Commentary Magazine


Topic: Massachusetts senate

Bay State Senate Race Once Again on National Stage

In September, after the first Senate debate between Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown and his liberal challenger Elizabeth Warren, I criticized Warren’s decision to nationalize the race. In the debate, Brown—a local Bay Stater who sounds the part and speaks with fluency about local issues–repeatedly offered answers to questions that showed his moderate, bipartisan streak and his insistence on voting as he believes Massachusetts voters would want him to. Warren, on the other hand, kept referring to what the U.S. Senate would be like if Republicans won back the majority.

But Warren seems intent on proving such criticism wrong. She has now wagered the entire campaign on this gamble. As the race nears its end Warren has given up on trying to portray Brown as a Tea Partier and instead paints a picture of what has to be a dystopian future in the minds of northeastern liberals. Here is Warren’s closing argument, per her TV ad (followed by the transcript):

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In September, after the first Senate debate between Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown and his liberal challenger Elizabeth Warren, I criticized Warren’s decision to nationalize the race. In the debate, Brown—a local Bay Stater who sounds the part and speaks with fluency about local issues–repeatedly offered answers to questions that showed his moderate, bipartisan streak and his insistence on voting as he believes Massachusetts voters would want him to. Warren, on the other hand, kept referring to what the U.S. Senate would be like if Republicans won back the majority.

But Warren seems intent on proving such criticism wrong. She has now wagered the entire campaign on this gamble. As the race nears its end Warren has given up on trying to portray Brown as a Tea Partier and instead paints a picture of what has to be a dystopian future in the minds of northeastern liberals. Here is Warren’s closing argument, per her TV ad (followed by the transcript):

Just one vote, just one senator, could put Republicans in control of the United States Senate. Scott Brown could be that senator. What would republican control mean? Deep cuts in education, Medicare; new tax breaks for millionaires; the next Supreme Court justice could overturn Roe v. Wade. One vote could make the difference–your vote, against a Republican Senate; your vote for Elizabeth Warren.

And this is the ad (and transcript) Brown is currently playing:

The coal company had moved on, but they didn’t just leave buildings behind. LTV Steel went to court to avoid paying health benefits it promised to retired coal miners. The corporation’s hired gun was Elizabeth Warren. Warren sided with yet another big corporation against working people. First, asbestos victims; now, she worked against coal miners. Elizabeth Warren’s just not who she says she is.

Though I’ve long thought that talking over the heads of Massachusetts voters would harm Warren’s campaign, there is an argument to make that she was left with no choice. Elections like this are often like a chess match: the player who moves first has an advantage in setting the tempo, and controlling the center often gives the player who does so the best chance at winning. As the incumbent, Brown set the tempo by putting his record out there and challenging his opponent to compete within those parameters.

And his moderate record has won control of the center, forcing Warren to his left. But Massachusetts is such an overwhelmingly Democratic state that there are quite a lot of votes left of center. And Brown’s record is popular—even in a blue state, his approval rating is above water. So she can’t run against his record, but must use him as a proxy for his national party.

The ironic aspect to all this is that Brown did something similar when he ran in the 2010 special election to replace Ted Kennedy. Obamacare was on the march and the Democrats thought they needed 60 votes in the Senate to pass it. Since the bill was unpopular in Massachusetts as elsewhere, Brown ran as the 41st vote against Obamacare, and won. Warren is trying to turn the tables on him by re-nationalizing the race, and telling voters that far from being the 41st Republican in the Senate, Brown might actually be the 51st, giving the GOP the majority.

Since voters are usually averse to any approach that involves minimizing their local issues in favor of overarching culture wars, such a strategy often fails. But Warren is betting that a state that voted in an anti-national-healthcare Republican to succeed Ted Kennedy has another surprise in it this year.

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Couldn’t Happen to a More Deserving Guy

The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows that Joe Sestak is closing in fast on Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania.

A month ago, Specter was ahead by 53-32. In the latest poll his lead has shrunk to only 47-39, with two weeks to go. This, of course, is the sort of momentum that Scott Brown showed in the closing days of the Massachusetts senate race four months ago.  Specter is the veritable poster child of all that is wrong with Washington. He is a long-time incumbent (first elected to the Senate in 1980) and seems devoid of any political principle beyond getting elected and reelected.

He has switched parties twice for precisely that reason. (To be sure, Winston Churchill switched parties twice also, but he crossed the aisle the first time because he agreed with the Liberal agenda more than with that of the Conservatives and he switched back 20 years later when the Liberals were heading, quickly, toward political oblivion).

If Sestak knocks off Specter, there won’t be a tear shed outside of Specter’s own bedroom, and it will be one more indication that November could be a lot of fun.

The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows that Joe Sestak is closing in fast on Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania.

A month ago, Specter was ahead by 53-32. In the latest poll his lead has shrunk to only 47-39, with two weeks to go. This, of course, is the sort of momentum that Scott Brown showed in the closing days of the Massachusetts senate race four months ago.  Specter is the veritable poster child of all that is wrong with Washington. He is a long-time incumbent (first elected to the Senate in 1980) and seems devoid of any political principle beyond getting elected and reelected.

He has switched parties twice for precisely that reason. (To be sure, Winston Churchill switched parties twice also, but he crossed the aisle the first time because he agreed with the Liberal agenda more than with that of the Conservatives and he switched back 20 years later when the Liberals were heading, quickly, toward political oblivion).

If Sestak knocks off Specter, there won’t be a tear shed outside of Specter’s own bedroom, and it will be one more indication that November could be a lot of fun.

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Why Doesn’t Obama “Panic” About Iran?

We are told there is a “little bit of panic” in the White House over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. White House flacks worry it threatens Obama’s aura of competence (if one supposes that sky-high unemployment, the loss of key gubernatorial races and the Massachusetts Senate seat, the gaping deficit, and his sagging poll numbers haven’t already scuffed it up). Politico reports:

“There is no good answer to this,” one senior administration official said. “There is no readily apparent solution besides one that could take three months. … If it doesn’t show the impotence of the government, it shows the limits of the government.”

Hope and change was Obama’s headline message in 2008, but those atop his campaign have always said that it was Obama’s cool competence — exemplified by his level-headed handling of the financial meltdown during the campaign’s waning days — that sealed the deal with independents and skeptical Democrats. The promise of rational, responsive and efficient government is Obama’s brand, his justification for bigger and bolder federal interventions and, ultimately, his rationale for a second term.

I suppose there are symbolic moments that provide a tipping point, but have the reporters not noticed that those bigger and bolder federal interventions are what is driving down his and the Democrats’ popularity? The panic, I think, is indicative not of the magnitude of the issue or the reaction of the public (Does a majority of the public really blame Obama for the oil spill?) but instead of the obsession of this administration (and its media handmaidens) with spin, image, and communication as the answer to every challenge Obama faces. (“‘They weren’t slow on the response; they were slow on talking about it,’ an outside White House adviser said.”)

What is interesting is what isn’t panicking the White House. The “we have no plan” Iran memo from Robert Gates doesn’t panic them. SCUD missiles in Syria only engenders “deep concern.” Sky-high unemployment figures with little prospect of robust job creation? Yawn.

And it’s equally interesting what sort of villian gets the administration’s attention: “At the same time, they’ve identified a villain — BP — with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying he’d keep a ‘boot on the neck’ of the company to ensure it would pay for and toil over a cleanup of historic proportions.” An exasperated reader emails me: “Will we hear Robert Gibbs say, ‘ We will keep the boot on the neck of the Iranian nuclear program’”? Uh, no.

In sum, the oil spill is an illuminating event — in large part because it stands in contrast to the more serious threats and the lackadaisical attitude this administration demonstrates toward everything that doesn’t threaten the president’s image and political standing. But here’s the thing: what’s going to happen to that aura of competence when the mullahs get a nuclear weapon? Ah, now that will be a communications problem.

We are told there is a “little bit of panic” in the White House over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. White House flacks worry it threatens Obama’s aura of competence (if one supposes that sky-high unemployment, the loss of key gubernatorial races and the Massachusetts Senate seat, the gaping deficit, and his sagging poll numbers haven’t already scuffed it up). Politico reports:

“There is no good answer to this,” one senior administration official said. “There is no readily apparent solution besides one that could take three months. … If it doesn’t show the impotence of the government, it shows the limits of the government.”

Hope and change was Obama’s headline message in 2008, but those atop his campaign have always said that it was Obama’s cool competence — exemplified by his level-headed handling of the financial meltdown during the campaign’s waning days — that sealed the deal with independents and skeptical Democrats. The promise of rational, responsive and efficient government is Obama’s brand, his justification for bigger and bolder federal interventions and, ultimately, his rationale for a second term.

I suppose there are symbolic moments that provide a tipping point, but have the reporters not noticed that those bigger and bolder federal interventions are what is driving down his and the Democrats’ popularity? The panic, I think, is indicative not of the magnitude of the issue or the reaction of the public (Does a majority of the public really blame Obama for the oil spill?) but instead of the obsession of this administration (and its media handmaidens) with spin, image, and communication as the answer to every challenge Obama faces. (“‘They weren’t slow on the response; they were slow on talking about it,’ an outside White House adviser said.”)

