Commentary Magazine


Topic: John Fund

The New Political Division

Peter writes,

This Social Security gambit, which will fail politically (as has so much of what Obama and his aides have tried), is simply more evidence that the core premise of the Obama campaign — that he would transcend the usual divisions in American politics, that he would elevate our discourse and reach across the aisle in an unprecedented way, and that he would act reasonably and responsibly in facing America’s challenges — was a mirage. It was an effective optical illusion, but it was, in fact, an optical illusion. And every week, it seems, it is being revealed as such.

I certainly agree that the gambit will fail. And one of the main reasons Obama has and will fail “to transcend the usual divisions in American politics,” is, I think, that the usual divisions aren’t there this election cycle. They may never be there again.

John Fund had a fascinating article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal about the pollster Scott Rasmussen. The White House was stunned by Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts last winter. Rasmussen, he writes, thinks a principal reason,

lies in a significant division among the American public that he has tracked for the past few years — a division between what he calls the Mainstream Public and the Political Class. …

Before the financial crisis of late 2008, about a tenth of Americans fell into the political class, while some 53% were classified as in the mainstream public. The rest fell somewhere in the middle. Now the percentage of people identifying with the political class has clearly declined into single digits, while those in the mainstream public have grown slightly. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agree with the mainstream view . … “The major division in this country is no longer between parties but between political elites and the people,” Mr. Rasmussen says.

Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner writes that,

The current GOP fault line is not exactly conservatives vs. moderates or new guard vs. old guard. For 2010, the rivalry is the Tea Party wing against the K Street wing. To tell which kind of Republican a candidate is, see how the Democrats attack him: If  he’s branded a shill for Wall Street, he’s from the K Street wing. If he’s labeled an extremist outside the mainstream, he’s a Tea Partier.

More tellingly, study their campaign contributions. K Street Republicans’ coffers are filled by the political action committees of defense contractors, drug companies, lobbying firms, and Wall Street banks. A Tea Party Republican is funded by the Club for Growth or the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is run by the Republican leadership’s least-favorite colleague, Jim DeMint.

The K Street wing is business as usual, whereas the tea parties represent the new politics that has, for thirty years and more, been slouching towards Washington to be born. The election of Chris Christie, Scott Brown, and Bob McDonnell is a sign of the growing power of tea-party politics. The SEC suit against New Jersey is a sign that the old rules are changing, as is the spate of news stories about the power of public-employee unions and their excessive compensation that is bankrupting states.

Politicians, like generals, prefer to fight the last war. The politicians who have figured out that the election of 2010 is being fought along new lines will still have jobs after November 2nd. But the Democrats under Obama have a big problem. They are the party of the political elite and big government. They can’t remake themselves in two months. That’s why they are in such terrible trouble.

Peter writes,

This Social Security gambit, which will fail politically (as has so much of what Obama and his aides have tried), is simply more evidence that the core premise of the Obama campaign — that he would transcend the usual divisions in American politics, that he would elevate our discourse and reach across the aisle in an unprecedented way, and that he would act reasonably and responsibly in facing America’s challenges — was a mirage. It was an effective optical illusion, but it was, in fact, an optical illusion. And every week, it seems, it is being revealed as such.

I certainly agree that the gambit will fail. And one of the main reasons Obama has and will fail “to transcend the usual divisions in American politics,” is, I think, that the usual divisions aren’t there this election cycle. They may never be there again.

John Fund had a fascinating article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal about the pollster Scott Rasmussen. The White House was stunned by Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts last winter. Rasmussen, he writes, thinks a principal reason,

lies in a significant division among the American public that he has tracked for the past few years — a division between what he calls the Mainstream Public and the Political Class. …

Before the financial crisis of late 2008, about a tenth of Americans fell into the political class, while some 53% were classified as in the mainstream public. The rest fell somewhere in the middle. Now the percentage of people identifying with the political class has clearly declined into single digits, while those in the mainstream public have grown slightly. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agree with the mainstream view . … “The major division in this country is no longer between parties but between political elites and the people,” Mr. Rasmussen says.

Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner writes that,

The current GOP fault line is not exactly conservatives vs. moderates or new guard vs. old guard. For 2010, the rivalry is the Tea Party wing against the K Street wing. To tell which kind of Republican a candidate is, see how the Democrats attack him: If  he’s branded a shill for Wall Street, he’s from the K Street wing. If he’s labeled an extremist outside the mainstream, he’s a Tea Partier.

More tellingly, study their campaign contributions. K Street Republicans’ coffers are filled by the political action committees of defense contractors, drug companies, lobbying firms, and Wall Street banks. A Tea Party Republican is funded by the Club for Growth or the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is run by the Republican leadership’s least-favorite colleague, Jim DeMint.

The K Street wing is business as usual, whereas the tea parties represent the new politics that has, for thirty years and more, been slouching towards Washington to be born. The election of Chris Christie, Scott Brown, and Bob McDonnell is a sign of the growing power of tea-party politics. The SEC suit against New Jersey is a sign that the old rules are changing, as is the spate of news stories about the power of public-employee unions and their excessive compensation that is bankrupting states.

Politicians, like generals, prefer to fight the last war. The politicians who have figured out that the election of 2010 is being fought along new lines will still have jobs after November 2nd. But the Democrats under Obama have a big problem. They are the party of the political elite and big government. They can’t remake themselves in two months. That’s why they are in such terrible trouble.

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Stacking the Deck, Providing Cover

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern —

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern —

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Mona Charen spots the Obama blather: “In the latest installment of politically correct, not to say Orwellian, language emanating from the Obama administration, the term ‘rogue states’ has been sidelined in favor of ‘outliers.’ . . .While they were reclassifying Iran and North Korea, the Obama administration, with spine of purest Jell-O, let it be known that the revised National Security Strategy will eschew references to ‘Islamic extremism,’ ‘jihad,’ ‘Islamic radicalism’ and other such terms.”

Michael Anton spots the Obami misleading us on the START treaty’s lack of linkage to our missile-defense development: “Now we have the worst of both worlds: a missile defense system designed not to defend against a Russian strike but nonetheless formally linked to Russia’s nuclear posture. Worse, the Russian foreign minister has hinted that his country may invoke the treaty’s otherwise standard withdrawal language if ‘the U.S. strategic missile defense begins to significantly affect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces.’ Given that the Russians publicly insist (though cannot possibly believe) that virtually anything we do on missile defense affects their strategic forces, this was not encouraging news.”

John Fund spots the fallout from ObamaCare in Michigan: “The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a culturally conservative area that viewed most aspects of the health care bill with suspicion. In 2000 and 2004, the district went easily for George W. Bush, and Barack Obama barely managed 50% of the vote there in 2008. Mr. Stupak is known to have taken a private poll of his district since his health care vote, and his retirement announcement is a likely indication that he feared he might lose to a Republican challenger this fall.Whatever political bounce Democrats thought they would get from passing health care isn’t showing up in national polls. In districts like Mr. Stupak’s health care appears to be a distinct liability.”

Republicans spot another 2012 contender: Rick Perry.

The National Republican Campaign Committee spots another target: “The NRCC dumped nearly $200K into the special election contest to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA 12) late Friday, according to FEC filings. The total includes nearly $180K for TV ads, and $12K for a poll. It’s the first independent expenditure for either party for the May 18 contest, and follows the DCCC’s $47K investment in the HI-01 special earlier this week.”

Ray Takeyh spots the danger in the Obami assault on Israel: “[S]hould Tehran perceive fissures and divisions in U.S.-Israeli alliance, it is likely to further harden its nuclear stance. . . . Fulminations aside, Iranian leaders take Israeli threats seriously and are at pains to assert their retaliatory options. It is here that the shape and tone of the U.S.-Israeli alliance matters most. Should the clerical oligarchs sense divisions in that alliance, they can assure themselves that a beleaguered Israel cannot possibly strike Iran while at odds with its superpower patron. Such perceptions cheapen Israeli deterrence and diminish the potency of the West’s remaining sticks.” One has to ask: why is Obama systematically dismantling any credible threats to the mullahs?

Can you spot Obama’s “bounce” from passing ObamaCare? Me neither —  in Gallup 47 approve, 48 percent disapprove of his performance.

