Commentary Magazine


Topic: Steny Hoyer

The White House Iran War Canard

The Obama administration has been playing hardball in its attempt to stop the Senate from adopting a new and tougher sanctions law aimed at Iran, but it has now gone too far even for one of its leading congressional loyalists. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the minority whip in the House of Representatives cried foul over a statement by the spokesperson for the National Security Council that accused sanctions supporters of pushing for war. But Hoyer’s call for Bernadette Meehan to retract her comments is a little unfair to the NSC staffer. Meehan was doing nothing more than articulating the same slander that has been put into circulation by a variety of administration sources and their press cheerleaders when she said the following in response to questions about the growing congressional support for sanctions:

If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be upfront with the American public and say so. Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.

This is a straw argument if there ever was one. The argument against sanctions is utterly illogical since the only possible path to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear threat that President Obama has vowed to thwart is via the pressure of tough economic restrictions. By loosening the sanctions in the interim nuclear deal signed in November, Secretary of State John Kerry lost some of that leverage. But by staging an all-out effort to stop a bill that would not go into effect until after the current process is seen to have failed, the administration is taking Iranian threats about ditching the negotiations so seriously that it has, in effect, become Tehran’s hostage. The problem here is not just about over-the-top-rhetoric or competing strategies. As many in Congress are beginning to suspect, the effort to brand all those calling for more pressure on Iran as war-mongers only makes sense in the context of a foreign-policy shift in which the president will seek to weasel out of his commitment to force Tehran to give up its nuclear dream.

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The Obama administration has been playing hardball in its attempt to stop the Senate from adopting a new and tougher sanctions law aimed at Iran, but it has now gone too far even for one of its leading congressional loyalists. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the minority whip in the House of Representatives cried foul over a statement by the spokesperson for the National Security Council that accused sanctions supporters of pushing for war. But Hoyer’s call for Bernadette Meehan to retract her comments is a little unfair to the NSC staffer. Meehan was doing nothing more than articulating the same slander that has been put into circulation by a variety of administration sources and their press cheerleaders when she said the following in response to questions about the growing congressional support for sanctions:

If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be upfront with the American public and say so. Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.

This is a straw argument if there ever was one. The argument against sanctions is utterly illogical since the only possible path to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear threat that President Obama has vowed to thwart is via the pressure of tough economic restrictions. By loosening the sanctions in the interim nuclear deal signed in November, Secretary of State John Kerry lost some of that leverage. But by staging an all-out effort to stop a bill that would not go into effect until after the current process is seen to have failed, the administration is taking Iranian threats about ditching the negotiations so seriously that it has, in effect, become Tehran’s hostage. The problem here is not just about over-the-top-rhetoric or competing strategies. As many in Congress are beginning to suspect, the effort to brand all those calling for more pressure on Iran as war-mongers only makes sense in the context of a foreign-policy shift in which the president will seek to weasel out of his commitment to force Tehran to give up its nuclear dream.

If the president is serious about keeping his numerous campaign pledges to force Iran to give up its nuclear program, then it is obvious that more pressure is needed to convince its leaders that the U.S. means business. As I discussed yesterday, the triumphalist rhetoric emanating from Iran, including its President Hassan Rouhani, about the interim nuclear deal being a victory for the Islamists isn’t just an embarrassment for the president. That the man the administration has claimed is a moderate who represents a real chance for change in Iran is mocking the president in this manner ought to have set off alarms in the White House, despite yesterday’s attempt by spokesman Jay Carney to downplay it.

The Iranians are making no secret of the fact that they believe Obama is more concerned about achieving a new détente with them than he is in shutting down their nuclear facilities. Given the fact that the deal Kerry signed in Geneva tacitly recognizes Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium while also weakening sanctions it’s hard to argue with that conclusion. The ayatollahs believe they have the whip hand in the next round of talks with the West that begin soon, and the administration’s slavish devotion to the notion that any further sanctions would “break faith” with their new partners in Tehran lends credence to that conclusion. Under these circumstances, it’s difficult to imagine that the talks can possibly produce a new deal that will permanently shut down the Iranian centrifuges or dismantle their nuclear facilities. Only a dramatic toughening of sanctions that would put a damper on a reviving Iranian economy by a total embargo of the sale of oil would give the P5+1 negotiators any hope in their quest to persuade Tehran to finally give in.

Since the administration is determined not to put that arrow in its quiver, it’s fair to ask what U.S. diplomats think they can possibly achieve through further negotiations. Without more sanctions, the U.S. will be faced with only two options: the use of force or acceptance of Iran as a nuclear power. Since neither the president nor Congress has any appetite for a conflict with Iran, without more sanctions, containment of a nuclear Iran seems the only likely result despite the president’s promises not to accept such an outcome.

But the only way to pave the way for Congress and the American people to accept a policy that would pose a threat to U.S. security as well as endanger allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia is to convince them that anyone who cares about the issue is a warmonger. Seen in that light, Meehan’s war canard isn’t a gaffe. It’s a vital element in a clear administration strategy aimed at delegitimizing opponents of the appeasement oft. 

The choice facing the country on Iran isn’t between diplomacy and war but between a congressional majority that is intent on giving the diplomats the only tools that will help them succeed and an administration that is determined to prevent that from happening. Rather than criticizing Meehan, pro-Israel Democrats like Hoyer and other members of the Democratic caucus that lament the noxious nature of this administration tactic must understand that what is at stake here is nothing less than the entire direction of U.S. foreign policy. If a rush to détente with the Islamist regime and an acceptance of Iranian nukes is to be stopped, it will require a full-scale Democratic mutiny against an administration that seems determined to keep faith with Iran while breaking its word both to its allies and the American people.

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Is Congress Bailing on More Iran Sanctions?

Prior to the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran, Congress seemed set to raise the pressure on Tehran with a new round of sanctions that will make it even tougher for the rogue regime to sell its oil. But in the weeks since Secretary of State John Kerry announced what he has claimed is a deal that is making both Israel and the United States safer, momentum for measures that would actually strengthen his hand in the follow-up negotiations has slipped. The administration’s pleas to hold off on sanctions make no sense since what created any sort of a window for diplomacy were the sanctions Congress already passed over the fierce objections of the White House and the State Department. Making them stricter to create a genuine embargo on Iranian oil (sales of which went up in November in part as a result of the sense that sanctions are on the way out after the deal) would be a perfect companion to talks. But while few in Congress seem to accept the logic of the arguments made by both Kerry and President Obama against sanctions, the number of those willing to directly challenge them on the issue seems to be dwindling, especially on the Democratic side of the aisle.

The latest evidence of this trend is the announcement today that House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer will not back an effort by Majority Leader Eric Cantor to create a nonbinding resolution calling for sterner measures against Iran. Up until this point, the Democrat had been as ardent an advocate of sanctions as any member, but his decision seems to illustrate that he has drunk the administration’s Kool-Aid on Iran. By saying “the time is not right” for even an expression of support for more sanctions (the Senate is now considering the tough sanctions already passed by the House), Hoyer had adopted the same wait-and-see approach Kerry and his aides have been selling on Capitol Hill. While some prominent Democrats, like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez, have stuck to their guns on the need for more sanctions, others, like Chuck Schumer, have been either ominously silent or indicating, like Hoyer, that they want no part of this fight. This is troubling not just because the argument for more sanctions is solid but because the defection of significant Democratic support will transform the issue into just one more partisan battle with Republicans rather than a reflection of a bipartisan consensus.

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Prior to the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran, Congress seemed set to raise the pressure on Tehran with a new round of sanctions that will make it even tougher for the rogue regime to sell its oil. But in the weeks since Secretary of State John Kerry announced what he has claimed is a deal that is making both Israel and the United States safer, momentum for measures that would actually strengthen his hand in the follow-up negotiations has slipped. The administration’s pleas to hold off on sanctions make no sense since what created any sort of a window for diplomacy were the sanctions Congress already passed over the fierce objections of the White House and the State Department. Making them stricter to create a genuine embargo on Iranian oil (sales of which went up in November in part as a result of the sense that sanctions are on the way out after the deal) would be a perfect companion to talks. But while few in Congress seem to accept the logic of the arguments made by both Kerry and President Obama against sanctions, the number of those willing to directly challenge them on the issue seems to be dwindling, especially on the Democratic side of the aisle.

The latest evidence of this trend is the announcement today that House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer will not back an effort by Majority Leader Eric Cantor to create a nonbinding resolution calling for sterner measures against Iran. Up until this point, the Democrat had been as ardent an advocate of sanctions as any member, but his decision seems to illustrate that he has drunk the administration’s Kool-Aid on Iran. By saying “the time is not right” for even an expression of support for more sanctions (the Senate is now considering the tough sanctions already passed by the House), Hoyer had adopted the same wait-and-see approach Kerry and his aides have been selling on Capitol Hill. While some prominent Democrats, like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez, have stuck to their guns on the need for more sanctions, others, like Chuck Schumer, have been either ominously silent or indicating, like Hoyer, that they want no part of this fight. This is troubling not just because the argument for more sanctions is solid but because the defection of significant Democratic support will transform the issue into just one more partisan battle with Republicans rather than a reflection of a bipartisan consensus.

While some senators such as John McCain are still pushing hard for a bill that would authorize the next round of sanctions, the discussion appears to be shifting away from that possibility to vague promises from the Senate leadership about considering a new bill only once it has been proved that Kerry’s diplomatic gambit has collapsed. The problems with such statements, such as the one coming out of the Banking Committee led by Democrat Tim Johnson and Republican Mike Crapo, is that they appear to be depending on the administration for an admission of failure that will never be forthcoming no matter what the Iranians do.

With support ebbing for a direct challenge to the administration, the idea of conditional measures that would put more sanctions into effect if Iran violates Kerry’s deal or the follow-up negotiations stall seems like an attractive alternative to many senators, especially those, like Schumer, who like to keep their image as stalwart friends of Israel and opponents of Iran intact.

