Commentary Magazine


Topic: Maryland

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Quit

The special election in Hawaii has turned into another Democratic fiasco. As this report explains:

Despite spending more than $300,000, frustrated House Democrats may abandon efforts to win a special election in Hawaii after quiet diplomacy failed to end a high-level party feud that threatens their prospects.

“It’s an extremely difficult race, since two Democratic candidates are splitting the vote,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“The local Democrats haven’t been able to come together and resolve that, so we’ll have to re-evaluate our participation.”

Recent public and private polls show Republican Charles Djou ahead in a race to fill out the remaining few months in the term of former Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who left Congress earlier this year to run for governor.

Now ballots are already out by mail (they must be returned by May 22), so this smacks of taking your bat and going home when you’re down five runs in the eighth inning. But however the Democrats spin it, the loss of a Democratic seat in Hawaii of all places is going to sting:

At first glance, the political stakes involved are scant — the winner is assured of serving in Congress only until this fall’s midterm elections, when all 435 House seats are on the ballot.

But the psychological impact of a Republican victory in the state where President Barack Obama was born could be considerable. GOP officials say they are on a path to take control of the House this fall, and seize every opportunity to claim momentum.

Obama has recorded robo calls for “a Democrat” without specifying which one, a tactic that seems, well, dumb. Involve the president but don’t tell voters who to support? It’s odd to say the least.

It is one more sign for Democrats that this is no ordinary year. Come to think of it, the Democrats might manage to lose key races in Hawaii and Illinois — vividly making the point that even among the president’s most ardent supporters, the voters have had enough of Democratic one-party government.

The special election in Hawaii has turned into another Democratic fiasco. As this report explains:

Despite spending more than $300,000, frustrated House Democrats may abandon efforts to win a special election in Hawaii after quiet diplomacy failed to end a high-level party feud that threatens their prospects.

“It’s an extremely difficult race, since two Democratic candidates are splitting the vote,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“The local Democrats haven’t been able to come together and resolve that, so we’ll have to re-evaluate our participation.”

Recent public and private polls show Republican Charles Djou ahead in a race to fill out the remaining few months in the term of former Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who left Congress earlier this year to run for governor.

Now ballots are already out by mail (they must be returned by May 22), so this smacks of taking your bat and going home when you’re down five runs in the eighth inning. But however the Democrats spin it, the loss of a Democratic seat in Hawaii of all places is going to sting:

At first glance, the political stakes involved are scant — the winner is assured of serving in Congress only until this fall’s midterm elections, when all 435 House seats are on the ballot.

But the psychological impact of a Republican victory in the state where President Barack Obama was born could be considerable. GOP officials say they are on a path to take control of the House this fall, and seize every opportunity to claim momentum.

Obama has recorded robo calls for “a Democrat” without specifying which one, a tactic that seems, well, dumb. Involve the president but don’t tell voters who to support? It’s odd to say the least.

It is one more sign for Democrats that this is no ordinary year. Come to think of it, the Democrats might manage to lose key races in Hawaii and Illinois — vividly making the point that even among the president’s most ardent supporters, the voters have had enough of Democratic one-party government.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Cleaning up Undersecretary Michele Flournoy’s mess (“Military force is an option of last resort. It’s off the table for now”), a Pentagon spokesman: “We are not taking any options off the table as we pursue the pressure and engagement tracks. … The president always has at his disposal a full array of options, including use of the military … It is clearly not our preferred course of action but it has never been, nor is it now, off the table.” Never underestimate how incompetent this crew is.

Is the Goldman Sachs case a big mess? “The testimony of a former Paulson & Co official could undercut the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs, CNBC has learned. The former Paulson lieutenant, Paolo Pellegrini, testified that he told ACA Management, the main investor in a Goldman mortgage-securities transaction, that Paulson intended to bet against—or short—the portfolio of mortgages ACA was assembling. If true, the testimony would contradict the SEC’s claim that ACA did not know Paulson was hoping the mortgage securities would fail and weaken charges that Goldman misled investors by not informing ACA of Paulson’s position.”

Did the White House mess with the SEC? “President Barack Obama is brushing off suggestions that the White House influenced the timing of fraud charges against Goldman Sachs. In an interview set to air Wednesday on CNBC, Obama said the White House had nothing to do with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to file fraud charges Friday against Goldman Sachs.” It was just a grand coincidence, I suppose.

Too messy for Blanche Lincoln: “Sen. Blanche Lincoln, under fire for keeping a $4,500 contribution from Goldman Sachs’s political action committee, has canceled a fundraising lunch with Goldman executives that was scheduled for Monday and would have netted many times that amount for the Arkansas Senator’s reelection campaign.”

Lots of people think the country is a mess: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of all voters now say the nation is heading down the wrong track, down slightly from last week but just one point above the lowest level of pessimism measured since last October.”

Robert Gates is in charge of keeping the messes to a minimum: “That new administration’s rapidly getting old, but Gates continues to serve, struggling to limit the damage done to our national defense. Recently, he fought to keep our new nuclear-giveaway treaty with Russia within tolerable bounds. That treaty’s bad — but without Gates it would have been worse. Now we know that he was also pushing on Iran. Last week, somebody (not Gates) leaked a January memo the SecDef sent to the White House. The message? We need to prepare for all contingencies regarding Iran. Now.”

The ongoing Massa ethics mess: “The top members on the House ethics committee interviewed Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday afternoon – just hours after the ethics panel created a special subcommittee to investigate sexual harassment allegations surrounding former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.).”

That mess widens: “The FBI is investigating the case of former Rep. Eric Massa, accused by his onetime male staff members of sexual harassment.”

Cleaning up Undersecretary Michele Flournoy’s mess (“Military force is an option of last resort. It’s off the table for now”), a Pentagon spokesman: “We are not taking any options off the table as we pursue the pressure and engagement tracks. … The president always has at his disposal a full array of options, including use of the military … It is clearly not our preferred course of action but it has never been, nor is it now, off the table.” Never underestimate how incompetent this crew is.

Is the Goldman Sachs case a big mess? “The testimony of a former Paulson & Co official could undercut the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs, CNBC has learned. The former Paulson lieutenant, Paolo Pellegrini, testified that he told ACA Management, the main investor in a Goldman mortgage-securities transaction, that Paulson intended to bet against—or short—the portfolio of mortgages ACA was assembling. If true, the testimony would contradict the SEC’s claim that ACA did not know Paulson was hoping the mortgage securities would fail and weaken charges that Goldman misled investors by not informing ACA of Paulson’s position.”

Did the White House mess with the SEC? “President Barack Obama is brushing off suggestions that the White House influenced the timing of fraud charges against Goldman Sachs. In an interview set to air Wednesday on CNBC, Obama said the White House had nothing to do with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to file fraud charges Friday against Goldman Sachs.” It was just a grand coincidence, I suppose.

Too messy for Blanche Lincoln: “Sen. Blanche Lincoln, under fire for keeping a $4,500 contribution from Goldman Sachs’s political action committee, has canceled a fundraising lunch with Goldman executives that was scheduled for Monday and would have netted many times that amount for the Arkansas Senator’s reelection campaign.”

Lots of people think the country is a mess: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of all voters now say the nation is heading down the wrong track, down slightly from last week but just one point above the lowest level of pessimism measured since last October.”

Robert Gates is in charge of keeping the messes to a minimum: “That new administration’s rapidly getting old, but Gates continues to serve, struggling to limit the damage done to our national defense. Recently, he fought to keep our new nuclear-giveaway treaty with Russia within tolerable bounds. That treaty’s bad — but without Gates it would have been worse. Now we know that he was also pushing on Iran. Last week, somebody (not Gates) leaked a January memo the SecDef sent to the White House. The message? We need to prepare for all contingencies regarding Iran. Now.”

The ongoing Massa ethics mess: “The top members on the House ethics committee interviewed Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday afternoon – just hours after the ethics panel created a special subcommittee to investigate sexual harassment allegations surrounding former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.).”

That mess widens: “The FBI is investigating the case of former Rep. Eric Massa, accused by his onetime male staff members of sexual harassment.”

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The Left Is Grouchy

Reuters reports:

Five million first-time voters turned out in 2008, many drawn by Obama’s promise of hope and overwhelmingly voting for Democrats. Now disappointed, or at least apathetic, they may not go to the polls this year. Obama’s support has dropped below 50 percent from nearly 70 percent after 15 months in office, Gallup opinion polls show. Gay rights supporters, anti-abortion activists, environmentalists and backers of immigration reform all have seen their agendas stalled, with watered-down healthcare the main accomplishment of Obama’s once-ambitious agenda.

At Monday’s rally in Los Angeles, protesters shouted at Obama to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” military policy that allows gays to serve if they keep quiet about their sexual preference. Gays believe that makes them second-class citizens, and Obama has vowed to repeal the policy.

“Hey hold on a second. We are going to do that,” he said. “I don’t know why you’re hollering,” he added.

Supporters shouted “Yes we can,” his slogan from the 2008 election, and “Be quiet,” but the discontent lingers.

But didn’t health-care reform boost the Left’s spirits? Not really: “Many on the left who want more are fighting the president and one another. Others are abandoning politics. Both trends bode poorly for Democrats, who have controlled both houses of Congress in addition to the White House since January 2009.” Health-care reform seems to have aggravated as many as it pleased. (“A fight over whether federal funds could be used to pay for abortion tied up the bill and split the party, which has been a strong supporter of abortion rights but now has a significant wing opposed to abortion.”) And without the public option, many on the Left are as angry as those on the Right that Big Insurance now gets enriched as a result of a liberal president’s signature issue. Other liberal wish-list items — climate control, card check, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the closing Guantanamo – are not going anywhere.

The Left’s grumpiness is not simply a problem for presidential appearances. It was the new, younger, and largely liberal Democratic electorate that boosted Obama over Hillary Clinton and then John McCain and delivered huge majorities to the Democrats in the House and Senate. When that electorate doesn’t show up supportive in November, many Democrats are at risk: “Four of the 10 Senate races where Democrats may lose, including Majority Leader Harry Reid’s re-election bid in Nevada, are in states that had above-average increases in turnout between 2006 and 2008, Professor Tom Schaller of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, calculated. … Battles for governor that could be affected by the new 2008 voters include California, Texas, Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Illinois, he calculated, noting that new governors will oversee redrawing federal voting districts after the 2010 census.”

It’s a rare president who doesn’t disappoint some starry-eyed supporters. But Obama’s problem is more acute, in large part because expectations were so high, and he consciously played into the cult of personality that worshipped him as the savior of the Left. He’s lost the Center, enraged the Right, and bummed out the Left. Not every president can do all that.

