Commentary Magazine


Topic: Olympia Snowe

Snowe Had No Face Time With Obama

It’s safe to assume President Obama isn’t going to be dusting off any of the old “no red states or blue states” taglines during his reelection, at least not unless he wants to give the country a very big laugh. But the president does still try to pay lip service to the importance of bipartisanship every once in awhile, most recently when Sen. Olympia Snowe, one of the most moderate Republicans in the Washington, announced she wouldn’t run for reelection this year.

Here’s Obama’s glowing statement about Snowe last month:

“For nearly four decades, Olympia Snowe has served the people of the great state of Maine.

Elected to the state House in 1973, Olympia went on to be the first woman in American history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress.

From her unwavering support for our troops, to her efforts to reform Wall Street, to fighting for Maine’s small businesses, Senator Snowe’s career demonstrates how much can be accomplished when leaders from both parties come together to do the right thing for the American people.

Michelle and I join Mainers in thanking Senator Snowe for her service, and we wish her and her family all the best in the future.”

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It’s safe to assume President Obama isn’t going to be dusting off any of the old “no red states or blue states” taglines during his reelection, at least not unless he wants to give the country a very big laugh. But the president does still try to pay lip service to the importance of bipartisanship every once in awhile, most recently when Sen. Olympia Snowe, one of the most moderate Republicans in the Washington, announced she wouldn’t run for reelection this year.

Here’s Obama’s glowing statement about Snowe last month:

“For nearly four decades, Olympia Snowe has served the people of the great state of Maine.

Elected to the state House in 1973, Olympia went on to be the first woman in American history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress.

From her unwavering support for our troops, to her efforts to reform Wall Street, to fighting for Maine’s small businesses, Senator Snowe’s career demonstrates how much can be accomplished when leaders from both parties come together to do the right thing for the American people.

Michelle and I join Mainers in thanking Senator Snowe for her service, and we wish her and her family all the best in the future.”

Snowe has a long history of reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats, and has given Obama bipartisan support on his most significant legislative accomplishments. Considering that, and the recent high praise from Obama, it may surprise you to learn that Snowe hasn’t had a substantial meeting with the president in two years, ABC reports. In fact, Snowe says Obama has met with her less frequently than any other president since she first came to Congress in 1976:

If there were ever a Republican for President Obama to work with, it was Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. She was one of just three Republicans in the entire Congress to vote for his economic stimulus plan in 2009 and even tried to work with him on health care, but in an interview with ABC’s senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl, Snowe makes a remarkable revelation: She hasn’t spoken to President Obama in nearly two years.

Snowe said that if she had to grade the president on his willingness to work with Republicans, he would “be close to failing on that point.” In fact, Snowe, who was first elected to Congress in 1976, claims that her meetings with President Obama have been less frequent than with any other president.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl poses the obvious follow-up: “If he’s not reaching out to you, who [on the Republican side] is he reaching out to?”

“That’s a good question,” replies Snowe.

If the president didn’t even make an effort to build a relationship with Olympia Snowe, then he didn’t make an effort to fulfill his bipartisanship promise, period. Let’s see the White House try to blame that on Republican obstructionism.

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Morning Commentary

New START picked up support from Republican Sens. Scott Brown, Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, and George Voinovich on Monday, making it look like the treaty may actually get ratified before the end of the week. Sens. Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins had previously come out in favor of New START, which means Democrats now just need to pick up two more GOP “yes” votes to get the treaty ratified.

The latest Public Policy Polling survey of conservative voters in eight states found Sarah Palin to be the top pick for a 2012 presidential run. She’s followed closely by Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, with Mitt Romney in last place. PPP has more results and analysis from the poll on its blog.

Sadness: Melanie Phillips explains why the left is at war with itself over whether to canonize Julian Assange as a hero or convict him as a rapist without trial: “To understand why there is such an ear-splitting screeching of brakes from The Guardian, it is necessary to consider the mind-bending contradictions of what passes for thinking on the Left. For it believes certain things as articles of faith which cannot be denied. One is that America is a force for bad in the world and so can never be anything other than guilty. Another is that all men are potential rapists, and so can never be anything other than guilty.”

Steve Chapman discusses how political correctness in American schools helps turn top students into mediocre ones: “The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don’t elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, ‘The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There’s a long-standing attitude that, “Well, smart kids can make it on their own.”’ But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math—lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.”

Nathan Glazer reviews Kenneth Marcus’s latest book on campus anti-Semitism and the inclusion of Jews in Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An essay adapted from Marcus’s book was published in the September issue of COMMENTARY.

The nastiness of the anti-Israel fringe is now invading the morning commute. JTA reports that Seattle buses will soon be plastered with ads decrying “Israeli war-crimes.” From JTA: “The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign has paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning Dec. 27, the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities, according to Seattle’s King 5 News. The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading ‘Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.’”

New START picked up support from Republican Sens. Scott Brown, Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, and George Voinovich on Monday, making it look like the treaty may actually get ratified before the end of the week. Sens. Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins had previously come out in favor of New START, which means Democrats now just need to pick up two more GOP “yes” votes to get the treaty ratified.

The latest Public Policy Polling survey of conservative voters in eight states found Sarah Palin to be the top pick for a 2012 presidential run. She’s followed closely by Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, with Mitt Romney in last place. PPP has more results and analysis from the poll on its blog.

Sadness: Melanie Phillips explains why the left is at war with itself over whether to canonize Julian Assange as a hero or convict him as a rapist without trial: “To understand why there is such an ear-splitting screeching of brakes from The Guardian, it is necessary to consider the mind-bending contradictions of what passes for thinking on the Left. For it believes certain things as articles of faith which cannot be denied. One is that America is a force for bad in the world and so can never be anything other than guilty. Another is that all men are potential rapists, and so can never be anything other than guilty.”

