Commentary Magazine


Topic: Kirsten Gillibrand

The Civil War

The media and liberal punditocracy has been searching for a civil war on the Right. Tea Party protestors vs. the GOP! Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist! But the divide isn’t really as significant as the Left would hope, and the primary fights on the GOP side, far from being a bloodbath, look rather tame (and in Florida, one-sided). There really is a fight breaking out — but it’s in the Democratic Party. Politico reports:

With Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s announcement Monday that he will run against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Senate Democrats now have three colleagues facing serious primary challenges from candidates embracing distinctly anti-Washington platforms at a time when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress…. In Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak is battling White House-backed Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak has criticized the party establishment for supporting a party-switcher and for focusing too much on the political calculus of adding another Democratic Senate vote.

“The Real Arlen Specter has been a longtime Republican for 45 years and has spent the past 29 years in Washington, D.C.,” reads a website Sestak’s campaign launched, titled “The Real Arlen Specter.”

In Colorado, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, has gone so far as to denounce his own party for failing to denounce backroom deal making in health care reform negotiations. In New York, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. branded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a “parakeet” for party higher-ups before announcing Monday he wasn’t running.

Rather civil war-like, I would say. And then there is the fight over reconciliation, if we ever get that far. Roll Call reports: “Knowledgeable Senate Democratic aides have warned for weeks of the difficulty of drafting a complex health care reform bill under reconciliation rules. The challenge is to construct legislation that can satisfy Democrats, withstand Republican resistance and pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian.” But the leadership is pressing on, despite the objections of prominent Democrats like Sen. Kent Conrad.

In the short term, the primary challengers on the Left will likely jerk the besieged Democrats even further Leftward in an effort to survive their primaries. But that then leaves the playing field wide open for Republican contenders to appeal to the Center-Right majority, the very voters inflamed by the Obami’s extremist agenda.

It is the very tale the Left was pushing, but in reverse. Now it is the Democrats, beset by internal divides and ideological extremism, who are heading for a smash-up.  It is what Obama has wrought, not so long after he promised to bring us into a great post-partisan era. It seems he has instead stirred up quite a fight, in his own party no less.

The media and liberal punditocracy has been searching for a civil war on the Right. Tea Party protestors vs. the GOP! Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist! But the divide isn’t really as significant as the Left would hope, and the primary fights on the GOP side, far from being a bloodbath, look rather tame (and in Florida, one-sided). There really is a fight breaking out — but it’s in the Democratic Party. Politico reports:

With Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s announcement Monday that he will run against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Senate Democrats now have three colleagues facing serious primary challenges from candidates embracing distinctly anti-Washington platforms at a time when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress…. In Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak is battling White House-backed Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak has criticized the party establishment for supporting a party-switcher and for focusing too much on the political calculus of adding another Democratic Senate vote.

“The Real Arlen Specter has been a longtime Republican for 45 years and has spent the past 29 years in Washington, D.C.,” reads a website Sestak’s campaign launched, titled “The Real Arlen Specter.”

In Colorado, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, has gone so far as to denounce his own party for failing to denounce backroom deal making in health care reform negotiations. In New York, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. branded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a “parakeet” for party higher-ups before announcing Monday he wasn’t running.

Rather civil war-like, I would say. And then there is the fight over reconciliation, if we ever get that far. Roll Call reports: “Knowledgeable Senate Democratic aides have warned for weeks of the difficulty of drafting a complex health care reform bill under reconciliation rules. The challenge is to construct legislation that can satisfy Democrats, withstand Republican resistance and pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian.” But the leadership is pressing on, despite the objections of prominent Democrats like Sen. Kent Conrad.

In the short term, the primary challengers on the Left will likely jerk the besieged Democrats even further Leftward in an effort to survive their primaries. But that then leaves the playing field wide open for Republican contenders to appeal to the Center-Right majority, the very voters inflamed by the Obami’s extremist agenda.

It is the very tale the Left was pushing, but in reverse. Now it is the Democrats, beset by internal divides and ideological extremism, who are heading for a smash-up.  It is what Obama has wrought, not so long after he promised to bring us into a great post-partisan era. It seems he has instead stirred up quite a fight, in his own party no less.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Democrats  get fingered, again, as much less supportive of Israel than Republicans and Independents. Thankfully, however, overall support for Israel is up, “Which should be a comfort to supporters of the Jewish State, who have felt an icy breeze wafting from the White House over the past year.” Still it does reraise the question, given Jews’ overwhelming identification as Democrats: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

The Climategate participants get fingered, again, for playing fast and loose with the facts. “The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department’s new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject. … [A] climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with [newly appointed Thomas] Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the [UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's] most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.”

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett get fingered, again, as flacks for the Iranian regime. (“The Leveretts’ sensitivity to suggestions they are in touch with Revolutionary Guards representatives is especially curious given that that Flynt Leverett has in the past boasted of his contacts with the Guards.”) And Lee Smith smartly concludes that “Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran has gone nowhere, and true believers are dropping by the wayside. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is calling for regime change, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reviving a promise from her own presidential campaign to extend a nuclear umbrella to protect Washington’s allies in the Persian Gulf. … The United States must stop the Iranians by any means necessary, and it must do so now.”

Barack Obama gets fingered, again, as a hypocrite. In 2005, he said: “You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward.”

Sen. Arlen Specter  gets fingered, again, in a poll for defeat. Pat Toomey leads by 10 points in a potential general-election match-up.

Eric Holder gets fingered, again, by Andy McCarthy: “Their typical scandal pattern is: (a) make bold pronouncements about unprecedented transparency, (b) show a little leg, and then (c) stonewall, after which (d) White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel assures some friendly journalist that everything would have been different if only they’d have listened to him. The result is the trifecta: the administration ends up looking hypocritical, sinister and incompetent.”

Nancy Pelosi gets fingered, again, for lacking the votes for ObamaCare II: “There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday. Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion rights Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber’s legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill. … In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) accused [Eric] Cantor of ‘playing games’ but did not say whether House Democrats have the votes to pass the president’s fixes.”

Kirsten Gillibrand gets fingered, again, as a vulnerable Democrat. The newest potential challenger is Dan Senor, foreign-policy guru and co-author of  Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.

Democrats  get fingered, again, as much less supportive of Israel than Republicans and Independents. Thankfully, however, overall support for Israel is up, “Which should be a comfort to supporters of the Jewish State, who have felt an icy breeze wafting from the White House over the past year.” Still it does reraise the question, given Jews’ overwhelming identification as Democrats: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

The Climategate participants get fingered, again, for playing fast and loose with the facts. “The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department’s new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject. … [A] climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with [newly appointed Thomas] Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the [UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's] most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.”

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett get fingered, again, as flacks for the Iranian regime. (“The Leveretts’ sensitivity to suggestions they are in touch with Revolutionary Guards representatives is especially curious given that that Flynt Leverett has in the past boasted of his contacts with the Guards.”) And Lee Smith smartly concludes that “Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran has gone nowhere, and true believers are dropping by the wayside. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is calling for regime change, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reviving a promise from her own presidential campaign to extend a nuclear umbrella to protect Washington’s allies in the Persian Gulf. … The United States must stop the Iranians by any means necessary, and it must do so now.”

Barack Obama gets fingered, again, as a hypocrite. In 2005, he said: “You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward.”

Sen. Arlen Specter  gets fingered, again, in a poll for defeat. Pat Toomey leads by 10 points in a potential general-election match-up.

Eric Holder gets fingered, again, by Andy McCarthy: “Their typical scandal pattern is: (a) make bold pronouncements about unprecedented transparency, (b) show a little leg, and then (c) stonewall, after which (d) White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel assures some friendly journalist that everything would have been different if only they’d have listened to him. The result is the trifecta: the administration ends up looking hypocritical, sinister and incompetent.”

Nancy Pelosi gets fingered, again, for lacking the votes for ObamaCare II: “There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday. Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion rights Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber’s legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill. … In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) accused [Eric] Cantor of ‘playing games’ but did not say whether House Democrats have the votes to pass the president’s fixes.”

Kirsten Gillibrand gets fingered, again, as a vulnerable Democrat. The newest potential challenger is Dan Senor, foreign-policy guru and co-author of  Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.

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Are Democrats Cooked?

The Cook Political Report explains (subscription required):

Now that Bayh’s seat is open, we moved the race from the Lean Democratic to the Lean Republican column. As a result, we now rate eight Democratic-held seats either in the Toss Up column, or tilting in varying degrees toward Republicans. The open seat in North Dakota where Sen. Byron Dorgan is retiring is in the Solid Republican column as Democrats struggle to recruit a candidate who can compete with popular GOP Gov. John Hoeven. The open seat in Delaware, which is a special election to finish the remainder of Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate term, is now in the Likely Republican column. There are five Democratic-held seats in the Toss Up column: Sens. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, Michael Bennet in Colorado, Harry Reid in Nevada, and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, as well as the open seat in Illinois. Sen. Barbara Boxer in California and the open seat in Connecticut are in the Lean Democratic column, bringing the total to 10 seats.

Getting to 10 and flipping control of the Senate is a bit dicier, and Cook cautions that to do that, Republicans would have to put more seats in play, avoid flaky primary choices who won’t play well in the general races, improve fundraising, and maintain the political momentum they’ve been building. The bottom line: “For now, while it is theoretically possible for Republicans to gain the 10 seats they need to win a majority, it remains a very difficult task.”

With so many seats in play, the question remains how this will affect Senate Democrats in the run-up to the November elections. If Obama has his way, they’ll double down and push through his agenda. But nervous incumbents can see the trends and read the polls. For those who still have a fighting chance, the trick will be to distance themselves from their prior voting records, show they’ve heard the voters, and cast some votes that demonstrate independence and fiscal sobriety. That, however, means resisting the entreaties of their leadership and managing to get votes on legislation that will help them.

It’s not clear that incumbent Democrats who have voted in lockstep with the the Obama-Reid agenda have the moxie or skill to do that. In fact, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet joined the double-down crowd by casting their lot with not only ObamaCare but also the jam-through-on-50-votes strategy (i.e., reconciliation). That seems certain to make their precarious situations even shakier.

Democrats might retain a bare majority, provided they stop voting for legislation their constituents hate, Obama’s popularity rebounds, and unemployment begins dropping. Not all that likely? Then you can conclude that control of the Senate really might slip from the Democrats’ grasp.

