Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tom Coburn

Why Palin Won’t Fade Away Soon

Ross Douthat’s advice to the media on Sarah Palin, which Peter Wehner wrote about on Monday, will be hard to follow. Douthat uses the metaphor of a marriage to frame his points on Palin and the media. But in this “marriage,” third parties play a decisive role — and in a telling way, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) filled a particular role this past weekend. Coburn, for whom I have great respect, has been a favorite with the Tea Party demographic because of his reputation as a fiscal hawk and constitutional-process curmudgeon. But in an interview with David Gregory on Meet the Press, Coburn failed to deliver in exactly the kind of situation in which Palin rarely disappoints her base.

Here is a key passage from Mediaite’s summary of the Coburn interview: Gregory persisted by saying some on the right speak of President Obama as an “outsider who is trying to usher in a system … that will injure America and deny them of their liberty” and wanted to know if Coburn rejects that idea and also the use of violent metaphors in political discourse. Coburn agreed that he does reject that, and Senator Charles Schumer added “we as elected officials have an obligation to try and tone that down, and if we tone it down, then maybe the media will be less vociferous.”

Quite a few Americans would say Coburn rejected the wrong thing. What he should have rejected was the rhetorical pairing of the right’s political ideas with “violent metaphors in political discourse.” Coburn didn’t question the terms in which David Gregory presented the proposition: as if proof of civility and peaceful intent could only be established by rejecting certain of the right’s political arguments against Obama’s policies. In the video clip, the senator came across as calculating, perhaps a little impatiently, that meeting Gregory’s test of “civility” was a minor but essential concession.

I imagine Coburn would defend it as valid for the people to disagree on basic political ideas, if the question were put to him directly. But in the context of a buried premise in a Sunday talk show, it didn’t seem to occur to him to make that point. It does, manifestly, occur to Palin. I don’t disagree with pundits who would like to see her be more succinct and less reactive to the personal element in media attacks on her. But the people hear with different ears: for every auditor who cringes at her style or extraneous commentary, there is another who hears, first and foremost, that she is affirming precious ideas to which other politicians are not moved to give voice.

Palin’s persistent popularity as a public icon is a financial factor for the media — and it’s not one they control. They could decline to talk about her, decline to feature photos and video clips of her, but they understand the connection between Palin, sales, Web hits, and audience share. Palin is a figure whose market power has been established through a direct bond — of love or hate — with the people.

This doesn’t mean she is or should be a front-runner for 2012. The issues are separate. My own belief is that a successful GOP candidate will find a way to transcend the arena of slings and arrows without making political compromises to secure its quiescence. Palin may not have transcended the slings-and-arrows arena, but her potential competitors have all, to varying degrees, made the kinds of compromises that Tom Coburn modeled this past Sunday. As long as other leading Republicans let their discourse be governed by a set of buried premises that disqualifies the right’s political ideas at the starting line, Sarah Palin will have devoted supporters and a prominent voice.

Ross Douthat’s advice to the media on Sarah Palin, which Peter Wehner wrote about on Monday, will be hard to follow. Douthat uses the metaphor of a marriage to frame his points on Palin and the media. But in this “marriage,” third parties play a decisive role — and in a telling way, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) filled a particular role this past weekend. Coburn, for whom I have great respect, has been a favorite with the Tea Party demographic because of his reputation as a fiscal hawk and constitutional-process curmudgeon. But in an interview with David Gregory on Meet the Press, Coburn failed to deliver in exactly the kind of situation in which Palin rarely disappoints her base.

Here is a key passage from Mediaite’s summary of the Coburn interview: Gregory persisted by saying some on the right speak of President Obama as an “outsider who is trying to usher in a system … that will injure America and deny them of their liberty” and wanted to know if Coburn rejects that idea and also the use of violent metaphors in political discourse. Coburn agreed that he does reject that, and Senator Charles Schumer added “we as elected officials have an obligation to try and tone that down, and if we tone it down, then maybe the media will be less vociferous.”

Quite a few Americans would say Coburn rejected the wrong thing. What he should have rejected was the rhetorical pairing of the right’s political ideas with “violent metaphors in political discourse.” Coburn didn’t question the terms in which David Gregory presented the proposition: as if proof of civility and peaceful intent could only be established by rejecting certain of the right’s political arguments against Obama’s policies. In the video clip, the senator came across as calculating, perhaps a little impatiently, that meeting Gregory’s test of “civility” was a minor but essential concession.

I imagine Coburn would defend it as valid for the people to disagree on basic political ideas, if the question were put to him directly. But in the context of a buried premise in a Sunday talk show, it didn’t seem to occur to him to make that point. It does, manifestly, occur to Palin. I don’t disagree with pundits who would like to see her be more succinct and less reactive to the personal element in media attacks on her. But the people hear with different ears: for every auditor who cringes at her style or extraneous commentary, there is another who hears, first and foremost, that she is affirming precious ideas to which other politicians are not moved to give voice.