Reuters reports:

Five million first-time voters turned out in 2008, many drawn by Obama’s promise of hope and overwhelmingly voting for Democrats. Now disappointed, or at least apathetic, they may not go to the polls this year. Obama’s support has dropped below 50 percent from nearly 70 percent after 15 months in office, Gallup opinion polls show. Gay rights supporters, anti-abortion activists, environmentalists and backers of immigration reform all have seen their agendas stalled, with watered-down healthcare the main accomplishment of Obama’s once-ambitious agenda.

At Monday’s rally in Los Angeles, protesters shouted at Obama to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” military policy that allows gays to serve if they keep quiet about their sexual preference. Gays believe that makes them second-class citizens, and Obama has vowed to repeal the policy.

“Hey hold on a second. We are going to do that,” he said. “I don’t know why you’re hollering,” he added.

Supporters shouted “Yes we can,” his slogan from the 2008 election, and “Be quiet,” but the discontent lingers.

But didn’t health-care reform boost the Left’s spirits? Not really: “Many on the left who want more are fighting the president and one another. Others are abandoning politics. Both trends bode poorly for Democrats, who have controlled both houses of Congress in addition to the White House since January 2009.” Health-care reform seems to have aggravated as many as it pleased. (“A fight over whether federal funds could be used to pay for abortion tied up the bill and split the party, which has been a strong supporter of abortion rights but now has a significant wing opposed to abortion.”) And without the public option, many on the Left are as angry as those on the Right that Big Insurance now gets enriched as a result of a liberal president’s signature issue. Other liberal wish-list items — climate control, card check, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the closing Guantanamo – are not going anywhere.

The Left’s grumpiness is not simply a problem for presidential appearances. It was the new, younger, and largely liberal Democratic electorate that boosted Obama over Hillary Clinton and then John McCain and delivered huge majorities to the Democrats in the House and Senate. When that electorate doesn’t show up supportive in November, many Democrats are at risk: “Four of the 10 Senate races where Democrats may lose, including Majority Leader Harry Reid’s re-election bid in Nevada, are in states that had above-average increases in turnout between 2006 and 2008, Professor Tom Schaller of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, calculated. … Battles for governor that could be affected by the new 2008 voters include California, Texas, Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Illinois, he calculated, noting that new governors will oversee redrawing federal voting districts after the 2010 census.”

It’s a rare president who doesn’t disappoint some starry-eyed supporters. But Obama’s problem is more acute, in large part because expectations were so high, and he consciously played into the cult of personality that worshipped him as the savior of the Left. He’s lost the Center, enraged the Right, and bummed out the Left. Not every president can do all that.

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RE: The Tax Issue Is Back

As I’ve noted before, Obama has brought the tax issue roaring back. Nothing like a liberal president willing to raise taxes on the non-rich (after promising not to), small businesses, and capital before the economy has rebounded to remind voters of the difference between the two parties. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note:

Bipartisanship has broken out in the Senate, not that the media bothered to notice. Last week John McCain introduced a resolution stating that “It is the sense of the Senate that the Value Added Tax is a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.” The resolution passed 85 to 13.

A VAT is a form of national sales tax applied at every stage of production and carried through to the final price paid by consumers. The typical VAT rate in Europe is close to 20%. That’s about how high a VAT would have to be in the U.S. to balance the federal budget, according to the Tax Foundation. Mr. McCain said about his VAT resolution that “With the economy in such bad shape, we should be cutting tax rates now, shouldn’t we?”

Who were the 13? Two who are retiring — George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — and a whole bunch of Democrats: Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.), James Webb (Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Kaufman may be toast already, but the others might come to regret walking out on the tax limb.

As I’ve noted before, Obama has brought the tax issue roaring back. Nothing like a liberal president willing to raise taxes on the non-rich (after promising not to), small businesses, and capital before the economy has rebounded to remind voters of the difference between the two parties. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note:

Bipartisanship has broken out in the Senate, not that the media bothered to notice. Last week John McCain introduced a resolution stating that “It is the sense of the Senate that the Value Added Tax is a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.” The resolution passed 85 to 13.

A VAT is a form of national sales tax applied at every stage of production and carried through to the final price paid by consumers. The typical VAT rate in Europe is close to 20%. That’s about how high a VAT would have to be in the U.S. to balance the federal budget, according to the Tax Foundation. Mr. McCain said about his VAT resolution that “With the economy in such bad shape, we should be cutting tax rates now, shouldn’t we?”

Who were the 13? Two who are retiring — George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — and a whole bunch of Democrats: Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.), James Webb (Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Kaufman may be toast already, but the others might come to regret walking out on the tax limb.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Michael Barone explains young Americans’ economic outlook in the Obama era: “The programs of the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership will increase government’s share of the economy and will tend to choke off private sector economic growth. We’ve already lost 8 million private sector jobs but no public sector jobs. We’ll probably create more public sector jobs. … But a nation with an ever larger public sector and an inhibited-growth private sector is a nation with fewer openings for people who want work that will benefit others. Fewer opportunities for young people who want to choose their future, just as they choose their iPod playlists and Facebook friends. Fewer opportunities for people to choose their future.”

Bill Kristol explains the economic-growth outlook in the Obama era: “Can you have a serious recovery when your — when taxes are being raised quite a lot, interest rates are going up, and the regulatory burden’s getting heavier? Those are just facts. I mean, taxes are going up. Interest rates are going up, intermediate and long-term rates, and they’re going to keep on going up because of the deficit. And the regulatory burden is getting heavier. That — I don’t know what economic theory tells you get good growth with those things going on.”

The farce of nuclear disarmament in the Obama era: “Iran said on Sunday it will host a nuclear disarmament conference this month to be attended by China, which has been resisting new sanctions against Tehran over its atomic ambitions. ‘This is an international conference and Iran, which advocates nuclear disarmament, is calling on all nations to disarm,’ Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told the official IRNA news agency.”

Syria-Israel relations in the Obama era (which look an awful lot like they always have): “A report submitted a few weeks ago to French President Nicolas Sarkozy by two of his top diplomats concludes that there is no chance to renew substantial negotiations between Israel and Syria in the near future, Haaretz has learned. The officials had visited the Middle East recently to investigate the possibility of French mediation between the two countries.” Agreeing to return our ambassador to Damascus apparently accomplished nothing.

Non-leadership on human rights in the Obama era: “Other nations should make clear that Burma would indeed be welcomed back — but only if it frees all political prisoners and ceases its war crimes against national minorities. … Together, these nations could exert real influence. They could tighten financial sanctions to really pinch top leaders and the entities they control; they could push the machinery of the United Nations to investigate the regime’s crimes, such as forced labor and mass rape. Now would be a good moment, in other words, to unite and use the leverage that is lying unused on the table.”

Another competitive Blue State in the Obama era: “As soon as former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced that he was running for governor, the race was seen by national Republicans as another possible high-profile pickup, a view almost immediately shared by political prognosticators. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report adjusted its rating of the race Thursday from solidly Democratic to one short of ‘Toss Up’ — saying Ehrlich is expected to run a ‘competitive’ contest against Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).”

Another prominent Blue State Democratic governor is in trouble in the Obama era: “Few politicians are as close to Obama as the Massachusetts Democratic governor, or have deeper ties to the president and his core team of advisers. And almost no one faces a tougher re-election battle this year than [Deval] Patrick, whose disapproval ratings would be considered near-terminal if not for the three-way race that he currently finds himself in.”

Not-at-all-smart diplomacy in the Obama era: “Barack Obama is in danger of reversing all the progress his predecessors, including George W. Bush, made in forging closer U.S. ties with India. Preoccupied with China and the Middle East, the Obama administration has allotted little room on its schedule for India, and failed to get much done in the short time it did make. Hosting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the November state visit, the administration managed to produce cordial photo ops, but the agreements reached on education, energy cooperation, and the like dealt with trivia.”

The voice of sanity in the Obama era: “The head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee said Sunday that several domestic threats against the government are “real” but not as great as dangers posed by foreign terrorists. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) emphasized that the government is taking seriously the arrest of militia members and threats to lawmakers and governors but cautioned that people should not ‘overstate’ them.”

Michael Barone explains young Americans’ economic outlook in the Obama era: “The programs of the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership will increase government’s share of the economy and will tend to choke off private sector economic growth. We’ve already lost 8 million private sector jobs but no public sector jobs. We’ll probably create more public sector jobs. … But a nation with an ever larger public sector and an inhibited-growth private sector is a nation with fewer openings for people who want work that will benefit others. Fewer opportunities for young people who want to choose their future, just as they choose their iPod playlists and Facebook friends. Fewer opportunities for people to choose their future.”

Bill Kristol explains the economic-growth outlook in the Obama era: “Can you have a serious recovery when your — when taxes are being raised quite a lot, interest rates are going up, and the regulatory burden’s getting heavier? Those are just facts. I mean, taxes are going up. Interest rates are going up, intermediate and long-term rates, and they’re going to keep on going up because of the deficit. And the regulatory burden is getting heavier. That — I don’t know what economic theory tells you get good growth with those things going on.”

The farce of nuclear disarmament in the Obama era: “Iran said on Sunday it will host a nuclear disarmament conference this month to be attended by China, which has been resisting new sanctions against Tehran over its atomic ambitions. ‘This is an international conference and Iran, which advocates nuclear disarmament, is calling on all nations to disarm,’ Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told the official IRNA news agency.”

Syria-Israel relations in the Obama era (which look an awful lot like they always have): “A report submitted a few weeks ago to French President Nicolas Sarkozy by two of his top diplomats concludes that there is no chance to renew substantial negotiations between Israel and Syria in the near future, Haaretz has learned. The officials had visited the Middle East recently to investigate the possibility of French mediation between the two countries.” Agreeing to return our ambassador to Damascus apparently accomplished nothing.

Non-leadership on human rights in the Obama era: “Other nations should make clear that Burma would indeed be welcomed back — but only if it frees all political prisoners and ceases its war crimes against national minorities. … Together, these nations could exert real influence. They could tighten financial sanctions to really pinch top leaders and the entities they control; they could push the machinery of the United Nations to investigate the regime’s crimes, such as forced labor and mass rape. Now would be a good moment, in other words, to unite and use the leverage that is lying unused on the table.”

Another competitive Blue State in the Obama era: “As soon as former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced that he was running for governor, the race was seen by national Republicans as another possible high-profile pickup, a view almost immediately shared by political prognosticators. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report adjusted its rating of the race Thursday from solidly Democratic to one short of ‘Toss Up’ — saying Ehrlich is expected to run a ‘competitive’ contest against Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).”

