Commentary Magazine


Topic: Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann Is No Margaret Thatcher

Mark Steyn is someone whom I enjoy reading and listening to. He’s informed, intelligent, and has a wonderful (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor. But once in a while his analysis is, in my estimation, a bit wide of the mark. Take his comments about Michele Bachmann, who yesterday announced she will not seek reelection. In paying tribute to her, Steyn said she could have been “America’s Thatcher.”

No she couldn’t. Margaret Thatcher was a once-in-a-generation leader. She changed the trajectory of history, bending it toward liberty. She was a woman who possessed a powerful intellect. Her speeches were thoughtful and historically literate, she always did her homework, and she was a first-rate debater. Margaret Thatcher’s achievements were staggeringly impressive. Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, was a member of the House of Representatives who had some strengths but also some real weaknesses and limitations. 

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Mark Steyn is someone whom I enjoy reading and listening to. He’s informed, intelligent, and has a wonderful (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor. But once in a while his analysis is, in my estimation, a bit wide of the mark. Take his comments about Michele Bachmann, who yesterday announced she will not seek reelection. In paying tribute to her, Steyn said she could have been “America’s Thatcher.”

No she couldn’t. Margaret Thatcher was a once-in-a-generation leader. She changed the trajectory of history, bending it toward liberty. She was a woman who possessed a powerful intellect. Her speeches were thoughtful and historically literate, she always did her homework, and she was a first-rate debater. Margaret Thatcher’s achievements were staggeringly impressive. Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, was a member of the House of Representatives who had some strengths but also some real weaknesses and limitations. 

When someone we like retires we’re inclined to shower more praise on them than they deserve. I get that. But saying that Michele Bachmann could have been “America’s Thatcher” is (to be generous) hyperbole. And my guess is that Steyn himself, on reflection, would agree.

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Sic Transit Bachmann: The Ridicule Principle and 2016

There was a moment two years ago when Representative Michele Bachmann looked like she had a realistic chance to be a first-tier Republican presidential candidate. In the spring and summer of 2011, Bachmann seemed to be the favorite of Tea Party voters and her strong showing at the first debates indicated that she could emerge from the pack as the person who could mobilize social conservatives as well as anti-tax rebels and give mainstream frontrunner Mitt Romney a run for his money. Indeed, when she showed the organizational heft that allowed her to win the straw poll in Ames, Iowa that August she knocked former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty out of the race and seemed poised for a long and possibly significant presidential campaign.

But that was her high point, and from there her candidacy, if not her celebrity, went into a steep decline. Not only did she not win the actual Iowa caucus the following January, she finished so far down in the standings that she dropped out the next day. The Michele Bachmann moment in our national political history was so short that even though it happened less than two years ago, it’s hard even for some political junkies to remember it. The news today that Bachmann won’t run for re-election to Congress next year is a reminder for both politicians and journalists of the enduring wisdom to be found in not getting so caught up in what is happening in each segment of the 24/7 news cycle that they lose perspective on things or people that turn out to be flashes in the pan rather than have staying power. While no one should assume that we’ve heard the last of Bachmann, her exit from office illustrates just how fleeting such moments can be. And that’s something the next crop of GOP presidential contenders, including current Tea Party idol Ted Cruz, should remember.

Why did Bachmann fade so quickly? The answer is simple. There aren’t many hard and fast rules in politics that apply to all situations, but surely one of them is to avoid ridicule.

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There was a moment two years ago when Representative Michele Bachmann looked like she had a realistic chance to be a first-tier Republican presidential candidate. In the spring and summer of 2011, Bachmann seemed to be the favorite of Tea Party voters and her strong showing at the first debates indicated that she could emerge from the pack as the person who could mobilize social conservatives as well as anti-tax rebels and give mainstream frontrunner Mitt Romney a run for his money. Indeed, when she showed the organizational heft that allowed her to win the straw poll in Ames, Iowa that August she knocked former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty out of the race and seemed poised for a long and possibly significant presidential campaign.

But that was her high point, and from there her candidacy, if not her celebrity, went into a steep decline. Not only did she not win the actual Iowa caucus the following January, she finished so far down in the standings that she dropped out the next day. The Michele Bachmann moment in our national political history was so short that even though it happened less than two years ago, it’s hard even for some political junkies to remember it. The news today that Bachmann won’t run for re-election to Congress next year is a reminder for both politicians and journalists of the enduring wisdom to be found in not getting so caught up in what is happening in each segment of the 24/7 news cycle that they lose perspective on things or people that turn out to be flashes in the pan rather than have staying power. While no one should assume that we’ve heard the last of Bachmann, her exit from office illustrates just how fleeting such moments can be. And that’s something the next crop of GOP presidential contenders, including current Tea Party idol Ted Cruz, should remember.

