Commentary Magazine


Topic: Missouri

Flotsam and Jetsam

Looks like there was good reason to hold up the TSA nominee: “The White House nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration gave Congress misleading information about incidents in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database, possibly in violation of privacy laws, documents obtained by the Washington Post show.”

Another good reason to dump Dennis Blair: “A U.S. counter-terrorism official is sharply challenging the assertion Thursday by Dennis C. Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, that the al-Qaeda terrorist network is ‘diminished.’  .  .  . The U.S. counter-terrorism official told Politico: ‘Blair should, at a minimum, take a mulligan on this. He seems to be suggesting here that al-Qaeda is somehow less of a threat these days. That just ain’t so. And someone should remind him that inexperienced individuals have been responsible for carrying out major attacks. That includes the muscle men on 9/11 and a number of other terrorist attacks since then.'”

A taste of ObamaCare: “The Mayo Clinic, praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little. . . Mayo’s move to drop Medicare patients may be copied by family doctors, some of whom have stopped accepting new patients from the program, said Lori Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.”

Déjà vu all over again: “The former chairman of the 9/11 commission said that communications lapses that allowed a suspected terrorist to board a Detroit jetliner echoed the mistakes leading up to the 9/11 attacks. ‘It’s like reading the same script over again,’ said Thomas H. Kean, the 9/11 investigation’s top Republican and a former governor of New Jersey.”

A revolt is brewing against Gov.Charlie Crist’s state GOP chairman. Sure does seem as though “Charlie Crist is off his game. Way off his game, which was spectacular when it was good. . .Nowadays, Democrats have pretty much abandoned him, and hard-core GOP conservatives are flocking to Marco Rubio. Charlie’s not only lost his mo, he’s lost his mojo.”

Is David Broder kidding? “If there is anyone in the administration who embodies President Obama’s preference for quiet competence with ‘no drama,’ it is Janet Napolitano.” Well, she does seem to embody the essence of the Obama administration, but this is hardly reason for praise.

I suspect most Americans agree with Charles Krauthammer on this one: “The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration’s response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to play down and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. . . Any government can through laxity let someone slip through the cracks. But a government that refuses to admit that we are at war, indeed, refuses even to name the enemy — jihadist is a word banished from the Obama lexicon — turns laxity into a governing philosophy.”

The media elites didn’t make too much of this in the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre, but now they have perked up: “The apparent ties between the Nigerian man charged with plotting to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day and a radical American-born Yemeni imam have cast a spotlight on a world of charismatic clerics who wield their Internet celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda, American officials and counterterrorism specialists said.” But remember that the Obami are nevertheless going to give KSM a  public trial so he can use his “celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda.”

Andy McCarthy on the Obami’s priorities: “Sure, this government can’t figure out how to move someone from the terrorist database to the no-fly list, but you can rest assured they’re fixated on the real problem:  bloggers who report that TSA issued a directive to increase security after the Christmas bombing attempt.”

This is how the housing crisis seems to have started: “The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good.Since President Obama announced the program in February, it has lowered mortgage payments on a trial basis for hundreds of thousands of people but has largely failed to provide permanent relief. Critics increasingly argue that the program, Making Home Affordable, has raised false hopes among people who simply cannot afford their homes.”

Looks like there was good reason to hold up the TSA nominee: “The White House nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration gave Congress misleading information about incidents in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database, possibly in violation of privacy laws, documents obtained by the Washington Post show.”

Another good reason to dump Dennis Blair: “A U.S. counter-terrorism official is sharply challenging the assertion Thursday by Dennis C. Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, that the al-Qaeda terrorist network is ‘diminished.’  .  .  . The U.S. counter-terrorism official told Politico: ‘Blair should, at a minimum, take a mulligan on this. He seems to be suggesting here that al-Qaeda is somehow less of a threat these days. That just ain’t so. And someone should remind him that inexperienced individuals have been responsible for carrying out major attacks. That includes the muscle men on 9/11 and a number of other terrorist attacks since then.'”

A taste of ObamaCare: “The Mayo Clinic, praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little. . . Mayo’s move to drop Medicare patients may be copied by family doctors, some of whom have stopped accepting new patients from the program, said Lori Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.”

Déjà vu all over again: “The former chairman of the 9/11 commission said that communications lapses that allowed a suspected terrorist to board a Detroit jetliner echoed the mistakes leading up to the 9/11 attacks. ‘It’s like reading the same script over again,’ said Thomas H. Kean, the 9/11 investigation’s top Republican and a former governor of New Jersey.”

A revolt is brewing against Gov.Charlie Crist’s state GOP chairman. Sure does seem as though “Charlie Crist is off his game. Way off his game, which was spectacular when it was good. . .Nowadays, Democrats have pretty much abandoned him, and hard-core GOP conservatives are flocking to Marco Rubio. Charlie’s not only lost his mo, he’s lost his mojo.”

Is David Broder kidding? “If there is anyone in the administration who embodies President Obama’s preference for quiet competence with ‘no drama,’ it is Janet Napolitano.” Well, she does seem to embody the essence of the Obama administration, but this is hardly reason for praise.

I suspect most Americans agree with Charles Krauthammer on this one: “The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration’s response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to play down and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. . . Any government can through laxity let someone slip through the cracks. But a government that refuses to admit that we are at war, indeed, refuses even to name the enemy — jihadist is a word banished from the Obama lexicon — turns laxity into a governing philosophy.”

The media elites didn’t make too much of this in the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre, but now they have perked up: “The apparent ties between the Nigerian man charged with plotting to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day and a radical American-born Yemeni imam have cast a spotlight on a world of charismatic clerics who wield their Internet celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda, American officials and counterterrorism specialists said.” But remember that the Obami are nevertheless going to give KSM a  public trial so he can use his “celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda.”

Andy McCarthy on the Obami’s priorities: “Sure, this government can’t figure out how to move someone from the terrorist database to the no-fly list, but you can rest assured they’re fixated on the real problem:  bloggers who report that TSA issued a directive to increase security after the Christmas bombing attempt.”

This is how the housing crisis seems to have started: “The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good.Since President Obama announced the program in February, it has lowered mortgage payments on a trial basis for hundreds of thousands of people but has largely failed to provide permanent relief. Critics increasingly argue that the program, Making Home Affordable, has raised false hopes among people who simply cannot afford their homes.”

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The Unraveling

As this report explains, the Obama coalition — made up of diverse groups with conflicting understandings of what he was all about — may be unraveling. There is the “specifically eroding support among young voters and independents — in part because of the president’s economic agenda.” Well, these groups and others have reason to be put off by Obamaism and the Democrats in Congress who have been enabling the lurch to the Left.

With unemployment sky-high among young workers and the prospect of a new mandate to buy health insurance they don’t want and can’t afford, younger voters (who aren’t inclined to turn out in off-year elections anyway) may stand on the sidelines in 2010. In August Michael Barone detailed the anti-youth aspects of Obama’s agenda, noting that even Obama’s cynical foreign policy and indifference to human-rights and democracy promotion don’t offer much for those who bought into the hope-n-change routine:

That leads me to wonder whether you were dismayed when Obama responded with stony indifference to the people in the streets of Iran protesting a fraudulent election and demanding freedom and democracy. Some called for the end of a regime that subordinates women and executes homosexuals, things I’m sure you don’t like at all. Although Obama eventually indicated some sympathy, he seemed to regard those demands as a nuisance getting in the way of negotiating with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs.

