The GOP has captured the governorship and House seats in the 3rd, 7th, 8th, 10th, and 11th. The Senate race has narrowed to a bit more than three points. Pittsburgh is 98% counted. Philadelphia is 90% counted. It will be a squeaker, but Toomey looks as if he can pull it out. This would be another stunning reversal in a state Obama carried easily in 2008.
Joe Sestak continues to hold on to a lead that he has held for over an hour, though it is steadily diminishing. But savvy Democrats can’t be too happy. Right now CNN is reporting that with 44 percent of the vote counted, Sestak is holding on to a slim four-point lead. But once you realize that 60 percent of Philadelphia’s vote is already in and 90 percent of Pittsburgh’s votes are counted, that means the bulk of the ballots that are not yet tabulated come from the rest of the state. As James Carville once quipped, Pennsylvania can only be understood politically as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. Which means that Sestak’s lead may well be short-lived.
Joe Biden was apparently selected as Obama’s running mate for his experience and foreign policy gravitas. It is only in Washington D.C. that longevity can be confused with wisdom; Biden has plenty of the former and precious little of the latter, having been wrong on almost every national security issue for the past 30 years.
But as things would work out, Biden’s running mate, known for his charisma and political prowess, is proving to be a bore and politically toxic. So the job of rallying the base for the midterms falls to Biden. As this report explains:
Now, at 67, in an election season when his party feels beaten down, when voters are angry and afraid, when the cool, cerebral detachment that seemed so appealing in Mr. Obama in 2008 is raising questions about whether he can “connect,” Mr. Biden is trying to fill the void — even as strategists in both parties see Democrats’ prospects dimming.
Mr. Biden has been zipping around the country to places like Columbia, S.C., and hard-hit Rust Belt cities like Akron, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, while Mr. Obama has been confining himself largely to friendlier settings like college campuses and big-dollar fund-raisers.
Unfortunately, Biden isn’t much better at politicking than he is at foreign policy. He tells a crowd that they are the dullest he’s ever encountered. His “recovery summer” blather is now mocked by pundits and political opponents. But just as no one ever really votes for the vice president in presidential elections, no one in the midterms really pays too much attention to the VP:
“Democrats have it in their heads that he is still more popular in a lot of blue-collar districts where Obama is having a toxic effect,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “To most voters, a Biden campaign visit doesn’t make President Obama disappear.”
For all his troubles, Biden may be traded to the State Department for Hillary Clinton in 2012. And then we can really see all that Biden knows about foreign policy. Well, he probably wouldn’t be any worse than the current secretary.
The Pennsylvania media is on to Joe Sestak’s strategic gaffe:
U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak frequently tells supporters at campaign events that he would rather risk his job than shirk a principle. The Delaware County Democrat says it is for that reason that his campaign has been demanding that television stations across the state, and Comcast here in Philadelphia, pull ads created and funded by private groups attacking his run for the U.S. Senate.
But by attacking his attackers, does Sestak help draw attention to their claims?
That seemed to be the case with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is running an ad on 21 TV stations in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton and Johnstown that says that Sestak voted 100 percent of the time with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “job-killing” legislation on health care and energy.
Two stations in Pittsburgh pulled the ad for one day, but the resulting media coverage only helped spread the message.
The report points out that the same is true of his unsuccessful effort to stifle the Emergency Committee for Israel. And what does Sestak say, now that it’s apparent his “shut-up” strategy is a bust?
That ad claims that Sestak “raised money for an anti-Israel organization the FBI called a front group for Hamas,” the Palestinian group that funds terrorist attacks on Israel.
Sestak said his campaign asked Comcast to pull the ad because it is “harming Israel’s security.”
“This was not any kind of political calculation,” Sestak said. “For me, this was purely based on how I look at Israel, which is always about security and not politics.”
Groan. He tried to trample on the First Amendment rights of his opponents for Israel’s sake? Good grief. Shouldn’t he then have tried to take down J Street’s ad? I mean apparently debating Israel policy is somehow a threat to the Jewish state. But no, it’s actually a threat to Sestak, one so severe he’s tried to squash the entire discussion.
But if we want to talk about what is good for Israel, let’s ask Israelis. Only about 10 percent of them approve of Obama’s policy, which J Street tells us (most recently in its ad that features Obama quite prominently) is exactly what Sestak is supporting. Oh, Israelis don’t get to decide what is in their security interests, at least according to J Street.
