Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mary Landrieu

Liberalism’s Setbacks Aren’t Fatal

Last week was not a good week for the institutions of American liberalism. Which is not shocking, because last month was a terrible month for American liberalism. And that was mainly the result of the fact that the last year has not been a good one for American liberalism. But conservatives ought to remember the greatly exaggerated rumors of their own demise pushed by gleeful and historically ignorant liberals after the American right’s last such slump. Certainly liberalism is experiencing a crisis of sorts, but as Miracle Max could tell them, there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.

Read More

Last week was not a good week for the institutions of American liberalism. Which is not shocking, because last month was a terrible month for American liberalism. And that was mainly the result of the fact that the last year has not been a good one for American liberalism. But conservatives ought to remember the greatly exaggerated rumors of their own demise pushed by gleeful and historically ignorant liberals after the American right’s last such slump. Certainly liberalism is experiencing a crisis of sorts, but as Miracle Max could tell them, there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.

The continuing ObamaCare disaster, the IRS corruption revelations, and the manifold foreign-policy failures of the Obama-led Democrats over the last year led to a cratering of the public’s faith in the left and produced a trouncing at the polls for Democrats in the midterms. With Saturday’s runoff defeat of Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu coupled with the GOP gains in states Obama won, it is the Democrats who appear at risk of being considered a regional party–an epithet they tossed at Republicans in 2012. How are the Democrats handling being washed out of the South almost entirely? Not well, if Michael Tomasky’s public breakdown is any indication:

Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment. A fact made even sadder because on the whole they’re such nice people! (I truly mean that.)

With Landrieu’s departure, the Democrats will have no more senators from the Deep South, and I say good. Forget about it. Forget about the whole fetid place. Write it off. Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise. The Democrats don’t need it anyway.

The funniest part is the headline: “Dems, It’s Time to Dump Dixie.” In fact, Dixie has clearly already dumped the Dems. If it were only the South, Tomasky’s neo-secessionism would at least be somewhat viable. But the Democrats have lost, at least for the time being, too much of the country to run away from.

The drubbing the Democrats have taken, sealed with Landrieu’s loss, has been so bad that you kind of want to put an arm around Tomasky, buy him a double bourbon (Kentucky isn’t technically part of the Deep South, right? He can still have bourbon?) and tell him it gets better. Because it always does.

Many obituaries were written for American conservatism by the concern-trolling left in the wake of President Obama’s two victories (the first supposedly heralding the death of conservatism, the second confirming it). They were all, without exception, deeply ahistoric and scandalously stupid items of triumphalist rubbish.

But for sheer symbolism, the crowning jewel of the group is without a doubt the essay, later expanded into a book, published in February 2009: “Conservatism Is Dead,” by Sam Tanenhaus. It ran in the New Republic.

Less than six years later, conservatism is alive and the New Republic is dead.

Not really dead, mind you. But to its writers and devotees, it is. I should say ex-writers and ex-devotees, because when last week news broke that Chris Hughes, the accidental Facebook billionaire (or almost-billionaire) and owner of TNR, shoved Frank Foer out the door and with him went Leon Wieseltier, a mass exodus ensued. That’s not only because Foer is beloved by his peers and Wieseltier is an institution. It’s also because Hughes has announced he doesn’t think magazines with lots of big words are worth keeping around anymore, bro, and the literary tradition should be replaced with whatever passing fad can be monetized at this very moment. Carpe diem, and all that jazz. (Well not jazz, I guess, which is a bit nuanced and old and has absolutely no cat gifs in it whatsoever; but you get the point.)

Critics of American liberalism have pointed out, however, that the Altneurepublic being mourned was not the Altneurepublic of popular imagination. There seems to be a general consensus, in fact, that the decline and fall of that TNR became undeniable with its infamous anti-intellectual anthem which began “I hate President George W. Bush,” published about a decade ago.

Not that there weren’t warning signs along the way. The best of these in recent years might be this 2013 Reason magazine piece by Matt Welch mourning “the death” not of liberalism, but “of contrarianism.” With the new New Republic, Welch lamented, the magazine’s modern incarnation as a constructive questioner of liberal received wisdom was gone:

An entire valuable if flawed era in American journalism and liberalism has indeed come to a close. The reformist urge to cross-examine Democratic policy ideas has fizzled out precisely at the time when those ideas are both ascendant and as questionable as ever. Progressivism has reverted to a form that would have been recognizable to Herbert Croly and Walter Lippmann when they founded The New Republic a century ago: an intellectual collaborator in the “responsible” exercise of state power.

Liberalism is in crisis for many reasons, but surely one of them is this: it has ceased to look at itself in the mirror. If it did, would it be horrified by what it saw? One hopes.

Whatever the answer, conservatives must also understand the difference between crisis and death. Liberals are still here. The president is a liberal, and the next one might be a liberal too. Democrats have less than half the Senate but not much less than half the Senate. And it was not all that long ago that the country found itself in the bizarre situation of having to pay attention to Nancy Pelosi.

It’s true that a genuinely intellectual liberalism is nowhere to be found at the moment. But it’ll wander back. Crises are good times for political movements to take stock and cease pretending everything is just fine. It is not a matter of if, but when the pendulum will swing back in the other direction. And conservatives should be aware and humble enough to see it coming.

Read Less

The Last Day of Congressional Democrats

The outcome of tomorrow’s Louisiana Senate runoff election is not in much doubt. With the most recent state poll showing Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy with a whopping 26-point lead over incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, it is a virtual certainty that the last vote of the 2014 midterms will ensure that the GOP will have a 54-46 Senate majority in January. Even before the votes are counted, the result is being rightly touted as the end of the Democratic Party in the South. But while the reasons for this are worth examining, it’s also important to point out that the implications of this trend have more than a regional impact. Just as the Democrats have developed a built-in advantage in the Electoral College in presidential elections, a new solid South in the hands of the Republicans means they have now acquired an equally potent edge that should allow them to retain control of Congress for the foreseeable future.

Read More

The outcome of tomorrow’s Louisiana Senate runoff election is not in much doubt. With the most recent state poll showing Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy with a whopping 26-point lead over incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, it is a virtual certainty that the last vote of the 2014 midterms will ensure that the GOP will have a 54-46 Senate majority in January. Even before the votes are counted, the result is being rightly touted as the end of the Democratic Party in the South. But while the reasons for this are worth examining, it’s also important to point out that the implications of this trend have more than a regional impact. Just as the Democrats have developed a built-in advantage in the Electoral College in presidential elections, a new solid South in the hands of the Republicans means they have now acquired an equally potent edge that should allow them to retain control of Congress for the foreseeable future.

As Nate Cohn writes in the New York Times’s Upshot section, though most put the shift of the South into the GOP column down to race, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Democrats survived and even thrived at times in the Deep South decades after Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” enabled Republicans to flip the region into the GOP column in presidential elections. But the steady drift of the Democratic Party to the left on social, cultural, and economic issues has now alienated most voters in these states and left moderate Democrats like Landrieu increasingly isolated from both their constituencies and their national party.

As Cohn notes, blaming this solely on alleged white racism or on a backlash against President Obama ignores the fact that Democratic losses in the South can be traced to the way the party has embraced liberal issues that energize its northern and urban base but which alienates southerners:

Yet nonracial factors are most of the reason for Mr. Obama’s weakness. The long-term trends are clear. Mr. Kerry, for instance, fared worse than Michael Dukakis among most white Southerners, often losing vast swaths of traditionally Democratic countryside where once-reliably Democratic voters had either died or become disillusioned by the party’s stance on cultural issues. It seems hard to argue that the Democrats could have retained much support among rural, evangelical Southern voters as the party embraced liberalism on issues like same sex marriage and abortion.

The loss of so many House seats in the South for Democrats is often also blamed on gerrymandering. But there, as much if not more than anyplace in the country, it’s the Voting Rights Act that is at fault. By piling as many black voters as possible into absurdly shaped majority-minority districts, the legislatures have obeyed the law’s mandate and ensured the survival of a large number of black Democrats. But given the fact that southern whites now vote for Republicans in the same kind of uniform manner as blacks do for Democrats, the practice has also made it impossible to create swing districts in the South.

It is true that the two southern states where a majority of the population was born elsewhere—Virginia and Florida—remain competitive for the Democrats. But elsewhere, white Democrats are becoming a rarity.

This changes nothing in presidential elections since Republicans have been winning most of the South since Lyndon Johnson was president. But the collapse of support for moderate southern Democrats gives the GOP a built-in advantage in retaining both House and Senate majorities. Many have claimed the Republicans’ 2014 victory will be short-lived since the 2016 election map forces them to defend so many seats, including a number in states where Democrats should be expected to prevail especially in a presidential year. But the losses of seats in West Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana strips away the Democrats’ firewall that might have enabled them to mount a quick comeback in 2016 with what is expected to be a strong presidential candidate on the top of the ticket.

Pundits have spent most of the last two years focusing exclusively on the problems Republicans have experienced with minority voters in an electorate that gets less white every year. But, as I noted yesterday, the Democrats’ decision to expend all their political capital on ObamaCare when they controlled Congress from 2008 to 2010, rather than concentrating on economic issues, made a return to power for the GOP inevitable. They appear to be making the same mistake now by enacting policies—now via lawless executive orders issued by President Obama rather than legislation—on immigration that alienate more white middle and working class voters while not significantly improving their already dominant position with minorities.

All of this presents serious problems to a Democratic Party that is no longer competitive in southern states. By tying their fate so firmly to a strategy based on black and Hispanic voters, Democrats are telling a large portion of the nation to go jump in a lake. Though whites are no longer as numerous as they once were, they still are a large majority of the population. That means the GOP’s hold on white males in particular is so great as to now make their abandonment of the Democrats a far greater demographic disaster than the problems Republicans have with Hispanics.

In a sense today may be the last day of the Southern Democratic Party. But it may also be the last day when the national Democratic Party had any hope of returning to power in the Senate for some time to come.

Read Less

Keystone Scramble Shows Dems Already Forgetting Midterms Defeat

Republican losses typically produce an outpouring of concern trolling from Democrats, eager to “help” Republicans turn their fortunes around. The advice usually includes loosening the hold of the base on the party’s agenda, to become less extreme; paying more attention to polls; and buying into a proactive, productive legislative agenda. Yet now that Democrats have been on the wrong end of a national wave, will they take their own advice? Not if the machinations around the Keystone XL pipeline are any indication.

