Commentary Magazine


Topic: Club for Growth

The Blue Dogs Won’t Just Be Playing Dead

The Blue Dog Democrats fancy themselves as fiscal conservatives. It is those other Democrats, they tell us, who are responsible for all the debt, the out-of-control spending, etc. Chris Chocola of the Club for Growth says that this is bunk:

In the House of Representatives, the 54 members of the Blue Dog Coalition are the self-described fiscal conservatives in the Democratic caucus. Unfortunately, the description doesn’t fit. …

[T]he Blue Dogs became Mrs. Pelosi’s lap dogs, voting with her 80% of the time on economic issues. Every one of them voted for the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Sixty-three percent voted for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program; 91% voted for the stimulus package in February 2009; 85% voted for the cash-for-clunkers program; 74% voted for President Obama’s debt-tripling 2010 budget; 73% voted for the auto bailout; and 54% voted for the federal takeover of health care.

But now their voting records have caught up with them, and it is precisely these Democrats who are at extreme risk in the midterms. You hear pundits bemoan how the “moderate” Democrats will be lost, leaving the party controlled by the extreme left. Listen, that’s been the story for a while now. Had they pushed back against Nancy Pelosi, neither they nor their party would be headed for a thumping. It seems that the Blue Dogs’ obedience to their liberal leaders may cost them their political careers.

The Blue Dog Democrats fancy themselves as fiscal conservatives. It is those other Democrats, they tell us, who are responsible for all the debt, the out-of-control spending, etc. Chris Chocola of the Club for Growth says that this is bunk:

In the House of Representatives, the 54 members of the Blue Dog Coalition are the self-described fiscal conservatives in the Democratic caucus. Unfortunately, the description doesn’t fit. …

[T]he Blue Dogs became Mrs. Pelosi’s lap dogs, voting with her 80% of the time on economic issues. Every one of them voted for the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Sixty-three percent voted for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program; 91% voted for the stimulus package in February 2009; 85% voted for the cash-for-clunkers program; 74% voted for President Obama’s debt-tripling 2010 budget; 73% voted for the auto bailout; and 54% voted for the federal takeover of health care.

But now their voting records have caught up with them, and it is precisely these Democrats who are at extreme risk in the midterms. You hear pundits bemoan how the “moderate” Democrats will be lost, leaving the party controlled by the extreme left. Listen, that’s been the story for a while now. Had they pushed back against Nancy Pelosi, neither they nor their party would be headed for a thumping. It seems that the Blue Dogs’ obedience to their liberal leaders may cost them their political careers.

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Money, Money

For months, Democratic operatives and liberal pundits (sometimes it is hard to tell the difference) have been declaring that the GOP’s chances were imperiled by fundraising woes and its cloddish RNC chairman. In fact, to anyone closely following conservative politics, it has been apparent that the plethora of third-party groups that have popped up in light of the RNC’s troubles have more than made up for the difference. The New York Times breaks the bad news to the Upper West Side:

Outside groups supporting Republican candidates in House and Senate races across the country have been swamping their Democratic-leaning counterparts on television since early August as the midterm election season has begun heating up.

Driving the disparity in the ad wars has been an array of Republican-oriented organizations that are set up so they can accept donations of unlimited size from individuals and corporations without having to disclose them. The situation raises the possibility that a relatively small cadre of deep-pocketed donors, unknown to the general public, is shaping the battle for Congress in the early going.

Democrats are said to be surprised and alarmed by this. But it was hardly a secret that Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, a newly invigorated Republican Governors Association, the Club for Growth, and a host of other groups have been raising gobs of cash. Now it’s apparent just how successful these groups have been:

In Senate races, Republican-leaning interest groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones on television $10.9 million to $1.3 million, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 8, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks political advertising.

In the House, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones, $3.1 million to $1.5 million.

Or course Democrats have Big Labor as their piggy bank, but it’s not clear that Big Labor is going to the mat for the Democrats this cycle; after all, their millions in 2008 (hard and soft money) didn’t get them card check legislation.

The money gap tells us two things. First, just as Obama’s fundraising prowess in 2008 reflected an enthusiasm gap in the Democrats’ favor, the current GOP funding boom is evidence that now the Republicans are the ones pumped up. And second, this is yet another sign that the national political parties themselves are becoming less and less of a factor: they no longer influence candidate selection and are steadily being eclipsed by independent groups, which, no thanks to Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, remain free to exercise their core First Amendment rights.

Elites are fond of bemoaning the influence of money — yes, horrors! — in the political process. But what better sign of the health and vigor of our democratic process?

For months, Democratic operatives and liberal pundits (sometimes it is hard to tell the difference) have been declaring that the GOP’s chances were imperiled by fundraising woes and its cloddish RNC chairman. In fact, to anyone closely following conservative politics, it has been apparent that the plethora of third-party groups that have popped up in light of the RNC’s troubles have more than made up for the difference. The New York Times breaks the bad news to the Upper West Side:

Outside groups supporting Republican candidates in House and Senate races across the country have been swamping their Democratic-leaning counterparts on television since early August as the midterm election season has begun heating up.