The Cook Political Report explains (subscription required):

Now that Bayh’s seat is open, we moved the race from the Lean Democratic to the Lean Republican column. As a result, we now rate eight Democratic-held seats either in the Toss Up column, or tilting in varying degrees toward Republicans. The open seat in North Dakota where Sen. Byron Dorgan is retiring is in the Solid Republican column as Democrats struggle to recruit a candidate who can compete with popular GOP Gov. John Hoeven. The open seat in Delaware, which is a special election to finish the remainder of Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate term, is now in the Likely Republican column. There are five Democratic-held seats in the Toss Up column: Sens. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, Michael Bennet in Colorado, Harry Reid in Nevada, and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, as well as the open seat in Illinois. Sen. Barbara Boxer in California and the open seat in Connecticut are in the Lean Democratic column, bringing the total to 10 seats.

Getting to 10 and flipping control of the Senate is a bit dicier, and Cook cautions that to do that, Republicans would have to put more seats in play, avoid flaky primary choices who won’t play well in the general races, improve fundraising, and maintain the political momentum they’ve been building. The bottom line: “For now, while it is theoretically possible for Republicans to gain the 10 seats they need to win a majority, it remains a very difficult task.”

With so many seats in play, the question remains how this will affect Senate Democrats in the run-up to the November elections. If Obama has his way, they’ll double down and push through his agenda. But nervous incumbents can see the trends and read the polls. For those who still have a fighting chance, the trick will be to distance themselves from their prior voting records, show they’ve heard the voters, and cast some votes that demonstrate independence and fiscal sobriety. That, however, means resisting the entreaties of their leadership and managing to get votes on legislation that will help them.

It’s not clear that incumbent Democrats who have voted in lockstep with the the Obama-Reid agenda have the moxie or skill to do that. In fact, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet joined the double-down crowd by casting their lot with not only ObamaCare but also the jam-through-on-50-votes strategy (i.e., reconciliation). That seems certain to make their precarious situations even shakier.

Democrats might retain a bare majority, provided they stop voting for legislation their constituents hate, Obama’s popularity rebounds, and unemployment begins dropping. Not all that likely? Then you can conclude that control of the Senate really might slip from the Democrats’ grasp.

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Zuckerman Candidacy Would Change Everything in New York Senate Race

Well-heeled New York Democrats dismayed at the prospect of even another two years of Kirsten Gillibrand in the United States Senate have been floating the candidacy of former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr. But the floundering candidacy of Ford may be bolstered by the appearance of a new Republican candidate for the seat: publisher and real-estate magnate Mortimer Zuckerman.

According to the New York Times, the 72-year-old Zuckerman is considering a run for the Senate this year. It is assumed that if he  throws his hat in the ring, the 72-year-old billionaire will have the GOP nomination for the asking. But if Zuckerman runs, it will also have an impact on the Democrats.

Until Ford’s boomlet appeared last month, Gillibrand appeared to be cruising to an easy primary victory simply because Chuck Schumer, New York’s senior senator, has very much enjoyed his last year in office. That’s because Gillibrand, unlike her predecessor Hillary Clinton, not only does whatever Schumer asks her to do, but is also content to let the legendary Brooklyn publicity hound hog have all the media attention. So Schumer has used his considerable fund-raising power to not only help build Gillibrand’s campaign account, but to also intimidate possible foes such as Manhattan Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney from pursuing the race. But the problem with this scheme is that Gillibrand has made such a poor impression in the Senate that despite Schumer’s best efforts, some Democrats still think that not only can they do better but also that she is potentially vulnerable in November. Gillibrand’s weakness is accentuated by the possibility that the mid-term election this fall will feature a Republican tide sweeping the country.

So far, Ford’s tryout in the media hasn’t gone that well. His initial interview with the Times was almost as disastrous as a similar encounter with the press, in which Caroline Kennedy’s putative candidacy for the appointment that eventually went to Gillibrand went down in flames. Back in December 2008, Kennedy set new indoor records for a would-be politician saying “You know” and “um” when speaking to reporters. Last month Ford was more articulate but he probably would have done just as well saying “you know” and “um” rather than admitting that, as a vice president for Merrill Lynch, he rarely takes the subway, had only flown over the outer boroughs of New York, and likes pedicures and breakfast at swank hotels.

When the only Republicans considering a run for the Senate were unknowns with little chances of victory in November, Gillibrand’s cipher-like profile wasn’t an obstacle to a Democratic victory. But against a candidate like Zuckerman, whose vast fortune would make her considerable war chest look like a pittance, a safe Democratic seat might become a tossup. Indeed, given Zuckerman’s impeccable pro-Israel credentials (he’s a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and his command of both economic issues and foreign affairs has been demonstrated in the columns he has written and in appearances on talk shows); his candidacy has the potential to put a sizable percentage of the Jewish vote in question. It is true that Democrats will dismiss this possibility because the vast majority of Jews are liberals and loyal Democrats (see former COMMENTARY editor Norman Podhoretz’s insightful book Why Are Jews Liberal?). But in New York there is a larger percentage than in the rest of the country of Orthodox Jews and of those who care deeply about Israel. Though it should be conceded that even a weak Democrat could do well against a strong pro-Israel Jewish Republican in New York, there is little question that Zuckerman could cut into the expected huge Democratic majority in the Jewish vote. In a state where Jews still make up about 9 percent of the population (and a much larger percentage of those who actually vote) even a small shift in the Jewish vote could make the difference for a massively financed Zuckerman campaign.

It’s not clear yet that Ford could poll any better against Zuckerman than Gillibrand could, or that he can beat her in a primary even if he raises all the money he needs. Nor do we know yet whether Zuckerman is really interested in running. But with a billionaire GOP candidate looming in the wings, you’d have to expect that some Democrats who are reluctantly backing Gillibrand would re-examine their options.

Well-heeled New York Democrats dismayed at the prospect of even another two years of Kirsten Gillibrand in the United States Senate have been floating the candidacy of former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr. But the floundering candidacy of Ford may be bolstered by the appearance of a new Republican candidate for the seat: publisher and real-estate magnate Mortimer Zuckerman.

According to the New York Times, the 72-year-old Zuckerman is considering a run for the Senate this year. It is assumed that if he  throws his hat in the ring, the 72-year-old billionaire will have the GOP nomination for the asking. But if Zuckerman runs, it will also have an impact on the Democrats.

Until Ford’s boomlet appeared last month, Gillibrand appeared to be cruising to an easy primary victory simply because Chuck Schumer, New York’s senior senator, has very much enjoyed his last year in office. That’s because Gillibrand, unlike her predecessor Hillary Clinton, not only does whatever Schumer asks her to do, but is also content to let the legendary Brooklyn publicity hound hog have all the media attention. So Schumer has used his considerable fund-raising power to not only help build Gillibrand’s campaign account, but to also intimidate possible foes such as Manhattan Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney from pursuing the race. But the problem with this scheme is that Gillibrand has made such a poor impression in the Senate that despite Schumer’s best efforts, some Democrats still think that not only can they do better but also that she is potentially vulnerable in November. Gillibrand’s weakness is accentuated by the possibility that the mid-term election this fall will feature a Republican tide sweeping the country.

So far, Ford’s tryout in the media hasn’t gone that well. His initial interview with the Times was almost as disastrous as a similar encounter with the press, in which Caroline Kennedy’s putative candidacy for the appointment that eventually went to Gillibrand went down in flames. Back in December 2008, Kennedy set new indoor records for a would-be politician saying “You know” and “um” when speaking to reporters. Last month Ford was more articulate but he probably would have done just as well saying “you know” and “um” rather than admitting that, as a vice president for Merrill Lynch, he rarely takes the subway, had only flown over the outer boroughs of New York, and likes pedicures and breakfast at swank hotels.

When the only Republicans considering a run for the Senate were unknowns with little chances of victory in November, Gillibrand’s cipher-like profile wasn’t an obstacle to a Democratic victory. But against a candidate like Zuckerman, whose vast fortune would make her considerable war chest look like a pittance, a safe Democratic seat might become a tossup. Indeed, given Zuckerman’s impeccable pro-Israel credentials (he’s a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and his command of both economic issues and foreign affairs has been demonstrated in the columns he has written and in appearances on talk shows); his candidacy has the potential to put a sizable percentage of the Jewish vote in question. It is true that Democrats will dismiss this possibility because the vast majority of Jews are liberals and loyal Democrats (see former COMMENTARY editor Norman Podhoretz’s insightful book Why Are Jews Liberal?). But in New York there is a larger percentage than in the rest of the country of Orthodox Jews and of those who care deeply about Israel. Though it should be conceded that even a weak Democrat could do well against a strong pro-Israel Jewish Republican in New York, there is little question that Zuckerman could cut into the expected huge Democratic majority in the Jewish vote. In a state where Jews still make up about 9 percent of the population (and a much larger percentage of those who actually vote) even a small shift in the Jewish vote could make the difference for a massively financed Zuckerman campaign.

It’s not clear yet that Ford could poll any better against Zuckerman than Gillibrand could, or that he can beat her in a primary even if he raises all the money he needs. Nor do we know yet whether Zuckerman is really interested in running. But with a billionaire GOP candidate looming in the wings, you’d have to expect that some Democrats who are reluctantly backing Gillibrand would re-examine their options.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Richard Shelby’s hold on all Obama nominees to get his pork is getting slammed from all sides. For starters, it takes the focus off the truly egregious nominees (e.g., Dawn Johnsen, Harold Craig Becker).

And he’s done a bang-up job of giving the White House a rare moment on the high ground. “The White House on Friday shot back at Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) who recently took the unusual step of placing a blanket hold on all of the administration’s nominees. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Shelby of seeking political gain in preventing the government from doing its job.”

But it remains gloom and doom for Democrats at the DNC meeting: “In regional meetings and in the hallways of the downtown hotel where they were meeting, DNC members voiced frustration about their fortunes and, with a measure of urgency, plotted about how best to navigate through what is shaping up to be one of their most difficult election cycles in recent history. Some party officials sought to ward off complacency with pointed reminders about just how perilous this year could be.”

David Broder notes that there was no follow-up by the White House after the televised question-and-answer time with House Republicans, which suggests to Broder that “the president and his people may not realize the degree to which Republican frustration with Pelosi’s management of the House has created opportunities for Obama — if he is willing to engage as directly as he did in his Illinois Senate days.” Or maybe the whole question-and-answer routine was just more spin, and Obama has no intention of altering his far-Left agenda.

