Commentary Magazine


Topic: Iowa

More Drama! Add Some Suspense!

We are into silly season (OK, sillier) in the mainstream media — the point in the election cycle where they feel obligated to create tension, suggest there is some parity between the sides in a wave election year, and assure readers that all is not what it seems. You get nonsensical columns like this from the dean of conventional wisdom, David Broder:

Thus, the biggest paradox of the 2010 campaign year — that Republicans are poised for major gains, even though their reputation as a party has not really recovered from the Bush years and there is no evidence that voters think they have developed better ideas than the Democrats have for improving the economy.

Paradox? Isn’t this what happened in 1994 and 2006?

Broder tells us that the Republicans are a mess, resorting to off-the-wall candidates who endanger their prospects (“states have been flirting all year with the danger that their primaries will produce candidates reflecting the internal dynamics of right-wing constituencies scary to the broader electorate”). But read on and you find out that:

On the other hand, this year’s primaries have given Republicans candidates for governor capable of winning in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Oregon and especially California, to add to Texas, Georgia and perhaps Florida, which they already hold. This could enhance the reputation of the GOP as a governing party beyond measure.

So have the wackos taken over or not? Is Marco Rubio a right-wing, scary guy or the future of the GOP? Was it a good thing Joe Miller upset Lisa Murkowski or a harbinger of a political apocalypse for the GOP? It’s all a bit unclear because the chattering class is disinclined to recognize the obvious (both because they have to write clever things and because they don’t like what’s going on): Republicans can’t win every race, but they are going to win a whole bunch, in large part because of the populist uprising  generated by the liberals’ overreach. It’s not fancy. It’s not complicated. But it is what’s going on.

We are into silly season (OK, sillier) in the mainstream media — the point in the election cycle where they feel obligated to create tension, suggest there is some parity between the sides in a wave election year, and assure readers that all is not what it seems. You get nonsensical columns like this from the dean of conventional wisdom, David Broder:

Thus, the biggest paradox of the 2010 campaign year — that Republicans are poised for major gains, even though their reputation as a party has not really recovered from the Bush years and there is no evidence that voters think they have developed better ideas than the Democrats have for improving the economy.

Paradox? Isn’t this what happened in 1994 and 2006?

Broder tells us that the Republicans are a mess, resorting to off-the-wall candidates who endanger their prospects (“states have been flirting all year with the danger that their primaries will produce candidates reflecting the internal dynamics of right-wing constituencies scary to the broader electorate”). But read on and you find out that:

On the other hand, this year’s primaries have given Republicans candidates for governor capable of winning in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Oregon and especially California, to add to Texas, Georgia and perhaps Florida, which they already hold. This could enhance the reputation of the GOP as a governing party beyond measure.

So have the wackos taken over or not? Is Marco Rubio a right-wing, scary guy or the future of the GOP? Was it a good thing Joe Miller upset Lisa Murkowski or a harbinger of a political apocalypse for the GOP? It’s all a bit unclear because the chattering class is disinclined to recognize the obvious (both because they have to write clever things and because they don’t like what’s going on): Republicans can’t win every race, but they are going to win a whole bunch, in large part because of the populist uprising  generated by the liberals’ overreach. It’s not fancy. It’s not complicated. But it is what’s going on.

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Who Ya Calling a Democrat?

Democrats are nervous about being Democrats, and even more nervous that voters will remember they were the ones who spent trillions, raised taxes, and passed a health-care bill they didn’t like. The solution? Run ads that hide their party affiliation and their “historic” accomplishments.

The New York Times describes the gambit:

Two years after arriving in Washington on a message of hope and change, Democratic candidates are not extolling their party’s accomplishments, but rather distancing themselves from their party’s agenda. … The images of Mr. Obama and Ms. Pelosi appear with more frequency than those of any other political figures — but nearly always in Republican advertisements. …

A review of hundreds of advertisements broadcast over the last six weeks found that Republicans were more than twice as likely to talk about jobs, often criticizing Democrats as not creating them. Republicans also mentioned health care far more than Democrats did. And when Democrats do bring up the issue, 38 percent of the commercials are critical of the new law.

It is silly, actually. Voters will figure out who the “D” and the “R” are on the ballot. All this simply reinforces the perception that Democrats are embarrassed by their own performance. And if that weren’t apparent, there is this:

With early voting beginning in several states in a few weeks and with Election Day less than two months away, some of the most vulnerable Democratic candidates have turned to another approach: pleading for a second chance.

“I’ve made my share of mistakes, but they were honest mistakes, and I’ve listened to your concerns and I’ve grown on the job,” said Gov. Chet Culver of Iowa, wearing a solemn expression that gives way to a slight smile. “I hope you give us the chance.”

Well, there’s always hope. But voters don’t seem in a forgiving mood.

Less than two years ago, the Republican “brand” (the image and set of reactions the party invoked) was toxic. Now it is the Democrats who have the radioactive party label — and a president who is dragging them down. And it turns out that the “Party of No” is a badge of honor, a reminder there is an alternative to the tax-and-spend liberals who have had two years at the helm.

Democrats are nervous about being Democrats, and even more nervous that voters will remember they were the ones who spent trillions, raised taxes, and passed a health-care bill they didn’t like. The solution? Run ads that hide their party affiliation and their “historic” accomplishments.

The New York Times describes the gambit:

Two years after arriving in Washington on a message of hope and change, Democratic candidates are not extolling their party’s accomplishments, but rather distancing themselves from their party’s agenda. … The images of Mr. Obama and Ms. Pelosi appear with more frequency than those of any other political figures — but nearly always in Republican advertisements. …

A review of hundreds of advertisements broadcast over the last six weeks found that Republicans were more than twice as likely to talk about jobs, often criticizing Democrats as not creating them. Republicans also mentioned health care far more than Democrats did. And when Democrats do bring up the issue, 38 percent of the commercials are critical of the new law.

It is silly, actually. Voters will figure out who the “D” and the “R” are on the ballot. All this simply reinforces the perception that Democrats are embarrassed by their own performance. And if that weren’t apparent, there is this:

With early voting beginning in several states in a few weeks and with Election Day less than two months away, some of the most vulnerable Democratic candidates have turned to another approach: pleading for a second chance.

“I’ve made my share of mistakes, but they were honest mistakes, and I’ve listened to your concerns and I’ve grown on the job,” said Gov. Chet Culver of Iowa, wearing a solemn expression that gives way to a slight smile. “I hope you give us the chance.”

Well, there’s always hope. But voters don’t seem in a forgiving mood.

Less than two years ago, the Republican “brand” (the image and set of reactions the party invoked) was toxic. Now it is the Democrats who have the radioactive party label — and a president who is dragging them down. And it turns out that the “Party of No” is a badge of honor, a reminder there is an alternative to the tax-and-spend liberals who have had two years at the helm.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

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Losing the Heartland

Tom Jensen, of Democratic Public Policy Polling, writes:

It may be the Midwest — rather than the South — that proves to be the worst region for Democrats at the polls this year. We’ve polled on Barack Obama’s approval rating in 16 states since the beginning of March. In 6 of those his approval rating is 10 points or worse than the share of the vote he got on election day — and all but one of them is a Big Ten state.

Obama’s approval in California on our last poll represented a 12 point drop from his 2008 performance. The other five ones are all Midwestern — Illinois (50% approval, 62% 2008 vote), Ohio (40% approval, 51% 2008 vote), Michigan (46% approval, 57% 2008 vote), Iowa (43% approval, 54% 2008 vote) and Wisconsin (46% approval, 56% 2008 vote).

As Jensen notes, this could put at risk five Democratic governors in each of these states. But it also may help the GOP nail down Midwest Senate races. Rasmussen reports that Dan Coats leads in Indiana by 14 points. Illinois is rated as “leans Republican” by Charlie Cook.

Historically, poor presidential approval ratings are the single biggest indicator of midterm losses for the president’s party. And if that pattern continues and Obama’s ratings continue to flounder in the mid-40s, it’s going to be a catastrophic midterm election for Democrats in the Midwest — and in a lot of other places too.

Tom Jensen, of Democratic Public Policy Polling, writes:

It may be the Midwest — rather than the South — that proves to be the worst region for Democrats at the polls this year. We’ve polled on Barack Obama’s approval rating in 16 states since the beginning of March. In 6 of those his approval rating is 10 points or worse than the share of the vote he got on election day — and all but one of them is a Big Ten state.

Obama’s approval in California on our last poll represented a 12 point drop from his 2008 performance. The other five ones are all Midwestern — Illinois (50% approval, 62% 2008 vote), Ohio (40% approval, 51% 2008 vote), Michigan (46% approval, 57% 2008 vote), Iowa (43% approval, 54% 2008 vote) and Wisconsin (46% approval, 56% 2008 vote).

As Jensen notes, this could put at risk five Democratic governors in each of these states. But it also may help the GOP nail down Midwest Senate races. Rasmussen reports that Dan Coats leads in Indiana by 14 points. Illinois is rated as “leans Republican” by Charlie Cook.

Historically, poor presidential approval ratings are the single biggest indicator of midterm losses for the president’s party. And if that pattern continues and Obama’s ratings continue to flounder in the mid-40s, it’s going to be a catastrophic midterm election for Democrats in the Midwest — and in a lot of other places too.

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Poof Goes the Myth

Politico is running a symposium: “Is Obama’s brand ‘irrevocably shattered’?” OK, not the discussion the White House wants to see raging. That tells you something right there: the media-Obama love fest is over. The pretext is the Andrew Romanoff scandal. But it could easily have been triggered by the president’s all-time low weekly approval rating (46%) in Gallup or the BP spill or the Joe Sestak flap.

This take, by Stuart Gottlieb of Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, I found quite compelling:

From the earliest days of the campaign, the Obama “movement” contained two political time bombs: First, the curse of absurdly high expectations (“first we’re going to change Iowa! Then we’re going to change America! Then we’re going to change the world!”) And second, electing to office a president with no governing or leadership experience. . . And now the chickens are also coming home to roost on the leadership and competency question. The White House is continually slow-off-the-mark, reactive, defensive, and unsure of its footing, i.e., it appears in over its head.