Driving the disparity in the ad wars has been an array of Republican-oriented organizations that are set up so they can accept donations of unlimited size from individuals and corporations without having to disclose them. The situation raises the possibility that a relatively small cadre of deep-pocketed donors, unknown to the general public, is shaping the battle for Congress in the early going.

Democrats are said to be surprised and alarmed by this. But it was hardly a secret that Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, a newly invigorated Republican Governors Association, the Club for Growth, and a host of other groups have been raising gobs of cash. Now it’s apparent just how successful these groups have been:

In Senate races, Republican-leaning interest groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones on television $10.9 million to $1.3 million, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 8, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks political advertising.

In the House, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones, $3.1 million to $1.5 million.

Or course Democrats have Big Labor as their piggy bank, but it’s not clear that Big Labor is going to the mat for the Democrats this cycle; after all, their millions in 2008 (hard and soft money) didn’t get them card check legislation.

The money gap tells us two things. First, just as Obama’s fundraising prowess in 2008 reflected an enthusiasm gap in the Democrats’ favor, the current GOP funding boom is evidence that now the Republicans are the ones pumped up. And second, this is yet another sign that the national political parties themselves are becoming less and less of a factor: they no longer influence candidate selection and are steadily being eclipsed by independent groups, which, no thanks to Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, remain free to exercise their core First Amendment rights.

Elites are fond of bemoaning the influence of money — yes, horrors! — in the political process. But what better sign of the health and vigor of our democratic process?

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The New Political Division

Peter writes,

This Social Security gambit, which will fail politically (as has so much of what Obama and his aides have tried), is simply more evidence that the core premise of the Obama campaign — that he would transcend the usual divisions in American politics, that he would elevate our discourse and reach across the aisle in an unprecedented way, and that he would act reasonably and responsibly in facing America’s challenges — was a mirage. It was an effective optical illusion, but it was, in fact, an optical illusion. And every week, it seems, it is being revealed as such.

I certainly agree that the gambit will fail. And one of the main reasons Obama has and will fail “to transcend the usual divisions in American politics,” is, I think, that the usual divisions aren’t there this election cycle. They may never be there again.

John Fund had a fascinating article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal about the pollster Scott Rasmussen. The White House was stunned by Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts last winter. Rasmussen, he writes, thinks a principal reason,

lies in a significant division among the American public that he has tracked for the past few years — a division between what he calls the Mainstream Public and the Political Class. …

Before the financial crisis of late 2008, about a tenth of Americans fell into the political class, while some 53% were classified as in the mainstream public. The rest fell somewhere in the middle. Now the percentage of people identifying with the political class has clearly declined into single digits, while those in the mainstream public have grown slightly. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agree with the mainstream view . … “The major division in this country is no longer between parties but between political elites and the people,” Mr. Rasmussen says.

Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner writes that,

The current GOP fault line is not exactly conservatives vs. moderates or new guard vs. old guard. For 2010, the rivalry is the Tea Party wing against the K Street wing. To tell which kind of Republican a candidate is, see how the Democrats attack him: If  he’s branded a shill for Wall Street, he’s from the K Street wing. If he’s labeled an extremist outside the mainstream, he’s a Tea Partier.

More tellingly, study their campaign contributions. K Street Republicans’ coffers are filled by the political action committees of defense contractors, drug companies, lobbying firms, and Wall Street banks. A Tea Party Republican is funded by the Club for Growth or the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is run by the Republican leadership’s least-favorite colleague, Jim DeMint.

The K Street wing is business as usual, whereas the tea parties represent the new politics that has, for thirty years and more, been slouching towards Washington to be born. The election of Chris Christie, Scott Brown, and Bob McDonnell is a sign of the growing power of tea-party politics. The SEC suit against New Jersey is a sign that the old rules are changing, as is the spate of news stories about the power of public-employee unions and their excessive compensation that is bankrupting states.

Politicians, like generals, prefer to fight the last war. The politicians who have figured out that the election of 2010 is being fought along new lines will still have jobs after November 2nd. But the Democrats under Obama have a big problem. They are the party of the political elite and big government. They can’t remake themselves in two months. That’s why they are in such terrible trouble.

Peter writes,

This Social Security gambit, which will fail politically (as has so much of what Obama and his aides have tried), is simply more evidence that the core premise of the Obama campaign — that he would transcend the usual divisions in American politics, that he would elevate our discourse and reach across the aisle in an unprecedented way, and that he would act reasonably and responsibly in facing America’s challenges — was a mirage. It was an effective optical illusion, but it was, in fact, an optical illusion. And every week, it seems, it is being revealed as such.

I certainly agree that the gambit will fail. And one of the main reasons Obama has and will fail “to transcend the usual divisions in American politics,” is, I think, that the usual divisions aren’t there this election cycle. They may never be there again.

