Commentary Magazine


Topic: Meg Whitman

Do They Really Need All That Money?

More evidence emerges each day that money isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be in elections. This report observes that Sharron Angle wound up spending the equivalent of $97 per voter, while Harry Reid plunked down only $69. The extra cash, much of it from out of state, didn’t “buy” Angle the seat. Nor did Meg Whitman prevail despite $140M in spending. Linda McMahon’s personal fortune didn’t talk Connecticut voters out of electing the truth-challenged Richard Blumenthal. In fact, out of the top 10 congressional cash-per-vote spenders, only three won.

So why do the media and politicians obsess so over cash? Well, there is a kernel of truth that you need some money to run a respectable campaign. And in states with expensive media (e.g., New Jersey, New York, California), that is going to be a big figure. But to a large extent, we’ve been bamboozled into thinking that money is more critical than it is. Reporters love to write about it — there are concrete figures and a horse-race quality to the money race. Pols — even the president this time around — love to grouse that the other guys have more, even when they don’t. It beats admitting that your own candidates are less than stellar and that your agenda is toxic. And of course there is an army of consultants, new- and old-media experts, pollsters, ad men, social-network gurus, debate preparers, clothing mavens, and speech coaches to convince their clients and us that all their very expensive services are essential to victory.

But in the end, much of that money is wasted. John McCain won the GOP presidential nomination on a shoestring budget. This year, many small spenders won. (“In upstate New York, Rep. Scott Murphy (D) and his supporters spent $66 for each of the 99,000 votes he received, or about $6.5 million. But he was defeated by retired Army Col. Chris Gibson, who spent $4 million, or $33 per vote.”) So when hysterics scream that our democracy is being “hijacked” by corporate money or that a billionaire is “buying” an election, take it with a grain of salt. Interest groups — from Big Labor to the Chamber of Commerce — don’t mind the illusion that their largesse is essential to a candidate’s victory; indeed, they perpetuate it in order to sustain their clout. But perhaps the “problem” of money in politics is largely in our heads — and in the wallets of those whose livelihoods depend on exaggerating the importance of campaign cash.

More evidence emerges each day that money isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be in elections. This report observes that Sharron Angle wound up spending the equivalent of $97 per voter, while Harry Reid plunked down only $69. The extra cash, much of it from out of state, didn’t “buy” Angle the seat. Nor did Meg Whitman prevail despite $140M in spending. Linda McMahon’s personal fortune didn’t talk Connecticut voters out of electing the truth-challenged Richard Blumenthal. In fact, out of the top 10 congressional cash-per-vote spenders, only three won.

So why do the media and politicians obsess so over cash? Well, there is a kernel of truth that you need some money to run a respectable campaign. And in states with expensive media (e.g., New Jersey, New York, California), that is going to be a big figure. But to a large extent, we’ve been bamboozled into thinking that money is more critical than it is. Reporters love to write about it — there are concrete figures and a horse-race quality to the money race. Pols — even the president this time around — love to grouse that the other guys have more, even when they don’t. It beats admitting that your own candidates are less than stellar and that your agenda is toxic. And of course there is an army of consultants, new- and old-media experts, pollsters, ad men, social-network gurus, debate preparers, clothing mavens, and speech coaches to convince their clients and us that all their very expensive services are essential to victory.

But in the end, much of that money is wasted. John McCain won the GOP presidential nomination on a shoestring budget. This year, many small spenders won. (“In upstate New York, Rep. Scott Murphy (D) and his supporters spent $66 for each of the 99,000 votes he received, or about $6.5 million. But he was defeated by retired Army Col. Chris Gibson, who spent $4 million, or $33 per vote.”) So when hysterics scream that our democracy is being “hijacked” by corporate money or that a billionaire is “buying” an election, take it with a grain of salt. Interest groups — from Big Labor to the Chamber of Commerce — don’t mind the illusion that their largesse is essential to a candidate’s victory; indeed, they perpetuate it in order to sustain their clout. But perhaps the “problem” of money in politics is largely in our heads — and in the wallets of those whose livelihoods depend on exaggerating the importance of campaign cash.

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Money Doesn’t Buy You Love — or Votes

The Democrats’ favorite excuse in the waning days of the campaign was that foreign money was their undoing. Soon-to-be-ex-Speaker (yeah, wow) Nancy Pelosi said everything was going fine until the Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove or a mystery woman from Hong Kong (oh, wait — that was their side) opened up their wallets. Yes, it was bunk. But little did we know how much bunk it was:

In two-thirds of the House seats that Republicans picked up Tuesday, Democratic candidates had more money behind them, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission. Overall, Democratic candidates in the 63 races that flipped to the GOP had $206.4 million behind them, a tally that includes candidate fundraising and spending by parties and interests. That compares with only $171.7 million for their GOP rivals.

The pattern appears to contradict widespread complaints from Democrats that they were being unfairly overrun by wealthy Republicans, many of whom donated money to conservative groups to spend on political races — unencumbered by the limits and public-disclosure requirements that constrain most political fundraising. The data show that even in many races in which Republicans had more outside help, they still had fewer resources than their Democratic opponents.

So it was in Senate races as well. Meg Whitman’s personal fortune was of no use. Neither did it help Linda McMahon. Sharron Angle outraised Harry Reid and still lost.

It seems that, rather than money, a candidate’s voting record, the economy, and the relative levels of enthusiasm of the parties’ supporters is what mattered. (“Republicans were able to win despite being badly outspent in Democratic-leaning districts. Outside Philadelphia, Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D), the Democratic Party and groups backing them had about three times as much as conservatives and the campaign of former congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.”) Money is a convenient excuse, of course. But like blaming the voters’ “misperceptions,” it simply wasn’t the cause of the Democrats’ defeat. The voters knew exactly what they were doing, and no amount of money was going to convince them otherwise. And as for the self-financers, unless you are a solid candidate (Ron Johnson, for example), it’s better not to fritter away the family fortune.

The Democrats’ favorite excuse in the waning days of the campaign was that foreign money was their undoing. Soon-to-be-ex-Speaker (yeah, wow) Nancy Pelosi said everything was going fine until the Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove or a mystery woman from Hong Kong (oh, wait — that was their side) opened up their wallets. Yes, it was bunk. But little did we know how much bunk it was:

In two-thirds of the House seats that Republicans picked up Tuesday, Democratic candidates had more money behind them, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission. Overall, Democratic candidates in the 63 races that flipped to the GOP had $206.4 million behind them, a tally that includes candidate fundraising and spending by parties and interests. That compares with only $171.7 million for their GOP rivals.

The pattern appears to contradict widespread complaints from Democrats that they were being unfairly overrun by wealthy Republicans, many of whom donated money to conservative groups to spend on political races — unencumbered by the limits and public-disclosure requirements that constrain most political fundraising. The data show that even in many races in which Republicans had more outside help, they still had fewer resources than their Democratic opponents.

So it was in Senate races as well. Meg Whitman’s personal fortune was of no use. Neither did it help Linda McMahon. Sharron Angle outraised Harry Reid and still lost.

It seems that, rather than money, a candidate’s voting record, the economy, and the relative levels of enthusiasm of the parties’ supporters is what mattered. (“Republicans were able to win despite being badly outspent in Democratic-leaning districts. Outside Philadelphia, Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D), the Democratic Party and groups backing them had about three times as much as conservatives and the campaign of former congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.”) Money is a convenient excuse, of course. But like blaming the voters’ “misperceptions,” it simply wasn’t the cause of the Democrats’ defeat. The voters knew exactly what they were doing, and no amount of money was going to convince them otherwise. And as for the self-financers, unless you are a solid candidate (Ron Johnson, for example), it’s better not to fritter away the family fortune.

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LIVE BLOG: Evidently Not Even Close

Fox is calling both races in California for the Democrats, with business executives Carly Fiorina losing the Senate and Meg Whitman the governorship. This is telling — they were both theoretically dream candidates, self-consciously moderate, experienced. What they did not have was true passion or real purpose, even though Whitman spent $150 million of her own money.

Fox is calling both races in California for the Democrats, with business executives Carly Fiorina losing the Senate and Meg Whitman the governorship. This is telling — they were both theoretically dream candidates, self-consciously moderate, experienced. What they did not have was true passion or real purpose, even though Whitman spent $150 million of her own money.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Is Harry Reid down for the count? “Angle took full advantage of Reid’s position as a political insider, taunting him for his support of Democratic policies, from the stimulus to the health care bill. At one point, Angle told Reid to ‘man up’ – and later questioned how he became so wealthy as a public servant. By debate’s end, Reid had failed to land any significant blows on Angle. He looked unprepared for Angle’s barbs. With just one day until early voting becomes available to Nevada residents, Reid’s performance didn’t improve his precarious political standing.”

Angle also pummeled Reid in fundraising: $14.3 million vs. $2.8 million in the third quarter.

Angle wasn’t the only Republican woman who won on points in her debate. “Democrat Richard Blumenthal now leads Republican Linda McMahon by just five points in Connecticut’s race for the U.S. Senate in a survey conducted two nights after their third and final head-to-head debate.”

Nancy Pelosi is going to take the fall, bemoans Jonathan Cohn: “It’s not Pelosi’s fault Congress didn’t produce more liberal legislation. But she, not Harry Reid or Barack Obama, is the one most likely to lose her job because of that failure.” Unintentionally funny, but correct.

A low blow: “Obama in 2010 on the path of John McCain 2008?”

If you expected liberal feminists to smack down Jerry’s Brown’s camp, you aren’t cynical enough. “The president of the National Organization for Women may have said it’s wrong for anyone to call a woman a ‘whore,’ but the head of the California NOW affiliate says Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is one. California NOW President Parry Bellasalma told the TPM blog on Thursday that the description of the Republican candidate for governor of California is accurate. ‘Meg Whitman could be described as ‘a political whore.’ Yes, that’s an accurate statement,’ Bellasalma said after a TPM blogger called to ask her about a story that appeared on the Daily Caller website.”

