Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tea Partiers

Afternoon Commentary

With the Democratic party’s major losses in the midterm elections, there were predictions that President Obama wouldn’t win re-election in 2012. But during the lame-duck session, the president has managed to attain practically all of his legislative goals and undergo a remarkable political recuperation. Charles Krauthammer discusses the administration’s “new start” today in the Washington Post.

Tea Partiers have developed a reputation as self-interested individuals who oppose taxes because they don’t want to spread their wealth around. But according to AEI president Arthur Brooks, Americans who oppose wealth redistribution actually tend to be more generous when it comes to giving to charity than citizens who are in favor of government income leveling: “When it comes to voluntarily spreading their own wealth around, a distinct ‘charity gap’ opens up between Americans who are for and against government income leveling. Your intuition might tell you that people who favor government redistribution care most about the less fortunate and would give more to charity. Initially, this was my own assumption. But the data tell a different story.”

Amir Taheri writes that a battle is brewing in Iran, as thousands of workers continue to strike in protest of the government’s cuts in food and gas subsidies. “[F]or the first time, the message of independent trade unionists appears to be finding some resonance among Iran’s working people at large,” writes Taheri, noting growing public anger over rising energy prices and food shortages, increased political activism among young labor-rights leaders and the impact of international sanctions on private businesses.

During the height of the Park 51 controversy last summer, many New Yorkers were angered by Mayor Bloomberg’s vocal support for the mosque leaders. Newly released emails now reveal that Bloomberg aides actually provided political assistance to Park 51 coordinators Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan.

The rape allegations against Julian Assange have prompted some feminists in the U.S. to call for a broader definition of what constitutes rape. In Reason magazine, Cathy Young argues these revisions would be problematic: “Earlier generations of feminists argued that rape should be treated the same as any other violent crime: The victim should not be subjected to special standards of resistance or chastity. These days, the demand for special treatment is so blatant that some activists openly support abolishing the presumption of innocence for rape cases and requiring the accused to prove consent[.]”

With the Democratic party’s major losses in the midterm elections, there were predictions that President Obama wouldn’t win re-election in 2012. But during the lame-duck session, the president has managed to attain practically all of his legislative goals and undergo a remarkable political recuperation. Charles Krauthammer discusses the administration’s “new start” today in the Washington Post.

Tea Partiers have developed a reputation as self-interested individuals who oppose taxes because they don’t want to spread their wealth around. But according to AEI president Arthur Brooks, Americans who oppose wealth redistribution actually tend to be more generous when it comes to giving to charity than citizens who are in favor of government income leveling: “When it comes to voluntarily spreading their own wealth around, a distinct ‘charity gap’ opens up between Americans who are for and against government income leveling. Your intuition might tell you that people who favor government redistribution care most about the less fortunate and would give more to charity. Initially, this was my own assumption. But the data tell a different story.”

Amir Taheri writes that a battle is brewing in Iran, as thousands of workers continue to strike in protest of the government’s cuts in food and gas subsidies. “[F]or the first time, the message of independent trade unionists appears to be finding some resonance among Iran’s working people at large,” writes Taheri, noting growing public anger over rising energy prices and food shortages, increased political activism among young labor-rights leaders and the impact of international sanctions on private businesses.

During the height of the Park 51 controversy last summer, many New Yorkers were angered by Mayor Bloomberg’s vocal support for the mosque leaders. Newly released emails now reveal that Bloomberg aides actually provided political assistance to Park 51 coordinators Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan.

The rape allegations against Julian Assange have prompted some feminists in the U.S. to call for a broader definition of what constitutes rape. In Reason magazine, Cathy Young argues these revisions would be problematic: “Earlier generations of feminists argued that rape should be treated the same as any other violent crime: The victim should not be subjected to special standards of resistance or chastity. These days, the demand for special treatment is so blatant that some activists openly support abolishing the presumption of innocence for rape cases and requiring the accused to prove consent[.]”

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Waiting for Cream to Rise to the Top

Fred Barnes writes:

Why do the potential Republican presidential candidates (with one exception) seem so old, dull, and uninteresting? There are a few simple answers. Most of the candidates are a generation older than most of the new Republican luminaries, compared with whom they are indeed duller and less interesting. At the moment they’re not where the political action is either. They’re not quite irrelevant, but close.

He argues, quite correctly, that at least for the next few months, all eyes will be on Congress:

At this time four years ago, the presidential race was about to take off. But the center of gravity in politics and government has shifted. The big play is now in Congress with Republicans in control of the House and in the statehouses with governors like Jindal, Christie, Perry, and a slew of newcomers like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, and Rick Scott in Florida. The presidential contest will have to wait.

But implicit in his analysis is the conclusion that the likely contenders don’t match up all that well against the non-candidate Republicans. Part of the issue is generational, as Barnes points out. But there are other problems with the batch of commonly mentioned candidates.

For one thing, they all seem to have been around forever. Yes, in most cases, they’ve been on the national stage for only a couple of years. Mickey Kaus has called it the Feiler Faster Thesis – the omnipresence of media has sped up the pace of coverage and the pace of politics. A year on the national stage is now like five years in the 1990s. We’ve seen so much of many of the likely contenders (e.g., Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee) that they seem tired and old hat. Is there anything either of them could say that would surprise us? Most likely, only a gaffe.

And of course, each of the likely contenders has not simply small flaws but jumbo problems. Republicans are far more self-aware than the mainstream media give them credit for being. A majority of Republican activists and primary voters know that RomneyCare is quite possibly a debilitating issue for Romney. Many Republicans — Tea Partiers included — understand that Sarah Palin has serious issues with independents and is increasingly obsessed with how the media cover her. (One dig against John McCain was that he was thin-skinned; Palin is quickly developing the same reputation.)

The focus of the country will turn both to Congress and to a slew of new governors. And after a few months, Republicans might discover that one or more of the congressional standouts or one of the governors seems fresher and more capable than the retreads currently mulling a race. So I’d suggest that you ignore the likely candidates and watch the performance of people like Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, John Kasich, and Bobby Jindal — the best of the lot may wind up at the top of the presidential contender list.

Fred Barnes writes:

Why do the potential Republican presidential candidates (with one exception) seem so old, dull, and uninteresting? There are a few simple answers. Most of the candidates are a generation older than most of the new Republican luminaries, compared with whom they are indeed duller and less interesting. At the moment they’re not where the political action is either. They’re not quite irrelevant, but close.

He argues, quite correctly, that at least for the next few months, all eyes will be on Congress:

At this time four years ago, the presidential race was about to take off. But the center of gravity in politics and government has shifted. The big play is now in Congress with Republicans in control of the House and in the statehouses with governors like Jindal, Christie, Perry, and a slew of newcomers like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, and Rick Scott in Florida. The presidential contest will have to wait.

But implicit in his analysis is the conclusion that the likely contenders don’t match up all that well against the non-candidate Republicans. Part of the issue is generational, as Barnes points out. But there are other problems with the batch of commonly mentioned candidates.

For one thing, they all seem to have been around forever. Yes, in most cases, they’ve been on the national stage for only a couple of years. Mickey Kaus has called it the Feiler Faster Thesis – the omnipresence of media has sped up the pace of coverage and the pace of politics. A year on the national stage is now like five years in the 1990s. We’ve seen so much of many of the likely contenders (e.g., Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee) that they seem tired and old hat. Is there anything either of them could say that would surprise us? Most likely, only a gaffe.

And of course, each of the likely contenders has not simply small flaws but jumbo problems. Republicans are far more self-aware than the mainstream media give them credit for being. A majority of Republican activists and primary voters know that RomneyCare is quite possibly a debilitating issue for Romney. Many Republicans — Tea Partiers included — understand that Sarah Palin has serious issues with independents and is increasingly obsessed with how the media cover her. (One dig against John McCain was that he was thin-skinned; Palin is quickly developing the same reputation.)

The focus of the country will turn both to Congress and to a slew of new governors. And after a few months, Republicans might discover that one or more of the congressional standouts or one of the governors seems fresher and more capable than the retreads currently mulling a race. So I’d suggest that you ignore the likely candidates and watch the performance of people like Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, John Kasich, and Bobby Jindal — the best of the lot may wind up at the top of the presidential contender list.

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Christie-mania

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie. Read More

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie.

That explains the search for someone, but why him?

He has set the tone, in part, by being “a strong governor who has opinions and is willing to express them,” he said. When I asked him about New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg’s criticism of his decision to cancel the tunnel, Christie shot back, “All he knows how to do is blow hot air … so I don’t really care what Frank Lautenberg has to say about much of anything.” Anything? “I’m always willing to read something in the paper that he said, and if he makes sense, I’m happy to work with him on it. I haven’t found one yet.” Christie believes his aggressive approach sends a signal to everyone else in the state. “The tone I’m trying to set for New Jersey is: action. Less talk, more action. And I think that’s what I’m doing as governor, and I think we’ve gotten a lot of stuff done already because of that, because I’m pushing and pushing and pushing.” …

Christie’s combativeness has made him a popular figure with the tea party in a way that someone like Indiana governor Mitch Daniels—who’s fought some of the same fiscal battles in his state but with the mien of an accountant—can only dream of. More than anything, Christie fills the longing, currently felt in all corners of the GOP (and beyond), for a stern taskmaster. “People just want to be treated like adults,” Christie says. “They just want to be told the truth. They know we’re in tough times, and they’re willing to sacrifice. But they want shared sacrifice.”