It will be difficult (if not impossible) to re-build the Obama “brand,” because it never really existed as a tangible thing in the first place.

If Obama isn’t going to get his 2008 marketing brand back, what does he do next? He’s never had to answer that because he’s never stayed in any political position long enough with enough coverage to be held accountable for his results. And he’s never been forced to deviate from his ultra-liberal ideological agenda. It’s also not clear that he is capable of changing his tune or even wants to. One term would be fine, he told us.

The interesting question for 2012 is what sort of candidate would Americans be attracted to as an alternative. Obama ran as Not Bush. (Turns out that most of Not Bush is disastrous.) So who is the Not Obama for 2012? Forget about name guessing — I mean, what kind of candidate would provide voters with what they are missing? It’s fair to anticipate that a competent, experienced, un-flashy, fiscal disciplinarian with no illusions about the world and no hesitancy about naming our enemies and holding dear our friends may be in style. We’ll see in the next year which candidates throw their hats into the ring and which match that description.

Politico is running a symposium: “Is Obama’s brand ‘irrevocably shattered’?” OK, not the discussion the White House wants to see raging. That tells you something right there: the media-Obama love fest is over. The pretext is the Andrew Romanoff scandal. But it could easily have been triggered by the president’s all-time low weekly approval rating (46%) in Gallup or the BP spill or the Joe Sestak flap.

This take, by Stuart Gottlieb of Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, I found quite compelling:

From the earliest days of the campaign, the Obama “movement” contained two political time bombs: First, the curse of absurdly high expectations (“first we’re going to change Iowa! Then we’re going to change America! Then we’re going to change the world!”) And second, electing to office a president with no governing or leadership experience. . . And now the chickens are also coming home to roost on the leadership and competency question. The White House is continually slow-off-the-mark, reactive, defensive, and unsure of its footing, i.e., it appears in over its head.

It will be difficult (if not impossible) to re-build the Obama “brand,” because it never really existed as a tangible thing in the first place.

If Obama isn’t going to get his 2008 marketing brand back, what does he do next? He’s never had to answer that because he’s never stayed in any political position long enough with enough coverage to be held accountable for his results. And he’s never been forced to deviate from his ultra-liberal ideological agenda. It’s also not clear that he is capable of changing his tune or even wants to. One term would be fine, he told us.

The interesting question for 2012 is what sort of candidate would Americans be attracted to as an alternative. Obama ran as Not Bush. (Turns out that most of Not Bush is disastrous.) So who is the Not Obama for 2012? Forget about name guessing — I mean, what kind of candidate would provide voters with what they are missing? It’s fair to anticipate that a competent, experienced, un-flashy, fiscal disciplinarian with no illusions about the world and no hesitancy about naming our enemies and holding dear our friends may be in style. We’ll see in the next year which candidates throw their hats into the ring and which match that description.

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Are Jews That Gullible?

Ben Smith says that he was dubious about the Obama team’s charm offensive with American Jews. After all, how could they be so foolish as to take puffery seriously and be wowed by a lunch with Elie Wiesel? Aren’t Jews, you know, supposed to be smarter than that? After all, the underlying policy hasn’t changed one iota. And in fact the administration is flaunting its anti-Israel connections.

Smith also picks up this tidbit:

Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber drew the camera flashes at the White House Correspondents dinner, but foreign policy geeks took closer note of the TPM table, where National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough — probably the most powerful foreign policy staffer in the administration — was seated with the two grand old men of “realist politics,” former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Also at the table, New America’s Steve Clemons, who qualified that he and the others are “progressive realists” and added that the table also included “Sex and the City” creator Darren Starr and TPM founder Josh Marshall, the host.

Scowcroft and Brzezinski have been vying for influence in the Obama White House since Obama introduced the latter in Iowa, then distanced himself from him over Israel. They’re currently central to the efforts to persuade Obama to advance his own Mideast peace plan.

McDonough, who came up on the process-oriented Hill, tends to keep his own broader views on foreign policy close to the vest.

To translate: one of the administration’s key foreign-policy hands goes to the most highly publicized event in town to hob-nob with the advisor who Obama had sworn during the campaign not to be an advisor, who has suggested that we shoot down Israeli planes if they cross Iraqi air space on the way to Iran, and who wants to impose a peace deal on Israel. And, for good measure, he sits with the purveyors of a website infamous for puff pieces on terrorists and committed to a hard-left anti-Israel line. It was an act of defiance — see who our friends are? Well, I guess we do.

So the question remains whether the Jewish community is as easily lulled into passivity as the Obama administration believes. Can a few carefully worded speeches get American Jews off their backs? After all, they’ve been so mute about the effort by Obama to undermine sanctions. And really, they were able to “condemn” Israel without being condemned in turn by the Jewish groups, which have clung so dearly to the Democratic Party. Smith shouldn’t be skeptical: American Jewish officialdom is falling over themselves to make up with the administration. Whether rank-and-file members and the larger Jewish community are as easily swayed, remains to be seen.

Ben Smith says that he was dubious about the Obama team’s charm offensive with American Jews. After all, how could they be so foolish as to take puffery seriously and be wowed by a lunch with Elie Wiesel? Aren’t Jews, you know, supposed to be smarter than that? After all, the underlying policy hasn’t changed one iota. And in fact the administration is flaunting its anti-Israel connections.

Smith also picks up this tidbit:

Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber drew the camera flashes at the White House Correspondents dinner, but foreign policy geeks took closer note of the TPM table, where National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough — probably the most powerful foreign policy staffer in the administration — was seated with the two grand old men of “realist politics,” former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Also at the table, New America’s Steve Clemons, who qualified that he and the others are “progressive realists” and added that the table also included “Sex and the City” creator Darren Starr and TPM founder Josh Marshall, the host.

Scowcroft and Brzezinski have been vying for influence in the Obama White House since Obama introduced the latter in Iowa, then distanced himself from him over Israel. They’re currently central to the efforts to persuade Obama to advance his own Mideast peace plan.

McDonough, who came up on the process-oriented Hill, tends to keep his own broader views on foreign policy close to the vest.

To translate: one of the administration’s key foreign-policy hands goes to the most highly publicized event in town to hob-nob with the advisor who Obama had sworn during the campaign not to be an advisor, who has suggested that we shoot down Israeli planes if they cross Iraqi air space on the way to Iran, and who wants to impose a peace deal on Israel. And, for good measure, he sits with the purveyors of a website infamous for puff pieces on terrorists and committed to a hard-left anti-Israel line. It was an act of defiance — see who our friends are? Well, I guess we do.

So the question remains whether the Jewish community is as easily lulled into passivity as the Obama administration believes. Can a few carefully worded speeches get American Jews off their backs? After all, they’ve been so mute about the effort by Obama to undermine sanctions. And really, they were able to “condemn” Israel without being condemned in turn by the Jewish groups, which have clung so dearly to the Democratic Party. Smith shouldn’t be skeptical: American Jewish officialdom is falling over themselves to make up with the administration. Whether rank-and-file members and the larger Jewish community are as easily swayed, remains to be seen.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post discovers that Charlie Crist is toast: “One day it is 2008, and you’re a popular governor whose Republican admirers are talking you up for the veep spot on your party’s national ticket. Then, suddenly, you’ve infuriated party conservatives, what you’re being fitted for is a political coffin, and you’re deciding whether to leave the GOP and run as an independent. … Now, targeted for extinction by ‘tea party’ activists and the right wing of his party, he is behind by more than 20 points to challenger Marco Rubio.” He’s not actually targeted for “extinction” — the Republican primary voters just despise him.

The Post‘s Dan Balz discovers that the Tea Party movement is a good thing for Republicans. “The tea party movement is a reaction against Obama and the Democrats’ agenda. Sarah Palin may be trying to become the movement’s most prominent voice, but the real motivating force is the president and his policies. That’s the good news for Republicans. At a time when the establishment of the party was demoralized and divided, the tea party activists rose up in opposition to the administration, energizing a conservative movement flat on its back. That energy presents a clear and present threat to the Democrats in November.” Who knew?

Newt Gingrich discovers that Obama’s linguistic revisions (“rogue state” is out, “outliers” is in) are a dangerous thing: “‘This administration believes it can replace reality with words. And if it has the right words in the right order things will happen. … It’s almost like a medieval, philosophical argument, like alchemy, that if I can just work all these things out right, the world will transform itself to the world I want to live in.” Joe Lieberman is more succinct: “This is not honest. … Three thousand Americans were killed not by some amorphous group of violent extremists or environmental extremists or white supremacist extremists. They were violent Islamist extremists motivated and organized by the ideology preached by Osama bin Laden.”

Another pro-Israel group discovers Obama’s Israel animus.

John McCain discovers that he’s not really a maverick. But, didn’t he … oh, never mind.

George Pataki discovers the need to give a speech in Iowa.

Clark Hoyt discovers — oh my! — that the New York Times misuses and overuses anonymous sources: “Despite written ground rules to the contrary and promises by top editors to do better, The Times continues to use anonymous sources for information available elsewhere on the record. It allows unnamed people to provide quotes of marginal news value and to remain hidden with little real explanation of their motives, their reliability, or the reasons why they must be anonymous.” Almost like they have an agenda they want to push.

Bill Clinton discovers that Bob Rubin and Larry Summers messed up: “On derivatives, yeah I think they were wrong and I think I was wrong to take [their advice] because the argument on derivatives was that these things are expensive and sophisticated and only a handful of investors will buy them and they don’t need any extra protection, and any extra transparency. The money they’re putting up guarantees them transparency.” So why is Summers in Obama’s Cabinet of geniuses?

