Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mike Huckabee

Why Are So Many Conservatives Backing a Radical Immigration Solution?

Mike Huckabee is showing some political courage:

Former Arkansas GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee says he is against changing the 14th Amendment to remove birthright citizenship.

“The Supreme Court has decided that, I think, in three different centuries,” Huckabeee said in a radio interview Wednesday with NPR. “In every single instance, they have affirmed that if you are born in this country, you are considered to be a citizen. The only option there is to change the Constitution.” …

But asked Wednesday if he supported such a change, Huckabee responded simply: “No.”

“Let me tell you what I would favor. I would favor having controlled borders,” said the 2008 GOP presidential candidate. “But that’s where the federal government has miserably and hopelessly failed us.”

Now, there’s a dose of conservative common sense. It is rather strange to see so many conservatives blithely suggesting a major Constitutional revision for a problem that stems from the failure of the federal government to carry out its duties under existing law.

Michael Gerson provides some historical perspective on the meaning and intention of the 14th Amendment:

The amendment reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This is not the only place in the Constitution where birth is decisive. Any “natural born citizen” who meets age and residency requirements can be elected president.

Critics of birthright citizenship are in revolt against the plain meaning of words. They sometimes assert that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” must exclude illegal immigrants. It doesn’t. Undocumented immigrants and their children are fully subject to American laws. The idea of “jurisdiction” had a specific meaning in the congressional debate surrounding approval of the 14th Amendment. “The language was designed,” says historian Garrett Epps, “to exclude two and only two groups: (1) children of diplomats accredited to the United States and (2) members of Indian tribes who maintained quasi-sovereign status under federal Indian law.”

As Gerson points out, it’s not as if this topic was ignored:

During the debate over the 14th Amendment, Sen. Edgar Cowan of Pennsylvania complained that birthright citizenship would include Gypsies, “who pay no taxes; who never perform military service; who do nothing, in fact, which becomes the citizen.” Others objected that the children of Chinese laborers would be covered. Supporters of the 14th Amendment conceded both cases — and defended them.

Of course, we can amend the Constitution. But conservatives should at least be honest: this would be a radical change, not simply an effort to fill in some missing gap in our Constitutional structure. Nor should conservatives underestimate the possibility that once the 14th Amendment is put into play, liberal interest groups would seek to expand and extend the amendment in a number of ways that conservatives would certainly find objectionable. The prospect of a Constitutional free-for-all should alarm sober conservatives.

We’ll see how far the discussion goes and who else has the nerve, from a conservative perspective, to resist an extreme solution to what is a rather simple problem. Rather than take a meat cleaver to the Constitution, why not get the federal government to do its job?

Mike Huckabee is showing some political courage:

Former Arkansas GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee says he is against changing the 14th Amendment to remove birthright citizenship.

“The Supreme Court has decided that, I think, in three different centuries,” Huckabeee said in a radio interview Wednesday with NPR. “In every single instance, they have affirmed that if you are born in this country, you are considered to be a citizen. The only option there is to change the Constitution.” …

But asked Wednesday if he supported such a change, Huckabee responded simply: “No.”

“Let me tell you what I would favor. I would favor having controlled borders,” said the 2008 GOP presidential candidate. “But that’s where the federal government has miserably and hopelessly failed us.”

Now, there’s a dose of conservative common sense. It is rather strange to see so many conservatives blithely suggesting a major Constitutional revision for a problem that stems from the failure of the federal government to carry out its duties under existing law.

Michael Gerson provides some historical perspective on the meaning and intention of the 14th Amendment:

The amendment reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This is not the only place in the Constitution where birth is decisive. Any “natural born citizen” who meets age and residency requirements can be elected president.

Critics of birthright citizenship are in revolt against the plain meaning of words. They sometimes assert that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” must exclude illegal immigrants. It doesn’t. Undocumented immigrants and their children are fully subject to American laws. The idea of “jurisdiction” had a specific meaning in the congressional debate surrounding approval of the 14th Amendment. “The language was designed,” says historian Garrett Epps, “to exclude two and only two groups: (1) children of diplomats accredited to the United States and (2) members of Indian tribes who maintained quasi-sovereign status under federal Indian law.”

As Gerson points out, it’s not as if this topic was ignored:

During the debate over the 14th Amendment, Sen. Edgar Cowan of Pennsylvania complained that birthright citizenship would include Gypsies, “who pay no taxes; who never perform military service; who do nothing, in fact, which becomes the citizen.” Others objected that the children of Chinese laborers would be covered. Supporters of the 14th Amendment conceded both cases — and defended them.

Of course, we can amend the Constitution. But conservatives should at least be honest: this would be a radical change, not simply an effort to fill in some missing gap in our Constitutional structure. Nor should conservatives underestimate the possibility that once the 14th Amendment is put into play, liberal interest groups would seek to expand and extend the amendment in a number of ways that conservatives would certainly find objectionable. The prospect of a Constitutional free-for-all should alarm sober conservatives.

We’ll see how far the discussion goes and who else has the nerve, from a conservative perspective, to resist an extreme solution to what is a rather simple problem. Rather than take a meat cleaver to the Constitution, why not get the federal government to do its job?

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Forget the Rule Book

Ross Douthat looks at the pre-positioning for the 2012 Republican presidential primary. He explains that there are the populists — Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee — with devoted followers and equally devoted detractors, and that there is the “next in line” Republican — Mitt Romney. The name of the game, Douthat suggests, for establishment Republicans (the geniuses who preferred Charlie Crist to Marco Rubio?) is to stage “a kind of intra-establishment coup, in which Romney is knocked from his perch as the safe, sober choice and a fresher figure takes his place.” Douthat throws out some contenders: Tim Pawlenty, Jeb Bush, John Thune, Mitch Daniels, and Haley Barbour. Douthat advises Romney to “co-opt some of the populist zeal that a Palin or a Huckabee” exhibit without alienating the establishment.

What’s wrong with this analysis? It has no context, and Douthat treats the contenders as archetypes (“sober reformer,” “unpredictable populist,” etc.) rather than as actual contenders with personalities and histories. Romney’s biggest problem isn’t Palin or Huckabee or any other Republican; it is that he championed a health-care bill that looks very similar to ObamaCare, which is the object of the entire party’s ire. Oh, yes — that.

If we learned anything in 2008 it was that context matters. The “unbeatable” Hillary Clinton ran precisely the wrong campaign (“experience”) in a “change” election year. Obama never looked back after the financial meltdown, because the context had changed — wariness of George W. Bush had been transformed into fury over the economic collapse. So, yes, the GOP has a habit of giving the nod to the “runner-up” from the previous year; but we’ve had a political earthquake, and the past is not much of a guide to the new political landscape.

Moreover, if Romney or any candidate is banking on establishment Republicans, as Douthat explains, “to rally around him once the primary voting starts — not out of love or admiration, but out of fear of the populist alternative,” he really has not been paying attention. The “establishment” isn’t really in charge of much of anything any more. The party elders, for better or worse, are being ignored. Ask Rubio, Rand Paul, Nikki Haley, Sharon Angle, and the rest if endorsements by the establishment and big-name donors are the key to victory. The old rules for picking presidential nominees (No congressmen! Must be a household name!) and the creaky campaign customs (The former governor of Maryland endorses candidate X!) have been blown up — first by Obama and then by the Obama backlash.

