Commentary Magazine


Topic: Senate

Could Republicans Govern in 2015?

This past weekend the panic being felt on the left about the 2014 midterms reached epic proportions with a front-page story in the Sunday New York Times about how fear of the “Obama Factor” was sapping Democratic morale. The story rehashed what has long been obvious about this year’s campaign: Democrats are at a huge disadvantage defending red-state Senate seats won in the 2008 Obama-fueled “hope and change” election. The unpopularity of ObamaCare and its disastrous rollout combined with the sinking poll numbers of the president may all combine to bring both houses of Congress under GOP control in January 2015.

With several months left for Republicans to pull defeat from the jaws of victory (as they did in 2010 and 2012 when golden opportunities to take winnable seats were sacrificed by terrible candidates and their gaffes), it’s way too early for the Democrats to give up or the GOP to start celebrating. But it isn’t too early to ask what exactly the Republicans would do if they did control Capitol Hill next year and to ponder what that would mean for the last two years of the Obama presidency. At the Washington Post’s Plum Line column, Paul Waldman takes up these questions and argues that the GOP’s possible 2014 triumph would be short-lived, if not entirely Pyrrhic. Waldman believes the basic antagonism between the House and the Senate will make any cooperation between the two impossible even if Republicans ran them both. Differing approaches to ObamaCare would provoke bitter and unwinnable fights between the varying GOP factions or “unrealistic bills that he [Obama] can veto without worrying about any backlash from the public.” In short, he predicts having the Senate as well as the House would do Republicans no good and maybe even help the Democrats heading into 2016.

Waldman is right that a 2014 win might well lead to plenty of internecine GOP warfare. He’s also correct that the 2016 Senate math (with a host of seats won in the 2010 GOP landslide up for grabs) might give Democrats a golden opportunity to snatch the upper House back, especially if they have a strong Democratic presidential candidate at the top of their ticket. But liberals who imagine that a GOP Congress would be no big deal are delusional. A Republican Senate will make the next two years a nightmare for Obama and give the GOP a chance to undermine his liberal agenda while setting the stage for what they hope will be a return to the White House in 2016.

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This past weekend the panic being felt on the left about the 2014 midterms reached epic proportions with a front-page story in the Sunday New York Times about how fear of the “Obama Factor” was sapping Democratic morale. The story rehashed what has long been obvious about this year’s campaign: Democrats are at a huge disadvantage defending red-state Senate seats won in the 2008 Obama-fueled “hope and change” election. The unpopularity of ObamaCare and its disastrous rollout combined with the sinking poll numbers of the president may all combine to bring both houses of Congress under GOP control in January 2015.

With several months left for Republicans to pull defeat from the jaws of victory (as they did in 2010 and 2012 when golden opportunities to take winnable seats were sacrificed by terrible candidates and their gaffes), it’s way too early for the Democrats to give up or the GOP to start celebrating. But it isn’t too early to ask what exactly the Republicans would do if they did control Capitol Hill next year and to ponder what that would mean for the last two years of the Obama presidency. At the Washington Post’s Plum Line column, Paul Waldman takes up these questions and argues that the GOP’s possible 2014 triumph would be short-lived, if not entirely Pyrrhic. Waldman believes the basic antagonism between the House and the Senate will make any cooperation between the two impossible even if Republicans ran them both. Differing approaches to ObamaCare would provoke bitter and unwinnable fights between the varying GOP factions or “unrealistic bills that he [Obama] can veto without worrying about any backlash from the public.” In short, he predicts having the Senate as well as the House would do Republicans no good and maybe even help the Democrats heading into 2016.

Waldman is right that a 2014 win might well lead to plenty of internecine GOP warfare. He’s also correct that the 2016 Senate math (with a host of seats won in the 2010 GOP landslide up for grabs) might give Democrats a golden opportunity to snatch the upper House back, especially if they have a strong Democratic presidential candidate at the top of their ticket. But liberals who imagine that a GOP Congress would be no big deal are delusional. A Republican Senate will make the next two years a nightmare for Obama and give the GOP a chance to undermine his liberal agenda while setting the stage for what they hope will be a return to the White House in 2016.

Let’s concede that the combative spirit of the House GOP caucus won’t be made any less confrontational by a victory in November. But the dynamic of Congress isn’t only defined by the institutional rivalries that Waldman discusses. By controlling the Senate, Democrats have exercised a pocket veto on everything the House produces, whether the product of centrist consensus or Tea Party fantasy. The unrealistic nature of much of the debate that has taken place on the House side is in no small measure the product of a situation in which nothing they do really matters so long as Harry Reid can frustrate them at will. If Reid is replaced by Mitch McConnell at the majority leader’s desk, that changes. At that point, the House caucus stops being a glorified debating society and becomes part of a governing majority. That won’t magically transform them or their Senate colleagues into a collection of legislative geniuses, but it will mean that suicidal gestures born in despair at their inability to pass bills will be a thing of the past.

Nor should Republicans fear—and Democrats anticipate with glee—the prospect of debates about fixes or alternatives to ObamaCare. Contrary to the liberal talking points echoed by many in the media, there are a number of realistic GOP proposals on health care out there that have been ignored because a Democratic Senate makes any new approaches to the misnamed Affordable Care Act impossible.

It is true that the continued presence of Barack Obama in the White House will mean the GOP will still not be governing the nation. He may well use his veto power more than before and frustrate Republican legislative initiatives. But by the same token, the ability of Republicans to hamstring Obama’s liberal agenda and subject his administration to probes will be enhanced.

The president may respond by accelerating his effort to bypass Congress and to govern by means of executive orders. But doing so as a lame duck will not only strike most voters as problematic from a constitutional point of view; it will also place a burden on Democrats in 2016 that they will be hard-pressed to cope with.

Most importantly, a Republican Senate would end any chance that Supreme Court retirements would allow the president to create a liberal court that could stand for decades or to continue his project of packing the appeals courts with like-minded jurists.

A Republican Congress won’t be able to undo everything Barack Obama has done or impose a Tea Party agenda on the nation. But it will act as a far more effective break on a liberal president than the current split Congress and also give Republicans more forums from which they can promote their ideas as they look to 2016. Any Democrat who doesn’t think that will materially damage his party or its leader will learn differently if the GOP vindicates the pundits and sweeps the board this November.

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Top Dem Leaves DISCLOSE Act Vigil

After Senate Republicans blocked the DISCLOSE Act from a vote yesterday, Senate Democrats held a “midnight vigil” to support the donor disclosure legislation. The lead sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, felt so strongly about fundraising transparency that he stayed at the debate all night long.

Kidding! He actually slipped out for awhile to attend a nearby fundraiser for a health care reform group. BuzzFeed reports:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the lead sponsor on the DISCLOSE Act – which would force outside political organizations to disclose donations of more than $10,000 – briefly left a “midnight vigil” on the Senate floor to attend a fundraiser for a health care reform group.

Whitehouse and Sen. Chuck Schumer had set up a series of votes and debates on their DISCLOSE Act — all of which were not expected to help the bill’s chances of passage in the near term — in an effort to hammer Republicans over their opposition to further transparency in campaign finance laws.

Whitehouse didn’t go far – the event was held at Johnny’s Half Shell, a tony bar located less than a quarter mile from the Senate chamber that is a popular venue for fundraisers by politicians, lobbyists, political groups, and non-profits like the Alliance, an educational group that does not take positions on legislation, including ObamaCare, and which backs “affordable, quality health care and long-term care for all Americans.”

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After Senate Republicans blocked the DISCLOSE Act from a vote yesterday, Senate Democrats held a “midnight vigil” to support the donor disclosure legislation. The lead sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, felt so strongly about fundraising transparency that he stayed at the debate all night long.

Kidding! He actually slipped out for awhile to attend a nearby fundraiser for a health care reform group. BuzzFeed reports:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the lead sponsor on the DISCLOSE Act – which would force outside political organizations to disclose donations of more than $10,000 – briefly left a “midnight vigil” on the Senate floor to attend a fundraiser for a health care reform group.

Whitehouse and Sen. Chuck Schumer had set up a series of votes and debates on their DISCLOSE Act — all of which were not expected to help the bill’s chances of passage in the near term — in an effort to hammer Republicans over their opposition to further transparency in campaign finance laws.

Whitehouse didn’t go far – the event was held at Johnny’s Half Shell, a tony bar located less than a quarter mile from the Senate chamber that is a popular venue for fundraisers by politicians, lobbyists, political groups, and non-profits like the Alliance, an educational group that does not take positions on legislation, including ObamaCare, and which backs “affordable, quality health care and long-term care for all Americans.”

“Apparently the only thing more important for Sheldon Whitehouse than his all-night debate on the evils of money in politics was a fundraiser,” a Senate Republican aide emails.

The health care reform group that held the fundraiser is a nonprofit, so it wouldn’t be targeted by the DISCLOSE Act legislation anyway. The bill mainly targets super PACs, which, not coincidentally, have been used effectively by conservatives in recent elections. Still, Whitehouse could have at least waited until the day after his midnight vigil against political spending to attend any Washington fundraisers — if only to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy.

Once again, it appears the DISCLOSE Act is about restricting First Amendment rights and undermining conservative groups rather than expanding “transparency.”

