Commentary Magazine


Topic: CEO

Is HSBC Doing Damage Control at State Department After Pro-Iran Ad?

It looks like HSBC may be doing a bit of damage control in Foggy Bottom after its pro-Iran ad campaign sparked criticism from the media and foreign-policy experts. The bank’s controversial advertisement was discussed at a private meeting between HSBC CEO Niall Booker and Jose Fernandez, assistant secretary for economic energy and business affairs, at the State Department on Monday, a source familiar with the conversation told me.

HSBC’s spokesperson Robert Sherman declined to comment directly on whether the recent ad flap played a part in the discussion, saying only that “We have ongoing meetings with officials, sometimes at our request. This meeting was scheduled before the Iran ad articles.”

The ad in question claimed that “Only 4% of American films are made by women. In Iran it’s 25%,” and noted that the bank finds “potential in unexpected places.” Some interpreted this to mean that HSBC was pursuing investment opportunities in Iran, but the bank denied that was the ad’s intent.

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin reported on Dec. 26 that the bank has recently “drawn the attention of various regulators” and is currently “being probed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.” Regulators at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago also reportedly “found that the bank’s compliance program was ineffective and created ‘significant potential’ for money laundering and terrorist financing. This opened HSBC to the possibility that it was conducting transactions on behalf of sanctioned entities.”

While HSBC has already pulled the offending advertisement, it makes sense that it would want to smooth things over with the State Department. The department has been a vocal critic of the Iranian regime’s oppressive treatment of women and disregard for human rights, and it’s easy to see how the ad could have ruffled some feathers there.

It looks like HSBC may be doing a bit of damage control in Foggy Bottom after its pro-Iran ad campaign sparked criticism from the media and foreign-policy experts. The bank’s controversial advertisement was discussed at a private meeting between HSBC CEO Niall Booker and Jose Fernandez, assistant secretary for economic energy and business affairs, at the State Department on Monday, a source familiar with the conversation told me.

HSBC’s spokesperson Robert Sherman declined to comment directly on whether the recent ad flap played a part in the discussion, saying only that “We have ongoing meetings with officials, sometimes at our request. This meeting was scheduled before the Iran ad articles.”

The ad in question claimed that “Only 4% of American films are made by women. In Iran it’s 25%,” and noted that the bank finds “potential in unexpected places.” Some interpreted this to mean that HSBC was pursuing investment opportunities in Iran, but the bank denied that was the ad’s intent.

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin reported on Dec. 26 that the bank has recently “drawn the attention of various regulators” and is currently “being probed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.” Regulators at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago also reportedly “found that the bank’s compliance program was ineffective and created ‘significant potential’ for money laundering and terrorist financing. This opened HSBC to the possibility that it was conducting transactions on behalf of sanctioned entities.”

While HSBC has already pulled the offending advertisement, it makes sense that it would want to smooth things over with the State Department. The department has been a vocal critic of the Iranian regime’s oppressive treatment of women and disregard for human rights, and it’s easy to see how the ad could have ruffled some feathers there.

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NIF Cuts Off Funding for BDS Groups

Some Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions groups are going to have to find a new way to bankroll their important anti-Israel endeavors (hummus boycotts, costume parties, impromptu choral performances) because the New Israel Fund is cutting off funding for organizations involved in the BDS movement.

NIF has been criticized for giving grants to groups that engage in anti-Israel boycott campaigns, such as Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, Mossawa, Machsom Watch, and Women Against Violence. The fund amended its website on Dec. 13 to reflect its change in policy:

The NIF opposes the global BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as ineffective and counterproductive and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel.

NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.

I’m really pleased to see NIF finally come around on this issue. But as Jeffrey Goldberg noted at the Atlantic, NIF’s statement stopped short of rebuking the BDS movement as a whole. “I was slightly taken aback by [CEO Daniel] Sokatch’s statement that, ‘segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel,’” wrote Goldberg. “I would say that undermining the existence of the state of Israel is this movement’s raison d’etre.”

And while the change in policy is still new, several of the boycott groups that NIF was funding have yet to remove their affiliations with NIF from their websites. Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, and Mossawa are still asking their donors to route contributions through NIF.

NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that has pressured the New Israel Fund to cut ties with BDS groups, asked for these links to be removed. “NIF now needs to implement these important new guidelines,” [NGO Monitor president] Professor Gerald Steinberg [wrote]. “Despite NIF’s new policy, CWP’s and Who Profits’ websites still provide links for donations via NIF.  These links should be removed immediately. We also expect NIF to clarify how and when the new grant guidelines will be enforced, and we are prepared to work with NIF and its donors in their implementation. As NIF severs ties with groups that promote BDS, it is on the same page as NGO Monitor.”

Also, while scrolling through NIF’s funding guidelines on its website, I came across another statement outlining the group’s policy on “lawfare” that (I think) is new:

As the leading organization advancing democracy in Israel, the New Israel Fund strongly believes that our job is to work within Israel to ensure democratic accountability.

With a free press, involved citizenry, a strong and independent judiciary, and a track record of officially constituted commissions and committees of inquiry, there are internal means to hold Israeli leaders accountable to the law, and we work to strengthen all those institutions. We therefore firmly oppose attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in foreign courts as an inherent principle of our dedication to Israeli democracy.

While it’s great to hear that NIF opposes lawfare, this statement means absolutely nothing unless the organization is willing to stop funding organizations that use lawfare tactics against Israel. The New Israel Fund practically is the lawfare movement — its grants basically keep the campaign alive. If NIF cut off financing to lawfare groups, it could cripple the movement.

So while these policy changes are an improvement, it looks like NIF still has a ways to go before it can be considered a respectable pro-Israel group.

Some Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions groups are going to have to find a new way to bankroll their important anti-Israel endeavors (hummus boycotts, costume parties, impromptu choral performances) because the New Israel Fund is cutting off funding for organizations involved in the BDS movement.

NIF has been criticized for giving grants to groups that engage in anti-Israel boycott campaigns, such as Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, Mossawa, Machsom Watch, and Women Against Violence. The fund amended its website on Dec. 13 to reflect its change in policy:

The NIF opposes the global BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as ineffective and counterproductive and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel.

NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.

I’m really pleased to see NIF finally come around on this issue. But as Jeffrey Goldberg noted at the Atlantic, NIF’s statement stopped short of rebuking the BDS movement as a whole. “I was slightly taken aback by [CEO Daniel] Sokatch’s statement that, ‘segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel,’” wrote Goldberg. “I would say that undermining the existence of the state of Israel is this movement’s raison d’etre.”

And while the change in policy is still new, several of the boycott groups that NIF was funding have yet to remove their affiliations with NIF from their websites. Concerned Women for Peace, Israel Social TV, and Mossawa are still asking their donors to route contributions through NIF.

NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that has pressured the New Israel Fund to cut ties with BDS groups, asked for these links to be removed. “NIF now needs to implement these important new guidelines,” [NGO Monitor president] Professor Gerald Steinberg [wrote]. “Despite NIF’s new policy, CWP’s and Who Profits’ websites still provide links for donations via NIF.  These links should be removed immediately. We also expect NIF to clarify how and when the new grant guidelines will be enforced, and we are prepared to work with NIF and its donors in their implementation. As NIF severs ties with groups that promote BDS, it is on the same page as NGO Monitor.”

Also, while scrolling through NIF’s funding guidelines on its website, I came across another statement outlining the group’s policy on “lawfare” that (I think) is new:

As the leading organization advancing democracy in Israel, the New Israel Fund strongly believes that our job is to work within Israel to ensure democratic accountability.

With a free press, involved citizenry, a strong and independent judiciary, and a track record of officially constituted commissions and committees of inquiry, there are internal means to hold Israeli leaders accountable to the law, and we work to strengthen all those institutions. We therefore firmly oppose attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in foreign courts as an inherent principle of our dedication to Israeli democracy.

While it’s great to hear that NIF opposes lawfare, this statement means absolutely nothing unless the organization is willing to stop funding organizations that use lawfare tactics against Israel. The New Israel Fund practically is the lawfare movement — its grants basically keep the campaign alive. If NIF cut off financing to lawfare groups, it could cripple the movement.

So while these policy changes are an improvement, it looks like NIF still has a ways to go before it can be considered a respectable pro-Israel group.