Less well known is his ability to co-opt and work with key Democrats in the deep Blue State. (He’s “cultivated strong relationships with the three most prominent Democratic power brokers currently not in jail.”)

The good news for Christie fans is that there are a few scraps suggesting that he hasn’t entirely closed the door on a 2012 run.  (“Christie’s actions aren’t those of someone who has ruled out a presidential bid.”) His staff’s YouTube videos, the trip to Iowa, and some whispers from his political confidantes are encouraging those in the GOP who are searching for Mr. Right.

But the premise underlying the piece is a bit off. The reason Christie has become a “star” is not because he’s captured the imagination of the “sane” wing of the party but because he transcends the divide (which is part real and part media-driven hype) between Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans. He combines serious governance with political theater. He’s got undeniable stage presence, but he’s also a serious budget wonk. He has no patience with political insiders, yet he’s learned to handle his opponents. And he’s become a master at disarming the liberal media without personal acrimony or a sense of victimhood.

But your reading glasses would have to be exceptionally rosy to see real evidence of a 2012 stealth campaign. The most his supporters can hope for is that the field of current contenders will prove underwhelming and that a serious movement to draft Christie will develop. But if the governor resists the entreaties of his fans, Republicans should remember that he became an overnight success thanks to a bunch of irresistible YouTube moments. Who’s to say that someone else couldn’t do the same?

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Here’s the “Civil War” the Press Has Been Looking For

The civil war between Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans never really emerged. Candidates won and lost in primaries, the old guard agreed with the new on earmarks, and all the elected and re-elected GOP senators and House members are on board with key elements of the conservative agenda (extend the Bush tax cuts, refudiate ObamaCare, cut spending, etc.). However, the Dems are another story. This report will amuse Republicans and, frankly, shock a lot of readers who imagined that Obama had retained some level of respect in his own party:

Senate Democrats — including typically mild-mannered Bill Nelson of Florida — lit into President Barack Obama during an unusually tense air-clearing caucus session on Thursday, senators and staffers told POLITICO.

Nelson told colleagues Obama’s unpopularity has become a serious liability for Democrats in his state and blamed the president for creating a toxic political environment for Democrats nationwide, according to two Democrats familiar with his remarks. …

In interviews after the marathon three hour meeting, several senators and senior aides told POLITICO that Nelson was just one of several senators to express anger at White House missteps – and air deep concerns about their own political fates if Obama and the Democratic Party leadership can’t turn things around by 2012.

Added one veteran senator: “It was the most frank exchange of views I’ve ever seen.”

“Frank” is one way to put it. Another way of putting it is that Obama has lost his luster and the respect and trust of his party. Democrats are alarmed, and rightly so, that this president is in over his head.

The solution is simple for those who want to survive: make common cause with Republicans to roll back the Obama agenda, cut taxes, and restore business confidence. On foreign policy, urge resoluteness on Afghanistan, military action if needed to disarm the mullahs, and an end to smart silly diplomacy in the Middle East and elsewhere. In other words, they should fend for themselves, and in the process do what is right on the merits. They might survive the 2012 election, even if Obama does not.

The civil war between Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans never really emerged. Candidates won and lost in primaries, the old guard agreed with the new on earmarks, and all the elected and re-elected GOP senators and House members are on board with key elements of the conservative agenda (extend the Bush tax cuts, refudiate ObamaCare, cut spending, etc.). However, the Dems are another story. This report will amuse Republicans and, frankly, shock a lot of readers who imagined that Obama had retained some level of respect in his own party:

Senate Democrats — including typically mild-mannered Bill Nelson of Florida — lit into President Barack Obama during an unusually tense air-clearing caucus session on Thursday, senators and staffers told POLITICO.

Nelson told colleagues Obama’s unpopularity has become a serious liability for Democrats in his state and blamed the president for creating a toxic political environment for Democrats nationwide, according to two Democrats familiar with his remarks. …

In interviews after the marathon three hour meeting, several senators and senior aides told POLITICO that Nelson was just one of several senators to express anger at White House missteps – and air deep concerns about their own political fates if Obama and the Democratic Party leadership can’t turn things around by 2012.

Added one veteran senator: “It was the most frank exchange of views I’ve ever seen.”

“Frank” is one way to put it. Another way of putting it is that Obama has lost his luster and the respect and trust of his party. Democrats are alarmed, and rightly so, that this president is in over his head.

The solution is simple for those who want to survive: make common cause with Republicans to roll back the Obama agenda, cut taxes, and restore business confidence. On foreign policy, urge resoluteness on Afghanistan, military action if needed to disarm the mullahs, and an end to smart silly diplomacy in the Middle East and elsewhere. In other words, they should fend for themselves, and in the process do what is right on the merits. They might survive the 2012 election, even if Obama does not.

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The Palin Quandary

Sarah Palin has the ability to make news anytime, anyplace. She did that with the upcoming interview in the New York Times Magazine and in additional comments in which she explained the difficulty of remaining governor while bogus ethics charges and real security concerns plagued her. (“I don’t have the funds to pay for my family to travel with me, and the state won’t pay for it, either. I can’t afford to have security at my home — anybody can come up to my door, and they do. Under the laws of Alaska, anybody can file suit or an ethics charge against me, and I have to defend it on my own. I’m going into debt.”)

But the question remains: does she run for president and put herself in a position to lose her iconic standing, or does she continue as the organizer-fundraiser-newsmaker, which has made her wealthy and famous but not more popular with voters outside the conservative base? In a must-read piece of solid reporting, Jon Ward goes out among Tea Partiers to find out if Palin’s most devoted fans want her to run. The answer may surprise some:

Interviews over the last few months with numerous Tea Party and conservative voters in states around the country yielded no one who was enthusiastic about Palin running for president, though a handful said they were open to it. In addition, conservative and Tea Party leaders who are speaking to the grassroots regularly report that they have consistently heard the same thing.

These are the sorts of comments he hears from Tea Party activists:

“She’s got too many negatives, not for me, but for too many people. So I think she’s better off on the outside looking in.”
“I would like to see someone else emerge. I think she’s too divisive. … It’s good for her to be part of the party. I have nothing against her. But I just think a leader has to be more articulate than she is. I just don’t think that person’s emerged yet.”

“I’m not sure if we have seen the one who needs to run. It has to be someone who can articulate the conservative message like a Buckley or Reagan. … We have time to find someone. I do like Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio.” Read More

Sarah Palin has the ability to make news anytime, anyplace. She did that with the upcoming interview in the New York Times Magazine and in additional comments in which she explained the difficulty of remaining governor while bogus ethics charges and real security concerns plagued her. (“I don’t have the funds to pay for my family to travel with me, and the state won’t pay for it, either. I can’t afford to have security at my home — anybody can come up to my door, and they do. Under the laws of Alaska, anybody can file suit or an ethics charge against me, and I have to defend it on my own. I’m going into debt.”)

But the question remains: does she run for president and put herself in a position to lose her iconic standing, or does she continue as the organizer-fundraiser-newsmaker, which has made her wealthy and famous but not more popular with voters outside the conservative base? In a must-read piece of solid reporting, Jon Ward goes out among Tea Partiers to find out if Palin’s most devoted fans want her to run. The answer may surprise some:

Interviews over the last few months with numerous Tea Party and conservative voters in states around the country yielded no one who was enthusiastic about Palin running for president, though a handful said they were open to it. In addition, conservative and Tea Party leaders who are speaking to the grassroots regularly report that they have consistently heard the same thing.

These are the sorts of comments he hears from Tea Party activists:

“She’s got too many negatives, not for me, but for too many people. So I think she’s better off on the outside looking in.”
“I would like to see someone else emerge. I think she’s too divisive. … It’s good for her to be part of the party. I have nothing against her. But I just think a leader has to be more articulate than she is. I just don’t think that person’s emerged yet.”

“I’m not sure if we have seen the one who needs to run. It has to be someone who can articulate the conservative message like a Buckley or Reagan. … We have time to find someone. I do like Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio.”

And there are others. Those whom Ward spoke with are not unnamed party insiders with a motive to bolster their own candidates’ standing. These are Tea Party attendees willing to go on record and face their fellow activists. In short, these are the people most sympathetic to the causes Palin champions.

What’s interesting is that the reaction of ordinary Tea Partiers is not that far removed from leaders both in the Tea Party and in establishment circles. A Tea Party leader tells Ward:

“Lot’s love her on a personal level, and as a conservative icon, but I haven’t heard widespread support for her as a presidential candidate,” he said. “I think the candidates who will be on top in 2012 have yet to really emerge from the pack. … Folks have interest in Mike Pence and of course [Sen. Jim] DeMint. I would guess that if asked, DeMint would be the top choice of Tea Party folks right now. He’s fighting the establishment from inside, and I think that will be a plus in 2012.”

And a conservative leader chimes in:

“I think people love to hear her speak and love that she’s out there stirring the waters and challenging the status quo,” the conservative leader said, asking that his name not be used. “But I don’t get the sense that they’re ready to say, ‘She’s the one we want to see as president.’”

“You would think if people were going to coalesce around her that would be happening. And quite frankly I don’t see it,” he said.

