Commentary Magazine


Topic: Karl Rove

Money’s Not the Dems’ Problem

The canard that the GOP is going to make off with the election because of Karl Rove or mysterious foreign money is not passing the laugh test. Politico reports:

To hear top Democrats tell it, the party is being wildly outgunned this year in the fight for campaign cash as Republicans rely on outside groups to funnel money to GOP contenders. But the numbers tell a different story. …

So far, the latest figures show that the Democratic Party machinery has outraised its Republican counterpart in this campaign cycle by almost $270 million.

And even when outside spending on television advertising and direct mail is added to the mix, Republicans still haven’t closed the gap. The money race totals come to $856 million for the Democratic committees and their aligned outside groups, compared to $677 for their Republican adversaries, based on figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

In other words, money is the least of the Democrats’ problems. An unpopular president, an objectionable agenda, an arrogant disregard for the views of voters, ObamaCare, and sky-high unemployment (despite the promises that sold the stimulus plan) are all part of the picture. But money? That’s a dog-ate-my-homework excuse that is convincing no one but those doing the spinning (and maybe not even them). As Politico put it:

The argument seems designed to achieve two ends: insulating Democrats from blame that they gave up big losses in the House and Senate a mere two years after President Barack Obama’s historic win, and suggesting that the Republican wins have an unseemly edge, fueled by the secretive groups. “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where – because they won’t disclose it – is pouring in,” Pelosi recounted at a recent fundraiser.

Indeed. And the real danger for the Democrats is that they will fall in love with their own explanation and avoid taking the steps necessary to align themselves with public opinion.

The canard that the GOP is going to make off with the election because of Karl Rove or mysterious foreign money is not passing the laugh test. Politico reports:

To hear top Democrats tell it, the party is being wildly outgunned this year in the fight for campaign cash as Republicans rely on outside groups to funnel money to GOP contenders. But the numbers tell a different story. …

So far, the latest figures show that the Democratic Party machinery has outraised its Republican counterpart in this campaign cycle by almost $270 million.

And even when outside spending on television advertising and direct mail is added to the mix, Republicans still haven’t closed the gap. The money race totals come to $856 million for the Democratic committees and their aligned outside groups, compared to $677 for their Republican adversaries, based on figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

In other words, money is the least of the Democrats’ problems. An unpopular president, an objectionable agenda, an arrogant disregard for the views of voters, ObamaCare, and sky-high unemployment (despite the promises that sold the stimulus plan) are all part of the picture. But money? That’s a dog-ate-my-homework excuse that is convincing no one but those doing the spinning (and maybe not even them). As Politico put it:

The argument seems designed to achieve two ends: insulating Democrats from blame that they gave up big losses in the House and Senate a mere two years after President Barack Obama’s historic win, and suggesting that the Republican wins have an unseemly edge, fueled by the secretive groups. “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where – because they won’t disclose it – is pouring in,” Pelosi recounted at a recent fundraiser.

Indeed. And the real danger for the Democrats is that they will fall in love with their own explanation and avoid taking the steps necessary to align themselves with public opinion.

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Liberal Echo Chamber

Obama has done what was seemingly impossible — he has lost David Brooks and made him into a scathing critic of the Democrats’ delusional thinking. A sample:

Over the past year, many Democrats have resolutely paid attention to those things that make them feel good, and they have carefully filtered out those negative things that make them feel sad.

For example, Democrats and their media enablers have paid lavish attention to Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino, even though these two Republican candidates have almost no chance of winning. That’s because it feels so delicious to feel superior to opponents you consider to be feeble-minded wackos.

On the whole “foreign money killed us” hooey, Brooks is merciless:

They see this campaign as a poetic confrontation between good (themselves) and pure evil (Karl Rove and his group, American Crossroads).

As Nancy Pelosi put it at a $50,000-a-couple fund-raiser, “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”

Even allowing the menace of secret money, embracing this Paradise Lost epic means obscuring a few inconvenient facts: that Democrats were happy to benefit from millions of anonymous dollars in 2006, 2008 and today; that the spending by Rove’s group amounts to less than 1 percent of the total money spent on campaigns this year; that Democrats retain an overall spending advantage.

But legend rises above mere facticity, and this Lancelots-of-the-Left tale underlines a self-affirming message — that Democrats are engaged in a righteous crusade against the dark villain who tricked Americans into voting against John Kerry.

Oh, and they were always behind, and for nearly a year the American people have been screaming that they didn’t like the Democrats’ agenda.

Brooks is right that the blame-everyone-but-themselves phenomenon is  a bit cringe-inducing. (“Get a bottle of vodka and read Peter Baker’s article ‘The Education of President Obama’ from The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. Take a shot every time a White House official is quoted blaming Republicans for the Democrats’ political plight. You’ll be unconscious by page three.”)

Brooks aptly discusses the phenomenon but not the causes and contributors to this hear-no-danger/see-no-danger modus operandi. It is in large part a manifestation of the president’s own self-regard, a distorted sense of his own ability to mold events, and a conviction that garden-variety leftism in an appealing package = blinding wisdom.

But there is something else at work here. There is an endless loop of self-reinforcing fantasy that goes on among academics, pundits, “news” reporters, and elected Democrats. They feed each other’s prejudices (e.g., Tea Partiers are racists) and affirm one another’s erroneous judgments (Americans will learn to love ObamaCare). By minimizing or ignoring the administrations’ failures or misdeeds (the New Black Panther Party scandal, the abusive use of czars and recess appointments), the media and liberal interest groups contribute to a heady sense of infallibility. “No one cares about this stuff,” concludes the already puffed-up White House aides. “We can do whatever we want,” they tell their colleagues.

And most of all, they agree that those who do report bad news (e.g., Fox) or who do object to harebrained ideas (support for the Ground Zero mosque) are irrational or bigoted — maybe both. It’s always possible that the White House will finally learn the right lessons from the upcoming midterm wipeout. But perhaps it is also time for the liberal echo chamber to consider whether it is doing more harm than good to its own cause.

Obama has done what was seemingly impossible — he has lost David Brooks and made him into a scathing critic of the Democrats’ delusional thinking. A sample:

Over the past year, many Democrats have resolutely paid attention to those things that make them feel good, and they have carefully filtered out those negative things that make them feel sad.

For example, Democrats and their media enablers have paid lavish attention to Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino, even though these two Republican candidates have almost no chance of winning. That’s because it feels so delicious to feel superior to opponents you consider to be feeble-minded wackos.

On the whole “foreign money killed us” hooey, Brooks is merciless:

They see this campaign as a poetic confrontation between good (themselves) and pure evil (Karl Rove and his group, American Crossroads).

As Nancy Pelosi put it at a $50,000-a-couple fund-raiser, “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”

Even allowing the menace of secret money, embracing this Paradise Lost epic means obscuring a few inconvenient facts: that Democrats were happy to benefit from millions of anonymous dollars in 2006, 2008 and today; that the spending by Rove’s group amounts to less than 1 percent of the total money spent on campaigns this year; that Democrats retain an overall spending advantage.

But legend rises above mere facticity, and this Lancelots-of-the-Left tale underlines a self-affirming message — that Democrats are engaged in a righteous crusade against the dark villain who tricked Americans into voting against John Kerry.

Oh, and they were always behind, and for nearly a year the American people have been screaming that they didn’t like the Democrats’ agenda.

Brooks is right that the blame-everyone-but-themselves phenomenon is  a bit cringe-inducing. (“Get a bottle of vodka and read Peter Baker’s article ‘The Education of President Obama’ from The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. Take a shot every time a White House official is quoted blaming Republicans for the Democrats’ political plight. You’ll be unconscious by page three.”)

Brooks aptly discusses the phenomenon but not the causes and contributors to this hear-no-danger/see-no-danger modus operandi. It is in large part a manifestation of the president’s own self-regard, a distorted sense of his own ability to mold events, and a conviction that garden-variety leftism in an appealing package = blinding wisdom.

But there is something else at work here. There is an endless loop of self-reinforcing fantasy that goes on among academics, pundits, “news” reporters, and elected Democrats. They feed each other’s prejudices (e.g., Tea Partiers are racists) and affirm one another’s erroneous judgments (Americans will learn to love ObamaCare). By minimizing or ignoring the administrations’ failures or misdeeds (the New Black Panther Party scandal, the abusive use of czars and recess appointments), the media and liberal interest groups contribute to a heady sense of infallibility. “No one cares about this stuff,” concludes the already puffed-up White House aides. “We can do whatever we want,” they tell their colleagues.

