Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democratic Governor

Get a Governor!

Jonathan Capehart makes a cogent argument for Obama to bring in a former Democratic governor “to widen his circle of confidants beyond his Chicago security blanketendell.” He recommends Ed Rendell or Jennifer Granholm. He explains:

As governors of struggling industrial states, Rendell and Granholm have had to make the painful budgetary decisions that Washington continues to put off. They have faced an angry and fearful electorate and have had to be inventive in addressing their states’ problems. The people they govern are the very voters Obama continues to have trouble connecting with. … Although they are party stars who wouldn’t upset the base, they could bring an “outsider” perspective to the West Wing. And because of term limits, both will be available come January.

Obama might do better with a governor who managed to hand the baton to a Democratic successor or who didn’t hike taxes (as Granholm did repeatedly), but he is on to something. In fact, the advice to bring a governor into the West Wing is even more apt for the GOP when it comes to selecting its 2012 nominee.

The Republicans also need an “outsider” voice not marred by years of Beltway bickering and who possesses a solid base of support in the heartland. The GOP also needs someone who has demonstrated competency in managing his state’s fiscal condition during a challenging era. And yes, having someone who connects with ordinary Americans would be an advantage over Obama, who at times can barely contain his disdain for his fellow countrymen.

So if the un-Obama is the Republicans’ ideal candidate, then a competent, experienced, fiscally hawkish governor or ex-governor should fit the bill. A doer rather than a talker would be ideal. There are plenty of Republicans who fit this bill — Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush, to name a few. And Sarah Palin, who’s struggled to combat a well-entrenched media narrative, has a story to tell as well — about budget reform, fiscal sobriety, and fighting corruption.

The gap that Capehart identifies is not simply in Obama’s staff; it is in the president himself, who has shown little talent for governance and, for all his vaunted communication skills, is increasingly isolated from voters. Avoiding that set of deficiencies is a guide for the GOP in choosing a candidate who will match up well against Obama in 2012. Now all that Republicans need is a governor or ex-governor willing to run who can both excite and expand the base. Yes, it is a tall but hardly impossible order.

Jonathan Capehart makes a cogent argument for Obama to bring in a former Democratic governor “to widen his circle of confidants beyond his Chicago security blanketendell.” He recommends Ed Rendell or Jennifer Granholm. He explains:

As governors of struggling industrial states, Rendell and Granholm have had to make the painful budgetary decisions that Washington continues to put off. They have faced an angry and fearful electorate and have had to be inventive in addressing their states’ problems. The people they govern are the very voters Obama continues to have trouble connecting with. … Although they are party stars who wouldn’t upset the base, they could bring an “outsider” perspective to the West Wing. And because of term limits, both will be available come January.

Obama might do better with a governor who managed to hand the baton to a Democratic successor or who didn’t hike taxes (as Granholm did repeatedly), but he is on to something. In fact, the advice to bring a governor into the West Wing is even more apt for the GOP when it comes to selecting its 2012 nominee.

The Republicans also need an “outsider” voice not marred by years of Beltway bickering and who possesses a solid base of support in the heartland. The GOP also needs someone who has demonstrated competency in managing his state’s fiscal condition during a challenging era. And yes, having someone who connects with ordinary Americans would be an advantage over Obama, who at times can barely contain his disdain for his fellow countrymen.

So if the un-Obama is the Republicans’ ideal candidate, then a competent, experienced, fiscally hawkish governor or ex-governor should fit the bill. A doer rather than a talker would be ideal. There are plenty of Republicans who fit this bill — Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush, to name a few. And Sarah Palin, who’s struggled to combat a well-entrenched media narrative, has a story to tell as well — about budget reform, fiscal sobriety, and fighting corruption.

The gap that Capehart identifies is not simply in Obama’s staff; it is in the president himself, who has shown little talent for governance and, for all his vaunted communication skills, is increasingly isolated from voters. Avoiding that set of deficiencies is a guide for the GOP in choosing a candidate who will match up well against Obama in 2012. Now all that Republicans need is a governor or ex-governor willing to run who can both excite and expand the base. Yes, it is a tall but hardly impossible order.

