Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tim Pawlenty

Who’ve They Got?

Politico has a lengthy article on GOP-establishment efforts to stop Sarah Palin in 2012.

Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin. … Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palin’s nomination would ensure President Barack Obama’s reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee — an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy — have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.

The premise of the article and the blind quotes are a bit silly. I don’t doubt that many Republican insiders feel this way. But here’s the thing: the way to “stop” Palin, if that is the goal, is to find someone better. If we’ve learned anything this year, we know that the smoke-filled rooms have been replaced by mass rallies and upstart candidates. There is no party machine that can prevent a determined candidate — one who can raise millions at the drop of a hat — from running.

So who’ve they got? So far, the most dynamic (Chris Christie) and the sharpest not-really-new face (Paul Ryan) say they aren’t running. Mitt Romney is well financed and experienced but has authenticity and RomneyCare liabilities. Mitch Daniels has stumbled out of the gate, revealing a certain imperviousness to the concerns of the primary voter (e.g., touting a VAT, proposing a truce on social issues, sounding a preference for a penny-pinching national security policy). Tim Pawlenty is good on paper but has yet to excite anyone. John Thune is perfectly acceptable to many conservatives but hard to see catching fire. And Mike Huckabee’s liabilities in 2008 (an anti-free-market strain of populism, problematic pardons while governor) remain.

That is not to say that these candidates cannot overcome their weaknesses and impress the electorate. But someone will have to if Palin is to be “stopped.” It is hard to upend a candidate in a primary on the electability argument. So the question for these insiders is: who ya got? I throw out one possibility. Last night at the World Series game, Bush 41 and 43 were greeted with rousing cheers; Bush 43 threw the first pitch, hard and over the plate. Yes, it was Texas. But “Bush” is no longer an epithet. Just saying.

Politico has a lengthy article on GOP-establishment efforts to stop Sarah Palin in 2012.

Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin. … Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palin’s nomination would ensure President Barack Obama’s reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee — an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy — have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.

The premise of the article and the blind quotes are a bit silly. I don’t doubt that many Republican insiders feel this way. But here’s the thing: the way to “stop” Palin, if that is the goal, is to find someone better. If we’ve learned anything this year, we know that the smoke-filled rooms have been replaced by mass rallies and upstart candidates. There is no party machine that can prevent a determined candidate — one who can raise millions at the drop of a hat — from running.

So who’ve they got? So far, the most dynamic (Chris Christie) and the sharpest not-really-new face (Paul Ryan) say they aren’t running. Mitt Romney is well financed and experienced but has authenticity and RomneyCare liabilities. Mitch Daniels has stumbled out of the gate, revealing a certain imperviousness to the concerns of the primary voter (e.g., touting a VAT, proposing a truce on social issues, sounding a preference for a penny-pinching national security policy). Tim Pawlenty is good on paper but has yet to excite anyone. John Thune is perfectly acceptable to many conservatives but hard to see catching fire. And Mike Huckabee’s liabilities in 2008 (an anti-free-market strain of populism, problematic pardons while governor) remain.

That is not to say that these candidates cannot overcome their weaknesses and impress the electorate. But someone will have to if Palin is to be “stopped.” It is hard to upend a candidate in a primary on the electability argument. So the question for these insiders is: who ya got? I throw out one possibility. Last night at the World Series game, Bush 41 and 43 were greeted with rousing cheers; Bush 43 threw the first pitch, hard and over the plate. Yes, it was Texas. But “Bush” is no longer an epithet. Just saying.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Patrick Fitzgerald gets beaten by Blago 23-1. Well, if the prosecution biz isn’t going so well, “[t]here’s always Armitage International, where Rich Armitage and his band of fixers ply their trade. After all, Armitage owes him one—a big one.”

Michael Kinsley gets just about everything wrong in his column with lines like this: “Some people say that tact or respect for the survivors of victims of 9/11 should dissuade these Muslims from building their center [Michael, it is a mosque] on this particular spot. This argument avoids both the constitutional question and the issue of bigotry.” No, you really can have objections that aren’t legal ones and aren’t based on prejudice (even Muslims now object to it). And it’s nice to know he favored letting the Carmelite nuns keep their spot at Auschwitz, but that’s really not a argument that’s going to gain him support, not even 29%.

The picture gets bleaker for Democrats every day: “With today’s ratings changes in 10 House districts, The Cook Political Report is now raising its House forecast from a Republican net gain of between 32 and 42 seats to a gain of between 35 and 45 seats, with the odds of an outcome larger than that range greater than the odds of a lesser outcome. A turnover of 39 seats would tip majority status into Republican hands.”

William Galston gets no applause from his party for honest analysis like this (registration required): “All signs point to major losses for the Democratic party in the US midterm elections this November. The recovery is slowing, while recent job figures have all but ended hopes that unemployment will fall fast enough to change voter’s minds. But for President Barack Obama it really does not matter whether his party loses its congressional majority, or merely a large number of seats. In either case, the days of single-party government in Washington will be over.” And Obama’s grip on it as well.

Steven Calabresi gets to the nub of Obama’s problem: “President Obama gets in trouble in unscripted moments because at some level he does not really know America very well nor does he thoroughly identify with it. … Unscripted moments are deadly for Obama because they reveal the vast disconnect between his world view and that of people living in the Midwest, the Plains and Rocky Mountain states, and the South.” And Manhattan too!

The White House gets a warning from Harry Reid when he’s going to embarrass Obama, but Democrats get no such courtesy from the president.

Tim Pawlenty gets in another jab at Obama: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2012 — is stepping up his rhetoric against President Obama, saying the commander-in-chief is ‘clueless’ when it comes to the economy and lacks common sense on the controversial mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero. … First of all he is clueless on a number of key issues on our time, including our economy. … And then, No. 2, he doesn’t have the depth of experience to run a large complex organization particularly in a time of crisis and its getting away from him.” I’m thinking there isn’t going to be too much GOP disagreement about that.

The administration never gets the message that civilian courts are not the place to put enemy combatants: “A judge on Tuesday dismissed piracy charges against six Somali nationals accused of attacking a Navy ship off the coast of Africa, concluding the U.S. government failed to make the case their alleged actions amounted to piracy.”

It gets clearer all the time that isolationism is what binds the far right and far left. (That, and bashing Israel.) “Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) are urging lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to push the President’s Commission on Deficit Reduction for cuts in military spending, as they seek signatories to a letter circulated Tuesday.”

Patrick Fitzgerald gets beaten by Blago 23-1. Well, if the prosecution biz isn’t going so well, “[t]here’s always Armitage International, where Rich Armitage and his band of fixers ply their trade. After all, Armitage owes him one—a big one.”

Michael Kinsley gets just about everything wrong in his column with lines like this: “Some people say that tact or respect for the survivors of victims of 9/11 should dissuade these Muslims from building their center [Michael, it is a mosque] on this particular spot. This argument avoids both the constitutional question and the issue of bigotry.” No, you really can have objections that aren’t legal ones and aren’t based on prejudice (even Muslims now object to it). And it’s nice to know he favored letting the Carmelite nuns keep their spot at Auschwitz, but that’s really not a argument that’s going to gain him support, not even 29%.

The picture gets bleaker for Democrats every day: “With today’s ratings changes in 10 House districts, The Cook Political Report is now raising its House forecast from a Republican net gain of between 32 and 42 seats to a gain of between 35 and 45 seats, with the odds of an outcome larger than that range greater than the odds of a lesser outcome. A turnover of 39 seats would tip majority status into Republican hands.”

William Galston gets no applause from his party for honest analysis like this (registration required): “All signs point to major losses for the Democratic party in the US midterm elections this November. The recovery is slowing, while recent job figures have all but ended hopes that unemployment will fall fast enough to change voter’s minds. But for President Barack Obama it really does not matter whether his party loses its congressional majority, or merely a large number of seats. In either case, the days of single-party government in Washington will be over.” And Obama’s grip on it as well.

Steven Calabresi gets to the nub of Obama’s problem: “President Obama gets in trouble in unscripted moments because at some level he does not really know America very well nor does he thoroughly identify with it. … Unscripted moments are deadly for Obama because they reveal the vast disconnect between his world view and that of people living in the Midwest, the Plains and Rocky Mountain states, and the South.” And Manhattan too!

The White House gets a warning from Harry Reid when he’s going to embarrass Obama, but Democrats get no such courtesy from the president.

Tim Pawlenty gets in another jab at Obama: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2012 — is stepping up his rhetoric against President Obama, saying the commander-in-chief is ‘clueless’ when it comes to the economy and lacks common sense on the controversial mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero. … First of all he is clueless on a number of key issues on our time, including our economy. … And then, No. 2, he doesn’t have the depth of experience to run a large complex organization particularly in a time of crisis and its getting away from him.” I’m thinking there isn’t going to be too much GOP disagreement about that.

The administration never gets the message that civilian courts are not the place to put enemy combatants: “A judge on Tuesday dismissed piracy charges against six Somali nationals accused of attacking a Navy ship off the coast of Africa, concluding the U.S. government failed to make the case their alleged actions amounted to piracy.”

It gets clearer all the time that isolationism is what binds the far right and far left. (That, and bashing Israel.) “Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) are urging lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to push the President’s Commission on Deficit Reduction for cuts in military spending, as they seek signatories to a letter circulated Tuesday.”

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Obama’s Muslim Problem

Ben Smith relates an interesting Tweet from Tim Pawlenty: “To improve USA’s relations with peaceful Muslims, Obama should tout our relief efforts in Pakistan floods; not defend Ground Zero mosque.” Well, that would be nice, but highly unlikely.

Pawlenty got me thinking about why it is that Obama does not conceive of Muslim outreach as an opportunity to inject some much needed accuracy and balance into societies saturated with anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda and which lack a free press. Why did he not, for example, in his first video valentine to the mullahs and the Iranian people, explain the blood and treasure we have expended to defend Muslims? Why does he prefer to commiserate with Muslim leaders (who all too often wallow in victimology) rather than champion the cause of Muslim human-rights activists and democracy promoters? Why didn’t he confront Palestinian rejectionism in his Cairo speech?

There are a couple of possible explanations. First, he is, we re-learn every day, a garden-variety leftist. The narrative of Third World victimhood and Western oppression is one he finds comfortable, notwithstanding its inapplicability to a variety of settings. (In his Cairo speech Palestinians were transformed into enslaved African American slaves, who, of course, were not repeatedly offered their own state.)

The other, suggested by a reader, may also be true: he learned about the “Muslim World” not from his childhood in Indonesia but from extremists, like former PLO-spokesman Rashid Khalidi, who have “educated” Obama for years about the Palestinians’ plight, attributed to American indifference and Israeli “oppression” rather than their own refusal to renounce violence and to the cynical manipulation of Arab states. Obama himself acknowledged the deep influence on his thinking:

His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. … It’s for that reason that I’m hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid’s dinner table,” but around “this entire world.”

