Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democratic leader

Obama’s Not-So-Very-Good Week

David Brooks is not only an outstanding columnist; he’s also a friend. And so I want to register a friendly dissent with his column today.

As Rick noted, David argues that Barack Obama ran for president as a “network liberal” — defined as  one who believes progress is achieved by leaders savvy enough to build coalitions. (Brooks contrasts this with “cluster liberals/cluster conservatives,” meaning those who believe that victory is achieved through “maximum unity” and that “partisan might” should be “bluntly applied.”) But in office, Brooks writes, “Obama, like George W. Bush before him, narrowed his networks.”

That is, I think, an unfair reading of the Bush presidency.

One of the first significant legislative undertakings of President Bush, for example, was No Child Left Behind, which was the result of substantial bipartisan cooperation. President Obama has, until now, shown no such inclination to work with Republicans. In the first term, Bush also worked with Democrats on Medicare prescription drugs. Both the Afghanistan and Iraq war resolutions had substantial to overwhelming bipartisan support; so did the Patriot Act. Even on the 2001 tax cuts, Bush worked with Democrats and took into account their input. (Then House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt said a corporate tax cut was a non-starter with his caucus; he suggested instead sending out rebate checks to low- and moderate-income households. In response Bush, against his better judgment, instructed the White House staff to replace the corporate rate cut with Gephardt’s rebates. For more, see Karl Rove’s Courage and Consequence, chapter 19.)

At comparable points in their presidency, then, George W. Bush was much more of a “network conservative” than Obama has been a “network liberal.” Read More

David Brooks is not only an outstanding columnist; he’s also a friend. And so I want to register a friendly dissent with his column today.

As Rick noted, David argues that Barack Obama ran for president as a “network liberal” — defined as  one who believes progress is achieved by leaders savvy enough to build coalitions. (Brooks contrasts this with “cluster liberals/cluster conservatives,” meaning those who believe that victory is achieved through “maximum unity” and that “partisan might” should be “bluntly applied.”) But in office, Brooks writes, “Obama, like George W. Bush before him, narrowed his networks.”

That is, I think, an unfair reading of the Bush presidency.

One of the first significant legislative undertakings of President Bush, for example, was No Child Left Behind, which was the result of substantial bipartisan cooperation. President Obama has, until now, shown no such inclination to work with Republicans. In the first term, Bush also worked with Democrats on Medicare prescription drugs. Both the Afghanistan and Iraq war resolutions had substantial to overwhelming bipartisan support; so did the Patriot Act. Even on the 2001 tax cuts, Bush worked with Democrats and took into account their input. (Then House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt said a corporate tax cut was a non-starter with his caucus; he suggested instead sending out rebate checks to low- and moderate-income households. In response Bush, against his better judgment, instructed the White House staff to replace the corporate rate cut with Gephardt’s rebates. For more, see Karl Rove’s Courage and Consequence, chapter 19.)

At comparable points in their presidency, then, George W. Bush was much more of a “network conservative” than Obama has been a “network liberal.”

Second, David — in contrasting Obama favorably this week with “cluster liberals” — writes:

Cluster liberals in the House and the commentariat are angry. They have no strategy for how Obama could have better played his weak hand — with a coming Republican majority, an expiring tax law and several Democratic senators from red states insisting on extending all the cuts. They just sense the waning of their moment and are howling in protest.

They believe nonliberals are blackmailers or hostage-takers or the concentrated repositories of human evil, so, of course, they see coalition-building as collaboration. They are also convinced that Democrats should never start a negotiation because they will always end up losing in the end. (Perhaps psychologists can explain the interesting combination: intellectual self-confidence alongside a political inferiority complex.)

Some of this analysis I agree with. I would point out, however, that (a) during his press conference, Obama was as visibly angry as many people can recall seeing him, and (b) the term “hostage takers” was used by Obama against Republicans.

Finally, I disagree with David’s verdict that Obama had “a very good week.” Brooks’s argument is that Obama has put himself in a position to govern again, and I understand and have some sympathy with the point he’s making: Obama is distancing himself from his liberal base and, in so doing, embracing a policy that is both fairly popular and wise.

What’s going to damage Obama, though, is the manner in which the distancing was done. The president’s base is enraged at him; what we’re seeing looks very much like a political revolt within his own ranks. It’s stating the obvious to say that having members of your own congressional caucus cursing at you is not a very good thing. And as President George H.W. Bush found out with his violation of his “no new taxes” pledge, creating fury within your base in order to tack to the center can hurt one rather than help one.

Nor is it clear yet that Nancy Pelosi will even bring the legislation Obama has blessed to the floor for a vote without changes. I assume she will — but if the speaker decides not to, and if as a result Obama fails to get this deal signed into law, it will be a terrifically damaging blow to his prestige and his presidency. And even if Obama does succeed, he has created enormous unhappiness and mistrust among his base. This won’t be forgotten any time soon. Presidents, while needing to distance themselves from their base at times, don’t usually succeed when they are at war with it.

Democratic tempers will cool over time; new political battles will reconnect Obama to his party. And the key variable remains the economy. If in 2012 unemployment is going down, if the economy is growing at a brisk pace, and if people are confident about the trajectory the country is on, Obama will be in good shape with both his base and with independents. For now, though, the president is in a precarious position, having (for the moment at least) lost his base without having won over the rest of the country. It may be that the former is necessary to achieve the latter — but the way these things are done matters quite a lot. And this has been ugly all the way around.

If David Brooks is right and this week signaled the beginning of a fundamental change in Obama’s governing philosophy, then the president has helped himself. If, on the other hand, what Obama did this week was simply an anomaly, a tactical shift without a fundamental rethinking, then he has complicated his life and damaged his presidency.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

“Refudiate” is the word of the year? You betcha.