What is interesting is what isn’t panicking the White House. The “we have no plan” Iran memo from Robert Gates doesn’t panic them. SCUD missiles in Syria only engenders “deep concern.” Sky-high unemployment figures with little prospect of robust job creation? Yawn.

And it’s equally interesting what sort of villian gets the administration’s attention: “At the same time, they’ve identified a villain — BP — with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying he’d keep a ‘boot on the neck’ of the company to ensure it would pay for and toil over a cleanup of historic proportions.” An exasperated reader emails me: “Will we hear Robert Gibbs say, ‘ We will keep the boot on the neck of the Iranian nuclear program’”? Uh, no.

In sum, the oil spill is an illuminating event — in large part because it stands in contrast to the more serious threats and the lackadaisical attitude this administration demonstrates toward everything that doesn’t threaten the president’s image and political standing. But here’s the thing: what’s going to happen to that aura of competence when the mullahs get a nuclear weapon? Ah, now that will be a communications problem.

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Is the Connecticut Senate Front-runner “Martha Coakley in Pants”?

If there were any Senate seat up for election this fall that was considered completely safe for the Democrats, it appeared to be the one that Chris Dodd is vacating in Connecticut. While the scandal-plagued Dodd looked vulnerable to any Republican challenger, once he promised not to run and Richard Blumenthal, the Nutmeg State’s popular attorney general, threw his hat into the ring, there seemed no doubt the Democrats would hold on to the seat.

Little attention has been paid to this race since Dodd’s withdrawal. But, according to the New York Times, perhaps Blumenthal isn’t quite as much of a shoo-in as expected. He still has a double-digit lead in all the polls but, as the surprisingly unsympathetic feature in the Times shows, the Democratic front-runner isn’t doing as well as expected. According to the article, Blumenthal “flopped” in a debate against an obscure primary rival and has now categorically ruled out any other such confrontations. As the Times tells it:

He appears almost incapable of offering concise answers to even the most predictable questions, like why he is running for the Senate. And his reliance on prosecutorial parlance and legal arcana has raised unflattering comparisons to another attorney general in a Senate race who seemed a sure winner only to lose in spectacular fashion. Some Democrats are calling him “Martha Coakley in pants,” referring to the candidate who lost the Massachusetts Senate election in January.

The Times puts most of the problems down to the 64-year-old candidate’s inexperience in dealing with competitive politics. Though he has won five consecutive statewide elections for his current office, the last time he faced serious opposition was in 1990. Though always rumored to be interested in various other offices (as one Democratic bigwig told me in the mid-1990s when I was working as a journalist in the state, “There’s nothing that guy doesn’t want to be”), Blumenthal always found a reason not to run. What quickly emerged was that while he longed to be a senator or a governor, he wasn’t willing to fight for it. It was only when Dodd ended his re-election bid earlier this year that Blumenthal figured he could safely glide into a higher-ranking job without getting his neatly combed hair mussed up. But as the Times piece shows, it isn’t proving to be as easy as he thought.

Along with describing this former athlete’s physique in terms that are hardly flattering — “at 5-foot-11 and a gaunt 155 pounds, [Blumenthal] wears his dark suits like a wire hanger” — the story detailed the would-be senator’s awkward “Rip Van Winkle” campaign as he hemmed and hawed his way through a litany of bland and confused responses to questions about his positions. Moreover, his 20 years as attorney general, in which he often aped the Elliot Spitzer pattern of attacking private businesses, may also now come back to haunt him as his former victims surface with tales of misleading and false prosecutions.

The point is, the former wunderkind of Connecticut politics — he was appointed a U.S. attorney at age 31 — may no longer be ready for prime time. Given the overwhelming advantage the Democrats have in registration in the state and Blumenthal’s personal popularity, it’s hard to believe that the seat is really in play. Yet with a spirited and well-funded Republican challenge certain to come from professional-wrestling mogul Linda McMahon, the state may find out whether, as Gov. Jodi Rell said in 2006, Blumenthal is a candidate with a “glass jaw.” McMahon may be no Scott Brown, but so far, Blumenthal is giving every indication that the comparisons with his Massachusetts counterpart Coakley are completely not off base. If 2010 turns out to be a “wave” election in which even the safest Democrats are swept out in an anti-Obama landslide, Blumenthal may be in for a far tougher ride than he ever imagined.

If there were any Senate seat up for election this fall that was considered completely safe for the Democrats, it appeared to be the one that Chris Dodd is vacating in Connecticut. While the scandal-plagued Dodd looked vulnerable to any Republican challenger, once he promised not to run and Richard Blumenthal, the Nutmeg State’s popular attorney general, threw his hat into the ring, there seemed no doubt the Democrats would hold on to the seat.

Little attention has been paid to this race since Dodd’s withdrawal. But, according to the New York Times, perhaps Blumenthal isn’t quite as much of a shoo-in as expected. He still has a double-digit lead in all the polls but, as the surprisingly unsympathetic feature in the Times shows, the Democratic front-runner isn’t doing as well as expected. According to the article, Blumenthal “flopped” in a debate against an obscure primary rival and has now categorically ruled out any other such confrontations. As the Times tells it:

He appears almost incapable of offering concise answers to even the most predictable questions, like why he is running for the Senate. And his reliance on prosecutorial parlance and legal arcana has raised unflattering comparisons to another attorney general in a Senate race who seemed a sure winner only to lose in spectacular fashion. Some Democrats are calling him “Martha Coakley in pants,” referring to the candidate who lost the Massachusetts Senate election in January.

The Times puts most of the problems down to the 64-year-old candidate’s inexperience in dealing with competitive politics. Though he has won five consecutive statewide elections for his current office, the last time he faced serious opposition was in 1990. Though always rumored to be interested in various other offices (as one Democratic bigwig told me in the mid-1990s when I was working as a journalist in the state, “There’s nothing that guy doesn’t want to be”), Blumenthal always found a reason not to run. What quickly emerged was that while he longed to be a senator or a governor, he wasn’t willing to fight for it. It was only when Dodd ended his re-election bid earlier this year that Blumenthal figured he could safely glide into a higher-ranking job without getting his neatly combed hair mussed up. But as the Times piece shows, it isn’t proving to be as easy as he thought.

Along with describing this former athlete’s physique in terms that are hardly flattering — “at 5-foot-11 and a gaunt 155 pounds, [Blumenthal] wears his dark suits like a wire hanger” — the story detailed the would-be senator’s awkward “Rip Van Winkle” campaign as he hemmed and hawed his way through a litany of bland and confused responses to questions about his positions. Moreover, his 20 years as attorney general, in which he often aped the Elliot Spitzer pattern of attacking private businesses, may also now come back to haunt him as his former victims surface with tales of misleading and false prosecutions.

The point is, the former wunderkind of Connecticut politics — he was appointed a U.S. attorney at age 31 — may no longer be ready for prime time. Given the overwhelming advantage the Democrats have in registration in the state and Blumenthal’s personal popularity, it’s hard to believe that the seat is really in play. Yet with a spirited and well-funded Republican challenge certain to come from professional-wrestling mogul Linda McMahon, the state may find out whether, as Gov. Jodi Rell said in 2006, Blumenthal is a candidate with a “glass jaw.” McMahon may be no Scott Brown, but so far, Blumenthal is giving every indication that the comparisons with his Massachusetts counterpart Coakley are completely not off base. If 2010 turns out to be a “wave” election in which even the safest Democrats are swept out in an anti-Obama landslide, Blumenthal may be in for a far tougher ride than he ever imagined.

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Scott Brown’s Victory — a Curious Interpretation

According to Obama’s aide David Axelrod, here is the deeper, almost metaphysical meaning of the Massachusetts Senate race:

“It’s an analogy I used the other day,” Axelrod said. “I always believed in the presidential race they just didn’t want to shut the race down because they liked Obama, they thought he had potential. But he was new. He was four years out of the State Senate and they weren’t prepared to hand him an early knockout. They wanted him to go through the entire battle, and they wanted to judge him based on how he performed on that long hard road.

“And actually, with Massachusetts, I think people wanted to see this debate go on for a while and they wanted to see our suppositions tested and retested. But what Massachusetts did at the end of the day was that it persuaded people on our side of the fight not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. And it really rallied our base behind the president’s proposal.”

If Mr. Axelrod believes this, he must suffer from an almost clinical case of delusion. (Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Please report to duty.)

The notion that the public rejected the Democratic candidate in a Senate race in Massachusetts for a Republican who ran against ObamaCare, simply in order to see how Obama performed on “that long hard road,” is rather silly and adolescent. (It is also condescending to voters, who aren’t terribly interested in being part of some kind of manufactured, Axelrod-directed drama.)

David Axelrod is forcing prosaic political events into some kind of romantic notion about Obama that is detached from reality. But I suppose such things might be expected from a group that has perpetrated a cult-of-personality around Obama and who referred to him during the campaign as a “Black Jesus.” Still, it’s weird.