And most of all, they agree that those who do report bad news (e.g., Fox) or who do object to harebrained ideas (support for the Ground Zero mosque) are irrational or bigoted — maybe both. It’s always possible that the White House will finally learn the right lessons from the upcoming midterm wipeout. But perhaps it is also time for the liberal echo chamber to consider whether it is doing more harm than good to its own cause.

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A Democrat by Any Other Name

In the final week of the campaign, the Democrats are reduced to a series of Hail Marys and a string of unbelievable claims, one wackier than the next. The campaign “suddenly” went south for them when Karl Rove’s anonymous donors showed up. Next we heard that the voters were “scared” and not thinking straight. Then we learned that Democrats don’t really support Democratic leaders. Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor revealed he didn’t even vote for Obama:

Mr. Taylor had heretofore kept that vote a secret, and perhaps it’s only a coincidence that he rolled it out amid the re-election fight of his career. The 11-term Member added that he won’t support Mrs. Pelosi for Speaker, another revelation considering his vote for her in 2009. “I’m very disappointed in how she’s veered to the left,” Mr. Taylor said, as if Mrs. Pelosi’s ideological predispositions were ever hidden.

Mr. Taylor joins a growing list of Democrats who voted for Mrs. Pelosi in 2009 but now profess to be shocked by her left turn. They include Idaho’s Walt Minnick, Pennsylvania’s Jason Altmire, Alabama’s Bobby Bright and Texas’s Chet Edwards, endangered incumbents all.

It’s somewhere between comical and insulting. The voters can figure out which are the D’s and which are the R’s. And they know that for all their protestations, the “moderates” and the “Blue Dogs” are simply Democrats who rubber-stamped the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda. And many of them are going to lose because they were led around by the nose by their liberal leaders and ignored their constituents. The aggrieved voters will exact their revenge next week.

In the final week of the campaign, the Democrats are reduced to a series of Hail Marys and a string of unbelievable claims, one wackier than the next. The campaign “suddenly” went south for them when Karl Rove’s anonymous donors showed up. Next we heard that the voters were “scared” and not thinking straight. Then we learned that Democrats don’t really support Democratic leaders. Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor revealed he didn’t even vote for Obama:

Mr. Taylor had heretofore kept that vote a secret, and perhaps it’s only a coincidence that he rolled it out amid the re-election fight of his career. The 11-term Member added that he won’t support Mrs. Pelosi for Speaker, another revelation considering his vote for her in 2009. “I’m very disappointed in how she’s veered to the left,” Mr. Taylor said, as if Mrs. Pelosi’s ideological predispositions were ever hidden.

Mr. Taylor joins a growing list of Democrats who voted for Mrs. Pelosi in 2009 but now profess to be shocked by her left turn. They include Idaho’s Walt Minnick, Pennsylvania’s Jason Altmire, Alabama’s Bobby Bright and Texas’s Chet Edwards, endangered incumbents all.

It’s somewhere between comical and insulting. The voters can figure out which are the D’s and which are the R’s. And they know that for all their protestations, the “moderates” and the “Blue Dogs” are simply Democrats who rubber-stamped the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda. And many of them are going to lose because they were led around by the nose by their liberal leaders and ignored their constituents. The aggrieved voters will exact their revenge next week.

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Rove Faces Down Schieffer

Karl Rove gave a feisty interview on Face the Nation to Bob Schieffer — who couldn’t really explain why it was somehow dangerous for conservative 501(c)4 groups to give to Republicans but perfectly fine if Big Labor gives to the Democrats:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just do a little shorthand here because if you add up the money raised by the congressional committees and the two national parties, Democrats have raised seven hundred fifty million dollars to the Republicans’ five hundred million dollars. … The two groups that you’re associated with alone expected to raise around sixty-five million dollars. And a lot of that money is coming from anonymous donors. So I — I — I want to just start with this. Why is the public interest served by flooding our politics with money from people who don’t want other people to know they’ve contributed?

KARL ROVE: Well, this has been going on for a long while. In fact, you left out a big player in this. Four unions alone will — will have — according to their own announcements spent two hundred and twenty-two million dollars in — in money on elections this year.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But we know who they are.

KARL ROVE: No, no, no you don’t, Bob. Here’s the disclosure report for the — for — for one who’s going to spend eighty-seven and a half million dollars — the American Federation of State commun — local and Community Employees. … They’re going to take in one hundred ninety million four hundred and seventy-seven do — thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine dollars, and that’s the extent of where you know where it’s coming from. So there’s a lot of money floating around in politics that’s not disclosed. Read More

Karl Rove gave a feisty interview on Face the Nation to Bob Schieffer — who couldn’t really explain why it was somehow dangerous for conservative 501(c)4 groups to give to Republicans but perfectly fine if Big Labor gives to the Democrats:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just do a little shorthand here because if you add up the money raised by the congressional committees and the two national parties, Democrats have raised seven hundred fifty million dollars to the Republicans’ five hundred million dollars. … The two groups that you’re associated with alone expected to raise around sixty-five million dollars. And a lot of that money is coming from anonymous donors. So I — I — I want to just start with this. Why is the public interest served by flooding our politics with money from people who don’t want other people to know they’ve contributed?

KARL ROVE: Well, this has been going on for a long while. In fact, you left out a big player in this. Four unions alone will — will have — according to their own announcements spent two hundred and twenty-two million dollars in — in money on elections this year.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But we know who they are.

KARL ROVE: No, no, no you don’t, Bob. Here’s the disclosure report for the — for — for one who’s going to spend eighty-seven and a half million dollars — the American Federation of State commun — local and Community Employees. … They’re going to take in one hundred ninety million four hundred and seventy-seven do — thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine dollars, and that’s the extent of where you know where it’s coming from. So there’s a lot of money floating around in politics that’s not disclosed.

Moreover, the real difference between all these groups and Big Labor is that the latter takes money from union members involuntarily. Schieffer seemed unmoved by the facts. Rove then zeroed in on the massive hypocrisy game being played by the White House and bolstered by much of the mainstream media:

Bob, I don’t remember you having a program in 2000, when the NAACP spent ten million dollars from one single donor, running ads anonymous leave contributed, attacking George W. Bush. The — suddenly — everybody is gone spun up about it this year when Republicans have started to follow what the Democrats have been doing and create 501(c)4s, which can use less than half their money for express advocacy. But you have the environment America, feminist majority, humane society, legislative front and they were all — vote — Vote Vets, Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife and a bunch of others which are all liberal groups that have been using 501(c)4s with undisclosed money for years. … And it’s never been an issue until the President of the United States on the day when we have a bad economic jobs report, when we lose ninety-five jobs in September, and the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, the President of the United States goes out and calls conservatives at the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads GPS, and says these are threats to democracy because they don’t disclose their donors. I don’t remember him ever saying that all these liberal groups were threats to democracy when they spent money exactly the same way we are.

Ouch.

And just as quickly as the hue and cry arose in opposition to conservative groups, it will go quiet again as Democrats form their own entities for the 2012 campaign. Then all that outside money will be a sign of the vibrancy of American politics. And so it is — for both sides.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

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Why the Dems’ Campaign Is So Bad

Karl Rove writes:

Last Saturday at a West Newton, Mass., fund-raiser, the president said, “facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning … because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared.”

Memo to White House: Calling voters stupid is not a winning strategy.

The economy and jobs are the No. 1 issue in every poll. Yet Mr. Obama of late has talked about immigration reform and weighed in (unprompted) on the Ground Zero mosque. He devoted Labor Day to an ineffective Mideast peace initiative. He demeans large blocs of voters and now is ending his midterm pitch with attacks on nonexistent foreign campaign contributions and weird assertions that “the Empire is striking back.”

Meanwhile, Republicans have talked about little else than the economy—drawing attention to lackluster job growth, the failed stimulus, out-of-control spending, escalating deficits and the dangers of ObamaCare.

To a large degree, this is a reversal of the 2008 election. There Obama let his opponent flail away, appearing reasonable simply by pointing to the lackluster economy and showing himself to be less flighty than the more experienced Republican. Now Obama and his party are on the defensive and desperately trying to change the subject to a host of non-issues. Obama is incoherent because he can’t effectively defend his record.

As Michael Barone notes:

What has struck me this year is that so-called tea party candidates turn out, when you take a look at them, to have considerably more in the way of good political instincts than the usual run of Republican candidates. And some of them who have been derided in mainstream media, like Sherron Angle, manage to beat a 40-year political veteran like Harry Reid in debate. I was somewhat surprised … because candidates who have had a couple of terms in a state legislature representing a small rural district seldom manage to hold their own, much less prevail, in a debate with a major officeholder whose political career spans 40 years.