Now, these are not mutually exclusive explanations. Whatever the root causes or motivations, over the last 18 months we’ve seen that Obama has been spectacularly unwilling to confront radical Islamists (even to call them that) and all too anxious to promote sentiments in the Muslim community which are counterproductive both for those trying to battle against the forces of radicalism and for the U.S. For someone who fancies himself as the Explainer in Chief with regard to Islam, he certainly could use some fresh thinking.

Ben Smith relates an interesting Tweet from Tim Pawlenty: “To improve USA’s relations with peaceful Muslims, Obama should tout our relief efforts in Pakistan floods; not defend Ground Zero mosque.” Well, that would be nice, but highly unlikely.

Pawlenty got me thinking about why it is that Obama does not conceive of Muslim outreach as an opportunity to inject some much needed accuracy and balance into societies saturated with anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda and which lack a free press. Why did he not, for example, in his first video valentine to the mullahs and the Iranian people, explain the blood and treasure we have expended to defend Muslims? Why does he prefer to commiserate with Muslim leaders (who all too often wallow in victimology) rather than champion the cause of Muslim human-rights activists and democracy promoters? Why didn’t he confront Palestinian rejectionism in his Cairo speech?

There are a couple of possible explanations. First, he is, we re-learn every day, a garden-variety leftist. The narrative of Third World victimhood and Western oppression is one he finds comfortable, notwithstanding its inapplicability to a variety of settings. (In his Cairo speech Palestinians were transformed into enslaved African American slaves, who, of course, were not repeatedly offered their own state.)

The other, suggested by a reader, may also be true: he learned about the “Muslim World” not from his childhood in Indonesia but from extremists, like former PLO-spokesman Rashid Khalidi, who have “educated” Obama for years about the Palestinians’ plight, attributed to American indifference and Israeli “oppression” rather than their own refusal to renounce violence and to the cynical manipulation of Arab states. Obama himself acknowledged the deep influence on his thinking:

His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. … It’s for that reason that I’m hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid’s dinner table,” but around “this entire world.”

Now, these are not mutually exclusive explanations. Whatever the root causes or motivations, over the last 18 months we’ve seen that Obama has been spectacularly unwilling to confront radical Islamists (even to call them that) and all too anxious to promote sentiments in the Muslim community which are counterproductive both for those trying to battle against the forces of radicalism and for the U.S. For someone who fancies himself as the Explainer in Chief with regard to Islam, he certainly could use some fresh thinking.

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Forget the Rule Book

Ross Douthat looks at the pre-positioning for the 2012 Republican presidential primary. He explains that there are the populists — Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee — with devoted followers and equally devoted detractors, and that there is the “next in line” Republican — Mitt Romney. The name of the game, Douthat suggests, for establishment Republicans (the geniuses who preferred Charlie Crist to Marco Rubio?) is to stage “a kind of intra-establishment coup, in which Romney is knocked from his perch as the safe, sober choice and a fresher figure takes his place.” Douthat throws out some contenders: Tim Pawlenty, Jeb Bush, John Thune, Mitch Daniels, and Haley Barbour. Douthat advises Romney to “co-opt some of the populist zeal that a Palin or a Huckabee” exhibit without alienating the establishment.

What’s wrong with this analysis? It has no context, and Douthat treats the contenders as archetypes (“sober reformer,” “unpredictable populist,” etc.) rather than as actual contenders with personalities and histories. Romney’s biggest problem isn’t Palin or Huckabee or any other Republican; it is that he championed a health-care bill that looks very similar to ObamaCare, which is the object of the entire party’s ire. Oh, yes — that.

If we learned anything in 2008 it was that context matters. The “unbeatable” Hillary Clinton ran precisely the wrong campaign (“experience”) in a “change” election year. Obama never looked back after the financial meltdown, because the context had changed — wariness of George W. Bush had been transformed into fury over the economic collapse. So, yes, the GOP has a habit of giving the nod to the “runner-up” from the previous year; but we’ve had a political earthquake, and the past is not much of a guide to the new political landscape.

Moreover, if Romney or any candidate is banking on establishment Republicans, as Douthat explains, “to rally around him once the primary voting starts — not out of love or admiration, but out of fear of the populist alternative,” he really has not been paying attention. The “establishment” isn’t really in charge of much of anything any more. The party elders, for better or worse, are being ignored. Ask Rubio, Rand Paul, Nikki Haley, Sharon Angle, and the rest if endorsements by the establishment and big-name donors are the key to victory. The old rules for picking presidential nominees (No congressmen! Must be a household name!) and the creaky campaign customs (The former governor of Maryland endorses candidate X!) have been blown up — first by Obama and then by the Obama backlash.

Maybe Romney four years after his first run can close the sale and figure out a way to deal with RomneyCare. But he won’t do it by splitting the difference between the Tea Party and the Beltway or by ingratiating himself with insiders (the ones who took more than a year to figure out what the Tea Partiers were all about). That sort of thinking is so 2008. The context has changed. The rules — if there are any — are different.

It’s not clear whether outsiderness or executive acumen will carry the day. The only thing for certain is that the old rule book is of absolutely no help.

Ross Douthat looks at the pre-positioning for the 2012 Republican presidential primary. He explains that there are the populists — Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee — with devoted followers and equally devoted detractors, and that there is the “next in line” Republican — Mitt Romney. The name of the game, Douthat suggests, for establishment Republicans (the geniuses who preferred Charlie Crist to Marco Rubio?) is to stage “a kind of intra-establishment coup, in which Romney is knocked from his perch as the safe, sober choice and a fresher figure takes his place.” Douthat throws out some contenders: Tim Pawlenty, Jeb Bush, John Thune, Mitch Daniels, and Haley Barbour. Douthat advises Romney to “co-opt some of the populist zeal that a Palin or a Huckabee” exhibit without alienating the establishment.

What’s wrong with this analysis? It has no context, and Douthat treats the contenders as archetypes (“sober reformer,” “unpredictable populist,” etc.) rather than as actual contenders with personalities and histories. Romney’s biggest problem isn’t Palin or Huckabee or any other Republican; it is that he championed a health-care bill that looks very similar to ObamaCare, which is the object of the entire party’s ire. Oh, yes — that.

If we learned anything in 2008 it was that context matters. The “unbeatable” Hillary Clinton ran precisely the wrong campaign (“experience”) in a “change” election year. Obama never looked back after the financial meltdown, because the context had changed — wariness of George W. Bush had been transformed into fury over the economic collapse. So, yes, the GOP has a habit of giving the nod to the “runner-up” from the previous year; but we’ve had a political earthquake, and the past is not much of a guide to the new political landscape.

Moreover, if Romney or any candidate is banking on establishment Republicans, as Douthat explains, “to rally around him once the primary voting starts — not out of love or admiration, but out of fear of the populist alternative,” he really has not been paying attention. The “establishment” isn’t really in charge of much of anything any more. The party elders, for better or worse, are being ignored. Ask Rubio, Rand Paul, Nikki Haley, Sharon Angle, and the rest if endorsements by the establishment and big-name donors are the key to victory. The old rules for picking presidential nominees (No congressmen! Must be a household name!) and the creaky campaign customs (The former governor of Maryland endorses candidate X!) have been blown up — first by Obama and then by the Obama backlash.

Maybe Romney four years after his first run can close the sale and figure out a way to deal with RomneyCare. But he won’t do it by splitting the difference between the Tea Party and the Beltway or by ingratiating himself with insiders (the ones who took more than a year to figure out what the Tea Partiers were all about). That sort of thinking is so 2008. The context has changed. The rules — if there are any — are different.

It’s not clear whether outsiderness or executive acumen will carry the day. The only thing for certain is that the old rule book is of absolutely no help.

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The Un-Obama Governors

Gov. Chris Christie continues to earn kudos from conservatives and liberals alike. Gov. Bob McDonnell has a 64 percent approval after less than a year as Virginia’s governor. Both Christie and McDonnell are garnering praise for doing what inside-the-Beltway Democrats refuse to do — cut spending, resist calls to hike taxes, and stand up to public-employee unions. They, and others like Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, and Tim Pawlenty, undermine the Democrats’ patter that Republicans are too wacky or too unrealistic to govern. They provide a vivid contrast to Obamaism and to the notion that only by a massive increase in the size of government and corresponding tax increases can we pull out of our economic tailspin.

Any one of these conservatives would be a formidable rival to Obama in 2012. Obama will no doubt try, as he did in 2008, to run against someone not on the ballot — George W. Bush. By 2012 that will, I suspect, provoke groans if not laughter. The choice, if Republican primary voters are savvy, will not be Obama vs. Bush but Obama vs. a not-Obama reformer.

As Noemie Emery points out, it didn’t have to be this way. She explains that Obama could have lived up to his billing as a transformative leader if, on ObamaCare, for example, he had “built the bill out from the center, in a way that held on to the unhappy left, appealed to the center, and became a wedge issue that split Republicans.” Obama, in contrast to the GOP governors who are drawing applause from those on both ends of the political spectrum, has undermined his own popularity, his party’s electoral prospects, and his own agenda. (“Since Obama became president, everything that he wants has become more unpopular: more intrusive and much bigger government, more taxing and spending, more state control.”)

In sum, Obama has opened the way for any number of reformist, grown-up Republicans to present voters with a choice in 2012 and an alternate vision to the liberal statism against which voters have already rebelled.

Gov. Chris Christie continues to earn kudos from conservatives and liberals alike. Gov. Bob McDonnell has a 64 percent approval after less than a year as Virginia’s governor. Both Christie and McDonnell are garnering praise for doing what inside-the-Beltway Democrats refuse to do — cut spending, resist calls to hike taxes, and stand up to public-employee unions. They, and others like Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, and Tim Pawlenty, undermine the Democrats’ patter that Republicans are too wacky or too unrealistic to govern. They provide a vivid contrast to Obamaism and to the notion that only by a massive increase in the size of government and corresponding tax increases can we pull out of our economic tailspin.

Any one of these conservatives would be a formidable rival to Obama in 2012. Obama will no doubt try, as he did in 2008, to run against someone not on the ballot — George W. Bush. By 2012 that will, I suspect, provoke groans if not laughter. The choice, if Republican primary voters are savvy, will not be Obama vs. Bush but Obama vs. a not-Obama reformer.

As Noemie Emery points out, it didn’t have to be this way. She explains that Obama could have lived up to his billing as a transformative leader if, on ObamaCare, for example, he had “built the bill out from the center, in a way that held on to the unhappy left, appealed to the center, and became a wedge issue that split Republicans.” Obama, in contrast to the GOP governors who are drawing applause from those on both ends of the political spectrum, has undermined his own popularity, his party’s electoral prospects, and his own agenda. (“Since Obama became president, everything that he wants has become more unpopular: more intrusive and much bigger government, more taxing and spending, more state control.”)

In sum, Obama has opened the way for any number of reformist, grown-up Republicans to present voters with a choice in 2012 and an alternate vision to the liberal statism against which voters have already rebelled.

