Commentary Magazine


Topic: Republican National Committee

Rules Change Doesn’t Guarantee GOP Win

Other than Mike Huckabee’s libido gaffe and the discouraging vote condemning the National Security Agency’s intelligence collection, the big news from last week’s Republican National Committee meeting was its decision to shorten the presidential primary schedule, reduce the number of debates and hold their national convention in June rather than in August 2016. The new rules increase penalties on states that seek earlier primaries and caucuses, thus weakening the impact of the four early-voting states, and shortening the primary season to avoid the long and costly internecine bloodbath that so damaged Mitt Romney’s candidacy. The purpose of all the reform is to increase the chances of producing a viable nominee and strengthen the party’s ability to unite and deploy its financial resources in time to win the general election.

But while all these new rules make sense, Republicans should understand that no changes in its procedures can ensure that the GOP will pick an electable candidate in 2016. Though these measures address specific problems that the party encountered in 2012, there’s no guarantee that the new ones will do better or won’t, in fact, have the opposite effect. They could turn out to increase the chances that an outlier candidate rather than a mainstream favorite will sweep the compressed primaries and present the party with a nominee with little chance of beating Hillary Clinton, or whoever the Democrats choose.

The RNC is right to push back against the recent trend in which states wishing to gain the attention that is given to those that go first jumped the line and began the process back in January. A more rational schedule with Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada voting in February and then other states in March cuts down the already insufferably long primary season to more manageable proportions. The rules forcing the early-voting states to hand out their delegates proportionally but allowing later primaries to be winner-take-all should increase the influence of the March and April primaries and, at least in theory, produce a result that reflects the will of GOP voters in large states with mixed urban/rural populations rather than a contest that seemed to be more a product of the whims of Iowa farmers and inhabitants of small towns in New Hampshire.

But to assume that a different process will produce a different result is to make a leap of faith that isn’t justified by the circumstances.

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Other than Mike Huckabee’s libido gaffe and the discouraging vote condemning the National Security Agency’s intelligence collection, the big news from last week’s Republican National Committee meeting was its decision to shorten the presidential primary schedule, reduce the number of debates and hold their national convention in June rather than in August 2016. The new rules increase penalties on states that seek earlier primaries and caucuses, thus weakening the impact of the four early-voting states, and shortening the primary season to avoid the long and costly internecine bloodbath that so damaged Mitt Romney’s candidacy. The purpose of all the reform is to increase the chances of producing a viable nominee and strengthen the party’s ability to unite and deploy its financial resources in time to win the general election.

But while all these new rules make sense, Republicans should understand that no changes in its procedures can ensure that the GOP will pick an electable candidate in 2016. Though these measures address specific problems that the party encountered in 2012, there’s no guarantee that the new ones will do better or won’t, in fact, have the opposite effect. They could turn out to increase the chances that an outlier candidate rather than a mainstream favorite will sweep the compressed primaries and present the party with a nominee with little chance of beating Hillary Clinton, or whoever the Democrats choose.

The RNC is right to push back against the recent trend in which states wishing to gain the attention that is given to those that go first jumped the line and began the process back in January. A more rational schedule with Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada voting in February and then other states in March cuts down the already insufferably long primary season to more manageable proportions. The rules forcing the early-voting states to hand out their delegates proportionally but allowing later primaries to be winner-take-all should increase the influence of the March and April primaries and, at least in theory, produce a result that reflects the will of GOP voters in large states with mixed urban/rural populations rather than a contest that seemed to be more a product of the whims of Iowa farmers and inhabitants of small towns in New Hampshire.

But to assume that a different process will produce a different result is to make a leap of faith that isn’t justified by the circumstances.

It is true that the drawn-out schedule of debates, primaries and caucuses created a sort of “Queen for a Day” dynamic in which second-tier candidates took turns rising to the top of the heap, putting a good scare into a GOP establishment that spent the latter half of 2011 desperately trying to persuade some prominent non-candidates to jump into the race. Though Republicans wound up picking the most mainstream candidate in Mitt Romney, the process left him bloodied by his intra-party foes and his resources drained by the scrum.

But the length of the process also worked to his advantage. Though Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain (remember him?), Newt Gingrich, and then finally Rick Santorum all had their moments in the sun, the long slog actually benefited Romney since he had the money and the national appeal to weather his rivals momentary spurts of popularity.

A shortened schedule opens up the possibility that a less-electable candidate can appear at the right moment and then sweep the early states—where more conservative voters predominate—and then have the momentum as well as the mantel of inevitability to win the nomination.

But there’s a more important lesson to be drawn here. No process or schedule can ensure a Republican victory if the party nominates a candidate who can’t win. After all, even though Romney was the most electable Republican in 2012, he wasn’t elected, for reasons that had nothing to do with what happened in Iowa or the amount of money he raised. His defeat had everything to do with the party’s inability to turn out enough voters to stop the president. I would argue that no Republican could have beaten Barack Obama that year. But even if I’m wrong, the emphasis on process ignores more important problems relating to the types of candidates who run and the party’s inability to win the votes of groups such as women and Hispanics that abandoned them in droves in 2012.

No matter how the process works, the Herman Cains are not going to win presidential nominations. But the rules won’t stop a Ted Cruz or even a Rand Paul from gaining momentum at the right moment and sweeping through the late winter and early spring of 2016 to victory even though these two favorites of the GOP base have little hope of beating Hillary. If the deep GOP bench turns out for one reason or another to be not as deep as we now think, it won’t matter what rules the RNC designs or how few or how many debates they force us to endure. One can sympathize with the RNC’s hope that changing the rules will change the game, but it will take a change in the array of candidates, as well, to return the GOP to the White House.

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Republicans Recognize Their Party in Peril

The new RNC report has elicited a lot of reaction. I wanted to highlight just one element that I found encouraging, which is it clearly understands the magnitude of the challenging facing the national GOP.

The report cites the results of presidential elections from 1968-1988, when Republicans were utterly dominant (winning an average of 417 electoral votes); and from 1992-2012, when Republican have lost the popular vote five out of six times. (During that period no Republican presidential candidate reached even 300 electoral votes.)

I wanted to add several more data points to reinforce the reasons for concern.

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The new RNC report has elicited a lot of reaction. I wanted to highlight just one element that I found encouraging, which is it clearly understands the magnitude of the challenging facing the national GOP.

The report cites the results of presidential elections from 1968-1988, when Republicans were utterly dominant (winning an average of 417 electoral votes); and from 1992-2012, when Republican have lost the popular vote five out of six times. (During that period no Republican presidential candidate reached even 300 electoral votes.)

I wanted to add several more data points to reinforce the reasons for concern.

On demographics: In 2012, Governor Mitt Romney carried the white vote by 20 points. If the country’s demographic composition were still the same last year as it was in 2000, Romney would now be president. If it were still the same as it was in 1992, he would have won going away. And if it were the same last year as it was in 1980, Romney would have won by a larger margin than Ronald Reagan. Instead Barack Obama won easily. 

On public perceptions: Last month a Pew Research Center poll found that 62 percent of respondents (and 65 percent of independents) agreed with the statement that the Republican Party was “out of touch with the American people.” Even 36 percent of Republicans thought their party was out of touch. And more than half of those surveyed (52 percent) said the Republican Party was “too extreme” (only 39 percent said that same thing of Democrats).

On party affiliations: In the Pew Research Center poll, respondents identified with Democrats more than Republicans by 14 points (51 v. 37 percent) when independents were pressed to say which party they leaned toward.

To add insult to injury, the RNC conducted focus groups in Columbus, Ohio and Des Moines, Iowa with people who formerly considered themselves Republicans. They described the GOP as “scary,” “narrow-minded,” and “out of touch” and said it was comprised of “stuffy, old white men.”

What this means is that unless the GOP makes some fairly significant course corrections, losses will continue to mount. To be clear: It’s not that a Republican candidate can’t beat a Democratic candidate at any particular point in time; it’s that the trajectory of events means that absent a new Republican Party, and a modernized conservatism, it will be harder and harder for the right to win. Republicans will have to produce more and more exceptional candidates and hope Democrats produce more and more sub-par ones.

For the GOP to once again become dominant will require significant upgrades in the mechanics of campaigning (from improvements in data-gathering, micro-targeting and social media outreach to earlier primaries and a better ground game). But it will also require a particularly talented presidential candidate who can recalibrate the party without ripping it apart, and a policy agenda committed to limited government while also repositioning the GOP in ways that addresses its weaknesses and signals to the public that it’s changing.

Fortunately, a lot of work is being done by policy thinkers, public intellectuals and lawmakers and governors on ways to deal with social mobility; exploding college and health care costs (including replacing the Affordable Care Act); pension and collective bargaining reforms; ending corporate welfare; breaking up the big banks; a simpler and leaner tax code; increasing child tax credits; taking advantage of the revolution in energy technology; strengthening our social and civic institutions; reforms in education and immigration; extending the principles of welfare reform to other federal-aid programs; overhauling our prison system; making adoption easier; and more.

This is not the time for intellectual rigidity and repeating the same slogans, only with volume turned up. Rather, people who represent different strands within the party need to engage each other with real arguments.