Word has it they are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic advisers at the White House. “Call it a shakeup or call it a natural turnover halfway through the term, but the White House is preparing for significant change throughout its top ranks. Much of the movement, though, will involve new posts for longtime aides to President Barack Obama.”

Words, words. You didn’t really take the State Department seriously, did you? “Mideast peace talks may not reach fruition before their initial September 2011 deadline, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, citing recent negotiations deadlock over Israel’s refusal to extend its moratorium on settlement building as one reason for the delay. Speaking prior to September’s relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said that the administration thought it could negotiate an agreement ‘within a one-year time frame.’”

“Fortunate” is not the word most of us have in mind. Donna Brazile waxes lyrical: “This week, visitors entering Washington’s Union Station are greeted by a work of art — a two-story, red open-toed lady’s dress shoe. It reminds me of Cinderella’s lost glass slipper. I thought to myself, if someone is looking for the woman big enough to fill this, they need look no further than Nancy Pelosi. The nation is fortunate, not to mention the Democratic Party and the president, that Ms. Pelosi will be re-elected Democratic leader for the next Congress, because we are surely entering one of the nation’s most difficult eras.”

Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t mince words: “Congress should act now to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting nearly all Americans on Jan. 1. Sustained job creation and economic growth are urgently needed — higher tax rates are not. The failure to take decisive action on this issue further heightens the uncertainty holding our economy back.” Is there any Republican better able to explain conservative economic positions better than he? I haven’t found him/her yet.

Words of advice for Sen. Joe Lieberman. “‘He’d probably be best off running as a Republican as far as getting re-elected,’ said [John] Droney [a Lieberman ally and former chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party], who stays in regular contact with Lieberman and encouraged him to run as an Independent in 2006. ‘I’d recommend him doing it now.”

You have to love the word choice. A “giveaway” is when people get to keep their own money. “Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said extending the tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year represents ‘a giveaway’ to wealthy Americans that would saddle the country in unnecessary debt.”

“Refudiate” is the word of the year? You betcha.

Word has it they are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic advisers at the White House. “Call it a shakeup or call it a natural turnover halfway through the term, but the White House is preparing for significant change throughout its top ranks. Much of the movement, though, will involve new posts for longtime aides to President Barack Obama.”

Words, words. You didn’t really take the State Department seriously, did you? “Mideast peace talks may not reach fruition before their initial September 2011 deadline, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, citing recent negotiations deadlock over Israel’s refusal to extend its moratorium on settlement building as one reason for the delay. Speaking prior to September’s relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said that the administration thought it could negotiate an agreement ‘within a one-year time frame.’”

“Fortunate” is not the word most of us have in mind. Donna Brazile waxes lyrical: “This week, visitors entering Washington’s Union Station are greeted by a work of art — a two-story, red open-toed lady’s dress shoe. It reminds me of Cinderella’s lost glass slipper. I thought to myself, if someone is looking for the woman big enough to fill this, they need look no further than Nancy Pelosi. The nation is fortunate, not to mention the Democratic Party and the president, that Ms. Pelosi will be re-elected Democratic leader for the next Congress, because we are surely entering one of the nation’s most difficult eras.”

Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t mince words: “Congress should act now to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting nearly all Americans on Jan. 1. Sustained job creation and economic growth are urgently needed — higher tax rates are not. The failure to take decisive action on this issue further heightens the uncertainty holding our economy back.” Is there any Republican better able to explain conservative economic positions better than he? I haven’t found him/her yet.

Words of advice for Sen. Joe Lieberman. “‘He’d probably be best off running as a Republican as far as getting re-elected,’ said [John] Droney [a Lieberman ally and former chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party], who stays in regular contact with Lieberman and encouraged him to run as an Independent in 2006. ‘I’d recommend him doing it now.”

You have to love the word choice. A “giveaway” is when people get to keep their own money. “Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said extending the tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year represents ‘a giveaway’ to wealthy Americans that would saddle the country in unnecessary debt.”

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Which Failed Leader Will Hang On?

There are parallel storylines that will tell us something about the two parties’ abilities to course correct. On one hand, we have Nancy Pelosi, who is determined to hang on past her expiration date. And then there is Michael Steele, whom GOP insiders have essentially already decided to oust.

The Democrats are conflicted and nervous; Pelosi is determined to steamroll the doubters:

At least 15 Democrats have said publicly that they have lost faith in her ability to lead — a number backed up by as many as two dozen more who are indicating the same thing privately, while others haven’t yet taken sides.

Liberal Reps. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) sent a letter to colleagues asking them to support a plan to forestall leadership elections until December — a clear effort to give the anti-Pelosi forces time to coalesce. Democratic leaders plan to go forward with the leadership contests Nov. 17, according to sources familiar with a Wednesday afternoon conference call. …

Even the New York Times’ editorial page has called on Pelosi to step aside.

(You gotta love the “even.”) Pelosi isn’t going quietly. “The shocker — and the true point of contention in Democratic ranks according to some party insiders — is that Pelosi is not ceding any power. She already claims to have the votes to keep the job of Democratic leader — leaving top lieutenants Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.) to engage in a caucus-splitting battle for the No. 2 job of minority whip.” Is she posturing, or does she have the votes? Listen, she blew one vote on TARP, and not since then has she permitted a vote on any significant measure for which she did not already have the votes. If they vote next week, Pelosi wins.