Palin and her defenders would no doubt say that none of these people are representative of sentiment in the party. But at some point, the candidate has to take these kinds of  reports — by credible conservative-leaning outlets — and the ample poll data seriously if she is serious about a run. She will have to weigh the risk that she may not prevail (either in the primary or the general election), and thereby lose her aura and the anticipation of a future candidacy.

In that regard, as in so many other ways, she is unique. For the average pol, a presidential run, even an unsuccessful one, raises his profile and gives him new credibility and earning power. For Palin, it may be the opposite.

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Violence and Anti-Semitism From the Left, Not the Right

The conventional wisdom of liberal America is that the Tea Party backlash against the Obama administration and its health-care law was fueled by racism, hate, and a veiled hint of violence. The idea that a grassroots movement of citizens appalled by the aggrandizement of the federal government and the administration’s overreach might rise up in protest is simply something that many, if not most, liberals can’t understand. Even the Anti-Defamation League tried to link the wackiest violent extremists and mainstream Republican critics of Obama in a controversial report.

And yet, for all the huffing and puffing about conservative hate, there was little or no evidence behind such accusations. Liberal politicians were often brusquely scolded about the Constitution at town-hall meetings by Tea Partiers — an indignity that some considered somehow non-democratic — but none were harmed.

Yet today comes a reminder that far from violence being the preserve of the right, the left is just as likely to be guilty of such incitement. As the New York Times reported on its political blog:

A Philadelphia man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to threatening Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, earlier this year. Prosecutors said that the man, Norman LeBoon, declared in a video put on YouTube that he would shoot Mr. Cantor in the head and called him and his children “Lucifer’s abominations.” … The video, prosecutors said, was put on YouTube in late March — around the time the health care overhaul became law and amid a spell of threats and acts of vandalism directed at lawmakers.

If anything, this case illustrates the not-so-tenuous connection between left-wing extremism and anti-Semitism; singling out Cantor— the only Jewish Republican in the House at the time — and referencing him in terms straight out of the traditional stereotypes of Jew-hatred is the sort of thing that ought to send alarm bells ringing among those who monitor such hatred.

The conventional wisdom of liberal America is that the Tea Party backlash against the Obama administration and its health-care law was fueled by racism, hate, and a veiled hint of violence. The idea that a grassroots movement of citizens appalled by the aggrandizement of the federal government and the administration’s overreach might rise up in protest is simply something that many, if not most, liberals can’t understand. Even the Anti-Defamation League tried to link the wackiest violent extremists and mainstream Republican critics of Obama in a controversial report.

And yet, for all the huffing and puffing about conservative hate, there was little or no evidence behind such accusations. Liberal politicians were often brusquely scolded about the Constitution at town-hall meetings by Tea Partiers — an indignity that some considered somehow non-democratic — but none were harmed.

Yet today comes a reminder that far from violence being the preserve of the right, the left is just as likely to be guilty of such incitement. As the New York Times reported on its political blog:

A Philadelphia man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to threatening Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, earlier this year. Prosecutors said that the man, Norman LeBoon, declared in a video put on YouTube that he would shoot Mr. Cantor in the head and called him and his children “Lucifer’s abominations.” … The video, prosecutors said, was put on YouTube in late March — around the time the health care overhaul became law and amid a spell of threats and acts of vandalism directed at lawmakers.

If anything, this case illustrates the not-so-tenuous connection between left-wing extremism and anti-Semitism; singling out Cantor— the only Jewish Republican in the House at the time — and referencing him in terms straight out of the traditional stereotypes of Jew-hatred is the sort of thing that ought to send alarm bells ringing among those who monitor such hatred.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dohrn vs. the Tea Party

The supposedly racist Tea Partiers helped elect two African-American congressmen, an Indian-American woman governor of South Carolina, Hispanic governors in Nevada and New Mexico, and even a couple of Jewish Republicans (provided Randy Altschuler’s new lead holds up in the NY-1). But the left is not dissuaded by facts. As “angry” as they supposedly were, the Tea Partiers, as Mark Hemingway points out, peacefully gathered in thousands of locations over two years and changed their government — at the ballot box.

Contrast that with unrepentant ex-terrorist Bernardine Dohrn, wife of Bill Ayers and pal of Obama, before it became inconvenient to be so. She insists that the right is racist, armed (presumably, the Second Amendment is one that the hard left would rather do without), and violent. And she — who helped lead a violent, armed revolutionary group that resorted to bombs rather than the ballot box – is terribly concerned about the right’s dangerous propensities. And what of her past? She laughs — ah, well, they were trying to open a “front” in the heartland.

Remorse? Not from her. She still oozes with resentment, understandable given the utter lack of acceptance by the American people of her views. Perhaps her fury at the Tea Partiers, then, is nothing more than jealousy. After all, they are the embodiment of grassroots, peaceful change. And she is a has-been terrorist.

The supposedly racist Tea Partiers helped elect two African-American congressmen, an Indian-American woman governor of South Carolina, Hispanic governors in Nevada and New Mexico, and even a couple of Jewish Republicans (provided Randy Altschuler’s new lead holds up in the NY-1). But the left is not dissuaded by facts. As “angry” as they supposedly were, the Tea Partiers, as Mark Hemingway points out, peacefully gathered in thousands of locations over two years and changed their government — at the ballot box.

Contrast that with unrepentant ex-terrorist Bernardine Dohrn, wife of Bill Ayers and pal of Obama, before it became inconvenient to be so. She insists that the right is racist, armed (presumably, the Second Amendment is one that the hard left would rather do without), and violent. And she — who helped lead a violent, armed revolutionary group that resorted to bombs rather than the ballot box – is terribly concerned about the right’s dangerous propensities. And what of her past? She laughs — ah, well, they were trying to open a “front” in the heartland.

Remorse? Not from her. She still oozes with resentment, understandable given the utter lack of acceptance by the American people of her views. Perhaps her fury at the Tea Partiers, then, is nothing more than jealousy. After all, they are the embodiment of grassroots, peaceful change. And she is a has-been terrorist.

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Searching

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories. Read More

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who on paper might seem well-suited to the times (businessman, successful governor), is hobbled, maybe fatally, by his authorship of a health-care plan that bears a striking resemblance to the one which both Republican insiders and Tea Party activists are determined to obliterate. This is no small handicap.

So what’s the formula for success? Republicans supported and emerged victorious with serious-minded conservative candidates – Rob Portman in Ohio, Dan Coats in Indiana, and John Boozman in Arkansas – while finding new faces (Rubio, Ron Johnson) who avoided the hot-button rhetoric that derailed a number of the Tea Party candidates. Although ideologically not all that different from the Tea Party–preferred candidates, the GOP victors demonstrated how to meld fiscal conservatism with a more accessible brand of populism. They hardly disappointed the Tea Party crowd; but neither did they alienate independent voters.

Are there GOP hopefuls in 2012 who can fuse Tea Party populism with sober conservative governance? Many in the conservative intelligentsia pine for Gov. Chris Christie, who has become a rock star on YouTube; he won in a Blue State and now is battling against the Trenton insiders. And he’s doing it with showmanship that only Palin can top. But he joked that apparently only “suicide” would convince us that he wasn’t interested. I’m thinking he might be serious about not running.

Then there is Rep. Paul Ryan, soon to take over the chair of the Budget Committee. He excites many conservatives in and outside the Beltway. He’s brainy and articulate, with a shake-up-the-status-quo approach to entitlement and budget reform. He already matched up well against Obama, arguably winning a TKO in the health-care summit. And he will be front and center in the key legislative battles, in some ways the face of the GOP House majority, for the next two years. While he’s said he’s not interested in a 2012 run, he’s not been Christie-esque in his denials. As for the “rule” that House members can’t make viable presidential candidates, I think the rulebook was shredded in the last few years.

Of course, there is Marco Rubio, the party’s genuine superstar (with an immigrant story and deep belief in American exceptionalism), who proved to be an especially effective messenger of conservative principles. However, both he and his most fervent supporters seem to agree: it’s too soon.

So the search goes on. The good news for the GOP is that they have a slew of new governors (e.g., John Kasich) and senators and some retiring ones (Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels) who understand how to forge the center-right coalition needed to get elected. A few faces familiar to political junkies (Mike Pence, John Thune) are also considering a run, which will test whether a Washington insider can nevertheless take on the mantle of reformer/outsider. Can any from this group of Republicans — who frankly lack magnetic personalities – also engage Tea Partiers? We will see.

So conservatives keep looking and trying to persuade the reluctant pols to throw their hats into the ring. Those who imagine they can win back the White House without full engagement of the 2010 winning formula (Tea Partiers plus traditionalists) should think again. A plan by half of the Republican alliance to overpower the other half is a formula for a second Obama term.

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Liberal Echo Chamber

Obama has done what was seemingly impossible — he has lost David Brooks and made him into a scathing critic of the Democrats’ delusional thinking. A sample:

Over the past year, many Democrats have resolutely paid attention to those things that make them feel good, and they have carefully filtered out those negative things that make them feel sad.

For example, Democrats and their media enablers have paid lavish attention to Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino, even though these two Republican candidates have almost no chance of winning. That’s because it feels so delicious to feel superior to opponents you consider to be feeble-minded wackos.

On the whole “foreign money killed us” hooey, Brooks is merciless:

They see this campaign as a poetic confrontation between good (themselves) and pure evil (Karl Rove and his group, American Crossroads).