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Democratic Governor Dissects ObamaCare

Tennessee Gov. Philip Bredesen in an op-ed today explains:

Our federal deficit is already at unsustainable levels, and most Americans understand that we can ill afford another entitlement program that adds substantially to it. But our recent health reform has created a situation where there are strong economic incentives for employers to drop health coverage altogether. The consequence will be to drive many more people than projected—and with them, much greater cost—into the reform’s federally subsidized system. This will happen because the subsidies that become available to people purchasing insurance through exchanges are extraordinarily attractive. …

For a person starting a business in 2014, it will be logical and responsible simply to plan from the outset never to offer health benefits. Employees, thanks to the exchanges, can easily purchase excellent, fairly priced insurance, without pre-existing condition limitations, through the exchanges. As it grows, the business can avoid a great deal of cost because the federal government will now pay much of what the business would have incurred for its share of health insurance. The small business tax credits included in health reform are limited and short-term, and the eventual penalty for not providing coverage, of $2,000 per employee, is still far less than the cost of insurance it replaces.

As more Americans flood into the public system, the cost of all those additional highly subsidized patients will skyrocket. The cost of the new entitlement will balloon, as will our deficit.

Now, this is smart analysis by a Democrat. Could not senators and congressmen have seen precisely this result? Of course they could have — conservative analysts predicted this precise phenomenon. But the rush was on to pass something — anything — and call it “historic.” The result is not only politically distasteful but fiscally untenable. The move to repeal ObamaCare will, I think, have many Democratic advocates as Bredesen’s take becomes the new conventional wisdom. Well, that and the 2010 election returns should do the trick.

Tennessee Gov. Philip Bredesen in an op-ed today explains:

Our federal deficit is already at unsustainable levels, and most Americans understand that we can ill afford another entitlement program that adds substantially to it. But our recent health reform has created a situation where there are strong economic incentives for employers to drop health coverage altogether. The consequence will be to drive many more people than projected—and with them, much greater cost—into the reform’s federally subsidized system. This will happen because the subsidies that become available to people purchasing insurance through exchanges are extraordinarily attractive. …

For a person starting a business in 2014, it will be logical and responsible simply to plan from the outset never to offer health benefits. Employees, thanks to the exchanges, can easily purchase excellent, fairly priced insurance, without pre-existing condition limitations, through the exchanges. As it grows, the business can avoid a great deal of cost because the federal government will now pay much of what the business would have incurred for its share of health insurance. The small business tax credits included in health reform are limited and short-term, and the eventual penalty for not providing coverage, of $2,000 per employee, is still far less than the cost of insurance it replaces.

As more Americans flood into the public system, the cost of all those additional highly subsidized patients will skyrocket. The cost of the new entitlement will balloon, as will our deficit.

Now, this is smart analysis by a Democrat. Could not senators and congressmen have seen precisely this result? Of course they could have — conservative analysts predicted this precise phenomenon. But the rush was on to pass something — anything — and call it “historic.” The result is not only politically distasteful but fiscally untenable. The move to repeal ObamaCare will, I think, have many Democratic advocates as Bredesen’s take becomes the new conventional wisdom. Well, that and the 2010 election returns should do the trick.

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How to Get to 10

The Democrats have been throwing confetti since the nomination of Christine O’Donnell. And, sure enough, she is down by double digits relative to her Democratic opponent. But there is, as Public Policy Polling points out, more than one path to a GOP takeover of the Senate:

John Raese [is] up 46-43 on Joe Manchin, a result within the poll’s margin of error.The contest provides a fascinating choice for voters in the state who love their Democratic Governor but hate the party’s ranks in Washington DC that he would be joining. … Barack Obama’s approval rating in the state is just 30% with 64% of voters disapproving of him. Even within his own party barely half of voters, at 51%, like the job he’s doing.

Today PPP, the new pollster at Daily Kos (the last one was fired and sued), adds this startling poll result:

An enormous enthusiasm gap, coupled with a Republican nominee fresh from a decisive primary win and unsullied by the primary process, has catapulted Republican nominee Ron Johnson to a double-digit advantage over incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold [52 to 1 percent], according to PPP’s poll of the state on behalf of Daily Kos.

And in California, Carly Fiorina is deadlocked with Barbara Boxer. We also learn that Joe Miller is well ahead of his Democratic opponent and sore loser Lisa Murkowski.

Here then is the way to 10: Indiana, North Dakota, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois, California, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Colorado. At this point, Washington is a possibility but looks the diciest for the GOP. But, heck, even if the Republicans got to nine, maybe Joe Lieberman would consider switching his party. Or Ben Nelson. Is it likely that the GOP will run the table? No. But if either of the parties has a reason to celebrate, it is the GOP.