Palin’s persistent popularity as a public icon is a financial factor for the media — and it’s not one they control. They could decline to talk about her, decline to feature photos and video clips of her, but they understand the connection between Palin, sales, Web hits, and audience share. Palin is a figure whose market power has been established through a direct bond — of love or hate — with the people.

This doesn’t mean she is or should be a front-runner for 2012. The issues are separate. My own belief is that a successful GOP candidate will find a way to transcend the arena of slings and arrows without making political compromises to secure its quiescence. Palin may not have transcended the slings-and-arrows arena, but her potential competitors have all, to varying degrees, made the kinds of compromises that Tom Coburn modeled this past Sunday. As long as other leading Republicans let their discourse be governed by a set of buried premises that disqualifies the right’s political ideas at the starting line, Sarah Palin will have devoted supporters and a prominent voice.

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The First Test

Elections matter. Not only in number of Republicans but also in their zest for fiscal restraint, the Senate is soon to be a very different place. As the Wall Street Journal editors note:

On earmarks, the House GOP leadership has rallied behind a ban, and 11 of 13 newly elected Republicans in the Senate—including Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson and Rand Paul—campaigned against these special- interest spending projects that are typically dropped into bills with little debate or scrutiny. A Senate earmark moratorium is sponsored by veterans Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) and Jim DeMint (South Carolina) and newly elected Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire).

Some Senate veterans are either indifferent or actively hostile to the idea. Yes, it’s true the earmarks are chump change when it comes to entitlement spending, but then so is public funding of the NPR. The importance lies in the symbolism and the message it sends in larger budget fights:

After tolerating Democratic earmarks for two years, President Obama is also now pushing an earmark ban, and Republicans will give him a major talking point if they maintain earmarks as usual. If this means Senators have to give up some of their own spending priorities, then they have only themselves to blame for making earmarks so notorious.

If it were only about earmarks, the tussle would hardly be noteworthy. But it is, instead, a test as to how readily the Tea Party’s agenda — fiscal restraint, smaller government, Congressional accountability — can be integrated in the GOP’s agenda. If the Old Bulls of the Senate win this one, the outlook is not good for larger, more controversial undertakings. As for the House, this is the first of many instances, I suspect, in which it will lead the debate and set the example.

Elections matter. Not only in number of Republicans but also in their zest for fiscal restraint, the Senate is soon to be a very different place. As the Wall Street Journal editors note:

On earmarks, the House GOP leadership has rallied behind a ban, and 11 of 13 newly elected Republicans in the Senate—including Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson and Rand Paul—campaigned against these special- interest spending projects that are typically dropped into bills with little debate or scrutiny. A Senate earmark moratorium is sponsored by veterans Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) and Jim DeMint (South Carolina) and newly elected Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire).

Some Senate veterans are either indifferent or actively hostile to the idea. Yes, it’s true the earmarks are chump change when it comes to entitlement spending, but then so is public funding of the NPR. The importance lies in the symbolism and the message it sends in larger budget fights:

After tolerating Democratic earmarks for two years, President Obama is also now pushing an earmark ban, and Republicans will give him a major talking point if they maintain earmarks as usual. If this means Senators have to give up some of their own spending priorities, then they have only themselves to blame for making earmarks so notorious.

If it were only about earmarks, the tussle would hardly be noteworthy. But it is, instead, a test as to how readily the Tea Party’s agenda — fiscal restraint, smaller government, Congressional accountability — can be integrated in the GOP’s agenda. If the Old Bulls of the Senate win this one, the outlook is not good for larger, more controversial undertakings. As for the House, this is the first of many instances, I suspect, in which it will lead the debate and set the example.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Stu Rothenberg doesn’t think much of the Dems’ Chamber of Commerce gambit: “This is what we call the political version of ‘jumping the shark’ — a desperate-looking charge that a campaign or a party hopes could be a game-changer. It’s pretty early for Democrats to jump the shark, and you have to wonder whether this is really the best shot they have in their arsenal. Yes, it might get some folks agitated, but not many. And it reeks of desperation.”

Voters don’t think much of it either: “Election Day is just two weeks away, and Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 17, 2010. … Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 55% to 36% lead.”

CNN voters don’t think much of the Parker-Spitzer show, and Vic Matus thinks even less of Spitzer’s likening himself to Icarus: “Putz. He doesn’t even know the quotation. …It ends, ‘… they first make mad.’ As in insane. Which is precisely the case with Spitzer. … Sorry. I knew Icarus—Icarus was a friend of mine. Eliot Spitzer is no Icarus.”

Charles Lane doesn’t think much of Democrats’ excessive dependence on public-employee unions. “But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions. In politics, you never want to find yourself beholden to a minority whose core interests often clash with the interests of voters.”

Josh Rogin doesn’t think much of Jon Stewart’s claim that Sen. Tom Coburn is holding up aid to Haiti. “The problem is that Coburn’s hold is not responsible for delaying the $1.15 billion Congress already appropriated in late July to help Haiti. … Even the State Department acknowledges that Coburn is not responsible for the delay in this tranche of funds for Haiti.”

