Commentary Magazine


Topic: Dick Durbin

FCC’s Unforgiveable CIN

There’s no such thing as the government “just asking questions.” That’s something both the public and the country’s news organizations should keep in mind as they read Ajit Pai’s important piece in the Wall Street Journal today. Pai is one of five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission, the agency charged with regulating and licensing broadcast media, and he is rightfully disturbed by one of the FCC’s current projects.

Known as “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs” (CIN), the FCC’s latest bright idea is to send representatives to press outlets to grill them on story selection and “perceived station bias,” among other red flags. Of course, the agency is going in with its own ideas about what such terms mean. Pai notes that a field test of this program is scheduled for this spring. He continues:

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There’s no such thing as the government “just asking questions.” That’s something both the public and the country’s news organizations should keep in mind as they read Ajit Pai’s important piece in the Wall Street Journal today. Pai is one of five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission, the agency charged with regulating and licensing broadcast media, and he is rightfully disturbed by one of the FCC’s current projects.

Known as “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs” (CIN), the FCC’s latest bright idea is to send representatives to press outlets to grill them on story selection and “perceived station bias,” among other red flags. Of course, the agency is going in with its own ideas about what such terms mean. Pai notes that a field test of this program is scheduled for this spring. He continues:

How does the FCC plan to dig up all that information? First, the agency selected eight categories of “critical information” such as the “environment” and “economic opportunities,” that it believes local newscasters should cover. It plans to ask station managers, news directors, journalists, television anchors and on-air reporters to tell the government about their “news philosophy” and how the station ensures that the community gets critical information.

The FCC also wants to wade into office politics. One question for reporters is: “Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers that was rejected by management?” Follow-up questions ask for specifics about how editorial discretion is exercised, as well as the reasoning behind the decisions.

Participation in the Critical Information Needs study is voluntary—in theory. Unlike the opinion surveys that Americans see on a daily basis and either answer or not, as they wish, the FCC’s queries may be hard for the broadcasters to ignore. They would be out of business without an FCC license, which must be renewed every eight years.

Pai recalls the FCC’s thuggish Fairness Doctrine, through which unelected bureaucrats were given the power to micromanage news content. The Fairness Doctrine was beloved by liberals, especially in recent decades as the left’s media dominance was challenged by the discovery that if given a choice, no one wanted to listen to them. The left’s response to losing an argument is to have the government shut down the other side, and there were hopes among Democrats that the Fairness Doctrine could be used to crack down on the First Amendment rights proving so bothersome to them.

But there’s another context for this FCC stunt: the debate over a so-called shield law for journalists. As I noted back in July, there is a congressional effort led by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin to pass legislation that would put on the books a federal law–most of the states already have such laws–to “shield” reporters from having to divulge sources. It is carried out ostensibly under the banner of protecting the press and therefore defending the First Amendment.

If only. In truth, there are two main problems with a federal shield law that would render it harmful to freedom of the press. The first is that in order to legislate protections for a specific group, you have to define that group. That means for a federal shield law, the government would get to be the final arbiter on the question of who is a journalist. Thus the government could easily play favorites and have yet another accreditation–not unlike an FCC license, in a way–to hold over the heads of the press.

The second problem with a federal shield law is that there would almost certainly be vague national-security carve-outs, which are often couched in terms like “compelling public interest.” That means the protections would likely evaporate anyway in most high-profile cases. The shield law, then, would be corrosive to the protections currently afforded the press.

It is such rules the FCC’s CIN calls to mind. It opens the door to increased government scrutiny of the press, with an implicit threat to a broadcaster’s license. It does so under the guise of public service and quality control and fairness and other terms that usually hint the government is up to no good. And if established without challenge, it would grant the premise that news judgment is the FCC’s business.

Perhaps this can still be avoided if the press puts up a united front against this intrusion, but the implicit threat is already out there. The media should be able to tell the FCC to get lost on this one. In a perfect world, of course, they wouldn’t have to.

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Obama Shouldn’t Bet on the GOP Messing Up

Gallup reports:

Americans’ opinions of House Republican Leader John Boehner, who is in line to be the speaker of the House in the new Congress, improved after the midterm elections. Though 4 in 10 Americans are still unfamiliar with Boehner, more Americans now rate him positively than negatively, a shift from three prior 2010 readings, including one taken in mid-October. …

Boehner’s counterpart in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, is somewhat better known, though one in three still do not have an opinion of him. Unlike Boehner, Reid is viewed much more negatively than positively. In the latest poll, 25% have a favorable opinion of Reid and 43% an unfavorable one. That is little changed from the prior measurement of Reid from May.

We shouldn’t put too much stock in poll numbers, which come in advance of anyone doing anything. But still, this suggests the problem for the Dems: their leaders in Congress are the same old unlikeable figures; the president is exasperating even his own party; and, meanwhile, the GOP leadership is comprised of fresh faces to much of the electorate and is trying its best not to overplay its hand.

The Democrats would have been wise to dump Reid, but after the voters of Nevada refused to do their dirty work, neither Chuck Schumer nor Dick Durbin had the nerve to challenge him. And when you throw in the possibility of Nancy Pelosi in the minority leader’s chair, you see that the “change” party has become the defenders of the status quo. And, my, how negative they are – nixing the debt commission, nixing tax relief for Americans, nixing  revision of ObamaCare. It’s almost like they are the “party of no.”

Gallup reports:

Americans’ opinions of House Republican Leader John Boehner, who is in line to be the speaker of the House in the new Congress, improved after the midterm elections. Though 4 in 10 Americans are still unfamiliar with Boehner, more Americans now rate him positively than negatively, a shift from three prior 2010 readings, including one taken in mid-October. …

Boehner’s counterpart in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, is somewhat better known, though one in three still do not have an opinion of him. Unlike Boehner, Reid is viewed much more negatively than positively. In the latest poll, 25% have a favorable opinion of Reid and 43% an unfavorable one. That is little changed from the prior measurement of Reid from May.

We shouldn’t put too much stock in poll numbers, which come in advance of anyone doing anything. But still, this suggests the problem for the Dems: their leaders in Congress are the same old unlikeable figures; the president is exasperating even his own party; and, meanwhile, the GOP leadership is comprised of fresh faces to much of the electorate and is trying its best not to overplay its hand.

The Democrats would have been wise to dump Reid, but after the voters of Nevada refused to do their dirty work, neither Chuck Schumer nor Dick Durbin had the nerve to challenge him. And when you throw in the possibility of Nancy Pelosi in the minority leader’s chair, you see that the “change” party has become the defenders of the status quo. And, my, how negative they are – nixing the debt commission, nixing tax relief for Americans, nixing  revision of ObamaCare. It’s almost like they are the “party of no.”

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LIVE BLOG: Lots of Upset People

Sens. Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer are bummed. They were already fighting over the majority leader’s seat. Also upset, Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers, who have seen a second, untested outsider beat more electable GOP establishment types — and then lose in winnable states. Don’t think Palin’s potential 2012 opponents won’t be making hay out of this one.

But you know, there are worse things for the GOP than to have Harry Reid as an ongoing symbol of the Democratic Party.

