Commentary Magazine


Topic: Evan Bayh

The Democrats’ Obama-Induced Fury

Charles Lane does not mince words:

Millions of Americans long to tell their bosses “take this job and shove it.” Hardly any have the power and money to do so, especially in these recessionary times. Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana, however, is the exception. His stunning retirement from the Senate is essentially a loud and emphatic “screw you” to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For months now, Bayh has been screaming at the top of his voice that the party needs to reorient toward a more popular, centrist agenda — one that emphasizes jobs and fiscal responsibility over health care and cap and trade. Neither the White House nor the Senate leadership has given him the response he wanted. Their bungling of what should have been a routine bipartisan jobs bill last week seems to have been the last straw.

Lane seems to think there’s a possible Bayh primary challenge for 2012, which I find questionable. (I don’t sense that primary-voting Democrats are starved for a Clintonian Third Wave, minus the Clintons.) Less debatable however is his suspicion that Bayh’s seat is now ripe for a GOP pickup and that “if present trends continue, November could turn into a Republican rout.”

Lane also touches on the subtext here: the anger and disappointment of many Democrats who now look upon Obama as not a “sort of God” but rather as a curse. He has not merely failed to advance their decades-old agenda but is now perpetrating a Marx Brothers–like farce, racing around the political landscape, wrecking havoc on all of them. How annoyed, if not furious, must all those Democratic officeholders be? They are going to be out of jobs – while Obama declares himself to be content with one term and sneers at those in his party who are concerned with such mundane trifles as getting re-elected.

Wins by Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell last year were the first rumblings of trouble. Scott Brown was one political earthquake, and Evan Bayh may be a second. But the 10 on the Richter scale has not, I suspect, come. We’ll have to wait until November, when lots and lots of Democrats experience what it’s really like to run for office in the age of Obama. Is it any wonder that Bayh and so many other Democrats are choosing to forgo the experience?

Charles Lane does not mince words:

Millions of Americans long to tell their bosses “take this job and shove it.” Hardly any have the power and money to do so, especially in these recessionary times. Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana, however, is the exception. His stunning retirement from the Senate is essentially a loud and emphatic “screw you” to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For months now, Bayh has been screaming at the top of his voice that the party needs to reorient toward a more popular, centrist agenda — one that emphasizes jobs and fiscal responsibility over health care and cap and trade. Neither the White House nor the Senate leadership has given him the response he wanted. Their bungling of what should have been a routine bipartisan jobs bill last week seems to have been the last straw.

Lane seems to think there’s a possible Bayh primary challenge for 2012, which I find questionable. (I don’t sense that primary-voting Democrats are starved for a Clintonian Third Wave, minus the Clintons.) Less debatable however is his suspicion that Bayh’s seat is now ripe for a GOP pickup and that “if present trends continue, November could turn into a Republican rout.”

Lane also touches on the subtext here: the anger and disappointment of many Democrats who now look upon Obama as not a “sort of God” but rather as a curse. He has not merely failed to advance their decades-old agenda but is now perpetrating a Marx Brothers–like farce, racing around the political landscape, wrecking havoc on all of them. How annoyed, if not furious, must all those Democratic officeholders be? They are going to be out of jobs – while Obama declares himself to be content with one term and sneers at those in his party who are concerned with such mundane trifles as getting re-elected.

Wins by Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell last year were the first rumblings of trouble. Scott Brown was one political earthquake, and Evan Bayh may be a second. But the 10 on the Richter scale has not, I suspect, come. We’ll have to wait until November, when lots and lots of Democrats experience what it’s really like to run for office in the age of Obama. Is it any wonder that Bayh and so many other Democrats are choosing to forgo the experience?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Eric Holder’s blunder fest is serious stuff: “We’ve shaken our heads in disgust often in the last year over the Obamic decision to permit a bunch of Chicago political hacks and the U.S. attorney general–the CPH Plus One–to run much of foreign policy out of the White House. It’s had real-world consequences, not least that the tension between the Axelrod-Emanuel-Jarrett axis (appease despots whenever possible) and the Clinton state department (appease them, but accuse them while you’re doing it) has given time and breathing room to the bomb-building wing of the Iranian dictatorship.”

This, from a Republican strategist, is what passes for wisdom among the chattering classes: “Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can’t be both.” (He cites Goldwater and McGovern for this proposition.) Whether or not you like Palin, this is just nonsense. Ronald Reagan was both. Obama was, too (before he proved himself utterly incompetent). It’s the sort of stuff strategists say when they’re trying to oblige the media with a particular angle or shill for another, unnamed candidate.

Only in the Obama administration could Janet Napolitano not be in the top three on the “deserves to be fired” list. John Brennan seems to have zoomed into the lead, past Eric Holder and James Jones: “Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for the resignation — or immediate firing — of Obama adviser John Brennan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also called for Brennan’s head, telling FOX News Sunday that the adviser ‘has lost my confidence.’”

The California Senate race looks competitive, with Barbara Boxer leading potential GOP challengers by four or five points: “Most troubling for Boxer in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state is her continuing inability to cross the 50% threshold against any of the GOP hopefuls. Incumbents who capture less than 50% of the vote at this stage of the campaign are considered vulnerable.”

If you appreciate understatement, this headline will appeal to you: “Indiana GOP: ‘We really like our chances.’” Yeah, I bet.

E.J. Dionne manages to get something right: “There is no way for Democrats to sugarcoat the news of Sen. Evan Bayh’s retirement: This is mighty good news for Republicans. Bayh would have been very difficult to defeat, and he has $13 million in the bank. Now, Indiana can be added to the list of seats that could shift to the Republicans, and that list is growing large enough that the GOP is within striking distance of taking over the Senate, an unthinkable idea even a month or so ago.”

Democrat Martin Frost sums up his party’s reaction to the Bayh retirement announcement: “The sky is officially falling.”

Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us that the tag team of mullah boosters, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett, has a history of making stuff up. The proper thing to do would be to slink away, but the limelight and the chance to shill for the Iranian butchers must be too much to resist.

Eric Holder’s blunder fest is serious stuff: “We’ve shaken our heads in disgust often in the last year over the Obamic decision to permit a bunch of Chicago political hacks and the U.S. attorney general–the CPH Plus One–to run much of foreign policy out of the White House. It’s had real-world consequences, not least that the tension between the Axelrod-Emanuel-Jarrett axis (appease despots whenever possible) and the Clinton state department (appease them, but accuse them while you’re doing it) has given time and breathing room to the bomb-building wing of the Iranian dictatorship.”

This, from a Republican strategist, is what passes for wisdom among the chattering classes: “Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can’t be both.” (He cites Goldwater and McGovern for this proposition.) Whether or not you like Palin, this is just nonsense. Ronald Reagan was both. Obama was, too (before he proved himself utterly incompetent). It’s the sort of stuff strategists say when they’re trying to oblige the media with a particular angle or shill for another, unnamed candidate.

Only in the Obama administration could Janet Napolitano not be in the top three on the “deserves to be fired” list. John Brennan seems to have zoomed into the lead, past Eric Holder and James Jones: “Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for the resignation — or immediate firing — of Obama adviser John Brennan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also called for Brennan’s head, telling FOX News Sunday that the adviser ‘has lost my confidence.’”

The California Senate race looks competitive, with Barbara Boxer leading potential GOP challengers by four or five points: “Most troubling for Boxer in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state is her continuing inability to cross the 50% threshold against any of the GOP hopefuls. Incumbents who capture less than 50% of the vote at this stage of the campaign are considered vulnerable.”

If you appreciate understatement, this headline will appeal to you: “Indiana GOP: ‘We really like our chances.’” Yeah, I bet.

E.J. Dionne manages to get something right: “There is no way for Democrats to sugarcoat the news of Sen. Evan Bayh’s retirement: This is mighty good news for Republicans. Bayh would have been very difficult to defeat, and he has $13 million in the bank. Now, Indiana can be added to the list of seats that could shift to the Republicans, and that list is growing large enough that the GOP is within striking distance of taking over the Senate, an unthinkable idea even a month or so ago.”

Democrat Martin Frost sums up his party’s reaction to the Bayh retirement announcement: “The sky is officially falling.”

Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us that the tag team of mullah boosters, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett, has a history of making stuff up. The proper thing to do would be to slink away, but the limelight and the chance to shill for the Iranian butchers must be too much to resist.

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Re: Barack Millstone Obama

Pete, you raise a key point about Evan Bayh’s departure: his status as a “centrist” makes the retirement a particularly troubling one for Democrats. There is ample reason to dispute that label, but until now he’s been able to claim the mantle of centrism and fiscal moderation. So his departure should set off a round of soul-searching by Democrats as to whether they’ve strayed too far to the Left, have become ideological purists, and are losing their appeal to the great middle of the political spectrum. Right?

Well that was the media’s endless storyline when a host of liberal-to-moderate Republicans, especially in the northeast, lost seats or defected to the Democratic party. Then we heard the cries that the GOP was “intolerant” or becoming a “fringe” party. But consider the retirees and many of the endangered Democratic incumbents (e.g., Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Arlen Specter, Michael Bennet, Byron Dorgan). A Democratic Senate caucus without those names would be much smaller but also far more liberal in composition, at a time when the country is reasserting its basic Center-Right perspective. That seems like a recipe for more trouble, unless of course Democrats actually listen to the message being sent by voters. If they self-correct their course and moderate not only their rhetoric but also their voting records, they might save some seats and be better positioned after the election to restore the image of their party, shed the tax-and-spend and weak-on-national-security labels, and remain competitive for 2012.

To do that, however, they will have to battle the White House, which has been indifferent to the plight of its moderate congressional allies. For them, the departure of Bayh is one more lesson that the price of ideological extremism is a smaller and less viable party. But I don’t think they are listening yet. Maybe after November.

