Commentary Magazine


Topic: congressman

Flotsam and Jetsam

Thanks a lot, Harry. A Chris Coon spokesman: “Chris is not anyone’s pet and will not be a rubber stamp for anyone.”

Thanks to the president, who decided his October surprise would be a class-warfare vote on the Bush tax cuts (and the threat that the speaker would be dethroned), Nancy Pelosi has now opened the door to a full extension of those cuts. Minority Leader John Boehner should send her flowers.

Thanks a lot, Joe. The VP lectures the liberal base to step it up. In case they didn’t know, there is much at stake.

Thankfully, every school district in the country would want her: “As soon as it became clear that D.C. voters had rejected incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in favor of D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, the talk of the town turned to someone not on Tuesday’s primary ballot: D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Because Rhee’s effort to reform D.C. schools has been so closely tied to the Fenty administration, and because the controversial chancellor has clashed with Gray, speculation is rampant about whether Rhee will stay or go.”

Obama says the poor should be thanking him: “President Barack Obama, responding to a report that the poverty rate in 2009 was at its highest since 1994, on Thursday said his economic stimulus spending has kept millions of Americans out of poverty.”

Cliff May argues that American Muslims should be thankful they live in such a tolerant and inclusive society. Read the whole thing.

Thanks to about 1,600 voters (Ayotte’s margin in the primary), it looks like Republicans will keep the New Hampshire Senate seat. “The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Ayotte picking up 51% of the vote, while Hodes, a congressman, draws support from 44%, his best showing to date.”

Thanks a lot, Harry. A Chris Coon spokesman: “Chris is not anyone’s pet and will not be a rubber stamp for anyone.”

Thanks to the president, who decided his October surprise would be a class-warfare vote on the Bush tax cuts (and the threat that the speaker would be dethroned), Nancy Pelosi has now opened the door to a full extension of those cuts. Minority Leader John Boehner should send her flowers.

Thanks a lot, Joe. The VP lectures the liberal base to step it up. In case they didn’t know, there is much at stake.

Thankfully, every school district in the country would want her: “As soon as it became clear that D.C. voters had rejected incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in favor of D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, the talk of the town turned to someone not on Tuesday’s primary ballot: D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Because Rhee’s effort to reform D.C. schools has been so closely tied to the Fenty administration, and because the controversial chancellor has clashed with Gray, speculation is rampant about whether Rhee will stay or go.”

Obama says the poor should be thanking him: “President Barack Obama, responding to a report that the poverty rate in 2009 was at its highest since 1994, on Thursday said his economic stimulus spending has kept millions of Americans out of poverty.”

Cliff May argues that American Muslims should be thankful they live in such a tolerant and inclusive society. Read the whole thing.

Thanks to about 1,600 voters (Ayotte’s margin in the primary), it looks like Republicans will keep the New Hampshire Senate seat. “The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Ayotte picking up 51% of the vote, while Hodes, a congressman, draws support from 44%, his best showing to date.”

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Key Democrat: Dump ObamaCare’s Individual Mandate

This is big:

Last week [Democratic Sen. Ron] Wyden sent a letter to Oregon health authority director Bruce Goldberg, encouraging the state to seek a waiver from certain ObamaCare rules so it can “come up with innovative solutions that the Federal government has never had the flexibility or will to implement.”

One little-known provision of the bill allows states to opt out of the “requirement that individuals purchase health insurance,” Mr. Wyden wrote, and “Because you and I believe that the heart of real health reform is affordability and not mandates, I wanted to bring this feature of Section 1332 to the attention of you and the legislature.”

Several thoughts. First, why then did he vote for the bill? Second, this suggests that, post-election, there might just be enough votes for “Repeal and Reform.” After all, Wyden is a liberal Democrat, so if he thinks the bill is bad, why wouldn’t his sure-to-be-shell-shocked colleagues (those who survive the election) agree? And finally, it seems that every conservative senator, congressman, governor, and state legislator should be adopting Wyden’s position and challenging their opponents to do the same. Heck, if 50 states opt out of the individual mandate, the bill is essentially kaput.

This is big:

Last week [Democratic Sen. Ron] Wyden sent a letter to Oregon health authority director Bruce Goldberg, encouraging the state to seek a waiver from certain ObamaCare rules so it can “come up with innovative solutions that the Federal government has never had the flexibility or will to implement.”

One little-known provision of the bill allows states to opt out of the “requirement that individuals purchase health insurance,” Mr. Wyden wrote, and “Because you and I believe that the heart of real health reform is affordability and not mandates, I wanted to bring this feature of Section 1332 to the attention of you and the legislature.”

Several thoughts. First, why then did he vote for the bill? Second, this suggests that, post-election, there might just be enough votes for “Repeal and Reform.” After all, Wyden is a liberal Democrat, so if he thinks the bill is bad, why wouldn’t his sure-to-be-shell-shocked colleagues (those who survive the election) agree? And finally, it seems that every conservative senator, congressman, governor, and state legislator should be adopting Wyden’s position and challenging their opponents to do the same. Heck, if 50 states opt out of the individual mandate, the bill is essentially kaput.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith has this right about a new, fantastical Vanity Fair piece: “you can really write anything about Palin.”

Michael Goldfarb has the goods on the “moderate” Ground Zero mosque builders. It seems they won’t condemn Tuesday’s slaughter of four Israelis. This is precisely why Muslim outreach is a flawed and ultimately dangerous exercise — it overlooks and excuses the coddling of terrorists.

Stephen Schwartz has the scoop on the Ground Zero mosque builders’ infighting: “Increasing questions about the character and qualifications of the primary figures in ‘Ground Zero mosque,’ as well as personal rivalries between them, may have accomplished as much for the mosque’s opponents as have protests and disapproving poll results. An offensive concept was presented to Americans by flawed and self-interested individuals; the combination may well guarantee its eventual collapse.”

PPP has the Ohio gubernatorial race going to John Kasich: “Former Congressman and Fox News anchor John Kasich leads Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, 50-40, in PPP’s first poll of likely voters in the race. In the previous survey of registered voters in June, Kasich led only 43-41. President Obama won Ohio by four points in 2008, but the likely 2010 electorate now reports having voted for John McCain by three—a seven-point shift in turnout which mirrors Kasich’s eight-point improvement in the horse race in the last two months.” That same shift is probably happening nationwide.

The GOP has narrowed the gap: “The number of Republicans in the United States grew in August while the number of Democrats slipped a bit and the gap between the parties fell to the smallest advantage for Democrats in five years. In August, 35.0% of American Adults identified themselves as Democrats. That’s down nearly half a percentage point  from a month ago and is the smallest percentage of Democrats ever recorded in nearly eight years of monthly tracking. At the same time, the number of Republicans grew in August grew to 33.8%.” Well, Obama helped a lot.

Pete Hegseth of Vets for Freedom has the numbers: “[Obama] shouldn’t have attempted to weave in an economic message; the words seemed petty and out of place. They were the president’s backhanded way of saying we wasted the last decade on Iraq, rather than fixing our economy. (Minor detail: The president’s stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost $100 billion more than the entire cost of the Iraq war.) His economic posturing took the focus off the troops and their accomplishments, and was unnecessary.” Yeah, there’s some perspective.

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Tom Mahnken has the impression that Obama would rather be doing something else: “[O]ne could not help to see in the president’s words and mannerisms, a man who was distracted, whose heart wasn’t in it. In a speech nominally devoted to Iraq, he couldn’t help but talk about the U.S. economy. … Whereas Bush exhibited great courage in going against his own military to support the Iraqi surge and sell it to his own party and the American people, Obama has yet to put comparable effort into selling his own Afghan surge. The Oval Office speech was a missed opportunity to do just that.”

The BP oil-spill debacle has not come to end: “The federal judge who struck down the Obama administration’s initial six-month moratorium on deepwater oil-drilling dealt the government another blow on Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman denied the government’s request to throw out a suit challenging the drilling halt that had been filed by offshore-oil-service companies. Justice Department lawyers had argued the lawsuit was moot because the Interior Department imposed a new, temporary drilling ban on July 12, replacing a May 28 order that Judge Feldman had struck down in June.”