For some time now, conservative critics (and some candid liberal ones as well) have observed that Obama was great at campaigning but lousy at governing. (Juan Williams declared that you wouldn’t want to rely on Obama in a crisis.) It turns out that being lousy at governing makes for a lousy campaign. It turns out that for an incumbent, campaigning is not some all-purpose talent that can be pulled off the shelf to rescue unpopular policies. You actually have to convince voters that your record deserves their stamp of approval.

That is why Obama is suddenly so ineffective, and why a Sharron Angle can best Harry Reid. You try defending the Dems’ record. It isn’t easy, is it?

Karl Rove writes:

Last Saturday at a West Newton, Mass., fund-raiser, the president said, “facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning … because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared.”

Memo to White House: Calling voters stupid is not a winning strategy.

The economy and jobs are the No. 1 issue in every poll. Yet Mr. Obama of late has talked about immigration reform and weighed in (unprompted) on the Ground Zero mosque. He devoted Labor Day to an ineffective Mideast peace initiative. He demeans large blocs of voters and now is ending his midterm pitch with attacks on nonexistent foreign campaign contributions and weird assertions that “the Empire is striking back.”

Meanwhile, Republicans have talked about little else than the economy—drawing attention to lackluster job growth, the failed stimulus, out-of-control spending, escalating deficits and the dangers of ObamaCare.

To a large degree, this is a reversal of the 2008 election. There Obama let his opponent flail away, appearing reasonable simply by pointing to the lackluster economy and showing himself to be less flighty than the more experienced Republican. Now Obama and his party are on the defensive and desperately trying to change the subject to a host of non-issues. Obama is incoherent because he can’t effectively defend his record.

As Michael Barone notes:

What has struck me this year is that so-called tea party candidates turn out, when you take a look at them, to have considerably more in the way of good political instincts than the usual run of Republican candidates. And some of them who have been derided in mainstream media, like Sherron Angle, manage to beat a 40-year political veteran like Harry Reid in debate. I was somewhat surprised … because candidates who have had a couple of terms in a state legislature representing a small rural district seldom manage to hold their own, much less prevail, in a debate with a major officeholder whose political career spans 40 years.

For some time now, conservative critics (and some candid liberal ones as well) have observed that Obama was great at campaigning but lousy at governing. (Juan Williams declared that you wouldn’t want to rely on Obama in a crisis.) It turns out that being lousy at governing makes for a lousy campaign. It turns out that for an incumbent, campaigning is not some all-purpose talent that can be pulled off the shelf to rescue unpopular policies. You actually have to convince voters that your record deserves their stamp of approval.

That is why Obama is suddenly so ineffective, and why a Sharron Angle can best Harry Reid. You try defending the Dems’ record. It isn’t easy, is it?

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Not a Bush Comeback!

The left has plenty of reason to wig out. Their ideal liberal candidate is proving to be a bust as president. The public is still stubbornly center-right and suspicious of big government. The Tea Party crowd has invigorated and not divided the Republican Party. Obama has been forced to retreat, at least rhetorically, from Israel bashing. But there is one indignity too great to bear: the restoration of George W. Bush’s reputation.

Already voters in Ohio prefer Bush to Obama. Suddenly, “Bush-like” is no longer a political epithet. A chunk of Democrats are vowing to continue the Bush tax cuts. And when it comes to commander-in-chief talents and emotional connectivity to the American people, there is no contest. So be prepared for some screechy backlash.

And no one outdoes Maureen Dowd in the screechy department. She’s back to whining about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, citing a new movie that bears as much relationship to actual events as Gone With the Wind did to the Civil War. It’s really no more than an excuse to rage against the public’s newfound appreciation of  Bush. As this wit put it:

This version of the lives of these two Washington celebutaries  provides the Pulitzer-prize-winning columnist and plagiarist an opportunity to re-douse her favorite targets, the torturing malefactors George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, etc., with more than even the usual amount of spewage from her sulphur pot.

But Dowd herself gave it away in her opening graph, declaring to be “pathetic” a CNN headline and poll suggesting that, in fact, the public might think Bush a better president than his successor. It’s not “pathetic” — it is a political reality. The public is re-evaluating Bush in light of his successor and coming to appreciate that he got many (nearly all, I would argue) of the big things right (e.g., tax cuts, the surge, two qualified Supreme Court justices).

Dowd accuses the country of short-term memory loss. But perhaps her memory is as faulty as her journalistic ethics. It was, after all, Richard Armitage who was the leaker in the Plame affair. Is he in the movie?

The left has plenty of reason to wig out. Their ideal liberal candidate is proving to be a bust as president. The public is still stubbornly center-right and suspicious of big government. The Tea Party crowd has invigorated and not divided the Republican Party. Obama has been forced to retreat, at least rhetorically, from Israel bashing. But there is one indignity too great to bear: the restoration of George W. Bush’s reputation.

Already voters in Ohio prefer Bush to Obama. Suddenly, “Bush-like” is no longer a political epithet. A chunk of Democrats are vowing to continue the Bush tax cuts. And when it comes to commander-in-chief talents and emotional connectivity to the American people, there is no contest. So be prepared for some screechy backlash.

And no one outdoes Maureen Dowd in the screechy department. She’s back to whining about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, citing a new movie that bears as much relationship to actual events as Gone With the Wind did to the Civil War. It’s really no more than an excuse to rage against the public’s newfound appreciation of  Bush. As this wit put it:

This version of the lives of these two Washington celebutaries  provides the Pulitzer-prize-winning columnist and plagiarist an opportunity to re-douse her favorite targets, the torturing malefactors George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, etc., with more than even the usual amount of spewage from her sulphur pot.

But Dowd herself gave it away in her opening graph, declaring to be “pathetic” a CNN headline and poll suggesting that, in fact, the public might think Bush a better president than his successor. It’s not “pathetic” — it is a political reality. The public is re-evaluating Bush in light of his successor and coming to appreciate that he got many (nearly all, I would argue) of the big things right (e.g., tax cuts, the surge, two qualified Supreme Court justices).

Dowd accuses the country of short-term memory loss. But perhaps her memory is as faulty as her journalistic ethics. It was, after all, Richard Armitage who was the leaker in the Plame affair. Is he in the movie?

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Abuse of Power

It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

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It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

Set aside the hypocrisy of this whole episode. (My former White House colleague Ed Gillespie points out that no Democrats, least of all Obama, expressed concern about such outside spending in 2008, when more than $400 million was spent to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors.) Set aside the fact that Mr. Axelrod concedes that the chamber is abiding by long-standing rules, that it doesn’t have to disclose its donors list, and that no other organizations are disclosing theirs. Set aside the fact that the chamber has 115 foreign-member affiliates who pay a total of less than $100,000 in membership dues to a group whose total budget is more than $200 million. And set aside the fact that various news organizations have dismissed the charges, including the New York Times, which reports, “a closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.”

What we are witnessing is the abuse of power. We are now in a situation in which the president and his most senior advisers feel completely at liberty to throw out unsubstantiated charges and put the burden on people (and institutions) to prove their innocence. Liberals once referred to such tactics as McCarthyism. But Joseph McCarthy, for all his abuses, was “only” a United States senator, one member out of 100. The president and his advisers, on the other hand, have at their disposal far more power and the ability to inflict far more injury.

What Obama and his aides are demanding is that the Chamber of Commerce prove a negative — and in doing so, they are trying to intimidate the chamber into disclosing what is, by law, privileged information. “If the Chamber doesn’t have anything to hide about these contributions,” Mr. Axelrod says, “and I take them at their word that they don’t, then why not disclose? Why not let people see where their money is coming from?”

Let’s see if we can help Mr. Axelrod out by providing him with an explanation.

For one thing, he is employing the guilty-until-proven-innocent argument. For another, the White House’s standard is being selectively applied. And it encourages slanderous charges because it forces innocent people to disprove them. All this is troubling in any case; but it is triply pernicious when it is practiced by those with unmatched power, because they have an unparalleled capacity to intimidate American citizens.

In further answering Axelrod’s argument, consider this thought experiment. It’s the year 2021, and a partisan critic of a future president repeatedly asserts that the president is addicted to child pornography. It turns out that the critic has no proof of the charge — but when told he is asking the president to prove a negative, he responds: “I take the president at his word. But just to be sure, we’d like to examine his phone records and text messages, his computer accounts, and his credit card receipts. What we want, in other words, is full access to all the relevant information we need. After all, if he’s innocent, why not disclose this information? Why not let people see what you’re doing with your life and free time?”