I have a hunch, too. Those who believe their main purpose in life is to expel heretics from the temple–who believe in addition by subtraction and purity over prudence–are going to make a lot of noise and issue a lot of threats. They’ll cite the Constitution without ever recognizing that it was the product of an extraordinary series of political compromises. And they will repeatedly invoke the name of Reagan even as they come across in most un-Reagan-like ways: agitated and angry, unhappy and bitter, full of scores to settle. They are fading figures, and on some deep level they recognize it.

The good news for the GOP is that political fortunes can shift fairly dramatically. But this will require an honest appraisal of this moment in time. The RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project does that, and for that reason alone it’s a useful contribution to the Republican future.

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Hope for the GOP’s Digital Strategy with New RNC Report

Unlike previous, informal autopsies on GOP data and digital performance, yesterday’s release from the RNC, a 100-page report on the future of the Republican Party, comes as a welcome breath of fresh air. Following the election, former digital managers for the Romney campaign joined with DC operatives and consultants for a cheerleading session. These meetings were like letting a murderer conduct the autopsy of his victim, making it impossible to draw meaningful lessons from the election’s many failures. This latest report acknowledges the “unique position” the RNC is in to initiate and execute a transformation in how digital efforts are regarded, funded and staffed in the future.

The RNC’s report details the path forward for a party that has lost the popular vote five out of the last six elections. Its scope is wide, discussing outreach, digital, data, and policy. It’s a document that makes clear that the leadership of the party recognizes that serious changes need to be made in order to prevent it from becoming a permanent minority. Many of the report’s recommendations have made conservatives nervous, especially the language pertaining to immigration. On the data and digital fronts, however, a highly-reported failure of the Romney campaign, there is room for hope.

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Unlike previous, informal autopsies on GOP data and digital performance, yesterday’s release from the RNC, a 100-page report on the future of the Republican Party, comes as a welcome breath of fresh air. Following the election, former digital managers for the Romney campaign joined with DC operatives and consultants for a cheerleading session. These meetings were like letting a murderer conduct the autopsy of his victim, making it impossible to draw meaningful lessons from the election’s many failures. This latest report acknowledges the “unique position” the RNC is in to initiate and execute a transformation in how digital efforts are regarded, funded and staffed in the future.

The RNC’s report details the path forward for a party that has lost the popular vote five out of the last six elections. Its scope is wide, discussing outreach, digital, data, and policy. It’s a document that makes clear that the leadership of the party recognizes that serious changes need to be made in order to prevent it from becoming a permanent minority. Many of the report’s recommendations have made conservatives nervous, especially the language pertaining to immigration. On the data and digital fronts, however, a highly-reported failure of the Romney campaign, there is room for hope.

Yesterday TechPresident interviewed several GOP operatives who, unlike the consultants involved with the Romney campaign, were warning of the failure of those on the right to keep up technologically long before the election. The experts TechPresident spoke with all expressed cautious optimism at the plan’s vision for the future of the Republican Party’s commitment to digital and data strategy. Some aspects were taken straight from the pages of the publication and others like it, specifically consultants who have long been warning that the talent pool for technology on the right was filled with political operatives who were also interested in tech, not the other way around.

The best executed aspects of the Obama campaign’s digital efforts were developed by recruits hired directly from Silicon Valley. These were technologically focused individuals who had little outside experience in politics before the Obama campaign. Yesterday’s RNC report suggested replicating that success, reaching out to youth not just for their votes, but also their expertise. RedState’s Erick Erickson and other conservative activists have long warned about the dangers of the consultant class and its ability to stifle innovation within the party. While the report, as Erickson noted today in an op-ed for Fox News, neglects to address this issue specifically, the fact that the RNC is actively looking to recruit in San Francisco, Austin, New York and Denver holds the promise that the talent pool that the conservative movement draws from would be infused with fresh faces and ideas.

Other experts, like the Heritage Foundation’s Rob Bluey, expressed concern that the party would be centralizing the digital efforts of the movement within the party. Bluey told Raw Story, “When it comes to data, I don’t know if there should be a central repository that the RNC is only going to share with the candidates of its choice, instead of letting the market pick the winners.” This is a legitimate concern that should be addressed as the RNC continues to grow its digital footprint. But if the right candidates are chosen (as Jonathan rightly cautioned was the most essential element of a successful Republican Party), they will be able to compete on par with Democratic nominees in 2016 and beyond if the RNC follows through with the plans set forth in the Growth and Opportunity Project.

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GOP Ought to Trash Caucuses in 2016

The blowback from the right against the Republican National Committee’s autopsy of the 2012 election has begun with a barrage of bitter attacks from supporters of Rand Paul and Rick Santorum. But no one should be under the assumption that the critique of the report—especially its blueprint for revising the 2016 presidential nominating process—has anything to do with better representing the grass roots of the party or enhancing its chances of winning the next election.

As I mentioned earlier today, the RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” is a comprehensive attempt to assess the failings of the party and cited the article by our Pete Wehner and Michael Gerson on “How to Save the Republican Party” in the March issue of COMMENTARY. But it also recommends streamlining the nominating process and making it less likely that well organized minorities can hijack the delegate selection process in some states via undemocratic caucuses and state conventions rather than primaries. While some on the right are curiously uncomfortable with the notion of a methodical look at where the GOP fell short in 2012, some are particularly unhappy with any idea of shortening the process, reducing the number of debates or diminishing the number of states that pick their delegates in a manner that requires the fewest number of participants.

While keeping the system just the way it is makes sense if you are running a campaign that appeals primarily to a narrow ideological faction, it doesn’t make sense if the purpose of the whole exercise is to choose the Republican with the most broad-based support or the best chance of winning in November. That’s why the huffing and puffing about the RNC report, especially from the Paulbots, strikes a particularly disingenuous note.

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The blowback from the right against the Republican National Committee’s autopsy of the 2012 election has begun with a barrage of bitter attacks from supporters of Rand Paul and Rick Santorum. But no one should be under the assumption that the critique of the report—especially its blueprint for revising the 2016 presidential nominating process—has anything to do with better representing the grass roots of the party or enhancing its chances of winning the next election.

As I mentioned earlier today, the RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” is a comprehensive attempt to assess the failings of the party and cited the article by our Pete Wehner and Michael Gerson on “How to Save the Republican Party” in the March issue of COMMENTARY. But it also recommends streamlining the nominating process and making it less likely that well organized minorities can hijack the delegate selection process in some states via undemocratic caucuses and state conventions rather than primaries. While some on the right are curiously uncomfortable with the notion of a methodical look at where the GOP fell short in 2012, some are particularly unhappy with any idea of shortening the process, reducing the number of debates or diminishing the number of states that pick their delegates in a manner that requires the fewest number of participants.

While keeping the system just the way it is makes sense if you are running a campaign that appeals primarily to a narrow ideological faction, it doesn’t make sense if the purpose of the whole exercise is to choose the Republican with the most broad-based support or the best chance of winning in November. That’s why the huffing and puffing about the RNC report, especially from the Paulbots, strikes a particularly disingenuous note.

As Politico reports, the reaction from the camp of Rand Paul to the report was predictably over the top, with one of his supporters saying it meant “nuclear war with the grassroots, social conservatives and Ron Paul movement.” But this is an empty threat.

Rand Paul looks to be a far more formidable candidate and may well be able to appeal to a wider cross-section of Republicans than his extremist libertarian father Ron. But rather than showing confidence that he can parlay his filibuster-fueled celebrity into mainstream appeal, Paul’s faction appears to be worried that any nominating process that doesn’t tilt the playing field in the direction of a candidate that appeals to the base rather than the center of the party hurts them. The same goes for Santorum and others who are unhappy about the prospect of fewer states that can be won by out-organizing opponents rather than winning the votes of the most Republicans.

The willingness of some states to go on picking delegates by a process that seems to be a function of 19th and early 20th century “smoke-filled room” politics is itself an anachronism. Primaries were first championed a century ago by Republicans like Theodore Roosevelt and others who sought to democratize the presidential selection process at the same time they were also seeking to end the practice of electing U.S. senators by the votes of legislatures rather than the citizens of each state.

Looking back at what happened in some of the caucus states last year, it’s easy to see why the Rough Rider and other Republicans thought this procedure should be relegated to the dustbin of history along with other practices, such as citizens having to announce their vote at the poll rather than having a secret ballot.

It’s not just that caucuses deter voter participation by their insular nature. It’s that the votes of even the people who are able to figure out how to get into each local caucus and then cast a ballot are not always respected. In several cases, those elected to participate in state conventions by caucus-goers wound up supporting candidates other than those to whom they were pledged or were even circumvented by maneuvers that allowed outliers like Ron Paul or even Santorum to win the convention delegates. That’s not only unfair but a turnoff to anyone inclined to vote in November.

The pushback against the RNC is all about the fear on the part of some in the base that a national party establishment will steal the GOP from them. Given the often-unwarranted critiques of the Tea Party heard by some party grandees and officeholders, that resentment is understandable. But changing the process to make it less of a circus in which the sideshows overshadow the serious candidates (as was often the case over the course of the numerous debates) or to maximize participation doesn’t preclude the nomination of a conservative.

Once upon a time, conservatives deplored state conventions and caucuses because they feared establishment types would use their better ground games to elect people like Gerald Ford over the more popular grass roots favorite Ronald Reagan. But now those who claim to have inherited the Reagan mantle want to skew the results to have the least representative candidate rather than one with a broad appeal.

