Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ed Rendell

Bloomberg’s Quest for a Celebrity Successor

In December, I wrote about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to find a big-name successor, which focused on Hillary Clinton. Clinton is at the very least keeping her options open for a possible 2016 presidential run, which would have to start far too early to take on a responsibility like running New York City. But according to a report in the New York Times today, Bloomberg has been a one-man search committee, floating not just Clinton but also Ed Rendell, Mortimer Zuckerman, Chuck Schumer, and former Bloomberg deputy Edward Skyler.

That’s quite a list, and says much about how Bloomberg views the job. New York City is the media capital of the world, the front lines of 21st century homeland security, and a powerhouse when it comes to urban policymaking, especially with regard to fighting crime. There’s a reason that, as Rendell put it to the Times, he often hears it described as “the second most difficult job in the country.” There’s no doubt Bloomberg believes this–after all, he’s been in office three terms and still hasn’t gotten it right. But Bloomberg’s opinion of what it takes to run the city diverges both with precedent and the judgment of New Yorkers.

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In December, I wrote about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to find a big-name successor, which focused on Hillary Clinton. Clinton is at the very least keeping her options open for a possible 2016 presidential run, which would have to start far too early to take on a responsibility like running New York City. But according to a report in the New York Times today, Bloomberg has been a one-man search committee, floating not just Clinton but also Ed Rendell, Mortimer Zuckerman, Chuck Schumer, and former Bloomberg deputy Edward Skyler.

That’s quite a list, and says much about how Bloomberg views the job. New York City is the media capital of the world, the front lines of 21st century homeland security, and a powerhouse when it comes to urban policymaking, especially with regard to fighting crime. There’s a reason that, as Rendell put it to the Times, he often hears it described as “the second most difficult job in the country.” There’s no doubt Bloomberg believes this–after all, he’s been in office three terms and still hasn’t gotten it right. But Bloomberg’s opinion of what it takes to run the city diverges both with precedent and the judgment of New Yorkers.

Of that list of five names, Rendell is the most interesting, because he is in some ways both the most and least logical of that list. He was born and raised in New York City. And he was also a (successful) big-city mayor in the Northeast, having run Philadelphia quite competently beginning in 1992, just two years before Rudy Giuliani would begin his first term in New York. But he is also far removed from his New York days, and has a keen understanding of why he would also be a poor choice to run New York City. “I’m not sure how many times I’ve stepped foot in Brooklyn,” he told the Times. “I have no understanding of Queens and no understanding of the Bronx.”

New York City is far more than just Manhattan, a fact which explains why the current crop of mayoral candidates is so underwhelming. The perceived Democratic frontrunner is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Manhattanite. There is no viable candidate with strong roots in the outer boroughs. Like it or not, this is what would have made Anthony Weiner the putative frontrunner, had he not stumbled over a sex scandal.

Although Bloomberg has taken Quinn under his wing, these stories are fairly insulting to Quinn, since Bloomberg appears desperate to prevent her succession. And if a Manhattanite barely has the New York street cred to be mayor, a Philadelphia transplant most certainly has even less. Chuck Schumer wouldn’t have this problem, but he’s staying put in the Senate, having a clear shot at the Democrats’ top Senate leadership spot if Harry Reid retires (or is defeated) in 2016.

That leaves, of the five, Skyler and Zuckerman. Skyler is a relative unknown, and it’s far from clear that even with Bloomberg’s backing he could overtake Quinn. That leaves Zuckerman, the controversial billionaire publisher of the New York Daily News. He, too, is flattered by the suggestion but will be passing on the race:

“I would love to be in that job,” said Mr. Zuckerman, a student of policy who has no party affiliation and weighed running for the Senate a few years ago.

He insisted that Mr. Bloomberg’s suggestion had an informal “teasing” feel, even as he acknowledged a longstanding call to public service in New York.

“If I could be appointed, I’d probably be serious about it,” he added, wryly.

This whole quest is a classically Bloombergian love letter to the city. Bloomberg thinks highly of New York, and even more highly of himself. So he wants someone with the star power to keep New York at the top of the map. But New York doesn’t need his help to do so, and all signs point to Bloomberg’s legacy being a failed technocratic experiment anyway.

Bloomberg should notice something about the other candidates who are either running or considering it. In addition to Quinn and other Democrats, former Giuliani aide Joe Lhota is seriously exploring a run. Lhota is leaving his post as a well-respected head of the city’s transportation authority. And Republicans are apparently still trying to get Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to run. Kelly is popular and has obvious real experience running an essential part of city governance. The street-level experience, the granular knowledge of life in New York, and the years spent paying their dues by working to craft city policy are all things they have in common.

If Bloomberg’s time in office has demonstrated anything, it’s that the city would be ill served by a celebrity figurehead. Bloomberg may love New York, but he needs to have more faith in New Yorkers.

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Denying Reality Again

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is often an intelligent voice for the Democratic Party. But when asked why key races were lost in his state in the 2010 midterm election, Rendell said, “Well, because people don’t always vote on the logical reasons. Emotion drives voters, particularly when they have reason to be angry and frustrated.”

All that’s missing is the reference to clinging to guns and religion.

Governor Rendell is repeating one of the two or three most common excuses made by Democrats when explaining the titanic losses they incurred a few weeks ago: reason gave way to passion, logic to emotion, common sense to fear. President Obama has tried this explanation out on us, and so have others. It doesn’t get any more persuasive with repetition. Democrats still seem unable to accept the fact that their policies are failing and that voters are holding them accountable. Perhaps one day soon it will dawn on at least a few of them what happened and why. And the wise ones will learn from it rather than deny reality.

In the meantime, they sound silly and out of touch. (h/t therightscoop.com)

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is often an intelligent voice for the Democratic Party. But when asked why key races were lost in his state in the 2010 midterm election, Rendell said, “Well, because people don’t always vote on the logical reasons. Emotion drives voters, particularly when they have reason to be angry and frustrated.”

All that’s missing is the reference to clinging to guns and religion.

