress, they used to thunder about this sort of thing. Candidate Barack Obama promised to throw the lobbyists out and eliminate the special interests who undermined the “people’s business.” But instead, they rewarded and ensconced those special interests in legislation, and they in turn dearly want to reelect those that doled out the favors. This seems to be a significant weakness in the Democrats’ newest populist campaign rhetoric — they are the ones getting bouquets from insurance companies, banks, and big drug companies. They must think the public won’t notice.

Ben Smith spots an ad from the drug companies’ lobby group, “in which the advocacy group Families USA and the drug lobby PhRMA — the latter the deep pockets behind much of media campaign for health care legislation — praise Sen. Harry Reid for his work on … jobs.” As Smith notes, it’s a big smooch for their favorite senator:

Though the ad makes a passing reference to health care, it’s basically the group’s way of saying “thank you” to Reid for pushing the health-care bill to passage.

This isn’t lobbying, technically, but from PhRMA’s perspective, it’s an interesting way to reward a powerful legislator for furthering your corporate interest.

Before the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress, they used to thunder about this sort of thing. Candidate Barack Obama promised to throw the lobbyists out and eliminate the special interests who undermined the “people’s business.” But instead, they rewarded and ensconced those special interests in legislation, and they in turn dearly want to reelect those that doled out the favors. This seems to be a significant weakness in the Democrats’ newest populist campaign rhetoric — they are the ones getting bouquets from insurance companies, banks, and big drug companies. They must think the public won’t notice.

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“Narrative Gap”?

Ronald Brownstein writes:

The Republicans’ “narrative” about Obama’s economic agenda — articulated again in Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s attack on financial reform — has been straightforward and unrelenting. In their telling, Obama is transforming the United States into a sclerotic European social-welfare state; forcing the strained middle class to fund both a “crony capitalism” of bailouts for the powerful (the charge McConnell leveled against the financial bill) and handouts for the poor (through health care reform); and impeding recovery by smothering the economy beneath stultifying federal spending, taxes, and regulation.

The fear among the Democracy contributors is that against this disciplined assault the White House is suffering from what could be called a “narrative gap.”

Translation: Republicans have done an excellent job pointing out what Obama is up to — and voters don’t like Obama’s efforts to transform America. There is not a “narrative gap” strictly speaking — that’s Washington spin, reducing everything to messaging. There is a gap between what Obama wants to do and what the voters want. After all, it is not as if Republicans made up the fact that Obama took over two car companies, passed a mammoth health-care bill, ran up the deficit, and is hiking taxes on capital and labor. Obama has done this and is going to do more of this if left to his own devices.

The dilemma for Democrats is that they have embarked on an unpopular program, and rather than receiving applause for expanding the scope of the federal government, they find they have provoked the Center-Right coalition and roused the populist, anti-Big-Government sentiments of many previously indifferent voters. The idea that health-care reform would, along with a slew of other leftist policies, provide a “new foundation” for recovery was a great non sequitur. If anything, these things  have freaked out employers and dulled their enthusiasm for expanding payrolls. But even if one thinks that business somehow ignores public policy and averts its eyes from regulatory and tax changes, you’d be hard pressed to make the argument that any of this has promoted economic recovery.

It’s comforting, I suppose, to blame all of this on messaging. That avoids the serious policy failures of the Keynesian stimulus debacle and the hugely unpopular health-care plan. But the voters don’t think there’s a “narrative gap.” They think there’s been a bait-and-switch –  the soothing candidate Obama has emerged as a dogged leftist. They can’t do much about him for now (especially because he’s indifferent to public opinion), but they can take away his Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. And that’s precisely what makes Democrats so nervous.  They should be.

Ronald Brownstein writes:

The Republicans’ “narrative” about Obama’s economic agenda — articulated again in Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s attack on financial reform — has been straightforward and unrelenting. In their telling, Obama is transforming the United States into a sclerotic European social-welfare state; forcing the strained middle class to fund both a “crony capitalism” of bailouts for the powerful (the charge McConnell leveled against the financial bill) and handouts for the poor (through health care reform); and impeding recovery by smothering the economy beneath stultifying federal spending, taxes, and regulation.

