Commentary Magazine


Topic: House Speaker

No Half a Loaf for These Guys!

As John outlined, there are no great or even good options for Democrats, unless of course they were to regroup, come up with a more modest package of health-care reforms, and get a solid but unassuming bill passed. But, no. The Democrats won’t entertain anything of the sort. Jake Tapper reports:

Before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., brings the Senate Democrats’ health care reform legislation to the floor for a vote, she and her team are currently assessing whether or not they have the votes to pass it.

They need 217 votes, a majority of the 432 members currently in Congress. They don’t have them right now.

If the House doesn’t have the votes, senior White House officials say they would like Congress to pursue a more modest health care reform bill.

But there seems little desire for that among House Democrats, who would like to focus on jobs.

“We are NOT doing scaled back bill,” a senior House leadership source emails ABC News.

Tapper goes through the math, as many of us have, ticking off the loss of some “yes” votes from last year’s vote. So non-deluded political pundits and politicians all are reaching the same conclusion: there is no there there. Observers scratch their heads, shuffle their feet, and wonder: just how is Obama-Reid-Pelosi going to get out of this one?

Because the troika has egged on its base and refused to come to terms with the political reality, it will be mighty hard to go to what Tapper calls “Plan C” (a scaled-down bill) until ObamaCare finally loses. And by then, in the wake of a humiliating defeat, it’s not clear there will be the stomach to regroup and do it all again. (In 1994, once HillaryCare couldn’t garner enough votes, health-care reform was kaput and Bill Clinton moved on to other things.)

Obama and the Democrats are giving themselves four weeks — another inexplicable move. What will occur in that time? Why Republicans, Tea Party activists, and other anti-ObamaCare forces will work themselves into a fevered pitch, and the Reid-Pelosi-Obama brain trust will twist in the wind. It is yet another nearly unimaginable move in a series of calamitous political decisions. If Obama and the Democrats had tried, they couldn’t have come up with an approach better designed to invigorate their opponents and dispirit their own base.

As John outlined, there are no great or even good options for Democrats, unless of course they were to regroup, come up with a more modest package of health-care reforms, and get a solid but unassuming bill passed. But, no. The Democrats won’t entertain anything of the sort. Jake Tapper reports:

Before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., brings the Senate Democrats’ health care reform legislation to the floor for a vote, she and her team are currently assessing whether or not they have the votes to pass it.

They need 217 votes, a majority of the 432 members currently in Congress. They don’t have them right now.

If the House doesn’t have the votes, senior White House officials say they would like Congress to pursue a more modest health care reform bill.

But there seems little desire for that among House Democrats, who would like to focus on jobs.

“We are NOT doing scaled back bill,” a senior House leadership source emails ABC News.

Tapper goes through the math, as many of us have, ticking off the loss of some “yes” votes from last year’s vote. So non-deluded political pundits and politicians all are reaching the same conclusion: there is no there there. Observers scratch their heads, shuffle their feet, and wonder: just how is Obama-Reid-Pelosi going to get out of this one?

Because the troika has egged on its base and refused to come to terms with the political reality, it will be mighty hard to go to what Tapper calls “Plan C” (a scaled-down bill) until ObamaCare finally loses. And by then, in the wake of a humiliating defeat, it’s not clear there will be the stomach to regroup and do it all again. (In 1994, once HillaryCare couldn’t garner enough votes, health-care reform was kaput and Bill Clinton moved on to other things.)

Obama and the Democrats are giving themselves four weeks — another inexplicable move. What will occur in that time? Why Republicans, Tea Party activists, and other anti-ObamaCare forces will work themselves into a fevered pitch, and the Reid-Pelosi-Obama brain trust will twist in the wind. It is yet another nearly unimaginable move in a series of calamitous political decisions. If Obama and the Democrats had tried, they couldn’t have come up with an approach better designed to invigorate their opponents and dispirit their own base.

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Rangel Guilty of Ethics Violation

Well, the good news for the Democrats, I suppose, is that their unsuccessful effort to make the Republicans look bad at the summit may drown out this news:

A House panel has found that Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York broke Congressional rules by failing to properly disclose financial details of a trip to the Caribbean, a House official said. . . . The guilty finding led to quick condemnation from Republicans, who have made the powerful congressman a frequent target. “Once promised to be the ‘most ethical Congress in history,’ the Democratic majority now has a serious ethics scandal on its hands thanks in-part to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “For months, and even years, Nancy Pelosi has been promoting corrupt actors within her caucus ranks when she should have been punishing them.”

Recall that Republicans forced multiple votes on Rangel, getting Democrats on record as defending the ethically suspect Rangel. So we can expect the “culture of corruption” and the “enabling corruption” tags to appear in many a GOP ad this fall. Now the question remains: will Rangel fight to keep his chair on the Ways and Means Committee? That this should still be a question and that Rangel has kept his perch this long suggest just what a mess this has become for the Democrats.

In 1994, scandals and ideological overreach did in the Democrats. In 2006, scandals, an unpopular war, and fiscal sloth did in the Republicans. In 2010, Republicans will run against Democrats’ scandals, fiscal sloth, and failure to reduce unemployment. You can see why many see a takeover of the House by the GOP as more likely than not.

Well, the good news for the Democrats, I suppose, is that their unsuccessful effort to make the Republicans look bad at the summit may drown out this news:

A House panel has found that Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York broke Congressional rules by failing to properly disclose financial details of a trip to the Caribbean, a House official said. . . . The guilty finding led to quick condemnation from Republicans, who have made the powerful congressman a frequent target. “Once promised to be the ‘most ethical Congress in history,’ the Democratic majority now has a serious ethics scandal on its hands thanks in-part to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “For months, and even years, Nancy Pelosi has been promoting corrupt actors within her caucus ranks when she should have been punishing them.”

Recall that Republicans forced multiple votes on Rangel, getting Democrats on record as defending the ethically suspect Rangel. So we can expect the “culture of corruption” and the “enabling corruption” tags to appear in many a GOP ad this fall. Now the question remains: will Rangel fight to keep his chair on the Ways and Means Committee? That this should still be a question and that Rangel has kept his perch this long suggest just what a mess this has become for the Democrats.

In 1994, scandals and ideological overreach did in the Democrats. In 2006, scandals, an unpopular war, and fiscal sloth did in the Republicans. In 2010, Republicans will run against Democrats’ scandals, fiscal sloth, and failure to reduce unemployment. You can see why many see a takeover of the House by the GOP as more likely than not.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Democrats  get fingered, again, as much less supportive of Israel than Republicans and Independents. Thankfully, however, overall support for Israel is up, “Which should be a comfort to supporters of the Jewish State, who have felt an icy breeze wafting from the White House over the past year.” Still it does reraise the question, given Jews’ overwhelming identification as Democrats: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

The Climategate participants get fingered, again, for playing fast and loose with the facts. “The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department’s new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject. … [A] climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with [newly appointed Thomas] Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the [UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's] most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.”

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett get fingered, again, as flacks for the Iranian regime. (“The Leveretts’ sensitivity to suggestions they are in touch with Revolutionary Guards representatives is especially curious given that that Flynt Leverett has in the past boasted of his contacts with the Guards.”) And Lee Smith smartly concludes that “Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran has gone nowhere, and true believers are dropping by the wayside. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is calling for regime change, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reviving a promise from her own presidential campaign to extend a nuclear umbrella to protect Washington’s allies in the Persian Gulf. … The United States must stop the Iranians by any means necessary, and it must do so now.”

Barack Obama gets fingered, again, as a hypocrite. In 2005, he said: “You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward.”

Sen. Arlen Specter  gets fingered, again, in a poll for defeat. Pat Toomey leads by 10 points in a potential general-election match-up.

Eric Holder gets fingered, again, by Andy McCarthy: “Their typical scandal pattern is: (a) make bold pronouncements about unprecedented transparency, (b) show a little leg, and then (c) stonewall, after which (d) White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel assures some friendly journalist that everything would have been different if only they’d have listened to him. The result is the trifecta: the administration ends up looking hypocritical, sinister and incompetent.”