It will be interesting, and in some respects amusing, to see how Axelrod interprets the results of the mid-term election, which might well inflict enormous damage on the Democratic Party. If it happens, it will undoubtedly be seen as yet one more great trial in the great life and times of liberalism’s political Messiah.

According to Obama’s aide David Axelrod, here is the deeper, almost metaphysical meaning of the Massachusetts Senate race:

“It’s an analogy I used the other day,” Axelrod said. “I always believed in the presidential race they just didn’t want to shut the race down because they liked Obama, they thought he had potential. But he was new. He was four years out of the State Senate and they weren’t prepared to hand him an early knockout. They wanted him to go through the entire battle, and they wanted to judge him based on how he performed on that long hard road.

“And actually, with Massachusetts, I think people wanted to see this debate go on for a while and they wanted to see our suppositions tested and retested. But what Massachusetts did at the end of the day was that it persuaded people on our side of the fight not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. And it really rallied our base behind the president’s proposal.”

If Mr. Axelrod believes this, he must suffer from an almost clinical case of delusion. (Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Please report to duty.)

The notion that the public rejected the Democratic candidate in a Senate race in Massachusetts for a Republican who ran against ObamaCare, simply in order to see how Obama performed on “that long hard road,” is rather silly and adolescent. (It is also condescending to voters, who aren’t terribly interested in being part of some kind of manufactured, Axelrod-directed drama.)

David Axelrod is forcing prosaic political events into some kind of romantic notion about Obama that is detached from reality. But I suppose such things might be expected from a group that has perpetrated a cult-of-personality around Obama and who referred to him during the campaign as a “Black Jesus.” Still, it’s weird.

It will be interesting, and in some respects amusing, to see how Axelrod interprets the results of the mid-term election, which might well inflict enormous damage on the Democratic Party. If it happens, it will undoubtedly be seen as yet one more great trial in the great life and times of liberalism’s political Messiah.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: What the Obama Presidency Stands for Now

Some thoughts on the meaning of the passage of yesterday’s health-care bill.

1. It is without question a landmark bill, among the most far-reaching pieces of social legislation in our history. For President Obama to be able to have resurrected it in the midst of enormous public opposition and deep concerns among Democrats, especially in the aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate race in late January, is politically quite impressive. When he was being told to pare down his plan, Obama instead doubled down and, in terms of winning passage of his signature domestic initiative, he won. As a result, the media coverage will be overwhelmingly favorable to Obama and Democrats. Among the political class, he instantaneously goes from being seen as a weak president to being seen as a strong president, from inept to imposing. Barack Obama has certainly left his stamp on history.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Some thoughts on the meaning of the passage of yesterday’s health-care bill.

1. It is without question a landmark bill, among the most far-reaching pieces of social legislation in our history. For President Obama to be able to have resurrected it in the midst of enormous public opposition and deep concerns among Democrats, especially in the aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate race in late January, is politically quite impressive. When he was being told to pare down his plan, Obama instead doubled down and, in terms of winning passage of his signature domestic initiative, he won. As a result, the media coverage will be overwhelmingly favorable to Obama and Democrats. Among the political class, he instantaneously goes from being seen as a weak president to being seen as a strong president, from inept to imposing. Barack Obama has certainly left his stamp on history.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Re: Maybe He Should Get Down to Work

There seems to be no letup in the criticism from Democrats over Obama’s lack of leadership on health care. Sam Stein reports:

Despite urging Democratic senators on Wednesday to forge ahead on health care reform, President Obama and his aides have been largely hands-off in guiding the legislative process, Senate aides tell the Huffington Post. And on Thursday a leading Senate progressive called out the White House publicly for abandoning the leadership role that is needed to get legislation passed.

“The president was weighing in pretty heavily on the discussions between the House and Senate before the Massachusetts special [Senate] election,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told Huffington Post. “It’s dried up since.”

Brown is not alone. (“Brown’s lament was echoed in conversations with several high-ranking Senate aides this past week, many of whom agreed that the administration’s involvement in health care negotiations has declined since Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race.”) What isn’t clear is whether the White House is simply incapable of exercising leadership and clueless about what a bipartisan, passable piece of legislation might look like, or whether Obama is making a tactical move to throw rhetorical crumbs to the netroots but leave the whole mess to Congress, knowing it will amount to nothing.

Either explanation is plausible. Obama isn’t known for delving into  details  of legislation, so he might well be out of ideas and interest in the finer points of what was to be his signature issue. But it is also possible that the White House has figured out that ObamaCare is a loser with the general electorate. In that case, if Obama is to stabilize his own approval ratings, it would be better for the country to avoid more uproar over a hugely unpopular bill. Not giving direction to the Reid-Pelosi duo is tantamount to killing the bill.

Whichever theory is right, the result is the same. We won’t see anything passed approximating the massive ObamaCare bill. In the end, that’s a good thing for the country and probably for incumbents, who in their heart of hearts have probably always understood that you can’t pass a bill on a strict party line vote that 70 percent of the country hates and expect to “sell it” to them later. Well you can, but you’ll be thrown out of office.

There seems to be no letup in the criticism from Democrats over Obama’s lack of leadership on health care. Sam Stein reports:

Despite urging Democratic senators on Wednesday to forge ahead on health care reform, President Obama and his aides have been largely hands-off in guiding the legislative process, Senate aides tell the Huffington Post. And on Thursday a leading Senate progressive called out the White House publicly for abandoning the leadership role that is needed to get legislation passed.

“The president was weighing in pretty heavily on the discussions between the House and Senate before the Massachusetts special [Senate] election,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told Huffington Post. “It’s dried up since.”

Brown is not alone. (“Brown’s lament was echoed in conversations with several high-ranking Senate aides this past week, many of whom agreed that the administration’s involvement in health care negotiations has declined since Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race.”) What isn’t clear is whether the White House is simply incapable of exercising leadership and clueless about what a bipartisan, passable piece of legislation might look like, or whether Obama is making a tactical move to throw rhetorical crumbs to the netroots but leave the whole mess to Congress, knowing it will amount to nothing.

Either explanation is plausible. Obama isn’t known for delving into  details  of legislation, so he might well be out of ideas and interest in the finer points of what was to be his signature issue. But it is also possible that the White House has figured out that ObamaCare is a loser with the general electorate. In that case, if Obama is to stabilize his own approval ratings, it would be better for the country to avoid more uproar over a hugely unpopular bill. Not giving direction to the Reid-Pelosi duo is tantamount to killing the bill.

Whichever theory is right, the result is the same. We won’t see anything passed approximating the massive ObamaCare bill. In the end, that’s a good thing for the country and probably for incumbents, who in their heart of hearts have probably always understood that you can’t pass a bill on a strict party line vote that 70 percent of the country hates and expect to “sell it” to them later. Well you can, but you’ll be thrown out of office.

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The Search for the Next Hillary

Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that she will not be with Obama for the long haul has some pondering her replacement. One list ranges from the uninspired (Sen. Richard Lugar, who shares Obama’s yen for non-proliferation deals) to the horrifying (George Mitchell, having offended all parties in the Middle East, can bring his own brand of clueless incompetence to the rest of the world). There is the ever-eager Sen. John Kerry — but could the Democrats risk another Massachusetts Senate seat? (I jest — but just a little.) Intriguing but unlikely is David Petraeus, who one suspects has had quite enough of Obama’s equivocation.

One name not on the list: Bill Clinton. No, seriously, he’s unlikely to get lost in minutiae (as his wife has), allow special envoys to steal the limelight (as his wife has), or repeatedly offend allies (as his wife has). And by selecting another Clinton, Obama would once again keep the Clintons sidelined in the intra-party political wars. Put it this way: we could, and likely will, do worse.

But going through the names, one must conclude that any secretary of state is bound to be as ineffective as Hillary Clinton unless Obama changes his perspective and his game plan. So long as Obama seeks to make America as inoffensive as possible and to downplay our own interests and values for the sake of avoiding confrontation, no secretary of state is going to do much better than Hillary Clinton. Who doubts, after all, that the aversion to Iranian regime change comes directly from Obama? Does anyone imagine our retreat on human rights isn’t part and parcel of Obama’s infatuation with endearing ourselves to despots? It is the president whose cockeyed recollection of the Cold War fails to recognize that our military superiority broke the back of the Soviet Union. It was he who argued in Cairo that Israel owes its legitimacy to the Holocaust and that the Palestinians are analogous to enslaved African-Americans.

So in a very real sense, it doesn’t matter who might succeed Clinton at Foggy Bottom. We’ve learned once again that what matters is who occupies the Oval Office. And in this case, it’s a president with some very mistaken notions about how the world works.

Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that she will not be with Obama for the long haul has some pondering her replacement. One list ranges from the uninspired (Sen. Richard Lugar, who shares Obama’s yen for non-proliferation deals) to the horrifying (George Mitchell, having offended all parties in the Middle East, can bring his own brand of clueless incompetence to the rest of the world). There is the ever-eager Sen. John Kerry — but could the Democrats risk another Massachusetts Senate seat? (I jest — but just a little.) Intriguing but unlikely is David Petraeus, who one suspects has had quite enough of Obama’s equivocation.

