Commentary Magazine


Topic: Chris Dodd

Chris Dodd: Cut it Out With the Anti-SOPA ‘Gimmicks’

Former Senator Chris Dodd, who’s been one of the most prominent lobbyists for the SOPA/PIPA bill in his new position as Motion Picture Association of America CEO, lashed out at critics participating in the Internet blackout last night. Websites like Wikipedia and Reddit have been dark since midnight in protest of the legislation:

But Dodd called the blackout a “dangerous gimmick.”

“It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and who use their services,” Dodd said in a statement. “It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today.”

Disagreeing with Wikipedia and Reddit’s position is one thing, but how exactly is the blackout “irresponsible” and “an abuse of power”? The First Amendment covers the protest actions of these websites, just like it protected Dodd’s own congressional lobbying.

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Former Senator Chris Dodd, who’s been one of the most prominent lobbyists for the SOPA/PIPA bill in his new position as Motion Picture Association of America CEO, lashed out at critics participating in the Internet blackout last night. Websites like Wikipedia and Reddit have been dark since midnight in protest of the legislation:

But Dodd called the blackout a “dangerous gimmick.”

“It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and who use their services,” Dodd said in a statement. “It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today.”

Disagreeing with Wikipedia and Reddit’s position is one thing, but how exactly is the blackout “irresponsible” and “an abuse of power”? The First Amendment covers the protest actions of these websites, just like it protected Dodd’s own congressional lobbying.

From purely a public relations perspective, Dodd’s argument is a train wreck. If the public blames anyone for the blackout protest, it’s groups like the MPAA and the supporters of the SOPA/PIPA legislation in Congress.

And that’s because Hollywood lost its monopoly on entertainment a long time ago. Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, and other sites have spent years building a level of trust with their users, and they’ve come to surpass celebrities and the movie industry in terms of cultural and political influence. To put things in perspective, imagine if George Lucas came out in strong opposition to the SOPA/PIPA bills. Do you think a ton of people would say to themselves, “Hey, George Lucas doesn’t like this legislation, so maybe it’s a bad idea – I should contact my representative and ask them to oppose it”? Probably not. But when Reddit, Google and TwitPic came out against it – websites that people spend a good percentage of their day-to-day leisure time on – that moved the dial.

It’s perfectly understandable that the motion picture industry is concerned about copyright enforcement. But it’s not going to win public support by getting into a shoving match with online giants. The industry’s popularity has been waning for years, and it’s only going to hasten its irrelevance by backing SOPA/PIPA too aggressively.

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A Bad Idea for GOP: Early Presidential Candidate Debates

Today, NBC and Politico announced they would co-host the first Republican presidential debate sometime in the spring of 2011. Presumably they are using the benchmark of April 2007, when the first Democratic debate for 2008 was held in South Carolina. There are so many ways in which this is a terrible idea for Republicans that it’s hard to count them, but here are a few:

1) An incentive for the lunatic fringe: An announcement like this lowers the barrier for entry to the race. Anybody looking for a little attention, or to get a chance to “go viral” with a snappy video-friendly performance highlighting a candidacy with no hope of ultimate success, might be able to get himself-herself into this thing. What if, just to take one bizarre possibility, the evil-crazy pseudo-pastor Fred Phelps of Kansas were to declare himself a candidate for the presidency in the Republican Party a week before the debate so that he could preach his “God hates fags” and “God wants veterans to die” gospel?

2) The panel of pygmies: It could well be, aside from the lunatic possibility, that not a single person who might actually win the nomination would be present on the stage. It would make sense in the new political atmosphere for serious potential candidates not to declare themselves early this cycle. It’s no longer necessary for fundraising; the only thing that speaks to the need for an early declaration is getting the right kind of staff on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. But the operatives in those states would themselves be wise to keep their options open for a while in 2011 rather than commit early. It’s true that the two eventual front-runners in the 2008 Democratic primary were on that stage in April 2007. But so were Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel (remember him? of course you don’t). Was the debate of any value to any Democrat seriously thinking about whom to vote for? Was it even of any use to any of the people on stage other than Kucinich and Gravel, who got a little boost from leftist throw-your-vote-away types?

3) Party mockery: The outlier effect would have a dual purpose for the organizations running it — first, the outliers will surely make some kind of news by being ridiculous in some fashion, and that, in turn, will help cast the Republican effort to make a serious run at Barack Obama in 2012 into something of a joke.

There’s nothing to be done about this. Politico and NBC will extend whatever invitations they extend, and candidates eager for any kind of attention will appear. But very little good can come of this.

Today, NBC and Politico announced they would co-host the first Republican presidential debate sometime in the spring of 2011. Presumably they are using the benchmark of April 2007, when the first Democratic debate for 2008 was held in South Carolina. There are so many ways in which this is a terrible idea for Republicans that it’s hard to count them, but here are a few:

1) An incentive for the lunatic fringe: An announcement like this lowers the barrier for entry to the race. Anybody looking for a little attention, or to get a chance to “go viral” with a snappy video-friendly performance highlighting a candidacy with no hope of ultimate success, might be able to get himself-herself into this thing. What if, just to take one bizarre possibility, the evil-crazy pseudo-pastor Fred Phelps of Kansas were to declare himself a candidate for the presidency in the Republican Party a week before the debate so that he could preach his “God hates fags” and “God wants veterans to die” gospel?

2) The panel of pygmies: It could well be, aside from the lunatic possibility, that not a single person who might actually win the nomination would be present on the stage. It would make sense in the new political atmosphere for serious potential candidates not to declare themselves early this cycle. It’s no longer necessary for fundraising; the only thing that speaks to the need for an early declaration is getting the right kind of staff on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. But the operatives in those states would themselves be wise to keep their options open for a while in 2011 rather than commit early. It’s true that the two eventual front-runners in the 2008 Democratic primary were on that stage in April 2007. But so were Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel (remember him? of course you don’t). Was the debate of any value to any Democrat seriously thinking about whom to vote for? Was it even of any use to any of the people on stage other than Kucinich and Gravel, who got a little boost from leftist throw-your-vote-away types?

3) Party mockery: The outlier effect would have a dual purpose for the organizations running it — first, the outliers will surely make some kind of news by being ridiculous in some fashion, and that, in turn, will help cast the Republican effort to make a serious run at Barack Obama in 2012 into something of a joke.

There’s nothing to be done about this. Politico and NBC will extend whatever invitations they extend, and candidates eager for any kind of attention will appear. But very little good can come of this.

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Batting .000 With the Voters

The Democrats not only got the economic policy wrong (Keynesian economic policy works no better in 2010 than it did in the 1930s) — they, time and again, have gotten the politics wrong.

On taxes, the class-warfare gambit is turning into a retreat:

Going into a pivotal caucus Thursday, Senate Democrats show more and more signs of losing their nerve and backing away from earlier plans with the White House to force a vote on middle-class tax cuts prior to November’s election.

A final decision has not been made by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but it’s a real political Rubicon with no safe choice in today’s political climate. Taxes have long been a third rail for Democrats, but to have no vote at all could also be seen as a sign of weakness.

Once the Senate Democrats run for the hills, the House Democrats will be close behind. If so, the Democrats will have the worst of both worlds: the voters will know they would dearly love to raise taxes and the base will know they don’t have the political moxie to act on their convictions. (“White House officials have been warning this week that they expected no vote — provoking some frustration among liberals that the administration wasn’t doing more to intercede.”)

That political miscalculation, however, is nothing compared to the ObamaCare debacle. This report suggests that just “everyone” thought ObamaCare would be a winner. (Hmm, a lot of us who were watching the rowdy town-hall protesters and the poll numbers argued it wouldn’t, but no, never mind. It sounds better if everyone was wrong.) Is it really a “riddle” that voters don’t appreciate the “historic” legislation — or has it become crystal clear to all but the deluded that ObamaCare was a bust, politically? It seems that the White House’s assurance that it would prevent an electoral wipe-out was hooey. Now we hear:

“The textbook in a civics class of how the institution should not act was the health care bill,” Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., told NBC News this month. “It was arrogant. Both parties were arrogant and selfish, in my view.”

Did he not vote for it? Whatever — he’s retiring. Too many arrogant ethical lapses.

Inside the Beltway, they are amazed that “rather than being viewed as a kooky notion, the repeal-and-replace battle cry resonates with the electorate: Polls show voters are divided on the question, with about as many people opposed to rolling back the law as those who favor doing so.” Actually, some polls show that many more favor repeal. (“61 percent of likely U.S. voters now at least somewhat favor repeal of the new national health-care law, including 50 percent who Strongly Favor it.”)

Whatever the spin doctors and the media enablers tell us, the historical record is there for all to see. Democrats ignored the public’s anger, pooh-poohed the polls, and scoffed at the conservatives’ warning that a party-line vote on a mammoth bill of taxes and regulations disguised as “reform” was a grave political miscalculation. In the political debate, with a nod to Ronald Reagan, we conservatives win; liberals lose.

This chapter in the Obama era of policy overreach and political tone-deafness will come to an end on election day. Afterwards, the Democrats would be wise to listen more to their Republican colleagues than to the White House. The latter seems not to have a clue about the American electorate.

The Democrats not only got the economic policy wrong (Keynesian economic policy works no better in 2010 than it did in the 1930s) — they, time and again, have gotten the politics wrong.