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Mark Zuckerberg as Time‘s ‘Person of the Year’: A Brilliant Choice

As is always the case, it seems, Time magazine’s selection of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year is generating scorn and outrage from people who had their own candidates — the Tea Partier, for example, or Julian Assange, or Kim Kardashian (my choice). This is silly (yes, so is my choice). As is often the case, the true Person of the Year is the president of the United States, and Time picked Obama two years ago; it doesn’t want to get boring. In any case, the magazine rarely makes its choice based solely on whom it thinks is the dominant news or power figure. (When it makes a selection based on newsworthiness without paying heed to the sense people have that it is a kind of news Oscar, Time courts a kind of controversy its editors and business side generally don’t like at all. The magazine received tens of thousands of letters protesting its choice in 1979 of Ayatollah Khomeini, for example.)

In point of fact, Zuckerberg is a brilliant selection. He has changed the daily habits and practices of hundreds of millions of people in a shockingly short time (Facebook is all of five years old). Despite the claims that Facebook endangers marriages and encourages bullying and all that — all of which simply represents an adaptation of pre-Facebook human failings to a new technology rather than a wholly new form of destructive interaction — it seems to me to be far more benign than malign. In any case, its creation and success are significant events in the history of capitalism, communications, and social relations, and Zuckerberg is more likely than most leaders alive today to be remembered 100 years from now as a hinge figure in history. He may, in other words, be something more than simply Person of the Year.

As is always the case, it seems, Time magazine’s selection of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year is generating scorn and outrage from people who had their own candidates — the Tea Partier, for example, or Julian Assange, or Kim Kardashian (my choice). This is silly (yes, so is my choice). As is often the case, the true Person of the Year is the president of the United States, and Time picked Obama two years ago; it doesn’t want to get boring. In any case, the magazine rarely makes its choice based solely on whom it thinks is the dominant news or power figure. (When it makes a selection based on newsworthiness without paying heed to the sense people have that it is a kind of news Oscar, Time courts a kind of controversy its editors and business side generally don’t like at all. The magazine received tens of thousands of letters protesting its choice in 1979 of Ayatollah Khomeini, for example.)

In point of fact, Zuckerberg is a brilliant selection. He has changed the daily habits and practices of hundreds of millions of people in a shockingly short time (Facebook is all of five years old). Despite the claims that Facebook endangers marriages and encourages bullying and all that — all of which simply represents an adaptation of pre-Facebook human failings to a new technology rather than a wholly new form of destructive interaction — it seems to me to be far more benign than malign. In any case, its creation and success are significant events in the history of capitalism, communications, and social relations, and Zuckerberg is more likely than most leaders alive today to be remembered 100 years from now as a hinge figure in history. He may, in other words, be something more than simply Person of the Year.

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RE: Debt Commission Surprises

As I observed yesterday, the debt commission came out with a preliminary report that was better than expected from the perspective of conservatives and an anathema to liberals. The Wall Street Journal editors outline some of the negative aspects of the report: adhering to ObamaCare, too much timidity on discretionary spending cuts and entitlements, and an anti-jobs hike in the payroll tax. But the editors are mildly impressed:

Everyone to the right of MoveOn.org knows that the 35% corporate tax rate is a disincentive to invest in America and has sent businesses pleading to Congress for this or that loophole. This is the second Obama-appointed outfit to recommend a cut in the corporate tax rate, following Paul Volcker’s economic advisory group this year, and it ought to be one basis for bipartisan agreement. …

Mr. Obama conceived the deficit commission as a form of political cover for his spending blowout—and to coax Republicans into a tax increase. So it’s notable that Democrats and liberals have been more critical of the chairmen’s draft than have Republicans. Having put the U.S. in a fiscal hole, Nancy Pelosi’s minority wants to oppose all spending cuts or entitlement reform to climb out.

House Republicans should react accordingly, which means taking what they like from the commission report and making it part of their own budget proposals. If Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama want to regain any fiscal credibility, they’ll be willing to listen and talk. If not, the voters will certainly have a choice in 2012.

To a large extent, then, the report is a useful political document for the right. It helps sniff out who is serious about spending restraint and who is not, and it embraces a methodology for tax reform that conservatives can support and liberals almost certainly can’t. (Let the “rich” pay have a top marginal rate of 24 percent? Oh the horror!)

To put it bluntly, the left got rolled here. This group of Democrats, for lack of a better term, was comprised mostly of “Third Wave”/Democratic Leadership Council types. The Former Fed vice chairman Alice Rivlin is a grown-up. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. John Spratt are about the most responsible Democrats you could  find. By contrast, the liberals who were there, as one Washington insider pointed out to me yesterday, are “unserious” people. You can’t get more of a lightweight and a un-influential Democrat than the hard left Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The left is already fingering the commission’s executive director Bruce Reed as the culprit. Reed, of course, was the CEO of the DLC and later a top domestic-policy adviser and welfare-reform bill author under Bill Clinton. He personifies what the netroots and Obama disdain — a pro-business, split-the-baby style of Democratic politics.

But the most predictable and provincial reaction came from a news outlet with skin in the game. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NPR are denouncing the recommendation of the co-chairs of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, long an objective of many conservatives.”  I’m sure that won’t affect their news coverage of the commission. Not in the least.

So the takeaway is that there are serious Democrats, just not in the White House (the Obama people were hiding under their desks yesterday) or many in the Congress. This presents a golden opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate they are the adults inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, the Democratic Senate and House caucuses with the exception of commissioner Conrad are not.

As I observed yesterday, the debt commission came out with a preliminary report that was better than expected from the perspective of conservatives and an anathema to liberals. The Wall Street Journal editors outline some of the negative aspects of the report: adhering to ObamaCare, too much timidity on discretionary spending cuts and entitlements, and an anti-jobs hike in the payroll tax. But the editors are mildly impressed:

Everyone to the right of MoveOn.org knows that the 35% corporate tax rate is a disincentive to invest in America and has sent businesses pleading to Congress for this or that loophole. This is the second Obama-appointed outfit to recommend a cut in the corporate tax rate, following Paul Volcker’s economic advisory group this year, and it ought to be one basis for bipartisan agreement. …

Mr. Obama conceived the deficit commission as a form of political cover for his spending blowout—and to coax Republicans into a tax increase. So it’s notable that Democrats and liberals have been more critical of the chairmen’s draft than have Republicans. Having put the U.S. in a fiscal hole, Nancy Pelosi’s minority wants to oppose all spending cuts or entitlement reform to climb out.

House Republicans should react accordingly, which means taking what they like from the commission report and making it part of their own budget proposals. If Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama want to regain any fiscal credibility, they’ll be willing to listen and talk. If not, the voters will certainly have a choice in 2012.

To a large extent, then, the report is a useful political document for the right. It helps sniff out who is serious about spending restraint and who is not, and it embraces a methodology for tax reform that conservatives can support and liberals almost certainly can’t. (Let the “rich” pay have a top marginal rate of 24 percent? Oh the horror!)

To put it bluntly, the left got rolled here. This group of Democrats, for lack of a better term, was comprised mostly of “Third Wave”/Democratic Leadership Council types. The Former Fed vice chairman Alice Rivlin is a grown-up. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. John Spratt are about the most responsible Democrats you could  find. By contrast, the liberals who were there, as one Washington insider pointed out to me yesterday, are “unserious” people. You can’t get more of a lightweight and a un-influential Democrat than the hard left Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The left is already fingering the commission’s executive director Bruce Reed as the culprit. Reed, of course, was the CEO of the DLC and later a top domestic-policy adviser and welfare-reform bill author under Bill Clinton. He personifies what the netroots and Obama disdain — a pro-business, split-the-baby style of Democratic politics.

But the most predictable and provincial reaction came from a news outlet with skin in the game. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NPR are denouncing the recommendation of the co-chairs of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, long an objective of many conservatives.”  I’m sure that won’t affect their news coverage of the commission. Not in the least.

So the takeaway is that there are serious Democrats, just not in the White House (the Obama people were hiding under their desks yesterday) or many in the Congress. This presents a golden opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate they are the adults inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, the Democratic Senate and House caucuses with the exception of commissioner Conrad are not.

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Could NPR Survive Without the Taxpayers?