One name not on the list: Bill Clinton. No, seriously, he’s unlikely to get lost in minutiae (as his wife has), allow special envoys to steal the limelight (as his wife has), or repeatedly offend allies (as his wife has). And by selecting another Clinton, Obama would once again keep the Clintons sidelined in the intra-party political wars. Put it this way: we could, and likely will, do worse.

But going through the names, one must conclude that any secretary of state is bound to be as ineffective as Hillary Clinton unless Obama changes his perspective and his game plan. So long as Obama seeks to make America as inoffensive as possible and to downplay our own interests and values for the sake of avoiding confrontation, no secretary of state is going to do much better than Hillary Clinton. Who doubts, after all, that the aversion to Iranian regime change comes directly from Obama? Does anyone imagine our retreat on human rights isn’t part and parcel of Obama’s infatuation with endearing ourselves to despots? It is the president whose cockeyed recollection of the Cold War fails to recognize that our military superiority broke the back of the Soviet Union. It was he who argued in Cairo that Israel owes its legitimacy to the Holocaust and that the Palestinians are analogous to enslaved African-Americans.

So in a very real sense, it doesn’t matter who might succeed Clinton at Foggy Bottom. We’ve learned once again that what matters is who occupies the Oval Office. And in this case, it’s a president with some very mistaken notions about how the world works.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

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The President, the New Republic, and Dramatic Decline

In the afterglow of Barack Obama’s election, liberals were peddling a lot of bad ideas. Among them was the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, who in December 2008 wrote this:

The practical import of the Obama mandate debate has fallen on the question of whether he should pursue his goal of comprehensive health care reform, which numerous pundits and even some Democrats have tagged as dangerously ambitious. But this is one area where undiluted liberalism enjoys overwhelming public support. The public, by a roughly two-to-one margin, thinks the government has a responsibility to make sure that every American has adequate health care. Congressional Democrats fear a repeat of 1994–when, as they see it, Bill Clinton over-interpreted his mandate and therefore failed to pass health care reform. This reading has it backward. Clinton’s health care plan failed because Congress decided he didn’t have a mandate and refused to pass it. If the Democrats fail this time, it will probably be because they psyched themselves out once again.

Thirteen months later, Chait’s “undiluted liberalism” enjoys something less than overwhelming public support.

In fact, the United States has become more, not less, conservative during the Obama presidency (by a margin of 2-to-1, Americans describe themselves as conservative rather than liberal). And Obama and the Democrats, having followed Chait’s counsel, find themselves in a terrible political ditch. After a year in office, Mr. Obama has become, by a wide margin, our most polarizing president. He has the highest disapproval ratings ever recorded for an elected president beginning his second year. No other president has seen his Gallup job-approval rating drop as far as Obama’s has (21 points) in his first year. And the public overwhelmingly opposes Obama’s signature domestic initiative, health care (the approve-disapprove spread ranges from 15 to 20 points).

In addition, Democrats have suffered crushing losses in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia — and last week they suffered a particularly devastating loss in the Massachusetts Senate race. Independents are voting for Republicans by a 2-to-1 (or better) margin. Republicans are now polling better than Democrats on most issues. They are ahead on most generic congressional vote polls. The GOP’s recruiting efforts are going gangbusters, while Democrats are either withdrawing from midterm races in November or not throwing their hat into the ring at all. “I have not seen a party’s fortunes collapse so suddenly since Richard Nixon got caught up in the Watergate scandal and a president who carried 49 states was threatened with impeachment and removal from office,” according to the political analyst Michael Barone.

Democrats, rightly sensing what awaits them in November, are nearly panic-stricken.

In light of what has come to pass, Mr. Chait’s writings look comical. After a disastrous August for ObamaCare, Chait declared, against all evidence, “August moved the ball pretty far down the field.” He was issuing ominous warnings about a GOP overreach on health care in September. And in October he wrote, “We’ve had months of sturm and drang, and massive attention focused on the question, Whither health care reform? It’s just quietly turned into a fait accompli.”

Au contraire. ObamaCare, while not yet dead, is in critical and perhaps terminal condition. And the damaging effects it has had on the president and the Democratic party is beyond serious dispute. Charlie Cook of National Journal put it this way:

Honorable and intelligent people can disagree over the substance and details of what President Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to do on health care reform and climate change. But nearly a year after Obama’s inauguration, judging by where the Democrats stand today, it’s clear that they have made a colossal miscalculation.

Clear, that is, to everyone but Jonathan Chait. He is in the uncomfortable position of having to explain how the Obama presidency and liberalism have gone off the rails in the past year, a year devoted to trying to pass massively unpopular health-care legislation championed by people like Chait. Rather than coming to grips with reality, though, Chait has opted for self-delusion. In his January 19 column, for example, Jonathan was reduced to writing things like this:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

So Obama and the Democrats find themselves on the precipice, not because of health care, but because of “structural factors.” Of course. Scott Brown famously won his Massachusetts Senate race by promising to be the 41st vote against “structural factors.”

It is all rather pathetic.

The New Republic was once one of the nation’s leading journals of opinion. It was the home of first-rate thinkers and first-rate writers. Today it is the home of Jonathan Chait.

It has been a long and dramatic decline.

In the afterglow of Barack Obama’s election, liberals were peddling a lot of bad ideas. Among them was the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, who in December 2008 wrote this:

The practical import of the Obama mandate debate has fallen on the question of whether he should pursue his goal of comprehensive health care reform, which numerous pundits and even some Democrats have tagged as dangerously ambitious. But this is one area where undiluted liberalism enjoys overwhelming public support. The public, by a roughly two-to-one margin, thinks the government has a responsibility to make sure that every American has adequate health care. Congressional Democrats fear a repeat of 1994–when, as they see it, Bill Clinton over-interpreted his mandate and therefore failed to pass health care reform. This reading has it backward. Clinton’s health care plan failed because Congress decided he didn’t have a mandate and refused to pass it. If the Democrats fail this time, it will probably be because they psyched themselves out once again.

Thirteen months later, Chait’s “undiluted liberalism” enjoys something less than overwhelming public support.

In fact, the United States has become more, not less, conservative during the Obama presidency (by a margin of 2-to-1, Americans describe themselves as conservative rather than liberal). And Obama and the Democrats, having followed Chait’s counsel, find themselves in a terrible political ditch. After a year in office, Mr. Obama has become, by a wide margin, our most polarizing president. He has the highest disapproval ratings ever recorded for an elected president beginning his second year. No other president has seen his Gallup job-approval rating drop as far as Obama’s has (21 points) in his first year. And the public overwhelmingly opposes Obama’s signature domestic initiative, health care (the approve-disapprove spread ranges from 15 to 20 points).

In addition, Democrats have suffered crushing losses in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia — and last week they suffered a particularly devastating loss in the Massachusetts Senate race. Independents are voting for Republicans by a 2-to-1 (or better) margin. Republicans are now polling better than Democrats on most issues. They are ahead on most generic congressional vote polls. The GOP’s recruiting efforts are going gangbusters, while Democrats are either withdrawing from midterm races in November or not throwing their hat into the ring at all. “I have not seen a party’s fortunes collapse so suddenly since Richard Nixon got caught up in the Watergate scandal and a president who carried 49 states was threatened with impeachment and removal from office,” according to the political analyst Michael Barone.

Democrats, rightly sensing what awaits them in November, are nearly panic-stricken.

In light of what has come to pass, Mr. Chait’s writings look comical. After a disastrous August for ObamaCare, Chait declared, against all evidence, “August moved the ball pretty far down the field.” He was issuing ominous warnings about a GOP overreach on health care in September. And in October he wrote, “We’ve had months of sturm and drang, and massive attention focused on the question, Whither health care reform? It’s just quietly turned into a fait accompli.”

Au contraire. ObamaCare, while not yet dead, is in critical and perhaps terminal condition. And the damaging effects it has had on the president and the Democratic party is beyond serious dispute. Charlie Cook of National Journal put it this way:

Honorable and intelligent people can disagree over the substance and details of what President Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to do on health care reform and climate change. But nearly a year after Obama’s inauguration, judging by where the Democrats stand today, it’s clear that they have made a colossal miscalculation.

Clear, that is, to everyone but Jonathan Chait. He is in the uncomfortable position of having to explain how the Obama presidency and liberalism have gone off the rails in the past year, a year devoted to trying to pass massively unpopular health-care legislation championed by people like Chait. Rather than coming to grips with reality, though, Chait has opted for self-delusion. In his January 19 column, for example, Jonathan was reduced to writing things like this:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

So Obama and the Democrats find themselves on the precipice, not because of health care, but because of “structural factors.” Of course. Scott Brown famously won his Massachusetts Senate race by promising to be the 41st vote against “structural factors.”

It is all rather pathetic.

The New Republic was once one of the nation’s leading journals of opinion. It was the home of first-rate thinkers and first-rate writers. Today it is the home of Jonathan Chait.

It has been a long and dramatic decline.

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Memo to the White House: Check Out YouTube

As the health-care debate approached a climax in the Senate a few weeks ago, it became widely noted that the negotiations were going on behind closed doors, even though as a candidate, Obama had promised numerous times to put those negotiations on C-Span. His campaign promises were all over YouTube, but White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs refused even to discuss questions about the discrepancy.

