Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democratic candidate

Obama Hides from Giannoulias

Obama isn’t about to waste political capital on Tony Rezko’s banker. That’s the gist of this report:

Sen. Dick Durbin slipped into the West Wing last week to ask Rahm Emanuel for White House help in saving Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. But he didn’t leave with any ironclad commitments. Durbin told Emanuel that Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias could use some serious presidential intervention in his uphill race against Republican Rep. Mark Kirk. At the moment, the White House seems open to the idea of losing Obama’s old seat rather than putting the president’s prestige on the line for Giannoulias, the brash and boyish Illinois state treasurer — and onetime Obama basketball buddy — whose campaign has been rocked by the financial meltdown of his family’s bank.

There are good reasons for Obama’s reticence. For starters, Obama has enough sticky connections to the Illinois corruption racket, so he’s wise to stay away from his former hometown. It seems he might, in fact, have had a conversation with the former governor about that Senate seat and another with a union official to relay his preferences to Blago. (If true, this is at odds with what Obama and his “internal review” related to the public when the Blago story first broke.) Blago’s lawyers are now trying to drag the president in to testify in Blago’s case — which will be going to trial this fall. Yikes!

Moreover, Giannoulias is in deep trouble, and it’s far from certain that Obama can help him. After all, he didn’t help Martha Coakley, Creigh Deeds, or Jon Corzine. Coming up short in his own state would prove embarrassing and tend to confirm that he lacks political mojo. Sometimes it’s better to just stay home.

It’s remarkable that a year and a half after Obama celebrated his victory before a throng in Grant Park, he needs to hide from the Democratic candidate seeking to fill his old Senate seat. That’s as much a comment on the shortcomings of Giannoulias as it is on those of Obama.

Obama isn’t about to waste political capital on Tony Rezko’s banker. That’s the gist of this report:

Sen. Dick Durbin slipped into the West Wing last week to ask Rahm Emanuel for White House help in saving Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. But he didn’t leave with any ironclad commitments. Durbin told Emanuel that Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias could use some serious presidential intervention in his uphill race against Republican Rep. Mark Kirk. At the moment, the White House seems open to the idea of losing Obama’s old seat rather than putting the president’s prestige on the line for Giannoulias, the brash and boyish Illinois state treasurer — and onetime Obama basketball buddy — whose campaign has been rocked by the financial meltdown of his family’s bank.

There are good reasons for Obama’s reticence. For starters, Obama has enough sticky connections to the Illinois corruption racket, so he’s wise to stay away from his former hometown. It seems he might, in fact, have had a conversation with the former governor about that Senate seat and another with a union official to relay his preferences to Blago. (If true, this is at odds with what Obama and his “internal review” related to the public when the Blago story first broke.) Blago’s lawyers are now trying to drag the president in to testify in Blago’s case — which will be going to trial this fall. Yikes!

Moreover, Giannoulias is in deep trouble, and it’s far from certain that Obama can help him. After all, he didn’t help Martha Coakley, Creigh Deeds, or Jon Corzine. Coming up short in his own state would prove embarrassing and tend to confirm that he lacks political mojo. Sometimes it’s better to just stay home.

It’s remarkable that a year and a half after Obama celebrated his victory before a throng in Grant Park, he needs to hide from the Democratic candidate seeking to fill his old Senate seat. That’s as much a comment on the shortcomings of Giannoulias as it is on those of Obama.

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Competitive California

Even in California, Republicans are surging in the polls. A new Public Policy Institute of California survey shows Meg Whitman crushing her primary opponent in the gubernatorial race and now leading Democratic candidate Jerry Brown by a 44 to 39 percent margin. The surprise is in the Senate race, where Carly Fiorina has shot up in the polls and now edges out Tom Campbell: “The Republican primary race for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat has tightened since January, when Tom Campbell led both Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore among Republican likely voters (27% Campbell, 16% Fiorina, 8% DeVore). Today, Campbell and Fiorina are in a close race (24% Fiorina, 23% Campbell), and DeVore’s level of support is unchanged (8%).” In short, Fiorina is up eight and Campbell down four since the poll’s January survey. And in the general election matchup, Barbara Boxer is in a one-point race with both Campbell and Fiorina.

It’s perhaps not surprising that Campbell’s lead has vanished. Part of that advantage was name recognition, since  Campbell has been a familiar figure in California politics for over a decade. But Fiorina has had a good run — wacky, high-profile ads, a strong showing at the California Republican convention, and pounding away at Campbell’s tax record. And then there is the Israel issue. Given the focus over the past two weeks on the president’s Israel-bashing, pro-Israel voters have every reason to be concerned that Campbell seems to be rather sympathetic to the Obami approach to Israel. (Campbell previously voted against resolutions confirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and voiced support for it as the capital of both a Jewish and a Palestinian state.)

But the real shocker here is Boxer’s vulnerability. This is not the only poll to show that the race is in a virtual dead heat. It is perhaps indicative of a strong anti-incumbent sentiment that is sweeping the country. The pollsters tell us:

[T]he state legislature’s approval rating among likely voters has sunk to single digits—9 percent. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s record-low approval rating of 25 percent hovers near Governor Gray Davis’ lowest level before recall (21% in June 2003). Likely voters give their own state legislators a 27-percent rating, close to the record-low 25 percent last December. Congress gets an approval rating of 14 percent—a 15-point drop since January (29%)—from likely voters in the survey, which was taken during the heated debate about health care reform. Asked to rate the performance of their own representative in the U.S. House, likely voters are more favorable: 44 percent approve. But this is a record low. President Obama fares better, but his approval rating has also dipped to a new low of 52 percent.

Well, if Massachusetts can supply a wake-up call to Washington — which was promptly ignored — so can California. And soon, I suspect, we’ll see pollsters move the Senate race from “leans Democratic” to “toss up.” What’s next — Wisconsin? Uh, yup.

Even in California, Republicans are surging in the polls. A new Public Policy Institute of California survey shows Meg Whitman crushing her primary opponent in the gubernatorial race and now leading Democratic candidate Jerry Brown by a 44 to 39 percent margin. The surprise is in the Senate race, where Carly Fiorina has shot up in the polls and now edges out Tom Campbell: “The Republican primary race for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat has tightened since January, when Tom Campbell led both Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore among Republican likely voters (27% Campbell, 16% Fiorina, 8% DeVore). Today, Campbell and Fiorina are in a close race (24% Fiorina, 23% Campbell), and DeVore’s level of support is unchanged (8%).” In short, Fiorina is up eight and Campbell down four since the poll’s January survey. And in the general election matchup, Barbara Boxer is in a one-point race with both Campbell and Fiorina.

It’s perhaps not surprising that Campbell’s lead has vanished. Part of that advantage was name recognition, since  Campbell has been a familiar figure in California politics for over a decade. But Fiorina has had a good run — wacky, high-profile ads, a strong showing at the California Republican convention, and pounding away at Campbell’s tax record. And then there is the Israel issue. Given the focus over the past two weeks on the president’s Israel-bashing, pro-Israel voters have every reason to be concerned that Campbell seems to be rather sympathetic to the Obami approach to Israel. (Campbell previously voted against resolutions confirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and voiced support for it as the capital of both a Jewish and a Palestinian state.)

But the real shocker here is Boxer’s vulnerability. This is not the only poll to show that the race is in a virtual dead heat. It is perhaps indicative of a strong anti-incumbent sentiment that is sweeping the country. The pollsters tell us:

[T]he state legislature’s approval rating among likely voters has sunk to single digits—9 percent. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s record-low approval rating of 25 percent hovers near Governor Gray Davis’ lowest level before recall (21% in June 2003). Likely voters give their own state legislators a 27-percent rating, close to the record-low 25 percent last December. Congress gets an approval rating of 14 percent—a 15-point drop since January (29%)—from likely voters in the survey, which was taken during the heated debate about health care reform. Asked to rate the performance of their own representative in the U.S. House, likely voters are more favorable: 44 percent approve. But this is a record low. President Obama fares better, but his approval rating has also dipped to a new low of 52 percent.

Well, if Massachusetts can supply a wake-up call to Washington — which was promptly ignored — so can California. And soon, I suspect, we’ll see pollsters move the Senate race from “leans Democratic” to “toss up.” What’s next — Wisconsin? Uh, yup.

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Scott Brown’s Victory — a Curious Interpretation

According to Obama’s aide David Axelrod, here is the deeper, almost metaphysical meaning of the Massachusetts Senate race:

“It’s an analogy I used the other day,” Axelrod said. “I always believed in the presidential race they just didn’t want to shut the race down because they liked Obama, they thought he had potential. But he was new. He was four years out of the State Senate and they weren’t prepared to hand him an early knockout. They wanted him to go through the entire battle, and they wanted to judge him based on how he performed on that long hard road.

“And actually, with Massachusetts, I think people wanted to see this debate go on for a while and they wanted to see our suppositions tested and retested. But what Massachusetts did at the end of the day was that it persuaded people on our side of the fight not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. And it really rallied our base behind the president’s proposal.”

If Mr. Axelrod believes this, he must suffer from an almost clinical case of delusion. (Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Please report to duty.)

The notion that the public rejected the Democratic candidate in a Senate race in Massachusetts for a Republican who ran against ObamaCare, simply in order to see how Obama performed on “that long hard road,” is rather silly and adolescent. (It is also condescending to voters, who aren’t terribly interested in being part of some kind of manufactured, Axelrod-directed drama.)