Why did Bachmann fade so quickly? The answer is simple. There aren’t many hard and fast rules in politics that apply to all situations, but surely one of them is to avoid ridicule.

Bachmann’s penchant for saying whatever came into her head caught up with her. She got labeled as the candidate who made the loony comment about a vaccine against sexually transmitted diseases causing mental retardation. She had genuine charisma as well as a better grasp on many issues than better known and funded candidates (need we mention Rick Perry?), but the more America got to know her, the less it took her seriously. Her fans can blame that on the mainstream media’s liberal bias, but the fault was hers. Where once she looked to be about to replace Sarah Palin as the La Passionara of the Tea Party movement, she wound up just looking ridiculous. There are few examples of politicians recovering from that malady, though Anthony Weiner is giving that principle a run for its money this year.

The speculation about why Bachmann is not running for re-election needn’t detain us long. Her protestations that her decision was unrelated to the ongoing investigations into the financing of her campaign or fears of winning re-election ring hollow. Since she was already running ads for 2014, it’s clear the baggage she carried endangered her chances of winning a seat that she had only barely held onto last November. By leaving now before taking another chance on losing in an overwhelmingly Republican district, she preserves her options for the future. She can be become a popular figure on the conservative lecture circuit or a talk show host.

But what Bachmann taught us in 2011 is that the gap between being a celebrated congressional dissident whose antics delighted the conservative base and someone who can actually challenge for the nomination of a national party is not so narrow as some politicians think. The crop of 2016 GOP contenders seems to be a lot deeper and more serious than the 2012 roster, but what happened to Bachmann should be considered an object lesson for people like Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who appears to be auditioning for the post of leader of the bomb thrower niche of the Republican Party that Bachmann briefly occupied.

You may argue that Cruz is a lot more polished and substantive than Bachmann was, and you might be right–though many forget that she knew what she was talking about when it came to tax policy and the Middle East. But as much as the grass roots is applauding when Cruz calls his Republican colleagues “squishes” and says he doesn’t trust them, the potential for crossing the line into caricature is there too.

Partisans like their politicians to be blunt and give the other side hell. But there is a fine line between that and getting labeled a nut case. Cruz may think he’s cut from a different mold than Bachmann, but he should regard her swift rise and even swifter fall as a warning of just how slippery a business politics can be.

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Focus on Clinton’s Mistakes, Not Abedin

Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, has been in the news recently as her husband, the disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, tries to worm his way back into the public eye. Weiner paraded Abedin and their six-month-old infant before the cameras of People magazine this week as part of a not-so-subtle campaign to rehabilitate himself. But Abedin has other worries besides those associated with her husband. She was singled out in a letter sent by Rep. Michele Bachmann and four members of Congress that highlighted the ties between her family and the Muslim Brotherhood. The letter asked for the State Department’s Inspector General to conduct an investigation into whether Abedin and others had wrongly influenced American policy to show favor to the Islamist group that is battling for power in Egypt. That prompted a furious response from Sen. John McCain, who blasted Bachmann on the floor of the Senate. McCain described Abedin as a friend and said attacks on her “character, reputation and patriotism” were unwarranted and unfair.

McCain’s counterattack on behalf of Abedin is being echoed throughout the mainstream press. The New York Times editorial page today described Bachmann’s charges as a “crackpot allegation of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the government.” The Boston Globe’s Juliette Kayeem wrote in a column that the mention of Abedin’s mother was a new take on an old theme, a “Manchurian Mom.” While McCain’s speech centered on a defense of Abedin, both pieces poured scorn on the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood was worth worrying about or whether a discussion of the State Department’s conduct vis-à-vis the organization was worthy of scrutiny. The whole thing, they said, was merely a new front in an effort to single out Muslim-Americans and subject them to discrimination.

Prejudice against Muslims is wrong, and conspiracy theories are a noxious weed in political discourse. Those who think the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the State Department are probably wrong, as there is no shortage of diplomats and consultants who foolishly think the United States should be engaging with the Islamist group without any of them being part of a plot. But if the Bachmann letter is used as an excuse to brand as McCarthyism any effort to discuss a possible shift in U.S. policy toward appeasing Islamist groups, that would be a mistake.