Pete, you raise a key point about Evan Bayh’s departure: his status as a “centrist” makes the retirement a particularly troubling one for Democrats. There is ample reason to dispute that label, but until now he’s been able to claim the mantle of centrism and fiscal moderation. So his departure should set off a round of soul-searching by Democrats as to whether they’ve strayed too far to the Left, have become ideological purists, and are losing their appeal to the great middle of the political spectrum. Right?

Well that was the media’s endless storyline when a host of liberal-to-moderate Republicans, especially in the northeast, lost seats or defected to the Democratic party. Then we heard the cries that the GOP was “intolerant” or becoming a “fringe” party. But consider the retirees and many of the endangered Democratic incumbents (e.g., Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Arlen Specter, Michael Bennet, Byron Dorgan). A Democratic Senate caucus without those names would be much smaller but also far more liberal in composition, at a time when the country is reasserting its basic Center-Right perspective. That seems like a recipe for more trouble, unless of course Democrats actually listen to the message being sent by voters. If they self-correct their course and moderate not only their rhetoric but also their voting records, they might save some seats and be better positioned after the election to restore the image of their party, shed the tax-and-spend and weak-on-national-security labels, and remain competitive for 2012.

To do that, however, they will have to battle the White House, which has been indifferent to the plight of its moderate congressional allies. For them, the departure of Bayh is one more lesson that the price of ideological extremism is a smaller and less viable party. But I don’t think they are listening yet. Maybe after November.

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Barack Millstone Obama

The news that Democratic Senator Evan Bayh is retiring is another stunning blow for a Democratic party that is already reeling. This development — because of who Bayh is (perceived as a moderate/centrist); because of the state he represents (a traditionally Red one but won by Barack Obama in 2008); and because of his political situation (it was assumed he was in a comfortable position to win re-election) — will have significant ramifications. It will accelerate almost every bad trend for Democrats (more retirements, fewer entries into national races, more intra-party acrimony, and more panic).

The last time we saw a double-digit shift in Senate seats in a single election was when a former movie actor by the name of Ronald Reagan was elected president (Republicans won a dozen seats back in 1980). A shift of those dimensions in a non-presidential election year would be basically unheard of. But as Jen points out, a pickup of 10 GOP seats — and recontrol of the Senate — is no longer out of the question. America’s political tectonic plates are shifting in a fairly dramatic and rapid fashion; and the resulting dislocation will batter and crush many Democratic candidates, perhaps on a scale we have not witnessed before in our lifetime, at least in a midterm election.

Such an outcome can still be averted — but as many of us have been predicting for a while now, the news for Democrats is continuing to get worse rather than better. Evan Bayh’s retirement is a body blow for the president and his party. It will cause more than a few knees in the Obama White House to buckle. It is beginning to dawn on them just what awaits them.

Rep. Marion Berry, yet another retiring Democrat, gave an interview to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette a few weeks ago in which he recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton years, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home. “I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.”

We shall indeed. The big difference between now and 1994 is that Democrats have Obama instead of Clinton as the head of their party. And that may turn out to be very bad news for Democrats. The Democratic party is in worse shape now than it was at a comparable period then. The mistrust of government runs deeper. The anti-incumbent tide is stronger. And the public uprising is greater.

The Clinton years — and Bill Clinton’s undeniable political gifts — are looking better and better to Democrats with every passing week.

Democrats indeed have got Obama, and they have Obama’s agenda as well. Could the political millstone be any heavier?

The news that Democratic Senator Evan Bayh is retiring is another stunning blow for a Democratic party that is already reeling. This development — because of who Bayh is (perceived as a moderate/centrist); because of the state he represents (a traditionally Red one but won by Barack Obama in 2008); and because of his political situation (it was assumed he was in a comfortable position to win re-election) — will have significant ramifications. It will accelerate almost every bad trend for Democrats (more retirements, fewer entries into national races, more intra-party acrimony, and more panic).

The last time we saw a double-digit shift in Senate seats in a single election was when a former movie actor by the name of Ronald Reagan was elected president (Republicans won a dozen seats back in 1980). A shift of those dimensions in a non-presidential election year would be basically unheard of. But as Jen points out, a pickup of 10 GOP seats — and recontrol of the Senate — is no longer out of the question. America’s political tectonic plates are shifting in a fairly dramatic and rapid fashion; and the resulting dislocation will batter and crush many Democratic candidates, perhaps on a scale we have not witnessed before in our lifetime, at least in a midterm election.

Such an outcome can still be averted — but as many of us have been predicting for a while now, the news for Democrats is continuing to get worse rather than better. Evan Bayh’s retirement is a body blow for the president and his party. It will cause more than a few knees in the Obama White House to buckle. It is beginning to dawn on them just what awaits them.

Rep. Marion Berry, yet another retiring Democrat, gave an interview to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette a few weeks ago in which he recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton years, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home. “I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.”

We shall indeed. The big difference between now and 1994 is that Democrats have Obama instead of Clinton as the head of their party. And that may turn out to be very bad news for Democrats. The Democratic party is in worse shape now than it was at a comparable period then. The mistrust of government runs deeper. The anti-incumbent tide is stronger. And the public uprising is greater.

The Clinton years — and Bill Clinton’s undeniable political gifts — are looking better and better to Democrats with every passing week.

Democrats indeed have got Obama, and they have Obama’s agenda as well. Could the political millstone be any heavier?

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What?! Bayh Is Out

That is right. A day before the filing date for U.S. Senate candidates, Evan Bayh has announced that he won’t be running for re-election. The why is unclear. Did the polling really spook him? Or is there some missing story here that would account for why one of the best-funded Democrats would throw in the towel, leaving his party high and dry?

Hotline reports:

Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-IN) decision to retire has sent Dems scrambling to figure out who will carry the party’s standard — and how to go about getting that person on the ballot in the first place. Candidates running for statewide office in IN have to collect 500 signatures from each of the state’s 9 districts. Those signatures are due by tomorrow. Once signatures are in, candidates have until Friday to officially file for office. Bayh could still file to run, then drop out. But if he does not file his signatures tomorrow, no other Dem is expected to collect the required 500 signatures by then, meaning Dems will get the chance to pick their own nominee.

So Democrats will then have to defend a seat with the handpicked choice of the party insiders — not a pleasant prospect in a year in which political machines are under assault. So put this seat in the endangered category for Democrats. Charlie Cook sums up: “With Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s decision not to seek a third term in November, the race moves to the Lean Republican column. While Democrats have not had the opportunity to assess their options, it is unlikely that they will be able to come up with a strong enough candidate to compete in a GOP-leaning state in the current political climate.”

As inexplicable as this seems on one level, it’s merely par for the course on another. In a year in which incumbents see their political careers going up in smoke, many are heading for the exits. (Bayh may run for governor, according to reports.) That, in turn, will further frighten those incumbents clinging to office and suggests that they, too, need to take evasive measures to prevent career-ending losses. Putting distance between the Obama agenda and their own voting records might help. But that is not always easy when the Democratic leadership is whipping up votes on more big-government power grabs.

The bottom line here is that we are fast approaching the point in which a Senate takeover by the GOP is not out of the question. Delaware, North Dakota, and now Indiana are likely goners. Nevada and Arkansas are imperiled. Colorado looks dicey, as do Pennsylvania and Illinois. (Cook rates these as “toss up” seats.) That’s eight right there. If Wisconsin, New York, California, and Washington become competitive, then look out. The Obama era may indeed prove to mark a titanic shift in the national political landscape.

Granted, it’s not exactly the one the Obami had in mind.

That is right. A day before the filing date for U.S. Senate candidates, Evan Bayh has announced that he won’t be running for re-election. The why is unclear. Did the polling really spook him? Or is there some missing story here that would account for why one of the best-funded Democrats would throw in the towel, leaving his party high and dry?

Hotline reports:

Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-IN) decision to retire has sent Dems scrambling to figure out who will carry the party’s standard — and how to go about getting that person on the ballot in the first place. Candidates running for statewide office in IN have to collect 500 signatures from each of the state’s 9 districts. Those signatures are due by tomorrow. Once signatures are in, candidates have until Friday to officially file for office. Bayh could still file to run, then drop out. But if he does not file his signatures tomorrow, no other Dem is expected to collect the required 500 signatures by then, meaning Dems will get the chance to pick their own nominee.

So Democrats will then have to defend a seat with the handpicked choice of the party insiders — not a pleasant prospect in a year in which political machines are under assault. So put this seat in the endangered category for Democrats. Charlie Cook sums up: “With Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s decision not to seek a third term in November, the race moves to the Lean Republican column. While Democrats have not had the opportunity to assess their options, it is unlikely that they will be able to come up with a strong enough candidate to compete in a GOP-leaning state in the current political climate.”

As inexplicable as this seems on one level, it’s merely par for the course on another. In a year in which incumbents see their political careers going up in smoke, many are heading for the exits. (Bayh may run for governor, according to reports.) That, in turn, will further frighten those incumbents clinging to office and suggests that they, too, need to take evasive measures to prevent career-ending losses. Putting distance between the Obama agenda and their own voting records might help. But that is not always easy when the Democratic leadership is whipping up votes on more big-government power grabs.

The bottom line here is that we are fast approaching the point in which a Senate takeover by the GOP is not out of the question. Delaware, North Dakota, and now Indiana are likely goners. Nevada and Arkansas are imperiled. Colorado looks dicey, as do Pennsylvania and Illinois. (Cook rates these as “toss up” seats.) That’s eight right there. If Wisconsin, New York, California, and Washington become competitive, then look out. The Obama era may indeed prove to mark a titanic shift in the national political landscape.

Granted, it’s not exactly the one the Obami had in mind.

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Another Approach to Iran

While the Obami fritter away time, dreaming up new excuses to do nothing on Iran, more responsible officials are moving forward. Today Sens. John Cornyn, John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Richard Durbin, Jon Kyl, Evan Bayh, Susan Collins, Robert Casey. Lindsey Graham, Kristen Gillibrand, Sam Brownback, Ted Kaufman, and David Vitter announced legislation to support the Iranian opposition’s efforts to take down the regime of Ali Hoseyni Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In a statement, Cornyn and Brownback explained that the bill will “establish a program of direct assistance for the Iranian people and would help pave the way for a freely elected, open and democratic government in Iran. The Iran Democratic Transition Act would not only send a strong message of support to the Iranian people during this difficult time, it would also provide tangible resources needed to establish a democratic system in Iran in the near future.”