Maybe Romney four years after his first run can close the sale and figure out a way to deal with RomneyCare. But he won’t do it by splitting the difference between the Tea Party and the Beltway or by ingratiating himself with insiders (the ones who took more than a year to figure out what the Tea Partiers were all about). That sort of thinking is so 2008. The context has changed. The rules — if there are any — are different.

It’s not clear whether outsiderness or executive acumen will carry the day. The only thing for certain is that the old rule book is of absolutely no help.

Ross Douthat looks at the pre-positioning for the 2012 Republican presidential primary. He explains that there are the populists — Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee — with devoted followers and equally devoted detractors, and that there is the “next in line” Republican — Mitt Romney. The name of the game, Douthat suggests, for establishment Republicans (the geniuses who preferred Charlie Crist to Marco Rubio?) is to stage “a kind of intra-establishment coup, in which Romney is knocked from his perch as the safe, sober choice and a fresher figure takes his place.” Douthat throws out some contenders: Tim Pawlenty, Jeb Bush, John Thune, Mitch Daniels, and Haley Barbour. Douthat advises Romney to “co-opt some of the populist zeal that a Palin or a Huckabee” exhibit without alienating the establishment.

What’s wrong with this analysis? It has no context, and Douthat treats the contenders as archetypes (“sober reformer,” “unpredictable populist,” etc.) rather than as actual contenders with personalities and histories. Romney’s biggest problem isn’t Palin or Huckabee or any other Republican; it is that he championed a health-care bill that looks very similar to ObamaCare, which is the object of the entire party’s ire. Oh, yes — that.

If we learned anything in 2008 it was that context matters. The “unbeatable” Hillary Clinton ran precisely the wrong campaign (“experience”) in a “change” election year. Obama never looked back after the financial meltdown, because the context had changed — wariness of George W. Bush had been transformed into fury over the economic collapse. So, yes, the GOP has a habit of giving the nod to the “runner-up” from the previous year; but we’ve had a political earthquake, and the past is not much of a guide to the new political landscape.

Moreover, if Romney or any candidate is banking on establishment Republicans, as Douthat explains, “to rally around him once the primary voting starts — not out of love or admiration, but out of fear of the populist alternative,” he really has not been paying attention. The “establishment” isn’t really in charge of much of anything any more. The party elders, for better or worse, are being ignored. Ask Rubio, Rand Paul, Nikki Haley, Sharon Angle, and the rest if endorsements by the establishment and big-name donors are the key to victory. The old rules for picking presidential nominees (No congressmen! Must be a household name!) and the creaky campaign customs (The former governor of Maryland endorses candidate X!) have been blown up — first by Obama and then by the Obama backlash.

Maybe Romney four years after his first run can close the sale and figure out a way to deal with RomneyCare. But he won’t do it by splitting the difference between the Tea Party and the Beltway or by ingratiating himself with insiders (the ones who took more than a year to figure out what the Tea Partiers were all about). That sort of thinking is so 2008. The context has changed. The rules — if there are any — are different.

It’s not clear whether outsiderness or executive acumen will carry the day. The only thing for certain is that the old rule book is of absolutely no help.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Obami admit Israel is a strategic asset.

The UN isn’t likely to admit this: “The Turkish charity that led the flotilla involved in a deadly Israeli raid has extensive connections with Turkey’s political elite, and the group’s efforts to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza received support at the top levels of the governing party, Turkish diplomats and government officials said.” It’s almost as though Israel were set up by an Islamic partnership between Iran, Turkey, and Hamas. Someone should set up an investigation to look into that.

A liberal think tank admits that the Bart Stupak-inspired executive order on abortion funding was a sham. Jessica Arons of Center for American Progress “explains that the law and the president’s executive order do not prohibit federal funding for abortion in the pre-existing condition insurance plans (PCIPs).”

You have to admit that Obama has transformed the political landscape. Patty Murray is now in trouble: “Washington’s Senate race looks increasingly like a referendum on incumbent Democrat Patty Murray with two Republican candidates edging past her this month. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Washington State finds Republican hopefuls Dino Rossi and Clint Didier both earning 48% support in match-ups with Murray. She, in turn, picks up 45% of the vote against the two GOP challengers.”

Obama admits the election is a referendum on him. “President Obama said in an interview Friday that voters should hold him accountable for the struggling economy, but that his policies are restoring it to health.” I wonder whether he still gives himself a B+.

Tom Jensen of Democratic Public Policy Polling admits that Obama’s numbers are terrible: “He trails Mitt Romney 46-43, Mike Huckabee 47-45, Newt Gingrich 46-45, and is even tied with Sarah Palin at 46. … Obviously 2012 is a long ways off and the immediate relevance of these numbers is limited. It’s possible we’ll look back on polls like this 28 months from now after Obama’s been reelected and laugh. But it’s also possible that we’ll look back on the summer of 2010 after he’s been defeated and see it as the time when his prospects for reelection really took a turn for the worse.”

I admit I can’t get worked up about presidential vacations. If Obama were in the Oval Office more, things might be worse.

The Obami admit Israel is a strategic asset.

The UN isn’t likely to admit this: “The Turkish charity that led the flotilla involved in a deadly Israeli raid has extensive connections with Turkey’s political elite, and the group’s efforts to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza received support at the top levels of the governing party, Turkish diplomats and government officials said.” It’s almost as though Israel were set up by an Islamic partnership between Iran, Turkey, and Hamas. Someone should set up an investigation to look into that.

A liberal think tank admits that the Bart Stupak-inspired executive order on abortion funding was a sham. Jessica Arons of Center for American Progress “explains that the law and the president’s executive order do not prohibit federal funding for abortion in the pre-existing condition insurance plans (PCIPs).”

You have to admit that Obama has transformed the political landscape. Patty Murray is now in trouble: “Washington’s Senate race looks increasingly like a referendum on incumbent Democrat Patty Murray with two Republican candidates edging past her this month. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Washington State finds Republican hopefuls Dino Rossi and Clint Didier both earning 48% support in match-ups with Murray. She, in turn, picks up 45% of the vote against the two GOP challengers.”

Obama admits the election is a referendum on him. “President Obama said in an interview Friday that voters should hold him accountable for the struggling economy, but that his policies are restoring it to health.” I wonder whether he still gives himself a B+.

Tom Jensen of Democratic Public Policy Polling admits that Obama’s numbers are terrible: “He trails Mitt Romney 46-43, Mike Huckabee 47-45, Newt Gingrich 46-45, and is even tied with Sarah Palin at 46. … Obviously 2012 is a long ways off and the immediate relevance of these numbers is limited. It’s possible we’ll look back on polls like this 28 months from now after Obama’s been reelected and laugh. But it’s also possible that we’ll look back on the summer of 2010 after he’s been defeated and see it as the time when his prospects for reelection really took a turn for the worse.”

I admit I can’t get worked up about presidential vacations. If Obama were in the Oval Office more, things might be worse.

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On Arizona’s Immigration Law

Michael Gerson of the Washington Post and Byron York of the Washington Examiner, two bright men, have engaged in a constructive debate about the Arizona immigration law. You can find the back and forth between them here, here, and here.