Governor Rendell is repeating one of the two or three most common excuses made by Democrats when explaining the titanic losses they incurred a few weeks ago: reason gave way to passion, logic to emotion, common sense to fear. President Obama has tried this explanation out on us, and so have others. It doesn’t get any more persuasive with repetition. Democrats still seem unable to accept the fact that their policies are failing and that voters are holding them accountable. Perhaps one day soon it will dawn on at least a few of them what happened and why. And the wise ones will learn from it rather than deny reality.

In the meantime, they sound silly and out of touch. (h/t therightscoop.com)

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Sestak Defends the Gaza 54 Letter and His Keynote for CAIR

Joe Sestak made a trip to Morning Joe to discuss his Senate race. And, sure enough, the ECI ad was played again. (I imagine that the Toomey camp was pretty pleased about that.) He was with quite a sympathetic panel as the likes of Pat Buchanan (really), Bill Press (really), Mike Barnicle (really), and Norah O’Donnell tripped over each other as they rushed to assure Sestak that they too thought the ad was a “cheap shot” or really not important (although important enough to air twice on the show and get Sestak in to defend himself) because the race is all about domestic policy. The panel was so agreeable (or unprepared) that it didn’t challenge Sestak when he tried to explain the Gaza 54 letter (my comments in brackets):

Scarborough: The center of this attack ad says you signed a letter, very I thought good, dramatic lighting on the Sestak signature [but you couldn’t see those of the other 53, all Democrats who are among the worst Israel-bashers], asking for an end of the Gaza blockade, saying Israel was out of line [“collective punishment” was the operative phrase], and that the Gaza blockade needed to be ended.

Sestak: I signed a letter that said we have to ensure that Israel has $10 billion every — every year for its military assistance. [Not responsive.] I also signed a letter that said that as I went about the world, we have vital interests. Israel is one. We have important interests. We also have humane interests [which apparently don’t include the interest in seeing Israeli children aren’t subjected to rockets]. We said in a letter, I said Ms. Clinton, could you see, while not impacting Israel’s security, are we able to get cleaner water to the children there? [Has he seen the photos of the markets and the new Gaza mall?]

Scarborough: And do you support the end of the blockade?

Sestak: No. I think it’s a legal — yes, I’d like to see it end [Tricky when you are trying to recall the varied positions you have taken, isn’t it?] but not until we can ensure that there is a two-state solution. [He didn’t say that in the Gaza 54 letter — why?] I think Israel has the right to have a blockade so that arms aren’t flowing into those really causing harm in Gaza, which is Hamas.

You’re not convinced? No, I don’t suppose so.

He also talked about his CAIR appearance. No apology, no regrets. His excuse: Gov. Ed Rendell told him to go and went with him. And it’s important to talk to people with whom you disagree. But then why didn’t he enumerate the areas of disagreement instead of showering CAIR with praise when he spoke at the admission-charging event? Would he have gone to speak to an overtly anti-black or anti-Hispanic group? How about the Muslim Brotherhood?

The remainder of the interview was just plain odd. He declared his support for small business (so no expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which would hit small businesses that file under the individual tax rates?) and said he was going to Washington to stop all the fighting. But he was there. He voted for the Obama agenda, 97.8 percent of the time. I suppose he thinks voters won’t notice.

I suspect there are a lot of Democrats scratching their heads and biting their nails. In this year, the Democrats have to run very smart races to survive the GOP wave. So far, Sestak isn’t.

Joe Sestak made a trip to Morning Joe to discuss his Senate race. And, sure enough, the ECI ad was played again. (I imagine that the Toomey camp was pretty pleased about that.) He was with quite a sympathetic panel as the likes of Pat Buchanan (really), Bill Press (really), Mike Barnicle (really), and Norah O’Donnell tripped over each other as they rushed to assure Sestak that they too thought the ad was a “cheap shot” or really not important (although important enough to air twice on the show and get Sestak in to defend himself) because the race is all about domestic policy. The panel was so agreeable (or unprepared) that it didn’t challenge Sestak when he tried to explain the Gaza 54 letter (my comments in brackets):

Scarborough: The center of this attack ad says you signed a letter, very I thought good, dramatic lighting on the Sestak signature [but you couldn’t see those of the other 53, all Democrats who are among the worst Israel-bashers], asking for an end of the Gaza blockade, saying Israel was out of line [“collective punishment” was the operative phrase], and that the Gaza blockade needed to be ended.

Sestak: I signed a letter that said we have to ensure that Israel has $10 billion every — every year for its military assistance. [Not responsive.] I also signed a letter that said that as I went about the world, we have vital interests. Israel is one. We have important interests. We also have humane interests [which apparently don’t include the interest in seeing Israeli children aren’t subjected to rockets]. We said in a letter, I said Ms. Clinton, could you see, while not impacting Israel’s security, are we able to get cleaner water to the children there? [Has he seen the photos of the markets and the new Gaza mall?]

Scarborough: And do you support the end of the blockade?

Sestak: No. I think it’s a legal — yes, I’d like to see it end [Tricky when you are trying to recall the varied positions you have taken, isn’t it?] but not until we can ensure that there is a two-state solution. [He didn’t say that in the Gaza 54 letter — why?] I think Israel has the right to have a blockade so that arms aren’t flowing into those really causing harm in Gaza, which is Hamas.

You’re not convinced? No, I don’t suppose so.

He also talked about his CAIR appearance. No apology, no regrets. His excuse: Gov. Ed Rendell told him to go and went with him. And it’s important to talk to people with whom you disagree. But then why didn’t he enumerate the areas of disagreement instead of showering CAIR with praise when he spoke at the admission-charging event? Would he have gone to speak to an overtly anti-black or anti-Hispanic group? How about the Muslim Brotherhood?

The remainder of the interview was just plain odd. He declared his support for small business (so no expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which would hit small businesses that file under the individual tax rates?) and said he was going to Washington to stop all the fighting. But he was there. He voted for the Obama agenda, 97.8 percent of the time. I suppose he thinks voters won’t notice.

I suspect there are a lot of Democrats scratching their heads and biting their nails. In this year, the Democrats have to run very smart races to survive the GOP wave. So far, Sestak isn’t.