Meanwhile, not a soul in the RNC is conflicted about Steele’s future. As I pointed out yesterday, the GOP insiders have already coalesced around the idea of booting him out. This report echoes what I have been hearing:

Several influential RNC members told POLITICO there is widespread — and wild — speculation about possible challengers to Steele. But the top priority of many committee members, the sources said, isn’t necessarily coming to agreement on Steele’s replacement but rather ensuring he won’t have the votes to be reelected.

“There is a growing conversation amongst the members to take a look at what the options are and to identify what kind of chairman we need for the next cycle,” added another RNC member who spoke anonymously in order to be more frank. …

“I like Michael Steele. I have worked to support Michael in the committee while he’s been chairman,” [Haley's nephew Henry] Barbour told POLITICO. “But it’s clear to me that we need a change for the next election cycle.”

Now Steele’s side won an extraordinary midterm victory, no thanks to him; Pelosi’s team was thumped, a direct result of the agenda she forced her caucus to support. Yet Pelosi could well survive, while Steele will almost certainly not. Interesting how quickly the Dems became the party of the status quo.

There are parallel storylines that will tell us something about the two parties’ abilities to course correct. On one hand, we have Nancy Pelosi, who is determined to hang on past her expiration date. And then there is Michael Steele, whom GOP insiders have essentially already decided to oust.

The Democrats are conflicted and nervous; Pelosi is determined to steamroll the doubters:

At least 15 Democrats have said publicly that they have lost faith in her ability to lead — a number backed up by as many as two dozen more who are indicating the same thing privately, while others haven’t yet taken sides.

Liberal Reps. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) sent a letter to colleagues asking them to support a plan to forestall leadership elections until December — a clear effort to give the anti-Pelosi forces time to coalesce. Democratic leaders plan to go forward with the leadership contests Nov. 17, according to sources familiar with a Wednesday afternoon conference call. …

Even the New York Times’ editorial page has called on Pelosi to step aside.

(You gotta love the “even.”) Pelosi isn’t going quietly. “The shocker — and the true point of contention in Democratic ranks according to some party insiders — is that Pelosi is not ceding any power. She already claims to have the votes to keep the job of Democratic leader — leaving top lieutenants Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.) to engage in a caucus-splitting battle for the No. 2 job of minority whip.” Is she posturing, or does she have the votes? Listen, she blew one vote on TARP, and not since then has she permitted a vote on any significant measure for which she did not already have the votes. If they vote next week, Pelosi wins.

Meanwhile, not a soul in the RNC is conflicted about Steele’s future. As I pointed out yesterday, the GOP insiders have already coalesced around the idea of booting him out. This report echoes what I have been hearing:

Several influential RNC members told POLITICO there is widespread — and wild — speculation about possible challengers to Steele. But the top priority of many committee members, the sources said, isn’t necessarily coming to agreement on Steele’s replacement but rather ensuring he won’t have the votes to be reelected.

“There is a growing conversation amongst the members to take a look at what the options are and to identify what kind of chairman we need for the next cycle,” added another RNC member who spoke anonymously in order to be more frank. …

“I like Michael Steele. I have worked to support Michael in the committee while he’s been chairman,” [Haley's nephew Henry] Barbour told POLITICO. “But it’s clear to me that we need a change for the next election cycle.”

Now Steele’s side won an extraordinary midterm victory, no thanks to him; Pelosi’s team was thumped, a direct result of the agenda she forced her caucus to support. Yet Pelosi could well survive, while Steele will almost certainly not. Interesting how quickly the Dems became the party of the status quo.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Did Obama mention this in Cairo? “A group of young Saudi men have launched a campaign to convince Saudi men of the unappreciated virtues of polygamy.  It is a response to young Saudi women uninterested in joining a polygamous marriage, older Saudi women divorcees and Saudi men unable or unwilling to support more than one woman. The campaign seeks to counter what Saudi traditionalists see as an increasingly negative stigma attached to polygamy.”

Did Democratic lawmakers actually buy the notion that the American people would learn to love ObamaCare? “Almost four months after the passage of major health care legislation, the law remains unpopular with the public. Nearly half of Americans (47%) disapprove of the health care law while just 35% approve of the measure. An overwhelming proportion of opponents of health care legislation — 37% of the public overall — favor repealing the legislation as soon as possible. Just 7% say they want to let the law stand and see how it works. Public opinion toward health care legislation remained very stable in the months leading up to the bill’s passage, and that has continued to be the case.” That miscalculation will likely end more than a few political careers.

Did you expect anything else? “South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is sending strong signals that he may again buck his party and become the lone GOP senator on the Judiciary Committee to vote for Elena Kagan to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.”

Did Gen. Stanley McChrystal do us all a big favor? Gallup reports: “[Gen. David Petraeus] takes his new job as commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan with a remarkably positive image among Americans who know who he is. At the same time, Petraeus now faces the additional challenge of commanding a mission that the majority of Americans say is going badly. Americans’ views of the situation in Iraq improved during and after Petraeus’ tenure as commander in that country. The degree to which Petraeus will be able to shift Americans’ perceptions of the war in Afghanistan in similar fashion will have important consequences in many arenas, including the politics of the war in the U.S.”

Did you think in November 2008 that Barbara Boxer would now be in a toss-up race?

Did he check with Robert Gibbs? “House Majority Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) became the latest Democratic leader to voice confidence that the party will hold its majority in the House this fall.”

Did Robert Reich ever sound so smart? “Democrats have been almost as reluctant to attack inequality or even to recognize it as the central economic and social problem of our age. … As money has risen to the top, so has political power. Politicians are more dependent than ever on big money for their campaigns. … Today’s cash comes in the form of ever increasing campaign donations from corporate executives and Wall Street, their ever larger platoons of lobbyists and their hordes of PR flacks.” Hence, the “major fault line in American politics is no longer between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, but between the ‘establishment’ and an increasingly mad-as-hell populace determined to ‘take back America’ from it.”