ABC doesn’t think much of Dems’ chances of holding the House majority: “In the House, many key House races have seen some tightening, but it’s not enough to make Democrats feel all that much better. Democrats have 63 seats in serious danger compared to just four for Republicans.”

Anyone who lives in the VA-11 (like me!) doesn’t think much of Marc Ambinder’s spin that Rep. Gerry Connolly “knows this district inside and out.” If he did, he would have maintained a moderate voting record like his predecessor Tom Davis, instead of rubber-stamping the Obama agenda and putting his seat at risk.

The liberal JTA doesn’t think much of Howard Berman’s claim that Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill: “Kirk gets this one, I think, on points — as the Sun Times notes, Berman thanked [co-sponsor Rep. Rob] Andrews for his work, a hint that the bill he and Kirk shaped played a role in the final bill. So did AIPAC when the bill passed. And, the sanctions are pretty much identical.”

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee doesn’t think much of its party’s chances in at least five races. A fundraising appeal, Ben Smith explains, “seems to concede what many on both sides now see as nearly done: Five open GOP-held seats, in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Kansas, have slipped pretty near out of reach.”

Stu Rothenberg doesn’t think much of the Dems’ Chamber of Commerce gambit: “This is what we call the political version of ‘jumping the shark’ — a desperate-looking charge that a campaign or a party hopes could be a game-changer. It’s pretty early for Democrats to jump the shark, and you have to wonder whether this is really the best shot they have in their arsenal. Yes, it might get some folks agitated, but not many. And it reeks of desperation.”

Voters don’t think much of it either: “Election Day is just two weeks away, and Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 17, 2010. … Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 55% to 36% lead.”

CNN voters don’t think much of the Parker-Spitzer show, and Vic Matus thinks even less of Spitzer’s likening himself to Icarus: “Putz. He doesn’t even know the quotation. …It ends, ‘… they first make mad.’ As in insane. Which is precisely the case with Spitzer. … Sorry. I knew Icarus—Icarus was a friend of mine. Eliot Spitzer is no Icarus.”

Charles Lane doesn’t think much of Democrats’ excessive dependence on public-employee unions. “But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions. In politics, you never want to find yourself beholden to a minority whose core interests often clash with the interests of voters.”

Josh Rogin doesn’t think much of Jon Stewart’s claim that Sen. Tom Coburn is holding up aid to Haiti. “The problem is that Coburn’s hold is not responsible for delaying the $1.15 billion Congress already appropriated in late July to help Haiti. … Even the State Department acknowledges that Coburn is not responsible for the delay in this tranche of funds for Haiti.”

ABC doesn’t think much of Dems’ chances of holding the House majority: “In the House, many key House races have seen some tightening, but it’s not enough to make Democrats feel all that much better. Democrats have 63 seats in serious danger compared to just four for Republicans.”

Anyone who lives in the VA-11 (like me!) doesn’t think much of Marc Ambinder’s spin that Rep. Gerry Connolly “knows this district inside and out.” If he did, he would have maintained a moderate voting record like his predecessor Tom Davis, instead of rubber-stamping the Obama agenda and putting his seat at risk.

The liberal JTA doesn’t think much of Howard Berman’s claim that Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill: “Kirk gets this one, I think, on points — as the Sun Times notes, Berman thanked [co-sponsor Rep. Rob] Andrews for his work, a hint that the bill he and Kirk shaped played a role in the final bill. So did AIPAC when the bill passed. And, the sanctions are pretty much identical.”

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee doesn’t think much of its party’s chances in at least five races. A fundraising appeal, Ben Smith explains, “seems to concede what many on both sides now see as nearly done: Five open GOP-held seats, in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Kansas, have slipped pretty near out of reach.”

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RE: Mitch Daniels Makes the Rounds

Reihan Salam writes that although he understands that I “am  troubled by the idea of nickel-and-diming national security,” he believes “we need to give serious thought to paring back our commitments, to the extent doing so is consonant with our long-term interests.  … [Like] a growing number of conservatives, including Sen. Tom Coburn, I’m concerned about profligacy in the defense budget.” This is an important debate, which candidates and office holders will have to address.

There are two issues. First, is our defense budget “profligate”? Certainly, there are excesses, and lawmakers such as Rep. John Murtha did a fine job of gumming up the budget with goodies for their constituents. But let’s put this in perspective: our defense budget, thanks to Obama, is below its 45-year average as a percentage of GDP. Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly write:

Compare for a moment the size of the Obama stimulus package in 2009 — nearly $800 billion — with the more than $300 billion Gates has already cut from the Pentagon’s budget and the planned “flat-lining” of defense expenditures in the years ahead. … Defense spending has gone up. But never in our history have we fought wars of this magnitude as cheaply. Take, for example, the percentage of the federal budget allocated to defense: In 1994, two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Pentagon spending amounted to slightly more than 19 percent of the budget; in 2010, it is the same. And if the administration has its way, that figure will drop to 15.6 percent by 2015. Is any other part of the federal budget getting similarly whacked?