The Washington Post discovers that Charlie Crist is toast: “One day it is 2008, and you’re a popular governor whose Republican admirers are talking you up for the veep spot on your party’s national ticket. Then, suddenly, you’ve infuriated party conservatives, what you’re being fitted for is a political coffin, and you’re deciding whether to leave the GOP and run as an independent. … Now, targeted for extinction by ‘tea party’ activists and the right wing of his party, he is behind by more than 20 points to challenger Marco Rubio.” He’s not actually targeted for “extinction” — the Republican primary voters just despise him.

The Post‘s Dan Balz discovers that the Tea Party movement is a good thing for Republicans. “The tea party movement is a reaction against Obama and the Democrats’ agenda. Sarah Palin may be trying to become the movement’s most prominent voice, but the real motivating force is the president and his policies. That’s the good news for Republicans. At a time when the establishment of the party was demoralized and divided, the tea party activists rose up in opposition to the administration, energizing a conservative movement flat on its back. That energy presents a clear and present threat to the Democrats in November.” Who knew?

Newt Gingrich discovers that Obama’s linguistic revisions (“rogue state” is out, “outliers” is in) are a dangerous thing: “‘This administration believes it can replace reality with words. And if it has the right words in the right order things will happen. … It’s almost like a medieval, philosophical argument, like alchemy, that if I can just work all these things out right, the world will transform itself to the world I want to live in.” Joe Lieberman is more succinct: “This is not honest. … Three thousand Americans were killed not by some amorphous group of violent extremists or environmental extremists or white supremacist extremists. They were violent Islamist extremists motivated and organized by the ideology preached by Osama bin Laden.”

Another pro-Israel group discovers Obama’s Israel animus.

John McCain discovers that he’s not really a maverick. But, didn’t he … oh, never mind.

George Pataki discovers the need to give a speech in Iowa.

Clark Hoyt discovers — oh my! — that the New York Times misuses and overuses anonymous sources: “Despite written ground rules to the contrary and promises by top editors to do better, The Times continues to use anonymous sources for information available elsewhere on the record. It allows unnamed people to provide quotes of marginal news value and to remain hidden with little real explanation of their motives, their reliability, or the reasons why they must be anonymous.” Almost like they have an agenda they want to push.

Bill Clinton discovers that Bob Rubin and Larry Summers messed up: “On derivatives, yeah I think they were wrong and I think I was wrong to take [their advice] because the argument on derivatives was that these things are expensive and sophisticated and only a handful of investors will buy them and they don’t need any extra protection, and any extra transparency. The money they’re putting up guarantees them transparency.” So why is Summers in Obama’s Cabinet of geniuses?

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RE: ObamaCare Hits Home

Verizon and Caterpillar aren’t the only employers warning of rising health-care costs due to ObamaCare:

Deere & Company, Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer, said in a statement this morning that the recently-passed health care legislation will cost the company $150 million after tax this year.The company said the impact would be felt primarily in the second quarter, between April 1 and July 1.

Deere spokesman Ken Golden said the charge would be taken as a one-time cost to cover the new tax the Health Care bill imposes on subsidies paid to corporations for retiree prescription costs under a 2003 Medicare bill.

“The 2003 legislation encouraged companies to stay in the game and continue to fund their retirees’ prescriptions,” Golden said. “Otherwise, the retirees would go onto the Medicare prescription program which would cost the government more money.”

Manufacturers of medical devices are also sending out warnings. (“Medical-device maker Medtronic warned that new taxes on its products could force it to lay off a thousand workers.”) The Boston Herald explains:

A dire warning from Bay State medical-device companies that a new sales tax in the federal health-care law could force their plants — and thousands of jobs — out of the country has rattled Gov. Deval Patrick, a staunch backer of the law and pal President Obama.

“This bill is a jobs killer,” said Ernie Whiton, chief financial officer of Chelmsford’s Zoll Medical Corp., which employs about 650 people in Massachusetts. Many of those employees work in Zoll’s local manufacturing facility making heart defibrillators. “We could be forced to (move) manufacturing overseas if we can’t pass along these costs to our customers,” said Whiton.

The threat — echoed by others in the critical Massachusetts industry — had the governor vowing to intervene to block the sales tax impact. “I am obviously concerned about the medical device burden here on the commonwealth, which has a very robust industry around medical devices,” Patrick said yesterday.

Well, he wasn’t concerned enough to lobby against the bill before it was passed. But this issue and other predictable consequences of ObamaCare will no doubt absorb much of the debate between now and November. Hey, if Deval Patrick thinks it’s a jobs killer, perhaps “Repeal and Reform” isn’t so far-fetched after all.

Verizon and Caterpillar aren’t the only employers warning of rising health-care costs due to ObamaCare:

Deere & Company, Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer, said in a statement this morning that the recently-passed health care legislation will cost the company $150 million after tax this year.The company said the impact would be felt primarily in the second quarter, between April 1 and July 1.

Deere spokesman Ken Golden said the charge would be taken as a one-time cost to cover the new tax the Health Care bill imposes on subsidies paid to corporations for retiree prescription costs under a 2003 Medicare bill.

“The 2003 legislation encouraged companies to stay in the game and continue to fund their retirees’ prescriptions,” Golden said. “Otherwise, the retirees would go onto the Medicare prescription program which would cost the government more money.”

Manufacturers of medical devices are also sending out warnings. (“Medical-device maker Medtronic warned that new taxes on its products could force it to lay off a thousand workers.”) The Boston Herald explains:

A dire warning from Bay State medical-device companies that a new sales tax in the federal health-care law could force their plants — and thousands of jobs — out of the country has rattled Gov. Deval Patrick, a staunch backer of the law and pal President Obama.

“This bill is a jobs killer,” said Ernie Whiton, chief financial officer of Chelmsford’s Zoll Medical Corp., which employs about 650 people in Massachusetts. Many of those employees work in Zoll’s local manufacturing facility making heart defibrillators. “We could be forced to (move) manufacturing overseas if we can’t pass along these costs to our customers,” said Whiton.

The threat — echoed by others in the critical Massachusetts industry — had the governor vowing to intervene to block the sales tax impact. “I am obviously concerned about the medical device burden here on the commonwealth, which has a very robust industry around medical devices,” Patrick said yesterday.

Well, he wasn’t concerned enough to lobby against the bill before it was passed. But this issue and other predictable consequences of ObamaCare will no doubt absorb much of the debate between now and November. Hey, if Deval Patrick thinks it’s a jobs killer, perhaps “Repeal and Reform” isn’t so far-fetched after all.

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Don’t Be Morose! Get Even!

David Brooks says he’s out on the ledge, morose, and about to have a “Howard Beale” moment. Just last week he was telling us that Obama was a misunderstood moderate. Now he confesses that Obama is aiding and abetting unlawfulness of the worst kind. He explains:

Barack Obama campaigned offering a new era of sane government. And I believe he would do it if he had the chance. But he has been so sucked into the system that now he stands by while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks about passing health care via “deem and pass” — a tricky legislative device in which things get passed without members having the honor or the guts to stand up and vote for it.
Deem and pass? Are you kidding me? Is this what the Revolutionary War was fought for? Is this what the boys on Normandy beach were trying to defend? Is this where we thought we would end up when Obama was speaking so beautifully in Iowa or promising to put away childish things?

Not very moderate. Not even defensible. Brooks is left, as many of us are, blinking in disbelief:

It’s unbelievable that people even talk about this with a straight face. Do they really think the American people are going to stand for this? Do they think it will really fool anybody if a Democratic House member goes back to his district and says, “I didn’t vote for the bill. I just voted for the amendments.” Do they think all of America is insane? … It’s just Democrats wanting to pass a bill, any bill, and shredding anything they have to in order to get it done.

So I think we can agree that this is not moderate, not thoughtful, and not Burkean. (And it turns out that a perfectly creased pants leg was not a sign that “he’ll be a very good president.”) What we have learned is that Obama is willing to use radical means to defy the popular will and enact a massive expansion of government. Maybe the rubes understand Obama fairly well, after all. They figured out quite some time ago that the entire campaign message — change, hope, post-partisanship, nonideological, fiscally sober — was a ruse. And they understand how immoderate both his methods and his aims are.

I personally am not out on a ledge. (But then I never bought the whole Obama campaign whoop-de-do.) Should this pass, I have infinite faith that the American people will deliver a mortal electoral blow to those politicians who thought they could shred anything to get their way. And then bit by bit — or in one fell swoop — the elected replacements for the shredders will rip out ObamaCare. So there’s no reason to be morose. Elections are great corrective exercises, and one is just around the corner.

David Brooks says he’s out on the ledge, morose, and about to have a “Howard Beale” moment. Just last week he was telling us that Obama was a misunderstood moderate. Now he confesses that Obama is aiding and abetting unlawfulness of the worst kind. He explains:

Barack Obama campaigned offering a new era of sane government. And I believe he would do it if he had the chance. But he has been so sucked into the system that now he stands by while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks about passing health care via “deem and pass” — a tricky legislative device in which things get passed without members having the honor or the guts to stand up and vote for it.
Deem and pass? Are you kidding me? Is this what the Revolutionary War was fought for? Is this what the boys on Normandy beach were trying to defend? Is this where we thought we would end up when Obama was speaking so beautifully in Iowa or promising to put away childish things?

Not very moderate. Not even defensible. Brooks is left, as many of us are, blinking in disbelief:

It’s unbelievable that people even talk about this with a straight face. Do they really think the American people are going to stand for this? Do they think it will really fool anybody if a Democratic House member goes back to his district and says, “I didn’t vote for the bill. I just voted for the amendments.” Do they think all of America is insane? … It’s just Democrats wanting to pass a bill, any bill, and shredding anything they have to in order to get it done.

So I think we can agree that this is not moderate, not thoughtful, and not Burkean. (And it turns out that a perfectly creased pants leg was not a sign that “he’ll be a very good president.”) What we have learned is that Obama is willing to use radical means to defy the popular will and enact a massive expansion of government. Maybe the rubes understand Obama fairly well, after all. They figured out quite some time ago that the entire campaign message — change, hope, post-partisanship, nonideological, fiscally sober — was a ruse. And they understand how immoderate both his methods and his aims are.

