Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ted Kennedy

Misunderstanding Massachusetts

The Washington correspondent of Der Spiegel reacts to the Massachusetts election by suggesting Obama’s troubles may simply reflect “a case of the best US president at the worst time” — a great man understandably unable to bring “change” because he has to deal with so many crises:

Barack Obama has spent his first year in office fighting one crisis after another. Now he faces a political crisis of his own — the defeat in Massachusetts threatens his health care reform, his most important domestic project. Is it a case of the best US president at the worst time? …

In times of crisis, insecurity and defensiveness trump any openness to change. And since his inauguration Obama has had to deal almost exclusively with crisis management. The financial crisis, the automotive crisis, the jobs crisis, the climate crisis, the global crisis. There have never been quite so many crises.

The five crises do not quite compare with inheriting the Great Depression (FDR) or World War II (Truman), and memories are short about what George W. Bush faced in his first year: a recession caused by a burst Internet bubble; the failure of the seventh largest company in the country (Enron) and one of the Big Five accounting firms (Arthur Andersen); an attack on New York and Washington, D.C.; a stock market that crashed and an economy that tottered; the need to mobilize the country for a war in Afghanistan; a failed “peace process” inherited on Inauguration Day (with a new Palestinian war against Israel already in its fifth month); etc.

The difference is that Bush did not spend his first year blaming Bill Clinton for the Internet bubble or the inherited recession, or the ineffective response to the first World Trade Center attack and the multiple attacks thereafter, or the bungled peace process. Bush got tax cuts enacted that helped restore the economy; began his war on terror that kept the country safe for the next seven years; worked cooperatively with Ted Kennedy on major education legislation; and so on.

Obama spent his first year responding to the financial crisis with massive borrowed-money bailouts; to the automotive crisis with a government takeover and a transfer of wealth from secured creditors to unions; to the jobs crisis with a trillion dollar “stimulus” that didn’t work; to the climate “crisis” with a nonbinding international agreement featuring a blank appendix; and to the “global crisis” with … what?

Most of his time was devoted to ObamaCare, something unrelated to the five “crises” he faced and something that got more unpopular the more people understood it. He made a lot of trips and speeches, most of them reminding the country that now was the moment and telling the world that his hand was outstretched. For the coming year, he plans a huge tax increase in the guise of letting current tax rates “expire” and has no plan for the real crisis he will face: Iran.

He has not been the best president and these are not the worst of times — and the sort-of-God/best-president-ever treatment he received from the mainstream media contributed significantly to the problem he now faces. His belief that he just needs to slow down and “explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing” is a more-cowbell response that ignores what Massachusetts was trying to tell him.

The Washington correspondent of Der Spiegel reacts to the Massachusetts election by suggesting Obama’s troubles may simply reflect “a case of the best US president at the worst time” — a great man understandably unable to bring “change” because he has to deal with so many crises:

Barack Obama has spent his first year in office fighting one crisis after another. Now he faces a political crisis of his own — the defeat in Massachusetts threatens his health care reform, his most important domestic project. Is it a case of the best US president at the worst time? …

In times of crisis, insecurity and defensiveness trump any openness to change. And since his inauguration Obama has had to deal almost exclusively with crisis management. The financial crisis, the automotive crisis, the jobs crisis, the climate crisis, the global crisis. There have never been quite so many crises.

The five crises do not quite compare with inheriting the Great Depression (FDR) or World War II (Truman), and memories are short about what George W. Bush faced in his first year: a recession caused by a burst Internet bubble; the failure of the seventh largest company in the country (Enron) and one of the Big Five accounting firms (Arthur Andersen); an attack on New York and Washington, D.C.; a stock market that crashed and an economy that tottered; the need to mobilize the country for a war in Afghanistan; a failed “peace process” inherited on Inauguration Day (with a new Palestinian war against Israel already in its fifth month); etc.

The difference is that Bush did not spend his first year blaming Bill Clinton for the Internet bubble or the inherited recession, or the ineffective response to the first World Trade Center attack and the multiple attacks thereafter, or the bungled peace process. Bush got tax cuts enacted that helped restore the economy; began his war on terror that kept the country safe for the next seven years; worked cooperatively with Ted Kennedy on major education legislation; and so on.

Obama spent his first year responding to the financial crisis with massive borrowed-money bailouts; to the automotive crisis with a government takeover and a transfer of wealth from secured creditors to unions; to the jobs crisis with a trillion dollar “stimulus” that didn’t work; to the climate “crisis” with a nonbinding international agreement featuring a blank appendix; and to the “global crisis” with … what?

Most of his time was devoted to ObamaCare, something unrelated to the five “crises” he faced and something that got more unpopular the more people understood it. He made a lot of trips and speeches, most of them reminding the country that now was the moment and telling the world that his hand was outstretched. For the coming year, he plans a huge tax increase in the guise of letting current tax rates “expire” and has no plan for the real crisis he will face: Iran.

He has not been the best president and these are not the worst of times — and the sort-of-God/best-president-ever treatment he received from the mainstream media contributed significantly to the problem he now faces. His belief that he just needs to slow down and “explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing” is a more-cowbell response that ignores what Massachusetts was trying to tell him.

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The Virtues of Leaving Well Enough Alone

Among the many lessons to be learned from yesterday’s election in Massachusetts is that politicians should not play games with established law for short-term political advantage.

Like most states, Massachusetts law called for the governor to appoint someone to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat until the next general election. But in 2004, Republican Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, and Democratic Senator John Kerry was running for president. To prevent Romney from appointing a Republican in the event of a Kerry victory, a bill was submitted to the General Court (as Massachusetts calls its legislature) to strip the governor of this power and require a special election to be held from 145 to 160 days after the seat became vacant. The bill stalled in the legislature, however, until Senator Ted Kennedy personally pushed for its passage. Governor Romney vetoed the bill, but his veto was overridden by the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

Kerry, of course, lost the election, so the only result of this maneuvering was to diminish whatever public respect there was for the political establishment in Massachusetts. Then in 2009, Senator Kennedy, dying of cancer, asked that the law be changed again to allow the appointment of an interim senator (by the now Democratic governor, Deval Patrick) until the special election was held. President Obama endorsed the effort to be sure of having the votes in the Senate to push through his health-care legislation.

But by the time the special election was nearing, the wheeling and dealing in the Senate had so disgusted Massachusetts voters that the sacrificial lamb nominated by the Republicans began to look like a political tiger. More wheeling and dealing in the White House to secure union support for a final bill further disgusted the electorate and that — together with a very good campaign by the Republican and a lousy one by the Democrat — was enough to put Scott Brown in the seat held by the Kennedy family (or its surrogates) since before Scott Brown was born.

Had the Massachusetts Democrats and Senator Kennedy simply left the law alone in 2004, this election would not have taken place, and the Democrats’ 60-seat majority in the Senate would still be intact. Had the Massachusetts Democrats, Senator Kennedy, and President Obama left the law alone in 2009, the Senate would have been forced to bargain with Republicans to secure passage of the health-care bill. A bill might have emerged that would have had more public support, and the president and the Democrats might have escaped an epic political disaster.

Among the many lessons to be learned from yesterday’s election in Massachusetts is that politicians should not play games with established law for short-term political advantage.

Like most states, Massachusetts law called for the governor to appoint someone to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat until the next general election. But in 2004, Republican Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, and Democratic Senator John Kerry was running for president. To prevent Romney from appointing a Republican in the event of a Kerry victory, a bill was submitted to the General Court (as Massachusetts calls its legislature) to strip the governor of this power and require a special election to be held from 145 to 160 days after the seat became vacant. The bill stalled in the legislature, however, until Senator Ted Kennedy personally pushed for its passage. Governor Romney vetoed the bill, but his veto was overridden by the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

Kerry, of course, lost the election, so the only result of this maneuvering was to diminish whatever public respect there was for the political establishment in Massachusetts. Then in 2009, Senator Kennedy, dying of cancer, asked that the law be changed again to allow the appointment of an interim senator (by the now Democratic governor, Deval Patrick) until the special election was held. President Obama endorsed the effort to be sure of having the votes in the Senate to push through his health-care legislation.

But by the time the special election was nearing, the wheeling and dealing in the Senate had so disgusted Massachusetts voters that the sacrificial lamb nominated by the Republicans began to look like a political tiger. More wheeling and dealing in the White House to secure union support for a final bill further disgusted the electorate and that — together with a very good campaign by the Republican and a lousy one by the Democrat — was enough to put Scott Brown in the seat held by the Kennedy family (or its surrogates) since before Scott Brown was born.

Had the Massachusetts Democrats and Senator Kennedy simply left the law alone in 2004, this election would not have taken place, and the Democrats’ 60-seat majority in the Senate would still be intact. Had the Massachusetts Democrats, Senator Kennedy, and President Obama left the law alone in 2009, the Senate would have been forced to bargain with Republicans to secure passage of the health-care bill. A bill might have emerged that would have had more public support, and the president and the Democrats might have escaped an epic political disaster.

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Crying Sexism

A duo of female reporters for Politico are convinced that the rest of us are ignoring the real meaning in the Massachusetts race: “a glass ceiling that remains almost impenetrable, even in the blue state of Massachusetts.” You see, there’s a devious “double standard that some longtime women’s advocates see in the success of Republican Scott Brown, whose college-aged centerfold and lesser professional success didn’t prevent him from capturing Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat from the Democrats.” And this cursed sexism really just exists in Massachusetts, mind you. Sexism is no problem in “nearby Maine, where both senators are women.”

Oh, puhleez. This sort of woe is me/her is getting old. The indifference to all other political facts and phenomena in order to play the gender victim card is tiresome. There is of course no real evidence of this sexism. Nor does anyone think Coakley actually deserved to win. In fact, the reporters say that Coakley’s gender worked to her advantage in the primary and that gender really didn’t come up in the race. The best the duo can come up with is one female Boston Herald columnist who made some cracks, a Teamster boss who wouldn’t vote “for a broad,” one crude comment by someone in the crowd at one Brown rally, and some Internet commenters. That’s it.

There are plenty of legitimate theories to explain the results in Massachusetts. Sexism isn’t one of them, however. The reporters only embarrass themselves and their publication by crying sexism with nothing to back it up. It’s the Keith Olbermann style of “news” — non-news really. Olbermann last night pretended to apologize for calling Scott Brown “an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, tea-bagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees.” He added: “I’m sorry I left out the word ‘sexist.’” He then simply dared his audience to disprove his baseless slurs.

This seems now to be the operating standard for much of what passes for “journalism” — make a slur, repeat it, offer no proof, and challenge the targets to defend themselves. We’ve come to expect that of MSNBC, but MSNBC’s less loony journalistic colleagues should resist the temptation to follow in the netroot network’s footsteps.

A duo of female reporters for Politico are convinced that the rest of us are ignoring the real meaning in the Massachusetts race: “a glass ceiling that remains almost impenetrable, even in the blue state of Massachusetts.” You see, there’s a devious “double standard that some longtime women’s advocates see in the success of Republican Scott Brown, whose college-aged centerfold and lesser professional success didn’t prevent him from capturing Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat from the Democrats.” And this cursed sexism really just exists in Massachusetts, mind you. Sexism is no problem in “nearby Maine, where both senators are women.”