That may serve the interests of a libertarian fringe that doesn’t have much confidence in their ability to seize control of the party even with a Rand Paul at their head, but it doesn’t make sense for the rest of the Republican Party. The RNC needs to ignore the critics and implement the report’s recommendations. While the new rules may allow Iowa to retain its traditional first-in-the-nation caucus, it is high time that unrepresentative state’s influence be cut back. Unless the goal of the 2016 GOP nominating process is to lose rather than to win the election, other caucus and state convention systems from the horse-and-buggy era of American politics ought to be trashed.

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Candidates, Not Message or Tactics, Will Determine 2016 Outcome

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Preibus deserves kudos from his party for the exhaustive report produced by his staff about what the party needs to do to recover from its defeat last November. The “Growth and Opportunity Project” is must reading for Republicans who continue to grouse about the party’s problems amid recriminations about Mitt Romney’s loss. It contains valuable insights that ought to be heeded by conservatives about how to win elections in the future. Its sections on messaging, fundraising, voter registration, technology, turnout efforts, outreach to neglected sections of the electorate like Hispanics and youth voters and candidate selection all reflect both an honest assessment of what went wrong and what needs be done in the future to ensure the GOP returns to majority status. Other suggestions like limiting presidential candidate debates during the primaries, streamlining the nominating process and moving up the date of the national convention are also smart.

It’s not clear yet whether ornery conservatives who resent the idea of a party rebranding will now start calling Preibus a RINO for suggesting some things have to change if a Republican is going to win the White House in the foreseeable future. To the extent that they believe–as some speakers at CPAC seemed to suggest–all the GOP needs to do is to ignore the problems and simply be more faithful to conservative ideology, they are part of the problem rather than the solution. As Our Pete Wehner and Michael Gerson wrote in their seminal article on the future of the Republicans in the March issue of COMMENTARY (which was quoted in the RNC report), serious thought must be given to rethinking the way the party approaches elections and some issues without abandoning its principles.

But the debate about this necessary report should not overlook one salient fact. No matter how smart the Republicans get in the next four years, they won’t win the presidency back until they nominate a better candidate than their opponents. That may seem to be such an obvious conclusion that it doesn’t merit discussion, let alone debate. But even as Republicans are rightly urged to heed the conclusions of the RNC report, it is still worth remembering.

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Republican National Committee Chair Reince Preibus deserves kudos from his party for the exhaustive report produced by his staff about what the party needs to do to recover from its defeat last November. The “Growth and Opportunity Project” is must reading for Republicans who continue to grouse about the party’s problems amid recriminations about Mitt Romney’s loss. It contains valuable insights that ought to be heeded by conservatives about how to win elections in the future. Its sections on messaging, fundraising, voter registration, technology, turnout efforts, outreach to neglected sections of the electorate like Hispanics and youth voters and candidate selection all reflect both an honest assessment of what went wrong and what needs be done in the future to ensure the GOP returns to majority status. Other suggestions like limiting presidential candidate debates during the primaries, streamlining the nominating process and moving up the date of the national convention are also smart.

It’s not clear yet whether ornery conservatives who resent the idea of a party rebranding will now start calling Preibus a RINO for suggesting some things have to change if a Republican is going to win the White House in the foreseeable future. To the extent that they believe–as some speakers at CPAC seemed to suggest–all the GOP needs to do is to ignore the problems and simply be more faithful to conservative ideology, they are part of the problem rather than the solution. As Our Pete Wehner and Michael Gerson wrote in their seminal article on the future of the Republicans in the March issue of COMMENTARY (which was quoted in the RNC report), serious thought must be given to rethinking the way the party approaches elections and some issues without abandoning its principles.

But the debate about this necessary report should not overlook one salient fact. No matter how smart the Republicans get in the next four years, they won’t win the presidency back until they nominate a better candidate than their opponents. That may seem to be such an obvious conclusion that it doesn’t merit discussion, let alone debate. But even as Republicans are rightly urged to heed the conclusions of the RNC report, it is still worth remembering.

It’s easy and fun to spin out counter-factual scenarios and to imagine different results. Yet even if the Republicans had not bored everyone silly with nearly two dozen candidate debates that drove the discussion to the margins rather than the center; if their convention wasn’t overshadowed by hurricane coverage; if their get-out-the-vote effort not been a fiasco; and their candidate hadn’t alienated Hispanics or failed to connect with young voters, Mitt Romney was not going to defeat Barack Obama.

This was more the function of Obama’s strengths as a historic president with a built-in advantage with the media than it was of Romney’s weaknesses. Romney was, after all, the most electable of all the Republican contenders and it’s doubtful that any of his competitors would have done as well as he did.

But not even a Republican Party that was technologically up-to-date and appealing to Hispanics rather than turning them off with threats of “self-deportation” would have been strong enough to overcome Obama, especially with a candidate like Romney who lacked the ability to connect with ordinary Americans (a trait that was only exacerbated by his fatal “47 percent” gaffe).

None of this should serve as an argument in favor of ignoring the RNC report, whose conclusions should be heeded if the GOP is going to continue to compete in the future. Building the party is, however, not quite the same thing as winning a presidential election, which hinges on two specific personalities more than it does on the strengths of their parties.

Fortunately for the Republicans they now have a deep bench from which to choose a better candidate than Romney. Equally fortunate for them is the fact that Barack Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2016 and if Hillary Clinton fails to run, it will be the Democrats who will probably be fielding a less able vote getter.

However, no one can tell yet whether the GOP contenders will pan out or if some Democrat surges to the fore as Obama did in 2008. Even if the RNC achieves all of its stated goals and Republicans embrace immigration reform, it won’t matter if the next matchup is as lopsided as it was in 2012.

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Don’t Blame the Networks

Republicans are crying foul because ABC, CBS and NBC won’t be carrying a minute of coverage of the first night of their convention next week. That’s a blow to the GOP since it means one of their best speakers and appealing personalities — Ann Romney — will have a smaller audience watching on television than she might have gotten to kick off the Tampa event. Democrats have their own beef as it’s been announced that the following week when their own gathering convenes in Charlotte, NBC will skip the Wednesday night session in order to avoid any interruptions of the National Football League’s opening game between the Giants and the Cowboys. That means a smaller audience for former President Bill Clinton as he makes the nominating speech for President Obama.

This is seen by some as a cynical move by the networks who are accused of placing money making above their civic duty. A disgruntled Romney advisor told the New York Times, “I don’t think it’s the decision that Bill Paley would have made” — a reference to the head of CBS during its so-called “golden age” of network news with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Maybe Paley would have run coverage of Ann Romney’s convention speech instead of a rerun of “Hawaii Five-O” — the show that will be aired on CBS while the candidate’s wife talks. NBC and ABC are also running crime show reruns during this slot. But don’t blame the networks for choosing sleuths over the candidate’s spouse. If they are treating the two national party jamborees very differently from the way Paley and his colleagues did in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, it is because the conventions are different.

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Republicans are crying foul because ABC, CBS and NBC won’t be carrying a minute of coverage of the first night of their convention next week. That’s a blow to the GOP since it means one of their best speakers and appealing personalities — Ann Romney — will have a smaller audience watching on television than she might have gotten to kick off the Tampa event. Democrats have their own beef as it’s been announced that the following week when their own gathering convenes in Charlotte, NBC will skip the Wednesday night session in order to avoid any interruptions of the National Football League’s opening game between the Giants and the Cowboys. That means a smaller audience for former President Bill Clinton as he makes the nominating speech for President Obama.

This is seen by some as a cynical move by the networks who are accused of placing money making above their civic duty. A disgruntled Romney advisor told the New York Times, “I don’t think it’s the decision that Bill Paley would have made” — a reference to the head of CBS during its so-called “golden age” of network news with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Maybe Paley would have run coverage of Ann Romney’s convention speech instead of a rerun of “Hawaii Five-O” — the show that will be aired on CBS while the candidate’s wife talks. NBC and ABC are also running crime show reruns during this slot. But don’t blame the networks for choosing sleuths over the candidate’s spouse. If they are treating the two national party jamborees very differently from the way Paley and his colleagues did in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, it is because the conventions are different.

Back then, they were deliberative political bodies where real issues were debated and voted upon while other, often even more important decisions, were decided in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms off the convention floor. The broadcasts of the conventions weren’t a civics lesson so much as they were a highly dramatic and colorful display of the political system at work. Though some parts could be excruciating, they were often dramatic. And like the NFL contest that many Americans will sensibly prefer to Bill Clinton next month, the outcome won’t have already been decided before the game begins.

The last national convention whose outcome was in doubt prior to its opening was in 1976 when incumbent President Gerald Ford narrowly fended off a challenge from Ronald Reagan and his resurgent conservative movement. Through some speculated about the possibility of a brokered Republican convention this year, that mouth-watering possibility for political junkies was no more likely to happen this year than it has any other presidential year for the last generation. The parties have created a nomination process that makes such an outcome unlikely if not impossible. Neither Republicans nor Democrats will ever have any interest in producing a good spectacle that will mean their side will be unable to prepare for the general election until September. Nor do they relish the political bloodletting and internecine warfare that a deliberative convention would bring.

So they give us what makes sense for them: a highly scripted television show in which the candidate picks all the speakers and dictates the contents of their speeches. Each convention is no more than a lengthy infomercial. Their only resemblance to the past when the nation would sit by their radios or televisions listening with bated breath as the roll call of states voting is the setting in an arena.