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Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, has been in the news recently as her husband, the disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, tries to worm his way back into the public eye. Weiner paraded Abedin and their six-month-old infant before the cameras of People magazine this week as part of a not-so-subtle campaign to rehabilitate himself. But Abedin has other worries besides those associated with her husband. She was singled out in a letter sent by Rep. Michele Bachmann and four members of Congress that highlighted the ties between her family and the Muslim Brotherhood. The letter asked for the State Department’s Inspector General to conduct an investigation into whether Abedin and others had wrongly influenced American policy to show favor to the Islamist group that is battling for power in Egypt. That prompted a furious response from Sen. John McCain, who blasted Bachmann on the floor of the Senate. McCain described Abedin as a friend and said attacks on her “character, reputation and patriotism” were unwarranted and unfair.

McCain’s counterattack on behalf of Abedin is being echoed throughout the mainstream press. The New York Times editorial page today described Bachmann’s charges as a “crackpot allegation of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the government.” The Boston Globe’s Juliette Kayeem wrote in a column that the mention of Abedin’s mother was a new take on an old theme, a “Manchurian Mom.” While McCain’s speech centered on a defense of Abedin, both pieces poured scorn on the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood was worth worrying about or whether a discussion of the State Department’s conduct vis-à-vis the organization was worthy of scrutiny. The whole thing, they said, was merely a new front in an effort to single out Muslim-Americans and subject them to discrimination.

Prejudice against Muslims is wrong, and conspiracy theories are a noxious weed in political discourse. Those who think the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the State Department are probably wrong, as there is no shortage of diplomats and consultants who foolishly think the United States should be engaging with the Islamist group without any of them being part of a plot. But if the Bachmann letter is used as an excuse to brand as McCarthyism any effort to discuss a possible shift in U.S. policy toward appeasing Islamist groups, that would be a mistake.

Abedin is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and given her history and personal circumstances the notion that she is a Brotherhood mole seems farfetched at best. But her family connections with the Brotherhood should raise some eyebrows. If a Jewish official were similarly tied to an extremist group such as the Jewish Defense League, it would be a matter for some uncomfortable speculation despite the fact that the JDL is utterly marginal. Given that the Brotherhood is a powerful and dangerous organization, it is not unreasonable for some questions to be asked.

But even if we assume, as we probably should, that Abedin has been thoroughly vetted and that mentioning her in this connection was an error, that does not mean members of Congress ought not to be asking questions about the State Department’s willingness to make nice with the Brotherhood. Nor should it lead us to ignore the other issues raised in both the letter to the State Department and another one written by the same group to the Department of Homeland Security about the vetting of individuals with Islamist ties and the use of materials that tend to downplay the nature of the Islamist threat from the Brotherhood and related groups, including those that have rationalized or support terrorism. The government has shown a troubling tendency to be unable to distinguish between patriotic American Muslims and Islamists who purport to speak for American Muslims.

The problem here is that by making a martyr out of Abedin, Bachmann and her colleagues have fed the false narrative about a mythical post 9-11 backlash against Muslims whose purpose is to shut down appropriate scrutiny of extremist groups and individuals. Doing so has aided those who wish to silence the discussion about Islamist terror and portray the Center for Security Policy, the Washington think tank that has documented many of the concerns the members of Congress raised, as a voice of extremism. In fact, it is raising legitimate issues that deserve to be aired.

McCarthyism was wrong not just because some of those who were subjected to scrutiny were innocent of the charge of being Communists, but because unfair accusations served to discredit any questions about Soviet espionage. Despite Joseph McCarthy’s lies about the subject, the issue of Communist subversion was real. While there is no evidence the Muslim Brotherhood has embarked on a similar campaign, the threat from Islamist terror is no less real and should not be ignored because of worries about false charges or prejudice.

Instead of worrying about Abedin and her family or elevating her to the status of Muslim-American heroine, what we should be doing is discussing the mistakes of her boss, Secretary Clinton. It is Clinton who is responsible for the administration’s troubling decisions to edge closer to the Brotherhood. Anything that distracts us from that or from the genuine threat of domestic and international Islamist terrorism is a terrible blunder.

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Senate Freshmen Decline to Join Tea Party Caucus

Remember that Afghanistan trip Sen. Mitch McConnell took some of the GOP freshmen on last week? At the time, some conservative activists worried it was a “ploy” to co-opt the Tea Party members of the Senate. And now, interestingly, some of the same freshmen who went on the trip — Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Marco Rubio — have decided not to join the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus.

In an interview with a Florida political website, Tea Party favorite Rubio said he won’t be involved in the caucus, because he thinks it will “co-opt” the whole concept of the movement:

“My concern is that politicians all of a sudden start co-opting the mantle of Tea Party. If all of a sudden being in the Tea Party is not something that is happening in Main Street, but rather something that’s happening in Washington D.C.,” he said in an interview with the Shark Tank, a Florida political website. “The Tea Party all of a sudden becomes some sort of movement run by politicians. It’s gonna lose its effectiveness and I’m concerned about that.”

