Commentary Magazine


Topic: congressman

The PR Geniuses at J Street Are at It Again

Apparently J Street is still feeling burned after its last legitimate congressional supporter, Rep. Gary Ackerman, publicly cut ties with the group on Wednesday. The organization sent out an e-mail blast today, calling on its supporters to bombard the congressman with messages deriding him for ending his connection with J Street.

What makes this bad move worse is Ackerman’s prominent position on the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East. He’s probably not the type of person J Street can afford to make an enemy out of. And yet:

We are sad and disappointed that the Congressman lacks the courage of his convictions on this issue. …

It is a failure of leadership when a senior official like Congressman Ackerman chooses to fall back on yesterday’s politics — blaming only the Palestinians for the present impasse, calling those who see it differently names, and questioning our support for Israel.

Click here to tell Congressman Ackerman that Israel needs friends who will speak hard truths and push for a two-state solution now before it’s too late.

The e-mail allows supporters to submit a signature and a personal message that will be added to a petition that denounces Ackerman. It also says that the notes will be forwarded directly to the congressman. However, after reading this blast, I think it’s safe to assume that the only messages Ackerman is going to get are a string of emotionally charged voicemails from Jeremy Ben Ami.

Apparently J Street is still feeling burned after its last legitimate congressional supporter, Rep. Gary Ackerman, publicly cut ties with the group on Wednesday. The organization sent out an e-mail blast today, calling on its supporters to bombard the congressman with messages deriding him for ending his connection with J Street.

What makes this bad move worse is Ackerman’s prominent position on the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East. He’s probably not the type of person J Street can afford to make an enemy out of. And yet:

We are sad and disappointed that the Congressman lacks the courage of his convictions on this issue. …

It is a failure of leadership when a senior official like Congressman Ackerman chooses to fall back on yesterday’s politics — blaming only the Palestinians for the present impasse, calling those who see it differently names, and questioning our support for Israel.

Click here to tell Congressman Ackerman that Israel needs friends who will speak hard truths and push for a two-state solution now before it’s too late.

The e-mail allows supporters to submit a signature and a personal message that will be added to a petition that denounces Ackerman. It also says that the notes will be forwarded directly to the congressman. However, after reading this blast, I think it’s safe to assume that the only messages Ackerman is going to get are a string of emotionally charged voicemails from Jeremy Ben Ami.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Paul Ryan

The Republican response — indeed, the opposition-party response — to the State of the Union is usually the graveyard of upward ambitions. Not tonight. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman, is giving what is certainly the best such response in memory, and will — and should — spark serious talk about him as the Republican nominee next year. He has said flatly he’s not running. Maybe it would be wiser for a 41-year-old like Ryan to wait until 2016. But this speech reminds us that the deep bench of younger politicians — with Ryan and Marco Rubio and Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, among many others — really belongs to the GOP.

The Republican response — indeed, the opposition-party response — to the State of the Union is usually the graveyard of upward ambitions. Not tonight. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman, is giving what is certainly the best such response in memory, and will — and should — spark serious talk about him as the Republican nominee next year. He has said flatly he’s not running. Maybe it would be wiser for a 41-year-old like Ryan to wait until 2016. But this speech reminds us that the deep bench of younger politicians — with Ryan and Marco Rubio and Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, among many others — really belongs to the GOP.

Read Less

Rep. Ackerman Throws J Street Under the Bus

Despite J Street’s eagerness to blame its “political enemies” for its public-relations troubles, all its image problems have been brought on by itself. Nobody forced the group the take money from George Soros, surreptitiously aide Richard Goldstone, and engage in unethical self-dealing. These actions are a sign of a deep-seated moral corruption within the organization, and they’re likely to keep occurring unless the group dismantles its leadership entirely.

This seems to be the realization that one of J Street’s strongest political allies, Rep. Gary Ackerman, came to today. Appalled that the organization is supporting the pending UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, the congressman has told J Street in no uncertain terms that he wants nothing to do with them anymore:

“After learning of J-Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective UN Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and—critically—would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated.”

And Ackerman is by no means opposed to progressive pro-Israel groups — he just notes that J Street isn’t one of them.

“America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel,” said the congressman. “Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.”

This is the strongest sign so far that J Street’s political support on Capitol Hill has completely dried up. Ackerman isn’t denouncing the group in a last-minute attempt to win an election, as other politicians have done. He’s doing it because being linked to J Street has become a political liability even when it’s not a campaign season.

He’s also doing it because J Street’s actions over the past year — culminating in its support for this UN resolution — have made it impossible to logically claim that the group is still pro-Israel.

Ackerman rightly notes that J Street’s support for the resolution “is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”

In a press release for a fundraiser that J Street held for Ackerman and a few other members of Congress just three months ago, the group called the politicians “excellent advocates for pro-Israel, pro-peace positions in Congress and courageous leaders on other progressive issues as well.”

And now Ackerman — lauded as “progressive” and “pro-Israel, pro-peace” by J Street — has concluded that J Street can no longer be considered pro-Israel. That should certainly give other J Street supporters in Congress pause (that is, if there are any of them still left).

Despite J Street’s eagerness to blame its “political enemies” for its public-relations troubles, all its image problems have been brought on by itself. Nobody forced the group the take money from George Soros, surreptitiously aide Richard Goldstone, and engage in unethical self-dealing. These actions are a sign of a deep-seated moral corruption within the organization, and they’re likely to keep occurring unless the group dismantles its leadership entirely.

This seems to be the realization that one of J Street’s strongest political allies, Rep. Gary Ackerman, came to today. Appalled that the organization is supporting the pending UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, the congressman has told J Street in no uncertain terms that he wants nothing to do with them anymore:

“After learning of J-Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective UN Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and—critically—would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated.”

And Ackerman is by no means opposed to progressive pro-Israel groups — he just notes that J Street isn’t one of them.

“America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel,” said the congressman. “Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.”

This is the strongest sign so far that J Street’s political support on Capitol Hill has completely dried up. Ackerman isn’t denouncing the group in a last-minute attempt to win an election, as other politicians have done. He’s doing it because being linked to J Street has become a political liability even when it’s not a campaign season.

He’s also doing it because J Street’s actions over the past year — culminating in its support for this UN resolution — have made it impossible to logically claim that the group is still pro-Israel.

Ackerman rightly notes that J Street’s support for the resolution “is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”

In a press release for a fundraiser that J Street held for Ackerman and a few other members of Congress just three months ago, the group called the politicians “excellent advocates for pro-Israel, pro-peace positions in Congress and courageous leaders on other progressive issues as well.”

And now Ackerman — lauded as “progressive” and “pro-Israel, pro-peace” by J Street — has concluded that J Street can no longer be considered pro-Israel. That should certainly give other J Street supporters in Congress pause (that is, if there are any of them still left).

Read Less

Activists Find It’s Easier to Slur Peter King than to Look in the Mirror

Ever since Rep. Peter King announced his plans to hold hearings on the influence of radical Islam on the rise of homegrown terrorism in this country, he has been subjected to a furious backlash from groups purporting to represent American Muslims and their cheerleaders in the media. In today’s Washington Post, his critics take the fight to his home ground in the form of a profile of a Long Island mosque that is represented as a peaceful congregation of perplexed King constituents who don’t know why their congressman is doing them harm.

But while the intent of the article seems to be to cast aspersions on King’s hearings, the result is not entirely flattering to the supposedly “moderate” Muslims who are angry with him. As it turns out, King was a supporter of the Westbury, N.Y., mosque and once received an award from it for his advocacy on behalf of U.S. intervention to save Bosnian Muslims. But the love affair between King and the Islamic Center of Long Island ended when leaders of the mosque reacted to the 9/11 atrocities by denying that Muslims took part in the crime, instead blaming it on Israel. In other words, far from being a source of genuine moderation, this mosque was just another venue for the anti-Zionist and anti-American conspiracy theories and hatred that are the bedrock of Islamist ideology that fuels homegrown terrorism.