It must be obvious to Messrs. Axelrod and Obama that what they are doing is irresponsible, dangerous, and deeply illiberal. It’s important to note, however, that this libel is taking place within a particular context. The attack on the Chamber of Commerce is only the most recent link in a long chain. The Obama White House has targeted Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, and John Boehner; George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; conservative talk radio; Fox News; the state of Arizona; the Supreme Court (for its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission); members of the Tea Party; critics of ObamaCare who attended town hall meetings; pharmaceutical, insurance, and oil companies; corporate executives, Wall Street, and the “rich.”

All this ugliness comes to us courtesy of a man who said during the 2008 campaign that “the times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook”; who told us that we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long”; and who assured us, on the night of his election, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”

Back in October 2009, I wrote about this White House’s burning anger and resentment toward its critics and what it foreshadowed. That inferno is burning hotter than ever – and if it goes unchecked, it will eventually lead to a crisis.

In an August 16, 1971, memorandum from White House Counsel John Dean to Lawrence Higby, titled “Dealing with our Political Enemies,” Dean wrote:

This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

At comparable stages in their first terms, the Obama administration seems to be at least as eager as the Nixon administration to use the available federal machinery to “screw our political enemies.” We know how things turned out for the Nixon administration. President Obama cannot say he hasn’t been forewarned.

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Senate Sliding Toward GOP

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

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Big Labor’s Big Bucks Poured Down the Drain

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree — Obama’s end-around the Senate on the zealous czarina of consumer protection is outrageous. S. 1 in the 112th Congress? Defund the consumer protection agency.

Lots of Democratic Senate candidates agree with the GOP: “Senate Democratic candidates are wavering over whether to support President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. At least seven Democrats in battleground states say they support or could support extending tax breaks for families who make more than $250,000.”

Karl Rove and his conservative critics agree — Lisa Murkowski’s independent run is “sad and sorry.”

Independents agree with Republicans: refudiate Obamanomics. “A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. … Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. … More generally, independents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship.”

Colin Powell and his (former?) party finally agree: Obama needs to “shift the way in which he has been doing things. … I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. … There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it.”

At least conservatives and Maureen Dowd can agree on this about Obama: “Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice. He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed ‘bitter’ during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.”

The left and right can agree that the latest administration move on Sudan is a disgrace: “After long, and reportedly heated, arguments inside the White House over the proper balance between carrot and stick, officials have produced a document that is highly specific about inducements and carefully vague about threats. … John Norris, a Sudan expert at the Center for American Progress and former head of the Enough Project, calls the package ‘unseemly.'”

CAIR agrees with the late Tony Snow (one of his finest moments): Hezbollah never had a better spokesperson than Helen Thomas.

I think we can all agree that Christiane Amanpour is the weakest Sunday talk-show host. Not only does she not ask a serious follow-up question of Hillary Clinton, but Ahmadinejad runs circles around her. (The proof of her ineptitude? You don’t see Ahmadinejad submitting to an interview with Candy Crowley or Chris Wallace.)

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree — Obama’s end-around the Senate on the zealous czarina of consumer protection is outrageous. S. 1 in the 112th Congress? Defund the consumer protection agency.

Lots of Democratic Senate candidates agree with the GOP: “Senate Democratic candidates are wavering over whether to support President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. At least seven Democrats in battleground states say they support or could support extending tax breaks for families who make more than $250,000.”

Karl Rove and his conservative critics agree — Lisa Murkowski’s independent run is “sad and sorry.”

Independents agree with Republicans: refudiate Obamanomics. “A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. … Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. … More generally, independents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship.”

Colin Powell and his (former?) party finally agree: Obama needs to “shift the way in which he has been doing things. … I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. … There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it.”

At least conservatives and Maureen Dowd can agree on this about Obama: “Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice. He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed ‘bitter’ during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.”

The left and right can agree that the latest administration move on Sudan is a disgrace: “After long, and reportedly heated, arguments inside the White House over the proper balance between carrot and stick, officials have produced a document that is highly specific about inducements and carefully vague about threats. … John Norris, a Sudan expert at the Center for American Progress and former head of the Enough Project, calls the package ‘unseemly.'”

CAIR agrees with the late Tony Snow (one of his finest moments): Hezbollah never had a better spokesperson than Helen Thomas.

I think we can all agree that Christiane Amanpour is the weakest Sunday talk-show host. Not only does she not ask a serious follow-up question of Hillary Clinton, but Ahmadinejad runs circles around her. (The proof of her ineptitude? You don’t see Ahmadinejad submitting to an interview with Candy Crowley or Chris Wallace.)

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Good advice to conservative pundits from Michael Gerson (in defending Karl Rove): “[A commentator] owes his readers or viewers his best judgment — which means he cannot simply be a tool of someone else’s ideological agenda. Some conservatives have adopted the Bolshevik approach to information and the media: Every personal feeling, every independent thought, every inconvenient fact, must be subordinated to the party line — the Tea Party line.” Read the whole thing.

Good time, actually, for those ferocious Rove critics to apologize. It seems she is a loon: “The story of Christine O’Donnell’s past got a little stranger Friday. Bill Maher — on whose former show, ‘Politically Incorrect,’ O’Donnell appeared repeatedly in the late 1990s — showed a previously unaired clip from Oct. 29, 1999, on his current HBO program, ‘Real Time,’ in which the GOP Senate nominee from Delaware said she ‘dabbled into witchcraft.”’

Good line from Mitt Romney at the Value Voters Summit: “Welcome to the Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid-President Obama farewell party. This has been a pretty tough year for those three—their numbers have gone down the chute faster than a Jet Blue flight attendant.” And a good speech on Obamanomics.

Good critique of the problem(s) with Newt Gingrich: “Like the former and would-be next California governor [Jerry Brown], Gingrich talks big, but has no loyalty to his ideas. He was for tax cuts before he was against them. He supported a $35,000 congressional pay raise and leaner government. Like Brown, Gingrich’s real skill has been in seeing a trend early and jumping on it, unencumbered by any past positions. … The last time Gingrich set out to save America, he ended up burning his career. He taught a college course called ‘Renewing American Civilization.’ That would not have been a problem except that this modern-day John Adams felt the need to raise $300,000 and $450,000 to bankroll his discourses on American ‘core values.’ That’s a long pricey schlep from the log cabin.”

Good move. “Since General Petraeus took on the commander’s job in June, several aides said, the president has struck a more deferential tone toward him than he used with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, General Petraeus’s predecessor. Often during pauses in meetings, one White House official said, Mr. Obama will stop and say, ‘Dave, what do you think?'” Less Axelrod and Emanuel and more Petraeus, and we might win this.

Good golly. “Two Los Angeles departments have received $111 million in federal stimulus funds yet have created only 55 jobs so far, according to a pair of reports issued Thursday by City Controller Wendy Greuel.”

Good luck to Tom Joscelyn trying to explain to David Ignatius (and the Obami): “For the umpteenth time, Iran is not on our side in Afghanistan. They are currently allied with the Taliban, the mullahs’ one-time enemy. Iran is not going to help us ‘undermine the Taliban.’ They are working with the Taliban to undermine the U.S.-led coalition.”

Good job, Madam Speaker! Now 38 Democrats favor full extension of the Bush tax cuts. Maybe more: “Other Democrats have indicated privately that they prefer an extension instead of allowing rates to expire for top earners, and Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who heads Democratic campaign efforts, has argued behind closed doors for taking a political issue off the table by giving a short reprieve to wealthy folks before the midterm elections.”

Good for her. “A politically vulnerable Democratic lawmaker blasted her party’s House leadership as she demanded a vote to cut the salaries of lawmakers by $8,700 next year. In a letter sent Thursday afternoon, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) pressured Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to hold a vote on her bill to cut congressional pay by five percent and save taxpayers $4.7 million next year before Congress breaks for its fall recess.”

Good for him. Greg Sargent rises above partisan cheerleading: “It isn’t every day that Democrats target Latino challengers with nasty anti-immigrant ads, but these are apparently desperate times for certain embattled Dems. … [Rep. Walt] Minnick apparently sees the need to run an ad that stinks of fear and desperation. Quite a specimen.”

Good news for Republicans in the Hoosier state: “The Indiana Senate seat now held by Democrat Evan Bayh remains a likely Republican pickup on Election Day. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Indiana finds Republican Dan Coats leading Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth 50% to 34% in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Goodbye, Charlie: “Gov. Charlie Crist and the disgraced former chairman of the Florida Republican Party took family vacations on party money, an audit released Friday shows. The two men and their families vacationed at Disney World in June 2009 and put the $13,435.99 bill on the party’s American Express credit card, the audit found. Greer also took three personal vacations to fashionable Fisher Island near Miami Beach, one including Crist, at a cost of $10,992.17, auditors reported.”

