Commentary Magazine


Topic: Howard Dean

Shirley Sherrod for White House Adviser

The Shirley Sherrod uproar is a quintessential example of the summer news story. Like last year’s story — the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and President Obama’s calling the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police action “stupid” — it has made the Obama administration look stupid.

The historian’s old standby, a timeline, is handy here. Last March, Shirley Sherrod, an employee of the Agriculture Department who grew up in the Jim Crow South and saw her father’s white murderers get away with that murder, gave a speech to the NAACP in which she recalled her own evolution on race.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative provocateur, used a short clip from the speech to make it seem as though Ms. Sherrod were a racist, working hard for black farmers and indifferent to the problems of white ones — thus, evidence of anti-white racism in the Obama administration. I have no idea if Breitbart knew he was being intellectually dishonest or not. But he was doing what provocateurs do: provoking.

The clip went viral, and the Obama administration panicked big-time. The White House told the Secretary of Agriculture to fire Ms. Sherrod. She had to pull over to the side of the road while he did so. She received not a scintilla of due process. Indeed, she wasn’t even asked what her side of the story was. The NAACP, which had a tape of the whole speech, didn’t bother to review it and piled on. It seems the administration was terrified that Glenn Beck would eat it for lunch unless it moved immediately. Beck must love that.

The Obama administration’s firing of a black employee because of racism against a white farmer was irresistible journalistic catnip in the midst of the summer doldrums, and the cable channels ran the Breitbart clip over and over.

But there was another side of the story. The incident in the clip had taken place 24 years earlier, when Ms. Sherrod was working for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, not the federal department, and she ended up saving that white family’s farm from foreclosure. She had merely been using the incident to show the lessons on race that she had learned from it. The farmer in question backed up her story. Both the Obama administration and the NAACP backtracked and apologized to her. (Obama called her personally.) And she has been offered another job at the Agriculture Department.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Howard Dean, obviously following the Obama line, tried to make it sound like Fox News had been part of the problem. Chris Wallace, in an unusually heated exchange, would have none of it. He pointed out that Fox did not carry the story or mention Ms. Sherrod’s name until she had been fired. It then ran the Breitbart tape, naturally, as part of the story. So did all other cable news channels.

So Fox, it seems to me, is blameless — it was reporting the news, which, after all, is its job. Breitbart was after attention and, perhaps, wanted to frighten the Obama administration into acting foolishly. If so, he sure succeeded. And the Obama administration has egg all over its face, contributing to the growing impression that it is incompetent.

The only hero here is Shirley Sherrod. She told her own moving story about how she managed to move beyond the racism of the past and enter the post-racial world that Barack Obama promised and has, rather spectacularly in this case, failed to deliver.

Maybe President Obama should fire one of the Chicago gang at the White House and replace that person with Shirley Sherrod. It seems the administration could use a little common wisdom and dignity around there.

The Shirley Sherrod uproar is a quintessential example of the summer news story. Like last year’s story — the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and President Obama’s calling the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police action “stupid” — it has made the Obama administration look stupid.

The historian’s old standby, a timeline, is handy here. Last March, Shirley Sherrod, an employee of the Agriculture Department who grew up in the Jim Crow South and saw her father’s white murderers get away with that murder, gave a speech to the NAACP in which she recalled her own evolution on race.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative provocateur, used a short clip from the speech to make it seem as though Ms. Sherrod were a racist, working hard for black farmers and indifferent to the problems of white ones — thus, evidence of anti-white racism in the Obama administration. I have no idea if Breitbart knew he was being intellectually dishonest or not. But he was doing what provocateurs do: provoking.

The clip went viral, and the Obama administration panicked big-time. The White House told the Secretary of Agriculture to fire Ms. Sherrod. She had to pull over to the side of the road while he did so. She received not a scintilla of due process. Indeed, she wasn’t even asked what her side of the story was. The NAACP, which had a tape of the whole speech, didn’t bother to review it and piled on. It seems the administration was terrified that Glenn Beck would eat it for lunch unless it moved immediately. Beck must love that.

The Obama administration’s firing of a black employee because of racism against a white farmer was irresistible journalistic catnip in the midst of the summer doldrums, and the cable channels ran the Breitbart clip over and over.

But there was another side of the story. The incident in the clip had taken place 24 years earlier, when Ms. Sherrod was working for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, not the federal department, and she ended up saving that white family’s farm from foreclosure. She had merely been using the incident to show the lessons on race that she had learned from it. The farmer in question backed up her story. Both the Obama administration and the NAACP backtracked and apologized to her. (Obama called her personally.) And she has been offered another job at the Agriculture Department.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Howard Dean, obviously following the Obama line, tried to make it sound like Fox News had been part of the problem. Chris Wallace, in an unusually heated exchange, would have none of it. He pointed out that Fox did not carry the story or mention Ms. Sherrod’s name until she had been fired. It then ran the Breitbart tape, naturally, as part of the story. So did all other cable news channels.

So Fox, it seems to me, is blameless — it was reporting the news, which, after all, is its job. Breitbart was after attention and, perhaps, wanted to frighten the Obama administration into acting foolishly. If so, he sure succeeded. And the Obama administration has egg all over its face, contributing to the growing impression that it is incompetent.

The only hero here is Shirley Sherrod. She told her own moving story about how she managed to move beyond the racism of the past and enter the post-racial world that Barack Obama promised and has, rather spectacularly in this case, failed to deliver.

Maybe President Obama should fire one of the Chicago gang at the White House and replace that person with Shirley Sherrod. It seems the administration could use a little common wisdom and dignity around there.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas's] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas's] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

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Did Chuck DeVore Exaggerate His Military Service?

I think we’re going to see a flurry of stories on what politicians said about their military service. Howard Dean says the New York Times story on Richard Blumenthal was a “hatchet” job, but if a candidate’s lies about his military service aren’t fair game, I don’t know what is.

The Los Angeles Times has a biographical story on Chuck DeVore, currently running third in the California Senate race. This is not in the league of Richard Blumenthal; it’s more Hillary Clinton–style puffery:

Throughout the campaign, DeVore has emphasized his service as a military officer and a young Reagan White House appointee at the Pentagon as experiences that helped make him the most qualified candidate. But at times he appears to have overstated those accomplishments, particularly his experience under fire and his role in the development of a U.S.-Israeli anti-ballistic-missile defense program.

What does the Times have? In a radio debate, he said he was the only candidate who’d served in the military: “I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. Army,” he said. The Times acknowledges that his campaign literature refers to him as a “lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army retired reserves.” And DeVore argues that it is technically correct to say he is “in the Army” since the reserves are part of the Army. OK, I sort of buy that — but he certainly must have known that the listening audience would have thought he meant the regular Army. This is dicier:

He spoke during the debate of being “shot at in Lebanon” but did not make clear that the shooting occurred in the 1980s while DeVore was a college student studying Arabic and other subjects in the Middle East. Nor did he note that while the shooting was in his vicinity, there was no indication he was a target or was in actual danger.

Now we’re into the territory of Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gunfire fantasy. The Times tracks down former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick (not a partisan liberal by any means) to debunk DeVore’s story.

This is not as damning as Blumenthal’s repeated and direct lies, but it doesn’t help his cause. DeVore is a solid conservative with a firm pro-Israel position who hasn’t gotten much traction in the race. He shouldn’t have puffed up his military background to try to distinguish himself. Conservatives often surge late in Republican primaries, but this may well hold down his level of support among conservatives who have spent the better part of a week pointing out that there are few things lower than misleading voters about your military record.

I think we’re going to see a flurry of stories on what politicians said about their military service. Howard Dean says the New York Times story on Richard Blumenthal was a “hatchet” job, but if a candidate’s lies about his military service aren’t fair game, I don’t know what is.

The Los Angeles Times has a biographical story on Chuck DeVore, currently running third in the California Senate race. This is not in the league of Richard Blumenthal; it’s more Hillary Clinton–style puffery:

Throughout the campaign, DeVore has emphasized his service as a military officer and a young Reagan White House appointee at the Pentagon as experiences that helped make him the most qualified candidate. But at times he appears to have overstated those accomplishments, particularly his experience under fire and his role in the development of a U.S.-Israeli anti-ballistic-missile defense program.