But judging such violations or even the failure of the talks is bound to be subjective. This administration is not only heading in the direction of détente with Iran, it is also clearly besotted with the idea of diplomacy with the ayatollahs in principle. Expecting it to be honest about Iranian violations of a freeze of its efforts to enrich uranium at weapons-grade levels (even while the deal grants absolution to low-level enrichment, the product of which could be quickly converted to weapons-grade level in a nuclear breakout) is a stretch. But it is even more of a stretch given the fact that there is no way to know just how effective inspections of Iranian facilities will be and the consensus among intelligence agencies that Tehran has other secret installations at its disposal.

If the president and Kerry think even the talk about imposing more sanctions only after the six-month interim period envisaged in the deal would be a sign of “bad faith” on the part of the United States, what are the odds that they will risk telling the truth about Iranian behavior if it meant that such honesty would mean the end of their treasured diplomatic endeavor?

Even so, Johnson seems determined to protect the administration from any measure that would, even in theory, limit their ability to go on talking to Iran, no matter what the Iranians do. As such, he seems to be indicating that the principle of “Western unity” against more sanctions as well as political ties to the president trump doing the right thing to hold the Islamist regime accountable. While some senators may go on fighting, right now it appears the Iranians have nothing to worry about. So long as the president is willing to treat support for more sanctions as an act of betrayal against the White House, Iran can be assured that there will be no more pressure on them to give up their nuclear dreams.

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Wasserman Schultz to Get DNC Encore

Dan Halper flags a Roll Call report that says Debbie Wasserman Schultz is expected to stay on for another two-year term as DNC chair, since Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn aren’t likely to give up their top leadership positions:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida will reportedly stay on as Democratic National Committee chief for another two-year term.

“The House Democratic leadership mold continues to harden, as Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida are expected to remain in their current positions, which are effectively out of the upper echelon of caucus leadership ranks,” reports Roll Call.

That decision might be a little strange, since it was thought Wasserman Schultz was a weak surrogate for Barack Obama during the presidential campaign. “Internal polling rates her the least effective of all Obama campaign surrogates,” Politico reported during the campaign.

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Dan Halper flags a Roll Call report that says Debbie Wasserman Schultz is expected to stay on for another two-year term as DNC chair, since Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn aren’t likely to give up their top leadership positions:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida will reportedly stay on as Democratic National Committee chief for another two-year term.

“The House Democratic leadership mold continues to harden, as Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida are expected to remain in their current positions, which are effectively out of the upper echelon of caucus leadership ranks,” reports Roll Call.

That decision might be a little strange, since it was thought Wasserman Schultz was a weak surrogate for Barack Obama during the presidential campaign. “Internal polling rates her the least effective of all Obama campaign surrogates,” Politico reported during the campaign.

DWS is the gift that keeps on giving (for Republicans), so if she’s staying put it must be because she has no other options or nobody better wants the job. Based on the Roll Call article, Democrats seem to figure that she’ll do less damage where she is than she might in a top House leadership role. Ed Morrissey explains the logic:

In some sense, this is a vote of no confidence in the next generation of House Democratic leadership, or at least no confidence yet.

Given Wasserman Schultz’ performance as DNC chair, that doesn’t seem irrational, either.  She started off by accusing Republicans of wanting to bring back Jim Crow, and ended up marginalized as a surrogate for Team Obama, with plenty of embarrassments along the way.  (Getting reamed by Anderson Cooper for lying was one of the most prominent examples.)  Three months ago, Politico’s Glenn Thrush revealed conflicts between Wasserman Schultz and the White House in his e-book, and Politico reported that their polling showed her the least effective of their surrogates.

As bad as Wasserman Schultz was, it didn’t seem to hold Democrats back this election. They even made small gains in the House and Senate. As long as the party is willing to keep her in the position, and there’s nowhere better for her to go, why not stay on for another term? Certainly Republicans can’t complain, given her penchant for saying ridiculous things.

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NRA to Score Holder Contempt Vote

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):

“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”

The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.

Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):

“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”

The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.

Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.

So far, Rep. Matheson is the first Democratic defector. Getting 31 Democrats to cross the aisle still seems like a long-shot for Issa, but the NRA scoring will certainly help. The lobbying group does appear to have had some interest or involvement in the Fast and Furious letter Issa mentions that had 31 Democratic signatories last year, since it was posted on the NRA website under “media.” If the Democrats lose 31 members on this vote, their argument that the GOP is using it as a ploy to tie Holder’s hands on voting rights becomes even more absurd.

The NRA, meanwhile, outlined its justification for scoring the vote in a recent letter to House GOP leadership, making the case that this is about gun rights, not partisanship (h/t Moe Lane):

It is no secret that the NRA does not admire Attorney General Holder. For years, we have pointed out his history of anti-Second Amendment advocacy and enforcement actions. Since taking office, Attorney General Holder has seized on the violence in Mexico to promote the lie that “90 percent” of firearms used in Mexican crime come from the U.S.; to call for bringing back the 1994 Clinton gun ban; and to justify the illegal multiple sales reporting scheme, which amounts to gun registration for honest Americans who buy long guns in southwest border states.

But our support of this contempt resolution is not about those issues — nor is it a partisan decision, for we have also expressed our strong policy disagreements with Attorney General Holder’s predecessors of both parties. The reason we support the contempt resolution is the same reason we first called for Attorney General Holder’s resignation more than a year ago: the Department’s obstruction of congressional oversight of a program that cost lives in support of an anti-gun agenda.

Hoyer will try his best to keep his party in line, but the election is a little more than four months away, and some Democrats won’t be able to afford being on the wrong side of the NRA.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

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Dems Flee the Scene

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that, contrary to press reports, the House isn’t bugging out this week. Now, however, the Senate Democrats are, in fact, talking about fleeing the Capitol early:

Senate Democrats are seriously weighing whether to leave town at the end of next week, instead of staying in session until Oct. 7 or Oct. 8, as had been anticipated.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Democrats might pass a stop-gap spending measure to keep government funded beyond Sept. 30 and then go back to their home states to campaign.

Democrats in Congress are getting restless to hit the campaign trail and brace for what some experts predict will be a Republican wave in the midterm election.

It’s not just that Democrats are anxious to get back to the campaign trail; they can’t wait to get out of D.C. As long as they stay, the headlines and talk show buzz about failed maneuvers (the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell and DREAM Act amendments, the class warfare vote on Obama’s stimulus plan) will continue to plague them. Even Dana Milbank is grouchy that the Democrats never managed to get much done:

They still have their largest majority in decades, but the Democrats have succumbed to paralysis in the closing days of the legislative session. Congress has yet to pass a budget or a single one of the annual spending bills. Plans to spur the economy with tax cuts await action. Senate Democrats, faced with a GOP filibuster, have now punted on immigration reform and repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. Meanwhile, House Democrats have so little on their schedule that their first vote of the week is coming at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, when Americans are most of the way through their workweeks.

Well, they did a lot already, but none of it is all that popular. “[T]hey don’t want to talk about the achievements. The stimulus bill is unpopular; they’re not getting credit for health-care legislation, financial reforms and many other accomplishments; and the spent majority can’t limp out of town fast enough.” I guess they aren’t achievements if no one wants to talk about them.

So onto the trail they will go. If they can avoid those sticky situations when voters call them out, disassociate themselves from Obama, and convince voters that the recession is over, they’ll do just fine, right? Come to think of it, maybe it’s safer inside the Beltway.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that, contrary to press reports, the House isn’t bugging out this week. Now, however, the Senate Democrats are, in fact, talking about fleeing the Capitol early:

Senate Democrats are seriously weighing whether to leave town at the end of next week, instead of staying in session until Oct. 7 or Oct. 8, as had been anticipated.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Democrats might pass a stop-gap spending measure to keep government funded beyond Sept. 30 and then go back to their home states to campaign.

Democrats in Congress are getting restless to hit the campaign trail and brace for what some experts predict will be a Republican wave in the midterm election.

It’s not just that Democrats are anxious to get back to the campaign trail; they can’t wait to get out of D.C. As long as they stay, the headlines and talk show buzz about failed maneuvers (the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell and DREAM Act amendments, the class warfare vote on Obama’s stimulus plan) will continue to plague them. Even Dana Milbank is grouchy that the Democrats never managed to get much done:

They still have their largest majority in decades, but the Democrats have succumbed to paralysis in the closing days of the legislative session. Congress has yet to pass a budget or a single one of the annual spending bills. Plans to spur the economy with tax cuts await action. Senate Democrats, faced with a GOP filibuster, have now punted on immigration reform and repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. Meanwhile, House Democrats have so little on their schedule that their first vote of the week is coming at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, when Americans are most of the way through their workweeks.

Well, they did a lot already, but none of it is all that popular. “[T]hey don’t want to talk about the achievements. The stimulus bill is unpopular; they’re not getting credit for health-care legislation, financial reforms and many other accomplishments; and the spent majority can’t limp out of town fast enough.” I guess they aren’t achievements if no one wants to talk about them.

So onto the trail they will go. If they can avoid those sticky situations when voters call them out, disassociate themselves from Obama, and convince voters that the recession is over, they’ll do just fine, right? Come to think of it, maybe it’s safer inside the Beltway.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Good advice to conservative pundits from Michael Gerson (in defending Karl Rove): “[A commentator] owes his readers or viewers his best judgment — which means he cannot simply be a tool of someone else’s ideological agenda. Some conservatives have adopted the Bolshevik approach to information and the media: Every personal feeling, every independent thought, every inconvenient fact, must be subordinated to the party line — the Tea Party line.” Read the whole thing.

Good time, actually, for those ferocious Rove critics to apologize. It seems she is a loon: “The story of Christine O’Donnell’s past got a little stranger Friday. Bill Maher — on whose former show, ‘Politically Incorrect,’ O’Donnell appeared repeatedly in the late 1990s — showed a previously unaired clip from Oct. 29, 1999, on his current HBO program, ‘Real Time,’ in which the GOP Senate nominee from Delaware said she ‘dabbled into witchcraft.”’

Good line from Mitt Romney at the Value Voters Summit: “Welcome to the Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid-President Obama farewell party. This has been a pretty tough year for those three—their numbers have gone down the chute faster than a Jet Blue flight attendant.” And a good speech on Obamanomics.

