Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democratic strategist

Flotsam and Jetsam

“Soul-searching” at the White House? Not so much. “‘There isn’t going to be a reset button. That’s not their style,’ said a Democratic strategist who works with the White House on several issues. ‘They don’t like pivots, and they also believe they’re right.'”

Nancy Pelosi is the right leader to show the country that the Dems “get it”? Not so much, according to Heath Shuler: “Shuler believes that his party didn’t get the message on Election Day when voters kicked Democrats out of majority control of the House if his caucus keeps Pelosi at the top of their leadership team. ‘I hope that with so many members that we need to go in a different direction, that we have to be able to recruit or get back those members of Congress that lost, and I just don’t see that path happening if she’s at the top of the Democrats,’ Shuler said.” He says he’ll run against Pelosi, but maybe he’s in the wrong party.

Would Russ Feingold be a formidable primary challenger to Barack Obama? Not so much, says Mara Liasson: “There’d have to be a real anti-war movement in the country for Russ Feingold to try to capture and lead. But there’s not even that.”

Have the Obami learned anything about their Middle East policy failures? Not so much. The U.S. is goading Bibi to offer a 90-day freeze (why should this freeze produce a different result than the last one?), but the PA is already grousing. “Earlier on Sunday, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed strong reservations about the U.S. proposal, because it would only apply to the West Bank and not east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.”

Is Obama still the media’s darling? Not so much. “The Democratic president left for Asia just three days after his party suffered big defeats in mid-term elections at the hands of voters worried over the sputtering U.S. economy and unemployment stuck near 10 percent for more than a year. The trip was intended to counteract that frustration with a stress on opening new markets for American goods and improving the jobs picture, so the timing was especially tough. ‘The coverage has been quite negative. The dominant narrative is an embattled president representing a weakened nation,’ said William Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. ‘All in all, not the kind of trip a president who has just suffered an electoral rebuff needs,’ he said.”

So the Obama team is going to be more transparent and connect more successfully with the American people? Not so much. “From the administration’s stance on a presidential commission’s controversial recommendations for Social Security and Medicare cuts, to Republican demands that Obama veto any bills containing earmarks, Axelrod offered few specifics on administration plans during interviews on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ and ‘Fox News Sunday.'” So why bother going on? It’s hard to solve the alleged “communication” problem if you don’t have anything to communicate.

Iran wants to negotiate about its nuclear program? Not so much. “They have yet to agree on venue, a length for the talks or even the subject. Iran says it is willing to talk about everything but its uranium enrichment program; the other countries – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – want to talk mostly about the entire nuclear program.”

“Soul-searching” at the White House? Not so much. “‘There isn’t going to be a reset button. That’s not their style,’ said a Democratic strategist who works with the White House on several issues. ‘They don’t like pivots, and they also believe they’re right.'”

Nancy Pelosi is the right leader to show the country that the Dems “get it”? Not so much, according to Heath Shuler: “Shuler believes that his party didn’t get the message on Election Day when voters kicked Democrats out of majority control of the House if his caucus keeps Pelosi at the top of their leadership team. ‘I hope that with so many members that we need to go in a different direction, that we have to be able to recruit or get back those members of Congress that lost, and I just don’t see that path happening if she’s at the top of the Democrats,’ Shuler said.” He says he’ll run against Pelosi, but maybe he’s in the wrong party.

Would Russ Feingold be a formidable primary challenger to Barack Obama? Not so much, says Mara Liasson: “There’d have to be a real anti-war movement in the country for Russ Feingold to try to capture and lead. But there’s not even that.”

Have the Obami learned anything about their Middle East policy failures? Not so much. The U.S. is goading Bibi to offer a 90-day freeze (why should this freeze produce a different result than the last one?), but the PA is already grousing. “Earlier on Sunday, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed strong reservations about the U.S. proposal, because it would only apply to the West Bank and not east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.”

Is Obama still the media’s darling? Not so much. “The Democratic president left for Asia just three days after his party suffered big defeats in mid-term elections at the hands of voters worried over the sputtering U.S. economy and unemployment stuck near 10 percent for more than a year. The trip was intended to counteract that frustration with a stress on opening new markets for American goods and improving the jobs picture, so the timing was especially tough. ‘The coverage has been quite negative. The dominant narrative is an embattled president representing a weakened nation,’ said William Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. ‘All in all, not the kind of trip a president who has just suffered an electoral rebuff needs,’ he said.”

So the Obama team is going to be more transparent and connect more successfully with the American people? Not so much. “From the administration’s stance on a presidential commission’s controversial recommendations for Social Security and Medicare cuts, to Republican demands that Obama veto any bills containing earmarks, Axelrod offered few specifics on administration plans during interviews on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ and ‘Fox News Sunday.'” So why bother going on? It’s hard to solve the alleged “communication” problem if you don’t have anything to communicate.

Iran wants to negotiate about its nuclear program? Not so much. “They have yet to agree on venue, a length for the talks or even the subject. Iran says it is willing to talk about everything but its uranium enrichment program; the other countries – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – want to talk mostly about the entire nuclear program.”

Read Less

Blame Time

The Democrats have discovered that Obama is out of touch:

“In his own assessments of what went wrong, the president has lamented his inability to persuade voters on the merits of what he has done, and blamed the failure on his preoccupation with a full plate of crises. But a broad sample of Democratic officeholders and strategists said in interviews that the disconnect goes far deeper than that.”

And now the Clinton (Bill, not Hillary) nostalgia, which periodically has wafted through GOP ranks, is gripping forlorn Dems:

Obama “is not Bill Clinton in the sense that he’s not an extrovert. He doesn’t gain energy by connecting with people,” said a Democratic strategist, who worked in the Clinton White House and asked not to be named while offering a candid criticism. “He needs to be forced to do it, either by self-discipline or others. There’s no one around him who will do that. They accommodate him, and that is a bad thing.”

He’s also not Clinton in the sense that Obama is ideologically rigid, while Clinton was anything but. But Democrats are conflicted: go to the center or double down on the agenda that wiped out so many of them? Hmm. What to do, what to do? (Republicans are biting their lips and laughing into their sleeves. “Double down — puleeze,” they whisper knowingly to each other.)

The less-deluded Democrats are furious now, convinced that the White House is on a political suicide mission. The defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is beside herself:

“They got a huge wake-up call [on election day], but unfortunately they took a lot of Democrats down with them,” said Sink of the White House.

She added: “They just need to be better listeners and be better at reaching out to people who are on the ground to hear about the realities of their policies as well as politics.” …

“I think they were tone-deaf,” she said. “They weren’t interested in hearing my opinion on what was happening on the ground with the oil spill. And they never acknowledged that they had problems with the acceptance of health care reform.”

The new law, she said, is “unpopular particularly among seniors” — a key voting bloc in the Sunshine State.

None of this was hidden from view before the election, but Democratic officials and operatives were understandably reluctant to come forward. Now, with election returns in hand, they are pointing the finger at the White House. But let’s be fair. Much of the credit goes to Nancy Pelosi — who wants to continue her reign over what’s left of the Democratic House caucus. (To which Republicans say, “Go for it!”)

The White House seems unconvinced that the problem is the agenda, not just a remote and increasingly unlikable president. They’ll try to “warm him up” and do more feel-your-pain moments. But the core problem remains: Obama is infatuated with his own agenda and it is that agenda that is the recipe for the minority-status of his party.

And in all of this, one wonders what the left-leaning intelligentsia has learned. A Harvard Law Review editor, a law professor, a garden-variety leftist, a talker-not-a-doer, and a proponent of American un-exceptionalism is a bust as president. In short, someone like them is utterly incapable of leading the country, and to rescue himself he will have to shed the very qualities and beliefs they hold dear. You can understand why they’d prefer to label the rest of the country “crazy.”

The Democrats have discovered that Obama is out of touch:

“In his own assessments of what went wrong, the president has lamented his inability to persuade voters on the merits of what he has done, and blamed the failure on his preoccupation with a full plate of crises. But a broad sample of Democratic officeholders and strategists said in interviews that the disconnect goes far deeper than that.”

And now the Clinton (Bill, not Hillary) nostalgia, which periodically has wafted through GOP ranks, is gripping forlorn Dems:

Obama “is not Bill Clinton in the sense that he’s not an extrovert. He doesn’t gain energy by connecting with people,” said a Democratic strategist, who worked in the Clinton White House and asked not to be named while offering a candid criticism. “He needs to be forced to do it, either by self-discipline or others. There’s no one around him who will do that. They accommodate him, and that is a bad thing.”

He’s also not Clinton in the sense that Obama is ideologically rigid, while Clinton was anything but. But Democrats are conflicted: go to the center or double down on the agenda that wiped out so many of them? Hmm. What to do, what to do? (Republicans are biting their lips and laughing into their sleeves. “Double down — puleeze,” they whisper knowingly to each other.)