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RE: Time for a Chief Executive

Gov. Bob McDonnell provided a good example today of what Tim Pawlenty was talking about: governors have to make hard choices, balance budgets, and take responsibility for their efforts. McDonnnell today announced that after taking over a $1.8B budget shortfall, he’s not only balanced the books for this year but also run up a $220M surplus for the remainder of this fiscal year. He has also closed a $4.2B shortfall for 2011-2012. He did this all without raising taxes. His communications director, Tucker Martin, explained via email:

The Governor’s mid-session revenue reforecast targeted state spending to the proper levels. Virginia state employees also returned $28 million to state coffers through their own savings, which they were incentivized to do by the prospect of up to a 3% one-time bonus if a surplus was achieved. The governor also instituted a strict hiring freeze in state government. So the basic factors on this surplus were the governor holding the line on new spending, accurate revenue re-forecasting, state employee savings, a hiring freeze and increases in corporate and individual tax returns, which is a small, but positive, economic signal. The increases in corporate and individual withholding and non-withholding equal 75% of the surplus money. So this is a story of conservative budgeting, and not just raising taxes to get out of trouble. As a result, our economy is starting to pick up down here. We’ve added 71,500 jobs since February, third highest amount in the nation, and you can start to see that in the slight uptick in withholding.

The list of cuts in education, health and human safety, and even in public safety are substantial. But in the end, spending in 2011-2012 in Virginia will merely return to 2005-2006 levels. Is that the end of civilization as we know it? That’s what the Democrats would have had us believe when they said it was impossible to balance the budget without huge tax hikes.

McDonnell has said he’s not running for anything in 2012, and I think this is one pol who’s telling the truth. But if you want to know what a grown-up chief executive looks like, this is it.

Gov. Bob McDonnell provided a good example today of what Tim Pawlenty was talking about: governors have to make hard choices, balance budgets, and take responsibility for their efforts. McDonnnell today announced that after taking over a $1.8B budget shortfall, he’s not only balanced the books for this year but also run up a $220M surplus for the remainder of this fiscal year. He has also closed a $4.2B shortfall for 2011-2012. He did this all without raising taxes. His communications director, Tucker Martin, explained via email:

The Governor’s mid-session revenue reforecast targeted state spending to the proper levels. Virginia state employees also returned $28 million to state coffers through their own savings, which they were incentivized to do by the prospect of up to a 3% one-time bonus if a surplus was achieved. The governor also instituted a strict hiring freeze in state government. So the basic factors on this surplus were the governor holding the line on new spending, accurate revenue re-forecasting, state employee savings, a hiring freeze and increases in corporate and individual tax returns, which is a small, but positive, economic signal. The increases in corporate and individual withholding and non-withholding equal 75% of the surplus money. So this is a story of conservative budgeting, and not just raising taxes to get out of trouble. As a result, our economy is starting to pick up down here. We’ve added 71,500 jobs since February, third highest amount in the nation, and you can start to see that in the slight uptick in withholding.

The list of cuts in education, health and human safety, and even in public safety are substantial. But in the end, spending in 2011-2012 in Virginia will merely return to 2005-2006 levels. Is that the end of civilization as we know it? That’s what the Democrats would have had us believe when they said it was impossible to balance the budget without huge tax hikes.

McDonnell has said he’s not running for anything in 2012, and I think this is one pol who’s telling the truth. But if you want to know what a grown-up chief executive looks like, this is it.

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Time for a Chief Executive?

In 2008, voters had a choice between two senators. In our entire history only two senators before Obama, Warren Harding and JFK, have won the presidency. We’ve never had a face-off between two senators (JFK beat VP Richard Nixon, Harding beat Ohio Gov. James Cox). Perhaps there is a reason. After all, senators aren’t responsible for much of anything. John McCain was in no position to make the case about executive experience in the 2008 race, but there sure is a powerful argument that we shouldn’t do this again — that is, elect someone with zero executive experience.

Granted, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has a huge vested interest in making this argument, but he’s nevertheless right when he asserts that chief executives of states can’t pull what Obama has:

When Obama entered office, he inherited a budget deficit that reflected the toxic combination of recession, bailouts and runaway entitlement programs. But rather than getting the government’s finances under control, Obama and his allies in Congress poured gasoline on the fire with trillion-dollar boondoggles. …

As the governor of a state that, like most others, has been facing recession-driven budget shortfalls recently, I understand the challenges in front of the president. What I don’t understand is his refusal to do anything about it. During my two terms in Minnesota, we balanced every biennial budget without raising taxes. We set priorities and cut spending. As the economy continues to struggle, more challenges lie ahead for both federal and state governments.

He  proceeds to give Obama a summary of Executive Leadership 101 (e.g., set priorities, establish two-tiered entitlement programs so newer works get less generous benefits).

Whether it is Pawlenty or some other candidate who captures the nomination, it may be high time to hire someone who’s run something, turned a profit, maintained a payroll, balanced a budget, or hired and fired people. There is something terribly adolescent about Obama — an infatuation with himself and with pretty words, a lack of decisiveness, an inability to make tough choices, and an unwillingness to take responsibility for his own actions. By 2012, the country may be ready — desperate, even — for a grown-up executive.

In 2008, voters had a choice between two senators. In our entire history only two senators before Obama, Warren Harding and JFK, have won the presidency. We’ve never had a face-off between two senators (JFK beat VP Richard Nixon, Harding beat Ohio Gov. James Cox). Perhaps there is a reason. After all, senators aren’t responsible for much of anything. John McCain was in no position to make the case about executive experience in the 2008 race, but there sure is a powerful argument that we shouldn’t do this again — that is, elect someone with zero executive experience.

Granted, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has a huge vested interest in making this argument, but he’s nevertheless right when he asserts that chief executives of states can’t pull what Obama has:

When Obama entered office, he inherited a budget deficit that reflected the toxic combination of recession, bailouts and runaway entitlement programs. But rather than getting the government’s finances under control, Obama and his allies in Congress poured gasoline on the fire with trillion-dollar boondoggles. …

As the governor of a state that, like most others, has been facing recession-driven budget shortfalls recently, I understand the challenges in front of the president. What I don’t understand is his refusal to do anything about it. During my two terms in Minnesota, we balanced every biennial budget without raising taxes. We set priorities and cut spending. As the economy continues to struggle, more challenges lie ahead for both federal and state governments.

He  proceeds to give Obama a summary of Executive Leadership 101 (e.g., set priorities, establish two-tiered entitlement programs so newer works get less generous benefits).

Whether it is Pawlenty or some other candidate who captures the nomination, it may be high time to hire someone who’s run something, turned a profit, maintained a payroll, balanced a budget, or hired and fired people. There is something terribly adolescent about Obama — an infatuation with himself and with pretty words, a lack of decisiveness, an inability to make tough choices, and an unwillingness to take responsibility for his own actions. By 2012, the country may be ready — desperate, even — for a grown-up executive.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Thanks to the NAACP, Hallmark was forced to remove from the shelves space-themed cards that used the phrase “black hole.” The group’s professional grievants apparently misheard the second word. No kidding.

Thanks to Barack Obama, the Middle East is more dangerous than ever: “The Gaza flotilla incident might have been a great setback to the radical camp had the United States reacted sharply, defending Israel, condemning the jihadists on board and their sponsors in Turkey, blocking UN Security Council action, and refusing to sponsor another international inquiry that will condemn Israel. And Israel’s interests were not the only ones at stake: The blockade of Gaza is a joint Israeli-Egyptian action to weaken Hamas. But the American position reflects the Obama line: carefully balancing the interests of friend and foe, seeking to avoid offense to our enemies, or, as Churchill famously described British policy in the 1930s, ‘resolved to be irresolute.’ Middle Eastern states, including Arab regimes traditionally allied with the United States, view this pose as likely to get them all killed when enemies come knocking at the door.”

Thanks to Obama, Bobby Jindal has regained a lot of stature. He appears to be what Obama is not — competent, engaged, and proactive.

Thanks to Jon Stewart, Tim Pawlenty gets to show that he has a sense of humor.

Thanks to Leslie Gelb, we are reminded that things can always be worse: Robert Gates departs, Hillary Clinton goes to the Defense Department, and Chuck Hagel goes to the State Department. Oy.

Thanks to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, “a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 19% of voters think it would be better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were reelected this November. Sixty-five percent (65%) disagree and say it would be better if most were defeated. Sixteen percent (16%) aren’t sure.”

Thanks to Obama, “people close to the president [Harmid Karzai] say he began to lose confidence in the Americans last summer, after national elections in which independent monitors determined that nearly one million ballots had been stolen on Mr. Karzai’s behalf. The rift worsened in December, when President Obama announced that he intended to begin reducing the number of American troops by the summer of 2011.” It’s no surprise, then, that “Mr. Karzai has been pressing to strike his own deal with the Taliban and the country’s archrival Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime supporter. According to a former senior Afghan official, Mr. Karzai’s maneuverings involve secret negotiations with the Taliban outside the purview of American and NATO officials.”

Thanks to Ben Bernanke, Rep. Gerry Connolly makes a fool of himself and his Republican challenger has a boffo campaign ad.

Thanks to Obama and the Democratic Congress, you’re probably not going to get to keep your health-care plan: “Over and over in the health care debate, President Barack Obama said people who like their current coverage would be able to keep it. But an early draft of an administration regulation estimates that many employers will be forced to make changes to their health plans under the new law. In just three years, a majority of workers—51 percent—will be in plans subject to new federal requirements, according to the draft.”

Thanks to Israel, there is a place in the Middle East where gays are not persecuted: “Tel Aviv embraced Israel’s GLBT community Friday as it hosted the 13th annual gay parade.Dozens of policemen and civilian police watched on as thousands marched, dancing and waving rainbow flags.”

Thanks to the economic-policy wizardry of the Obama administration: “U.S. consumers unexpectedly ratcheted back spending on everything from cars to clothing in May, adding to concerns that a volatile stock market and high unemployment are increasingly weighing down the economic recovery. The Commerce Department reported Friday that sales at retail establishments — including department stores, gas stations and restaurants — fell 1.2% in May from the previous month. The decline, driven by sharp drops in autos and building materials, was the first and largest since September 2009, when sales fell 2.2%.”

Thanks to the NAACP, Hallmark was forced to remove from the shelves space-themed cards that used the phrase “black hole.” The group’s professional grievants apparently misheard the second word. No kidding.

Thanks to Barack Obama, the Middle East is more dangerous than ever: “The Gaza flotilla incident might have been a great setback to the radical camp had the United States reacted sharply, defending Israel, condemning the jihadists on board and their sponsors in Turkey, blocking UN Security Council action, and refusing to sponsor another international inquiry that will condemn Israel. And Israel’s interests were not the only ones at stake: The blockade of Gaza is a joint Israeli-Egyptian action to weaken Hamas. But the American position reflects the Obama line: carefully balancing the interests of friend and foe, seeking to avoid offense to our enemies, or, as Churchill famously described British policy in the 1930s, ‘resolved to be irresolute.’ Middle Eastern states, including Arab regimes traditionally allied with the United States, view this pose as likely to get them all killed when enemies come knocking at the door.”