Now, it seems the Obama administration is at it again. The lead story in today’s New York Times reports that Obama will call for a freeze on discretionary spending (excepting military spending, the Veterans Administration, homeland security, and foreign aid). Guess what his opinion of a spending freeze was during the campaign?

And the spending freeze he proposes would save what? Nick Gillespie at Reason, estimates, at most, $15 billion in fiscal year 2011. Compare that to the $1.4 trillion deficit in fiscal year 2009.

This is what Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously called “boob bait for bubbas.” The people have made it abundantly clear (as in last week’s Massachusetts Senate election) that they regard federal spending as out of control. So the Obama administration will toss the public a bone, knowing that it will be meaningless in size and easily evaded with special appropriations and other budget gimmicks.

The sheer cynicism is breathtaking, if not unexpected at this point. What is unexpected in this self-proclaimed post-modern administration is that Obama and his staff don’t seem to have realized yet that YouTube has changed everything. Yesterday’s newspapers, notoriously, were used to wrap fish, their content forgotten. Today’s news clip lives forever on the Internet.

As the health-care debate approached a climax in the Senate a few weeks ago, it became widely noted that the negotiations were going on behind closed doors, even though as a candidate, Obama had promised numerous times to put those negotiations on C-Span. His campaign promises were all over YouTube, but White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs refused even to discuss questions about the discrepancy.

Now, it seems the Obama administration is at it again. The lead story in today’s New York Times reports that Obama will call for a freeze on discretionary spending (excepting military spending, the Veterans Administration, homeland security, and foreign aid). Guess what his opinion of a spending freeze was during the campaign?

And the spending freeze he proposes would save what? Nick Gillespie at Reason, estimates, at most, $15 billion in fiscal year 2011. Compare that to the $1.4 trillion deficit in fiscal year 2009.

This is what Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously called “boob bait for bubbas.” The people have made it abundantly clear (as in last week’s Massachusetts Senate election) that they regard federal spending as out of control. So the Obama administration will toss the public a bone, knowing that it will be meaningless in size and easily evaded with special appropriations and other budget gimmicks.

The sheer cynicism is breathtaking, if not unexpected at this point. What is unexpected in this self-proclaimed post-modern administration is that Obama and his staff don’t seem to have realized yet that YouTube has changed everything. Yesterday’s newspapers, notoriously, were used to wrap fish, their content forgotten. Today’s news clip lives forever on the Internet.

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Why Is Obama Acting So Weird?

There are two explanations (maybe more) for the White House’s eerie indifference to all the available evidence concerning their own shoddy performance and the public’s reaction to the same, which has resulted in losses in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and sent many Democrats fleeing from the 2010 races.

There is the Out-to-Lunch explanation. Fred Barnes observes:

Months of polls on the president and his policies, the Virginia and New Jersey governor’s elections, then last week’s momentous Massachusetts Senate race – all have sent the blunt message to Obama that, for now, he’s lost. But Obama and his team insist on pretending it’s not true. This is a bad sign. One of the important tests of a president, especially a relatively new one like Obama, is how he deals with a serious setback.  Does he respond rationally and realistically? In Obama’s case, the answer is no.”

Sounds like the Democrats need to stage an intervention if the president is that immune to evidence.

But maybe he does understand precisely what’s going on and doesn’t have the wherewithal to revisit his assumptions, get into the weeds of a new agenda, offend old allies on the Left, and morph — as Bill Clinton did — into an effective centrist. Maybe he’d just rather hang it up in three years. In a bizarre interview, that’s what it sounded like: “President Barack Obama said that he ‘would rather be a really good one-term president’ than have two mediocre terms.” Well, the danger here is his being a really bad one-term president. But after only a year in office, it is, to put it mildly, an odd comment. Of all the times to avoid sounding remote, nonchalant, and snooty, this is it. Yet that’s exactly how Obama sounded in an interview he must know will be widely picked over for clues as to the direction of his presidency. Even the New York Times concedes:

Mr. Obama is not the first president in trouble to frame the choice as sticking to his principles instead of worrying about his personal political fortunes. … But it is usually a measure of how much difficulty a president is facing when he starts talking about even the prospect of being a one-term president.

The reasons for the president’s reaction to his self-made predicament – defiance, anger, stubborn indifference — are at some point unknowable. For the country and for his party, the reason is less important than the specter of a president who seems disconnected from the public and somewhat lost.

Forget the tone for a moment — what’s the new agenda? A grab bag of small trinkets for the middle class? That sounds like a ripoff of Bill Clinton, which works well in good times but seems, again, out to lunch when unemployment is in double digits. A new populist fury that may spook the very businesses that must regain confidence and hire workers? Sounds rather self-defeating. A doubling-down on health care? It’s not clear he has even bare majorities in Congress for Son of ObamaCare.

Unfortunately, we’ve come to see that Obama doesn’t shine in a crisis. Not in the aftermath of Iran’s June election and revolt. Not after Fort Hood. Not after the Christmas Day bombing. Not after his own political wipeout. It takes him multiple chances to sound serious and engaged. He doesn’t relate on a visceral level with the public. It should no longer come as a surprise, but it is of concern. If he really does want a second term and wants to be more than a mediocre president, he’s going to have to step it up. And quickly.

There are two explanations (maybe more) for the White House’s eerie indifference to all the available evidence concerning their own shoddy performance and the public’s reaction to the same, which has resulted in losses in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and sent many Democrats fleeing from the 2010 races.

There is the Out-to-Lunch explanation. Fred Barnes observes:

Months of polls on the president and his policies, the Virginia and New Jersey governor’s elections, then last week’s momentous Massachusetts Senate race – all have sent the blunt message to Obama that, for now, he’s lost. But Obama and his team insist on pretending it’s not true. This is a bad sign. One of the important tests of a president, especially a relatively new one like Obama, is how he deals with a serious setback.  Does he respond rationally and realistically? In Obama’s case, the answer is no.”

Sounds like the Democrats need to stage an intervention if the president is that immune to evidence.

But maybe he does understand precisely what’s going on and doesn’t have the wherewithal to revisit his assumptions, get into the weeds of a new agenda, offend old allies on the Left, and morph — as Bill Clinton did — into an effective centrist. Maybe he’d just rather hang it up in three years. In a bizarre interview, that’s what it sounded like: “President Barack Obama said that he ‘would rather be a really good one-term president’ than have two mediocre terms.” Well, the danger here is his being a really bad one-term president. But after only a year in office, it is, to put it mildly, an odd comment. Of all the times to avoid sounding remote, nonchalant, and snooty, this is it. Yet that’s exactly how Obama sounded in an interview he must know will be widely picked over for clues as to the direction of his presidency. Even the New York Times concedes:

Mr. Obama is not the first president in trouble to frame the choice as sticking to his principles instead of worrying about his personal political fortunes. … But it is usually a measure of how much difficulty a president is facing when he starts talking about even the prospect of being a one-term president.

The reasons for the president’s reaction to his self-made predicament – defiance, anger, stubborn indifference — are at some point unknowable. For the country and for his party, the reason is less important than the specter of a president who seems disconnected from the public and somewhat lost.

Forget the tone for a moment — what’s the new agenda? A grab bag of small trinkets for the middle class? That sounds like a ripoff of Bill Clinton, which works well in good times but seems, again, out to lunch when unemployment is in double digits. A new populist fury that may spook the very businesses that must regain confidence and hire workers? Sounds rather self-defeating. A doubling-down on health care? It’s not clear he has even bare majorities in Congress for Son of ObamaCare.

Unfortunately, we’ve come to see that Obama doesn’t shine in a crisis. Not in the aftermath of Iran’s June election and revolt. Not after Fort Hood. Not after the Christmas Day bombing. Not after his own political wipeout. It takes him multiple chances to sound serious and engaged. He doesn’t relate on a visceral level with the public. It should no longer come as a surprise, but it is of concern. If he really does want a second term and wants to be more than a mediocre president, he’s going to have to step it up. And quickly.

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Obama’s Wax Wings

Rep. Marion Berry, yet another retiring Democrat, gave an interview to Jane Fullerton of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. According to Fullerton:

Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.

“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.” [snip]

“I began to preach last January that we had already seen this movie and we didn’t want to see it again because we know how it comes out,” said Arkansas’ 1st District congressman, who worked in the Clinton administration before being elected to the House in 1996… “I just began to have flashbacks to 1993 and ’94. No one that was here in ’94, or at the day after the election felt like. It certainly wasn’t a good feeling.”

This is yet more evidence — as if we needed any — of Obama’s almost pathological self-regard. He seems to dismiss President Clinton — a successful five-term governor who won his presidential re-election by a comfortable margin — as a political hack compared to The One. It explains how Obama can interpret the results of the Massachusetts Senate race — the third in a series of pulverizing losses for Democrats since November — as confirmation that he, well, spent too much time doing too many good and important things for the American people and, in the process, forgot to inform the simple-minded citizenry what a treasure we have in Obama.