What Rubio says is correct on its face. The Tea Party is a ground-up movement, and it would be completely inconsistent with its platform if Washington politicians began “running” it. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of Tea Party Caucus at all. The idea of the caucus is to take direction from the grassroots of the conservative movement and carry it out in Congress — not the other way around.

So Rubio is spinning a bit. But it’s not hard to see why. Politically, it wouldn’t be the greatest move for him to tie himself to a caucus, at least not if he wants to compromise and get things done in the Senate.

That might be why the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus hasn’t been successful in drawing members. The Hill reported that it currently has only three senators committed to attending its first meeting: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint.

The House of Representatives, in comparison, has a 30-member strong Tea Party Caucus, which was created by Rep. Michele Bachmann last year. But the Senate is also a fraction of the size of the House, meaning that senators need to compromise much more with other members in order to get legislation through.

Remember that Afghanistan trip Sen. Mitch McConnell took some of the GOP freshmen on last week? At the time, some conservative activists worried it was a “ploy” to co-opt the Tea Party members of the Senate. And now, interestingly, some of the same freshmen who went on the trip — Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Marco Rubio — have decided not to join the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus.

In an interview with a Florida political website, Tea Party favorite Rubio said he won’t be involved in the caucus, because he thinks it will “co-opt” the whole concept of the movement:

“My concern is that politicians all of a sudden start co-opting the mantle of Tea Party. If all of a sudden being in the Tea Party is not something that is happening in Main Street, but rather something that’s happening in Washington D.C.,” he said in an interview with the Shark Tank, a Florida political website. “The Tea Party all of a sudden becomes some sort of movement run by politicians. It’s gonna lose its effectiveness and I’m concerned about that.”

What Rubio says is correct on its face. The Tea Party is a ground-up movement, and it would be completely inconsistent with its platform if Washington politicians began “running” it. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of Tea Party Caucus at all. The idea of the caucus is to take direction from the grassroots of the conservative movement and carry it out in Congress — not the other way around.

So Rubio is spinning a bit. But it’s not hard to see why. Politically, it wouldn’t be the greatest move for him to tie himself to a caucus, at least not if he wants to compromise and get things done in the Senate.

That might be why the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus hasn’t been successful in drawing members. The Hill reported that it currently has only three senators committed to attending its first meeting: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint.

The House of Representatives, in comparison, has a 30-member strong Tea Party Caucus, which was created by Rep. Michele Bachmann last year. But the Senate is also a fraction of the size of the House, meaning that senators need to compromise much more with other members in order to get legislation through.

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Morning Commentary

The Iraqi parliament finally approves a diverse new unity government, ending nine months of political stalemate and concern for the fledgling democracy: “Although Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were represented in the previous government, this is the first time that all the major factions have been included, lending hope that Iraq can put behind it the bitter sectarian struggles and divisive politics of the past five years.”

More than nine Senate Republicans are expected to support New START when it’s brought up for ratification today, which is enough to approve the treaty. So what’s the GOP getting in return for its support? According to the Washington Times, Sen. Jon Kyl’s negotiations with President Obama have secured $85 billion to modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal, as well as a commitment to build robust missile defenses.

In the New York Post, Jonah Goldberg analyzes the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

In USA Today, Sarah Palin discusses the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran: “Some have said the Israelis should undertake military action on their own if they are convinced the Iranian program is approaching the point of no return. But Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just Israel’s problem; it is the world’s problem. I agree with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who said recently that the West must be willing to use force ‘if necessary’ if that is the only alternative.”

Is Michele Bachmann considering a presidential run? Her $31,000 in contributions to Iowa candidates over the past year has some bloggers asking that question. Iowa’s campaign-finance report shows that Sarah Palin gave only $15,000 during the same time period.

Has it really come to this? Robert Gibbs is now seeking political help from Jon Stewart.

Ron Radosh sees similarities between Hugo Chavez’s recent power grab and the rise of Nazi power: “By passing the Enabling Act — the same term used by Chavez today — Hitler sought to abolish democracy by formally democratic means. … By banning opposition Communist delegates who had all been arrested, and preventing Social-Democrats from taking seats to which they were elected after the Reichstag fire, the Nazis now had the necessary votes to pass the Act. Clearly, Hugo Chavez must have studied Hitler’s tactics before commencing upon a similar road.”