My own sense of the law, which is carefully written, is that it’s not nearly as draconian as its critics insist — and much of what defenders of the law have been saying about its actual meaning and effect is in fact correct. The law does not give police the right to stop anyone they want to ask for papers solely based on race or ethnicity. The charges that this law is driven by racism and that Arizona has become a “police state” are extreme and reckless. The vast majority of the people of Arizona are responding to a real and present danger — and most of the American public agrees with them (51 percent v. 39 percent, according to Gallup).

Still, I would oppose the law (as does Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, and Karl Rove, among others) on the grounds that it potentially changes for the worse the relationship between the community and the local and state police and risks treating some people as guilty until proven innocent. The Arizona law, in my estimation, nudges things a bit in that direction, which concerns me.

In the hands of responsible police officers — which is to say the vast majority of police officers — it won’t lead to abuse. In the hands of less than responsible police officers, it could, I fear, lead to trouble. The real-world effect of the law — and perhaps its unstated intentions — will be to allow police to heighten scrutiny on Hispanics in the hopes of easing the very real illegal immigration problem. That is the tension inherent in this law. To give priority to one concern over the other doesn’t mean the other argument is invalid or supported by ignorant or malevolent forces.

The final verdict on the Arizona law, I think, depends on how the law plays out in practice. So my judgment on its relative merits and demerits is tentative and open to revision, depending on what we learn from its experience — and this, in turn, depends on which parts of the law passes judicial and constitutional muster.

It’s all pretty wishy-washy, I know, but there you go.

Michael Gerson of the Washington Post and Byron York of the Washington Examiner, two bright men, have engaged in a constructive debate about the Arizona immigration law. You can find the back and forth between them here, here, and here.

My own sense of the law, which is carefully written, is that it’s not nearly as draconian as its critics insist — and much of what defenders of the law have been saying about its actual meaning and effect is in fact correct. The law does not give police the right to stop anyone they want to ask for papers solely based on race or ethnicity. The charges that this law is driven by racism and that Arizona has become a “police state” are extreme and reckless. The vast majority of the people of Arizona are responding to a real and present danger — and most of the American public agrees with them (51 percent v. 39 percent, according to Gallup).

Still, I would oppose the law (as does Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, and Karl Rove, among others) on the grounds that it potentially changes for the worse the relationship between the community and the local and state police and risks treating some people as guilty until proven innocent. The Arizona law, in my estimation, nudges things a bit in that direction, which concerns me.

In the hands of responsible police officers — which is to say the vast majority of police officers — it won’t lead to abuse. In the hands of less than responsible police officers, it could, I fear, lead to trouble. The real-world effect of the law — and perhaps its unstated intentions — will be to allow police to heighten scrutiny on Hispanics in the hopes of easing the very real illegal immigration problem. That is the tension inherent in this law. To give priority to one concern over the other doesn’t mean the other argument is invalid or supported by ignorant or malevolent forces.

The final verdict on the Arizona law, I think, depends on how the law plays out in practice. So my judgment on its relative merits and demerits is tentative and open to revision, depending on what we learn from its experience — and this, in turn, depends on which parts of the law passes judicial and constitutional muster.

It’s all pretty wishy-washy, I know, but there you go.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.’”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.’”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

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Obama Tied with GOP Contenders

Public Policy Polling reports:

Our monthly look ahead to the 2012 Presidential race finds Barack Obama more or less tied with all four of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination. He trails Mike Huckabee 47-45 and Mitt Romney 45-44, ties Newt Gingrich at 45-45, and leads Sarah Palin 47-45. This is the weakest performance Obama’s posted in these 13 monthly surveys and a pretty clear indication that passing health care has not done anything to enhance his political standing, at least in the short term.

Indeed it suggests the opposite — that it has cemented opposition to Obama and elevated candidates thought to be “unelectable” to parity with the sitting president. We’re years away from the presidential election and even the primary season, but it’s a far cry from where we were 15 months ago. It is remarkable how far Obama’s stock has fallen. Could the economy come roaring back and unemployment sink to low single digits? Perhaps. Could the deficit be significantly lowered, calming the fears of independent voters? Unlikely. In short, it’s far from certain that Obama’s political fortunes will necessarily improve over the next few years.

Public Policy Polling reports:

Our monthly look ahead to the 2012 Presidential race finds Barack Obama more or less tied with all four of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination. He trails Mike Huckabee 47-45 and Mitt Romney 45-44, ties Newt Gingrich at 45-45, and leads Sarah Palin 47-45. This is the weakest performance Obama’s posted in these 13 monthly surveys and a pretty clear indication that passing health care has not done anything to enhance his political standing, at least in the short term.

Indeed it suggests the opposite — that it has cemented opposition to Obama and elevated candidates thought to be “unelectable” to parity with the sitting president. We’re years away from the presidential election and even the primary season, but it’s a far cry from where we were 15 months ago. It is remarkable how far Obama’s stock has fallen. Could the economy come roaring back and unemployment sink to low single digits? Perhaps. Could the deficit be significantly lowered, calming the fears of independent voters? Unlikely. In short, it’s far from certain that Obama’s political fortunes will necessarily improve over the next few years.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Democratic governors are in trouble, too — in states like Oregon, Ohio, and Washington. It seems the recession and Obamaism have not been kind to incumbent Democrats.

Keith Hennessey on ObamaCare: “If you’re concerned about long-run budget deficits, you should not make a massive new entitlement spending commitment, exclude a multi-hundred billion spending item that is almost certain to be enacted elsewhere, bet on speculative offsets, all to achieve the unimpressive goal of reducing deficits by “a small share of the total deficits that would be likely to arise in that decade under current policies. We need massive future spending reductions to address exploding future deficits, not to redistribute resources to a new entitlement program.”

Meanwhile, the latest Rasmussen survey reports that 60 percent of voters think ObamaCare will increase the deficit. Only 9 percent say it won’t have any impact.

Charles Krauthammer observes that “all Iran sees is an obsequious president, the most accommodating and appeasement-minded since the Carter administration vis-a-vis Iran, on bended knee, begging for a yes — and all [he] gets is no. At some point, and it should be today, it should have been a year ago, three years ago in the Bush administration, accept the fact that a no is a no. … [The Obama administration] actually took the side of the dictatorship against the people in the streets, hoping that it would create an opening and an overture to the regime — and [in response] the regime has spat in our face.”

Well, yes, we imagine that this is what everyone striving to establish himself as a 2012 contender will say: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty became the first likely GOP presidential candidate to criticize Mike Huckabee’s pardon of a suspected killer during his time as Arkansas’s governor. Pawlenty said that he would not have granted clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who was suspected of fatally shooting four police officers in Washington state on Sunday before being shot and killed by police in Seattle Tuesday morning.”

Pawlenty, perhaps explaining why he seems to be trying so hard, confesses: “Nobody knows who I am.”

A pre-speech Gallup survey: “Americans are far less approving of President Obama’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan than they have been in recent months, with 35% currently approving, down from 49% in September and 56% in July.” And more voters disapprove than approve of his performance on terrorism, the economy, health care, and creating jobs.

This is pathetic: the White House goes to war with Politico?! Next up: CNN and Vanity Fair. It seems the “purity” test — brook no heresy – is not a GOP thing but an Obami thin-skinned media thing.