John Yoo takes Obama to task: “Obama believes the president should lead a revolution in society, the economy, and the political system, but defer on national security and foreign policy to the other branches of government. This upends the Framers’ vision of the presidency. They thought the chief executive’s powers would expand broadly to meet external challenges while playing a modest role at home.”

Back in September, the Los Angeles Times called on Eric Holder to come clean on the New Black Panther Party case. Now the Providence Journal turns up the heat: “Instead of letting questions fester about a potentially troublesome matter, the Obama administration should come clean about its decision to dismiss a case involving what looked like racist voter intimidation in 2008. Then, hopefully, everyone can move on. …The Justice Department may enforce our laws, but it is not above them. Instead of stonewalling, it should share with the public who made this decision to drop the case, and why.”

The State of the Union bounce seems to have faded: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove which Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. That matches the President’s ratings just before the State-of-the-Union Address.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might be asked why the repeal of the Bush tax cuts is good for her state: ”Federal income-tax rates in the top brackets will be restored to their pre-2001 levels next year, the Bush-era cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes will be partially reversed, and itemized deductions for high-income filers (including deductions for state and local taxes) will be curtailed. If all of this comes to pass, it will spell trouble for the New York state budget for a simple reason: New York’s finances are balanced on a narrow pinnacle of high-income households, and higher federal taxes drive top-earning New Yorkers to lower their overall tax burdens by sheltering incomes, earning less, or moving to lower-tax states.”

Jonathan Chait calls Jamie Gorelick a “corrupt hack” for lobbying for lenders who don’t want the federal government to drive them out of the student loan business. Conservatives may not agree with the reason, but the conclusion — “cross Gorelick off the list of Democrats suitable to hold office” — is one that will get bipartisan support.

Sen. Richard Shelby’s hold on all Obama nominees to get his pork is getting slammed from all sides. For starters, it takes the focus off the truly egregious nominees (e.g., Dawn Johnsen, Harold Craig Becker).

And he’s done a bang-up job of giving the White House a rare moment on the high ground. “The White House on Friday shot back at Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) who recently took the unusual step of placing a blanket hold on all of the administration’s nominees. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Shelby of seeking political gain in preventing the government from doing its job.”

But it remains gloom and doom for Democrats at the DNC meeting: “In regional meetings and in the hallways of the downtown hotel where they were meeting, DNC members voiced frustration about their fortunes and, with a measure of urgency, plotted about how best to navigate through what is shaping up to be one of their most difficult election cycles in recent history. Some party officials sought to ward off complacency with pointed reminders about just how perilous this year could be.”

David Broder notes that there was no follow-up by the White House after the televised question-and-answer time with House Republicans, which suggests to Broder that “the president and his people may not realize the degree to which Republican frustration with Pelosi’s management of the House has created opportunities for Obama — if he is willing to engage as directly as he did in his Illinois Senate days.” Or maybe the whole question-and-answer routine was just more spin, and Obama has no intention of altering his far-Left agenda.

John Yoo takes Obama to task: “Obama believes the president should lead a revolution in society, the economy, and the political system, but defer on national security and foreign policy to the other branches of government. This upends the Framers’ vision of the presidency. They thought the chief executive’s powers would expand broadly to meet external challenges while playing a modest role at home.”

Back in September, the Los Angeles Times called on Eric Holder to come clean on the New Black Panther Party case. Now the Providence Journal turns up the heat: “Instead of letting questions fester about a potentially troublesome matter, the Obama administration should come clean about its decision to dismiss a case involving what looked like racist voter intimidation in 2008. Then, hopefully, everyone can move on. …The Justice Department may enforce our laws, but it is not above them. Instead of stonewalling, it should share with the public who made this decision to drop the case, and why.”

The State of the Union bounce seems to have faded: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove which Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. That matches the President’s ratings just before the State-of-the-Union Address.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might be asked why the repeal of the Bush tax cuts is good for her state: ”Federal income-tax rates in the top brackets will be restored to their pre-2001 levels next year, the Bush-era cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes will be partially reversed, and itemized deductions for high-income filers (including deductions for state and local taxes) will be curtailed. If all of this comes to pass, it will spell trouble for the New York state budget for a simple reason: New York’s finances are balanced on a narrow pinnacle of high-income households, and higher federal taxes drive top-earning New Yorkers to lower their overall tax burdens by sheltering incomes, earning less, or moving to lower-tax states.”

Jonathan Chait calls Jamie Gorelick a “corrupt hack” for lobbying for lenders who don’t want the federal government to drive them out of the student loan business. Conservatives may not agree with the reason, but the conclusion — “cross Gorelick off the list of Democrats suitable to hold office” — is one that will get bipartisan support.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

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A New York Battle

This is going to be fun. The “this” is the New York Democratic Senate primary, which is going to make up for that Rudy Giuliani vs. Hillary Clinton matchup that political fans were deprived of when Giuliani decided not to make a Senate run in 2000. A sample:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is finally heeding New York Democrats’ advice that she get tough with Harold Ford Jr. — slamming the former Memphis congressman as an anti-gay-rights, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant tool of Wall Street money lords. The problem for Gillibrand: Ford is embracing New York’s slappy-face politics faster than she can generate the comebacks. On Monday, Ford dismissed Gillibrand as a party-controlled “parakeet.” For good measure, his spokesman told POLITICO that Gillibrand is a “desperate liar.”

Yowser. And it’s only January.

Now Gillibrand has some problems. She’s an incumbent when incumbents are out of favor. She hasn’t done anything memorable. And to a degree, Ford is right: she morphed from a moderate, somewhat independent-minded congresswoman into a loyal cog in the Reid-Pelosi-Obama machine, never raising a  fuss about the KSM trial or objecting to the ObamaCare deals that would have cost her state billions had we not been saved by the Massachusetts voters. (“The 39-year-old Ford, who relocated to New York after losing a 2006 Senate race in Tennessee, has repeatedly lampooned Gillibrand as being protected by her ‘party bosses,’ an argument that Ford advisers believe resonates with nationwide anti-Washington sentiment.”) Her gibes about Ford’s expedient transformation on hot-button issues ring a bit hollow given her conversion on Second Amendment rights (she became enamored of gun regulation only after her appointment to the Senate). You can see why Ford might think he’s got a real chance.

But Ford is not without his problems. The liberal-Democratic establishment has decided he’s too moderate and untrustworthy. For example, he eschews business-bashing at a time when that is de rigueur for Democrats.

The Republicans have yet to come up with a top-tier candidate, despite the giddy optimism circulating in Republican circles post–Scott Brown. But before we get to the general election, there should be plenty to watch and enjoy for those who love a good show. In some ways, it’s an interesting test for Democrats, just as the Florida Senate primary race is for Republicans. (Marco Rubio has come from far back to now lead the establishment favorite Crist in the latest poll.) No, neither is evidence of a “civil war” within the respective party. Rather, both will convey some key political information: whether the association with Beltway-establishment types is the kiss of death and whether a skilled challenger without that taint (Ford in New York and Rubio in Florida) can overcome the money and name recognition that also come with it.

This is going to be fun. The “this” is the New York Democratic Senate primary, which is going to make up for that Rudy Giuliani vs. Hillary Clinton matchup that political fans were deprived of when Giuliani decided not to make a Senate run in 2000. A sample:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is finally heeding New York Democrats’ advice that she get tough with Harold Ford Jr. — slamming the former Memphis congressman as an anti-gay-rights, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant tool of Wall Street money lords. The problem for Gillibrand: Ford is embracing New York’s slappy-face politics faster than she can generate the comebacks. On Monday, Ford dismissed Gillibrand as a party-controlled “parakeet.” For good measure, his spokesman told POLITICO that Gillibrand is a “desperate liar.”

Yowser. And it’s only January.

Now Gillibrand has some problems. She’s an incumbent when incumbents are out of favor. She hasn’t done anything memorable. And to a degree, Ford is right: she morphed from a moderate, somewhat independent-minded congresswoman into a loyal cog in the Reid-Pelosi-Obama machine, never raising a  fuss about the KSM trial or objecting to the ObamaCare deals that would have cost her state billions had we not been saved by the Massachusetts voters. (“The 39-year-old Ford, who relocated to New York after losing a 2006 Senate race in Tennessee, has repeatedly lampooned Gillibrand as being protected by her ‘party bosses,’ an argument that Ford advisers believe resonates with nationwide anti-Washington sentiment.”) Her gibes about Ford’s expedient transformation on hot-button issues ring a bit hollow given her conversion on Second Amendment rights (she became enamored of gun regulation only after her appointment to the Senate). You can see why Ford might think he’s got a real chance.

But Ford is not without his problems. The liberal-Democratic establishment has decided he’s too moderate and untrustworthy. For example, he eschews business-bashing at a time when that is de rigueur for Democrats.

The Republicans have yet to come up with a top-tier candidate, despite the giddy optimism circulating in Republican circles post–Scott Brown. But before we get to the general election, there should be plenty to watch and enjoy for those who love a good show. In some ways, it’s an interesting test for Democrats, just as the Florida Senate primary race is for Republicans. (Marco Rubio has come from far back to now lead the establishment favorite Crist in the latest poll.) No, neither is evidence of a “civil war” within the respective party. Rather, both will convey some key political information: whether the association with Beltway-establishment types is the kiss of death and whether a skilled challenger without that taint (Ford in New York and Rubio in Florida) can overcome the money and name recognition that also come with it.

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Tennessee Harold Ford’s Not Your Ordinary “Joe”

Harold Ford isn’t scared of Chuck Schumer or Barack Obama, let alone Kirsten Gillibrand. That’s nice, but is it enough to supply the former up-and-coming African-American star of Tennessee politics a raison d’être to run for the Senate in New York?  There’s reason to be skeptical of such a claim, but judging from today’s New York Times profile on Ford, it appears he thinks “independence” from his party’s leaders is enough to topple Gillibrand in a primary.

Finding issues on which to oppose the woman appointed to the Senate by Governor David Paterson isn’t easy for Ford. Both he and Gillibrand have flipped from being moderates to espousing the sort of hard-line liberal positions on guns, abortion, and immigration that win Democratic primaries. But Ford touts his unwillingness to take orders from New York’s senior senator as his main qualification. That’s certainly a virtue, at least in the eyes of independents and Republicans, but do Democrats really care?