Read More

Republican losses typically produce an outpouring of concern trolling from Democrats, eager to “help” Republicans turn their fortunes around. The advice usually includes loosening the hold of the base on the party’s agenda, to become less extreme; paying more attention to polls; and buying into a proactive, productive legislative agenda. Yet now that Democrats have been on the wrong end of a national wave, will they take their own advice? Not if the machinations around the Keystone XL pipeline are any indication.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Democrats have for years opposed the pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. But Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is facing an uphill battle in her December 6 runoff election against Republican Representative Bill Cassidy. Keystone would be a “boon” for Louisiana, as even the New York Times admits, so Landrieu is trying to push Keystone across the finish line hoping it’ll drag her there along with it.

Were the situation reversed, Democrats would be doing what Republicans are now: imploring them to stop getting in their own way and support the pipeline. After all, it’s popular, it would show the Democrats can support a legislative agenda that brings jobs to an important industry, and it’s only been sidelined so far because President Obama is hostage to the bidding of his extremist base. And yet, Landrieu is not having an easy time getting enough Democrats to join the 60-vote threshold for the vote expected to be held early this evening.

Of course, even if Landrieu can get the votes in the Senate, the Keystone vote is already a less-than-perfect subject for a Hail Mary, as the Times notes:

On Friday, a Keystone bill sponsored by Mr. Cassidy passed the House. Ms. Landrieu is now close to mustering a filibuster-proof 60 Senate votes in favor of the pipeline in the Senate. She told reporters on Friday that she had 59 votes and was reaching out aggressively to colleagues to round up the critical final vote necessary to send the bill to Mr. Obama’s desk.

That’s right–she’s been handed the baton by her rival, Bill Cassidy. It’s not as though Landrieu is in favor and her opponent isn’t. Landrieu is no better on the issue than Cassidy; in reality, she’s playing catch-up because of Democratic opposition to the plan. It’s unclear how passing the Keystone bill would give her the boost she needs to beat Cassidy, though the high-profile scramble for votes would seem to at least help her by elevating her profile.

But that’s only if it passes. And right now, Democrats aren’t so sure it’s worth helping her reelection, in part because it’s no guarantee they’ll retain the seat even if the bill passes. Here’s Politico:

With Keystone apparently stuck on 59 votes — one shy of the amount needed for passage — Landrieu has turned into a one-woman Senate whip, seeking a vote set for Tuesday night that would show her clout in oil-rich Louisiana ahead of her Dec. 6 runoff. …

Much of the focus of Monday’s guessing games was on Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who hails from a fossil fuel state and whose upcoming retirement could leave him with little to lose. But he said Monday evening that he’s voting no.

Another rumored waverer was Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats. He indicated he’s still leaning no but said, “I’ll make a decision when I vote.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said she’s voting no because she doesn’t think “Congress should be siting pipelines.”

And what if she does get that 60th vote? Back to the Times:

Even if the Senate supports building the pipeline in a vote on Tuesday night, President Obama is likely to veto the measure on the grounds that an environmental review of the process remains incomplete.

Nonetheless, the events of this week suggest that after the expected veto, Mr. Obama may eventually approve the pipeline, which would run from the oil sands of Alberta to the Gulf Coast. The project is anathema to the environmentalists who are part of the president’s political base.

Obama, who isn’t running again, is expected to choose his extremist base over a member of his party trying desperately to hold her seat. And that environmentalist base has not become any more moderate or levelheaded over the course of this administration; the liberal interest group MoveOn.org sent an email today about the Keystone vote with subject line: “Game over for our planet?”

The Times report also notes that in early 2015 there will be more Republicans in the Senate and thus fewer lawmakers held hostage to a fringe element of the liberal base. In such a case, an Obama veto now (if this bill passes) will invite yet another Keystone bill sent to his desk next year, and this one will be closer to having enough votes to even override his veto. If he’s going to deal with that kind of repeated showdown, the Times reports, he may want a trade.

And maybe he’ll get one. Or maybe he’ll have no leverage. Either way, it won’t do much for Landrieu in 2015. Not that the president cares much one way or the other.

Read Less

Congressional Residency Scandals Are Bunk

It’s hard to muster much sympathy for U.S. Senators. But let’s pause for a moment and commiserate with Mary Landrieu and Pat Roberts, two senators who apparently don’t own homes in the states they represent. While the symbolism of their decisions resonates in an era in which the public rightly resent Washington and the political class that call it home, the residency gap actually tells us more about changing public expectations of members of Congress than it does about their connection to home.

Read More

It’s hard to muster much sympathy for U.S. Senators. But let’s pause for a moment and commiserate with Mary Landrieu and Pat Roberts, two senators who apparently don’t own homes in the states they represent. While the symbolism of their decisions resonates in an era in which the public rightly resent Washington and the political class that call it home, the residency gap actually tells us more about changing public expectations of members of Congress than it does about their connection to home.

Roberts, who has represented Kansas in the Senate since 1996, had a near political death experience in a primary against a Tea Party challenger largely because of revelations that his official Kansas residence is the home of a supporter to whom he only pays rent when he is there campaigning. His Freudian slip in which he said he only lived in the state when he had an election challenge understandably didn’t sit well with fellow Kansans. Indeed, the 78-year-old is so unpopular these days that he might actually be in danger of losing a safe Republican seat in a 3-way general election race in which an independent rather than the Democratic nominee is the bigger threat.

Facing a similar barrage of criticism is Democrat Mary Landrieu who is also one of the most endangered of a group of red state incumbent senators up for re-election. It turns out Landrieu doesn’t own a residence in Louisiana but instead sleeps in her old room in her father’s home in New Orleans when in the state. The fact that she and her husband list their Capitol Hill home as their residence in official documents doesn’t help her persuade voters that there is nothing fishy about bunking with dad.

Like Roberts’s opponents, GOP challenger Bill Cassidy is making a meal out of these revelations and arguing that this proves that the senator is not only part and parcel of the DC liberal establishment but also out of touch with Louisianans.

For Landrieu, who is already dealing with a scandal about her use of government funds to pay for campaign expenses and the overall burden of being a member of Barack Obama’s party in a very red and conservative state, this might really be the tipping point in a race that already seemed to be going against her. In a year in which the GOP may be on the verge of taking back control of the Senate, Landrieu’s failure to have her own place to crash in while in Louisiana may prove to be a very expensive mistake.

But while not having your own home in the state you represent is a perfect metaphor for the idea that politicians go native once they roost in the Capitol, let’s also understand that this is more than a bit unfair.

For most of our history, members of the House and Senate were not expected, as they are today, to race back and forth between their districts and states and Washington every week to show constituents they care. Instead, they simply moved themselves to Washington for the duration of each lengthy session. Their children (such as former Vice President Al Gore, the son of a Tennessee senator) were educated in Washington and only saw “home” in the summers. But in the age of jet travel and increased media attention, members of Congress are now generally expected to spend weekends at home and tend only to stay in the Capitol during the week.

That requires them to have two places to live. Though they make far more than the average American, it’s not enough for those who are not wealthy to maintain themselves in two homes. That leaves them with the choice of whether their main residence is going to be in their states or in Washington. Many opt for the former and bunk in Spartan style in shared apartments or even their offices during the week. Others, whether because of a desire to keep their families together or because of their spouse’s career, have their main home in the DC area and have a less substantial arrangement in their constituency. This is an especially tough decision for those who don’t hail from states that are in easy commuting distance from the capital.

There’s nothing immoral about either choice. As long as we expect these people to live in two places and pay them only enough to live decently in one, we can’t expect anything else. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not in favor of a pay increase for Congress (or at least not until they pass a balanced budget and stop spending our money like drunken sailors). But the question of residency is about symbolism not substance.

In the case of Roberts, it does look like he hasn’t actually lived in Kansas much but given that these days Congress is pretty much in continuous session (as opposed to previous eras when recesses were far longer), can his lack of a home there really be held against him in the absence of proof that he doesn’t perform adequate constituent service or speak up for the interests of his state? The same applies for Landrieu who at least can say she actually grew up in the place she stays in when in Louisiana.

We do have a right to expect our representatives and senators to retain a primary allegiance to their districts and states and resentment of those politicians who have largely abandoned their constituents and aligned themselves with lobbyists and party establishments deserve the criticism they get. Politicians should be smart enough to maintain a credible proof of residency in the places where they vote, a test that Roberts may have failed. But such scandals are strictly gotcha politics. There may be good reasons for citizens of Kansas and Louisiana to oust their senators but this isn’t one of them.

Read Less

Why an Outlier New Hampshire Poll Might Mean More Trouble for Dems

Democrats wondering if their hopes of keeping the Senate could receive any more hits this week got their answer yesterday: a new poll found Scott Brown trailing incumbent Senator Jeanne Shaheen by just two points. It’s either an outlier or a lagging indicator–more likely an outlier, but bound to give Democrats a scare either way.

Read More

Democrats wondering if their hopes of keeping the Senate could receive any more hits this week got their answer yesterday: a new poll found Scott Brown trailing incumbent Senator Jeanne Shaheen by just two points. It’s either an outlier or a lagging indicator–more likely an outlier, but bound to give Democrats a scare either way.

That’s because if the race appears close, they’ll have to spend time, money, resources, etc. trying to fend off a challenge from an opponent given a new sense of momentum and likely able to improve his own fundraising on the news of apparently improving poll numbers. And at this point, with the way the Democrats’ luck has been going, they’d be tempting fate to dismiss a sign that their standing might be going from bad to worse.

As Andrew Stiles notes over at the Washington Free Beacon, the Democrats’ woes can be chalked up to two prominent factors, in addition to their affiliation with President Millstone: Republicans have recruited good candidates, and Democrats have recruited a mix of bad candidates and bonkers candidates.

The bad candidates include those like Iowa’s Bruce Braley and Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes, the latter a good candidate on paper but an almost shockingly terrible public speaker. There are struggling incumbents like North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu. And then there are candidates like the Democrats’ two choices thus far in Montana.

Incumbent Senator John Walsh was running for reelection, but bowed out due to revelations of plagiarism. The Democrats replaced Walsh on the ballot with a state representative and radical leftist named Amanda Curtis. Readers, meet Amanda Curtis:

So the last thing Democrats want to deal with is a possible upset in New Hampshire. And yet, there are good reasons not to ignore this one poll. One such reason is because their opponent is Scott Brown. He did, after all, win Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat after Kennedy died and while promising to vote against the major domestic reform proposal that was being sold in Kennedy’s name. Brown has been an underdog before, and the result was a Republican senator in uber-liberal Massachusetts.

