Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mark Sanford

Let Us Now Praise Public Morality

By the time New York’s Democrats voted in their primary this week, the issue that transfixed the chattering classes earlier in the year had virtually disappeared. As it turns out, both of the disgraced celebrity politicians who sought redemption in this year’s municipal elections were soundly thrashed. The prospect that the political careers of both Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are over is a source of understandable grief to headline writers and the bottom lines of New York’s tabloids, but the rest of the nation surely breathed a sigh of relief at the demise of the hopes of that unholy duo. That should cause those of us who wondered about what the ability of such figures to survive personal scandals meant for America to not be quite as shy about putting forward a case for public morality in the future.

The idea that public figures should be held to a standard of moral conduct is widely ridiculed by most of the chattering classes these days. It’s not that they approve of aberrant or immoral behavior, they tell us, but when those in the cross hairs of scandalmongers are either useful or popular, especially if they are liberals, then we are told not to confuse private conduct with public duties. The notion that there can be any link between immorality and qualification for high office is generally considered to be either passé or downright perverse. But it is also possible that after Weiner and Spitzer flopped at the polls, what we are seeing is that many voters, even in cosmopolitan New York, expect more from those they entrust with public honors than pop stars. If so, then that is something we should not only welcome but also encourage.

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By the time New York’s Democrats voted in their primary this week, the issue that transfixed the chattering classes earlier in the year had virtually disappeared. As it turns out, both of the disgraced celebrity politicians who sought redemption in this year’s municipal elections were soundly thrashed. The prospect that the political careers of both Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are over is a source of understandable grief to headline writers and the bottom lines of New York’s tabloids, but the rest of the nation surely breathed a sigh of relief at the demise of the hopes of that unholy duo. That should cause those of us who wondered about what the ability of such figures to survive personal scandals meant for America to not be quite as shy about putting forward a case for public morality in the future.

The idea that public figures should be held to a standard of moral conduct is widely ridiculed by most of the chattering classes these days. It’s not that they approve of aberrant or immoral behavior, they tell us, but when those in the cross hairs of scandalmongers are either useful or popular, especially if they are liberals, then we are told not to confuse private conduct with public duties. The notion that there can be any link between immorality and qualification for high office is generally considered to be either passé or downright perverse. But it is also possible that after Weiner and Spitzer flopped at the polls, what we are seeing is that many voters, even in cosmopolitan New York, expect more from those they entrust with public honors than pop stars. If so, then that is something we should not only welcome but also encourage.

It must be admitted that each such case of a transgressor seeking redemption is different. The free pass much of the nation gave—and continues to give—President Clinton for his lies about sex and dalliances with a White House intern in the Oval Office led some, like William Bennett, to lament “the death of outrage” and to rightly point out the deleterious impact this would have on society as a whole. Perhaps if Weiner or Spitzer had not both been generally despised as obnoxious political loners even when they were riding high, they, too, might have been quickly forgiven and their detractors ostracized as Puritan hypocrites. Perhaps also the nature of some of these offenses has something to do with it as straight-forward adultery, such as that committed by former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, was more easily understood by voters in a society where divorce is commonplace than the bizarre doings of Weiner or Spitzer’s money-laundering that enabled his patronage of prostitutes.

Indeed, in Weiner’s case, it was, as was true of Clinton, the lies that were most damnable. Perhaps the time has not yet arrived when Americans will think nothing of a member of the House of Representatives tweeting photos of their genitals to strange women, but I doubt there will ever be much tolerance for those who do such things and then claim that the journalists (like the late Andrew Breitbart) who reported it were perpetrating a hoax. Nor will the public ever accept a politician who claims he’s reformed and then is revealed to have continued his mad behavior long after he said he went straight, as Weiner did.

But in a country whose worst problems are caused in no small measure by social pathologies such as illegitimacy and the breakdown of the family, can we really afford to be blasé about those who aspire to lead the nation whose personal immorality becomes a matter of public record?