On taxes, the class-warfare gambit is turning into a retreat:

Going into a pivotal caucus Thursday, Senate Democrats show more and more signs of losing their nerve and backing away from earlier plans with the White House to force a vote on middle-class tax cuts prior to November’s election.

A final decision has not been made by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but it’s a real political Rubicon with no safe choice in today’s political climate. Taxes have long been a third rail for Democrats, but to have no vote at all could also be seen as a sign of weakness.

Once the Senate Democrats run for the hills, the House Democrats will be close behind. If so, the Democrats will have the worst of both worlds: the voters will know they would dearly love to raise taxes and the base will know they don’t have the political moxie to act on their convictions. (“White House officials have been warning this week that they expected no vote — provoking some frustration among liberals that the administration wasn’t doing more to intercede.”)

That political miscalculation, however, is nothing compared to the ObamaCare debacle. This report suggests that just “everyone” thought ObamaCare would be a winner. (Hmm, a lot of us who were watching the rowdy town-hall protesters and the poll numbers argued it wouldn’t, but no, never mind. It sounds better if everyone was wrong.) Is it really a “riddle” that voters don’t appreciate the “historic” legislation — or has it become crystal clear to all but the deluded that ObamaCare was a bust, politically? It seems that the White House’s assurance that it would prevent an electoral wipe-out was hooey. Now we hear:

“The textbook in a civics class of how the institution should not act was the health care bill,” Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., told NBC News this month. “It was arrogant. Both parties were arrogant and selfish, in my view.”

Did he not vote for it? Whatever — he’s retiring. Too many arrogant ethical lapses.

Inside the Beltway, they are amazed that “rather than being viewed as a kooky notion, the repeal-and-replace battle cry resonates with the electorate: Polls show voters are divided on the question, with about as many people opposed to rolling back the law as those who favor doing so.” Actually, some polls show that many more favor repeal. (“61 percent of likely U.S. voters now at least somewhat favor repeal of the new national health-care law, including 50 percent who Strongly Favor it.”)

Whatever the spin doctors and the media enablers tell us, the historical record is there for all to see. Democrats ignored the public’s anger, pooh-poohed the polls, and scoffed at the conservatives’ warning that a party-line vote on a mammoth bill of taxes and regulations disguised as “reform” was a grave political miscalculation. In the political debate, with a nod to Ronald Reagan, we conservatives win; liberals lose.

This chapter in the Obama era of policy overreach and political tone-deafness will come to an end on election day. Afterwards, the Democrats would be wise to listen more to their Republican colleagues than to the White House. The latter seems not to have a clue about the American electorate.

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Blumenthal May Be Pulling for Simmons After All in CT GOP Primary

Tomorrow’s Connecticut Senate Republican primary poses an interesting dilemma for the voters. Back when the story broke of Richard Blumenthal’s serial lies about serving in Vietnam, the thinking here was that the obvious beneficiary ought to be former Republican congressman Rob Simmons, a decorated Vietnam vet who had been the favorite for the GOP nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Chris Dodd. But I was ignoring the fact that Nutmeg State Republicans were more impressed by the fact that the revelation was the work of Simmons’s rival, pro-wrestling mogul Linda McMahon.

In the face of McMahon’s huge money advantage and the fact that the party establishment had abandoned him, Simmons withdrew, although it was too late to take his name off the ballot. But after a couple of weeks, unhappy about his decision, Simmons resumed his candidacy, albeit in a halfhearted sort of way. Perhaps he thought that in a primary with what will probably be a small turnout, he still ought to have a decent chance of upsetting McMahon. Her record as the head of the deeply unsavory WWE ought to provide enough fodder for Democratic opposition researchers. But the story this week isn’t the chance for Republicans to rethink their embrace of a candidate with no chance to win. Rather it is the way the dynamic of the race has been changed by her early and massive media campaign, which put very effective commercials on air, showing upscale women talking about Blumenthal’s shortcomings and McMahon’s strengths.

As Reuters noted yesterday, the $50 million of her own money that she is prepared to spend has done more than turn the heads of Republican bigwigs. The television ads aired so far have helped lower Blumenthal’s lead to 10 points in a recent Quinnipiac poll. So rather than the absurdity of a WWE exec in the Senate — with all the related questions about violence, vulgarity, fraud, and steroids, which pro wrestling conjures up — it may be that Blumenthal’s problems will still be the big story this fall. As the New York Times reported in April, even before he was humiliated by the reporting of his Vietnam lies, Connecticut Democrats were so unimpressed with his campaign that they were calling him “Martha Coakley in pants.” If Blumenthal, rather than McMahon, is being viewed as the problem candidate today, it is only because the latter’s money has helped keep the bull’s-eye on his back rather than on her own.

That means that even though McMahon’s wrestling record arguably ought to disqualify her for high office, her energy and determination to win (literally) at all costs make her the obvious Republican choice, as well as a woman with a more than reasonable chance of being sworn into the Senate in January. Back in the spring, Democrats might have been hoping to have the scandalous McMahon to run against. But today, Blumenthal may be saying a silent and hopeless prayer that the lackluster, though better qualified, Simmons pulls off a monumental upset tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s Connecticut Senate Republican primary poses an interesting dilemma for the voters. Back when the story broke of Richard Blumenthal’s serial lies about serving in Vietnam, the thinking here was that the obvious beneficiary ought to be former Republican congressman Rob Simmons, a decorated Vietnam vet who had been the favorite for the GOP nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Chris Dodd. But I was ignoring the fact that Nutmeg State Republicans were more impressed by the fact that the revelation was the work of Simmons’s rival, pro-wrestling mogul Linda McMahon.

In the face of McMahon’s huge money advantage and the fact that the party establishment had abandoned him, Simmons withdrew, although it was too late to take his name off the ballot. But after a couple of weeks, unhappy about his decision, Simmons resumed his candidacy, albeit in a halfhearted sort of way. Perhaps he thought that in a primary with what will probably be a small turnout, he still ought to have a decent chance of upsetting McMahon. Her record as the head of the deeply unsavory WWE ought to provide enough fodder for Democratic opposition researchers. But the story this week isn’t the chance for Republicans to rethink their embrace of a candidate with no chance to win. Rather it is the way the dynamic of the race has been changed by her early and massive media campaign, which put very effective commercials on air, showing upscale women talking about Blumenthal’s shortcomings and McMahon’s strengths.

As Reuters noted yesterday, the $50 million of her own money that she is prepared to spend has done more than turn the heads of Republican bigwigs. The television ads aired so far have helped lower Blumenthal’s lead to 10 points in a recent Quinnipiac poll. So rather than the absurdity of a WWE exec in the Senate — with all the related questions about violence, vulgarity, fraud, and steroids, which pro wrestling conjures up — it may be that Blumenthal’s problems will still be the big story this fall. As the New York Times reported in April, even before he was humiliated by the reporting of his Vietnam lies, Connecticut Democrats were so unimpressed with his campaign that they were calling him “Martha Coakley in pants.” If Blumenthal, rather than McMahon, is being viewed as the problem candidate today, it is only because the latter’s money has helped keep the bull’s-eye on his back rather than on her own.

That means that even though McMahon’s wrestling record arguably ought to disqualify her for high office, her energy and determination to win (literally) at all costs make her the obvious Republican choice, as well as a woman with a more than reasonable chance of being sworn into the Senate in January. Back in the spring, Democrats might have been hoping to have the scandalous McMahon to run against. But today, Blumenthal may be saying a silent and hopeless prayer that the lackluster, though better qualified, Simmons pulls off a monumental upset tomorrow.

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Senator Brown Objects

Scott Brown, who was a critical vote in passing the financial-regulation bill in the Senate, proves he’s as smart as CONTENTIONS readers. He writes a letter to Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd:

I am writing you to express my strong opposition to the $19 billion bank tax that was included in the financial reform bill during the conference committee. This tax was not in the Senate version of the bill, which I supported. If the final version of this bill contains these higher taxes, I will not support it.

It is especially troubling that this provision was inserted in the conference report in the dead of night without hearings or economic analysis.  While some will try to argue this isn’t a tax, this new provision takes real money away from the economy, making it unavailable for lending on Main Street, and gives it to Washington. That sounds like a tax to me. …

Imposing this new tax is the wrong option. Our economy is still struggling. It is wrong to impose higher taxes and ignore the impact it will have on our economy without considering other ways we might offset the costs of the measure.  I am asking that the conference committee find a way to offset the cost of the bill by cutting unnecessary federal spending. There are hundreds of billions in unspent federal funds sitting around, some authorized years ago for long-dead initiatives. Congress needs to start to looking there first, and I stand ready to help.

Well, maybe this isn’t a done deal yet. And maybe — in tribute to the legendary Robert Byrd — there should be some extended, very extended debate on the whole bill. Really, how many senators know what’s in this thing?

Scott Brown, who was a critical vote in passing the financial-regulation bill in the Senate, proves he’s as smart as CONTENTIONS readers. He writes a letter to Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd:

I am writing you to express my strong opposition to the $19 billion bank tax that was included in the financial reform bill during the conference committee. This tax was not in the Senate version of the bill, which I supported. If the final version of this bill contains these higher taxes, I will not support it.