Another is the flipside of one of Brown’s current weaknesses. He has switched states to run for this seat, losing his local-boy authenticity and having to build connections he could take for granted in his original home state. He also opens himself up to the charge of carpetbagging, though it’s not always a terribly effective accusation in the course of an election. But the other side of that coin is that he’s trading in an overwhelmingly liberal state for one with a more conservative streak. As a Republican, he’ll spot his opponent fewer points in New Hampshire than he did in Massachusetts.

Another reason for Democrats not to be too dismissive of the poll is that if Brown ends up winning this election, they will never hear the end of it. He would cause a much larger headache for national Democrats as a senator from New Hampshire than he could from Massachusetts. In both, of course, he gets only one vote. But in New Hampshire he’d have a stronger incumbency and a national profile because of the state’s role in presidential nominations, especially on the Republican side.

That means that if Democrats lose the New Hampshire seat to Brown, they will be witnessing the establishment of a genuine national politician. Unless his career there is a disaster, he will instantly be the subject of presidential speculation (which he will no doubt feed). If he doesn’t run for president, he will at least be a much sought after endorsement for aspiring Republican presidents. The spectacle of early-primary-season New Hampshire will now include a procession to the throne of Scott Brown.

So losing the seat to Brown is more than just another Senate seat, notwithstanding the fact that the midterms might be close enough that one Senate election really can determine who is in the minority and who the majority. Expect, then, this poll to refocus attention on New Hampshire. If that happens, Brown’s fundraising will increase. And if that happens, Shaheen will need more help from the national party and major donors as well. That would draw money away from other races, a serious hit for a party that is already on the defensive for November’s midterms.

Brown is still behind in New Hampshire, and probably by more than this latest poll suggests. But Democrats have already learned how dangerous it is to underestimate him.

Read Less

Planes, Buses, and Failing Dem Campaigns

This has not been a good week for Democrats running for the Senate. But rather than their problems being focused on the congressional party’s difficult relationship with President Obama or the burden that defending his policies has placed upon Democratic incumbents in red states, this week their problem is on transportation. No, not transportation policy but the fact that shady transactions to pay for their campaign transportation are creating a distraction that is making it harder for the party’s candidates in Kentucky and Louisiana to stay close to their Republican rivals.

Read More

This has not been a good week for Democrats running for the Senate. But rather than their problems being focused on the congressional party’s difficult relationship with President Obama or the burden that defending his policies has placed upon Democratic incumbents in red states, this week their problem is on transportation. No, not transportation policy but the fact that shady transactions to pay for their campaign transportation are creating a distraction that is making it harder for the party’s candidates in Kentucky and Louisiana to stay close to their Republican rivals.

Today’s unwelcome headline for the president’s party concerns Kentucky senatorial candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. Grimes has been losing ground recently in her efforts to unseat Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, so the last thing she needed was for Politico to start taking an interest in how she’s paying for her campaign bus. But rather than paying attention to her attacks on McConnell or even her efforts to distance herself from President Obama and his attacks on the coal industry, the publication devoted a major feature today to the question of a possible scandal involving an in-kind contribution from the candidate’s father that may violate campaign finance laws.

Politico’s analysis of Federal Election Commission records shows that the costs listed for the campaign bus that she has been using to crisscross the Bluegrass State are a fraction of what the going rate for renting such a vehicle would be. The reason for this anomaly is that a company owned by Grimes’s father Jerry Lundergan, a former Democratic Party state chairman and legislator, operates the bus. The difference between the fair market value of the rental and the minimal rate her campaign is paying constitutes an illegal in-kind contribution and may open Lundergan to an FEC investigation and fines.

As Politico notes, catering and event planning companies owned by Lundergan have handled much of the details and logistics of his daughter’s effort to win a Senate seat. This has enabled her to save a lot of money. As the story related, though the Grimes campaign hasn’t stinted on the frills associated with campaign events, including some held at exclusive venues, she has still managed to spend far less on such items than comparable events held by McConnell. While some might focus on the fact that her campaign has spent a considerable amount on services provided by companies that are either owned by her relatives or those that employ them, the real problem here is that the Lundergan clan appears to be skirting laws that strictly regulate the way candidates raise and spend money.

This is not the first time Lundergan has run into trouble with the law. The candidate’s father was forced to resign as state chairman after being convicted of a felony in 1989 for accepting no-bid contracts for the Democrats that were not only shady but violations of the law. However, he avoided further trouble when courts ruled his actions to be a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Does any of this rise to the level of a full-blown scandal that could sink Grimes? No. But it is a distraction as well as a disturbing reminder of her father’s troubled ethical past. And it comes just at the time when she needs to start building momentum rather than letting McConnell expand his narrow lead as the campaign heads into the fall homestretch.

At the same time, the far more serious questions being asked about Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s use of government funds to pay for campaign expenses are starting to get louder. Reviews of her schedule in the past few years have revealed two more campaign trips that were paid for by the taxpayers rather than the senator’s donors.

Landrieu is attempting to downplay the revelations as being just a “minor mistake.” Were she safely reelected, she might be able to stick to that story and, like Missouri’s Senator Claire McCaskill, just pay a fine and back taxes on ill-gotten savings that helped her stay in office. But since this has come out while she is fighting for her political life, Landrieu may pay a higher cost in lost votes than she ever will in accounting for the way her campaign has looted the public treasury. The mere fact that Rep. Bill Cassidy has been able to dub her campaign “Air Landrieu” may cause more of a problem than the efforts of ethics probers.

Neither Grimes nor Lundergan should be counted out just because of these problems, but the difficulties both are facing have added to the handicaps that have been placed upon their reelection efforts by the president’s policies. At a time when they would have both liked to stay on the offensive, their transportation problems have given their opponents damaging talking points and set back an already uphill struggle for Democrats this fall.

Read Less

Another Nail in the Dems’ Senate Coffin?

Just when pundits were starting to agree that the odds are tipping in favor of the Republicans winning control of the Senate this November, reports of inquiries about potential misconduct by Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu may make the embattled Red state Democrat’s re-election fight may be another nail in her party’s midterms coffin.

Read More

Just when pundits were starting to agree that the odds are tipping in favor of the Republicans winning control of the Senate this November, reports of inquiries about potential misconduct by Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu may make the embattled Red state Democrat’s re-election fight may be another nail in her party’s midterms coffin.

The story, published Friday night by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, reveals that in response to charges from her Republican challengers that she has been paying for campaign expenses, including flights, from official government funds rather than her private account, the senator has ordered an inquiry into the records of her office during the last 18 years she has been in the Senate. While the senator may hope this gesture may quiet her critics, the inquiry by her own legal counsel will not convince many people of her innocence even if it exonerates her. If anything, it draws more attention to allegations that could be both embarrassing and result in serious ethics charges.

Unfortunately, for the senator, her lawyer won’t be the only one looking into her affairs. On Thursday, CNN reported that Landrieu had reimbursed the Senate the $5,700 charge for a charter flight home from Washington for a campaign appearance. Anyone who thinks that was the first such instance in which the Louisiana senator has played that trick is probably willing to buy a bridge across the Mississippi. If the Senate Ethics committee, or the Justice Department were to do some serious digging into her records, the results might require more than a mere reimbursement check.

Will this tip what was already looking like a dead heat between Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy into a likely GOP pickup? It’s hard to say.

Landrieu may be a Democrat in a state that votes Republican in presidential elections but she is a formidable politician. As I noted back in April, her strong constituent service and expertise in bringing home federal dollars to Louisiana has given her more than a fighting chance and even the neutrality, if not support, of some local Republican officials. Her family name is a popular brand in the state stemming from the ability of her father Moon, to manage to be that rare Louisiana Democrat who didn’t wind up in jail at some point during his career. Though there were plenty of questions raised about corruption involved in the building of New Orleans’ Superdome and other projects built while he was mayor, the former congressman, secretary of Housing and Urban Development and federal judge was never charged or convicted of anything. The same is true of Landrieu’s brother Mitch, the current mayor of the Big Easy.

But an even bigger edge for her is that the culture of politics in the state is such that ethical violations are rarely seen as fatal to the future of an officeholder the way they are in other, less easygoing places. To take just the most recent example, David Vitter, Landrieu’s Republican colleague in the Senate, survived his involvement in a prostitution scandal and may well succeed Bobby Jindal as governor of Louisiana in 2015. The list of Louisiana politicians who served jail time, let alone those who labored under ethical clouds, in the last century is too long to include in this piece. Suffice it to say that in the context of that state’s politics, looting the public treasury to pay for a campaign doesn’t exactly make Landrieu an outlier.

Nevertheless, the timing of the revelations isn’t going to help her just at a time when polls recently showed Cassidy to have finally caught and passed the incumbent, albeit by a statistically insignificant one percentage point margin.

Her difficulties are also significant because of all the endangered red state Democrats Landrieu seemed to be the one most likely to survive a tough challenge. If this race starts slipping away from her, then the chances of the Democrats holding the Senate will rest on Kay Hagen in North Carolina and Mark Pryor in Arkansas. Both are currently trailing their GOP opponents with the race to hold another Democratic seat in Iowa also starting to look like an uphill slog.

It won’t take much to tip any one of these elections from one party to the other. Which means that even in ethically challenged Louisiana, Landrieu’s using taxpayer dollars to fund her electioneering might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for a Democratic Party that needed its Senate candidates to run perfect campaigns to have a chance to keep control of one house of Congress this fall.

Read Less

The Fierce Urgency of After the Midterms

The apocalyptic rhetoric from environmental groups has always put them in the spotlight, which can be a blessing and a curse: it helps their funding, though their dire predictions and alarmist proclamations are tested. But surely even worse for the greens’ prophetic pretensions than having to revise their forecasts of doom is their wavering sense of urgency when political expediency demands it.

And so while environmentalists make no secret of their fervent opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline extension, they’re also revealing that they are following the familiar trajectory of left-leaning interest groups by starting out as principled issue activists and becoming yet another Democratic Party adjunct. As the Hill reported yesterday:

Read More

The apocalyptic rhetoric from environmental groups has always put them in the spotlight, which can be a blessing and a curse: it helps their funding, though their dire predictions and alarmist proclamations are tested. But surely even worse for the greens’ prophetic pretensions than having to revise their forecasts of doom is their wavering sense of urgency when political expediency demands it.