Oh, puhleez. This sort of woe is me/her is getting old. The indifference to all other political facts and phenomena in order to play the gender victim card is tiresome. There is of course no real evidence of this sexism. Nor does anyone think Coakley actually deserved to win. In fact, the reporters say that Coakley’s gender worked to her advantage in the primary and that gender really didn’t come up in the race. The best the duo can come up with is one female Boston Herald columnist who made some cracks, a Teamster boss who wouldn’t vote “for a broad,” one crude comment by someone in the crowd at one Brown rally, and some Internet commenters. That’s it.

There are plenty of legitimate theories to explain the results in Massachusetts. Sexism isn’t one of them, however. The reporters only embarrass themselves and their publication by crying sexism with nothing to back it up. It’s the Keith Olbermann style of “news” — non-news really. Olbermann last night pretended to apologize for calling Scott Brown “an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, tea-bagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees.” He added: “I’m sorry I left out the word ‘sexist.’” He then simply dared his audience to disprove his baseless slurs.

This seems now to be the operating standard for much of what passes for “journalism” — make a slur, repeat it, offer no proof, and challenge the targets to defend themselves. We’ve come to expect that of MSNBC, but MSNBC’s less loony journalistic colleagues should resist the temptation to follow in the netroot network’s footsteps.

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Railroading Health Care

When Ted Kennedy died last August, Democrats swung into action to ensure that the health-care train (which yesterday was involved in a train wreck) did not slow down. Massachusetts law required a special election to choose a Kennedy successor, but Democrats were unwilling to wait the necessary five months to conduct one. At Kennedy’s funeral, President Obama spoke to Governor Patrick about changing the law — part of a “furious lobbying campaign by national Democrats” to get Patrick to appoint an immediate interim successor.

The move to amend the law required a blatant disregard of principle by the Massachusetts Democrats, since they had established the election procedure in 2004 to deny the governor (then Mitt Romney) the power to choose a successor to John Kerry if Kerry won the presidential election. The law giving the power to Patrick barely passed, even though the legislature had only five Republican members: legislative leaders were still scrambling in the hours before the vote. Patrick mustered a majority but not the two-thirds vote necessary to make the legislation effective immediately. He declared it “emergency” legislation nonetheless so he could immediately appoint Paul Kirk, at the urging of Kennedy’s widow and sons. Kirk announced he was grateful the family chose him “to be a voice and a vote” for Kennedy’s causes.

Kirk provided a reliable 60th vote for a process that subsequently featured late-night and weekend sessions to meet artificial deadlines, with successively more blatant kickbacks to key senators and special interests to keep the train on its tracks. It was a process that could not have been more repulsive had it been shown on C-SPAN. It culminated in the historic repudiation last night in a state where voters knew better than most how corrupt the process had been: it had been enabled by the Massachusetts end run five months earlier.

In his speech on Sunday, Scott Brown disclosed the secret of his successful campaign:

The political experts are still wondering how this little campaign of ours grew so fast and gathered so much strength and momentum.  The reason is simple.

We do not want a senator whose only question on health care is to ask Harry Reid, “How do you want me to vote?”  Massachusetts wants real reform, and not this trillion-dollar Obama health care bill being forced on the American people.

The train conductor addresses Congress in one week. It will be a much different one than the one he helped create five months ago, which led him to this crash.

When Ted Kennedy died last August, Democrats swung into action to ensure that the health-care train (which yesterday was involved in a train wreck) did not slow down. Massachusetts law required a special election to choose a Kennedy successor, but Democrats were unwilling to wait the necessary five months to conduct one. At Kennedy’s funeral, President Obama spoke to Governor Patrick about changing the law — part of a “furious lobbying campaign by national Democrats” to get Patrick to appoint an immediate interim successor.

The move to amend the law required a blatant disregard of principle by the Massachusetts Democrats, since they had established the election procedure in 2004 to deny the governor (then Mitt Romney) the power to choose a successor to John Kerry if Kerry won the presidential election. The law giving the power to Patrick barely passed, even though the legislature had only five Republican members: legislative leaders were still scrambling in the hours before the vote. Patrick mustered a majority but not the two-thirds vote necessary to make the legislation effective immediately. He declared it “emergency” legislation nonetheless so he could immediately appoint Paul Kirk, at the urging of Kennedy’s widow and sons. Kirk announced he was grateful the family chose him “to be a voice and a vote” for Kennedy’s causes.

Kirk provided a reliable 60th vote for a process that subsequently featured late-night and weekend sessions to meet artificial deadlines, with successively more blatant kickbacks to key senators and special interests to keep the train on its tracks. It was a process that could not have been more repulsive had it been shown on C-SPAN. It culminated in the historic repudiation last night in a state where voters knew better than most how corrupt the process had been: it had been enabled by the Massachusetts end run five months earlier.

In his speech on Sunday, Scott Brown disclosed the secret of his successful campaign:

The political experts are still wondering how this little campaign of ours grew so fast and gathered so much strength and momentum.  The reason is simple.

We do not want a senator whose only question on health care is to ask Harry Reid, “How do you want me to vote?”  Massachusetts wants real reform, and not this trillion-dollar Obama health care bill being forced on the American people.

The train conductor addresses Congress in one week. It will be a much different one than the one he helped create five months ago, which led him to this crash.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Odd that Saudi Arabia isn’t contributing anything to Haiti, or even covering it on English-language state news. “It seems it was God’s little joke to hand the greatest supplies of oil and natural gas to a people who part with their riches for their own ends only.”

House Democrats are saying they aren’t voting for the Senate health-care bill. Maybe they won’t vote again for the House bill.

Democratic pollster and strategist Douglas Schoen: “The defeat of Martha Coakley represents a complete repudiation of President Obama’s domestic agenda, going well beyond health care. Massachusetts voters made it clear tonight with the decisive victory they gave to Republican Scott Brown that they want and expect the administration to pursue a dramatically different approach.” And he’s a Democrat.

Sen. Jim Webb is calling foul on the gamesmanship: “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.” Could it be that the White House has lost control of the process?

Lanny Davis is pleading for sanity: “Liberal Democrats might attempt to spin the shocking victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts by claiming that the loss was a result of a poor campaign by Martha Coakley. Would that it were so. This was a defeat not of the messenger, but of the message—and the sooner progressive Democrats face up to that fact, the better. It’s the substance, stupid! … The question is, will we stop listening to the strident, purist base of our party who seem to prefer defeat to winning elections and no change at all if they don’t get all the change they want. Stay tuned.”

Michael Gerson chides the see-no-danger Democrats: “So, a Republican has convincingly won Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat. After opposing health reform. And supporting the waterboarding of terrorists. And appearing as a nude centerfold. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by three to one. And where Republicans haven’t won a Senate election since 1972. After a high-profile visit by President Obama. Who won the state by 26 points last year. But who now carries no political weight in the bluest state in the country. With vicious, public recriminations starting among Democrats even before election day. Following major losses in Virginia and New Jersey. All of which led one popular Democratic blog to argue: ‘Why Massachusetts doesn’t matter.’”

Hard to argue that: “This is the first time in years that David Gergen has helped elect a Republican.” The line “This is the people’s seat” is going to go down with “I paid for this microphone” in campaign lore.

Chris Cillizza observes: “With the Coakley loss now in the rear view mirror, the attention of the political world will now quickly turn to the question of whether or not congressional Democrats — particularly those in swing areas — will start jumping ship.” I think the only question is how many jump. “Several Democratic operatives acknowledged privately over the past few days that a Coakley defeat could put control of the House in play if enough targeted members head for the hills. It remains to be seen whether those doomsday predictions come to pass but it’s now clear that Democrats must work day in and day out to avoid broad losses outside of the historic norms for a first term, midterm election.”

Hans von Spakovsky looks for clues to White House meddling in the New Black Panther Party case: “Perhaps the single most important question that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the White House are refusing to answer in the growing scandal (for the stonewalling and subpoena violations make it a scandal) is which political appointees were involved in the obviously wrongful decision to dismiss the lawsuit — a civil suit filed under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Newly released White House visitor records present strong circumstantial evidence of White House involvement in what should have been an independent and impartial law-enforcement decision.”

Before the returns were in last night, from Stuart Rothenberg: “If Brown wins, and he may, it will be the biggest political upset of my adult life. Some have compared a possible Republican win to Democrat Harris Wofford’s 1991 Pennsylvania special election Senate victory over Republican Dick Thornburgh, who was U.S. attorney general. But to me, a Brown win would be much bigger.” Yes, it is.

Odd that Saudi Arabia isn’t contributing anything to Haiti, or even covering it on English-language state news. “It seems it was God’s little joke to hand the greatest supplies of oil and natural gas to a people who part with their riches for their own ends only.”

House Democrats are saying they aren’t voting for the Senate health-care bill. Maybe they won’t vote again for the House bill.

Democratic pollster and strategist Douglas Schoen: “The defeat of Martha Coakley represents a complete repudiation of President Obama’s domestic agenda, going well beyond health care. Massachusetts voters made it clear tonight with the decisive victory they gave to Republican Scott Brown that they want and expect the administration to pursue a dramatically different approach.” And he’s a Democrat.

Sen. Jim Webb is calling foul on the gamesmanship: “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.” Could it be that the White House has lost control of the process?

Lanny Davis is pleading for sanity: “Liberal Democrats might attempt to spin the shocking victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts by claiming that the loss was a result of a poor campaign by Martha Coakley. Would that it were so. This was a defeat not of the messenger, but of the message—and the sooner progressive Democrats face up to that fact, the better. It’s the substance, stupid! … The question is, will we stop listening to the strident, purist base of our party who seem to prefer defeat to winning elections and no change at all if they don’t get all the change they want. Stay tuned.”

Michael Gerson chides the see-no-danger Democrats: “So, a Republican has convincingly won Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat. After opposing health reform. And supporting the waterboarding of terrorists. And appearing as a nude centerfold. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by three to one. And where Republicans haven’t won a Senate election since 1972. After a high-profile visit by President Obama. Who won the state by 26 points last year. But who now carries no political weight in the bluest state in the country. With vicious, public recriminations starting among Democrats even before election day. Following major losses in Virginia and New Jersey. All of which led one popular Democratic blog to argue: ‘Why Massachusetts doesn’t matter.’”

Hard to argue that: “This is the first time in years that David Gergen has helped elect a Republican.” The line “This is the people’s seat” is going to go down with “I paid for this microphone” in campaign lore.

Chris Cillizza observes: “With the Coakley loss now in the rear view mirror, the attention of the political world will now quickly turn to the question of whether or not congressional Democrats — particularly those in swing areas — will start jumping ship.” I think the only question is how many jump. “Several Democratic operatives acknowledged privately over the past few days that a Coakley defeat could put control of the House in play if enough targeted members head for the hills. It remains to be seen whether those doomsday predictions come to pass but it’s now clear that Democrats must work day in and day out to avoid broad losses outside of the historic norms for a first term, midterm election.”

Hans von Spakovsky looks for clues to White House meddling in the New Black Panther Party case: “Perhaps the single most important question that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the White House are refusing to answer in the growing scandal (for the stonewalling and subpoena violations make it a scandal) is which political appointees were involved in the obviously wrongful decision to dismiss the lawsuit — a civil suit filed under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Newly released White House visitor records present strong circumstantial evidence of White House involvement in what should have been an independent and impartial law-enforcement decision.”