As I previously noted, NPR’s perennial claim that only a sliver of its funding comes from the taxpayers is misleading. Now CEO Vivian Schiller comes clean:

“If defunding to public broadcasting were to occur, it would be devastating to public broadcasting. That’s a fact,” Schiller said.

After Schiller fired commentator Juan Williams several weeks ago for comments he made about Muslims on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor,” calls for defunding NPR erupted again.

“Almost all federal funding goes to member stations,” Schiller said. “Very, very little of it goes to NPR, but a lot goes to stations.”

While NPR headquarters only receives about 1 percent of funding from tax dollars, member stations receive about 9 percent of their funding from tax dollars, Schiller said. She said that the 9 percent NPR member stations receive from taxpayer dollars is essential for them to stay on the air.

“For small stations, and even for large stations, that’s a big chunk of their revenue,” she said. “It’s been a critical part of keeping those stations vibrant and, so, we take these calls for defunding very, very seriously.”

But not seriously enough to curtail its blatant left-leaning bias or to apply its internal rules in an evenhanded manner. (She sneers, however, at cable news for “its partisan nature.” News exec, heal thyself!)

In the big scheme of things, the public financial support for NPR is chump change. But there could be no better example of unnecessary and unhelpful government spending. If the public loves NPR as much as Schiller seems to believe it does, then let the listeners, or NPR’s largest donor, pay for it. And according to her, the NPR audience is so very educated and special (wow wee — its blog commenters debated the dimensions of the Colorado balloon, which was the subject of a media hoax). Such people are just the types to support NPR — unless, of course, they figure that over-the-air and satellite radio stations are more than enough to satisfy their listening needs.

Schiller finds that thought — fending for herself in the free market – petrifying. She should.

As I previously noted, NPR’s perennial claim that only a sliver of its funding comes from the taxpayers is misleading. Now CEO Vivian Schiller comes clean:

“If defunding to public broadcasting were to occur, it would be devastating to public broadcasting. That’s a fact,” Schiller said.

After Schiller fired commentator Juan Williams several weeks ago for comments he made about Muslims on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor,” calls for defunding NPR erupted again.

“Almost all federal funding goes to member stations,” Schiller said. “Very, very little of it goes to NPR, but a lot goes to stations.”

While NPR headquarters only receives about 1 percent of funding from tax dollars, member stations receive about 9 percent of their funding from tax dollars, Schiller said. She said that the 9 percent NPR member stations receive from taxpayer dollars is essential for them to stay on the air.

“For small stations, and even for large stations, that’s a big chunk of their revenue,” she said. “It’s been a critical part of keeping those stations vibrant and, so, we take these calls for defunding very, very seriously.”

But not seriously enough to curtail its blatant left-leaning bias or to apply its internal rules in an evenhanded manner. (She sneers, however, at cable news for “its partisan nature.” News exec, heal thyself!)

In the big scheme of things, the public financial support for NPR is chump change. But there could be no better example of unnecessary and unhelpful government spending. If the public loves NPR as much as Schiller seems to believe it does, then let the listeners, or NPR’s largest donor, pay for it. And according to her, the NPR audience is so very educated and special (wow wee — its blog commenters debated the dimensions of the Colorado balloon, which was the subject of a media hoax). Such people are just the types to support NPR — unless, of course, they figure that over-the-air and satellite radio stations are more than enough to satisfy their listening needs.

Schiller finds that thought — fending for herself in the free market – petrifying. She should.

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NPR Keeps Digging

Vivian Schiller, NPR’s CEO, who will be remembered for her firing of Juan Williams and her slander of him thereafter, has apologized. Sort of. Not to him, mind you. She has sent a letter that reads somewhat like a Dilbert cartoon — evidencing all the ham-handedness and nastiness you would expect, coupled with a little dollop of obsequiousness. She has written a letter to her “program colleagues,” revealing that Juan Williams had been warned (i.e., issued a verbal discipline) in the past — another inappropriate disclosure:

Juan Williams’ comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR’s standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst.

She concedes that others could disagree with the decision. (Like every newsperson in America and about 90 percent of the public.) She then vaguely apologizes for the way in which the firing was handled:

While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. … I stand by my decision to end NPR’s relationship with Juan Williams, but deeply regret the way I handled and explained it.

I think she means she’s sorry she didn’t give them talking points, but she’s not ashamed she smeared Williams by suggesting that he talk to his psychiatrist (which he does not have). Not clear whether she also regrets the squirrelly manner of the firing — over the phone (classy, guys). She closes by asking for suggestions.

Here are three. First, fire Schiller, who has brought disgrace (well, more than before) on NPR. She fired a valuable commodity, slandered him, incurred the wrath of the journalistic community, and put her organization’s funding at risk. Forget the morality of it; she’s simply incompetent.

Second, fire all the NPR “analysts” who do precisely what Juan Williams does — offer opinions in public (does that cover cocktail parties, by the way?). If she’s serious about the grave nature of Williams’s offenses, she shouldn’t have singled him out, right? (If a conservative news outlet did this, the NAACP would have picket lines around the building.)

And finally, she promises that “[w]e will also review and re-articulate our written ethics guidelines to make them as clear and relevant as possible for our acquired show partners, our staff, Member stations and the public.” That’s a good idea — because if you have no guidelines or hopelessly vague ones, arbitrarily applied, you get yourself in a lot of hot water.

Vivian Schiller, NPR’s CEO, who will be remembered for her firing of Juan Williams and her slander of him thereafter, has apologized. Sort of. Not to him, mind you. She has sent a letter that reads somewhat like a Dilbert cartoon — evidencing all the ham-handedness and nastiness you would expect, coupled with a little dollop of obsequiousness. She has written a letter to her “program colleagues,” revealing that Juan Williams had been warned (i.e., issued a verbal discipline) in the past — another inappropriate disclosure:

Juan Williams’ comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR’s standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst.

She concedes that others could disagree with the decision. (Like every newsperson in America and about 90 percent of the public.) She then vaguely apologizes for the way in which the firing was handled:

While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. … I stand by my decision to end NPR’s relationship with Juan Williams, but deeply regret the way I handled and explained it.

I think she means she’s sorry she didn’t give them talking points, but she’s not ashamed she smeared Williams by suggesting that he talk to his psychiatrist (which he does not have). Not clear whether she also regrets the squirrelly manner of the firing — over the phone (classy, guys). She closes by asking for suggestions.

Here are three. First, fire Schiller, who has brought disgrace (well, more than before) on NPR. She fired a valuable commodity, slandered him, incurred the wrath of the journalistic community, and put her organization’s funding at risk. Forget the morality of it; she’s simply incompetent.

Second, fire all the NPR “analysts” who do precisely what Juan Williams does — offer opinions in public (does that cover cocktail parties, by the way?). If she’s serious about the grave nature of Williams’s offenses, she shouldn’t have singled him out, right? (If a conservative news outlet did this, the NAACP would have picket lines around the building.)

And finally, she promises that “[w]e will also review and re-articulate our written ethics guidelines to make them as clear and relevant as possible for our acquired show partners, our staff, Member stations and the public.” That’s a good idea — because if you have no guidelines or hopelessly vague ones, arbitrarily applied, you get yourself in a lot of hot water.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

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Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s an understatement: “Juan Williams said Friday morning that NPR fired him this week because the radio network had become ‘vindictive’ over his appearances on Fox News.” Exhibit A: “NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his comments between himself and ‘his psychiatrist or his publicist.’ Schiller later apologized for the comment.” As a recovering labor lawyer, I can tell you that’s a plaintiff’s dream come true.

There’s a signal here: “The average of these states show that early voting has shifted from a D+16.6 partisan split to a D+1.7 partisan split for a Republican gain of +14.9% since 2008.” So many voters operating with the lizard brain, aren’t there?

There’s another reason to repeal ObamaCare. “Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf said Friday that ObamaCare includes work disincentives likely to shrink the amount of labor used in the economy.”

There’s no indication as to how they feel about Juan Williams. “Al-Qaeda Troubled by Helen Thomas’s Firing.”