The Iraqi parliament finally approves a diverse new unity government, ending nine months of political stalemate and concern for the fledgling democracy: “Although Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were represented in the previous government, this is the first time that all the major factions have been included, lending hope that Iraq can put behind it the bitter sectarian struggles and divisive politics of the past five years.”

More than nine Senate Republicans are expected to support New START when it’s brought up for ratification today, which is enough to approve the treaty. So what’s the GOP getting in return for its support? According to the Washington Times, Sen. Jon Kyl’s negotiations with President Obama have secured $85 billion to modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal, as well as a commitment to build robust missile defenses.

In the New York Post, Jonah Goldberg analyzes the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

In USA Today, Sarah Palin discusses the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran: “Some have said the Israelis should undertake military action on their own if they are convinced the Iranian program is approaching the point of no return. But Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just Israel’s problem; it is the world’s problem. I agree with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who said recently that the West must be willing to use force ‘if necessary’ if that is the only alternative.”

Is Michele Bachmann considering a presidential run? Her $31,000 in contributions to Iowa candidates over the past year has some bloggers asking that question. Iowa’s campaign-finance report shows that Sarah Palin gave only $15,000 during the same time period.

Has it really come to this? Robert Gibbs is now seeking political help from Jon Stewart.

Ron Radosh sees similarities between Hugo Chavez’s recent power grab and the rise of Nazi power: “By passing the Enabling Act — the same term used by Chavez today — Hitler sought to abolish democracy by formally democratic means. … By banning opposition Communist delegates who had all been arrested, and preventing Social-Democrats from taking seats to which they were elected after the Reichstag fire, the Nazis now had the necessary votes to pass the Act. Clearly, Hugo Chavez must have studied Hitler’s tactics before commencing upon a similar road.”

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RE: Wishful Thinking, Again, by the Gray Lady

Not all reporters are as driven by ideology and ignorant of the conservative movement as is the New York Times. Others have not ignored the obvious conclusion that today, conservatives as a group are more pro-Israel than are liberals as a group. Josh Rogin reported back in July:

Almost two dozen Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers cosponsored a new resolution late last week that expresses their support for Israel “to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force.”

The lead sponsor of the resolution was Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, one of four congressmen to announce the formation of the 44-member Tea Party caucus at a press conference on July 21. The other three Tea Party Caucus leaders, Michele Bachmann, R-MN, Steve King, R-IA, and John Culberson, R-TX, are also sponsors of the resolution. In total, 21 Tea Party Caucus members have signed on, according to the latest list of caucus members put out by Bachmann’s office.

Rogin noted that isolationist Ron Paul did not sign on. But Ron Paul is a barometer of conservative foreign-policy opinion only in the imagination of New York Times reporters. As for the rest of conservatives, the overwhelming number are, for reasons ranging from religious faith to enlightened self-interest (i.e., Israel is a valued democratic ally), extraordinarily pro-Israel — a fact that the Times chooses not to share with its left-leaning readership.

Not all reporters are as driven by ideology and ignorant of the conservative movement as is the New York Times. Others have not ignored the obvious conclusion that today, conservatives as a group are more pro-Israel than are liberals as a group. Josh Rogin reported back in July:

Almost two dozen Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers cosponsored a new resolution late last week that expresses their support for Israel “to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force.”

The lead sponsor of the resolution was Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, one of four congressmen to announce the formation of the 44-member Tea Party caucus at a press conference on July 21. The other three Tea Party Caucus leaders, Michele Bachmann, R-MN, Steve King, R-IA, and John Culberson, R-TX, are also sponsors of the resolution. In total, 21 Tea Party Caucus members have signed on, according to the latest list of caucus members put out by Bachmann’s office.

Rogin noted that isolationist Ron Paul did not sign on. But Ron Paul is a barometer of conservative foreign-policy opinion only in the imagination of New York Times reporters. As for the rest of conservatives, the overwhelming number are, for reasons ranging from religious faith to enlightened self-interest (i.e., Israel is a valued democratic ally), extraordinarily pro-Israel — a fact that the Times chooses not to share with its left-leaning readership.

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House Republicans Go 2 for 2

Things are looking up for the Republicans. First, John Boehner – in contrast to Nancy Pelosi’s habit of calling expensive aircraft to ferry her around, like some people call cabs — announced that flying commercial is fine for him. Good move. Good symbolism. It’s small, but Republicans are notorious for getting small things wrong.

Second, Michele Bachmann dropped out of the contest for the chair of the Republican conference. Jeb Hensarling — an impressive, wonkish conservative backed by everyone from Paul Ryan to Kevin McCarthy to Eric Cantor — will take over the job, one for which he is exceptionally well-suited. Here again, everyone played it right. Bachmann avoided a fight and the embarrassment of losing. She gave a classy endorsement of Hensarling, and he accepted it graciously. The GOP didn’t “sell out” to some mushy moderate but instead got a capable conservative in the role. And the Tea Party continues its political maturation: you have to know your stuff and not just hurl the fiercest rhetoric to earn fellow conservatives’ respect.