But there is a broader, philosophical question here: do we face one or two threats to our civilization? Conservatives and a great many others agree that there is at least one, the economic: the unsustainable debt burden, the decline in “dynamic destruction,” which is essential to a vibrant economy, the crushing weight of entitlements on future generations, and the resulting atrophying of growth and job creation. If that is the sole emergency, then everything else takes second place — a remote second.

But if you believe there are two threats to America and to the West, a second even more grievous than the first, then it is a different story. The other threat is, of course, that of Islamic jihadism — the actual war on the West. We are witnessing the expansion of that war from conventional battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and from serial bombing runs, sponsored and inspired by jihadist networks, to a nuclear standoff against an Iran. That foe’s influence is increasing and its terrorist agents and allies are capable of inciting violence and instability from Indonesia to Lebanon to the western Sahara.

It would be grand to stand down from our commitments, take a “peace dividend.” But alas, there is no peace. The spending on defense is not optional if we and our allies are to survive. While it is true that our economic vitality is essential to maintain a robust defense, it is equally true that economic prosperity cannot exist in a world torn asunder by Islamic terror and war.

This is an important discussion, and the temptation to recede and husband our resources is strong. It was so after WWI and it was so in the Clinton years. We need to think carefully about what that means and whether we can take a holiday from history.

Reihan Salam writes that although he understands that I “am  troubled by the idea of nickel-and-diming national security,” he believes “we need to give serious thought to paring back our commitments, to the extent doing so is consonant with our long-term interests.  … [Like] a growing number of conservatives, including Sen. Tom Coburn, I’m concerned about profligacy in the defense budget.” This is an important debate, which candidates and office holders will have to address.

There are two issues. First, is our defense budget “profligate”? Certainly, there are excesses, and lawmakers such as Rep. John Murtha did a fine job of gumming up the budget with goodies for their constituents. But let’s put this in perspective: our defense budget, thanks to Obama, is below its 45-year average as a percentage of GDP. Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly write:

Compare for a moment the size of the Obama stimulus package in 2009 — nearly $800 billion — with the more than $300 billion Gates has already cut from the Pentagon’s budget and the planned “flat-lining” of defense expenditures in the years ahead. … Defense spending has gone up. But never in our history have we fought wars of this magnitude as cheaply. Take, for example, the percentage of the federal budget allocated to defense: In 1994, two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Pentagon spending amounted to slightly more than 19 percent of the budget; in 2010, it is the same. And if the administration has its way, that figure will drop to 15.6 percent by 2015. Is any other part of the federal budget getting similarly whacked?

But there is a broader, philosophical question here: do we face one or two threats to our civilization? Conservatives and a great many others agree that there is at least one, the economic: the unsustainable debt burden, the decline in “dynamic destruction,” which is essential to a vibrant economy, the crushing weight of entitlements on future generations, and the resulting atrophying of growth and job creation. If that is the sole emergency, then everything else takes second place — a remote second.

But if you believe there are two threats to America and to the West, a second even more grievous than the first, then it is a different story. The other threat is, of course, that of Islamic jihadism — the actual war on the West. We are witnessing the expansion of that war from conventional battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and from serial bombing runs, sponsored and inspired by jihadist networks, to a nuclear standoff against an Iran. That foe’s influence is increasing and its terrorist agents and allies are capable of inciting violence and instability from Indonesia to Lebanon to the western Sahara.

It would be grand to stand down from our commitments, take a “peace dividend.” But alas, there is no peace. The spending on defense is not optional if we and our allies are to survive. While it is true that our economic vitality is essential to maintain a robust defense, it is equally true that economic prosperity cannot exist in a world torn asunder by Islamic terror and war.

This is an important discussion, and the temptation to recede and husband our resources is strong. It was so after WWI and it was so in the Clinton years. We need to think carefully about what that means and whether we can take a holiday from history.

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What’s in It?

Kim Strassel explains that the horde of amendments that Republicans offered during the reconciliation process helped smoke out exactly what Democrats were for and against:

Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) offered language to bar the government from subsidizing erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted pedophiles and rapists. Democrats voted. … No! Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) proposed exempting wounded soldiers from the new tax on medical devices. Democrats: No way! Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) wanted to exempt critical access rural hospitals from funding cuts. Senate Democrats: Forget it! This was Republicans’ opportunity to lay out every ugly provision and consequence of ObamaCare, and Democrats — because of the process they’d chosen — had to defend it all.

And so it went, into the wee Thursday hours. All Democrats in favor of taxing pacemakers? Aye! All Democrats in favor of keeping those seedy vote buyoffs? Aye! All Democrats in favor of raising taxes on middle-income families? Aye! All Democrats in favor of exempting themselves from elements of ObamaCare? Aye! All Democrats in favor of roasting small children in Aga ovens? (Okay, I made that one up, but you get the point.) Aye!