Failing Democrats are dealt a knockout punch – by their own party. “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is tasked with keeping the party in the House majority after Nov. 2, began to make those unkindest of cuts last week, walking away, financially and figuratively, from more than half a dozen Democratic candidates. Call them ‘the Expendables,’ the first but certainly not last group to receive political pink slips from their party leaders. Among their ranks: Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.), Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.) and Steve Driehaus (Ohio), as well as open-seat candidates in Tennessee, Indiana and Kansas.”

The conservative base is simply not going to go to the mat for a candidate already talking about raising taxes. Sometimes, when someone says he doesn’t want to be president, it’s wise to take him at his word.

Mort Zuckerman explains why the Middle East talks and Obama’s own credibility are on the ropes. “So why should the settlements have become the one issue to kill the talks? The key reason is that from the very beginning of his presidency, Obama put the construction in the settlements at the center of his Middle East strategy. It was the original sin that has hamstrung the possibility of successful talks. Public advocacy of the freeze not only put Israel in a bind, but it also put the Palestinians in an even tighter bind, giving both little room to maneuver. When Obama spoke repeatedly for a construction freeze in the West Bank as a public condition for the renewal of talks, it turned the settlement freeze from a dignified wish into a threshold demand that needed to be met in full. It also set a bar that made it impossible for the Palestinians to compromise. Abbas cannot be less Palestinian than the U.S. president.”

Is Harry Reid down for the count? “Angle took full advantage of Reid’s position as a political insider, taunting him for his support of Democratic policies, from the stimulus to the health care bill. At one point, Angle told Reid to ‘man up’ – and later questioned how he became so wealthy as a public servant. By debate’s end, Reid had failed to land any significant blows on Angle. He looked unprepared for Angle’s barbs. With just one day until early voting becomes available to Nevada residents, Reid’s performance didn’t improve his precarious political standing.”

Angle also pummeled Reid in fundraising: $14.3 million vs. $2.8 million in the third quarter.

Angle wasn’t the only Republican woman who won on points in her debate. “Democrat Richard Blumenthal now leads Republican Linda McMahon by just five points in Connecticut’s race for the U.S. Senate in a survey conducted two nights after their third and final head-to-head debate.”

Nancy Pelosi is going to take the fall, bemoans Jonathan Cohn: “It’s not Pelosi’s fault Congress didn’t produce more liberal legislation. But she, not Harry Reid or Barack Obama, is the one most likely to lose her job because of that failure.” Unintentionally funny, but correct.

A low blow: “Obama in 2010 on the path of John McCain 2008?”

If you expected liberal feminists to smack down Jerry’s Brown’s camp, you aren’t cynical enough. “The president of the National Organization for Women may have said it’s wrong for anyone to call a woman a ‘whore,’ but the head of the California NOW affiliate says Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is one. California NOW President Parry Bellasalma told the TPM blog on Thursday that the description of the Republican candidate for governor of California is accurate. ‘Meg Whitman could be described as ‘a political whore.’ Yes, that’s an accurate statement,’ Bellasalma said after a TPM blogger called to ask her about a story that appeared on the Daily Caller website.”

Failing Democrats are dealt a knockout punch – by their own party. “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is tasked with keeping the party in the House majority after Nov. 2, began to make those unkindest of cuts last week, walking away, financially and figuratively, from more than half a dozen Democratic candidates. Call them ‘the Expendables,’ the first but certainly not last group to receive political pink slips from their party leaders. Among their ranks: Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.), Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.) and Steve Driehaus (Ohio), as well as open-seat candidates in Tennessee, Indiana and Kansas.”

The conservative base is simply not going to go to the mat for a candidate already talking about raising taxes. Sometimes, when someone says he doesn’t want to be president, it’s wise to take him at his word.

Mort Zuckerman explains why the Middle East talks and Obama’s own credibility are on the ropes. “So why should the settlements have become the one issue to kill the talks? The key reason is that from the very beginning of his presidency, Obama put the construction in the settlements at the center of his Middle East strategy. It was the original sin that has hamstrung the possibility of successful talks. Public advocacy of the freeze not only put Israel in a bind, but it also put the Palestinians in an even tighter bind, giving both little room to maneuver. When Obama spoke repeatedly for a construction freeze in the West Bank as a public condition for the renewal of talks, it turned the settlement freeze from a dignified wish into a threshold demand that needed to be met in full. It also set a bar that made it impossible for the Palestinians to compromise. Abbas cannot be less Palestinian than the U.S. president.”

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Liberal Feminists Freak Out

Charles Krauthammer spots one of the most important political developments of 2010:

The rise of the conservative woman. Sarah Palin’s influence is the most obvious manifestation of the trend. But the bigger story is the coming of age of a whole generation of smart, aggressive Republican women, from the staunchly conservative Nikki Haley (now leading the South Carolina governor’s race) and the stauncher-still Sharron Angle (neck-and-neck with Harry Reid in Nevada) to the more moderate California variety, where both Carly Fiorina (for Senate) and Meg Whitman (for governor) are within striking distance in a state highly blue and deeply green. And they are not only a force in themselves; they represent an immense constituency that establishment feminism forgot — or disdained.

And these women are threatening to decimate the professional gender grievants’ notion that “feminism” is coterminous with a liberal, statist, abortion-on-demand agenda. The reason, I would suggest, that the left went so nuts over Christine O’Donnell is not simply because she rendered a vulnerable seat safe for the Democrats or because she showed that Tea Party enthusiasts’ judgment is not infallible. It is because she provided solace to nervous liberal feminists  –”See, this wacky dame is what conservative women are all about.” Sarah Palin has proved to be politically astute, Sharron Angle had Harry Reid on the defensive in their debate, and Carly Fiorina is showing that a pro-lifer can be competitive in California; but not to fear — O’Donnell will discredit them all. Or so the theory went.

In fact, she’s done no damage to the GOP beyond her state’s borders and arguably has taken some of the heat off Angle and others. There is a whole new generation of conservative women who threaten to narrow the gender gap and to rob liberals of the argument that opposition to abortion is misogynistic. Liberals are right to be afraid: O’Donnell won’t even rate a footnote in history, but the influence of all the “Mama Grizzlies” will be with us for a long time.

Charles Krauthammer spots one of the most important political developments of 2010:

The rise of the conservative woman. Sarah Palin’s influence is the most obvious manifestation of the trend. But the bigger story is the coming of age of a whole generation of smart, aggressive Republican women, from the staunchly conservative Nikki Haley (now leading the South Carolina governor’s race) and the stauncher-still Sharron Angle (neck-and-neck with Harry Reid in Nevada) to the more moderate California variety, where both Carly Fiorina (for Senate) and Meg Whitman (for governor) are within striking distance in a state highly blue and deeply green. And they are not only a force in themselves; they represent an immense constituency that establishment feminism forgot — or disdained.

And these women are threatening to decimate the professional gender grievants’ notion that “feminism” is coterminous with a liberal, statist, abortion-on-demand agenda. The reason, I would suggest, that the left went so nuts over Christine O’Donnell is not simply because she rendered a vulnerable seat safe for the Democrats or because she showed that Tea Party enthusiasts’ judgment is not infallible. It is because she provided solace to nervous liberal feminists  –”See, this wacky dame is what conservative women are all about.” Sarah Palin has proved to be politically astute, Sharron Angle had Harry Reid on the defensive in their debate, and Carly Fiorina is showing that a pro-lifer can be competitive in California; but not to fear — O’Donnell will discredit them all. Or so the theory went.

In fact, she’s done no damage to the GOP beyond her state’s borders and arguably has taken some of the heat off Angle and others. There is a whole new generation of conservative women who threaten to narrow the gender gap and to rob liberals of the argument that opposition to abortion is misogynistic. Liberals are right to be afraid: O’Donnell won’t even rate a footnote in history, but the influence of all the “Mama Grizzlies” will be with us for a long time.

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Business Execs vs. Professional Pols

Linda McMahon has steadily narrowed the gap between herself and state attorney general and faux Vietnam vet Richard Blumenthal. She has run a disciplined campaign and focused voters on job creation. Her message is simple: she knows how to create jobs (600 in the state of Connecticut alone) and Blumenthal never has. The Wall Street Journal editors have some fun with Blumenthal’s response:

The polls say job creation is the number one campaign issue, so the prize for proposal of the year goes to Connecticut Attorney General and Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal. Asked in a debate to justify the hundreds of lawsuits he’s filed against companies—employers—in his state, the Democrat replied: “Our lawsuits, our legal actions, actually create jobs.”

We’ve heard of those who believe we can spend our way to prosperity, and others want to inflate our way. But the shovel-ready lawsuit as an economic stimulus is a genuine novelty. …

There’s the case of toolmaker Stanley Works, which Mr. Blumenthal sued in 2002 to block it from relocating to Bermuda to save $30 million in corporate income taxes. A year later a less competitive Stanley laid off 1,000 workers. His 2003 suit against small business-owner Gina Malapanis inspired a counter-suit, and a jury awarded her $18 million from the state.

There is a theme here, of course. Obama fessed up that he didn’t realize when he spent more than $800B of the taxpayers’ money that there are no shovel-ready jobs. It seems he doesn’t understand how job creation works either.

Like Blumenthal and Obama, Democrats Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown, and Russ Feingold are professional politicians with no experience managing a business, making payroll, or creating wealth and jobs. Faced with business executives like Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, and Ron Johnson, the professional politicians are somewhat flummoxed. Run government more like a business? Lower costs of labor? Reduce corporate taxes to encourage domestic investment? Return to 2008 spending levels? Wow. The pols hardly know what to say; so instead, they run negative, ad hominem campaigns.