Even worse, though Ford appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television show from time to time, the story also paints him as anything but a regular Joe. According to the Times, Ford, who landed a seven-figure job at Merrill Lynch after losing a race for the Senate from Tennessee, lives a life that most New Yorkers wouldn’t recognize:

On many days, he is driven to an NBC television studio in a chauffeured car. He and his wife, Emily, a 29-year-old fashion executive, live a few blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway line in the Flatiron district. But Mr. Ford said he takes the subway only occasionally in the winter, to avoid the cold when he cannot hail a cab. … Asked whether he had visited all five boroughs, he mentioned taking a helicopter ride across the city … Asked about his baseball loyalties, he responded: “I am a Yankees fan,” and added that he had yet to visit Citi Field, the home of the Mets. … He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures.

Of course, if leading the life of a spoiled member of the moneyed set were a bar to high office, most of the current members of the Senate would be forced to resign. But nevertheless, it does seem as if Ford is giving new meaning to the term “limousine liberal.” However, if supporters of his opponent are trying to disqualify him as a rich carpetbagger, that is more than hypocritical. This is Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat that we’re talking about. Ford may not be a native, but at least he’s lived here for three years, which is more than you can say about Clinton when she parachuted into New York to be anointed junior senator on her way to what she thought was a return to the White House. Put in that context, perhaps Ford seems like a regular New Yorker after all.

Harold Ford isn’t scared of Chuck Schumer or Barack Obama, let alone Kirsten Gillibrand. That’s nice, but is it enough to supply the former up-and-coming African-American star of Tennessee politics a raison d’être to run for the Senate in New York?  There’s reason to be skeptical of such a claim, but judging from today’s New York Times profile on Ford, it appears he thinks “independence” from his party’s leaders is enough to topple Gillibrand in a primary.

Finding issues on which to oppose the woman appointed to the Senate by Governor David Paterson isn’t easy for Ford. Both he and Gillibrand have flipped from being moderates to espousing the sort of hard-line liberal positions on guns, abortion, and immigration that win Democratic primaries. But Ford touts his unwillingness to take orders from New York’s senior senator as his main qualification. That’s certainly a virtue, at least in the eyes of independents and Republicans, but do Democrats really care?

Even worse, though Ford appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television show from time to time, the story also paints him as anything but a regular Joe. According to the Times, Ford, who landed a seven-figure job at Merrill Lynch after losing a race for the Senate from Tennessee, lives a life that most New Yorkers wouldn’t recognize:

On many days, he is driven to an NBC television studio in a chauffeured car. He and his wife, Emily, a 29-year-old fashion executive, live a few blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway line in the Flatiron district. But Mr. Ford said he takes the subway only occasionally in the winter, to avoid the cold when he cannot hail a cab. … Asked whether he had visited all five boroughs, he mentioned taking a helicopter ride across the city … Asked about his baseball loyalties, he responded: “I am a Yankees fan,” and added that he had yet to visit Citi Field, the home of the Mets. … He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures.

Of course, if leading the life of a spoiled member of the moneyed set were a bar to high office, most of the current members of the Senate would be forced to resign. But nevertheless, it does seem as if Ford is giving new meaning to the term “limousine liberal.” However, if supporters of his opponent are trying to disqualify him as a rich carpetbagger, that is more than hypocritical. This is Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat that we’re talking about. Ford may not be a native, but at least he’s lived here for three years, which is more than you can say about Clinton when she parachuted into New York to be anointed junior senator on her way to what she thought was a return to the White House. Put in that context, perhaps Ford seems like a regular New Yorker after all.

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Re: The Touch of Political Death

Harold Ford Jr. is no dummy. Writing in the New York Post, he tells New Yorkers he’s not going to let the White House chase him out of the race. In fact, he’s going to use its opposition to his advantage:

Some have already questioned whether I should be running. Others are falsifying my record in public life. New Yorkers deserve a free election. New Yorkers expect a politics where politicians do what’s right based on independent judgment, free of political bosses trying to dictate.

Obama is a political boss? Well, yes. He and Rahm Emanuel are, if nothing else, well practiced in Chicago politics, so I think “bosses” is a term chosen well and that aptly conjures up the image of corruption and contempt for democracy that has voters of all parties upset these days. He also takes time to clarify his stance on hot-button issues that have the netroots in a tizzy. He pledged fidelity to three of the touchstones of the Left: abortion rights, gay rights, and support for Big Labor. (This is a Democratic primary, and it is New York, after all.) And he says he’s been living there for three years, about three years longer than Hillary Clinton before her run for office.

What he has going for him is that he’s not in office, didn’t vote for Cash for Cloture, and hasn’t run Right as a representative and then Left as a senator, as Kirsten Gillibrand did. He’s no Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose name he invokes. But he’s not been there for the last year as voters have become disgusted with the Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine. And that may be all he needs. It looks like New Yorkers are going to have a very interesting primary. If Gillibrand were smart, she’d tell the White House to butt out. She has enough problems without another reminder that she is, for purposes of this race, the Washington Insider: not a good thing to be.

Harold Ford Jr. is no dummy. Writing in the New York Post, he tells New Yorkers he’s not going to let the White House chase him out of the race. In fact, he’s going to use its opposition to his advantage:

Some have already questioned whether I should be running. Others are falsifying my record in public life. New Yorkers deserve a free election. New Yorkers expect a politics where politicians do what’s right based on independent judgment, free of political bosses trying to dictate.

Obama is a political boss? Well, yes. He and Rahm Emanuel are, if nothing else, well practiced in Chicago politics, so I think “bosses” is a term chosen well and that aptly conjures up the image of corruption and contempt for democracy that has voters of all parties upset these days. He also takes time to clarify his stance on hot-button issues that have the netroots in a tizzy. He pledged fidelity to three of the touchstones of the Left: abortion rights, gay rights, and support for Big Labor. (This is a Democratic primary, and it is New York, after all.) And he says he’s been living there for three years, about three years longer than Hillary Clinton before her run for office.

What he has going for him is that he’s not in office, didn’t vote for Cash for Cloture, and hasn’t run Right as a representative and then Left as a senator, as Kirsten Gillibrand did. He’s no Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose name he invokes. But he’s not been there for the last year as voters have become disgusted with the Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine. And that may be all he needs. It looks like New Yorkers are going to have a very interesting primary. If Gillibrand were smart, she’d tell the White House to butt out. She has enough problems without another reminder that she is, for purposes of this race, the Washington Insider: not a good thing to be.

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The Touch of Political Death?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The White House is reaching into political races nationwide to urge its preferred candidates to seek election to competitive seats, while helping to nudge weak contenders out of the way, according to party officials familiar with the moves.

It isn’t unusual for a president to pick favorites, but the sense of urgency is heightened this year by Democrats’ sense that a difficult election year lies ahead.

Sometimes this might make sense, as with the effort to push Chris Dodd into retirement and potentially rescue the Connecticut Senate seat that had appeared lost as long as the senator from Countrywide remained in the race. But the danger of White House meddling is three-fold.

First, the appearance on the scene of the White House political hacks has the aura of buzzards circling a bleeding beast. For example:

In Ohio, White House political director Patrick Gaspard has been in conversations with Gov. Ted Strickland, whose approval ratings have slipped and who is facing a challenge from former Republican Rep. John Kasich. Democrats there say the White House is backing Mr. Strickland’s re-election bid but is focused on reigniting the grassroots effort that helped Mr. Obama win there in 2008 and would be necessary for success again in 2012.

Translation: Strickland is in trouble (having gone from a huge double-digit lead to a 9-point deficit in the last Rasmussen poll in his matchup against John Kasich), and the White House has now advertised that to voters and donors alike. No doubt Strickland isn’t pleased to have it known that he’s been paid a visit by the White House fix-it team.

Second, this may not be the year to be the handpicked candidate of Barack Obama. It didn’t do Jon Corzine any good. And that was in a state in which Obama is still relatively popular. Do candidates in Michigan or Ohio really want to be tied to the White House and its agenda? That seemed to work out not at all for Creigh Deeds in Virginia.

And finally, it’s not clear that the White House has the magic touch. It seems that the White House is backing Kirsten Gillibrand against a potential challenge from Harold Ford Jr. (who doesn’t thrill the liberal base), but is Gillibrand really the strongest candidate in the field? (In December, the Quinnipiac poll reported: “New York City Comptroller William Thompson leads incumbent U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 41 – 28 percent in a possible 2010 Democratic primary race.”) And recall it was the White House, with the keen political acumen of Joe Biden, that convinced Arlen Specter to switch parties and now is backing him in the Pennsylvania primary, though he’s now tied with Republican Pat Toomey in recent polling.

The White House’s triage efforts are understandable. Democrats may be headed for a shellacking in November, so it’s time to pull out all the stops. But it’s not at all clear that candidates selected by the White House will fare any better than those whom Democratic voters, through a normal primary process, may select. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Democrats are in trouble in no small part because of the White House’s hyper-partisan tone, ultra-left-wing agenda, and fixation on a health-care bill the country doesn’t want. Democrats might do better if they distanced themselves from Obama and found candidates who weren’t propped up by the gang that thought ObamaCare and cap-and-trade were political winners.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The White House is reaching into political races nationwide to urge its preferred candidates to seek election to competitive seats, while helping to nudge weak contenders out of the way, according to party officials familiar with the moves.

It isn’t unusual for a president to pick favorites, but the sense of urgency is heightened this year by Democrats’ sense that a difficult election year lies ahead.

Sometimes this might make sense, as with the effort to push Chris Dodd into retirement and potentially rescue the Connecticut Senate seat that had appeared lost as long as the senator from Countrywide remained in the race. But the danger of White House meddling is three-fold.

First, the appearance on the scene of the White House political hacks has the aura of buzzards circling a bleeding beast. For example:

In Ohio, White House political director Patrick Gaspard has been in conversations with Gov. Ted Strickland, whose approval ratings have slipped and who is facing a challenge from former Republican Rep. John Kasich. Democrats there say the White House is backing Mr. Strickland’s re-election bid but is focused on reigniting the grassroots effort that helped Mr. Obama win there in 2008 and would be necessary for success again in 2012.

