Commentary Magazine


Topic: Dianne Feinstein

Iran, Israel, and the GOP Senate Primary Race

Carly Fiorina, who is in a tough Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate in California, has raised a key foreign-policy issue. In a released statement, she notes:

President Ahmadinejad’s order yesterday to begin enriching uranium far past levels needed to power nuclear plants reveals the regime’s true intentions for its nuclear technology. Today’s news only further confirms that Iran is not serious about complying with the international nuclear nonproliferation treaty to which they are a party.

It is abundantly clear: engagement with Iran has failed. Negotiations have shown no progress. We cannot afford to talk any longer. We must act now to implement tough, crippling sanctions to persuade the Iranian regime to suspend its nuclear program and engage in serious negotiations.

Both the Senate and the House have passed strong versions of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. I urge our leaders in Congress to reconcile quickly their differences and present a bill to the President for his immediate signature and immediate implementation.

It will be interesting to see how significant an issue this becomes in the primary race. Her two opponents have yet to weigh in on this issue, but foreign policy — specifically, their stance toward Israel and the existential threat to the Jewish state’s existence posed by a nuclear-armed Iran — may well play a role in the race. One of her opponents, Chuck Devore, has in the past voiced strong support for Israel’s right of self-defense.

Tom Campbell, who has zipped into the lead in early polls, is quite another story. During his time in the House, Campbell was one of the few Republicans with a consistent anti-Israel voting record. In 1999, he introduced an amendment to cut foreign aid to Israel. This amendment, titled the Campbell Amendment, was defeated overwhelmingly on the House floor by a vote of 13-414. In 1999, Campbell was one of just 24 House members to vote against a resolution expressing congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. In 1997, Rep. Tom Campbell authored an amendment (also titled the Campbell Amendment) to cut foreign aid to Israel. The resolution failed 9-32 in committee. In 1990, Campbell was one of just 34 House members to vote against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  The resolution passed the House 378-34. But Campbell has taken positions on more than just aid that have raised concerns about his views on Israel. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2000, Campbell, in his losing race against Dianne Feinstein, “told numerous crowds–including Jewish groups–that he believes Palestinians are entitled to a homeland and that Jerusalem can be the capital of more than one nation.”

By making Iran and foreign policy a focus of her campaign, Fiorina is most likely inviting comparisons with her opponents. We’ll see how California Republicans size up the candidates and whether their stance Iran and Israel become a major source of contention.

Carly Fiorina, who is in a tough Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate in California, has raised a key foreign-policy issue. In a released statement, she notes:

President Ahmadinejad’s order yesterday to begin enriching uranium far past levels needed to power nuclear plants reveals the regime’s true intentions for its nuclear technology. Today’s news only further confirms that Iran is not serious about complying with the international nuclear nonproliferation treaty to which they are a party.

It is abundantly clear: engagement with Iran has failed. Negotiations have shown no progress. We cannot afford to talk any longer. We must act now to implement tough, crippling sanctions to persuade the Iranian regime to suspend its nuclear program and engage in serious negotiations.

Both the Senate and the House have passed strong versions of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. I urge our leaders in Congress to reconcile quickly their differences and present a bill to the President for his immediate signature and immediate implementation.

It will be interesting to see how significant an issue this becomes in the primary race. Her two opponents have yet to weigh in on this issue, but foreign policy — specifically, their stance toward Israel and the existential threat to the Jewish state’s existence posed by a nuclear-armed Iran — may well play a role in the race. One of her opponents, Chuck Devore, has in the past voiced strong support for Israel’s right of self-defense.

Tom Campbell, who has zipped into the lead in early polls, is quite another story. During his time in the House, Campbell was one of the few Republicans with a consistent anti-Israel voting record. In 1999, he introduced an amendment to cut foreign aid to Israel. This amendment, titled the Campbell Amendment, was defeated overwhelmingly on the House floor by a vote of 13-414. In 1999, Campbell was one of just 24 House members to vote against a resolution expressing congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. In 1997, Rep. Tom Campbell authored an amendment (also titled the Campbell Amendment) to cut foreign aid to Israel. The resolution failed 9-32 in committee. In 1990, Campbell was one of just 34 House members to vote against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  The resolution passed the House 378-34. But Campbell has taken positions on more than just aid that have raised concerns about his views on Israel. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2000, Campbell, in his losing race against Dianne Feinstein, “told numerous crowds–including Jewish groups–that he believes Palestinians are entitled to a homeland and that Jerusalem can be the capital of more than one nation.”