The voters are not thrilled with professional politicians these days, in no small part because they seem so clueless when it comes to the economy. That leaves an opening for candidates who know something about the private sector and understand that the demonization of business is among the least-helpful things the president and Democratic Congress have done.

Linda McMahon has steadily narrowed the gap between herself and state attorney general and faux Vietnam vet Richard Blumenthal. She has run a disciplined campaign and focused voters on job creation. Her message is simple: she knows how to create jobs (600 in the state of Connecticut alone) and Blumenthal never has. The Wall Street Journal editors have some fun with Blumenthal’s response:

The polls say job creation is the number one campaign issue, so the prize for proposal of the year goes to Connecticut Attorney General and Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal. Asked in a debate to justify the hundreds of lawsuits he’s filed against companies—employers—in his state, the Democrat replied: “Our lawsuits, our legal actions, actually create jobs.”

We’ve heard of those who believe we can spend our way to prosperity, and others want to inflate our way. But the shovel-ready lawsuit as an economic stimulus is a genuine novelty. …

There’s the case of toolmaker Stanley Works, which Mr. Blumenthal sued in 2002 to block it from relocating to Bermuda to save $30 million in corporate income taxes. A year later a less competitive Stanley laid off 1,000 workers. His 2003 suit against small business-owner Gina Malapanis inspired a counter-suit, and a jury awarded her $18 million from the state.

There is a theme here, of course. Obama fessed up that he didn’t realize when he spent more than $800B of the taxpayers’ money that there are no shovel-ready jobs. It seems he doesn’t understand how job creation works either.

Like Blumenthal and Obama, Democrats Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown, and Russ Feingold are professional politicians with no experience managing a business, making payroll, or creating wealth and jobs. Faced with business executives like Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, and Ron Johnson, the professional politicians are somewhat flummoxed. Run government more like a business? Lower costs of labor? Reduce corporate taxes to encourage domestic investment? Return to 2008 spending levels? Wow. The pols hardly know what to say; so instead, they run negative, ad hominem campaigns.

The voters are not thrilled with professional politicians these days, in no small part because they seem so clueless when it comes to the economy. That leaves an opening for candidates who know something about the private sector and understand that the demonization of business is among the least-helpful things the president and Democratic Congress have done.

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The YouTube Primary

On Saturday, Chris Christie won a straw poll at the Virginia Tea Party convention. No, it doesn’t mean he’s the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary or even that he is running. But it does remind us of two key considerations in assessing the GOP contest.

First, I am confident that a large number of those Tea Partiers got familiar with Christie from a series of YouTube videos that went viral. Christie cheerily taking on the press. Christie gallantly defending Meg Whitman. Christie bashing public-employee unions. Every week you look for the next in the “series.” It tells us that candidates can be made — or encouraged to run, at least — by select moments that encapsulate that candidate’s persona and beliefs. If the Howard Dean scream video in 2004 helped do him in, what’s to say that Christie or some other candidate can’t jump to the top of the GOP contenders’ list based on a few YouTube videos?

You say that this is a wacky way to select presidents? Well, my first response is yes. And my second is that candidates will still have to prove themselves over the course of a long campaign, but that is why name recognition and a big war chest mean so little at the beginning of a race. YouTube is the great political equalizer.

Moreover, this is yet another reminder that the GOP field is not set. Christie says he’s not interested in a presidential run, but a few more viral videos and straw polls and there will be a “Draft Christie” group. Others may make similar headway and restore or elevate their profile. Rep. Paul Ryan made a splash when most Americans saw him for the first time facing off against the president at the health-care summit. Some more episodes like that and he’ll have his own following, and maybe he’ll reconsider his decision not to make a run in 2012.

The 2012 campaign will be wild and woolly. And we’re going to learn much about candidates we currently know practically nothing about — and they’ll discover just how ambitious they actually are. Prognosticators should be wary: there’s no crystal ball for this race.

On Saturday, Chris Christie won a straw poll at the Virginia Tea Party convention. No, it doesn’t mean he’s the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary or even that he is running. But it does remind us of two key considerations in assessing the GOP contest.

First, I am confident that a large number of those Tea Partiers got familiar with Christie from a series of YouTube videos that went viral. Christie cheerily taking on the press. Christie gallantly defending Meg Whitman. Christie bashing public-employee unions. Every week you look for the next in the “series.” It tells us that candidates can be made — or encouraged to run, at least — by select moments that encapsulate that candidate’s persona and beliefs. If the Howard Dean scream video in 2004 helped do him in, what’s to say that Christie or some other candidate can’t jump to the top of the GOP contenders’ list based on a few YouTube videos?

You say that this is a wacky way to select presidents? Well, my first response is yes. And my second is that candidates will still have to prove themselves over the course of a long campaign, but that is why name recognition and a big war chest mean so little at the beginning of a race. YouTube is the great political equalizer.

Moreover, this is yet another reminder that the GOP field is not set. Christie says he’s not interested in a presidential run, but a few more viral videos and straw polls and there will be a “Draft Christie” group. Others may make similar headway and restore or elevate their profile. Rep. Paul Ryan made a splash when most Americans saw him for the first time facing off against the president at the health-care summit. Some more episodes like that and he’ll have his own following, and maybe he’ll reconsider his decision not to make a run in 2012.

The 2012 campaign will be wild and woolly. And we’re going to learn much about candidates we currently know practically nothing about — and they’ll discover just how ambitious they actually are. Prognosticators should be wary: there’s no crystal ball for this race.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.’”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].’”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.’”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.’”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].’”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.’”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

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Running on Empty

It is rare to have an election where the governing party is not (a) running on its record (six months after voting for ObamaCare, no Democrat advertises his vote), (b) promising to push the rest of its agenda (even a Congress with lopsided Democratic majorities did not enact card check and cap-and-trade), or (c) willing to risk a pre-election vote on its signature plan (tax increases for “the rich”). Five weeks before the election, the party is out of gas.

You can see this in California, where the Republican candidates for governor and senator are both first-time candidates and ex-CEOs (Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina) running against two of the state’s most famous Democrats (Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer) in races currently too close to call. In his TV ad, Jerry Brown looks straight at the camera and tells voters:

I’m Jerry Brown. California needs major changes. We have to live within our means, we have to return power and decision-making to the local level, closer to the people. And no new taxes without voter approval.

The statement is barely distinguishable from what a Tea Partier might say.

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is Gavin Newsom — the mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, the bluest of blue areas in a Blue State. Recently he had this to say about the “stimulus” that shoveled federal funds to the state for redistribution to members of public employee unions, while private unemployment in California continued to soar:

Look, I understand why people are fearful. I don’t like this spending more than anyone else … and trust me, I understand the stimulus as well or better than anybody.  I mean, [as] a mayor of a county … you really understand it.  It is not wrong to criticize parts of that stimulus as disproportionately saving jobs in the public sector and not stimulating private sector economic growth. That is not something that I am proud to say, as a Democrat; it’s not something I want to say; but it’s true and [something] I must say.

Newsom is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican opponent (Abel Maldonado); his first ad will accuse Maldonado of supporting “the biggest tax increase in California history.”

In a state that now resembles Greece more than the Golden State it once was, with a $19 billion budget deficit that a 2009 sales tax increase was supposed to cure (but that simply gave California the highest state sales tax in the United States), the Democrats have no agenda — at least not one that seeks to distinguish itself from the Tea Party.

It is rare to have an election where the governing party is not (a) running on its record (six months after voting for ObamaCare, no Democrat advertises his vote), (b) promising to push the rest of its agenda (even a Congress with lopsided Democratic majorities did not enact card check and cap-and-trade), or (c) willing to risk a pre-election vote on its signature plan (tax increases for “the rich”). Five weeks before the election, the party is out of gas.

You can see this in California, where the Republican candidates for governor and senator are both first-time candidates and ex-CEOs (Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina) running against two of the state’s most famous Democrats (Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer) in races currently too close to call. In his TV ad, Jerry Brown looks straight at the camera and tells voters:

I’m Jerry Brown. California needs major changes. We have to live within our means, we have to return power and decision-making to the local level, closer to the people. And no new taxes without voter approval.

The statement is barely distinguishable from what a Tea Partier might say.

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is Gavin Newsom — the mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, the bluest of blue areas in a Blue State. Recently he had this to say about the “stimulus” that shoveled federal funds to the state for redistribution to members of public employee unions, while private unemployment in California continued to soar:

Look, I understand why people are fearful. I don’t like this spending more than anyone else … and trust me, I understand the stimulus as well or better than anybody.  I mean, [as] a mayor of a county … you really understand it.  It is not wrong to criticize parts of that stimulus as disproportionately saving jobs in the public sector and not stimulating private sector economic growth. That is not something that I am proud to say, as a Democrat; it’s not something I want to say; but it’s true and [something] I must say.

Newsom is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican opponent (Abel Maldonado); his first ad will accuse Maldonado of supporting “the biggest tax increase in California history.”

In a state that now resembles Greece more than the Golden State it once was, with a $19 billion budget deficit that a 2009 sales tax increase was supposed to cure (but that simply gave California the highest state sales tax in the United States), the Democrats have no agenda — at least not one that seeks to distinguish itself from the Tea Party.

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Partners in the Conservative Revival

Both Bill Kristol and Peter Berkowitz have taken up the issue of conservative reform and the respective tasks of wonkish conservative innovators and the grassroots Tea Party movement. The mainstream media like to portray the two groups — the reformers and the Tea Partiers – in opposition in a party civil war (as if Rep. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin were in competition for the soul of the GOP). But as Kristol and Berkowitz explain, the two aspects of the revived conservative movement are compatible, and each is essential in its own realm.

