Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mississippi

Thad Cochran Gets Creative

In the wake of Eric Cantor’s surprise primary defeat earlier this month, there were musings (which appear to have been incorrect) that Democrats may have cost Cantor his seat by crossing over and voting in the GOP primary. Democratic involvement in such races has recently taken the form of meddling on behalf of the most conservative–and therefore, to Democrats, most beatable–Republican candidate. It is usually unwelcome. But not always.

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In the wake of Eric Cantor’s surprise primary defeat earlier this month, there were musings (which appear to have been incorrect) that Democrats may have cost Cantor his seat by crossing over and voting in the GOP primary. Democratic involvement in such races has recently taken the form of meddling on behalf of the most conservative–and therefore, to Democrats, most beatable–Republican candidate. It is usually unwelcome. But not always.

In a creative reversal of the trend, the establishment candidate in Mississippi’s GOP Senate primary runoff is enlisting Democrats to help him beat back a more conservative challenge. Specifically, incumbent Senator Thad Cochran is trying to appeal to the state’s black voters to help him at the polls. Black voters make up 36 percent of Mississippi’s registered voters, the largest such share in the country. But because the state is politically conservative, it doesn’t tend to make much of a difference in statewide races. (Cook Political Report has the Senate seat at “likely Republican.”)

The Times reports on the campaign:

The Cochran outreach campaign is taking many forms. The “super PAC” supporting the senator, Mississippi Conservatives, is paying African-American leaders, including Mr. Crudup, to help lift black turnout on Tuesday, said Pete Perry, a Republican strategist here who is working for the group.

“We’re working with a whole bunch of different folks, and Crudup is one of them,” said Mr. Perry, noting with a chuckle that his introduction to the church-based black politics of the South has been “a real education.” Mr. Perry declined to say exactly how much Mississippi Conservatives was paying to increase African-American turnout but said “sure” when asked whether it was in the five-figure range.

Another group, All Citizens for Mississippi, paid for an advertisement that ran in two black-oriented Jackson newspapers and highlighted Mr. Cochran’s work for African-Americans. The group lists Mr. Crudup’s church as its address.

This is both a fascinating experiment and a long shot, to say the least. Primary turnout already gets the more motivated party voters to turn out instead of waiting for the general election, and a runoff gets even fewer. As such, in the age of the Tea Party they tend to favor the conservative insurgent. (David Dewhurst, for example, defeated Ted Cruz in their primary by double digits, yet didn’t garner enough of the vote to avoid a runoff. Cruz returned the favor in a relatively easy runoff victory.)

So Cochran’s challenge is more than getting his supporters out to a low-turnout runoff; he’s trying to get the voters who never vote for him in the general election to come to his aid in the runoff. It’s possible Cochran can get the right combination of his own supporters plus traditional Democrats to overcome the challenge from opponent Chris McDaniel. But the state’s black voters often give 90 percent or more of their support to Democrats, so it’s not as though he’s bidding for swing voters.

Just as interesting, however, is the argument black leaders are making in support of Cochran, and what it says about American politics:

Mr. Cochran had helped Mississippi’s blacks during his six terms, Mr. Crudup said, and it was now time to repay him with their support in the political fight of his life, especially against an opponent who was known to have made racially insensitive remarks when he was a talk-show host. …

Some of Mr. Cochran’s supporters and some top black Mississippi Democrats say the suggestion is indeed reasonable because the senator is not an ideological firebrand and has used his status as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee to deliver projects to Mississippi. Mr. Simmons, who represents a largely black district in the Delta, reeled off the money that Mr. Cochran had secured for health centers, historically black colleges and infrastructure.

“He has been able to do a lot of good for the state of Mississippi,” said Mr. Simmons, who said his efforts for Mr. Cochran were entirely voluntary. “He did not have to ask me, I told him I was supporting him.”

So having Cochran in the Senate helps the state’s black communities on important issues such as health and education. He’s even earned the voluntary support of some black officials for the runoff. Yet it’s still considered exceptional for the black community to vote for him.

No doubt there are historical issues at play, and I don’t presume to be an expert on Mississippi politics. And of course, it’s possible that the Democratic candidate in each statewide election will be materially better for the black community than the Republican candidate, each and every time. But I find that to be unlikely. It’s worth taking note that one of the unintended effects of this get-out-the-vote campaign for Cochran has been black voters happily admitting that the GOP–the party they almost never vote for–has been good to them.

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Homeland Security Replacing the Color-Coded Terror Alert System

Homeland Security is finally getting around to replacing those five-step color-coded terror alerts put into place after the 9/11 attacks. According to reports, the old system will be phased out over the next 90 days:

Among the changes: Passengers will no longer hear the public-service recordings at airports announcing the alert level. The aviation threat has been on orange, or “high” alert, since 2006.

“The old color-coded system taught Americans to be scared, not prepared,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson , D-Miss., the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. “Each and every time the threat level was raised, very rarely did the public know the reason, how to proceed, or for how long to be on alert.”

It’s about time the color-coded system was put to rest. It was forgivable when it was first created — there was no real precedent for a public terror-threat-warning system at the time — but it’s surprising that it was kept around for so long.

The five-tiered system gives the government an incentive to over-warn the public about terror threats — and a disincentive to lower these warnings — which is probably why the threat level has stayed frozen at “orange” (high-alert) since 2006. Keeping the terror-alert level high provides intelligence agencies with some semblance of political cover in case there happens to be a terrorist attack at any point.

And that has made it impossible for the public to know the true seriousness of the threat level. A clearer and more detailed alert system will be a welcome change.

Homeland Security is finally getting around to replacing those five-step color-coded terror alerts put into place after the 9/11 attacks. According to reports, the old system will be phased out over the next 90 days:

Among the changes: Passengers will no longer hear the public-service recordings at airports announcing the alert level. The aviation threat has been on orange, or “high” alert, since 2006.

“The old color-coded system taught Americans to be scared, not prepared,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson , D-Miss., the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. “Each and every time the threat level was raised, very rarely did the public know the reason, how to proceed, or for how long to be on alert.”

It’s about time the color-coded system was put to rest. It was forgivable when it was first created — there was no real precedent for a public terror-threat-warning system at the time — but it’s surprising that it was kept around for so long.

The five-tiered system gives the government an incentive to over-warn the public about terror threats — and a disincentive to lower these warnings — which is probably why the threat level has stayed frozen at “orange” (high-alert) since 2006. Keeping the terror-alert level high provides intelligence agencies with some semblance of political cover in case there happens to be a terrorist attack at any point.

And that has made it impossible for the public to know the true seriousness of the threat level. A clearer and more detailed alert system will be a welcome change.

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RE: Unforgivable

Abe’s post on the bowdlerization of Mark Twain reminded me of the evolution of the opening line of the great Broadway musical Show Boat by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. In 1927, when the curtain went up, the chorus sang “Niggers all work on de Mississippi, /Niggers all work while de white folk play. /Loadin’ up boats with de bales of cotton. /Gettin’ no rest till de /Judgment Day!”

By the 1936 movie, the line had become “Darkies all work …” The 1946 Broadway revival began “Colored folk work on de Mississippi.” By the 1951 movie, it was “Here we all work …” The 1966 Lincoln Center production simply omitted the line altogether. Only with John McGlinn’s magnificent recording of the complete score in 1988 was the original text first restored.

No one could possibly accuse Oscar Hammerstein of being a racist and, indeed, the word he chose was historically and dialectically correct. It’s the word black stevedores on the Mississippi would have used in the 1880s.

I wonder what Mark Twain would have said about an expurgated Huckleberry Finn. I bet it would have been funny. I happen to know what Oscar Hammerstein would have said. When Paul Robeson started rewriting “Ol’ Man River” for his own political purposes, Hammerstein said: “As the author of these words, I should like it known that I have no intention of changing them or permitting anyone else to change them. I further suggest  that Paul would write his own songs and leave mine alone.”

Abe’s post on the bowdlerization of Mark Twain reminded me of the evolution of the opening line of the great Broadway musical Show Boat by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. In 1927, when the curtain went up, the chorus sang “Niggers all work on de Mississippi, /Niggers all work while de white folk play. /Loadin’ up boats with de bales of cotton. /Gettin’ no rest till de /Judgment Day!”

By the 1936 movie, the line had become “Darkies all work …” The 1946 Broadway revival began “Colored folk work on de Mississippi.” By the 1951 movie, it was “Here we all work …” The 1966 Lincoln Center production simply omitted the line altogether. Only with John McGlinn’s magnificent recording of the complete score in 1988 was the original text first restored.

No one could possibly accuse Oscar Hammerstein of being a racist and, indeed, the word he chose was historically and dialectically correct. It’s the word black stevedores on the Mississippi would have used in the 1880s.