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Pennsylvania Swings Red

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

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

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

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

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

Politico reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politico reports:

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

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

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

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Sestak Under Fire

Rep. Joe Sestak is under fire from all quarters. First, this boffo ad from Keep Israel Safe slams him for his record on Israel and on terrorism:

Then the Philly media gets on his case for JobsGate (the alleged job offer to get out of the primary race):

When asked about the accusation, as he was again Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sestak says, yes, the offer was made. But he won’t say what it was, or who made it.

This too-cute-by-half stance may allow him to tout his independence and outsider credentials — important in an anti-incumbent year like this one. But by not being specific, Sestak is covering up what appears to be the ultimate insider deal — and a potential crime.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, has every reason to capitalize on both of these points of weakness. First, Toomey has been a strong critic of Obama’s policies with respect to Iran and Israel. Second, although he previously served in Congress, in this race he’s the outsider (and former Club for Growth president) who can take on Washington’s backroom dealing and spend-a-thon. In Pennsylvania, both of those themes may be winners. And if they are, the 2012 GOP presidential contenders will take note.

UPDATE: Gov. Ed Rendell is now calling for Sestak to cough up more facts. I suspect he wouldn’t have done so if the White House was not on board. Is Obama hanging Sestak out to dry or coming up with a cover story? Stay tuned.

Rep. Joe Sestak is under fire from all quarters. First, this boffo ad from Keep Israel Safe slams him for his record on Israel and on terrorism:

Then the Philly media gets on his case for JobsGate (the alleged job offer to get out of the primary race):

When asked about the accusation, as he was again Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sestak says, yes, the offer was made. But he won’t say what it was, or who made it.

This too-cute-by-half stance may allow him to tout his independence and outsider credentials — important in an anti-incumbent year like this one. But by not being specific, Sestak is covering up what appears to be the ultimate insider deal — and a potential crime.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, has every reason to capitalize on both of these points of weakness. First, Toomey has been a strong critic of Obama’s policies with respect to Iran and Israel. Second, although he previously served in Congress, in this race he’s the outsider (and former Club for Growth president) who can take on Washington’s backroom dealing and spend-a-thon. In Pennsylvania, both of those themes may be winners. And if they are, the 2012 GOP presidential contenders will take note.

UPDATE: Gov. Ed Rendell is now calling for Sestak to cough up more facts. I suspect he wouldn’t have done so if the White House was not on board. Is Obama hanging Sestak out to dry or coming up with a cover story? Stay tuned.

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Can Specter Buy Pennsylvanians Enough Drinks to Stay in Office?

Those of us who love the classic novels of Anthony Trollope and his tales of the travails of the stump in the rough-and-tumble world of Victorian British politics could not help but smile at the description in today’s New York Times of a campaign stop by Arlen Specter at a pub in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The article described the ambivalence of voters about the 80-year-old’s braggadocio about using his influence and patronage to buy the voters support. But in case anybody didn’t get the point of his campaign, the piece’s final line summed it up:

But Mr. Specter stayed on message at the pub. As he was departing, an aide called out to the crowd of 70 people: “Senator Specter just bought the next round, so hit the bar.”

Just like Trollope’s would-be parliamentarians who trolled for votes in pubs by buying the affection of publicans who served up the free pints to the voters, so too, apparently, must Pennsylvania’s senior senator.

But far from being merely an amusing sidebar to the real issues, Specter’s pose as the source of all sorts of free stuff for Pennsylvanians really is the whole focus of his re-election effort. At a black-church service yesterday, he boasted of intimidating the secretary of agriculture into coughing up more money for a local program. Later at a union rally at Philadelphia’s Marine Terminal along the Delaware River, Specter and his ally Governor Ed Rendell bragged about the money he has squeezed out of the federal budget for the region as well as his support for the patronage that rained down from President Obama’s stimulus bill, which he supported.

In any normal political year, these sorts of accomplishments might foreclose the possibility of defeat for Specter. But this isn’t any normal political year. At a time when voters are fed up with out-of-control government spending, some have begun to ask whose money it is that Specter is doling out in small packages to the public and realizing that the answer is … their own. While his opponent Rep. Joe Sestak may not be a disciple of limited government (that choice will be presented to voters in November, when the all-but-certain Republican nominee Pat Toomey will be on the ballot), the Democratic challenger has a point when he notes that the only job Specter is truly interested in saving is his own.

While one should never underestimate the capacity of Pennsylvania’s pro-Specter Democratic machine to turn out compliant voters when they are determined to do so, it would appear that Specter’s desperate last campaign bears more than a passing resemblance to some of the ones described by Trollope. Like the novelist’s protagonists, the senator may discover tomorrow that there are not enough free drinks in the world to buy an election for a candidate that the public won’t stomach.

Those of us who love the classic novels of Anthony Trollope and his tales of the travails of the stump in the rough-and-tumble world of Victorian British politics could not help but smile at the description in today’s New York Times of a campaign stop by Arlen Specter at a pub in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The article described the ambivalence of voters about the 80-year-old’s braggadocio about using his influence and patronage to buy the voters support. But in case anybody didn’t get the point of his campaign, the piece’s final line summed it up:

But Mr. Specter stayed on message at the pub. As he was departing, an aide called out to the crowd of 70 people: “Senator Specter just bought the next round, so hit the bar.”

Just like Trollope’s would-be parliamentarians who trolled for votes in pubs by buying the affection of publicans who served up the free pints to the voters, so too, apparently, must Pennsylvania’s senior senator.

But far from being merely an amusing sidebar to the real issues, Specter’s pose as the source of all sorts of free stuff for Pennsylvanians really is the whole focus of his re-election effort. At a black-church service yesterday, he boasted of intimidating the secretary of agriculture into coughing up more money for a local program. Later at a union rally at Philadelphia’s Marine Terminal along the Delaware River, Specter and his ally Governor Ed Rendell bragged about the money he has squeezed out of the federal budget for the region as well as his support for the patronage that rained down from President Obama’s stimulus bill, which he supported.