Steve Chapman discusses how political correctness in American schools helps turn top students into mediocre ones: “The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don’t elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, ‘The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There’s a long-standing attitude that, “Well, smart kids can make it on their own.”’ But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math—lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.”

Nathan Glazer reviews Kenneth Marcus’s latest book on campus anti-Semitism and the inclusion of Jews in Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An essay adapted from Marcus’s book was published in the September issue of COMMENTARY.

The nastiness of the anti-Israel fringe is now invading the morning commute. JTA reports that Seattle buses will soon be plastered with ads decrying “Israeli war-crimes.” From JTA: “The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign has paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning Dec. 27, the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities, according to Seattle’s King 5 News. The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading ‘Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.’”

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Toomey Support for DADT Repeal Highlights a Conservative’s Independent Streak

The announcement that Pennsylvania Senator-elect Pat Toomey will support repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy about gays in the military may signal the end of this pointless rule. Those who haven’t followed Toomey’s career may be surprised that a hard-core conservative Republican and devout pro-life Catholic like Toomey would support a gay-rights measure. But Toomey’s libertarian instincts and abhorrence of big government have led him to the correct conclusion that seeking to ban a portion of the population that might usefully serve their country is a mistake. Nor is this a new position for Toomey.

During his successful Senate campaign, Toomey made it clear that he wanted to end DADT. In fact, he mentioned it in an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he wrote last summer in which he detailed why he would have voted against Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In the piece, he criticized Kagan for banning military recruiters from Harvard Law School because of DADT. Toomey wrote:

I share the view that the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy regarding gay servicemen and women has outlived its usefulness and, subject to the military’s conclusion of the feasibility of removing it, I support its repeal. However, one’s disagreement with a federal law does not give one license to circumvent it.

While Toomey won’t be able to cast a vote on the repeal attempt during the lame-duck session of Congress, his willingness to do so after January may change the mathematics of this debate. Moreover, Toomey — whose reputation as a pro-life stalwart, Tea Party favorite, and libertarian hardliner on fiscal matters renders him largely impervious to attacks from the right — could help give cover to other wavering Republicans. Previously, the only Republicans to announce support for the end of DADT were the liberal Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Toomey’s stand on gays in the military might put him in conflict with conservative culture-war advocates, who will lament his willingness to put this issue to rest. Indeed, this puts him at odds with Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who has recently been beating the bushes in New Hampshire promoting a possible 2012 presidential candidacy (though not too many people are taking Santorum’s ego-trip of a campaign seriously). But the irony here is that six years ago, Santorum, the man who now proclaims himself as the true guardian of conservative values, did his best to torpedo Toomey’s primary challenge of liberal Arlen Specter. Though Santorum and President Bush urged Toomey to step aside, he wouldn’t compromise and stayed in the race, ultimately narrowly losing the primary to Specter. Six years later, Toomey, who stuck to his guns on his conservative principles, is now about to take the place of the turncoat Specter, who was beaten out for the Democratic nomination earlier this year.

Six years is a lifetime in politics, but Pennsylvania Democrats are already looking ahead to 2016, since they believe the election of a conservative like Toomey was a fluke that cannot be repeated. They may be right, but what we will see until then is a senator who denounces big government and actually means it. That may not earn Toomey many friends in a state that has long counted upon its representatives to fight for local special interests, something that Toomey is unlikely to do. But as we are seeing with the issue of gays in the military, Toomey’s principled independence is a factor that political observers ought not to take for granted.

The announcement that Pennsylvania Senator-elect Pat Toomey will support repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy about gays in the military may signal the end of this pointless rule. Those who haven’t followed Toomey’s career may be surprised that a hard-core conservative Republican and devout pro-life Catholic like Toomey would support a gay-rights measure. But Toomey’s libertarian instincts and abhorrence of big government have led him to the correct conclusion that seeking to ban a portion of the population that might usefully serve their country is a mistake. Nor is this a new position for Toomey.

During his successful Senate campaign, Toomey made it clear that he wanted to end DADT. In fact, he mentioned it in an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he wrote last summer in which he detailed why he would have voted against Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In the piece, he criticized Kagan for banning military recruiters from Harvard Law School because of DADT. Toomey wrote:

I share the view that the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy regarding gay servicemen and women has outlived its usefulness and, subject to the military’s conclusion of the feasibility of removing it, I support its repeal. However, one’s disagreement with a federal law does not give one license to circumvent it.

While Toomey won’t be able to cast a vote on the repeal attempt during the lame-duck session of Congress, his willingness to do so after January may change the mathematics of this debate. Moreover, Toomey — whose reputation as a pro-life stalwart, Tea Party favorite, and libertarian hardliner on fiscal matters renders him largely impervious to attacks from the right — could help give cover to other wavering Republicans. Previously, the only Republicans to announce support for the end of DADT were the liberal Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Toomey’s stand on gays in the military might put him in conflict with conservative culture-war advocates, who will lament his willingness to put this issue to rest. Indeed, this puts him at odds with Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who has recently been beating the bushes in New Hampshire promoting a possible 2012 presidential candidacy (though not too many people are taking Santorum’s ego-trip of a campaign seriously). But the irony here is that six years ago, Santorum, the man who now proclaims himself as the true guardian of conservative values, did his best to torpedo Toomey’s primary challenge of liberal Arlen Specter. Though Santorum and President Bush urged Toomey to step aside, he wouldn’t compromise and stayed in the race, ultimately narrowly losing the primary to Specter. Six years later, Toomey, who stuck to his guns on his conservative principles, is now about to take the place of the turncoat Specter, who was beaten out for the Democratic nomination earlier this year.