Translation: Strickland is in trouble (having gone from a huge double-digit lead to a 9-point deficit in the last Rasmussen poll in his matchup against John Kasich), and the White House has now advertised that to voters and donors alike. No doubt Strickland isn’t pleased to have it known that he’s been paid a visit by the White House fix-it team.

Second, this may not be the year to be the handpicked candidate of Barack Obama. It didn’t do Jon Corzine any good. And that was in a state in which Obama is still relatively popular. Do candidates in Michigan or Ohio really want to be tied to the White House and its agenda? That seemed to work out not at all for Creigh Deeds in Virginia.

And finally, it’s not clear that the White House has the magic touch. It seems that the White House is backing Kirsten Gillibrand against a potential challenge from Harold Ford Jr. (who doesn’t thrill the liberal base), but is Gillibrand really the strongest candidate in the field? (In December, the Quinnipiac poll reported: “New York City Comptroller William Thompson leads incumbent U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 41 – 28 percent in a possible 2010 Democratic primary race.”) And recall it was the White House, with the keen political acumen of Joe Biden, that convinced Arlen Specter to switch parties and now is backing him in the Pennsylvania primary, though he’s now tied with Republican Pat Toomey in recent polling.

The White House’s triage efforts are understandable. Democrats may be headed for a shellacking in November, so it’s time to pull out all the stops. But it’s not at all clear that candidates selected by the White House will fare any better than those whom Democratic voters, through a normal primary process, may select. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Democrats are in trouble in no small part because of the White House’s hyper-partisan tone, ultra-left-wing agenda, and fixation on a health-care bill the country doesn’t want. Democrats might do better if they distanced themselves from Obama and found candidates who weren’t propped up by the gang that thought ObamaCare and cap-and-trade were political winners.

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How to Save Themselves

Conservatives are debating whether ObamaCare is a done deal yet. I tend to be in the Yogi Berra club (“It ain’t over till it’s over”). In addition to the infirmities in the bill that might make it difficult for Nancy Pelosi to round up the needed votes (to replace those of Bart Stupak and other pro-life Democrats who won’t buy the Ben Nelson/Harry Reid abortion-subsidy language), consider the dynamic in the Senate. The Cornhusker Kickback has become an embarrassment, the bill is a fiscal train wreck for the country at large and specifically for Blue states (whose governors are now complaining loudly), and incumbent senators are heading for the hills because the political environment is so toxic.

So perhaps it is time for a Senate Democrat to step forward to save his or her own skin and that of some colleagues. It might be a liberal like Kirsten Gillibrand who has figured out that she could be a hero to home-state taxpayers and the new darling of the Left by voting against the bill and its ensuing bonanza for big insurance companies. (Sure, she voted for it the first time, but she’s now had time to think it over.) It might be an imperiled Red State senator like Blanche Lincoln, who has been taking pot-shots at Ben Nelson’s wheeling and dealing and needs to get out of her polling death spiral. Or maybe it is someone like Evan Bayh, who needs to fend off a serious challenge at a time voters are noticing the significant gap between his fiscal “conservative” message and his voting record.

Sure, Rahm Emanuel would go on an obscenity shout-a-thon, but he is not on the ballot in 2010. And really, wouldn’t the brave senator who finally stood up to the politically suicidal Senate leadership and the tone-deaf White House get the quiet praise of many of his or her colleagues?

There is a way out of this policy and political train wreck. All it requires is a clearheaded Democratic senator. Surely there is one, right?

Conservatives are debating whether ObamaCare is a done deal yet. I tend to be in the Yogi Berra club (“It ain’t over till it’s over”). In addition to the infirmities in the bill that might make it difficult for Nancy Pelosi to round up the needed votes (to replace those of Bart Stupak and other pro-life Democrats who won’t buy the Ben Nelson/Harry Reid abortion-subsidy language), consider the dynamic in the Senate. The Cornhusker Kickback has become an embarrassment, the bill is a fiscal train wreck for the country at large and specifically for Blue states (whose governors are now complaining loudly), and incumbent senators are heading for the hills because the political environment is so toxic.

So perhaps it is time for a Senate Democrat to step forward to save his or her own skin and that of some colleagues. It might be a liberal like Kirsten Gillibrand who has figured out that she could be a hero to home-state taxpayers and the new darling of the Left by voting against the bill and its ensuing bonanza for big insurance companies. (Sure, she voted for it the first time, but she’s now had time to think it over.) It might be an imperiled Red State senator like Blanche Lincoln, who has been taking pot-shots at Ben Nelson’s wheeling and dealing and needs to get out of her polling death spiral. Or maybe it is someone like Evan Bayh, who needs to fend off a serious challenge at a time voters are noticing the significant gap between his fiscal “conservative” message and his voting record.

Sure, Rahm Emanuel would go on an obscenity shout-a-thon, but he is not on the ballot in 2010. And really, wouldn’t the brave senator who finally stood up to the politically suicidal Senate leadership and the tone-deaf White House get the quiet praise of many of his or her colleagues?

There is a way out of this policy and political train wreck. All it requires is a clearheaded Democratic senator. Surely there is one, right?

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New York: The Carpetbagger State Welcomes Harold Ford

You would think that out of the nearly 20 million people who live in the Empire State, the two major parties would be able to find at least two distinguished citizens fit to represent New York in the United States Senate. But the state has a sorry recent tradition of outsourcing Senate seats as carpetbagger politicians parachute in to serve in the nation’s highest deliberative body on its behalf. In 1964, though he had not lived in New York for decades, Bobby Kennedy exploited his brother’s martyrdom and his own charisma to win a Senate seat that he would briefly warm (until his own tragic assassination) while plotting to recapture the White House for his family. Thirty-six years later, Hillary Clinton, a native of suburban Chicago and former first lady of Arkansas, arrived here to establish residency and “listen” to New Yorkers, who obediently elected her to the Senate just as her husband was vacating the executive mansion in Washington.

The latest immigrant to New York to consider himself qualified to represent it in the Senate is Harold Ford Jr., the former Tennessee congressman who was defeated by the citizens of his native state when he ran for a Senate seat in 2006. Since then, the young and handsome Ford moved to Manhattan, where he took a job as vice chairman of Merrill Lynch and appeared as an occasional talking head on MSNBC. The New York Times reports today that some New York Democrats want Ford to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand, the upstate senator who was appointed by Gov. David Paterson to fill the seat Clinton vacated when she left for the State Department a year ago.

Like Gillibrand, Ford will have to “adjust” his positions on a number of issues if he wants to be the standard-bearer for New York’s ultraliberal Democratic Party. In the House, Gillibrand was an opponent of illegal immigration and a supporter of the right to bear arms. Since coming to the Senate and accepting the role of female Sancho Panza to senior Senator Chuck Schumer, Gillibrand has flipped on immigration and gun control. Similarly, Ford will have to ditch his opposition to gay marriage to please liberal Dems. But though Ford is a relative newcomer to the Big Apple, he appears to have always been in an “Empire State of Mind” when it came to fundraising. According to the Times, a third of the $15 million he raised for his 2006 Senate run came from New York.

Ford’s challenge is an indication of Gillibrand’s weakness. Her lackluster performance in the Senate could give the Republicans a chance to knock off an incumbent, but with Rudy Giuliani opting out of the race, Long Island Rep. Peter King appears to be the only Republican with enough stature for a chance at winning the seat. Though any Democrat, even Gillibrand, ought to be favored to win in New York, the rumblings of support for Ford, who might become the only African-American in the Senate next year (with Roland Burris’s lease of the Illinois seat left by Barack Obama about to expire), show that the possibility of a GOP tide drowning weak liberal incumbents in 2010 is being taken seriously.

Schumer, who has been traveling the state twisting arms to ensure that his protégé goes unchallenged, has a lot to lose if a Ford victory ditches the notion that he is the kingmaker of New York politics. But however it turns out, let’s hope we are spared the spectacle of this son of Tennessee claiming to be a lifelong New York Yankees fan as Hillary did in 2000. But no matter which team he says he roots for, Ford has little to worry about when it comes to sincerity on such matters. Clinton’s victory illustrated that although New Yorkers pride themselves on being able to spot a phony from out of town from a mile away, it doesn’t mean they won’t vote for one.

You would think that out of the nearly 20 million people who live in the Empire State, the two major parties would be able to find at least two distinguished citizens fit to represent New York in the United States Senate. But the state has a sorry recent tradition of outsourcing Senate seats as carpetbagger politicians parachute in to serve in the nation’s highest deliberative body on its behalf. In 1964, though he had not lived in New York for decades, Bobby Kennedy exploited his brother’s martyrdom and his own charisma to win a Senate seat that he would briefly warm (until his own tragic assassination) while plotting to recapture the White House for his family. Thirty-six years later, Hillary Clinton, a native of suburban Chicago and former first lady of Arkansas, arrived here to establish residency and “listen” to New Yorkers, who obediently elected her to the Senate just as her husband was vacating the executive mansion in Washington.

The latest immigrant to New York to consider himself qualified to represent it in the Senate is Harold Ford Jr., the former Tennessee congressman who was defeated by the citizens of his native state when he ran for a Senate seat in 2006. Since then, the young and handsome Ford moved to Manhattan, where he took a job as vice chairman of Merrill Lynch and appeared as an occasional talking head on MSNBC. The New York Times reports today that some New York Democrats want Ford to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand, the upstate senator who was appointed by Gov. David Paterson to fill the seat Clinton vacated when she left for the State Department a year ago.

Like Gillibrand, Ford will have to “adjust” his positions on a number of issues if he wants to be the standard-bearer for New York’s ultraliberal Democratic Party. In the House, Gillibrand was an opponent of illegal immigration and a supporter of the right to bear arms. Since coming to the Senate and accepting the role of female Sancho Panza to senior Senator Chuck Schumer, Gillibrand has flipped on immigration and gun control. Similarly, Ford will have to ditch his opposition to gay marriage to please liberal Dems. But though Ford is a relative newcomer to the Big Apple, he appears to have always been in an “Empire State of Mind” when it came to fundraising. According to the Times, a third of the $15 million he raised for his 2006 Senate run came from New York.