By making Iran and foreign policy a focus of her campaign, Fiorina is most likely inviting comparisons with her opponents. We’ll see how California Republicans size up the candidates and whether their stance Iran and Israel become a major source of contention.

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And This Isn’t a Tribute to Our Legal System

One of the sillier arguments that the Obami have made in favor of a KSM civilian trial is that it will impress others (whom exactly it will impress is less than clear) with the wonders of our judicial system. There are plenty of reasons why this is a perfectly awful argument. For starters, our judicial system is a system of constitutional law and statute — both of which permit military tribunals for trying enemy combatants. So if anything, the Obami insistence on a civilian trial conveys the wrong message — namely, that for the sake of  political posturing the administration can make up rules as they go along.

But there is another important reason to doubt the “wonders of the judicial system” argument. Bill Burck and Dana Perino make the case that the Obami are bollixing up the KSM trial by their understandable but highly prejudicial statements:

Attorney General Holder, the nation’s top law-enforcement officer, has said KSM is guilty and should die. Check. The president has said more or less the same. Check. The entire political leadership of New York has announced that they cannot support trying him in New York City because of the disruption to the city and the sheer danger of holding KSM in downtown Manhattan. Check. The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, has disclosed that the threat environment is such that trying KSM in New York City is just too dangerous. Check. The president’s chief spokesperson has said that no matter where KSM is tried, he “is going to meet his maker.” Check. It’s difficult to imagine anyplace in the United States that would not be prejudiced by these types of statements.

So it seems that the our system of criminal justice isn’t well suited and wasn’t designed to try enemy combatants. Turning terrorists over to the courts both harms our national security and sullies the court system, which is properly reserved for ordinary criminals, for whom the presumption of innocence is fundamental and respected by elected officials. In short, civilian trials of terrorists is a terrible idea, unworkable, politically untenable, and harmful to the legal system the Obami pretend to tout.

One of the sillier arguments that the Obami have made in favor of a KSM civilian trial is that it will impress others (whom exactly it will impress is less than clear) with the wonders of our judicial system. There are plenty of reasons why this is a perfectly awful argument. For starters, our judicial system is a system of constitutional law and statute — both of which permit military tribunals for trying enemy combatants. So if anything, the Obami insistence on a civilian trial conveys the wrong message — namely, that for the sake of  political posturing the administration can make up rules as they go along.

But there is another important reason to doubt the “wonders of the judicial system” argument. Bill Burck and Dana Perino make the case that the Obami are bollixing up the KSM trial by their understandable but highly prejudicial statements:

Attorney General Holder, the nation’s top law-enforcement officer, has said KSM is guilty and should die. Check. The president has said more or less the same. Check. The entire political leadership of New York has announced that they cannot support trying him in New York City because of the disruption to the city and the sheer danger of holding KSM in downtown Manhattan. Check. The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, has disclosed that the threat environment is such that trying KSM in New York City is just too dangerous. Check. The president’s chief spokesperson has said that no matter where KSM is tried, he “is going to meet his maker.” Check. It’s difficult to imagine anyplace in the United States that would not be prejudiced by these types of statements.

So it seems that the our system of criminal justice isn’t well suited and wasn’t designed to try enemy combatants. Turning terrorists over to the courts both harms our national security and sullies the court system, which is properly reserved for ordinary criminals, for whom the presumption of innocence is fundamental and respected by elected officials. In short, civilian trials of terrorists is a terrible idea, unworkable, politically untenable, and harmful to the legal system the Obami pretend to tout.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

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Spender’s Remorse

Obama is reacting to the epic rebuff in Massachusetts with his usual mix of denial and detachment. It’s not really his fault. It’s the economy, which is Bush’s fault. The mob is angry. He understands anger, but never shows it. And so on. He may be attempting to project calm, but as in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing, you really wonder if there’s no one in the White House to bring him bad news and speak frankly to him.

