Commentary Magazine


Topic: Kirsten Gillibrand

The Impact of Politics on Military Justice

In what many Americans may have seen as an eerie echo of the “House of Cards” television series, last week an effort to change the way sexual assaults of military personnel are prosecuted failed to amass the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. It was an issue on which normal party and ideological lines were completely blurred as Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the primary advocate for the bill, was joined by Republicans such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and opposed by her normal liberal allies like Carl Levin and, more crucially, Claire McCaskill. While Gillibrand claimed that opponents of taking such crimes out of the military chain of command “turned their back” on the survivors of sexual assaults, they responded by saying that this reform might have unintended consequences. One such critic of the bill was Amy Davidson who wrote in The New Yorker last week that this change might actually result in fewer prosecutions of assaults.

 Given the experiences of many rape survivors in the military, Gillibrand’s stand is hard to argue with. While, as Gillibrand has noted, every secretary of defense has enunciated a zero tolerance policy for the past 20 years, the number of assaults continue to rise with many in the military still convinced they have more to lose by speaking up about these crimes than by staying silent. But, as the New York Times’ coverage of a sensational sexual assault case now being tried at Fort Bragg, North Carolina shows, the military’s desire to avoid being labeled as insensitive to this issue may be leading to some poor decisions. The trial of Brigadier General Jeffrey A. Sinclair for sexual assault of a female officer with whom he had an affair illustrates just how messy the nexus between politics and justice can be in the military.

Read More

In what many Americans may have seen as an eerie echo of the “House of Cards” television series, last week an effort to change the way sexual assaults of military personnel are prosecuted failed to amass the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. It was an issue on which normal party and ideological lines were completely blurred as Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the primary advocate for the bill, was joined by Republicans such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and opposed by her normal liberal allies like Carl Levin and, more crucially, Claire McCaskill. While Gillibrand claimed that opponents of taking such crimes out of the military chain of command “turned their back” on the survivors of sexual assaults, they responded by saying that this reform might have unintended consequences. One such critic of the bill was Amy Davidson who wrote in The New Yorker last week that this change might actually result in fewer prosecutions of assaults.

 Given the experiences of many rape survivors in the military, Gillibrand’s stand is hard to argue with. While, as Gillibrand has noted, every secretary of defense has enunciated a zero tolerance policy for the past 20 years, the number of assaults continue to rise with many in the military still convinced they have more to lose by speaking up about these crimes than by staying silent. But, as the New York Times’ coverage of a sensational sexual assault case now being tried at Fort Bragg, North Carolina shows, the military’s desire to avoid being labeled as insensitive to this issue may be leading to some poor decisions. The trial of Brigadier General Jeffrey A. Sinclair for sexual assault of a female officer with whom he had an affair illustrates just how messy the nexus between politics and justice can be in the military.

Davidson made the following argument about why Gillibrand’s reform might backfire:

 Is any involvement by the chain of command in sexual-assault cases a mistake? Gillibrand would say yes—that it’s a conflict of interest. She is disappointed that Obama didn’t put his weight behind her bill now. Many survivors and advocates who have long, painful experience with the workings of the military would agree.

One can fully respect that view and not share it. It’s not just that, as many around the military argue, this is how it works for all sorts of crimes. McCaskill, who has prosecuted sexual-assault cases herself, has argued that, as well-meaning as it sounds, pulling out sexual assault in this way would result in fewer prosecutions. Part of the reasoning is technical and structural: while commanders are motivated by discipline and order (as well as, one hopes, respect for the law and concern for and loyalty to all their troops), prosecutors are often looking for cases that they can win. If it is left up to the prosecutors alone, they might have a more jaundiced view of how a jury would hear a witness than does a commander—again, no longer the unit commander, and no longer alone.

The Sinclair court martial seems to demonstrate the truth of this assertion. Sinclair is accused of coercing a junior office into sexual relations and then threatening her if she told anyone about what had happened. But the chief military prosecutor in the case withdrew from the court martial because he believed the evidence showed that the alleged victim in this case — who acknowledges that she had a three-year affair with Sinclair — had been untruthful and that the most serious charges of assault against the general should be dropped. He was overruled and the case has gone to trial only on those counts since the general has entered a guilty plea on the lesser charges of having an inappropriate relationship. The victim has testified about what she says is the general’s violent behavior and his threats. Sinclair, who was once the deputy commander of U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan and a rising star in the army and whose future in the military is now finished, claims the female officer only accused him of rape after he refused to leave his wife as well as to avoid prosecution herself for adultery after their affair was revealed.

Davidson’s point about experienced prosecutors being reluctant to go to trial without an open-and-shut case seems to be vindicated by what happened here. The military establishment has been rightly excoriated for a lackadaisical approach to sexual assaults as well as a culture of apathy toward the victims. But it may be overcompensating for that here by deciding that the bad press and probable political firestorm that would have resulted from a dismissal of rape charges against a high-ranking officer was far worse than going to trial with a case that seems unlikely to result in a conviction or to be upheld on appeal.

As Davidson writes, previous reforms of the Defense Authorization Act have made it easier for such prosecutions to continue and to take the immediate unit commanders out of the decision since they may be part of the problem. She also argues that the growing number of female officers is creating a better atmosphere in the military for dealing with the problem. However, it may also be that the Sinclair case points out the pitfalls of expecting the military chain-in-command to deal wisely with these issues. Gillibrand rightly worries about officers who want to cover up these crimes or are involved with them being part of the process of victims seeking redress. But by the same token, an army that is worried about being branded as soft on rape may proceed with shaky or unsubstantiated cases that would never be prosecuted in civilian courts.

The more the Times reports about the Sinclair court martial, to which they have devoted a steady stream of articles, the more Gillibrand’s assertion about the military’s incapacity to deal with these cases appears to be justified. Georges Clemenceau, France’s prime minister during World War One famously said that, “military justice is to justice what military music is to music.” The less the soldiers have to do with prosecuting rapes committed in the military, the better it may be for both the victims and the cause of justice.

Read Less

Is Gillibrand Dems’ Best Backup?

If you listen to some Democrats, you’ll walk away thinking the race for their presidential nomination in 2016 will be about as exciting as a matchup between the Super Bowl champions and a team from the Little Sisters of the Poor. Hillary Clinton is not just the favorite to be their next standard-bearer. Those who claim her entry will clear the field of serious challengers are probably right. The odds facing any Democrat who would dare take on the Clinton machine will be long and raising money for such a challenge will not be easy. Having patiently waited her turn after being derailed by Barack Obama in 2008, Clinton is in position to portray any Democrat who stands against her as someone who is attempting to prevent the country from electing its first female president. Clinton will not have as easy a time in the general election, but barring the emergence of another Obama-like phenomenon (something that only happens once in a generation, if that often), it’s hard to envision anyone else as the Democrats’ nominee.

But what happens if Clinton doesn’t run? That would open the field to the likes of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, not to mention Vice President Biden, whose lust for the Oval Office appears to have only grown with his proximity to the top job in the last four years. Yet those who assume that one of those three, or someone like them, will rise to the top are forgetting why all of them were assumed to have no chance against Clinton: they’re widely considered to be duds. So if for some as-yet-unforeseen reason Clinton decides to pass on another “inevitable” race for the presidency, Democrats will be looking around for another choice. And one of them will undoubtedly be the senator that her colleagues dubbed “Tracey Flick” during her introduction to Congress: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Read More

If you listen to some Democrats, you’ll walk away thinking the race for their presidential nomination in 2016 will be about as exciting as a matchup between the Super Bowl champions and a team from the Little Sisters of the Poor. Hillary Clinton is not just the favorite to be their next standard-bearer. Those who claim her entry will clear the field of serious challengers are probably right. The odds facing any Democrat who would dare take on the Clinton machine will be long and raising money for such a challenge will not be easy. Having patiently waited her turn after being derailed by Barack Obama in 2008, Clinton is in position to portray any Democrat who stands against her as someone who is attempting to prevent the country from electing its first female president. Clinton will not have as easy a time in the general election, but barring the emergence of another Obama-like phenomenon (something that only happens once in a generation, if that often), it’s hard to envision anyone else as the Democrats’ nominee.

But what happens if Clinton doesn’t run? That would open the field to the likes of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, not to mention Vice President Biden, whose lust for the Oval Office appears to have only grown with his proximity to the top job in the last four years. Yet those who assume that one of those three, or someone like them, will rise to the top are forgetting why all of them were assumed to have no chance against Clinton: they’re widely considered to be duds. So if for some as-yet-unforeseen reason Clinton decides to pass on another “inevitable” race for the presidency, Democrats will be looking around for another choice. And one of them will undoubtedly be the senator that her colleagues dubbed “Tracey Flick” during her introduction to Congress: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

The comparison of Gillibrand with the protagonist of the scathing 1999 satire “Election” in the feature on her possible candidacy by Politico today is unfair, but it’s not hard to see why the nickname stuck during her early years in Washington. Like the type-A overachiever played in the movie by Reese Witherspoon, Gillibrand is driven, ruthless and charming when she wants to be–not to mention pretty and blond. But while she is still a relative newcomer to the political big leagues and is vulnerable to charges of being a flip-flopper, Gillibrand is perfectly positioned to take up the feminist torch from Clinton. Nor should her potential opponents underestimate her skill in fundraising as well as willingness to take any position she needs to in order to win votes.

Successful presidential candidacies are often the product of good luck, and a Gillibrand run to the nomination would invite comparisons to the runs of both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton had the guts to run in 1992 when more credible Democratic frontrunners (like Andrew Cuomo’s father Mario) didn’t run. Her rise is also reminiscent of Barack Obama’s path to 2008. Obama won an Illinois Senate seat in 2004 largely because the Republican who was assumed to have an easy path to victory was torpedoed by revelations about his divorce. In 2006, Gillibrand faced a double-digit deficit in a long-shot race an upstate New York House race with only a few weeks to go, but won in a walk after newspapers ran stories about her incumbent Republican opponent being involved in a domestic violence incident. A little more than two years after that, she was unexpectedly tapped to replace Clinton in the Senate by former New York Governor David Patterson after the trial balloon floated by Caroline Kennedy crashed and burned.