The less-deluded Democrats are furious now, convinced that the White House is on a political suicide mission. The defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is beside herself:

“They got a huge wake-up call [on election day], but unfortunately they took a lot of Democrats down with them,” said Sink of the White House.

She added: “They just need to be better listeners and be better at reaching out to people who are on the ground to hear about the realities of their policies as well as politics.” …

“I think they were tone-deaf,” she said. “They weren’t interested in hearing my opinion on what was happening on the ground with the oil spill. And they never acknowledged that they had problems with the acceptance of health care reform.”

The new law, she said, is “unpopular particularly among seniors” — a key voting bloc in the Sunshine State.

None of this was hidden from view before the election, but Democratic officials and operatives were understandably reluctant to come forward. Now, with election returns in hand, they are pointing the finger at the White House. But let’s be fair. Much of the credit goes to Nancy Pelosi — who wants to continue her reign over what’s left of the Democratic House caucus. (To which Republicans say, “Go for it!”)

The White House seems unconvinced that the problem is the agenda, not just a remote and increasingly unlikable president. They’ll try to “warm him up” and do more feel-your-pain moments. But the core problem remains: Obama is infatuated with his own agenda and it is that agenda that is the recipe for the minority-status of his party.

And in all of this, one wonders what the left-leaning intelligentsia has learned. A Harvard Law Review editor, a law professor, a garden-variety leftist, a talker-not-a-doer, and a proponent of American un-exceptionalism is a bust as president. In short, someone like them is utterly incapable of leading the country, and to rescue himself he will have to shed the very qualities and beliefs they hold dear. You can understand why they’d prefer to label the rest of the country “crazy.”

Read Less

Don’t Let the Door Hit You, Rahm

Rahm Emanuel is leaving, and American Jewish leaders couldn’t care less. In this regard, they have figured out who is running the U.S.-Israel policy (and hence, where the problem is):

“A lot of people like to think this Israeli-Palestinian policy has been Rahm Emanuel’s and it’s not. It’s Barack Obama’s,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a Democratic strategist and former Clinton administration aide. …

Noted William Daroff, the Jewish Federations of North America’s vice president for public policy and director of its Washington Office: “The buck stops at the desk of the president of the United States, so any staff change shouldn’t impact the relationship [Obama] has with the state of Israel or the Jewish community.”

The savviest remark comes from a “Jewish community professional” who observes:

“In some ways,” that professional added, Emanuel’s belief that he could effortlessly handle the Jewish community due to his deep connections has “been a detriment to the White House [because Emanuel’s] saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got that,’ but then he doesn’t.”

Well, he didn’t. And there’s a smidgen of candor — well, what passes for candor in Washington (a blind quote, in other words):

“That hasn’t always been of a great benefit to Israel,” noted one of the Jewish leaders previously quoted on background. “In an American government, a friend of Israel is more important a factor than whether they’re Jewish.”

Emanuel’s religion, in fact, already seems to be having a negative net impact on his bid to become Chicago’s next mayor.

According to the Chicago Tribune, some politically conservative Jews tend to blame Emanuel, the son of an Israeli doctor, for some of the Obama administration’s tensions with Israel, while Orthodox Jews quibbled with his decision to announce his resignation on Friday of last week, Simchat Torah.

Alas, that’s Rahm’s problem now. As for American Jewish leaders and pro-Israel pundits, it’s about time they wised up. They have learned the hard way that the president’s naming a Jew as chief of staff doesn’t mean that his heart is in the right place on Israel. The departure of one adviser out of many selected by a president convinced of his own wisdom on the Middle East is virtually meaningless. What matters is that a president was elected who lacks empathy toward and understanding of the nature of the Zionist enterprise, who imagines kicking a democratic ally will impress its despotic foes, who is convinced he can engage the mullahs and then contain them after they rebuff his entreaties, and who fails to grasp that serial weakness by the U.S. places both the U.S. and Israel at risk.

That such an overwhelming majority of American Jewish leaders cheered, vouched and raised money for candidate Obama explains, in large part, their reluctance to come to terms with what a disaster he has been for U.S.-Israel relations and for the West’s security in the face of an Islamic revolutionary state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Let’s see if they can now work strenuously — as strenuously as they did to elect him — to limit the damage their chosen candidate will inflict on both American and Israeli security, which the president seems not to fully comprehend are inextricably linked. And then the real test will come in 2012, when they will have the opportunity to shed their “sick addiction” to the president and his party. Or will “a woman’s right to choose,” government-run health care, and the supposed scourge of global warming once more take precedence over the fate of the Jewish state?

Rahm Emanuel is leaving, and American Jewish leaders couldn’t care less. In this regard, they have figured out who is running the U.S.-Israel policy (and hence, where the problem is):

“A lot of people like to think this Israeli-Palestinian policy has been Rahm Emanuel’s and it’s not. It’s Barack Obama’s,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a Democratic strategist and former Clinton administration aide. …

Noted William Daroff, the Jewish Federations of North America’s vice president for public policy and director of its Washington Office: “The buck stops at the desk of the president of the United States, so any staff change shouldn’t impact the relationship [Obama] has with the state of Israel or the Jewish community.”

The savviest remark comes from a “Jewish community professional” who observes:

“In some ways,” that professional added, Emanuel’s belief that he could effortlessly handle the Jewish community due to his deep connections has “been a detriment to the White House [because Emanuel’s] saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got that,’ but then he doesn’t.”

Well, he didn’t. And there’s a smidgen of candor — well, what passes for candor in Washington (a blind quote, in other words):

“That hasn’t always been of a great benefit to Israel,” noted one of the Jewish leaders previously quoted on background. “In an American government, a friend of Israel is more important a factor than whether they’re Jewish.”

Emanuel’s religion, in fact, already seems to be having a negative net impact on his bid to become Chicago’s next mayor.

According to the Chicago Tribune, some politically conservative Jews tend to blame Emanuel, the son of an Israeli doctor, for some of the Obama administration’s tensions with Israel, while Orthodox Jews quibbled with his decision to announce his resignation on Friday of last week, Simchat Torah.

Alas, that’s Rahm’s problem now. As for American Jewish leaders and pro-Israel pundits, it’s about time they wised up. They have learned the hard way that the president’s naming a Jew as chief of staff doesn’t mean that his heart is in the right place on Israel. The departure of one adviser out of many selected by a president convinced of his own wisdom on the Middle East is virtually meaningless. What matters is that a president was elected who lacks empathy toward and understanding of the nature of the Zionist enterprise, who imagines kicking a democratic ally will impress its despotic foes, who is convinced he can engage the mullahs and then contain them after they rebuff his entreaties, and who fails to grasp that serial weakness by the U.S. places both the U.S. and Israel at risk.

That such an overwhelming majority of American Jewish leaders cheered, vouched and raised money for candidate Obama explains, in large part, their reluctance to come to terms with what a disaster he has been for U.S.-Israel relations and for the West’s security in the face of an Islamic revolutionary state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Let’s see if they can now work strenuously — as strenuously as they did to elect him — to limit the damage their chosen candidate will inflict on both American and Israeli security, which the president seems not to fully comprehend are inextricably linked. And then the real test will come in 2012, when they will have the opportunity to shed their “sick addiction” to the president and his party. Or will “a woman’s right to choose,” government-run health care, and the supposed scourge of global warming once more take precedence over the fate of the Jewish state?

Read Less

False Hope

It happens about a month out before a wave election. The party about to be washed out sees a glimmer of hope — or thinks it does. The base gets a bit more engaged, but it really doesn’t amount to much. Hotline notes:

Democratic strategists have recently started experiencing a new feeling of optimism. There are indications, they say, that the party is showing the smallest signs of a turnaround, and that rumors of their electoral demise have been premature.

But instead of a comeback, Democrats are only experiencing the benefits of a base that is finally engaging. That base will help some Democratic candidates, but in total, the party still faces serious rehabilitation work with independent voters. The party’s major problems are most evident in three prominent races that are slowly, but inexorably, sliding toward Republicans.

As Stuart Rothenberg points out, trouble abounds for the Dems:

Delaware’s Republican primary may well have lulled Democrats into a sense of complacency about their ability to hold the Senate after November’s elections. They would be wise to wake up if they want to avoid a nasty surprise on election night.