Good critique of the problem(s) with Newt Gingrich: “Like the former and would-be next California governor [Jerry Brown], Gingrich talks big, but has no loyalty to his ideas. He was for tax cuts before he was against them. He supported a $35,000 congressional pay raise and leaner government. Like Brown, Gingrich’s real skill has been in seeing a trend early and jumping on it, unencumbered by any past positions. … The last time Gingrich set out to save America, he ended up burning his career. He taught a college course called ‘Renewing American Civilization.’ That would not have been a problem except that this modern-day John Adams felt the need to raise $300,000 and $450,000 to bankroll his discourses on American ‘core values.’ That’s a long pricey schlep from the log cabin.”

Good move. “Since General Petraeus took on the commander’s job in June, several aides said, the president has struck a more deferential tone toward him than he used with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, General Petraeus’s predecessor. Often during pauses in meetings, one White House official said, Mr. Obama will stop and say, ‘Dave, what do you think?’” Less Axelrod and Emanuel and more Petraeus, and we might win this.

Good golly. “Two Los Angeles departments have received $111 million in federal stimulus funds yet have created only 55 jobs so far, according to a pair of reports issued Thursday by City Controller Wendy Greuel.”

Good luck to Tom Joscelyn trying to explain to David Ignatius (and the Obami): “For the umpteenth time, Iran is not on our side in Afghanistan. They are currently allied with the Taliban, the mullahs’ one-time enemy. Iran is not going to help us ‘undermine the Taliban.’ They are working with the Taliban to undermine the U.S.-led coalition.”

Good job, Madam Speaker! Now 38 Democrats favor full extension of the Bush tax cuts. Maybe more: “Other Democrats have indicated privately that they prefer an extension instead of allowing rates to expire for top earners, and Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who heads Democratic campaign efforts, has argued behind closed doors for taking a political issue off the table by giving a short reprieve to wealthy folks before the midterm elections.”

Good for her. “A politically vulnerable Democratic lawmaker blasted her party’s House leadership as she demanded a vote to cut the salaries of lawmakers by $8,700 next year. In a letter sent Thursday afternoon, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) pressured Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to hold a vote on her bill to cut congressional pay by five percent and save taxpayers $4.7 million next year before Congress breaks for its fall recess.”

Good for him. Greg Sargent rises above partisan cheerleading: “It isn’t every day that Democrats target Latino challengers with nasty anti-immigrant ads, but these are apparently desperate times for certain embattled Dems. … [Rep. Walt] Minnick apparently sees the need to run an ad that stinks of fear and desperation. Quite a specimen.”

Good news for Republicans in the Hoosier state: “The Indiana Senate seat now held by Democrat Evan Bayh remains a likely Republican pickup on Election Day. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Indiana finds Republican Dan Coats leading Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth 50% to 34% in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Goodbye, Charlie: “Gov. Charlie Crist and the disgraced former chairman of the Florida Republican Party took family vacations on party money, an audit released Friday shows. The two men and their families vacationed at Disney World in June 2009 and put the $13,435.99 bill on the party’s American Express credit card, the audit found. Greer also took three personal vacations to fashionable Fisher Island near Miami Beach, one including Crist, at a cost of $10,992.17, auditors reported.”

Good advice to conservative pundits from Michael Gerson (in defending Karl Rove): “[A commentator] owes his readers or viewers his best judgment — which means he cannot simply be a tool of someone else’s ideological agenda. Some conservatives have adopted the Bolshevik approach to information and the media: Every personal feeling, every independent thought, every inconvenient fact, must be subordinated to the party line — the Tea Party line.” Read the whole thing.

Good time, actually, for those ferocious Rove critics to apologize. It seems she is a loon: “The story of Christine O’Donnell’s past got a little stranger Friday. Bill Maher — on whose former show, ‘Politically Incorrect,’ O’Donnell appeared repeatedly in the late 1990s — showed a previously unaired clip from Oct. 29, 1999, on his current HBO program, ‘Real Time,’ in which the GOP Senate nominee from Delaware said she ‘dabbled into witchcraft.”’

Good line from Mitt Romney at the Value Voters Summit: “Welcome to the Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid-President Obama farewell party. This has been a pretty tough year for those three—their numbers have gone down the chute faster than a Jet Blue flight attendant.” And a good speech on Obamanomics.

Good critique of the problem(s) with Newt Gingrich: “Like the former and would-be next California governor [Jerry Brown], Gingrich talks big, but has no loyalty to his ideas. He was for tax cuts before he was against them. He supported a $35,000 congressional pay raise and leaner government. Like Brown, Gingrich’s real skill has been in seeing a trend early and jumping on it, unencumbered by any past positions. … The last time Gingrich set out to save America, he ended up burning his career. He taught a college course called ‘Renewing American Civilization.’ That would not have been a problem except that this modern-day John Adams felt the need to raise $300,000 and $450,000 to bankroll his discourses on American ‘core values.’ That’s a long pricey schlep from the log cabin.”

Good move. “Since General Petraeus took on the commander’s job in June, several aides said, the president has struck a more deferential tone toward him than he used with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, General Petraeus’s predecessor. Often during pauses in meetings, one White House official said, Mr. Obama will stop and say, ‘Dave, what do you think?’” Less Axelrod and Emanuel and more Petraeus, and we might win this.

Good golly. “Two Los Angeles departments have received $111 million in federal stimulus funds yet have created only 55 jobs so far, according to a pair of reports issued Thursday by City Controller Wendy Greuel.”

Good luck to Tom Joscelyn trying to explain to David Ignatius (and the Obami): “For the umpteenth time, Iran is not on our side in Afghanistan. They are currently allied with the Taliban, the mullahs’ one-time enemy. Iran is not going to help us ‘undermine the Taliban.’ They are working with the Taliban to undermine the U.S.-led coalition.”

Good job, Madam Speaker! Now 38 Democrats favor full extension of the Bush tax cuts. Maybe more: “Other Democrats have indicated privately that they prefer an extension instead of allowing rates to expire for top earners, and Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who heads Democratic campaign efforts, has argued behind closed doors for taking a political issue off the table by giving a short reprieve to wealthy folks before the midterm elections.”

Good for her. “A politically vulnerable Democratic lawmaker blasted her party’s House leadership as she demanded a vote to cut the salaries of lawmakers by $8,700 next year. In a letter sent Thursday afternoon, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) pressured Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to hold a vote on her bill to cut congressional pay by five percent and save taxpayers $4.7 million next year before Congress breaks for its fall recess.”

Good for him. Greg Sargent rises above partisan cheerleading: “It isn’t every day that Democrats target Latino challengers with nasty anti-immigrant ads, but these are apparently desperate times for certain embattled Dems. … [Rep. Walt] Minnick apparently sees the need to run an ad that stinks of fear and desperation. Quite a specimen.”

Good news for Republicans in the Hoosier state: “The Indiana Senate seat now held by Democrat Evan Bayh remains a likely Republican pickup on Election Day. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Indiana finds Republican Dan Coats leading Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth 50% to 34% in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Goodbye, Charlie: “Gov. Charlie Crist and the disgraced former chairman of the Florida Republican Party took family vacations on party money, an audit released Friday shows. The two men and their families vacationed at Disney World in June 2009 and put the $13,435.99 bill on the party’s American Express credit card, the audit found. Greer also took three personal vacations to fashionable Fisher Island near Miami Beach, one including Crist, at a cost of $10,992.17, auditors reported.”

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Planning Nancy’s Retirement

Democrats aren’t waiting for the election returns to start planning Nancy Pelosi’s ouster. Politico reports:

For the most part, Democrats have no obvious roadmap, no heir apparent to the Pelosi mantle, and a fairly thin bench around which to plan the future of their party. After the election, Democrats would face a power vacuum in the lower ranks – assuming current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer takes the helm as minority leader in a post-Pelosi Democratic caucus.

“This is a subject that everybody in town is thinking about,” said a former House Democrat who keeps close contact with his former colleagues. …

“If we lose it badly, Pelosi would have to leave, as might the whole leadership team,” said a veteran House Democrat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I can see Hoyer becoming Minority Leader. And I can imagine that Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) would stay as Whip, but then retire. They could become transitional leaders as we look for new leadership. It would have to sort itself out.”

Pelosi may have peaked on the day she assumed office, as an identity-politics champion. In four years she’s helped drive her party into the ground and our country deeper and deeper into debt. Rather than draining the swamp, she’s coddled corrupt pols. Her “historic” achievement — ramming through ObamaCare — may turn to dust as states opt out of the individual mandate and a new Congress defunds and then sets out to repeal the measure. Come to think of it, that may be Obama’s legacy as well.

Democrats aren’t waiting for the election returns to start planning Nancy Pelosi’s ouster. Politico reports:

For the most part, Democrats have no obvious roadmap, no heir apparent to the Pelosi mantle, and a fairly thin bench around which to plan the future of their party. After the election, Democrats would face a power vacuum in the lower ranks – assuming current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer takes the helm as minority leader in a post-Pelosi Democratic caucus.

“This is a subject that everybody in town is thinking about,” said a former House Democrat who keeps close contact with his former colleagues. …

“If we lose it badly, Pelosi would have to leave, as might the whole leadership team,” said a veteran House Democrat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I can see Hoyer becoming Minority Leader. And I can imagine that Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) would stay as Whip, but then retire. They could become transitional leaders as we look for new leadership. It would have to sort itself out.”

Pelosi may have peaked on the day she assumed office, as an identity-politics champion. In four years she’s helped drive her party into the ground and our country deeper and deeper into debt. Rather than draining the swamp, she’s coddled corrupt pols. Her “historic” achievement — ramming through ObamaCare — may turn to dust as states opt out of the individual mandate and a new Congress defunds and then sets out to repeal the measure. Come to think of it, that may be Obama’s legacy as well.

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Stop the Presses! John Boehner Sleeps, Eats, and Breathes

If you’d like to know why the New York Times – once an order of magnitude above any other paper in the country — is in such trouble today, look no further than today’s front-page story on John Boehner, the House minority leader. Appearing above the fold on page one, it fills up most of a page inside.

It seems — are you sitting down? — as though John Boehner deals with lobbyists. The shock! The horror! After reporting on a meeting with lobbyists regarding the bank-regulations bill that passed earlier this year, for instance, the article reads:

That sort of alliance — they won a few skirmishes, though they lost the war on the regulatory bill — is business as usual for Mr. Boehner, the House minority leader and would-be speaker if Republicans win the House in November. He maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation’s biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R. J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS.

