Commentary Magazine


Topic: Maine

Toomey Support for DADT Repeal Highlights a Conservative’s Independent Streak

The announcement that Pennsylvania Senator-elect Pat Toomey will support repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy about gays in the military may signal the end of this pointless rule. Those who haven’t followed Toomey’s career may be surprised that a hard-core conservative Republican and devout pro-life Catholic like Toomey would support a gay-rights measure. But Toomey’s libertarian instincts and abhorrence of big government have led him to the correct conclusion that seeking to ban a portion of the population that might usefully serve their country is a mistake. Nor is this a new position for Toomey.

During his successful Senate campaign, Toomey made it clear that he wanted to end DADT. In fact, he mentioned it in an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he wrote last summer in which he detailed why he would have voted against Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In the piece, he criticized Kagan for banning military recruiters from Harvard Law School because of DADT. Toomey wrote:

I share the view that the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy regarding gay servicemen and women has outlived its usefulness and, subject to the military’s conclusion of the feasibility of removing it, I support its repeal. However, one’s disagreement with a federal law does not give one license to circumvent it.

While Toomey won’t be able to cast a vote on the repeal attempt during the lame-duck session of Congress, his willingness to do so after January may change the mathematics of this debate. Moreover, Toomey — whose reputation as a pro-life stalwart, Tea Party favorite, and libertarian hardliner on fiscal matters renders him largely impervious to attacks from the right — could help give cover to other wavering Republicans. Previously, the only Republicans to announce support for the end of DADT were the liberal Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Toomey’s stand on gays in the military might put him in conflict with conservative culture-war advocates, who will lament his willingness to put this issue to rest. Indeed, this puts him at odds with Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who has recently been beating the bushes in New Hampshire promoting a possible 2012 presidential candidacy (though not too many people are taking Santorum’s ego-trip of a campaign seriously). But the irony here is that six years ago, Santorum, the man who now proclaims himself as the true guardian of conservative values, did his best to torpedo Toomey’s primary challenge of liberal Arlen Specter. Though Santorum and President Bush urged Toomey to step aside, he wouldn’t compromise and stayed in the race, ultimately narrowly losing the primary to Specter. Six years later, Toomey, who stuck to his guns on his conservative principles, is now about to take the place of the turncoat Specter, who was beaten out for the Democratic nomination earlier this year.

Six years is a lifetime in politics, but Pennsylvania Democrats are already looking ahead to 2016, since they believe the election of a conservative like Toomey was a fluke that cannot be repeated. They may be right, but what we will see until then is a senator who denounces big government and actually means it. That may not earn Toomey many friends in a state that has long counted upon its representatives to fight for local special interests, something that Toomey is unlikely to do. But as we are seeing with the issue of gays in the military, Toomey’s principled independence is a factor that political observers ought not to take for granted.

The announcement that Pennsylvania Senator-elect Pat Toomey will support repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy about gays in the military may signal the end of this pointless rule. Those who haven’t followed Toomey’s career may be surprised that a hard-core conservative Republican and devout pro-life Catholic like Toomey would support a gay-rights measure. But Toomey’s libertarian instincts and abhorrence of big government have led him to the correct conclusion that seeking to ban a portion of the population that might usefully serve their country is a mistake. Nor is this a new position for Toomey.

During his successful Senate campaign, Toomey made it clear that he wanted to end DADT. In fact, he mentioned it in an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he wrote last summer in which he detailed why he would have voted against Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In the piece, he criticized Kagan for banning military recruiters from Harvard Law School because of DADT. Toomey wrote:

I share the view that the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy regarding gay servicemen and women has outlived its usefulness and, subject to the military’s conclusion of the feasibility of removing it, I support its repeal. However, one’s disagreement with a federal law does not give one license to circumvent it.

While Toomey won’t be able to cast a vote on the repeal attempt during the lame-duck session of Congress, his willingness to do so after January may change the mathematics of this debate. Moreover, Toomey — whose reputation as a pro-life stalwart, Tea Party favorite, and libertarian hardliner on fiscal matters renders him largely impervious to attacks from the right — could help give cover to other wavering Republicans. Previously, the only Republicans to announce support for the end of DADT were the liberal Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Toomey’s stand on gays in the military might put him in conflict with conservative culture-war advocates, who will lament his willingness to put this issue to rest. Indeed, this puts him at odds with Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who has recently been beating the bushes in New Hampshire promoting a possible 2012 presidential candidacy (though not too many people are taking Santorum’s ego-trip of a campaign seriously). But the irony here is that six years ago, Santorum, the man who now proclaims himself as the true guardian of conservative values, did his best to torpedo Toomey’s primary challenge of liberal Arlen Specter. Though Santorum and President Bush urged Toomey to step aside, he wouldn’t compromise and stayed in the race, ultimately narrowly losing the primary to Specter. Six years later, Toomey, who stuck to his guns on his conservative principles, is now about to take the place of the turncoat Specter, who was beaten out for the Democratic nomination earlier this year.

Six years is a lifetime in politics, but Pennsylvania Democrats are already looking ahead to 2016, since they believe the election of a conservative like Toomey was a fluke that cannot be repeated. They may be right, but what we will see until then is a senator who denounces big government and actually means it. That may not earn Toomey many friends in a state that has long counted upon its representatives to fight for local special interests, something that Toomey is unlikely to do. But as we are seeing with the issue of gays in the military, Toomey’s principled independence is a factor that political observers ought not to take for granted.

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RE: Why Aren’t There Any Republican Scientists?

Alana’s reference to the Pew Research poll that used the membership of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a proxy for American scientists generally, which it is not, reminds me of perhaps the most famous poll in American History, the Literary Digest poll for the presidential election of 1936.

The Literary Digest, a middlebrow magazine perhaps roughly analogous to the Atlantic or Harper’s today, polled a huge number of people — 2,500,000 all told — and came up with the prediction that Alf Landon, the Republican candidate, would decisively defeat FDR. He didn’t. In fact he won only two states and eight electoral votes, tying the lowest total of any major party candidate since modern party politics began around the time of the Civil War.

What went wrong? As with the Pew Research poll, the problem was the pool from which the sample was drawn. The Digest used its own subscription base, people with registered automobiles, and those with telephones. In the Depression, that skewed the sample way up the socioeconomic scale. (It would not be until 1946 that half of American households had a telephone.)

When the poll was first published, it had a gloss of believability about it. Republicans had done well in the Maine gubernatorial and congressional races (which were then held in September), and Maine had a reputation a being a bellwether state. “As Maine goes,” went the political proverb, “so goes the nation.”

After the election, Democrats gleefully changed  the saying to “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.” And the Literary Digest soon folded.

Alana’s reference to the Pew Research poll that used the membership of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a proxy for American scientists generally, which it is not, reminds me of perhaps the most famous poll in American History, the Literary Digest poll for the presidential election of 1936.

The Literary Digest, a middlebrow magazine perhaps roughly analogous to the Atlantic or Harper’s today, polled a huge number of people — 2,500,000 all told — and came up with the prediction that Alf Landon, the Republican candidate, would decisively defeat FDR. He didn’t. In fact he won only two states and eight electoral votes, tying the lowest total of any major party candidate since modern party politics began around the time of the Civil War.

What went wrong? As with the Pew Research poll, the problem was the pool from which the sample was drawn. The Digest used its own subscription base, people with registered automobiles, and those with telephones. In the Depression, that skewed the sample way up the socioeconomic scale. (It would not be until 1946 that half of American households had a telephone.)

When the poll was first published, it had a gloss of believability about it. Republicans had done well in the Maine gubernatorial and congressional races (which were then held in September), and Maine had a reputation a being a bellwether state. “As Maine goes,” went the political proverb, “so goes the nation.”

After the election, Democrats gleefully changed  the saying to “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.” And the Literary Digest soon folded.

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Earmark Vote

The Senate defeated the earmark ban. The Dems who scrambled to get on the good side of voters (i.e., voting for the ban): Evan Bayh (retiring but with political ambitions), Michael Benet (just re-elected narrowly but evidently has learned something), Russ Feingold (political aspirations?), Claire McCaskill (up in 2012), Bill Nelson (the same), Mark Udall (the invisible senator), and Mark Warner (struggling to get in line with the Virginia move to the right).

On the other side, the Republicans who voted against the ban include such giants as Robert Bennett (did Utah get it right or what?), George Voinovich (also leaving the Senate, maybe angling for a lobbyist spot?), Susan Collins (her Maine “sister” got it right, however, perhaps because Olympia Snowe faces the voters in 2012), James Inhofe (not up in 2012), Lisa Murkowski (she ran on “bring the bacon home,” so no surprise), Richard Lugar (can you say “Tea Party” challenge? Sorry, it’s not the end of civilization, Mr. Danforth), Thad Cochran (not up in 2012), and Richard Shelby (not up either).

The earmark ban, like the freeze on pay for federal workers, is largely symbolic, but let’s be honest: symbols matter, and the voters are looking for signs that their lawmakers “get it.” With the few exceptions noted above, it seems that Democratic senators by and large don’t understand what’s afoot in the country. They remain oblivious at their own peril.

The Senate defeated the earmark ban. The Dems who scrambled to get on the good side of voters (i.e., voting for the ban): Evan Bayh (retiring but with political ambitions), Michael Benet (just re-elected narrowly but evidently has learned something), Russ Feingold (political aspirations?), Claire McCaskill (up in 2012), Bill Nelson (the same), Mark Udall (the invisible senator), and Mark Warner (struggling to get in line with the Virginia move to the right).

On the other side, the Republicans who voted against the ban include such giants as Robert Bennett (did Utah get it right or what?), George Voinovich (also leaving the Senate, maybe angling for a lobbyist spot?), Susan Collins (her Maine “sister” got it right, however, perhaps because Olympia Snowe faces the voters in 2012), James Inhofe (not up in 2012), Lisa Murkowski (she ran on “bring the bacon home,” so no surprise), Richard Lugar (can you say “Tea Party” challenge? Sorry, it’s not the end of civilization, Mr. Danforth), Thad Cochran (not up in 2012), and Richard Shelby (not up either).

The earmark ban, like the freeze on pay for federal workers, is largely symbolic, but let’s be honest: symbols matter, and the voters are looking for signs that their lawmakers “get it.” With the few exceptions noted above, it seems that Democratic senators by and large don’t understand what’s afoot in the country. They remain oblivious at their own peril.