Under these circumstances, the parties are lucky that the broadcast networks still give them three free hours of coverage for each convention. Those addicted to politics can watch the cable news networks or C-Span.

It’s true that there was something to be said for the past when anyone with a television set was forced to watch gavel-to-gavel convention coverage. But most Americans now have hundreds of channels to choose from and are no longer dependent on three middle-aged liberal white guys to tell them what the news was at 6:30 each evening.

If the parties want more coverage of their conventions, they should give us something more interesting to watch. Since that is antithetical to their political fortunes, they should pipe down and get the staged charades over with as we head to the fall campaign. And anyone who wants to watch an interesting political convention can rent “The Best Man.”

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Obama Hit on Tax Hike Broken Promise

Get used to hearing about Obama’s “massive” middle-class tax hike from Republicans, as they try to squeeze lemonade from yesterday’s Supreme Court decision. The administration has been on the record repeatedly arguing that the mandate was a penalty, not a tax, and one of Obama’s more memorable campaign promises was that he wouldn’t raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year — his red line for the middle class. This was upended by the decision yesterday, and as Forbes points out, there are now seven different ObamaCare tax hikes on under-$250k-a-year earners.

RNC fires the first shot with this tough new ad (h/t Ed Morrissey):

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Get used to hearing about Obama’s “massive” middle-class tax hike from Republicans, as they try to squeeze lemonade from yesterday’s Supreme Court decision. The administration has been on the record repeatedly arguing that the mandate was a penalty, not a tax, and one of Obama’s more memorable campaign promises was that he wouldn’t raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year — his red line for the middle class. This was upended by the decision yesterday, and as Forbes points out, there are now seven different ObamaCare tax hikes on under-$250k-a-year earners.

RNC fires the first shot with this tough new ad (h/t Ed Morrissey):

For the chaser, check out the National Republican Congressional Committee’s fitting adaptation of Joe Biden’s infamous “BFD comment.”

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Team Obama’s Third-Rate Performance

The Republican National Committee (RNC) is out with an ad that immediately jumps on President Obama’s statement earlier today that “the private sector is doing fine.” The president’s assertion raises the question–just what planet is Obama living on? And the RNC ad is a good one. But what this episode reveals are two things of more lasting significance.

The first is that at almost every level, the Republican Party in 2012 is sharper and better than the Republican Party in 2008. Campaigns develop a rhythm and pace of their own – and so far, the Romney campaign and the RNC are easily outdueling the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). We saw evidence of this earlier this week, when the GOP’s get-out-the-vote effort in Wisconsin far exceeded what the Democratic Party was able to do.

The other thing this clip highlights is that President Obama is a much different, and inferior, candidate to what he was four years ago.

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The Republican National Committee (RNC) is out with an ad that immediately jumps on President Obama’s statement earlier today that “the private sector is doing fine.” The president’s assertion raises the question–just what planet is Obama living on? And the RNC ad is a good one. But what this episode reveals are two things of more lasting significance.

The first is that at almost every level, the Republican Party in 2012 is sharper and better than the Republican Party in 2008. Campaigns develop a rhythm and pace of their own – and so far, the Romney campaign and the RNC are easily outdueling the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). We saw evidence of this earlier this week, when the GOP’s get-out-the-vote effort in Wisconsin far exceeded what the Democratic Party was able to do.

The other thing this clip highlights is that President Obama is a much different, and inferior, candidate to what he was four years ago.

Some of that has to do with the fact that in 2008, Obama was able to run against an incumbent party that was out of favor, while today he’s forced to defend a record of almost unmitigated failure. But apart from that, the Obama campaign in general – at this point at least – is out of sorts. It’s far less sharp, more off stride, and less skilled and in touch with the mood of the public now than in 2008.

One should assume the Obama campaign will correct itself at some point and turn into a formidable force. But that is not a given by any means. Sometimes a campaign, like a professional athlete, simply loses its edge – and when it does, a tight race can break wide open.

The Romney campaign would be wise to anticipate that the president and his team will raise their game. But in their private thoughts, late at night and away from reporters, the top tier of the Romney campaign must be somewhat mystified, and unexpectedly delighted, that Obama and Company are, for now, executing with the level of precision you’d expect from a campaign running for local sheriff.

At this stage, the state of the economy — which will have a huge impact on the election — is increasingly beyond Obama’s control. But even those things Obama can control — namely, his performance and the performance of his team — show signs of being third-rate. This cannot be reassuring to the president or his party. Unless Obama gets his act together relatively soon, and relatively quickly, he might want to prepare to attend the unveiling of his White House portrait at an event hosted by Mitt Romney three years from now.

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Gingrich Now on Board With Romney

That was fast. Newt Gingrich will formally end his campaign in Virginia this afternoon, and he’s reportedly already getting on board with bitter rival Mitt Romney. The Republican National Committee says it’s going to help Gingrich pay down debt, a nice gesture that may at least help keep him in line for the rest of the campaign season:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, on the eve of suspending his roller coaster presidential bid, said in an interview with USA TODAY that he will embrace Mitt Romney‘s candidacy Wednesday and is ready to campaign for his former rival.

The two men will make a joint appearance in a few weeks, when Gingrich will make an official endorsement. The Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee have offered to be helpful as Gingrich works to retire his campaign debt.

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That was fast. Newt Gingrich will formally end his campaign in Virginia this afternoon, and he’s reportedly already getting on board with bitter rival Mitt Romney. The Republican National Committee says it’s going to help Gingrich pay down debt, a nice gesture that may at least help keep him in line for the rest of the campaign season:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, on the eve of suspending his roller coaster presidential bid, said in an interview with USA TODAY that he will embrace Mitt Romney‘s candidacy Wednesday and is ready to campaign for his former rival.

The two men will make a joint appearance in a few weeks, when Gingrich will make an official endorsement. The Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee have offered to be helpful as Gingrich works to retire his campaign debt.

Gingrich had these gracious words for his former opponent in an interview with USA TODAY:

“Mitt Romney met the first criteria of being a good candidate: He won,” Gingrich said. “Now you have to respect that.” He added, “We sure didn’t give it to him. We did everything we could to slug it out with him, and he ended up being tough enough and being good enough at raising money” to prevail.

Ha! Did you see how he masterfully slipped those jabs into a statement that’s framed as a compliment? Romney was a good candidate…because he won. And he won because…he was just too good at raising money. Classic diva concession speech.

Today there will be a big show of unity as Gingrich steps aside and backs Romney, and this is just a hunch, but I can’t imagine we’ll be seeing much of the former Speaker on the trail. Romney doesn’t need a frenemy spouting out backhanded compliments during campaign events, which is obviously what Gingrich would end up doing. Plus, why would Romney want to lend any credibility to Newt, when the Obama campaign has already started using the former Speaker’s own words in its anti-Romney attack ads? It’s probably best for the GOP if Gingrich sits the rest of this game out.

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Why Did Santorum Refuse RNC Offer?

As Alana noted earlier, Mitt Romney will be taking time out of his primary schedule to fundraise with and for the Republican National Committee (RNC). According to the RNC, this fundraising opportunity was offered to every candidate, however, Romney was the only one to accept the offer. The Wall Street Journal reported, “In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.” This doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as the Republican group offered to do the same with Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

Why might Santorum (and for that matter Gingrich) have refused the opportunity to take up the RNC’s offer? Each candidate, when fundraising alone, is unable to raise more than $2,500 per donor for their primary and general election campaigns. Fundraising with the RNC means that individual donors can give up to $75,000 to not only the campaigns of specific candidates but also toward the RNC and the state-level parties in swing states. The caveat for the candidate fundraisers is this: the money raised in excess of the $2,500 goes only toward the eventual nominee. If Santorum or Gingrich took time out of their schedules to fundraise with and for the RNC and did not become the nominee, the money they raised goes to the nominee, not back to their campaigns to pay off outstanding debts or serve as a starting off point for a future run.

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As Alana noted earlier, Mitt Romney will be taking time out of his primary schedule to fundraise with and for the Republican National Committee (RNC). According to the RNC, this fundraising opportunity was offered to every candidate, however, Romney was the only one to accept the offer. The Wall Street Journal reported, “In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.” This doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as the Republican group offered to do the same with Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

Why might Santorum (and for that matter Gingrich) have refused the opportunity to take up the RNC’s offer? Each candidate, when fundraising alone, is unable to raise more than $2,500 per donor for their primary and general election campaigns. Fundraising with the RNC means that individual donors can give up to $75,000 to not only the campaigns of specific candidates but also toward the RNC and the state-level parties in swing states. The caveat for the candidate fundraisers is this: the money raised in excess of the $2,500 goes only toward the eventual nominee. If Santorum or Gingrich took time out of their schedules to fundraise with and for the RNC and did not become the nominee, the money they raised goes to the nominee, not back to their campaigns to pay off outstanding debts or serve as a starting off point for a future run.

If Santorum or Gingrich believed they were going to clinch the nomination this time around, taking a few days out of their campaigning schedule to raise this amount of cash would be a no-brainer (it certainly was for Romney). The fact that Santorum and Gingrich turned down the opportunity means that in all likelihood, even they don’t believe they’ll be the nominee. They either don’t want Romney to get the cash they’ve raised or they believe their campaigns couldn’t survive even a day or two out of the news cycle to attend the fundraisers.