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Obama Remains Obstacle to Sanctions

Senate Democrats corralling bipartisan support for commonsense sanctions legislation are experiencing a bit of déjà vu. In late 2011, the Senate agreed to new Iran sanctions by the widest possible margin: 100-0. Yet the Obama administration sought to delay the sanctions, and then worked to water them down. New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez finally went public with his frustration toward President Obama for working so hard to protect Iran from the sanctions everyone had agreed to.

Now Senate Democrats are facing the same obstacle–President Obama–in trying to levy penalties on major human rights violators in Russia. Called the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, named after one prominent victim of those rights violators, the bill was sponsored by Ben Cardin and immediately obtained broad support. But on behalf of the Obama administration, John Kerry kept the bill bogged down in committee. So the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed its own version of the bill, and the White House finally dropped its open opposition to the bill. Now, as Reuters reports, Obama is trying to work changes into the bill that would essentially render it useless:

The measure would require the United States to deny visas and freeze the U.S. assets of Russians linked to Magnitsky’s death. The bill as originally written in both the House and Senate would make public the list of offenders and broaden it to include other abusers of human rights in Russia.

A reworked draft circulating in the Senate and obtained by Reuters would allow the list to “contain a classified annex if the Secretary (of State) determines that it is necessary for the national security interests of the United States to do so.”

[…]

Backers of the Magnitsky bill want the list of human rights violators made public both to shame those on the list and to keep them from doing business with U.S. financial institutions.

[…]

“How can an individual’s assets be frozen, if his or her name cannot be disclosed to financial institutions?” the aide asked.

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Senate Democrats corralling bipartisan support for commonsense sanctions legislation are experiencing a bit of déjà vu. In late 2011, the Senate agreed to new Iran sanctions by the widest possible margin: 100-0. Yet the Obama administration sought to delay the sanctions, and then worked to water them down. New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez finally went public with his frustration toward President Obama for working so hard to protect Iran from the sanctions everyone had agreed to.

Now Senate Democrats are facing the same obstacle–President Obama–in trying to levy penalties on major human rights violators in Russia. Called the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, named after one prominent victim of those rights violators, the bill was sponsored by Ben Cardin and immediately obtained broad support. But on behalf of the Obama administration, John Kerry kept the bill bogged down in committee. So the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed its own version of the bill, and the White House finally dropped its open opposition to the bill. Now, as Reuters reports, Obama is trying to work changes into the bill that would essentially render it useless:

The measure would require the United States to deny visas and freeze the U.S. assets of Russians linked to Magnitsky’s death. The bill as originally written in both the House and Senate would make public the list of offenders and broaden it to include other abusers of human rights in Russia.

A reworked draft circulating in the Senate and obtained by Reuters would allow the list to “contain a classified annex if the Secretary (of State) determines that it is necessary for the national security interests of the United States to do so.”

[…]

Backers of the Magnitsky bill want the list of human rights violators made public both to shame those on the list and to keep them from doing business with U.S. financial institutions.

[…]

“How can an individual’s assets be frozen, if his or her name cannot be disclosed to financial institutions?” the aide asked.

The answer is: they wouldn’t. The move also comes as the bill received an endorsement from the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, which supported the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik amendment sanctioning Russia for its refusal to allow Jews to emigrate. Jackson-Vanik will be repealed this year in order to establish permanent normal trade relations with Moscow as it joins the World Trade Organization. Rights groups here, in Europe, and in Russia want the Magnitsky Act to replace Jackson-Vanik so rights abusers can be sanctioned without disadvantaging American businesses.

The debate about the Magnitsky Act is playing out against the backdrop of Vladimir Putin’s rigged election and post-election crackdown on protesters. Pro-democracy activists and politicians in Russia have been trying to convince Western leaders to show support for their struggle. As opposition politician Garry Kasparov tweeted last night: “Foreign laws that punish Putin’s crooks and thugs are not anti-Russian. They are pro-Russian people and anti-Putin. Critical distinction!”

But as with Iran, the Obama administration remains unmoved by that distinction and continues to try to block sanctions in favor of “engagement.” Yet if Obama is truly dedicated to a policy dominated by engagement, he should take the advice of Nouriel Roubini and Ian Bremmer, writing in the Financial Times about Russia’s pro-Western reformers:

For the moment, the Kremlin has managed to ignore these voices, acting like neither a Bric nor a G8 member in good standing. Washington should not make the same mistake. If U.S. and European leaders genuinely want to build new ties with Moscow, these are the people they should be talking to.

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McGurk Put Through Nomination Ringer

No one who has read Allen Drury’s great novel, Advise and Consent, or seen the movie, can be surprised by how sordid Washington confirmation battles can get. Nevertheless, I am dismayed to see the treatment being accorded Brett McGurk, President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Baghdad, whom I met during his days as a visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

McGurk is a controversial choice for U.S. ambassador to Iraq. He is young (39-years-old), he is not a Foreign Service officer, and he is not an Arabist. Rather, he is a former NSC official under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama whose experience in Iraq extends from 2004 to last year. He spent much of 2004 working for the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S. embassy, and he returned frequently thereafter as an NSC official under Bush and subsequently as an outside adviser working alongside the U.S. ambassador. McGurk was an early supporter of the surge and had a central role in the negotiation of both the status of force agreement in 2008 (successful) and the one last year (unsuccessful). Critics claim he is too close to Prime Minister Maliki; the opposing Iraqiyah coalition has even come out against McGurk’s nomination, which could limit his effectiveness were he to be confirmed.

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No one who has read Allen Drury’s great novel, Advise and Consent, or seen the movie, can be surprised by how sordid Washington confirmation battles can get. Nevertheless, I am dismayed to see the treatment being accorded Brett McGurk, President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Baghdad, whom I met during his days as a visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

McGurk is a controversial choice for U.S. ambassador to Iraq. He is young (39-years-old), he is not a Foreign Service officer, and he is not an Arabist. Rather, he is a former NSC official under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama whose experience in Iraq extends from 2004 to last year. He spent much of 2004 working for the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S. embassy, and he returned frequently thereafter as an NSC official under Bush and subsequently as an outside adviser working alongside the U.S. ambassador. McGurk was an early supporter of the surge and had a central role in the negotiation of both the status of force agreement in 2008 (successful) and the one last year (unsuccessful). Critics claim he is too close to Prime Minister Maliki; the opposing Iraqiyah coalition has even come out against McGurk’s nomination, which could limit his effectiveness were he to be confirmed.

But his confirmation appears increasingly embattled not because of his policy views but because of the recent leaks of salacious emails he exchanged with Gina Chon, a Wall Street Journal reporter, while he was stationed in Baghdad and she was covering the story. (Both were reportedly married to other people at the time and are now married to each other.) Chon has lost her Wall Street Journal job because she did not disclose the relationship to her editors, while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has put off a vote on McGurk’s nomination, even though, as the Washington Post notes, “the e-mails don’t indicate that McGurk actually shared any sensitive information with Chon.”

Unless there is more to this story than is apparent at first blush, it appears that McGurk is being put through the ringer because of his private life—not because he is unqualified for the job or because his professional conduct has been thrown into serious doubt.

The members of the Senate do not necessarily have to share the judgment of Ryan Crocker, Chris Hill and James Jeffrey—the last three ambassadors to Iraq, all of whom worked closely with McGurk and who have just released a letter offering their “strongest possible endorsement of Brett’s nomination”—but they do at least owe McGurk an up or down vote rather than simply letting his nomination disappear in a morass of innuendo and gossip. And if the senators are worried about leaks, as they should be, they should focus on whoever it was who got access to McGurk’s private emails and leaked them for all the world to read.

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Good Riddance to the Paycheck Fairness Act

The Senate voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday, a bill that was ostensibly aimed at closing the fabled 77-cent-on-the-dollar pay gap between men and women in the workplace (and in reality aimed at helping Democrats increase the gender vote gap between them and Republicans next November). The bill failed mainly along party lines:

The Paycheck Fairness Act earned 52 votes in favor of proceeding to final consideration, short of the 60 votes necessary. Senate Republicans voted en masse against the measure, believing that it could adversely affect businesses if employees attempt to file pay-related lawsuits.

But Democratic senators spent the hours before the vote speaking about why the legislation is needed to protect women concerned with having lower pay rates than their male colleagues. No Republican lawmaker discussed the issue on the Senate floor ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

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The Senate voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday, a bill that was ostensibly aimed at closing the fabled 77-cent-on-the-dollar pay gap between men and women in the workplace (and in reality aimed at helping Democrats increase the gender vote gap between them and Republicans next November). The bill failed mainly along party lines:

The Paycheck Fairness Act earned 52 votes in favor of proceeding to final consideration, short of the 60 votes necessary. Senate Republicans voted en masse against the measure, believing that it could adversely affect businesses if employees attempt to file pay-related lawsuits.

But Democratic senators spent the hours before the vote speaking about why the legislation is needed to protect women concerned with having lower pay rates than their male colleagues. No Republican lawmaker discussed the issue on the Senate floor ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is a seriously flawed bill, but it’s not completely without merit. A provision that would prevent employers from retaliating against workers who inquired about potential gender-based wage discrepancies sounds reasonable. And provisions that support more government research into the “gender wage gap” and supply job interview training for women aren’t necessarily bad — just ineffective and probably a waste of government money and time.