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Searching

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories. Read More

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who on paper might seem well-suited to the times (businessman, successful governor), is hobbled, maybe fatally, by his authorship of a health-care plan that bears a striking resemblance to the one which both Republican insiders and Tea Party activists are determined to obliterate. This is no small handicap.

So what’s the formula for success? Republicans supported and emerged victorious with serious-minded conservative candidates – Rob Portman in Ohio, Dan Coats in Indiana, and John Boozman in Arkansas – while finding new faces (Rubio, Ron Johnson) who avoided the hot-button rhetoric that derailed a number of the Tea Party candidates. Although ideologically not all that different from the Tea Party–preferred candidates, the GOP victors demonstrated how to meld fiscal conservatism with a more accessible brand of populism. They hardly disappointed the Tea Party crowd; but neither did they alienate independent voters.

Are there GOP hopefuls in 2012 who can fuse Tea Party populism with sober conservative governance? Many in the conservative intelligentsia pine for Gov. Chris Christie, who has become a rock star on YouTube; he won in a Blue State and now is battling against the Trenton insiders. And he’s doing it with showmanship that only Palin can top. But he joked that apparently only “suicide” would convince us that he wasn’t interested. I’m thinking he might be serious about not running.

Then there is Rep. Paul Ryan, soon to take over the chair of the Budget Committee. He excites many conservatives in and outside the Beltway. He’s brainy and articulate, with a shake-up-the-status-quo approach to entitlement and budget reform. He already matched up well against Obama, arguably winning a TKO in the health-care summit. And he will be front and center in the key legislative battles, in some ways the face of the GOP House majority, for the next two years. While he’s said he’s not interested in a 2012 run, he’s not been Christie-esque in his denials. As for the “rule” that House members can’t make viable presidential candidates, I think the rulebook was shredded in the last few years.

Of course, there is Marco Rubio, the party’s genuine superstar (with an immigrant story and deep belief in American exceptionalism), who proved to be an especially effective messenger of conservative principles. However, both he and his most fervent supporters seem to agree: it’s too soon.

So the search goes on. The good news for the GOP is that they have a slew of new governors (e.g., John Kasich) and senators and some retiring ones (Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels) who understand how to forge the center-right coalition needed to get elected. A few faces familiar to political junkies (Mike Pence, John Thune) are also considering a run, which will test whether a Washington insider can nevertheless take on the mantle of reformer/outsider. Can any from this group of Republicans — who frankly lack magnetic personalities – also engage Tea Partiers? We will see.

So conservatives keep looking and trying to persuade the reluctant pols to throw their hats into the ring. Those who imagine they can win back the White House without full engagement of the 2010 winning formula (Tea Partiers plus traditionalists) should think again. A plan by half of the Republican alliance to overpower the other half is a formula for a second Obama term.

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It’s the Whole Country

David Brooks zeroes in on the Democrats’ meltdown in the Midwest:

Over the past two years, these voters have watched government radically increase spending in an attempt to put people back to work. According to the Office of Management and Budget, federal spending increased from about 21 percent of G.D.P. in 2008 to nearly 26 percent of G.D.P. this year. There was an $800 billion stimulus package, along with auto bailouts aimed directly at the Midwest.

Economists are debating the effects of all this, but voters have reached a verdict. According to exit polls on Tuesday, two-thirds of the Americans who voted said that the stimulus package was either harmful to the American economy or made no difference whatsoever. …

On Tuesday, the Democrats got destroyed in this region.

That is all true, but this was not simply a Midwest wipeout. The Democrats lost five House seats in New York and would have lost more had the top of the ticket not been pathetically unelectable. Tennessee, Arizona, Virginia, and Texas each had three seats swing to the Republicans. Four Florida seats swung as well. And those gubernatorial losses included Maine and New Mexico.

Brooks’s analysis of the Midwest is thus equally applicable to the country as a whole:

Some Democrats believe their policies have nothing to do with the debacle. It was the unemployment rate, they say. But it was Democratic economic policies that first repelled these voters. There’s been a sharp rise in the number of voters who think the Democrats are “too liberal.” Signature policy initiatives like health care remain gigantically unpopular. Republicans didn’t score gains everywhere unemployment was high (see California, for example). But they did score gains nearly everywhere where disapproval of President Obama and his policies was high.

We see from the exit polls that the Democrats’ thumping was delivered by the middle and upper classes, by the middle-aged and the old, by whites, by men and women, by Republicans and independents, by Protestants and Catholics, and by suburban, small-town, and rural voters. Moreover, although the Midwest went strongly Republican (54 percent), a higher percentage in the South voted for Republican House candidates (60 percent). And despite Californians’ inexplicable loyalty to the Democratic Party, the vote in the West was evenly split (Democrats won by a statistically insignificant margin of 49 to 48 percent).

So is this a Midwest problem or a nationwide problem for Obama? The evidence says it is the latter. As far as the midterms went, the Democrats have been reduced to a Dukakis-like shadow of its 2006-08 self. Blacks, Hispanics, Ph.d.’s, high school dropouts, the poor, limousine liberals, and big-city urbanites stuck with the Democrats. The Republicans won a majority of virtually every other segment of the country. In some respects, it is remarkable that the Democrats didn’t do worse. To paraphrase candidate Obama, there are not Blue States and Red States; there is a much Redder United States.

Is this permanent? Pshaw! It’s a cautionary tale that you can’t treat the American people as an annoyance and the country like a petri dish and stay in office. So if Obama and the Democrats persist on that course, their shellacking will continue.

David Brooks zeroes in on the Democrats’ meltdown in the Midwest:

Over the past two years, these voters have watched government radically increase spending in an attempt to put people back to work. According to the Office of Management and Budget, federal spending increased from about 21 percent of G.D.P. in 2008 to nearly 26 percent of G.D.P. this year. There was an $800 billion stimulus package, along with auto bailouts aimed directly at the Midwest.

Economists are debating the effects of all this, but voters have reached a verdict. According to exit polls on Tuesday, two-thirds of the Americans who voted said that the stimulus package was either harmful to the American economy or made no difference whatsoever. …

On Tuesday, the Democrats got destroyed in this region.

That is all true, but this was not simply a Midwest wipeout. The Democrats lost five House seats in New York and would have lost more had the top of the ticket not been pathetically unelectable. Tennessee, Arizona, Virginia, and Texas each had three seats swing to the Republicans. Four Florida seats swung as well. And those gubernatorial losses included Maine and New Mexico.

Brooks’s analysis of the Midwest is thus equally applicable to the country as a whole:

Some Democrats believe their policies have nothing to do with the debacle. It was the unemployment rate, they say. But it was Democratic economic policies that first repelled these voters. There’s been a sharp rise in the number of voters who think the Democrats are “too liberal.” Signature policy initiatives like health care remain gigantically unpopular. Republicans didn’t score gains everywhere unemployment was high (see California, for example). But they did score gains nearly everywhere where disapproval of President Obama and his policies was high.

We see from the exit polls that the Democrats’ thumping was delivered by the middle and upper classes, by the middle-aged and the old, by whites, by men and women, by Republicans and independents, by Protestants and Catholics, and by suburban, small-town, and rural voters. Moreover, although the Midwest went strongly Republican (54 percent), a higher percentage in the South voted for Republican House candidates (60 percent). And despite Californians’ inexplicable loyalty to the Democratic Party, the vote in the West was evenly split (Democrats won by a statistically insignificant margin of 49 to 48 percent).

So is this a Midwest problem or a nationwide problem for Obama? The evidence says it is the latter. As far as the midterms went, the Democrats have been reduced to a Dukakis-like shadow of its 2006-08 self. Blacks, Hispanics, Ph.d.’s, high school dropouts, the poor, limousine liberals, and big-city urbanites stuck with the Democrats. The Republicans won a majority of virtually every other segment of the country. In some respects, it is remarkable that the Democrats didn’t do worse. To paraphrase candidate Obama, there are not Blue States and Red States; there is a much Redder United States.

Is this permanent? Pshaw! It’s a cautionary tale that you can’t treat the American people as an annoyance and the country like a petri dish and stay in office. So if Obama and the Democrats persist on that course, their shellacking will continue.

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RE: Senate Shifts

As I noted yesterday, the new Senate will have more Republicans and, just as important, many more nervous Democrats. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is thinking along the same lines:

“I think the most interesting thing to watch in the next Congress is how many Democrats start voting with us,” McConnell said.

“Every one of the 23 Democrats up [for re-election] in the next cycle has a clear understanding of what happened Tuesday,” he said. “I think we have major opportunities for bipartisan coalitions to support what we want to do.”

There are roughly three groupings of these Democrats. First are those who already cross the aisle now and then. “Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has voted with Republicans about 32 percent of the time during this Congress, according to the Washington Post. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri has broken with her party on about 1 in 5 votes.” Yes, this is deceptive because on the really big issues (e.g., ObamaCare), these two voted with the White House. Still, their proclivity is not knee-jerk agreement with their leaders.

Next are those up for re-election in 2012. “Sen. John Tester, who’s up for re-election in 2012, represents red state Montana. And Senator-elect Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has to run again in two years for a full term, has already promised to take aim at Democratic policies — literally.” You can add in Kent Conrad. And Jim Webb.

And finally, you have the Blue State senators whose states aren’t all that Blue anymore. “Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin will say goodbye to Badger State delegation colleague Russ Feingold; Pennsylvania’s Sen. Bob Casey and Florida’s Bill Nelson will be joined on the Hill in January by conservative Republicans instead of by fellow Dems; and Sen. Sherrod Brown witnessed the Democrat in Ohio’s Senate contest beaten by almost 20 points.” In short, they risk being shown up by their states’ more-conservative senators.

For years, the conservative base has grumbled about the least-conservative members of the Senate caucus (the two Maine gals and Snarlin’ Arlen before he switched parties). Now it’s the Dems’ turn to wrestle with the least-liberal members on their side. Harry Reid’s headaches didn’t end on Election Day, and his own narrow escape from a highly vulnerable opponent will serve as a warning to members who don’t have the influence and seniority of a minority leader.