For starters, the bill will delineate the “Iranian regime’s human rights abuses, clear support of terrorism, pursuit of nuclear weapons, and belligerent rhetoric regarding attacks on both Israel and the United States.” Instead of mutely bearing witness, the U.S. government would help publicize the regime’s atrocities.

The bill would also stipulate full and public U.S. support of the Iranian people’s efforts to oppose and remove the current regime and transition to a freely elected, open, and democratic government. Furthermore, the bill would announce it is  U.S. policy to deny the current Iranian regime the ability to: oppress the people of Iran; finance and support terrorists; interfere with the internal affairs of neighbors (including Iraq and Afghanistan); and develop weapons of mass destruction.

The bill also authorizes the president to provide non-military assistance to Iranian democratic opposition organizations and to victims of the current regime. It would create an ambassador-level position of “Special Envoy for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran” to promote and support Iranian democracy and human rights. And the bill would suggest the “possibility of a multilateral and regional initiative to protect human rights, modeled after the Helsinki process established by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.”

It will be interesting to see the Obami’s reaction to this piece of legislation. Are they interested in aiding democratic activists, or are they committed to not rocking the boat? Do they have the nerve to document the specific Iranian human-rights atrocities, or would they prefer to say as little as possible? This will also test private groups. I’ll take a wild guess that J Street will not be thrilled by this approach.

There is reason to question whether anything short of military action can stop the Iranian regime at this point, but getting on the right side of history, re-establishing our moral leadership, and giving regime change a chance is a very good place to start.

UPDATE: I have updated the above to include the full list of co-sponsors. Sen. Joseph Lieberman made this noteworthy comment: “Just as the Iranian government is violating its responsibilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it is likewise in flagrant breach of multiple international agreements it has signed that require it to respect the human rights of its own citizens. As the Iranian people risk their lives to demand the justice and freedom they deserve in the face of this lawless and oppressive regime, they should know that America is on their side.”

While the Obami fritter away time, dreaming up new excuses to do nothing on Iran, more responsible officials are moving forward. Today Sens. John Cornyn, John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Richard Durbin, Jon Kyl, Evan Bayh, Susan Collins, Robert Casey. Lindsey Graham, Kristen Gillibrand, Sam Brownback, Ted Kaufman, and David Vitter announced legislation to support the Iranian opposition’s efforts to take down the regime of Ali Hoseyni Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In a statement, Cornyn and Brownback explained that the bill will “establish a program of direct assistance for the Iranian people and would help pave the way for a freely elected, open and democratic government in Iran. The Iran Democratic Transition Act would not only send a strong message of support to the Iranian people during this difficult time, it would also provide tangible resources needed to establish a democratic system in Iran in the near future.”

For starters, the bill will delineate the “Iranian regime’s human rights abuses, clear support of terrorism, pursuit of nuclear weapons, and belligerent rhetoric regarding attacks on both Israel and the United States.” Instead of mutely bearing witness, the U.S. government would help publicize the regime’s atrocities.

The bill would also stipulate full and public U.S. support of the Iranian people’s efforts to oppose and remove the current regime and transition to a freely elected, open, and democratic government. Furthermore, the bill would announce it is  U.S. policy to deny the current Iranian regime the ability to: oppress the people of Iran; finance and support terrorists; interfere with the internal affairs of neighbors (including Iraq and Afghanistan); and develop weapons of mass destruction.

The bill also authorizes the president to provide non-military assistance to Iranian democratic opposition organizations and to victims of the current regime. It would create an ambassador-level position of “Special Envoy for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran” to promote and support Iranian democracy and human rights. And the bill would suggest the “possibility of a multilateral and regional initiative to protect human rights, modeled after the Helsinki process established by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.”

It will be interesting to see the Obami’s reaction to this piece of legislation. Are they interested in aiding democratic activists, or are they committed to not rocking the boat? Do they have the nerve to document the specific Iranian human-rights atrocities, or would they prefer to say as little as possible? This will also test private groups. I’ll take a wild guess that J Street will not be thrilled by this approach.

There is reason to question whether anything short of military action can stop the Iranian regime at this point, but getting on the right side of history, re-establishing our moral leadership, and giving regime change a chance is a very good place to start.

UPDATE: I have updated the above to include the full list of co-sponsors. Sen. Joseph Lieberman made this noteworthy comment: “Just as the Iranian government is violating its responsibilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it is likewise in flagrant breach of multiple international agreements it has signed that require it to respect the human rights of its own citizens. As the Iranian people risk their lives to demand the justice and freedom they deserve in the face of this lawless and oppressive regime, they should know that America is on their side.”

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Bayh Gets Caught

Dan Coats in an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show explained his argument to the voters as to why Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh should not be re-elected:

“He talked a good game back at home, but when push came to shove, he was there with the liberals, there with Obama every time,” Coats said. On health care, Bayh was “catering to the liberals that he needed to cater to and he wasn’t listening to people in Indiana.”

Coats has a good deal of material to work with. Bayh voted for the stimulus, the Obama budget, and ObamaCare. He’s voted to confirm every nominee, from Sonia Sotomayor to the legal extremist Dawn Johnsen (for head of the Office of Legal Counsel) to Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board. He was a previous sponsor of card-check legislation, although he managed to stay noncommittal last year. In sum, Bayh was unwilling to oppose the liberal troika of Reid-Pelosi-Obama on a single meaningful domestic-policy item.

It is an argument that is likely to be repeated in states like Arkansas, Nevada, and Colorado, where challengers will make the case that the Democratic incumbent has facilitated the policies that voters back home oppose by large numbers. (In Colorado, for example, Michael Bennet is getting slammed by his opponent for his vote to confirm Becker: “Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the Republican front-runner, said that while other Democrats were willing to buck President Obama’s choice, Bennet’s vote demonstrates he would provide ‘a rubber stamp’ for legislation commonly referred to as ‘card check.’”)

Recall that in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, running against a Democrat who had never cast a single vote in Congress in favor of an Obama agenda item, was able to win by a huge margin by making the case that Washington had strayed too far to the Left and that cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, and takes hikes would be disastrous for his state’s economy. Scott Brown was able to make a similar argument against an opponent who similarly was not burdened by a congressional voting record in favor of the Obama agenda.

How much more effective will that argument be against Democratic incumbents like Bayh who are burdened not only by the “D” next to their name but also a voting record that fits the Republicans’ narrative? Incumbents like Bayh have a choice: start voting against the liberal agenda or hope voters lose their antipathy to the Reid-Pelosi-Obama agenda. The latter sounds like wishful thinking; the former will require a quick about-face. You can see why the Bayh seat and those of many other Democrats are now in play.

Dan Coats in an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show explained his argument to the voters as to why Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh should not be re-elected:

“He talked a good game back at home, but when push came to shove, he was there with the liberals, there with Obama every time,” Coats said. On health care, Bayh was “catering to the liberals that he needed to cater to and he wasn’t listening to people in Indiana.”

Coats has a good deal of material to work with. Bayh voted for the stimulus, the Obama budget, and ObamaCare. He’s voted to confirm every nominee, from Sonia Sotomayor to the legal extremist Dawn Johnsen (for head of the Office of Legal Counsel) to Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board. He was a previous sponsor of card-check legislation, although he managed to stay noncommittal last year. In sum, Bayh was unwilling to oppose the liberal troika of Reid-Pelosi-Obama on a single meaningful domestic-policy item.

It is an argument that is likely to be repeated in states like Arkansas, Nevada, and Colorado, where challengers will make the case that the Democratic incumbent has facilitated the policies that voters back home oppose by large numbers. (In Colorado, for example, Michael Bennet is getting slammed by his opponent for his vote to confirm Becker: “Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the Republican front-runner, said that while other Democrats were willing to buck President Obama’s choice, Bennet’s vote demonstrates he would provide ‘a rubber stamp’ for legislation commonly referred to as ‘card check.’”)

Recall that in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, running against a Democrat who had never cast a single vote in Congress in favor of an Obama agenda item, was able to win by a huge margin by making the case that Washington had strayed too far to the Left and that cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, and takes hikes would be disastrous for his state’s economy. Scott Brown was able to make a similar argument against an opponent who similarly was not burdened by a congressional voting record in favor of the Obama agenda.

How much more effective will that argument be against Democratic incumbents like Bayh who are burdened not only by the “D” next to their name but also a voting record that fits the Republicans’ narrative? Incumbents like Bayh have a choice: start voting against the liberal agenda or hope voters lose their antipathy to the Reid-Pelosi-Obama agenda. The latter sounds like wishful thinking; the former will require a quick about-face. You can see why the Bayh seat and those of many other Democrats are now in play.

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Re: Becker Defeated

Regarding the defeat of Harold Craig Becker’s nomination, the Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

Democrats Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln joined with Republicans to block cloture on a closely watched vote on the appointment of a lawyer for Andy Stern’s Service Employees International Union to a seat on the National Labor Relations Board. … The message from yesterday’s cloture motion is sobering for the White House and its union allies. Support for their antigrowth agenda, from universal health care to easier unionization rules, is collapsing on the Hill almost as quickly as in the country at large.

True, but it is equally true that a number of Democrats in competitive races went to the mat for that anti-growth agenda on Becker, just as they have on a series of items on Obama’s far-Left agenda. Voting for cloture and for Becker were Michael Bennet of Colorado, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and of course, Harry Reid of Nevada. Voters back home may wonder why it is that these self-styled moderates cast votes for Big Labor’s favorite lawyer, who thinks, surprisingly enough, just like the Big Labor bosses. (“Among the nominees for the three open seats on the five-member board, his views stood out for their radicalism. In a law review article, Mr. Becker said the NLRB could rewrite union-election rules to favor labor by fiat—for example, by removing the requirement for a secret ballot.”)