Ford’s challenge is an indication of Gillibrand’s weakness. Her lackluster performance in the Senate could give the Republicans a chance to knock off an incumbent, but with Rudy Giuliani opting out of the race, Long Island Rep. Peter King appears to be the only Republican with enough stature for a chance at winning the seat. Though any Democrat, even Gillibrand, ought to be favored to win in New York, the rumblings of support for Ford, who might become the only African-American in the Senate next year (with Roland Burris’s lease of the Illinois seat left by Barack Obama about to expire), show that the possibility of a GOP tide drowning weak liberal incumbents in 2010 is being taken seriously.

Schumer, who has been traveling the state twisting arms to ensure that his protégé goes unchallenged, has a lot to lose if a Ford victory ditches the notion that he is the kingmaker of New York politics. But however it turns out, let’s hope we are spared the spectacle of this son of Tennessee claiming to be a lifelong New York Yankees fan as Hillary did in 2000. But no matter which team he says he roots for, Ford has little to worry about when it comes to sincerity on such matters. Clinton’s victory illustrated that although New Yorkers pride themselves on being able to spot a phony from out of town from a mile away, it doesn’t mean they won’t vote for one.

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The Consequences of Being the 60th Health-Care Vote

Senate Democrats from less-than-pristine Blue States are banking that their constituents won’t mind that they voted with their party leadership for a controversial health-care power grab. But that may be a bad bet:

A new poll suggests that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) seriously endangered his political prospects by becoming the decisive 60th vote allowing health care legislation to pass through the Senate. The Rasmussen survey shows Nelson, who isn’t up for re-election until 2012, badly trailing Gov. Dave Heineman by 31 points in a hypothetical matchup, 61 to 30 percent. A 55 percent majority of Nebraska voters now hold an unfavorable view of the two-term senator, with 40 percent viewing him favorably. The health care bill is currently very unpopular in Nebraska, according to the Rasmussen poll. Nearly two-thirds of voters (64 percent) oppose the legislation while just 17 percent approve.

Now of course each and every Democratic senator is the 60th vote, so this poll should cause some heartburn for Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and his troops. Somehow the White House and their more liberal colleagues convinced the so-called moderate Democrats that they could vote with the liberal pack, and their skeptical constituents would eventually come to appreciate their “historic” vote. But that seems not to be the case. What if, in the next few weeks, other polls mirroring this result appear in state after state? Do the lawmakers still plunge ahead with the conference committee and once again vote for a hugely unpopular measure?

Nor should Blue State senators rest easy. Their handiwork is under attack as well, as this report makes clear:

The governors of the nation’s two largest Democratic states are leveling sharp criticism at the Senate health care bill, claiming that it would leave their already financially strapped states even deeper in the hole. New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson and California GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are urging congressional leaders to rework the Medicaid financing in the Senate-passed bill, warning that under that version their states will be crushed by billions in new costs.

In their rush for a “historic deal,” Blue State senators paid little or no attention to the details of what they were foisting on their own states. You can imagine what New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s general election opponent will have to say about this in November:

The problem is that New York and California, both of which already have expansive Medicaid programs, will pay a higher share of the new expansion costs than many other states that have traditionally limited coverage. “The inequity built into the bill puts hardship on states and would put them in the position of making cuts to providers,” said Susan Van Meter, vice president of federal relations for the Healthcare Association of New York State.

So where does that leave embattled senators and congressmen? Congress might “pivot” in many ways in January: to sanctions on Iran; hearings on our anti-terrorist policies; and a real pro-jobs agenda to encourage rather than retard the hiring of new workers. It might be beneficial for the country and for the political outlook of incumbent lawmakers to turn their attention to these very urgent issues rather than an artificially created “health-care crisis.” ObamaCare has become a political poltergeist, and lawmakers would do well to race to find something else to occupy their time. Especially those who don’t have the luxury, as Nelson does, of several more years before facing the angry voters.

Senate Democrats from less-than-pristine Blue States are banking that their constituents won’t mind that they voted with their party leadership for a controversial health-care power grab. But that may be a bad bet:

A new poll suggests that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) seriously endangered his political prospects by becoming the decisive 60th vote allowing health care legislation to pass through the Senate. The Rasmussen survey shows Nelson, who isn’t up for re-election until 2012, badly trailing Gov. Dave Heineman by 31 points in a hypothetical matchup, 61 to 30 percent. A 55 percent majority of Nebraska voters now hold an unfavorable view of the two-term senator, with 40 percent viewing him favorably. The health care bill is currently very unpopular in Nebraska, according to the Rasmussen poll. Nearly two-thirds of voters (64 percent) oppose the legislation while just 17 percent approve.

Now of course each and every Democratic senator is the 60th vote, so this poll should cause some heartburn for Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and his troops. Somehow the White House and their more liberal colleagues convinced the so-called moderate Democrats that they could vote with the liberal pack, and their skeptical constituents would eventually come to appreciate their “historic” vote. But that seems not to be the case. What if, in the next few weeks, other polls mirroring this result appear in state after state? Do the lawmakers still plunge ahead with the conference committee and once again vote for a hugely unpopular measure?

Nor should Blue State senators rest easy. Their handiwork is under attack as well, as this report makes clear:

The governors of the nation’s two largest Democratic states are leveling sharp criticism at the Senate health care bill, claiming that it would leave their already financially strapped states even deeper in the hole. New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson and California GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are urging congressional leaders to rework the Medicaid financing in the Senate-passed bill, warning that under that version their states will be crushed by billions in new costs.

In their rush for a “historic deal,” Blue State senators paid little or no attention to the details of what they were foisting on their own states. You can imagine what New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s general election opponent will have to say about this in November:

The problem is that New York and California, both of which already have expansive Medicaid programs, will pay a higher share of the new expansion costs than many other states that have traditionally limited coverage. “The inequity built into the bill puts hardship on states and would put them in the position of making cuts to providers,” said Susan Van Meter, vice president of federal relations for the Healthcare Association of New York State.

So where does that leave embattled senators and congressmen? Congress might “pivot” in many ways in January: to sanctions on Iran; hearings on our anti-terrorist policies; and a real pro-jobs agenda to encourage rather than retard the hiring of new workers. It might be beneficial for the country and for the political outlook of incumbent lawmakers to turn their attention to these very urgent issues rather than an artificially created “health-care crisis.” ObamaCare has become a political poltergeist, and lawmakers would do well to race to find something else to occupy their time. Especially those who don’t have the luxury, as Nelson does, of several more years before facing the angry voters.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid seems to say, “Never mind”: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is prepared to give in to demands from centrists in order to pass the health-care legislation before Christmas, senators say.Reid indicated at the Democratic Conference meeting on Monday that he would drop a controversial Medicare buy-in provision, which was offered as a replacement to the government-run health insurance option, to win the votes of Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).” All that’s missing is what’s in the deal.

Seems like the public doesn’t want any kind of plan. The RealClearPolitics average shows that 38 percent approve of ObamaCare and 53.3 percent disapprove.

Tevi Troy pulls off a Chanukah miracle — getting the White House to cough up 150 more invites to the White House Chanukah party.

The New York Post (h/t Ben Smith) reports that “Marc Mukasey, the son of Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is mulling mounting a challenge to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.” Bet we’d have some fun debates on the KSM trial.

Another inconvenient poll: “With world leaders debating how to address climate change in Copenhagen and the U.S. Senate poised to take up a climate bill in the coming months, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a priority for government leaders. That’s a significant drop from April of 2007, when 52 percent of those surveyed said the issue should be a high priority.” Apparently, these people want jobs and economic prosperity: “A clear majority – 61 percent – say stimulating the economy should come first. Only 29 percent say protecting the environment is more important.”

The Marx Brothers hold a climate-control conference.

And the scientific clown show continues: Al Gore’s prediction of an ice-free north polar cap in five years isn’t supported by any facts. “The climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast. ‘It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,’ Dr. [Wieslav] Maslowski said. ‘I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.’ ” Gore says it’s close enough for made-up science — er — for scaring the public  — er — for what he’s doing.

“Cramdown” mortgage legislation is also going down for the count. Almost like there isn’t a majority for extreme antibusiness regulation.

Bill McGurn thinks actions count more than words: “In wartime, people soon tire of lofty words that do not seem borne out by events. In September 2001, with the twin towers still smoldering and the Pentagon wounded, President Bush delivered a war address to a joint session of Congress (which I had no part in, so am free to praise) that ranks with the best of FDR. Whether that speech ever receives its full due depends in part on how this war ends. The same goes for President Obama. At West Point and Oslo, he spoke to the challenge of defending our freedom against hard men with no moral limit on what they are willing to do to crush it. The irony is that whether these fine speeches are remembered by history depends on a word he didn’t use in either one: victory.”

Harry Reid seems to say, “Never mind”: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is prepared to give in to demands from centrists in order to pass the health-care legislation before Christmas, senators say.Reid indicated at the Democratic Conference meeting on Monday that he would drop a controversial Medicare buy-in provision, which was offered as a replacement to the government-run health insurance option, to win the votes of Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).” All that’s missing is what’s in the deal.

Seems like the public doesn’t want any kind of plan. The RealClearPolitics average shows that 38 percent approve of ObamaCare and 53.3 percent disapprove.

Tevi Troy pulls off a Chanukah miracle — getting the White House to cough up 150 more invites to the White House Chanukah party.

The New York Post (h/t Ben Smith) reports that “Marc Mukasey, the son of Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is mulling mounting a challenge to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.” Bet we’d have some fun debates on the KSM trial.

Another inconvenient poll: “With world leaders debating how to address climate change in Copenhagen and the U.S. Senate poised to take up a climate bill in the coming months, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a priority for government leaders. That’s a significant drop from April of 2007, when 52 percent of those surveyed said the issue should be a high priority.” Apparently, these people want jobs and economic prosperity: “A clear majority – 61 percent – say stimulating the economy should come first. Only 29 percent say protecting the environment is more important.”

The Marx Brothers hold a climate-control conference.

And the scientific clown show continues: Al Gore’s prediction of an ice-free north polar cap in five years isn’t supported by any facts. “The climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast. ‘It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,’ Dr. [Wieslav] Maslowski said. ‘I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.’ ” Gore says it’s close enough for made-up science — er — for scaring the public  — er — for what he’s doing.

“Cramdown” mortgage legislation is also going down for the count. Almost like there isn’t a majority for extreme antibusiness regulation.