Six years is a lifetime in politics, but Pennsylvania Democrats are already looking ahead to 2016, since they believe the election of a conservative like Toomey was a fluke that cannot be repeated. They may be right, but what we will see until then is a senator who denounces big government and actually means it. That may not earn Toomey many friends in a state that has long counted upon its representatives to fight for local special interests, something that Toomey is unlikely to do. But as we are seeing with the issue of gays in the military, Toomey’s principled independence is a factor that political observers ought not to take for granted.

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The Law of Unintended Consequences

In addition to the insightful comments by John’s friend who works in finances, I wanted to call attention to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” bill.

According to the Journal,

The bill represents the triumph of the very regulators and Congressmen who did so much to foment the financial panic, giving them vast new discretion over every corner of American financial markets. … In the name of responding to a crisis, the bill greatly increases the power of politicians and regulators without addressing the real causes of that crisis. It makes credit more expensive and punishes business without reducing the chances of a future panic or bailouts.

Politico is reporting that several factors have converged, from the death of Senator Robert Byrd to the early negative reactions to the conference report by at least one key Republican, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. This means that the Democrats face the real possibility of falling several votes shy as they try to finish the bill.

What ruffled several Senate feathers is the late addition of a 10-year, $19 billion tax on banks — something added without proper scrutiny, discussion, or debate. None of the Republican senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, were pleased. Neither was Senator Brown, who said he was “surprised and extremely disappointed” with a $19 billion bank tax added to the conference report and who signaled he might switch his vote from yes to no. “While I’m still reviewing the bill’s details, these provisions were not in the Senate version of the bill, which I previously supported,” Brown said. “My fear is that these costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher bank, ATM and credit card fees and put a strain on lending at the worst possible time for our economy. I’ve said repeatedly that I cannot support any bill that raises taxes.”

The Dodd-Frank legislation has generated attention in the world of finance. But if it passes, its ramifications will be felt far beyond Wall Street. It is an example of the law of unintended consequences, a concept understood by most social scientists but very few politicians. In this case, legislation that was crafted to respond to a very real problem would make things many times worse. The temptation for lawmakers to do something, anything, is often injurious.

What has emerged from Congress is a bill that is deeply flawed. If that legislation becomes law, it will do enormous harm to our financial sector and our country. It would, indeed, be fitting, if the addition of the dead-in-the-night tax on financial institutions helped bring this monstrosity down. We saw these kinds of shady dealings and legislative tricks during the health-care debate. It is becoming standard operating procedure for the 112th Congress, and something that will eventually cost them. The same may be true, alas, for the rest of us.

In addition to the insightful comments by John’s friend who works in finances, I wanted to call attention to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” bill.

According to the Journal,

The bill represents the triumph of the very regulators and Congressmen who did so much to foment the financial panic, giving them vast new discretion over every corner of American financial markets. … In the name of responding to a crisis, the bill greatly increases the power of politicians and regulators without addressing the real causes of that crisis. It makes credit more expensive and punishes business without reducing the chances of a future panic or bailouts.

Politico is reporting that several factors have converged, from the death of Senator Robert Byrd to the early negative reactions to the conference report by at least one key Republican, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. This means that the Democrats face the real possibility of falling several votes shy as they try to finish the bill.

What ruffled several Senate feathers is the late addition of a 10-year, $19 billion tax on banks — something added without proper scrutiny, discussion, or debate. None of the Republican senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, were pleased. Neither was Senator Brown, who said he was “surprised and extremely disappointed” with a $19 billion bank tax added to the conference report and who signaled he might switch his vote from yes to no. “While I’m still reviewing the bill’s details, these provisions were not in the Senate version of the bill, which I previously supported,” Brown said. “My fear is that these costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher bank, ATM and credit card fees and put a strain on lending at the worst possible time for our economy. I’ve said repeatedly that I cannot support any bill that raises taxes.”

The Dodd-Frank legislation has generated attention in the world of finance. But if it passes, its ramifications will be felt far beyond Wall Street. It is an example of the law of unintended consequences, a concept understood by most social scientists but very few politicians. In this case, legislation that was crafted to respond to a very real problem would make things many times worse. The temptation for lawmakers to do something, anything, is often injurious.

What has emerged from Congress is a bill that is deeply flawed. If that legislation becomes law, it will do enormous harm to our financial sector and our country. It would, indeed, be fitting, if the addition of the dead-in-the-night tax on financial institutions helped bring this monstrosity down. We saw these kinds of shady dealings and legislative tricks during the health-care debate. It is becoming standard operating procedure for the 112th Congress, and something that will eventually cost them. The same may be true, alas, for the rest of us.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid has even managed to stiffen Olympia Snowe’s spine: “For a second day in row, Democrats failed to open debate on a Wall Street reform bill after Senate Republicans held ranks to block it. The vote was 57 to 41, with all Republicans who were present voting no. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was the lone Democrat to vote no on Monday, and he voted no again. … In fact, some of the moderates who might be most likely to vote yes — such as Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe — have expressed displeasure that Reid is forcing the votes even as bipartisan negotiations on the bill go forward.”

Tom Goldstein thinks Obama will pick Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Among his smart observations: “Elena Kagan has significant demonstrated success in working with conservatives at Harvard Law School, which is an exceptionally challenging environment, and has parallels to the relationships at the Court. But she has never been a judge, and would as a consequence presumably take longer than the others to adapt to the new role.”

