Commentary Magazine


Topic: Republicans

Dems Need to Be Careful on Shutdown

With only a few hours before the congressional standoff leads to a government shutdown, Democrats are in the awkward position of having to publicly declare their sorrow and disgust about the situation while inwardly celebrating. After more than two years of dueling with the GOP over budgets and debt-ceiling rises and daring them to do something like this, the president and his party have finally fished their wish today. Their assumption all along has been that, like the government shutdown of 1995, the public will blame the Republicans while Democrats can pose as the voices of reason. That’s the way it will be played on most broadcast networks and newspapers and there’s very little the GOP can do about it.

This strikes most conservatives, even those who disagree with the strategy of threatening a shutdown unless ObamaCare is defunded or delayed, as unfair. They’re right. It is unfair. The president and the Senate Democrats are being just as unreasonable and ideological as the Republicans when they say they won’t compromise and throw the GOP even a bone in exchange for a continuing resolution from the House funding the government. But who said life had to be fair? Anyone who hasn’t already figured out that the liberal mainstream media ensures that the D.C. battleground is not a level playing field isn’t smart enough to be in Congress.

But even though polls appear to vindicate the conventional wisdom about the blame for the shutdown tilting against the Republicans, Democrats shouldn’t get too cocky about any of this. A shutdown will work in their favor, but perhaps not as much as they might have thought. A lot will depend on how the coming days and weeks play out politically and which party blinks or makes a grave tactical error. But as much as they stand to gain from goading the GOP into making an almost certainly futile last stand on ObamaCare, there are dangers for the Democrats that they may be ignoring in their jubilation.

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With only a few hours before the congressional standoff leads to a government shutdown, Democrats are in the awkward position of having to publicly declare their sorrow and disgust about the situation while inwardly celebrating. After more than two years of dueling with the GOP over budgets and debt-ceiling rises and daring them to do something like this, the president and his party have finally fished their wish today. Their assumption all along has been that, like the government shutdown of 1995, the public will blame the Republicans while Democrats can pose as the voices of reason. That’s the way it will be played on most broadcast networks and newspapers and there’s very little the GOP can do about it.

This strikes most conservatives, even those who disagree with the strategy of threatening a shutdown unless ObamaCare is defunded or delayed, as unfair. They’re right. It is unfair. The president and the Senate Democrats are being just as unreasonable and ideological as the Republicans when they say they won’t compromise and throw the GOP even a bone in exchange for a continuing resolution from the House funding the government. But who said life had to be fair? Anyone who hasn’t already figured out that the liberal mainstream media ensures that the D.C. battleground is not a level playing field isn’t smart enough to be in Congress.

But even though polls appear to vindicate the conventional wisdom about the blame for the shutdown tilting against the Republicans, Democrats shouldn’t get too cocky about any of this. A shutdown will work in their favor, but perhaps not as much as they might have thought. A lot will depend on how the coming days and weeks play out politically and which party blinks or makes a grave tactical error. But as much as they stand to gain from goading the GOP into making an almost certainly futile last stand on ObamaCare, there are dangers for the Democrats that they may be ignoring in their jubilation.

Let’s specify that any attempt to completely discount the advantage Democrats will gain for this is pure spin. By demanding that the president pay a high price in order to fund the government, Republicans make themselves look like hostage takers. Again, this is mostly unfair, especially since Democrats have tried the same tactic in the past without being labeled as terrorists. The dynamic of the confrontation is that by asking for government funding without any conditions, the president places himself in a position where he can play the grown up in the room, even if that is a distortion of the truth. Even if most Americans oppose ObamaCare, using that issue to create a deadlock that causes a government shutdown is political poison. Letting someone like Senator Ted Cruz, whose personality is easy to skewer and positions are perceived as extreme, be seen as the face of the party makes it harder for the GOP to evade responsibility for the mess.

But Democrats shouldn’t be too cocky. The same polls that show Republicans being killed by the public for their involvement in the showdown also show Democrats and the president getting low marks for their role in the shutdown. In fact, today’s Washington Post poll on the subject showed that although 46 percent of Americans would blame the GOP more, 49 percent either blame the Democrats more (36 percent) or say both parties deserve the blame (13 percent). That’s an edge for the Democrats, but not enough in itself to change the political equation in 2014 when a new Congress will be elected.

It should also be understood that President Obama could lose this advantage as easily as the Republicans can make it worse by what he does in the next few days. If the president were acting as if he was really trying to avert a shutdown by working hard to compromise, he would be in a powerful position. But as everyone knows, while the nation spent the weekend worrying about the impact of a shutdown on the economy, he was playing golf.

The problem for the president is that by digging in his heels in this manner and contemptuously refusing to move an inch toward the Republicans, he has undermined his pose as the man who eschews petty partisan warfare. Nor does having Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as their lead spokesman help the Democrats. Reid’s angry and confrontational tone is every bit the match of Cruz’s snarky contempt for the left.

Despite having worked so hard and waited so long to get to this moment, Democrats and their media cheerleaders are also showing a bit too much satisfaction about the way things have gone. They’re so sure that a shutdown is a political bonanza that they’re getting sloppy. The more they crow and issue partisan demands or act as if the world is coming to an end, the less they will gain from the shutdown.

While the shutdown is a more serious problem than the sequester that we were also told would be the end of civilization, Democrats may also find that many citizens won’t be fazed by this development–and not all of them will be Tea Partiers.

There is also the very real possibility that the ObamaCare rollout, which will begin tomorrow whether there is a shutdown or not, will undermine the Democrats’ position rather than enhancing it as they’ve believed all along. The impact on the economy and the rising costs of health care may prove to be more of a liability for the left than even conservatives have believed possible. Nor is there any reason to believe that any of the Republicans who have engineered the confrontation will suffer next year when they face the voters again. But those members—principally Democrats—that insist on giving themselves federal health-care subsidies that the general public is denied may well have good reason to regret their votes next year.

Nevertheless, any competition between a president and a divided Congress is one in which the politician with the biggest megaphone tends to win, and that is President Obama. As much as ObamaCare should be repealed, it isn’t going to happen and threatening a shutdown is going to hurt Republicans. However, the assumption that a presidential position of shut up and simply pass along the money will work indefinitely is untested. Barack Obama is entering the lame-duck portion of his presidency. Democrats who assume they don’t have to compromise may find that this stand is as unproductive for them as the shutdown is for the GOP.

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The Excuses for Failure Are About to Begin

Now that House Republicans have done what Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio (and others) asked, which is to vote to defund the Affordable Care Act, we’ll be able to test whether it will achieve its purpose.

It won’t.

It’s been obvious since the hour this idea was hatched that the Affordable Care Act would not be defunded given the current political conditions. But those who have been pushing the defunding strategy pretended this was a possibility, which is why they insisted this moment was so vital. If you didn’t come on board the defunding campaign, it was said, then you owned ObamaCare. Those who championed what Cruz and Company advocated desperately tried to frame this as a debate between those who were against the Affordable Care Act and those who were willing to live with it.

This was never true. Virtually every Republican wants to put an end to ObamaCare. The problem is that it’s not doable as long as Barack Obama is president and Democrats control a majority in the Senate. Which means the debate all along was about nothing more than symbolism and tactics.

That’s all.

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Now that House Republicans have done what Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio (and others) asked, which is to vote to defund the Affordable Care Act, we’ll be able to test whether it will achieve its purpose.

It won’t.

It’s been obvious since the hour this idea was hatched that the Affordable Care Act would not be defunded given the current political conditions. But those who have been pushing the defunding strategy pretended this was a possibility, which is why they insisted this moment was so vital. If you didn’t come on board the defunding campaign, it was said, then you owned ObamaCare. Those who championed what Cruz and Company advocated desperately tried to frame this as a debate between those who were against the Affordable Care Act and those who were willing to live with it.

