Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mark Kirk

Israel, Iran, and Senate Races

To his credit, Ron Kampeas reverses course and supports Mark Kirk’s push-back against the assertions made by Democratic surrogates that Kirk had nothing to do with the sanctions bill. It seems as though other reports had the goods:

Let me revise my assessment Monday of the smackdown between Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), running for Illinois’ open U.S. Senate seat, is not a win for Kirk on points — it’s a knockout, for Kirk.

Folks intimately involved in preparing Kirk’s  bill sanctioning Iran’s energy sector have contacted me (and not Republicans) — and they say it indeed provided the template for Berman’s original sanctions bill. Berman says Kirk’s claims that he framed the bill are wrong, and that Kirk had nothing to do with the bill.

He continues that “I gather some of the same folks reached out to Foreign Policy The Cable’s Josh Rogin, and he had the more thorough version up first” — which actually cited JTA’s own reporting. Kudos for reversing field, but perhaps next time Kampeas can reach out to the out-reachers to confirm the facts before he writes his column.

Kampeas might consider a walk-back on his assessment of Joe Sestak as well. Kampeas thinks the newest ECI ad is too tough, asserting: “Sestak is a consistent yes vote on pro-Israel legislation so ‘record of hostility’ would seem to overstate it, even for a partisan release.” It’s really not. In fact, when Sestak asserted that he had a 100 percent pro-AIPAC voting record, Jewish officials struck back hard. A Jewish official reached out to Ben Smith on that one:

“There are serious concerns about Joe Sestak’s record related to Israel throughout the pro-Israel community,” said an official with a major pro-Israel organization in Washington. “Not only has he said that Chuck Hagel is the Senator he admires most, which is unusual enough, but when comes to actual decisions that have affected Israel and our relationship with them, he has gone the wrong way several times. It’s the height of chutzpah for him to suggest he has a good record, let alone a 100 percent one, on these issues.”

Are the ECI and RJC ads tough? Yes. Do they accurately depict Sestak and reflect deep concern regarding his record by pro-Israel activists, including many Democrats? Absolutely.

To his credit, Ron Kampeas reverses course and supports Mark Kirk’s push-back against the assertions made by Democratic surrogates that Kirk had nothing to do with the sanctions bill. It seems as though other reports had the goods:

Let me revise my assessment Monday of the smackdown between Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), running for Illinois’ open U.S. Senate seat, is not a win for Kirk on points — it’s a knockout, for Kirk.

Folks intimately involved in preparing Kirk’s  bill sanctioning Iran’s energy sector have contacted me (and not Republicans) — and they say it indeed provided the template for Berman’s original sanctions bill. Berman says Kirk’s claims that he framed the bill are wrong, and that Kirk had nothing to do with the bill.

He continues that “I gather some of the same folks reached out to Foreign Policy The Cable’s Josh Rogin, and he had the more thorough version up first” — which actually cited JTA’s own reporting. Kudos for reversing field, but perhaps next time Kampeas can reach out to the out-reachers to confirm the facts before he writes his column.

Kampeas might consider a walk-back on his assessment of Joe Sestak as well. Kampeas thinks the newest ECI ad is too tough, asserting: “Sestak is a consistent yes vote on pro-Israel legislation so ‘record of hostility’ would seem to overstate it, even for a partisan release.” It’s really not. In fact, when Sestak asserted that he had a 100 percent pro-AIPAC voting record, Jewish officials struck back hard. A Jewish official reached out to Ben Smith on that one:

“There are serious concerns about Joe Sestak’s record related to Israel throughout the pro-Israel community,” said an official with a major pro-Israel organization in Washington. “Not only has he said that Chuck Hagel is the Senator he admires most, which is unusual enough, but when comes to actual decisions that have affected Israel and our relationship with them, he has gone the wrong way several times. It’s the height of chutzpah for him to suggest he has a good record, let alone a 100 percent one, on these issues.”

Are the ECI and RJC ads tough? Yes. Do they accurately depict Sestak and reflect deep concern regarding his record by pro-Israel activists, including many Democrats? Absolutely.

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Campaigning on Iran

Josh Rogin has been all over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias’s claim that Rep. Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill. Rogin has Giannoulias dead to rights:

But according to lawmakers, Congressional staffers, and outside groups who worked closely on the legislation, Kirk was in fact a key advocate for over four years of using gasoline and refined petroleum restrictions to pressure Iran to make concessions regarding its nuclear program.

In fact, Berman worked so closely with Kirk and others on the idea that media reports at the time acknowledged that Berman’s Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, introduced in April 2009, borrowed language from related legislation introduced earlier by Kirk and Rep. Brad Sherman.

Even Democratic Congressional staffers gave Kirk credit for leading on the idea of petroleum sanction for Iran. They said that Berman’s bill was clearly built off of Kirk’s work, and criticized Berman for politicizing such a sensitive foreign policy issue.

“On this particular issue, Kirk has been a leader, if not the leader. When you talk about Iran petroleum sanctions, you talk about Mark Kirk,” said one Democratic Hill staffer who worked on the bill.

And if that weren’t enough, Democrat Josh Block, who recently left AIPAC (which championed the sanctions bill) to run a consulting firm with Lanny David, blows Giannoulias out of the water: “There’s no question that Mark Kirk was one of the first, if not the first member of Congress to advocate restricting the flow of gasoline to Iran as a way of pressuring Iran on its nuclear program.”

Yikes. It seems that in an election season, everyone is tough on Iran and pro-Israel. But when you examine candidates’ actual voting records, it’s another story. That is why groups like J Street fear “politicizing” Israel — in other words, holding elected leaders and candidates accountable for their votes, statements, and associations.

Josh Rogin has been all over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias’s claim that Rep. Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill. Rogin has Giannoulias dead to rights:

But according to lawmakers, Congressional staffers, and outside groups who worked closely on the legislation, Kirk was in fact a key advocate for over four years of using gasoline and refined petroleum restrictions to pressure Iran to make concessions regarding its nuclear program.

In fact, Berman worked so closely with Kirk and others on the idea that media reports at the time acknowledged that Berman’s Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, introduced in April 2009, borrowed language from related legislation introduced earlier by Kirk and Rep. Brad Sherman.

Even Democratic Congressional staffers gave Kirk credit for leading on the idea of petroleum sanction for Iran. They said that Berman’s bill was clearly built off of Kirk’s work, and criticized Berman for politicizing such a sensitive foreign policy issue.

“On this particular issue, Kirk has been a leader, if not the leader. When you talk about Iran petroleum sanctions, you talk about Mark Kirk,” said one Democratic Hill staffer who worked on the bill.

And if that weren’t enough, Democrat Josh Block, who recently left AIPAC (which championed the sanctions bill) to run a consulting firm with Lanny David, blows Giannoulias out of the water: “There’s no question that Mark Kirk was one of the first, if not the first member of Congress to advocate restricting the flow of gasoline to Iran as a way of pressuring Iran on its nuclear program.”

Yikes. It seems that in an election season, everyone is tough on Iran and pro-Israel. But when you examine candidates’ actual voting records, it’s another story. That is why groups like J Street fear “politicizing” Israel — in other words, holding elected leaders and candidates accountable for their votes, statements, and associations.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Stu Rothenberg doesn’t think much of the Dems’ Chamber of Commerce gambit: “This is what we call the political version of ‘jumping the shark’ — a desperate-looking charge that a campaign or a party hopes could be a game-changer. It’s pretty early for Democrats to jump the shark, and you have to wonder whether this is really the best shot they have in their arsenal. Yes, it might get some folks agitated, but not many. And it reeks of desperation.”

Voters don’t think much of it either: “Election Day is just two weeks away, and Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 17, 2010. … Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 55% to 36% lead.”

CNN voters don’t think much of the Parker-Spitzer show, and Vic Matus thinks even less of Spitzer’s likening himself to Icarus: “Putz. He doesn’t even know the quotation. …It ends, ‘… they first make mad.’ As in insane. Which is precisely the case with Spitzer. … Sorry. I knew Icarus—Icarus was a friend of mine. Eliot Spitzer is no Icarus.”

Charles Lane doesn’t think much of Democrats’ excessive dependence on public-employee unions. “But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions. In politics, you never want to find yourself beholden to a minority whose core interests often clash with the interests of voters.”

Josh Rogin doesn’t think much of Jon Stewart’s claim that Sen. Tom Coburn is holding up aid to Haiti. “The problem is that Coburn’s hold is not responsible for delaying the $1.15 billion Congress already appropriated in late July to help Haiti. … Even the State Department acknowledges that Coburn is not responsible for the delay in this tranche of funds for Haiti.”

ABC doesn’t think much of Dems’ chances of holding the House majority: “In the House, many key House races have seen some tightening, but it’s not enough to make Democrats feel all that much better. Democrats have 63 seats in serious danger compared to just four for Republicans.”

Anyone who lives in the VA-11 (like me!) doesn’t think much of Marc Ambinder’s spin that Rep. Gerry Connolly “knows this district inside and out.” If he did, he would have maintained a moderate voting record like his predecessor Tom Davis, instead of rubber-stamping the Obama agenda and putting his seat at risk.

The liberal JTA doesn’t think much of Howard Berman’s claim that Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill: “Kirk gets this one, I think, on points — as the Sun Times notes, Berman thanked [co-sponsor Rep. Rob] Andrews for his work, a hint that the bill he and Kirk shaped played a role in the final bill. So did AIPAC when the bill passed. And, the sanctions are pretty much identical.”

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee doesn’t think much of its party’s chances in at least five races. A fundraising appeal, Ben Smith explains, “seems to concede what many on both sides now see as nearly done: Five open GOP-held seats, in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Kansas, have slipped pretty near out of reach.”

Stu Rothenberg doesn’t think much of the Dems’ Chamber of Commerce gambit: “This is what we call the political version of ‘jumping the shark’ — a desperate-looking charge that a campaign or a party hopes could be a game-changer. It’s pretty early for Democrats to jump the shark, and you have to wonder whether this is really the best shot they have in their arsenal. Yes, it might get some folks agitated, but not many. And it reeks of desperation.”

Voters don’t think much of it either: “Election Day is just two weeks away, and Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 17, 2010. … Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 55% to 36% lead.”