Victor Davis Hanson spots the likely results of Obama’s kick-your-friends foreign policy: “Karzai or Allawi will look more to Iran, which will soon become the regional and nuclear hegemon of the Middle East. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics had better mend fences with Russia. The EU should finally start on that much-ballyhooed all-European response force. Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Korea should strengthen ties with China. Buffer states in South America had better make amends with a dictatorial, armed, and aggressive Chavez. Israel should accept that the U.S. no longer will provide support for it at the UN, chide the Arab states to cool their anti-Israeli proclamations, remind the Europeans not to overdo their popular anti-Israeli rhetoric, or warn radical Palestinians not to start another intifada. (In other words, it’s open season to say or do anything one wishes with Israel.)”

Mona Charen spots the Obama blather: “In the latest installment of politically correct, not to say Orwellian, language emanating from the Obama administration, the term ‘rogue states’ has been sidelined in favor of ‘outliers.’ . . .While they were reclassifying Iran and North Korea, the Obama administration, with spine of purest Jell-O, let it be known that the revised National Security Strategy will eschew references to ‘Islamic extremism,’ ‘jihad,’ ‘Islamic radicalism’ and other such terms.”

Michael Anton spots the Obami misleading us on the START treaty’s lack of linkage to our missile-defense development: “Now we have the worst of both worlds: a missile defense system designed not to defend against a Russian strike but nonetheless formally linked to Russia’s nuclear posture. Worse, the Russian foreign minister has hinted that his country may invoke the treaty’s otherwise standard withdrawal language if ‘the U.S. strategic missile defense begins to significantly affect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces.’ Given that the Russians publicly insist (though cannot possibly believe) that virtually anything we do on missile defense affects their strategic forces, this was not encouraging news.”

John Fund spots the fallout from ObamaCare in Michigan: “The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a culturally conservative area that viewed most aspects of the health care bill with suspicion. In 2000 and 2004, the district went easily for George W. Bush, and Barack Obama barely managed 50% of the vote there in 2008. Mr. Stupak is known to have taken a private poll of his district since his health care vote, and his retirement announcement is a likely indication that he feared he might lose to a Republican challenger this fall.Whatever political bounce Democrats thought they would get from passing health care isn’t showing up in national polls. In districts like Mr. Stupak’s health care appears to be a distinct liability.”

Republicans spot another 2012 contender: Rick Perry.

The National Republican Campaign Committee spots another target: “The NRCC dumped nearly $200K into the special election contest to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA 12) late Friday, according to FEC filings. The total includes nearly $180K for TV ads, and $12K for a poll. It’s the first independent expenditure for either party for the May 18 contest, and follows the DCCC’s $47K investment in the HI-01 special earlier this week.”

Ray Takeyh spots the danger in the Obami assault on Israel: “[S]hould Tehran perceive fissures and divisions in U.S.-Israeli alliance, it is likely to further harden its nuclear stance. . . . Fulminations aside, Iranian leaders take Israeli threats seriously and are at pains to assert their retaliatory options. It is here that the shape and tone of the U.S.-Israeli alliance matters most. Should the clerical oligarchs sense divisions in that alliance, they can assure themselves that a beleaguered Israel cannot possibly strike Iran while at odds with its superpower patron. Such perceptions cheapen Israeli deterrence and diminish the potency of the West’s remaining sticks.” One has to ask: why is Obama systematically dismantling any credible threats to the mullahs?

Can you spot Obama’s “bounce” from passing ObamaCare? Me neither —  in Gallup 47 approve, 48 percent disapprove of his performance.

Victor Davis Hanson spots the likely results of Obama’s kick-your-friends foreign policy: “Karzai or Allawi will look more to Iran, which will soon become the regional and nuclear hegemon of the Middle East. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics had better mend fences with Russia. The EU should finally start on that much-ballyhooed all-European response force. Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Korea should strengthen ties with China. Buffer states in South America had better make amends with a dictatorial, armed, and aggressive Chavez. Israel should accept that the U.S. no longer will provide support for it at the UN, chide the Arab states to cool their anti-Israeli proclamations, remind the Europeans not to overdo their popular anti-Israeli rhetoric, or warn radical Palestinians not to start another intifada. (In other words, it’s open season to say or do anything one wishes with Israel.)”