This was never true. Virtually every Republican wants to put an end to ObamaCare. The problem is that it’s not doable as long as Barack Obama is president and Democrats control a majority in the Senate. Which means the debate all along was about nothing more than symbolism and tactics.

That’s all.

As this process unfolds, and as this defunding gambit is exposed for what it was—a very bad, misleading, and half-baked idea—those who championed it will be in a vulnerable position. So here’s a prediction: They will engage in a frantic face-saving operation. They’ll argue that the problem wasn’t with them and their unwise idea; they’ll say it failed because of the lack of solidarity from other Republicans; they’ll claim that Republicans unfortunately signaled they weren’t serious about defunding and therefore the effort failed. they’ll say the blame rests not with them (intrepid Men of Principle) but with others (spineless RINOs).

This will be an excuse, and a particularly pathetic one. But it’s the only card they have to play, and play it they will. So sit back and watch the revisionism begin. 

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The Left’s Race Dog Whistles

Some Republicans may be shocked and confused that Democrats are seizing on any mention of welfare or immigration or any other legitimate political issue that can be described as racism. They shouldn’t be. Democrats have been howling about “coded language” and “dog whistles” all year, as well as making race-based complaints about voter ID laws. But lately they have become less subtle as Vice President Joe Biden’s threat that Republicans want to “put y’all back in chains” to a mostly black audience indicated. The hysteria on the left on this point has become particularly intense this week, as the Republican National Convention has served as a convenient target for commentators like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews who have become nearly unhinged trying to prove that Republicans are appealing to racism.

But if anyone is determined to keep race on the minds of Americans it is the Democrats. The obsessive search for hidden racism in Republican rhetoric isn’t merely because, as Mickey Kaus noted today on his blog, they “simply have race on the brain.” It’s because waving the bloody shirt of the fight against segregation is their only way of recapturing the magic of 2008, in which Americans took pride in voting for Barack Obama because doing so was a way to take part in a historic achievement. After four years of presidential futility, it’s not possible to make voters buy into another round of “hope and change.” But it is still possible to make independents and wavering Democrats think voting Republican will undo the progress that Obama’s election signaled.

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Some Republicans may be shocked and confused that Democrats are seizing on any mention of welfare or immigration or any other legitimate political issue that can be described as racism. They shouldn’t be. Democrats have been howling about “coded language” and “dog whistles” all year, as well as making race-based complaints about voter ID laws. But lately they have become less subtle as Vice President Joe Biden’s threat that Republicans want to “put y’all back in chains” to a mostly black audience indicated. The hysteria on the left on this point has become particularly intense this week, as the Republican National Convention has served as a convenient target for commentators like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews who have become nearly unhinged trying to prove that Republicans are appealing to racism.

But if anyone is determined to keep race on the minds of Americans it is the Democrats. The obsessive search for hidden racism in Republican rhetoric isn’t merely because, as Mickey Kaus noted today on his blog, they “simply have race on the brain.” It’s because waving the bloody shirt of the fight against segregation is their only way of recapturing the magic of 2008, in which Americans took pride in voting for Barack Obama because doing so was a way to take part in a historic achievement. After four years of presidential futility, it’s not possible to make voters buy into another round of “hope and change.” But it is still possible to make independents and wavering Democrats think voting Republican will undo the progress that Obama’s election signaled.

The welfare argument is particularly disingenuous, but it is being treated as a license to engage in the most vicious rhetoric imaginable against the GOP. Hence, Matthews’s television tirades and, to seize upon just one of many possible examples, Joan Walsh’s accusation today at Salon that Rick Santorum engaged in “race baiting,” “lying” and “creepiness” during his convention speech because of his mentioning of the welfare issue and the president’s decision to stop the enforcement of some immigration laws.

But the liberal claim, repeated as gospel not only on the opinion pages of the mainstream media but on their news pages as well, is that Republicans are lying about Obama’s changes in the Welfare Reform Act. They insist that he changed nothing and that the GOP charges that he gutted welfare-to-work regulations are fabrications. But the truth, as Kaus noted, is much closer to the Republican narrative than that of the Democrats. It’s true that, as they have repeated endlessly on MSNBC, all Obama did was to give states flexibility in enforcing the law. But taking away such flexibility was the whole point of the movement to reform welfare that culminated in the passage of the act that was signed by Bill Clinton. Obama’s changes will allow states to eliminate work requirements. That’s a fair point and has nothing to do with racism.

But to treat any mention of welfare as a code word for black is a sign of the liberals’ plantation mentality, not that of conservatives. The assumption that welfare equals black is not only factually incorrect — more whites receive such assistance than blacks — it is an insult.

That fits in with the Democrats’ efforts to treat voter ID laws aimed at combating fraud as the next generation of “Jim Crow,” since they assume that minorities are not as capable as whites of obtaining the photo ID that is needed for virtually every other transaction required by society.

Far from the Republicans wanting to talk about race, it is only in the interest of the Democrats to reopen these old wounds. That’s also why the left is going all out to discredit any black person who dares to oppose Obama. Hence the deluge of abuse being showered today on Utah Republican Mia B. Love as well as Democrat turncoat Artur Davis, both of whom wowed the nation with their convention addresses last night.

No American racist was likely to vote for Obama in November with or without a helpful reminder from either party that he was African-American. But plenty of moderates otherwise inclined to support Romney may be scared away from the Republicans by false charges that the GOP is appealing to race. The only dog whistles today being sounded are all from the left, as Democrats desperately attempt to convince Americans that it is still their duty to vote again for Obama.

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Schemers vs. Ineffective Message Crafters

Today’s New York Times Book Review features an interview with NPR’s Ira Glass, who was asked, “What’s the one book you wish someone else would write?” He gave the following answer:

“Could someone please write a book explaining why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts? … I remember reading in The Times that as soon as Obama won, the Republicans were scheming about how they’d turn it around for the next election, and came up with the plan that won them the House, and wondered, did the House Dems even hold a similar meeting?”

You have to admire the scheme the Republicans crafted as soon as Obama won. Faced with a new president with a 65 percent approval rating and complete control of Congress, the Republicans held a meeting and came up with a brilliant plan:

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Today’s New York Times Book Review features an interview with NPR’s Ira Glass, who was asked, “What’s the one book you wish someone else would write?” He gave the following answer:

“Could someone please write a book explaining why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts? … I remember reading in The Times that as soon as Obama won, the Republicans were scheming about how they’d turn it around for the next election, and came up with the plan that won them the House, and wondered, did the House Dems even hold a similar meeting?”

You have to admire the scheme the Republicans crafted as soon as Obama won. Faced with a new president with a 65 percent approval rating and complete control of Congress, the Republicans held a meeting and came up with a brilliant plan:

Have the President spend nearly a trillion dollars on shovel-ready jobs that didn’t exist; use the money to benefit public-employee unions while the private sector hemorrhaged; pivot to a federal healthcare plan opposed by a majority of the public; assign oversight of the recovery effort to Joe Biden (because nobody messes with Joe); run up trillions of new public debt; propose budgets no one would vote for; ignore the presidential commission’s recommendations for solving the problem; adopt an apologetic foreign policy, intentionally putting daylight between America and its allies; trade the interests of European allies for magic reset beans; become impatient with the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” but exhibit endless patience with Iran; play a record number of rounds of golf but avoid press conferences; give himself an A- after his first year (conditioned on ramming his healthcare plan through Congress within a couple months).

And then the Republicans took advantage of the fact that, as Glass suggests, the Democrats did not even hold a similar meeting.