But now the ball is in Obama’s court. Does he install Becker, thereby exposing the Big Labor toadyism of his administration and highlighting the faux centrism of Bennet, Bayh, Reid, and others? Or does he take this as a sign that there is a limited appetite for his extreme vision and equally extreme appointees? There is always reason to hope that, finally, Obama will notice the blinking warning lights (Go back! Even your own party can’t defend you!). But if he didn’t take the Scott Brown win to heart, he’s probably not all that impressed that his NLRB nominee didn’t get through.

Regarding the defeat of Harold Craig Becker’s nomination, the Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

Democrats Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln joined with Republicans to block cloture on a closely watched vote on the appointment of a lawyer for Andy Stern’s Service Employees International Union to a seat on the National Labor Relations Board. … The message from yesterday’s cloture motion is sobering for the White House and its union allies. Support for their antigrowth agenda, from universal health care to easier unionization rules, is collapsing on the Hill almost as quickly as in the country at large.

True, but it is equally true that a number of Democrats in competitive races went to the mat for that anti-growth agenda on Becker, just as they have on a series of items on Obama’s far-Left agenda. Voting for cloture and for Becker were Michael Bennet of Colorado, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and of course, Harry Reid of Nevada. Voters back home may wonder why it is that these self-styled moderates cast votes for Big Labor’s favorite lawyer, who thinks, surprisingly enough, just like the Big Labor bosses. (“Among the nominees for the three open seats on the five-member board, his views stood out for their radicalism. In a law review article, Mr. Becker said the NLRB could rewrite union-election rules to favor labor by fiat—for example, by removing the requirement for a secret ballot.”)

But now the ball is in Obama’s court. Does he install Becker, thereby exposing the Big Labor toadyism of his administration and highlighting the faux centrism of Bennet, Bayh, Reid, and others? Or does he take this as a sign that there is a limited appetite for his extreme vision and equally extreme appointees? There is always reason to hope that, finally, Obama will notice the blinking warning lights (Go back! Even your own party can’t defend you!). But if he didn’t take the Scott Brown win to heart, he’s probably not all that impressed that his NLRB nominee didn’t get through.

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Phony Centrists Pay the Price for ObamaCare

In observing the unraveling of the governing coalition and the vicious infighting breaking out in the Democratic party (“Who lost ObamaCare?” will obsess the Left for years, I suspect), James Taranto writes:

One can fault President Obama for pursuing an agenda that would be bad for the country or for his party. But one can hardly fault progressives in Congress, much less activists who don’t even hold office, for seeking to advance the ideology in which they believe–for taking their own side in an intraparty debate.

The problem is that Democratic centrists rolled over. Either they yielded their centrist principles in the face of progressive intimidation, or those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with. The most dramatic illustration of this point is the list of moderate Democrats in the Senate: Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Jim Webb. Every one of them voted for ObamaCare. Any one of them alone could have put a stop to ObamaCare simply by casting a vote against cloture. Several of them voted “yes” in exchange for special privileges for their states, making quite clear that theirs was not a principled stand.

I think the answer to that is “those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with.” Indeed, these “centrists” didn’t merely fall off the fiscal conservative bandwagon on ObamaCare — not one of them opposed the monstrous stimulus plan. Only Evan Bayh opposed the 2009 noxious $410 billion omnibus spending plan with 8,500 earmarks. In other words, the so-called moderates never demonstrated any real moderation or inclination to restrain the Reid-Pelosi-Obama juggernaut.

And when confronted with legislation their constituents hated and that defied the fiscal conservative line on which they had ridden into office, they readily complied with their liberal leadership, in no small part because they perceived the risk of crossing the president and their Democratic colleagues to be greater than the risk of angering moderate voters. This was especially true for those who would not face the voters this year. (Only Bayh and Lincoln will.)

It’s a well-known pattern for many Democrats, Harry Reid included, from Red or Purple states: talk a conservative game back home, make speeches on fiscal sobriety, and roll over for liberal leadership when it comes to actual votes. Usually they get away with it when the public is not so engaged, the legislation is not so controversial, and Republicans blur the  lines by defecting to vote with the bulk of Democrats. But here the public was vigilant, the legislation was noxious both in substance and in process, and Republicans held the line in their unanimous opposition to ObamaCare. So now these “centrists” are finding it hard to hide and explain why they threw in their lot with Reid-Pelosi-Obama. They may regret having “blown their cover” as faux fiscal conservatives for a bill that probably won’t pass and that is now the rallying point for an energized opposition.

In observing the unraveling of the governing coalition and the vicious infighting breaking out in the Democratic party (“Who lost ObamaCare?” will obsess the Left for years, I suspect), James Taranto writes:

One can fault President Obama for pursuing an agenda that would be bad for the country or for his party. But one can hardly fault progressives in Congress, much less activists who don’t even hold office, for seeking to advance the ideology in which they believe–for taking their own side in an intraparty debate.

The problem is that Democratic centrists rolled over. Either they yielded their centrist principles in the face of progressive intimidation, or those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with. The most dramatic illustration of this point is the list of moderate Democrats in the Senate: Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Jim Webb. Every one of them voted for ObamaCare. Any one of them alone could have put a stop to ObamaCare simply by casting a vote against cloture. Several of them voted “yes” in exchange for special privileges for their states, making quite clear that theirs was not a principled stand.

I think the answer to that is “those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with.” Indeed, these “centrists” didn’t merely fall off the fiscal conservative bandwagon on ObamaCare — not one of them opposed the monstrous stimulus plan. Only Evan Bayh opposed the 2009 noxious $410 billion omnibus spending plan with 8,500 earmarks. In other words, the so-called moderates never demonstrated any real moderation or inclination to restrain the Reid-Pelosi-Obama juggernaut.

And when confronted with legislation their constituents hated and that defied the fiscal conservative line on which they had ridden into office, they readily complied with their liberal leadership, in no small part because they perceived the risk of crossing the president and their Democratic colleagues to be greater than the risk of angering moderate voters. This was especially true for those who would not face the voters this year. (Only Bayh and Lincoln will.)

It’s a well-known pattern for many Democrats, Harry Reid included, from Red or Purple states: talk a conservative game back home, make speeches on fiscal sobriety, and roll over for liberal leadership when it comes to actual votes. Usually they get away with it when the public is not so engaged, the legislation is not so controversial, and Republicans blur the  lines by defecting to vote with the bulk of Democrats. But here the public was vigilant, the legislation was noxious both in substance and in process, and Republicans held the line in their unanimous opposition to ObamaCare. So now these “centrists” are finding it hard to hide and explain why they threw in their lot with Reid-Pelosi-Obama. They may regret having “blown their cover” as faux fiscal conservatives for a bill that probably won’t pass and that is now the rallying point for an energized opposition.

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Democrats Seek Distance from Obama

The Associated Press is the latest to discover the potential for a Republican takeover of Congress:

Almost by the day, Republicans are sensing fresh opportunities to pick up ground. Just Wednesday, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats announced he would try to reclaim his old seat from Democrat Evan Bayh, who barely a year ago had been a finalist to be Barack Obama’s running mate. And Republicans nationwide are still celebrating Scott Brown’s January upset to take Edward Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts.

A Republican takeover on Capitol Hill is still a long shot. But strategists in both parties now see at least narrow paths by which the GOP could win the House and, if the troubled environment for Democrats deteriorates further, possibly even the Senate.

The AP is a little less candid about the reasons, however. You see, it’s “the persistent 10 percent unemployment rate, the country’s bitterness over Wall Street bailouts and voters’ anti-Washington fervor. Obama’s party, controlling both the White House and Congress, is likely to feel that fury the most. And it’s defending far more seats than the Republicans.” But why, then, is the generic congressional polling number tilting in the Republicans’ favor, a historic anomaly? Could it have something to do with what the Democrats have done in the last year? Read More

The Associated Press is the latest to discover the potential for a Republican takeover of Congress:

Almost by the day, Republicans are sensing fresh opportunities to pick up ground. Just Wednesday, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats announced he would try to reclaim his old seat from Democrat Evan Bayh, who barely a year ago had been a finalist to be Barack Obama’s running mate. And Republicans nationwide are still celebrating Scott Brown’s January upset to take Edward Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts.

A Republican takeover on Capitol Hill is still a long shot. But strategists in both parties now see at least narrow paths by which the GOP could win the House and, if the troubled environment for Democrats deteriorates further, possibly even the Senate.

The AP is a little less candid about the reasons, however. You see, it’s “the persistent 10 percent unemployment rate, the country’s bitterness over Wall Street bailouts and voters’ anti-Washington fervor. Obama’s party, controlling both the White House and Congress, is likely to feel that fury the most. And it’s defending far more seats than the Republicans.” But why, then, is the generic congressional polling number tilting in the Republicans’ favor, a historic anomaly? Could it have something to do with what the Democrats have done in the last year?

Well those incumbent Democrats struggling for their political lives don’t seem to be so confused. We’ve seen a steady drumbeat of criticism from Democrats on Obama’s anti-terrorism policies. We see that Democratic lawmakers are flexing their muscles, trying to put some daylight between themselves and the Obama-Reid-Pelosi ultra-liberal domestic agenda as well. As this report notes:

A Democratic Senate candidate in Missouri denounced the budget’s sky-high deficit. A Florida Democrat whose congressional district includes the Kennedy Space Center hit the roof over NASA budget cuts. And a headline on the 2010 campaign website of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) blares her opposition to Obama’s farm budget: “Blanche stands up for Arkansas farm families.”

And at least in the days following Scott Brown’s win, we heard a raft of Democrats suggest that maybe now it was time to move on from health-care reform to something voters actually like, maybe some pro-job measures.