I personally am not out on a ledge. (But then I never bought the whole Obama campaign whoop-de-do.) Should this pass, I have infinite faith that the American people will deliver a mortal electoral blow to those politicians who thought they could shred anything to get their way. And then bit by bit — or in one fell swoop — the elected replacements for the shredders will rip out ObamaCare. So there’s no reason to be morose. Elections are great corrective exercises, and one is just around the corner.

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So Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation

Peter Slevin of the Washington Post reports from Mason City, Iowa, and finds this:

Republican Terry Branstad’s lines have a familiar ring as he campaigns to return to the governor’s office after 11 years away. He blasts the incumbent Democrat for “mismanagement,” promising an “economic comeback” and the end of “more government than we can afford.”

The pitch is working. Early polls show Branstad with a lead as large as 20 points over Gov. Chet Culver (D), who is battling a poor economy and frustration fueled by Capitol Hill vitriol that incumbent politicians are not delivering.

The state that launched Barack Obama toward the presidency just two years ago is looking like a tough sell for Democrats in 2010. Culver is in trouble, Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) is threatened, and President Obama’s popularity has dropped by one-third since he took office.

Obama’s approval rating is 15 percent among Republicans — and only 38 percent among independents, a 10-point drop in three months. The biggest issues are the deficit, health care, and the economy. Republican strategist Craig Robinson sees “a dissatisfaction with everything Washington.” Republican state representative Pat Grassley, the 26-year-old grandson of U.S. Senator Charles E. Grassley, says, “I’m seeing people who have never e-mailed me in four years getting involved in issues. There’s frustration out there.”

There is indeed. There is in fact nothing at all unusual about this story from Iowa — which is itself noteworthy. What is happening there seems to be happening almost everywhere in America.

Democrats have a reason to be afraid. Very afraid.

Peter Slevin of the Washington Post reports from Mason City, Iowa, and finds this:

Republican Terry Branstad’s lines have a familiar ring as he campaigns to return to the governor’s office after 11 years away. He blasts the incumbent Democrat for “mismanagement,” promising an “economic comeback” and the end of “more government than we can afford.”

The pitch is working. Early polls show Branstad with a lead as large as 20 points over Gov. Chet Culver (D), who is battling a poor economy and frustration fueled by Capitol Hill vitriol that incumbent politicians are not delivering.

The state that launched Barack Obama toward the presidency just two years ago is looking like a tough sell for Democrats in 2010. Culver is in trouble, Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) is threatened, and President Obama’s popularity has dropped by one-third since he took office.

Obama’s approval rating is 15 percent among Republicans — and only 38 percent among independents, a 10-point drop in three months. The biggest issues are the deficit, health care, and the economy. Republican strategist Craig Robinson sees “a dissatisfaction with everything Washington.” Republican state representative Pat Grassley, the 26-year-old grandson of U.S. Senator Charles E. Grassley, says, “I’m seeing people who have never e-mailed me in four years getting involved in issues. There’s frustration out there.”

There is indeed. There is in fact nothing at all unusual about this story from Iowa — which is itself noteworthy. What is happening there seems to be happening almost everywhere in America.

Democrats have a reason to be afraid. Very afraid.

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LIVE BLOG: “We May Be Closer Together”

Tom Harkin, the Democratic senator from Iowa, says he’s stunned to discover how Democrats and Republicans “may be closer together” than we thought. In saying this, he is echoing something Democrats, including Obama, have been saying all day. Indeed, when Republicans like John McCain and Eric Cantor disagree and say the differences are far more substantive, these are the moments that have triggered the president’s anger. Fascinating. Democrats are seeking to turn around their fortunes on health care by hugging the GOP. It’s one of the more peculiar political strategies in memory, but when you’re at 25 percent, it might be worth a shot. A long shot, but a shot. A very long shot.

Tom Harkin, the Democratic senator from Iowa, says he’s stunned to discover how Democrats and Republicans “may be closer together” than we thought. In saying this, he is echoing something Democrats, including Obama, have been saying all day. Indeed, when Republicans like John McCain and Eric Cantor disagree and say the differences are far more substantive, these are the moments that have triggered the president’s anger. Fascinating. Democrats are seeking to turn around their fortunes on health care by hugging the GOP. It’s one of the more peculiar political strategies in memory, but when you’re at 25 percent, it might be worth a shot. A long shot, but a shot. A very long shot.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A good question triggered by the assassination of the Hamas terrorist in Dubai and our decision to send an ambassador to Syria: “Will the safe haven Damascus continues to provide terrorists such as Mabhouh, who would erase Israel from the Middle-Eastern map—to say nothing of the foreign fighters trained by al Qaeda and/or armed by Iran who are still entering Iraq across the Syrian border to kill American soldiers—be a subject of discussion for America’s newly appointed ambassador to Syria once he’s presented his credentials?”

If you thought the Ivy League–educated Oval Office occupier Obama’s populism was fake: “If last year’s bailout of the financial industry caused you to start muttering words like investment banker and robber baron in the same sentence, it may cheer you to know that Timothy Geithner, the man responsible for crafting much of that bailout, agrees with you. ‘I am,’ he says, seated in his Washington, D.C., office, an intimidatingly ornate room worthy of a Hogwarts headmaster, ‘incredibly angry at what happened to our country.’”

A lot of people excited about a potential 2012 run by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will be excited to hear this: “During an interview at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association here over the weekend, Daniels said he has now been persuaded to keep open the door to a possible candidacy.”

Is Marco Rubio running away with the GOP Senate primary race? The latest Rasmussen poll has him up by 18 points.

Democrats are on the defensive in Illinois: “Illinois’ Republican Party is keeping up a steady drumbeat of pressure on Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias to answer questions about his family’s Broadway Bank. ‘Why is Alexi hiding?’ the party asked in an e-mail to reporters a week after the election and after news conferences Giannoulias had held in Chicago and Springfield. … In at least 10 e-mails sent out since the election, the party says Giannoulias is ducking questions about loans he authorized four years ago as vice-president of his family’s Broadway Bank and about the bank’s current troubled financial state.”

CATO’s Michael Tanner on the latest version of ObamaCare: “Faced with public opinion polls showing that 58 percent of the public are opposed to his health care proposal, President Obama has gone back to the drawing board and brought forth a new health care plan that looks almost exactly like his old health care bill. Actually that’s not quite true. This proposal is more expensive, pushing its cost up close to $1 trillion in the first 10 years, and raising taxes by some $629 billion.”

Some are in a tizzy: “Critics left and right are accusing Rahm Emanuel of disloyalty-by-proxy after a Dana Milbank column in Sunday’s Washington Post defended the White House chief of staff — while trashing reputed Emanuel rivals Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs. ” Actually, he’s been leaking his opposition to the entire anti-terrorism approach for some time, so this should come as no shock.

Thanks to the teachers’ union, the Los Angeles Unified School District has given up trying to fire bad teachers.

Oh good grief: “Last August, former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Leach took office as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  What exactly were his qualifications for this post, other than being an Obamaphile Republican and thus a safely ‘bipartisan’ appointment, was and remains a mystery. Since his appointment, unsurprisingly, Leach has appeared to take little interest in the actual work of the NEH—support for research, publication, and education in the humanities—and instead has been gallivanting around the country on a 50-state ‘civility tour,’ giving mostly forgettable speeches … whose goal seems to be to get Americans to stop criticizing Barack Obama in terms that offend Chairman Leach.”

A good question triggered by the assassination of the Hamas terrorist in Dubai and our decision to send an ambassador to Syria: “Will the safe haven Damascus continues to provide terrorists such as Mabhouh, who would erase Israel from the Middle-Eastern map—to say nothing of the foreign fighters trained by al Qaeda and/or armed by Iran who are still entering Iraq across the Syrian border to kill American soldiers—be a subject of discussion for America’s newly appointed ambassador to Syria once he’s presented his credentials?”

If you thought the Ivy League–educated Oval Office occupier Obama’s populism was fake: “If last year’s bailout of the financial industry caused you to start muttering words like investment banker and robber baron in the same sentence, it may cheer you to know that Timothy Geithner, the man responsible for crafting much of that bailout, agrees with you. ‘I am,’ he says, seated in his Washington, D.C., office, an intimidatingly ornate room worthy of a Hogwarts headmaster, ‘incredibly angry at what happened to our country.’”

A lot of people excited about a potential 2012 run by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will be excited to hear this: “During an interview at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association here over the weekend, Daniels said he has now been persuaded to keep open the door to a possible candidacy.”

Is Marco Rubio running away with the GOP Senate primary race? The latest Rasmussen poll has him up by 18 points.

Democrats are on the defensive in Illinois: “Illinois’ Republican Party is keeping up a steady drumbeat of pressure on Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias to answer questions about his family’s Broadway Bank. ‘Why is Alexi hiding?’ the party asked in an e-mail to reporters a week after the election and after news conferences Giannoulias had held in Chicago and Springfield. … In at least 10 e-mails sent out since the election, the party says Giannoulias is ducking questions about loans he authorized four years ago as vice-president of his family’s Broadway Bank and about the bank’s current troubled financial state.”

CATO’s Michael Tanner on the latest version of ObamaCare: “Faced with public opinion polls showing that 58 percent of the public are opposed to his health care proposal, President Obama has gone back to the drawing board and brought forth a new health care plan that looks almost exactly like his old health care bill. Actually that’s not quite true. This proposal is more expensive, pushing its cost up close to $1 trillion in the first 10 years, and raising taxes by some $629 billion.”

Some are in a tizzy: “Critics left and right are accusing Rahm Emanuel of disloyalty-by-proxy after a Dana Milbank column in Sunday’s Washington Post defended the White House chief of staff — while trashing reputed Emanuel rivals Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs. ” Actually, he’s been leaking his opposition to the entire anti-terrorism approach for some time, so this should come as no shock.

Thanks to the teachers’ union, the Los Angeles Unified School District has given up trying to fire bad teachers.