It is especially troubling that this provision was inserted in the conference report in the dead of night without hearings or economic analysis.  While some will try to argue this isn’t a tax, this new provision takes real money away from the economy, making it unavailable for lending on Main Street, and gives it to Washington. That sounds like a tax to me. …

Imposing this new tax is the wrong option. Our economy is still struggling. It is wrong to impose higher taxes and ignore the impact it will have on our economy without considering other ways we might offset the costs of the measure.  I am asking that the conference committee find a way to offset the cost of the bill by cutting unnecessary federal spending. There are hundreds of billions in unspent federal funds sitting around, some authorized years ago for long-dead initiatives. Congress needs to start to looking there first, and I stand ready to help.

Well, maybe this isn’t a done deal yet. And maybe — in tribute to the legendary Robert Byrd — there should be some extended, very extended debate on the whole bill. Really, how many senators know what’s in this thing?

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What if Sanctions Don’t Work?

The Senate passed its toughest sanctions to date by a 99-0 vote. Sen. Joe Lieberman had praise for the measure:

This bill represents the most powerful and comprehensive package of Iran sanctions ever passed by Congress. I am grateful to the leadership of Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Howard Berman for guiding the development of this complex and critically important legislation, as well as the leadership of Senator Reid and Senator McConnell in ensuring its swift passage by the Senate.

I hope and believe that the House will now act swiftly to pass this vital legislation, and that President Obama will sign it into law. Just as importantly, it is critical that these provisions are forcefully and proactively implemented once they become law.

The measures imposed by this legislation—together with sanctions adopted at the UN and, even more importantly, by like-minded nations around the world—offer our last, best hope of peacefully preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Time is of the essence.

But Lieberman made clear that sanctions are not an end in themselves. And in contrast to the president’s que sera, sera attitude, Lieberman was emphatic that if the sanctions don’t work (and more about that below), we must use other options, including force:

While we hope that our combined sanctions will change the calculus of the Iranian regime, we must also recognize that every day that passes brings Iran closer to the point of nuclear no return. Ultimately, we must do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability—through peaceful and diplomatic means if we possibly can, but through military force if we absolutely must.

This is precisely what the president and his advisers have refused to say, and indeed have intimated is not in the cards.

But there is another problem. We aren’t likely to know whether sanctions are “working,” and the Iranians are quite likely to exploit the additional time to stave off other measures. How are we to know if work stops on the mullahs’ nuclear programs? And if the Iranians declare that they will return to the bargaining table, what is to prevent them, as they did last year, from practicing the same game of delay as they continue with their plans? The problem, it seems, is not merely the absence of effective tools to force a change in the Iranians’ conduct but also the will and determination to use those tools in a meaningful way.

Obama set the pattern last year — withholding support for the Green movement, muting the reaction to the Qom revelation, and allowing deadline after deadline to pass. From all this the mullahs have learned that very little is required to hold the U.S. at bay and that we are overeager to avoid confrontation. At every turn, they have bested Obama and the “international community” and bought themselves breathing room.

The sanctions, therefore, are not the solution to the Iranian threat. Rather than congratulating the administration for passing sanctions after nearly a year and a half, Congress and pro-Israel groups must make clear that “containment” is not an option and that we will use military force and provide Israel with unconditional support if necessary. “Passed useless sanctions and allowed Iran to go nuclear” is not a result from which the president, lawmakers, or American Jewry will recover. And it is not an outcome Israelis can tolerate.

The Senate passed its toughest sanctions to date by a 99-0 vote. Sen. Joe Lieberman had praise for the measure:

This bill represents the most powerful and comprehensive package of Iran sanctions ever passed by Congress. I am grateful to the leadership of Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Howard Berman for guiding the development of this complex and critically important legislation, as well as the leadership of Senator Reid and Senator McConnell in ensuring its swift passage by the Senate.

I hope and believe that the House will now act swiftly to pass this vital legislation, and that President Obama will sign it into law. Just as importantly, it is critical that these provisions are forcefully and proactively implemented once they become law.

The measures imposed by this legislation—together with sanctions adopted at the UN and, even more importantly, by like-minded nations around the world—offer our last, best hope of peacefully preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Time is of the essence.

But Lieberman made clear that sanctions are not an end in themselves. And in contrast to the president’s que sera, sera attitude, Lieberman was emphatic that if the sanctions don’t work (and more about that below), we must use other options, including force:

While we hope that our combined sanctions will change the calculus of the Iranian regime, we must also recognize that every day that passes brings Iran closer to the point of nuclear no return. Ultimately, we must do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability—through peaceful and diplomatic means if we possibly can, but through military force if we absolutely must.

This is precisely what the president and his advisers have refused to say, and indeed have intimated is not in the cards.

But there is another problem. We aren’t likely to know whether sanctions are “working,” and the Iranians are quite likely to exploit the additional time to stave off other measures. How are we to know if work stops on the mullahs’ nuclear programs? And if the Iranians declare that they will return to the bargaining table, what is to prevent them, as they did last year, from practicing the same game of delay as they continue with their plans? The problem, it seems, is not merely the absence of effective tools to force a change in the Iranians’ conduct but also the will and determination to use those tools in a meaningful way.

Obama set the pattern last year — withholding support for the Green movement, muting the reaction to the Qom revelation, and allowing deadline after deadline to pass. From all this the mullahs have learned that very little is required to hold the U.S. at bay and that we are overeager to avoid confrontation. At every turn, they have bested Obama and the “international community” and bought themselves breathing room.

The sanctions, therefore, are not the solution to the Iranian threat. Rather than congratulating the administration for passing sanctions after nearly a year and a half, Congress and pro-Israel groups must make clear that “containment” is not an option and that we will use military force and provide Israel with unconditional support if necessary. “Passed useless sanctions and allowed Iran to go nuclear” is not a result from which the president, lawmakers, or American Jewry will recover. And it is not an outcome Israelis can tolerate.

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Obama Slows Sanctions Bill

You knew this was coming:

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Ca.), the co-chairs of the Iran sanctions conference committee, have agreed to slow down Congressional Iran sanctions until the end of June, given the progress the Obama administration has shown getting consensus from all the permanent members for a new United Nations Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran.

Despite the carve-outs and the thin gruel in the UN sanctions resolution, the two self-described friends of Israel are just delighted with the result:

Dodd and Berman added: “With the progress in negotiations at the Security Council, we believe that our overriding goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability is best served by providing a limited amount of time for those efforts — and expected follow-on action by the EU at its mid-June summit — to reach a successful conclusion before we send our bill to the President.”

AIPAC has applauded the slowdown. Maybe they all know something the rest of us don’t; maybe there’s some other sanctions proposal floating around the UN, because this sure doesn’t sound like anything we’ve seen already:

AIPAC also calls for quick U.N. Security Council passage of tough sanctions, and calls on our government and our European allies — individually and collectively thru the European Union — to press ahead urgently and immediately with complementary and crippling sanctions to stop Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability before it is too late.

But the UN sanctions aren’t tough, and the sanctions under consideration in the U.S. Congress need carve-outs for China and Russia, the Obama team argues. So where are we heading? And why is AIPAC cheering?

There are two possibilities. One is that there’s a game plan for super-duper EU sanctions and a commitment by the administration to use force to stop Iran from going nuclear if that fails. Doesn’t sound like what we’ve been hearing for a year and a half, but we can hope. The other is that this is another dangerous stall and a slow walk to containment, and the Obama team has successfully snowed Congress and pro-Israel groups into playing along with the charade. I sure hope I’m wrong about which it is.

You knew this was coming:

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Ca.), the co-chairs of the Iran sanctions conference committee, have agreed to slow down Congressional Iran sanctions until the end of June, given the progress the Obama administration has shown getting consensus from all the permanent members for a new United Nations Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran.

Despite the carve-outs and the thin gruel in the UN sanctions resolution, the two self-described friends of Israel are just delighted with the result:

Dodd and Berman added: “With the progress in negotiations at the Security Council, we believe that our overriding goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability is best served by providing a limited amount of time for those efforts — and expected follow-on action by the EU at its mid-June summit — to reach a successful conclusion before we send our bill to the President.”

AIPAC has applauded the slowdown. Maybe they all know something the rest of us don’t; maybe there’s some other sanctions proposal floating around the UN, because this sure doesn’t sound like anything we’ve seen already:

AIPAC also calls for quick U.N. Security Council passage of tough sanctions, and calls on our government and our European allies — individually and collectively thru the European Union — to press ahead urgently and immediately with complementary and crippling sanctions to stop Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability before it is too late.

But the UN sanctions aren’t tough, and the sanctions under consideration in the U.S. Congress need carve-outs for China and Russia, the Obama team argues. So where are we heading? And why is AIPAC cheering?

There are two possibilities. One is that there’s a game plan for super-duper EU sanctions and a commitment by the administration to use force to stop Iran from going nuclear if that fails. Doesn’t sound like what we’ve been hearing for a year and a half, but we can hope. The other is that this is another dangerous stall and a slow walk to containment, and the Obama team has successfully snowed Congress and pro-Israel groups into playing along with the charade. I sure hope I’m wrong about which it is.

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Connecticut Front-Runner’s Woes May Help Simmons, Not McMahon

The news that Linda McMahon’s campaign was the source for the New York Times article exposing Richard Blumenthal’s lies about his Vietnam War record provides an interesting irony for the GOP primary in Connecticut.