Meanwhile, Democratic senators are experiencing a spasm of candor. Politico gives us a sample:

“If there’s anybody in this building that doesn’t tell you they’re more worried about elections today, you absolutely should slap them,” said Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). …

“Every state is now in play,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who faces the toughest reelection battle of her career — most likely against wealthy Republican Carly Fiorina. Boxer is pushing a cap-and-trade bill to control greenhouse gases, but her counterpart from California, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said a “large cap-and-trade bill isn’t going to go ahead at this time.”

There seems to be a grudging recognition that the president’s agenda — and their own — missed the mark. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) confesses that Red State Democrats should be nervous:

“I think part of the problem is the agenda itself,” said Conrad, who doesn’t face voters again until 2012. Instead of spending so much time on health care reform, Conrad said Democrats should have focused first on reducing the national debt and a bipartisan energy bill — and that President Barack Obama should have done a better job of explaining that the economic situation he inherited was “far worse” than he’d originally thought.

So will they stop spending so much time on health-care reform now? It would seem like a good idea for all those Red State senators who could have stopped health care last year but simply went with the flow. Mary Landrieu got bribed … er … received a compromise deal for her state (“the Louisiana Purchase,” which begat the Cornhusker Kickback and Gator-Aid). But now she’s singing a different tune. (“Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the more conservative members of the caucus, said some in the Democratic Party were ‘overreaching’ and ‘advocating more government’ than her constituents want. She blamed House Democrats for advancing liberal proposals that skewed the public’s perception of more moderate measures moving through the Senate.”) So why didn’t she, you know, vote no last year?

It seems that Democrats were content to ignore the voters, run up the deficit, and create a monstrous health-care bill that no one but the Democratic leadership could defend. But only now, given that Scott Brown has won in a deep Blue State, do they regret it. We’ll see how forgiving the voters are in November and what, aside from some humble sentiments, Democratic lawmakers offer in the meantime. But give them some credit: they sound a lot less out to lunch than the White House political hacks.

Obama is reacting to the epic rebuff in Massachusetts with his usual mix of denial and detachment. It’s not really his fault. It’s the economy, which is Bush’s fault. The mob is angry. He understands anger, but never shows it. And so on. He may be attempting to project calm, but as in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing, you really wonder if there’s no one in the White House to bring him bad news and speak frankly to him.

Meanwhile, Democratic senators are experiencing a spasm of candor. Politico gives us a sample:

“If there’s anybody in this building that doesn’t tell you they’re more worried about elections today, you absolutely should slap them,” said Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). …

“Every state is now in play,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who faces the toughest reelection battle of her career — most likely against wealthy Republican Carly Fiorina. Boxer is pushing a cap-and-trade bill to control greenhouse gases, but her counterpart from California, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said a “large cap-and-trade bill isn’t going to go ahead at this time.”

There seems to be a grudging recognition that the president’s agenda — and their own — missed the mark. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) confesses that Red State Democrats should be nervous:

“I think part of the problem is the agenda itself,” said Conrad, who doesn’t face voters again until 2012. Instead of spending so much time on health care reform, Conrad said Democrats should have focused first on reducing the national debt and a bipartisan energy bill — and that President Barack Obama should have done a better job of explaining that the economic situation he inherited was “far worse” than he’d originally thought.

So will they stop spending so much time on health-care reform now? It would seem like a good idea for all those Red State senators who could have stopped health care last year but simply went with the flow. Mary Landrieu got bribed … er … received a compromise deal for her state (“the Louisiana Purchase,” which begat the Cornhusker Kickback and Gator-Aid). But now she’s singing a different tune. (“Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the more conservative members of the caucus, said some in the Democratic Party were ‘overreaching’ and ‘advocating more government’ than her constituents want. She blamed House Democrats for advancing liberal proposals that skewed the public’s perception of more moderate measures moving through the Senate.”) So why didn’t she, you know, vote no last year?

It seems that Democrats were content to ignore the voters, run up the deficit, and create a monstrous health-care bill that no one but the Democratic leadership could defend. But only now, given that Scott Brown has won in a deep Blue State, do they regret it. We’ll see how forgiving the voters are in November and what, aside from some humble sentiments, Democratic lawmakers offer in the meantime. But give them some credit: they sound a lot less out to lunch than the White House political hacks.