Before the returns were in last night, from Stuart Rothenberg: “If Brown wins, and he may, it will be the biggest political upset of my adult life. Some have compared a possible Republican win to Democrat Harris Wofford’s 1991 Pennsylvania special election Senate victory over Republican Dick Thornburgh, who was U.S. attorney general. But to me, a Brown win would be much bigger.” Yes, it is.

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Brown’s Victory Speech

“The independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken,” thunders Scott Brown. ” This senate seat belongs to no one person and no one party. This is the people’s seat.” This is the populist, anti-Washington voice that many in the GOP will emulate in November. As Brown thanks Sen. Kirk for “completing his work,” the cheer goes up: “Seat him now!” (The message is clear: enough with the political tricks.) Brown says his first call went to Ted Kennedy’s widow, and to the chagrin of many partisan,s Brown says he hopes to be a “worthy successor” to Kennedy. (He’s got a lot of Democratic constituents, so conservatives will forgive him the hyperbole.) He ran against the “machine” in D.C., he says (yup, populism is going to be big in 2010), but the people are the real machine. He’s advertising his daughters’ availability, teasing Obama about ragging on his truck, and challenging Obama to a pick-up game (with Brown’s daughter Ayla, a Boston College star, on the Republican’s team). Victory is fun and Brown is having a ball.

Brown is a telegenic candidate who just claimed a history-changing victory. He’s going to D.C. as a Republican rock star. We’ll see what he does with his opportunity.

UPDATE: He takes another swipe at Obama’s cracks about his truck. (“That’s where I draw the line!”) And he takes time to go after the Democrats’  health-care bill, which he says is not being honestly and fairly debated. He ticks off its many failings — Medicare cuts, the impact on the deficit, the special-interest deals, etc. “We can do better!” You can see why this candidate won.

“The independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken,” thunders Scott Brown. ” This senate seat belongs to no one person and no one party. This is the people’s seat.” This is the populist, anti-Washington voice that many in the GOP will emulate in November. As Brown thanks Sen. Kirk for “completing his work,” the cheer goes up: “Seat him now!” (The message is clear: enough with the political tricks.) Brown says his first call went to Ted Kennedy’s widow, and to the chagrin of many partisan,s Brown says he hopes to be a “worthy successor” to Kennedy. (He’s got a lot of Democratic constituents, so conservatives will forgive him the hyperbole.) He ran against the “machine” in D.C., he says (yup, populism is going to be big in 2010), but the people are the real machine. He’s advertising his daughters’ availability, teasing Obama about ragging on his truck, and challenging Obama to a pick-up game (with Brown’s daughter Ayla, a Boston College star, on the Republican’s team). Victory is fun and Brown is having a ball.

Brown is a telegenic candidate who just claimed a history-changing victory. He’s going to D.C. as a Republican rock star. We’ll see what he does with his opportunity.

UPDATE: He takes another swipe at Obama’s cracks about his truck. (“That’s where I draw the line!”) And he takes time to go after the Democrats’  health-care bill, which he says is not being honestly and fairly debated. He ticks off its many failings — Medicare cuts, the impact on the deficit, the special-interest deals, etc. “We can do better!” You can see why this candidate won.

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The Once-Appealing Barack Obama

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of Barack Obama’s inauguration. It has been, by almost any measure, a difficult and disappointing year for him and his party.

Mr. Obama now has the highest disapproval rating in Gallup’s history for a president entering his second year in office. According to a new Washington Post–ABC News poll, among independents, only 49 percent approve — the lowest of any of his recent predecessors at this point in their presidencies. (Obama has lost a stunning 18 points among independents in just a year’s time.) In November, Democrats suffered crushing defeats in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial campaigns — and if Republican Scott Brown prevails in his race against Martha Coakley in tomorrow’s Senate election in Massachusetts, it will rank among the most important non-presidential elections in our lifetime.

It has been a staggering collapse by a president who entered office with enormous support and an unprecedented amount of goodwill. Read More

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of Barack Obama’s inauguration. It has been, by almost any measure, a difficult and disappointing year for him and his party.

Mr. Obama now has the highest disapproval rating in Gallup’s history for a president entering his second year in office. According to a new Washington Post–ABC News poll, among independents, only 49 percent approve — the lowest of any of his recent predecessors at this point in their presidencies. (Obama has lost a stunning 18 points among independents in just a year’s time.) In November, Democrats suffered crushing defeats in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial campaigns — and if Republican Scott Brown prevails in his race against Martha Coakley in tomorrow’s Senate election in Massachusetts, it will rank among the most important non-presidential elections in our lifetime.

It has been a staggering collapse by a president who entered office with enormous support and an unprecedented amount of goodwill.

The reasons for this slide include unemployment rates that are much higher than the Obama administration predicted, job growth that never materialized despite the president’s promises, a record-setting spending binge, a massive and hugely unpopular health-care proposal, and an agenda that is far too liberal for most Americans.

But there is another, and I think quite important, explanation that was reinforced to me while reading John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s book, Game Change, which is a fascinating (and very well-written) account of the 2008 presidential campaign.

One is reminded once again of how the core of Obama’s popularity was an appeal not to policy or to a governing agenda; instead it was an appeal to thematics and narrative. “Obama cast himself as a figure uncorrupted and unco-opted by evil Washington,” the authors write. He was the candidate who “promised to be a unifier and not a polarizer; someone nondogmatic and uncontaminated by the special-interest cesspool that Washington had become.” Obama’s appeal was romantic and aesthetic, built on the rhetoric of hope and change, on his “freshness and sense of promise.” A cult of personality built up around Obama — not because of what he had achieved but because of what he seemed to embody. (“Maybe one day he’ll do something to merit all this attention,” Michelle Obama dryly told a reporter.)

“We have something very special here,” Obama’s top political aide Axelrod is quoted as saying. “I feel like I’ve been handed a porcelain baby.” Axelrod tells Obama — dubbed by his aides as the “Black Jesus” — that voters were looking for “a president who can bring the country together, who can reach beyond partisanship, and who’ll be tough on special interests.”

That was what we were promised. What we got instead is a president who increased the divisions in our nation, the most partisan and polarizing figure in the history of polling, one who is dogmatic and has been as generous to special interests as any we have seen. The efforts to buy votes in pursuit of the Obama agenda has added sewage to the cesspool.

This would hurt any president under any circumstances; for Barack Obama, whose allure was based almost entirely on his ability to convince the public that he embodied a “new politics,” it has been doubly damaging. It was Hillary Clinton of all people who understood Obama best when she said during the campaign, “We have to make people understand that he’s not real.”

Not real indeed. Obama’s stirring call for Americans to reject the “politics of cynicism” was itself deeply cynical. Perhaps none of this should come as a surprise. After all, Heilemann and Halperin write, Axelrod was “a master of the dark arts of negative campaigning.” The first major profile of him, more than 20 years ago, was titled, “Hatchet Man: The Rise of David Axelrod.”

Obama and Axelrod might have been able to get away with this if Obama’s presidency had been viewed as successful and skilled. But it’s not. And when combined with the growing realization that Obama is not up to the task of governing, that he is pursuing policies that exacerbate our problems and takes us down a wrong and even perilous path, it is poison. The toxicity is such that what was once unthinkable now seems more likely than not: Democrats losing the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy for almost half a century. And even if they don’t, 2010 is shaping up to be a perfectly awful year for Democrats. It’s a safe bet that in response they and their allies will lash out in rage, angry at the perceived injustice of it all, furious at the fate that has befallen them. They will blame Obama’s predecessor, Republicans in Congress, the conservative movement, angry white males, Fox News, Sarah Palin’s tweets, and the wrong alignment of the stars. It won’t work.

Having created a myth, they must now live with its unmasking.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Charlie Cook says Scott Brown in now favored. Well, one poll has him up almost 10 points.

My, what a difference a year makes. From the Boston Globe no less: “The feverish excitement that propelled Barack Obama and scores of other Democrats to victory in 2008 has all but evaporated, worrying party leaders who are struggling to invigorate the base before Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race and November’s critical midterm contests, pollsters and party activists said.”

It might help if Obama were as good as Bill Clinton on the stump. Byron York reports that “it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that Clinton just blew Obama’s doors off. Obama’s speech was halting, wandering, and humorless; the president looked as if he didn’t want to be there. There’s no doubt the crowd was excited to see Obama, but he seemed so hesitant and out-of-rhythm at the top that it appeared he might have been having teleprompter trouble, and he was also clearly rattled and unable to handle the completely-predictable presence of a heckler.”

CNN reports: “Multiple advisers to President Obama have privately told party officials that they believe Democrat Martha Coakley is going to lose Tuesday’s special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy for more than 40 years, several Democratic sources told CNN Sunday.” Then going to Massachusetts was sort of like going to Copenhagen for the Olympics (and again for the climate-change confab) — at some point it might be a good idea to stop demonstrating Obama’s ineffectiveness.

Things have gotten so sticky for Democrats that Ben Nelson “offers to give back his ‘bribe’.” Might be too late: his job approval has dropped to 42 percent.

More from the Democrats’ gloom-and-doom file: Friday, Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) announced his retirement. Plus, a “SurveyUSA poll shows Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), a freshman Democrat who represents the Cincinnati area, losing to former Republican congressman Steve Chabot, 56 to 39 percent.” He voted for both ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.

This take from Sen. Mitch McConnell sounds right: “Massachusetts is going to be a very, very close race regardless of who wins. … Regardless of who wins, we have here in effect a referendum on this national healthcare bill. The American people are telling us: ‘Please don’t pass it.’ … I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way.”

Lanny Davis at least doesn’t sound divorced from reality, like his fellow Democrats: “If Democrats lose in Massachusetts, it will simply mean Democrats and President Obama need find a new center to enact health care and other progressive legislation – meaning, they must sit down with Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, John McCain and other GOP Senators with long records of bipartisan legislating — and moderate Democrats Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and others –and create a new health care bill that can command broad bipartisan support.” Imagine if Obama had done that from the start — New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts might have looked a whole lot different, and Byron Dorgan might be running for re-election.

Charlie Cook says Scott Brown in now favored. Well, one poll has him up almost 10 points.

My, what a difference a year makes. From the Boston Globe no less: “The feverish excitement that propelled Barack Obama and scores of other Democrats to victory in 2008 has all but evaporated, worrying party leaders who are struggling to invigorate the base before Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race and November’s critical midterm contests, pollsters and party activists said.”

It might help if Obama were as good as Bill Clinton on the stump. Byron York reports that “it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that Clinton just blew Obama’s doors off. Obama’s speech was halting, wandering, and humorless; the president looked as if he didn’t want to be there. There’s no doubt the crowd was excited to see Obama, but he seemed so hesitant and out-of-rhythm at the top that it appeared he might have been having teleprompter trouble, and he was also clearly rattled and unable to handle the completely-predictable presence of a heckler.”

CNN reports: “Multiple advisers to President Obama have privately told party officials that they believe Democrat Martha Coakley is going to lose Tuesday’s special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy for more than 40 years, several Democratic sources told CNN Sunday.” Then going to Massachusetts was sort of like going to Copenhagen for the Olympics (and again for the climate-change confab) — at some point it might be a good idea to stop demonstrating Obama’s ineffectiveness.

Things have gotten so sticky for Democrats that Ben Nelson “offers to give back his ‘bribe’.” Might be too late: his job approval has dropped to 42 percent.