Nancy Pelosi gets fingered, again, for lacking the votes for ObamaCare II: “There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday. Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion rights Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber’s legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill. … In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) accused [Eric] Cantor of ‘playing games’ but did not say whether House Democrats have the votes to pass the president’s fixes.”

Kirsten Gillibrand gets fingered, again, as a vulnerable Democrat. The newest potential challenger is Dan Senor, foreign-policy guru and co-author of  Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.

Democrats  get fingered, again, as much less supportive of Israel than Republicans and Independents. Thankfully, however, overall support for Israel is up, “Which should be a comfort to supporters of the Jewish State, who have felt an icy breeze wafting from the White House over the past year.” Still it does reraise the question, given Jews’ overwhelming identification as Democrats: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

The Climategate participants get fingered, again, for playing fast and loose with the facts. “The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department’s new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject. … [A] climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with [newly appointed Thomas] Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the [UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's] most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.”

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett get fingered, again, as flacks for the Iranian regime. (“The Leveretts’ sensitivity to suggestions they are in touch with Revolutionary Guards representatives is especially curious given that that Flynt Leverett has in the past boasted of his contacts with the Guards.”) And Lee Smith smartly concludes that “Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran has gone nowhere, and true believers are dropping by the wayside. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is calling for regime change, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reviving a promise from her own presidential campaign to extend a nuclear umbrella to protect Washington’s allies in the Persian Gulf. … The United States must stop the Iranians by any means necessary, and it must do so now.”

Barack Obama gets fingered, again, as a hypocrite. In 2005, he said: “You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward.”

Sen. Arlen Specter  gets fingered, again, in a poll for defeat. Pat Toomey leads by 10 points in a potential general-election match-up.

Eric Holder gets fingered, again, by Andy McCarthy: “Their typical scandal pattern is: (a) make bold pronouncements about unprecedented transparency, (b) show a little leg, and then (c) stonewall, after which (d) White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel assures some friendly journalist that everything would have been different if only they’d have listened to him. The result is the trifecta: the administration ends up looking hypocritical, sinister and incompetent.”

Nancy Pelosi gets fingered, again, for lacking the votes for ObamaCare II: “There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday. Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion rights Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber’s legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill. … In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) accused [Eric] Cantor of ‘playing games’ but did not say whether House Democrats have the votes to pass the president’s fixes.”

Kirsten Gillibrand gets fingered, again, as a vulnerable Democrat. The newest potential challenger is Dan Senor, foreign-policy guru and co-author of  Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.

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Happy Anniversary, Marco Rubio

Chris Good smartly observes that yesterday was not simply the anniversary of the $787B stimulus plan but also that of the ascendancy of Marco Rubio. It was the stimulus plan that vaulted Rubio into the Senate race and now into a double-digit lead:

Much of the previously-little-known former state House speaker’s campaign against Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has focused on Crist’s support of the stimulus. Rubio has hit the governor repeatedly for it since announcing his candidacy. In November, Rubio launched the website CharlieandObama.com, dedicated entirely to tying Crist to Obama for his backing of the $787 billion package–with a now-infamous photo of Crist physically embracing Obama displayed prominently. …

Despite the money that it brought to Florida, that move proved to be an easy and effective weapon for Rubio–who wasn’t yet running for Senate–to claw his way into a competitive race with the well-known Crist. Since then, Rubio steadily hammered Crist on the stimulus, and, despite no one knowing who he was and seemingly having no chance in polls at the start of the primary race, he’s become the darling candidate not just of conservatives in Florida, but of activists and prominent conservative interest groups nationwide.

Today Rubio is the headliner at the CPAC gathering in D.C. (“A darling of the tea party movement and conservative grassroots activists who view the establishment-backed Crist as a squishy, unprincipled moderate, Rubio has suddenly emerged as the belle of the conservative ball.”) In typically tone-deaf fashion, a Crist aide put out a fake version of Rubio’s speech that began “Since my campaign began, I’ve had the privilege of becoming the latest cover boy.” Needless to say, Crist wasn’t invited to the event, and the reminder that Rubio is the latest conservative rock star probably doesn’t help Crist’s cause.

In his rise in the polls, Rubio had some help along the way, primarily from Crist, who ran a hapless race, seemed at odds with the energized conservative base, and now has to cope with a financial scandal in the state party headed by Crist’s confidante. But it was Rubio who sensed the right message well before many other Republicans did. Good explains, ”Crist’s support for the stimulus was the beginning of Florida conservatives’ discontent with their centrist governor, opening a door for Rubio, according to South Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson. ‘It was the tipping point for most conservatives, who said enough is enough,’ Wilkinson said. ‘I think Rubio came along at the right time and said, ‘I’m for smaller government, I’m for balancing the budget.’”

Rubio has proved to be a successful political fundraiser and bridge-builder, putting together inside-the-Beltway conservatives and Tea Party protesters. But recall that a contingent of the “smart” (as in the Obami’s “smart” diplomacy, which means not at all) punditocracy on the Right didn’t want him to run. He’d mess up Crist’s victory lap, they said. Then the mainstream media got into the act, predicting a civil war.

Rubio wisely ignored all that and stuck to a principled conservative platform and an upbeat tone. The latter shouldn’t be ignored. If one looks at the Republican winners of late — Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown — there wasn’t a grouchy, gloom-and-doomer in the lot. In fact, they made the other guys and gals seems like the aggrieved grumps.

So what are the political lessons from Rubio’s success for other Republicans? Ignore Republican insiders; they’re nearly always wrong. Take principled conservative stances on issues voters care most about and stick to them. Ignore early polls; they’re meaningless. Be cheery, avoid personal attacks, and never get in the way of your opponent when he’s self-destructing. That, come to think of it, was pretty close to the Christie-McDonnell-Brown model as well. Oh, and the most important thing: make sure to run when Obama-Reid-Pelosi are in charge. And that opportunity may not last much longer.

Chris Good smartly observes that yesterday was not simply the anniversary of the $787B stimulus plan but also that of the ascendancy of Marco Rubio. It was the stimulus plan that vaulted Rubio into the Senate race and now into a double-digit lead:

Much of the previously-little-known former state House speaker’s campaign against Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has focused on Crist’s support of the stimulus. Rubio has hit the governor repeatedly for it since announcing his candidacy. In November, Rubio launched the website CharlieandObama.com, dedicated entirely to tying Crist to Obama for his backing of the $787 billion package–with a now-infamous photo of Crist physically embracing Obama displayed prominently. …

Despite the money that it brought to Florida, that move proved to be an easy and effective weapon for Rubio–who wasn’t yet running for Senate–to claw his way into a competitive race with the well-known Crist. Since then, Rubio steadily hammered Crist on the stimulus, and, despite no one knowing who he was and seemingly having no chance in polls at the start of the primary race, he’s become the darling candidate not just of conservatives in Florida, but of activists and prominent conservative interest groups nationwide.

Today Rubio is the headliner at the CPAC gathering in D.C. (“A darling of the tea party movement and conservative grassroots activists who view the establishment-backed Crist as a squishy, unprincipled moderate, Rubio has suddenly emerged as the belle of the conservative ball.”) In typically tone-deaf fashion, a Crist aide put out a fake version of Rubio’s speech that began “Since my campaign began, I’ve had the privilege of becoming the latest cover boy.” Needless to say, Crist wasn’t invited to the event, and the reminder that Rubio is the latest conservative rock star probably doesn’t help Crist’s cause.

In his rise in the polls, Rubio had some help along the way, primarily from Crist, who ran a hapless race, seemed at odds with the energized conservative base, and now has to cope with a financial scandal in the state party headed by Crist’s confidante. But it was Rubio who sensed the right message well before many other Republicans did. Good explains, ”Crist’s support for the stimulus was the beginning of Florida conservatives’ discontent with their centrist governor, opening a door for Rubio, according to South Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson. ‘It was the tipping point for most conservatives, who said enough is enough,’ Wilkinson said. ‘I think Rubio came along at the right time and said, ‘I’m for smaller government, I’m for balancing the budget.’”