I wonder what Mark Twain would have said about an expurgated Huckleberry Finn. I bet it would have been funny. I happen to know what Oscar Hammerstein would have said. When Paul Robeson started rewriting “Ol’ Man River” for his own political purposes, Hammerstein said: “As the author of these words, I should like it known that I have no intention of changing them or permitting anyone else to change them. I further suggest  that Paul would write his own songs and leave mine alone.”

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RE: The South’s Past Haunts Barbour’s Candidacy

Jonathan is right — the racial-sensitivity problem is not just Haley Barbour’s.

No doubt there are double standards when it comes to judging Republicans, but conservatives are not blameless in the process either. It isn’t just a matter of flubbing their words — many conservatives are either unaware of the pervasiveness of racial discrimination prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, or they choose, like Barbour, to engage in selective memory.

To put the era in perspective, Abby Thernstrom, in her seminal study of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Whose Votes Count?, notes that fewer than 7 percent of voting-age blacks were registered in Mississippi prior to federal registrars being sent in after the Act was passed; by 1967, the number of registered blacks had jumped to 60 percent. And it is hard to imagine that Barbour wasn’t at least aware of the murder of three civil-rights activists in 1964 in Meridian, Mississippi, just 140 miles from his hometown of Yazoo City, not to mention the segregation that permeated every facet of public life. Haley and I graduated high school the same year, and even though I was living in Denver at the time, I was very much aware of what was going on in Mississippi. To ignore this history requires an act of will.

Many of us neoconservatives, however, were active in the civil-rights movement of the era and have no blinders about the degradation and discrimination to which blacks were subjected prior to the enactment of federal civil-rights protections. When neoconservatives argue that we support colorblind equal opportunity — as opposed to racial preferences for minorities — we do so with a moral authority rooted in our having always fought for this position. Unfortunately, the opposition to racial preferences that harm whites (and Asians) coming from many conservatives today is far more fervent than was their opposition to racial discrimination that harmed blacks in the past. It would help conservatives’ cause to acknowledge that failure rather than pretend it was not one.

Jonathan is right — the racial-sensitivity problem is not just Haley Barbour’s.

No doubt there are double standards when it comes to judging Republicans, but conservatives are not blameless in the process either. It isn’t just a matter of flubbing their words — many conservatives are either unaware of the pervasiveness of racial discrimination prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, or they choose, like Barbour, to engage in selective memory.

To put the era in perspective, Abby Thernstrom, in her seminal study of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Whose Votes Count?, notes that fewer than 7 percent of voting-age blacks were registered in Mississippi prior to federal registrars being sent in after the Act was passed; by 1967, the number of registered blacks had jumped to 60 percent. And it is hard to imagine that Barbour wasn’t at least aware of the murder of three civil-rights activists in 1964 in Meridian, Mississippi, just 140 miles from his hometown of Yazoo City, not to mention the segregation that permeated every facet of public life. Haley and I graduated high school the same year, and even though I was living in Denver at the time, I was very much aware of what was going on in Mississippi. To ignore this history requires an act of will.

Many of us neoconservatives, however, were active in the civil-rights movement of the era and have no blinders about the degradation and discrimination to which blacks were subjected prior to the enactment of federal civil-rights protections. When neoconservatives argue that we support colorblind equal opportunity — as opposed to racial preferences for minorities — we do so with a moral authority rooted in our having always fought for this position. Unfortunately, the opposition to racial preferences that harm whites (and Asians) coming from many conservatives today is far more fervent than was their opposition to racial discrimination that harmed blacks in the past. It would help conservatives’ cause to acknowledge that failure rather than pretend it was not one.

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The South’s Past Haunts Barbour’s Candidacy

Haley Barbour may be among the smartest men in contemporary politics, as well as one of the most able governors in the country. But there’s no denying that his potential presidential candidacy has taken a hit as a result of his remarks about growing up in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and the role of the Citizens Councils in the racial strife of that era.

A profile of Barbour in the Weekly Standard by Andrew Ferguson quoted the governor as characterizing the segregated Mississippi of his youth in a rosy light. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” said Barbour, who also went on to describe the Citizens Councils as being the good guys who kept the Ku Klux Klan out of his hometown while neglecting to also note that they were the local enforcers of the racial status quo and the oppression of blacks. Yesterday, Barbour attempted to put out the fire with a clarification, admitting that the Citizens Councils were “totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country and, especially, African-Americans who were persecuted in that time.”

But that wasn’t good enough for some of his critics, particularly the editorial page of the New York Times, which roasted Barbour in today’s edition for what they termed his recollection of a “hazy, dream-coated South” that shows he suffers “from the faulty memory all too common among those who stood on the sidelines during one of the greatest social upheavals in history.” The Times‘s goal here is not so much clarity about history but to draw a line in the sand about Barbour’s future as it declared that “his recent remarks on the period fit a well-established pattern of racial insensitivity that raises increasing doubts about his fitness for national office.”

Given that it was the Times and other liberal organs that were quick to make a meal of this brouhaha, many conservatives will reflexively defend Barbour. It is, after all, more than a little unfair to speak of the Mississippi governor as someone who “stood on the sidelines” of this battle, since he was merely a teenager during the drama of the early 1960s. No one has alleged that he has ever been guilty of an act of racism, either then or since. Indeed, the worst that the Times can say of him is that he once scolded an aide for making a racist remark with a joke about watermelons. And, as the perceptive Ferguson noted in his article, a big part of the problem is Barbour’s thick and “unapologetic” Southern drawl, which may be more than a bit off-putting for Northerners quick to make stereotypical generalizations about Southern whites while ignoring the racial past of their own region.

But as Barbour’s quick retreat from his Weekly Standard quotes indicates, this is not a problem that he can simply dismiss as liberal media bias. While Barbour may be innocent of any racism personally, denial of the truth about the essential ugliness of much of what some like to term the “heritage” of the South is unacceptable. As the nation celebrates the sesquicentennial of the Civil War over the next four years, the willingness of some to indulge in fantasies about the Confederacy is something that is bound to cause problems for Southern white Republicans, especially one who is thinking about running against the first African-American president of the United States. Read More

Haley Barbour may be among the smartest men in contemporary politics, as well as one of the most able governors in the country. But there’s no denying that his potential presidential candidacy has taken a hit as a result of his remarks about growing up in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and the role of the Citizens Councils in the racial strife of that era.

A profile of Barbour in the Weekly Standard by Andrew Ferguson quoted the governor as characterizing the segregated Mississippi of his youth in a rosy light. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” said Barbour, who also went on to describe the Citizens Councils as being the good guys who kept the Ku Klux Klan out of his hometown while neglecting to also note that they were the local enforcers of the racial status quo and the oppression of blacks. Yesterday, Barbour attempted to put out the fire with a clarification, admitting that the Citizens Councils were “totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country and, especially, African-Americans who were persecuted in that time.”

But that wasn’t good enough for some of his critics, particularly the editorial page of the New York Times, which roasted Barbour in today’s edition for what they termed his recollection of a “hazy, dream-coated South” that shows he suffers “from the faulty memory all too common among those who stood on the sidelines during one of the greatest social upheavals in history.” The Times‘s goal here is not so much clarity about history but to draw a line in the sand about Barbour’s future as it declared that “his recent remarks on the period fit a well-established pattern of racial insensitivity that raises increasing doubts about his fitness for national office.”

Given that it was the Times and other liberal organs that were quick to make a meal of this brouhaha, many conservatives will reflexively defend Barbour. It is, after all, more than a little unfair to speak of the Mississippi governor as someone who “stood on the sidelines” of this battle, since he was merely a teenager during the drama of the early 1960s. No one has alleged that he has ever been guilty of an act of racism, either then or since. Indeed, the worst that the Times can say of him is that he once scolded an aide for making a racist remark with a joke about watermelons. And, as the perceptive Ferguson noted in his article, a big part of the problem is Barbour’s thick and “unapologetic” Southern drawl, which may be more than a bit off-putting for Northerners quick to make stereotypical generalizations about Southern whites while ignoring the racial past of their own region.

But as Barbour’s quick retreat from his Weekly Standard quotes indicates, this is not a problem that he can simply dismiss as liberal media bias. While Barbour may be innocent of any racism personally, denial of the truth about the essential ugliness of much of what some like to term the “heritage” of the South is unacceptable. As the nation celebrates the sesquicentennial of the Civil War over the next four years, the willingness of some to indulge in fantasies about the Confederacy is something that is bound to cause problems for Southern white Republicans, especially one who is thinking about running against the first African-American president of the United States.

Evidence of the possibilities for such problems was displayed on the Times‘s website this week with a troubling article about a “Secession Gala” held in Charleston, South Carolina, where 300 participants dressed up like extras from Gone With the Wind to celebrate the anniversary of that state’s decision to leave the Union in 1860. While the event and the NAACP-sponsored protest outside the party went off without violence, the comments from the secession celebrants — in which they claimed that the Civil War was not fought over slavery — reflected the fact that many in the South are still in denial about this epic moment in American history. Post–Civil War reconciliation between the regions was based on a willingness by both sides to acknowledge the bravery of the combatants, but surely enough time has passed since the fighting that Americans no longer have to pretend that the “lost cause” was a noble one in order to unify the nation.