There’s no indication that Jews agree with the tut-tutters that Israel is too “divisive” a campaign issue. JTA reports: “The National Jewish Democratic Council is running a ‘Day of Action,’ a get out the vote effort, nationwide on Sunday. The Republican Jewish Coalition is  chockablock with events in the coming days, including an appearance by former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer in Chicago, where a lot of RJC attention has been focused, backing candidates Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for the Senate and Joel Pollak and Bob Dold for the House. The RJC is running TV ads in the Philadelphia area targeting Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), the candidate for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat — not for J Street deviations from dogma, as in the past, but for backing civilian trials for terrorists.”

There’s not a single one predicting the Democrats will hold the House (number of predicted losses are in parenthesis): Larry Sabato (47), RCP (“up to 57″), Charlie Cook (52), Jay Cost (61), and Nate Silver (51).

There’s a headline for Peter Sellers’s fans: “Not Even Clouseau Could Make Panthers Disappear.” Quin Hillyer cites the Washington Post front-page story from yesterday and explains, “[Eric] Holder’s stonewalling can’t work. The truth will out. The truth appears to involve a pattern of race-based enforcement decisions at DOJ. Such a policy is unlawful. Period.” Actually, “Exclamation point!”

There’s no hotter Republican than Chris Christie. “He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he’s already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He’s well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. ‘If I wanted to be sure I’d be re-elected, I’d cozy up with the teachers union. … But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change.’”

There’s a lot of hype in the reporting on the WikiLeaks documents, says Tom Joscelyn. But, he explains, the documents do confirm “that Iran was, and remains, a principal sponsor of Shia extremist groups in Iraq. These same groups helped bring Iraq to the brink of chaos — along with al-Qaeda, which was also happy to fuel the sectarian violence. … They killed far more civilians than the American-led coalition ever did.”

There’s probably been a more counterproductive ad than Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. But I just can’t think of one.

There’s an understatement: “Juan Williams said Friday morning that NPR fired him this week because the radio network had become ‘vindictive’ over his appearances on Fox News.” Exhibit A: “NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his comments between himself and ‘his psychiatrist or his publicist.’ Schiller later apologized for the comment.” As a recovering labor lawyer, I can tell you that’s a plaintiff’s dream come true.

There’s a signal here: “The average of these states show that early voting has shifted from a D+16.6 partisan split to a D+1.7 partisan split for a Republican gain of +14.9% since 2008.” So many voters operating with the lizard brain, aren’t there?

There’s another reason to repeal ObamaCare. “Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf said Friday that ObamaCare includes work disincentives likely to shrink the amount of labor used in the economy.”

There’s no indication as to how they feel about Juan Williams. “Al-Qaeda Troubled by Helen Thomas’s Firing.”

There’s no indication that Jews agree with the tut-tutters that Israel is too “divisive” a campaign issue. JTA reports: “The National Jewish Democratic Council is running a ‘Day of Action,’ a get out the vote effort, nationwide on Sunday. The Republican Jewish Coalition is  chockablock with events in the coming days, including an appearance by former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer in Chicago, where a lot of RJC attention has been focused, backing candidates Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for the Senate and Joel Pollak and Bob Dold for the House. The RJC is running TV ads in the Philadelphia area targeting Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), the candidate for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat — not for J Street deviations from dogma, as in the past, but for backing civilian trials for terrorists.”

There’s not a single one predicting the Democrats will hold the House (number of predicted losses are in parenthesis): Larry Sabato (47), RCP (“up to 57″), Charlie Cook (52), Jay Cost (61), and Nate Silver (51).

There’s a headline for Peter Sellers’s fans: “Not Even Clouseau Could Make Panthers Disappear.” Quin Hillyer cites the Washington Post front-page story from yesterday and explains, “[Eric] Holder’s stonewalling can’t work. The truth will out. The truth appears to involve a pattern of race-based enforcement decisions at DOJ. Such a policy is unlawful. Period.” Actually, “Exclamation point!”

There’s no hotter Republican than Chris Christie. “He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he’s already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He’s well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. ‘If I wanted to be sure I’d be re-elected, I’d cozy up with the teachers union. … But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change.’”

There’s a lot of hype in the reporting on the WikiLeaks documents, says Tom Joscelyn. But, he explains, the documents do confirm “that Iran was, and remains, a principal sponsor of Shia extremist groups in Iraq. These same groups helped bring Iraq to the brink of chaos — along with al-Qaeda, which was also happy to fuel the sectarian violence. … They killed far more civilians than the American-led coalition ever did.”

There’s probably been a more counterproductive ad than Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. But I just can’t think of one.

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How About a Competent Replacement for Summers?

Larry Summers is heading back to Harvard. His tenure as head of the National Economic Council was marked by escalating unemployment, a flood of red ink, and an assault on employers. The Obama team, we are told, is out looking for a “female CEO.” Aside from the irony (Summers got in hot water for suggesting that the relative paucity of women in the sciences isn’t due to discrimination but to some innate inability and lifestyle preferences), this is yet another instance in which the Obama team seems obsessed with the wrong things.

What about someone — woman or man — who knows what the heck she/he is doing and doesn’t view American business as the enemy? How about someone who thinks raising taxes in a recession is a horrid idea? The short list includes such non-CEO types as “Rebecca Blank, a Commerce Department official who oversees the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis” and Laura Tyson, who has split her time between government and the University of California at Berkeley (not kidding). In other words, the CEO part is optional; the female part is not. There are also some real CEOs on the “only gals need apply” list.

This females-only-for-the-economic-team-captain gambit is ludicrous — the type of overt discrimination that, if evidenced in the private sector, would be illegal. It once again reveals that politics and groveling to special interests are much more important to the Obami than is sound governance.

Larry Summers is heading back to Harvard. His tenure as head of the National Economic Council was marked by escalating unemployment, a flood of red ink, and an assault on employers. The Obama team, we are told, is out looking for a “female CEO.” Aside from the irony (Summers got in hot water for suggesting that the relative paucity of women in the sciences isn’t due to discrimination but to some innate inability and lifestyle preferences), this is yet another instance in which the Obama team seems obsessed with the wrong things.

What about someone — woman or man — who knows what the heck she/he is doing and doesn’t view American business as the enemy? How about someone who thinks raising taxes in a recession is a horrid idea? The short list includes such non-CEO types as “Rebecca Blank, a Commerce Department official who oversees the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis” and Laura Tyson, who has split her time between government and the University of California at Berkeley (not kidding). In other words, the CEO part is optional; the female part is not. There are also some real CEOs on the “only gals need apply” list.

This females-only-for-the-economic-team-captain gambit is ludicrous — the type of overt discrimination that, if evidenced in the private sector, would be illegal. It once again reveals that politics and groveling to special interests are much more important to the Obami than is sound governance.

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J Street Unmasked

The Washington Jewish Week reveals just how far off the path J Street has wandered from its ostensible purpose:

J Street — the self-professed “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group — appears to have waded further into domestic waters in recent weeks with the launch of a website assailing “neoconservatives and far-right evangelical Christians” for purporting to speak on behalf of the Jewish community. …

J Street’s website, www.theydontspeakforus.com, purports to expose Bauer and Kristol as far-right extremists who are out of sync with the majority of American Jews by outlining the pair’s views on a range of foreign and domestic policy issues.

Among other topics — such as the Gaza Strip and Iraq war — the site highlights the pair’s stances on gay marriage, a woman’s right to choose, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement and the separation of church and state.

What does all that have to do with Israel? Not much — and it has confused even the Democrats:

“This [J Street] website confuses me,” said Ira Forman, an independent consultant who recently stepped down as the CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “To me, if you are trying to push a pro-Israel, pro-peace message, you want to be non-ideological and nonpartisan. … But when you use these terms [such as gay marriage and others], it’s making Israel a partisan wedge issue. I don’t understand how that helps the central mission of J Street.” (Forman made it clear that he was speaking on his own behalf, and not the NJDC’s.) Added another pro-Israel Democratic operative, who was not authorized by his employer to speak on the record: The website “takes away from some of J Street’s legitimacy as a foreign policy voice when they buttress their arguments with domestic issues.”

“What J Street is saying is people who don’t support gay marriage and who are pro-life are out of the mainstream Jewish community. That is a fact, but it has nothing to do with their support for Israel,” the source said. “Is J Street saying you can’t have an individual who’s pro-life, anti-gay” also be “supportive of the state of Israel?”