While one can’t fault Santorum or Gingrich for prioritizing their own campaigns while the race is still ongoing, their refusal to raise this kind of cash speaks volumes about where their campaigns see the future of this primary season going.

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Romney to Raise Money With RNC

This was bound to happen eventually, but Rick Santorum might have hoped this news wouldn’t come before on the day of what is likely to be his last stand in the Wisconsin primary:

In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.

The arrangement will allow top donors to write checks as large as $75,000 per person, by giving to party organizations in addition to the campaign. That’s far more than the $2,500 ceiling that applies to individual donations to a presidential candidate for the fall election.

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This was bound to happen eventually, but Rick Santorum might have hoped this news wouldn’t come before on the day of what is likely to be his last stand in the Wisconsin primary:

In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.

The arrangement will allow top donors to write checks as large as $75,000 per person, by giving to party organizations in addition to the campaign. That’s far more than the $2,500 ceiling that applies to individual donations to a presidential candidate for the fall election.

If the slew of high-profile Romney endorsements for GOP figures this week didn’t already cement his standing as the inevitable nominee, then this news puts the official stamp on it. For the past couple of weeks, the question has been how long Rick Santorum will play out his losing hand. But party leaders are obviously getting anxious, with President Obama significantly outraising the Republican candidates.

This is a firm push for Santorum and others to step aside and let the general election commence.

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Morning Commentary

Lee Smith writes on the plight of Christians in Middle Eastern countries and notes that unless Christians are somehow able to establish representation in government and receive protection from Middle Eastern leaders (an unlikely possibility at this point), their existence will remain in jeopardy: “Both recent converts and ancient congregations—the Assyrians in Iraq, the Copts in Egypt, Lebanon’s Maronite Catholics, and more, long antedating Islam—are under fire. The land where Christianity began is being cleansed of Jesus’ followers. It is possible that we will soon see an event without precedent: the end of a living Christian witness in this region after more than 2,000 years.”

Is the Western response to the recent events in Tunisia evidence that the Freedom Agenda is back on the rise? At Pajamas Media, Richard Fernandez writes,After years of laughing at the idea that spreading democracy was America’s most useful foreign policy weapon and touting grand bargains with the worst regimes in world, even the New York Times sees in the departure of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali the startling idea that Arabs will not necessarily tolerate tyranny forever.”

Reince Priebus was a largely unknown name until the Wisconsin GOP chair defeated Michael Steele last Friday in the race for Republican National Committee chair. On the surface, Priebus appears to be about as different from Steele as you can get; he’s likely to be more of a fundraising-focused, behind-the-scenes leader than a TV personality. Politico has more on his background: “Anti-abortion leaders see him as unwavering on the life issue. He talks often about his faith. Support from famous fiscal conservatives like Rep. Paul Ryan, who represents Priebus’s district, gives him credibility with that wing of the party.”

Ron Reagan Jr.’s controversial new book — which claims that his father was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease while in office — has understandably ruffled the feathers of some conservatives. But now it looks like some of Ron’s evidence is falling apart under scrutiny.

Jesse Jackson Jr. clearly has no idea what “homegrown terrorism” means: “However, from the shooting of Lincoln to the events in Tucson, there is a thread that liberals and conservatives have ignored. Each event traumatized our government and disrupted its business — and was carried out by anti-government activists. And that’s terror.”

Lee Smith writes on the plight of Christians in Middle Eastern countries and notes that unless Christians are somehow able to establish representation in government and receive protection from Middle Eastern leaders (an unlikely possibility at this point), their existence will remain in jeopardy: “Both recent converts and ancient congregations—the Assyrians in Iraq, the Copts in Egypt, Lebanon’s Maronite Catholics, and more, long antedating Islam—are under fire. The land where Christianity began is being cleansed of Jesus’ followers. It is possible that we will soon see an event without precedent: the end of a living Christian witness in this region after more than 2,000 years.”

Is the Western response to the recent events in Tunisia evidence that the Freedom Agenda is back on the rise? At Pajamas Media, Richard Fernandez writes,After years of laughing at the idea that spreading democracy was America’s most useful foreign policy weapon and touting grand bargains with the worst regimes in world, even the New York Times sees in the departure of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali the startling idea that Arabs will not necessarily tolerate tyranny forever.”

Reince Priebus was a largely unknown name until the Wisconsin GOP chair defeated Michael Steele last Friday in the race for Republican National Committee chair. On the surface, Priebus appears to be about as different from Steele as you can get; he’s likely to be more of a fundraising-focused, behind-the-scenes leader than a TV personality. Politico has more on his background: “Anti-abortion leaders see him as unwavering on the life issue. He talks often about his faith. Support from famous fiscal conservatives like Rep. Paul Ryan, who represents Priebus’s district, gives him credibility with that wing of the party.”

Ron Reagan Jr.’s controversial new book — which claims that his father was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease while in office — has understandably ruffled the feathers of some conservatives. But now it looks like some of Ron’s evidence is falling apart under scrutiny.

Jesse Jackson Jr. clearly has no idea what “homegrown terrorism” means: “However, from the shooting of Lincoln to the events in Tucson, there is a thread that liberals and conservatives have ignored. Each event traumatized our government and disrupted its business — and was carried out by anti-government activists. And that’s terror.”

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Morning Commentary

Why Ron Paul’s new role as the head of the subcommittee that oversees the Federal Reserve is disconcerting (even to libertarians): “[W]hen you look at his speeches, he doesn’t understand anything about monetary policy. He might actually understand it less than the average member of Congress. My personal opinion is that he wastes all of his time on the House Financial Services Committee ranting crazily.”

Surprise: Michael Steele to run for a second term as Republican National Committee chair. “I come to my bosses with a record that only you can judge, based upon directions you made clear to me from the very beginning. Yes, I have stumbled along the way, but have always accounted to you for such shortcomings. No excuses. No lies. No hidden agenda. Going forward, I ask for your support and your vote for a second term,” Steele announced in an e-mail last night.

Richard Holbrooke: April 24, 1941–December 13, 2010. The New Republic has an excellent tribute to the legendary diplomat as well as a compilation of articles written about (and by) him.

European papers are reporting that the Stockholm bomber was radicalized in Britain, raising concerns about whether British universities have done enough to combat home-grown terrorism: “His parents were even a little worried that he was having too much fun. But then he went to England to study in 2001 and everything changed,” a friend of Stockholm terrorist Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly told the Telegraph. “When he came back he had grown a beard and he was very serious. He talked about Afghanistan and religion and did not want to hang out with his friends.”

Is WikiLeaks a force for good? Reason magazine spoke to four experts who gave their uncensored views on the controversial website.

Why Ron Paul’s new role as the head of the subcommittee that oversees the Federal Reserve is disconcerting (even to libertarians): “[W]hen you look at his speeches, he doesn’t understand anything about monetary policy. He might actually understand it less than the average member of Congress. My personal opinion is that he wastes all of his time on the House Financial Services Committee ranting crazily.”

Surprise: Michael Steele to run for a second term as Republican National Committee chair. “I come to my bosses with a record that only you can judge, based upon directions you made clear to me from the very beginning. Yes, I have stumbled along the way, but have always accounted to you for such shortcomings. No excuses. No lies. No hidden agenda. Going forward, I ask for your support and your vote for a second term,” Steele announced in an e-mail last night.

Richard Holbrooke: April 24, 1941–December 13, 2010. The New Republic has an excellent tribute to the legendary diplomat as well as a compilation of articles written about (and by) him.

European papers are reporting that the Stockholm bomber was radicalized in Britain, raising concerns about whether British universities have done enough to combat home-grown terrorism: “His parents were even a little worried that he was having too much fun. But then he went to England to study in 2001 and everything changed,” a friend of Stockholm terrorist Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly told the Telegraph. “When he came back he had grown a beard and he was very serious. He talked about Afghanistan and religion and did not want to hang out with his friends.”

Is WikiLeaks a force for good? Reason magazine spoke to four experts who gave their uncensored views on the controversial website.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What happens when the Democratic majority ends: “President Obama on Monday proposed a two-year freeze on federal pay, saying federal workers must sacrifice to reduce the nation’s budget deficit. … Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) had called for a freeze on federal pay this month and also had said the average federal worker makes twice the pay of the average private sector worker.”

Jackson Diehl reminds us to stop holding out hope that small-bore covert actions will defang the mullahs. “Covert action, in short, is not likely to be the silver bullet that stops Iran’s nuclear program. That’s true of 21st-century devices like Stuxnet — and it will likely apply to the old-fashioned and ruthless attacks on Iranian scientists.” Still, it helps slow the clock.

Obama’s foreign policy aura is over. Walter Russell Mead writes: “Our propensity to elect charismatic but inexperienced leaders repeatedly lands us in trouble. We remain steadfastly blind to the deterioration of our long-term fiscal position as we pile unfunded entitlements on top of each other in a surefire recipe for national disaster. We lurch from one ineffective foreign policy to another, while the public consensus that has underwritten America’s world role since the 1940s continues to decay. Our elite seems at times literally hellbent on throwing away the cultural capital and that has kept this nation great and free for so many generations.” Ouch.