Even if all of the above were not an issue, it is still far from clear that Barbour’s prodigious political skills can transform him into a serious presidential contender in 2012. But if Barbour is really determined to run, he is going to have to do more to dispel this negative perception than the sort of damage-control comments we heard from him this week.

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Follow the States, But Only the Right Ones

This report makes the point that, unlike the federal government, state officials have had to make hard choices to balance their books. The impression one gets listening to the mainstream media and incumbent politicians is that budget balancing is nearly impossible. The states have shown otherwise:

In the past three years, 29 states have raised fees on, or cut services for, the elderly and people with disabilities, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research group. Fifteen states raised sales or income taxes in 2009 or 2010, according to the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington research outfit.

Let’s see if you notice the pattern:

One popular state tactic has obvious—and ironic—national implications. New Jersey, Indiana and Minnesota, among others, have trimmed state spending by sending less money to local governments. That pushes onto local officials politically tough decisions about raising taxes, cutting spending or finding major money-saving efficiencies. …

Now, in Illinois and California, “the political system has done little more than lurch to the end of the fiscal year.” While in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Indiana, governors pushed for real fiscal reform. A sample:

New Jersey’s Chris Christie has cut pensions for future state and local employees, vetoed a tax increase on income over $1 million and cut $1.26 billion in aid to schools and municipalities, which local officials said would drive up property taxes. …

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a second-term Republican and the former White House budget director for President George W. Bush, moved the state from deficit to surplus by paring spending in good times. Indiana swung from a nearly $200 million deficit in 2004, the year Mr. Daniels was first elected, to a $1.3 billion surplus last year. It was not without controversy: On his second day in office, Mr. Daniels issued an executive order that ended collective-bargaining rights for state employees. …

In May, Minnesota lawmakers approved a budget widely seen as a victory for outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, because it ratified spending cuts he had made unilaterally and it didn’t raise taxes.

And, likewise, Bob McDonnell got elected in 2009 in Virginia on the promise to balance the budget without raising taxes. And he has done just that.

OK, you see point. These budget balancers and spending cutters are successful Republican governors, all of whom have been mentioned as 2012 presidential contenders. And in the 2010 midterms, their ranks expanded with Republicans elected in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. That’s a lot of GOP governors who have the opportunity to lead on fiscal discipline.

Not only does this dispel the liberal myths that we need massive taxes to balance our books or that the public won’t accept reduced services; but is provides Republicans with a wealth of talent for the 2012 and future presidential races. The country seems poised to get serious on tax and budget reform and has grown weary of a president whose not much into governance. That suggests a unique opportunity for these GOP governors — provided they stick to their  sober approach to governance.

And on the other hand, we have the example of California which has yet to get its spending and public employee unions under control. It’s the beauty of federalism — 50 labratories in which we can see what works and what doesn’t. So far a lot of GOP governors are showing how to do it right.

This report makes the point that, unlike the federal government, state officials have had to make hard choices to balance their books. The impression one gets listening to the mainstream media and incumbent politicians is that budget balancing is nearly impossible. The states have shown otherwise:

In the past three years, 29 states have raised fees on, or cut services for, the elderly and people with disabilities, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research group. Fifteen states raised sales or income taxes in 2009 or 2010, according to the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington research outfit.

Let’s see if you notice the pattern:

One popular state tactic has obvious—and ironic—national implications. New Jersey, Indiana and Minnesota, among others, have trimmed state spending by sending less money to local governments. That pushes onto local officials politically tough decisions about raising taxes, cutting spending or finding major money-saving efficiencies. …

Now, in Illinois and California, “the political system has done little more than lurch to the end of the fiscal year.” While in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Indiana, governors pushed for real fiscal reform. A sample:

New Jersey’s Chris Christie has cut pensions for future state and local employees, vetoed a tax increase on income over $1 million and cut $1.26 billion in aid to schools and municipalities, which local officials said would drive up property taxes. …

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a second-term Republican and the former White House budget director for President George W. Bush, moved the state from deficit to surplus by paring spending in good times. Indiana swung from a nearly $200 million deficit in 2004, the year Mr. Daniels was first elected, to a $1.3 billion surplus last year. It was not without controversy: On his second day in office, Mr. Daniels issued an executive order that ended collective-bargaining rights for state employees. …

In May, Minnesota lawmakers approved a budget widely seen as a victory for outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, because it ratified spending cuts he had made unilaterally and it didn’t raise taxes.

And, likewise, Bob McDonnell got elected in 2009 in Virginia on the promise to balance the budget without raising taxes. And he has done just that.

OK, you see point. These budget balancers and spending cutters are successful Republican governors, all of whom have been mentioned as 2012 presidential contenders. And in the 2010 midterms, their ranks expanded with Republicans elected in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. That’s a lot of GOP governors who have the opportunity to lead on fiscal discipline.

Not only does this dispel the liberal myths that we need massive taxes to balance our books or that the public won’t accept reduced services; but is provides Republicans with a wealth of talent for the 2012 and future presidential races. The country seems poised to get serious on tax and budget reform and has grown weary of a president whose not much into governance. That suggests a unique opportunity for these GOP governors — provided they stick to their  sober approach to governance.

And on the other hand, we have the example of California which has yet to get its spending and public employee unions under control. It’s the beauty of federalism — 50 labratories in which we can see what works and what doesn’t. So far a lot of GOP governors are showing how to do it right.

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A Dwindling Band

I share the general joy on the right regarding the outcome of this election, but I am sorry to see go some of the Democrats who wound up losing — in particular, Reps. Ike Skelton of Missouri, John Spratt of South Carolina, and Gene Taylor of Mississippi.

All were longtime members of the House Armed Services Committee (Skelton is the outgoing chairman, Spratt the second-ranking Democrat, Taylor a subcommittee chairman). They are part of a dwindling band of centrist, strong-on-defense Democrats — a tradition stretching back to the days of Stuart Symington and Scoop Jackson. These days, alas, the Democrats are led by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. The fact that so many Blue Dog Democrats have been knocked off is good news for the short term, but it will have parlous consequences at some point in the future when Democrats succeed in taking back the House. The Democratic leaders on defense and foreign policy issues in the future are likely to be considerably to the left of today’s crop.

I share the general joy on the right regarding the outcome of this election, but I am sorry to see go some of the Democrats who wound up losing — in particular, Reps. Ike Skelton of Missouri, John Spratt of South Carolina, and Gene Taylor of Mississippi.

All were longtime members of the House Armed Services Committee (Skelton is the outgoing chairman, Spratt the second-ranking Democrat, Taylor a subcommittee chairman). They are part of a dwindling band of centrist, strong-on-defense Democrats — a tradition stretching back to the days of Stuart Symington and Scoop Jackson. These days, alas, the Democrats are led by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. The fact that so many Blue Dog Democrats have been knocked off is good news for the short term, but it will have parlous consequences at some point in the future when Democrats succeed in taking back the House. The Democratic leaders on defense and foreign policy issues in the future are likely to be considerably to the left of today’s crop.

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A Democrat by Any Other Name

In the final week of the campaign, the Democrats are reduced to a series of Hail Marys and a string of unbelievable claims, one wackier than the next. The campaign “suddenly” went south for them when Karl Rove’s anonymous donors showed up. Next we heard that the voters were “scared” and not thinking straight. Then we learned that Democrats don’t really support Democratic leaders. Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor revealed he didn’t even vote for Obama:

Mr. Taylor had heretofore kept that vote a secret, and perhaps it’s only a coincidence that he rolled it out amid the re-election fight of his career. The 11-term Member added that he won’t support Mrs. Pelosi for Speaker, another revelation considering his vote for her in 2009. “I’m very disappointed in how she’s veered to the left,” Mr. Taylor said, as if Mrs. Pelosi’s ideological predispositions were ever hidden.

Mr. Taylor joins a growing list of Democrats who voted for Mrs. Pelosi in 2009 but now profess to be shocked by her left turn. They include Idaho’s Walt Minnick, Pennsylvania’s Jason Altmire, Alabama’s Bobby Bright and Texas’s Chet Edwards, endangered incumbents all.

It’s somewhere between comical and insulting. The voters can figure out which are the D’s and which are the R’s. And they know that for all their protestations, the “moderates” and the “Blue Dogs” are simply Democrats who rubber-stamped the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda. And many of them are going to lose because they were led around by the nose by their liberal leaders and ignored their constituents. The aggrieved voters will exact their revenge next week.