Ben Smith has this right about a new, fantastical Vanity Fair piece: “you can really write anything about Palin.”

Michael Goldfarb has the goods on the “moderate” Ground Zero mosque builders. It seems they won’t condemn Tuesday’s slaughter of four Israelis. This is precisely why Muslim outreach is a flawed and ultimately dangerous exercise — it overlooks and excuses the coddling of terrorists.

Stephen Schwartz has the scoop on the Ground Zero mosque builders’ infighting: “Increasing questions about the character and qualifications of the primary figures in ‘Ground Zero mosque,’ as well as personal rivalries between them, may have accomplished as much for the mosque’s opponents as have protests and disapproving poll results. An offensive concept was presented to Americans by flawed and self-interested individuals; the combination may well guarantee its eventual collapse.”

PPP has the Ohio gubernatorial race going to John Kasich: “Former Congressman and Fox News anchor John Kasich leads Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, 50-40, in PPP’s first poll of likely voters in the race. In the previous survey of registered voters in June, Kasich led only 43-41. President Obama won Ohio by four points in 2008, but the likely 2010 electorate now reports having voted for John McCain by three—a seven-point shift in turnout which mirrors Kasich’s eight-point improvement in the horse race in the last two months.” That same shift is probably happening nationwide.

The GOP has narrowed the gap: “The number of Republicans in the United States grew in August while the number of Democrats slipped a bit and the gap between the parties fell to the smallest advantage for Democrats in five years. In August, 35.0% of American Adults identified themselves as Democrats. That’s down nearly half a percentage point  from a month ago and is the smallest percentage of Democrats ever recorded in nearly eight years of monthly tracking. At the same time, the number of Republicans grew in August grew to 33.8%.” Well, Obama helped a lot.

Pete Hegseth of Vets for Freedom has the numbers: “[Obama] shouldn’t have attempted to weave in an economic message; the words seemed petty and out of place. They were the president’s backhanded way of saying we wasted the last decade on Iraq, rather than fixing our economy. (Minor detail: The president’s stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost $100 billion more than the entire cost of the Iraq war.) His economic posturing took the focus off the troops and their accomplishments, and was unnecessary.” Yeah, there’s some perspective.

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Tom Mahnken has the impression that Obama would rather be doing something else: “[O]ne could not help to see in the president’s words and mannerisms, a man who was distracted, whose heart wasn’t in it. In a speech nominally devoted to Iraq, he couldn’t help but talk about the U.S. economy. … Whereas Bush exhibited great courage in going against his own military to support the Iraqi surge and sell it to his own party and the American people, Obama has yet to put comparable effort into selling his own Afghan surge. The Oval Office speech was a missed opportunity to do just that.”

The BP oil-spill debacle has not come to end: “The federal judge who struck down the Obama administration’s initial six-month moratorium on deepwater oil-drilling dealt the government another blow on Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman denied the government’s request to throw out a suit challenging the drilling halt that had been filed by offshore-oil-service companies. Justice Department lawyers had argued the lawsuit was moot because the Interior Department imposed a new, temporary drilling ban on July 12, replacing a May 28 order that Judge Feldman had struck down in June.”

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Bad News Gets Worse for Dems

Nate Silver breaks the bad news to the Gray Lady’s readers:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. … Of late, the source of the Democrats’ problems has not necessarily been in high-profile Senate races where the Republicans have nominated inexperienced but headline-grabbing candidates, like  Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky (although the model regards both Ms. Angle and Mr. Paul as slight favorites). Instead, it has been in traditional swing states like  Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So in other words, Kentucky and Nevada aren’t problems at all, notwithstanding the “headling-grabbing nominees.” And it gets worse. Those sneaky Republicans have also nominated “members of the G.O.P.’s establishment. … Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the former Republican Minority Whip, and in Ohio, Rob Portman, the former congressman who served as trade representative and budget director in the Bush administration. And so far, the Democrats’ strategy of Bush-bashing does not seem to be resonating in these states.”

To sum up, GOP establishment candidates are doing well. GOP insurgent candidates are doing well. The favorite Democratic strategy is a bust. One can imagine that this is the most optimistic version of events Silver can credibly present. (And he throws in a security blanket for panicky readers: “It could also be that the polling somewhat overstates the degree of danger that Democrats face.”) In fact, it is entirely possible that Silver’s outlook is unduly optimistic. After all, he doesn’t think much of Republican chances in Wisconsin and California, but both of those races are dead heats. And besides, many more of these kinds of columns and the Democrats will become more morose than they already are, further depressing turnout and tipping the playing field in the GOP’s favor.

All in all, the Obama era is proving to be quite a downer for liberals.

Nate Silver breaks the bad news to the Gray Lady’s readers:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. … Of late, the source of the Democrats’ problems has not necessarily been in high-profile Senate races where the Republicans have nominated inexperienced but headline-grabbing candidates, like  Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky (although the model regards both Ms. Angle and Mr. Paul as slight favorites). Instead, it has been in traditional swing states like  Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So in other words, Kentucky and Nevada aren’t problems at all, notwithstanding the “headling-grabbing nominees.” And it gets worse. Those sneaky Republicans have also nominated “members of the G.O.P.’s establishment. … Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the former Republican Minority Whip, and in Ohio, Rob Portman, the former congressman who served as trade representative and budget director in the Bush administration. And so far, the Democrats’ strategy of Bush-bashing does not seem to be resonating in these states.”

To sum up, GOP establishment candidates are doing well. GOP insurgent candidates are doing well. The favorite Democratic strategy is a bust. One can imagine that this is the most optimistic version of events Silver can credibly present. (And he throws in a security blanket for panicky readers: “It could also be that the polling somewhat overstates the degree of danger that Democrats face.”) In fact, it is entirely possible that Silver’s outlook is unduly optimistic. After all, he doesn’t think much of Republican chances in Wisconsin and California, but both of those races are dead heats. And besides, many more of these kinds of columns and the Democrats will become more morose than they already are, further depressing turnout and tipping the playing field in the GOP’s favor.

All in all, the Obama era is proving to be quite a downer for liberals.

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Let’s Not Forget the Swamp

In the wake of the primary elections on Tuesday, we are reminded, as John points out, that the rule for this election season is “old rules don’t apply.” Money and name recognition are non-factors, if not liabilities. Incumbency offers no protection. And the “likely voter” models may be inapplicable to an electorate flooded with enraged populists and drained of sad-sack Democrats.

And looming in the background are powerful reminders that the Beltway establishment has, in fact, earned the ire of the voters. He’s only one congressman, but Charlie Rangel is a symbol of just about everything wrong with Congress — the pomposity, the self-dealing, the tone-deafness. In a rapier-like op-ed the New York Post observers:

In Charlie Rangel’s eyes, every minute of his time on earth has been a blessing for the people of New York.

“My dignity is 80 years old,” he said, taking a slap at fellow Democrats Monday during a debate with the five challengers seeking his seat in Congress. …

Now, it’s entirely possible that we missed it, but was there something dignified in the years Rangel was dodging taxes and violating a slew of city, state and federal laws?

We wonder: What on earth would he have to do to be considered undignified?

It is not just that so many have done shameful things, but that they have no shame. They pass the buck, spend our money with abandon, make backroom deals, deflect scrutiny — all while exuding a stomach-turning self-righteousness as defenders of the little guy. The wonder is not that the voters are furious; it is that they took so long to take to the streets. The American people are a forgiving and largely contented lot, but when they are sufficiently provoked, watch out.

Expect Rangel and Maxine Waters, his companion in the ethics dock, to be poster children for “throw the bums out” election ads. Not much dignity in that.

In the wake of the primary elections on Tuesday, we are reminded, as John points out, that the rule for this election season is “old rules don’t apply.” Money and name recognition are non-factors, if not liabilities. Incumbency offers no protection. And the “likely voter” models may be inapplicable to an electorate flooded with enraged populists and drained of sad-sack Democrats.