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Even Boxer and Feinstein Get It

Even Boxer and Feinstein get it. Well, sort of. They get the prospect of electoral vulnerability, at least. In the wake of Scott Brown’s victory, the Los Angeles Times’ California Politics column quotes Sen. Barbara Boxer today acknowledging that “every state is now in play, absolutely.”

Boxer, who got 57 percent of the vote in her 2004 reelection campaign, faces California voters this fall. Republicans are encouraged that she showed poorly – for her – in a January Rasmussen poll against the GOP contenders, who include former tech-industry CEO Carly Fiorina. Boxer’s best margin was a 46-40 showing against state legislator Chuck DeVore, but his is the interesting figure: with his name recognition lower than Fiorina’s, the historical pattern would have been for him to get a number no better than the low 30s. DeVore’s 40 signifies that voters are likely turning away from Boxer.

It’s not a given that the California GOP gets it, of course. Republican Tom Campbell, who switched from the gubernatorial race to the Senate race after Scott Brown surged in the Massachusetts polls last week, has probably thrown up a fresh obstacle to party unity in November. Some shaking out of cobwebs will be inevitable this year in a state party that has been remarkably unsuccessful for at least two decades.

But President Obama’s support is slipping significantly among Californians, and their dissatisfaction with the direction of the state and the nation is growing. What Republicans need to learn from Scott Brown’s success is that voters respond to forceful, specific, and positive messages. Jennifer captures this in her comments on the Brown victory speech. GOP candidates probably will not have the looming threat of ObamaCare to run against this fall; the Democrats look likely to back off and postpone that reckoning. Without that crystallizing threat in voters’ minds, the candidates’ positive messages will have to do the heavy lifting.

The 2010 opportunity is unique, however. Dianne Feinstein is California’s other occupant of one of the safest Senate seats in the country, and she demonstrated, in just a few words quoted today by the LA Times, that she misreads what voters want to hear:

People are very unsettled. They are very worried. There is anger. There is angst. … You see high unemployment. …You see anger. … The administration has to see it, and we have to see it. And therefore, everything is jobs and the economy and education.

Contrast that with the passage Jennifer cites from Brown’s speech last night:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the agenda of a new establishment in Washington.

In this aspect of the 2010 political environment, it’s Scott Brown who gets it. The American people aren’t writhing in anger and angst, confusedly demanding that government do something about “jobs, economy, and education.” They know exactly what they think is wrong today, and the problem, as Ronald Reagan would have said, is government. Scott Brown’s unvarnished directness has been respectful of voters as thinking citizens. If Republicans take that to heart, they will have an inherent advantage over many long-entrenched Democrats.

Even Boxer and Feinstein get it. Well, sort of. They get the prospect of electoral vulnerability, at least. In the wake of Scott Brown’s victory, the Los Angeles Times’ California Politics column quotes Sen. Barbara Boxer today acknowledging that “every state is now in play, absolutely.”

Boxer, who got 57 percent of the vote in her 2004 reelection campaign, faces California voters this fall. Republicans are encouraged that she showed poorly – for her – in a January Rasmussen poll against the GOP contenders, who include former tech-industry CEO Carly Fiorina. Boxer’s best margin was a 46-40 showing against state legislator Chuck DeVore, but his is the interesting figure: with his name recognition lower than Fiorina’s, the historical pattern would have been for him to get a number no better than the low 30s. DeVore’s 40 signifies that voters are likely turning away from Boxer.

It’s not a given that the California GOP gets it, of course. Republican Tom Campbell, who switched from the gubernatorial race to the Senate race after Scott Brown surged in the Massachusetts polls last week, has probably thrown up a fresh obstacle to party unity in November. Some shaking out of cobwebs will be inevitable this year in a state party that has been remarkably unsuccessful for at least two decades.

But President Obama’s support is slipping significantly among Californians, and their dissatisfaction with the direction of the state and the nation is growing. What Republicans need to learn from Scott Brown’s success is that voters respond to forceful, specific, and positive messages. Jennifer captures this in her comments on the Brown victory speech. GOP candidates probably will not have the looming threat of ObamaCare to run against this fall; the Democrats look likely to back off and postpone that reckoning. Without that crystallizing threat in voters’ minds, the candidates’ positive messages will have to do the heavy lifting.