Good advice to conservative pundits from Michael Gerson (in defending Karl Rove): “[A commentator] owes his readers or viewers his best judgment — which means he cannot simply be a tool of someone else’s ideological agenda. Some conservatives have adopted the Bolshevik approach to information and the media: Every personal feeling, every independent thought, every inconvenient fact, must be subordinated to the party line — the Tea Party line.” Read the whole thing.

Good time, actually, for those ferocious Rove critics to apologize. It seems she is a loon: “The story of Christine O’Donnell’s past got a little stranger Friday. Bill Maher — on whose former show, ‘Politically Incorrect,’ O’Donnell appeared repeatedly in the late 1990s — showed a previously unaired clip from Oct. 29, 1999, on his current HBO program, ‘Real Time,’ in which the GOP Senate nominee from Delaware said she ‘dabbled into witchcraft.”’

Good line from Mitt Romney at the Value Voters Summit: “Welcome to the Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid-President Obama farewell party. This has been a pretty tough year for those three—their numbers have gone down the chute faster than a Jet Blue flight attendant.” And a good speech on Obamanomics.

Good critique of the problem(s) with Newt Gingrich: “Like the former and would-be next California governor [Jerry Brown], Gingrich talks big, but has no loyalty to his ideas. He was for tax cuts before he was against them. He supported a $35,000 congressional pay raise and leaner government. Like Brown, Gingrich’s real skill has been in seeing a trend early and jumping on it, unencumbered by any past positions. … The last time Gingrich set out to save America, he ended up burning his career. He taught a college course called ‘Renewing American Civilization.’ That would not have been a problem except that this modern-day John Adams felt the need to raise $300,000 and $450,000 to bankroll his discourses on American ‘core values.’ That’s a long pricey schlep from the log cabin.”

Good move. “Since General Petraeus took on the commander’s job in June, several aides said, the president has struck a more deferential tone toward him than he used with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, General Petraeus’s predecessor. Often during pauses in meetings, one White House official said, Mr. Obama will stop and say, ‘Dave, what do you think?'” Less Axelrod and Emanuel and more Petraeus, and we might win this.

Good golly. “Two Los Angeles departments have received $111 million in federal stimulus funds yet have created only 55 jobs so far, according to a pair of reports issued Thursday by City Controller Wendy Greuel.”

Good luck to Tom Joscelyn trying to explain to David Ignatius (and the Obami): “For the umpteenth time, Iran is not on our side in Afghanistan. They are currently allied with the Taliban, the mullahs’ one-time enemy. Iran is not going to help us ‘undermine the Taliban.’ They are working with the Taliban to undermine the U.S.-led coalition.”

Good job, Madam Speaker! Now 38 Democrats favor full extension of the Bush tax cuts. Maybe more: “Other Democrats have indicated privately that they prefer an extension instead of allowing rates to expire for top earners, and Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who heads Democratic campaign efforts, has argued behind closed doors for taking a political issue off the table by giving a short reprieve to wealthy folks before the midterm elections.”

Good for her. “A politically vulnerable Democratic lawmaker blasted her party’s House leadership as she demanded a vote to cut the salaries of lawmakers by $8,700 next year. In a letter sent Thursday afternoon, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) pressured Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to hold a vote on her bill to cut congressional pay by five percent and save taxpayers $4.7 million next year before Congress breaks for its fall recess.”

Good for him. Greg Sargent rises above partisan cheerleading: “It isn’t every day that Democrats target Latino challengers with nasty anti-immigrant ads, but these are apparently desperate times for certain embattled Dems. … [Rep. Walt] Minnick apparently sees the need to run an ad that stinks of fear and desperation. Quite a specimen.”

Good news for Republicans in the Hoosier state: “The Indiana Senate seat now held by Democrat Evan Bayh remains a likely Republican pickup on Election Day. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Indiana finds Republican Dan Coats leading Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth 50% to 34% in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Goodbye, Charlie: “Gov. Charlie Crist and the disgraced former chairman of the Florida Republican Party took family vacations on party money, an audit released Friday shows. The two men and their families vacationed at Disney World in June 2009 and put the $13,435.99 bill on the party’s American Express credit card, the audit found. Greer also took three personal vacations to fashionable Fisher Island near Miami Beach, one including Crist, at a cost of $10,992.17, auditors reported.”

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RE: It’s Not About O’Donnell

Abe has pegged the meaning of Christine O’Donnell. To paraphrase the deathless 1992 campaign slogan: “It’s the political tsunami, stupid.” The Democrats will hope to make the Delaware Senate campaign about O’Donnell’s peculiarities — and it’s their job to do that, just as it’s Republicans’ job to make it about her garden-variety tax-and-spend opponent. But the Democrats won’t be able to undermine the strength of the nationwide voter revolt by branding the Tea Party with the image of Christine O’Donnell. The brand has already been slapped on — and it didn’t deter the notoriously conventional GOP voters in a famously Blue State.

It’s becoming clear that ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, bank bailouts, private-sector takeovers, czars of the week, and epic deficit spending are more alarming to voters than Ms. O’Donnell’s views on sanctity in private life. As a (relevant) aside, I give most voters credit for understanding that O’Donnell doesn’t propose using the power of the state to enforce on others the particular views for which she has recently gained notoriety. That level of interference in private life is antithetical to the Tea Party demand for smaller government; indeed, under the daily assault of Obama’s energetic regulators, a growing number of voters are associating such intrusiveness explicitly and resentfully with the political left.

But the national electoral dynamic this year isn’t about O’Donnell; it’s about changing course. And in making their choice, the Republican voters in Delaware showed a perfect comprehension many senior conservatives haven’t. A vote for Mike Castle was, in fact, a vote for the status quo. The voters knew what they were voting for — and many of them would have said that the kind of strategic voting urged on them by pundits and political professionals is exactly what has produced the status quo.

I agree with Peter Wehner that Karl Rove is being excoriated unfairly for his stance on the Delaware primary. I think some of the most popular and entrenched figures in conservative politics have some catching up to do, but I predict most of them will do it. Perspicacity is what got them to where they are.

But the people are on the move. George W. Bush said often during the 2004 campaign that the poll that mattered was the one that occurred in the voting booth. In a majority of “voting booth” polls this year, the people have signaled that their dissatisfaction with our current course outweighs everything else. The tsunami is real — and to essay a metaphor, candidates like Christine O’Donnell are riding it on a surfboard. The Democratic Party is largely paralyzed on the beach, and many of the conservatives who don’t want to share its fate will have to get out on their surfboards and do the best they can, under the most unpredictable conditions we’ve seen for a long time.

Abe has pegged the meaning of Christine O’Donnell. To paraphrase the deathless 1992 campaign slogan: “It’s the political tsunami, stupid.” The Democrats will hope to make the Delaware Senate campaign about O’Donnell’s peculiarities — and it’s their job to do that, just as it’s Republicans’ job to make it about her garden-variety tax-and-spend opponent. But the Democrats won’t be able to undermine the strength of the nationwide voter revolt by branding the Tea Party with the image of Christine O’Donnell. The brand has already been slapped on — and it didn’t deter the notoriously conventional GOP voters in a famously Blue State.

It’s becoming clear that ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, bank bailouts, private-sector takeovers, czars of the week, and epic deficit spending are more alarming to voters than Ms. O’Donnell’s views on sanctity in private life. As a (relevant) aside, I give most voters credit for understanding that O’Donnell doesn’t propose using the power of the state to enforce on others the particular views for which she has recently gained notoriety. That level of interference in private life is antithetical to the Tea Party demand for smaller government; indeed, under the daily assault of Obama’s energetic regulators, a growing number of voters are associating such intrusiveness explicitly and resentfully with the political left.

But the national electoral dynamic this year isn’t about O’Donnell; it’s about changing course. And in making their choice, the Republican voters in Delaware showed a perfect comprehension many senior conservatives haven’t. A vote for Mike Castle was, in fact, a vote for the status quo. The voters knew what they were voting for — and many of them would have said that the kind of strategic voting urged on them by pundits and political professionals is exactly what has produced the status quo.

I agree with Peter Wehner that Karl Rove is being excoriated unfairly for his stance on the Delaware primary. I think some of the most popular and entrenched figures in conservative politics have some catching up to do, but I predict most of them will do it. Perspicacity is what got them to where they are.

But the people are on the move. George W. Bush said often during the 2004 campaign that the poll that mattered was the one that occurred in the voting booth. In a majority of “voting booth” polls this year, the people have signaled that their dissatisfaction with our current course outweighs everything else. The tsunami is real — and to essay a metaphor, candidates like Christine O’Donnell are riding it on a surfboard. The Democratic Party is largely paralyzed on the beach, and many of the conservatives who don’t want to share its fate will have to get out on their surfboards and do the best they can, under the most unpredictable conditions we’ve seen for a long time.