You think maybe this “Tea Party vs. the experienced insiders” stuff is overblown? Me too.

Things are looking up for the Republicans. First, John Boehner – in contrast to Nancy Pelosi’s habit of calling expensive aircraft to ferry her around, like some people call cabs — announced that flying commercial is fine for him. Good move. Good symbolism. It’s small, but Republicans are notorious for getting small things wrong.

Second, Michele Bachmann dropped out of the contest for the chair of the Republican conference. Jeb Hensarling — an impressive, wonkish conservative backed by everyone from Paul Ryan to Kevin McCarthy to Eric Cantor — will take over the job, one for which he is exceptionally well-suited. Here again, everyone played it right. Bachmann avoided a fight and the embarrassment of losing. She gave a classy endorsement of Hensarling, and he accepted it graciously. The GOP didn’t “sell out” to some mushy moderate but instead got a capable conservative in the role. And the Tea Party continues its political maturation: you have to know your stuff and not just hurl the fiercest rhetoric to earn fellow conservatives’ respect.

You think maybe this “Tea Party vs. the experienced insiders” stuff is overblown? Me too.

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Let’s Talk About Judging

We are going to have a Supreme Court confirmation hearing this summer. The mainstream-media chatter is centering on “filibuster or no filibuster?” — a silly discussion in the absence of an actual nominee. But the debate promises to be politically significant, in no small part because the public is rather conservative in its judicial outlook, and the president and his nominee will be anything but. On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol explained:

I’m struck when you listen to the Tea Party activists. They often talk about we need to be constitutionalists, we need to be constitutional conservatives. I think Michele Bachmann used that phrase in talking with you just a couple of minutes ago.

And I think having a — one thing that motivates conservatives today is the sense that the Constitution has become a nothing. I mean, it’s no – – there’s no constraint on government. It’s just — government does whatever it does.

And I think the notion that there’s a kind of constitutionalist agenda on the right to oppose the progressive agenda on the left has actually gone further down into the populace, you know, than constitutional-type issues normally do.

So I think a big debate on the Constitution, a serious debate, actually, in the Senate this year would be good for Republicans, good for conservatives. I think the nominee would most likely get confirmed in any case.

Despite liberals’ best efforts to convince the public that the Constitution is “living,” the public doesn’t think judges should just make stuff up. And it tends to dislike the ends — gun control, abortion on demand, racial preferences — that liberal justices reach. So a robust discussion of the nominee’s judicial philosophy — specifically about whether that nominee thinks there is some judicial license beyond the text of the Constitution to upend the policy decisions of the elected branches of government, and also about what the nominee understands as the meaning of basic concepts like “equal protection” — is not only healthy but also a boon to conservatives, who can remind the public of what it is they believe and what their opponents do. What happens to democracy when judging is untethered from the meaning of the texts that judges interpret? What happens to the scope of the federal government when the meaning is drained from the Commerce Clause and the Tenth Amendment?

No wonder the Democrats don’t want a prolonged fight over this justice. It’s not going to help their electoral prospects — which are already dim.

We are going to have a Supreme Court confirmation hearing this summer. The mainstream-media chatter is centering on “filibuster or no filibuster?” — a silly discussion in the absence of an actual nominee. But the debate promises to be politically significant, in no small part because the public is rather conservative in its judicial outlook, and the president and his nominee will be anything but. On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol explained:

I’m struck when you listen to the Tea Party activists. They often talk about we need to be constitutionalists, we need to be constitutional conservatives. I think Michele Bachmann used that phrase in talking with you just a couple of minutes ago.

And I think having a — one thing that motivates conservatives today is the sense that the Constitution has become a nothing. I mean, it’s no – – there’s no constraint on government. It’s just — government does whatever it does.

And I think the notion that there’s a kind of constitutionalist agenda on the right to oppose the progressive agenda on the left has actually gone further down into the populace, you know, than constitutional-type issues normally do.

So I think a big debate on the Constitution, a serious debate, actually, in the Senate this year would be good for Republicans, good for conservatives. I think the nominee would most likely get confirmed in any case.