Whatever strengths Mr. Obama brought to the job as president — and they now appear to be quite limited — they are overwhelmed by, among other things, his massive ego and otherworldly arrogance. It is leading him and his staff into a state of self-delusion. Mr. Obama’s self-regard is not only utterly unwarranted, especially given his failed first year; it is downright dangerous. He is a man whose wings are made of wax; if he’s not careful, a long fall into the deep blue sea awaits him.

(h/t: Glenn Thrush at Politico.com.)

Rep. Marion Berry, yet another retiring Democrat, gave an interview to Jane Fullerton of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. According to Fullerton:

Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.

“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.” [snip]

“I began to preach last January that we had already seen this movie and we didn’t want to see it again because we know how it comes out,” said Arkansas’ 1st District congressman, who worked in the Clinton administration before being elected to the House in 1996… “I just began to have flashbacks to 1993 and ’94. No one that was here in ’94, or at the day after the election felt like. It certainly wasn’t a good feeling.”

This is yet more evidence — as if we needed any — of Obama’s almost pathological self-regard. He seems to dismiss President Clinton — a successful five-term governor who won his presidential re-election by a comfortable margin — as a political hack compared to The One. It explains how Obama can interpret the results of the Massachusetts Senate race — the third in a series of pulverizing losses for Democrats since November — as confirmation that he, well, spent too much time doing too many good and important things for the American people and, in the process, forgot to inform the simple-minded citizenry what a treasure we have in Obama.

Whatever strengths Mr. Obama brought to the job as president — and they now appear to be quite limited — they are overwhelmed by, among other things, his massive ego and otherworldly arrogance. It is leading him and his staff into a state of self-delusion. Mr. Obama’s self-regard is not only utterly unwarranted, especially given his failed first year; it is downright dangerous. He is a man whose wings are made of wax; if he’s not careful, a long fall into the deep blue sea awaits him.

(h/t: Glenn Thrush at Politico.com.)

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That’s What They Need — A Campaign Manager!

It is only fitting that Obama’s first significant personnel change in the wake of the Massachusetts debacle is to hire back his campaign manager. No, really. Chris Cillizza reports:

Daivd Plouffe, the man who managed President Barack Obama’s campaign, will be taking on an expanded role as an outside adviser to the White House, according to sources familiar with the plan, a move that comes just days after a stunning defeat for Democrats in a Massachusetts Senate special election.

Not a new economic team. Not a new chief of staff. Not even a new national security staff to replace the gang that dropped the ball on the Christmas Day bomber. No, with the Obami, it is never about substance or getting the policy right. It’s not about governance. It is about the perpetual campaign. So the campaign manager gets the emergency call.

Plouffe, not coincidentally, authors an op-ed in Cillizza’s paper arguing that ObamaCare was a fine idea, just misunderstood. (“It’s a good plan that’s become a demonized caricature.”) He says Democrats better pass it, or the public won’t understand how wrong Sarah Palin was. (I’m not making that up: “Only if the plan becomes law will the American people see that all the scary things Sarah Palin and others have predicted — such as the so-called death panels — were baseless.”) Where are the votes going to come from? What about the legitimate complaints from the Left and Right that the bill is an incoherent jumble? Sorry – Plouffe is in the campaign business, not the policy business. (Republicans shouldn’t get their hopes up that anyone in Congress other than Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid buys this stuff.)

It gets worse after that. He also thinks Democrats should create jobs. (Who knew you could get paid for coming up with this stuff?)  And Democrats should defend the stimulus plan. (Do we think this is a Karl Rove mind-trick game?) Democrats shouldn’t listen to complaints about spending because voters will be impressed by blaming the other party. Work on the corruption issue. (Reps. Murtha, Rangel, etc., don’t agree, I suspect.) And “run great campaigns.” (Who’d have thought?)

You see the problem. This is what passes for inspired advice, and this is the personnel slot that Obama fills first. It’s hard to believe that the candidate who ran against stale politics is now, a year into his presidency, a hackneyed pol happy to push this sort of pablum on an already disgusted public. Well, it sure does explain how Obama wound up in his current predicament.

It is only fitting that Obama’s first significant personnel change in the wake of the Massachusetts debacle is to hire back his campaign manager. No, really. Chris Cillizza reports:

Daivd Plouffe, the man who managed President Barack Obama’s campaign, will be taking on an expanded role as an outside adviser to the White House, according to sources familiar with the plan, a move that comes just days after a stunning defeat for Democrats in a Massachusetts Senate special election.

Not a new economic team. Not a new chief of staff. Not even a new national security staff to replace the gang that dropped the ball on the Christmas Day bomber. No, with the Obami, it is never about substance or getting the policy right. It’s not about governance. It is about the perpetual campaign. So the campaign manager gets the emergency call.

Plouffe, not coincidentally, authors an op-ed in Cillizza’s paper arguing that ObamaCare was a fine idea, just misunderstood. (“It’s a good plan that’s become a demonized caricature.”) He says Democrats better pass it, or the public won’t understand how wrong Sarah Palin was. (I’m not making that up: “Only if the plan becomes law will the American people see that all the scary things Sarah Palin and others have predicted — such as the so-called death panels — were baseless.”) Where are the votes going to come from? What about the legitimate complaints from the Left and Right that the bill is an incoherent jumble? Sorry – Plouffe is in the campaign business, not the policy business. (Republicans shouldn’t get their hopes up that anyone in Congress other than Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid buys this stuff.)

It gets worse after that. He also thinks Democrats should create jobs. (Who knew you could get paid for coming up with this stuff?)  And Democrats should defend the stimulus plan. (Do we think this is a Karl Rove mind-trick game?) Democrats shouldn’t listen to complaints about spending because voters will be impressed by blaming the other party. Work on the corruption issue. (Reps. Murtha, Rangel, etc., don’t agree, I suspect.) And “run great campaigns.” (Who’d have thought?)

You see the problem. This is what passes for inspired advice, and this is the personnel slot that Obama fills first. It’s hard to believe that the candidate who ran against stale politics is now, a year into his presidency, a hackneyed pol happy to push this sort of pablum on an already disgusted public. Well, it sure does explain how Obama wound up in his current predicament.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jim Geraghty observes of Obama’s appearance in Ohio that the president was “defensive, prickly, almost indignant that he’s found himself in the tough spot that he’s in.” That’s pretty much par for the course when things aren’t going well. I think that superior temperament thing only works when he’s on top.

Mickey Kaus: “What do presidents do when they should fire themselves? They fire their advisers and bring in a new crew. That’s what may happen here. I’d guess we’re about 36 hours away from a Beltway call for ‘wise men.’ … If it wasn’t for his role in the Massachusetts Senate debate, I’d say we’re a week away from David Gergen’s touchdown at Reagan National.” But first Obama would have to acknowledge something is wrong — well, other than all those stubbornly angry people out there who don’t understand how hard he has been working.

The Obami never seem to learn anything. Andy McCarthy tells us: “The Justice Department has announced the release from Gitmo of a terrorist who conspired to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in the 2000 Millennium plot. Hassan Zumiri, who was part of an al-Qaeda affiliated terror cell in Montreal, has been repatriated to his native Algeria — a country so rife with terrorists that it was recently placed on the list of 14 countries whose travelers warrant enhanced screening at airports.”

They never learn anything because they avert their eyes from inconvenient truths. Tom Joscelyn on the Fort Hood report: “The report lumps all sorts of deviant and problematic behaviors together as if they have the same relevance to the events of November 5. Thus, we find a discussion of alcohol and drug abuse, sexual violence, elder abuse, and the disgusting methods employed by child molesters. We also learn of the deleterious effects of events ‘such as divorce, loss of a job, or death of a loved one,” all of which “may trigger suicide in those who are already vulnerable.’ . . .What is relevant is Hasan’s religious and political beliefs. He is a jihadist, although you would never know it by reading the Pentagon’s report.”

The Obama presidency has been a disaster for Big Labor. No card check. And now this: “Organized labor lost 10% of its members in the private sector last year, the largest decline in more than 25 years. The drop is on par with the fall in total employment but threatens to significantly limit labor’s ability to influence elections and legislation. . .Labor experts said theunion-membership losses would have a long-term impact on unions and their finances, because unions wouldn’t automatically regain members once the job market rebounded. In many cases, new jobs will be created at nonunion employers or plants.” Maybe union bosses should have spent less time and money lobbying for card check and for ObamaCare and more effort on pro-job measures.

Obama may find the public unreceptive to his populist pandering. Gallup finds: “Americans’ broad views about corporate spending in elections generally accord with the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday that abolished some decades-old restrictions on corporate political activity. Fifty-seven percent of Americans consider campaign donations to be a protected form of free speech, and 55% say corporate and union donations should be treated the same way under the law as donations from individuals are.” (A majority still think it’s more important to limit campaign donations.)

And meanwhile he hits a new low in approval (47 percent) in Gallup.

George Will anticipates Obama’s next ill-advised gambit: “If Obama can now resist the temptation of faux populism, if he does not rage, like Lear on the heath, against banks, he can be what Americans, eager for adult supervision, elected him to be: a prudent grown-up. For this elegant and intelligent man to suddenly discover his inner William Jennings Bryan (‘You shall not crucify America upon a cross of credit-default swaps’) would be akin to Fred Astaire donning coveralls and clodhoppers.” Unfortunately, in a year, the only time we’ve seen the “prudent grown-up” is on the Afghanistan surge — and then only with a lot of adolescent angst and ill-advised lefty rhetoric.