Is the era of slam-dunk Democratic victories coming to a close in New Jersey? “With one more national election behind him, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez now faces one ahead — his own. And according to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, 31% of his New Jersey constituency have a favorable opinion of him and 25% have an unfavorable opinion. Another 44% either are unsure (29%) or haven’t heard of him at all (15%). ‘Those are fairly anemic numbers for an energetic guy who has already served five years,’ said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.”

Michael Steele’s finished as Republican National Committee chair — the only issue is which of the competent, low-key contenders will win it.

Are the Dems kaput in the South? “After suffering a historic rout — in which nearly every white Deep South Democrat in the U.S. House was defeated and Republicans took over or gained seats in legislatures across the region — the party’s ranks in Dixie have thinned even further.” I’d be cautious — the GOP was “dead” in New England and the Midwest two years ago.

Rep. Mike Pence is going to halt the speculation as to whether he’ll run for president. Speeches like this tell us he certainly is: “I choose the West. I choose limited government and freedom. I choose the free market, personal responsibility and equality of opportunity. I choose fiscal restraint, sound money, a flat tax, regulatory reform, American energy, expanded trade and a return to traditional values. In a word, I choose a boundless American future built on the timeless ideals of the American people. I believe the American people are ready for this choice and await men and women who will lead us back to that future, back to the West, back to American exceptionalism. Here’s to that future. Our best days are yet to come.” That’s a presidential candidate talking.

Bret Stephens suggests that the WikiLeak documents may bring down the curtain on silly leftist foreign policy ideas. “Are Israeli Likudniks and their neocon friends (present company included) the dark matter pushing the U.S. toward war with Iran? Well, no: Arab Likudniks turn out to be even more vocal on that score. Can Syria be detached from Iran’s orbit? ‘I think not,’ says Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. … Has the administration succeeded in pressing the reset button with Russia? Hard to credit, given Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s description of the Putin-Medvedev regime as one from which ‘there has been little real change.’ Is the threat of an Iranian missile strike—and therefore of the need for missile defense—exaggerated? Not since we learned that North Korea had shipped missiles to Tehran that can carry nuclear warheads as far as Western Europe and Moscow.” But the administration knew all this — the only difference is now we do.

What happens when the Democratic majority ends: “President Obama on Monday proposed a two-year freeze on federal pay, saying federal workers must sacrifice to reduce the nation’s budget deficit. … Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) had called for a freeze on federal pay this month and also had said the average federal worker makes twice the pay of the average private sector worker.”

Jackson Diehl reminds us to stop holding out hope that small-bore covert actions will defang the mullahs. “Covert action, in short, is not likely to be the silver bullet that stops Iran’s nuclear program. That’s true of 21st-century devices like Stuxnet — and it will likely apply to the old-fashioned and ruthless attacks on Iranian scientists.” Still, it helps slow the clock.

Obama’s foreign policy aura is over. Walter Russell Mead writes: “Our propensity to elect charismatic but inexperienced leaders repeatedly lands us in trouble. We remain steadfastly blind to the deterioration of our long-term fiscal position as we pile unfunded entitlements on top of each other in a surefire recipe for national disaster. We lurch from one ineffective foreign policy to another, while the public consensus that has underwritten America’s world role since the 1940s continues to decay. Our elite seems at times literally hellbent on throwing away the cultural capital and that has kept this nation great and free for so many generations.” Ouch.

Is the era of slam-dunk Democratic victories coming to a close in New Jersey? “With one more national election behind him, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez now faces one ahead — his own. And according to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, 31% of his New Jersey constituency have a favorable opinion of him and 25% have an unfavorable opinion. Another 44% either are unsure (29%) or haven’t heard of him at all (15%). ‘Those are fairly anemic numbers for an energetic guy who has already served five years,’ said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.”

Michael Steele’s finished as Republican National Committee chair — the only issue is which of the competent, low-key contenders will win it.

Are the Dems kaput in the South? “After suffering a historic rout — in which nearly every white Deep South Democrat in the U.S. House was defeated and Republicans took over or gained seats in legislatures across the region — the party’s ranks in Dixie have thinned even further.” I’d be cautious — the GOP was “dead” in New England and the Midwest two years ago.

Rep. Mike Pence is going to halt the speculation as to whether he’ll run for president. Speeches like this tell us he certainly is: “I choose the West. I choose limited government and freedom. I choose the free market, personal responsibility and equality of opportunity. I choose fiscal restraint, sound money, a flat tax, regulatory reform, American energy, expanded trade and a return to traditional values. In a word, I choose a boundless American future built on the timeless ideals of the American people. I believe the American people are ready for this choice and await men and women who will lead us back to that future, back to the West, back to American exceptionalism. Here’s to that future. Our best days are yet to come.” That’s a presidential candidate talking.

Bret Stephens suggests that the WikiLeak documents may bring down the curtain on silly leftist foreign policy ideas. “Are Israeli Likudniks and their neocon friends (present company included) the dark matter pushing the U.S. toward war with Iran? Well, no: Arab Likudniks turn out to be even more vocal on that score. Can Syria be detached from Iran’s orbit? ‘I think not,’ says Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. … Has the administration succeeded in pressing the reset button with Russia? Hard to credit, given Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s description of the Putin-Medvedev regime as one from which ‘there has been little real change.’ Is the threat of an Iranian missile strike—and therefore of the need for missile defense—exaggerated? Not since we learned that North Korea had shipped missiles to Tehran that can carry nuclear warheads as far as Western Europe and Moscow.” But the administration knew all this — the only difference is now we do.

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Nerves of Steele

The contrast is great: one party can’t eliminate the personification of its problems, while the other is moving swiftly to dump its baggage. The Dems can’t bear to part with Nancy Pelosi, who gets another stint at the helm of the increasingly liberal House Democratic caucus. Yet the Republicans have no qualms when it comes to booting Michael Steele from the RNC chairmanship:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s prospects for a second term dimmed Wednesday as Republicans went public with their concerns about the committee’s fundraising and two prominent governors indicated a preference for new leadership atop the party.

Asked in an interview at the Republican Governors Association (RGA) meeting here if there should be a new chairman of the party, Mississippi Gov. and outgoing RGA Chairman Haley Barbour flatly said: “Yes.”

Tim Pawlenty echoed that sentiment, citing a letter by outgoing RNC political director Gentry Collins. (“You have to have a high-functioning, effective ground game and the RNC has to be able to deliver that consistently every cycle and it appears based on this letter that that didn’t happen.”)

Unlike Pelosi, there is no “Steele constituency” pleading to keep the gaffe-prone chairman. And unlike the House Dems, the RNC isn’t about to pretend that everything is just swell at the RNC.

The contrast is great: one party can’t eliminate the personification of its problems, while the other is moving swiftly to dump its baggage. The Dems can’t bear to part with Nancy Pelosi, who gets another stint at the helm of the increasingly liberal House Democratic caucus. Yet the Republicans have no qualms when it comes to booting Michael Steele from the RNC chairmanship:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s prospects for a second term dimmed Wednesday as Republicans went public with their concerns about the committee’s fundraising and two prominent governors indicated a preference for new leadership atop the party.

Asked in an interview at the Republican Governors Association (RGA) meeting here if there should be a new chairman of the party, Mississippi Gov. and outgoing RGA Chairman Haley Barbour flatly said: “Yes.”

Tim Pawlenty echoed that sentiment, citing a letter by outgoing RNC political director Gentry Collins. (“You have to have a high-functioning, effective ground game and the RNC has to be able to deliver that consistently every cycle and it appears based on this letter that that didn’t happen.”)

Unlike Pelosi, there is no “Steele constituency” pleading to keep the gaffe-prone chairman. And unlike the House Dems, the RNC isn’t about to pretend that everything is just swell at the RNC.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Get the feeling that Michael Steele has no friends these days? ”Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins resigned from his post Tuesday morning with a stinging indictment of Chairman Michael Steele’s two-year tenure at the committee. In a four-page letter to Steele and the RNC’s executive committee obtained by POLITICO, Collins lays out inside details, previously only whispered, about the disorganization that plagues the party. He asserts that the RNC’s financial shortcomings limited GOP gains this year and reveals that the committee is deeply in debt entering the 2012 presidential election cycle.”

Get ready for a really, really tough punishment for Charles Rangel. “A House panel on Tuesday found Representative Charles B. Rangel guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations, ruling that his failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of fund-raising donations and failure to accurately report his personal income had brought dishonor on the House. … While the committee has the power to recommend expulsion, that is highly unlikely. Ethics experts and committee members have said that Mr. Rangel, 80, is more likely to face a letter of reprimand or a formal censure.” OK, maybe just a hand slap.

Get government to downsize? Puleeze. David Malpass explains what’s so bad about the Fed’s $600B bond-purchase scheme. “By buying longer term assets, whose value will decline when interest rates rise, the Fed is engineering a fundamental change in the nature of U.S. monetary policy. This has undercut global confidence in the Fed, as reflected in high gold prices, dollar weakness, and large-scale investments abroad by U.S. companies and wealthy individuals. … Both fiscal stimulus and Fed asset purchases raise the same giant red flag. As the government expands its role in the economy, business confidence and hiring decline in the knowledge that there’s no free lunch.”

The Obama team simply doesn’t get it: once again, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates throws cold water on the use of military force for preventing Iran from going nuclear. They sure have gone out of their way to give the mullahs assurance that they can defy us without risking a military strike.

