Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rick Perry

How Inevitable is Romney?

With just one week to go before the Iowa caucuses, uncertainty is the word that can best describe the situation in the Republican presidential race. The polls have been all over the place in recent months as one candidate after another took turns trying on the mantle of frontrunner. Newt Gingrich’s moment appears to have come and gone. The affections of the social conservative and Tea Party wings of the party are split between three candidates who can’t seem to shake each other. Libertarian Ron Paul is making a splash — largely on the strength on non-GOP voters — but revelations about his extremist connections and hate-filled newsletters may limit his chances at a first place finish. Which leaves us with the same guy whom the media anointed as the frontrunner back in the spring as the most likely to be nominated: Mitt Romney.

New York Times statistical analyst Nate Silver asks today whether it is possible for Romney to lose. The answer is yes he can, but the odds still favor him for the same reason they have the past few months: none of the alternatives turned out to be viable. A poor showing in Iowa would be a setback for Romney, but it is still difficult to construct a scenario by which any of his rivals can chart a path to the nomination. For all of his manifest flaws as a candidate and his inability to convince conservatives that he is one of them, it’s hard to envision Romney losing at this point.

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With just one week to go before the Iowa caucuses, uncertainty is the word that can best describe the situation in the Republican presidential race. The polls have been all over the place in recent months as one candidate after another took turns trying on the mantle of frontrunner. Newt Gingrich’s moment appears to have come and gone. The affections of the social conservative and Tea Party wings of the party are split between three candidates who can’t seem to shake each other. Libertarian Ron Paul is making a splash — largely on the strength on non-GOP voters — but revelations about his extremist connections and hate-filled newsletters may limit his chances at a first place finish. Which leaves us with the same guy whom the media anointed as the frontrunner back in the spring as the most likely to be nominated: Mitt Romney.

New York Times statistical analyst Nate Silver asks today whether it is possible for Romney to lose. The answer is yes he can, but the odds still favor him for the same reason they have the past few months: none of the alternatives turned out to be viable. A poor showing in Iowa would be a setback for Romney, but it is still difficult to construct a scenario by which any of his rivals can chart a path to the nomination. For all of his manifest flaws as a candidate and his inability to convince conservatives that he is one of them, it’s hard to envision Romney losing at this point.

The worst-case scenario for Romney in Iowa would be for Newt Gingrich to finish first there. Such an outcome would undermine Romney’s argument for inevitability and give Gingrich momentum going into New Hampshire and South Carolina, the one state that the former speaker must win. But with Gingrich sinking in the polls as voters come to grips with his record, the next most likely first place finisher is someone who presents no long term threat to Romney: Ron Paul. Though a Paul victory would be embarrassing for Republicans and diminish the reputation of the Iowa caucus itself, the chances of the Texas congressman getting the nomination are nil.

The other possibility in Iowa is that one of the current members of the second tier was to pull off a last-minute upset victory. Given the volatility of the polls and the nature of the caucus, that is also not an impossible dream. Both Rick Santorum, who has shown some life after months of hard work in the state and Michele Bachmann, who won the Iowa Straw Poll back in August, have some ardent supporters, but they’re essentially competing for the same votes which may make it impossible for either to break through.

More intriguing is the possibility that Rick Perry, the third member of the conservative troika in Iowa, could somehow catch lightening in a bottle and vault to the top. A Perry win in Iowa could turn the race around and give him back some of the luster he lost virtually every time he opened his mouth in the GOP debates. But since he, too, is competing for the same voters as Santorum and Bachmann, it’s hard to see how he can do it. While it is not out of the question one of the three could ride a last-minute surge into third place all that would accomplish would be to prolong their campaigns. It would take a win in Iowa to make Republicans believe in any one of them, and that’s a long shot at best.

Which leaves us with just one more scenario: a Romney victory in Iowa. Silver estimates that the range of possible outcomes in the Hawkeye state for Romney to be from a high of 36 percent of the vote to a low of 8 percent. But the chances of him getting closer to the higher number are far greater than a lesser result. In the final days, enough Republicans may decide that voting for a loose cannon (Gingrich) or an extremist (Paul) is not the way to beat Barack Obama while the social conservative vote is split three ways. A Romney win in Iowa would not completely end the race before it has hardly begun, but it would take a lot of the mystery out of what would follow.

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Elder Bush Makes Elite’s Choice Official

I’ve always been of the opinion that the idea there is such a thing as a Republican “establishment” is something of a myth. The GOP hasn’t really had anything approximating a ruling elite since conservatives nominated Barry Goldwater and booed Nelson Rockefeller off the stage at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco. The idea that Wall Street honchos or intellectuals running national magazines have any power over Republican voters and the party apparatus is based on a misunderstanding of how contemporary American politics works. The only thing that approximates an establishment is the family who produced two U.S. presidents during the course of a 20-year period encompassing the end of the last century and the beginning of the current one: the Bushes.

So the announcement yesterday that the elder George Bush is endorsing Mitt Romney comes as close as anything can to verifying one of the media’s favorite clichés about the Republican establishment’s role in the 2012 race. Given this mythical establishment’s lack of actual power and the resentment that the mere idea of its existence can conjure up among the party’s grass roots, it is doubtful the 41st president’s seal of approval will help Romney all that much. But what the Bush statement does do is make it clear exactly whom the GOP’s royal family doesn’t like: Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.

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I’ve always been of the opinion that the idea there is such a thing as a Republican “establishment” is something of a myth. The GOP hasn’t really had anything approximating a ruling elite since conservatives nominated Barry Goldwater and booed Nelson Rockefeller off the stage at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco. The idea that Wall Street honchos or intellectuals running national magazines have any power over Republican voters and the party apparatus is based on a misunderstanding of how contemporary American politics works. The only thing that approximates an establishment is the family who produced two U.S. presidents during the course of a 20-year period encompassing the end of the last century and the beginning of the current one: the Bushes.

So the announcement yesterday that the elder George Bush is endorsing Mitt Romney comes as close as anything can to verifying one of the media’s favorite clichés about the Republican establishment’s role in the 2012 race. Given this mythical establishment’s lack of actual power and the resentment that the mere idea of its existence can conjure up among the party’s grass roots, it is doubtful the 41st president’s seal of approval will help Romney all that much. But what the Bush statement does do is make it clear exactly whom the GOP’s royal family doesn’t like: Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.

When President Bush praised Romney as someone who wasn’t a “bomb thrower,” it’s not exactly a secret that he was thinking about Newt Gingrich. Bush and other GOP moderates disdained Gingrich as a radical troublemaker during the Reagan administration and considered his scorched earth tactics as House Minority Leader during the first Bush presidency to be contemptible.

Though Bush also said that he “liked” Rick Perry, the blood feud between the Texas governor and his son’s political camp is also no secret. Had there been any affinity between Perry and the Bushes, the latter might have avoided any endorsements.

It is doubtful any endorsement these days carries all that much weight. Bush 41 had a similar profile to Romney during his political career. Like Romney, Bush came from wealth, flip-flopped on abortion and was unreliable on the key economic issue of his day (substitute his “read my lips” switch on raising taxes for Romneycare). So it’s not likely that Tea Partiers and social conservatives, most of whom never had much use for George W. Bush’s father in the first place, will be swayed by his support for Romney.

But in the context of a crowded GOP field with a gaggle of unsatisfactory candidates vying for the affections of a limited universe of social conservative voters, Romney can survive the unflattering comparison. Yet if Bush 41’s seal of approval does help convince some wavering middle-of-the-road Republicans and moderate conservatives to forget about Gingrich or Perry and go with the more electable Romney, it won’t hurt him.

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The Iowa Evangelical Primary

Many Republicans have spent the last several months grousing that they don’t like the choices available to them in their party’s presidential contest. But if the polls are correct, it may be that one core GOP constituency has a completely different problem: they have too many appealing choices.

The ability of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum to stay in the race though all are trailing badly in both polls of likely Iowa caucus-goers and national surveys is that each has managed to hold onto a loyal cadre of social conservatives. They are very different in their backgrounds, personalities and governing styles. But they share a devotion to social issues such as opposition to abortion, and the success of their candidacies depend on their ability to capture the lion’s share of the evangelical voters who propelled Mike Huckabee to an upset win in Iowa four years ago. They also share a problem: with all three hanging on, it is becoming increasingly apparent they will cancel each other out and ensure the victory of a Republican who doesn’t share their social passions.