CNN voters don’t think much of the Parker-Spitzer show, and Vic Matus thinks even less of Spitzer’s likening himself to Icarus: “Putz. He doesn’t even know the quotation. …It ends, ‘… they first make mad.’ As in insane. Which is precisely the case with Spitzer. … Sorry. I knew Icarus—Icarus was a friend of mine. Eliot Spitzer is no Icarus.”

Charles Lane doesn’t think much of Democrats’ excessive dependence on public-employee unions. “But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions. In politics, you never want to find yourself beholden to a minority whose core interests often clash with the interests of voters.”

Josh Rogin doesn’t think much of Jon Stewart’s claim that Sen. Tom Coburn is holding up aid to Haiti. “The problem is that Coburn’s hold is not responsible for delaying the $1.15 billion Congress already appropriated in late July to help Haiti. … Even the State Department acknowledges that Coburn is not responsible for the delay in this tranche of funds for Haiti.”

ABC doesn’t think much of Dems’ chances of holding the House majority: “In the House, many key House races have seen some tightening, but it’s not enough to make Democrats feel all that much better. Democrats have 63 seats in serious danger compared to just four for Republicans.”

Anyone who lives in the VA-11 (like me!) doesn’t think much of Marc Ambinder’s spin that Rep. Gerry Connolly “knows this district inside and out.” If he did, he would have maintained a moderate voting record like his predecessor Tom Davis, instead of rubber-stamping the Obama agenda and putting his seat at risk.

The liberal JTA doesn’t think much of Howard Berman’s claim that Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill: “Kirk gets this one, I think, on points — as the Sun Times notes, Berman thanked [co-sponsor Rep. Rob] Andrews for his work, a hint that the bill he and Kirk shaped played a role in the final bill. So did AIPAC when the bill passed. And, the sanctions are pretty much identical.”

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee doesn’t think much of its party’s chances in at least five races. A fundraising appeal, Ben Smith explains, “seems to concede what many on both sides now see as nearly done: Five open GOP-held seats, in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Kansas, have slipped pretty near out of reach.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

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Senate Slipping Away from the Dems

Liberals got very excited when Delaware Republicans made an imprudent selection in the Senate primary. They proclaimed the Senate was now “safe.” Not so fast.

Today we see that Richard Blumenthal’s lead has been cut to three points in Connecticut (voters in this solid Blue state disapprove of Obama’s performance by a 51-to-45 margin), Republican John Raese has moved ahead in West Virginia, and Russ Feingold now trails by eight points. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Ken Buck leads Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet by four points, Mark Kirk narrowly leads (42 to 40 percent) in Illinois, and Dino Rossi is only one point back in Washington.

There are no Republican Senate seats that look at risk at this point. (Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, Florida, Alaska, and New Hampshire look safe for the GOP.) Here are the list of Democratic seats in which the GOP challenger is ahead or within the margin of error in recent polling: Arkansas, North Dakota, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, West Virginia, and Washington. Meanwhile, the races in California and New York remain competitive. Put another way, there are less than 50 safe Democratic seats at this point. Of the 13 Republican seats I have listed, the GOP can lose three and still win the Senate. The GOP sure would have liked to have Delaware in the bag, but it may not be necessary.

Liberals got very excited when Delaware Republicans made an imprudent selection in the Senate primary. They proclaimed the Senate was now “safe.” Not so fast.

Today we see that Richard Blumenthal’s lead has been cut to three points in Connecticut (voters in this solid Blue state disapprove of Obama’s performance by a 51-to-45 margin), Republican John Raese has moved ahead in West Virginia, and Russ Feingold now trails by eight points. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Ken Buck leads Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet by four points, Mark Kirk narrowly leads (42 to 40 percent) in Illinois, and Dino Rossi is only one point back in Washington.

There are no Republican Senate seats that look at risk at this point. (Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, Florida, Alaska, and New Hampshire look safe for the GOP.) Here are the list of Democratic seats in which the GOP challenger is ahead or within the margin of error in recent polling: Arkansas, North Dakota, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, West Virginia, and Washington. Meanwhile, the races in California and New York remain competitive. Put another way, there are less than 50 safe Democratic seats at this point. Of the 13 Republican seats I have listed, the GOP can lose three and still win the Senate. The GOP sure would have liked to have Delaware in the bag, but it may not be necessary.

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Democratic Senate Candidates vs. Harry Reid and 68% of America

Harry Reid was trying to save himself, and perhaps some of his colleagues, when he broke with Obama over the Ground Zero mosque. But some Senate contenders simply can’t be helped and have doubled down.

In Illinois:

Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias said Tuesday during a visit to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield that he supports the mosque site. He says while he sympathizes with those who lost loved ones, Americans must stand up for freedom of religion even when it’s difficult.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Mark Kirk’s campaign said in a statement that he thinks placing the mosque near Ground Zero causes relatives of the victims “undue pain” and the mosque should move to a “less controversial site.”

In Pennsylvania:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled Tuesday to Pennsylvania to endorse Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Sestak, bringing along with him the politically volatile controversy surrounding the proposed mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero. . .

In Philadelphia this morning, [Joe] Sestak … said he wasn’t too troubled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s statement on Monday opposing the location of the proposed Islamic center. “As you know, I haven’t taken very good direction yet from party leadership,” he said.

When asked if he’s sensitive to the families of those who died on 9/11, Sestak spoke passionately: “When I walked out of that Pentagon, 30 people who I knew never walked out of that building.”

“My 9/11 is that Pentagon,” he said. “Am I sensitive to (the family’s) desires? Sure, I am.” But Sestak said the concept of religious freedom is what is “most important” in this debate.

Now that’s interesting. At the Pentagon, contrary to the claims of  some mosque supporters (including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes Ground Zero), there is no mosque. ABC News clarifies:

Sometimes misidentified as the “Pentagon Mosque,” the non-denominational Pentagon Memorial Chapel maintained by the Pentagon Chaplain’s Office is where department employees who practice Islam can meet to pray. Located at the site where the hijacked American Airlines flight 74 struck the Defense Department headquarters, the chapel honors the memory of the 184 victims of the 9/11 attack. The 100-seat chapel is available to Pentagon employees of all faiths to come in prayer as they wish throughout the day. …

Dedicated in November 2002, after the reconstruction of the section of the building struck in the Sept. 11 attack, the Pentagon chapel honors the memory of the 184 victims who were killed there or were passengers aboard the hijacked jetliner. Behind the chapel’s altar is a lit stained-glass window, in the shape of the Pentagon, that bears the inscription, “United in Memory, September 11, 2001.” No religious icons or pictures are on display at the chapel. Religious symbols are brought in for religious services. A Torah, for example, housed in an ornate ark, is brought from behind curtains for use in the weekly Jewish service.

You’d think a Pentagon man would see a place of worship of this sort, rather than a 13-story monument to Islam, as the appropriate model for a 9/11 site.

Will the Ground Zero mosque be the defining issue in the 2010 campaign? Maybe not, but it’s the last thing Democrats (some of whom are trying to shed the image that they are too far left even for Blue States) needed. Meanwhile, Obama’s disapproval rating in Gallup’s poll ticked up to 51 percent, a new high. Might it be a better strategy for Democrats not to follow Obama over the political cliff?

Harry Reid was trying to save himself, and perhaps some of his colleagues, when he broke with Obama over the Ground Zero mosque. But some Senate contenders simply can’t be helped and have doubled down.

In Illinois:

Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias said Tuesday during a visit to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield that he supports the mosque site. He says while he sympathizes with those who lost loved ones, Americans must stand up for freedom of religion even when it’s difficult.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Mark Kirk’s campaign said in a statement that he thinks placing the mosque near Ground Zero causes relatives of the victims “undue pain” and the mosque should move to a “less controversial site.”

In Pennsylvania:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled Tuesday to Pennsylvania to endorse Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Sestak, bringing along with him the politically volatile controversy surrounding the proposed mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero. . .

In Philadelphia this morning, [Joe] Sestak … said he wasn’t too troubled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s statement on Monday opposing the location of the proposed Islamic center. “As you know, I haven’t taken very good direction yet from party leadership,” he said.

When asked if he’s sensitive to the families of those who died on 9/11, Sestak spoke passionately: “When I walked out of that Pentagon, 30 people who I knew never walked out of that building.”

“My 9/11 is that Pentagon,” he said. “Am I sensitive to (the family’s) desires? Sure, I am.” But Sestak said the concept of religious freedom is what is “most important” in this debate.

Now that’s interesting. At the Pentagon, contrary to the claims of  some mosque supporters (including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes Ground Zero), there is no mosque. ABC News clarifies:

Sometimes misidentified as the “Pentagon Mosque,” the non-denominational Pentagon Memorial Chapel maintained by the Pentagon Chaplain’s Office is where department employees who practice Islam can meet to pray. Located at the site where the hijacked American Airlines flight 74 struck the Defense Department headquarters, the chapel honors the memory of the 184 victims of the 9/11 attack. The 100-seat chapel is available to Pentagon employees of all faiths to come in prayer as they wish throughout the day. …

Dedicated in November 2002, after the reconstruction of the section of the building struck in the Sept. 11 attack, the Pentagon chapel honors the memory of the 184 victims who were killed there or were passengers aboard the hijacked jetliner. Behind the chapel’s altar is a lit stained-glass window, in the shape of the Pentagon, that bears the inscription, “United in Memory, September 11, 2001.” No religious icons or pictures are on display at the chapel. Religious symbols are brought in for religious services. A Torah, for example, housed in an ornate ark, is brought from behind curtains for use in the weekly Jewish service.

You’d think a Pentagon man would see a place of worship of this sort, rather than a 13-story monument to Islam, as the appropriate model for a 9/11 site.

Will the Ground Zero mosque be the defining issue in the 2010 campaign? Maybe not, but it’s the last thing Democrats (some of whom are trying to shed the image that they are too far left even for Blue States) needed. Meanwhile, Obama’s disapproval rating in Gallup’s poll ticked up to 51 percent, a new high. Might it be a better strategy for Democrats not to follow Obama over the political cliff?

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What Say You, Democrats?

If we take them at their word, then there is no apparent reason why many Democrats shouldn’t sign on to Peter King’s resolution.

For example, Rep. John Adler’s statement on the flotilla  includes this:

The bond between the United States and Israel remains unshakable. For sixty-two years, our two nations have shared a deep commitment to democracy and lasting peace in the Mid-East. In a part of the world recognized for its conflict, Israel should retain its right to protect itself. The threats of a nuclear Iran and terrorism should remain a main focus of U.S. diplomatic efforts.