It is, of course, equally business as usual for all congressional leaders, Republican and Democrat alike. Members of Congress deal with lobbyists every day of their professional lives, striking alliances, raising money, seeking to influence public opinion and thus win votes in Congress. The Times, in effect, is accusing Mr. Boehner of practicing politics.

The story is astonishingly thin. Are his ties to lobbyists “especially tight”? Who knows? The Times gives no examples whatever of the dealings of other Congressional leaders with lobbyists. The Times writes, “From 2000 to 2007, Mr. Boehner flew at least 45 times, often with his wife, Debbie, on corporate jets provided by companies including R. J. Reynolds. (As required, Mr. Boehner reimbursed part of the costs.)” So he didn’t do anything against House rules, apparently. But how does his aeronautical hitchhiking compare with, say, that of Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader, or Sander Levin, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee? The Times doesn’t bother to say, which raises the suspicion that Democratic leaders like flying around in private jets about as much as Republican ones do. To paraphrase Mrs. August Belmont, who, a century ago, was talking about private railroad cars, “A private jet is not an acquired taste. One takes to it immediately.”

The lede in the online edition of the story gives the game away. “As Democrats try to cast John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader, as the face of the Republican Party, his ties to lobbyists are under attack.” Of course, under House rules, the Speaker is nearly all-powerful and the minority party, and thus its leader, have almost no power. They are nearly irrelevant to the legislative process in the House. So it’s going to be up-hill work trying to make Boehner into the Republican Nancy Pelosi.

This article, which alleges no wrongdoing and gives no comparisons, is simply an attempt to further the Democrats’ plan to demonize Boehner. It is water carrying, plain and simple, proving only that the Times’s ties with the Democratic Party are especially tight.

If you’d like to know why the New York Times – once an order of magnitude above any other paper in the country — is in such trouble today, look no further than today’s front-page story on John Boehner, the House minority leader. Appearing above the fold on page one, it fills up most of a page inside.

It seems — are you sitting down? — as though John Boehner deals with lobbyists. The shock! The horror! After reporting on a meeting with lobbyists regarding the bank-regulations bill that passed earlier this year, for instance, the article reads:

That sort of alliance — they won a few skirmishes, though they lost the war on the regulatory bill — is business as usual for Mr. Boehner, the House minority leader and would-be speaker if Republicans win the House in November. He maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation’s biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R. J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS.

It is, of course, equally business as usual for all congressional leaders, Republican and Democrat alike. Members of Congress deal with lobbyists every day of their professional lives, striking alliances, raising money, seeking to influence public opinion and thus win votes in Congress. The Times, in effect, is accusing Mr. Boehner of practicing politics.

The story is astonishingly thin. Are his ties to lobbyists “especially tight”? Who knows? The Times gives no examples whatever of the dealings of other Congressional leaders with lobbyists. The Times writes, “From 2000 to 2007, Mr. Boehner flew at least 45 times, often with his wife, Debbie, on corporate jets provided by companies including R. J. Reynolds. (As required, Mr. Boehner reimbursed part of the costs.)” So he didn’t do anything against House rules, apparently. But how does his aeronautical hitchhiking compare with, say, that of Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader, or Sander Levin, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee? The Times doesn’t bother to say, which raises the suspicion that Democratic leaders like flying around in private jets about as much as Republican ones do. To paraphrase Mrs. August Belmont, who, a century ago, was talking about private railroad cars, “A private jet is not an acquired taste. One takes to it immediately.”

The lede in the online edition of the story gives the game away. “As Democrats try to cast John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader, as the face of the Republican Party, his ties to lobbyists are under attack.” Of course, under House rules, the Speaker is nearly all-powerful and the minority party, and thus its leader, have almost no power. They are nearly irrelevant to the legislative process in the House. So it’s going to be up-hill work trying to make Boehner into the Republican Nancy Pelosi.

This article, which alleges no wrongdoing and gives no comparisons, is simply an attempt to further the Democrats’ plan to demonize Boehner. It is water carrying, plain and simple, proving only that the Times’s ties with the Democratic Party are especially tight.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The wave is about to hit the Democrats. The latest poll from Reuters-Ipsos: “Only 34 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the economy and jobs compared to 46 percent who deemed it unsatisfactory. This is a sharp decline from early 2009 shortly after he took office when over a half of those surveyed approved of Obama’s handling of the worst financial crisis in decades. … Republicans hold a 46-44 percent lead over Democrats when participants were asked which party they planned to support in November. And 72 percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote on November 2, compared to 49 percent of Democrats.”

It’s not been smooth sailing for Donald Berwick: “Dr. Berwick is still struggling to tamp down a furor over past statements in which he discussed the rationing of health care and expressed affection for the British health care system. And he is finding his ability to do his job clouded by the circumstances of his appointment, with many Republicans in open revolt over President Obama’s decision to place him in the post without a Senate confirmation vote. Dr. Berwick never had a confirmation hearing and has not responded publicly to critics. The White House declined to make him available for an interview.” (Has the Gray Lady discovered that this is the least-transparent administration in history?)

Obama is wrecking private-sector confidence, says Mort Zuckerman: “The growing tension between the Obama administration and business is a cause for national concern. The president has lost the confidence of employers, whose worries over taxes and the increased costs of new regulation are holding back investment and growth. The government must appreciate that confidence is an imperative if business is to invest, take risks and put the millions of unemployed back to productive work.”

Obama’s poll numbers continue to dive: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-five percent (45%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20.” His RealClearPolitics disapproval rating average is at a new high.

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sends a shot over the bow of a fellow commissioner and the mainstream media, which prefer to misrepresent or ignore the uncontroverted evidence in the New Black Panther Party scandal.

Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, House Democrats are distancing themselves from Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday noted that it was Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), not him, who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of corruption in Washington.”

The Charlie Rangel settlement talks run aground. It seems there was a sleazy backroom meeting to try to settle Rangel’s sleazy dealings: “Rep. Charlie Rangel’s chances of cutting an ethics deal are in jeopardy over allegations that he met privately with Ethics Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) Monday night without any Republican members of the bipartisan panel present. Sources close to Rangel deny that there was an attempt to cut a backroom deal with Lofgren, but Rangel’s attorneys met with Democratic ethics committee staff Monday, according to people close to the investigation.”

The Senate fails to submarine the First Amendment: “The Senate failed to advance a campaign finance bill Tuesday, dealing a blow to Democrats who were trying to pass a key piece of their agenda before the August recess. … The three Republican centrists considered most likely to support the bill, Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.), all voted against it … despite heavy lobbying from liberal groups such as MoveOn.org. … Democrats were also missing the vote of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who was absent from the Senate on Tuesday because he was attending a funeral.”

The wave is about to hit the Democrats. The latest poll from Reuters-Ipsos: “Only 34 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the economy and jobs compared to 46 percent who deemed it unsatisfactory. This is a sharp decline from early 2009 shortly after he took office when over a half of those surveyed approved of Obama’s handling of the worst financial crisis in decades. … Republicans hold a 46-44 percent lead over Democrats when participants were asked which party they planned to support in November. And 72 percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote on November 2, compared to 49 percent of Democrats.”

It’s not been smooth sailing for Donald Berwick: “Dr. Berwick is still struggling to tamp down a furor over past statements in which he discussed the rationing of health care and expressed affection for the British health care system. And he is finding his ability to do his job clouded by the circumstances of his appointment, with many Republicans in open revolt over President Obama’s decision to place him in the post without a Senate confirmation vote. Dr. Berwick never had a confirmation hearing and has not responded publicly to critics. The White House declined to make him available for an interview.” (Has the Gray Lady discovered that this is the least-transparent administration in history?)

Obama is wrecking private-sector confidence, says Mort Zuckerman: “The growing tension between the Obama administration and business is a cause for national concern. The president has lost the confidence of employers, whose worries over taxes and the increased costs of new regulation are holding back investment and growth. The government must appreciate that confidence is an imperative if business is to invest, take risks and put the millions of unemployed back to productive work.”

Obama’s poll numbers continue to dive: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-five percent (45%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20.” His RealClearPolitics disapproval rating average is at a new high.

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sends a shot over the bow of a fellow commissioner and the mainstream media, which prefer to misrepresent or ignore the uncontroverted evidence in the New Black Panther Party scandal.

Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, House Democrats are distancing themselves from Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday noted that it was Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), not him, who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of corruption in Washington.”

The Charlie Rangel settlement talks run aground. It seems there was a sleazy backroom meeting to try to settle Rangel’s sleazy dealings: “Rep. Charlie Rangel’s chances of cutting an ethics deal are in jeopardy over allegations that he met privately with Ethics Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) Monday night without any Republican members of the bipartisan panel present. Sources close to Rangel deny that there was an attempt to cut a backroom deal with Lofgren, but Rangel’s attorneys met with Democratic ethics committee staff Monday, according to people close to the investigation.”

The Senate fails to submarine the First Amendment: “The Senate failed to advance a campaign finance bill Tuesday, dealing a blow to Democrats who were trying to pass a key piece of their agenda before the August recess. … The three Republican centrists considered most likely to support the bill, Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.), all voted against it … despite heavy lobbying from liberal groups such as MoveOn.org. … Democrats were also missing the vote of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who was absent from the Senate on Tuesday because he was attending a funeral.”

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Are Democrats Dumping the Not-Bush National Security Policy?

In Washington D.C. parlance, “That’s not a priority” means “You think we’re dumb enough to push that?” Well, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is saying as much about what was a top Obama priority – closing Guantanamo:

In response to a question from a reporter about where shutting down Gitmo stands, Hoyer said, “I think that’s not an item, as you point out, of real current discussion. There’s some very big issues confronting us — dealing with growing the economy and Iraq and Afghanistan.” Hoyer added, “I think you’re not going to see it discussed very broadly in the near term.”

This is one more sign, although less dramatic than the Pelosi-Gibbs food fight, that congressional Democrats have had enough, thank you, of carrying Obama’s political water at their own expense. The practical problems and national security issues associated with closing Gitmo have never been resolved, but in the end it’s politics — the complete unacceptability of the undertaking — that have killed Obama’s PR gambit.