Bibi says he needs to get the U.S. bribes promises in writing. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israeli approval of a 90-day settlement freeze was contingent upon a written US pledge regarding a package of incentives that insured his country’s security and national interests, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.” Now, there’s a “rock-solid” relationship for you.

House Dems get their anger out. “Disgruntled Democrats finally had a chance to confront Speaker Nancy Pelosi face-to-face for the first time during a raucous closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday, as defeated Rep. Allen Boyd called her ‘the face of our defeat.’ ‘We need new leadership,’ Boyd, a Florida Democrat, told his colleagues, according to sources in the room. … Pelosi, her top elected lieutenants and her aides have been scrambling to defuse discontent following the election. They are actively working to prevent a delay in the leadership vote and to deny support to a slate of proposals by moderate ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats that would weaken her hand in the minority by making top appointive positions subject to caucus election.”

Investors get jittery: “Global stock markets’ steady march higher was interrupted by concerns about growth in China, debt in Europe and the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion plan to stimulate the U.S. economy. Tuesday’s world-wide selling was touched off by a 4% stock drop in Shanghai. It spread to Europe, where markets fell more than 2%, and then to the U.S., pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 1.6%, its worst point and percentage decline since August 11.”

Get the feeling that Michael Steele has no friends these days? ”Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins resigned from his post Tuesday morning with a stinging indictment of Chairman Michael Steele’s two-year tenure at the committee. In a four-page letter to Steele and the RNC’s executive committee obtained by POLITICO, Collins lays out inside details, previously only whispered, about the disorganization that plagues the party. He asserts that the RNC’s financial shortcomings limited GOP gains this year and reveals that the committee is deeply in debt entering the 2012 presidential election cycle.”

Get ready for a really, really tough punishment for Charles Rangel. “A House panel on Tuesday found Representative Charles B. Rangel guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations, ruling that his failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of fund-raising donations and failure to accurately report his personal income had brought dishonor on the House. … While the committee has the power to recommend expulsion, that is highly unlikely. Ethics experts and committee members have said that Mr. Rangel, 80, is more likely to face a letter of reprimand or a formal censure.” OK, maybe just a hand slap.

Get government to downsize? Puleeze. David Malpass explains what’s so bad about the Fed’s $600B bond-purchase scheme. “By buying longer term assets, whose value will decline when interest rates rise, the Fed is engineering a fundamental change in the nature of U.S. monetary policy. This has undercut global confidence in the Fed, as reflected in high gold prices, dollar weakness, and large-scale investments abroad by U.S. companies and wealthy individuals. … Both fiscal stimulus and Fed asset purchases raise the same giant red flag. As the government expands its role in the economy, business confidence and hiring decline in the knowledge that there’s no free lunch.”

The Obama team simply doesn’t get it: once again, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates throws cold water on the use of military force for preventing Iran from going nuclear. They sure have gone out of their way to give the mullahs assurance that they can defy us without risking a military strike.

Bibi says he needs to get the U.S. bribes promises in writing. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israeli approval of a 90-day settlement freeze was contingent upon a written US pledge regarding a package of incentives that insured his country’s security and national interests, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.” Now, there’s a “rock-solid” relationship for you.

House Dems get their anger out. “Disgruntled Democrats finally had a chance to confront Speaker Nancy Pelosi face-to-face for the first time during a raucous closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday, as defeated Rep. Allen Boyd called her ‘the face of our defeat.’ ‘We need new leadership,’ Boyd, a Florida Democrat, told his colleagues, according to sources in the room. … Pelosi, her top elected lieutenants and her aides have been scrambling to defuse discontent following the election. They are actively working to prevent a delay in the leadership vote and to deny support to a slate of proposals by moderate ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats that would weaken her hand in the minority by making top appointive positions subject to caucus election.”

Investors get jittery: “Global stock markets’ steady march higher was interrupted by concerns about growth in China, debt in Europe and the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion plan to stimulate the U.S. economy. Tuesday’s world-wide selling was touched off by a 4% stock drop in Shanghai. It spread to Europe, where markets fell more than 2%, and then to the U.S., pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 1.6%, its worst point and percentage decline since August 11.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Finally we get ”not only the authoritative takedown of ‘Fair Game,’ Douglas Liman’s meretricious cinematic hagiography of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, but also the essential case, laid out with amazing meticulousness, for a presidential pardon for Scooter Libby.”

No final tally yet for Republicans in the House. From the Cook Political Report (subscription required): ”Overall, Republicans have captured 238 seats, Democrats have won 189 seats, and eight still hang in the balance. We expect each party to win three of these seats, while the two New York races (NY-01 and NY-25) are genuinely too close to call. Depending on the final outcome of these contests, Republicans are likely to have scored a net gain of between 62 and 64 seats in the House, the most in a midterm since 1938.”

The final act for Michael Steele? “As he contemplates running for a second term, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is on the verge of losing his coalition of supporters. Even some of those closest to the controversial chairman have begun urging him to step aside. … Meanwhile, a group of prominent Republicans led by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie are searching for a consensus candidate capable of defeating Steele. Though they have not settled on a challenger, and in fact are unlikely to find a consensus choice, strategists who both support and oppose Steele say coalitions are forming now to deny Steele a second term.” Excuse me, but why not Ed Gillespie himself?

The final Senate race is nearly decided. “Sen. Lisa Murkowski is well on her way to pulling off a stunning upset victory in the Alaska Senate race after one day of counting write-in votes, despite Republican nominee Joe Miller’s legal challenges to the process. Murkowski took nearly 98 percent of the 19,203 write-in ballots counted Wednesday, with more than 8 percent of those awarded to her after an initial challenge by Miller over voters’ spelling abilities was thrown out.”

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick finally puts to rest the notion that “reset” has paid dividends for us. “The initial appeal of Russia’s assistance — that the country has knowledge of Afghanistan thanks to its own, decade-long engagement — is belied by its brutal record. … Moreover, the actual Russian commitment is small. … More important than any of these factors, however, is the cynical way in which Moscow will use its paltry assistance to the [International Security Assistance Force] as leverage with the West in negotiations over other matters, from NATO expansion to human rights to missile defense.” Read the whole thing, which should be entitled “How Putin Took Obama to the Cleaners.”

Christine O’Donnell may finally be seeking a job for which she is well-suited. It seems there is a reality-show opportunity. Perrrrrfect.

Was Obama’s tinkering with the gulf-oil-spill report the final straw for the principled left? “The oil spill that damaged the Gulf of Mexico’s reefs and wetlands is also threatening to stain the Obama administration’s reputation for relying on science to guide policy. Academics, environmentalists and federal investigators have accused the administration since the April spill of downplaying scientific findings, misrepresenting data and most recently misconstruing the opinions of experts it solicited.”

The final figures for another failed government subsidy are in. Not good: “Any possible housing market recovery hit a snag during the three months ended September 30, as a government tax credit for homebuyers wound down. Home prices fell only slightly during the quarter, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), but the number of homes sold plummeted more than 25%, compared with the previous quarter.”

This will not be the final foreign-policy rebuff. “For President Obama, the last-minute failure to seal a trade deal with South Korea that would expand American exports of automobiles and beef is an embarrassing setback that deprives him of a foreign policy trophy and demonstrates how the midterm elections may have weakened his position abroad.”

Finally we get ”not only the authoritative takedown of ‘Fair Game,’ Douglas Liman’s meretricious cinematic hagiography of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, but also the essential case, laid out with amazing meticulousness, for a presidential pardon for Scooter Libby.”

No final tally yet for Republicans in the House. From the Cook Political Report (subscription required): ”Overall, Republicans have captured 238 seats, Democrats have won 189 seats, and eight still hang in the balance. We expect each party to win three of these seats, while the two New York races (NY-01 and NY-25) are genuinely too close to call. Depending on the final outcome of these contests, Republicans are likely to have scored a net gain of between 62 and 64 seats in the House, the most in a midterm since 1938.”

The final act for Michael Steele? “As he contemplates running for a second term, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is on the verge of losing his coalition of supporters. Even some of those closest to the controversial chairman have begun urging him to step aside. … Meanwhile, a group of prominent Republicans led by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie are searching for a consensus candidate capable of defeating Steele. Though they have not settled on a challenger, and in fact are unlikely to find a consensus choice, strategists who both support and oppose Steele say coalitions are forming now to deny Steele a second term.” Excuse me, but why not Ed Gillespie himself?

The final Senate race is nearly decided. “Sen. Lisa Murkowski is well on her way to pulling off a stunning upset victory in the Alaska Senate race after one day of counting write-in votes, despite Republican nominee Joe Miller’s legal challenges to the process. Murkowski took nearly 98 percent of the 19,203 write-in ballots counted Wednesday, with more than 8 percent of those awarded to her after an initial challenge by Miller over voters’ spelling abilities was thrown out.”

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick finally puts to rest the notion that “reset” has paid dividends for us. “The initial appeal of Russia’s assistance — that the country has knowledge of Afghanistan thanks to its own, decade-long engagement — is belied by its brutal record. … Moreover, the actual Russian commitment is small. … More important than any of these factors, however, is the cynical way in which Moscow will use its paltry assistance to the [International Security Assistance Force] as leverage with the West in negotiations over other matters, from NATO expansion to human rights to missile defense.” Read the whole thing, which should be entitled “How Putin Took Obama to the Cleaners.”