And looming in the background are powerful reminders that the Beltway establishment has, in fact, earned the ire of the voters. He’s only one congressman, but Charlie Rangel is a symbol of just about everything wrong with Congress — the pomposity, the self-dealing, the tone-deafness. In a rapier-like op-ed the New York Post observers:

In Charlie Rangel’s eyes, every minute of his time on earth has been a blessing for the people of New York.

“My dignity is 80 years old,” he said, taking a slap at fellow Democrats Monday during a debate with the five challengers seeking his seat in Congress. …

Now, it’s entirely possible that we missed it, but was there something dignified in the years Rangel was dodging taxes and violating a slew of city, state and federal laws?

We wonder: What on earth would he have to do to be considered undignified?

It is not just that so many have done shameful things, but that they have no shame. They pass the buck, spend our money with abandon, make backroom deals, deflect scrutiny — all while exuding a stomach-turning self-righteousness as defenders of the little guy. The wonder is not that the voters are furious; it is that they took so long to take to the streets. The American people are a forgiving and largely contented lot, but when they are sufficiently provoked, watch out.

Expect Rangel and Maxine Waters, his companion in the ethics dock, to be poster children for “throw the bums out” election ads. Not much dignity in that.

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Endorsed by the Mosque Builders’ Cheerleader

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who not only defended the Ground Zero mosque but also told its critics to shut up, is going to Pennsylvania today to endorse Rep. Joe Sestak. Honest. Sestak, who is fending off attacks that he is too liberal on a range of issues, is anti-Israel in his voting record, and who keynoted for CAIR, is now, in the midst of a fever-pitch debate about Cordoba House, going to get the blessing of the mayor who managed to infuriate even liberal New Yorkers.

I suppose Sestak could criticize Bloomberg, J Street, Obama, and CAIR — all of whom support both his candidacy and the mosque — but that would certainly come as a shock to those who’ve been supporting him and raising money for campaign. Meanwhile, Pat Toomey’s director of communications, Nachama Soloveichik, had this statement when I asked about his views: “It is provocative in the extreme to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero. Islamic leaders should be encouraged to move the mosque elsewhere.” A fine suggestion — Rep. Sestak, what say you? So far, he’s waffling:

A spokesman for Sestak said the congressman “believes there is a Constitutional right to religious freedom and separation of church and state that applies equally to all Americans,” but he declined to clearly back the plan.

Sooner or later, he and other Democrats will be forced to answer – for or against the mosque? It’s not like it’s a hard question or one that lacks national significance. After all, Gov. Bob McDonnell had no problem stating his views: “If it were my decision, I would not put that center there. It is a site where nearly 3,000 people lost their lives and I certainly would not locate that center there if I had a voice.” Eventually Sestak will have to either alienate his lefty, pro-mosque supporters or the people of Pennsylvania. Not sure which he’ll choose.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who not only defended the Ground Zero mosque but also told its critics to shut up, is going to Pennsylvania today to endorse Rep. Joe Sestak. Honest. Sestak, who is fending off attacks that he is too liberal on a range of issues, is anti-Israel in his voting record, and who keynoted for CAIR, is now, in the midst of a fever-pitch debate about Cordoba House, going to get the blessing of the mayor who managed to infuriate even liberal New Yorkers.

I suppose Sestak could criticize Bloomberg, J Street, Obama, and CAIR — all of whom support both his candidacy and the mosque — but that would certainly come as a shock to those who’ve been supporting him and raising money for campaign. Meanwhile, Pat Toomey’s director of communications, Nachama Soloveichik, had this statement when I asked about his views: “It is provocative in the extreme to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero. Islamic leaders should be encouraged to move the mosque elsewhere.” A fine suggestion — Rep. Sestak, what say you? So far, he’s waffling:

A spokesman for Sestak said the congressman “believes there is a Constitutional right to religious freedom and separation of church and state that applies equally to all Americans,” but he declined to clearly back the plan.

Sooner or later, he and other Democrats will be forced to answer – for or against the mosque? It’s not like it’s a hard question or one that lacks national significance. After all, Gov. Bob McDonnell had no problem stating his views: “If it were my decision, I would not put that center there. It is a site where nearly 3,000 people lost their lives and I certainly would not locate that center there if I had a voice.” Eventually Sestak will have to either alienate his lefty, pro-mosque supporters or the people of Pennsylvania. Not sure which he’ll choose.

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Give Back the Money, Joe

That’s what Rep. Joe Sestak, who’s spent nearly all his time since the primary on the defensive, is hearing. It seems that many Democrats have given back money generated by the very ethically challenged Charlie Rangel, but not Sestak:

Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey and at least two House challengers have made Rangel contributions an issue, calling on Democrats to return the money.

“Throughout the campaign, Congressman [Joe] Sestak has spoken about accountability and putting principle over politics, but it is now becoming clear that his pledges and lofty promises are just hollow words from another Washington insider,” Toomey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said about contributions Sestak has received from Rangel’s political action committees.

Even Sestak’s most extreme left-wing colleagues are dumping the Rangel cash. But not Sestak — maybe his idea is to let the issue build and build, let free media help his opponent, and then cave. That seems to be pretty much his campaign strategy so far.

And if that were not enough, he’s now fending off attacks about his earmarks:

Rep. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for Senate, has reaped at least $119,650 in campaign contributions from employees of companies to which he has steered federal earmarks since 2008, according to public records. There’s nothing illegal — or unusual — on Capitol Hill about the practice of fund-raising from recipients of federal appropriations, but Sestak, a former three-star Navy admiral, has held himself to a higher standard.

The Toomey campaign is mocking Sestak for denying the pledge on his own website that vowed to give back contributions from “an individual or organization [that] has made a request for an appropriations project.” It seems — wow, just like when he denied the language about Israel’s imposing “collective punishment” on Gazans in his own Gaza letter — that Sestak didn’t mean what he said:

Data from the websites Legistorm and Opensecrets, which track earmarks and donations, respectively, shows Sestak kept about $62,000 in donations from senior officials at companies receiving his earmarks. Sestak said he has returned thousands of dollars in similar contributions, but some slipped past. He noted that no rules prevent him from keeping contributions from people who receive federal money. “I guess the lesson is it’s hard to take that extra step,” he said. Sestak said he never intended to publicize his donation-return policy, which appears in his campaign website’s Ethics section. “I just wanted a quiet sense of accountability.”

I imagine Democrats are experiencing a “quiet sense” of panic as they realize they’ve nominated someone who not only has an Israel problem and a Pelosi problem (97.8 percent support, but not “all the time,” mind you) but also an honesty problem. In a year when voters are sick of politicians shirking responsibility and coming up with ludicrous spin, this is potentially a very big problem.

That’s what Rep. Joe Sestak, who’s spent nearly all his time since the primary on the defensive, is hearing. It seems that many Democrats have given back money generated by the very ethically challenged Charlie Rangel, but not Sestak:

Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey and at least two House challengers have made Rangel contributions an issue, calling on Democrats to return the money.

“Throughout the campaign, Congressman [Joe] Sestak has spoken about accountability and putting principle over politics, but it is now becoming clear that his pledges and lofty promises are just hollow words from another Washington insider,” Toomey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said about contributions Sestak has received from Rangel’s political action committees.

Even Sestak’s most extreme left-wing colleagues are dumping the Rangel cash. But not Sestak — maybe his idea is to let the issue build and build, let free media help his opponent, and then cave. That seems to be pretty much his campaign strategy so far.

And if that were not enough, he’s now fending off attacks about his earmarks:

Rep. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for Senate, has reaped at least $119,650 in campaign contributions from employees of companies to which he has steered federal earmarks since 2008, according to public records. There’s nothing illegal — or unusual — on Capitol Hill about the practice of fund-raising from recipients of federal appropriations, but Sestak, a former three-star Navy admiral, has held himself to a higher standard.