Independents seem to be souring on Obamaism — huge spending, nasty partisanship, and massive debt. Then there are wealthy voters who are discovering just how expensive Obama’s economic agenda might be. In June the Wall Street Journal reported:

Recently elected Democrats from higher-income areas also have been cautious about legislation that would make it easier for labor unions to organize, and about legislation imposing tough new rules on banks. Republicans have savaged the new Democrats for supporting legislation to stem global warming by capping greenhouse-gas emissions, then forcing polluters to purchase and trade emissions.

The real kicker will be the Democrats’ insistence on a massive tax hike — allowing the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire. Combined with health-care taxes, marginal rates on the wealthy may return to pre-Reagan-tax-cut levels. That will be quite a wake-up call for the professional class that supported Obama in great numbers. Congressmen are not unaware of this:

“They’re just hanging themselves,” says Republican Rep. Sam Graves, who last year beat back a spirited challenge in his northwestern Missouri district, which includes suburban Kansas City, and said he is looking forward to a race on taxes in 2010.

The tax issue is presenting many new Democrats with a quandary as they struggle to get their political footing. “These members are going to have to make their own determinations on how to balance these interests,” said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and himself a representative of the affluent suburbs of Washington.

And finally, the Left is now miffed at Obama for failing to live up to netroots’ fondest dreams. They haven’t gotten gay marriage, a pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan, or repeal of the Patriot Act. They are grumbling that insufficient progress has been made on their extreme environmental agenda.

In sum, Obama is losing factions of his political coalition in record speed as these groups learn what his agenda is all about. His Democratic allies are likely to bear the brunt of that in 2010 — at a time when the economy has not yet recovered and unemployment is still high. This is why 2010 may, in fact, be a “wave” election and a bracing wake-up call for the White House.

As this report explains, the Obama coalition — made up of diverse groups with conflicting understandings of what he was all about — may be unraveling. There is the “specifically eroding support among young voters and independents — in part because of the president’s economic agenda.” Well, these groups and others have reason to be put off by Obamaism and the Democrats in Congress who have been enabling the lurch to the Left.

With unemployment sky-high among young workers and the prospect of a new mandate to buy health insurance they don’t want and can’t afford, younger voters (who aren’t inclined to turn out in off-year elections anyway) may stand on the sidelines in 2010. In August Michael Barone detailed the anti-youth aspects of Obama’s agenda, noting that even Obama’s cynical foreign policy and indifference to human-rights and democracy promotion don’t offer much for those who bought into the hope-n-change routine:

That leads me to wonder whether you were dismayed when Obama responded with stony indifference to the people in the streets of Iran protesting a fraudulent election and demanding freedom and democracy. Some called for the end of a regime that subordinates women and executes homosexuals, things I’m sure you don’t like at all. Although Obama eventually indicated some sympathy, he seemed to regard those demands as a nuisance getting in the way of negotiating with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs.

Independents seem to be souring on Obamaism — huge spending, nasty partisanship, and massive debt. Then there are wealthy voters who are discovering just how expensive Obama’s economic agenda might be. In June the Wall Street Journal reported:

Recently elected Democrats from higher-income areas also have been cautious about legislation that would make it easier for labor unions to organize, and about legislation imposing tough new rules on banks. Republicans have savaged the new Democrats for supporting legislation to stem global warming by capping greenhouse-gas emissions, then forcing polluters to purchase and trade emissions.

The real kicker will be the Democrats’ insistence on a massive tax hike — allowing the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire. Combined with health-care taxes, marginal rates on the wealthy may return to pre-Reagan-tax-cut levels. That will be quite a wake-up call for the professional class that supported Obama in great numbers. Congressmen are not unaware of this:

“They’re just hanging themselves,” says Republican Rep. Sam Graves, who last year beat back a spirited challenge in his northwestern Missouri district, which includes suburban Kansas City, and said he is looking forward to a race on taxes in 2010.

The tax issue is presenting many new Democrats with a quandary as they struggle to get their political footing. “These members are going to have to make their own determinations on how to balance these interests,” said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and himself a representative of the affluent suburbs of Washington.

And finally, the Left is now miffed at Obama for failing to live up to netroots’ fondest dreams. They haven’t gotten gay marriage, a pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan, or repeal of the Patriot Act. They are grumbling that insufficient progress has been made on their extreme environmental agenda.

In sum, Obama is losing factions of his political coalition in record speed as these groups learn what his agenda is all about. His Democratic allies are likely to bear the brunt of that in 2010 — at a time when the economy has not yet recovered and unemployment is still high. This is why 2010 may, in fact, be a “wave” election and a bracing wake-up call for the White House.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama drops below 50% approval in Gallup.

The cap-and-trade bill is so bad even John McCain opposes it. “McCain refers to the bill as ‘cap and tax,’ calls the climate legislation that passed the House in June ‘a 1,400-page monstrosity’ and dismisses a cap-and-trade proposal included in the White House budget as ‘a government slush fund.'”

A Democrat breaks with the White House on trying KSM in civilian court: “The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee expressed opposition today to Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to give civilian trials to the 9/11 plotters. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) penned a letter to Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggesting military trials would be a more appropriate venue for the accused terrorists. ”

Another slighted democratic ally: “Days before India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to be welcomed in the White House for his first state visit with President Obama, two perceived missteps by the Obama administration have concerned Indian officials that New Delhi suddenly has been relegated to the second tier of U.S.-Asian relations.” When is it that we start “restoring” our standing in the world?

Sen. Jon Kyl wants answers from the Justice Department regarding the NIAC.

Trouble in the “permanent majority“: “The Democratic Party’s broad ruling coalition is starting to fracture as lawmakers come under increasing pressure from the left to respond to voter anger over joblessness and Wall Street bailouts. Tensions boiled over this week, with an angry party caucus meeting Monday in the House, and black lawmakers Thursday threatening to block legislation in protest of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.  . . The squabbling is turning up pressure on the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress to respond, a challenge when their focus is on passing a health-care overhaul.” What a difference a year of one-party Democratic liberal rule makes.

Democrats insist that 2010 won’t be another 1994. However, “danger could lurk if turnout is low, factors that hurt Dem GOV candidates in NJ and VA this year.” In other words, if things keep going the way they have been, a lot of Democrats will be in trouble.

She must not have gotten the new script. This week we are being supportive of the Afghan government: “Calling Afghan President Hamid Karzai an ‘unworthy partner,’ a key Democratic leader warned Friday that Congress cannot fund an expanded military mission without a reliable ally in Kabul. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said moreover she did not think there was political support for sending more US troops to Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama is contemplating.”

The Obama team may not be able to give Big Labor card check but they haven’t run out of goodies: “The National Mediation Board, which oversees labor relations in the air and rail industry, this month moved to overturn 75 years of labor policy. The board plans to stack the deck for organized labor in union elections. Under a proposed rule, unions would no longer have to get the approval of a majority of airline workers to achieve certification. Not even close. Instead, a union could win just by getting a majority of the employees who vote. Thus, if only 1,000 of 10,000 flight attendants vote in a union election, and 501 vote for certification, the other 9,499 become unionized.”

Obama drops below 50% approval in Gallup.

The cap-and-trade bill is so bad even John McCain opposes it. “McCain refers to the bill as ‘cap and tax,’ calls the climate legislation that passed the House in June ‘a 1,400-page monstrosity’ and dismisses a cap-and-trade proposal included in the White House budget as ‘a government slush fund.'”

A Democrat breaks with the White House on trying KSM in civilian court: “The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee expressed opposition today to Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to give civilian trials to the 9/11 plotters. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) penned a letter to Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggesting military trials would be a more appropriate venue for the accused terrorists. ”

Another slighted democratic ally: “Days before India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to be welcomed in the White House for his first state visit with President Obama, two perceived missteps by the Obama administration have concerned Indian officials that New Delhi suddenly has been relegated to the second tier of U.S.-Asian relations.” When is it that we start “restoring” our standing in the world?