As Nancy Pelosi put it at a $50,000-a-couple fund-raiser, “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”

Even allowing the menace of secret money, embracing this Paradise Lost epic means obscuring a few inconvenient facts: that Democrats were happy to benefit from millions of anonymous dollars in 2006, 2008 and today; that the spending by Rove’s group amounts to less than 1 percent of the total money spent on campaigns this year; that Democrats retain an overall spending advantage.

But legend rises above mere facticity, and this Lancelots-of-the-Left tale underlines a self-affirming message — that Democrats are engaged in a righteous crusade against the dark villain who tricked Americans into voting against John Kerry.

Oh, and they were always behind, and for nearly a year the American people have been screaming that they didn’t like the Democrats’ agenda.

Brooks is right that the blame-everyone-but-themselves phenomenon is  a bit cringe-inducing. (“Get a bottle of vodka and read Peter Baker’s article ‘The Education of President Obama’ from The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. Take a shot every time a White House official is quoted blaming Republicans for the Democrats’ political plight. You’ll be unconscious by page three.”)

Brooks aptly discusses the phenomenon but not the causes and contributors to this hear-no-danger/see-no-danger modus operandi. It is in large part a manifestation of the president’s own self-regard, a distorted sense of his own ability to mold events, and a conviction that garden-variety leftism in an appealing package = blinding wisdom.

But there is something else at work here. There is an endless loop of self-reinforcing fantasy that goes on among academics, pundits, “news” reporters, and elected Democrats. They feed each other’s prejudices (e.g., Tea Partiers are racists) and affirm one another’s erroneous judgments (Americans will learn to love ObamaCare). By minimizing or ignoring the administrations’ failures or misdeeds (the New Black Panther Party scandal, the abusive use of czars and recess appointments), the media and liberal interest groups contribute to a heady sense of infallibility. “No one cares about this stuff,” concludes the already puffed-up White House aides. “We can do whatever we want,” they tell their colleagues.

And most of all, they agree that those who do report bad news (e.g., Fox) or who do object to harebrained ideas (support for the Ground Zero mosque) are irrational or bigoted — maybe both. It’s always possible that the White House will finally learn the right lessons from the upcoming midterm wipeout. But perhaps it is also time for the liberal echo chamber to consider whether it is doing more harm than good to its own cause.

Obama has done what was seemingly impossible — he has lost David Brooks and made him into a scathing critic of the Democrats’ delusional thinking. A sample:

Over the past year, many Democrats have resolutely paid attention to those things that make them feel good, and they have carefully filtered out those negative things that make them feel sad.

For example, Democrats and their media enablers have paid lavish attention to Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino, even though these two Republican candidates have almost no chance of winning. That’s because it feels so delicious to feel superior to opponents you consider to be feeble-minded wackos.

On the whole “foreign money killed us” hooey, Brooks is merciless:

They see this campaign as a poetic confrontation between good (themselves) and pure evil (Karl Rove and his group, American Crossroads).

As Nancy Pelosi put it at a $50,000-a-couple fund-raiser, “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”

Even allowing the menace of secret money, embracing this Paradise Lost epic means obscuring a few inconvenient facts: that Democrats were happy to benefit from millions of anonymous dollars in 2006, 2008 and today; that the spending by Rove’s group amounts to less than 1 percent of the total money spent on campaigns this year; that Democrats retain an overall spending advantage.

But legend rises above mere facticity, and this Lancelots-of-the-Left tale underlines a self-affirming message — that Democrats are engaged in a righteous crusade against the dark villain who tricked Americans into voting against John Kerry.

Oh, and they were always behind, and for nearly a year the American people have been screaming that they didn’t like the Democrats’ agenda.

Brooks is right that the blame-everyone-but-themselves phenomenon is  a bit cringe-inducing. (“Get a bottle of vodka and read Peter Baker’s article ‘The Education of President Obama’ from The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. Take a shot every time a White House official is quoted blaming Republicans for the Democrats’ political plight. You’ll be unconscious by page three.”)

Brooks aptly discusses the phenomenon but not the causes and contributors to this hear-no-danger/see-no-danger modus operandi. It is in large part a manifestation of the president’s own self-regard, a distorted sense of his own ability to mold events, and a conviction that garden-variety leftism in an appealing package = blinding wisdom.

But there is something else at work here. There is an endless loop of self-reinforcing fantasy that goes on among academics, pundits, “news” reporters, and elected Democrats. They feed each other’s prejudices (e.g., Tea Partiers are racists) and affirm one another’s erroneous judgments (Americans will learn to love ObamaCare). By minimizing or ignoring the administrations’ failures or misdeeds (the New Black Panther Party scandal, the abusive use of czars and recess appointments), the media and liberal interest groups contribute to a heady sense of infallibility. “No one cares about this stuff,” concludes the already puffed-up White House aides. “We can do whatever we want,” they tell their colleagues.

And most of all, they agree that those who do report bad news (e.g., Fox) or who do object to harebrained ideas (support for the Ground Zero mosque) are irrational or bigoted — maybe both. It’s always possible that the White House will finally learn the right lessons from the upcoming midterm wipeout. But perhaps it is also time for the liberal echo chamber to consider whether it is doing more harm than good to its own cause.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

D.C. runs over black schoolkids. “Michelle Rhee—the tough broad who spent nearly four years as D.C. schools chancellor in a pitched battle against the corruption-plagued, incompetence-ridden Washington teachers union to reform a rotten public school system—was forced out today by mayor-elect Vincent Gray in what surely must be seen as a kind of triumph for the union and a potential tragedy for the city’s underprivileged, mostly-black schoolchildren.” Meanwhile, the Obamas are “tucking their own cute kids safely away in private schools.” Read the whole thing.

Officials from cities like New York should run, not walk, to grab her. “DC’s loss could be New York’s gain, and it behooves city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to scoop her up before she departs for another system.”

Pat Toomey is running away with it in Pennsylvania. “Republican Pat Toomey now holds a 10-point lead over Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak, the widest gap between the candidates since early April in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race. … The race now moves from Leans GOP to Solid GOP in the Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 Senate Balance of Power rankings.”

According to the Cook Political Report (subscription required), Nancy Pelosi isn’t going to be running the House come January. “At the moment, 22 Democratic seats, including 10 open seats and 12 incumbents, sit in the Lean or Likely Republican columns, while two Republican seats sit in the Lean or Likely Democratic columns, for a net of 20 Republican seats. That means Republicans only need to win 21 of the 40 seats in the Toss Up column to win a majority, not even counting many of the 30 Democratic seats in the Lean Democratic column that are rapidly becoming more competitive. At this point, all but four of the Democrats in our Toss Up column have trailed in at least one public or private poll, and Democrats’ fortunes in most of these seats are on the decline. … Overall, given the status of these Toss Up races and the length of the Lean Democratic column, Democrats’ chances of losing at least 50 seats are now greater than their chances of holding losses under 45 seats.”

By the time they start running for president in 2012, ObamaCare may be in the rear-view mirror. “A federal judge says some parts of a lawsuit by 20 states challenging the Obama administration’s health care overhaul as unconstitutional can go to trial. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled Thursday in Pensacola, Fla., that some parts of the lawsuit need to be heard. The administration had asked him to dismiss the entire lawsuit, which was spearheaded by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.”

He says he isn’t running in 2012, but there is — as I predicted — a “Draft Chris Christie” website. One benefit: in a Christie administration, I sincerely doubt the first lady would be nagging us to stop eating fast food.

Is Obama pitching to young voters merely to stage a practice run for the 2012 get-out-the-vote operation? The New York Times thinks so. After all, it’s always about him.

Democrats around the country are running against supposedly “extremist” Tea Partiers. But the voters have minds of their own, wouldn’t you know it? “Likely voters in battleground districts see extremists as having a more dominant influence over the Democratic Party than they do over the GOP. This result comes from The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll, which found that 44 percent of likely voters say the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, whereas 37 percent say it’s the Republican Party that is more dominated by extremists.” By the end of this campaign, the public will be convinced that the Democrats are being funded by mystery foreign donors.

D.C. runs over black schoolkids. “Michelle Rhee—the tough broad who spent nearly four years as D.C. schools chancellor in a pitched battle against the corruption-plagued, incompetence-ridden Washington teachers union to reform a rotten public school system—was forced out today by mayor-elect Vincent Gray in what surely must be seen as a kind of triumph for the union and a potential tragedy for the city’s underprivileged, mostly-black schoolchildren.” Meanwhile, the Obamas are “tucking their own cute kids safely away in private schools.” Read the whole thing.

Officials from cities like New York should run, not walk, to grab her. “DC’s loss could be New York’s gain, and it behooves city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to scoop her up before she departs for another system.”

Pat Toomey is running away with it in Pennsylvania. “Republican Pat Toomey now holds a 10-point lead over Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak, the widest gap between the candidates since early April in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race. … The race now moves from Leans GOP to Solid GOP in the Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 Senate Balance of Power rankings.”

According to the Cook Political Report (subscription required), Nancy Pelosi isn’t going to be running the House come January. “At the moment, 22 Democratic seats, including 10 open seats and 12 incumbents, sit in the Lean or Likely Republican columns, while two Republican seats sit in the Lean or Likely Democratic columns, for a net of 20 Republican seats. That means Republicans only need to win 21 of the 40 seats in the Toss Up column to win a majority, not even counting many of the 30 Democratic seats in the Lean Democratic column that are rapidly becoming more competitive. At this point, all but four of the Democrats in our Toss Up column have trailed in at least one public or private poll, and Democrats’ fortunes in most of these seats are on the decline. … Overall, given the status of these Toss Up races and the length of the Lean Democratic column, Democrats’ chances of losing at least 50 seats are now greater than their chances of holding losses under 45 seats.”