And so while environmentalists make no secret of their fervent opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline extension, they’re also revealing that they are following the familiar trajectory of left-leaning interest groups by starting out as principled issue activists and becoming yet another Democratic Party adjunct. As the Hill reported yesterday:

Centrist Democrats who support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline might not get the cold shoulder from green groups this fall. 

Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who’s challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), was the latest to buck her party’s leaders when she announced this week she supports construction of the pipeline. 

Democrats from conservative states have joined with Republicans in supporting Keystone XL, which they argue would create jobs and improve the country’s energy independence. In addition to Grimes, at least seven other Senate Democratic incumbents or candidates have supported its construction so far. 

But even though green groups have fought tooth and nail to block the oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. over environmental concerns, they aren’t making the issue into a litmus test for Democratic candidates they consider supporting.

Instead, organizations with environmental priorities are weighing Keystone along with other top environmental issues when deciding who to throw their weight behind.

They’ve spent a tremendous amount of effort on treating Keystone as a cause worth fighting for. And the fight has been good for their bottom line. As the New York Times reported back in January, “no one disputes that the issue has helped a new breed of environmental organizations build a mostly young army eager to donate money and time.” So why wouldn’t they live up to the hype and make this a litmus test issue?

Here’s the justification from the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, as reported by the Hill: “The action fund has made the strategic conclusion in this cycle to focus on climate change, and, specifically, the president’s climate plan.” So Keystone just isn’t much of a “climate change” issue then? On the contrary, says … the Natural Resources Defense Council:

Building the 875-mile northern segment of Keystone XL would lead to a dramatic increase in the carbon pollution that worsens the effects of climate change. Hence, construction of the pipeline fails the all-important carbon test the president laid out in his June 2013 climate address to the nation, when he said Keystone XL’s permit would be approved only if the pipeline “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

The dissembling makes it pretty clear just how the environmentalists choose their “litmus tests.” Another clue comes from the indications that President Obama has delayed a decision on Keystone in order to kill the pipeline deal after the midterm elections. That flies in the face of the science on Keystone, which effectively rebuts the greens’ anticommerce propaganda. But it is perfectly synchronous with the demands of Tom Steyer, the billionaire writing large checks to finance Democratic campaigns, especially those who fight Keystone.

Why wouldn’t Steyer demand–since he can, apparently–that the pipeline project get its rejection notice immediately, if it’s truly the right thing to do? Because while that would follow the professed principles of Steyer and others in the environmentalist far-left, it would also make life tougher for embattled Democrats in non-loony states who don’t want to oppose the commonsense job creator Keystone represents. This way, they can run in support of Keystone without suffering any consequences.

Now, you might say, that doesn’t sound quite so principled. Enabling Democrats to run in support of Keystone while plowing money into attacking Republicans because they also support Keystone would appear to elevate partisanship over principle. And aside from Steyer’s business interests, he appears to be mulling a political career of his own, possibly as a candidate for California governor. Initially, he seemed willing to attack Democrats who supported Keystone; as the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel noted, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu was, at first, on the list:

Mr. Steyer then spent some quality time with senior Democrats, who presumably explained that the establishment would not look kindly on a would-be governor who blew their control of the Senate. Ms. Landrieu came off the list, and Mr. Steyer has downgraded his criteria for playing in races to whether “something important” is at stake.

Despite the unhinged rhetoric from high-profile Democrats–for example, Harry Reid calling conservative political activism “un-American”–Steyer and the greens are perfectly entitled to participate in the electoral process. It’s just helpful to know that it’s about power and electing Democrats, not the Earth hanging in the balance.

Read Less

Running on OCare: the Landrieu Test Case

Testing conventional wisdom at the ballot box is often tougher than it looks, and that’s likely to be the case in this year’s congressional midterms, when Democrats either run on or away from ObamaCare. It was widely assumed that Democrats would run away from the unpopular mess of arbitrarily applied regulations, and that it would be a millstone around the necks of Democrats across the country, especially those who voted for it.

Mary Landrieu, however, would appear to be bucking that trend. The Louisiana Democratic senator is, on paper, a perfect candidate to test ObamaCare’s drag on congressional Democrats. Not only did she vote for it, but as a senator her vote took the bill farther than an individual vote in the House, where the bill had a larger margin for error than in the Senate. On top of that, Landrieu was one of the last to throw her support behind the law, magnifying her apparent impact. And if that weren’t enough, there’s the reason she voted for it: the so-called Louisiana purchase, which appeared to put an official price on her vote.

Landrieu, then, can’t exactly avoid her support for it, especially in a year when Republicans won’t let the law’s congressional enablers off the hook. So Landrieu is doing something that should make Democrats pleased, for a few counterintuitive reasons: she’s running on ObamaCare:

Read More

Testing conventional wisdom at the ballot box is often tougher than it looks, and that’s likely to be the case in this year’s congressional midterms, when Democrats either run on or away from ObamaCare. It was widely assumed that Democrats would run away from the unpopular mess of arbitrarily applied regulations, and that it would be a millstone around the necks of Democrats across the country, especially those who voted for it.

Mary Landrieu, however, would appear to be bucking that trend. The Louisiana Democratic senator is, on paper, a perfect candidate to test ObamaCare’s drag on congressional Democrats. Not only did she vote for it, but as a senator her vote took the bill farther than an individual vote in the House, where the bill had a larger margin for error than in the Senate. On top of that, Landrieu was one of the last to throw her support behind the law, magnifying her apparent impact. And if that weren’t enough, there’s the reason she voted for it: the so-called Louisiana purchase, which appeared to put an official price on her vote.

Landrieu, then, can’t exactly avoid her support for it, especially in a year when Republicans won’t let the law’s congressional enablers off the hook. So Landrieu is doing something that should make Democrats pleased, for a few counterintuitive reasons: she’s running on ObamaCare:

Senator Mary Landrieu is one of the most vulnerable of red state Democratic incumbents, and her reelection challenges — like those of other red state Dems — are said to be all about Obamacare.

But in an interview today, Landrieu vowed to campaign aggressively against GOP foe Bill Cassidy’s opposition to the Medicaid expansion in the state, offered a spirited defense of the law — while acknowledging it has some problems — and even insisted he’d be at a “disadvantage” over the issue. …

Landrieu has been a vocal proponent of a “keep and fix” message on Obamacare. But Republicans have argued Dems aren’t actually offering any fixes. Landrieu noted she’s advocating for making the provision of coverage voluntary for businesses with fewer than 100 employees and adding a more affordable “copper” plan. She reiterated her support for the law’s goals — and said Cassidy’s embrace of repeal would be politically problematic for him.

“It’s a solid law that needs improvement,” Landrieu said. “My opponent offers nothing but repeal, repeal, and repeal. And even with all the law’s setbacks, we’re seeing benefits for thousands of people in Louisiana.”

Democrats are probably cheering this decision. Since Landrieu can’t escape her support of the law, she’s going to at least be a loud voice proclaiming the benefits of ObamaCare. If she loses anyway, she’d have infused the debate with pro-ObamaCare talking points that other Democratic candidates, who would rather pretend not to have heard of ObamaCare, would be too timid to use but whose voters might hear them from Landrieu.

Additionally, Landrieu has a lead in the polls. It’s not enough, as it stands, for her to avoid a run-off, but it gives her an early boost. If Landrieu runs on ObamaCare and wins, Democrats will have avoided a major pitfall both in trying to keep the Senate and in pushing back on the narrative that ObamaCare is, broadly, a political loser. Beyond that, Democrats have some reason to be confident: as Jonathan detailed earlier this month, Landrieu is using her access to federal funds to lavish benefits on key voting demographics, which gets her extra votes and prevents local Republican officials in those districts from organizing opposition to her candidacy.

And that aspect of the race is also a good reminder of the difficulty of grading individual state-level elections on national issues. Republicans, however, won’t have much room to back out of their insistence on ObamaCare’s potency if Landrieu wins. Democrats will (accurately) assert that Republicans were the ones who wanted that particular fight, and they’ll be able to argue she ran on ObamaCare and won. If she loses, Republicans will have that argument in their corner, having thus defined the race.

But Democrats will certainly be paying close attention, because Landrieu is setting out the model on how to run on ObamaCare: “Will I defend the good parts of the Affordable Care Act? Yes. Will I urge improvements to parts that can be fixed? Absolutely.” If Democrats can notch a win ostensibly on ObamaCare in what many expect to have been the toughest year for the law since the 2010 midterms, they’ll almost surely export that strategy to future elections. But if it turns out voters merely liked their recently granted federal goodies more than they hated ObamaCare, the unpopular reform law will continue to follow them around election after election, when the goodies stop coming but the bills for their constituents’ insurance premiums don’t.

Read Less

Who Buys Votes? Incumbents, Not the Rich

The furor over the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission handed down yesterday revolves, as I wrote earlier, around the problems liberals have with the First Amendment’s protections of political speech. But what liberals claim they are seeking to protect is the integrity of our democratic process from those seeking to buy the votes or the influence of public officials. Given the stringent rules that exist to limit the behavior of officeholders, the line between making your voice heard and a corrupt quid pro quo can be hazy at times, but it is still there. Yet what often goes unnoticed or is, in fact, tolerated, is a different sort of corruption that is far more common than millionaires purchasing members of Congress. As Byron York wrote yesterday in the Washington Examiner, the ability of incumbent politicians to raid the public treasury for expenditures to buy the votes of certain constituencies is not only legal, it is the most decisive form of campaign finance available.

York went to Louisiana to report on the uphill race of Senator Mary Landrieu, an ObamaCare supporting Democrat seeking reelection in an increasingly deep red state. Polls show her in a dead heat against likely Republican opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy. But, as York found out, a lot of people whom one would think would be working to defeat Landrieu—including at least one local GOP official—are backing her. Why? Because Landrieu, who is seeking a fourth term in the Senate, has been lavishing some of New Orleans’ white suburbs—whose swing voters will probably decide the election—with a deluge of federal money, including a loan forgiveness provision inserted into a Homeland Security Appropriations bill, and every manner of post-Hurricane Katrina disaster funding known to the federal government.