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Many Republicans have spent the last several months grousing that they don’t like the choices available to them in their party’s presidential contest. But if the polls are correct, it may be that one core GOP constituency has a completely different problem: they have too many appealing choices.

The ability of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum to stay in the race though all are trailing badly in both polls of likely Iowa caucus-goers and national surveys is that each has managed to hold onto a loyal cadre of social conservatives. They are very different in their backgrounds, personalities and governing styles. But they share a devotion to social issues such as opposition to abortion, and the success of their candidacies depend on their ability to capture the lion’s share of the evangelical voters who propelled Mike Huckabee to an upset win in Iowa four years ago. They also share a problem: with all three hanging on, it is becoming increasingly apparent they will cancel each other out and ensure the victory of a Republican who doesn’t share their social passions.

That is what caused the Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats to call all three this past weekend to ask them to consider forming a joint ticket with one of the others in this evangelical primary rather than seeing them go down fighting together on Jan. 3. Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley, of the Iowa Family Policy Center, wound up endorsing Santorum, a move that gave his flagging hopes a well-timed boost. But the message behind that futile appeal for unity on the right was not lost. It’s become clear that in the absence of a last minute withdrawal by one of the three, the opportunity for another Huckabee-style win for social conservatives is going to be lost.

That’s good news for the others in the race, especially Mitt Romney. With Newt Gingrich fading in no small measure due to his inability to close the sale with religious Christians, Romney may be left with only extremist libertarian Ron Paul as the competition for the top spot in Iowa. That won’t please social conservatives who have never warmed to the former Massachusetts governor. But with Perry, Bachmann and Santorum dividing approximately a quarter of Republicans between them, there doesn’t seem to be any way for any of the three to break and win.

Back in August when she took the Iowa Straw Poll, Bachmann seemed to have a stranglehold on the social conservative vote in the state where she was born. But the emergence of Perry took the wind out of her sails and she never recovered. Perry’s disastrous debate performances made his stay in the frontrunner’s seat brief, but his good humor has allowed him to retain enough support to hang on. Santorum has been working hard in Iowa, but up until the last week he has gotten little traction.

But for all of the gnashing of teeth among social conservatives about a missed opportunity, no one should think that there was a path to the nomination for any of these three even if two of them were to drop out right now. If, as Vander Plaats desired, only one of them were to be running in the caucus, that candidate would have, as Huckabee did, an excellent chance of taking first place with less than 30 percent of the vote.

But everything we know about Perry, Bachmann and Santorum tells us that even if one of them were to win in Iowa, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to parlay that into the national momentum needed to win the Super Tuesday and later primary states. Had he not opened his mouth too often during the debates and convinced most of the country that he was a fool, Perry had the resume and the ability mobilize southern and western conservatives in order to be the GOP nominee. But contrary to those predicting a revival for his hopes, that ship sailed even before Perry said “oops” about his famous memory lapse.

As for Bachmann and Santorum, though each has strengths, neither has mainstream appeal. Like Huckabee, an Iowa victory for either would be a case of one and done.

That leaves the outcome of the evangelical primary in Iowa to be something of an academic exercise. One of the trio might get enough votes to sneak into the top three and claim a victory of sorts. But no matter which of them gets the most votes, evangelicals will remember this year’s Iowa caucus as a case of an abundance of choices that ensured their influence would not be decisive.

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What Was Perry Supposed to Do?

Here is what accusations of racism in America have come to. According to a column by Jonathan Capehart in this morning’s Washington Post, Rick Perry is “associated” with a hunting camp “widely known” as Niggerhead — he “had no problem” with it, you see — and that is “beyond troubling.” End of his candidacy. End of his respectability.

True, there is no evidence at all — none whatever — that Perry ever used the term, ever referred to the camp by it, ever spoke the word aloud, or ever did anything other than painting over the name and laying flat the rock on which it appeared. You might think the efforts to obscure the name suggest that Perry did have a problem with it. You’d be wrong. To be contaminated with racism, all Perry needs is to be “associated” with a name that doesn’t even appear on U.S. topographic maps.

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Here is what accusations of racism in America have come to. According to a column by Jonathan Capehart in this morning’s Washington Post, Rick Perry is “associated” with a hunting camp “widely known” as Niggerhead — he “had no problem” with it, you see — and that is “beyond troubling.” End of his candidacy. End of his respectability.

True, there is no evidence at all — none whatever — that Perry ever used the term, ever referred to the camp by it, ever spoke the word aloud, or ever did anything other than painting over the name and laying flat the rock on which it appeared. You might think the efforts to obscure the name suggest that Perry did have a problem with it. You’d be wrong. To be contaminated with racism, all Perry needs is to be “associated” with a name that doesn’t even appear on U.S. topographic maps.

No journalist can write like Capehart and be taken seriously. The first responsibility of a writer is to be as clear and exacting as possible. Capehart, though, intentionally resorts to vagueness, because he knows for a fact he cannot specify the nature of Perry’s offense. Perry did not name the camp, he did not own the camp, and he cannot travel back in time to change the name before his family leased it. The most Capehart can charge Perry with is being “associated” with the name, although he never takes the trouble to spell out exactly what that means or why it is so terrible. If it is found that Perry once borrowed a copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the Cushing Library at Texas A&M University, is he then “associated” with Mark Twain’s use of the word nigger throughout the book?

The truth is Capehart’s irresponsibility is far worse than anything Perry is accused of. If nothing else, Capehart forgives himself from asking the basic question. What exactly was Perry supposed to do? To ask the question, though, is to answer it. Short of repudiating his father for signing the lease and refusing ever to step foot on the property — easy things to ask of someone else — there is nothing more Perry could have done. When a journalist avoids asking a question out of fear the answer will sink his story, he has crossed the line and become a propagandist.

“[I]t is crucial that Perry address the issue forthrightly,” Capehart huffs — but the truth is he owes an explanation to the readers of the Post. And an apology to Rick Perry.

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Bad Day at Racist Rock

I am still trying to figure out why the “news” that Rick Perry’s father once held a deer lease on a 1,700-acre hunting camp known to locals as “Niggerhead” is a national story. By the Washington Post’s own account, “the name does not appear on U.S. topographic maps” and could not be found “in a database maintained by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.” No one can remember Perry’s using the name, although it was evidently painted on a five-foot-by-three-foot rock beside the entrance to the camp. When he was a state legislator in the mid- to late-1980s, according to the Post, Perry “began hosting spring turkey shoots and other hunts for supporters and fellow legislators.” By then, however, the name had been painted over and the rock turned flat. On that score, pretty much everyone is in agreement.

Nevertheless, Gawker was “not surprised” to learn about “Perry’s old hunting ground.” The Huffington Post raised the inevitable question whether Perry is “racially insensitive.” The Village Voice chortled that “the phrase ‘Niggerhead’ will now always be associated with the Perry campaign,” and ran a photo with a caption that was far more “racially insensitive” than anything Perry is accused of.

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I am still trying to figure out why the “news” that Rick Perry’s father once held a deer lease on a 1,700-acre hunting camp known to locals as “Niggerhead” is a national story. By the Washington Post’s own account, “the name does not appear on U.S. topographic maps” and could not be found “in a database maintained by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.” No one can remember Perry’s using the name, although it was evidently painted on a five-foot-by-three-foot rock beside the entrance to the camp. When he was a state legislator in the mid- to late-1980s, according to the Post, Perry “began hosting spring turkey shoots and other hunts for supporters and fellow legislators.” By then, however, the name had been painted over and the rock turned flat. On that score, pretty much everyone is in agreement.

Nevertheless, Gawker was “not surprised” to learn about “Perry’s old hunting ground.” The Huffington Post raised the inevitable question whether Perry is “racially insensitive.” The Village Voice chortled that “the phrase ‘Niggerhead’ will now always be associated with the Perry campaign,” and ran a photo with a caption that was far more “racially insensitive” than anything Perry is accused of.