To praise public morality doesn’t mean that we should be putting politicians who can’t behave in the stocks. We all make mistakes and those who are not reticent about casting the first stone should remember what happened to the political careers of adulterous House Republicans who impeached Clinton on charges relating to sexual impropriety. Neither party has a monopoly on morality or truth.

But it does mean that we should not treat these matters as lightly as many in the media would have us do when their favorites are not the targets of the tabloids. Outrage about wrongdoing doesn’t mean we must chain those who sin to a rock. A nation with high moral standards need not be a nation of saints, but it is one that knows the difference between right and wrong. Heaven help us if we ever become a country where not knowing that difference is no longer a political problem. The idea that there is no connection between loose morals and public integrity is a theory that admirers of John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and others adhere to. But that is a case that is hard to make for most ordinary politicians whose honesty is usually a fungible commodity.

Earlier this year, Mark Sanford ran for and won a congressional seat by apologizing endlessly for his misdeeds. That played well in a religious state where belief in redemption is widespread. Weiner and Spitzer’s apologies were perfunctory and quickly abandoned and they found out that in sophisticated New York, not so many people love a former sinner as in the south. Let’s hope their defeats will serve as an example that will help remind our leaders that their belief that they have impunity to misbehave says more about their egos than it does public opinion.

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Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils

As I wrote on Monday, Republicans may live to regret Mark Sanford’s victory in the special election in South Carolina’s First Congressional District. The former governor is a lightening rod for liberal attacks, and his hijinks will likely hurt the Republicans’ national brand and serve as yet another distraction in a GOP caucus that is already burdened by a host of other problems. But his decisive win illustrates that while scandal exacts a price from politicians, it need not destroy them. Ideology appears to trump morals for most of us.

Just as even those Democrats who were disgusted by Bill Clinton’s behavior were willing to defend him because they despised his Republican opponents, so, too, there were more than enough South Carolina Republicans who were willing to schlep to the polls to allow their party to hold onto this seat. The verdict was not so much one of the “redemption” that Sanford said he was seeking as much as it was one that registered a conservative constituency’s unwillingness to elect an ally of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

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As I wrote on Monday, Republicans may live to regret Mark Sanford’s victory in the special election in South Carolina’s First Congressional District. The former governor is a lightening rod for liberal attacks, and his hijinks will likely hurt the Republicans’ national brand and serve as yet another distraction in a GOP caucus that is already burdened by a host of other problems. But his decisive win illustrates that while scandal exacts a price from politicians, it need not destroy them. Ideology appears to trump morals for most of us.

Just as even those Democrats who were disgusted by Bill Clinton’s behavior were willing to defend him because they despised his Republican opponents, so, too, there were more than enough South Carolina Republicans who were willing to schlep to the polls to allow their party to hold onto this seat. The verdict was not so much one of the “redemption” that Sanford said he was seeking as much as it was one that registered a conservative constituency’s unwillingness to elect an ally of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Of course, Sanford did pay a price for his shabby personal reputation. As New York Times blogger Nate Silver notes, his nine-point margin of victory represents a marked decrease from what he or any other Republican might have expected to win by in a neutral environment. The First District is, Silver calculates, 22 percent more Republican than the rest of the nation. Silver says the 13-point drop off is consistent with the results that researchers have found elsewhere when scandals are thrown into the electoral mix.

Thus, we can reasonably conclude that while quite a few Republicans simply couldn’t bring themselves to back a loathsome Republican, even more were unwilling to do anything that might empower a political party they consider even more repugnant. The moment Sanford stopped talking about being redeemed and starting campaigning with a cardboard cutout of Pelosi turned the election around.

Should we think ill of these conservative voters or brand them as religious hypocrites for acting in this manner? I think Jonah Goldberg has it exactly right when he writes today over at National Review that doing so is ridiculous. Defense of traditional moral values was not on the ballot in South Carolina yesterday. Indeed, it’s a cause that was lost a long time ago in this country and there’s no going back. Asking conservatives to punish Sanford in the name of their values by electing a liberal whose beliefs are antithetical to what they cherish was not reasonable. And Democrats who treat Bill Clinton like royalty and swear they would have given him a third term if they had been given the opportunity are in no position to blast Republicans for concluding that Sanford was the lesser of two evils.