Did Obama mention this in Cairo? “A group of young Saudi men have launched a campaign to convince Saudi men of the unappreciated virtues of polygamy.  It is a response to young Saudi women uninterested in joining a polygamous marriage, older Saudi women divorcees and Saudi men unable or unwilling to support more than one woman. The campaign seeks to counter what Saudi traditionalists see as an increasingly negative stigma attached to polygamy.”

Did Democratic lawmakers actually buy the notion that the American people would learn to love ObamaCare? “Almost four months after the passage of major health care legislation, the law remains unpopular with the public. Nearly half of Americans (47%) disapprove of the health care law while just 35% approve of the measure. An overwhelming proportion of opponents of health care legislation — 37% of the public overall — favor repealing the legislation as soon as possible. Just 7% say they want to let the law stand and see how it works. Public opinion toward health care legislation remained very stable in the months leading up to the bill’s passage, and that has continued to be the case.” That miscalculation will likely end more than a few political careers.

Did you expect anything else? “South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is sending strong signals that he may again buck his party and become the lone GOP senator on the Judiciary Committee to vote for Elena Kagan to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.”

Did Gen. Stanley McChrystal do us all a big favor? Gallup reports: “[Gen. David Petraeus] takes his new job as commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan with a remarkably positive image among Americans who know who he is. At the same time, Petraeus now faces the additional challenge of commanding a mission that the majority of Americans say is going badly. Americans’ views of the situation in Iraq improved during and after Petraeus’ tenure as commander in that country. The degree to which Petraeus will be able to shift Americans’ perceptions of the war in Afghanistan in similar fashion will have important consequences in many arenas, including the politics of the war in the U.S.”

Did you think in November 2008 that Barbara Boxer would now be in a toss-up race?

Did he check with Robert Gibbs? “House Majority Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) became the latest Democratic leader to voice confidence that the party will hold its majority in the House this fall.”

Did Robert Reich ever sound so smart? “Democrats have been almost as reluctant to attack inequality or even to recognize it as the central economic and social problem of our age. … As money has risen to the top, so has political power. Politicians are more dependent than ever on big money for their campaigns. … Today’s cash comes in the form of ever increasing campaign donations from corporate executives and Wall Street, their ever larger platoons of lobbyists and their hordes of PR flacks.” Hence, the “major fault line in American politics is no longer between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, but between the ‘establishment’ and an increasingly mad-as-hell populace determined to ‘take back America’ from it.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama drops below 50% approval in Gallup.

The cap-and-trade bill is so bad even John McCain opposes it. “McCain refers to the bill as ‘cap and tax,’ calls the climate legislation that passed the House in June ‘a 1,400-page monstrosity’ and dismisses a cap-and-trade proposal included in the White House budget as ‘a government slush fund.’”

A Democrat breaks with the White House on trying KSM in civilian court: “The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee expressed opposition today to Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to give civilian trials to the 9/11 plotters. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) penned a letter to Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggesting military trials would be a more appropriate venue for the accused terrorists. ”

Another slighted democratic ally: “Days before India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to be welcomed in the White House for his first state visit with President Obama, two perceived missteps by the Obama administration have concerned Indian officials that New Delhi suddenly has been relegated to the second tier of U.S.-Asian relations.” When is it that we start “restoring” our standing in the world?

Sen. Jon Kyl wants answers from the Justice Department regarding the NIAC.

Trouble in the “permanent majority“: “The Democratic Party’s broad ruling coalition is starting to fracture as lawmakers come under increasing pressure from the left to respond to voter anger over joblessness and Wall Street bailouts. Tensions boiled over this week, with an angry party caucus meeting Monday in the House, and black lawmakers Thursday threatening to block legislation in protest of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.  . . The squabbling is turning up pressure on the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress to respond, a challenge when their focus is on passing a health-care overhaul.” What a difference a year of one-party Democratic liberal rule makes.

Democrats insist that 2010 won’t be another 1994. However, “danger could lurk if turnout is low, factors that hurt Dem GOV candidates in NJ and VA this year.” In other words, if things keep going the way they have been, a lot of Democrats will be in trouble.

She must not have gotten the new script. This week we are being supportive of the Afghan government: “Calling Afghan President Hamid Karzai an ‘unworthy partner,’ a key Democratic leader warned Friday that Congress cannot fund an expanded military mission without a reliable ally in Kabul. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said moreover she did not think there was political support for sending more US troops to Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama is contemplating.”

The Obama team may not be able to give Big Labor card check but they haven’t run out of goodies: “The National Mediation Board, which oversees labor relations in the air and rail industry, this month moved to overturn 75 years of labor policy. The board plans to stack the deck for organized labor in union elections. Under a proposed rule, unions would no longer have to get the approval of a majority of airline workers to achieve certification. Not even close. Instead, a union could win just by getting a majority of the employees who vote. Thus, if only 1,000 of 10,000 flight attendants vote in a union election, and 501 vote for certification, the other 9,499 become unionized.”

Obama drops below 50% approval in Gallup.

The cap-and-trade bill is so bad even John McCain opposes it. “McCain refers to the bill as ‘cap and tax,’ calls the climate legislation that passed the House in June ‘a 1,400-page monstrosity’ and dismisses a cap-and-trade proposal included in the White House budget as ‘a government slush fund.’”