Rubio has proved to be a successful political fundraiser and bridge-builder, putting together inside-the-Beltway conservatives and Tea Party protesters. But recall that a contingent of the “smart” (as in the Obami’s “smart” diplomacy, which means not at all) punditocracy on the Right didn’t want him to run. He’d mess up Crist’s victory lap, they said. Then the mainstream media got into the act, predicting a civil war.

Rubio wisely ignored all that and stuck to a principled conservative platform and an upbeat tone. The latter shouldn’t be ignored. If one looks at the Republican winners of late — Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown — there wasn’t a grouchy, gloom-and-doomer in the lot. In fact, they made the other guys and gals seems like the aggrieved grumps.

So what are the political lessons from Rubio’s success for other Republicans? Ignore Republican insiders; they’re nearly always wrong. Take principled conservative stances on issues voters care most about and stick to them. Ignore early polls; they’re meaningless. Be cheery, avoid personal attacks, and never get in the way of your opponent when he’s self-destructing. That, come to think of it, was pretty close to the Christie-McDonnell-Brown model as well. Oh, and the most important thing: make sure to run when Obama-Reid-Pelosi are in charge. And that opportunity may not last much longer.

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Obama’s Own Begin to Turn on Him

When a presidency and an agenda are collapsing at the rate that President Obama’s are, it isn’t long before his party begins to distance itself from him. We’ve seen plenty of signs of this lately. Politico.com has a story today titled “Family feud: Nancy Pelosi at odds with President Obama.” According to the story:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s increasingly public disagreements with President Barack Obama are a reflection of something deeper: the seething resentment some Democrats feel over what they see as cavalier treatment from a wounded White House.

Then there are the comments by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who said, “He [Obama] says ‘I’m for clean coal,’ and then he says it in his speeches, but he doesn’t say it in here. And he doesn’t say it in the minds of my own people. And he’s beginning to not be believable to me.”

Much of what President Obama has said hasn’t been believable to many of us for quite some time now. But when influential figures in a president’s own party begin to make statements such as these — especially when you’re only 13 months into a presidency — it’s clear that things are beginning to become a bit unglued. Party discipline is tossed aside; the intra-party sniping makes the situation even worse. And the vicious cycle Democrats are caught in merely accelerates.

It has dawned on many Democrats that in hitching their fortunes to Obama and Obamaism, they have put themselves at enormous political risk. They are all complicit in this; Obama himself outsourced much of his agenda to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The entire Democratic establishment is the architect of what is shaping up as an epic political failure. But Mr. Obama is head of the Democratic party, and so the responsibility lies with him more than with anyone else. He is primus inter pares. And he is now, with every passing week, the target of their unhappiness. More is sure to follow.

This isn’t going to end well for them.

When a presidency and an agenda are collapsing at the rate that President Obama’s are, it isn’t long before his party begins to distance itself from him. We’ve seen plenty of signs of this lately. Politico.com has a story today titled “Family feud: Nancy Pelosi at odds with President Obama.” According to the story:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s increasingly public disagreements with President Barack Obama are a reflection of something deeper: the seething resentment some Democrats feel over what they see as cavalier treatment from a wounded White House.

Then there are the comments by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who said, “He [Obama] says ‘I’m for clean coal,’ and then he says it in his speeches, but he doesn’t say it in here. And he doesn’t say it in the minds of my own people. And he’s beginning to not be believable to me.”

Much of what President Obama has said hasn’t been believable to many of us for quite some time now. But when influential figures in a president’s own party begin to make statements such as these — especially when you’re only 13 months into a presidency — it’s clear that things are beginning to become a bit unglued. Party discipline is tossed aside; the intra-party sniping makes the situation even worse. And the vicious cycle Democrats are caught in merely accelerates.

It has dawned on many Democrats that in hitching their fortunes to Obama and Obamaism, they have put themselves at enormous political risk. They are all complicit in this; Obama himself outsourced much of his agenda to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The entire Democratic establishment is the architect of what is shaping up as an epic political failure. But Mr. Obama is head of the Democratic party, and so the responsibility lies with him more than with anyone else. He is primus inter pares. And he is now, with every passing week, the target of their unhappiness. More is sure to follow.

This isn’t going to end well for them.

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Crist Struggles

Somehow, I don’t think this helps Gov. Charlie Crist:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that despite being attacked from the right by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, his rival in the state’s GOP Senate primary, he is no “RINO.” Asked during an interview with CBS’s “Early Show” for his response to critics who have called him a “Republican in name only” — better known by the acronym RINO — Crist said “if I’m a RINO, then so is Ronald Reagan.”

Ouch. This is the equivalent of Obama’s “I am not an ideologue” pronouncement. It’s the sort of cringing denial that comes only when many voters think the accusation is true. Crist then said that he, too, was in favor of  “less taxing, less spending, less government, more freedom,” but was just more “pragmatic” than Marco Rubio. He opined that the voters ”don’t want bickering and some ideologue on one end or the other to sort of be a standard bearer.” Hmm. I think conservative voters actually do want a standard bearer.

You get the sense that it’s just not clicking for Crist. He is not the rock star of the conservatives and is trying to tell Republicans in a primary race that they are wrong to want a rock star. But they do, and voters generally don’t want to be told they’ve got it all wrong. Moreover, what got Crist in trouble in the first place was his preference for accommodating and embracing (literally) Obama, rather than staunchly opposing him. Signaling that he is “pragmatic” is not what voters (either in the primary or general election) in a wave opposition election want to hear. They want someone to stop the governing party from doing more destructive things.

Perhaps Crist will figure this out, but it may not be the right moment for him. Sometimes the voters just want what the voters want.

Somehow, I don’t think this helps Gov. Charlie Crist:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that despite being attacked from the right by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, his rival in the state’s GOP Senate primary, he is no “RINO.” Asked during an interview with CBS’s “Early Show” for his response to critics who have called him a “Republican in name only” — better known by the acronym RINO — Crist said “if I’m a RINO, then so is Ronald Reagan.”

Ouch. This is the equivalent of Obama’s “I am not an ideologue” pronouncement. It’s the sort of cringing denial that comes only when many voters think the accusation is true. Crist then said that he, too, was in favor of  “less taxing, less spending, less government, more freedom,” but was just more “pragmatic” than Marco Rubio. He opined that the voters ”don’t want bickering and some ideologue on one end or the other to sort of be a standard bearer.” Hmm. I think conservative voters actually do want a standard bearer.

You get the sense that it’s just not clicking for Crist. He is not the rock star of the conservatives and is trying to tell Republicans in a primary race that they are wrong to want a rock star. But they do, and voters generally don’t want to be told they’ve got it all wrong. Moreover, what got Crist in trouble in the first place was his preference for accommodating and embracing (literally) Obama, rather than staunchly opposing him. Signaling that he is “pragmatic” is not what voters (either in the primary or general election) in a wave opposition election want to hear. They want someone to stop the governing party from doing more destructive things.

Perhaps Crist will figure this out, but it may not be the right moment for him. Sometimes the voters just want what the voters want.

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What It Takes to Win

Marco Rubio is now ahead by double digits in the Florida Republican primary race. Rasmussen reports: “Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio has now jumped to a 12-point lead over Governor Charlie Crist in Florida’s Republican Primary race for the U.S. Senate. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely GOP Primary voters in the state finds Rubio leading Crist 49% to 37%. Three percent (3%) prefer another candidate, and 11% are undecided.”

This is a startling turnabout. In eight months, the race has swung approximately 50 points. (Charlie Crist was leading by more than 30 points last spring.) It is a lesson for the punditocracy about early poll numbers, which are generally a function of name recognition. It is also a reminder that with 24/7 news coverage, a talented candidate can rise quickly, and a listless one can plunge despite advantages of money, incumbency, and name ID.

This is also a cautionary tale: the conventional wisdom about what it takes to appeal to a broad cross-section of voters is often wrong. It is not necessarily the candidate with the mushiest brand of centrism or the one who has figured out how to split the difference on key issues who has such appeal. In this political environment, the successful candidate, as we saw with Scott Brown and Bob McDonnell, is rather one who can articulate a convincing message that appeals to the Center-Right segment of the electorate, present a dynamic and attractive image (let’s be candid, in politics appearance matters), and capture the anti-incumbent fervor that is very likely to continue as long as that sea of red ink and the high unemployment numbers create widespread unease among voters.