Democrats should extract from this episode the right lesson: much of Obama’s national security policy is dangerous to the country and to their political future. There is no need to support a civilian trial for KSM or senseless cuts in the Defense Department budget or the START treaty. In pursuing enlightened self-interest, to borrow a phrase, Democrats may be inching toward a bipartisan, sensible national security policy.

In Washington D.C. parlance, “That’s not a priority” means “You think we’re dumb enough to push that?” Well, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is saying as much about what was a top Obama priority – closing Guantanamo:

In response to a question from a reporter about where shutting down Gitmo stands, Hoyer said, “I think that’s not an item, as you point out, of real current discussion. There’s some very big issues confronting us — dealing with growing the economy and Iraq and Afghanistan.” Hoyer added, “I think you’re not going to see it discussed very broadly in the near term.”

This is one more sign, although less dramatic than the Pelosi-Gibbs food fight, that congressional Democrats have had enough, thank you, of carrying Obama’s political water at their own expense. The practical problems and national security issues associated with closing Gitmo have never been resolved, but in the end it’s politics — the complete unacceptability of the undertaking — that have killed Obama’s PR gambit.

Democrats should extract from this episode the right lesson: much of Obama’s national security policy is dangerous to the country and to their political future. There is no need to support a civilian trial for KSM or senseless cuts in the Defense Department budget or the START treaty. In pursuing enlightened self-interest, to borrow a phrase, Democrats may be inching toward a bipartisan, sensible national security policy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Cleaning up Undersecretary Michele Flournoy’s mess (“Military force is an option of last resort. It’s off the table for now”), a Pentagon spokesman: “We are not taking any options off the table as we pursue the pressure and engagement tracks. … The president always has at his disposal a full array of options, including use of the military … It is clearly not our preferred course of action but it has never been, nor is it now, off the table.” Never underestimate how incompetent this crew is.

Is the Goldman Sachs case a big mess? “The testimony of a former Paulson & Co official could undercut the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs, CNBC has learned. The former Paulson lieutenant, Paolo Pellegrini, testified that he told ACA Management, the main investor in a Goldman mortgage-securities transaction, that Paulson intended to bet against—or short—the portfolio of mortgages ACA was assembling. If true, the testimony would contradict the SEC’s claim that ACA did not know Paulson was hoping the mortgage securities would fail and weaken charges that Goldman misled investors by not informing ACA of Paulson’s position.”

Did the White House mess with the SEC? “President Barack Obama is brushing off suggestions that the White House influenced the timing of fraud charges against Goldman Sachs. In an interview set to air Wednesday on CNBC, Obama said the White House had nothing to do with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to file fraud charges Friday against Goldman Sachs.” It was just a grand coincidence, I suppose.

Too messy for Blanche Lincoln: “Sen. Blanche Lincoln, under fire for keeping a $4,500 contribution from Goldman Sachs’s political action committee, has canceled a fundraising lunch with Goldman executives that was scheduled for Monday and would have netted many times that amount for the Arkansas Senator’s reelection campaign.”

Lots of people think the country is a mess: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of all voters now say the nation is heading down the wrong track, down slightly from last week but just one point above the lowest level of pessimism measured since last October.”

Robert Gates is in charge of keeping the messes to a minimum: “That new administration’s rapidly getting old, but Gates continues to serve, struggling to limit the damage done to our national defense. Recently, he fought to keep our new nuclear-giveaway treaty with Russia within tolerable bounds. That treaty’s bad — but without Gates it would have been worse. Now we know that he was also pushing on Iran. Last week, somebody (not Gates) leaked a January memo the SecDef sent to the White House. The message? We need to prepare for all contingencies regarding Iran. Now.”

The ongoing Massa ethics mess: “The top members on the House ethics committee interviewed Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday afternoon – just hours after the ethics panel created a special subcommittee to investigate sexual harassment allegations surrounding former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.).”

That mess widens: “The FBI is investigating the case of former Rep. Eric Massa, accused by his onetime male staff members of sexual harassment.”

Cleaning up Undersecretary Michele Flournoy’s mess (“Military force is an option of last resort. It’s off the table for now”), a Pentagon spokesman: “We are not taking any options off the table as we pursue the pressure and engagement tracks. … The president always has at his disposal a full array of options, including use of the military … It is clearly not our preferred course of action but it has never been, nor is it now, off the table.” Never underestimate how incompetent this crew is.

Is the Goldman Sachs case a big mess? “The testimony of a former Paulson & Co official could undercut the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs, CNBC has learned. The former Paulson lieutenant, Paolo Pellegrini, testified that he told ACA Management, the main investor in a Goldman mortgage-securities transaction, that Paulson intended to bet against—or short—the portfolio of mortgages ACA was assembling. If true, the testimony would contradict the SEC’s claim that ACA did not know Paulson was hoping the mortgage securities would fail and weaken charges that Goldman misled investors by not informing ACA of Paulson’s position.”

Did the White House mess with the SEC? “President Barack Obama is brushing off suggestions that the White House influenced the timing of fraud charges against Goldman Sachs. In an interview set to air Wednesday on CNBC, Obama said the White House had nothing to do with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to file fraud charges Friday against Goldman Sachs.” It was just a grand coincidence, I suppose.

Too messy for Blanche Lincoln: “Sen. Blanche Lincoln, under fire for keeping a $4,500 contribution from Goldman Sachs’s political action committee, has canceled a fundraising lunch with Goldman executives that was scheduled for Monday and would have netted many times that amount for the Arkansas Senator’s reelection campaign.”

Lots of people think the country is a mess: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of all voters now say the nation is heading down the wrong track, down slightly from last week but just one point above the lowest level of pessimism measured since last October.”

Robert Gates is in charge of keeping the messes to a minimum: “That new administration’s rapidly getting old, but Gates continues to serve, struggling to limit the damage done to our national defense. Recently, he fought to keep our new nuclear-giveaway treaty with Russia within tolerable bounds. That treaty’s bad — but without Gates it would have been worse. Now we know that he was also pushing on Iran. Last week, somebody (not Gates) leaked a January memo the SecDef sent to the White House. The message? We need to prepare for all contingencies regarding Iran. Now.”

The ongoing Massa ethics mess: “The top members on the House ethics committee interviewed Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday afternoon – just hours after the ethics panel created a special subcommittee to investigate sexual harassment allegations surrounding former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.).”

That mess widens: “The FBI is investigating the case of former Rep. Eric Massa, accused by his onetime male staff members of sexual harassment.”

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Whittling Away at Bipartisan Support of Israel

Jeff Jacoby, the Boston Globe‘s excellent columnist, puts his finger on a disturbing trend: the increasing partisan split over Israel. This split was partially masked by the fact that a bipartisan group of 333 House members signed a letter in support of Israel — in effect, a rebuke to President Obama — organized by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Minority Whip Eric Cantor. But, as Jeff notes, “only seven Republicans… declined to sign the letter, compared with 91 Democrats — more than a third of the entire Democratic caucus.” Similarly, while the Gallup poll shows that 67 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Israel and only 15 percent support the Palestinians, there is a partisan split hidden in the numbers:

While support for Israel vs. the Palestinians has climbed to a stratospheric 85 percent among Republicans, the comparable figure for Democrats is an anemic 48 percent. (It was 60 percent for independents.)

These figures are hardly cause for panic. Support for Israel remains deep and strong in American politics, but you can see that the hard Left’s turn against Israel, which has been getting more pronounced for decades, is starting to affect the Democratic mainstream. My concern is that President Obama’s sharp rebukes of Prime Minister Netanyahu will further drive down support in his party for Israel — especially if the president decides to mount a concerted public campaign painting Israel as the culprit in the peace talks. For the time being, pro-Israel sentiment on Capitol Hill will somewhat rein in the president’s ability to punish Israel (although he would have a free hand not to veto the usual anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations Security Council). But for how much longer can Israel count on the support of Democratic and Republican administrations alike? I don’t know, and that worries me — as it should worry all supporters of Israel.

Jeff Jacoby, the Boston Globe‘s excellent columnist, puts his finger on a disturbing trend: the increasing partisan split over Israel. This split was partially masked by the fact that a bipartisan group of 333 House members signed a letter in support of Israel — in effect, a rebuke to President Obama — organized by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Minority Whip Eric Cantor. But, as Jeff notes, “only seven Republicans… declined to sign the letter, compared with 91 Democrats — more than a third of the entire Democratic caucus.” Similarly, while the Gallup poll shows that 67 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Israel and only 15 percent support the Palestinians, there is a partisan split hidden in the numbers:

While support for Israel vs. the Palestinians has climbed to a stratospheric 85 percent among Republicans, the comparable figure for Democrats is an anemic 48 percent. (It was 60 percent for independents.)

These figures are hardly cause for panic. Support for Israel remains deep and strong in American politics, but you can see that the hard Left’s turn against Israel, which has been getting more pronounced for decades, is starting to affect the Democratic mainstream. My concern is that President Obama’s sharp rebukes of Prime Minister Netanyahu will further drive down support in his party for Israel — especially if the president decides to mount a concerted public campaign painting Israel as the culprit in the peace talks. For the time being, pro-Israel sentiment on Capitol Hill will somewhat rein in the president’s ability to punish Israel (although he would have a free hand not to veto the usual anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations Security Council). But for how much longer can Israel count on the support of Democratic and Republican administrations alike? I don’t know, and that worries me — as it should worry all supporters of Israel.

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You Want Moral Clarity?

Via our friends at the Weekly Standard comes a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who argues against the notion that the housing announcement (“an administrative error made by a low-level bureaucrat, and for which Prime Minister Netanyahu has now apologized no less than four times”) was some great insult or affront to Obama. The rabbi recounts:

Why was Assad’s meeting with Ahmadinejad the day after the US announced that we were sending an ambassador to Syria ignored by the State Department and not deemed to be an “insult and affront” to the United States?

Why is Palestinian Authority incitement of rioters in Jerusalem and elsewhere not condemned by this administration and not an “insult and affront” to the United States and the Vice President?

Why is the naming of the main public square in Ramallah by Abbas in honor of Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, murderer of 38 Israelis – 13 of them little kids not an impediment to the peace process and not an insult and affront to the US and Israel????

Not to mention – why does this administration insist on viewing construction in a vacant piece of land, adjacent to existing housing seen as thwarting the two state solution?