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The Democrats’ Sanford Gift Package

With only one day left before the special election in South Carolina’s First Congressional District, the race is still a virtual tossup between former Republican governor Mark Sanford and Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, though polls appear to be trending in the favor of the GOP standard-bearer. While still too close to call, the fact that Sanford appears to have gained ground even after more attention has been diverted to his personal failings demonstrates that it may be impossible for even a candidacy as troubled as that of Sanford to lose a seat in that red a district.

That may seem like good news to Republicans who dread the idea of allowing Nancy Pelosi to get one seat closer to regaining the speakership. But, as the Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza pointed out today, a Sanford victory may well be even better news for the Democrats than a Busch victory. The thinking here is that he’s absolutely correct for three reasons.

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With only one day left before the special election in South Carolina’s First Congressional District, the race is still a virtual tossup between former Republican governor Mark Sanford and Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, though polls appear to be trending in the favor of the GOP standard-bearer. While still too close to call, the fact that Sanford appears to have gained ground even after more attention has been diverted to his personal failings demonstrates that it may be impossible for even a candidacy as troubled as that of Sanford to lose a seat in that red a district.

That may seem like good news to Republicans who dread the idea of allowing Nancy Pelosi to get one seat closer to regaining the speakership. But, as the Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza pointed out today, a Sanford victory may well be even better news for the Democrats than a Busch victory. The thinking here is that he’s absolutely correct for three reasons.

First and perhaps most obviously, Sanford’s regaining of his old seat in the House will mean that he will be going to Washington next week rather than sinking back into the political oblivion that he so richly deserves. Sanford’s return to the Capitol means that the liberal mainstream media would find a new focus for their ongoing campaign to demonize Republicans. Sanford’s Appalachian Trail hijinks and his dismaying behavior toward his children—displayed yet again in a Huffington Post story where the candidate actually called his oldest son in the midst of an interview in order to solicit a testimonial for his parental bona fides—would not only be re-hashed endlessly but would mean that his every move and utterance would be scrutinized in the way that is usually reserved for party leadership figures or presidential candidates. And given Sanford’s penchant for saying and doing stupid things, Democrats can’t be blamed for betting that he will soon provide some new fodder for the late night comedians.

That leads us to the second reason why the GOP shouldn’t be hoping for a Sanford win. A loss tomorrow is probably the only way a national Republican Party that wants nothing more than to never hear his name again can be rid of Sanford. Once re-elected to that seat it will be difficult to dislodge him from it, meaning that he will be a permanent embarrassment rather than just a nightmare they can wake up from. His defeat will mean the much desired end of his political career and allow the party to regain the seat next time around with someone who won’t hurt other Republicans by his mere presence on the House floor and in the studios of the cable news networks.

Democrats who are hoping for a rare House win in a majority-white district in the South should just imagine how they would feel about Anthony Weiner being sent back to Washington by his former constituency. Of course, the New York Democratic Party gerrymandered his old district out of existence, making that horrifying prospect an impossibility.

Third, as Cilizza notes, a Colbert Busch win on Tuesday will set up a difficult re-election campaign next year that will drain precious campaign dollars from other more viable Democratic candidates. Beating Sanford will make Colbert Busch the new idol of the Emily’s List crowd. While it is theoretically possible that she will wow her constituents in the time in the House a special election gains for her, it’s not exactly a secret that it is only Sanford’s presence on the ballot that gives her shot this time. Up against even a minimally acceptable Republican, no Democrat has much of a chance to win there even with a massive infusion of national contributions or celebrity endorsements. A win for her will not only deprive them of having Sanford to beat up and to portray as a second Todd Akin in order to destroy the GOP brand, it will commit them to a fight in 2014 they probably can’t win.