Despite liberals’ best efforts to convince the public that the Constitution is “living,” the public doesn’t think judges should just make stuff up. And it tends to dislike the ends — gun control, abortion on demand, racial preferences — that liberal justices reach. So a robust discussion of the nominee’s judicial philosophy — specifically about whether that nominee thinks there is some judicial license beyond the text of the Constitution to upend the policy decisions of the elected branches of government, and also about what the nominee understands as the meaning of basic concepts like “equal protection” — is not only healthy but also a boon to conservatives, who can remind the public of what it is they believe and what their opponents do. What happens to democracy when judging is untethered from the meaning of the texts that judges interpret? What happens to the scope of the federal government when the meaning is drained from the Commerce Clause and the Tenth Amendment?

No wonder the Democrats don’t want a prolonged fight over this justice. It’s not going to help their electoral prospects — which are already dim.

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Democrats Freak Over GOP Women — Again

Politico reports:

Two of the conservative movement’s biggest stars, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), lavished praise on each other Wednesday at a boisterous rally held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Before a predominantly female crowd of more than 11,000 fans, the two high-profile Republicans ripped President Obama at an event that doubled as a fundraiser for Bachmann’s re-election campaign.

Alas, the fellas —  2012 presidential contender and now-Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) — slunk into the background. Palin and Bachmann made hay out of Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review:

If, in fact, there is a nation who is compliant with all the rules ahead of time… if they fire against the United States a nuclear weapon, a biological weapon or maybe a cyber attack, we won’t be firing back with nuclear weapons,” Bachmann insisted.“Doesn’t that make us feel safe?” she asked to a laughing audience.

The Left does what it usually does when confronted with attractive conservative women: it goes bonkers. Greg Sargent tweets: “Dem talking points bashing Bachmann and Palin are really going to pay huge dividends this fall.” Huh? Let me get this straight: the Democrats in Congress are going to spend their time attacking two women with huge conservative and Tea Party followings, one of whom isn’t in office or on the ballot? Well, it makes about as much sense as running against George W. Bush, a strategy some have suggested is also in the offing.

These are not the tactics of a confident party that is secure in its record and aided by a popular president. It reeks of desperation. And just imagine if Republicans picked two women, neither of whom was in a leadership position, as the focal point of their attacks. They might be accused of having a “female” problem — by Politico, for example.

Politico reports:

Two of the conservative movement’s biggest stars, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), lavished praise on each other Wednesday at a boisterous rally held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Before a predominantly female crowd of more than 11,000 fans, the two high-profile Republicans ripped President Obama at an event that doubled as a fundraiser for Bachmann’s re-election campaign.

Alas, the fellas —  2012 presidential contender and now-Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) — slunk into the background. Palin and Bachmann made hay out of Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review:

If, in fact, there is a nation who is compliant with all the rules ahead of time… if they fire against the United States a nuclear weapon, a biological weapon or maybe a cyber attack, we won’t be firing back with nuclear weapons,” Bachmann insisted.“Doesn’t that make us feel safe?” she asked to a laughing audience.

The Left does what it usually does when confronted with attractive conservative women: it goes bonkers. Greg Sargent tweets: “Dem talking points bashing Bachmann and Palin are really going to pay huge dividends this fall.” Huh? Let me get this straight: the Democrats in Congress are going to spend their time attacking two women with huge conservative and Tea Party followings, one of whom isn’t in office or on the ballot? Well, it makes about as much sense as running against George W. Bush, a strategy some have suggested is also in the offing.

These are not the tactics of a confident party that is secure in its record and aided by a popular president. It reeks of desperation. And just imagine if Republicans picked two women, neither of whom was in a leadership position, as the focal point of their attacks. They might be accused of having a “female” problem — by Politico, for example.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It seems that some human rights organization (or perhaps our secretary of state of 19-million-glass-ceiling-cracks fame) should care about all this: “Who, exactly, is it the misogyny-frenzied brutes in charge of administering ‘justice’ to the Saudi distaff side are protecting — and from what? When they condemn a woman who’s been gang-raped to 200 lashes for ‘having sex outside marriage,’ or give a destitute 75-year-old widow 40 lashes for engaging in ‘prohibited mingling’ by receiving charity from two young male relatives, or, in the most recent (known) instance, sentence a 13-year-old girl to 90 lashes — to be delivered in front of her classmates — for bringing a cell phone to school — what do they believe they are doing?”

Meanwhile, Cliff May reminds us that “in a growing number of Muslim-majority countries, a war is being waged against non-Muslim minorities. Where non-Muslim minorities already have been ‘cleansed’ — as in Afghanistan and Iraq — the attacks are against their memory. Ethnic minorities also are being targeted: The genocidal conflict against the black Muslims of Darfur is only the most infamous example. … In response to all this, Western journalists, academics, diplomats, and politicians mainly avert their eyes and hold their tongues. They pretend there are no stories to be written, no social pathologies to be documented, no actions to be taken. They focus instead on Switzerland’s vote against minarets and anything Israel might be doing to prevent terrorists from claiming additional victims.”