Kristol reminds us that the Tea Party movement has helped to unnerve and beat back the liberal statists, but that is the beginning and not the end of a conservative resurgence:

We already have a Middle American populist reaction against the government schemes of pointy-headed intellectuals. Barack Obama got the highest percentage of the votes of any Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964; Republicans look to be on track this year to replicate their 47-seat House pick-up in 1966.

What comes next? That’s up to us—especially to us conservatives. We’re not doomed to repeat the pretty miserable political, social, and economic performance of 1967-80. …

Can conservatives develop a program, an agenda, and a governing vision that would, in the words of Federalist 39, vindicate “that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government”?

And Berkowitz provides a helpful review of the history of conservative reform, pointing toward those whose task it will be to provide an alternative to Obamaism:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan are among those officeholders in the process of recovering reform as a conservative virtue. In November, Meg Whitman, the new Republican nominee in California, and Brian Sandoval, the new Republican nominee for governor in Nevada, stand a good chance to join their ranks.

Today’s conservative reformers appreciate that within its limited sphere government should be excellent. Promoting individual responsibility, self-reliance and opportunity requires targeted action, beginning with health-care reform that really controls costs by eliminating barriers on insurance companies operating across state lines and limiting malpractice damages; public-sector reform that reins in unions by reducing benefits and expanding accountability; and education reform that through school-choice programs gives parents, particularly in low income and minority communities, greater control over their children’s education.

None of this is to underestimate or denigrate the intellectual underpinnings of the Tea Party movement. Despite the media indictment (Racists! Know-nothings!), it is perhaps the most wonkish popular uprising we’ve had in the past century. It is the CATO  Institute’s dream mass movement — based on self-reliance, limited government, sound money, fiscal discipline, and market economics. Many of the protesters like to carry copies of the Constitution. For every inflammatory hand-painted sign that CNN films, there are dozens quoting James Madison, challenging the “bailout nation,” and contesting the constitutionality of an individual health-care insurance mandate. It’s certainly a step up from “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” But it is not a methodology for governing nor an agenda for what would follow Obamaism. You don’t write legislation in mass gatherings seeking to discredit and upend those in power. And it’s unrealistic and misguided to expect a mass movement to decimate a political agenda, defeat liberal one-party rule, defend itself against incessant media attacks – and come up with a health-care alternative, a scheme for entitlement reform, and proposals to tame the debt. (The latter is the work of Ryan, Daniels, Christie, et. al.)

The media narrative that the conservative movement is riven with conflict is, as is so much else the media spew, a distortion intended to bolster the spirits of the left and paint the right in the most disagreeable light possible. We actually have witnessed a rather effective division of labor on the right, with reformers and Tea Partiers collaborating on common goals. They share a mutual desire to put a stake through the heart of the statist agenda of one-party Democratic rule and to find a better alternative. The first task is well under way; the latter is just beginning.

Both Bill Kristol and Peter Berkowitz have taken up the issue of conservative reform and the respective tasks of wonkish conservative innovators and the grassroots Tea Party movement. The mainstream media like to portray the two groups — the reformers and the Tea Partiers – in opposition in a party civil war (as if Rep. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin were in competition for the soul of the GOP). But as Kristol and Berkowitz explain, the two aspects of the revived conservative movement are compatible, and each is essential in its own realm.

Kristol reminds us that the Tea Party movement has helped to unnerve and beat back the liberal statists, but that is the beginning and not the end of a conservative resurgence:

We already have a Middle American populist reaction against the government schemes of pointy-headed intellectuals. Barack Obama got the highest percentage of the votes of any Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964; Republicans look to be on track this year to replicate their 47-seat House pick-up in 1966.

What comes next? That’s up to us—especially to us conservatives. We’re not doomed to repeat the pretty miserable political, social, and economic performance of 1967-80. …

Can conservatives develop a program, an agenda, and a governing vision that would, in the words of Federalist 39, vindicate “that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government”?

And Berkowitz provides a helpful review of the history of conservative reform, pointing toward those whose task it will be to provide an alternative to Obamaism:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan are among those officeholders in the process of recovering reform as a conservative virtue. In November, Meg Whitman, the new Republican nominee in California, and Brian Sandoval, the new Republican nominee for governor in Nevada, stand a good chance to join their ranks.

Today’s conservative reformers appreciate that within its limited sphere government should be excellent. Promoting individual responsibility, self-reliance and opportunity requires targeted action, beginning with health-care reform that really controls costs by eliminating barriers on insurance companies operating across state lines and limiting malpractice damages; public-sector reform that reins in unions by reducing benefits and expanding accountability; and education reform that through school-choice programs gives parents, particularly in low income and minority communities, greater control over their children’s education.

None of this is to underestimate or denigrate the intellectual underpinnings of the Tea Party movement. Despite the media indictment (Racists! Know-nothings!), it is perhaps the most wonkish popular uprising we’ve had in the past century. It is the CATO  Institute’s dream mass movement — based on self-reliance, limited government, sound money, fiscal discipline, and market economics. Many of the protesters like to carry copies of the Constitution. For every inflammatory hand-painted sign that CNN films, there are dozens quoting James Madison, challenging the “bailout nation,” and contesting the constitutionality of an individual health-care insurance mandate. It’s certainly a step up from “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” But it is not a methodology for governing nor an agenda for what would follow Obamaism. You don’t write legislation in mass gatherings seeking to discredit and upend those in power. And it’s unrealistic and misguided to expect a mass movement to decimate a political agenda, defeat liberal one-party rule, defend itself against incessant media attacks – and come up with a health-care alternative, a scheme for entitlement reform, and proposals to tame the debt. (The latter is the work of Ryan, Daniels, Christie, et. al.)

The media narrative that the conservative movement is riven with conflict is, as is so much else the media spew, a distortion intended to bolster the spirits of the left and paint the right in the most disagreeable light possible. We actually have witnessed a rather effective division of labor on the right, with reformers and Tea Partiers collaborating on common goals. They share a mutual desire to put a stake through the heart of the statist agenda of one-party Democratic rule and to find a better alternative. The first task is well under way; the latter is just beginning.

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Jerry Brown Shocked to Discover 24/7 News Environment

Jerry Brown made waves last week playing the Nazi card against Meg Whitman. (“It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.”) It took a while, but he’s come up with his excuse:

You don’t think you’re at a press conference or that you’re publishing an official record. I got the message. I can’t really ever say anything just musing in my mind. But it really does mean that politicians are always very controlled and not very spontaneous in their communications.

OK, he was governor in the 1970s, but since then he’s been mayor and state attorney general. You’d think he’d be a bit more “with it” and not sound as put out as Obama did, who sounded Luddite-like when he groused, “With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”

Like so many politicians, Brown seems not at all sorry for what he said, only that he was caught by the 24/7 news environment. He can share his woes with Helen Thomas and Bob Etheridge.

Jerry Brown made waves last week playing the Nazi card against Meg Whitman. (“It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.”) It took a while, but he’s come up with his excuse:

You don’t think you’re at a press conference or that you’re publishing an official record. I got the message. I can’t really ever say anything just musing in my mind. But it really does mean that politicians are always very controlled and not very spontaneous in their communications.

OK, he was governor in the 1970s, but since then he’s been mayor and state attorney general. You’d think he’d be a bit more “with it” and not sound as put out as Obama did, who sounded Luddite-like when he groused, “With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”

Like so many politicians, Brown seems not at all sorry for what he said, only that he was caught by the 24/7 news environment. He can share his woes with Helen Thomas and Bob Etheridge.

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Who’s Angry Now? Brown Compares Whitman to Goebbels

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown was once known as “Governor Moonbeam” because of his eccentric manner way back in the 1970s, when he served two terms in the same office he’s trying for now. But you would think that after four decades in public life, Brown, who has always fancied himself an advocate of a purer brand of politics than the average lifetime politician, would have learned that calling your opponent a Nazi isn’t so smart.

Politico reports that, in a conversation with a reporter, Brown compared his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief who triumphed in this week’s GOP primary, to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. According to KCBS’s Doug Sovern, Brown claimed that:

She’ll have people believing whatever she wants about me. It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.

Brown’s over-the-top paranoia about his opponent speaks volumes about his own view of the world, in which any opponent who brings up the details from his own long and not terribly successful record while holding numerous public offices is a Nazi. And because inappropriate Nazi analogies are one of the few political sins that can guarantee a liberal Democrat like Brown criticism from mainstream liberal Jewish organizations, he should be expecting a call (accompanied by a news release) from the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman sometime in the next day or two, in which he will be instructed that it is not appropriate behavior to compare a former business executive to the regime that slaughtered six million Jews just because she takes Jerry Brown’s name in vain.

We can expect Brown — who hasn’t denied the slur but instead had his office issue the usual weasel-worded claim that his words were “taken out of context” — to eventually apologize. But in a year in which the liberal media have seized every opportunity to brand Republicans and the Tea Party movement as extremists and as a threat to democracy, it’s interesting to note that invariably, it is liberal Democrats like Brown who are coarsening the public square with attempts to demonize their opponents for having the temerity to question their bona fides. The ADL itself stepped into dangerous territory last fall with a report titled “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” in which it speciously linked Republican critics of the Obama administration with militias and other far-right extremists.

But contrary to the ADL’s inappropriate and highly partisan report, most of the rage this year seems to come from Democrats and liberals like Brown who are willing to say anything to besmirch those who dare to oppose them. While I don’t doubt that the ADL will rightly take Brown to task for his loose talk about Goebbels, the group ought to think seriously about the fact that most of the anger we’re hearing lately is not from Tea Partiers heading to Washington with their pitchforks but from liberals who are crying in their beer about the imminent prospect of defeat at the hands of a re-energized GOP.

