Commentary Magazine


Topic: Massachusetts

The End of the Scott Brown Senate Saga

When then-State Senator Scott Brown decided to run for United States Senate from Massachusetts in 2010, he knew he would be a long shot. He also knew that if he won the seat, which he did, he would have to run another statewide election two years later to keep his seat. What he did not expect to have to do was run four statewide Senate elections in five years in order to serve in the Senate for a full term. And that is exactly what he would have had to do had he decided to run for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat in Massachusetts.

Instead, Brown opted against throwing his hat in the ring, leaving local and national Republicans disappointed. But it’s easy to understand the decision. Not only would Brown have to win a special election this year, but the seat is up in 2014, which means he’d have to run another election next year. One Senate election is exhausting. Two in three years is even more so. The prospect of running four Senate elections in five years, three of them in a row, was nothing less than daunting. This would be the case for any election, but in Brown’s case he was up against the odds of winning as a Republican in deep-blue Massachusetts. He also had a fairly attractive fallback option: run for governor of Massachusetts in 2014.

Read More

When then-State Senator Scott Brown decided to run for United States Senate from Massachusetts in 2010, he knew he would be a long shot. He also knew that if he won the seat, which he did, he would have to run another statewide election two years later to keep his seat. What he did not expect to have to do was run four statewide Senate elections in five years in order to serve in the Senate for a full term. And that is exactly what he would have had to do had he decided to run for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat in Massachusetts.

Instead, Brown opted against throwing his hat in the ring, leaving local and national Republicans disappointed. But it’s easy to understand the decision. Not only would Brown have to win a special election this year, but the seat is up in 2014, which means he’d have to run another election next year. One Senate election is exhausting. Two in three years is even more so. The prospect of running four Senate elections in five years, three of them in a row, was nothing less than daunting. This would be the case for any election, but in Brown’s case he was up against the odds of winning as a Republican in deep-blue Massachusetts. He also had a fairly attractive fallback option: run for governor of Massachusetts in 2014.

This could not have been an easy decision for Brown, who was suddenly catapulted to national fame by coming out of nowhere to win Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat after the late liberal lion passed away. He retained high approval numbers in office, and though he was a moderate, Massachusetts Republican, the national party–and even conservatives–could always console themselves with the thought of a GOP struggling nationally yet holding a seat in Massachusetts. It was a bright spot for the party and a constant reminder that the party could win virtually anywhere with the right candidate (and a bit of luck), and Brown joined Chris Christie in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell in Virginia as politicians whose mid-term and off-year victories stood as symbols of popular pushback against Obama administration excesses, most of all the unpopular Obamacare.

Brown also helped the GOP balance its sometimes-harsh national image. Thanks to our 24/7 digital media age, even statewide elections are now nationalized (which is part of what helped Brown’s liberal opponent defeat him in November). Thus, candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock didn’t only doom their own chances for election, but they contributed to the image of a clumsy and cold GOP. That may be an unfair brush with which to paint the Republican Party, but it’s a predictable by-product of the messaging struggles that haunted the party in a disappointing election cycle. Brown was not susceptible to the same attacks, and thus helped to disrupt the Democrats’ dishonest portrait of the GOP.

Brown hasn’t made any announcement on whether he’ll run for governor, but that was always looking like a more winnable race anyway–and it’s a race he’d only have to win once to serve a full term. While Massachusetts rarely elects Republican senators, current Governor Deval Patrick is the state’s first Democratic governor since Michael Dukakis left office in 1991. Since Brown left the Senate with an approval rating near 60 percent, he would probably be a formidable gubernatorial candidate. Massachusetts voters could also vote for him guilt-free–electing Brown as governor would do no damage to the Democratic Party’s hold on the U.S. Senate. (Perhaps they’ll even be inclined to reward Brown for not putting them through two more close Senate elections as well.)

Brown might also run against Martha Coakley for governor, which would allow him to face an opponent he has already defeated in an election in more favorable conditions than the first time they ran against each other. It could also raise Brown’s national profile in ways a Senate seat could not; there’s a reason voters seem to prefer electing governors president. Whether or not Brown actually envisions such a run down the road, experience as governor will pad his resume in ways most political offices cannot.

After Brown announced he was passing on the Senate race, Massachusetts Republicans hoped they could run with Richard Tisei, a state politician who lost a close election for a House seat in November. Tisei, too, will sit out the Senate race, as will former governor Bill Weld (who succeeded Dukakis). State Republicans have reportedly been trying to get both Anne Romney and the Romneys’ eldest son Tagg to consider running for the seat, which has Tagg intrigued enough not to say no. But Romney lost the state in November by 23 points; anything can happen in a special election, but it appears Massachusetts Democrats–and the national party–can breathe a sigh of relief with Brown stepping out of the Senate fray.

Read Less

Scott Brown’s Poll Numbers and the Lessons of 2012

Over the weekend, the MassInc Polling Group released the results of a poll on a hypothetical matchup for John Kerry’s soon-to-be-open Senate seat in Massachusetts. The poll contains some very good news for the possible Republican candidate, Scott Brown, but also offers a reminder of why his support and high approval numbers don’t by any means guarantee him true frontrunner status.

Brown learned that the hard way, of course, in November. He went into his election against liberal class warrior Elizabeth Warren with numbers any incumbent member of Congress, especially a senator, would feel good about. His approval rating was at 57 percent. He was viewed as bipartisan as well–essential to his success as a Republican in Massachusetts. That would normally insulate most senators in a general election (a primary would be another story). But Brown lost, and the good news/bad news disparity in this poll is a good summary of why:

Read More

Over the weekend, the MassInc Polling Group released the results of a poll on a hypothetical matchup for John Kerry’s soon-to-be-open Senate seat in Massachusetts. The poll contains some very good news for the possible Republican candidate, Scott Brown, but also offers a reminder of why his support and high approval numbers don’t by any means guarantee him true frontrunner status.

Brown learned that the hard way, of course, in November. He went into his election against liberal class warrior Elizabeth Warren with numbers any incumbent member of Congress, especially a senator, would feel good about. His approval rating was at 57 percent. He was viewed as bipartisan as well–essential to his success as a Republican in Massachusetts. That would normally insulate most senators in a general election (a primary would be another story). But Brown lost, and the good news/bad news disparity in this poll is a good summary of why:

Brown takes 53 percent support in the poll, over [Representative Edward] Markey at 31 percent. A match-up of Brown against a generic Democratic ballot is considerably closer, but Brown still leads, 44-36 percent….

His decision comes even as Markey has racked up numerous big-name endorsements from prominent Massachusetts and national Democrats, notably Kerry himself and the National Democratic Senatorial Committee. 


Brown has a strong favorability rating with Massachusetts voters, at 55 percent positive, but his numbers in head-to-head match-ups against the Democrats are possibly inflated because voters are unfamiliar with the Democratic candidates.

On the one hand, Brown’s numbers against a sitting Democratic congressman with high-profile endorsements (including from the man relinquishing the seat) are high. On the other, the numbers are much closer against a “generic” Democrat, since so many of the state’s voters are Democrats who would prefer an acceptable Democrat to a “good” Republican.

There are some conditions working in Brown’s favor. First of all, he won the last Senate special election and lost the full election, which took place in a presidential year, with President Obama on the ballot and the high turnout associated with presidential elections. The conditions of this special election, to take place later this year, would obviously resemble the conditions of the election he won more than the one he lost. Additionally, Brown ran against a weaker opponent in the first special election in Martha Coakley; if Markey begins the race with low numbers, it may signal that he is a weaker candidate than others who might want to run against Brown for the seat (hence “generic” Democrat’s lead over Markey).

And paradoxically, his recent election loss could help him find his way back to the Senate. One of the issues that Warren worked effectively during the race was the idea that re-electing Brown could tip control of the Senate to the Republican Party, so that even if Massachusetts voters liked Brown, they should think strategically about who they would empower in the nation at large with their votes. This year, since the Democrats have 55 seats in the Senate (including the two independents who caucus with the Democrats), Brown could not make a noticeable difference–or at least not a significant enough difference to worry Massachusetts voters. One takeaway from November’s election was that the state’s voters seemed to want both Brown and Warren in the Senate if they could so choose; they would–if Brown runs in this election–now have their chance.

However, Brown surely understands that his high approval numbers didn’t save him in November and they might fail to do so again if he runs. Further, Kerry’s seat is up in 2014. That means Brown would only have a year in the Senate to prepare for a general election again. But it also means he won’t have to run for re-election this time in a presidential year. Brown also has a choice: he can run for governor instead. If he chooses that path, he may get to run against Coakley again, and in general it would be easier under normal circumstances for Republicans to win the governorship in Massachusetts–as they have often done–than to win a Senate seat there.

The poll, then, is being reported as the kind of news that would encourage Brown to run for the seat, while instead it contains a reminder of why he may have an easier path back to political office by passing on the Senate seat. The national Republican Party would surely want Brown to choose the Senate seat over the governorship, but they may also underestimate the electoral strength of “Generic Democrat” in Massachusetts. It’s doubtful Brown would make the same mistake.

Read Less

Scott Brown’s Future

About a month ago, I noted that moderate Democrat Heath Shuler’s retirement was oddly unnoticed for a liberal media landscape obsessed with the supposed lack of “moderates.” I had mentioned that the retirement of Joe Lieberman, to be replaced by a more liberal Democrat, would be another sign that moderate Democrats were going extinct, and that this didn’t seem to bother Washington’s bipartisanship fetishists. And two days ago, I made the same point with regard to Scott Brown, the moderate Republican Massachusetts senator who was popular and bipartisan but who went down to defeat last night at the hands of a class warfare superstar of the academic hard-left.