OK, so let’s all be clear here. J Street is a leftist group, not a pro-Israel one. And for leftist Jews the mantra is: global warming is killing the planet, abortion on demand must be protected, and Israel is wrong on [fill in the blank]. Once you have that straight, its website and ongoing Israel-bashing make perfect sense. Meanwhile, is it relevant? The reporter seems skeptical:

But if the group is to increase its political clout, it needs to demonstrate that it’s not simply an Obama administration tool, said an official with a pro-Israel organization who agreed to speak only on background. “There is a sense in the pro-Israel community — and there have been complaints — that J Street has not [made] a fair effort to show bipartisanship.”

So far in the 2010 election cycle, JStreetPAC, the group’s political action committee, has distributed nearly $1 million to 60 Democratic candidates and one Republican.

Yeah, not too bipartisan. (And that one Republican? Why, it’s the longtime Israel critic Charles Boustany.) Meanwhile, it’s not clear J Street is even a tool of the Obami. Since the later went on the charm offensive and dropped the settlement freeze as a precondition for talks, J Street hasn’t even been in sync with the administration. So I’m still stumped: whom does J Street speak for?

The Washington Jewish Week reveals just how far off the path J Street has wandered from its ostensible purpose:

J Street — the self-professed “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group — appears to have waded further into domestic waters in recent weeks with the launch of a website assailing “neoconservatives and far-right evangelical Christians” for purporting to speak on behalf of the Jewish community. …

J Street’s website, www.theydontspeakforus.com, purports to expose Bauer and Kristol as far-right extremists who are out of sync with the majority of American Jews by outlining the pair’s views on a range of foreign and domestic policy issues.

Among other topics — such as the Gaza Strip and Iraq war — the site highlights the pair’s stances on gay marriage, a woman’s right to choose, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement and the separation of church and state.

What does all that have to do with Israel? Not much — and it has confused even the Democrats:

“This [J Street] website confuses me,” said Ira Forman, an independent consultant who recently stepped down as the CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “To me, if you are trying to push a pro-Israel, pro-peace message, you want to be non-ideological and nonpartisan. … But when you use these terms [such as gay marriage and others], it’s making Israel a partisan wedge issue. I don’t understand how that helps the central mission of J Street.” (Forman made it clear that he was speaking on his own behalf, and not the NJDC’s.) Added another pro-Israel Democratic operative, who was not authorized by his employer to speak on the record: The website “takes away from some of J Street’s legitimacy as a foreign policy voice when they buttress their arguments with domestic issues.”

“What J Street is saying is people who don’t support gay marriage and who are pro-life are out of the mainstream Jewish community. That is a fact, but it has nothing to do with their support for Israel,” the source said. “Is J Street saying you can’t have an individual who’s pro-life, anti-gay” also be “supportive of the state of Israel?”

OK, so let’s all be clear here. J Street is a leftist group, not a pro-Israel one. And for leftist Jews the mantra is: global warming is killing the planet, abortion on demand must be protected, and Israel is wrong on [fill in the blank]. Once you have that straight, its website and ongoing Israel-bashing make perfect sense. Meanwhile, is it relevant? The reporter seems skeptical:

But if the group is to increase its political clout, it needs to demonstrate that it’s not simply an Obama administration tool, said an official with a pro-Israel organization who agreed to speak only on background. “There is a sense in the pro-Israel community — and there have been complaints — that J Street has not [made] a fair effort to show bipartisanship.”

So far in the 2010 election cycle, JStreetPAC, the group’s political action committee, has distributed nearly $1 million to 60 Democratic candidates and one Republican.

Yeah, not too bipartisan. (And that one Republican? Why, it’s the longtime Israel critic Charles Boustany.) Meanwhile, it’s not clear J Street is even a tool of the Obami. Since the later went on the charm offensive and dropped the settlement freeze as a precondition for talks, J Street hasn’t even been in sync with the administration. So I’m still stumped: whom does J Street speak for?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not even Dana Milbank can make excuses for Imam Abdul Rauf: “He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he — unintentionally, he says — set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.”

Not even Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen is advocating a partial extension of the Bush tax cuts. “If [Republicans] were to come back and say, ‘hey, let’s just do one year for the top 2 percent, and permanent for the middle class,’ that would be something that obviously people would have to think about,’ Van Hollen said in an interview with Bloomberg this past weekend. Van Hollen’s suggestion partially mirrors a plan outlined by former White House budget director Peter Orszag, who argued that Democrats and Republicans should back a fixed two year extension of all the tax cuts and then end them altogether.”

Not even Senate Democrats want to end the Bush tax cuts: “[T]he list of Senate Democrats in favor of an extension is now up to five. Evan Bayh (Indiana), Kent Conrad (North Dakota) and Ben Nelson (Warren Buffett) were already on board, and this week Connecticut Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman and Virginia’s Jim Webb came around.”

Not even Connecticut is safe for the Democrats. “Pres. Obama’s poll numbers have plummeted in Connecticut, a state he carried by an overwhelming margin 2 years ago. A majority of likely voters — 52% — in the Quinnipiac poll disapprove of how Obama is handling his job as president. Only 45% approve of his performance. The Quinnipiac survey found Blumenthal leading former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 6 points — 51% to 45%.” Hey, if Scott Brown can win “Ted Kennedy’s seat” then McMahon can win ” Chris Dodd’s seat.”

Not even competent, says Mona Charen, of the president: “The president himself doesn’t at all concede that government is attempting to do too much (and failing at most of it). On the contrary, his vanity (and it is a common one for left-wingers) is that he believes his particular ideas on business investment, medical procedures, housing, and thousands of other matters are the solutions to our woes, but ‘politics’ keeps getting in the way.” All that Ivy League education did, it seems, is convince Obama of his own brilliance.

Not even Imam Abdul Rauf may be able to resist pressure to move the Ground Zero mosque. Now he’s telling us it is all about serving Lower Manhattan’s Muslim residents. Gosh, seems like there already are mosques in the neighborhood.

Not even second place for Charlie Crist if this trend continues: “The independent Senate bid of Florida Governor Charlie Crist is in serious trouble, according to a new Fox News poll. Crist drew 27 percent of likely voters in the poll of the three-way race. Republican Marco Rubio registered 43 percent support. Democrat Kendrick Meek came in third with 21 percent.” Republican Senate candidates also lead in the Fox poll in Nevada (by one point), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Barbara Boxer is up by only 2 points.

Not even Dana Milbank can make excuses for Imam Abdul Rauf: “He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he — unintentionally, he says — set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.”

Not even Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen is advocating a partial extension of the Bush tax cuts. “If [Republicans] were to come back and say, ‘hey, let’s just do one year for the top 2 percent, and permanent for the middle class,’ that would be something that obviously people would have to think about,’ Van Hollen said in an interview with Bloomberg this past weekend. Van Hollen’s suggestion partially mirrors a plan outlined by former White House budget director Peter Orszag, who argued that Democrats and Republicans should back a fixed two year extension of all the tax cuts and then end them altogether.”

Not even Senate Democrats want to end the Bush tax cuts: “[T]he list of Senate Democrats in favor of an extension is now up to five. Evan Bayh (Indiana), Kent Conrad (North Dakota) and Ben Nelson (Warren Buffett) were already on board, and this week Connecticut Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman and Virginia’s Jim Webb came around.”

Not even Connecticut is safe for the Democrats. “Pres. Obama’s poll numbers have plummeted in Connecticut, a state he carried by an overwhelming margin 2 years ago. A majority of likely voters — 52% — in the Quinnipiac poll disapprove of how Obama is handling his job as president. Only 45% approve of his performance. The Quinnipiac survey found Blumenthal leading former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 6 points — 51% to 45%.” Hey, if Scott Brown can win “Ted Kennedy’s seat” then McMahon can win ” Chris Dodd’s seat.”

Not even competent, says Mona Charen, of the president: “The president himself doesn’t at all concede that government is attempting to do too much (and failing at most of it). On the contrary, his vanity (and it is a common one for left-wingers) is that he believes his particular ideas on business investment, medical procedures, housing, and thousands of other matters are the solutions to our woes, but ‘politics’ keeps getting in the way.” All that Ivy League education did, it seems, is convince Obama of his own brilliance.

Not even Imam Abdul Rauf may be able to resist pressure to move the Ground Zero mosque. Now he’s telling us it is all about serving Lower Manhattan’s Muslim residents. Gosh, seems like there already are mosques in the neighborhood.