Gillibrand was a pro-gun moderate in the House, but she was quick to get with the program set for her by mentor Chuck Schumer as she flipped on guns and shifted left on other issues. Some liberals will hold her previous apostasy against her, but if she is the sole woman in the race in 2016, don’t bet on her past deviations from liberal doctrine being an obstacle to lining up solid feminist support. Moreover, her ability to raise money on Wall Street (with Schumer’s backing) will make her a formidable contender in a race in which there will be little ideological diversity.

Anyone who thinks she will listen if told to wait her turn behind fellow New Yorker Cuomo hasn’t followed Gillibrand’s career. Nor is there any reason for her to defer to Biden, who flopped twice as a presidential candidate in the past.

At the moment, there’s no reason to believe Hillary Clinton won’t run for a nomination that is hers for the asking. But if she doesn’t run, Biden, Cuomo and O’Malley should be worrying more about Gillibrand than each other.

Read Less

Does Turner Give the GOP a Chance Against Gillibrand?

The 2010-midterm elections were a historic victory for the Republicans around the country, but New York State was one of the few bright spots for the Democrats. As expected, Andrew Cuomo won a landslide victory in his quest to succeed his father in the governor’s chair, and Chuck Schumer faced only token opposition in his re-election bid. However, the really painful loss for the GOP involved the way they threw away a golden opportunity to knock off Kirsten Gillibrand as the woman appointed by former Governor David Patterson to succeed Hillary Clinton easily won the right to serve out the rest of the secretary of state’s term. Gillibrand was fortunate in that her opponent, Joseph DioGuardi, was the least electable of a not terribly impressive GOP field. Gillibrand was vulnerable due to the way she had transformed herself from a moderate in the House of Representatives to Senate liberal, but she barely broke a sweat as she beat DioGuardi by a 63-35 percent margin.

The question for the all but moribund New York GOP heading into the 2012 election in which Gillibrand is running for a full six-year term was which of the nonentities seeking the right to oppose the senator would get the nod. But the announcement today that Rep. Bob Turner will run should inject some life if not actual hope into the state Republican Party.

Read More

The 2010-midterm elections were a historic victory for the Republicans around the country, but New York State was one of the few bright spots for the Democrats. As expected, Andrew Cuomo won a landslide victory in his quest to succeed his father in the governor’s chair, and Chuck Schumer faced only token opposition in his re-election bid. However, the really painful loss for the GOP involved the way they threw away a golden opportunity to knock off Kirsten Gillibrand as the woman appointed by former Governor David Patterson to succeed Hillary Clinton easily won the right to serve out the rest of the secretary of state’s term. Gillibrand was fortunate in that her opponent, Joseph DioGuardi, was the least electable of a not terribly impressive GOP field. Gillibrand was vulnerable due to the way she had transformed herself from a moderate in the House of Representatives to Senate liberal, but she barely broke a sweat as she beat DioGuardi by a 63-35 percent margin.

The question for the all but moribund New York GOP heading into the 2012 election in which Gillibrand is running for a full six-year term was which of the nonentities seeking the right to oppose the senator would get the nod. But the announcement today that Rep. Bob Turner will run should inject some life if not actual hope into the state Republican Party.

Having won the special election to replace the disgraced Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th congressional district last September, Turner is as close to being a hot political property as it gets for New York Republicans. That victory was a big deal for the GOP in that Turner was able to leverage concern about President Obama’s policy toward Israel in the heavily Jewish 9th into an unprecedented defeat for the Democrats in a district that spreads across the deep blue New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. However, redistricting doomed the 9th, so a rerun of Turner’s successful campaign is unlikely in any of the redrawn districts in the area. So it makes sense for the congressman to try his luck against Gillibrand.

Turner immediately brings more credibility to the table than any of the other Republicans who have stepped forward to join the race. A retired cable television executive, he ran a smart congressional campaign that turned a long shot candidacy into an upset with national implications. He will likely be able to use that success to raise enough money to compete against Gillibrand. But it may be asking a bit too much to think he has more than an outside chance of actually winning the seat.

Though she has demonstrated an unusual capacity for hypocrisy, Gillibrand is a hard worker and a formidable fundraiser. With a built-in advantage in registration and the assumption that President Obama will win New York easily this fall, the odds of any Republican defeating Gillibrand are slim. Nevertheless, if the dead from the neck up state GOP can get its act together and clear the way for Turner to get the nomination, he may be able to make both Gillibrand and the Democrats work harder to keep New York in their column.

Read Less

Small Miracles in Tucson, Arizona

Mike Allen’s Playbook this morning has an incredibly poignant anecdote from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, about their visit with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the hospital yesterday.

While the two lawmakers sat at Giffords’s bedside, they joked about what the three of them would do once she recovered, and Giffords actually began to move in response.

“And the more we joked about what we were going to do, she started to open her eyes literally. And then you have to recognize, her eyes hadn’t opened — we didn’t know that — and so she started to struggle,” said Gillibrand.

Seeing this, Giffords’s husband, Mark, immediately jumped to her side and started urging her to keep her eyes open:

“And one of her eyes is covered with a bandage because it was damaged in the gunfire. So her eye is flickering. And Mark sees this and gets extremely excited. … And so he said, Gabby, open your eyes, open your eyes. And he’s really urging her forward. And the doctor is like perking up and everyone is coming around the bed. And she’s struggling. … And then she finally opens her eyes and you could she was like desperately trying to focus and it took enormous strength from her. And Mark could just — can’t believe it. I mean, he’s so happy. And we’re crying because we’re witnessing something that we never imagined would happen in front of us. And so Mark says, he says — he said, Gabby, if you can see me, give us the thumbs up, give us the thumbs up.”

But instead of giving a thumbs-up sign, Giffords reached out to try to embrace her husband:

“And then she reaches out and starts grabbing Mark and is touching him and starts to nearly choke him — she was clearly trying to hug him. … And we were just in tears of joy watching this and beyond ourselves, honestly. And then Mark said, you know, touch my ring, touch my ring. And she touches his ring and then she grabs his whole watch and wrist. And then the doctor was just so excited. He said, you don’t understand, this is amazing, what’s she’s doing right now, and beyond our greatest hopes.”

Imagine what a tremendous physical exertion it must have been for Giffords to simply raise an arm to touch her husband. She could have remained still, kept her eyes shut, saved the effort. But even this basic act of connecting was worth the struggle.

There has been a lot of talk in recent days about the mindset of the man who put a bullet through Giffords’s head. His friends called him a nihilist who would often ramble about the pointlessness of the world. It’s stories like this one that remind us how false that philosophy is, how even the smallest acts can be full of meaning.

Mike Allen’s Playbook this morning has an incredibly poignant anecdote from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, about their visit with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the hospital yesterday.

While the two lawmakers sat at Giffords’s bedside, they joked about what the three of them would do once she recovered, and Giffords actually began to move in response.

“And the more we joked about what we were going to do, she started to open her eyes literally. And then you have to recognize, her eyes hadn’t opened — we didn’t know that — and so she started to struggle,” said Gillibrand.

Seeing this, Giffords’s husband, Mark, immediately jumped to her side and started urging her to keep her eyes open:

“And one of her eyes is covered with a bandage because it was damaged in the gunfire. So her eye is flickering. And Mark sees this and gets extremely excited. … And so he said, Gabby, open your eyes, open your eyes. And he’s really urging her forward. And the doctor is like perking up and everyone is coming around the bed. And she’s struggling. … And then she finally opens her eyes and you could she was like desperately trying to focus and it took enormous strength from her. And Mark could just — can’t believe it. I mean, he’s so happy. And we’re crying because we’re witnessing something that we never imagined would happen in front of us. And so Mark says, he says — he said, Gabby, if you can see me, give us the thumbs up, give us the thumbs up.”

But instead of giving a thumbs-up sign, Giffords reached out to try to embrace her husband:

“And then she reaches out and starts grabbing Mark and is touching him and starts to nearly choke him — she was clearly trying to hug him. … And we were just in tears of joy watching this and beyond ourselves, honestly. And then Mark said, you know, touch my ring, touch my ring. And she touches his ring and then she grabs his whole watch and wrist. And then the doctor was just so excited. He said, you don’t understand, this is amazing, what’s she’s doing right now, and beyond our greatest hopes.”

Imagine what a tremendous physical exertion it must have been for Giffords to simply raise an arm to touch her husband. She could have remained still, kept her eyes shut, saved the effort. But even this basic act of connecting was worth the struggle.

There has been a lot of talk in recent days about the mindset of the man who put a bullet through Giffords’s head. His friends called him a nihilist who would often ramble about the pointlessness of the world. It’s stories like this one that remind us how false that philosophy is, how even the smallest acts can be full of meaning.

Read Less

No Labels? No Viewers.

Today marks the announcement of the new crusade called No Labels, which is about … well, it’s hard to say what it’s about, except that there’s too much partisanship and polarization and we need to work together to get things done. Various politicians (L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa, N.Y. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former GOP Rep. Tom Davis, and, of course, Michael Bloomberg) are speaking about moving the country forward by finding common ground without vilification.

Do they mean things like … the Iraq war, for which half the Democratic caucus in the Senate voted in 2002? Or the No Child Left Behind Act, probably the most bipartisan piece of legislation of our generation, back in 2001? Or … the TARP bailout in 2008, which had bipartisan support as well? Those votes, and the policies that followed from them, have really done a lot to advance the cause of bipartisanship, no?

Anyway, I’m watching the No Labels webcast. And guess what? At this very moment, as I type, a grand total of 508 people are watching the webcast.