David Axelrod is forcing prosaic political events into some kind of romantic notion about Obama that is detached from reality. But I suppose such things might be expected from a group that has perpetrated a cult-of-personality around Obama and who referred to him during the campaign as a “Black Jesus.” Still, it’s weird.

It will be interesting, and in some respects amusing, to see how Axelrod interprets the results of the mid-term election, which might well inflict enormous damage on the Democratic Party. If it happens, it will undoubtedly be seen as yet one more great trial in the great life and times of liberalism’s political Messiah.

According to Obama’s aide David Axelrod, here is the deeper, almost metaphysical meaning of the Massachusetts Senate race:

“It’s an analogy I used the other day,” Axelrod said. “I always believed in the presidential race they just didn’t want to shut the race down because they liked Obama, they thought he had potential. But he was new. He was four years out of the State Senate and they weren’t prepared to hand him an early knockout. They wanted him to go through the entire battle, and they wanted to judge him based on how he performed on that long hard road.

“And actually, with Massachusetts, I think people wanted to see this debate go on for a while and they wanted to see our suppositions tested and retested. But what Massachusetts did at the end of the day was that it persuaded people on our side of the fight not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. And it really rallied our base behind the president’s proposal.”

If Mr. Axelrod believes this, he must suffer from an almost clinical case of delusion. (Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Please report to duty.)

The notion that the public rejected the Democratic candidate in a Senate race in Massachusetts for a Republican who ran against ObamaCare, simply in order to see how Obama performed on “that long hard road,” is rather silly and adolescent. (It is also condescending to voters, who aren’t terribly interested in being part of some kind of manufactured, Axelrod-directed drama.)

David Axelrod is forcing prosaic political events into some kind of romantic notion about Obama that is detached from reality. But I suppose such things might be expected from a group that has perpetrated a cult-of-personality around Obama and who referred to him during the campaign as a “Black Jesus.” Still, it’s weird.

It will be interesting, and in some respects amusing, to see how Axelrod interprets the results of the mid-term election, which might well inflict enormous damage on the Democratic Party. If it happens, it will undoubtedly be seen as yet one more great trial in the great life and times of liberalism’s political Messiah.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What does French President Nicolas Sarakozy really think of Obama? “Obama has been in power for a year, and he has already lost three special elections. Me, I have won two legislative elections and the EU election. What can one say I’ve lost?” And as relayed by an adviser, Sarko seems to think Obama is “a charmer, a conciliator, but I am not sure that he’s a strong leader.”

Jamie Fly reports that his Israeli cabbie similarly told him: “‘With him, everything is opposite’ of what it should be and scoffed about his Nobel Peace Prize (given that he had done nothing actually to achieve peace).”

On the jobs number: “The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly declined in January, but the economy continued to shed jobs and revisions painted a bleaker picture for 2009, casting doubt over the labor market’s strength.The unemployment rate, calculated using a household survey, fell to 9.7% last month from an unrevised 10% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast the jobless rate would edge higher to 10.1%. Meantime, non-farm payrolls fell by 20,000 compared with a revised 150,000 decline in December.”

Here’s one way of looking at it: “‘Things are getting bad less rapidly,’ said Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. ‘We’re sort of hitting bottom, but there is no evidence of a robust turnaround.’”

And when the 1.1 million of “discouraged job seekers” return to the workforce? “Many economists expect the jobless rate to creep higher in the months ahead as workers who had given up looking for a job out of frustration return to the labor force.” Bottom line: 15 million Americans are unemployed.

What’s the matter with Harry? “Harry Reid may soon have one more Republican opponent in Nevada’s race for the U.S. Senate, and his numbers remain in troublesome territory for an incumbent. Reid, like a number of Democratic Senate incumbents, appears to be suffering from voter unhappiness over the national health care plan and the continuing bad state of the economy.”

You can’t say Illinois politics isn’t colorful: “The Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias is trailing Republican Mark Kirk in opinion polls ahead of November’s election in which Republicans are aiming to erase Democratic majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. . . . Republicans are spotlighting the soured real estate portfolio at the Giannoulias family’s Broadway Bank, including loans to Michael ‘Jaws’ Giorango, a convicted prostitution ring operator. Broadway Bank was recently ordered by government regulators to raise additional capital — after Giannoulias received his share of $70 million in proceeds following his father’s death.”

What a difference a year makes: “There were seven states that Barack Obama won where his approval has slipped below 56%. Three of them are pretty darn predictable — North Carolina, Indiana, and Ohio — all of which saw extremely close races in 2008. Another three of them though are Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada which Obama won by commanding margins of anywhere from 9-15 points. . . . The seventh state Obama won where he’s under 56% is New Hampshire, which may help to explain why Paul Hodes is having so much trouble.”

Speculation is starting already as to whether Obama will dump Joe Biden in 2012.

It seems as though “activists and liberal Mideast policy groups” don’t like the idea of Rep. Mark Kirk getting to the U.S. Senate, given his pro-Israel voting record.” You can understand that these groups wouldn’t want someone who was the “driving force behind a host of legislative efforts to sanction Iran (he’s the founder of of the Iran Working Group),” a vocal critic of the UN, and an opponent of Chas Freeman.

What does French President Nicolas Sarakozy really think of Obama? “Obama has been in power for a year, and he has already lost three special elections. Me, I have won two legislative elections and the EU election. What can one say I’ve lost?” And as relayed by an adviser, Sarko seems to think Obama is “a charmer, a conciliator, but I am not sure that he’s a strong leader.”

Jamie Fly reports that his Israeli cabbie similarly told him: “‘With him, everything is opposite’ of what it should be and scoffed about his Nobel Peace Prize (given that he had done nothing actually to achieve peace).”

On the jobs number: “The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly declined in January, but the economy continued to shed jobs and revisions painted a bleaker picture for 2009, casting doubt over the labor market’s strength.The unemployment rate, calculated using a household survey, fell to 9.7% last month from an unrevised 10% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast the jobless rate would edge higher to 10.1%. Meantime, non-farm payrolls fell by 20,000 compared with a revised 150,000 decline in December.”

Here’s one way of looking at it: “‘Things are getting bad less rapidly,’ said Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. ‘We’re sort of hitting bottom, but there is no evidence of a robust turnaround.’”

And when the 1.1 million of “discouraged job seekers” return to the workforce? “Many economists expect the jobless rate to creep higher in the months ahead as workers who had given up looking for a job out of frustration return to the labor force.” Bottom line: 15 million Americans are unemployed.

What’s the matter with Harry? “Harry Reid may soon have one more Republican opponent in Nevada’s race for the U.S. Senate, and his numbers remain in troublesome territory for an incumbent. Reid, like a number of Democratic Senate incumbents, appears to be suffering from voter unhappiness over the national health care plan and the continuing bad state of the economy.”

You can’t say Illinois politics isn’t colorful: “The Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias is trailing Republican Mark Kirk in opinion polls ahead of November’s election in which Republicans are aiming to erase Democratic majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. . . . Republicans are spotlighting the soured real estate portfolio at the Giannoulias family’s Broadway Bank, including loans to Michael ‘Jaws’ Giorango, a convicted prostitution ring operator. Broadway Bank was recently ordered by government regulators to raise additional capital — after Giannoulias received his share of $70 million in proceeds following his father’s death.”

What a difference a year makes: “There were seven states that Barack Obama won where his approval has slipped below 56%. Three of them are pretty darn predictable — North Carolina, Indiana, and Ohio — all of which saw extremely close races in 2008. Another three of them though are Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada which Obama won by commanding margins of anywhere from 9-15 points. . . . The seventh state Obama won where he’s under 56% is New Hampshire, which may help to explain why Paul Hodes is having so much trouble.”

Speculation is starting already as to whether Obama will dump Joe Biden in 2012.

It seems as though “activists and liberal Mideast policy groups” don’t like the idea of Rep. Mark Kirk getting to the U.S. Senate, given his pro-Israel voting record.” You can understand that these groups wouldn’t want someone who was the “driving force behind a host of legislative efforts to sanction Iran (he’s the founder of of the Iran Working Group),” a vocal critic of the UN, and an opponent of Chas Freeman.

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Ballot Box Poison?

Like Katherine Hepburn, once dubbed “box office poison” by aggrieved theater owners after a string of flops, Obama is quickly earning a toxic reputation among his fellow Democrats at the ballot box. To fully appreciate the Democrats’ dilemma, take a look at John Judis’s collection of graphs. In Missouri the Democratic candidate Robin Carnahan is taking a nose dive; Obama’s approval rating in the state is too. Same story in Colorado with Democratic senator Michael Bennet. Obama’s approval rating there is now in negative territory. Ditto in the Ohio gubernatorial race and the Pennsylvania senate contest. (A new poll out today shows Republican Pat Toomey grabbing double-digit leads against both Democratic contenders.) And the shift to Republicans in generic congressional polling — an historic anomaly — shows just how widespread and intense is the pall that Obama has cast over his party.

The bottom line, says Judis, is that “viewed as a whole, they present a picture of a national decline in public support for Democratic politics and for the Obama administration radiating outward from Washington and threatening Democratic candidates in states that Democrats must generally win to carry national elections.”

It is no wonder that the Democrats are worried. This president feels compelled to be everywhere. And now he’s a danger to each and every incumbent. What can Democrats do? (Like the movie-studio contract players of old, Obama can’t be dumped until his “deal” runs out.) They can hope Obama regains his footing. They can try to run from him, at the risk of alienating their own liberal base who thinks the problem is insufficient tenacity in the pursuit of grossly unpopular policies.