Although the Times has not reported it, the word is out that after the 2010 shellacking, the Republicans held another meeting, and came up with an even simpler scheme for 2012: have the President double down, explaining how in his first two years he got the policy right but didn’t tell a story to the American people; and then have him craft a one-word message to the people: Forward.

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Why Upholding ObamaCare Will Badly Damage Obama’s Reelection Chances

Having already written about the majority opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, what about the politics of the decision?

I have argued before that while overturning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be a debilitating blow to the president, upholding it would create problems of its own. And that’s certainly the case.

For one thing, as others at ”Contentions” have pointed out, the president is now saddled with a huge middle class tax increase. Anchoring the Affordable Care Act in the Tax Clause is the only way it passed constitutional muster—and Republicans will do everything in their power to tether Obama to his tax increase. It doesn’t help the president that the argument that saved ObamaCare contradicted what Obama himself repeatedly said, which is (a) the individual mandate is “absolutely not a tax increase” and (b) he would never in a thousand years raise taxes on the middle class.

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Having already written about the majority opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, what about the politics of the decision?

I have argued before that while overturning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be a debilitating blow to the president, upholding it would create problems of its own. And that’s certainly the case.

For one thing, as others at ”Contentions” have pointed out, the president is now saddled with a huge middle class tax increase. Anchoring the Affordable Care Act in the Tax Clause is the only way it passed constitutional muster—and Republicans will do everything in their power to tether Obama to his tax increase. It doesn’t help the president that the argument that saved ObamaCare contradicted what Obama himself repeatedly said, which is (a) the individual mandate is “absolutely not a tax increase” and (b) he would never in a thousand years raise taxes on the middle class.

It was, and he has.

In addition, the decision by the Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act has once again thrust to center stage a historically unpopular law (one that is particularly unpopular in swing states).

The Supreme Court, then, has succeeded in once again inflaming the passions of the GOP base while reminding independents why they despise the ACA. The 2012 election may now take on a 2010 feel. And for those who might have forgotten, Democrats—thanks in large part to Obama’s health care law—sustained an epic defeat in that mid-term election.

As it was, so may it be.

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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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Democrats Afraid to Be Seen with Obama?

Competing for a speaking slot at the Democratic and Republican parties’ presidential nominating conventions is a time-honored tradition every four years. The reason is simple: presidential nominees are generally popular within the party and may be the next leader of the free world, and the conventions provide an opportunity to be seen and heard by millions of Americans. (Nielsen keeps historical convention ratings for Democrats here, and Republicans here.)

So it is surely a sign of something close to panic that Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee head Steve Israel is publicly advising Democrats to stay home from President Obama’s nominating convention this year:

The man responsible for getting Democrats elected to the Congress this fall has a message for his party’s candidates: Stay away from the Democratic National Convention in September.

“If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts,” New York Congressman Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Reuters Washington Summit on Tuesday.

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Competing for a speaking slot at the Democratic and Republican parties’ presidential nominating conventions is a time-honored tradition every four years. The reason is simple: presidential nominees are generally popular within the party and may be the next leader of the free world, and the conventions provide an opportunity to be seen and heard by millions of Americans. (Nielsen keeps historical convention ratings for Democrats here, and Republicans here.)

So it is surely a sign of something close to panic that Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee head Steve Israel is publicly advising Democrats to stay home from President Obama’s nominating convention this year:

The man responsible for getting Democrats elected to the Congress this fall has a message for his party’s candidates: Stay away from the Democratic National Convention in September.

“If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts,” New York Congressman Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Reuters Washington Summit on Tuesday.

Who would have guessed the clear favorite for “least convincing political spin of the year” would go to someone other than Jay Carney or Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Not a single person will buy this spin, for two reasons: First, even if the Democrats expected another wave election in favor of the GOP, the very candidates most susceptible to that wave–less experienced members of the House–would benefit most by appearing at the convention, as it would raise their profile. And second, the announcement from Israel came after Democratic politicians began heading for the lifeboats.

The most notable of these Democrats was Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, whose declaration that she would be caught nowhere near the president’s convention seems to have spooked her party into making a monumental unforced error. If Democrats think they’re headed for another shellacking at the polls, perhaps they know something the rest of the country doesn’t. Because there haven’t been any serious indicators of such a wave–at least nothing like 2010.

Volunteering that information won’t help them, because it won’t increase turnout and it will draw attention to the left’s sense of impending doom–something that occasionally develops into a self-fulfilling prophecy. It also forces media outlets to report a story that has thus far flown below the radar. If this were happening to a Republican administration, mainstream newspapers would be running story after story about how the president is so unpopular, even within his own party, that no one will be seen with him, his governance too radical even for the radicals.

But those stories had yet to appear this time, with the media’s election-year sensitivity to Obama’s image helpfully guiding them. Israel took a story the president’s allies were keeping under wraps and put it in neon lights. Don’t believe the polls showing Obama and Romney just about even, the DCCC itself seems to be saying, the president is politically toxic and everyone knows it.

Well, now everyone knows it.

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GOP Ramps Up Calls for Leak Investigation

Yesterday, the White House continued to push back against allegations that it approved classified leaks to the media, but Republicans aren’t buying it. Rep. Peter King is the latest high-profile Republican to claim the White House authorized the leaks for political gain:

A top House Republican on Sunday rejected President Obama’s claim that recent security leaks did not come from the White House, accusing the president of using the leaks — which detailed the administration’s counterterror programs — to “build up his reputation” before November.

“He’s trying to be like George Patton or John Wayne,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told Fox News.  …

“This is the most shameful cascade of leaks I’ve ever heard or seen in government,” he said. “It’s clear from those stories this came right from the White House, came right from the National Security Council, came right from the Situation Room. … It has to lead to people very high up in the administration in his White House.”

King alleged that the leaks must have been “approved from the top,” and accused the president of grandstanding in an election year.

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Yesterday, the White House continued to push back against allegations that it approved classified leaks to the media, but Republicans aren’t buying it. Rep. Peter King is the latest high-profile Republican to claim the White House authorized the leaks for political gain:

A top House Republican on Sunday rejected President Obama’s claim that recent security leaks did not come from the White House, accusing the president of using the leaks — which detailed the administration’s counterterror programs — to “build up his reputation” before November.

“He’s trying to be like George Patton or John Wayne,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told Fox News.  …

“This is the most shameful cascade of leaks I’ve ever heard or seen in government,” he said. “It’s clear from those stories this came right from the White House, came right from the National Security Council, came right from the Situation Room. … It has to lead to people very high up in the administration in his White House.”

King alleged that the leaks must have been “approved from the top,” and accused the president of grandstanding in an election year.

The Justice Department has already launched an investigation into the leaks, which could obviously pose some conflicts of interest. In a column in the New York Daily News today, King called for a special counsel to be appointed to investigate:

That is why I called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate these life-threatening leaks.

Attorney General Eric Holder cannot seriously be trusted to pursue crimes that may implicate senior officials in the administration. On Friday, he announced that two U.S. attorneys were selected to lead an investigation into the leaks. It is vital that this investigation be thorough and independent of Justice Department control.

While the administration has rightfully initiated an unprecedented number of leak prosecutions, these are all centered around nonpolitical, career employees who have, for the most part, leaked information having no direct bearing on the president.

The intelligence, law enforcement and military personnel who defend us, and the human sources who take great risks on our behalf, on the assurance that we will do our best to protect their security and identities, deserve no less.

As King notes, the Obama administration has been very serious in cracking down on leaks — but so far, it’s been non-political, mid-level government or military officials who have been prosecuted. In contrast, the latest leakers have clearly been high-level administration officials who have been privy to classified security briefings. And there has been a stark contrast between how the White House has handled these cases. With the latest leaks, the administration only initiated the DOJ investigation after an outcry from lawmakers.