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Pelosi: “We Will Do What Is Necessary”

Nancy Pelosi said in a news conference yesterday, while discussing use of the extra-constitutional “deeming rule” that would allow skittish members to avoid actually voting on the Senate health-care bill, that “we will do what is necessary to pass a health care bill.”

Ordinarily that would be simply political rhetoric. But in this situation, in which President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi seem determine to ram through a deeply unpopular bill despite ever mounting political cost to themselves and their party, one has to wonder. As John Fund of the Wall Street Journal put it yesterday regarding the 2,700-page bill, “Democrats are in danger of passing what amounts to the longest suicide note in history. Their own pollsters are telling them the public has rebelled against their tactics. So their response is to press their foot down even harder on the gas pedal.”

If they are willing to sacrifice their majorities in the House and Senate and whatever is left of President Obama’s political capital, use whatever parliamentary sleight-of-hand is needed, accept whatever street demonstrations are sure to follow, as well as a serious backlash from state governments around the country, where will they draw the line?

Will they, if necessary, resort to a latter-day version of Pride’s Purge in order to get the bill through the House?

I don’t think so. The American military is hardly analogous to the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell. But it is, perhaps, a measure of the Democrats’ desperation and determination that the thought crossed my mind last night as I listened to a clip from the speaker’s news conference.

Nancy Pelosi said in a news conference yesterday, while discussing use of the extra-constitutional “deeming rule” that would allow skittish members to avoid actually voting on the Senate health-care bill, that “we will do what is necessary to pass a health care bill.”

Ordinarily that would be simply political rhetoric. But in this situation, in which President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi seem determine to ram through a deeply unpopular bill despite ever mounting political cost to themselves and their party, one has to wonder. As John Fund of the Wall Street Journal put it yesterday regarding the 2,700-page bill, “Democrats are in danger of passing what amounts to the longest suicide note in history. Their own pollsters are telling them the public has rebelled against their tactics. So their response is to press their foot down even harder on the gas pedal.”

If they are willing to sacrifice their majorities in the House and Senate and whatever is left of President Obama’s political capital, use whatever parliamentary sleight-of-hand is needed, accept whatever street demonstrations are sure to follow, as well as a serious backlash from state governments around the country, where will they draw the line?

Will they, if necessary, resort to a latter-day version of Pride’s Purge in order to get the bill through the House?

I don’t think so. The American military is hardly analogous to the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell. But it is, perhaps, a measure of the Democrats’ desperation and determination that the thought crossed my mind last night as I listened to a clip from the speaker’s news conference.

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Hard to Find the Final Votes

We are down to handfuls of House Democrats who will decide the fate of ObamaCare. One usually expects in these situations that House leaders have enough enticements and threats to garner the last few votes. But in this case, we’re talking about members in swing districts, the ones most at risk in November and the most wary of the Pelosi-Obama-Reid call to pass the liberals’ decades-old pipe dream of national health care. As John Fund notes, some of the usual tactics fall on deaf ears:

New York Democrat Mike McMahon was visited by a top SEIU official and told that he won’t get union funding if he votes “no.” Indeed, union representatives hinted they might look for a primary challenger or third-party candidate to run in his Staten Island district.

Such threats may not be as effective as liberal interest groups hope. Mr. McMahon’s district voted for John McCain last year and Democrats know any last-minute primary challenger to Mr. McMahon would likely lose to a Republican in the fall, even if he or she succeeded in toppling the incumbent in the Democratic primary. Threats by MoveOn.org and SEIU against many incumbents are also less than believable simply because the filing deadline to mount primary challenges has already passed for more than 40% of House seats. Meanwhile, the debate over health care has dragged on so long that many Democratic members are now clearly more worried about the impact on general election voters than on the party faithful.

So for now, the various Democratic whip counts look to be short of a majority and perilously close to the maximum number of defections. After all, the Democratic leadership is short on both substantive (do any wavering Democrats believe it’s deficit neutral?) and political arguments (these are the members with many Republicans and angry independents ready to pounce). This isn’t to say Pelosi can’t get there, but it sure is proving harder than many imagined when this all began. But then again, the bill is much worse than many imagined.