Israel isn’t going to buy into “containment” if that’s where Obama is heading with Iran: “Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the world cannot afford to wait too long to see if Iran backs down on its nuclear program while in Washington on Tuesday. In a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak said he supports the US focus on tougher economic sanctions against Teheran, but he added that only time will tell to what extent sanctions are effective in persuading Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Barak says that if the international community waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon that he says would ‘change the landscape,’ and not just of the Middle East.”

According to Robert Gates, “Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with so many rockets that they are at a point where they have more missiles than most governments in the world.” So what are we going to do about it?

Not remotely the most transparent administration in history: “The Obama administration has only partially complied with congressional subpoenas for information on the deadly November shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. The failure by the Defense and Justice departments to turn over all the requested documentation — which they say they do not intend to do — is not likely to ease the growing tension between some key senators and the Obama administration over the incident at the Army base on Nov. 5, 2009.”

Jeb Bush speaks out against Arizona’s immigration law. “I think it creates unintended consequences. … It’s difficult for me to imagine how you’re going to enforce this law. It places a significant burden on local law enforcement and you have civil liberties issues that are significant as well.”

Michael Gerson: “American states have broad powers. But they are not permitted their own foreign or immigration policy. One reason is that immigration law concerns not only the treatment of illegal immigrants but also the proper treatment of American citizens. And here the Arizona law fails badly. … Americans are not accustomed to the command ‘Your papers, please,’ however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be ‘Go to hell,’ and then ‘See you in court.’”

The Obami’s multilaterialism fetish continues: “Step by tentative step, the Obama Administration is getting closer to embracing the International Criminal Court. The White House won’t join the Hague-based body soon, but that’s its logical endpoint. Answerable to virtually no one, the ICC was created by the 1998 United Nations’s Rome Statute to prosecute war and other ‘serious’ crimes.”

Harry Reid has even managed to stiffen Olympia Snowe’s spine: “For a second day in row, Democrats failed to open debate on a Wall Street reform bill after Senate Republicans held ranks to block it. The vote was 57 to 41, with all Republicans who were present voting no. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was the lone Democrat to vote no on Monday, and he voted no again. … In fact, some of the moderates who might be most likely to vote yes — such as Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe — have expressed displeasure that Reid is forcing the votes even as bipartisan negotiations on the bill go forward.”

Tom Goldstein thinks Obama will pick Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Among his smart observations: “Elena Kagan has significant demonstrated success in working with conservatives at Harvard Law School, which is an exceptionally challenging environment, and has parallels to the relationships at the Court. But she has never been a judge, and would as a consequence presumably take longer than the others to adapt to the new role.”

Israel isn’t going to buy into “containment” if that’s where Obama is heading with Iran: “Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the world cannot afford to wait too long to see if Iran backs down on its nuclear program while in Washington on Tuesday. In a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak said he supports the US focus on tougher economic sanctions against Teheran, but he added that only time will tell to what extent sanctions are effective in persuading Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Barak says that if the international community waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon that he says would ‘change the landscape,’ and not just of the Middle East.”

According to Robert Gates, “Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with so many rockets that they are at a point where they have more missiles than most governments in the world.” So what are we going to do about it?

Not remotely the most transparent administration in history: “The Obama administration has only partially complied with congressional subpoenas for information on the deadly November shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. The failure by the Defense and Justice departments to turn over all the requested documentation — which they say they do not intend to do — is not likely to ease the growing tension between some key senators and the Obama administration over the incident at the Army base on Nov. 5, 2009.”

Jeb Bush speaks out against Arizona’s immigration law. “I think it creates unintended consequences. … It’s difficult for me to imagine how you’re going to enforce this law. It places a significant burden on local law enforcement and you have civil liberties issues that are significant as well.”

Michael Gerson: “American states have broad powers. But they are not permitted their own foreign or immigration policy. One reason is that immigration law concerns not only the treatment of illegal immigrants but also the proper treatment of American citizens. And here the Arizona law fails badly. … Americans are not accustomed to the command ‘Your papers, please,’ however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be ‘Go to hell,’ and then ‘See you in court.’”

The Obami’s multilaterialism fetish continues: “Step by tentative step, the Obama Administration is getting closer to embracing the International Criminal Court. The White House won’t join the Hague-based body soon, but that’s its logical endpoint. Answerable to virtually no one, the ICC was created by the 1998 United Nations’s Rome Statute to prosecute war and other ‘serious’ crimes.”

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Turning the Tables

Michael Gerson echoes what many of us observed yesterday:

President Obama, as usual, was fluent, professorial and occasionally prickly. Some are impressed by the president’s informed, academic manner. Others (myself included) find an annoying condescension in Obama’s never-ending seminar. All the students — I mean elected legislators — were informed if their arguments were “legitimate” or not. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was arrogantly instructed that the “election’s over.”

There was a stature gap in the room, but not between Obama and the Republicans (as at the House Republican retreat). The stature gap was between Obama and his fellow Democrats. I would bet against any legislative team that includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who turned in a nasty, embarrassing performance.

As Gerson notes, Republicans got the tone right. What is great fun and inspiring for the base on talk radio doesn’t necessarily do the trick in a nationally televised summit facing the President of the United States. Republicans took that to heart and conducted themselves with poise, decorum, and a certain policy sophistication we don’t always see on display. They didn’t need to beat Obama in the who-can-be-the-more-ponderous-wonk department. They needed to show they were not the know-nothings Obama had painted them to be. And in that, they succeeded handsomely. Or as David Gergen put it, the Republicans “intellectually had their best day in years.”

Nor is it so easy, as it becomes obvious that nothing has changed, to pretend there is broad-based support for Obama’s approach. It wasn’t just the poll numbers that Republicans recited at every chance. As Jake Tapper reported:

Unfortunately for President Obama, the bipartisan agreement is outside Blair House where today’s health care summit is taking place, and the agreement is among liberal and conservative protestors arguing for different reason that the Democrats’ current health care reform proposal isn’t the correct prescription. Conservatives argue that it’s too much government intrusion and socialism. Liberals argue that the various leading Democratic proposals don’t go far enough.