Sanford’s possible victory should refocus Republicans on the task of finding electable candidates for federal office. While bad candidates can be establishment figures as easily as Tea Partiers, the party has to ponder what it can do to avoid being saddled with people like Akin or Sanford who make it hard on everyone who identifies with the GOP. The sooner it can dispose of such cringe-inducing politicians the better off all Republicans will be.

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A Massachusetts Race Worth Paying Attention To

A good deal of the attention on electoral politics this week focused on Elizabeth Colbert Busch’s strong debate performance against former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. In a congressional seat that has been Republican for three decades, Busch is leading by nine points less than a week before the special election (May 7). And no wonder; Sanford is a person of flawed moral character and bad judgment. (The first time Sanford’s son was introduced to the woman who broke up his parent’s marriage was on a stage after Sanford’s primary victory, where Sanford appeared with his sons and his mistress-turned-fiancee. That alone very nearly qualifies as grounds to vote against Sanford.)

But something else occurred this week that is notable, but has gotten significantly less attention. The Republican Party of Massachusetts nominated Gabriel Gomez to challenge Democratic Representative Ed Markey in a Senate race to replace John Kerry. (The election will be on June 25.) 

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A good deal of the attention on electoral politics this week focused on Elizabeth Colbert Busch’s strong debate performance against former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. In a congressional seat that has been Republican for three decades, Busch is leading by nine points less than a week before the special election (May 7). And no wonder; Sanford is a person of flawed moral character and bad judgment. (The first time Sanford’s son was introduced to the woman who broke up his parent’s marriage was on a stage after Sanford’s primary victory, where Sanford appeared with his sons and his mistress-turned-fiancee. That alone very nearly qualifies as grounds to vote against Sanford.)

But something else occurred this week that is notable, but has gotten significantly less attention. The Republican Party of Massachusetts nominated Gabriel Gomez to challenge Democratic Representative Ed Markey in a Senate race to replace John Kerry. (The election will be on June 25.) 

Gabriel Gomez is relatively young (47), Hispanic, moderate, and a former Navy SEAL and successful businessman. Ed Markey is someone who was elected to Congress in 1976, has no significant legislative achievements he can claim credit for, and is nearly a generation older than Gomez. “He’s liberal, he’s uninspiring, he’s boring, he’s completely unaccomplished,” GOP consultant Ryan Williams told National Review’s Katrina Trinko. Two separate polls have Gomez trailing Markey by four and six points respectively, with higher favorability ratings than Markey.

Representative Markey has significant advantages, from money to running in a deeply blue state, and he’s still the favorite. But it’s an off-year election, which generally favors Republicans, and anger at Washington is very high among voters in every state. Ed Markey hasn’t faced a challenging race since the mid-1990s. This time it’s different. And we saw in 2010 that Massachusetts is capable of surprises. This race is worth paying attention to. 

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Damaged Candidates Can’t Be Redeemed

Mark Sanford is the gift that keeps giving to Democrats. The latest revelations about his messy personal life has not only further encouraged those hoping the Dems could steal a seemingly safe Republican seat in South Carolina. They’ve caused the National Republican Campaign Committee to bail on the special election to choose a successor to Senator Tim Scott. The NRCC officially waved the white flag on the former governor’s effort to win back his old seat when it announced it would cease sending money to aid Sanford’s campaign.

The only way to interpret that decision is that the NRCC believes the news that Sanford is being taken to court by his ex-wife over an alleged trespassing incident is a crippling blow to his hopes of defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch. If he is fated to lose a seat than any competent Republican should hold with ease, then they seem to be saying that he should do it on his own dime rather than with the funds they’ve raised from GOP donors.

This is good news for Democrats, but the lessons of the impending Sanford debacle should also make them think twice about the prospects that they’ll be stuck with Anthony Weiner, the other damaged ex-politician who is trying to wriggle his way back into office. Weiner, who appeared to be re-launching his career by submitting to an all-too-revealing personal profile that ran on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine this past week, got what some are seeing as encouraging news with the results of a new poll about the New York City mayoral race that showed him running second among Democrats.