But other parts of the bill — particularly the burden of proof issue — are downright dangerous, as the Heritage Foundation explains:

Under the current Equal Pay Act, once employees have provided prima facie evidence of sex discrimination, the burden of proof shifts to the employer to show that the difference in wages results from “any factor other than sex.”

The PFA eliminates the “any factor other than sex” defense and replaces it with a “bona fide factor other than sex” defense. Employers can use this “bona fide factor” defense only if they demonstrate that “business necessity” demands it.

The legislation is fairly vague on what these “bona fide factors” might include, but lists education, training or experience. Of course, in real life there are other less tangible factors that could play a role in determining salary, including leverage during negotiations, innate talent or intelligence, competition from other employers, or a potential employee’s previous salary. The employer might find himself in legal trouble if he based the decision on one of these more subjective factors.

And that’s not the worst part — as Heritage explains further, the act would also require employers to provide training and education for female employees so that they can be on par with any male employees with higher salaries:

The PFA further provides:

Such [bona fide factor] defense shall not apply where the employee demonstrates that an alternative employment practice exists that would serve the same business purpose without producing such differential and that the employer has refused to adopt such alternative practice.

Consequently, the PFA would make virtually any pay difference between a male and female worker grounds for a lawsuit. An employee could sue if she could find an alternative pay practice that arguably serves the same business purpose. This would lead to the government and the courts dictating business practices to employers.

Consider a company with two employees in a division: a man with 10 years experience and a newly hired woman. If the company paid the man greater wages for his greater experience, the woman could insist that the employer provide her with intensive training to make up the experience gap and then pay her identical wages. And if the company refused? The woman in question could sue.

At best, the gender wage gap has been overstated. And to the extent that it does exist, it seems to have little to do with misogynistic employers trying to keep women down. If that were the case, the female Senate Democrats who have been championing the Paycheck Fairness Act wouldn’t have gender wage gaps in their own offices.

Actually, it seems like the proponents of the Paycheck Fairness Act are the only ones who are nostalgic for workplace gender discrimination. While advocating for the act, President Obama has repeatedly claimed women make 77 cents for every dollar men make. That number is highly skewed and misleading — even Ezra Klein’s liberal WonkBlog crunched its own numbers and came up with 91-cents-on-the-dollar, when controlling for life choices. Is that nine-cent gap due to actual gender discrimination? It’s nearly impossible to say for certain, because there are a number of other factors that may also need to be taken into account. But the fact that advocates for the Paycheck Fairness Act have seized onto the scariest, least accurate number seems to be an intentional attempt to demoralize and disempower vulnerable women, convincing them they have less control over their lives and careers than they actually do.

This won’t be the last we hear about the Paycheck Fairness Act. Obama will likely keep it in his reelection pitch. But its failure in the Senate yesterday was a good thing for employers and for women in the workplace.

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Another Legislative Defeat for Obama

Another (not totally unexpected) defeat for one of President Obama’s legislative proposals today. This time, the Senate rejected a measure to repeal oil company tax breaks, which the president urged them to pass in a stern speech this morning. The vote wasn’t completely split along party lines, with two Republicans supporting the measure and four Democrats opposing it.

Obama will continue to frame this as the GOP protecting the interests of Big Oil, but the fact that it failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate takes the edge off that slightly:

Obama has sought to deflect blame for high gas prices, in part by casting Republicans as allies of big oil companies. He used a Rose Garden speech to urge lawmakers to back the plan.

“Today, members of Congress have a simple choice to make,” Obama said. “They can stand with big oil companies, or they can stand with the American people.”

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Another (not totally unexpected) defeat for one of President Obama’s legislative proposals today. This time, the Senate rejected a measure to repeal oil company tax breaks, which the president urged them to pass in a stern speech this morning. The vote wasn’t completely split along party lines, with two Republicans supporting the measure and four Democrats opposing it.

Obama will continue to frame this as the GOP protecting the interests of Big Oil, but the fact that it failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate takes the edge off that slightly:

Obama has sought to deflect blame for high gas prices, in part by casting Republicans as allies of big oil companies. He used a Rose Garden speech to urge lawmakers to back the plan.

“Today, members of Congress have a simple choice to make,” Obama said. “They can stand with big oil companies, or they can stand with the American people.”

I know this fits nicely with Obama’s class warfare strategy, but it sounds completely counterintuitive. Even if there’s no hard evidence that repealing these tax breaks would raise the price of gas at the pump, it still sounds like a reasonable outcome to the average voter. And that’s the argument the GOP has been making:

Republicans alleged the Democratic proposal would hit struggling consumers.

“That was their brilliant plan on how to deal with gas prices: raise taxes on energy companies; when gas is already hovering around $4 a gallon, then block consideration of anything else, just to make sure gas prices don’t go anywhere but up,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the floor.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said the bill “is not a policy that will do anything but increase the price at the pump and decrease supply.”

“That is the opposite of what we need,” Vitter said on the floor ahead of the vote.

So there is honest disagreement about whether repealing tax breaks for oil companies would raise gas prices. But everyone can at least agree it certainly won’t lower the price at the pump. Which is why this is a puzzling and politically stupid move for the Democrats. Their plan to deal with high gas prices isn’t even designed to lower high gas prices.

Instead, the plan was to use the extra money from ending the tax breaks to invest in green energy programs and pay down the deficit. Ending the tax breaks would bring in an estimated $2 billion per year. Our national debt is nearly $16 trillion. So, enough said on that.

As for using the money to invest in green energy, Obama’s stimulus allotted $38.6 billion for a green energy loan program that has been a disaster. Another $2 billion per year is not going to change that. The purpose of repealing the tax breaks for oil companies is more about Obama’s views on fairness than about achieving any practical purpose. And that fact isn’t going to be lost on the general public.

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Time for George Will to Reassess?

The most recent New York Times/CBS poll (which John and Jonathan write about) has President Obama’s approval rating down to a record low of 41 percent. If you are a supporter of the president, the internal numbers are downright depressing. The judgment of the Times seems about right to me: “President Obama is heading into the general election season on treacherous political ground.”

In addition, yesterday’s Washington Post/ABC News poll (which Alana wrote about) found that President Obama’s approval rating is at 46 percent — even with a sampling advantage that favors Democrats by too much. Fully 59 percent of Americans give Obama negative ratings on the economy, up from early last month, with 50 percent giving the president intensely low marks, the most yet in a Post/ABC News poll. And among independents, 57 percent now disapprove of Obama; and among white people without college degrees, disapproval now tops approval by a ratio of more than 2 to 1, at 66 versus 28 percent.

No president will win re-election with an Election Day approval rating of 41 or 46 percent.

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The most recent New York Times/CBS poll (which John and Jonathan write about) has President Obama’s approval rating down to a record low of 41 percent. If you are a supporter of the president, the internal numbers are downright depressing. The judgment of the Times seems about right to me: “President Obama is heading into the general election season on treacherous political ground.”

In addition, yesterday’s Washington Post/ABC News poll (which Alana wrote about) found that President Obama’s approval rating is at 46 percent — even with a sampling advantage that favors Democrats by too much. Fully 59 percent of Americans give Obama negative ratings on the economy, up from early last month, with 50 percent giving the president intensely low marks, the most yet in a Post/ABC News poll. And among independents, 57 percent now disapprove of Obama; and among white people without college degrees, disapproval now tops approval by a ratio of more than 2 to 1, at 66 versus 28 percent.

No president will win re-election with an Election Day approval rating of 41 or 46 percent.

I wonder whether, in light of these polls, George Will might begin to reconsider his column from earlier this month, in which he suggested that we might well be reaching a point in which conservatives, in “taking stock of reality” and in order to “economize” their energies, should “turn their energies to a goal much more attainable than, and not much less important than, electing Romney or Santorum president. It is the goal of retaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate.”

As it happens, the goal of winning control of the Senate is harder to reach than many people assumed just a few months ago. And it’s not at all clear to me how abandoning the top of the ticket will help down-ballot races.

In any event, and more importantly, Will’s counsel — which edges right up to the line of conceding the election to Obama eight months before a single vote has been cast — strikes me as ill-considered and oddly anti-empirical. Anti-empirical because perhaps the most persistent political fact of the last year is that Barack Obama is a vulnerable incumbent. No president since Jimmy Carter has begun an election year in more precarious shape.

I will repeat here what I have said a dozen or more times before: This does not guarantee Obama will lose or that the GOP nominee will win. But it does mean the political stars are not well aligned for the president. The temper of the country, its voting disposition, is to make Obama a one-term president. And whatever weaknesses Mitt Romney might have, at this point he’s got a reasonable – and probably better than even – chance to win the presidency. That’s not a bad position to be in during what may well be the nadir/near nadir of the campaign for Romney (who has been embroiled in an intense and nasty primary battle for the past two-and-a-half months).

It’s not a state secret that George Will is no great fan of Mitt Romney. But that shouldn’t cloud his judgment about the enduring weakness of America’s 44th president. Helping to oversee a Lost Decade is not usually a recipe for re-election.