One thing is certain: Sestak and the Democrats are petrified of making Israel a campaign issue. They simply want critics of their approach to pipe down and voters to accept on faith that their self-descriptions as pro-Israel are unassailable. If we weren’t a democracy where all issues of public policy are open to debate and where elected leaders must be accountable for their actions, it would make perfect sense.
Last week, I questioned whether J Street had become more trouble than its worth to liberal Democratic candidates. In its highest-profile race — the Sestak-Toomey Pennsylvania Senate contest — the answer is clearly no.
In response to the Emergency Committee for Israel’s (ECI) ad buy and the ensuing flurry of news stories, J Street, with great fanfare, announced an ad buy of its own. However, a knowledgeable source provides me with numbers that demonstrate that the buy is puny — a grand total of $6,000. The J Street movers and shakers plunked down all of $2,600 for Philly cable. In Pittsburgh, J Street has spread its largess to the tune of $3,250. In Harrisburg — hold on to your hats — $150 was thrown about for their endorsed candidate.
This, folks, is a pittance. J Street’s biggest “contribution” is to bog Joe Sestak down in controversy. The group’s Gaza 54 letter, which Sestak signed, is one of the pillars of a now widely distributed ad going after Sestak’s Israel bona fides. His endorsement by J Street and the series of positions he has taken that have met with J Street’s favor (not to mention the letter to the UN Human Rights Council, which smacks of J Street accommodation with Israel-bashers) have made prominent an issue Sestak plainly doesn’t want to be front and center. And yet it is — not only by virtue of ECI’s ad but also because of the free media attention it has garnered — with J Street’s help. Is this the sort of help a liberal candidate really needs in a very tough election year?
Moreover, J Street’s own agenda – defending Obama “unconditionally” — seems to take precedence over the needs of individual congressmen. Does Sestak really benefit from an ad with a picture of Obama speaking at the UN and praising the president’s Middle East approach? It is very hard to see how. It’s certainly not going to make Jewish voters less nervous about him.
J Street seems to want to do two contradictory things — be controversial and antagonistic toward robust supporters of Israel (e.g., AIPAC, ECI) and also be influential in House and Senate races. Unfortunately for the Democrats in those races, J Street’s behavior infects their campaigns.
Here is a small but telling example. Joel Pollak (no relation to Noah), a fresh Republican face and strong friend of Israel, has gained the support of Alan Dershowitz against the Israel-bashing and J Street–endorsed Jan Schakowsky in the Illinois 9th. Pollak relates the following on his Facebook page:
Today is Tisha B’Av, when Jews traditionally commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and mourn other tragedies in our history. Last night, as the holiday began, the new left-wing lobby known as J Street threw a cocktail party in downtown Chicago. The featured guest was J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. Since J Street has refused any previous request to debate the issues with me, I went down to speak to Ben-Ami & Co. myself.
One of my opponent’s senior staffers was there, as were about a dozen J Street staff and supporters. Ben-Ami was cordial, but seemed indifferent to the significance of the day. I asked him why J Street’s new ad attacks Joe Lieberman, who is well respected in the Jewish community. He described Lieberman–who supports direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution–as an “obstacle” to peace.
“If you showed the same enthusiasm in opposing Iran and Hamas as you do in fighting Alan Dershowitz, Elie Wiesel, and Joe Lieberman,” I said, “perhaps J Street would be more popular.” I also asked Ben-Ami about his organization’s attempt to use the federal government to target Jewish charities that may provide services to Israelis living across the 1949 armistice line. Why not investigate Islamic charities that fund anti-Israel views?
“I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities,” was Ben-Ami’s exact quote.
Now, does this help Pollak’s opponent or Pollak?
J Street brings its own baggage to midterm races but not much cash. Once candidates figure this out, will they really want a J Street stamp of approval? It’s hard to see why they would.
Last week, we witnessed Joe Sestak’s lawyer fail to get Comcast to pull ECI’s ad. In doing so, Sestak only succeeded in calling attention to the problematic aspects of his stance toward Israel, most particularly his CAIR speech in 2007. (J Street has not replied to my queries as to whether the group had read the speech before endorsing Sestak, whether it agreed with Sestak’s praise of CAIR, and whether J Street believes CAIR has ties to Hamas and Hezbollah.) But this is not an isolated gambit. Trying to shut up his critics appears to be his entire media strategy so far. The local Pennsylvania press reports:
Two Pittsburgh-area television stations have put ads attacking Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak back on the air after yanking them earlier this week.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had bought the ad time on 21 stations across Pennsylvania, but the Sestak campaign protested as inaccurate the portions of the spot in which the organization accuses Mr. Sestak of voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 100 percent of the time.