Oh good grief: “Last August, former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Leach took office as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  What exactly were his qualifications for this post, other than being an Obamaphile Republican and thus a safely ‘bipartisan’ appointment, was and remains a mystery. Since his appointment, unsurprisingly, Leach has appeared to take little interest in the actual work of the NEH—support for research, publication, and education in the humanities—and instead has been gallivanting around the country on a 50-state ‘civility tour,’ giving mostly forgettable speeches … whose goal seems to be to get Americans to stop criticizing Barack Obama in terms that offend Chairman Leach.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Is the NSA helping Google fix its cyberhole? “After Chinese hackers tore Google a new cyberhole in December, the tech titan reportedly looked to an unlikely source for help: the ultra-secretive National Security Agency, better known for tapping phones than patching security holes for private companies. The connection has raised the antennae of Internet privacy experts, who now are warning of the possible risks posed by the close and as-yet undefined ties between the world’s top cybersurveillance agency and a corporate behemoth that has amassed more sensitive data about its users than most personal diaries.” If this were the Bush administration, the ACLU would be going nuts, not just writing letters to Google’s CEO.

Democrats are waking up to just how economically destructive the Obami’s gambit on CO2 is: “Eight Democratic Senators from coal states are mounting a serious challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark ruling that CO2 is a pollutant and demanding a delay in enforcing anti-global warming regulations against polluters.” Hey, they could introduce a bill, get lots of GOP support, and put an end to this.

Independents in Iowa are waking up, too: “A sharp drop in approval for President Barack Obama from Iowa’s political independents has pushed the Democrat’s approval further below 50 percent in the state and below the national average, according to the latest Iowa Poll. Approval among Iowa independents has dropped 10 percentage points since November, to 38 percent. Independents in Iowa helped Obama win the leadoff nominating caucuses in 2008 and later carry the state in the general election.”

In other words, the Left is deluded: “With Obama’s top agenda item, health care legislation, near ruins and congressional Democrats on the defensive heading into this year’s midterm elections, much of the sweeping liberal agenda some of Obama’s supporters hoped for and his enemies feared has been deferred. … And yet in a surreal twilight, issues live on, fed by a kind of mutual dependency between the liberal interest groups that exist to advance them and the conservatives for whom opposing them is a potent rallying force. There is, say liberal leaders who suffered through the drought of the Bush years, no point in giving up.”

When Republican candidates in state Senate races run against Nancy Pelosi, it’s not a good sign for the Democrats: “[Jim] Higdon, a Republican from Kentucky, won a state Senate seat in December in a largely Democratic district with an unlikely strategy: He nationalized his race, warning of one-party rule by featuring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pictures in his television advertisements and campaign literature. Higdon, who was outspent by a 4-to-1 ratio, is glad she’s so unpopular. … Expect the GOP to replicate the strategy in political races around the country this year.”

Bill Bennett explains what was wrong with Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech. A sample: “The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are. There is a difference between morning and night. There is a difference between drunk and sober. And there is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don’t exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.” Worth reading in full.

Whatever Obama is doing doesn’t seem to be working: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. That is the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded for this President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. The Approval Index has been lower only on one day during Barack Obama’s thirteen months in office.”

Sen. Ben Nelson declares, “I don’t know if there’s a happy ending for health care.” Two-thirds of the country would be happy, but Nelson and the voters (especially in his state) don’t see eye-to-eye on health-care reform. It may well be that Nelson blew up his career for nothing.

Is the NSA helping Google fix its cyberhole? “After Chinese hackers tore Google a new cyberhole in December, the tech titan reportedly looked to an unlikely source for help: the ultra-secretive National Security Agency, better known for tapping phones than patching security holes for private companies. The connection has raised the antennae of Internet privacy experts, who now are warning of the possible risks posed by the close and as-yet undefined ties between the world’s top cybersurveillance agency and a corporate behemoth that has amassed more sensitive data about its users than most personal diaries.” If this were the Bush administration, the ACLU would be going nuts, not just writing letters to Google’s CEO.

Democrats are waking up to just how economically destructive the Obami’s gambit on CO2 is: “Eight Democratic Senators from coal states are mounting a serious challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark ruling that CO2 is a pollutant and demanding a delay in enforcing anti-global warming regulations against polluters.” Hey, they could introduce a bill, get lots of GOP support, and put an end to this.

Independents in Iowa are waking up, too: “A sharp drop in approval for President Barack Obama from Iowa’s political independents has pushed the Democrat’s approval further below 50 percent in the state and below the national average, according to the latest Iowa Poll. Approval among Iowa independents has dropped 10 percentage points since November, to 38 percent. Independents in Iowa helped Obama win the leadoff nominating caucuses in 2008 and later carry the state in the general election.”

In other words, the Left is deluded: “With Obama’s top agenda item, health care legislation, near ruins and congressional Democrats on the defensive heading into this year’s midterm elections, much of the sweeping liberal agenda some of Obama’s supporters hoped for and his enemies feared has been deferred. … And yet in a surreal twilight, issues live on, fed by a kind of mutual dependency between the liberal interest groups that exist to advance them and the conservatives for whom opposing them is a potent rallying force. There is, say liberal leaders who suffered through the drought of the Bush years, no point in giving up.”

When Republican candidates in state Senate races run against Nancy Pelosi, it’s not a good sign for the Democrats: “[Jim] Higdon, a Republican from Kentucky, won a state Senate seat in December in a largely Democratic district with an unlikely strategy: He nationalized his race, warning of one-party rule by featuring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pictures in his television advertisements and campaign literature. Higdon, who was outspent by a 4-to-1 ratio, is glad she’s so unpopular. … Expect the GOP to replicate the strategy in political races around the country this year.”

Bill Bennett explains what was wrong with Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech. A sample: “The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are. There is a difference between morning and night. There is a difference between drunk and sober. And there is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don’t exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.” Worth reading in full.

Whatever Obama is doing doesn’t seem to be working: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. That is the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded for this President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. The Approval Index has been lower only on one day during Barack Obama’s thirteen months in office.”

Sen. Ben Nelson declares, “I don’t know if there’s a happy ending for health care.” Two-thirds of the country would be happy, but Nelson and the voters (especially in his state) don’t see eye-to-eye on health-care reform. It may well be that Nelson blew up his career for nothing.

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That Explains It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Enough with the Campaign

Politico reports:

Barack Obama came to town a year ago to change the way politics worked, and Organizing for America was to be his instrument. The successor to his campaign organization, with the largest e-mail list in America, was poised — many observers thought at the time — to bring the campaign’s movement fervor and Web-centric tactics to pushing Obama’s legislative agenda through Congress.

But Organizing for America hasn’t organized much of anything (certainly not as much as those amateur tea party protesters have). Popular support for Obama’s agenda is at an all-time low. ObamaCare is unpopular. And Democrats lost gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. Just as Obama is confessing that he really failed to change the way Washington works, the group’s leader insists that, no, they really have:

Executive Director Mitch Stewart also said the organization’s broader effects have been understated. Obama “talked about changing the way that Washington works. We believe that we’ve done that,” Stewart said in the interview with POLITICO. “Is it ‘snap your fingers and you’re living in utopia’? No. But do we feel like we’ve made significant progress toward changing the way that Washington works? Yes.”

Well, that’s only one indication that Organizing for America is a bit out to lunch — and out of the loop. So what’s wrong with the greatest campaign organization ever (or so we were told)? A few things, I think.

First, campaigning — to sell an unknown candidate running in a “historic” race against an unpopular incumbent party – isn’t that hard. (And it helps when Steve Schmidt is running the opposition team.) That’s fundamentally different from sustaining political support over a prolonged period of time for an agenda that the candidate carefully concealed from view as he was convincing voters he was something altogether different. Second, many of the people whom Obama claimed credit for enticing into voting were only interested long enough to put a sticker on their Prius and go to the polls once. They didn’t flock to the polls in the 2009 gubernatorial races and it’s doubtful that they’ll man the barricades for the likes of Harry Reid, Blanche Lincoln, or any of the other vulnerable Democrats. And finally, Obama is the “establishment” now. Spinning for the administration and running interference for the Obami just isn’t as much fun and doesn’t have the same appeal as chanting in Iowa, partying in Denver, and swooning over The One in Berlin. Besides, the “selling” of Obama’s agenda is really the White House’s job. It’s hard to outsource that to a campaign remnant.

The fate of Organizing for America is not unlike that of its candidate. Both, like the dog that caught the bus it was chasing, don’t quite know what to do with their new possession. And the heady days of the campaign when everyone swooned in the presence of the candidate they knew so little about aren’t to be repeated. Perhaps it’s time that Organizing for America closed up shop. There is a time to put the campaign behind and get on with life.

Politico reports:

Barack Obama came to town a year ago to change the way politics worked, and Organizing for America was to be his instrument. The successor to his campaign organization, with the largest e-mail list in America, was poised — many observers thought at the time — to bring the campaign’s movement fervor and Web-centric tactics to pushing Obama’s legislative agenda through Congress.

But Organizing for America hasn’t organized much of anything (certainly not as much as those amateur tea party protesters have). Popular support for Obama’s agenda is at an all-time low. ObamaCare is unpopular. And Democrats lost gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. Just as Obama is confessing that he really failed to change the way Washington works, the group’s leader insists that, no, they really have:

Executive Director Mitch Stewart also said the organization’s broader effects have been understated. Obama “talked about changing the way that Washington works. We believe that we’ve done that,” Stewart said in the interview with POLITICO. “Is it ‘snap your fingers and you’re living in utopia’? No. But do we feel like we’ve made significant progress toward changing the way that Washington works? Yes.”

Well, that’s only one indication that Organizing for America is a bit out to lunch — and out of the loop. So what’s wrong with the greatest campaign organization ever (or so we were told)? A few things, I think.