The fear among the Democracy contributors is that against this disciplined assault the White House is suffering from what could be called a “narrative gap.”

Translation: Republicans have done an excellent job pointing out what Obama is up to — and voters don’t like Obama’s efforts to transform America. There is not a “narrative gap” strictly speaking — that’s Washington spin, reducing everything to messaging. There is a gap between what Obama wants to do and what the voters want. After all, it is not as if Republicans made up the fact that Obama took over two car companies, passed a mammoth health-care bill, ran up the deficit, and is hiking taxes on capital and labor. Obama has done this and is going to do more of this if left to his own devices.

The dilemma for Democrats is that they have embarked on an unpopular program, and rather than receiving applause for expanding the scope of the federal government, they find they have provoked the Center-Right coalition and roused the populist, anti-Big-Government sentiments of many previously indifferent voters. The idea that health-care reform would, along with a slew of other leftist policies, provide a “new foundation” for recovery was a great non sequitur. If anything, these things  have freaked out employers and dulled their enthusiasm for expanding payrolls. But even if one thinks that business somehow ignores public policy and averts its eyes from regulatory and tax changes, you’d be hard pressed to make the argument that any of this has promoted economic recovery.

It’s comforting, I suppose, to blame all of this on messaging. That avoids the serious policy failures of the Keynesian stimulus debacle and the hugely unpopular health-care plan. But the voters don’t think there’s a “narrative gap.” They think there’s been a bait-and-switch –  the soothing candidate Obama has emerged as a dogged leftist. They can’t do much about him for now (especially because he’s indifferent to public opinion), but they can take away his Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. And that’s precisely what makes Democrats so nervous.  They should be.

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Is the Connecticut Senate Front-runner “Martha Coakley in Pants”?

If there were any Senate seat up for election this fall that was considered completely safe for the Democrats, it appeared to be the one that Chris Dodd is vacating in Connecticut. While the scandal-plagued Dodd looked vulnerable to any Republican challenger, once he promised not to run and Richard Blumenthal, the Nutmeg State’s popular attorney general, threw his hat into the ring, there seemed no doubt the Democrats would hold on to the seat.

Little attention has been paid to this race since Dodd’s withdrawal. But, according to the New York Times, perhaps Blumenthal isn’t quite as much of a shoo-in as expected. He still has a double-digit lead in all the polls but, as the surprisingly unsympathetic feature in the Times shows, the Democratic front-runner isn’t doing as well as expected. According to the article, Blumenthal “flopped” in a debate against an obscure primary rival and has now categorically ruled out any other such confrontations. As the Times tells it:

He appears almost incapable of offering concise answers to even the most predictable questions, like why he is running for the Senate. And his reliance on prosecutorial parlance and legal arcana has raised unflattering comparisons to another attorney general in a Senate race who seemed a sure winner only to lose in spectacular fashion. Some Democrats are calling him “Martha Coakley in pants,” referring to the candidate who lost the Massachusetts Senate election in January.

The Times puts most of the problems down to the 64-year-old candidate’s inexperience in dealing with competitive politics. Though he has won five consecutive statewide elections for his current office, the last time he faced serious opposition was in 1990. Though always rumored to be interested in various other offices (as one Democratic bigwig told me in the mid-1990s when I was working as a journalist in the state, “There’s nothing that guy doesn’t want to be”), Blumenthal always found a reason not to run. What quickly emerged was that while he longed to be a senator or a governor, he wasn’t willing to fight for it. It was only when Dodd ended his re-election bid earlier this year that Blumenthal figured he could safely glide into a higher-ranking job without getting his neatly combed hair mussed up. But as the Times piece shows, it isn’t proving to be as easy as he thought.

Along with describing this former athlete’s physique in terms that are hardly flattering — “at 5-foot-11 and a gaunt 155 pounds, [Blumenthal] wears his dark suits like a wire hanger” — the story detailed the would-be senator’s awkward “Rip Van Winkle” campaign as he hemmed and hawed his way through a litany of bland and confused responses to questions about his positions. Moreover, his 20 years as attorney general, in which he often aped the Elliot Spitzer pattern of attacking private businesses, may also now come back to haunt him as his former victims surface with tales of misleading and false prosecutions.