WPGH and WPMY, sister stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, pulled the ads from the air for a day, but reversed course today, said Bill Miller, the Chamber’s senior vice president of political affairs.
Once the business group contacted the stations to explain the claims, the ad was reinstated, Mr. Miller said. Arguing that the ad was false, the Sestak campaign cited a recent vote against an amendment on the DISCLOSE Act — a bill to restrict campaign financing — as evidence that Mr. Sestak is not always in line with the Ms. Pelosi, and thus claiming the ad is false.
Now get this: Sestak’s argument for pulling the ad was that he hasn’t voted 100 percent of the time with Pelosi – only 97.8 percent. OK, this just isn’t very bright. He’s now done a bang-up job of reinforcing the argument that it’s a bad thing to be a rubber stamp for Pelosi. And he’s heightened the awareness that he’s one of the chief rubber-stampers. Pat Toomey’s campaign was clearly delighted:
“There’s a good reason why all of the television stations aren’t buying Joe Sestak’s laughable complaint,” Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said. “It’s because it simply isn’t true. Over his 3 1/2 years in Congress, Joe Sestak has marched in lockstep with liberal Nancy Pelosi, voting for all the major elements of her leftwing agenda, from serial bailouts, to government-run health care, to a cap-and-trade energy tax, to ballooning deficits, to billions of dollars in new tax increases. No wonder Congressman Sestak doesn’t want Pennsylvanians to see the ad.”
That’s just a layup for the Toomey camp. So what is Sestak thinking? Got me. You can’t simply stifle the opposition when they remind voters of inconvenient facts, whether it is on domestic or foreign policy. But it is interesting to know that association with Nancy Pelosi strikes fear in the hearts of even the most liberal Democrats.
According to ESPN:
Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games on Wednesday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the NFL announced. The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback also was ordered to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation. Commissioner Roger Goodell will evaluate Roethlisberger’s progress before the season and might consider reducing the suspension to four games. However, a failure to comply with the NFL’s ruling might lead to a longer suspension.
In his letter to Roethlisberger, Goodell said:
I recognize that the allegations [of sexual assault] in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you. My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.
Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare.
I believe it is essential that you take full advantage of the resources available to you. My ultimate disposition in this matter will be influenced by the extent to which you do so, what you learn as a result, and a demonstrated commitment to making positive change in your life.
In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track.
Good for Roger Goodell — and good for the Steeler organization and the city of Pittsburgh, which is not standing behind Roethlisberger. The disappointment and anger directed at Roethlisberger, who has found himself in trouble before, is hard to overstate. In fact, ESPN reports that the Steelers are entertaining trade offers from other clubs (such a trade would surprise me).
Goodell has made it clear in the past, and with this latest action, that he takes the phrase “integrity of the game” seriously. He understands that athletes, whether they want to or not, are role models, and they should be held to some minimal standards of conduct. And he knows that as commissioner, he has a “brand” — the best in sports — to protect.
I have no idea whether Roethlisberger is going to finally get his life under control, but what Goodell has done will increase the possibility that he will.
What Goodell did was impressive. Ben Roethlisberger is down to his last chance. He can’t say he hasn’t been warned.
Senator Hillary Clinton has a new ad that describes the presidency as “the toughest job in the world. You need to be ready for anything–especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis.” The ad quotes Harry Truman–”if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”– and concludes with this question: “Who do you think has what it takes?”
Among the images in the ad is one of Osama bin Laden. It turns out that was too much for some of Barack Obama’s supporters. In his interview last night with Clinton, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said:
Let me ask you about the campaign and something you said in Pittsburgh today and again, let me read the quote about being president. “It’s the toughest job in the world and you have to be ready for anything. Two wars, skyrocketing oil prices, an economy in crisis. Well, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” That is almost word for word the narration of this new ad that your campaign put out today, and that ad flashes a very brief image of Osama bin Laden. For nearly six years now since Senator Max Cleland was cut down by a commercial that featured a picture of bin Laden, that has been — that tactic has been kind of a bloody shirt for many Democrats. Is it not just, in your opinion, as much of a scare tactic for a Democrat to use it against another Democrat, as it is for a Republican to use it in a race against the Democrat?
Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, was on CNN making the same complaint:
What’s really disappointing about this ad is all of us should remember in 2002 when the Republicans ran an ad featuring Osama bin Laden against Max Cleland. And all the Democrats were upset about that, because they used Osama bin Laden to stir up fear. And now here we are again, watching Democrats use Osama bin Laden to stir fear against other Democrats.
The Max Cleland ad has become an urban legend in some quarters. According to this narrative, an ad run by Cleland’s opponent, Saxby Chambliss, questioned the patriotism of Cleland, a man who served in Vietnam and became a triple amputee. In point of fact, this ad did no such thing. Cleland had voted multiple times against a homeland security bill that would have given the President freedom from union rules which Bush had deemed necessary to make the new Department of Homeland Security more effective. Chambliss’s ad included pictures of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, underscoring the threats faced by America. At no point was Cleland’s patriotism impugned. What the ad did do was dispute Cleland’s claim that he had the “courage to lead” and that he “supports President Bush at every opportunity.”
So it has come to this: simply the picture of Osama bin Laden in an ad highlighting threats to America has become a “scare tactic” and a “bloody shirt for many Democrats.” Forget the fact that the threats we face are real, that bin Laden was responsible for killing almost 3,000 Americans on September 11th, and that he is leading figure in a jihadist movement that wants to destroy our country and kill many more of our people. Using the image of bin Laden is verboten.
This is yet one more example of the delicate sensibilities and manufactured outrage that makes people wonder about contemporary liberalism. I suspect Americans are more concerned with the threat posed by bin Laden than they are concerned by the use of his image in an ad. The public is right to be impatient with such childishness.
One of the things worth noting about Senator Obama’s comments about the “bitter” working class voters who “cling” to guns, religion, and nativist sentiments because of their “frustrations” is this: Obama’s view of America and Americans is almost unremittingly bleak. In his increasingly prickly and aggressive defense, Obama insists that his comments about ordinary Americans are accurate. He is, he insists, completely “in touch” with the struggles that define modern American life. At least that’s how he defines things: if you review Obama’s speeches, his portrait of Americans is of a people broken and dispirited, anxious and angry and without hope (and for whom Obama, as you might have guessed, is the balm).
Obama has spoken about crumbling schools, growing divisions, and shattered dreams. He speaks about the one father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills, and the father who’s worried he won’t be able to send his children to college . . . about the mother who can’t afford health care for her sick child and the other mother who saw her mortgage double in two weeks and didn’t know where her two-year old children would sleep at night . . . the woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sick sister . . . the senior who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school just to make ends meet, and on and on. The American public, Obama believes, has justifiably become cynical, frustrated, and bitter.
It’s also worth considering the views of those to whom Obama is closest. His wife Michelle has said that America is “downright mean.” It’s a nation whose soul is “broken.” And it’s a nation in which she had never, until her husband ran for President, taken pride. Obama’s longtime friend, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., describes America as fundamentally racist, the “U.S. of K.K.K,” a “Eurocentric wasteland of lily-white lies.”
Senator Obama, in casting himself as a change agent, wants to focus on the failings of our nation. That is typical fare for a presidential candidate. It’s perfectly legitimate, and even right, to call attention to problems that need to be solved and the struggles people are having.
The question for Obama, however, is whether his portrait of America is defining. Does he believe that his comments about working-class people are actually characteristic of them? When he looks out at Americans does he see people who are, on some deep level, broken, bitter, angry, and unable to cope with the vicissitudes of life?
It appears that he does. And if he does, it certainly explains his support for paternalistic government and for the nanny state. It has become unfashionable to point out that for all the problems we face, those of us now living in America are the most fortunate people in history. We live in a nation of extraordinary wealth and scientific and medical advancements. This country, while not without its flaws, has made great strides in alleviating poverty, discrimination, and injustice. We are free to speak, vote, worship, and associate with others. Americans now live longer and better than any previous generation. Our nation remains a force for good in the world. That doesn’t mean our citizen’s lives are without challenges or concerns. It only means that, relative to the rest of the world and relative to history, we’re in pretty good shape.