Shelley Berkley’s statement is even stronger, and indeed sounds a bit like the King resolution in this section:

I join Israel in rejecting calls for an international investigation of the recent events related to Gaza. Israel, a strong democracy and America’s close ally, is perfectly capable of conducting a fair, credible investigation that meets international standards. The last time the UN investigated the conflict between Israel and Hamas, it produced the biased, anti-Israel Goldstone Report. This one-sided document accused Israel of war crimes, when its actions were in defense of innocent families facing a constant barrage of deadly Hamas missile attacks.  Given this history, we have no reason to believe the UN would produce anything more balanced this time around. …

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal under international law. This policy is in place to ensure that weaponry and rockets do not reach Hamas, a risk to Israeli families that our democratic ally cannot — and will not — allow.

Rep. Brad Ellsworth echoes several paragraphs of the resolution:

We must allow Israel, not the United Nations, who produced the biased Goldstone report, to conduct a formal investigation into the flotilla incident that is prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent. During these times of crisis, the relationship between the United States and Israel must remain strong. Let there be no doubt, Israelis have the right to defend themselves and their homeland against the threat of violence.

Rep. Eliot Engel, who is as strong a defender of Israel as the Democrats have, includes this, which also mirrors much of King’s resolution:

The U.S.-Israel relationship is a special relationship, and it’s a relationship that needs to be strengthened. The United States is Israel’s only true friend. In fact, when you look at the United Nations or the so-called Human Rights Council in the United Nations, it’s really a kangaroo court stacked up against Israel. No wonder Israel doesn’t accept what the so-called “international body” says about them, because they can never do anything right. They’re always condemned no matter what they try, no matter what they do.

My colleagues have pointed out that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has the right to defend itself, that Israel has at least twice seized large caches of arms aboard Iranian ships bound for Hamas and Hezbollah, and a blockade is an appropriate security measure when employed in the face of hostility such as that directed by Hamas against Israel.

Well, you get the point. There is nothing in the King resolution — including the demand to leave the UN Human Rights Council — that many House Democrats have not voiced themselves. So it’s curious that, so far, they have balked at signing the resolution — every one of them. You don’t suppose the House leadership and/or White House is ordering them not to sign until they can come up with a weak-tea alternative, do you?

UPDATE: Rep. Mark Kirk, who has signed on to the King resolution, issues a statement. You can also read the full resolution here.

If we take them at their word, then there is no apparent reason why many Democrats shouldn’t sign on to Peter King’s resolution.

For example, Rep. John Adler’s statement on the flotilla  includes this:

The bond between the United States and Israel remains unshakable. For sixty-two years, our two nations have shared a deep commitment to democracy and lasting peace in the Mid-East. In a part of the world recognized for its conflict, Israel should retain its right to protect itself. The threats of a nuclear Iran and terrorism should remain a main focus of U.S. diplomatic efforts.

Shelley Berkley’s statement is even stronger, and indeed sounds a bit like the King resolution in this section:

I join Israel in rejecting calls for an international investigation of the recent events related to Gaza. Israel, a strong democracy and America’s close ally, is perfectly capable of conducting a fair, credible investigation that meets international standards. The last time the UN investigated the conflict between Israel and Hamas, it produced the biased, anti-Israel Goldstone Report. This one-sided document accused Israel of war crimes, when its actions were in defense of innocent families facing a constant barrage of deadly Hamas missile attacks.  Given this history, we have no reason to believe the UN would produce anything more balanced this time around. …

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal under international law. This policy is in place to ensure that weaponry and rockets do not reach Hamas, a risk to Israeli families that our democratic ally cannot — and will not — allow.

Rep. Brad Ellsworth echoes several paragraphs of the resolution:

We must allow Israel, not the United Nations, who produced the biased Goldstone report, to conduct a formal investigation into the flotilla incident that is prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent. During these times of crisis, the relationship between the United States and Israel must remain strong. Let there be no doubt, Israelis have the right to defend themselves and their homeland against the threat of violence.

Rep. Eliot Engel, who is as strong a defender of Israel as the Democrats have, includes this, which also mirrors much of King’s resolution:

The U.S.-Israel relationship is a special relationship, and it’s a relationship that needs to be strengthened. The United States is Israel’s only true friend. In fact, when you look at the United Nations or the so-called Human Rights Council in the United Nations, it’s really a kangaroo court stacked up against Israel. No wonder Israel doesn’t accept what the so-called “international body” says about them, because they can never do anything right. They’re always condemned no matter what they try, no matter what they do.

My colleagues have pointed out that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has the right to defend itself, that Israel has at least twice seized large caches of arms aboard Iranian ships bound for Hamas and Hezbollah, and a blockade is an appropriate security measure when employed in the face of hostility such as that directed by Hamas against Israel.

Well, you get the point. There is nothing in the King resolution — including the demand to leave the UN Human Rights Council — that many House Democrats have not voiced themselves. So it’s curious that, so far, they have balked at signing the resolution — every one of them. You don’t suppose the House leadership and/or White House is ordering them not to sign until they can come up with a weak-tea alternative, do you?

UPDATE: Rep. Mark Kirk, who has signed on to the King resolution, issues a statement. You can also read the full resolution here.

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Another Senate Candidate in Trouble

Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul (with Blanche Lincoln and perhaps Joe Sestak close behind) have gotten most of the attention in the “embattled Senate candidates” media coverage, but let’s not forget the Mob’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias:

His family’s business, Broadway Bank, was seized by regulators last month. He’s had trouble getting robust support from a White House that originally preferred another candidate. And political writer Stu Rothenberg devoted a column last week to asking “Is it time for Democrats to shove Giannoulias out?”

Now, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who did not endorse anyone in the Democratic primary, is flirting with the idea of backing Republican nominee Mark Kirk in the general election.

And he might not be the only one: Bobby Rush is down on Rezko’s banker as well. (He told the Hill “in December 2009 that he was ‘afraid’ of a Giannoulias-Kirk matchup. ‘The messenger has to stand before the message. And if the messenger is weak, then the message is weak,’ he told the paper.”)

The rumblings have started about how to shove Giannoulias out of the way. But, as Rothenberg explained, it won’t be easy to dump him:

Democrats who worry about Giannoulias’ viability in the fall have a problem, though. Since the nominee isn’t running far behind Kirk in trial heats, it won’t be easy to persuade him to leave quietly. And if there is something Democratic insiders don’t need, it’s a messy food fight with a nominee they are trying to dump (especially after Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania went public that White House insiders had offered him a job to get him to pass up a primary challenge to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter).

Yes, one candidate’s scandal makes it harder to toss another scandal-plagued candidate overboard.

Republicans should take note for 2010 and 2012. The reason the Democrats are in disarray and the race is competitive is not merely because the Democratic nominee has a load of problems; it is because the Republicans were wise enough to select a top-notch candidate well-suited to the state. (Politico notes: “Kirk already is popular in the politically competitive Chicago suburbs he represents and has a strong relationship with the state’s pro-Israel voters and donors.”) It’s really not enough in a deep Blue State to luck into a flawed Democratic candidate. For Republicans to win, they need smart candidates well-attuned to the electorate. Otherwise, golden opportunities will slip through their fingers.

Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul (with Blanche Lincoln and perhaps Joe Sestak close behind) have gotten most of the attention in the “embattled Senate candidates” media coverage, but let’s not forget the Mob’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias:

His family’s business, Broadway Bank, was seized by regulators last month. He’s had trouble getting robust support from a White House that originally preferred another candidate. And political writer Stu Rothenberg devoted a column last week to asking “Is it time for Democrats to shove Giannoulias out?”

Now, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who did not endorse anyone in the Democratic primary, is flirting with the idea of backing Republican nominee Mark Kirk in the general election.

And he might not be the only one: Bobby Rush is down on Rezko’s banker as well. (He told the Hill “in December 2009 that he was ‘afraid’ of a Giannoulias-Kirk matchup. ‘The messenger has to stand before the message. And if the messenger is weak, then the message is weak,’ he told the paper.”)

The rumblings have started about how to shove Giannoulias out of the way. But, as Rothenberg explained, it won’t be easy to dump him:

Democrats who worry about Giannoulias’ viability in the fall have a problem, though. Since the nominee isn’t running far behind Kirk in trial heats, it won’t be easy to persuade him to leave quietly. And if there is something Democratic insiders don’t need, it’s a messy food fight with a nominee they are trying to dump (especially after Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania went public that White House insiders had offered him a job to get him to pass up a primary challenge to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter).

Yes, one candidate’s scandal makes it harder to toss another scandal-plagued candidate overboard.

Republicans should take note for 2010 and 2012. The reason the Democrats are in disarray and the race is competitive is not merely because the Democratic nominee has a load of problems; it is because the Republicans were wise enough to select a top-notch candidate well-suited to the state. (Politico notes: “Kirk already is popular in the politically competitive Chicago suburbs he represents and has a strong relationship with the state’s pro-Israel voters and donors.”) It’s really not enough in a deep Blue State to luck into a flawed Democratic candidate. For Republicans to win, they need smart candidates well-attuned to the electorate. Otherwise, golden opportunities will slip through their fingers.

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Not a Regional Party

After the 2008 election, there was much pontificating about the future of the Republican Party. It was destined, we were told, to become a rump party of the South, the last refuge of white, religious male voters. But all it took was a year and a half of Obama to convince Americans — both male and female, religious and not, in all regions of the country — that maybe it’s time to give the GOP another shot. Two states that exemplify this are New Hampshire (recall Republicans were thought to be extinct in New England) and Illinois.

Stuart Rothenberg writes, “Right now, I think the Republicans are positioned to win both Senate races.” As for New Hampshire, he comments:

I’ve met three of the four credible Republican candidates in the race — former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, millionaire businessman Bill Binnie and conservative Ovide Lamontagne, the GOP’s unsuccessful nominee for governor in 1996 — and all three should have considerable appeal in the primary and in the fall.

What about the Democrat Paul Hodes?

Hodes is poised, confident and well-spoken, but he seems to think that he can make former President George W. Bush a major issue this year and that his own accomplishments in the House will demonstrate his independence and draw a favorable contrast with his eventual GOP opponent. In fact, I think Hodes is far too optimistic about his ability to dictate what the 2010 Senate race will be about.

