Paul Begala just said that tonight isn’t really about Barack Obama. People only say it’s about Barack Obama because “we know his name and he’s famous.”
Topic: Paul Begala
A nostalgic George W. Bush moment for the left. Nicholas Kristof: “Mr. Obama is presiding over an incoherent, contradictory and apparently failing Sudan policy. There is a growing risk that Sudan will be the site of the world’s bloodiest war in 2011, and perhaps a new round of genocide as well. This isn’t America’s fault, but neither are we using all of our leverage to avert it. … Regular readers know I was not a fan of President George W. Bush. But one of his signal accomplishments, against all odds, was a 2005 peace agreement that ended the last round of that war.”
A stirring story about Iraq. And a reminder of how thoroughly lacking in understanding and empathy this president is when it comes to the reasons so many sacrificed so much.
A “perfect description of the pro-mosque left” from James Taranto: “Oikophobia is fear of the familiar: ‘the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours.’ … Yet the oiks’ vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.” Did we put an “oik” in the White House?
An angry mob – in Obama’s home state: “Sixty-five percent (65%) of Likely Voters in Illinois are at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government, according to a new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey. That finding matches the level measured nationally, and includes 41% who are Very Angry at the government’s policies.” Who’s funding them, I wonder?
A “bit”? “Democrats are undercutting their campaign message by condemning Republican economic policies while calling for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. ‘It’s hard to say the Republican economic policies were bad, [and] then continue them,’ Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and former advisor to President Clinton, told The Hill. ‘That is a bit of a mixed message.’”
A forceful objection from Debra Burlingame to Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that 9/11 families support the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Bloomberg has now crossed the line from merely supporting the mosque to participating in a public campaign aimed at silencing its critics. He has improperly invoked private conversations of 9/11 family board members who, unfortunately, are all too aware of his power, both as chair of the foundation which will memorialize their loved ones and as mayor of a city where that memorial will be built. He is recklessly wreaking havoc among families, running from media event to radio interview to photo op to Comedy Central gagfest, shamelessly hawking this narrative that we, those whose family members were the true victims of religious intolerance, must also carry the burden of proving we’re not intolerant. He’s a disgrace.”
A sober take from Mara Liasson: “I think there is a lot of gloom and doom among Democrats. And their hope now is that individual races with candidates who have a lot of money and have good get-out-the-vote operations can somehow survive what is looking to be a really big anti-Democratic wave in November.” And from Liasson and Juan Williams on the midterms: “LIASSON: But the fact is it is a referendum. WILLIAMS: If it’s a referendum on Obama, the Democrats lose.” Yup. Big time.
The recriminations in which the Democrats have engaged during the past few days evince their growing panic. When a party senses it is about to be administered a crushing rebuke, acrimony rather than comity is what it often musters up.
But here’s a pretty safe bet: in the next few days Hill Democrats and the White House will agree to a truce, even if only a tense one; and they will agree that it is in the interest of all of them to attack Republicans rather than each other. And that is what they will do, with relish.
We are about to enter a period that will be everything Barack Obama promised he would deliver us from: petty politics, ad hominem attacks, silly and unserious charges, cartoon images of opponents, and attempts to divide Americans in order to gain a temporary political advantage, etc.
Across the board, Democrats understand that they have no agenda to run on and no record to defend. “This is not a hope election, it’s a fear election,” Democratic strategist Paul Begala reportedly told young liberal activists recently. “Since you don’t have your hero [Obama] on the ballot, make sure you have a villain.” It will be a discouraging thing for citizens to watch unfold. And I doubt it will succeed. Democrats are facing headwinds gusting at record speeds. They cannot undo the basic trajectory of this election. They cannot undo the radical policies of Barack Obama. And they cannot assuage the anger and remorse many voters feel right now.
Still, Republicans need to prepare for the ugly onslaught to come. They need to be aggressive, quick, and principled in their responses. And they should not count on liberal voices who, when it is convenient, champion civility, high-minded dialogue, and reasoned debate to call off the attack dogs. After all, we’re talking about power here. If the village has to be burned down in order to save it, so be it. It’s so much easier to attack the Tea Party as the modern-day equivalent of the KKK than it is to defend the stimulus package.