McConnell, with 47 on his side and more to poach from the Democratic side, will be a potent force. Prepare to see him run rings around Reid. Chuck Schumer can take some small consolation that he isn’t going to be the victim of McConnell’s parliamentary skills. And a final point: with a working majority of Red State Democrats and Republicans, prepare to see the liberal intelligentsia defend the wondrous filibuster. Just you wait.

As I noted yesterday, the new Senate will have more Republicans and, just as important, many more nervous Democrats. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is thinking along the same lines:

“I think the most interesting thing to watch in the next Congress is how many Democrats start voting with us,” McConnell said.

“Every one of the 23 Democrats up [for re-election] in the next cycle has a clear understanding of what happened Tuesday,” he said. “I think we have major opportunities for bipartisan coalitions to support what we want to do.”

There are roughly three groupings of these Democrats. First are those who already cross the aisle now and then. “Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has voted with Republicans about 32 percent of the time during this Congress, according to the Washington Post. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri has broken with her party on about 1 in 5 votes.” Yes, this is deceptive because on the really big issues (e.g., ObamaCare), these two voted with the White House. Still, their proclivity is not knee-jerk agreement with their leaders.

Next are those up for re-election in 2012. “Sen. John Tester, who’s up for re-election in 2012, represents red state Montana. And Senator-elect Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has to run again in two years for a full term, has already promised to take aim at Democratic policies — literally.” You can add in Kent Conrad. And Jim Webb.

And finally, you have the Blue State senators whose states aren’t all that Blue anymore. “Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin will say goodbye to Badger State delegation colleague Russ Feingold; Pennsylvania’s Sen. Bob Casey and Florida’s Bill Nelson will be joined on the Hill in January by conservative Republicans instead of by fellow Dems; and Sen. Sherrod Brown witnessed the Democrat in Ohio’s Senate contest beaten by almost 20 points.” In short, they risk being shown up by their states’ more-conservative senators.

For years, the conservative base has grumbled about the least-conservative members of the Senate caucus (the two Maine gals and Snarlin’ Arlen before he switched parties). Now it’s the Dems’ turn to wrestle with the least-liberal members on their side. Harry Reid’s headaches didn’t end on Election Day, and his own narrow escape from a highly vulnerable opponent will serve as a warning to members who don’t have the influence and seniority of a minority leader.

McConnell, with 47 on his side and more to poach from the Democratic side, will be a potent force. Prepare to see him run rings around Reid. Chuck Schumer can take some small consolation that he isn’t going to be the victim of McConnell’s parliamentary skills. And a final point: with a working majority of Red State Democrats and Republicans, prepare to see the liberal intelligentsia defend the wondrous filibuster. Just you wait.

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Some Historical Perspective on Negative Campaigning

Every election, it seems, political commentators and reporters suggest that the most recent election we’re in is “the nastiest, most negative election season of all time.” You have to be largely clueless about American history to argue such things — as this short video by Reason.tv highlights. The truth is that angry, fractious elections and political bickering have characterized American politics since the country’s founding.

Consider, for example, the first real political campaign in American history, between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in 1800. According to Professor Kerwin Swint, author of Mudslingers, “it reached a level of personal animosity that almost tore apart the young republic, and has rarely been equaled in two hundred years of presidential politics.” One pro-Adams newspaper predicted that if Jefferson were elected, “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.”

The 1872 election between Ulysses S. Grant and Horace Greeley was a race the New York Sun said deteriorated into “a shower of mud.” One pamphlet circulated by Greeley’s supporters called the Grant Administration the “crowning point of governmental wickedness” and accused Grant of bringing forth a “burning lava of seething corruption, a foul despotism….”

Or consider the 1884 race between Grover Cleveland and James Blaine. Cleveland was accused of fathering a child out of wedlock, which led Blaine supporters to chant what became a national slogan: “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?” (After Cleveland won the election, his supporters answered: “Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!”). The Reverend Samuel Burchard, a Presbyterian minister, spoke at a gathering of pro-Blaine clergy in New York City just days before the election: “We are Republicans, and don’t propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been Rum, Romanism, and Rebellions.” Accusations of Blaine’s corruption, as well as charges of his own sexual scandals, also dominated the debate. At campaign rallies, Democrats chanted, “Blaine! Blaine! James G. Blaine! The continental liar from the state of Maine!”

And despite the deep differences that exist between political figures today, we do not settle our differences the way Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr did, by duels at 10 paces with flintlock pistols. Heated exchanges are endemic to politics and what we are seeing today, while often not edifying, is not outside the norm of American history.

Like most people, I wish our debates were less trivial, more spirited, and more serious and contained fewer ad hominem attacks. We should have a clash of views about substantively important matters, such as what the proper role and purpose of the state should be in our lives. “Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords,” is how Theodore Roosevelt put it. We should therefore hope for serious, honest, reasoned arguments.

Abraham Lincoln is a unique figure in American history, and there is a danger in measuring the quality of our arguments by the quality of his. But there is a lot to be said for holding him up as the ideal. And if you read the words of Lincoln, you will find him constantly making his case in a compelling and philosophically serious way. That is what is most notable about his debates with Stephen Douglas. The burden was on Lincoln to show why Douglas’s advocacy for “popular sovereignty” was incompatible with self-government and the moral meaning of the Declaration of Independence — which is precisely what Lincoln did. If you read the transcripts of the debates, there was plenty of “negative” campaigning going on. But it is long forgotten, because the quality of the debate was so good and the stakes so high. The lesson for us is to aim high, not low, when it comes to the caliber of arguments we make to the public.

Politics is about important matters, and we should bring to it seriousness of purpose. But we should also bring to it a sense of history.

Every election, it seems, political commentators and reporters suggest that the most recent election we’re in is “the nastiest, most negative election season of all time.” You have to be largely clueless about American history to argue such things — as this short video by Reason.tv highlights. The truth is that angry, fractious elections and political bickering have characterized American politics since the country’s founding.

Consider, for example, the first real political campaign in American history, between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in 1800. According to Professor Kerwin Swint, author of Mudslingers, “it reached a level of personal animosity that almost tore apart the young republic, and has rarely been equaled in two hundred years of presidential politics.” One pro-Adams newspaper predicted that if Jefferson were elected, “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.”

The 1872 election between Ulysses S. Grant and Horace Greeley was a race the New York Sun said deteriorated into “a shower of mud.” One pamphlet circulated by Greeley’s supporters called the Grant Administration the “crowning point of governmental wickedness” and accused Grant of bringing forth a “burning lava of seething corruption, a foul despotism….”

Or consider the 1884 race between Grover Cleveland and James Blaine. Cleveland was accused of fathering a child out of wedlock, which led Blaine supporters to chant what became a national slogan: “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?” (After Cleveland won the election, his supporters answered: “Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!”). The Reverend Samuel Burchard, a Presbyterian minister, spoke at a gathering of pro-Blaine clergy in New York City just days before the election: “We are Republicans, and don’t propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been Rum, Romanism, and Rebellions.” Accusations of Blaine’s corruption, as well as charges of his own sexual scandals, also dominated the debate. At campaign rallies, Democrats chanted, “Blaine! Blaine! James G. Blaine! The continental liar from the state of Maine!”

And despite the deep differences that exist between political figures today, we do not settle our differences the way Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr did, by duels at 10 paces with flintlock pistols. Heated exchanges are endemic to politics and what we are seeing today, while often not edifying, is not outside the norm of American history.

Like most people, I wish our debates were less trivial, more spirited, and more serious and contained fewer ad hominem attacks. We should have a clash of views about substantively important matters, such as what the proper role and purpose of the state should be in our lives. “Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords,” is how Theodore Roosevelt put it. We should therefore hope for serious, honest, reasoned arguments.

Abraham Lincoln is a unique figure in American history, and there is a danger in measuring the quality of our arguments by the quality of his. But there is a lot to be said for holding him up as the ideal. And if you read the words of Lincoln, you will find him constantly making his case in a compelling and philosophically serious way. That is what is most notable about his debates with Stephen Douglas. The burden was on Lincoln to show why Douglas’s advocacy for “popular sovereignty” was incompatible with self-government and the moral meaning of the Declaration of Independence — which is precisely what Lincoln did. If you read the transcripts of the debates, there was plenty of “negative” campaigning going on. But it is long forgotten, because the quality of the debate was so good and the stakes so high. The lesson for us is to aim high, not low, when it comes to the caliber of arguments we make to the public.

Politics is about important matters, and we should bring to it seriousness of purpose. But we should also bring to it a sense of history.

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Lots and Lots of People Will Lose Their Current Coverage

Obama promised that if you liked your health-care coverage, you could keep it under ObamaCare. But not really. Not remotely close, actually:

McDonald’s Corp. has warned federal regulators that it could drop its health insurance plan for nearly 30,000 hourly restaurant workers unless regulators waive a new requirement of the U.S. health overhaul.

The move is one of the clearest indications that new rules may disrupt workers’ health plans as the law ripples through the real world.

Trade groups representing restaurants and retailers say low-wage employers might halt their coverage if the government doesn’t loosen a requirement for “mini-med” plans, which offer limited benefits to some 1.4 million Americans.

It’s not simply the mini-med plans (which don’t meet the ObamaCare regulation “to spend at least 80% to 85% of its premium revenue on medical care” because of high turnover and administrative costs). ObamaCare is already wreaking havoc throughout the health-care system:

McDonald’s move is the latest indication of possible unintended consequences from the health overhaul. Dozens of companies have taken charges against earnings—totaling more than $1 billion—over a tax change in prescription-drug benefits for retirees.

More recently, insurers have proposed a round of double-digit premium increases and said new coverage mandates in the law are partly to blame. HHS has criticized the proposed increases as unwarranted.

We also learned this week:

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has notified customers that it will drop its Medicare Advantage health insurance program at the end of the year, forcing 22,000 senior citizens in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine to seek alternative supplemental coverage.

The decision by Wellesley-based Harvard Pilgrim, the state’s second-largest health insurer, was prompted by a freeze in federal reimbursements and a new requirement that insurers offering the kind of product sold by Harvard Pilgrim — a Medicare Advantage private fee for service plan — form a contracted network of doctors who agree to participate for a negotiated amount of money. Under current rules, patients can seek care from any doctor.

The administration kept promising that the public would like what they found in ObamaCare. However, the more they see, the more they are likely to conclude they were scammed.