King has now become the target of false charges of Islamophobia and McCarthyism, but rather than stirring up hate against Islam, what he has done is to challenge American Muslims to stand up and participate in the fight against terror. Instead, groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, which are lauded as representing “mainstream” Islam, are actually urging their members not to cooperate with federal terror probes. This is a development that proves King’s point about the need to highlight the ideological support that terrorists and their fellow travelers and apologists are getting from mosques and Muslim groups.

Instead of working hard to reinforce the myth that Muslims are being subjected to a post-9/11 discriminatory backlash, King’s Muslim critics should be devoting their energies to creating an American Islam that is hostile to Islamism and supportive of government efforts to fight it. King rightly describes arguments put forward to spike his hearings as “politically correct nonsense,” but the problem goes deeper than just an aversion to hurting the feelings of certain groups. At the heart of this fight is a false narrative of both how followers of Islam have been treated since 9/11 and the way in which American Muslim institutions have been compromised by Islamist tendencies. Unless and until the truth about both subjects is fully aired, it is Rep. King and not the troubling way mosques have been used to rationalize and support terror that will continue to be the subject of press scrutiny.

Ever since Rep. Peter King announced his plans to hold hearings on the influence of radical Islam on the rise of homegrown terrorism in this country, he has been subjected to a furious backlash from groups purporting to represent American Muslims and their cheerleaders in the media. In today’s Washington Post, his critics take the fight to his home ground in the form of a profile of a Long Island mosque that is represented as a peaceful congregation of perplexed King constituents who don’t know why their congressman is doing them harm.

But while the intent of the article seems to be to cast aspersions on King’s hearings, the result is not entirely flattering to the supposedly “moderate” Muslims who are angry with him. As it turns out, King was a supporter of the Westbury, N.Y., mosque and once received an award from it for his advocacy on behalf of U.S. intervention to save Bosnian Muslims. But the love affair between King and the Islamic Center of Long Island ended when leaders of the mosque reacted to the 9/11 atrocities by denying that Muslims took part in the crime, instead blaming it on Israel. In other words, far from being a source of genuine moderation, this mosque was just another venue for the anti-Zionist and anti-American conspiracy theories and hatred that are the bedrock of Islamist ideology that fuels homegrown terrorism.

King has now become the target of false charges of Islamophobia and McCarthyism, but rather than stirring up hate against Islam, what he has done is to challenge American Muslims to stand up and participate in the fight against terror. Instead, groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, which are lauded as representing “mainstream” Islam, are actually urging their members not to cooperate with federal terror probes. This is a development that proves King’s point about the need to highlight the ideological support that terrorists and their fellow travelers and apologists are getting from mosques and Muslim groups.

Instead of working hard to reinforce the myth that Muslims are being subjected to a post-9/11 discriminatory backlash, King’s Muslim critics should be devoting their energies to creating an American Islam that is hostile to Islamism and supportive of government efforts to fight it. King rightly describes arguments put forward to spike his hearings as “politically correct nonsense,” but the problem goes deeper than just an aversion to hurting the feelings of certain groups. At the heart of this fight is a false narrative of both how followers of Islam have been treated since 9/11 and the way in which American Muslim institutions have been compromised by Islamist tendencies. Unless and until the truth about both subjects is fully aired, it is Rep. King and not the troubling way mosques have been used to rationalize and support terror that will continue to be the subject of press scrutiny.

Read Less

In Defense of Labels

Columbia University hosted a “No Labels” conference that John and Byron York have written about. The motto of the No Labels group is “Put the Labels Aside. Do What’s Best for America.” Tom Davis, the former GOP congressman from Virginia, puts it this way: “Labels … get in the way of getting things done.”

Now, I understand people wanting to avoid using labels. For one thing, it advances the impression (which often differs from the reality) that one is independent-minded and unbiased, pragmatic rather than dogmatic, willing to judge issues on the merits and based on reason rather than on rigid ideology. The impression people want to make is obvious: my mind — unlike The Labeled — is a Dogma-Free Zone. No simplistic labels can do justice to the complexity of my beliefs. It’s all quite self-affirming.

What is also at play, I think, is an understandable reaction against hyper-partisanship and the loyalty by some to a political party and ideology that overrides independent thought. Such a mindset is often at war with empirical evidence; any data or circumstances that call into doubt one’s most deeply help convictions have to be ignored, dismissed, or ridiculed. To be in politics is to be a member of a team — and the other side is always wrong. No aspect of its argument can be seen to have merit. We all know people like this — and the truth is that many of us in politics struggle, to one degree or another, with precisely this. The temptation to twist facts and reality to fit into our preconceived notions and theories is quite strong; not many of us resist it as well as we should.

At the same time, there is something to be said in defense of labels — and George Will (not surprisingly) put it as well as anyone when several years ago he wrote:

Particular labels, like everything else, come and go. But there always are various labels because they are useful, even necessary: Politics is a varied business. If a politician’s behavior is not utterly cynical, or mindless, it will have a pattern that is related, at least a bit, to his beliefs. Political actions tend to cluster; so do political actors. Labels describe how particular people generally cluster. … Labels identify classes; but people, by acting, classify themselves.

What one hopes to achieve in politics is to develop a coherent body of thought to help interpret the world. There’s actually quite a lot to be said for having a worldview that helps make sense of unfolding events. To apply a label to oneself (like “conservative” or “liberal”) often means associating with a particular intellectual tradition and with men and women who have thoughtfully and carefully reflected on human nature, society, and the role of government. It matters if your intellectual cast of mind is shaped and informed by Burke or by Rousseau, by Madison or by Marx, by C.S. Lewis or by Ayn Rand. And so it’s only natural that in politics, people, upon reflecting on certain basic questions, would coalesce around certain parties and certain labels.

Pace Tom Davis, then, labels don’t always get in the way of getting things done. Political labels, like political parties, can serve a useful purpose. And I for one would argue that allowing certain intellectual traditions (like conservatism) to inform our current political debates is doing what’s best for America.

A final warning to those who find themselves attracted to promise of a world without labels: No Labels can easily transmute into No Convictions — and politics without convictions, uninformed by deep principles and the best that has been thought and written, becomes simply a power game. And that world is even worse than a world with labels.

Columbia University hosted a “No Labels” conference that John and Byron York have written about. The motto of the No Labels group is “Put the Labels Aside. Do What’s Best for America.” Tom Davis, the former GOP congressman from Virginia, puts it this way: “Labels … get in the way of getting things done.”

Now, I understand people wanting to avoid using labels. For one thing, it advances the impression (which often differs from the reality) that one is independent-minded and unbiased, pragmatic rather than dogmatic, willing to judge issues on the merits and based on reason rather than on rigid ideology. The impression people want to make is obvious: my mind — unlike The Labeled — is a Dogma-Free Zone. No simplistic labels can do justice to the complexity of my beliefs. It’s all quite self-affirming.

What is also at play, I think, is an understandable reaction against hyper-partisanship and the loyalty by some to a political party and ideology that overrides independent thought. Such a mindset is often at war with empirical evidence; any data or circumstances that call into doubt one’s most deeply help convictions have to be ignored, dismissed, or ridiculed. To be in politics is to be a member of a team — and the other side is always wrong. No aspect of its argument can be seen to have merit. We all know people like this — and the truth is that many of us in politics struggle, to one degree or another, with precisely this. The temptation to twist facts and reality to fit into our preconceived notions and theories is quite strong; not many of us resist it as well as we should.

At the same time, there is something to be said in defense of labels — and George Will (not surprisingly) put it as well as anyone when several years ago he wrote:

Particular labels, like everything else, come and go. But there always are various labels because they are useful, even necessary: Politics is a varied business. If a politician’s behavior is not utterly cynical, or mindless, it will have a pattern that is related, at least a bit, to his beliefs. Political actions tend to cluster; so do political actors. Labels describe how particular people generally cluster. … Labels identify classes; but people, by acting, classify themselves.