John Fund had a fascinating article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal about the pollster Scott Rasmussen. The White House was stunned by Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts last winter. Rasmussen, he writes, thinks a principal reason,

lies in a significant division among the American public that he has tracked for the past few years — a division between what he calls the Mainstream Public and the Political Class. …

Before the financial crisis of late 2008, about a tenth of Americans fell into the political class, while some 53% were classified as in the mainstream public. The rest fell somewhere in the middle. Now the percentage of people identifying with the political class has clearly declined into single digits, while those in the mainstream public have grown slightly. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agree with the mainstream view . … “The major division in this country is no longer between parties but between political elites and the people,” Mr. Rasmussen says.

Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner writes that,

The current GOP fault line is not exactly conservatives vs. moderates or new guard vs. old guard. For 2010, the rivalry is the Tea Party wing against the K Street wing. To tell which kind of Republican a candidate is, see how the Democrats attack him: If  he’s branded a shill for Wall Street, he’s from the K Street wing. If he’s labeled an extremist outside the mainstream, he’s a Tea Partier.

More tellingly, study their campaign contributions. K Street Republicans’ coffers are filled by the political action committees of defense contractors, drug companies, lobbying firms, and Wall Street banks. A Tea Party Republican is funded by the Club for Growth or the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is run by the Republican leadership’s least-favorite colleague, Jim DeMint.

The K Street wing is business as usual, whereas the tea parties represent the new politics that has, for thirty years and more, been slouching towards Washington to be born. The election of Chris Christie, Scott Brown, and Bob McDonnell is a sign of the growing power of tea-party politics. The SEC suit against New Jersey is a sign that the old rules are changing, as is the spate of news stories about the power of public-employee unions and their excessive compensation that is bankrupting states.

Politicians, like generals, prefer to fight the last war. The politicians who have figured out that the election of 2010 is being fought along new lines will still have jobs after November 2nd. But the Democrats under Obama have a big problem. They are the party of the political elite and big government. They can’t remake themselves in two months. That’s why they are in such terrible trouble.

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Sestak Under Fire

Rep. Joe Sestak is under fire from all quarters. First, this boffo ad from Keep Israel Safe slams him for his record on Israel and on terrorism:

Then the Philly media gets on his case for JobsGate (the alleged job offer to get out of the primary race):

When asked about the accusation, as he was again Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sestak says, yes, the offer was made. But he won’t say what it was, or who made it.

This too-cute-by-half stance may allow him to tout his independence and outsider credentials — important in an anti-incumbent year like this one. But by not being specific, Sestak is covering up what appears to be the ultimate insider deal — and a potential crime.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, has every reason to capitalize on both of these points of weakness. First, Toomey has been a strong critic of Obama’s policies with respect to Iran and Israel. Second, although he previously served in Congress, in this race he’s the outsider (and former Club for Growth president) who can take on Washington’s backroom dealing and spend-a-thon. In Pennsylvania, both of those themes may be winners. And if they are, the 2012 GOP presidential contenders will take note.

UPDATE: Gov. Ed Rendell is now calling for Sestak to cough up more facts. I suspect he wouldn’t have done so if the White House was not on board. Is Obama hanging Sestak out to dry or coming up with a cover story? Stay tuned.

Rep. Joe Sestak is under fire from all quarters. First, this boffo ad from Keep Israel Safe slams him for his record on Israel and on terrorism:

Then the Philly media gets on his case for JobsGate (the alleged job offer to get out of the primary race):

When asked about the accusation, as he was again Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sestak says, yes, the offer was made. But he won’t say what it was, or who made it.

This too-cute-by-half stance may allow him to tout his independence and outsider credentials — important in an anti-incumbent year like this one. But by not being specific, Sestak is covering up what appears to be the ultimate insider deal — and a potential crime.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, has every reason to capitalize on both of these points of weakness. First, Toomey has been a strong critic of Obama’s policies with respect to Iran and Israel. Second, although he previously served in Congress, in this race he’s the outsider (and former Club for Growth president) who can take on Washington’s backroom dealing and spend-a-thon. In Pennsylvania, both of those themes may be winners. And if they are, the 2012 GOP presidential contenders will take note.

UPDATE: Gov. Ed Rendell is now calling for Sestak to cough up more facts. I suspect he wouldn’t have done so if the White House was not on board. Is Obama hanging Sestak out to dry or coming up with a cover story? Stay tuned.

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When You Mess Up This Badly, There Are No Good Options

How badly did Obama mess up? Really badly, says David Brooks:

Instead of building trust in government, the Democrats have magnified distrust. The country already believed Washington is out of touch with its core concerns. So while most families were concerned about jobs, Democrats in Washington spent nine months arguing about health care. The country was already tired of self-serving back-room deals, so the Democrats negotiated a series of dirty deals with the pharmaceutical industry, the unions and certain senators. Americans already felt Washington doesn’t understand their fears and insecurities. So at the moment when economic insecurity was at its peak, the Democrats in Washington added another layer of insecurity by threatening to change everything at once.