In any normal political year, these sorts of accomplishments might foreclose the possibility of defeat for Specter. But this isn’t any normal political year. At a time when voters are fed up with out-of-control government spending, some have begun to ask whose money it is that Specter is doling out in small packages to the public and realizing that the answer is … their own. While his opponent Rep. Joe Sestak may not be a disciple of limited government (that choice will be presented to voters in November, when the all-but-certain Republican nominee Pat Toomey will be on the ballot), the Democratic challenger has a point when he notes that the only job Specter is truly interested in saving is his own.

While one should never underestimate the capacity of Pennsylvania’s pro-Specter Democratic machine to turn out compliant voters when they are determined to do so, it would appear that Specter’s desperate last campaign bears more than a passing resemblance to some of the ones described by Trollope. Like the novelist’s protagonists, the senator may discover tomorrow that there are not enough free drinks in the world to buy an election for a candidate that the public won’t stomach.

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The Last Days of Arlen Specter

With only a week to go before Democratic primary voters choose a candidate for the United States Senate, the incumbent’s campaign is beginning to have a Last Days of Pompeii feel to it. In that classic old movie — the original Hollywood disaster flick — ordinary people in the ancient Roman city go about their lives without an inkling about a fact the audience knew before they entered the theater — that their world is about to blow up.

In that same way, we are now watching Arlen Specter campaign for a sixth term in the Senate as if 2010 weren’t different from any other campaign he had ever fought. The polls showing Specter now trailing challenger Rep. Joe Sestak among Democrats aren’t merely routine bad news for a failing campaign. They are a cataclysm for the senator. Specter’s greatest strength in the primary was the sense of inevitability about his victory that backers such as President Obama and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell have tried to foster. Without it, it’s going to be hard to hold the loyalty of the Philadelphia party ward bosses, whom Specter is counting on to manufacture a winning margin. While there is no sign that the state or city party is lessening its efforts on his behalf, these are exactly the kinds of people who don’t like going down with a sinking ship and who won’t go all-out for a candidate who won’t be in a position to do favors for them in the future. Without a massive turnout produced by one of the last viable urban political machines in the country, Specter is sunk. Moreover, Specter’s best argument to convince Democrats to back him — that he is a stronger candidate against Republican Pat Toomey in November — is also fading, given that a month ago polls showed Toomey with a substantial lead over either Democrat.

Ironically, the latest of the state’s leading newspapers to endorse Specter — the Philadelphia Daily News — seemed to understand that dissatisfaction with incumbents and the corruption of earmark spending that Specter exemplifies made the race “a microcosm of the American political landscape” in which the choice in November will be between “a bellwether for the nation, embodying a shift rightward, or a more moderate staying-of-the-course.”

The Daily News makes no secret that it wants the answer to be the latter, but give it credit for creative writing in its endorsement of Specter, in which it characterizes his obvious flip-flops and party switch thusly:

He comes by these changes honestly, as part of a process of finding the truth in issues that resist easy answers. He has been smart and tough enough to survive — and thrive — while resisting easy categorization.

Talk about political spin, this sort of blatantly cynical and deceptive line brings to mind H.L. Mencken’s famous (if not altogether fair) characterization of William Jennings Bryan: “If he was sincere, then so was Barnum.”

Meanwhile, there are two other interesting developments in the race.

Specter has been taking a beating for his “swift-boat” ads sliming opponent Rep. Joe Sestak for his Navy record. So the Democratic establishment brought out the original “swift-boat” victim — Sen. John Kerry — to endorse Specter. While Kerry gave the usual pro forma endorsement of a fellow member of the Senate Democratic caucus, he pointedly refused to endorse Specter’s attack on Sestak or talk candidly about the obvious comparisons between the attacks he suffered and those directed at Sestak. Such an endorsement may hurt more than it helps, since it merely draws more attention to an issue that makes Specter look like a vicious incumbent willing to do or say anything to gain re-election.

Even more unhelpful for Specter is President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. As it happens, the 2009 vote to confirm Kagan as solicitor general occurred during the senator’s last weeks as a Republican, and he voted against her. This gives Sestak yet another opportunity in the last week of campaigning to hammer Specter as a cynical turncoat. Specter’s having to spend time this week dealing with yet more evidence of the insincerity of his conversion to the Democrats is a boost for Sestak.

Taken all together, these developments point to a Specter defeat next week. But while the ending is becoming increasingly clear to the rest of us, we’re left wondering whether he understands that these may well be his last days as a politician with a future.

With only a week to go before Democratic primary voters choose a candidate for the United States Senate, the incumbent’s campaign is beginning to have a Last Days of Pompeii feel to it. In that classic old movie — the original Hollywood disaster flick — ordinary people in the ancient Roman city go about their lives without an inkling about a fact the audience knew before they entered the theater — that their world is about to blow up.

In that same way, we are now watching Arlen Specter campaign for a sixth term in the Senate as if 2010 weren’t different from any other campaign he had ever fought. The polls showing Specter now trailing challenger Rep. Joe Sestak among Democrats aren’t merely routine bad news for a failing campaign. They are a cataclysm for the senator. Specter’s greatest strength in the primary was the sense of inevitability about his victory that backers such as President Obama and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell have tried to foster. Without it, it’s going to be hard to hold the loyalty of the Philadelphia party ward bosses, whom Specter is counting on to manufacture a winning margin. While there is no sign that the state or city party is lessening its efforts on his behalf, these are exactly the kinds of people who don’t like going down with a sinking ship and who won’t go all-out for a candidate who won’t be in a position to do favors for them in the future. Without a massive turnout produced by one of the last viable urban political machines in the country, Specter is sunk. Moreover, Specter’s best argument to convince Democrats to back him — that he is a stronger candidate against Republican Pat Toomey in November — is also fading, given that a month ago polls showed Toomey with a substantial lead over either Democrat.

Ironically, the latest of the state’s leading newspapers to endorse Specter — the Philadelphia Daily News — seemed to understand that dissatisfaction with incumbents and the corruption of earmark spending that Specter exemplifies made the race “a microcosm of the American political landscape” in which the choice in November will be between “a bellwether for the nation, embodying a shift rightward, or a more moderate staying-of-the-course.”