The Toomey campaign is mocking Sestak for denying the pledge on his own website that vowed to give back contributions from “an individual or organization [that] has made a request for an appropriations project.” It seems — wow, just like when he denied the language about Israel’s imposing “collective punishment” on Gazans in his own Gaza letter — that Sestak didn’t mean what he said:

Data from the websites Legistorm and Opensecrets, which track earmarks and donations, respectively, shows Sestak kept about $62,000 in donations from senior officials at companies receiving his earmarks. Sestak said he has returned thousands of dollars in similar contributions, but some slipped past. He noted that no rules prevent him from keeping contributions from people who receive federal money. “I guess the lesson is it’s hard to take that extra step,” he said. Sestak said he never intended to publicize his donation-return policy, which appears in his campaign website’s Ethics section. “I just wanted a quiet sense of accountability.”

I imagine Democrats are experiencing a “quiet sense” of panic as they realize they’ve nominated someone who not only has an Israel problem and a Pelosi problem (97.8 percent support, but not “all the time,” mind you) but also an honesty problem. In a year when voters are sick of politicians shirking responsibility and coming up with ludicrous spin, this is potentially a very big problem.

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Bipartisan on Israel Means Accountability, Not Silence

The uproar over the efforts of the new Emergency Committee for Israel to highlight the record of Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, is getting nasty. Sestak and his supporters are hoping to manufacture a backlash against the congressman’s critics that will not only change the subject from his record but will also cause Pennsylvania Jews to rally around the Democrats as the victims of what they are calling a sleazy smear campaign that is wrongly politicizing the issue of support for Israel.

The notion that the Republicans are trying to politicize Israel played a part in the previous two election cycles, during which large-scale efforts by the Republican Jewish Coalition to raise the issue of left-wing disaffection from Israel were treated with similar scorn. In 2006 and 2008, Republican ads highlighted the anti-Israel records of various prominent Democrats, such as Jimmy Carter, and left-wing activist groups, such as Moveon.org. As with the reaction to the ECI campaign, those comments seemed to center less on complaints about the content of the ads than on the premise that judging a Democratic candidate on his stand on Israel was itself illegitimate. They argued then, as they do now, that any effort that uses Israel as a wedge issue turns it into a political football and that this process undermines the broad coalition that has made the U.S.-Israel alliance a fact of American political life.

But this is a false argument that has more to do with the needs of partisanship than it does with maintaining a pro-Israel consensus. What the Democrats want is not more civility but rather to remove Israel from political debate. Given their existing advantage among Jewish voters, who are already overwhelmingly Democratic, this would certainly be to their advantage — especially because the greatest current threat to the pro-Israel consensus is the rising tide of hostility to Jewish self-defense and Zionism on the political left. But in doing so, Democrats are effectively relieving our politicians of any accountability on Middle East issues.

If we can’t judge politicians like Sestak on their positions concerning Israel and related issues, then it is the Democratic argument that Israel is off-limits for discussion — and not the anti-Sestak or Republican Jewish Coalition ads — that signals the end of the pro-Israel consensus. If a member of Congress can, with impunity, speak at a CAIR fundraiser without confronting that group over its origins and positions, or if he can sign letters aimed at heightening pressure on Israel and undermining its right of self-defense, then advocacy groups might as well close up shop; no one will have any reason to believe that the pro-Israel community means what it says when it seeks — as any group in a democracy will do — to support its friends and oppose its foes.

So long as the parties and candidates are actively competing for pro-Israel votes — and one suspects that there are more Christian pro-Israel votes in play here than Jewish ones because for many of the latter, partisan loyalty trumps their affection for Zionism — then we have reason to believe that the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus is safe. That means that both Democrats and Republicans must confront members of their party who are unsupportive or lukewarm toward Israel instead of giving them blanket immunity on the issue.

It is certainly legitimate for Sestak to spin his record or to argue that we must judge him by other things he has done in an attempt to prove his pro-Israel bona fides. But it is not legitimate for Sestak or any Democrat — or any Republican, for that matter — to say that their record on Israel is off-limits for discussion.

The uproar over the efforts of the new Emergency Committee for Israel to highlight the record of Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, is getting nasty. Sestak and his supporters are hoping to manufacture a backlash against the congressman’s critics that will not only change the subject from his record but will also cause Pennsylvania Jews to rally around the Democrats as the victims of what they are calling a sleazy smear campaign that is wrongly politicizing the issue of support for Israel.

The notion that the Republicans are trying to politicize Israel played a part in the previous two election cycles, during which large-scale efforts by the Republican Jewish Coalition to raise the issue of left-wing disaffection from Israel were treated with similar scorn. In 2006 and 2008, Republican ads highlighted the anti-Israel records of various prominent Democrats, such as Jimmy Carter, and left-wing activist groups, such as Moveon.org. As with the reaction to the ECI campaign, those comments seemed to center less on complaints about the content of the ads than on the premise that judging a Democratic candidate on his stand on Israel was itself illegitimate. They argued then, as they do now, that any effort that uses Israel as a wedge issue turns it into a political football and that this process undermines the broad coalition that has made the U.S.-Israel alliance a fact of American political life.

But this is a false argument that has more to do with the needs of partisanship than it does with maintaining a pro-Israel consensus. What the Democrats want is not more civility but rather to remove Israel from political debate. Given their existing advantage among Jewish voters, who are already overwhelmingly Democratic, this would certainly be to their advantage — especially because the greatest current threat to the pro-Israel consensus is the rising tide of hostility to Jewish self-defense and Zionism on the political left. But in doing so, Democrats are effectively relieving our politicians of any accountability on Middle East issues.

If we can’t judge politicians like Sestak on their positions concerning Israel and related issues, then it is the Democratic argument that Israel is off-limits for discussion — and not the anti-Sestak or Republican Jewish Coalition ads — that signals the end of the pro-Israel consensus. If a member of Congress can, with impunity, speak at a CAIR fundraiser without confronting that group over its origins and positions, or if he can sign letters aimed at heightening pressure on Israel and undermining its right of self-defense, then advocacy groups might as well close up shop; no one will have any reason to believe that the pro-Israel community means what it says when it seeks — as any group in a democracy will do — to support its friends and oppose its foes.

So long as the parties and candidates are actively competing for pro-Israel votes — and one suspects that there are more Christian pro-Israel votes in play here than Jewish ones because for many of the latter, partisan loyalty trumps their affection for Zionism — then we have reason to believe that the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus is safe. That means that both Democrats and Republicans must confront members of their party who are unsupportive or lukewarm toward Israel instead of giving them blanket immunity on the issue.

It is certainly legitimate for Sestak to spin his record or to argue that we must judge him by other things he has done in an attempt to prove his pro-Israel bona fides. But it is not legitimate for Sestak or any Democrat — or any Republican, for that matter — to say that their record on Israel is off-limits for discussion.

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Sestak Praised CAIR in 2007

In a statement to the Exponent, Joe Sestak said of his speech to CAIR in 2007:

“I don’t just speak to groups that I support, I speak to groups that I don’t support and I think that is the job of a congressman in order to have a dialogue,” he said. “And I went to CAIR and I criticized their failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them.

Well, let’s take a look at the speech. It’s roughly five pages long and over 2,500 words, filled with glowing tributes to Muslims. It’s like Obama’s Cairo speech and his Iran video, and then some. The speech is full of this sort of thing:

Prominently recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court are 18 great lawgivers of history, including the Prophet Muhammad with Moses, Solomon and Confucius. The beauty of Baroque music comes from Islamic influence; as did the ‘Moorish’ style of some of New York’s nineteenth-century synagogues.