Still cringing over Sen. Arlen Specter’s “act like a lady” blunder, Gail Collins notices: “If the Democrats are looking for a wake-up call from Massachusetts, the big rooster in the room is the plethora of underwhelming candidates they are fielding.” Well, in this climate, it’s hard to recruit the cream of the crop.

Jim Geraghty observes of Obama’s appearance in Ohio that the president was “defensive, prickly, almost indignant that he’s found himself in the tough spot that he’s in.” That’s pretty much par for the course when things aren’t going well. I think that superior temperament thing only works when he’s on top.

Mickey Kaus: “What do presidents do when they should fire themselves? They fire their advisers and bring in a new crew. That’s what may happen here. I’d guess we’re about 36 hours away from a Beltway call for ‘wise men.’ … If it wasn’t for his role in the Massachusetts Senate debate, I’d say we’re a week away from David Gergen’s touchdown at Reagan National.” But first Obama would have to acknowledge something is wrong — well, other than all those stubbornly angry people out there who don’t understand how hard he has been working.

The Obami never seem to learn anything. Andy McCarthy tells us: “The Justice Department has announced the release from Gitmo of a terrorist who conspired to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in the 2000 Millennium plot. Hassan Zumiri, who was part of an al-Qaeda affiliated terror cell in Montreal, has been repatriated to his native Algeria — a country so rife with terrorists that it was recently placed on the list of 14 countries whose travelers warrant enhanced screening at airports.”

They never learn anything because they avert their eyes from inconvenient truths. Tom Joscelyn on the Fort Hood report: “The report lumps all sorts of deviant and problematic behaviors together as if they have the same relevance to the events of November 5. Thus, we find a discussion of alcohol and drug abuse, sexual violence, elder abuse, and the disgusting methods employed by child molesters. We also learn of the deleterious effects of events ‘such as divorce, loss of a job, or death of a loved one,” all of which “may trigger suicide in those who are already vulnerable.’ . . .What is relevant is Hasan’s religious and political beliefs. He is a jihadist, although you would never know it by reading the Pentagon’s report.”

The Obama presidency has been a disaster for Big Labor. No card check. And now this: “Organized labor lost 10% of its members in the private sector last year, the largest decline in more than 25 years. The drop is on par with the fall in total employment but threatens to significantly limit labor’s ability to influence elections and legislation. . .Labor experts said theunion-membership losses would have a long-term impact on unions and their finances, because unions wouldn’t automatically regain members once the job market rebounded. In many cases, new jobs will be created at nonunion employers or plants.” Maybe union bosses should have spent less time and money lobbying for card check and for ObamaCare and more effort on pro-job measures.

Obama may find the public unreceptive to his populist pandering. Gallup finds: “Americans’ broad views about corporate spending in elections generally accord with the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday that abolished some decades-old restrictions on corporate political activity. Fifty-seven percent of Americans consider campaign donations to be a protected form of free speech, and 55% say corporate and union donations should be treated the same way under the law as donations from individuals are.” (A majority still think it’s more important to limit campaign donations.)

And meanwhile he hits a new low in approval (47 percent) in Gallup.

George Will anticipates Obama’s next ill-advised gambit: “If Obama can now resist the temptation of faux populism, if he does not rage, like Lear on the heath, against banks, he can be what Americans, eager for adult supervision, elected him to be: a prudent grown-up. For this elegant and intelligent man to suddenly discover his inner William Jennings Bryan (‘You shall not crucify America upon a cross of credit-default swaps’) would be akin to Fred Astaire donning coveralls and clodhoppers.” Unfortunately, in a year, the only time we’ve seen the “prudent grown-up” is on the Afghanistan surge — and then only with a lot of adolescent angst and ill-advised lefty rhetoric.

Still cringing over Sen. Arlen Specter’s “act like a lady” blunder, Gail Collins notices: “If the Democrats are looking for a wake-up call from Massachusetts, the big rooster in the room is the plethora of underwhelming candidates they are fielding.” Well, in this climate, it’s hard to recruit the cream of the crop.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.’”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them – unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.’”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them – unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

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Left Meltdown Over the Supreme Court

The Left is doing a lot of hyperventilating over the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down most of the McCain-Feingold statute. It will forever change politics! Corporate boards will control politics! Much of this hype is overblown and just wrong. The ban on direct corporate giving remains in place so the notion that corporations will control politicians is silly. They — along with labor unions — will simply be able to exercise First Amendment rights. Citizens can ignore the ads just like they ignore newspaper op-eds or the current plethora of third-party advertising.

This is a remarkably sane take by David Indiviglio on the impact of the decision, making the case that there is less “danger” to liberals than they fear. Corporations have learned to give to both sides, for one thing. And of course corporations through PACs already give billions to candidates. (Just as Chuck Schumer.) And remember:

It’s a step forward for free speech. Corporations are groups of individuals, and they should be able to voice their political beliefs without significant barriers. This ruling allows for that. The key thing to remember here is that Americans are also free disagree with, dispute or ignore corporate political ads.

So why is the Left in a frenzy over this? Well, let’s face it: they will need an excuse for the 2010 elections. Better to say they were “swamped by corporate interests” than to say their agenda was rejected. And this is frankly something else for them to talk about in a week when they lost the Massachusetts senate seat and ObamaCare is going down the drain. It is also the ever-so-helpful Obama echo chamber at work. Obama is going nasty-populist so the liberal-media cheerleaders are following suit.

Now, part of what is going on here is the Left’s exaggerated sense of the boldness and deviousness of corporate America. Unlike the caricature painted by the Left and amplified by popular culture, most corporate executives are cautious, controversy-shy and ever aware of the long arm of the government to tax, regulate, and generally make their lives miserable. So I wouldn’t be so sure that corporate America is going to plunge into the political-ad business overnight. For one thing, business isn’t doing so well right now and there is not a lot of cash sitting around. And for another thing, given the political environment, businesses may not need to spend all that much to knock out Obama-philes in Congress. It seems as though ordinary citizens, thinking for themselves, organizing and turning out to vote, are able to do that on their own.

The Left is doing a lot of hyperventilating over the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down most of the McCain-Feingold statute. It will forever change politics! Corporate boards will control politics! Much of this hype is overblown and just wrong. The ban on direct corporate giving remains in place so the notion that corporations will control politicians is silly. They — along with labor unions — will simply be able to exercise First Amendment rights. Citizens can ignore the ads just like they ignore newspaper op-eds or the current plethora of third-party advertising.

This is a remarkably sane take by David Indiviglio on the impact of the decision, making the case that there is less “danger” to liberals than they fear. Corporations have learned to give to both sides, for one thing. And of course corporations through PACs already give billions to candidates. (Just as Chuck Schumer.) And remember:

It’s a step forward for free speech. Corporations are groups of individuals, and they should be able to voice their political beliefs without significant barriers. This ruling allows for that. The key thing to remember here is that Americans are also free disagree with, dispute or ignore corporate political ads.

So why is the Left in a frenzy over this? Well, let’s face it: they will need an excuse for the 2010 elections. Better to say they were “swamped by corporate interests” than to say their agenda was rejected. And this is frankly something else for them to talk about in a week when they lost the Massachusetts senate seat and ObamaCare is going down the drain. It is also the ever-so-helpful Obama echo chamber at work. Obama is going nasty-populist so the liberal-media cheerleaders are following suit.

Now, part of what is going on here is the Left’s exaggerated sense of the boldness and deviousness of corporate America. Unlike the caricature painted by the Left and amplified by popular culture, most corporate executives are cautious, controversy-shy and ever aware of the long arm of the government to tax, regulate, and generally make their lives miserable. So I wouldn’t be so sure that corporate America is going to plunge into the political-ad business overnight. For one thing, business isn’t doing so well right now and there is not a lot of cash sitting around. And for another thing, given the political environment, businesses may not need to spend all that much to knock out Obama-philes in Congress. It seems as though ordinary citizens, thinking for themselves, organizing and turning out to vote, are able to do that on their own.

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Independents Abandon Obama

Public Policy Polling, which nailed the Massachusetts Senate vote, is out with a new survey:

Barack Obama’s approval rating is in negative territory. 47% of voters in the country express unhappiness with the job he’s doing while 46% give him good marks. 81% of Democrats, 43% of independents, and 11% of Republicans think he’s doing well. While he retains ratings over 70% with both African Americans and Hispanics, he’s now at a negative 36/57 spread with white voters. Obama’s health care plan continues to be part of his popularity problem. 49% of voters in the country are opposed to 40% in favor. Republicans are much stronger in their opposition than Democrats are in their support. 41% of voters say that Obama has lived up to their expectations while 49% think he has not. The biggest drop between his approval and the feeling that he’s met expectations is with independents.