There is no great answer for the many vulnerable Democrats who voted for his now discredited initiatives, as there was none for many Republicans on the ballot in 2006. They too had nowhere to hide as an unpopular war and corruption scandals dragged them under. The more tenacious of them figured out how to buck their party hierarchy and confess the errors of their party. But until national circumstances change or a new president (or new agenda) appears, those members of the president’s party on the ballot (even at the state and local level) get hit hard when the White House falters. And they really get hit hard when the economy is in a bad shape and there’s really nobody to hold accountable other than those who hold all the levers of power.

Like Katherine Hepburn, once dubbed “box office poison” by aggrieved theater owners after a string of flops, Obama is quickly earning a toxic reputation among his fellow Democrats at the ballot box. To fully appreciate the Democrats’ dilemma, take a look at John Judis’s collection of graphs. In Missouri the Democratic candidate Robin Carnahan is taking a nose dive; Obama’s approval rating in the state is too. Same story in Colorado with Democratic senator Michael Bennet. Obama’s approval rating there is now in negative territory. Ditto in the Ohio gubernatorial race and the Pennsylvania senate contest. (A new poll out today shows Republican Pat Toomey grabbing double-digit leads against both Democratic contenders.) And the shift to Republicans in generic congressional polling — an historic anomaly — shows just how widespread and intense is the pall that Obama has cast over his party.

The bottom line, says Judis, is that “viewed as a whole, they present a picture of a national decline in public support for Democratic politics and for the Obama administration radiating outward from Washington and threatening Democratic candidates in states that Democrats must generally win to carry national elections.”

It is no wonder that the Democrats are worried. This president feels compelled to be everywhere. And now he’s a danger to each and every incumbent. What can Democrats do? (Like the movie-studio contract players of old, Obama can’t be dumped until his “deal” runs out.) They can hope Obama regains his footing. They can try to run from him, at the risk of alienating their own liberal base who thinks the problem is insufficient tenacity in the pursuit of grossly unpopular policies.

There is no great answer for the many vulnerable Democrats who voted for his now discredited initiatives, as there was none for many Republicans on the ballot in 2006. They too had nowhere to hide as an unpopular war and corruption scandals dragged them under. The more tenacious of them figured out how to buck their party hierarchy and confess the errors of their party. But until national circumstances change or a new president (or new agenda) appears, those members of the president’s party on the ballot (even at the state and local level) get hit hard when the White House falters. And they really get hit hard when the economy is in a bad shape and there’s really nobody to hold accountable other than those who hold all the levers of power.

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The Engine of Spending

As Jennifer referred to this morning, Andy Stern, the head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is not happy with the idea of scaling back health-care “reform.” It is not exactly hard to see why Stern is upset. He represents over one million health-care workers. He also represents over a million government workers and a government takeover of health care is very much in his interest.

Andy Stern and the SEIU are the exemplars of the modern union movement, as the old union movement, personified by Walter Reuther and John L. Lewis, that was so influential in the mid-20th century is a shadow of its former self. Union membership peaked in the early 1950′s at about 35 percent of the nation’s workforce, virtually all of them in the private sector. It’s been declining ever since and is now at 7.2 percent of the workforce in the private sector, about where it was in 1900. What has been growing is union membership among government workers and non-profits such as hospitals: 37.4 percent of the public sector workforce is now unionized and these public-sector workers now constitute more than 50 percent of all union members.

As Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal made clear on Thursday, this is a very dangerous situation. The public service unions have acquired disproportionate political influence, pouring millions in dues money (more than $100 million in 2008) into political campaigns to elect Democrats, the party of government. They pour millions more into ads opposing any reform in government spending, even in states on the brink of bankruptcy, and pushing for higher taxes instead. In Massachusetts public safety spending is up by 139 percent in the last twenty years, education up by 44 percent, Medicaid up by 163 percent.

A big part of the problem is that the laws in place that cover collective bargaining were devised in the 1930′s when public-sector unions didn’t exist. A corporation is a wealth-creation machine and collective bargaining is a negotiation over how to divide the profits between stockholders and labor. Each side knows that if they drive too hard a bargain, they will injure the goose that lays the profit eggs. If labor is paid too much, the company will be less competitive. If it is paid too little, good workers will leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere. But in the public sector, unions and the bureaucrats who negotiate with them are playing with someone else’s money (yours, to be precise), and have overlapping interests in spending more of it. Bureaucrats, after all, measure their prestige by the size of the budget they control and the number of people who report to them.

The result has been an explosion in public-sector compensation. Federal workers now earn, in wages and benefits, about twice what their private-sector equivalents get paid. State workers often have Cadillac health plans and retirement benefits far above the private sector average: 80 percent of public-sector workers have pension benefits, only 50 percent in the private sector. Many can retire at age 50.

The public-sector unions have become the engine behind ballooning state and federal budgets. There will be no cure for excess government spending until their power is decisively curbed. It would be a winning issue for a Republican presidential candidate in 2012. The Democratic candidate, deeply beholden to Andy Stern, who has visited the White House more than anyone else not in government since Obama has been in office, will be very hard pressed to defend against such an attack but will have no option but to try.

As Jennifer referred to this morning, Andy Stern, the head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is not happy with the idea of scaling back health-care “reform.” It is not exactly hard to see why Stern is upset. He represents over one million health-care workers. He also represents over a million government workers and a government takeover of health care is very much in his interest.

Andy Stern and the SEIU are the exemplars of the modern union movement, as the old union movement, personified by Walter Reuther and John L. Lewis, that was so influential in the mid-20th century is a shadow of its former self. Union membership peaked in the early 1950′s at about 35 percent of the nation’s workforce, virtually all of them in the private sector. It’s been declining ever since and is now at 7.2 percent of the workforce in the private sector, about where it was in 1900. What has been growing is union membership among government workers and non-profits such as hospitals: 37.4 percent of the public sector workforce is now unionized and these public-sector workers now constitute more than 50 percent of all union members.

As Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal made clear on Thursday, this is a very dangerous situation. The public service unions have acquired disproportionate political influence, pouring millions in dues money (more than $100 million in 2008) into political campaigns to elect Democrats, the party of government. They pour millions more into ads opposing any reform in government spending, even in states on the brink of bankruptcy, and pushing for higher taxes instead. In Massachusetts public safety spending is up by 139 percent in the last twenty years, education up by 44 percent, Medicaid up by 163 percent.

A big part of the problem is that the laws in place that cover collective bargaining were devised in the 1930′s when public-sector unions didn’t exist. A corporation is a wealth-creation machine and collective bargaining is a negotiation over how to divide the profits between stockholders and labor. Each side knows that if they drive too hard a bargain, they will injure the goose that lays the profit eggs. If labor is paid too much, the company will be less competitive. If it is paid too little, good workers will leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere. But in the public sector, unions and the bureaucrats who negotiate with them are playing with someone else’s money (yours, to be precise), and have overlapping interests in spending more of it. Bureaucrats, after all, measure their prestige by the size of the budget they control and the number of people who report to them.

The result has been an explosion in public-sector compensation. Federal workers now earn, in wages and benefits, about twice what their private-sector equivalents get paid. State workers often have Cadillac health plans and retirement benefits far above the private sector average: 80 percent of public-sector workers have pension benefits, only 50 percent in the private sector. Many can retire at age 50.

The public-sector unions have become the engine behind ballooning state and federal budgets. There will be no cure for excess government spending until their power is decisively curbed. It would be a winning issue for a Republican presidential candidate in 2012. The Democratic candidate, deeply beholden to Andy Stern, who has visited the White House more than anyone else not in government since Obama has been in office, will be very hard pressed to defend against such an attack but will have no option but to try.

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Brown in the Lead?

A new poll shows Scott Brown up by 4 points in Massachusetts. The Boston Herald reports:

Although Brown’s 4-point lead over Democrat Martha Coakley is within the Suffolk University/7News survey’s margin of error, the underdog’s position at the top of the results stunned even pollster David Paleologos. “It’s a Brown-out,” said Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center. “It’s a massive change in the political landscape.” …

Paleologos said bellweather [sic] models show high numbers of independent voters turning out on election day, which benefits Brown, who has 65 percent of that bloc compared to Coakley’s 30 percent. Kennedy earns just 3 percent of the independent vote, and 1 percent are undecided.

Is the poll an outlier or simply the first to pick up that Brown has moved into the lead? Well, that’s why polling gurus like Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg call it a “toss-up.” Think about that: there is no longer a clear advantage in Massachusetts for the Democrat.

Chalk it up to a weak Democratic candidate or to a lame campaign. Blame the Democrats for arrogance in assuming that this was a safe seat. But frankly, who could have blamed them? In September, Coakley was ahead in the polls by 30 points.

Since then, however, something has fundamentally changed. Since September, the country has witnessed the visible battle over ObamaCare — late-night votes, Cash for Cloture deals, and a bill that offends a wide array of groups. Democrats have never looked up or paused to consider the public’s views on the matter. They tell us they will “sell it” to us later. That arrogant defiance of public opinion and the unseemly legislative process that produced a grossly unpopular bill have fueled a resurgence of anger and determination among conservatives and even usually apathetic independents. They now are anxious to send a message to Washington: stop ignoring the voters. We saw it in New Jersey and Virginia. Now we learn that even Massachusetts may not be immune.