In the final week of the campaign, the Democrats are reduced to a series of Hail Marys and a string of unbelievable claims, one wackier than the next. The campaign “suddenly” went south for them when Karl Rove’s anonymous donors showed up. Next we heard that the voters were “scared” and not thinking straight. Then we learned that Democrats don’t really support Democratic leaders. Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor revealed he didn’t even vote for Obama:

Mr. Taylor had heretofore kept that vote a secret, and perhaps it’s only a coincidence that he rolled it out amid the re-election fight of his career. The 11-term Member added that he won’t support Mrs. Pelosi for Speaker, another revelation considering his vote for her in 2009. “I’m very disappointed in how she’s veered to the left,” Mr. Taylor said, as if Mrs. Pelosi’s ideological predispositions were ever hidden.

Mr. Taylor joins a growing list of Democrats who voted for Mrs. Pelosi in 2009 but now profess to be shocked by her left turn. They include Idaho’s Walt Minnick, Pennsylvania’s Jason Altmire, Alabama’s Bobby Bright and Texas’s Chet Edwards, endangered incumbents all.

It’s somewhere between comical and insulting. The voters can figure out which are the D’s and which are the R’s. And they know that for all their protestations, the “moderates” and the “Blue Dogs” are simply Democrats who rubber-stamped the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda. And many of them are going to lose because they were led around by the nose by their liberal leaders and ignored their constituents. The aggrieved voters will exact their revenge next week.

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Um, Delaware Is a Really Blue State

While the GOP may have blown a single Senate seat, there’s no doubt which party is sitting pretty right now. A sea of Red in the RealClearPolitics polls and new polling from CNN confirms that Democrats stand to lose big in the Senate. Yes, it is a ray of sunshine when the Democrats think they have a good shot to keep Delaware in the Blue, but, guys, that’s akin to Republicans celebrating because they now have a good feeling about Mississippi.

Other than Nancy Pelosi voicing the mandatory optimism about the House, there seems to be no one predicting that can be saved. In fact, the media are largely ignoring the House contests, a surefire sign things are going badly for the Democrats. Not waiting for the Christmas rush, moderate Democrats are refusing to embrace the Obama stimulus, and one of Pelosi’s members is even backing repeal of ObamaCare.

The basic narrative of the election is set. The question remains how extensive the damage to the Democrats will be. And that does depend on the talent of individual candidates. Christine O’Donnell isn’t likely to make it, but before they pop open the champagne, Democrats might want to consider what is going on in Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Nevada, Colorado, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. In not a single one does the Democrat have a lead outside the margin of error. In a number, the Republican has a commanding lead. In others such as Colorado, the Tea Party–endorsed candidate is starting to pull away. It’s obvious which party is in a commanding position.

While the GOP may have blown a single Senate seat, there’s no doubt which party is sitting pretty right now. A sea of Red in the RealClearPolitics polls and new polling from CNN confirms that Democrats stand to lose big in the Senate. Yes, it is a ray of sunshine when the Democrats think they have a good shot to keep Delaware in the Blue, but, guys, that’s akin to Republicans celebrating because they now have a good feeling about Mississippi.

Other than Nancy Pelosi voicing the mandatory optimism about the House, there seems to be no one predicting that can be saved. In fact, the media are largely ignoring the House contests, a surefire sign things are going badly for the Democrats. Not waiting for the Christmas rush, moderate Democrats are refusing to embrace the Obama stimulus, and one of Pelosi’s members is even backing repeal of ObamaCare.

The basic narrative of the election is set. The question remains how extensive the damage to the Democrats will be. And that does depend on the talent of individual candidates. Christine O’Donnell isn’t likely to make it, but before they pop open the champagne, Democrats might want to consider what is going on in Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Nevada, Colorado, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. In not a single one does the Democrat have a lead outside the margin of error. In a number, the Republican has a commanding lead. In others such as Colorado, the Tea Party–endorsed candidate is starting to pull away. It’s obvious which party is in a commanding position.

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Stinting on Defense

Talk about cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, President Obama is stumping for a new round of economic stimulus amounting to $180 billion in business tax breaks and infrastructure spending. On the other hand, he is growing the defense budget at an anemic rate, which is forcing the Pentagon to trim spending. The predictable result: defense contractors are laying off workers. The New York Times reports:

Lockheed has reduced its work force by 10,000, to a total of 136,000, since the beginning of last year.

Boeing, another big Pentagon contractor … has already trimmed 1,700 jobs in its military business as part of a reduction of 10,000 jobs across the company.

And Northrop Grumman recently announced plans to close troubled shipyards as it considers spinning off its $6 billion shipbuilding business.

Northrop announced in late August that it would lay off 642 workers at its shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., by the end of the year. By 2013, it plans to close a shipyard near New Orleans that employs 4,700 people and shift the work to Pascagoula.

What’s going on here? Is there an assumption in the administration that highway-building jobs are good but weapon-building jobs are bad? It’s hard to figure out any other explanation for this loopy imbalance — billions more for make-work projects while stinting on defense projects that are actually needed.

Talk about cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, President Obama is stumping for a new round of economic stimulus amounting to $180 billion in business tax breaks and infrastructure spending. On the other hand, he is growing the defense budget at an anemic rate, which is forcing the Pentagon to trim spending. The predictable result: defense contractors are laying off workers. The New York Times reports:

Lockheed has reduced its work force by 10,000, to a total of 136,000, since the beginning of last year.

Boeing, another big Pentagon contractor … has already trimmed 1,700 jobs in its military business as part of a reduction of 10,000 jobs across the company.

And Northrop Grumman recently announced plans to close troubled shipyards as it considers spinning off its $6 billion shipbuilding business.

Northrop announced in late August that it would lay off 642 workers at its shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., by the end of the year. By 2013, it plans to close a shipyard near New Orleans that employs 4,700 people and shift the work to Pascagoula.

What’s going on here? Is there an assumption in the administration that highway-building jobs are good but weapon-building jobs are bad? It’s hard to figure out any other explanation for this loopy imbalance — billions more for make-work projects while stinting on defense projects that are actually needed.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama has managed to revive the conservative movement, drive independents into the GOP’s arms, sink his own party’s fortunes, bring Sarah Palin and Howard Dean together (on the Ground Zero mosque) — and convince more Americans he’s a Muslim. “A new survey reports a sharp increase in the number of Americans who, incorrectly, say President Obama is a Muslim. The increase has occurred over the last couple of years, and the poll was taken before the president stepped into the fray of the Ground Zero mosque controversy.” Wait until the next survey.

The State Department couldn’t manage to find a Muslim who didn’t blame the U.S. for 9/11? “American taxpayers will pay the imam behind plans for a mosque near the Manhattan site of the Sept. 11 attacks $3,000 in fees for a three-nation outreach trip to the Middle East that will cost roughly $16,000, the State Department said Wednesday.”

The GOP manages to find its party leader, and it’s not Michael Steele: “Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is the most powerful Republican in American politics — at least for the next three months. Barbour, who runs the Republican Governors Association, has more money to spend on the 2010 elections — $40 million — than any other GOP leader around. And in private, numerous Republicans describe Barbour as the de facto chairman of the party.”

The GOP also manages to raise a ton of cash despite Steele: “With less than three months until Election Day, Democrats are becoming increasingly concerned that the independent groups they are counting on for support won’t have the money to counter what they fear will be an unprecedented advertising campaign waged by their Republican counterparts. Republicans and their allies have been working for months with single-minded focus on plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on ads funded by a combination of existing special interest groups and newly formed political outfits.” Maybe they don’t need an RNC chairman.

The White House manages to annoy more House Democrats: “Roughly three-quarters of the oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s ruptured well is still in the environment, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official told a House panel Thursday. The estimate contrasts previous pronouncements by administration officials that only about a quarter of the oil remains to be addressed. … Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee that held the hearing, said the administration’s initial report this month — and the trumpeting of it — gave people a ‘false sense of confidence’ about the environmental risks that remain.”

Despite the work of its enemies, Israel manages to survive and, yes, flourish. An Israeli was “awarded the 2010 Fields Medal – considered the ‘Nobel Prize’ in the field.” There is no Nobel Prize for math, but Israel has nine of those.

It would be a minor miracle if Virginia House Democrats Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello manage to get re-elected. “Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, termed Perriello and Nye ‘extremely vulnerable’ in November. ‘It’s highly unlikely they’ll both survive a wave like the one that’s developing,’ Gonzales said.”

Chris Christie manages to become a movie star in his first year in office.

Obama has managed to revive the conservative movement, drive independents into the GOP’s arms, sink his own party’s fortunes, bring Sarah Palin and Howard Dean together (on the Ground Zero mosque) — and convince more Americans he’s a Muslim. “A new survey reports a sharp increase in the number of Americans who, incorrectly, say President Obama is a Muslim. The increase has occurred over the last couple of years, and the poll was taken before the president stepped into the fray of the Ground Zero mosque controversy.” Wait until the next survey.