Not even second place for Charlie Crist if this trend continues: “The independent Senate bid of Florida Governor Charlie Crist is in serious trouble, according to a new Fox News poll. Crist drew 27 percent of likely voters in the poll of the three-way race. Republican Marco Rubio registered 43 percent support. Democrat Kendrick Meek came in third with 21 percent.” Republican Senate candidates also lead in the Fox poll in Nevada (by one point), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Barbara Boxer is up by only 2 points.

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Whitman Skewers Brown

I don’t often agree with Mark Halperin’s political take, which is often indistinguishable from the Democratic talking points of the day. But it’s hard to quibble with his observation that the Meg Whitman ad using Bill Clinton to skewer Jerry Brown’s tax record as governor is “probably the best TV spot by any campaign all cycle.” It does three things that a devastating political ad must do.

First, it uses a well-known figure not obviously aligned with the candidate to attack her opponent (i.e., get a credible, independent critic). Second, it drills down on an issue central to the campaign (taxes) while also hitting the opponent on character. And finally, it’s not an obvious out-of-context clip. By allowing Clinton to speak at length (he was a fast talker!), Whitman avoids the charge that her ad is a “hatchet” job.

And sure enough, Whitman has Brown running in circles, forcing him to apologize to Clinton (whom Brown attacked when the ad was released).

Some observers questioned Whitman’s street smarts and political skill when the eBay CEO announced her run. She has shown, unlike her opponent (whose fondness for Nazi analogies got him in hot water earlier in the race), that she knows how to handle herself and tie her opponent in knots. The race remains close, but if this keeps up, California will get to test the proposition that government should be run more like a business. A successful one, we hope.

I don’t often agree with Mark Halperin’s political take, which is often indistinguishable from the Democratic talking points of the day. But it’s hard to quibble with his observation that the Meg Whitman ad using Bill Clinton to skewer Jerry Brown’s tax record as governor is “probably the best TV spot by any campaign all cycle.” It does three things that a devastating political ad must do.

First, it uses a well-known figure not obviously aligned with the candidate to attack her opponent (i.e., get a credible, independent critic). Second, it drills down on an issue central to the campaign (taxes) while also hitting the opponent on character. And finally, it’s not an obvious out-of-context clip. By allowing Clinton to speak at length (he was a fast talker!), Whitman avoids the charge that her ad is a “hatchet” job.

And sure enough, Whitman has Brown running in circles, forcing him to apologize to Clinton (whom Brown attacked when the ad was released).

Some observers questioned Whitman’s street smarts and political skill when the eBay CEO announced her run. She has shown, unlike her opponent (whose fondness for Nazi analogies got him in hot water earlier in the race), that she knows how to handle herself and tie her opponent in knots. The race remains close, but if this keeps up, California will get to test the proposition that government should be run more like a business. A successful one, we hope.

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California Really Is in Play

Politico reports:

It looks like that demon sheep has showed up snarling on Sen. Barbara Boxer’s doorstep. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, the controversial Silicon Valley executive who exploded into the California Senate race with a series of colorful viral videos, is holding the Democratic senator to at least a tie, according to two polls released in the last week. An automated SurveyUSA poll published Monday showed Fiorina narrowly ahead of Boxer, leading the three-term senator, 47 percent to 45 percent. That’s within the poll’s four-point margin of error, but it comes just days after the Field Poll showed Boxer with only a narrow advantage in her fight for a new term, leading Fiorina by three percentage points.

At the very least, these polls will force the Democrats to spend millions (California is a mighty expensive state to campaign in) and will put pressure on Boxer to emerge from her cocoon and agree to Fiorina’s invitation to debate. Boxer has frankly coasted through many election cycles with candidates who were inept or underfunded (or both). Now that she has a viable, articulate opponent, she’ll have to explain her dogged pursuit of a far-left agenda. Maybe that is what California voters want, but I’m thinking they’ll be startled to see just how shrill and liberal their incumbent senator is.

Politico reports:

It looks like that demon sheep has showed up snarling on Sen. Barbara Boxer’s doorstep. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, the controversial Silicon Valley executive who exploded into the California Senate race with a series of colorful viral videos, is holding the Democratic senator to at least a tie, according to two polls released in the last week. An automated SurveyUSA poll published Monday showed Fiorina narrowly ahead of Boxer, leading the three-term senator, 47 percent to 45 percent. That’s within the poll’s four-point margin of error, but it comes just days after the Field Poll showed Boxer with only a narrow advantage in her fight for a new term, leading Fiorina by three percentage points.

At the very least, these polls will force the Democrats to spend millions (California is a mighty expensive state to campaign in) and will put pressure on Boxer to emerge from her cocoon and agree to Fiorina’s invitation to debate. Boxer has frankly coasted through many election cycles with candidates who were inept or underfunded (or both). Now that she has a viable, articulate opponent, she’ll have to explain her dogged pursuit of a far-left agenda. Maybe that is what California voters want, but I’m thinking they’ll be startled to see just how shrill and liberal their incumbent senator is.

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Boxer Going Down for the Count?

The Field poll delivers some bad news for Senator Barbara Boxer:

California voters are giving U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer some of the lowest approval ratings of her career, as the three-term Democrat is in a statistical dead heat against first-time GOP office-seeker Carly Fiorina, according to a new Field Poll released today.

Boxer leads Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, 47 to 44 percent. … Boxer’s slight numerical lead masks potentially serious problems for the senator, starting with how 52 percent of the respondents hold an unfavorable view of her. At the same time, her job approval rating is among the lowest that Field has measured for her since she was first elected to the Senate in 1992. …

She is vulnerable,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said. “This is very ominous for her.”

One of Boxer’s more vexing problems, analysts say, is that opposition to her is not just about her. She has become an avatar for broader voter frustrations about the struggling economy, President Obama and the growth of the federal government.

After many election cycles in which Republicans wasted money and political capital on the premise that California was “in play,” there is finally a year in which it really is. At the very least, the Democrats will need to spend gobs of money defending the seat, money that would otherwise go to races in Indiana, Illinois, Florida, etc. And it might just be the year in which Californians decide that they are not well served by one of the most predictably far-left senators.

The Field poll delivers some bad news for Senator Barbara Boxer:

California voters are giving U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer some of the lowest approval ratings of her career, as the three-term Democrat is in a statistical dead heat against first-time GOP office-seeker Carly Fiorina, according to a new Field Poll released today.

Boxer leads Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, 47 to 44 percent. … Boxer’s slight numerical lead masks potentially serious problems for the senator, starting with how 52 percent of the respondents hold an unfavorable view of her. At the same time, her job approval rating is among the lowest that Field has measured for her since she was first elected to the Senate in 1992. …

She is vulnerable,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said. “This is very ominous for her.”

One of Boxer’s more vexing problems, analysts say, is that opposition to her is not just about her. She has become an avatar for broader voter frustrations about the struggling economy, President Obama and the growth of the federal government.

After many election cycles in which Republicans wasted money and political capital on the premise that California was “in play,” there is finally a year in which it really is. At the very least, the Democrats will need to spend gobs of money defending the seat, money that would otherwise go to races in Indiana, Illinois, Florida, etc. And it might just be the year in which Californians decide that they are not well served by one of the most predictably far-left senators.

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The Erratic President

Now Obama looks like a fool and a liar. When confronted by Matt Lauer about why he hadn’t yet met with BP’s CEO, you could see the wheels clicking — excuse, excuse, what’s the excuse? — and Obama with a straight face said it would do no good to talk to the CEO, because he was just going to get spin from Tony Hayward (“[H]e’s going to say all the right things to me. I’m not interested in words, I’m interested in action.”) Even Chris Matthews was appalled.

So within days, Obama announces — he’s going to meet with the BP Chariman! Oh good grief. So forget the part about not needing to speak with BP. That was just a … um … er … hmm … lame excuse he cooked up on the spot.

There is a reason why the public is upset with Obama. It’s not merely a function of the unrealistic expectation that the president can solve all problems. The president looks fickle, confused, and erratic. Let’s have a drilling ban. No, let’s lift it and make BP pay for all the people we threw out of work! It becomes alarming with each passing day as we see how out of his depth the commander in chief (oh yes, he commands the armed forces too) is.