The Democrats’ agenda, specifically a hugely unpopular health-care bill, has unified and energized not the proponents of big government but the opposition, which now is itching for the chance to exact revenge. We’ll see on Tuesday if that wave of resentment is so powerful as to extend even to a state so Blue that a little over a year ago, Obama carried it by more than 25 points. My how things change.

A new poll shows Scott Brown up by 4 points in Massachusetts. The Boston Herald reports:

Although Brown’s 4-point lead over Democrat Martha Coakley is within the Suffolk University/7News survey’s margin of error, the underdog’s position at the top of the results stunned even pollster David Paleologos. “It’s a Brown-out,” said Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center. “It’s a massive change in the political landscape.” …

Paleologos said bellweather [sic] models show high numbers of independent voters turning out on election day, which benefits Brown, who has 65 percent of that bloc compared to Coakley’s 30 percent. Kennedy earns just 3 percent of the independent vote, and 1 percent are undecided.

Is the poll an outlier or simply the first to pick up that Brown has moved into the lead? Well, that’s why polling gurus like Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg call it a “toss-up.” Think about that: there is no longer a clear advantage in Massachusetts for the Democrat.

Chalk it up to a weak Democratic candidate or to a lame campaign. Blame the Democrats for arrogance in assuming that this was a safe seat. But frankly, who could have blamed them? In September, Coakley was ahead in the polls by 30 points.

Since then, however, something has fundamentally changed. Since September, the country has witnessed the visible battle over ObamaCare — late-night votes, Cash for Cloture deals, and a bill that offends a wide array of groups. Democrats have never looked up or paused to consider the public’s views on the matter. They tell us they will “sell it” to us later. That arrogant defiance of public opinion and the unseemly legislative process that produced a grossly unpopular bill have fueled a resurgence of anger and determination among conservatives and even usually apathetic independents. They now are anxious to send a message to Washington: stop ignoring the voters. We saw it in New Jersey and Virginia. Now we learn that even Massachusetts may not be immune.

The Democrats’ agenda, specifically a hugely unpopular health-care bill, has unified and energized not the proponents of big government but the opposition, which now is itching for the chance to exact revenge. We’ll see on Tuesday if that wave of resentment is so powerful as to extend even to a state so Blue that a little over a year ago, Obama carried it by more than 25 points. My how things change.

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A Whiff of Desperation in Massachusetts

Byron York relates this amusing account of the latest pull-out-all-the-stops frantic effort by Democrats in Massachusetts:

Frantic over the possibility that a Democrat might lose the race to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, the Democratic National Committee has sent its top spinner, Hari Sevugan, to the aid of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, who appears to be rapidly losing ground to Republican Scott Brown. But what can Sevugan do to shore up Coakley’s struggling campaign? Well, he spent his first day on the job trying to tie Brown to Sarah Palin.

Early Monday afternoon, Sevugan sent out an email to reporters featuring a link to a story on the lefty website TPM. The headline: “Is Sarah Palin Avoiding Mass Senate Race?” The story quoted a Democratic strategist saying that “it’s interesting” that Palin is “nowhere to be found in this race.” TPM conceded that GOP sources say there has been “no talk” about Palin visiting Massachusetts. But that didn’t stop Sevugan, who is quoted declaring that Palin’s supporters “are anxious for her to weigh in.” At the top of his email to journalists, Sevugan wrote, “Come on, Sarah, why are you being so shy?”

And that was just the beginning, it seems, of Sevugan’s “scare the voters with Sarah” e-mails. So what does this tells us? Perhaps that the race is in fact much closer than Democrats, already smarting from a run of bad news, can take. Maybe that they’re reduced to high school tactics because the party, a mere year into the presidency of the man who was to revolutionize politics, is mired is sleazy old-school politics and is largely bereft of ideas other than “spend more money and raise taxes.” It might also signify that George W. Bush is about to be replaced by Palin as the Left’s favorite bogey-person. Not that the Left isn’t planning on running against the “Bush economy” this November, but when they need to go to the well to force their netroots off their couches and out of their moms’ basements, Bush may be losing his usefulness.

Now there’s good reason for Democrats not to talk about issues. In the debate, Martha Coakley managed a “Poland is not controlled by the Soviet Union” gaffe. It concerned her opposition to the surge in Afghanistan:

I am not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was and the vision in Afghanistan was to go in because we believe the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists, we supported that, I supported that goal. They are gone, they are not there anymore, they are in apparently Yemen and Pakistan. Let’s focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is.

I think even Joe Biden knows there are al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, and of course the president supports the surge. But if the goal is to maximize the ultra-Left vote, then I suppose this, too, will get a few netroots off the couch and to the polls.  But then again, conservatives and independents who think the Christmas Day bombing was a wake-up call to get serious about the worldwide threat of Islamic fundamentalists might be charged up too.

We’ll know next week if Coakley’s cynical campaign can stumble across the finish line. If she manages to win by the standard double-digit margin in Massachusetts, all this will fade into memory. If not, Democrats will be in high panic, although it at least might get Harry Reid off the front pages.

Byron York relates this amusing account of the latest pull-out-all-the-stops frantic effort by Democrats in Massachusetts:

Frantic over the possibility that a Democrat might lose the race to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, the Democratic National Committee has sent its top spinner, Hari Sevugan, to the aid of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, who appears to be rapidly losing ground to Republican Scott Brown. But what can Sevugan do to shore up Coakley’s struggling campaign? Well, he spent his first day on the job trying to tie Brown to Sarah Palin.

Early Monday afternoon, Sevugan sent out an email to reporters featuring a link to a story on the lefty website TPM. The headline: “Is Sarah Palin Avoiding Mass Senate Race?” The story quoted a Democratic strategist saying that “it’s interesting” that Palin is “nowhere to be found in this race.” TPM conceded that GOP sources say there has been “no talk” about Palin visiting Massachusetts. But that didn’t stop Sevugan, who is quoted declaring that Palin’s supporters “are anxious for her to weigh in.” At the top of his email to journalists, Sevugan wrote, “Come on, Sarah, why are you being so shy?”

And that was just the beginning, it seems, of Sevugan’s “scare the voters with Sarah” e-mails. So what does this tells us? Perhaps that the race is in fact much closer than Democrats, already smarting from a run of bad news, can take. Maybe that they’re reduced to high school tactics because the party, a mere year into the presidency of the man who was to revolutionize politics, is mired is sleazy old-school politics and is largely bereft of ideas other than “spend more money and raise taxes.” It might also signify that George W. Bush is about to be replaced by Palin as the Left’s favorite bogey-person. Not that the Left isn’t planning on running against the “Bush economy” this November, but when they need to go to the well to force their netroots off their couches and out of their moms’ basements, Bush may be losing his usefulness.

Now there’s good reason for Democrats not to talk about issues. In the debate, Martha Coakley managed a “Poland is not controlled by the Soviet Union” gaffe. It concerned her opposition to the surge in Afghanistan:

I am not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was and the vision in Afghanistan was to go in because we believe the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists, we supported that, I supported that goal. They are gone, they are not there anymore, they are in apparently Yemen and Pakistan. Let’s focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is.

I think even Joe Biden knows there are al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, and of course the president supports the surge. But if the goal is to maximize the ultra-Left vote, then I suppose this, too, will get a few netroots off the couch and to the polls.  But then again, conservatives and independents who think the Christmas Day bombing was a wake-up call to get serious about the worldwide threat of Islamic fundamentalists might be charged up too.

We’ll know next week if Coakley’s cynical campaign can stumble across the finish line. If she manages to win by the standard double-digit margin in Massachusetts, all this will fade into memory. If not, Democrats will be in high panic, although it at least might get Harry Reid off the front pages.

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Moving From “Solid” to “Leans”

Jennifer Duffy at the Cook Political Report says that something is happening in Massachusetts:

At this point, we suspect that the race has indeed closed somewhat and that the result will probably be closer than it ought to be, but we continue to believe that [Republican Scott] Brown has a very uphill struggle in his quest to pull off a Massachusetts Miracle. At the same time, we have a well-earned appreciation for how unpredictable special elections can be even in states or congressional districts that sit solidly in one party’s camp or the other. For that reason, and an abundance of caution, we are moving it from the Solid Democratic column to the Lean Democratic column.

She notes that there are two more debates “which always present candidates with an opportunity to put in make-or-break performances.” One has to remember: this is Massachusetts. A year after Obama’s election and in the race to replace Teddy Kennedy, Democrats and Republicans are in a competitive match-up. Remarkable. What’s more: Democratic candidate Martha Coakley isn’t getting a free ride with the local media, which seems put off by the sense that she is dodging the press and dragging the independent candidate to debates for protection.

So if the Massachusetts senate race  isn’t “solid” Democratic what does this portend for Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Nevada and other less-Blue races in 2010? You understand now why so many Democrats are hanging it up “voluntarily.”

Jennifer Duffy at the Cook Political Report says that something is happening in Massachusetts:

At this point, we suspect that the race has indeed closed somewhat and that the result will probably be closer than it ought to be, but we continue to believe that [Republican Scott] Brown has a very uphill struggle in his quest to pull off a Massachusetts Miracle. At the same time, we have a well-earned appreciation for how unpredictable special elections can be even in states or congressional districts that sit solidly in one party’s camp or the other. For that reason, and an abundance of caution, we are moving it from the Solid Democratic column to the Lean Democratic column.