Sens. Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer are bummed. They were already fighting over the majority leader’s seat. Also upset, Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers, who have seen a second, untested outsider beat more electable GOP establishment types — and then lose in winnable states. Don’t think Palin’s potential 2012 opponents won’t be making hay out of this one.

But you know, there are worse things for the GOP than to have Harry Reid as an ongoing symbol of the Democratic Party.

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Senate Coming into Focus

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a “tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad’”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a “tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad’”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

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Dems Flee the Scene

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that, contrary to press reports, the House isn’t bugging out this week. Now, however, the Senate Democrats are, in fact, talking about fleeing the Capitol early:

Senate Democrats are seriously weighing whether to leave town at the end of next week, instead of staying in session until Oct. 7 or Oct. 8, as had been anticipated.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Democrats might pass a stop-gap spending measure to keep government funded beyond Sept. 30 and then go back to their home states to campaign.

Democrats in Congress are getting restless to hit the campaign trail and brace for what some experts predict will be a Republican wave in the midterm election.

It’s not just that Democrats are anxious to get back to the campaign trail; they can’t wait to get out of D.C. As long as they stay, the headlines and talk show buzz about failed maneuvers (the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell and DREAM Act amendments, the class warfare vote on Obama’s stimulus plan) will continue to plague them. Even Dana Milbank is grouchy that the Democrats never managed to get much done:

They still have their largest majority in decades, but the Democrats have succumbed to paralysis in the closing days of the legislative session. Congress has yet to pass a budget or a single one of the annual spending bills. Plans to spur the economy with tax cuts await action. Senate Democrats, faced with a GOP filibuster, have now punted on immigration reform and repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. Meanwhile, House Democrats have so little on their schedule that their first vote of the week is coming at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, when Americans are most of the way through their workweeks.

Well, they did a lot already, but none of it is all that popular. “[T]hey don’t want to talk about the achievements. The stimulus bill is unpopular; they’re not getting credit for health-care legislation, financial reforms and many other accomplishments; and the spent majority can’t limp out of town fast enough.” I guess they aren’t achievements if no one wants to talk about them.

So onto the trail they will go. If they can avoid those sticky situations when voters call them out, disassociate themselves from Obama, and convince voters that the recession is over, they’ll do just fine, right? Come to think of it, maybe it’s safer inside the Beltway.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that, contrary to press reports, the House isn’t bugging out this week. Now, however, the Senate Democrats are, in fact, talking about fleeing the Capitol early:

Senate Democrats are seriously weighing whether to leave town at the end of next week, instead of staying in session until Oct. 7 or Oct. 8, as had been anticipated.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Democrats might pass a stop-gap spending measure to keep government funded beyond Sept. 30 and then go back to their home states to campaign.

Democrats in Congress are getting restless to hit the campaign trail and brace for what some experts predict will be a Republican wave in the midterm election.

It’s not just that Democrats are anxious to get back to the campaign trail; they can’t wait to get out of D.C. As long as they stay, the headlines and talk show buzz about failed maneuvers (the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell and DREAM Act amendments, the class warfare vote on Obama’s stimulus plan) will continue to plague them. Even Dana Milbank is grouchy that the Democrats never managed to get much done:

They still have their largest majority in decades, but the Democrats have succumbed to paralysis in the closing days of the legislative session. Congress has yet to pass a budget or a single one of the annual spending bills. Plans to spur the economy with tax cuts await action. Senate Democrats, faced with a GOP filibuster, have now punted on immigration reform and repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. Meanwhile, House Democrats have so little on their schedule that their first vote of the week is coming at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, when Americans are most of the way through their workweeks.

Well, they did a lot already, but none of it is all that popular. “[T]hey don’t want to talk about the achievements. The stimulus bill is unpopular; they’re not getting credit for health-care legislation, financial reforms and many other accomplishments; and the spent majority can’t limp out of town fast enough.” I guess they aren’t achievements if no one wants to talk about them.

So onto the trail they will go. If they can avoid those sticky situations when voters call them out, disassociate themselves from Obama, and convince voters that the recession is over, they’ll do just fine, right? Come to think of it, maybe it’s safer inside the Beltway.

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A Shot Across Their Bow

On Friday, Democrats (other than Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer, who are vying to lead their party in the Senate) got some bad news that, for a change, was not economic: “The National Rifle Association declines to endorse Senator Harry Reid, citing his votes for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, which is a blow, since the group backed him in the past.”

This is significant for several reasons. First, the NRA’s endorsement is critical in a large number of states. No less a political guru than Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA “made Gingrich the House speaker” in 1994 and  toppled Al Gore in  2000. Granted, ardor on the Second Amendment may have cooled as Democrats have sought to downplay the issue and since the Supreme Court affirmed it is both a personal right and binding on the states. However, the NRA continues to be a powerful interest group that can provide troops on the ground and critical advertising for its preferred candidates.

The announcement is also important because it signals that the group thinks Reid is a dead duck. Otherwise, why risk annoying the Senate Majority Leader? Its political calculation may influence donors and other special-interest groups to dump Reid and place their bets and money elsewhere.

And finally, this is a fitting and unmistakable warning about Supreme Court nominees. For years, Democrats and some Republicans felt their votes were “free” — they could, with impunity and without regard to their constituents’ views, vote to confirm nominees whose records reflected outright hostility to the Second Amendment. The NRA is making it clear that lawmakers are going to be held responsible for their votes. So Lindsey Graham, who voted yes on both the Kagan and Sotomayor nominations, is on notice: don’t expect the NRA’s support.

On Friday, Democrats (other than Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer, who are vying to lead their party in the Senate) got some bad news that, for a change, was not economic: “The National Rifle Association declines to endorse Senator Harry Reid, citing his votes for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, which is a blow, since the group backed him in the past.”

This is significant for several reasons. First, the NRA’s endorsement is critical in a large number of states. No less a political guru than Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA “made Gingrich the House speaker” in 1994 and  toppled Al Gore in  2000. Granted, ardor on the Second Amendment may have cooled as Democrats have sought to downplay the issue and since the Supreme Court affirmed it is both a personal right and binding on the states. However, the NRA continues to be a powerful interest group that can provide troops on the ground and critical advertising for its preferred candidates.

The announcement is also important because it signals that the group thinks Reid is a dead duck. Otherwise, why risk annoying the Senate Majority Leader? Its political calculation may influence donors and other special-interest groups to dump Reid and place their bets and money elsewhere.

And finally, this is a fitting and unmistakable warning about Supreme Court nominees. For years, Democrats and some Republicans felt their votes were “free” — they could, with impunity and without regard to their constituents’ views, vote to confirm nominees whose records reflected outright hostility to the Second Amendment. The NRA is making it clear that lawmakers are going to be held responsible for their votes. So Lindsey Graham, who voted yes on both the Kagan and Sotomayor nominations, is on notice: don’t expect the NRA’s support.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Emergency Committee for Israel wonders how it is that Joe Sestak can claim to be pro-Israel but accept Chuck Hagel’s endorsement. “Today’s endorsement of Joe Sestak by one of the leading anti-Israel politicians in the United States again exposes the danger a Senator Sestak would pose to the U.S.-Israel alliance. He claims to be pro-Israel, but his actions — whether fundraising for CAIR, or signing a letter that criticizes Israel for defending herself from Hamas, or seeking the endorsement of a former Senator who is notorious for his hostility to Israel — tells voters all they need to know about the kind of Senator Joe Sestak would be.”