The tension between the Reid-Pelosi-Obama trio, fueled by ideological determination and the fear of offending their base, and those Democrats who think that a good deal of the problem they face stems from the very agenda set out by Reid-Pelosi-Obama will, I suspect, increase throughout the year. Obama wants to “punch through” on health care; Red State Democrats want to run for their lives. Obama is touting a massive budget; Sen. Kent Conrad is already throwing cold water on it. And so it will go. The more the leadership pushes to the Left, the greater the risk for those members nervously watching the polls. And the result may well be legislative gridlock. But if the alternative is more big-government power grabs, that might not be a bad thing for at-risk Democrats.

Moreover, there is a growing realization among Democrats that the White House is vamping it — that it lacks a plan to achieve much of anything. The Hill reports that after the TV cameras left, the Democratic senators pounced on the White House aides:

Democrats expressed their frustration with the lack of a clear plan for passing healthcare reform, according to one person in the room. One Democratic senator even grew heated in his remarks, according to the source. “It wasn’t a discussion about how to get from Point A to Point B; it was a discussion about the lack of a plan to get from Point A to Point B,” said a person who attended the meeting. “Many of the members were frustrated, but one person really expressed his frustration.” Senators did not want to press Obama on healthcare reform in front of television cameras for fear of putting him in an awkward spot. “There was a vigorous discussion about that afterward with some of his top advisers and others,” Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said regarding the healthcare discussion.

Not unlike the debacle in Copenhagen (the first one mostly, but really both), the Democrats are coming to see that the White House lacks a game plan. It is not merely ideologically out of step with the country; it is also incapable of governing, and of leading the party. And that will make already skittish incumbents more likely to make their own political judgments, quite apart from whatever suggestions Obama doles out.

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Senate Up for Grabs?

Politico reports:

Republicans suddenly have a conceivable path to winning back the Senate in November, after locking in top-flight candidates overnight in Illinois and Indiana. A 10-seat pickup for the GOP — once regarded as an impossibility even by the party’s own strategists — remains very much a long shot. It would still require a win in every competitive race, something that happens only in wave elections like 1994 and 2008.

What several weeks ago seemed like crazy optimism among Republican operatives doesn’t seem so nuts after Scott Brown’s victory and in the wake of the Democrats’ decision to nominate a highly vulnerable candidate in Illinois, new polling showing Patty Murray in a potential close race in Washington, a viable challenger for Evan Bayh in Indiana, the departure of Beau Biden from the Delaware race, and continued rotten polling for Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid. Meanwhile, as COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter details, Republican Pat Toomey is riding a wave of anti-Obama sentiment in Pennsylvania. It does add up.

Charlie Cook’s Senate ratings show only four Republicans in the “toss up” category and that includes Ohio and New Hampshire, which have been trending Republican of late. The Democrats have two seats that are now “solid Republican,” five in the “toss up,” and three in the “leans Democratic” category, which would in any other year be slam-dunks (California, Indiana, and Connecticut).

In the meantime, the cumulative impact of all of this, I suspect, will be to further dampen enthusiasm for Obama’s agenda and for his monstrous budget. Some of the vulnerable Democrats may save themselves by casting votes, not simply sounding tough, to limit spending, reject tax hikes on job creators, and deprive the Obami of funds for their half-baked ideas of handling terrorists within the criminal-justice system. But simply doing no further harm may not be enough. After all, we have serious problems, including double-digit unemployment.

Challengers are going to press Democratic incumbents as to why, with all the levers of power, they did not make progress on the most critical issues we face. The answer, were the Democrats to be honest, would be that they spent a year on a flawed stimulus plan and a health-care plan that the vast majority of the country didn’t want. You can see why the Senate is in play.

Politico reports:

Republicans suddenly have a conceivable path to winning back the Senate in November, after locking in top-flight candidates overnight in Illinois and Indiana. A 10-seat pickup for the GOP — once regarded as an impossibility even by the party’s own strategists — remains very much a long shot. It would still require a win in every competitive race, something that happens only in wave elections like 1994 and 2008.

What several weeks ago seemed like crazy optimism among Republican operatives doesn’t seem so nuts after Scott Brown’s victory and in the wake of the Democrats’ decision to nominate a highly vulnerable candidate in Illinois, new polling showing Patty Murray in a potential close race in Washington, a viable challenger for Evan Bayh in Indiana, the departure of Beau Biden from the Delaware race, and continued rotten polling for Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid. Meanwhile, as COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter details, Republican Pat Toomey is riding a wave of anti-Obama sentiment in Pennsylvania. It does add up.

Charlie Cook’s Senate ratings show only four Republicans in the “toss up” category and that includes Ohio and New Hampshire, which have been trending Republican of late. The Democrats have two seats that are now “solid Republican,” five in the “toss up,” and three in the “leans Democratic” category, which would in any other year be slam-dunks (California, Indiana, and Connecticut).

In the meantime, the cumulative impact of all of this, I suspect, will be to further dampen enthusiasm for Obama’s agenda and for his monstrous budget. Some of the vulnerable Democrats may save themselves by casting votes, not simply sounding tough, to limit spending, reject tax hikes on job creators, and deprive the Obami of funds for their half-baked ideas of handling terrorists within the criminal-justice system. But simply doing no further harm may not be enough. After all, we have serious problems, including double-digit unemployment.

Challengers are going to press Democratic incumbents as to why, with all the levers of power, they did not make progress on the most critical issues we face. The answer, were the Democrats to be honest, would be that they spent a year on a flawed stimulus plan and a health-care plan that the vast majority of the country didn’t want. You can see why the Senate is in play.

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Bayh Has His Challenger

Republicans have landed a serious challenger to incumbent Sen. Evan Bayh: former senator Dan Coates. Coates will join a field of lesser known GOP contenders, but I suspect will soon clear the field. In addition to his time in the House and in the U.S. Senate (he filled Dan Quayle’s seat when Quayle became VP), Coates served as ambassador to Germany under George W. Bush. (He also was the “sherpa” for  Supreme Court nominees Harriet Miers and Sam Alito. The former couldn’t be helped, the later needed little assistance, but assigning the task to Coates was some indication of his standing among former colleagues.) Charlie Cook moves the race from “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” with Coates’s appearance in the race.

It’s not likely that in an ordinary election year Coates would venture back into electoral politics. But this is no ordinary year. Coates no doubt sees what other Republicans (as well as neutral observers) do in an increasingly long list of states: the chance for a solid conservative to take out a Democratic incumbent laboring under the burden of an unpopular ultra-liberal agenda in a state far more moderate than the Beltway Democratic leadership. In the short term, Coates’s candidacy will, one suspects, act to restrain Bayh from adhering too closely to his party’s liberal agenda. Indeed, in recent weeks, as high profile Republicans’ names were tossed about for the race, Bayh has been voicing more vocal opposition to the Obama agenda on everything from health-care reform to terrorism policy.

The problem for Bayh, however, are his votes. He was one of the 60 votes (the Democrats all are the 60th vote, remember) to jam through ObamaCare last Christmas. He also voted for the 2009 stimulus bill, which most voters consider to be a bust. He’ll have more opportunities this year to demonstrate whether he really is a fiscal conservative or just talks like one when viable challengers appear back home.

Republicans have landed a serious challenger to incumbent Sen. Evan Bayh: former senator Dan Coates. Coates will join a field of lesser known GOP contenders, but I suspect will soon clear the field. In addition to his time in the House and in the U.S. Senate (he filled Dan Quayle’s seat when Quayle became VP), Coates served as ambassador to Germany under George W. Bush. (He also was the “sherpa” for  Supreme Court nominees Harriet Miers and Sam Alito. The former couldn’t be helped, the later needed little assistance, but assigning the task to Coates was some indication of his standing among former colleagues.) Charlie Cook moves the race from “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” with Coates’s appearance in the race.

It’s not likely that in an ordinary election year Coates would venture back into electoral politics. But this is no ordinary year. Coates no doubt sees what other Republicans (as well as neutral observers) do in an increasingly long list of states: the chance for a solid conservative to take out a Democratic incumbent laboring under the burden of an unpopular ultra-liberal agenda in a state far more moderate than the Beltway Democratic leadership. In the short term, Coates’s candidacy will, one suspects, act to restrain Bayh from adhering too closely to his party’s liberal agenda. Indeed, in recent weeks, as high profile Republicans’ names were tossed about for the race, Bayh has been voicing more vocal opposition to the Obama agenda on everything from health-care reform to terrorism policy.

The problem for Bayh, however, are his votes. He was one of the 60 votes (the Democrats all are the 60th vote, remember) to jam through ObamaCare last Christmas. He also voted for the 2009 stimulus bill, which most voters consider to be a bust. He’ll have more opportunities this year to demonstrate whether he really is a fiscal conservative or just talks like one when viable challengers appear back home.

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Time to Throw Holder Under the Bus?

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Evan Bayh, perhaps hearing footsteps back home in an election year, said of the KSM trial that it “sounded good in theory way back when but, in practice, it just was not the right thing to do.” When pressed by Chris Wallace, he stated he would not vote for the $200 million or so needed for a civilian trial for KSM. He was not alone in criticizing the administration:

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin argued these are the wrong decisions.  “We should have learned from the mistakes we made in the past.  We shouldn’t be Mirandizing foreign terrorists.  We should send them to military tribunals.  $200 million is about four times the startup cost of Guantanamo in the first place.”

Similarly, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander accused Attorney General Holder of “doing a better job of interrogating CIA employees than he is of interrogating terrorists.”

“He’s not making a distinction between enemy combatants, the terrorists who are flying into Detroit, blowing up plans, and American citizens who are committing a crime,” he added.

Alexander went so far as to call for Holder to step down.

Meanwhile, the administration’s official flack did not exactly give a ringing endorsement of either the KSM trial or of Holder himself. Appearing on CNN, Robert Gibbs would only say:

“He will be brought to justice, and he will likely be executed for the heinous crimes he has committed. … That you can be sure of.”

But he dodged repeated questions by CNN host John King about whether the administration might shift the venue back from federal court in New York to a military court, finally saying that “The attorney general believes the best place to try him is in an American courtroom,” but not committing to that option…

“We are talking with the authorities in New York,” Gibbs said. “We understand their logistical concerns. We have been discussing that with them.”