The Daily News makes no secret that it wants the answer to be the latter, but give it credit for creative writing in its endorsement of Specter, in which it characterizes his obvious flip-flops and party switch thusly:

He comes by these changes honestly, as part of a process of finding the truth in issues that resist easy answers. He has been smart and tough enough to survive — and thrive — while resisting easy categorization.

Talk about political spin, this sort of blatantly cynical and deceptive line brings to mind H.L. Mencken’s famous (if not altogether fair) characterization of William Jennings Bryan: “If he was sincere, then so was Barnum.”

Meanwhile, there are two other interesting developments in the race.

Specter has been taking a beating for his “swift-boat” ads sliming opponent Rep. Joe Sestak for his Navy record. So the Democratic establishment brought out the original “swift-boat” victim — Sen. John Kerry — to endorse Specter. While Kerry gave the usual pro forma endorsement of a fellow member of the Senate Democratic caucus, he pointedly refused to endorse Specter’s attack on Sestak or talk candidly about the obvious comparisons between the attacks he suffered and those directed at Sestak. Such an endorsement may hurt more than it helps, since it merely draws more attention to an issue that makes Specter look like a vicious incumbent willing to do or say anything to gain re-election.

Even more unhelpful for Specter is President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. As it happens, the 2009 vote to confirm Kagan as solicitor general occurred during the senator’s last weeks as a Republican, and he voted against her. This gives Sestak yet another opportunity in the last week of campaigning to hammer Specter as a cynical turncoat. Specter’s having to spend time this week dealing with yet more evidence of the insincerity of his conversion to the Democrats is a boost for Sestak.

Taken all together, these developments point to a Specter defeat next week. But while the ending is becoming increasingly clear to the rest of us, we’re left wondering whether he understands that these may well be his last days as a politician with a future.

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Liberals Like Swift-Boat Attack Against Specter’s Foe

With less than two weeks to go until the Pennsylvania Democratic primary that will decide the fate of Senator Arlen Specter, the race between the incumbent party-switcher and the liberal congressman who is hoping to knock him off has gotten tighter and nastier.

After holding a huge lead over Rep. Joe Sestak for most of the past year, Specter is shown by the latest polls to lose his lead. An Allentown Morning Call tracking poll showed Specter with just a five-point lead (45 percent to 40) on May 5, down three points from May 2. Though a Quinnipiac poll from May 2 showed Specter with a larger lead (48 percent to 39), it still showed remarkable gains for Sestak since he had trailed Specter in that survey by as much as 21 points only a month earlier.

And along with the tighter poll numbers have come the inevitable negative ads. Specter had thought he would cruise to victory in the primary because of name recognition, a big edge in campaign contributions, and the overwhelming support he has received from Democratic leaders from President Obama, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and most of the county Democratic committees. But faced with Sestak’s rising numbers, in the last couple of weeks, Specter has now resorted to trying to stress his opponent’s negatives. The senator is now airing a TV ad in which he claims that Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, was relieved of his post as chief of planning for the Navy in 2005 because he created a “poor command climate” — though Sestak has always said that his exit from the Navy was due to policy differences with a new chief of naval operations, Admiral Mike Mullen. Sestak has now responded to Specter’s ad with one of his own, in which he accuses the senator of “swift-boating” him and lying about his record. For good measure, he’s also released another one tying Specter to his Republican past, including his support for figures that are demons to Democratic activists: George W. Bush, former senator Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin.

Though Specter’s turncoat status has made it hard for him to cozy up to the sort of hardcore liberals who vote in Democratic primaries, it is interesting to note that the chief institutional voice of Pennsylvania liberalism — the Philadelphia Inquirer — has taken its cue from Obama and not only endorsed Specter but also backed his attacks on Sestak’s record and character. In an editorial published today, the Inky follows Specter’s lead and demands that Sestak release his private Navy records if he wants to quiet the discussion related to the issue.

Yet 6 years ago, when conservative activists were raising embarrassing questions about the naval record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, the Inquirer took a very different point of view. At that time, the liberal newspaper decried the “Swift-Boat” vets who attacked Kerry and thought their demands for the release of Kerry’s records were not only unreasonable but also an indication of the vicious nature of ultra-partisan GOP politics. But with the possibility of losing a Senate seat for the Democrats (polls also show that Sestak is a weaker general-election candidate than Specter), the Inquirer is no longer so squeamish about messing with former military men.

Ultimately, the race will be decided by voter sentiment about Specter. Much of his campaign material emphasizes his 30 years in the Senate and his ability to bring home the bacon for his state as one of the most expert practitioners of earmark spending. But in a year in which voters are clearly saying that they think politics as usual isn’t the answer, Specter’s old strengths may turn out to be big weaknesses. While this trend is a clear boost to Republicans — not least to former Rep. Pat Toomey, a principled libertarian and the man whom polls show able to beat either Democrat in the November election — these ideas may have an impact on May 17, when Democrats vote as well. Under these circumstances, swift-boating Sestak, even if liberals who once were outraged by such tactics when it they had turned on their own heroes now endorse them, may not be enough to save the slippery Specter.

With less than two weeks to go until the Pennsylvania Democratic primary that will decide the fate of Senator Arlen Specter, the race between the incumbent party-switcher and the liberal congressman who is hoping to knock him off has gotten tighter and nastier.

After holding a huge lead over Rep. Joe Sestak for most of the past year, Specter is shown by the latest polls to lose his lead. An Allentown Morning Call tracking poll showed Specter with just a five-point lead (45 percent to 40) on May 5, down three points from May 2. Though a Quinnipiac poll from May 2 showed Specter with a larger lead (48 percent to 39), it still showed remarkable gains for Sestak since he had trailed Specter in that survey by as much as 21 points only a month earlier.