It’s too early to say whether there will be enough pressure on the White House to force a special counsel investigation. In addition to Rep. King, Sen. John McCain, Sen. John Cornyn, and Sen. Roy Blunt have also called for one. And while some Democrats like Sen. Dianne Feinstein have stopped short of calling for it, they haven’t ruled it out.

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What Wisconsin Means for November

The last time a Republican presidential candidate won Wisconsin was in 1984, the year President Reagan swept every state except Minnesota. But last night showed that Wisconsin is once again in play, despite Obama’s decisive 14-point victory in 2008. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns are now eyeing Wisconsin as a swing state, and Romney now plans to campaign there aggressively:

Obama’s team, which has been on the ground organizing but hasn’t spent money on advertising for months, signaled this week that it believed the state had grown more competitive. In May, campaign manager Jim Messina had said Wisconsin was trending toward the president. By Monday, he was listing Wisconsin as “undecided.”

Romney now plans to compete in the state aggressively, looking to capitalize on the Republican momentum that carried Walker to victory. His team considers Wisconsin a top target, along with Florida, Ohio and Virginia, and more attractive than even Romney’s native Michigan, where the campaign had hoped to establish an Upper Midwest beachhead.

“The close vote on Tuesday confirms that Wisconsin will be a swing state,” said Republican strategist Terry Nelson, an adviser to George W. Bush.

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The last time a Republican presidential candidate won Wisconsin was in 1984, the year President Reagan swept every state except Minnesota. But last night showed that Wisconsin is once again in play, despite Obama’s decisive 14-point victory in 2008. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns are now eyeing Wisconsin as a swing state, and Romney now plans to campaign there aggressively:

Obama’s team, which has been on the ground organizing but hasn’t spent money on advertising for months, signaled this week that it believed the state had grown more competitive. In May, campaign manager Jim Messina had said Wisconsin was trending toward the president. By Monday, he was listing Wisconsin as “undecided.”

Romney now plans to compete in the state aggressively, looking to capitalize on the Republican momentum that carried Walker to victory. His team considers Wisconsin a top target, along with Florida, Ohio and Virginia, and more attractive than even Romney’s native Michigan, where the campaign had hoped to establish an Upper Midwest beachhead.

“The close vote on Tuesday confirms that Wisconsin will be a swing state,” said Republican strategist Terry Nelson, an adviser to George W. Bush.

Last night’s exit polls still showed Obama with a double-digit lead. But they also showed Walker and his opponent Tom Barrett in a dead-heat, when Walker actually won the race by seven points — raising doubts about the accuracy of the exit polling.

Republicans may also have the ground game on their side. The Democratic Party relies heavily on unions to organize on the ground, but if Big Labor couldn’t get out the vote for Barrett against Walker — public enemy #1 for unions — they’ll likely also have trouble rallying support for Obama, whose relationship with the unions has been shaky at times.

Not only were Wisconsin Republicans able to out-organize the unions, they’re also passing this on-the-ground support directly to the Romney campaign, Politico reports:

The flip side: Republicans end the showdown more motivated than ever. Conservatives have arguably their best ground operation in place of any of the 50 states — and it’s all going to be transferred to Romney.

A Republican National Committee official confirmed the two dozen Walker campaign offices would immediately be converted into Romney working space as soon as later this week.

Romney’s Wisconsin co-chair, former State Sen. Ted Kanavas, said the campaign has already taken lessons from Walker’s well-oiled early vote effort and targeting tactics.

“We’re going to try to leverage everything that was learned and apply it to November,” he said.

Add that to the massive energy boost the Walker victory gave Republicans, as well as the signal that independent voters are receptive to Walker’s reform message, and these are promising signs for Romney next November.

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Dems’ Plan B: Resurrect War on Women

So the Bain Capital attack strategy wasn’t the rousing success Democrats expected, but at least they still have the “war on women” to fall back on. Senate Democrats are moving along the Paycheck Protection Act, a gender equal pay protection bill, in a transparent attempt to resurrect the “war on women” narrative. TPM reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is set to file cloture Thursday on the Paycheck Protection Act, which would strengthen protections for women who sue for pay discrimination. The move puts Republicans in an uncomfortable position as they work to repair their weak brand image with women voters ahead of the November election.

Five female Democratic senators talked up the bill Wednesday afternoon during a Capitol briefing — and made clear they intend to hammer Republicans as anti-women if they stand in its way.

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So the Bain Capital attack strategy wasn’t the rousing success Democrats expected, but at least they still have the “war on women” to fall back on. Senate Democrats are moving along the Paycheck Protection Act, a gender equal pay protection bill, in a transparent attempt to resurrect the “war on women” narrative. TPM reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is set to file cloture Thursday on the Paycheck Protection Act, which would strengthen protections for women who sue for pay discrimination. The move puts Republicans in an uncomfortable position as they work to repair their weak brand image with women voters ahead of the November election.

Five female Democratic senators talked up the bill Wednesday afternoon during a Capitol briefing — and made clear they intend to hammer Republicans as anti-women if they stand in its way.

In case some people were left wondering whether this was just a shameless political ploy to try to turn women against the GOP, Sen. Barbara Boxer clarified it with all her usual subtlety:

“As I look at the record of Republicans on women, it is not good,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). “Personally I say it’s a war on women, and the more they protest it the more I say it. Because I really, truly believe it. They filibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act before. They left millions of women out of the Violence Against Women Act. They launched repeated attacks on women’s health including denying affordable access to birth control. They want to criminalize a woman’s right to choose. And they tried to repeal health reform, which prohibits discrimination because of gender — not to mention, makes investments in prevention.”

The legislation obviously puts Republicans in a tricky position. While the debate about the birth control mandate earlier this spring didn’t seem to cause any lasting damage for the party, it was still a major distraction that ate up a month of time that could have been spent talking about the economy. The GOP likely has no interest in rehashing that again.

But Senate Democrats have also put themselves in an awkward position. The Washington Free Beacon reports today that Senate Democrats – including some of the female lawmakers who participated in the news conference – pay their female staffers significantly less than male staffers:

Of the five senators who participated in Wednesday’s press conference—Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA)—three pay their female staff members significantly less than male staffers.

Murray, who has repeatedly accused Republicans of waging a “war a women,” is one of the worst offenders. Female members of Murray’s staff made about $21,000 less per year than male staffers in 2011, a difference of 35.2 percent.

That is well above the 23 percent gap that Democrats claim exists between male and female workers nationwide. The figure is based on a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, and is technically accurate. However, as CNN’s Lisa Sylvester has reported, when factors such as area of employment, hours of work, and time in the workplace are taken into account, the gap shrinks to about 5 percent.

That’s probably not because Sen. Murray and others are paying female staffers less for doing the same work as male staffers. It’s likely that men simply have more upper-level positions in the office, which come with higher salaries. But that hypocrisy is something these senators should have to answer to if they’re going to bash Republicans for opposing pro-women policies.

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Dems Spin Obama Budget Rejection

The Senate unanimously rejected President Obama’s budget yesterday, two months after the president’s budget was voted down unanimously in the House. It’s an embarrassing testimony to both Obama’s leadership and the Senate majority leadership’s willingness to take the long-term deficit problems seriously, particularly during an election year, and Democrats are furiously swinging into spin control mode.

The fallback excuse for Senate Democrats during the past few months has been that the debt ceiling deal already put spending caps into place, making a new budget unnecessary. They’re still standing by that claim:

Democrats say the exercise is unnecessary this year because Democrats and Republicans wrote spending caps for the year into law in the hard-fought summer deal that raised the nation’s debt ceiling.

Republicans counter that the debt deal does not replace a legal requirement that Congress adopt a budget resolution for the year.