Even Perry’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination piled on. Herman Cain said Perry showed a “lack of sensitivity.” Mitt Romney told Sean Hannity the name is “offensive.”

I am still trying to figure out what Perry was supposed to do. Rebuke his father for signing the original lease? Refuse to have anything to do with the place? The Perry family did not own the hunting camp and could not “rename” it by some kind of magical authority, as Cain and others are suggesting. Nor is there any evidence Perry or his father even referred to the camp by that name. That others did so, and that the Perrys did not take some unspecified action to stop them, are sufficient grounds for insinuating racism, I guess.

The whole episode reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield, the phoniness-sniffing hero, sees “F–k you” written on a wall and tries to rub it out with his hand. It won’t come off. “If you had a million years to do it in,” he says in resignation, “you couldn’t rub out even half the ‘F–k you’ signs in the world.” All Holden succeeded in doing was to earn a reputation for “profanity” and “obscenity.”

American culture has become so hypersensitive to certain offensive words, spotted in isolation like rare birds, that all feeling for language, all sense of moral proportion, is being lost.

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Republicans and the Hispanic Vote

Rep. Lamar Smith gets it partially right when he touts the election of Hispanic Republican candidates and of non-Hispanic pro-border-enforcement Republicans with the help of a significant number of Hispanic voters. “Exit polls reported by CNN and updated this week reveal that a historically robust 38 percent of Hispanic voters cast ballots for House Republican candidates in 2010 — more than in 2006 (30 percent) and 2008 (29 percent).” He observes:

Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, one of the most trusted commentators on Spanish-language television, concluded that “the United States moved to the right, and Latino politicians did so too — among them, a new generation of Hispanic Republicans who support policies that are essentially opposed to the undocumented immigrants in this country.”

Who are these pro-rule-of-law Hispanic rising stars in the Republican Party? Voters elected Susana Martinez governor of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval governor of Nevada and Florida’s Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador and David Rivera went to the U.S. House of Representatives.

But we should add a couple of caveats. First, Smith notes that Gov. Jan Brewer got 28 percent of the vote, a good result, he suggests, since in 2006 the GOP candidate got 26 percent. Umm … I don’t think barely exceeding the vote totals for 2006, a wipe-out year for the Republicans, should be the goal for the GOP. (Moreover, the percentage of voters who are Hispanic has been increasing in each election, so Republicans will need to do better with each election if they are to retain that share of the general electorate.) And while Rick Perry got 38 percent of the Hispanic vote, he got 55 percent of the overall electorate, suggesting that a huge gap still remains in the GOP’s appeal to Hispanics.

Second, Smith ignores the real issues: tone, rhetoric, and position on legal immigration. Marco Rubio believes in border control, but his life story is built around the immigrant experience, and he eschews inflammatory language that has plagued Republicans like Tom Tancredo. As Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell pointed out to me a few years ago, if the Republicans want to continue to make progress among Hispanic voters, they need to object to the “illegal” part, not the “immigration” part, of the equation.

Smith is on solid ground with his conclusion:

On many of the most important issues of our day – jobs, education, support for small businesses and the economy – the Republican positions line up with Hispanic values. Republican approaches to better education, small businesses and job creation demonstrate that the GOP will put policy over politics when it comes to Hispanic outreach. The right way to attract Hispanic support is to emphasize our shared values.

Too often, Republicans assume that their positions are so intrinsically true that they need no explanation. Wrong. If they want to attract a growing portion of the electorate, they need to explain both that Republicans value Hispanics’ contributions and participation in American society and that school choice, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and other mainstays of the GOP agenda are the best avenue to upward mobility and progress for Hispanics, and for all Americans. Election of impressive candidates like Rubio, Gov. Susana Martinez, Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Reps. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador, and David Rivera is a good start but hardly sufficient.

Rep. Lamar Smith gets it partially right when he touts the election of Hispanic Republican candidates and of non-Hispanic pro-border-enforcement Republicans with the help of a significant number of Hispanic voters. “Exit polls reported by CNN and updated this week reveal that a historically robust 38 percent of Hispanic voters cast ballots for House Republican candidates in 2010 — more than in 2006 (30 percent) and 2008 (29 percent).” He observes:

Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, one of the most trusted commentators on Spanish-language television, concluded that “the United States moved to the right, and Latino politicians did so too — among them, a new generation of Hispanic Republicans who support policies that are essentially opposed to the undocumented immigrants in this country.”

Who are these pro-rule-of-law Hispanic rising stars in the Republican Party? Voters elected Susana Martinez governor of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval governor of Nevada and Florida’s Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador and David Rivera went to the U.S. House of Representatives.

But we should add a couple of caveats. First, Smith notes that Gov. Jan Brewer got 28 percent of the vote, a good result, he suggests, since in 2006 the GOP candidate got 26 percent. Umm … I don’t think barely exceeding the vote totals for 2006, a wipe-out year for the Republicans, should be the goal for the GOP. (Moreover, the percentage of voters who are Hispanic has been increasing in each election, so Republicans will need to do better with each election if they are to retain that share of the general electorate.) And while Rick Perry got 38 percent of the Hispanic vote, he got 55 percent of the overall electorate, suggesting that a huge gap still remains in the GOP’s appeal to Hispanics.

Second, Smith ignores the real issues: tone, rhetoric, and position on legal immigration. Marco Rubio believes in border control, but his life story is built around the immigrant experience, and he eschews inflammatory language that has plagued Republicans like Tom Tancredo. As Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell pointed out to me a few years ago, if the Republicans want to continue to make progress among Hispanic voters, they need to object to the “illegal” part, not the “immigration” part, of the equation.

Smith is on solid ground with his conclusion:

On many of the most important issues of our day – jobs, education, support for small businesses and the economy – the Republican positions line up with Hispanic values. Republican approaches to better education, small businesses and job creation demonstrate that the GOP will put policy over politics when it comes to Hispanic outreach. The right way to attract Hispanic support is to emphasize our shared values.

Too often, Republicans assume that their positions are so intrinsically true that they need no explanation. Wrong. If they want to attract a growing portion of the electorate, they need to explain both that Republicans value Hispanics’ contributions and participation in American society and that school choice, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and other mainstays of the GOP agenda are the best avenue to upward mobility and progress for Hispanics, and for all Americans. Election of impressive candidates like Rubio, Gov. Susana Martinez, Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Reps. Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco, Jaime Herrera, Raul Labrador, and David Rivera is a good start but hardly sufficient.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Indignant are the elite opinion makers. “The editor of Vanity Fair is in dudgeon over last week’s election. … They heard this wave of Dem/lib defeats was coming, but it’s just possible they didn’t really believe it: How, after all, could it happen? Eight years of suffering—war, torture, lies, and oh, that mangled language—ended with the advent of Obamunism. Now they have to relinquish their antibiotic-free ranging and go back to huddle in their Robert Couturier-decorated pens? And all because of an enraged, pitchfork-bearing, brimstone mob of Tea Partiers?” Read the whole hilarious thing.

Exonerated. “The chief counsel for the president’s oil spill commission said Monday that concerns about money didn’t drive key decisions made on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig before the April 20 blowout that caused a massive oil spill and killed 11 people. The conclusion is good news for BP, which has been widely criticized for letting concerns about the roughly $1.5 million a day cost of the drilling rig affect choices that might have prevented the blowout.”

Useless (or worse). “Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, held meetings in Lebanon Monday before traveling to Damascus for meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

Rejectionist — as always. “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted on Monday as saying that if Israel wants the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table it must cease all construction in the settlements. Meanwhile, top PLO official Yasser Abed Rabo said it was ‘impossible’ for the Palestinians to return to the peace talks as long as the present government is in power in Israel.”

Ambitious? He sure sounds like he’s running for something: “Texas Gov. Rick Perry insists that he’s not running for president, but he didn’t mind offering an unvarnished view Monday about the signature policy accomplishment of one Republican who almost certainly is in the race. ‘The health care plan out of Massachusetts, I would suggest to you, is too much the like the health care plan passed out of Washington,’ Perry said, succinctly voicing one of the chief difficulties former Bay State Gov. Mitt Romney faces in the upcoming GOP primary.”