By the time they start running for president in 2012, ObamaCare may be in the rear-view mirror. “A federal judge says some parts of a lawsuit by 20 states challenging the Obama administration’s health care overhaul as unconstitutional can go to trial. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled Thursday in Pensacola, Fla., that some parts of the lawsuit need to be heard. The administration had asked him to dismiss the entire lawsuit, which was spearheaded by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.”

He says he isn’t running in 2012, but there is — as I predicted — a “Draft Chris Christie” website. One benefit: in a Christie administration, I sincerely doubt the first lady would be nagging us to stop eating fast food.

Is Obama pitching to young voters merely to stage a practice run for the 2012 get-out-the-vote operation? The New York Times thinks so. After all, it’s always about him.

Democrats around the country are running against supposedly “extremist” Tea Partiers. But the voters have minds of their own, wouldn’t you know it? “Likely voters in battleground districts see extremists as having a more dominant influence over the Democratic Party than they do over the GOP. This result comes from The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll, which found that 44 percent of likely voters say the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, whereas 37 percent say it’s the Republican Party that is more dominated by extremists.” By the end of this campaign, the public will be convinced that the Democrats are being funded by mystery foreign donors.

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The YouTube Primary

On Saturday, Chris Christie won a straw poll at the Virginia Tea Party convention. No, it doesn’t mean he’s the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary or even that he is running. But it does remind us of two key considerations in assessing the GOP contest.

First, I am confident that a large number of those Tea Partiers got familiar with Christie from a series of YouTube videos that went viral. Christie cheerily taking on the press. Christie gallantly defending Meg Whitman. Christie bashing public-employee unions. Every week you look for the next in the “series.” It tells us that candidates can be made — or encouraged to run, at least — by select moments that encapsulate that candidate’s persona and beliefs. If the Howard Dean scream video in 2004 helped do him in, what’s to say that Christie or some other candidate can’t jump to the top of the GOP contenders’ list based on a few YouTube videos?

You say that this is a wacky way to select presidents? Well, my first response is yes. And my second is that candidates will still have to prove themselves over the course of a long campaign, but that is why name recognition and a big war chest mean so little at the beginning of a race. YouTube is the great political equalizer.

Moreover, this is yet another reminder that the GOP field is not set. Christie says he’s not interested in a presidential run, but a few more viral videos and straw polls and there will be a “Draft Christie” group. Others may make similar headway and restore or elevate their profile. Rep. Paul Ryan made a splash when most Americans saw him for the first time facing off against the president at the health-care summit. Some more episodes like that and he’ll have his own following, and maybe he’ll reconsider his decision not to make a run in 2012.

The 2012 campaign will be wild and woolly. And we’re going to learn much about candidates we currently know practically nothing about — and they’ll discover just how ambitious they actually are. Prognosticators should be wary: there’s no crystal ball for this race.

On Saturday, Chris Christie won a straw poll at the Virginia Tea Party convention. No, it doesn’t mean he’s the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary or even that he is running. But it does remind us of two key considerations in assessing the GOP contest.

First, I am confident that a large number of those Tea Partiers got familiar with Christie from a series of YouTube videos that went viral. Christie cheerily taking on the press. Christie gallantly defending Meg Whitman. Christie bashing public-employee unions. Every week you look for the next in the “series.” It tells us that candidates can be made — or encouraged to run, at least — by select moments that encapsulate that candidate’s persona and beliefs. If the Howard Dean scream video in 2004 helped do him in, what’s to say that Christie or some other candidate can’t jump to the top of the GOP contenders’ list based on a few YouTube videos?

You say that this is a wacky way to select presidents? Well, my first response is yes. And my second is that candidates will still have to prove themselves over the course of a long campaign, but that is why name recognition and a big war chest mean so little at the beginning of a race. YouTube is the great political equalizer.

Moreover, this is yet another reminder that the GOP field is not set. Christie says he’s not interested in a presidential run, but a few more viral videos and straw polls and there will be a “Draft Christie” group. Others may make similar headway and restore or elevate their profile. Rep. Paul Ryan made a splash when most Americans saw him for the first time facing off against the president at the health-care summit. Some more episodes like that and he’ll have his own following, and maybe he’ll reconsider his decision not to make a run in 2012.

The 2012 campaign will be wild and woolly. And we’re going to learn much about candidates we currently know practically nothing about — and they’ll discover just how ambitious they actually are. Prognosticators should be wary: there’s no crystal ball for this race.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not even able to hire competent speechwriters, is he? “But even Google seems to have failed the battalion of  swell-headed policy twits you employ, one or two of whom might have studied, oh, let’s say history, at some fabulously famous institution of higher learning—if they still teach that kind of thing—but are now so busy live-tweeting their ice-cream socials among dictators, for example, that they just haven’t got the time to LOOK STUFF UP.”

Not in Delaware, but GOP Senate candidates are leading in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.

Not even liberals can excuse Obama’s collapse. “It’s a long time now since Obama was a community organizer. Even then, he might have been more comfortable dealing with communities than with individuals. Democrats are best with groups. If I break down on the side of the road, I hope a Republican stops — he’ll fix my flat and offer me a drink. A Democrat will get busy forming a Committee to Protect Women Who Own Vulnerable Cars.” Ouch.

Not a lot of good news for Democratic gubernatorial candidates: “[Democratic] nominees are currently trailing in 13 of the 19 states where they hold the governorships. Only three of their nominees have double digit leads — in Bill Clinton’s home states of Arkansas and New York and in Colorado, where the Republican nominee has been disavowed by many party leaders. Most unnerving for Democrats is that their nominees are currently trailing by double digits in the nation’s industrial heartland — in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. These are states Barack Obama carried with 54, 51, 57 and 62 percent of the vote.”

Not a surprise: “A report by three UN-appointed human rights experts Wednesday said that Israeli forces violated international law when they raided a Gaza-bound aid flotilla killing nine activists earlier this year. The UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission concluded that the naval blockade of Gaza was unlawful because of the humanitarian crisis there, and described the military raid on the flotilla as brutal and disproportionate.” But the Obami say we’re doing great things by sitting on the UNHRC. Time to pull out and pull the plug on the thugs’ funding.

Not looking good for Obama’s class-warfare gambit: “A number of ‘moderate’ House Dems have privately given Nancy Pelosi and other Dem leaders an earful in recent days, urging them not to hold a vote on whether to extend just the middle class tax cuts and not the high end ones, because it will leave them vulnerable to Republican ads, sources involved in the discussions tell me.”

Not much for Tea Partiers, mainstream conservatives, and independents to disagree with here: “The Republicans’ new Contract with America, which will be unveiled on Thursday, calls for a crackdown on government spending, repealing the new healthcare law and extending all of the expiring Bush tax cuts.”

Not going to stick around for the Election Day body count? “White House aides are preparing for the possibility that Rahm Emanuel may step down as chief of staff as soon as early October if he decides to run for mayor of Chicago, according to a person familiar with deliberations in the West Wing.”

Not even able to hire competent speechwriters, is he? “But even Google seems to have failed the battalion of  swell-headed policy twits you employ, one or two of whom might have studied, oh, let’s say history, at some fabulously famous institution of higher learning—if they still teach that kind of thing—but are now so busy live-tweeting their ice-cream socials among dictators, for example, that they just haven’t got the time to LOOK STUFF UP.”

Not in Delaware, but GOP Senate candidates are leading in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.

Not even liberals can excuse Obama’s collapse. “It’s a long time now since Obama was a community organizer. Even then, he might have been more comfortable dealing with communities than with individuals. Democrats are best with groups. If I break down on the side of the road, I hope a Republican stops — he’ll fix my flat and offer me a drink. A Democrat will get busy forming a Committee to Protect Women Who Own Vulnerable Cars.” Ouch.

Not a lot of good news for Democratic gubernatorial candidates: “[Democratic] nominees are currently trailing in 13 of the 19 states where they hold the governorships. Only three of their nominees have double digit leads — in Bill Clinton’s home states of Arkansas and New York and in Colorado, where the Republican nominee has been disavowed by many party leaders. Most unnerving for Democrats is that their nominees are currently trailing by double digits in the nation’s industrial heartland — in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. These are states Barack Obama carried with 54, 51, 57 and 62 percent of the vote.”

Not a surprise: “A report by three UN-appointed human rights experts Wednesday said that Israeli forces violated international law when they raided a Gaza-bound aid flotilla killing nine activists earlier this year. The UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission concluded that the naval blockade of Gaza was unlawful because of the humanitarian crisis there, and described the military raid on the flotilla as brutal and disproportionate.” But the Obami say we’re doing great things by sitting on the UNHRC. Time to pull out and pull the plug on the thugs’ funding.

Not looking good for Obama’s class-warfare gambit: “A number of ‘moderate’ House Dems have privately given Nancy Pelosi and other Dem leaders an earful in recent days, urging them not to hold a vote on whether to extend just the middle class tax cuts and not the high end ones, because it will leave them vulnerable to Republican ads, sources involved in the discussions tell me.”