Today marks the announcement of the new crusade called No Labels, which is about … well, it’s hard to say what it’s about, except that there’s too much partisanship and polarization and we need to work together to get things done. Various politicians (L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa, N.Y. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former GOP Rep. Tom Davis, and, of course, Michael Bloomberg) are speaking about moving the country forward by finding common ground without vilification.

Do they mean things like … the Iraq war, for which half the Democratic caucus in the Senate voted in 2002? Or the No Child Left Behind Act, probably the most bipartisan piece of legislation of our generation, back in 2001? Or … the TARP bailout in 2008, which had bipartisan support as well? Those votes, and the policies that followed from them, have really done a lot to advance the cause of bipartisanship, no?

Anyway, I’m watching the No Labels webcast. And guess what? At this very moment, as I type, a grand total of 508 people are watching the webcast.

Read Less

Time to Inspect Syria

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and an impressively bipartisan group of Capitol Hill signatories, just sent a letter to President Obama asking him to urge the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) to “immediately conduct on-site ‘special inspections’ in Syria.” They point out that since an Israeli air strike took out the Dair Alzour nuclear reactor in 2007, the Syrians’ cooperation with the IAEA has been “alarmingly inadequate.” The organization’s director general, Yukia Amano claims that “with the passage of time, some of the necessary information concerning the Dair Alzour site is further deteriorating or has been lost entirely.” There are also unanswered question concerning three other related locations.

This should be a no-brainer for the administration. First, it has bipartisan support—something that’s become so rare it’s almost touchingly quaint. The signatories include Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Edward Markey, and Republicans Jon Kyl and John Ensign.  Obama should move ahead on this and then talk it up as evidence of critical cooperation. Second, urging IAEA special inspections fits in perfectly with Obama’s dream of a nuke-free world via international cooperation. Syria is, after all, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Either international agreements mean something or they do not. In October, the Departments of State and Treasury decided to sanction North Korean parties that provided nuclear-weapons assistance to Syria. (It is believed that North Korea assisted the Syrians with the Dair Alzour project.) The letter is merely asking for enforcement on the other end of that equation. Most important, with a non-deterrable nuclear North Korea antagonizing American allies and an Iran poised to do the same, the administration cannot afford to have another bad actor go nuclear on its watch.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and an impressively bipartisan group of Capitol Hill signatories, just sent a letter to President Obama asking him to urge the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) to “immediately conduct on-site ‘special inspections’ in Syria.” They point out that since an Israeli air strike took out the Dair Alzour nuclear reactor in 2007, the Syrians’ cooperation with the IAEA has been “alarmingly inadequate.” The organization’s director general, Yukia Amano claims that “with the passage of time, some of the necessary information concerning the Dair Alzour site is further deteriorating or has been lost entirely.” There are also unanswered question concerning three other related locations.

This should be a no-brainer for the administration. First, it has bipartisan support—something that’s become so rare it’s almost touchingly quaint. The signatories include Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Edward Markey, and Republicans Jon Kyl and John Ensign.  Obama should move ahead on this and then talk it up as evidence of critical cooperation. Second, urging IAEA special inspections fits in perfectly with Obama’s dream of a nuke-free world via international cooperation. Syria is, after all, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Either international agreements mean something or they do not. In October, the Departments of State and Treasury decided to sanction North Korean parties that provided nuclear-weapons assistance to Syria. (It is believed that North Korea assisted the Syrians with the Dair Alzour project.) The letter is merely asking for enforcement on the other end of that equation. Most important, with a non-deterrable nuclear North Korea antagonizing American allies and an Iran poised to do the same, the administration cannot afford to have another bad actor go nuclear on its watch.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: New York

New York remains deep Blue at the top of the ticket. Both Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand win, as does Andrew Cuomo in the gubernatorial race. But keep your eye on those House seats. The GOP was looking to pick up 4 to 6 seats. However, with the top of the ticket running so poorly, those House Republicans may have a tougher time of it.

New York remains deep Blue at the top of the ticket. Both Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand win, as does Andrew Cuomo in the gubernatorial race. But keep your eye on those House seats. The GOP was looking to pick up 4 to 6 seats. However, with the top of the ticket running so poorly, those House Republicans may have a tougher time of it.

Read Less

Even Angry Voters Want Responsible Leaders

Democrats are, as Jennifer noted, rapidly coming to understand that the proportions of the Republican wave this fall may turn out to swamp not only incumbents in competitive districts but also those once thought safe. Voters have had enough of taxes and spending and deficits and are profoundly dissatisfied with the Obama administration. But even in the midst of what may prove to be an unprecedented midterm tsunami, there are races that will prove that no matter how angry voters may be, there are limits to what they will accept from insurgents seeking their votes.

One obvious example is the unelectable Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. But as frustrating as that lost opportunity for a Senate seat may be for the national GOP, the spectacle of their party’s New York gubernatorial nominee is even more embarrassing.

Carl Paladino won the New York GOP primary over Rick Lazio because he presented a well-funded alternative to a retread that had no pulse and no chance to tap into the vein of voter anger that has generated the Tea Party revolution. Paladino’s bull-in-the-china-shop personality seemed perfectly suited to the 2010 election. The thinking here was that if he could sustain his momentum with attacks on his liberal-establishment opponent in Andrew Cuomo, it was just possible that the real estate mogul could make this Blue State competitive. And some polls taken in September showed that this might be happening.

Yet what this races teaches is that it even angry voters are unprepared to elect a man who is not cool under fire and devoid of judgment as well as what Main Street America used to consider common decency. With the media spotlight shining on him in the aftermath of his stunning primary victory and polls showing him to be closing the gap with Cuomo, Paladino quickly came undone. Reacting to the coverage of the revelations about his fathering an out-of-wedlock child (not all of which was unsympathetic, as the candidate’s wife was trotted out to defend her husband and the notion of a blended, if unorthodox, family group), the nominee physically threatened a reporter and then began to make unsubstantiated charges about his opponent’s personal life.  While trying to pose as the victim of a prurient media, he engaged in personal slanders that made the coverage of his own life look tame. Then he used a speech before an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Brooklyn to make remarks that went beyond opposition to gay marriage and were easily construed as homophobic.

Paladino defends himself as a man who doesn’t bother with political correctness. But the pattern of his behavior in the past few weeks is more of an out-of-control blowhard who has no respect for anyone or anything. The result is that his standing in the polls has plunged, which has also damaged the already shaky chances of GOP Senate candidate Joseph DioGuardi, who is running against the vulnerable Kirsten Gillibrand.

The lesson here is that the electorate expects candidates for high office to more or less behave themselves. Rather than acting like a governor, Paladino has comported himself like the kind of guy who gets thrown out of bars for disorderly behavior. And even angry voters draw the line at electing someone like that to high office.

Democrats are, as Jennifer noted, rapidly coming to understand that the proportions of the Republican wave this fall may turn out to swamp not only incumbents in competitive districts but also those once thought safe. Voters have had enough of taxes and spending and deficits and are profoundly dissatisfied with the Obama administration. But even in the midst of what may prove to be an unprecedented midterm tsunami, there are races that will prove that no matter how angry voters may be, there are limits to what they will accept from insurgents seeking their votes.

One obvious example is the unelectable Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. But as frustrating as that lost opportunity for a Senate seat may be for the national GOP, the spectacle of their party’s New York gubernatorial nominee is even more embarrassing.

Carl Paladino won the New York GOP primary over Rick Lazio because he presented a well-funded alternative to a retread that had no pulse and no chance to tap into the vein of voter anger that has generated the Tea Party revolution. Paladino’s bull-in-the-china-shop personality seemed perfectly suited to the 2010 election. The thinking here was that if he could sustain his momentum with attacks on his liberal-establishment opponent in Andrew Cuomo, it was just possible that the real estate mogul could make this Blue State competitive. And some polls taken in September showed that this might be happening.

Yet what this races teaches is that it even angry voters are unprepared to elect a man who is not cool under fire and devoid of judgment as well as what Main Street America used to consider common decency. With the media spotlight shining on him in the aftermath of his stunning primary victory and polls showing him to be closing the gap with Cuomo, Paladino quickly came undone. Reacting to the coverage of the revelations about his fathering an out-of-wedlock child (not all of which was unsympathetic, as the candidate’s wife was trotted out to defend her husband and the notion of a blended, if unorthodox, family group), the nominee physically threatened a reporter and then began to make unsubstantiated charges about his opponent’s personal life.  While trying to pose as the victim of a prurient media, he engaged in personal slanders that made the coverage of his own life look tame. Then he used a speech before an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Brooklyn to make remarks that went beyond opposition to gay marriage and were easily construed as homophobic.

Paladino defends himself as a man who doesn’t bother with political correctness. But the pattern of his behavior in the past few weeks is more of an out-of-control blowhard who has no respect for anyone or anything. The result is that his standing in the polls has plunged, which has also damaged the already shaky chances of GOP Senate candidate Joseph DioGuardi, who is running against the vulnerable Kirsten Gillibrand.

The lesson here is that the electorate expects candidates for high office to more or less behave themselves. Rather than acting like a governor, Paladino has comported himself like the kind of guy who gets thrown out of bars for disorderly behavior. And even angry voters draw the line at electing someone like that to high office.

Read Less

In Defense of Harry

I’m the last person to defend Harry Reid. But between the mean-spirited, humorless Reid and the mean-spirited, humorless feminists, Harry is my man. Oh, am I allowed to say that? At issue was Reid’s praise (notice the word “praise”) of Kirsten Gillibrand for being the “hottest member of the Senate,” an apparent reference to her inclusion on The Hill’s Most Beautiful List. He also said some other nice things about her. So what do the feminists do?