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In Defense of Karl Rove

Over at Hotair.com, Ed Morrissey and Allahpundit provide some balance and reason to those conservatives who are savaging Karl Rove, in response to his critical comments on Tuesday night about Christine O’Donnell. Morrissey links to Rove’s appearance on Fox this morning, where Karl rightly reminds people of his support for Tea Party candidates like Sharon Angle, Marco Rubio, Kelly Ayotte, and others.

It’s worth recalling that, just a few weeks ago, Rove the Conservative Heretic and Establishment Republican was sitting in for Rush Limbaugh on Rush’s radio program — and several weeks before that he attended Rush’s wedding. In a recent interview with Jonathan Rauch, Rove named Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative as one of his five most important books and testifies to the importance it played in his life. So the notion that Rove has suddenly become an “establishment Republican” and a traitor to the conservative cause simply isn’t plausible. It is, in fact, risible.

Karl has one take on O’Donnell; other people have another interpretation. Rove thinks she hasn’t adequately responded to charges about her finances; others think they are non-issues or unfair attacks. The differences are real enough and they’re worth debating. But to use those differences to go after Rove with hammer and tongs, with fury and venom, doesn’t reflect well at all on those hurling the charges.

Of course, I have an advantage over some of Rove’s harshest critics. I know him and worked with him and for him in the Bush White House. He is a person of deep conservative convictions, a brilliant political and policy mind, and a wonderful human being. He’s also tough as nails, as I saw firsthand when he was the target of Patrick Fitzgerald’s criminal investigation into the Valerie Plame matter (the investigation turned out to be a colossal waste of money and deeply unjust). In circumstances when most other people, including me, would have curled up in a fetal position under their desks, Karl continued to work as if he didn’t have a concern in the world. So he’ll handle this latest dust-up just fine.

Those who have read his book Courage and Consequence — subtitled, it’s worth noting, “My Life as a Conservative in the Fight” (full disclosure: I assisted him with the book) — know Rove is a person who has faced and overcome enormous challenges over the years. He has also devoted his life to the Republican Party and the conservative cause. For some conservatives who disagree with Rove over Christine O’Donnell to now demand an auto-de-fé is terribly unfortunate, unwise, and unmerited.

Over at Hotair.com, Ed Morrissey and Allahpundit provide some balance and reason to those conservatives who are savaging Karl Rove, in response to his critical comments on Tuesday night about Christine O’Donnell. Morrissey links to Rove’s appearance on Fox this morning, where Karl rightly reminds people of his support for Tea Party candidates like Sharon Angle, Marco Rubio, Kelly Ayotte, and others.

It’s worth recalling that, just a few weeks ago, Rove the Conservative Heretic and Establishment Republican was sitting in for Rush Limbaugh on Rush’s radio program — and several weeks before that he attended Rush’s wedding. In a recent interview with Jonathan Rauch, Rove named Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative as one of his five most important books and testifies to the importance it played in his life. So the notion that Rove has suddenly become an “establishment Republican” and a traitor to the conservative cause simply isn’t plausible. It is, in fact, risible.

Karl has one take on O’Donnell; other people have another interpretation. Rove thinks she hasn’t adequately responded to charges about her finances; others think they are non-issues or unfair attacks. The differences are real enough and they’re worth debating. But to use those differences to go after Rove with hammer and tongs, with fury and venom, doesn’t reflect well at all on those hurling the charges.

Of course, I have an advantage over some of Rove’s harshest critics. I know him and worked with him and for him in the Bush White House. He is a person of deep conservative convictions, a brilliant political and policy mind, and a wonderful human being. He’s also tough as nails, as I saw firsthand when he was the target of Patrick Fitzgerald’s criminal investigation into the Valerie Plame matter (the investigation turned out to be a colossal waste of money and deeply unjust). In circumstances when most other people, including me, would have curled up in a fetal position under their desks, Karl continued to work as if he didn’t have a concern in the world. So he’ll handle this latest dust-up just fine.

Those who have read his book Courage and Consequence — subtitled, it’s worth noting, “My Life as a Conservative in the Fight” (full disclosure: I assisted him with the book) — know Rove is a person who has faced and overcome enormous challenges over the years. He has also devoted his life to the Republican Party and the conservative cause. For some conservatives who disagree with Rove over Christine O’Donnell to now demand an auto-de-fé is terribly unfortunate, unwise, and unmerited.

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A Whole Lot Harder

I share Karl Rove’s pessimism that the prospects for a GOP takeover of the Delaware Senate seat are now remote. He reels off a long list of Christine O’Donnell’s personal failings and credibility issues that are certain to come up in the general election She is, to put it mildly, a terribly flawed candidate. Rove correctly points out, “It does conservatives little good to support candidates who at the end of the day, while they may be conservative in their public statements, do not evince the characteristics of rectitude and truthfulness and sincerity and character that the voters are looking for.” He adds, “There is a lot of nutty things she has been saying. … This is not a race we’ll be able to win.”

If a couple of Senate seats are lost — and especially if the GOP falls just a seat or two short of the majority in the Senate — there will and should be some soul-searching in the Tea Party movement. There will also, I suspect, be valid concerns about those who encouraged and endorsed unelectable candidates. If you want to be a party leader, and not simply a prominent conservative, the expectation is that you will use your influence judiciously.

The Tea Party has injected enthusiasm and provided a unifying conservative economic message, but a movement and a political party are not the same. The latter must concern itself with elections and building a governing majority. And the former, if unchecked by judgment and maturity, can unintentionally do great damage to its own cause.

One final note: outsiderness in and of itself is not a decisive factor in electability. What matters is whether the candidate is plausible and can articulate an anti-Beltway message that taps into both conservatives and independents’ disgust with the governing class. It is highly questionable whether O’Donnell can do that. On the other hand, as Ben Smith points out, conservatives dumped a dreadful establishment candidate in the New York gubernatorial primary and pushed back on a state party that has shown zero adeptness of late:

The results in New York tonight cut at Cuomo in two ways, though he wasn’t on the ballot. The first and most obvious is an energized conservative base, which chose a real outsider — Buffalo developer Carl Paladino — as a more plausible, if extremely longshot, vessel for a “mad as hell” anti-Establishment campaign against the “status Cuomo” than would have been the Establishment Republican, a former bank lobbyist.

“This is the candidate that the base of the party wanted,” conceded State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, putting a good face on a terrible night that also included a third-place finish for his son in a congressional race on Long Island.

In sum: the lesson is to choose wisely. This is the big leagues.

I share Karl Rove’s pessimism that the prospects for a GOP takeover of the Delaware Senate seat are now remote. He reels off a long list of Christine O’Donnell’s personal failings and credibility issues that are certain to come up in the general election She is, to put it mildly, a terribly flawed candidate. Rove correctly points out, “It does conservatives little good to support candidates who at the end of the day, while they may be conservative in their public statements, do not evince the characteristics of rectitude and truthfulness and sincerity and character that the voters are looking for.” He adds, “There is a lot of nutty things she has been saying. … This is not a race we’ll be able to win.”

If a couple of Senate seats are lost — and especially if the GOP falls just a seat or two short of the majority in the Senate — there will and should be some soul-searching in the Tea Party movement. There will also, I suspect, be valid concerns about those who encouraged and endorsed unelectable candidates. If you want to be a party leader, and not simply a prominent conservative, the expectation is that you will use your influence judiciously.

The Tea Party has injected enthusiasm and provided a unifying conservative economic message, but a movement and a political party are not the same. The latter must concern itself with elections and building a governing majority. And the former, if unchecked by judgment and maturity, can unintentionally do great damage to its own cause.

One final note: outsiderness in and of itself is not a decisive factor in electability. What matters is whether the candidate is plausible and can articulate an anti-Beltway message that taps into both conservatives and independents’ disgust with the governing class. It is highly questionable whether O’Donnell can do that. On the other hand, as Ben Smith points out, conservatives dumped a dreadful establishment candidate in the New York gubernatorial primary and pushed back on a state party that has shown zero adeptness of late:

The results in New York tonight cut at Cuomo in two ways, though he wasn’t on the ballot. The first and most obvious is an energized conservative base, which chose a real outsider — Buffalo developer Carl Paladino — as a more plausible, if extremely longshot, vessel for a “mad as hell” anti-Establishment campaign against the “status Cuomo” than would have been the Establishment Republican, a former bank lobbyist.

“This is the candidate that the base of the party wanted,” conceded State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, putting a good face on a terrible night that also included a third-place finish for his son in a congressional race on Long Island.

In sum: the lesson is to choose wisely. This is the big leagues.