What does the Times have? In a radio debate, he said he was the only candidate who’d served in the military: “I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. Army,” he said. The Times acknowledges that his campaign literature refers to him as a “lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army retired reserves.” And DeVore argues that it is technically correct to say he is “in the Army” since the reserves are part of the Army. OK, I sort of buy that — but he certainly must have known that the listening audience would have thought he meant the regular Army. This is dicier:

He spoke during the debate of being “shot at in Lebanon” but did not make clear that the shooting occurred in the 1980s while DeVore was a college student studying Arabic and other subjects in the Middle East. Nor did he note that while the shooting was in his vicinity, there was no indication he was a target or was in actual danger.

Now we’re into the territory of Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gunfire fantasy. The Times tracks down former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick (not a partisan liberal by any means) to debunk DeVore’s story.

This is not as damning as Blumenthal’s repeated and direct lies, but it doesn’t help his cause. DeVore is a solid conservative with a firm pro-Israel position who hasn’t gotten much traction in the race. He shouldn’t have puffed up his military background to try to distinguish himself. Conservatives often surge late in Republican primaries, but this may well hold down his level of support among conservatives who have spent the better part of a week pointing out that there are few things lower than misleading voters about your military record.

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Blumenthal Will Go National

Of the many surprising political developments of the past year – Obama’s plummet in the polls, the passage of ObamaCare in the face of strong popular opposition, and the revival of the Republican Party — there is none so strikingly bizarre and self-destructive as Richard Blumenthal’s defiant press conference and the Democrats’ determination to rally around him. Former DNC head Howard Dean was among the latest to defend Blumenthal from the “hatchet job,” as he calls it, which exposed his repeated lies about Vietnam military service. The entire Democratic political establishment rallies to such a figure, circles the wagons, and, given the short timeline for coming up with a replacement, seems poised to risk the Connecticut Senate seat for such a character.

But here’s the thing: it’s not simply a Connecticut issue. Savvy Republicans will soon realize that this is a national issue of integrity and ethics for the entire Democratic establishment, personifying the party’s obtuseness and contempt for the values of average Americans. I imagine that every Republican on the ballot will condemn Blumenthal and challenge his Democratic opponent to do the same. If they join in the condemnation, the Connecticut seat will be further imperiled. And if they don’t, the issue then becomes that Democrat’s lack of moral compass and out-to-lunch mentality.

Democrats have a window of time to spare themselves this debacle. Republicans are surely hoping they don’t realize just how ridiculous they seem.

Of the many surprising political developments of the past year – Obama’s plummet in the polls, the passage of ObamaCare in the face of strong popular opposition, and the revival of the Republican Party — there is none so strikingly bizarre and self-destructive as Richard Blumenthal’s defiant press conference and the Democrats’ determination to rally around him. Former DNC head Howard Dean was among the latest to defend Blumenthal from the “hatchet job,” as he calls it, which exposed his repeated lies about Vietnam military service. The entire Democratic political establishment rallies to such a figure, circles the wagons, and, given the short timeline for coming up with a replacement, seems poised to risk the Connecticut Senate seat for such a character.

But here’s the thing: it’s not simply a Connecticut issue. Savvy Republicans will soon realize that this is a national issue of integrity and ethics for the entire Democratic establishment, personifying the party’s obtuseness and contempt for the values of average Americans. I imagine that every Republican on the ballot will condemn Blumenthal and challenge his Democratic opponent to do the same. If they join in the condemnation, the Connecticut seat will be further imperiled. And if they don’t, the issue then becomes that Democrat’s lack of moral compass and out-to-lunch mentality.

Democrats have a window of time to spare themselves this debacle. Republicans are surely hoping they don’t realize just how ridiculous they seem.

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The Ever-So-Convenient Myth

In an interesting article on the real reason behind ObamaCare — wealth redistribution — in today’s Washington Examiner, Byron York quotes Senator Max Baucus.

Health reform is “an income shift,” Democratic Sen. Max Baucus said on March 25. “It is a shift, a leveling, to help lower income, middle income Americans.”

In his halting, jumbled style, Baucus explained that in recent years “the mal-distribution of income in America has gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind.” The new health-care legislation, Baucus promised, “will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America.”

York quotes several others, including Howard Dean, to the same effect. This opinion, nearly universal on the Left, is implicitly based on one of the oldest, biggest, and dumbest fallacies in economics: that an economy is a zero-sum game, that for someone to get richer, some — or many — have to get poorer. Poker is a zero-sum game. So is robbery, which is why it’s illegal. And Honoré de Balzac is widely but incorrectly supposed to have said that “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.” Well, Paul McCartney was born into a poor family in rundown Liverpool and is now one of the richest men in England. Whom, exactly, did he rob?

The rich have certainly been getting richer in the last thirty years. In 1982 it took a measly $80 million or so to make it onto the Forbes 400 List. Today it takes over a billion. But this is an artifact not of crime but of the technological revolution the world is undergoing, thanks to the microprocessor. Every major technological development has produced an inflorescence of fortune making. The Industrial Revolution produced so many new rich that Benjamin Disraeli had to coin the word millionaire in 1827 to describe them. Railroads, steel, oil, automobiles, the movies, television, all produced prodigious new fortunes.

But the people who rode the railroads and automobiles, watched the movies and television didn’t get poorer by doing so. Just like the millions who so willingly bought Paul McCartney’s music, they got richer too. They had quicker, cheaper transportation, and better and cheaper entertainment. No one forced them to buy the product, which is a good deal more than can be said for ObamaCare.

As the rich got richer, of course, their tax bills got bigger, a lot bigger, and both the federal tax revenues and the percentage of those revenues paid by the top ten percent and, especially, the top one percent, have been growing swiftly. But as long as the Left clings to the ever-so-convenient myth of the zero-sum economy, that isn’t enough.

In an interesting article on the real reason behind ObamaCare — wealth redistribution — in today’s Washington Examiner, Byron York quotes Senator Max Baucus.

Health reform is “an income shift,” Democratic Sen. Max Baucus said on March 25. “It is a shift, a leveling, to help lower income, middle income Americans.”

In his halting, jumbled style, Baucus explained that in recent years “the mal-distribution of income in America has gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind.” The new health-care legislation, Baucus promised, “will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America.”

York quotes several others, including Howard Dean, to the same effect. This opinion, nearly universal on the Left, is implicitly based on one of the oldest, biggest, and dumbest fallacies in economics: that an economy is a zero-sum game, that for someone to get richer, some — or many — have to get poorer. Poker is a zero-sum game. So is robbery, which is why it’s illegal. And Honoré de Balzac is widely but incorrectly supposed to have said that “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.” Well, Paul McCartney was born into a poor family in rundown Liverpool and is now one of the richest men in England. Whom, exactly, did he rob?

The rich have certainly been getting richer in the last thirty years. In 1982 it took a measly $80 million or so to make it onto the Forbes 400 List. Today it takes over a billion. But this is an artifact not of crime but of the technological revolution the world is undergoing, thanks to the microprocessor. Every major technological development has produced an inflorescence of fortune making. The Industrial Revolution produced so many new rich that Benjamin Disraeli had to coin the word millionaire in 1827 to describe them. Railroads, steel, oil, automobiles, the movies, television, all produced prodigious new fortunes.

But the people who rode the railroads and automobiles, watched the movies and television didn’t get poorer by doing so. Just like the millions who so willingly bought Paul McCartney’s music, they got richer too. They had quicker, cheaper transportation, and better and cheaper entertainment. No one forced them to buy the product, which is a good deal more than can be said for ObamaCare.

As the rich got richer, of course, their tax bills got bigger, a lot bigger, and both the federal tax revenues and the percentage of those revenues paid by the top ten percent and, especially, the top one percent, have been growing swiftly. But as long as the Left clings to the ever-so-convenient myth of the zero-sum economy, that isn’t enough.

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When You Mess Up This Badly, There Are No Good Options

How badly did Obama mess up? Really badly, says David Brooks:

Instead of building trust in government, the Democrats have magnified distrust. The country already believed Washington is out of touch with its core concerns. So while most families were concerned about jobs, Democrats in Washington spent nine months arguing about health care. The country was already tired of self-serving back-room deals, so the Democrats negotiated a series of dirty deals with the pharmaceutical industry, the unions and certain senators. Americans already felt Washington doesn’t understand their fears and insecurities. So at the moment when economic insecurity was at its peak, the Democrats in Washington added another layer of insecurity by threatening to change everything at once.