A Democrat breaks with the White House on trying KSM in civilian court: “The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee expressed opposition today to Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to give civilian trials to the 9/11 plotters. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) penned a letter to Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggesting military trials would be a more appropriate venue for the accused terrorists. ”

Another slighted democratic ally: “Days before India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to be welcomed in the White House for his first state visit with President Obama, two perceived missteps by the Obama administration have concerned Indian officials that New Delhi suddenly has been relegated to the second tier of U.S.-Asian relations.” When is it that we start “restoring” our standing in the world?

Sen. Jon Kyl wants answers from the Justice Department regarding the NIAC.

Trouble in the “permanent majority“: “The Democratic Party’s broad ruling coalition is starting to fracture as lawmakers come under increasing pressure from the left to respond to voter anger over joblessness and Wall Street bailouts. Tensions boiled over this week, with an angry party caucus meeting Monday in the House, and black lawmakers Thursday threatening to block legislation in protest of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.  . . The squabbling is turning up pressure on the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress to respond, a challenge when their focus is on passing a health-care overhaul.” What a difference a year of one-party Democratic liberal rule makes.

Democrats insist that 2010 won’t be another 1994. However, “danger could lurk if turnout is low, factors that hurt Dem GOV candidates in NJ and VA this year.” In other words, if things keep going the way they have been, a lot of Democrats will be in trouble.

She must not have gotten the new script. This week we are being supportive of the Afghan government: “Calling Afghan President Hamid Karzai an ‘unworthy partner,’ a key Democratic leader warned Friday that Congress cannot fund an expanded military mission without a reliable ally in Kabul. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said moreover she did not think there was political support for sending more US troops to Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama is contemplating.”

The Obama team may not be able to give Big Labor card check but they haven’t run out of goodies: “The National Mediation Board, which oversees labor relations in the air and rail industry, this month moved to overturn 75 years of labor policy. The board plans to stack the deck for organized labor in union elections. Under a proposed rule, unions would no longer have to get the approval of a majority of airline workers to achieve certification. Not even close. Instead, a union could win just by getting a majority of the employees who vote. Thus, if only 1,000 of 10,000 flight attendants vote in a union election, and 501 vote for certification, the other 9,499 become unionized.”

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Another Times Fishing Expedition

The New York Times yesterday served notice once again that it will grasp at even the slimmest of straws in its transparent effort to derail John McCain’s bid for the White House.

In an article titled “Two McCain Moments, Rarely Mentioned,” reporter Elisabeth Bumiller floated the notion that McCain’s Republican loyalties leave something to be desired, implying that McCain is well, you know, maybe just a little bit untrustworthy, unpredictable–perhaps even unstable.

Bumiller’s piece revolved around what she called “two extraordinary moments in [McCain's] political past that are at odds with the candidate of the present,” the two being “[h]is discussions in 2001 with Democrats about leaving the Republican Party, and his conversations in 2004 with Senator John Kerry about becoming Mr. Kerry’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket.”

But as Bumiller herself acknowledged, “There are wildly divergent versions of both episodes, depending on whether Democrats or Mr. McCain and his advisers are telling the story. The Democrats, including Mr. Kerry, say that not only did Mr. McCain express interest but that it was his camp that initially reached out to them. Mr. McCain and his aides counter that in both cases the Democrats were the suitors and Mr. McCain the unwilling bride.”

Now, when you’ve got “widely divergent” accounts of a story, it would seem tendentious at best -particularly in the news pages of an ostensibly serious media organ — to try to explicate from that story any meaningful insight into the character or politics of the story’s protagonist. But Elisabeth Bumiller had her agenda, and she was off to the races:

Either way, the episodes shed light on a bitter period on Mr. McCain’s life. . . . They also offer a glimpse into his psychological makeup and the difficulties in putting a label on his political ideology over many years in the Senate.

Got that? “Either way.” In other words, she has a case to make, and no matter where the truth lies – “either way” – she’ll make it.

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The New York Times yesterday served notice once again that it will grasp at even the slimmest of straws in its transparent effort to derail John McCain’s bid for the White House.

In an article titled “Two McCain Moments, Rarely Mentioned,” reporter Elisabeth Bumiller floated the notion that McCain’s Republican loyalties leave something to be desired, implying that McCain is well, you know, maybe just a little bit untrustworthy, unpredictable–perhaps even unstable.

Bumiller’s piece revolved around what she called “two extraordinary moments in [McCain's] political past that are at odds with the candidate of the present,” the two being “[h]is discussions in 2001 with Democrats about leaving the Republican Party, and his conversations in 2004 with Senator John Kerry about becoming Mr. Kerry’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket.”

But as Bumiller herself acknowledged, “There are wildly divergent versions of both episodes, depending on whether Democrats or Mr. McCain and his advisers are telling the story. The Democrats, including Mr. Kerry, say that not only did Mr. McCain express interest but that it was his camp that initially reached out to them. Mr. McCain and his aides counter that in both cases the Democrats were the suitors and Mr. McCain the unwilling bride.”

Now, when you’ve got “widely divergent” accounts of a story, it would seem tendentious at best -particularly in the news pages of an ostensibly serious media organ — to try to explicate from that story any meaningful insight into the character or politics of the story’s protagonist. But Elisabeth Bumiller had her agenda, and she was off to the races:

Either way, the episodes shed light on a bitter period on Mr. McCain’s life. . . . They also offer a glimpse into his psychological makeup and the difficulties in putting a label on his political ideology over many years in the Senate.

Got that? “Either way.” In other words, she has a case to make, and no matter where the truth lies – “either way” – she’ll make it.