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Five Greatest Conservative Books

Jonathan Rauch has done us all a great service by interviewing (as part of the fivebooks.com series) 10 individuals on what they consider to be the five most important conservative books. The full list can be found here. So can Jon’s interview with my former White House colleague, Karl Rove. Karl’s selection includes the Federalist Papers, Democracy in America, Conscience of a Conservative, Capitalism and Freedom, and the Theory of Moral Sentiments. The conversation with Karl is excellent; indeed, the other interviews (with Mitch Daniels, Yuval Levin, Peter Berkowitz, David Frum, and others) are also illuminating and engaging.

Interestingly, and quite surprisingly to me, Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France did not make the list (though Yuval, an outstanding scholar on Burke, did list Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs).

Jonathan Rauch has done us all a great service by interviewing (as part of the fivebooks.com series) 10 individuals on what they consider to be the five most important conservative books. The full list can be found here. So can Jon’s interview with my former White House colleague, Karl Rove. Karl’s selection includes the Federalist Papers, Democracy in America, Conscience of a Conservative, Capitalism and Freedom, and the Theory of Moral Sentiments. The conversation with Karl is excellent; indeed, the other interviews (with Mitch Daniels, Yuval Levin, Peter Berkowitz, David Frum, and others) are also illuminating and engaging.

Interestingly, and quite surprisingly to me, Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France did not make the list (though Yuval, an outstanding scholar on Burke, did list Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs).

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Money, Money

For months, Democratic operatives and liberal pundits (sometimes it is hard to tell the difference) have been declaring that the GOP’s chances were imperiled by fundraising woes and its cloddish RNC chairman. In fact, to anyone closely following conservative politics, it has been apparent that the plethora of third-party groups that have popped up in light of the RNC’s troubles have more than made up for the difference. The New York Times breaks the bad news to the Upper West Side:

Outside groups supporting Republican candidates in House and Senate races across the country have been swamping their Democratic-leaning counterparts on television since early August as the midterm election season has begun heating up.

Driving the disparity in the ad wars has been an array of Republican-oriented organizations that are set up so they can accept donations of unlimited size from individuals and corporations without having to disclose them. The situation raises the possibility that a relatively small cadre of deep-pocketed donors, unknown to the general public, is shaping the battle for Congress in the early going.

Democrats are said to be surprised and alarmed by this. But it was hardly a secret that Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, a newly invigorated Republican Governors Association, the Club for Growth, and a host of other groups have been raising gobs of cash. Now it’s apparent just how successful these groups have been:

In Senate races, Republican-leaning interest groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones on television $10.9 million to $1.3 million, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 8, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks political advertising.

In the House, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones, $3.1 million to $1.5 million.

Or course Democrats have Big Labor as their piggy bank, but it’s not clear that Big Labor is going to the mat for the Democrats this cycle; after all, their millions in 2008 (hard and soft money) didn’t get them card check legislation.

The money gap tells us two things. First, just as Obama’s fundraising prowess in 2008 reflected an enthusiasm gap in the Democrats’ favor, the current GOP funding boom is evidence that now the Republicans are the ones pumped up. And second, this is yet another sign that the national political parties themselves are becoming less and less of a factor: they no longer influence candidate selection and are steadily being eclipsed by independent groups, which, no thanks to Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, remain free to exercise their core First Amendment rights.

Elites are fond of bemoaning the influence of money — yes, horrors! — in the political process. But what better sign of the health and vigor of our democratic process?

For months, Democratic operatives and liberal pundits (sometimes it is hard to tell the difference) have been declaring that the GOP’s chances were imperiled by fundraising woes and its cloddish RNC chairman. In fact, to anyone closely following conservative politics, it has been apparent that the plethora of third-party groups that have popped up in light of the RNC’s troubles have more than made up for the difference. The New York Times breaks the bad news to the Upper West Side:

Outside groups supporting Republican candidates in House and Senate races across the country have been swamping their Democratic-leaning counterparts on television since early August as the midterm election season has begun heating up.

Driving the disparity in the ad wars has been an array of Republican-oriented organizations that are set up so they can accept donations of unlimited size from individuals and corporations without having to disclose them. The situation raises the possibility that a relatively small cadre of deep-pocketed donors, unknown to the general public, is shaping the battle for Congress in the early going.

Democrats are said to be surprised and alarmed by this. But it was hardly a secret that Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, a newly invigorated Republican Governors Association, the Club for Growth, and a host of other groups have been raising gobs of cash. Now it’s apparent just how successful these groups have been:

In Senate races, Republican-leaning interest groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones on television $10.9 million to $1.3 million, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 8, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks political advertising.

In the House, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones, $3.1 million to $1.5 million.

Or course Democrats have Big Labor as their piggy bank, but it’s not clear that Big Labor is going to the mat for the Democrats this cycle; after all, their millions in 2008 (hard and soft money) didn’t get them card check legislation.

The money gap tells us two things. First, just as Obama’s fundraising prowess in 2008 reflected an enthusiasm gap in the Democrats’ favor, the current GOP funding boom is evidence that now the Republicans are the ones pumped up. And second, this is yet another sign that the national political parties themselves are becoming less and less of a factor: they no longer influence candidate selection and are steadily being eclipsed by independent groups, which, no thanks to Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, remain free to exercise their core First Amendment rights.

Elites are fond of bemoaning the influence of money — yes, horrors! — in the political process. But what better sign of the health and vigor of our democratic process?

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Obama, Bush, and War

Barack Obama used a lawyer-like locution last night to avoid acknowledging the courage of his predecessor in initiating the surge that won the Iraq War:

It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it.

The key words were “from its outset.” His locution focused on his opposition to the war, while faintly praising Bush as a well-intentioned patriot. But while Obama opposed the war “at” its outset, he did not always oppose it thereafter.

In his famous 2002 speech, Obama said the war would be a “cynical attempt” by “armchair, weekend, warriors” and “political hacks like Karl Rove” to “shove their own ideological agendas down our throats” and ignore pressing domestic needs. Two years later, his position had become inconvenient. Appearing on Meet the Press before his 2004 convention speech, he attributed his prior opposition to lack of knowledge:

MR. RUSSERT: The nominee of your party, John Kerry, the nominee for vice president, John Edwards, all said [Saddam] was an imminent threat. They voted to authorize George Bush to go to war. How could they have been so wrong and you so right …

STATE REP. OBAMA: Well, I think they have access to information that I did not have. …

MR. RUSSERT: But if you had been a senator at that time, you would have voted not to authorize President Bush to go to war?

STATE REP. OBAMA: I would have voted not to authorize the president given the facts as I saw them at that time.

MR. RUSSERT: So you disagree with John Kerry and John Edwards?

STATE REP. OBAMA: At that time, but, as I said, I wasn’t there …

The change Obama believed in as of 2004 was one of “tone” and “administration.” He told Russert “if we don’t have a change in tone and a change in administration, I think we’re going to have trouble making sure that our troops are secure and that we succeed.”

Two years after that, with the war not yet won, he became the cut-and-run candidate, arguing from late 2006 through the end of 2007 that more troops would not help, that Bush’s strategy would increase sectarian violence, and that the troops should be withdrawn.

Last night, at a moment he called “historic,” Obama gracelessly refused to acknowledge his predecessor’s contribution to progress on the war, vouching simply for his patriotism. He was palpably anxious to “turn the page” on Iraq, where the book may in fact not yet be closed, and to start turning it next year in Afghanistan — where the “pace” will be “condition-based” but, “make no mistake,” we’re leaving starting in July. It was not the steadfast commitment to victory that marked George W. Bush’s approach to war, and which is necessary if a leader wants to win one.

Barack Obama used a lawyer-like locution last night to avoid acknowledging the courage of his predecessor in initiating the surge that won the Iraq War:

It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it.

The key words were “from its outset.” His locution focused on his opposition to the war, while faintly praising Bush as a well-intentioned patriot. But while Obama opposed the war “at” its outset, he did not always oppose it thereafter.

In his famous 2002 speech, Obama said the war would be a “cynical attempt” by “armchair, weekend, warriors” and “political hacks like Karl Rove” to “shove their own ideological agendas down our throats” and ignore pressing domestic needs. Two years later, his position had become inconvenient. Appearing on Meet the Press before his 2004 convention speech, he attributed his prior opposition to lack of knowledge:

MR. RUSSERT: The nominee of your party, John Kerry, the nominee for vice president, John Edwards, all said [Saddam] was an imminent threat. They voted to authorize George Bush to go to war. How could they have been so wrong and you so right …

STATE REP. OBAMA: Well, I think they have access to information that I did not have. …

MR. RUSSERT: But if you had been a senator at that time, you would have voted not to authorize President Bush to go to war?