Instead of building a new majority, the Democrats have set off a distrust insurrection (which is not the same as a conservative insurrection). Republicans are enraged. Independents are furious. Democrats are disheartened. Health care reform is brutally unpopular. Even voters in Massachusetts decided it was time to send a message.

Brooks writes “Democrats,” but you can plug in “Obama.” These were Obama’s decisions — either affirmatively or by ceding the decision-making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It might sound less harsh to avoid using his name, but we should be clear whose fault this is. Hard to imagine that someone like Obama – who could be such a fine editor of a liberal magazine – could have made that many bad calls and been so out of touch with the American electorate’s inherent conservatism and aversion to statism. Maybe being a fine editor or a sophisticated conversationalist or living in Indonesia has nothing to do with being a good president. (Note to file: There is no correlation between Ivy League credentials and prowess as a chief executive.)

Brooks gives Obama … er, Democrats … some advice: take what he calls the Weak and Feckless Approach to health care. Admit they messed up. Say they heard the public. And get out of Dodge with a face-saving, small-beans plan. “Perhaps we will use federal money to support a series of state reform efforts — like the one in Massachusetts — which are closer to the people, ” says Brooks. Yes, that sounds just unbelievably lame. But that’s what they’re reduced to. There is no support for grandiose ObamaCare. There hasn’t been support in the country for some time, and finally the lawmakers are listening.

I personally like the temper-tantrum option, which Brooks calls the Incoherent and Internecine Approach: “This would involve settling on no coherent policy but just blaming each other for cowardice and stupidity for the next month.” It would be fun to watch, and there’s at least a grain of truth in it. Obama is to blame. Pelosi is to blame. Reid is to blame. Greedy Ben Nelson is to blame. And then the Democrats will tell us that the voters are to blame, the tiny Republican minority is to blame, and of course the cabal of Bill Kristol–Jane Hamsher–Howard Dean–MoveOn.org–Club for Growth–Jim DeMint–Mitch McConnell–etc. is to blame. In short, the Right and the Left and Independents are the villains — because they all opposed the bill. Well, that does suggest that the bill was so flawed that it could engender no support. But that sort of discussion is what makes the Incoherent and Internecine Approach so enticing.

Surveying all that and observing the unraveling of support on Capitol Hill for ObamaCare, one must agree with Brooks that there are no good options here for the Obami. Sometimes the number and magnitude of a politician’s errors are so great that all that’s left for him to do is take his lumps, express contrition, and move on. (The Humble Pie Approach?) Unfortunately, that’s the last thing this president is inclined to favor.

How badly did Obama mess up? Really badly, says David Brooks:

Instead of building trust in government, the Democrats have magnified distrust. The country already believed Washington is out of touch with its core concerns. So while most families were concerned about jobs, Democrats in Washington spent nine months arguing about health care. The country was already tired of self-serving back-room deals, so the Democrats negotiated a series of dirty deals with the pharmaceutical industry, the unions and certain senators. Americans already felt Washington doesn’t understand their fears and insecurities. So at the moment when economic insecurity was at its peak, the Democrats in Washington added another layer of insecurity by threatening to change everything at once.

Instead of building a new majority, the Democrats have set off a distrust insurrection (which is not the same as a conservative insurrection). Republicans are enraged. Independents are furious. Democrats are disheartened. Health care reform is brutally unpopular. Even voters in Massachusetts decided it was time to send a message.

Brooks writes “Democrats,” but you can plug in “Obama.” These were Obama’s decisions — either affirmatively or by ceding the decision-making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It might sound less harsh to avoid using his name, but we should be clear whose fault this is. Hard to imagine that someone like Obama – who could be such a fine editor of a liberal magazine – could have made that many bad calls and been so out of touch with the American electorate’s inherent conservatism and aversion to statism. Maybe being a fine editor or a sophisticated conversationalist or living in Indonesia has nothing to do with being a good president. (Note to file: There is no correlation between Ivy League credentials and prowess as a chief executive.)

Brooks gives Obama … er, Democrats … some advice: take what he calls the Weak and Feckless Approach to health care. Admit they messed up. Say they heard the public. And get out of Dodge with a face-saving, small-beans plan. “Perhaps we will use federal money to support a series of state reform efforts — like the one in Massachusetts — which are closer to the people, ” says Brooks. Yes, that sounds just unbelievably lame. But that’s what they’re reduced to. There is no support for grandiose ObamaCare. There hasn’t been support in the country for some time, and finally the lawmakers are listening.

I personally like the temper-tantrum option, which Brooks calls the Incoherent and Internecine Approach: “This would involve settling on no coherent policy but just blaming each other for cowardice and stupidity for the next month.” It would be fun to watch, and there’s at least a grain of truth in it. Obama is to blame. Pelosi is to blame. Reid is to blame. Greedy Ben Nelson is to blame. And then the Democrats will tell us that the voters are to blame, the tiny Republican minority is to blame, and of course the cabal of Bill Kristol–Jane Hamsher–Howard Dean–MoveOn.org–Club for Growth–Jim DeMint–Mitch McConnell–etc. is to blame. In short, the Right and the Left and Independents are the villains — because they all opposed the bill. Well, that does suggest that the bill was so flawed that it could engender no support. But that sort of discussion is what makes the Incoherent and Internecine Approach so enticing.

Surveying all that and observing the unraveling of support on Capitol Hill for ObamaCare, one must agree with Brooks that there are no good options here for the Obami. Sometimes the number and magnitude of a politician’s errors are so great that all that’s left for him to do is take his lumps, express contrition, and move on. (The Humble Pie Approach?) Unfortunately, that’s the last thing this president is inclined to favor.

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The Cost of Overreach

Charles Lane writes: “Who would have thought that just one year into Obama’s promising presidency, the Democrats who had pinned their hopes on him would be dangerously close to political meltdown?” He thinks it is more than “the lousy economy, public concern about the messy health-care compromise, renewed fear of terrorism, the usual cyclical problems of the incumbent party in an off-year election.” He sees a break-up of the two parties into four subgroups: “Roughly speaking, the Democrats consist of a liberal wing (epitomized by, say, Howard Dean) and a centrist wing (think of Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln). The Republicans include a conservative wing (e.g., Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio) and an ultra-conservative wing (Sarah Palin).”

But that doesn’t quite explain why the Democrats are disproportionately impacted and why it is Obama’s party rather than the GOP that is looking at a meltdown in the 2010 races. There is a simpler explanation: Obama and the Democrats overreached. The temptation is great when you’ve won a big election and the media is telling you that you are now the “permanent majority.” You overestimate the election results (e.g., the new New Deal!), treat opponents and the public with contempt (labeling town-hall attendees “un-American”), don’t think you have to keep promises (C-SPAN negotiations, only taxing the rich), and try to enact controversial legislation through narrow, strictly partisan majorities. Throw in some scandals, a grumpy president who seems out to lunch on national security, a terrorist attack (three, actually, last year), and pretty soon everyone is asking: who voted for these guys?

Republicans shouldn’t be celebrating yet. The Democrats may get wise, put off the hugely unpopular health-care bill, and scramble toward the political center. Unlike Republicans in 2006, Democrats have plenty of warning that they are heading over a political cliff. To avoid going over it, however, requires their making a real course correction, signaling that they “have heard the voters.” Otherwise, the voters will want to send them a message on Election Day.

Charles Lane writes: “Who would have thought that just one year into Obama’s promising presidency, the Democrats who had pinned their hopes on him would be dangerously close to political meltdown?” He thinks it is more than “the lousy economy, public concern about the messy health-care compromise, renewed fear of terrorism, the usual cyclical problems of the incumbent party in an off-year election.” He sees a break-up of the two parties into four subgroups: “Roughly speaking, the Democrats consist of a liberal wing (epitomized by, say, Howard Dean) and a centrist wing (think of Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln). The Republicans include a conservative wing (e.g., Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio) and an ultra-conservative wing (Sarah Palin).”

But that doesn’t quite explain why the Democrats are disproportionately impacted and why it is Obama’s party rather than the GOP that is looking at a meltdown in the 2010 races. There is a simpler explanation: Obama and the Democrats overreached. The temptation is great when you’ve won a big election and the media is telling you that you are now the “permanent majority.” You overestimate the election results (e.g., the new New Deal!), treat opponents and the public with contempt (labeling town-hall attendees “un-American”), don’t think you have to keep promises (C-SPAN negotiations, only taxing the rich), and try to enact controversial legislation through narrow, strictly partisan majorities. Throw in some scandals, a grumpy president who seems out to lunch on national security, a terrorist attack (three, actually, last year), and pretty soon everyone is asking: who voted for these guys?