Not much for Tea Partiers, mainstream conservatives, and independents to disagree with here: “The Republicans’ new Contract with America, which will be unveiled on Thursday, calls for a crackdown on government spending, repealing the new healthcare law and extending all of the expiring Bush tax cuts.”

Not going to stick around for the Election Day body count? “White House aides are preparing for the possibility that Rahm Emanuel may step down as chief of staff as soon as early October if he decides to run for mayor of Chicago, according to a person familiar with deliberations in the West Wing.”

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The Other Haley

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, head of the Republican Governors Association and making his way onto the list of 2012 presidential contenders, touts the Tea Party–GOP big tent:

On the issues foremost in voters’ minds—the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, debt and deficits—the overwhelming majority of tea party voters and Republican voters are in strong agreement.

That is why it was tremendously important for Republican prospects in the 2010 elections that tea partiers did not run as independents or third-party candidates. To do so would have split the votes of those who know the Obama-Pelosi-Reid policies don’t work and are hurting our economy.

Every Republican should be pleased that these tea party candidates chose to run in our primaries. In the vast majority of cases, their participation was welcomed, even cultivated, by GOP leaders—and rightly so.

In other words, there may be differences in tone and style, and not all Tea Party candidates are ready for prime time, but the Republican Party has sidestepped the fissure that the chattering class promised was coming. Barbour is also canny enough to tell Beltway Republicans to butt out of primaries — and Lisa Murkowski not to let the door hit her on the way out of the Senate leadership team. (“We have no right whatsoever to substitute our will or judgment for that of the voters. Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost the GOP primary in Alaska to Joe Miller. Now she’s launched a write-in campaign to get re-elected. There is no excuse for this campaign, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was right to demand her resignation from the GOP leadership.”)

Barbour is not so subtly making the point that it is not in the interests of either establishment GOP figures or the Tea Parties (or members of the former seeking to ingratiate themselves with the latter) to play up the media-created antagonism between the two groups. In fact, the two groups are overlapping — many Tea Partiers are Republicans, the movement’s darling was the VP nominee in 2008, and its greatest salesmen are well-known conservative politicians and media figures.

Barbour has been an uber-competent governor, a successful leader of the RGA, and a savvy analyst of the GOP’s travails and resurgence. Whether he finally decides to run for president and can prove successful remains to be seen. But he’s not doing himself any harm with commonsense calls for unity and a firm restatement of conservatives’ agenda (“creating jobs instead of more massive government, controlling spending and not raising taxes, and delaying and then repealing ObamaCare”).

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, head of the Republican Governors Association and making his way onto the list of 2012 presidential contenders, touts the Tea Party–GOP big tent:

On the issues foremost in voters’ minds—the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, debt and deficits—the overwhelming majority of tea party voters and Republican voters are in strong agreement.

That is why it was tremendously important for Republican prospects in the 2010 elections that tea partiers did not run as independents or third-party candidates. To do so would have split the votes of those who know the Obama-Pelosi-Reid policies don’t work and are hurting our economy.

Every Republican should be pleased that these tea party candidates chose to run in our primaries. In the vast majority of cases, their participation was welcomed, even cultivated, by GOP leaders—and rightly so.

In other words, there may be differences in tone and style, and not all Tea Party candidates are ready for prime time, but the Republican Party has sidestepped the fissure that the chattering class promised was coming. Barbour is also canny enough to tell Beltway Republicans to butt out of primaries — and Lisa Murkowski not to let the door hit her on the way out of the Senate leadership team. (“We have no right whatsoever to substitute our will or judgment for that of the voters. Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost the GOP primary in Alaska to Joe Miller. Now she’s launched a write-in campaign to get re-elected. There is no excuse for this campaign, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was right to demand her resignation from the GOP leadership.”)

Barbour is not so subtly making the point that it is not in the interests of either establishment GOP figures or the Tea Parties (or members of the former seeking to ingratiate themselves with the latter) to play up the media-created antagonism between the two groups. In fact, the two groups are overlapping — many Tea Partiers are Republicans, the movement’s darling was the VP nominee in 2008, and its greatest salesmen are well-known conservative politicians and media figures.

Barbour has been an uber-competent governor, a successful leader of the RGA, and a savvy analyst of the GOP’s travails and resurgence. Whether he finally decides to run for president and can prove successful remains to be seen. But he’s not doing himself any harm with commonsense calls for unity and a firm restatement of conservatives’ agenda (“creating jobs instead of more massive government, controlling spending and not raising taxes, and delaying and then repealing ObamaCare”).

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O’Donnell’s Victory and What It Means

1. The victory of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Senate race is the fourth defeat for the so-called “establishment” Republican candidate in a primary this year — preceded by Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Joe Miller in Alaska. That’s the East Coast, a border state, the Southwest, and way the hell and gone — an unmistakable demonstration that the Republican Party is reconstituting itself in an unprecedented fashion.

2. There seems to be a general presumption that O’Donnell can’t win, because polling suggests she has a long haul and because there are many questions about her fitness. Granted, all relevant signs suggest the man she defeated, Mike Castle, would have been the likely winner and she has an uphill climb. But can she win? Don’t be ridiculous. Of course she can win — in theory at least. She’s out of money, but her political stardom should allow her to raise millions from grassroots Tea Partiers nationwide and close the money gap with her Democratic rival.

3. The presumption among delighted people on the left-liberal side is that all this roiling on the right suggests a party in disarray and a movement intent on cannibalizing itself. That’s one way to look at it. The other is that the GOP is actually expanding and seizing the populist mood that seems to be the national direction — even though the GOP leadership, especially in the Senate, is finding the whole business unnerving and destructive.

1. The victory of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Senate race is the fourth defeat for the so-called “establishment” Republican candidate in a primary this year — preceded by Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Joe Miller in Alaska. That’s the East Coast, a border state, the Southwest, and way the hell and gone — an unmistakable demonstration that the Republican Party is reconstituting itself in an unprecedented fashion.

2. There seems to be a general presumption that O’Donnell can’t win, because polling suggests she has a long haul and because there are many questions about her fitness. Granted, all relevant signs suggest the man she defeated, Mike Castle, would have been the likely winner and she has an uphill climb. But can she win? Don’t be ridiculous. Of course she can win — in theory at least. She’s out of money, but her political stardom should allow her to raise millions from grassroots Tea Partiers nationwide and close the money gap with her Democratic rival.

3. The presumption among delighted people on the left-liberal side is that all this roiling on the right suggests a party in disarray and a movement intent on cannibalizing itself. That’s one way to look at it. The other is that the GOP is actually expanding and seizing the populist mood that seems to be the national direction — even though the GOP leadership, especially in the Senate, is finding the whole business unnerving and destructive.

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Liberal Lament for GOP “Moderates” Misses the Point

Blogger Nate Silver is the latest liberal scribe to lament the way so-called moderates in the Republican party are being shown the door by outraged Tea Partiers. In his latest post (his blog is now hosted by the New York Times), he echoes the GOP establishment’s lament that a primary victory by Carl Paladino over Rick Lazio would hurt the Republican Party. The thinking there is that candidates like Paladino hurt the GOP “brand” by making it appear too extreme for mainstream voters to embrace.

Like some other Tea Party favorites around the nation, Paladino is a loose cannon. But it’s hard to accept the idea that a noisy anti-establishment gubernatorial nominee would harm the rest of the Republican ticket, especially in districts where the GOP has a chance to topple incumbent Democrats in Congress and the legislature. Lazio is dead in the water with no chance to beat Andrew Cuomo in November, but the party grandees seem to think that having a candidate at the top of the ticket who has no chance would be better than one who has the ability — and the money — to make more of a splash. But, as I wrote yesterday, the real reason why Republican leaders want no part of Paladino is that he is a threat to the go-along-to-get-along culture of Albany politics.

Silver is less interested in the realties of New York politics than in trying to sell us on the thesis that conservatism dooms Republicans. To that end, he speaks of the tradition of “Rockefeller” liberal Republicans who have done well in the past in New York. But Republicans have won elections in New York in the era that followed the domination of the party by the likes of Tom Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller, and Jacob Javits. Ronald Reagan won the state in both 1980 and 1984. And Al D’Amato and George Pataki each won three statewide votes by positioning themselves as common-sense conservatives, not traditional GOP liberals. It isn’t clear that the “moderate” Republicans whom Silver and the GOP big shots say will stay home in November still exist in any appreciable numbers. While I agree that Cuomo is in such a strong position that he probably needn’t fear any Republican opponent right now, the GOP’s only hope for a respectable showing in the governor’s race as well as for an increased turnout for other more competitive races is to convince alienated independents and Republicans, who were disillusioned by the tax-and-spend policies of Pataki’s later years in office, that there’s a chance for their party to finally embrace a platform of reform.

This exposes the key fallacy of the liberal reaction to the Tea Party and the anti-incumbent tide sweeping the nation this year. They seem to believe that voter outrage over the massive expansion of federal power and budget by Obama and the Democrats is a confidence trick being pulled off by conservatives rather than a genuine movement that taps into mainstream concerns. The central question today is not, as Silver says, whether moderates think “there is any longer a place for them within the [Republican] party.” Rather, it is whether Democrats understand that anger over taxes, government-funded patronage, and influence peddling is strong enough to create a political wave that could threaten their hold on even the bluest of states this fall.