Instead of building a new majority, the Democrats have set off a distrust insurrection (which is not the same as a conservative insurrection). Republicans are enraged. Independents are furious. Democrats are disheartened. Health care reform is brutally unpopular. Even voters in Massachusetts decided it was time to send a message.

Brooks writes “Democrats,” but you can plug in “Obama.” These were Obama’s decisions — either affirmatively or by ceding the decision-making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It might sound less harsh to avoid using his name, but we should be clear whose fault this is. Hard to imagine that someone like Obama — who could be such a fine editor of a liberal magazine – could have made that many bad calls and been so out of touch with the American electorate’s inherent conservatism and aversion to statism. Maybe being a fine editor or a sophisticated conversationalist or living in Indonesia has nothing to do with being a good president. (Note to file: There is no correlation between Ivy League credentials and prowess as a chief executive.)

Brooks gives Obama … er, Democrats … some advice: take what he calls the Weak and Feckless Approach to health care. Admit they messed up. Say they heard the public. And get out of Dodge with a face-saving, small-beans plan. “Perhaps we will use federal money to support a series of state reform efforts — like the one in Massachusetts — which are closer to the people, ” says Brooks. Yes, that sounds just unbelievably lame. But that’s what they’re reduced to. There is no support for grandiose ObamaCare. There hasn’t been support in the country for some time, and finally the lawmakers are listening.

I personally like the temper-tantrum option, which Brooks calls the Incoherent and Internecine Approach: “This would involve settling on no coherent policy but just blaming each other for cowardice and stupidity for the next month.” It would be fun to watch, and there’s at least a grain of truth in it. Obama is to blame. Pelosi is to blame. Reid is to blame. Greedy Ben Nelson is to blame. And then the Democrats will tell us that the voters are to blame, the tiny Republican minority is to blame, and of course the cabal of Bill Kristol–Jane Hamsher–Howard Dean–MoveOn.org–Club for Growth–Jim DeMint–Mitch McConnell–etc. is to blame. In short, the Right and the Left and Independents are the villains — because they all opposed the bill. Well, that does suggest that the bill was so flawed that it could engender no support. But that sort of discussion is what makes the Incoherent and Internecine Approach so enticing.

Surveying all that and observing the unraveling of support on Capitol Hill for ObamaCare, one must agree with Brooks that there are no good options here for the Obami. Sometimes the number and magnitude of a politician’s errors are so great that all that’s left for him to do is take his lumps, express contrition, and move on. (The Humble Pie Approach?) Unfortunately, that’s the last thing this president is inclined to favor.

How badly did Obama mess up? Really badly, says David Brooks:

Instead of building trust in government, the Democrats have magnified distrust. The country already believed Washington is out of touch with its core concerns. So while most families were concerned about jobs, Democrats in Washington spent nine months arguing about health care. The country was already tired of self-serving back-room deals, so the Democrats negotiated a series of dirty deals with the pharmaceutical industry, the unions and certain senators. Americans already felt Washington doesn’t understand their fears and insecurities. So at the moment when economic insecurity was at its peak, the Democrats in Washington added another layer of insecurity by threatening to change everything at once.

Instead of building a new majority, the Democrats have set off a distrust insurrection (which is not the same as a conservative insurrection). Republicans are enraged. Independents are furious. Democrats are disheartened. Health care reform is brutally unpopular. Even voters in Massachusetts decided it was time to send a message.

Brooks writes “Democrats,” but you can plug in “Obama.” These were Obama’s decisions — either affirmatively or by ceding the decision-making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It might sound less harsh to avoid using his name, but we should be clear whose fault this is. Hard to imagine that someone like Obama — who could be such a fine editor of a liberal magazine – could have made that many bad calls and been so out of touch with the American electorate’s inherent conservatism and aversion to statism. Maybe being a fine editor or a sophisticated conversationalist or living in Indonesia has nothing to do with being a good president. (Note to file: There is no correlation between Ivy League credentials and prowess as a chief executive.)

Brooks gives Obama … er, Democrats … some advice: take what he calls the Weak and Feckless Approach to health care. Admit they messed up. Say they heard the public. And get out of Dodge with a face-saving, small-beans plan. “Perhaps we will use federal money to support a series of state reform efforts — like the one in Massachusetts — which are closer to the people, ” says Brooks. Yes, that sounds just unbelievably lame. But that’s what they’re reduced to. There is no support for grandiose ObamaCare. There hasn’t been support in the country for some time, and finally the lawmakers are listening.

I personally like the temper-tantrum option, which Brooks calls the Incoherent and Internecine Approach: “This would involve settling on no coherent policy but just blaming each other for cowardice and stupidity for the next month.” It would be fun to watch, and there’s at least a grain of truth in it. Obama is to blame. Pelosi is to blame. Reid is to blame. Greedy Ben Nelson is to blame. And then the Democrats will tell us that the voters are to blame, the tiny Republican minority is to blame, and of course the cabal of Bill Kristol–Jane Hamsher–Howard Dean–MoveOn.org–Club for Growth–Jim DeMint–Mitch McConnell–etc. is to blame. In short, the Right and the Left and Independents are the villains — because they all opposed the bill. Well, that does suggest that the bill was so flawed that it could engender no support. But that sort of discussion is what makes the Incoherent and Internecine Approach so enticing.