Democrats were miffed, and none more so than the Democrats on the ballot who can see the campaign ads that are sure to follow:

The record now shows that Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln is on board with higher premiums, that Colorado’s Michael Bennet is good to go with gutting Medicare Advantage, that Nevada’s Harry Reid is just fine with rationing, that New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand is cool with taxes on investment income, that California’s Barbara Boxer is right-o with employer mandates, and that Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter is willing to strip his home state of the right to opt out of the health law.

Democrats insist that the public will be enamored of the bill once they learn what is in it. But the reaction to the amendment flurry suggests otherwise. Democratic leaders were none too pleased to see the component parts of the bill laid bare. Indeed, Democrats seem delighted by the idea of ObamaCare but a lot less thrilled with defending each of its elements. In that regard, the debate – which will now absorb the country and explore the contents of the mammoth deal — may prove distasteful to those who must face their constituents and explain the consequences to employers and ordinary voters. Those leading the “repeal and replace!” charge would do well to highlight the gap between the “historic” happy talk and the grubby details.

Kim Strassel explains that the horde of amendments that Republicans offered during the reconciliation process helped smoke out exactly what Democrats were for and against:

Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) offered language to bar the government from subsidizing erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted pedophiles and rapists. Democrats voted. … No! Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) proposed exempting wounded soldiers from the new tax on medical devices. Democrats: No way! Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) wanted to exempt critical access rural hospitals from funding cuts. Senate Democrats: Forget it! This was Republicans’ opportunity to lay out every ugly provision and consequence of ObamaCare, and Democrats — because of the process they’d chosen — had to defend it all.

And so it went, into the wee Thursday hours. All Democrats in favor of taxing pacemakers? Aye! All Democrats in favor of keeping those seedy vote buyoffs? Aye! All Democrats in favor of raising taxes on middle-income families? Aye! All Democrats in favor of exempting themselves from elements of ObamaCare? Aye! All Democrats in favor of roasting small children in Aga ovens? (Okay, I made that one up, but you get the point.) Aye!

Democrats were miffed, and none more so than the Democrats on the ballot who can see the campaign ads that are sure to follow:

The record now shows that Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln is on board with higher premiums, that Colorado’s Michael Bennet is good to go with gutting Medicare Advantage, that Nevada’s Harry Reid is just fine with rationing, that New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand is cool with taxes on investment income, that California’s Barbara Boxer is right-o with employer mandates, and that Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter is willing to strip his home state of the right to opt out of the health law.

Democrats insist that the public will be enamored of the bill once they learn what is in it. But the reaction to the amendment flurry suggests otherwise. Democratic leaders were none too pleased to see the component parts of the bill laid bare. Indeed, Democrats seem delighted by the idea of ObamaCare but a lot less thrilled with defending each of its elements. In that regard, the debate – which will now absorb the country and explore the contents of the mammoth deal — may prove distasteful to those who must face their constituents and explain the consequences to employers and ordinary voters. Those leading the “repeal and replace!” charge would do well to highlight the gap between the “historic” happy talk and the grubby details.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Maybe it was the health-care summit: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for President Obama. … Overall, 43% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. That is the lowest level of total approval yet measured for this President.”

In RealClearPolitics.com, Obama’s average disapproval reaches an all-time high of 47.2 percent.

Put it this way: “Obama turned out to be quite an effective community organizer. But the community he organized was a majority of the American people in opposition to his agenda of big-government liberalism.”

David Wasserman of Cook Political Report, as quoted by the New York Times: “The concern among Democrats right now is that there are more yes votes reconsidering than no votes. … My sense is that for Democrats to pass this bill, they would have to convince several members who are already in serious jeopardy, even after voting no on the first health care bill, to put passage of the bill ahead of their own chances of being competitive in the fall.”

On the money: “In a GOP that the mainstream media loves to portray as ‘intensely divided’, we would do well to follow the [Bob] McDonnell model when approaching upcoming elections. For the first time in a long while, Republicans of all stripes appear united in their dislike for President Obama’s fiscal, regulatory, health care proposals and environmental policies. Focusing on the issues, and not on religious or social warfare, as Gov. McDonnell did, is the most likely pathway to success for Republicans in 2010.”

“Under the Obami Bus” would be a shorter headline. But this one does the job: “President Barack Obama abandons Rep. Charles Rangel against ethics charges.”

The good thing about being a former president is that you can tell off Jimmy Carter. George W. Bush: “I have no desire to see myself on television. I don’t want to be a panel of formers instructing the currents on what to do…  I’m trying to regain a sense of anonymity. I didn’t like it when a certain former president — and it wasn’t 41 or 42 — made my life miserable.” Actually, the current ones should do the same.