The State Department couldn’t manage to find a Muslim who didn’t blame the U.S. for 9/11? “American taxpayers will pay the imam behind plans for a mosque near the Manhattan site of the Sept. 11 attacks $3,000 in fees for a three-nation outreach trip to the Middle East that will cost roughly $16,000, the State Department said Wednesday.”

The GOP manages to find its party leader, and it’s not Michael Steele: “Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is the most powerful Republican in American politics — at least for the next three months. Barbour, who runs the Republican Governors Association, has more money to spend on the 2010 elections — $40 million — than any other GOP leader around. And in private, numerous Republicans describe Barbour as the de facto chairman of the party.”

The GOP also manages to raise a ton of cash despite Steele: “With less than three months until Election Day, Democrats are becoming increasingly concerned that the independent groups they are counting on for support won’t have the money to counter what they fear will be an unprecedented advertising campaign waged by their Republican counterparts. Republicans and their allies have been working for months with single-minded focus on plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on ads funded by a combination of existing special interest groups and newly formed political outfits.” Maybe they don’t need an RNC chairman.

The White House manages to annoy more House Democrats: “Roughly three-quarters of the oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s ruptured well is still in the environment, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official told a House panel Thursday. The estimate contrasts previous pronouncements by administration officials that only about a quarter of the oil remains to be addressed. … Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee that held the hearing, said the administration’s initial report this month — and the trumpeting of it — gave people a ‘false sense of confidence’ about the environmental risks that remain.”

Despite the work of its enemies, Israel manages to survive and, yes, flourish. An Israeli was “awarded the 2010 Fields Medal – considered the ‘Nobel Prize’ in the field.” There is no Nobel Prize for math, but Israel has nine of those.

It would be a minor miracle if Virginia House Democrats Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello manage to get re-elected. “Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, termed Perriello and Nye ‘extremely vulnerable’ in November. ‘It’s highly unlikely they’ll both survive a wave like the one that’s developing,’ Gonzales said.”

Chris Christie manages to become a movie star in his first year in office.

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It Would Have Helped if They Hadn’t Been Rubber Stamps

The Washington Post headline pronounces: “Some Democratic candidates distance themselves from Obama.” Well, at least those who aren’t politically suicidal. Yes, as always, the party’s leaders warn that if they don’t embrace Obama, they’ll lose their seats (worse than they otherwise would?). But then this was the same crowd that told Democrats that ObamaCare was their insurance against an electoral wipeout. Not surprisingly, many Democrats are ignoring the advice of the party big shots and trying to save their own skins:

Indiana, Rep. Joe Donnelly is running a television ad in which he details his generally conservative stance on immigration while images of Obama and Pelosi are shown on screen. “That may not be what the Washington crowd wants, but I don’t work for them,” Donnelly says in the ad. “I work for you.”

Rep. Travis Childers, who represents a district in northern Mississippi where Obama won just 38 percent of the vote in 2008, takes a similar approach in his TV advertising — promoting the fact that he has “voted against every big budget” since winning a special election two years ago.

You know how bad things are when the political operatives start dishing like this on background:

One senior Democratic consultant suggested that the distance candidates are seeking to put between themselves and Obama is reflective of the ascendance of economic issues in voters’ minds. “Barack Obama’s economic policy of spending our way out of recession is seen as a failure at best and harmful at worst,” the source said. “That should tell candidates in competitive jurisdictions all they need to know about running with the president.”

Ouch. Unfortunately for themselves, nearly all incumbent Democrats have to date failed to demonstrate any ideological independence from the president. It’s hard for a pol to convince voters that what he says in the last three months of a campaign should supersede 18 months of voting in lockstep with Obama-Pelosi-Reid. And for those Democratic challengers pledging independence from the extremist agenda of their party leaders, the voters have reason to doubt that, once in office, they will be any more moderate than the current crop, who capitulated on virtually everything that was tossed their way, be it the now widely derided stimulus plan, ObamaCare, Supreme Court nominees, or tax hikes. In short, the key to convincing voters you will exercise moderation and independent judgment is to point to some evidence that you’ve done so in the past, an impossibility for the vast number of Democrats on the ballot this year.

The Washington Post headline pronounces: “Some Democratic candidates distance themselves from Obama.” Well, at least those who aren’t politically suicidal. Yes, as always, the party’s leaders warn that if they don’t embrace Obama, they’ll lose their seats (worse than they otherwise would?). But then this was the same crowd that told Democrats that ObamaCare was their insurance against an electoral wipeout. Not surprisingly, many Democrats are ignoring the advice of the party big shots and trying to save their own skins:

Indiana, Rep. Joe Donnelly is running a television ad in which he details his generally conservative stance on immigration while images of Obama and Pelosi are shown on screen. “That may not be what the Washington crowd wants, but I don’t work for them,” Donnelly says in the ad. “I work for you.”

Rep. Travis Childers, who represents a district in northern Mississippi where Obama won just 38 percent of the vote in 2008, takes a similar approach in his TV advertising — promoting the fact that he has “voted against every big budget” since winning a special election two years ago.

You know how bad things are when the political operatives start dishing like this on background:

One senior Democratic consultant suggested that the distance candidates are seeking to put between themselves and Obama is reflective of the ascendance of economic issues in voters’ minds. “Barack Obama’s economic policy of spending our way out of recession is seen as a failure at best and harmful at worst,” the source said. “That should tell candidates in competitive jurisdictions all they need to know about running with the president.”

Ouch. Unfortunately for themselves, nearly all incumbent Democrats have to date failed to demonstrate any ideological independence from the president. It’s hard for a pol to convince voters that what he says in the last three months of a campaign should supersede 18 months of voting in lockstep with Obama-Pelosi-Reid. And for those Democratic challengers pledging independence from the extremist agenda of their party leaders, the voters have reason to doubt that, once in office, they will be any more moderate than the current crop, who capitulated on virtually everything that was tossed their way, be it the now widely derided stimulus plan, ObamaCare, Supreme Court nominees, or tax hikes. In short, the key to convincing voters you will exercise moderation and independent judgment is to point to some evidence that you’ve done so in the past, an impossibility for the vast number of Democrats on the ballot this year.

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Partners in the Conservative Revival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And When Is the Pivot to Jobs Coming?

As we are looking for the hidden deals and minefields left in the wake of ObamaCare, it is worth remembering that unemployment — the issue voters care most about — remains at record levels. This report explains:

Unemployment increased in 27 U.S. states in February and dropped in seven, a sign the labor market needs to pick up across more regions to spur consumer spending and sustain the economic recovery.

Mississippi showed the biggest jump in joblessness with a 0.4 percentage point rise to 11.4 percent, according to figures issued today by the Labor Department in Washington. Nationally, unemployment held at 9.7 percent in February for a second month and employers cut fewer jobs than anticipated, figures from the Labor Department showed on March 5.

Today’s report indicates broad-based hiring is yet to develop following the loss of 8.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Florida, Nevada, Georgia, and North Carolina set record levels of joblessness last month.

“Until we see improvement in employment in a fair number of U.S. states, it’s not going to do a heck of a lot for the recovery,” said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. “The worst seems to be over, but there’s a huge amount of work to be done to create jobs. It’s going to be a long, winding road.”

This, after all, was to be the focus of Obama’s term. After the Scott Brown upset, Obama again promised a pivot to jobs. But he’s never delivered. Instead, he has championed a stimulus plan that didn’t save or create millions of jobs and a health-care plan that is already sucking billions of dollars out of employers’ coffers. Will employers — with health-care costs now to swell up and tax hikes due in 2011 — really be expanding payrolls? Unlikely.

It’s not hard to see the campaigns this fall, asking why it was that Obama and the Democratic Congress were busy placing new mandates, taxes, and fines on business while the job picture was still bleak. It will be hard for incumbents to convince voters who have yet to see any benefit from Obama’s big-government liberal agenda and a good deal of pain (e.g., seniors facing Medicare cuts, small businesses looking at tax bites, unemployed workers) that what we need is more of the same.

As we are looking for the hidden deals and minefields left in the wake of ObamaCare, it is worth remembering that unemployment — the issue voters care most about — remains at record levels. This report explains:

Unemployment increased in 27 U.S. states in February and dropped in seven, a sign the labor market needs to pick up across more regions to spur consumer spending and sustain the economic recovery.

Mississippi showed the biggest jump in joblessness with a 0.4 percentage point rise to 11.4 percent, according to figures issued today by the Labor Department in Washington. Nationally, unemployment held at 9.7 percent in February for a second month and employers cut fewer jobs than anticipated, figures from the Labor Department showed on March 5.

Today’s report indicates broad-based hiring is yet to develop following the loss of 8.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Florida, Nevada, Georgia, and North Carolina set record levels of joblessness last month.

