Commentary Magazine


Topic: Dan Coats

Wishing Thinking, Again, by the Gray Lady

There is a whole genre of New York Times front-page articles that can be called “wishful thinking by the left.” These pieces usually allege that some bad thing happening on the right — dissension, racism, etc. — but never quite get around to providing many (sometimes any) evidence thereof. Its “G.O.P. and Tea Party Are Mixed Blessing for Israel” is precisely this sort of piece.

You’d think the voluminous polling showing that conservatives and evangelicals support Israel to a much greater degree than do liberals and nonbelievers would cause the ostensible reporters to rethink their premise. The gap in support for Israel between Republicans and Democrats is apparent to everyone who has looked at this issue — except the Times reporters. And indeed, the only example the reporters can come up with on the Republican side is Rand Paul. No mention that it was exclusively Democrats who signed the Gaza 54 letter. No whiff that it was Republicans, led by Rep. Peter King, who went after Obama’s tepid support for Israel during the flotilla incident. No suggestion that it was Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer who pulled their punches while Obama condemned Israel for building in its capital. The real story, of course, is that Democrats’ support for Israel has been declining to an alarming degree and that the left is quite upset when groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel point this out.

In short, the Times story is bunk. The fact that there are so many anti-Israel Democrats (e.g., Joe Sestak, Mary Jo Kilroy, Kathy Dahlkemper) who lost is undiluted good news for Israel. The fact that exuberant friends of Israel like King will hold committee chairmanships is reason for Israel’s friends to celebrate. And the election of senators like Mark Kirk, Marco Rubio, and Dan Coats who have been boisterous defenders of the Jewish state and critics of the administration’s anemic approach toward Iran is more reason for Israel’s friends to cheer. In other words, Israel would be lucky to have many more “mixed blessings” like the 2010 midterms.

There is a whole genre of New York Times front-page articles that can be called “wishful thinking by the left.” These pieces usually allege that some bad thing happening on the right — dissension, racism, etc. — but never quite get around to providing many (sometimes any) evidence thereof. Its “G.O.P. and Tea Party Are Mixed Blessing for Israel” is precisely this sort of piece.

You’d think the voluminous polling showing that conservatives and evangelicals support Israel to a much greater degree than do liberals and nonbelievers would cause the ostensible reporters to rethink their premise. The gap in support for Israel between Republicans and Democrats is apparent to everyone who has looked at this issue — except the Times reporters. And indeed, the only example the reporters can come up with on the Republican side is Rand Paul. No mention that it was exclusively Democrats who signed the Gaza 54 letter. No whiff that it was Republicans, led by Rep. Peter King, who went after Obama’s tepid support for Israel during the flotilla incident. No suggestion that it was Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer who pulled their punches while Obama condemned Israel for building in its capital. The real story, of course, is that Democrats’ support for Israel has been declining to an alarming degree and that the left is quite upset when groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel point this out.

In short, the Times story is bunk. The fact that there are so many anti-Israel Democrats (e.g., Joe Sestak, Mary Jo Kilroy, Kathy Dahlkemper) who lost is undiluted good news for Israel. The fact that exuberant friends of Israel like King will hold committee chairmanships is reason for Israel’s friends to celebrate. And the election of senators like Mark Kirk, Marco Rubio, and Dan Coats who have been boisterous defenders of the Jewish state and critics of the administration’s anemic approach toward Iran is more reason for Israel’s friends to cheer. In other words, Israel would be lucky to have many more “mixed blessings” like the 2010 midterms.

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Searching

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories. Read More

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who on paper might seem well-suited to the times (businessman, successful governor), is hobbled, maybe fatally, by his authorship of a health-care plan that bears a striking resemblance to the one which both Republican insiders and Tea Party activists are determined to obliterate. This is no small handicap.

So what’s the formula for success? Republicans supported and emerged victorious with serious-minded conservative candidates – Rob Portman in Ohio, Dan Coats in Indiana, and John Boozman in Arkansas – while finding new faces (Rubio, Ron Johnson) who avoided the hot-button rhetoric that derailed a number of the Tea Party candidates. Although ideologically not all that different from the Tea Party–preferred candidates, the GOP victors demonstrated how to meld fiscal conservatism with a more accessible brand of populism. They hardly disappointed the Tea Party crowd; but neither did they alienate independent voters.

Are there GOP hopefuls in 2012 who can fuse Tea Party populism with sober conservative governance? Many in the conservative intelligentsia pine for Gov. Chris Christie, who has become a rock star on YouTube; he won in a Blue State and now is battling against the Trenton insiders. And he’s doing it with showmanship that only Palin can top. But he joked that apparently only “suicide” would convince us that he wasn’t interested. I’m thinking he might be serious about not running.

Then there is Rep. Paul Ryan, soon to take over the chair of the Budget Committee. He excites many conservatives in and outside the Beltway. He’s brainy and articulate, with a shake-up-the-status-quo approach to entitlement and budget reform. He already matched up well against Obama, arguably winning a TKO in the health-care summit. And he will be front and center in the key legislative battles, in some ways the face of the GOP House majority, for the next two years. While he’s said he’s not interested in a 2012 run, he’s not been Christie-esque in his denials. As for the “rule” that House members can’t make viable presidential candidates, I think the rulebook was shredded in the last few years.

Of course, there is Marco Rubio, the party’s genuine superstar (with an immigrant story and deep belief in American exceptionalism), who proved to be an especially effective messenger of conservative principles. However, both he and his most fervent supporters seem to agree: it’s too soon.

So the search goes on. The good news for the GOP is that they have a slew of new governors (e.g., John Kasich) and senators and some retiring ones (Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels) who understand how to forge the center-right coalition needed to get elected. A few faces familiar to political junkies (Mike Pence, John Thune) are also considering a run, which will test whether a Washington insider can nevertheless take on the mantle of reformer/outsider. Can any from this group of Republicans — who frankly lack magnetic personalities — also engage Tea Partiers? We will see.

So conservatives keep looking and trying to persuade the reluctant pols to throw their hats into the ring. Those who imagine they can win back the White House without full engagement of the 2010 winning formula (Tea Partiers plus traditionalists) should think again. A plan by half of the Republican alliance to overpower the other half is a formula for a second Obama term.

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Dems and GOP Both Have Their Issues

Democrats and Republicans each have their problems. On the Democratic side, the head of the party cannot fathom that there is a link between his statist agenda (and the red ink and anemic growth that accompanies it) and the voters’ insistence on dumping those responsible for the agenda’s passage. As the Washington Post‘s editors delicately put it:

[W]e would have preferred to see more in the way of a presidential acknowledgement that voters’ reaction might be more than simple misperception on their part or failure to communicate adequately on his. Certainly, Mr. Obama’s description of his new administration coping with a flurry of emergencies does not extend to his decision to launch an ambitious health-reform agenda in the midst of the maelstrom. Mr. Obama said voters were understandably disappointed that the change in atmosphere he had promised had failed to materialize. But the examples he cited — the “ugly mess” of getting health reform passed, or the fact that he, “in the rush to get things done, had to sign a bunch of bills that had earmarks in them” — involved hard-headed decisions on the part of administration strategists to do what it took to achieve their ends.

Or, if you prefer the bluntness of Charles Krauthammer:

The Republicans won by default. And their prize is nothing more than a two-year lease on the House. The building was available because the previous occupant had been evicted for arrogant misbehavior and, by rule, alas, the House cannot be left vacant.

The president, however, remains clueless. In his next-day news conference, he had the right demeanor — subdued, his closest approximation of humility — but was uncomprehending about what just happened. The “folks” are apparently just “frustrated” that “progress” is just too slow. Asked three times whether popular rejection of his policy agenda might have had something to do with the shellacking he took, he looked as if he’d been asked whether the sun had risen in the West. Why, no, he said.

In short, the Democrats are in denial, the worst culprits responsible for the leftist jag remain in the House (the lucky possessors of the Bluest districts one could gerrymander), and the country is in no mood to see them defend the Obama agenda that voters just rejected en masse. Read More

Democrats and Republicans each have their problems. On the Democratic side, the head of the party cannot fathom that there is a link between his statist agenda (and the red ink and anemic growth that accompanies it) and the voters’ insistence on dumping those responsible for the agenda’s passage. As the Washington Post‘s editors delicately put it:

[W]e would have preferred to see more in the way of a presidential acknowledgement that voters’ reaction might be more than simple misperception on their part or failure to communicate adequately on his. Certainly, Mr. Obama’s description of his new administration coping with a flurry of emergencies does not extend to his decision to launch an ambitious health-reform agenda in the midst of the maelstrom. Mr. Obama said voters were understandably disappointed that the change in atmosphere he had promised had failed to materialize. But the examples he cited — the “ugly mess” of getting health reform passed, or the fact that he, “in the rush to get things done, had to sign a bunch of bills that had earmarks in them” — involved hard-headed decisions on the part of administration strategists to do what it took to achieve their ends.

Or, if you prefer the bluntness of Charles Krauthammer:

The Republicans won by default. And their prize is nothing more than a two-year lease on the House. The building was available because the previous occupant had been evicted for arrogant misbehavior and, by rule, alas, the House cannot be left vacant.

The president, however, remains clueless. In his next-day news conference, he had the right demeanor — subdued, his closest approximation of humility — but was uncomprehending about what just happened. The “folks” are apparently just “frustrated” that “progress” is just too slow. Asked three times whether popular rejection of his policy agenda might have had something to do with the shellacking he took, he looked as if he’d been asked whether the sun had risen in the West. Why, no, he said.

In short, the Democrats are in denial, the worst culprits responsible for the leftist jag remain in the House (the lucky possessors of the Bluest districts one could gerrymander), and the country is in no mood to see them defend the Obama agenda that voters just rejected en masse.