Later in the piece, after recounting former Democratic congressman Thomas J. Downey’s claim that longtime McCain aide John Weaver approached him shortly after George W. Bush took office with the possibility–expressed in rather vague terms even in Downey’s telling – that McCain might be willing to defect to the Democrats, Bumiller acknowledged that Weaver’s recollection was at odds with Downey’s.

According to Weaver, Downey was the one who broached the subject and his–Weaver’s–response was primarily one of bemusement.

So just who did initiate the conversation, and how seriously did Weaver take it? On such details do stories hang, especially a story that promises to plumb the inner recesses of a potential president’s psyche–his “psychological makeup,” as Bumiller herself put it. But our trusty reporter can’t be bothered with such trivia: “Whatever transpired, Mr. Downey raced home and immediately called” former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle.

“Whatever transpired”?! If Bumiller doesn’t know “whatever transpired” between Downey and Weaver, then what was the point of her piece? After all, “whatever transpired” is so much more important to the story than what Downey did or whom he contacted immediately afterward.

Still later in the article, after offering contradictory accounts of who approached whom in the matter of a possible 2004 Kerry-McCain ticket, Bumiller wrote, “But however Mr. McCain reacted, he ultimately decided [according to McCain adviser Mark Salter] . . . that the idea would never work.”

“However Mr. McCain reacted.” Yes, the reader wanted to scream–how, exactly, did he react? Alas, we learned nothing about McCain’s actual reaction to the idea of running on a cross-party ticket–just more of the same He Said, He Said back and forth.

McCain may very well have given thought to–even seriously flirted with–the idea of switching parties in 2001 or running with Kerry in 2004. But readers were no closer to knowing the truth after finishing Bumiller’s fishing expedition of an article than they were before starting it.

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How Long Before Gore Endorses Obama?

After Ted Kennedy’s endorsement, the only question is when Al Gore will throw his support behind Barack Obama.

Don’t think for a moment that Gore isn’t considering it. What happened this weekend was the most dramatic change of tenor we have seen since Iowa caucus night. A new front opened up in the Democratic primary race. Hillary Clinton is no longer just battling Obama. She is defending the legitimacy of the Clinton era against all those who know it and are sick of it. A Gore endorsement of the rival to the wife of the man who made him vice president would be an unprecedented blow.

South Carolina was supposed to be insignificant win for Obama – even a part of the Hillary strategy. Dick Morris and others audaciously suggested that the Clintons wanted Obama to have a huge showing among black voters, sending a signal to white voters in other southern states that the contest was shaping up along racial lines. As Obama has emerged as a shrewd campaigner and rhetorical powerhouse, the transparent Clinton maneuvers to insert race into the campaign has simply forced even one-time cheerleaders to admit that Lady Macbeth and her husband must be stopped. Pete Wehner has a terrific piece on National Review Online describing how liberal stalwarts E.J. Dionne and Bill Greider have turned on the Clintons.

Suddenly the blood lust among Democrats to put a stake through the heart of the Clinton regime is palpable. John Kerry was uncharacteristically ahead of curve. So was Robert Reich, who was not only Clinton’s Secretary of Labor but a friend dating back to their Oxford days in the late 1960s. The Ted Kennedy endorsement can only be read as a message to the Democratic establishment that it is safe to come outside and declare your disgust with the Clintons.

So who will be next? John Edwards, some time later this week, will drop out of the race and endorse Obama, if only to create the illusion that he is a king maker. But what about Bill Richardson? Or Jimmy Carter? Geraldine Ferraro? Michael Bloomberg? For Gore, this opportunity to crown the next Democratic leader and simultaneously stab the Clintons in the back is simply too much to resist. Surely he is considering Macduff’s words from Act V: “Make all our trumpets speak; give them all breath,/ Those clamorous harbingers of blood and death.”

After Ted Kennedy’s endorsement, the only question is when Al Gore will throw his support behind Barack Obama.

Don’t think for a moment that Gore isn’t considering it. What happened this weekend was the most dramatic change of tenor we have seen since Iowa caucus night. A new front opened up in the Democratic primary race. Hillary Clinton is no longer just battling Obama. She is defending the legitimacy of the Clinton era against all those who know it and are sick of it. A Gore endorsement of the rival to the wife of the man who made him vice president would be an unprecedented blow.

South Carolina was supposed to be insignificant win for Obama – even a part of the Hillary strategy. Dick Morris and others audaciously suggested that the Clintons wanted Obama to have a huge showing among black voters, sending a signal to white voters in other southern states that the contest was shaping up along racial lines. As Obama has emerged as a shrewd campaigner and rhetorical powerhouse, the transparent Clinton maneuvers to insert race into the campaign has simply forced even one-time cheerleaders to admit that Lady Macbeth and her husband must be stopped. Pete Wehner has a terrific piece on National Review Online describing how liberal stalwarts E.J. Dionne and Bill Greider have turned on the Clintons.

Suddenly the blood lust among Democrats to put a stake through the heart of the Clinton regime is palpable. John Kerry was uncharacteristically ahead of curve. So was Robert Reich, who was not only Clinton’s Secretary of Labor but a friend dating back to their Oxford days in the late 1960s. The Ted Kennedy endorsement can only be read as a message to the Democratic establishment that it is safe to come outside and declare your disgust with the Clintons.

So who will be next? John Edwards, some time later this week, will drop out of the race and endorse Obama, if only to create the illusion that he is a king maker. But what about Bill Richardson? Or Jimmy Carter? Geraldine Ferraro? Michael Bloomberg? For Gore, this opportunity to crown the next Democratic leader and simultaneously stab the Clintons in the back is simply too much to resist. Surely he is considering Macduff’s words from Act V: “Make all our trumpets speak; give them all breath,/ Those clamorous harbingers of blood and death.”