Sen. Jon Kyl wants answers from the Justice Department regarding the NIAC.

Trouble in the “permanent majority“: “The Democratic Party’s broad ruling coalition is starting to fracture as lawmakers come under increasing pressure from the left to respond to voter anger over joblessness and Wall Street bailouts. Tensions boiled over this week, with an angry party caucus meeting Monday in the House, and black lawmakers Thursday threatening to block legislation in protest of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.  . . The squabbling is turning up pressure on the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress to respond, a challenge when their focus is on passing a health-care overhaul.” What a difference a year of one-party Democratic liberal rule makes.

Democrats insist that 2010 won’t be another 1994. However, “danger could lurk if turnout is low, factors that hurt Dem GOV candidates in NJ and VA this year.” In other words, if things keep going the way they have been, a lot of Democrats will be in trouble.

She must not have gotten the new script. This week we are being supportive of the Afghan government: “Calling Afghan President Hamid Karzai an ‘unworthy partner,’ a key Democratic leader warned Friday that Congress cannot fund an expanded military mission without a reliable ally in Kabul. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said moreover she did not think there was political support for sending more US troops to Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama is contemplating.”

The Obama team may not be able to give Big Labor card check but they haven’t run out of goodies: “The National Mediation Board, which oversees labor relations in the air and rail industry, this month moved to overturn 75 years of labor policy. The board plans to stack the deck for organized labor in union elections. Under a proposed rule, unions would no longer have to get the approval of a majority of airline workers to achieve certification. Not even close. Instead, a union could win just by getting a majority of the employees who vote. Thus, if only 1,000 of 10,000 flight attendants vote in a union election, and 501 vote for certification, the other 9,499 become unionized.”

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Can We Leave Yet?

It sounds like a joke: Obama has agonized for months already on his Afghanistan war strategy and has yet to make a decision, so he skipped to the exit strategy. No, really:

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have turned the focus of Afghan war planning toward an exit strategy, publicly declaring that the U.S. and its allies can’t send additional troops without a plan for getting them out.

The shift has unnerved some U.S. and foreign officials, who say that planning a pullout now — with or without a specific timetable — encourages the Taliban to wait out foreign forces and exacerbates fears in the region that the U.S. isn’t fully committed to their security.

“It’s not a good idea,” said Rep. Ike Skelton (D., Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Not a good idea at all. This simply reinforces the image of an irresolute president who’d rather not do what it takes to win a war that he once declared to be critical. As Skelton explains: “When the area has been stabilized … then it’s time to go home. But to set up a timetable for people in that neck of the woods, they’ll just wait us out.” But there’s no firm deadline for withdrawal, the Obami hastened to add. Well, that’s a good thing, perhaps one lesson learned from their Iraq posturing. But Obama’s image still remains: can’t manage to commit and can’t wait to get out. Not good in a potential spouse, horrid in a commander in chief.

It sounds like a joke: Obama has agonized for months already on his Afghanistan war strategy and has yet to make a decision, so he skipped to the exit strategy. No, really:

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have turned the focus of Afghan war planning toward an exit strategy, publicly declaring that the U.S. and its allies can’t send additional troops without a plan for getting them out.

The shift has unnerved some U.S. and foreign officials, who say that planning a pullout now — with or without a specific timetable — encourages the Taliban to wait out foreign forces and exacerbates fears in the region that the U.S. isn’t fully committed to their security.

“It’s not a good idea,” said Rep. Ike Skelton (D., Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Not a good idea at all. This simply reinforces the image of an irresolute president who’d rather not do what it takes to win a war that he once declared to be critical. As Skelton explains: “When the area has been stabilized … then it’s time to go home. But to set up a timetable for people in that neck of the woods, they’ll just wait us out.” But there’s no firm deadline for withdrawal, the Obami hastened to add. Well, that’s a good thing, perhaps one lesson learned from their Iraq posturing. But Obama’s image still remains: can’t manage to commit and can’t wait to get out. Not good in a potential spouse, horrid in a commander in chief.

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One Down

Well, well — it seems that reality has poked its head into the U.S. Senate. This report explains:

Senate Democratic leaders said Tuesday they would put off debate on a big climate-change bill until spring, in a sign of weakening political will to tackle a long-term environmental issue at a time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty.

And if they can’t get a massive tax and regulatory bill through now, how are they going to get it passed in an election year? One suspects they won’t and it’s dead. But this was a top Obama priority (“The climate-bill delay sidetracks one of President Barack Obama’s top domestic priorities. Mr. Obama has said action to curb greenhouse gases would unleash investment in clean-energy technology and create jobs”). Couldn’t he use his power of persuasion to get this through? Apparently not. While Nancy Pelosi could force her troops to walk the plank (for nothing, it turned out), the ensuing backlash has cooled whatever enthusiasm there was for this. And 10.2 percent unemployment didn’t help either:

Momentum for a climate bill has been undermined by fears that capping carbon-dioxide emissions — the inevitable product of burning oil and coal — would slow economic growth, raise energy costs and compel changes in the way Americans live.

“It’s really big, really, really hard, and is going to make a lot of people mad,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.).

Democrats looking ahead to the 2010 midterm elections are concerned about a backlash from voters in industrial and heartland states dependent on coal. Republicans are portraying Democrats’ “cap and trade” proposals, which call for capping overall U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions and allowing companies to buy and trade permits to emit those gases, as a “cap and tax” scheme.

You don’t suppose a similar sentiment might take hold on health-care reform, do you? Stay tuned.

Well, well — it seems that reality has poked its head into the U.S. Senate. This report explains:

Senate Democratic leaders said Tuesday they would put off debate on a big climate-change bill until spring, in a sign of weakening political will to tackle a long-term environmental issue at a time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty.

And if they can’t get a massive tax and regulatory bill through now, how are they going to get it passed in an election year? One suspects they won’t and it’s dead. But this was a top Obama priority (“The climate-bill delay sidetracks one of President Barack Obama’s top domestic priorities. Mr. Obama has said action to curb greenhouse gases would unleash investment in clean-energy technology and create jobs”). Couldn’t he use his power of persuasion to get this through? Apparently not. While Nancy Pelosi could force her troops to walk the plank (for nothing, it turned out), the ensuing backlash has cooled whatever enthusiasm there was for this. And 10.2 percent unemployment didn’t help either:

Momentum for a climate bill has been undermined by fears that capping carbon-dioxide emissions — the inevitable product of burning oil and coal — would slow economic growth, raise energy costs and compel changes in the way Americans live.

“It’s really big, really, really hard, and is going to make a lot of people mad,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.).

Democrats looking ahead to the 2010 midterm elections are concerned about a backlash from voters in industrial and heartland states dependent on coal. Republicans are portraying Democrats’ “cap and trade” proposals, which call for capping overall U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions and allowing companies to buy and trade permits to emit those gases, as a “cap and tax” scheme.

You don’t suppose a similar sentiment might take hold on health-care reform, do you? Stay tuned.

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Obama’s Map

I agree with Jennifer that if Obama cannot win Florida – and the high percentage of retired military there would seem to make his inability to win there a certainty – the electoral college map is much more difficult for him. To beat McCain without Florida, Obama needs to win the states that Bush won in 2004 by a margin of fewer than 5 points. Yet that turns out to be most of the places where Obama has had problems with his own party, like Ohio — or New Mexico, Nevada, and Missouri, where he essentially split the vote with Clinton. He also needs to worry about protecting those states that Kerry won in ’04 by small margins: New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, or Michigan, which haven’t exactly been hothouses of Obamamania. True, Obama has pickup opportunities in Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, and Nevada. But all the math suggests this could be a close race that tosses out a lot of the old red/blue assumptions.