She notes that there are two more debates “which always present candidates with an opportunity to put in make-or-break performances.” One has to remember: this is Massachusetts. A year after Obama’s election and in the race to replace Teddy Kennedy, Democrats and Republicans are in a competitive match-up. Remarkable. What’s more: Democratic candidate Martha Coakley isn’t getting a free ride with the local media, which seems put off by the sense that she is dodging the press and dragging the independent candidate to debates for protection.

So if the Massachusetts senate race  isn’t “solid” Democratic what does this portend for Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Nevada and other less-Blue races in 2010? You understand now why so many Democrats are hanging it up “voluntarily.”

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Could Massachusetts Save Us From Obamacare?

Scott Brown has the unenviable task of running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts as a Republican on Jan. 19. No Republican has won a Senate seat from that state since 1972. Massachusetts went 62 percent for Barack Obama in 2008.

But Brown is certainly making a game try. This commercial is, I think, nothing short of brilliant. It invokes the magic Kennedy name and uses John F. Kennedy’s own words, calling for tax reductions as a way to boost the economy and create jobs.  Democrats, naturally, are screaming bloody murder, probably because the ad is so effective, especially since the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, recently said on record, “We need to get taxes up.”

The odds are still against Brown, but given the prospect of a low-turnout election, nervousness regarding Obama’s tax plans, ever-rising opposition to the health-care bill, knowledge that Brown would be in office for less than three years until the expiration of the late Ted Kennedy’s term, and a sense that there is too much power in the hands of one party in Washington, it’s by no means impossible. I’m not the only one who thinks so.

If a Republican were to win Ted Kennedy’s old seat in ultra liberal Massachusetts, the political fallout would be huge. Every Democrat in Washington up for election in November would be reaching for the Maalox — or perhaps the Scotch bottle — and those in marginal districts or states might well begin to peel off the official line to save their own hides. Equally important, the balance in the Senate would shift from 60-40 to 59-41, and the filibuster-proof majority would be gone. The people of Massachusetts thus have it in their power to derail the health-care bill.

Scott Brown has the unenviable task of running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts as a Republican on Jan. 19. No Republican has won a Senate seat from that state since 1972. Massachusetts went 62 percent for Barack Obama in 2008.

But Brown is certainly making a game try. This commercial is, I think, nothing short of brilliant. It invokes the magic Kennedy name and uses John F. Kennedy’s own words, calling for tax reductions as a way to boost the economy and create jobs.  Democrats, naturally, are screaming bloody murder, probably because the ad is so effective, especially since the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, recently said on record, “We need to get taxes up.”

The odds are still against Brown, but given the prospect of a low-turnout election, nervousness regarding Obama’s tax plans, ever-rising opposition to the health-care bill, knowledge that Brown would be in office for less than three years until the expiration of the late Ted Kennedy’s term, and a sense that there is too much power in the hands of one party in Washington, it’s by no means impossible. I’m not the only one who thinks so.

If a Republican were to win Ted Kennedy’s old seat in ultra liberal Massachusetts, the political fallout would be huge. Every Democrat in Washington up for election in November would be reaching for the Maalox — or perhaps the Scotch bottle — and those in marginal districts or states might well begin to peel off the official line to save their own hides. Equally important, the balance in the Senate would shift from 60-40 to 59-41, and the filibuster-proof majority would be gone. The people of Massachusetts thus have it in their power to derail the health-care bill.

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Who Won in the 23rd?

It’s not likely, but a huge embarrassment to Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama could be shaping up in the 23rd Congressional District of New York.

Doug Hoffman, the Conservative party candidate, conceded the race on election night when he was told that, with 93 percent of the vote counted, he was 5,300 votes behind and had barely carried his stronghold of Oswego County.

In fact he carried Oswego by 1,748 votes and, thanks to the recanvass, is now only 3,000 votes behind the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens. On election night, he was behind Owens by 300 votes in Jefferson County. He now leads there by over 400.

So it boils down to the absentee ballots that are yet to be counted. There were about 10,000 absentee ballots sent out. If half of them were returned — not an uncommon percentage — Hoffman would have to win over 80 percent of them to overturn Owens’s victory. Very unlikely, but not impossible.

If that were to happen, the political apparatchiks in the White House, who have been trying desperately to change the subject by saying that this election was the true test of national politics, not the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey, would have egg all over their faces. Worse, Nancy Pelosi would look like she played dirty by swearing in Bill Owns when there was no certificate of election from New York State. Each house is “the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members,” but it is unusual not to wait for certification of the election by state election authorities. Pelosi didn’t in this case (or in the undisputed special House race in California), because she was desperate to have the two votes for the PelosiCare bill.

I haven’t the faintest idea if the vote of an improperly seated congressman counts (and it wouldn’t reverse the outcome in any case), but if Bill Owens was indeed improperly seated, it will be truly delicious.

It’s not likely, but a huge embarrassment to Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama could be shaping up in the 23rd Congressional District of New York.

Doug Hoffman, the Conservative party candidate, conceded the race on election night when he was told that, with 93 percent of the vote counted, he was 5,300 votes behind and had barely carried his stronghold of Oswego County.

In fact he carried Oswego by 1,748 votes and, thanks to the recanvass, is now only 3,000 votes behind the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens. On election night, he was behind Owens by 300 votes in Jefferson County. He now leads there by over 400.

So it boils down to the absentee ballots that are yet to be counted. There were about 10,000 absentee ballots sent out. If half of them were returned — not an uncommon percentage — Hoffman would have to win over 80 percent of them to overturn Owens’s victory. Very unlikely, but not impossible.

If that were to happen, the political apparatchiks in the White House, who have been trying desperately to change the subject by saying that this election was the true test of national politics, not the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey, would have egg all over their faces. Worse, Nancy Pelosi would look like she played dirty by swearing in Bill Owns when there was no certificate of election from New York State. Each house is “the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members,” but it is unusual not to wait for certification of the election by state election authorities. Pelosi didn’t in this case (or in the undisputed special House race in California), because she was desperate to have the two votes for the PelosiCare bill.

I haven’t the faintest idea if the vote of an improperly seated congressman counts (and it wouldn’t reverse the outcome in any case), but if Bill Owens was indeed improperly seated, it will be truly delicious.

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An Ideologue Instead of a Statesman

The results of races for the governorship of Virginia and New Jersey were ominous for Democrats. The most alarming development for them should be that independents voted for the GOP candidates by roughly a 2-to-1 margin. This was a sea change, and it took place in only a year.

There are several reasons Democrats are faltering at this juncture. But one explanation, I think, is more relevant than all others: President Obama is pushing a hugely expensive and ambitious domestic agenda the public simply does not want. Many Americans also believe that what Obama is doing is a diversion from the pressing issues confronting the country — a weak economy, the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment in more than a quarter century (the figure now stands at 17.5 percent), and an exploding deficit and debt.

Virtually every public-opinion poll shows considerable resistance to ObamaCare, the signature domestic program of the Obama presidency. Cap-and-trade is about as unpopular. In addition, public sentiment is turning hard against government spending, control, and activism, which are at the core of Obamaism. Read More

The results of races for the governorship of Virginia and New Jersey were ominous for Democrats. The most alarming development for them should be that independents voted for the GOP candidates by roughly a 2-to-1 margin. This was a sea change, and it took place in only a year.

There are several reasons Democrats are faltering at this juncture. But one explanation, I think, is more relevant than all others: President Obama is pushing a hugely expensive and ambitious domestic agenda the public simply does not want. Many Americans also believe that what Obama is doing is a diversion from the pressing issues confronting the country — a weak economy, the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment in more than a quarter century (the figure now stands at 17.5 percent), and an exploding deficit and debt.

Virtually every public-opinion poll shows considerable resistance to ObamaCare, the signature domestic program of the Obama presidency. Cap-and-trade is about as unpopular. In addition, public sentiment is turning hard against government spending, control, and activism, which are at the core of Obamaism.

Trust in government is down to 23 percent — the lowest in at least a dozen years. More than three quarters of the public believe that the federal government does the right thing either never or only some of the time. Large majorities believe the president and Congress should worry about the budget deficit above almost anything else. The percentage of Americans who believe that there is too much government regulation has risen sharply in a year (from 38 percent in 2008 to 45 percent this year); so has the number of people who say government is doing too many things better left to business (the number has increased from 40 percent to 48 percent). Not surprisingly, the overall approval of the job that Congress is doing is now at 24 percent. And Obama himself has seen a historic drop in his support during his first year in office.

There is more. According to the latest Gallup poll, Republicans have moved ahead of Democrats by 48 percent to 44 percent among registered voters in the generic congressional ballot for the 2010 House elections, with independents’ preference for the Republican candidate in their districts having grown to an astonishing 22-point lead over a Democratic candidate (52 percent to 30 percent).

And a new Pew poll finds that voters who plan to support Republicans next year are more enthusiastic than those who plan to vote for a Democrat. Fully 58 percent of those who plan to vote for a Republican next year say they are very enthusiastic about voting, compared with only 42 percent of those who plan to vote for a Democrat. And 56 percent of independent voters who support a Republican in their district are very enthusiastic about voting, as opposed to just 32 percent of independents who plan to vote for a Democrat expressing high levels of enthusiasm. Anti-incumbent sentiments are near all-time highs. More broadly, according to Pew,

The mood of America is glum. Two-thirds of the public is dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. Fully nine-in-ten say that national economic conditions are only fair or poor, and nearly two-thirds describe their own finances that way — the most since the summer of 1992.