Another prominent Blue State Democratic governor is in trouble in the Obama era: “Few politicians are as close to Obama as the Massachusetts Democratic governor, or have deeper ties to the president and his core team of advisers. And almost no one faces a tougher re-election battle this year than [Deval] Patrick, whose disapproval ratings would be considered near-terminal if not for the three-way race that he currently finds himself in.”

Not-at-all-smart diplomacy in the Obama era: “Barack Obama is in danger of reversing all the progress his predecessors, including George W. Bush, made in forging closer U.S. ties with India. Preoccupied with China and the Middle East, the Obama administration has allotted little room on its schedule for India, and failed to get much done in the short time it did make. Hosting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the November state visit, the administration managed to produce cordial photo ops, but the agreements reached on education, energy cooperation, and the like dealt with trivia.”

The voice of sanity in the Obama era: “The head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee said Sunday that several domestic threats against the government are “real” but not as great as dangers posed by foreign terrorists. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) emphasized that the government is taking seriously the arrest of militia members and threats to lawmakers and governors but cautioned that people should not ‘overstate’ them.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A pattern? “Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t tell the Senate Judiciary Committee about seven Supreme Court amicus briefs he prepared or supported, his office acknowledged in a letter Friday, including two urging the court to reject the Bush administration’s attempt to try Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant.”
Jamie Fly is worried that the Obama administration won’t stick it out until the job is done in Iraq: “This is a troubling sign that ‘one of the great achievements of this administration’ might be squandered if the going gets tough in Iraq. This seems shortsighted given the thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars the United States has sacrificed in setting Iraq on the path to a secure democratic future. Even setting aside the scale of the U.S. commitment thus far, the United States has a strategic interest in ensuring Iraq’s success and in continuing to remain involved in Iraq’s security.”

The Beagle Blogger is an ignoramus when it comes to the Middle East, according to blogmate Jeffrey Goldberg: “Andrew Sullivan should be thankful that The Atlantic’s fact-checking department has no purview over the magazine’s website. … Andrew is free to publish malicious nonsense, such as the series of maps he published yesterday, maps which purport to show how Jews stole Palestinian land. Andrew does not tell us the source of these maps (in a magazine with standards, the source would be identified), but they were drawn to cast Jews in the most terrible light possible. … ‘Andrew has so many opinions to ventilate, and so little time to think about them’ that the publication of this absurd map on his blog could simply have been a mistake.”

A bad week for Tony Rezko’s former banker: “Democrat candidate Alexi Giannoulias faced a new political hassle in his bid for President Obama’s former Senate seat after a major contributor was arrested Thursday on charges of defrauding banks by writing bad checks.”

A sign of the Red wave from the Democratic Public Policy Polling: “Neither of the top candidates for Governor of Florida is particularly well known or liked but with the national political winds blowing in a Republican direction Bill McCollum has the solid early lead. McCollum’s currently at 44% to 31% for Alex Sink. He leads her 38-25 with independent voters and is winning 20% of the Democratic vote while holding Sink to just 11% of the Republican vote.”

Rep. Bart Stupak on the House leadership’s determination to protect abortion subsidies in ObamaCare: “The House Democratic leaders think they have the votes to pass the Senate’s health-care bill without us. At this point, there is no doubt that they’ve been able to peel off one or two of my twelve. And even if they don’t have the votes, it’s been made clear to us that they won’t insert our language on the abortion issue.”

They better have a bunch of votes in reserve: “House Democrats are ready to ‘forge ahead’ on healthcare without a deal on abortion, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday. Hoyer said hopes for a deal have all but evaporated with a dozen Democrats who want tougher restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion services than are included in the Senate’s healthcare bill.”

Hillary Clinton joins the Israel-bashing extravaganza — because really, U.S.-Israeli relations aren’t strained enough.

A pattern? “Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t tell the Senate Judiciary Committee about seven Supreme Court amicus briefs he prepared or supported, his office acknowledged in a letter Friday, including two urging the court to reject the Bush administration’s attempt to try Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant.”
Jamie Fly is worried that the Obama administration won’t stick it out until the job is done in Iraq: “This is a troubling sign that ‘one of the great achievements of this administration’ might be squandered if the going gets tough in Iraq. This seems shortsighted given the thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars the United States has sacrificed in setting Iraq on the path to a secure democratic future. Even setting aside the scale of the U.S. commitment thus far, the United States has a strategic interest in ensuring Iraq’s success and in continuing to remain involved in Iraq’s security.”

The Beagle Blogger is an ignoramus when it comes to the Middle East, according to blogmate Jeffrey Goldberg: “Andrew Sullivan should be thankful that The Atlantic’s fact-checking department has no purview over the magazine’s website. … Andrew is free to publish malicious nonsense, such as the series of maps he published yesterday, maps which purport to show how Jews stole Palestinian land. Andrew does not tell us the source of these maps (in a magazine with standards, the source would be identified), but they were drawn to cast Jews in the most terrible light possible. … ‘Andrew has so many opinions to ventilate, and so little time to think about them’ that the publication of this absurd map on his blog could simply have been a mistake.”

A bad week for Tony Rezko’s former banker: “Democrat candidate Alexi Giannoulias faced a new political hassle in his bid for President Obama’s former Senate seat after a major contributor was arrested Thursday on charges of defrauding banks by writing bad checks.”

A sign of the Red wave from the Democratic Public Policy Polling: “Neither of the top candidates for Governor of Florida is particularly well known or liked but with the national political winds blowing in a Republican direction Bill McCollum has the solid early lead. McCollum’s currently at 44% to 31% for Alex Sink. He leads her 38-25 with independent voters and is winning 20% of the Democratic vote while holding Sink to just 11% of the Republican vote.”

Rep. Bart Stupak on the House leadership’s determination to protect abortion subsidies in ObamaCare: “The House Democratic leaders think they have the votes to pass the Senate’s health-care bill without us. At this point, there is no doubt that they’ve been able to peel off one or two of my twelve. And even if they don’t have the votes, it’s been made clear to us that they won’t insert our language on the abortion issue.”

They better have a bunch of votes in reserve: “House Democrats are ready to ‘forge ahead’ on healthcare without a deal on abortion, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday. Hoyer said hopes for a deal have all but evaporated with a dozen Democrats who want tougher restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion services than are included in the Senate’s healthcare bill.”

Hillary Clinton joins the Israel-bashing extravaganza — because really, U.S.-Israeli relations aren’t strained enough.

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Stupak Is the Last Man Standing?

Eventually, Nancy Pelosi’s reality-proof rhetoric reaches its limits. She’s denied that ObamaCare, in its Senate and latest White House versions, alters the status quo on abortion funding. But anyone who really cares enough about the issue knows this isn’t so. And thus Pelosi, obviously short of her majority to pass ObamaCare, must negotiate with Rep. Bart Stupak and the pro-life Democrats. Politico reports:

Despite the speaker’s repeated denials, it looks like the final act in the year-long health care fight could once again come down to abortion – so much so that Pelosi invited a group of women’s rights groups to the Capitol on Thursday, along with a number of her closest allies, for a preliminary discussion to strategize about the way ahead…

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) met with Stupak on Thursday, starting a conversation that could shape the path of reform. The former state trooper authored an amendment to the House bill that bars anyone receiving subsidies through the new insurance exchange from purchasing coverage for elective abortions. Without a final package, it’s too early to tell where the votes are, but Hoyer seemed to acknowledge that Stupak, true to his threat, has the votes to derail the broader bill.

But here’s the hitch:

Changing the Senate language at this point could prove troublesome for leaders, even if they are able to broker a compromise. The abortion section of the bill likely won’t qualify under the rules for reconciliation — since it doesn’t have a direct dollar impact on overall cost — so Democrats would either need to muster 60 votes in the Senate to override the parliamentarian or draft a third bill with fixes in it that would also need 60 votes for passage. Both would require Republican support, making each a very heavy lift for party leaders, even if the Catholic Church lends a hand.

So what’s the way out? There may not be one. And frankly, Stupak would be doing his fellow Democrats, not just the pro-life contingent, a huge favor. If he holds firm, he will spare many a moderate Democrat from walking the plank and suffering the wrath of the voters. For if Pelosi is a dozen votes short, as we surmise, do we really think there will be a humiliating floor vote? Of course not. She will be forced to pack it in, regroup, and perhaps finally arrive at a bill that does not send the electorate shrieking for the scalps of her members. Or if she simply did nothing more on health care and turned to other issues, that, too, might spare a handful or two of her members. But then again, it seems she and Obama do not care so much about saving her troops. For them, Stupak may be the last, best hope.

Eventually, Nancy Pelosi’s reality-proof rhetoric reaches its limits. She’s denied that ObamaCare, in its Senate and latest White House versions, alters the status quo on abortion funding. But anyone who really cares enough about the issue knows this isn’t so. And thus Pelosi, obviously short of her majority to pass ObamaCare, must negotiate with Rep. Bart Stupak and the pro-life Democrats. Politico reports:

Despite the speaker’s repeated denials, it looks like the final act in the year-long health care fight could once again come down to abortion – so much so that Pelosi invited a group of women’s rights groups to the Capitol on Thursday, along with a number of her closest allies, for a preliminary discussion to strategize about the way ahead…

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) met with Stupak on Thursday, starting a conversation that could shape the path of reform. The former state trooper authored an amendment to the House bill that bars anyone receiving subsidies through the new insurance exchange from purchasing coverage for elective abortions. Without a final package, it’s too early to tell where the votes are, but Hoyer seemed to acknowledge that Stupak, true to his threat, has the votes to derail the broader bill.

But here’s the hitch:

Changing the Senate language at this point could prove troublesome for leaders, even if they are able to broker a compromise. The abortion section of the bill likely won’t qualify under the rules for reconciliation — since it doesn’t have a direct dollar impact on overall cost — so Democrats would either need to muster 60 votes in the Senate to override the parliamentarian or draft a third bill with fixes in it that would also need 60 votes for passage. Both would require Republican support, making each a very heavy lift for party leaders, even if the Catholic Church lends a hand.

So what’s the way out? There may not be one. And frankly, Stupak would be doing his fellow Democrats, not just the pro-life contingent, a huge favor. If he holds firm, he will spare many a moderate Democrat from walking the plank and suffering the wrath of the voters. For if Pelosi is a dozen votes short, as we surmise, do we really think there will be a humiliating floor vote? Of course not. She will be forced to pack it in, regroup, and perhaps finally arrive at a bill that does not send the electorate shrieking for the scalps of her members. Or if she simply did nothing more on health care and turned to other issues, that, too, might spare a handful or two of her members. But then again, it seems she and Obama do not care so much about saving her troops. For them, Stupak may be the last, best hope.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A rapper and his entourage in the Situation Room? “Were Jay & Bey & Co. issued the relevant security clearances? Do we even care anymore?” Well, in any case, “Is an amazingly successful businessman-slash-rapper who rose from the mean streets of Brooklyn to world-wide fame and fortune less qualified to deal with the vicissitudes, the obstacles, the demands, the crises of foreign policy and national security than Mr. Obama’s little coterie of Chicago-pol friends who’ve been running it so surpassingly excellently thus far?”