Around page three, however, Sestak takes an odd turn:

I was stationed at the Pentagon that fateful day six and a half years ago. In its confliction after “911″, an America with a negative perception of Islam – and by implication, of Muslims – is rightly threatening to many – including me – in wrongly reflecting who we are. We need to claim our values, not betray them, by ensuring there is not a psychology that “pulls out” of the rich fabric of our American community those who look like “one of them”? We are better than that. CAIR does such important and necessary work in a difficult environment to change such perceptions and wrongs – from racial profiling and civil rights to promoting justice and mutual understanding – at a time when it is challenging to be an American-Muslim and pass, for example, through an airport checkpoint. The Jewish people have passed through – and still confront – many of the same challenges, some so horrific that one gentle man was moved to write after visiting the horror of Auschwitz: “Forgive them not Father, for they knew what they did.”

Is he buying into the CAIR line that Americans turned anti-Muslim after 9/11? He seems to be implying — though the sentence is a bit hard to follow — that Americans took out their anguish over the slaughter of their fellow citizens by reacting negatively to all Muslims. That’s quite a slur, if that’s what he meant.

But the doozy in there is the praise for CAIR’s “important and necessary work” in racial profiling and “civil rights.” CAIR’s work in this regard is amply documented here. “When it comes to domestic investigations CAIR casts virtually any law enforcement action as an assault on all American Muslims. Missing is any possibility that a radical element, unwelcome in its midst, has been exposed.” Is this what Sestak finds praiseworthy?

And, finally, other than to analogize the “challenge” of passing through an airport-security gate (don’t we all?) with the Holocaust, I see no reason for the Auschwitz reference. It is, in a word, disgusting.

Back to the speech. We return to paragraph after paragraph of praise for “the richness of many Islamic nations and their faithful people, including the Palestinians.” He makes a nice ode to peace:

War and the use of terror are not beautiful, but rather, says the Qur’an, they are a corruption of God’s creation, the earth. The act of corrupting the earth consists of the destruction of life, including by the prevention of peaceful coexistence: “Whoever unjustly kills a person and (in so doing so) spreads corruption on earth, it is (in the eyes of God) as if he killed all of humanity. And, anyone who saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity.’”

So where’s the criticism of CAIR for “failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them? Well, it is so mild that you – and certainly those in attendance at the event – might not see it as a rebuke at all:

This is why it is my, and your, just duty to condemn not just terrorism – as you have done – but also condemn the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name, associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

That’s it. It’s a polite request, not a criticism. And if CAIR hasn’t condemned Hamas and Hezbollah, what is Sestak doing giving a keynote for the group?

He wraps up with more frothy praise and throws a bouquet to the group: “I know, and appreciate, all you do as an advocate for justice and mutual understanding.” That is straight out of the CAIR playbook, an absolute misrepresentation of what CAIR says and how it behaves. A helpful explanation of exactly what CAIR is all about comes from Mark Steyn, who recites some of the CAIR rhetoric  –”down with the Jews, descendants of the apes” – and explains CAIR’s terrorist connections, which “assist in the mainstreaming of jihad in America.” For those not familar with CAIR’s rhetoric, a compendium of CAIR’s comments relating to terrorism, Hamas, and denying the legitimacy of Israel can be found here. Sestak isn’t bothered by all that?

So Sestak didn’t go to CAIR to criticize the group at all. If he had intended to do that, he would have called it out for its anti-Israel rhetoric and its efforts to impede legitimate anti-terror measures. Instead, he went to flatter the group and to echo its own propaganda. Once again, Sestak’s characterization of his own record is different than his actual record and his own words. Pennsylvania voters should remain alert.

In a statement to the Exponent, Joe Sestak said of his speech to CAIR in 2007:

“I don’t just speak to groups that I support, I speak to groups that I don’t support and I think that is the job of a congressman in order to have a dialogue,” he said. “And I went to CAIR and I criticized their failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them.

Well, let’s take a look at the speech. It’s roughly five pages long and over 2,500 words, filled with glowing tributes to Muslims. It’s like Obama’s Cairo speech and his Iran video, and then some. The speech is full of this sort of thing:

Prominently recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court are 18 great lawgivers of history, including the Prophet Muhammad with Moses, Solomon and Confucius. The beauty of Baroque music comes from Islamic influence; as did the ‘Moorish’ style of some of New York’s nineteenth-century synagogues.

Around page three, however, Sestak takes an odd turn:

I was stationed at the Pentagon that fateful day six and a half years ago. In its confliction after “911″, an America with a negative perception of Islam – and by implication, of Muslims – is rightly threatening to many – including me – in wrongly reflecting who we are. We need to claim our values, not betray them, by ensuring there is not a psychology that “pulls out” of the rich fabric of our American community those who look like “one of them”? We are better than that. CAIR does such important and necessary work in a difficult environment to change such perceptions and wrongs – from racial profiling and civil rights to promoting justice and mutual understanding – at a time when it is challenging to be an American-Muslim and pass, for example, through an airport checkpoint. The Jewish people have passed through – and still confront – many of the same challenges, some so horrific that one gentle man was moved to write after visiting the horror of Auschwitz: “Forgive them not Father, for they knew what they did.”

Is he buying into the CAIR line that Americans turned anti-Muslim after 9/11? He seems to be implying — though the sentence is a bit hard to follow — that Americans took out their anguish over the slaughter of their fellow citizens by reacting negatively to all Muslims. That’s quite a slur, if that’s what he meant.

But the doozy in there is the praise for CAIR’s “important and necessary work” in racial profiling and “civil rights.” CAIR’s work in this regard is amply documented here. “When it comes to domestic investigations CAIR casts virtually any law enforcement action as an assault on all American Muslims. Missing is any possibility that a radical element, unwelcome in its midst, has been exposed.” Is this what Sestak finds praiseworthy?

And, finally, other than to analogize the “challenge” of passing through an airport-security gate (don’t we all?) with the Holocaust, I see no reason for the Auschwitz reference. It is, in a word, disgusting.

Back to the speech. We return to paragraph after paragraph of praise for “the richness of many Islamic nations and their faithful people, including the Palestinians.” He makes a nice ode to peace:

War and the use of terror are not beautiful, but rather, says the Qur’an, they are a corruption of God’s creation, the earth. The act of corrupting the earth consists of the destruction of life, including by the prevention of peaceful coexistence: “Whoever unjustly kills a person and (in so doing so) spreads corruption on earth, it is (in the eyes of God) as if he killed all of humanity. And, anyone who saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity.’”

So where’s the criticism of CAIR for “failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them? Well, it is so mild that you – and certainly those in attendance at the event – might not see it as a rebuke at all:

This is why it is my, and your, just duty to condemn not just terrorism – as you have done – but also condemn the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name, associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

That’s it. It’s a polite request, not a criticism. And if CAIR hasn’t condemned Hamas and Hezbollah, what is Sestak doing giving a keynote for the group?

He wraps up with more frothy praise and throws a bouquet to the group: “I know, and appreciate, all you do as an advocate for justice and mutual understanding.” That is straight out of the CAIR playbook, an absolute misrepresentation of what CAIR says and how it behaves. A helpful explanation of exactly what CAIR is all about comes from Mark Steyn, who recites some of the CAIR rhetoric  –”down with the Jews, descendants of the apes” – and explains CAIR’s terrorist connections, which “assist in the mainstreaming of jihad in America.” For those not familar with CAIR’s rhetoric, a compendium of CAIR’s comments relating to terrorism, Hamas, and denying the legitimacy of Israel can be found here. Sestak isn’t bothered by all that?

So Sestak didn’t go to CAIR to criticize the group at all. If he had intended to do that, he would have called it out for its anti-Israel rhetoric and its efforts to impede legitimate anti-terror measures. Instead, he went to flatter the group and to echo its own propaganda. Once again, Sestak’s characterization of his own record is different than his actual record and his own words. Pennsylvania voters should remain alert.

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It’s Not Your Father’s Charleston Anymore

Charleston, South Carolina, was the cradle of the Confederacy. And come next January, barring unforeseen developments, it and the rest of the 1st District will have a black Congressman for the first time since Reconstruction. Tim Scott defeated Paul Thurmond for the Republican nomination last night, and the district has been a safe Republican seat since 1981. It wasn’t even close, with Scott trouncing Strom Thurmond’s son by 61 to 39 percent.