So in that way, last night’s liberal victories in Massachusetts and Connecticut were hardly surprising, and the trend they solidify–moderate politicians being unwelcome in the Democratic Party–continues unabated. But while the results were easy to interpret from the standpoint of the victorious Democrats, left unresolved this morning is what the Massachusetts Republican Party will do with Scott Brown.

Read More

About a month ago, I noted that moderate Democrat Heath Shuler’s retirement was oddly unnoticed for a liberal media landscape obsessed with the supposed lack of “moderates.” I had mentioned that the retirement of Joe Lieberman, to be replaced by a more liberal Democrat, would be another sign that moderate Democrats were going extinct, and that this didn’t seem to bother Washington’s bipartisanship fetishists. And two days ago, I made the same point with regard to Scott Brown, the moderate Republican Massachusetts senator who was popular and bipartisan but who went down to defeat last night at the hands of a class warfare superstar of the academic hard-left.

So in that way, last night’s liberal victories in Massachusetts and Connecticut were hardly surprising, and the trend they solidify–moderate politicians being unwelcome in the Democratic Party–continues unabated. But while the results were easy to interpret from the standpoint of the victorious Democrats, left unresolved this morning is what the Massachusetts Republican Party will do with Scott Brown.

Brown, as the Boston Globe notes today, rose quickly to prominence as something of a conservative hero, winning Ted Kennedy’s seat with a mandate to stop the health care bill Kennedy supported. But his victory didn’t stop Obamacare, and now he is headed out of office. The Globe mentions the two most likely scenarios for a near-term continuation of Brown’s political career:

Indeed, few believe Brown’s career is over. He remains a popular figure, even after pounding Elizabeth Warren with attacks and taking a beating from her ads. Republicans Tuesday speculated that if Obama taps Senator John Kerry to serve as the next secretary of state, Brown could run for Kerry’s seat next year. It would be his third Senate run in three years. Brown has also been mentioned as a possible future candidate for governor.

“Defeat is only temporary,” Brown said, sparking loud applause from supporters, some of whom shouted, “Governor Brown!” To his supporters, Brown had done what voters had sent him to Washington to do: serve as a bridge between two parties.

Brown would have to be considered something of a favorite if Kerry’s seat opens up. Brown was popular, and went into the election last night with a 57 percent approval rating. That, combined with his political skill, blue-collar roots, and unmistakable Bay State accent put him in what would normally be a relatively safe reelection campaign. But as the Democratic Party moves to the left nationally, Massachusetts, a deep blue state, has moved with it step for step.

Additionally, Warren utilized the only strategy to beat a popular incumbent: take him out of the conversation about the race. Warren nationalized the race, warning of global warming skepticism by the likes of Jim Inhofe, a GOP senator from Warren’s native Oklahoma who Massachusetts voters probably don’t know but who sounded scary enough to liberals with a choice. Elect Scott brown, Warren said, and you may end up with a Republican-controlled Senate. In the end, Warren’s seat wasn’t needed to prevent a Republican Senate, but ironically this makes it more likely Brown would win another statewide Senate election if held in the near future: not only would the risk of a GOP Senate have dissipated, but Warren ended up manipulating the fears of the Massachusetts electorate unnecessarily.

They liked Brown, but Warren convinced them they needed her. They didn’t, and they still don’t, and they probably still like Brown. The governor’s office might be a bit tougher for him, because that would depend more on his potential opponent. But Massachusetts certainly elects Republican governors (Mitt Romney’s term wasn’t so long ago), and Brown’s moderate politics and steep knowledge of the issues facing his state would make him a strong candidate.

So when the Globe claims, in its headline, that Brown’s star has “set,” they may be jumping the gun. Brown’s victory to replace Ted Kennedy may not have stopped Obamacare, but it still may have launched the career many expected.

Read Less

Polls Show Scott Brown Popular, but Vulnerable on Election’s Eve

Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaign against Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts has sought from the beginning to nationalize the race. Brown is popular and a local Bay Stater with blue-collar roots, and Warren is a tenured law professor from out of state. But she is also a Democrat, in a state full of them. So she has tried to make the race almost solely about control of the U.S. Senate, and has gained some momentum making Brown a stand-in for the national Republican Party.

One sign that this tactic was successful is that on the eve of the election, both the Massachusetts campaigns sound almost exactly like their national counterparts. Brown, like Mitt Romney, is touting his bipartisanship and willingness to bring the two parties together to break the “gridlock” in Washington and get the economy moving again. Warren, on the other hand, is appealing to her party’s base, going almost exclusively negative, and doing the impressive juggling act of trying to advocate for women while also wrapping herself in the legacy of Ted Kennedy–an ironic combination to say the least. Another sign the messaging is working is that the candidates’ supporters are making the same arguments:

Read More

Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaign against Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts has sought from the beginning to nationalize the race. Brown is popular and a local Bay Stater with blue-collar roots, and Warren is a tenured law professor from out of state. But she is also a Democrat, in a state full of them. So she has tried to make the race almost solely about control of the U.S. Senate, and has gained some momentum making Brown a stand-in for the national Republican Party.

One sign that this tactic was successful is that on the eve of the election, both the Massachusetts campaigns sound almost exactly like their national counterparts. Brown, like Mitt Romney, is touting his bipartisanship and willingness to bring the two parties together to break the “gridlock” in Washington and get the economy moving again. Warren, on the other hand, is appealing to her party’s base, going almost exclusively negative, and doing the impressive juggling act of trying to advocate for women while also wrapping herself in the legacy of Ted Kennedy–an ironic combination to say the least. Another sign the messaging is working is that the candidates’ supporters are making the same arguments:

“Women are equal to men and we ought to get paid the same,” Warren said to a cheering crowd.

Like Democrats across the country, Warren has hammered the GOP, saying the party is waging a war on women, and has used Brown’s votes on several issues affecting women, including equal pay, to try and tie him to his Republican colleagues.

It’s a message that resonated with people in the gym in Lowell, including Laura McLaughlin.

“Why I’m here?” McLaughlin said. “Because I’m a woman. Let me tell you: I am 75 years old, I worked from age 20 to 65. When I was 63, we got equal pay in a community college. [It] took that long to get equal pay.”

And here’s a typical Brown supporter from the same story:

As Brown headed back for his bus, people crowded around him as if they did not want him to leave. Among them was Patrick Manning, who brought his two young daughters in his Ford F-150 pickup truck. Manning, an Army veteran, works for the Department of Public Works in Norwood.

“Scott is a … he is bipartisan. He can work between the two aisles, and when you have so much division up on Capitol Hill and they’re not working together, and Scott’s one of the people that will go in there and he can listen to both sides and do what’s right for both sides and make the best choices for the American people, not what’s right for the party,” he said.

Manning sees the race as much more partisan than Brown’s race against Martha Coakley two years ago.

“Because I believe Elizabeth Warren is much more partisan,” Manning said.

As the Boston Globe reports, the two latest polls of the race are split: one shows a one-point Brown lead, the other a four-point Warren lead. But the Globe also notes that Obama is favored over Romney 57 percent to 37 percent in the state. Warren’s strategy to change the subject every time her name comes up (or Brown’s, for that matter, since he has a solid approval rating) is a strange way to win a mandate to represent your state. But if Warren is as unpopular as she seems to think she is, she may be right that this is her best bet.

Brown, on the other hand, is in normally safe waters for an incumbent: job approval nearing 60 percent one day before an election. But the disappearance of Blue Dog and pro-life Democrats has shown a Democratic Party trending to its extremes and away from the center. In that environment, Massachusetts Democrats may prefer the liberal candidate to the competent, popular one, especially in the polarized atmosphere of a presidential Election Day.

Read Less

Brown-Warren “Civility” and the Law of Unintended Consequences

In February, Lindsay Mark Lewis, a former Democratic National Committee finance director, wrote a heavy-hearted piece for the New York Times. Lewis wrote that he has always supported campaign finance reform, but something funny had recently happened. The Law of Unintended Consequences, that bane of liberal social engineers and red tape wielding bureaucrats, had hit Lewis–and hard. One of the effects of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation was that it didn’t take money out of politics after all; it merely redirected money to less accountable groups like 527s and super PACs. Wrote a defeated Lewis:

Nevertheless, I’ve decided that the best way forward may be to go in the opposite direction: repeal what’s left of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as McCain-Feingold, which severely limits the amount of money the parties can collect for their candidates.

Well what do you know–the cure was worse than the disease. So much worse, in fact, that the country’s biggest boosters of that cure were turning against it, ruing the day they went after the First Amendment with malice aforethought. Something similar, but slightly less ironic, is now taking place in Massachusetts between Senator Scott Brown and his liberal challenger, Elizabeth Warren. To great fanfare—OK, modest fanfare—Brown and Warren signed a pledge that would effectively ban third-party groups from the race. When Brown announced the deal to Fox News in January, the station’s website reported it this way:

Read More

In February, Lindsay Mark Lewis, a former Democratic National Committee finance director, wrote a heavy-hearted piece for the New York Times. Lewis wrote that he has always supported campaign finance reform, but something funny had recently happened. The Law of Unintended Consequences, that bane of liberal social engineers and red tape wielding bureaucrats, had hit Lewis–and hard. One of the effects of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation was that it didn’t take money out of politics after all; it merely redirected money to less accountable groups like 527s and super PACs. Wrote a defeated Lewis:

Nevertheless, I’ve decided that the best way forward may be to go in the opposite direction: repeal what’s left of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as McCain-Feingold, which severely limits the amount of money the parties can collect for their candidates.