What one hopes to achieve in politics is to develop a coherent body of thought to help interpret the world. There’s actually quite a lot to be said for having a worldview that helps make sense of unfolding events. To apply a label to oneself (like “conservative” or “liberal”) often means associating with a particular intellectual tradition and with men and women who have thoughtfully and carefully reflected on human nature, society, and the role of government. It matters if your intellectual cast of mind is shaped and informed by Burke or by Rousseau, by Madison or by Marx, by C.S. Lewis or by Ayn Rand. And so it’s only natural that in politics, people, upon reflecting on certain basic questions, would coalesce around certain parties and certain labels.

Pace Tom Davis, then, labels don’t always get in the way of getting things done. Political labels, like political parties, can serve a useful purpose. And I for one would argue that allowing certain intellectual traditions (like conservatism) to inform our current political debates is doing what’s best for America.

A final warning to those who find themselves attracted to promise of a world without labels: No Labels can easily transmute into No Convictions — and politics without convictions, uninformed by deep principles and the best that has been thought and written, becomes simply a power game. And that world is even worse than a world with labels.

Read Less

The Magic Bullet

Chris Van Hollen, who will be the ranking member of the House Budget Committee in the new Congress, was on Fox News Sunday this morning (transcript not yet available). To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, he decried extending the “tax cuts for the rich” and raising the estate tax from its present zero to 35 percent for estates over $5 million. That, too, according to Van Hollen, was an unconscionable giveaway of $26 billion to a few thousand families who already have far more than they need. John linked to Senator Bernie Sanders’s 8 1/2 hour rant on the Senate floor on Friday in which he said, less succinctly, the same. And Peter the same day linked to Congressman Alan Grayson (soon, mercifully, to be former congressman Alan Grayson) saying, again, much the same thing. Their animus against “the rich” is palpable and their adherence to the principle of high taxes on the rich (which dates back to Karl Marx in 1848) is religious rather than rational.

I carry no brief for “the rich,” although I’d be happy to be counted among them. But this all reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a close friend, now gone, on this subject. She was very liberal. (How liberal? In 1948, she not only voted for Henry Wallace; she went to the convention and worked in his campaign. That’s liberal.) I proposed a thought experiment. “Suppose,” I said, “there were an economic magic bullet — that if Congress would pass the necessary legislation and the president were to sign it, the effect would be to double everyone’s real take-home income. If you were living on $50,000 this year, you’d have $100,000 to spend next year.”

“Sounds great,” she said.

“But there’s a catch,” I answered. “The effect of the magic bullet would not double the take-home income of those earning over $1 million — it would quintuple it. In other words, the rich would make out far, far better than the average Joe. But there’s no way out, it’s all or nothing. Would you vote for the magic bullet if you were a member of Congress?”

“Certainly not!” she indignantly replied.

“Fine,” I said. “Now it’s six months later and you’re running for re-election. A constituent comes up to you and says, ‘I’m an English teacher at the local high school. I take home $50,000 a year. I have a daughter who needs serious orthodontics that’s not covered by insurance, my son has learning disabilities and has to be tutored, I’m driving a 10-year-old Buick that will have to be replaced very soon, and my mother-in-law will not be able to live on her own much longer. We never go away on vacation and seldom eat out. You voted against my earning an additional $50,000 a year because you objected to Mr. Bigbucks getting $5 million a year instead of $1 million. I don’t give a damn what the Rockefellers earn. I care about what I earn so I can take care of my family.’ What do you tell him, in order to win his vote?”

Her response: “It’s time for dinner.”

We have lowered the marginal rates on high incomes four times since the inception of the income tax — in the 1920s, the 1960s, the 1980s, and the 2000s. In each case, the result was a much more prosperous national economy, lower unemployment, and higher tax revenues for the government. If you do A (lower marginal rates) four times, and four times, despite differing economic circumstances, B (increased prosperity) happens, a rational person might conclude, at least tentatively, that B is the result of A. Not liberals.

As I said, high tax rates on the rich is a religious principle with the left. If the poor have to suffer because of it, so be it.

Chris Van Hollen, who will be the ranking member of the House Budget Committee in the new Congress, was on Fox News Sunday this morning (transcript not yet available). To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, he decried extending the “tax cuts for the rich” and raising the estate tax from its present zero to 35 percent for estates over $5 million. That, too, according to Van Hollen, was an unconscionable giveaway of $26 billion to a few thousand families who already have far more than they need. John linked to Senator Bernie Sanders’s 8 1/2 hour rant on the Senate floor on Friday in which he said, less succinctly, the same. And Peter the same day linked to Congressman Alan Grayson (soon, mercifully, to be former congressman Alan Grayson) saying, again, much the same thing. Their animus against “the rich” is palpable and their adherence to the principle of high taxes on the rich (which dates back to Karl Marx in 1848) is religious rather than rational.

I carry no brief for “the rich,” although I’d be happy to be counted among them. But this all reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a close friend, now gone, on this subject. She was very liberal. (How liberal? In 1948, she not only voted for Henry Wallace; she went to the convention and worked in his campaign. That’s liberal.) I proposed a thought experiment. “Suppose,” I said, “there were an economic magic bullet — that if Congress would pass the necessary legislation and the president were to sign it, the effect would be to double everyone’s real take-home income. If you were living on $50,000 this year, you’d have $100,000 to spend next year.”

“Sounds great,” she said.

“But there’s a catch,” I answered. “The effect of the magic bullet would not double the take-home income of those earning over $1 million — it would quintuple it. In other words, the rich would make out far, far better than the average Joe. But there’s no way out, it’s all or nothing. Would you vote for the magic bullet if you were a member of Congress?”

“Certainly not!” she indignantly replied.

“Fine,” I said. “Now it’s six months later and you’re running for re-election. A constituent comes up to you and says, ‘I’m an English teacher at the local high school. I take home $50,000 a year. I have a daughter who needs serious orthodontics that’s not covered by insurance, my son has learning disabilities and has to be tutored, I’m driving a 10-year-old Buick that will have to be replaced very soon, and my mother-in-law will not be able to live on her own much longer. We never go away on vacation and seldom eat out. You voted against my earning an additional $50,000 a year because you objected to Mr. Bigbucks getting $5 million a year instead of $1 million. I don’t give a damn what the Rockefellers earn. I care about what I earn so I can take care of my family.’ What do you tell him, in order to win his vote?”

Her response: “It’s time for dinner.”

We have lowered the marginal rates on high incomes four times since the inception of the income tax — in the 1920s, the 1960s, the 1980s, and the 2000s. In each case, the result was a much more prosperous national economy, lower unemployment, and higher tax revenues for the government. If you do A (lower marginal rates) four times, and four times, despite differing economic circumstances, B (increased prosperity) happens, a rational person might conclude, at least tentatively, that B is the result of A. Not liberals.

As I said, high tax rates on the rich is a religious principle with the left. If the poor have to suffer because of it, so be it.

Read Less

Morning Commentary

Chas Freeman’s New York Times column “Why Iran Loves WikiLeaks” is as scary as it sounds.

Obama finally speaks with China about North Korea, nearly two weeks after the North’s attack on South Korea. Some experts see this as a sign of strained relations between the U.S. and China.

New WikiLeaks dump reveals list of international facilities vital to U.S. security. There are concerns that these locations may become targets of terrorist attacks.

The New York Times’s public editor on why he’s glad the paper published WikiLeaks: “The Times, like other serious news organizations in democracies, exists to ferret out and publish information — most especially information that government, business and other power centers prefer to conceal. Arming readers with knowledge is what it’s about, and journalists are motivated to pursue that end.”

The Iranian foreign minister snubs Hilary Clinton in Bahrain as the heat turns up on Iran’s nuclear program. Talks between Tehran and P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear ambitions begin today.

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about John Boehner can be found in an extensive New Yorker profile out today. The congressman takes over as speaker of the House on January 5.