Surveying all that and observing the unraveling of support on Capitol Hill for ObamaCare, one must agree with Brooks that there are no good options here for the Obami. Sometimes the number and magnitude of a politician’s errors are so great that all that’s left for him to do is take his lumps, express contrition, and move on. (The Humble Pie Approach?) Unfortunately, that’s the last thing this president is inclined to favor.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest sign of GOP competitiveness and of growing disaffection with Obama: “Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter and Republican challenger Pat Toomey are deadlocked 44-44 percent in Pennsylvania’s marquee 2010 U.S. Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. President Barack Obama’s job approval in this pivotal swing state remains below 50 percent at 49 – 45 percent.” That’s in Pennsylvania.

Three cheers for the status quo: “Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters nationwide say that it would be better to pass no health care reform bill this year instead of passing the plan currently being considered by Congress. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 34% think that passing that bill would be better.”

The president of the Club for Growth mocks the non-binding Copenhagen climate control deal: “Like most Americans, I feared President Obama went to Copenhagen to sign a binding, job-killing, economic suicide pact. I am greatly relieved that the last-minute agreement President Obama negotiated is being widely described as ‘meaningful.’  When politicians call something ‘meaningful,’ that means it isn’t. Without even reading the accord, pro-growth, limited government conservatives today can celebrate the word, ‘meaningful.’  Today that adjective probably saved thirty million jobs.”

The New York Times says the same thing: “Leaders here concluded a climate change deal on Friday that the Obama administration called ‘meaningful’ but that falls short of even the modest expectations for the summit meeting here.”

I think Lou Dobbs has a better shot with Hispanics. From ABC News (not The Onion): “Al-Qaeda Reaches Out to Women.”

James Capretta: “Senator Nelson is clearly uncomfortable with the bill as written. Any fiscal conservative would be. It’s not a close call. As the senator said yesterday, the country would be far better off with a more scaled-back bill. He’s right about that. And it’s in his power to deliver just such a bill. Pushing the discussions into 2010 would not end the health-care debate. It would only make it more likely the Senate voted in the end for something the public — and Nebraskans — would find acceptable.”

MoveOn.org doesn’t think it’s a close call either.

No hope but rather some unwelcome change for poor D.C. school kids: “Democrats in Congress voted to kill the District’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides 1,700 disadvantaged kids with vouchers worth up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school. On Sunday the Senate approved a spending bill that phases out funding for the five-year-old program. . . President Obama signed the bill Thursday.”

The latest sign of GOP competitiveness and of growing disaffection with Obama: “Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter and Republican challenger Pat Toomey are deadlocked 44-44 percent in Pennsylvania’s marquee 2010 U.S. Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. President Barack Obama’s job approval in this pivotal swing state remains below 50 percent at 49 – 45 percent.” That’s in Pennsylvania.

Three cheers for the status quo: “Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters nationwide say that it would be better to pass no health care reform bill this year instead of passing the plan currently being considered by Congress. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 34% think that passing that bill would be better.”

The president of the Club for Growth mocks the non-binding Copenhagen climate control deal: “Like most Americans, I feared President Obama went to Copenhagen to sign a binding, job-killing, economic suicide pact. I am greatly relieved that the last-minute agreement President Obama negotiated is being widely described as ‘meaningful.’  When politicians call something ‘meaningful,’ that means it isn’t. Without even reading the accord, pro-growth, limited government conservatives today can celebrate the word, ‘meaningful.’  Today that adjective probably saved thirty million jobs.”

The New York Times says the same thing: “Leaders here concluded a climate change deal on Friday that the Obama administration called ‘meaningful’ but that falls short of even the modest expectations for the summit meeting here.”

I think Lou Dobbs has a better shot with Hispanics. From ABC News (not The Onion): “Al-Qaeda Reaches Out to Women.”

James Capretta: “Senator Nelson is clearly uncomfortable with the bill as written. Any fiscal conservative would be. It’s not a close call. As the senator said yesterday, the country would be far better off with a more scaled-back bill. He’s right about that. And it’s in his power to deliver just such a bill. Pushing the discussions into 2010 would not end the health-care debate. It would only make it more likely the Senate voted in the end for something the public — and Nebraskans — would find acceptable.”

MoveOn.org doesn’t think it’s a close call either.

No hope but rather some unwelcome change for poor D.C. school kids: “Democrats in Congress voted to kill the District’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides 1,700 disadvantaged kids with vouchers worth up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school. On Sunday the Senate approved a spending bill that phases out funding for the five-year-old program. . . President Obama signed the bill Thursday.”

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His Own Economic Niche

Today John McCain delivered his most comprehensive economic address to date. It was a clear-cut effort to distinguish himself from both his opponents and to escape being tagged Bush’s twin. The latter will be the ongoing theme, I anticipate, of nearly every policy address. The McCain team believes this is a necessity–a reasonable assessment given Bush’s political standing.