The Democrats have been throwing confetti since the nomination of Christine O’Donnell. And, sure enough, she is down by double digits relative to her Democratic opponent. But there is, as Public Policy Polling points out, more than one path to a GOP takeover of the Senate:

John Raese [is] up 46-43 on Joe Manchin, a result within the poll’s margin of error.The contest provides a fascinating choice for voters in the state who love their Democratic Governor but hate the party’s ranks in Washington DC that he would be joining. … Barack Obama’s approval rating in the state is just 30% with 64% of voters disapproving of him. Even within his own party barely half of voters, at 51%, like the job he’s doing.

Today PPP, the new pollster at Daily Kos (the last one was fired and sued), adds this startling poll result:

An enormous enthusiasm gap, coupled with a Republican nominee fresh from a decisive primary win and unsullied by the primary process, has catapulted Republican nominee Ron Johnson to a double-digit advantage over incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold [52 to 1 percent], according to PPP’s poll of the state on behalf of Daily Kos.

And in California, Carly Fiorina is deadlocked with Barbara Boxer. We also learn that Joe Miller is well ahead of his Democratic opponent and sore loser Lisa Murkowski.

Here then is the way to 10: Indiana, North Dakota, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois, California, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Colorado. At this point, Washington is a possibility but looks the diciest for the GOP. But, heck, even if the Republicans got to nine, maybe Joe Lieberman would consider switching his party. Or Ben Nelson. Is it likely that the GOP will run the table? No. But if either of the parties has a reason to celebrate, it is the GOP.

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ObamaCare Doesn’t Justify Secession

First, Republican Rand Paul wanted to revisit the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now Representative Zach Wamp, following the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry, wants to revisit the Civil War. “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” Wamp said during a recent interview with Hotline OnCall.

Representative Wamp praised Perry, who first floated the idea of secession in April 2009, for leading the push-back against health-care reform. “Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level,” said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey in an August 5 GOP primary race. (The winner will face Mike McWherter in November to decide who will replace Tennessee Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.)

This kind of talk from Wamp and Perry is stupid and reckless. For one thing, it is evidence of a stunning inability to distinguish different historical moments. For some people, the times in which we live don’t appear to be dramatic enough; they have to equate the events we’re going through to the clash with Nazism, the hardships of the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution, or the stakes involved in the Civil War. It all tends to be quite silly and unhelpful.

Beyond that, though, is the fevered mindset that would suggest that “separation from this government” may be necessary. Do Wamp and Perry have any grasp of what they are talking about? Do they understand that the South seceded from the Union to maintain chattel slavery as a way of life? Or that Lincoln, our greatest president (and the first Republican president), waged the Civil War — which cost America around 620,000 lives (the equivalent of around 5 million lives today) — to keep the Union whole and free? Are Wamp and Perry really suggesting we take up, in a serious manner, the issue of secession again? Because of ObamaCare?

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing Barack Obama. I believe he’s doing great damage to the country, and conservatives need to check him at almost every point along the way. But to argue that differences in policy ought to lead us to consider secession is lunacy. It also shows a (presumably) unwitting contempt for America, for its history, and for its role and purpose in the world. When schoolchildren across America recite the Pledge of Allegiance, here are the words they say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our loyalty is to the United States of America. It is one nation. And it is indivisible.

America is a sublime achievement — an “inestimable jewel,” in the words of Lincoln. Lawmakers who speak about “separation from this government” are doing a great disservice to themselves, to their party, and to their country. They ought to cease and desist, now, before they embarrass themselves further.

First, Republican Rand Paul wanted to revisit the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now Representative Zach Wamp, following the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry, wants to revisit the Civil War. “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” Wamp said during a recent interview with Hotline OnCall.

Representative Wamp praised Perry, who first floated the idea of secession in April 2009, for leading the push-back against health-care reform. “Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level,” said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey in an August 5 GOP primary race. (The winner will face Mike McWherter in November to decide who will replace Tennessee Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.)

This kind of talk from Wamp and Perry is stupid and reckless. For one thing, it is evidence of a stunning inability to distinguish different historical moments. For some people, the times in which we live don’t appear to be dramatic enough; they have to equate the events we’re going through to the clash with Nazism, the hardships of the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution, or the stakes involved in the Civil War. It all tends to be quite silly and unhelpful.