Rubio has not won the primary yet, and Crist may well put up a fight rather than pack it in, as many are speculating. But if Rubio cruises to an impressive win, he will join the ranks of new conservative rock stars that owe their emergence to one figure — Barack Obama. Without him and his increasingly toxic agenda, it is hard to imagine even a talented politician like Rubio rising so fast.

Marco Rubio is now ahead by double digits in the Florida Republican primary race. Rasmussen reports: “Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio has now jumped to a 12-point lead over Governor Charlie Crist in Florida’s Republican Primary race for the U.S. Senate. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely GOP Primary voters in the state finds Rubio leading Crist 49% to 37%. Three percent (3%) prefer another candidate, and 11% are undecided.”

This is a startling turnabout. In eight months, the race has swung approximately 50 points. (Charlie Crist was leading by more than 30 points last spring.) It is a lesson for the punditocracy about early poll numbers, which are generally a function of name recognition. It is also a reminder that with 24/7 news coverage, a talented candidate can rise quickly, and a listless one can plunge despite advantages of money, incumbency, and name ID.

This is also a cautionary tale: the conventional wisdom about what it takes to appeal to a broad cross-section of voters is often wrong. It is not necessarily the candidate with the mushiest brand of centrism or the one who has figured out how to split the difference on key issues who has such appeal. In this political environment, the successful candidate, as we saw with Scott Brown and Bob McDonnell, is rather one who can articulate a convincing message that appeals to the Center-Right segment of the electorate, present a dynamic and attractive image (let’s be candid, in politics appearance matters), and capture the anti-incumbent fervor that is very likely to continue as long as that sea of red ink and the high unemployment numbers create widespread unease among voters.

Rubio has not won the primary yet, and Crist may well put up a fight rather than pack it in, as many are speculating. But if Rubio cruises to an impressive win, he will join the ranks of new conservative rock stars that owe their emergence to one figure — Barack Obama. Without him and his increasingly toxic agenda, it is hard to imagine even a talented politician like Rubio rising so fast.

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A Messy Process for Health Care, Indeed

In the New York Times today, we read:

“A messy process,” Mr. Obama acknowledged to House Republicans last week, referring to the health care fight. In his State of the Union speech, the president confessed, “With all of the lobbying and horse trading, the process left most Americans wondering, ‘What’s in it for me?’ ”

Without the help of Republicans, Democratic leaders respond, that messy process is the only way to amass the votes needed to pass Mr. Obama’s ambitious agenda. “The American people don’t care about process,” Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, told journalists last week.

Her comments underscore the greatest contradiction within Mr. Obama’s agenda — not too many legislative priorities, but the difficulty of achieving them in the civics-textbook fashion he espouses.

I have two thoughts on this, the first of which is that Ms. Pelosi is out of her political mind if she truly believes what she says. It’s true enough that the American people care about more than process; but they do care about process, as well – especially when the process appears corrupt and is used to force massively unpopular legislation down their throat. This issue helped turn former Massachusetts state Senator Scott Brown into United States Senator-elect Scott Brown. And process is what Pelosi had in mind when she and Rahm Emanuel repeatedly – and now, we can fairly say, hypocritically – invoked the phrase “culture of corruption” against Republicans in 2006.

Second, saying that President Obama has had difficulty achieving his priorities in “the civics-textbook fashion he espouses” is a bit too gentle. Mr. Obama made process – post-partisanship, outreach to the other side, high-minded debate, transparency, and putting an end to the influence of “special interests” – one of the pillars of his campaign. He spoke about it time after time after time. In the speech announcing his bid for the presidency, Obama said: “I know that I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change. … It’s time to turn the page.” What his top political aide David Axelrod saw in Obama, according to the authors of Game Change, are “qualities that the nation was hungry for: optimism, outsider status, an aversion to hoary ideological dogmas, a biography that radiated the possibility of overcoming divisions and the capacity for change.”

Messrs. Axelrod and Obama are 0 for 5 based on that scorecard. The President has not only failed to live up to his promises; he has violated them as much as any first-year president in our lifetime.

There is a cost to pay for such things – as we have seen (in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) and as we will soon see (the mid-term elections in November).

In the New York Times today, we read:

“A messy process,” Mr. Obama acknowledged to House Republicans last week, referring to the health care fight. In his State of the Union speech, the president confessed, “With all of the lobbying and horse trading, the process left most Americans wondering, ‘What’s in it for me?’ ”

Without the help of Republicans, Democratic leaders respond, that messy process is the only way to amass the votes needed to pass Mr. Obama’s ambitious agenda. “The American people don’t care about process,” Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, told journalists last week.

Her comments underscore the greatest contradiction within Mr. Obama’s agenda — not too many legislative priorities, but the difficulty of achieving them in the civics-textbook fashion he espouses.

I have two thoughts on this, the first of which is that Ms. Pelosi is out of her political mind if she truly believes what she says. It’s true enough that the American people care about more than process; but they do care about process, as well – especially when the process appears corrupt and is used to force massively unpopular legislation down their throat. This issue helped turn former Massachusetts state Senator Scott Brown into United States Senator-elect Scott Brown. And process is what Pelosi had in mind when she and Rahm Emanuel repeatedly – and now, we can fairly say, hypocritically – invoked the phrase “culture of corruption” against Republicans in 2006.

Second, saying that President Obama has had difficulty achieving his priorities in “the civics-textbook fashion he espouses” is a bit too gentle. Mr. Obama made process – post-partisanship, outreach to the other side, high-minded debate, transparency, and putting an end to the influence of “special interests” – one of the pillars of his campaign. He spoke about it time after time after time. In the speech announcing his bid for the presidency, Obama said: “I know that I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change. … It’s time to turn the page.” What his top political aide David Axelrod saw in Obama, according to the authors of Game Change, are “qualities that the nation was hungry for: optimism, outsider status, an aversion to hoary ideological dogmas, a biography that radiated the possibility of overcoming divisions and the capacity for change.”

Messrs. Axelrod and Obama are 0 for 5 based on that scorecard. The President has not only failed to live up to his promises; he has violated them as much as any first-year president in our lifetime.

There is a cost to pay for such things – as we have seen (in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) and as we will soon see (the mid-term elections in November).

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Florida Finds a Viable Conservative

The latest Rasmussen poll is a mixed blessing for Gov. Charlie Crist, who has had his share of problems of late. The poll shows:

Both Republican hopefuls hold a double-digit lead over their likeliest Democratic opponent, Congressman Kendrick Meek, in the latest Rasmussen Reports survey of this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Florida.

Governor Charlie Crist now has a 15-point lead on Meek among likely Florida voters, 48% to 33%. … Former House Speaker Marco Rubio now posts a 17-point lead on Meek, 49% to 32%.

The good news: Crist, if he can make it through the primary, still would have a glide path to the Senate. But the bad news is that the argument of his campaign and much of the GOP establishment that backed him — that he was a lower-risk, “easier” choice than Rubio — has proved to be untrue. Rubio backers, including tea party activists, can rightly claim that Republicans can have the more conservative candidate and do just as well in the general election. In fact, Rubio’s favorable/unfavorable split is better than the governor’s: “Thirteen percent (13%) of voters in Florida have a very favorable opinion of Crist, but the same number (13%) view him very unfavorably. For Rubio, very favorables total 23% and very unfavorables 11%.”

Contrary to the predictions of a host of snooty pundits, no “civil war” broke out on the GOP side in Florida. The Republicans may, however, have found the most conservative candidate who could win in the general election and disproved the myth of a split between tea party activists and mainstream Republicans. And that, come to think of it, might have been what those pundits were so worried about.

The latest Rasmussen poll is a mixed blessing for Gov. Charlie Crist, who has had his share of problems of late. The poll shows:

Both Republican hopefuls hold a double-digit lead over their likeliest Democratic opponent, Congressman Kendrick Meek, in the latest Rasmussen Reports survey of this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Florida.