It seems running against Bush isn’t going to work — but it’s apparently better than running on the Democrats’ agenda and calling in Obama to vouch for him:

National political currents (including intensity) are likely to favor Republicans, and as long as the GOP nominee isn’t hemorrhaging support after the primary, Hodes, who voted for the health care bill, cap-and-trade and the stimulus, will be on the defensive when fall arrives. An improvement in the national mood would, of course, improve the congressman’s prospects.

Rothenberg says Democrats in Illinois have a better shot, given their electoral advantage. But here, too, Rothenberg says Rep. Mark Kirk is the Republicans’ “ideal candidate for this seat,” and therefore, together with Alexi Giannoulias’s banking woes, he gives Republicans a pick-up opportunity.

So how did Republicans crawl out of the ditch and reestablish themselves in what were Democratic strongholds less than two years ago? Well, politics isn’t that complicated. Get good candidates. Watch the governing party’s overreach and underperformance. Understand the public antipathy for partisan excess and ideological extremism. And bingo, you have a viable alternative for voters to choose. Republicans will have to close the sale in these and other states, but they’re most of the way home — thanks to Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership.

After the 2008 election, there was much pontificating about the future of the Republican Party. It was destined, we were told, to become a rump party of the South, the last refuge of white, religious male voters. But all it took was a year and a half of Obama to convince Americans — both male and female, religious and not, in all regions of the country — that maybe it’s time to give the GOP another shot. Two states that exemplify this are New Hampshire (recall Republicans were thought to be extinct in New England) and Illinois.

Stuart Rothenberg writes, “Right now, I think the Republicans are positioned to win both Senate races.” As for New Hampshire, he comments:

I’ve met three of the four credible Republican candidates in the race — former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, millionaire businessman Bill Binnie and conservative Ovide Lamontagne, the GOP’s unsuccessful nominee for governor in 1996 — and all three should have considerable appeal in the primary and in the fall.

What about the Democrat Paul Hodes?

Hodes is poised, confident and well-spoken, but he seems to think that he can make former President George W. Bush a major issue this year and that his own accomplishments in the House will demonstrate his independence and draw a favorable contrast with his eventual GOP opponent. In fact, I think Hodes is far too optimistic about his ability to dictate what the 2010 Senate race will be about.

It seems running against Bush isn’t going to work — but it’s apparently better than running on the Democrats’ agenda and calling in Obama to vouch for him:

National political currents (including intensity) are likely to favor Republicans, and as long as the GOP nominee isn’t hemorrhaging support after the primary, Hodes, who voted for the health care bill, cap-and-trade and the stimulus, will be on the defensive when fall arrives. An improvement in the national mood would, of course, improve the congressman’s prospects.

Rothenberg says Democrats in Illinois have a better shot, given their electoral advantage. But here, too, Rothenberg says Rep. Mark Kirk is the Republicans’ “ideal candidate for this seat,” and therefore, together with Alexi Giannoulias’s banking woes, he gives Republicans a pick-up opportunity.

So how did Republicans crawl out of the ditch and reestablish themselves in what were Democratic strongholds less than two years ago? Well, politics isn’t that complicated. Get good candidates. Watch the governing party’s overreach and underperformance. Understand the public antipathy for partisan excess and ideological extremism. And bingo, you have a viable alternative for voters to choose. Republicans will have to close the sale in these and other states, but they’re most of the way home — thanks to Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership.

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Mark Kirk Makes Sense Regarding Iran

I am delighted to see Rep. Mark Kirk leading in the Illinois Senate race to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama. If elected he would add a bracing voice of realism to the foreign-policy debate in the upper chamber. He has already emerged as a leader on Iran policy — an unusually well informed, sensible critic of the Obama administration’s head-in-the-sand approach. He makes a powerful case in this article that the administration should be doing much more to support the Green Movement in Iran. How? He offers some suggestions:

The President should speak directly and publicly to the dissidents of Iran—name their names from the White House podium—and make them heroes in homes across America. He should invite members of the Green Movement to meet with him at the White House. …

Overall funding for Iran democracy promotion should be increased with … control transferred from the State Department to the National Endowment for Democracy. From there, the United States should take the lead in facilitating Green Movement conferences outside of Iran—whether in the United States or Europe….

While Radio Farda continues the mission of Radio Free Europe, we should work to establish new public/private partnerships to fund independent Iranian filmmakers and producers—using them as a new way to foster more original content. VOA Persian and Radio Farda should set up a “Green Hour” for their broadcasts, and expand their interaction with Iranian dissidents.

Those sound like eminently sensible ideas to me. Why isn’t the Obama administration pursuing them? Surely it can’t think anymore that supporting Iranian dissidents will make the Iranian government less likely to talk to us. If the last year of wasted effort should have convinced the administration of anything, it is that Ahmadinejad et al. have no interest in bargaining away their nuclear program.

Trying to foment peaceful regime change is hardly a panacea. It will be a slow, difficult process that will likely not show results before Iran goes nuclear. But it is also the only long-term approach that has any hope of curbing the threat from Iran, whether it’s armed with nuclear weapons or not. Mark Kirk sees it. Why doesn’t Barack Obama?

I am delighted to see Rep. Mark Kirk leading in the Illinois Senate race to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama. If elected he would add a bracing voice of realism to the foreign-policy debate in the upper chamber. He has already emerged as a leader on Iran policy — an unusually well informed, sensible critic of the Obama administration’s head-in-the-sand approach. He makes a powerful case in this article that the administration should be doing much more to support the Green Movement in Iran. How? He offers some suggestions:

The President should speak directly and publicly to the dissidents of Iran—name their names from the White House podium—and make them heroes in homes across America. He should invite members of the Green Movement to meet with him at the White House. …

Overall funding for Iran democracy promotion should be increased with … control transferred from the State Department to the National Endowment for Democracy. From there, the United States should take the lead in facilitating Green Movement conferences outside of Iran—whether in the United States or Europe….

While Radio Farda continues the mission of Radio Free Europe, we should work to establish new public/private partnerships to fund independent Iranian filmmakers and producers—using them as a new way to foster more original content. VOA Persian and Radio Farda should set up a “Green Hour” for their broadcasts, and expand their interaction with Iranian dissidents.

Those sound like eminently sensible ideas to me. Why isn’t the Obama administration pursuing them? Surely it can’t think anymore that supporting Iranian dissidents will make the Iranian government less likely to talk to us. If the last year of wasted effort should have convinced the administration of anything, it is that Ahmadinejad et al. have no interest in bargaining away their nuclear program.

Trying to foment peaceful regime change is hardly a panacea. It will be a slow, difficult process that will likely not show results before Iran goes nuclear. But it is also the only long-term approach that has any hope of curbing the threat from Iran, whether it’s armed with nuclear weapons or not. Mark Kirk sees it. Why doesn’t Barack Obama?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

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Do Democrats Have an Escape Plan for Illinois?

As I’ve noted, Democrats are rightly panicked about the Illinois Senate race. They need to find a way to dump Alex Giannoulias, the embattled and failed banker for Tony Rezko and the Mob, or most likely watch Obama’s former Senate seat go to Rep. Mark Kirk. But now the Obami have a brainstorm:

One intriguing idea being considered: Force Mr. Giannoulias out of the race and replace him with. … Rahm Emanuel. Mr. Emanuel is still popular in Illinois and there was a big push to get him handpicked as the Obama successor back in late 2008. Democrats have used the shaft-and-shift strategy before, as in New Jersey in 2002 when they dumped a walking wounded Bob Torricelli as their Senate candidate a few weeks before Election Day.

Well, it’s not clear that they can shove Giannoulias out of the way. But let’s consider a race with Rahm Emanuel in a year in which anti-Obamaism seems to have taken hold. It would be purely a referendum on Obama, for no one is more identified with Obama’s agenda — ObamaCare, the spending, the Israel-bashing, the hyper-partisanship — than Emanuel. At the very least, we’d have a robust debate on foreign policy. Kirk, one of Israel’s most vocal supporters, wrote a letter to Obama with Democrat Rep. Chris Carney that included this criticism of Obama’s assault on Israel, which from every report has been encouraged by Emanuel:

As we write today, Iran’s uranium enrichment and ballistic missile programs are accelerating. A nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the Middle East and pose a direct threat to both American and Israeli citizens. Meanwhile, Iran continues to sponsor global terrorism, undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and transfer advanced weapons to its proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

While the recent controversy is regrettable, it should not overshadow the importance of the US-Israel alliance. A zoning dispute over 143 acres of Jewish land in Israel’s capital city should not eclipse the growing threat we face from Iran.

To promote Middle East peace and defend America and Israel’s national security, we urge your Administration to refrain from further public criticism of Israel and to focus on more pressing issues affecting this vital relationship, such as signing and enforcing the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act when it comes to your desk.

We certainly would have a test of Obama’s agenda — in a year in which Obama is upside down in approval polls on nearly every issue. And it might be a revealing look at just how willing American Jews are to register disapproval of Obama’s anti-Israel and anemic Iran policies.

An Emanuel run, therefore, would be a significant risk. If he lost, it would be far worse for Obama than simply losing the seat and blaming it on the defective Democratic nominee. It would be in effect a preview of the 2012 presidential race and signal Obama’s extreme vulnerability. It’s not clear that it’s worth risking that much of the president’s stature for a single Senate seat, even in his home state. After all, Democrats are going to lose a bunch of seats in November. What’s one more?

As I’ve noted, Democrats are rightly panicked about the Illinois Senate race. They need to find a way to dump Alex Giannoulias, the embattled and failed banker for Tony Rezko and the Mob, or most likely watch Obama’s former Senate seat go to Rep. Mark Kirk. But now the Obami have a brainstorm:

One intriguing idea being considered: Force Mr. Giannoulias out of the race and replace him with. … Rahm Emanuel. Mr. Emanuel is still popular in Illinois and there was a big push to get him handpicked as the Obama successor back in late 2008. Democrats have used the shaft-and-shift strategy before, as in New Jersey in 2002 when they dumped a walking wounded Bob Torricelli as their Senate candidate a few weeks before Election Day.