Republicans are probably wise to harp on reconciliation because so many Americans oppose it, and it does seem to reinforce their point that Democrats are trying to steamroll an unpopular bill. Sen. Tom Coburn used the GOP weekly radio address to bash Democrats for “procedural tricks and backroom deals to ram through a new bill that combines the worst aspects of the bills the Senate and House passed last year. … If the president and the leaders in Congress are serious about finding common ground they should continue this debate, not cut it off by rushing through a partisan bill the American people have already rejected.”

Maybe it was the health-care summit: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for President Obama. … Overall, 43% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. That is the lowest level of total approval yet measured for this President.”

In RealClearPolitics.com, Obama’s average disapproval reaches an all-time high of 47.2 percent.

Put it this way: “Obama turned out to be quite an effective community organizer. But the community he organized was a majority of the American people in opposition to his agenda of big-government liberalism.”

David Wasserman of Cook Political Report, as quoted by the New York Times: “The concern among Democrats right now is that there are more yes votes reconsidering than no votes. … My sense is that for Democrats to pass this bill, they would have to convince several members who are already in serious jeopardy, even after voting no on the first health care bill, to put passage of the bill ahead of their own chances of being competitive in the fall.”

On the money: “In a GOP that the mainstream media loves to portray as ‘intensely divided’, we would do well to follow the [Bob] McDonnell model when approaching upcoming elections. For the first time in a long while, Republicans of all stripes appear united in their dislike for President Obama’s fiscal, regulatory, health care proposals and environmental policies. Focusing on the issues, and not on religious or social warfare, as Gov. McDonnell did, is the most likely pathway to success for Republicans in 2010.”

“Under the Obami Bus” would be a shorter headline. But this one does the job: “President Barack Obama abandons Rep. Charles Rangel against ethics charges.”

The good thing about being a former president is that you can tell off Jimmy Carter. George W. Bush: “I have no desire to see myself on television. I don’t want to be a panel of formers instructing the currents on what to do…  I’m trying to regain a sense of anonymity. I didn’t like it when a certain former president — and it wasn’t 41 or 42 — made my life miserable.” Actually, the current ones should do the same.

Republicans are probably wise to harp on reconciliation because so many Americans oppose it, and it does seem to reinforce their point that Democrats are trying to steamroll an unpopular bill. Sen. Tom Coburn used the GOP weekly radio address to bash Democrats for “procedural tricks and backroom deals to ram through a new bill that combines the worst aspects of the bills the Senate and House passed last year. … If the president and the leaders in Congress are serious about finding common ground they should continue this debate, not cut it off by rushing through a partisan bill the American people have already rejected.”

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LIVE BLOG: Sen. Tom Coburn for Tort Reform

Sen. Tom Coburn makes a strong case for tort reform, where we can cut costs by 15 percent, he says. That, he explains, will in turn increase access. He urges policies to promote disease prevention, argues that Medicaid has much higher rates of fraud than private plans, and makes the case for tackling lawsuit abuse, which spurs defensive medicine. He says we need to go where the money is. Obama says he’s adopted “all the good ideas” on fraud and abuse. But he hasn’t. He doesn’t back serious, real tort reform.

Sen. Tom Coburn makes a strong case for tort reform, where we can cut costs by 15 percent, he says. That, he explains, will in turn increase access. He urges policies to promote disease prevention, argues that Medicaid has much higher rates of fraud than private plans, and makes the case for tackling lawsuit abuse, which spurs defensive medicine. He says we need to go where the money is. Obama says he’s adopted “all the good ideas” on fraud and abuse. But he hasn’t. He doesn’t back serious, real tort reform.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

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Death — Panels and Otherwise

Doctor and Senator Tom Coburn goes chapter and verse through ObamaCare, making the case that even without a public option, the bill is replete with rationing provisions that will squeeze care to save costs. He explains:

For instance, the Reid bill (in sections 3403 and 2021) explicitly empowers Medicare to deny treatment based on cost. An Independent Medicare Advisory Board created by the bill—composed of permanent, unelected and, therefore, unaccountable members—will greatly expand the rationing practices that already occur in the program. Medicare, for example, has limited cancer patients’ access to Epogen, a costly but vital drug that stimulates red blood cell production. It has limited the use of virtual, and safer, colonoscopies due to cost concerns. And Medicare refuses medical claims at twice the rate of the largest private insurers.

There are also the comparative-effectiveness research programs that have been employed “as rationing commissions in other countries such as the U.K., where 15,000 cancer patients die prematurely every year.” There are also 14 mentions of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, one example of which was the now infamous mammogram guideline recommendation. And while Medicare “buy-in” is dead, the Reid bill still plans to increase Medicaid coverage to those with incomes at 133 percent of the poverty level, meaning more rationing. (“Washington bureaucrats have created a system that underpays doctors, 40% of doctors already restrict access to Medicaid patients, and therefore ration care.”)