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown was once known as “Governor Moonbeam” because of his eccentric manner way back in the 1970s, when he served two terms in the same office he’s trying for now. But you would think that after four decades in public life, Brown, who has always fancied himself an advocate of a purer brand of politics than the average lifetime politician, would have learned that calling your opponent a Nazi isn’t so smart.

Politico reports that, in a conversation with a reporter, Brown compared his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief who triumphed in this week’s GOP primary, to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. According to KCBS’s Doug Sovern, Brown claimed that:

She’ll have people believing whatever she wants about me. It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.

Brown’s over-the-top paranoia about his opponent speaks volumes about his own view of the world, in which any opponent who brings up the details from his own long and not terribly successful record while holding numerous public offices is a Nazi. And because inappropriate Nazi analogies are one of the few political sins that can guarantee a liberal Democrat like Brown criticism from mainstream liberal Jewish organizations, he should be expecting a call (accompanied by a news release) from the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman sometime in the next day or two, in which he will be instructed that it is not appropriate behavior to compare a former business executive to the regime that slaughtered six million Jews just because she takes Jerry Brown’s name in vain.

We can expect Brown — who hasn’t denied the slur but instead had his office issue the usual weasel-worded claim that his words were “taken out of context” — to eventually apologize. But in a year in which the liberal media have seized every opportunity to brand Republicans and the Tea Party movement as extremists and as a threat to democracy, it’s interesting to note that invariably, it is liberal Democrats like Brown who are coarsening the public square with attempts to demonize their opponents for having the temerity to question their bona fides. The ADL itself stepped into dangerous territory last fall with a report titled “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” in which it speciously linked Republican critics of the Obama administration with militias and other far-right extremists.

But contrary to the ADL’s inappropriate and highly partisan report, most of the rage this year seems to come from Democrats and liberals like Brown who are willing to say anything to besmirch those who dare to oppose them. While I don’t doubt that the ADL will rightly take Brown to task for his loose talk about Goebbels, the group ought to think seriously about the fact that most of the anger we’re hearing lately is not from Tea Partiers heading to Washington with their pitchforks but from liberals who are crying in their beer about the imminent prospect of defeat at the hands of a re-energized GOP.

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What Those Primary Results Mean

Blanche Lincoln narrowly beat her Democratic challenger Bill Halter. She is among the walking wounded stumbling into the November election and is unlikely to keep her seat. Ben Smith got the quote of the night: “A senior White House official just called me with a very pointed message for the administration’s sometime allies in organized labor, who invested heavily in beating Blanche Lincoln, Obama’s candidate, in Arkanas. ‘Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,’ the official said. ‘If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.’” I’m sure the labor bosses — like President Karzai — will adore being dissed in public. Lesson: Mushy moderates who’ve boasted about their backroom deals have a hard road ahead.

Nikki Haley overcame an adultery smear campaign and won big but fell barely short of a majority. She will have a runoff against Rep. Gresham Barrett. If she couldn’t be knocked out by rumors of a sex scandal now, she has a good chance to prevail in the runoff and become the state’s first woman governor. Lesson: Voters have become skeptical if not hostile to nasty smears; those who think that’s a winning tactic risk an equally nasty backlash. And it doesn’t hurt when you have Sarah Palin at your side to stir up the base.

In Nevada, voters dumped the incumbent, the scandal-plagued Jim Gibbons, in favor of  Brian Sandoval, who would be the state’s first Hispanic governor (and who would confuse pundits who are certain Republicans have permanently offended Hispanics). In the Senate race, Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle beat the former state chairwoman and other candidates. Lesson: Throw the bums out. And the Tea Party movement still matters.

In California, both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina (also Palin-endorsed) won big. In the Senate race, the lesson from Tom Campbell’s thumping is four-fold. First, anti-Israel votes and statements are losers with the GOP base (but can earn you a J Street endorsement, kudos from Peter Beinart, or a column in the Nation). Washington politicians are out of favor — honest. And the GOP has zero interest in mushy moderates with a mixed record on taxes (i.e., Charlie Crist isn’t the only one who missed the populist revolt). Finally, it matters how strong and creative a campaign you run — better ads, a more-engaging candidate, and sharper debating beat worse ads, a less-engaging candidate, and worse debating most of the time. And from the gubernatorial primary, we can only ponder why in the world Meg Whitman wants the job of governor of a state that most resembles Greece.

The overarching picture is a familiar one: Republicans want candidates who aren’t Democratic-lite, and incumbents are guilty until proven innocent in the minds of voters. Republican women — Haley, Fiorina, Angle, and Whitman — had a good night, so Democrats will have to find an insult other than “sexist” to hurl at the GOP.

Blanche Lincoln narrowly beat her Democratic challenger Bill Halter. She is among the walking wounded stumbling into the November election and is unlikely to keep her seat. Ben Smith got the quote of the night: “A senior White House official just called me with a very pointed message for the administration’s sometime allies in organized labor, who invested heavily in beating Blanche Lincoln, Obama’s candidate, in Arkanas. ‘Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,’ the official said. ‘If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.’” I’m sure the labor bosses — like President Karzai — will adore being dissed in public. Lesson: Mushy moderates who’ve boasted about their backroom deals have a hard road ahead.

Nikki Haley overcame an adultery smear campaign and won big but fell barely short of a majority. She will have a runoff against Rep. Gresham Barrett. If she couldn’t be knocked out by rumors of a sex scandal now, she has a good chance to prevail in the runoff and become the state’s first woman governor. Lesson: Voters have become skeptical if not hostile to nasty smears; those who think that’s a winning tactic risk an equally nasty backlash. And it doesn’t hurt when you have Sarah Palin at your side to stir up the base.

In Nevada, voters dumped the incumbent, the scandal-plagued Jim Gibbons, in favor of  Brian Sandoval, who would be the state’s first Hispanic governor (and who would confuse pundits who are certain Republicans have permanently offended Hispanics). In the Senate race, Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle beat the former state chairwoman and other candidates. Lesson: Throw the bums out. And the Tea Party movement still matters.

In California, both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina (also Palin-endorsed) won big. In the Senate race, the lesson from Tom Campbell’s thumping is four-fold. First, anti-Israel votes and statements are losers with the GOP base (but can earn you a J Street endorsement, kudos from Peter Beinart, or a column in the Nation). Washington politicians are out of favor — honest. And the GOP has zero interest in mushy moderates with a mixed record on taxes (i.e., Charlie Crist isn’t the only one who missed the populist revolt). Finally, it matters how strong and creative a campaign you run — better ads, a more-engaging candidate, and sharper debating beat worse ads, a less-engaging candidate, and worse debating most of the time. And from the gubernatorial primary, we can only ponder why in the world Meg Whitman wants the job of governor of a state that most resembles Greece.

The overarching picture is a familiar one: Republicans want candidates who aren’t Democratic-lite, and incumbents are guilty until proven innocent in the minds of voters. Republican women — Haley, Fiorina, Angle, and Whitman — had a good night, so Democrats will have to find an insult other than “sexist” to hurl at the GOP.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jamie Fly asks, “No Daylight?” about the U.S. stance on the terrorist flotilla: “So, over the course of two days, ‘no daylight’ has essentially become ‘we told you so,’ ‘perhaps you shouldn’t have done that,’ and ‘we plan to use this to our advantage to further our agenda.’ It’s no wonder that ally after ally feels slighted by the Obama administration, because even when this White House says they are standing with you, they are simultaneously undermining you.”

No Big Labor guarantees for the Democrats in 2010: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday that he sees unions as ‘unpredictable partners’ to Democratic candidates in the coming 2010 midterm elections.”

No Democrat in a competitive seat wants to get too closely tied to Obama these days: “Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, has called on President Barack Obama to do more to contain the fallout from the Gulf oil spill. Nelson on Thursday called for the White House to send more military assets to the Gulf before the giant oil slick hits Florida’s beaches. ‘This is the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history,’ Nelson said in a statement. ‘If this doesn’t call for more organization, control and assets — like sub-sea mapping by the Navy, for instance — then nothing does.’”

No idea what he’s talking about — Turkey has been hostile to Israel for some time: “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply criticized Israel for its reaction to the Mavi Marmara raid Thursday saying that ‘Israel stands to lose its closest ally in the Middle East if it does not change its mentality.’”

No doubt about the Carly Fiorina surge: “Former eBay executive Meg Whitman holds a commanding lead over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the June 8 Republican gubernatorial primary. In the GOP Senate primary, former HP President Carly Fiorina has pulled away from rival Tom Campbell, according to the latest Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research tracking poll. … The Senate side reflects a dramatic shift toward Fiorina over the past six weeks. An April 24 Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research Poll showed Campbell with 31-17 point lead over Fiorina, and DeVore at 14 percent.”

No humanitarian goods into Gaza? Outrageous — where is the UN? Oh, wait — it’s Hamas: “Hamas will not allow goods from an aid flotilla raided by Israel to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Islamist organization said Thursday.”

No way! Really? John Judis assures us that the Tea party movement isn’t racist: “What I am suggesting is that it’s very possible to believe that the Tea Party is not the latest manifestation of the Ku Klux Klan or White Citizens’ Councils—while still believing that it is a terrible menace, nonetheless.” Whew — takes a load off the left, doesn’t it? All the fictional racial incidents were getting to be a chore.

No clear winner in the Peter Beinart–Leon Wieseltier competition for the most vile comments directed against Israel. From the latter: “Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government. The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment. Operation Make the World Hate Us, it might have been called.” To be precise, Israel has enough weaselly critics who flaunt their Judaism to establish their bona fides in order to gain legitimacy for their savage and a-factual attacks on the Jewish state.

Jamie Fly asks, “No Daylight?” about the U.S. stance on the terrorist flotilla: “So, over the course of two days, ‘no daylight’ has essentially become ‘we told you so,’ ‘perhaps you shouldn’t have done that,’ and ‘we plan to use this to our advantage to further our agenda.’ It’s no wonder that ally after ally feels slighted by the Obama administration, because even when this White House says they are standing with you, they are simultaneously undermining you.”