Whatever your conclusion, it should be clear to serious students of the electoral college that the presidential race is really focused on about ten battleground states. The fact that Obama had a huge win in North Carolina is essentially irrelevant in November, something that Newsweek, “Good Morning America,” et al. never seem to get.

I agree with Jennifer that if Obama cannot win Florida – and the high percentage of retired military there would seem to make his inability to win there a certainty – the electoral college map is much more difficult for him. To beat McCain without Florida, Obama needs to win the states that Bush won in 2004 by a margin of fewer than 5 points. Yet that turns out to be most of the places where Obama has had problems with his own party, like Ohio — or New Mexico, Nevada, and Missouri, where he essentially split the vote with Clinton. He also needs to worry about protecting those states that Kerry won in ’04 by small margins: New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, or Michigan, which haven’t exactly been hothouses of Obamamania. True, Obama has pickup opportunities in Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, and Nevada. But all the math suggests this could be a close race that tosses out a lot of the old red/blue assumptions.

Whatever your conclusion, it should be clear to serious students of the electoral college that the presidential race is really focused on about ten battleground states. The fact that Obama had a huge win in North Carolina is essentially irrelevant in November, something that Newsweek, “Good Morning America,” et al. never seem to get.

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More on the Hearings

There are many things to say about today’s Senate testimonies of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. But what has struck me, so far, are the following.

The first is that in Petraeus and Crocker you see two men who embody excellence, a wonderful thing to see in any field of human endeavor. It’s especially comforting to find it in a place as important and fragile as Iraq. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are informed, careful, candid, and wholly in command. They have a complicated story to tell–and they tell it very, very well.

The second thing I noticed was how respectful and strong Petraeus and Crocker are. Senator Bayh (D-Indiana), for example, asked a question whose purpose was to get General Petraeus to say that those who disagree with Petraeus’ strategy are just as patriotic as those who agree with his strategy. General Petraeus made the right and obvious rejoinder: one of the reasons we fight for freedom is to allow people to hold different opinions. But he also made a powerful case that (these are my words, not his) not all opinions are equally valid or informed – and that the wrong opinions, animating wrong decisions, can have terrible consequences.

The third thing that jumped out at me is the vast ignorance of many Senators. For example, Senator McCaskill (D-Missouri) appears wed to a particular (defeatist) narrative regarding Basra: it was, she insisted, a terrible loss for Prime Minister Maliki, a big win for Muqtada al-Sadr, and evidence that the Iraq project is falling apart.

Ambassador Crocker patiently explained why this interpretation is wrong. He pointed out that there is actually fairly widespread support throughout Iraq for Maliki’s efforts, that there is a strong popular reaction against Shia militias, and that Sadr appears to be putting some distance between himself and elements of the Jaish al Mahdi (JAM) militia. These are all important data points.

General Petraeus made many of the same observations in response to previous questions. He pointed out that planning of the Basra operation left a lot to be desired–but that the Iraqi government’s willingness to take the battle to the enemy was encouraging. He acknowledged the troubling defections we saw within the ranks of the Iraqis–and told about the very impressive and heartening conduct of most of the ISF. Things are still playing out in Basra–but some of the early stumbles seem to have been corrected, adjustments are being made, and things are better now than they were. This is, in some ways, the story of Iraq writ large.

What we’re getting, and not only from Senators critical of the war, is posturing. Many Senators appear far more interested in making speeches than they do in asking pertinent questions. Iraq is a fluid situation–yet so many political figures have made up their mind. They act as if things are frozen in amber, as if a snapshot in time is a permanent state of things. And they seem wholly uninterested in increasing their understanding of the facts on the ground–especially if the facts on the ground demonstrate progress. Petraeus and Crocker, at least, are nuanced and knowledgeable. Which is, unfortunately, something rarely found on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

There are many things to say about today’s Senate testimonies of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. But what has struck me, so far, are the following.

The first is that in Petraeus and Crocker you see two men who embody excellence, a wonderful thing to see in any field of human endeavor. It’s especially comforting to find it in a place as important and fragile as Iraq. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are informed, careful, candid, and wholly in command. They have a complicated story to tell–and they tell it very, very well.

The second thing I noticed was how respectful and strong Petraeus and Crocker are. Senator Bayh (D-Indiana), for example, asked a question whose purpose was to get General Petraeus to say that those who disagree with Petraeus’ strategy are just as patriotic as those who agree with his strategy. General Petraeus made the right and obvious rejoinder: one of the reasons we fight for freedom is to allow people to hold different opinions. But he also made a powerful case that (these are my words, not his) not all opinions are equally valid or informed – and that the wrong opinions, animating wrong decisions, can have terrible consequences.

The third thing that jumped out at me is the vast ignorance of many Senators. For example, Senator McCaskill (D-Missouri) appears wed to a particular (defeatist) narrative regarding Basra: it was, she insisted, a terrible loss for Prime Minister Maliki, a big win for Muqtada al-Sadr, and evidence that the Iraq project is falling apart.

Ambassador Crocker patiently explained why this interpretation is wrong. He pointed out that there is actually fairly widespread support throughout Iraq for Maliki’s efforts, that there is a strong popular reaction against Shia militias, and that Sadr appears to be putting some distance between himself and elements of the Jaish al Mahdi (JAM) militia. These are all important data points.

General Petraeus made many of the same observations in response to previous questions. He pointed out that planning of the Basra operation left a lot to be desired–but that the Iraqi government’s willingness to take the battle to the enemy was encouraging. He acknowledged the troubling defections we saw within the ranks of the Iraqis–and told about the very impressive and heartening conduct of most of the ISF. Things are still playing out in Basra–but some of the early stumbles seem to have been corrected, adjustments are being made, and things are better now than they were. This is, in some ways, the story of Iraq writ large.

What we’re getting, and not only from Senators critical of the war, is posturing. Many Senators appear far more interested in making speeches than they do in asking pertinent questions. Iraq is a fluid situation–yet so many political figures have made up their mind. They act as if things are frozen in amber, as if a snapshot in time is a permanent state of things. And they seem wholly uninterested in increasing their understanding of the facts on the ground–especially if the facts on the ground demonstrate progress. Petraeus and Crocker, at least, are nuanced and knowledgeable. Which is, unfortunately, something rarely found on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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The Gore Option

It was not so long ago that, after a debate in Hollywood between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Democrats (and some media cheerleaders) enthused that the party would do well to have either one of them as candidates.

Well, that was then and this is now. Clinton’s favorable rating sunk to 37% in the last NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Democrats are fretting that Obama’s association with Reverend Wright and refusal to make a clean break with his “mentor” has doomed his chances with white, working class voters. John McCain now leads both Democrats in a number of key swing states including Ohio, Florida and Missouri.

What to do? Joe Klein offered up a solution: Al Gore. The superdelegates, he postulated, faced with a choice between a faltering Obama or a Clinton seeking to snatch the nomination from the pledged delegate winner instead, could turn to Gore “for the good of the party.” While Klein’s admittedly far-fetched scheme seems ripped from an Allen Drury novel, it does point to a troubling conclusion the Democrats are slowly reaching: neither one of their candidates matches up very well against John McCain.

Why would they turn to Gore? Well, he has no racial baggage, having never associated himself with a hate-mongering preacher or disparaged his opponent as another Jesse Jackson. He has actual experience in foreign and domestic policy. He has international stature as the guru of global warming. Gore even has a spouse who is not a liability. We can argue about the wisdom of his policy positions. But we’re dealing with Democrats looking for a deus ex machina.