It took Obama and the inept duo of Reid and Pelosi to shove Dennis Kucinich, Jane Hamsher, Jim DeMint, and Olympia Snowe (who refused to show up yesterday) all on the same side of the debate – that is, in opposition to his monstrous plan. And it took the health-care summit to reveal that the rigid, unpleasant ones are not the members of “the party of no.” David Brooks observes:

The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, were smart enough to stand back and let Senator Lamar Alexander lead the way, which he did genially and intelligently. While Alexander was speaking, Reid and Pelosi wouldn’t even deign to look at him. … f you thought Republicans were a bunch of naysayers who don’t know or care about health care, then this was not the event for you. They more than held their own.

Obama then essentially failed to pin the blame on the Republicans, who generally seemed a bit more reasonable and genial than Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and company.  (Political Rule No. 1: Get inept opponents.) As Gerson sums up: “The whole exercise, in short, was an ambush. But the quarry, it seems, got away.” And with it, mostly likely, did the Democrats’ dream of passing ObamaCare.

Michael Gerson echoes what many of us observed yesterday:

President Obama, as usual, was fluent, professorial and occasionally prickly. Some are impressed by the president’s informed, academic manner. Others (myself included) find an annoying condescension in Obama’s never-ending seminar. All the students — I mean elected legislators — were informed if their arguments were “legitimate” or not. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was arrogantly instructed that the “election’s over.”

There was a stature gap in the room, but not between Obama and the Republicans (as at the House Republican retreat). The stature gap was between Obama and his fellow Democrats. I would bet against any legislative team that includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who turned in a nasty, embarrassing performance.

As Gerson notes, Republicans got the tone right. What is great fun and inspiring for the base on talk radio doesn’t necessarily do the trick in a nationally televised summit facing the President of the United States. Republicans took that to heart and conducted themselves with poise, decorum, and a certain policy sophistication we don’t always see on display. They didn’t need to beat Obama in the who-can-be-the-more-ponderous-wonk department. They needed to show they were not the know-nothings Obama had painted them to be. And in that, they succeeded handsomely. Or as David Gergen put it, the Republicans “intellectually had their best day in years.”

Nor is it so easy, as it becomes obvious that nothing has changed, to pretend there is broad-based support for Obama’s approach. It wasn’t just the poll numbers that Republicans recited at every chance. As Jake Tapper reported:

Unfortunately for President Obama, the bipartisan agreement is outside Blair House where today’s health care summit is taking place, and the agreement is among liberal and conservative protestors arguing for different reason that the Democrats’ current health care reform proposal isn’t the correct prescription. Conservatives argue that it’s too much government intrusion and socialism. Liberals argue that the various leading Democratic proposals don’t go far enough.

It took Obama and the inept duo of Reid and Pelosi to shove Dennis Kucinich, Jane Hamsher, Jim DeMint, and Olympia Snowe (who refused to show up yesterday) all on the same side of the debate – that is, in opposition to his monstrous plan. And it took the health-care summit to reveal that the rigid, unpleasant ones are not the members of “the party of no.” David Brooks observes:

The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, were smart enough to stand back and let Senator Lamar Alexander lead the way, which he did genially and intelligently. While Alexander was speaking, Reid and Pelosi wouldn’t even deign to look at him. … f you thought Republicans were a bunch of naysayers who don’t know or care about health care, then this was not the event for you. They more than held their own.

Obama then essentially failed to pin the blame on the Republicans, who generally seemed a bit more reasonable and genial than Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and company.  (Political Rule No. 1: Get inept opponents.) As Gerson sums up: “The whole exercise, in short, was an ambush. But the quarry, it seems, got away.” And with it, mostly likely, did the Democrats’ dream of passing ObamaCare.

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The Collapse

The headline reads: “Dem health care talks collapsing.” The Scott Brown epic upset has sent the Democrats scrambling:

Democrats struggled all year to maintain a coalition in support of health care reform without any GOP votes. Republican Scott Brown’s improbable win in Massachusetts on Tuesday now looks like it has the potential to end that almost-impossible balancing act. This post-Massachusetts confusion raises the stakes for President Barack Obama’s first official State of the Union address next week, which some now believe must be a last-ditch effort to get health care finished. On Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a fierce proponent of health reform, said it wasn’t clear how the Senate should press ahead.

A scaled down bill? Nyet, say the liberals. Vote on the Senate bill? No votes, proclaims Nancy Pelosi. Maybe lots of mini-bills in itty-bitty pieces? Oh, puhleez. Do Democrats want to be at this until August? They’re looking for direction from the White House, we’re told. Well, they shouldn’t look too long. Obama says that Massachusetts had nothing to do with ObamaCare. But they’ve gotten one thing right: “Some Democrats also worried that voters would judge them out-of-touch for devoting so much energy to health care now.” It’s gotten so bad than even Olympia Snowe won’t play ball. (“To make matters worse, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, once a possible Republican vote, signaled Thursday that she was unlikely to rejoin negotiations with the White House and Democratic leaders unless they scaled back their ambitions.”) If it seems rather chaotic, it is. As Josh Marshall notes:

My strongest sense however is not so much that decisions have been made to drop reform as that it’s something like a matter of survivors walking around — half dazed — after some sort of natural disaster. There is no plan.