Governor Charlie Crist now has a 15-point lead on Meek among likely Florida voters, 48% to 33%. … Former House Speaker Marco Rubio now posts a 17-point lead on Meek, 49% to 32%.

The good news: Crist, if he can make it through the primary, still would have a glide path to the Senate. But the bad news is that the argument of his campaign and much of the GOP establishment that backed him — that he was a lower-risk, “easier” choice than Rubio — has proved to be untrue. Rubio backers, including tea party activists, can rightly claim that Republicans can have the more conservative candidate and do just as well in the general election. In fact, Rubio’s favorable/unfavorable split is better than the governor’s: “Thirteen percent (13%) of voters in Florida have a very favorable opinion of Crist, but the same number (13%) view him very unfavorably. For Rubio, very favorables total 23% and very unfavorables 11%.”

Contrary to the predictions of a host of snooty pundits, no “civil war” broke out on the GOP side in Florida. The Republicans may, however, have found the most conservative candidate who could win in the general election and disproved the myth of a split between tea party activists and mainstream Republicans. And that, come to think of it, might have been what those pundits were so worried about.

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They Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

If you wanted a sound bite that embodied much of what is wrong with contemporary liberalism, you could do worse than listen to the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on health care:

We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in but we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the America people.

Set aside the fact that Ms. Pelosi sounds like Tareq and Michaele Salahi trying to crash a White House State dinner. She seems to view herself as part of the guardian class, as one of our philosopher kings who knows better than the great, unwashed masses what is good for them. It is of a piece with the collectivist mindset, one that believes that it is with the ruling class that wisdom resides. They know best – and they will give you not what you may want but what they believe you need.

This view is exceedingly arrogant and, if it is indulged in often enough, it becomes, in some sense, anti-democratic.

There is a long history in America to dictate the proper role of its legislators. Some argue they ought to mirror public opinion all the time; others argue that we elect people to political posts based on our confidence in their judgment. They therefore have a relatively free hand to pursue the agenda they deem appropriate. But even those who subscribe to the views of the second group understand that in the end, ours is a representative form of government. The will of the people matters. We are, after all, a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

The public has seen how Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and President Obama want to jam health-care legislation down its throat despite its obvious wishes. The public has ways of fighting back against such things. They are known as elections. Three of them have happened recently, in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. The Democrats have lost each one – and in the process they have lost independent voters by a margin of at least two-to-one. In each of those elections, local issues obviously played an important role in the outcome of the races. But framing each of these elections was the sense that the federal government has become too large, too intrusive, too expensive, and too incompetent. It has not earned the right to run one-sixth of the American economy.

What President Obama has succeeded in doing is to boil down politics to a fairly basic and elementary level, including the role of the state in the lives of its citizenry. Ms. Pelosi and Messrs. Reid and Obama are advocates of what Margaret Thatcher called a “nanny state” – the state that takes too much from you in order to do too much for you. Those who believe the American people are prepared to embrace such a thing are badly misguided. Democrats are learning that lesson the hard way. And with the mid-term elections approaching, they should keep in mind the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive: They ain’t seen nothing yet.

If you wanted a sound bite that embodied much of what is wrong with contemporary liberalism, you could do worse than listen to the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on health care:

We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in but we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the America people.

Set aside the fact that Ms. Pelosi sounds like Tareq and Michaele Salahi trying to crash a White House State dinner. She seems to view herself as part of the guardian class, as one of our philosopher kings who knows better than the great, unwashed masses what is good for them. It is of a piece with the collectivist mindset, one that believes that it is with the ruling class that wisdom resides. They know best – and they will give you not what you may want but what they believe you need.

This view is exceedingly arrogant and, if it is indulged in often enough, it becomes, in some sense, anti-democratic.

There is a long history in America to dictate the proper role of its legislators. Some argue they ought to mirror public opinion all the time; others argue that we elect people to political posts based on our confidence in their judgment. They therefore have a relatively free hand to pursue the agenda they deem appropriate. But even those who subscribe to the views of the second group understand that in the end, ours is a representative form of government. The will of the people matters. We are, after all, a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

The public has seen how Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and President Obama want to jam health-care legislation down its throat despite its obvious wishes. The public has ways of fighting back against such things. They are known as elections. Three of them have happened recently, in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. The Democrats have lost each one – and in the process they have lost independent voters by a margin of at least two-to-one. In each of those elections, local issues obviously played an important role in the outcome of the races. But framing each of these elections was the sense that the federal government has become too large, too intrusive, too expensive, and too incompetent. It has not earned the right to run one-sixth of the American economy.

What President Obama has succeeded in doing is to boil down politics to a fairly basic and elementary level, including the role of the state in the lives of its citizenry. Ms. Pelosi and Messrs. Reid and Obama are advocates of what Margaret Thatcher called a “nanny state” – the state that takes too much from you in order to do too much for you. Those who believe the American people are prepared to embrace such a thing are badly misguided. Democrats are learning that lesson the hard way. And with the mid-term elections approaching, they should keep in mind the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive: They ain’t seen nothing yet.

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LIVE BLOG: And This Is His Ally

You really have to marvel at the fix Obama finds himself in. He’s desperate to win back independents so he makes a baby step toward fiscal sanity with a freeze on a fraction of the federal budget. Speaker Nancy Pelosi leaps into the fray before the SOTU is even delivered:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that defense spending shouldn’t be exempt from President Barack Obama’s proposal for a three-year freeze on federal spending. In his State of the Union address Wednesday night, Obama is expected to address worries about the federal deficit by proposing a three-year freeze on all “non-security” spending. But just hours before the speech, Pelosi told POLITICO that any spending freeze should be “across the board.”

Well, that’s crazy talk, given that we are at war and face ongoing terrorist attacks. But it’s a measure of just how acrimonious the environment has become — on the Democratic side of the aisle. This is what happens when the president shrinks before our eyes. His own party is up in arms, the opposition smells blood and the perception is that he is no longer in control of events. Maybe he can reverse that. But he sure dug himself a deep hole.

You really have to marvel at the fix Obama finds himself in. He’s desperate to win back independents so he makes a baby step toward fiscal sanity with a freeze on a fraction of the federal budget. Speaker Nancy Pelosi leaps into the fray before the SOTU is even delivered:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that defense spending shouldn’t be exempt from President Barack Obama’s proposal for a three-year freeze on federal spending. In his State of the Union address Wednesday night, Obama is expected to address worries about the federal deficit by proposing a three-year freeze on all “non-security” spending. But just hours before the speech, Pelosi told POLITICO that any spending freeze should be “across the board.”

Well, that’s crazy talk, given that we are at war and face ongoing terrorist attacks. But it’s a measure of just how acrimonious the environment has become — on the Democratic side of the aisle. This is what happens when the president shrinks before our eyes. His own party is up in arms, the opposition smells blood and the perception is that he is no longer in control of events. Maybe he can reverse that. But he sure dug himself a deep hole.

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ObamaCare Terminal?

This report confirms the obvious—namely, that Obamacare is crumbling before our eyes:

As top Democrats cast doubt for a way to get health care back on track, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took one option off the table Thursday, saying her caucus doesn’t have the stomach to pass the Senate bill unless changes are made. “In its present form, without any change, I don’t think it’s possible to pass the Senate bill in the House,” Pelosi said. “I don’t see the votes for it at this time.  .  . ‘Unease’ would be a gentle word in terms the attitude of my colleagues toward certain provisions of the Senate bill,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday morning.

Perhaps someone should ask Pelosi whether there are enough votes to pass any permutation of ObamaCare. Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to do something fast because who among the Democrats wants “to do health care in the next three months”? This, mind you, is their signature issue, which is so popular that it will rescue them from certain defeat in November.

Plan B was to delay Scott Brown from being seated. Plan C was to pass the Senate version through the House. What is Plan D? Maybe a stripped down, focused bill of the type Republicans have been suggesting for a year now. It would be a bitter pill for Obama and the Left to swallow but what alternative do they have? Or they might just leave the whole thing in the political ditch where it currently resides, move on to jobs and other issues, and have some hearings to study what to do about health care. Democrats like commissions so they can set one up for this.