Bill McGurn thinks actions count more than words: “In wartime, people soon tire of lofty words that do not seem borne out by events. In September 2001, with the twin towers still smoldering and the Pentagon wounded, President Bush delivered a war address to a joint session of Congress (which I had no part in, so am free to praise) that ranks with the best of FDR. Whether that speech ever receives its full due depends in part on how this war ends. The same goes for President Obama. At West Point and Oslo, he spoke to the challenge of defending our freedom against hard men with no moral limit on what they are willing to do to crush it. The irony is that whether these fine speeches are remembered by history depends on a word he didn’t use in either one: victory.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling observes that Sen. Michael Bennet is trailing all Republicans in a potential 2010 race, one by as much as nine points. He notes that this “is a reminder that Democratic Governors sure didn’t do their party in the Senate any favors with their appointments last year. The appointments of Michael Bennet in Colorado, Ted Kaufman in Delaware, Roland Burris in Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York put all of those seats in play for next year and it really didn’t have to be that way.”

James Capretta and Yuval Levin explain ReidCare: ”In other words, rather than build on the failed cost-control model of Medicare, they now want to actually further burden Medicare itself. Why take a roundabout path to failure when a direct one is available? The irrationality of this solution is staggering. But, of course, it’s a solution to Reid’s political problem, not to the nation’s health care financing crisis.”

The New York Times thinks ReidCare is in trouble too: “Democratic leaders hit a rough patch Friday in their push for sweeping health care legislation, as they tried to fend off criticism of their proposals from a top Medicare official, Republicans and even members of their own party. . .Republicans said [the Medicare actuary's] report confirmed what they had been saying for months. ‘It is a remarkable report,’ said Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska. ‘It is a roundhouse blow to the Reid plan.’” We’ll see.

Dana Milbank thinks Senate Democrats could find a better leader. He explains that “as his public-option gambit demonstrated, merely dangling proposals, regardless of how meritorious they may be, doesn’t cause them to become law — and it may cause Democrats from more conservative states, such as Lincoln’s Arkansas, to lose their jobs.” And lose his own as well. Millbank thinks his caucus might be happier with Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer. Well, they might get their wish, given Reid’s polling.

Looking at the dismal polling on ObamaCare and the CBS polling showing Obama leading George W. Bush by only a 50-to-44-percent margin, James Taranto argues that ”these results almost surely represent a backlash against Obama and Congress’s Democrats. Their insistence on pushing ahead and forcing on the country a health-care scheme that by now is almost as unpopular as it is monstrous is without a doubt a major factor here.” And it might be that a cold, ultra-liberal president who blames his problems on his predecessor really isn’t what they all had in mind.

An excellent development, and perhaps a sign that the Obami are waking up to the reality of the thugocracy of Iran: “More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution. . .President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn’t respond to international calls for negotiations over its nuclear-fuel program.”

Obama is still sliding: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

It’s the “international community” after all: “Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plan to address negotiators at international climate talks in Copenhagen next week.”

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling observes that Sen. Michael Bennet is trailing all Republicans in a potential 2010 race, one by as much as nine points. He notes that this “is a reminder that Democratic Governors sure didn’t do their party in the Senate any favors with their appointments last year. The appointments of Michael Bennet in Colorado, Ted Kaufman in Delaware, Roland Burris in Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York put all of those seats in play for next year and it really didn’t have to be that way.”

James Capretta and Yuval Levin explain ReidCare: ”In other words, rather than build on the failed cost-control model of Medicare, they now want to actually further burden Medicare itself. Why take a roundabout path to failure when a direct one is available? The irrationality of this solution is staggering. But, of course, it’s a solution to Reid’s political problem, not to the nation’s health care financing crisis.”

The New York Times thinks ReidCare is in trouble too: “Democratic leaders hit a rough patch Friday in their push for sweeping health care legislation, as they tried to fend off criticism of their proposals from a top Medicare official, Republicans and even members of their own party. . .Republicans said [the Medicare actuary's] report confirmed what they had been saying for months. ‘It is a remarkable report,’ said Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska. ‘It is a roundhouse blow to the Reid plan.’” We’ll see.

Dana Milbank thinks Senate Democrats could find a better leader. He explains that “as his public-option gambit demonstrated, merely dangling proposals, regardless of how meritorious they may be, doesn’t cause them to become law — and it may cause Democrats from more conservative states, such as Lincoln’s Arkansas, to lose their jobs.” And lose his own as well. Millbank thinks his caucus might be happier with Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer. Well, they might get their wish, given Reid’s polling.

Looking at the dismal polling on ObamaCare and the CBS polling showing Obama leading George W. Bush by only a 50-to-44-percent margin, James Taranto argues that ”these results almost surely represent a backlash against Obama and Congress’s Democrats. Their insistence on pushing ahead and forcing on the country a health-care scheme that by now is almost as unpopular as it is monstrous is without a doubt a major factor here.” And it might be that a cold, ultra-liberal president who blames his problems on his predecessor really isn’t what they all had in mind.

An excellent development, and perhaps a sign that the Obami are waking up to the reality of the thugocracy of Iran: “More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution. . .President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn’t respond to international calls for negotiations over its nuclear-fuel program.”

Obama is still sliding: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

It’s the “international community” after all: “Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plan to address negotiators at international climate talks in Copenhagen next week.”

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New York Senate Race

You know things aren’t going well for Democrats when Blue States like New York, Illinois, and Connecticut become real pick-up opportunities for Republicans in 2010 Senate races. In New York, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand may be in trouble, either from a Democratic primary challenger or a Republican opponent. The chairman of the state’s Conservative party remarks: “Clearly she is unknown, that’s No. 1. No. 2, she has flipped on every given issue so I think she’s weakened herself upstate where initially that was her strength.” But there is something else as well — that “trial of the century.”

After all, she hasn’t opposed the administration’s gambit to try terrorists in the U.S. She and her fellow Democrats had the chance to block funds for terrorist trials and again to cut off funds for refurbishing Supermax prisons to house them here. But instead, the Democratic Senate enabled the Obama administration’s decision, one that is overwhelmingly unpopular. In the general election, Gillibrand may face Rudy Giuliani, who would make this a top issue. But what about New Yorker Debra Burlingame? No sign that she is yet interested in running. But she and her grassroots organization may make Gillibrand’s campaign dicey. Why is it that Gillibrand didn’t do what she could to block KSM’s trial? Well, she’ll need to answer that — if she makes it to the general election.

You know things aren’t going well for Democrats when Blue States like New York, Illinois, and Connecticut become real pick-up opportunities for Republicans in 2010 Senate races. In New York, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand may be in trouble, either from a Democratic primary challenger or a Republican opponent. The chairman of the state’s Conservative party remarks: “Clearly she is unknown, that’s No. 1. No. 2, she has flipped on every given issue so I think she’s weakened herself upstate where initially that was her strength.” But there is something else as well — that “trial of the century.”

After all, she hasn’t opposed the administration’s gambit to try terrorists in the U.S. She and her fellow Democrats had the chance to block funds for terrorist trials and again to cut off funds for refurbishing Supermax prisons to house them here. But instead, the Democratic Senate enabled the Obama administration’s decision, one that is overwhelmingly unpopular. In the general election, Gillibrand may face Rudy Giuliani, who would make this a top issue. But what about New Yorker Debra Burlingame? No sign that she is yet interested in running. But she and her grassroots organization may make Gillibrand’s campaign dicey. Why is it that Gillibrand didn’t do what she could to block KSM’s trial? Well, she’ll need to answer that — if she makes it to the general election.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

COMMENTARY contributor Noah Pollak makes the convincing case that Iran and Syria have largely prevailed in using asymmetric warfare with surrogates against Israel: “It allows Iran and Syria to take credit in the region for antagonizing Israel without risking retaliation on their soil; it detaches conflict from regime security, reducing the disincentive for war; and it forces battles into densely-populated civilian areas, undermining the IDF’s military superiority and ensuring civilian destruction which today’s media and NGOs — an increasingly meaningless distinction — blame on Israel, not on the terrorist groups who start the wars.” The solution: take the fight to the source of the problem, using all available tools (“there is no reason why asymmetry cannot be countered with asymmetry, or new diplomatic and economic initiatives pursued”).

Fox News has an ACORN scoop: it seems that in California, one step ahead of the state attorney general’s investigation, the group tried to dump 20,000 documents that “point to illicit relationships between ACORN and a bank and a labor union — as well as confidential information that could put thousands at risk for identity theft.”

Tevi Troy notes the downgrading of the White House Chanukah party.

It’s not really 10.2 percent: “As experts debate the potential speed of the US recovery, one figure looms large but is often overlooked: nearly 1 in 5 Americans is either out of work or under-employed. According to the government’s broadest measure of unemployment, some 17.5 percent are either without a job entirely or underemployed. The so-called U-6 number is at the highest rate since becoming an official labor statistic in 1994.”

If you read nothing else on the KSM trial, read this interview with Bill Burck, former deputy counsel to President George W. Bush, who explains why Holder can’t guarantee a result and why the trial is such a bad idea. A sample: “Attorney General Holder has gone on record that he believes waterboarding is torture; and it is now known that KSM was subject to enhanced interrogation techniques, including repeated use of waterboarding. KSM’s lawyer will almost certainly ask the judge to throw out all the charges against him because he was allegedly tortured. How can the Department of Justice contest that KSM was tortured if the attorney general has gone on record that waterboarding is torture? They can’t.”

The Maryland Federation of College Republicans stand up to their Democratic counterparts, whose campaign director declared that “Israel is oppressing the Palestinian people.”

Kirsten who? “Ten months after Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor David Paterson, the junior senator from New York has failed to become a household name among registered voters in New York State. 25% of the electorate thinks Gillibrand is doing either an excellent or good job in office, and 12% believes she is performing poorly. Perhaps, though, Gillibrand’s bigger concern is that 24% of the electorate is unsure how to rate her.”

One more time: “Sen. Joseph Lieberman, speaking in that trademark sonorous baritone, utters a simple statement that translates into real trouble for Democratic leaders: ‘I’m going to be stubborn on this.’ Stubborn, he means, in opposing any health-care overhaul that includes a ‘public option,’ or government-run health-insurance plan, as the current bill does. His opposition is strong enough that Mr. Lieberman says he won’t vote to let a bill come to a final vote if a public option is included.”

After spending like drunken sailors on a failed stimulus and a raft of domestic spending, Democrats now want to “pay as we go” — for the Afghanistan war.