Tea party activists did indeed do Democrats a huge favor in selecting Christine O’Donnell (R) to oppose New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D) in the fall. …

O’Donnell’s primary victory notwithstanding, Republicans are still headed for major Senate gains, and a 10-seat gain isn’t impossible. With a month to go until Nov. 2, Republicans have a clear advantage in five seats held by Democrats, with another five seats still in play. Unless things change, Republicans will likely hold all 18 of their seats up this cycle. No GOP incumbent is in any trouble — even Sens. Richard M. Burr (N.C.) and David Vitter (La.), who seemed at some risk early on, look headed for comfortable victories — and Republican open seats appear to be at limited risk.

Rothenberg reels off the same list of at-risk Democratic seats that we and others have noted — West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Nevada, etc.

Part of the “Dems’ comeback” meme is pushed by the media, which are anxious to give their Democratic friends a boost and to keep some suspense going. At Conventional Wisdom Central, Dan Balz of the Washington Post, the “comeback” storyline is supported by such concrete evidence as an e-mail from a Democratic strategist. (“I definitely have seen Democrats starting to come home and feel more strongly about the importance of preventing a Republican takeover of the Congress.”) But even his heart isn’t in it. He’s compelled to acknowledge for every pollyanaish Democratic strategist, there is a realist. (“One strategist who was in the thick of the battle in 1994 said nothing the Democrats tried that fall had an impact on the voters.”) And he confesses the false optimism reminds him of 2006. (“What’s eerie is that Republicans then were saying some of the same things Democrats are saying now.”)

Until we see real signs of movement in generic polling and key Democratic races, it’s safe to say that the Dems are in for a shellacking.

It happens about a month out before a wave election. The party about to be washed out sees a glimmer of hope — or thinks it does. The base gets a bit more engaged, but it really doesn’t amount to much. Hotline notes:

Democratic strategists have recently started experiencing a new feeling of optimism. There are indications, they say, that the party is showing the smallest signs of a turnaround, and that rumors of their electoral demise have been premature.

But instead of a comeback, Democrats are only experiencing the benefits of a base that is finally engaging. That base will help some Democratic candidates, but in total, the party still faces serious rehabilitation work with independent voters. The party’s major problems are most evident in three prominent races that are slowly, but inexorably, sliding toward Republicans.

As Stuart Rothenberg points out, trouble abounds for the Dems:

Delaware’s Republican primary may well have lulled Democrats into a sense of complacency about their ability to hold the Senate after November’s elections. They would be wise to wake up if they want to avoid a nasty surprise on election night.

Tea party activists did indeed do Democrats a huge favor in selecting Christine O’Donnell (R) to oppose New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D) in the fall. …

O’Donnell’s primary victory notwithstanding, Republicans are still headed for major Senate gains, and a 10-seat gain isn’t impossible. With a month to go until Nov. 2, Republicans have a clear advantage in five seats held by Democrats, with another five seats still in play. Unless things change, Republicans will likely hold all 18 of their seats up this cycle. No GOP incumbent is in any trouble — even Sens. Richard M. Burr (N.C.) and David Vitter (La.), who seemed at some risk early on, look headed for comfortable victories — and Republican open seats appear to be at limited risk.

Rothenberg reels off the same list of at-risk Democratic seats that we and others have noted — West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Nevada, etc.

Part of the “Dems’ comeback” meme is pushed by the media, which are anxious to give their Democratic friends a boost and to keep some suspense going. At Conventional Wisdom Central, Dan Balz of the Washington Post, the “comeback” storyline is supported by such concrete evidence as an e-mail from a Democratic strategist. (“I definitely have seen Democrats starting to come home and feel more strongly about the importance of preventing a Republican takeover of the Congress.”) But even his heart isn’t in it. He’s compelled to acknowledge for every pollyanaish Democratic strategist, there is a realist. (“One strategist who was in the thick of the battle in 1994 said nothing the Democrats tried that fall had an impact on the voters.”) And he confesses the false optimism reminds him of 2006. (“What’s eerie is that Republicans then were saying some of the same things Democrats are saying now.”)

Until we see real signs of movement in generic polling and key Democratic races, it’s safe to say that the Dems are in for a shellacking.

Read Less

The Cocooned President

The Washington Post tells us that Obama is to be “deprived” within the next six months or so of the services of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod (who will go run Obama’s reelection campaign, a task indistinguishable from his current role), James Jones, and other advisers. (Before you get excited, remember who is picking their successors.) The Post tells us that the worldly and sophisticated president (the media told us he was, so how can that be wrong?) “doesn’t like new people.” Let’s hope that isn’t right. Because, to be frank, you’d expect more social adeptness and flexibility from a third grader (and I do). Unfortunately, the problem is all too real:

Recent White House hires reflect the president’s desire to surround himself with people he knows well. Elizabeth Warren, recently tapped as the government’s first consumer protection adviser, is someone Obama describes as a “dear friend.” Austan Goolsbee, brought in as the new chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, has been in the Obama orbit much longer than the woman he replaced, Christina Romer.

It seems — really, who knew? — as though the president is too insulated:

“They miscalculated where people were out in the country on jobs, on spending, on the deficit, on debt,” said a longtime Democratic strategist who works with the White House on a variety of issues. “They have not been able to get ahead of any of it. And it’s all about the insularity. Otherwise how do you explain how a group who came in with more goodwill in decades squandered it?” The strategist asked not to be identified in order to speak freely about the president and his staff.

This is not an uncommon view among Democratic political professionals, many of whom share the goals of the White House but have grown frustrated with a staff they see as unapproachable and set in their ways.

The solution? Valerie Jarrett as chief of staff!

Apparently yes men and women, unwilling to challenge Obama’s basic assumptions or deliver inconvenient truths, are in high demand. No hope and change for Obama.

This peek at the White House’s circle-the-wagons mentality suggests that Obama is not one to reassess, clean house, and chart a new course after the midterms. It might take him out of his comfort zone. That’s bad news for the country, but music to the ears of the 2012 GOP presidential contenders.

The Washington Post tells us that Obama is to be “deprived” within the next six months or so of the services of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod (who will go run Obama’s reelection campaign, a task indistinguishable from his current role), James Jones, and other advisers. (Before you get excited, remember who is picking their successors.) The Post tells us that the worldly and sophisticated president (the media told us he was, so how can that be wrong?) “doesn’t like new people.” Let’s hope that isn’t right. Because, to be frank, you’d expect more social adeptness and flexibility from a third grader (and I do). Unfortunately, the problem is all too real:

Recent White House hires reflect the president’s desire to surround himself with people he knows well. Elizabeth Warren, recently tapped as the government’s first consumer protection adviser, is someone Obama describes as a “dear friend.” Austan Goolsbee, brought in as the new chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, has been in the Obama orbit much longer than the woman he replaced, Christina Romer.

It seems — really, who knew? — as though the president is too insulated:

“They miscalculated where people were out in the country on jobs, on spending, on the deficit, on debt,” said a longtime Democratic strategist who works with the White House on a variety of issues. “They have not been able to get ahead of any of it. And it’s all about the insularity. Otherwise how do you explain how a group who came in with more goodwill in decades squandered it?” The strategist asked not to be identified in order to speak freely about the president and his staff.

This is not an uncommon view among Democratic political professionals, many of whom share the goals of the White House but have grown frustrated with a staff they see as unapproachable and set in their ways.

The solution? Valerie Jarrett as chief of staff!

Apparently yes men and women, unwilling to challenge Obama’s basic assumptions or deliver inconvenient truths, are in high demand. No hope and change for Obama.

This peek at the White House’s circle-the-wagons mentality suggests that Obama is not one to reassess, clean house, and chart a new course after the midterms. It might take him out of his comfort zone. That’s bad news for the country, but music to the ears of the 2012 GOP presidential contenders.

Read Less

Obama Decides It’s Time to Emote

Obama is so desperate to regain his popularity that he’s even emoting — kind of. Sam Youngman reports:

President Obama told a small crowd in Fairfax, Va., on Monday that he would stand in the hot sun with them and “feel their pain.”

He was meeting with a Fairfax family for a backyard discussion on the economy in an effort to improve voter perceptions about his empathy with ordinary people.

Unlike former President Clinton, who famously felt the pain of voters during a recession, Obama has not connected emotionally with voters over their worries and fears.

So on his list of things to do: show some emotional connection to the American people. It’s been a worry for some time among Democrats that his cool demeanor and nasty habit of demeaning Americans makes it, well, hard for voters to think he’s all that interested in their concerns:

Democratic strategists worry the president is seen as too aloof, and that this gets in the way of the administration’s message that the economy is slowly but surely recovering. … Democratic strategists worry this disconnect will lead to losses for Democrats at the polls in November, when the party fears it could lose control of the House and Senate.

“The problem is he doesn’t seem like he’s always trying to be empathetic,” said one Democratic strategist.

So now he’s dialing up the emotions.