Thanks to Obama, Bobby Jindal has regained a lot of stature. He appears to be what Obama is not — competent, engaged, and proactive.

Thanks to Jon Stewart, Tim Pawlenty gets to show that he has a sense of humor.

Thanks to Leslie Gelb, we are reminded that things can always be worse: Robert Gates departs, Hillary Clinton goes to the Defense Department, and Chuck Hagel goes to the State Department. Oy.

Thanks to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, “a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 19% of voters think it would be better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were reelected this November. Sixty-five percent (65%) disagree and say it would be better if most were defeated. Sixteen percent (16%) aren’t sure.”

Thanks to Obama, “people close to the president [Harmid Karzai] say he began to lose confidence in the Americans last summer, after national elections in which independent monitors determined that nearly one million ballots had been stolen on Mr. Karzai’s behalf. The rift worsened in December, when President Obama announced that he intended to begin reducing the number of American troops by the summer of 2011.” It’s no surprise, then, that “Mr. Karzai has been pressing to strike his own deal with the Taliban and the country’s archrival Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime supporter. According to a former senior Afghan official, Mr. Karzai’s maneuverings involve secret negotiations with the Taliban outside the purview of American and NATO officials.”

Thanks to Ben Bernanke, Rep. Gerry Connolly makes a fool of himself and his Republican challenger has a boffo campaign ad.

Thanks to Obama and the Democratic Congress, you’re probably not going to get to keep your health-care plan: “Over and over in the health care debate, President Barack Obama said people who like their current coverage would be able to keep it. But an early draft of an administration regulation estimates that many employers will be forced to make changes to their health plans under the new law. In just three years, a majority of workers—51 percent—will be in plans subject to new federal requirements, according to the draft.”

Thanks to Israel, there is a place in the Middle East where gays are not persecuted: “Tel Aviv embraced Israel’s GLBT community Friday as it hosted the 13th annual gay parade.Dozens of policemen and civilian police watched on as thousands marched, dancing and waving rainbow flags.”

Thanks to the economic-policy wizardry of the Obama administration: “U.S. consumers unexpectedly ratcheted back spending on everything from cars to clothing in May, adding to concerns that a volatile stock market and high unemployment are increasingly weighing down the economic recovery. The Commerce Department reported Friday that sales at retail establishments — including department stores, gas stations and restaurants — fell 1.2% in May from the previous month. The decline, driven by sharp drops in autos and building materials, was the first and largest since September 2009, when sales fell 2.2%.”

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Still No Republican Front-Runner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Democrats Freak Over GOP Women — Again

Politico reports:

Two of the conservative movement’s biggest stars, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), lavished praise on each other Wednesday at a boisterous rally held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Before a predominantly female crowd of more than 11,000 fans, the two high-profile Republicans ripped President Obama at an event that doubled as a fundraiser for Bachmann’s re-election campaign.

Alas, the fellas –  2012 presidential contender and now-Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) — slunk into the background. Palin and Bachmann made hay out of Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review:

If, in fact, there is a nation who is compliant with all the rules ahead of time… if they fire against the United States a nuclear weapon, a biological weapon or maybe a cyber attack, we won’t be firing back with nuclear weapons,” Bachmann insisted.“Doesn’t that make us feel safe?” she asked to a laughing audience.

The Left does what it usually does when confronted with attractive conservative women: it goes bonkers. Greg Sargent tweets: “Dem talking points bashing Bachmann and Palin are really going to pay huge dividends this fall.” Huh? Let me get this straight: the Democrats in Congress are going to spend their time attacking two women with huge conservative and Tea Party followings, one of whom isn’t in office or on the ballot? Well, it makes about as much sense as running against George W. Bush, a strategy some have suggested is also in the offing.

These are not the tactics of a confident party that is secure in its record and aided by a popular president. It reeks of desperation. And just imagine if Republicans picked two women, neither of whom was in a leadership position, as the focal point of their attacks. They might be accused of having a “female” problem — by Politico, for example.

Politico reports:

Two of the conservative movement’s biggest stars, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), lavished praise on each other Wednesday at a boisterous rally held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Before a predominantly female crowd of more than 11,000 fans, the two high-profile Republicans ripped President Obama at an event that doubled as a fundraiser for Bachmann’s re-election campaign.

Alas, the fellas –  2012 presidential contender and now-Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) — slunk into the background. Palin and Bachmann made hay out of Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review:

If, in fact, there is a nation who is compliant with all the rules ahead of time… if they fire against the United States a nuclear weapon, a biological weapon or maybe a cyber attack, we won’t be firing back with nuclear weapons,” Bachmann insisted.“Doesn’t that make us feel safe?” she asked to a laughing audience.

The Left does what it usually does when confronted with attractive conservative women: it goes bonkers. Greg Sargent tweets: “Dem talking points bashing Bachmann and Palin are really going to pay huge dividends this fall.” Huh? Let me get this straight: the Democrats in Congress are going to spend their time attacking two women with huge conservative and Tea Party followings, one of whom isn’t in office or on the ballot? Well, it makes about as much sense as running against George W. Bush, a strategy some have suggested is also in the offing.

These are not the tactics of a confident party that is secure in its record and aided by a popular president. It reeks of desperation. And just imagine if Republicans picked two women, neither of whom was in a leadership position, as the focal point of their attacks. They might be accused of having a “female” problem — by Politico, for example.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Another reason not to write sentences like: “The city is built on delineations and differentiations, and its particular beauty is owed to its artifice, to its rejection of stillness, to the almost anarchic spectacle of its many relations.” (You have contests started in your honor to guess who wrote such drivel.)

Another reason to doubt the efficacy of sanctions: “The federal government has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multinational American companies while they were doing business in Iran, despite Washington’s efforts to discourage investment there, records show. That includes nearly $15 billion paid to companies that defied American sanctions law by making large investments that helped Iran develop its vast oil and gas reserves.”

Another reason why the Israelis, one suspects, will eventually have to take matters into their own hands: “Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday. … The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes.”

Another reason not to get into 2012 prognostications: we don’t know who is running. “After the midterm election this November, the field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 (or later) is going to get bigger and possibly better. The list is long: Mitch Daniels, John Kasich, Meg Whitman, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Jim DeMint. And [Rick] Perry.”

Another reason for Democrats to be nervous: voters trust Republicans more on eight of ten issues, including the economy, health care, taxes, social security, and national security. “Republicans lead Democrats 46% to 41% in terms of voter trust on the economy. In early January 2009, just before President Obama took office, Democrats held a nine-point lead on this issue.”

Another reason to bemoan the state of higher education (or the intellectual and ethical training of those who partake of it). Peter Robinson on the U.C. Berkeley protests over budget cuts: “We have here the vocabulary of the peace movement, of the struggle for decent conditions for migrants and other exploited workers, and of the civil-rights movement. Yet what did the protesters demand? Peace? Human rights? No. Money. And for whom? For the downtrodden and oppressed? No. For themselves. At a time when one American in 10 is unemployed and historic deficits burden both the federal government and many of the states, the protesters attempted to game the political system. They engaged in a resource grab.”

Another reason to believe Secretary Robert Gates is the most valuable member of the administration, and Joe Biden is wrong on pretty much everything: “President Barack Obama has been clear. He wants no new nukes. Pentagon chief Robert Gates has been equally direct, advocating in recent years for a new generation of warheads. … The Obama administration is acutely aware of perceptions that the Nuclear Posture Review has divided senior officials—with Vice President Joe Biden viewed as heading up an arms-control focused camp, and Gates perceived as speaking for a military and nuclear establishment that favors more funding and new weapons programs.”

Another reason not to write sentences like: “The city is built on delineations and differentiations, and its particular beauty is owed to its artifice, to its rejection of stillness, to the almost anarchic spectacle of its many relations.” (You have contests started in your honor to guess who wrote such drivel.)

Another reason to doubt the efficacy of sanctions: “The federal government has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multinational American companies while they were doing business in Iran, despite Washington’s efforts to discourage investment there, records show. That includes nearly $15 billion paid to companies that defied American sanctions law by making large investments that helped Iran develop its vast oil and gas reserves.”

Another reason why the Israelis, one suspects, will eventually have to take matters into their own hands: “Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday. … The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes.”

Another reason not to get into 2012 prognostications: we don’t know who is running. “After the midterm election this November, the field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 (or later) is going to get bigger and possibly better. The list is long: Mitch Daniels, John Kasich, Meg Whitman, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Jim DeMint. And [Rick] Perry.”

Another reason for Democrats to be nervous: voters trust Republicans more on eight of ten issues, including the economy, health care, taxes, social security, and national security. “Republicans lead Democrats 46% to 41% in terms of voter trust on the economy. In early January 2009, just before President Obama took office, Democrats held a nine-point lead on this issue.”

Another reason to bemoan the state of higher education (or the intellectual and ethical training of those who partake of it). Peter Robinson on the U.C. Berkeley protests over budget cuts: “We have here the vocabulary of the peace movement, of the struggle for decent conditions for migrants and other exploited workers, and of the civil-rights movement. Yet what did the protesters demand? Peace? Human rights? No. Money. And for whom? For the downtrodden and oppressed? No. For themselves. At a time when one American in 10 is unemployed and historic deficits burden both the federal government and many of the states, the protesters attempted to game the political system. They engaged in a resource grab.”

Another reason to believe Secretary Robert Gates is the most valuable member of the administration, and Joe Biden is wrong on pretty much everything: “President Barack Obama has been clear. He wants no new nukes. Pentagon chief Robert Gates has been equally direct, advocating in recent years for a new generation of warheads. … The Obama administration is acutely aware of perceptions that the Nuclear Posture Review has divided senior officials—with Vice President Joe Biden viewed as heading up an arms-control focused camp, and Gates perceived as speaking for a military and nuclear establishment that favors more funding and new weapons programs.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Harry Reid is doubling down on ObamaCare and will jam it through with 50 votes if he can evade all the parliamentary challenges. Republicans question whether he has the votes for reconciliation. I’m not sure Nancy Pelosi has 218 on her side. But it sure does put to rest the notion that Democrats are listening to voters after the Scott Brown debacle.

You wonder how he says it with a straight face: “President Obama warned lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Saturday not to turn the upcoming White House health-care summit into ‘political theater,’ but rather ‘to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that’s been with us for generations.’”

Yuval Levin and James C. Capretta observe: “Well, so much for the pivot to jobs. Late last week, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats made clear that, rather than turn to voters’ economic concerns in this winter of discontent, they want to persist in pushing the health care proposals they have championed for a year—proposals voters have rejected by every means at their disposal. … It is now clear that the ‘summit’ the president has called for February 25 is not intended to consider different approaches to health care financing, but rather to create an illusion of momentum that might just lull disoriented congressional Democrats into ramming the health care bill through the budget reconciliation process.”