 

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Romney Narrows in on Santorum’s Voting History

Even though Rick Santorum has billed himself as the conservative in the GOP race, he has a history of big government votes during his time in the Senate that are starting to get attention from conservative bloggers. At the Washington Examiner, Phil Klein ticks off a few controversial votes that Santorum will no doubt be forced to explain in the coming weeks:

To his credit, Santorum did not support the kind of mandate and subsidize approach to health care as Romney, but as senator, he still voted like a big government Republican on many occasions. Some of this had to do with being a loyal soldier during the Bush era, when he backed the Medicare prescription drug plan and No Child Left Behind. But a lot of it had to do with his parochialism.

As a senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum took earmarks, pushed a support program for dairy farmers, sided with unions and backed steel tariffs. In these instances, when free market principles clashed with local concerns, he abandoned limited government conservatives.

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Even though Rick Santorum has billed himself as the conservative in the GOP race, he has a history of big government votes during his time in the Senate that are starting to get attention from conservative bloggers. At the Washington Examiner, Phil Klein ticks off a few controversial votes that Santorum will no doubt be forced to explain in the coming weeks:

To his credit, Santorum did not support the kind of mandate and subsidize approach to health care as Romney, but as senator, he still voted like a big government Republican on many occasions. Some of this had to do with being a loyal soldier during the Bush era, when he backed the Medicare prescription drug plan and No Child Left Behind. But a lot of it had to do with his parochialism.

As a senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum took earmarks, pushed a support program for dairy farmers, sided with unions and backed steel tariffs. In these instances, when free market principles clashed with local concerns, he abandoned limited government conservatives.

Santorum has been blasting Mitt Romney as a supporter of big government, but his own history complicates that line of attack. More than that, his voting record provides plenty of fodder for Romney’s two-pronged attack strategy, which BuzzFeed detailed today:

In an interview with BuzzFeed, a Romney advisor offered details of the campaign’s coming two-front attack, which the campaign expects will be echoed by the Super PAC, which cannot legally coordinate its message, but which has already bought hundreds of thousands of dollars of airtime in key states. …

The first is a comparison to Barack Obama: “[Santorum’s] never run anything,” said the advisor. The Pennyslvanian’s experience is limited to roles as a legislator and legislative staffer. “The biggest thing he ever ran is his Senate office,” he siad.

The second is a challenge to Santorum’s Washington experience.

“They’re going to hit him very hard on earmarks, lobbying, voting to raise the federal debt limit five times,” said the advisor. “The story of Santorum is going to be told over the next few weeks in a big way.”

Even though the chief argument against Santorum is that his staunch social conservatism would alienate independent voters in a general election, Romney can’t officially make that case during the primaries. His only option at this point is to try to chip away at Santorum’s conservative credentials. Romney won’t be able to convince primary voters he’s more of a conservative than the former Pennsylvania senator. But by dampening conservative enthusiasm for Santorum, Romney might be able to a) reduce conservative voter turnout, and b) convince some conservatives to take a less emotional look at Santorum’s general election chances, and potentially choose Romney as the more electable candidate.

As we’ve seen time and time again in this race, Republican primary voters only start gravitating to Romney after his main rival candidates have had their conservative credentials tarnished in some way. If Romney wants the nomination, he’ll have to do the same to Santorum, but he’ll also need to tread carefully.

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Nelson’s Retirement Makes a GOP Senate in 2013 More Likely

Yesterday’s announcement that Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson will not seek re-election next year was a stunning blow to a Democratic Party that had already been facing an uphill battle to retain their narrow majority in the upper house. Nelson is the seventh Democrat to retire in 2012. And as is the case with seats in Virginian, North Dakota and Wisconsin, Nelson’s exit creates another opportunity for a Republican gain. It’s arguable that Nelson would likely have lost next year anyway as a consequence of his vote for Obamacare, but the incumbent’s withdrawal now moves the seat from a “leans GOP” to “likely GOP” in any analysis of the coming battle for the Senate next November.

But the main point to be gleaned from this news is not just that the odds of Mitch McConnell assuming the post of Senate Majority Leader in January 2013 have increased. Rather, it is to point out to Republicans that despite their well-publicized dissatisfaction with their choices for president, with an unpopular incumbent president presiding over a sinking economy, the stage is still set for a big GOP triumph in 2012. Provided that is, they don’t nominate a presidential candidate who will not only allow Obama to be re-elected but sink the Republican opportunity to regain majorities in both the House and Senate.

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Yesterday’s announcement that Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson will not seek re-election next year was a stunning blow to a Democratic Party that had already been facing an uphill battle to retain their narrow majority in the upper house. Nelson is the seventh Democrat to retire in 2012. And as is the case with seats in Virginian, North Dakota and Wisconsin, Nelson’s exit creates another opportunity for a Republican gain. It’s arguable that Nelson would likely have lost next year anyway as a consequence of his vote for Obamacare, but the incumbent’s withdrawal now moves the seat from a “leans GOP” to “likely GOP” in any analysis of the coming battle for the Senate next November.

But the main point to be gleaned from this news is not just that the odds of Mitch McConnell assuming the post of Senate Majority Leader in January 2013 have increased. Rather, it is to point out to Republicans that despite their well-publicized dissatisfaction with their choices for president, with an unpopular incumbent president presiding over a sinking economy, the stage is still set for a big GOP triumph in 2012. Provided that is, they don’t nominate a presidential candidate who will not only allow Obama to be re-elected but sink the Republican opportunity to regain majorities in both the House and Senate.

To conservatives who scoff at the notion that electing Republicans ought to be a higher priority over choosing solid conservatives rather than moderates, it should be pointed out that the alternative–Democratic control of Congress–would be a disaster for their movement. Obamacare was made possible not just by the election of a Democrat to the White House but his carrying along majorities in both the House and the Senate. Repeal of that measure will not happen unless Obama is defeated while Republicans retain the House and seize the Senate.

Keeping that goal in mind does not mean that conservatives must acquiesce to the nomination of any candidate with an R after their name, even if he is an incumbent. Tea Party favorites like Marco Rubio won races against Democrats after beating moderates. But it means that the GOP must guard against throwing away certain victories, as in Nevada with Sharon Angle and in Delaware with Christine O’Donnell. And, yes, it also means nominating a candidate for president who can not only win but also, at the very least, not act as a drag on the rest of the ticket.

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Palin Skips Out on CPAC Again

Sarah Palin is the latest in a string of prominent conservatives who have decided not to attend this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which takes place in Washington D.C. next week. While this will be the third year in a row that Palin has skipped the event, this year she turned down the coveted keynote-speaker slot, which was filled by Glenn Beck last year and by Rush Limbaugh in 2009:

CPAC leaders invited Palin to deliver the closing-night keynote speech on Saturday Feb. 12, immediately following the announcement of the results of CPAC’s annual presidential straw poll, but after several days of negotiations, she declined.

“We’re disappointed that she wasn’t able to make it this year,” American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene said through a spokesman on Thursday. He noted that Palin “expressed interest in wanting to come this year,” but said that it came down to “a scheduling issue.”

As ABC News noted, Palin “has a rocky history” with CPAC and skipped the event last year owing to some of the reportedly shady business dealings of the conference’s organizer, David Keene. But the fact that she hasn’t attended the event for three years in a row makes it seem like it could honestly be about scheduling issues, as opposed to any involvement in the social conservatives’ CPAC boycott.

Marco Rubio will also be absent, and it will be interesting to see if any other prominent politicians skip out. The Senate will be out of session next week — since Democrats will be away on a retreat — and it’s possible that some GOP senators slated to speak at CPAC will decide to head to their home states at the last minute. But at the moment, the conference apparently hasn’t been seriously impacted by the boycott, and organizers told ABC News that they expect around 10,000 attendees at the event.

Sarah Palin is the latest in a string of prominent conservatives who have decided not to attend this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which takes place in Washington D.C. next week. While this will be the third year in a row that Palin has skipped the event, this year she turned down the coveted keynote-speaker slot, which was filled by Glenn Beck last year and by Rush Limbaugh in 2009:

CPAC leaders invited Palin to deliver the closing-night keynote speech on Saturday Feb. 12, immediately following the announcement of the results of CPAC’s annual presidential straw poll, but after several days of negotiations, she declined.

“We’re disappointed that she wasn’t able to make it this year,” American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene said through a spokesman on Thursday. He noted that Palin “expressed interest in wanting to come this year,” but said that it came down to “a scheduling issue.”

As ABC News noted, Palin “has a rocky history” with CPAC and skipped the event last year owing to some of the reportedly shady business dealings of the conference’s organizer, David Keene. But the fact that she hasn’t attended the event for three years in a row makes it seem like it could honestly be about scheduling issues, as opposed to any involvement in the social conservatives’ CPAC boycott.

Marco Rubio will also be absent, and it will be interesting to see if any other prominent politicians skip out. The Senate will be out of session next week — since Democrats will be away on a retreat — and it’s possible that some GOP senators slated to speak at CPAC will decide to head to their home states at the last minute. But at the moment, the conference apparently hasn’t been seriously impacted by the boycott, and organizers told ABC News that they expect around 10,000 attendees at the event.