The shrews high-minded ladies activists are outraged, demanding an apology. In the true spirit of the 1970s, when opening a door or standing up for a lady female would evoke not a smile or an appreciative nod but a cry a determined statement of feminists principles, these gals have nothing better to do than excoriate Reid. One pronounced, “He had a chance to clarify his comments and instead of clarifying it his spokesperson just said, ‘yeah, that’s basically what he meant,’ and in this day and age if that is the way he is going to refer to one of the seventeen women in the Senate, then you know he should just get back on his dinosaur and go back to Nevada and stay there.” Good impulse, bad reason.

This sort of hysterical fit disproportionate response over nothing remotely important is a sign that women have come very far indeed. As they say about academic politics, the feminists’ complaints these days are so bitter because the stakes are so low.

I’m the last person to defend Harry Reid. But between the mean-spirited, humorless Reid and the mean-spirited, humorless feminists, Harry is my man. Oh, am I allowed to say that? At issue was Reid’s praise (notice the word “praise”) of Kirsten Gillibrand for being the “hottest member of the Senate,” an apparent reference to her inclusion on The Hill’s Most Beautiful List. He also said some other nice things about her. So what do the feminists do?

The shrews high-minded ladies activists are outraged, demanding an apology. In the true spirit of the 1970s, when opening a door or standing up for a lady female would evoke not a smile or an appreciative nod but a cry a determined statement of feminists principles, these gals have nothing better to do than excoriate Reid. One pronounced, “He had a chance to clarify his comments and instead of clarifying it his spokesperson just said, ‘yeah, that’s basically what he meant,’ and in this day and age if that is the way he is going to refer to one of the seventeen women in the Senate, then you know he should just get back on his dinosaur and go back to Nevada and stay there.” Good impulse, bad reason.

This sort of hysterical fit disproportionate response over nothing remotely important is a sign that women have come very far indeed. As they say about academic politics, the feminists’ complaints these days are so bitter because the stakes are so low.

Read Less

Gillibrand in Trouble

Listen, the New York Republican Party isn’t exactly a well-oiled machine. Its penchant for supporting bland, unelectable candidates is well known. But the good news for New York conservatives is that the voters don’t pay much attention to the party hacks anymore.

As Jonathan pointed out yesterday, the gubernatorial race is competitive, since the state party’s favorite candidate Rick Lazio was rejected by primary voters. But look at the Senate race. With a virtual unknown Republican opponent, Joe DioGuardi, Kirsten Gillibrand is now in a fight for her political life. Quinnipiac reports that Gillibrand is below 50 percent (the sign of trouble for an incumbent) and leads by only a 48-to-42 percent margin. She trails among independents by a 41-to-42 margin. The Survey USA poll has the race even closer with Gillibrand statistically tied (45 to 44 percent).

So the Republicans could lose Delaware and win New York? Yeah, it’s that kind of year.

Listen, the New York Republican Party isn’t exactly a well-oiled machine. Its penchant for supporting bland, unelectable candidates is well known. But the good news for New York conservatives is that the voters don’t pay much attention to the party hacks anymore.

As Jonathan pointed out yesterday, the gubernatorial race is competitive, since the state party’s favorite candidate Rick Lazio was rejected by primary voters. But look at the Senate race. With a virtual unknown Republican opponent, Joe DioGuardi, Kirsten Gillibrand is now in a fight for her political life. Quinnipiac reports that Gillibrand is below 50 percent (the sign of trouble for an incumbent) and leads by only a 48-to-42 percent margin. She trails among independents by a 41-to-42 margin. The Survey USA poll has the race even closer with Gillibrand statistically tied (45 to 44 percent).

So the Republicans could lose Delaware and win New York? Yeah, it’s that kind of year.

Read Less

Surge for New York GOP Portends National Disaster for Dems

If there were any doubt that politics as usual is out the window this fall, it is confirmed by the latest polls from New York, one of the most reliable Democratic strongholds in the country. New York Democrats have fielded an attractive and popular candidate for governor, Andrew Cuomo, while the state’s Republicans, who are in complete disarray, have put up a wacky though wealthy gadfly to oppose him. And of the two incumbent Democratic senators up for re-election, the one who is most vulnerable to a challenge, Kirsten Gillibrand, has drawn a lackluster opponent. But a funny thing is happening on the way to the Democrats’ November landslide. The polls are showing that the leads held by both Cuomo and Gillibrand are shrinking to the point where it is conceivable that both races could be competitive.

In the governor’s race, both Rasmussen and Quinnipiac show the gap between Cuomo and Carl Paladino to be narrowing. Quinnipiac showed Paladino trailing Cuomo by only six points among likely voters, while Rasmussen reported the Republican down by 16 points. In their previous polls tracking this matchup, the margins were respectively 30- and 29-point leads for Cuomo.

Over at the New York Times, analyst Nate Silver had claimed that these numbers were flawed because they didn’t add Conservative Party candidate Rick Lazio to the mix. But even he admits that the Quinnipiac poll is causing him to reconsider his assumptions about this race. While a more accurate survey would have mentioned Lazio, Silver’s assumption that many New Yorkers would stick with the man who lost the Republican primary last week in a historic landslide despite the backing of almost the entire Republican state establishment is absurd. That the Conservatives, whose original purpose was to hold the state’s liberal Republican party establishment accountable for ignoring the wishes of rank-and-file Republicans, would choose to torpedo a Conservative insurgent like Paladino by sticking with the dead-in-the-water Lazio speaks volumes about their own irrelevance. Far from sabotaging Paladino, as Silver seems to think a Lazio candidacy would, all it might accomplish is to lose the Conservatives their place on the state ballot for the next four years, something that would happen if Lazio got fewer than 50,000 votes in November.

Meanwhile, just as astounding is the Rasmussen poll showing Republican Joseph DioGuardi trailing Gillibrand by only 10 points. Previous surveys had Gillibrand up by anywhere from 15 to 25 points. DioGuardi has little name recognition and even less money. But Gillibrand is so weak that even the former Westchester congressman now must be given a chance, albeit a slim one, to knock her off.

But though liberal writers like Silver are still trying to rationalize the tsunami of voter discontent that is giving a Tea Party favorite like Paladino and a fiscal conservative like DioGuardi a chance, what is happening can no longer be ignored. Both Cuomo and Gillibrand must still be considered strong favorites, but if Republicans are surging in a state like New York, this midterm election may turn out far worse than imagined for the Democrats and the liberal agenda pursued by President Obama. Demonizing the Tea Party and publicizing opposition research about a loose cannon like Paladino may seem like an effective way to stem the GOP tide, but Democrats must understand that the rules have changed. As the New York polls indicate, voter anger about spending, entitlements, and taxes have transformed 2010 from an ordinary midterm correction to what may turn out to be a Republican tidal wave.

If there were any doubt that politics as usual is out the window this fall, it is confirmed by the latest polls from New York, one of the most reliable Democratic strongholds in the country. New York Democrats have fielded an attractive and popular candidate for governor, Andrew Cuomo, while the state’s Republicans, who are in complete disarray, have put up a wacky though wealthy gadfly to oppose him. And of the two incumbent Democratic senators up for re-election, the one who is most vulnerable to a challenge, Kirsten Gillibrand, has drawn a lackluster opponent. But a funny thing is happening on the way to the Democrats’ November landslide. The polls are showing that the leads held by both Cuomo and Gillibrand are shrinking to the point where it is conceivable that both races could be competitive.

In the governor’s race, both Rasmussen and Quinnipiac show the gap between Cuomo and Carl Paladino to be narrowing. Quinnipiac showed Paladino trailing Cuomo by only six points among likely voters, while Rasmussen reported the Republican down by 16 points. In their previous polls tracking this matchup, the margins were respectively 30- and 29-point leads for Cuomo.

Over at the New York Times, analyst Nate Silver had claimed that these numbers were flawed because they didn’t add Conservative Party candidate Rick Lazio to the mix. But even he admits that the Quinnipiac poll is causing him to reconsider his assumptions about this race. While a more accurate survey would have mentioned Lazio, Silver’s assumption that many New Yorkers would stick with the man who lost the Republican primary last week in a historic landslide despite the backing of almost the entire Republican state establishment is absurd. That the Conservatives, whose original purpose was to hold the state’s liberal Republican party establishment accountable for ignoring the wishes of rank-and-file Republicans, would choose to torpedo a Conservative insurgent like Paladino by sticking with the dead-in-the-water Lazio speaks volumes about their own irrelevance. Far from sabotaging Paladino, as Silver seems to think a Lazio candidacy would, all it might accomplish is to lose the Conservatives their place on the state ballot for the next four years, something that would happen if Lazio got fewer than 50,000 votes in November.

Meanwhile, just as astounding is the Rasmussen poll showing Republican Joseph DioGuardi trailing Gillibrand by only 10 points. Previous surveys had Gillibrand up by anywhere from 15 to 25 points. DioGuardi has little name recognition and even less money. But Gillibrand is so weak that even the former Westchester congressman now must be given a chance, albeit a slim one, to knock her off.

But though liberal writers like Silver are still trying to rationalize the tsunami of voter discontent that is giving a Tea Party favorite like Paladino and a fiscal conservative like DioGuardi a chance, what is happening can no longer be ignored. Both Cuomo and Gillibrand must still be considered strong favorites, but if Republicans are surging in a state like New York, this midterm election may turn out far worse than imagined for the Democrats and the liberal agenda pursued by President Obama. Demonizing the Tea Party and publicizing opposition research about a loose cannon like Paladino may seem like an effective way to stem the GOP tide, but Democrats must understand that the rules have changed. As the New York polls indicate, voter anger about spending, entitlements, and taxes have transformed 2010 from an ordinary midterm correction to what may turn out to be a Republican tidal wave.

Read Less

Ummm … Let’s Say It’s a Conservative Dilemma Too!

Politico pronounces: “The debate over the proposed mosque near ground zero, which has tied Democrats in knots, turns out to be just as tricky for their adversaries on the right—particularly those in the tea party.” This is simply nonsense. In a lengthy article, little support is offered for the assertion that the Tea Party movement is tied up in knots, and absolutely none to demonstrate that it is “just as tricky” for Tea Partiers as it is for Democrats (who are engaged in what the media would refer to as a “civil war” if it were the GOP’s problem).