Another retirement, another Democratic seat becomes a toss-up. According to the Cook Political Report: “[Rep. Bill] Delahunt’s decision to leave doesn’t make this district a lost cause for Democrats by any means, but credible Republicans including former state Treasurer Joe Malone and state Rep. Jeffrey Perry are likely to run, and no Democrat appears capable of clearing a primary field. In a normal year, Democrats would enjoy a considerable advantage in an open seat race in MA-10. But this year, Democrats’ initial advantage isn’t great enough to warrant rating this race more favorably than a Toss Up.”

This might explain why all those voters are so angry: “President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday, including more than $2 trillion that Obama proposes to devote to extending a variety of tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration. The 10-year outlook by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama’s policies would add $8.5 trillion to the debt by 2020. While the two agencies are in relative agreement about the short-term budget picture, with both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year and $1.3 trillion in 2011, the CBO is less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits will grow rapidly after 2015.”

And why they don’t like ObamaCare, as James Capretta explains: “The president started off last year by saying he wanted to ‘bend the cost-curve’ even as he broadened coverage. But after a year of partisan political and legislative maneuvering, all that’s left is a massive entitlement expansion. The new costs would get piled on top of the unreformed and unaffordable entitlements already on the books. It’s a budgetary disaster in the making.”

How many times has “shpilkes” been used in a mainstream-media headline? (How many ABC.com readers even know what it means?)

Even before Harry Reid’s latest boneheaded remark: “Two of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Republican challengers have again crossed the 50% threshold and now hold double-digit leads in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. One big hurdle for the incumbent is that most Nevada voters are strongly opposed to the health care legislation championed by Reid and President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Sue Lowden, ex-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, with a 51% to 38% lead on Reid. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, but just three percent (3%) are undecided.”

From the “2006 All Over Again” file: “Eager to avoid a repeat of the Mark Foley scandal, House Democratic leaders moved quickly last month when a staffer for Rep. Eric Massa complained that he’d made advances to a junior male aide. But rumors about Massa had been circulating for months in both Democratic and Republican circles on Capitol Hill, and GOP operatives even considered digging into them on their own. However, sources say there wasn’t evidence of any wrongdoing until Massa’s then-legislative director contacted the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in early February. … But a Massa aide told POLITICO that Massa — who is married and has children — has been engaged in inappropriate behavior ‘for eight months.’”

And Massa will resign Monday.

John McCain is trying to get the Gang of 14 back to beat reconciliation. No takers. And reconciliation is sort of irrelevant. But other than that, a great idea.

A rapper and his entourage in the Situation Room? “Were Jay & Bey & Co. issued the relevant security clearances? Do we even care anymore?” Well, in any case, “Is an amazingly successful businessman-slash-rapper who rose from the mean streets of Brooklyn to world-wide fame and fortune less qualified to deal with the vicissitudes, the obstacles, the demands, the crises of foreign policy and national security than Mr. Obama’s little coterie of Chicago-pol friends who’ve been running it so surpassingly excellently thus far?”

Another retirement, another Democratic seat becomes a toss-up. According to the Cook Political Report: “[Rep. Bill] Delahunt’s decision to leave doesn’t make this district a lost cause for Democrats by any means, but credible Republicans including former state Treasurer Joe Malone and state Rep. Jeffrey Perry are likely to run, and no Democrat appears capable of clearing a primary field. In a normal year, Democrats would enjoy a considerable advantage in an open seat race in MA-10. But this year, Democrats’ initial advantage isn’t great enough to warrant rating this race more favorably than a Toss Up.”

This might explain why all those voters are so angry: “President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday, including more than $2 trillion that Obama proposes to devote to extending a variety of tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration. The 10-year outlook by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama’s policies would add $8.5 trillion to the debt by 2020. While the two agencies are in relative agreement about the short-term budget picture, with both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year and $1.3 trillion in 2011, the CBO is less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits will grow rapidly after 2015.”

And why they don’t like ObamaCare, as James Capretta explains: “The president started off last year by saying he wanted to ‘bend the cost-curve’ even as he broadened coverage. But after a year of partisan political and legislative maneuvering, all that’s left is a massive entitlement expansion. The new costs would get piled on top of the unreformed and unaffordable entitlements already on the books. It’s a budgetary disaster in the making.”

How many times has “shpilkes” been used in a mainstream-media headline? (How many ABC.com readers even know what it means?)

Even before Harry Reid’s latest boneheaded remark: “Two of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Republican challengers have again crossed the 50% threshold and now hold double-digit leads in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. One big hurdle for the incumbent is that most Nevada voters are strongly opposed to the health care legislation championed by Reid and President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Sue Lowden, ex-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, with a 51% to 38% lead on Reid. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, but just three percent (3%) are undecided.”

From the “2006 All Over Again” file: “Eager to avoid a repeat of the Mark Foley scandal, House Democratic leaders moved quickly last month when a staffer for Rep. Eric Massa complained that he’d made advances to a junior male aide. But rumors about Massa had been circulating for months in both Democratic and Republican circles on Capitol Hill, and GOP operatives even considered digging into them on their own. However, sources say there wasn’t evidence of any wrongdoing until Massa’s then-legislative director contacted the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in early February. … But a Massa aide told POLITICO that Massa — who is married and has children — has been engaged in inappropriate behavior ‘for eight months.’”

And Massa will resign Monday.

John McCain is trying to get the Gang of 14 back to beat reconciliation. No takers. And reconciliation is sort of irrelevant. But other than that, a great idea.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

As many predicted, Steny Hoyer says the House will go first: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Sunday that the House must pass the Senate bill before fixes to both bills can be approved. … Hoyer said that Democrats have not yet started counting votes and have not yet nailed down all the details for what they plan to pass. Both of those will be finalized soon, he said.” Well, if they ever get the votes.

As many knew, the Democrats don’t have the votes yet in the House for ObamaCare. When asked if she has the 217 votes, Nancy Pelosi replied on This Week: “Well, right now we’re working on the policy.”

As many suspected, Nancy Pelosi hasn’t got a clue: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats ‘share some of the views’ of the Tea Party movement, even though it ‘takes direction from the Republican Party.’”

As many Republicans whisper among themselves, they’re lucky she’s the face of the House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, on CNN: “I say, you can bake the pie, you can sell the pie, but you have to have a pie to sell. And when we do we will take it out there.” Got that? Try this one: “A bill can be bipartisan without bipartisan votes.”

As many Democrats feared, Pelosi isn’t giving up on Charlie Rangel: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday she wants let House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., hold onto his gavel for now, despite his admonishment by the House ethics committee last week.”

As many incumbents fret, John McCain plots to make his colleagues squirm on ObamaCare: “On the verge of a procedural fight over health care, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican’s presidential nominee in 2008, said Sunday that he plans to introduce legislation that would prevent Congress from changing Medicare through a process that only requires a simple majority in the Senate.”

As many conservatives have urged, Evan Thomas pleads with Obama to do something meaningful on tort reform: “If Obama were to come out squarely for medical-malpractice reform—in a real way—he would be making an important political statement: that as president he is willing to risk the political fortunes of his own party for the greater good. It would give him the moral standing, and the leverage, to call on the Republicans to match him by sacrificing their own political interests—by, for instance, supporting tax increases to help pay down the debt.”

As many of us have argued, there is no good option for Democrats on health-care reform. According to Mara Liasson: “Passing this bill is not going to be a political winner. I mean, either way, it’s pretty grim. But I think it’s marginally worse if they go home with nothing. They show that they cannot govern effectively.”

Not many of the chattering class anticipated this, but the health-care summit was a big plus for Republicans. Sen. Mitch McConnell on State of the Union: “We — we had a chance Thursday actually to display some of our brightest, most knowledgeable Republicans. I thought it was actually very good for us because it certainly refuted the notion that Republicans are not interested in this subject and not knowledgeable about it and don’t have alternatives. And we laid out a number of different things that we think will make a lot more sense, to go step by step to fix the cost problem.”

As many predicted, Steny Hoyer says the House will go first: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Sunday that the House must pass the Senate bill before fixes to both bills can be approved. … Hoyer said that Democrats have not yet started counting votes and have not yet nailed down all the details for what they plan to pass. Both of those will be finalized soon, he said.” Well, if they ever get the votes.

As many knew, the Democrats don’t have the votes yet in the House for ObamaCare. When asked if she has the 217 votes, Nancy Pelosi replied on This Week: “Well, right now we’re working on the policy.”

As many suspected, Nancy Pelosi hasn’t got a clue: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats ‘share some of the views’ of the Tea Party movement, even though it ‘takes direction from the Republican Party.’”

As many Republicans whisper among themselves, they’re lucky she’s the face of the House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, on CNN: “I say, you can bake the pie, you can sell the pie, but you have to have a pie to sell. And when we do we will take it out there.” Got that? Try this one: “A bill can be bipartisan without bipartisan votes.”

As many Democrats feared, Pelosi isn’t giving up on Charlie Rangel: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday she wants let House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., hold onto his gavel for now, despite his admonishment by the House ethics committee last week.”

As many incumbents fret, John McCain plots to make his colleagues squirm on ObamaCare: “On the verge of a procedural fight over health care, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican’s presidential nominee in 2008, said Sunday that he plans to introduce legislation that would prevent Congress from changing Medicare through a process that only requires a simple majority in the Senate.”

As many conservatives have urged, Evan Thomas pleads with Obama to do something meaningful on tort reform: “If Obama were to come out squarely for medical-malpractice reform—in a real way—he would be making an important political statement: that as president he is willing to risk the political fortunes of his own party for the greater good. It would give him the moral standing, and the leverage, to call on the Republicans to match him by sacrificing their own political interests—by, for instance, supporting tax increases to help pay down the debt.”

As many of us have argued, there is no good option for Democrats on health-care reform. According to Mara Liasson: “Passing this bill is not going to be a political winner. I mean, either way, it’s pretty grim. But I think it’s marginally worse if they go home with nothing. They show that they cannot govern effectively.”