And along with the tighter poll numbers have come the inevitable negative ads. Specter had thought he would cruise to victory in the primary because of name recognition, a big edge in campaign contributions, and the overwhelming support he has received from Democratic leaders from President Obama, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and most of the county Democratic committees. But faced with Sestak’s rising numbers, in the last couple of weeks, Specter has now resorted to trying to stress his opponent’s negatives. The senator is now airing a TV ad in which he claims that Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, was relieved of his post as chief of planning for the Navy in 2005 because he created a “poor command climate” — though Sestak has always said that his exit from the Navy was due to policy differences with a new chief of naval operations, Admiral Mike Mullen. Sestak has now responded to Specter’s ad with one of his own, in which he accuses the senator of “swift-boating” him and lying about his record. For good measure, he’s also released another one tying Specter to his Republican past, including his support for figures that are demons to Democratic activists: George W. Bush, former senator Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin.

Though Specter’s turncoat status has made it hard for him to cozy up to the sort of hardcore liberals who vote in Democratic primaries, it is interesting to note that the chief institutional voice of Pennsylvania liberalism — the Philadelphia Inquirer — has taken its cue from Obama and not only endorsed Specter but also backed his attacks on Sestak’s record and character. In an editorial published today, the Inky follows Specter’s lead and demands that Sestak release his private Navy records if he wants to quiet the discussion related to the issue.

Yet 6 years ago, when conservative activists were raising embarrassing questions about the naval record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, the Inquirer took a very different point of view. At that time, the liberal newspaper decried the “Swift-Boat” vets who attacked Kerry and thought their demands for the release of Kerry’s records were not only unreasonable but also an indication of the vicious nature of ultra-partisan GOP politics. But with the possibility of losing a Senate seat for the Democrats (polls also show that Sestak is a weaker general-election candidate than Specter), the Inquirer is no longer so squeamish about messing with former military men.

Ultimately, the race will be decided by voter sentiment about Specter. Much of his campaign material emphasizes his 30 years in the Senate and his ability to bring home the bacon for his state as one of the most expert practitioners of earmark spending. But in a year in which voters are clearly saying that they think politics as usual isn’t the answer, Specter’s old strengths may turn out to be big weaknesses. While this trend is a clear boost to Republicans — not least to former Rep. Pat Toomey, a principled libertarian and the man whom polls show able to beat either Democrat in the November election — these ideas may have an impact on May 17, when Democrats vote as well. Under these circumstances, swift-boating Sestak, even if liberals who once were outraged by such tactics when it they had turned on their own heroes now endorse them, may not be enough to save the slippery Specter.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not what he had in mind when he signed the “historic” health-care bill: Obama hits a new low in the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, at 43 percent approval. Only 38 percent of independents approve of his performance. Still, it’s better than Congress, which manages only a 21 percent approval.

Not what Democrats were predicting when Obama won Colorado in 2008: now all the potential Republican Senate candidates lead all the possible Democrats, and Obama’s approval is down to 43 percent.

Not what Arlen Specter was hoping for when he switched parties: “Republican Pat Toomey is back on top 46 – 41 percent over Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s seesaw U.S. Senate race, while Attorney General Tom Corbett, the leader for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, remains ahead of each of the three top Democratic contenders by double digits, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Gov. Ed Rendell’s job approval rating is 45 – 45 percent, up from a negative 43 – 49 percent last month, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds. But President Barack Obama’s approval is a negative 45 – 49 percent, down from 49 – 46 percent.”

Not what is helpful in defeating “Islamic radicalism“: taking out any mention of that phrase from the National Security Strategy document. “But some fear sanitizing the NSS may actually confuse our allies; those within the Muslim world who oppose violent jihad and expect the US to very clearly and very publicly do the same. Elliot Abrams, Former Bush Deputy National Security Advisor says, ‘One of the things we are doing there is we’re not really helping moderates in the Islamic world. They have a fight against Islamic extremism, we’re on their side and when we are afraid to even discuss the problem we look fearful and weak.'”

Not what Obama wants to hear: Joe Lieberman wants to carefully review the START treaty: “My vote on the START Treaty will thus depend in large measure on whether I am convinced the Administration has put forward an appropriate and adequately-funded plan to sustain and modernize the smaller nuclear stockpile it envisions. I also remain deeply concerned that — regardless of the merits of the NPR and START on paper — we are losing the real world fight to prevent rogue regimes like Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If Iran continues on its current trajectory and crosses the nuclear threshold, it will inflict irreparable harm on the global nonproliferation regime.”

Not what Michael Steele wanted to hear after he played the race card: “For the first time since revelations that the RNC had spent some $1,946 at a risque L.A. nightclub, a member of the national body has called on Steele to step aside. In a letter to Steele dated today, NC GOP chair Tom Fetzer asks the chairman to step aside for what he says is the good of the party.”

Not what anyone has been waiting to hear: “Spitzer: I’ve got the urge to run again.” Free advice — stay away from words like “urge.”

Not what most Americans, I suspect, believe Congress should be spending its time on: “A Democratic member of Congress next week is holding a hearing into baseball players’ use of chewing tobacco.”

Not what Congress is spending its time on: “The nation’s fiscal path is ‘unsustainable,’ and the problem ‘cannot be solved through minor tinkering,’ the head of the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday morning. Doug Elmendorf, best known for arbitrating the costs of various health care proposals, added his voice to a growing chorus of economic experts who predict dire consequences if political leaders don’t scale back spending, increase taxes or both — and soon.”

Not what he had in mind when he signed the “historic” health-care bill: Obama hits a new low in the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, at 43 percent approval. Only 38 percent of independents approve of his performance. Still, it’s better than Congress, which manages only a 21 percent approval.

Not what Democrats were predicting when Obama won Colorado in 2008: now all the potential Republican Senate candidates lead all the possible Democrats, and Obama’s approval is down to 43 percent.

Not what Arlen Specter was hoping for when he switched parties: “Republican Pat Toomey is back on top 46 – 41 percent over Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s seesaw U.S. Senate race, while Attorney General Tom Corbett, the leader for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, remains ahead of each of the three top Democratic contenders by double digits, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Gov. Ed Rendell’s job approval rating is 45 – 45 percent, up from a negative 43 – 49 percent last month, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds. But President Barack Obama’s approval is a negative 45 – 49 percent, down from 49 – 46 percent.”