Well what do you know–the cure was worse than the disease. So much worse, in fact, that the country’s biggest boosters of that cure were turning against it, ruing the day they went after the First Amendment with malice aforethought. Something similar, but slightly less ironic, is now taking place in Massachusetts between Senator Scott Brown and his liberal challenger, Elizabeth Warren. To great fanfare—OK, modest fanfare—Brown and Warren signed a pledge that would effectively ban third-party groups from the race. When Brown announced the deal to Fox News in January, the station’s website reported it this way:

The Senate race in Massachusetts is going for the civility vote as Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren have agreed — under threat of financial penalty to themselves — to ban third party ads from their race.

Ah, civility at last. There was just simply no way this could end up having the opposite effect, right? Yet today, Rosie Gray reports from Lowell, Massachusetts:

The poison that runs through this state’s Senate race seemed to spill over into the traffic Tuesday night: Everyone was paralyzed, furious, and headed to the same place, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell’s Tsongas Center.

Everyone sounds really angry and on-edge. What happened? Gray explains:

The Massachusetts Senate Campaign, between a moderate Republican and a liberal hero, began with a pledge that was meant to keep things clean. The campaigns promised not to let outside groups run radio and television advertisements on their behalves. That agreement appears to have accomplished roughly the opposite of its goal: Now, instead of letting outsiders do the dirty work for them, Warren and Brown have had to do it themselves. And a race that was always going to be tough has reached an unusual depth of personal nastiness[.]

So it didn’t take the negativity out of the election, it simply caused the candidates to stoop to the levels of incivility previously only occupied by third parties—“an unusual depth of personal nastiness,” in Gray’s telling. As Gray describes it, the fact that the candidates themselves are behaving this way has set the tone for everyone involved, so even the debate audience seemed on the edge of a brawl.

Of course, they didn’t mean for this to happen. They just signed legally binding agreements to curtail free political speech, and somehow it didn’t work out. They had good intentions—and paved the road to Lowell with them.

Read Less

Warren Ad Repeats Unfounded Claims

One of the unwritten rules of political campaigns is that when there are accusations against a candidate that seem to be taking their toll on the candidate’s poll numbers, the campaign should seek to rebut the allegations without elevating them. That was one of the main criticisms–though surely not the only one–of Christine O’Donnell’s infamous ad proclaiming that she was not, in fact, a witch. Why even suggest to voters that they had any reason to believe she might be a witch, regardless of the stories of strange, and long forgotten, teenage eccentricities?

That is the primary difference between O’Donnell’s ad and a new one released by the campaign of Elizabeth Warren, who is running against Scott Brown in Massachusetts–O’Donnell was obvious innocent of the charges against her. Earlier in the campaign, it was revealed that Warren claimed Native American heritage on job applications that would give her “minority” considerations in the hiring process thanks to the increased focus on ethnic diversity in education. She did so without—then or since—providing evidence in support of her claimed status. Warren is now a tenured professor at Harvard Law, and has earned the ire both of Native American groups—whose heritage has been used as a prop by a wealthy, white, elite professor—and of minorities in general, who understand that Warren may have taken a spot away from a minority applicant by claiming she was one.

Read More

One of the unwritten rules of political campaigns is that when there are accusations against a candidate that seem to be taking their toll on the candidate’s poll numbers, the campaign should seek to rebut the allegations without elevating them. That was one of the main criticisms–though surely not the only one–of Christine O’Donnell’s infamous ad proclaiming that she was not, in fact, a witch. Why even suggest to voters that they had any reason to believe she might be a witch, regardless of the stories of strange, and long forgotten, teenage eccentricities?

That is the primary difference between O’Donnell’s ad and a new one released by the campaign of Elizabeth Warren, who is running against Scott Brown in Massachusetts–O’Donnell was obvious innocent of the charges against her. Earlier in the campaign, it was revealed that Warren claimed Native American heritage on job applications that would give her “minority” considerations in the hiring process thanks to the increased focus on ethnic diversity in education. She did so without—then or since—providing evidence in support of her claimed status. Warren is now a tenured professor at Harvard Law, and has earned the ire both of Native American groups—whose heritage has been used as a prop by a wealthy, white, elite professor—and of minorities in general, who understand that Warren may have taken a spot away from a minority applicant by claiming she was one.

As I wrote last week, a Boston Herald poll showed that Warren might be developing a “trust problem,” because she has sought to avoid answering questions about her claim rather than provide an explanation. Voters may have been picking up on a sense that Warren was hiding something. In the candidates’ first debate last week, Brown criticized Warren on the issue at the outset, and has followed up with an ad about it. Warren has responded with an ad of her own, advancing her claim and suggesting Brown’s criticism should be off-limits. She also says in the ad that she never asked for any benefit from her unfounded claim. The problem is, she is wrong on both counts. As CBS reports in its story about Warren’s defensive ad:

Warren has said she is Native American, and listed herself as such in some professional forms in the past, but has not offered up documentation proving that she is an official member of the Native American community.

There’s just no way around the fact that she claimed unsupported minority status on a job application where that minority status was expected to give her an edge. And in an age when anyone can trace their genealogical history from their personal computer, and in an era when records have been digitized, it’s much less convincing for Warren to insist that family lore and childhood stories are to be the final arbiters of the truthfulness of her statements.

Additionally, this is not the first time she pretended to be the victim when called out on her dubious assertions. As I wrote when this issue first appeared on the national radar screen:

Then Warren waded into it herself, saying of Brown: “What does he think it takes for a woman to be qualified?”…

Despite her obvious smarts, she has reflexively fallen back on charges of sexism, even when they are so ridiculous as to make you cringe. If Warren, a rich, white, Harvard professor, is a victim, everyone is.

I said that this was something of a tragedy for modern liberalism, since Warren is extremely intelligent, informed, and capable. Yet now she wants her gender, along with her supposed ethnic identity, to insulate her from fair criticism. It’s a pattern, and it only reinforces the credibility of the accusations against her.

Read Less

Warren’s Mistake: Nationalizing the Race

A poll of Massachusetts voters gave Scott Brown the win over Elizabeth Warren in last night’s Senate debate by ten points. Though I think Brown probably did win the debate, I thought Warren kept it very close—much closer than that poll suggests—and helped herself in a few ways. But I think two exchanges make up for the difference in perception between the poll results and the way it looked to those outside Massachusetts.

As I wrote on Wednesday, one major advantage Brown has over Warren is the fact that voters consider him to have a much stronger connection to the state than Warren, who is from Oklahoma. That discrepancy is magnified in a debate, where Brown’s accent, and Warren’s lack of one, drive the point home. But there are other ways to reinforce the local-vs.-outsider dynamic, and I think the two candidates did so clearly during their answers to a question about whether climate change is real and what can be done about it. Here is how Brown ended his answer:

Read More

A poll of Massachusetts voters gave Scott Brown the win over Elizabeth Warren in last night’s Senate debate by ten points. Though I think Brown probably did win the debate, I thought Warren kept it very close—much closer than that poll suggests—and helped herself in a few ways. But I think two exchanges make up for the difference in perception between the poll results and the way it looked to those outside Massachusetts.

As I wrote on Wednesday, one major advantage Brown has over Warren is the fact that voters consider him to have a much stronger connection to the state than Warren, who is from Oklahoma. That discrepancy is magnified in a debate, where Brown’s accent, and Warren’s lack of one, drive the point home. But there are other ways to reinforce the local-vs.-outsider dynamic, and I think the two candidates did so clearly during their answers to a question about whether climate change is real and what can be done about it. Here is how Brown ended his answer:

[Warren is] in favor of putting wind turbines in the middle of our greatest treasure–down in the Nantucket Sound. I, like Senator Kennedy before me, believe that’s not right.

And here’s how Warren closed her answer on the same question:

This race really may be for the control of the Senate. But what that would mean is, if the Republicans take over the Senate, [Oklahoma Senator] Jim Inhofe would become the person who would be in charge of the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency. He’s a man who has called global warming a hoax. In fact, that’s the title of his book. A man like that should not be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency, overseeing their work. And I just don’t understand how we could talk about going in that direction.

Brown’s rebuttal was a layup: “You’re not running against Jim Inhofe, you’re running against me, professor.”

And that was really Warren’s mistake, in a nutshell, because the other exchange I had in mind ended with Warren saying: “This really is about who you want as commander in chief,” explaining her support for President Obama over Mitt Romney as something the voters should consider.

The truth is, neither of Warren’s answers was bad, in and of itself. It’s that the responses explicitly nationalized a statewide election. And it only underlined the fact that Warren is, at heart, truly a national candidate. The Senate seat would be a consolation prize for her, since she really wanted to lead a new consumer protection bureaucracy in Washington. She has been focused on attacking Wall Street, and throughout the debate kept complaining about oil companies and a “rigged playing field.”

Her talking points are well rehearsed, but they’re mostly vague references worded for the Beltway press more than blue-collar Massachusetts voters. She seemed to be talking over her state, not to it–past the voters to the journalists who love catchy expressions of their own narratives.

Has Warren’s campaign even tested Jim Inhofe’s name recognition in Massachusetts? I’ll bet not—and I’d guess it wouldn’t be very high. That’s not because Massachusetts voters are disconnected from national issues. It’s just that name recognition of even high-ranking politicians is usually fairly low—lower, at least, than most people would think. So Warren’s decision to use her time in that answer to tie Brown to Inhofe may have been making a point her supporters would agree with, but it was probably a poor choice anyway.

It’s a bit of a vicious cycle for Warren: she is less familiar with Massachusetts issues than Brown, so she nationalizes the race, further seeming less familiar with Massachusetts issues. To break that cycle, she’d have to ditch Oklahoma politics for the Nantucket Sound.