Beyond that, though, is the fevered mindset that would suggest that “separation from this government” may be necessary. Do Wamp and Perry have any grasp of what they are talking about? Do they understand that the South seceded from the Union to maintain chattel slavery as a way of life? Or that Lincoln, our greatest president (and the first Republican president), waged the Civil War — which cost America around 620,000 lives (the equivalent of around 5 million lives today) — to keep the Union whole and free? Are Wamp and Perry really suggesting we take up, in a serious manner, the issue of secession again? Because of ObamaCare?

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing Barack Obama. I believe he’s doing great damage to the country, and conservatives need to check him at almost every point along the way. But to argue that differences in policy ought to lead us to consider secession is lunacy. It also shows a (presumably) unwitting contempt for America, for its history, and for its role and purpose in the world. When schoolchildren across America recite the Pledge of Allegiance, here are the words they say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our loyalty is to the United States of America. It is one nation. And it is indivisible.

America is a sublime achievement — an “inestimable jewel,” in the words of Lincoln. Lawmakers who speak about “separation from this government” are doing a great disservice to themselves, to their party, and to their country. They ought to cease and desist, now, before they embarrass themselves further.

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Pennsylvania Swings Red

The latest Rasmussen poll shows that Pat Toomey has a 45-to-39 percent lead over Joe Sestak. The pollster explains:

This is the seventh Rasmussen Reports survey of the race in 2010, and a review of prior results highlights just how stable it’s been to date. Toomey’s support has stayed in a very narrow range of 42% to 47%.

Sestak’s support has showed more movement, ranging from a low of 36% to a high of 46%. However, most of that movement came as he surged to victory over Specter in the Democratic primary. Other than polling conducted just before and just after the primary election, the Democratic nominee’s support has remained between 36% and 38%.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republicans support Toomey, while 70% of Democrats say they’re voting for Sestak. Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Republican has a nine-point advantage.

Recall that Obama carried the state in 2008 by a margin of 54.7-to-44.3 percent. Obama, in other words, has presided over a 16-point swing in the electorate in that state. And it’s not just Sestak.

Politico reports:

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is well aware that the Democrat who wants to succeed him is facing an uphill battle. The two-term Democratic governor said in an interview Wednesday that while he supports nominee Dan Onorato, he knows he’s the “underdog” in the race and the GOP nominee, Attorney General Tom Corbett, “ is still a “tough candidate to beat.” …

Rendell wasn’t shy about listing those home-state House members he believes will have tough elections this fall. In the 2006 and 2008 cycles, Pennsylvania Democrats made remarkable gains by picking up five House seats. In the 2010 cycle, Rendell cited the top five Democratic incumbents he believes are in competitive races: Patrick Murphy, Chris Carney, Kathy Dahlkemper, Jason Altmire and Tim Holden.

As in many states that had of late voted strongly Democratic, the Obama era is forcing the electorate in Pennsylvania to rethink its partisan preferences. Having seen Obama and a Democratic Congress in action, Pennsylvania voters are more than willing to let the Republicans have a shot. It will now be up to the GOP contenders in all these race to make the case for themselves, but the first argument for their re-election will be: look what the Democrats have done.

The latest Rasmussen poll shows that Pat Toomey has a 45-to-39 percent lead over Joe Sestak. The pollster explains:

This is the seventh Rasmussen Reports survey of the race in 2010, and a review of prior results highlights just how stable it’s been to date. Toomey’s support has stayed in a very narrow range of 42% to 47%.

Sestak’s support has showed more movement, ranging from a low of 36% to a high of 46%. However, most of that movement came as he surged to victory over Specter in the Democratic primary. Other than polling conducted just before and just after the primary election, the Democratic nominee’s support has remained between 36% and 38%.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republicans support Toomey, while 70% of Democrats say they’re voting for Sestak. Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Republican has a nine-point advantage.

Recall that Obama carried the state in 2008 by a margin of 54.7-to-44.3 percent. Obama, in other words, has presided over a 16-point swing in the electorate in that state. And it’s not just Sestak.

Politico reports:

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is well aware that the Democrat who wants to succeed him is facing an uphill battle. The two-term Democratic governor said in an interview Wednesday that while he supports nominee Dan Onorato, he knows he’s the “underdog” in the race and the GOP nominee, Attorney General Tom Corbett, “ is still a “tough candidate to beat.” …

Rendell wasn’t shy about listing those home-state House members he believes will have tough elections this fall. In the 2006 and 2008 cycles, Pennsylvania Democrats made remarkable gains by picking up five House seats. In the 2010 cycle, Rendell cited the top five Democratic incumbents he believes are in competitive races: Patrick Murphy, Chris Carney, Kathy Dahlkemper, Jason Altmire and Tim Holden.