Americans may not have figured out all the details yet. (And who can blame them, since Reid and his bill-to-be remain behind closed doors.) But they’ve figured out that their care will not be what it once was if ObamaCare passes. Democrats keep insisting that the public will love it once it’s in place. But will they? It’s hard to see how denying care is going to be popular. Funny, it used to be liberals who told us that the measure of a just society was how we treated the sick and old. Now Democrats are straining to pass a bill with creative mechanisms for denying care. You’d think liberals would be appalled.

Doctor and Senator Tom Coburn goes chapter and verse through ObamaCare, making the case that even without a public option, the bill is replete with rationing provisions that will squeeze care to save costs. He explains:

For instance, the Reid bill (in sections 3403 and 2021) explicitly empowers Medicare to deny treatment based on cost. An Independent Medicare Advisory Board created by the bill—composed of permanent, unelected and, therefore, unaccountable members—will greatly expand the rationing practices that already occur in the program. Medicare, for example, has limited cancer patients’ access to Epogen, a costly but vital drug that stimulates red blood cell production. It has limited the use of virtual, and safer, colonoscopies due to cost concerns. And Medicare refuses medical claims at twice the rate of the largest private insurers.

There are also the comparative-effectiveness research programs that have been employed “as rationing commissions in other countries such as the U.K., where 15,000 cancer patients die prematurely every year.” There are also 14 mentions of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, one example of which was the now infamous mammogram guideline recommendation. And while Medicare “buy-in” is dead, the Reid bill still plans to increase Medicaid coverage to those with incomes at 133 percent of the poverty level, meaning more rationing. (“Washington bureaucrats have created a system that underpays doctors, 40% of doctors already restrict access to Medicaid patients, and therefore ration care.”)

Americans may not have figured out all the details yet. (And who can blame them, since Reid and his bill-to-be remain behind closed doors.) But they’ve figured out that their care will not be what it once was if ObamaCare passes. Democrats keep insisting that the public will love it once it’s in place. But will they? It’s hard to see how denying care is going to be popular. Funny, it used to be liberals who told us that the measure of a just society was how we treated the sick and old. Now Democrats are straining to pass a bill with creative mechanisms for denying care. You’d think liberals would be appalled.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

ObamaCare is really unpopular in Nebraska, and Sen. Ben Nelson is getting lots of calls to vote “no.” In his home state, 67 percent oppose and 26 percent favor, and 61 percent say they’d be less likely to vote for Nelson if he supported it. Will Nelson vote for it anyway?

Yuval Levin makes the case that “when it comes to the health-care bill the Senate is working on, [which] is really quite appalling now, and should be so not only to conservatives. In essence, what’s left of the bill compels universal participation in a system that everyone agrees is a failure without reforming that system, and even exacerbates its foremost problem — the problem of exploding costs.”

Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos (h/t Political Wire) now objects to forcing all Americans to buy insurance plans they may not like from those greedy, monopolistic insurance companies. The solution: “So here’s the deal — a progressive should step up with an amendment to strip out the mandate. He should get a non-Wall Street Republican to join him, be it Tom Coburn or Jim DeMint, one or more of those guys. And then force a roll call vote on the issue.” Game on!

S.E. Cupp on her pick for person of the year: “Attorney General Eric Holder. … In five or ten years, when we are all facing the disastrous consequences of his systematic dismantling of our national security, he will be a person who changed the course of world events. President Obama will be culpable as well, of course, for overseeing a horrific chapter in our national history, but it will be Holder who is responsible for compromising our intelligence and interrogation program at the CIA and trying terrorists as common criminals while the world watched and our enemies laughed.”

Another poll, another thumbs down on ObamaCare. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey: 32 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove. By a 44 to 41 percent margin, voters say they prefer the status quo. Obama’s own performance rating has suffered an 8-point decline since September and now is at 47 approval/46 disapproval. And the kicker: 57 percent say the Iraq war was somewhat or very successful.

The poll analysis: ” ‘For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast,’ said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. ‘What we don’t know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?’ The biggest worry for Democrats is that the findings could set the stage for gains by Republican candidates in next year’s elections.” And Obama seems to have lost his charm: “Fifty percent now feel positively about him, six points lower than in October and an 18-point drop since his early weeks in office.”

Wait until they find out about the tax hits: “Those tax hits include a mandate of up to $750 a year for Americans who fail to purchase health insurance; new levies on small businesses (many of which file individual tax returns) that don’t offer health care to employees; new tax penalties on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts; and higher taxes on medical spending, including restrictions on medical itemized deductions, as well as taxes on cosmetic surgery. A Senate Finance Committee minority staff report finds that by 2019 more than 42 million individuals and families—or 25% of all tax returns under $200,000—will on average see their taxes go up because of the Senate bill. And that’s after government subsidies.”

And when they start breaking the Senate rules, you know it’s desperation time.

Jamie Fly is among those who suspect that the administration is not all that enamored of Iran sanctions. “[The] administration’s efforts to gut the legislation and its sensitivity about the supposedly robust international coalition they like to tout as a product of their willingness to talk to Tehran raises questions about how serious they and their ‘partners’ are about stopping Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.”