Welcome to political discourse in the Age of Obama.
The Democrats thought they saved Chris Dodd’s Senate seat when the ethically challenged senator from Countrywide announced his retirement and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal entered the race. But now there’s this from the New York Times:
“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to [a group of senior citizen and veterans] gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”
There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.
Yes, lots of candidates have gotten tangled up in Vietnam-service records, but Blumenthal is in a class by himself, the Gray Lady charges:
But what is striking about Mr. Blumenthal’s record is the contrast between the many steps he took that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, and the misleading way he often speaks about that period of his life now, especially when he is speaking at veterans’ ceremonies or other patriotic events.
Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk. At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar.
OK, if this is true, he’s toast in the race and probably needs to resign from his current job. Even Paul Begala calls it “indefensible” and “a catastrophic mistake.” (And if there’s one thing Begala knows, it’s an ethical scandal.) The primary is in August, so Democrats have the chance to find a replacement for the replacement. But they better hurry — the nominating convention is this Friday. (Hmm, was the Gray Lady doing the party a favor in getting Blumenthal out of the way now?) There’s got to be some Democrat in the state who’s not ethically deficient, right?
Seen the latest ad for Hugo Chavez’s oil company? Lots of happy old people given free oil by the dictator, and then: ”In swoops Joe Kennedy II with Citizens Energy and the kind people of Venezuela to lend a hand (or two?) and heating oil enough for everyone. Kennedy’s all smiles but they forgot the part where Hugo Chavez shuts down the media and arrests his political opponents. I guess that would have made the ad too long.” Good thing he didn’t talk about how great families and babies are.
Oh, puhleez. Michael Steele plays the race card: “I don’t see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?”
Just a year ago Republicans were declared dead in New England. Now New Hampshire looks awfully Red. Actually, it looks Red all over. Rasmussen shows the GOP with an eight-point lead in the generic congressional poll. And John Kasich has a solid lead in the Ohio gubernatorial race.
The boys sure are obsessed with her: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs poked fun at Sarah Palin today, pretending to look to notes on his hand for a reminder during his daily briefing. The gesture was a not-so-subtle shot at Palin, whom reporters spotted using a crib sheet on her hand during a speech this weekend at the National Tea Party convention.” At least Gibbs didn’t talk about her breasts.
Rep. Peter King blasts away at “egomaniac” John Brennan for claiming that Obama’s critics are serving the “goals of al-Qaeda”: ”It is ‘the most mindless, self-serving, and irresponsible statement that a homeland-security adviser can make,’ King says. … ‘Brennan is trying to be cute by saying that on Christmas Day he briefed Republicans and Democrats. Leave aside the fact that he didn’t brief me, but he didn’t tell anybody anything that day other than the bare facts that were pretty much known to the public. He said that [Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] was in FBI custody. Now he’s claiming that that means he told people that [Abdulmutallab] was receiving Miranda rights and no one objected. If that’s what Brennan considers being honest and forthright, then we know that John Brennan is not being honest and forthright.’”
The billboard says “Miss Me Yet?” Why, yes, Mr. President.
Paul Begala or Karl Rove? “Incrementalists, stunned by what they see as overly broad and rapid change, are looking for the brakes. Radicals, depressed about the snail’s pace of progress, are looking for the exits.”
Jeffrey Goldberg spots the Muslim Student Union of the University of California at Irvine condemning the appearance of Israel Ambassador Michael Oren because — but of course! — Israel has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Council. “To the Muslim Student Union, the fact that the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more than all the other countries of the world combined means that Israel is worse than all the other countries of the world combined. To more rational, less prejudiced people, this fact means that the UN Human Rights Council is not a serious organization, but one under the control of dictators and despots.” Remind me why the Obami thought it necessary to rejoin that body?
Oren was heckled, which is no surprise. But it is nice to find a college political-science professor willing to call out the thuggery: “Prof. Mark P. Petracca, chairman of the university’s Political Science department, chastised the protesters, telling them, ‘This is beyond embarrassing. … This is no way for our undergraduate students to behave. We have an opportunity to hear from a policy-maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room. Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.’”