And what does that say in turn about the most likely nominee, Obama? He is the un-Gore. Obama sports a giant potential liability in his association with Wright. He lacks any real governing expertise or track record. He has never been in any executive role. For independents he may simply seem too callow and untested to be trusted with national security. So it’s little wonder that Democrats are developing a serious case of buyer’s remorse.

It would seem then that the “Gore Option” is further proof–if any was needed–that Democrats are growing increasingly queasy about the person most likely to gain the nomination. Yet they just can’t bring themselves to accept Clinton as the alternative.

It was not so long ago that, after a debate in Hollywood between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Democrats (and some media cheerleaders) enthused that the party would do well to have either one of them as candidates.

Well, that was then and this is now. Clinton’s favorable rating sunk to 37% in the last NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Democrats are fretting that Obama’s association with Reverend Wright and refusal to make a clean break with his “mentor” has doomed his chances with white, working class voters. John McCain now leads both Democrats in a number of key swing states including Ohio, Florida and Missouri.

What to do? Joe Klein offered up a solution: Al Gore. The superdelegates, he postulated, faced with a choice between a faltering Obama or a Clinton seeking to snatch the nomination from the pledged delegate winner instead, could turn to Gore “for the good of the party.” While Klein’s admittedly far-fetched scheme seems ripped from an Allen Drury novel, it does point to a troubling conclusion the Democrats are slowly reaching: neither one of their candidates matches up very well against John McCain.

Why would they turn to Gore? Well, he has no racial baggage, having never associated himself with a hate-mongering preacher or disparaged his opponent as another Jesse Jackson. He has actual experience in foreign and domestic policy. He has international stature as the guru of global warming. Gore even has a spouse who is not a liability. We can argue about the wisdom of his policy positions. But we’re dealing with Democrats looking for a deus ex machina.

And what does that say in turn about the most likely nominee, Obama? He is the un-Gore. Obama sports a giant potential liability in his association with Wright. He lacks any real governing expertise or track record. He has never been in any executive role. For independents he may simply seem too callow and untested to be trusted with national security. So it’s little wonder that Democrats are developing a serious case of buyer’s remorse.

It would seem then that the “Gore Option” is further proof–if any was needed–that Democrats are growing increasingly queasy about the person most likely to gain the nomination. Yet they just can’t bring themselves to accept Clinton as the alternative.

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Advice From Different Quarters

I do not know if Mitt Romney will follow Bill Kristol’s advice from last night and say his goodbyes at the CPAC gathering tomorrow. Having done so poorly in the South, come in third in Missouri, and lost California, there seems to be little point–other than to perpetuate the animosity within the GOP–to forging on. I think it is telling Romney did not in his speech last night argue that he was the conservative hope for the party or that only he could keep the Reagan coalition together.

At some point, he and the McCain detractors should take time to consider Haley Barbour’s advice about a time for ending intra-party hostilities. Barbour, both in jovial tone and in concern for the party’s fate, provides a model for others who may have backed other horses but wake up today with a single, viable frontrunner. Come to think of it , Barbour might make a pretty good Vice President.

I do not know if Mitt Romney will follow Bill Kristol’s advice from last night and say his goodbyes at the CPAC gathering tomorrow. Having done so poorly in the South, come in third in Missouri, and lost California, there seems to be little point–other than to perpetuate the animosity within the GOP–to forging on. I think it is telling Romney did not in his speech last night argue that he was the conservative hope for the party or that only he could keep the Reagan coalition together.

At some point, he and the McCain detractors should take time to consider Haley Barbour’s advice about a time for ending intra-party hostilities. Barbour, both in jovial tone and in concern for the party’s fate, provides a model for others who may have backed other horses but wake up today with a single, viable frontrunner. Come to think of it , Barbour might make a pretty good Vice President.

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They Sort of Did

Certainly it was not an entirely successful night for the “Yes, we can” forces, but with Missouri shifting to their column they have reason to be pleased. Yes, they lost California and New Jersey, but they won 13 states by my count. The arcane delegate allocation rules may give Obama more delegates for the night. It was not everything they hoped and the wave did not quite topple Clinton, but they probably have enough wins under their belts to keep their faithful together and march onto Virginia, Maryland and D.C. which may be fine delegate-hunting grounds for him.

Certainly it was not an entirely successful night for the “Yes, we can” forces, but with Missouri shifting to their column they have reason to be pleased. Yes, they lost California and New Jersey, but they won 13 states by my count. The arcane delegate allocation rules may give Obama more delegates for the night. It was not everything they hoped and the wave did not quite topple Clinton, but they probably have enough wins under their belts to keep their faithful together and march onto Virginia, Maryland and D.C. which may be fine delegate-hunting grounds for him.

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McCaskill 1, Kennedys 0

Sen. Claire McCaskill’s endorsement appears to have propelled Obama to victory in Missouri, where he trailed in polls by double digits only two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Ted Kennedy failed Obama in Massachusetts and Maria Shriver failed Obama in California. So much for Camelot’s mystique.

Sen. Claire McCaskill’s endorsement appears to have propelled Obama to victory in Missouri, where he trailed in polls by double digits only two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Ted Kennedy failed Obama in Massachusetts and Maria Shriver failed Obama in California. So much for Camelot’s mystique.

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Missouri In McCain’s Pile

This is an important and traditional bellwether state. It is a narrow win, but a win. Romney came in third. Again, it is hard to find any legitimate avenue for him to go forward, unless he pulls out California.

This is an important and traditional bellwether state. It is a narrow win, but a win. Romney came in third. Again, it is hard to find any legitimate avenue for him to go forward, unless he pulls out California.

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A Vote For Huckabee, Is A Vote For Huckabee

Huckabee adds Arkansas, for a total of three states (including the West Virginia caucus). He could also win Georgia and Alabama. That would be five states. Romney so far has Massachusetts. (Do they listen to a lot of talk show radio there?) Unless Romney can pull out Missouri and/or California he will have little rationale for continuing. If you lose the Northeast, California and the South where do you go from there?

And McCain picks up winner-take-all Delaware.

Huckabee adds Arkansas, for a total of three states (including the West Virginia caucus). He could also win Georgia and Alabama. That would be five states. Romney so far has Massachusetts. (Do they listen to a lot of talk show radio there?) Unless Romney can pull out Missouri and/or California he will have little rationale for continuing. If you lose the Northeast, California and the South where do you go from there?

And McCain picks up winner-take-all Delaware.

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Looking Ahead To Tuesday And Beyond

As goes Nevada, so goes Maine. Yes, the delegates are non-binding, but it does show that Mitt Romney’s problem was not lack of organization, money or effort.

Elsewhere, there is good polling news for John McCain. A batch of Sunday McClatchy-MSNBC polls shows him ahead in California, Missouri, Georgia and New Jersey by comfortable margins. He holds a 2 to 1 advantage over Romney in the latest national polls. He collected endorsements in Georgia and Massachusetts (a number of names were on Rudy’s list previously) on Saturday. Romney has been trying to suggest that the race will not end on Tuesday, but the delegate math and Romney’s chosen campaign locales may suggest otherwise.

If this plays out as expected on Tuesday, there will be plenty still for McCain to do. Fred Barnes ends his thoughtful column on what McCain might do after Tuesday by quoting Barry Goldwater’s advice (“Let’s grow up, conservatives”), but not everyone has finished with their temper tantrums. (Sometimes it is wise to put up one’s hand and, in effect, say “count me out” of the ranting.)

McCain took a nice step in the right direction this morning on Fox News Sunday with a sunny, poised performance. He evinced every intention of reaching out to conservatives and committed to vetoing any Democratic tax hike and to appointing judges like Justices Alito and Roberts, even though they might strike down the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. (He had an amusing interchange with Hillary Clinton as well, as they both momentarily dispensed with their primary rivals and agreed they would have a spirited campaign. I’m sure Ann Coulter would be disappointed to see both agree what stark differences they would present.)