As for the Republicans, their problem is in recognizing that two component parts of the GOP — the Tea Partiers and the establishment (i.e., professional pols) — are dependent on one another. It might satisfy some would-be leaders of the Tea Party contingent to attack Karl Rove or Ed Gillespie, but is that what building a governing majority is all about? The Tea Party brought energy, ideological firmness, and grassroots organization to a moribund Republican Party. But the Republican Party provided many of the most electable, sober conservatives (e.g., Rob Portman, Dan Coats, John Boozman) who can translate the Tea Party agenda into legislation. If the party had run only Sharron Angles and Christine O’Donnells, there would have been no “shellacking”; without the Tea Party, there would have been no unifying theme and no electoral wave to put those seasoned conservatives into office.

The GOP, therefore, could use some unifiers — namely those who understand that the name of the game is not to spend time poking their fingers in the eye of half of the conservative coalition. The challenge now is to devise a strategy that first stops the Obama onslaught and then offers a thoughtful conservative alternative. The GOP is badly in need of such unifying figures — both to navigate the next two years and to lead the party in 2012. Those who find it personally satisfying to bicker with their allies do damage to their cause — and ultimately their own career objectives.

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LIVE BLOG: Coats and Paul Win

Fox has called the Indiana Senate race for Dan Coats, suggesting that the result is not even close. Likewise, Paul has overcome his own liabilities and is the declared winner in Kentucky. If key top-of-the-ticket races go strongly for the GOP, that could spell (more) trouble for the Dems in tough House races.

Fox has called the Indiana Senate race for Dan Coats, suggesting that the result is not even close. Likewise, Paul has overcome his own liabilities and is the declared winner in Kentucky. If key top-of-the-ticket races go strongly for the GOP, that could spell (more) trouble for the Dems in tough House races.

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LIVE BLOG: Indiana

In early returns, Dan Coats is up big and the vulnerable Dems in IN-2, IN-8, and IN-9 are trailing. Keep your eye on KY-6. If that goes GOP, it is a very, very dark night for the Dems.

In early returns, Dan Coats is up big and the vulnerable Dems in IN-2, IN-8, and IN-9 are trailing. Keep your eye on KY-6. If that goes GOP, it is a very, very dark night for the Dems.

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Adults Like Us

Dana Milbank, like so many other liberals oscillating between gloom and self-delusion, thinks the GOP needs more “grown-ups.” By that I suspect he means a flock of Lindsey Grahams eager to diss their own party and showboat for the mainstream media. But the GOP will have plenty of sober, sophisticated pols, if that is the definition of “adult”: Rob Portman, Roy Blunt, Dan Coats, Mark Kirk, John Boozman. In the House, you can’t get more adult that Paul Ryan, whose mastery of the budget and entitlements is second to none.

I think Milbank’s concern for adult supervision might better be directed at the White House, which has yet to make the jump from campaign attack-dog mode to chief executive. But I think “adult” is really another word absconded by the left. “Sanity” is another. To those like Milbank, these words simply mean “liberal like us!”

Dana Milbank, like so many other liberals oscillating between gloom and self-delusion, thinks the GOP needs more “grown-ups.” By that I suspect he means a flock of Lindsey Grahams eager to diss their own party and showboat for the mainstream media. But the GOP will have plenty of sober, sophisticated pols, if that is the definition of “adult”: Rob Portman, Roy Blunt, Dan Coats, Mark Kirk, John Boozman. In the House, you can’t get more adult that Paul Ryan, whose mastery of the budget and entitlements is second to none.

I think Milbank’s concern for adult supervision might better be directed at the White House, which has yet to make the jump from campaign attack-dog mode to chief executive. But I think “adult” is really another word absconded by the left. “Sanity” is another. To those like Milbank, these words simply mean “liberal like us!”

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Like Magic!

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling seems shocked to find tremendous unity in the GOP ranks. He writes:

The biggest story of the primary season this year was the deep divisions within the Republican Party. When it comes to the general election though the party’s voters are showing a pretty remarkable degree of unity around their candidates.

Since switching to polling likely voters in mid-August PPP has polled 21 Senate and Gubernatorial races where each party’s nominee had already been set. In 16 of those contests the Democratic candidate is polling in single digits with GOP voters. With just a few exceptions Republicans have put aside their ideological differences in the primary to fight the greater evil of the Democrats.

Could it have been that the “biggest story” was an overblown concoction of the mainstream media? The presence of competitive primaries, many of us on the right argued, was not a sign of an impending “civil war” but a healthy expression of interest and excitement. Those primaries by and large produced viable candidates who all Republicans could get behind (e.g. Marco Rubio, Ken Buck). It was only the hysterical GOP “insiders” and pundits who fretted that outsiders with strong popular support might “ruin” the Republicans’ chances in the general elections. But then these were the same people who ignored or sneered at the Tea Party movement.

I would suggest that the “biggest story” of the primary season was the degree to which the Tea Party movement and the GOP confirmed that the “differences” between them were minimal. From Rand Paul to Dan Coats, the GOP field is running on a unified message of fiscal conservatism and anti-Obamaism. That’s no surprise to those of us who have learned to ignore the purveyors of wrong, conventional wisdom.

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling seems shocked to find tremendous unity in the GOP ranks. He writes:

The biggest story of the primary season this year was the deep divisions within the Republican Party. When it comes to the general election though the party’s voters are showing a pretty remarkable degree of unity around their candidates.

Since switching to polling likely voters in mid-August PPP has polled 21 Senate and Gubernatorial races where each party’s nominee had already been set. In 16 of those contests the Democratic candidate is polling in single digits with GOP voters. With just a few exceptions Republicans have put aside their ideological differences in the primary to fight the greater evil of the Democrats.

Could it have been that the “biggest story” was an overblown concoction of the mainstream media? The presence of competitive primaries, many of us on the right argued, was not a sign of an impending “civil war” but a healthy expression of interest and excitement. Those primaries by and large produced viable candidates who all Republicans could get behind (e.g. Marco Rubio, Ken Buck). It was only the hysterical GOP “insiders” and pundits who fretted that outsiders with strong popular support might “ruin” the Republicans’ chances in the general elections. But then these were the same people who ignored or sneered at the Tea Party movement.

I would suggest that the “biggest story” of the primary season was the degree to which the Tea Party movement and the GOP confirmed that the “differences” between them were minimal. From Rand Paul to Dan Coats, the GOP field is running on a unified message of fiscal conservatism and anti-Obamaism. That’s no surprise to those of us who have learned to ignore the purveyors of wrong, conventional wisdom.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Good advice to conservative pundits from Michael Gerson (in defending Karl Rove): “[A commentator] owes his readers or viewers his best judgment — which means he cannot simply be a tool of someone else’s ideological agenda. Some conservatives have adopted the Bolshevik approach to information and the media: Every personal feeling, every independent thought, every inconvenient fact, must be subordinated to the party line — the Tea Party line.” Read the whole thing.

Good time, actually, for those ferocious Rove critics to apologize. It seems she is a loon: “The story of Christine O’Donnell’s past got a little stranger Friday. Bill Maher — on whose former show, ‘Politically Incorrect,’ O’Donnell appeared repeatedly in the late 1990s — showed a previously unaired clip from Oct. 29, 1999, on his current HBO program, ‘Real Time,’ in which the GOP Senate nominee from Delaware said she ‘dabbled into witchcraft.”’

Good line from Mitt Romney at the Value Voters Summit: “Welcome to the Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid-President Obama farewell party. This has been a pretty tough year for those three—their numbers have gone down the chute faster than a Jet Blue flight attendant.” And a good speech on Obamanomics.

Good critique of the problem(s) with Newt Gingrich: “Like the former and would-be next California governor [Jerry Brown], Gingrich talks big, but has no loyalty to his ideas. He was for tax cuts before he was against them. He supported a $35,000 congressional pay raise and leaner government. Like Brown, Gingrich’s real skill has been in seeing a trend early and jumping on it, unencumbered by any past positions. … The last time Gingrich set out to save America, he ended up burning his career. He taught a college course called ‘Renewing American Civilization.’ That would not have been a problem except that this modern-day John Adams felt the need to raise $300,000 and $450,000 to bankroll his discourses on American ‘core values.’ That’s a long pricey schlep from the log cabin.”

Good move. “Since General Petraeus took on the commander’s job in June, several aides said, the president has struck a more deferential tone toward him than he used with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, General Petraeus’s predecessor. Often during pauses in meetings, one White House official said, Mr. Obama will stop and say, ‘Dave, what do you think?'” Less Axelrod and Emanuel and more Petraeus, and we might win this.

Good golly. “Two Los Angeles departments have received $111 million in federal stimulus funds yet have created only 55 jobs so far, according to a pair of reports issued Thursday by City Controller Wendy Greuel.”

Good luck to Tom Joscelyn trying to explain to David Ignatius (and the Obami): “For the umpteenth time, Iran is not on our side in Afghanistan. They are currently allied with the Taliban, the mullahs’ one-time enemy. Iran is not going to help us ‘undermine the Taliban.’ They are working with the Taliban to undermine the U.S.-led coalition.”

Good job, Madam Speaker! Now 38 Democrats favor full extension of the Bush tax cuts. Maybe more: “Other Democrats have indicated privately that they prefer an extension instead of allowing rates to expire for top earners, and Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who heads Democratic campaign efforts, has argued behind closed doors for taking a political issue off the table by giving a short reprieve to wealthy folks before the midterm elections.”

Good for her. “A politically vulnerable Democratic lawmaker blasted her party’s House leadership as she demanded a vote to cut the salaries of lawmakers by $8,700 next year. In a letter sent Thursday afternoon, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) pressured Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to hold a vote on her bill to cut congressional pay by five percent and save taxpayers $4.7 million next year before Congress breaks for its fall recess.”