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The Senate unanimously rejected President Obama’s budget yesterday, two months after the president’s budget was voted down unanimously in the House. It’s an embarrassing testimony to both Obama’s leadership and the Senate majority leadership’s willingness to take the long-term deficit problems seriously, particularly during an election year, and Democrats are furiously swinging into spin control mode.

The fallback excuse for Senate Democrats during the past few months has been that the debt ceiling deal already put spending caps into place, making a new budget unnecessary. They’re still standing by that claim:

Democrats say the exercise is unnecessary this year because Democrats and Republicans wrote spending caps for the year into law in the hard-fought summer deal that raised the nation’s debt ceiling.

Republicans counter that the debt deal does not replace a legal requirement that Congress adopt a budget resolution for the year.

It’s not just Republicans who are countering the claim. The Senate parliamentarian also ruled in April that the debt ceiling deal doesn’t mean the Senate can’t take up budget resolutions this year.

Meanwhile, the White House was expecting the failure, and recently began arguing that the resolution introduced in the Senate is actually a distorted version of the president’s budget. They say the rejection isn’t a reflection of Democrats’ views of Obama’s plan:

Last May, Obama’s budget was voted down, 0-97. Democrats noted they could vote no after Obama delivered an April speech calling for deeper deficit reduction than he had presented two months earlier in his budget.

This year, Obama is sticking by his budget, so Democrats are embracing another reason to vote it down.

The White House moved Monday to free Democrats to vote no by saying the legislation embodying Obama’s budget is “different” because it doesn’t contain identical policy language.

Republicans argue that the rejected budget resolution is identical to Obama’s plan, and say the only difference is that campaign-tinged political language was removed.

“If you look at the president’s budget it reads like his campaign website,” a Republican aide told me. “But the numbers are identical to the budget.”

The excuses are pretty flimsy, and Democrats are no doubt bracing for a public backlash. But clearly the party thinks they’re safer dealing with the fallout from rejecting Obama’s budget than being forced to defend his budget in the fall.

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The Media’s Apocalyptic Vision of Richard Mourdock

Conservatives often complain that when the mainstream media is forced by events to pay attention to conservative views they have long ignored, the tone of the reporting often is that of an anthropological grant application. The reporters brave the native habitat of conservatives and find that they’re practically human. But that’s actually better than what we witnessed after Richard Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar in the Indiana GOP Senate primary this week.

Lugar, you may have heard, has been in the Senate a very long time, and he is a statesman and throwback to the gilded era of Republican acquiescence–sorry, bipartisanship, and statesmanship. A true mensch, a centrist Republican, Dick Lugar was, above all, a statesman, we are now told. But what about Mourdock, the man vying to replace Lugar in the Senate? Is he a statesman? Let’s find out, by reading some of the liberal write-ups of the election. The results may surprise you.

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Conservatives often complain that when the mainstream media is forced by events to pay attention to conservative views they have long ignored, the tone of the reporting often is that of an anthropological grant application. The reporters brave the native habitat of conservatives and find that they’re practically human. But that’s actually better than what we witnessed after Richard Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar in the Indiana GOP Senate primary this week.

Lugar, you may have heard, has been in the Senate a very long time, and he is a statesman and throwback to the gilded era of Republican acquiescence–sorry, bipartisanship, and statesmanship. A true mensch, a centrist Republican, Dick Lugar was, above all, a statesman, we are now told. But what about Mourdock, the man vying to replace Lugar in the Senate? Is he a statesman? Let’s find out, by reading some of the liberal write-ups of the election. The results may surprise you.

Salon, for example, carries a story titled “Republican Party: Hawks-only club.” The article details how Mourdock’s victory makes the GOP uniformly hawkish on foreign policy. Most of the article is an explanation of why liberals liked Lugar so much, but finally the author gives us the damage: “In practical terms, Lugar’s loss means that U.S. foreign policy will be less civilized, less responsible and less effective.”

I noticed something was missing from this article, however: it omits any mention whatsoever of Richard Mourdock’s views on foreign policy. This is a rather glaring omission, but maybe the reporter’s instincts are right.

To find out, let’s head on over to an expert on foreign policy, Tom Ricks. Ricks maintains a blog on Foreign Policy’s website, and sure enough he weighed in on Mourdock’s victory. He, too, was horrified by the erosion of the foreign policy center. But he has a somewhat different take on what it means. Mourdock’s victory, Ricks admits, “makes me wonder if the great Midwest is turning away from internationalism and back to its pre-World War II isolationism.”

So Salon was wrong? Mourdock is the opposite of a hawkish hawk? He’s actually an isolationist? I wondered what led Ricks to this conclusion, but his post didn’t help me answer that question, because Ricks doesn’t even mention Mourdock’s name, let alone Mourdock’s views on foreign policy.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Reporters sometimes trick politicians into revealing what they think by employing an age-old tactic commonly referred to as “asking them questions.” It turns out that some reporters did. Richard Mourdock, as a supporter of cutting the Pentagon’s budget and skeptical of the mission in Afghanistan, is not a superhawk, as Salon would have it. But he also believes America plays an important role in the world, and that it must not retreat from its responsibilities around the globe. So he isn’t an isolationist either.

But if he’s starting to sound like a mainstream candidate, he’s got you fooled. Richard Mourdock is, according to the sandwich board Jonathan Chait has been wearing around town, the harbinger of doom. This is an interesting point of view coming from Chait, who is the author of the magnum opus of leftist anti-intellectualism and anthem of paranoid incivility, “Mad About You: The Case for Bush Hatred.” Some things have changed since Chait published his plea for incivility–namely, we have a Democratic president. So now it’s time to protect “social norms”–specifically, he says, court-related social norms permitting the confirmation of a president’s court picks. Mourdock cited Lugar’s support for President Obama’s Supreme Court picks in his case against the incumbent senator, mirroring a Republican approach to politics that is, in Chait’s view, bringing upon us a “crisis of American government.”

Some have pointed out that the collapse of the nomination process was brought about by Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden when they took a sledgehammer to “social norms” during the confirmation process of Robert Bork. That’s true. But I’d like to defend Chait somewhat. I, too, have been concerned about the collapse of social norms.

For example, it was once a social norm never to use the filibuster against a circuit court nominee. But then George W. Bush nominated Miguel Estrada, an undeniably qualified candidate, to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Democrats were playing the long game, however, and were willing to buck social norms in order to prevent the Republicans from starting a process that would end with a conservative Hispanic judge on the Supreme Court. So they blocked Estrada.

In October 2003, the Associated Press reported that Democrats were preparing to expand their use of the filibuster to everything the GOP put forward. “Perhaps we ought to prepare some bumper stickers that say ‘Obstruction: It’s not just for judges anymore’,” remarked Republican John Cornyn.

More recently, Harry Reid has perfected a tactic called “filling the tree” to prevent Republicans from even being able to offer amendments on bills. Reid and the Democrats are, it turns out, innovators in the means to tear down social norms and prevent the government from functioning as it was intended. In fact, it’s now been more than three years since Reid’s Senate passed a budget.

But hey, at least he didn’t criticize a Democratic nominee who was confirmed anyway. Now that would just be uncivil.

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Dems May Force Obama to Make Keystone XL Decision

Byron York reports on the status of the Keystone XL debate. Democratic lawmakers are facing more pressure to support the pipeline with the election looming, and some in the Senate are confident they’ll be able to peel away enough Democrats to break Harry Reid’s filibuster. Which means that the bill for approval could land on President Obama’s desk in the not-too-distant future:

When the House voted on the pipeline in July of last year, 47 Democrats broke with the president. Now that it’s an election year and the number is up to 69, look for Republicans to hold more pipeline votes before November. GOP leaders expect even more Democrats to join them.