Afghani confidence with the U.S. is faltering, according to a new poll: “[T]he results … lay bare the challenge that remains in encouraging more Afghans to repudiate the insurgency and cast their lot with the government.”

Chas Freeman’s New York Times column “Why Iran Loves WikiLeaks” is as scary as it sounds.

Obama finally speaks with China about North Korea, nearly two weeks after the North’s attack on South Korea. Some experts see this as a sign of strained relations between the U.S. and China.

New WikiLeaks dump reveals list of international facilities vital to U.S. security. There are concerns that these locations may become targets of terrorist attacks.

The New York Times’s public editor on why he’s glad the paper published WikiLeaks: “The Times, like other serious news organizations in democracies, exists to ferret out and publish information — most especially information that government, business and other power centers prefer to conceal. Arming readers with knowledge is what it’s about, and journalists are motivated to pursue that end.”

The Iranian foreign minister snubs Hilary Clinton in Bahrain as the heat turns up on Iran’s nuclear program. Talks between Tehran and P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear ambitions begin today.

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about John Boehner can be found in an extensive New Yorker profile out today. The congressman takes over as speaker of the House on January 5.

Afghani confidence with the U.S. is faltering, according to a new poll: “[T]he results … lay bare the challenge that remains in encouraging more Afghans to repudiate the insurgency and cast their lot with the government.”

Read Less

Rangel Censured for Ethics Violations

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) received a censure from Congress last night, after members voted 333-79 in favor of the motion. Only two Republicans voted against the motion, and 170 Democrats voted for it.

While arguing against the censure, Rangel apologized but remained defiant. The Democrat was found guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations last month, the largest number of violations made by any single member of Congress in history.

“Let me apologize to this august body for putting you in the awkward position today,” said the congressman. “I have made some serious mistakes.”

But he also added that “Never in the history of this great country has anyone suffered a censure when the record is abundantly clear that…the committee found no evidence at all of corruption.”

The big surprise of the night came when conservative Rep. Peter King (R-NY) mounted a public defense of Rangel. “I have found no case where charges similar or analogous to those against Congressman Rangel resulted in censure — a penalty thus far reserved for such serious violations as supporting armed insurrection against the United States and the sexual abuse of minors,” he said in a statement.

The last time a House member was censured was 27 years ago, and the punishment has been used only 23 times.

Dave Weigel finds Rangel’s odds of surviving pretty good: “Can his career survive? Well, three of the last five members who were censured — Gerry Studds, Thomas Blanton, and Charlie Wilson (yes, that Charlie Wilson) — were re-elected for years.”

I’m sure Rangel will be fine. Even though facing an ethics trial, he swept to easy victory in New York in November, winning his district with 81 percent of the vote.

The text of the resolution to censure can be found here.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) received a censure from Congress last night, after members voted 333-79 in favor of the motion. Only two Republicans voted against the motion, and 170 Democrats voted for it.

While arguing against the censure, Rangel apologized but remained defiant. The Democrat was found guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations last month, the largest number of violations made by any single member of Congress in history.

“Let me apologize to this august body for putting you in the awkward position today,” said the congressman. “I have made some serious mistakes.”

But he also added that “Never in the history of this great country has anyone suffered a censure when the record is abundantly clear that…the committee found no evidence at all of corruption.”

The big surprise of the night came when conservative Rep. Peter King (R-NY) mounted a public defense of Rangel. “I have found no case where charges similar or analogous to those against Congressman Rangel resulted in censure — a penalty thus far reserved for such serious violations as supporting armed insurrection against the United States and the sexual abuse of minors,” he said in a statement.

The last time a House member was censured was 27 years ago, and the punishment has been used only 23 times.

Dave Weigel finds Rangel’s odds of surviving pretty good: “Can his career survive? Well, three of the last five members who were censured — Gerry Studds, Thomas Blanton, and Charlie Wilson (yes, that Charlie Wilson) — were re-elected for years.”

I’m sure Rangel will be fine. Even though facing an ethics trial, he swept to easy victory in New York in November, winning his district with 81 percent of the vote.

The text of the resolution to censure can be found here.

Read Less

Dems Continue to Entertain

Just because the Democrats lost an election and chose to anoint the woman who led the political equivalent of Pickett’s Charge (I know the much-maligned George Pickett was simply following directions from Robert E. Lee, but let’s not get sidetracked) doesn’t mean that they have finished providing fodder for the GOP. Far from it. The circus was in full swing today:

Members of the House ethics committee began deliberating charges Monday that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated Congressional rules, after an unusual public hearing that was abbreviated by the longtime congressman’s dramatic exit from the proceedings.

Mr. Rangel, who appeared at the inquiry alone, stunned the packed hearing room by walking out after complaining that he had no lawyer because he could not afford the millions of dollars in legal fees he had racked up during the two-year investigation.

Yes, the classic definition of chutzpah is a defendant who murders his parents and throws himself upon the mercy of the court as an orphan; but a tax cheat and Dominican Republic condo owner complaining he’s too poor to pay lawyers to defend him on ethics charges is pretty darn close. The committee was having none of it:

In a rebuke to Mr. Rangel, members noted that he had been advised repeatedly, starting as early as September 2008, that he was well within his rights to set up a defense fund to raise money for his legal expenses. Mr. Rangel and his defense team from the firm Zuckerman Spaeder parted ways several weeks ago.

With Mr. Rangel’s chair empty, the committee’s chief counsel presented what he said was “uncontested evidence” that the congressman’s fund-raising and failure to disclose his assets or pay taxes on a Dominican villa had violated Congressional rules.

A little late, and only after an electoral thumping, I think the Congress is finally going to be draining that swamp — starting with the Rangel cesspool.

Just because the Democrats lost an election and chose to anoint the woman who led the political equivalent of Pickett’s Charge (I know the much-maligned George Pickett was simply following directions from Robert E. Lee, but let’s not get sidetracked) doesn’t mean that they have finished providing fodder for the GOP. Far from it. The circus was in full swing today:

Members of the House ethics committee began deliberating charges Monday that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated Congressional rules, after an unusual public hearing that was abbreviated by the longtime congressman’s dramatic exit from the proceedings.

Mr. Rangel, who appeared at the inquiry alone, stunned the packed hearing room by walking out after complaining that he had no lawyer because he could not afford the millions of dollars in legal fees he had racked up during the two-year investigation.

Yes, the classic definition of chutzpah is a defendant who murders his parents and throws himself upon the mercy of the court as an orphan; but a tax cheat and Dominican Republic condo owner complaining he’s too poor to pay lawyers to defend him on ethics charges is pretty darn close. The committee was having none of it:

In a rebuke to Mr. Rangel, members noted that he had been advised repeatedly, starting as early as September 2008, that he was well within his rights to set up a defense fund to raise money for his legal expenses. Mr. Rangel and his defense team from the firm Zuckerman Spaeder parted ways several weeks ago.

With Mr. Rangel’s chair empty, the committee’s chief counsel presented what he said was “uncontested evidence” that the congressman’s fund-raising and failure to disclose his assets or pay taxes on a Dominican villa had violated Congressional rules.

A little late, and only after an electoral thumping, I think the Congress is finally going to be draining that swamp — starting with the Rangel cesspool.

Read Less

Jihadist Prayer Sessions on Capitol Hill?!

A longtime reader passes on this astounding report:

An Al Qaeda leader, the head of a designated terror organization and a confessed jihadist-in-training are among a “Who’s Who” of controversial figures who have participated in weekly prayer sessions on Capitol Hill since the 2001 terror attacks, an investigation by FoxNews.com reveals.

The Congressional Muslim Staff Association (CMSA) has held weekly Friday Jummah prayers for more than a decade, and guest preachers are often invited to lead the service. The group held prayers informally for about eight years before gaining official status in 2006 under the sponsorship of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslims currently serving in Congress. The second Muslim congressman, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., joined as co-sponsor after he was elected in 2008.