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Pelosi’s Record

Let us stipulate that it is not easy to run the House of Representatives. With its 435 massive egos, each subject to unique pressures and whims, each accustomed to being the biggest fish in his or her own district pond, the House is bound to be unruly. The culture of the place is also not always conducive to following a leader. It hasn’t changed all that much from the scene Alexis de Tocqueville encountered when he visited the Capitol in the early 1830’s:

When you enter the House of Representatives in Washington, you feel yourself struck by the vulgar aspect of this great assembly. Often the eye seeks in vain for a celebrated man within it. Almost all its members are obscure persons, whose name furnishes no image to one’s thought. They are, for the most part, village attorneys, or those in trade. . . . In a country where instruction is almost universally widespread, it is said that the people’s representatives do not always know how to write correctly.

A tough crowd to corral, surely. But looking at Nancy Pelosi’s record of accomplishment after nearly a year, the question arises: can it really be this hard to run things?

For the first time in two decades, the Congress has failed to send the President even one budget bill before the end of October. The Democrats have failed, too, to make much of a dent in the war effort—after having promised their party’s most ardent constituents to reverse course. They have so far failed to capitalize on the opening offered them by the fight over the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and they’re plotting an effort to combine the Veterans and Defense appropriations bills with a bloated Health, Education, and Labor bill—which would allow Republicans to paint them as holding American troops hostage to the pet projects of Democratic interest groups.

Almost as important, though, has been the basic failure of day-to-day management by Speaker Pelosi. Again and again, she has allowed her most vulnerable members to be trapped by Republican floor tactics. Again and again she has been too aggressive with the most moderate Republicans, costing her party a chance to win crucial cross-over votes at key moments. Again and again she’s spoken too quickly and had to backtrack embarrassingly (this week, for instance, her staff was caught trying to edit a transcript of a public event to make it appear that she didn’t mean what she clearly said.)

The public has noticed, of course. Congress’s approval ratings are significantly lower than even President Bush’s. Pelosi’s standings in her home state have fallen sharply (as have those of the Senate’s Democratic leader Harry Reid).

Before the 2006 elections, some conservatives argued that a loss in Congress would have a silver lining for Republicans, by giving the GOP a chance to regroup and refocus, and especially by showing voters what the Democrats were like in power. Almost a year into the 110th Congress, it is hard to argue with them.

Let us stipulate that it is not easy to run the House of Representatives. With its 435 massive egos, each subject to unique pressures and whims, each accustomed to being the biggest fish in his or her own district pond, the House is bound to be unruly. The culture of the place is also not always conducive to following a leader. It hasn’t changed all that much from the scene Alexis de Tocqueville encountered when he visited the Capitol in the early 1830’s:

When you enter the House of Representatives in Washington, you feel yourself struck by the vulgar aspect of this great assembly. Often the eye seeks in vain for a celebrated man within it. Almost all its members are obscure persons, whose name furnishes no image to one’s thought. They are, for the most part, village attorneys, or those in trade. . . . In a country where instruction is almost universally widespread, it is said that the people’s representatives do not always know how to write correctly.

A tough crowd to corral, surely. But looking at Nancy Pelosi’s record of accomplishment after nearly a year, the question arises: can it really be this hard to run things?

For the first time in two decades, the Congress has failed to send the President even one budget bill before the end of October. The Democrats have failed, too, to make much of a dent in the war effort—after having promised their party’s most ardent constituents to reverse course. They have so far failed to capitalize on the opening offered them by the fight over the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and they’re plotting an effort to combine the Veterans and Defense appropriations bills with a bloated Health, Education, and Labor bill—which would allow Republicans to paint them as holding American troops hostage to the pet projects of Democratic interest groups.

Almost as important, though, has been the basic failure of day-to-day management by Speaker Pelosi. Again and again, she has allowed her most vulnerable members to be trapped by Republican floor tactics. Again and again she has been too aggressive with the most moderate Republicans, costing her party a chance to win crucial cross-over votes at key moments. Again and again she’s spoken too quickly and had to backtrack embarrassingly (this week, for instance, her staff was caught trying to edit a transcript of a public event to make it appear that she didn’t mean what she clearly said.)

The public has noticed, of course. Congress’s approval ratings are significantly lower than even President Bush’s. Pelosi’s standings in her home state have fallen sharply (as have those of the Senate’s Democratic leader Harry Reid).

Before the 2006 elections, some conservatives argued that a loss in Congress would have a silver lining for Republicans, by giving the GOP a chance to regroup and refocus, and especially by showing voters what the Democrats were like in power. Almost a year into the 110th Congress, it is hard to argue with them.

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Ugly Alliance

Democrats are said to be keen about “connecting the dots”—so let’s see if we can connect a few for them.

Dot Number One: Last week, MoveOn.org published a full-page ad in the New York Times directed at David Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, accusing him of betraying America and “cooking the books”—and many leading Democrats, including Senator Hillary Clinton, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t condemn it (to their credit a few, like John Kerry, did).

Dot Number Two: In December 2004, the executive director of MoveOn.org’s PAC said of the Democratic Party: “Now it’s our party. We bought it, we own it, and we’re going to take it back.”

Dot Number Three: According to a story in last May’s New York Times, “Every morning, representatives from a cluster of antiwar groups [including MoveOn.org] gather for a conference call with Democratic leadership staff members in the House and the Senate. . . . “The principle under which we’ve been operating is more like a political campaign,” Mr. Matzzie [Tom Matzzie, MoveOn.org's Washington director] said. “The central strategy is creating that toxic environment for people who want to continue this [Iraq] debacle.”