The 2010 opportunity is unique, however. Dianne Feinstein is California’s other occupant of one of the safest Senate seats in the country, and she demonstrated, in just a few words quoted today by the LA Times, that she misreads what voters want to hear:

People are very unsettled. They are very worried. There is anger. There is angst. … You see high unemployment. …You see anger. … The administration has to see it, and we have to see it. And therefore, everything is jobs and the economy and education.

Contrast that with the passage Jennifer cites from Brown’s speech last night:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the agenda of a new establishment in Washington.

In this aspect of the 2010 political environment, it’s Scott Brown who gets it. The American people aren’t writhing in anger and angst, confusedly demanding that government do something about “jobs, economy, and education.” They know exactly what they think is wrong today, and the problem, as Ronald Reagan would have said, is government. Scott Brown’s unvarnished directness has been respectful of voters as thinking citizens. If Republicans take that to heart, they will have an inherent advantage over many long-entrenched Democrats.

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David Brooks Pleads: Don’t Blow Yourself Up

David Brooks pleads with the president he’s been rooting for not to blow it — or blow it any more. In a conversation with Gail Collins, he warns:

Go out and tell the voters of Massachusetts and the people answering all the polling questions that you hear them. Go out and say that maybe it’s not a great idea to pass the most complicated and largest piece of domestic legislation in a generation when the American people don’t like it. Show doubt. Don’t show arrogance. If President Obama comes out swinging, it will be his Katrina moment, the moment when the elitist tag will be permanently hung around his neck.

He confesses fondness for another health-care measure, but in the end Brooks comes down firmly on the side of not ignoring the loud voices of the voters shouting, “Stop!” He cautions: “If the Democrats act like the country hasn’t voiced a judgment, if they try to ram this through, there will be an explosion the likes of which we haven’t seen.”

One has the sense that he’s nervous, very nervous, that Obama and his crew won’t listen but will instead take that Katrina plunge. It is strange to have to warn a supposedly savvy politician — one with such a superior temperament, we are told — not to bury his head in the sand and show contempt for the voters. But Brooks is right to be nervous. So insular and ideological rigid are the Obama crew that they might just try to muscle their way through.

But on Brooks’s and ultimately the president’s side is the natural inclination of most politicians not to short-circuit their political careers for no good reason. Obama might prefer to press on, but who’s going to follow? We learned today that Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Evan Bayh, and many others are having serious reservations about ignoring the public. That’s a good thing for the country, and it’s what may ultimately save Obama from himself.

David Brooks pleads with the president he’s been rooting for not to blow it — or blow it any more. In a conversation with Gail Collins, he warns:

Go out and tell the voters of Massachusetts and the people answering all the polling questions that you hear them. Go out and say that maybe it’s not a great idea to pass the most complicated and largest piece of domestic legislation in a generation when the American people don’t like it. Show doubt. Don’t show arrogance. If President Obama comes out swinging, it will be his Katrina moment, the moment when the elitist tag will be permanently hung around his neck.

He confesses fondness for another health-care measure, but in the end Brooks comes down firmly on the side of not ignoring the loud voices of the voters shouting, “Stop!” He cautions: “If the Democrats act like the country hasn’t voiced a judgment, if they try to ram this through, there will be an explosion the likes of which we haven’t seen.”

One has the sense that he’s nervous, very nervous, that Obama and his crew won’t listen but will instead take that Katrina plunge. It is strange to have to warn a supposedly savvy politician — one with such a superior temperament, we are told — not to bury his head in the sand and show contempt for the voters. But Brooks is right to be nervous. So insular and ideological rigid are the Obama crew that they might just try to muscle their way through.

But on Brooks’s and ultimately the president’s side is the natural inclination of most politicians not to short-circuit their political careers for no good reason. Obama might prefer to press on, but who’s going to follow? We learned today that Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Evan Bayh, and many others are having serious reservations about ignoring the public. That’s a good thing for the country, and it’s what may ultimately save Obama from himself.

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A New Day

Nothing like a once-in-a-generation political upset to shake up incumbents, right? Two developments demonstrate that despite White House denial, the rest of the political establishment is taking stock and making adjustments.