Well, it’s not clear that they can shove Giannoulias out of the way. But let’s consider a race with Rahm Emanuel in a year in which anti-Obamaism seems to have taken hold. It would be purely a referendum on Obama, for no one is more identified with Obama’s agenda — ObamaCare, the spending, the Israel-bashing, the hyper-partisanship — than Emanuel. At the very least, we’d have a robust debate on foreign policy. Kirk, one of Israel’s most vocal supporters, wrote a letter to Obama with Democrat Rep. Chris Carney that included this criticism of Obama’s assault on Israel, which from every report has been encouraged by Emanuel:

As we write today, Iran’s uranium enrichment and ballistic missile programs are accelerating. A nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the Middle East and pose a direct threat to both American and Israeli citizens. Meanwhile, Iran continues to sponsor global terrorism, undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and transfer advanced weapons to its proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

While the recent controversy is regrettable, it should not overshadow the importance of the US-Israel alliance. A zoning dispute over 143 acres of Jewish land in Israel’s capital city should not eclipse the growing threat we face from Iran.

To promote Middle East peace and defend America and Israel’s national security, we urge your Administration to refrain from further public criticism of Israel and to focus on more pressing issues affecting this vital relationship, such as signing and enforcing the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act when it comes to your desk.

We certainly would have a test of Obama’s agenda — in a year in which Obama is upside down in approval polls on nearly every issue. And it might be a revealing look at just how willing American Jews are to register disapproval of Obama’s anti-Israel and anemic Iran policies.

An Emanuel run, therefore, would be a significant risk. If he lost, it would be far worse for Obama than simply losing the seat and blaming it on the defective Democratic nominee. It would be in effect a preview of the 2012 presidential race and signal Obama’s extreme vulnerability. It’s not clear that it’s worth risking that much of the president’s stature for a single Senate seat, even in his home state. After all, Democrats are going to lose a bunch of seats in November. What’s one more?

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Obama Hides from Giannoulias

Obama isn’t about to waste political capital on Tony Rezko’s banker. That’s the gist of this report:

Sen. Dick Durbin slipped into the West Wing last week to ask Rahm Emanuel for White House help in saving Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. But he didn’t leave with any ironclad commitments. Durbin told Emanuel that Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias could use some serious presidential intervention in his uphill race against Republican Rep. Mark Kirk. At the moment, the White House seems open to the idea of losing Obama’s old seat rather than putting the president’s prestige on the line for Giannoulias, the brash and boyish Illinois state treasurer — and onetime Obama basketball buddy — whose campaign has been rocked by the financial meltdown of his family’s bank.

There are good reasons for Obama’s reticence. For starters, Obama has enough sticky connections to the Illinois corruption racket, so he’s wise to stay away from his former hometown. It seems he might, in fact, have had a conversation with the former governor about that Senate seat and another with a union official to relay his preferences to Blago. (If true, this is at odds with what Obama and his “internal review” related to the public when the Blago story first broke.) Blago’s lawyers are now trying to drag the president in to testify in Blago’s case — which will be going to trial this fall. Yikes!

Moreover, Giannoulias is in deep trouble, and it’s far from certain that Obama can help him. After all, he didn’t help Martha Coakley, Creigh Deeds, or Jon Corzine. Coming up short in his own state would prove embarrassing and tend to confirm that he lacks political mojo. Sometimes it’s better to just stay home.

It’s remarkable that a year and a half after Obama celebrated his victory before a throng in Grant Park, he needs to hide from the Democratic candidate seeking to fill his old Senate seat. That’s as much a comment on the shortcomings of Giannoulias as it is on those of Obama.

Obama isn’t about to waste political capital on Tony Rezko’s banker. That’s the gist of this report:

Sen. Dick Durbin slipped into the West Wing last week to ask Rahm Emanuel for White House help in saving Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. But he didn’t leave with any ironclad commitments. Durbin told Emanuel that Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias could use some serious presidential intervention in his uphill race against Republican Rep. Mark Kirk. At the moment, the White House seems open to the idea of losing Obama’s old seat rather than putting the president’s prestige on the line for Giannoulias, the brash and boyish Illinois state treasurer — and onetime Obama basketball buddy — whose campaign has been rocked by the financial meltdown of his family’s bank.

There are good reasons for Obama’s reticence. For starters, Obama has enough sticky connections to the Illinois corruption racket, so he’s wise to stay away from his former hometown. It seems he might, in fact, have had a conversation with the former governor about that Senate seat and another with a union official to relay his preferences to Blago. (If true, this is at odds with what Obama and his “internal review” related to the public when the Blago story first broke.) Blago’s lawyers are now trying to drag the president in to testify in Blago’s case — which will be going to trial this fall. Yikes!

Moreover, Giannoulias is in deep trouble, and it’s far from certain that Obama can help him. After all, he didn’t help Martha Coakley, Creigh Deeds, or Jon Corzine. Coming up short in his own state would prove embarrassing and tend to confirm that he lacks political mojo. Sometimes it’s better to just stay home.

It’s remarkable that a year and a half after Obama celebrated his victory before a throng in Grant Park, he needs to hide from the Democratic candidate seeking to fill his old Senate seat. That’s as much a comment on the shortcomings of Giannoulias as it is on those of Obama.

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More on the Jewish Vote

John McLaughlin, who recently conducted a poll of American Jews, reviewed his results in a conference call today. He stressed that although exit polls showed 78 percent of Jews voted for Obama, it is significant that 46 percent would now consider voting for someone else. That number is dramatically higher among Orthodox voters (69 percent) and somewhat higher among denominationally Conservative Jews (50 percent) as well as those with family in Israel (48 percent) or those who had been to Israel (49 percent). This pattern – linking criticism of Obama with religious observance and affiliation with Israel — held on virtually all questions, including Obama’s job approval, the imposition of a peace plan, and the division of Jerusalem. On Obama’s job performance, for example, 80 percent of Orthodox Jews disapprove, and 50 of Conservatives disapprove, but only 26 percent of Reform Jews.

I asked McLaughlin if Reform Jews were also more liberal. He answered, “They are definitely more Democratic, more liberal and more concerned about domestic issues.”  I also asked about the correlation between support for Obama and age. His poll screened for likely voters in the coming November and suggested there will be a drop-off in general among younger voters from 2008, which brought many new voters to the poll. Within American Jewry, older voters are more loyal to Obama and to the party. Among voters over 55 years old, only 42 percent would consider voting for someone other than Obama, while 52 percent under 55 would. In the sample, among voters over 55 years old, 64 percent were Democrats, while “only” 53 percent under 55 identified as Democrats. As a group, however, Jews remain far more liberal (40 percent identified as such in the poll, only 21 percent as conservative) than voters in general.

McLaughlin stressed that it is unusual for a Democratic president to potentially lose the support of Jews and that the issue with Israel has created a potential wedge between Obama and this constituency. He advises to keep an eye on some key Congressional races for signs of dissatisfaction with Democrats among Jewish voters — the special election in Pennsylvania’s District 12 and some New York races, including in District 4, as well as Mark Kirk’s seat in Illinois.

Is there an opening for Republicans to make headway with Jewish voters? Among Orthodox, Conservative, and young voters, most certainly. But stay tuned, as we have learned it takes a lot to separate overwhelmingly liberal Jews from their Democratic affiliation.

John McLaughlin, who recently conducted a poll of American Jews, reviewed his results in a conference call today. He stressed that although exit polls showed 78 percent of Jews voted for Obama, it is significant that 46 percent would now consider voting for someone else. That number is dramatically higher among Orthodox voters (69 percent) and somewhat higher among denominationally Conservative Jews (50 percent) as well as those with family in Israel (48 percent) or those who had been to Israel (49 percent). This pattern – linking criticism of Obama with religious observance and affiliation with Israel — held on virtually all questions, including Obama’s job approval, the imposition of a peace plan, and the division of Jerusalem. On Obama’s job performance, for example, 80 percent of Orthodox Jews disapprove, and 50 of Conservatives disapprove, but only 26 percent of Reform Jews.

I asked McLaughlin if Reform Jews were also more liberal. He answered, “They are definitely more Democratic, more liberal and more concerned about domestic issues.”  I also asked about the correlation between support for Obama and age. His poll screened for likely voters in the coming November and suggested there will be a drop-off in general among younger voters from 2008, which brought many new voters to the poll. Within American Jewry, older voters are more loyal to Obama and to the party. Among voters over 55 years old, only 42 percent would consider voting for someone other than Obama, while 52 percent under 55 would. In the sample, among voters over 55 years old, 64 percent were Democrats, while “only” 53 percent under 55 identified as Democrats. As a group, however, Jews remain far more liberal (40 percent identified as such in the poll, only 21 percent as conservative) than voters in general.

McLaughlin stressed that it is unusual for a Democratic president to potentially lose the support of Jews and that the issue with Israel has created a potential wedge between Obama and this constituency. He advises to keep an eye on some key Congressional races for signs of dissatisfaction with Democrats among Jewish voters — the special election in Pennsylvania’s District 12 and some New York races, including in District 4, as well as Mark Kirk’s seat in Illinois.

Is there an opening for Republicans to make headway with Jewish voters? Among Orthodox, Conservative, and young voters, most certainly. But stay tuned, as we have learned it takes a lot to separate overwhelmingly liberal Jews from their Democratic affiliation.

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Falling Further Behind

The passage of ObamaCare was supposed to help narrow the “enthusiasm” gap between Democrats and Republicans. Even if the mammoth tax-and-spend measure infuriated conservatives and even some independents, the saving grace for Democratic lawmakers would be their liberal base’s renewed fervor. It hasn’t panned out. Tom Jensen of the Democratic Public Policy Polling explains:

Our polls over the last few weeks in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin found a self reported 2008 vote anywhere from 6-10 points more friendly to John McCain than the actual vote in the state. There are a couple possible reasons for this. One is that folks who have soured on Obama may not be admitting that they voted for him in the first time. The more likely explanation though is something we already saw play itself out in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts- a much higher percentage of McCain voters are planning to come back out this year than folks who voted for Obama.

There still aren’t a whole lot of Obama voters planning to go for the Republicans this year. If the 2010 electorate was the same as the 2008 electorate we’d have Arlen Specter leading Pat Toomey, Alexi Giannoulias leading Mark Kirk, Tom Barrett leading Scott Walker, and Jennifer Brunner leading Rob Portman. But all four of those Democratic candidates are losing right now because McCain voters are more energized than Obama ones to come out and vote this fall. Perhaps the party will find a way to change that by November, but it certainly didn’t in any of the statewide races we’ve had so far since Obama took office.