Good for him. Greg Sargent rises above partisan cheerleading: “It isn’t every day that Democrats target Latino challengers with nasty anti-immigrant ads, but these are apparently desperate times for certain embattled Dems. … [Rep. Walt] Minnick apparently sees the need to run an ad that stinks of fear and desperation. Quite a specimen.”

Good news for Republicans in the Hoosier state: “The Indiana Senate seat now held by Democrat Evan Bayh remains a likely Republican pickup on Election Day. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Indiana finds Republican Dan Coats leading Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth 50% to 34% in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Goodbye, Charlie: “Gov. Charlie Crist and the disgraced former chairman of the Florida Republican Party took family vacations on party money, an audit released Friday shows. The two men and their families vacationed at Disney World in June 2009 and put the $13,435.99 bill on the party’s American Express credit card, the audit found. Greer also took three personal vacations to fashionable Fisher Island near Miami Beach, one including Crist, at a cost of $10,992.17, auditors reported.”

Good advice to conservative pundits from Michael Gerson (in defending Karl Rove): “[A commentator] owes his readers or viewers his best judgment — which means he cannot simply be a tool of someone else’s ideological agenda. Some conservatives have adopted the Bolshevik approach to information and the media: Every personal feeling, every independent thought, every inconvenient fact, must be subordinated to the party line — the Tea Party line.” Read the whole thing.

Good time, actually, for those ferocious Rove critics to apologize. It seems she is a loon: “The story of Christine O’Donnell’s past got a little stranger Friday. Bill Maher — on whose former show, ‘Politically Incorrect,’ O’Donnell appeared repeatedly in the late 1990s — showed a previously unaired clip from Oct. 29, 1999, on his current HBO program, ‘Real Time,’ in which the GOP Senate nominee from Delaware said she ‘dabbled into witchcraft.”’

Good line from Mitt Romney at the Value Voters Summit: “Welcome to the Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid-President Obama farewell party. This has been a pretty tough year for those three—their numbers have gone down the chute faster than a Jet Blue flight attendant.” And a good speech on Obamanomics.

Good critique of the problem(s) with Newt Gingrich: “Like the former and would-be next California governor [Jerry Brown], Gingrich talks big, but has no loyalty to his ideas. He was for tax cuts before he was against them. He supported a $35,000 congressional pay raise and leaner government. Like Brown, Gingrich’s real skill has been in seeing a trend early and jumping on it, unencumbered by any past positions. … The last time Gingrich set out to save America, he ended up burning his career. He taught a college course called ‘Renewing American Civilization.’ That would not have been a problem except that this modern-day John Adams felt the need to raise $300,000 and $450,000 to bankroll his discourses on American ‘core values.’ That’s a long pricey schlep from the log cabin.”

Good move. “Since General Petraeus took on the commander’s job in June, several aides said, the president has struck a more deferential tone toward him than he used with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, General Petraeus’s predecessor. Often during pauses in meetings, one White House official said, Mr. Obama will stop and say, ‘Dave, what do you think?'” Less Axelrod and Emanuel and more Petraeus, and we might win this.

Good golly. “Two Los Angeles departments have received $111 million in federal stimulus funds yet have created only 55 jobs so far, according to a pair of reports issued Thursday by City Controller Wendy Greuel.”

Good luck to Tom Joscelyn trying to explain to David Ignatius (and the Obami): “For the umpteenth time, Iran is not on our side in Afghanistan. They are currently allied with the Taliban, the mullahs’ one-time enemy. Iran is not going to help us ‘undermine the Taliban.’ They are working with the Taliban to undermine the U.S.-led coalition.”

Good job, Madam Speaker! Now 38 Democrats favor full extension of the Bush tax cuts. Maybe more: “Other Democrats have indicated privately that they prefer an extension instead of allowing rates to expire for top earners, and Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who heads Democratic campaign efforts, has argued behind closed doors for taking a political issue off the table by giving a short reprieve to wealthy folks before the midterm elections.”

Good for her. “A politically vulnerable Democratic lawmaker blasted her party’s House leadership as she demanded a vote to cut the salaries of lawmakers by $8,700 next year. In a letter sent Thursday afternoon, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) pressured Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to hold a vote on her bill to cut congressional pay by five percent and save taxpayers $4.7 million next year before Congress breaks for its fall recess.”

Good for him. Greg Sargent rises above partisan cheerleading: “It isn’t every day that Democrats target Latino challengers with nasty anti-immigrant ads, but these are apparently desperate times for certain embattled Dems. … [Rep. Walt] Minnick apparently sees the need to run an ad that stinks of fear and desperation. Quite a specimen.”

Good news for Republicans in the Hoosier state: “The Indiana Senate seat now held by Democrat Evan Bayh remains a likely Republican pickup on Election Day. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Indiana finds Republican Dan Coats leading Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth 50% to 34% in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Goodbye, Charlie: “Gov. Charlie Crist and the disgraced former chairman of the Florida Republican Party took family vacations on party money, an audit released Friday shows. The two men and their families vacationed at Disney World in June 2009 and put the $13,435.99 bill on the party’s American Express credit card, the audit found. Greer also took three personal vacations to fashionable Fisher Island near Miami Beach, one including Crist, at a cost of $10,992.17, auditors reported.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Indiana tilts Red: “Indiana still has the look of a likely Republican Senate pickup, with former Senator Dan Coats remaining comfortably ahead of his Democratic opponent Brad Ellsworth. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state finds Coats with 51% support, while Ellsworth earns 30% of the vote, his poorest showing to date.”

Media moguls are blue about the economy: “Lingering anxiety over the state of the economy colored the proceedings at the annual Sun Valley media and tech mogul gathering, which wrapped during the weekend. On the sidelines of the Allen & Co. camp, execs predicted a long and slow U.S. recovery, which could also affect the advertising market. A few expressed fears of a double-dip recession.” All that money donated to the Obama campaign was the worst investment they ever made.

Orin Hatch explains why Elena Kagan shouldn’t don the black robes: “Over the Supreme Court’s long history, justices who were nominated without past judicial experience have had an average of 21 years of legal practice. Ms. Kagan has two. Her experience is instead academic and political. … I asked for her own views, but she instead told me what Congress said, what she argued before the Court, and what the Court held. … She would not even admit that she had in fact written the 1996 memo about partial-birth abortion that not only bore her name but included her handwritten notes. After three attempts, all she would say is that it was in her handwriting; I suppose that left open the possibility that it had been forged.” And then there’s her judicial philosophy, such as it is.

Sen. Brown caves: “U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.) said in a written statement Monday he plans to support the financial-overhaul bill, taking the White House and Democrats to the verge of the support needed to pass the bill.”

Marco Rubio hauls in the greenbacks: “Marco Rubio raised more than $4.5 million in the second quarter, his campaign said, beating rival Charlie Crist’s previous record. Crist raised $4.3 million in his first fundraising quarter of the race, back when he was a Republican, a national record for the cycle.”

A golden opportunity for the GOP: “Republicans are set up to gain a large number of governorships nationwide. At a minimum, the GOP could gain eight, giving the party 32, but larger gains are very possible.”

A silver lining for Obama, says Larry Sabato: “A GOP House would be a godsend in one way: it would give Obama someone to blame for everything, and presidents almost always look better by comparison to Congress. In that sense, it would help his reelection bid.” And a bonanza for the American people: “[I]t would also signal the end of an ambitious Obama legislative program. With Democrats now guaranteed to lose lots of Senate and House seats — even if they maintain narrow control — Obama’s salad days are over for this term.”

Greg Sargent of the Plum Line (yeah, plum is a color) argues that the Tea Party movement is “being widely doted upon as a genuine political movement even though it’s built largely on pure fantasy.” Well, this is a dreamy year for conservatives.

Indiana tilts Red: “Indiana still has the look of a likely Republican Senate pickup, with former Senator Dan Coats remaining comfortably ahead of his Democratic opponent Brad Ellsworth. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state finds Coats with 51% support, while Ellsworth earns 30% of the vote, his poorest showing to date.”

Media moguls are blue about the economy: “Lingering anxiety over the state of the economy colored the proceedings at the annual Sun Valley media and tech mogul gathering, which wrapped during the weekend. On the sidelines of the Allen & Co. camp, execs predicted a long and slow U.S. recovery, which could also affect the advertising market. A few expressed fears of a double-dip recession.” All that money donated to the Obama campaign was the worst investment they ever made.

Orin Hatch explains why Elena Kagan shouldn’t don the black robes: “Over the Supreme Court’s long history, justices who were nominated without past judicial experience have had an average of 21 years of legal practice. Ms. Kagan has two. Her experience is instead academic and political. … I asked for her own views, but she instead told me what Congress said, what she argued before the Court, and what the Court held. … She would not even admit that she had in fact written the 1996 memo about partial-birth abortion that not only bore her name but included her handwritten notes. After three attempts, all she would say is that it was in her handwriting; I suppose that left open the possibility that it had been forged.” And then there’s her judicial philosophy, such as it is.

Sen. Brown caves: “U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.) said in a written statement Monday he plans to support the financial-overhaul bill, taking the White House and Democrats to the verge of the support needed to pass the bill.”

Marco Rubio hauls in the greenbacks: “Marco Rubio raised more than $4.5 million in the second quarter, his campaign said, beating rival Charlie Crist’s previous record. Crist raised $4.3 million in his first fundraising quarter of the race, back when he was a Republican, a national record for the cycle.”

A golden opportunity for the GOP: “Republicans are set up to gain a large number of governorships nationwide. At a minimum, the GOP could gain eight, giving the party 32, but larger gains are very possible.”

A silver lining for Obama, says Larry Sabato: “A GOP House would be a godsend in one way: it would give Obama someone to blame for everything, and presidents almost always look better by comparison to Congress. In that sense, it would help his reelection bid.” And a bonanza for the American people: “[I]t would also signal the end of an ambitious Obama legislative program. With Democrats now guaranteed to lose lots of Senate and House seats — even if they maintain narrow control — Obama’s salad days are over for this term.”