Marc Thiessen dismantles Christiane Amanpour and her misrepresentations of waterboarding. Notice that when an informed conservative goes up against a liberal on terrorism issues (e.g., Cliff May vs. Jon Stewart, John Yoo vs. Jon Stewart), the liberal is never quite prepared. Almost like they all live in an echo chamber, with no one to challenge their firmly held and factually unsupported views.

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Arkansas Senate seat to “leans takeover”: “Multiple independent polls now show Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) losing or running even in ballot tests against any number of lower-tier GOP challengers.”

As if Arlen Specter didn’t have enough problems (including picking the exact wrong year to switch parties): “The deeply odd couple of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) appeared together on a Philly radio station yesterday — and things got ugly in short order.” Specter, it seems, told Bachmann to “act like a lady.”

And Specter certainly does have problems: “Republican Pat Toomey now leads incumbent Senator Arlen Specter 49% to 40% in Pennsylvania’s race for the U.S. Senate. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Pennsylvania voters also finds Toomey with a 43% to 35% lead over Democratic challenger Joe Sestak.” As goes Massachusetts, so goes Pennsylvania?

Quin Hillyer writes a smart column: you don’t win upset political races unless you compete. “Too many professional pols and pollsters, consultants and consiglieres, allow their assessment of political potential to be hamstrung by conventional wisdom and by past results. Especially on the right of center, the political class in Washington consistently underestimates what can be achieved by solid principles well communicated. Washington Republicans especially act too often as if they expect to lose and are resigned to losing, just a little more slowly.”

It seems that some human rights organization (or perhaps our secretary of state of 19-million-glass-ceiling-cracks fame) should care about all this: “Who, exactly, is it the misogyny-frenzied brutes in charge of administering ‘justice’ to the Saudi distaff side are protecting — and from what? When they condemn a woman who’s been gang-raped to 200 lashes for ‘having sex outside marriage,’ or give a destitute 75-year-old widow 40 lashes for engaging in ‘prohibited mingling’ by receiving charity from two young male relatives, or, in the most recent (known) instance, sentence a 13-year-old girl to 90 lashes — to be delivered in front of her classmates — for bringing a cell phone to school — what do they believe they are doing?”

Meanwhile, Cliff May reminds us that “in a growing number of Muslim-majority countries, a war is being waged against non-Muslim minorities. Where non-Muslim minorities already have been ‘cleansed’ — as in Afghanistan and Iraq — the attacks are against their memory. Ethnic minorities also are being targeted: The genocidal conflict against the black Muslims of Darfur is only the most infamous example. … In response to all this, Western journalists, academics, diplomats, and politicians mainly avert their eyes and hold their tongues. They pretend there are no stories to be written, no social pathologies to be documented, no actions to be taken. They focus instead on Switzerland’s vote against minarets and anything Israel might be doing to prevent terrorists from claiming additional victims.”

Marc Thiessen dismantles Christiane Amanpour and her misrepresentations of waterboarding. Notice that when an informed conservative goes up against a liberal on terrorism issues (e.g., Cliff May vs. Jon Stewart, John Yoo vs. Jon Stewart), the liberal is never quite prepared. Almost like they all live in an echo chamber, with no one to challenge their firmly held and factually unsupported views.

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Arkansas Senate seat to “leans takeover”: “Multiple independent polls now show Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) losing or running even in ballot tests against any number of lower-tier GOP challengers.”

As if Arlen Specter didn’t have enough problems (including picking the exact wrong year to switch parties): “The deeply odd couple of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) appeared together on a Philly radio station yesterday — and things got ugly in short order.” Specter, it seems, told Bachmann to “act like a lady.”

And Specter certainly does have problems: “Republican Pat Toomey now leads incumbent Senator Arlen Specter 49% to 40% in Pennsylvania’s race for the U.S. Senate. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Pennsylvania voters also finds Toomey with a 43% to 35% lead over Democratic challenger Joe Sestak.” As goes Massachusetts, so goes Pennsylvania?

Quin Hillyer writes a smart column: you don’t win upset political races unless you compete. “Too many professional pols and pollsters, consultants and consiglieres, allow their assessment of political potential to be hamstrung by conventional wisdom and by past results. Especially on the right of center, the political class in Washington consistently underestimates what can be achieved by solid principles well communicated. Washington Republicans especially act too often as if they expect to lose and are resigned to losing, just a little more slowly.”

Read Less




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