The guest imams include Major Nadal Hassan’s e-mail pal, Anwar al-Awlaki (although his appearance was just after the 9/11 attacks). This is the rest of the jihad roster: Read More

A longtime reader passes on this astounding report:

An Al Qaeda leader, the head of a designated terror organization and a confessed jihadist-in-training are among a “Who’s Who” of controversial figures who have participated in weekly prayer sessions on Capitol Hill since the 2001 terror attacks, an investigation by FoxNews.com reveals.

The Congressional Muslim Staff Association (CMSA) has held weekly Friday Jummah prayers for more than a decade, and guest preachers are often invited to lead the service. The group held prayers informally for about eight years before gaining official status in 2006 under the sponsorship of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslims currently serving in Congress. The second Muslim congressman, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., joined as co-sponsor after he was elected in 2008.

The guest imams include Major Nadal Hassan’s e-mail pal, Anwar al-Awlaki (although his appearance was just after the 9/11 attacks). This is the rest of the jihad roster:

Randall “Ismail” Royer, a former communications associate for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who confessed in 2004 to receiving jihadist training in Pakistan. He is serving a 20-year prison term.

Esam Omeish, the former president of the Muslim American Society, who was forced to resign from the Virginia Commission on Immigration in 2007 after calling for “the jihad way,” among other remarks.

Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who was forced to step down from a national terrorism committee post in 1999 for pro-terrorist comments.

— Abdulaziz Othman Al-Twaijri, the head of a division of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, considered a foreign agent by the U.S.

While their convictions and most egregious actions postdated their sermons on the Hill, these were controversial, extremist figures. For example:

Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, can also be seen at the Awlaki prayer session. Awad has spoken out in support of Hamas and attended a 1993 Hamas meeting in Philadelphia that was wiretapped by the FBI, according to public record and court documents from the Holy Land Foundation trial. CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial.

Last year, the FBI severed ties with CAIR due to evidence of the group’s ties to networks supporting Hamas, which the State Department has designated as a terrorist group, according to documents obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a watchdog group.

The staffers who organized this and their defenders will no doubt attribute all the concern to Islamophobia and plead that they are loyal Americans opposed to violent jihad. But here’s the problem: CAIR had “a heavy hand in selecting and bringing in outside guests.” So what is CAIR — which the FBI has tagged as a terrorist front group — doing acting as a sort of  speakers’ bureau for Capitol Hill Muslims?

Even when there was abundant evidence of their terrorist connections, the preachers still led the prayer groups. A case in point is Anwar Hajjaj:

Hajjaj, tax filings show, was president of Taibah International Aid Association, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2004 for its ties to a network funneling money to Hamas.

Hajjaj and Usama bin Laden’s nephew, Abdullah bin Laden, co-founded World Assembly of Muslim Youth, which the FBI has deemed a “suspected terrorist organization” since 1996, according to a complaint filed in New York federal court on behalf of the families of Sept. 11 victims. The judge refused to dismiss the charges against the World Assembly in September, saying the charges against it were “sufficient to demonstrate that they are knowingly and intentionally providing material support to Al Qaeda.” Hajaj’s involvement with CMSA dates back at least to 2006, according to reports.

Fox has other eye-popping examples. So what in the world were the CMSA staffers and their congressional bosses thinking? Are they oblivious to the radical nature of their guests? Or are they sympathetic to their views? But more important, what will Congress do about the CMSA and the congressmen who attended? Isn’t a full investigation warranted at the very least?

Be prepared for the “Islamophobe!” hysterics. We’ve no right to meddle in the prayer groups of Muslims? Oh, yes we do when those attending are jihadists committed to the murder of Americans and those attending are charged with defending our country. And let’s find out who the true “moderate” Muslims are. They will be the ones calling for an inquiry and condemning the jihadist-led prayer sessions.

Read Less

Money Doesn’t Buy You Love — or Votes

The Democrats’ favorite excuse in the waning days of the campaign was that foreign money was their undoing. Soon-to-be-ex-Speaker (yeah, wow) Nancy Pelosi said everything was going fine until the Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove or a mystery woman from Hong Kong (oh, wait — that was their side) opened up their wallets. Yes, it was bunk. But little did we know how much bunk it was:

In two-thirds of the House seats that Republicans picked up Tuesday, Democratic candidates had more money behind them, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission. Overall, Democratic candidates in the 63 races that flipped to the GOP had $206.4 million behind them, a tally that includes candidate fundraising and spending by parties and interests. That compares with only $171.7 million for their GOP rivals.

The pattern appears to contradict widespread complaints from Democrats that they were being unfairly overrun by wealthy Republicans, many of whom donated money to conservative groups to spend on political races — unencumbered by the limits and public-disclosure requirements that constrain most political fundraising. The data show that even in many races in which Republicans had more outside help, they still had fewer resources than their Democratic opponents.

So it was in Senate races as well. Meg Whitman’s personal fortune was of no use. Neither did it help Linda McMahon. Sharron Angle outraised Harry Reid and still lost.

It seems that, rather than money, a candidate’s voting record, the economy, and the relative levels of enthusiasm of the parties’ supporters is what mattered. (“Republicans were able to win despite being badly outspent in Democratic-leaning districts. Outside Philadelphia, Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D), the Democratic Party and groups backing them had about three times as much as conservatives and the campaign of former congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.”) Money is a convenient excuse, of course. But like blaming the voters’ “misperceptions,” it simply wasn’t the cause of the Democrats’ defeat. The voters knew exactly what they were doing, and no amount of money was going to convince them otherwise. And as for the self-financers, unless you are a solid candidate (Ron Johnson, for example), it’s better not to fritter away the family fortune.

The Democrats’ favorite excuse in the waning days of the campaign was that foreign money was their undoing. Soon-to-be-ex-Speaker (yeah, wow) Nancy Pelosi said everything was going fine until the Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove or a mystery woman from Hong Kong (oh, wait — that was their side) opened up their wallets. Yes, it was bunk. But little did we know how much bunk it was:

In two-thirds of the House seats that Republicans picked up Tuesday, Democratic candidates had more money behind them, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission. Overall, Democratic candidates in the 63 races that flipped to the GOP had $206.4 million behind them, a tally that includes candidate fundraising and spending by parties and interests. That compares with only $171.7 million for their GOP rivals.

The pattern appears to contradict widespread complaints from Democrats that they were being unfairly overrun by wealthy Republicans, many of whom donated money to conservative groups to spend on political races — unencumbered by the limits and public-disclosure requirements that constrain most political fundraising. The data show that even in many races in which Republicans had more outside help, they still had fewer resources than their Democratic opponents.

So it was in Senate races as well. Meg Whitman’s personal fortune was of no use. Neither did it help Linda McMahon. Sharron Angle outraised Harry Reid and still lost.

It seems that, rather than money, a candidate’s voting record, the economy, and the relative levels of enthusiasm of the parties’ supporters is what mattered. (“Republicans were able to win despite being badly outspent in Democratic-leaning districts. Outside Philadelphia, Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D), the Democratic Party and groups backing them had about three times as much as conservatives and the campaign of former congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.”) Money is a convenient excuse, of course. But like blaming the voters’ “misperceptions,” it simply wasn’t the cause of the Democrats’ defeat. The voters knew exactly what they were doing, and no amount of money was going to convince them otherwise. And as for the self-financers, unless you are a solid candidate (Ron Johnson, for example), it’s better not to fritter away the family fortune.

Read Less

Right and Left Agree: Obama Stands Pat

The right and the left have something in common: neither is impressed with the White House’s initial reaction to the GOP blowout. George Will writes:

It is amazing the ingenuity Democrats invest in concocting explanations of voter behavior that erase what voters always care about, and this year more than ever — ideas. This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama’s idea of unlimited government.

The more he denounced Republicans as the party of “no,” the better Republicans did. His denunciations enabled people to support Republicans without embracing them as anything other than impediments to him.