UPDATE: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the Wall Street Journal’s story is false.  But her denial is suspect: “Sebelius suggested that McDonald’s may in fact get a waiver from HHS that would enable the fast-food giant to continue offering limited benefits plans to its employees. But neither Sebelius nor McDonald’s officials have ruled out the possibility that the company would drop such insurance coverage, which is what the Journal claimed.”

Obama promised that if you liked your health-care coverage, you could keep it under ObamaCare. But not really. Not remotely close, actually:

McDonald’s Corp. has warned federal regulators that it could drop its health insurance plan for nearly 30,000 hourly restaurant workers unless regulators waive a new requirement of the U.S. health overhaul.

The move is one of the clearest indications that new rules may disrupt workers’ health plans as the law ripples through the real world.

Trade groups representing restaurants and retailers say low-wage employers might halt their coverage if the government doesn’t loosen a requirement for “mini-med” plans, which offer limited benefits to some 1.4 million Americans.

It’s not simply the mini-med plans (which don’t meet the ObamaCare regulation “to spend at least 80% to 85% of its premium revenue on medical care” because of high turnover and administrative costs). ObamaCare is already wreaking havoc throughout the health-care system:

McDonald’s move is the latest indication of possible unintended consequences from the health overhaul. Dozens of companies have taken charges against earnings—totaling more than $1 billion—over a tax change in prescription-drug benefits for retirees.

More recently, insurers have proposed a round of double-digit premium increases and said new coverage mandates in the law are partly to blame. HHS has criticized the proposed increases as unwarranted.

We also learned this week:

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has notified customers that it will drop its Medicare Advantage health insurance program at the end of the year, forcing 22,000 senior citizens in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine to seek alternative supplemental coverage.

The decision by Wellesley-based Harvard Pilgrim, the state’s second-largest health insurer, was prompted by a freeze in federal reimbursements and a new requirement that insurers offering the kind of product sold by Harvard Pilgrim — a Medicare Advantage private fee for service plan — form a contracted network of doctors who agree to participate for a negotiated amount of money. Under current rules, patients can seek care from any doctor.

The administration kept promising that the public would like what they found in ObamaCare. However, the more they see, the more they are likely to conclude they were scammed.

UPDATE: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the Wall Street Journal’s story is false.  But her denial is suspect: “Sebelius suggested that McDonald’s may in fact get a waiver from HHS that would enable the fast-food giant to continue offering limited benefits plans to its employees. But neither Sebelius nor McDonald’s officials have ruled out the possibility that the company would drop such insurance coverage, which is what the Journal claimed.”

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The Democrat’s Health-Care Wounds: Six Months After the Suicide Mission

The discussion over the past week stimulated by Jay Cost’s claim that health-care reform must be accounted a major part of the desperate woes of Obama and the Democrats led me to go back and look at some of my own posts at the time the bill was passed in the spring. I do this not to claim prescience but to show that the deep damage the bill would do to the president and his party was already in the mix of the public discussion and obvious at the time to anyone who was not deluding himself with hope born from passion for the bill’s goals. The same delusions appear to be at work today in some quarters.

Three weeks before the bill passed, on February 26, in a post called “The Charge of the Democratic Light Brigade,” I wrote: “If the health-care bill collapses, the Obama presidency will be dealt a staggering blow from which it could recover, I would guess, only with a really extraordinary economic turnaround. The political calamity for Democrats in November will still take place; the president will lose the entirety of his capital with elected officials in his party; the media, sniffing a loser, will turn slowly but surely on him; and the conviction inside his own camp that he can work wonders with his silver-tongued patter will dissipate, causing a complete crisis of confidence inside the White House.  It would be better for him, unquestionably, for the legislation to pass, as a practical political matter. One could argue that the fate of his party really does rest on Obama’s shoulders, so it would be better for Democrats as well. But not for individual Democrats. So what happens if the Obama-Pelosi-Reid strategy for health-care passage is an order to House Democrats to carry out a suicide mission?…I don’t think there’s ever been a situation like this in American political history. Every way you look at it, Democrats are boxed in, forced to choose between extraordinarily unattractive options. What makes it especially noteworthy is that this was a calamity they summoned entirely upon themselves.”

Thus, on the evening the House approved the bill with 219 votes in favor, I wrote: “The passage tonight in the House of Representatives of the Senate’s health-care bill is indeed a historic moment. It draws the brightest ideological and political line between the two parties since the end of the Cold War — which featured a profound conflict of visions about the question of confronting the Soviet Union or accommodating it — and revivifies the Republican party’s role in opposition to the state’s growing encroachment on the particulars of American life. The fighting has only just begun.”

The next day, I wrote a post called Obama’s Pseudo-Achievement: “He and his advisers surveyed the political field after the election of Scott Brown and they saw their own potential epitaph — not in the rejection of his ideas but in the potential exposure of his weakness. A president cannot seem politically weak; much if not most of his ability to act is predicated on the notion that he is the strongest public official in the country. They determined that they had to push health care or die, and they worked their will relentlessly, and they got what they wanted….And yet one must not get carried away. The story here is not that he succeeded against all odds and with the winds against him to push through historic legislation, even though that is what the media would have you believe. The story is that a party holding a 75-seat margin in the House of Representatives was barely able to squeak by with its greatest legislative priority and most devoutly desired policy. That is the salient fact here. What Obama pulled off was a textbook example of raw intra-party discipline; the unpopularity of the measure and its political consequences remain exactly as they were before the vote.”

Flotsam and Jetsam

The wave is about to hit the Democrats. The latest poll from Reuters-Ipsos: “Only 34 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the economy and jobs compared to 46 percent who deemed it unsatisfactory. This is a sharp decline from early 2009 shortly after he took office when over a half of those surveyed approved of Obama’s handling of the worst financial crisis in decades. … Republicans hold a 46-44 percent lead over Democrats when participants were asked which party they planned to support in November. And 72 percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote on November 2, compared to 49 percent of Democrats.”

It’s not been smooth sailing for Donald Berwick: “Dr. Berwick is still struggling to tamp down a furor over past statements in which he discussed the rationing of health care and expressed affection for the British health care system. And he is finding his ability to do his job clouded by the circumstances of his appointment, with many Republicans in open revolt over President Obama’s decision to place him in the post without a Senate confirmation vote. Dr. Berwick never had a confirmation hearing and has not responded publicly to critics. The White House declined to make him available for an interview.” (Has the Gray Lady discovered that this is the least-transparent administration in history?)

Obama is wrecking private-sector confidence, says Mort Zuckerman: “The growing tension between the Obama administration and business is a cause for national concern. The president has lost the confidence of employers, whose worries over taxes and the increased costs of new regulation are holding back investment and growth. The government must appreciate that confidence is an imperative if business is to invest, take risks and put the millions of unemployed back to productive work.”

Obama’s poll numbers continue to dive: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-five percent (45%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20.” His RealClearPolitics disapproval rating average is at a new high.

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sends a shot over the bow of a fellow commissioner and the mainstream media, which prefer to misrepresent or ignore the uncontroverted evidence in the New Black Panther Party scandal.

Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, House Democrats are distancing themselves from Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday noted that it was Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), not him, who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of corruption in Washington.”

The Charlie Rangel settlement talks run aground. It seems there was a sleazy backroom meeting to try to settle Rangel’s sleazy dealings: “Rep. Charlie Rangel’s chances of cutting an ethics deal are in jeopardy over allegations that he met privately with Ethics Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) Monday night without any Republican members of the bipartisan panel present. Sources close to Rangel deny that there was an attempt to cut a backroom deal with Lofgren, but Rangel’s attorneys met with Democratic ethics committee staff Monday, according to people close to the investigation.”

The Senate fails to submarine the First Amendment: “The Senate failed to advance a campaign finance bill Tuesday, dealing a blow to Democrats who were trying to pass a key piece of their agenda before the August recess. … The three Republican centrists considered most likely to support the bill, Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.), all voted against it … despite heavy lobbying from liberal groups such as MoveOn.org. … Democrats were also missing the vote of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who was absent from the Senate on Tuesday because he was attending a funeral.”

The wave is about to hit the Democrats. The latest poll from Reuters-Ipsos: “Only 34 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the economy and jobs compared to 46 percent who deemed it unsatisfactory. This is a sharp decline from early 2009 shortly after he took office when over a half of those surveyed approved of Obama’s handling of the worst financial crisis in decades. … Republicans hold a 46-44 percent lead over Democrats when participants were asked which party they planned to support in November. And 72 percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote on November 2, compared to 49 percent of Democrats.”

It’s not been smooth sailing for Donald Berwick: “Dr. Berwick is still struggling to tamp down a furor over past statements in which he discussed the rationing of health care and expressed affection for the British health care system. And he is finding his ability to do his job clouded by the circumstances of his appointment, with many Republicans in open revolt over President Obama’s decision to place him in the post without a Senate confirmation vote. Dr. Berwick never had a confirmation hearing and has not responded publicly to critics. The White House declined to make him available for an interview.” (Has the Gray Lady discovered that this is the least-transparent administration in history?)

Obama is wrecking private-sector confidence, says Mort Zuckerman: “The growing tension between the Obama administration and business is a cause for national concern. The president has lost the confidence of employers, whose worries over taxes and the increased costs of new regulation are holding back investment and growth. The government must appreciate that confidence is an imperative if business is to invest, take risks and put the millions of unemployed back to productive work.”

Obama’s poll numbers continue to dive: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-five percent (45%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20.” His RealClearPolitics disapproval rating average is at a new high.

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sends a shot over the bow of a fellow commissioner and the mainstream media, which prefer to misrepresent or ignore the uncontroverted evidence in the New Black Panther Party scandal.

Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, House Democrats are distancing themselves from Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday noted that it was Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), not him, who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of corruption in Washington.”

The Charlie Rangel settlement talks run aground. It seems there was a sleazy backroom meeting to try to settle Rangel’s sleazy dealings: “Rep. Charlie Rangel’s chances of cutting an ethics deal are in jeopardy over allegations that he met privately with Ethics Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) Monday night without any Republican members of the bipartisan panel present. Sources close to Rangel deny that there was an attempt to cut a backroom deal with Lofgren, but Rangel’s attorneys met with Democratic ethics committee staff Monday, according to people close to the investigation.”