That a black man could beat the son of the legendary segregationist so badly in a district where the Civil War began — the district where Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861 — is a measure of just how much the South has changed in the last 50 years, and the country’s politics and race relations along with it.

But assuming Scott is elected, he needn’t apply for membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, of course. It’s a measure of how little the left in American politics has changed in the last 50 years that the Black Caucus — devoted to race-based politics and victimology — admits only liberal Democratic members.

Charleston, South Carolina, was the cradle of the Confederacy. And come next January, barring unforeseen developments, it and the rest of the 1st District will have a black Congressman for the first time since Reconstruction. Tim Scott defeated Paul Thurmond for the Republican nomination last night, and the district has been a safe Republican seat since 1981. It wasn’t even close, with Scott trouncing Strom Thurmond’s son by 61 to 39 percent.

That a black man could beat the son of the legendary segregationist so badly in a district where the Civil War began — the district where Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861 — is a measure of just how much the South has changed in the last 50 years, and the country’s politics and race relations along with it.

But assuming Scott is elected, he needn’t apply for membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, of course. It’s a measure of how little the left in American politics has changed in the last 50 years that the Black Caucus — devoted to race-based politics and victimology — admits only liberal Democratic members.

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Never Really Left Chicago

There is a stray “rumor” (more like a reasonable prediction) that Rahm Emanuel may resign in six to eight months. (Sort of like saying there is a rumor Democrats will lose seats in the fall election.) Then there is this report:

President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, then a congressman in Illinois, apparently attempted to trade favors with embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich while he was in office, according to newly disclosed e-mails obtained by The Associated Press. Emanuel agreed to sign a letter to the Chicago Tribune supporting Blagojevich in the face of a scathing editorial by the newspaper that ridiculed the governor for self-promotion. Within hours, Emanuel’s own staff asked for a favor of its own: The release of a delayed $2 million grant to a school in his district. … Phone records show Emanuel called Blagojevich on four successive days in late summer 2006. One message indicated the subject was the school. Repeated phone calls between Emanuel’s and Blagojevich’s staff followed the next week. Shortly thereafter, the money started flowing, and the $2 million was paid by December.

Well, it’s not exactly shocking that Emanuel was horsetrading with Blago. But it sure does put the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff job offers in perspective. This is how these people do business. The only surprise is that so many bought the hooey that Obama was a different sort of politician, immune to the backroom deals and secrecy in which he operated for his entire pre-presidential political career.

There is a stray “rumor” (more like a reasonable prediction) that Rahm Emanuel may resign in six to eight months. (Sort of like saying there is a rumor Democrats will lose seats in the fall election.) Then there is this report:

President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, then a congressman in Illinois, apparently attempted to trade favors with embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich while he was in office, according to newly disclosed e-mails obtained by The Associated Press. Emanuel agreed to sign a letter to the Chicago Tribune supporting Blagojevich in the face of a scathing editorial by the newspaper that ridiculed the governor for self-promotion. Within hours, Emanuel’s own staff asked for a favor of its own: The release of a delayed $2 million grant to a school in his district. … Phone records show Emanuel called Blagojevich on four successive days in late summer 2006. One message indicated the subject was the school. Repeated phone calls between Emanuel’s and Blagojevich’s staff followed the next week. Shortly thereafter, the money started flowing, and the $2 million was paid by December.

Well, it’s not exactly shocking that Emanuel was horsetrading with Blago. But it sure does put the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff job offers in perspective. This is how these people do business. The only surprise is that so many bought the hooey that Obama was a different sort of politician, immune to the backroom deals and secrecy in which he operated for his entire pre-presidential political career.

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Sestak Worries Democrats

Politico reports:

Four weeks after claiming the Pennsylvania Senate nomination, Rep. Joe Sestak continues to have an awkward relationship with many leaders of the state’s Democratic establishment — with the two-term congressman so far neglecting to check many of the boxes that ordinarily would be routine for a candidate trying to unify his party after a hard-fought primary.

It’s been nearly a month since the May 18 primary, and key local party leaders have not been in close contact with Sestak. His unorthodox campaign organization is unnerving Democratic officials, and his public comments suggest he hasn’t forgotten the rough treatment he received from the White House and the state party establishment, both of which worked furiously to deliver the nomination to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter. All of it has Democrats wondering about the pace and direction of his bid against Republican nominee Pat Toomey.

Perhaps this is sour grapes coming from party insiders who picked the other guy. But if the insiders are correct — that Sestak lacks staffing and an actual campaign manager — that’s a problem. And we hear that Sestak isn’t the ideal boss. (“On Capitol Hill, Sestak’s office is known for its high staff turnover rate, and several staffers left his primary campaign over the course of its nine months in existence. He has relied heavily on his brother and his sister, who manages his prolific campaign fundraising, for his House races and also for his Senate bid.”)

A bigger problem is that Toomey is beginning to set the terms of the campaign — making hay out of the job-offer scandal and painting Sestak as out of the mainstream on everything from energy to Israel. There’s still time for Sestak to get his act together, but he better do so fast before Democrats decide to spend time and money on more viable survivors of the Republican wave heading their way.

Politico reports:

Four weeks after claiming the Pennsylvania Senate nomination, Rep. Joe Sestak continues to have an awkward relationship with many leaders of the state’s Democratic establishment — with the two-term congressman so far neglecting to check many of the boxes that ordinarily would be routine for a candidate trying to unify his party after a hard-fought primary.

It’s been nearly a month since the May 18 primary, and key local party leaders have not been in close contact with Sestak. His unorthodox campaign organization is unnerving Democratic officials, and his public comments suggest he hasn’t forgotten the rough treatment he received from the White House and the state party establishment, both of which worked furiously to deliver the nomination to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter. All of it has Democrats wondering about the pace and direction of his bid against Republican nominee Pat Toomey.

Perhaps this is sour grapes coming from party insiders who picked the other guy. But if the insiders are correct — that Sestak lacks staffing and an actual campaign manager — that’s a problem. And we hear that Sestak isn’t the ideal boss. (“On Capitol Hill, Sestak’s office is known for its high staff turnover rate, and several staffers left his primary campaign over the course of its nine months in existence. He has relied heavily on his brother and his sister, who manages his prolific campaign fundraising, for his House races and also for his Senate bid.”)

A bigger problem is that Toomey is beginning to set the terms of the campaign — making hay out of the job-offer scandal and painting Sestak as out of the mainstream on everything from energy to Israel. There’s still time for Sestak to get his act together, but he better do so fast before Democrats decide to spend time and money on more viable survivors of the Republican wave heading their way.

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Carly Makes the Case for Throwing Out Rude Liberals

Carly Fiorina appeared on Meet the Press and gave one of her more impressive performances, in contrast with the rudeness and perpetual interruptions of the accompanying Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Fiorina, on Republican criticism of Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill:

Well, I think there’s much in that that’s fair.  And there is a difference, obviously, between governing and leading, and running for office or campaigning.  Look, BP has huge accountability here, and they need to be held to account.  But the government has accountability as well. When we hear that there are 13 separate federal government agencies running around in confusion down there, when we hear that there is equipment that could be used to help clean up the Gulf sitting in warehouses, when we hear that there is assistance that is being pleaded for by local officials and that assistance is not coming, all of this leads to the impression that this is not yet an effort where the president is exerting as much control as is necessary to get this thing fixed.  Of course BP has responsibility, but we also need to understand, where were the government regulators?  Where was MMS, despite the fact that the leader of MMS had been brought in by Ken Salazar in a move to reform the agency, according to him?

That was followed by this exchange:

MR. GREGORY:  Well, and…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  David–right.

MR. GREGORY:  Well, hold on a minute, that’s–wait, because I wanted to go back to Carly Fiorina.  I mean, respond to that point, Carly, for one.  But for two, because there’s legitimacy to that, what, what is good government, going forward, in a crisis like this?