Democratic governors are in trouble, too — in states like Oregon, Ohio, and Washington. It seems the recession and Obamaism have not been kind to incumbent Democrats.

Keith Hennessey on ObamaCare: “If you’re concerned about long-run budget deficits, you should not make a massive new entitlement spending commitment, exclude a multi-hundred billion spending item that is almost certain to be enacted elsewhere, bet on speculative offsets, all to achieve the unimpressive goal of reducing deficits by “a small share of the total deficits that would be likely to arise in that decade under current policies. We need massive future spending reductions to address exploding future deficits, not to redistribute resources to a new entitlement program.”

Meanwhile, the latest Rasmussen survey reports that 60 percent of voters think ObamaCare will increase the deficit. Only 9 percent say it won’t have any impact.

Charles Krauthammer observes that “all Iran sees is an obsequious president, the most accommodating and appeasement-minded since the Carter administration vis-a-vis Iran, on bended knee, begging for a yes — and all [he] gets is no. At some point, and it should be today, it should have been a year ago, three years ago in the Bush administration, accept the fact that a no is a no. … [The Obama administration] actually took the side of the dictatorship against the people in the streets, hoping that it would create an opening and an overture to the regime — and [in response] the regime has spat in our face.”

Well, yes, we imagine that this is what everyone striving to establish himself as a 2012 contender will say: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty became the first likely GOP presidential candidate to criticize Mike Huckabee’s pardon of a suspected killer during his time as Arkansas’s governor. Pawlenty said that he would not have granted clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who was suspected of fatally shooting four police officers in Washington state on Sunday before being shot and killed by police in Seattle Tuesday morning.”

Pawlenty, perhaps explaining why he seems to be trying so hard, confesses: “Nobody knows who I am.”

A pre-speech Gallup survey: “Americans are far less approving of President Obama’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan than they have been in recent months, with 35% currently approving, down from 49% in September and 56% in July.” And more voters disapprove than approve of his performance on terrorism, the economy, health care, and creating jobs.

This is pathetic: the White House goes to war with Politico?! Next up: CNN and Vanity Fair. It seems the “purity” test — brook no heresy – is not a GOP thing but an Obami thin-skinned media thing.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Evan Bayh on a war surtax: “I don’t think it’s a good idea, not at this point, Chris.” He observes that “if ultimately you’re going to have to start talking about raising taxes, you shouldn’t do it until the economy is robust and really on its — on some pretty good footing.” Er … what about the hundreds of billions in the health-care bill?

Dana Perino on what conservatives will probably do if Obama gives Gen. Stanley McChrystal most of what he wants: “I think they’ll have to set aside the fact that they think it was a really sloppy process, that he undermined President Karzai, that he alienated General McChrystal, and say, ‘This is the right thing to do. We wish he wouldn’t talk about exit ramps so soon, but this is the right thing to do,’ and providing the generals what they need.”

Robert Gibbs issues a distressingly comical statement on news that Iran is about to embark on building 10 more enrichment sites, pronouncing that “time is running out for Iran to address the international community’s growing concerns about its nuclear program.” Good grief. Could they possibly sound any more inept and unserious? Perhaps double secret probation is next.

Mike Huckabee says he likes his TV gig and sounds not too serious about running in 2012. But remember, in 2005 we hadn’t a clue who really was and wasn’t going to run in 2008, so perhaps it’s best to wait a year or three before assessing the field.

ObamaCare seems to have a negative impact on its supporters: “When survey respondents are informed that AARP does support the health care plan, the number with a favorable opinion of the group falls 10 percentage points from 53% to 43%. Knowing of AARP’s position on health care legislation, 53% offer an unfavorable opinion of the group. The number with a Very Unfavorable view nearly doubles from 20% to 38%. Those with a negative opinion include 52% of senior citizens and 59% of those aged 50-64.”

Bibi makes clear where the problem rests in the non-peace process: “I see preconditions being laid that never before existed. I see legal steps being taken at the international court to advance that absurd thing called the Goldstone report. You can’t reach peace if the horizon is moving away.”

Richard Allen on the West Point venue for Obama’s speech: “An announcement on which so much rests must be made from the President’s own unique and highly symbolic center of authority, The Oval Office. It has meaning. It should be made by him alone, without the props of thousands in an audience and the hoopla of presidential travel and a massive press entourage. This President surely does not need the device of an audience to authenticate and legitimize his message or to bolster apparent support. But it would appear that he will seek solace, if not a measure of safety, in a large audience over which he has command.”

Another fight in the Senate: “The vote on increasing the debt will come just as Congress tries to put the finishing touches on a trillion-dollar plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system and President Barack Obama considers a possible escalation in the war in Afghanistan that could cost another trillion dollars over the next 10 years. A bipartisan group of more than a dozen senators is threatening to vote against an increase in the debt limit unless Congress passes a new deficit-fighting plan.” Maybe they should just not vote for the trillion-dollar health-care plan.

Mark Steyn bursts the “peer review” balloon: “The trouble with outsourcing your marbles to the peer-reviewed set is that, if you take away one single thing from the leaked documents, it’s that the global warm-mongers have wholly corrupted the ‘peer-review’ process. When it comes to promoting the impending ecopalypse, the Climate Research Unit is the nerve-center of the operation. The ‘science’ of the CRU dominates the ‘science’ behind the UN’s IPCC, which dominates the ‘science’ behind the Congressional cap-and-trade boondoggle, the upcoming Copenhagen shakindownen of the developed world, and the now routine phenomenon of leaders of advanced, prosperous societies talking like gibbering madmen escaped from the padded cell, whether it’s President Obama promising to end the rise of the oceans or the Prince of Wales saying we only have 96 months left to save the planet.”

Sen. Evan Bayh on a war surtax: “I don’t think it’s a good idea, not at this point, Chris.” He observes that “if ultimately you’re going to have to start talking about raising taxes, you shouldn’t do it until the economy is robust and really on its — on some pretty good footing.” Er … what about the hundreds of billions in the health-care bill?

Dana Perino on what conservatives will probably do if Obama gives Gen. Stanley McChrystal most of what he wants: “I think they’ll have to set aside the fact that they think it was a really sloppy process, that he undermined President Karzai, that he alienated General McChrystal, and say, ‘This is the right thing to do. We wish he wouldn’t talk about exit ramps so soon, but this is the right thing to do,’ and providing the generals what they need.”

Robert Gibbs issues a distressingly comical statement on news that Iran is about to embark on building 10 more enrichment sites, pronouncing that “time is running out for Iran to address the international community’s growing concerns about its nuclear program.” Good grief. Could they possibly sound any more inept and unserious? Perhaps double secret probation is next.

Mike Huckabee says he likes his TV gig and sounds not too serious about running in 2012. But remember, in 2005 we hadn’t a clue who really was and wasn’t going to run in 2008, so perhaps it’s best to wait a year or three before assessing the field.

ObamaCare seems to have a negative impact on its supporters: “When survey respondents are informed that AARP does support the health care plan, the number with a favorable opinion of the group falls 10 percentage points from 53% to 43%. Knowing of AARP’s position on health care legislation, 53% offer an unfavorable opinion of the group. The number with a Very Unfavorable view nearly doubles from 20% to 38%. Those with a negative opinion include 52% of senior citizens and 59% of those aged 50-64.”