STATE REP. OBAMA: I would have voted not to authorize the president given the facts as I saw them at that time.

MR. RUSSERT: So you disagree with John Kerry and John Edwards?

STATE REP. OBAMA: At that time, but, as I said, I wasn’t there …

The change Obama believed in as of 2004 was one of “tone” and “administration.” He told Russert “if we don’t have a change in tone and a change in administration, I think we’re going to have trouble making sure that our troops are secure and that we succeed.”

Two years after that, with the war not yet won, he became the cut-and-run candidate, arguing from late 2006 through the end of 2007 that more troops would not help, that Bush’s strategy would increase sectarian violence, and that the troops should be withdrawn.

Last night, at a moment he called “historic,” Obama gracelessly refused to acknowledge his predecessor’s contribution to progress on the war, vouching simply for his patriotism. He was palpably anxious to “turn the page” on Iraq, where the book may in fact not yet be closed, and to start turning it next year in Afghanistan — where the “pace” will be “condition-based” but, “make no mistake,” we’re leaving starting in July. It was not the steadfast commitment to victory that marked George W. Bush’s approach to war, and which is necessary if a leader wants to win one.

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Obama’s Credibility Has Run Out

Karl Rove’s got this one right:

Mr. Obama’s credibility is crumbling, and for good reason: He and his people are saying things people don’t believe. At the start of his summer of recovery road show, the president flatly asserted that last year’s massive stimulus package had “worked.” Vice President Joe Biden, not to be outdone, promised monthly job gains of up to 500,000 and insisted that the recovery’s pace “continues to increase, not decrease” as stimulus spending was “moving into its highest gear.” …

By overselling the stimulus before its passage in 2009 and exaggerating its benefits with layer upon layer of slippery half-truths in 2010, Mr. Obama has made voters angrier. This is not America’s summer of recovery; it is a summer of economic discontent that will ensure that Democrats take a pounding in the midterm elections.

At some point it had to happen: the collision of reality with Obamian rhetoric — that special brew of buck-passing, economic illiteracy (no, profit isn’t overhead), ad hominem attack, and out and out misrepresentation. As Rove reminds us: “On health care, for example, Mr. Obama continues saying that (a) health-care reform will reduce costs and the deficit, (b) no one who wants to keep existing coverage will lose it, and (c) the law’s cuts in Medicare won’t threaten any senior’s health care. These assertions are laughable.”

Making a clear distinction between campaigning and governing has absolutely baffled and eluded Obama. In a campaign, exaggeration and bumper sticker phrases are often sufficient. A snappy dig at an opponent’s wealth or allies in a debate is regarded as quick-wittedness, rather than as intellectual sloth and a poor substitute for substance. Blather (the oceans haven’t receded in 18 months, I think) is rewarded rather than derided. But as president, what you say actually matters — in wars (the enemy listens to deadlines) and in domestic matters (the markets listen to business-bashing). And what results you obtain in the real world (not the number of enormous bills you jam through on party-line votes) really matter.

You can see why Obama and his party are in a heap of trouble. The question remains whether they will be able after the election to pick themselves up and rescue what remains of his term.

Karl Rove’s got this one right:

Mr. Obama’s credibility is crumbling, and for good reason: He and his people are saying things people don’t believe. At the start of his summer of recovery road show, the president flatly asserted that last year’s massive stimulus package had “worked.” Vice President Joe Biden, not to be outdone, promised monthly job gains of up to 500,000 and insisted that the recovery’s pace “continues to increase, not decrease” as stimulus spending was “moving into its highest gear.” …

By overselling the stimulus before its passage in 2009 and exaggerating its benefits with layer upon layer of slippery half-truths in 2010, Mr. Obama has made voters angrier. This is not America’s summer of recovery; it is a summer of economic discontent that will ensure that Democrats take a pounding in the midterm elections.

At some point it had to happen: the collision of reality with Obamian rhetoric — that special brew of buck-passing, economic illiteracy (no, profit isn’t overhead), ad hominem attack, and out and out misrepresentation. As Rove reminds us: “On health care, for example, Mr. Obama continues saying that (a) health-care reform will reduce costs and the deficit, (b) no one who wants to keep existing coverage will lose it, and (c) the law’s cuts in Medicare won’t threaten any senior’s health care. These assertions are laughable.”

Making a clear distinction between campaigning and governing has absolutely baffled and eluded Obama. In a campaign, exaggeration and bumper sticker phrases are often sufficient. A snappy dig at an opponent’s wealth or allies in a debate is regarded as quick-wittedness, rather than as intellectual sloth and a poor substitute for substance. Blather (the oceans haven’t receded in 18 months, I think) is rewarded rather than derided. But as president, what you say actually matters — in wars (the enemy listens to deadlines) and in domestic matters (the markets listen to business-bashing). And what results you obtain in the real world (not the number of enormous bills you jam through on party-line votes) really matter.

You can see why Obama and his party are in a heap of trouble. The question remains whether they will be able after the election to pick themselves up and rescue what remains of his term.

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Shut Up, They Instructed

As I noted yesterday, the totalitarian impulse on the left is all too apparent these days. Their frenzy to silence opposition voices increases in direct proportion to their growing unpopularity and panic over the coming electoral wipeout. They seem to have lost the ability to engage in not only civil debate but in any debate. A case in point:

A private university in Chicago that refuses to host former senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, arguing that welcoming a “political” speaker ahead of the midterm elections could threaten its tax-exempt status, has added an Obama administration appointee to address the student body.

Loyola University Chicago is hosting Eboo Patel, an Obama appointee to the White House interfaith council, next month, calling into question the school’s rationale for rejecting Rove’s appearance.

“The news that Eboo Patel, an appointee of the Obama administration, will be allowed to speak at Loyola University Chicago, while Karl Rove was essentially barred, is further proof that the (university) administration either has zero understanding of tax law or is unabashedly biased,” said Evan Gassman, a spokesman for Young America’s Foundation, a conservative outreach group that was sponsoring the Rove speech.

The university’s rationale is patently contrived, given its past conduct. (“In September 2004, the school hosted Howard Dean, who ran for president that year. A couple of weeks after his speech, political activist Ralph Nader, who also ran for president that year, spoke on campus — a speech that was advertised as a campaign event in which donations were solicited.”) Their speaker-selection “rules” are a facade. The university is quite obviously trying to shield its students from one half of the political discussion.

Now, as a legal matter, a private university can invite whomever it pleases. But the example it is setting for students and faculty alike is about as far from the ideal of a university education as you can get. Academic freedom? A free exchange of ideas? Puhleez.

This incident does, however, perfectly embody the modus operandi of the left these days — disingenuous explanations for shutting down opponents and classification of critics as “political” (in contrast to their own side, which is, they tell us, high-minded and apolitical). It is not the behavior of a self-confident movement anxious to engage and best their intellectual rivals.

As I noted yesterday, the totalitarian impulse on the left is all too apparent these days. Their frenzy to silence opposition voices increases in direct proportion to their growing unpopularity and panic over the coming electoral wipeout. They seem to have lost the ability to engage in not only civil debate but in any debate. A case in point:

A private university in Chicago that refuses to host former senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, arguing that welcoming a “political” speaker ahead of the midterm elections could threaten its tax-exempt status, has added an Obama administration appointee to address the student body.

Loyola University Chicago is hosting Eboo Patel, an Obama appointee to the White House interfaith council, next month, calling into question the school’s rationale for rejecting Rove’s appearance.

“The news that Eboo Patel, an appointee of the Obama administration, will be allowed to speak at Loyola University Chicago, while Karl Rove was essentially barred, is further proof that the (university) administration either has zero understanding of tax law or is unabashedly biased,” said Evan Gassman, a spokesman for Young America’s Foundation, a conservative outreach group that was sponsoring the Rove speech.

The university’s rationale is patently contrived, given its past conduct. (“In September 2004, the school hosted Howard Dean, who ran for president that year. A couple of weeks after his speech, political activist Ralph Nader, who also ran for president that year, spoke on campus — a speech that was advertised as a campaign event in which donations were solicited.”) Their speaker-selection “rules” are a facade. The university is quite obviously trying to shield its students from one half of the political discussion.

Now, as a legal matter, a private university can invite whomever it pleases. But the example it is setting for students and faculty alike is about as far from the ideal of a university education as you can get. Academic freedom? A free exchange of ideas? Puhleez.

This incident does, however, perfectly embody the modus operandi of the left these days — disingenuous explanations for shutting down opponents and classification of critics as “political” (in contrast to their own side, which is, they tell us, high-minded and apolitical). It is not the behavior of a self-confident movement anxious to engage and best their intellectual rivals.

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