On the Democratic side, the proportional voting system in all states will lead to less decisive results on Tuesday. There are some signs that Barack Obama is making progress. He is within two points in California. He has narrowed the gap in national polls. Clinton, as the polls indicate, has an advantage in several states with large blocks of delegates. However, if Obama can win (or come close) in California and win in Illinois(where he leads comfortably), he will stay in the hunt and move on to friendlier territory in the following week’s contests in Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

As goes Nevada, so goes Maine. Yes, the delegates are non-binding, but it does show that Mitt Romney’s problem was not lack of organization, money or effort.

Elsewhere, there is good polling news for John McCain. A batch of Sunday McClatchy-MSNBC polls shows him ahead in California, Missouri, Georgia and New Jersey by comfortable margins. He holds a 2 to 1 advantage over Romney in the latest national polls. He collected endorsements in Georgia and Massachusetts (a number of names were on Rudy’s list previously) on Saturday. Romney has been trying to suggest that the race will not end on Tuesday, but the delegate math and Romney’s chosen campaign locales may suggest otherwise.

If this plays out as expected on Tuesday, there will be plenty still for McCain to do. Fred Barnes ends his thoughtful column on what McCain might do after Tuesday by quoting Barry Goldwater’s advice (“Let’s grow up, conservatives”), but not everyone has finished with their temper tantrums. (Sometimes it is wise to put up one’s hand and, in effect, say “count me out” of the ranting.)

McCain took a nice step in the right direction this morning on Fox News Sunday with a sunny, poised performance. He evinced every intention of reaching out to conservatives and committed to vetoing any Democratic tax hike and to appointing judges like Justices Alito and Roberts, even though they might strike down the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. (He had an amusing interchange with Hillary Clinton as well, as they both momentarily dispensed with their primary rivals and agreed they would have a spirited campaign. I’m sure Ann Coulter would be disappointed to see both agree what stark differences they would present.)

On the Democratic side, the proportional voting system in all states will lead to less decisive results on Tuesday. There are some signs that Barack Obama is making progress. He is within two points in California. He has narrowed the gap in national polls. Clinton, as the polls indicate, has an advantage in several states with large blocks of delegates. However, if Obama can win (or come close) in California and win in Illinois(where he leads comfortably), he will stay in the hunt and move on to friendlier territory in the following week’s contests in Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

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What Happens Wednesday?

Beginning Wednesday, we will be in the midst of a phenomenon we have never experienced: a national primary. On the Republican side, we have twenty-one states, including California (173 delegates) and winner-take-all contests in big delegate states like New York (101), New Jersey (52), Missouri (58), and Arizona (53). John McCain is ahead by solid, but not insurmountable margins, in New York, New Jersey and California. Huckabee is competitive in Missouri and is well positioned in deep Red states like Georgia and Alabama. So far, Romney has the edge in Utah, Massachusetts, and Colorado.Should McCain’s post-Crist endorsement momentum result in a Florida win, there is every reason to believe he will hold his leads in the big three February 5 states of New York, New Jersey, and California (a total of 153 winner-take-all delegates and 173 proportionally awarded California delegates) and do quite well in the remainder. Retail politicking is out, obviously; what remains is paid and free media. Part of that is the national media coverage of the “frontrunner” in national polling, which will create something of a bandwagon effect for McCain. An added factor in his favor: even if Rudy remains in the race, he is not likely to hold his share of the voters in February 5 states, which may benefit McCain in Missouri, Delaware, Connecticut, Illinois and Minnesota.What if Mitt Romney pulls out a win? I think we have a wild coast-to-coast fight. McCain will still hold the advantage in the states in which he currently leads, but Romney, with fresh momentum and lots and lots of money for paid ads, will have a very good shot at consolidating conservative support. In short, all bets are off at that point.

As for Huckabee, his role is not unlike that of John Edwards: potentially a spoiler and holder of some cards if we get to a brokered convention. However, it is difficult to imagine him even playing the Edwards role should McCain win in Florida.

Bottom line: I don’t see how McCain can be stopped if he wins tomorrow.

Beginning Wednesday, we will be in the midst of a phenomenon we have never experienced: a national primary. On the Republican side, we have twenty-one states, including California (173 delegates) and winner-take-all contests in big delegate states like New York (101), New Jersey (52), Missouri (58), and Arizona (53). John McCain is ahead by solid, but not insurmountable margins, in New York, New Jersey and California. Huckabee is competitive in Missouri and is well positioned in deep Red states like Georgia and Alabama. So far, Romney has the edge in Utah, Massachusetts, and Colorado.Should McCain’s post-Crist endorsement momentum result in a Florida win, there is every reason to believe he will hold his leads in the big three February 5 states of New York, New Jersey, and California (a total of 153 winner-take-all delegates and 173 proportionally awarded California delegates) and do quite well in the remainder. Retail politicking is out, obviously; what remains is paid and free media. Part of that is the national media coverage of the “frontrunner” in national polling, which will create something of a bandwagon effect for McCain. An added factor in his favor: even if Rudy remains in the race, he is not likely to hold his share of the voters in February 5 states, which may benefit McCain in Missouri, Delaware, Connecticut, Illinois and Minnesota.What if Mitt Romney pulls out a win? I think we have a wild coast-to-coast fight. McCain will still hold the advantage in the states in which he currently leads, but Romney, with fresh momentum and lots and lots of money for paid ads, will have a very good shot at consolidating conservative support. In short, all bets are off at that point.

As for Huckabee, his role is not unlike that of John Edwards: potentially a spoiler and holder of some cards if we get to a brokered convention. However, it is difficult to imagine him even playing the Edwards role should McCain win in Florida.

Bottom line: I don’t see how McCain can be stopped if he wins tomorrow.

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Will The Other Kennedy Help?

Does Senator Ted Kennedy’s Barack Obama endorsement matter? Well, unlike Maureen Dowd, I don’t think he needs the boost with upscale liberals pining for the second Camelot. However, to the extent organized labor, working-class voters more generally, and other prominent Democratic politicians take their cue from Kennedy, the impact could be significant. It would be a signal that even the stalwart establishment Democrats have had enough of the Bill/Hillary carnival and are ready to move on. Most important, Kennedy may be influential with those 796 super delegates, who make up about 20 percent of the Democratic delegate total. That’s a lot of persuadable Democratic office holders and DNC officials.

Kennedy or no Kennedy, many have looked at the South Carolina totals and remarked, “Yeah, but he’s not going to win California.” That may be, and the demographics there likely favor Hillary. However, California, like all Democratic primaries, awards its delegates proportionally. So Obama still stands to gain a fair share of delegates. The same is true of Hillary-leaning states like New York and New Jersey. On February 5 Obama may be counting on Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri and maybe even liberal Connecticut (all those Lamont voters).

Given all this, it would seem almost certain that the Democratic race will not be settled on February 5. We will then head on to states like Louisiana (February 9), Maryland and Virginia (February 12), Wisconsin (February 19), Ohio and Texas (March 4) ,and if the political junkies are lucky, maybe even Pennsylvania( April 22).

This may raise an interesting question for voters in my home state of Virginia, which does not require registration by party. As I and many others walk into the booth we will have a choice of which primary to vote in. It may be that the GOP race is far more settled than the Democratic race by then. Hmmm…

Does Senator Ted Kennedy’s Barack Obama endorsement matter? Well, unlike Maureen Dowd, I don’t think he needs the boost with upscale liberals pining for the second Camelot. However, to the extent organized labor, working-class voters more generally, and other prominent Democratic politicians take their cue from Kennedy, the impact could be significant. It would be a signal that even the stalwart establishment Democrats have had enough of the Bill/Hillary carnival and are ready to move on. Most important, Kennedy may be influential with those 796 super delegates, who make up about 20 percent of the Democratic delegate total. That’s a lot of persuadable Democratic office holders and DNC officials.