You wonder how the left is going to defend Imam Rauf as “moderate” now.

Andy McCarthy wonders how a “one state solution” is a moderate position for Rauf. But your tax dollars are paying to send him overseas!

You wonder if Hillary would even settle for a VP slot on the ticket in 2012: “Forty-eight percent (48%) of U.S. voters now regard President Obama’s political views as extreme. Forty-two percent (42%) place his views in the mainstream, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. By comparison, 51% see the views of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as mainstream. Thirty-five percent (35%) think Clinton’s views are extreme.” Maybe something like: “Clinton-Dean 2012, the electable wing of the Democratic Party”?

You wonder how John Brennan deals with a crisis when he can’t handle moderately probing questions from a newspaper editorial board. Awkward, as they say. (h/t Quin Hillyer)

You wonder what Justice Kagan thinks about this: “A U.S. district court issued a preliminary injunction on Monday stopping federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, in a slap to the Obama administration’s new guidelines on the sensitive issue. The court ruled in favor of a suit filed in June by researchers who said human embryonic stem cell research involved the destruction of human embryos. Judge Royce Lamberth granted the injunction after finding the lawsuit would likely succeed because the guidelines violated law banning the use of federal funds to destroy human embryos.” Let’s hope she’s ethical enough to recuse herself if it gets to the Supreme Court.

You wonder what Dick Durbin is thinking. “The second-ranking Senate Democrat broke ranks with his party’s leader this weekend by announcing his support for the Lower Manhattan Islamic center and mosque. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said Sunday that those who are opposed to the mosque are trying to divide the country with fear and hate.” That’s a rather harsh thing to say about Harry Reid and Howard Dean.

The Emergency Committee for Israel wonders how it is that Joe Sestak can claim to be pro-Israel but accept Chuck Hagel’s endorsement. “Today’s endorsement of Joe Sestak by one of the leading anti-Israel politicians in the United States again exposes the danger a Senator Sestak would pose to the U.S.-Israel alliance. He claims to be pro-Israel, but his actions — whether fundraising for CAIR, or signing a letter that criticizes Israel for defending herself from Hamas, or seeking the endorsement of a former Senator who is notorious for his hostility to Israel — tells voters all they need to know about the kind of Senator Joe Sestak would be.”

You wonder how the left is going to defend Imam Rauf as “moderate” now.

Andy McCarthy wonders how a “one state solution” is a moderate position for Rauf. But your tax dollars are paying to send him overseas!

You wonder if Hillary would even settle for a VP slot on the ticket in 2012: “Forty-eight percent (48%) of U.S. voters now regard President Obama’s political views as extreme. Forty-two percent (42%) place his views in the mainstream, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. By comparison, 51% see the views of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as mainstream. Thirty-five percent (35%) think Clinton’s views are extreme.” Maybe something like: “Clinton-Dean 2012, the electable wing of the Democratic Party”?

You wonder how John Brennan deals with a crisis when he can’t handle moderately probing questions from a newspaper editorial board. Awkward, as they say. (h/t Quin Hillyer)

You wonder what Justice Kagan thinks about this: “A U.S. district court issued a preliminary injunction on Monday stopping federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, in a slap to the Obama administration’s new guidelines on the sensitive issue. The court ruled in favor of a suit filed in June by researchers who said human embryonic stem cell research involved the destruction of human embryos. Judge Royce Lamberth granted the injunction after finding the lawsuit would likely succeed because the guidelines violated law banning the use of federal funds to destroy human embryos.” Let’s hope she’s ethical enough to recuse herself if it gets to the Supreme Court.

You wonder what Dick Durbin is thinking. “The second-ranking Senate Democrat broke ranks with his party’s leader this weekend by announcing his support for the Lower Manhattan Islamic center and mosque. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said Sunday that those who are opposed to the mosque are trying to divide the country with fear and hate.” That’s a rather harsh thing to say about Harry Reid and Howard Dean.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

They need to get their stories straight. Raju Narisetti, the Washington Post managing editor, says that Dave Weigel was “vetted in the same way that other prospective Post journalists are screened.” But Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli says, “We don’t have the resources or ability to do Supreme Court justice-type investigations into people’s backgrounds. We will have to be more careful in the future.”

Obama needs to get his act together if we are going to win in Afghanistan. “Looming over America’s military and diplomatic efforts is the withdrawal timetable. It does not matter that the July 2011 date for the beginning of the draw-down is more nuanced than a complete ‘switching off the lights and closing the door behind us,’ as President Obama said on Thursday. The arbitrary date sends the message that America’s commitment is limited. Those in the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment who support the Afghan insurgents do so because they see them as a means to project power in Afghanistan. The timetable tells the Pakistanis that support for the Taliban and their ilk may be rewarded in the not distant future.”

What does Gen. David Petraeus need? Zalmay Khalilzad writes that “he will need to get our own house in order. An effective counterinsurgency strategy requires civil-military cooperation, coordination and integration. Petraeus should demand this and ought to have the lead in bringing it about. Given all that is at stake he must establish a one-mission, one-team spirit among various instruments of U.S. power. Those who do not cooperate should be replaced, and quickly.”

Obama needs to stop treating Britain like Israel. (He, of course, also needs to stop treating Israel like a skunk at his “international community” garden party.) “Obama’s face time with [David]Cameron does present him with an opportunity to personally put U.S. relations with Britain on a new footing. The president didn’t have a particularly warm relationship with [Gordon] Brown, Cameron’s dour predecessor. It got off to a rocky start – Obama did not hold a joint press conference during Brown’s first White House visit and it was widely noted that the gifts Obama presented to the prime minister were generic. The British press concluded that Brown had been snubbed, and the perception stuck.”

Rory Reid needs a new last name: “Republican Brian Sandoval continues to hold a lead of more than 20 points over Democrat Rory Reid in Nevada’s race for governor. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state shows Sandoval with 55% support, while Reid earns 33% of the vote.”

Two law professors say the Senate should take their word on Elena Kagan not being a boffo judge and forget about asking all those pesky questions: “We believe that she will take seriously the obligation to make fair and impartial decisions based on the briefs and arguments presented in the cases before her. Senators should not ask her to articulate her positions on legal issues in advance of her deciding cases. If they ask, she should decline to do so. That action would demonstrate, more than any pledge, that she understands what it means to be a judge.”

Haven’t you been thinking that what we really need is a fish czar? “As concerns mount about the presence of Asian carp near Lake Michigan, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin today urged President Obama to appoint a carp czar to oversee efforts to keep the invasive species out of the Great Lakes.”

They need to get their stories straight. Raju Narisetti, the Washington Post managing editor, says that Dave Weigel was “vetted in the same way that other prospective Post journalists are screened.” But Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli says, “We don’t have the resources or ability to do Supreme Court justice-type investigations into people’s backgrounds. We will have to be more careful in the future.”