One 2012 Republican contender described Obama like this:
The messages are not being received by Barack Obama. So I think instead of lecturing, he needs to stop and he needs to listen on health care issues. On national security, this perceived lackadaisical approach that he has to dealing with the terrorists. We’re saying that concerns us and we’re going to speak up about it and please don’t allow this persona to continue where you do try to make us feel like we need to just sit down, shut up and accept what you’re doing to us.
At the very moment he’s trying to recover his declining popularity and revive his party heading into the November elections, even some Democrats worry that he risks coming off not as the inspirational figure who galvanized the electorate in 2008 but as the embodiment of a dour Democrat that turns off some voters.
The first take is from Sarah Palin, the second from Politico. Remarkable how Obama is drawing everyone together, I know. But what is different lately is not Obama but the widespread reaction to his hectoring. Remember, during the campaign, he was scolding us, too. Mary Katharine Ham made a whole video about it. And Michelle Obama warned us:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
Turns out all the finger-wagging and nagging doesn’t sit well with the American people. They have spouses, parents, and bosses telling them what to do much of the time, and they don’t need the president bossing them around, too, treating them like recalcitrant children who need perpetual instruction. Even Democrats are nervous:
Dee Dee Myers, a former White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton, pointed out that, while Obama has long promised to tell people the truth even when it hurts, he needs to strike a balance.“Part of what people liked about him during the campaign is that he talks to the American people like they’re grown-ups — you don’t have to pretend that you can eat ice cream and lose weight in order to be president,” Myers said. “He did that during the campaign by appealing to hope. … I think little of that has been lost.”
Added Democratic strategist Paul Begala, another Clinton veteran, “You got to be careful about that stuff, or you become a scold.”
Republicans who have long remarked on his condescending tone and message — be it on Gatesgate or ObamaCare — are amused by the newfound consensus. (“‘Nobody wants a national nanny,’ said Republican strategist John Feehery. ‘It’s really annoying, and people don’t want to hear it.’”) Of course, it fits with Obama’s general philosophy that Americans are too dim to run their own lives and need government to guide, monitor, mandate, and regulate everything from health care to carbon emissions. That he lacks age or life experience to dispense such advice is not lost on media skeptics: “Age hasn’t stopped the president, who, at 48, is at ease urging the Obama way — on a range of issues — onto those a lot more experienced than he is. He is at once Americans’ president and their additional dad, teacher, preacher, nutritionist, life coach and financial adviser.”
This seems to be part of the growing realization that what was acceptable or cool during the campaign — including that personal remoteness — does not serve Obama well as president. It is what comes, I suppose, from electing someone we knew so little about and who had so little time on the national stage. Not all blind dates work out.
Politico tries to figure out why a political operative would commit career suicide. The subject is Steve Schmidt, who seems to be willing to trade any chance to work on a future presidential campaign (perhaps any prominent GOP campaign) for the opportunity to bash the former vice-presidential candidate whom he helped select. He’s been on a tear, even before the campaign ended, to berate and insult Sarah Palin. His behavior is all the stranger because she, of course, happens to be, while a lightning rod outside the party, quite popular within it. This makes his attack on her the equivalent of a “Don’t Hire Me!” sign. And then there’s the crassness, the disloyalty, and the sheer lowness of savaging someone with whom you served as a campaign adviser. So why do it?
Paul Begala is all for it: “He played a real role in putting Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency. I wonder if he feels bad about it.”
But then, Clintonistas aren’t known for loyalty, so it probably doesn’t strike any discordant tone that Schmidt would go after his former client. Still, Begala has a point (by way of Palin-bashing): if we believe Schmidt that Palin was such a horrible choice, then he’s a horrible campaign strategist and should not have aided and abetted John McCain in selecting her.