So this is all the attorney general’s idea, you see. Not exactly the “buck stops here” sort of decision-making we were assured we’d get from Obama. But aside from the lack of presidential accountability and candor (who believes Holder made this monumentally dumb decision with no input from the White House?), it does leave open the potential for a serious revision in personnel and policy.

There is wide consensus that the decision to try KSM in federal court in New York was a blunder. Suddenly, the wonders of military commissions have been rediscovered. The handling of the Christmas Day bomber is likewise the subject of broad criticism. Who is at the center of these and a host of other ill-advised decisions on the war on terror? Well, the president, of course, but he’s not going anywhere for three years. His attorney general, however, has had quite a run and is fast becoming a liability for the administration. What better way to pivot and restore some bipartisan credibility than to throw Holder under the proverbial bus?

We’ve learned that it takes a lot to get fired by Obama. But if anyone has earned that fate, it is Holder. His departure would earn praise from conservatives at a time when Obama is struggling to demonstrate some bipartisanship. It would suggest that there is hope yet for this administration to steer back toward the Center of the political spectrum and away from the netroot agenda that has proven utterly unworkable and politically toxic.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Evan Bayh, perhaps hearing footsteps back home in an election year, said of the KSM trial that it “sounded good in theory way back when but, in practice, it just was not the right thing to do.” When pressed by Chris Wallace, he stated he would not vote for the $200 million or so needed for a civilian trial for KSM. He was not alone in criticizing the administration:

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin argued these are the wrong decisions.  “We should have learned from the mistakes we made in the past.  We shouldn’t be Mirandizing foreign terrorists.  We should send them to military tribunals.  $200 million is about four times the startup cost of Guantanamo in the first place.”

Similarly, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander accused Attorney General Holder of “doing a better job of interrogating CIA employees than he is of interrogating terrorists.”

“He’s not making a distinction between enemy combatants, the terrorists who are flying into Detroit, blowing up plans, and American citizens who are committing a crime,” he added.

Alexander went so far as to call for Holder to step down.

Meanwhile, the administration’s official flack did not exactly give a ringing endorsement of either the KSM trial or of Holder himself. Appearing on CNN, Robert Gibbs would only say:

“He will be brought to justice, and he will likely be executed for the heinous crimes he has committed. … That you can be sure of.”

But he dodged repeated questions by CNN host John King about whether the administration might shift the venue back from federal court in New York to a military court, finally saying that “The attorney general believes the best place to try him is in an American courtroom,” but not committing to that option…

“We are talking with the authorities in New York,” Gibbs said. “We understand their logistical concerns. We have been discussing that with them.”

So this is all the attorney general’s idea, you see. Not exactly the “buck stops here” sort of decision-making we were assured we’d get from Obama. But aside from the lack of presidential accountability and candor (who believes Holder made this monumentally dumb decision with no input from the White House?), it does leave open the potential for a serious revision in personnel and policy.

There is wide consensus that the decision to try KSM in federal court in New York was a blunder. Suddenly, the wonders of military commissions have been rediscovered. The handling of the Christmas Day bomber is likewise the subject of broad criticism. Who is at the center of these and a host of other ill-advised decisions on the war on terror? Well, the president, of course, but he’s not going anywhere for three years. His attorney general, however, has had quite a run and is fast becoming a liability for the administration. What better way to pivot and restore some bipartisan credibility than to throw Holder under the proverbial bus?

We’ve learned that it takes a lot to get fired by Obama. But if anyone has earned that fate, it is Holder. His departure would earn praise from conservatives at a time when Obama is struggling to demonstrate some bipartisanship. It would suggest that there is hope yet for this administration to steer back toward the Center of the political spectrum and away from the netroot agenda that has proven utterly unworkable and politically toxic.

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Re: This Would Certainly Be Hope ‘N Change

It is becoming the week for bipartisan foreign policy. We saw a group of Democratic and Republican senators call for the Christmas Day bomber to be treated as an enemy combatant. We saw the 9/11 commission chiefs call for a reexamination of our handling of terrorists. Now a large bipartsian group is demanding those “crippling sanctions” on Iran. Senators Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), John McCain (R-Arizona), Robert Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and David Vitter (R-Louisiana) sent a letter to the president calling for him to abide by his own one-year deadline on diplomacy and impose real pressure on the Iranian regime. The letter reads in part:

We believe that it is extremely important for the world to know that the United States means what it says, and that we in fact do what we say we are going to do. As you rightly stated in your Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, “If we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price.”

We understand that your Administration is likely to pursue a fifth sanctions resolution at the United Nations Security Council. We strongly support your Administration’s painstaking diplomacy in support of this goal and hope that it succeeds in securing measures that stand a reasonable chance of changing the behavior of Iran’s government for the better. However, based on previous experience, we are acutely aware of the limits of Security Council action, in particular given the likely resistance to meaningful sanctions by the People’s Republic of China. We note with dismay the recent statement of China’s ambassador to the United Nations that, “This is not the right time or right moment for sanctions, because the diplomatic efforts are still going on.”

The senators urge Obama to “pursue parallel and complementary measures, outside the Security Council, to increase the pressure on the Iranian government.” They note that the president already has authority to do so under existing law, and that the senators “are also committed to quickly passing new comprehensive sanctions legislation in Congress that will provide you with additional authorities to pressure Iran, and urge you to make full use of them.”

Once again, it seems Obama is trailing, not leading. There is a bipartisan consensus to at least extract ourselves from the morass of engagement. One wonders what alternative course of action Obama really believes there is. Do pin-prick sanctions focused supposedly on only certain elements within the Iranian regime offer any realistic hope of success? Or is Obama edging closer to a containment strategy, in which meaningful sanctions and military action are ruled out, leaving only the option of living with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state? We will find out soon enough whether Obama intends to go down in history as the American president who allowed such a regime to go nuclear. In the meantime, these lawmakers would do well to keep up the drumbeat. I suspect it will have to get very loud before the administration acts.

It is becoming the week for bipartisan foreign policy. We saw a group of Democratic and Republican senators call for the Christmas Day bomber to be treated as an enemy combatant. We saw the 9/11 commission chiefs call for a reexamination of our handling of terrorists. Now a large bipartsian group is demanding those “crippling sanctions” on Iran. Senators Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), John McCain (R-Arizona), Robert Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and David Vitter (R-Louisiana) sent a letter to the president calling for him to abide by his own one-year deadline on diplomacy and impose real pressure on the Iranian regime. The letter reads in part:

We believe that it is extremely important for the world to know that the United States means what it says, and that we in fact do what we say we are going to do. As you rightly stated in your Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, “If we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price.”

We understand that your Administration is likely to pursue a fifth sanctions resolution at the United Nations Security Council. We strongly support your Administration’s painstaking diplomacy in support of this goal and hope that it succeeds in securing measures that stand a reasonable chance of changing the behavior of Iran’s government for the better. However, based on previous experience, we are acutely aware of the limits of Security Council action, in particular given the likely resistance to meaningful sanctions by the People’s Republic of China. We note with dismay the recent statement of China’s ambassador to the United Nations that, “This is not the right time or right moment for sanctions, because the diplomatic efforts are still going on.”

The senators urge Obama to “pursue parallel and complementary measures, outside the Security Council, to increase the pressure on the Iranian government.” They note that the president already has authority to do so under existing law, and that the senators “are also committed to quickly passing new comprehensive sanctions legislation in Congress that will provide you with additional authorities to pressure Iran, and urge you to make full use of them.”

Once again, it seems Obama is trailing, not leading. There is a bipartisan consensus to at least extract ourselves from the morass of engagement. One wonders what alternative course of action Obama really believes there is. Do pin-prick sanctions focused supposedly on only certain elements within the Iranian regime offer any realistic hope of success? Or is Obama edging closer to a containment strategy, in which meaningful sanctions and military action are ruled out, leaving only the option of living with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state? We will find out soon enough whether Obama intends to go down in history as the American president who allowed such a regime to go nuclear. In the meantime, these lawmakers would do well to keep up the drumbeat. I suspect it will have to get very loud before the administration acts.

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Other than That, Mr. Reid, How’s the Senate?

Well, now that Beau Biden has left the playing field, it looks like Delaware has joined North Dakota on the list of  lost Democratic Senate seats: “A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Delaware voters shows longtime GOP congressman Mike Castle leading New Castle County Executive Chris Coons 56% to 27%. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate, and 13% are undecided.” So if you’re keeping track, the loss of those two would bring the Democrats down to 57.

Not all was bleak for the Democrats yesterday, however. Rep. Mike Pence told us he isn’t running for the Senate in Indiana. He explained why: “First because I have been given the responsibility to shape the Republican comeback as a member of the House Republican Leadership and, second, because I believe Republicans will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010.” Well, I suppose it’s not unalloyed good news for the Democrats when Pence’s rationale is that it looks like the House is going to flip to the Republicans. Still, Michael Barone says incumbent Evan Bayh is in big trouble in polling matchups against much lesser-known figures:

Evan Bayh is running far behind the way he ran once Indiana voters had a chance to observe his performance as governor, significantly behind the way he ran in his first race for governor, significantly behind his father’s winning percentages in three Senate races and close only to the percentage his father won when he was defeated in the heavily Republican year of 1980, when Ronald Reagan was carrying Indiana over Jimmy Carter by a margin of 56%-38%. …

Evan Bayh did not win five statewide races in Indiana, a state that tends to favor the other party, by being stupid. Now the question is whether he is smart enough to get himself out of the hole Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have dug for him—and which he was willing, when the Senate had 60 Democrats, to jump in himself.

And that, I think, is the real impact of the polls and the Democratic departures/retirements: those struggling not to be swept out in the 2010 wave will increasingly look at each and every vote through the prism of their own electorate and re-election self-interest. Yes, what a novel concept! But that was not the story in 2009, when congressmen and senators were persuaded over and over again to ignore everything else (e.g., polls, town hall attendees, jammed switchboards) and adhere to the Obama-Reid-Pelosi line. That dynamic is very likely to reverse itself — leaving the “leadership” to chase after members, while members attune themselves to voters back home. In this environment, it’s unclear how, if at all, the White House can set the agenda. After all, it was Obama who got his party into this position, and his fellow Democrats may be less than amenable to taking further direction from the guy that sunk their party’s fortunes.