Greg Sargent of the Plum Line (yeah, plum is a color) argues that the Tea Party movement is “being widely doted upon as a genuine political movement even though it’s built largely on pure fantasy.” Well, this is a dreamy year for conservatives.

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Wanted: Grown-Ups to Take On Obama’s Iran Policy

On Afghanistan, we have seen the emergence of a bipartisan, sober group of senators who understand the stakes and who aren’t shy about giving advice to the president. The same should be the case on Iran. Rather than platitudinous letters or resolutions, the most worthwhile endeavor at this point (one to three years from the time Iran has a nuclear weapon) would be to develop a bipartisan group that is candid on the administration’s deficiencies and vocal about the options we have for preventing Iran from going nuclear.

A fine starting point would be this, from Dan Coats, a candidate for the Senate, who explains the problem:

This is the most urgent national security issue America confronts today. Unfortunately, none of the actions taken, including inspections, reports and sanctions, has effectively challenged the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. … Advocating an international group hug does nothing but encourage the enemy; all talk and no action emboldens bullies to be even more aggressive toward its neighbors and the world community.

He recommends three steps:

A much-enhanced international coalition devoted to the same objective: to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. A strong, ever-tightening sanctions track. The six UN Security Council sanctions resolutions over the past four years are far too weak to compel Iran to comply with the international community’s demands. Concrete military preparations. We are dealing with a regime that appears to respect little other than the genuine threat of force.

As to the first, we have done nothing to isolate and ostracize the Iranian regime diplomatically; to the contrary, we have welcomed the regime into UN bodies and afforded it the respect that the mullahs crave (and which will demoralize the internal opposition). But it is the third recommendation that is the most critical. Coats explains:

If it is true that a nuclear weapons-capable Iran is “unacceptable,” then our nation and the international community must understand what few options remain should the first two tracks fail. And Iran must be especially clear-eyed about those potential consequences. Indeed, to give the diplomatic and sanctions tracks the credibility they require, the military option must be genuinely credible.

It seems as though there is already a core group of grown-ups in the U.S. Senate — John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Dianne Feinstein, and Joe Lieberman immediately come to mind — who have the respect of their colleagues, the expertise, and the appropriate demeanor to take on this task. The administration is sleepwalking toward a national-security disaster, and the time for biting lips and pulling punches is over. It is time to tell the administration what it is doing wrong and how to fix it — before it is too late.

On Afghanistan, we have seen the emergence of a bipartisan, sober group of senators who understand the stakes and who aren’t shy about giving advice to the president. The same should be the case on Iran. Rather than platitudinous letters or resolutions, the most worthwhile endeavor at this point (one to three years from the time Iran has a nuclear weapon) would be to develop a bipartisan group that is candid on the administration’s deficiencies and vocal about the options we have for preventing Iran from going nuclear.

A fine starting point would be this, from Dan Coats, a candidate for the Senate, who explains the problem:

This is the most urgent national security issue America confronts today. Unfortunately, none of the actions taken, including inspections, reports and sanctions, has effectively challenged the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. … Advocating an international group hug does nothing but encourage the enemy; all talk and no action emboldens bullies to be even more aggressive toward its neighbors and the world community.

He recommends three steps:

A much-enhanced international coalition devoted to the same objective: to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. A strong, ever-tightening sanctions track. The six UN Security Council sanctions resolutions over the past four years are far too weak to compel Iran to comply with the international community’s demands. Concrete military preparations. We are dealing with a regime that appears to respect little other than the genuine threat of force.

As to the first, we have done nothing to isolate and ostracize the Iranian regime diplomatically; to the contrary, we have welcomed the regime into UN bodies and afforded it the respect that the mullahs crave (and which will demoralize the internal opposition). But it is the third recommendation that is the most critical. Coats explains:

If it is true that a nuclear weapons-capable Iran is “unacceptable,” then our nation and the international community must understand what few options remain should the first two tracks fail. And Iran must be especially clear-eyed about those potential consequences. Indeed, to give the diplomatic and sanctions tracks the credibility they require, the military option must be genuinely credible.

It seems as though there is already a core group of grown-ups in the U.S. Senate — John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Dianne Feinstein, and Joe Lieberman immediately come to mind — who have the respect of their colleagues, the expertise, and the appropriate demeanor to take on this task. The administration is sleepwalking toward a national-security disaster, and the time for biting lips and pulling punches is over. It is time to tell the administration what it is doing wrong and how to fix it — before it is too late.

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Reaction to UN Sanctions

Various lawmakers and groups  are weighing in on passage of the pitifully ineffective UN sanctions to which Brazil and Turkey refused to agree. Eric Cantor’s statement is among the better ones:

After months of delay and foot-dragging only bought time for Iran to advance its nuclear program, it is encouraging that the United Nations finally mustered the will to act. While the sanctions are a step in the right direction, they represent the lowest common denominator and are too weak to bring about a change in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Moving forward, these sanctions must serve as a floor — not as a ceiling. It’s now time for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions legislation with real teeth, and President Obama must follow suit by imposing these sanctions upon the Iranian regime. We encourage our EU allies as well as Russia and China to follow our lead by passing stronger sanctions on the Iranian regime before it is too late.

And it might be helpful to point out that for all our bowing and scraping before Russia and China, we got a UN sanctions agreement that is unlikely to do anything other than stem the calls for military action.

But the best assessment so far comes from Senate candidate Dan Coats:

The sanctions resolution passed today is too little, too late. Proactive measures such as this should have been taken years ago. Instead, with no real incentive for the Iranians to comply, we have only bought them more time to develop a nuclear weapon which they could potentially achieve yet this year. While we have been flailing away with a combination of diplomacy and weak sanctions, Iran’s centrifuges have been rapidly spinning. Real meaningful comprehensive steps must be taken immediately to address this growing threat. Iran has already ignored three sanctions — I don’t see why the fourth will make any difference.

But alas, AIPAC is cheering wildly. (“AIPAC strongly applauds today’s U.N. Security Council passage of new sanctions against Iran –  the sixth Security Council resolution demanding that Tehran immediately suspend all nuclear work and open up to full inspection. We commend the Obama administration’s strong leadership effort to secure passage of this important measure.”) AIPAC also calls for more sanctions, but it’s ludicrous to claim, “This latest Security Council action provides yet another indication of Iran’s deepening isolation.” Even the Washington Post knows this is laughable.

It’s time for Congress to man up: pass those exacting sanctions with no carve-outs. And as candidates, it’s time to distinguish the Obama cheerleaders (Great job on sanctions!) from the savvy observers.

Various lawmakers and groups  are weighing in on passage of the pitifully ineffective UN sanctions to which Brazil and Turkey refused to agree. Eric Cantor’s statement is among the better ones:

After months of delay and foot-dragging only bought time for Iran to advance its nuclear program, it is encouraging that the United Nations finally mustered the will to act. While the sanctions are a step in the right direction, they represent the lowest common denominator and are too weak to bring about a change in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Moving forward, these sanctions must serve as a floor — not as a ceiling. It’s now time for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions legislation with real teeth, and President Obama must follow suit by imposing these sanctions upon the Iranian regime. We encourage our EU allies as well as Russia and China to follow our lead by passing stronger sanctions on the Iranian regime before it is too late.

And it might be helpful to point out that for all our bowing and scraping before Russia and China, we got a UN sanctions agreement that is unlikely to do anything other than stem the calls for military action.

But the best assessment so far comes from Senate candidate Dan Coats:

The sanctions resolution passed today is too little, too late. Proactive measures such as this should have been taken years ago. Instead, with no real incentive for the Iranians to comply, we have only bought them more time to develop a nuclear weapon which they could potentially achieve yet this year. While we have been flailing away with a combination of diplomacy and weak sanctions, Iran’s centrifuges have been rapidly spinning. Real meaningful comprehensive steps must be taken immediately to address this growing threat. Iran has already ignored three sanctions — I don’t see why the fourth will make any difference.

But alas, AIPAC is cheering wildly. (“AIPAC strongly applauds today’s U.N. Security Council passage of new sanctions against Iran –  the sixth Security Council resolution demanding that Tehran immediately suspend all nuclear work and open up to full inspection. We commend the Obama administration’s strong leadership effort to secure passage of this important measure.”) AIPAC also calls for more sanctions, but it’s ludicrous to claim, “This latest Security Council action provides yet another indication of Iran’s deepening isolation.” Even the Washington Post knows this is laughable.

It’s time for Congress to man up: pass those exacting sanctions with no carve-outs. And as candidates, it’s time to distinguish the Obama cheerleaders (Great job on sanctions!) from the savvy observers.

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Turning of the Tide?

It seems that the problem was Turkey, not Israel:

IDF forces piloted the Rachel Corrie to the port of Ashdod early Saturday evening after boarding the ship earlier in the day. None were harmed in the military operation as the international activists on the ship cooperated with the boarding party. The activists went as far as lowering a ladder to the soldiers patrol boat to allow them to board, army sources have revealed.

The boarding of the Rachel Corrie containing activists and aid for Gaza was described by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday as a quiet operation. Netanyahu was quick to distinguish between the boat of Irish and Malaysian activists and the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara which was boarded May 31 in an incident that left nine dead and scores wounded.

“The different outcome we saw today underscores the difference between peace activists who we disagree with but respect their right to express their different opinion and flotilla participants [on the Mavi Marmara] who were violent extremist supporters of terrorists,” said Netanyahu.

The Obama team has spent the week perpetuating the notion that it is Israel that needs to be investigated. But the tide seems to be shifting as the facts come out. The Washington Post editors, whose initial reaction was to scold Israel, have changed their tune. They write: “All of the violence occurred aboard the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, and all of those who were killed were members or volunteers for the Islamic ‘charity’ that owned the ship, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). The relationship between Mr. Erdogan’s government and the IHH ought to be one focus of any international investigation into the incident.”