Rather, as Will points out, the “blame” is to be found elsewhere: “George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Supreme Court, a Cincinnati congressman (John Boehner), Karl Rove, Americans for Prosperity and other “groups with harmless-sounding names” (Hillary Clinton’s ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ redux), ‘shadowy third-party groups’ (they are as shadowy as steam calliopes), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, finally, the American people.” In his press conference, Obama added a new theory: the “misperception” of overreach.

Meanwhile, as I speculated yesterday, the left is not pleased with the Grumpy Gus routine. Greg Sargent observes Obama’s “surprisingly pessimistic tone.” Sargent frets:

More broadly, the bulk of the presser seemed to display the President feeling his way on a new and uncertain political landscape. …

First, with Republicans moving to roll back key chunks of his agenda, how does he draw a line against those efforts without allowing Republicans to paint him as arrogant and deaf to the message of last night’s results?

And second: How aggressively can he highlight the Republicans’ refusal to compromise, and thus claim the moral high ground, without undercutting the impression — one he clearly wants to feed — that he’s reaching out and trying to establish common ground with them?

Notice Sargent’s assumption: Obama won’t permit any ideological softening or substantive compromise. It’s all now a matter of tactics — how not to budge an inch and how to blame the GOP for daring to take the voters’ mandate seriously.

Maybe Obama will demonstrate new ideological flexibility and eschew the parts of his agenda that put John Boehner in the speaker’s chair. But if Will and Sargent are any indication, neither side really thinks that is possible. After all, they’ve been paying attention for the past two years, and there’s no evidence that Obama is able or willing to go that route.

The right and the left have something in common: neither is impressed with the White House’s initial reaction to the GOP blowout. George Will writes:

It is amazing the ingenuity Democrats invest in concocting explanations of voter behavior that erase what voters always care about, and this year more than ever — ideas. This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama’s idea of unlimited government.

The more he denounced Republicans as the party of “no,” the better Republicans did. His denunciations enabled people to support Republicans without embracing them as anything other than impediments to him.

Rather, as Will points out, the “blame” is to be found elsewhere: “George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Supreme Court, a Cincinnati congressman (John Boehner), Karl Rove, Americans for Prosperity and other “groups with harmless-sounding names” (Hillary Clinton’s ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ redux), ‘shadowy third-party groups’ (they are as shadowy as steam calliopes), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, finally, the American people.” In his press conference, Obama added a new theory: the “misperception” of overreach.

Meanwhile, as I speculated yesterday, the left is not pleased with the Grumpy Gus routine. Greg Sargent observes Obama’s “surprisingly pessimistic tone.” Sargent frets:

More broadly, the bulk of the presser seemed to display the President feeling his way on a new and uncertain political landscape. …

First, with Republicans moving to roll back key chunks of his agenda, how does he draw a line against those efforts without allowing Republicans to paint him as arrogant and deaf to the message of last night’s results?

And second: How aggressively can he highlight the Republicans’ refusal to compromise, and thus claim the moral high ground, without undercutting the impression — one he clearly wants to feed — that he’s reaching out and trying to establish common ground with them?

Notice Sargent’s assumption: Obama won’t permit any ideological softening or substantive compromise. It’s all now a matter of tactics — how not to budge an inch and how to blame the GOP for daring to take the voters’ mandate seriously.

Maybe Obama will demonstrate new ideological flexibility and eschew the parts of his agenda that put John Boehner in the speaker’s chair. But if Will and Sargent are any indication, neither side really thinks that is possible. After all, they’ve been paying attention for the past two years, and there’s no evidence that Obama is able or willing to go that route.

Read Less

Ed Koch Fingers a Congressman Hostile to Israel

Democrat Ed Koch and national security expert Dan Senor are supporting the Republican candidate in the NY-22 race. The reason why has to do with their assessment of the Democratic incumbent’s record on Israel. A portion of the Koch-Senor letter that I have obtained:

Unfortunately, when it comes to Maurice Hinchey, who represents New York’s 22nd District, we have one of the least sympathetic, most hostile lawmakers in Congress on all issues impacting the U.S.-Israel relationship. Hinchey is a member of a small group of Representatives that routinely votes against the bipartisan resolutions and legislation by which Congress supports the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Consider just a few items from his record:

—In 2002, at the height of the Intifada, as Israeli civilians were being murdered by the hundreds in suicide bombings, a simple House resolution expressing solidarity with Israel passed by a 352-21 margin. Hinchey voted “present.”

—In 2006, Hinchey voted against a bill to promote democratic institution-building in the Palestinian territories titled the “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act.” It passed 361-37.

—In 2009, he voted against a resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, an infamous product of the UN that accused Israel of intentionally committing war crimes in Gaza. The anti-Goldstone resolution passed 344-36.

—This year, he signed a letter to President Obama that accused Israel of the “de facto collective punishment” of Palestinians in Gaza and demanded that President Obama pressure Israel to open its borders with Gaza, a move that would leave Israel dangerously vulnerable to terrorism.

—Most stunningly of all, Hinchey voted against one of the Obama administration’s most important foreign policy initiatives, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act, passed by overwhelming margins in both houses of Congress and signed into law this summer. This key piece of legislation, vital to both American and Israeli security, sailed through the House 412-12.

Hinchey voted against it.

If there is a Member of Congress who has voted more consistently against consensus American foreign policy interests and against U.S.-Israel friendship, we would be hard-pressed to name him.

This is the sort of “divisive” criticism that the left castigates. But it is coming from Democrat Ed Koch and is based on the congressman’s own voting record and signature on the Gaza 54 letter. Oh, and by the way, Hinchey’s endorsed and funded in part by … don’t even have to finish the sentence, do I? A voting record like that can only be admired by the sort of people who would defend Richard Goldstone, escort him around the Capitol, and lie about it.

Democrat Ed Koch and national security expert Dan Senor are supporting the Republican candidate in the NY-22 race. The reason why has to do with their assessment of the Democratic incumbent’s record on Israel. A portion of the Koch-Senor letter that I have obtained:

Unfortunately, when it comes to Maurice Hinchey, who represents New York’s 22nd District, we have one of the least sympathetic, most hostile lawmakers in Congress on all issues impacting the U.S.-Israel relationship. Hinchey is a member of a small group of Representatives that routinely votes against the bipartisan resolutions and legislation by which Congress supports the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Consider just a few items from his record:

—In 2002, at the height of the Intifada, as Israeli civilians were being murdered by the hundreds in suicide bombings, a simple House resolution expressing solidarity with Israel passed by a 352-21 margin. Hinchey voted “present.”

—In 2006, Hinchey voted against a bill to promote democratic institution-building in the Palestinian territories titled the “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act.” It passed 361-37.

—In 2009, he voted against a resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, an infamous product of the UN that accused Israel of intentionally committing war crimes in Gaza. The anti-Goldstone resolution passed 344-36.

—This year, he signed a letter to President Obama that accused Israel of the “de facto collective punishment” of Palestinians in Gaza and demanded that President Obama pressure Israel to open its borders with Gaza, a move that would leave Israel dangerously vulnerable to terrorism.

—Most stunningly of all, Hinchey voted against one of the Obama administration’s most important foreign policy initiatives, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act, passed by overwhelming margins in both houses of Congress and signed into law this summer. This key piece of legislation, vital to both American and Israeli security, sailed through the House 412-12.

Hinchey voted against it.

If there is a Member of Congress who has voted more consistently against consensus American foreign policy interests and against U.S.-Israel friendship, we would be hard-pressed to name him.

This is the sort of “divisive” criticism that the left castigates. But it is coming from Democrat Ed Koch and is based on the congressman’s own voting record and signature on the Gaza 54 letter. Oh, and by the way, Hinchey’s endorsed and funded in part by … don’t even have to finish the sentence, do I? A voting record like that can only be admired by the sort of people who would defend Richard Goldstone, escort him around the Capitol, and lie about it.