The Senate fails to submarine the First Amendment: “The Senate failed to advance a campaign finance bill Tuesday, dealing a blow to Democrats who were trying to pass a key piece of their agenda before the August recess. … The three Republican centrists considered most likely to support the bill, Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.), all voted against it … despite heavy lobbying from liberal groups such as MoveOn.org. … Democrats were also missing the vote of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who was absent from the Senate on Tuesday because he was attending a funeral.”

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The Law of Unintended Consequences

In addition to the insightful comments by John’s friend who works in finances, I wanted to call attention to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” bill.

According to the Journal,

The bill represents the triumph of the very regulators and Congressmen who did so much to foment the financial panic, giving them vast new discretion over every corner of American financial markets. … In the name of responding to a crisis, the bill greatly increases the power of politicians and regulators without addressing the real causes of that crisis. It makes credit more expensive and punishes business without reducing the chances of a future panic or bailouts.

Politico is reporting that several factors have converged, from the death of Senator Robert Byrd to the early negative reactions to the conference report by at least one key Republican, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. This means that the Democrats face the real possibility of falling several votes shy as they try to finish the bill.

What ruffled several Senate feathers is the late addition of a 10-year, $19 billion tax on banks — something added without proper scrutiny, discussion, or debate. None of the Republican senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, were pleased. Neither was Senator Brown, who said he was “surprised and extremely disappointed” with a $19 billion bank tax added to the conference report and who signaled he might switch his vote from yes to no. “While I’m still reviewing the bill’s details, these provisions were not in the Senate version of the bill, which I previously supported,” Brown said. “My fear is that these costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher bank, ATM and credit card fees and put a strain on lending at the worst possible time for our economy. I’ve said repeatedly that I cannot support any bill that raises taxes.”

The Dodd-Frank legislation has generated attention in the world of finance. But if it passes, its ramifications will be felt far beyond Wall Street. It is an example of the law of unintended consequences, a concept understood by most social scientists but very few politicians. In this case, legislation that was crafted to respond to a very real problem would make things many times worse. The temptation for lawmakers to do something, anything, is often injurious.

What has emerged from Congress is a bill that is deeply flawed. If that legislation becomes law, it will do enormous harm to our financial sector and our country. It would, indeed, be fitting, if the addition of the dead-in-the-night tax on financial institutions helped bring this monstrosity down. We saw these kinds of shady dealings and legislative tricks during the health-care debate. It is becoming standard operating procedure for the 112th Congress, and something that will eventually cost them. The same may be true, alas, for the rest of us.

In addition to the insightful comments by John’s friend who works in finances, I wanted to call attention to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” bill.

According to the Journal,

The bill represents the triumph of the very regulators and Congressmen who did so much to foment the financial panic, giving them vast new discretion over every corner of American financial markets. … In the name of responding to a crisis, the bill greatly increases the power of politicians and regulators without addressing the real causes of that crisis. It makes credit more expensive and punishes business without reducing the chances of a future panic or bailouts.

Politico is reporting that several factors have converged, from the death of Senator Robert Byrd to the early negative reactions to the conference report by at least one key Republican, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. This means that the Democrats face the real possibility of falling several votes shy as they try to finish the bill.

What ruffled several Senate feathers is the late addition of a 10-year, $19 billion tax on banks — something added without proper scrutiny, discussion, or debate. None of the Republican senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, were pleased. Neither was Senator Brown, who said he was “surprised and extremely disappointed” with a $19 billion bank tax added to the conference report and who signaled he might switch his vote from yes to no. “While I’m still reviewing the bill’s details, these provisions were not in the Senate version of the bill, which I previously supported,” Brown said. “My fear is that these costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher bank, ATM and credit card fees and put a strain on lending at the worst possible time for our economy. I’ve said repeatedly that I cannot support any bill that raises taxes.”

The Dodd-Frank legislation has generated attention in the world of finance. But if it passes, its ramifications will be felt far beyond Wall Street. It is an example of the law of unintended consequences, a concept understood by most social scientists but very few politicians. In this case, legislation that was crafted to respond to a very real problem would make things many times worse. The temptation for lawmakers to do something, anything, is often injurious.

What has emerged from Congress is a bill that is deeply flawed. If that legislation becomes law, it will do enormous harm to our financial sector and our country. It would, indeed, be fitting, if the addition of the dead-in-the-night tax on financial institutions helped bring this monstrosity down. We saw these kinds of shady dealings and legislative tricks during the health-care debate. It is becoming standard operating procedure for the 112th Congress, and something that will eventually cost them. The same may be true, alas, for the rest of us.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

“Recovery” means something other than a steady, predictable improvement in the economy: “The Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 1,000 points in afternoon trading before recovering significantly Thursday — but it was enough to sow chaos on Wall Street as traders blamed everything from a technical glitch to chaos in the Greek economy. In Washington, the sudden drop — the biggest within a single trading day in Dow history — underscored just how fragile the nascent recovery could be, as the White House tries to convince the public that signs of growth mean the economy has begun to turn the corner.”

“Transparent” means you have to be taken to court to disclose documents to congressional investigators: “Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking Republican Susan Collins (Maine) on Thursday said they are poised to press their subpoena fight with the Obama administration into court. Lieberman and Collins, speaking separately, both said the Justice and Defense departments have been uncooperative with their efforts to obtain more information about the November 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 people.”

Reset” means all is forgiven: “President Obama is preparing to revive a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Moscow that his predecessor shelved two years ago in protest of Russia’s war on its tiny neighbor, Georgia, administration officials said Thursday. Renewing the agreement would be the latest step in Mr. Obama’s drive to repair relations between the two powers, at a time when he is seeking Moscow’s support for tough new sanctions against Iran. But word of the move has generated consternation in Congress, where some lawmakers were already skeptical of the agreement and now worry that Mr. Obama is giving Russia too much.”

“Awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions” means holy cow — the Democrats are going to get wiped out! Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland: “I think we need to proceed with some awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions that are undertaken here in Washington.”

Civility” means his critics should shut up. “Less than a week after promoting the need to treat others ‘with courtesy and respect,’ the unhappy warrior was at it again yesterday with a misleading attack on the motives of an opponent. Responding to an amendment offered by Senator Richard Shelby to limit the scope of the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mr. Obama said, ‘I will not allow amendments like this one written by Wall Street’s lobbyists to pass for reform.’ Mr. Civility was insulting the gentleman from Alabama, but even if delivered in dignified language, the attack was false.”

ObamaCare” means you’re not going to keep your health-care plan. Yuval Levin explains that “it turns out that several major corporations are drawing up plans to end their employee health benefits once Obamacare gets up and running. They’ve done the math and figured out that the penalty they would have to pay for dropping their workers would be much lower than the costs of continuing to insure them, and now there will be a new taxpayer-subsidized option for those workers to turn to in state exchanges, so why not cut them off?”

For the New York Times,a pragmatist“ means a law-school dean (Elena Kagan) who signs an amicus brief arguing that military recruiters can be banned from campuses despite a contrary federal law. “She repeatedly criticized ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the policy that bars gay men and lesbians from openly serving in the military. At one point she called it ‘a moral injustice of the first order.’  She also joined a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the law that denied federal funds to colleges and universities that barred military recruiters.”

“Recovery” means something other than a steady, predictable improvement in the economy: “The Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 1,000 points in afternoon trading before recovering significantly Thursday — but it was enough to sow chaos on Wall Street as traders blamed everything from a technical glitch to chaos in the Greek economy. In Washington, the sudden drop — the biggest within a single trading day in Dow history — underscored just how fragile the nascent recovery could be, as the White House tries to convince the public that signs of growth mean the economy has begun to turn the corner.”

“Transparent” means you have to be taken to court to disclose documents to congressional investigators: “Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking Republican Susan Collins (Maine) on Thursday said they are poised to press their subpoena fight with the Obama administration into court. Lieberman and Collins, speaking separately, both said the Justice and Defense departments have been uncooperative with their efforts to obtain more information about the November 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 people.”

Reset” means all is forgiven: “President Obama is preparing to revive a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Moscow that his predecessor shelved two years ago in protest of Russia’s war on its tiny neighbor, Georgia, administration officials said Thursday. Renewing the agreement would be the latest step in Mr. Obama’s drive to repair relations between the two powers, at a time when he is seeking Moscow’s support for tough new sanctions against Iran. But word of the move has generated consternation in Congress, where some lawmakers were already skeptical of the agreement and now worry that Mr. Obama is giving Russia too much.”

“Awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions” means holy cow — the Democrats are going to get wiped out! Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland: “I think we need to proceed with some awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions that are undertaken here in Washington.”

Civility” means his critics should shut up. “Less than a week after promoting the need to treat others ‘with courtesy and respect,’ the unhappy warrior was at it again yesterday with a misleading attack on the motives of an opponent. Responding to an amendment offered by Senator Richard Shelby to limit the scope of the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mr. Obama said, ‘I will not allow amendments like this one written by Wall Street’s lobbyists to pass for reform.’ Mr. Civility was insulting the gentleman from Alabama, but even if delivered in dignified language, the attack was false.”

ObamaCare” means you’re not going to keep your health-care plan. Yuval Levin explains that “it turns out that several major corporations are drawing up plans to end their employee health benefits once Obamacare gets up and running. They’ve done the math and figured out that the penalty they would have to pay for dropping their workers would be much lower than the costs of continuing to insure them, and now there will be a new taxpayer-subsidized option for those workers to turn to in state exchanges, so why not cut them off?”

For the New York Times,a pragmatist“ means a law-school dean (Elena Kagan) who signs an amicus brief arguing that military recruiters can be banned from campuses despite a contrary federal law. “She repeatedly criticized ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the policy that bars gay men and lesbians from openly serving in the military. At one point she called it ‘a moral injustice of the first order.’  She also joined a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the law that denied federal funds to colleges and universities that barred military recruiters.”

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The Most Transparent Administ . . . Oh, Never Mind

The Hill reports:

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on Thursday threatened the Obama administration with subpoenas if it doesn’t release information on the Fort Hood shootings sought by the committee by next Monday (April 19).

Lieberman said he and ranking Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) “do not reach this decision lightly,” but felt forced after five months of “foot-dragging, very little assistance and changing reasons” for withholding information on the shootings.