MS. FIORINA:  Good government needs to be efficient and effective.  I’m not talking about small or big, but I know from the real world that when things get too big and too complicated and two expensive, as our government is now, they don’t perform well.  These are vast, unaccountable bureaucracies.  They don’t coordinate with one another, and, as a result, they’re not effective. And may I just say, it was Ken Salazar who put in place the secretary or the head of MMS who just recently resigned and who came from the industry.  So I think…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, he didn’t.

MS. FIORINA:  …this is a question of the blame game to say this is all about Republicans…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  He came from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …saying small government.  This is about efficient,effective government…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Birnbaum was from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …and efficient and effective response.  And what the American people are seeing is an ineffective response.

MR. GREGORY:  Did, did that head of MMS come from–did she work on the hill or did she come from industry?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  The head of MMS was from the House of Representatives.  Liz Birnbaum came from the U.S.  House of Representatives. She was an employee for many years, and then she moved from the House of Representatives to MMS. So I don’t know what she’s talking about.  But this is a big, expensive disaster.

MS. FIORINA:  And she was forced to resign because of her failure to reform the department as she promised to.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  In the year–excuse me, excuse me–in the year that she was, that, that she was there, there definitely was not enough reform, but she was cleaning up, in the process of cleaning up from years of a totally hands-off regulatory policy by the Bush administration…

MS. FIORINA:  Then why did she resign?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …in which they had a scandal-ridden regulatory agency.

MR. GREGORY:  OK, but, Congresswoman, the reality is that if the president made a priority of reforming MMS, he also made the decision to curtail that reform, if it was incomplete, to move forward on more oil drilling, to…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Which I don’t…

MR. GREGORY:  …to achieve political consensus on climate change legislation.  So it’s a question of the choices the president made.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Look, as–well, in a–arguably in a year, you weren’t going to be able to clean up that regulatory mess that, that essentially was–left, left industry in charge of itself, and that’s why we ended up with this BP disaster.

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  But as someone, unlike Ms. Fiorina, as someone who represents a Gulf state, who is totally opposed to expanding offshore oil drilling, unlike Ms. Fiorina, who even in the face of this BP disaster, would continue to allow offshore oil drilling as a solution, it is absolutely…

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …irresponsible to do that.  We need to focus…

MS. FIORINA:  If I may–if I may just say…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, no, no.  You keep interrupting me.

MS. FIORINA:  If I may just say, actually…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Excuse me, excuse me.

MS. FIORINA:  …you–if I may just say that…

MR. GREGORY:  Hold, hold on, hold on one second.  Congressman***(as spoken)***let’s let Carly Fiorina respond.  Go ahead.

MS. FIORINA:  If I might just say, I am not defending the performance of MMS over many years.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz is absolutely correct that MMS has failed in its duties under both Republican and Democratic presidents.  That’s a fact.  It is also true that the reason President Obama reversed his decision on shallow offshore drilling is because the people in the Gulf course–Coast were pleading for jobs and we need the energy.

And on it went in this vein. Recall that Barbara Boxer drew attention to herself both by tangling with an African-American business leader and a general, revealing herself as both rude and out-of-touch. If Fiorina can repeat this MTP performance — showing that her liberal opponent is both obnoxious and uniformed — she will do very well in her race. Voters already disgusted by the political elite may welcome a Washington outsider who has a businesslike and civil approach to issues.

Carly Fiorina appeared on Meet the Press and gave one of her more impressive performances, in contrast with the rudeness and perpetual interruptions of the accompanying Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Fiorina, on Republican criticism of Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill:

Well, I think there’s much in that that’s fair.  And there is a difference, obviously, between governing and leading, and running for office or campaigning.  Look, BP has huge accountability here, and they need to be held to account.  But the government has accountability as well. When we hear that there are 13 separate federal government agencies running around in confusion down there, when we hear that there is equipment that could be used to help clean up the Gulf sitting in warehouses, when we hear that there is assistance that is being pleaded for by local officials and that assistance is not coming, all of this leads to the impression that this is not yet an effort where the president is exerting as much control as is necessary to get this thing fixed.  Of course BP has responsibility, but we also need to understand, where were the government regulators?  Where was MMS, despite the fact that the leader of MMS had been brought in by Ken Salazar in a move to reform the agency, according to him?

That was followed by this exchange:

MR. GREGORY:  Well, and…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  David–right.

MR. GREGORY:  Well, hold on a minute, that’s–wait, because I wanted to go back to Carly Fiorina.  I mean, respond to that point, Carly, for one.  But for two, because there’s legitimacy to that, what, what is good government, going forward, in a crisis like this?

MS. FIORINA:  Good government needs to be efficient and effective.  I’m not talking about small or big, but I know from the real world that when things get too big and too complicated and two expensive, as our government is now, they don’t perform well.  These are vast, unaccountable bureaucracies.  They don’t coordinate with one another, and, as a result, they’re not effective. And may I just say, it was Ken Salazar who put in place the secretary or the head of MMS who just recently resigned and who came from the industry.  So I think…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, he didn’t.

MS. FIORINA:  …this is a question of the blame game to say this is all about Republicans…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  He came from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …saying small government.  This is about efficient,effective government…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Birnbaum was from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …and efficient and effective response.  And what the American people are seeing is an ineffective response.

MR. GREGORY:  Did, did that head of MMS come from–did she work on the hill or did she come from industry?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  The head of MMS was from the House of Representatives.  Liz Birnbaum came from the U.S.  House of Representatives. She was an employee for many years, and then she moved from the House of Representatives to MMS. So I don’t know what she’s talking about.  But this is a big, expensive disaster.

MS. FIORINA:  And she was forced to resign because of her failure to reform the department as she promised to.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  In the year–excuse me, excuse me–in the year that she was, that, that she was there, there definitely was not enough reform, but she was cleaning up, in the process of cleaning up from years of a totally hands-off regulatory policy by the Bush administration…

MS. FIORINA:  Then why did she resign?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …in which they had a scandal-ridden regulatory agency.

MR. GREGORY:  OK, but, Congresswoman, the reality is that if the president made a priority of reforming MMS, he also made the decision to curtail that reform, if it was incomplete, to move forward on more oil drilling, to…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Which I don’t…

MR. GREGORY:  …to achieve political consensus on climate change legislation.  So it’s a question of the choices the president made.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Look, as–well, in a–arguably in a year, you weren’t going to be able to clean up that regulatory mess that, that essentially was–left, left industry in charge of itself, and that’s why we ended up with this BP disaster.

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  But as someone, unlike Ms. Fiorina, as someone who represents a Gulf state, who is totally opposed to expanding offshore oil drilling, unlike Ms. Fiorina, who even in the face of this BP disaster, would continue to allow offshore oil drilling as a solution, it is absolutely…

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …irresponsible to do that.  We need to focus…

MS. FIORINA:  If I may–if I may just say…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, no, no.  You keep interrupting me.

MS. FIORINA:  If I may just say, actually…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Excuse me, excuse me.

MS. FIORINA:  …you–if I may just say that…

MR. GREGORY:  Hold, hold on, hold on one second.  Congressman***(as spoken)***let’s let Carly Fiorina respond.  Go ahead.

MS. FIORINA:  If I might just say, I am not defending the performance of MMS over many years.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz is absolutely correct that MMS has failed in its duties under both Republican and Democratic presidents.  That’s a fact.  It is also true that the reason President Obama reversed his decision on shallow offshore drilling is because the people in the Gulf course–Coast were pleading for jobs and we need the energy.

And on it went in this vein. Recall that Barbara Boxer drew attention to herself both by tangling with an African-American business leader and a general, revealing herself as both rude and out-of-touch. If Fiorina can repeat this MTP performance — showing that her liberal opponent is both obnoxious and uniformed — she will do very well in her race. Voters already disgusted by the political elite may welcome a Washington outsider who has a businesslike and civil approach to issues.