Against all odds and with considerable legislative skill, opponents of ObamaCare are on the verge of a remarkable victory. If Obama is clever enough, he can figure out how to claim some face-saving credit. But really, there is no disguising this one: Obama’s signature legislative agenda item is on death’s door. Seems as though that death panel turned out to be the Massachusetts voters.

This report confirms the obvious—namely, that Obamacare is crumbling before our eyes:

As top Democrats cast doubt for a way to get health care back on track, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took one option off the table Thursday, saying her caucus doesn’t have the stomach to pass the Senate bill unless changes are made. “In its present form, without any change, I don’t think it’s possible to pass the Senate bill in the House,” Pelosi said. “I don’t see the votes for it at this time.  .  . ‘Unease’ would be a gentle word in terms the attitude of my colleagues toward certain provisions of the Senate bill,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday morning.

Perhaps someone should ask Pelosi whether there are enough votes to pass any permutation of ObamaCare. Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to do something fast because who among the Democrats wants “to do health care in the next three months”? This, mind you, is their signature issue, which is so popular that it will rescue them from certain defeat in November.

Plan B was to delay Scott Brown from being seated. Plan C was to pass the Senate version through the House. What is Plan D? Maybe a stripped down, focused bill of the type Republicans have been suggesting for a year now. It would be a bitter pill for Obama and the Left to swallow but what alternative do they have? Or they might just leave the whole thing in the political ditch where it currently resides, move on to jobs and other issues, and have some hearings to study what to do about health care. Democrats like commissions so they can set one up for this.

Against all odds and with considerable legislative skill, opponents of ObamaCare are on the verge of a remarkable victory. If Obama is clever enough, he can figure out how to claim some face-saving credit. But really, there is no disguising this one: Obama’s signature legislative agenda item is on death’s door. Seems as though that death panel turned out to be the Massachusetts voters.

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Fortunate to Have These Opponents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Media Spin: GOP at War!

You have to hand it to the mainstream media. They are nothing if not consistent and dogged in their efforts to push the “Republicans are at each other’s throats” meme — at the very moment that Democrats are rushing for the retirement home and attacking one another over the pro-insurance-company health-care “reform” bill. Dan Balz of the Washington Post is a case in point. He writes this odd account under the subheading “The GOP’s Internal War”:

Were it not for the news of the Democratic retirements, Tuesday might have received more attention as a day when the GOP’s internal wars counted another victim, this time the party chairman in Florida, Jim Greer. Greer, an ally of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), got caught up in the nasty Senate primary contest between Crist and former state House speaker Marco Rubio, a darling of conservatives.

Florida’s GOP primary is, writ large, a replay of what happened in New York’s 23rd Congressional District in November, when Sarah Palin and other conservatives spurned the Republican nominee in a House special election and sided with the Conservative Party candidate. The upshot was that Democrats won a seat that the GOP had held for more than a century.

This is nonsense on multiple counts. First, the “internal war” appears to consist of the removal of an unpopular state party chairman and a primary race in one state. Is the Democratic party in an “internal war” because there’s a primary to fill Obama’s old seat or because Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak are facing off in Pennsylvania? Really, primaries are pretty much par for the course, the mechanism by which real voters pick strong candidates and eliminate weak ones. Second, none of this has much to do with the NY-23. There the GOP didn’t have a primary. And it turned into a giant mess with a weak, unpopular candidate who ultimately had to drop out.

For now, the GOP is enjoying an embarrassment of political riches — an energized base, plenty of candidates, and plenty of targets (e.g., ObamaCare, Nancy Pelosi, the Cash for Cloture deal). If all the Democrats have is a false narrative spun by their media cheerleaders, it may be a very bad year for them indeed.

You have to hand it to the mainstream media. They are nothing if not consistent and dogged in their efforts to push the “Republicans are at each other’s throats” meme — at the very moment that Democrats are rushing for the retirement home and attacking one another over the pro-insurance-company health-care “reform” bill. Dan Balz of the Washington Post is a case in point. He writes this odd account under the subheading “The GOP’s Internal War”:

Were it not for the news of the Democratic retirements, Tuesday might have received more attention as a day when the GOP’s internal wars counted another victim, this time the party chairman in Florida, Jim Greer. Greer, an ally of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), got caught up in the nasty Senate primary contest between Crist and former state House speaker Marco Rubio, a darling of conservatives.

Florida’s GOP primary is, writ large, a replay of what happened in New York’s 23rd Congressional District in November, when Sarah Palin and other conservatives spurned the Republican nominee in a House special election and sided with the Conservative Party candidate. The upshot was that Democrats won a seat that the GOP had held for more than a century.

This is nonsense on multiple counts. First, the “internal war” appears to consist of the removal of an unpopular state party chairman and a primary race in one state. Is the Democratic party in an “internal war” because there’s a primary to fill Obama’s old seat or because Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak are facing off in Pennsylvania? Really, primaries are pretty much par for the course, the mechanism by which real voters pick strong candidates and eliminate weak ones. Second, none of this has much to do with the NY-23. There the GOP didn’t have a primary. And it turned into a giant mess with a weak, unpopular candidate who ultimately had to drop out.

For now, the GOP is enjoying an embarrassment of political riches — an energized base, plenty of candidates, and plenty of targets (e.g., ObamaCare, Nancy Pelosi, the Cash for Cloture deal). If all the Democrats have is a false narrative spun by their media cheerleaders, it may be a very bad year for them indeed.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Time to see if the Senate Cash for Cloture deal can survive scrutiny (legal and otherwise): “Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska’s political deal from the federal health care reform bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press Wednesday. ‘We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed,’ South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and the 12 other attorneys general wrote in the letter to be sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

The Obami don’t like “Islamic terrorism” or “war on terror” but they are a never-ending font of bureaucratic gibberish: “‘Pulsing it.’ ‘Pulsing the system.’ That’s the language used Tuesday by a senior Obama White House administration official to describe how the administration is scrambling to find out about the intelligence failures that led to a Nigerian suspected terrorist boarding Detroit bound Northwest Flight 253 with explosives in his underwear on Christmas Day.” Yeah, I don’t feel comforted by this either.

Sounds good in theory: “President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered the federal government to rethink how it protects the nation’s secrets, in a move that was expected to declassify more than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents and curb the number of government records hidden from the public.” But then why hasn’t the administration released all the Bush-era interrogation documents requested by Dick Cheney, the information on the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter case, and the data Congress has requested about the domestic-terror attacks on the Obami’s watch?

More people than ever hate ObamaCare — 58 percent, a new high in the Rasmussen poll, oppose it.

Because we haven’t had enough government bailouts? “The federal government said Wednesday it will take a majority ownership stake in the troubled auto lender GMAC, providing another $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to stanch its losses. The new aid package for GMAC, coming as most large banks are repaying the government, underscores both the problems afflicting the company and its importance to the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the auto industry.” Hmm, sounds like we’re never getting our money back.

What’s wrong with a criminal-justice approach to terrorism? “By whatever name, designating Mutallab as an enemy of the United States would have provided interrogators much greater flexibility in questioning him and given him no legal right to resist. The decision to charge Mutallab as a criminal, rather than designate him as an enemy combatant, was a momentous one that in all likelihood guarantees we will gain less intelligence about how the attack was planned, who planned it, and whether others are on the way.”

They have a point: “Members of the Allied Pilots Association, the pilots’ union at American Airlines, said Wednesday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration didn’t do enough to warn in-air flight crews of the Christmas Day terrorist threat on a Northwest Airlines flight.” But then no one was warned, so it’s not like they were treated any differently than anyone else.

Despite the White House’s best efforts, Fox News doesn’t look as though it is going away any time soon.