The rest of the report delves into Lieberman’s disputes with fellow Democrats. But what’s the possible rationale for denying the committee the information? This is, of course, par for the course for the Obami. The names of Justice Department lawyers who represented terrorists? Not disclosing. Information on the dismissed New Black Panther voter intimidation case? Not giving it up. It is only because Congress is controlled by the Democrats that the administration has been able to stonewall even minimal efforts at oversight. That may change after the November elections, if Republicans take back one or both houses of Congress. But in the meantime, Lieberman remains the exceptional chairman — one who actually demands some accountability by the Obama administration, which seems to regard inquiries – by opponents, the Congress, or the media – as annoyances to be swatted away.

The Hill reports:

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on Thursday threatened the Obama administration with subpoenas if it doesn’t release information on the Fort Hood shootings sought by the committee by next Monday (April 19).

Lieberman said he and ranking Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) “do not reach this decision lightly,” but felt forced after five months of “foot-dragging, very little assistance and changing reasons” for withholding information on the shootings.

The rest of the report delves into Lieberman’s disputes with fellow Democrats. But what’s the possible rationale for denying the committee the information? This is, of course, par for the course for the Obami. The names of Justice Department lawyers who represented terrorists? Not disclosing. Information on the dismissed New Black Panther voter intimidation case? Not giving it up. It is only because Congress is controlled by the Democrats that the administration has been able to stonewall even minimal efforts at oversight. That may change after the November elections, if Republicans take back one or both houses of Congress. But in the meantime, Lieberman remains the exceptional chairman — one who actually demands some accountability by the Obama administration, which seems to regard inquiries – by opponents, the Congress, or the media – as annoyances to be swatted away.

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Magic 50

ObamaCare is, as any massive and hurriedly constructed government power grab is, fraught with the potential for unintended consequences. As this report explains, small businesses may have every incentive to stay small:

For critics, one of the most troubling aspects of the laws is the fines. Massachusetts has already fined more than 1,000 companies over $18 million for failing to offer medical insurance to their workers. … Such penalties make Doug Newman, owner of Newman Concrete Services in Richmond, Maine, nervous. In the past 18 months, as the economy battered the construction industry, Newman’s work force shrunk from 125 employees to just 25.

He is worried that once the economy turns and he begins to hire back workers, he’ll face a critical decision when he nears the 50-worker mark and is no longer exempt from penalties. Newman now pays 60 percent of his employees’ individual premiums and 40 percent of their family premiums.

“The 51st employee could mean $100,000 in costs. I’ve been calling it the concrete ceiling,” he said. “No employer is going to hire No. 51 if it brings all these mandates down on you, because they’re pretty onerous.”

Every small-business owner will make a similar calculation, and the obvious conclusion for most will be to forgo crossing the 50-employee threshold unless they absolutely need to and are confident of covering the marginal cost of that 51st employee. Mind you, this is at a time when the administration is engaged in massive head-scratching over how to promote job growth. Hint: don’t make it phenomenally expensive to hire that 51st worker. Perhaps if the administration had fewer political consultants and academics and more entrepreneurs they’d think about the impact of their historic handiwork. Small-business owners certainly are:

Don Day is also worried. Day owns eight small businesses in McKinney, Texas, including two restaurants, a boutique hotel and several retail shops. Although he employs 125 workers, he offers health care for just a few key employees. Just an extra $200 a month per employee for health care could set him back hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — a cost he can’t afford. “It’s not just me, it’s every small business across this land,” he said. “A lot of small businesses are going to go out of business.”

Henry Waxman will no doubt start dragging such nonbelievers in front of his committee to excoriate them for their negativity. But one hopes that saner heads will eventually prevail in Washington as ObamaCare begins to take its toll on the people and businesses that invest, hire, and create wealth in this country.

ObamaCare is, as any massive and hurriedly constructed government power grab is, fraught with the potential for unintended consequences. As this report explains, small businesses may have every incentive to stay small:

For critics, one of the most troubling aspects of the laws is the fines. Massachusetts has already fined more than 1,000 companies over $18 million for failing to offer medical insurance to their workers. … Such penalties make Doug Newman, owner of Newman Concrete Services in Richmond, Maine, nervous. In the past 18 months, as the economy battered the construction industry, Newman’s work force shrunk from 125 employees to just 25.

He is worried that once the economy turns and he begins to hire back workers, he’ll face a critical decision when he nears the 50-worker mark and is no longer exempt from penalties. Newman now pays 60 percent of his employees’ individual premiums and 40 percent of their family premiums.

“The 51st employee could mean $100,000 in costs. I’ve been calling it the concrete ceiling,” he said. “No employer is going to hire No. 51 if it brings all these mandates down on you, because they’re pretty onerous.”

Every small-business owner will make a similar calculation, and the obvious conclusion for most will be to forgo crossing the 50-employee threshold unless they absolutely need to and are confident of covering the marginal cost of that 51st employee. Mind you, this is at a time when the administration is engaged in massive head-scratching over how to promote job growth. Hint: don’t make it phenomenally expensive to hire that 51st worker. Perhaps if the administration had fewer political consultants and academics and more entrepreneurs they’d think about the impact of their historic handiwork. Small-business owners certainly are:

Don Day is also worried. Day owns eight small businesses in McKinney, Texas, including two restaurants, a boutique hotel and several retail shops. Although he employs 125 workers, he offers health care for just a few key employees. Just an extra $200 a month per employee for health care could set him back hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — a cost he can’t afford. “It’s not just me, it’s every small business across this land,” he said. “A lot of small businesses are going to go out of business.”

Henry Waxman will no doubt start dragging such nonbelievers in front of his committee to excoriate them for their negativity. But one hopes that saner heads will eventually prevail in Washington as ObamaCare begins to take its toll on the people and businesses that invest, hire, and create wealth in this country.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

No (except from the Obami): “Does anyone think that Iran would be shipping arms to terrorists or building nuclear weapons if it was a democracy?” asks Elliott Abrams.

Predictable (when you nominate Tony Rezko’s banker): “It could be a rough few months ahead for Alexi Giannoulias. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial will proceed on June 3, as scheduled. Blagojevich’s team had been seeking a postponement until November, saying they didn’t have enough time to prepare. … But that’s not all Giannoulias will be dealing with. By late April, the Giannoulias family bank must come up with $85 million in order to comply with a federal agreement and keep operating. Giannoulias has already said that he expects the bank to fail.”

Pathetic: “Rounding up the votes for health care has also proven difficult. House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn told McClatchy Newspapers that final consideration of the bill may not occur until Easter (April 4) or later. He is dealing with dozens of members who refuse to commit to a firm position in hopes their silence will force the leadership to pull the bill and move on to other issues. ‘Just say nothing,’ is how one Democratic staffer explained the strategy being taken by many members. ‘Maybe it will just go away, and we can avoid a tough vote this close to the election.’” Maybe it will just go away? Profiles in courage they aren’t.

Close: According to Byron York, “there are 209 votes against the bill at this moment, leaving opponents seven short of being able to defeat it. By the same count, there are 204 votes for the bill, leaving the Democratic leadership 12 short of being able to pass it. There are 18 votes thought to be undecided.” In other words, seven votes away from Obama’s Waterloo.

Cranky Big Labor bosses descend on the White House: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is headed into a meeting with President Obama this afternoon after the White House and Congressional leaders have begun to discuss a higher-than-expected excise tax on some health care plans, in order to maintain their claim that health care legislation will reduce the deficit, a source involved in health care talks said.” Remember that the overwhelming support of core Democrats in midterm elections is what’s supposed to counteract the tsunami of opposition to ObamaCare. But what if that support is only lukewarm?

Obvious who you want making national-security calls. “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, contradicted the attorney general on Wednesday when he said that actually, the military still wants to capture Osama bin Laden alive. ‘I think that is something that is understood by everyone,’ he said. But perhaps not by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who on Tuesday told a House subcommittee that the chances of capturing Mr. bin Laden alive were ‘infinitesimal’ and that he would either be killed by the United States or killed by his own people.”

Common, among many observers these days: “Arab world says hopes in Obama are dwindling.”

Picky, picky: “From Maine to Hawaii, Americans send people to Washington, D.C., to be their representatives — to cast votes that represent the will of the people who elected them to do the job. But now, as the House of Representatives moves toward approving one of the most sweeping pieces of domestic legislation in U.S. history, critics are fuming that Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to usher through a health care bill … without a vote.”

No (except from the Obami): “Does anyone think that Iran would be shipping arms to terrorists or building nuclear weapons if it was a democracy?” asks Elliott Abrams.

Predictable (when you nominate Tony Rezko’s banker): “It could be a rough few months ahead for Alexi Giannoulias. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial will proceed on June 3, as scheduled. Blagojevich’s team had been seeking a postponement until November, saying they didn’t have enough time to prepare. … But that’s not all Giannoulias will be dealing with. By late April, the Giannoulias family bank must come up with $85 million in order to comply with a federal agreement and keep operating. Giannoulias has already said that he expects the bank to fail.”

Pathetic: “Rounding up the votes for health care has also proven difficult. House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn told McClatchy Newspapers that final consideration of the bill may not occur until Easter (April 4) or later. He is dealing with dozens of members who refuse to commit to a firm position in hopes their silence will force the leadership to pull the bill and move on to other issues. ‘Just say nothing,’ is how one Democratic staffer explained the strategy being taken by many members. ‘Maybe it will just go away, and we can avoid a tough vote this close to the election.’” Maybe it will just go away? Profiles in courage they aren’t.

Close: According to Byron York, “there are 209 votes against the bill at this moment, leaving opponents seven short of being able to defeat it. By the same count, there are 204 votes for the bill, leaving the Democratic leadership 12 short of being able to pass it. There are 18 votes thought to be undecided.” In other words, seven votes away from Obama’s Waterloo.

Cranky Big Labor bosses descend on the White House: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is headed into a meeting with President Obama this afternoon after the White House and Congressional leaders have begun to discuss a higher-than-expected excise tax on some health care plans, in order to maintain their claim that health care legislation will reduce the deficit, a source involved in health care talks said.” Remember that the overwhelming support of core Democrats in midterm elections is what’s supposed to counteract the tsunami of opposition to ObamaCare. But what if that support is only lukewarm?

Obvious who you want making national-security calls. “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, contradicted the attorney general on Wednesday when he said that actually, the military still wants to capture Osama bin Laden alive. ‘I think that is something that is understood by everyone,’ he said. But perhaps not by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who on Tuesday told a House subcommittee that the chances of capturing Mr. bin Laden alive were ‘infinitesimal’ and that he would either be killed by the United States or killed by his own people.”