Harvard Law Review and a crease in the pants don’t signal readiness to be president. The voters have found out the hard way the price of electing someone who thought governing was just like campaigning and who had never run a city, a state, a military unit, or a profit-making firm.

Now Obama looks like a fool and a liar. When confronted by Matt Lauer about why he hadn’t yet met with BP’s CEO, you could see the wheels clicking — excuse, excuse, what’s the excuse? — and Obama with a straight face said it would do no good to talk to the CEO, because he was just going to get spin from Tony Hayward (“[H]e’s going to say all the right things to me. I’m not interested in words, I’m interested in action.”) Even Chris Matthews was appalled.

So within days, Obama announces — he’s going to meet with the BP Chariman! Oh good grief. So forget the part about not needing to speak with BP. That was just a … um … er … hmm … lame excuse he cooked up on the spot.

There is a reason why the public is upset with Obama. It’s not merely a function of the unrealistic expectation that the president can solve all problems. The president looks fickle, confused, and erratic. Let’s have a drilling ban. No, let’s lift it and make BP pay for all the people we threw out of work! It becomes alarming with each passing day as we see how out of his depth the commander in chief (oh yes, he commands the armed forces too) is.

Harvard Law Review and a crease in the pants don’t signal readiness to be president. The voters have found out the hard way the price of electing someone who thought governing was just like campaigning and who had never run a city, a state, a military unit, or a profit-making firm.

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The Obama Administration Bullies Business Again

Obama and congressional Democrats have become accustomed to badgering, bullying, and berating business. They see nothing wrong with suing and excoriating Goldman Sachs for shorting the housing market. They thought it was fine to force AIG to take away bonuses from executives who were contractually entitled to receive them. And now this:

BP faced demands Tuesday that it withhold its first-quarter dividend, which it committed to pay in April, in the early days of the Deepwater Horizon crisis. A confirmation of the payment date Tuesday drew a letter of condemnation from 32 members of Congress. … The dilemma comes as BP faces tremendous heat over the issue. Last week, President Barack Obama warned the company against “nickel and diming” people affected by the spill and said BP had “moral and legal obligations” to Gulf Coast residents that may supersede its obligations to shareholders.

You do wonder whether any of these politicians understand that stock price reflects expected cash flow — including dividends. Are they trying to crash BP’s stock? Surely investors will start dumping the stock if the dividend is taken away.

The larger point, however, is this: what gives lawmakers the right to boss around a private company (one that never took a bailout) and pull the rug out from shareholders, who are entitled to and may be financial dependent on dividend checks? It’s not as if there were any economic justification for nixing the dividend:

Today, analysts say there is no reason from a business standpoint for the company to cut the dividend, as few people are questioning BP’s financial strength despite the crisis brought on by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “If they do something with the dividend, they’re not doing it for financial reasons … it’s because of the political battle of wills,” said [former BP CEO Bob] Morton.

It is one more instance of liberals attempting  to blur the distinction between the public and private and to force businesses to make economic decisions based on political considerations. Politicians with little economic expertise and no respect for the rule of law are systematically distorting business decisions and thereby forcing executives to become political operatives and lobbying gurus rather than expert wealth creators. It is what comes from electing people with zero experience in or respect for profiting-making ventures.

Obama and congressional Democrats have become accustomed to badgering, bullying, and berating business. They see nothing wrong with suing and excoriating Goldman Sachs for shorting the housing market. They thought it was fine to force AIG to take away bonuses from executives who were contractually entitled to receive them. And now this:

BP faced demands Tuesday that it withhold its first-quarter dividend, which it committed to pay in April, in the early days of the Deepwater Horizon crisis. A confirmation of the payment date Tuesday drew a letter of condemnation from 32 members of Congress. … The dilemma comes as BP faces tremendous heat over the issue. Last week, President Barack Obama warned the company against “nickel and diming” people affected by the spill and said BP had “moral and legal obligations” to Gulf Coast residents that may supersede its obligations to shareholders.

You do wonder whether any of these politicians understand that stock price reflects expected cash flow — including dividends. Are they trying to crash BP’s stock? Surely investors will start dumping the stock if the dividend is taken away.

The larger point, however, is this: what gives lawmakers the right to boss around a private company (one that never took a bailout) and pull the rug out from shareholders, who are entitled to and may be financial dependent on dividend checks? It’s not as if there were any economic justification for nixing the dividend:

Today, analysts say there is no reason from a business standpoint for the company to cut the dividend, as few people are questioning BP’s financial strength despite the crisis brought on by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “If they do something with the dividend, they’re not doing it for financial reasons … it’s because of the political battle of wills,” said [former BP CEO Bob] Morton.

It is one more instance of liberals attempting  to blur the distinction between the public and private and to force businesses to make economic decisions based on political considerations. Politicians with little economic expertise and no respect for the rule of law are systematically distorting business decisions and thereby forcing executives to become political operatives and lobbying gurus rather than expert wealth creators. It is what comes from electing people with zero experience in or respect for profiting-making ventures.

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Obama Deserved This One

After sneering at Sarah Palin on everything from the death panels (i.e., Medicare rationing) to nuclear policy (Obama is enthralled with START and NPT, renounces nuclear retaliation against NPT signatories if they strike with chemical or biological weapons, and has done precious little to halt Iran and now Burma as they pursue nuclear weapons), Obama got his comeuppance from the former governor, who knows a thing or two about oil spills. She writes:

[A]s a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with [BP CEO  Hayward. Demand answers. In the interview today, the President said: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. I suggested a few weeks ago that you start with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR and AGIA team led by Marty Rutherford, I can vouch for their integrity and expertise in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments. We’ve all lived and worked through the Exxon-Valdez spill. They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.

Ouch. At times like this, you appreciate both her innate political smarts and the degree to which the media vastly overestimated Obama’s.

After sneering at Sarah Palin on everything from the death panels (i.e., Medicare rationing) to nuclear policy (Obama is enthralled with START and NPT, renounces nuclear retaliation against NPT signatories if they strike with chemical or biological weapons, and has done precious little to halt Iran and now Burma as they pursue nuclear weapons), Obama got his comeuppance from the former governor, who knows a thing or two about oil spills. She writes:

[A]s a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with [BP CEO  Hayward. Demand answers. In the interview today, the President said: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. I suggested a few weeks ago that you start with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR and AGIA team led by Marty Rutherford, I can vouch for their integrity and expertise in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments. We’ve all lived and worked through the Exxon-Valdez spill. They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.

Ouch. At times like this, you appreciate both her innate political smarts and the degree to which the media vastly overestimated Obama’s.

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Maybe His Worst Interview Ever

It is not only that Obama’s “so I know whose a** to kick” language was crude and revealed an unseemly desperation (as Pete pointed out), reinforcing the perception that he doesn’t command respect, let alone fear, from foreign or domestic opponents; it is also not true. Allahpundit points out that Obama never talked to BP’s CEO:

The One’s logic, such as it is, is that it’s not worth talking to Tony Hayward because he’ll only end up giving him the runaround — a curious position coming from a guy who campaigned on the virtues of “dialogue” and who’s been locked in halting negotiations with Iran for fully 16 months. Even Lauer is openly incredulous. Captain Kickass has nothing to say to a guy who potentially holds the fate of his presidency in his hands? Even after yesterday’s hair-raising Times piece claiming that BP’s effort to cut the leaking riser may have actually increased the flow of oil many times over? I thought this was supposed to be the new, improved, “engaged” Hopenchange.

Even Chris Matthews says the “public is probably stunned” that Obama hasn’t talked to the BP CEO. It is a sorry spectacle (both the interview and Obama’s post-spill performance), revealing both the president’s personal immaturity and his lack of managerial acumen. He’s not responsible for the spill, but he is responsible for his own conduct in managing the disaster. On that, even his allies give him a failing grade.

It is not only that Obama’s “so I know whose a** to kick” language was crude and revealed an unseemly desperation (as Pete pointed out), reinforcing the perception that he doesn’t command respect, let alone fear, from foreign or domestic opponents; it is also not true. Allahpundit points out that Obama never talked to BP’s CEO:

The One’s logic, such as it is, is that it’s not worth talking to Tony Hayward because he’ll only end up giving him the runaround — a curious position coming from a guy who campaigned on the virtues of “dialogue” and who’s been locked in halting negotiations with Iran for fully 16 months. Even Lauer is openly incredulous. Captain Kickass has nothing to say to a guy who potentially holds the fate of his presidency in his hands? Even after yesterday’s hair-raising Times piece claiming that BP’s effort to cut the leaking riser may have actually increased the flow of oil many times over? I thought this was supposed to be the new, improved, “engaged” Hopenchange.