As Politico noted, it was probably McMahon’s deep pockets that financed the research about Blumenthal, though it must be acknowledged that when the Times wants to dig into someone’s background to find dirt — whether real or imagined — the Gray Lady finds the money. John McCain, who was the subject of a months-long investigation based on unsubstantiated allegations of infidelity during the 2008 presidential campaign, can testify to that.

However, it can be argued that the revelations about Blumenthal’s mendacity could actually undermine McMahon’s own primary campaign rather than help it. McMahon jumped into the Connecticut GOP Senate race thinking that former congressman Rob Simmons could be beaten easily in the primary by her superior financial resources. The fact that Simmons was a more credible candidate and had governmental experience was also discounted as being of negligible value in a year in which outsider status had greater appeal to discontented voters.

But by bringing to light Blumenthal’s lies about serving in Vietnam when in fact he dodged the draft by obtaining several deferments and then gaining a coveted spot in a Reserve unit in Washington (where he participated in Toys for Tots programs rather than in fighting), McMahon may have given Simmons the break he was looking for. As it happens, Simmons is a real Vietnam combat veteran. As such, he will be better placed to exploit the voters’ disgust with Blumenthal’s lies than is McMahon, whose only combat experience is of the stage-managed pro-wrestling variety in which the steroid-filled buffoons she and her husband employed pretended to hurt each other.

Once incumbent Chris Dodd decided to pull the plug on his scandal-plagued re-election effort and Blumenthal declared his intention to run, the Connecticut seat went from being in play to one that was classified as safely in the Democratic column. However, as I wrote last month, the first reviews of Blumenthal’s candidacy were decidedly negative. Though he has always been considered the golden boy of the state’s Democratic Party — albeit one that was strangely reluctant to take his chances and run for a higher office than state attorney general — once he hit the campaign trail this year, many Democrats began to worry that he was “Martha Coakley in Pants.” But the Times blockbuster isn’t merely another embarrassment for a faltering campaign. For a man like Blumenthal, whose main asset was a reputation for integrity (in a state whose high officials have had a distressing tendency to be convicted on corruption charges in recent years), a story that reveals him as a serial liar has the potential to destroy his candidacy.

Blumenthal will attempt to salvage the situation this afternoon in a press conference in which he will, no doubt, attempt to discredit the Times and/or McMahon. But you can’t help but wonder whether Connecticut Democrats, who thought they were putting scandal behind them when they replaced Dodd with Blumenthal, are now wondering whether they just exchanged one problem for another.

The news that Linda McMahon’s campaign was the source for the New York Times article exposing Richard Blumenthal’s lies about his Vietnam War record provides an interesting irony for the GOP primary in Connecticut.

As Politico noted, it was probably McMahon’s deep pockets that financed the research about Blumenthal, though it must be acknowledged that when the Times wants to dig into someone’s background to find dirt — whether real or imagined — the Gray Lady finds the money. John McCain, who was the subject of a months-long investigation based on unsubstantiated allegations of infidelity during the 2008 presidential campaign, can testify to that.

However, it can be argued that the revelations about Blumenthal’s mendacity could actually undermine McMahon’s own primary campaign rather than help it. McMahon jumped into the Connecticut GOP Senate race thinking that former congressman Rob Simmons could be beaten easily in the primary by her superior financial resources. The fact that Simmons was a more credible candidate and had governmental experience was also discounted as being of negligible value in a year in which outsider status had greater appeal to discontented voters.

But by bringing to light Blumenthal’s lies about serving in Vietnam when in fact he dodged the draft by obtaining several deferments and then gaining a coveted spot in a Reserve unit in Washington (where he participated in Toys for Tots programs rather than in fighting), McMahon may have given Simmons the break he was looking for. As it happens, Simmons is a real Vietnam combat veteran. As such, he will be better placed to exploit the voters’ disgust with Blumenthal’s lies than is McMahon, whose only combat experience is of the stage-managed pro-wrestling variety in which the steroid-filled buffoons she and her husband employed pretended to hurt each other.

Once incumbent Chris Dodd decided to pull the plug on his scandal-plagued re-election effort and Blumenthal declared his intention to run, the Connecticut seat went from being in play to one that was classified as safely in the Democratic column. However, as I wrote last month, the first reviews of Blumenthal’s candidacy were decidedly negative. Though he has always been considered the golden boy of the state’s Democratic Party — albeit one that was strangely reluctant to take his chances and run for a higher office than state attorney general — once he hit the campaign trail this year, many Democrats began to worry that he was “Martha Coakley in Pants.” But the Times blockbuster isn’t merely another embarrassment for a faltering campaign. For a man like Blumenthal, whose main asset was a reputation for integrity (in a state whose high officials have had a distressing tendency to be convicted on corruption charges in recent years), a story that reveals him as a serial liar has the potential to destroy his candidacy.

Blumenthal will attempt to salvage the situation this afternoon in a press conference in which he will, no doubt, attempt to discredit the Times and/or McMahon. But you can’t help but wonder whether Connecticut Democrats, who thought they were putting scandal behind them when they replaced Dodd with Blumenthal, are now wondering whether they just exchanged one problem for another.

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Connecticut Democratic Senate Candidate Toast?

The Democrats thought they saved Chris Dodd’s Senate seat when the ethically challenged senator from Countrywide announced his retirement and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal entered the race. But now there’s this from the New York Times:

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to [a group of senior citizen and veterans] gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

Yes, lots of candidates have gotten tangled up in Vietnam-service records, but Blumenthal is in a class by himself, the Gray Lady charges:

But what is striking about Mr. Blumenthal’s record is the contrast between the many steps he took that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, and the misleading way he often speaks about that period of his life now, especially when he is speaking at veterans’ ceremonies or other patriotic events.

Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk. At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar.

OK, if this is true, he’s toast in the race and probably needs to resign from his current job. Even Paul Begala calls it “indefensible” and “a catastrophic mistake.” (And if there’s one thing Begala knows, it’s an ethical scandal.) The primary is in August, so Democrats have the chance to find a replacement for the replacement. But they better hurry — the nominating convention is this Friday. (Hmm, was the Gray Lady doing the party a favor in getting Blumenthal out of the way now?) There’s got to be some Democrat in the state who’s not ethically deficient, right?

The Democrats thought they saved Chris Dodd’s Senate seat when the ethically challenged senator from Countrywide announced his retirement and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal entered the race. But now there’s this from the New York Times:

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to [a group of senior citizen and veterans] gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

Yes, lots of candidates have gotten tangled up in Vietnam-service records, but Blumenthal is in a class by himself, the Gray Lady charges:

But what is striking about Mr. Blumenthal’s record is the contrast between the many steps he took that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, and the misleading way he often speaks about that period of his life now, especially when he is speaking at veterans’ ceremonies or other patriotic events.

Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk. At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar.

OK, if this is true, he’s toast in the race and probably needs to resign from his current job. Even Paul Begala calls it “indefensible” and “a catastrophic mistake.” (And if there’s one thing Begala knows, it’s an ethical scandal.) The primary is in August, so Democrats have the chance to find a replacement for the replacement. But they better hurry — the nominating convention is this Friday. (Hmm, was the Gray Lady doing the party a favor in getting Blumenthal out of the way now?) There’s got to be some Democrat in the state who’s not ethically deficient, right?

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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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Congress Objects to Obami’s Israel and Iran Policies

Seventy-six senators have joined in a letter, backed by AIPAC, to Hillary Clinton asking that the Obama administration knock off its Jerusalem onslaught and focus attention on Palestinian rejectionism. They write:

We write to urge you to do everything possible to ensure that the recent tensions between the U.S. and Israeli administrations over the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem do not derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S.-Israel relations. In fact, we strongly believe that it is more important than ever for Israel and the Palestinians to enter into direct, face-to-face negotiations without preconditions on either side.

Despite your best efforts, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been frozen for over a year. Indeed, in a reversal of 16 years of policy, Palestinian leaders are refusing to enter into direct negotiations with Israel. Instead, they have put forward a growing list of unprecedented preconditions. By contrast, Israel’s prime minister stated categorically that he is eager to begin unconditional peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Direct negotiations are in the interest of all parties involved — including the United States.

They want Hillary to reaffirm the “unbreakable bonds” between the two countries and remind the administration that “differences are best resolved amicably and in a manner that befits longstanding strategic allies.” It is noteworthy who signed and who did not. Chuck Schumer, who gave a rousing speech at AIPAC but recently ducked an incisive inquiry on the Obami policy, signed on, as did some Democrats up for re-election, including Barbara Boxer, Arlen Specter, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Who’s missing? The Democratic leadership: Harry Reid, Richard Durbin, veteran senators Diane Feinstein and Chris Dodd, and unofficial secretary of state John Kerry. The five apparently are still in the business of running interference for the administration.

Now, the letter could have been more pointed, calling attention to the administration’s “condemnation” of Israel and objecting to the prospect of an “imposed” settlement agreement. Yes, the White House and some key, dutiful congressional allies remain seemingly impervious to the harm inflicted on the U.S.-Israeli relationship, and in turn on the credibility and standing of the U.S.. Nevertheless, this is a hopeful sign that there is broad opposition to the Obami’s anti-Israel gambit. Perhaps before it is too late we’ll hear a definitive and clear renunciation — a condemnation! — of the idea of an imposed settlement deal.