Not many of the chattering class anticipated this, but the health-care summit was a big plus for Republicans. Sen. Mitch McConnell on State of the Union: “We — we had a chance Thursday actually to display some of our brightest, most knowledgeable Republicans. I thought it was actually very good for us because it certainly refuted the notion that Republicans are not interested in this subject and not knowledgeable about it and don’t have alternatives. And we laid out a number of different things that we think will make a lot more sense, to go step by step to fix the cost problem.”

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LIVE BLOG: Steny Hoyer

One wonders, watching Steny Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat and House Majority Leader, what the last year would have been like for Democrats had he been the face of the party in the House rather than Nancy Pelosi. Hoyer is an extraordinarily intelligent politician and a fluid speaker, and sounds reasonable even when the policies he is advancing are less so. He would have not have become the lightning rod that Nancy Pelosi has proved to be, and that Harry Reid is.

One wonders, watching Steny Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat and House Majority Leader, what the last year would have been like for Democrats had he been the face of the party in the House rather than Nancy Pelosi. Hoyer is an extraordinarily intelligent politician and a fluid speaker, and sounds reasonable even when the policies he is advancing are less so. He would have not have become the lightning rod that Nancy Pelosi has proved to be, and that Harry Reid is.

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Re: The Democrats’ Obama-Induced Fury

The Evan Bayh announcement is a downer for Democrats. In the “losers” category, Chris Cillizza puts “Democratic morale.” He’s got a point:

In the month (or so) since Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in Massachusetts, Democratic strategists had argued that the party — and the president — had found their footing a bit, pointing to the aggressive approach by Obama in a tete a tete with House Republicans as evidence of their morale makeover. Bayh’s decision saps that optimism badly. “It is like getting turned down repeatedly for dates,” explained one Democratic consultant of the series of retirement decisions in the party in recent months.”In the end you start worrying whether there is something wrong with you.” The unanswerable question for Democrats is whether Bayh’s decision — coming on the heels of the retirement of North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan — makes other vulnerable Senators or House members reconsider their plans.White House: The White House’s hopes of building momentum in advance of next week’s bipartisan health care summit were quashed with Bayh’s indictment of the political atmosphere in Washington. Bayh’s decision is also likely to dominate a significant chunk of the political coverage in the coming days, making it harder for other events — like the President’s energy event today in Maryland today — to break through. For a White House that has struggled badly with staying on message, the Bayh news is a further complication.

And if that’s not depressing enough for Democrats, the latest Rasmussen poll shows a nine-point advantage for Republicans in generic congressional polling. It’s quite a fall for Obama – the once-considered savior of the Democratic party (and the nation, we were told), now the source of such angst. The health summit already was a bit of a smoke-and-mirrors routine, and now it has been blown away by some cold, hard facts. Obama is losing his grip, not only on the country but also on his own party. The mask of bipartisanship pasted together over the last few weeks has been ripped off. And panic is again sweeping through the ranks.

We keep hearing about that civil war breaking out among Republicans. Tea partiers and country-club conservatives are supposed to fight it out. Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist were going to have a blood feud. There is little evidence of that. But there sure is a huge storm brewing on the Democratic side, although the mainstream media is slow to catch on. Dump Obama’s agenda or double down? Forget health care and revive that bipartisan jobs bill that helped drive Bayh into retirement? That’s where the action is. And the defections, retirements, and backbiting have only just begun, I think.

The Evan Bayh announcement is a downer for Democrats. In the “losers” category, Chris Cillizza puts “Democratic morale.” He’s got a point:

In the month (or so) since Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in Massachusetts, Democratic strategists had argued that the party — and the president — had found their footing a bit, pointing to the aggressive approach by Obama in a tete a tete with House Republicans as evidence of their morale makeover. Bayh’s decision saps that optimism badly. “It is like getting turned down repeatedly for dates,” explained one Democratic consultant of the series of retirement decisions in the party in recent months.”In the end you start worrying whether there is something wrong with you.” The unanswerable question for Democrats is whether Bayh’s decision — coming on the heels of the retirement of North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan — makes other vulnerable Senators or House members reconsider their plans.White House: The White House’s hopes of building momentum in advance of next week’s bipartisan health care summit were quashed with Bayh’s indictment of the political atmosphere in Washington. Bayh’s decision is also likely to dominate a significant chunk of the political coverage in the coming days, making it harder for other events — like the President’s energy event today in Maryland today — to break through. For a White House that has struggled badly with staying on message, the Bayh news is a further complication.

And if that’s not depressing enough for Democrats, the latest Rasmussen poll shows a nine-point advantage for Republicans in generic congressional polling. It’s quite a fall for Obama – the once-considered savior of the Democratic party (and the nation, we were told), now the source of such angst. The health summit already was a bit of a smoke-and-mirrors routine, and now it has been blown away by some cold, hard facts. Obama is losing his grip, not only on the country but also on his own party. The mask of bipartisanship pasted together over the last few weeks has been ripped off. And panic is again sweeping through the ranks.

We keep hearing about that civil war breaking out among Republicans. Tea partiers and country-club conservatives are supposed to fight it out. Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist were going to have a blood feud. There is little evidence of that. But there sure is a huge storm brewing on the Democratic side, although the mainstream media is slow to catch on. Dump Obama’s agenda or double down? Forget health care and revive that bipartisan jobs bill that helped drive Bayh into retirement? That’s where the action is. And the defections, retirements, and backbiting have only just begun, I think.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s about time someone took it to Meghan McCain: “She’s an über-cool politics chick with lots to say of the conventional-thinking NYTimesish variety, and she’s got credulous lefties lapping up her disses of conservatives like kittens at cream bowls.” And what better way to get that attention than to diss the woman who drives liberals mad? Funny how liberal pundits whine that the former governor, who has articulated positions on a range of issues, doesn’t “know anything,” but they’re willing to spend endless hours talking to a 25-year-old who’s, well, never done anything.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus has the goods on the latest J Street scam: “In short, J Street manipulated the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia (of which I am a board member) into leasing to them space in the Hillel building for their J Street Local launch by entering into a firm agreement, and then ignoring that agreement to Hillel’s detriment. J Street’s deception made Hillel’s carefully planned and extensive pre-event efforts to soothe concerned donors, students, and others that there was no—and that it would be made very clear that there was no—connection between Hillel and J Street.”

House Democrats aid the Justice Department in stonewalling on the New Black Panther Party case: “In their bid to protect President Obama’s liberal political appointees at the Justice Department, congressional Democrats are surrendering their responsibility to keep a presidential administration honest.”

Not so much sycophantic laughter in the White House briefing room: “‘There definitely aren’t a lot of laughs around the briefing room these days,’ says Washington Examiner White House correspondent Julie Mason. ‘Robert’s little digs and evasions have lost their power to amuse — particularly since we haven’t had a presser since July. … Reporters know how close the press secretary is to the president, and yet the quality of the information we get doesn’t often reflect that.” Well, rudeness and lack of candor are pretty much par for the course for the Obami.

Big Labor is steamed it’s gotten nothing for all those millions: “Labor groups are furious with the Democrats they helped put in office — and are threatening to stay home this fall when Democratic incumbents will need their help fending off Republican challengers. … The so-called ‘card check’ bill that would make it easier to unionize employees has gone nowhere. A pro-union Transportation Security Administration nominee quit before he even got a confirmation vote. And even though unions got a sweetheart deal to keep their health plans tax-free under the Senate health care bill, that bill has collapsed, leaving unions exposed again.” And not even Harold Craig Becker could get confirmed.

Obama is bringing people together — Paul Krugman and Bill Kristol agree that his crony-capitalism comments on Wall Street bonuses were horridly tone-deaf. Next thing you know, Jane Hamsher and Yuval Levin will agree on ObamaCare. Oh, wait. It takes real skill to build such a broad-based coalition.

It’s something, but hardly enough: “A day after Iran said it was beginning to feed low enriched uranium through centrifuges at its Natanz pilot facility to create nuclear medical isotopes, the U.S. has announced sanctions on four engineering firms said to be controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).”

Because Nancy Pelosi never met a tax cut she could support, this will be a problem: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is praising the Senate for including a payroll tax credit in its jobs package, but it could set up a battle in his House Democratic caucus. Economic conditions are ripe for a provision that serves as an incentive for employers to expand their workforces, in Hoyer’s vies. The economy is growing again, and surveys indicate growing confidence by business.” Republicans are probably lucky that Pelosi and not Hoyer is Speaker. Hoyer actually sounds in touch with reality.

Cognitive-dissonance alert! David Brooks warms to Rep. Paul Ryan’s vision: “Government would have very few decision-making powers. Instead it would essentially redistribute money so that individuals could better secure their own welfare provision. Medicare and Social Security would essentially be turned into cash programs. The elderly would receive $11,000 a year to purchase insurance. The tax code would be radically simplified.” But Obama doesn’t believe in any of that, so … ?

First, Michael Steele. Now Gov. David Paterson is playing the race card.

It’s about time someone took it to Meghan McCain: “She’s an über-cool politics chick with lots to say of the conventional-thinking NYTimesish variety, and she’s got credulous lefties lapping up her disses of conservatives like kittens at cream bowls.” And what better way to get that attention than to diss the woman who drives liberals mad? Funny how liberal pundits whine that the former governor, who has articulated positions on a range of issues, doesn’t “know anything,” but they’re willing to spend endless hours talking to a 25-year-old who’s, well, never done anything.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus has the goods on the latest J Street scam: “In short, J Street manipulated the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia (of which I am a board member) into leasing to them space in the Hillel building for their J Street Local launch by entering into a firm agreement, and then ignoring that agreement to Hillel’s detriment. J Street’s deception made Hillel’s carefully planned and extensive pre-event efforts to soothe concerned donors, students, and others that there was no—and that it would be made very clear that there was no—connection between Hillel and J Street.”

House Democrats aid the Justice Department in stonewalling on the New Black Panther Party case: “In their bid to protect President Obama’s liberal political appointees at the Justice Department, congressional Democrats are surrendering their responsibility to keep a presidential administration honest.”

Not so much sycophantic laughter in the White House briefing room: “‘There definitely aren’t a lot of laughs around the briefing room these days,’ says Washington Examiner White House correspondent Julie Mason. ‘Robert’s little digs and evasions have lost their power to amuse — particularly since we haven’t had a presser since July. … Reporters know how close the press secretary is to the president, and yet the quality of the information we get doesn’t often reflect that.” Well, rudeness and lack of candor are pretty much par for the course for the Obami.