Shrinking. “Democratic allies are not optimistic about their legislative priorities getting done in the lame-duck session after Democratic candidates got pummeled on Election Day. Senate Democrats had discussed as many as 20 bills up for consideration during the lame-duck session, the period between the Nov. 2 election and Christmas. In the wake of a midterm election that President Obama called a ‘shellacking’ of his party, Democratic insiders question if anything more than a stopgap spending measure and temporary extension of Bush-era tax cuts can pass.”

Hopeless. All the Obama “smart” diplomats can do is repeat the fundamental error in their approach to peace talks. “The United States is ‘deeply disappointed’ that Israel has advanced plans to build 1,345 new homes in ‘sensitive areas’ of east Jerusalem, a State Department spokesman said Monday. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters that the United States sees the announcement as ‘counter-productive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties.’ ‘We have long urged both parties to avoid actions that could undermine trust including in Jerusalem and we will continue to work to resume negotiations,’ Crowley said.” Are all the Democratic pro-Israel Jews “deeply disappointed” in Obama yet? Hardly. Sigh.

Indignant are the elite opinion makers. “The editor of Vanity Fair is in dudgeon over last week’s election. … They heard this wave of Dem/lib defeats was coming, but it’s just possible they didn’t really believe it: How, after all, could it happen? Eight years of suffering—war, torture, lies, and oh, that mangled language—ended with the advent of Obamunism. Now they have to relinquish their antibiotic-free ranging and go back to huddle in their Robert Couturier-decorated pens? And all because of an enraged, pitchfork-bearing, brimstone mob of Tea Partiers?” Read the whole hilarious thing.

Exonerated. “The chief counsel for the president’s oil spill commission said Monday that concerns about money didn’t drive key decisions made on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig before the April 20 blowout that caused a massive oil spill and killed 11 people. The conclusion is good news for BP, which has been widely criticized for letting concerns about the roughly $1.5 million a day cost of the drilling rig affect choices that might have prevented the blowout.”

Useless (or worse). “Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, held meetings in Lebanon Monday before traveling to Damascus for meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

Rejectionist — as always. “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted on Monday as saying that if Israel wants the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table it must cease all construction in the settlements. Meanwhile, top PLO official Yasser Abed Rabo said it was ‘impossible’ for the Palestinians to return to the peace talks as long as the present government is in power in Israel.”

Ambitious? He sure sounds like he’s running for something: “Texas Gov. Rick Perry insists that he’s not running for president, but he didn’t mind offering an unvarnished view Monday about the signature policy accomplishment of one Republican who almost certainly is in the race. ‘The health care plan out of Massachusetts, I would suggest to you, is too much the like the health care plan passed out of Washington,’ Perry said, succinctly voicing one of the chief difficulties former Bay State Gov. Mitt Romney faces in the upcoming GOP primary.”

Shrinking. “Democratic allies are not optimistic about their legislative priorities getting done in the lame-duck session after Democratic candidates got pummeled on Election Day. Senate Democrats had discussed as many as 20 bills up for consideration during the lame-duck session, the period between the Nov. 2 election and Christmas. In the wake of a midterm election that President Obama called a ‘shellacking’ of his party, Democratic insiders question if anything more than a stopgap spending measure and temporary extension of Bush-era tax cuts can pass.”

Hopeless. All the Obama “smart” diplomats can do is repeat the fundamental error in their approach to peace talks. “The United States is ‘deeply disappointed’ that Israel has advanced plans to build 1,345 new homes in ‘sensitive areas’ of east Jerusalem, a State Department spokesman said Monday. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters that the United States sees the announcement as ‘counter-productive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties.’ ‘We have long urged both parties to avoid actions that could undermine trust including in Jerusalem and we will continue to work to resume negotiations,’ Crowley said.” Are all the Democratic pro-Israel Jews “deeply disappointed” in Obama yet? Hardly. Sigh.

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ObamaCare Doesn’t Justify Secession

First, Republican Rand Paul wanted to revisit the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now Representative Zach Wamp, following the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry, wants to revisit the Civil War. “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” Wamp said during a recent interview with Hotline OnCall.

Representative Wamp praised Perry, who first floated the idea of secession in April 2009, for leading the push-back against health-care reform. “Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level,” said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey in an August 5 GOP primary race. (The winner will face Mike McWherter in November to decide who will replace Tennessee Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.)

This kind of talk from Wamp and Perry is stupid and reckless. For one thing, it is evidence of a stunning inability to distinguish different historical moments. For some people, the times in which we live don’t appear to be dramatic enough; they have to equate the events we’re going through to the clash with Nazism, the hardships of the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution, or the stakes involved in the Civil War. It all tends to be quite silly and unhelpful.

Beyond that, though, is the fevered mindset that would suggest that “separation from this government” may be necessary. Do Wamp and Perry have any grasp of what they are talking about? Do they understand that the South seceded from the Union to maintain chattel slavery as a way of life? Or that Lincoln, our greatest president (and the first Republican president), waged the Civil War — which cost America around 620,000 lives (the equivalent of around 5 million lives today) — to keep the Union whole and free? Are Wamp and Perry really suggesting we take up, in a serious manner, the issue of secession again? Because of ObamaCare?

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing Barack Obama. I believe he’s doing great damage to the country, and conservatives need to check him at almost every point along the way. But to argue that differences in policy ought to lead us to consider secession is lunacy. It also shows a (presumably) unwitting contempt for America, for its history, and for its role and purpose in the world. When schoolchildren across America recite the Pledge of Allegiance, here are the words they say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our loyalty is to the United States of America. It is one nation. And it is indivisible.

America is a sublime achievement — an “inestimable jewel,” in the words of Lincoln. Lawmakers who speak about “separation from this government” are doing a great disservice to themselves, to their party, and to their country. They ought to cease and desist, now, before they embarrass themselves further.

First, Republican Rand Paul wanted to revisit the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now Representative Zach Wamp, following the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry, wants to revisit the Civil War. “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” Wamp said during a recent interview with Hotline OnCall.

Representative Wamp praised Perry, who first floated the idea of secession in April 2009, for leading the push-back against health-care reform. “Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level,” said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey in an August 5 GOP primary race. (The winner will face Mike McWherter in November to decide who will replace Tennessee Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.)

This kind of talk from Wamp and Perry is stupid and reckless. For one thing, it is evidence of a stunning inability to distinguish different historical moments. For some people, the times in which we live don’t appear to be dramatic enough; they have to equate the events we’re going through to the clash with Nazism, the hardships of the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution, or the stakes involved in the Civil War. It all tends to be quite silly and unhelpful.

Beyond that, though, is the fevered mindset that would suggest that “separation from this government” may be necessary. Do Wamp and Perry have any grasp of what they are talking about? Do they understand that the South seceded from the Union to maintain chattel slavery as a way of life? Or that Lincoln, our greatest president (and the first Republican president), waged the Civil War — which cost America around 620,000 lives (the equivalent of around 5 million lives today) — to keep the Union whole and free? Are Wamp and Perry really suggesting we take up, in a serious manner, the issue of secession again? Because of ObamaCare?

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing Barack Obama. I believe he’s doing great damage to the country, and conservatives need to check him at almost every point along the way. But to argue that differences in policy ought to lead us to consider secession is lunacy. It also shows a (presumably) unwitting contempt for America, for its history, and for its role and purpose in the world. When schoolchildren across America recite the Pledge of Allegiance, here are the words they say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our loyalty is to the United States of America. It is one nation. And it is indivisible.

America is a sublime achievement — an “inestimable jewel,” in the words of Lincoln. Lawmakers who speak about “separation from this government” are doing a great disservice to themselves, to their party, and to their country. They ought to cease and desist, now, before they embarrass themselves further.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Is the media having buyers remorse too? “Ed Chen, a White House correspondent for Bloomberg News who is president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said he asked for the meeting ‘to clear the air because in my 10-plus years at the White House, rarely have I sensed such a level of anger, which is wide and deep, among members over White House practices and attitude toward the press.’”

A story about an Iraq vet, the Yankees and a rabbi. Honest.