We are down to handfuls of House Democrats who will decide the fate of ObamaCare. One usually expects in these situations that House leaders have enough enticements and threats to garner the last few votes. But in this case, we’re talking about members in swing districts, the ones most at risk in November and the most wary of the Pelosi-Obama-Reid call to pass the liberals’ decades-old pipe dream of national health care. As John Fund notes, some of the usual tactics fall on deaf ears:

New York Democrat Mike McMahon was visited by a top SEIU official and told that he won’t get union funding if he votes “no.” Indeed, union representatives hinted they might look for a primary challenger or third-party candidate to run in his Staten Island district.

Such threats may not be as effective as liberal interest groups hope. Mr. McMahon’s district voted for John McCain last year and Democrats know any last-minute primary challenger to Mr. McMahon would likely lose to a Republican in the fall, even if he or she succeeded in toppling the incumbent in the Democratic primary. Threats by MoveOn.org and SEIU against many incumbents are also less than believable simply because the filing deadline to mount primary challenges has already passed for more than 40% of House seats. Meanwhile, the debate over health care has dragged on so long that many Democratic members are now clearly more worried about the impact on general election voters than on the party faithful.

So for now, the various Democratic whip counts look to be short of a majority and perilously close to the maximum number of defections. After all, the Democratic leadership is short on both substantive (do any wavering Democrats believe it’s deficit neutral?) and political arguments (these are the members with many Republicans and angry independents ready to pounce). This isn’t to say Pelosi can’t get there, but it sure is proving harder than many imagined when this all began. But then again, the bill is much worse than many imagined.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.'”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.'”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

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On McCain’s Sleeve

In a hastily arranged call with bloggers, John McCain began by touting his travels with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, whose endorsement he termed a “coup.” However, he clearly had something on his mind: the accusation circulating in conservative circles that he disapproved of Justice Samuel Alito because he wore his conservatism “on his sleeve.”

He spoke with the energy and verve he usually reserved for discussions of fiscal discipline, saying that he supported and worked for Alito’s confirmation and frequently had said on the campaign trail that he would appoint justices in the mold of Justices Alito and Roberts. In follow-up questions McCain said that he did not recall ever having such a conversation of the type John Fund of the Wall Street Journal ascribed to him, but that he has been clear that he will search for justices devoted to originalist  interpretation. He added that the “beauty” of the Alito and Roberts nominations was that they had a clear record and “we could rely on them to strictly interpret the Constitution.”

Later in the call he was asked about appointing justices who might strike down McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. He gave an interesting answer  I had not heard previously. He said that he could not let his biases (i.e. his policy preferences) affect his decision to appoint strict constructionist judges who might not agree with him on part of his agenda. In short, he said that the decisions rendered by these judges might “far exceed my agenda.”

In response to my question as to whether Florida was a “must win” state, he would only say that it was “very important.” He acknowledged that the tone had gotten sharper in the last day or so and there was always a danger of turning off voters, but said that he was just responding to Mitt Romney’s attacks as he had in Iowa and New Hampshire. Not surprisingly, he said that his responses were accurate and Romney’s were “desperate.”

He also used the opportunity to toss some red meat to the base. First, he repeated a litany of issues on which he would be “eager” to debate the Democrats and said that the election would highlight “fundamental differences” between the parties. Second, in the context of a question about why he was no longer friends with Pat Buchanan, he was careful to say only nice things about Buchanan and then went out of his way to declare that it would be critical if he got the nomination to “really unite the party.” He stressed that the GOP “has a lot of work to do” and that ” we need everyone pulling in the same direction.”

Unfortunately, technical difficulties ended the call as he was explaining why he did not mind getting liberal newspaper endorsements (saying in effect that he was glad they support his agenda, even if he doesn’t support theirs) — including the Boston Globe, which along with the conservative Boston Herald favored him over near-favorite son Romney.

Bottom line: This was a “reassure the base” call. For those who don’t want to be reassured, it likely would not suffice. For those who needed a bit more assurance, his advocacy of strict judicial interpretation and his eagerness to take on the Democrats was likely welcome news.

In a hastily arranged call with bloggers, John McCain began by touting his travels with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, whose endorsement he termed a “coup.” However, he clearly had something on his mind: the accusation circulating in conservative circles that he disapproved of Justice Samuel Alito because he wore his conservatism “on his sleeve.”