No Big Labor guarantees for the Democrats in 2010: “AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday that he sees unions as ‘unpredictable partners’ to Democratic candidates in the coming 2010 midterm elections.”

No Democrat in a competitive seat wants to get too closely tied to Obama these days: “Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, has called on President Barack Obama to do more to contain the fallout from the Gulf oil spill. Nelson on Thursday called for the White House to send more military assets to the Gulf before the giant oil slick hits Florida’s beaches. ‘This is the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history,’ Nelson said in a statement. ‘If this doesn’t call for more organization, control and assets — like sub-sea mapping by the Navy, for instance — then nothing does.’”

No idea what he’s talking about — Turkey has been hostile to Israel for some time: “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply criticized Israel for its reaction to the Mavi Marmara raid Thursday saying that ‘Israel stands to lose its closest ally in the Middle East if it does not change its mentality.’”

No doubt about the Carly Fiorina surge: “Former eBay executive Meg Whitman holds a commanding lead over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the June 8 Republican gubernatorial primary. In the GOP Senate primary, former HP President Carly Fiorina has pulled away from rival Tom Campbell, according to the latest Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research tracking poll. … The Senate side reflects a dramatic shift toward Fiorina over the past six weeks. An April 24 Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research Poll showed Campbell with 31-17 point lead over Fiorina, and DeVore at 14 percent.”

No humanitarian goods into Gaza? Outrageous — where is the UN? Oh, wait — it’s Hamas: “Hamas will not allow goods from an aid flotilla raided by Israel to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Islamist organization said Thursday.”

No way! Really? John Judis assures us that the Tea party movement isn’t racist: “What I am suggesting is that it’s very possible to believe that the Tea Party is not the latest manifestation of the Ku Klux Klan or White Citizens’ Councils—while still believing that it is a terrible menace, nonetheless.” Whew — takes a load off the left, doesn’t it? All the fictional racial incidents were getting to be a chore.

No clear winner in the Peter Beinart–Leon Wieseltier competition for the most vile comments directed against Israel. From the latter: “Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government. The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment. Operation Make the World Hate Us, it might have been called.” To be precise, Israel has enough weaselly critics who flaunt their Judaism to establish their bona fides in order to gain legitimacy for their savage and a-factual attacks on the Jewish state.

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GOP Women Crushing Opponents in California Primary Races

In a third poll this week, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman appear headed for big wins:

With less than two weeks until the June 8th primary, California Republican primary voters are poised to nominate two former female CEO’s to lead the GOP ticket in November. According to our … automated survey of likely Republican primary voters conducted on May 24th, in the gubernatorial race, Meg Whitman leads Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner by 35 points, 54% to 19%. … Survey results from the US Senate ballot test show Carly Fiorina with a 23 point lead over former Congressman Tom Campbell 44% to 21% and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore with 14%. … Support for Carly Fiorina has surged 24 points since our last survey on February 25th from 20% to 44%, and Tom Campbell’s support has declined 12 points from 33% to 21%.

With all these female Republicans (Linda McMahon in Connecticut as well), the Democrats will have to come up with a different story line than “Republicans don’t like women.” I suspect they’ll just drop it altogether. And if Fiorina and Whitman beat their male rivals, will we hear cheers from NOW? No. Not even the election of pro-choice Whitman, I suspect, will please them. Perhaps we should rewrite the phrase as “The Left doesn’t like women who oppose the Left.” And there may be two more of those elected come November.

In a third poll this week, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman appear headed for big wins:

With less than two weeks until the June 8th primary, California Republican primary voters are poised to nominate two former female CEO’s to lead the GOP ticket in November. According to our … automated survey of likely Republican primary voters conducted on May 24th, in the gubernatorial race, Meg Whitman leads Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner by 35 points, 54% to 19%. … Survey results from the US Senate ballot test show Carly Fiorina with a 23 point lead over former Congressman Tom Campbell 44% to 21% and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore with 14%. … Support for Carly Fiorina has surged 24 points since our last survey on February 25th from 20% to 44%, and Tom Campbell’s support has declined 12 points from 33% to 21%.

With all these female Republicans (Linda McMahon in Connecticut as well), the Democrats will have to come up with a different story line than “Republicans don’t like women.” I suspect they’ll just drop it altogether. And if Fiorina and Whitman beat their male rivals, will we hear cheers from NOW? No. Not even the election of pro-choice Whitman, I suspect, will please them. Perhaps we should rewrite the phrase as “The Left doesn’t like women who oppose the Left.” And there may be two more of those elected come November.

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So Goes California?

For years, Republicans considered New Jersey and California elections to be the Lucy of politics — always tempting with the football but inevitably pulling it away at the last moment. But then came Chris Christie’s win in the Garden State. And now Meg Whitman is leading Jerry Brown in the gubernatorial polls, and Barbara Boxer, perhaps the liberal whom Republicans most love to mock, could finally get booted.

Emily Cadei of Roll Call reports:

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has been the subject of any number of unflattering portrayals by Republican detractors over the past few months: a talkative blimp, an “obnoxious left-wing ideologue,” and “bitterly partisan,” to name a few. The barrage of criticism, which took on a new level of intensity with the state Republicans’ convention the weekend of March 12, appears to be taking its toll on the three-term senator.

To reflect polls showing a tightening general election race and California voters’ particularly sour mood about the direction of their state and the country, CQ Politics is changing its race rating from “Likely Democratic” to the increasingly competitive “Leans Democratic.”

Two polls conducted in March showed Boxer’s lead over two potential Republican challengers narrowing to a virtual tie. One of those two surveys, the Field Poll, had Boxer leading by double digits as recently as January.

In any other election year, it would seem inconceivable, but California has been the petri dish for the failure of liberal government, and the voters are in an ornery mood. And Republicans argue that if New Jersey and Massachusetts can go Republican, why not California? The Republicans have a dog fight in their primary. (Obama’s assault on Israel probably hasn’t helped Tom Campbell any whose record on Israel is of considerable relevance.) And Californians are more supportive of ObamaCare than many other Americans. But the race is indisputably competitive, and that in and of itself is important. The Senate race will consume Democratic resources that otherwise could be used to help candidates in traditionally more competitive states. It is further evidence that in the Obama era, there are very few “safe” Democratic seats.

For years, Republicans considered New Jersey and California elections to be the Lucy of politics — always tempting with the football but inevitably pulling it away at the last moment. But then came Chris Christie’s win in the Garden State. And now Meg Whitman is leading Jerry Brown in the gubernatorial polls, and Barbara Boxer, perhaps the liberal whom Republicans most love to mock, could finally get booted.

Emily Cadei of Roll Call reports:

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has been the subject of any number of unflattering portrayals by Republican detractors over the past few months: a talkative blimp, an “obnoxious left-wing ideologue,” and “bitterly partisan,” to name a few. The barrage of criticism, which took on a new level of intensity with the state Republicans’ convention the weekend of March 12, appears to be taking its toll on the three-term senator.

To reflect polls showing a tightening general election race and California voters’ particularly sour mood about the direction of their state and the country, CQ Politics is changing its race rating from “Likely Democratic” to the increasingly competitive “Leans Democratic.”

Two polls conducted in March showed Boxer’s lead over two potential Republican challengers narrowing to a virtual tie. One of those two surveys, the Field Poll, had Boxer leading by double digits as recently as January.

In any other election year, it would seem inconceivable, but California has been the petri dish for the failure of liberal government, and the voters are in an ornery mood. And Republicans argue that if New Jersey and Massachusetts can go Republican, why not California? The Republicans have a dog fight in their primary. (Obama’s assault on Israel probably hasn’t helped Tom Campbell any whose record on Israel is of considerable relevance.) And Californians are more supportive of ObamaCare than many other Americans. But the race is indisputably competitive, and that in and of itself is important. The Senate race will consume Democratic resources that otherwise could be used to help candidates in traditionally more competitive states. It is further evidence that in the Obama era, there are very few “safe” Democratic seats.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Another reason not to write sentences like: “The city is built on delineations and differentiations, and its particular beauty is owed to its artifice, to its rejection of stillness, to the almost anarchic spectacle of its many relations.” (You have contests started in your honor to guess who wrote such drivel.)

Another reason to doubt the efficacy of sanctions: “The federal government has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multinational American companies while they were doing business in Iran, despite Washington’s efforts to discourage investment there, records show. That includes nearly $15 billion paid to companies that defied American sanctions law by making large investments that helped Iran develop its vast oil and gas reserves.”

Another reason why the Israelis, one suspects, will eventually have to take matters into their own hands: “Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday. … The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes.”

Another reason not to get into 2012 prognostications: we don’t know who is running. “After the midterm election this November, the field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 (or later) is going to get bigger and possibly better. The list is long: Mitch Daniels, John Kasich, Meg Whitman, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Jim DeMint. And [Rick] Perry.”

Another reason for Democrats to be nervous: voters trust Republicans more on eight of ten issues, including the economy, health care, taxes, social security, and national security. “Republicans lead Democrats 46% to 41% in terms of voter trust on the economy. In early January 2009, just before President Obama took office, Democrats held a nine-point lead on this issue.”

Another reason to bemoan the state of higher education (or the intellectual and ethical training of those who partake of it). Peter Robinson on the U.C. Berkeley protests over budget cuts: “We have here the vocabulary of the peace movement, of the struggle for decent conditions for migrants and other exploited workers, and of the civil-rights movement. Yet what did the protesters demand? Peace? Human rights? No. Money. And for whom? For the downtrodden and oppressed? No. For themselves. At a time when one American in 10 is unemployed and historic deficits burden both the federal government and many of the states, the protesters attempted to game the political system. They engaged in a resource grab.”