As in many states that had of late voted strongly Democratic, the Obama era is forcing the electorate in Pennsylvania to rethink its partisan preferences. Having seen Obama and a Democratic Congress in action, Pennsylvania voters are more than willing to let the Republicans have a shot. It will now be up to the GOP contenders in all these race to make the case for themselves, but the first argument for their re-election will be: look what the Democrats have done.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Michael Barone explains young Americans’ economic outlook in the Obama era: “The programs of the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership will increase government’s share of the economy and will tend to choke off private sector economic growth. We’ve already lost 8 million private sector jobs but no public sector jobs. We’ll probably create more public sector jobs. … But a nation with an ever larger public sector and an inhibited-growth private sector is a nation with fewer openings for people who want work that will benefit others. Fewer opportunities for young people who want to choose their future, just as they choose their iPod playlists and Facebook friends. Fewer opportunities for people to choose their future.”

Bill Kristol explains the economic-growth outlook in the Obama era: “Can you have a serious recovery when your — when taxes are being raised quite a lot, interest rates are going up, and the regulatory burden’s getting heavier? Those are just facts. I mean, taxes are going up. Interest rates are going up, intermediate and long-term rates, and they’re going to keep on going up because of the deficit. And the regulatory burden is getting heavier. That — I don’t know what economic theory tells you get good growth with those things going on.”

The farce of nuclear disarmament in the Obama era: “Iran said on Sunday it will host a nuclear disarmament conference this month to be attended by China, which has been resisting new sanctions against Tehran over its atomic ambitions. ‘This is an international conference and Iran, which advocates nuclear disarmament, is calling on all nations to disarm,’ Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told the official IRNA news agency.”

Syria-Israel relations in the Obama era (which look an awful lot like they always have): “A report submitted a few weeks ago to French President Nicolas Sarkozy by two of his top diplomats concludes that there is no chance to renew substantial negotiations between Israel and Syria in the near future, Haaretz has learned. The officials had visited the Middle East recently to investigate the possibility of French mediation between the two countries.” Agreeing to return our ambassador to Damascus apparently accomplished nothing.

Non-leadership on human rights in the Obama era: “Other nations should make clear that Burma would indeed be welcomed back — but only if it frees all political prisoners and ceases its war crimes against national minorities. … Together, these nations could exert real influence. They could tighten financial sanctions to really pinch top leaders and the entities they control; they could push the machinery of the United Nations to investigate the regime’s crimes, such as forced labor and mass rape. Now would be a good moment, in other words, to unite and use the leverage that is lying unused on the table.”

Another competitive Blue State in the Obama era: “As soon as former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced that he was running for governor, the race was seen by national Republicans as another possible high-profile pickup, a view almost immediately shared by political prognosticators. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report adjusted its rating of the race Thursday from solidly Democratic to one short of ‘Toss Up’ — saying Ehrlich is expected to run a ‘competitive’ contest against Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).”

Another prominent Blue State Democratic governor is in trouble in the Obama era: “Few politicians are as close to Obama as the Massachusetts Democratic governor, or have deeper ties to the president and his core team of advisers. And almost no one faces a tougher re-election battle this year than [Deval] Patrick, whose disapproval ratings would be considered near-terminal if not for the three-way race that he currently finds himself in.”

Not-at-all-smart diplomacy in the Obama era: “Barack Obama is in danger of reversing all the progress his predecessors, including George W. Bush, made in forging closer U.S. ties with India. Preoccupied with China and the Middle East, the Obama administration has allotted little room on its schedule for India, and failed to get much done in the short time it did make. Hosting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the November state visit, the administration managed to produce cordial photo ops, but the agreements reached on education, energy cooperation, and the like dealt with trivia.”

The voice of sanity in the Obama era: “The head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee said Sunday that several domestic threats against the government are “real” but not as great as dangers posed by foreign terrorists. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) emphasized that the government is taking seriously the arrest of militia members and threats to lawmakers and governors but cautioned that people should not ‘overstate’ them.”