More from the Democrats’ gloom-and-doom file: Friday, Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) announced his retirement. Plus, a “SurveyUSA poll shows Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), a freshman Democrat who represents the Cincinnati area, losing to former Republican congressman Steve Chabot, 56 to 39 percent.” He voted for both ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.

This take from Sen. Mitch McConnell sounds right: “Massachusetts is going to be a very, very close race regardless of who wins. … Regardless of who wins, we have here in effect a referendum on this national healthcare bill. The American people are telling us: ‘Please don’t pass it.’ … I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way.”

Lanny Davis at least doesn’t sound divorced from reality, like his fellow Democrats: “If Democrats lose in Massachusetts, it will simply mean Democrats and President Obama need find a new center to enact health care and other progressive legislation – meaning, they must sit down with Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, John McCain and other GOP Senators with long records of bipartisan legislating — and moderate Democrats Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and others –and create a new health care bill that can command broad bipartisan support.” Imagine if Obama had done that from the start — New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts might have looked a whole lot different, and Byron Dorgan might be running for re-election.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.’”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.’”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

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From King Canute to a Cork in the Ocean

White House political adviser David Axelrod granted an interview to Ron Brownstein of National Journal that qualifies as either hyper-spin or an almost clinical state of denial. For example, Axelrod tells Brownstein, “It’s almost impossible to win a referendum on yourself. And the Republicans would like this to be a referendum. It’s not going to be a referendum.”

Yes it will. When a political party controls the presidency and, by wide margins, the House and the Senate, the midterm election will be a referendum on the stewardship of that party. There’s no way to get around that. What’s particularly revealing is that Axelrod and his colleagues, rather than welcoming a referendum on their year in office, are terribly afraid of it. They know that if the dominant issues of the 2010 midterm election are how well Democrats have governed, they will absorb tremendous damage.

Axelrod makes this point in a slightly different way when he says:

If the question is what we’ve been able to achieve, which I think is substantial, versus the ideal of what people hope for or hoped for, that’s a harder race for us. If the choice is between the things we’ve achieved and we’re fighting for and what the other side would deliver, I think that’s very motivational to people.

In other words, if people measure us against perfection, we will fall short. But people won’t be measuring Obama and Democrats against perfection; they will be measuring him/them against the standards Obama set up — for example, insisting that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent in 2009 (it is now 10 percent); that the stimulus package would “create or save” 3.5 million jobs over the course of two years (2.8 million jobs have been lost since it was signed into law); that the deficit and debt would go down on his watch (Obama’s budget will double the debt in five years and triple it in 10 years); and so forth. Read More

White House political adviser David Axelrod granted an interview to Ron Brownstein of National Journal that qualifies as either hyper-spin or an almost clinical state of denial. For example, Axelrod tells Brownstein, “It’s almost impossible to win a referendum on yourself. And the Republicans would like this to be a referendum. It’s not going to be a referendum.”

Yes it will. When a political party controls the presidency and, by wide margins, the House and the Senate, the midterm election will be a referendum on the stewardship of that party. There’s no way to get around that. What’s particularly revealing is that Axelrod and his colleagues, rather than welcoming a referendum on their year in office, are terribly afraid of it. They know that if the dominant issues of the 2010 midterm election are how well Democrats have governed, they will absorb tremendous damage.

Axelrod makes this point in a slightly different way when he says:

If the question is what we’ve been able to achieve, which I think is substantial, versus the ideal of what people hope for or hoped for, that’s a harder race for us. If the choice is between the things we’ve achieved and we’re fighting for and what the other side would deliver, I think that’s very motivational to people.

In other words, if people measure us against perfection, we will fall short. But people won’t be measuring Obama and Democrats against perfection; they will be measuring him/them against the standards Obama set up — for example, insisting that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent in 2009 (it is now 10 percent); that the stimulus package would “create or save” 3.5 million jobs over the course of two years (2.8 million jobs have been lost since it was signed into law); that the deficit and debt would go down on his watch (Obama’s budget will double the debt in five years and triple it in 10 years); and so forth.

Mr. Axelrod also tells Brownstein that next on his checklist is “finish this health care bill successfully.” And after that? “Then we have to go out and sell it. I think we can run on this.”

The problem is that the president has been trying to “sell” ObamaCare for more than half a year. He has spoken out on its behalf repeatedly and in every forum imaginable. And the more Obama attempts to sell the Democrats’ health-care plan, the more unpopular it becomes. After a prolonged and intense debate on this issue, here’s what they have to show for it: “The president’s marks on handling health care, with reforms still under debate in Congress, are even lower [than his overall job approval rating of 46 percent] — just 36 percent approve, while 54 percent disapprove,” according to the latest CBS News poll. “Both of these approval ratings are the lowest of Mr. Obama’s presidency.”

If Axelrod and the Obama White House really believe the problem here is with their sales job rather than with the product they are trying to sell, then they are living in an alternative universe. ObamaCare is responsible in large measure for the devastating Democratic losses in the Virginia and New Jersey governors races. The political environment is so bad right now that even Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat is viewed by Republicans and Democrats as endangered. This is a remarkable political development.

Finally, Mr. Axelrod says this:

In certain ways we are at the mercy of forces that are larger than things we can control. If we see steady months of jobs growth between now and next November, I think the picture will be different than if we don’t. I think Ronald Reagan learned that lesson in 1982. We’re not immune to the physics of all of this. But I’m guardedly optimistic that we are going to see that progress.

Here’s a pretty good rule of thumb: when senior White House political advisers begin to use phrases like “we are at the mercy of forces that are larger than we can control” and “we’re not immune to the physics of all this,” you can assume they are in deep trouble. That is especially the case for those who work for a president who proclaimed that his victory would mark the moment “when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Now Obama and Axelrod portray themselves like corks in the ocean. They invoke the laws of physics to explain why unemployment is in double digits. It turns out it is a quick journey from political messianism to political fatalism.

Axelrod’s words are a revealing (if unwitting) concession: he and his colleagues understand that they are overmatched by events and, in office for less than a year, they are scrambling to find excuses for the problems they face. But the fault, dear David, is not in the stars, but in yourselves. There will be a high political price to pay for this — perhaps starting next week but almost certainly by next November.

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A Whiff of Desperation in Massachusetts

Byron York relates this amusing account of the latest pull-out-all-the-stops frantic effort by Democrats in Massachusetts:

Frantic over the possibility that a Democrat might lose the race to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, the Democratic National Committee has sent its top spinner, Hari Sevugan, to the aid of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, who appears to be rapidly losing ground to Republican Scott Brown. But what can Sevugan do to shore up Coakley’s struggling campaign? Well, he spent his first day on the job trying to tie Brown to Sarah Palin.

Early Monday afternoon, Sevugan sent out an email to reporters featuring a link to a story on the lefty website TPM. The headline: “Is Sarah Palin Avoiding Mass Senate Race?” The story quoted a Democratic strategist saying that “it’s interesting” that Palin is “nowhere to be found in this race.” TPM conceded that GOP sources say there has been “no talk” about Palin visiting Massachusetts. But that didn’t stop Sevugan, who is quoted declaring that Palin’s supporters “are anxious for her to weigh in.” At the top of his email to journalists, Sevugan wrote, “Come on, Sarah, why are you being so shy?”

And that was just the beginning, it seems, of Sevugan’s “scare the voters with Sarah” e-mails. So what does this tells us? Perhaps that the race is in fact much closer than Democrats, already smarting from a run of bad news, can take. Maybe that they’re reduced to high school tactics because the party, a mere year into the presidency of the man who was to revolutionize politics, is mired is sleazy old-school politics and is largely bereft of ideas other than “spend more money and raise taxes.” It might also signify that George W. Bush is about to be replaced by Palin as the Left’s favorite bogey-person. Not that the Left isn’t planning on running against the “Bush economy” this November, but when they need to go to the well to force their netroots off their couches and out of their moms’ basements, Bush may be losing his usefulness.

Now there’s good reason for Democrats not to talk about issues. In the debate, Martha Coakley managed a “Poland is not controlled by the Soviet Union” gaffe. It concerned her opposition to the surge in Afghanistan:

I am not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was and the vision in Afghanistan was to go in because we believe the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists, we supported that, I supported that goal. They are gone, they are not there anymore, they are in apparently Yemen and Pakistan. Let’s focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is.

I think even Joe Biden knows there are al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, and of course the president supports the surge. But if the goal is to maximize the ultra-Left vote, then I suppose this, too, will get a few netroots off the couch and to the polls.  But then again, conservatives and independents who think the Christmas Day bombing was a wake-up call to get serious about the worldwide threat of Islamic fundamentalists might be charged up too.

We’ll know next week if Coakley’s cynical campaign can stumble across the finish line. If she manages to win by the standard double-digit margin in Massachusetts, all this will fade into memory. If not, Democrats will be in high panic, although it at least might get Harry Reid off the front pages.

Byron York relates this amusing account of the latest pull-out-all-the-stops frantic effort by Democrats in Massachusetts:

Frantic over the possibility that a Democrat might lose the race to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, the Democratic National Committee has sent its top spinner, Hari Sevugan, to the aid of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, who appears to be rapidly losing ground to Republican Scott Brown. But what can Sevugan do to shore up Coakley’s struggling campaign? Well, he spent his first day on the job trying to tie Brown to Sarah Palin.

Early Monday afternoon, Sevugan sent out an email to reporters featuring a link to a story on the lefty website TPM. The headline: “Is Sarah Palin Avoiding Mass Senate Race?” The story quoted a Democratic strategist saying that “it’s interesting” that Palin is “nowhere to be found in this race.” TPM conceded that GOP sources say there has been “no talk” about Palin visiting Massachusetts. But that didn’t stop Sevugan, who is quoted declaring that Palin’s supporters “are anxious for her to weigh in.” At the top of his email to journalists, Sevugan wrote, “Come on, Sarah, why are you being so shy?”

And that was just the beginning, it seems, of Sevugan’s “scare the voters with Sarah” e-mails. So what does this tells us? Perhaps that the race is in fact much closer than Democrats, already smarting from a run of bad news, can take. Maybe that they’re reduced to high school tactics because the party, a mere year into the presidency of the man who was to revolutionize politics, is mired is sleazy old-school politics and is largely bereft of ideas other than “spend more money and raise taxes.” It might also signify that George W. Bush is about to be replaced by Palin as the Left’s favorite bogey-person. Not that the Left isn’t planning on running against the “Bush economy” this November, but when they need to go to the well to force their netroots off their couches and out of their moms’ basements, Bush may be losing his usefulness.

Now there’s good reason for Democrats not to talk about issues. In the debate, Martha Coakley managed a “Poland is not controlled by the Soviet Union” gaffe. It concerned her opposition to the surge in Afghanistan:

I am not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was and the vision in Afghanistan was to go in because we believe the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists, we supported that, I supported that goal. They are gone, they are not there anymore, they are in apparently Yemen and Pakistan. Let’s focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is.

I think even Joe Biden knows there are al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, and of course the president supports the surge. But if the goal is to maximize the ultra-Left vote, then I suppose this, too, will get a few netroots off the couch and to the polls.  But then again, conservatives and independents who think the Christmas Day bombing was a wake-up call to get serious about the worldwide threat of Islamic fundamentalists might be charged up too.

We’ll know next week if Coakley’s cynical campaign can stumble across the finish line. If she manages to win by the standard double-digit margin in Massachusetts, all this will fade into memory. If not, Democrats will be in high panic, although it at least might get Harry Reid off the front pages.