Another reason to believe Secretary Robert Gates is the most valuable member of the administration, and Joe Biden is wrong on pretty much everything: “President Barack Obama has been clear. He wants no new nukes. Pentagon chief Robert Gates has been equally direct, advocating in recent years for a new generation of warheads. … The Obama administration is acutely aware of perceptions that the Nuclear Posture Review has divided senior officials—with Vice President Joe Biden viewed as heading up an arms-control focused camp, and Gates perceived as speaking for a military and nuclear establishment that favors more funding and new weapons programs.”

Another reason not to write sentences like: “The city is built on delineations and differentiations, and its particular beauty is owed to its artifice, to its rejection of stillness, to the almost anarchic spectacle of its many relations.” (You have contests started in your honor to guess who wrote such drivel.)

Another reason to doubt the efficacy of sanctions: “The federal government has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multinational American companies while they were doing business in Iran, despite Washington’s efforts to discourage investment there, records show. That includes nearly $15 billion paid to companies that defied American sanctions law by making large investments that helped Iran develop its vast oil and gas reserves.”

Another reason why the Israelis, one suspects, will eventually have to take matters into their own hands: “Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday. … The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes.”

Another reason not to get into 2012 prognostications: we don’t know who is running. “After the midterm election this November, the field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 (or later) is going to get bigger and possibly better. The list is long: Mitch Daniels, John Kasich, Meg Whitman, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Jim DeMint. And [Rick] Perry.”

Another reason for Democrats to be nervous: voters trust Republicans more on eight of ten issues, including the economy, health care, taxes, social security, and national security. “Republicans lead Democrats 46% to 41% in terms of voter trust on the economy. In early January 2009, just before President Obama took office, Democrats held a nine-point lead on this issue.”

Another reason to bemoan the state of higher education (or the intellectual and ethical training of those who partake of it). Peter Robinson on the U.C. Berkeley protests over budget cuts: “We have here the vocabulary of the peace movement, of the struggle for decent conditions for migrants and other exploited workers, and of the civil-rights movement. Yet what did the protesters demand? Peace? Human rights? No. Money. And for whom? For the downtrodden and oppressed? No. For themselves. At a time when one American in 10 is unemployed and historic deficits burden both the federal government and many of the states, the protesters attempted to game the political system. They engaged in a resource grab.”

Another reason to believe Secretary Robert Gates is the most valuable member of the administration, and Joe Biden is wrong on pretty much everything: “President Barack Obama has been clear. He wants no new nukes. Pentagon chief Robert Gates has been equally direct, advocating in recent years for a new generation of warheads. … The Obama administration is acutely aware of perceptions that the Nuclear Posture Review has divided senior officials—with Vice President Joe Biden viewed as heading up an arms-control focused camp, and Gates perceived as speaking for a military and nuclear establishment that favors more funding and new weapons programs.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

At the precise moment one of its own is collapsing in a puddle of his own ineptitude, the Left punditocracy congratulates itself that Democrats have the smartest presidents (“veritable geniuses—tops of their classes, brilliant orators, connoisseurs of facts, and champions of analysis”) who outshine the dummies the GOP produces. But let’s get real: “When you’re comparing the men who brought down the Berlin Wall and the Cold War along with it, liberated the people of Iraq from their butcher dictator and declared war against our terrorist enemies with the men who presided over the Iranian hostage crisis, gas lines, and our national malaise, and sullied the office of the president in a very big way, does it really matter who scored higher on his SATs?”

Another Nevada Senate poll, another double-digit deficit for Harry Reid. It might have something to do with the fact that Obama’s approval is only at 39 percent.

Michael Barone observes that even liberal pundits think the Republicans did quite well at the health-care summit. (Note to file: disregard Republican insiders who fear that every opportunity to talk to the American people is a “trap.”) He concludes: “Last month, we were told that Obama would switch his focus from health care to jobs. But Democrats have spent February and seem about to spend March focusing on health care. It’s hard to see how they can navigate the legislative process successfully — and even harder to see how they turn around public opinion. Summit flop indeed.”

I think most endorsements don’t matter very much. But some are downright absurd: Condi Rice backs Meg Whitman. What voter would be influenced by this?

Sometimes there is no right answer: “Republicans will win back Congress if Democrats use a majority-vote tactic on healthcare reform, according to the House GOP whip. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the second-ranking Republican in the House, tied the use of budget reconciliation rules on the healthcare bill to Democrats’ electoral fortunes this fall.” Then again, voters might punish the Democrats even if reconciliation isn’t used. You get the sense the Republicans are having fun taunting their opponents. It’s that kind of year.

Warren Buffet agrees with Republicans, suggesting that “President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats go back to the drawing board on health-care overhaul legislation and work with Republicans to come up with new legislation that deals with the ‘cost, cost, cost,’ that he calls a ‘tapeworm eating at American competitiveness.’” Not sure Obama listens to him, since Buffet went after most everything on Obama’s agenda, from card check to cap-and-trade. But really, didn’t Buffet know what Obama was all about when he backed him for president? I guess not.

Shocking, I know, but Steny Hoyer wants the deficit commission to raise taxes.

Must be George W. Bush’s fault: “Barack Obama now has a negative approval rating in every state he flipped from the Bush column to his in 2008. In each of those places his level of support is now in the 44-46% range. It’s probably a good thing he doesn’t have to run for reelection this year. He can only hope things start turning around for him once the midterms are in the rear view mirror, much as they did for Bill Clinton.”

At the precise moment one of its own is collapsing in a puddle of his own ineptitude, the Left punditocracy congratulates itself that Democrats have the smartest presidents (“veritable geniuses—tops of their classes, brilliant orators, connoisseurs of facts, and champions of analysis”) who outshine the dummies the GOP produces. But let’s get real: “When you’re comparing the men who brought down the Berlin Wall and the Cold War along with it, liberated the people of Iraq from their butcher dictator and declared war against our terrorist enemies with the men who presided over the Iranian hostage crisis, gas lines, and our national malaise, and sullied the office of the president in a very big way, does it really matter who scored higher on his SATs?”

Another Nevada Senate poll, another double-digit deficit for Harry Reid. It might have something to do with the fact that Obama’s approval is only at 39 percent.

Michael Barone observes that even liberal pundits think the Republicans did quite well at the health-care summit. (Note to file: disregard Republican insiders who fear that every opportunity to talk to the American people is a “trap.”) He concludes: “Last month, we were told that Obama would switch his focus from health care to jobs. But Democrats have spent February and seem about to spend March focusing on health care. It’s hard to see how they can navigate the legislative process successfully — and even harder to see how they turn around public opinion. Summit flop indeed.”

I think most endorsements don’t matter very much. But some are downright absurd: Condi Rice backs Meg Whitman. What voter would be influenced by this?

Sometimes there is no right answer: “Republicans will win back Congress if Democrats use a majority-vote tactic on healthcare reform, according to the House GOP whip. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the second-ranking Republican in the House, tied the use of budget reconciliation rules on the healthcare bill to Democrats’ electoral fortunes this fall.” Then again, voters might punish the Democrats even if reconciliation isn’t used. You get the sense the Republicans are having fun taunting their opponents. It’s that kind of year.

Warren Buffet agrees with Republicans, suggesting that “President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats go back to the drawing board on health-care overhaul legislation and work with Republicans to come up with new legislation that deals with the ‘cost, cost, cost,’ that he calls a ‘tapeworm eating at American competitiveness.’” Not sure Obama listens to him, since Buffet went after most everything on Obama’s agenda, from card check to cap-and-trade. But really, didn’t Buffet know what Obama was all about when he backed him for president? I guess not.

Shocking, I know, but Steny Hoyer wants the deficit commission to raise taxes.

Must be George W. Bush’s fault: “Barack Obama now has a negative approval rating in every state he flipped from the Bush column to his in 2008. In each of those places his level of support is now in the 44-46% range. It’s probably a good thing he doesn’t have to run for reelection this year. He can only hope things start turning around for him once the midterms are in the rear view mirror, much as they did for Bill Clinton.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Howard Fineman gives credit where credit is due: “In a city obsessed with visibility and celebrity, it largely goes overlooked that the plodding, unglamorous [Mitch] McConnell is Obama’s most powerful foe—the man he must outmaneuver, or at least neutralize, if he wants to reach the sunny uplands of (bipartisan) legislative accomplishment, not to mention a second term in 2012. It will not be easy.”

CONTENTIONS’s Pete Wehner writes: “Republican officeholders and candidates need to make specific, detailed criticisms of Obama’s agenda without being personally nasty toward or disrespectful of Obama himself. … To the GOP’s credit, much of this is already going on. We’ve seen it in the campaigns run by Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which will be models for others to follow; in the governing record of Indiana’s Mitch Daniels; and in the health care and budget plans put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.” The Left keeps rooting for that GOP “civil war” to break out, but so far no luck.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon on J Street: “The thing that troubles me is that they don’t present themselves as to what they really are. They should not call themselves pro-Israeli.” Actually, even the J Street gang is nervous about the “pro-Israeli” label.

CNN’s latest: “According to the poll, 44 percent of registered voters say Obama deserves re-election, with 52 percent saying the president does not deserve a second term in office. The survey also indicates that 49 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama’s doing as president, with half of the public disapproving of his job in the White House.” Congress does worse: “Fifty-six percent of people questioned in the survey say that most Democrats in Congress do not deserve to be re-elected. An equal amount also say that most congressional Republicans don’t deserve re-election.” Republicans lead in the generic polling in this survey, 47 to 45 percent, an eight-point swing their way since November.