Conservatives are largely standing back, giddy with anticipation, wondering if this is actually transpiring before their eyes. They spent a year making cogent arguments, organizing town halls and tea parties, and making hay out of Democrats’ broken promises and corrupt backroom deals. But there was an underlying reality all along that nagged at them: the Democrats have the votes. Well, had the votes.

Democrats acted like the only majorities that mattered were in the House and the Senate and that they could act with impunity. Then Scott Brown deprived them of the 6oth vote and proved there was no free pass and the polls meant something. Almost instantly the ground beneath ObamaCare supporters began to crumble. The only thing ObamaCare had going for it was the illusion of inevitability and the willingness of members of Congress to avert their eyes from the popular rebellion mounting outside their offices. Once that was gone, what was left? There is no popular mandate to save it. There are no serious lawmakers who think this is a winning bill on which to run. It doesn’t even make sense on the merits (force people to buy plans they don’t want from Big Insurance?). And every Democrat on the ballot in 2010 (gubernatorial candidates included) wants this over.

The only question that remains is whether Obama can keep the dam from breaking before he gets to his State of the Union address.

The headline reads: “Dem health care talks collapsing.” The Scott Brown epic upset has sent the Democrats scrambling:

Democrats struggled all year to maintain a coalition in support of health care reform without any GOP votes. Republican Scott Brown’s improbable win in Massachusetts on Tuesday now looks like it has the potential to end that almost-impossible balancing act. This post-Massachusetts confusion raises the stakes for President Barack Obama’s first official State of the Union address next week, which some now believe must be a last-ditch effort to get health care finished. On Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a fierce proponent of health reform, said it wasn’t clear how the Senate should press ahead.

A scaled down bill? Nyet, say the liberals. Vote on the Senate bill? No votes, proclaims Nancy Pelosi. Maybe lots of mini-bills in itty-bitty pieces? Oh, puhleez. Do Democrats want to be at this until August? They’re looking for direction from the White House, we’re told. Well, they shouldn’t look too long. Obama says that Massachusetts had nothing to do with ObamaCare. But they’ve gotten one thing right: “Some Democrats also worried that voters would judge them out-of-touch for devoting so much energy to health care now.” It’s gotten so bad than even Olympia Snowe won’t play ball. (“To make matters worse, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, once a possible Republican vote, signaled Thursday that she was unlikely to rejoin negotiations with the White House and Democratic leaders unless they scaled back their ambitions.”) If it seems rather chaotic, it is. As Josh Marshall notes:

My strongest sense however is not so much that decisions have been made to drop reform as that it’s something like a matter of survivors walking around — half dazed — after some sort of natural disaster. There is no plan.

Conservatives are largely standing back, giddy with anticipation, wondering if this is actually transpiring before their eyes. They spent a year making cogent arguments, organizing town halls and tea parties, and making hay out of Democrats’ broken promises and corrupt backroom deals. But there was an underlying reality all along that nagged at them: the Democrats have the votes. Well, had the votes.

Democrats acted like the only majorities that mattered were in the House and the Senate and that they could act with impunity. Then Scott Brown deprived them of the 6oth vote and proved there was no free pass and the polls meant something. Almost instantly the ground beneath ObamaCare supporters began to crumble. The only thing ObamaCare had going for it was the illusion of inevitability and the willingness of members of Congress to avert their eyes from the popular rebellion mounting outside their offices. Once that was gone, what was left? There is no popular mandate to save it. There are no serious lawmakers who think this is a winning bill on which to run. It doesn’t even make sense on the merits (force people to buy plans they don’t want from Big Insurance?). And every Democrat on the ballot in 2010 (gubernatorial candidates included) wants this over.

The only question that remains is whether Obama can keep the dam from breaking before he gets to his State of the Union address.

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Snowe’s Had It

Obama has finally managed to do it. He first lost David Brooks — and now Sen. Olympia Snowe. In her statement of opposition to ObamaCare, Snowe detailed some substantive concerns, but basically she got fed up with the bullying:

It defies logic that we are now expected to vote on the overall, final package before Christmas with no opportunity to amend it so we can adjourn for a three week recess even as the legislation will not fully go into effect until 2014, four years from now. … Ultimately, there is absolutely no reason to be hurtling headlong to a Christmas deadline on monumental legislation affecting every American, when it doesn’t even fully go into effect until 2014. When 51 percent of the American people in a recent survey have said they do not approve of what we are doing, they understand what Congress does not — and that is, that time is not our enemy, it is our friend.

Therefore, we must take a time out from this legislative game of “beat the clock,” reconvene in January – instead of taking a three week recess – and spend the time necessary to get this right. Legislation affecting more than 300 million Americans deserves better than midnight votes on a bill that cannot be further amended and that no one has had the opportunity to fully consider – and the Senate must step up to its responsibility as the world’s greatest deliberative body on behalf of the American people.

It’s significant that the not-very-conservative conservatives hovering around the middle of the political spectrum have thrown up their hands in collective disgust, recognizing that ObamaCare is not about reasoned policymaking but about brute political strength. Notice how popular — and broad-based — is the coalition of “no.” Recall that Olympia Snowe voted in favor of the stimulus plan, providing a bare fig leaf of bipartisanship to that embarrassing legislation. That she has reached her limit and can no longer justify even to her not-at-all-hardcore-conservative constituents voting for the latest junk-a-thon bill says something about how the political landscape has shifted.

Who knows if it was the bullyboy tactics or the substance that finally pushed Snowe over the … well … the precipice. For years conservatives have bemoaned the difficulty in holding Snowe and other moderate Republicans on board during critical legislative fights. It turns out that the solution was to a face off against a hyper-partisan, ultra-liberal Democratic majority. That’s the magic of the Obama era – the often squabbling members of the GOP coalition are now all on the same page.