Obama needs to get his act together if we are going to win in Afghanistan. “Looming over America’s military and diplomatic efforts is the withdrawal timetable. It does not matter that the July 2011 date for the beginning of the draw-down is more nuanced than a complete ‘switching off the lights and closing the door behind us,’ as President Obama said on Thursday. The arbitrary date sends the message that America’s commitment is limited. Those in the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment who support the Afghan insurgents do so because they see them as a means to project power in Afghanistan. The timetable tells the Pakistanis that support for the Taliban and their ilk may be rewarded in the not distant future.”

What does Gen. David Petraeus need? Zalmay Khalilzad writes that “he will need to get our own house in order. An effective counterinsurgency strategy requires civil-military cooperation, coordination and integration. Petraeus should demand this and ought to have the lead in bringing it about. Given all that is at stake he must establish a one-mission, one-team spirit among various instruments of U.S. power. Those who do not cooperate should be replaced, and quickly.”

Obama needs to stop treating Britain like Israel. (He, of course, also needs to stop treating Israel like a skunk at his “international community” garden party.) “Obama’s face time with [David]Cameron does present him with an opportunity to personally put U.S. relations with Britain on a new footing. The president didn’t have a particularly warm relationship with [Gordon] Brown, Cameron’s dour predecessor. It got off to a rocky start – Obama did not hold a joint press conference during Brown’s first White House visit and it was widely noted that the gifts Obama presented to the prime minister were generic. The British press concluded that Brown had been snubbed, and the perception stuck.”

Rory Reid needs a new last name: “Republican Brian Sandoval continues to hold a lead of more than 20 points over Democrat Rory Reid in Nevada’s race for governor. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state shows Sandoval with 55% support, while Reid earns 33% of the vote.”

Two law professors say the Senate should take their word on Elena Kagan not being a boffo judge and forget about asking all those pesky questions: “We believe that she will take seriously the obligation to make fair and impartial decisions based on the briefs and arguments presented in the cases before her. Senators should not ask her to articulate her positions on legal issues in advance of her deciding cases. If they ask, she should decline to do so. That action would demonstrate, more than any pledge, that she understands what it means to be a judge.”

Haven’t you been thinking that what we really need is a fish czar? “As concerns mount about the presence of Asian carp near Lake Michigan, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin today urged President Obama to appoint a carp czar to oversee efforts to keep the invasive species out of the Great Lakes.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.’” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.’” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

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Obama Hides from Giannoulias

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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That Explains It

Media pundits and Washington insiders have been puzzling over how and why Harry Reid could have unraveled a bipartisan jobs bill and in the process potentially provoked Evan Bayh’s retirement. This report by Jay Newton-Small notes that “it was with a bit of fanfare that the White House welcomed Thursday a bipartisan Senate deal on $85 billion jobs legislation forged after weeks of negotiations between Senators Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.” The White House cheered and then — poof — “Reid hours later threw out the deal, replacing it with a stripped down $15 billion bill that would only provide scaled-back tax credits and help for small businesses, highway construction and state and local governments.” It was pure Reid — a high-profile bungle that managed to ensnare the Democrats in another round of finger-pointing.

Now perhaps he actually was pushed over the brink by scheming competitors. Newton-Small writes:

While Reid’s office says he pulled the Baucus-Grassley compromise because of opposition from GOP leaders, his left flank was also unhappy with the deal. Reid’s No. 2, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, led a group of progressive Senators against the bill, saying it gave too much away to Republicans and focused too heavily on tax cuts that had little to do with job creation. “Durbin was just trying to curry favor with the liberals,” says a senior Senate Democratic aide closely involved in the process. “Reid is hampered by Durbin and Schumer picking over his corpse right now — it’s really ugly.”

Well, that “senior Senate Democratic aide” might be Reid’s spinning an excuse and trying to tag Durbin and Schumer as the villains. Or it might be an accurate account, suggesting that Democrats aren’t as dense as they appear and would like nothing better than to see Reid get bounced from the Senate. They simply didn’t expect the loss of Bayh in the process.

In any event, Reid is once again in hot water:

“It’s a shock to us,” Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, told Fox News on Friday. “I mean, in the states we were all hoping to see a robust jobs bill, and we’re confounded by this action, absolutely confounded.” And fellow endangered incumbent, Senator Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, said in a press release that she hopes Reid “will reconsider. [The Baucus-Grassley] bill was carefully crafted to achieve significant bipartisan support.”

This hardly bodes well for the remainder of the year. If the name of the game is how to humiliate Reid (yes, yes, he often needs no assistance), then we are going to spend quite a bit of time watching Reid tied up in knots by his own side. With an invigorated Republican caucus, the loss of the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority, and a White House unable to devise, let alone shepherd through Congress, its own policies, one can expect more chaos and more episodes of pin-the-blame on Harry.

In effect, the Senate Democrats have a lame duck as their leader — someone who in the best of times was not up to the task and is now facing his own demise as successors struggle for the upper hand. It’s not pretty for Democrats, but it sure is entertaining for the rest of us.

Media pundits and Washington insiders have been puzzling over how and why Harry Reid could have unraveled a bipartisan jobs bill and in the process potentially provoked Evan Bayh’s retirement. This report by Jay Newton-Small notes that “it was with a bit of fanfare that the White House welcomed Thursday a bipartisan Senate deal on $85 billion jobs legislation forged after weeks of negotiations between Senators Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.” The White House cheered and then — poof — “Reid hours later threw out the deal, replacing it with a stripped down $15 billion bill that would only provide scaled-back tax credits and help for small businesses, highway construction and state and local governments.” It was pure Reid — a high-profile bungle that managed to ensnare the Democrats in another round of finger-pointing.

Now perhaps he actually was pushed over the brink by scheming competitors. Newton-Small writes:

While Reid’s office says he pulled the Baucus-Grassley compromise because of opposition from GOP leaders, his left flank was also unhappy with the deal. Reid’s No. 2, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, led a group of progressive Senators against the bill, saying it gave too much away to Republicans and focused too heavily on tax cuts that had little to do with job creation. “Durbin was just trying to curry favor with the liberals,” says a senior Senate Democratic aide closely involved in the process. “Reid is hampered by Durbin and Schumer picking over his corpse right now — it’s really ugly.”

Well, that “senior Senate Democratic aide” might be Reid’s spinning an excuse and trying to tag Durbin and Schumer as the villains. Or it might be an accurate account, suggesting that Democrats aren’t as dense as they appear and would like nothing better than to see Reid get bounced from the Senate. They simply didn’t expect the loss of Bayh in the process.

In any event, Reid is once again in hot water:

“It’s a shock to us,” Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, told Fox News on Friday. “I mean, in the states we were all hoping to see a robust jobs bill, and we’re confounded by this action, absolutely confounded.” And fellow endangered incumbent, Senator Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, said in a press release that she hopes Reid “will reconsider. [The Baucus-Grassley] bill was carefully crafted to achieve significant bipartisan support.”

This hardly bodes well for the remainder of the year. If the name of the game is how to humiliate Reid (yes, yes, he often needs no assistance), then we are going to spend quite a bit of time watching Reid tied up in knots by his own side. With an invigorated Republican caucus, the loss of the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority, and a White House unable to devise, let alone shepherd through Congress, its own policies, one can expect more chaos and more episodes of pin-the-blame on Harry.