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The Massachusetts Polls and the November Election

The most startling news since Barack Obama’s colossal victory over Hillary Clinton in Iowa was the Democratic poll in Massachusetts the other day showing the little-known Republican Scott Brown beating the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, in the special contest for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat by a  point. A subsequent poll by the Boston Globe had the Democrat winning by 15. Somebody is very wrong here, obviously, and we won’t know until next Tuesday’s election which poll got the Massachusetts electorate right. But if the Democratic poll is closer to the truth, and if Coakley can’t come up with something to pull Brown’s numbers down over the next week, she is going to lose and a Republican is going to win an ineffable symbolic victory against Barack Obama and especially against health care.

And yet Republican politicians shouldn’t celebrate just yet—and not because of the talking-point excuses that are being handed out by Democrats and their spin doctors about how Democratic retirements and losses don’t mean anything. They mean an enormous amount. But a Brown victory in Massachusetts would suggest something rather more complicated than a simple Republican wave in 2010. It suggests that disgust with the political system has reached a level never before seen in the modern era, a disgust so profound that a little-known Republican can come to inhabit the Liberal Lion’s office.

There have been hints and whispers of this kind of trend before; the Ross Perot phenomenon in 1991-2, for example. Ever since, we’ve been hearing about the possibility of a political conflagration that would originate in the most stable part of any electorate, its center, as the two parties increasingly find themselves in the thrall of their extremes and find it impossible to appeal to the broad middle.

That notion seemed overblown, and was proved to be overblown; since 2000, the electorate has seemed uncommonly engaged with the two parties, with turnout rising enormously in each national election. Al Gore received the most votes in American history in 2000, only to be eclipsed by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004; Bush was eclipsed by Barack Obama in 2008.

But it doesn’t seem overblown any longer. The Bush administration’s inability to prosecute the war in Iraq effectively in its first three-and-a-half years combined with Republican corruption and the incompetence on display in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to bring the Republican “brand” low in 2006 and 2008. Now the Obama administration’s wild overreach on health care, coupled with its response to the Christmas Day airline-bombing attempt, has brought it similar difficulties. And both parties have lost the confidence of the American people when it comes to explanations for the financial meltdown of 2008 and the responses to it.

And so you have a damaged Republican Party and a damaged Democratic Party, and the elected politicians who represent them. The election coming up will be the first mass test of the effect of this mass bipartisan antipathy. Anti-incumbent fervor will, naturally, hurt Democrats far more than Republicans because there are more Democratic incumbents. But Republican incumbents have every reason to beware as well, just so long as the Democrats trying to unseat them don’t run dogmatically to the Left.

The most startling news since Barack Obama’s colossal victory over Hillary Clinton in Iowa was the Democratic poll in Massachusetts the other day showing the little-known Republican Scott Brown beating the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, in the special contest for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat by a  point. A subsequent poll by the Boston Globe had the Democrat winning by 15. Somebody is very wrong here, obviously, and we won’t know until next Tuesday’s election which poll got the Massachusetts electorate right. But if the Democratic poll is closer to the truth, and if Coakley can’t come up with something to pull Brown’s numbers down over the next week, she is going to lose and a Republican is going to win an ineffable symbolic victory against Barack Obama and especially against health care.

And yet Republican politicians shouldn’t celebrate just yet—and not because of the talking-point excuses that are being handed out by Democrats and their spin doctors about how Democratic retirements and losses don’t mean anything. They mean an enormous amount. But a Brown victory in Massachusetts would suggest something rather more complicated than a simple Republican wave in 2010. It suggests that disgust with the political system has reached a level never before seen in the modern era, a disgust so profound that a little-known Republican can come to inhabit the Liberal Lion’s office.

There have been hints and whispers of this kind of trend before; the Ross Perot phenomenon in 1991-2, for example. Ever since, we’ve been hearing about the possibility of a political conflagration that would originate in the most stable part of any electorate, its center, as the two parties increasingly find themselves in the thrall of their extremes and find it impossible to appeal to the broad middle.

That notion seemed overblown, and was proved to be overblown; since 2000, the electorate has seemed uncommonly engaged with the two parties, with turnout rising enormously in each national election. Al Gore received the most votes in American history in 2000, only to be eclipsed by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004; Bush was eclipsed by Barack Obama in 2008.

But it doesn’t seem overblown any longer. The Bush administration’s inability to prosecute the war in Iraq effectively in its first three-and-a-half years combined with Republican corruption and the incompetence on display in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to bring the Republican “brand” low in 2006 and 2008. Now the Obama administration’s wild overreach on health care, coupled with its response to the Christmas Day airline-bombing attempt, has brought it similar difficulties. And both parties have lost the confidence of the American people when it comes to explanations for the financial meltdown of 2008 and the responses to it.

And so you have a damaged Republican Party and a damaged Democratic Party, and the elected politicians who represent them. The election coming up will be the first mass test of the effect of this mass bipartisan antipathy. Anti-incumbent fervor will, naturally, hurt Democrats far more than Republicans because there are more Democratic incumbents. But Republican incumbents have every reason to beware as well, just so long as the Democrats trying to unseat them don’t run dogmatically to the Left.

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A Real Race in Massachusetts

One poll has Scott Brown up by 1 point in the Massachusetts Senate race, another has him down by 15, and yet another down by 9. Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com explains:

The big spread in results among the polls, and differences apparent within two of them, are all consistent in supporting one finding: The lower the turnout, the better the odds for Scott Brown. These differences indicate that the voters most interested and most likely to vote are Republican, while Democrats are more blase.

This was the same conclusion another pollster expressed to me, with the additional caveat that the Boston Globe poll, which had Martha Coakley up by 15, was taken a bit earlier (January 2-6) than the Public Policy Polling survey, which showed Brown up by 1.

But we really don’t know exactly where the race stands — a rarity in politics these days, when everyone is quite certain where races stand, except when they aren’t. (The 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary in which Barack Obama surprised all the gurus is a case in point.) What is clear is that in one of the most liberal states in the country, a Republican, running against ObamaCare and on a national-security message akin to Liz Cheney’s, is in a dogfight to replace Ted Kennedy. It doesn’t help that the Democrats are threatening to ram through ObamaCare even if Brown wins, for that’s sure to further motivate those already angry Republicans and annoyed independents. If the name of the game is turnout, then themes that aggravate the anti-Obama and anti-Beltway Democrat voters are going to play well for Brown.

The race is a reminder for the pundit class: politics is a game played in the context of specific candidates (in this case a mediocre Democrat in this case trying to hide behind an independent candidate in debates), significant national developments (the rise of angry populists and the fading fortunes of D.C. Democrats), and the relative motivation of competing parties. To the extent that Democrats are losing quality candidates (or can’t recruit them), refuse to adjust their ultra-liberal agenda, and continue to ignore the public, the travails of Martha Coakley are going to be repeated again and again — and in locales with voters much more amenable than Bay Staters to the prospect of throwing out Democrats.

One poll has Scott Brown up by 1 point in the Massachusetts Senate race, another has him down by 15, and yet another down by 9. Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com explains:

The big spread in results among the polls, and differences apparent within two of them, are all consistent in supporting one finding: The lower the turnout, the better the odds for Scott Brown. These differences indicate that the voters most interested and most likely to vote are Republican, while Democrats are more blase.

This was the same conclusion another pollster expressed to me, with the additional caveat that the Boston Globe poll, which had Martha Coakley up by 15, was taken a bit earlier (January 2-6) than the Public Policy Polling survey, which showed Brown up by 1.

But we really don’t know exactly where the race stands — a rarity in politics these days, when everyone is quite certain where races stand, except when they aren’t. (The 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary in which Barack Obama surprised all the gurus is a case in point.) What is clear is that in one of the most liberal states in the country, a Republican, running against ObamaCare and on a national-security message akin to Liz Cheney’s, is in a dogfight to replace Ted Kennedy. It doesn’t help that the Democrats are threatening to ram through ObamaCare even if Brown wins, for that’s sure to further motivate those already angry Republicans and annoyed independents. If the name of the game is turnout, then themes that aggravate the anti-Obama and anti-Beltway Democrat voters are going to play well for Brown.

The race is a reminder for the pundit class: politics is a game played in the context of specific candidates (in this case a mediocre Democrat in this case trying to hide behind an independent candidate in debates), significant national developments (the rise of angry populists and the fading fortunes of D.C. Democrats), and the relative motivation of competing parties. To the extent that Democrats are losing quality candidates (or can’t recruit them), refuse to adjust their ultra-liberal agenda, and continue to ignore the public, the travails of Martha Coakley are going to be repeated again and again — and in locales with voters much more amenable than Bay Staters to the prospect of throwing out Democrats.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid’s poll numbers in Nevada look awfully bad. His hometown paper reports: “More than half of Nevadans are unhappy with Sen. Harry Reid, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s the worst ‘unfavorable’ rating he’s received in the newspaper’s surveys for this year’s election, and it comes amid quiet speculation — or perhaps wishful thinking by his opponents — that it’s time for the Nevada Democrat to retire rather than lose re-election.” Isn’t he reaching Chris Dodd territory? (And that was before his “light skinned” comment about Obama.)

Wow: “The race to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate is looking like a toss up, with Republican Scott Brown up 48-47 on Martha Coakley. Brown is benefiting from depressed Democratic interest in the election and a huge lead among independents for his surprisingly strong standing. Those planning to vote in the special election only report having voted for Barack Obama in 2008 by a 16 point margin, in contrast to his actual 26 point victory in the state.”

Maybe voters don’t like being ignored. GOP senate candidate Scott Brown has raised a stink about the Democratic plan to jam through ObamaCare even if he wins: “‘This is a stunning admission by Paul Kirk and the Beacon Hill political machine,’ Brown said in a statement to the newspaper. ‘Paul Kirk appears to be suggesting that he, (Gov.) Deval Patrick, and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid intend to stall the election certification until the health care bill is rammed through Congress, even if that means defying the will of the people of Massachusetts.’” Well, they don’t care that 60 percent of Americans oppose a government takeover of health care so why would they care what the people of Massachusetts think?

Coakley’s friends rush to the rescue: “With Democrat Martha Coakley in trouble in the Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, Democrats could lose vote No. 60 for President Obama’s health-care bill. In response, an army of lobbyists for drug companies, health insurance companies, and hospitals has teamed up to throw a high-dollar Capitol Hill fundraiser for Coakley next Tuesday night.”

Why unemployment is worse than it seems: “Had the labor force not decreased by 661,000 last month, the jobless rate would have been 10.4 percent. . . About 1.7 million Americans opted out of the workforce from July through December, representing a 1.1 percent drop that marks the biggest six-month decrease since 1961, the Labor Department report showed. The share of the population in the labor force last month fell to the lowest level in 24 years.” And when those workers come back to the workforce, expect the unemployment rate to jump again.

The Washington Post runs an advice column for forlorn Democrats: half say to head for the center, the other to go all in for the leftist agenda. Karl Rove seems to have it right: “It would be hard to come up with less popular causes than they’ve already embraced. So find something that might redirect voter anger, especially if Republicans cooperate by failing to offer a positive alternative. Good luck: You made the mess.”