There are a few possible explanations. Liberals might not be that jazzed by ObamaCare, which lacks the public option and forces people to fork over money to dreaded Big Insurance. Or, liberals might be miffed that more of their agenda — cap-and-trade, retreat from Afghanistan, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — hasn’t gone through. And on the conservative side of the equation, nearly everything Obama does these days — ObamaCare, lambasting Israel, renouncing a nuclear counterstrike in case of a chemical or biological attack — adds fuel to the fire. In short, ObamaCare didn’t provide enough of a boost to liberals to counteract the fever pitch of antagonism which Obama has generated among conservatives and independents. To a greater degree than conservatives could ever have managed on their own, Obama has shifted the electorate to the Right — and his party will suffer significant losses as a result.

The passage of ObamaCare was supposed to help narrow the “enthusiasm” gap between Democrats and Republicans. Even if the mammoth tax-and-spend measure infuriated conservatives and even some independents, the saving grace for Democratic lawmakers would be their liberal base’s renewed fervor. It hasn’t panned out. Tom Jensen of the Democratic Public Policy Polling explains:

Our polls over the last few weeks in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin found a self reported 2008 vote anywhere from 6-10 points more friendly to John McCain than the actual vote in the state. There are a couple possible reasons for this. One is that folks who have soured on Obama may not be admitting that they voted for him in the first time. The more likely explanation though is something we already saw play itself out in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts- a much higher percentage of McCain voters are planning to come back out this year than folks who voted for Obama.

There still aren’t a whole lot of Obama voters planning to go for the Republicans this year. If the 2010 electorate was the same as the 2008 electorate we’d have Arlen Specter leading Pat Toomey, Alexi Giannoulias leading Mark Kirk, Tom Barrett leading Scott Walker, and Jennifer Brunner leading Rob Portman. But all four of those Democratic candidates are losing right now because McCain voters are more energized than Obama ones to come out and vote this fall. Perhaps the party will find a way to change that by November, but it certainly didn’t in any of the statewide races we’ve had so far since Obama took office.

There are a few possible explanations. Liberals might not be that jazzed by ObamaCare, which lacks the public option and forces people to fork over money to dreaded Big Insurance. Or, liberals might be miffed that more of their agenda — cap-and-trade, retreat from Afghanistan, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — hasn’t gone through. And on the conservative side of the equation, nearly everything Obama does these days — ObamaCare, lambasting Israel, renouncing a nuclear counterstrike in case of a chemical or biological attack — adds fuel to the fire. In short, ObamaCare didn’t provide enough of a boost to liberals to counteract the fever pitch of antagonism which Obama has generated among conservatives and independents. To a greater degree than conservatives could ever have managed on their own, Obama has shifted the electorate to the Right — and his party will suffer significant losses as a result.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Maybe attacking another ally in public wasn’t so smart. Charles Krauthammer: “What we have here is the problem of an unruly client. The problem with Karzai is that he’s the worst ally except for all the others. We’re stuck with him, and we’re not in Afghanistan because of him but for our own perceived national interest. We’re stuck with him. We’re going to have to tolerate this. … And what you do is you do not attack him as we did, as Obama [did], on his way over to Afghanistan, saying we’re going to read him the riot act on corruption. You don’t do that and leak it. You do it in quiet — and in public hail him as a liberator.”

Maybe it’s not so smart to take use of of force off the table before the mullahs get the bomb either. If they do, at least “Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. will not limit its options under a new nuclear strategy if Iran or North Korea decides to launch a nuclear attack.” Well, that’s a relief. Would Obama’s policy have prohibited dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, by the way? Just asking.

Maybe nominating Tony Rezko’s banker wasn’t so smart. The Public Policy Polling survey finds: “The last two months have not been good for Alexi Giannoulias, and Mark Kirk now leads him 37-33 in his bid to be the next Senator from Illinois.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for House Democrats to take political advice from the White House: “Republican candidates now hold a nine-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 47% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, up from 46% last week, while 38% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent, down a point from the previous survey.”

Maybe switching parties wasn’t so smart. “Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is trailing in the latest Pennsylvania Senate poll.Public Policy Polling (D) has released its first survey of the race and found the Republican candidate, former Rep. Pat Toomey (Pa.), beats both Specter and Specter’s primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak (D), in a general election matchup.Toomey beats Specter by three, 46-43, and he beats Sestak by six, 42-36. Specter’s job rating is troubling for an incumbent. He had a 34 percent approval rating and a 52 percent disapproval rating. President Barack Obama also has low approval ratings in the state, which could be helping Toomey. Obama has a 46 percent approval rating and 50 percent disapproval rating.”

Maybe sneering at the Tea Party movement wasn’t so smart. Matthew Continetti: “Imagine what might have happened if Democrats had decided to take the Tea Party seriously in 2009. The Democrats might have moved to the center, adopting Bill Clinton’s second-term strategy of balanced budgets, economic growth and globalization, and incremental, small-bore reforms on health care and education. They might have been able to retain the independents they held in 2006 and 2008 while dampening Republican fears that Obama wants to turn the country into Sweden. The economy would still be crummy. But, in this scenario, 2010 wouldn’t look like the Democratic bloodbath it’s shaping up to be.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for a controversial appellate court nominee who never wrote a legal opinion to omit 117 documents from a Senate questionnaire. After all, Eric Holder only left out seven briefs.

Maybe David Shuster isn’t so smart: “MSNBC brass wasn’t happy when news broke this week that David Shuster had taped a pilot for CNN, and the anchor wasn’t on-air yesterday. Now comes word of Shuster’s fate through an MSNBC spokesperson: ‘David has been suspended indefinitely.’ It’s not the first time he’s been suspended. Shuster was off the air a couple weeks in 2008 after he talked about how Hillary Clinton had ‘pimped out’ Chelsea on the campaign trail.”

Maybe attacking another ally in public wasn’t so smart. Charles Krauthammer: “What we have here is the problem of an unruly client. The problem with Karzai is that he’s the worst ally except for all the others. We’re stuck with him, and we’re not in Afghanistan because of him but for our own perceived national interest. We’re stuck with him. We’re going to have to tolerate this. … And what you do is you do not attack him as we did, as Obama [did], on his way over to Afghanistan, saying we’re going to read him the riot act on corruption. You don’t do that and leak it. You do it in quiet — and in public hail him as a liberator.”

Maybe it’s not so smart to take use of of force off the table before the mullahs get the bomb either. If they do, at least “Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. will not limit its options under a new nuclear strategy if Iran or North Korea decides to launch a nuclear attack.” Well, that’s a relief. Would Obama’s policy have prohibited dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, by the way? Just asking.

Maybe nominating Tony Rezko’s banker wasn’t so smart. The Public Policy Polling survey finds: “The last two months have not been good for Alexi Giannoulias, and Mark Kirk now leads him 37-33 in his bid to be the next Senator from Illinois.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for House Democrats to take political advice from the White House: “Republican candidates now hold a nine-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 47% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, up from 46% last week, while 38% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent, down a point from the previous survey.”

Maybe switching parties wasn’t so smart. “Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is trailing in the latest Pennsylvania Senate poll.Public Policy Polling (D) has released its first survey of the race and found the Republican candidate, former Rep. Pat Toomey (Pa.), beats both Specter and Specter’s primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak (D), in a general election matchup.Toomey beats Specter by three, 46-43, and he beats Sestak by six, 42-36. Specter’s job rating is troubling for an incumbent. He had a 34 percent approval rating and a 52 percent disapproval rating. President Barack Obama also has low approval ratings in the state, which could be helping Toomey. Obama has a 46 percent approval rating and 50 percent disapproval rating.”

Maybe sneering at the Tea Party movement wasn’t so smart. Matthew Continetti: “Imagine what might have happened if Democrats had decided to take the Tea Party seriously in 2009. The Democrats might have moved to the center, adopting Bill Clinton’s second-term strategy of balanced budgets, economic growth and globalization, and incremental, small-bore reforms on health care and education. They might have been able to retain the independents they held in 2006 and 2008 while dampening Republican fears that Obama wants to turn the country into Sweden. The economy would still be crummy. But, in this scenario, 2010 wouldn’t look like the Democratic bloodbath it’s shaping up to be.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for a controversial appellate court nominee who never wrote a legal opinion to omit 117 documents from a Senate questionnaire. After all, Eric Holder only left out seven briefs.

Maybe David Shuster isn’t so smart: “MSNBC brass wasn’t happy when news broke this week that David Shuster had taped a pilot for CNN, and the anchor wasn’t on-air yesterday. Now comes word of Shuster’s fate through an MSNBC spokesperson: ‘David has been suspended indefinitely.’ It’s not the first time he’s been suspended. Shuster was off the air a couple weeks in 2008 after he talked about how Hillary Clinton had ‘pimped out’ Chelsea on the campaign trail.”

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RE: Opposition to Obama’s Tactics Builds

The Obami’s decision to go after Israel in harsh terms, so unbecoming toward an ally, is bringing in a storm of criticism. As I and others are reporting, the criticism is proving to be bipartisan. Pennsylvania Rep. Christopher Carney, a Democrat, and Illinois Republican Rep. Mark Kirk are sending a joint letter to Obama telling him to recommit to a number of principles, including “the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, [under which] official United States policy recognizes Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel.” Rep. Eliot Engel added his voice to those pro-Israel Democrats. (“We should not have a disproportionate response to Israel. We need to be careful and measured in our response, and I think we all have to take a step back.”) And Minority Whip Eric Cantor called Rahm Emanuel. Politico reports:

While he declined to quote Emanuel’s response, Cantor said he now believes the administration is capitalizing on a relatively minor diplomatic affront to redefine U.S. policy and force Israel to make new concessions about where it will build.
U.S. officials lambasted Israel for announcing the new construction of apartments for Jews in Jerusalem — without any warning — while Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel last week.

Israel apologized for the break in protocol but not for building. The White House has asked Israel to stop building in disputed East Jerusalem — a request that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected on Tuesday.

Cantor called the White House reaction a “disproportionate response” and said its call for a halt to the construction in East Jerusalem appears to be an “opportunistic move by an administration that wants to impose its view … onto our ally.”