On the defection-from-ObamaCare front, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the latest voice of sanity to pipe up. ABC News reports:

“I can tell you the situation has changed dramatically. And I think it’s a sweep across the country and I think that the (White House Economic Adviser) Larry Summers’s of the world have to see it, the administration has to see it and we have to see it. And therefore everything is jobs and the economy and education. People are worried about education,” she said.

“You see anger. People are worried. And when they’re worried they don’t want to take on a broad new responsibility,” like health care reform, she said.

Meanwhile, Republicans are assessing their opportunities and will put new pressure on incumbents who previously didn’t consider themselves vulnerable. Evan Bayh has had the luxury to vote with his liberal leadership while talking like a fiscal conservative back home. That may end. Hotline reports:

In the wake of winning MA, GOPers are looking to put 1 more state in play if they can convince House GOP Conference chair Mike Pence to run against Sen. Evan Bayh (R-IN). … The NRSC has polled IN, and their survey shows Pence in a competitive position, though he trails Bayh in initial matchups.

(I’m betting that polling will shift post-Brown as voters realize there are options to the status quo.)

Now maybe Feinstein can be sweet-talked by the White House into continuing on the ObamaCare jag. Maybe Bayh isn’t concerned about his re-election. But I doubt it. These are mature politicians who can read the election returns for themselves. The White House will have a tough time convincing them to pretend all is well and the only problem has been insufficient speed in passing a grossly unpopular health-care bill.

Nothing like a once-in-a-generation political upset to shake up incumbents, right? Two developments demonstrate that despite White House denial, the rest of the political establishment is taking stock and making adjustments.

On the defection-from-ObamaCare front, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the latest voice of sanity to pipe up. ABC News reports:

“I can tell you the situation has changed dramatically. And I think it’s a sweep across the country and I think that the (White House Economic Adviser) Larry Summers’s of the world have to see it, the administration has to see it and we have to see it. And therefore everything is jobs and the economy and education. People are worried about education,” she said.

“You see anger. People are worried. And when they’re worried they don’t want to take on a broad new responsibility,” like health care reform, she said.

Meanwhile, Republicans are assessing their opportunities and will put new pressure on incumbents who previously didn’t consider themselves vulnerable. Evan Bayh has had the luxury to vote with his liberal leadership while talking like a fiscal conservative back home. That may end. Hotline reports:

In the wake of winning MA, GOPers are looking to put 1 more state in play if they can convince House GOP Conference chair Mike Pence to run against Sen. Evan Bayh (R-IN). … The NRSC has polled IN, and their survey shows Pence in a competitive position, though he trails Bayh in initial matchups.

(I’m betting that polling will shift post-Brown as voters realize there are options to the status quo.)

Now maybe Feinstein can be sweet-talked by the White House into continuing on the ObamaCare jag. Maybe Bayh isn’t concerned about his re-election. But I doubt it. These are mature politicians who can read the election returns for themselves. The White House will have a tough time convincing them to pretend all is well and the only problem has been insufficient speed in passing a grossly unpopular health-care bill.

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No Chair When the Music Stops

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed doubt and concern on Monday about the Senate health-care reform bill. National media haven’t given this nearly the coverage they awarded his expressions of support for the overall ObamaCare effort in July and October. But under the mainstream media’s radar, the Governator was going soft on the Democrats’ health-care reform as early as last week, and the reason for his shifting posture is the cost to California.

Schwarzenegger’s prior attempt at health-care reform in California makes a superb cautionary tale. The 2006 proposal, advanced by Democrats in Sacramento and substantially endorsed by the governor, was eerily similar to the U.S. Senate bill to be voted on this week. It incorporated an individual mandate to purchase health insurance; increased employer costs through either insurance premiums for workers or a tax penalty; vague and open-ended bureaucratic measures to control costs; expanded enrollment in Medicaid/Medi-Cal; and subsidies to those with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level who would be required by law to buy insurance.

There was no question this plan would cost more. Even friendly analysts concluded that it would add between $6.8 and $9.4 billion in state costs, while causing private health expenses to rise by 9.9 percent per year and employer costs to rise by 8.8 percent per year. California, the analysts pointed out, has 12 times as many “uninsured workers under 65” as Massachusetts; the Bay State’s solutions would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers in the Golden State.