Not what is helpful in defeating “Islamic radicalism“: taking out any mention of that phrase from the National Security Strategy document. “But some fear sanitizing the NSS may actually confuse our allies; those within the Muslim world who oppose violent jihad and expect the US to very clearly and very publicly do the same. Elliot Abrams, Former Bush Deputy National Security Advisor says, ‘One of the things we are doing there is we’re not really helping moderates in the Islamic world. They have a fight against Islamic extremism, we’re on their side and when we are afraid to even discuss the problem we look fearful and weak.'”

Not what Obama wants to hear: Joe Lieberman wants to carefully review the START treaty: “My vote on the START Treaty will thus depend in large measure on whether I am convinced the Administration has put forward an appropriate and adequately-funded plan to sustain and modernize the smaller nuclear stockpile it envisions. I also remain deeply concerned that — regardless of the merits of the NPR and START on paper — we are losing the real world fight to prevent rogue regimes like Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If Iran continues on its current trajectory and crosses the nuclear threshold, it will inflict irreparable harm on the global nonproliferation regime.”

Not what Michael Steele wanted to hear after he played the race card: “For the first time since revelations that the RNC had spent some $1,946 at a risque L.A. nightclub, a member of the national body has called on Steele to step aside. In a letter to Steele dated today, NC GOP chair Tom Fetzer asks the chairman to step aside for what he says is the good of the party.”

Not what anyone has been waiting to hear: “Spitzer: I’ve got the urge to run again.” Free advice — stay away from words like “urge.”

Not what most Americans, I suspect, believe Congress should be spending its time on: “A Democratic member of Congress next week is holding a hearing into baseball players’ use of chewing tobacco.”

Not what Congress is spending its time on: “The nation’s fiscal path is ‘unsustainable,’ and the problem ‘cannot be solved through minor tinkering,’ the head of the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday morning. Doug Elmendorf, best known for arbitrating the costs of various health care proposals, added his voice to a growing chorus of economic experts who predict dire consequences if political leaders don’t scale back spending, increase taxes or both — and soon.”

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CAIR Seeks to Censor Books on Radical Islam

The Council on American-Islamic Relations came into existence in the early 1990s as a political front for the Holy Land Foundation, a group that raised money in the United States for Hamas terrorists and their network of “charitable” institutions. Since then, the Holy Land Foundation was shut down and prosecuted by the federal government. But its CAIR spin-off has survived and prospered as both government agencies and the media have accepted its pose as a Muslim civil-liberties group as well as its rationalizations of terrorism and opposition to the struggle against Islamist extremists.

The latest instance of CAIR’s duplicitous behavior is the campaign being conducted by its Philadelphia branch to censor a series of textbooks on The World of Islam for young readers, produced by Mason Crest Published in partnership with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, an independent think tank. They are particularly angry with one of the ten books in the set titled Radical Islam, which deals with the threat from Islamist groups. CAIR wants the books to be withdrawn from public libraries and schools. Although the books are respectful of Islam and acknowledge that the vast majority of Muslims are neither terrorists nor engaged in spreading hate, they still note the existence of terrorists and Islamists hate groups. While CAIR’s charges of the books being inaccurate are clearly false, their objective is to simply remove all mentions of Muslim terrorism and Islamist ideology from the public square.

For example, the group objects to this line in one the books, Muslims in America: “some Muslims began immigrating to the United States in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism.” As FPRI director Harvey Sicherman told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Well, yes, some people did come to the United States to commit terrorism, and I don’t know how one can quarrel with that sentence.”

While Sicherman and FPRI’s Alan Luxenberg, who wrote Radical Islam, are right to complain that the examples cited by CAIR take their books out of context and unfairly tar a respected and valuable institution with a false charge of religious prejudice, the Muslim group’s agenda isn’t accuracy or tolerance. They regard all mentions of Islamist terrorism — a phenomenon that has become a growing homegrown threat to Americans — as a slur on every Muslim. What they want is to simply remove the conflict with radical Islam from the national conversation.

While it is to be hoped that librarians will reject this call for censorship, CAIR’s Philadelphia branch has demonstrated in the past that it has some friends in high places. In 2007, Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak and Governor Ed Rendell appeared at a CAIR fundraiser in Philadelphia, setting off a firestorm of criticism from friends of Israel. Neither Sestak nor Rendell apologized for their support of the group — though the congressman, who is now running for the Democratic nomination to the Senate against incumbent political turncoat Arlen Specter, has tried to distance himself from the incident. But whether or not this comes back to haunt Sestak at the ballot box, the lesson here is the way a dangerous extremist group has been able to whitewash its past and insinuate itself into the mainstream political debate.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations came into existence in the early 1990s as a political front for the Holy Land Foundation, a group that raised money in the United States for Hamas terrorists and their network of “charitable” institutions. Since then, the Holy Land Foundation was shut down and prosecuted by the federal government. But its CAIR spin-off has survived and prospered as both government agencies and the media have accepted its pose as a Muslim civil-liberties group as well as its rationalizations of terrorism and opposition to the struggle against Islamist extremists.

The latest instance of CAIR’s duplicitous behavior is the campaign being conducted by its Philadelphia branch to censor a series of textbooks on The World of Islam for young readers, produced by Mason Crest Published in partnership with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, an independent think tank. They are particularly angry with one of the ten books in the set titled Radical Islam, which deals with the threat from Islamist groups. CAIR wants the books to be withdrawn from public libraries and schools. Although the books are respectful of Islam and acknowledge that the vast majority of Muslims are neither terrorists nor engaged in spreading hate, they still note the existence of terrorists and Islamists hate groups. While CAIR’s charges of the books being inaccurate are clearly false, their objective is to simply remove all mentions of Muslim terrorism and Islamist ideology from the public square.

For example, the group objects to this line in one the books, Muslims in America: “some Muslims began immigrating to the United States in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism.” As FPRI director Harvey Sicherman told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Well, yes, some people did come to the United States to commit terrorism, and I don’t know how one can quarrel with that sentence.”