Maybe it would help if Obama stopped doing this: “U.S. President Barack Obama, in his weekly radio address Saturday, said once he signs new health care legislation into law, Americans can expect dozens of benefits and protections to be quickly put in place.” First of all, Americans hate the plan. And second, in the senate version (which is likely to be closest to the final bill) all we get for the first few years is some tax hikes.

James Carafano: “The Left mustered every idiotic argument they could think of against reinforcing our efforts in Afghanistan. Hey, they argued “the Taliban are in Afghanistan, not al-Qaeda.” We now know al-Qaeda was behind the assassination bombing of the CIA agents in Afghanistan. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are tied at the hip….you can’t destroy the latter without defeating the former. Its time to stop turning our back on the long war, and pull together as Americans, Left and Right, and as we did in WWII…win this thing.”

Harry Reid’s poll numbers in Nevada look awfully bad. His hometown paper reports: “More than half of Nevadans are unhappy with Sen. Harry Reid, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s the worst ‘unfavorable’ rating he’s received in the newspaper’s surveys for this year’s election, and it comes amid quiet speculation — or perhaps wishful thinking by his opponents — that it’s time for the Nevada Democrat to retire rather than lose re-election.” Isn’t he reaching Chris Dodd territory? (And that was before his “light skinned” comment about Obama.)

Wow: “The race to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate is looking like a toss up, with Republican Scott Brown up 48-47 on Martha Coakley. Brown is benefiting from depressed Democratic interest in the election and a huge lead among independents for his surprisingly strong standing. Those planning to vote in the special election only report having voted for Barack Obama in 2008 by a 16 point margin, in contrast to his actual 26 point victory in the state.”

Maybe voters don’t like being ignored. GOP senate candidate Scott Brown has raised a stink about the Democratic plan to jam through ObamaCare even if he wins: “‘This is a stunning admission by Paul Kirk and the Beacon Hill political machine,’ Brown said in a statement to the newspaper. ‘Paul Kirk appears to be suggesting that he, (Gov.) Deval Patrick, and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid intend to stall the election certification until the health care bill is rammed through Congress, even if that means defying the will of the people of Massachusetts.’” Well, they don’t care that 60 percent of Americans oppose a government takeover of health care so why would they care what the people of Massachusetts think?

Coakley’s friends rush to the rescue: “With Democrat Martha Coakley in trouble in the Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, Democrats could lose vote No. 60 for President Obama’s health-care bill. In response, an army of lobbyists for drug companies, health insurance companies, and hospitals has teamed up to throw a high-dollar Capitol Hill fundraiser for Coakley next Tuesday night.”

Why unemployment is worse than it seems: “Had the labor force not decreased by 661,000 last month, the jobless rate would have been 10.4 percent. . . About 1.7 million Americans opted out of the workforce from July through December, representing a 1.1 percent drop that marks the biggest six-month decrease since 1961, the Labor Department report showed. The share of the population in the labor force last month fell to the lowest level in 24 years.” And when those workers come back to the workforce, expect the unemployment rate to jump again.

The Washington Post runs an advice column for forlorn Democrats: half say to head for the center, the other to go all in for the leftist agenda. Karl Rove seems to have it right: “It would be hard to come up with less popular causes than they’ve already embraced. So find something that might redirect voter anger, especially if Republicans cooperate by failing to offer a positive alternative. Good luck: You made the mess.”

Maybe it would help if Obama stopped doing this: “U.S. President Barack Obama, in his weekly radio address Saturday, said once he signs new health care legislation into law, Americans can expect dozens of benefits and protections to be quickly put in place.” First of all, Americans hate the plan. And second, in the senate version (which is likely to be closest to the final bill) all we get for the first few years is some tax hikes.

James Carafano: “The Left mustered every idiotic argument they could think of against reinforcing our efforts in Afghanistan. Hey, they argued “the Taliban are in Afghanistan, not al-Qaeda.” We now know al-Qaeda was behind the assassination bombing of the CIA agents in Afghanistan. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are tied at the hip….you can’t destroy the latter without defeating the former. Its time to stop turning our back on the long war, and pull together as Americans, Left and Right, and as we did in WWII…win this thing.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Isn’t there some way to stop the kidnapping of Isralis like Gilad Shalit and end Hamas’s reign of terror? Well, when the people of Gaza have had enough: “Surely there have to be some who have begun to notice the flourishing of their brethren in Judea and Samaria and to ask themselves why they’ve been sentenced by Khaled Meshaal and his masters in Damascus and Syria to live lives as less than humans, as pawns in Hamas’s own very nerve-racking game; and, feeling all the horror of what they’ve become, begin to contemplate taking a stand against it. The moment they do will be the moment Hamas’s power over them—and the Israelis—ends.”

Hotline gets it right: “A poll of GOP insiders suggests that ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has little support among the party’s professional class — and maybe that’s just how she wants it.”

One of nine reasons why the unemployment figures are bad news for Democrats: “Remember this simple formula: Unemployment drives presidential approval numbers and presidential approval numbers drive midterm election results.” And this seems especially toxic for Democrats facing an election later this year: “Also, there is every indication that as the slowly growing economy eventually draws workers back in the labor force, the jobless rate will creep up to new highs. (Big companies remain cautious about hiring, and small biz remains under pressure due to tight capital markets.) The validity of the Obama recovery plan will seriously be cast in doubt.”

Sometimes you just can’t spin the news: “Unemployment has not gotten better; it has gotten worse, and the statistics have hidden the real decline in 2009.  Until now, only a few media outlets bothered to highlight the problem.  The AP has finally made it clear — and that will mean a lot more attention in 2010 to the failed Porkulus legislation and the fumbled economic strategies of the Obama administration.”

The Democratic Public Policy Polling finds that the Massachusetts senate race is “losable” for the Democrats: “At this point a plurality of those planning to turn out oppose the health care bill. The massive enthusiasm gap we saw in Virginia is playing itself out in Massachusetts as well. Republican voters are fired up and they’re going to turn out. Martha Coakley needs to have a coherent message up on the air over the last ten days that her election is critical to health care passing and Ted Kennedy’s legacy- right now Democrats in the state are not feeling a sense of urgency.” And Scott Brown’s favorable odds are actually higher than Bob McDonnell’s were in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Yes, this is Massachusetts.

Keep America Safe puts out a devastating video on Obama’s reaction to the Christmas Day bombing. Watch it here.

And maybe the Democrats in Congress will finally wake up: “The Obama administration’s plans to transfer two more Guantanamo Bay detainees overseas in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt is causing consternation on Capitol Hill. . .Recent reports about increasing rates of recidivism for transferred Guantanamo Bay terrorists is further complicating Obama’s goal of shuttering Guantanamo. In recent days, several media outlets have reported on an updated report by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency saying one in five former detainees have returned to militant activity.”

Jon Stewart rags on stealth health care, the broken C-SPAN promise, and all the other Obama campaign pledges that have gone by the wayside. He makes a good point: Fox is no longer the only news organization being tough on Obama.

Sen. Paul Kirk threatens to vote for ObamaCare even if Scott Brown wins. Just in case there was any doubt as to just how much contempt the majority party has for voters. Might this backfire on Coakley?

The Washington Post editors chide Obama for hiding from the press. For a guy who says the buck stops with him is not willing to be grilled, we see, on his own misstatements and performance.

Isn’t there some way to stop the kidnapping of Isralis like Gilad Shalit and end Hamas’s reign of terror? Well, when the people of Gaza have had enough: “Surely there have to be some who have begun to notice the flourishing of their brethren in Judea and Samaria and to ask themselves why they’ve been sentenced by Khaled Meshaal and his masters in Damascus and Syria to live lives as less than humans, as pawns in Hamas’s own very nerve-racking game; and, feeling all the horror of what they’ve become, begin to contemplate taking a stand against it. The moment they do will be the moment Hamas’s power over them—and the Israelis—ends.”

Hotline gets it right: “A poll of GOP insiders suggests that ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has little support among the party’s professional class — and maybe that’s just how she wants it.”

One of nine reasons why the unemployment figures are bad news for Democrats: “Remember this simple formula: Unemployment drives presidential approval numbers and presidential approval numbers drive midterm election results.” And this seems especially toxic for Democrats facing an election later this year: “Also, there is every indication that as the slowly growing economy eventually draws workers back in the labor force, the jobless rate will creep up to new highs. (Big companies remain cautious about hiring, and small biz remains under pressure due to tight capital markets.) The validity of the Obama recovery plan will seriously be cast in doubt.”

Sometimes you just can’t spin the news: “Unemployment has not gotten better; it has gotten worse, and the statistics have hidden the real decline in 2009.  Until now, only a few media outlets bothered to highlight the problem.  The AP has finally made it clear — and that will mean a lot more attention in 2010 to the failed Porkulus legislation and the fumbled economic strategies of the Obama administration.”

The Democratic Public Policy Polling finds that the Massachusetts senate race is “losable” for the Democrats: “At this point a plurality of those planning to turn out oppose the health care bill. The massive enthusiasm gap we saw in Virginia is playing itself out in Massachusetts as well. Republican voters are fired up and they’re going to turn out. Martha Coakley needs to have a coherent message up on the air over the last ten days that her election is critical to health care passing and Ted Kennedy’s legacy- right now Democrats in the state are not feeling a sense of urgency.” And Scott Brown’s favorable odds are actually higher than Bob McDonnell’s were in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Yes, this is Massachusetts.

Keep America Safe puts out a devastating video on Obama’s reaction to the Christmas Day bombing. Watch it here.

And maybe the Democrats in Congress will finally wake up: “The Obama administration’s plans to transfer two more Guantanamo Bay detainees overseas in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt is causing consternation on Capitol Hill. . .Recent reports about increasing rates of recidivism for transferred Guantanamo Bay terrorists is further complicating Obama’s goal of shuttering Guantanamo. In recent days, several media outlets have reported on an updated report by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency saying one in five former detainees have returned to militant activity.”

Jon Stewart rags on stealth health care, the broken C-SPAN promise, and all the other Obama campaign pledges that have gone by the wayside. He makes a good point: Fox is no longer the only news organization being tough on Obama.

Sen. Paul Kirk threatens to vote for ObamaCare even if Scott Brown wins. Just in case there was any doubt as to just how much contempt the majority party has for voters. Might this backfire on Coakley?

The Washington Post editors chide Obama for hiding from the press. For a guy who says the buck stops with him is not willing to be grilled, we see, on his own misstatements and performance.

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Margins Matter

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post reports on a major ad buy by a third-party group, The American Future Fund, on behalf of GOP senate candidate Scott Brown:

“Call Martha Coakley and tell her we can’t afford more taxes,” urges the ad’s narrator. The commercial, which will cost the group $400,000 for a five-day statewide buy, is the first of several planned ads hitting Coakley in advance of her Jan. 19 special election race against state Sen. Scott Brown, according to a source familiar with AFF’s strategy. The ad buy is welcome news for Brown who has been drastically outraised by Coakley and will be outspent badly on television in the closing days of the campaign. The AFF ads land as the race has begun to draw some national attention for the fact that some within the GOP believe Brown might be able to win.

Well, yes he might. If the margin is really only two points among those certain to vote, this is hardly in the bag for Coakley. And in fact, she’s had to go on the air with her own ads, a sign that those polls are narrowing. Cillizza remains skeptical that Brown can win, and in a Massachusetts race to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, there is good reason to be so. But then he gives away the game: “Margin may matter here; Republicans will almost certainly declare victory if Brown loses by single digits.” Indeed they will, given that Obama won the state in 2008 by a 62 to 37 percent margin.