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Sestak Can’t Keep Quiet, Plot Thickens

Joe Sestak, who felt compelled to blab — truthfully or not, we don’t know — about a White House job offer to get out of the primary race, now suggests that everyone is in the process of getting their story straight. He explained “that his brother has spoken with White House officials about the congressman’s allegation that he was offered an Obama administration job if he would stay out of a Democratic Senate primary”:

Richard Sestak, the congressman’s brother, who has served as his top political adviser and campaign lawyer, spoke with administration officials Wednesday, Joe Sestak said.

“They got a hold of my brother on his cell phone, and he spoke to the White House . . . about what’s going to occur,” said Sestak, who said he expects the White House will release its information Friday. He declined to elaborate on his discussions with Richard.

If you weren’t suspicious before Obama’s refusal on Thursday to say anything about the allegations, the apparent gag order imposed on Sestak and the brother-lawyer getting directions from the White House might do it. In any case Obama and Sestak seemed to have reinforced the rap on politicians these day — they are not transparent, play fast and loose with the truth, and don’t follow the same code of ethics that most voters follow. As they say, the cover-up is always worse than the crime — even more so when there may not be a crime.

Joe Sestak, who felt compelled to blab — truthfully or not, we don’t know — about a White House job offer to get out of the primary race, now suggests that everyone is in the process of getting their story straight. He explained “that his brother has spoken with White House officials about the congressman’s allegation that he was offered an Obama administration job if he would stay out of a Democratic Senate primary”:

Richard Sestak, the congressman’s brother, who has served as his top political adviser and campaign lawyer, spoke with administration officials Wednesday, Joe Sestak said.

“They got a hold of my brother on his cell phone, and he spoke to the White House . . . about what’s going to occur,” said Sestak, who said he expects the White House will release its information Friday. He declined to elaborate on his discussions with Richard.

If you weren’t suspicious before Obama’s refusal on Thursday to say anything about the allegations, the apparent gag order imposed on Sestak and the brother-lawyer getting directions from the White House might do it. In any case Obama and Sestak seemed to have reinforced the rap on politicians these day — they are not transparent, play fast and loose with the truth, and don’t follow the same code of ethics that most voters follow. As they say, the cover-up is always worse than the crime — even more so when there may not be a crime.

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Connecticut GOP Is Stuck with McMahon and Her WWF Baggage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RE: Why Israel Can’t Rely on American Jewish “Leaders”

Rabbi Jack Moline in an online bulletin board has this to say about my post from yesterday:

My argument with the piece is not disagreement but its gratuitous nastiness. That is especially true because the author elected not to go to the source (my contact info is part of what was distributed), a distressing choice being made by ideologues on both sides of many issues.

Most amusing has been the responses of some contrary colleagues (not only Conservative). It boils down to: the meetings should never have taken place and I should have been invited.

First, Moline offers no substantive response to my post, no indication that it misrepresented his original report, and no reason to believe he can engage successfully in a battle of ideas. He has “no disagreement with it,” and he has no real bone to pick with Obama’s Iran policy. Huh? Well, this only serves to confirm the take of one of my readers, who concluded that the rabbis “were out of their league.” Second, he’s “amused” by his colleagues who think the meeting should never have taken place. Such contempt for colleagues — from a rabbi no less! And bravo for the savvy contrary colleagues, who were just the type Moline no doubt screened out from the meeting. Those who questioned the value of the meeting were right that the attendees were enabling the president and his policies, which are inimical to the interests of Israel.

In reply to the outpouring of condescension from Moline, one rabbi responded with this:

I did not want my comments to be amusing but rather challenging and thought provoking. … I served as advisor to the Governor of New Jersey and as legislative assistant to the ranking Senator in New York, as well as a commissioner in New Jersey for six years. I mention this to let you know  I know a little about the game of politics. When Rabbis meet as a group with the president, Governor, Senator,  Congressman, etc. it is because the presidents’ advisors feel comfortable with those who were invited. I know I will be criticized by saying this, but it is the way I see it. I arranged enough meetings for clergy of all faiths to know how the game is played. I had and have no wish to meet with Pres. Obama unless I know I can make a difference. I am not jealous but I am curious if the President left feeling informed or if he felt he used the guests in attendance — and won them over. I did meet a number of times with Presidents Bush, father and son. Not bragging. They were happy to use me. This is the game of politics.

Well that rabbi at least understands what Moline does not — that Moline was being used. More than that, Moline is using his position not to represent his community and confront the president but rather to give comfort and aid to the only president to condemn Israel and to attempt to reorient American policy away from its democratic ally and toward the Muslim despots who threaten the Jewish state. Did Moline try to extract a promise from Obama to use military force to remove an existential threat to Israel if other options failed? Did he take the opportunity to demand that Obama vow to resupply Israel if need be in a military confrontation with Iran? Did he quiz the president on why he has snubbed and undermined the Green Movement (by defunding Iranian human rights groups and engaging their oppressors)? Did he ask Obama why we have tolerated the transfer of missiles to Hezbollah? No.

Moline is quite concerned about his own critics and those of the administration, whom he dismisses as “nasty.” These critics are not nearly as harsh as history will be to those who failed to stand up for Israel in its moment of need.

Rabbi Jack Moline in an online bulletin board has this to say about my post from yesterday:

My argument with the piece is not disagreement but its gratuitous nastiness. That is especially true because the author elected not to go to the source (my contact info is part of what was distributed), a distressing choice being made by ideologues on both sides of many issues.

Most amusing has been the responses of some contrary colleagues (not only Conservative). It boils down to: the meetings should never have taken place and I should have been invited.

First, Moline offers no substantive response to my post, no indication that it misrepresented his original report, and no reason to believe he can engage successfully in a battle of ideas. He has “no disagreement with it,” and he has no real bone to pick with Obama’s Iran policy. Huh? Well, this only serves to confirm the take of one of my readers, who concluded that the rabbis “were out of their league.” Second, he’s “amused” by his colleagues who think the meeting should never have taken place. Such contempt for colleagues — from a rabbi no less! And bravo for the savvy contrary colleagues, who were just the type Moline no doubt screened out from the meeting. Those who questioned the value of the meeting were right that the attendees were enabling the president and his policies, which are inimical to the interests of Israel.

In reply to the outpouring of condescension from Moline, one rabbi responded with this:

I did not want my comments to be amusing but rather challenging and thought provoking. … I served as advisor to the Governor of New Jersey and as legislative assistant to the ranking Senator in New York, as well as a commissioner in New Jersey for six years. I mention this to let you know  I know a little about the game of politics. When Rabbis meet as a group with the president, Governor, Senator,  Congressman, etc. it is because the presidents’ advisors feel comfortable with those who were invited. I know I will be criticized by saying this, but it is the way I see it. I arranged enough meetings for clergy of all faiths to know how the game is played. I had and have no wish to meet with Pres. Obama unless I know I can make a difference. I am not jealous but I am curious if the President left feeling informed or if he felt he used the guests in attendance — and won them over. I did meet a number of times with Presidents Bush, father and son. Not bragging. They were happy to use me. This is the game of politics.

Well that rabbi at least understands what Moline does not — that Moline was being used. More than that, Moline is using his position not to represent his community and confront the president but rather to give comfort and aid to the only president to condemn Israel and to attempt to reorient American policy away from its democratic ally and toward the Muslim despots who threaten the Jewish state. Did Moline try to extract a promise from Obama to use military force to remove an existential threat to Israel if other options failed? Did he take the opportunity to demand that Obama vow to resupply Israel if need be in a military confrontation with Iran? Did he quiz the president on why he has snubbed and undermined the Green Movement (by defunding Iranian human rights groups and engaging their oppressors)? Did he ask Obama why we have tolerated the transfer of missiles to Hezbollah? No.

Moline is quite concerned about his own critics and those of the administration, whom he dismisses as “nasty.” These critics are not nearly as harsh as history will be to those who failed to stand up for Israel in its moment of need.

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More Obama!

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bellwether Battle: Sestak vs. Toomey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Less




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