Not unlike the “charm offensive” with American Jews, when the president’s policies fall flat he decides to persuade the skeptics that he really, honestly, truly is on their side. Granted, “politicians” and “sincerity” generally don’t belong in the same sentence, but Obama’s play-acting is so transparent and so obviously at odds with his personality and policy choices that it’s hard to believe he’s helping his cause much. It does however remind us that Bill Clinton was, as Holly Golightly’s friend put it, a “real phony.”

Obama is so desperate to regain his popularity that he’s even emoting — kind of. Sam Youngman reports:

President Obama told a small crowd in Fairfax, Va., on Monday that he would stand in the hot sun with them and “feel their pain.”

He was meeting with a Fairfax family for a backyard discussion on the economy in an effort to improve voter perceptions about his empathy with ordinary people.

Unlike former President Clinton, who famously felt the pain of voters during a recession, Obama has not connected emotionally with voters over their worries and fears.

So on his list of things to do: show some emotional connection to the American people. It’s been a worry for some time among Democrats that his cool demeanor and nasty habit of demeaning Americans makes it, well, hard for voters to think he’s all that interested in their concerns:

Democratic strategists worry the president is seen as too aloof, and that this gets in the way of the administration’s message that the economy is slowly but surely recovering. … Democratic strategists worry this disconnect will lead to losses for Democrats at the polls in November, when the party fears it could lose control of the House and Senate.

“The problem is he doesn’t seem like he’s always trying to be empathetic,” said one Democratic strategist.

So now he’s dialing up the emotions.

Not unlike the “charm offensive” with American Jews, when the president’s policies fall flat he decides to persuade the skeptics that he really, honestly, truly is on their side. Granted, “politicians” and “sincerity” generally don’t belong in the same sentence, but Obama’s play-acting is so transparent and so obviously at odds with his personality and policy choices that it’s hard to believe he’s helping his cause much. It does however remind us that Bill Clinton was, as Holly Golightly’s friend put it, a “real phony.”

Read Less

Gallup Poll Results in Perspective

Yesterday I referenced the Gallup survey showing that Republicans lead by 51 percent to 41 percent among registered voters in Gallup’s weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The poll is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup, put the results in context:

The Republican leads of 6, 7, and 10 points this month are all higher than any previous midterm Republican advantage in Gallup’s history of tracking the generic ballot, which dates to 1942. Prior to this year, the highest such gap was five points, measured in June 2002 and July 1994. Elections in both of these years resulted in significant Republican gains in House seats.

As a further reference point: in August 1994, Republicans and Democrats were tied in Gallup’s generic ballot (46/46). And in the final pre-election poll in 1994, when asked if the elections for Congress were held today which party’s candidate (Republican or Democrat) would you vote for in your congressional district, the public preferred the Democratic candidate by a two-point margin (43 v. 41).

The GOP gained 54 seats in the House.

(A caveat: the data do not appear to have Gallup’s likely-voter screen applied to them, a practice the organization now employs starting in October. Data of national adults, rather than likely voters, usually will add several points more to Democratic candidates.)

Now, the generic ballot question, though significant, is not dispositive. The problem for Democrats is that almost across the board, the polling news is awful. President Obama is witnessing a hemorrhaging of support from among independent voters. And the enthusiasm gap, which favors the GOP by 20-25 points, is also an ominous sign for Democrats.

“The intensity gap is the biggest I’ve seen in 30 years,” the Republican pollster Bill McInturff told Bloomberg News’s Al Hunt. “This is going to be a massive election like 1974, except it will happen to the Democrats this time,” according to McInturff. In 1974 Democrats, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal (Nixon resigned in August), took 49 seats from the Republican Party and increased their majority above the two-thirds mark (from 242 to 291).

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville in the wake of 2008 Obama’s victory, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.”

It looks like Carville’s Democratic majority may fall around 38 years short of his prediction.

Yesterday I referenced the Gallup survey showing that Republicans lead by 51 percent to 41 percent among registered voters in Gallup’s weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The poll is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup, put the results in context:

The Republican leads of 6, 7, and 10 points this month are all higher than any previous midterm Republican advantage in Gallup’s history of tracking the generic ballot, which dates to 1942. Prior to this year, the highest such gap was five points, measured in June 2002 and July 1994. Elections in both of these years resulted in significant Republican gains in House seats.

As a further reference point: in August 1994, Republicans and Democrats were tied in Gallup’s generic ballot (46/46). And in the final pre-election poll in 1994, when asked if the elections for Congress were held today which party’s candidate (Republican or Democrat) would you vote for in your congressional district, the public preferred the Democratic candidate by a two-point margin (43 v. 41).

The GOP gained 54 seats in the House.

(A caveat: the data do not appear to have Gallup’s likely-voter screen applied to them, a practice the organization now employs starting in October. Data of national adults, rather than likely voters, usually will add several points more to Democratic candidates.)

Now, the generic ballot question, though significant, is not dispositive. The problem for Democrats is that almost across the board, the polling news is awful. President Obama is witnessing a hemorrhaging of support from among independent voters. And the enthusiasm gap, which favors the GOP by 20-25 points, is also an ominous sign for Democrats.

“The intensity gap is the biggest I’ve seen in 30 years,” the Republican pollster Bill McInturff told Bloomberg News’s Al Hunt. “This is going to be a massive election like 1974, except it will happen to the Democrats this time,” according to McInturff. In 1974 Democrats, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal (Nixon resigned in August), took 49 seats from the Republican Party and increased their majority above the two-thirds mark (from 242 to 291).

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville in the wake of 2008 Obama’s victory, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.”

It looks like Carville’s Democratic majority may fall around 38 years short of his prediction.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

A nostalgic George W. Bush moment for the left. Nicholas Kristof: “Mr. Obama is presiding over an incoherent, contradictory and apparently failing Sudan policy. There is a growing risk that Sudan will be the site of the world’s bloodiest war in 2011, and perhaps a new round of genocide as well. This isn’t America’s fault, but neither are we using all of our leverage to avert it. … Regular readers know I was not a fan of President George W. Bush. But one of his signal accomplishments, against all odds, was a 2005 peace agreement that ended the last round of that war.”

A stirring story about Iraq. And a reminder of how thoroughly lacking in understanding and empathy this president is when it comes to the reasons so many sacrificed so much.

A “perfect description of the pro-mosque left” from James Taranto: “Oikophobia is fear of the familiar: ‘the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours.’ … Yet the oiks’ vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.” Did we put an “oik” in the White House?

An angry mob – in Obama’s home state: “Sixty-five percent (65%) of Likely Voters in Illinois are at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government, according to a new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey. That finding matches the level measured nationally, and includes 41% who are Very Angry at the government’s policies.” Who’s funding them, I wonder?

A “bit”? “Democrats are undercutting their campaign message by condemning Republican economic policies while calling for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. ‘It’s hard to say the Republican economic policies were bad, [and] then continue them,’ Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and former advisor to President Clinton, told The Hill. ‘That is a bit of a mixed message.'”

A forceful objection from Debra Burlingame to Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that 9/11 families support the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Bloomberg has now crossed the line from merely supporting the mosque to participating in a public campaign aimed at silencing its critics. He has improperly invoked private conversations of 9/11 family board members who, unfortunately, are all too aware of his power, both as chair of the foundation which will memorialize their loved ones and as mayor of a city where that memorial will be built. He is recklessly wreaking havoc among families, running from media event to radio interview to photo op to Comedy Central gagfest, shamelessly hawking this narrative that we, those whose family members were the true victims of religious intolerance, must also carry the burden of proving we’re not intolerant. He’s a disgrace.”

A sober take from Mara Liasson: “I think there is a lot of gloom and doom among Democrats. And their hope now is that individual races with candidates who have a lot of money and have good get-out-the-vote operations can somehow survive what is looking to be a really big anti-Democratic wave in November.” And from Liasson and Juan Williams on the midterms: “LIASSON: But the fact is it is a referendum. WILLIAMS: If it’s a referendum on Obama, the Democrats lose.” Yup. Big time.

A nostalgic George W. Bush moment for the left. Nicholas Kristof: “Mr. Obama is presiding over an incoherent, contradictory and apparently failing Sudan policy. There is a growing risk that Sudan will be the site of the world’s bloodiest war in 2011, and perhaps a new round of genocide as well. This isn’t America’s fault, but neither are we using all of our leverage to avert it. … Regular readers know I was not a fan of President George W. Bush. But one of his signal accomplishments, against all odds, was a 2005 peace agreement that ended the last round of that war.”

A stirring story about Iraq. And a reminder of how thoroughly lacking in understanding and empathy this president is when it comes to the reasons so many sacrificed so much.

A “perfect description of the pro-mosque left” from James Taranto: “Oikophobia is fear of the familiar: ‘the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours.’ … Yet the oiks’ vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.” Did we put an “oik” in the White House?