And the first Senate candidate I am aware of has taken up the issue and is calling for Obama to stop the straddling. Dan Coats of Indiana, via e-mail, tells me: “President Obama should not qualify U.S. support for Israel and any investigation must be thorough and address the question of terrorist connections of any personnel on or related to the flotilla.” I don’t suspect that Evan Bayh is going to challenge Obama on this — but if Coats was in the Senate, it sounds as though it would be a different story.

If Obama can’t lead, perhaps he can follow public opinion and political pressure. He really has enough political problems these days — does he really want to let his anti-Israel animus put him at odds with lawmakers, candidates, and even the mainstream media? Stay tuned.

It seems that the problem was Turkey, not Israel:

IDF forces piloted the Rachel Corrie to the port of Ashdod early Saturday evening after boarding the ship earlier in the day. None were harmed in the military operation as the international activists on the ship cooperated with the boarding party. The activists went as far as lowering a ladder to the soldiers patrol boat to allow them to board, army sources have revealed.

The boarding of the Rachel Corrie containing activists and aid for Gaza was described by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday as a quiet operation. Netanyahu was quick to distinguish between the boat of Irish and Malaysian activists and the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara which was boarded May 31 in an incident that left nine dead and scores wounded.

“The different outcome we saw today underscores the difference between peace activists who we disagree with but respect their right to express their different opinion and flotilla participants [on the Mavi Marmara] who were violent extremist supporters of terrorists,” said Netanyahu.

The Obama team has spent the week perpetuating the notion that it is Israel that needs to be investigated. But the tide seems to be shifting as the facts come out. The Washington Post editors, whose initial reaction was to scold Israel, have changed their tune. They write: “All of the violence occurred aboard the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, and all of those who were killed were members or volunteers for the Islamic ‘charity’ that owned the ship, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). The relationship between Mr. Erdogan’s government and the IHH ought to be one focus of any international investigation into the incident.”

And the first Senate candidate I am aware of has taken up the issue and is calling for Obama to stop the straddling. Dan Coats of Indiana, via e-mail, tells me: “President Obama should not qualify U.S. support for Israel and any investigation must be thorough and address the question of terrorist connections of any personnel on or related to the flotilla.” I don’t suspect that Evan Bayh is going to challenge Obama on this — but if Coats was in the Senate, it sounds as though it would be a different story.

If Obama can’t lead, perhaps he can follow public opinion and political pressure. He really has enough political problems these days — does he really want to let his anti-Israel animus put him at odds with lawmakers, candidates, and even the mainstream media? Stay tuned.

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Losing the Heartland

Tom Jensen, of Democratic Public Policy Polling, writes:

It may be the Midwest — rather than the South — that proves to be the worst region for Democrats at the polls this year. We’ve polled on Barack Obama’s approval rating in 16 states since the beginning of March. In 6 of those his approval rating is 10 points or worse than the share of the vote he got on election day — and all but one of them is a Big Ten state.

Obama’s approval in California on our last poll represented a 12 point drop from his 2008 performance. The other five ones are all Midwestern — Illinois (50% approval, 62% 2008 vote), Ohio (40% approval, 51% 2008 vote), Michigan (46% approval, 57% 2008 vote), Iowa (43% approval, 54% 2008 vote) and Wisconsin (46% approval, 56% 2008 vote).

As Jensen notes, this could put at risk five Democratic governors in each of these states. But it also may help the GOP nail down Midwest Senate races. Rasmussen reports that Dan Coats leads in Indiana by 14 points. Illinois is rated as “leans Republican” by Charlie Cook.

Historically, poor presidential approval ratings are the single biggest indicator of midterm losses for the president’s party. And if that pattern continues and Obama’s ratings continue to flounder in the mid-40s, it’s going to be a catastrophic midterm election for Democrats in the Midwest — and in a lot of other places too.

Tom Jensen, of Democratic Public Policy Polling, writes:

It may be the Midwest — rather than the South — that proves to be the worst region for Democrats at the polls this year. We’ve polled on Barack Obama’s approval rating in 16 states since the beginning of March. In 6 of those his approval rating is 10 points or worse than the share of the vote he got on election day — and all but one of them is a Big Ten state.

Obama’s approval in California on our last poll represented a 12 point drop from his 2008 performance. The other five ones are all Midwestern — Illinois (50% approval, 62% 2008 vote), Ohio (40% approval, 51% 2008 vote), Michigan (46% approval, 57% 2008 vote), Iowa (43% approval, 54% 2008 vote) and Wisconsin (46% approval, 56% 2008 vote).

As Jensen notes, this could put at risk five Democratic governors in each of these states. But it also may help the GOP nail down Midwest Senate races. Rasmussen reports that Dan Coats leads in Indiana by 14 points. Illinois is rated as “leans Republican” by Charlie Cook.

Historically, poor presidential approval ratings are the single biggest indicator of midterm losses for the president’s party. And if that pattern continues and Obama’s ratings continue to flounder in the mid-40s, it’s going to be a catastrophic midterm election for Democrats in the Midwest — and in a lot of other places too.

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Dan Coats Runs Against D.C.

Indiana Republican Dan Coats, who is hoping to replace Evan Bayh, held a bloggers call yesterday afternoon. In his opening remarks, it was evident that he got Tuesday’s message loud and clear. He said his opponent, Brad Ellsworth, “voted with Pelosi and Obama virtually all the time,” especially on key measures like health-care reform and the stimulus bill. Although Ellsworth bills himself as pro-life, Coats noted that he caved along with Bart Stupak on the key ObamaCare vote. (Watch for other Republicans running against self-styled but weak-kneed pro-life Democrats to note the same.) And then he made a point about Ellsworth that all Republican challengers will make in November: “I’m the challenger; he’s the incumbent.” This year, these are fighting words.

I asked him about Richard Blumenthal. The usually mild-mannered Coats swung hard, declaring, “I think if there is ever a time when people have a distrust [of government] … it is now. When someone falsifies his record … it calls into question all that.”

I asked him about the Iran sanctions deal. Unlike the cowering, Obama-addicted American Jewish leaders, Coats was forceful in his objection. He explained that “unless sanctions are truly biting and timely, they aren’t going to slow Iran” from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. The UN sanctions, Coats says, are “too little, too late” and “our dillydallying over the last year and a half has allowed [the mullahs] to go forward [with their nuclear program].” That too, I suspect, will be a powerful issue in the fall campaign.

Indiana Republican Dan Coats, who is hoping to replace Evan Bayh, held a bloggers call yesterday afternoon. In his opening remarks, it was evident that he got Tuesday’s message loud and clear. He said his opponent, Brad Ellsworth, “voted with Pelosi and Obama virtually all the time,” especially on key measures like health-care reform and the stimulus bill. Although Ellsworth bills himself as pro-life, Coats noted that he caved along with Bart Stupak on the key ObamaCare vote. (Watch for other Republicans running against self-styled but weak-kneed pro-life Democrats to note the same.) And then he made a point about Ellsworth that all Republican challengers will make in November: “I’m the challenger; he’s the incumbent.” This year, these are fighting words.

I asked him about Richard Blumenthal. The usually mild-mannered Coats swung hard, declaring, “I think if there is ever a time when people have a distrust [of government] … it is now. When someone falsifies his record … it calls into question all that.”

I asked him about the Iran sanctions deal. Unlike the cowering, Obama-addicted American Jewish leaders, Coats was forceful in his objection. He explained that “unless sanctions are truly biting and timely, they aren’t going to slow Iran” from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. The UN sanctions, Coats says, are “too little, too late” and “our dillydallying over the last year and a half has allowed [the mullahs] to go forward [with their nuclear program].” That too, I suspect, will be a powerful issue in the fall campaign.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The exception to the rule that I never mention poetry.

Dan Coats takes a big lead in Indiana. “Newly chosen Republican nominee Dan Coats earns 51% support while his Democratic rival Brad Ellsworth’s attracts 36% in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the Indiana Senate race following Tuesday’s GOP Primary.”

A huge majority — 60 to 32 percent — still favor offshore drilling. And that’s in the Daily Kos poll.

When more people get hired, more enter the job market, and there aren’t enough new jobs to absorb them. So despite 290,000 new jobs: “The unemployment rate, however, crept up to 9.9 percent in April from 9.7 percent in March, mostly the government said, because about 805,000 people joined the labor force either working or looking for work. Yet in a sign that many will not be able to find a job even as the economy improves, the number of people who have been out of work for more than six months hit 6.7 million, nearly 46 percent of the unemployed.”

The result of 15 months of Obama’s Iran policy: “Iran will not stop enriching uranium and has a right to pursue atomic technology, the country’s foreign minister told UN Security Council diplomats at a private dinner. A US official familiar with Thursday night’s meeting in New York told The Associated Press that Manouchehr Mottaki was defiant in the face of demands that Iran halt the process that can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon. … Mottaki said Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment, according to the US official. The foreign minister said that position was firm and would not change even if Iran accepted a proposal to send uranium from a medical research reactor in Teheran abroad for reprocessing, the official said Friday.”

Maybe it is because, as Israel’s UN Ambassador says, the sanctions under contemplation “are not going to be crippling. … They’re not even going to be biting. … They’re going to be moderate, watered down, diluted.”

Eric Holder only allows career employees with nice things to say about the administration to speak up. “So here were two customs officers speaking on national television about what they did in this case, revealing to the world (and any terrorist networks) the strengths and weaknesses of our airline-security system. They obviously could not appear without having gotten permission from the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which is handling the prosecution of this case. Yet Eric Holder refuses to let his front-line Voting Section employees talk about what happened in the New Black Panther case (even purely factual matters having nothing to due with any DOJ deliberations), unlawfully defying subpoenas from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Ronald Brownstein is surprised: “The great political surprise of Obama’s presidency is that amid these hard times, the electorate has directed its frustration less against Big Business (though it is hardly popular) than against Big Government, especially as Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach in response to the economic crisis.” I think it’s because Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach.