Blogger Nate Silver is the latest liberal scribe to lament the way so-called moderates in the Republican party are being shown the door by outraged Tea Partiers. In his latest post (his blog is now hosted by the New York Times), he echoes the GOP establishment’s lament that a primary victory by Carl Paladino over Rick Lazio would hurt the Republican Party. The thinking there is that candidates like Paladino hurt the GOP “brand” by making it appear too extreme for mainstream voters to embrace.

Like some other Tea Party favorites around the nation, Paladino is a loose cannon. But it’s hard to accept the idea that a noisy anti-establishment gubernatorial nominee would harm the rest of the Republican ticket, especially in districts where the GOP has a chance to topple incumbent Democrats in Congress and the legislature. Lazio is dead in the water with no chance to beat Andrew Cuomo in November, but the party grandees seem to think that having a candidate at the top of the ticket who has no chance would be better than one who has the ability — and the money — to make more of a splash. But, as I wrote yesterday, the real reason why Republican leaders want no part of Paladino is that he is a threat to the go-along-to-get-along culture of Albany politics.

Silver is less interested in the realties of New York politics than in trying to sell us on the thesis that conservatism dooms Republicans. To that end, he speaks of the tradition of “Rockefeller” liberal Republicans who have done well in the past in New York. But Republicans have won elections in New York in the era that followed the domination of the party by the likes of Tom Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller, and Jacob Javits. Ronald Reagan won the state in both 1980 and 1984. And Al D’Amato and George Pataki each won three statewide votes by positioning themselves as common-sense conservatives, not traditional GOP liberals. It isn’t clear that the “moderate” Republicans whom Silver and the GOP big shots say will stay home in November still exist in any appreciable numbers. While I agree that Cuomo is in such a strong position that he probably needn’t fear any Republican opponent right now, the GOP’s only hope for a respectable showing in the governor’s race as well as for an increased turnout for other more competitive races is to convince alienated independents and Republicans, who were disillusioned by the tax-and-spend policies of Pataki’s later years in office, that there’s a chance for their party to finally embrace a platform of reform.

This exposes the key fallacy of the liberal reaction to the Tea Party and the anti-incumbent tide sweeping the nation this year. They seem to believe that voter outrage over the massive expansion of federal power and budget by Obama and the Democrats is a confidence trick being pulled off by conservatives rather than a genuine movement that taps into mainstream concerns. The central question today is not, as Silver says, whether moderates think “there is any longer a place for them within the [Republican] party.” Rather, it is whether Democrats understand that anger over taxes, government-funded patronage, and influence peddling is strong enough to create a political wave that could threaten their hold on even the bluest of states this fall.

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The False Meme

It is as predictable as it is ineffective — the liberal media’s attempts to sow discord between mainstream Republicans and Tea Partiers. The latest from the New York Times declares that Marco Rubio is veering from the “Tea Party script.” Has he changed his views on the stimulus? Gone soft on the Bush tax cuts? Renounced the Tea Party focus on the gallons of red ink spilled by the Obami? Uh, no. The sum total of the veering is:

Mr. Rubio spends less and less time trying to tap into the discontent that has been at the forefront of the midterm elections. A wiser course for Republicans, he said, is offering an alternative, not simply being the angry opposition.

Um, that’s not really veering off the Tea Party script, is it? No. And in fact, this sounds exactly like what the Tea Partiers are looking for:

“I am not running for the United States Senate because I want to be the opposition to Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid,” he replied in a measured tone [at a campaign stop]. “I’m running for Senate because I want to create an alternative.”

At each stop, Mr. Rubio speaks of the urgency to restore “American exceptionalism,” which he says is slipping away under Democratic control. He said that the private sector had been stymied by uncertainty under the Obama administration and that the health care law should be repealed.

He doesn’t agree with meddling with the 14th Amendment, but immigration has never been the core message of the fiscally minded Tea Party movement. And that’s it.

The headline and premise of the article are simply false. Rubio embraces the entirety of the Tea Party message — he, too, wants to “refudiate” Obama. But in desperate times, any old argument will do for the Gray Lady to calm its readers’ frayed nerves.

It is as predictable as it is ineffective — the liberal media’s attempts to sow discord between mainstream Republicans and Tea Partiers. The latest from the New York Times declares that Marco Rubio is veering from the “Tea Party script.” Has he changed his views on the stimulus? Gone soft on the Bush tax cuts? Renounced the Tea Party focus on the gallons of red ink spilled by the Obami? Uh, no. The sum total of the veering is:

Mr. Rubio spends less and less time trying to tap into the discontent that has been at the forefront of the midterm elections. A wiser course for Republicans, he said, is offering an alternative, not simply being the angry opposition.

Um, that’s not really veering off the Tea Party script, is it? No. And in fact, this sounds exactly like what the Tea Partiers are looking for:

“I am not running for the United States Senate because I want to be the opposition to Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid,” he replied in a measured tone [at a campaign stop]. “I’m running for Senate because I want to create an alternative.”

At each stop, Mr. Rubio speaks of the urgency to restore “American exceptionalism,” which he says is slipping away under Democratic control. He said that the private sector had been stymied by uncertainty under the Obama administration and that the health care law should be repealed.

He doesn’t agree with meddling with the 14th Amendment, but immigration has never been the core message of the fiscally minded Tea Party movement. And that’s it.

The headline and premise of the article are simply false. Rubio embraces the entirety of the Tea Party message — he, too, wants to “refudiate” Obama. But in desperate times, any old argument will do for the Gray Lady to calm its readers’ frayed nerves.

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In Praise (Not!) of Obama

I won’t give too much of it away, but here’s a sample of Noemie’s exquisite takedown of Obama’s “brilliance” and “bravery”:

How brave is Obama, to speak out as he did against the persecution of Muslims that is sweeping the country, and has swept it in fact since Sept. 11, 2001? Who can forget the riots that engulfed the whole country, the cross (and Star of David) burnings outside the mosques and the homes of innocent Muslims, the lynchings and hideous acts of unprovoked violence; the demands of conservatives, Tea Partiers, and Sarah Palin enthusiasts that Muslims and in fact all Arab-Americans, be confined in camps somewhere out in the country — Wasilla, for instance — as Japanese-Americans had been during the Second World War? …

And how lucky are we to have this rare president, brave enough to look at these friends and relations, spouses and children, of people who died on Sept. 11, and call them out for the bigots they are?

Just read the whole thing. A few times.

I won’t give too much of it away, but here’s a sample of Noemie’s exquisite takedown of Obama’s “brilliance” and “bravery”:

How brave is Obama, to speak out as he did against the persecution of Muslims that is sweeping the country, and has swept it in fact since Sept. 11, 2001? Who can forget the riots that engulfed the whole country, the cross (and Star of David) burnings outside the mosques and the homes of innocent Muslims, the lynchings and hideous acts of unprovoked violence; the demands of conservatives, Tea Partiers, and Sarah Palin enthusiasts that Muslims and in fact all Arab-Americans, be confined in camps somewhere out in the country — Wasilla, for instance — as Japanese-Americans had been during the Second World War? …

And how lucky are we to have this rare president, brave enough to look at these friends and relations, spouses and children, of people who died on Sept. 11, and call them out for the bigots they are?

Just read the whole thing. A few times.

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Ummm … Let’s Say It’s a Conservative Dilemma Too!

Politico pronounces: “The debate over the proposed mosque near ground zero, which has tied Democrats in knots, turns out to be just as tricky for their adversaries on the right—particularly those in the tea party.” This is simply nonsense. In a lengthy article, little support is offered for the assertion that the Tea Party movement is tied up in knots, and absolutely none to demonstrate that it is “just as tricky” for Tea Partiers as it is for Democrats (who are engaged in what the media would refer to as a “civil war” if it were the GOP’s problem).

It seems some Tea Partiers think the Ground Zero mosque is not a Tea Party issue (since the movement generally focuses on economic issues). And some don’t. But where’s the evidence that the percentage of opponents is any lower than the voters at large (68 percent) or that a single Tea Party–backed candidate is out of step with the voters? The best the report can do is this on Rand Paul:

On Monday, a spokesman for the Kentucky Senate campaign of Rand Paul, a tea party standard bearer, issued a statement seeming to beg off the issue by invoking states’ rights. “We don’t want New York intervening in our local Kentucky issues,” read the statement from Gary Howard to a Kentucky political blog, “and we don’t look to interfere with New York’s local issues.”

But asked to clarify Paul’s stance, Howard on Tuesday sent POLITICO a statement emphasizing Paul’s personal opposition.

“While this is a local matter that should be decided by the people of New York, Dr. Paul does not support a mosque being built two blocks from ground zero,” Howard said in the statement. “In Dr. Paul’s opinion, the Muslim community would better serve the healing process by making a donation to the memorial fund for the victims of Sept. 11.”

Well, compared with the White House, this is political sophistication of the highest order. And it sure sounds like Paul is handling it better than Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who seem to have gone into a witness protection program to avoid responding to an issue of deep concern to their electorate.

This sort of moral-equivalence reporting is nothing new for the media. Whenever the Democrats are on the rocks, their media fan club strains to concoct the argument that, oh yes, the Democrats’ great misfortune is not the Democrats’ misfortune alone. It’s the same syndrome we see at work when the media insist that the anti-Democratic sentiment sweeping the country is really anti-incumbent sentiment. If you ignore the historic lead for the GOP in congressional generic polling, Obama’s plummeting approval numbers, the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans, and the rise in support for conservative positions, it almost makes sense.