Even Chris Matthews says the “public is probably stunned” that Obama hasn’t talked to the BP CEO. It is a sorry spectacle (both the interview and Obama’s post-spill performance), revealing both the president’s personal immaturity and his lack of managerial acumen. He’s not responsible for the spill, but he is responsible for his own conduct in managing the disaster. On that, even his allies give him a failing grade.

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GOP Women Crushing Opponents in California Primary Races

In a third poll this week, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman appear headed for big wins:

With less than two weeks until the June 8th primary, California Republican primary voters are poised to nominate two former female CEO’s to lead the GOP ticket in November. According to our … automated survey of likely Republican primary voters conducted on May 24th, in the gubernatorial race, Meg Whitman leads Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner by 35 points, 54% to 19%. … Survey results from the US Senate ballot test show Carly Fiorina with a 23 point lead over former Congressman Tom Campbell 44% to 21% and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore with 14%. … Support for Carly Fiorina has surged 24 points since our last survey on February 25th from 20% to 44%, and Tom Campbell’s support has declined 12 points from 33% to 21%.

With all these female Republicans (Linda McMahon in Connecticut as well), the Democrats will have to come up with a different story line than “Republicans don’t like women.” I suspect they’ll just drop it altogether. And if Fiorina and Whitman beat their male rivals, will we hear cheers from NOW? No. Not even the election of pro-choice Whitman, I suspect, will please them. Perhaps we should rewrite the phrase as “The Left doesn’t like women who oppose the Left.” And there may be two more of those elected come November.

In a third poll this week, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman appear headed for big wins:

With less than two weeks until the June 8th primary, California Republican primary voters are poised to nominate two former female CEO’s to lead the GOP ticket in November. According to our … automated survey of likely Republican primary voters conducted on May 24th, in the gubernatorial race, Meg Whitman leads Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner by 35 points, 54% to 19%. … Survey results from the US Senate ballot test show Carly Fiorina with a 23 point lead over former Congressman Tom Campbell 44% to 21% and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore with 14%. … Support for Carly Fiorina has surged 24 points since our last survey on February 25th from 20% to 44%, and Tom Campbell’s support has declined 12 points from 33% to 21%.

With all these female Republicans (Linda McMahon in Connecticut as well), the Democrats will have to come up with a different story line than “Republicans don’t like women.” I suspect they’ll just drop it altogether. And if Fiorina and Whitman beat their male rivals, will we hear cheers from NOW? No. Not even the election of pro-choice Whitman, I suspect, will please them. Perhaps we should rewrite the phrase as “The Left doesn’t like women who oppose the Left.” And there may be two more of those elected come November.

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Connecticut GOP Is Stuck with McMahon and Her WWF Baggage

Only days after a staggering blunder by Connecticut Democratic Senate nominee Richard Blumenthal seemed to raise the stock of Republican Rob Simmons in his attempt to snare the GOP nod, the former congressman has bowed out of the race.

The Hartford Courant reports that Simmons announced today that he is ending his campaign for the Senate after the state Republican Convention endorsed his opponent Linda McMahon on Friday. The revelation that Blumenthal had lied repeatedly about his military service should have helped Simmons, since unlike the state’s attorney general, he was a veteran who had actually served in Vietnam and had been decorated for his actions. But the story, which seems to have been uncovered by researchers working for the McMahon campaign, didn’t help Simmons. Instead, it merely demonstrated to Connecticut Republicans that the wealthy McMahon had unlimited resources and thus was, by definition, the more viable candidate.

Simmons, who received 46 percent of the state convention vote, could have forced a primary against the former World Wrestling Federation CEO, but in pulling out he said, “We understand the mathematical reality of competing against an opponent with unlimited financial resources who has already invested … $16.5 million in this campaign.” McMahon has been quoted as saying that she will spend up to $50 million of her own money to win a Senate seat.

Simmons’s decision not to try and knock off McMahon in the primary is good news for the latter and is being greeted with acclaim by Connecticut Republicans who were eager to avoid a bruising and divisive intra-party battle before facing off against the well-financed and, up until last week, heavily favored Blumenthal.

But the fact that McMahon is now the overwhelming favorite to be the GOP nominee is also good news for Blumenthal. Rather than finding himself juxtaposed against a genuine war hero, whose mere presence on the ballot would have reminded voters of his Vietnam lies, a well-heeled but highly vulnerable opponent will oppose the Democrat. The shady background of the WWF is fertile ground for the Democrats’ own opposition researchers, whose efforts will be redoubled after Blumenthal’s “Vietnam veteran” fiasco.

Republicans may be right in thinking that Blumenthal has been irreparably damaged by his Vietnam falsehoods and the self-righteous way he sought to evade apologizing for “misspeaking” about his military record. But they need to brace themselves for what will undoubtedly be months of stories about the WWF, the most flattering of which will center on its unsavory if comical promotion of violence and steroid abuse. In a year in which anti-establishment fervor seems to be the keynote of political discourse, an unconventional candidate like McMahon might have a chance, especially against a compromised figure like Blumenthal. But it is far from certain she will be able to weather the sort of scrutiny that her candidacy will mandate. McMahon’s involvement in what has always been thought a less than respectable business may have given her the wherewithal to damage Blumenthal and sink Simmons, but it may also prove the undoing of the GOP in Connecticut.

Only days after a staggering blunder by Connecticut Democratic Senate nominee Richard Blumenthal seemed to raise the stock of Republican Rob Simmons in his attempt to snare the GOP nod, the former congressman has bowed out of the race.

The Hartford Courant reports that Simmons announced today that he is ending his campaign for the Senate after the state Republican Convention endorsed his opponent Linda McMahon on Friday. The revelation that Blumenthal had lied repeatedly about his military service should have helped Simmons, since unlike the state’s attorney general, he was a veteran who had actually served in Vietnam and had been decorated for his actions. But the story, which seems to have been uncovered by researchers working for the McMahon campaign, didn’t help Simmons. Instead, it merely demonstrated to Connecticut Republicans that the wealthy McMahon had unlimited resources and thus was, by definition, the more viable candidate.

Simmons, who received 46 percent of the state convention vote, could have forced a primary against the former World Wrestling Federation CEO, but in pulling out he said, “We understand the mathematical reality of competing against an opponent with unlimited financial resources who has already invested … $16.5 million in this campaign.” McMahon has been quoted as saying that she will spend up to $50 million of her own money to win a Senate seat.

Simmons’s decision not to try and knock off McMahon in the primary is good news for the latter and is being greeted with acclaim by Connecticut Republicans who were eager to avoid a bruising and divisive intra-party battle before facing off against the well-financed and, up until last week, heavily favored Blumenthal.

But the fact that McMahon is now the overwhelming favorite to be the GOP nominee is also good news for Blumenthal. Rather than finding himself juxtaposed against a genuine war hero, whose mere presence on the ballot would have reminded voters of his Vietnam lies, a well-heeled but highly vulnerable opponent will oppose the Democrat. The shady background of the WWF is fertile ground for the Democrats’ own opposition researchers, whose efforts will be redoubled after Blumenthal’s “Vietnam veteran” fiasco.

Republicans may be right in thinking that Blumenthal has been irreparably damaged by his Vietnam falsehoods and the self-righteous way he sought to evade apologizing for “misspeaking” about his military record. But they need to brace themselves for what will undoubtedly be months of stories about the WWF, the most flattering of which will center on its unsavory if comical promotion of violence and steroid abuse. In a year in which anti-establishment fervor seems to be the keynote of political discourse, an unconventional candidate like McMahon might have a chance, especially against a compromised figure like Blumenthal. But it is far from certain she will be able to weather the sort of scrutiny that her candidacy will mandate. McMahon’s involvement in what has always been thought a less than respectable business may have given her the wherewithal to damage Blumenthal and sink Simmons, but it may also prove the undoing of the GOP in Connecticut.

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