An angry mob – in Obama’s home state: “Sixty-five percent (65%) of Likely Voters in Illinois are at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government, according to a new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey. That finding matches the level measured nationally, and includes 41% who are Very Angry at the government’s policies.” Who’s funding them, I wonder?

A “bit”? “Democrats are undercutting their campaign message by condemning Republican economic policies while calling for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. ‘It’s hard to say the Republican economic policies were bad, [and] then continue them,’ Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and former advisor to President Clinton, told The Hill. ‘That is a bit of a mixed message.'”

A forceful objection from Debra Burlingame to Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that 9/11 families support the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Bloomberg has now crossed the line from merely supporting the mosque to participating in a public campaign aimed at silencing its critics. He has improperly invoked private conversations of 9/11 family board members who, unfortunately, are all too aware of his power, both as chair of the foundation which will memorialize their loved ones and as mayor of a city where that memorial will be built. He is recklessly wreaking havoc among families, running from media event to radio interview to photo op to Comedy Central gagfest, shamelessly hawking this narrative that we, those whose family members were the true victims of religious intolerance, must also carry the burden of proving we’re not intolerant. He’s a disgrace.”

A sober take from Mara Liasson: “I think there is a lot of gloom and doom among Democrats. And their hope now is that individual races with candidates who have a lot of money and have good get-out-the-vote operations can somehow survive what is looking to be a really big anti-Democratic wave in November.” And from Liasson and Juan Williams on the midterms: “LIASSON: But the fact is it is a referendum. WILLIAMS: If it’s a referendum on Obama, the Democrats lose.” Yup. Big time.

Read Less

Senate Up for Grabs

The Wall Street Journal has an extremely helpful guide to the Senate races, making the point that if — a big, if — pieces fall into place, the GOP could take back the Senate:

The emergence of competitive Republican candidates in Wisconsin, Washington and California—Democratic-leaning states where polls now show tight races—bring the number of seats that Republicans could seize from the Democrats to 11. …

Republicans would have to win virtually every competitive race to retake the Senate, without losing any seats of their own—clearly an uphill climb. The trouble for Democrats is that many trends are against them. Surveys show that Republicans are more motivated than Democrats to go to the polls, and that voters are looking for new leadership in Congress.

“I think there is definitely a chance” of losing the Senate, said Democratic strategist Gary Nordlinger, a Washington-based media consultant. “I wouldn’t call it a probability, but there is certainly a chance.”

Democrats have been surprised by strong GOP candidates in California and Wisconsin. As to the latter:

In the weeks before the Republican convention in late May, Ron Johnson, who hasn’t held political office, began appearing at tea party rallies. Tall and silver-haired, he proved a commanding speaker.

Mr. Johnson provided copies of his speeches to local talk radio hosts, and conservative host Charlie Sykes read excerpts over the air. Mr. Johnson jumped into the race six days before the convention, pledging to spend millions on the campaign. “He literally came out of nowhere,” said Brian Westrate, chairman of the Eau Claire County GOP.

Mr. Johnson built his successful company, which makes a specialty plastic for packaging, from the ground up, and it exports to various countries including China. But he also has made comments Democrats have seized on, such as asking in a March speech, “How is Social Security different from a giant Ponzi scheme?” Democrats are using that quote to suggest Mr. Johnson is radically anti-government. Mr. Johnson rejects the idea. “The problem is that Social Security funds have been spent,” he said in an interview. “They’re gone. I’m just describing the problem.”

If Democrats are going to run on a “What Social Security problem?” platform at a time when voters are increasingly serious and unwilling to accept political spin, they may be in more trouble than we imagined.

But the wild card may be Republicans’ own untested candidates (Rand Paul and Sharon Angle, for example). They will have to make sure they hold their own seats (Ohio is a tough race) and hope voters are finally immune to the kinds of tricks (George Bush! Abortion will be illegal!) that have gotten rather weak Democratic candidates through past races.

This year is different. The only question is whether it’s different enough to see a 10-seat swing in the Senate. I’d have said no way before Scott Brown, Chris Christie, and Bob McDonnell all won.

The Wall Street Journal has an extremely helpful guide to the Senate races, making the point that if — a big, if — pieces fall into place, the GOP could take back the Senate:

The emergence of competitive Republican candidates in Wisconsin, Washington and California—Democratic-leaning states where polls now show tight races—bring the number of seats that Republicans could seize from the Democrats to 11. …

Republicans would have to win virtually every competitive race to retake the Senate, without losing any seats of their own—clearly an uphill climb. The trouble for Democrats is that many trends are against them. Surveys show that Republicans are more motivated than Democrats to go to the polls, and that voters are looking for new leadership in Congress.

“I think there is definitely a chance” of losing the Senate, said Democratic strategist Gary Nordlinger, a Washington-based media consultant. “I wouldn’t call it a probability, but there is certainly a chance.”

Democrats have been surprised by strong GOP candidates in California and Wisconsin. As to the latter:

In the weeks before the Republican convention in late May, Ron Johnson, who hasn’t held political office, began appearing at tea party rallies. Tall and silver-haired, he proved a commanding speaker.

Mr. Johnson provided copies of his speeches to local talk radio hosts, and conservative host Charlie Sykes read excerpts over the air. Mr. Johnson jumped into the race six days before the convention, pledging to spend millions on the campaign. “He literally came out of nowhere,” said Brian Westrate, chairman of the Eau Claire County GOP.

Mr. Johnson built his successful company, which makes a specialty plastic for packaging, from the ground up, and it exports to various countries including China. But he also has made comments Democrats have seized on, such as asking in a March speech, “How is Social Security different from a giant Ponzi scheme?” Democrats are using that quote to suggest Mr. Johnson is radically anti-government. Mr. Johnson rejects the idea. “The problem is that Social Security funds have been spent,” he said in an interview. “They’re gone. I’m just describing the problem.”

If Democrats are going to run on a “What Social Security problem?” platform at a time when voters are increasingly serious and unwilling to accept political spin, they may be in more trouble than we imagined.

But the wild card may be Republicans’ own untested candidates (Rand Paul and Sharon Angle, for example). They will have to make sure they hold their own seats (Ohio is a tough race) and hope voters are finally immune to the kinds of tricks (George Bush! Abortion will be illegal!) that have gotten rather weak Democratic candidates through past races.

This year is different. The only question is whether it’s different enough to see a 10-seat swing in the Senate. I’d have said no way before Scott Brown, Chris Christie, and Bob McDonnell all won.

Read Less

Political Discourse in the Age of Obama

The recriminations in which the Democrats have engaged during the past few days evince their growing panic. When a party senses it is about to be administered a crushing rebuke, acrimony rather than comity is what it often musters up.

But here’s a pretty safe bet: in the next few days Hill Democrats and the White House will agree to a truce, even if only a tense one; and they will agree that it is in the interest of all of them to attack Republicans rather than each other. And that is what they will do, with relish.

We are about to enter a period that will be everything Barack Obama promised he would deliver us from: petty politics, ad hominem attacks, silly and unserious charges, cartoon images of opponents, and attempts to divide Americans in order to gain a temporary political advantage, etc.

Across the board, Democrats understand that they have no agenda to run on and no record to defend. “This is not a hope election, it’s a fear election,” Democratic strategist Paul Begala reportedly told young liberal activists recently. “Since you don’t have your hero [Obama] on the ballot, make sure you have a villain.” It will be a discouraging thing for citizens to watch unfold. And I doubt it will succeed. Democrats are facing headwinds gusting at record speeds. They cannot undo the basic trajectory of this election. They cannot undo the radical policies of Barack Obama. And they cannot assuage the anger and remorse many voters feel right now.

Still, Republicans need to prepare for the ugly onslaught to come. They need to be aggressive, quick, and principled in their responses. And they should not count on liberal voices who, when it is convenient, champion civility, high-minded dialogue, and reasoned debate to call off the attack dogs. After all, we’re talking about power here. If the village has to be burned down in order to save it, so be it. It’s so much easier to attack the Tea Party as the modern-day equivalent of the KKK than it is to defend the stimulus package.

Welcome to political discourse in the Age of Obama.

The recriminations in which the Democrats have engaged during the past few days evince their growing panic. When a party senses it is about to be administered a crushing rebuke, acrimony rather than comity is what it often musters up.

But here’s a pretty safe bet: in the next few days Hill Democrats and the White House will agree to a truce, even if only a tense one; and they will agree that it is in the interest of all of them to attack Republicans rather than each other. And that is what they will do, with relish.

We are about to enter a period that will be everything Barack Obama promised he would deliver us from: petty politics, ad hominem attacks, silly and unserious charges, cartoon images of opponents, and attempts to divide Americans in order to gain a temporary political advantage, etc.