Meanwhile, steam is also gathering on both the House and Senate sides to move forward with an Iran sanctions bill. Later today, Reps. Mike Pence and Jesse Jackson, Jr. are scheduled to hold a presser to introduce a letter advocating that “punishing sanctions” be imposed on the Iranian regime. Again, the Obami policy — thin-gruel sanctions that Obama proclaims are “no magic wand” to halting the Iranians’ nuclear program — seems to lack the confidence of a broad bipartisan group of lawmakers. We’ll see if the administration is amenable to pressure from them. So far, it’s been immune to public or congressional objections in its effort to reorient American Middle East policy. It remains to be seen whether the gang whose solution to opposition is usually “double-down!” will relent in its assault against Israel and rev up its efforts to prevent Iran from realizing its nuclear ambitions.

Seventy-six senators have joined in a letter, backed by AIPAC, to Hillary Clinton asking that the Obama administration knock off its Jerusalem onslaught and focus attention on Palestinian rejectionism. They write:

We write to urge you to do everything possible to ensure that the recent tensions between the U.S. and Israeli administrations over the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem do not derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S.-Israel relations. In fact, we strongly believe that it is more important than ever for Israel and the Palestinians to enter into direct, face-to-face negotiations without preconditions on either side.

Despite your best efforts, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been frozen for over a year. Indeed, in a reversal of 16 years of policy, Palestinian leaders are refusing to enter into direct negotiations with Israel. Instead, they have put forward a growing list of unprecedented preconditions. By contrast, Israel’s prime minister stated categorically that he is eager to begin unconditional peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Direct negotiations are in the interest of all parties involved — including the United States.

They want Hillary to reaffirm the “unbreakable bonds” between the two countries and remind the administration that “differences are best resolved amicably and in a manner that befits longstanding strategic allies.” It is noteworthy who signed and who did not. Chuck Schumer, who gave a rousing speech at AIPAC but recently ducked an incisive inquiry on the Obami policy, signed on, as did some Democrats up for re-election, including Barbara Boxer, Arlen Specter, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Who’s missing? The Democratic leadership: Harry Reid, Richard Durbin, veteran senators Diane Feinstein and Chris Dodd, and unofficial secretary of state John Kerry. The five apparently are still in the business of running interference for the administration.

Now, the letter could have been more pointed, calling attention to the administration’s “condemnation” of Israel and objecting to the prospect of an “imposed” settlement agreement. Yes, the White House and some key, dutiful congressional allies remain seemingly impervious to the harm inflicted on the U.S.-Israeli relationship, and in turn on the credibility and standing of the U.S.. Nevertheless, this is a hopeful sign that there is broad opposition to the Obami’s anti-Israel gambit. Perhaps before it is too late we’ll hear a definitive and clear renunciation — a condemnation! — of the idea of an imposed settlement deal.

Meanwhile, steam is also gathering on both the House and Senate sides to move forward with an Iran sanctions bill. Later today, Reps. Mike Pence and Jesse Jackson, Jr. are scheduled to hold a presser to introduce a letter advocating that “punishing sanctions” be imposed on the Iranian regime. Again, the Obami policy — thin-gruel sanctions that Obama proclaims are “no magic wand” to halting the Iranians’ nuclear program — seems to lack the confidence of a broad bipartisan group of lawmakers. We’ll see if the administration is amenable to pressure from them. So far, it’s been immune to public or congressional objections in its effort to reorient American Middle East policy. It remains to be seen whether the gang whose solution to opposition is usually “double-down!” will relent in its assault against Israel and rev up its efforts to prevent Iran from realizing its nuclear ambitions.

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Cutting Angels’ Wings

Congress has passed or contemplated so many blunders of late that I, for one, am finding it harder and harder to muster fresh outrage toward every new one. But this latest being cooked up by Chris Dodd deserves a special shout out:

First, Dodd’s bill would require startups raising funding to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and then wait 120 days for the SEC to review their filing. A second provision raises the wealth requirements for an “accredited investor” who can invest in startups — if the bill passes, investors would need assets of more than $2.3 million (up from $1 million) or income of more than $450,000 (up from $250,000). The third restriction removes the federal pre-emption allowing angel and venture financing in the United States to follow federal regulations, rather than face different rules between states.

All the prerogatives over private businesses; all the power over health care, now near absolute; all the dabbling in the inner workings of financial institutions; in short, all the regulation in the world, cannot seem to satisfy this government. Are the Democrat legislators ever going to have enough? Or is their regulatory fetish feverishly looking for new, exotic objects?

While Obama sheds crocodile tears over how hard startups have it, his henchman is working night and day to ensure that they never receive seed funding. Whichever way this bill is looked at, not a single rationalization for saddling angels with such burdens can be found. Unless, of course, Democratic legislators so believe in their own rhetoric of strife against them big, eeeevil corporations that they want to kill them in their womb or prevent them form ever being born, let along growing big. And if such is the motive, conscious or unconscious, no measures could backfire more sorely than the ones being dealt out. For any regulation that raises new barriers to entry eventually hinders competition, confers undue advantages to incumbents, and fosters just the kind of environment where oligopolies can flourish. If there ever were such a sinister monolithic entity as “Big Business,” it could not be more satisfied with this bill. But it is surely an occasion for entrepreneurs to weep, as I can attest from being married to one, all of whose startups owe their inception to angel investment and might have never come into existence under such debilitating regulation. Economic recovery in America is being dealt a crippling blow.

Congress has passed or contemplated so many blunders of late that I, for one, am finding it harder and harder to muster fresh outrage toward every new one. But this latest being cooked up by Chris Dodd deserves a special shout out:

First, Dodd’s bill would require startups raising funding to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and then wait 120 days for the SEC to review their filing. A second provision raises the wealth requirements for an “accredited investor” who can invest in startups — if the bill passes, investors would need assets of more than $2.3 million (up from $1 million) or income of more than $450,000 (up from $250,000). The third restriction removes the federal pre-emption allowing angel and venture financing in the United States to follow federal regulations, rather than face different rules between states.

All the prerogatives over private businesses; all the power over health care, now near absolute; all the dabbling in the inner workings of financial institutions; in short, all the regulation in the world, cannot seem to satisfy this government. Are the Democrat legislators ever going to have enough? Or is their regulatory fetish feverishly looking for new, exotic objects?

While Obama sheds crocodile tears over how hard startups have it, his henchman is working night and day to ensure that they never receive seed funding. Whichever way this bill is looked at, not a single rationalization for saddling angels with such burdens can be found. Unless, of course, Democratic legislators so believe in their own rhetoric of strife against them big, eeeevil corporations that they want to kill them in their womb or prevent them form ever being born, let along growing big. And if such is the motive, conscious or unconscious, no measures could backfire more sorely than the ones being dealt out. For any regulation that raises new barriers to entry eventually hinders competition, confers undue advantages to incumbents, and fosters just the kind of environment where oligopolies can flourish. If there ever were such a sinister monolithic entity as “Big Business,” it could not be more satisfied with this bill. But it is surely an occasion for entrepreneurs to weep, as I can attest from being married to one, all of whose startups owe their inception to angel investment and might have never come into existence under such debilitating regulation. Economic recovery in America is being dealt a crippling blow.

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The End Game

Politico reports:

The advice went out to freshman and sophomore House Democrats, blunt talk to help them through a tricky vote on health reform.”At this point, we have to just rip the band-aid off and have a vote — up or down; yes or no?” the memo said. “Things like reconciliation and what the rules committee does is INSIDE BASEBALL.”

Got that? Time to take your lumps and walk the plank! The Democratic leadership most certainly would prefer that the House members not think about reconciliation, for that would remind them how deeply suspicious is the electorate about the process and the substance of ObamaCare. And, of course, the Pelosi-Reid-Obama troika doesn’t want the troops thinking too hard about this week’s parliamentarian’s ruling that made crystal clear what is required here: the House will need to pass the Senate bill, and it will become law before anything is fixed (or not). That means that the abortion subsidy and some of those colorfully named deals will in fact become law. “The ‘Louisiana Purchase’ — $300 million in additional Medicaid money for the state — and a $100 million hospital-grant program requested by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will remain in the legislation,” Politico reports.

It is widely assumed that Pelosi is currently short of the votes needed to pass the wildly unpopular bill. What remains to be seen is whether she can arm-twist and cajole enough members to sacrifice themselves for the greater glory of Obama and the Left’s dream of a health-care “reform.” Republicans will try their best. As one leadership adviser put it to me: “Our goal next week is to sow as much chaos and confusion as possible and make it as difficult as humanly possible. … Our ability to make Dems vote no is limited to applying as much public pressure as possible.  Pelosi and crew can offer payoffs, kickbacks, earmarks and other sweetheart deals to entice them to vote yes.” And should Pelosi pull it off, the rest of the year and the foreseeable future will be a referendum on that vote, with Republicans dedicated to the repeal of a bill that the electorate finds noxious.

No wonder the leadership doesn’t want its members thinking too hard or too long about this process. If they do, they might decide to pull back from that precipice, save themselves, and in the process, rescue what’s left of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.

Politico reports:

The advice went out to freshman and sophomore House Democrats, blunt talk to help them through a tricky vote on health reform.”At this point, we have to just rip the band-aid off and have a vote — up or down; yes or no?” the memo said. “Things like reconciliation and what the rules committee does is INSIDE BASEBALL.”