Then there is the Senate. Democrats are using the filibuster to stop the pipeline, which means 60 votes are required to pass it. (Some Democrats who bitterly opposed the filibuster when Republicans used it against Obama initiatives are notably silent these days.) In a vote last month, 11 Senate Democrats stood up against Obama to vote in favor of the pipeline. Add those 11 to the Republicans’ 47 votes, and the pro-pipeline forces are just a couple of votes away from breaking Harry Reid’s filibuster.

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Byron York reports on the status of the Keystone XL debate. Democratic lawmakers are facing more pressure to support the pipeline with the election looming, and some in the Senate are confident they’ll be able to peel away enough Democrats to break Harry Reid’s filibuster. Which means that the bill for approval could land on President Obama’s desk in the not-too-distant future:

When the House voted on the pipeline in July of last year, 47 Democrats broke with the president. Now that it’s an election year and the number is up to 69, look for Republicans to hold more pipeline votes before November. GOP leaders expect even more Democrats to join them.

Then there is the Senate. Democrats are using the filibuster to stop the pipeline, which means 60 votes are required to pass it. (Some Democrats who bitterly opposed the filibuster when Republicans used it against Obama initiatives are notably silent these days.) In a vote last month, 11 Senate Democrats stood up against Obama to vote in favor of the pipeline. Add those 11 to the Republicans’ 47 votes, and the pro-pipeline forces are just a couple of votes away from breaking Harry Reid’s filibuster.

At that point, Obama has no choice but to take a side. Up until now he’s been able to shift some blame onto “safety concerns” and the State Department review process. He’ll have a much harder time doing this if even the Democrat-controlled Senate starts calling his bluff.

Vetoing the bill will be too politically risky. It’s more likely that Obama will sign it after digging up some justification for the flip-flop. The new route proposed by TransCanada, which circumvents some of the areas in Nebraska that green groups say are environmentally-sensitive, will provide the president with a passable excuse. At HotAir, Ed Morrissey predicts:

Expect him to pounce on the new route application as a catalyst for preliminary approval — and then to stall the final approvals needed within the bureaucracy, where he can act without too much observation.

Yup. And Obama may not even have to work very hard to ensure a drawn-out approval process. According to reports, officials say the process will likely run seven to nine months – which would take us just beyond the November election.

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Where Dishonest Obama Memes Collide

Senate Democrats are doing all they can to keep oxygen in this “war on women” narrative, and the next big agenda item is the vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. It’s an uncontroversial law, one that would have passed the Senate with wide bipartisan support. But that was before Democrats added a host of vaguely-related controversial new measures to it, including provisions on immigration and tribal laws.

Republicans have speculated that this was a tactic to provoke a fight over an otherwise uncontroversial piece of legislation. But it doesn’t sound like they’re going to take the bait, at least not in the Senate:

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Senate Democrats are doing all they can to keep oxygen in this “war on women” narrative, and the next big agenda item is the vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. It’s an uncontroversial law, one that would have passed the Senate with wide bipartisan support. But that was before Democrats added a host of vaguely-related controversial new measures to it, including provisions on immigration and tribal laws.

Republicans have speculated that this was a tactic to provoke a fight over an otherwise uncontroversial piece of legislation. But it doesn’t sound like they’re going to take the bait, at least not in the Senate:

Senate Republicans are irritated at Democrats’ push to exploit the Violence Against Women Act for political gain but signaled today they aren’t planning an effort to block or delay it.

As Senate Democratic women and Vice President Joseph Biden amped up their push to reauthorize the bill at separate events today, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters that Republicans don’t intend to filibuster it, with the assumption that Democratic leaders will at least allow a Republican alternative to be offered for a vote.

“All these things add up to things that are keeping a bill that could pass on a voice vote from being passed,” Grassley said. “Violence against women except for these additions is noncontroversial. I’m afraid what they’re doing here is they want a political issue — you know, ‘war on women’ — and they are going to end up with another one-year extension.”

Democrats continued to decry GOP “obstructionism” today, despite the indications that Senate Republicans won’t filibuster the bill (and probably couldn’t if they wanted to, as it has 61 co-sponsors):

“I’m worried that a few Republicans are returning to the playbook of obstruction,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Democrats’ campaign arm. “Women in America cannot afford political theater on this issue, not on this issue. Their lives depend on it.”

“It is very important that it not be made political fodder,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said. The California Democrat added that the bill is not a new concept and has been expanded several times in the past.

“We all thought it was a no-brainer to extend it to everybody,” she said, adding that it was a “big surprise” to her in the Judiciary Committee when the Republicans voted against it.

Be prepared for a lot more rhetoric once the bill passes the Senate and heads to the House, where the Republican majority will likely put up much more of a fight. We’ve had to sit through the “war on women” and “do-nothing-Congress” narratives, but it sounds like both ridiculously dishonest Obama memes will finally collide during the VAWA fight.

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Bad Advice for Romney on Mormon Issue

A common feature of the competitive political news industry is the high volume of overpromising headlines. A good example is today’s Politico feature, headlined “GOP to Mitt: Own your Mormonism.” The story, however, says no such thing.

What we have instead is an array of quotes indicating that Romney talking more about his Mormonism would be detrimental to his prospects or that it would be irrelevant. We never quite get to the argument about how to sell Romney’s religion to the public. Now that Romney seems finally to be his party’s nominee, writes Politico, “many Republicans think that the standoffish candidate actually needs to embrace his Mormonism publicly to open a window into his life.” But where are these promised “many Republicans”?

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A common feature of the competitive political news industry is the high volume of overpromising headlines. A good example is today’s Politico feature, headlined “GOP to Mitt: Own your Mormonism.” The story, however, says no such thing.

What we have instead is an array of quotes indicating that Romney talking more about his Mormonism would be detrimental to his prospects or that it would be irrelevant. We never quite get to the argument about how to sell Romney’s religion to the public. Now that Romney seems finally to be his party’s nominee, writes Politico, “many Republicans think that the standoffish candidate actually needs to embrace his Mormonism publicly to open a window into his life.” But where are these promised “many Republicans”?

First we meet Penny Young Nance, an activist and former Rick Santorum supporter, who says the public might connect with Romney if they could see him worshiping. But she also says she “will support anyone against this president”–not exactly an example of a voter Romney has to work to win over. Brent Bozell offers a related piece of advice, saying Romney shouldn’t “distance” himself from his religion, but then says that the hostility to Romney in the primaries “was based more on cultural issues–social issues, not religious.” But that doesn’t explain why Romney’s Mormonism can be a plus.

It’s also unlikely to be true. A Romney adviser tells Politico that the campaign was surprised by the GOP primary exit polls showing voters would only vote for someone who shared their faith. Politico then provides us with a couple of those voters, who say they could not “morally vote” if the election is Romney against Obama.

The story offers some more dubious advice by suggesting that “If there was ever a time for Romney to publicly reveal his inner Mormon, this is it,” in part because “The Broadway musical ‘Book of Mormon’ remains a huge hit.” Romney should not, it must be said, base his campaign strategy on a musical comedy version of his religion written by the creators of “South Park.”

Later, Politico quotes a Mormon endorsing the idea to open up about Romney’s faith, but immediately undermines it: “It’s more than a religion–it’s a subculture, a way of life. Mormons socialize together, they do business together, and they raise families together [Avoiding it publicly] just perpetuates the view that he’s distant.” What would also perpetuate the view that he is distant would be the revelation that members of his religion tend to self-consciously isolate themselves.

Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention, says evangelicals aren’t the problem, because they will vote for Romney against Obama “in spite of his Mormonism.” This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the professed strategy. Land also notes, correctly, that the Romney campaign “would have more problems with Democrats demonizing the religion than with evangelicals,” as paraphrased by Politico. This is true, and David Axelrod has continued to press the Mormon issue despite promises he would put an end to the anti-Mormon aspect of the campaign. This is an explicit argument against Romney bringing up his Mormonism in the general election.