Michael Barone explains young Americans’ economic outlook in the Obama era: “The programs of the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership will increase government’s share of the economy and will tend to choke off private sector economic growth. We’ve already lost 8 million private sector jobs but no public sector jobs. We’ll probably create more public sector jobs. … But a nation with an ever larger public sector and an inhibited-growth private sector is a nation with fewer openings for people who want work that will benefit others. Fewer opportunities for young people who want to choose their future, just as they choose their iPod playlists and Facebook friends. Fewer opportunities for people to choose their future.”

Bill Kristol explains the economic-growth outlook in the Obama era: “Can you have a serious recovery when your — when taxes are being raised quite a lot, interest rates are going up, and the regulatory burden’s getting heavier? Those are just facts. I mean, taxes are going up. Interest rates are going up, intermediate and long-term rates, and they’re going to keep on going up because of the deficit. And the regulatory burden is getting heavier. That — I don’t know what economic theory tells you get good growth with those things going on.”

The farce of nuclear disarmament in the Obama era: “Iran said on Sunday it will host a nuclear disarmament conference this month to be attended by China, which has been resisting new sanctions against Tehran over its atomic ambitions. ‘This is an international conference and Iran, which advocates nuclear disarmament, is calling on all nations to disarm,’ Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told the official IRNA news agency.”

Syria-Israel relations in the Obama era (which look an awful lot like they always have): “A report submitted a few weeks ago to French President Nicolas Sarkozy by two of his top diplomats concludes that there is no chance to renew substantial negotiations between Israel and Syria in the near future, Haaretz has learned. The officials had visited the Middle East recently to investigate the possibility of French mediation between the two countries.” Agreeing to return our ambassador to Damascus apparently accomplished nothing.

Non-leadership on human rights in the Obama era: “Other nations should make clear that Burma would indeed be welcomed back — but only if it frees all political prisoners and ceases its war crimes against national minorities. … Together, these nations could exert real influence. They could tighten financial sanctions to really pinch top leaders and the entities they control; they could push the machinery of the United Nations to investigate the regime’s crimes, such as forced labor and mass rape. Now would be a good moment, in other words, to unite and use the leverage that is lying unused on the table.”

Another competitive Blue State in the Obama era: “As soon as former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced that he was running for governor, the race was seen by national Republicans as another possible high-profile pickup, a view almost immediately shared by political prognosticators. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report adjusted its rating of the race Thursday from solidly Democratic to one short of ‘Toss Up’ — saying Ehrlich is expected to run a ‘competitive’ contest against Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).”

Another prominent Blue State Democratic governor is in trouble in the Obama era: “Few politicians are as close to Obama as the Massachusetts Democratic governor, or have deeper ties to the president and his core team of advisers. And almost no one faces a tougher re-election battle this year than [Deval] Patrick, whose disapproval ratings would be considered near-terminal if not for the three-way race that he currently finds himself in.”

Not-at-all-smart diplomacy in the Obama era: “Barack Obama is in danger of reversing all the progress his predecessors, including George W. Bush, made in forging closer U.S. ties with India. Preoccupied with China and the Middle East, the Obama administration has allotted little room on its schedule for India, and failed to get much done in the short time it did make. Hosting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the November state visit, the administration managed to produce cordial photo ops, but the agreements reached on education, energy cooperation, and the like dealt with trivia.”

The voice of sanity in the Obama era: “The head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee said Sunday that several domestic threats against the government are “real” but not as great as dangers posed by foreign terrorists. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) emphasized that the government is taking seriously the arrest of militia members and threats to lawmakers and governors but cautioned that people should not ‘overstate’ them.”

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The Virtues of Leaving Well Enough Alone

Among the many lessons to be learned from yesterday’s election in Massachusetts is that politicians should not play games with established law for short-term political advantage.

Like most states, Massachusetts law called for the governor to appoint someone to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat until the next general election. But in 2004, Republican Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, and Democratic Senator John Kerry was running for president. To prevent Romney from appointing a Republican in the event of a Kerry victory, a bill was submitted to the General Court (as Massachusetts calls its legislature) to strip the governor of this power and require a special election to be held from 145 to 160 days after the seat became vacant. The bill stalled in the legislature, however, until Senator Ted Kennedy personally pushed for its passage. Governor Romney vetoed the bill, but his veto was overridden by the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

Kerry, of course, lost the election, so the only result of this maneuvering was to diminish whatever public respect there was for the political establishment in Massachusetts. Then in 2009, Senator Kennedy, dying of cancer, asked that the law be changed again to allow the appointment of an interim senator (by the now Democratic governor, Deval Patrick) until the special election was held. President Obama endorsed the effort to be sure of having the votes in the Senate to push through his health-care legislation.