“Until we see improvement in employment in a fair number of U.S. states, it’s not going to do a heck of a lot for the recovery,” said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. “The worst seems to be over, but there’s a huge amount of work to be done to create jobs. It’s going to be a long, winding road.”

This, after all, was to be the focus of Obama’s term. After the Scott Brown upset, Obama again promised a pivot to jobs. But he’s never delivered. Instead, he has championed a stimulus plan that didn’t save or create millions of jobs and a health-care plan that is already sucking billions of dollars out of employers’ coffers. Will employers — with health-care costs now to swell up and tax hikes due in 2011 — really be expanding payrolls? Unlikely.

It’s not hard to see the campaigns this fall, asking why it was that Obama and the Democratic Congress were busy placing new mandates, taxes, and fines on business while the job picture was still bleak. It will be hard for incumbents to convince voters who have yet to see any benefit from Obama’s big-government liberal agenda and a good deal of pain (e.g., seniors facing Medicare cuts, small businesses looking at tax bites, unemployed workers) that what we need is more of the same.

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RE: Rangel Guilty of Ethics Violation

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s imperviousness to reality knows no bounds. The Hill reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s once again sticking by embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — at least for now.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a Thursday press conference that she had not yet read the full report from the ethics committee, which admonished Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for improperly accepting reimbursement for two trips to the Caribbean.

“All I saw was the press release where they said he did not violate the rules of the House,” Pelosi said. “And I think that’s an important statement that they made.”

Pelosi is flat wrong. From the House Ethics Committee press release: “The Report further finds that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated the House gift rule by accepting payment or reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences.”

Nor are Pelosi’s members as out to lunch as she is. Politico reports: “Early Friday, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) told POLITICO he wants Rangel to quit his powerful committee post — and that was quickly followed by similar statements from a pair of deep south Democrats, Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright.”

It is hard to see what Pelosi will achieve by this sort of performance — other than cement her reputation as someone who plays fast and loose with the facts and who has, after achieving the position of Speaker of the House, been rendered politically tone deaf.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s imperviousness to reality knows no bounds. The Hill reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s once again sticking by embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — at least for now.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a Thursday press conference that she had not yet read the full report from the ethics committee, which admonished Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for improperly accepting reimbursement for two trips to the Caribbean.

“All I saw was the press release where they said he did not violate the rules of the House,” Pelosi said. “And I think that’s an important statement that they made.”

Pelosi is flat wrong. From the House Ethics Committee press release: “The Report further finds that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated the House gift rule by accepting payment or reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences.”

Nor are Pelosi’s members as out to lunch as she is. Politico reports: “Early Friday, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) told POLITICO he wants Rangel to quit his powerful committee post — and that was quickly followed by similar statements from a pair of deep south Democrats, Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright.”

It is hard to see what Pelosi will achieve by this sort of performance — other than cement her reputation as someone who plays fast and loose with the facts and who has, after achieving the position of Speaker of the House, been rendered politically tone deaf.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Joe Biden (not really): “So there I was on the Amtrak, and I was thinking Dick Cheney, God love him, my friend Dick Cheney, he is probably worse than Pol Pot. It was because Democrats opposed the surge that the surge worked. If we had gotten behind the winning strategy, the enemy would have known it was too soft. We needed to oppose it in order for it to succeed.”

The real Joe Biden now says he is happy to thank George W. Bush on Iraq policy. Yes, good thing indeed that Bush was wise enough to ignore everything Biden ever said on the subject.

The real Dick Cheney on the Obami’s claiming credit for Iraq: “If they are going to take credit for [Iraq], fair enough, for what they’ve done while they are there. But it ought to go with a healthy dose of ‘thank you George Bush’ up front.” Then he plays Darth Vader mind games with them — praising the surge in Afghanistan and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The real Liz Cheney asks, “Bipartisanship to what end?” As she notes, there should be little to praise in “bipartisanship” if the goal is to pass a health-care bill that everyone hates. Ceci Connolly notes that what is interesting is the “bad blood” between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders, as well as between the House and Senate. Bill Kristol remarks that the Obami “can’t resist” making partisan digs. And to prove their point, Juan William says Dick Cheney is helping al-Qaeda by criticizing the Obami’s handling of the war against Islamic fascists.

The unfortunately all too real antics of the Congressional Black Caucus: “From 2004 to 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus’s political and charitable wings took in at least $55 million in corporate and union contributions, according to an analysis by the New York Times, an impressive amount even by the standards of a Washington awash in cash. Only $1 million of that went to the caucus’s political action committee; the rest poured into the largely unregulated nonprofit network. . . . But the bulk of the money has been spent on elaborate conventions that have become a high point of the Washington social season, as well as the headquarters building, golf outings by members of Congress and an annual visit to a Mississippi casino resort.” Among the CBC’s pals: “cigarette companies, Internet poker operators, beer brewers and the rent-to-own industry, which has become a particular focus of consumer advocates for its practice of charging high monthly fees for appliances, televisions and computers.”

Flynt Leverett, who was canned by the Bush administration (“Leverett continually missed deadlines and misplaced documents, and the NSC Records office had a long list of his delinquencies. His office was notoriously messy—documents were strewn over chairs, windowsills, the floor, and piled high on his desk … repeatedly missing deadlines and losing important letters was simply not tolerable behavior for an NSC officer, and Leverett was told to leave”), has now become the favorite flack for the mullahs. “The curious dance between Washington’s Iran experts and the foreign government whose actions they are supposedly analyzing has parallels in the ways that totalitarian governments like the Soviet Union and Mao’s China manipulated Western public opinion by only granting access to scholars and policy hands who would toe the party line. Similarly, the Iranian government today decides who in the West will be granted the kind of access that will allow them to speak with authority about the regime to Washington.” (h/t Jeffrey Goldberg)

James Carafano says that he is not surprised that “there would be more killing of high level terrorists than capture for interrogation and trial. That’s because the administration has botched efforts to come up with a coherent program for detention, interrogation, and trial.”

Matt Welch confirms my suspicion that libertarians have principles inconsistent with big-government liberals: “What I do care about, regardless of who’s president, is human freedom and prosperity. And I strongly and consistently suspect that when the government accumulates more power, I and everyone else (except those wielding it) have less of which I seek.” That said, if Republicans gain power and continue the spending jag, libertarians will turn their ire on them too.

Joe Biden (not really): “So there I was on the Amtrak, and I was thinking Dick Cheney, God love him, my friend Dick Cheney, he is probably worse than Pol Pot. It was because Democrats opposed the surge that the surge worked. If we had gotten behind the winning strategy, the enemy would have known it was too soft. We needed to oppose it in order for it to succeed.”

The real Joe Biden now says he is happy to thank George W. Bush on Iraq policy. Yes, good thing indeed that Bush was wise enough to ignore everything Biden ever said on the subject.

The real Dick Cheney on the Obami’s claiming credit for Iraq: “If they are going to take credit for [Iraq], fair enough, for what they’ve done while they are there. But it ought to go with a healthy dose of ‘thank you George Bush’ up front.” Then he plays Darth Vader mind games with them — praising the surge in Afghanistan and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The real Liz Cheney asks, “Bipartisanship to what end?” As she notes, there should be little to praise in “bipartisanship” if the goal is to pass a health-care bill that everyone hates. Ceci Connolly notes that what is interesting is the “bad blood” between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders, as well as between the House and Senate. Bill Kristol remarks that the Obami “can’t resist” making partisan digs. And to prove their point, Juan William says Dick Cheney is helping al-Qaeda by criticizing the Obami’s handling of the war against Islamic fascists.

The unfortunately all too real antics of the Congressional Black Caucus: “From 2004 to 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus’s political and charitable wings took in at least $55 million in corporate and union contributions, according to an analysis by the New York Times, an impressive amount even by the standards of a Washington awash in cash. Only $1 million of that went to the caucus’s political action committee; the rest poured into the largely unregulated nonprofit network. . . . But the bulk of the money has been spent on elaborate conventions that have become a high point of the Washington social season, as well as the headquarters building, golf outings by members of Congress and an annual visit to a Mississippi casino resort.” Among the CBC’s pals: “cigarette companies, Internet poker operators, beer brewers and the rent-to-own industry, which has become a particular focus of consumer advocates for its practice of charging high monthly fees for appliances, televisions and computers.”

Flynt Leverett, who was canned by the Bush administration (“Leverett continually missed deadlines and misplaced documents, and the NSC Records office had a long list of his delinquencies. His office was notoriously messy—documents were strewn over chairs, windowsills, the floor, and piled high on his desk … repeatedly missing deadlines and losing important letters was simply not tolerable behavior for an NSC officer, and Leverett was told to leave”), has now become the favorite flack for the mullahs. “The curious dance between Washington’s Iran experts and the foreign government whose actions they are supposedly analyzing has parallels in the ways that totalitarian governments like the Soviet Union and Mao’s China manipulated Western public opinion by only granting access to scholars and policy hands who would toe the party line. Similarly, the Iranian government today decides who in the West will be granted the kind of access that will allow them to speak with authority about the regime to Washington.” (h/t Jeffrey Goldberg)

James Carafano says that he is not surprised that “there would be more killing of high level terrorists than capture for interrogation and trial. That’s because the administration has botched efforts to come up with a coherent program for detention, interrogation, and trial.”