John Ziegler comes back to the inevitable result of Schmidt’s vendetta: “Why would anyone hire Steve Schmidt? He’s tried to torpedo the most popular Republican that there is after running a horrendous presidential campaign.” Well, yes. But maybe Schmidt just can’t help himself. He was the man, after all, who practically burst into flames when — heaven forbid! — the New York Times treated his candidate harshly. He doesn’t seem like someone who knows when he’s being counterproductive or when to curb his anger. Or maybe he’s following the Scott McClellan route, as Ziegler suggests: “I think he’s trying to create a media career, and there is no easier way to do that then by being a Republican who is willing to bash other Republicans.”
Whatever the reason, it’s a reminder that bad campaign advisers can make problematic candidates worse. And a really rotten one will haunt you for years to come.
If you want to know what Hillary’s strategist, Harold Ickes, might whisper in the ears of superdelegates if she decides to stay in and fight, here is a good taste. Nothing quite beats Paul Begala lecturing Donna Brazile that Democrats can’t win with a coalition of “eggheads and African Americans.” After that exchange, you can probably add one more superdelegate (Brazile) to the Obama column. Gotta love that Clinton light touch.
But before Republicans get excited about the possibilty of vicious infighting that will torment Democrats, those Republicans should keep in mind two things. First, eventually there will be a nominee (whether May or June or August) and a final night of the convention where everyone will raise hands together and declare undying loyalty. Most of those Clinton supporters, especially ones committed enough to vote in a primary, will vote Democratic in November. And there are a lot more registered Democrats than there used to be.
Second, Obama is a fast learner. His speech last night included a heavy dose of heartfelt appreciation for America, reverence for the land of opportunity and lots of empathy for working class voters. Like a vacuum cleaner, he is sucking up the Clintonian message to blue collar voters and absorbing the rhetoric which has successfully lured a coalition of working class whites, seniors and women. Don’t expect any more Snobgate slip-ups.
In short, the fun for conservatives is at an end.
As things get desperate, the Clinton campaign is taking on Brittany Spears-like media undulations. Fox News reports that former Bill Clinton advisors James Carville and Paul Begala have been added to Hillary’s team.
Carville and Begala will serve as top strategists on politics and communication and likely overshadow the current role of Mark Penn, Hillary’s senior strategist, and Patty Solis Doyle, Hillary’s current campaign manager.
Yet, when contacted, Carville had this to say:
Fox was, is and will continue to be an asinine and ignorant network. I have not spoken to anyone in the Clinton campaign about this. I have not done domestic political consulting since President Clinton was elected. I’m not getting back into domestic political consulting. If I do go back, it would be safe to say that I’m the biggest liar in America.
Hail Marys, rumors, and denials. The machine that turned image management into religion and redefined spin has lost control. If Carville and Begala do come back it should be noted that Hillary can’t very well continue to call herself an agent of change by bringing in the old guard to steady the ship.
Yesterday’s Washington Post reported that Senator Barack Obama claims he can move the country out of “ideological gridlock” and bring the country together more effectively than can Senator Hillary Clinton. This declaration is consistent with Obama’s broader claim, which is that he will put an end to “polarizing politics.”
Obama is attempting to tap into something real, which is the reluctance on the part of many Americans to be drawn back into the psychodramas of the Clinton years: Ken Starr and Kathleen Willey; private investigators hired to look into the private lives of women alleged to have had affairs with Bill Clinton; the (still-resonating) charge of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”; and the brass-knuckle tactics of James Carville, Paul Begala, Sidney Blumenthal, and others. Most of us would like that chapter of American politics to stay closed.
At the same time, the claim that a divided America is somehow “bad” is itself intellectually sloppy. Most of us prefer social harmony to discord—but unity is not the only, or even the highest good in politics. Was there a more divisive and reviled president than Lincoln, who uprooted the centuries-old institution of slavery? The biographer Robert Jackson wrote that after Franklin Roosevelt had been in office for a brief period, “the lines began to separate between those in whom he inspired an all-out devotion and those in whom he aroused an implacable hatred.” Martin Luther King, Jr. was “the object of bitter hatred.” And in 1984 the pollster Lou Harris claimed that Ronald Reagan was polarizing the country more than any president since FDR.
“Conviction politicians” are often polarizing because they take ideas seriously and are willing to do battle on their behalf. And often the greatest advances in history come about only after contentious political debates led by brave and, yes, polarizing political leaders.