The answer is that Obama seeks to ingratiate himself with the thug-ocracies and put the screws on Israel. The answer is that Obama views Israeli actions not in the best possible light, as one would expect a valued friend to do, but in the worst possible light. And the answer is that neither Obama nor his administration can think through the implications of their actions (Will acquiescence work with Syria? Will bullying win over the Israelis?) or appreciate the moral distinction between a democratic friend and a rogue state. They are both morally obtuse and politically (domestically and internationally) tone-deaf.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it is that a number of groups and individuals have been compelled to restate the case for the U.S.-Israel relationship, review the past history of Palestinian rejectionism, and clarify some basic facts (for example, what’s a “settlement?”). It’s a beneficial development to the extent that the mainstream media have been obliged to recount some of these arguments. And to the extent that this controversy has made it crystal clear to the Obami how little stomach there is in America for Israel-bashing, this is helpful. But these are small consolations indeed. All in all, we’d prefer an enthusiastically pro-Israel president whose moral instincts are as sharp as Rabbi Weinblatt’s. Well, that’s perhaps too much to ask for.

Via our friends at the Weekly Standard comes a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who argues against the notion that the housing announcement (“an administrative error made by a low-level bureaucrat, and for which Prime Minister Netanyahu has now apologized no less than four times”) was some great insult or affront to Obama. The rabbi recounts:

Why was Assad’s meeting with Ahmadinejad the day after the US announced that we were sending an ambassador to Syria ignored by the State Department and not deemed to be an “insult and affront” to the United States?

Why is Palestinian Authority incitement of rioters in Jerusalem and elsewhere not condemned by this administration and not an “insult and affront” to the United States and the Vice President?

Why is the naming of the main public square in Ramallah by Abbas in honor of Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, murderer of 38 Israelis – 13 of them little kids not an impediment to the peace process and not an insult and affront to the US and Israel????

Not to mention – why does this administration insist on viewing construction in a vacant piece of land, adjacent to existing housing seen as thwarting the two state solution?

The answer is that Obama seeks to ingratiate himself with the thug-ocracies and put the screws on Israel. The answer is that Obama views Israeli actions not in the best possible light, as one would expect a valued friend to do, but in the worst possible light. And the answer is that neither Obama nor his administration can think through the implications of their actions (Will acquiescence work with Syria? Will bullying win over the Israelis?) or appreciate the moral distinction between a democratic friend and a rogue state. They are both morally obtuse and politically (domestically and internationally) tone-deaf.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it is that a number of groups and individuals have been compelled to restate the case for the U.S.-Israel relationship, review the past history of Palestinian rejectionism, and clarify some basic facts (for example, what’s a “settlement?”). It’s a beneficial development to the extent that the mainstream media have been obliged to recount some of these arguments. And to the extent that this controversy has made it crystal clear to the Obami how little stomach there is in America for Israel-bashing, this is helpful. But these are small consolations indeed. All in all, we’d prefer an enthusiastically pro-Israel president whose moral instincts are as sharp as Rabbi Weinblatt’s. Well, that’s perhaps too much to ask for.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A pattern? “Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t tell the Senate Judiciary Committee about seven Supreme Court amicus briefs he prepared or supported, his office acknowledged in a letter Friday, including two urging the court to reject the Bush administration’s attempt to try Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant.”
Jamie Fly is worried that the Obama administration won’t stick it out until the job is done in Iraq: “This is a troubling sign that ‘one of the great achievements of this administration’ might be squandered if the going gets tough in Iraq. This seems shortsighted given the thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars the United States has sacrificed in setting Iraq on the path to a secure democratic future. Even setting aside the scale of the U.S. commitment thus far, the United States has a strategic interest in ensuring Iraq’s success and in continuing to remain involved in Iraq’s security.”

The Beagle Blogger is an ignoramus when it comes to the Middle East, according to blogmate Jeffrey Goldberg: “Andrew Sullivan should be thankful that The Atlantic’s fact-checking department has no purview over the magazine’s website. … Andrew is free to publish malicious nonsense, such as the series of maps he published yesterday, maps which purport to show how Jews stole Palestinian land. Andrew does not tell us the source of these maps (in a magazine with standards, the source would be identified), but they were drawn to cast Jews in the most terrible light possible. … ‘Andrew has so many opinions to ventilate, and so little time to think about them’ that the publication of this absurd map on his blog could simply have been a mistake.”

A bad week for Tony Rezko’s former banker: “Democrat candidate Alexi Giannoulias faced a new political hassle in his bid for President Obama’s former Senate seat after a major contributor was arrested Thursday on charges of defrauding banks by writing bad checks.”

A sign of the Red wave from the Democratic Public Policy Polling: “Neither of the top candidates for Governor of Florida is particularly well known or liked but with the national political winds blowing in a Republican direction Bill McCollum has the solid early lead. McCollum’s currently at 44% to 31% for Alex Sink. He leads her 38-25 with independent voters and is winning 20% of the Democratic vote while holding Sink to just 11% of the Republican vote.”

Rep. Bart Stupak on the House leadership’s determination to protect abortion subsidies in ObamaCare: “The House Democratic leaders think they have the votes to pass the Senate’s health-care bill without us. At this point, there is no doubt that they’ve been able to peel off one or two of my twelve. And even if they don’t have the votes, it’s been made clear to us that they won’t insert our language on the abortion issue.”

They better have a bunch of votes in reserve: “House Democrats are ready to ‘forge ahead’ on healthcare without a deal on abortion, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday. Hoyer said hopes for a deal have all but evaporated with a dozen Democrats who want tougher restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion services than are included in the Senate’s healthcare bill.”

Hillary Clinton joins the Israel-bashing extravaganza — because really, U.S.-Israeli relations aren’t strained enough.

A pattern? “Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t tell the Senate Judiciary Committee about seven Supreme Court amicus briefs he prepared or supported, his office acknowledged in a letter Friday, including two urging the court to reject the Bush administration’s attempt to try Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant.”
Jamie Fly is worried that the Obama administration won’t stick it out until the job is done in Iraq: “This is a troubling sign that ‘one of the great achievements of this administration’ might be squandered if the going gets tough in Iraq. This seems shortsighted given the thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars the United States has sacrificed in setting Iraq on the path to a secure democratic future. Even setting aside the scale of the U.S. commitment thus far, the United States has a strategic interest in ensuring Iraq’s success and in continuing to remain involved in Iraq’s security.”

The Beagle Blogger is an ignoramus when it comes to the Middle East, according to blogmate Jeffrey Goldberg: “Andrew Sullivan should be thankful that The Atlantic’s fact-checking department has no purview over the magazine’s website. … Andrew is free to publish malicious nonsense, such as the series of maps he published yesterday, maps which purport to show how Jews stole Palestinian land. Andrew does not tell us the source of these maps (in a magazine with standards, the source would be identified), but they were drawn to cast Jews in the most terrible light possible. … ‘Andrew has so many opinions to ventilate, and so little time to think about them’ that the publication of this absurd map on his blog could simply have been a mistake.”

A bad week for Tony Rezko’s former banker: “Democrat candidate Alexi Giannoulias faced a new political hassle in his bid for President Obama’s former Senate seat after a major contributor was arrested Thursday on charges of defrauding banks by writing bad checks.”

A sign of the Red wave from the Democratic Public Policy Polling: “Neither of the top candidates for Governor of Florida is particularly well known or liked but with the national political winds blowing in a Republican direction Bill McCollum has the solid early lead. McCollum’s currently at 44% to 31% for Alex Sink. He leads her 38-25 with independent voters and is winning 20% of the Democratic vote while holding Sink to just 11% of the Republican vote.”

Rep. Bart Stupak on the House leadership’s determination to protect abortion subsidies in ObamaCare: “The House Democratic leaders think they have the votes to pass the Senate’s health-care bill without us. At this point, there is no doubt that they’ve been able to peel off one or two of my twelve. And even if they don’t have the votes, it’s been made clear to us that they won’t insert our language on the abortion issue.”

They better have a bunch of votes in reserve: “House Democrats are ready to ‘forge ahead’ on healthcare without a deal on abortion, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday. Hoyer said hopes for a deal have all but evaporated with a dozen Democrats who want tougher restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion services than are included in the Senate’s healthcare bill.”

Hillary Clinton joins the Israel-bashing extravaganza — because really, U.S.-Israeli relations aren’t strained enough.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jay Cost thinks moderate Democrats need to take their party back from Obama: “If moderate House Democrats don’t stand up to him now, he’ll do it on cap-and-trade, immigration reform, and who knows what else. Sooner or later, their constituents will elect representatives who will stand up to the President. And those new representatives will probably be Republicans.”

Voters don’t think much of ObamaCare: “Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters say the health care reform plan now working its way through Congress will hurt the U.S. economy. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 25% think the plan will help the economy. But only seven percent (7%) say it will have no impact. Twelve percent (12%) aren’t sure. Two-out-of-three voters (66%) also believe the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats is likely to increase the federal deficit.”

Democrats have figured out that Nancy Pelosi is leading them off a political cliff. It’s not that Democrats don’t respect Pelosi. It’s just “every man for himself,” you see.

Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer tells Robert Gibbs (and the president) to forget about that March 18 deadline. You getting the sense that no one’s really in charge anymore?

CONTENTIONS’ Pete Wehner shares my view on David Axelrod’s kvetching: “Truth be told, it is an honor to play a role in shaping American politics, especially through governing, and especially through service in the White House. If out of disgust or disillusionment people want to return to Chicago or wherever else they came from, then they should do so, the sooner the better. What they shouldn’t do is to pretend to be repelled by what they have been captivated by.”

If Republicans are smart, they’ll stay out of this one: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says Rep. Eric Massa’s charge that he was pushed out of the House because of his opposition to the Democrats’ health care bill is ‘absurd’ and ‘absolutely untrue.’”

Ben Smith on Tom Campbell’s getting tangled up in his Sami Al-Arian misstatements: “When you go into Obama-campaign style ‘Fight the Smears’  mode, it’s generally a pretty good idea to be sure the charges against you are, in fact, not provably true.”