Common, among many observers these days: “Arab world says hopes in Obama are dwindling.”

Picky, picky: “From Maine to Hawaii, Americans send people to Washington, D.C., to be their representatives — to cast votes that represent the will of the people who elected them to do the job. But now, as the House of Representatives moves toward approving one of the most sweeping pieces of domestic legislation in U.S. history, critics are fuming that Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to usher through a health care bill … without a vote.”

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Jumping When Unions Holler

Obama’s promise of  a better, cleaner, and more transparent brand of politics has not been fulfilled. Not by a long shot. The president appoints the SEIU boss to the deficit commission. Congress behind closed doors churns out colorfully named sweetheart deals on ObamaCare. And then they really reveal the depths of their dependence on special-interest patrons.

Writing in the Washington Post, Kelly Amis and Joseph E. Robert Jr. explain that the $450 billion spending bill last year “effectively dismantled a small, successful education program benefiting low-income children in the nation’s capital.” All hope is not lost that a scholarship reviled by Big Labor as a threat to its education monopoly may disappear. But we’re getting close. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is trying to restore the program. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may prevent the Senate from even voting on the measure. He has, it seems, little support from Democrats:

Who wants to vote against an effective program serving poor minority children?

Congress needed only to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program — as the local community asked it to do and as the research should have compelled it to do — but the members who mattered ignored the families outside their white marble offices, even rescinding scholarships to hundreds of hopeful students.

Where is Obama in all this? Nowhere to be found. They write:

Obama could have stood up for these children, who only want the same opportunities that he had and that his daughters now have. Instead, his education secretary, Arne Duncan, proffered an argument that would be funny if it weren’t so sad: Scholarships for poor students aren’t worth supporting because not enough of them are given out.

Note to Duncan: You could give out more.

The mayor and school chancellor support the scholarship plan but not the Democratic leadership. (“Unfortunately, congressional leaders — especially Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) — crumpled before teachers union threats, led by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, who declared everything open to negotiation ‘except vouchers.’”) Vouchers, of course, threaten to send students to schools with no teacher unions, and teacher unions are in the business of sustaining their unions, not in maximizing educational opportunities for students. So the union squawks, the Democrats jump, and the D.C. kids get the short end of the stick.

Amis and Robert note that there is a bipartisan group — which includes Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), and John Ensign (R-Nev.) — seeking to save the program. But what the D.C. schoolchildren and their parents need is the president and Senate and House Democratic leadership. Too bad they’ve got Big Labor patrons to mollify.

Obama’s promise of  a better, cleaner, and more transparent brand of politics has not been fulfilled. Not by a long shot. The president appoints the SEIU boss to the deficit commission. Congress behind closed doors churns out colorfully named sweetheart deals on ObamaCare. And then they really reveal the depths of their dependence on special-interest patrons.

Writing in the Washington Post, Kelly Amis and Joseph E. Robert Jr. explain that the $450 billion spending bill last year “effectively dismantled a small, successful education program benefiting low-income children in the nation’s capital.” All hope is not lost that a scholarship reviled by Big Labor as a threat to its education monopoly may disappear. But we’re getting close. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is trying to restore the program. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may prevent the Senate from even voting on the measure. He has, it seems, little support from Democrats:

Who wants to vote against an effective program serving poor minority children?

Congress needed only to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program — as the local community asked it to do and as the research should have compelled it to do — but the members who mattered ignored the families outside their white marble offices, even rescinding scholarships to hundreds of hopeful students.

Where is Obama in all this? Nowhere to be found. They write:

Obama could have stood up for these children, who only want the same opportunities that he had and that his daughters now have. Instead, his education secretary, Arne Duncan, proffered an argument that would be funny if it weren’t so sad: Scholarships for poor students aren’t worth supporting because not enough of them are given out.

Note to Duncan: You could give out more.

The mayor and school chancellor support the scholarship plan but not the Democratic leadership. (“Unfortunately, congressional leaders — especially Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) — crumpled before teachers union threats, led by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, who declared everything open to negotiation ‘except vouchers.’”) Vouchers, of course, threaten to send students to schools with no teacher unions, and teacher unions are in the business of sustaining their unions, not in maximizing educational opportunities for students. So the union squawks, the Democrats jump, and the D.C. kids get the short end of the stick.

Amis and Robert note that there is a bipartisan group — which includes Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), and John Ensign (R-Nev.) — seeking to save the program. But what the D.C. schoolchildren and their parents need is the president and Senate and House Democratic leadership. Too bad they’ve got Big Labor patrons to mollify.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sometimes you get the sense that it won’t be the Democrats’ year: “Broadway Bank, the troubled Chicago lender owned by the family of Illinois Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, has entered into a consent order with banking regulators requiring it to raise tens of millions in capital, stop paying dividends to the family without regulatory approval, and hire an outside party to evaluate the bank’s senior management.”

There’s no one to blame when you control both branches of government: “Twenty-nine percent (29%) of U.S. voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This is the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course so far this year – and ties the findings for two weeks in December.”

I suspect he’ll be the first major adviser to go: “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner came under fierce bipartisan criticism on Wednesday, with some House Republicans calling on him to resign. Democrats and Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform grilled Geithner about his role in the bailout of American International Group (AIG) and whether he was involved in decisions about the lack of public disclosure about complicated derivatives payments. Geithner faced repeated criticisms about his role in the government paying out $62 billion to AIG’s financial counterparties that represented the full value they were owed.” Remember, we had to have the tax cheat as treasury secretary because he was such a genius.

But in the list of awful appointees, Eric Holder is certainly near the top. “Top Senate Republicans want answers from the man they believe decided the FBI should read the suspected Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights: Attorney General Eric Holder. ‘It appears that the decision not to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab was made by you or other senior officials in the Department of Justice,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) wrote in a letter to Holder Wednesday. ‘We remain deeply troubled that this paramount requirement of national security was ignored — or worse yet, not recognized — due to the administration’s preoccupation with reading the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights.’” Sens. Kit Bond of Missouri, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee; Susan Collins of  Maine, the ranking member on Homeland Security; Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee; and John McCain of Arizona, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, also signed.

Jeffrey Goldberg rips the Beagle Blogger for praising the “bravery” of Daniel Larison’s Israel-bashing. Says Goldberg: “How brave it is to stand athwart the Jews and yell ‘Stop!’ We are a dangerous group of people. Just look at what has happened to other critics who have gone where angels fear to tread and criticized Israel. Take, for example, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of ‘The Israel Lobby.’  Walt, as many of you know, is in hiding in Holland, under round-the-clock protection of the Dutch police, after the chief rabbi of Wellesley, Mass., issued a fatwa calling for his assassination. Mearsheimer, of course, lost his job at the University of Chicago and was physically assaulted by a group of Hadassah ladies in what became known as the ‘Grapefruit Spoon Attack of 2009.’” Read the whole thing.

PETA wants an animatronic Punxsutawney Phil for Groundhog’s Day. The response from the Punxsutawney club president: “I mean, come on, this is just crazy. … Phil is probably treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania. … He’s got air conditioning in the summer, his pen is heated in winter. … He has everything but a TV in there. What more do you want?” Maybe the TV.

Mayor Bloomberg wakes up and finally opposes the KSM trial in New York. Robert Gibbs is noncommittal. Is this the beginning of a walk-back potentially more dramatic than not closing Guantanamo? Let’s hope.

Seems they’re now in the business of trying to win elections: “Members of a committee of state party chairmen voted unanimously today to oppose a so-called ‘purity test’ for GOP candidates, according to a source in the closed-press meeting.”

Chris Matthews is hooted down by the Left after putting his foot in his mouth once again. (“I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.”) Well, if the MSNBC gig doesn’t work out, he can write speeches for Harry Reid.

Sometimes you get the sense that it won’t be the Democrats’ year: “Broadway Bank, the troubled Chicago lender owned by the family of Illinois Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, has entered into a consent order with banking regulators requiring it to raise tens of millions in capital, stop paying dividends to the family without regulatory approval, and hire an outside party to evaluate the bank’s senior management.”

There’s no one to blame when you control both branches of government: “Twenty-nine percent (29%) of U.S. voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This is the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course so far this year – and ties the findings for two weeks in December.”

I suspect he’ll be the first major adviser to go: “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner came under fierce bipartisan criticism on Wednesday, with some House Republicans calling on him to resign. Democrats and Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform grilled Geithner about his role in the bailout of American International Group (AIG) and whether he was involved in decisions about the lack of public disclosure about complicated derivatives payments. Geithner faced repeated criticisms about his role in the government paying out $62 billion to AIG’s financial counterparties that represented the full value they were owed.” Remember, we had to have the tax cheat as treasury secretary because he was such a genius.

But in the list of awful appointees, Eric Holder is certainly near the top. “Top Senate Republicans want answers from the man they believe decided the FBI should read the suspected Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights: Attorney General Eric Holder. ‘It appears that the decision not to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab was made by you or other senior officials in the Department of Justice,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) wrote in a letter to Holder Wednesday. ‘We remain deeply troubled that this paramount requirement of national security was ignored — or worse yet, not recognized — due to the administration’s preoccupation with reading the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights.’” Sens. Kit Bond of Missouri, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee; Susan Collins of  Maine, the ranking member on Homeland Security; Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee; and John McCain of Arizona, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, also signed.

Jeffrey Goldberg rips the Beagle Blogger for praising the “bravery” of Daniel Larison’s Israel-bashing. Says Goldberg: “How brave it is to stand athwart the Jews and yell ‘Stop!’ We are a dangerous group of people. Just look at what has happened to other critics who have gone where angels fear to tread and criticized Israel. Take, for example, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of ‘The Israel Lobby.’  Walt, as many of you know, is in hiding in Holland, under round-the-clock protection of the Dutch police, after the chief rabbi of Wellesley, Mass., issued a fatwa calling for his assassination. Mearsheimer, of course, lost his job at the University of Chicago and was physically assaulted by a group of Hadassah ladies in what became known as the ‘Grapefruit Spoon Attack of 2009.’” Read the whole thing.