Got that? Time to take your lumps and walk the plank! The Democratic leadership most certainly would prefer that the House members not think about reconciliation, for that would remind them how deeply suspicious is the electorate about the process and the substance of ObamaCare. And, of course, the Pelosi-Reid-Obama troika doesn’t want the troops thinking too hard about this week’s parliamentarian’s ruling that made crystal clear what is required here: the House will need to pass the Senate bill, and it will become law before anything is fixed (or not). That means that the abortion subsidy and some of those colorfully named deals will in fact become law. “The ‘Louisiana Purchase’ — $300 million in additional Medicaid money for the state — and a $100 million hospital-grant program requested by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will remain in the legislation,” Politico reports.

It is widely assumed that Pelosi is currently short of the votes needed to pass the wildly unpopular bill. What remains to be seen is whether she can arm-twist and cajole enough members to sacrifice themselves for the greater glory of Obama and the Left’s dream of a health-care “reform.” Republicans will try their best. As one leadership adviser put it to me: “Our goal next week is to sow as much chaos and confusion as possible and make it as difficult as humanly possible. … Our ability to make Dems vote no is limited to applying as much public pressure as possible.  Pelosi and crew can offer payoffs, kickbacks, earmarks and other sweetheart deals to entice them to vote yes.” And should Pelosi pull it off, the rest of the year and the foreseeable future will be a referendum on that vote, with Republicans dedicated to the repeal of a bill that the electorate finds noxious.

No wonder the leadership doesn’t want its members thinking too hard or too long about this process. If they do, they might decide to pull back from that precipice, save themselves, and in the process, rescue what’s left of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What passes for “science” with the global-warming crowd: “Crucial data on the American climate, part of the basis for proposed trillion-dollar global warming legislation, is churned out by a 120-year-old weather system that has remained mostly unchanged since Benjamin Harrison was in the White House. The network measures surface temperature by tallying paper reports sent in by snail mail from volunteers whose data, according to critics, often resembles a hodgepodge of guesswork, mathematical interpolation and simple human error.”

American unseriousness on Iran personified (from an unnamed official): “We are exploring a range of options to achieve our objectives of securing Iran’s compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UNSCR resolutions.” But not any time soon: “Ambassador Emanuel Issoze-Ngondet, who is president of the Security Council for the month of March, said the Iranian nuclear issue was not on the agenda of the 15-nation panel this month, but council members might still hold a meeting on it. ‘We think the question could come to the table [in March],’ Issoze-Ngondet told reporters through an interpreter. ‘But right now we are waiting. We’re following the process that’s ongoing. We’re waiting for the right time to bring the Security Council to deal with it.'” Feel safer yet?

From the “Middle East is hard” file: “Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama’s big picture guy, is set to draw it for the Israelis next week in a major address: Confront Iran internationally, talk peace regionally. Bold strokes, but already Biden’s initiative is being dogged by scribbly little details — timing on Iran, building in Jerusalem, restoration in the West Bank, and just how far apart will Israelis and the Palestinians sit.” It’s a scribbly little detail that there’s no remote chance of a peace deal, I suppose.

Democratic infighting continues: “House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank on Tuesday blasted a proposal floated by Senate negotiators to place a proposed consumer protection agency inside the Federal Reserve. ‘I was incredulous,’ the Massachusetts Democrat said. ‘After all the Fed bashing we’ve heard? The Fed’s such a weak engine, so let’s give them consumer protection? It’s almost a bad joke. I was very disappointed.'” The proposal he’s bashing is Democratic Senator Chris Dodd’s.

Mickey Kaus doesn’t expect to win the California U.S. Senate race against Barbara Boxer. “My goal is to get attacked. If they notice me enough to attack me I will declare victory.” This is going to be fun.

James Taranto cracks: “If we were cynical, we’d suspect this is all a ruse–that Kaus’s real aim is to get an op-ed published in the New York Times when he fails to return the nomination papers in a timely fashion.”

Oh good grief: Dan Rather whines that there were only six women of 42 participants at the health-care summit. Yes, one was the Speaker of the House.

A good day at the Supreme Court for Second Amendment advocates: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed poised to require state and local governments to obey the Second Amendment guarantee of a personal right to a gun, but with perhaps considerable authority to regulate that right.  The dominant sentiment on the Court was to extend the Amendment beyond the federal level, based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of ‘due process,’ since doing so through another part of the 14th Amendment would raise too many questions about what other rights might emerge.”

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, it doesn’t matter which Republican or Democrat is on the ballot in the Arkansas senate race; the Republican always leads. Could be true in a lot of states this year.

What passes for “science” with the global-warming crowd: “Crucial data on the American climate, part of the basis for proposed trillion-dollar global warming legislation, is churned out by a 120-year-old weather system that has remained mostly unchanged since Benjamin Harrison was in the White House. The network measures surface temperature by tallying paper reports sent in by snail mail from volunteers whose data, according to critics, often resembles a hodgepodge of guesswork, mathematical interpolation and simple human error.”

American unseriousness on Iran personified (from an unnamed official): “We are exploring a range of options to achieve our objectives of securing Iran’s compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UNSCR resolutions.” But not any time soon: “Ambassador Emanuel Issoze-Ngondet, who is president of the Security Council for the month of March, said the Iranian nuclear issue was not on the agenda of the 15-nation panel this month, but council members might still hold a meeting on it. ‘We think the question could come to the table [in March],’ Issoze-Ngondet told reporters through an interpreter. ‘But right now we are waiting. We’re following the process that’s ongoing. We’re waiting for the right time to bring the Security Council to deal with it.'” Feel safer yet?

From the “Middle East is hard” file: “Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama’s big picture guy, is set to draw it for the Israelis next week in a major address: Confront Iran internationally, talk peace regionally. Bold strokes, but already Biden’s initiative is being dogged by scribbly little details — timing on Iran, building in Jerusalem, restoration in the West Bank, and just how far apart will Israelis and the Palestinians sit.” It’s a scribbly little detail that there’s no remote chance of a peace deal, I suppose.

Democratic infighting continues: “House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank on Tuesday blasted a proposal floated by Senate negotiators to place a proposed consumer protection agency inside the Federal Reserve. ‘I was incredulous,’ the Massachusetts Democrat said. ‘After all the Fed bashing we’ve heard? The Fed’s such a weak engine, so let’s give them consumer protection? It’s almost a bad joke. I was very disappointed.'” The proposal he’s bashing is Democratic Senator Chris Dodd’s.

Mickey Kaus doesn’t expect to win the California U.S. Senate race against Barbara Boxer. “My goal is to get attacked. If they notice me enough to attack me I will declare victory.” This is going to be fun.

James Taranto cracks: “If we were cynical, we’d suspect this is all a ruse–that Kaus’s real aim is to get an op-ed published in the New York Times when he fails to return the nomination papers in a timely fashion.”

Oh good grief: Dan Rather whines that there were only six women of 42 participants at the health-care summit. Yes, one was the Speaker of the House.

A good day at the Supreme Court for Second Amendment advocates: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed poised to require state and local governments to obey the Second Amendment guarantee of a personal right to a gun, but with perhaps considerable authority to regulate that right.  The dominant sentiment on the Court was to extend the Amendment beyond the federal level, based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of ‘due process,’ since doing so through another part of the 14th Amendment would raise too many questions about what other rights might emerge.”

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, it doesn’t matter which Republican or Democrat is on the ballot in the Arkansas senate race; the Republican always leads. Could be true in a lot of states this year.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Katie Couric will interview Obama live from the Super Bowl because we haven’t seen enough of him, and what he really needs is to communicate more with the American people. Well, that’s apparently what they think inside the White House cocoon. More cowbell!

Mickey Kaus thinks Obama’s excuse mongering about the health-care bill (“we were just about to clean those up [objections to the bill], and then Massachusetts’ election happened”) is a “stunning admission of incompetence.” So maybe the president does have a communications problem, after all. If you can’t read a calendar or follow election polls, you should keep it to yourself.

The Hill: “The House is unlikely to extend President George W. Bush’s cuts for taxpayers earning more than $250,000, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. … Allowing the tax breaks to expire at the end of the year will spark election-year criticism that Democrats are raising taxes. Congress approved the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Democrats are worried about losing seats in November’s midterm election, but Hoyer discounted the idea of his party losing seats solely because of a tax increase.” Well, he’s right — there is also all the red ink, ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the sleazy backroom dealings.

Foaming at the mouth and comparing Republicans to Hitler is not such a winning TV-ratings combination anymore. Andrew Malcolm tells us: “Olbermann’s showboat is sinking. Listing in you-know-which direction. It’s as if he thinks talking LOUDER will keep his low cell battery from dying. Worst, Olbermann’s network president, Phil Griffin, is publicly praising him, always an ominous sign in television.”

Dana Perino reminds us: “The context in which the Bush administration was operating is important. President Bush authorized detaining terrorists as enemy combatants in November 2001, two months or so after 9/11. The Shoe Bomber was arrested in December 2001, only a month after President Bush’s order. At that point, there was no system in place to handle enemy combatants. … Perhaps the more interesting context is how months after the administration announced a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group they could not meet after Abdulmutallab’s attempt because … it hadn’t even been set up yet.”