Time to see if the Senate Cash for Cloture deal can survive scrutiny (legal and otherwise): “Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska’s political deal from the federal health care reform bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press Wednesday. ‘We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed,’ South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and the 12 other attorneys general wrote in the letter to be sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

The Obami don’t like “Islamic terrorism” or “war on terror” but they are a never-ending font of bureaucratic gibberish: “‘Pulsing it.’ ‘Pulsing the system.’ That’s the language used Tuesday by a senior Obama White House administration official to describe how the administration is scrambling to find out about the intelligence failures that led to a Nigerian suspected terrorist boarding Detroit bound Northwest Flight 253 with explosives in his underwear on Christmas Day.” Yeah, I don’t feel comforted by this either.

Sounds good in theory: “President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered the federal government to rethink how it protects the nation’s secrets, in a move that was expected to declassify more than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents and curb the number of government records hidden from the public.” But then why hasn’t the administration released all the Bush-era interrogation documents requested by Dick Cheney, the information on the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter case, and the data Congress has requested about the domestic-terror attacks on the Obami’s watch?

More people than ever hate ObamaCare — 58 percent, a new high in the Rasmussen poll, oppose it.

Because we haven’t had enough government bailouts? “The federal government said Wednesday it will take a majority ownership stake in the troubled auto lender GMAC, providing another $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to stanch its losses. The new aid package for GMAC, coming as most large banks are repaying the government, underscores both the problems afflicting the company and its importance to the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the auto industry.” Hmm, sounds like we’re never getting our money back.

What’s wrong with a criminal-justice approach to terrorism? “By whatever name, designating Mutallab as an enemy of the United States would have provided interrogators much greater flexibility in questioning him and given him no legal right to resist. The decision to charge Mutallab as a criminal, rather than designate him as an enemy combatant, was a momentous one that in all likelihood guarantees we will gain less intelligence about how the attack was planned, who planned it, and whether others are on the way.”

They have a point: “Members of the Allied Pilots Association, the pilots’ union at American Airlines, said Wednesday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration didn’t do enough to warn in-air flight crews of the Christmas Day terrorist threat on a Northwest Airlines flight.” But then no one was warned, so it’s not like they were treated any differently than anyone else.

Despite the White House’s best efforts, Fox News doesn’t look as though it is going away any time soon.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

COMMENTARY contributor Abe Greenwald catches Obama going neocon and observes: “As evil is now part of Barack Obama’s war lexicon, he must make this point, and he must speak of victory. For once evil is invoked, compromise is off the table. Evil demands defeat.”

Harry Reid’s Medicare “deal” may be falling apart: “Senate moderates who are the linchpin to passing a health care reform bill raised fresh worries Thursday about a proposed Medicare expansion, complicating Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hopes of putting together a filibuster-proof majority for the legislation in the coming days.”

There is “quite a bit of data confirming that Republicans, after hitting bottom, are on the rebound, while Democrats are feeling the heat as the party in power.” It seems that saying no to bad policies is a good strategy after all.

The assistant attorney general for civil rights smears the Justice Department attorneys who were on the trial team in the New Black Panther Party voter case. This is not a smart thing to do while subpoenas seek these same attorneys’ testimony about political interference by Obama appointees.

Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren slams J Street: “This is not a matter of settlements here [or] there. We understand there are differences of opinion. … But when it comes to the survival of the Jewish state, there should be no differences of opinion. You are fooling around with the lives of 7 million people. This is no joke. … I think it’s very important that you be up-front with them and say why these policies are outside the mainstream and why they are inimical to Israel’s fundamental interests.”

Kentucky Democrats blame a loss in a state-legislature race on the national political environment: “Notably, the GOP focused the race on the Democrats’ healthcare proposal and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).”

Charles Krauthammer explains the “shakedown” in Copenhagen: “Socialism having failed so spectacularly, the left was adrift until it struck upon a brilliant gambit: metamorphosis from red to green. The cultural elites went straight from the memorial service for socialism to the altar of the environment. The objective is the same: highly centralized power given to the best and the brightest, the new class of experts, managers and technocrats. This time, however, the alleged justification is not abolishing oppression and inequality but saving the planet.”

Kim Strassel thinks the EPA’s threat to regulate carbon emissions by bureaucratic fiat blew up in the Obami’s faces: “At least some congressional Democrats view this as breathing room, a further reason to not tackle a killer issue in the run-up to next year’s election. Mr. Obama may emerge from Copenhagen with some sort of ‘deal.’ But his real problem is getting Congress to act, and his EPA move may have just made that job harder.”

COMMENTARY contributor Abe Greenwald catches Obama going neocon and observes: “As evil is now part of Barack Obama’s war lexicon, he must make this point, and he must speak of victory. For once evil is invoked, compromise is off the table. Evil demands defeat.”

Harry Reid’s Medicare “deal” may be falling apart: “Senate moderates who are the linchpin to passing a health care reform bill raised fresh worries Thursday about a proposed Medicare expansion, complicating Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hopes of putting together a filibuster-proof majority for the legislation in the coming days.”

There is “quite a bit of data confirming that Republicans, after hitting bottom, are on the rebound, while Democrats are feeling the heat as the party in power.” It seems that saying no to bad policies is a good strategy after all.

The assistant attorney general for civil rights smears the Justice Department attorneys who were on the trial team in the New Black Panther Party voter case. This is not a smart thing to do while subpoenas seek these same attorneys’ testimony about political interference by Obama appointees.

Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren slams J Street: “This is not a matter of settlements here [or] there. We understand there are differences of opinion. … But when it comes to the survival of the Jewish state, there should be no differences of opinion. You are fooling around with the lives of 7 million people. This is no joke. … I think it’s very important that you be up-front with them and say why these policies are outside the mainstream and why they are inimical to Israel’s fundamental interests.”

Kentucky Democrats blame a loss in a state-legislature race on the national political environment: “Notably, the GOP focused the race on the Democrats’ healthcare proposal and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).”

Charles Krauthammer explains the “shakedown” in Copenhagen: “Socialism having failed so spectacularly, the left was adrift until it struck upon a brilliant gambit: metamorphosis from red to green. The cultural elites went straight from the memorial service for socialism to the altar of the environment. The objective is the same: highly centralized power given to the best and the brightest, the new class of experts, managers and technocrats. This time, however, the alleged justification is not abolishing oppression and inequality but saving the planet.”

Kim Strassel thinks the EPA’s threat to regulate carbon emissions by bureaucratic fiat blew up in the Obami’s faces: “At least some congressional Democrats view this as breathing room, a further reason to not tackle a killer issue in the run-up to next year’s election. Mr. Obama may emerge from Copenhagen with some sort of ‘deal.’ But his real problem is getting Congress to act, and his EPA move may have just made that job harder.”

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All the News Barely Fit to Post

Politico breathlessly explains:

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spent $2,993 in taxpayer money on flowers between June and October. House Majority Whip James Clyburn has a thing for Chantilly Donuts, spending about $265 at the Virginia shop in the past quarter. And Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), a fiscal conservative, decided to give about $2,000 in unused office funds back to the government to help reduce the deficit.”

And guess what? She’s spent “$30,610 in food and beverage and about $2,740 on bottled water.” Oh, puleez. The woman has been leading the charge to spend trillions of our dollars on a liberal wish list, and the in-house paper for the Beltway is fixated on flowers, food, and bottled water for a grand total of less than $50,000? I haven’t done the math, but I suspect it’s equivalent to a teaspoon in the ocean of red ink she’s been spilling.

One has to read much of the way through this torrid account of beverages, magazine subscriptions, and donuts to learn that “most of the expenditures seem standard – everything from individual staff salaries to office supplies is listed.” Oh well, in that case. But you’ll be relieved to learn that there was a correction in the story: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the amounts Nancy Pelosi’s office spent on flowers and James Clyburn’s office spent on donuts.” That’s a relief. You wouldn’t want to get the glazed-donut hole or daisy figures wrong.

Politico breathlessly explains:

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spent $2,993 in taxpayer money on flowers between June and October. House Majority Whip James Clyburn has a thing for Chantilly Donuts, spending about $265 at the Virginia shop in the past quarter. And Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), a fiscal conservative, decided to give about $2,000 in unused office funds back to the government to help reduce the deficit.”