First, campaigning — to sell an unknown candidate running in a “historic” race against an unpopular incumbent party – isn’t that hard. (And it helps when Steve Schmidt is running the opposition team.) That’s fundamentally different from sustaining political support over a prolonged period of time for an agenda that the candidate carefully concealed from view as he was convincing voters he was something altogether different. Second, many of the people whom Obama claimed credit for enticing into voting were only interested long enough to put a sticker on their Prius and go to the polls once. They didn’t flock to the polls in the 2009 gubernatorial races and it’s doubtful that they’ll man the barricades for the likes of Harry Reid, Blanche Lincoln, or any of the other vulnerable Democrats. And finally, Obama is the “establishment” now. Spinning for the administration and running interference for the Obami just isn’t as much fun and doesn’t have the same appeal as chanting in Iowa, partying in Denver, and swooning over The One in Berlin. Besides, the “selling” of Obama’s agenda is really the White House’s job. It’s hard to outsource that to a campaign remnant.

The fate of Organizing for America is not unlike that of its candidate. Both, like the dog that caught the bus it was chasing, don’t quite know what to do with their new possession. And the heady days of the campaign when everyone swooned in the presence of the candidate they knew so little about aren’t to be repeated. Perhaps it’s time that Organizing for America closed up shop. There is a time to put the campaign behind and get on with life.

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The Massachusetts Polls and the November Election

The most startling news since Barack Obama’s colossal victory over Hillary Clinton in Iowa was the Democratic poll in Massachusetts the other day showing the little-known Republican Scott Brown beating the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, in the special contest for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat by a  point. A subsequent poll by the Boston Globe had the Democrat winning by 15. Somebody is very wrong here, obviously, and we won’t know until next Tuesday’s election which poll got the Massachusetts electorate right. But if the Democratic poll is closer to the truth, and if Coakley can’t come up with something to pull Brown’s numbers down over the next week, she is going to lose and a Republican is going to win an ineffable symbolic victory against Barack Obama and especially against health care.

And yet Republican politicians shouldn’t celebrate just yet—and not because of the talking-point excuses that are being handed out by Democrats and their spin doctors about how Democratic retirements and losses don’t mean anything. They mean an enormous amount. But a Brown victory in Massachusetts would suggest something rather more complicated than a simple Republican wave in 2010. It suggests that disgust with the political system has reached a level never before seen in the modern era, a disgust so profound that a little-known Republican can come to inhabit the Liberal Lion’s office.

There have been hints and whispers of this kind of trend before; the Ross Perot phenomenon in 1991-2, for example. Ever since, we’ve been hearing about the possibility of a political conflagration that would originate in the most stable part of any electorate, its center, as the two parties increasingly find themselves in the thrall of their extremes and find it impossible to appeal to the broad middle.

That notion seemed overblown, and was proved to be overblown; since 2000, the electorate has seemed uncommonly engaged with the two parties, with turnout rising enormously in each national election. Al Gore received the most votes in American history in 2000, only to be eclipsed by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004; Bush was eclipsed by Barack Obama in 2008.

But it doesn’t seem overblown any longer. The Bush administration’s inability to prosecute the war in Iraq effectively in its first three-and-a-half years combined with Republican corruption and the incompetence on display in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to bring the Republican “brand” low in 2006 and 2008. Now the Obama administration’s wild overreach on health care, coupled with its response to the Christmas Day airline-bombing attempt, has brought it similar difficulties. And both parties have lost the confidence of the American people when it comes to explanations for the financial meltdown of 2008 and the responses to it.

And so you have a damaged Republican Party and a damaged Democratic Party, and the elected politicians who represent them. The election coming up will be the first mass test of the effect of this mass bipartisan antipathy. Anti-incumbent fervor will, naturally, hurt Democrats far more than Republicans because there are more Democratic incumbents. But Republican incumbents have every reason to beware as well, just so long as the Democrats trying to unseat them don’t run dogmatically to the Left.

The most startling news since Barack Obama’s colossal victory over Hillary Clinton in Iowa was the Democratic poll in Massachusetts the other day showing the little-known Republican Scott Brown beating the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, in the special contest for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat by a  point. A subsequent poll by the Boston Globe had the Democrat winning by 15. Somebody is very wrong here, obviously, and we won’t know until next Tuesday’s election which poll got the Massachusetts electorate right. But if the Democratic poll is closer to the truth, and if Coakley can’t come up with something to pull Brown’s numbers down over the next week, she is going to lose and a Republican is going to win an ineffable symbolic victory against Barack Obama and especially against health care.

And yet Republican politicians shouldn’t celebrate just yet—and not because of the talking-point excuses that are being handed out by Democrats and their spin doctors about how Democratic retirements and losses don’t mean anything. They mean an enormous amount. But a Brown victory in Massachusetts would suggest something rather more complicated than a simple Republican wave in 2010. It suggests that disgust with the political system has reached a level never before seen in the modern era, a disgust so profound that a little-known Republican can come to inhabit the Liberal Lion’s office.

There have been hints and whispers of this kind of trend before; the Ross Perot phenomenon in 1991-2, for example. Ever since, we’ve been hearing about the possibility of a political conflagration that would originate in the most stable part of any electorate, its center, as the two parties increasingly find themselves in the thrall of their extremes and find it impossible to appeal to the broad middle.

That notion seemed overblown, and was proved to be overblown; since 2000, the electorate has seemed uncommonly engaged with the two parties, with turnout rising enormously in each national election. Al Gore received the most votes in American history in 2000, only to be eclipsed by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004; Bush was eclipsed by Barack Obama in 2008.

But it doesn’t seem overblown any longer. The Bush administration’s inability to prosecute the war in Iraq effectively in its first three-and-a-half years combined with Republican corruption and the incompetence on display in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to bring the Republican “brand” low in 2006 and 2008. Now the Obama administration’s wild overreach on health care, coupled with its response to the Christmas Day airline-bombing attempt, has brought it similar difficulties. And both parties have lost the confidence of the American people when it comes to explanations for the financial meltdown of 2008 and the responses to it.

And so you have a damaged Republican Party and a damaged Democratic Party, and the elected politicians who represent them. The election coming up will be the first mass test of the effect of this mass bipartisan antipathy. Anti-incumbent fervor will, naturally, hurt Democrats far more than Republicans because there are more Democratic incumbents. But Republican incumbents have every reason to beware as well, just so long as the Democrats trying to unseat them don’t run dogmatically to the Left.

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Profile Me if You Must

I don’t want to be profiled at the airport. It has happened before, and I hate it. Volunteering for more isn’t what I feel like doing right now, but our airport security system is so half-baked and dysfunctional it may as well not even exist, and flying is about to become more miserable anyway. So rather than doubling down on grandma and micromanaging everyone on the plane, we might want to pay as much attention to people as to their luggage, especially military-aged males who make unusual and suspicious-looking travel arrangements. That’s what the Israelis do, and that’s why security agents take me into a room and interrogate me every time I pass through Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Israeli airport security is the most thorough and strict in the world, as one might expect in one of the most terrorized countries. No plane leaving Ben-Gurion has ever been hijacked or otherwise attacked by a terrorist. The system works, yet you don’t have to take off your shoes in the security line, no one cares if you pack perfume from the duty-free in your carry-on, you can listen to your iPod 55 minutes before landing, and you don’t have to stand in front of invasive and expensive body-scanning machines.

The Israelis look for weapons, of course. You aren’t at all likely to sneak one on board. Just as important, though, the Israelis are on the look-out for terrorists. Who would you rather sit next to? A woman carrying shampoo and tweezers, or 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta, even if he’s not carrying anything?

Israeli security agents interview everyone, and they subject travelers who fit certain profiles to additional scrutiny. I don’t know exactly what their criteria are, but I do know they aren’t just taking Arabs and Muslims aside. They take me aside, too, partly because of my gender and age but mostly because a huge percentage of my passport stamps are from countries with serious terrorist problems.

“Does anyone in Lebanon know you’re here?” they usually ask me. They’ve also asked if I’ve ever met with anyone in Hezbollah. I am not going to lie during an airport security interview, especially not when the answer can be easily found using Google. They know I’ve met with Hezbollah. That’s why my luggage gets hand-searched one sock at a time while elderly tourists from Florida skate through. I can’t say I enjoy this procedure, but I don’t take it personally, and it makes a lot more sense than letting me skate through while grandma’s luggage is hand-searched instead.

The United States need not and should not import the Israeli system. It’s labor intensive, slow, and at times incredibly aggravating. Americans wouldn’t put up with it, and it wouldn’t scale well. The one thing we can and should learn from the Israelis, though, is that we need to pay as much attention to who gets on airplanes as to what they’re bringing on board.

I don’t like being profiled, but the Israelis aren’t wrong for looking more closely at me than at, say, an 80-year-old black woman from Kansas or a 12-year-old kid from Japan. When I get on a plane in the United States, though, I often breeze past women decades older than me while they’re being frisked. Almost every single person in line knows it’s ridiculous. We don’t say anything, partly because we don’t want to get in trouble, and partly because it feels vaguely “fair.”

Maybe it is, but it’s no way to catch terrorists. And it’s not as if the only alternative is a separate policy for Arabs and Muslims. Racial and religious profiling won’t even work. Shoe bomber Richard Reid wouldn’t have been caught that way, and it’s probably safe to let a 90 year-old woman from Dubai through with minimal hassle.

Right now there appears to be no effort whatsoever to discriminate among passengers using any criteria, let alone racist criteria. “Pants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab did not have a passport, did not have any luggage, and bought a one-way ticket with cash. His name is in a database of possible terrorists. Any Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, or all-American white boys from Iowa who fit that description should be stopped. Abdulmutallab wasn’t stopped. In 2004, though, Senator Ted Kennedy found himself with his name on the no-fly list.

The TSA’s whole mindset is wrong. Its agents confiscate things, even harmless things, and they apply additional scrutiny to things carried by people selected at random. If they were also tasked with looking for dangerous people, they would rightly ease up on grandmothers and senators, and they’d have a competently compiled list in the computer of those who are known to be dangerous. And if some kind of broad profiling means I’ll have to suffer the indignity of being frisked while the nun in line behind me does not, it’s no worse, really, than the embarrassment and contempt I’ll feel if the nun gets frisked instead.