Read Less

Senate Sliding Toward GOP

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

Read Less

Bollixing Up the Escape Plan

House Minority Leader John Boehner took a lot of guff from conservatives for muddying the waters temporarily on the Bush tax cuts. But to his credit, he corrected his course. When the Democrats revolted en masse, Boehner was spared further grief. Well, today he got points for some clever gamesmanship:

House Democrats on Wednesday barely won a 210-209 vote to adjourn the House without extending the Bush tax cuts.

Thirty-nine House Democrats voted against adjournment after Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) urged opposition to the motion in a floor speech that said it would be irresponsible for Congress to leave without providing certainty on the tax issue. Dozens of Democrats in tough races voted against adjourning. …

Boehner’s floor speech turned the vote on adjournment into a referendum on the tax cuts, which has divided Democrats for months. President Obama wants to extend tax cuts for families making less than $250,000, while allowing taxes to rise on income above that threshold. Many centrist Democrats have joined Republicans in arguing for extending all of the tax cuts.

You can see the ads now: Congressman X voted to go home rather than keep taxes from going up. (“Members who voted to adjourn were ‘putting their election above the needs of your constituents,’ Boehner said in his speech. ‘Vote no on this adjournment resolution. Give Congress the chance to vote on extending tax rates.’”)

It’s really hard to imagine how the Democrats could have handled this any worse.

House Minority Leader John Boehner took a lot of guff from conservatives for muddying the waters temporarily on the Bush tax cuts. But to his credit, he corrected his course. When the Democrats revolted en masse, Boehner was spared further grief. Well, today he got points for some clever gamesmanship:

House Democrats on Wednesday barely won a 210-209 vote to adjourn the House without extending the Bush tax cuts.

Thirty-nine House Democrats voted against adjournment after Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) urged opposition to the motion in a floor speech that said it would be irresponsible for Congress to leave without providing certainty on the tax issue. Dozens of Democrats in tough races voted against adjourning. …

Boehner’s floor speech turned the vote on adjournment into a referendum on the tax cuts, which has divided Democrats for months. President Obama wants to extend tax cuts for families making less than $250,000, while allowing taxes to rise on income above that threshold. Many centrist Democrats have joined Republicans in arguing for extending all of the tax cuts.

You can see the ads now: Congressman X voted to go home rather than keep taxes from going up. (“Members who voted to adjourn were ‘putting their election above the needs of your constituents,’ Boehner said in his speech. ‘Vote no on this adjournment resolution. Give Congress the chance to vote on extending tax rates.’”)

It’s really hard to imagine how the Democrats could have handled this any worse.

Read Less

Yes, We Can…Stay Home

The president, today, speaking to college newspaper editors, previewing what he will tell young voters this week: “You can’t sit it out, you can’t suddenly just check in once every ten years or so on an exciting presidential election and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans.”

The problem is that if, as Obama said, “we are the change we have been waiting for,” and the current condition of the country is the change “we’ve been waiting for,” why would “we” choose “us” again? “We” might even go with “them” even though “we” think “they”  bear a greater share of the blame for the mess you’re in. According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, “41 percent of adult Americans say congressional Republicans are more responsible for the nation’s economic problems, with 35 percent saying the Democrats are more to blame. … But 47 percent of those questioned say the economic policies of congressional Republicans are more likely to improve economic conditions, with 41 percent saying Democrats in Congress have the better prescriptions.”

In some sense, this is really Obama’s final card to play. He desperately needs to reconstitute the flash mob that arose in that stunning way in 2008 before it dissipated like vapor. Some attribute the loss of this potentially nation-changing political force to the thinness of Obama’s message — which did seem to boil down to change for the sake of change. But that actually might do the Obama voter too little credit. What kind of immediate future does a college-age or graduate-school Obama voter, piling up student-loan debt in preparation for entering a terrible job market, see for himself or herself in ObamaNation? Enough to stimulate him to go out and vote for a congressman or senator for whom he may have no particular interest or taste, but as a secondary means of expressing his enthusiasm for the 2008 vote he cast that seems to have delivered so little?

The president, today, speaking to college newspaper editors, previewing what he will tell young voters this week: “You can’t sit it out, you can’t suddenly just check in once every ten years or so on an exciting presidential election and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans.”

The problem is that if, as Obama said, “we are the change we have been waiting for,” and the current condition of the country is the change “we’ve been waiting for,” why would “we” choose “us” again? “We” might even go with “them” even though “we” think “they”  bear a greater share of the blame for the mess you’re in. According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, “41 percent of adult Americans say congressional Republicans are more responsible for the nation’s economic problems, with 35 percent saying the Democrats are more to blame. … But 47 percent of those questioned say the economic policies of congressional Republicans are more likely to improve economic conditions, with 41 percent saying Democrats in Congress have the better prescriptions.”

In some sense, this is really Obama’s final card to play. He desperately needs to reconstitute the flash mob that arose in that stunning way in 2008 before it dissipated like vapor. Some attribute the loss of this potentially nation-changing political force to the thinness of Obama’s message — which did seem to boil down to change for the sake of change. But that actually might do the Obama voter too little credit. What kind of immediate future does a college-age or graduate-school Obama voter, piling up student-loan debt in preparation for entering a terrible job market, see for himself or herself in ObamaNation? Enough to stimulate him to go out and vote for a congressman or senator for whom he may have no particular interest or taste, but as a secondary means of expressing his enthusiasm for the 2008 vote he cast that seems to have delivered so little?

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

Read Less

Surge for New York GOP Portends National Disaster for Dems

If there were any doubt that politics as usual is out the window this fall, it is confirmed by the latest polls from New York, one of the most reliable Democratic strongholds in the country. New York Democrats have fielded an attractive and popular candidate for governor, Andrew Cuomo, while the state’s Republicans, who are in complete disarray, have put up a wacky though wealthy gadfly to oppose him. And of the two incumbent Democratic senators up for re-election, the one who is most vulnerable to a challenge, Kirsten Gillibrand, has drawn a lackluster opponent. But a funny thing is happening on the way to the Democrats’ November landslide. The polls are showing that the leads held by both Cuomo and Gillibrand are shrinking to the point where it is conceivable that both races could be competitive.

In the governor’s race, both Rasmussen and Quinnipiac show the gap between Cuomo and Carl Paladino to be narrowing. Quinnipiac showed Paladino trailing Cuomo by only six points among likely voters, while Rasmussen reported the Republican down by 16 points. In their previous polls tracking this matchup, the margins were respectively 30- and 29-point leads for Cuomo.

Over at the New York Times, analyst Nate Silver had claimed that these numbers were flawed because they didn’t add Conservative Party candidate Rick Lazio to the mix. But even he admits that the Quinnipiac poll is causing him to reconsider his assumptions about this race. While a more accurate survey would have mentioned Lazio, Silver’s assumption that many New Yorkers would stick with the man who lost the Republican primary last week in a historic landslide despite the backing of almost the entire Republican state establishment is absurd. That the Conservatives, whose original purpose was to hold the state’s liberal Republican party establishment accountable for ignoring the wishes of rank-and-file Republicans, would choose to torpedo a Conservative insurgent like Paladino by sticking with the dead-in-the-water Lazio speaks volumes about their own irrelevance. Far from sabotaging Paladino, as Silver seems to think a Lazio candidacy would, all it might accomplish is to lose the Conservatives their place on the state ballot for the next four years, something that would happen if Lazio got fewer than 50,000 votes in November.

Meanwhile, just as astounding is the Rasmussen poll showing Republican Joseph DioGuardi trailing Gillibrand by only 10 points. Previous surveys had Gillibrand up by anywhere from 15 to 25 points. DioGuardi has little name recognition and even less money. But Gillibrand is so weak that even the former Westchester congressman now must be given a chance, albeit a slim one, to knock her off.