Kennedy or no Kennedy, many have looked at the South Carolina totals and remarked, “Yeah, but he’s not going to win California.” That may be, and the demographics there likely favor Hillary. However, California, like all Democratic primaries, awards its delegates proportionally. So Obama still stands to gain a fair share of delegates. The same is true of Hillary-leaning states like New York and New Jersey. On February 5 Obama may be counting on Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri and maybe even liberal Connecticut (all those Lamont voters).

Given all this, it would seem almost certain that the Democratic race will not be settled on February 5. We will then head on to states like Louisiana (February 9), Maryland and Virginia (February 12), Wisconsin (February 19), Ohio and Texas (March 4) ,and if the political junkies are lucky, maybe even Pennsylvania( April 22).

This may raise an interesting question for voters in my home state of Virginia, which does not require registration by party. As I and many others walk into the booth we will have a choice of which primary to vote in. It may be that the GOP race is far more settled than the Democratic race by then. Hmmm…

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Stem Cells in New Jersey

On Tuesday, New Jersey voters defeated a state ballot referendum that would have put $450 million of taxpayer funds into stem cell research. It was a rare electoral victory for opponents of embryo-destructive research—made all the more surprising by its Garden State venue. New Jersey, after all, has some of the most extreme pro-cloning and embryo research laws in the country, explicitly permitting, for instance, the creation of cloned embryos and their development in the womb until the moment of birth.

In search of an explanation, the New York Times offers up the absence of a massive media campaign with deep pockets, of the sort employed in similar referenda in California in 2004 and in Missouri in 2006. In both cases, tens of millions of dollars were spent on ads attempting to persuade voters of the promise of embryonic stem cells—often using starkly dishonest and distorted arguments.

In Missouri, for instance, the advertising campaign coined the clever term “early stem cell research” (as in this ad) to avoid using the word “embryo,” and asserted that embryonic stem cells would cure Alzheimer’s (despite a near consensus to the contrary among researchers). In California, where a similar effort resulted in the creation of a $3 billion stem cell institute in 2004, pre-election deceptions about how the project would work continue to plague the new institute, which has now gone through several difficult leadership changes. Most recently, the institute hired as its director an Australian scientist who was caught lying to the Australian parliament in 2002 in order to obtain support for stem cell research.

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On Tuesday, New Jersey voters defeated a state ballot referendum that would have put $450 million of taxpayer funds into stem cell research. It was a rare electoral victory for opponents of embryo-destructive research—made all the more surprising by its Garden State venue. New Jersey, after all, has some of the most extreme pro-cloning and embryo research laws in the country, explicitly permitting, for instance, the creation of cloned embryos and their development in the womb until the moment of birth.

In search of an explanation, the New York Times offers up the absence of a massive media campaign with deep pockets, of the sort employed in similar referenda in California in 2004 and in Missouri in 2006. In both cases, tens of millions of dollars were spent on ads attempting to persuade voters of the promise of embryonic stem cells—often using starkly dishonest and distorted arguments.

In Missouri, for instance, the advertising campaign coined the clever term “early stem cell research” (as in this ad) to avoid using the word “embryo,” and asserted that embryonic stem cells would cure Alzheimer’s (despite a near consensus to the contrary among researchers). In California, where a similar effort resulted in the creation of a $3 billion stem cell institute in 2004, pre-election deceptions about how the project would work continue to plague the new institute, which has now gone through several difficult leadership changes. Most recently, the institute hired as its director an Australian scientist who was caught lying to the Australian parliament in 2002 in order to obtain support for stem cell research.

These are just a few of the countless examples of exaggeration and outright deception in the political fight for embryonic stem cell funding. Recall, for instance, John Edwards’s promise in the 2004 presidential campaign that “when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.”

Such tactics have lent something of the stench of the snake oil salesman to stem cell advocacy, and this has clearly had an effect. Opponents of the 2006 Missouri initiative found in the closing days of the race that pointing out the dishonesty of the initiative’s supporters was the most effective arrow in their quiver, and when they began to focus their energies on that case they very nearly defeated the effort.

Opponents of the New Jersey referendum learned that lesson. Referring to New Jersey governor Jon Corzine (who invested $150,000 of his own money in the ballot initiative campaign), one commercial run by opponents showed a slick salesman enticing viewers with “Governor Feelgood’s Embryonic Stem Cell Elixir; just $450 million—why, that’s practically free!”

Another ad put the matter bluntly. The referendum, it said, “is about taking your tax dollars for something that Wall Street and the drug companies will not invest in.”

Clearly this combination of the whiff of fraud and the specter of waste—rather than ethical objections to the destruction of embryos—brought down the referendum. Garden State voters have not suddenly become pro-lifers. But the tricks and deceptions of stem cell advocates in recent years might just have become all too apparent in New Jersey.

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The Democrats’ Rush to Recovery

Under the leadership of Democrats, the Congress has achieved something unprecedented: approval ratings that fluctuate between 18 percent (on good days) to 11 percent (on bad days). In the face of this massive unpopularity, what do they do? Why, they engage in a full-scale effort to smear the most successful radio talk show host in history.

It is quite a spectacle to behold.

I have written elsewhere on why Rush Limbaugh’s “phony soldiers” comment is a phony controversy. Any fair-minded reading will lead one to conclude that Limbaugh’s reference to “phony soldiers” had to do with, literally, phony soldiers—that is, those who had falsified their service records.

But Democrats, having watched the MoveOn.org attack of General David Petraeus blow up in their faces, were desperate to turn the tables. What it has led to are scenes that are almost comical, with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Tom Harkin taking to the floor of the Senate—the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body—to say things like this (from Harkin):

What’s most despicable is that Rush Limbaugh says these provocative things to make more money. So he castigates our soldiers. . . . More people tune in. He makes more money. Well. I don’t know. Maybe he was just high on his drugs again.

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Under the leadership of Democrats, the Congress has achieved something unprecedented: approval ratings that fluctuate between 18 percent (on good days) to 11 percent (on bad days). In the face of this massive unpopularity, what do they do? Why, they engage in a full-scale effort to smear the most successful radio talk show host in history.

It is quite a spectacle to behold.

I have written elsewhere on why Rush Limbaugh’s “phony soldiers” comment is a phony controversy. Any fair-minded reading will lead one to conclude that Limbaugh’s reference to “phony soldiers” had to do with, literally, phony soldiers—that is, those who had falsified their service records.

But Democrats, having watched the MoveOn.org attack of General David Petraeus blow up in their faces, were desperate to turn the tables. What it has led to are scenes that are almost comical, with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Tom Harkin taking to the floor of the Senate—the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body—to say things like this (from Harkin):

What’s most despicable is that Rush Limbaugh says these provocative things to make more money. So he castigates our soldiers. . . . More people tune in. He makes more money. Well. I don’t know. Maybe he was just high on his drugs again.

The whole thing—from the faux outrage to the ad hominem attacks to the willful distortion of Limbaugh’s comments—radiates desperation. But there is a pernicious element as well.

Members of Congress, no matter how juvenile they behave, exercise real power. They have the capacity to shred reputations. And their antics can trivialize an admirable profession (politics) and deepen cynicism among the polity.

Democrats in Congress may have thought they could steamroll the man from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, but they are finding he fights back—and that he has a very large megaphone.