Well, now that Beau Biden has left the playing field, it looks like Delaware has joined North Dakota on the list of  lost Democratic Senate seats: “A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Delaware voters shows longtime GOP congressman Mike Castle leading New Castle County Executive Chris Coons 56% to 27%. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate, and 13% are undecided.” So if you’re keeping track, the loss of those two would bring the Democrats down to 57.

Not all was bleak for the Democrats yesterday, however. Rep. Mike Pence told us he isn’t running for the Senate in Indiana. He explained why: “First because I have been given the responsibility to shape the Republican comeback as a member of the House Republican Leadership and, second, because I believe Republicans will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010.” Well, I suppose it’s not unalloyed good news for the Democrats when Pence’s rationale is that it looks like the House is going to flip to the Republicans. Still, Michael Barone says incumbent Evan Bayh is in big trouble in polling matchups against much lesser-known figures:

Evan Bayh is running far behind the way he ran once Indiana voters had a chance to observe his performance as governor, significantly behind the way he ran in his first race for governor, significantly behind his father’s winning percentages in three Senate races and close only to the percentage his father won when he was defeated in the heavily Republican year of 1980, when Ronald Reagan was carrying Indiana over Jimmy Carter by a margin of 56%-38%. …

Evan Bayh did not win five statewide races in Indiana, a state that tends to favor the other party, by being stupid. Now the question is whether he is smart enough to get himself out of the hole Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have dug for him—and which he was willing, when the Senate had 60 Democrats, to jump in himself.

And that, I think, is the real impact of the polls and the Democratic departures/retirements: those struggling not to be swept out in the 2010 wave will increasingly look at each and every vote through the prism of their own electorate and re-election self-interest. Yes, what a novel concept! But that was not the story in 2009, when congressmen and senators were persuaded over and over again to ignore everything else (e.g., polls, town hall attendees, jammed switchboards) and adhere to the Obama-Reid-Pelosi line. That dynamic is very likely to reverse itself — leaving the “leadership” to chase after members, while members attune themselves to voters back home. In this environment, it’s unclear how, if at all, the White House can set the agenda. After all, it was Obama who got his party into this position, and his fellow Democrats may be less than amenable to taking further direction from the guy that sunk their party’s fortunes.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Hardly a record the Democrats want to run on: “The 2010 federal budget deficit will be $1.35 trillion, nearly as large as last year’s record $1.4 trillion budget shortfall, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office. The CBO, in its budget outlook released Tuesday, also projected a ‘muted’ economic recovery over the next few years. The unemployment rate will average more than 10 percent for the first half of this year and then decline at a slower pace than in past recoveries, the CBO said. The jobless rate won’t return to a sustainable level of 5 percent until 2014, the budget office predicted.” No wonder “blame George W. Bush” is the crutch of choice for the Obami.

In the latest CNN poll, 50 percent of adults (not even registered voters) disapprove of Obama’s performance, and 55 percent think he didn’t focus on the most important problems in his first year.

Allan Metzer is skeptical on the “spending freeze”: “Why should one think the president is serious if he first increases discretionary spending by almost 30%, then proclaims a freeze. And he follows the freeze by announcing a pitcher full of new entitlements. I will treat his statement as the start of a serious effort to control spending when he proposes to cut entitlements.”

Sen. John McCain has a challenge: “If you really believe in freezing spending, then come out in the State of the Union address and promise to veto the Senate Democrats’ $80 billion spending bill, which they’re drawing up right now, and say you’ll veto the House’s $154 billion spending bill, too.”

But the Left really hates the idea: “Liberals are denouncing the spending freeze across blogs and airwaves. Many believe the move is all about politics, not policy. And the politics, many say, are just as clumsy as the policy.”

Meanwhile, the Senate defeated an amendment to create the Conrad-Gregg deficit-reduction commission, which Obama backed. “Supporters garnered 53 votes for the plan, which was co-sponsored by Gregg and Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. But 60 votes were required under procedural rules. Thirty-six Democrats and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted for the plan, as did 16 Republicans.” Obama can’t get even that through the Senate, but maybe on this one he wasn’t trying. (It’s getting hard to tell.)

And Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh oppose using reconciliation to pass health care. It seems Scott Brown has sent a shiver through the Congress, halting action on just about everything. Well, if the first rule of lawmaking is “do no harm,” this is a positive development.

James Taranto observes that “intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom or sense. Very intelligent people have been known to advance very compelling arguments on behalf of very bad ideas. What’s more, there is a particular type of stupidity to which intelligent people are uniquely prone: intellectual snobbery, or the tendency to cultivate an attitude of contempt toward those who are not as bright. This may appeal to New York Times readers or voters in, say, Hyde Park–that is, to people who think they’re better than everyone else too. But it may prove Barack Obama’s undoing as a national politician.” Well, that and his not accomplishing anything.

Marty Peretz catches Obama editing Israel out of the list of countries assisting in Haiti. “The fact is that, next to our country, Israel sent the largest contingent of trained rescue workers, doctors, and other medical personnel. … So didn’t Obama notice? For God’s sake, everybody noticed the deep Israeli involvement. I understand that Obama doesn’t like Middle East narratives that do not contain ‘one side and the other side’ equal valence. But he couldn’t have that here. The Arabs don’t care a fig, not for their impoverished and backward own, and certainly not for strangers. That’s why their presence in Haiti amounted to a couple of bucks from Saudi Arabia and maybe from some other sheikhs. … Yes, I think that the labors of the Israelis were edited out of Obama’s speech, either by his speechwriters (who have made dissing Israel their forté) or by his own oh-so-delicate but dishonest censoring mechanism.”

Hardly a record the Democrats want to run on: “The 2010 federal budget deficit will be $1.35 trillion, nearly as large as last year’s record $1.4 trillion budget shortfall, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office. The CBO, in its budget outlook released Tuesday, also projected a ‘muted’ economic recovery over the next few years. The unemployment rate will average more than 10 percent for the first half of this year and then decline at a slower pace than in past recoveries, the CBO said. The jobless rate won’t return to a sustainable level of 5 percent until 2014, the budget office predicted.” No wonder “blame George W. Bush” is the crutch of choice for the Obami.

In the latest CNN poll, 50 percent of adults (not even registered voters) disapprove of Obama’s performance, and 55 percent think he didn’t focus on the most important problems in his first year.

Allan Metzer is skeptical on the “spending freeze”: “Why should one think the president is serious if he first increases discretionary spending by almost 30%, then proclaims a freeze. And he follows the freeze by announcing a pitcher full of new entitlements. I will treat his statement as the start of a serious effort to control spending when he proposes to cut entitlements.”

Sen. John McCain has a challenge: “If you really believe in freezing spending, then come out in the State of the Union address and promise to veto the Senate Democrats’ $80 billion spending bill, which they’re drawing up right now, and say you’ll veto the House’s $154 billion spending bill, too.”

But the Left really hates the idea: “Liberals are denouncing the spending freeze across blogs and airwaves. Many believe the move is all about politics, not policy. And the politics, many say, are just as clumsy as the policy.”

Meanwhile, the Senate defeated an amendment to create the Conrad-Gregg deficit-reduction commission, which Obama backed. “Supporters garnered 53 votes for the plan, which was co-sponsored by Gregg and Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. But 60 votes were required under procedural rules. Thirty-six Democrats and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted for the plan, as did 16 Republicans.” Obama can’t get even that through the Senate, but maybe on this one he wasn’t trying. (It’s getting hard to tell.)

And Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh oppose using reconciliation to pass health care. It seems Scott Brown has sent a shiver through the Congress, halting action on just about everything. Well, if the first rule of lawmaking is “do no harm,” this is a positive development.

James Taranto observes that “intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom or sense. Very intelligent people have been known to advance very compelling arguments on behalf of very bad ideas. What’s more, there is a particular type of stupidity to which intelligent people are uniquely prone: intellectual snobbery, or the tendency to cultivate an attitude of contempt toward those who are not as bright. This may appeal to New York Times readers or voters in, say, Hyde Park–that is, to people who think they’re better than everyone else too. But it may prove Barack Obama’s undoing as a national politician.” Well, that and his not accomplishing anything.

Marty Peretz catches Obama editing Israel out of the list of countries assisting in Haiti. “The fact is that, next to our country, Israel sent the largest contingent of trained rescue workers, doctors, and other medical personnel. … So didn’t Obama notice? For God’s sake, everybody noticed the deep Israeli involvement. I understand that Obama doesn’t like Middle East narratives that do not contain ‘one side and the other side’ equal valence. But he couldn’t have that here. The Arabs don’t care a fig, not for their impoverished and backward own, and certainly not for strangers. That’s why their presence in Haiti amounted to a couple of bucks from Saudi Arabia and maybe from some other sheikhs. … Yes, I think that the labors of the Israelis were edited out of Obama’s speech, either by his speechwriters (who have made dissing Israel their forté) or by his own oh-so-delicate but dishonest censoring mechanism.”

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It’s Still Pouring Bad News for Democrats

The Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts will most likely unleash a new torrent of bad news. Nervous Democrats are getting out (Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry is retiring) or not getting into races. And Republicans are licking their chops.

In Delaware, Joe Biden’s son has bugged out of the Senate race. Hotline observes:

The decision is a blow to Dems who hoped to mount a competitive race for the First State seat. [State Attorney General Beau] Biden’s decision makes Rep. Mike Castle (R) the overwhelming favorite to win the final 4 years of the senior Biden’s term, replacing Sen. Ted Kaufman (D) after the Nov. elections. Without the younger Biden in the race, Dems will likely turn to New Castle Co. exec. Chris Coons (D). Polls show Castle beating Coons by a wide margin.