The final quote in the article encouraging Romney to talk about his Mormonism is from GOP strategist Steve Schmidt. But this advice is from, well, Steve Schmidt, so it’s hard to imagine the GOP doing anything with that advice but running from it as if it’s on fire.

It may well be that there is benefit in Romney’s Mormonism, but this article provides exactly one such quote that doesn’t immediately undermine the argument–and it’s from someone who didn’t support Romney but will in the general election because she’s a conservative activist.

The best argument I can think of in favor of opening up the Mormon issue is that Democrats, as indicated by Axelrod, will attempt to portray the religion in the most negative light possible. It’s not just Axelrod. Columnists at the New York Times have joined the anti-Mormon campaign almost as soon as they heard Axelrod’s starter pistol. Maureen Dowd joined the fray, but of greater concern was Charles Blow’s anti-Mormon insult on Twitter directed at the candidate himself. Blow later offered a tweet that was about as close to an apology that Mormons were going to get out of him, and he did not lose his perch at the Times–a signal that unlike other prejudices, anti-Mormon bigotry is not a firing offense and will be tolerated at the New York Times. (It will also be tolerated, perhaps unsurprisingly, by MSNBC.)

The best antidote to this may be the familiarity with voters that all presidential candidates attain in the age of long campaigns, 24-hour news networks, and ubiquitous social media. Or it may be for the Mormon community to do its best to counter the Democrats’ campaign against the religion. But now faced with trying to win Democratic votes against an incumbent Democratic president, it may still be perilous for Romney to raise the issue himself.

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Dems Retrench in the “War on Women”?

From the staggering statistic released by the Republican National Committee that found women have lost 92.3 percent of all jobs lost since Obama took office, to yesterday’s scathing story on the gender pay gap in the Obama White House by the Washington Free Beacon, the GOP has started throwing the “war on women” rhetoric back into the faces of the Democrats who coined it.

And that was before the Hilary Rosen controversy erupted last night. Rosen has since apologized, and her statement appears to be more of a plea for a truce than a mea culpa:

“Let’s put the faux ‘war against stay at home moms’ to rest once and for all. As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen. In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women’s financial struggles. Here is my more fulsome view of the issues. As a partner in a firm full of women who work outside of the home as well as stay at home mothers, all with plenty of children, gender equality is not a talking point for me. It is an issue I live every day. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.”

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From the staggering statistic released by the Republican National Committee that found women have lost 92.3 percent of all jobs lost since Obama took office, to yesterday’s scathing story on the gender pay gap in the Obama White House by the Washington Free Beacon, the GOP has started throwing the “war on women” rhetoric back into the faces of the Democrats who coined it.

And that was before the Hilary Rosen controversy erupted last night. Rosen has since apologized, and her statement appears to be more of a plea for a truce than a mea culpa:

“Let’s put the faux ‘war against stay at home moms’ to rest once and for all. As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen. In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women’s financial struggles. Here is my more fulsome view of the issues. As a partner in a firm full of women who work outside of the home as well as stay at home mothers, all with plenty of children, gender equality is not a talking point for me. It is an issue I live every day. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.”

Many have noticed that Rosen is apologizing to anyone she offended as opposed to apologizing for the substance of her comments. They’re right about that, although I’m willing to give Rosen the benefit of the doubt. But Rosen’s choice of words at the end is interesting – she calls the controversy a “phony war,” which is basically what Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus was attacked for saying about the “war on women” last week. Any of the high-profile Democrats who have expressed outrage at Rosen’s initial comments – Debbie Wasserman Schultz and First Lady Michelle Obama to name just two – want to come out and take another swing at her for “belittling” legitimate concerns of stay-at-home moms?

This won’t be the last we’ll hear about the “war on women,” but it sounds like Democrats are at least ready to retrench for awhile after a rough week. As Priebus has indicated, the GOP also seems ready to put this narrative to rest.

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Democrats Outdo Themselves on Fake “War on Women”

The mock outrage and silly opportunism of the Democrat-manufactured “war on women” narrative reached comedic heights today, after some innocuous comments from Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus triggered a ridiculously disproportionate firestorm:

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus triggered a debate on caterpillars Thursday when dismissing the GOP’s so-called “women problem” as a “fiction.”

“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and mainstream media outlets talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars,” Priebus told Bloomberg TV in an episode of “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing Thursday night. …

The comment “shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women’s health,” said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter in a statement. “Women are already abandoning the Republican Party in droves because of their antiquated positions on women’s health and out-of-touch policies on the middle class. Reince Priebus’ comments today only reinforce why women simply cannot trust Mitt Romney or other leading Republicans to stand up for them.”

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The mock outrage and silly opportunism of the Democrat-manufactured “war on women” narrative reached comedic heights today, after some innocuous comments from Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus triggered a ridiculously disproportionate firestorm:

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus triggered a debate on caterpillars Thursday when dismissing the GOP’s so-called “women problem” as a “fiction.”

“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and mainstream media outlets talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars,” Priebus told Bloomberg TV in an episode of “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing Thursday night. …

The comment “shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women’s health,” said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter in a statement. “Women are already abandoning the Republican Party in droves because of their antiquated positions on women’s health and out-of-touch policies on the middle class. Reince Priebus’ comments today only reinforce why women simply cannot trust Mitt Romney or other leading Republicans to stand up for them.”

This is too obtuse to be unintentional. There is no way the Obama campaign or Democratic National Committee really thinks Reince Priebus was comparing women to caterpillars, right? Then again, The Atlantic seems to have bought in:

In this week’s Etch A Sketch moment, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said the GOP’s perceived “war on women” was as fictional as a war on caterpillars. Now, while it’s pretty fun to imagine politicians in suits doing battle with what we can only assume would be enormous, mutant caterpillars, it also reveals the problem with drawing such comparisons: trivializing people’s concerns isn’t the best way to get them to drop an issue.

So now if Republicans don’t admit that the “war on women” they are falsely being accused of waging is real, that’s taken as further evidence that they hate women and trivialize their concerns. That’s some logic.

The entire controversy is right out of that picnic scene from Whit Stillman’s great “Barcelona,” when Taylor Nichols tries to explain U.S. Cold War foreign policy to a group of anti-American pseudo-intellectuals by using an analogy about ants. “That’s clearly the most disgusting description of U.S. policy I have ever heard,” shoots back one artist. “The third-world is just a lot of ants to you.”

I can imagine that trying to explain the fallacy of the “war on women” narrative to Debbie Wasserman Schultz is about as futile as trying to explain the reasonableness of American foreign policy to anti-American Europeans. No matter what anybody says, she’ll just turn back to Priebus and exclaim, “So women are just a bunch of caterpillars to you?”

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Ruling: Senate Can’t Dodge Unpopular Budget Votes

Senate Democrats hoped to avoid voting on any controversial budget resolutions, claiming the debt ceiling deal last summer already deemed a budget for the next two years. But the new Parliamentarian disagreed, and issued a ruling that will give Republicans more power to force budgetary votes that the majority party wants to avoid:

Newly appointed Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, whom [Sen. Harry] Reid recommended for the job, has decided that last summer’s deal on the debt ceiling and spending caps does not preclude the Senate from taking up other budget resolutions this year. The ruling could force vulnerable Democrats to cast tough votes that hurt them in November, a situation Reid and other leaders are eager to avoid as they work to protect their fragile majority.