David Ignatius suggests that if Obama is looking for “big ideas to shape its foreign policy,” he should consider promoting freedom of the press. Hasn’t Ignatius heard? Obama isn’t much interested in promoting any sort of freedom. It’s too much like George Bush, I suppose.

Gov. Rick Perry sounds Shermanesque about 2012.

One ludicrous nuclear summit begets another one: “Iran opened an ‘alternative’ nuclear disarmament summit in Tehran on Saturday, bringing together representatives of 60 countries including Russia and China to slam U.S. nuclear policy and encourage nations to pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Stuart Rothenberg: “Substantial Republican gains are inevitable, with net Democratic losses now looking to be at least two dozen. At this point, GOP gains of 25-30 seats seem likely, though considerably larger gains in excess of 40 seats certainly seem possible. We’ve moved 44 seats toward the Republicans and only 4 toward the Democrats.”

By the time he’s done, he will have alienated everyone in the state: “Some of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s top fundraisers are warning that they will no longer support him if he bolts the Republican Party to run for the Senate as an independent. … If he abandons the GOP race, a group of his most prominent supporters indicate they will not follow him.”

Barbara Boxer isn’t entirely clueless: “Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) warned that Democrats must match the Tea Party’s energy and enthusiasm or face the consequences in November. ‘At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party party,’ Boxer said.”

Is the media having buyers remorse too? “Ed Chen, a White House correspondent for Bloomberg News who is president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said he asked for the meeting ‘to clear the air because in my 10-plus years at the White House, rarely have I sensed such a level of anger, which is wide and deep, among members over White House practices and attitude toward the press.’”

A story about an Iraq vet, the Yankees and a rabbi. Honest.

David Ignatius suggests that if Obama is looking for “big ideas to shape its foreign policy,” he should consider promoting freedom of the press. Hasn’t Ignatius heard? Obama isn’t much interested in promoting any sort of freedom. It’s too much like George Bush, I suppose.

Gov. Rick Perry sounds Shermanesque about 2012.

One ludicrous nuclear summit begets another one: “Iran opened an ‘alternative’ nuclear disarmament summit in Tehran on Saturday, bringing together representatives of 60 countries including Russia and China to slam U.S. nuclear policy and encourage nations to pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Stuart Rothenberg: “Substantial Republican gains are inevitable, with net Democratic losses now looking to be at least two dozen. At this point, GOP gains of 25-30 seats seem likely, though considerably larger gains in excess of 40 seats certainly seem possible. We’ve moved 44 seats toward the Republicans and only 4 toward the Democrats.”

By the time he’s done, he will have alienated everyone in the state: “Some of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s top fundraisers are warning that they will no longer support him if he bolts the Republican Party to run for the Senate as an independent. … If he abandons the GOP race, a group of his most prominent supporters indicate they will not follow him.”

Barbara Boxer isn’t entirely clueless: “Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) warned that Democrats must match the Tea Party’s energy and enthusiasm or face the consequences in November. ‘At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party party,’ Boxer said.”

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Still No Republican Front-Runner

The media’s great obsession from the moment Obama took office was to identify the “leader” of the Republican Party. Was it Sarah Palin? Rush Limbaugh? The nonsensical game — for opposition parties rarely have a single standard bearer — was intended mostly to fuel the storyline of Republican disarray and dissension. With the pre-pre-campaign for 2012 underway, consisting mainly of book tours and Republican gatherings, the media is at it again. Ron Paul won a straw poll! Oooh, now Romney won one. What does it all mean? Very little actually. The tea-leaf reading is all a bit silly and very premature.

For once, the Republicans aren’t being sucked into the media narrative. This report explains that the GOP base is stubbornly refusing to select its nominee more than two years ahead of time. Some savvy voices explain:

[Gov. Bobby] Jindal said the current levels of grassroots energy will also preempt any crowning of a favored candidate.“They don’t want to be told who to vote for,” the governor said, referring to the party foot soldiers. “This isn’t going to be a pre-ordained election. There is this reputation in the Republican Party that you wait your turn and then when it’s your turn, you run. I think the voters are saying we want to make the decision, this is democracy, we’ll decide who we want to represent us and lead us.” “The activists would resist any attempt from party leaders or anybody else to try to pre-ordain a process or a pick,” he added.

The expectation among Republicans is that field will grow – and will include names who haven’t previously been considered.

“Every cycle that happens, there is a surprise,” said Liz Cheney following her own address to the conference.

Or, as Jindal put it: “Who would have thought a year into President Bush’s second term, that Sen. Obama would be the next president of the United States?”

And there is little to be gained this time around in being the designated front runner, the establishment choice. For one thing, the base is decidedly impervious to advice from Washington power brokers. (Ask Charlie Crist, if you doubt this.) For another, it targets the candidate for an onslaught from the Obami and their mainstream media supplicants. As Mary Matalin reminds us: “Look at what happened to poor George Allen . . . He got a big target put on his back. If I were thinking about 2012 seriously, I would lay low.” Well, many of the contenders aren’t exactly laying low — they are building name identification (Tim Pawlenty), trying to bolster 2010 candidates to cement potential support for themselves (Mitt Romney), blanketing the media (Sarah Palin), keeping the door ajar (Mitch Daniels), and making fiery speeches to the base (Rick Perry). But there will be time enough to pick the  front runners and assess the field. In the meantime, there are midterm elections to win, an indictment of Obamaism to press, and an RNC to clean up. That should be more than enough for now.

The media’s great obsession from the moment Obama took office was to identify the “leader” of the Republican Party. Was it Sarah Palin? Rush Limbaugh? The nonsensical game — for opposition parties rarely have a single standard bearer — was intended mostly to fuel the storyline of Republican disarray and dissension. With the pre-pre-campaign for 2012 underway, consisting mainly of book tours and Republican gatherings, the media is at it again. Ron Paul won a straw poll! Oooh, now Romney won one. What does it all mean? Very little actually. The tea-leaf reading is all a bit silly and very premature.

For once, the Republicans aren’t being sucked into the media narrative. This report explains that the GOP base is stubbornly refusing to select its nominee more than two years ahead of time. Some savvy voices explain:

[Gov. Bobby] Jindal said the current levels of grassroots energy will also preempt any crowning of a favored candidate.“They don’t want to be told who to vote for,” the governor said, referring to the party foot soldiers. “This isn’t going to be a pre-ordained election. There is this reputation in the Republican Party that you wait your turn and then when it’s your turn, you run. I think the voters are saying we want to make the decision, this is democracy, we’ll decide who we want to represent us and lead us.” “The activists would resist any attempt from party leaders or anybody else to try to pre-ordain a process or a pick,” he added.

The expectation among Republicans is that field will grow – and will include names who haven’t previously been considered.

“Every cycle that happens, there is a surprise,” said Liz Cheney following her own address to the conference.

Or, as Jindal put it: “Who would have thought a year into President Bush’s second term, that Sen. Obama would be the next president of the United States?”

And there is little to be gained this time around in being the designated front runner, the establishment choice. For one thing, the base is decidedly impervious to advice from Washington power brokers. (Ask Charlie Crist, if you doubt this.) For another, it targets the candidate for an onslaught from the Obami and their mainstream media supplicants. As Mary Matalin reminds us: “Look at what happened to poor George Allen . . . He got a big target put on his back. If I were thinking about 2012 seriously, I would lay low.” Well, many of the contenders aren’t exactly laying low — they are building name identification (Tim Pawlenty), trying to bolster 2010 candidates to cement potential support for themselves (Mitt Romney), blanketing the media (Sarah Palin), keeping the door ajar (Mitch Daniels), and making fiery speeches to the base (Rick Perry). But there will be time enough to pick the  front runners and assess the field. In the meantime, there are midterm elections to win, an indictment of Obamaism to press, and an RNC to clean up. That should be more than enough for now.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Mona Charen spots the Obama blather: “In the latest installment of politically correct, not to say Orwellian, language emanating from the Obama administration, the term ‘rogue states’ has been sidelined in favor of ‘outliers.’ . . .While they were reclassifying Iran and North Korea, the Obama administration, with spine of purest Jell-O, let it be known that the revised National Security Strategy will eschew references to ‘Islamic extremism,’ ‘jihad,’ ‘Islamic radicalism’ and other such terms.”