Bibi makes clear where the problem rests in the non-peace process: “I see preconditions being laid that never before existed. I see legal steps being taken at the international court to advance that absurd thing called the Goldstone report. You can’t reach peace if the horizon is moving away.”

Richard Allen on the West Point venue for Obama’s speech: “An announcement on which so much rests must be made from the President’s own unique and highly symbolic center of authority, The Oval Office. It has meaning. It should be made by him alone, without the props of thousands in an audience and the hoopla of presidential travel and a massive press entourage. This President surely does not need the device of an audience to authenticate and legitimize his message or to bolster apparent support. But it would appear that he will seek solace, if not a measure of safety, in a large audience over which he has command.”

Another fight in the Senate: “The vote on increasing the debt will come just as Congress tries to put the finishing touches on a trillion-dollar plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system and President Barack Obama considers a possible escalation in the war in Afghanistan that could cost another trillion dollars over the next 10 years. A bipartisan group of more than a dozen senators is threatening to vote against an increase in the debt limit unless Congress passes a new deficit-fighting plan.” Maybe they should just not vote for the trillion-dollar health-care plan.

Mark Steyn bursts the “peer review” balloon: “The trouble with outsourcing your marbles to the peer-reviewed set is that, if you take away one single thing from the leaked documents, it’s that the global warm-mongers have wholly corrupted the ‘peer-review’ process. When it comes to promoting the impending ecopalypse, the Climate Research Unit is the nerve-center of the operation. The ‘science’ of the CRU dominates the ‘science’ behind the UN’s IPCC, which dominates the ‘science’ behind the Congressional cap-and-trade boondoggle, the upcoming Copenhagen shakindownen of the developed world, and the now routine phenomenon of leaders of advanced, prosperous societies talking like gibbering madmen escaped from the padded cell, whether it’s President Obama promising to end the rise of the oceans or the Prince of Wales saying we only have 96 months left to save the planet.”

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It Can’t Be 2012 Thune Enough

In a typically informative and original column today, my friend David Brooks takes up the 2012 cause of John Thune of South Dakota, the handsome face of small-town non-Alaskan Republicanism. Thune is not too hot, not too cold, just right. That may be, but then David offers this observation regarding the contention that the political tide has turned against the president:

Obama remains the most talented political figure of the age. After health care passes, he will pivot and pick some fights with his own party over spending. He’ll solidify his standing with independents, and if the economy recovers, he could go into his re-election with as much momentum as Ronald Reagan enjoyed in 1984.

Perhaps, but if that is so, then why does it matter whether the face of Republicanism is John Thune or Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee? Reagan won 49 states in 1984; Walter Mondale couldn’t even draw 40 percent of the vote. Perhaps Mondale ran a problematic campaign, promising tax increases and the like, but a victory like Reagan’s was so overwhelming that the world’s greatest candidate could have run against Reagan and only won a few more states.

Thune may indeed have a pleasing mien and an appropriate demeanor for 2012. But to face down a sitting president and unseat him, a party is going to need more from its candidate. It’s going to take the ability to explain why the country has gone wrong, why what’s wrong is his opponent’s doing, and what he will do to set it right. That requires passion, animation, and a profound sense of the rightness of his views and the wrongness of the views of his rivals. To judge from David’s summary of Thune’s virtues, he may be the best person to lead the GOP if it stays in the wilderness — on “first do no harm grounds” — but not to lead it to a victory that reverses the country’s ideological direction:

Republicans are still going to have to do root-and-branch renovation if they hope to provide compelling answers to issues like middle-class economic anxiety. But in the meantime, people like Thune offer Republicans a way to connect fiscal discipline with traditional small-town values, a way to tap into rising populism in a manner that is optimistic, uplifting and nice.

Optimism, uplift, and niceness are … nice. But they are minor components in a victory strategy — they are there to file off the rough edges of the party. They cannot be its leading edge.

In a typically informative and original column today, my friend David Brooks takes up the 2012 cause of John Thune of South Dakota, the handsome face of small-town non-Alaskan Republicanism. Thune is not too hot, not too cold, just right. That may be, but then David offers this observation regarding the contention that the political tide has turned against the president:

Obama remains the most talented political figure of the age. After health care passes, he will pivot and pick some fights with his own party over spending. He’ll solidify his standing with independents, and if the economy recovers, he could go into his re-election with as much momentum as Ronald Reagan enjoyed in 1984.

Perhaps, but if that is so, then why does it matter whether the face of Republicanism is John Thune or Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee? Reagan won 49 states in 1984; Walter Mondale couldn’t even draw 40 percent of the vote. Perhaps Mondale ran a problematic campaign, promising tax increases and the like, but a victory like Reagan’s was so overwhelming that the world’s greatest candidate could have run against Reagan and only won a few more states.

Thune may indeed have a pleasing mien and an appropriate demeanor for 2012. But to face down a sitting president and unseat him, a party is going to need more from its candidate. It’s going to take the ability to explain why the country has gone wrong, why what’s wrong is his opponent’s doing, and what he will do to set it right. That requires passion, animation, and a profound sense of the rightness of his views and the wrongness of the views of his rivals. To judge from David’s summary of Thune’s virtues, he may be the best person to lead the GOP if it stays in the wilderness — on “first do no harm grounds” — but not to lead it to a victory that reverses the country’s ideological direction:

Republicans are still going to have to do root-and-branch renovation if they hope to provide compelling answers to issues like middle-class economic anxiety. But in the meantime, people like Thune offer Republicans a way to connect fiscal discipline with traditional small-town values, a way to tap into rising populism in a manner that is optimistic, uplifting and nice.

Optimism, uplift, and niceness are … nice. But they are minor components in a victory strategy — they are there to file off the rough edges of the party. They cannot be its leading edge.

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Apology Time, Or Not

Mike Huckabee made a remarkably stupid joke at the NRA convention about Barack Obama. To no one’s surprise, he apologized within twenty-four hours.

Senator Tom Harkin criticized John McCain for his and his family’s apparently excessive time in military service:

“I think he’s trapped in that . . .Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous. . . [I]t’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped, how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown up. . . I just want to be very clear there’s nothing wrong with a career in the military . . . But now McCain is running for a higher office. He’s running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian. And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don’t know if they need a whole lot.”

Yes, I suppose it would have been far better had George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower not had all that military training. So far, nothing from either Harkin or the presumptive Democratic nominee apologizing for impugning all that service to America.

The Left’s reflexive disdain for all things military has not endeared them to average Americans in the past. Obama, who let Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s jibe at McCain’s military service go without a direct rebuke, should decide if he wants to perpetuate this error. For a candidate who has generated concern about his willingness to express patriotic emotion (and who seems divorced at times from the cultural values held by millions of Americans), it might be a good idea for him to start repudiating these comments.

Oh, I forgot . . . absent an appearance at the National Press Club by the offending speaker, he doesn’t do repudiation.

Mike Huckabee made a remarkably stupid joke at the NRA convention about Barack Obama. To no one’s surprise, he apologized within twenty-four hours.

Senator Tom Harkin criticized John McCain for his and his family’s apparently excessive time in military service:

“I think he’s trapped in that . . .Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous. . . [I]t’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped, how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown up. . . I just want to be very clear there’s nothing wrong with a career in the military . . . But now McCain is running for a higher office. He’s running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian. And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don’t know if they need a whole lot.”