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Mark Sanford is the gift that keeps giving to Democrats. The latest revelations about his messy personal life has not only further encouraged those hoping the Dems could steal a seemingly safe Republican seat in South Carolina. They’ve caused the National Republican Campaign Committee to bail on the special election to choose a successor to Senator Tim Scott. The NRCC officially waved the white flag on the former governor’s effort to win back his old seat when it announced it would cease sending money to aid Sanford’s campaign.

The only way to interpret that decision is that the NRCC believes the news that Sanford is being taken to court by his ex-wife over an alleged trespassing incident is a crippling blow to his hopes of defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch. If he is fated to lose a seat than any competent Republican should hold with ease, then they seem to be saying that he should do it on his own dime rather than with the funds they’ve raised from GOP donors.

This is good news for Democrats, but the lessons of the impending Sanford debacle should also make them think twice about the prospects that they’ll be stuck with Anthony Weiner, the other damaged ex-politician who is trying to wriggle his way back into office. Weiner, who appeared to be re-launching his career by submitting to an all-too-revealing personal profile that ran on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine this past week, got what some are seeing as encouraging news with the results of a new poll about the New York City mayoral race that showed him running second among Democrats.

Sanford is hoping that this latest divorce fallout won’t hurt him once people find out the details. To be fair, if he is telling the truth about the incident it sounds as if what is happening is a case of his ex-wife using an innocent misunderstanding to take revenge on him. But even if that is the case, it’s an untimely reminder of his past bad behavior that is bound to influence wavering voters. He may have convinced a plurality of GOP primary voters in his old district that he should be forgiven, but the odds that a majority of general election voters will agree just got even smaller.

That’s a lesson that should inform Democrats as they contemplate the second coming of Anthony Weiner.

The fact that a new NBC/Marist poll showed Weiner getting 15 percent of the Democratic vote in a New York primary might lead some to conclude that the former congressman could do even better once he starts campaigning and spending the reported $4 million in contributions that have been sitting in his bank account since his 2011 meltdown after his sexting scandal and the lies that led to his resignation. Weiner’s entry into the race shakes things up since without him on the ballot, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn may win the nomination outright. With him, it looks as if she will be forced into a runoff.

But the sanguine interpretations of this poll should be placed in perspective. As Chuck Todd pointed out this morning on his MSNBC show “The Daily Rundown,” Weiner has 100 percent name recognition, something that can’t be said of his potential rivals this far away from a vote. They have room to grow, as they get better known. Weiner does not. If 15 percent is the best he could do now against them, the idea that he is some sort of potential juggernaut is probably a myth. As the New York Times’s Nate Silver also pointed out in his blog, Weiner’s negatives make him a long shot to win the nomination.

But what if Weiner’s financial advantage and the lack of another credible Democratic mayoral candidate from the outer boroughs—as opposed to the Manhattan-based Quinn—does enable him to come out of nowhere and win the nomination the way Sanford snagged the GOP nod for his congressional seat? Though there doesn’t appear to be a formidable Republican in sight to keep up the city’s streak of five straight cycles without electing a Democrat mayor, a backlash against Weiner could turn around the otherwise unpromising prospects of a contender like Joseph Lhota.

There are those that think New York is more sophisticated than South Carolina and that few there will hold Weiner’s bizarre behavior and lies against him. But cynical New Yorkers are also less likely to buy into a plea that Weiner has redeemed himself and should be forgiven the way many in the more religious south might be inclined to do.

As the Times profile showed, Weiner’s personal issues are far from resolved. The idea that the Democratic Party would gamble away their seemingly certain chance of winning back Gracie Mansion on the idea that Weiner deserves another chance would be a colossal mistake. Like the national Republican Party that is pulling the plug on Sanford, Democrats would be well advised to urge their members to pass on Weiner’s comeback.