It seems some Tea Partiers think the Ground Zero mosque is not a Tea Party issue (since the movement generally focuses on economic issues). And some don’t. But where’s the evidence that the percentage of opponents is any lower than the voters at large (68 percent) or that a single Tea Party–backed candidate is out of step with the voters? The best the report can do is this on Rand Paul:

On Monday, a spokesman for the Kentucky Senate campaign of Rand Paul, a tea party standard bearer, issued a statement seeming to beg off the issue by invoking states’ rights. “We don’t want New York intervening in our local Kentucky issues,” read the statement from Gary Howard to a Kentucky political blog, “and we don’t look to interfere with New York’s local issues.”

But asked to clarify Paul’s stance, Howard on Tuesday sent POLITICO a statement emphasizing Paul’s personal opposition.

“While this is a local matter that should be decided by the people of New York, Dr. Paul does not support a mosque being built two blocks from ground zero,” Howard said in the statement. “In Dr. Paul’s opinion, the Muslim community would better serve the healing process by making a donation to the memorial fund for the victims of Sept. 11.”

Well, compared with the White House, this is political sophistication of the highest order. And it sure sounds like Paul is handling it better than Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who seem to have gone into a witness protection program to avoid responding to an issue of deep concern to their electorate.

This sort of moral-equivalence reporting is nothing new for the media. Whenever the Democrats are on the rocks, their media fan club strains to concoct the argument that, oh yes, the Democrats’ great misfortune is not the Democrats’ misfortune alone. It’s the same syndrome we see at work when the media insist that the anti-Democratic sentiment sweeping the country is really anti-incumbent sentiment. If you ignore the historic lead for the GOP in congressional generic polling, Obama’s plummeting approval numbers, the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans, and the rise in support for conservative positions, it almost makes sense.

The “conservatives are in trouble too!” reporting is one of the more transparent gambits the media engage in, and the kind of “journalism” that gives false comfort to the objects of their affection. And in the context of the Ground Zero mosque, I’d wager even the Journolist gang would recommend against it.

Politico pronounces: “The debate over the proposed mosque near ground zero, which has tied Democrats in knots, turns out to be just as tricky for their adversaries on the right—particularly those in the tea party.” This is simply nonsense. In a lengthy article, little support is offered for the assertion that the Tea Party movement is tied up in knots, and absolutely none to demonstrate that it is “just as tricky” for Tea Partiers as it is for Democrats (who are engaged in what the media would refer to as a “civil war” if it were the GOP’s problem).

It seems some Tea Partiers think the Ground Zero mosque is not a Tea Party issue (since the movement generally focuses on economic issues). And some don’t. But where’s the evidence that the percentage of opponents is any lower than the voters at large (68 percent) or that a single Tea Party–backed candidate is out of step with the voters? The best the report can do is this on Rand Paul:

On Monday, a spokesman for the Kentucky Senate campaign of Rand Paul, a tea party standard bearer, issued a statement seeming to beg off the issue by invoking states’ rights. “We don’t want New York intervening in our local Kentucky issues,” read the statement from Gary Howard to a Kentucky political blog, “and we don’t look to interfere with New York’s local issues.”

But asked to clarify Paul’s stance, Howard on Tuesday sent POLITICO a statement emphasizing Paul’s personal opposition.

“While this is a local matter that should be decided by the people of New York, Dr. Paul does not support a mosque being built two blocks from ground zero,” Howard said in the statement. “In Dr. Paul’s opinion, the Muslim community would better serve the healing process by making a donation to the memorial fund for the victims of Sept. 11.”

Well, compared with the White House, this is political sophistication of the highest order. And it sure sounds like Paul is handling it better than Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who seem to have gone into a witness protection program to avoid responding to an issue of deep concern to their electorate.

This sort of moral-equivalence reporting is nothing new for the media. Whenever the Democrats are on the rocks, their media fan club strains to concoct the argument that, oh yes, the Democrats’ great misfortune is not the Democrats’ misfortune alone. It’s the same syndrome we see at work when the media insist that the anti-Democratic sentiment sweeping the country is really anti-incumbent sentiment. If you ignore the historic lead for the GOP in congressional generic polling, Obama’s plummeting approval numbers, the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans, and the rise in support for conservative positions, it almost makes sense.

The “conservatives are in trouble too!” reporting is one of the more transparent gambits the media engage in, and the kind of “journalism” that gives false comfort to the objects of their affection. And in the context of the Ground Zero mosque, I’d wager even the Journolist gang would recommend against it.

Read Less

But Where Is Chuck Schumer?

Politico reports that a bunch of New York Democratic congressional candidates are breaking with Obama and urging the Ground Zero mosque go somewhere else. I eagerly await their vilification as “bigots” by the left blogosphere.

But this certainly shines a spotlight on the two Democratic senators. Where are Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand? I don’t think they can get through the next few months — she on the ballot, and he as head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee — without making clear their views.Really, it does sort of undermine the whole “first America” and “second America” construct if everyone, except the elite media and the president, is racing into the second America camp.

Politico reports that a bunch of New York Democratic congressional candidates are breaking with Obama and urging the Ground Zero mosque go somewhere else. I eagerly await their vilification as “bigots” by the left blogosphere.

But this certainly shines a spotlight on the two Democratic senators. Where are Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand? I don’t think they can get through the next few months — she on the ballot, and he as head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee — without making clear their views.Really, it does sort of undermine the whole “first America” and “second America” construct if everyone, except the elite media and the president, is racing into the second America camp.

Read Less

Democrats Fail to Notice the Latest Writing on the Wall

Back in 1884, when Republican presidential standard bearer James G. Blaine sat down in New York for dinner with some of the wealthiest and notorious men in America, including financier Jay Gould, the gathering was widely lampooned in the press as a new version of the Book of Daniel’s Belshazzar’s Feast that preceded the fall of Babylon. The point was that the GOP and its cash-and-carry candidate was so blinded by its alliance with plutocrats that they were unable to read the proverbial writing on the wall. Unfortunately for Blaine, there was no latter-day Daniel available to translate that writing for him, and the scandal-plagued candidate became the first Republican to lose a presidential election in 28 years.

Last night, some 126 years after “Belshazzar Blaine” dined his way into the history books, that corrupt feast of the politically blind was replayed in the Big Apple. Except this time it was the Democrats’ assuming the part of the powerful potentates who care nothing about the rapidly approaching day of political judgment. The 80th-birthday party for embattled Rep. Charles Rangel at the Plaza Hotel drew out the high and the mighty of the New York Democratic Party: Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo all showed up to express solidarity for Rangel despite the numerous ethics violations with which he has been charged. A day after Rangel defiantly harangued the House of Representatives, challenging them to expel him for his pay-to-play shenanigans and tax cheating, the paladins of the party of the people were unashamed to associate themselves with the new poster child for congressional corruption.

Indeed, the most telling moment of the evening may have been before the festivities started when, according to the New York Times, former mayor David Dinkins responded to a heckler outside the hotel (who told him, “You know you are attending a party for a crook”) by giving that citizen the finger.

While the usually more dignified Dinkins was the only attendee who seems to have literally flipped the bird at the voters, it is fair to say that his party’s leaders gave the state the moral equivalent of the finger by backing Rangel’s fundraiser. New York Democrats are apparently so confident of their hold on the state’s highest political offices that they were not worried that the three top names on their ballot in November — Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand — were willing to associate themselves with a left-wing scoundrel so foul that even the New York Times has thrown him overboard. In fact, in an editorial today, the Times noted that Rangel has not only been an embarrassment to his party, but that by bringing up the way he had channeled money to fellow Democrats, he also “drew the curtain back on the money machine that so often trumps ethics” in Washington politics.

If the Republican Party in New York were not an empty shell, then perhaps Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand might have thought twice about honoring Rangel just as his dishonor was becoming a matter of public record. But the rest of the country is a different story. Across the Hudson, most people are rightly viewing Rangel as the symbol of what a joke House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to “drain the GOP swamp” of congressional corruption has become.

As Democrats partied the night away in honor of Charlie last night, it appears they were not interested in hearing any messages from the voters about their coddling of the corrupt. But just as Blaine was, like Belshazzar, “weighed in the balance and found wanting,” Democrats may well look back after November on the night of Rangel’s birthday bash as a date when they refused to read the writing on the wall.

Back in 1884, when Republican presidential standard bearer James G. Blaine sat down in New York for dinner with some of the wealthiest and notorious men in America, including financier Jay Gould, the gathering was widely lampooned in the press as a new version of the Book of Daniel’s Belshazzar’s Feast that preceded the fall of Babylon. The point was that the GOP and its cash-and-carry candidate was so blinded by its alliance with plutocrats that they were unable to read the proverbial writing on the wall. Unfortunately for Blaine, there was no latter-day Daniel available to translate that writing for him, and the scandal-plagued candidate became the first Republican to lose a presidential election in 28 years.

Last night, some 126 years after “Belshazzar Blaine” dined his way into the history books, that corrupt feast of the politically blind was replayed in the Big Apple. Except this time it was the Democrats’ assuming the part of the powerful potentates who care nothing about the rapidly approaching day of political judgment. The 80th-birthday party for embattled Rep. Charles Rangel at the Plaza Hotel drew out the high and the mighty of the New York Democratic Party: Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo all showed up to express solidarity for Rangel despite the numerous ethics violations with which he has been charged. A day after Rangel defiantly harangued the House of Representatives, challenging them to expel him for his pay-to-play shenanigans and tax cheating, the paladins of the party of the people were unashamed to associate themselves with the new poster child for congressional corruption.

Indeed, the most telling moment of the evening may have been before the festivities started when, according to the New York Times, former mayor David Dinkins responded to a heckler outside the hotel (who told him, “You know you are attending a party for a crook”) by giving that citizen the finger.