Obama has finally managed to do it. He first lost David Brooks — and now Sen. Olympia Snowe. In her statement of opposition to ObamaCare, Snowe detailed some substantive concerns, but basically she got fed up with the bullying:

It defies logic that we are now expected to vote on the overall, final package before Christmas with no opportunity to amend it so we can adjourn for a three week recess even as the legislation will not fully go into effect until 2014, four years from now. … Ultimately, there is absolutely no reason to be hurtling headlong to a Christmas deadline on monumental legislation affecting every American, when it doesn’t even fully go into effect until 2014. When 51 percent of the American people in a recent survey have said they do not approve of what we are doing, they understand what Congress does not — and that is, that time is not our enemy, it is our friend.

Therefore, we must take a time out from this legislative game of “beat the clock,” reconvene in January – instead of taking a three week recess – and spend the time necessary to get this right. Legislation affecting more than 300 million Americans deserves better than midnight votes on a bill that cannot be further amended and that no one has had the opportunity to fully consider – and the Senate must step up to its responsibility as the world’s greatest deliberative body on behalf of the American people.

It’s significant that the not-very-conservative conservatives hovering around the middle of the political spectrum have thrown up their hands in collective disgust, recognizing that ObamaCare is not about reasoned policymaking but about brute political strength. Notice how popular — and broad-based — is the coalition of “no.” Recall that Olympia Snowe voted in favor of the stimulus plan, providing a bare fig leaf of bipartisanship to that embarrassing legislation. That she has reached her limit and can no longer justify even to her not-at-all-hardcore-conservative constituents voting for the latest junk-a-thon bill says something about how the political landscape has shifted.

Who knows if it was the bullyboy tactics or the substance that finally pushed Snowe over the … well … the precipice. For years conservatives have bemoaned the difficulty in holding Snowe and other moderate Republicans on board during critical legislative fights. It turns out that the solution was to a face off against a hyper-partisan, ultra-liberal Democratic majority. That’s the magic of the Obama era – the often squabbling members of the GOP coalition are now all on the same page.

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Who Needs Congress?

Even for the Obami, it’s a bit shocking. Climate-change legislation is going nowhere, a victim to the realization that its costs vastly outweigh any supposed benefits. But that’s not slowing down the Obama team:

The Obama administration moved closer Monday to issuing regulations on greenhouse gases, a step that would enable it to limit emissions across the economy even if Congress fails to enact climate legislation.

The move, which coincided with the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, seemed timed to reassure delegates there that the United States is committed to reducing its emissions even if domestic legislation remains bogged down. But it provoked condemnation from key Republicans and from U.S. business groups, which vowed to tie up any regulations in litigation.

What, you think this smacks of anti-constitutional arrogance and imperiousness? Well, some agree, and the backlash, quite apart from the years of court challenges, may be swift in coming:

“The stick approach isn’t going to work. In fact, Congress may retaliate,” said Mark Helmke, a senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). “They could stop the funding, and they could change the law.”

Anticipating EPA action, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried unsuccessfully in September to prevent the agency from spending money to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants or factories, for one year. Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Monday that the endangerment finding was “a blunt instrument that will severely hamper our attempts to bolster the economy and get Americans back to work.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe says it’s “regrettable” — practically a meltdown for her. And the most endangered senator, Blanche Lincoln (already on the hot seat for failing to oppose health-care reform that her constituents hate), is perturbed as well.

Aside from the issue of subjecting American business to a regime of new mind-numbing regulation and fines just at the moment the science of global warming is under attack, the statist impulse and abject disregard for constitutional governance is breathtaking, but perhaps not startling. The Obami crowd brought us czarmania and newly elastic incarnations of executive privilege. They declared war on insufficiently deferential news outlets and the Chamber of Commerce. So they’re certainly not going to be slowed down by lack of congressional action or, more properly said, the refusal of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation to micromanage the entire U.S. economy. It should be sobering to those on both sides of the aisle who think that ours is a government of checks and balances and separation of powers.

Even for the Obami, it’s a bit shocking. Climate-change legislation is going nowhere, a victim to the realization that its costs vastly outweigh any supposed benefits. But that’s not slowing down the Obama team:

The Obama administration moved closer Monday to issuing regulations on greenhouse gases, a step that would enable it to limit emissions across the economy even if Congress fails to enact climate legislation.

The move, which coincided with the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, seemed timed to reassure delegates there that the United States is committed to reducing its emissions even if domestic legislation remains bogged down. But it provoked condemnation from key Republicans and from U.S. business groups, which vowed to tie up any regulations in litigation.

What, you think this smacks of anti-constitutional arrogance and imperiousness? Well, some agree, and the backlash, quite apart from the years of court challenges, may be swift in coming:

“The stick approach isn’t going to work. In fact, Congress may retaliate,” said Mark Helmke, a senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). “They could stop the funding, and they could change the law.”

Anticipating EPA action, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried unsuccessfully in September to prevent the agency from spending money to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants or factories, for one year. Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Monday that the endangerment finding was “a blunt instrument that will severely hamper our attempts to bolster the economy and get Americans back to work.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe says it’s “regrettable” — practically a meltdown for her. And the most endangered senator, Blanche Lincoln (already on the hot seat for failing to oppose health-care reform that her constituents hate), is perturbed as well.