He spoke with the energy and verve he usually reserved for discussions of fiscal discipline, saying that he supported and worked for Alito’s confirmation and frequently had said on the campaign trail that he would appoint justices in the mold of Justices Alito and Roberts. In follow-up questions McCain said that he did not recall ever having such a conversation of the type John Fund of the Wall Street Journal ascribed to him, but that he has been clear that he will search for justices devoted to originalist  interpretation. He added that the “beauty” of the Alito and Roberts nominations was that they had a clear record and “we could rely on them to strictly interpret the Constitution.”

Later in the call he was asked about appointing justices who might strike down McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. He gave an interesting answer  I had not heard previously. He said that he could not let his biases (i.e. his policy preferences) affect his decision to appoint strict constructionist judges who might not agree with him on part of his agenda. In short, he said that the decisions rendered by these judges might “far exceed my agenda.”

In response to my question as to whether Florida was a “must win” state, he would only say that it was “very important.” He acknowledged that the tone had gotten sharper in the last day or so and there was always a danger of turning off voters, but said that he was just responding to Mitt Romney’s attacks as he had in Iowa and New Hampshire. Not surprisingly, he said that his responses were accurate and Romney’s were “desperate.”

He also used the opportunity to toss some red meat to the base. First, he repeated a litany of issues on which he would be “eager” to debate the Democrats and said that the election would highlight “fundamental differences” between the parties. Second, in the context of a question about why he was no longer friends with Pat Buchanan, he was careful to say only nice things about Buchanan and then went out of his way to declare that it would be critical if he got the nomination to “really unite the party.” He stressed that the GOP “has a lot of work to do” and that ” we need everyone pulling in the same direction.”

Unfortunately, technical difficulties ended the call as he was explaining why he did not mind getting liberal newspaper endorsements (saying in effect that he was glad they support his agenda, even if he doesn’t support theirs) — including the Boston Globe, which along with the conservative Boston Herald favored him over near-favorite son Romney.

Bottom line: This was a “reassure the base” call. For those who don’t want to be reassured, it likely would not suffice. For those who needed a bit more assurance, his advocacy of strict judicial interpretation and his eagerness to take on the Democrats was likely welcome news.

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Obama Backs Illegals’ Licenses–Again

Barack Obama has at last decided to declare himself on a specific policy. The problem is it’s not a policy regarding Americans. Well, that’s one of the problems. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Barack Obama has not backed down” on driver’s licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Peña, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. “I think when the Latino community hears Barack’s position on such an important and controversial issue, they’ll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community.

What about the American community? Can we weigh in on this important and controversial issue? It’s actually hard to get at the worst aspect of this horrific policy. There’s the rewarding of illegal behavior and the enticement to remain undocumented. But the gross national security compromise takes the cake. A November 2, 2007 article by John Fund in the Wall Street Journal discusses how undocumented driver’s licenses lead to voter fraud. Fund points out:

The potential for fraud is not trivial, as federal privacy laws prevent cross-checking voter registration rolls with immigration records. Nevertheless, a 1997 Congressional investigation found that “4,023 illegal voters possibly cast ballots in [a] disputed House election” in California. After 9/11, the Justice Department found that eight of the 19 hijackers were registered to vote.

So, the decisive Barack Obama finally shows up, and he’s a nightmare. Why is Obama sticking to this ruinous course, after Hillary and Edwards backed away from the issue? “Obama’s intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration.” Actually, he’s drawing comparisons between himself and Clinton on the issue of race-pandering. This is a dumb, offensive, and dangerous policy, and any Democratic candidate who doesn’t think it will cost them in the general election is a little too hopeful for his own good.

Barack Obama has at last decided to declare himself on a specific policy. The problem is it’s not a policy regarding Americans. Well, that’s one of the problems. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Barack Obama has not backed down” on driver’s licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Peña, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. “I think when the Latino community hears Barack’s position on such an important and controversial issue, they’ll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community.