Dot Number Four: We read this in The Politico today:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) traveled to New York on Monday and huddled with leaders of the anti-Iraq-war movement, his latest effort to reassure this increasingly restive group that Democrats are doing everything they can to end the war. . . . Impatience rising, some activists are urging that Democrats who are not aggressive enough in confronting Bush on Iraq themselves be challenged with primary opponents or third-party candidacies in 2008. “People are feeling like we invested all this time and money in changing the political equation and where has it led us?” said former congressman Tom Andrews, leader of Win Without War. . . . Andrews, antiwar activist Tom Hayden, Code Pink’s Dana Balicki, and Leslie Cagan, director of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of antiwar groups, said there is open talk of third-party challenges from the Left . . .

Dot Number Five: This morning we read from the Associated Press:

After weeks of suggesting Democrats would temper their approach to Iraq legislation in a bid to attract more Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared abruptly Tuesday that he had no plans to do so. The Democratic leader said he will call for a vote this month on several antiwar proposals, including one by Senator Carl Levin that would insist President Bush end U.S. combat next summer. The proposals would be mandatory and not leave Bush wiggle room, said Reid, D-Nev. “There (are) no goals. It’s all definite time lines,” he told reporters of the planned legislation. . . . Democrats are in a box on the Iraq war debate, lacking the votes to pass legislation ordering troops home, but tied to a support base that wants nothing less.

Let’s now connect these dots and draw some conclusions from them, shall we?

MoveOn.org—an angry, far-left, antiwar group—views the modern Democratic Party and its leadership as its cat’s-paw, and there’s little reason to dispute this judgment. The problem for many Democrats is that a Great Unmasking is taking place. For one thing, it’s difficult to say they oppose the war but support the troops when they train their fire on the commanding general of the troops, whose main transgression appears to be that he’s helping America succeed in an epic struggle against radical Islam.

Beyond that, the Democratic Party’s aversion to any (authentic) good news from Iraq, when combined with their effort to accelerate a premature withdrawal from that traumatized country, would lead to an American defeat and a victory for jihadism. This would be reckless—and it would reinforce the view among many Americans that the Democratic Party cannot be trusted on national security matters.

When MoveOn.org says jump, the Democratic Party asks, “How high?” There should be, and eventually there will be, a political price to pay for this ugly alliance.

Democrats are said to be keen about “connecting the dots”—so let’s see if we can connect a few for them.

Dot Number One: Last week, MoveOn.org published a full-page ad in the New York Times directed at David Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, accusing him of betraying America and “cooking the books”—and many leading Democrats, including Senator Hillary Clinton, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t condemn it (to their credit a few, like John Kerry, did).

Dot Number Two: In December 2004, the executive director of MoveOn.org’s PAC said of the Democratic Party: “Now it’s our party. We bought it, we own it, and we’re going to take it back.”

Dot Number Three: According to a story in last May’s New York Times, “Every morning, representatives from a cluster of antiwar groups [including MoveOn.org] gather for a conference call with Democratic leadership staff members in the House and the Senate. . . . “The principle under which we’ve been operating is more like a political campaign,” Mr. Matzzie [Tom Matzzie, MoveOn.org's Washington director] said. “The central strategy is creating that toxic environment for people who want to continue this [Iraq] debacle.”

Dot Number Four: We read this in The Politico today:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) traveled to New York on Monday and huddled with leaders of the anti-Iraq-war movement, his latest effort to reassure this increasingly restive group that Democrats are doing everything they can to end the war. . . . Impatience rising, some activists are urging that Democrats who are not aggressive enough in confronting Bush on Iraq themselves be challenged with primary opponents or third-party candidacies in 2008. “People are feeling like we invested all this time and money in changing the political equation and where has it led us?” said former congressman Tom Andrews, leader of Win Without War. . . . Andrews, antiwar activist Tom Hayden, Code Pink’s Dana Balicki, and Leslie Cagan, director of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of antiwar groups, said there is open talk of third-party challenges from the Left . . .

Dot Number Five: This morning we read from the Associated Press:

After weeks of suggesting Democrats would temper their approach to Iraq legislation in a bid to attract more Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared abruptly Tuesday that he had no plans to do so. The Democratic leader said he will call for a vote this month on several antiwar proposals, including one by Senator Carl Levin that would insist President Bush end U.S. combat next summer. The proposals would be mandatory and not leave Bush wiggle room, said Reid, D-Nev. “There (are) no goals. It’s all definite time lines,” he told reporters of the planned legislation. . . . Democrats are in a box on the Iraq war debate, lacking the votes to pass legislation ordering troops home, but tied to a support base that wants nothing less.

Let’s now connect these dots and draw some conclusions from them, shall we?

MoveOn.org—an angry, far-left, antiwar group—views the modern Democratic Party and its leadership as its cat’s-paw, and there’s little reason to dispute this judgment. The problem for many Democrats is that a Great Unmasking is taking place. For one thing, it’s difficult to say they oppose the war but support the troops when they train their fire on the commanding general of the troops, whose main transgression appears to be that he’s helping America succeed in an epic struggle against radical Islam.

Beyond that, the Democratic Party’s aversion to any (authentic) good news from Iraq, when combined with their effort to accelerate a premature withdrawal from that traumatized country, would lead to an American defeat and a victory for jihadism. This would be reckless—and it would reinforce the view among many Americans that the Democratic Party cannot be trusted on national security matters.

When MoveOn.org says jump, the Democratic Party asks, “How high?” There should be, and eventually there will be, a political price to pay for this ugly alliance.

Read Less




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