Big Labor is steamed it’s gotten nothing for all those millions: “Labor groups are furious with the Democrats they helped put in office — and are threatening to stay home this fall when Democratic incumbents will need their help fending off Republican challengers. … The so-called ‘card check’ bill that would make it easier to unionize employees has gone nowhere. A pro-union Transportation Security Administration nominee quit before he even got a confirmation vote. And even though unions got a sweetheart deal to keep their health plans tax-free under the Senate health care bill, that bill has collapsed, leaving unions exposed again.” And not even Harold Craig Becker could get confirmed.

Obama is bringing people together — Paul Krugman and Bill Kristol agree that his crony-capitalism comments on Wall Street bonuses were horridly tone-deaf. Next thing you know, Jane Hamsher and Yuval Levin will agree on ObamaCare. Oh, wait. It takes real skill to build such a broad-based coalition.

It’s something, but hardly enough: “A day after Iran said it was beginning to feed low enriched uranium through centrifuges at its Natanz pilot facility to create nuclear medical isotopes, the U.S. has announced sanctions on four engineering firms said to be controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).”

Because Nancy Pelosi never met a tax cut she could support, this will be a problem: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is praising the Senate for including a payroll tax credit in its jobs package, but it could set up a battle in his House Democratic caucus. Economic conditions are ripe for a provision that serves as an incentive for employers to expand their workforces, in Hoyer’s vies. The economy is growing again, and surveys indicate growing confidence by business.” Republicans are probably lucky that Pelosi and not Hoyer is Speaker. Hoyer actually sounds in touch with reality.

Cognitive-dissonance alert! David Brooks warms to Rep. Paul Ryan’s vision: “Government would have very few decision-making powers. Instead it would essentially redistribute money so that individuals could better secure their own welfare provision. Medicare and Social Security would essentially be turned into cash programs. The elderly would receive $11,000 a year to purchase insurance. The tax code would be radically simplified.” But Obama doesn’t believe in any of that, so … ?

First, Michael Steele. Now Gov. David Paterson is playing the race card.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Katie Couric will interview Obama live from the Super Bowl because we haven’t seen enough of him, and what he really needs is to communicate more with the American people. Well, that’s apparently what they think inside the White House cocoon. More cowbell!

Mickey Kaus thinks Obama’s excuse mongering about the health-care bill (“we were just about to clean those up [objections to the bill], and then Massachusetts’ election happened”) is a “stunning admission of incompetence.” So maybe the president does have a communications problem, after all. If you can’t read a calendar or follow election polls, you should keep it to yourself.

The Hill: “The House is unlikely to extend President George W. Bush’s cuts for taxpayers earning more than $250,000, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. … Allowing the tax breaks to expire at the end of the year will spark election-year criticism that Democrats are raising taxes. Congress approved the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Democrats are worried about losing seats in November’s midterm election, but Hoyer discounted the idea of his party losing seats solely because of a tax increase.” Well, he’s right — there is also all the red ink, ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the sleazy backroom dealings.

Foaming at the mouth and comparing Republicans to Hitler is not such a winning TV-ratings combination anymore. Andrew Malcolm tells us: “Olbermann’s showboat is sinking. Listing in you-know-which direction. It’s as if he thinks talking LOUDER will keep his low cell battery from dying. Worst, Olbermann’s network president, Phil Griffin, is publicly praising him, always an ominous sign in television.”

Dana Perino reminds us: “The context in which the Bush administration was operating is important. President Bush authorized detaining terrorists as enemy combatants in November 2001, two months or so after 9/11. The Shoe Bomber was arrested in December 2001, only a month after President Bush’s order. At that point, there was no system in place to handle enemy combatants. … Perhaps the more interesting context is how months after the administration announced a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group they could not meet after Abdulmutallab’s attempt because … it hadn’t even been set up yet.”

Karl Rove points out: “The budget is filled with gimmicks. For example, the president is calling for a domestic, nonsecurity, discretionary spending freeze. But that freeze doesn’t apply to a $282 billion proposed second stimulus package. It also doesn’t apply to the $519 billion that has yet to be spent from the first stimulus bill. The federal civilian work force is also not frozen. It is projected to rise to 1.43 million employees in 2010, up from 1.2 million in 2008.” And it seems that the mainstream media and the public are increasingly on to this sort of stunt. That may account for all the Democratic retirements: “Democrats are in the midst of the painful realization: Mr. Obama’s words cannot save them from the power of bad ideas.”

But Obama is telling Senate Democrats that “I think the natural political instinct is to tread lightly, keep your head down and to play it safe.” Translation: go ahead, pass ObamaCare, and join Martha Coakley, Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Chris Dodd, and Byron Dorgan. The president tells them “the answer is not to do nothing.” I think “nothing” is looking like the best of bad options for the beleaguered Senate Democrats, who are now contemplating a serious reduction in their ranks.

The gamesmanship finally ends: “Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown will be sworn in Thursday, according to Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Brown’s lawyer today asked that the election results in his state be immediately certified so that he can be sworn in right away. Initially Brown was scheduled to take office next week, but has since decided he wants to vote on upcoming nominations for solicitor general, the General Services Administration and the National Labor Relations Board.” That probably means that Harold Craig Becker’s nomination is in trouble.

Katie Couric will interview Obama live from the Super Bowl because we haven’t seen enough of him, and what he really needs is to communicate more with the American people. Well, that’s apparently what they think inside the White House cocoon. More cowbell!

Mickey Kaus thinks Obama’s excuse mongering about the health-care bill (“we were just about to clean those up [objections to the bill], and then Massachusetts’ election happened”) is a “stunning admission of incompetence.” So maybe the president does have a communications problem, after all. If you can’t read a calendar or follow election polls, you should keep it to yourself.

The Hill: “The House is unlikely to extend President George W. Bush’s cuts for taxpayers earning more than $250,000, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. … Allowing the tax breaks to expire at the end of the year will spark election-year criticism that Democrats are raising taxes. Congress approved the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Democrats are worried about losing seats in November’s midterm election, but Hoyer discounted the idea of his party losing seats solely because of a tax increase.” Well, he’s right — there is also all the red ink, ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the sleazy backroom dealings.

Foaming at the mouth and comparing Republicans to Hitler is not such a winning TV-ratings combination anymore. Andrew Malcolm tells us: “Olbermann’s showboat is sinking. Listing in you-know-which direction. It’s as if he thinks talking LOUDER will keep his low cell battery from dying. Worst, Olbermann’s network president, Phil Griffin, is publicly praising him, always an ominous sign in television.”

Dana Perino reminds us: “The context in which the Bush administration was operating is important. President Bush authorized detaining terrorists as enemy combatants in November 2001, two months or so after 9/11. The Shoe Bomber was arrested in December 2001, only a month after President Bush’s order. At that point, there was no system in place to handle enemy combatants. … Perhaps the more interesting context is how months after the administration announced a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group they could not meet after Abdulmutallab’s attempt because … it hadn’t even been set up yet.”

Karl Rove points out: “The budget is filled with gimmicks. For example, the president is calling for a domestic, nonsecurity, discretionary spending freeze. But that freeze doesn’t apply to a $282 billion proposed second stimulus package. It also doesn’t apply to the $519 billion that has yet to be spent from the first stimulus bill. The federal civilian work force is also not frozen. It is projected to rise to 1.43 million employees in 2010, up from 1.2 million in 2008.” And it seems that the mainstream media and the public are increasingly on to this sort of stunt. That may account for all the Democratic retirements: “Democrats are in the midst of the painful realization: Mr. Obama’s words cannot save them from the power of bad ideas.”

But Obama is telling Senate Democrats that “I think the natural political instinct is to tread lightly, keep your head down and to play it safe.” Translation: go ahead, pass ObamaCare, and join Martha Coakley, Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Chris Dodd, and Byron Dorgan. The president tells them “the answer is not to do nothing.” I think “nothing” is looking like the best of bad options for the beleaguered Senate Democrats, who are now contemplating a serious reduction in their ranks.

The gamesmanship finally ends: “Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown will be sworn in Thursday, according to Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Brown’s lawyer today asked that the election results in his state be immediately certified so that he can be sworn in right away. Initially Brown was scheduled to take office next week, but has since decided he wants to vote on upcoming nominations for solicitor general, the General Services Administration and the National Labor Relations Board.” That probably means that Harold Craig Becker’s nomination is in trouble.

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Re: This Would Certainly Be Hope ‘N Change

It is becoming the week for bipartisan foreign policy. We saw a group of Democratic and Republican senators call for the Christmas Day bomber to be treated as an enemy combatant. We saw the 9/11 commission chiefs call for a reexamination of our handling of terrorists. Now a large bipartsian group is demanding those “crippling sanctions” on Iran. Senators Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), John McCain (R-Arizona), Robert Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and David Vitter (R-Louisiana) sent a letter to the president calling for him to abide by his own one-year deadline on diplomacy and impose real pressure on the Iranian regime. The letter reads in part:

We believe that it is extremely important for the world to know that the United States means what it says, and that we in fact do what we say we are going to do. As you rightly stated in your Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, “If we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price.”

We understand that your Administration is likely to pursue a fifth sanctions resolution at the United Nations Security Council. We strongly support your Administration’s painstaking diplomacy in support of this goal and hope that it succeeds in securing measures that stand a reasonable chance of changing the behavior of Iran’s government for the better. However, based on previous experience, we are acutely aware of the limits of Security Council action, in particular given the likely resistance to meaningful sanctions by the People’s Republic of China. We note with dismay the recent statement of China’s ambassador to the United Nations that, “This is not the right time or right moment for sanctions, because the diplomatic efforts are still going on.”

The senators urge Obama to “pursue parallel and complementary measures, outside the Security Council, to increase the pressure on the Iranian government.” They note that the president already has authority to do so under existing law, and that the senators “are also committed to quickly passing new comprehensive sanctions legislation in Congress that will provide you with additional authorities to pressure Iran, and urge you to make full use of them.”

Once again, it seems Obama is trailing, not leading. There is a bipartisan consensus to at least extract ourselves from the morass of engagement. One wonders what alternative course of action Obama really believes there is. Do pin-prick sanctions focused supposedly on only certain elements within the Iranian regime offer any realistic hope of success? Or is Obama edging closer to a containment strategy, in which meaningful sanctions and military action are ruled out, leaving only the option of living with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state? We will find out soon enough whether Obama intends to go down in history as the American president who allowed such a regime to go nuclear. In the meantime, these lawmakers would do well to keep up the drumbeat. I suspect it will have to get very loud before the administration acts.