Republicans shouldn’t be celebrating yet. The Democrats may get wise, put off the hugely unpopular health-care bill, and scramble toward the political center. Unlike Republicans in 2006, Democrats have plenty of warning that they are heading over a political cliff. To avoid going over it, however, requires their making a real course correction, signaling that they “have heard the voters.” Otherwise, the voters will want to send them a message on Election Day.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

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ObamaCare Loses Brooks

It’s one thing to have Howard Dean holler (he hollers even in print, it seems) to “kill the bill.” It’s quite another to have David Brooks, after the most reasoned balancing of pro’s and con’s and much heartfelt agonizing, say “kill the bill.” Well, he didn’t say it that way, but he’s figured out that it’s worse than doing nothing:

If you pass a health care bill without systemic incentives reform, you set up a political vortex in which the few good parts of the bill will get stripped out and the expensive and wasteful parts will be entrenched. Defenders say we can’t do real reform because the politics won’t allow it. The truth is the reverse. Unless you get the fundamental incentives right, the politics will be terrible forever and ever.

That means “kill the bill.” He’s got the reasons why we should. There’s no real health-care reform in all those pages. He says that “it will cause national health care spending to increase faster,” and it will increase demand but not the supply of health care in the short run, causing prices to skyrocket. He knows that “you can’t centrally regulate 17 percent of the U.S. economy without a raft of unintended consequences.” Medical innovation will get creamed. And there’s no hope for real cost control after this thing passes. His logic is impeccable.

So why doesn’t the White House agree? The president was supposed to be an evidence-driven, nonideological sort with a philosophical bent. Lots of smart people told us so. Well, truth be told, the White House never really cared about what was in the bill. The Obami never told us what they wanted, because they didn’t really know or didn’t think it mattered. They only wanted a bill. Their real interest was twofold: get a huge political win and plant the sapling for a European-style social-welfare state that couldn’t be ripped out once planted.

Maybe the Obami were right and they can get the Congress to pass a very bad bill that everyone – from Brooks to Howard Dean to Jim DeMint to ordinary voters to MoveOn.org to talk-radio hosts — has figured out really stinks. But it’s getting harder to do so with a straight face.

It’s one thing to have Howard Dean holler (he hollers even in print, it seems) to “kill the bill.” It’s quite another to have David Brooks, after the most reasoned balancing of pro’s and con’s and much heartfelt agonizing, say “kill the bill.” Well, he didn’t say it that way, but he’s figured out that it’s worse than doing nothing:

If you pass a health care bill without systemic incentives reform, you set up a political vortex in which the few good parts of the bill will get stripped out and the expensive and wasteful parts will be entrenched. Defenders say we can’t do real reform because the politics won’t allow it. The truth is the reverse. Unless you get the fundamental incentives right, the politics will be terrible forever and ever.

That means “kill the bill.” He’s got the reasons why we should. There’s no real health-care reform in all those pages. He says that “it will cause national health care spending to increase faster,” and it will increase demand but not the supply of health care in the short run, causing prices to skyrocket. He knows that “you can’t centrally regulate 17 percent of the U.S. economy without a raft of unintended consequences.” Medical innovation will get creamed. And there’s no hope for real cost control after this thing passes. His logic is impeccable.

So why doesn’t the White House agree? The president was supposed to be an evidence-driven, nonideological sort with a philosophical bent. Lots of smart people told us so. Well, truth be told, the White House never really cared about what was in the bill. The Obami never told us what they wanted, because they didn’t really know or didn’t think it mattered. They only wanted a bill. Their real interest was twofold: get a huge political win and plant the sapling for a European-style social-welfare state that couldn’t be ripped out once planted.

Maybe the Obami were right and they can get the Congress to pass a very bad bill that everyone – from Brooks to Howard Dean to Jim DeMint to ordinary voters to MoveOn.org to talk-radio hosts — has figured out really stinks. But it’s getting harder to do so with a straight face.

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Liberals in Revolt, Looking for Allies

The Left is having a meltdown. They might yet get nationalized health care, but they’re beside themselves with fury. As this report sums up:

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is mounting a campaign of sorts against the initiative in its current form. MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has declared, “This is not health. This is not care. This is certainly not reform.” Liberal blogs such as Daily Kos are blasting the Senate bill, especially since it dropped a government-run “public option” and killed a plan to expand Medicare. Liberal House members are venting their fury at senators who are lukewarm on the revamp, especially Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson. Labor unions are protesting proposed taxes on high-value insurance policies.

On one hand, there’s reason to view all this with a great deal of skepticism. We haven’t seen, with the possible exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders, any indication that the Left will submarine the bill in the Senate. And virtually everyone suspects that whatever does get through the Senate will be jammed down the throats of House Democrats. They’ve shown no inclination to resist Nancy Pelosi on any significant vote.

However, there is reason for the White House and Democratic lawmakers to be very, very nervous. They need these angry liberals to support them, give money, and turn out to vote in 2010. The “angry Left” is useful to Democratic pols – so long as the Left’s anger is directed at others – and gets liberals to the polls for establishment Democrats. Should the liberal base stay home in a huff, the bleak 2010 picture will get bleaker.

What to do? Well, the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are convinced it will all work out in the end if the reviled health-care bill passes. Everyone — the Left included — will learn to love it, they keep telling themselves. Perhaps. But maybe there’s a strange convergence of interests. The Left wants to kill the bill. Conservatives want to kill the bill. Red State Democrats don’t really want to vote on the bill. What all these diverse groups need to do, then, is, well, kill the bill.

But then Democrats will need to look for someone to blame. (You don’t suppose they could blame George W. Bush? He’s come in so handy for so long, and on this one he almost surely wouldn’t mind.) Perhaps the Democrats should have held tight on the public option and let Sen. Joe Lieberman sink it. Come to think of it, that would have made a whole lot of people very happy. And it might have saved a lot of Democratic seats in 2010. Ah, well.

The Left is having a meltdown. They might yet get nationalized health care, but they’re beside themselves with fury. As this report sums up:

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is mounting a campaign of sorts against the initiative in its current form. MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has declared, “This is not health. This is not care. This is certainly not reform.” Liberal blogs such as Daily Kos are blasting the Senate bill, especially since it dropped a government-run “public option” and killed a plan to expand Medicare. Liberal House members are venting their fury at senators who are lukewarm on the revamp, especially Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson. Labor unions are protesting proposed taxes on high-value insurance policies.

On one hand, there’s reason to view all this with a great deal of skepticism. We haven’t seen, with the possible exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders, any indication that the Left will submarine the bill in the Senate. And virtually everyone suspects that whatever does get through the Senate will be jammed down the throats of House Democrats. They’ve shown no inclination to resist Nancy Pelosi on any significant vote.

However, there is reason for the White House and Democratic lawmakers to be very, very nervous. They need these angry liberals to support them, give money, and turn out to vote in 2010. The “angry Left” is useful to Democratic pols – so long as the Left’s anger is directed at others – and gets liberals to the polls for establishment Democrats. Should the liberal base stay home in a huff, the bleak 2010 picture will get bleaker.

What to do? Well, the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are convinced it will all work out in the end if the reviled health-care bill passes. Everyone — the Left included — will learn to love it, they keep telling themselves. Perhaps. But maybe there’s a strange convergence of interests. The Left wants to kill the bill. Conservatives want to kill the bill. Red State Democrats don’t really want to vote on the bill. What all these diverse groups need to do, then, is, well, kill the bill.

But then Democrats will need to look for someone to blame. (You don’t suppose they could blame George W. Bush? He’s come in so handy for so long, and on this one he almost surely wouldn’t mind.) Perhaps the Democrats should have held tight on the public option and let Sen. Joe Lieberman sink it. Come to think of it, that would have made a whole lot of people very happy. And it might have saved a lot of Democratic seats in 2010. Ah, well.

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You Have to Kill It First — and Then Make a Deal

Matthew Dowd tries to make the case on health-care reform that “passage of a bill by the Democrats at this point will be politically damaging to both the president and congressional Democrats. Conversely, defeat of the legislation is much more likely to hurt Republicans in Congress.” But his reasoning collapses on itself.