Yet, until the housing-market collapse stopped California’s decade-long spending spree in its tracks, state Democrats were pushing their health-care reform proposal vigorously — with the support of the Republican governor. A CATO Institute analysis pinpointed why: the state Democrats’ plan relied heavily on federal matching funds. A bit of comically transparent budgetary sleight-of-hand would have enabled California to shift most of its additional costs to the other 49 states.

The bill in the U.S. Senate this month, however, will impose on California all the inevitable costs of mandating universal “insurance coverage” in California, and then some. California doesn’t have the advantage of recalcitrant Democratic senators whose votes need to be bought with Medicaid-funding relief, as Ben Nelson’s (NE) and Mary Landrieu’s (LA) were. California’s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, are some of the “safest” party-line voters in Congress. The result is a case of unpleasant consequences that must be humorous to those who don’t live in the Golden State.

The game of “musical health care costs” is only just starting across America. Senators Nelson and Landrieu think they have already grabbed their states’ seats for when the music stops. But the impact on the states — especially an unequal impact — may well be the spike on which the Democrats’ plan is ultimately impaled. Federalism, uniquely strong in America, has not yet had its say on this topic.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed doubt and concern on Monday about the Senate health-care reform bill. National media haven’t given this nearly the coverage they awarded his expressions of support for the overall ObamaCare effort in July and October. But under the mainstream media’s radar, the Governator was going soft on the Democrats’ health-care reform as early as last week, and the reason for his shifting posture is the cost to California.

Schwarzenegger’s prior attempt at health-care reform in California makes a superb cautionary tale. The 2006 proposal, advanced by Democrats in Sacramento and substantially endorsed by the governor, was eerily similar to the U.S. Senate bill to be voted on this week. It incorporated an individual mandate to purchase health insurance; increased employer costs through either insurance premiums for workers or a tax penalty; vague and open-ended bureaucratic measures to control costs; expanded enrollment in Medicaid/Medi-Cal; and subsidies to those with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level who would be required by law to buy insurance.

There was no question this plan would cost more. Even friendly analysts concluded that it would add between $6.8 and $9.4 billion in state costs, while causing private health expenses to rise by 9.9 percent per year and employer costs to rise by 8.8 percent per year. California, the analysts pointed out, has 12 times as many “uninsured workers under 65” as Massachusetts; the Bay State’s solutions would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers in the Golden State.

Yet, until the housing-market collapse stopped California’s decade-long spending spree in its tracks, state Democrats were pushing their health-care reform proposal vigorously — with the support of the Republican governor. A CATO Institute analysis pinpointed why: the state Democrats’ plan relied heavily on federal matching funds. A bit of comically transparent budgetary sleight-of-hand would have enabled California to shift most of its additional costs to the other 49 states.

The bill in the U.S. Senate this month, however, will impose on California all the inevitable costs of mandating universal “insurance coverage” in California, and then some. California doesn’t have the advantage of recalcitrant Democratic senators whose votes need to be bought with Medicaid-funding relief, as Ben Nelson’s (NE) and Mary Landrieu’s (LA) were. California’s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, are some of the “safest” party-line voters in Congress. The result is a case of unpleasant consequences that must be humorous to those who don’t live in the Golden State.

The game of “musical health care costs” is only just starting across America. Senators Nelson and Landrieu think they have already grabbed their states’ seats for when the music stops. But the impact on the states — especially an unequal impact — may well be the spike on which the Democrats’ plan is ultimately impaled. Federalism, uniquely strong in America, has not yet had its say on this topic.

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Iran in Iraq: Why Do Sabers Now Rattle?

Yesterday morning, the New York Times noted the American government’s recent spotlight on Iran’s support for Shiite militia fighters in Iraq and questioned whether the Islamic Republic had increased its meddling in its neighbor’s internal affairs. “The administration’s focus on Iran has raised alarms among the war’s staunchest critics, who accuse the White House of overstating the threat and laying the groundwork for military action against Iran,” the paper reported. “This is not a new thing,” the Times quoted Senator Dianne Feinstein. “Why all of a sudden do the sabers start to rattle?”