John Bolton tries to explain to the Obami that “negotiation is not a policy. It is a technique.” And on Iran, it has failed.

Rick Santorum apologizes for helping to elect Arlen Specter in 2004.

Ron Paul wins the straw poll at CPAC, leading credence to the view that the gathering isn’t all that relevant. (But then again, CPAC straw polls haven’t really foreshadowed the nominee in past years.) Paul was then booed, and “CPAC organizers were plainly embarrassed by the results, which could reduce the perceived impact of a contest that was once thought to offer a window into which White House hopefuls were favored by movement conservatives.”

Well, it did accomplish one thing: Tim Pawlenty earned bipartisan bad reviews. Gail Collins: “He doesn’t seem naturally irate. People call him T-Paw, which sounds like a character in a children’s cartoon — maybe a lovable saber-toothed tiger with big feet. Or a pre-Little League game in which children who can’t hit anything with a bat are allowed to just thwack at the ball with their fists. Politicians often get into trouble when they’re trying to sound more furious than they feel.”

Dana Milbank: “Obama’s greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care. Early on, Emanuel argued for a smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support. He opposed the public option as a needless distraction. The president disregarded that strategy and sided with Capitol Hill liberals who hoped to ram a larger, less popular bill through Congress with Democratic votes only. The result was, as the world now knows, disastrous.” And we know Emanuel’s position on this — and the KSM trial (opposed), and closing Guantanamo (opposed) — because he’s leaked it, trying to let everyone know it’s not his fault that the president is going down the tubes.

Sen. Harry Reid is doubling down on ObamaCare and will jam it through with 50 votes if he can evade all the parliamentary challenges. Republicans question whether he has the votes for reconciliation. I’m not sure Nancy Pelosi has 218 on her side. But it sure does put to rest the notion that Democrats are listening to voters after the Scott Brown debacle.

You wonder how he says it with a straight face: “President Obama warned lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Saturday not to turn the upcoming White House health-care summit into ‘political theater,’ but rather ‘to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that’s been with us for generations.’”

Yuval Levin and James C. Capretta observe: “Well, so much for the pivot to jobs. Late last week, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats made clear that, rather than turn to voters’ economic concerns in this winter of discontent, they want to persist in pushing the health care proposals they have championed for a year—proposals voters have rejected by every means at their disposal. … It is now clear that the ‘summit’ the president has called for February 25 is not intended to consider different approaches to health care financing, but rather to create an illusion of momentum that might just lull disoriented congressional Democrats into ramming the health care bill through the budget reconciliation process.”

John Bolton tries to explain to the Obami that “negotiation is not a policy. It is a technique.” And on Iran, it has failed.

Rick Santorum apologizes for helping to elect Arlen Specter in 2004.

Ron Paul wins the straw poll at CPAC, leading credence to the view that the gathering isn’t all that relevant. (But then again, CPAC straw polls haven’t really foreshadowed the nominee in past years.) Paul was then booed, and “CPAC organizers were plainly embarrassed by the results, which could reduce the perceived impact of a contest that was once thought to offer a window into which White House hopefuls were favored by movement conservatives.”

Well, it did accomplish one thing: Tim Pawlenty earned bipartisan bad reviews. Gail Collins: “He doesn’t seem naturally irate. People call him T-Paw, which sounds like a character in a children’s cartoon — maybe a lovable saber-toothed tiger with big feet. Or a pre-Little League game in which children who can’t hit anything with a bat are allowed to just thwack at the ball with their fists. Politicians often get into trouble when they’re trying to sound more furious than they feel.”

Dana Milbank: “Obama’s greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care. Early on, Emanuel argued for a smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support. He opposed the public option as a needless distraction. The president disregarded that strategy and sided with Capitol Hill liberals who hoped to ram a larger, less popular bill through Congress with Democratic votes only. The result was, as the world now knows, disastrous.” And we know Emanuel’s position on this — and the KSM trial (opposed), and closing Guantanamo (opposed) — because he’s leaked it, trying to let everyone know it’s not his fault that the president is going down the tubes.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The leg tingler who says Sarah Palin doesn’t know anything turns out not to know anything: “There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like watching Chris Matthews get his a– demolished on Celebrity Jeopardy. … Do I smell a Wolf Blitzer repeat? If you aren’t watching tonight, how else would you learn that the Rocky Mountains actually run through California? Christo is on fire!”

The latest in the Fort Jackson food poisoning investigation is here. A new wrinkle: it is not clear whether the suspects were U.S. citizens or part of an outreach program to non-citizens who can speak “fluent Arabic, Dari, Pashto, or some other needed language.”

Par for the course for Chicago pols: “Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) said yesterday that the White House offered him a federal job in an effort to dissuade him from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the state’s Democratic primary.” You kind of see why Blago thinks “everyone” trades jobs and public offices.

It’s not hard to figure out why Obama “seems incapable of speaking to Muslims without slyly suggesting he is one of them.” (We saw that “in his Cairo address, he basically so bloated up the early relations between Morocco and America that his version amounted to a virtual falsehood … [and] he still thinks his speech to the university in Cairo was historic.” ) Answer: Obama has a bloated view of his own importance and has adopted the Left’s Third Worldism, in which the “Muslim World” — another fiction! – is oppressed by the West. (Recall that he also told us Palestinians are like enslaved African Americans.)

Martin Feldstein on Obama’s deficit blame-mongering: “The administration’s projected $18.5 trillion debt in 2020 would be more than double the size of the debt when Mr. Obama took office. The annual interest on that debt would exceed $800 billion, requiring a 36% rise in the personal income tax just to pay that interest.  Mr. Obama complains about the problems he ‘inherited.’ But the key to shrinking the nearer term deficits is to avoid his costly new initiatives.’ Feldstein complains that instead Obama is focused on tax hikes which “would hurt incentives, hurt the recovery, and hurt the economy’s long-term growth.”

Andy McCarthy, prosecutor and critic of the Obama-Holder criminal-justice approach to terrorism, does the impossible: he gets treated fairly in the New York Times. Yes, read the whole thing.

Charlie Cook says that “if I had a choice of the Republican Party’s problems right now or the Democratic Party’s problems, I think you could triple the Republican Party’s problems and I’d still rather have their problems than the problems facing Democrats.” It’s that kind of year.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor says that if Obama is going to jam through ObamaCare with reconciliation, then forget the “bipartisan” health-care summit. He seems to have a point — the hamhanded Democrats shouldn’t have rolled out their “we’ll do it anyway” plan before the summit. What were they thinking?

Yuval Levin thinks it’s crazy talk: “The apparent decision to push Obamacare through reconciliation gives new meaning to the term political suicide. It will almost certainly fail, for one thing. And it will persuade rank and file Democrats in Congress that their leaders have lost their minds, and so will badly divide the Democratic caucus and make for a very difficult year to come for them.”

I’m not the only one who noticed that Tim Pawlenty has an authenticity problem.”When I read that the governor ‘appealed to the tea-party movement, calling its critics a ‘brie-eating’ elite from ‘Ivy League schools’ who don’t like ‘Sam’s Club Republicans’ who ‘actually like shopping at places like Wal-Mart,′ I thought just one thing: The guy’s a phony. And patronizing, too. Good grief.” Yeah, but it’s only 2010.

The leg tingler who says Sarah Palin doesn’t know anything turns out not to know anything: “There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like watching Chris Matthews get his a– demolished on Celebrity Jeopardy. … Do I smell a Wolf Blitzer repeat? If you aren’t watching tonight, how else would you learn that the Rocky Mountains actually run through California? Christo is on fire!”

The latest in the Fort Jackson food poisoning investigation is here. A new wrinkle: it is not clear whether the suspects were U.S. citizens or part of an outreach program to non-citizens who can speak “fluent Arabic, Dari, Pashto, or some other needed language.”

Par for the course for Chicago pols: “Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) said yesterday that the White House offered him a federal job in an effort to dissuade him from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the state’s Democratic primary.” You kind of see why Blago thinks “everyone” trades jobs and public offices.

It’s not hard to figure out why Obama “seems incapable of speaking to Muslims without slyly suggesting he is one of them.” (We saw that “in his Cairo address, he basically so bloated up the early relations between Morocco and America that his version amounted to a virtual falsehood … [and] he still thinks his speech to the university in Cairo was historic.” ) Answer: Obama has a bloated view of his own importance and has adopted the Left’s Third Worldism, in which the “Muslim World” — another fiction! – is oppressed by the West. (Recall that he also told us Palestinians are like enslaved African Americans.)

Martin Feldstein on Obama’s deficit blame-mongering: “The administration’s projected $18.5 trillion debt in 2020 would be more than double the size of the debt when Mr. Obama took office. The annual interest on that debt would exceed $800 billion, requiring a 36% rise in the personal income tax just to pay that interest.  Mr. Obama complains about the problems he ‘inherited.’ But the key to shrinking the nearer term deficits is to avoid his costly new initiatives.’ Feldstein complains that instead Obama is focused on tax hikes which “would hurt incentives, hurt the recovery, and hurt the economy’s long-term growth.”

Andy McCarthy, prosecutor and critic of the Obama-Holder criminal-justice approach to terrorism, does the impossible: he gets treated fairly in the New York Times. Yes, read the whole thing.

Charlie Cook says that “if I had a choice of the Republican Party’s problems right now or the Democratic Party’s problems, I think you could triple the Republican Party’s problems and I’d still rather have their problems than the problems facing Democrats.” It’s that kind of year.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor says that if Obama is going to jam through ObamaCare with reconciliation, then forget the “bipartisan” health-care summit. He seems to have a point — the hamhanded Democrats shouldn’t have rolled out their “we’ll do it anyway” plan before the summit. What were they thinking?

Yuval Levin thinks it’s crazy talk: “The apparent decision to push Obamacare through reconciliation gives new meaning to the term political suicide. It will almost certainly fail, for one thing. And it will persuade rank and file Democrats in Congress that their leaders have lost their minds, and so will badly divide the Democratic caucus and make for a very difficult year to come for them.”

I’m not the only one who noticed that Tim Pawlenty has an authenticity problem.”When I read that the governor ‘appealed to the tea-party movement, calling its critics a ‘brie-eating’ elite from ‘Ivy League schools’ who don’t like ‘Sam’s Club Republicans’ who ‘actually like shopping at places like Wal-Mart,′ I thought just one thing: The guy’s a phony. And patronizing, too. Good grief.” Yeah, but it’s only 2010.