If, as he argues, Democrats will suffer by passage of a bill that is overwhelmingly unpopular and rightly suspected to hike taxes, increase the deficit, and worsen care, then Republicans will be rewarded not hurt for helping to stop the freight train. Moreover, Dodd’s advice –”a health-care bill that draws real bipartisan support” — depends on the defeat of ObamaCare. Not until the current bill in all its horridness is killed will Democrats be willing to compromise on a more limited set of commonsense reforms.

And that suggests a way out for the Red State Democrats, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and a few others who have found significant aspects of the Reid bill unacceptable. Recall that Senators Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Amy Klobuchar, Lincoln, and Nelson all voted to strip out taxes on those making less than $200,000. And Nelson and Webb voted against the nearly $500B in Medicare costs. Nelson objects to the abortion subsidy. (And right-to-life groups remain unimpressed with Reid’s “compromise.”)  So it’s within their power and that of some of their colleagues, who’ll certainly face the wrath of voters if they vote for this monstrous bill, to offer that alternative after refusing to vote for cloture.

That’s how compromise and bipartisan deals get made. Only when the narrow majority get the idea that they can’t run roughshod over the rest by rushing to a vote and cutting off debate is there room for dealing. Only then can a bill emerge that will spare a growing list of vulnerable Democrats — including Harry Reid — from extinguishing their own political careers. But first, in the words of Howard Dean, they have to kill the bill.

Matthew Dowd tries to make the case on health-care reform that “passage of a bill by the Democrats at this point will be politically damaging to both the president and congressional Democrats. Conversely, defeat of the legislation is much more likely to hurt Republicans in Congress.” But his reasoning collapses on itself.

If, as he argues, Democrats will suffer by passage of a bill that is overwhelmingly unpopular and rightly suspected to hike taxes, increase the deficit, and worsen care, then Republicans will be rewarded not hurt for helping to stop the freight train. Moreover, Dodd’s advice –”a health-care bill that draws real bipartisan support” — depends on the defeat of ObamaCare. Not until the current bill in all its horridness is killed will Democrats be willing to compromise on a more limited set of commonsense reforms.

And that suggests a way out for the Red State Democrats, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and a few others who have found significant aspects of the Reid bill unacceptable. Recall that Senators Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Amy Klobuchar, Lincoln, and Nelson all voted to strip out taxes on those making less than $200,000. And Nelson and Webb voted against the nearly $500B in Medicare costs. Nelson objects to the abortion subsidy. (And right-to-life groups remain unimpressed with Reid’s “compromise.”)  So it’s within their power and that of some of their colleagues, who’ll certainly face the wrath of voters if they vote for this monstrous bill, to offer that alternative after refusing to vote for cloture.

That’s how compromise and bipartisan deals get made. Only when the narrow majority get the idea that they can’t run roughshod over the rest by rushing to a vote and cutting off debate is there room for dealing. Only then can a bill emerge that will spare a growing list of vulnerable Democrats — including Harry Reid — from extinguishing their own political careers. But first, in the words of Howard Dean, they have to kill the bill.

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Threatening and Scaring Americans

Obama told us we were on the precipice. That seemed rather, well, scary. People fall off such things and sometimes die. Then we heard that health care had to pass now — or never. No president will ever try this again, although Obama did so after Bill Clinton failed. Now Obama says we have to pass it or go bankrupt. Or he’ll hold his breath and pass out. Or he’ll go on all the Sunday talk shows again. Enough already. Let’s put aside that no one, not even Christina Romer, thinks we’re spending less with this bill. The cost-control provisions are nonexistent, and we’re constructing an unsustainable new entitlement. But aside from the absence of any support for this hooey, it’s the tone that, once again, is striking and so very unpresidential.

Obama has excoriated his opponents for lowering the tone of debate and for scaring their fellow citizens. But really, the flood of invective and hysteria coming from ObamaCare supporters has been unprecedented. Town-hall protesters were “un-American,” according to Harry Reid, and confused or misinformed, according to the president. Now Obama seems to be channeling the global-warming crowd in his never-ending stream of dire predictions. And that’s telling. As George Will summed up: “Rushing to lock the nation into expensive health-care and climate-change commitments, Democrats are in an understandable frenzy because public enthusiasm for both crusades has been inversely proportional to the time the public has had to think about them.”

When liberal elites want to replace private decisions with government mandates, impose massive new costs, give unprecedented powers to government bureaucrats, and generally mess up your life, they must do two things: convince you that the consequences are dire if nothing is done and create a sense of urgency so that thoughtful reflection is replaced by a herd mentality. That’s what the White House and Democratic congressional leadership is reduced to doing now in order to jam through a noxious bill.

One observer remarked:

In Washington, when major bills near final passage, an inside-the-Beltway mentality takes hold. Any bill becomes a victory. Clear thinking is thrown out the window for political calculus. In the heat of battle, decisions are being made that set an irreversible course for how future health reform is done. The result is legislation that has been crafted to get votes, not to reform health care.

Bill Kristol or Sen. Mitch McConnell? No, Howard Dean. And when he has become the voice of sanity and decorum, you know how badly off track we’ve gotten.

Obama told us we were on the precipice. That seemed rather, well, scary. People fall off such things and sometimes die. Then we heard that health care had to pass now — or never. No president will ever try this again, although Obama did so after Bill Clinton failed. Now Obama says we have to pass it or go bankrupt. Or he’ll hold his breath and pass out. Or he’ll go on all the Sunday talk shows again. Enough already. Let’s put aside that no one, not even Christina Romer, thinks we’re spending less with this bill. The cost-control provisions are nonexistent, and we’re constructing an unsustainable new entitlement. But aside from the absence of any support for this hooey, it’s the tone that, once again, is striking and so very unpresidential.

Obama has excoriated his opponents for lowering the tone of debate and for scaring their fellow citizens. But really, the flood of invective and hysteria coming from ObamaCare supporters has been unprecedented. Town-hall protesters were “un-American,” according to Harry Reid, and confused or misinformed, according to the president. Now Obama seems to be channeling the global-warming crowd in his never-ending stream of dire predictions. And that’s telling. As George Will summed up: “Rushing to lock the nation into expensive health-care and climate-change commitments, Democrats are in an understandable frenzy because public enthusiasm for both crusades has been inversely proportional to the time the public has had to think about them.”

When liberal elites want to replace private decisions with government mandates, impose massive new costs, give unprecedented powers to government bureaucrats, and generally mess up your life, they must do two things: convince you that the consequences are dire if nothing is done and create a sense of urgency so that thoughtful reflection is replaced by a herd mentality. That’s what the White House and Democratic congressional leadership is reduced to doing now in order to jam through a noxious bill.

One observer remarked:

In Washington, when major bills near final passage, an inside-the-Beltway mentality takes hold. Any bill becomes a victory. Clear thinking is thrown out the window for political calculus. In the heat of battle, decisions are being made that set an irreversible course for how future health reform is done. The result is legislation that has been crafted to get votes, not to reform health care.

Bill Kristol or Sen. Mitch McConnell? No, Howard Dean. And when he has become the voice of sanity and decorum, you know how badly off track we’ve gotten.

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This Is “Reform”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ellen Bork goes after the Obami on their pathetic human-rights record regarding China: “President Obama rejects the ‘purity of indignation’ in response to repression. But the approach he favors–’bearing witness’–is too passive. If there is a new direction for the administration’s human rights policy, it needs to respond effectively to the persecution of a Chinese dissident who represents the most significant movement for political reform in a decade.”

Might it have something to do with ObamaCare? “Republican candidates have bounced back to a seven-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 44% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 37% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent.”

Stuart Rothenberg on the 2010 Senate outlook, which looks dramatically different than it did 11 months ago: “As 2009 draws to a close, Democrats now could lose seats, a dramatic change from January that could end the party’s 60-seat majority in less than two years. And GOP gains could be large enough to sink any major Democratic initiatives not passed before Congress adjourns for the midterm elections.”

Howard Dean stumbles onto a great idea: kill ObamaCare. Now, before you get excited, he wants to use reconciliation to jam through a more liberal bill. But still.

AARP endorses ObamaCare and hundreds of millions in Medicare-funding cuts. Their members, who like their Medicare Advantage and already have problems finding doctors who take Medicare patients, may not be pleased.