More bad polling news the Obami will no doubt ignore: “In a brutal assessment of the Democratically authored healthcare reform bills pending in Congress and the party’s approach to healthcare, more than half of the respondents to a new Zogby International-University of Texas Health Science Center poll said that lawmakers should start from scratch.”

A fine idea that conservatives should embrace: “The Obama administration, advancing nuclear power use to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, will announce on Tuesday an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to help Southern Co. build two reactors, a government official told Reuters.” Now if we can agree on domestic oil and gas development, there could be a real bipartisan energy policy.

Even California is less Blue than it used to be: “Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman now runs dead even with likely Democratic nominee Jerry Brown in California’s gubernatorial contest.”

Hispanics aren’t thrilled with the Democrats either. Almost like there’s a wave building.

Not even Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal wants Obama’s help — in Connecticut. Well, if he doesn’t help in Massachusetts, you can understand.

James Taranto relays that Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, “admits that the periods 1860-80 and 1910-40 saw global warming on a similar scale to the 1975-98 period, that there has been no significant warming since 1995, and that the so-called Medieval Warm Period calls into question whether the currently observed warming is unprecedented. … So ‘the vast majority of climate scientists’ don’t think the debate is over? Someone had better tell the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee and most of our colleagues in the media, who have long been insisting otherwise–and indeed, who continue to do so.”

Howard Fineman gives credit where credit is due: “In a city obsessed with visibility and celebrity, it largely goes overlooked that the plodding, unglamorous [Mitch] McConnell is Obama’s most powerful foe—the man he must outmaneuver, or at least neutralize, if he wants to reach the sunny uplands of (bipartisan) legislative accomplishment, not to mention a second term in 2012. It will not be easy.”

CONTENTIONS’s Pete Wehner writes: “Republican officeholders and candidates need to make specific, detailed criticisms of Obama’s agenda without being personally nasty toward or disrespectful of Obama himself. … To the GOP’s credit, much of this is already going on. We’ve seen it in the campaigns run by Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which will be models for others to follow; in the governing record of Indiana’s Mitch Daniels; and in the health care and budget plans put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.” The Left keeps rooting for that GOP “civil war” to break out, but so far no luck.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon on J Street: “The thing that troubles me is that they don’t present themselves as to what they really are. They should not call themselves pro-Israeli.” Actually, even the J Street gang is nervous about the “pro-Israeli” label.

CNN’s latest: “According to the poll, 44 percent of registered voters say Obama deserves re-election, with 52 percent saying the president does not deserve a second term in office. The survey also indicates that 49 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama’s doing as president, with half of the public disapproving of his job in the White House.” Congress does worse: “Fifty-six percent of people questioned in the survey say that most Democrats in Congress do not deserve to be re-elected. An equal amount also say that most congressional Republicans don’t deserve re-election.” Republicans lead in the generic polling in this survey, 47 to 45 percent, an eight-point swing their way since November.

More bad polling news the Obami will no doubt ignore: “In a brutal assessment of the Democratically authored healthcare reform bills pending in Congress and the party’s approach to healthcare, more than half of the respondents to a new Zogby International-University of Texas Health Science Center poll said that lawmakers should start from scratch.”

A fine idea that conservatives should embrace: “The Obama administration, advancing nuclear power use to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, will announce on Tuesday an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to help Southern Co. build two reactors, a government official told Reuters.” Now if we can agree on domestic oil and gas development, there could be a real bipartisan energy policy.

Even California is less Blue than it used to be: “Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman now runs dead even with likely Democratic nominee Jerry Brown in California’s gubernatorial contest.”

Hispanics aren’t thrilled with the Democrats either. Almost like there’s a wave building.

Not even Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal wants Obama’s help — in Connecticut. Well, if he doesn’t help in Massachusetts, you can understand.

James Taranto relays that Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, “admits that the periods 1860-80 and 1910-40 saw global warming on a similar scale to the 1975-98 period, that there has been no significant warming since 1995, and that the so-called Medieval Warm Period calls into question whether the currently observed warming is unprecedented. … So ‘the vast majority of climate scientists’ don’t think the debate is over? Someone had better tell the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee and most of our colleagues in the media, who have long been insisting otherwise–and indeed, who continue to do so.”

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Palin at the Tea Party

Sarah Palin went to address the Tea Party Convention last night, laying out the populist-conservative case against Obama. We “need a commander in chief and not a law professor” in the war against “radical Islamic extremists” she declared.  (In purposefully using a phrase that the president eschews, she, of course, reinforces her point.) She fingered the closed-door deals and non-transparency in Washington, asking mockingly, “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for you?” And she hit the themes that have galvanized the populist activists and around which establishment conservatives have rallied. She criticized the president’s apologetic foreign policy and his failure to support human rights and democracy advocates, called the massive debt “generational theft,” advocated domestic energy development, and urged a return to more limited government and low taxes (noting Ronald Reagan’s birthday). And she also skewered Obama for incessantly blaming George W. Bush and for striking out in three big elections (“When you’re 0-3, you’d better stop lecturing and start listening”).

She demurred when asked about a presidential run and urged the Tea Party movement not to be about a single personality. But her purpose here seems quite clear. She is making the case that there is a powerful political movement, test run in Massachusetts, for independent-minded populists and conservatives. While she isn’t yet offering herself as a candidate, it doesn’t take much imagination to hear that same speech a year or two from now, phrased as an announcement of her presidential candidacy.

But for a moment, let’s put Palin aside. The issues she hit certainly comprise the core criticisms of Obama and will form the platform for conservatives in 2010 and 2012. Many of the issues she enumerated were positions that lifted Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown to victory, proving that there is not, in fact, much daylight between Tea Party activists, mainstream Republicans, and disaffected independent voters. And in one form or another, we are hearing similar themes from virtually all Republicans — whether it’s Rep. Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio or Meg Whitman or the other 2012 likely contenders.

So the question, I think, for Republicans is not what but who — who will emerge as the most effective standard bearer of that agenda. That — despite the continual chatter from the punditocracy to find the answer right now — can wait for the 2012 presidential campaign. The “what” will suffice for a nationalized, 2010 midterm election. And then the race will be on to see if Palin or some other figure emerges as the most effective champion for that core agenda.

Palin has followed no rule book and no pundit’s advice in the last year. She quit the governorship, sold millions of books, got a million and a half Facebook fans, broke through the health-care reform debate with her “death panel” critique, and now has endeared herself to a grassroots movement. Pundits will ask, “But is that enough?” Well, it’s a lot for a year’s work. After all, we are two years away from the start of the primary season. But this much is clear: her potential opponents for 2012 will have to figure out how to match the enthusiasm and affection she generates. (The mainstream media and liberals [but I repeat myself] loathe her, but they don’t vote in the GOP presidential primary.) And, without adopting the criticisms favored by the mainstream media — e.g., she lacks an Ivy League degree – that are likely to alienate the conservative base, they must figure out how to make the case that she’s not the right person to go toe to toe with Obama. That’s not, by any means, an impossible task. But judging from last night’s outing, the flock of 2012 contenders may have their work cut out for them.

Sarah Palin went to address the Tea Party Convention last night, laying out the populist-conservative case against Obama. We “need a commander in chief and not a law professor” in the war against “radical Islamic extremists” she declared.  (In purposefully using a phrase that the president eschews, she, of course, reinforces her point.) She fingered the closed-door deals and non-transparency in Washington, asking mockingly, “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for you?” And she hit the themes that have galvanized the populist activists and around which establishment conservatives have rallied. She criticized the president’s apologetic foreign policy and his failure to support human rights and democracy advocates, called the massive debt “generational theft,” advocated domestic energy development, and urged a return to more limited government and low taxes (noting Ronald Reagan’s birthday). And she also skewered Obama for incessantly blaming George W. Bush and for striking out in three big elections (“When you’re 0-3, you’d better stop lecturing and start listening”).

She demurred when asked about a presidential run and urged the Tea Party movement not to be about a single personality. But her purpose here seems quite clear. She is making the case that there is a powerful political movement, test run in Massachusetts, for independent-minded populists and conservatives. While she isn’t yet offering herself as a candidate, it doesn’t take much imagination to hear that same speech a year or two from now, phrased as an announcement of her presidential candidacy.

But for a moment, let’s put Palin aside. The issues she hit certainly comprise the core criticisms of Obama and will form the platform for conservatives in 2010 and 2012. Many of the issues she enumerated were positions that lifted Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown to victory, proving that there is not, in fact, much daylight between Tea Party activists, mainstream Republicans, and disaffected independent voters. And in one form or another, we are hearing similar themes from virtually all Republicans — whether it’s Rep. Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio or Meg Whitman or the other 2012 likely contenders.

So the question, I think, for Republicans is not what but who — who will emerge as the most effective standard bearer of that agenda. That — despite the continual chatter from the punditocracy to find the answer right now — can wait for the 2012 presidential campaign. The “what” will suffice for a nationalized, 2010 midterm election. And then the race will be on to see if Palin or some other figure emerges as the most effective champion for that core agenda.

Palin has followed no rule book and no pundit’s advice in the last year. She quit the governorship, sold millions of books, got a million and a half Facebook fans, broke through the health-care reform debate with her “death panel” critique, and now has endeared herself to a grassroots movement. Pundits will ask, “But is that enough?” Well, it’s a lot for a year’s work. After all, we are two years away from the start of the primary season. But this much is clear: her potential opponents for 2012 will have to figure out how to match the enthusiasm and affection she generates. (The mainstream media and liberals [but I repeat myself] loathe her, but they don’t vote in the GOP presidential primary.) And, without adopting the criticisms favored by the mainstream media — e.g., she lacks an Ivy League degree – that are likely to alienate the conservative base, they must figure out how to make the case that she’s not the right person to go toe to toe with Obama. That’s not, by any means, an impossible task. But judging from last night’s outing, the flock of 2012 contenders may have their work cut out for them.

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