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Obama’s New Anti-Satellite Weapons Push to Cede Space to the Chinese?

In 2006, the Chinese reportedly used an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) to blind one of our satellites. In 2007, they definitely used an ASAT to shoot down one of their own satellites. Incidents like these led the Pentagon in 2008 and Secretary Gates in 2010 to assert that China’s ASAT program was meant, respectively, to enhance their power projection and to curtail ours.

So naturally — per Eli Lake’s extensive report this morning — the Obama administration is pushing for a U.S./EU agreement that would severely restrict our ASAT capabilities. Experts who back the administration describe it as a “not exactly binding” minor move, the upshot being that Obama wouldn’t have to secure Senate approval for the measure. But experts and congressional staffers both insist that it would significantly curb what we can do in space and would endanger our ability to develop and deploy both offensive and defensive assets:

[A] congressional staff member said: “There is a suspicion that this is a slippery slope to arms control for space-based weapons, anti-satellite weapons and a back door to potentially limiting missile defense.”… “Because it appears that they are talking about limiting operations … it could be that this is as much an agreement on the law of war as it is on arms control,” Mr. Spring [a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation] said. “If it is something more like a law-of-war agreement, then you are creating a situation of legal jeopardy for a military commander who is responsible for operating systems in space.”

Presumably, the argument is that if we give up ours, they’ll give up theirs. The muddy, cascading norms argument is always trotted out when people push for unilateral disarmament, which is what opposing space militarization means in an age of Chinese ascendancy. In a full-blown movement, you’ll find the argument buttressed by everything from “at least our side won’t be complicit” moral preening to “it’ll snowball into a global movement, then there won’t be any more sides” activist nonsense. But it’s always there, in part because we have a surplus of foreign-policy experts churning out implausible advantages for their pet policies — and then selling those fanciful pretexts as objective evaluations.

If stopping Israeli construction in a particular Jerusalem neighborhood can placate Afghanis who’ve never seen a map of Israel, is it too much to suggest that unilateral Western gestures on space militarization will cause Beijing to abandon its ASAT program?

Turns out, there’s an answer to that:

The State Department has exchanged language with the EU on the code of conduct. The U.S. and Russia also have begun talks about creating confidence-building measures regarding space-based activities. The U.S. has reached out to China on space issues, but Beijing has declined offers to discuss the issue, according to a senior State Department official. [emphasis added]

Disappointing to be sure, but I’m sure there’s still something else we can give up that would swing them.

In 2006, the Chinese reportedly used an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) to blind one of our satellites. In 2007, they definitely used an ASAT to shoot down one of their own satellites. Incidents like these led the Pentagon in 2008 and Secretary Gates in 2010 to assert that China’s ASAT program was meant, respectively, to enhance their power projection and to curtail ours.

So naturally — per Eli Lake’s extensive report this morning — the Obama administration is pushing for a U.S./EU agreement that would severely restrict our ASAT capabilities. Experts who back the administration describe it as a “not exactly binding” minor move, the upshot being that Obama wouldn’t have to secure Senate approval for the measure. But experts and congressional staffers both insist that it would significantly curb what we can do in space and would endanger our ability to develop and deploy both offensive and defensive assets:

[A] congressional staff member said: “There is a suspicion that this is a slippery slope to arms control for space-based weapons, anti-satellite weapons and a back door to potentially limiting missile defense.”… “Because it appears that they are talking about limiting operations … it could be that this is as much an agreement on the law of war as it is on arms control,” Mr. Spring [a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation] said. “If it is something more like a law-of-war agreement, then you are creating a situation of legal jeopardy for a military commander who is responsible for operating systems in space.”

Presumably, the argument is that if we give up ours, they’ll give up theirs. The muddy, cascading norms argument is always trotted out when people push for unilateral disarmament, which is what opposing space militarization means in an age of Chinese ascendancy. In a full-blown movement, you’ll find the argument buttressed by everything from “at least our side won’t be complicit” moral preening to “it’ll snowball into a global movement, then there won’t be any more sides” activist nonsense. But it’s always there, in part because we have a surplus of foreign-policy experts churning out implausible advantages for their pet policies — and then selling those fanciful pretexts as objective evaluations.

If stopping Israeli construction in a particular Jerusalem neighborhood can placate Afghanis who’ve never seen a map of Israel, is it too much to suggest that unilateral Western gestures on space militarization will cause Beijing to abandon its ASAT program?

Turns out, there’s an answer to that:

The State Department has exchanged language with the EU on the code of conduct. The U.S. and Russia also have begun talks about creating confidence-building measures regarding space-based activities. The U.S. has reached out to China on space issues, but Beijing has declined offers to discuss the issue, according to a senior State Department official. [emphasis added]

Disappointing to be sure, but I’m sure there’s still something else we can give up that would swing them.

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A Consequential Event, a Tectonic Shift, a Silent President

Elliott Abrams writes that Hezbollah’s power grab in Lebanon is a “consequential event” — reflecting the continuing reduction of American influence in the Middle East as Iranian influence continues to rise:

The last straw may have been the decision to send an ambassador to Syria by recess appointment despite the Senate’s unwillingness to confirm the Administration’s candidate. That foolish gesture must have indicated to the Syrians and to Hizballah that the Administration had learned nothing from two years of insults and rebuffs by Damascus.

It is not clear that the administration has learned anything either from two years of insults and rebuffs by Iran. Iran deigns to take a meeting in Istanbul: the Minutes of the prior meeting 15 months ago are read and approved; Iran refuses to discuss any New Business unless sanctions are ended; the meeting ends without scheduling another one. A Turkish nuclear expert says the walkout means Iran is going to ride out the sanctions, which no one describes as “crippling.” Bad Rachel has a devastating summary of Obama’s “efforts to force engagement down the throats of our enemies.”

Boker tov, Boulder! has an illustrated round-up, with a comment by Mannie Sherberg that Lebanon may signal a “tectonic shift” in Middle East politics — with “much more quivering and quaking in Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt” than Israel:

Throughout modern history, we in the West have assumed that the Middle East was — and would remain — a Sunni region of the world with a small and insignificant minority of Shi’ites. That changed, of course, in 1979, but even then — with the single exception of Iran — the Middle East remained predominantly Sunni. Suddenly, with Hezbollah’s takeover of Lebanon, it and Iran — with a compliant Syria in-between — make up a very large chunk of the Middle East. … With Tunisia facing a very uncertain future, and with Egypt on the brink of what could be radical change, the next few years could see unimaginable turmoil in the Muslim world.

Barry Rubin writes that it is a very sad day for the Middle East and Western interests:

What do you think the rest of the region is going to take away from this? America cannot or will not protect you. Islamism and Iran are the wave of the future. Submit or die. And that’s even before Tehran gets nuclear weapons. The way things are going, maybe Iran doesn’t even need them.

And where is the United States? Asleep. … An American government that will put all of its resources into preventing the construction of apartment buildings in east Jerusalem can barely be roused to prevent the construction of an Islamist-dominated state in a country of tremendous strategic significance.

In a one-hour, 7,000-word speech to Congress and the nation last night, President Obama devoted one sentence to Iran, saying that because of a “diplomatic effort,” it now faces “tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions than ever before.” In last year’s speech, he emphatically promised “growing consequences” if Iran continued to ignore its obligations. Last night, he made no such promise.

About Lebanon, he had nothing to say.

Elliott Abrams writes that Hezbollah’s power grab in Lebanon is a “consequential event” — reflecting the continuing reduction of American influence in the Middle East as Iranian influence continues to rise:

The last straw may have been the decision to send an ambassador to Syria by recess appointment despite the Senate’s unwillingness to confirm the Administration’s candidate. That foolish gesture must have indicated to the Syrians and to Hizballah that the Administration had learned nothing from two years of insults and rebuffs by Damascus.

It is not clear that the administration has learned anything either from two years of insults and rebuffs by Iran. Iran deigns to take a meeting in Istanbul: the Minutes of the prior meeting 15 months ago are read and approved; Iran refuses to discuss any New Business unless sanctions are ended; the meeting ends without scheduling another one. A Turkish nuclear expert says the walkout means Iran is going to ride out the sanctions, which no one describes as “crippling.” Bad Rachel has a devastating summary of Obama’s “efforts to force engagement down the throats of our enemies.”

Boker tov, Boulder! has an illustrated round-up, with a comment by Mannie Sherberg that Lebanon may signal a “tectonic shift” in Middle East politics — with “much more quivering and quaking in Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt” than Israel:

Throughout modern history, we in the West have assumed that the Middle East was — and would remain — a Sunni region of the world with a small and insignificant minority of Shi’ites. That changed, of course, in 1979, but even then — with the single exception of Iran — the Middle East remained predominantly Sunni. Suddenly, with Hezbollah’s takeover of Lebanon, it and Iran — with a compliant Syria in-between — make up a very large chunk of the Middle East. … With Tunisia facing a very uncertain future, and with Egypt on the brink of what could be radical change, the next few years could see unimaginable turmoil in the Muslim world.