Read Less

Mormon Issue Not New for Romney Adviser

Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski has unearthed a fascinating old C-SPAN clip from 1994, after Ted Kennedy defeated Mitt Romney in that year’s Massachusetts Senate race. The clip shows Stu Stevens, a GOP media strategist who is currently Romney’s chief strategist, discussing the Kennedy campaign’s conduct during the election. Kennedy elections are notoriously no-holds-barred affairs, and Stevens credited the Kennedy win in part to the Democrat’s repeated use of “the Mormon card”:

The Kennedy campaign very insidiously played the Mormon card in Massachusetts, by simply saying over and over again they weren’t going to talk about the fact that Romney was a Mormon. And this sort of worked. And the Romney campaign should’ve reacted more quickly to it. I think that they felt in Massachusetts it wouldn’t work because Massachusetts has a reputation of being a very tolerant state.

Romney’s rookie mistake, assuming the famous “liberal tolerance” was not the mirage it has always been, may not be a mistake the campaign will make again. That is all the more likely as Stevens is now a prominent campaign adviser. And it’s an important lesson to learn, because as Alana pointed out yesterday, Kaczynski’s colleague McKay Coppins is only the latest to produce a study showing that liberal anti-Mormon bigotry continues to rise.

Read More

Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski has unearthed a fascinating old C-SPAN clip from 1994, after Ted Kennedy defeated Mitt Romney in that year’s Massachusetts Senate race. The clip shows Stu Stevens, a GOP media strategist who is currently Romney’s chief strategist, discussing the Kennedy campaign’s conduct during the election. Kennedy elections are notoriously no-holds-barred affairs, and Stevens credited the Kennedy win in part to the Democrat’s repeated use of “the Mormon card”:

The Kennedy campaign very insidiously played the Mormon card in Massachusetts, by simply saying over and over again they weren’t going to talk about the fact that Romney was a Mormon. And this sort of worked. And the Romney campaign should’ve reacted more quickly to it. I think that they felt in Massachusetts it wouldn’t work because Massachusetts has a reputation of being a very tolerant state.

Romney’s rookie mistake, assuming the famous “liberal tolerance” was not the mirage it has always been, may not be a mistake the campaign will make again. That is all the more likely as Stevens is now a prominent campaign adviser. And it’s an important lesson to learn, because as Alana pointed out yesterday, Kaczynski’s colleague McKay Coppins is only the latest to produce a study showing that liberal anti-Mormon bigotry continues to rise.

And after Barack Obama’s strikingly negative campaign in 2008, and the campaign’s record of playing the Mormon card already, it’s clear the Obama campaign will try to out-Kennedy Kennedy (surely a dubious honor). As Alana also noted, the media–especially the New York Times–have relentlessly pushed the anti-Mormon nonsense in just about every conceivable way. And David Axelrod has repeatedly signaled that this will be one element in the president’s reelection strategy.

The question, then, is what Stevens plans to do to counter it. The rising rates of liberal anti-Mormon bigotry combined with the institutional support for that bigotry offered by the media limits the effectiveness of using Kennedy’s campaign as a model. And it also means talking about his religion may work against Romney.

There is also another challenge to countering such bias. In 2008, the Obama campaign believed that part of what sunk John Kerry’s campaign in 2004 was the candidate’s slow response to criticism. (In reality, what sunk John Kerry was being John Kerry.) So the Obama campaign resolved to preemptively accuse Republicans of racism, on the record and often. And when President George W. Bush gave a moving speech in 2008 at the Israeli Knesset at which he denounced appeasers, the combination of Obama’s acute narcissism and overdeveloped sense of self-pity caused the campaign to have one of its lowest moments, announcing that when Bush mentioned appeasers he must have been talking about Obama, and how dare he.

Stevens would do well to learn his own lesson from that: It is off-putting to always be in complaint mode, and voters don’t really like being told they are bigots. So his desire to be proactive on the issue of Romney’s religion carries its own inherent risks. It’s not clear exactly what the right answer is, but we now know Stevens has been mulling over this very question for quite some time.

Read Less

Warren May Face Primary Challenge

Massachusetts Democratic Party leaders had hoped Elizabeth Warren could train her focus on Sen. Scott Brown after the state Democratic convention, but now it looks like anxious delegates may force Warren to face a primary challenger this summer:

But Warren’s advisers and some seasoned political hands say she will have a difficult time blocking Marisa DeFranco, a North Shore immigration lawyer, from getting the 15 percent of delegate votes she needs to qualify for the primary ballot. Since the 15-percent requirement was put in place in 1982, no leading Democratic candidate has eliminated an opponent by getting more than 85 percent of the delegate vote at a convention.

At the Boston Herald, Holly Robichaud wonders whether this is a case of rogue Democratic delegates going off the reservation, or if nervous party leaders are quietly plotting to keep DeFranco around as a Plan B:

By allowing DeFranco on the ballot, does that mean Democrats think that Lieawatha is a flawed candidate? Have Democratic leaders lost control of their party? Or is this their backup plan in case October’s hot Halloween costume is a Democratic Senate candidate, complete with Indian headdress?

Certainly, delegates defecting to DeFranco would be thumbing their collective noses at Democratic party leaders, who have been plotting for months to give Lizzy a direct shot at our hometown hero, Brown.

Read More

Massachusetts Democratic Party leaders had hoped Elizabeth Warren could train her focus on Sen. Scott Brown after the state Democratic convention, but now it looks like anxious delegates may force Warren to face a primary challenger this summer:

But Warren’s advisers and some seasoned political hands say she will have a difficult time blocking Marisa DeFranco, a North Shore immigration lawyer, from getting the 15 percent of delegate votes she needs to qualify for the primary ballot. Since the 15-percent requirement was put in place in 1982, no leading Democratic candidate has eliminated an opponent by getting more than 85 percent of the delegate vote at a convention.

At the Boston Herald, Holly Robichaud wonders whether this is a case of rogue Democratic delegates going off the reservation, or if nervous party leaders are quietly plotting to keep DeFranco around as a Plan B:

By allowing DeFranco on the ballot, does that mean Democrats think that Lieawatha is a flawed candidate? Have Democratic leaders lost control of their party? Or is this their backup plan in case October’s hot Halloween costume is a Democratic Senate candidate, complete with Indian headdress?

Certainly, delegates defecting to DeFranco would be thumbing their collective noses at Democratic party leaders, who have been plotting for months to give Lizzy a direct shot at our hometown hero, Brown.

Some Massachusetts Democrats may want DeFranco available as a fallback, but they’re also opening the party up to risk if she gets on the ballot. Warren will have to fight attacks from both the right and left, and face criticism about her Native American ancestry claims from both sides. DeFranco isn’t anywhere near a serious threat at this point, as her fundraising, name-recognition, and organization are miniscule compared to Warren’s. And Democrats have no real reason to shift support from Warren’s campaign to DeFranco’s, as the ancestry controversy doesn’t seem to be hurting the presumed Democratic frontrunner in the polls yet. But DeFranco can still end up being a drain on Warren’s resources and a distraction.

Case in point: DeFranco has already challenged Warren to four debates during the summer, and it sounds like Warren is actually considering it:

Thomas Whalen, a political historian at Boston University, said of DeFranco’s debate demand, “It’s a Hail Mary pass, but I suppose if I were in her shoes, I would do the same. If you want a really strong showing in the primary, you need to have a serious debate to puncture holes in her arguments. If Elizabeth Warren turns down the debates, it looks bad, like she is shirking. … She’s caught in a tough situation. The state Democratic Party looks bad, like how can they allow this to happen?”

The Warren campaign has to avoid blatantly disrespecting DeFranco, because the Brown campaign – and the Massachusetts media – will likely be watching closely for any perceived arrogance on Warren’s part. It was that sort of self-entitled attitude that undermined Martha Coakley’s bid in 2010.

Read Less

Cherokee Controversy Not Hurting Warren

Suffolk University finds that Elizabeth Warren’s support is actually holding steady in Massachusetts, despite the ongoing controversy about her dubious Cherokee ancestry claims. Sen. Scott Brown and Warren still appear to be in a dead heat:

Republican incumbent Scott Brown (48 percent) clings to a one-point lead over Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren (47 percent) in the Massachusetts race for the U.S. Senate, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WHDH-Boston) poll of likely general-election voters in Massachusetts.

The poll result is well within the margin of error. Five percent of voters were undecided in a race that has drawn interest from across the country, even though the primaries are months away. The race has closed since a February Suffolk University/7NEWS poll showed Brown leading Warren 49 percent to 40 percent, with 11 percent either undecided or choosing someone else.

Read More

Suffolk University finds that Elizabeth Warren’s support is actually holding steady in Massachusetts, despite the ongoing controversy about her dubious Cherokee ancestry claims. Sen. Scott Brown and Warren still appear to be in a dead heat:

Republican incumbent Scott Brown (48 percent) clings to a one-point lead over Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren (47 percent) in the Massachusetts race for the U.S. Senate, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WHDH-Boston) poll of likely general-election voters in Massachusetts.

The poll result is well within the margin of error. Five percent of voters were undecided in a race that has drawn interest from across the country, even though the primaries are months away. The race has closed since a February Suffolk University/7NEWS poll showed Brown leading Warren 49 percent to 40 percent, with 11 percent either undecided or choosing someone else.

As you can see, Warren has gained significant ground since Suffolk’s last poll in February, while Brown’s support has stagnated just below 50 percent. While the Cherokee story makes for delicious headlines and entertaining blog fodder, Massachusetts voters don’t seem to view it as a negative reflection on Warren’s personal ethics. On that point, Allahpundit points out perhaps the most telling finding in the entire poll: when asked which candidate respondents trusted more to tell the truth, 40 percent said Elizabeth Warren as opposed to 37 percent who said Scott Brown.