In effect, the Senate Democrats have a lame duck as their leader — someone who in the best of times was not up to the task and is now facing his own demise as successors struggle for the upper hand. It’s not pretty for Democrats, but it sure is entertaining for the rest of us.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

With the death of John Murtha, the Cook Political Report moves his seat to a “toss-up.”

From Florida: “The Brevard County GOP held a straw poll Friday night that arguably is more reflective of the overall GOP electorate than other GOP straw polls in recent months, where voting was limited to executive committee members. In Brevard’s case, we’re told only about one in four voters were executive committee members. The results only include the top two vote-getters; U.S. Senate Marco Rubio: 321, Charlie Crist: 45.”

In Washington State: “Long-time WA state Sen. Don Benton (R) will challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), giving GOPers their strongest challenger yet as he hopes to take a page from Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).”

Obama’s approval drops to 44 percent, a new low, in the Marist poll. Also of concern for Obama: 57 percent of independents disapprove of his performance, and by a 47 to 42 percent margin, voters say he has fallen below their expectations. That helped push Obama’s overall RealClearPolitics approval to a new low — 47.9 percent, just a smidgen above the disapproval rating average of 47 percent.

Is this a good idea? “U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday he’ll chair the Senate campaign of fellow Democrat Alexi Giannoulias as he takes on a better-funded and more experienced Republican foe.” Seems like a big risk for both. Giannoulias is already tagged with being too insidery, and Durbin, who’s gunning for Harry Reid’s job, will take a hit if he can’t drag Giannoulias across the finish line.

Matt Continetti thinks Obama gets points for reaching out, and the congressional Republicans may score a win in the proposed health-care summit, while congressional Democrats come out the losers. (Sounds Clintonian, doesn’t it?). “If Obama hasn’t been able to convince the public his way is the right way by now, one more event won’t make a difference. Nor will a single C-SPAN broadcast alter the political dynamic that is preventing Democrats from passing a final bill. What’s more, Republicans will have an opportunity to present their ideas to lower the cost of individual health insurance and increase consumer choice.”

The most vilified male Republican is also the most effective, as “political and security realities are forcing Mr. Obama’s antiterror policies ever-closer to the former Vice President’s. … As long as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were responsible for keeping Americans safe, Democrats could pander to the U.S. and European left’s anti-antiterror views at little political cost. But now that they are responsible, American voters are able to see what the left really has in mind, and they are saying loud and clear that they prefer the Cheney method.” Well, we’ll see how close Obama gets to Cheney’s policy preferences. For now, Guantanamo is open, and it looks likes there will be no civilian KSM trial, at least in New York.

The Obama hangover sets in: “A year ago, Barack Obama’s true believers were euphoric. The huge and jubilant gathering in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night 2008 gave way to almost 2 million people on the Mall for the president’s inauguration. He took office as the most popular incoming president in a generation. A movement had become a mandate of nearly 70 million votes. People hoped the new president would bring change to Washington, the hallmark claim of his historic candidacy. Now, the mood through much of the nation seems restive, even sour. It is almost jarring to look at the photographs from Grant Park, to study those upturned beaming faces, many streaked with tears. Was that a movement? Or just a moment?”

With the death of John Murtha, the Cook Political Report moves his seat to a “toss-up.”

From Florida: “The Brevard County GOP held a straw poll Friday night that arguably is more reflective of the overall GOP electorate than other GOP straw polls in recent months, where voting was limited to executive committee members. In Brevard’s case, we’re told only about one in four voters were executive committee members. The results only include the top two vote-getters; U.S. Senate Marco Rubio: 321, Charlie Crist: 45.”

In Washington State: “Long-time WA state Sen. Don Benton (R) will challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), giving GOPers their strongest challenger yet as he hopes to take a page from Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).”

Obama’s approval drops to 44 percent, a new low, in the Marist poll. Also of concern for Obama: 57 percent of independents disapprove of his performance, and by a 47 to 42 percent margin, voters say he has fallen below their expectations. That helped push Obama’s overall RealClearPolitics approval to a new low — 47.9 percent, just a smidgen above the disapproval rating average of 47 percent.

Is this a good idea? “U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday he’ll chair the Senate campaign of fellow Democrat Alexi Giannoulias as he takes on a better-funded and more experienced Republican foe.” Seems like a big risk for both. Giannoulias is already tagged with being too insidery, and Durbin, who’s gunning for Harry Reid’s job, will take a hit if he can’t drag Giannoulias across the finish line.

Matt Continetti thinks Obama gets points for reaching out, and the congressional Republicans may score a win in the proposed health-care summit, while congressional Democrats come out the losers. (Sounds Clintonian, doesn’t it?). “If Obama hasn’t been able to convince the public his way is the right way by now, one more event won’t make a difference. Nor will a single C-SPAN broadcast alter the political dynamic that is preventing Democrats from passing a final bill. What’s more, Republicans will have an opportunity to present their ideas to lower the cost of individual health insurance and increase consumer choice.”

The most vilified male Republican is also the most effective, as “political and security realities are forcing Mr. Obama’s antiterror policies ever-closer to the former Vice President’s. … As long as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were responsible for keeping Americans safe, Democrats could pander to the U.S. and European left’s anti-antiterror views at little political cost. But now that they are responsible, American voters are able to see what the left really has in mind, and they are saying loud and clear that they prefer the Cheney method.” Well, we’ll see how close Obama gets to Cheney’s policy preferences. For now, Guantanamo is open, and it looks likes there will be no civilian KSM trial, at least in New York.

The Obama hangover sets in: “A year ago, Barack Obama’s true believers were euphoric. The huge and jubilant gathering in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night 2008 gave way to almost 2 million people on the Mall for the president’s inauguration. He took office as the most popular incoming president in a generation. A movement had become a mandate of nearly 70 million votes. People hoped the new president would bring change to Washington, the hallmark claim of his historic candidacy. Now, the mood through much of the nation seems restive, even sour. It is almost jarring to look at the photographs from Grant Park, to study those upturned beaming faces, many streaked with tears. Was that a movement? Or just a moment?”

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McCain on Obama’s “Serious Mistake” in the War on Terror

The Left has often pointed to Sen. John McCain as an exemplar of correct and moralistic thinking on the war on terror, especially when he was criticizing the Bush administration on enhanced interrogation methods. But oddly, they’ve chosen to ignore his position on Obama’s ill-conceived policies. Don’t expect to see this exchange touted in the left-wing blogosphere:

WALLACE: What do you think of the president’s plan — apparent plan to send up to 100 detainees from Guantanamo to a prison in rural Illinois?

MCCAIN: I think it’s a serious mistake, and I think that the way to dispose of the — of this issue is by having an overall policy.

Right now they’re going to — they’re going to try terrorists in New York City, thereby giving Khalid Sheik Mohammed what he wanted when he was captured. He said, “I want a trial in the United States and a lawyer.” I think they’re making a serious mistake.

WALLACE: What’s wrong with Thompson, Illinois?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I think that it’s anywhere in the United States. It’s not the fact that it’s Thompson, Illinois. It’s any …

WALLACE: No, but what’s wrong …

MCCAIN: … any place.

WALLACE: … with sending them there?