Democrats have convinced themselves that passing a historic health-care bill — which is still far from certain — will change all that. Their supposition is that while the legislative process may be unseemly, the final product will be popular. The mere act of passing health-care reform will be a huge political victory for the president and Democrats — and will redound to their benefit. Or so goes the theory. But it is, I think, a misguided one.

Jamming through an unpopular program of this size and scope without bipartisan support is a prescription for a public backlash. Moreover, the basic design of the program Democrats are advocating is deeply flawed — and bad policies make for bad politics. Yet even with public skepticism giving way to public opposition, with widespread concern transmuting into widespread anxiety and unhappiness, Obama continues to push ahead with his agenda. Why?

Because Mr. Obama came in to office determined to reshape American society in deep and lasting ways — and health care is the best vehicle through which that reshaping will occur. It doesn’t matter that this is something the public does not want; in his mind, and in the minds of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, it is something the public needs. Call it progressive paternalism.

The president and his team made a huge wager at the outset of Obama’s tenure. They would use the economic crisis they faced to push through a sweeping agenda (“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” is how chief of staff Rahm Emanuel put it.) Instead of focusing on the major problems confronting the nation, they would leverage those problems to achieve other aims. And this will be seen in retrospect as a huge, perhaps historic, mistake on their part.

“The truth is, gentlemen, a statesman is the creature of his age, the child of circumstances, the creation of his times,” Disraeli said.

A statesman is essentially a practical character; and when he is called upon to take office, he is not to inquire what his opinion might or might not have been on this or that subject; he is only to ascertain the needful and the beneficial, and the most feasible measure to be carried out.

What we are finding is that Barack Obama is not a practical character; he is a dogmatist. He has avoided what’s needed and beneficial in order to promote a sweeping statist agenda. He is turning out to be an ideologue instead of a statesman.

The enormous goodwill the president had at the beginning of the year has evaporated. The public still rather likes him — but they don’t much like what he is doing to them and to their country. There will be a high price for him to pay for carrying through on his liberal ambitions. But it is his party — the instrument of his ambitions — that will suffer the consequences first.

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Obama’s Role Model?

David Brooks reports today that, like a lot of other Democrats, Barack Obama has become a born-again believer in the presidency of George H.W. Bush. The Democratic candidate tells Brooks: “I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush. I don’t have a lot of complaints about their handling of Desert Storm. I don’t have a lot of complaints with their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

This new-found admiration conveniently overlooks some decisions by the elder President Bush that were roundly and correctly criticized at the time by many liberals as well as conservatives: decisions such as the botched aftermath of the Gulf War, which resulted in Shiites and Kurds getting slaughtered after they heeded the President’s call to rise up; the notorious “Chicken Kiev” speech in which he urged Ukrainians to remain part of a dissolving Soviet Union; and the failure to intervene in Bosnia.

Instead, Obama focuses on a couple of the high points of the Bush presidency, even though the elder Bush’s realpolitik doctrine was as responsible for his failures as for his successes. But even taking Obama’s compliments at face value, how likely is it that he could or would replicate such achievements?

Although everyone supported Operation Desert Storm after its success became evident, it was a different story when Bush asked Congress to authorize the mission. Even after winning United Nations approval, he had trouble getting a Democrat-dominated Congress to sign off. The vote in favor of the war resolution was 52-47 in the Senate, with 45 Democrats voting nay. Only 10 Democrats voted for the resolution, mostly conservative Southerners. Even such moderates as Sam Nunn opposed the use of force. How likely is it that if Barack Obama-the most liberal member of the Senate last year-had been in the Senate that year that he would have voted for the resolution?

As for the other Bush administration achievement that he cites-”their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall”-that was made possible by the long personal experience and contacts built up by the President over the course of many years on the international stage as an ambassador to China and the UN, CIA director, and vice president. That allowed Bush to conduct adroit diplomacy with Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev, and other world leaders. Obama has almost no experience in international affairs beyond having lived in Indonesia as a child; certainly he has never held a job in any field related to foreign affairs before entering the Senate three years ago. Granted, he is charming and charismatic. But what are the odds that he can replicate the kind of skilled diplomacy pursued by an old hand like George H.W. Bush?

The more likely comparison is not to Bush but to two previous Democratic nominees who had no experience in foreign policy before entering the White House: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In both cases they learned on the job and gradually improved, but the world paid a high price for their stumbles from Iran (Carter) to Somalia (Clinton).

David Brooks reports today that, like a lot of other Democrats, Barack Obama has become a born-again believer in the presidency of George H.W. Bush. The Democratic candidate tells Brooks: “I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush. I don’t have a lot of complaints about their handling of Desert Storm. I don’t have a lot of complaints with their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

This new-found admiration conveniently overlooks some decisions by the elder President Bush that were roundly and correctly criticized at the time by many liberals as well as conservatives: decisions such as the botched aftermath of the Gulf War, which resulted in Shiites and Kurds getting slaughtered after they heeded the President’s call to rise up; the notorious “Chicken Kiev” speech in which he urged Ukrainians to remain part of a dissolving Soviet Union; and the failure to intervene in Bosnia.

Instead, Obama focuses on a couple of the high points of the Bush presidency, even though the elder Bush’s realpolitik doctrine was as responsible for his failures as for his successes. But even taking Obama’s compliments at face value, how likely is it that he could or would replicate such achievements?

Although everyone supported Operation Desert Storm after its success became evident, it was a different story when Bush asked Congress to authorize the mission. Even after winning United Nations approval, he had trouble getting a Democrat-dominated Congress to sign off. The vote in favor of the war resolution was 52-47 in the Senate, with 45 Democrats voting nay. Only 10 Democrats voted for the resolution, mostly conservative Southerners. Even such moderates as Sam Nunn opposed the use of force. How likely is it that if Barack Obama-the most liberal member of the Senate last year-had been in the Senate that year that he would have voted for the resolution?

As for the other Bush administration achievement that he cites-”their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall”-that was made possible by the long personal experience and contacts built up by the President over the course of many years on the international stage as an ambassador to China and the UN, CIA director, and vice president. That allowed Bush to conduct adroit diplomacy with Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev, and other world leaders. Obama has almost no experience in international affairs beyond having lived in Indonesia as a child; certainly he has never held a job in any field related to foreign affairs before entering the Senate three years ago. Granted, he is charming and charismatic. But what are the odds that he can replicate the kind of skilled diplomacy pursued by an old hand like George H.W. Bush?

The more likely comparison is not to Bush but to two previous Democratic nominees who had no experience in foreign policy before entering the White House: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In both cases they learned on the job and gradually improved, but the world paid a high price for their stumbles from Iran (Carter) to Somalia (Clinton).

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Bigot Bowl

In the aftermath of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s stunning reemergence as an obstacle to Barack Obama’s presidential prospects, left-wing pundits have settled on a new strategy for dealing with the fallout. It goes something like this: every time Wright’s name is mentioned, remind the public that the Republicans also have their bigots. In this vein, Ann Friedman of American Prospect has implored liberal bloggers to match every reference to Rev. Wright with a mention of Reverend John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor who has endorsed John McCain. Meanwhile, the “progressive” watch-dog group Media Matters lamented the greater coverage that Wright has received over Hagee, while the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post ran opinion pieces prominently highlighting Hagee’s endorsement of McCain in an apparent bid to neutralize the damage that Wright has caused Obama’s campaign.

But if these opinion-makers believe that they’ve found their escape route in calling attention to Hagee, they are sorely mistaken. For starters, the empirics don’t work in their favor, as Hagee’s relationship with McCain isn’t remotely analogous to Wright’s relationship with Obama. Indeed, despite Hagee’s disturbing bigotry–he has said that the planning of a gay pride parade in New Orleans prompted Hurricane Katrina as a divine response–he is merely one of McCain’s many endorsers. But Rev. Wright is, after all, Obama’s spiritual guide of two decades–a man that Obama respected so much that he refused to distance himself from Wright for months after the pastor’s anti-American vitriol first hit YouTube.

In turn, the sheer imprecision of the Hagee-is-McCain’s-Wright argument will ultimately keep liberal opinion-makers on the defensive. After all, when Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson make their quadrennial pilgrimages to the Democratic National Convention, the Democrats will look downright hypocritical for having declared their outrage over the lesser-known Hagee. Voters will thus be reminded that, when it comes to relying on notorious bigots to mobilize key electoral cleavages, the Democrats are no better than Republicans. The difference, however, is that only the front-running Democratic candidate has compared one of these bigots to his grandmother.

In the aftermath of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s stunning reemergence as an obstacle to Barack Obama’s presidential prospects, left-wing pundits have settled on a new strategy for dealing with the fallout. It goes something like this: every time Wright’s name is mentioned, remind the public that the Republicans also have their bigots. In this vein, Ann Friedman of American Prospect has implored liberal bloggers to match every reference to Rev. Wright with a mention of Reverend John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor who has endorsed John McCain. Meanwhile, the “progressive” watch-dog group Media Matters lamented the greater coverage that Wright has received over Hagee, while the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post ran opinion pieces prominently highlighting Hagee’s endorsement of McCain in an apparent bid to neutralize the damage that Wright has caused Obama’s campaign.