McCain railed against “extravagant salaries and severance deals for CEO’s.” Fiscal conservatives are going to want to know at some point whether this is jawboning or whether he actually intends to get into the business of regulating the private sector’s personnel decisions.

He also said he intends to oppose the repeal of the bevy of tax cuts due to expire in 2010, and drove home the message of fiscal conservatism. But he’s beginning to pepper his fiscal discipline talk with some distinctly populist notions: he promises to turn away “subsidies for special pleaders . . . no more corporate welfare . . . no more throwing around billions of dollars of the people’s money on pet projects, while the people themselves are struggling to afford their homes, groceries, and gas.” On taxes he spoke of corporate rate reduction and a doubling of the exemption for dependents. On healthcare, he offered reform but also promised to charge the wealthy more for Medicare Part D.

On the home mortgage crisis fiscal conservatives will grimace: he essentially joined the stampede for direct government intervention. One wonders what all the responsible home owners will think of their new obligation to in effect co-sign loans for those already proven to be financially irresponsible.

In short: McCain is looking to mollify fiscal conservatives by hewing to free market principles–with the exception of his plans to address the home mortgage crisis. (Club for Growth gives him credit for the tax and spend proposals but raps him for leaving taxpayers “on the hook” for bad loans and getting government into the business of re-writing home loan agreements.)

For independents there is an effort to sound notes not typical of a cookie-cutter, pro-business Republican. This ad makes an even more overt play for independents. The speech, in other words, is an opening salvo in the fight against the Democrats for the all-important independent voters.

Today John McCain delivered his most comprehensive economic address to date. It was a clear-cut effort to distinguish himself from both his opponents and to escape being tagged Bush’s twin. The latter will be the ongoing theme, I anticipate, of nearly every policy address. The McCain team believes this is a necessity–a reasonable assessment given Bush’s political standing.

McCain railed against “extravagant salaries and severance deals for CEO’s.” Fiscal conservatives are going to want to know at some point whether this is jawboning or whether he actually intends to get into the business of regulating the private sector’s personnel decisions.

He also said he intends to oppose the repeal of the bevy of tax cuts due to expire in 2010, and drove home the message of fiscal conservatism. But he’s beginning to pepper his fiscal discipline talk with some distinctly populist notions: he promises to turn away “subsidies for special pleaders . . . no more corporate welfare . . . no more throwing around billions of dollars of the people’s money on pet projects, while the people themselves are struggling to afford their homes, groceries, and gas.” On taxes he spoke of corporate rate reduction and a doubling of the exemption for dependents. On healthcare, he offered reform but also promised to charge the wealthy more for Medicare Part D.

On the home mortgage crisis fiscal conservatives will grimace: he essentially joined the stampede for direct government intervention. One wonders what all the responsible home owners will think of their new obligation to in effect co-sign loans for those already proven to be financially irresponsible.

In short: McCain is looking to mollify fiscal conservatives by hewing to free market principles–with the exception of his plans to address the home mortgage crisis. (Club for Growth gives him credit for the tax and spend proposals but raps him for leaving taxpayers “on the hook” for bad loans and getting government into the business of re-writing home loan agreements.)

For independents there is an effort to sound notes not typical of a cookie-cutter, pro-business Republican. This ad makes an even more overt play for independents. The speech, in other words, is an opening salvo in the fight against the Democrats for the all-important independent voters.

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Iraq Is The Issue. Iraq Is The Issue. Iraq Is The Issue.

Wasn’t it just last month that we heard how Iraq has faded as an issue, even among Republicans?  Weren’t New Hampshire’s voters instead deeply concerned about taxes, immigration, health care? This was the great misinterpretation of the run-up to last night’s primary.

John McCain won because he stuck to the war in Iraq.

In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, we read that McCain has never stopped talking about the subject:

“The first reason I’m running for president is the war in Iraq,” Sen. McCain said when he took the microphone. “The final reason I’m running is the war in Iraq.”

McCain has never been a conservative favorite because of his “apostasy” on the Bush tax cuts, campaign finance reform, and illegal aliens.  Michelle Malkin expressed typical right-wing antipathy toward McCain when, a month ago, she called him an “immigration drag queen.” This perspective has effectively become conventional wisdom. Even Mickey Kaus, no conservative, as recently as two days ago headlined his Slate column with the question, “Will Amnesty Sink McCain?”

We have been hearing this for a year during which self-identified conservatives have been trying to create a post-Bush, post-Iraq agenda. Last summer, the venerable rightist weekly Human Events listed its top conservative issues.  Illegal immigration was #1. The war on terror was #2.  Iraq was #7.  Before Iraq came federal spending, Supreme Court nominees, tax cuts, and the size of government.