The point is, the former wunderkind of Connecticut politics — he was appointed a U.S. attorney at age 31 — may no longer be ready for prime time. Given the overwhelming advantage the Democrats have in registration in the state and Blumenthal’s personal popularity, it’s hard to believe that the seat is really in play. Yet with a spirited and well-funded Republican challenge certain to come from professional-wrestling mogul Linda McMahon, the state may find out whether, as Gov. Jodi Rell said in 2006, Blumenthal is a candidate with a “glass jaw.” McMahon may be no Scott Brown, but so far, Blumenthal is giving every indication that the comparisons with his Massachusetts counterpart Coakley are completely not off base. If 2010 turns out to be a “wave” election in which even the safest Democrats are swept out in an anti-Obama landslide, Blumenthal may be in for a far tougher ride than he ever imagined.

If there were any Senate seat up for election this fall that was considered completely safe for the Democrats, it appeared to be the one that Chris Dodd is vacating in Connecticut. While the scandal-plagued Dodd looked vulnerable to any Republican challenger, once he promised not to run and Richard Blumenthal, the Nutmeg State’s popular attorney general, threw his hat into the ring, there seemed no doubt the Democrats would hold on to the seat.

Little attention has been paid to this race since Dodd’s withdrawal. But, according to the New York Times, perhaps Blumenthal isn’t quite as much of a shoo-in as expected. He still has a double-digit lead in all the polls but, as the surprisingly unsympathetic feature in the Times shows, the Democratic front-runner isn’t doing as well as expected. According to the article, Blumenthal “flopped” in a debate against an obscure primary rival and has now categorically ruled out any other such confrontations. As the Times tells it:

He appears almost incapable of offering concise answers to even the most predictable questions, like why he is running for the Senate. And his reliance on prosecutorial parlance and legal arcana has raised unflattering comparisons to another attorney general in a Senate race who seemed a sure winner only to lose in spectacular fashion. Some Democrats are calling him “Martha Coakley in pants,” referring to the candidate who lost the Massachusetts Senate election in January.

The Times puts most of the problems down to the 64-year-old candidate’s inexperience in dealing with competitive politics. Though he has won five consecutive statewide elections for his current office, the last time he faced serious opposition was in 1990. Though always rumored to be interested in various other offices (as one Democratic bigwig told me in the mid-1990s when I was working as a journalist in the state, “There’s nothing that guy doesn’t want to be”), Blumenthal always found a reason not to run. What quickly emerged was that while he longed to be a senator or a governor, he wasn’t willing to fight for it. It was only when Dodd ended his re-election bid earlier this year that Blumenthal figured he could safely glide into a higher-ranking job without getting his neatly combed hair mussed up. But as the Times piece shows, it isn’t proving to be as easy as he thought.

Along with describing this former athlete’s physique in terms that are hardly flattering — “at 5-foot-11 and a gaunt 155 pounds, [Blumenthal] wears his dark suits like a wire hanger” — the story detailed the would-be senator’s awkward “Rip Van Winkle” campaign as he hemmed and hawed his way through a litany of bland and confused responses to questions about his positions. Moreover, his 20 years as attorney general, in which he often aped the Elliot Spitzer pattern of attacking private businesses, may also now come back to haunt him as his former victims surface with tales of misleading and false prosecutions.

The point is, the former wunderkind of Connecticut politics — he was appointed a U.S. attorney at age 31 — may no longer be ready for prime time. Given the overwhelming advantage the Democrats have in registration in the state and Blumenthal’s personal popularity, it’s hard to believe that the seat is really in play. Yet with a spirited and well-funded Republican challenge certain to come from professional-wrestling mogul Linda McMahon, the state may find out whether, as Gov. Jodi Rell said in 2006, Blumenthal is a candidate with a “glass jaw.” McMahon may be no Scott Brown, but so far, Blumenthal is giving every indication that the comparisons with his Massachusetts counterpart Coakley are completely not off base. If 2010 turns out to be a “wave” election in which even the safest Democrats are swept out in an anti-Obama landslide, Blumenthal may be in for a far tougher ride than he ever imagined.

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