What about the American community? Can we weigh in on this important and controversial issue? It’s actually hard to get at the worst aspect of this horrific policy. There’s the rewarding of illegal behavior and the enticement to remain undocumented. But the gross national security compromise takes the cake. A November 2, 2007 article by John Fund in the Wall Street Journal discusses how undocumented driver’s licenses lead to voter fraud. Fund points out:

The potential for fraud is not trivial, as federal privacy laws prevent cross-checking voter registration rolls with immigration records. Nevertheless, a 1997 Congressional investigation found that “4,023 illegal voters possibly cast ballots in [a] disputed House election” in California. After 9/11, the Justice Department found that eight of the 19 hijackers were registered to vote.

So, the decisive Barack Obama finally shows up, and he’s a nightmare. Why is Obama sticking to this ruinous course, after Hillary and Edwards backed away from the issue? “Obama’s intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration.” Actually, he’s drawing comparisons between himself and Clinton on the issue of race-pandering. This is a dumb, offensive, and dangerous policy, and any Democratic candidate who doesn’t think it will cost them in the general election is a little too hopeful for his own good.

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Final Shots

John McCain and Mitt Romney are getting in their final shots. McCain puts out a radio ad going after Romney on his Massachusetts record and his electability. (On the latter point, McCain holds a substantial advantage, which is something many conservatives are mulling over.) Romney supporters are circulating a John Fund report that certain (unidentified) conservatives said that McCain said in a private meeting he would not favor a Supreme Court Justice like Samuel Alito. McCain advisor Steve Schmidt denies McCain said it. It would seem odd for McCain, even if he believed such a thing, to have made the comment. He did, as Schmidt points out, strongly support Alito in his confirmation fight. Does any of this matter? I think back-and-forth spitballs the day before an election don’t matter very much. Crist-mentum may.

UPDATE: McCain has responded in clear terms to the “He doesn’t like Alito” attack here and here. Of all the accusations his conservative opponents could have made on the final day of the Florida campaign, this seemed to be one of the weakest and least credible.

John McCain and Mitt Romney are getting in their final shots. McCain puts out a radio ad going after Romney on his Massachusetts record and his electability. (On the latter point, McCain holds a substantial advantage, which is something many conservatives are mulling over.) Romney supporters are circulating a John Fund report that certain (unidentified) conservatives said that McCain said in a private meeting he would not favor a Supreme Court Justice like Samuel Alito. McCain advisor Steve Schmidt denies McCain said it. It would seem odd for McCain, even if he believed such a thing, to have made the comment. He did, as Schmidt points out, strongly support Alito in his confirmation fight. Does any of this matter? I think back-and-forth spitballs the day before an election don’t matter very much. Crist-mentum may.

UPDATE: McCain has responded in clear terms to the “He doesn’t like Alito” attack here and here. Of all the accusations his conservative opponents could have made on the final day of the Florida campaign, this seemed to be one of the weakest and least credible.

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William Jennings Huckabee

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s silver-tongued performance at the October 18 Values Voters forum in Washington, DC, together with his rising poll numbers in Iowa where he is in second place, has shaken up the GOP. Huckabee, a Baptist preacher who’s never needed to employ a speechwriter, was greeted with a standing ovation. In what has to be the first ever presidential candidate shout-out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Huckabee made his case for the little guy. “It’s a lot better to be with David than Goliath,” he declared. “Or with Elijah than 850 prophets of Baal. Or with Daniel and the lions than the Babylonians.”

Huckabee drew sustained applause when he told the crowd that “We do not have the right to move God’s standard to meet the cultural norm but we need to move the cultural norm to meet God’s standards.” But he struck a note with broader appeal when he drew laughter and applause by telling the crowd, “It is high time for us to tell Saudi Arabia that in ten years we will have as much interest in their oil as their sand; they can keep both of them.” “For too long,” he continued, “we have financed both sides of the war on terrorism; our tax dollars pay for our military to fight it and our oil dollars—every time you fill the tank—is turned into the madrasahs that teach terrorists and the money that funds them.”

Taking a shot at Mitt Romney, he drew cheers when, speaking in the cadences of a man at the pulpit, he insisted “it’s important that the language of Zion is a mother tongue and not a recently acquired second language.” The argument took. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council concluded that Huckabee “comes out of here clearly as a favorite.” The rank and file attendees concurred. In an event where all the major candidates spoke, Huckabee was the runaway winner with 50 percent support (with Romney a distant second at 10 percent).