Michael Anton spots the Obami misleading us on the START treaty’s lack of linkage to our missile-defense development: “Now we have the worst of both worlds: a missile defense system designed not to defend against a Russian strike but nonetheless formally linked to Russia’s nuclear posture. Worse, the Russian foreign minister has hinted that his country may invoke the treaty’s otherwise standard withdrawal language if ‘the U.S. strategic missile defense begins to significantly affect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces.’ Given that the Russians publicly insist (though cannot possibly believe) that virtually anything we do on missile defense affects their strategic forces, this was not encouraging news.”

John Fund spots the fallout from ObamaCare in Michigan: “The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a culturally conservative area that viewed most aspects of the health care bill with suspicion. In 2000 and 2004, the district went easily for George W. Bush, and Barack Obama barely managed 50% of the vote there in 2008. Mr. Stupak is known to have taken a private poll of his district since his health care vote, and his retirement announcement is a likely indication that he feared he might lose to a Republican challenger this fall.Whatever political bounce Democrats thought they would get from passing health care isn’t showing up in national polls. In districts like Mr. Stupak’s health care appears to be a distinct liability.”

Republicans spot another 2012 contender: Rick Perry.

The National Republican Campaign Committee spots another target: “The NRCC dumped nearly $200K into the special election contest to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA 12) late Friday, according to FEC filings. The total includes nearly $180K for TV ads, and $12K for a poll. It’s the first independent expenditure for either party for the May 18 contest, and follows the DCCC’s $47K investment in the HI-01 special earlier this week.”

Ray Takeyh spots the danger in the Obami assault on Israel: “[S]hould Tehran perceive fissures and divisions in U.S.-Israeli alliance, it is likely to further harden its nuclear stance. . . . Fulminations aside, Iranian leaders take Israeli threats seriously and are at pains to assert their retaliatory options. It is here that the shape and tone of the U.S.-Israeli alliance matters most. Should the clerical oligarchs sense divisions in that alliance, they can assure themselves that a beleaguered Israel cannot possibly strike Iran while at odds with its superpower patron. Such perceptions cheapen Israeli deterrence and diminish the potency of the West’s remaining sticks.” One has to ask: why is Obama systematically dismantling any credible threats to the mullahs?

Can you spot Obama’s “bounce” from passing ObamaCare? Me neither –  in Gallup 47 approve, 48 percent disapprove of his performance.

Victor Davis Hanson spots the likely results of Obama’s kick-your-friends foreign policy: “Karzai or Allawi will look more to Iran, which will soon become the regional and nuclear hegemon of the Middle East. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics had better mend fences with Russia. The EU should finally start on that much-ballyhooed all-European response force. Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Korea should strengthen ties with China. Buffer states in South America had better make amends with a dictatorial, armed, and aggressive Chavez. Israel should accept that the U.S. no longer will provide support for it at the UN, chide the Arab states to cool their anti-Israeli proclamations, remind the Europeans not to overdo their popular anti-Israeli rhetoric, or warn radical Palestinians not to start another intifada. (In other words, it’s open season to say or do anything one wishes with Israel.)”

Mona Charen spots the Obama blather: “In the latest installment of politically correct, not to say Orwellian, language emanating from the Obama administration, the term ‘rogue states’ has been sidelined in favor of ‘outliers.’ . . .While they were reclassifying Iran and North Korea, the Obama administration, with spine of purest Jell-O, let it be known that the revised National Security Strategy will eschew references to ‘Islamic extremism,’ ‘jihad,’ ‘Islamic radicalism’ and other such terms.”

Michael Anton spots the Obami misleading us on the START treaty’s lack of linkage to our missile-defense development: “Now we have the worst of both worlds: a missile defense system designed not to defend against a Russian strike but nonetheless formally linked to Russia’s nuclear posture. Worse, the Russian foreign minister has hinted that his country may invoke the treaty’s otherwise standard withdrawal language if ‘the U.S. strategic missile defense begins to significantly affect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces.’ Given that the Russians publicly insist (though cannot possibly believe) that virtually anything we do on missile defense affects their strategic forces, this was not encouraging news.”

John Fund spots the fallout from ObamaCare in Michigan: “The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a culturally conservative area that viewed most aspects of the health care bill with suspicion. In 2000 and 2004, the district went easily for George W. Bush, and Barack Obama barely managed 50% of the vote there in 2008. Mr. Stupak is known to have taken a private poll of his district since his health care vote, and his retirement announcement is a likely indication that he feared he might lose to a Republican challenger this fall.Whatever political bounce Democrats thought they would get from passing health care isn’t showing up in national polls. In districts like Mr. Stupak’s health care appears to be a distinct liability.”

Republicans spot another 2012 contender: Rick Perry.

The National Republican Campaign Committee spots another target: “The NRCC dumped nearly $200K into the special election contest to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA 12) late Friday, according to FEC filings. The total includes nearly $180K for TV ads, and $12K for a poll. It’s the first independent expenditure for either party for the May 18 contest, and follows the DCCC’s $47K investment in the HI-01 special earlier this week.”

Ray Takeyh spots the danger in the Obami assault on Israel: “[S]hould Tehran perceive fissures and divisions in U.S.-Israeli alliance, it is likely to further harden its nuclear stance. . . . Fulminations aside, Iranian leaders take Israeli threats seriously and are at pains to assert their retaliatory options. It is here that the shape and tone of the U.S.-Israeli alliance matters most. Should the clerical oligarchs sense divisions in that alliance, they can assure themselves that a beleaguered Israel cannot possibly strike Iran while at odds with its superpower patron. Such perceptions cheapen Israeli deterrence and diminish the potency of the West’s remaining sticks.” One has to ask: why is Obama systematically dismantling any credible threats to the mullahs?

Can you spot Obama’s “bounce” from passing ObamaCare? Me neither –  in Gallup 47 approve, 48 percent disapprove of his performance.

Victor Davis Hanson spots the likely results of Obama’s kick-your-friends foreign policy: “Karzai or Allawi will look more to Iran, which will soon become the regional and nuclear hegemon of the Middle East. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics had better mend fences with Russia. The EU should finally start on that much-ballyhooed all-European response force. Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Korea should strengthen ties with China. Buffer states in South America had better make amends with a dictatorial, armed, and aggressive Chavez. Israel should accept that the U.S. no longer will provide support for it at the UN, chide the Arab states to cool their anti-Israeli proclamations, remind the Europeans not to overdo their popular anti-Israeli rhetoric, or warn radical Palestinians not to start another intifada. (In other words, it’s open season to say or do anything one wishes with Israel.)”

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Running Against Obama

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors see a lesson in the contrasting approaches of two governors — Charlie Crist and Rick Perry:

The different political fortunes have a lot to do with their relative distance from Washington policies. While Mr. Perry has loudly condemned ObamaCare, Mr. Crist has waffled. Mr. Crist embraced not only the President’s “stimulus” bill but the President himself during a now-infamous moment. Mr. Perry refused stimulus dollars for unemployment insurance and education because the funds would simply have increased the demand for state money once the federal aid runs out.

Mr. Crist approved a $2.2 billion tax increase for the fiscal 2010 budget, even though he had promised that “stimulus” money would obviate the need for tax increases. Regardless of Washington’s plans to distribute taxpayer money, Mr. Perry has shown a willingness to cut spending, and during his tenure enacted tax relief for businesses and property owners.

The key in all this, as the editors implicitly acknowledge, is the out-of-step policies of the Obami and the Congress. If not for the spending binge, the fixation on job-killing, and hugely unpopular measures like ObamaCare, Perry would not have a target and Crist would not have been ensnared. The Democrats and their media enablers have obsessively railed at the “party of no.” Putting aside the fact that the allegation is false (Obama’s health-care summit proved this), it ignores the obvious: voters want their representatives to say no. Perry was rewarded for being a stalwart opponent of Obamaism — as were Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown. There isn’t a winning coalition out there for “More ObamaCare!” or “Give Obama all the help he needs!”