Security agents will never find everything or everyone. It’s impossible. Abdulmutallab sewed a bomb into his underwear. Not even the most draconian new rules imaginable will allow agents to search inside anyone’s underwear. Patting down grandpa below the mid-thigh won’t do any good. Patting down Abdulmutallab below the mid-thigh wouldn’t have done any good either — all the more reason to start paying as much attention to people as to what they carry.

I don’t want to be profiled at the airport. It has happened before, and I hate it. Volunteering for more isn’t what I feel like doing right now, but our airport security system is so half-baked and dysfunctional it may as well not even exist, and flying is about to become more miserable anyway. So rather than doubling down on grandma and micromanaging everyone on the plane, we might want to pay as much attention to people as to their luggage, especially military-aged males who make unusual and suspicious-looking travel arrangements. That’s what the Israelis do, and that’s why security agents take me into a room and interrogate me every time I pass through Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Israeli airport security is the most thorough and strict in the world, as one might expect in one of the most terrorized countries. No plane leaving Ben-Gurion has ever been hijacked or otherwise attacked by a terrorist. The system works, yet you don’t have to take off your shoes in the security line, no one cares if you pack perfume from the duty-free in your carry-on, you can listen to your iPod 55 minutes before landing, and you don’t have to stand in front of invasive and expensive body-scanning machines.

The Israelis look for weapons, of course. You aren’t at all likely to sneak one on board. Just as important, though, the Israelis are on the look-out for terrorists. Who would you rather sit next to? A woman carrying shampoo and tweezers, or 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta, even if he’s not carrying anything?

Israeli security agents interview everyone, and they subject travelers who fit certain profiles to additional scrutiny. I don’t know exactly what their criteria are, but I do know they aren’t just taking Arabs and Muslims aside. They take me aside, too, partly because of my gender and age but mostly because a huge percentage of my passport stamps are from countries with serious terrorist problems.

“Does anyone in Lebanon know you’re here?” they usually ask me. They’ve also asked if I’ve ever met with anyone in Hezbollah. I am not going to lie during an airport security interview, especially not when the answer can be easily found using Google. They know I’ve met with Hezbollah. That’s why my luggage gets hand-searched one sock at a time while elderly tourists from Florida skate through. I can’t say I enjoy this procedure, but I don’t take it personally, and it makes a lot more sense than letting me skate through while grandma’s luggage is hand-searched instead.

The United States need not and should not import the Israeli system. It’s labor intensive, slow, and at times incredibly aggravating. Americans wouldn’t put up with it, and it wouldn’t scale well. The one thing we can and should learn from the Israelis, though, is that we need to pay as much attention to who gets on airplanes as to what they’re bringing on board.

I don’t like being profiled, but the Israelis aren’t wrong for looking more closely at me than at, say, an 80-year-old black woman from Kansas or a 12-year-old kid from Japan. When I get on a plane in the United States, though, I often breeze past women decades older than me while they’re being frisked. Almost every single person in line knows it’s ridiculous. We don’t say anything, partly because we don’t want to get in trouble, and partly because it feels vaguely “fair.”

Maybe it is, but it’s no way to catch terrorists. And it’s not as if the only alternative is a separate policy for Arabs and Muslims. Racial and religious profiling won’t even work. Shoe bomber Richard Reid wouldn’t have been caught that way, and it’s probably safe to let a 90 year-old woman from Dubai through with minimal hassle.

Right now there appears to be no effort whatsoever to discriminate among passengers using any criteria, let alone racist criteria. “Pants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab did not have a passport, did not have any luggage, and bought a one-way ticket with cash. His name is in a database of possible terrorists. Any Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, or all-American white boys from Iowa who fit that description should be stopped. Abdulmutallab wasn’t stopped. In 2004, though, Senator Ted Kennedy found himself with his name on the no-fly list.

The TSA’s whole mindset is wrong. Its agents confiscate things, even harmless things, and they apply additional scrutiny to things carried by people selected at random. If they were also tasked with looking for dangerous people, they would rightly ease up on grandmothers and senators, and they’d have a competently compiled list in the computer of those who are known to be dangerous. And if some kind of broad profiling means I’ll have to suffer the indignity of being frisked while the nun in line behind me does not, it’s no worse, really, than the embarrassment and contempt I’ll feel if the nun gets frisked instead.

Security agents will never find everything or everyone. It’s impossible. Abdulmutallab sewed a bomb into his underwear. Not even the most draconian new rules imaginable will allow agents to search inside anyone’s underwear. Patting down grandpa below the mid-thigh won’t do any good. Patting down Abdulmutallab below the mid-thigh wouldn’t have done any good either — all the more reason to start paying as much attention to people as to what they carry.

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Bad Policy, Worse Politics

James Capretta and Yuval Levin make a key point about the health-care bill snaking its way through Congress:

This timeline of tax and spending implementation corresponds rather awkwardly to the political calendar confronting the Democrats. The new entitlement, insurance rules, and other elements of the plan will not go into effect until well after the 2010 congressional elections and even the next presidential election, but some serious tax hikes will take place by then.

Meanwhile, again to make for a palatable CBO score, the bill envisions radical cuts in Medicare beginning quite soon. For instance, steep cuts in Medicare Advantage start in 2011, which means millions of seniors will begin hearing the bad news in 2010 as their plans withdraw from the program, cut their benefits, or raise their premiums.

So how exactly does this play out in the 2010 elections? Republicans will be holding up the Medicare cuts and urging seniors to run to the polls and vote the Democrats out. The Democrats will either savage their own bill by undoing the cuts or defend it as is, while explaining that other voters should be happy because by 2014 they will get subsidized health care. (“Essentially all of the spending provisions and insurance reforms–including the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, the employer mandate to provide it, the state insurance exchanges, the federal subsidies for coverage, and the Medicaid expansion–would only go into operation in 2014.”) Gosh, who has the better argument?

Then let’s break that down on a race-by-race level. In states where voters overwhelmingly oppose ObamaCare, Republicans running against incumbents like Byron Dorgan, Blanche Lincoln, and Harry Reid will run against the taxes, mandates, fees, and corruption. Republicans running in Blue states like California will question why someone like Barbara Boxer didn’t do a “better job” and allowed Nebraska or Iowa to get Medicare carve-outs, leaving their seniors to scrounge for doctors (who won’t make ends meet on Medicare’s reduced fees) and to live without their much-loved Medicare Advantage benefits. What exactly are the Democrats going to say to voters in an off-year election who are generally older, more conservative, and more politically savvy than the masses who turn out for a presidential election? I’m sure aggrieved voters will be delighted to hear that the bill is “historic.” But that means nothing to most of them, who have insurance and whose benefits and taxes are going to be impacted in a huge government power grab.

So if the bill makes no sense on the merits, it makes even less sense politically. The only question remains whether nervous incumbents figure this out and grudgingly agree to return to the drawing board. If not, they better figure out how they are going to defend this in front of enraged voters.

James Capretta and Yuval Levin make a key point about the health-care bill snaking its way through Congress:

This timeline of tax and spending implementation corresponds rather awkwardly to the political calendar confronting the Democrats. The new entitlement, insurance rules, and other elements of the plan will not go into effect until well after the 2010 congressional elections and even the next presidential election, but some serious tax hikes will take place by then.

Meanwhile, again to make for a palatable CBO score, the bill envisions radical cuts in Medicare beginning quite soon. For instance, steep cuts in Medicare Advantage start in 2011, which means millions of seniors will begin hearing the bad news in 2010 as their plans withdraw from the program, cut their benefits, or raise their premiums.

So how exactly does this play out in the 2010 elections? Republicans will be holding up the Medicare cuts and urging seniors to run to the polls and vote the Democrats out. The Democrats will either savage their own bill by undoing the cuts or defend it as is, while explaining that other voters should be happy because by 2014 they will get subsidized health care. (“Essentially all of the spending provisions and insurance reforms–including the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, the employer mandate to provide it, the state insurance exchanges, the federal subsidies for coverage, and the Medicaid expansion–would only go into operation in 2014.”) Gosh, who has the better argument?

Then let’s break that down on a race-by-race level. In states where voters overwhelmingly oppose ObamaCare, Republicans running against incumbents like Byron Dorgan, Blanche Lincoln, and Harry Reid will run against the taxes, mandates, fees, and corruption. Republicans running in Blue states like California will question why someone like Barbara Boxer didn’t do a “better job” and allowed Nebraska or Iowa to get Medicare carve-outs, leaving their seniors to scrounge for doctors (who won’t make ends meet on Medicare’s reduced fees) and to live without their much-loved Medicare Advantage benefits. What exactly are the Democrats going to say to voters in an off-year election who are generally older, more conservative, and more politically savvy than the masses who turn out for a presidential election? I’m sure aggrieved voters will be delighted to hear that the bill is “historic.” But that means nothing to most of them, who have insurance and whose benefits and taxes are going to be impacted in a huge government power grab.

So if the bill makes no sense on the merits, it makes even less sense politically. The only question remains whether nervous incumbents figure this out and grudgingly agree to return to the drawing board. If not, they better figure out how they are going to defend this in front of enraged voters.

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Re: The Culture of Corruption

Pete, your focus on the fundamental corruption at the heart of the Senate bill is, I think, exactly right and that corruption rather extraordinary. In the days after the Senate cloture vote on the health-care bill, you would think the mainstream media would be touting the bill’s benefits and focusing on the huge “win” for the president. But instead the buzz in both the mainstream and conservative media has not been about the merits of the “historic” legislation but about the backroom deals necessary to achieve its passage, which its sponsors assure us will usher in a wonderful era of improved health-care access and care.

We’re going to remember for years to come the names of the deals, just as surely as did the infamous Bridge to Nowhere become part of the political vocabulary: Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback, U Con, Bayh Off, Handout Montana, and Gator Aid. Vermont and Massachusetts got billions more in Medicare funding. Sen. Roland Burris managed to slip in some funding for none other than ACORN, under the guise of improving minority community health. The scope and number of the deals are breathtaking, but it goes beyond the unseemliness of the average pork-barrel bill.