But if these opinion-makers believe that they’ve found their escape route in calling attention to Hagee, they are sorely mistaken. For starters, the empirics don’t work in their favor, as Hagee’s relationship with McCain isn’t remotely analogous to Wright’s relationship with Obama. Indeed, despite Hagee’s disturbing bigotry–he has said that the planning of a gay pride parade in New Orleans prompted Hurricane Katrina as a divine response–he is merely one of McCain’s many endorsers. But Rev. Wright is, after all, Obama’s spiritual guide of two decades–a man that Obama respected so much that he refused to distance himself from Wright for months after the pastor’s anti-American vitriol first hit YouTube.

In turn, the sheer imprecision of the Hagee-is-McCain’s-Wright argument will ultimately keep liberal opinion-makers on the defensive. After all, when Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson make their quadrennial pilgrimages to the Democratic National Convention, the Democrats will look downright hypocritical for having declared their outrage over the lesser-known Hagee. Voters will thus be reminded that, when it comes to relying on notorious bigots to mobilize key electoral cleavages, the Democrats are no better than Republicans. The difference, however, is that only the front-running Democratic candidate has compared one of these bigots to his grandmother.

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Integrity as Strategy

Here’s the standard take on how the dragged-out Democratic primary will effect the general election: As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cut each other down, they do John McCain’s work for him. Those two continue to relentlessly bloody each other up, so that by the time one of them goes up against McCain he or she will be a publicly diminished and weakened Democrat with a considerable percentage of detractors within his or her own party ready to vote Republican or stay home. Furthermore, the Democratic Party itself will be in a state of convalescence and in no shape for battle.

Lately, some Democrats have offered a more optimistic interpretation of things. Frank Rich covers this alternative read in today’s New York Times:

The counterargument, advanced by Mrs. Clinton in justifying her “kitchen sink” attacks on Mr. Obama, is that the Democrats are better off being tested now by raising all the issues the Republicans will. It’s a fair point. The Wright, Rezko, Ayers, “bittergate” and flag-pin firestorms will all be revived by the opposition come fall.

But will they? That assumption puts John McCain’s objection to the North Carolina GOP ad featuring Rev. Wright and Obama in strategic perspective. If the Democrats’ slugfest is to serve as a sort of preemptive self-vetting, then McCain’s best bet is to attack the Democratic nominee from a different—untested—angle than any that’s been used during the primary. In this light, things are even worse for the Democrats than the standard interpretation conveys. One Democratic candidate will come to the general election having already taken a big hit on a critical front: character. (Obama would be plagued by the issues Rich mentions; Hillary would lumber under the weight of Snipergate, identity cynicism, dirty pool, and her husband’s outbursts.) With the public perception of his opponent’s character already so compromised, McCain can focus on policy differences—which is exactly what he said he hopes to do. This accomplishes at least two things: it frees up campaign energy to be used more efficiently on critical substantive points, and it makes him look like a breath of clean fresh air compared to the Dems’ nastiness. Not only will the Democrats have brought McCain’s opponents character flaws to the surface, they will have given McCain a campaign blueprint by contrast, saying essentially, “Don’t sully yourself like we did. After nearly a year spent harping on identity and playing ‘gotcha!’ we have nothing to show but an unexpected dip in Democratic support.”

For sure, many in the Republican establishment will continue to hammer at the Democrats on the lurid issues raised during the primary. But, as McCain demonstrated in objecting to the North Carolina ad, he has no problem calling party members out on this. That too can be put to use as an advantage. For every time John McCain tells a GOP mouthpiece to avoid cheap shots or divisiveness, he feeds the growing impression among Democratic voters that for a Republican he’s not that bad.

Here’s the standard take on how the dragged-out Democratic primary will effect the general election: As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cut each other down, they do John McCain’s work for him. Those two continue to relentlessly bloody each other up, so that by the time one of them goes up against McCain he or she will be a publicly diminished and weakened Democrat with a considerable percentage of detractors within his or her own party ready to vote Republican or stay home. Furthermore, the Democratic Party itself will be in a state of convalescence and in no shape for battle.

Lately, some Democrats have offered a more optimistic interpretation of things. Frank Rich covers this alternative read in today’s New York Times:

The counterargument, advanced by Mrs. Clinton in justifying her “kitchen sink” attacks on Mr. Obama, is that the Democrats are better off being tested now by raising all the issues the Republicans will. It’s a fair point. The Wright, Rezko, Ayers, “bittergate” and flag-pin firestorms will all be revived by the opposition come fall.

But will they? That assumption puts John McCain’s objection to the North Carolina GOP ad featuring Rev. Wright and Obama in strategic perspective. If the Democrats’ slugfest is to serve as a sort of preemptive self-vetting, then McCain’s best bet is to attack the Democratic nominee from a different—untested—angle than any that’s been used during the primary. In this light, things are even worse for the Democrats than the standard interpretation conveys. One Democratic candidate will come to the general election having already taken a big hit on a critical front: character. (Obama would be plagued by the issues Rich mentions; Hillary would lumber under the weight of Snipergate, identity cynicism, dirty pool, and her husband’s outbursts.) With the public perception of his opponent’s character already so compromised, McCain can focus on policy differences—which is exactly what he said he hopes to do. This accomplishes at least two things: it frees up campaign energy to be used more efficiently on critical substantive points, and it makes him look like a breath of clean fresh air compared to the Dems’ nastiness. Not only will the Democrats have brought McCain’s opponents character flaws to the surface, they will have given McCain a campaign blueprint by contrast, saying essentially, “Don’t sully yourself like we did. After nearly a year spent harping on identity and playing ‘gotcha!’ we have nothing to show but an unexpected dip in Democratic support.”

For sure, many in the Republican establishment will continue to hammer at the Democrats on the lurid issues raised during the primary. But, as McCain demonstrated in objecting to the North Carolina ad, he has no problem calling party members out on this. That too can be put to use as an advantage. For every time John McCain tells a GOP mouthpiece to avoid cheap shots or divisiveness, he feeds the growing impression among Democratic voters that for a Republican he’s not that bad.

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Obama Doesn’t Have A “Jewish Problem.” Really.

Barack Obama has no imperfection or shortcoming that can’t be glossed over by liberal pundits. The latest gloss: he has no Jewish problem and all this “guilt by association” is terribly imprecise and unfair.

You see, Obama is not responsible for Reverend Wright or Tony McPeak. But what about Samantha Power, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Robert Malley? Isn’t it reasonable to ask “Why does Barack Obama have so many foreign policy and national security advisers whose statements about Israel and American Jews are problematic? ” Apparently we should not hold him responsible for selecting these individuals, nor attribute any of their views to him. And we shouldn’t be bothered either, I suppose, by his own comment that “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

The evidence that none of this matters? A Gallup poll showing Obama and Clinton splitting the Jewish vote. Others have pointed out that this does not tell us whether Jewish general election voters, given the choice between John McCain and Obama, will stick with the latter.

While it is correct that Jewish voters have favored Democrats in presidential elections, the GOP share of the Jewish vote has risen steadily. Will American Jews stick by a Democratic candidate who surrounds himself with the type of advisors Obama has, who feels unable to reject his pastor even after vile anti-Semitic remarks become known (and still insists his remarks are no big deal, apparently because the really objectionable ones only number “five or six”), and whose foreign policy embraces the notion of meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? We’ll get a hint with the primary in Pennsylvania, a state with a significant number of Jewish voters (5% in the hotly contested 2006 Senate race).

But everything is fine, perfectly fine, say the liberal media Obamaphiles. (And the Italian vote isn’t a problem, either.)

Barack Obama has no imperfection or shortcoming that can’t be glossed over by liberal pundits. The latest gloss: he has no Jewish problem and all this “guilt by association” is terribly imprecise and unfair.

You see, Obama is not responsible for Reverend Wright or Tony McPeak. But what about Samantha Power, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Robert Malley? Isn’t it reasonable to ask “Why does Barack Obama have so many foreign policy and national security advisers whose statements about Israel and American Jews are problematic? ” Apparently we should not hold him responsible for selecting these individuals, nor attribute any of their views to him. And we shouldn’t be bothered either, I suppose, by his own comment that “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

The evidence that none of this matters? A Gallup poll showing Obama and Clinton splitting the Jewish vote. Others have pointed out that this does not tell us whether Jewish general election voters, given the choice between John McCain and Obama, will stick with the latter.

While it is correct that Jewish voters have favored Democrats in presidential elections, the GOP share of the Jewish vote has risen steadily. Will American Jews stick by a Democratic candidate who surrounds himself with the type of advisors Obama has, who feels unable to reject his pastor even after vile anti-Semitic remarks become known (and still insists his remarks are no big deal, apparently because the really objectionable ones only number “five or six”), and whose foreign policy embraces the notion of meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? We’ll get a hint with the primary in Pennsylvania, a state with a significant number of Jewish voters (5% in the hotly contested 2006 Senate race).

But everything is fine, perfectly fine, say the liberal media Obamaphiles. (And the Italian vote isn’t a problem, either.)

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Bang Up Job

I don’t know which Democratic candidate will win which state, but I can say they have both done a bang up job misinforming the voters on trade. By huge majorities, Democratic voters in Texas and Ohio, according to the exit polls, believe NAFTA has cost more jobs than it has created. This, of course, is pure poppycock. Perhaps if all those “autonomous individuals” are going to start working for the common good we should first stop bamboozling them with nonsense about the causes of their economic ills.