And that is a problem for congressional Democrats, who will face a nationalized election, the sole issue being — stop Obama or more of the same. Right now, that’s an untenable position for Democrats, nearly all of whom have assisted in passing one or more parts of the agenda that has riled up the electorate. They can try to put some distance between themselves and the Obama agenda, but it’s getting late in the game, and the voters are awfully mad. If you doubt it, take a look at Charlie Crist’s poll numbers.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors see a lesson in the contrasting approaches of two governors — Charlie Crist and Rick Perry:

The different political fortunes have a lot to do with their relative distance from Washington policies. While Mr. Perry has loudly condemned ObamaCare, Mr. Crist has waffled. Mr. Crist embraced not only the President’s “stimulus” bill but the President himself during a now-infamous moment. Mr. Perry refused stimulus dollars for unemployment insurance and education because the funds would simply have increased the demand for state money once the federal aid runs out.

Mr. Crist approved a $2.2 billion tax increase for the fiscal 2010 budget, even though he had promised that “stimulus” money would obviate the need for tax increases. Regardless of Washington’s plans to distribute taxpayer money, Mr. Perry has shown a willingness to cut spending, and during his tenure enacted tax relief for businesses and property owners.

The key in all this, as the editors implicitly acknowledge, is the out-of-step policies of the Obami and the Congress. If not for the spending binge, the fixation on job-killing, and hugely unpopular measures like ObamaCare, Perry would not have a target and Crist would not have been ensnared. The Democrats and their media enablers have obsessively railed at the “party of no.” Putting aside the fact that the allegation is false (Obama’s health-care summit proved this), it ignores the obvious: voters want their representatives to say no. Perry was rewarded for being a stalwart opponent of Obamaism — as were Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown. There isn’t a winning coalition out there for “More ObamaCare!” or “Give Obama all the help he needs!”

And that is a problem for congressional Democrats, who will face a nationalized election, the sole issue being — stop Obama or more of the same. Right now, that’s an untenable position for Democrats, nearly all of whom have assisted in passing one or more parts of the agenda that has riled up the electorate. They can try to put some distance between themselves and the Obama agenda, but it’s getting late in the game, and the voters are awfully mad. If you doubt it, take a look at Charlie Crist’s poll numbers.

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The Perry Lesson: Run a Good Campaign

Gov. Rick Perry won big last night in the Texas gubernatorial primary. Michael Barone digs into the details and concludes:

(1) Perry won this not in rural and small town Texas but in metro Houston. This bodes well for him in the general election, since it indicates strength in the home base of the well regarded Democratic nominee, former Houston Mayor Bill White, who was nominated by an overwhelming margin. (2) Medina, the candidate who wouldn’t disrespect the truthers, did best in the supposedly most sophisticated part of Texas, the Metroplex. Go figure. (3) Hutchison, supposedly the candidate of urban sophisticates, did best in metro San Antonio and rural Texas. She held Perry below the 50% level needed to avoid a runoff in approximately half of Texas’s 254 counties; unfortunately for her, those counties didn’t give her nearly a big enough margin to offset Perry’s advantage in metro Houston

Barone also observes that turnout in the Republican primary was more than double that in Democratic primary, a reversal of the huge enthusiasm generated in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

Pundits are already picking through the returns to glean evidence of larger trends. Is this further proof that Washington incumbents have an uphill climb? Probably. Does this suggest that more traditionally conservative candidates have the upper hand in a GOP primary field? That too. And does Perry have the potential to be a presidential candidate? Perry is playing coy for now, as Jonathan Martin reports:

In an interview with POLITICO Monday, Perry insisted that he would not mount a White House bid.

“I’m really interested in who’s going to be the next president,” he said, before quickly adding: “I have no interest in it being me in any form or fashion.”

Yet as he claimed victory here Tuesday night, Perry’s message seemed as tailored for national GOP primary voters as Texas’s general electorate.

Speaking directly to Washington he said: “Quit spending all the money, stop trying to take over our lives and our businesses.”

He also sought to position himself squarely against President Obama, warning that, “It’s clear that the Obama administration and its allies already have Texas in their cross-hairs.”

But in the lesson-divining department, Martin is correct: Perry simply ran a better campaign and Hutchison bumbled along in a Hillary-like miscalculation about an electorate angry at the status quo. (“By asserting that she would step down from her Senate seat but never actually resigning, Hutchison amplified Perry’s message as much as the millions in his war chest.”) And it is noteworthy that endorsements from Texas political stars, including George H.W. Bush, didn’t help her one bit. (“In Hutchison’s case, the endorsements may have even worked against her, serving to underscore Perry’s message about her ties to Washington.”)

And that, I think, is the key takeaway and a reminder for pundits and candidates eyeing 2012. It really does matter what sort of campaign you put together, how you size up the electorate, and whether you devise an effective message. The front runners in 2008 (Clinton and Rudy Giuliani) crashed in no small part because they ran ineffective, if not disastrous, campaigns. We have learned the hard way that a great campaigner doesn’t necessarily make for a great or competent office holder. But you still have to win the campaign — and for that, nothing beats a sharp delivery, a well-organized team, and a timely message.

Gov. Rick Perry won big last night in the Texas gubernatorial primary. Michael Barone digs into the details and concludes:

(1) Perry won this not in rural and small town Texas but in metro Houston. This bodes well for him in the general election, since it indicates strength in the home base of the well regarded Democratic nominee, former Houston Mayor Bill White, who was nominated by an overwhelming margin. (2) Medina, the candidate who wouldn’t disrespect the truthers, did best in the supposedly most sophisticated part of Texas, the Metroplex. Go figure. (3) Hutchison, supposedly the candidate of urban sophisticates, did best in metro San Antonio and rural Texas. She held Perry below the 50% level needed to avoid a runoff in approximately half of Texas’s 254 counties; unfortunately for her, those counties didn’t give her nearly a big enough margin to offset Perry’s advantage in metro Houston

Barone also observes that turnout in the Republican primary was more than double that in Democratic primary, a reversal of the huge enthusiasm generated in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

Pundits are already picking through the returns to glean evidence of larger trends. Is this further proof that Washington incumbents have an uphill climb? Probably. Does this suggest that more traditionally conservative candidates have the upper hand in a GOP primary field? That too. And does Perry have the potential to be a presidential candidate? Perry is playing coy for now, as Jonathan Martin reports:

In an interview with POLITICO Monday, Perry insisted that he would not mount a White House bid.

“I’m really interested in who’s going to be the next president,” he said, before quickly adding: “I have no interest in it being me in any form or fashion.”

Yet as he claimed victory here Tuesday night, Perry’s message seemed as tailored for national GOP primary voters as Texas’s general electorate.

Speaking directly to Washington he said: “Quit spending all the money, stop trying to take over our lives and our businesses.”

He also sought to position himself squarely against President Obama, warning that, “It’s clear that the Obama administration and its allies already have Texas in their cross-hairs.”

But in the lesson-divining department, Martin is correct: Perry simply ran a better campaign and Hutchison bumbled along in a Hillary-like miscalculation about an electorate angry at the status quo. (“By asserting that she would step down from her Senate seat but never actually resigning, Hutchison amplified Perry’s message as much as the millions in his war chest.”) And it is noteworthy that endorsements from Texas political stars, including George H.W. Bush, didn’t help her one bit. (“In Hutchison’s case, the endorsements may have even worked against her, serving to underscore Perry’s message about her ties to Washington.”)

And that, I think, is the key takeaway and a reminder for pundits and candidates eyeing 2012. It really does matter what sort of campaign you put together, how you size up the electorate, and whether you devise an effective message. The front runners in 2008 (Clinton and Rudy Giuliani) crashed in no small part because they ran ineffective, if not disastrous, campaigns. We have learned the hard way that a great campaigner doesn’t necessarily make for a great or competent office holder. But you still have to win the campaign — and for that, nothing beats a sharp delivery, a well-organized team, and a timely message.