Across the board, Democrats understand that they have no agenda to run on and no record to defend. “This is not a hope election, it’s a fear election,” Democratic strategist Paul Begala reportedly told young liberal activists recently. “Since you don’t have your hero [Obama] on the ballot, make sure you have a villain.” It will be a discouraging thing for citizens to watch unfold. And I doubt it will succeed. Democrats are facing headwinds gusting at record speeds. They cannot undo the basic trajectory of this election. They cannot undo the radical policies of Barack Obama. And they cannot assuage the anger and remorse many voters feel right now.

Still, Republicans need to prepare for the ugly onslaught to come. They need to be aggressive, quick, and principled in their responses. And they should not count on liberal voices who, when it is convenient, champion civility, high-minded dialogue, and reasoned debate to call off the attack dogs. After all, we’re talking about power here. If the village has to be burned down in order to save it, so be it. It’s so much easier to attack the Tea Party as the modern-day equivalent of the KKK than it is to defend the stimulus package.

Welcome to political discourse in the Age of Obama.

Read Less

Did ObamaCare Help the Democrats?

ObamaCare is the law of the land (for now), the president is out selling it to a skeptical public, and the Democrats are still heading for an election wipeout. The supposed cure-all for the Democrats’ electoral woes — the passage of “historic” legislation that the country was going to learn to love — has proven to be anything but. Hotline reports:

Today, 4 of the 10 most vulnerable Senate seats are open seats held by Democrats, while just 2 are GOP-held open seats. At least 2 of those Dem seats (DE and ND) are leaning toward a GOP pickup. New polling suggests that Dems have a better shot at winning in OH than MO, but these polls simply reflect the current environment. Once the candidates and campaigns begin to engage, we may see those numbers start to bounce around a bit more. At this point, Democrats hold 8 of the top 10 most vulnerable seats, with the potential — should former HHS Sec. Tommy Thompson jump into the WI race or ex-state Sen. Dino Rossi challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) — for the GOP to expand the playing field even further. Our expectation at this point: a GOP pickup of 5-8 seats.

And the same factors that pointed to a wave election — antipathy toward an ultra-liberal agenda, a brewing populist uprising, Democrats’ ethics problems, a tepid economy, high unemployment, and the nagging enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans — persist or have intensified. As The Hill notes: “Almost every Democratic strategist acknowledges the party will lose seats in Congress this fall. The question is whether the loss will be moderate or severe, or even enough to give Republicans control of the House.” So far, generic polling suggests the Democrats haven’t been helped at all by ObamaCare.

Just as many of us predicted, passage of ObamaCare did not end the health-care debate. The debate instead has continued to rage and spread to states as governors and attorneys general decide whether to sue to block its imposition and how to handle the crushing costs it will impose if the courts do not invalidate it. The discussion has now embroiled private industry, which is engaged in a fight with the Obami over write-downs. ObamaCare’s passage has continued to fuel the Tea Party movement, which is finding new respect among the mainstream media. And we can expect that with each sweetheart deal that is uncovered, and with news of continued premium increases, there will be another round of  recriminations, adding fuel to the anti-Democrat furor.

We won’t know if the Democrats would have been worse off had ObamaCare failed. But for now there’s little evidence that it’s helped them.

ObamaCare is the law of the land (for now), the president is out selling it to a skeptical public, and the Democrats are still heading for an election wipeout. The supposed cure-all for the Democrats’ electoral woes — the passage of “historic” legislation that the country was going to learn to love — has proven to be anything but. Hotline reports:

Today, 4 of the 10 most vulnerable Senate seats are open seats held by Democrats, while just 2 are GOP-held open seats. At least 2 of those Dem seats (DE and ND) are leaning toward a GOP pickup. New polling suggests that Dems have a better shot at winning in OH than MO, but these polls simply reflect the current environment. Once the candidates and campaigns begin to engage, we may see those numbers start to bounce around a bit more. At this point, Democrats hold 8 of the top 10 most vulnerable seats, with the potential — should former HHS Sec. Tommy Thompson jump into the WI race or ex-state Sen. Dino Rossi challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) — for the GOP to expand the playing field even further. Our expectation at this point: a GOP pickup of 5-8 seats.

And the same factors that pointed to a wave election — antipathy toward an ultra-liberal agenda, a brewing populist uprising, Democrats’ ethics problems, a tepid economy, high unemployment, and the nagging enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans — persist or have intensified. As The Hill notes: “Almost every Democratic strategist acknowledges the party will lose seats in Congress this fall. The question is whether the loss will be moderate or severe, or even enough to give Republicans control of the House.” So far, generic polling suggests the Democrats haven’t been helped at all by ObamaCare.

Just as many of us predicted, passage of ObamaCare did not end the health-care debate. The debate instead has continued to rage and spread to states as governors and attorneys general decide whether to sue to block its imposition and how to handle the crushing costs it will impose if the courts do not invalidate it. The discussion has now embroiled private industry, which is engaged in a fight with the Obami over write-downs. ObamaCare’s passage has continued to fuel the Tea Party movement, which is finding new respect among the mainstream media. And we can expect that with each sweetheart deal that is uncovered, and with news of continued premium increases, there will be another round of  recriminations, adding fuel to the anti-Democrat furor.

We won’t know if the Democrats would have been worse off had ObamaCare failed. But for now there’s little evidence that it’s helped them.

Read Less

Blame Obama for Blaming Bush

Jonathan Martin reports:

After three consecutive losses in statewide races, some top Democrats are questioning a tactic aimed at boosting the party’s candidates in each of those contests: Bush-bashing. . . “Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”

Almost on cue, James Carville pops up to counsel: “Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the health-care debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”

There is one big problem with shifting tactics: the “not Bush” strategy comes right from Obama and is frankly more an obsession than a strategy. Starting with his Inaugural Address, continuing through his announcement on stem-cell research, barreling on through his ill-advised anti-terror policies and Middle East gambit (more daylight between the U.S. and Israel!), and casting blame for the jobless recovery, Obama has reflexively blamed Bush for nearly everything. It is how he got elected and now he can’t seem to give it up. It fills in the time, of course, when he’s not passing his own agenda and not succeeding in any foreign-policy effort.

It was stunningly petty conduct by Obama, behavior we really haven’t seen from any other president once in office. It is part of Obama’s larger failing — the inability or unwillingness to transition from a campaign partisan to an effective chief executive. While the “blame Bush” tactic was never effective, now it looks counterproductive and tone deaf. Martin explains:

“This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,” wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. “Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.”

Further, given the flurry of major steps Obama has taken in the year since he took office — from the stimulus to more bailouts to health care — Bush looks even more distant in the public’s rearview mirror.

“Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,” explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.

The excuse mongering only reinforces the growing perception that Obama is isolated, disconnected, and in over his head. Whether he is willing to give up the security blanket of blaming Bush for his travails remains to be seen. But until he moves on, his fellow Democrats will have a hard time doing so. They can add that to the list of their Obama-induced woes this election year.

Jonathan Martin reports:

After three consecutive losses in statewide races, some top Democrats are questioning a tactic aimed at boosting the party’s candidates in each of those contests: Bush-bashing. . . “Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”

Almost on cue, James Carville pops up to counsel: “Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the health-care debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”

There is one big problem with shifting tactics: the “not Bush” strategy comes right from Obama and is frankly more an obsession than a strategy. Starting with his Inaugural Address, continuing through his announcement on stem-cell research, barreling on through his ill-advised anti-terror policies and Middle East gambit (more daylight between the U.S. and Israel!), and casting blame for the jobless recovery, Obama has reflexively blamed Bush for nearly everything. It is how he got elected and now he can’t seem to give it up. It fills in the time, of course, when he’s not passing his own agenda and not succeeding in any foreign-policy effort.

It was stunningly petty conduct by Obama, behavior we really haven’t seen from any other president once in office. It is part of Obama’s larger failing — the inability or unwillingness to transition from a campaign partisan to an effective chief executive. While the “blame Bush” tactic was never effective, now it looks counterproductive and tone deaf. Martin explains:

“This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,” wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. “Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.”

Further, given the flurry of major steps Obama has taken in the year since he took office — from the stimulus to more bailouts to health care — Bush looks even more distant in the public’s rearview mirror.

“Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,” explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.

The excuse mongering only reinforces the growing perception that Obama is isolated, disconnected, and in over his head. Whether he is willing to give up the security blanket of blaming Bush for his travails remains to be seen. But until he moves on, his fellow Democrats will have a hard time doing so. They can add that to the list of their Obama-induced woes this election year.