Barry Rubin writes that it is a very sad day for the Middle East and Western interests:

What do you think the rest of the region is going to take away from this? America cannot or will not protect you. Islamism and Iran are the wave of the future. Submit or die. And that’s even before Tehran gets nuclear weapons. The way things are going, maybe Iran doesn’t even need them.

And where is the United States? Asleep. … An American government that will put all of its resources into preventing the construction of apartment buildings in east Jerusalem can barely be roused to prevent the construction of an Islamist-dominated state in a country of tremendous strategic significance.

In a one-hour, 7,000-word speech to Congress and the nation last night, President Obama devoted one sentence to Iran, saying that because of a “diplomatic effort,” it now faces “tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions than ever before.” In last year’s speech, he emphatically promised “growing consequences” if Iran continued to ignore its obligations. Last night, he made no such promise.

About Lebanon, he had nothing to say.

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LIVE BLOG: Congressional Autograph Hounds

Forget about the unsightly and sophomoric partisan displays at past State of the Union speeches. Nothing is as bad as the spectacle of members of our House of Representatives and Senate besieging the president asking for his autograph on his way out of the chamber. At one point, the president could be heard joking about those signed programs winding up on eBay. It was a joke, but I’d bet that most of the audience on television believes it.

Forget about the unsightly and sophomoric partisan displays at past State of the Union speeches. Nothing is as bad as the spectacle of members of our House of Representatives and Senate besieging the president asking for his autograph on his way out of the chamber. At one point, the president could be heard joking about those signed programs winding up on eBay. It was a joke, but I’d bet that most of the audience on television believes it.

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Smart-Power Whiplash

During her Senate confirmation hearing in January of 2009, Hillary Clinton described smart power — her preferred approach to American foreign policy — as “picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation.” Two years later, we’re finally getting a sense of what this means. Recent events and statements have been clarifying.

When the situation is a conference on democracy, the right tool is a pro-democracy statement. Thus Clinton said to the attendees at this year’s Forum for the Future in Doha, Qatar, “While some countries have made great strides in governance, in many others, people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order. . . . The region’s foundations are sinking into the sand.”

But when the situation is an actual and potentially democratic Arab revolt, the right tool is fence-sitting. When Clinton was asked for her thoughts on the popular uprising against the corrupt regime in Tunisia, she said, “We are not taking sides in it, we just hope there can be a peaceful resolution of it.”

When the situation is the announcement of planned elections after said uprising, the right tool is, once again, a pro-democracy statement. Today, after Clinton spoke with Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane and interim Tunisian leader Mohammed Ghannouchi, she told the press, “I’m encouraged by the direction that they are setting towards inclusive elections that will be held as soon as practicable.”

But when the situation is once again a potentially democratic Arab uprising, the right tool is urging restraint and giving cover to the repressive Arab regime being opposed. Today thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets to protest the Mubarak government, and Reuters reports the following: “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday urged all sides in Egypt to exercise restraint following street protests and said she believed the Egyptian government was stable and looking for ways to respond to its people’s aspirations.”

For those playing along at home, that’s defending democracy and Hosni Mubarak in the same day. Imagine how difficult it would be to practice smart power if you actually believed in something.

During her Senate confirmation hearing in January of 2009, Hillary Clinton described smart power — her preferred approach to American foreign policy — as “picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation.” Two years later, we’re finally getting a sense of what this means. Recent events and statements have been clarifying.

When the situation is a conference on democracy, the right tool is a pro-democracy statement. Thus Clinton said to the attendees at this year’s Forum for the Future in Doha, Qatar, “While some countries have made great strides in governance, in many others, people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order. . . . The region’s foundations are sinking into the sand.”

But when the situation is an actual and potentially democratic Arab revolt, the right tool is fence-sitting. When Clinton was asked for her thoughts on the popular uprising against the corrupt regime in Tunisia, she said, “We are not taking sides in it, we just hope there can be a peaceful resolution of it.”

When the situation is the announcement of planned elections after said uprising, the right tool is, once again, a pro-democracy statement. Today, after Clinton spoke with Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane and interim Tunisian leader Mohammed Ghannouchi, she told the press, “I’m encouraged by the direction that they are setting towards inclusive elections that will be held as soon as practicable.”

But when the situation is once again a potentially democratic Arab uprising, the right tool is urging restraint and giving cover to the repressive Arab regime being opposed. Today thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets to protest the Mubarak government, and Reuters reports the following: “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday urged all sides in Egypt to exercise restraint following street protests and said she believed the Egyptian government was stable and looking for ways to respond to its people’s aspirations.”

For those playing along at home, that’s defending democracy and Hosni Mubarak in the same day. Imagine how difficult it would be to practice smart power if you actually believed in something.

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Senate Freshmen Decline to Join Tea Party Caucus

Remember that Afghanistan trip Sen. Mitch McConnell took some of the GOP freshmen on last week? At the time, some conservative activists worried it was a “ploy” to co-opt the Tea Party members of the Senate. And now, interestingly, some of the same freshmen who went on the trip — Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Marco Rubio — have decided not to join the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus.

In an interview with a Florida political website, Tea Party favorite Rubio said he won’t be involved in the caucus, because he thinks it will “co-opt” the whole concept of the movement:

“My concern is that politicians all of a sudden start co-opting the mantle of Tea Party. If all of a sudden being in the Tea Party is not something that is happening in Main Street, but rather something that’s happening in Washington D.C.,” he said in an interview with the Shark Tank, a Florida political website. “The Tea Party all of a sudden becomes some sort of movement run by politicians. It’s gonna lose its effectiveness and I’m concerned about that.”

What Rubio says is correct on its face. The Tea Party is a ground-up movement, and it would be completely inconsistent with its platform if Washington politicians began “running” it. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of Tea Party Caucus at all. The idea of the caucus is to take direction from the grassroots of the conservative movement and carry it out in Congress — not the other way around.

So Rubio is spinning a bit. But it’s not hard to see why. Politically, it wouldn’t be the greatest move for him to tie himself to a caucus, at least not if he wants to compromise and get things done in the Senate.

That might be why the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus hasn’t been successful in drawing members. The Hill reported that it currently has only three senators committed to attending its first meeting: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint.

The House of Representatives, in comparison, has a 30-member strong Tea Party Caucus, which was created by Rep. Michele Bachmann last year. But the Senate is also a fraction of the size of the House, meaning that senators need to compromise much more with other members in order to get legislation through.

Remember that Afghanistan trip Sen. Mitch McConnell took some of the GOP freshmen on last week? At the time, some conservative activists worried it was a “ploy” to co-opt the Tea Party members of the Senate. And now, interestingly, some of the same freshmen who went on the trip — Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Marco Rubio — have decided not to join the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus.

In an interview with a Florida political website, Tea Party favorite Rubio said he won’t be involved in the caucus, because he thinks it will “co-opt” the whole concept of the movement:

“My concern is that politicians all of a sudden start co-opting the mantle of Tea Party. If all of a sudden being in the Tea Party is not something that is happening in Main Street, but rather something that’s happening in Washington D.C.,” he said in an interview with the Shark Tank, a Florida political website. “The Tea Party all of a sudden becomes some sort of movement run by politicians. It’s gonna lose its effectiveness and I’m concerned about that.”

What Rubio says is correct on its face. The Tea Party is a ground-up movement, and it would be completely inconsistent with its platform if Washington politicians began “running” it. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of Tea Party Caucus at all. The idea of the caucus is to take direction from the grassroots of the conservative movement and carry it out in Congress — not the other way around.

So Rubio is spinning a bit. But it’s not hard to see why. Politically, it wouldn’t be the greatest move for him to tie himself to a caucus, at least not if he wants to compromise and get things done in the Senate.

That might be why the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus hasn’t been successful in drawing members. The Hill reported that it currently has only three senators committed to attending its first meeting: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint.

The House of Representatives, in comparison, has a 30-member strong Tea Party Caucus, which was created by Rep. Michele Bachmann last year. But the Senate is also a fraction of the size of the House, meaning that senators need to compromise much more with other members in order to get legislation through.

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Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman: Not Much of a Competition There

Gail Collins of the New York Times has written a column upon Joe Lieberman’s announcement of his retirement from the Senate that, as with so many of her pieces, is written in a spirit of jocularity when its author actually has no observable sense of humor. This one is full of invective without wit. It’s as if Collins, whose tenure as the editor of the Times editorial page made for excellent bird-cage lining, were the bastard child of Don Rickles and David Broder.

Of Lieberman, she says he was, at the outset of his career, “extremely boring.” Of his speech yesterday, she writes: “Lieberman has reached a point in his public career when every single thing he does, including talking about his grandparents, is irritating.” She quotes “a friend in Connecticut” who said, “He’s the kind of guy who, when you see him in line at the supermarket, you go and get in a different line so you won’t have to make conversation.” She then tasks him, through a quote from a Connecticut pol, for “taking it personally” when people called him a baby-killer and a monster and evil for supporting the war in Iraq.