Jay Cost thinks moderate Democrats need to take their party back from Obama: “If moderate House Democrats don’t stand up to him now, he’ll do it on cap-and-trade, immigration reform, and who knows what else. Sooner or later, their constituents will elect representatives who will stand up to the President. And those new representatives will probably be Republicans.”

Voters don’t think much of ObamaCare: “Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters say the health care reform plan now working its way through Congress will hurt the U.S. economy. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 25% think the plan will help the economy. But only seven percent (7%) say it will have no impact. Twelve percent (12%) aren’t sure. Two-out-of-three voters (66%) also believe the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats is likely to increase the federal deficit.”

Democrats have figured out that Nancy Pelosi is leading them off a political cliff. It’s not that Democrats don’t respect Pelosi. It’s just “every man for himself,” you see.

Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer tells Robert Gibbs (and the president) to forget about that March 18 deadline. You getting the sense that no one’s really in charge anymore?

CONTENTIONS’ Pete Wehner shares my view on David Axelrod’s kvetching: “Truth be told, it is an honor to play a role in shaping American politics, especially through governing, and especially through service in the White House. If out of disgust or disillusionment people want to return to Chicago or wherever else they came from, then they should do so, the sooner the better. What they shouldn’t do is to pretend to be repelled by what they have been captivated by.”

If Republicans are smart, they’ll stay out of this one: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says Rep. Eric Massa’s charge that he was pushed out of the House because of his opposition to the Democrats’ health care bill is ‘absurd’ and ‘absolutely untrue.’”

Ben Smith on Tom Campbell’s getting tangled up in his Sami Al-Arian misstatements: “When you go into Obama-campaign style ‘Fight the Smears’  mode, it’s generally a pretty good idea to be sure the charges against you are, in fact, not provably true.”

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No Chaos Here, Just Move Along

This headline probably isn’t what the White House and congressional Democrats want to see: “Pelosi Hits Rough Patch, Denies ‘Chaos.’” Well, yes, if you have to deny it, then that’s probably a sign things are not well in paradise. The gist of the report is that Nancy Pelosi (not unlike the White House) is out of touch and in far-Left field:

Last week’s threatened Democratic defections in support of a planned GOP resolution concerning New York Rep. Charles Rangel’s ethical problems, a mini-insurrection over who should take over Rangel’s Ways and Means Committee gavel, and Pelosi’s weirdly detached admission to being left out of the loop about harassment charges against Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., left even some House Democrats wincing.

All of this did little to soothe the nerves of Caucus members already jittery over predictions of a Democratic free-fall in the upcoming midterm elections. It’s a fear described by one senior House Democrat as “palpable and pervasive.”

A bad week? Pelosi acknowledged as much herself at her weekly briefing Thursday when asked if she felt like she was now leading “a party in crisis.”
“Some of the issues that you reference in terms of the issues that transpired in the last few days, they are behind us,” she said.

But the week’s events represented a highly visible — if not embarrassing — bit of unraveling of the cohesion within the Democratic Caucus that Pelosi has, for the most part, tightly controlled since taking the speaker’s gavel in 2007.

The problem seems to be that many moderate Democrats fear she is in the grip of the far Left in her caucus:

“Across the Caucus, there is growing dissatisfaction and resentment — not so much directed at Pelosi — but with her cadre of California liberals seen as continually driving her House agenda, regardless of the hits the rest of us will have to take,” said one House Democrat. … “She seems to only be listening to this small cadre, and the rank and file are expected to simply fall in line,” complained a senior Democrat; he said this is contributing to Caucus animosity over the prospect of being asked once again to walk the plank on a healthcare bill, after already passing a bill last year, on top of climate legislation establishing a cap-and-trade emissions program.

This is nothing new. What is new is that those members who aren’t in safe seats (a growing group thanks to the Obami) now see their political future imperiled by Pelosi’s extremism. And they’ve also come to acknowledge that she’s less than competent in both representing the House Democrats to the public and draining that swamp she promised to take care of when she assumed the speakership. The result is that her credibility erodes, the arm-twisting is less effective, and it’s every member for himself. That’s probably wise for the endangered members who can get themselves better aligned with their constituents. It’s not so good, however, for ObamaCare’s prospects. Meanwhile, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer must be licking his chops. After November, his colleagues would be wise to look for new leadership.

This headline probably isn’t what the White House and congressional Democrats want to see: “Pelosi Hits Rough Patch, Denies ‘Chaos.’” Well, yes, if you have to deny it, then that’s probably a sign things are not well in paradise. The gist of the report is that Nancy Pelosi (not unlike the White House) is out of touch and in far-Left field:

Last week’s threatened Democratic defections in support of a planned GOP resolution concerning New York Rep. Charles Rangel’s ethical problems, a mini-insurrection over who should take over Rangel’s Ways and Means Committee gavel, and Pelosi’s weirdly detached admission to being left out of the loop about harassment charges against Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., left even some House Democrats wincing.

All of this did little to soothe the nerves of Caucus members already jittery over predictions of a Democratic free-fall in the upcoming midterm elections. It’s a fear described by one senior House Democrat as “palpable and pervasive.”

A bad week? Pelosi acknowledged as much herself at her weekly briefing Thursday when asked if she felt like she was now leading “a party in crisis.”
“Some of the issues that you reference in terms of the issues that transpired in the last few days, they are behind us,” she said.

But the week’s events represented a highly visible — if not embarrassing — bit of unraveling of the cohesion within the Democratic Caucus that Pelosi has, for the most part, tightly controlled since taking the speaker’s gavel in 2007.

The problem seems to be that many moderate Democrats fear she is in the grip of the far Left in her caucus:

“Across the Caucus, there is growing dissatisfaction and resentment — not so much directed at Pelosi — but with her cadre of California liberals seen as continually driving her House agenda, regardless of the hits the rest of us will have to take,” said one House Democrat. … “She seems to only be listening to this small cadre, and the rank and file are expected to simply fall in line,” complained a senior Democrat; he said this is contributing to Caucus animosity over the prospect of being asked once again to walk the plank on a healthcare bill, after already passing a bill last year, on top of climate legislation establishing a cap-and-trade emissions program.

This is nothing new. What is new is that those members who aren’t in safe seats (a growing group thanks to the Obami) now see their political future imperiled by Pelosi’s extremism. And they’ve also come to acknowledge that she’s less than competent in both representing the House Democrats to the public and draining that swamp she promised to take care of when she assumed the speakership. The result is that her credibility erodes, the arm-twisting is less effective, and it’s every member for himself. That’s probably wise for the endangered members who can get themselves better aligned with their constituents. It’s not so good, however, for ObamaCare’s prospects. Meanwhile, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer must be licking his chops. After November, his colleagues would be wise to look for new leadership.

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Stupak Is the Last Man Standing?

Eventually, Nancy Pelosi’s reality-proof rhetoric reaches its limits. She’s denied that ObamaCare, in its Senate and latest White House versions, alters the status quo on abortion funding. But anyone who really cares enough about the issue knows this isn’t so. And thus Pelosi, obviously short of her majority to pass ObamaCare, must negotiate with Rep. Bart Stupak and the pro-life Democrats. Politico reports:

Despite the speaker’s repeated denials, it looks like the final act in the year-long health care fight could once again come down to abortion – so much so that Pelosi invited a group of women’s rights groups to the Capitol on Thursday, along with a number of her closest allies, for a preliminary discussion to strategize about the way ahead…

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) met with Stupak on Thursday, starting a conversation that could shape the path of reform. The former state trooper authored an amendment to the House bill that bars anyone receiving subsidies through the new insurance exchange from purchasing coverage for elective abortions. Without a final package, it’s too early to tell where the votes are, but Hoyer seemed to acknowledge that Stupak, true to his threat, has the votes to derail the broader bill.

But here’s the hitch:

Changing the Senate language at this point could prove troublesome for leaders, even if they are able to broker a compromise. The abortion section of the bill likely won’t qualify under the rules for reconciliation — since it doesn’t have a direct dollar impact on overall cost — so Democrats would either need to muster 60 votes in the Senate to override the parliamentarian or draft a third bill with fixes in it that would also need 60 votes for passage. Both would require Republican support, making each a very heavy lift for party leaders, even if the Catholic Church lends a hand.

So what’s the way out? There may not be one. And frankly, Stupak would be doing his fellow Democrats, not just the pro-life contingent, a huge favor. If he holds firm, he will spare many a moderate Democrat from walking the plank and suffering the wrath of the voters. For if Pelosi is a dozen votes short, as we surmise, do we really think there will be a humiliating floor vote? Of course not. She will be forced to pack it in, regroup, and perhaps finally arrive at a bill that does not send the electorate shrieking for the scalps of her members. Or if she simply did nothing more on health care and turned to other issues, that, too, might spare a handful or two of her members. But then again, it seems she and Obama do not care so much about saving her troops. For them, Stupak may be the last, best hope.

Eventually, Nancy Pelosi’s reality-proof rhetoric reaches its limits. She’s denied that ObamaCare, in its Senate and latest White House versions, alters the status quo on abortion funding. But anyone who really cares enough about the issue knows this isn’t so. And thus Pelosi, obviously short of her majority to pass ObamaCare, must negotiate with Rep. Bart Stupak and the pro-life Democrats. Politico reports:

Despite the speaker’s repeated denials, it looks like the final act in the year-long health care fight could once again come down to abortion – so much so that Pelosi invited a group of women’s rights groups to the Capitol on Thursday, along with a number of her closest allies, for a preliminary discussion to strategize about the way ahead…

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) met with Stupak on Thursday, starting a conversation that could shape the path of reform. The former state trooper authored an amendment to the House bill that bars anyone receiving subsidies through the new insurance exchange from purchasing coverage for elective abortions. Without a final package, it’s too early to tell where the votes are, but Hoyer seemed to acknowledge that Stupak, true to his threat, has the votes to derail the broader bill.

But here’s the hitch:

Changing the Senate language at this point could prove troublesome for leaders, even if they are able to broker a compromise. The abortion section of the bill likely won’t qualify under the rules for reconciliation — since it doesn’t have a direct dollar impact on overall cost — so Democrats would either need to muster 60 votes in the Senate to override the parliamentarian or draft a third bill with fixes in it that would also need 60 votes for passage. Both would require Republican support, making each a very heavy lift for party leaders, even if the Catholic Church lends a hand.