While the usually more dignified Dinkins was the only attendee who seems to have literally flipped the bird at the voters, it is fair to say that his party’s leaders gave the state the moral equivalent of the finger by backing Rangel’s fundraiser. New York Democrats are apparently so confident of their hold on the state’s highest political offices that they were not worried that the three top names on their ballot in November — Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand — were willing to associate themselves with a left-wing scoundrel so foul that even the New York Times has thrown him overboard. In fact, in an editorial today, the Times noted that Rangel has not only been an embarrassment to his party, but that by bringing up the way he had channeled money to fellow Democrats, he also “drew the curtain back on the money machine that so often trumps ethics” in Washington politics.

If the Republican Party in New York were not an empty shell, then perhaps Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand might have thought twice about honoring Rangel just as his dishonor was becoming a matter of public record. But the rest of the country is a different story. Across the Hudson, most people are rightly viewing Rangel as the symbol of what a joke House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to “drain the GOP swamp” of congressional corruption has become.

As Democrats partied the night away in honor of Charlie last night, it appears they were not interested in hearing any messages from the voters about their coddling of the corrupt. But just as Blaine was, like Belshazzar, “weighed in the balance and found wanting,” Democrats may well look back after November on the night of Rangel’s birthday bash as a date when they refused to read the writing on the wall.

Read Less

Another Competitive Senate Race

This report explains that Patty Murray now has a popular and well-funded challenger in the Washington Senate race: “Two-time Republican gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi will announce, likely Wednesday, that he is challenging three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, sources close to Rossi said Monday. It will mark Rossi’s third statewide run in six years.”

He’s lost two gubernatorial races (in 2004 by only 133 votes, and in 2008 by a much larger margin), but he is well known and is polling close to Murray. (In the last poll, he trails Murray by only four points.)

In order to maximize their options in the Senate races, the GOP must put into play races that usually aren’t — California, New York, and Washington. Two of those will now require that the Democrats expend time and money to keep afloat two of their more liberal senators who have dutifully rubber-stamped Obama’s agenda. New York is the exception — although Kirsten Gillibrand is no rock star, the GOP has yet to field a high-profile and popular candidate. You can’t win, even in the best of political times for your side, without attractive, well-financed, and well-suited candidates. Fortunately for the Republicans, there are many seats where they have precisely that.

This report explains that Patty Murray now has a popular and well-funded challenger in the Washington Senate race: “Two-time Republican gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi will announce, likely Wednesday, that he is challenging three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, sources close to Rossi said Monday. It will mark Rossi’s third statewide run in six years.”

He’s lost two gubernatorial races (in 2004 by only 133 votes, and in 2008 by a much larger margin), but he is well known and is polling close to Murray. (In the last poll, he trails Murray by only four points.)

In order to maximize their options in the Senate races, the GOP must put into play races that usually aren’t — California, New York, and Washington. Two of those will now require that the Democrats expend time and money to keep afloat two of their more liberal senators who have dutifully rubber-stamped Obama’s agenda. New York is the exception — although Kirsten Gillibrand is no rock star, the GOP has yet to field a high-profile and popular candidate. You can’t win, even in the best of political times for your side, without attractive, well-financed, and well-suited candidates. Fortunately for the Republicans, there are many seats where they have precisely that.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Here’s one Jewish organization that’s not mute about Obama’s double standard for the Middle East: “The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged President Barack Obama to hold Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas accountable for a broadcast on PA TV on May 4 and May 7 which called Israelis thieves and advised them to return to Europe & Ethiopia. … Only four days following the second of the two broadcasts of this program by PA TV, President Barack Obama had a telephone conversation with the PA’s Abbas, in which he actually raised the issue of incitement,  but not in reference to this or any other PA act of incitement.”

Here’s one more sign the Democrats are in trouble: “Registered voters who identify themselves as conservatives are significantly more enthusiastic about voting in this fall’s congressional elections than are liberals or moderates. Those who say they are ‘very’ conservative are the most enthusiastic of all, with substantially higher enthusiasm than those who say they are ‘very’ liberal.”

Here’s one deluded liberal: Greg Sargent writes of Richard Blumenthal that “whatever the truth, he insisted with a great deal of conviction that his lapses weren’t intentional. And the evidence so far suggests that in other settings, he didn’t intend to mislead. Perhaps most important, no Dems are cutting and running right now. They seem to have closed ranks behind him. Bottom line: It seems clear he’ll survive. But man, what a colossal train wreck. Don’t do it again, Dick.” So “whatever” the truth, it’s a “train wreck,” but everyone stand by their man!

Here’s one more reason entertainers should just “shut up and sing”: “British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello this week became the latest in a list of stars to cancel performances in Israel as a political protest. … The singer’s withdrawal follows similar moves by other high-profile musicians, including Santana and Gil Scott-Heron.”

Here’s one Democratic incumbent who looks safe: “No major Republican has opted to challenge her, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is comfortably ahead of the three lesser-known GOP hopefuls who’ve announced for this year’s special Senate election in New York.”

Here’s one wild goose chase: “White House seeking missing health care bounce.”

Here’s one more poll showing that Elena Kagan’s nomination isn’t a political winner for Obama: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan spent the past week introducing herself to the Senate and to the nation, but U.S. voters remain evenly divided over whether she should be confirmed for the high court. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% of voters believe Kagan should be confirmed by the Senate, while another 39% say she should not be confirmed.”

Here’s one Jewish organization that’s not mute about Obama’s double standard for the Middle East: “The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged President Barack Obama to hold Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas accountable for a broadcast on PA TV on May 4 and May 7 which called Israelis thieves and advised them to return to Europe & Ethiopia. … Only four days following the second of the two broadcasts of this program by PA TV, President Barack Obama had a telephone conversation with the PA’s Abbas, in which he actually raised the issue of incitement,  but not in reference to this or any other PA act of incitement.”

Here’s one more sign the Democrats are in trouble: “Registered voters who identify themselves as conservatives are significantly more enthusiastic about voting in this fall’s congressional elections than are liberals or moderates. Those who say they are ‘very’ conservative are the most enthusiastic of all, with substantially higher enthusiasm than those who say they are ‘very’ liberal.”

Here’s one deluded liberal: Greg Sargent writes of Richard Blumenthal that “whatever the truth, he insisted with a great deal of conviction that his lapses weren’t intentional. And the evidence so far suggests that in other settings, he didn’t intend to mislead. Perhaps most important, no Dems are cutting and running right now. They seem to have closed ranks behind him. Bottom line: It seems clear he’ll survive. But man, what a colossal train wreck. Don’t do it again, Dick.” So “whatever” the truth, it’s a “train wreck,” but everyone stand by their man!

Here’s one more reason entertainers should just “shut up and sing”: “British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello this week became the latest in a list of stars to cancel performances in Israel as a political protest. … The singer’s withdrawal follows similar moves by other high-profile musicians, including Santana and Gil Scott-Heron.”

Here’s one Democratic incumbent who looks safe: “No major Republican has opted to challenge her, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is comfortably ahead of the three lesser-known GOP hopefuls who’ve announced for this year’s special Senate election in New York.”

Here’s one wild goose chase: “White House seeking missing health care bounce.”

Here’s one more poll showing that Elena Kagan’s nomination isn’t a political winner for Obama: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan spent the past week introducing herself to the Senate and to the nation, but U.S. voters remain evenly divided over whether she should be confirmed for the high court. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% of voters believe Kagan should be confirmed by the Senate, while another 39% say she should not be confirmed.”

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

CATO points out: “When you run down this list of elements in the Obama plan and the Romney plan, they are all identical… Both the Romney plan and the Obama plan are essentially a government takeover of the health care sector of the economy.”

A new poll points to Harry Reid’s vulnerability: “U.S. Sen. Harry Reid must pick up far more support from crossover Republicans and independents to win re-election, according to a new poll that shows him losing to the GOP front-runner in a full-ballot election with eight contenders and a ‘none of these candidates’ option. The survey of Nevada voters commissioned by the Review-Journal shows Reid getting 37 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Republican Sue Lowden, who would win if the election were today, while the slate of third-party and nonpartisan candidates would get slim to no backing.”

Another poll points to an electoral thumping in November for the Democrats: “Republicans have slightly increased their advantage over Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot, from 46-43 last month to 47-42 now.”

Chris Christie points out: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” He seems serious about waging a war on spending, bloated pensions, public unions and regulatory excess.

Rep. Pete King points to Obama’s Israel animus: “No American ally is more trusted or reliable than Israel. Throughout the darkest days of the Cold War, and now in the war against Islamic terrorism, Israel has stood with the United States every step of the way. Israel shares our democratic principles and always has the courage to do what has to be done. The value of this unique alliance has been shared by all our Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike. This is why I strongly believe it has been so wrong for President Obama to continually escalate and publicize his differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is no way to treat such a long-time ally.”

A Senate Republican points out an Obama nominee’s non-judicial temperament: “A top Senate Republican hammered liberal law professor Goodwin Liu’s writings as ‘vicious, emotionally and racially charged’ at his confirmation hearing Friday – igniting the first real test of whether Republicans will be able to block the most controversial of President Barack Obama’s lower court judicial nominees. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) slammed Liu’s testimony against Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.” This same nominee “forgot” to submit over a hundred documents.

A new survey points to an uneven economy recovery: “U.S. consumer sentiment took a surprise negative turn in early April due to a persistently grim outlook on income and jobs, a private survey released on Friday showed. A slip in economic expectations to its lowest in a year likely stemmed from consumers hearing negative information on government programs and a perception that the recovery is too slow, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers. … The surveys’ overall index on consumer sentiments slipped to 69.5 in early April — the lowest in five months. This was below the 73.6 reading seen at the end of March and the 75.0 median forecast of analysts polled by Reuters.”