As AmSpec’s Aaron Goldstein writes: “If voters in Connecticut didn’t care about Richard Blumenthal misrepresenting his military service, is it really a stretch to imagine that Massachusetts voters won’t care if Elizabeth Warren lied about being Native American to advance her career?” Good point. If the state GOP is able to tie the ancestry issue to an angle Massachusetts voters do care about, maybe they can get some more mileage out of the scandal. Otherwise, it looks like Warren may be in the clear.

Read Less

Mass Dems Stuck With Elizabeth Warren

Massachusetts Democrats are stuck with Elizabeth Warren. That’s what the Boston Herald is reporting after talking to state Democrats, and they’re probably right. There is nobody with Warren’s name recognition and catching up with fundraising, at this point, would be a long shot:

“The Democratic Party is really stuck,” countered University of New Hampshire political science professor Andrew Smith. “They essentially cleared the path for her as a candidate, and they can’t get rid of her now. She could conceivably drop out, but I doubt that will be the case, and I doubt the party will try to push her aside.” …

Smith and some Democrats say the party can’t switch front-runners now — it’s probably too late for a big name that could attract big money to jump in and gather the 10,000 signatures needed by a June 5 deadline.

“They’re in a tough spot, but there’s not a lot they can do about it,” Smith said.

Warren had $10.9 million as of late March to Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s $15 million.

Read More

Massachusetts Democrats are stuck with Elizabeth Warren. That’s what the Boston Herald is reporting after talking to state Democrats, and they’re probably right. There is nobody with Warren’s name recognition and catching up with fundraising, at this point, would be a long shot:

“The Democratic Party is really stuck,” countered University of New Hampshire political science professor Andrew Smith. “They essentially cleared the path for her as a candidate, and they can’t get rid of her now. She could conceivably drop out, but I doubt that will be the case, and I doubt the party will try to push her aside.” …

Smith and some Democrats say the party can’t switch front-runners now — it’s probably too late for a big name that could attract big money to jump in and gather the 10,000 signatures needed by a June 5 deadline.

“They’re in a tough spot, but there’s not a lot they can do about it,” Smith said.

Warren had $10.9 million as of late March to Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s $15 million.

The fundraising is the bigger concern, but it’s not true that nobody else could gather the signatures before June 5. Warren’s primary opponent, Marisa DeFranco, reportedly already has, though she’s raised a paltry $9,074 during the first quarter of 2012. True, DeFranco isn’t being dragged down by a Native American ancestry scandal. But she’s also way less polished than Warren, has virtually no campaign infrastructure in place, and has barely any name recognition in the state, let alone any national fundraising capacity. If Democrats ditch Warren and take a gamble on someone like DeFranco, they could end up in an even worse position, particularly if she can’t handle the national media glare.

Democrats are putting a lot of stock in a recent Rasmussen poll that found the controversy hasn’t hurt Warren in the state, and are hoping this scandal blows over by the summer. Whether that happens – and whether the issue starts to take a heavy toll on Warren’s poll numbers – likely depends on whether state Republicans can convince voters that this is a reflection on Warren’s personal integrity, rather than just a sensational storyline.

Read Less

Curious Quote of the Day

From a Bloomberg News article on turmoil in the Middle East:

In Egypt, where Mubarak, 82, has been a dependable U.S. ally for 30 years, the White House will need “a delicate touch” to “ensure that a successor government is neither virulently anti-American nor openly hostile to Israel,” said Stephen M. Walt, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Egypt is the fourth-largest recipient of U.S. aid, after Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel, according to the State Department’s 2011 budget, receiving more than $1.5 billion a year.

“We should be quietly advising other leaders in the region to take steps to alleviate discontent” and “avoid the same fate that Mubarak is now experiencing,” Walt said.

There’s no further description of Professor Walt in the Bloomberg article, but those familiar with his record on matters relating to Jews or Israel may find the spectacle of his cautioning against an Egyptian government “openly hostile to Israel” to be somewhat stunning, akin to Karl Marx being quoted hoping that the new Egyptian government won’t be openly hostile to capitalism. Though I suppose it leaves open the possibility that Professor Walt is hoping for an Egyptian government that’s privately hostile to Israel while publicly professing to wish it no harm.

From a Bloomberg News article on turmoil in the Middle East:

In Egypt, where Mubarak, 82, has been a dependable U.S. ally for 30 years, the White House will need “a delicate touch” to “ensure that a successor government is neither virulently anti-American nor openly hostile to Israel,” said Stephen M. Walt, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Egypt is the fourth-largest recipient of U.S. aid, after Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel, according to the State Department’s 2011 budget, receiving more than $1.5 billion a year.

“We should be quietly advising other leaders in the region to take steps to alleviate discontent” and “avoid the same fate that Mubarak is now experiencing,” Walt said.

There’s no further description of Professor Walt in the Bloomberg article, but those familiar with his record on matters relating to Jews or Israel may find the spectacle of his cautioning against an Egyptian government “openly hostile to Israel” to be somewhat stunning, akin to Karl Marx being quoted hoping that the new Egyptian government won’t be openly hostile to capitalism. Though I suppose it leaves open the possibility that Professor Walt is hoping for an Egyptian government that’s privately hostile to Israel while publicly professing to wish it no harm.

Read Less

Morning Commentary

On Saturday, P5+1 officials will meet with Iranian leaders to push them to ensure that their nuclear program is peaceful. But it looks like Iran is doing everything in its power not to cooperate: “Iran, however, is coming to Turkey offering no signs that it is willing to respect United Nations Security Council resolutions and suspend its production of nuclear fuel. ‘There is nothing to discuss’ about Iran’s nuclear program, an Iranian official said. ‘In Istanbul, we will speak about something else.’”

The day after President Hu Jintao was honored with a State Dinner by President Obama, the Chinese leader met privately with lawmakers who pressed him on China’s poor record on human rights: “Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emerged Thursday from his huddle with Hu optimistic and hopeful on all fronts, suggesting a major breakthrough had occurred in Hu’s recognition that his nation had a subpar human rights record and that key progress was made in making China engage other nations.”

Richard Falk, the UN’s Palestine investigator, once again came out as a supporter of the 9/11 “Truth movement” on his blog last week (he’s been making “truther” statements since 2004). UN Watch is now calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to fire Falk, especially in light of Ki-moon’s condemnation of Ahmadinejad for endorsing similar theories: “The effect of Mr. Falk’s conspiracy-mongering is to deny and excuse the terrorist acts committed by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. It insults the memories of those who perished on 9/11, and deeply offends their families and loved ones — as well as all decent men and women worldwide. Mr. Falk’s repulsive comments violate UNHRC Resolution 5/2, which require U.N. experts to uphold the highest standards of integrity, probity, and good faith. Indeed, they shame the United Nations.”

Rep. Steve Cohen should probably avoid making any more public statements for the next few days, because he just keeps digging himself into a bigger hole. Cohen, who compared Republicans to Nazis earlier this week, apologized that his words are being used as a “distraction” by his political opponents, in a statement he released yesterday afternoon: “It is disappointing that my comments have been used to distract from the health care reform debate. It is my hope that we can return our focus to the matter at hand — health care for 32 million Americans.”

On the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural, Mike Pence talked to National Review about how the former president inspired him: “Reagan is the reason I’m a Republican. … I was active in local Democratic politics when I was a teenager in Columbus, Indiana. Then I started to hear the voice of a B-movie actor, turned governor, turned candidate. He gave voice to the ideals and values that I was raised to believe in.”

On Saturday, P5+1 officials will meet with Iranian leaders to push them to ensure that their nuclear program is peaceful. But it looks like Iran is doing everything in its power not to cooperate: “Iran, however, is coming to Turkey offering no signs that it is willing to respect United Nations Security Council resolutions and suspend its production of nuclear fuel. ‘There is nothing to discuss’ about Iran’s nuclear program, an Iranian official said. ‘In Istanbul, we will speak about something else.’”

The day after President Hu Jintao was honored with a State Dinner by President Obama, the Chinese leader met privately with lawmakers who pressed him on China’s poor record on human rights: “Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emerged Thursday from his huddle with Hu optimistic and hopeful on all fronts, suggesting a major breakthrough had occurred in Hu’s recognition that his nation had a subpar human rights record and that key progress was made in making China engage other nations.”

Richard Falk, the UN’s Palestine investigator, once again came out as a supporter of the 9/11 “Truth movement” on his blog last week (he’s been making “truther” statements since 2004). UN Watch is now calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to fire Falk, especially in light of Ki-moon’s condemnation of Ahmadinejad for endorsing similar theories: “The effect of Mr. Falk’s conspiracy-mongering is to deny and excuse the terrorist acts committed by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. It insults the memories of those who perished on 9/11, and deeply offends their families and loved ones — as well as all decent men and women worldwide. Mr. Falk’s repulsive comments violate UNHRC Resolution 5/2, which require U.N. experts to uphold the highest standards of integrity, probity, and good faith. Indeed, they shame the United Nations.”

Rep. Steve Cohen should probably avoid making any more public statements for the next few days, because he just keeps digging himself into a bigger hole. Cohen, who compared Republicans to Nazis earlier this week, apologized that his words are being used as a “distraction” by his political opponents, in a statement he released yesterday afternoon: “It is disappointing that my comments have been used to distract from the health care reform debate. It is my hope that we can return our focus to the matter at hand — health care for 32 million Americans.”

On the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural, Mike Pence talked to National Review about how the former president inspired him: “Reagan is the reason I’m a Republican. … I was active in local Democratic politics when I was a teenager in Columbus, Indiana. Then I started to hear the voice of a B-movie actor, turned governor, turned candidate. He gave voice to the ideals and values that I was raised to believe in.”

Read Less

President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address

Today is the 50th anniversary of the most memorable and most quoted inaugural address of the 20th century. On this day in 1961, 43-year-old John F. Kennedy was sworn in as president.