Christine O’Donnell may finally be seeking a job for which she is well-suited. It seems there is a reality-show opportunity. Perrrrrfect.

Was Obama’s tinkering with the gulf-oil-spill report the final straw for the principled left? “The oil spill that damaged the Gulf of Mexico’s reefs and wetlands is also threatening to stain the Obama administration’s reputation for relying on science to guide policy. Academics, environmentalists and federal investigators have accused the administration since the April spill of downplaying scientific findings, misrepresenting data and most recently misconstruing the opinions of experts it solicited.”

The final figures for another failed government subsidy are in. Not good: “Any possible housing market recovery hit a snag during the three months ended September 30, as a government tax credit for homebuyers wound down. Home prices fell only slightly during the quarter, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), but the number of homes sold plummeted more than 25%, compared with the previous quarter.”

This will not be the final foreign-policy rebuff. “For President Obama, the last-minute failure to seal a trade deal with South Korea that would expand American exports of automobiles and beef is an embarrassing setback that deprives him of a foreign policy trophy and demonstrates how the midterm elections may have weakened his position abroad.”

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Do Whatever They Want, but Not on Our Dime

NPR is quite properly on the receiving end of a jumbo backlash over the firing of Juan Williams. As this report details, the listeners’ complaints are pouring in. Moreover:

At least one station wants to distance itself from the firing. In Miami, WLRN general manager John Labonia said he was hearing dozens of complaints from angry citizens and loyal donors. He said one called to cancel a $1,000 pledge. The station’s fundraising drive had already ended when the furor erupted.

“We don’t want that negative halo of NPR’s decision to affect us, so we are making it perfectly clear that we were not part of this decision and we do not agree with it,” Labonia said. “It was a short-sighted and irresponsible decision by NPR.”

Republicans are threatening to cut off funding when Congress returns. NPR is nervous about the impact on the bottom line:

As for NPR’s headquarters operation, federal grants account for less than 2 percent — or $3.3 million — of its $166 million annual budget. It is funded primarily by its affiliates, corporate sponsors and major donors.

In a statement, Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said federal law gives public broadcasting stations “maximum freedom” from interference in their activities.

NPR’s [spokeswoman Dana Davis] Rehm warned that if Congress cut off funding, “stations across the country would be hurt by that and would have to make up that balance elsewhere. In many places that would be difficult to do.”

She said that threats to cut off funding are “inappropriate” but that NPR takes them seriously and is talking with its member stations. “Stations as a whole are not happy this is happening at this time,” she said. “They’re in a difficult situation.”

How could 2 percent of its budget have such devastating impact? Well, those stations also receive money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But in any event, they’ve got lots of rich liberal donors.

And if it does cause hardship to the radio stations? I guess they’d have to put on programing that listeners actually like. It’s called the free market. With over 500 TV stations as well as satellite and over-the-air radio, why in the world do taxpayers need to pay for left-wing propaganda masquerading as news? Seriously, that’s what the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Fox News’s cable competitors are there for.

NPR is quite properly on the receiving end of a jumbo backlash over the firing of Juan Williams. As this report details, the listeners’ complaints are pouring in. Moreover:

At least one station wants to distance itself from the firing. In Miami, WLRN general manager John Labonia said he was hearing dozens of complaints from angry citizens and loyal donors. He said one called to cancel a $1,000 pledge. The station’s fundraising drive had already ended when the furor erupted.

“We don’t want that negative halo of NPR’s decision to affect us, so we are making it perfectly clear that we were not part of this decision and we do not agree with it,” Labonia said. “It was a short-sighted and irresponsible decision by NPR.”

Republicans are threatening to cut off funding when Congress returns. NPR is nervous about the impact on the bottom line:

As for NPR’s headquarters operation, federal grants account for less than 2 percent — or $3.3 million — of its $166 million annual budget. It is funded primarily by its affiliates, corporate sponsors and major donors.

In a statement, Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said federal law gives public broadcasting stations “maximum freedom” from interference in their activities.

NPR’s [spokeswoman Dana Davis] Rehm warned that if Congress cut off funding, “stations across the country would be hurt by that and would have to make up that balance elsewhere. In many places that would be difficult to do.”

She said that threats to cut off funding are “inappropriate” but that NPR takes them seriously and is talking with its member stations. “Stations as a whole are not happy this is happening at this time,” she said. “They’re in a difficult situation.”

How could 2 percent of its budget have such devastating impact? Well, those stations also receive money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But in any event, they’ve got lots of rich liberal donors.

And if it does cause hardship to the radio stations? I guess they’d have to put on programing that listeners actually like. It’s called the free market. With over 500 TV stations as well as satellite and over-the-air radio, why in the world do taxpayers need to pay for left-wing propaganda masquerading as news? Seriously, that’s what the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Fox News’s cable competitors are there for.

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On Ken Mehlman

The announcement that former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman is gay is garnering a fair amount of attention in the political world.

I suppose that’s predictable. He is, after all, the most powerful Republican ever to identify himself as gay. But my sense is that it’ll be a lot less of a big deal to conservatives than it might be to liberals like (just to choose one name at random) Frank Rich, for whom the political is also the personal. While it’s something that runs counter to the stereotype, most of the conservatives I know are largely to completely indifferent to a person’s sexual orientation. They are the kind of people who might even invite Elton John to perform at their weddings and not give a second thought to the fact that John is gay.

For my part, I knew Ken in the Bush White House and after that, when he was the campaign manager of the re-election campaign and RNC chairman. I’ve always liked him and found his counsel to be wise. He’s a person with very impressive political gifts and talents. Yet by his own account, the personal road he’s traveled has not been an easy one; rather than activists and commentators directing wrath and ridicule at him, I hope some measure of grace and understanding are accorded to him. I realize these qualities aren’t in oversupply in politics, but they should be more common than they are.

It’s fair to say, I think, that all sides in the same-sex marriage debate need to strive for greater respect and civility, for grounding this discussion in reason and empirical facts, in what advances self-government and the common good. And regardless of whether or not one agrees with Ken’s position, he will add to, rather than subtract from, the substance of the discussion. That is more than can be said for the haters.

The announcement that former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman is gay is garnering a fair amount of attention in the political world.

I suppose that’s predictable. He is, after all, the most powerful Republican ever to identify himself as gay. But my sense is that it’ll be a lot less of a big deal to conservatives than it might be to liberals like (just to choose one name at random) Frank Rich, for whom the political is also the personal. While it’s something that runs counter to the stereotype, most of the conservatives I know are largely to completely indifferent to a person’s sexual orientation. They are the kind of people who might even invite Elton John to perform at their weddings and not give a second thought to the fact that John is gay.

For my part, I knew Ken in the Bush White House and after that, when he was the campaign manager of the re-election campaign and RNC chairman. I’ve always liked him and found his counsel to be wise. He’s a person with very impressive political gifts and talents. Yet by his own account, the personal road he’s traveled has not been an easy one; rather than activists and commentators directing wrath and ridicule at him, I hope some measure of grace and understanding are accorded to him. I realize these qualities aren’t in oversupply in politics, but they should be more common than they are.

It’s fair to say, I think, that all sides in the same-sex marriage debate need to strive for greater respect and civility, for grounding this discussion in reason and empirical facts, in what advances self-government and the common good. And regardless of whether or not one agrees with Ken’s position, he will add to, rather than subtract from, the substance of the discussion. That is more than can be said for the haters.

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Spin, Spin, Spin — but Democrats Remain in Trouble

Granted, Marc Ambinder is among the most blatant of the Obama water carriers in the blogosphere (spins like a dreidel, Mickey Kaus once wrote), but this is downright dopey:

The chaos at the Republican National Committee threatens to cost Republicans the chance to take control of the House of Representatives, Republican strategists fear. During midterm elections, the national committee plays two essential roles. First, it serves as a bank account that can be drawn upon to shore up House races or put others into play. Second, it coordinates the party’s field operations and funds joint “Victory” committees with state parties. The RNC, at the moment, is barely fulfilling the second function and has less than $10 million on hand, so it cannot help much with House races.

Who believes this — really? There are now alternative organizations and entities amply funding Republicans, and there is no sign that there is any lack of GOP enthusiasm that might depress turnout. The notion that Michael Steele, as unhelpful or incompetent as he may be, is somehow going to prevent a House takeover by the GOP sounds like something they’d dream up on JournoList.

Granted, Marc Ambinder is among the most blatant of the Obama water carriers in the blogosphere (spins like a dreidel, Mickey Kaus once wrote), but this is downright dopey:

The chaos at the Republican National Committee threatens to cost Republicans the chance to take control of the House of Representatives, Republican strategists fear. During midterm elections, the national committee plays two essential roles. First, it serves as a bank account that can be drawn upon to shore up House races or put others into play. Second, it coordinates the party’s field operations and funds joint “Victory” committees with state parties. The RNC, at the moment, is barely fulfilling the second function and has less than $10 million on hand, so it cannot help much with House races.

Who believes this — really? There are now alternative organizations and entities amply funding Republicans, and there is no sign that there is any lack of GOP enthusiasm that might depress turnout. The notion that Michael Steele, as unhelpful or incompetent as he may be, is somehow going to prevent a House takeover by the GOP sounds like something they’d dream up on JournoList.

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