Ben Smith points to inconvenient facts for New York Democrats: “A few weeks before playing a central role in fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, hedge fund titan John Paulson invited colleagues to a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Schumer — ‘one of the few members of Congress that has consistently supported the hedge fund industry’ — according to a copy of the invitation… Schumer is credited by some with helping to kill a Democratic push to tax carried interest, which would have put a dent in the massive earnings of a small number of ultra-wealthy money managers. With Goldman, and perhaps Paulson, in the SEC’s sights, some of the taint may rub off on their allies — and both of New York’s senators are among them. Schumer’s junior colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, is the single top recipient of contributions from Goldman Sachs employees.”

The Wall Street Journal editors point out there’s no meeting of the minds on the START deal: “Signed with some pomp last week in Prague, the pact with Russia makes modest reductions to the number of strategic warheads and delivery systems. Though those cuts are worth a close look, we’re much more concerned with the impact that new START will have on America’s ability to develop and deploy the best missile defenses available. Starting with the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, the Kremlin has sought to tie America’s hands on missile defense. The Kremlin says that this is precisely what it has negotiated with START. The Administration says it didn’t. They can’t both be right.”

CATO points out: “When you run down this list of elements in the Obama plan and the Romney plan, they are all identical… Both the Romney plan and the Obama plan are essentially a government takeover of the health care sector of the economy.”

A new poll points to Harry Reid’s vulnerability: “U.S. Sen. Harry Reid must pick up far more support from crossover Republicans and independents to win re-election, according to a new poll that shows him losing to the GOP front-runner in a full-ballot election with eight contenders and a ‘none of these candidates’ option. The survey of Nevada voters commissioned by the Review-Journal shows Reid getting 37 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Republican Sue Lowden, who would win if the election were today, while the slate of third-party and nonpartisan candidates would get slim to no backing.”

Another poll points to an electoral thumping in November for the Democrats: “Republicans have slightly increased their advantage over Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot, from 46-43 last month to 47-42 now.”

Chris Christie points out: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” He seems serious about waging a war on spending, bloated pensions, public unions and regulatory excess.

Rep. Pete King points to Obama’s Israel animus: “No American ally is more trusted or reliable than Israel. Throughout the darkest days of the Cold War, and now in the war against Islamic terrorism, Israel has stood with the United States every step of the way. Israel shares our democratic principles and always has the courage to do what has to be done. The value of this unique alliance has been shared by all our Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike. This is why I strongly believe it has been so wrong for President Obama to continually escalate and publicize his differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is no way to treat such a long-time ally.”

A Senate Republican points out an Obama nominee’s non-judicial temperament: “A top Senate Republican hammered liberal law professor Goodwin Liu’s writings as ‘vicious, emotionally and racially charged’ at his confirmation hearing Friday – igniting the first real test of whether Republicans will be able to block the most controversial of President Barack Obama’s lower court judicial nominees. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) slammed Liu’s testimony against Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.” This same nominee “forgot” to submit over a hundred documents.

A new survey points to an uneven economy recovery: “U.S. consumer sentiment took a surprise negative turn in early April due to a persistently grim outlook on income and jobs, a private survey released on Friday showed. A slip in economic expectations to its lowest in a year likely stemmed from consumers hearing negative information on government programs and a perception that the recovery is too slow, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers. … The surveys’ overall index on consumer sentiments slipped to 69.5 in early April — the lowest in five months. This was below the 73.6 reading seen at the end of March and the 75.0 median forecast of analysts polled by Reuters.”

Ben Smith points to inconvenient facts for New York Democrats: “A few weeks before playing a central role in fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, hedge fund titan John Paulson invited colleagues to a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Schumer — ‘one of the few members of Congress that has consistently supported the hedge fund industry’ — according to a copy of the invitation… Schumer is credited by some with helping to kill a Democratic push to tax carried interest, which would have put a dent in the massive earnings of a small number of ultra-wealthy money managers. With Goldman, and perhaps Paulson, in the SEC’s sights, some of the taint may rub off on their allies — and both of New York’s senators are among them. Schumer’s junior colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, is the single top recipient of contributions from Goldman Sachs employees.”

The Wall Street Journal editors point out there’s no meeting of the minds on the START deal: “Signed with some pomp last week in Prague, the pact with Russia makes modest reductions to the number of strategic warheads and delivery systems. Though those cuts are worth a close look, we’re much more concerned with the impact that new START will have on America’s ability to develop and deploy the best missile defenses available. Starting with the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, the Kremlin has sought to tie America’s hands on missile defense. The Kremlin says that this is precisely what it has negotiated with START. The Administration says it didn’t. They can’t both be right.”

Read Less

Congress Objects to Obami’s Israel and Iran Policies

Seventy-six senators have joined in a letter, backed by AIPAC, to Hillary Clinton asking that the Obama administration knock off its Jerusalem onslaught and focus attention on Palestinian rejectionism. They write:

We write to urge you to do everything possible to ensure that the recent tensions between the U.S. and Israeli administrations over the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem do not derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S.-Israel relations. In fact, we strongly believe that it is more important than ever for Israel and the Palestinians to enter into direct, face-to-face negotiations without preconditions on either side.

Despite your best efforts, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been frozen for over a year. Indeed, in a reversal of 16 years of policy, Palestinian leaders are refusing to enter into direct negotiations with Israel. Instead, they have put forward a growing list of unprecedented preconditions. By contrast, Israel’s prime minister stated categorically that he is eager to begin unconditional peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Direct negotiations are in the interest of all parties involved — including the United States.

They want Hillary to reaffirm the “unbreakable bonds” between the two countries and remind the administration that “differences are best resolved amicably and in a manner that befits longstanding strategic allies.” It is noteworthy who signed and who did not. Chuck Schumer, who gave a rousing speech at AIPAC but recently ducked an incisive inquiry on the Obami policy, signed on, as did some Democrats up for re-election, including Barbara Boxer, Arlen Specter, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Who’s missing? The Democratic leadership: Harry Reid, Richard Durbin, veteran senators Diane Feinstein and Chris Dodd, and unofficial secretary of state John Kerry. The five apparently are still in the business of running interference for the administration.

Now, the letter could have been more pointed, calling attention to the administration’s “condemnation” of Israel and objecting to the prospect of an “imposed” settlement agreement. Yes, the White House and some key, dutiful congressional allies remain seemingly impervious to the harm inflicted on the U.S.-Israeli relationship, and in turn on the credibility and standing of the U.S.. Nevertheless, this is a hopeful sign that there is broad opposition to the Obami’s anti-Israel gambit. Perhaps before it is too late we’ll hear a definitive and clear renunciation — a condemnation! — of the idea of an imposed settlement deal.

Meanwhile, steam is also gathering on both the House and Senate sides to move forward with an Iran sanctions bill. Later today, Reps. Mike Pence and Jesse Jackson, Jr. are scheduled to hold a presser to introduce a letter advocating that “punishing sanctions” be imposed on the Iranian regime. Again, the Obami policy — thin-gruel sanctions that Obama proclaims are “no magic wand” to halting the Iranians’ nuclear program — seems to lack the confidence of a broad bipartisan group of lawmakers. We’ll see if the administration is amenable to pressure from them. So far, it’s been immune to public or congressional objections in its effort to reorient American Middle East policy. It remains to be seen whether the gang whose solution to opposition is usually “double-down!” will relent in its assault against Israel and rev up its efforts to prevent Iran from realizing its nuclear ambitions.

Seventy-six senators have joined in a letter, backed by AIPAC, to Hillary Clinton asking that the Obama administration knock off its Jerusalem onslaught and focus attention on Palestinian rejectionism. They write:

We write to urge you to do everything possible to ensure that the recent tensions between the U.S. and Israeli administrations over the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem do not derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S.-Israel relations. In fact, we strongly believe that it is more important than ever for Israel and the Palestinians to enter into direct, face-to-face negotiations without preconditions on either side.

Despite your best efforts, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been frozen for over a year. Indeed, in a reversal of 16 years of policy, Palestinian leaders are refusing to enter into direct negotiations with Israel. Instead, they have put forward a growing list of unprecedented preconditions. By contrast, Israel’s prime minister stated categorically that he is eager to begin unconditional peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Direct negotiations are in the interest of all parties involved — including the United States.

They want Hillary to reaffirm the “unbreakable bonds” between the two countries and remind the administration that “differences are best resolved amicably and in a manner that befits longstanding strategic allies.” It is noteworthy who signed and who did not. Chuck Schumer, who gave a rousing speech at AIPAC but recently ducked an incisive inquiry on the Obami policy, signed on, as did some Democrats up for re-election, including Barbara Boxer, Arlen Specter, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Who’s missing? The Democratic leadership: Harry Reid, Richard Durbin, veteran senators Diane Feinstein and Chris Dodd, and unofficial secretary of state John Kerry. The five apparently are still in the business of running interference for the administration.

Now, the letter could have been more pointed, calling attention to the administration’s “condemnation” of Israel and objecting to the prospect of an “imposed” settlement agreement. Yes, the White House and some key, dutiful congressional allies remain seemingly impervious to the harm inflicted on the U.S.-Israeli relationship, and in turn on the credibility and standing of the U.S.. Nevertheless, this is a hopeful sign that there is broad opposition to the Obami’s anti-Israel gambit. Perhaps before it is too late we’ll hear a definitive and clear renunciation — a condemnation! — of the idea of an imposed settlement deal.

Meanwhile, steam is also gathering on both the House and Senate sides to move forward with an Iran sanctions bill. Later today, Reps. Mike Pence and Jesse Jackson, Jr. are scheduled to hold a presser to introduce a letter advocating that “punishing sanctions” be imposed on the Iranian regime. Again, the Obami policy — thin-gruel sanctions that Obama proclaims are “no magic wand” to halting the Iranians’ nuclear program — seems to lack the confidence of a broad bipartisan group of lawmakers. We’ll see if the administration is amenable to pressure from them. So far, it’s been immune to public or congressional objections in its effort to reorient American Middle East policy. It remains to be seen whether the gang whose solution to opposition is usually “double-down!” will relent in its assault against Israel and rev up its efforts to prevent Iran from realizing its nuclear ambitions.