MCCAIN: I think that they should be either sentenced to have the kind of military commissions that we have outlined in law and may make — have to make additional changes to, and — because they are enemy combatants, and I don’t think they should be kept in prison in the United States. Read More

The Left has often pointed to Sen. John McCain as an exemplar of correct and moralistic thinking on the war on terror, especially when he was criticizing the Bush administration on enhanced interrogation methods. But oddly, they’ve chosen to ignore his position on Obama’s ill-conceived policies. Don’t expect to see this exchange touted in the left-wing blogosphere:

WALLACE: What do you think of the president’s plan — apparent plan to send up to 100 detainees from Guantanamo to a prison in rural Illinois?

MCCAIN: I think it’s a serious mistake, and I think that the way to dispose of the — of this issue is by having an overall policy.

Right now they’re going to — they’re going to try terrorists in New York City, thereby giving Khalid Sheik Mohammed what he wanted when he was captured. He said, “I want a trial in the United States and a lawyer.” I think they’re making a serious mistake.

WALLACE: What’s wrong with Thompson, Illinois?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I think that it’s anywhere in the United States. It’s not the fact that it’s Thompson, Illinois. It’s any …

WALLACE: No, but what’s wrong …

MCCAIN: … any place.

WALLACE: … with sending them there?

MCCAIN: I think that they should be either sentenced to have the kind of military commissions that we have outlined in law and may make — have to make additional changes to, and — because they are enemy combatants, and I don’t think they should be kept in prison in the United States.

Well, in point of fact, McCain has long argued for military commissions and never sided with the ACLU types who want full constitutional rights and civilian trials for terrorists, but this was largely ignored by the netroots looking only for comments that might support their views on the matter. In this regard, McCain is in perfect accord with former prosecutor Andy McCarthy (who vigorously disagreed with McCain on enhanced interrogation). As McCarthy pointed out recently, the arguments in favor of the detainee transfer are based on misunderstandings and misrepresentations as to the consequences of the move. He points to Sen. Dick Durbin’s unsupported contention that detainees moved to Illinois couldn’t be set free:

Nevertheless, Durbin is being disingenuous — doubly disingenuous, in fact. First, the principal fear is no longer that the Obama administration will try to free the terrorists and relocate them here. It is that the federal courts will order the release of the detainees. And second, the senator’s brave assurance that if “a detainee is found not guilty, he will not be released inside the United States” is a smokescreen. As he well knows, most of the Gitmo terrorists are not going to be found guilty or found not guilty — they’re not going to be tried at all. . .

So we have custody of extremely dangerous terrorists who cannot be tried and who will not be taken off our hands by any trustworthy country. Their detention is now being scrutinized by judges who are skeptical of the traditional military practice of indefinite detention without trial. Some of us have implored Congress to enact rules of procedure for terrorist-detention hearings that would stop judges from favoring the terrorists over the military. But Democrats like Senator Durbin have turned a deaf ear, preferring to watch the judges make up the rules as they go along.

It’s a measure of how extreme and ill-advised the Obami’s war-on-terror policies are that those who previously tangled over the Bush administration’s approach are now in full agreement. It might be illuminating to have Attorney General Eric Holder come before the Senate Armed Services Committee or the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to be grilled by McCain on the administration’s policies. Now that would be worth watching.

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This Is “Reform”?

Sen. Dick Durbin says Democrats will have 60 votes for health-care legislation by next week. This is revealing in two respects. First, they don’t have the votes now. And second, they don’t have the exact bill on which they are voting. Sen. Evan Bayh said plaintively, “We’re all being urged to vote for something and we don’t know the details of what’s in it.” He seems to have a problem with that.

We are, in general terms (we think — since there is no bill yet and no CBO scoring), going to raise huge amounts of taxes from some Americans (including those promised by candidate Obama that they’d see no tax hike), give it to others, force individuals and businesses to buy really expensive insurance plans, and then take a chunk of money out of Medicare, which will squeeze doctors and hospitals, not to mention patients. This legislation has little to recommend it.

Liberals are angry, fearing that the bill will be shoveling massive subsidies to private insurers. As Politico put it, “More than anything else in Barack Obama’s presidency so far, health reform has exposed a get-a-deal-at-any-cost side of Obama that infuriates his party’s progressives.” So Howard Dean wants to kill it. Conservative James Capretta sees their point: “The Democratic party is on the verge of enacting a requirement, enforced with federal tax penalties, which would effectively require hard-working Americans to hand over even more of their wages to profit-hungry, private insurance companies.”

Conservatives point to the hundreds of billions in new taxes, the mandates, the fines, and the heavy hand of government — in short, a huge, fiscally reckless entitlement:

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the party’s leader, said the legislation includes “a half a trillion dollars in cuts in Medicare, $400 billion in higher taxes and higher premiums for everyone else.”

We’re about to spend a trillion dollars we don’t have to force many people to buy insurance they don’t want. So there are 60 votes for this monstrosity? Not yet. But next week, we’re told, there will be. Because, as the president says, we’re on the “precipice” of something really big. Well, we can all agree on that.

Sen. Dick Durbin says Democrats will have 60 votes for health-care legislation by next week. This is revealing in two respects. First, they don’t have the votes now. And second, they don’t have the exact bill on which they are voting. Sen. Evan Bayh said plaintively, “We’re all being urged to vote for something and we don’t know the details of what’s in it.” He seems to have a problem with that.

We are, in general terms (we think — since there is no bill yet and no CBO scoring), going to raise huge amounts of taxes from some Americans (including those promised by candidate Obama that they’d see no tax hike), give it to others, force individuals and businesses to buy really expensive insurance plans, and then take a chunk of money out of Medicare, which will squeeze doctors and hospitals, not to mention patients. This legislation has little to recommend it.

Liberals are angry, fearing that the bill will be shoveling massive subsidies to private insurers. As Politico put it, “More than anything else in Barack Obama’s presidency so far, health reform has exposed a get-a-deal-at-any-cost side of Obama that infuriates his party’s progressives.” So Howard Dean wants to kill it. Conservative James Capretta sees their point: “The Democratic party is on the verge of enacting a requirement, enforced with federal tax penalties, which would effectively require hard-working Americans to hand over even more of their wages to profit-hungry, private insurance companies.”

Conservatives point to the hundreds of billions in new taxes, the mandates, the fines, and the heavy hand of government — in short, a huge, fiscally reckless entitlement:

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the party’s leader, said the legislation includes “a half a trillion dollars in cuts in Medicare, $400 billion in higher taxes and higher premiums for everyone else.”

We’re about to spend a trillion dollars we don’t have to force many people to buy insurance they don’t want. So there are 60 votes for this monstrosity? Not yet. But next week, we’re told, there will be. Because, as the president says, we’re on the “precipice” of something really big. Well, we can all agree on that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling observes that Sen. Michael Bennet is trailing all Republicans in a potential 2010 race, one by as much as nine points. He notes that this “is a reminder that Democratic Governors sure didn’t do their party in the Senate any favors with their appointments last year. The appointments of Michael Bennet in Colorado, Ted Kaufman in Delaware, Roland Burris in Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York put all of those seats in play for next year and it really didn’t have to be that way.”