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Re: Tim Pawlenty’s Classless Comment

Pete, I want to echo your remarks. This is not an isolated instance for Pawlenty, unfortunately. One senses that he is bizarrely using Mitt Romney, circa 2008, as his role model. In his CPAC speech: “Pawlenty also made a strong pitch for the support of the religious right. ‘God is in charge,’ he said, criticizing the ‘naysayers who try to crowd out God.’ If God is ‘good enough for the Founding Fathers, it should be good enough for us.’” He sure is trying real hard. And in his earnestness to ingratiate himself with social conservatives, he risks precisely the problem that plagued Romney in 2008: coming across as inauthentic.

Meanwhile, the 2012 Mitt Romney, according to Ben Smith, “is a more constant, seasoned, and comfortable figure, one whose applause lines match up more closely with his record, and whose protégé – Senator Scott Brown – is his party’s hottest star.” (Wait, that’s not right… Marco Rubio is plainly the party’s hottest star.) The lesson here seems to be that you can’t successfully run for president by trying to be somebody you aren’t, or by trying to turbocharge rhetoric that doesn’t come to you naturally.

In a Purple state, Pawlenty has been a successful governor with compelling ideas on everything from health care to deficit control. Focusing on that is his best bet. It’s early, very early in the pre-campaign jockeying, and now is the time to make mistakes. But if this is his game plan for 2012, he should rethink it.

Pete, I want to echo your remarks. This is not an isolated instance for Pawlenty, unfortunately. One senses that he is bizarrely using Mitt Romney, circa 2008, as his role model. In his CPAC speech: “Pawlenty also made a strong pitch for the support of the religious right. ‘God is in charge,’ he said, criticizing the ‘naysayers who try to crowd out God.’ If God is ‘good enough for the Founding Fathers, it should be good enough for us.’” He sure is trying real hard. And in his earnestness to ingratiate himself with social conservatives, he risks precisely the problem that plagued Romney in 2008: coming across as inauthentic.

Meanwhile, the 2012 Mitt Romney, according to Ben Smith, “is a more constant, seasoned, and comfortable figure, one whose applause lines match up more closely with his record, and whose protégé – Senator Scott Brown – is his party’s hottest star.” (Wait, that’s not right… Marco Rubio is plainly the party’s hottest star.) The lesson here seems to be that you can’t successfully run for president by trying to be somebody you aren’t, or by trying to turbocharge rhetoric that doesn’t come to you naturally.

In a Purple state, Pawlenty has been a successful governor with compelling ideas on everything from health care to deficit control. Focusing on that is his best bet. It’s early, very early in the pre-campaign jockeying, and now is the time to make mistakes. But if this is his game plan for 2012, he should rethink it.

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Tim Pawlenty’s Classless Comment

During his speech at CPAC earlier today, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said this:

I think we should take a page out of her playbook [Elin Woods, wife of Tiger] and take a nine iron and smash the window out of big government in this country.

I’m told from those who know Governor Pawlenty that he is an impressive and decent person, and he certainly has a fine record as governor. But this kind of talk is pretty classless — and strikes me as inauthentic to Pawlenty, as an effort to throw some “red meat” to a conservative crowd.

He doesn’t need to do that. It undermines his appeal. He should speak in an intelligent, mature, serious way to his audience. These are, after all, serious times. Humor is fine and I’m all for tough-minded criticism. But grace and class are important, too. And we don’t need to pull down our political culture with stuff like this.

During his speech at CPAC earlier today, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said this:

I think we should take a page out of her playbook [Elin Woods, wife of Tiger] and take a nine iron and smash the window out of big government in this country.

I’m told from those who know Governor Pawlenty that he is an impressive and decent person, and he certainly has a fine record as governor. But this kind of talk is pretty classless — and strikes me as inauthentic to Pawlenty, as an effort to throw some “red meat” to a conservative crowd.

He doesn’t need to do that. It undermines his appeal. He should speak in an intelligent, mature, serious way to his audience. These are, after all, serious times. Humor is fine and I’m all for tough-minded criticism. But grace and class are important, too. And we don’t need to pull down our political culture with stuff like this.

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CPAC: Past, Present, and Future

One former VP, a former (and current) presidential aspirant, and a future rock star came to the CPAC gathering today. Two of them aren’t running for president in 2012, and you can bet the other is.

Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance and, in essence, passed the baton to the generation of his daughter Liz. (She might be running for something before too long.) As for Marco Rubio:

The star of CPAC continued his rise in the Republican Party on Thursday with a story about his American Dream. Marco Rubio, who has surged to near-even with Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, used his speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bash President Barack Obama, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter and, by connection, the centrist Crist.

Rubio suggested that Crist would be another senator in the mold of Specter (D-Pa.), who in the face of a tough reelection last year fled the GOP to become a Democrat.

“We already have one Arlen Specter,” Rubio said, adding: “We already have one Democratic Party.”

Ouch. But it’s clear that his invocation of the American dream, his staunch position on the war against Islamic fascists, and his full-throated conservative economic message are a hit with the base, and will likely transfer comfortably to a general-election race.

Cheney and Rubio made clear that they will not be running in 2012. But Mitt Romney surely will. Ben Smith summed it up:

Mitt Romney has gone from being an overeager suitor to being a favored son of the Conservative Political Action Conference since he ended his presidential campaign here in 2008, and his speech today was well-calibrated to an audience basking in a conservative resurgence and eager for attacks on Obama.

Sen. Scott Brown introduced Romney, sharing a bit of his new star power with the former governor, whose aides ran Brown’s campaign, and calling him perfectly qualified “to fix a broken economy.”

Romney’s prepared remarks lace into Obama on an array of issues, all hinged on a single theme: Obama has departed from American values.

Several things were noteworthy in his speech. First, unlike his potential competitor Tim Pawlenty, who’s taken to slamming the GOP and, indirectly, George. W. Bush, Romney wasn’t going there:

When it comes to shifting responsibility for failure, however, no one is a more frequent object of President Obama’s reproach than President Bush. It’s wearing so thin that even the late night shows make fun of it. I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly — he pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9/11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is — a war, and he kept us safe.

Classy, and, after a year of not-Bush in the Oval Office, I suspect the message will resonate with conservatives.

Second, Romney, who struggled to find footing with social conservatives and to establish his bona fides on abortion and other such issues,  focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and the economy. When he did talk about “strengthening families,” it was education and health care, not abortion and gay rights, that were his focus. If 2012 will be about “letting Romney be Romney,” then you’re going to hear less of the hot-button issues that rang as not quite authentic last time around and, rather, more of this: “Conservatism has had from its inception a vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda.”

Third, he has clearly found his focus, which is a conservative economic message that goes after the Democrats’ statist agenda and touts his own business background. He is laying the case that Obama simply doesn’t understand how the economy works and isn’t prepared, even now, to be president:

As he frequently reminds us, he assumed the presidency at a difficult time. That’s the reason we argued during the campaign that these were not the times for on the job training. Had he or his advisors spent even a few years in the real economy, they would have learned that the number one cause of failure in the private sector is lack of focus, and that the first rule of turning around any troubled enterprise is focus, focus, focus. And so, when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs, and to succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived healthcare takeover and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus, and so he failed.

And finally, there is a reason Romney is saying nice things about both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — he’s running against the not-Bush (and Cheney) national-security policy:

We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers. And conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed! On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, “You have the right to remain silent!”

Romney never quite clicked with the conservative base last time. But Republicans are notoriously forgiving types and have a habit of going back to the runner-up. If he’s going to run as Romney the businessman, experienced executive, free-market advocate, and tough-as-nails commander in chief, it will be quite a contrast with Obama. But first he’s got to wow the conservative base and get by some formidable competition. Bringing along Scott Brown to introduce him was one small sign that he understands the need to connect with not just mainstreet Republicans but also with the grassroots tea party movement, which carried Brown into office. No easy task, but then again, we should all get a grip — it is still 2010.

One former VP, a former (and current) presidential aspirant, and a future rock star came to the CPAC gathering today. Two of them aren’t running for president in 2012, and you can bet the other is.

Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance and, in essence, passed the baton to the generation of his daughter Liz. (She might be running for something before too long.) As for Marco Rubio:

The star of CPAC continued his rise in the Republican Party on Thursday with a story about his American Dream. Marco Rubio, who has surged to near-even with Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, used his speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bash President Barack Obama, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter and, by connection, the centrist Crist.

Rubio suggested that Crist would be another senator in the mold of Specter (D-Pa.), who in the face of a tough reelection last year fled the GOP to become a Democrat.

“We already have one Arlen Specter,” Rubio said, adding: “We already have one Democratic Party.”

Ouch. But it’s clear that his invocation of the American dream, his staunch position on the war against Islamic fascists, and his full-throated conservative economic message are a hit with the base, and will likely transfer comfortably to a general-election race.

Cheney and Rubio made clear that they will not be running in 2012. But Mitt Romney surely will. Ben Smith summed it up:

Mitt Romney has gone from being an overeager suitor to being a favored son of the Conservative Political Action Conference since he ended his presidential campaign here in 2008, and his speech today was well-calibrated to an audience basking in a conservative resurgence and eager for attacks on Obama.

Sen. Scott Brown introduced Romney, sharing a bit of his new star power with the former governor, whose aides ran Brown’s campaign, and calling him perfectly qualified “to fix a broken economy.”

Romney’s prepared remarks lace into Obama on an array of issues, all hinged on a single theme: Obama has departed from American values.

Several things were noteworthy in his speech. First, unlike his potential competitor Tim Pawlenty, who’s taken to slamming the GOP and, indirectly, George. W. Bush, Romney wasn’t going there:

When it comes to shifting responsibility for failure, however, no one is a more frequent object of President Obama’s reproach than President Bush. It’s wearing so thin that even the late night shows make fun of it. I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly — he pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9/11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is — a war, and he kept us safe.

Classy, and, after a year of not-Bush in the Oval Office, I suspect the message will resonate with conservatives.

Second, Romney, who struggled to find footing with social conservatives and to establish his bona fides on abortion and other such issues,  focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and the economy. When he did talk about “strengthening families,” it was education and health care, not abortion and gay rights, that were his focus. If 2012 will be about “letting Romney be Romney,” then you’re going to hear less of the hot-button issues that rang as not quite authentic last time around and, rather, more of this: “Conservatism has had from its inception a vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda.”

Third, he has clearly found his focus, which is a conservative economic message that goes after the Democrats’ statist agenda and touts his own business background. He is laying the case that Obama simply doesn’t understand how the economy works and isn’t prepared, even now, to be president:

As he frequently reminds us, he assumed the presidency at a difficult time. That’s the reason we argued during the campaign that these were not the times for on the job training. Had he or his advisors spent even a few years in the real economy, they would have learned that the number one cause of failure in the private sector is lack of focus, and that the first rule of turning around any troubled enterprise is focus, focus, focus. And so, when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs, and to succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived healthcare takeover and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus, and so he failed.

And finally, there is a reason Romney is saying nice things about both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — he’s running against the not-Bush (and Cheney) national-security policy:

We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers. And conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed! On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, “You have the right to remain silent!”