Other groups built other lists. The Club for Growth argued that McCain could not be trusted on economic issues. Mitt Romney tried to capture the conservative mantle with much talk about free market health care and, in the fall, religion. CNN and the Washington Post insisted that immigration was the new driving force for conservatives and Republicans. Mike Huckabee’s surge was interpreted as a return of the social-values agenda. More recently, some assumed that if Romney faltered, Fred Thompson would be the obvious conservative choice with his Reaganesque gravitas and anti-Washington instincts.

In the end, though, the war remains the conservative issue.

For all the noise about amnesty, taxes, and Washington politicians, Iraq remains the most vibrant issue – and the one that distinguishes the GOP most from the Democrats. McCain’s role as Rumsfeld critic but earliest supporter of the Iraq surge gave him his most forceful and principled arguments.  His best stuff with Tim Russert on last Sunday’s Meet the Press was all about Iraq. (Rudy Giuliani, too, has been making this case, but McCain’s detailed criticism of the handling of the war seems to give him more credibility.)

If conservative commentators don’t yet realize that staying power of the war in Iraq as an issue, some Democrats do. Listen to Hillary’s speech last night. She is already drawing a distinction between getting out of Iraq immediately (Obama’s position) and getting out “the right way.” She understands that, despite what everyone else says, Iraq will be an issue in the fall and the Democrats cannot look McGovernite, especially if McCain is the nominee.

Yes, the race is still wide open, etc.  But the most important message emerging from New Hampshire is the re-establishment of George W. Bush’s signal issue as the uniting force of the GOP.  How deliciously ironic that John McCain has become the torch bearer of the Bush legacy.

Wasn’t it just last month that we heard how Iraq has faded as an issue, even among Republicans?  Weren’t New Hampshire’s voters instead deeply concerned about taxes, immigration, health care? This was the great misinterpretation of the run-up to last night’s primary.

John McCain won because he stuck to the war in Iraq.

In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, we read that McCain has never stopped talking about the subject:

“The first reason I’m running for president is the war in Iraq,” Sen. McCain said when he took the microphone. “The final reason I’m running is the war in Iraq.”

McCain has never been a conservative favorite because of his “apostasy” on the Bush tax cuts, campaign finance reform, and illegal aliens.  Michelle Malkin expressed typical right-wing antipathy toward McCain when, a month ago, she called him an “immigration drag queen.” This perspective has effectively become conventional wisdom. Even Mickey Kaus, no conservative, as recently as two days ago headlined his Slate column with the question, “Will Amnesty Sink McCain?”

We have been hearing this for a year during which self-identified conservatives have been trying to create a post-Bush, post-Iraq agenda. Last summer, the venerable rightist weekly Human Events listed its top conservative issues.  Illegal immigration was #1. The war on terror was #2.  Iraq was #7.  Before Iraq came federal spending, Supreme Court nominees, tax cuts, and the size of government.

Other groups built other lists. The Club for Growth argued that McCain could not be trusted on economic issues. Mitt Romney tried to capture the conservative mantle with much talk about free market health care and, in the fall, religion. CNN and the Washington Post insisted that immigration was the new driving force for conservatives and Republicans. Mike Huckabee’s surge was interpreted as a return of the social-values agenda. More recently, some assumed that if Romney faltered, Fred Thompson would be the obvious conservative choice with his Reaganesque gravitas and anti-Washington instincts.

In the end, though, the war remains the conservative issue.

For all the noise about amnesty, taxes, and Washington politicians, Iraq remains the most vibrant issue – and the one that distinguishes the GOP most from the Democrats. McCain’s role as Rumsfeld critic but earliest supporter of the Iraq surge gave him his most forceful and principled arguments.  His best stuff with Tim Russert on last Sunday’s Meet the Press was all about Iraq. (Rudy Giuliani, too, has been making this case, but McCain’s detailed criticism of the handling of the war seems to give him more credibility.)

If conservative commentators don’t yet realize that staying power of the war in Iraq as an issue, some Democrats do. Listen to Hillary’s speech last night. She is already drawing a distinction between getting out of Iraq immediately (Obama’s position) and getting out “the right way.” She understands that, despite what everyone else says, Iraq will be an issue in the fall and the Democrats cannot look McGovernite, especially if McCain is the nominee.

Yes, the race is still wide open, etc.  But the most important message emerging from New Hampshire is the re-establishment of George W. Bush’s signal issue as the uniting force of the GOP.  How deliciously ironic that John McCain has become the torch bearer of the Bush legacy.

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William Jennings Huckabee

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s silver-tongued performance at the October 18 Values Voters forum in Washington, DC, together with his rising poll numbers in Iowa where he is in second place, has shaken up the GOP. Huckabee, a Baptist preacher who’s never needed to employ a speechwriter, was greeted with a standing ovation. In what has to be the first ever presidential candidate shout-out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Huckabee made his case for the little guy. “It’s a lot better to be with David than Goliath,” he declared. “Or with Elijah than 850 prophets of Baal. Or with Daniel and the lions than the Babylonians.”