Yes, I suppose it would have been far better had George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower not had all that military training. So far, nothing from either Harkin or the presumptive Democratic nominee apologizing for impugning all that service to America.

The Left’s reflexive disdain for all things military has not endeared them to average Americans in the past. Obama, who let Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s jibe at McCain’s military service go without a direct rebuke, should decide if he wants to perpetuate this error. For a candidate who has generated concern about his willingness to express patriotic emotion (and who seems divorced at times from the cultural values held by millions of Americans), it might be a good idea for him to start repudiating these comments.

Oh, I forgot . . . absent an appearance at the National Press Club by the offending speaker, he doesn’t do repudiation.

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First Pins, Now Crosses

Remember all the fuss when Mike Huckabee put out a Christmas ad with a bookshelf in the background that media pundits were sure was a “cross”? There were plenty of howls. Well, Barack Obama’s latest ad, in the the form of direct mail, doesn’t leave anything to the imagination. The cross stares you right in the face. And there is plenty about his religious faith in the ad copy.

Surely People for the American Way, the ACLU, and other outspoken critics of mixing religion and politics must be on the case, right? No? Well, it’s like the flag pin: It’s for the little people. Obama’s media fans know their man is just putting on a show, you see. So it’s alright. It’s the New Politics!

Remember all the fuss when Mike Huckabee put out a Christmas ad with a bookshelf in the background that media pundits were sure was a “cross”? There were plenty of howls. Well, Barack Obama’s latest ad, in the the form of direct mail, doesn’t leave anything to the imagination. The cross stares you right in the face. And there is plenty about his religious faith in the ad copy.

Surely People for the American Way, the ACLU, and other outspoken critics of mixing religion and politics must be on the case, right? No? Well, it’s like the flag pin: It’s for the little people. Obama’s media fans know their man is just putting on a show, you see. So it’s alright. It’s the New Politics!

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“Thank You West Virginia!”

Hillary Clinton takes this victory as an “overwhelming vote of confidence.” From the Bible she says that she knows that “Faith can move mountains.” I am reasonably certain this is not Mike Huckabee in a salmon pantsuit. UPDATE: “You never quit and neither will I,” she says. She’s not going anywhere for awhile.

Hillary Clinton takes this victory as an “overwhelming vote of confidence.” From the Bible she says that she knows that “Faith can move mountains.” I am reasonably certain this is not Mike Huckabee in a salmon pantsuit. UPDATE: “You never quit and neither will I,” she says. She’s not going anywhere for awhile.

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Backlash

Why are so many Democrats and so many media outlets anxious to push Hillary Clinton down the stairs and out of the race? If she were mathematically eliminated and truly stood no chance to win, as they insist, why not patiently ride her candidacy out the way the Republicans did with Mike Huckabee?

Well, it’s clear the Democrats are not so confident that Clinton is simply going to melt away. The AP reports (h/t Instapundit):

Many undeclared superdelegates express confidence that all will be well. Democratic voters will unite in the fall, they say, and the injuries that Obama and Clinton inflict on each other this spring will heal. Privately, however, some party insiders worry that these superdelegates may be blithely marching toward a treacherous crossroad, where they will have to choose between a deeply wounded Obama and a soaring Clinton whose success was built on tearing down the party’s front-runner in terms of delegates.

So rather than face a hard choice, Democratic insiders figure it is easier to goad Clinton out of the race. This is foolhardy on two counts.

First, she isn’t going anywhere and people who think the Clintons can be bullied haven’t been paying close attention to the last dozen years or so of American politics. (If they wouldn’t leave the White House in the face of impeachment proceedings and national embarrassment, they won’t leave a mere primary race.)

Second, she is going to town on the feminist backlash angle. The “big boys” are ganging up on her, she claims. With some merit, Diane Feinstein says of the effort to push Clinton out of the race: “I think that’s really premature, and it’s ill conceived. She has a right to wage her candidacy and to fight until a time that she can’t recoup those votes.”

Worse still, this approach isn’t helpful to Barack Obama. It just perpetuates the perception that Obama is like a newborn fawn who must be sheltered and coddled to protect him from the ravages of a full blown political battle. By whining that the race is like a movie that goes on a half-hour too long, he insults voters in states he still needs to win and makes it seem as if the whole thing is too terribly hard and boring for him to bear. (Even he is now beginning to dial back on the “get out Hillary” talk – perhaps sensing that it sounds arrogant and defensive.) And Clinton just looks grittier and more resilient – exactly the qualities she says the nominee will need in the general election – when she defies the party establishment that would rather not bother with a few more months of voting.

So if the Democratic Party wants to dump Clinton they are just going to have to beat her, fair and square. There is no easy way out now.

Why are so many Democrats and so many media outlets anxious to push Hillary Clinton down the stairs and out of the race? If she were mathematically eliminated and truly stood no chance to win, as they insist, why not patiently ride her candidacy out the way the Republicans did with Mike Huckabee?

Well, it’s clear the Democrats are not so confident that Clinton is simply going to melt away. The AP reports (h/t Instapundit):

Many undeclared superdelegates express confidence that all will be well. Democratic voters will unite in the fall, they say, and the injuries that Obama and Clinton inflict on each other this spring will heal. Privately, however, some party insiders worry that these superdelegates may be blithely marching toward a treacherous crossroad, where they will have to choose between a deeply wounded Obama and a soaring Clinton whose success was built on tearing down the party’s front-runner in terms of delegates.

So rather than face a hard choice, Democratic insiders figure it is easier to goad Clinton out of the race. This is foolhardy on two counts.

First, she isn’t going anywhere and people who think the Clintons can be bullied haven’t been paying close attention to the last dozen years or so of American politics. (If they wouldn’t leave the White House in the face of impeachment proceedings and national embarrassment, they won’t leave a mere primary race.)

Second, she is going to town on the feminist backlash angle. The “big boys” are ganging up on her, she claims. With some merit, Diane Feinstein says of the effort to push Clinton out of the race: “I think that’s really premature, and it’s ill conceived. She has a right to wage her candidacy and to fight until a time that she can’t recoup those votes.”

Worse still, this approach isn’t helpful to Barack Obama. It just perpetuates the perception that Obama is like a newborn fawn who must be sheltered and coddled to protect him from the ravages of a full blown political battle. By whining that the race is like a movie that goes on a half-hour too long, he insults voters in states he still needs to win and makes it seem as if the whole thing is too terribly hard and boring for him to bear. (Even he is now beginning to dial back on the “get out Hillary” talk – perhaps sensing that it sounds arrogant and defensive.) And Clinton just looks grittier and more resilient – exactly the qualities she says the nominee will need in the general election – when she defies the party establishment that would rather not bother with a few more months of voting.

So if the Democratic Party wants to dump Clinton they are just going to have to beat her, fair and square. There is no easy way out now.

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Romney for Veep?

A month removed from his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney is back on the airwaves. Last night, Romney told Fox News that he would be “honored” to serve as John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee-a suggestion that has to leave just about anyone who followed the Republican nomination battle utterly perplexed.