After all, this is not merely a transportation appropriations bill where the whole point is to dole out federal monies and the “game” is for each lawmaker to grab as much of the pie as possible for his own constituents. That might be distasteful to legislative purists and raise doubts as to whether all the money is being wisely spent. But it’s just about spreading the largess. In a case of transportation pork, one district gets a bike path and another doesn’t get the highway off-ramp, but neither district probably needed the project anyway.

In the case of health care, however, the bill rests on the premise that we are improving access to care and working toward a healthier society, reducing the problem of haves and have-nots. For decades that is how health-care “reform” has been sold by liberals.

But instead, what we “get” for health-care sweetheart deals is a new regime of rationed care, which will primarily impact the elderly. The nauseating plethora of backroom deals and special carve-outs for this or that state in health-care “reform,” therefore, is more egregious, and thus more politically toxic.

A central feature of this bill is the $500B cuts in Medicare funding, including slashing the popular Medicare Advantage plan and the imposition of a newly beefed-up Medicare Advisory Board, which will be empowered to devise new ways of cutting payments to doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health-care providers. In the absence of any real reform measures, the only feasible way to control costs is limiting care—i.e., rationing. Medicare already denies medical claims at double the rate of many large private insurers. And with $500B or so less to work with, many more Medicare claims will be denied.

This is what the Cornhusker Kickback and the rest of the bribe-a-thon are enabling. The Senate bill spared voters in a few states the harshest impact of the new care-depriving regime so that the same regime could be foisted on the entire country. Connecticut voters get $600 million in additional Medicaid benefits, Vermont voters get $10B in health-care centers, and hospitals in North Dakota and Iowa get richer Medicare reimbursement rates. Those deals made possible reduced rates of reimbursement and Medicare funding for the rest of the country, rates so paltry and unacceptable to a few key senators that they had to use all their pull to spare their own states. If it is unacceptable for them, why must the rest of the country live with it?

The colorfully named backroom deals may well induce a fiery public backlash, complicating the bill’s passage and negating any political benefit derived by its proponents. Voters will discover not only the ugly side of secret deals; they may also figure out that the moral justification for health care has been jettisoned by those who used their clout to squeeze care for millions of voters while sparing themselves the worst of that backlash.

Pete, your focus on the fundamental corruption at the heart of the Senate bill is, I think, exactly right and that corruption rather extraordinary. In the days after the Senate cloture vote on the health-care bill, you would think the mainstream media would be touting the bill’s benefits and focusing on the huge “win” for the president. But instead the buzz in both the mainstream and conservative media has not been about the merits of the “historic” legislation but about the backroom deals necessary to achieve its passage, which its sponsors assure us will usher in a wonderful era of improved health-care access and care.

We’re going to remember for years to come the names of the deals, just as surely as did the infamous Bridge to Nowhere become part of the political vocabulary: Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback, U Con, Bayh Off, Handout Montana, and Gator Aid. Vermont and Massachusetts got billions more in Medicare funding. Sen. Roland Burris managed to slip in some funding for none other than ACORN, under the guise of improving minority community health. The scope and number of the deals are breathtaking, but it goes beyond the unseemliness of the average pork-barrel bill.

After all, this is not merely a transportation appropriations bill where the whole point is to dole out federal monies and the “game” is for each lawmaker to grab as much of the pie as possible for his own constituents. That might be distasteful to legislative purists and raise doubts as to whether all the money is being wisely spent. But it’s just about spreading the largess. In a case of transportation pork, one district gets a bike path and another doesn’t get the highway off-ramp, but neither district probably needed the project anyway.

In the case of health care, however, the bill rests on the premise that we are improving access to care and working toward a healthier society, reducing the problem of haves and have-nots. For decades that is how health-care “reform” has been sold by liberals.

But instead, what we “get” for health-care sweetheart deals is a new regime of rationed care, which will primarily impact the elderly. The nauseating plethora of backroom deals and special carve-outs for this or that state in health-care “reform,” therefore, is more egregious, and thus more politically toxic.

A central feature of this bill is the $500B cuts in Medicare funding, including slashing the popular Medicare Advantage plan and the imposition of a newly beefed-up Medicare Advisory Board, which will be empowered to devise new ways of cutting payments to doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health-care providers. In the absence of any real reform measures, the only feasible way to control costs is limiting care—i.e., rationing. Medicare already denies medical claims at double the rate of many large private insurers. And with $500B or so less to work with, many more Medicare claims will be denied.

This is what the Cornhusker Kickback and the rest of the bribe-a-thon are enabling. The Senate bill spared voters in a few states the harshest impact of the new care-depriving regime so that the same regime could be foisted on the entire country. Connecticut voters get $600 million in additional Medicaid benefits, Vermont voters get $10B in health-care centers, and hospitals in North Dakota and Iowa get richer Medicare reimbursement rates. Those deals made possible reduced rates of reimbursement and Medicare funding for the rest of the country, rates so paltry and unacceptable to a few key senators that they had to use all their pull to spare their own states. If it is unacceptable for them, why must the rest of the country live with it?

The colorfully named backroom deals may well induce a fiery public backlash, complicating the bill’s passage and negating any political benefit derived by its proponents. Voters will discover not only the ugly side of secret deals; they may also figure out that the moral justification for health care has been jettisoned by those who used their clout to squeeze care for millions of voters while sparing themselves the worst of that backlash.

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Who Are They Gonna Believe?

This report from Politico neatly sums up the looming collision between reality and White House spin:

Mounting evidence that independent voters have soured on the Democrats is prompting a debate among party officials about what rhetorical and substantive changes are needed to halt the damage. Following serious setbacks with independents in off-year elections earlier this month, White House officials attributed the defeats to local factors and said President Barack Obama sees no need to reposition his own image or the Democratic message.

Democrats who must face the voters next year can read the polls. They see not simply a falling away of support by independents but also the underlying unease with the liberal big-government, big-spending agenda. Lawmakers may not be geniuses but they are smart enough to see that their own political future is at risk and that the likely culprit is Obamaism. The fear extends to the state level as they recognize the impact of Obama’s agenda on the elections in Virginia and New Jersey. One Democratic pollster observes: “The perception of what’s happening in Congress is polluting what’s happening down below.” And the problem isn’t regional:

Democrats are anxious about the prospects of five-term Sen. Chris Dodd in Connecticut, who trails one of his GOP opponents by 28 percentage points among independents in a prospective head-to-head matchup, and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, two Democratic incumbents with shrinking approval ratings among independent voters. A Des Moines Register poll released this weekend showed the first-term Culver trailing the GOP front-runner among independents by nearly 30 percentage points.

Hmm. Democrats had assured themselves that the Republicans were becoming a regional, all-Southern party. But that was before Obama and the Democrats in Congress spent nearly a year in control.

The Obami and the Democratic leadership in Congress, on the other hand, are putting their fingers in their ears to block out the sound of stampeding independents and to ignore the obvious explanation — the public does not share their zeal to remake America and reorder the relationship between government and citizenry, and between the public and private sectors. They have a leftward lurch to complete, and they aren’t about to let the voters get in the way. Their answer: more of the same! A government health-care takeover tops the list, which of course is increasingly unpopular among these same independents.

Democrats in Congress will have to decide whether they believe the polls and election results or the self-serving spin from the White House and their leadership, which is desperate to ram home ObamaCare before the 2010 election exacts its toll. Apparently, the Obama team is not going to adjust course to save their congressional allies, so the latter will have to fend for themselves. We’ll see if Step One in the “save their skins” program is to refashion ObamaCare from a monstrous government power grab to something voters might actually like.

This report from Politico neatly sums up the looming collision between reality and White House spin:

Mounting evidence that independent voters have soured on the Democrats is prompting a debate among party officials about what rhetorical and substantive changes are needed to halt the damage. Following serious setbacks with independents in off-year elections earlier this month, White House officials attributed the defeats to local factors and said President Barack Obama sees no need to reposition his own image or the Democratic message.

Democrats who must face the voters next year can read the polls. They see not simply a falling away of support by independents but also the underlying unease with the liberal big-government, big-spending agenda. Lawmakers may not be geniuses but they are smart enough to see that their own political future is at risk and that the likely culprit is Obamaism. The fear extends to the state level as they recognize the impact of Obama’s agenda on the elections in Virginia and New Jersey. One Democratic pollster observes: “The perception of what’s happening in Congress is polluting what’s happening down below.” And the problem isn’t regional:

Democrats are anxious about the prospects of five-term Sen. Chris Dodd in Connecticut, who trails one of his GOP opponents by 28 percentage points among independents in a prospective head-to-head matchup, and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, two Democratic incumbents with shrinking approval ratings among independent voters. A Des Moines Register poll released this weekend showed the first-term Culver trailing the GOP front-runner among independents by nearly 30 percentage points.

Hmm. Democrats had assured themselves that the Republicans were becoming a regional, all-Southern party. But that was before Obama and the Democrats in Congress spent nearly a year in control.

The Obami and the Democratic leadership in Congress, on the other hand, are putting their fingers in their ears to block out the sound of stampeding independents and to ignore the obvious explanation — the public does not share their zeal to remake America and reorder the relationship between government and citizenry, and between the public and private sectors. They have a leftward lurch to complete, and they aren’t about to let the voters get in the way. Their answer: more of the same! A government health-care takeover tops the list, which of course is increasingly unpopular among these same independents.

Democrats in Congress will have to decide whether they believe the polls and election results or the self-serving spin from the White House and their leadership, which is desperate to ram home ObamaCare before the 2010 election exacts its toll. Apparently, the Obama team is not going to adjust course to save their congressional allies, so the latter will have to fend for themselves. We’ll see if Step One in the “save their skins” program is to refashion ObamaCare from a monstrous government power grab to something voters might actually like.

Read Less




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