The actual drafting of Kennedy’s speech did not get under way until the week before it was due. According to Theodore Sorenson, the president’s speechwriter, Kennedy was worried that his farewell speech to Massachusetts, in an address to the state legislature, had pre-empted some of his best material.

In reading early drafts of the inaugural address, Kennedy suggested dropping references to domestic matters altogether and toned down the partisanship, saying it sounded too much like the campaign. He also wanted it to be the shortest inaugural address in the 20th century. “It’s more effective that way,” Kennedy said, “and I don’t want people to think I’m a windbag.”

The speech itself is exquisite: eloquent and stirring; compact; beautifully balanced; filled with vivid, memorable lines; an address that perfectly captured the spirit of the postwar generation in politics.

In putting America’s struggle within a larger context, Kennedy, early in the speech, articulated its philosophical underpinning: “For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago,” JFK said. “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

I was not yet born when Kennedy delivered his address. But as a young man in college in the 1980s, I would journey to the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library and listen to the speech so often that I eventually memorized every word. Like so many other people of my generation and from an earlier generation, the Kennedy presidency — and the Kennedy rhetoric – deepened my interest in both politics and the power and importance of words.

Do yourself a favor today and set aside a few minutes to read one of the most beautifully crafted speeches in American history.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the most memorable and most quoted inaugural address of the 20th century. On this day in 1961, 43-year-old John F. Kennedy was sworn in as president.

The actual drafting of Kennedy’s speech did not get under way until the week before it was due. According to Theodore Sorenson, the president’s speechwriter, Kennedy was worried that his farewell speech to Massachusetts, in an address to the state legislature, had pre-empted some of his best material.

In reading early drafts of the inaugural address, Kennedy suggested dropping references to domestic matters altogether and toned down the partisanship, saying it sounded too much like the campaign. He also wanted it to be the shortest inaugural address in the 20th century. “It’s more effective that way,” Kennedy said, “and I don’t want people to think I’m a windbag.”

The speech itself is exquisite: eloquent and stirring; compact; beautifully balanced; filled with vivid, memorable lines; an address that perfectly captured the spirit of the postwar generation in politics.

In putting America’s struggle within a larger context, Kennedy, early in the speech, articulated its philosophical underpinning: “For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago,” JFK said. “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

I was not yet born when Kennedy delivered his address. But as a young man in college in the 1980s, I would journey to the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library and listen to the speech so often that I eventually memorized every word. Like so many other people of my generation and from an earlier generation, the Kennedy presidency — and the Kennedy rhetoric – deepened my interest in both politics and the power and importance of words.

Do yourself a favor today and set aside a few minutes to read one of the most beautifully crafted speeches in American history.

Read Less

Morning Commentary

As Max Boot noted yesterday, the assassination of Salman Taseer highlights the rise of Islamic extremists in Pakistan, who have been gaining power in the country despite the fact that their views aren’t shared by the majority of Pakistanis: “Yet in a country where Taliban militants increasingly flex their muscles through bombings, religious hard-liners have great power to intimidate even though polls show that their views are not widely shared. Last week’s strike by Islamic organizations drew few supporters to the streets, but shops in major cities closed – and many merchants said they did so under threat.”

Politico reports that Robert Gibbs’s days as White House press secretary may be numbered. Gibbs is apparently considering stepping aside within the next few weeks to concentrate on handling media strategy for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

At the Guardian, Sohrab Ahmari’s writes an excellent takedown of Stephen Kinzer’s recent column on human rights “imperialism”: “But it is Kinzer’s extreme cultural relativism that makes his argument against the human rights community particularly troubling. For he is effectively implying that some people deserve fewer individual rights than others.”

Days after dozens of Egyptian Christians were murdered in a terrorist attack during Mass, supporters of the victims protest peacefully in Cairo: “Hundreds of supporters of Egyptian Christians protesting a New Year’s bombing that killed nearly two dozen of their members marched Tuesday night on a church in a Cairo suburb, where they were met by an equal number of security officers in riot gear.”

Say what you will about Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism efforts — its intelligence service is top notch. While most spy agencies focus on tracking down human moles, the Saudis are concentrating on their avian counterparts.

As Max Boot noted yesterday, the assassination of Salman Taseer highlights the rise of Islamic extremists in Pakistan, who have been gaining power in the country despite the fact that their views aren’t shared by the majority of Pakistanis: “Yet in a country where Taliban militants increasingly flex their muscles through bombings, religious hard-liners have great power to intimidate even though polls show that their views are not widely shared. Last week’s strike by Islamic organizations drew few supporters to the streets, but shops in major cities closed – and many merchants said they did so under threat.”

Politico reports that Robert Gibbs’s days as White House press secretary may be numbered. Gibbs is apparently considering stepping aside within the next few weeks to concentrate on handling media strategy for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

At the Guardian, Sohrab Ahmari’s writes an excellent takedown of Stephen Kinzer’s recent column on human rights “imperialism”: “But it is Kinzer’s extreme cultural relativism that makes his argument against the human rights community particularly troubling. For he is effectively implying that some people deserve fewer individual rights than others.”

Days after dozens of Egyptian Christians were murdered in a terrorist attack during Mass, supporters of the victims protest peacefully in Cairo: “Hundreds of supporters of Egyptian Christians protesting a New Year’s bombing that killed nearly two dozen of their members marched Tuesday night on a church in a Cairo suburb, where they were met by an equal number of security officers in riot gear.”

Say what you will about Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism efforts — its intelligence service is top notch. While most spy agencies focus on tracking down human moles, the Saudis are concentrating on their avian counterparts.

Read Less

The Persecution of Christians in the Middle East

At Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt, 21 Coptic Christians were killed and nearly 100 wounded at a New Year’s Mass bombing. “The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf,” Marco Boutros, 17, said from his hospital bed where he was being treated for wounds. “All I could see were body parts scattered all over, legs and bits of flesh.”

The New York Times reports:

The bombing early on Saturday morning climaxed the bloodiest year in four decades of sectarian tensions in Egypt, beginning with a Muslim gunman’s killings of nine people outside another midnight Mass, at a church in the city of Nag Hammadi on Jan. 6, the Coptic Christmas.

Analysts said the weekend bombing was in a sense the culmination of a long escalation of violence against Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population. But at the same time the blast’s planning and scale – a suicide bomber evidently detonated a locally made explosive device packed with nails and other shrapnel, the authorities said Sunday – were a break with the smaller episodes of intra-communal violence that have marked Muslim-Christian relations for the past decade.

Egyptian officials believe the attacks seemed at least inspired by al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups; Egyptian President Hosni Mubarack said it was the work of “foreign fingers.” But the attack may have been executed by local Egyptians. And writing after the bombing on Ahram Online, its editor, Hani Shukrallah, penned these powerful, ominous words:

We are to join in a chorus of condemnation. Jointly, Muslims and Christians, government and opposition, Church and Mosque, clerics and laypeople — all of us are going to stand up and with a single voice declare unequivocal denunciation of al-Qaeda, Islamist militants, and Muslim fanatics of every shade, hue and color; some of us will even go the extra mile to denounce salafi Islam, Islamic fundamentalism as a whole, and the Wahabi Islam which, presumably, is a Saudi import wholly alien to our Egyptian national culture.

And once again we’re going to declare the eternal unity of “the twin elements of the nation,” and hearken back the Revolution of 1919, with its hoisted banner showing the crescent embracing the cross, and giving symbolic expression to that unbreakable bond.

Much of it will be sheer hypocrisy; a great deal of it will be variously nuanced so as keep, just below the surface, the heaps of narrow-minded prejudice, flagrant double standard and, indeed, bigotry that holds in its grip so many of the participants in the condemnations.

All of it will be to no avail. We’ve been here before; we’ve done exactly that, yet the massacres continue, each more horrible than the one before it, and the bigotry and intolerance spread deeper and wider into every nook and cranny of our society. It is not easy to empty Egypt of its Christians; they’ve been here for as long as there has been Christianity in the world. Close to a millennium and half of Muslim rule did not eradicate the nation’s Christian community, rather it maintained it sufficiently strong and sufficiently vigorous so as to play a crucial role in shaping the national, political and cultural identity of modern Egypt.

Yet now, two centuries after the birth of the modern Egyptian nation state, and as we embark on the second decade of the 21stcentury, the previously unheard of seems no longer beyond imagining: a Christian-free Egypt, one where the cross will have slipped out of the crescent’s embrace, and off the flag symbolizing our modern national identity. I hope that if and when that day comes I will have been long dead, but dead or alive, this will be an Egypt which I do not recognize and to which I have no desire to belong.

These attacks in Egypt come amid a new campaign of violence against Iraqi Christians, who are being forced to flee to northern Iraq or abroad because of growing fear that the country’s security forces are unable or unwilling to protect them. Read More

At Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt, 21 Coptic Christians were killed and nearly 100 wounded at a New Year’s Mass bombing. “The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf,” Marco Boutros, 17, said from his hospital bed where he was being treated for wounds. “All I could see were body parts scattered all over, legs and bits of flesh.”

The New York Times reports:

The bombing early on Saturday morning climaxed the bloodiest year in four decades of sectarian tensions in Egypt, beginning with a Muslim gunman’s killings of nine people outside another midnight Mass, at a church in the city of Nag Hammadi on Jan. 6, the Coptic Christmas.

Analysts said the weekend bombing was in a sense the culmination of a long escalation of violence against Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population. But at the same time the blast’s planning and scale – a suicide bomber evidently detonated a locally made explosive device packed with nails and other shrapnel, the authorities said Sunday – were a break with the smaller episodes of intra-communal violence that have marked Muslim-Christian relations for the past decade.