While the ability of incumbents to use earmarks to feather their own political nests was supposedly banned by new rules, it appears Landrieu and most of her colleagues are undaunted by the regulations that were supposed to make it harder for members of the House and Senate to selectively fund favored constituencies while portraying themselves as hard-working servants of the people. As York makes clear, Mary Landrieu is buying more votes in Louisiana with taxpayer money than any Republican with access to the checkbooks of the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson ever could.

Read More

The furor over the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission handed down yesterday revolves, as I wrote earlier, around the problems liberals have with the First Amendment’s protections of political speech. But what liberals claim they are seeking to protect is the integrity of our democratic process from those seeking to buy the votes or the influence of public officials. Given the stringent rules that exist to limit the behavior of officeholders, the line between making your voice heard and a corrupt quid pro quo can be hazy at times, but it is still there. Yet what often goes unnoticed or is, in fact, tolerated, is a different sort of corruption that is far more common than millionaires purchasing members of Congress. As Byron York wrote yesterday in the Washington Examiner, the ability of incumbent politicians to raid the public treasury for expenditures to buy the votes of certain constituencies is not only legal, it is the most decisive form of campaign finance available.

York went to Louisiana to report on the uphill race of Senator Mary Landrieu, an ObamaCare supporting Democrat seeking reelection in an increasingly deep red state. Polls show her in a dead heat against likely Republican opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy. But, as York found out, a lot of people whom one would think would be working to defeat Landrieu—including at least one local GOP official—are backing her. Why? Because Landrieu, who is seeking a fourth term in the Senate, has been lavishing some of New Orleans’ white suburbs—whose swing voters will probably decide the election—with a deluge of federal money, including a loan forgiveness provision inserted into a Homeland Security Appropriations bill, and every manner of post-Hurricane Katrina disaster funding known to the federal government.

While the ability of incumbents to use earmarks to feather their own political nests was supposedly banned by new rules, it appears Landrieu and most of her colleagues are undaunted by the regulations that were supposed to make it harder for members of the House and Senate to selectively fund favored constituencies while portraying themselves as hard-working servants of the people. As York makes clear, Mary Landrieu is buying more votes in Louisiana with taxpayer money than any Republican with access to the checkbooks of the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson ever could.

Political machines have always thrived at what might euphemistically be called “constituent service” since the earliest days of the republic. The men who ran Tammany Hall were able to dominate New York politics and loot the city’s coffers with impunity for more than a century because they were always willing to give a little of the money in their control back to loyal voters for minimal services or charity while they kept most of it for themselves. The same applied to every other political machine in the country. But while we think of legendary thieves like Tammany’s George Washington Plunkett as in no way comparable to many of those who serve in our government, his concept of “honest graft” has more in common with the way Landrieu and other contemporary politicians play fast and loose with the rules than most of us would like to admit.

Like Plunkitt, Landrieu, who is part of a political dynasty in Louisiana, views the federal budget as a piñata waiting to be broken open for her benefit. The ability of senators and members of the House to lavish money on people they want to curry favor with—and deny it to those they don’t care about—remains the biggest ethical dilemma facing the nation.

You can call that constituent service, but after the excesses of the last decade in which both parties plundered the federal treasury and created our massive budget/entitlement crisis, Congress was supposed to have turned the page and adopted a more fiscally sound approach to governance. Landrieu’s stands on the issues, especially on ObamaCare, have left her out of step with the views of most Louisianans. But York’s reporting leads him to believe that her ability to manipulate allocations and use taxpayer dollars to buy the votes of Louisianans is enough to make the difference between winning and losing in November.

Liberals can complain all they want about the efforts of large donors to support conservative causes and candidates, but neither the Kochs nor Adelson can boast of the kind of efficient vote buying that Landrieu is practicing on the banks of the Mississippi. Even more to the point, while those billionaires are trying to influence elections with their own money, pork-barrel politicians like Landrieu are doing it with yours.

Read Less

ObamaCare Supporters Swear They Can Be Trusted This Time

In the last couple of days, the political press has introduced us to the Democrats’ emerging strategy for the upcoming midterm congressional elections. They will be running as the arsonists who can be trusted to put out their fire. They are being less explicit about the first part, of course. The New York Times has a story that exemplifies the cognitive dissonance. It begins with a campaign ad by Democratic Representative Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona trumpeting the fact that when the Healthcare.gov website sputtered out of the gate, she wagged her finger at it.

But how did that website come about? It was an important component of ObamaCare, of course. And how did ObamaCare come about? Well, you’d have to go elsewhere for that information; Ann Kirkpatrick treats the disastrous health-care reform law as if it were some sort of anonymous cyberattack. In fact, Democrats passed ObamaCare over the objections of all Republicans and some Democrats. Kirkpatrick should know: she was one of the votes in favor of ObamaCare. Ann Kirkpatrick, then, helped unleash this horrendous law on her constituents.

But Kirkpatrick isn’t the only one. The Times itself seeks to avoid the messy topic of why the country is suffering from ObamaCare in the first place. The whole article talks about Democrats running on an agenda of “fixing” elements of the law, but only buried late in the story do we get a hint about the culprits. The call is coming from inside the House:

Read More

In the last couple of days, the political press has introduced us to the Democrats’ emerging strategy for the upcoming midterm congressional elections. They will be running as the arsonists who can be trusted to put out their fire. They are being less explicit about the first part, of course. The New York Times has a story that exemplifies the cognitive dissonance. It begins with a campaign ad by Democratic Representative Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona trumpeting the fact that when the Healthcare.gov website sputtered out of the gate, she wagged her finger at it.

But how did that website come about? It was an important component of ObamaCare, of course. And how did ObamaCare come about? Well, you’d have to go elsewhere for that information; Ann Kirkpatrick treats the disastrous health-care reform law as if it were some sort of anonymous cyberattack. In fact, Democrats passed ObamaCare over the objections of all Republicans and some Democrats. Kirkpatrick should know: she was one of the votes in favor of ObamaCare. Ann Kirkpatrick, then, helped unleash this horrendous law on her constituents.

But Kirkpatrick isn’t the only one. The Times itself seeks to avoid the messy topic of why the country is suffering from ObamaCare in the first place. The whole article talks about Democrats running on an agenda of “fixing” elements of the law, but only buried late in the story do we get a hint about the culprits. The call is coming from inside the House:

Moreover, not all congressional Democrats are talking about the health care law in their advertising or their routine stump speeches — and even some of those hoping to explain their support are being far from laudatory. The commercial for Ms. Kirkpatrick, the Arizona Democrat, by the House Majority PAC refers to the “disastrous health care website,” as does a spot the group did for Representative Joe Garcia, Democrat of Florida.

If you blinked, you might have missed it. Twenty-one paragraphs into the story we get a note about Democrats “hoping to explain their support.” Yes, ObamaCare was in fact an act of Congress. And that is what complicates this Democratic strategy. In order to confront the manifold problems in ObamaCare, they have to acknowledge its existence. And its existence is thanks to them.

And it’s not just voting for the law in the first place. The Times story also talks about the predicament facing Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who, thanks to the shady “Louisiana Purchase,” provided a crucial vote for the bill. The Times mentions that her ad campaign will show her taking action, for example with “legislation she sponsored that would allow individuals to keep their insurance plans even if the plans did not meet the minimum requirements of the health law.”

Why can’t individuals keep their insurance? It’s not just the law’s regulations: an effort was made in late 2010 to alleviate that consequence of ObamaCare and allow folks to keep their insurance. Mary Landrieu was instrumental in defeating it and keeping ObamaCare as punitive as possible. What has changed? The public outrage and the fumbled rollout of the health-care exchanges, certainly. But other Democrats, as the Times reports, thought if they ignored the voters they would just go away:

“Part of what we learned in 2010 is that this is a real issue of concern to voters and you can’t dodge it, you have to take it on, and I think Democrats are much more ready and willing to do that in 2014,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster who has done surveys for Democrats on the law. “We certainly have enough evidence now that this is not a fight you can win if you are in a defensive crouch.”

In one sense, it’s encouraging that Democrats are kinda-sorta confronting reality. But in another sense, this follows the classic storyline of American liberalism. Progressives animated by ideology, ignorant of policy and economics, and filled with contempt for the voters institute leftist policy. The policy is, unsurprisingly, a wreck. As others attempt to clean up their mess, liberals intervene to promise to fix what they’ve done, usually through yet more state coercion.

The arsonists promise that this time they can be trusted with the matches and lighter fluid. If that’s the best the Democrats have to go on, ObamaCare may have done more harm to their brand than even their opponents expected.

Read Less

Dems: Maybe We Should Let People Keep Their Insurance

You can tell the ObamaCare rollout is going miserably when the best news for Democrats is that their major reform law is not dropping even lower in the polls. Yet. That’s the takeaway from the latest Gallup polling, as the Washington Post points out. That “yet” is key, though. As Sean Sullivan notes:

Overall, Americans remain more likely to say the law will make things worse, not better. A new Gallup poll shows Americans’ views of how the law effects [sic] both them and the country more broadly have barely budged since the summer. In August, nearly a quarter of Americans (24 percent) said they think the law will make things better for their family, while 38 percent said they believe it will make things worse. The better/worse split is now 25/34 percent.

On the question of how the law will affect the heath-care situation across the country, the numbers are also nearly identical to where they were in August.

Democrats should not be too encouraged by the stagnant poll numbers for three reasons. First, the numbers remain terrible. Democrats need those numbers to go in the other direction, not tread water. Second, as Sullivan notes, the government shutdown served as something of a distraction from everything else, including the initial launch of the ObamaCare Web portal, since the two overlapped. Thus polls might not yet be registering the full reaction to the website debacle.

Read More

You can tell the ObamaCare rollout is going miserably when the best news for Democrats is that their major reform law is not dropping even lower in the polls. Yet. That’s the takeaway from the latest Gallup polling, as the Washington Post points out. That “yet” is key, though. As Sean Sullivan notes:

Overall, Americans remain more likely to say the law will make things worse, not better. A new Gallup poll shows Americans’ views of how the law effects [sic] both them and the country more broadly have barely budged since the summer. In August, nearly a quarter of Americans (24 percent) said they think the law will make things better for their family, while 38 percent said they believe it will make things worse. The better/worse split is now 25/34 percent.

On the question of how the law will affect the heath-care situation across the country, the numbers are also nearly identical to where they were in August.

Democrats should not be too encouraged by the stagnant poll numbers for three reasons. First, the numbers remain terrible. Democrats need those numbers to go in the other direction, not tread water. Second, as Sullivan notes, the government shutdown served as something of a distraction from everything else, including the initial launch of the ObamaCare Web portal, since the two overlapped. Thus polls might not yet be registering the full reaction to the website debacle.