These voices are welcome to those who wish to repair the U.S.-Israel relationship. But the problem is not simply the tone or the public nature of the criticism launched by the Obami. Former New York City Mayor and devout friend of Israel Ed Koch e-mails me: “It is very serious.  I hope all Jews understand the unforgivable pressures being brought on Israel.” And let’s hope all Americans do as well. The problem here is not simply the uncivil tone and bullying techniques but also the entire mindset and policy that seek to extract the most concessions possible from the Israeli government — or even topple it — as a negotiaiting gambit. It is of course a 180-degree reversal from the rather successful policy under George W. Bush, who correctly appreciated the fact that a close and fulsome U.S.-Israel relationship was essential to the “peace process.” And of course it is in keeping with our own national-security interests and our historic ties to the Jewish state.

If the Obami are surprised by the push back, that is only one more indication as to how out of touch they are — with the American people, with the realities of the Middle East, and with the impact that all of this will have on relations with other nations. In an administration with plenty of them, this ranks among the worst foreign-policy debacles.

The Obami’s decision to go after Israel in harsh terms, so unbecoming toward an ally, is bringing in a storm of criticism. As I and others are reporting, the criticism is proving to be bipartisan. Pennsylvania Rep. Christopher Carney, a Democrat, and Illinois Republican Rep. Mark Kirk are sending a joint letter to Obama telling him to recommit to a number of principles, including “the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, [under which] official United States policy recognizes Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel.” Rep. Eliot Engel added his voice to those pro-Israel Democrats. (“We should not have a disproportionate response to Israel. We need to be careful and measured in our response, and I think we all have to take a step back.”) And Minority Whip Eric Cantor called Rahm Emanuel. Politico reports:

While he declined to quote Emanuel’s response, Cantor said he now believes the administration is capitalizing on a relatively minor diplomatic affront to redefine U.S. policy and force Israel to make new concessions about where it will build.
U.S. officials lambasted Israel for announcing the new construction of apartments for Jews in Jerusalem — without any warning — while Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel last week.

Israel apologized for the break in protocol but not for building. The White House has asked Israel to stop building in disputed East Jerusalem — a request that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected on Tuesday.

Cantor called the White House reaction a “disproportionate response” and said its call for a halt to the construction in East Jerusalem appears to be an “opportunistic move by an administration that wants to impose its view … onto our ally.”

These voices are welcome to those who wish to repair the U.S.-Israel relationship. But the problem is not simply the tone or the public nature of the criticism launched by the Obami. Former New York City Mayor and devout friend of Israel Ed Koch e-mails me: “It is very serious.  I hope all Jews understand the unforgivable pressures being brought on Israel.” And let’s hope all Americans do as well. The problem here is not simply the uncivil tone and bullying techniques but also the entire mindset and policy that seek to extract the most concessions possible from the Israeli government — or even topple it — as a negotiaiting gambit. It is of course a 180-degree reversal from the rather successful policy under George W. Bush, who correctly appreciated the fact that a close and fulsome U.S.-Israel relationship was essential to the “peace process.” And of course it is in keeping with our own national-security interests and our historic ties to the Jewish state.

If the Obami are surprised by the push back, that is only one more indication as to how out of touch they are — with the American people, with the realities of the Middle East, and with the impact that all of this will have on relations with other nations. In an administration with plenty of them, this ranks among the worst foreign-policy debacles.

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RE: This Is Not Progress

Emanuele, you may be right, sadly. But there is a point at which the administration does diminish the enthusiasm — both financial and electoral — that they have taken for granted. And then there is the broader political landscape. By taking on Israel, they have handed pro-Israel conservatives yet another national-security issue in the upcoming election. We have already seen Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk, two senate candidates, weighing in. And where are their opponents? Silent so far. Pat Toomey’s spokesman e-mails me with this: “If this Administration was nearly as tough on Iran as it is on Israel then our policies would have more credibility with both our friends and our enemies.” As national security rises in the public’s list of concerns, I think it’s entirely likely that Democrats and those Republicans with a record of antipathy toward Israel will be put on the spot: do they support Obama’s anti-Israel offensive? Chalk it up as one more problem Obama has foisted onto his fellow Democrats who struggling to stay in office.

And then there is the evangelical community, which remains stalwart in its support of Israel. Recall that the administration was going to make headway with this group. Well, now they are none too pleased. A representative of the pro-Israel Christian community expressed to me his concern that the administration was overreacting. “The timing of the announcement was a mistake,” he told me, “but by all accounts Netanyahu had nothing to do with this timing and has apologized for it. But the administration seems determined to use this diplomatic dust up as an excuse to apply even greater pressure on the one side willing to resume direct talks immediately — Israel. This is counter-productive.” The reaction of non-Jews, evangelical or otherwise, in an electorate overwhelmingly pro-Israel will be telling. The Obami may assume that only Jews care about this issue. They are wrong, I think.

But Emanuele, you are certainly correct that the proof will be at the ballot box and in the support afforded to Obama and those in his party who condone (either overtly or not) this newest line of attack. Is there a point at which American Jews cry “Enough!”? The Obami clearly think this is a cost-free gambit for them, domestically. We’ll have to see whether they are right.

Emanuele, you may be right, sadly. But there is a point at which the administration does diminish the enthusiasm — both financial and electoral — that they have taken for granted. And then there is the broader political landscape. By taking on Israel, they have handed pro-Israel conservatives yet another national-security issue in the upcoming election. We have already seen Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk, two senate candidates, weighing in. And where are their opponents? Silent so far. Pat Toomey’s spokesman e-mails me with this: “If this Administration was nearly as tough on Iran as it is on Israel then our policies would have more credibility with both our friends and our enemies.” As national security rises in the public’s list of concerns, I think it’s entirely likely that Democrats and those Republicans with a record of antipathy toward Israel will be put on the spot: do they support Obama’s anti-Israel offensive? Chalk it up as one more problem Obama has foisted onto his fellow Democrats who struggling to stay in office.

And then there is the evangelical community, which remains stalwart in its support of Israel. Recall that the administration was going to make headway with this group. Well, now they are none too pleased. A representative of the pro-Israel Christian community expressed to me his concern that the administration was overreacting. “The timing of the announcement was a mistake,” he told me, “but by all accounts Netanyahu had nothing to do with this timing and has apologized for it. But the administration seems determined to use this diplomatic dust up as an excuse to apply even greater pressure on the one side willing to resume direct talks immediately — Israel. This is counter-productive.” The reaction of non-Jews, evangelical or otherwise, in an electorate overwhelmingly pro-Israel will be telling. The Obami may assume that only Jews care about this issue. They are wrong, I think.

But Emanuele, you are certainly correct that the proof will be at the ballot box and in the support afforded to Obama and those in his party who condone (either overtly or not) this newest line of attack. Is there a point at which American Jews cry “Enough!”? The Obami clearly think this is a cost-free gambit for them, domestically. We’ll have to see whether they are right.

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It Gets Worse

The White House is, as this report suggests, upping the ante with continued criticism of Israel. Taking to the morning talk shows, David Axelrod — a political operative who now seems at the center of foreign-policy formulation (more on this later) — went on the Fox, ABC, and NBC Sunday talk shows to repeat how insulted the Obami were over Israeli building in Jerusalem and what an affront this was to them. And what is the affront? Well, for some context, this report is enlightening:

The Likud Party’s Danny Dadon, deputy speaker of the Knesset, called Clinton’s “meddling in internal Israeli decisions regarding the development” of Jerusalem “uninvited and unhelpful. In fact it is sheer chutzpah.”

“I cannot remember another time that a senior American official deemed it ‘insulting’ when a sovereign nation announced urban zoning decisions regarding its primary city,” Dadon said.

In the past, U.S. administrations have tended to more gently chide Israel on construction in Jerusalem that is over the “Green Line” boundary from the 1967 war, in areas where the Palestinians hope to build a capital as part of a future peace deal. More often, U.S. officials would call such construction “unhelpful,” and note that the future of Jerusalem is an issue to be decided in final status negotiations between the parties.

The reaction of the Obami is even more startling considering the location and strategic importance of Ramat Shlomo. But this administration doesn’t make such fine distinctions and is not like past ones, we are learning. It might have something to do with the fact that Axelrod and the Chicago pols are running foreign policy. It’s attack, attack, attack — just as they do any domestic critic (even the Supreme Court Chief Justice). It’s about bullying and discrediting, trying to force the opponent into a corner. And in this case, their opponent is plainly the Israeli government. For that is the party the Obami is now demanding make further concessions to… well, to what end is not clear. Perhaps we are back to regime change — an effort to topple the duly elected government of Israel to obtain a negotiating partner more willing to yield to American bullying.

The language the Obami employ – “personal,” “insulting,” and “affront” – suggests an unusual degree of personal peevishness and hostility toward an ally. That, I suppose, is the mentality of Chicago pols and of those who regard Israel not as a valued friend but as an irritant. And it is the language not of negotiators but of intimidators.

Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk, now a Senate candidate, issued this statement as the mess unfolded last week:

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, making it official United States policy that Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel,” Congressman Kirk said.  “As a staff member, I helped draft this historic legislation; as a Congressman I continue to urge its enforcement.  History teaches us that a divided Jerusalem leads to conflict while a unified Jerusalem protects the rights of all faiths.  I urge the Administration to spend more time working to stop Iran from building nuclear bombs and less time concerned with zoning issues in Jerusalem.  As Iran accelerates its uranium enrichment, we should not be condemning one of America’s strongest democratic allies in the Middle East.

And that really sums it up: what end is served by this conflagration with an ally, and what does it say about the administration’s priorities? The Obami seem to have a strange notion about what motivates our foes and what the key threats to American security are. This exchange with Jake Tapper is telling — both for how extraordinarily irrational and how ill-formulated the administration’s rhetoric has become:

TAPPER:  All right, last question.  Vice President Biden went to Israel this week and he was greeted by a slap in the face, the announcement by the Israeli government of the approval of new housing units in an Arab section of Jerusalem.  President Obama was said to be very upset about it.  Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton made very strong comments about it.  Will there be any consequences, tangible consequences beyond the tough talk?  And does Israel’s intransigence on the housing issue put the lives of U.S. troops at risk?

AXELROD:  Well, look, what happened there was an affront.  It was an insult, but that’s not the most important thing.  What it did was it made more difficult a very difficult process.  We’ve just gotten proximity, so-called proximity talks going between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and this seemed calculated to undermine that, and that was — that was distressing to everyone who is promoting the idea of peace — and security in the region.