And guess what? She’s spent “$30,610 in food and beverage and about $2,740 on bottled water.” Oh, puleez. The woman has been leading the charge to spend trillions of our dollars on a liberal wish list, and the in-house paper for the Beltway is fixated on flowers, food, and bottled water for a grand total of less than $50,000? I haven’t done the math, but I suspect it’s equivalent to a teaspoon in the ocean of red ink she’s been spilling.

One has to read much of the way through this torrid account of beverages, magazine subscriptions, and donuts to learn that “most of the expenditures seem standard – everything from individual staff salaries to office supplies is listed.” Oh well, in that case. But you’ll be relieved to learn that there was a correction in the story: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the amounts Nancy Pelosi’s office spent on flowers and James Clyburn’s office spent on donuts.” That’s a relief. You wouldn’t want to get the glazed-donut hole or daisy figures wrong.

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Blockading Iran

On Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed a U.S. naval blockade of Iran. In talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he also suggested that nations not allow the entry of Iranian business people and senior regime leaders. Both measures are intended to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. “The present economic sanctions on Iran have exhausted themselves,” Olmert said, according to today’s Haaretz, the Israeli paper, in its online edition.

At about the same time that Haaretz reported the news of Olmert’s proposals, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security released a May 13 letter from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In the letter, Iran proposed talks on its nuclear program and other topics, such as nuclear disarmament, the Palestinian issue, and democracy in the Balkans. “I see it as a way to start negotiations,” said Institute for Science and International Secutrity President David Albright, referring to Iran’s wide-ranging offer.

Is there anything left to negotiate at this point? After all, most everything that could be said about Iran’s enrichment of uranium has already been uttered. Most every proposal has already been made in one form or another. Mottaki, in his letter, notes his country wants “constructive interaction and reasonable and just negotiations, without preconditions and based on mutual respect.” Of course, what the foreign minister is really saying is that Iran will not stop enrichment as the Security Council has demanded.

So, despite Tehran’s defiance of U.N. demands, should we start discussions with its representatives on the problems of the world? I say, let’s talk. But let’s also impose the blockade before we sit down with the mullahs’ representatives. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday,

The key here is developing leverage, either through economic or diplomatic or military pressures on the Iranian government so they believe they must have talks with the United States because there is something they want from us, and that is the relief of the pressure.

There’s nothing wrong about talking with repugnant and dangerous adversaries–as long as they come to surrender.

On Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed a U.S. naval blockade of Iran. In talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he also suggested that nations not allow the entry of Iranian business people and senior regime leaders. Both measures are intended to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. “The present economic sanctions on Iran have exhausted themselves,” Olmert said, according to today’s Haaretz, the Israeli paper, in its online edition.

At about the same time that Haaretz reported the news of Olmert’s proposals, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security released a May 13 letter from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In the letter, Iran proposed talks on its nuclear program and other topics, such as nuclear disarmament, the Palestinian issue, and democracy in the Balkans. “I see it as a way to start negotiations,” said Institute for Science and International Secutrity President David Albright, referring to Iran’s wide-ranging offer.

Is there anything left to negotiate at this point? After all, most everything that could be said about Iran’s enrichment of uranium has already been uttered. Most every proposal has already been made in one form or another. Mottaki, in his letter, notes his country wants “constructive interaction and reasonable and just negotiations, without preconditions and based on mutual respect.” Of course, what the foreign minister is really saying is that Iran will not stop enrichment as the Security Council has demanded.

So, despite Tehran’s defiance of U.N. demands, should we start discussions with its representatives on the problems of the world? I say, let’s talk. But let’s also impose the blockade before we sit down with the mullahs’ representatives. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday,

The key here is developing leverage, either through economic or diplomatic or military pressures on the Iranian government so they believe they must have talks with the United States because there is something they want from us, and that is the relief of the pressure.

There’s nothing wrong about talking with repugnant and dangerous adversaries–as long as they come to surrender.

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Pelosi, Flailing

Yesterday the AP reported

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lashed out at Republicans on Thursday, saying they want the Iraq war to drag on and are ignoring the public’s priorities. “They like this war. They want this war to continue,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters. She expressed frustration over Republicans’ ability to force majority Democrats to yield ground on taxes, spending, energy, war spending, and other matters. “We thought that they shared the view of so many people in our country that we needed a new direction in Iraq,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference in the Capitol. “But the Republicans have made it very clear that this is not just George Bush’s war. This is the war of the Republicans in Congress.” [When asked to clarify her remarks, Pelosi said, "I shouldn't say they like the war," she said. "They support the war, the course of action that the President is on."]

These are the words of a desperate woman who is the leader of an increasingly desperate party, one that is beginning to turn on itself. Even Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, who is as reliable a voice as Democrats have, is worried. This morning he writes, “Congressional Democrats need a Plan B.” The problem, Dionne writes, is that Democrats just aren’t adept enough at the “blame game.”

Not quite. In fact, several things are converging to work against Democrats. The first is that early this year they placed a huge wager that the war to liberate Iraq was lost. It turns out that bet was misplaced. When Pelosi says she thought Republicans shared the view of so many people that we needed a “new direction” in Iraq, she (willfully) ignores the blazingly obvious: this year the President put in place a new military strategy in Iraq, under the leadership of General David Petraeus, and that new strategy is showing results faster than anyone could have anticipated.

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Yesterday the AP reported

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lashed out at Republicans on Thursday, saying they want the Iraq war to drag on and are ignoring the public’s priorities. “They like this war. They want this war to continue,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters. She expressed frustration over Republicans’ ability to force majority Democrats to yield ground on taxes, spending, energy, war spending, and other matters. “We thought that they shared the view of so many people in our country that we needed a new direction in Iraq,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference in the Capitol. “But the Republicans have made it very clear that this is not just George Bush’s war. This is the war of the Republicans in Congress.” [When asked to clarify her remarks, Pelosi said, "I shouldn't say they like the war," she said. "They support the war, the course of action that the President is on."]

These are the words of a desperate woman who is the leader of an increasingly desperate party, one that is beginning to turn on itself. Even Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, who is as reliable a voice as Democrats have, is worried. This morning he writes, “Congressional Democrats need a Plan B.” The problem, Dionne writes, is that Democrats just aren’t adept enough at the “blame game.”

Not quite. In fact, several things are converging to work against Democrats. The first is that early this year they placed a huge wager that the war to liberate Iraq was lost. It turns out that bet was misplaced. When Pelosi says she thought Republicans shared the view of so many people that we needed a “new direction” in Iraq, she (willfully) ignores the blazingly obvious: this year the President put in place a new military strategy in Iraq, under the leadership of General David Petraeus, and that new strategy is showing results faster than anyone could have anticipated.

Having seen things get better in Iraq, Democrats compounded their problems immeasurably by ignoring the progress and having their leadership, on an almost daily basis, act as if they want to expedite an American loss. That’s a very bad place for a major American political party to be.

Second, Democrats have been extraordinarily ineffective at passing legislation. They were handed the reigns of legislative power—and they have produced almost nothing of consequence.

Third, the Democratic base, because of the war, is more radical, vocal, and freakish than usual, which is putting enormous pressure on Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid. Every time they attempt to appease the left fringe of their party, they turn off most of the rest of America. A steady diet of the rhetoric of Moveon.org and The Daily Kos will do that to people.

Fourth, the President, whose approval rating is now edging up toward 40 percent, is showing himself to be a pretty good political counter-puncher. Democrats are discovering that governing is more difficult than simply criticizing from the sidelines. The Democratic Congress is a target-rich environment—and President Bush is zeroing in on those targets.

The Democratic-led Congress has set record lows in approval ratings this year. As we approach its end, Democrats look increasingly powerless, angry, and irresponsible. The 2006 election was a repudiation of the GOP, after two very bad years. The Republican Party has to take steps to regain the trust and confidence of the polity. But it may be that the best tonic for Republicans is for the public to be reminded, all over again, about the modern-day Democratic Party’s core beliefs. Politics, after all, is about choices—and increasingly, Democrats look to be the less appealing choice.

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