James Capretta and Yuval Levin explain ReidCare: “In other words, rather than build on the failed cost-control model of Medicare, they now want to actually further burden Medicare itself. Why take a roundabout path to failure when a direct one is available? The irrationality of this solution is staggering. But, of course, it’s a solution to Reid’s political problem, not to the nation’s health care financing crisis.”

The New York Times thinks ReidCare is in trouble too: “Democratic leaders hit a rough patch Friday in their push for sweeping health care legislation, as they tried to fend off criticism of their proposals from a top Medicare official, Republicans and even members of their own party. . .Republicans said [the Medicare actuary's] report confirmed what they had been saying for months. ‘It is a remarkable report,’ said Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska. ‘It is a roundhouse blow to the Reid plan.’” We’ll see.

Dana Milbank thinks Senate Democrats could find a better leader. He explains that “as his public-option gambit demonstrated, merely dangling proposals, regardless of how meritorious they may be, doesn’t cause them to become law — and it may cause Democrats from more conservative states, such as Lincoln’s Arkansas, to lose their jobs.” And lose his own as well. Millbank thinks his caucus might be happier with Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer. Well, they might get their wish, given Reid’s polling.

Looking at the dismal polling on ObamaCare and the CBS polling showing Obama leading George W. Bush by only a 50-to-44-percent margin, James Taranto argues that “these results almost surely represent a backlash against Obama and Congress’s Democrats. Their insistence on pushing ahead and forcing on the country a health-care scheme that by now is almost as unpopular as it is monstrous is without a doubt a major factor here.” And it might be that a cold, ultra-liberal president who blames his problems on his predecessor really isn’t what they all had in mind.

An excellent development, and perhaps a sign that the Obami are waking up to the reality of the thugocracy of Iran: “More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution. . .President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn’t respond to international calls for negotiations over its nuclear-fuel program.”

Obama is still sliding: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

It’s the “international community” after all: “Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plan to address negotiators at international climate talks in Copenhagen next week.”

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling observes that Sen. Michael Bennet is trailing all Republicans in a potential 2010 race, one by as much as nine points. He notes that this “is a reminder that Democratic Governors sure didn’t do their party in the Senate any favors with their appointments last year. The appointments of Michael Bennet in Colorado, Ted Kaufman in Delaware, Roland Burris in Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York put all of those seats in play for next year and it really didn’t have to be that way.”

James Capretta and Yuval Levin explain ReidCare: “In other words, rather than build on the failed cost-control model of Medicare, they now want to actually further burden Medicare itself. Why take a roundabout path to failure when a direct one is available? The irrationality of this solution is staggering. But, of course, it’s a solution to Reid’s political problem, not to the nation’s health care financing crisis.”

The New York Times thinks ReidCare is in trouble too: “Democratic leaders hit a rough patch Friday in their push for sweeping health care legislation, as they tried to fend off criticism of their proposals from a top Medicare official, Republicans and even members of their own party. . .Republicans said [the Medicare actuary's] report confirmed what they had been saying for months. ‘It is a remarkable report,’ said Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska. ‘It is a roundhouse blow to the Reid plan.’” We’ll see.

Dana Milbank thinks Senate Democrats could find a better leader. He explains that “as his public-option gambit demonstrated, merely dangling proposals, regardless of how meritorious they may be, doesn’t cause them to become law — and it may cause Democrats from more conservative states, such as Lincoln’s Arkansas, to lose their jobs.” And lose his own as well. Millbank thinks his caucus might be happier with Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer. Well, they might get their wish, given Reid’s polling.

Looking at the dismal polling on ObamaCare and the CBS polling showing Obama leading George W. Bush by only a 50-to-44-percent margin, James Taranto argues that “these results almost surely represent a backlash against Obama and Congress’s Democrats. Their insistence on pushing ahead and forcing on the country a health-care scheme that by now is almost as unpopular as it is monstrous is without a doubt a major factor here.” And it might be that a cold, ultra-liberal president who blames his problems on his predecessor really isn’t what they all had in mind.

An excellent development, and perhaps a sign that the Obami are waking up to the reality of the thugocracy of Iran: “More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution. . .President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn’t respond to international calls for negotiations over its nuclear-fuel program.”

Obama is still sliding: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

It’s the “international community” after all: “Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plan to address negotiators at international climate talks in Copenhagen next week.”

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So Much for Home State Favors

The Obami have a holiday surprise for the president’s home state. Lynn Sweet reports:

Barring a last minute glitch, the Obama White House has settled on an Illinois prison to house detainees now at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, sources close to the decision told the Chicago Sun-Times. An announcement is expected shortly from the Obama administration to start the process to acquire the nearly vacant Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois.A leaked memo prepared by administration officials prompted speculation that the decision was finalized. An administration official said that memo was a draft and not to read anything into its existence because paperwork is readied just in case.

The memo declares that Guantanamo detainees will be transferred “as expeditiously as possible” to Illinois’ s Thomson Correction Center.

Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn say they are delighted, suggesting it will bring more jobs to the state. I suspect this will be a top issue in next year’s Illinois senate race. After all, Senate Democrats declined to block funding for this move. We’ll see how enthusiastic the good people of Illinois are when they learn about their new residents.

But more importantly, the question one must ask on the merits of this move is why? With whom are we supposed to be garnering “credit” for moving detainees from the relatively cushy environs of Guantanamo to the isolation cells of a Supermax prison? How long before the ACLU starts demanding that the terrorists enjoy computer access, letter writing, and visits from outsiders? The security concerns, the expense, and the risk of Islamic propaganda spreading among the general prison population should, one would think, weigh heavily against this move. But the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department have other ideas and will be setting a legal precedent which will burden other administrations.

Congress can still stop this recklessness. There are votes coming up in the Senate on the omnibus spending bill and the Defense Department appropriations bill. Both might be good vehicles to test whether senators really do want to enable another inexplicable move by the Obama administration, which seems insistent on returning to a judicial model for terrorism.

The Obami have a holiday surprise for the president’s home state. Lynn Sweet reports:

Barring a last minute glitch, the Obama White House has settled on an Illinois prison to house detainees now at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, sources close to the decision told the Chicago Sun-Times. An announcement is expected shortly from the Obama administration to start the process to acquire the nearly vacant Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois.A leaked memo prepared by administration officials prompted speculation that the decision was finalized. An administration official said that memo was a draft and not to read anything into its existence because paperwork is readied just in case.

The memo declares that Guantanamo detainees will be transferred “as expeditiously as possible” to Illinois’ s Thomson Correction Center.

Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn say they are delighted, suggesting it will bring more jobs to the state. I suspect this will be a top issue in next year’s Illinois senate race. After all, Senate Democrats declined to block funding for this move. We’ll see how enthusiastic the good people of Illinois are when they learn about their new residents.

But more importantly, the question one must ask on the merits of this move is why? With whom are we supposed to be garnering “credit” for moving detainees from the relatively cushy environs of Guantanamo to the isolation cells of a Supermax prison? How long before the ACLU starts demanding that the terrorists enjoy computer access, letter writing, and visits from outsiders? The security concerns, the expense, and the risk of Islamic propaganda spreading among the general prison population should, one would think, weigh heavily against this move. But the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department have other ideas and will be setting a legal precedent which will burden other administrations.