Another poll, another batch of bad news for Obama: “A double punch of persistent economic discontent and growing skepticism on health care reform has knocked Barack Obama’s key approval ratings to new lows, clouding his administration’s prospects at least until the jobless rate eases. Fifty percent of Americans in this ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of the president’s work overall, down 6 points in the last month; nearly as many, 46 percent, now disapprove. On the economy, 52 percent disapprove, a majority for the first time. On the deficit, his worst score, 56 percent disapprove.” And by a 51 to 44 percent margin, they oppose ObamaCare.

After being called a murderer and a double-crosser by the Left, who can blame him? “In an interview today with CNN’s Dana Bash, Sen. Joe Lieberman said it’s possible he will run as a Republican when he campaigns for re-election to his Senate seat in 2012. Although he said it’s most likely he’ll run as an Independent, he’s keeping all his options open.”

The “audacity of debt“: “At least someone in America isn’t feeling a credit squeeze: Uncle Sam. This week Congress will vote to raise the national debt ceiling by nearly $2 trillion, to a total of $14 trillion. In this economy, everyone de-leverages except government. It’s a sign of how deep the fiscal pathologies run in this Congress that $2 trillion will buy the federal government only one year before it has to seek another debt hike—conveniently timed to come after the midterm elections. Since Democrats began running Congress again in 2007, the federal debt limit has climbed by 39%. The new hike will lift the borrowing cap by another 15%.”

Michael Gerson on ObamaCare: “Democratic health reform legislation promises everything to everyone while imposing a series of hidden burdens to make a massive new entitlement affordable, at least on paper. So its authors are in a game of beat the clock: Pass the legislation before those burdens are fully disclosed to the public. … How long before the young and the old, union workers and the millions in desperate need of Botox realize that the health-care free lunch is to be provided at their expense?” I think they’ve figured it out, but senators are voting for it anyway.

Why Walter Russell Mead gives Obama a D and not an F on the Middle East: “This was a complete screw up. The only reason it isn’t an F is that there’s still time to do better.”

Ellen Bork goes after the Obami on their pathetic human-rights record regarding China: “President Obama rejects the ‘purity of indignation’ in response to repression. But the approach he favors–’bearing witness’–is too passive. If there is a new direction for the administration’s human rights policy, it needs to respond effectively to the persecution of a Chinese dissident who represents the most significant movement for political reform in a decade.”

Might it have something to do with ObamaCare? “Republican candidates have bounced back to a seven-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 44% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 37% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent.”

Stuart Rothenberg on the 2010 Senate outlook, which looks dramatically different than it did 11 months ago: “As 2009 draws to a close, Democrats now could lose seats, a dramatic change from January that could end the party’s 60-seat majority in less than two years. And GOP gains could be large enough to sink any major Democratic initiatives not passed before Congress adjourns for the midterm elections.”

Howard Dean stumbles onto a great idea: kill ObamaCare. Now, before you get excited, he wants to use reconciliation to jam through a more liberal bill. But still.

AARP endorses ObamaCare and hundreds of millions in Medicare-funding cuts. Their members, who like their Medicare Advantage and already have problems finding doctors who take Medicare patients, may not be pleased.

Another poll, another batch of bad news for Obama: “A double punch of persistent economic discontent and growing skepticism on health care reform has knocked Barack Obama’s key approval ratings to new lows, clouding his administration’s prospects at least until the jobless rate eases. Fifty percent of Americans in this ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of the president’s work overall, down 6 points in the last month; nearly as many, 46 percent, now disapprove. On the economy, 52 percent disapprove, a majority for the first time. On the deficit, his worst score, 56 percent disapprove.” And by a 51 to 44 percent margin, they oppose ObamaCare.

After being called a murderer and a double-crosser by the Left, who can blame him? “In an interview today with CNN’s Dana Bash, Sen. Joe Lieberman said it’s possible he will run as a Republican when he campaigns for re-election to his Senate seat in 2012. Although he said it’s most likely he’ll run as an Independent, he’s keeping all his options open.”

The “audacity of debt“: “At least someone in America isn’t feeling a credit squeeze: Uncle Sam. This week Congress will vote to raise the national debt ceiling by nearly $2 trillion, to a total of $14 trillion. In this economy, everyone de-leverages except government. It’s a sign of how deep the fiscal pathologies run in this Congress that $2 trillion will buy the federal government only one year before it has to seek another debt hike—conveniently timed to come after the midterm elections. Since Democrats began running Congress again in 2007, the federal debt limit has climbed by 39%. The new hike will lift the borrowing cap by another 15%.”

Michael Gerson on ObamaCare: “Democratic health reform legislation promises everything to everyone while imposing a series of hidden burdens to make a massive new entitlement affordable, at least on paper. So its authors are in a game of beat the clock: Pass the legislation before those burdens are fully disclosed to the public. … How long before the young and the old, union workers and the millions in desperate need of Botox realize that the health-care free lunch is to be provided at their expense?” I think they’ve figured it out, but senators are voting for it anyway.

Why Walter Russell Mead gives Obama a D and not an F on the Middle East: “This was a complete screw up. The only reason it isn’t an F is that there’s still time to do better.”

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When Is The Jig Up?

Mickey Kaus thinks Barack Obama’s employ of Washington pol extraordinaire Jim Johnson to head his VP search committee is the final straw in the phony debate about whether Barack Obama represents New Politics. But really, it is one small bit of a larger picture. Obama is against villifying opponents? But he accuses McCain of not wanting to be generous to veterans. Obama doesn’t like “cut and paste” politics and playing gotcha with out of context phrases? But he perpetuated the 100 years debate for weeks. He swears age shouldn’t be an issue ? Yet the DNC attack dog Howard Dean dwells on it at every turn. And while Obama doffs his cap to McCain’s years of service, a parade of military-bashing surrogates steps forward to ding McCain.

At some point even the media will notice the disconnect and begin to question the New Politics mantra, right? Well perhaps the public will figure it out on their own.

Mickey Kaus thinks Barack Obama’s employ of Washington pol extraordinaire Jim Johnson to head his VP search committee is the final straw in the phony debate about whether Barack Obama represents New Politics. But really, it is one small bit of a larger picture. Obama is against villifying opponents? But he accuses McCain of not wanting to be generous to veterans. Obama doesn’t like “cut and paste” politics and playing gotcha with out of context phrases? But he perpetuated the 100 years debate for weeks. He swears age shouldn’t be an issue ? Yet the DNC attack dog Howard Dean dwells on it at every turn. And while Obama doffs his cap to McCain’s years of service, a parade of military-bashing surrogates steps forward to ding McCain.

At some point even the media will notice the disconnect and begin to question the New Politics mantra, right? Well perhaps the public will figure it out on their own.

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The League of Democracies

In his Washington Post column, Jackson Diehl adds his voice to Robert Kagan’s in explaining why the League of Democracies–an idea that Senator McCain has advocated–is not a nefarious neocon plot. In fact, it has antecedents in the Clinton administration and it has a number of advocates on the left, including Howard Dean’s former foreign policy adviser, Ivo Daalder.

I doubt this will cause the reflexive scoffers to think again (see for instance this article and this one). But I hope that the vast majority of people are who are now agnostic will at least give this innovative idea some serious consideration. Sure, it has flaws. But it’s not as if anyone else has a better idea of what the global “architecture” of the future should look like. In fact, as Diehl suggests, the Obama campaign would be well advised to embrace this bipartisan initiative. (Full disclosure: I’m a foreign policy adviser to the McCain campaign.)

In his Washington Post column, Jackson Diehl adds his voice to Robert Kagan’s in explaining why the League of Democracies–an idea that Senator McCain has advocated–is not a nefarious neocon plot. In fact, it has antecedents in the Clinton administration and it has a number of advocates on the left, including Howard Dean’s former foreign policy adviser, Ivo Daalder.

I doubt this will cause the reflexive scoffers to think again (see for instance this article and this one). But I hope that the vast majority of people are who are now agnostic will at least give this innovative idea some serious consideration. Sure, it has flaws. But it’s not as if anyone else has a better idea of what the global “architecture” of the future should look like. In fact, as Diehl suggests, the Obama campaign would be well advised to embrace this bipartisan initiative. (Full disclosure: I’m a foreign policy adviser to the McCain campaign.)