Romney never quite clicked with the conservative base last time. But Republicans are notoriously forgiving types and have a habit of going back to the runner-up. If he’s going to run as Romney the businessman, experienced executive, free-market advocate, and tough-as-nails commander in chief, it will be quite a contrast with Obama. But first he’s got to wow the conservative base and get by some formidable competition. Bringing along Scott Brown to introduce him was one small sign that he understands the need to connect with not just mainstreet Republicans but also with the grassroots tea party movement, which carried Brown into office. No easy task, but then again, we should all get a grip — it is still 2010.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jim Geraghty observes: “Very few of the most memorable moments from Obama’s successful campaign involve him and another person, one-on-one or in a small group; generally it was he, alone, standing before the masses and keeping them enthralled.” Maybe one-on-one he just doesn’t have anything interesting to say.

What is so interesting about Robert Gibbs’s insistence that the Iraq War is one of the Obami’s greatest achievements is the new-found incredulity of the Washington press corps. The reporter asks, “Given that the Vice President was in favor of a partial partition of the country and the President opposed the surge that helped stabilize it, how is that one of the President’s great achievements?” and then follows up, “But the Status of Forces Agreement to bring troops home was signed before the President took office.” It’s almost as if the romance is over.

Diane Ravitch cracks: “I am happy to see that President Obama is taking charge of the decision about where to site the KSM trial. I hope he will put it in Chicago, his own home town. After all, Chicago missed put on the Olympics. Why not let it have what is sure to be the trial of the century? A great place to test Eric Holder’s theory about giving these terrorists civilian trials.”

James Taranto smells a “climb down” on civilian terrorist trials: “According to Holder, the location and forum for the trial are not very important. According to the [Washington] Post, they are so important that the president of the United States is actually getting involved with policy decisions (although come to think of it, isn’t that supposed to be part of his job?). This circle is easily enough squared. The administration’s actions suggest that it not view the matter as substantively important. It is now clear that Obama and Holder didn’t even take it seriously enough to bother thinking through such obvious questions as whether a New York trial was logistically feasible or what to do in the event of an acquittal or an overturned conviction.”

Lenny Ben-David spots the J Street connection to the letter signed by 54 Democrats, which seeks a lifting of the blockade on Gaza. He also says: “The ‘word on the street’ now is that several members of Congress are disassociating themselves from their letter, much the same way members pulled out of J Street’s national conference in October 2009.”

Another at-risk Democrat: “North Dakota may be shaping up to be dangerous territory for the state’s other longtime Democratic incumbent, too. Senator Byron Dorgan has already decided not to seek reelection, and now a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Congressman Earl Pomeroy in close match-ups with two of his three likeliest Republican challengers.”

I’m not sure slamming George W. Bush is the way for Tim Pawlenty to get in the graces of the conservative base. For one thing, many of those voters remain very loyal to Bush. And even to those who were critical of him, in retrospect, he looks pretty darn good. But Pawlenty sure has been “frenetic.”

Charles Krauthammer observes: “When President [Obama] spoke earlier in the week about [uranium] enrichment, he made a point of calling the regime ‘the Islamic Republic of Iran.’ There were demonstrators in the streets today shouting ‘Republic of Iran,’ leaving out ‘Islamic’ as a way of saying: We don’t want clerical rule. Why the president insists on this gratuitous giving of legitimacy by using the preferred term of the mullahs is beyond me.” Well, the one explanation that makes sense: Obama thinks that the protesters, not the mullahs, are on the losing side, and wants to keep up the ingratiation gambit with the regime.

Jim Geraghty observes: “Very few of the most memorable moments from Obama’s successful campaign involve him and another person, one-on-one or in a small group; generally it was he, alone, standing before the masses and keeping them enthralled.” Maybe one-on-one he just doesn’t have anything interesting to say.

What is so interesting about Robert Gibbs’s insistence that the Iraq War is one of the Obami’s greatest achievements is the new-found incredulity of the Washington press corps. The reporter asks, “Given that the Vice President was in favor of a partial partition of the country and the President opposed the surge that helped stabilize it, how is that one of the President’s great achievements?” and then follows up, “But the Status of Forces Agreement to bring troops home was signed before the President took office.” It’s almost as if the romance is over.

Diane Ravitch cracks: “I am happy to see that President Obama is taking charge of the decision about where to site the KSM trial. I hope he will put it in Chicago, his own home town. After all, Chicago missed put on the Olympics. Why not let it have what is sure to be the trial of the century? A great place to test Eric Holder’s theory about giving these terrorists civilian trials.”

James Taranto smells a “climb down” on civilian terrorist trials: “According to Holder, the location and forum for the trial are not very important. According to the [Washington] Post, they are so important that the president of the United States is actually getting involved with policy decisions (although come to think of it, isn’t that supposed to be part of his job?). This circle is easily enough squared. The administration’s actions suggest that it not view the matter as substantively important. It is now clear that Obama and Holder didn’t even take it seriously enough to bother thinking through such obvious questions as whether a New York trial was logistically feasible or what to do in the event of an acquittal or an overturned conviction.”

Lenny Ben-David spots the J Street connection to the letter signed by 54 Democrats, which seeks a lifting of the blockade on Gaza. He also says: “The ‘word on the street’ now is that several members of Congress are disassociating themselves from their letter, much the same way members pulled out of J Street’s national conference in October 2009.”

Another at-risk Democrat: “North Dakota may be shaping up to be dangerous territory for the state’s other longtime Democratic incumbent, too. Senator Byron Dorgan has already decided not to seek reelection, and now a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Congressman Earl Pomeroy in close match-ups with two of his three likeliest Republican challengers.”

I’m not sure slamming George W. Bush is the way for Tim Pawlenty to get in the graces of the conservative base. For one thing, many of those voters remain very loyal to Bush. And even to those who were critical of him, in retrospect, he looks pretty darn good. But Pawlenty sure has been “frenetic.”

Charles Krauthammer observes: “When President [Obama] spoke earlier in the week about [uranium] enrichment, he made a point of calling the regime ‘the Islamic Republic of Iran.’ There were demonstrators in the streets today shouting ‘Republic of Iran,’ leaving out ‘Islamic’ as a way of saying: We don’t want clerical rule. Why the president insists on this gratuitous giving of legitimacy by using the preferred term of the mullahs is beyond me.” Well, the one explanation that makes sense: Obama thinks that the protesters, not the mullahs, are on the losing side, and wants to keep up the ingratiation gambit with the regime.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A must-read new blog, Bad Rachel, is off with a bang, examining a study of Pashtun men in the Afghan army. “If through the good offices of our military—especially our women soldiers—we could help Afghani women unravel themselves from centuries of complicity in their own oppression and see themselves not as defiled, unclean, perpetually wanton creatures to be hidden away as if they were carriers of plague, but rather as noble members of the human race endowed with greatness and blessings: the giving of life, the tending to it mercifully and lovingly, and, most important, the imparting of lessons in real virtue—self-acceptance to their daughters and just plain acceptance to their sons—that would be gaining hearts and minds indeed.”

Obama doubles down on his George W. Bush buck-passing, repeating Eric Holder’s line that the Obama administration is treating terrorists just as its predecessor did. (No mention of the terrorists who were treated as combatants under Bush, and no word on why Obama’s not using the military-tribunal system put into place since many of the Bush-era terror cases.) Then the real double-talk starts: we got “actionable intelligence” from the Christmas Day bomber, the president says. But then why was he telling the American people that this was an “isolated extremist” in the days after the bombing? Something sure doesn’t add up.

Bill Kristol reminds us: “Robert Gibbs said to you right here at this desk, right here in snowy Washington, D.C., Chris, where you’re — you seem to have escaped from and enjoying nice weather there in Nashville — Gibbs said to you, what, two days after the Christmas bomber, ‘We got everything we needed from him.’ Do you remember that? There’s no — 50 minutes of interrogation with the FBI. That was great. Now — that was their spin then. Their spin now is, ‘Oh, it’s great. He’s talking again. He’s giving us lots of useful information.’ Which is it? Robert Gibbs was not telling the truth one of those two times. … When you have a White House that’s spinning constantly, they’re going to be criticized and they deserve to be criticized.”

Bill Sammon explains: “And Kit Bond was pretty direct, the senator saying the FBI director personally told him, ‘Look, the guy is talking to us again after five weeks but we got to keep that quiet. If that gets out, that could compromise national security.’ Because, of course, the intelligence that you’re getting from the guy is perishable. It’s actionable. And you don’t want to be blabbing to the world that the guy’s talking. So what happens? Twenty-four hours later, you have this unseemly spectacle of the White House press operation hurriedly summoning reporters to the West Wing to trumpet, ‘Guess what? He’s talking again! He’s talking again!’”

In case you thought it was very hard to get the federal budget under control: “Republican senator George LeMieux of Florida has done the math. If government spending were reduced to its 2007 level, we’d have a balanced budget (with a $163 billion surplus). Returning to the 2008 level of spending, the budget would be balanced in 2014 (a $133 billion surplus). And in both cases, that’s while keeping the Bush tax cuts across the board and indexing the loathed alternative minimum tax for inflation.”

Illinois Democrats had enough of this: “The ex-girlfriend who accused Democratic Lt. Governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen of threatening her with a knife said Saturday she ‘does not believe he is fit to hold any public office.”” Only a week after the nomination: “Embattled Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen said Sunday night he’s dropping out of the race. ‘For the good of the people of [the] state of Illinois and the Democratic party I will resign,’ he said.”

Arlen Specter gets the endorsement of the  Pennsylvania Democratic party. But Democrats there don’t seem to like him all that much.

The Washington Post gives a blow-by-blow account of Sarah Palin’s appearance — her physical appearance, that is — at the Tea Party Convention. I can’t imagine them doing the same in the case of, say, Tim Pawlenty. One noteworthy observation: “In her lapel, a small pin with two flags — for Israel and the United States.”

Here’s a good bipartisan issue for conservatives to get behind: “The Obama administration is reaching out to business-friendly Democrats to win support for free-trade policies that divide the party. The effort is part of President Barack Obama’s push on trade that was launched with his State of the Union address. Obama said he wanted to double exports over the next five years as part of an effort to grow the U.S. economy.” If nothing else, it will annoy Big Labor.

A must-read new blog, Bad Rachel, is off with a bang, examining a study of Pashtun men in the Afghan army. “If through the good offices of our military—especially our women soldiers—we could help Afghani women unravel themselves from centuries of complicity in their own oppression and see themselves not as defiled, unclean, perpetually wanton creatures to be hidden away as if they were carriers of plague, but rather as noble members of the human race endowed with greatness and blessings: the giving of life, the tending to it mercifully and lovingly, and, most important, the imparting of lessons in real virtue—self-acceptance to their daughters and just plain acceptance to their sons—that would be gaining hearts and minds indeed.”