Aside from the issue of subjecting American business to a regime of new mind-numbing regulation and fines just at the moment the science of global warming is under attack, the statist impulse and abject disregard for constitutional governance is breathtaking, but perhaps not startling. The Obami crowd brought us czarmania and newly elastic incarnations of executive privilege. They declared war on insufficiently deferential news outlets and the Chamber of Commerce. So they’re certainly not going to be slowed down by lack of congressional action or, more properly said, the refusal of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation to micromanage the entire U.S. economy. It should be sobering to those on both sides of the aisle who think that ours is a government of checks and balances and separation of powers.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.’”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.’”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

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LBJ He’s Not

It’s remarkable: Obama’s signature legislative item is at a crucial juncture. It’s not clear that there are 60 votes for Harry Reid’s plan, abortion has become a stumbling block, and the public continues to sour on the Democratic scheme to take over health care. So the president goes to Capitol Hill – and says nothing of consequence. The Hill reports:

Obama told reporters that the meeting was a “pep talk,” not a negotiation. Obama didn’t take questions from the senators or mention the two issues now dividing Senate Democrats and preventing passage of the bill: a government-run insurance plan and restrictions on federal funds for abortion.

He really doesn’t add much to the mix, does he? Perhaps it’s passivity, or maybe he simply lacks the interest or ability to help craft a bill. As with his super-duper speech to Congress in September, Obama seems unable to go beyond platitudes and get down to the nitty-gritty of governance. After all, he wasn’t in the Senate for very long and didn’t champion any significant legislation, so there’s no evidence that this is really his strong suit.

So for now it’s up to the Senate to deliberate and negotiate and deliberate some more. We might not have a deal anytime soon. (“Key centrist senators not involved in the talks dismissed suggestions that the Senate healthcare debate would end soon. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) told The Hill that it’s not realistic to expect the bill to be finished in a week.”) Or ever.

It’s remarkable: Obama’s signature legislative item is at a crucial juncture. It’s not clear that there are 60 votes for Harry Reid’s plan, abortion has become a stumbling block, and the public continues to sour on the Democratic scheme to take over health care. So the president goes to Capitol Hill – and says nothing of consequence. The Hill reports:

Obama told reporters that the meeting was a “pep talk,” not a negotiation. Obama didn’t take questions from the senators or mention the two issues now dividing Senate Democrats and preventing passage of the bill: a government-run insurance plan and restrictions on federal funds for abortion.

He really doesn’t add much to the mix, does he? Perhaps it’s passivity, or maybe he simply lacks the interest or ability to help craft a bill. As with his super-duper speech to Congress in September, Obama seems unable to go beyond platitudes and get down to the nitty-gritty of governance. After all, he wasn’t in the Senate for very long and didn’t champion any significant legislation, so there’s no evidence that this is really his strong suit.

So for now it’s up to the Senate to deliberate and negotiate and deliberate some more. We might not have a deal anytime soon. (“Key centrist senators not involved in the talks dismissed suggestions that the Senate healthcare debate would end soon. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) told The Hill that it’s not realistic to expect the bill to be finished in a week.”) Or ever.

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Blanche Snowe

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is furiously trying to explain how difficult her decisive 60th vote was and what she really doesn’t like so very much about the health-care bill. Uh huh. Lincoln has good reason to be out spinning — she’s up for a tough re-election fight in less than a year, and Arkansas voters hate ObamaCare. All this spells bad news for Lincoln:

In a telephone survey of 501 likely voters in Arkansas, conducted on November 16-17, 2009, voters reported opposing the healthcare changes with only 29% saying they backed it while 64% said they were opposed. Fifty percent of likely voters indicated strong opposition to the plan while only 17% indicated strong support.

In an initial match-up of Lincoln and possible Republican candidate State Senator Gilbert Baker, the incumbent, Lincoln, holds a narrow 41-39 lead. Against another possible GOP contender, State Senator Kim Hendren, Lincoln holds a more substantial 45-29 lead.

And that was before she cast that 60th vote, which raises the issue as to why she drew the short straw as the “deciding vote.” Really, every Democrat’s vote was the deciding one, but apparently they figured out the political ramifications of being tagged as the 60th before she did.

So now Lincoln will have to imitate Olympia Snowe, who is besieged with media attention lauding her willingness to vote to move ObamaCare forward. Lincoln will tell us how hard a decision it was, how committed to “improving the bill” she is, and how she won’t vote for a “bad bill” in the end. Well, maybe that’ll fly in Arkansas — but she could have killed ObamaCare and didn’t. Good luck explaining that to the 64 percent of her constituents who don’t want government-run health care.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is furiously trying to explain how difficult her decisive 60th vote was and what she really doesn’t like so very much about the health-care bill. Uh huh. Lincoln has good reason to be out spinning — she’s up for a tough re-election fight in less than a year, and Arkansas voters hate ObamaCare. All this spells bad news for Lincoln:

In a telephone survey of 501 likely voters in Arkansas, conducted on November 16-17, 2009, voters reported opposing the healthcare changes with only 29% saying they backed it while 64% said they were opposed. Fifty percent of likely voters indicated strong opposition to the plan while only 17% indicated strong support.

In an initial match-up of Lincoln and possible Republican candidate State Senator Gilbert Baker, the incumbent, Lincoln, holds a narrow 41-39 lead. Against another possible GOP contender, State Senator Kim Hendren, Lincoln holds a more substantial 45-29 lead.

And that was before she cast that 60th vote, which raises the issue as to why she drew the short straw as the “deciding vote.” Really, every Democrat’s vote was the deciding one, but apparently they figured out the political ramifications of being tagged as the 60th before she did.

So now Lincoln will have to imitate Olympia Snowe, who is besieged with media attention lauding her willingness to vote to move ObamaCare forward. Lincoln will tell us how hard a decision it was, how committed to “improving the bill” she is, and how she won’t vote for a “bad bill” in the end. Well, maybe that’ll fly in Arkansas — but she could have killed ObamaCare and didn’t. Good luck explaining that to the 64 percent of her constituents who don’t want government-run health care.

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