So what’s the way out? There may not be one. And frankly, Stupak would be doing his fellow Democrats, not just the pro-life contingent, a huge favor. If he holds firm, he will spare many a moderate Democrat from walking the plank and suffering the wrath of the voters. For if Pelosi is a dozen votes short, as we surmise, do we really think there will be a humiliating floor vote? Of course not. She will be forced to pack it in, regroup, and perhaps finally arrive at a bill that does not send the electorate shrieking for the scalps of her members. Or if she simply did nothing more on health care and turned to other issues, that, too, might spare a handful or two of her members. But then again, it seems she and Obama do not care so much about saving her troops. For them, Stupak may be the last, best hope.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A rapper and his entourage in the Situation Room? “Were Jay & Bey & Co. issued the relevant security clearances? Do we even care anymore?” Well, in any case, “Is an amazingly successful businessman-slash-rapper who rose from the mean streets of Brooklyn to world-wide fame and fortune less qualified to deal with the vicissitudes, the obstacles, the demands, the crises of foreign policy and national security than Mr. Obama’s little coterie of Chicago-pol friends who’ve been running it so surpassingly excellently thus far?”

Another retirement, another Democratic seat becomes a toss-up. According to the Cook Political Report: “[Rep. Bill] Delahunt’s decision to leave doesn’t make this district a lost cause for Democrats by any means, but credible Republicans including former state Treasurer Joe Malone and state Rep. Jeffrey Perry are likely to run, and no Democrat appears capable of clearing a primary field. In a normal year, Democrats would enjoy a considerable advantage in an open seat race in MA-10. But this year, Democrats’ initial advantage isn’t great enough to warrant rating this race more favorably than a Toss Up.”

This might explain why all those voters are so angry: “President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday, including more than $2 trillion that Obama proposes to devote to extending a variety of tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration. The 10-year outlook by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama’s policies would add $8.5 trillion to the debt by 2020. While the two agencies are in relative agreement about the short-term budget picture, with both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year and $1.3 trillion in 2011, the CBO is less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits will grow rapidly after 2015.”

And why they don’t like ObamaCare, as James Capretta explains: “The president started off last year by saying he wanted to ‘bend the cost-curve’ even as he broadened coverage. But after a year of partisan political and legislative maneuvering, all that’s left is a massive entitlement expansion. The new costs would get piled on top of the unreformed and unaffordable entitlements already on the books. It’s a budgetary disaster in the making.”

How many times has “shpilkes” been used in a mainstream-media headline? (How many ABC.com readers even know what it means?)

Even before Harry Reid’s latest boneheaded remark: “Two of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Republican challengers have again crossed the 50% threshold and now hold double-digit leads in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. One big hurdle for the incumbent is that most Nevada voters are strongly opposed to the health care legislation championed by Reid and President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Sue Lowden, ex-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, with a 51% to 38% lead on Reid. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, but just three percent (3%) are undecided.”

From the “2006 All Over Again” file: “Eager to avoid a repeat of the Mark Foley scandal, House Democratic leaders moved quickly last month when a staffer for Rep. Eric Massa complained that he’d made advances to a junior male aide. But rumors about Massa had been circulating for months in both Democratic and Republican circles on Capitol Hill, and GOP operatives even considered digging into them on their own. However, sources say there wasn’t evidence of any wrongdoing until Massa’s then-legislative director contacted the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in early February. … But a Massa aide told POLITICO that Massa — who is married and has children — has been engaged in inappropriate behavior ‘for eight months.’”

And Massa will resign Monday.

John McCain is trying to get the Gang of 14 back to beat reconciliation. No takers. And reconciliation is sort of irrelevant. But other than that, a great idea.

A rapper and his entourage in the Situation Room? “Were Jay & Bey & Co. issued the relevant security clearances? Do we even care anymore?” Well, in any case, “Is an amazingly successful businessman-slash-rapper who rose from the mean streets of Brooklyn to world-wide fame and fortune less qualified to deal with the vicissitudes, the obstacles, the demands, the crises of foreign policy and national security than Mr. Obama’s little coterie of Chicago-pol friends who’ve been running it so surpassingly excellently thus far?”

Another retirement, another Democratic seat becomes a toss-up. According to the Cook Political Report: “[Rep. Bill] Delahunt’s decision to leave doesn’t make this district a lost cause for Democrats by any means, but credible Republicans including former state Treasurer Joe Malone and state Rep. Jeffrey Perry are likely to run, and no Democrat appears capable of clearing a primary field. In a normal year, Democrats would enjoy a considerable advantage in an open seat race in MA-10. But this year, Democrats’ initial advantage isn’t great enough to warrant rating this race more favorably than a Toss Up.”

This might explain why all those voters are so angry: “President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday, including more than $2 trillion that Obama proposes to devote to extending a variety of tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration. The 10-year outlook by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama’s policies would add $8.5 trillion to the debt by 2020. While the two agencies are in relative agreement about the short-term budget picture, with both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year and $1.3 trillion in 2011, the CBO is less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits will grow rapidly after 2015.”

And why they don’t like ObamaCare, as James Capretta explains: “The president started off last year by saying he wanted to ‘bend the cost-curve’ even as he broadened coverage. But after a year of partisan political and legislative maneuvering, all that’s left is a massive entitlement expansion. The new costs would get piled on top of the unreformed and unaffordable entitlements already on the books. It’s a budgetary disaster in the making.”

How many times has “shpilkes” been used in a mainstream-media headline? (How many ABC.com readers even know what it means?)

Even before Harry Reid’s latest boneheaded remark: “Two of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Republican challengers have again crossed the 50% threshold and now hold double-digit leads in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. One big hurdle for the incumbent is that most Nevada voters are strongly opposed to the health care legislation championed by Reid and President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Sue Lowden, ex-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, with a 51% to 38% lead on Reid. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, but just three percent (3%) are undecided.”

From the “2006 All Over Again” file: “Eager to avoid a repeat of the Mark Foley scandal, House Democratic leaders moved quickly last month when a staffer for Rep. Eric Massa complained that he’d made advances to a junior male aide. But rumors about Massa had been circulating for months in both Democratic and Republican circles on Capitol Hill, and GOP operatives even considered digging into them on their own. However, sources say there wasn’t evidence of any wrongdoing until Massa’s then-legislative director contacted the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in early February. … But a Massa aide told POLITICO that Massa — who is married and has children — has been engaged in inappropriate behavior ‘for eight months.’”

And Massa will resign Monday.

John McCain is trying to get the Gang of 14 back to beat reconciliation. No takers. And reconciliation is sort of irrelevant. But other than that, a great idea.

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RE: Like 2006 All Over Again

Rep. Eric Massa denies the allegation of sexual harassment and says he’s leaving due to health concerns. Politico reports that the issue is an allegation that “the New York Democrat, who is married with two children, made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer. ” The ethics committee is said to have already interviewed another Massa staffer who brought the issue forward.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer released a statement:

The week of February 8th, a member of Rep. Massa’s staff brought to the attention of Mr. Hoyer’s staff allegations of misconduct that had been made against Mr. Massa. Mr. Hoyer’s staff immediately informed him of what they had been told. Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so. Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa’s staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations. Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of Members was immediately involved to determine the facts.

Some insist it’s just preposterous to bring Mark Foley into this (“But let’s get one thing straight: Massa is not Mark Foley. … Foley was forced to resign in ’06 after he admitted making inappropriate sexual advances to underage House pages”). Well, yes, it could always be worse. But it was Hoyer who knew what everyone was thinking and tried his best to make this a bipartisan matter: “I don’t think it helps anybody in the institution, any one of us on either side of the aisle. It certainly didn’t help Mr. Foley. … When there were allegations about Mr. Foley or others, I think the institution suffers.” Actually, the Republicans suffered mightily, in no small part because they didn’t quite have their act together about who knew what and what they did about it. Perhaps the Democrats have less vulnerability there.

But let’s be clear: every moment Democrats spend making the argument that their ethics sex scandal isn’t as damaging as the Republicans’ because their guy’s male victim wasn’t a minor is probably a bad one. Sure, it doesn’t have much to do with Charlie Rangel or health care or the other reasons Congress’s approval rating is in the teens. But in 2006 Foley’s scandal didn’t have anything to do with the Iraq war or voters’ upset over fiscal sloth (which seems innocuous compared with today’s runaway spending train). Then, as now, it was just one more reason for disgusted voters to say “Enough!” And lots of them will.

Rep. Eric Massa denies the allegation of sexual harassment and says he’s leaving due to health concerns. Politico reports that the issue is an allegation that “the New York Democrat, who is married with two children, made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer. ” The ethics committee is said to have already interviewed another Massa staffer who brought the issue forward.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer released a statement:

The week of February 8th, a member of Rep. Massa’s staff brought to the attention of Mr. Hoyer’s staff allegations of misconduct that had been made against Mr. Massa. Mr. Hoyer’s staff immediately informed him of what they had been told. Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so. Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa’s staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations. Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of Members was immediately involved to determine the facts.

Some insist it’s just preposterous to bring Mark Foley into this (“But let’s get one thing straight: Massa is not Mark Foley. … Foley was forced to resign in ’06 after he admitted making inappropriate sexual advances to underage House pages”). Well, yes, it could always be worse. But it was Hoyer who knew what everyone was thinking and tried his best to make this a bipartisan matter: “I don’t think it helps anybody in the institution, any one of us on either side of the aisle. It certainly didn’t help Mr. Foley. … When there were allegations about Mr. Foley or others, I think the institution suffers.” Actually, the Republicans suffered mightily, in no small part because they didn’t quite have their act together about who knew what and what they did about it. Perhaps the Democrats have less vulnerability there.

But let’s be clear: every moment Democrats spend making the argument that their ethics sex scandal isn’t as damaging as the Republicans’ because their guy’s male victim wasn’t a minor is probably a bad one. Sure, it doesn’t have much to do with Charlie Rangel or health care or the other reasons Congress’s approval rating is in the teens. But in 2006 Foley’s scandal didn’t have anything to do with the Iraq war or voters’ upset over fiscal sloth (which seems innocuous compared with today’s runaway spending train). Then, as now, it was just one more reason for disgusted voters to say “Enough!” And lots of them will.

Read Less




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