Matt Welch confirms my suspicion that libertarians have principles inconsistent with big-government liberals: “What I do care about, regardless of who’s president, is human freedom and prosperity. And I strongly and consistently suspect that when the government accumulates more power, I and everyone else (except those wielding it) have less of which I seek.” That said, if Republicans gain power and continue the spending jag, libertarians will turn their ire on them too.

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Civil Rights Laws Run Only One Way?

A curious report appears over at Main Justice, a website that offers nice juicy gossip and often mirrors the liberal legal party line from the Justice Department. It seems that one of the New Black Panther Party members at issue in the controversial dismissal of the Election Day voter-intimidation case is hopping mad:

Last week in a podcast interview, [New Black Panther Party president Malik Zulu] Shabazz let loose — with a racially tinged rant against the Republicans he said are trying to turn the issue into campaign ads for this fall’s midterm elections. “These right-wing white, red-faced, red-neck Republicans are attacking the hell out of the New Black Panther Party, and we’re organizing now to fight back,” Shabazz told the podcast host, a man who calls himself “Brother Gary” and hosts a show called Conscious Chats on Blogtalk Radio.

Shabazz singled out GOP Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) — two critics on the House Judiciary Committee — along with “Old Uncle Tom, Michael Steele, the black Negro who heads the Republican National Committee.”

“We gearing up for a showdown with this cracker,” Shabazz said, although it wasn’t clear to whom he was referring. “He keep talking – we going to Capitol Hill, we’re just gearing up right now, we’ll go to Capitol Hill.”

Well, probably not what the Holder Justice Department was anxious to hear as it attempts to stonewall its way through the inquiry. But what’s even more interesting is the apparent “defense” offered by Main Justice for those Obama officials who chose to dismiss the case over the objections of career attorneys: “No actual voters came forward to complain — the objections came from white Republican poll watchers.”

So is that what’s at the root of the case here — the notion that voter-intimidation claims are less than valid if white Republicans bring them? The behavior of the New Black Panther Party members was, after all, captured on videotape, so the conduct of the defendants is really not in dispute. What seems to be gnawing at the liberal legal types, however, is that a voter-intimidation case could be instituted by whites — white Republicans no less. Read More

A curious report appears over at Main Justice, a website that offers nice juicy gossip and often mirrors the liberal legal party line from the Justice Department. It seems that one of the New Black Panther Party members at issue in the controversial dismissal of the Election Day voter-intimidation case is hopping mad:

Last week in a podcast interview, [New Black Panther Party president Malik Zulu] Shabazz let loose — with a racially tinged rant against the Republicans he said are trying to turn the issue into campaign ads for this fall’s midterm elections. “These right-wing white, red-faced, red-neck Republicans are attacking the hell out of the New Black Panther Party, and we’re organizing now to fight back,” Shabazz told the podcast host, a man who calls himself “Brother Gary” and hosts a show called Conscious Chats on Blogtalk Radio.

Shabazz singled out GOP Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) — two critics on the House Judiciary Committee — along with “Old Uncle Tom, Michael Steele, the black Negro who heads the Republican National Committee.”

“We gearing up for a showdown with this cracker,” Shabazz said, although it wasn’t clear to whom he was referring. “He keep talking – we going to Capitol Hill, we’re just gearing up right now, we’ll go to Capitol Hill.”

Well, probably not what the Holder Justice Department was anxious to hear as it attempts to stonewall its way through the inquiry. But what’s even more interesting is the apparent “defense” offered by Main Justice for those Obama officials who chose to dismiss the case over the objections of career attorneys: “No actual voters came forward to complain — the objections came from white Republican poll watchers.”

So is that what’s at the root of the case here — the notion that voter-intimidation claims are less than valid if white Republicans bring them? The behavior of the New Black Panther Party members was, after all, captured on videotape, so the conduct of the defendants is really not in dispute. What seems to be gnawing at the liberal legal types, however, is that a voter-intimidation case could be instituted by whites — white Republicans no less.

This only serves to highlight the remarks of Chris Coates, the head of the Justice Department’s trial team, who upon his departure had these pointed words for his colleagues (paraphrased by Hans von Spakovsky):

Since many minority officials are now involved in the administration of elections in many jurisdictions, it is imperative that they believe that the anti-discrimination and anti-intimidation provisions of the Voting Rights Act will be enforced against them by the Justice Department, just as it is imperative that white election officials believe that Justice will enforce the provisions of the Voting Rights Act against them. I fear that actions that indicate that the Justice Department is not in the business of suing minority election officials, or not in the business of filing suits to protect white voters from discrimination or intimidation, will only encourage election officials, who are so inclined, to violate the Voting Rights Act.

I cannot imagine that any lawyers who believe in the rule of law would want to encourage violations of the Voting Rights Act by anyone, whether the wrongdoers are members of a minority group or white people.

It’s hard to believe that had the polling place been in Alabama and the intimidators been clad in KKK garb that the Obama Justice Department would not have proceeded full steam ahead against all defendants to the full extent of the law. But when the roles were reversed, a different standard seemed to apply. Indeed, Coates is no stranger to that double standard of enforcement from the liberal civil rights lawyers who dominate the Civil Rights Division. He explained his experience in a voter-intimidation case he brought when the victims were white and the perpetrator African American:

Selective enforcement of the law, including the Voting Rights Act, on the basis of race is just not fair and does not achieve justice.

I have had many discussions concerning these cases. In one of my discussions concerning the Ike Brown case, I had a lawyer say he was opposed to our filing such suits. When I asked why, he said that only when he could go to Mississippi (perhaps 50 years from now) and find no disparities between the socioeconomic levels of black and white residents, might he support such a suit. But until that day, he did not think that we should be filing voting-rights cases against blacks or on behalf of white voters.

The problem with such enforcement is that it is not in compliance with the statute enacted by Congress. There is simply nothing in the VRA itself or its legislative history that supports the claim that it should not be equally enforced until racial socioeconomic parity is achieved. Such an enforcement policy might be consistent with certain political ideologies, but it is not consistent with the Voting Rights Act that Justice is responsible for enforcing.

And that may be what is at the root of the New Black Panther Party case — the unspoken but endemic belief on the Left that the civil rights laws run only one way. The Obama administration must sense that this is anathema to most Americans. Hence, the stonewall. But having dismissed the New Black Panther Party case, it should now explain its decision and justify that approach to civil rights enforcement. Does the administration really believe that it simply isn’t right to prosecute a case where white Republicans are bringing the claim? It sure does look that way.

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The Times Gets the South Wrong

Could the key to a Democratic victory in November be found south of the Mason-Dixon line? The New York Times suggests so. Touting a surge in black turnout for Barack Obama, The Times points to Tuesday’s special election in Mississippi’s 1st District, where Democrat Travis Childers won a seat that had been held by Republicans since 1995, despite efforts to tie him to Obama. According to The Times, turnout in black precincts rose-in one case doubling-while voting dropped by nearly half in nearby white districts.

But blacks already represent a larger share of voters than their proportion of the population in some key states in the South, which has not helped Democrats much to date. In 2004, blacks in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina made up a bigger share of the electorate than they did the population eligible to vote, but those states went comfortably to George Bush.

The Times seems to miss the point that primary turnout isn’t a good predictor of what will happen in the fall. Democrats almost always hold an advantage in primary turnout over Republicans, but in only two of the last nine presidential elections where Democratic primary turnout exceeded that of Republicans did the Democrat actually win. As for the surge in black registration and turnout, we’ve been seeing a steady trend in this direction for years, but blacks still lag behind whites in voter turnout overall. A Black Southern Strategy won’t solve the Democrats’ major problem, which is their inability to attract enough white voters, especially working class white men, who have shown little affinity for Obama.

Could the key to a Democratic victory in November be found south of the Mason-Dixon line? The New York Times suggests so. Touting a surge in black turnout for Barack Obama, The Times points to Tuesday’s special election in Mississippi’s 1st District, where Democrat Travis Childers won a seat that had been held by Republicans since 1995, despite efforts to tie him to Obama. According to The Times, turnout in black precincts rose-in one case doubling-while voting dropped by nearly half in nearby white districts.

But blacks already represent a larger share of voters than their proportion of the population in some key states in the South, which has not helped Democrats much to date. In 2004, blacks in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina made up a bigger share of the electorate than they did the population eligible to vote, but those states went comfortably to George Bush.