But by the time the special election was nearing, the wheeling and dealing in the Senate had so disgusted Massachusetts voters that the sacrificial lamb nominated by the Republicans began to look like a political tiger. More wheeling and dealing in the White House to secure union support for a final bill further disgusted the electorate and that — together with a very good campaign by the Republican and a lousy one by the Democrat — was enough to put Scott Brown in the seat held by the Kennedy family (or its surrogates) since before Scott Brown was born.

Had the Massachusetts Democrats and Senator Kennedy simply left the law alone in 2004, this election would not have taken place, and the Democrats’ 60-seat majority in the Senate would still be intact. Had the Massachusetts Democrats, Senator Kennedy, and President Obama left the law alone in 2009, the Senate would have been forced to bargain with Republicans to secure passage of the health-care bill. A bill might have emerged that would have had more public support, and the president and the Democrats might have escaped an epic political disaster.

Among the many lessons to be learned from yesterday’s election in Massachusetts is that politicians should not play games with established law for short-term political advantage.

Like most states, Massachusetts law called for the governor to appoint someone to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat until the next general election. But in 2004, Republican Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, and Democratic Senator John Kerry was running for president. To prevent Romney from appointing a Republican in the event of a Kerry victory, a bill was submitted to the General Court (as Massachusetts calls its legislature) to strip the governor of this power and require a special election to be held from 145 to 160 days after the seat became vacant. The bill stalled in the legislature, however, until Senator Ted Kennedy personally pushed for its passage. Governor Romney vetoed the bill, but his veto was overridden by the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

Kerry, of course, lost the election, so the only result of this maneuvering was to diminish whatever public respect there was for the political establishment in Massachusetts. Then in 2009, Senator Kennedy, dying of cancer, asked that the law be changed again to allow the appointment of an interim senator (by the now Democratic governor, Deval Patrick) until the special election was held. President Obama endorsed the effort to be sure of having the votes in the Senate to push through his health-care legislation.

But by the time the special election was nearing, the wheeling and dealing in the Senate had so disgusted Massachusetts voters that the sacrificial lamb nominated by the Republicans began to look like a political tiger. More wheeling and dealing in the White House to secure union support for a final bill further disgusted the electorate and that — together with a very good campaign by the Republican and a lousy one by the Democrat — was enough to put Scott Brown in the seat held by the Kennedy family (or its surrogates) since before Scott Brown was born.

Had the Massachusetts Democrats and Senator Kennedy simply left the law alone in 2004, this election would not have taken place, and the Democrats’ 60-seat majority in the Senate would still be intact. Had the Massachusetts Democrats, Senator Kennedy, and President Obama left the law alone in 2009, the Senate would have been forced to bargain with Republicans to secure passage of the health-care bill. A bill might have emerged that would have had more public support, and the president and the Democrats might have escaped an epic political disaster.

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Democrats Flee the Battleground

In a political jaw-dropper, on Tuesday we learned:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced this evening that he’s retiring at the end of his term, a shocking development that threatens Democratic control of his Senate seat next year.Dorgan was up for re-election in 2010, but the third-term senator wasn’t facing any strong Republican opposition– but was facing the growing possibility of a serious challenge from popular Gov. John Hoeven.

It seems that Dorgan suddenly found a deep desire to pursue “other interests.” That is how it goes when fund raising and polls point to a dogfight for the three-term senator. The Cook Political Report explains:

Republican Gov. John Hoeven has spent the last few months contemplating a challenge to the incumbent. And, now that the seat is open, Hoeven may find the race too good to pass up. The Governor is arguably the most popular politician in the state. . . Even if Hoeven were to forego the race for some reason, it is likely that Republicans will field a very strong contender. Democrats, though, will have a tougher time fielding a strong candidate, especially if Hoeven runs. Party leaders are likely to put significant pressure on At-Large Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy to run, but he may not be an ideal candidate. The current political environment has taken a toll on Pomeroy’s poll numbers and he has struggled to win re-election in past years when the political landscape tilted has been against Democrats, making a Senate bid especially risky.

The bottom line, according to Cook: this “creates a significant opening for Republicans and greatly diminishes the odds that Democrats can hold their 60-seat supermajority after the 2010 elections.”