Egyptian officials believe the attacks seemed at least inspired by al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups; Egyptian President Hosni Mubarack said it was the work of “foreign fingers.” But the attack may have been executed by local Egyptians. And writing after the bombing on Ahram Online, its editor, Hani Shukrallah, penned these powerful, ominous words:

We are to join in a chorus of condemnation. Jointly, Muslims and Christians, government and opposition, Church and Mosque, clerics and laypeople — all of us are going to stand up and with a single voice declare unequivocal denunciation of al-Qaeda, Islamist militants, and Muslim fanatics of every shade, hue and color; some of us will even go the extra mile to denounce salafi Islam, Islamic fundamentalism as a whole, and the Wahabi Islam which, presumably, is a Saudi import wholly alien to our Egyptian national culture.

And once again we’re going to declare the eternal unity of “the twin elements of the nation,” and hearken back the Revolution of 1919, with its hoisted banner showing the crescent embracing the cross, and giving symbolic expression to that unbreakable bond.

Much of it will be sheer hypocrisy; a great deal of it will be variously nuanced so as keep, just below the surface, the heaps of narrow-minded prejudice, flagrant double standard and, indeed, bigotry that holds in its grip so many of the participants in the condemnations.

All of it will be to no avail. We’ve been here before; we’ve done exactly that, yet the massacres continue, each more horrible than the one before it, and the bigotry and intolerance spread deeper and wider into every nook and cranny of our society. It is not easy to empty Egypt of its Christians; they’ve been here for as long as there has been Christianity in the world. Close to a millennium and half of Muslim rule did not eradicate the nation’s Christian community, rather it maintained it sufficiently strong and sufficiently vigorous so as to play a crucial role in shaping the national, political and cultural identity of modern Egypt.

Yet now, two centuries after the birth of the modern Egyptian nation state, and as we embark on the second decade of the 21stcentury, the previously unheard of seems no longer beyond imagining: a Christian-free Egypt, one where the cross will have slipped out of the crescent’s embrace, and off the flag symbolizing our modern national identity. I hope that if and when that day comes I will have been long dead, but dead or alive, this will be an Egypt which I do not recognize and to which I have no desire to belong.

These attacks in Egypt come amid a new campaign of violence against Iraqi Christians, who are being forced to flee to northern Iraq or abroad because of growing fear that the country’s security forces are unable or unwilling to protect them.

This is a deeply disquieting turn of of events. One of the challenges of Muslim societies is to show that they are able to co-exist with, and respect the rights of, Christian minorities. In many Islamic societies, like Saudi Arabia, the record is beyond dismal. And now some nations, like Egypt and Iraq, appear to be moving in the wrong direction, with persecution increasing.

This matter is complicated by the fact that in both Egypt and Iraq, the governments are speaking out against Christian persecution. But the question is whether there is sufficient will to enforce the words of empathy and outrage. It’s far from clear that it is.

On the matter of persecution, those of the Christian faith were warned by their founder, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” The Cross is an offense, St. Paul wrote in the book of Corinthians. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you,” St. Peter, who was martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero, wrote. “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

These are comforting words for a persecuted people. And whatever exceeding joy may await those whose blood has been shed because of their faith, governments, including our own, have an obligation to take steps to protect the basic rights of their citizens — people of all faiths and people of no faith at all. Those in position of authority need to do much more than they are to protect those enduring the fiery trial. Certainly religious persecution needs to rise as a priority of American foreign policy.

As one Egyptian worshipper said on Saturday, “Why would my son or brother go to celebrate the mass by prayer, not by drinking or doing drugs or anything like that, but by praying in the church, and then this would happen to them at the church gate? What religion or law, whatever it is, would approve what happened [at Saints Church]?”

That is a question all civilized nations should grapple with as the persecution of faithful Christians intensifies the world over.

Read Less

Evening Commentary

Libertarians often look to the Founding Fathers as political role models, but would the Founders have actually fit the modern definition of a libertarian? David Frum argues no — and writes that those who attribute this ideology to the Founders are simply ignoring history: “[I]f the libertarian impulse summons us to take action to contain and constrain that government, very well let us take up the task. But we can do that task without duping ourselves with a false history that denies the reality of the past and — ironically — belittles the Founders’ actual achievements by measuring them against standards they would surely have rejected, if they had ever understood them.”

A church in Egypt was bombed during New Year’s Mass, killing 21 and injuring dozens more. Authorities believe the attack was carried out by extremist Muslims who were inspired by al-Qaeda but not necessarily associated with the terror group.

Good news: A new “groundbreaking” research project has found that conservative brains are structured to be “fearful” and “reflexive,” while liberal brains are structured to be “courageous” and “optimistic.” Over at the New York Post, Kyle Smith discovers that this important study has cleared up some confusing discrepancies in his own life: “[Professor] Rees has the answer to why, in my Army career, I kept running into so many conceptual performance artists from San Francisco and Chelsea. Seldom did I do a push-up or clean my M16 without finding myself amid heated debate from the officer class about whether Walter Mondale or Eugene McCarthy was the most inspiring American political leader of our era.”

Government spending can actually help stimulate economic growth, argues George Will. But in order for progress to occur, this spending needs to fund the projects of society’s top scientific innovators and pioneers. “With populism rampant, this is not a propitious moment to defend elites, even scientific ones. Nevertheless, the nation depends on nourishing them and the institutions that sustain them,” writes Will.

Well, this was bound to happen eventually. Leftists at the Guardian are now openly opposing human rights: “[Human-rights groups] promote an absolutist view of human rights permeated by modern western ideas that westerners mistakenly call ‘universal.’ In some cases, their work, far from saving lives, actually causes more death, more repression, more brutality and an absolute weakening of human rights.” Yeah, who are we to oppress the people of Saudi Arabia and Iran with our imperialist idea that women shouldn’t be stoned for adultery?

Five members of Hamas have been charged in a plot to bomb a major Israeli stadium during a soccer game. Authorities say that the attack was meant to be in retaliation for Operation Cast Lead in 2008: “According to a statement from Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, the two main suspects were identified as Mussa Hamada of East Jerusalem, and Bassem Omri, an Israeli citizen living in Beit Tzafafa. Both are members of Hamas and the ‘Muslim Brothers’ movement in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet said.”

Libertarians often look to the Founding Fathers as political role models, but would the Founders have actually fit the modern definition of a libertarian? David Frum argues no — and writes that those who attribute this ideology to the Founders are simply ignoring history: “[I]f the libertarian impulse summons us to take action to contain and constrain that government, very well let us take up the task. But we can do that task without duping ourselves with a false history that denies the reality of the past and — ironically — belittles the Founders’ actual achievements by measuring them against standards they would surely have rejected, if they had ever understood them.”

A church in Egypt was bombed during New Year’s Mass, killing 21 and injuring dozens more. Authorities believe the attack was carried out by extremist Muslims who were inspired by al-Qaeda but not necessarily associated with the terror group.

Good news: A new “groundbreaking” research project has found that conservative brains are structured to be “fearful” and “reflexive,” while liberal brains are structured to be “courageous” and “optimistic.” Over at the New York Post, Kyle Smith discovers that this important study has cleared up some confusing discrepancies in his own life: “[Professor] Rees has the answer to why, in my Army career, I kept running into so many conceptual performance artists from San Francisco and Chelsea. Seldom did I do a push-up or clean my M16 without finding myself amid heated debate from the officer class about whether Walter Mondale or Eugene McCarthy was the most inspiring American political leader of our era.”

Government spending can actually help stimulate economic growth, argues George Will. But in order for progress to occur, this spending needs to fund the projects of society’s top scientific innovators and pioneers. “With populism rampant, this is not a propitious moment to defend elites, even scientific ones. Nevertheless, the nation depends on nourishing them and the institutions that sustain them,” writes Will.

Well, this was bound to happen eventually. Leftists at the Guardian are now openly opposing human rights: “[Human-rights groups] promote an absolutist view of human rights permeated by modern western ideas that westerners mistakenly call ‘universal.’ In some cases, their work, far from saving lives, actually causes more death, more repression, more brutality and an absolute weakening of human rights.” Yeah, who are we to oppress the people of Saudi Arabia and Iran with our imperialist idea that women shouldn’t be stoned for adultery?

Five members of Hamas have been charged in a plot to bomb a major Israeli stadium during a soccer game. Authorities say that the attack was meant to be in retaliation for Operation Cast Lead in 2008: “According to a statement from Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, the two main suspects were identified as Mussa Hamada of East Jerusalem, and Bassem Omri, an Israeli citizen living in Beit Tzafafa. Both are members of Hamas and the ‘Muslim Brothers’ movement in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet said.”

Read Less

How Obama Could Louse Up the Obama-Comeback Story

We are going to hear, over the next few months, that Barack Obama has staged a dramatic comeback. The story line began last week, with his string of bill signings, and will continue when the fourth-quarter economic numbers show an improved growth rate (maybe up to 3 percent) with expectations of more to come in the first quarter of next year. He has now established, whether honestly or not, that he can work with Republicans, etc. etc. It will be the mainstream media meme to end all mainstream media memes.

That’s fine, and good for him, but here’s the truth: We also judge presidents based on how they react in unexpected and unanticipated situations — when the oil well explodes in the waters off Louisiana, when the Republican is elected in Massachusetts to Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, when somebody announces something about apartment construction in East Jerusalem, when hundreds of thousands of Iranians take to the streets. Nothing that’s happened since the election should give us any reason to believe that the gut-instinct way Obama reacts to difficulties, setbacks, or disappointments has changed. He seems split between remaining almost affectless (as in the month or so post-Deepwater) and overly angry (his post-election press conference, and the press conference after the tax-cut deal in which he called Republicans hostage takers and Democrats sanctimonious).