The Times seems to miss the point that primary turnout isn’t a good predictor of what will happen in the fall. Democrats almost always hold an advantage in primary turnout over Republicans, but in only two of the last nine presidential elections where Democratic primary turnout exceeded that of Republicans did the Democrat actually win. As for the surge in black registration and turnout, we’ve been seeing a steady trend in this direction for years, but blacks still lag behind whites in voter turnout overall. A Black Southern Strategy won’t solve the Democrats’ major problem, which is their inability to attract enough white voters, especially working class white men, who have shown little affinity for Obama.

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The McCain Kickoff Tour

The McCain team held a media call to kick off what they internally call the “Bio Tour” and what is formally known as “The Service To America Tour.” With stops at McCain Field in Mississippi, McCain’s high school in Alexandria, Virginia, the U.S. Naval Academy and in Florida (where McCain went to naval flight school) the tour, according to Senior Advisor Steve Schmidt, will start the “formal process of introducing Senator McCain to the American people.” Schmidt explained that they will do this through “personal stories” which show how McCain’s life and values were shaped and which McCain hopes to use to “connect his past to the present and to the future.”

Schmidt was asked by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard about Barack Obama’s association with Tony McPeak and Reverend Wright and what this revealed about Obama’s outlook on Israel. Schmidt began by saying, “Senator McCain just returned from Israel. He is a great friend of Israel.” He then went on to explain that McCain understands the role of Israel in the world’s peace and security and the link between Iraq and Israel, noting that bin Laden had declared that his forces would first defeat the West in Iraq and “then in Israel.” He carefully said, “The American people will make a determination about Barack Obama should he be the nominee.” He did say that McPeak and “others” had made ” a lot of disturbing comments,” but that the focus should be on Obama whose rhetoric is “detached ” from reality and who, Schmidt contends, says he favors a few style of politics but who “day after day makes inaccurate and misleading attacks, many personality based.”

I asked him about Obama’s stated intention to raise income taxes on Americans making $75,000 or more and also raise the capital gains tax. Schmidt responded that after the Bio Tour McCain would devote considerable time to talking about the economy. He then damned Obama with faint praise for being “very articulate and very smooth,” but went on to jab him for contending that taxpayers who make $75,000 are rich. Schmidt said bluntly, ” $75,000 is not rich” and explained that these taxpayers are hardworking people struggling to pay the mortgage and save for college. As for a capital gains tax increase, he said this would have a “disastrous effect on the economy.” He then disputed the conventional wisdom that Democrats would be advantaged in tough economic times, declaring that McCain would win the economic argument and explain how Obama’s tax notions would “literally tank the American economy.”

Other highlights: 1) He denied the allegation by Rep. Heath Shuler that McCain was seeking to block discharge of the SAVE border security bill and 2) When asked about Juan Hernandez (a McCain supporter who has become a lightning rod for criticism from activists who opposed comprehensive immigration reform), Schmidt said that what matters is McCain’s own position: to stress border security first, insist on biometric ID cards and employer sanctions for hiring illegals and only then address the issue of people already here in a “compassionate way.” Pressed again about Hernandez, he repeated that what counts is McCain’s views and went on to say that McCain has consolidated support from conservatives to the same degree George W. Bush had done at the same point in 2000.

Bottom line: Schmidt was careful not to count Hillary Clinton out. But from every indication the McCain team seems prepared and itching to take on Obama.

The McCain team held a media call to kick off what they internally call the “Bio Tour” and what is formally known as “The Service To America Tour.” With stops at McCain Field in Mississippi, McCain’s high school in Alexandria, Virginia, the U.S. Naval Academy and in Florida (where McCain went to naval flight school) the tour, according to Senior Advisor Steve Schmidt, will start the “formal process of introducing Senator McCain to the American people.” Schmidt explained that they will do this through “personal stories” which show how McCain’s life and values were shaped and which McCain hopes to use to “connect his past to the present and to the future.”

Schmidt was asked by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard about Barack Obama’s association with Tony McPeak and Reverend Wright and what this revealed about Obama’s outlook on Israel. Schmidt began by saying, “Senator McCain just returned from Israel. He is a great friend of Israel.” He then went on to explain that McCain understands the role of Israel in the world’s peace and security and the link between Iraq and Israel, noting that bin Laden had declared that his forces would first defeat the West in Iraq and “then in Israel.” He carefully said, “The American people will make a determination about Barack Obama should he be the nominee.” He did say that McPeak and “others” had made ” a lot of disturbing comments,” but that the focus should be on Obama whose rhetoric is “detached ” from reality and who, Schmidt contends, says he favors a few style of politics but who “day after day makes inaccurate and misleading attacks, many personality based.”

I asked him about Obama’s stated intention to raise income taxes on Americans making $75,000 or more and also raise the capital gains tax. Schmidt responded that after the Bio Tour McCain would devote considerable time to talking about the economy. He then damned Obama with faint praise for being “very articulate and very smooth,” but went on to jab him for contending that taxpayers who make $75,000 are rich. Schmidt said bluntly, ” $75,000 is not rich” and explained that these taxpayers are hardworking people struggling to pay the mortgage and save for college. As for a capital gains tax increase, he said this would have a “disastrous effect on the economy.” He then disputed the conventional wisdom that Democrats would be advantaged in tough economic times, declaring that McCain would win the economic argument and explain how Obama’s tax notions would “literally tank the American economy.”

Other highlights: 1) He denied the allegation by Rep. Heath Shuler that McCain was seeking to block discharge of the SAVE border security bill and 2) When asked about Juan Hernandez (a McCain supporter who has become a lightning rod for criticism from activists who opposed comprehensive immigration reform), Schmidt said that what matters is McCain’s own position: to stress border security first, insist on biometric ID cards and employer sanctions for hiring illegals and only then address the issue of people already here in a “compassionate way.” Pressed again about Hernandez, he repeated that what counts is McCain’s views and went on to say that McCain has consolidated support from conservatives to the same degree George W. Bush had done at the same point in 2000.

Bottom line: Schmidt was careful not to count Hillary Clinton out. But from every indication the McCain team seems prepared and itching to take on Obama.

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Math and Non-Math

There are two ways to look at the Democratic race: math and non-math. On the former, Hillary Clinton’s campaign team is usually loath to talk about delegate math. But her people were happy to point out that the gains Barack Obama made in Mississippi were erased by Hillary’s pick up of some late-tabulating delegates from two February 5 states.

However, the real delegate action for Clinton lies in potential re-votes in Michigan and Florida. Should she win in Pennsylvania and those two states, not only will the delegate count look much tighter, but her argument that Obama lacks appeal in diverse, delegate-rich states will get more traction.

On the non-math front, Geraldine Ferraro has been able to give voice to what lies beneath much of the campaigns’ verbal jousting: the contention that, for all his post-racial themes, Obama is simply the beneficiary of racial politics. As Mickey Kaus observes, “If Obama were white, he wouldn’t embody hopes of a post-racial future. Duh! That’s part of his appeal. It seems obvious. Why does Obama dispute it? Why isn’t Ferraro allowed to acknowledge it?” Kaus questions why Obama doesn’t just say: “I think being black helps me in some ways, and hurts me in others. I’m running on my record, on the issues, on my ability to do the best job as President for all Americans, etc.” Well, I think the answer is fairly clear: his record is virtually nonexistent and his stance on issues is practically indistinguishable from Clinton’s.

So Ferraro now has Democrats openly discussing this touchy subject. And that, more than math, is what gives Clinton hope.

There are two ways to look at the Democratic race: math and non-math. On the former, Hillary Clinton’s campaign team is usually loath to talk about delegate math. But her people were happy to point out that the gains Barack Obama made in Mississippi were erased by Hillary’s pick up of some late-tabulating delegates from two February 5 states.

However, the real delegate action for Clinton lies in potential re-votes in Michigan and Florida. Should she win in Pennsylvania and those two states, not only will the delegate count look much tighter, but her argument that Obama lacks appeal in diverse, delegate-rich states will get more traction.

On the non-math front, Geraldine Ferraro has been able to give voice to what lies beneath much of the campaigns’ verbal jousting: the contention that, for all his post-racial themes, Obama is simply the beneficiary of racial politics. As Mickey Kaus observes, “If Obama were white, he wouldn’t embody hopes of a post-racial future. Duh! That’s part of his appeal. It seems obvious. Why does Obama dispute it? Why isn’t Ferraro allowed to acknowledge it?” Kaus questions why Obama doesn’t just say: “I think being black helps me in some ways, and hurts me in others. I’m running on my record, on the issues, on my ability to do the best job as President for all Americans, etc.” Well, I think the answer is fairly clear: his record is virtually nonexistent and his stance on issues is practically indistinguishable from Clinton’s.

So Ferraro now has Democrats openly discussing this touchy subject. And that, more than math, is what gives Clinton hope.

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