The exception to the rule that I never mention poetry.

Dan Coats takes a big lead in Indiana. “Newly chosen Republican nominee Dan Coats earns 51% support while his Democratic rival Brad Ellsworth’s attracts 36% in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the Indiana Senate race following Tuesday’s GOP Primary.”

A huge majority — 60 to 32 percent — still favor offshore drilling. And that’s in the Daily Kos poll.

When more people get hired, more enter the job market, and there aren’t enough new jobs to absorb them. So despite 290,000 new jobs: “The unemployment rate, however, crept up to 9.9 percent in April from 9.7 percent in March, mostly the government said, because about 805,000 people joined the labor force either working or looking for work. Yet in a sign that many will not be able to find a job even as the economy improves, the number of people who have been out of work for more than six months hit 6.7 million, nearly 46 percent of the unemployed.”

The result of 15 months of Obama’s Iran policy: “Iran will not stop enriching uranium and has a right to pursue atomic technology, the country’s foreign minister told UN Security Council diplomats at a private dinner. A US official familiar with Thursday night’s meeting in New York told The Associated Press that Manouchehr Mottaki was defiant in the face of demands that Iran halt the process that can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon. … Mottaki said Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment, according to the US official. The foreign minister said that position was firm and would not change even if Iran accepted a proposal to send uranium from a medical research reactor in Teheran abroad for reprocessing, the official said Friday.”

Maybe it is because, as Israel’s UN Ambassador says, the sanctions under contemplation “are not going to be crippling. … They’re not even going to be biting. … They’re going to be moderate, watered down, diluted.”

Eric Holder only allows career employees with nice things to say about the administration to speak up. “So here were two customs officers speaking on national television about what they did in this case, revealing to the world (and any terrorist networks) the strengths and weaknesses of our airline-security system. They obviously could not appear without having gotten permission from the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which is handling the prosecution of this case. Yet Eric Holder refuses to let his front-line Voting Section employees talk about what happened in the New Black Panther case (even purely factual matters having nothing to due with any DOJ deliberations), unlawfully defying subpoenas from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Ronald Brownstein is surprised: “The great political surprise of Obama’s presidency is that amid these hard times, the electorate has directed its frustration less against Big Business (though it is hardly popular) than against Big Government, especially as Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach in response to the economic crisis.” I think it’s because Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach.

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Dan Coats vs. Obama on the Middle East

I spoke this morning with Dan Coats, former senator and ambassador to Germany and now the GOP front-runner in the Indiana senate race. Together with Charles Robb and Charles Ward Coats, he had authored two reports urging a firm timetable, sanctions that “bite,” and preservation of military options to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

After fifteen months of Obama’s attempts to engage Iran, I asked Coats if Obama’s policy was a failure. “Yes, it certainly has failed. Engagement has done nothing but buy time” for the mullahs to pursue their nuclear plans, he explained. He noted that during the Bush administration we deferred to our European allies. So, he concludes, “It has been almost a decade that we’ve been down this road. The open hand has been slapped back.” In essence, Iran has, he says, simply played the “rope-a-dope game.”

Is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates correct in warning that we lack a viable plan? Coats replies, “Yes. We are lacking a viable plan because they are lacking a commander in chief to order them to put together a viable plan.” He says that a nuclear-armed Iran is our “most imminent security challenge” and yet the administration seems unwilling to examine what a nuclear-armed Iran and a potential containment strategy would look like. The sanctions currently under discussion, he explains, are deficient. His reports argued for sanctions that “bite.” He says, “If Russia and China are outside the noose, they aren’t going to be effective.”

As for containment, Coats says that analogies to the Cold War are misplaced. Then, he recalls, we had “buffer states, a military prepared to deal with any breach, Pershing missiles, and 300,000 troops in Europe.” Moreover, he says, “Clearly, we are dealing with a much more unstable regime that has defied world opinion.”

I ask him whether the focus on the Palestinian “peace process” has distracted us from the Iranian threat or undermined the U.S.-Israel alliance. He says that with a nuclear-armed Iran “the very existence of Israel would be at stake.” He says that absent a more credible policy by the U.S., “Israel will be forced to act. It is unthinkable that the U.S. will passively stand aside [while Israel takes action].” He explains that “our credibility around the world” would be irreparably harmed as it became clear that the U.S. was unwilling to protect the security of any nation. As for the peace process, he says that “it is simply a cop out” to say that we need progress there in order to deal with the threats to Middle East peace. “I don’t for a moment think that even we had resolution [of the Palestinian conflict] we would have a kumbaya moment in the Middle East.” The mullahs have their own agenda and time table, he notes. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t pursue it [a resolution of the Palestinian conflict] but we have been pursuing it for half a century.”

Finally, I ask him about the Obama administration’s desire to return our ambassador to Syria. He says, “We are past that. What we need is the administration to stand up to the reality of what is taking place in the Middle East — to show resolve and to show strength.” He says the move conveys weakness and we risk sending the signal that “we are not prepared to defend Israel.” He reminds us that this president had promised to use “all” aspects of American power. But, he says, Obama is not “willing to use American power. They must be laughing at us in the councils of Iran. And Israel sits on a powder keg.” He closes by warning that it may now be too late to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear plans, “We’re going to read in a few months that the game is over.”

Coats provides a stark contrast to the happy talk one hears from Hillary Clinton and the other administration spinners. Should he win the primary, we will perhaps see a spirited debate on Obama’s Middle East policy, unless, of course, the Democratic nominee is willing to break with Obama as Chuck Schumer did. Other senate candidates will face a similar choice.

I spoke this morning with Dan Coats, former senator and ambassador to Germany and now the GOP front-runner in the Indiana senate race. Together with Charles Robb and Charles Ward Coats, he had authored two reports urging a firm timetable, sanctions that “bite,” and preservation of military options to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

After fifteen months of Obama’s attempts to engage Iran, I asked Coats if Obama’s policy was a failure. “Yes, it certainly has failed. Engagement has done nothing but buy time” for the mullahs to pursue their nuclear plans, he explained. He noted that during the Bush administration we deferred to our European allies. So, he concludes, “It has been almost a decade that we’ve been down this road. The open hand has been slapped back.” In essence, Iran has, he says, simply played the “rope-a-dope game.”

Is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates correct in warning that we lack a viable plan? Coats replies, “Yes. We are lacking a viable plan because they are lacking a commander in chief to order them to put together a viable plan.” He says that a nuclear-armed Iran is our “most imminent security challenge” and yet the administration seems unwilling to examine what a nuclear-armed Iran and a potential containment strategy would look like. The sanctions currently under discussion, he explains, are deficient. His reports argued for sanctions that “bite.” He says, “If Russia and China are outside the noose, they aren’t going to be effective.”

As for containment, Coats says that analogies to the Cold War are misplaced. Then, he recalls, we had “buffer states, a military prepared to deal with any breach, Pershing missiles, and 300,000 troops in Europe.” Moreover, he says, “Clearly, we are dealing with a much more unstable regime that has defied world opinion.”

I ask him whether the focus on the Palestinian “peace process” has distracted us from the Iranian threat or undermined the U.S.-Israel alliance. He says that with a nuclear-armed Iran “the very existence of Israel would be at stake.” He says that absent a more credible policy by the U.S., “Israel will be forced to act. It is unthinkable that the U.S. will passively stand aside [while Israel takes action].” He explains that “our credibility around the world” would be irreparably harmed as it became clear that the U.S. was unwilling to protect the security of any nation. As for the peace process, he says that “it is simply a cop out” to say that we need progress there in order to deal with the threats to Middle East peace. “I don’t for a moment think that even we had resolution [of the Palestinian conflict] we would have a kumbaya moment in the Middle East.” The mullahs have their own agenda and time table, he notes. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t pursue it [a resolution of the Palestinian conflict] but we have been pursuing it for half a century.”

Finally, I ask him about the Obama administration’s desire to return our ambassador to Syria. He says, “We are past that. What we need is the administration to stand up to the reality of what is taking place in the Middle East — to show resolve and to show strength.” He says the move conveys weakness and we risk sending the signal that “we are not prepared to defend Israel.” He reminds us that this president had promised to use “all” aspects of American power. But, he says, Obama is not “willing to use American power. They must be laughing at us in the councils of Iran. And Israel sits on a powder keg.” He closes by warning that it may now be too late to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear plans, “We’re going to read in a few months that the game is over.”

Coats provides a stark contrast to the happy talk one hears from Hillary Clinton and the other administration spinners. Should he win the primary, we will perhaps see a spirited debate on Obama’s Middle East policy, unless, of course, the Democratic nominee is willing to break with Obama as Chuck Schumer did. Other senate candidates will face a similar choice.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A new group, Keep Israel Safe, has an ad pummeling Obama for having no plan to thwart a nuclear-armed Iran.

Christians for a Nuclear-Free Iran sends a letter to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi urging them to move on the Iran-sanctions bill: “Almost five months have passed. The situation with Iran has only become more alarming. Congress has not moved. The whole world is waiting for leadership on Iran. Will it come only after it is too late?” You get the feeling that mainstream Jewish groups risk becoming irrelevant if they don’t turn up the heat on the Obami?

Meanwhile, the State Department says we are “concerned” about Syrian missiles. Soon we may be “deeply troubled.”