But though liberal writers like Silver are still trying to rationalize the tsunami of voter discontent that is giving a Tea Party favorite like Paladino and a fiscal conservative like DioGuardi a chance, what is happening can no longer be ignored. Both Cuomo and Gillibrand must still be considered strong favorites, but if Republicans are surging in a state like New York, this midterm election may turn out far worse than imagined for the Democrats and the liberal agenda pursued by President Obama. Demonizing the Tea Party and publicizing opposition research about a loose cannon like Paladino may seem like an effective way to stem the GOP tide, but Democrats must understand that the rules have changed. As the New York polls indicate, voter anger about spending, entitlements, and taxes have transformed 2010 from an ordinary midterm correction to what may turn out to be a Republican tidal wave.

If there were any doubt that politics as usual is out the window this fall, it is confirmed by the latest polls from New York, one of the most reliable Democratic strongholds in the country. New York Democrats have fielded an attractive and popular candidate for governor, Andrew Cuomo, while the state’s Republicans, who are in complete disarray, have put up a wacky though wealthy gadfly to oppose him. And of the two incumbent Democratic senators up for re-election, the one who is most vulnerable to a challenge, Kirsten Gillibrand, has drawn a lackluster opponent. But a funny thing is happening on the way to the Democrats’ November landslide. The polls are showing that the leads held by both Cuomo and Gillibrand are shrinking to the point where it is conceivable that both races could be competitive.

In the governor’s race, both Rasmussen and Quinnipiac show the gap between Cuomo and Carl Paladino to be narrowing. Quinnipiac showed Paladino trailing Cuomo by only six points among likely voters, while Rasmussen reported the Republican down by 16 points. In their previous polls tracking this matchup, the margins were respectively 30- and 29-point leads for Cuomo.

Over at the New York Times, analyst Nate Silver had claimed that these numbers were flawed because they didn’t add Conservative Party candidate Rick Lazio to the mix. But even he admits that the Quinnipiac poll is causing him to reconsider his assumptions about this race. While a more accurate survey would have mentioned Lazio, Silver’s assumption that many New Yorkers would stick with the man who lost the Republican primary last week in a historic landslide despite the backing of almost the entire Republican state establishment is absurd. That the Conservatives, whose original purpose was to hold the state’s liberal Republican party establishment accountable for ignoring the wishes of rank-and-file Republicans, would choose to torpedo a Conservative insurgent like Paladino by sticking with the dead-in-the-water Lazio speaks volumes about their own irrelevance. Far from sabotaging Paladino, as Silver seems to think a Lazio candidacy would, all it might accomplish is to lose the Conservatives their place on the state ballot for the next four years, something that would happen if Lazio got fewer than 50,000 votes in November.

Meanwhile, just as astounding is the Rasmussen poll showing Republican Joseph DioGuardi trailing Gillibrand by only 10 points. Previous surveys had Gillibrand up by anywhere from 15 to 25 points. DioGuardi has little name recognition and even less money. But Gillibrand is so weak that even the former Westchester congressman now must be given a chance, albeit a slim one, to knock her off.

But though liberal writers like Silver are still trying to rationalize the tsunami of voter discontent that is giving a Tea Party favorite like Paladino and a fiscal conservative like DioGuardi a chance, what is happening can no longer be ignored. Both Cuomo and Gillibrand must still be considered strong favorites, but if Republicans are surging in a state like New York, this midterm election may turn out far worse than imagined for the Democrats and the liberal agenda pursued by President Obama. Demonizing the Tea Party and publicizing opposition research about a loose cannon like Paladino may seem like an effective way to stem the GOP tide, but Democrats must understand that the rules have changed. As the New York polls indicate, voter anger about spending, entitlements, and taxes have transformed 2010 from an ordinary midterm correction to what may turn out to be a Republican tidal wave.

Read Less

What’s It Going to Take in 2012?

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

Read Less

Can Paladino Be New York’s Paladin?

Speaking of Tea Party successes in the elections last Tuesday, it seems the upset win of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware sucked most of the oxygen out of the blogosphere. Thus Carl Paladino’s success in capturing the Republican nomination for governor in New York has not received that much attention except to have it widely assumed that he cannot win against the Democratic candidate, Andrew Cuomo.

I’m not so sure. Paladino didn’t just defeat former congressman Rick Lazio, the anointed of the Republican establishment in New York; he crushed him 62 percent to 38 percent.

Paladino has been called a bomb-thrower, especially for his impolitic remarks like calling the speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, the Antichrist. That might indeed be a tad over the top, but Sheldon Silver is very much the poster child for all that is wrong with Albany. I think many New Yorkers will agree with Paladino. And he has some baggage, including a 10-year-old out-of-wedlock daughter. But as his wife has evidently forgiven him and the daughter is very much a part of the Paladino family, I suspect that New Yorkers — a forgiving bunch when it comes to personal peccadilloes — will not hold it against him. An acknowledged illegitimate child didn’t stop Grover Cleveland from becoming governor of New York and then president. (Whether Cleveland was actually the father is a good question, as the mother had been bestowing her favors on more than one man, including Cleveland’s law partner. Cleveland apparently took responsibility because he was the only bachelor among the group, making him a gentleman twice over.)

Assuming there are no major skeletons to come out of the closet (and the media is surely scouring every nook and cranny of Paladino’s career looking for them) and he can come across in debate and on the campaign trail as mad-as-hell but not out-of-control, I think he has an excellent chance of winning on Nov. 2. A bomb-thrower, I think, is exactly what the long-abused citizens of New York are looking for. Add to that the fact that Paladino is seriously rich and can self-finance a credible campaign, even in super-expensive New York State. And his opponent is the very model of a modern political-establishment apparatchik, son of a former governor who presided over Albany for 12 years and did nothing — absolutely nothing — to reverse the slow decline of the Empire State or to reform its ever more corrupt political ways. He didn’t even try.

Mario Cuomo was the very embodiment of the status quo, and there is no reason whatever to think that his rather colorless son will be any different. This gives Paladino a heaven-sent political slogan: “No more of the status Cuomo!”

Speaking of Tea Party successes in the elections last Tuesday, it seems the upset win of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware sucked most of the oxygen out of the blogosphere. Thus Carl Paladino’s success in capturing the Republican nomination for governor in New York has not received that much attention except to have it widely assumed that he cannot win against the Democratic candidate, Andrew Cuomo.

I’m not so sure. Paladino didn’t just defeat former congressman Rick Lazio, the anointed of the Republican establishment in New York; he crushed him 62 percent to 38 percent.

Paladino has been called a bomb-thrower, especially for his impolitic remarks like calling the speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, the Antichrist. That might indeed be a tad over the top, but Sheldon Silver is very much the poster child for all that is wrong with Albany. I think many New Yorkers will agree with Paladino. And he has some baggage, including a 10-year-old out-of-wedlock daughter. But as his wife has evidently forgiven him and the daughter is very much a part of the Paladino family, I suspect that New Yorkers — a forgiving bunch when it comes to personal peccadilloes — will not hold it against him. An acknowledged illegitimate child didn’t stop Grover Cleveland from becoming governor of New York and then president. (Whether Cleveland was actually the father is a good question, as the mother had been bestowing her favors on more than one man, including Cleveland’s law partner. Cleveland apparently took responsibility because he was the only bachelor among the group, making him a gentleman twice over.)

Assuming there are no major skeletons to come out of the closet (and the media is surely scouring every nook and cranny of Paladino’s career looking for them) and he can come across in debate and on the campaign trail as mad-as-hell but not out-of-control, I think he has an excellent chance of winning on Nov. 2. A bomb-thrower, I think, is exactly what the long-abused citizens of New York are looking for. Add to that the fact that Paladino is seriously rich and can self-finance a credible campaign, even in super-expensive New York State. And his opponent is the very model of a modern political-establishment apparatchik, son of a former governor who presided over Albany for 12 years and did nothing — absolutely nothing — to reverse the slow decline of the Empire State or to reform its ever more corrupt political ways. He didn’t even try.

Mario Cuomo was the very embodiment of the status quo, and there is no reason whatever to think that his rather colorless son will be any different. This gives Paladino a heaven-sent political slogan: “No more of the status Cuomo!”

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.