Brown has made the race a referendum on Obama’s policies; the Democrats are having a run of retirements; the GOP is basking in reports of good recruitment; and the media seem poised for a new storyline (“Is Obama in trouble?”). This means a close race is likely to be read as one more data point in the trend – further evidence of the Democrats’ political meltdown. (Cillizza notes Charlie Cook now puts the chances at 50-50 of the Democrats’ numbers sinking to 55 in the Senate.) So, yes, Brown could in fact win – and the GOP can win by losing.

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post reports on a major ad buy by a third-party group, The American Future Fund, on behalf of GOP senate candidate Scott Brown:

“Call Martha Coakley and tell her we can’t afford more taxes,” urges the ad’s narrator. The commercial, which will cost the group $400,000 for a five-day statewide buy, is the first of several planned ads hitting Coakley in advance of her Jan. 19 special election race against state Sen. Scott Brown, according to a source familiar with AFF’s strategy. The ad buy is welcome news for Brown who has been drastically outraised by Coakley and will be outspent badly on television in the closing days of the campaign. The AFF ads land as the race has begun to draw some national attention for the fact that some within the GOP believe Brown might be able to win.

Well, yes he might. If the margin is really only two points among those certain to vote, this is hardly in the bag for Coakley. And in fact, she’s had to go on the air with her own ads, a sign that those polls are narrowing. Cillizza remains skeptical that Brown can win, and in a Massachusetts race to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, there is good reason to be so. But then he gives away the game: “Margin may matter here; Republicans will almost certainly declare victory if Brown loses by single digits.” Indeed they will, given that Obama won the state in 2008 by a 62 to 37 percent margin.

Brown has made the race a referendum on Obama’s policies; the Democrats are having a run of retirements; the GOP is basking in reports of good recruitment; and the media seem poised for a new storyline (“Is Obama in trouble?”). This means a close race is likely to be read as one more data point in the trend – further evidence of the Democrats’ political meltdown. (Cillizza notes Charlie Cook now puts the chances at 50-50 of the Democrats’ numbers sinking to 55 in the Senate.) So, yes, Brown could in fact win – and the GOP can win by losing.

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Sic Transit Dodd

The decision of Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd to avoid the humiliation of being defeated for re-election later this year may well help the Democrats hold his seat. It was more than likely that either of his Republican opponents — former Congressman Rob Simmons or pro-wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon — would have beaten the five-term incumbent handily. However, if the Democrats nominate Richard Blumenthal, the Nutmeg State’s attorney general, the odds may shift back in favor of the Democrats. Once the rising star of Connecticut Democratic politics, Blumenthal has held that office since 1990. However the timorous though ambitious Blumenthal passed on every opportunity since then to run for higher office because he feared defeat. At 66, Blumenthal is no longer a boy wonder, but his reputation is spotless. Yesterday, Dodd’s seat was a likely GOP pickup in 2010. Today it must be considered an open seat that the Democrats will probably hold.

As for the demise of Dodd, the fact that his political career comes to an end as a result of ethical scandals is a sad irony. Prior to his recent difficulties, Dodd was best remembered as Ted Kennedy’s favorite drinking buddy or as the leading voice of liberal opposition to the Reagan administration’s efforts to stop the spread of communism in Central America in the 1980s – the same timeframe when Dodd was dating Bianca Jagger.

But the animating spirit of the career of this liberal party animal (Dodd used to joke that the only reason he had accepted President Clinton’s request that he assume the chairmanship of the Democratic Party’s National Committee was that the question had come up while they were on a bad phone connection and the only word he heard clearly was “party,” so of course he agreed.) was his desire to honor the memory of his father Thomas, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1958 to 1970. In 1967, the Senate formally censured the elder Dodd for transferring campaign funds to his personal accounts. The spectacle of the Senate humiliating one of its own in this fashion doomed Tom Dodd’s re-election chances in 1970, and he died of a heart attack soon after leaving office. But the pain of this incident never left his son, who launched his own career a few years later in no small measure as an effort to vindicate the family name. While Tom Dodd was a fervent anti-Communist who at one time was a paid lobbyist for the dictator of Guatemala, Chris became the scourge of those seeking to prop up Latin American governments against leftist revolutionaries. But despite this difference, the younger Dodd sought every possible opportunity to burnish his late father’s tattered reputation. He never missed an opportunity to claim that his father had been ill-used by the press and his colleagues. Though many at the time thought the campaign funds charge was just the tip of the iceberg of Tom Dodd’s corruption, Chris was vocal in claiming that his father was innocent. It was at Dodd’s insistence that the University of Connecticut established a special research center named for his father. He also fought to have a minor league baseball stadium in Norwich named for Tom Dodd.

Thus, it is no small irony that a man who spent his life trying to clear the name of his father wound up being sunk by the same sort of charges. Dodd’s crooked Irish real estate deal, his notorious membership in the “Friends of Angelo” VIP mortgage club at Countrywide Financial while chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and his legislative efforts to clear the way for bonuses to be paid to AIG executives marked him as a symbol of a new generation of corrupt Washington politicians. The son repeated the sins of the father.

Also ironic is the fact that despite Dodd’s efforts to help defeat his Connecticut colleague Joe Lieberman in 2006 for his apostasy in supporting the war in Iraq, one year from now Lieberman will still be in the Senate and Dodd will not.

The decision of Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd to avoid the humiliation of being defeated for re-election later this year may well help the Democrats hold his seat. It was more than likely that either of his Republican opponents — former Congressman Rob Simmons or pro-wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon — would have beaten the five-term incumbent handily. However, if the Democrats nominate Richard Blumenthal, the Nutmeg State’s attorney general, the odds may shift back in favor of the Democrats. Once the rising star of Connecticut Democratic politics, Blumenthal has held that office since 1990. However the timorous though ambitious Blumenthal passed on every opportunity since then to run for higher office because he feared defeat. At 66, Blumenthal is no longer a boy wonder, but his reputation is spotless. Yesterday, Dodd’s seat was a likely GOP pickup in 2010. Today it must be considered an open seat that the Democrats will probably hold.

As for the demise of Dodd, the fact that his political career comes to an end as a result of ethical scandals is a sad irony. Prior to his recent difficulties, Dodd was best remembered as Ted Kennedy’s favorite drinking buddy or as the leading voice of liberal opposition to the Reagan administration’s efforts to stop the spread of communism in Central America in the 1980s – the same timeframe when Dodd was dating Bianca Jagger.

But the animating spirit of the career of this liberal party animal (Dodd used to joke that the only reason he had accepted President Clinton’s request that he assume the chairmanship of the Democratic Party’s National Committee was that the question had come up while they were on a bad phone connection and the only word he heard clearly was “party,” so of course he agreed.) was his desire to honor the memory of his father Thomas, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1958 to 1970. In 1967, the Senate formally censured the elder Dodd for transferring campaign funds to his personal accounts. The spectacle of the Senate humiliating one of its own in this fashion doomed Tom Dodd’s re-election chances in 1970, and he died of a heart attack soon after leaving office. But the pain of this incident never left his son, who launched his own career a few years later in no small measure as an effort to vindicate the family name. While Tom Dodd was a fervent anti-Communist who at one time was a paid lobbyist for the dictator of Guatemala, Chris became the scourge of those seeking to prop up Latin American governments against leftist revolutionaries. But despite this difference, the younger Dodd sought every possible opportunity to burnish his late father’s tattered reputation. He never missed an opportunity to claim that his father had been ill-used by the press and his colleagues. Though many at the time thought the campaign funds charge was just the tip of the iceberg of Tom Dodd’s corruption, Chris was vocal in claiming that his father was innocent. It was at Dodd’s insistence that the University of Connecticut established a special research center named for his father. He also fought to have a minor league baseball stadium in Norwich named for Tom Dodd.

Thus, it is no small irony that a man who spent his life trying to clear the name of his father wound up being sunk by the same sort of charges. Dodd’s crooked Irish real estate deal, his notorious membership in the “Friends of Angelo” VIP mortgage club at Countrywide Financial while chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and his legislative efforts to clear the way for bonuses to be paid to AIG executives marked him as a symbol of a new generation of corrupt Washington politicians. The son repeated the sins of the father.

Also ironic is the fact that despite Dodd’s efforts to help defeat his Connecticut colleague Joe Lieberman in 2006 for his apostasy in supporting the war in Iraq, one year from now Lieberman will still be in the Senate and Dodd will not.

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Re: Could Massachusetts Save Us from ObamaCare?

John, a potential victory by Republican Scott Brown in the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat – which would be “10″ on the political Richter scale — is now more than simply a pipe dream by conservatives looking to upset ObamaCare and deliver a megadose of political medicine to the cocooned Beltway set. The race seems to be fairly close. Scott Rasmussen, following a private poll with a margin of 11 points for State Attorney General Martha Coakley, shows that the race is now down to nine points. Here is the kicker:

Special elections are typically decided by who shows up to vote and it is clear from the data that Brown’s supporters are more enthusiastic. In fact, among those who are absolutely certain they will vote, Brown pulls to within two points of Coakley. That suggests a very low turnout will help the Republican and a higher turnout is better for the Democrat.

Coakley is not exactly wowing them in the Bay State. As Boston radio talk-show host Michael Graham reports:

She’s insisting that the obscure third-party candidate (named, ironically enough, “Joe Kennedy”) be included in the few debates she has agreed to participate in. So few debates, in fact, that their radio debate this morning on my station, WTKK-FM in Boston, is turning into a huge media event. It’s a smart strategy for Coakley, a weak and unimpressive candidate, but it also shows how little confidence her campaign team has in their candidate.

Now, this is Massachusetts, so don’t bet the farm on a Brown once-in-a-generation upset. But by the same token, this is Massachusetts. If a Democrat is in a close race to replace Ted Kennedy there, what does this say about the political landscapes in Arkansas, Nevada, and a lot of other states with competitive races? Frankly, if the election is close, Democrats should be very, very nervous.

John, a potential victory by Republican Scott Brown in the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat – which would be “10″ on the political Richter scale — is now more than simply a pipe dream by conservatives looking to upset ObamaCare and deliver a megadose of political medicine to the cocooned Beltway set. The race seems to be fairly close. Scott Rasmussen, following a private poll with a margin of 11 points for State Attorney General Martha Coakley, shows that the race is now down to nine points. Here is the kicker:

Special elections are typically decided by who shows up to vote and it is clear from the data that Brown’s supporters are more enthusiastic. In fact, among those who are absolutely certain they will vote, Brown pulls to within two points of Coakley. That suggests a very low turnout will help the Republican and a higher turnout is better for the Democrat.

Coakley is not exactly wowing them in the Bay State. As Boston radio talk-show host Michael Graham reports:

She’s insisting that the obscure third-party candidate (named, ironically enough, “Joe Kennedy”) be included in the few debates she has agreed to participate in. So few debates, in fact, that their radio debate this morning on my station, WTKK-FM in Boston, is turning into a huge media event. It’s a smart strategy for Coakley, a weak and unimpressive candidate, but it also shows how little confidence her campaign team has in their candidate.

Now, this is Massachusetts, so don’t bet the farm on a Brown once-in-a-generation upset. But by the same token, this is Massachusetts. If a Democrat is in a close race to replace Ted Kennedy there, what does this say about the political landscapes in Arkansas, Nevada, and a lot of other states with competitive races? Frankly, if the election is close, Democrats should be very, very nervous.