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The New York Times and the Democratic Party Join Obama in Going Completely Insane

“Bush Issues Veiled Attack on Obama,” declares the lead story on the New York Times website, even though the article notes: “Mr. Bush did not mention Mr. Obama by name, and the White House said his remarks were not aimed at the senator.” Nonetheless its lead paragraph simply states it as though it were gospel truth: “President Bush used a speech to the Israeli Parliament on Thursday to issue a veiled rebuke to Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential contender, who has argued that the United States should negotiate with countries like Iran and Syria.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Rahm Emanuel declares: “For this White House, partisan politics now begins at the water’s edge… Does the president have no shame?”

And Howard Dean, head of the DNC: “If John McCain is really serious about being a different kind of Republican, he’ll denounce these remarks in the strongest terms possible.”

Just for the record, and again, here’s what Bush said:

Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

As I said earlier, this is what might be called anti-terror boilerplate. Bush is criticizing a mindset, one that has had purchase even within his own administration. But come on. Democrats criticizing Bush for supposedly criticizing an American politician outside the borders of the United States? When untold numbers of them have done the same thing over the past seven years? Is this some kind of sick joke?

“Bush Issues Veiled Attack on Obama,” declares the lead story on the New York Times website, even though the article notes: “Mr. Bush did not mention Mr. Obama by name, and the White House said his remarks were not aimed at the senator.” Nonetheless its lead paragraph simply states it as though it were gospel truth: “President Bush used a speech to the Israeli Parliament on Thursday to issue a veiled rebuke to Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential contender, who has argued that the United States should negotiate with countries like Iran and Syria.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Rahm Emanuel declares: “For this White House, partisan politics now begins at the water’s edge… Does the president have no shame?”

And Howard Dean, head of the DNC: “If John McCain is really serious about being a different kind of Republican, he’ll denounce these remarks in the strongest terms possible.”

Just for the record, and again, here’s what Bush said:

Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

As I said earlier, this is what might be called anti-terror boilerplate. Bush is criticizing a mindset, one that has had purchase even within his own administration. But come on. Democrats criticizing Bush for supposedly criticizing an American politician outside the borders of the United States? When untold numbers of them have done the same thing over the past seven years? Is this some kind of sick joke?

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Meltdown

Barack Obama may have done poorly with working class and rural voters in Pennsylvania but he’s doing even worse these days among liberal pundits. This is from Bob Herbert:

However one views the behavior of Bill and Hillary Clinton – and however large the race issue looms in this election, and it looms large – there can be no denying that an awful lot of Mr. Obama’s troubles have come from his side of the table. The Rev. Wright fiasco undermined the fundamental rationale of the entire Obama campaign – that it would be about healing, about putting partisanship aside, about reaching across ethnic and party divisions to bring people together in a new era of cooperation. It’s hard to continue making that case when the candidate’s spiritual adviser is on television castigating America and scaring the hell out of at least some white people. Senator Obama did his best with his speech on race in Philadelphia, but the Wright story has extremely muscular legs. It has hurt the campaign far more than Mr. Obama’s comments about guns and religion in San Francisco. But more important than the Wright comments – and sundry gaffes by Mr. Obama himself, his wife, Michelle, and campaign aides – has been Senator Obama’s strange reluctance to fight harder in public for the nomination. He may feel he doesn’t need to, that he has the nomination wrapped up. But there is such a thing as being too cool.

Maureen Dowd (who has been on a tear lately, openly castigating Obama’s masculinity) now sees him limping away: “It used to be that he was incandescent and she [Hillary Clinton] was merely inveterate. Now she’s bristling with life force, and he looks like he wants to run away somewhere for three months by himself and smoke.” Eleanor Clift sees the handwriting on the wall- and fears some Clintonian retribution for the media which had been Obama’s stalwart cheering section:

I’m beginning to think Hillary Clinton might pull this off and wrestle the nomination away from Barack Obama. If she does, a lot of folks—including a huge chunk of the media—will join Bill Richardson (a.k.a. Judas) in the Deep Freeze. If the Clintons get back into the White House, it will be retribution time, like the Corleone family consolidating power in “The Godfather,” where the watchword is, “It’s business, not personal.”

These bear the tell-tale signs of scorned lovers’ rants. Their once beloved candidate is now reviled, mocked and tossed overboard while they prepare for the possible return of their “ex” with all the unpleasantness that entails. And who is joining them?

Well, none other than Howard Dean, who until recently seemed to pursue strategies designed to either end the race early (Obama liked that) or to encourage delegates to respect the pledged delegate count (Obama really liked that). Yet Friday, for the first time, Dean uttered this: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”

So it may be that these people have something in common: none of them really wants to be on the wrong side when the Democratic race ends. Pundits hate to have guessed wrong–so far better to excoriate the candidate who they will insist was wonderful, but but messed up–and party leaders never want to be on the winner’s wrong side. So better to shuffle over to the Clinton cheering section, however distasteful that might seem. She, at least from listening to all these voices, now appears to be the odds on favorite.

Barack Obama may have done poorly with working class and rural voters in Pennsylvania but he’s doing even worse these days among liberal pundits. This is from Bob Herbert:

However one views the behavior of Bill and Hillary Clinton – and however large the race issue looms in this election, and it looms large – there can be no denying that an awful lot of Mr. Obama’s troubles have come from his side of the table. The Rev. Wright fiasco undermined the fundamental rationale of the entire Obama campaign – that it would be about healing, about putting partisanship aside, about reaching across ethnic and party divisions to bring people together in a new era of cooperation. It’s hard to continue making that case when the candidate’s spiritual adviser is on television castigating America and scaring the hell out of at least some white people. Senator Obama did his best with his speech on race in Philadelphia, but the Wright story has extremely muscular legs. It has hurt the campaign far more than Mr. Obama’s comments about guns and religion in San Francisco. But more important than the Wright comments – and sundry gaffes by Mr. Obama himself, his wife, Michelle, and campaign aides – has been Senator Obama’s strange reluctance to fight harder in public for the nomination. He may feel he doesn’t need to, that he has the nomination wrapped up. But there is such a thing as being too cool.

Maureen Dowd (who has been on a tear lately, openly castigating Obama’s masculinity) now sees him limping away: “It used to be that he was incandescent and she [Hillary Clinton] was merely inveterate. Now she’s bristling with life force, and he looks like he wants to run away somewhere for three months by himself and smoke.” Eleanor Clift sees the handwriting on the wall- and fears some Clintonian retribution for the media which had been Obama’s stalwart cheering section:

I’m beginning to think Hillary Clinton might pull this off and wrestle the nomination away from Barack Obama. If she does, a lot of folks—including a huge chunk of the media—will join Bill Richardson (a.k.a. Judas) in the Deep Freeze. If the Clintons get back into the White House, it will be retribution time, like the Corleone family consolidating power in “The Godfather,” where the watchword is, “It’s business, not personal.”

These bear the tell-tale signs of scorned lovers’ rants. Their once beloved candidate is now reviled, mocked and tossed overboard while they prepare for the possible return of their “ex” with all the unpleasantness that entails. And who is joining them?

Well, none other than Howard Dean, who until recently seemed to pursue strategies designed to either end the race early (Obama liked that) or to encourage delegates to respect the pledged delegate count (Obama really liked that). Yet Friday, for the first time, Dean uttered this: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”

So it may be that these people have something in common: none of them really wants to be on the wrong side when the Democratic race ends. Pundits hate to have guessed wrong–so far better to excoriate the candidate who they will insist was wonderful, but but messed up–and party leaders never want to be on the winner’s wrong side. So better to shuffle over to the Clinton cheering section, however distasteful that might seem. She, at least from listening to all these voices, now appears to be the odds on favorite.

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Throwing Rocks in the Pond

Hillary Clinton has been mum on the subject lately. The McCain camp has studiously avoided mentioning Reverend Wright. But not Vice President Cheney. He had this to say on Thursday in an interview with Sean Hannity:

I’ve watched what’s going on on the Democratic side with great interest, and sort of blowing hot and cold in terms of who is going to win, whether it is going to be Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. I thought the controversy over Reverend Wright was remarkable. I thought some of the things he said were absolutely appalling. And, you know, I haven’t gotten into the business of trying to judge how Senator Obama dealt with it, or didn’t deal with it, but I really — I think, like most Americans, I was stunned at what the Reverend was preaching in his church and then putting up on his website.