I don’t know which Democratic candidate will win which state, but I can say they have both done a bang up job misinforming the voters on trade. By huge majorities, Democratic voters in Texas and Ohio, according to the exit polls, believe NAFTA has cost more jobs than it has created. This, of course, is pure poppycock. Perhaps if all those “autonomous individuals” are going to start working for the common good we should first stop bamboozling them with nonsense about the causes of their economic ills.

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Obama’s Photophobia

Barack Obama likes to wax poetic about his diverse coalition, but it seems his defining inclusiveness was a little more ex-clusive a short while back. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Obama refused to be photographed with that city’s pro-gay-marriage mayor, Gavin Newsom, at a benefit four years ago. Most unsporting, considering Newsome was there supporting Obama. Here’s Newsome speaking to Reuters in January 2007: “One of the three Democrats [Gore, Clinton, and Obama] you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown confirms the story, and then some:

“I gave a fundraiser, at his (Obama’s) request at the Waterfront restaurant, and he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.”

He adds that Obama was uneasy about appearing in San Francisco, period. Brown suspects Obama was afraid to turn-off conservative Illinois voters during his senate race. The story has led to the best denial since the Monica years. “Barack Obama gets his picture taken with gay people all the time,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand said. (He makes it sound like the senator’s hobby.)

I guess Obama has gone through a change we can believe in. As recently as his victory in South Carolina he said, “We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics.”

This first chink in Obama’s cuddly armor won’t be nearly enough to make his acolytes rethink their image of him. But if he does become the Democratic nominee and more such stories are revealed, he’s going to have a hard time facing a disenchanted base. He’s supposed to be the non-divisive antidote to Billary’s calculation. But cynical politcal maneuvering like this makes Obama look suspiciously like the other leading Democratic candidate. If he’s seen as just another Clinton, I predict he’ll be scrambling to get photographed on top of Elton John’s piano.

Barack Obama likes to wax poetic about his diverse coalition, but it seems his defining inclusiveness was a little more ex-clusive a short while back. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Obama refused to be photographed with that city’s pro-gay-marriage mayor, Gavin Newsom, at a benefit four years ago. Most unsporting, considering Newsome was there supporting Obama. Here’s Newsome speaking to Reuters in January 2007: “One of the three Democrats [Gore, Clinton, and Obama] you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown confirms the story, and then some:

“I gave a fundraiser, at his (Obama’s) request at the Waterfront restaurant, and he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.”

He adds that Obama was uneasy about appearing in San Francisco, period. Brown suspects Obama was afraid to turn-off conservative Illinois voters during his senate race. The story has led to the best denial since the Monica years. “Barack Obama gets his picture taken with gay people all the time,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand said. (He makes it sound like the senator’s hobby.)

I guess Obama has gone through a change we can believe in. As recently as his victory in South Carolina he said, “We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics.”

This first chink in Obama’s cuddly armor won’t be nearly enough to make his acolytes rethink their image of him. But if he does become the Democratic nominee and more such stories are revealed, he’s going to have a hard time facing a disenchanted base. He’s supposed to be the non-divisive antidote to Billary’s calculation. But cynical politcal maneuvering like this makes Obama look suspiciously like the other leading Democratic candidate. If he’s seen as just another Clinton, I predict he’ll be scrambling to get photographed on top of Elton John’s piano.

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Obama Backs Illegals’ Licenses–Again

Barack Obama has at last decided to declare himself on a specific policy. The problem is it’s not a policy regarding Americans. Well, that’s one of the problems. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Barack Obama has not backed down” on driver’s licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Peña, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. “I think when the Latino community hears Barack’s position on such an important and controversial issue, they’ll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community.

What about the American community? Can we weigh in on this important and controversial issue? It’s actually hard to get at the worst aspect of this horrific policy. There’s the rewarding of illegal behavior and the enticement to remain undocumented. But the gross national security compromise takes the cake. A November 2, 2007 article by John Fund in the Wall Street Journal discusses how undocumented driver’s licenses lead to voter fraud. Fund points out:

The potential for fraud is not trivial, as federal privacy laws prevent cross-checking voter registration rolls with immigration records. Nevertheless, a 1997 Congressional investigation found that “4,023 illegal voters possibly cast ballots in [a] disputed House election” in California. After 9/11, the Justice Department found that eight of the 19 hijackers were registered to vote.

So, the decisive Barack Obama finally shows up, and he’s a nightmare. Why is Obama sticking to this ruinous course, after Hillary and Edwards backed away from the issue? “Obama’s intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration.” Actually, he’s drawing comparisons between himself and Clinton on the issue of race-pandering. This is a dumb, offensive, and dangerous policy, and any Democratic candidate who doesn’t think it will cost them in the general election is a little too hopeful for his own good.

Barack Obama has at last decided to declare himself on a specific policy. The problem is it’s not a policy regarding Americans. Well, that’s one of the problems. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Barack Obama has not backed down” on driver’s licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Peña, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. “I think when the Latino community hears Barack’s position on such an important and controversial issue, they’ll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community.

What about the American community? Can we weigh in on this important and controversial issue? It’s actually hard to get at the worst aspect of this horrific policy. There’s the rewarding of illegal behavior and the enticement to remain undocumented. But the gross national security compromise takes the cake. A November 2, 2007 article by John Fund in the Wall Street Journal discusses how undocumented driver’s licenses lead to voter fraud. Fund points out:

The potential for fraud is not trivial, as federal privacy laws prevent cross-checking voter registration rolls with immigration records. Nevertheless, a 1997 Congressional investigation found that “4,023 illegal voters possibly cast ballots in [a] disputed House election” in California. After 9/11, the Justice Department found that eight of the 19 hijackers were registered to vote.

So, the decisive Barack Obama finally shows up, and he’s a nightmare. Why is Obama sticking to this ruinous course, after Hillary and Edwards backed away from the issue? “Obama’s intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration.” Actually, he’s drawing comparisons between himself and Clinton on the issue of race-pandering. This is a dumb, offensive, and dangerous policy, and any Democratic candidate who doesn’t think it will cost them in the general election is a little too hopeful for his own good.

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The Closest of Strangers

Over at Tapped, the blog of the American Prospect, Kate Sheppard links to a story in the Washington Monthly about the political cult leader and conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche. The anti-Semite who calls for the head of Dick Cheney spent five years in prison for tax evasion, and has been a Democratic candidate for president seven times. But don’t be fooled by LaRouche’s political affiliation or his enemies: Political Research Associates, a non-profit organization that monitors the extremist, right-wing fringe, considers him to be a “fascist demagogue.”

Sheppard expresses widely-held sentiments about this “crazed weirdo,” fascinated at his ability to attract twenty-something “followers” to his various campaigns. She writes of his movement’s “prodigious amounts of crazy” and recommends a recent Washington Monthly story about the suicide of the man who printed LaRouche’s propaganda materials.

Expressing fascination and bewilderment at the enigma that is Lyndon LaRouche, Sheppard ought to have just called up her colleague Robert Dreyfuss, a “Senior Correspondent” of the American Prospect on foreign affairs and national security (he’s also a Contributing Editor to the Nation). Dreyfuss was previously the “Middle East Intelligence Director” for the Executive Intelligence Review, LaRouche’s newspaper. Dreyfuss’s very first book, Hostage to Khomeini (which you can download here, on the website of the Worldwide LaRouche Youth Movement, along with other classic works like LaRouche’s autobiography and Dope, Inc., which posits that the Queen of England is an international drug runner), was published by New Benjamin Franklin House (a LaRouche outfit). The book was co-authored with EIR’s “European Bureau Middle East chief” and dedicated to Dreyfuss’s colleagues at LaRouche’s newspaper.

That conspiratorial tract, by the way, is one that the Prospect’s editors “like.” To learn more about this “fascinating,” fascist cult, Sheppard need look no further than her interoffice phone directory.

Over at Tapped, the blog of the American Prospect, Kate Sheppard links to a story in the Washington Monthly about the political cult leader and conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche. The anti-Semite who calls for the head of Dick Cheney spent five years in prison for tax evasion, and has been a Democratic candidate for president seven times. But don’t be fooled by LaRouche’s political affiliation or his enemies: Political Research Associates, a non-profit organization that monitors the extremist, right-wing fringe, considers him to be a “fascist demagogue.”

Sheppard expresses widely-held sentiments about this “crazed weirdo,” fascinated at his ability to attract twenty-something “followers” to his various campaigns. She writes of his movement’s “prodigious amounts of crazy” and recommends a recent Washington Monthly story about the suicide of the man who printed LaRouche’s propaganda materials.

Expressing fascination and bewilderment at the enigma that is Lyndon LaRouche, Sheppard ought to have just called up her colleague Robert Dreyfuss, a “Senior Correspondent” of the American Prospect on foreign affairs and national security (he’s also a Contributing Editor to the Nation). Dreyfuss was previously the “Middle East Intelligence Director” for the Executive Intelligence Review, LaRouche’s newspaper. Dreyfuss’s very first book, Hostage to Khomeini (which you can download here, on the website of the Worldwide LaRouche Youth Movement, along with other classic works like LaRouche’s autobiography and Dope, Inc., which posits that the Queen of England is an international drug runner), was published by New Benjamin Franklin House (a LaRouche outfit). The book was co-authored with EIR’s “European Bureau Middle East chief” and dedicated to Dreyfuss’s colleagues at LaRouche’s newspaper.

That conspiratorial tract, by the way, is one that the Prospect’s editors “like.” To learn more about this “fascinating,” fascist cult, Sheppard need look no further than her interoffice phone directory.

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