Listen. Hate Joe Lieberman all you want for his ideas — and she freely acknowledges she does hate him for “watering down” the health-care bill and “consolidating the intelligence services” — but it is simply preposterous to describe him as boring or the kind of person you flee from. Until the Iraq war rended the nation and heated up politics in Washington to a dangerous roil, Lieberman was certainly among the best-liked senators among people on both sides of the aisle. His staffers loved him, and so did the staffs of committees on which he served. And he is the opposite of boring: once (or maybe even twice) he won a contest that judged the funniest elected politician in Washington. Granted, that’s not much of a contest, but in the contest for unfunniest columnist in America, Gail Collins would win hands-down.

I know him a little; his daughter Rebecca is a very close friend of mine. At Rebecca’s wedding, Lieberman got up to make the paternal toast. “I am so happy today,” he said, “that I wish I could give you all an earmark.” If she lived a hundred lifetimes, Gail Collins would be unable to crack a joke one-thousandth as clever. Believe me, if you had to pick one or the other to go out and have a drink with, even if you were Noam Chomsky, you’d have a better time with Joe.

Gail Collins of the New York Times has written a column upon Joe Lieberman’s announcement of his retirement from the Senate that, as with so many of her pieces, is written in a spirit of jocularity when its author actually has no observable sense of humor. This one is full of invective without wit. It’s as if Collins, whose tenure as the editor of the Times editorial page made for excellent bird-cage lining, were the bastard child of Don Rickles and David Broder.

Of Lieberman, she says he was, at the outset of his career, “extremely boring.” Of his speech yesterday, she writes: “Lieberman has reached a point in his public career when every single thing he does, including talking about his grandparents, is irritating.” She quotes “a friend in Connecticut” who said, “He’s the kind of guy who, when you see him in line at the supermarket, you go and get in a different line so you won’t have to make conversation.” She then tasks him, through a quote from a Connecticut pol, for “taking it personally” when people called him a baby-killer and a monster and evil for supporting the war in Iraq.

Listen. Hate Joe Lieberman all you want for his ideas — and she freely acknowledges she does hate him for “watering down” the health-care bill and “consolidating the intelligence services” — but it is simply preposterous to describe him as boring or the kind of person you flee from. Until the Iraq war rended the nation and heated up politics in Washington to a dangerous roil, Lieberman was certainly among the best-liked senators among people on both sides of the aisle. His staffers loved him, and so did the staffs of committees on which he served. And he is the opposite of boring: once (or maybe even twice) he won a contest that judged the funniest elected politician in Washington. Granted, that’s not much of a contest, but in the contest for unfunniest columnist in America, Gail Collins would win hands-down.

I know him a little; his daughter Rebecca is a very close friend of mine. At Rebecca’s wedding, Lieberman got up to make the paternal toast. “I am so happy today,” he said, “that I wish I could give you all an earmark.” If she lived a hundred lifetimes, Gail Collins would be unable to crack a joke one-thousandth as clever. Believe me, if you had to pick one or the other to go out and have a drink with, even if you were Noam Chomsky, you’d have a better time with Joe.

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The Health-Care Repeal Effort

So why bother? That seems to be the general question. The Republican-controlled House can pass it, but it won’t get through the Senate, and even if it did, the president will veto it. Why cast an unnecessary vote? Why have this debate now?

Simple: Where you stand on ObamaCare is now the bright line in American politics, the single issue that defines the difference between the two major voting camps in the United States. There hasn’t been as stark a dividing line since the late 1970s and early 1980s, when it could be found between those who generally favored confrontation with the Soviet Union (and Communist countries) and those who believed in a greater degree of conciliation.

Those who support repeal have a felt need not only to state their opposition but also to demonstrate it formally. Once that is done, all the secondary aspects of that opposition — defunding certain parts of the law, offering proposals to reform others — can follow relentlessly. But the bright line must first be drawn.

So why bother? That seems to be the general question. The Republican-controlled House can pass it, but it won’t get through the Senate, and even if it did, the president will veto it. Why cast an unnecessary vote? Why have this debate now?

Simple: Where you stand on ObamaCare is now the bright line in American politics, the single issue that defines the difference between the two major voting camps in the United States. There hasn’t been as stark a dividing line since the late 1970s and early 1980s, when it could be found between those who generally favored confrontation with the Soviet Union (and Communist countries) and those who believed in a greater degree of conciliation.

Those who support repeal have a felt need not only to state their opposition but also to demonstrate it formally. Once that is done, all the secondary aspects of that opposition — defunding certain parts of the law, offering proposals to reform others — can follow relentlessly. But the bright line must first be drawn.

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Chipping Away at Global Security

Abe Greenwald unerringly fingers the new U.S.-Chinese nuclear-security center, announced by President Obama today, as a problematic idea. The proposed “Center of Excellence” (a 1990s-speak expression from the “reinventing government” era) will reportedly be opened to other countries in Asia, in the hope that “China can use its influence to improve nuclear security in the region.” A review of the other countries in the region suggests that this is, frankly, just silly. Russia, India, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea: these countries, whether nuclear armed or merely users of nuclear power, are hardly candidates for having their practices squared away by a “center of excellence” in China.

On the other hand, a nuclear-security center in China could well be opened to North Korea, Iran, Burma, or a host of Arab, Latin American, or sub-Saharan African nations, all in the name of engagement and responsibility. Besides giving China greater access to U.S. information, the joint venture will make China the potential middleman for technology transfers superior to those Russia can offer.

The idea for the center was reportedly suggested by Hu Jintao at Obama’s nuclear-security summit in April. The center of excellence is perfectly emblematic of the bureaucratic-engagement style of security policy that Team Obama likes to call “smart power.” The nuclear accord with China is supposed to mirror the one we have had with Russia for some years — but its superficial similarities on paper are overwhelmed by the profound differences in circumstances. Proliferation, not a superpower standoff, is the main security problem today. The past 40 years should have taught us that there is no nation — none — whose motivation to prevent dangerous nuclear proliferation is of the same order as ours. If there is any such nation, it certainly isn’t China.

But the Obama administration has a big appetite for paper activism in foreign policy, regardless of the consequences. The Center of Excellence in China has been announced on the heels of last week’s vote in the Russian Duma to advance the New START treaty to its third and final reading, which should assure ratification. The problem with this good-news story is that the Duma, like the U.S. Senate, has attached its own understandings to the instrument of ratification — and the Russians’ understandings directly contradict those of the U.S. Senate. The Senate specifies that New START does not constrain any U.S. missile-defense plans or any U.S. use of strategic delivery platforms for non-nuclear warheads. The Duma understands the opposite, characterizing its legislative understandings as a restoration of the treaty’s original, intended meaning.

On such shoals, “agreements” founder. New START represents no benefit to national security if neither side interprets the treaty to mean the same thing. (At NRO today, Keith B. Payne has another reason why it’s not a boon to U.S. security.) But, like the nuclear-security center in China, New START will have consequences. Treaties and nuclear-security centers shouldn’t be agreed to as if they are items on a peppy “good ideas” checklist. Team Obama too often comes off like a student seminar putting on a mock inter-agency working group. In the real world, poorly conceived joint ventures turn into throbbing security toothaches with alarming frequency.

Abe Greenwald unerringly fingers the new U.S.-Chinese nuclear-security center, announced by President Obama today, as a problematic idea. The proposed “Center of Excellence” (a 1990s-speak expression from the “reinventing government” era) will reportedly be opened to other countries in Asia, in the hope that “China can use its influence to improve nuclear security in the region.” A review of the other countries in the region suggests that this is, frankly, just silly. Russia, India, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea: these countries, whether nuclear armed or merely users of nuclear power, are hardly candidates for having their practices squared away by a “center of excellence” in China.

On the other hand, a nuclear-security center in China could well be opened to North Korea, Iran, Burma, or a host of Arab, Latin American, or sub-Saharan African nations, all in the name of engagement and responsibility. Besides giving China greater access to U.S. information, the joint venture will make China the potential middleman for technology transfers superior to those Russia can offer.

The idea for the center was reportedly suggested by Hu Jintao at Obama’s nuclear-security summit in April. The center of excellence is perfectly emblematic of the bureaucratic-engagement style of security policy that Team Obama likes to call “smart power.” The nuclear accord with China is supposed to mirror the one we have had with Russia for some years — but its superficial similarities on paper are overwhelmed by the profound differences in circumstances. Proliferation, not a superpower standoff, is the main security problem today. The past 40 years should have taught us that there is no nation — none — whose motivation to prevent dangerous nuclear proliferation is of the same order as ours. If there is any such nation, it certainly isn’t China.

But the Obama administration has a big appetite for paper activism in foreign policy, regardless of the consequences. The Center of Excellence in China has been announced on the heels of last week’s vote in the Russian Duma to advance the New START treaty to its third and final reading, which should assure ratification. The problem with this good-news story is that the Duma, like the U.S. Senate, has attached its own understandings to the instrument of ratification — and the Russians’ understandings directly contradict those of the U.S. Senate. The Senate specifies that New START does not constrain any U.S. missile-defense plans or any U.S. use of strategic delivery platforms for non-nuclear warheads. The Duma understands the opposite, characterizing its legislative understandings as a restoration of the treaty’s original, intended meaning.