Read Less

What’s in It?

Kim Strassel explains that the horde of amendments that Republicans offered during the reconciliation process helped smoke out exactly what Democrats were for and against:

Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) offered language to bar the government from subsidizing erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted pedophiles and rapists. Democrats voted. … No! Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) proposed exempting wounded soldiers from the new tax on medical devices. Democrats: No way! Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) wanted to exempt critical access rural hospitals from funding cuts. Senate Democrats: Forget it! This was Republicans’ opportunity to lay out every ugly provision and consequence of ObamaCare, and Democrats — because of the process they’d chosen — had to defend it all.

And so it went, into the wee Thursday hours. All Democrats in favor of taxing pacemakers? Aye! All Democrats in favor of keeping those seedy vote buyoffs? Aye! All Democrats in favor of raising taxes on middle-income families? Aye! All Democrats in favor of exempting themselves from elements of ObamaCare? Aye! All Democrats in favor of roasting small children in Aga ovens? (Okay, I made that one up, but you get the point.) Aye!

Democrats were miffed, and none more so than the Democrats on the ballot who can see the campaign ads that are sure to follow:

The record now shows that Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln is on board with higher premiums, that Colorado’s Michael Bennet is good to go with gutting Medicare Advantage, that Nevada’s Harry Reid is just fine with rationing, that New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand is cool with taxes on investment income, that California’s Barbara Boxer is right-o with employer mandates, and that Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter is willing to strip his home state of the right to opt out of the health law.

Democrats insist that the public will be enamored of the bill once they learn what is in it. But the reaction to the amendment flurry suggests otherwise. Democratic leaders were none too pleased to see the component parts of the bill laid bare. Indeed, Democrats seem delighted by the idea of ObamaCare but a lot less thrilled with defending each of its elements. In that regard, the debate – which will now absorb the country and explore the contents of the mammoth deal — may prove distasteful to those who must face their constituents and explain the consequences to employers and ordinary voters. Those leading the “repeal and replace!” charge would do well to highlight the gap between the “historic” happy talk and the grubby details.

Kim Strassel explains that the horde of amendments that Republicans offered during the reconciliation process helped smoke out exactly what Democrats were for and against:

Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) offered language to bar the government from subsidizing erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted pedophiles and rapists. Democrats voted. … No! Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) proposed exempting wounded soldiers from the new tax on medical devices. Democrats: No way! Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) wanted to exempt critical access rural hospitals from funding cuts. Senate Democrats: Forget it! This was Republicans’ opportunity to lay out every ugly provision and consequence of ObamaCare, and Democrats — because of the process they’d chosen — had to defend it all.

And so it went, into the wee Thursday hours. All Democrats in favor of taxing pacemakers? Aye! All Democrats in favor of keeping those seedy vote buyoffs? Aye! All Democrats in favor of raising taxes on middle-income families? Aye! All Democrats in favor of exempting themselves from elements of ObamaCare? Aye! All Democrats in favor of roasting small children in Aga ovens? (Okay, I made that one up, but you get the point.) Aye!

Democrats were miffed, and none more so than the Democrats on the ballot who can see the campaign ads that are sure to follow:

The record now shows that Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln is on board with higher premiums, that Colorado’s Michael Bennet is good to go with gutting Medicare Advantage, that Nevada’s Harry Reid is just fine with rationing, that New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand is cool with taxes on investment income, that California’s Barbara Boxer is right-o with employer mandates, and that Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter is willing to strip his home state of the right to opt out of the health law.

Democrats insist that the public will be enamored of the bill once they learn what is in it. But the reaction to the amendment flurry suggests otherwise. Democratic leaders were none too pleased to see the component parts of the bill laid bare. Indeed, Democrats seem delighted by the idea of ObamaCare but a lot less thrilled with defending each of its elements. In that regard, the debate – which will now absorb the country and explore the contents of the mammoth deal — may prove distasteful to those who must face their constituents and explain the consequences to employers and ordinary voters. Those leading the “repeal and replace!” charge would do well to highlight the gap between the “historic” happy talk and the grubby details.

Read Less

The Climb-Down?

Perhaps a mini climb-down has begun by the Obami. After all, they encountered a “firestorm” of criticism from Jewish groups and a bipartisan selection (although many more Republicans) of elected officials and candidates. Rep. Steve Israel is the latest Democrat to weigh in, declaring: “Israel is a close friend and ally and our relationship is based on mutual interests and benefits. We need to reaffirm the American-Israeli relationship as Vice President Biden did at Tel Aviv University last week. The Administration, to the extent that it has disagreements with Israel on policy matters, should find way to do so in private and do what they can to defuse this situation.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand issued a more mild statement, but one expressing concern nevertheless: “The close bond between the United States and Israel remains unbreakable, and America will continue to show unyielding support for Israel’s security. While the timing of the East Jerusalem housing announcement was regrettable, it must not cloud the most critical foreign policy issue facing both counties — Iran’s nuclear threat. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I am focused on strengthening international pressure on Iran’s regime to derail its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Republican Tom Price also issued a stern statement imploring Obama to stop “condemning our allies and started aggressively cracking down on those who sponsor terrorist groups and are ruthlessly pursuing nuclear weapons.”

So maybe someone in the administration took all that in and decided that allowing David Axelrod to play Chicago bully on the Sunday talk shows was not a good idea. As this report explains:

The Obama administration pledged Monday that Israel remained a US ally as congressional rivals rallied behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a feud over the construction of settlements. …

“Israel is a strategic ally of the US and will continue to be so,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. “Our commitment to Israel’s security remains unshakeable.”

He also declined to comment on Netanyahu’s remarks to his Likud Party that construction would go ahead, saying that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was waiting for a “formal” reply to a tense telephone call on Friday.

“When she outlined what she thought appropriate actions would be to the prime minister, she asked for a response by the Israeli government. We wait for the response,” Crowley said.

Without prompting from reporters, Crowley criticized unnamed Palestinians for their remarks on Israel’s reopening of a landmark synagogue in Jerusalem’s walled Old City that had been destroyed in fighting 62 years ago.

Message received? Well, if so, then who’s running our Middle East policy and how did things escalate to this level? Certainly, a climb-down is preferable to continued escalation, but after a week of this, the Obami amateur hour leaves Israel, the Palestinians, Obama’s domestic supporters, the American Jewish community, and every nation looking on (some with horror, others with delight) baffled. If there is a game plan here or a set of permanent concerns and interests at play, it’s hard to discern. In the feckless and reckless Obama foreign policy, uncertainty is the order of the day. Allies should be forewarned: they may be on thin ice at any time. And our foes? Well, they must marvel that the U.S. is so cavalier with its friends and so willing to adopt the rhetoric and positions of its enemies. And for those nations on the fence, why would they have confidence in the U.S. administration? Being a “friend” of the U.S. is a dicey business these days.

Perhaps a mini climb-down has begun by the Obami. After all, they encountered a “firestorm” of criticism from Jewish groups and a bipartisan selection (although many more Republicans) of elected officials and candidates. Rep. Steve Israel is the latest Democrat to weigh in, declaring: “Israel is a close friend and ally and our relationship is based on mutual interests and benefits. We need to reaffirm the American-Israeli relationship as Vice President Biden did at Tel Aviv University last week. The Administration, to the extent that it has disagreements with Israel on policy matters, should find way to do so in private and do what they can to defuse this situation.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand issued a more mild statement, but one expressing concern nevertheless: “The close bond between the United States and Israel remains unbreakable, and America will continue to show unyielding support for Israel’s security. While the timing of the East Jerusalem housing announcement was regrettable, it must not cloud the most critical foreign policy issue facing both counties — Iran’s nuclear threat. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I am focused on strengthening international pressure on Iran’s regime to derail its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Republican Tom Price also issued a stern statement imploring Obama to stop “condemning our allies and started aggressively cracking down on those who sponsor terrorist groups and are ruthlessly pursuing nuclear weapons.”

So maybe someone in the administration took all that in and decided that allowing David Axelrod to play Chicago bully on the Sunday talk shows was not a good idea. As this report explains:

The Obama administration pledged Monday that Israel remained a US ally as congressional rivals rallied behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a feud over the construction of settlements. …

“Israel is a strategic ally of the US and will continue to be so,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. “Our commitment to Israel’s security remains unshakeable.”

He also declined to comment on Netanyahu’s remarks to his Likud Party that construction would go ahead, saying that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was waiting for a “formal” reply to a tense telephone call on Friday.

“When she outlined what she thought appropriate actions would be to the prime minister, she asked for a response by the Israeli government. We wait for the response,” Crowley said.

Without prompting from reporters, Crowley criticized unnamed Palestinians for their remarks on Israel’s reopening of a landmark synagogue in Jerusalem’s walled Old City that had been destroyed in fighting 62 years ago.

Message received? Well, if so, then who’s running our Middle East policy and how did things escalate to this level? Certainly, a climb-down is preferable to continued escalation, but after a week of this, the Obami amateur hour leaves Israel, the Palestinians, Obama’s domestic supporters, the American Jewish community, and every nation looking on (some with horror, others with delight) baffled. If there is a game plan here or a set of permanent concerns and interests at play, it’s hard to discern. In the feckless and reckless Obama foreign policy, uncertainty is the order of the day. Allies should be forewarned: they may be on thin ice at any time. And our foes? Well, they must marvel that the U.S. is so cavalier with its friends and so willing to adopt the rhetoric and positions of its enemies. And for those nations on the fence, why would they have confidence in the U.S. administration? Being a “friend” of the U.S. is a dicey business these days.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.