The “conservatives are in trouble too!” reporting is one of the more transparent gambits the media engage in, and the kind of “journalism” that gives false comfort to the objects of their affection. And in the context of the Ground Zero mosque, I’d wager even the Journolist gang would recommend against it.

Politico pronounces: “The debate over the proposed mosque near ground zero, which has tied Democrats in knots, turns out to be just as tricky for their adversaries on the right—particularly those in the tea party.” This is simply nonsense. In a lengthy article, little support is offered for the assertion that the Tea Party movement is tied up in knots, and absolutely none to demonstrate that it is “just as tricky” for Tea Partiers as it is for Democrats (who are engaged in what the media would refer to as a “civil war” if it were the GOP’s problem).

It seems some Tea Partiers think the Ground Zero mosque is not a Tea Party issue (since the movement generally focuses on economic issues). And some don’t. But where’s the evidence that the percentage of opponents is any lower than the voters at large (68 percent) or that a single Tea Party–backed candidate is out of step with the voters? The best the report can do is this on Rand Paul:

On Monday, a spokesman for the Kentucky Senate campaign of Rand Paul, a tea party standard bearer, issued a statement seeming to beg off the issue by invoking states’ rights. “We don’t want New York intervening in our local Kentucky issues,” read the statement from Gary Howard to a Kentucky political blog, “and we don’t look to interfere with New York’s local issues.”

But asked to clarify Paul’s stance, Howard on Tuesday sent POLITICO a statement emphasizing Paul’s personal opposition.

“While this is a local matter that should be decided by the people of New York, Dr. Paul does not support a mosque being built two blocks from ground zero,” Howard said in the statement. “In Dr. Paul’s opinion, the Muslim community would better serve the healing process by making a donation to the memorial fund for the victims of Sept. 11.”

Well, compared with the White House, this is political sophistication of the highest order. And it sure sounds like Paul is handling it better than Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who seem to have gone into a witness protection program to avoid responding to an issue of deep concern to their electorate.

This sort of moral-equivalence reporting is nothing new for the media. Whenever the Democrats are on the rocks, their media fan club strains to concoct the argument that, oh yes, the Democrats’ great misfortune is not the Democrats’ misfortune alone. It’s the same syndrome we see at work when the media insist that the anti-Democratic sentiment sweeping the country is really anti-incumbent sentiment. If you ignore the historic lead for the GOP in congressional generic polling, Obama’s plummeting approval numbers, the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans, and the rise in support for conservative positions, it almost makes sense.

The “conservatives are in trouble too!” reporting is one of the more transparent gambits the media engage in, and the kind of “journalism” that gives false comfort to the objects of their affection. And in the context of the Ground Zero mosque, I’d wager even the Journolist gang would recommend against it.

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Partners in the Conservative Revival

Both Bill Kristol and Peter Berkowitz have taken up the issue of conservative reform and the respective tasks of wonkish conservative innovators and the grassroots Tea Party movement. The mainstream media like to portray the two groups — the reformers and the Tea Partiers – in opposition in a party civil war (as if Rep. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin were in competition for the soul of the GOP). But as Kristol and Berkowitz explain, the two aspects of the revived conservative movement are compatible, and each is essential in its own realm.

Kristol reminds us that the Tea Party movement has helped to unnerve and beat back the liberal statists, but that is the beginning and not the end of a conservative resurgence:

We already have a Middle American populist reaction against the government schemes of pointy-headed intellectuals. Barack Obama got the highest percentage of the votes of any Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964; Republicans look to be on track this year to replicate their 47-seat House pick-up in 1966.

What comes next? That’s up to us—especially to us conservatives. We’re not doomed to repeat the pretty miserable political, social, and economic performance of 1967-80. …

Can conservatives develop a program, an agenda, and a governing vision that would, in the words of Federalist 39, vindicate “that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government”?

And Berkowitz provides a helpful review of the history of conservative reform, pointing toward those whose task it will be to provide an alternative to Obamaism:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan are among those officeholders in the process of recovering reform as a conservative virtue. In November, Meg Whitman, the new Republican nominee in California, and Brian Sandoval, the new Republican nominee for governor in Nevada, stand a good chance to join their ranks.

Today’s conservative reformers appreciate that within its limited sphere government should be excellent. Promoting individual responsibility, self-reliance and opportunity requires targeted action, beginning with health-care reform that really controls costs by eliminating barriers on insurance companies operating across state lines and limiting malpractice damages; public-sector reform that reins in unions by reducing benefits and expanding accountability; and education reform that through school-choice programs gives parents, particularly in low income and minority communities, greater control over their children’s education.

None of this is to underestimate or denigrate the intellectual underpinnings of the Tea Party movement. Despite the media indictment (Racists! Know-nothings!), it is perhaps the most wonkish popular uprising we’ve had in the past century. It is the CATO  Institute’s dream mass movement — based on self-reliance, limited government, sound money, fiscal discipline, and market economics. Many of the protesters like to carry copies of the Constitution. For every inflammatory hand-painted sign that CNN films, there are dozens quoting James Madison, challenging the “bailout nation,” and contesting the constitutionality of an individual health-care insurance mandate. It’s certainly a step up from “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” But it is not a methodology for governing nor an agenda for what would follow Obamaism. You don’t write legislation in mass gatherings seeking to discredit and upend those in power. And it’s unrealistic and misguided to expect a mass movement to decimate a political agenda, defeat liberal one-party rule, defend itself against incessant media attacks – and come up with a health-care alternative, a scheme for entitlement reform, and proposals to tame the debt. (The latter is the work of Ryan, Daniels, Christie, et. al.)

The media narrative that the conservative movement is riven with conflict is, as is so much else the media spew, a distortion intended to bolster the spirits of the left and paint the right in the most disagreeable light possible. We actually have witnessed a rather effective division of labor on the right, with reformers and Tea Partiers collaborating on common goals. They share a mutual desire to put a stake through the heart of the statist agenda of one-party Democratic rule and to find a better alternative. The first task is well under way; the latter is just beginning.

Both Bill Kristol and Peter Berkowitz have taken up the issue of conservative reform and the respective tasks of wonkish conservative innovators and the grassroots Tea Party movement. The mainstream media like to portray the two groups — the reformers and the Tea Partiers – in opposition in a party civil war (as if Rep. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin were in competition for the soul of the GOP). But as Kristol and Berkowitz explain, the two aspects of the revived conservative movement are compatible, and each is essential in its own realm.

Kristol reminds us that the Tea Party movement has helped to unnerve and beat back the liberal statists, but that is the beginning and not the end of a conservative resurgence:

We already have a Middle American populist reaction against the government schemes of pointy-headed intellectuals. Barack Obama got the highest percentage of the votes of any Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964; Republicans look to be on track this year to replicate their 47-seat House pick-up in 1966.

What comes next? That’s up to us—especially to us conservatives. We’re not doomed to repeat the pretty miserable political, social, and economic performance of 1967-80. …

Can conservatives develop a program, an agenda, and a governing vision that would, in the words of Federalist 39, vindicate “that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government”?

And Berkowitz provides a helpful review of the history of conservative reform, pointing toward those whose task it will be to provide an alternative to Obamaism:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan are among those officeholders in the process of recovering reform as a conservative virtue. In November, Meg Whitman, the new Republican nominee in California, and Brian Sandoval, the new Republican nominee for governor in Nevada, stand a good chance to join their ranks.

Today’s conservative reformers appreciate that within its limited sphere government should be excellent. Promoting individual responsibility, self-reliance and opportunity requires targeted action, beginning with health-care reform that really controls costs by eliminating barriers on insurance companies operating across state lines and limiting malpractice damages; public-sector reform that reins in unions by reducing benefits and expanding accountability; and education reform that through school-choice programs gives parents, particularly in low income and minority communities, greater control over their children’s education.

None of this is to underestimate or denigrate the intellectual underpinnings of the Tea Party movement. Despite the media indictment (Racists! Know-nothings!), it is perhaps the most wonkish popular uprising we’ve had in the past century. It is the CATO  Institute’s dream mass movement — based on self-reliance, limited government, sound money, fiscal discipline, and market economics. Many of the protesters like to carry copies of the Constitution. For every inflammatory hand-painted sign that CNN films, there are dozens quoting James Madison, challenging the “bailout nation,” and contesting the constitutionality of an individual health-care insurance mandate. It’s certainly a step up from “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” But it is not a methodology for governing nor an agenda for what would follow Obamaism. You don’t write legislation in mass gatherings seeking to discredit and upend those in power. And it’s unrealistic and misguided to expect a mass movement to decimate a political agenda, defeat liberal one-party rule, defend itself against incessant media attacks – and come up with a health-care alternative, a scheme for entitlement reform, and proposals to tame the debt. (The latter is the work of Ryan, Daniels, Christie, et. al.)

The media narrative that the conservative movement is riven with conflict is, as is so much else the media spew, a distortion intended to bolster the spirits of the left and paint the right in the most disagreeable light possible. We actually have witnessed a rather effective division of labor on the right, with reformers and Tea Partiers collaborating on common goals. They share a mutual desire to put a stake through the heart of the statist agenda of one-party Democratic rule and to find a better alternative. The first task is well under way; the latter is just beginning.

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