Karl Rove points out: “The budget is filled with gimmicks. For example, the president is calling for a domestic, nonsecurity, discretionary spending freeze. But that freeze doesn’t apply to a $282 billion proposed second stimulus package. It also doesn’t apply to the $519 billion that has yet to be spent from the first stimulus bill. The federal civilian work force is also not frozen. It is projected to rise to 1.43 million employees in 2010, up from 1.2 million in 2008.” And it seems that the mainstream media and the public are increasingly on to this sort of stunt. That may account for all the Democratic retirements: “Democrats are in the midst of the painful realization: Mr. Obama’s words cannot save them from the power of bad ideas.”

But Obama is telling Senate Democrats that “I think the natural political instinct is to tread lightly, keep your head down and to play it safe.” Translation: go ahead, pass ObamaCare, and join Martha Coakley, Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Chris Dodd, and Byron Dorgan. The president tells them “the answer is not to do nothing.” I think “nothing” is looking like the best of bad options for the beleaguered Senate Democrats, who are now contemplating a serious reduction in their ranks.

The gamesmanship finally ends: “Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown will be sworn in Thursday, according to Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Brown’s lawyer today asked that the election results in his state be immediately certified so that he can be sworn in right away. Initially Brown was scheduled to take office next week, but has since decided he wants to vote on upcoming nominations for solicitor general, the General Services Administration and the National Labor Relations Board.” That probably means that Harold Craig Becker’s nomination is in trouble.

Katie Couric will interview Obama live from the Super Bowl because we haven’t seen enough of him, and what he really needs is to communicate more with the American people. Well, that’s apparently what they think inside the White House cocoon. More cowbell!

Mickey Kaus thinks Obama’s excuse mongering about the health-care bill (“we were just about to clean those up [objections to the bill], and then Massachusetts’ election happened”) is a “stunning admission of incompetence.” So maybe the president does have a communications problem, after all. If you can’t read a calendar or follow election polls, you should keep it to yourself.

The Hill: “The House is unlikely to extend President George W. Bush’s cuts for taxpayers earning more than $250,000, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. … Allowing the tax breaks to expire at the end of the year will spark election-year criticism that Democrats are raising taxes. Congress approved the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Democrats are worried about losing seats in November’s midterm election, but Hoyer discounted the idea of his party losing seats solely because of a tax increase.” Well, he’s right — there is also all the red ink, ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the sleazy backroom dealings.

Foaming at the mouth and comparing Republicans to Hitler is not such a winning TV-ratings combination anymore. Andrew Malcolm tells us: “Olbermann’s showboat is sinking. Listing in you-know-which direction. It’s as if he thinks talking LOUDER will keep his low cell battery from dying. Worst, Olbermann’s network president, Phil Griffin, is publicly praising him, always an ominous sign in television.”

Dana Perino reminds us: “The context in which the Bush administration was operating is important. President Bush authorized detaining terrorists as enemy combatants in November 2001, two months or so after 9/11. The Shoe Bomber was arrested in December 2001, only a month after President Bush’s order. At that point, there was no system in place to handle enemy combatants. … Perhaps the more interesting context is how months after the administration announced a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group they could not meet after Abdulmutallab’s attempt because … it hadn’t even been set up yet.”

Karl Rove points out: “The budget is filled with gimmicks. For example, the president is calling for a domestic, nonsecurity, discretionary spending freeze. But that freeze doesn’t apply to a $282 billion proposed second stimulus package. It also doesn’t apply to the $519 billion that has yet to be spent from the first stimulus bill. The federal civilian work force is also not frozen. It is projected to rise to 1.43 million employees in 2010, up from 1.2 million in 2008.” And it seems that the mainstream media and the public are increasingly on to this sort of stunt. That may account for all the Democratic retirements: “Democrats are in the midst of the painful realization: Mr. Obama’s words cannot save them from the power of bad ideas.”

But Obama is telling Senate Democrats that “I think the natural political instinct is to tread lightly, keep your head down and to play it safe.” Translation: go ahead, pass ObamaCare, and join Martha Coakley, Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Chris Dodd, and Byron Dorgan. The president tells them “the answer is not to do nothing.” I think “nothing” is looking like the best of bad options for the beleaguered Senate Democrats, who are now contemplating a serious reduction in their ranks.

The gamesmanship finally ends: “Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown will be sworn in Thursday, according to Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Brown’s lawyer today asked that the election results in his state be immediately certified so that he can be sworn in right away. Initially Brown was scheduled to take office next week, but has since decided he wants to vote on upcoming nominations for solicitor general, the General Services Administration and the National Labor Relations Board.” That probably means that Harold Craig Becker’s nomination is in trouble.

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Now Here’s a Political “Civil War”

When the White House begins to sputter, when there is talk of a wave election, and when a party loses a state previously thought to be unlosable, it doesn’t take long for the backbiting and finger-pointing to start. Stuart Rothenberg picks up lots of it. What is wrong with the Obama operation? Well, Democrats have lots of answers:

“It’s hard when you live in this area to understand how bad it is out there,” one veteran Washington, D.C., Democrat told me recently. “People want jobs. They know that it will take time, but they want to be certain that we are working on it.”

The same Democrat noted that this administration, like others, can’t always count on people telling the president how bad things are outside the Beltway. “When the White House calls, most people figure that to get another call, they better give good news. Tell them how bad things are, and they’ll never call you again.”

Others say it’s Rahm Emanuel’s fault. Rothenberg asks: “Rahm Emanuel, whose successes at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are now part of Democratic Party lore and who was the ultimate Capitol Hill insider, missed Massachusetts? But isn’t he always obsessed with the politics of any issue?” The answer according to one Democrat: “It’s the Myth of Rahm.” Oh, we were told he was a political genius. What about David Axelrod? The Democrats don’t like him either. (“One problem, according to some observers, is that David Axelrod, a savvy political strategist who understands message and campaigns, has become an Obama ‘believer’ and has lost some of the perspective he once had.”)

The real problem may be that the sacrificial lambs have figured out they are the sacrificial lambs. (“‘They want to get the heavy lifting done,’ added another Democrat about the White House’s priorities. ‘They don’t care if it costs them the House, the Senate and governors.'”) Or maybe it’s not Obama’s fault. Maybe it’s Nancy Pelosi’s. “She is utterly tone-deaf. She is supposed to look out for her Members, not just make history. It’s reckless what she has done,” one Democratic consultant tells Rothenberg.

Yikes. That’s a lot of upset. We’ve been told there is great division, a near “civil war,” breaking out in Republican ranks. But let’s be honest, that’s nothing compared with what is happening on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Aside from the implications for 2010, it is also an indication that the White House may no longer control the agenda or can count on the support of its congressional allies. After months of hearing from the White House that hugely unpopular ObamaCare would be popular after it passed and watching the president campaign in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts with no impact (at least not a positive one for their party), Democrats have figured out that that White House’s political radar is on the fritz. Democrats who are in unsafe seats — that is virtually all of them — need to fend for themselves, consider what the public is telling them on everything from spending to terrorism, and be willing to tell their party leadership “no.” Otherwise, they now know they risk joining Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, and Martha Coakley — not to mention Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan — on the list of those who have learned the danger of being tied to the Obama agenda.

When the White House begins to sputter, when there is talk of a wave election, and when a party loses a state previously thought to be unlosable, it doesn’t take long for the backbiting and finger-pointing to start. Stuart Rothenberg picks up lots of it. What is wrong with the Obama operation? Well, Democrats have lots of answers:

“It’s hard when you live in this area to understand how bad it is out there,” one veteran Washington, D.C., Democrat told me recently. “People want jobs. They know that it will take time, but they want to be certain that we are working on it.”

The same Democrat noted that this administration, like others, can’t always count on people telling the president how bad things are outside the Beltway. “When the White House calls, most people figure that to get another call, they better give good news. Tell them how bad things are, and they’ll never call you again.”

Others say it’s Rahm Emanuel’s fault. Rothenberg asks: “Rahm Emanuel, whose successes at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are now part of Democratic Party lore and who was the ultimate Capitol Hill insider, missed Massachusetts? But isn’t he always obsessed with the politics of any issue?” The answer according to one Democrat: “It’s the Myth of Rahm.” Oh, we were told he was a political genius. What about David Axelrod? The Democrats don’t like him either. (“One problem, according to some observers, is that David Axelrod, a savvy political strategist who understands message and campaigns, has become an Obama ‘believer’ and has lost some of the perspective he once had.”)

The real problem may be that the sacrificial lambs have figured out they are the sacrificial lambs. (“‘They want to get the heavy lifting done,’ added another Democrat about the White House’s priorities. ‘They don’t care if it costs them the House, the Senate and governors.'”) Or maybe it’s not Obama’s fault. Maybe it’s Nancy Pelosi’s. “She is utterly tone-deaf. She is supposed to look out for her Members, not just make history. It’s reckless what she has done,” one Democratic consultant tells Rothenberg.