It is becoming the week for bipartisan foreign policy. We saw a group of Democratic and Republican senators call for the Christmas Day bomber to be treated as an enemy combatant. We saw the 9/11 commission chiefs call for a reexamination of our handling of terrorists. Now a large bipartsian group is demanding those “crippling sanctions” on Iran. Senators Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), John McCain (R-Arizona), Robert Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and David Vitter (R-Louisiana) sent a letter to the president calling for him to abide by his own one-year deadline on diplomacy and impose real pressure on the Iranian regime. The letter reads in part:

We believe that it is extremely important for the world to know that the United States means what it says, and that we in fact do what we say we are going to do. As you rightly stated in your Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, “If we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price.”

We understand that your Administration is likely to pursue a fifth sanctions resolution at the United Nations Security Council. We strongly support your Administration’s painstaking diplomacy in support of this goal and hope that it succeeds in securing measures that stand a reasonable chance of changing the behavior of Iran’s government for the better. However, based on previous experience, we are acutely aware of the limits of Security Council action, in particular given the likely resistance to meaningful sanctions by the People’s Republic of China. We note with dismay the recent statement of China’s ambassador to the United Nations that, “This is not the right time or right moment for sanctions, because the diplomatic efforts are still going on.”

The senators urge Obama to “pursue parallel and complementary measures, outside the Security Council, to increase the pressure on the Iranian government.” They note that the president already has authority to do so under existing law, and that the senators “are also committed to quickly passing new comprehensive sanctions legislation in Congress that will provide you with additional authorities to pressure Iran, and urge you to make full use of them.”

Once again, it seems Obama is trailing, not leading. There is a bipartisan consensus to at least extract ourselves from the morass of engagement. One wonders what alternative course of action Obama really believes there is. Do pin-prick sanctions focused supposedly on only certain elements within the Iranian regime offer any realistic hope of success? Or is Obama edging closer to a containment strategy, in which meaningful sanctions and military action are ruled out, leaving only the option of living with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state? We will find out soon enough whether Obama intends to go down in history as the American president who allowed such a regime to go nuclear. In the meantime, these lawmakers would do well to keep up the drumbeat. I suspect it will have to get very loud before the administration acts.

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The Unraveling

As this report explains, the Obama coalition — made up of diverse groups with conflicting understandings of what he was all about — may be unraveling. There is the “specifically eroding support among young voters and independents — in part because of the president’s economic agenda.” Well, these groups and others have reason to be put off by Obamaism and the Democrats in Congress who have been enabling the lurch to the Left.

With unemployment sky-high among young workers and the prospect of a new mandate to buy health insurance they don’t want and can’t afford, younger voters (who aren’t inclined to turn out in off-year elections anyway) may stand on the sidelines in 2010. In August Michael Barone detailed the anti-youth aspects of Obama’s agenda, noting that even Obama’s cynical foreign policy and indifference to human-rights and democracy promotion don’t offer much for those who bought into the hope-n-change routine:

That leads me to wonder whether you were dismayed when Obama responded with stony indifference to the people in the streets of Iran protesting a fraudulent election and demanding freedom and democracy. Some called for the end of a regime that subordinates women and executes homosexuals, things I’m sure you don’t like at all. Although Obama eventually indicated some sympathy, he seemed to regard those demands as a nuisance getting in the way of negotiating with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs.

Independents seem to be souring on Obamaism — huge spending, nasty partisanship, and massive debt. Then there are wealthy voters who are discovering just how expensive Obama’s economic agenda might be. In June the Wall Street Journal reported:

Recently elected Democrats from higher-income areas also have been cautious about legislation that would make it easier for labor unions to organize, and about legislation imposing tough new rules on banks. Republicans have savaged the new Democrats for supporting legislation to stem global warming by capping greenhouse-gas emissions, then forcing polluters to purchase and trade emissions.

The real kicker will be the Democrats’ insistence on a massive tax hike — allowing the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire. Combined with health-care taxes, marginal rates on the wealthy may return to pre-Reagan-tax-cut levels. That will be quite a wake-up call for the professional class that supported Obama in great numbers. Congressmen are not unaware of this:

“They’re just hanging themselves,” says Republican Rep. Sam Graves, who last year beat back a spirited challenge in his northwestern Missouri district, which includes suburban Kansas City, and said he is looking forward to a race on taxes in 2010.

The tax issue is presenting many new Democrats with a quandary as they struggle to get their political footing. “These members are going to have to make their own determinations on how to balance these interests,” said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and himself a representative of the affluent suburbs of Washington.

And finally, the Left is now miffed at Obama for failing to live up to netroots’ fondest dreams. They haven’t gotten gay marriage, a pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan, or repeal of the Patriot Act. They are grumbling that insufficient progress has been made on their extreme environmental agenda.

In sum, Obama is losing factions of his political coalition in record speed as these groups learn what his agenda is all about. His Democratic allies are likely to bear the brunt of that in 2010 — at a time when the economy has not yet recovered and unemployment is still high. This is why 2010 may, in fact, be a “wave” election and a bracing wake-up call for the White House.

As this report explains, the Obama coalition — made up of diverse groups with conflicting understandings of what he was all about — may be unraveling. There is the “specifically eroding support among young voters and independents — in part because of the president’s economic agenda.” Well, these groups and others have reason to be put off by Obamaism and the Democrats in Congress who have been enabling the lurch to the Left.

With unemployment sky-high among young workers and the prospect of a new mandate to buy health insurance they don’t want and can’t afford, younger voters (who aren’t inclined to turn out in off-year elections anyway) may stand on the sidelines in 2010. In August Michael Barone detailed the anti-youth aspects of Obama’s agenda, noting that even Obama’s cynical foreign policy and indifference to human-rights and democracy promotion don’t offer much for those who bought into the hope-n-change routine:

That leads me to wonder whether you were dismayed when Obama responded with stony indifference to the people in the streets of Iran protesting a fraudulent election and demanding freedom and democracy. Some called for the end of a regime that subordinates women and executes homosexuals, things I’m sure you don’t like at all. Although Obama eventually indicated some sympathy, he seemed to regard those demands as a nuisance getting in the way of negotiating with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs.

Independents seem to be souring on Obamaism — huge spending, nasty partisanship, and massive debt. Then there are wealthy voters who are discovering just how expensive Obama’s economic agenda might be. In June the Wall Street Journal reported:

Recently elected Democrats from higher-income areas also have been cautious about legislation that would make it easier for labor unions to organize, and about legislation imposing tough new rules on banks. Republicans have savaged the new Democrats for supporting legislation to stem global warming by capping greenhouse-gas emissions, then forcing polluters to purchase and trade emissions.

The real kicker will be the Democrats’ insistence on a massive tax hike — allowing the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire. Combined with health-care taxes, marginal rates on the wealthy may return to pre-Reagan-tax-cut levels. That will be quite a wake-up call for the professional class that supported Obama in great numbers. Congressmen are not unaware of this:

“They’re just hanging themselves,” says Republican Rep. Sam Graves, who last year beat back a spirited challenge in his northwestern Missouri district, which includes suburban Kansas City, and said he is looking forward to a race on taxes in 2010.

The tax issue is presenting many new Democrats with a quandary as they struggle to get their political footing. “These members are going to have to make their own determinations on how to balance these interests,” said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and himself a representative of the affluent suburbs of Washington.

And finally, the Left is now miffed at Obama for failing to live up to netroots’ fondest dreams. They haven’t gotten gay marriage, a pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan, or repeal of the Patriot Act. They are grumbling that insufficient progress has been made on their extreme environmental agenda.

In sum, Obama is losing factions of his political coalition in record speed as these groups learn what his agenda is all about. His Democratic allies are likely to bear the brunt of that in 2010 — at a time when the economy has not yet recovered and unemployment is still high. This is why 2010 may, in fact, be a “wave” election and a bracing wake-up call for the White House.

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Blah Blah Blah with Bush

I would like readers to know that my skepticism about Bush’s present visit to Jerusalem does not stem from resentment for the traffic snarls that threaten my peace-seeking efforts to drive my kids to school on time. Nor does it come from the kitsch that flowed from the Israel Convention Center last night, as two childrens’ choirs, one on site and the other in Maryland, celebrated the Israel-U.S. alliance in the presence of world leaders by unfathomably and simultaneously singing the Beatles’ Let it Be and Naomi Shemer’s Lu Yehi, which was written after the 1973 war in conscious echoing of the Liverpudlians’ swan song.

I sometimes wish that international politics were less, er, full of it. When you hear Olmert declaring significant progress being made in talks with Palestinians and a bewildered Saeb Erekat responding that he has no idea what Olmert’s talking about, and you find yourself believing the Palestinians, then you know what I mean. Or when Bush describes Olmert as “an honest man,” something that virtually no Israeli believes any more. Or when Israeli leaders respond to yesterday’s rocket attack on an Ashkelon shopping mall (it was an Iranian-made rocket, for those of you keeping score), which injured dozens, by declaring yet again that Israel will not stand idly by while blah blah blah . . . Perhaps I should just stop reading the stuff and go back to comics.

There is, of course, a good reason why international politics is so often a swamp of dissimulation. (It’s not diplomatic to use the word “lies.”) It is because politicians are accountable to people back home, and the farther away something is, the harder it is for the real bosses — the voters — to tell truth from fiction. Who among Bush’s voters really cares, or really knows, whether Olmert is an honest guy? Back home, it makes Bush look like a generous spirit; over here, it makes him look complicit in the deterioration of politics and the loss of values in the Jewish state.

Oh, well. Israelis, for their part, have grown numb to the whole thing. They’re busy as usual, dealing with casualties and trying to put their elected officials behind bars.

I would like readers to know that my skepticism about Bush’s present visit to Jerusalem does not stem from resentment for the traffic snarls that threaten my peace-seeking efforts to drive my kids to school on time. Nor does it come from the kitsch that flowed from the Israel Convention Center last night, as two childrens’ choirs, one on site and the other in Maryland, celebrated the Israel-U.S. alliance in the presence of world leaders by unfathomably and simultaneously singing the Beatles’ Let it Be and Naomi Shemer’s Lu Yehi, which was written after the 1973 war in conscious echoing of the Liverpudlians’ swan song.

I sometimes wish that international politics were less, er, full of it. When you hear Olmert declaring significant progress being made in talks with Palestinians and a bewildered Saeb Erekat responding that he has no idea what Olmert’s talking about, and you find yourself believing the Palestinians, then you know what I mean. Or when Bush describes Olmert as “an honest man,” something that virtually no Israeli believes any more. Or when Israeli leaders respond to yesterday’s rocket attack on an Ashkelon shopping mall (it was an Iranian-made rocket, for those of you keeping score), which injured dozens, by declaring yet again that Israel will not stand idly by while blah blah blah . . . Perhaps I should just stop reading the stuff and go back to comics.