Obama doubles down on his George W. Bush buck-passing, repeating Eric Holder’s line that the Obama administration is treating terrorists just as its predecessor did. (No mention of the terrorists who were treated as combatants under Bush, and no word on why Obama’s not using the military-tribunal system put into place since many of the Bush-era terror cases.) Then the real double-talk starts: we got “actionable intelligence” from the Christmas Day bomber, the president says. But then why was he telling the American people that this was an “isolated extremist” in the days after the bombing? Something sure doesn’t add up.

Bill Kristol reminds us: “Robert Gibbs said to you right here at this desk, right here in snowy Washington, D.C., Chris, where you’re — you seem to have escaped from and enjoying nice weather there in Nashville — Gibbs said to you, what, two days after the Christmas bomber, ‘We got everything we needed from him.’ Do you remember that? There’s no — 50 minutes of interrogation with the FBI. That was great. Now — that was their spin then. Their spin now is, ‘Oh, it’s great. He’s talking again. He’s giving us lots of useful information.’ Which is it? Robert Gibbs was not telling the truth one of those two times. … When you have a White House that’s spinning constantly, they’re going to be criticized and they deserve to be criticized.”

Bill Sammon explains: “And Kit Bond was pretty direct, the senator saying the FBI director personally told him, ‘Look, the guy is talking to us again after five weeks but we got to keep that quiet. If that gets out, that could compromise national security.’ Because, of course, the intelligence that you’re getting from the guy is perishable. It’s actionable. And you don’t want to be blabbing to the world that the guy’s talking. So what happens? Twenty-four hours later, you have this unseemly spectacle of the White House press operation hurriedly summoning reporters to the West Wing to trumpet, ‘Guess what? He’s talking again! He’s talking again!’”

In case you thought it was very hard to get the federal budget under control: “Republican senator George LeMieux of Florida has done the math. If government spending were reduced to its 2007 level, we’d have a balanced budget (with a $163 billion surplus). Returning to the 2008 level of spending, the budget would be balanced in 2014 (a $133 billion surplus). And in both cases, that’s while keeping the Bush tax cuts across the board and indexing the loathed alternative minimum tax for inflation.”

Illinois Democrats had enough of this: “The ex-girlfriend who accused Democratic Lt. Governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen of threatening her with a knife said Saturday she ‘does not believe he is fit to hold any public office.”” Only a week after the nomination: “Embattled Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen said Sunday night he’s dropping out of the race. ‘For the good of the people of [the] state of Illinois and the Democratic party I will resign,’ he said.”

Arlen Specter gets the endorsement of the  Pennsylvania Democratic party. But Democrats there don’t seem to like him all that much.

The Washington Post gives a blow-by-blow account of Sarah Palin’s appearance — her physical appearance, that is — at the Tea Party Convention. I can’t imagine them doing the same in the case of, say, Tim Pawlenty. One noteworthy observation: “In her lapel, a small pin with two flags — for Israel and the United States.”

Here’s a good bipartisan issue for conservatives to get behind: “The Obama administration is reaching out to business-friendly Democrats to win support for free-trade policies that divide the party. The effort is part of President Barack Obama’s push on trade that was launched with his State of the Union address. Obama said he wanted to double exports over the next five years as part of an effort to grow the U.S. economy.” If nothing else, it will annoy Big Labor.

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Just Like Palin!

John Kerry gives us a peek at the psyche of the Left:

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) lashed out at Scott Brown’s Massachusetts senatorial campaign on Monday for adopting “intimidation tactics” that he deemed “reminiscent of the dangerous atmosphere of Sarah Palin’s 2008 campaign rallies.”

These are the words liberals use to characterize conservative enthusiasm and activism: dangerous and intimidation. But this time, George Bush is a distant memory, John McCain is not at the top of the ticket, and the Republican is ahead in the polls.

Nevertheless, the reflexive reaction to delegitimize the opposition and associate the next political rock star on the Right with the Left’s bogeywoman is something to behold. (Imagine how the other 2012 contenders must grind their teeth when they hear that sort of stuff. Well, I suppose no one on the Left thinks supporters of Tim Pawlenty or John Thune are all that “dangerous.”)

The Democrats are, of course, in panic mode. Sam Stein tells us that “the White House, congressional Democrats and others were preparing for the fallout of an embarrassing loss on Tuesday and the implications it would have on the party’s agenda — drafting out legislative possibilities for passing health care reform and laying out arguments for who was to blame for the defeat.” One argument, as lame as it sounds, must be to blame the voters. Or if that fails, blame the newly energized grassroots movement that’s sweeping the country. We have come some way since last April, when the White House pretended not to notice the Tea Party protesters swarming across the street. Maybe they should have paid more attention.

The Democrats can pre- and post-spin all they like. The results will speak for themselves. If Brown wins, no amount of fear-mongering about those mean voters and those “dangerous” devotees of the former vice-presidential candidate will matter. But Kerry is right about one thing: incumbent Democrats should be very afraid. If Coakley loses, those angry voters, empowered by victory, will be coming after them.

John Kerry gives us a peek at the psyche of the Left:

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) lashed out at Scott Brown’s Massachusetts senatorial campaign on Monday for adopting “intimidation tactics” that he deemed “reminiscent of the dangerous atmosphere of Sarah Palin’s 2008 campaign rallies.”

These are the words liberals use to characterize conservative enthusiasm and activism: dangerous and intimidation. But this time, George Bush is a distant memory, John McCain is not at the top of the ticket, and the Republican is ahead in the polls.

Nevertheless, the reflexive reaction to delegitimize the opposition and associate the next political rock star on the Right with the Left’s bogeywoman is something to behold. (Imagine how the other 2012 contenders must grind their teeth when they hear that sort of stuff. Well, I suppose no one on the Left thinks supporters of Tim Pawlenty or John Thune are all that “dangerous.”)

The Democrats are, of course, in panic mode. Sam Stein tells us that “the White House, congressional Democrats and others were preparing for the fallout of an embarrassing loss on Tuesday and the implications it would have on the party’s agenda — drafting out legislative possibilities for passing health care reform and laying out arguments for who was to blame for the defeat.” One argument, as lame as it sounds, must be to blame the voters. Or if that fails, blame the newly energized grassroots movement that’s sweeping the country. We have come some way since last April, when the White House pretended not to notice the Tea Party protesters swarming across the street. Maybe they should have paid more attention.

The Democrats can pre- and post-spin all they like. The results will speak for themselves. If Brown wins, no amount of fear-mongering about those mean voters and those “dangerous” devotees of the former vice-presidential candidate will matter. But Kerry is right about one thing: incumbent Democrats should be very afraid. If Coakley loses, those angry voters, empowered by victory, will be coming after them.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Democratic governors are in trouble, too — in states like Oregon, Ohio, and Washington. It seems the recession and Obamaism have not been kind to incumbent Democrats.

Keith Hennessey on ObamaCare: “If you’re concerned about long-run budget deficits, you should not make a massive new entitlement spending commitment, exclude a multi-hundred billion spending item that is almost certain to be enacted elsewhere, bet on speculative offsets, all to achieve the unimpressive goal of reducing deficits by “a small share of the total deficits that would be likely to arise in that decade under current policies. We need massive future spending reductions to address exploding future deficits, not to redistribute resources to a new entitlement program.”

Meanwhile, the latest Rasmussen survey reports that 60 percent of voters think ObamaCare will increase the deficit. Only 9 percent say it won’t have any impact.

Charles Krauthammer observes that “all Iran sees is an obsequious president, the most accommodating and appeasement-minded since the Carter administration vis-a-vis Iran, on bended knee, begging for a yes — and all [he] gets is no. At some point, and it should be today, it should have been a year ago, three years ago in the Bush administration, accept the fact that a no is a no. … [The Obama administration] actually took the side of the dictatorship against the people in the streets, hoping that it would create an opening and an overture to the regime — and [in response] the regime has spat in our face.”

Well, yes, we imagine that this is what everyone striving to establish himself as a 2012 contender will say: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty became the first likely GOP presidential candidate to criticize Mike Huckabee’s pardon of a suspected killer during his time as Arkansas’s governor. Pawlenty said that he would not have granted clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who was suspected of fatally shooting four police officers in Washington state on Sunday before being shot and killed by police in Seattle Tuesday morning.”

Pawlenty, perhaps explaining why he seems to be trying so hard, confesses: “Nobody knows who I am.”

A pre-speech Gallup survey: “Americans are far less approving of President Obama’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan than they have been in recent months, with 35% currently approving, down from 49% in September and 56% in July.” And more voters disapprove than approve of his performance on terrorism, the economy, health care, and creating jobs.

This is pathetic: the White House goes to war with Politico?! Next up: CNN and Vanity Fair. It seems the “purity” test — brook no heresy – is not a GOP thing but an Obami thin-skinned media thing.

Democratic governors are in trouble, too — in states like Oregon, Ohio, and Washington. It seems the recession and Obamaism have not been kind to incumbent Democrats.

Keith Hennessey on ObamaCare: “If you’re concerned about long-run budget deficits, you should not make a massive new entitlement spending commitment, exclude a multi-hundred billion spending item that is almost certain to be enacted elsewhere, bet on speculative offsets, all to achieve the unimpressive goal of reducing deficits by “a small share of the total deficits that would be likely to arise in that decade under current policies. We need massive future spending reductions to address exploding future deficits, not to redistribute resources to a new entitlement program.”

Meanwhile, the latest Rasmussen survey reports that 60 percent of voters think ObamaCare will increase the deficit. Only 9 percent say it won’t have any impact.

Charles Krauthammer observes that “all Iran sees is an obsequious president, the most accommodating and appeasement-minded since the Carter administration vis-a-vis Iran, on bended knee, begging for a yes — and all [he] gets is no. At some point, and it should be today, it should have been a year ago, three years ago in the Bush administration, accept the fact that a no is a no. … [The Obama administration] actually took the side of the dictatorship against the people in the streets, hoping that it would create an opening and an overture to the regime — and [in response] the regime has spat in our face.”

Well, yes, we imagine that this is what everyone striving to establish himself as a 2012 contender will say: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty became the first likely GOP presidential candidate to criticize Mike Huckabee’s pardon of a suspected killer during his time as Arkansas’s governor. Pawlenty said that he would not have granted clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who was suspected of fatally shooting four police officers in Washington state on Sunday before being shot and killed by police in Seattle Tuesday morning.”

Pawlenty, perhaps explaining why he seems to be trying so hard, confesses: “Nobody knows who I am.”

A pre-speech Gallup survey: “Americans are far less approving of President Obama’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan than they have been in recent months, with 35% currently approving, down from 49% in September and 56% in July.” And more voters disapprove than approve of his performance on terrorism, the economy, health care, and creating jobs.

This is pathetic: the White House goes to war with Politico?! Next up: CNN and Vanity Fair. It seems the “purity” test — brook no heresy – is not a GOP thing but an Obami thin-skinned media thing.

Read Less




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