And third, and most important, the website “glitches” were far from the only–or the worst–aspects of the rollout that could anger the public. In the last twenty-four hours the debate over ObamaCare has shifted to the fact that the public is aware that the central promise of ObamaCare–if you like your plan, you can keep your plan–is not true; Obama knew it wasn’t true; and the administration rewrote the law’s regulations after the bill passed to maximize the number of people who would be kicked off their insurance policies.

When that information settles in, it’s certainly possible that the polling numbers not only on ObamaCare but on the Democrats in Congress could drop. And they seem to understand this. As Politico reported this afternoon:

Sen. Mary Landrieu said Wednesday she would propose legislation to ensure all Americans could keep their existing insurance coverage under Obamacare, a fresh sign of the political problems the law’s rollout has created for congressional Democrats.

Landrieu, a Democrat who faces a tough reelection in Louisiana in 2014, said she would either offer her own bill or formally sign onto another measure that would ensure that the law would not force anyone off of their existing health policies.

“The promise was made, and it should be kept,” Landrieu said in the Capitol Wednesday. “And it was our understanding when we voted for that bill that people when they have insurance could keep with what they had. So I’m going to be working on that fix.”

Those three paragraphs sum up the bind congressional Democrats are in at the moment. They expect voters will punish them for dishonestly shoving this law through Congress, and they seem to agree the voters have a case. After all, Landrieu’s bill would be unnecessary if the insured could keep their plans. They can’t, because ObamaCare is designed to prevent that. If millions more are to be protected from getting kicked off their plans, the government–which is the entity causing them to be kicked off their plans–will have to intervene.

That is an unfortunate but common pattern by now: government is expanded through well-meaning but preposterously ill-informed regulation, and the liberals responsible for it–Landrieu cast a significant vote for ObamaCare after receiving the “Louisiana Purchase” for her trouble–propose new regulations intended to fix what the old regulations broke.

Yet Landrieu likely faces an uphill battle precisely because she cast such a high-profile vote to pass ObamaCare. She has a credibility issue: why should voters trust her to save their insurance plans when she played such an important role in making sure they could not keep their insurance in the first place? A fundamental premise of ObamaCare’s sales pitch was a lie. Landrieu’s response seems to be the same excuse the president keeps employing: she had no idea; she learned about this from the media; and nobody’s more upset about it than she is.

But that brings us back to the credibility issue. Democrats knew the promise at the heart of ObamaCare was false, as Steny Hoyer admitted yesterday. And Landrieu’s bill amounts to simply a repeat of that promise. This time she means it, she’ll tell the voters. It’s not a great sales pitch, but at this point it’s all many Democrats have.

Read Less

Dems Feel Betrayed by Their Leader

According to Politico:

Relations between President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have never been worse, but it’s a feud that many in the White House quietly welcome.

Obama’s advisers insist he didn’t go out of his way to pick a fight with fellow Democrats when he cut his highly controversial deal with Republicans to temporarily extend all Bush-era tax cuts earlier this week. But if the deal served to distance Obama not only from them but the entire partisan culture of Washington, all the better, they say.

Differentiating Obama from congressional Democrats “was a positive byproduct” of the tax cut deal, a person close to Obama told POLITICO.

“Compared to these guys, the president looks mature and pragmatic,” the official said.

Methinks the Obama White House is engaging in self-delusion again.

For one thing, the president did not look “mature and pragmatic” at yesterday’s press conference. Rather, he looked petulant, agitated, and at some points seething with anger.

For another, the president, in calling both Republicans (“hostage takers”) and Democrats (“sanctimonious”) names, came across as a political hack. He almost sounded like Robert Gibbs. This all cuts against what was once one of Obama’s chief virtues — his coolness and detachment, his steadiness and “first-rate temperament,” and his perceived ability to place himself above petty politics. Mr. Obama — the heir to Lincoln, we were told — now comes across as a mix between a faux populist and a temperamental elitist.

I understand the need for a president to distance himself from his party. But there are ways good and bad, careful and reckless, to do that. Provoking a full-scale uprising among one’s core constituency is never wise.

Beyond all that, Obama has decided to attack and enrage Democrats at precisely the moment he needs them to pass a deal with Republicans on tax cuts. Right now, thanks in good measure to how Obama has handled things, passage of that deal is threatened. “I’m going to argue forcefully for the nonsensicalness and the almost, you know, moral corruptness of that particular policy. … This is beyond politics,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told the Huffington Post on Tuesday. She is speaking for many Democrats at the moment. And if Obama fails in this effort, it will be a crushing political defeat.

Because of that, it’s hard to imagine that Obama won’t eventually get the Democratic votes he needs (probably fewer than four dozen in the House). On the other hand, the Democratic anger directed toward Obama right now is difficult to overstate. They believe they, and their cause, have been betrayed by the president. And a feeling of betrayal among one’s key supporters has a way of undoing a presidency.

According to Politico:

Relations between President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have never been worse, but it’s a feud that many in the White House quietly welcome.

Obama’s advisers insist he didn’t go out of his way to pick a fight with fellow Democrats when he cut his highly controversial deal with Republicans to temporarily extend all Bush-era tax cuts earlier this week. But if the deal served to distance Obama not only from them but the entire partisan culture of Washington, all the better, they say.

Differentiating Obama from congressional Democrats “was a positive byproduct” of the tax cut deal, a person close to Obama told POLITICO.

“Compared to these guys, the president looks mature and pragmatic,” the official said.

Methinks the Obama White House is engaging in self-delusion again.

For one thing, the president did not look “mature and pragmatic” at yesterday’s press conference. Rather, he looked petulant, agitated, and at some points seething with anger.

For another, the president, in calling both Republicans (“hostage takers”) and Democrats (“sanctimonious”) names, came across as a political hack. He almost sounded like Robert Gibbs. This all cuts against what was once one of Obama’s chief virtues — his coolness and detachment, his steadiness and “first-rate temperament,” and his perceived ability to place himself above petty politics. Mr. Obama — the heir to Lincoln, we were told — now comes across as a mix between a faux populist and a temperamental elitist.

I understand the need for a president to distance himself from his party. But there are ways good and bad, careful and reckless, to do that. Provoking a full-scale uprising among one’s core constituency is never wise.

Beyond all that, Obama has decided to attack and enrage Democrats at precisely the moment he needs them to pass a deal with Republicans on tax cuts. Right now, thanks in good measure to how Obama has handled things, passage of that deal is threatened. “I’m going to argue forcefully for the nonsensicalness and the almost, you know, moral corruptness of that particular policy. … This is beyond politics,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told the Huffington Post on Tuesday. She is speaking for many Democrats at the moment. And if Obama fails in this effort, it will be a crushing political defeat.

Because of that, it’s hard to imagine that Obama won’t eventually get the Democratic votes he needs (probably fewer than four dozen in the House). On the other hand, the Democratic anger directed toward Obama right now is difficult to overstate. They believe they, and their cause, have been betrayed by the president. And a feeling of betrayal among one’s key supporters has a way of undoing a presidency.

Read Less

Democrats and Media Turn on Obama

It is a measure of Obama’s declining popularity that his supporters — fellow Democrats and the media (not to be redundant) — are turning on him. Mary Landrieu complains:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Thursday that President Barack Obama will pay a political price for his lack of visibility in the Gulf region during the catastrophic BP oil spill. 

“The president has not been as visible as he should have been on this, and he’s going to pay a political price for it, unfortunately,” Landrieu told POLITICO. “But he’s going down tomorrow, he’s made some good announcements today, and if he personally steps up his activity, I think that would be very helpful.”

Ouch. The usually cheerleading James Carville is irate that Louisiana isn’t getting the help it needs, and he’s been venting nonstop on CNN for days. He laments that Obama isn’t getting the right advice, is inexplicably taking a “hands off” stance (he wants Obama to personally plug the gushing well?), and is politically “stupid.”

Reuters puts it this way:

Obama was already immersed in a long list of problems — pushing a financial regulation overhaul, prodding Europe to stem a financial crisis, pressuring Iran and North Korea. And don’t forget the 9.9 percent U.S. jobless rate, two wars and Obama’s hopes for immigration and energy legislation before Washington stops for Nov. 2 congressional elections. Now the greatest environmental calamity since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 has fallen into his lap. He declared it “heartbreaking.”

Perhaps the anger is a function of the accumulated gripes and disappointment about Obama’s performance as well as the growing realization that Obama is sinking all Democrats’ political fortunes. As all this sets in, the panic and the anger builds. Democrats shove Obama aside and join the chorus of shrieking critics, while the media frets that the editor of Harvard Law Review doesn’t really know how to do much of anything but give speeches. It is not as if there isn’t blame to be accorded the president, as I and others have pointed out. But I suspect that the reaction would be far less frenzied and the criticism much more muted if Obama were riding high in the polls and overseeing an era of Democratic successes.

It is a measure of Obama’s declining popularity that his supporters — fellow Democrats and the media (not to be redundant) — are turning on him. Mary Landrieu complains:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Thursday that President Barack Obama will pay a political price for his lack of visibility in the Gulf region during the catastrophic BP oil spill. 

“The president has not been as visible as he should have been on this, and he’s going to pay a political price for it, unfortunately,” Landrieu told POLITICO. “But he’s going down tomorrow, he’s made some good announcements today, and if he personally steps up his activity, I think that would be very helpful.”

Ouch. The usually cheerleading James Carville is irate that Louisiana isn’t getting the help it needs, and he’s been venting nonstop on CNN for days. He laments that Obama isn’t getting the right advice, is inexplicably taking a “hands off” stance (he wants Obama to personally plug the gushing well?), and is politically “stupid.”

Reuters puts it this way:

Obama was already immersed in a long list of problems — pushing a financial regulation overhaul, prodding Europe to stem a financial crisis, pressuring Iran and North Korea. And don’t forget the 9.9 percent U.S. jobless rate, two wars and Obama’s hopes for immigration and energy legislation before Washington stops for Nov. 2 congressional elections. Now the greatest environmental calamity since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 has fallen into his lap. He declared it “heartbreaking.”