And in Indiana, a new Rasmussen poll shows that it would be worth Mike Pence’s while to jump into the race against Evan Bayh:

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is another Democratic incumbent who could find himself in a tough reelection battle this fall. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds that Bayh attracts support from just 44% or 45% of voters when matched against his top potential Republican challengers. . . At this time, [Pence]e attracts 47% of the vote while Bayh picks up 44%.

Even a much lesser known former Republican congressman, John Hostettler, is trailing the incumbent senator by only 3 points (44 percent to 41 percent). As Rasmussen notes: “Any incumbent who attracts less than 50% support at this point in a campaign is considered potentially vulnerable.”

This is the snowball effect of Brown’s victory, Obama’s decline in the polls, and the recognition that this will likely be a very bad year indeed for the Democrats. As the playing field of gettable seats expands for the Republicans, the problem will only worsen. The New York Times reports:

Just since Tuesday, half a dozen Republicans have expressed interest in challenging Democrats in House races in New York, Pennsylvania and potentially Massachusetts, party officials said. …

Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, is considering challenging Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, aides said. Even in longer-shot states like New York, Republicans said they think the political climate gives them a chance to find a strong Senate candidate. … Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst who follows Congressional races, said a report he will release Monday will count 58 Democratic House seats in play, up from 47 in December. The number of Republican seats in play has held at 14 in that period, he said. And Democrats expect more of their incumbents to retire, which could put additional seats at risk.

Political fortunes can change, the economy could pick up, and Obama might yet piece together some face-saving, modest set of health-care reforms. But without viable candidates to run in competitive races, Democrats will have put themselves at a disadvantage that is not easily repaired before the November elections. And one suspects that the retirements on the Democratic side are not at an end, nor have the recruiting efforts on the GOP side slowed. The end of the bad news for the Obama Democrats is not yet in sight.

The Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts will most likely unleash a new torrent of bad news. Nervous Democrats are getting out (Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry is retiring) or not getting into races. And Republicans are licking their chops.

In Delaware, Joe Biden’s son has bugged out of the Senate race. Hotline observes:

The decision is a blow to Dems who hoped to mount a competitive race for the First State seat. [State Attorney General Beau] Biden’s decision makes Rep. Mike Castle (R) the overwhelming favorite to win the final 4 years of the senior Biden’s term, replacing Sen. Ted Kaufman (D) after the Nov. elections. Without the younger Biden in the race, Dems will likely turn to New Castle Co. exec. Chris Coons (D). Polls show Castle beating Coons by a wide margin.

And in Indiana, a new Rasmussen poll shows that it would be worth Mike Pence’s while to jump into the race against Evan Bayh:

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is another Democratic incumbent who could find himself in a tough reelection battle this fall. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds that Bayh attracts support from just 44% or 45% of voters when matched against his top potential Republican challengers. . . At this time, [Pence]e attracts 47% of the vote while Bayh picks up 44%.

Even a much lesser known former Republican congressman, John Hostettler, is trailing the incumbent senator by only 3 points (44 percent to 41 percent). As Rasmussen notes: “Any incumbent who attracts less than 50% support at this point in a campaign is considered potentially vulnerable.”

This is the snowball effect of Brown’s victory, Obama’s decline in the polls, and the recognition that this will likely be a very bad year indeed for the Democrats. As the playing field of gettable seats expands for the Republicans, the problem will only worsen. The New York Times reports:

Just since Tuesday, half a dozen Republicans have expressed interest in challenging Democrats in House races in New York, Pennsylvania and potentially Massachusetts, party officials said. …

Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, is considering challenging Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, aides said. Even in longer-shot states like New York, Republicans said they think the political climate gives them a chance to find a strong Senate candidate. … Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst who follows Congressional races, said a report he will release Monday will count 58 Democratic House seats in play, up from 47 in December. The number of Republican seats in play has held at 14 in that period, he said. And Democrats expect more of their incumbents to retire, which could put additional seats at risk.

Political fortunes can change, the economy could pick up, and Obama might yet piece together some face-saving, modest set of health-care reforms. But without viable candidates to run in competitive races, Democrats will have put themselves at a disadvantage that is not easily repaired before the November elections. And one suspects that the retirements on the Democratic side are not at an end, nor have the recruiting efforts on the GOP side slowed. The end of the bad news for the Obama Democrats is not yet in sight.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Robert Gibbs thinks the administration made the right call Mirandizing the Christmas Day bomber. Dennis Blair said no one really thought it through. One of them is off the reservation. Unfortunately, I think in this case it’s Blair. The Obami never make errors, don’t you know?

Not even on health care. Gibbs also says that the Massachusetts election doesn’t prove nuthin’ about nuthin’. (Democrats have to be praying that this is an act and that the White House doesn’t truly believe this.)

Back on planet Earth, Sen. Evan Bayh “gets cold feet” about pushing unpopular health-care legislation through Congress using parliamentary tricks on a party-line vote. It’s not clear whether he’s an outlier or the beginning of a trend toward political sanity in his party.

In a similar vein, Allahpundit catches Chris Matthews being sane, arguing for “reality” and against reconciliation to pass health care. Well, he was going up against Alan Grayson.

Noemie Emery thinks there’s a split on the Left: “Those edging their way toward the lifeboats are those members of the House and Senate who sooner or later have to be in touch with the voters. Those who want the bill passed (i.e., pushed down the throats of the howling public) are White House officials and pundits, bloggers, academicians, talk show hosts, and others who don’t face reelection in this year or any, and will even find their business improving if the bill passes and all hell breaks loose. The pundits, who have no skin in this game since they will not get fired, have transferred their soaring contempt for the American people to their beleaguered House members. ‘Jump! Jump!’ they cry to the quivering congressfolk. No sacrifice is too great for others to make for their dreams.” Unfortunately for the Democrats, the White House so far is with the “Jump! Jump!” crowd, raising the question as to whether Obama really wants a second term or simply thinks he’s immune to the same forces that are knocking down fellow Democrats one by one.

If the elections were held today, Larry Sabato and Nate Silver think the Democratic majority would shrink to 52 seats in the Senate (h/t Michael Barone). But the elections aren’t being held today, and lots can change in 10 months.

It’s Republican confidence and the loss of all those seats that may spare the country any more noxious legislation. The Washington Post agrees: “Obama’s biggest priorities — overhauling health care, expanding college aid, reducing climate change — are now in limbo, facing dim prospects as Republicans show little interest in cooperating, and Democrats brace for a 2010 midterm election year potentially as volatile as 1994, when the GOP captured the Senate and the House two years after Bill Clinton was elected president.” Probably didn’t help that, as Democrats now complain, Obama was “too hands-off, too absent.” Or that the country tuned him out.

Mickey Kaus points out that “comparative effectiveness” research is a crock. Obama, Kaus argues, either “has an average President’s shallow understanding of the subject,” is trying to make “bending the cost curve” look painless when it really involves making value judgments to deny care, or is practicing willful ignorance. Could be some combination of all three, of course.

In California, front-runner Meg Whitman is narrowing the gap with Jerry Brown in the gubernatorial race. Hey, if Massachusetts is in play, California is in play.

Robert Gibbs thinks the administration made the right call Mirandizing the Christmas Day bomber. Dennis Blair said no one really thought it through. One of them is off the reservation. Unfortunately, I think in this case it’s Blair. The Obami never make errors, don’t you know?

Not even on health care. Gibbs also says that the Massachusetts election doesn’t prove nuthin’ about nuthin’. (Democrats have to be praying that this is an act and that the White House doesn’t truly believe this.)

Back on planet Earth, Sen. Evan Bayh “gets cold feet” about pushing unpopular health-care legislation through Congress using parliamentary tricks on a party-line vote. It’s not clear whether he’s an outlier or the beginning of a trend toward political sanity in his party.

In a similar vein, Allahpundit catches Chris Matthews being sane, arguing for “reality” and against reconciliation to pass health care. Well, he was going up against Alan Grayson.

Noemie Emery thinks there’s a split on the Left: “Those edging their way toward the lifeboats are those members of the House and Senate who sooner or later have to be in touch with the voters. Those who want the bill passed (i.e., pushed down the throats of the howling public) are White House officials and pundits, bloggers, academicians, talk show hosts, and others who don’t face reelection in this year or any, and will even find their business improving if the bill passes and all hell breaks loose. The pundits, who have no skin in this game since they will not get fired, have transferred their soaring contempt for the American people to their beleaguered House members. ‘Jump! Jump!’ they cry to the quivering congressfolk. No sacrifice is too great for others to make for their dreams.” Unfortunately for the Democrats, the White House so far is with the “Jump! Jump!” crowd, raising the question as to whether Obama really wants a second term or simply thinks he’s immune to the same forces that are knocking down fellow Democrats one by one.

If the elections were held today, Larry Sabato and Nate Silver think the Democratic majority would shrink to 52 seats in the Senate (h/t Michael Barone). But the elections aren’t being held today, and lots can change in 10 months.

It’s Republican confidence and the loss of all those seats that may spare the country any more noxious legislation. The Washington Post agrees: “Obama’s biggest priorities — overhauling health care, expanding college aid, reducing climate change — are now in limbo, facing dim prospects as Republicans show little interest in cooperating, and Democrats brace for a 2010 midterm election year potentially as volatile as 1994, when the GOP captured the Senate and the House two years after Bill Clinton was elected president.” Probably didn’t help that, as Democrats now complain, Obama was “too hands-off, too absent.” Or that the country tuned him out.

Mickey Kaus points out that “comparative effectiveness” research is a crock. Obama, Kaus argues, either “has an average President’s shallow understanding of the subject,” is trying to make “bending the cost curve” look painless when it really involves making value judgments to deny care, or is practicing willful ignorance. Could be some combination of all three, of course.

In California, front-runner Meg Whitman is narrowing the gap with Jerry Brown in the gubernatorial race. Hey, if Massachusetts is in play, California is in play.

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David Brooks Pleads: Don’t Blow Yourself Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A New Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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