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The Curse of Insiderism

Democrats shouldn’t feel too badly; they aren’t the only ones voters are less than enamored of these days. It seems that anyone from Washington running against anyone who isn’t is at a disadvantage. In the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary, longtime senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was thought to be a tough challenger for the incumbent governor, Rick Perry. After all, she’s a solid conservative, has served her state well, and is a practiced campaigner. But this year, that’s not enough:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison offered what appeared to be her first acknowledgment that Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry has done some damage to her bid to unseat him by successfully casting her as a Washington insider. … “It definitely has made it more difficult for me. I didn’t think that people would buy that because I’ve been so effective for Texas,” Hutchison told the AP on her campaign bus. “I didn’t think that anyone could turn my success in producing results for Texas into a negative, but I think that he has attempted to do that and that is what I’ve been having to fight against.”

It turns out that all that fighting for dollars to send back home and a track record inside the Beltway are liabilities these days. “Perry seems to be riding a national wave of frustration directed at Washington politicians — the same anger that has fueled the ‘tea party’ movement and complicated Democrats’ plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system. The long-serving governor who has campaigned as populist has repeatedly criticized Hutchison for pushing earmarks and voting for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.”

Now keep in mind that Perry isn’t a political novice. He’s the sitting governor, and he’s been there for 10 years. But he hasn’t been in Washington like Hutchison, which now seems to be the cause of much of voters’ anger. Perhaps this is a welcome rebalancing between the states and the federal government. Some healthy aversion to one-size-fits-all legislation and ill-conceived Washington pork-barrel projects is a good thing, most conservatives would argue.

But for those running for office at the national level, the message is clear. Unless a candidate can posit himself as an outsider and someone not inclined to go along with the status quo (think Charlie Crist), it’s a tough political environment. And for those whose record is one of down-the-line support for the Obama agenda (recall that poor Hutchison opposed most of Obamaism and still can’t catch a break), it may just be the right moment to “spend more time with the family.”

Democrats shouldn’t feel too badly; they aren’t the only ones voters are less than enamored of these days. It seems that anyone from Washington running against anyone who isn’t is at a disadvantage. In the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary, longtime senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was thought to be a tough challenger for the incumbent governor, Rick Perry. After all, she’s a solid conservative, has served her state well, and is a practiced campaigner. But this year, that’s not enough:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison offered what appeared to be her first acknowledgment that Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry has done some damage to her bid to unseat him by successfully casting her as a Washington insider. … “It definitely has made it more difficult for me. I didn’t think that people would buy that because I’ve been so effective for Texas,” Hutchison told the AP on her campaign bus. “I didn’t think that anyone could turn my success in producing results for Texas into a negative, but I think that he has attempted to do that and that is what I’ve been having to fight against.”

It turns out that all that fighting for dollars to send back home and a track record inside the Beltway are liabilities these days. “Perry seems to be riding a national wave of frustration directed at Washington politicians — the same anger that has fueled the ‘tea party’ movement and complicated Democrats’ plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system. The long-serving governor who has campaigned as populist has repeatedly criticized Hutchison for pushing earmarks and voting for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.”

Now keep in mind that Perry isn’t a political novice. He’s the sitting governor, and he’s been there for 10 years. But he hasn’t been in Washington like Hutchison, which now seems to be the cause of much of voters’ anger. Perhaps this is a welcome rebalancing between the states and the federal government. Some healthy aversion to one-size-fits-all legislation and ill-conceived Washington pork-barrel projects is a good thing, most conservatives would argue.

But for those running for office at the national level, the message is clear. Unless a candidate can posit himself as an outsider and someone not inclined to go along with the status quo (think Charlie Crist), it’s a tough political environment. And for those whose record is one of down-the-line support for the Obama agenda (recall that poor Hutchison opposed most of Obamaism and still can’t catch a break), it may just be the right moment to “spend more time with the family.”

Read Less

Texas Bloom

The Census Bureau has come out with its annual state-by-state head count and it makes for interesting reading. There is no one better than Michael Barone at the art of looking at numbers and bringing them to life. He notes that Texas had the highest population gain (and third highest in percentage terms) and thinks he knows why:

Texas had above-average immigrant growth, but domestic in-migration was nearly twice as high. There may be lessons for public policy here. Texas over the decades has had low taxes (and no state income tax), low public spending and regulations that encourage job growth. It didn’t have much of a housing bubble or a housing price bust. Under Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry, it has placed tight limits on tort lawsuits and has seen an influx of both corporate headquarters and medical doctors.

Because of its population growth, Texas is likely to gain four new House seats in 2012. Florida, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada will each gain one. For the first time since it became a state in 1850, California will not gain any seats in the House, and New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois will all lose a seat and Ohio will probably lose two.

No wonder the Obama administration is in such a hurry to lock in its far-left policies. As Barone explains, “Americans have been moving, even in recession, away from Democratic strongholds and toward Republican turf.”

The Census Bureau has come out with its annual state-by-state head count and it makes for interesting reading. There is no one better than Michael Barone at the art of looking at numbers and bringing them to life. He notes that Texas had the highest population gain (and third highest in percentage terms) and thinks he knows why:

Texas had above-average immigrant growth, but domestic in-migration was nearly twice as high. There may be lessons for public policy here. Texas over the decades has had low taxes (and no state income tax), low public spending and regulations that encourage job growth. It didn’t have much of a housing bubble or a housing price bust. Under Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry, it has placed tight limits on tort lawsuits and has seen an influx of both corporate headquarters and medical doctors.

Because of its population growth, Texas is likely to gain four new House seats in 2012. Florida, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada will each gain one. For the first time since it became a state in 1850, California will not gain any seats in the House, and New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois will all lose a seat and Ohio will probably lose two.

No wonder the Obama administration is in such a hurry to lock in its far-left policies. As Barone explains, “Americans have been moving, even in recession, away from Democratic strongholds and toward Republican turf.”

Read Less

The Vaccine Minefield

A vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV), approved last year, has now sparked controversy in at least a half dozen states. HPV is by far the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S. (a recent study suggests as many as 25 percent of women under the age of 60 are infected). Symptoms are usually not serious but two rare strains of the virus can actually cause cervical cancer—the second most common form of cancer among American women.

That’s why the introduction of an HPV vaccine made waves last year. Approved by the FDA in June, it is the first vaccine that can avert a form of cancer. Public health officials hailed it, and even President Bush talked it up earlier this year.

Read More

A vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV), approved last year, has now sparked controversy in at least a half dozen states. HPV is by far the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S. (a recent study suggests as many as 25 percent of women under the age of 60 are infected). Symptoms are usually not serious but two rare strains of the virus can actually cause cervical cancer—the second most common form of cancer among American women.

That’s why the introduction of an HPV vaccine made waves last year. Approved by the FDA in June, it is the first vaccine that can avert a form of cancer. Public health officials hailed it, and even President Bush talked it up earlier this year.

But the vaccine’s manufacturer, Merck, quickly overreached in its effort to market it, pressuring state officials to mandate vaccination of sixth-grade girls. In February, Texas governor Rick Perry issued an executive order requiring vaccination, but when it was revealed that Perry’s former chief of staff is now a lobbyist for Merck, the company’s role in pushing for mandatory adoption became an issue across the country. In late February, Merck announced an end to its lobbying campaign.

The HPV vaccine stands to be a major boon to women’s health, but it is not an obvious candidate for mandatory use. Mandatory vaccination of children is generally used to prevent diseases that can spread easily in school—like chicken pox and mumps—and HPV does not quite qualify. Indeed, many parents are uneasy vaccinating their 11-year-old daughters against a sexually transmitted disease. Merck marched far too aggressively into that minefield, and by overplaying its hand has not only undermined its own vaccine, but may also have unwittingly contributed to a growing campaign to build doubts in parents’ minds about vaccines in general—a campaign with serious health implications.

That broader campaign has been building slowly for years, advanced especially by a few groups of parents of autistic children, who are persuaded (without concrete evidence) that chemicals in childhood vaccinations (especially small doses of mercury) cause autism. By planting baseless fears in the minds of parents, they have caused a real decline in the number of children being vaccinated, which could contribute to the resurgence of some diseases thought to be things of the past, like mumps. Public-health officials have come to realize over the past decade that vaccines are extremely sensitive territory. Apparently no one bothered to tell Merck.

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