But the impact may extend well beyond North Dakota. Imagine what must be running through the minds of  potential GOP contenders in other states (e.g., Rep. Peter King in New York or maybe a Rep. Mike Pence in Indiana): “Wow, we have them on the run! Should I throw my hat into the ring too?” And Democrats who will now have to raise money and work to hold an open seat in North Dakota cannot but be panicked that others may decide to pack it in as well. As for Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he must be thinking today that perhaps there is something afoot, the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the political landscape. (His opponent is not exactly an exemplar of confidence and policy know how, as she lamely retreats to the “Bush-Cheney economic policies” in her halfhearted defense of Gov. Deval Patrick – who may himself be another Democratic casualty.) And then we can’t forget about or miss the delicious political karma involving Arlen Specter — who switched parties just in time to see a tidal wave building against his new best friends.

All of this follows word that the Democratic front runner has dropped out of the gubernatorial race in Michigan and that Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Riitter isn’t going to run for re-election. (“Ritter faced economic uncertainty during his 3 years in office, and most polls show his approval rating near parity.”) Almost as if it were a trend, huh? (The New York Times is also reporting that Chris Dodd has decided not to run, which is the first good-news retirement for Democrats, removing a hobbled Dodd from a Blue state race that might otherwise be winnable without the scandal-plagued incumbent.)

Like sports, politics is about momentum, confidence, and support of the home-town fans. Right now the Democrats are lagging in all three respects. And if they keep up the secret health-care deal-making, they are going to add some self-inflicted injuries to their list of woes.

In a political jaw-dropper, on Tuesday we learned:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced this evening that he’s retiring at the end of his term, a shocking development that threatens Democratic control of his Senate seat next year.Dorgan was up for re-election in 2010, but the third-term senator wasn’t facing any strong Republican opposition– but was facing the growing possibility of a serious challenge from popular Gov. John Hoeven.

It seems that Dorgan suddenly found a deep desire to pursue “other interests.” That is how it goes when fund raising and polls point to a dogfight for the three-term senator. The Cook Political Report explains:

Republican Gov. John Hoeven has spent the last few months contemplating a challenge to the incumbent. And, now that the seat is open, Hoeven may find the race too good to pass up. The Governor is arguably the most popular politician in the state. . . Even if Hoeven were to forego the race for some reason, it is likely that Republicans will field a very strong contender. Democrats, though, will have a tougher time fielding a strong candidate, especially if Hoeven runs. Party leaders are likely to put significant pressure on At-Large Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy to run, but he may not be an ideal candidate. The current political environment has taken a toll on Pomeroy’s poll numbers and he has struggled to win re-election in past years when the political landscape tilted has been against Democrats, making a Senate bid especially risky.

The bottom line, according to Cook: this “creates a significant opening for Republicans and greatly diminishes the odds that Democrats can hold their 60-seat supermajority after the 2010 elections.”

But the impact may extend well beyond North Dakota. Imagine what must be running through the minds of  potential GOP contenders in other states (e.g., Rep. Peter King in New York or maybe a Rep. Mike Pence in Indiana): “Wow, we have them on the run! Should I throw my hat into the ring too?” And Democrats who will now have to raise money and work to hold an open seat in North Dakota cannot but be panicked that others may decide to pack it in as well. As for Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he must be thinking today that perhaps there is something afoot, the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the political landscape. (His opponent is not exactly an exemplar of confidence and policy know how, as she lamely retreats to the “Bush-Cheney economic policies” in her halfhearted defense of Gov. Deval Patrick – who may himself be another Democratic casualty.) And then we can’t forget about or miss the delicious political karma involving Arlen Specter — who switched parties just in time to see a tidal wave building against his new best friends.

All of this follows word that the Democratic front runner has dropped out of the gubernatorial race in Michigan and that Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Riitter isn’t going to run for re-election. (“Ritter faced economic uncertainty during his 3 years in office, and most polls show his approval rating near parity.”) Almost as if it were a trend, huh? (The New York Times is also reporting that Chris Dodd has decided not to run, which is the first good-news retirement for Democrats, removing a hobbled Dodd from a Blue state race that might otherwise be winnable without the scandal-plagued incumbent.)

Like sports, politics is about momentum, confidence, and support of the home-town fans. Right now the Democrats are lagging in all three respects. And if they keep up the secret health-care deal-making, they are going to add some self-inflicted injuries to their list of woes.

Read Less




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