After all, by all appearances, Romney and McCain detest each other, with the vitriol increasing as the two emerged as leading candidates in the run-up to Super Tuesday. Romney expended much of his personal wealth on attack ads, seeking to paint McCain as liberal. Meanwhile, McCain accused Romney of flip-flopping on key political positions, referring to him as the “candidate of change” during the New Hampshire debate. For those who have wondered how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could possibly coexist on the same ticket given their own heated nomination contest, a McCain-Romney ticket should be no less of a head-scratcher.

Of course, the obvious choice for McCain’s running mate is Mike Huckabee. During the nomination contest, Huckabee emerged as the consensus conservative candidate, assuming the place that was to be filled by Fred Thompson (remember him?) and directly challenging the original argument for Romney’s candidacy. Then, as the campaigns approached Super Tuesday, Huckabee teamed with McCain against Romney: Huckabee defended McCain against Romney’s barbs, while McCain urged his supporters in West Virginia to back Huckabee–critically thwarting an early Super Tuesday victory for Romney. Most importantly, Huckabee extended his campaign despite nearly impossible odds of victory, affording McCain the opportunity to appeal to voters in key states, including Virginia and Ohio.

Or, if McCain desires to maintain the moderate flavor of his campaign, Florida Governor Charlie Crist is another strong option. Crist is viewed as a truly moderate Republican and as an environmentalist, and his endorsement of McCain was viewed as critical to McCain’s defeat of Romney in the January 29th primary. Moreover, his nomination would boost the Republicans’ odds of maintaining Florida’s red-state status, given Crist’s incredible 71% approval rating.

Ultimately, the Democrats’ decision regarding whether they will re-run primary elections in Florida and Michigan should determine whether McCain chooses Crist or Huckabee. Indeed, if the DNC fails to seat Floridian delegates at the convention, McCain would hardly need Crist to win Florida, and his attention might therefore turn to solidifying the conservative base via Huckabee. Meanwhile, previous bad blood would require McCain and Romney to defend their partnership, which would become a total distraction.

A month removed from his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney is back on the airwaves. Last night, Romney told Fox News that he would be “honored” to serve as John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee-a suggestion that has to leave just about anyone who followed the Republican nomination battle utterly perplexed.

After all, by all appearances, Romney and McCain detest each other, with the vitriol increasing as the two emerged as leading candidates in the run-up to Super Tuesday. Romney expended much of his personal wealth on attack ads, seeking to paint McCain as liberal. Meanwhile, McCain accused Romney of flip-flopping on key political positions, referring to him as the “candidate of change” during the New Hampshire debate. For those who have wondered how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could possibly coexist on the same ticket given their own heated nomination contest, a McCain-Romney ticket should be no less of a head-scratcher.

Of course, the obvious choice for McCain’s running mate is Mike Huckabee. During the nomination contest, Huckabee emerged as the consensus conservative candidate, assuming the place that was to be filled by Fred Thompson (remember him?) and directly challenging the original argument for Romney’s candidacy. Then, as the campaigns approached Super Tuesday, Huckabee teamed with McCain against Romney: Huckabee defended McCain against Romney’s barbs, while McCain urged his supporters in West Virginia to back Huckabee–critically thwarting an early Super Tuesday victory for Romney. Most importantly, Huckabee extended his campaign despite nearly impossible odds of victory, affording McCain the opportunity to appeal to voters in key states, including Virginia and Ohio.

Or, if McCain desires to maintain the moderate flavor of his campaign, Florida Governor Charlie Crist is another strong option. Crist is viewed as a truly moderate Republican and as an environmentalist, and his endorsement of McCain was viewed as critical to McCain’s defeat of Romney in the January 29th primary. Moreover, his nomination would boost the Republicans’ odds of maintaining Florida’s red-state status, given Crist’s incredible 71% approval rating.

Ultimately, the Democrats’ decision regarding whether they will re-run primary elections in Florida and Michigan should determine whether McCain chooses Crist or Huckabee. Indeed, if the DNC fails to seat Floridian delegates at the convention, McCain would hardly need Crist to win Florida, and his attention might therefore turn to solidifying the conservative base via Huckabee. Meanwhile, previous bad blood would require McCain and Romney to defend their partnership, which would become a total distraction.

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Counting Down

McCain snagged 18 delegates in victories on Saturday in American Samoa and the Northern Marianas. With a win in Puerto Rico on Sunday he gained 20 more delegates to reach 996. The race very well could end on March 4 when 265 delegates are at stake. Mike Huckabee, after a Saturday Night Live performance that revealed he knows the jig is up, will presumably stick to his word and formally leave the race once McCain’s delegate count hits 1191. His continued presence has proven only the most minor annoyance to McCain and gave McCain the pretext to get on the air after primary wins over the last few weeks. Huckabee’s future job prospects remain bright. If nothing else, he represents a new style of leadership for Christian conservatives.

McCain snagged 18 delegates in victories on Saturday in American Samoa and the Northern Marianas. With a win in Puerto Rico on Sunday he gained 20 more delegates to reach 996. The race very well could end on March 4 when 265 delegates are at stake. Mike Huckabee, after a Saturday Night Live performance that revealed he knows the jig is up, will presumably stick to his word and formally leave the race once McCain’s delegate count hits 1191. His continued presence has proven only the most minor annoyance to McCain and gave McCain the pretext to get on the air after primary wins over the last few weeks. Huckabee’s future job prospects remain bright. If nothing else, he represents a new style of leadership for Christian conservatives.

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McCain’s Verbal Missile Crisis

John McCain was not at his most prudent when he recently said of Fidel Castro: “I hope he has the opportunity to meet Karl Marx very soon.” The funny line is, in its way, a welcome change from the mild reverence that’s attended the dictator’s retirement. But in wishing Fidel Castro a speedy trip to hell, McCain is begging critics to accuse him of being unreasonable, hot-headed, and generally too ill-tempered to serve as president.

With Fidel gone, it is at least conceivable that the next U.S. president will be called upon to step up U.S.-Cuban diplomacy. It’s not hard to imagine the chill that McCain’s words might cast on a face-to-face-meeting between himself and Fidel’s brother and successor Raul. To make matters colder still, McCain also said, “Apparently [Fidel] is trying to groom his brother Raul. Raul is worse in many respects than Fidel was.”

McCain’s lucky in a few respects here. The statements are not that easy for American politicians to criticize. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton need to go on record as defending Fidel or Raul Castro. This could keep their lips buttoned. And Mike Huckabee, whose campaign just may be far enough out there to hint at some kind of defense of Raul, has fallen off the radar. No matter what, this is a reminder that McCain’s anti-talent for sound-bites remains his biggest liability.

John McCain was not at his most prudent when he recently said of Fidel Castro: “I hope he has the opportunity to meet Karl Marx very soon.” The funny line is, in its way, a welcome change from the mild reverence that’s attended the dictator’s retirement. But in wishing Fidel Castro a speedy trip to hell, McCain is begging critics to accuse him of being unreasonable, hot-headed, and generally too ill-tempered to serve as president.

With Fidel gone, it is at least conceivable that the next U.S. president will be called upon to step up U.S.-Cuban diplomacy. It’s not hard to imagine the chill that McCain’s words might cast on a face-to-face-meeting between himself and Fidel’s brother and successor Raul. To make matters colder still, McCain also said, “Apparently [Fidel] is trying to groom his brother Raul. Raul is worse in many respects than Fidel was.”