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Sanford’s a Different Kind of Bad Candidate

One of the great clichés of literature is Leo Tolstoy’s assertion in Anna Karenina that all happy families are alike but all unhappy families are each unhappy in their own way. The same thing could be said of political candidates. All good candidates, be they conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats, have many of the same personal qualities that make for effective retail politics in terms of personal appeal and even intelligence (though that appears at times to be optional rather than a requirement). But bad candidates come in all shapes and sizes.

That is a lesson that the Republican Party has learned to its regret in the last couple of election cycles and may well again in South Carolina this spring. While the months since the Democrats’ victory last November have been filled with non-stop recriminations from Republicans about the quality of their candidates as well as advice from liberals to junk conservative ideology, the idea that the Tea Party is the GOP’s main albatross is one that conservatives have stiffly and rightly resisted. That point has been reinforced by what happened last night in the Palmetto State. The decision of Republican primary voters to nominate former governor Mark Sanford to run in the special election to fill the vacancy in his old congressional district has sent a shiver down the spines of GOP operatives as they rightly fear he will lose a seat that their party shouldn’t even have to worry about.

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One of the great clichés of literature is Leo Tolstoy’s assertion in Anna Karenina that all happy families are alike but all unhappy families are each unhappy in their own way. The same thing could be said of political candidates. All good candidates, be they conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats, have many of the same personal qualities that make for effective retail politics in terms of personal appeal and even intelligence (though that appears at times to be optional rather than a requirement). But bad candidates come in all shapes and sizes.

That is a lesson that the Republican Party has learned to its regret in the last couple of election cycles and may well again in South Carolina this spring. While the months since the Democrats’ victory last November have been filled with non-stop recriminations from Republicans about the quality of their candidates as well as advice from liberals to junk conservative ideology, the idea that the Tea Party is the GOP’s main albatross is one that conservatives have stiffly and rightly resisted. That point has been reinforced by what happened last night in the Palmetto State. The decision of Republican primary voters to nominate former governor Mark Sanford to run in the special election to fill the vacancy in his old congressional district has sent a shiver down the spines of GOP operatives as they rightly fear he will lose a seat that their party shouldn’t even have to worry about.

Sanford is running on a platform of personal redemption, in which his infamous mythical hike on the Appalachian Trail while actually visiting his mistress in Argentina has actually become a rationale for forgiving souls to return him to Congress rather than a reason to vote against him. Given the overwhelming advantage that Republicans hold in the district as well as the forgiving nature of the American people, it may work. One could certainly argue that Democrats who still venerate Bill Clinton as a great president are in no position to cast stones at Sanford and that his opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch will not be aided by a moralistic and hypocritical critique of him.

But it is just as likely that enough Republicans will be disgusted by the spectacle of Sanford’s return to electoral politics after personal disgrace that it will enable Busch to win a district that Mitt Romney carried by 18 percentage points over Barack Obama. If so, this will be one Republican defeat that wiseacres won’t be able to blame on the Tea Party, failed outreach to Hispanics or any of the other valid concerns that helped cost it control of the Senate and the White House.

The lesson here is that as unique as this story may be, it’s important to realize that the outcome of every political race in the country is the product of a host of factors that often have nothing to do with national trends or issues. It is only after the fact that pundits are able to impose a unifying narrative on such contests that allow them to fit it into an overriding concept that they claim explains everything.

While such narratives are not always misleading—there really were enough Tea Party outliers like Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle to constitute a trend that explained why the GOP has lost winnable seats—they often encompass races that really have more to do with personal or local factors than subjects that provide the grist for condescending New York Times editorials about the problems of Republicans.

If Republicans are to do better in 2014 it will require a convergence of a number of factors that include some of the recommendations provided by our Peter Wehner and Michael Gerson in their article in the March issue of COMMENTARY. But the main thing they’ll need is a collection of viable candidates. The puzzling embrace of the morally burdened Sanford by some of his former constituents could provide an object lesson in just how difficult it is for a national party to field a winning slate across the nation.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

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