Yikes. That’s a lot of upset. We’ve been told there is great division, a near “civil war,” breaking out in Republican ranks. But let’s be honest, that’s nothing compared with what is happening on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Aside from the implications for 2010, it is also an indication that the White House may no longer control the agenda or can count on the support of its congressional allies. After months of hearing from the White House that hugely unpopular ObamaCare would be popular after it passed and watching the president campaign in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts with no impact (at least not a positive one for their party), Democrats have figured out that that White House’s political radar is on the fritz. Democrats who are in unsafe seats — that is virtually all of them — need to fend for themselves, consider what the public is telling them on everything from spending to terrorism, and be willing to tell their party leadership “no.” Otherwise, they now know they risk joining Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, and Martha Coakley — not to mention Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan — on the list of those who have learned the danger of being tied to the Obama agenda.

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Iran Sanctions Pass the Senate

The president in his SOTU virtually ignored the greatest national security threat of our time: the growing danger that an Islamic revolutionary regime will acquire nuclear weapons. Fortunately, the Senate didn’t wait around for the Obami to act. This report explains:

The US Senate voted Thursday to slap tough new sanctions on Iran, targeting its thirst for gasoline imports in a bid to force Tehran to bow to global pressure to freeze its suspect nuclear program.

“The Iranian regime has engaged in serious human rights abuses against its own citizens, funded terrorist activity throughout the Middle East, and pursued illicit nuclear activities posing a serious threat to the security of the United States and our allies,” said Democratic Senator Chris Dodd.

“With passage of this bill, we make it clear that there will be appropriate consequences if these actions continue,” said Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and a key sponsor of the legislation.

The bill will need to be reconciled with the House version. The Senate’s bill contains robust measures, the sort candidate Obama seemed to favor on the campaign trail:

It also requires that the president report to congress when non-US companies become eligible for sanctions, under a 1996 law that punishes investments of more than 20 million dollars in Iran’s energy sector.

Iran gets most of its gasoline imports from the Swiss firm Vitol, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France’s Total, the Swiss firm Glencore and British Petroleum, as well as the Indian firm Reliance.

The measure also expands the 1996 law to cover oil and gas pipelines and tankers, and requires the administration to freeze the assets of any Iranians, including members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, found to be active in weapons proliferation or terrorism.

It would also enable US investors, including states’ pension funds, to divest from energy firms that do business with Iran.

It would prohibit the US government from purchasing goods from firms that do business in Iran’s energy sector, or provide sensitive communications technology to Iran — a measure that could affect telecommunications giants Siemens and Nokia.

It seems that the Senate is growing impatient with China and Russia, which show no sign of joining in multilateral measures, and also with the Obami, who have made an art of foot-dragging. As Sen. Mitch McConnell pointed out, “The Iranian regime has shown no interest in limiting its nuclear ambitions. And an entire year was lost as Iran moved closer and closer to its goal.”

Let’s see what Obama does when the bill lands on his desk. He has been unable to hold the Congress at bay, no doubt to the disappointment of the pin-prick sanctions set at Foggy Bottom, which searches for those measures that pack the least punch. Obama may be yanked against his will from his engagement cocoon. But make no mistake: there is no consensus in the U.S. Congress for perpetuating the Obami’s current do-nothingism. There’s also only so much engagement fabulism that even liberal Democratic lawmakers can take. Good for them. Let’s see if it shakes them awake at the White House.

The president in his SOTU virtually ignored the greatest national security threat of our time: the growing danger that an Islamic revolutionary regime will acquire nuclear weapons. Fortunately, the Senate didn’t wait around for the Obami to act. This report explains:

The US Senate voted Thursday to slap tough new sanctions on Iran, targeting its thirst for gasoline imports in a bid to force Tehran to bow to global pressure to freeze its suspect nuclear program.

“The Iranian regime has engaged in serious human rights abuses against its own citizens, funded terrorist activity throughout the Middle East, and pursued illicit nuclear activities posing a serious threat to the security of the United States and our allies,” said Democratic Senator Chris Dodd.

“With passage of this bill, we make it clear that there will be appropriate consequences if these actions continue,” said Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and a key sponsor of the legislation.

The bill will need to be reconciled with the House version. The Senate’s bill contains robust measures, the sort candidate Obama seemed to favor on the campaign trail:

It also requires that the president report to congress when non-US companies become eligible for sanctions, under a 1996 law that punishes investments of more than 20 million dollars in Iran’s energy sector.

Iran gets most of its gasoline imports from the Swiss firm Vitol, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France’s Total, the Swiss firm Glencore and British Petroleum, as well as the Indian firm Reliance.

The measure also expands the 1996 law to cover oil and gas pipelines and tankers, and requires the administration to freeze the assets of any Iranians, including members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, found to be active in weapons proliferation or terrorism.

It would also enable US investors, including states’ pension funds, to divest from energy firms that do business with Iran.

It would prohibit the US government from purchasing goods from firms that do business in Iran’s energy sector, or provide sensitive communications technology to Iran — a measure that could affect telecommunications giants Siemens and Nokia.

It seems that the Senate is growing impatient with China and Russia, which show no sign of joining in multilateral measures, and also with the Obami, who have made an art of foot-dragging. As Sen. Mitch McConnell pointed out, “The Iranian regime has shown no interest in limiting its nuclear ambitions. And an entire year was lost as Iran moved closer and closer to its goal.”

Let’s see what Obama does when the bill lands on his desk. He has been unable to hold the Congress at bay, no doubt to the disappointment of the pin-prick sanctions set at Foggy Bottom, which searches for those measures that pack the least punch. Obama may be yanked against his will from his engagement cocoon. But make no mistake: there is no consensus in the U.S. Congress for perpetuating the Obami’s current do-nothingism. There’s also only so much engagement fabulism that even liberal Democratic lawmakers can take. Good for them. Let’s see if it shakes them awake at the White House.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.'”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them — unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.'”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them — unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

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It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Kim Strassel thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal. Not by a long shot. She writes: “Republican Scott Brown is running strong in Massachusetts on a promise to be the 41st vote against health care in the Senate. Democrats’ bigger worry right now is whether Mr. Brown might prove the 218th vote against health care in the House.” In other words, Nancy Pelosi may have a heck of a time rounding up the votes in January, especially if Massachusetts delivers a body blow to the Democrats. As Strassel notes, since the last time House members were forced to walk the plank, the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial results have had time to sink in, ObamaCare and the president himself have continued to sink in the polls, and now Massachusetts is proving more than the Democrats can handle.

Strassel explains:

Of her three-yes-vote margin, Democrat Robert Wexler has resigned; his seat remains unfilled until April. Republican Joseph Cao won’t be the final vote for a Democratic bill. As for the 39 Dems who initially voted against the legislation, a vote flip now would be an invitation to be singled out—a la Blanche Lincoln—as the individual who brought the nation ObamaCare.

We shouldn’t underestimate the ability of the White House to strong-arm Democrats, but neither should we underestimate the fear factor that must be gripping the Democratic caucus. If Chris Dodd, Byron Dorgan, and maybe even Harry Reid are goners, could they be next?

In some sense, the Republicans are in the catbird’s seat. If ObamaCare fails, they can claim a measure of credit for having advertised its weaknesses and persuaded their colleagues of its toxicity. And if it passes, that’s the top issue for the 2010 campaign. As for Obama, what was to be his signature piece of legislation has now become a political trap. The solution, of course, is to scuttle the current bill and come up with a remodeled, truly bipartisan approach that eschews the most noxious parts of ObamaCare (e.g., forcing Americans into the arms of Big Insurance, taxing rich and not-rich voters). But for now, that seems not to be on the radar, so the House Democrats’ dilemma remains: a leadership that insists its members pass a bill that may well spell the end of Democratic majority status.

Kim Strassel thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal. Not by a long shot. She writes: “Republican Scott Brown is running strong in Massachusetts on a promise to be the 41st vote against health care in the Senate. Democrats’ bigger worry right now is whether Mr. Brown might prove the 218th vote against health care in the House.” In other words, Nancy Pelosi may have a heck of a time rounding up the votes in January, especially if Massachusetts delivers a body blow to the Democrats. As Strassel notes, since the last time House members were forced to walk the plank, the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial results have had time to sink in, ObamaCare and the president himself have continued to sink in the polls, and now Massachusetts is proving more than the Democrats can handle.

Strassel explains:

Of her three-yes-vote margin, Democrat Robert Wexler has resigned; his seat remains unfilled until April. Republican Joseph Cao won’t be the final vote for a Democratic bill. As for the 39 Dems who initially voted against the legislation, a vote flip now would be an invitation to be singled out—a la Blanche Lincoln—as the individual who brought the nation ObamaCare.

We shouldn’t underestimate the ability of the White House to strong-arm Democrats, but neither should we underestimate the fear factor that must be gripping the Democratic caucus. If Chris Dodd, Byron Dorgan, and maybe even Harry Reid are goners, could they be next?

In some sense, the Republicans are in the catbird’s seat. If ObamaCare fails, they can claim a measure of credit for having advertised its weaknesses and persuaded their colleagues of its toxicity. And if it passes, that’s the top issue for the 2010 campaign. As for Obama, what was to be his signature piece of legislation has now become a political trap. The solution, of course, is to scuttle the current bill and come up with a remodeled, truly bipartisan approach that eschews the most noxious parts of ObamaCare (e.g., forcing Americans into the arms of Big Insurance, taxing rich and not-rich voters). But for now, that seems not to be on the radar, so the House Democrats’ dilemma remains: a leadership that insists its members pass a bill that may well spell the end of Democratic majority status.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

Read Less




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