While Sicherman and FPRI’s Alan Luxenberg, who wrote Radical Islam, are right to complain that the examples cited by CAIR take their books out of context and unfairly tar a respected and valuable institution with a false charge of religious prejudice, the Muslim group’s agenda isn’t accuracy or tolerance. They regard all mentions of Islamist terrorism — a phenomenon that has become a growing homegrown threat to Americans — as a slur on every Muslim. What they want is to simply remove the conflict with radical Islam from the national conversation.

While it is to be hoped that librarians will reject this call for censorship, CAIR’s Philadelphia branch has demonstrated in the past that it has some friends in high places. In 2007, Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak and Governor Ed Rendell appeared at a CAIR fundraiser in Philadelphia, setting off a firestorm of criticism from friends of Israel. Neither Sestak nor Rendell apologized for their support of the group — though the congressman, who is now running for the Democratic nomination to the Senate against incumbent political turncoat Arlen Specter, has tried to distance himself from the incident. But whether or not this comes back to haunt Sestak at the ballot box, the lesson here is the way a dangerous extremist group has been able to whitewash its past and insinuate itself into the mainstream political debate.

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Democratic Governors Upset with Obama

Reading the headline “Democrats worried about Obama track record,” one is tempted to say, “They should be.” Liz Sidoti and Ron Fournier write:

Democratic governors said Sunday they worry about President Barack Obama’s track record on fighting Republican political attacks and urged him to better connect with anxious voters. Some allies pleaded for a new election-year strategy focused on the economy.

“It’s got to be better thought out,” Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said. “It’s got to be more proactive.” And, he said, Democrats must hit back just as hard as they are hit by Republicans.

Eight months before the first midterm elections of Obama’s presidency, most Americans are frustrated with — even angered by — persistent unemployment and gridlock in Washington. Democrats fear voters will punish the party in power.

Nor do they buy Obama’s doubling-down strategy on health-care reform. (“Several Democratic colleagues agreed, and lamented that voters thought Obama focused too much on overhauling the U.S. health care system. Others fretted that Obama may appear to be out of touch with the concerns of Americans.”) Sidoti and Fournier detail a meeting between Democratic governors and Obama in which the former plead with Obama to get focused on the economy:

Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas urged Obama to focus more on the economy and limit his actions on the health care system to changes that would bring down the cost of medical treatment in the United States. … While praising the White House’s communication’s efforts, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered this advice to Obama: “Rapidly decide what we’re doing on health care and then move to jobs and the economy.” “We need a national economic strategy,” he added.

And not even Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, an Obama confidant, thinks much of the Obama communications strategy or the “tit for tat” battle to blame Republicans.

What’s remarkable is not only the widespread dismay with the president but also the willingness of these Democrats to make public their concerns. That tells us that the White House isn’t listening and isn’t receptive to their pleas. Maybe Obama will be more amenable after the November election.

Reading the headline “Democrats worried about Obama track record,” one is tempted to say, “They should be.” Liz Sidoti and Ron Fournier write:

Democratic governors said Sunday they worry about President Barack Obama’s track record on fighting Republican political attacks and urged him to better connect with anxious voters. Some allies pleaded for a new election-year strategy focused on the economy.

“It’s got to be better thought out,” Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said. “It’s got to be more proactive.” And, he said, Democrats must hit back just as hard as they are hit by Republicans.

Eight months before the first midterm elections of Obama’s presidency, most Americans are frustrated with — even angered by — persistent unemployment and gridlock in Washington. Democrats fear voters will punish the party in power.

Nor do they buy Obama’s doubling-down strategy on health-care reform. (“Several Democratic colleagues agreed, and lamented that voters thought Obama focused too much on overhauling the U.S. health care system. Others fretted that Obama may appear to be out of touch with the concerns of Americans.”) Sidoti and Fournier detail a meeting between Democratic governors and Obama in which the former plead with Obama to get focused on the economy:

Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas urged Obama to focus more on the economy and limit his actions on the health care system to changes that would bring down the cost of medical treatment in the United States. … While praising the White House’s communication’s efforts, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered this advice to Obama: “Rapidly decide what we’re doing on health care and then move to jobs and the economy.” “We need a national economic strategy,” he added.

And not even Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, an Obama confidant, thinks much of the Obama communications strategy or the “tit for tat” battle to blame Republicans.

What’s remarkable is not only the widespread dismay with the president but also the willingness of these Democrats to make public their concerns. That tells us that the White House isn’t listening and isn’t receptive to their pleas. Maybe Obama will be more amenable after the November election.

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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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The Road Ahead

Hillary Clinton faces likely losses in Wyoming on Saturday and Mississippi next week. The former is a function of her team’s utter inability or unwillingness to devote time and money to winning small caucus states. Would it kill them to do some direct mail? Or maybe send the candidate to these places? Apparently it would. (Query whether now wouldn’t be a good time for Clinton to demonstrate her management skills and show a determination to “be herself” by dumping Mark Penn, who seems to delight in telling the media he is not responsible for much of anything.)

Beyond that looms the large prize of Pennsylvania, where Hillary currently leads and also enjoys the support of Governor Ed Rendell. That will be where she makes her final push to shove Barack Obama off his pedestal and demonstrate that only she can win the big races. Between now and then expect her to set out to prove he cannot take a punch–by, of course, throwing a lot of punches at him.

Hillary Clinton faces likely losses in Wyoming on Saturday and Mississippi next week. The former is a function of her team’s utter inability or unwillingness to devote time and money to winning small caucus states. Would it kill them to do some direct mail? Or maybe send the candidate to these places? Apparently it would. (Query whether now wouldn’t be a good time for Clinton to demonstrate her management skills and show a determination to “be herself” by dumping Mark Penn, who seems to delight in telling the media he is not responsible for much of anything.)

Beyond that looms the large prize of Pennsylvania, where Hillary currently leads and also enjoys the support of Governor Ed Rendell. That will be where she makes her final push to shove Barack Obama off his pedestal and demonstrate that only she can win the big races. Between now and then expect her to set out to prove he cannot take a punch–by, of course, throwing a lot of punches at him.

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