Perhaps the anger is a function of the accumulated gripes and disappointment about Obama’s performance as well as the growing realization that Obama is sinking all Democrats’ political fortunes. As all this sets in, the panic and the anger builds. Democrats shove Obama aside and join the chorus of shrieking critics, while the media frets that the editor of Harvard Law Review doesn’t really know how to do much of anything but give speeches. It is not as if there isn’t blame to be accorded the president, as I and others have pointed out. But I suspect that the reaction would be far less frenzied and the criticism much more muted if Obama were riding high in the polls and overseeing an era of Democratic successes.

Read Less

Radical Move for a Radical Bill

Does she have the votes? Can she get them? That’s what everyone is wondering. “She” is Nancy Pelosi, and the votes will decide not only the fate of ObamaCare but also of Obama’s presidency. Michael Barone explores whether the votes are there to pass the Senate version of health care, as that’s what it’s come down to. (Let’s all assume for the sake of argument that reconciliation is a flimflam.) He tells us:

As of today, it’s clear there aren’t. House Democratic leaders have brushed aside White House calls to bring the bill forward by March 18, when President Barack Obama heads to Asia. Nevertheless, analysts close to the Democratic leadership tell me they’re confident the leadership will find some way to squeeze out the 216 votes needed for a majority.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indeed shown mastery at amassing majorities. But it’s hard to see how she’ll do so on this one. The arithmetic as I see it doesn’t add up.

There are Bart Stupak’s pro-life Democrats. There’s the dicey matter of voting for all those sweetheart deals. (“Voting for the Senate bill means voting for the Cornhusker kickback and the Louisiana purchase — the price Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid paid for the votes of Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu. It’s not hard to imagine the ads Republicans could run attacking House members for sending money to Nebraska and Louisiana but not their home states.”) Then there are the House Democrats in especially vulnerable districts:

More than 40 House Democrats represent districts which John McCain carried. Most voted no in November and would presumably be hurt by switching to yes now. Moreover, Mr. Obama’s job approval now hovers around 48%, five points lower than his winning percentage in 2008. His approval on health care is even lower.

Another 32 House Democrats represent districts where Mr. Obama won between 50% and 54% of the vote, and where his approval is likely to be running under 50% now. That leaves just 176 House Democrats from districts where Mr. Obama’s approval rating is not, to borrow a real-estate term, under water. That’s 40 votes less than the 216 needed.

This isn’t to say that Pelosi can’t pull it off. But if she comes up short, she and Obama will suffer a devastating blow. And if she squeaks by, the Republicans have their campaign slogan and a single, overarching issue: Repeal ObamaCare.

Obama is risking his presidency — for what will be left of his political capital and credibility if he fails? — on a monstrous tax-and-spend measure that a significant majority of voters oppose, and vehemently so. Pretty radical stuff for a candidate billed as a moderate.

Does she have the votes? Can she get them? That’s what everyone is wondering. “She” is Nancy Pelosi, and the votes will decide not only the fate of ObamaCare but also of Obama’s presidency. Michael Barone explores whether the votes are there to pass the Senate version of health care, as that’s what it’s come down to. (Let’s all assume for the sake of argument that reconciliation is a flimflam.) He tells us:

As of today, it’s clear there aren’t. House Democratic leaders have brushed aside White House calls to bring the bill forward by March 18, when President Barack Obama heads to Asia. Nevertheless, analysts close to the Democratic leadership tell me they’re confident the leadership will find some way to squeeze out the 216 votes needed for a majority.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indeed shown mastery at amassing majorities. But it’s hard to see how she’ll do so on this one. The arithmetic as I see it doesn’t add up.

There are Bart Stupak’s pro-life Democrats. There’s the dicey matter of voting for all those sweetheart deals. (“Voting for the Senate bill means voting for the Cornhusker kickback and the Louisiana purchase — the price Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid paid for the votes of Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu. It’s not hard to imagine the ads Republicans could run attacking House members for sending money to Nebraska and Louisiana but not their home states.”) Then there are the House Democrats in especially vulnerable districts:

More than 40 House Democrats represent districts which John McCain carried. Most voted no in November and would presumably be hurt by switching to yes now. Moreover, Mr. Obama’s job approval now hovers around 48%, five points lower than his winning percentage in 2008. His approval on health care is even lower.

Another 32 House Democrats represent districts where Mr. Obama won between 50% and 54% of the vote, and where his approval is likely to be running under 50% now. That leaves just 176 House Democrats from districts where Mr. Obama’s approval rating is not, to borrow a real-estate term, under water. That’s 40 votes less than the 216 needed.

This isn’t to say that Pelosi can’t pull it off. But if she comes up short, she and Obama will suffer a devastating blow. And if she squeaks by, the Republicans have their campaign slogan and a single, overarching issue: Repeal ObamaCare.

Obama is risking his presidency — for what will be left of his political capital and credibility if he fails? — on a monstrous tax-and-spend measure that a significant majority of voters oppose, and vehemently so. Pretty radical stuff for a candidate billed as a moderate.

Read Less

Nobody Knows

Not all liberals are in denial about the fate of ObamaCare. John Heilemann fesses up:

It isn’t hard to make a list of moderate Democrats—Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson—who would find it hard to pull the lever again for the same bill for which they voted in December. Are there still even 50 votes for the Senate plan? Nobody knows.

In other words, assuming Democrats find a parliamentarily permissible way to deal with health care through reconciliation—which remains an open question—passing it will still be no slam dunk.

That brings us back, then, to the phony health-care summit. Obama doesn’t know what his own side will accept, isn’t willing to take the plan that is unacceptable to opponents off the table, and doesn’t have a plan of his own. This is pretty much par for the course with the Obami. It’s all about how to characterize the other side, how to spin themselves into appearing more reasonable than they are, and how to conceal that they haven’t a clue how to get through any significant item on their agenda.

The Obami seem to hang on these events, like expectant party planners. The visuals will be great! The media will swoon! But then everyone goes home and Obama still lacks a viable health-care plan that enjoys public support and that can pass Congress. What’s the move after they all go home? I doubt they’ve thought that far ahead. Maybe some campaign-style rallies and some more TV appearances. After all, that’s what they do.

You can understand how more sober-minded lawmakers would get disgusted. In Obama’s outlook, they’re props designed to make him look better, not calculated to achieve a specific legislative outcome. For those on the ballot this year, trying to justify their record and persuade voters they are fit to govern, that is a distressing realization.

Not all liberals are in denial about the fate of ObamaCare. John Heilemann fesses up:

It isn’t hard to make a list of moderate Democrats—Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson—who would find it hard to pull the lever again for the same bill for which they voted in December. Are there still even 50 votes for the Senate plan? Nobody knows.

In other words, assuming Democrats find a parliamentarily permissible way to deal with health care through reconciliation—which remains an open question—passing it will still be no slam dunk.

That brings us back, then, to the phony health-care summit. Obama doesn’t know what his own side will accept, isn’t willing to take the plan that is unacceptable to opponents off the table, and doesn’t have a plan of his own. This is pretty much par for the course with the Obami. It’s all about how to characterize the other side, how to spin themselves into appearing more reasonable than they are, and how to conceal that they haven’t a clue how to get through any significant item on their agenda.

The Obami seem to hang on these events, like expectant party planners. The visuals will be great! The media will swoon! But then everyone goes home and Obama still lacks a viable health-care plan that enjoys public support and that can pass Congress. What’s the move after they all go home? I doubt they’ve thought that far ahead. Maybe some campaign-style rallies and some more TV appearances. After all, that’s what they do.

You can understand how more sober-minded lawmakers would get disgusted. In Obama’s outlook, they’re props designed to make him look better, not calculated to achieve a specific legislative outcome. For those on the ballot this year, trying to justify their record and persuade voters they are fit to govern, that is a distressing realization.

Read Less

Phony Centrists Pay the Price for ObamaCare

In observing the unraveling of the governing coalition and the vicious infighting breaking out in the Democratic party (“Who lost ObamaCare?” will obsess the Left for years, I suspect), James Taranto writes:

One can fault President Obama for pursuing an agenda that would be bad for the country or for his party. But one can hardly fault progressives in Congress, much less activists who don’t even hold office, for seeking to advance the ideology in which they believe–for taking their own side in an intraparty debate.

The problem is that Democratic centrists rolled over. Either they yielded their centrist principles in the face of progressive intimidation, or those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with. The most dramatic illustration of this point is the list of moderate Democrats in the Senate: Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Jim Webb. Every one of them voted for ObamaCare. Any one of them alone could have put a stop to ObamaCare simply by casting a vote against cloture. Several of them voted “yes” in exchange for special privileges for their states, making quite clear that theirs was not a principled stand.

I think the answer to that is “those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with.” Indeed, these “centrists” didn’t merely fall off the fiscal conservative bandwagon on ObamaCare — not one of them opposed the monstrous stimulus plan. Only Evan Bayh opposed the 2009 noxious $410 billion omnibus spending plan with 8,500 earmarks. In other words, the so-called moderates never demonstrated any real moderation or inclination to restrain the Reid-Pelosi-Obama juggernaut.

And when confronted with legislation their constituents hated and that defied the fiscal conservative line on which they had ridden into office, they readily complied with their liberal leadership, in no small part because they perceived the risk of crossing the president and their Democratic colleagues to be greater than the risk of angering moderate voters. This was especially true for those who would not face the voters this year. (Only Bayh and Lincoln will.)

It’s a well-known pattern for many Democrats, Harry Reid included, from Red or Purple states: talk a conservative game back home, make speeches on fiscal sobriety, and roll over for liberal leadership when it comes to actual votes. Usually they get away with it when the public is not so engaged, the legislation is not so controversial, and Republicans blur the  lines by defecting to vote with the bulk of Democrats. But here the public was vigilant, the legislation was noxious both in substance and in process, and Republicans held the line in their unanimous opposition to ObamaCare. So now these “centrists” are finding it hard to hide and explain why they threw in their lot with Reid-Pelosi-Obama. They may regret having “blown their cover” as faux fiscal conservatives for a bill that probably won’t pass and that is now the rallying point for an energized opposition.

In observing the unraveling of the governing coalition and the vicious infighting breaking out in the Democratic party (“Who lost ObamaCare?” will obsess the Left for years, I suspect), James Taranto writes:

One can fault President Obama for pursuing an agenda that would be bad for the country or for his party. But one can hardly fault progressives in Congress, much less activists who don’t even hold office, for seeking to advance the ideology in which they believe–for taking their own side in an intraparty debate.