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Could Massachusetts Save Us From Obamacare?

Scott Brown has the unenviable task of running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts as a Republican on Jan. 19. No Republican has won a Senate seat from that state since 1972. Massachusetts went 62 percent for Barack Obama in 2008.

But Brown is certainly making a game try. This commercial is, I think, nothing short of brilliant. It invokes the magic Kennedy name and uses John F. Kennedy’s own words, calling for tax reductions as a way to boost the economy and create jobs.  Democrats, naturally, are screaming bloody murder, probably because the ad is so effective, especially since the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, recently said on record, “We need to get taxes up.”

The odds are still against Brown, but given the prospect of a low-turnout election, nervousness regarding Obama’s tax plans, ever-rising opposition to the health-care bill, knowledge that Brown would be in office for less than three years until the expiration of the late Ted Kennedy’s term, and a sense that there is too much power in the hands of one party in Washington, it’s by no means impossible. I’m not the only one who thinks so.

If a Republican were to win Ted Kennedy’s old seat in ultra liberal Massachusetts, the political fallout would be huge. Every Democrat in Washington up for election in November would be reaching for the Maalox — or perhaps the Scotch bottle — and those in marginal districts or states might well begin to peel off the official line to save their own hides. Equally important, the balance in the Senate would shift from 60-40 to 59-41, and the filibuster-proof majority would be gone. The people of Massachusetts thus have it in their power to derail the health-care bill.

Scott Brown has the unenviable task of running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts as a Republican on Jan. 19. No Republican has won a Senate seat from that state since 1972. Massachusetts went 62 percent for Barack Obama in 2008.

But Brown is certainly making a game try. This commercial is, I think, nothing short of brilliant. It invokes the magic Kennedy name and uses John F. Kennedy’s own words, calling for tax reductions as a way to boost the economy and create jobs.  Democrats, naturally, are screaming bloody murder, probably because the ad is so effective, especially since the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, recently said on record, “We need to get taxes up.”

The odds are still against Brown, but given the prospect of a low-turnout election, nervousness regarding Obama’s tax plans, ever-rising opposition to the health-care bill, knowledge that Brown would be in office for less than three years until the expiration of the late Ted Kennedy’s term, and a sense that there is too much power in the hands of one party in Washington, it’s by no means impossible. I’m not the only one who thinks so.

If a Republican were to win Ted Kennedy’s old seat in ultra liberal Massachusetts, the political fallout would be huge. Every Democrat in Washington up for election in November would be reaching for the Maalox — or perhaps the Scotch bottle — and those in marginal districts or states might well begin to peel off the official line to save their own hides. Equally important, the balance in the Senate would shift from 60-40 to 59-41, and the filibuster-proof majority would be gone. The people of Massachusetts thus have it in their power to derail the health-care bill.

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Profile Me if You Must

I don’t want to be profiled at the airport. It has happened before, and I hate it. Volunteering for more isn’t what I feel like doing right now, but our airport security system is so half-baked and dysfunctional it may as well not even exist, and flying is about to become more miserable anyway. So rather than doubling down on grandma and micromanaging everyone on the plane, we might want to pay as much attention to people as to their luggage, especially military-aged males who make unusual and suspicious-looking travel arrangements. That’s what the Israelis do, and that’s why security agents take me into a room and interrogate me every time I pass through Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Israeli airport security is the most thorough and strict in the world, as one might expect in one of the most terrorized countries. No plane leaving Ben-Gurion has ever been hijacked or otherwise attacked by a terrorist. The system works, yet you don’t have to take off your shoes in the security line, no one cares if you pack perfume from the duty-free in your carry-on, you can listen to your iPod 55 minutes before landing, and you don’t have to stand in front of invasive and expensive body-scanning machines.

The Israelis look for weapons, of course. You aren’t at all likely to sneak one on board. Just as important, though, the Israelis are on the look-out for terrorists. Who would you rather sit next to? A woman carrying shampoo and tweezers, or 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta, even if he’s not carrying anything?

Israeli security agents interview everyone, and they subject travelers who fit certain profiles to additional scrutiny. I don’t know exactly what their criteria are, but I do know they aren’t just taking Arabs and Muslims aside. They take me aside, too, partly because of my gender and age but mostly because a huge percentage of my passport stamps are from countries with serious terrorist problems.

“Does anyone in Lebanon know you’re here?” they usually ask me. They’ve also asked if I’ve ever met with anyone in Hezbollah. I am not going to lie during an airport security interview, especially not when the answer can be easily found using Google. They know I’ve met with Hezbollah. That’s why my luggage gets hand-searched one sock at a time while elderly tourists from Florida skate through. I can’t say I enjoy this procedure, but I don’t take it personally, and it makes a lot more sense than letting me skate through while grandma’s luggage is hand-searched instead.

The United States need not and should not import the Israeli system. It’s labor intensive, slow, and at times incredibly aggravating. Americans wouldn’t put up with it, and it wouldn’t scale well. The one thing we can and should learn from the Israelis, though, is that we need to pay as much attention to who gets on airplanes as to what they’re bringing on board.

I don’t like being profiled, but the Israelis aren’t wrong for looking more closely at me than at, say, an 80-year-old black woman from Kansas or a 12-year-old kid from Japan. When I get on a plane in the United States, though, I often breeze past women decades older than me while they’re being frisked. Almost every single person in line knows it’s ridiculous. We don’t say anything, partly because we don’t want to get in trouble, and partly because it feels vaguely “fair.”

Maybe it is, but it’s no way to catch terrorists. And it’s not as if the only alternative is a separate policy for Arabs and Muslims. Racial and religious profiling won’t even work. Shoe bomber Richard Reid wouldn’t have been caught that way, and it’s probably safe to let a 90 year-old woman from Dubai through with minimal hassle.

Right now there appears to be no effort whatsoever to discriminate among passengers using any criteria, let alone racist criteria. “Pants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab did not have a passport, did not have any luggage, and bought a one-way ticket with cash. His name is in a database of possible terrorists. Any Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, or all-American white boys from Iowa who fit that description should be stopped. Abdulmutallab wasn’t stopped. In 2004, though, Senator Ted Kennedy found himself with his name on the no-fly list.

The TSA’s whole mindset is wrong. Its agents confiscate things, even harmless things, and they apply additional scrutiny to things carried by people selected at random. If they were also tasked with looking for dangerous people, they would rightly ease up on grandmothers and senators, and they’d have a competently compiled list in the computer of those who are known to be dangerous. And if some kind of broad profiling means I’ll have to suffer the indignity of being frisked while the nun in line behind me does not, it’s no worse, really, than the embarrassment and contempt I’ll feel if the nun gets frisked instead.

Security agents will never find everything or everyone. It’s impossible. Abdulmutallab sewed a bomb into his underwear. Not even the most draconian new rules imaginable will allow agents to search inside anyone’s underwear. Patting down grandpa below the mid-thigh won’t do any good. Patting down Abdulmutallab below the mid-thigh wouldn’t have done any good either — all the more reason to start paying as much attention to people as to what they carry.

I don’t want to be profiled at the airport. It has happened before, and I hate it. Volunteering for more isn’t what I feel like doing right now, but our airport security system is so half-baked and dysfunctional it may as well not even exist, and flying is about to become more miserable anyway. So rather than doubling down on grandma and micromanaging everyone on the plane, we might want to pay as much attention to people as to their luggage, especially military-aged males who make unusual and suspicious-looking travel arrangements. That’s what the Israelis do, and that’s why security agents take me into a room and interrogate me every time I pass through Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Israeli airport security is the most thorough and strict in the world, as one might expect in one of the most terrorized countries. No plane leaving Ben-Gurion has ever been hijacked or otherwise attacked by a terrorist. The system works, yet you don’t have to take off your shoes in the security line, no one cares if you pack perfume from the duty-free in your carry-on, you can listen to your iPod 55 minutes before landing, and you don’t have to stand in front of invasive and expensive body-scanning machines.

The Israelis look for weapons, of course. You aren’t at all likely to sneak one on board. Just as important, though, the Israelis are on the look-out for terrorists. Who would you rather sit next to? A woman carrying shampoo and tweezers, or 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta, even if he’s not carrying anything?

Israeli security agents interview everyone, and they subject travelers who fit certain profiles to additional scrutiny. I don’t know exactly what their criteria are, but I do know they aren’t just taking Arabs and Muslims aside. They take me aside, too, partly because of my gender and age but mostly because a huge percentage of my passport stamps are from countries with serious terrorist problems.

“Does anyone in Lebanon know you’re here?” they usually ask me. They’ve also asked if I’ve ever met with anyone in Hezbollah. I am not going to lie during an airport security interview, especially not when the answer can be easily found using Google. They know I’ve met with Hezbollah. That’s why my luggage gets hand-searched one sock at a time while elderly tourists from Florida skate through. I can’t say I enjoy this procedure, but I don’t take it personally, and it makes a lot more sense than letting me skate through while grandma’s luggage is hand-searched instead.

The United States need not and should not import the Israeli system. It’s labor intensive, slow, and at times incredibly aggravating. Americans wouldn’t put up with it, and it wouldn’t scale well. The one thing we can and should learn from the Israelis, though, is that we need to pay as much attention to who gets on airplanes as to what they’re bringing on board.

I don’t like being profiled, but the Israelis aren’t wrong for looking more closely at me than at, say, an 80-year-old black woman from Kansas or a 12-year-old kid from Japan. When I get on a plane in the United States, though, I often breeze past women decades older than me while they’re being frisked. Almost every single person in line knows it’s ridiculous. We don’t say anything, partly because we don’t want to get in trouble, and partly because it feels vaguely “fair.”

Maybe it is, but it’s no way to catch terrorists. And it’s not as if the only alternative is a separate policy for Arabs and Muslims. Racial and religious profiling won’t even work. Shoe bomber Richard Reid wouldn’t have been caught that way, and it’s probably safe to let a 90 year-old woman from Dubai through with minimal hassle.

Right now there appears to be no effort whatsoever to discriminate among passengers using any criteria, let alone racist criteria. “Pants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab did not have a passport, did not have any luggage, and bought a one-way ticket with cash. His name is in a database of possible terrorists. Any Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, or all-American white boys from Iowa who fit that description should be stopped. Abdulmutallab wasn’t stopped. In 2004, though, Senator Ted Kennedy found himself with his name on the no-fly list.

The TSA’s whole mindset is wrong. Its agents confiscate things, even harmless things, and they apply additional scrutiny to things carried by people selected at random. If they were also tasked with looking for dangerous people, they would rightly ease up on grandmothers and senators, and they’d have a competently compiled list in the computer of those who are known to be dangerous. And if some kind of broad profiling means I’ll have to suffer the indignity of being frisked while the nun in line behind me does not, it’s no worse, really, than the embarrassment and contempt I’ll feel if the nun gets frisked instead.

Security agents will never find everything or everyone. It’s impossible. Abdulmutallab sewed a bomb into his underwear. Not even the most draconian new rules imaginable will allow agents to search inside anyone’s underwear. Patting down grandpa below the mid-thigh won’t do any good. Patting down Abdulmutallab below the mid-thigh wouldn’t have done any good either — all the more reason to start paying as much attention to people as to what they carry.

Read Less




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