Read Less

Martha, Meet Creigh Deeds

The venom directed at a failing candidate by her own party is often directly related to the margin of the anticipated defeat. If true, then Martha Coakley is going to get thumped, according to Byron York’s report:

“Everybody is scrambling and freaking out,” says one Democratic strategist of the mood among Democrats now. Coakley’s run has taught the once-triumphant party that “a lackluster, uninspiring campaign is not going to get it done, even in the bluest states.” But with feelings running deep, some Democrats are blaming Coakley in a much more personal way.

“She’s kind of aloof,” the Democrat says. “There are people who will vote for her who don’t really have a sense that they like or trust her. The Kennedys aren’t really fond of her. She basically announced her campaign the day Ted died, and didn’t give Vicki the opportunity to think about [running to replace her husband]. From the Kennedy side of the ledger, there’s no great love for Coakley. They look at her as kind of a predatory politician.”

Well, she did win a primary, after all — by nearly 20 points, in a multi-candidate race. Just a little over a month ago, the entire Democratic establishment was backing her, and the mainstream media declared her the decided favorite in the general race. Now she’s flawed, personally defective, and unloved by everyone. I’m sure Creigh Deeds can relate. He too was beloved, yet wound up the goat as Democrats realized he was headed for a big loss. He too ran a mediocre race. But neither Deeds nor Coakley would have been caught fending off incoming artillery from the Democratic spin machine had the national political environment — namely, the Obama agenda and the public’s disdain for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama leftward lurch — not turned off voters.

Don’t get me wrong — Coakley has made her share of flubs. But in any other year, a Democrat who had committed just as many flubs would still win. That looks highly unlikely now.

The venom directed at a failing candidate by her own party is often directly related to the margin of the anticipated defeat. If true, then Martha Coakley is going to get thumped, according to Byron York’s report:

“Everybody is scrambling and freaking out,” says one Democratic strategist of the mood among Democrats now. Coakley’s run has taught the once-triumphant party that “a lackluster, uninspiring campaign is not going to get it done, even in the bluest states.” But with feelings running deep, some Democrats are blaming Coakley in a much more personal way.

“She’s kind of aloof,” the Democrat says. “There are people who will vote for her who don’t really have a sense that they like or trust her. The Kennedys aren’t really fond of her. She basically announced her campaign the day Ted died, and didn’t give Vicki the opportunity to think about [running to replace her husband]. From the Kennedy side of the ledger, there’s no great love for Coakley. They look at her as kind of a predatory politician.”

Well, she did win a primary, after all — by nearly 20 points, in a multi-candidate race. Just a little over a month ago, the entire Democratic establishment was backing her, and the mainstream media declared her the decided favorite in the general race. Now she’s flawed, personally defective, and unloved by everyone. I’m sure Creigh Deeds can relate. He too was beloved, yet wound up the goat as Democrats realized he was headed for a big loss. He too ran a mediocre race. But neither Deeds nor Coakley would have been caught fending off incoming artillery from the Democratic spin machine had the national political environment — namely, the Obama agenda and the public’s disdain for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama leftward lurch — not turned off voters.

Don’t get me wrong — Coakley has made her share of flubs. But in any other year, a Democrat who had committed just as many flubs would still win. That looks highly unlikely now.

Read Less

Fortunate to Have These Opponents

Give Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein credit. He doesn’t think much of the flap over Harry Reid’s racial remarks. He has bigger fish to fry:

But the most damning indictment to emerge from the mess was the Democrats’ relief at Reid’s survival. Our party knew of his severe limitations before we made him leader–same with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We have watched them consistently hurt the party’s image and undermine its productivity. And while much of the country is now mocking Reid’s obvious liabilities, we cheer his staying in power. Talk about tone-deafness–Reid’s is nothing compared to the Democrats who continue to uncritically accept his and Pelosi’s chronic embarrassments and ineffectiveness.

Ouch. He likes Pelosi even less, declaring that she is “more divisive.” Echoing Republican complaints, he writes:

She doesn’t even bother with the pretense that she is Speaker for the entire House of Representatives. She treats Republicans as the enemy, and they respond in kind, creating a vicious partisan cycle that practically precludes any meaningful negotiating. It also leads much of the country to discount or tune out anything she says before she opens her mouth.

He thinks Obama needs to distance himself from Congress. But the criticism that Reid and Pelosi are hyper-partisan and now subject to being tuned out applies to a large degree to the president as well. All of that poses a problem, a giant one, for Democrats on the ballot in the fall. They can proclaim their “independence,” but when they elect Reid and Pelosi as leaders and vote for the Obama agenda, it will be hard for them to differentiate themselves from the increasingly unpopular triumvirate that is the face of the Democratic party. Republicans will need an agenda and some message refinement, but they have the good fortune to be able to run against the Democratic leadership. As everyone discovered in 2006 and 2008, running against the other guy can be a very effective strategy.

Give Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein credit. He doesn’t think much of the flap over Harry Reid’s racial remarks. He has bigger fish to fry:

But the most damning indictment to emerge from the mess was the Democrats’ relief at Reid’s survival. Our party knew of his severe limitations before we made him leader–same with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We have watched them consistently hurt the party’s image and undermine its productivity. And while much of the country is now mocking Reid’s obvious liabilities, we cheer his staying in power. Talk about tone-deafness–Reid’s is nothing compared to the Democrats who continue to uncritically accept his and Pelosi’s chronic embarrassments and ineffectiveness.

Ouch. He likes Pelosi even less, declaring that she is “more divisive.” Echoing Republican complaints, he writes:

She doesn’t even bother with the pretense that she is Speaker for the entire House of Representatives. She treats Republicans as the enemy, and they respond in kind, creating a vicious partisan cycle that practically precludes any meaningful negotiating. It also leads much of the country to discount or tune out anything she says before she opens her mouth.

He thinks Obama needs to distance himself from Congress. But the criticism that Reid and Pelosi are hyper-partisan and now subject to being tuned out applies to a large degree to the president as well. All of that poses a problem, a giant one, for Democrats on the ballot in the fall. They can proclaim their “independence,” but when they elect Reid and Pelosi as leaders and vote for the Obama agenda, it will be hard for them to differentiate themselves from the increasingly unpopular triumvirate that is the face of the Democratic party. Republicans will need an agenda and some message refinement, but they have the good fortune to be able to run against the Democratic leadership. As everyone discovered in 2006 and 2008, running against the other guy can be a very effective strategy.

Read Less

A Whiff of Desperation in Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Less

Once-Triumphalist Democrats Face Bleak Election Outlook

The widely respected political analyst Charlie Cook, writing in the wake of political developments throughout the last week, says this:

In the world of economics, a virtuous circle is created when a series of positive events triggers a self-perpetuating pattern of other good occurrences — a positive feedback loop, in other words. A vicious circle, of course, is just the opposite and appears to be what Democrats are caught in these days.

Cook goes on to say that in the House, he is still forecasting that Democrats will lose “only” 20 to 30 seats (when Republicans lost 30 seats in 2006, it was said to be a landslide). But he adds:

Another half-dozen or more retirements in tough districts, however, perhaps combined with another party switch or two, would reduce Democrats’ chances of holding the House to only an even-money bet. We rate 217 seats either “Solid Democratic” or “Likely Democratic,” meaning that the GOP would have to win every single race now thought to be competitive to reach 218, the barest possible majority. But if Democrats suffer much more erosion in their “Solid” and “Likely” columns, control of the House will suddenly be up for grabs.

The political troubles for Obama and the Democrats continue to mount, so much so that many people would not be surprised by a repeat of what happened in the 1994 mid-term elections, where Democrats lost more than 50 House seats and control of the House of Representatives. Today’s Democratic Party is in worse shape — and arguably considerably worse shape — now than it was then.

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville not all that long ago, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Sidney Blumenthal, author of The Strange Death of Republican America, declared, “No one can even envision when the Republicans will control the presidency and both houses of the Congress as they did as recently as 2006.” And Michael Lind added this: “The election of Barack Obama to the presidency may signal more than the end of an era of Republican presidential dominance and conservative ideology. It may mark the beginning of a Fourth Republic of the United States.”

If so, the Fourth Republic of the United States — unlike the French Fourth Republic – will not have lasted long or turned out well.

Republicans should not succumb to the same intoxication that Democrats did in 2008. Politics is a fluid business; a lot can change in a hurry. But right now there is no question that Obamaism and the Democratic Party are in very dangerous territory — and if present trends continue, 2010 will be a monumentally bad year for both.

The widely respected political analyst Charlie Cook, writing in the wake of political developments throughout the last week, says this:

In the world of economics, a virtuous circle is created when a series of positive events triggers a self-perpetuating pattern of other good occurrences — a positive feedback loop, in other words. A vicious circle, of course, is just the opposite and appears to be what Democrats are caught in these days.