There is, of course, a good reason why international politics is so often a swamp of dissimulation. (It’s not diplomatic to use the word “lies.”) It is because politicians are accountable to people back home, and the farther away something is, the harder it is for the real bosses — the voters — to tell truth from fiction. Who among Bush’s voters really cares, or really knows, whether Olmert is an honest guy? Back home, it makes Bush look like a generous spirit; over here, it makes him look complicit in the deterioration of politics and the loss of values in the Jewish state.

Oh, well. Israelis, for their part, have grown numb to the whole thing. They’re busy as usual, dealing with casualties and trying to put their elected officials behind bars.

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That Must Have Been One Fun Car Ride for the Daughter

Hanna Rosin, writing on Slate’s XX Factor blog (yes, it’s Politics for Women Only) yesterday, after Obama’s victories in Maryland and Virginia and Hillary Clinton’s “I’m-not-listening-la-la-la” campaign rally in Texas:

Last night, despite the hoarse, bordering-on-Howard-Dean-breakdown speech, I felt a wave of gratitude toward Hillary. …And this morning I found myself giving my daughter a spontaneous what-we-owe-Hillary speech on the way to school.

What we owe Hillary?

Never, perhaps, have the invention of the IPod and the headphone seemed quite so sensible.

Hanna Rosin, writing on Slate’s XX Factor blog (yes, it’s Politics for Women Only) yesterday, after Obama’s victories in Maryland and Virginia and Hillary Clinton’s “I’m-not-listening-la-la-la” campaign rally in Texas:

Last night, despite the hoarse, bordering-on-Howard-Dean-breakdown speech, I felt a wave of gratitude toward Hillary. …And this morning I found myself giving my daughter a spontaneous what-we-owe-Hillary speech on the way to school.

What we owe Hillary?

Never, perhaps, have the invention of the IPod and the headphone seemed quite so sensible.

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The Great Uniters

The Clintons are indeed the great uniters. Consider the variety of Americans who’ve come together in response to the words and deeds of Bill and Hillary:

In Nevada, blacks turned on them. In Virginia, Hispanics, white males, women, and older voters decided they had enough, too. In Maryland, the unity was evidenced as well and Democrats across all social and economic strata made their common cause known.

I daresay the U.S. hasn’t seen such singularity of purpose since being attacked over six years ago. These disparate Americans have in some sense responded to Bill’s Harlem office, Hillary’s black southern accent, Hillary’s Hispanic Nevada strategy, and the like: They’ve walked away en masse from the Clinton identity shell game. In so doing they have ushered in a new age of American politics defined by voters who actually vote beyond considerations of race, creed, and gender.

So, in fact the Clintons have done an historical service to the cause of bridging demographic divides. Not—as they’d have it—because Bill sets up shop in Harlem, or because Hillary jams three black people into the front row of events, or because she claims to have “found her voice,” or because Bill was “the first black president,” but because Democrats of all stripes have agreed that they’re sick of the pandering and manipulation. Bill and Hillary have managed to close the gender gap, the generation gap, the wealth gap, and the racial divide. Like all great figures, their contribution has come at great personal cost. Let’s hope the two of them can find some measure of peace with the magnitude of their success.

The Clintons are indeed the great uniters. Consider the variety of Americans who’ve come together in response to the words and deeds of Bill and Hillary:

In Nevada, blacks turned on them. In Virginia, Hispanics, white males, women, and older voters decided they had enough, too. In Maryland, the unity was evidenced as well and Democrats across all social and economic strata made their common cause known.

I daresay the U.S. hasn’t seen such singularity of purpose since being attacked over six years ago. These disparate Americans have in some sense responded to Bill’s Harlem office, Hillary’s black southern accent, Hillary’s Hispanic Nevada strategy, and the like: They’ve walked away en masse from the Clinton identity shell game. In so doing they have ushered in a new age of American politics defined by voters who actually vote beyond considerations of race, creed, and gender.

So, in fact the Clintons have done an historical service to the cause of bridging demographic divides. Not—as they’d have it—because Bill sets up shop in Harlem, or because Hillary jams three black people into the front row of events, or because she claims to have “found her voice,” or because Bill was “the first black president,” but because Democrats of all stripes have agreed that they’re sick of the pandering and manipulation. Bill and Hillary have managed to close the gender gap, the generation gap, the wealth gap, and the racial divide. Like all great figures, their contribution has come at great personal cost. Let’s hope the two of them can find some measure of peace with the magnitude of their success.

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Saturday Votes

In voting today, Mike Huckabee won big with nearly 60% of the vote in the Kansas caucus. Huckabee barnstormed yesterday; John McCain did not campaign there. In early returns, McCain also is trailing Huckabee in Louisiana and, remarkably, in Washington as well, where it appears that very few votes are being cast. (There was an issue in which thosuands of ballots were invalidated due to voters’ failure to sign the ballot “oath” identifying themselves as either Democrat or Republican.) 
                                                                                                                              In the CPAC the straw poll, 24% of which occurred before Mitt Romney dropped out, McCain came in a point behind Romney (34-35%) while Mike Huckabee took 12%.(Once Romney dropped out McCain led in the straw poll voting 37%-32%.) McCain is likely pleased that  the result wasn’t far worse from a group in which 57% believe we should withdraw from the U.N. and 80% back a policy which says we should follow existing laws even if it means deporting illegal aliens. Looking ahead to Tuesday, McCain has 30+ point leads in Maryland and Virginia. It seems that, despite a poor Saturday showing, he is on track to reach his magic delegate number of 1191.

 

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Barack Obama won big in Nebraska, Washington and Louisiana. In both Red and Blue states he is racking up impressive wins. Once again, the saving grace for Hillary Clinton is the proportional voting system. Nevertheless, the ground may be shifting and Obama may lead in the delegate count after Tuesday. (He leads in Virginia and Maryland by 20 points.) It could be that the Democratic race has reached its tipping point.

UPDATE: Huckabee edged out McCain 43% to 42% in Louisiana. (Since neither candidate got 50% of the vote, no one receives the delegates that were at stake.) In Washington with 83% of the vote counted, McCain holds a narrow lead. McCain will no doubt hope to get back on track with Tuesday’s primaries.

In voting today, Mike Huckabee won big with nearly 60% of the vote in the Kansas caucus. Huckabee barnstormed yesterday; John McCain did not campaign there. In early returns, McCain also is trailing Huckabee in Louisiana and, remarkably, in Washington as well, where it appears that very few votes are being cast. (There was an issue in which thosuands of ballots were invalidated due to voters’ failure to sign the ballot “oath” identifying themselves as either Democrat or Republican.) 
                                                                                                                              In the CPAC the straw poll, 24% of which occurred before Mitt Romney dropped out, McCain came in a point behind Romney (34-35%) while Mike Huckabee took 12%.(Once Romney dropped out McCain led in the straw poll voting 37%-32%.) McCain is likely pleased that  the result wasn’t far worse from a group in which 57% believe we should withdraw from the U.N. and 80% back a policy which says we should follow existing laws even if it means deporting illegal aliens. Looking ahead to Tuesday, McCain has 30+ point leads in Maryland and Virginia. It seems that, despite a poor Saturday showing, he is on track to reach his magic delegate number of 1191.

 

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Barack Obama won big in Nebraska, Washington and Louisiana. In both Red and Blue states he is racking up impressive wins. Once again, the saving grace for Hillary Clinton is the proportional voting system. Nevertheless, the ground may be shifting and Obama may lead in the delegate count after Tuesday. (He leads in Virginia and Maryland by 20 points.) It could be that the Democratic race has reached its tipping point.

UPDATE: Huckabee edged out McCain 43% to 42% in Louisiana. (Since neither candidate got 50% of the vote, no one receives the delegates that were at stake.) In Washington with 83% of the vote counted, McCain holds a narrow lead. McCain will no doubt hope to get back on track with Tuesday’s primaries.

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Re: Setting the Bar Low

The best thing going for Hillary Clinton may be the proportional voting system. Without it the next few days might be rough. Barack Obama does have a batch of friendly states ahead. Next Tuesday offers three opportunities for him. In Virginia scant pollling shows him in the lead. (The combination of African Americans in the Richmond area and upscale professionals in northern Virginia seems ideally suited for him.) He also is expected to do well in Maryland and D.C., with large numbers of large African American voters.

Moreover, he is expected to head into Tuesday with a head of steam. On Saturday he has a caucus in Washington, where he again is polling well and received the endorsement of Governor Christine Gregoire. He also stands to do well in the Louisiana primary(again, with a significant African American electorate) and in the Nebraska caucus (where, if the Red state caucus contests on Super Tuesday are any guide, he will win). The one bright spot for Clinton may be Sunday’s caucus in Maine where Bill has campaigned and she has the governor on her side. (But, yes, Maine did not do too much for Mitt Romney.)

In short, Obama trails Clinton by 70 delegates today, but after this weekend’s 228 delegates and Tuesday’s 238 delegates are tallied, he will likely be in the lead. Once again, the proportional voting system will keep the total delegate count close, but in four days expect to hear that Clinton is now the “underdog.” (And matters will not get easier for her when they head to Wisconsin on February 19 and Obama’s “Yes we can” cheer will resonate well in the land of La Follette.) With that new status she may be the “scrappy fighter” or the “fading star,” depending on the media spin.

The best thing going for Hillary Clinton may be the proportional voting system. Without it the next few days might be rough. Barack Obama does have a batch of friendly states ahead. Next Tuesday offers three opportunities for him. In Virginia scant pollling shows him in the lead. (The combination of African Americans in the Richmond area and upscale professionals in northern Virginia seems ideally suited for him.) He also is expected to do well in Maryland and D.C., with large numbers of large African American voters.

Moreover, he is expected to head into Tuesday with a head of steam. On Saturday he has a caucus in Washington, where he again is polling well and received the endorsement of Governor Christine Gregoire. He also stands to do well in the Louisiana primary(again, with a significant African American electorate) and in the Nebraska caucus (where, if the Red state caucus contests on Super Tuesday are any guide, he will win). The one bright spot for Clinton may be Sunday’s caucus in Maine where Bill has campaigned and she has the governor on her side. (But, yes, Maine did not do too much for Mitt Romney.)

In short, Obama trails Clinton by 70 delegates today, but after this weekend’s 228 delegates and Tuesday’s 238 delegates are tallied, he will likely be in the lead. Once again, the proportional voting system will keep the total delegate count close, but in four days expect to hear that Clinton is now the “underdog.” (And matters will not get easier for her when they head to Wisconsin on February 19 and Obama’s “Yes we can” cheer will resonate well in the land of La Follette.) With that new status she may be the “scrappy fighter” or the “fading star,” depending on the media spin.

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