It’s that collapse of support among independents that’s so alarming to Democrats. This is certainly not the only evidence we’ve seen of independents fleeing the president and his party. For months now, the president’s support among independents has been cratering. Moreover, in three successive high-profile elections — in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts — independents have voted in large numbers against the Obama agenda and for the Republican candidate. It’s a recipe for disaster for many Democrats who must rely to one degree or another on a coalition of independents and Democrats to keep them in office.

It’s the mirror image of the Republicans’ travails in 2006 and 2008, when they lost all but their core supporters, and so depressed those voters that they gave their opponents the turnout and enthusiasm advantage. It’s not impossible for Democrats to get these voters back. Bill Clinton did it with welfare reform and with a dramatic reorientation of his presidency. We’ll see if Obama can do so as well, and whether his party must first experience a drubbing in the midterm elections.

Public Policy Polling, which nailed the Massachusetts Senate vote, is out with a new survey:

Barack Obama’s approval rating is in negative territory. 47% of voters in the country express unhappiness with the job he’s doing while 46% give him good marks. 81% of Democrats, 43% of independents, and 11% of Republicans think he’s doing well. While he retains ratings over 70% with both African Americans and Hispanics, he’s now at a negative 36/57 spread with white voters. Obama’s health care plan continues to be part of his popularity problem. 49% of voters in the country are opposed to 40% in favor. Republicans are much stronger in their opposition than Democrats are in their support. 41% of voters say that Obama has lived up to their expectations while 49% think he has not. The biggest drop between his approval and the feeling that he’s met expectations is with independents.

It’s that collapse of support among independents that’s so alarming to Democrats. This is certainly not the only evidence we’ve seen of independents fleeing the president and his party. For months now, the president’s support among independents has been cratering. Moreover, in three successive high-profile elections — in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts — independents have voted in large numbers against the Obama agenda and for the Republican candidate. It’s a recipe for disaster for many Democrats who must rely to one degree or another on a coalition of independents and Democrats to keep them in office.

It’s the mirror image of the Republicans’ travails in 2006 and 2008, when they lost all but their core supporters, and so depressed those voters that they gave their opponents the turnout and enthusiasm advantage. It’s not impossible for Democrats to get these voters back. Bill Clinton did it with welfare reform and with a dramatic reorientation of his presidency. We’ll see if Obama can do so as well, and whether his party must first experience a drubbing in the midterm elections.

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If You Lose Barney Frank. . .

At some point, the saner Democrats have to call a halt to the Obami’s march over the political … what was it? Ah, yes … precipice. That it came less than 12 hours after the Massachusetts Senate vote and from a liberal stalwart like Barney Frank is the only mild surprise. He declares ObamaCare kaput. Hotline reports:

“I think the measure that would have passed, that is, some compromise between the House and Senate bill, which I would have voted for, although there were some aspects of both bills I would have liked to see change, I think that’s dead,” Frank said in an interview Wednesday morning on Sirius-XM Radio. “It is certainly the case that the bill that would have passed, a compromise between the House and Senate bills, isn’t going to pass, in my judgment, and certainly shouldn’t. … I know some of my Democratic colleagues had been thinking about ways to, in effect, get around the results by working in various parliamentary ways, looking at the rules, trying to get a health care bill passed that would have been the same bill that would have passed if [MA AG] Martha Coakley [D] had won, and I think that’s a mistake,” Frank said. “I will not support an effort to push through a House-Senate compromise bill despite an election. I’m disappointed in how it came out, but I think electoral results have to be respected.”

We are going to have a full week of this, and pushback from liberals, followed by counter-pushback from scared moderates before the State of the Union. By then the table will have been set and a new reality will have taken hold. Obama seems a bystander once again. He’s no longer shaping events or in command of his party. It’s every lawmaker for himself. And given Frank’s long track record in Democratic politics and talent for political survival (he’s escaped more than one near political death experience), I suspect that fellow Democrats are going to be far more inclined to listen to his advice than to Obama’s.

UPDATE: Frank has company, according to this report:

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) told a local reporter “it’s probably back to the drawing board on health care, which is unfortunate.” Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) told MSNBC this morning he will advise Democratic leaders to scrap the big bill and move small, more popular pieces that can attract Republicans. And Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said his leadership is “whistling past the graveyard” if they think Brown’s win won’t force a rethinking of the health care plan.

At some point, the saner Democrats have to call a halt to the Obami’s march over the political … what was it? Ah, yes … precipice. That it came less than 12 hours after the Massachusetts Senate vote and from a liberal stalwart like Barney Frank is the only mild surprise. He declares ObamaCare kaput. Hotline reports:

“I think the measure that would have passed, that is, some compromise between the House and Senate bill, which I would have voted for, although there were some aspects of both bills I would have liked to see change, I think that’s dead,” Frank said in an interview Wednesday morning on Sirius-XM Radio. “It is certainly the case that the bill that would have passed, a compromise between the House and Senate bills, isn’t going to pass, in my judgment, and certainly shouldn’t. … I know some of my Democratic colleagues had been thinking about ways to, in effect, get around the results by working in various parliamentary ways, looking at the rules, trying to get a health care bill passed that would have been the same bill that would have passed if [MA AG] Martha Coakley [D] had won, and I think that’s a mistake,” Frank said. “I will not support an effort to push through a House-Senate compromise bill despite an election. I’m disappointed in how it came out, but I think electoral results have to be respected.”

We are going to have a full week of this, and pushback from liberals, followed by counter-pushback from scared moderates before the State of the Union. By then the table will have been set and a new reality will have taken hold. Obama seems a bystander once again. He’s no longer shaping events or in command of his party. It’s every lawmaker for himself. And given Frank’s long track record in Democratic politics and talent for political survival (he’s escaped more than one near political death experience), I suspect that fellow Democrats are going to be far more inclined to listen to his advice than to Obama’s.

UPDATE: Frank has company, according to this report:

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) told a local reporter “it’s probably back to the drawing board on health care, which is unfortunate.” Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) told MSNBC this morning he will advise Democratic leaders to scrap the big bill and move small, more popular pieces that can attract Republicans. And Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said his leadership is “whistling past the graveyard” if they think Brown’s win won’t force a rethinking of the health care plan.

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Re: Saving Obama from Himself

Linda, if logic rules the day and Obama takes the lesson of Massachusetts to hear,t then you are on the money. Certainly a course correction after a year in office is not unprecedented and would likely be welcomed by most voters. But all that assumes Obama and his congressional allies are amenable to reason and willing to listen to the electorate. That remains an open question. They didn’t, after all, take New Jersey and Virginia voters’ messages to heart in decisive gubernatorial losses for the Democrats in 2009. They ignored polling all year on health-care reform. So would a Scott Brown victory be any different?

Some Democrats are nervous it won’t be. ABC News reports:

Even before the votes are counted, Senator Evan Bayh is warning fellow Democrats that ignoring the lessons of the Massachusetts Senate race will “lead to even further catastrophe” for their party. “There’s going to be a tendency on the part of our people to be in denial about all this,” Bayh told ABC News, but “if you lose Massachusetts and that’s not a wake-up call, there’s no hope of waking up. . . It’s why moderates and independents even in a state as Democratic as Massachusetts just aren’t buying our message,”  he said.  “They just don’t believe the answers we are currently proposing are solving their problems.  That’s something that has to be corrected.”

As many a nostalgic Republican has remarked during the Obama presidency, “Obama is no Bill Clinton.” By that, they are referring not to Clinton’s personal morals but to his ability to read the electorate, shift gears, and slide back into the public’s good graces. Maybe Obama has that capacity too, but his contemptuous attitude toward opposition and disinclination to hear bad news suggest otherwise. If Brown does pull off a Massachusetts Miracle, we’ll find out soon enough.

Linda, if logic rules the day and Obama takes the lesson of Massachusetts to hear,t then you are on the money. Certainly a course correction after a year in office is not unprecedented and would likely be welcomed by most voters. But all that assumes Obama and his congressional allies are amenable to reason and willing to listen to the electorate. That remains an open question. They didn’t, after all, take New Jersey and Virginia voters’ messages to heart in decisive gubernatorial losses for the Democrats in 2009. They ignored polling all year on health-care reform. So would a Scott Brown victory be any different?

Some Democrats are nervous it won’t be. ABC News reports:

Even before the votes are counted, Senator Evan Bayh is warning fellow Democrats that ignoring the lessons of the Massachusetts Senate race will “lead to even further catastrophe” for their party. “There’s going to be a tendency on the part of our people to be in denial about all this,” Bayh told ABC News, but “if you lose Massachusetts and that’s not a wake-up call, there’s no hope of waking up. . . It’s why moderates and independents even in a state as Democratic as Massachusetts just aren’t buying our message,”  he said.  “They just don’t believe the answers we are currently proposing are solving their problems.  That’s something that has to be corrected.”

As many a nostalgic Republican has remarked during the Obama presidency, “Obama is no Bill Clinton.” By that, they are referring not to Clinton’s personal morals but to his ability to read the electorate, shift gears, and slide back into the public’s good graces. Maybe Obama has that capacity too, but his contemptuous attitude toward opposition and disinclination to hear bad news suggest otherwise. If Brown does pull off a Massachusetts Miracle, we’ll find out soon enough.

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