McCain’s lucky in a few respects here. The statements are not that easy for American politicians to criticize. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton need to go on record as defending Fidel or Raul Castro. This could keep their lips buttoned. And Mike Huckabee, whose campaign just may be far enough out there to hint at some kind of defense of Raul, has fallen off the radar. No matter what, this is a reminder that McCain’s anti-talent for sound-bites remains his biggest liability.

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Why Is McCain Pleased?

“In all the uproar, no one has challenged what we actually reported.” That howler was part of a statement issued yestersday by New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller. It would be true, if you did not include John McCain, his lawyer, his aides, his surrogates, the woman in question, and a large percentage of the media. The Page neatly summarized where things stood less than 24 hours after the story broke: “Paper of Record has worse day in the media than the subject of its Thursday scoop.” As a political matter, it turned some of his harshest critics into his defenders, and given Mike Huckabee’s wise move to defend McCain, the episode has hastened his reconcilliation with the Republican base.

Aside from his Chuchillian brush with the Times (“There is no greater exhilaration than being shot at without result”), McCain must have been very happy last night. The Democratic debate suggested a number of fruitful avenues for him to explore in the general election. On many points which Hillary Clinton did not or could not engage Barack Obama, McCain can and will. On earmarks, Obama will be hard pressed to grab the mantle of fiscal cheapstake from McCain. On Iraq, Obama’s curious concession that the reduced violence is a mere “tactical” victory will, of course, be met with query as to why we would retreat after both military and some political success. On Cuba, the Florida voters in particular will be interested in this response as to whether Obama would meet with Raul Castro:

I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time. . . And then I think it is important for us to have the direct contact not just in Cuba, but I think this principle applies generally. I’m — I recall what John F. Kennedy once said, that we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate. And this moment, this opportunity when Fidel Castro has finally stepped down I think is one that we should try to take advantage of.

And I suspect that McCain will do even better than Clinton on the “describe the moment that tested you the most, that moment of crisis” question.

“In all the uproar, no one has challenged what we actually reported.” That howler was part of a statement issued yestersday by New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller. It would be true, if you did not include John McCain, his lawyer, his aides, his surrogates, the woman in question, and a large percentage of the media. The Page neatly summarized where things stood less than 24 hours after the story broke: “Paper of Record has worse day in the media than the subject of its Thursday scoop.” As a political matter, it turned some of his harshest critics into his defenders, and given Mike Huckabee’s wise move to defend McCain, the episode has hastened his reconcilliation with the Republican base.

Aside from his Chuchillian brush with the Times (“There is no greater exhilaration than being shot at without result”), McCain must have been very happy last night. The Democratic debate suggested a number of fruitful avenues for him to explore in the general election. On many points which Hillary Clinton did not or could not engage Barack Obama, McCain can and will. On earmarks, Obama will be hard pressed to grab the mantle of fiscal cheapstake from McCain. On Iraq, Obama’s curious concession that the reduced violence is a mere “tactical” victory will, of course, be met with query as to why we would retreat after both military and some political success. On Cuba, the Florida voters in particular will be interested in this response as to whether Obama would meet with Raul Castro:

I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time. . . And then I think it is important for us to have the direct contact not just in Cuba, but I think this principle applies generally. I’m — I recall what John F. Kennedy once said, that we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate. And this moment, this opportunity when Fidel Castro has finally stepped down I think is one that we should try to take advantage of.

And I suspect that McCain will do even better than Clinton on the “describe the moment that tested you the most, that moment of crisis” question.

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McCain Is Off And Running

With only the slighest acknowledgment that Hillary Clinton is still running, John McCain is beginning his general election race against Barack Obama. He was in fighting form today, using Obama’s shifting position on public campaign financing to suggest Obama is practicing Washington “doublespeak” and not keeping his committments. He again labeled Obama as naive on foreign policy. In the category of politics making strange bedfellows, he will be getting some help from Clinton, who seems determined to help point out Obama’s weaknesses, especially his lack of fitness to be commander-in-chief. (Although Clinton’s effort is likely to fail, that does not indicate that the commander-in-chief theme won’t be successful in a general election context when marshalled by someone who actually does have foreign policy experience.)

After all the talk that Mike Huckabee was an ongoing irritant to McCain while the “spirited” Democratic race would keep interest high, the reverse may end up being true. The Democratic race is now looking a little less productive for the eventual nominee, while Huckabee’s presence at least gets McCain cable news coverage of his primary victory speech.

With only the slighest acknowledgment that Hillary Clinton is still running, John McCain is beginning his general election race against Barack Obama. He was in fighting form today, using Obama’s shifting position on public campaign financing to suggest Obama is practicing Washington “doublespeak” and not keeping his committments. He again labeled Obama as naive on foreign policy. In the category of politics making strange bedfellows, he will be getting some help from Clinton, who seems determined to help point out Obama’s weaknesses, especially his lack of fitness to be commander-in-chief. (Although Clinton’s effort is likely to fail, that does not indicate that the commander-in-chief theme won’t be successful in a general election context when marshalled by someone who actually does have foreign policy experience.)

After all the talk that Mike Huckabee was an ongoing irritant to McCain while the “spirited” Democratic race would keep interest high, the reverse may end up being true. The Democratic race is now looking a little less productive for the eventual nominee, while Huckabee’s presence at least gets McCain cable news coverage of his primary victory speech.

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Running Out of Options

The magnitude of Hillary Clinton’s loss is rather eye-popping: she lost by 17 percent last night, just one point less than Mike Huckabee’s margin of defeat. The latest delegate total shows her trailing 1239 to 1301. What to do? Her options are limited because the main lines of attack (e.g. Obama has no real experience, he is too far left), which may be viable avenues for John McCain, either don’t work in a Democratic primary or don’t create enough of a contrast between the two. (It took Barack Obama to convince the media that Hillary Clinton is painfully light on experience herself.) She could go negative and incur the wrath of the media, or she could hope for an awful gaffe. Tomorrow’s debate and the one next Tuesday may be her final chances to climb back into the race.

While Obama may not reach 2025 delegates by June, he will, at this rate, establish himself as the undisputed “winner” and thereby deprive Clinton of any argument to lure away the superdelegates. We will then have our general election match up: the two greatest come from behind nominees, perhaps ever.

The magnitude of Hillary Clinton’s loss is rather eye-popping: she lost by 17 percent last night, just one point less than Mike Huckabee’s margin of defeat. The latest delegate total shows her trailing 1239 to 1301. What to do? Her options are limited because the main lines of attack (e.g. Obama has no real experience, he is too far left), which may be viable avenues for John McCain, either don’t work in a Democratic primary or don’t create enough of a contrast between the two. (It took Barack Obama to convince the media that Hillary Clinton is painfully light on experience herself.) She could go negative and incur the wrath of the media, or she could hope for an awful gaffe. Tomorrow’s debate and the one next Tuesday may be her final chances to climb back into the race.

While Obama may not reach 2025 delegates by June, he will, at this rate, establish himself as the undisputed “winner” and thereby deprive Clinton of any argument to lure away the superdelegates. We will then have our general election match up: the two greatest come from behind nominees, perhaps ever.

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