PETA wants an animatronic Punxsutawney Phil for Groundhog’s Day. The response from the Punxsutawney club president: “I mean, come on, this is just crazy. … Phil is probably treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania. … He’s got air conditioning in the summer, his pen is heated in winter. … He has everything but a TV in there. What more do you want?” Maybe the TV.

Mayor Bloomberg wakes up and finally opposes the KSM trial in New York. Robert Gibbs is noncommittal. Is this the beginning of a walk-back potentially more dramatic than not closing Guantanamo? Let’s hope.

Seems they’re now in the business of trying to win elections: “Members of a committee of state party chairmen voted unanimously today to oppose a so-called ‘purity test’ for GOP candidates, according to a source in the closed-press meeting.”

Chris Matthews is hooted down by the Left after putting his foot in his mouth once again. (“I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.”) Well, if the MSNBC gig doesn’t work out, he can write speeches for Harry Reid.

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GOP Strife? Hardly!

Fred Barnes notes that Scott Brown’s victory exploded “the fable about a death struggle pitting tea party populists and angry conservatives against moderates and the Republican hierarchy.” Brown – like Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie — succeeded in a state that went for Obama in 2008 by snatching those voters in the middle of the political spectrum and energizing his own base. The notion that this was an impossible task and that these groups were somehow in opposition to one another was spin propagated by liberals looking for solace and by snooty Beltway pundits who disparaged the tea-party populists with little understanding of their actual concerns.

What brought all these groups together? Limited government, economic conservatism, and antipathy toward backroom special-interest deal making. Rather than a conflict, there is remarkable convergence among these groups. Back in April 2009, tea-party protesters were inveighing against the stimulus plan, excess spending, and the prospect of government-run health care. There was nothing then, and nothing now, antithetical to the message that the GOP leadership has been putting forth. Recall that there was not a single GOP House vote for the stimulus plan and that no Republican senators — not even the accommodating senators from Maine — could be induced to vote for ObamaCare. In Obamaism they have found common cause and reason to put aside other topics (e.g., immigration, social issues) on which there is far less agreement.

The fable of Republican divisiveness was a convenient narrative for pundits who aimed to chase out challengers from primaries (e.g., Marco Rubio) or convince themselves that the Republicans couldn’t really seize the initiative. Those divisions on the Right (otherwise known as healthy primary competition to find the best candidates) are slight compared to the food fight that has broken out on the Left. There Democrats and their blog cheerleaders-turned-vicious-critics are forming the circular firing squad, arguing over whether to dump health care altogether, and trying to figure out how to restyle themselves as populists. (Mostly by condescendingly acknowledging that there are ”angry” people out there, it seems.) You can see why they’d rather concoct a tale of Republican strife.

Fred Barnes notes that Scott Brown’s victory exploded “the fable about a death struggle pitting tea party populists and angry conservatives against moderates and the Republican hierarchy.” Brown – like Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie — succeeded in a state that went for Obama in 2008 by snatching those voters in the middle of the political spectrum and energizing his own base. The notion that this was an impossible task and that these groups were somehow in opposition to one another was spin propagated by liberals looking for solace and by snooty Beltway pundits who disparaged the tea-party populists with little understanding of their actual concerns.

What brought all these groups together? Limited government, economic conservatism, and antipathy toward backroom special-interest deal making. Rather than a conflict, there is remarkable convergence among these groups. Back in April 2009, tea-party protesters were inveighing against the stimulus plan, excess spending, and the prospect of government-run health care. There was nothing then, and nothing now, antithetical to the message that the GOP leadership has been putting forth. Recall that there was not a single GOP House vote for the stimulus plan and that no Republican senators — not even the accommodating senators from Maine — could be induced to vote for ObamaCare. In Obamaism they have found common cause and reason to put aside other topics (e.g., immigration, social issues) on which there is far less agreement.

The fable of Republican divisiveness was a convenient narrative for pundits who aimed to chase out challengers from primaries (e.g., Marco Rubio) or convince themselves that the Republicans couldn’t really seize the initiative. Those divisions on the Right (otherwise known as healthy primary competition to find the best candidates) are slight compared to the food fight that has broken out on the Left. There Democrats and their blog cheerleaders-turned-vicious-critics are forming the circular firing squad, arguing over whether to dump health care altogether, and trying to figure out how to restyle themselves as populists. (Mostly by condescendingly acknowledging that there are ”angry” people out there, it seems.) You can see why they’d rather concoct a tale of Republican strife.

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Crying Sexism

A duo of female reporters for Politico are convinced that the rest of us are ignoring the real meaning in the Massachusetts race: “a glass ceiling that remains almost impenetrable, even in the blue state of Massachusetts.” You see, there’s a devious “double standard that some longtime women’s advocates see in the success of Republican Scott Brown, whose college-aged centerfold and lesser professional success didn’t prevent him from capturing Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat from the Democrats.” And this cursed sexism really just exists in Massachusetts, mind you. Sexism is no problem in “nearby Maine, where both senators are women.”

Oh, puhleez. This sort of woe is me/her is getting old. The indifference to all other political facts and phenomena in order to play the gender victim card is tiresome. There is of course no real evidence of this sexism. Nor does anyone think Coakley actually deserved to win. In fact, the reporters say that Coakley’s gender worked to her advantage in the primary and that gender really didn’t come up in the race. The best the duo can come up with is one female Boston Herald columnist who made some cracks, a Teamster boss who wouldn’t vote “for a broad,” one crude comment by someone in the crowd at one Brown rally, and some Internet commenters. That’s it.

There are plenty of legitimate theories to explain the results in Massachusetts. Sexism isn’t one of them, however. The reporters only embarrass themselves and their publication by crying sexism with nothing to back it up. It’s the Keith Olbermann style of “news” — non-news really. Olbermann last night pretended to apologize for calling Scott Brown “an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, tea-bagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees.” He added: “I’m sorry I left out the word ‘sexist.’” He then simply dared his audience to disprove his baseless slurs.

This seems now to be the operating standard for much of what passes for “journalism” — make a slur, repeat it, offer no proof, and challenge the targets to defend themselves. We’ve come to expect that of MSNBC, but MSNBC’s less loony journalistic colleagues should resist the temptation to follow in the netroot network’s footsteps.

A duo of female reporters for Politico are convinced that the rest of us are ignoring the real meaning in the Massachusetts race: “a glass ceiling that remains almost impenetrable, even in the blue state of Massachusetts.” You see, there’s a devious “double standard that some longtime women’s advocates see in the success of Republican Scott Brown, whose college-aged centerfold and lesser professional success didn’t prevent him from capturing Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat from the Democrats.” And this cursed sexism really just exists in Massachusetts, mind you. Sexism is no problem in “nearby Maine, where both senators are women.”

Oh, puhleez. This sort of woe is me/her is getting old. The indifference to all other political facts and phenomena in order to play the gender victim card is tiresome. There is of course no real evidence of this sexism. Nor does anyone think Coakley actually deserved to win. In fact, the reporters say that Coakley’s gender worked to her advantage in the primary and that gender really didn’t come up in the race. The best the duo can come up with is one female Boston Herald columnist who made some cracks, a Teamster boss who wouldn’t vote “for a broad,” one crude comment by someone in the crowd at one Brown rally, and some Internet commenters. That’s it.

There are plenty of legitimate theories to explain the results in Massachusetts. Sexism isn’t one of them, however. The reporters only embarrass themselves and their publication by crying sexism with nothing to back it up. It’s the Keith Olbermann style of “news” — non-news really. Olbermann last night pretended to apologize for calling Scott Brown “an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, tea-bagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees.” He added: “I’m sorry I left out the word ‘sexist.’” He then simply dared his audience to disprove his baseless slurs.

This seems now to be the operating standard for much of what passes for “journalism” — make a slur, repeat it, offer no proof, and challenge the targets to defend themselves. We’ve come to expect that of MSNBC, but MSNBC’s less loony journalistic colleagues should resist the temptation to follow in the netroot network’s footsteps.

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LBJ He’s Not

It’s remarkable: Obama’s signature legislative item is at a crucial juncture. It’s not clear that there are 60 votes for Harry Reid’s plan, abortion has become a stumbling block, and the public continues to sour on the Democratic scheme to take over health care. So the president goes to Capitol Hill – and says nothing of consequence. The Hill reports:

Obama told reporters that the meeting was a “pep talk,” not a negotiation. Obama didn’t take questions from the senators or mention the two issues now dividing Senate Democrats and preventing passage of the bill: a government-run insurance plan and restrictions on federal funds for abortion.

He really doesn’t add much to the mix, does he? Perhaps it’s passivity, or maybe he simply lacks the interest or ability to help craft a bill. As with his super-duper speech to Congress in September, Obama seems unable to go beyond platitudes and get down to the nitty-gritty of governance. After all, he wasn’t in the Senate for very long and didn’t champion any significant legislation, so there’s no evidence that this is really his strong suit.

So for now it’s up to the Senate to deliberate and negotiate and deliberate some more. We might not have a deal anytime soon. (“Key centrist senators not involved in the talks dismissed suggestions that the Senate healthcare debate would end soon. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) told The Hill that it’s not realistic to expect the bill to be finished in a week.”) Or ever.

It’s remarkable: Obama’s signature legislative item is at a crucial juncture. It’s not clear that there are 60 votes for Harry Reid’s plan, abortion has become a stumbling block, and the public continues to sour on the Democratic scheme to take over health care. So the president goes to Capitol Hill – and says nothing of consequence. The Hill reports:

Obama told reporters that the meeting was a “pep talk,” not a negotiation. Obama didn’t take questions from the senators or mention the two issues now dividing Senate Democrats and preventing passage of the bill: a government-run insurance plan and restrictions on federal funds for abortion.

He really doesn’t add much to the mix, does he? Perhaps it’s passivity, or maybe he simply lacks the interest or ability to help craft a bill. As with his super-duper speech to Congress in September, Obama seems unable to go beyond platitudes and get down to the nitty-gritty of governance. After all, he wasn’t in the Senate for very long and didn’t champion any significant legislation, so there’s no evidence that this is really his strong suit.

So for now it’s up to the Senate to deliberate and negotiate and deliberate some more. We might not have a deal anytime soon. (“Key centrist senators not involved in the talks dismissed suggestions that the Senate healthcare debate would end soon. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) told The Hill that it’s not realistic to expect the bill to be finished in a week.”) Or ever.

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