Rush Limbaugh is the target of their animus because he is an immense talent who has deep conservative beliefs. He single-handedly saved AM radio and has made the conservative movement stronger and more popular. It’s dawning on conservatives that this unfair attack on him is an attack on the movement, and that the effort to silence him is an effort to silence them.

Congressional Democrats, having remained (more or less) quiescent during the slander of the commanding general in Iraq, decide that the road to recovery is to smear a radio talk show host.

What a party.

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A New Bomber?

The National Journal has an interesting article in the current issue on “The Air Force’s Next Bomber,” by Sydney Freedberg. Unfortunately, it’s not available for free online. (For the paid version, see here). But the gist is that the Air Force, after years of pressure from Congress and political appointees in the Department of Defense, reluctantly has agreed to begin developing a new bomber by 2018. Yet many analysts doubt whether the Air Force is serious.

To an outsider this might seem like a head-scratcher. Why wouldn’t the Air Force want a new airplane? The need for a new bomber seems clear given that, of the current bomber fleet of 180 aircraft, more than half are B-52’s that were last built in 1962. They still perform admirably, but it’s not clear how much longer we can continue to rely for our defense on aircraft that are older than the pilots. Yet the Air Force hasn’t been planning to get any more bombers for decades—not until 2037, when the B-52 turns 75. (Would you drive a 75-year-old car?) The last addition to its bomber fleet was the B-2 stealth bomber, of which it now has 21, the last having arrived in 1997.

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The National Journal has an interesting article in the current issue on “The Air Force’s Next Bomber,” by Sydney Freedberg. Unfortunately, it’s not available for free online. (For the paid version, see here). But the gist is that the Air Force, after years of pressure from Congress and political appointees in the Department of Defense, reluctantly has agreed to begin developing a new bomber by 2018. Yet many analysts doubt whether the Air Force is serious.

To an outsider this might seem like a head-scratcher. Why wouldn’t the Air Force want a new airplane? The need for a new bomber seems clear given that, of the current bomber fleet of 180 aircraft, more than half are B-52’s that were last built in 1962. They still perform admirably, but it’s not clear how much longer we can continue to rely for our defense on aircraft that are older than the pilots. Yet the Air Force hasn’t been planning to get any more bombers for decades—not until 2037, when the B-52 turns 75. (Would you drive a 75-year-old car?) The last addition to its bomber fleet was the B-2 stealth bomber, of which it now has 21, the last having arrived in 1997.

All of the Air Force’s creative energy has been poured into acquiring super-expensive, short-range fighter-bombers—the F-22 and F-35. Both are sexy and fun to fly, but have small bomb capacities and flight ranges. The National Journal notes their limitations in a prospective war with China:

Even from the nearest U.S. bases, in South Korea, the F-22 and the F-35 may well penetrate the outer layers of enemy defenses only to run out of fuel long before they reach any target. Slow, bulky tankers can refuel the short-range fighters in midair, but would never perform this delicate operation in full view of hostile radars. Thus, strike planes must rely on their internal fuel tanks once they enter enemy airspace. The F-22 has an estimated combat radius—the maximum distance it can fly before it must return to base—of 540 nautical miles; the still-in-development F-35 will be slightly better, at about 633 miles. Either fighter could hit, say, Tehran from bases in Kuwait, or Beijing from South Korea. But if U.S. allies balked, or if the bases came under fire, or if, in China’s case, key targets were hidden deep in Central Asia—like the Xichang space facility from which China test-launched an anti-satellite missile in January—the fighters would simply run out of gas.

By contrast, the article notes, the B-2 has a combat radius of 3,000 miles. During the Kosovo conflict, B-2’s flew all the way to Belgrade from Missouri and back without ever landing (but with multiple in-flight refuelings). So why doesn’t the Air Force want more bombers like the B-2?

The service advances plenty of arguments for its preference, but none is particularly convincing. More germane may be a fact noted by the National Journal: “Nearly half of all Air Force generals are fighter pilots, but less than 5 percent have bomber backgrounds.”

This is one case where it’s imperative that civilian leaders not defer to the preferences of the uniformed services. The Air Force needs more bombers—and more UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles)—even if it’s not what the fighter jocks prefer.

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Off With Libby’s Head?

When he is sentenced this coming Tuesday, Scooter Libby may be sent directly to jail. If so, this would be grossly unfair since he stands an excellent chance of having the verdict against him overturned on appeal. But it would also be the moment for President Bush to pardon him immediately.

Back in March, when he was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice by a jury in federal court in Washington D.C., I explained why I thought the case “represents a terrible injustice.” The federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, had insisted to both the public and the jury that the disclosure of the identity of the CIA operative Valerie Plame—which was the underlying action he had been appointed to investigate—was in fact a crime. But this was a point that had never been established or even formally alleged. Fitzgerald’s overreaching on this colored the jury’s thinking about the gravity of the issues at stake, suggested a motive for Libby to lie that did not reside in proved facts, and conflicted with the judge’s ruling that the case would not hinge on Plame’s status.

Read More

When he is sentenced this coming Tuesday, Scooter Libby may be sent directly to jail. If so, this would be grossly unfair since he stands an excellent chance of having the verdict against him overturned on appeal. But it would also be the moment for President Bush to pardon him immediately.

Back in March, when he was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice by a jury in federal court in Washington D.C., I explained why I thought the case “represents a terrible injustice.” The federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, had insisted to both the public and the jury that the disclosure of the identity of the CIA operative Valerie Plame—which was the underlying action he had been appointed to investigate—was in fact a crime. But this was a point that had never been established or even formally alleged. Fitzgerald’s overreaching on this colored the jury’s thinking about the gravity of the issues at stake, suggested a motive for Libby to lie that did not reside in proved facts, and conflicted with the judge’s ruling that the case would not hinge on Plame’s status.

Now Fitzgerald has been back in court, arguing that when Libby is sentenced on Tuesday, the judge should throw the book at him precisely on the grounds that he committed the underlying crime-that-was-not-a-crime. Fitzgerald approvingly cites Judge David S. Tatel’s ruling in the Judith Miller case that “because the charges contemplated here relate to false denials of responsibility for Plame’s exposure, prosecuting perjury or false statements would be tantamount to punishing the leak.”

But this a vicious circle. Convicted on the basis of something that was never proved or even formally alleged, is Libby now to be punished on the same basis? With Fitzgerald continuing to overreach, the case for a presidential pardon is growing stronger by the day. If Libby is imprisoned, will Bush do the right thing?

Meanwhile, in closely related news, Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wants Valerie Plame to be re-interviewed. Back in March, in a dispatch entitled Lying Liars and Their Lies, I asked whether Plame was under oath when she testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and declared that she played no role in sending her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, on a fact-finding trip to Niger. “I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved. I did not have the authority,” she said.

Plame was under oath, and Senator Bond has pointed out that she has put out three separate versions of the circumstances under which her husband was sent to Niger. According to USA Today‘s summary, they are:

*She told the CIA’s inspector general in 2003 or 2004 that she had suggested Wilson.

*Plame told Senate Intelligence Committee staffers in 2004 that she couldn’t remember whether she had suggested Wilson.

*She told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in March that an unidentified person in Vice President Cheney’s office asked a CIA colleague about the African uranium report in February 2002. A third officer, overhearing Plame and the colleague discussing this, suggested, “Well, why don’t we send Joe?” Plame told the committee.

Which of these is the real story? Is Plame telling three versions of the truth, or is she a lying liar, or even worse, a perjuring perjurer? Bond would like to find out.

But the Intelligence Committee is now under the control of the Democrats who have no interest in calling attention to the antics of the Plame-Wilson provocateurs. Stay tuned, in other words, for the cover-up of the cover-up.  

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