Cook goes on to say that in the House, he is still forecasting that Democrats will lose “only” 20 to 30 seats (when Republicans lost 30 seats in 2006, it was said to be a landslide). But he adds:

Another half-dozen or more retirements in tough districts, however, perhaps combined with another party switch or two, would reduce Democrats’ chances of holding the House to only an even-money bet. We rate 217 seats either “Solid Democratic” or “Likely Democratic,” meaning that the GOP would have to win every single race now thought to be competitive to reach 218, the barest possible majority. But if Democrats suffer much more erosion in their “Solid” and “Likely” columns, control of the House will suddenly be up for grabs.

The political troubles for Obama and the Democrats continue to mount, so much so that many people would not be surprised by a repeat of what happened in the 1994 mid-term elections, where Democrats lost more than 50 House seats and control of the House of Representatives. Today’s Democratic Party is in worse shape — and arguably considerably worse shape — now than it was then.

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville not all that long ago, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Sidney Blumenthal, author of The Strange Death of Republican America, declared, “No one can even envision when the Republicans will control the presidency and both houses of the Congress as they did as recently as 2006.” And Michael Lind added this: “The election of Barack Obama to the presidency may signal more than the end of an era of Republican presidential dominance and conservative ideology. It may mark the beginning of a Fourth Republic of the United States.”

If so, the Fourth Republic of the United States — unlike the French Fourth Republic – will not have lasted long or turned out well.

Republicans should not succumb to the same intoxication that Democrats did in 2008. Politics is a fluid business; a lot can change in a hurry. But right now there is no question that Obamaism and the Democratic Party are in very dangerous territory — and if present trends continue, 2010 will be a monumentally bad year for both.

Read Less

Willie Sutton Pushes Health Care

As Jennifer has pointed out, since the polls show ObamaCare becoming less and less popular almost with every passing day (the RealClearPolitics average of several polls shows the public opposed 53-38 percent, and CNN’s poll has 61 percent against — well into landslide territory), the question inevitably arises as to why the Democrats seem bent on committing political suicide by insisting on passing it anyway.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner asked that question of a Democratic strategist who, not surprisingly, wanted to be anonymous. His answer coincides with Jennifer’s, but he adds an interesting extra point: the Democrats are like bank robbers in the midst of a heist gone wrong:

… he compared congressional Democrats with robbers who have passed the point of no return in deciding to hold up a bank. Whatever they do, they’re guilty of something. “They’re in the bank, they’ve got their guns out. They can run outside with no money, or they can stick it out, go through the gunfight, and get away with the money.”

And this, remember, is a Democratic strategist talking.

As Jennifer has pointed out, since the polls show ObamaCare becoming less and less popular almost with every passing day (the RealClearPolitics average of several polls shows the public opposed 53-38 percent, and CNN’s poll has 61 percent against — well into landslide territory), the question inevitably arises as to why the Democrats seem bent on committing political suicide by insisting on passing it anyway.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner asked that question of a Democratic strategist who, not surprisingly, wanted to be anonymous. His answer coincides with Jennifer’s, but he adds an interesting extra point: the Democrats are like bank robbers in the midst of a heist gone wrong:

… he compared congressional Democrats with robbers who have passed the point of no return in deciding to hold up a bank. Whatever they do, they’re guilty of something. “They’re in the bank, they’ve got their guns out. They can run outside with no money, or they can stick it out, go through the gunfight, and get away with the money.”

And this, remember, is a Democratic strategist talking.

Read Less

In the Kitchen with Bin Laden

Senator Hillary Clinton has a new ad that describes the presidency as “the toughest job in the world. You need to be ready for anything–especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis.” The ad quotes Harry Truman–“if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”– and concludes with this question: “Who do you think has what it takes?”

Among the images in the ad is one of Osama bin Laden. It turns out that was too much for some of Barack Obama’s supporters. In his interview last night with Clinton, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said:

Let me ask you about the campaign and something you said in Pittsburgh today and again, let me read the quote about being president. “It’s the toughest job in the world and you have to be ready for anything. Two wars, skyrocketing oil prices, an economy in crisis. Well, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” That is almost word for word the narration of this new ad that your campaign put out today, and that ad flashes a very brief image of Osama bin Laden. For nearly six years now since Senator Max Cleland was cut down by a commercial that featured a picture of bin Laden, that has been — that tactic has been kind of a bloody shirt for many Democrats. Is it not just, in your opinion, as much of a scare tactic for a Democrat to use it against another Democrat, as it is for a Republican to use it in a race against the Democrat?

Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, was on CNN making the same complaint:

What’s really disappointing about this ad is all of us should remember in 2002 when the Republicans ran an ad featuring Osama bin Laden against Max Cleland. And all the Democrats were upset about that, because they used Osama bin Laden to stir up fear. And now here we are again, watching Democrats use Osama bin Laden to stir fear against other Democrats.

The Max Cleland ad has become an urban legend in some quarters. According to this narrative, an ad run by Cleland’s opponent, Saxby Chambliss, questioned the patriotism of Cleland, a man who served in Vietnam and became a triple amputee. In point of fact, this ad did no such thing. Cleland had voted multiple times against a homeland security bill that would have given the President freedom from union rules which Bush had deemed necessary to make the new Department of Homeland Security more effective. Chambliss’s ad included pictures of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, underscoring the threats faced by America. At no point was Cleland’s patriotism impugned. What the ad did do was dispute Cleland’s claim that he had the “courage to lead” and that he “supports President Bush at every opportunity.”

So it has come to this: simply the picture of Osama bin Laden in an ad highlighting threats to America has become a “scare tactic” and a “bloody shirt for many Democrats.” Forget the fact that the threats we face are real, that bin Laden was responsible for killing almost 3,000 Americans on September 11th, and that he is leading figure in a jihadist movement that wants to destroy our country and kill many more of our people. Using the image of bin Laden is verboten.

This is yet one more example of the delicate sensibilities and manufactured outrage that makes people wonder about contemporary liberalism. I suspect Americans are more concerned with the threat posed by bin Laden than they are concerned by the use of his image in an ad. The public is right to be impatient with such childishness.

Senator Hillary Clinton has a new ad that describes the presidency as “the toughest job in the world. You need to be ready for anything–especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis.” The ad quotes Harry Truman–“if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”– and concludes with this question: “Who do you think has what it takes?”

Among the images in the ad is one of Osama bin Laden. It turns out that was too much for some of Barack Obama’s supporters. In his interview last night with Clinton, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said:

Let me ask you about the campaign and something you said in Pittsburgh today and again, let me read the quote about being president. “It’s the toughest job in the world and you have to be ready for anything. Two wars, skyrocketing oil prices, an economy in crisis. Well, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” That is almost word for word the narration of this new ad that your campaign put out today, and that ad flashes a very brief image of Osama bin Laden. For nearly six years now since Senator Max Cleland was cut down by a commercial that featured a picture of bin Laden, that has been — that tactic has been kind of a bloody shirt for many Democrats. Is it not just, in your opinion, as much of a scare tactic for a Democrat to use it against another Democrat, as it is for a Republican to use it in a race against the Democrat?

Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, was on CNN making the same complaint:

What’s really disappointing about this ad is all of us should remember in 2002 when the Republicans ran an ad featuring Osama bin Laden against Max Cleland. And all the Democrats were upset about that, because they used Osama bin Laden to stir up fear. And now here we are again, watching Democrats use Osama bin Laden to stir fear against other Democrats.

The Max Cleland ad has become an urban legend in some quarters. According to this narrative, an ad run by Cleland’s opponent, Saxby Chambliss, questioned the patriotism of Cleland, a man who served in Vietnam and became a triple amputee. In point of fact, this ad did no such thing. Cleland had voted multiple times against a homeland security bill that would have given the President freedom from union rules which Bush had deemed necessary to make the new Department of Homeland Security more effective. Chambliss’s ad included pictures of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, underscoring the threats faced by America. At no point was Cleland’s patriotism impugned. What the ad did do was dispute Cleland’s claim that he had the “courage to lead” and that he “supports President Bush at every opportunity.”

So it has come to this: simply the picture of Osama bin Laden in an ad highlighting threats to America has become a “scare tactic” and a “bloody shirt for many Democrats.” Forget the fact that the threats we face are real, that bin Laden was responsible for killing almost 3,000 Americans on September 11th, and that he is leading figure in a jihadist movement that wants to destroy our country and kill many more of our people. Using the image of bin Laden is verboten.

This is yet one more example of the delicate sensibilities and manufactured outrage that makes people wonder about contemporary liberalism. I suspect Americans are more concerned with the threat posed by bin Laden than they are concerned by the use of his image in an ad. The public is right to be impatient with such childishness.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.