The written opinion, shared late last week with a handful of Democratic and GOP senators, gives Republicans significantly more leverage to push for votes on budgets of their choosing. It could mean roll calls on Rep. Paul Ryan’s House-passed GOP budget plan and others offered by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Democrats would gladly vote down the Ryan blueprint, which Obama described Tuesday as a “radical” vision that guts funding for Medicare and education.

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Senate Democrats hoped to avoid voting on any controversial budget resolutions, claiming the debt ceiling deal last summer already deemed a budget for the next two years. But the new Parliamentarian disagreed, and issued a ruling that will give Republicans more power to force budgetary votes that the majority party wants to avoid:

Newly appointed Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, whom [Sen. Harry] Reid recommended for the job, has decided that last summer’s deal on the debt ceiling and spending caps does not preclude the Senate from taking up other budget resolutions this year. The ruling could force vulnerable Democrats to cast tough votes that hurt them in November, a situation Reid and other leaders are eager to avoid as they work to protect their fragile majority.

The written opinion, shared late last week with a handful of Democratic and GOP senators, gives Republicans significantly more leverage to push for votes on budgets of their choosing. It could mean roll calls on Rep. Paul Ryan’s House-passed GOP budget plan and others offered by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Democrats would gladly vote down the Ryan blueprint, which Obama described Tuesday as a “radical” vision that guts funding for Medicare and education.

Ryan’s budget would be good to bring up for a vote, though nobody expects it to actually pass. But Republicans will likely try to force a vote on Obama’s budget, which already failed unanimously in the House, and would likely go down in flames for the second year in a row in the Senate.

That is, if Reid would ever agree to bring the president’s budget to the floor. As Politico notes, if Reid refuses to do so, that’s a potentially damaging political move in itself. What’s worse though? For Reid to block it from a floor vote – a clear acknowledgement that it won’t pass – or to allow the vote and let the White House go through the embarrassment of a (likely unanimous) rejection once again? It seems like there’s a good chance the budget will never actually make it to the floor, despite the Parliamentarian’s ruling.

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GOP Shift on Gay Marriage Opposition

Politico reports this morning on the internal shift within the Republican Party on the gay marriage opposition issue, which has been taking place quietly for the past few years. The change has mirrored polling numbers, which show that public opinion has moved sharply in favor of gay marriage since 2008. But it’s still noteworthy that the Republican leadership in Congress isn’t just being passive on this. It has even worked to kill amendments that oppose gay marriage:

Even more than that, Republican leadership has evolved, too. It has quietly worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions, several sources told Politico.

It’s not like the GOP has become a bastion of progressiveness on gay rights, but there has been an evolution in the political approach — and an acknowledgment of a cultural shift in the country. Same-sex relationships are more prominent and accepted. There are more gay public figures — including politicians — and it’s likely that many Washington Republicans have gay friends and coworkers. Just as important — there’s also a libertarian streak of acceptance on people’s sexuality coursing through the House Republican Conference.

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Politico reports this morning on the internal shift within the Republican Party on the gay marriage opposition issue, which has been taking place quietly for the past few years. The change has mirrored polling numbers, which show that public opinion has moved sharply in favor of gay marriage since 2008. But it’s still noteworthy that the Republican leadership in Congress isn’t just being passive on this. It has even worked to kill amendments that oppose gay marriage:

Even more than that, Republican leadership has evolved, too. It has quietly worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions, several sources told Politico.

It’s not like the GOP has become a bastion of progressiveness on gay rights, but there has been an evolution in the political approach — and an acknowledgment of a cultural shift in the country. Same-sex relationships are more prominent and accepted. There are more gay public figures — including politicians — and it’s likely that many Washington Republicans have gay friends and coworkers. Just as important — there’s also a libertarian streak of acceptance on people’s sexuality coursing through the House Republican Conference.

Part of this is about the current political atmosphere. Republicans want to keep the message focused on jobs, the deficit and the economy – issues that will actually get voters mobilized. Bringing up gay marriage at this point would have no benefit for the GOP.

But there’s also the sense that the long-term trend is moving toward acceptance of gay marriage, even within the conservative movement. And Republicans just don’t have the appetite to fight a battle that will be lost, if not next year, then five or 10 years down the line:

Then there are those Republicans who have been fighting for gay rights for decades — people like Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Ros-Lehtinen, who has a transgender son named Rodrigo, was the first Republican to co-sponsor the repeal of DOMA.

“Also,” she wrote in an email to Politico, “the younger generation is not as fixated on many social issues, as important as they are to other folks. Marriage equality is an issue that is evolving in people’s minds and hearts. As with many controversial issues, the passage of time makes us more comfortable with change.”

If you want to get a sense of where the traditional marriage movement is heading, the recent controversy over the National Organization for Marriage’s leaked action plan – which called for driving a wedge between gay and black people after Proposition 8 – is a good place to start. As correct as NOM may have been from a tactical standpoint (the black community’s support for Prop. 8 helped kill gay marriage in California), the ick-factor here is incredibly high. Just look at the language: NOM said it was seeking to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks”; “provoke” gay marriage supporters into “denouncing these [African American] spokesmen and women as bigots”; and “fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop. 8.” This isn’t the language or the vision of a noble cause, and it certainly doesn’t sound like one that supporters can feel good about belonging to.

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House Set to Approve Ryan’s Budget

The House is set to vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget this afternoon, and it’s expected to pass along party lines. Republicans are attempting to build a contrast to the president’s budget, which failed unanimously, 414-0, in the House yesterday – one display of bipartisan unity that the White House probably wasn’t pleased to see.

The L.A. Times reports:

Doubling down on a controversial campaign issue, the GOP-led House is set to approve a 2013 budget that would cut taxes for the wealthy, revamp Medicare and slash federal spending in a vote that will define the Republican Party this election year and beyond.

Thursday’s vote comes as a heated debate is playing out in Congress and the campaign trail, where Mitt Romney has embraced the proposal in sharp contrast to President Obama’s approach to budgeting.

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The House is set to vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget this afternoon, and it’s expected to pass along party lines. Republicans are attempting to build a contrast to the president’s budget, which failed unanimously, 414-0, in the House yesterday – one display of bipartisan unity that the White House probably wasn’t pleased to see.

The L.A. Times reports:

Doubling down on a controversial campaign issue, the GOP-led House is set to approve a 2013 budget that would cut taxes for the wealthy, revamp Medicare and slash federal spending in a vote that will define the Republican Party this election year and beyond.

Thursday’s vote comes as a heated debate is playing out in Congress and the campaign trail, where Mitt Romney has embraced the proposal in sharp contrast to President Obama’s approach to budgeting.

Like last year, Ryan’s budget is unlikely to make it past the Senate. But that’s still one house of Congress more than the president will be able to get his own budget through. Senate Democrats say they won’t bring Obama’s budget to the floor this year, though Senate Republicans may attempt to force a vote on it. When this happened last year, the president’s proposal was defeated unanimously.

Democrats are now frantically trying to shake off the impression that this was a failure for the president. The White House claims the House Republicans brought Obama’s budget to a vote as a political tactic designed to embarrass the president:

“But let’s be very clear: A vote on Congressman Mulvaney’s resolution is not a vote on the president’s budget. This is just a gimmick the Republicans are putting forward to distract from what the Ryan budget does: protects massive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires while making the middle class and seniors pay,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said.

House Democrats were reluctant to vote for Obama’s budget because it had no chance of passing and would simply be used against them in election-year attacks. While the same is true of the Republicans and the Ryan budget, apparently they’re willing to take the risk.

But the unanimous rejection isn’t just an embarrassment for the White House, it also complicates Obama’s campaign pitch that he’s running against a “Do Nothing Republican Congress.” The GOP will now argue that it passed a budget in the House, while Democrats in both the House and Senate haven’t voted for a single proposal this year.

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