Huckabee drew sustained applause when he told the crowd that “We do not have the right to move God’s standard to meet the cultural norm but we need to move the cultural norm to meet God’s standards.” But he struck a note with broader appeal when he drew laughter and applause by telling the crowd, “It is high time for us to tell Saudi Arabia that in ten years we will have as much interest in their oil as their sand; they can keep both of them.” “For too long,” he continued, “we have financed both sides of the war on terrorism; our tax dollars pay for our military to fight it and our oil dollars—every time you fill the tank—is turned into the madrasahs that teach terrorists and the money that funds them.”

Taking a shot at Mitt Romney, he drew cheers when, speaking in the cadences of a man at the pulpit, he insisted “it’s important that the language of Zion is a mother tongue and not a recently acquired second language.” The argument took. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council concluded that Huckabee “comes out of here clearly as a favorite.” The rank and file attendees concurred. In an event where all the major candidates spoke, Huckabee was the runaway winner with 50 percent support (with Romney a distant second at 10 percent).

Huckabee’s rise has brought a sharp response from some (like conservative doyenne Phyllis Schlafly) who consider him too soft on illegal immigration. But the big guns have been fired by low-tax, free-trade, business Republicans (such as John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth) who are mindful of Huckabee’s verbal volleys aimed at the financial sector’s sizable profits. These Republicans don’t see how Huckabee, who has expressed some doubts about free trade, can win the top spot. Still, they fear that he has established himself as a strong candidate for the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket, where he could alienate the fiscally conservative swing voters who deserted the GOP in 2006.

Read More

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s silver-tongued performance at the October 18 Values Voters forum in Washington, DC, together with his rising poll numbers in Iowa where he is in second place, has shaken up the GOP. Huckabee, a Baptist preacher who’s never needed to employ a speechwriter, was greeted with a standing ovation. In what has to be the first ever presidential candidate shout-out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Huckabee made his case for the little guy. “It’s a lot better to be with David than Goliath,” he declared. “Or with Elijah than 850 prophets of Baal. Or with Daniel and the lions than the Babylonians.”

Huckabee drew sustained applause when he told the crowd that “We do not have the right to move God’s standard to meet the cultural norm but we need to move the cultural norm to meet God’s standards.” But he struck a note with broader appeal when he drew laughter and applause by telling the crowd, “It is high time for us to tell Saudi Arabia that in ten years we will have as much interest in their oil as their sand; they can keep both of them.” “For too long,” he continued, “we have financed both sides of the war on terrorism; our tax dollars pay for our military to fight it and our oil dollars—every time you fill the tank—is turned into the madrasahs that teach terrorists and the money that funds them.”

Taking a shot at Mitt Romney, he drew cheers when, speaking in the cadences of a man at the pulpit, he insisted “it’s important that the language of Zion is a mother tongue and not a recently acquired second language.” The argument took. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council concluded that Huckabee “comes out of here clearly as a favorite.” The rank and file attendees concurred. In an event where all the major candidates spoke, Huckabee was the runaway winner with 50 percent support (with Romney a distant second at 10 percent).

Huckabee’s rise has brought a sharp response from some (like conservative doyenne Phyllis Schlafly) who consider him too soft on illegal immigration. But the big guns have been fired by low-tax, free-trade, business Republicans (such as John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth) who are mindful of Huckabee’s verbal volleys aimed at the financial sector’s sizable profits. These Republicans don’t see how Huckabee, who has expressed some doubts about free trade, can win the top spot. Still, they fear that he has established himself as a strong candidate for the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket, where he could alienate the fiscally conservative swing voters who deserted the GOP in 2006.

Pat Toomey argues that Huckabee’s record as governor (he oversaw an increase in taxes, including those on sales, gas, grocery, and nursing home beds, producing a 47 percent overall tax hike) should disqualify him from national consideration. John Fund, who knows Huckabee well, strikes a similar note, and adds that Huckabee, “who was the only GOP candidate to refuse to endorse President Bush’s veto of the Democrats’ bill to vastly expand the SCHIP health-care program” has scant support from Republicans who served in the legislature when he was governor.

Rich Lowry, of National Review, has described Huckabee as a cross between the famous early 20th century preacher Billy Sunday and Ronald Reagan. But with Huckabee’s talk of applied Christianity, the early 20th century figure he most closely resembles is the great populist orator in the cause of Free Silver, William Jennings Bryan. Three times the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Bryan, “The Great Commoner,” with his blend of fervent but tolerant Christianity, his distrust of the banks, and his economic egalitarianism, was the hero of Great Plains and Southern Democrats.

The migration of liberal, Eastern Establishment Republicans like Ned Lamont and Jay Rockefeller into the Democratic camp has made the modern Dems into the party of a noblesse oblige-accented gentry liberalism that repels upwardly mobile middle- and lower-middle-class whites. But while blue collar religious whites are an uncomfortable fit with the modern Democratic Party, the deeply religious former Southern Democrats who have migrated into the GOP camp make for an uneasy fit with traditional Republican business interests. It’s not surprising then that a new Bryan—of sorts—has arisen to represent an important if relatively recent GOP constituency.

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