Israel is a strong and special ally.  The bonds run deep.  But for just that very reason, this was not the right way to behave.  That was expressed by the secretary of state, as well as the vice president.  I am not going to discuss what diplomatic talks we’ve had underneath that, but I think the Israelis understand clearly why we were upset and what, you know, what we want moving forward.

TAPPER:  I hate to say this, but yes or no, David, does the intransigence of the Israeli government on the housing issue, yes or no, does it put U.S. troops lives at risk?

AXELROD:  I believe that that region and that issue is a flare point throughout the region, and so I’m not going to put it in those terms.  But I do believe that it is absolutely imperative, not just for the security of Israel and the Palestinian people, who were, remember, at war just a year ago, but it is important for our own security that we move forward and resolve this very difficult issue.

A squirrely response at the end, revealing that much of what the administration says is irrational and, upon any reflection, ridiculous. It is disturbing indeed to hear an American administration adopt the Arab rhetorical line — Israel’s settlements endanger Americans. Which president has ever given voice to such rubbish? There is, regrettably, a first for everything.

The White House is, as this report suggests, upping the ante with continued criticism of Israel. Taking to the morning talk shows, David Axelrod — a political operative who now seems at the center of foreign-policy formulation (more on this later) — went on the Fox, ABC, and NBC Sunday talk shows to repeat how insulted the Obami were over Israeli building in Jerusalem and what an affront this was to them. And what is the affront? Well, for some context, this report is enlightening:

The Likud Party’s Danny Dadon, deputy speaker of the Knesset, called Clinton’s “meddling in internal Israeli decisions regarding the development” of Jerusalem “uninvited and unhelpful. In fact it is sheer chutzpah.”

“I cannot remember another time that a senior American official deemed it ‘insulting’ when a sovereign nation announced urban zoning decisions regarding its primary city,” Dadon said.

In the past, U.S. administrations have tended to more gently chide Israel on construction in Jerusalem that is over the “Green Line” boundary from the 1967 war, in areas where the Palestinians hope to build a capital as part of a future peace deal. More often, U.S. officials would call such construction “unhelpful,” and note that the future of Jerusalem is an issue to be decided in final status negotiations between the parties.

The reaction of the Obami is even more startling considering the location and strategic importance of Ramat Shlomo. But this administration doesn’t make such fine distinctions and is not like past ones, we are learning. It might have something to do with the fact that Axelrod and the Chicago pols are running foreign policy. It’s attack, attack, attack — just as they do any domestic critic (even the Supreme Court Chief Justice). It’s about bullying and discrediting, trying to force the opponent into a corner. And in this case, their opponent is plainly the Israeli government. For that is the party the Obami is now demanding make further concessions to… well, to what end is not clear. Perhaps we are back to regime change — an effort to topple the duly elected government of Israel to obtain a negotiating partner more willing to yield to American bullying.

The language the Obami employ – “personal,” “insulting,” and “affront” – suggests an unusual degree of personal peevishness and hostility toward an ally. That, I suppose, is the mentality of Chicago pols and of those who regard Israel not as a valued friend but as an irritant. And it is the language not of negotiators but of intimidators.

Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk, now a Senate candidate, issued this statement as the mess unfolded last week:

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, making it official United States policy that Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel,” Congressman Kirk said.  “As a staff member, I helped draft this historic legislation; as a Congressman I continue to urge its enforcement.  History teaches us that a divided Jerusalem leads to conflict while a unified Jerusalem protects the rights of all faiths.  I urge the Administration to spend more time working to stop Iran from building nuclear bombs and less time concerned with zoning issues in Jerusalem.  As Iran accelerates its uranium enrichment, we should not be condemning one of America’s strongest democratic allies in the Middle East.

And that really sums it up: what end is served by this conflagration with an ally, and what does it say about the administration’s priorities? The Obami seem to have a strange notion about what motivates our foes and what the key threats to American security are. This exchange with Jake Tapper is telling — both for how extraordinarily irrational and how ill-formulated the administration’s rhetoric has become:

TAPPER:  All right, last question.  Vice President Biden went to Israel this week and he was greeted by a slap in the face, the announcement by the Israeli government of the approval of new housing units in an Arab section of Jerusalem.  President Obama was said to be very upset about it.  Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton made very strong comments about it.  Will there be any consequences, tangible consequences beyond the tough talk?  And does Israel’s intransigence on the housing issue put the lives of U.S. troops at risk?

AXELROD:  Well, look, what happened there was an affront.  It was an insult, but that’s not the most important thing.  What it did was it made more difficult a very difficult process.  We’ve just gotten proximity, so-called proximity talks going between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and this seemed calculated to undermine that, and that was — that was distressing to everyone who is promoting the idea of peace — and security in the region.

Israel is a strong and special ally.  The bonds run deep.  But for just that very reason, this was not the right way to behave.  That was expressed by the secretary of state, as well as the vice president.  I am not going to discuss what diplomatic talks we’ve had underneath that, but I think the Israelis understand clearly why we were upset and what, you know, what we want moving forward.

TAPPER:  I hate to say this, but yes or no, David, does the intransigence of the Israeli government on the housing issue, yes or no, does it put U.S. troops lives at risk?

AXELROD:  I believe that that region and that issue is a flare point throughout the region, and so I’m not going to put it in those terms.  But I do believe that it is absolutely imperative, not just for the security of Israel and the Palestinian people, who were, remember, at war just a year ago, but it is important for our own security that we move forward and resolve this very difficult issue.

A squirrely response at the end, revealing that much of what the administration says is irrational and, upon any reflection, ridiculous. It is disturbing indeed to hear an American administration adopt the Arab rhetorical line — Israel’s settlements endanger Americans. Which president has ever given voice to such rubbish? There is, regrettably, a first for everything.

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How an Election Is Nationalized

Two races in Illinois and Pennsylvania exemplify the difficulties  Democrats are having these days. Regarding the Illinois Senate race, the Chicago Sun Times reports:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said the arrest this week of a Giannoulias family friend and bank customer brings the amount of money Broadway Bank has lent to criminals to $52 million.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk’s Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, has said that as chief loan officer of his family’s bank from 2002 to 2006, he did not check loan applicants’ arrest records.

Kirk, a North Shore Republican, calls that “reckless.”

And in a Friday news dump, Giannoulias announced he was giving back all the campaign funds he received from “bank fraudster Nick Giannis and his family.” So to sum up: to fill the seat of  Roland Burris, the Blago appointee (whose seat and the potential purchase thereof is the subject of the criminal trial later this year), the Democrats have nominated a banker who lent millions to mobsters, whose bank is on the verge of going under, and who pleads ignorance about his clients’ criminality. This is in a year in which backdoor deals, a series of ethics issues (e.g. Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa), and a general anti-insider sentiment has ensnared the Democrats. It’s hard to imagine a less appealing candidate for the Democrats. And frankly, if they aren’t lucky, Giannoulias and the other ethically challenged Democrats are going to become the poster boys — and the unifying message — for many Republicans outside Illinois.

Then there is Pennsylvania. Before we get to the Senate and gubernatorial races, both of which look promising for Republicans, there is a House special election. As Politico reports:

The special election to fill the House seat of the late Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha will pit a candidate who fully embraces Murtha’s legacy against a Republican political newcomer who’s aiming to nationalize the election. Pennsylvania Republicans anointed businessman Tim Burns on Thursday as their candidate to face Murtha’s former district director, Mark Critz, in the May 18 election. Burns has been running on a down-the-line conservative platform of opposition to the stimulus, health care legislation and government spending.

And if the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika push through ObamaCare, this may be an early warning sign (well, another warning sign after Scott Brown) as to  just how angry the electorate is and how willing the voters are to flip a seat that, in a normal election year, would be relatively safe for Democrats.

This is the stuff of wave elections — the collision of ethics scandals, voter anger, fiscal mismanagement, and, don’t forget, a floundering president. How big the wave will be depends, I think, on just how serious the Democrats are about dealing with their ethically challenged members and how determined they are to take the plunge on a monstrous health-care bill that voters generally loathe.

Two races in Illinois and Pennsylvania exemplify the difficulties  Democrats are having these days. Regarding the Illinois Senate race, the Chicago Sun Times reports:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said the arrest this week of a Giannoulias family friend and bank customer brings the amount of money Broadway Bank has lent to criminals to $52 million.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk’s Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, has said that as chief loan officer of his family’s bank from 2002 to 2006, he did not check loan applicants’ arrest records.

Kirk, a North Shore Republican, calls that “reckless.”

And in a Friday news dump, Giannoulias announced he was giving back all the campaign funds he received from “bank fraudster Nick Giannis and his family.” So to sum up: to fill the seat of  Roland Burris, the Blago appointee (whose seat and the potential purchase thereof is the subject of the criminal trial later this year), the Democrats have nominated a banker who lent millions to mobsters, whose bank is on the verge of going under, and who pleads ignorance about his clients’ criminality. This is in a year in which backdoor deals, a series of ethics issues (e.g. Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa), and a general anti-insider sentiment has ensnared the Democrats. It’s hard to imagine a less appealing candidate for the Democrats. And frankly, if they aren’t lucky, Giannoulias and the other ethically challenged Democrats are going to become the poster boys — and the unifying message — for many Republicans outside Illinois.

Then there is Pennsylvania. Before we get to the Senate and gubernatorial races, both of which look promising for Republicans, there is a House special election. As Politico reports:

The special election to fill the House seat of the late Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha will pit a candidate who fully embraces Murtha’s legacy against a Republican political newcomer who’s aiming to nationalize the election. Pennsylvania Republicans anointed businessman Tim Burns on Thursday as their candidate to face Murtha’s former district director, Mark Critz, in the May 18 election. Burns has been running on a down-the-line conservative platform of opposition to the stimulus, health care legislation and government spending.

And if the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika push through ObamaCare, this may be an early warning sign (well, another warning sign after Scott Brown) as to  just how angry the electorate is and how willing the voters are to flip a seat that, in a normal election year, would be relatively safe for Democrats.

This is the stuff of wave elections — the collision of ethics scandals, voter anger, fiscal mismanagement, and, don’t forget, a floundering president. How big the wave will be depends, I think, on just how serious the Democrats are about dealing with their ethically challenged members and how determined they are to take the plunge on a monstrous health-care bill that voters generally loathe.

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