Others have noticed that the mammography controversy raises an uncomfortable truth for ObamaCare backers: “The flap over breast cancer screening has provided a fascinating insight into the political future of ObamaCare. Specifically, the political left supports such medical rationing even as it disavows that any such thing is happening. … What’s really going on here is that the left knows its designs will require political rationing of care, but it doesn’t want the public to figure this out until ObamaCare passes. … Americans will simply have to accept that the price of government-run health care in the name of redistributive justice is that patients and their doctors must bow to the superior wisdom of HHS task forces.”

COMMENTARY contributor Noah Pollak makes the convincing case that Iran and Syria have largely prevailed in using asymmetric warfare with surrogates against Israel: “It allows Iran and Syria to take credit in the region for antagonizing Israel without risking retaliation on their soil; it detaches conflict from regime security, reducing the disincentive for war; and it forces battles into densely-populated civilian areas, undermining the IDF’s military superiority and ensuring civilian destruction which today’s media and NGOs — an increasingly meaningless distinction — blame on Israel, not on the terrorist groups who start the wars.” The solution: take the fight to the source of the problem, using all available tools (“there is no reason why asymmetry cannot be countered with asymmetry, or new diplomatic and economic initiatives pursued”).

Fox News has an ACORN scoop: it seems that in California, one step ahead of the state attorney general’s investigation, the group tried to dump 20,000 documents that “point to illicit relationships between ACORN and a bank and a labor union — as well as confidential information that could put thousands at risk for identity theft.”

Tevi Troy notes the downgrading of the White House Chanukah party.

It’s not really 10.2 percent: “As experts debate the potential speed of the US recovery, one figure looms large but is often overlooked: nearly 1 in 5 Americans is either out of work or under-employed. According to the government’s broadest measure of unemployment, some 17.5 percent are either without a job entirely or underemployed. The so-called U-6 number is at the highest rate since becoming an official labor statistic in 1994.”

If you read nothing else on the KSM trial, read this interview with Bill Burck, former deputy counsel to President George W. Bush, who explains why Holder can’t guarantee a result and why the trial is such a bad idea. A sample: “Attorney General Holder has gone on record that he believes waterboarding is torture; and it is now known that KSM was subject to enhanced interrogation techniques, including repeated use of waterboarding. KSM’s lawyer will almost certainly ask the judge to throw out all the charges against him because he was allegedly tortured. How can the Department of Justice contest that KSM was tortured if the attorney general has gone on record that waterboarding is torture? They can’t.”

The Maryland Federation of College Republicans stand up to their Democratic counterparts, whose campaign director declared that “Israel is oppressing the Palestinian people.”

Kirsten who? “Ten months after Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor David Paterson, the junior senator from New York has failed to become a household name among registered voters in New York State. 25% of the electorate thinks Gillibrand is doing either an excellent or good job in office, and 12% believes she is performing poorly. Perhaps, though, Gillibrand’s bigger concern is that 24% of the electorate is unsure how to rate her.”

One more time: “Sen. Joseph Lieberman, speaking in that trademark sonorous baritone, utters a simple statement that translates into real trouble for Democratic leaders: ‘I’m going to be stubborn on this.’ Stubborn, he means, in opposing any health-care overhaul that includes a ‘public option,’ or government-run health-insurance plan, as the current bill does. His opposition is strong enough that Mr. Lieberman says he won’t vote to let a bill come to a final vote if a public option is included.”

After spending like drunken sailors on a failed stimulus and a raft of domestic spending, Democrats now want to “pay as we go” — for the Afghanistan war.

Others have noticed that the mammography controversy raises an uncomfortable truth for ObamaCare backers: “The flap over breast cancer screening has provided a fascinating insight into the political future of ObamaCare. Specifically, the political left supports such medical rationing even as it disavows that any such thing is happening. … What’s really going on here is that the left knows its designs will require political rationing of care, but it doesn’t want the public to figure this out until ObamaCare passes. … Americans will simply have to accept that the price of government-run health care in the name of redistributive justice is that patients and their doctors must bow to the superior wisdom of HHS task forces.”

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That’s What Elections Are For

Rumors swirled as to whether Rudy Giuliani would enter the New York Senate race. Reports said he would not run for governor but was going to take on Kirsten Gillibrand. His spokesperson said he’ll tell you when he’s made up his mind. A new poll suggests he’d do well against Gillibrand:

54% of registered voters statewide would vote for Giuliani compared with 40% who would support Gillibrand. Even one-third of Democrats report they would back the Republican challenger, and Giuliani runs competitively against Gillibrand in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City.

Giuliani has been out hammering Obama on the decision to try KSM in a civilian court, and one supposes that this and national security would be top issues in the Senate race. After all, within a fortnight, Democrats in the Senate declined the opportunity to cut off funding to move terrorists to the U.S. for trial and to prepare SuperMax prisons to house them, thereby ensuring this issue will be front and center in the 2010 Senate races. Whether it’s Giuliani or another challenger, Gillibrand will be forced to defend her votes and her party’s record on national security. The voters will have their say.

Rumors swirled as to whether Rudy Giuliani would enter the New York Senate race. Reports said he would not run for governor but was going to take on Kirsten Gillibrand. His spokesperson said he’ll tell you when he’s made up his mind. A new poll suggests he’d do well against Gillibrand:

54% of registered voters statewide would vote for Giuliani compared with 40% who would support Gillibrand. Even one-third of Democrats report they would back the Republican challenger, and Giuliani runs competitively against Gillibrand in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City.

Giuliani has been out hammering Obama on the decision to try KSM in a civilian court, and one supposes that this and national security would be top issues in the Senate race. After all, within a fortnight, Democrats in the Senate declined the opportunity to cut off funding to move terrorists to the U.S. for trial and to prepare SuperMax prisons to house them, thereby ensuring this issue will be front and center in the 2010 Senate races. Whether it’s Giuliani or another challenger, Gillibrand will be forced to defend her votes and her party’s record on national security. The voters will have their say.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The guru of conventional Beltway wisdom, David Broder, has had enough: “The more President Obama examines our options in Afghanistan, the less he likes the choices he sees. But, as the old saying goes, to govern is to choose — and he has stretched the internal debate to the breaking point. … The cost of indecision is growing every day. Americans, our allies who have contributed their own troops to the struggle against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the Afghans and their government are waiting impatiently, while the challenge is getting worse.”

A devastating portrait of Eric Holder: “The dispassion, the self-reverence, the blindness of the man, are marvelous to behold, and so perfectly reflect the president he so perfectly serves. ‘Neutral and detached’ people shall ‘understand the reasons why’ he made those decisions, shall see he has left ‘the politics out of it,’ and shall recognize what’s right — something the rest of us, benighted and bellicose souls that we are, have never managed to do with respect to the disposition of those committing mass murders of Americans in their ongoing war against our civilization.”

Another nail in the coffin of PelosiCare: “The House-approved healthcare overhaul would raise the costs of healthcare by $289 billion over the next 10 years, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan, independent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).”

And that’s not all: “A plan to slash more than $500 billion from future Medicare spending — one of the biggest sources of funding for President Obama’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health-care system — would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, according to a government evaluation released Saturday.”

Surprise, surprise: the Obami are bothered by the cost of winning the war in Afghanistan.

Rep. Peter King: “Like many New Yorkers and members of the families of the nearly 3,000 innocent Americans murdered on that horrific Tuesday morning eight years ago, I’m outraged and insulted by President Obama’s decision to transfer Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, to New York City for trial in civilian federal court. The decision will go down in history as one of the worst made by any US president. While it may be hailed by Europeans, the ACLU and the far-left-wing of the Democratic Party, the president’s action actually threatens American lives and weakens US national security.” I wonder what Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will say.

Enough is enough, says Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: “Defense Secretary Robert Gates has blocked the public release of any more pictures of foreign detainees abused by their U.S. captors, saying their release would endanger American soldiers. The Obama administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court late Friday saying that Mr. Gates has invoked new powers blocking the release of the photos.”

Steve Schmidt vs. Sarah Palin. Hmm. Is there any doubt who’s got a better chance of being on a 2012 campaign? It’s one thing to lose a campaign, quite another to go down as the perpetual bad-mouther of your VP candidate.

The guru of conventional Beltway wisdom, David Broder, has had enough: “The more President Obama examines our options in Afghanistan, the less he likes the choices he sees. But, as the old saying goes, to govern is to choose — and he has stretched the internal debate to the breaking point. … The cost of indecision is growing every day. Americans, our allies who have contributed their own troops to the struggle against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the Afghans and their government are waiting impatiently, while the challenge is getting worse.”

A devastating portrait of Eric Holder: “The dispassion, the self-reverence, the blindness of the man, are marvelous to behold, and so perfectly reflect the president he so perfectly serves. ‘Neutral and detached’ people shall ‘understand the reasons why’ he made those decisions, shall see he has left ‘the politics out of it,’ and shall recognize what’s right — something the rest of us, benighted and bellicose souls that we are, have never managed to do with respect to the disposition of those committing mass murders of Americans in their ongoing war against our civilization.”

Another nail in the coffin of PelosiCare: “The House-approved healthcare overhaul would raise the costs of healthcare by $289 billion over the next 10 years, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan, independent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).”

And that’s not all: “A plan to slash more than $500 billion from future Medicare spending — one of the biggest sources of funding for President Obama’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health-care system — would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, according to a government evaluation released Saturday.”

Surprise, surprise: the Obami are bothered by the cost of winning the war in Afghanistan.

Rep. Peter King: “Like many New Yorkers and members of the families of the nearly 3,000 innocent Americans murdered on that horrific Tuesday morning eight years ago, I’m outraged and insulted by President Obama’s decision to transfer Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, to New York City for trial in civilian federal court. The decision will go down in history as one of the worst made by any US president. While it may be hailed by Europeans, the ACLU and the far-left-wing of the Democratic Party, the president’s action actually threatens American lives and weakens US national security.” I wonder what Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will say.

Enough is enough, says Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: “Defense Secretary Robert Gates has blocked the public release of any more pictures of foreign detainees abused by their U.S. captors, saying their release would endanger American soldiers. The Obama administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court late Friday saying that Mr. Gates has invoked new powers blocking the release of the photos.”

Steve Schmidt vs. Sarah Palin. Hmm. Is there any doubt who’s got a better chance of being on a 2012 campaign? It’s one thing to lose a campaign, quite another to go down as the perpetual bad-mouther of your VP candidate.

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