Fred and Kim Kagan warn: “Concerns over delays in the formation of a new Iraqi government and the prospects for meeting President Obama’s announced timeline for withdrawal are clouding views of a more urgent matter: The United States might be about to lose an opportunity for success in Iraq by tolerating a highly sectarian, politicized move to overturn Iraq’s election results. Washington must act swiftly to defend the integrity of the electoral process and support Iraqi leaders’ tentative efforts to rein in the “de-Baathification” commission that threatens to undermine the entire democratic process.”

Floyd Abrams, former ACLU head Ira Glasser, and former ACLU counsel Joel Gora lambast the ACLU for reversing its decades-old policy opposing First Amendment restrictions in the name of campaign-finance reform: “Experience has shown that the kinds of campaign finance limits the ACLU now endorses have entrenched the powers-that-be even further. Thus the ACLU is prescribing a lot of First Amendment pain for no real democratic gain. And in the process of changing its policy, the principal defender of free-speech rights will abandon that field to others. In essence, the rhetoric of egalitarianism has won a victory over freedom of speech: The new restrictions the ACLU supports will never bring about the equality it claims is its goal. This is a self-inflicted wound from which the ACLU will not soon recover.” We can only hope they are right.

A poll has Dan Coats with a double-digit lead in the Indiana GOP primary race.

Both son and father Reid are in big trouble in Nevada. Could the name be toxic?

Blanche Lincoln has stiff competition in her primary.

From the gang that wouldn’t put health-care negotiations on TV: “A handful of lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee hope to compel the Supreme Court to begin televising its proceedings.”

A new group, Keep Israel Safe, has an ad pummeling Obama for having no plan to thwart a nuclear-armed Iran.

Christians for a Nuclear-Free Iran sends a letter to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi urging them to move on the Iran-sanctions bill: “Almost five months have passed. The situation with Iran has only become more alarming. Congress has not moved. The whole world is waiting for leadership on Iran. Will it come only after it is too late?” You get the feeling that mainstream Jewish groups risk becoming irrelevant if they don’t turn up the heat on the Obami?

Meanwhile, the State Department says we are “concerned” about Syrian missiles. Soon we may be “deeply troubled.”

Fred and Kim Kagan warn: “Concerns over delays in the formation of a new Iraqi government and the prospects for meeting President Obama’s announced timeline for withdrawal are clouding views of a more urgent matter: The United States might be about to lose an opportunity for success in Iraq by tolerating a highly sectarian, politicized move to overturn Iraq’s election results. Washington must act swiftly to defend the integrity of the electoral process and support Iraqi leaders’ tentative efforts to rein in the “de-Baathification” commission that threatens to undermine the entire democratic process.”

Floyd Abrams, former ACLU head Ira Glasser, and former ACLU counsel Joel Gora lambast the ACLU for reversing its decades-old policy opposing First Amendment restrictions in the name of campaign-finance reform: “Experience has shown that the kinds of campaign finance limits the ACLU now endorses have entrenched the powers-that-be even further. Thus the ACLU is prescribing a lot of First Amendment pain for no real democratic gain. And in the process of changing its policy, the principal defender of free-speech rights will abandon that field to others. In essence, the rhetoric of egalitarianism has won a victory over freedom of speech: The new restrictions the ACLU supports will never bring about the equality it claims is its goal. This is a self-inflicted wound from which the ACLU will not soon recover.” We can only hope they are right.

A poll has Dan Coats with a double-digit lead in the Indiana GOP primary race.

Both son and father Reid are in big trouble in Nevada. Could the name be toxic?

Blanche Lincoln has stiff competition in her primary.

From the gang that wouldn’t put health-care negotiations on TV: “A handful of lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee hope to compel the Supreme Court to begin televising its proceedings.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Senate candidate Dan Coats thinks Obama is getting ready for a containment strategy for Iran, and he doesn’t like it: “Coats said the ‘only option’ left to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the threat of military action. Coats said most Americans agree that Iran must not be allowed to have such weapons, even though Iranian leaders continue to press forward with their nuclear program. … ‘If it’s unacceptable, what are we going to do? … And now it seems we’re being asked to accept the unacceptable.'”

Democrats tried going after the CIA again, determined to criminalize interrogation techniques: “If this Act becomes law (it may have already been killed in Congress at the time of this writing), it will surely cause confusion for interrogators who want to know where the line is, precisely, lest they be thrown in jail. This creates risk aversion among interrogators where none is warranted.”

Liz Cheney objected: “American intelligence officers do not deserve this kind of treatment from the government they honorably serve. Day in and day out, they protect our country and make difficult decisions–at times in matters of life and death. In return for their service the government rewards them with little pay and no acknowledgement of their heroic actions. Democrats in Congress now want to threaten them with criminal prosecutions and deprive them of valuable tactics that protect America.”

And Democrats pulled the bill.

Larry Sabato (h/t Jim Geraghty): “The Crystal Ball moves five Democratic seats from a “safe” rating onto our list of competitive races: KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MA-10 (Bill Delahunt), OH-13 (Betty Sutton), SC-5 (John Spratt), and VA-9 (Rick Boucher). In addition, two already competitive races for Democrats look even worse than before—IA-3 (Leonard Boswell) and IN-8 (OPEN, Brad Ellsworth)—and two Republican incumbents have improved their reelection prospects—AL-3 (Mike Rogers) and CA-44 (Ken Calvert).”

The Orthodox Union is upset with the Obama administration for criticizing the Heritage Plan, under which Israel will invest $100 million in rehabilitating historic and religious sites throughout Israel. Netanyahu included among the sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Palestinians objected, and then the State Department chimed in and called the inclusion of such sites “provocative.” The OU responded: “It is not ‘provocative’ to invest in and rehabilitate holy/historic sites — that are open to both Jews and Muslims. Nothing PM Netanyahu has proposed precludes a peace agreement. It is provocative for the Palestinians to assert that there is no Jewish connection to these sites and for them to use this as yet another false basis for refusal to engage in peace negotiations.”

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “In equating high-risk pools to racial segregation, Senator Harkin not only betrays his ignorance of history and his tone-deafness, but a disconcerting obliviousness to the contents of the Democrats’ own health-care plan. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has sent two letters to Congress and the president detailing the various discriminatory provisions in the Democrats’ health-care plan. It’s often said that the party who first invokes Hitler has lost the argument. In this case, the party who first invoked racial discrimination has lost perspective, if not his senses.”

Part of Obama’s problem: “At the very same hour as Obama is talking about his beloved healthcare plan, out come surprising new federal numbers showing that last week new J-O-B-L-E-S-S claims unexpectedly went up — as in more of them — to nearly a half-million, 22,000 more than the previous week. And nearly 8% higher than the expected 460,000 new claims.”

Politico on Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian problem: “A bespectacled former college professor who has pleaded guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad helped tip the balance in a 2004 Senate contest in Florida. Now, six years later, Sami Al-Arian could be on the verge of doing it again, this time in California. Republican Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, a former congressman, has come under sustained attack on conservative websites and from his rivals in recent days for taking a campaign donation from Al-Arian in 2000, for backing legislation Al-Arian was lobbying for at the time and for allegedly being a less-than-steadfast supporter of Israel.”

JTA is into it too, noting how inappropriate it is for Campbell to use a selective quote from a letter of the late and very great friend of Israel Tom Lantos: “Using Lantos’ letter to bolster Campbell’s case is really icky.”

Senate candidate Dan Coats thinks Obama is getting ready for a containment strategy for Iran, and he doesn’t like it: “Coats said the ‘only option’ left to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the threat of military action. Coats said most Americans agree that Iran must not be allowed to have such weapons, even though Iranian leaders continue to press forward with their nuclear program. … ‘If it’s unacceptable, what are we going to do? … And now it seems we’re being asked to accept the unacceptable.'”

Democrats tried going after the CIA again, determined to criminalize interrogation techniques: “If this Act becomes law (it may have already been killed in Congress at the time of this writing), it will surely cause confusion for interrogators who want to know where the line is, precisely, lest they be thrown in jail. This creates risk aversion among interrogators where none is warranted.”

Liz Cheney objected: “American intelligence officers do not deserve this kind of treatment from the government they honorably serve. Day in and day out, they protect our country and make difficult decisions–at times in matters of life and death. In return for their service the government rewards them with little pay and no acknowledgement of their heroic actions. Democrats in Congress now want to threaten them with criminal prosecutions and deprive them of valuable tactics that protect America.”

And Democrats pulled the bill.

Larry Sabato (h/t Jim Geraghty): “The Crystal Ball moves five Democratic seats from a “safe” rating onto our list of competitive races: KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MA-10 (Bill Delahunt), OH-13 (Betty Sutton), SC-5 (John Spratt), and VA-9 (Rick Boucher). In addition, two already competitive races for Democrats look even worse than before—IA-3 (Leonard Boswell) and IN-8 (OPEN, Brad Ellsworth)—and two Republican incumbents have improved their reelection prospects—AL-3 (Mike Rogers) and CA-44 (Ken Calvert).”

The Orthodox Union is upset with the Obama administration for criticizing the Heritage Plan, under which Israel will invest $100 million in rehabilitating historic and religious sites throughout Israel. Netanyahu included among the sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Palestinians objected, and then the State Department chimed in and called the inclusion of such sites “provocative.” The OU responded: “It is not ‘provocative’ to invest in and rehabilitate holy/historic sites — that are open to both Jews and Muslims. Nothing PM Netanyahu has proposed precludes a peace agreement. It is provocative for the Palestinians to assert that there is no Jewish connection to these sites and for them to use this as yet another false basis for refusal to engage in peace negotiations.”

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “In equating high-risk pools to racial segregation, Senator Harkin not only betrays his ignorance of history and his tone-deafness, but a disconcerting obliviousness to the contents of the Democrats’ own health-care plan. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has sent two letters to Congress and the president detailing the various discriminatory provisions in the Democrats’ health-care plan. It’s often said that the party who first invokes Hitler has lost the argument. In this case, the party who first invoked racial discrimination has lost perspective, if not his senses.”