The problem is that Democratic centrists rolled over. Either they yielded their centrist principles in the face of progressive intimidation, or those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with. The most dramatic illustration of this point is the list of moderate Democrats in the Senate: Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Jim Webb. Every one of them voted for ObamaCare. Any one of them alone could have put a stop to ObamaCare simply by casting a vote against cloture. Several of them voted “yes” in exchange for special privileges for their states, making quite clear that theirs was not a principled stand.

I think the answer to that is “those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with.” Indeed, these “centrists” didn’t merely fall off the fiscal conservative bandwagon on ObamaCare — not one of them opposed the monstrous stimulus plan. Only Evan Bayh opposed the 2009 noxious $410 billion omnibus spending plan with 8,500 earmarks. In other words, the so-called moderates never demonstrated any real moderation or inclination to restrain the Reid-Pelosi-Obama juggernaut.

And when confronted with legislation their constituents hated and that defied the fiscal conservative line on which they had ridden into office, they readily complied with their liberal leadership, in no small part because they perceived the risk of crossing the president and their Democratic colleagues to be greater than the risk of angering moderate voters. This was especially true for those who would not face the voters this year. (Only Bayh and Lincoln will.)

It’s a well-known pattern for many Democrats, Harry Reid included, from Red or Purple states: talk a conservative game back home, make speeches on fiscal sobriety, and roll over for liberal leadership when it comes to actual votes. Usually they get away with it when the public is not so engaged, the legislation is not so controversial, and Republicans blur the  lines by defecting to vote with the bulk of Democrats. But here the public was vigilant, the legislation was noxious both in substance and in process, and Republicans held the line in their unanimous opposition to ObamaCare. So now these “centrists” are finding it hard to hide and explain why they threw in their lot with Reid-Pelosi-Obama. They may regret having “blown their cover” as faux fiscal conservatives for a bill that probably won’t pass and that is now the rallying point for an energized opposition.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.'” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.'” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

Read Less

Democrats: Run Away!

It’s not just conservatives who found Obama’s speech confounding and can’t quite figure out the political logic in doubling down on a losing agenda. The Associated Press finds lots of grumbling on the Democratic side of the aisle:

Based on roughly two dozen interviews with lawmakers, party leaders and political operatives nationwide, it’s clear that many Democrats feel Obama hasn’t fully embraced his role as party chief. It has them questioning the strength of his political muscle and faulting his advisers for paying too little attention to the fast-approaching 2010 midterm contests. Some of these Democrats complained on the record. Others asked for anonymity to avoid angering Obama and his team. Altogether, they described an ineffective political operation. They suggested Obama’s team is overly focused on his likely 2012 re-election bid. And they blamed the White House for a muddled message about what he’s trying and accomplishing as president.

It’s hard to quibble with that, isn’t it? Obama doesn’t want to be seen “walking away” from health-care reform. It might make him look weak, inept, and unaccomplished. But he has no real game plan for rescuing himself or his fellow Democrats from the morass in which they find themselves. Instead, he throws down the gauntlet, tells them to work some more, and leaves them to the mercy of angry voters, two-thirds of whom hate the bill. You can understand why Democrats are upset.

Mary Landrieu is one of the Democrats who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the president these days:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said health care reform “is on life support, unfortunately,” and the president should have been more specific with how Democrats should move forward. “He should have been more clear, and I am hoping that in the next week or two he will because that is what it is going to take if it is at all possible to get it done,” Landrieu told reporters. “Mailing in general suggestions, sending them over the transom, is not necessarily going to work.” The president’s criticism of the Senate in the speech was ‘a little strange, a little odd,” Landrieu said.

Odd, but not entirely inexplicable. Obama is willing to throw members of Congress overboard. They’ve now figured that out and are putting up a fight. The next few months will become increasingly tense, I suspect, as Democrats race to protect themselves and attempt to put distance between themselves and a president whose popularity is fading and whose agenda is toxic.

It’s not just conservatives who found Obama’s speech confounding and can’t quite figure out the political logic in doubling down on a losing agenda. The Associated Press finds lots of grumbling on the Democratic side of the aisle:

Based on roughly two dozen interviews with lawmakers, party leaders and political operatives nationwide, it’s clear that many Democrats feel Obama hasn’t fully embraced his role as party chief. It has them questioning the strength of his political muscle and faulting his advisers for paying too little attention to the fast-approaching 2010 midterm contests. Some of these Democrats complained on the record. Others asked for anonymity to avoid angering Obama and his team. Altogether, they described an ineffective political operation. They suggested Obama’s team is overly focused on his likely 2012 re-election bid. And they blamed the White House for a muddled message about what he’s trying and accomplishing as president.

It’s hard to quibble with that, isn’t it? Obama doesn’t want to be seen “walking away” from health-care reform. It might make him look weak, inept, and unaccomplished. But he has no real game plan for rescuing himself or his fellow Democrats from the morass in which they find themselves. Instead, he throws down the gauntlet, tells them to work some more, and leaves them to the mercy of angry voters, two-thirds of whom hate the bill. You can understand why Democrats are upset.

Mary Landrieu is one of the Democrats who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the president these days:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said health care reform “is on life support, unfortunately,” and the president should have been more specific with how Democrats should move forward. “He should have been more clear, and I am hoping that in the next week or two he will because that is what it is going to take if it is at all possible to get it done,” Landrieu told reporters. “Mailing in general suggestions, sending them over the transom, is not necessarily going to work.” The president’s criticism of the Senate in the speech was ‘a little strange, a little odd,” Landrieu said.

Odd, but not entirely inexplicable. Obama is willing to throw members of Congress overboard. They’ve now figured that out and are putting up a fight. The next few months will become increasingly tense, I suspect, as Democrats race to protect themselves and attempt to put distance between themselves and a president whose popularity is fading and whose agenda is toxic.

Read Less

The Health-Care Tipping Point

It is an irony worthy of a Greek drama that the moment ObamaCare appeared to overcome one of the final hurdles to passage may have been the one that sealed its rejection a few days later in Massachusetts. That moment occurred on the Thursday before the Massachusetts vote, as union leaders emerged from two days of secret discussions in the White House to announce that they had gotten a five-year $60 billion exemption from the “Cadillac tax” on their health-care plans. That may have been the tipping point.

The exemption — call it the Union-Label Insurance Exemption (U-LIE) — marked the culmination of a process that violated multiple Obama promises about the changes he would bring to Washington: it was not transparent, it was not post-partisan, and it did not eliminate the Blue State/Red State dichotomy. On the contrary, it followed a parade of buy-offs, kickbacks, and exemptions given to Blue State senators to garner their participation in the “historic” process: Mary Landrieu (D-La.) got her Louisiana Purchase; Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) got his Cornhusker Kickback; Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) got his Gator Aid; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) got his Longshoreman Carve-Out, etc. Then unions got a massive exemption not accorded nonunion workers, with the cost to be shifted to unknown others.

The process had previously featured bills placed in print only hours before votes were called, their text shielded not only from the public but also from those responsible for voting. The unpopularity of what was known about the pending legislation was said to be soluble by learning about it later: David Axelrod asserted Sunday that “people will never know what’s in that bill until we pass it,” but they will like it after that.

What made U-LIE the likely tipping point was that it was a quantum leap in an already corrupt process — not simply quantitatively, as a buy-off in the tens of billions on top of the hundreds of millions offered seriatim to individual senators, but qualitatively as well: this time it was not an individual buy-off in some legislative backroom over which Obama could argue (although implausibly) he had no control, but a secret conference committee in the White House, in an eight-hour meeting with Obama in attendance much of the day, ending with a massive transfer to a favored constituency, with no hearings at all, much less ones on C-SPAN. It was then simply announced to the public, including the portion residing in Massachusetts.

Coming on top of a process already appalling, U-LIE may have been the final straw, cementing a perception of Obama as a president committed to a nontransparent, partisan push of unpopular legislation, loaded with kickbacks and buy-offs and complete with assurances that people would appreciate it all later. It is not clear what tone or tack Obama will take in his State of the Union address tomorrow evening about the process over which he presided. As of yesterday, the speech was reportedly still being written. But the problem he now confronts may be one that can no longer be solved with a speech.

It is an irony worthy of a Greek drama that the moment ObamaCare appeared to overcome one of the final hurdles to passage may have been the one that sealed its rejection a few days later in Massachusetts. That moment occurred on the Thursday before the Massachusetts vote, as union leaders emerged from two days of secret discussions in the White House to announce that they had gotten a five-year $60 billion exemption from the “Cadillac tax” on their health-care plans. That may have been the tipping point.

The exemption — call it the Union-Label Insurance Exemption (U-LIE) — marked the culmination of a process that violated multiple Obama promises about the changes he would bring to Washington: it was not transparent, it was not post-partisan, and it did not eliminate the Blue State/Red State dichotomy. On the contrary, it followed a parade of buy-offs, kickbacks, and exemptions given to Blue State senators to garner their participation in the “historic” process: Mary Landrieu (D-La.) got her Louisiana Purchase; Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) got his Cornhusker Kickback; Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) got his Gator Aid; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) got his Longshoreman Carve-Out, etc. Then unions got a massive exemption not accorded nonunion workers, with the cost to be shifted to unknown others.

The process had previously featured bills placed in print only hours before votes were called, their text shielded not only from the public but also from those responsible for voting. The unpopularity of what was known about the pending legislation was said to be soluble by learning about it later: David Axelrod asserted Sunday that “people will never know what’s in that bill until we pass it,” but they will like it after that.

What made U-LIE the likely tipping point was that it was a quantum leap in an already corrupt process — not simply quantitatively, as a buy-off in the tens of billions on top of the hundreds of millions offered seriatim to individual senators, but qualitatively as well: this time it was not an individual buy-off in some legislative backroom over which Obama could argue (although implausibly) he had no control, but a secret conference committee in the White House, in an eight-hour meeting with Obama in attendance much of the day, ending with a massive transfer to a favored constituency, with no hearings at all, much less ones on C-SPAN. It was then simply announced to the public, including the portion residing in Massachusetts.

Coming on top of a process already appalling, U-LIE may have been the final straw, cementing a perception of Obama as a president committed to a nontransparent, partisan push of unpopular legislation, loaded with kickbacks and buy-offs and complete with assurances that people would appreciate it all later. It is not clear what tone or tack Obama will take in his State of the Union address tomorrow evening about the process over which he presided. As of yesterday, the speech was reportedly still being written. But the problem he now confronts may be one that can no longer be solved with a speech.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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