Senator Feinstein, perhaps this is the better question: Why has Washington taken so long to speak candidly about Iran? Tehran has been involved with the Iraqi militias from the get-go. By now, it is apparent that diplomacy, behind-the-scenes and otherwise, has had little effect on Tehran. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Bush administration is resorting to tougher tactics. For instance, Friday, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that the United States is preparing for “potential military courses of action” against Iranian forces. “It would be a mistake,” he noted, “to think that we are out of combat capability.”

If we should be in Iraq, we should be there to win. If we’re there to win, we have to stop Iranian activities that destabilize Iraq. I hope that Obama is right, and we can, in face-to-face negotiations, convince the mullahs to stop committing acts of war against the Iraqi nation. Yet if we cannot-and I don’t see how we can-then we have a choice to make: use force against Iran or commit ourselves to years of directionless combat. Sometimes, Madam Senator, choices are that simple.

Yesterday morning, the New York Times noted the American government’s recent spotlight on Iran’s support for Shiite militia fighters in Iraq and questioned whether the Islamic Republic had increased its meddling in its neighbor’s internal affairs. “The administration’s focus on Iran has raised alarms among the war’s staunchest critics, who accuse the White House of overstating the threat and laying the groundwork for military action against Iran,” the paper reported. “This is not a new thing,” the Times quoted Senator Dianne Feinstein. “Why all of a sudden do the sabers start to rattle?”

Senator Feinstein, perhaps this is the better question: Why has Washington taken so long to speak candidly about Iran? Tehran has been involved with the Iraqi militias from the get-go. By now, it is apparent that diplomacy, behind-the-scenes and otherwise, has had little effect on Tehran. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Bush administration is resorting to tougher tactics. For instance, Friday, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that the United States is preparing for “potential military courses of action” against Iranian forces. “It would be a mistake,” he noted, “to think that we are out of combat capability.”

If we should be in Iraq, we should be there to win. If we’re there to win, we have to stop Iranian activities that destabilize Iraq. I hope that Obama is right, and we can, in face-to-face negotiations, convince the mullahs to stop committing acts of war against the Iraqi nation. Yet if we cannot-and I don’t see how we can-then we have a choice to make: use force against Iran or commit ourselves to years of directionless combat. Sometimes, Madam Senator, choices are that simple.

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Here’s A Good Example

Barack Obama was one of 29 U.S. Senators who opposed cloture on a key Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) vote today. The specific issue: whether to extend immunity to telecommunications companies that assisted the government in terrorist surveillance. John McCain voted in favor of cloture and for immunity along with all other Republicans (Lindsey Graham was absent), the increasingly sensible Dianne Feinstein (she voted to confirm Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Fifth Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick despite the protestations of the civil rights lobby), and a number of Red (e.g. Bayh, Johnson, McCaskill, Webb) and Blue (e.g. Mikulski, Casey) state Democrats. But not Obama. Doesn’t this say something about his noncentrist views on national security? To whom was he “reaching out” on this vote and what new type of politics was he practicing? Or was he voting with the most extreme elements of his party? And what precisely is the rationale for denying immunity to companies which in good faith aided in national security endeavors? This might be a fruitful line of inquiry for the soon to be Republican nominee. (Oh, and Hillary Clinton? She did not vote.)

Barack Obama was one of 29 U.S. Senators who opposed cloture on a key Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) vote today. The specific issue: whether to extend immunity to telecommunications companies that assisted the government in terrorist surveillance. John McCain voted in favor of cloture and for immunity along with all other Republicans (Lindsey Graham was absent), the increasingly sensible Dianne Feinstein (she voted to confirm Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Fifth Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick despite the protestations of the civil rights lobby), and a number of Red (e.g. Bayh, Johnson, McCaskill, Webb) and Blue (e.g. Mikulski, Casey) state Democrats. But not Obama. Doesn’t this say something about his noncentrist views on national security? To whom was he “reaching out” on this vote and what new type of politics was he practicing? Or was he voting with the most extreme elements of his party? And what precisely is the rationale for denying immunity to companies which in good faith aided in national security endeavors? This might be a fruitful line of inquiry for the soon to be Republican nominee. (Oh, and Hillary Clinton? She did not vote.)

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