On some deep level, Obama doesn’t see this. He looks out at America and sees a nation needy, crippled, and desperate for succor from the federal government. A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday:
The supreme arrogance of this man [Obama] comes through with every new defense. I just saw his remarks to the steelworkers in Pittsburgh and, again, it’s everyone else who’s out of touch. Also, it really is a slander against millions of people. I’ve belonged to small town churches all my life (and still do) and I belong to [a gun club in his home state of Minnesota]. It’s hard to find more positive, affirming, communities than small town churches and the hunting/fishing/outdoor culture. What he really doesn’t “get” is the non-materialistic nature of these cultures.
That sounds about right to me. Barack Obama is running as the candidate of hope–but he views America as more or less a wreck and its people as beaten down. From this flawed assumption flows much else, from his rhetoric to his policy proposals. And it helps explain why Obama’s off-the-record comments to a group of wealthy liberals in San Francisco weren’t a “distraction,” as he now characterizes them, but rather a real insight into the mind and sensibilities of the junior senator from Illinois.
Yesterday (as Jennifer noted) Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke for the first time about the association between the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Sen. Barack Obama, saying “getting up and moving” would have been the right response to hearing Wright’s sermons. According to the
Wright “would not have been my pastor,”
Clintonsaid during an interview with the conservative editorial board of the Tribune-Review… “You don’t choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend,” she said. Obama refused to disavow Wright even as he said he disagreed with some of his sermons…. Pittsburgh Clinton, speaking in Pittsburgh, cited her earlier condemnation of radio host Don Imus, after he insulted the Rutgers‘ women’s basketball team, as an example of how Obama should have reacted to his pastor’s words. “You know, I spoke out against Don Imus, saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that,” the paper quoted as saying. “I think you have to speak out against that. You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly by getting up and moving.” Clinton
In response Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, said this:
After originally refusing to play politics with this issue, it’s disappointing to see Hillary Clinton’s campaign sink to this low in a transparent effort to distract attention away from the story she made up about dodging sniper fire in
. The truth is, Barack Obama has already spoken out against his pastor’s offensive comments and addressed the issue of race in Bosnia with a deeply personal and uncommonly honest speech. The American people deserve better than tired political games that do nothing to solve the larger challenges facing this country. America
Actually, what Senator Clinton said is perfectly reasonable. You don’t choose your family but you do choose your church–and it’s reasonable to ask why Senator Obama chose to attend Trinity United Church of Christ. It’s even more reasonable to ask why Obama, once he was exposed to the worldview of Reverend Wright, never confronted him over his anti-American views and never left the church. That was the obvious and right thing to do. For Obama not to have done so was, in part, a failure of courage and judgment on his part.
Nor do we know what “fierce” and “controversial” things Wright said from the pulpit that Obama now admits to having heard and with which he strongly disagreed. What did Reverend Wright say, and when did he say it? Those questions are certainly legitimate and answerable.
There is nothing “low” in what Mrs. Clinton said. What is unfolding is a transparent attempt by the Obama campaign, in conjunction with some in the media, to declare the Wright matter off-limits–to argue that (a) Obama’s Philadelphia speech put the matter to rest; (b) Obama is the victim of a smear campaign; (c) he should be left alone so he can lead our desperately important national conversation on race; and (d) those who continue to press the Wright matter are attempting to swiftboat Obama.
These complaints are not logically sustainable. Try as they might, Obama’s defenders in the campaign and the media will not succeed in putting an end to this matter. If it can be done, only Obama himself can do it. And so far, he’s failed. His long, close association with the hate-spewing Jeremiah Wright remains, and rightly so, a stain on Barack Obama.
An intrepid operative over at The Jawa Report has posted a revelatory survey of jihadists and jihad sympathizers who’ve established “groups” on the social networking site Facebook.com.
Groups like 14 Shabat, Muslim Brotherhood, and even some al Qaeda wannabes are featured. . .
Other groups are more general, such as “Resistance Movement Supporters,” where group members are greeted with pictures [sic] Hamas leaders.
A group of Islamist hackers calling themselves “Islamic Force” has only a few members, but many other less specialized groups have memberships numbering in the hundreds.
Group pages offer a selection of boilerplate anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda, complete with videos depicting alleged “atrocities” enacted upon Lebanese, Palestinians, and so on.
The preponderance of Western supporters is arresting. At one pro-Hizballah group page, a commentator left this heart-warming observation (both tellingly un-capitalized and capitalized):
im christian english but all I can say is, my heart my soul and my love are behind you. fight for your freedom because no one else will. I pray God and Allah will destroy your enemies.