Huckabee’s rise has brought a sharp response from some (like conservative doyenne Phyllis Schlafly) who consider him too soft on illegal immigration. But the big guns have been fired by low-tax, free-trade, business Republicans (such as John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth) who are mindful of Huckabee’s verbal volleys aimed at the financial sector’s sizable profits. These Republicans don’t see how Huckabee, who has expressed some doubts about free trade, can win the top spot. Still, they fear that he has established himself as a strong candidate for the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket, where he could alienate the fiscally conservative swing voters who deserted the GOP in 2006.

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Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s silver-tongued performance at the October 18 Values Voters forum in Washington, DC, together with his rising poll numbers in Iowa where he is in second place, has shaken up the GOP. Huckabee, a Baptist preacher who’s never needed to employ a speechwriter, was greeted with a standing ovation. In what has to be the first ever presidential candidate shout-out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Huckabee made his case for the little guy. “It’s a lot better to be with David than Goliath,” he declared. “Or with Elijah than 850 prophets of Baal. Or with Daniel and the lions than the Babylonians.”

Huckabee drew sustained applause when he told the crowd that “We do not have the right to move God’s standard to meet the cultural norm but we need to move the cultural norm to meet God’s standards.” But he struck a note with broader appeal when he drew laughter and applause by telling the crowd, “It is high time for us to tell Saudi Arabia that in ten years we will have as much interest in their oil as their sand; they can keep both of them.” “For too long,” he continued, “we have financed both sides of the war on terrorism; our tax dollars pay for our military to fight it and our oil dollars—every time you fill the tank—is turned into the madrasahs that teach terrorists and the money that funds them.”

Taking a shot at Mitt Romney, he drew cheers when, speaking in the cadences of a man at the pulpit, he insisted “it’s important that the language of Zion is a mother tongue and not a recently acquired second language.” The argument took. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council concluded that Huckabee “comes out of here clearly as a favorite.” The rank and file attendees concurred. In an event where all the major candidates spoke, Huckabee was the runaway winner with 50 percent support (with Romney a distant second at 10 percent).

Huckabee’s rise has brought a sharp response from some (like conservative doyenne Phyllis Schlafly) who consider him too soft on illegal immigration. But the big guns have been fired by low-tax, free-trade, business Republicans (such as John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth) who are mindful of Huckabee’s verbal volleys aimed at the financial sector’s sizable profits. These Republicans don’t see how Huckabee, who has expressed some doubts about free trade, can win the top spot. Still, they fear that he has established himself as a strong candidate for the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket, where he could alienate the fiscally conservative swing voters who deserted the GOP in 2006.

Pat Toomey argues that Huckabee’s record as governor (he oversaw an increase in taxes, including those on sales, gas, grocery, and nursing home beds, producing a 47 percent overall tax hike) should disqualify him from national consideration. John Fund, who knows Huckabee well, strikes a similar note, and adds that Huckabee, “who was the only GOP candidate to refuse to endorse President Bush’s veto of the Democrats’ bill to vastly expand the SCHIP health-care program” has scant support from Republicans who served in the legislature when he was governor.

Rich Lowry, of National Review, has described Huckabee as a cross between the famous early 20th century preacher Billy Sunday and Ronald Reagan. But with Huckabee’s talk of applied Christianity, the early 20th century figure he most closely resembles is the great populist orator in the cause of Free Silver, William Jennings Bryan. Three times the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Bryan, “The Great Commoner,” with his blend of fervent but tolerant Christianity, his distrust of the banks, and his economic egalitarianism, was the hero of Great Plains and Southern Democrats.

The migration of liberal, Eastern Establishment Republicans like Ned Lamont and Jay Rockefeller into the Democratic camp has made the modern Dems into the party of a noblesse oblige-accented gentry liberalism that repels upwardly mobile middle- and lower-middle-class whites. But while blue collar religious whites are an uncomfortable fit with the modern Democratic Party, the deeply religious former Southern Democrats who have migrated into the GOP camp make for an uneasy fit with traditional Republican business interests. It’s not surprising then that a new Bryan—of sorts—has arisen to represent an important if relatively recent GOP constituency.

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