Sure, when he gets his way, he’s all smiles and bonhomie, but that’s not going to be the hand he’s dealt next year either domestically or in foreign affairs. He managed to pull off a few weeks of last-minute triumphs that have made him feel good and that do set him up far better than failure would have done. But he’s going to have to fight against his own nature to cope with the kinds of troubles that will be coming at him in the next year, and usually, troubles only deepen people’s core personalities, they don’t alter them.

We are going to hear, over the next few months, that Barack Obama has staged a dramatic comeback. The story line began last week, with his string of bill signings, and will continue when the fourth-quarter economic numbers show an improved growth rate (maybe up to 3 percent) with expectations of more to come in the first quarter of next year. He has now established, whether honestly or not, that he can work with Republicans, etc. etc. It will be the mainstream media meme to end all mainstream media memes.

That’s fine, and good for him, but here’s the truth: We also judge presidents based on how they react in unexpected and unanticipated situations — when the oil well explodes in the waters off Louisiana, when the Republican is elected in Massachusetts to Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, when somebody announces something about apartment construction in East Jerusalem, when hundreds of thousands of Iranians take to the streets. Nothing that’s happened since the election should give us any reason to believe that the gut-instinct way Obama reacts to difficulties, setbacks, or disappointments has changed. He seems split between remaining almost affectless (as in the month or so post-Deepwater) and overly angry (his post-election press conference, and the press conference after the tax-cut deal in which he called Republicans hostage takers and Democrats sanctimonious).

Sure, when he gets his way, he’s all smiles and bonhomie, but that’s not going to be the hand he’s dealt next year either domestically or in foreign affairs. He managed to pull off a few weeks of last-minute triumphs that have made him feel good and that do set him up far better than failure would have done. But he’s going to have to fight against his own nature to cope with the kinds of troubles that will be coming at him in the next year, and usually, troubles only deepen people’s core personalities, they don’t alter them.

Read Less

Reapportionment Means Obama Just Lost Six Electoral Votes

Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election so handily that losing a few electoral votes from his 365 to 173 margin of victory wouldn’t have made much of a difference. But there is every indication that the public’s repudiation of Obama’s policies at the polls this past November shows he will not have as easy a time of it in 2012. And now that the results of the reapportionment based on the 2010 census have been announced, Obama’s re-election just got a bit more difficult.

The new totals for each state’s representation in the House of Representatives will also change the number of electoral votes they can cast for president. So if we tally up the states’ new electoral votes based on the 2008 election, it shows that states that voted for Obama lost a net total of six votes, and those that backed McCain gained the same number. If you look back to the election before that, in which George W. Bush beat John Kerry, although some Blue States in 2008 were Red in 2004, the new electoral vote totals shows the same difference, a net gain of six for Bush states and a net loss of six for those that went for Kerry.

The big winners in the reapportionment are Texas, with four more seats, and Florida, with two. Washington, Utah, South Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona all gained one. The biggest losers are New York and Ohio, which each lost two seats. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all lost one.

Of course, there is no telling how these states will vote in 2012; but however you slice it, the hill may have just gotten a little steeper for Obama in his quest for re-election.

Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election so handily that losing a few electoral votes from his 365 to 173 margin of victory wouldn’t have made much of a difference. But there is every indication that the public’s repudiation of Obama’s policies at the polls this past November shows he will not have as easy a time of it in 2012. And now that the results of the reapportionment based on the 2010 census have been announced, Obama’s re-election just got a bit more difficult.

The new totals for each state’s representation in the House of Representatives will also change the number of electoral votes they can cast for president. So if we tally up the states’ new electoral votes based on the 2008 election, it shows that states that voted for Obama lost a net total of six votes, and those that backed McCain gained the same number. If you look back to the election before that, in which George W. Bush beat John Kerry, although some Blue States in 2008 were Red in 2004, the new electoral vote totals shows the same difference, a net gain of six for Bush states and a net loss of six for those that went for Kerry.

The big winners in the reapportionment are Texas, with four more seats, and Florida, with two. Washington, Utah, South Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona all gained one. The biggest losers are New York and Ohio, which each lost two seats. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all lost one.

Of course, there is no telling how these states will vote in 2012; but however you slice it, the hill may have just gotten a little steeper for Obama in his quest for re-election.

Read Less

Guess We’re Governable After All

Don’t look now, but the American government is working as it should. Harry Reid, bending to bipartisan reality, has quit fighting for his $1.2 trillion spending bill and turned to short-term budget solutions. We can debate the merits of the $858 billion tax compromise, but it passed without any trickery and, more important, we knew what was in it. Congress now turns to genuine deliberation on the Dream Act, the repeal of DADT, and the ratification of New START. Gone are the kabuki summits, unseemly prime-time sales pitches, and abstruse parliamentary con games. Where Nancy Pelosi had wielded a giant prop gavel and boasted of “making history” with ObamaCare, one real-life federal judge just declared it unconstitutional. How did all this happen? Only a year ago, liberal pundits had pronounced America ungovernable.

What spurred magazines like Newsweek to render that judgment in the first place? A civic and governmental travesty of such gargantuan proportion that it’s chilling to think it actually happened in the United States: Massachusetts elected a Republican senator.

This left little question about whom to blame. “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain,” the magazine’s editors wrote.  Moreover, “any regular observer of Washington would conclude that congressional Republicans have no desire to be reached out to — because they aren’t actually very interested in governing the country.”

Were grapes ever so sour? President Obama and an unbridled Democratic Congress drove Massachusetts into the arms of the GOP within one year, and this meant that Republicans were a danger to the union. The case made before the people was simply an inversion of reality. While Newsweek cited the “GOP’s flagrant use of parliamentary tricks,” Democrats on the Hill were employing maneuvers so recondite, few could accurately define or explain the intricacies of what was happening.  The editors lamented the Republicans’ bullying of the “spineless Democrats,” while Nancy Pelosi bragged of her commando legislation tactics: “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in, but we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the America people.” Newsweek claimed that “congressional Republicans offered no serious counterproposals to the Democrats’ health-care initiative and sought instead to either mislead or simply lie about its key elements,” but it was President Obama who impatiently dismissed the prospect of a bipartisan effort as “another year of partisan wrangling around these issues, another six months’ or eight months’ or nine months’ worth of hearings in every single committee in the House and the Senate in which there’s a lot of posturing.”

What Obama’s first year actually proved was that America is undictatable. Scott Brown was elected because Americans were screaming out for governance and rejecting rule by decree. If a year ago liberals were weeping for America the ungovernable, less than a year later, with the midterm-election trouncing, only celebrity activists and zombified Democratic operatives continue to make such claims. Read More

Don’t look now, but the American government is working as it should. Harry Reid, bending to bipartisan reality, has quit fighting for his $1.2 trillion spending bill and turned to short-term budget solutions. We can debate the merits of the $858 billion tax compromise, but it passed without any trickery and, more important, we knew what was in it. Congress now turns to genuine deliberation on the Dream Act, the repeal of DADT, and the ratification of New START. Gone are the kabuki summits, unseemly prime-time sales pitches, and abstruse parliamentary con games. Where Nancy Pelosi had wielded a giant prop gavel and boasted of “making history” with ObamaCare, one real-life federal judge just declared it unconstitutional. How did all this happen? Only a year ago, liberal pundits had pronounced America ungovernable.

What spurred magazines like Newsweek to render that judgment in the first place? A civic and governmental travesty of such gargantuan proportion that it’s chilling to think it actually happened in the United States: Massachusetts elected a Republican senator.

This left little question about whom to blame. “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain,” the magazine’s editors wrote.  Moreover, “any regular observer of Washington would conclude that congressional Republicans have no desire to be reached out to — because they aren’t actually very interested in governing the country.”

Were grapes ever so sour? President Obama and an unbridled Democratic Congress drove Massachusetts into the arms of the GOP within one year, and this meant that Republicans were a danger to the union. The case made before the people was simply an inversion of reality. While Newsweek cited the “GOP’s flagrant use of parliamentary tricks,” Democrats on the Hill were employing maneuvers so recondite, few could accurately define or explain the intricacies of what was happening.  The editors lamented the Republicans’ bullying of the “spineless Democrats,” while Nancy Pelosi bragged of her commando legislation tactics: “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in, but we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the America people.” Newsweek claimed that “congressional Republicans offered no serious counterproposals to the Democrats’ health-care initiative and sought instead to either mislead or simply lie about its key elements,” but it was President Obama who impatiently dismissed the prospect of a bipartisan effort as “another year of partisan wrangling around these issues, another six months’ or eight months’ or nine months’ worth of hearings in every single committee in the House and the Senate in which there’s a lot of posturing.”

What Obama’s first year actually proved was that America is undictatable. Scott Brown was elected because Americans were screaming out for governance and rejecting rule by decree. If a year ago liberals were weeping for America the ungovernable, less than a year later, with the midterm-election trouncing, only celebrity activists and zombified Democratic operatives continue to make such claims.

The present circumstance should serve as a “teachable moment” for those frustrated Obama enthusiasts who were more outraged by a non-compliant citizenry than they were by an entitled leadership. If there was a threat to the structural soundness of our democracy, it came not from voices of opposition but rather from the ideological bullies who assumed that dissent could only mean defectiveness. In a democracy, the machinery of governance comes to a halt when the people sense someone has tried to override the system. In despotic countries, friction can stop the gears. In the U.S., it’s the energy source that keeps things moving.

On matters of policy, this administration still has much to learn. A new NBC–Wall Street Journal poll shows that 63 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. This is the highest wrong-track number since Obama became president. The figure mostly reflects Americans’ concern about the economy and the government’s failure to raise employment prospects. As grim as things are, the good news is that America is now poised to tackle its toughest challenges. Accountability and ideological pluralism have come out of hiding. As Americans, we need to panic only when they go missing, not when our elected officials don’t get their way.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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