Part of Obama’s problem: “At the very same hour as Obama is talking about his beloved healthcare plan, out come surprising new federal numbers showing that last week new J-O-B-L-E-S-S claims unexpectedly went up — as in more of them — to nearly a half-million, 22,000 more than the previous week. And nearly 8% higher than the expected 460,000 new claims.”

Politico on Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian problem: “A bespectacled former college professor who has pleaded guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad helped tip the balance in a 2004 Senate contest in Florida. Now, six years later, Sami Al-Arian could be on the verge of doing it again, this time in California. Republican Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, a former congressman, has come under sustained attack on conservative websites and from his rivals in recent days for taking a campaign donation from Al-Arian in 2000, for backing legislation Al-Arian was lobbying for at the time and for allegedly being a less-than-steadfast supporter of Israel.”

JTA is into it too, noting how inappropriate it is for Campbell to use a selective quote from a letter of the late and very great friend of Israel Tom Lantos: “Using Lantos’ letter to bolster Campbell’s case is really icky.”

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Bayh Gets Caught

Dan Coats in an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show explained his argument to the voters as to why Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh should not be re-elected:

“He talked a good game back at home, but when push came to shove, he was there with the liberals, there with Obama every time,” Coats said. On health care, Bayh was “catering to the liberals that he needed to cater to and he wasn’t listening to people in Indiana.”

Coats has a good deal of material to work with. Bayh voted for the stimulus, the Obama budget, and ObamaCare. He’s voted to confirm every nominee, from Sonia Sotomayor to the legal extremist Dawn Johnsen (for head of the Office of Legal Counsel) to Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board. He was a previous sponsor of card-check legislation, although he managed to stay noncommittal last year. In sum, Bayh was unwilling to oppose the liberal troika of Reid-Pelosi-Obama on a single meaningful domestic-policy item.

It is an argument that is likely to be repeated in states like Arkansas, Nevada, and Colorado, where challengers will make the case that the Democratic incumbent has facilitated the policies that voters back home oppose by large numbers. (In Colorado, for example, Michael Bennet is getting slammed by his opponent for his vote to confirm Becker: “Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the Republican front-runner, said that while other Democrats were willing to buck President Obama’s choice, Bennet’s vote demonstrates he would provide ‘a rubber stamp’ for legislation commonly referred to as ‘card check.'”)

Recall that in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, running against a Democrat who had never cast a single vote in Congress in favor of an Obama agenda item, was able to win by a huge margin by making the case that Washington had strayed too far to the Left and that cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, and takes hikes would be disastrous for his state’s economy. Scott Brown was able to make a similar argument against an opponent who similarly was not burdened by a congressional voting record in favor of the Obama agenda.

How much more effective will that argument be against Democratic incumbents like Bayh who are burdened not only by the “D” next to their name but also a voting record that fits the Republicans’ narrative? Incumbents like Bayh have a choice: start voting against the liberal agenda or hope voters lose their antipathy to the Reid-Pelosi-Obama agenda. The latter sounds like wishful thinking; the former will require a quick about-face. You can see why the Bayh seat and those of many other Democrats are now in play.

Dan Coats in an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show explained his argument to the voters as to why Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh should not be re-elected:

“He talked a good game back at home, but when push came to shove, he was there with the liberals, there with Obama every time,” Coats said. On health care, Bayh was “catering to the liberals that he needed to cater to and he wasn’t listening to people in Indiana.”

Coats has a good deal of material to work with. Bayh voted for the stimulus, the Obama budget, and ObamaCare. He’s voted to confirm every nominee, from Sonia Sotomayor to the legal extremist Dawn Johnsen (for head of the Office of Legal Counsel) to Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board. He was a previous sponsor of card-check legislation, although he managed to stay noncommittal last year. In sum, Bayh was unwilling to oppose the liberal troika of Reid-Pelosi-Obama on a single meaningful domestic-policy item.

It is an argument that is likely to be repeated in states like Arkansas, Nevada, and Colorado, where challengers will make the case that the Democratic incumbent has facilitated the policies that voters back home oppose by large numbers. (In Colorado, for example, Michael Bennet is getting slammed by his opponent for his vote to confirm Becker: “Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the Republican front-runner, said that while other Democrats were willing to buck President Obama’s choice, Bennet’s vote demonstrates he would provide ‘a rubber stamp’ for legislation commonly referred to as ‘card check.'”)

Recall that in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, running against a Democrat who had never cast a single vote in Congress in favor of an Obama agenda item, was able to win by a huge margin by making the case that Washington had strayed too far to the Left and that cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, and takes hikes would be disastrous for his state’s economy. Scott Brown was able to make a similar argument against an opponent who similarly was not burdened by a congressional voting record in favor of the Obama agenda.

How much more effective will that argument be against Democratic incumbents like Bayh who are burdened not only by the “D” next to their name but also a voting record that fits the Republicans’ narrative? Incumbents like Bayh have a choice: start voting against the liberal agenda or hope voters lose their antipathy to the Reid-Pelosi-Obama agenda. The latter sounds like wishful thinking; the former will require a quick about-face. You can see why the Bayh seat and those of many other Democrats are now in play.

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Democrats Seek Distance from Obama

The Associated Press is the latest to discover the potential for a Republican takeover of Congress:

Almost by the day, Republicans are sensing fresh opportunities to pick up ground. Just Wednesday, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats announced he would try to reclaim his old seat from Democrat Evan Bayh, who barely a year ago had been a finalist to be Barack Obama’s running mate. And Republicans nationwide are still celebrating Scott Brown’s January upset to take Edward Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts.

A Republican takeover on Capitol Hill is still a long shot. But strategists in both parties now see at least narrow paths by which the GOP could win the House and, if the troubled environment for Democrats deteriorates further, possibly even the Senate.

The AP is a little less candid about the reasons, however. You see, it’s “the persistent 10 percent unemployment rate, the country’s bitterness over Wall Street bailouts and voters’ anti-Washington fervor. Obama’s party, controlling both the White House and Congress, is likely to feel that fury the most. And it’s defending far more seats than the Republicans.” But why, then, is the generic congressional polling number tilting in the Republicans’ favor, a historic anomaly? Could it have something to do with what the Democrats have done in the last year? Read More

The Associated Press is the latest to discover the potential for a Republican takeover of Congress:

Almost by the day, Republicans are sensing fresh opportunities to pick up ground. Just Wednesday, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats announced he would try to reclaim his old seat from Democrat Evan Bayh, who barely a year ago had been a finalist to be Barack Obama’s running mate. And Republicans nationwide are still celebrating Scott Brown’s January upset to take Edward Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts.

A Republican takeover on Capitol Hill is still a long shot. But strategists in both parties now see at least narrow paths by which the GOP could win the House and, if the troubled environment for Democrats deteriorates further, possibly even the Senate.

The AP is a little less candid about the reasons, however. You see, it’s “the persistent 10 percent unemployment rate, the country’s bitterness over Wall Street bailouts and voters’ anti-Washington fervor. Obama’s party, controlling both the White House and Congress, is likely to feel that fury the most. And it’s defending far more seats than the Republicans.” But why, then, is the generic congressional polling number tilting in the Republicans’ favor, a historic anomaly? Could it have something to do with what the Democrats have done in the last year?

Well those incumbent Democrats struggling for their political lives don’t seem to be so confused. We’ve seen a steady drumbeat of criticism from Democrats on Obama’s anti-terrorism policies. We see that Democratic lawmakers are flexing their muscles, trying to put some daylight between themselves and the Obama-Reid-Pelosi ultra-liberal domestic agenda as well. As this report notes:

A Democratic Senate candidate in Missouri denounced the budget’s sky-high deficit. A Florida Democrat whose congressional district includes the Kennedy Space Center hit the roof over NASA budget cuts. And a headline on the 2010 campaign website of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) blares her opposition to Obama’s farm budget: “Blanche stands up for Arkansas farm families.”

And at least in the days following Scott Brown’s win, we heard a raft of Democrats suggest that maybe now it was time to move on from health-care reform to something voters actually like, maybe some pro-job measures.

The tension between the Reid-Pelosi-Obama trio, fueled by ideological determination and the fear of offending their base, and those Democrats who think that a good deal of the problem they face stems from the very agenda set out by Reid-Pelosi-Obama will, I suspect, increase throughout the year. Obama wants to “punch through” on health care; Red State Democrats want to run for their lives. Obama is touting a massive budget; Sen. Kent Conrad is already throwing cold water on it. And so it will go. The more the leadership pushes to the Left, the greater the risk for those members nervously watching the polls. And the result may well be legislative gridlock. But if the alternative is more big-government power grabs, that might not be a bad thing for at-risk Democrats.

Moreover, there is a growing realization among Democrats that the White House is vamping it — that it lacks a plan to achieve much of anything. The Hill reports that after the TV cameras left, the Democratic senators pounced on the White House aides:

Democrats expressed their frustration with the lack of a clear plan for passing healthcare reform, according to one person in the room. One Democratic senator even grew heated in his remarks, according to the source. “It wasn’t a discussion about how to get from Point A to Point B; it was a discussion about the lack of a plan to get from Point A to Point B,” said a person who attended the meeting. “Many of the members were frustrated, but one person really expressed his frustration.” Senators did not want to press Obama on healthcare reform in front of television cameras for fear of putting him in an awkward spot. “There was a vigorous discussion about that afterward with some of his top advisers and others,” Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said regarding the healthcare discussion.

Not unlike the debacle in Copenhagen (the first one mostly, but really both), the Democrats are coming to see that the White House lacks a game plan. It is not merely ideologically out of step with the country; it is also incapable of governing, and of leading the party. And that will make already skittish incumbents more likely to make their own political judgments, quite apart from whatever suggestions Obama doles out.

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