Congress can still stop this recklessness. There are votes coming up in the Senate on the omnibus spending bill and the Defense Department appropriations bill. Both might be good vehicles to test whether senators really do want to enable another inexplicable move by the Obama administration, which seems insistent on returning to a judicial model for terrorism.

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But Why?

Barack Obama doesn’t really have an answer for why he wouldn’t meet privately with General Petraeus or go to Iraq. It is clear that he doesn’t like the topic and equally clear that saying “Bush” or “Republican” or “same old thing” in answer to every question is now standard operating procedure. A tougher press corps (maybe one that isn’t so “deferential” in the eyes of the MSM’s favorite new guru) would say “But why not go to Iraq?” or “Why haven’t you spoken privately to General Petraeus?”

There is no good answer to either of these, I suspect. The real answer is that he doesn’t care what he sees in Iraq or what he hears from Petraeus. Moreover, the prospect of him confronting information which contradicts his predetermined position would be politically uncomfortable.

Yet I seem to remember the Democrats pleading over the past years with President Bush to get diverse views, get the facts right, and not rely solely on his close-knit group of advisors. Senator Carl Levin said, in 2006, “He doesn’t want to see the facts. He doesn’t want to acknowledge reality. And if we’re going to change the course and change the dynamic in Iraq we’ve got to end this state of denial.” And in January 2007, it was Dick Durbin who castigated Bush for ignoring the advice of the military. It was 2004 when Senator Biden lectured Presdient Bush, “‘How can you be so sure when you know you don’t know the facts?” Fact gathering, listening to military experts, and confronting evidence are, it seems, passé. This is the New Politics.

Barack Obama doesn’t really have an answer for why he wouldn’t meet privately with General Petraeus or go to Iraq. It is clear that he doesn’t like the topic and equally clear that saying “Bush” or “Republican” or “same old thing” in answer to every question is now standard operating procedure. A tougher press corps (maybe one that isn’t so “deferential” in the eyes of the MSM’s favorite new guru) would say “But why not go to Iraq?” or “Why haven’t you spoken privately to General Petraeus?”

There is no good answer to either of these, I suspect. The real answer is that he doesn’t care what he sees in Iraq or what he hears from Petraeus. Moreover, the prospect of him confronting information which contradicts his predetermined position would be politically uncomfortable.

Yet I seem to remember the Democrats pleading over the past years with President Bush to get diverse views, get the facts right, and not rely solely on his close-knit group of advisors. Senator Carl Levin said, in 2006, “He doesn’t want to see the facts. He doesn’t want to acknowledge reality. And if we’re going to change the course and change the dynamic in Iraq we’ve got to end this state of denial.” And in January 2007, it was Dick Durbin who castigated Bush for ignoring the advice of the military. It was 2004 when Senator Biden lectured Presdient Bush, “‘How can you be so sure when you know you don’t know the facts?” Fact gathering, listening to military experts, and confronting evidence are, it seems, passé. This is the New Politics.

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Out Obama-ing Obama

Barack Obama’s call for bipartisanship and his emphasis on ending the acrimony of old-style politics have been a big part of his appeal. It was a clever angle–both as a means of differentiating himself from Hillary Clinton who embodied take-no-prisoners partisanship and as a means of diffusing concern about his relative lack of experience (i.e. he has no axe to grind in the politics of the past). However, in a general election this approach has its limits, in part because there is no factual basis for claiming he is a great bridge-builder.

He has essentially taken up every cause of the left (from opposing confirmation of Justices Roberts and Alito to supporting a bevy of tax increases) and has been absent from any of the truly bipartisan efforts, few that they may be, since he got to Washington (e.g. the Gang of 14).

As the most liberal Senator according to National Journal, he is further from the middle of the Senate and less inclined to compromise on strict party line voting than Senator Mitch McConnell (the ninth most conservative Senator) is on the other end of the spectrum. Is someone more doctrinaire in his voting record than McConnell on the Right (and Dick Durbin and John Kerry on the Left), the best person to lead us into a new era of bipartisan co-operation?

Worse still, John McCain actually can lay claim to being a bipartisan role model, which made his primary run so problematic with the GOP base. His list of bipartisan efforts on global warming, judges, campaign finance, immigration and spending reform is long and substantitve. Joe Lieberman attested to McCain’s bipartisan credentials on This Week:

Well, I don’t agree with John McCain on everything, but I agree with him on the important things. And I agree with him on the number one challenge to our political system today. We’ve got to put the national interest ahead of partisan interest. We’ve got to forget the Democrat-Republican business and remember that we’re all Americans. And unless we pull together, we’re not going to get this country to where all of us want it to be.

So having correctly diagnosed the problem (i.e. many Americans want politicians to work together more often), Obama now faces this dilemma: His own career offers no indication that he actually is disposed, other than rhetorically, to reaching across the aisle to accomodate the other side’s interests and concerns. (Does he expect to charm them with an avalanche of soothing words, envisioning that they will just capitulate on substance to his liberal policy views?) The Republicans may have stumbled into selecting an ideal foil for Obama – someone who actually has done what Obama says we need to more of.

Barack Obama’s call for bipartisanship and his emphasis on ending the acrimony of old-style politics have been a big part of his appeal. It was a clever angle–both as a means of differentiating himself from Hillary Clinton who embodied take-no-prisoners partisanship and as a means of diffusing concern about his relative lack of experience (i.e. he has no axe to grind in the politics of the past). However, in a general election this approach has its limits, in part because there is no factual basis for claiming he is a great bridge-builder.

He has essentially taken up every cause of the left (from opposing confirmation of Justices Roberts and Alito to supporting a bevy of tax increases) and has been absent from any of the truly bipartisan efforts, few that they may be, since he got to Washington (e.g. the Gang of 14).

As the most liberal Senator according to National Journal, he is further from the middle of the Senate and less inclined to compromise on strict party line voting than Senator Mitch McConnell (the ninth most conservative Senator) is on the other end of the spectrum. Is someone more doctrinaire in his voting record than McConnell on the Right (and Dick Durbin and John Kerry on the Left), the best person to lead us into a new era of bipartisan co-operation?

Worse still, John McCain actually can lay claim to being a bipartisan role model, which made his primary run so problematic with the GOP base. His list of bipartisan efforts on global warming, judges, campaign finance, immigration and spending reform is long and substantitve. Joe Lieberman attested to McCain’s bipartisan credentials on This Week:

Well, I don’t agree with John McCain on everything, but I agree with him on the important things. And I agree with him on the number one challenge to our political system today. We’ve got to put the national interest ahead of partisan interest. We’ve got to forget the Democrat-Republican business and remember that we’re all Americans. And unless we pull together, we’re not going to get this country to where all of us want it to be.

So having correctly diagnosed the problem (i.e. many Americans want politicians to work together more often), Obama now faces this dilemma: His own career offers no indication that he actually is disposed, other than rhetorically, to reaching across the aisle to accomodate the other side’s interests and concerns. (Does he expect to charm them with an avalanche of soothing words, envisioning that they will just capitulate on substance to his liberal policy views?) The Republicans may have stumbled into selecting an ideal foil for Obama – someone who actually has done what Obama says we need to more of.

Read Less




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