On such shoals, “agreements” founder. New START represents no benefit to national security if neither side interprets the treaty to mean the same thing. (At NRO today, Keith B. Payne has another reason why it’s not a boon to U.S. security.) But, like the nuclear-security center in China, New START will have consequences. Treaties and nuclear-security centers shouldn’t be agreed to as if they are items on a peppy “good ideas” checklist. Team Obama too often comes off like a student seminar putting on a mock inter-agency working group. In the real world, poorly conceived joint ventures turn into throbbing security toothaches with alarming frequency.

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The Health-Care Bill: A Millstone Around the President’s Neck

While President Obama’s overall standing with the public is increasing, his standing on health care is not.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, by a margin of 48-43 percent, the public wants Congress to repeal his health-care overhaul.

According to Quinnipiac’s analysis, the key to the public support for repealing the new health-care law is among independent voters. They want it taken off the books by a margin of 54 percent v. 37 percent. (Republicans favor repeal by a margin of 83 percent vs. 12 percent, while Democrats support the health-care reform 76 percent vs. 16 percent.)

“The Republicans pushing repeal of the health care law have more American people on their side. They may not have the votes in the Senate, but they have many on Main Street,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “While President Obama’s poll rating has improved in recent weeks, the coalition against his health care plan remains and is quite similar to the one that existed when his numbers were at their nadir.”

According to a Resurgent Republic poll, a plurality of registered voters (49 to 44 percent) supports Republican plans to repeal and replace the health-care reform bill, including a majority of independents (54 to 36 percent support). While overall intensity is balanced (37 percent strongly support and 34 percent strongly oppose), independents are more intense in their preference for repeal (39 percent strongly support and 24 percent strongly oppose).

And the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that public approval of the president’s handling of health care is 43 percent, while the percentage of people who say they trust Obama rather than the Republicans on health care stands at 42 percent — nine points lower than it was only a month ago.

“This is the first Post-ABC poll in which Obama has not led the GOP on health-care reform,” according to the Post story.

What these polls show is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remains a political millstone around the neck of Democrats. Republicans are right to push for its repeal, on both substantive and policy grounds. In the unfolding entitlement debate, ObamaCare should be front and center. Conservative lawmakers should make a very simply argument: if President Obama is serious about getting America’s fiscal house in order, he needs to repeal last year’s health-care bill and start over again. It’s a budget buster, as this op-ed makes clear. Until Obama himself admits as much, until he undoes the enormous damage of his own making, his credibility on fiscal matters is shattered beyond repair.

While President Obama’s overall standing with the public is increasing, his standing on health care is not.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, by a margin of 48-43 percent, the public wants Congress to repeal his health-care overhaul.

According to Quinnipiac’s analysis, the key to the public support for repealing the new health-care law is among independent voters. They want it taken off the books by a margin of 54 percent v. 37 percent. (Republicans favor repeal by a margin of 83 percent vs. 12 percent, while Democrats support the health-care reform 76 percent vs. 16 percent.)

“The Republicans pushing repeal of the health care law have more American people on their side. They may not have the votes in the Senate, but they have many on Main Street,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “While President Obama’s poll rating has improved in recent weeks, the coalition against his health care plan remains and is quite similar to the one that existed when his numbers were at their nadir.”

According to a Resurgent Republic poll, a plurality of registered voters (49 to 44 percent) supports Republican plans to repeal and replace the health-care reform bill, including a majority of independents (54 to 36 percent support). While overall intensity is balanced (37 percent strongly support and 34 percent strongly oppose), independents are more intense in their preference for repeal (39 percent strongly support and 24 percent strongly oppose).

And the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that public approval of the president’s handling of health care is 43 percent, while the percentage of people who say they trust Obama rather than the Republicans on health care stands at 42 percent — nine points lower than it was only a month ago.

“This is the first Post-ABC poll in which Obama has not led the GOP on health-care reform,” according to the Post story.

What these polls show is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remains a political millstone around the neck of Democrats. Republicans are right to push for its repeal, on both substantive and policy grounds. In the unfolding entitlement debate, ObamaCare should be front and center. Conservative lawmakers should make a very simply argument: if President Obama is serious about getting America’s fiscal house in order, he needs to repeal last year’s health-care bill and start over again. It’s a budget buster, as this op-ed makes clear. Until Obama himself admits as much, until he undoes the enormous damage of his own making, his credibility on fiscal matters is shattered beyond repair.

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Lieberman May Drop Out of 2012 Race

The Hartford Courant’s website is reporting that Senator Joseph Lieberman is poised to announce that he won’t run for re-election in 2012. Lieberman will announce his 2012 plans Wednesday in his hometown of Stamford, at an event where he will be surrounded by longtime supporters, adding to speculation that he will speak of the end of his political career in the place where he grew up. The decision not to wait is being linked to the announcement by Susan Bysiewicz, a popular Democrat who has served as Connecticut’s secretary of state and was ruled off the ballot last year for state attorney general by a technicality, that she will run for Lieberman’s seat.

The Courant speculates that the reason Lieberman is not waiting until later in the election cycle to pull out is because he wants to make his statement “while there’s still speculation that he could still win if he chose to run.” Maybe. But the only reason Lieberman is bailing now is because he knows he has no chance to win in 2012.

I wrote last month that indications that Linda McMahon was going to make another try for the Senate in 2012 made a repeat of Lieberman’s 2006 win as an independent virtually impossible because he would need the GOP to more or less not show up the way they did in that race. In response, some readers contended that if Connecticut Democrats nominated an unpopular hard-core left-winger, Lieberman could still squeak through. But given that the Democratic field is already shaping up as one populated by highly electable candidates like Bysiewicz and Rep. Joseph Courtney, who has also indicated interest, this is an extremely unlikely scenario. Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports that Patty Murray, the new chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has told Lieberman that her group might back him in a primary if he returned to the Democrats. But that seems like an empty promise, since even more Democrats are angry with Lieberman today than they were when he lost his party’s primary in 2006. With party activists in both parties dead set against Lieberman, he has no chance to win either party’s nomination, and if faced with two strong opponents rather than just one, which now seems to be a given, he has no chance to win.

Lieberman has had a remarkable run in elected office. He started out as a stereotypical liberal Democrat when he first ran for the State Senate from New Haven (the young Bill Clinton was a campaign volunteer). Lieberman later became state attorney general and then turned conventional wisdom on its head by running to the right of liberal Republican Lowell Weicker in 1988. Once in office, he became enormously popular, striking a balance between conventionally liberal economic stands while also articulating centrist stands on foreign policy and social issues. Lieberman came within a few hanging chads of becoming vice president in 2000, but the moral tone and foreign policy stands that helped win him that nomination would ultimately alienate him from fellow Democrats. His principled support for the Iraq war was the turning point for him, and it ultimately ensured that he would be the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats in the U.S. Senate. While he wasn’t always right on all the issues, his is a voice that would, come 2013, be greatly missed.

The Hartford Courant’s website is reporting that Senator Joseph Lieberman is poised to announce that he won’t run for re-election in 2012. Lieberman will announce his 2012 plans Wednesday in his hometown of Stamford, at an event where he will be surrounded by longtime supporters, adding to speculation that he will speak of the end of his political career in the place where he grew up. The decision not to wait is being linked to the announcement by Susan Bysiewicz, a popular Democrat who has served as Connecticut’s secretary of state and was ruled off the ballot last year for state attorney general by a technicality, that she will run for Lieberman’s seat.

The Courant speculates that the reason Lieberman is not waiting until later in the election cycle to pull out is because he wants to make his statement “while there’s still speculation that he could still win if he chose to run.” Maybe. But the only reason Lieberman is bailing now is because he knows he has no chance to win in 2012.

I wrote last month that indications that Linda McMahon was going to make another try for the Senate in 2012 made a repeat of Lieberman’s 2006 win as an independent virtually impossible because he would need the GOP to more or less not show up the way they did in that race. In response, some readers contended that if Connecticut Democrats nominated an unpopular hard-core left-winger, Lieberman could still squeak through. But given that the Democratic field is already shaping up as one populated by highly electable candidates like Bysiewicz and Rep. Joseph Courtney, who has also indicated interest, this is an extremely unlikely scenario. Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports that Patty Murray, the new chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has told Lieberman that her group might back him in a primary if he returned to the Democrats. But that seems like an empty promise, since even more Democrats are angry with Lieberman today than they were when he lost his party’s primary in 2006. With party activists in both parties dead set against Lieberman, he has no chance to win either party’s nomination, and if faced with two strong opponents rather than just one, which now seems to be a given, he has no chance to win.

Lieberman has had a remarkable run in elected office. He started out as a stereotypical liberal Democrat when he first ran for the State Senate from New Haven (the young Bill Clinton was a campaign volunteer). Lieberman later became state attorney general and then turned conventional wisdom on its head by running to the right of liberal Republican Lowell Weicker in 1988. Once in office, he became enormously popular, striking a balance between conventionally liberal economic stands while also articulating centrist stands on foreign policy and social issues. Lieberman came within a few hanging chads of becoming vice president in 2000, but the moral tone and foreign policy stands that helped win him that nomination would ultimately alienate him from fellow Democrats. His principled support for the Iraq war was the turning point for him, and it ultimately ensured that he would be the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats in the U.S. Senate. While he wasn’t always right on all the issues, his is a voice that would, come 2013, be greatly missed.

Read Less




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