Is this just a casual observation? Unlikely: Cheney has weathered two presidential elections. Maybe it’s a bouquet to Hillary Clinton, who could use a lift. Maybe it’s an attempt to counteract Colin Powell’s praise for Obama earlier in the day. Regardless of its motive, the effect is the same: Wright’s name stays in the news and voters continue to ponder this troubling association.

Meanwhile, Howard Dean tells us that, under no circumstances, will the Democrats bring up McCain’s age (71) as a factor in the election. It would be wrong, you see, to mention McCain’s age (71), and the Democrats are above mentioning McCain’s age (71). Did he mention that the Democrats’ high ethical standards don’t allow them to mention McCain’s age (71)? Even though his age (71) is a factor, according to focus groups run by the DNC (which is too high-minded to bring up his age)?

Hillary Clinton has been mum on the subject lately. The McCain camp has studiously avoided mentioning Reverend Wright. But not Vice President Cheney. He had this to say on Thursday in an interview with Sean Hannity:

I’ve watched what’s going on on the Democratic side with great interest, and sort of blowing hot and cold in terms of who is going to win, whether it is going to be Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. I thought the controversy over Reverend Wright was remarkable. I thought some of the things he said were absolutely appalling. And, you know, I haven’t gotten into the business of trying to judge how Senator Obama dealt with it, or didn’t deal with it, but I really — I think, like most Americans, I was stunned at what the Reverend was preaching in his church and then putting up on his website.

Is this just a casual observation? Unlikely: Cheney has weathered two presidential elections. Maybe it’s a bouquet to Hillary Clinton, who could use a lift. Maybe it’s an attempt to counteract Colin Powell’s praise for Obama earlier in the day. Regardless of its motive, the effect is the same: Wright’s name stays in the news and voters continue to ponder this troubling association.

Meanwhile, Howard Dean tells us that, under no circumstances, will the Democrats bring up McCain’s age (71) as a factor in the election. It would be wrong, you see, to mention McCain’s age (71), and the Democrats are above mentioning McCain’s age (71). Did he mention that the Democrats’ high ethical standards don’t allow them to mention McCain’s age (71)? Even though his age (71) is a factor, according to focus groups run by the DNC (which is too high-minded to bring up his age)?

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They Just Might Blow It

Hillary Clinton just jettisoned strategist Mark Penn from her campaign because Penn dared contemplate free trade. For a candidate who tries to sell herself as an extension of the Clintonian 90′s, such vigilance against centrism, financial or otherwise, speaks to a strange state of affairs for Democrats. Of course, Hillary and Obama have adopted rabidly anti-free trade postures. Why are these two candidates competing for the affections of the far Left when one of them will have to go up against a Republican centrist who garners praise from Democratic voters?

In the 2004 Presidential election, Democrat John Kerry made the fatal mistake of substituting outrage for ideology. Hoping to coast into the White House on a wave of anti-Iraq War sentiment, Kerry ran almost exclusively against George W. Bush, with no real positive policy vision of his own. Among Democrats, he wasn’t alone in thinking he had done all that was required to become president. On the eve of the election, Jimmy Breslin wrote of Kerry’s imminent victory, “I am so sure that I am not even going to bother to watch the results tonight.”

But Breslin was wrong and the results were indisputable: Bush and the war would have a second term. Amazingly, the failure wrought by Kerry’s method of campaign-framing didn’t deter Democrats. In the 2006 congressional races, Democrats once again failed to convey a chosen ideological path. There was no clear indication of an affinity for Clintonian centrism or for progressivism. Democratic Congressional hopefuls ran simply as the GOP alternative. They talked up small-ticket items like a raise in minimum wage, and offered a watery mash-up of ideologies in the form of the “first hundred hours” contract. This time it worked. 2005 saw the dashed hopes of the “Arab Spring.” By 2006, anti-Iraq and anti-Bush sentiment was strong enough to deliver a Democratic thumpin’ to Capitol Hill Republicans. The Democratic Party Leader may have been Howard Dean, but the pitch—to the extent there was one—was “blue dog” compromise. In short, the Democrats remained ideologically rudderless.

Having got Congress back without recourse to an ideological framework, Democrats saw no reason not to continue in this mode. Which brings us to 2008. Without ever having resolved the centrism-progressivism question, the Clinton-Obama race was to be determined by an issue outside of political ideology—namely, identity. It has become the white woman against the black man: as everyone repeatedly points out, their policy differences are incremental. Moreover, these policies are surprisingly far to the Left. This is because the Democrats, since 2004, have not figured out how to sell themselves to the general electorate. They are now playing endlessly to their own. In the identity battle–and in the overall warfare of this Democratic primary–Obama has all but won. While his impending victory has nothing to do with political ideology, the candidate himself comes equipped with a strong adherence to far-Left principles. This is how the Democrats have ended up with the most liberal potential presidential nominee since World War II.

The problem with this scenario is that modern Democratic presidents have come to office as centrists. Most of the Democrats who voted for Bill Clinton are more closely aligned with John McCain than with Barack Obama. If anything, the sudden shock of a far-Left liberal will scare a Democrat-inclined voter who’s never had to commit to a delineated political ideology. This is to say nothing of Republican voters and independents. Additionally, Barack Obama’s Iraq plan, when you try to nail it down, is no clearer today than John Kerry’s was four years ago. As brutal as this primary has been, the Democrats’ work is still all ahead of them.

Hillary Clinton just jettisoned strategist Mark Penn from her campaign because Penn dared contemplate free trade. For a candidate who tries to sell herself as an extension of the Clintonian 90′s, such vigilance against centrism, financial or otherwise, speaks to a strange state of affairs for Democrats. Of course, Hillary and Obama have adopted rabidly anti-free trade postures. Why are these two candidates competing for the affections of the far Left when one of them will have to go up against a Republican centrist who garners praise from Democratic voters?

In the 2004 Presidential election, Democrat John Kerry made the fatal mistake of substituting outrage for ideology. Hoping to coast into the White House on a wave of anti-Iraq War sentiment, Kerry ran almost exclusively against George W. Bush, with no real positive policy vision of his own. Among Democrats, he wasn’t alone in thinking he had done all that was required to become president. On the eve of the election, Jimmy Breslin wrote of Kerry’s imminent victory, “I am so sure that I am not even going to bother to watch the results tonight.”

But Breslin was wrong and the results were indisputable: Bush and the war would have a second term. Amazingly, the failure wrought by Kerry’s method of campaign-framing didn’t deter Democrats. In the 2006 congressional races, Democrats once again failed to convey a chosen ideological path. There was no clear indication of an affinity for Clintonian centrism or for progressivism. Democratic Congressional hopefuls ran simply as the GOP alternative. They talked up small-ticket items like a raise in minimum wage, and offered a watery mash-up of ideologies in the form of the “first hundred hours” contract. This time it worked. 2005 saw the dashed hopes of the “Arab Spring.” By 2006, anti-Iraq and anti-Bush sentiment was strong enough to deliver a Democratic thumpin’ to Capitol Hill Republicans. The Democratic Party Leader may have been Howard Dean, but the pitch—to the extent there was one—was “blue dog” compromise. In short, the Democrats remained ideologically rudderless.

Having got Congress back without recourse to an ideological framework, Democrats saw no reason not to continue in this mode. Which brings us to 2008. Without ever having resolved the centrism-progressivism question, the Clinton-Obama race was to be determined by an issue outside of political ideology—namely, identity. It has become the white woman against the black man: as everyone repeatedly points out, their policy differences are incremental. Moreover, these policies are surprisingly far to the Left. This is because the Democrats, since 2004, have not figured out how to sell themselves to the general electorate. They are now playing endlessly to their own. In the identity battle–and in the overall warfare of this Democratic primary–Obama has all but won. While his impending victory has nothing to do with political ideology, the candidate himself comes equipped with a strong adherence to far-Left principles. This is how the Democrats have ended up with the most liberal potential presidential nominee since World War II.

The problem with this scenario is that modern Democratic presidents have come to office as centrists. Most of the Democrats who voted for Bill Clinton are more closely aligned with John McCain than with Barack Obama. If anything, the sudden shock of a far-Left liberal will scare a Democrat-inclined voter who’s never had to commit to a delineated political ideology. This is to say nothing of Republican voters and independents. Additionally, Barack Obama’s Iraq plan, when you try to nail it down, is no clearer today than John Kerry’s was four years ago. As brutal as this primary has been, the Democrats’ work is still all ahead of them.

Read Less




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