ObamaCare is really unpopular in Nebraska, and Sen. Ben Nelson is getting lots of calls to vote “no.” In his home state, 67 percent oppose and 26 percent favor, and 61 percent say they’d be less likely to vote for Nelson if he supported it. Will Nelson vote for it anyway?

Yuval Levin makes the case that “when it comes to the health-care bill the Senate is working on, [which] is really quite appalling now, and should be so not only to conservatives. In essence, what’s left of the bill compels universal participation in a system that everyone agrees is a failure without reforming that system, and even exacerbates its foremost problem — the problem of exploding costs.”

Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos (h/t Political Wire) now objects to forcing all Americans to buy insurance plans they may not like from those greedy, monopolistic insurance companies. The solution: “So here’s the deal — a progressive should step up with an amendment to strip out the mandate. He should get a non-Wall Street Republican to join him, be it Tom Coburn or Jim DeMint, one or more of those guys. And then force a roll call vote on the issue.” Game on!

S.E. Cupp on her pick for person of the year: “Attorney General Eric Holder. … In five or ten years, when we are all facing the disastrous consequences of his systematic dismantling of our national security, he will be a person who changed the course of world events. President Obama will be culpable as well, of course, for overseeing a horrific chapter in our national history, but it will be Holder who is responsible for compromising our intelligence and interrogation program at the CIA and trying terrorists as common criminals while the world watched and our enemies laughed.”

Another poll, another thumbs down on ObamaCare. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey: 32 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove. By a 44 to 41 percent margin, voters say they prefer the status quo. Obama’s own performance rating has suffered an 8-point decline since September and now is at 47 approval/46 disapproval. And the kicker: 57 percent say the Iraq war was somewhat or very successful.

The poll analysis: ” ‘For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast,’ said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. ‘What we don’t know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?’ The biggest worry for Democrats is that the findings could set the stage for gains by Republican candidates in next year’s elections.” And Obama seems to have lost his charm: “Fifty percent now feel positively about him, six points lower than in October and an 18-point drop since his early weeks in office.”

Wait until they find out about the tax hits: “Those tax hits include a mandate of up to $750 a year for Americans who fail to purchase health insurance; new levies on small businesses (many of which file individual tax returns) that don’t offer health care to employees; new tax penalties on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts; and higher taxes on medical spending, including restrictions on medical itemized deductions, as well as taxes on cosmetic surgery. A Senate Finance Committee minority staff report finds that by 2019 more than 42 million individuals and families—or 25% of all tax returns under $200,000—will on average see their taxes go up because of the Senate bill. And that’s after government subsidies.”

And when they start breaking the Senate rules, you know it’s desperation time.

Jamie Fly is among those who suspect that the administration is not all that enamored of Iran sanctions. “[The] administration’s efforts to gut the legislation and its sensitivity about the supposedly robust international coalition they like to tout as a product of their willingness to talk to Tehran raises questions about how serious they and their ‘partners’ are about stopping Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The debate has begun: “Republican senators went on the offensive against the Democratic healthcare initiative the morning after the bill moved forward on a procedural vote, blasting the bill as a job-killer and mechanism of ‘excessive government control.’ … ‘We don’t often ignore the wishes of the American people,’ [Mitch] McConnell (R-Ky.) said, noting ‘it’s hard to handicap’ the outcome.”

Sen. Ben Nelson has started things rolling: “Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who is uncommitted moving forward, said he has delivered two pages of proposed changes to Majority Leader Harry Reid. … ‘There will be a lot of discussion back and forth about what might get enough votes,’ Nelson said after the vote. ‘There will have to be fairly significant changes for others as well, not just me. Nuance will not be enough.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer says there aren’t any new taxes. Sen. Jon Kyl disagrees: “If you have insurance you get taxed. If you don’t have insurance you get taxed. If you need a lifesaving medical device like a stint or a diabetic pump you get taxed. … The Congressional Budget Office says and the Joint Tax Committee says that these taxes imposed on others will be passed through.”

Republicans are focusing on the controversy over mammography guidelines to make their point about ObamaCare: “GOP lawmakers said the Democratic health care plan, which the Senate allowed to inch forward Saturday night and remains President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority, would set the nation toward massive government control. ‘Do these recommendations make sense from a cost standpoint? Absolutely, from a cost standpoint, they’re right,’ said Rep. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who is a medical doctor. ‘From a patient standpoint, they’re atrocious. And that’s the problem with a bureaucracy stepping between a physician and their patient.’”

In case you had any doubt about the three-ring circus: “The five men facing trial in the Sept. 11 attacks will plead not guilty so that they can air their criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, the lawyer for one of the defendants said Sunday. Scott Fenstermaker, the lawyer for accused terrorist Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said the men would not deny their role in the 2001 attacks but ‘would explain what happened and why they did it.’”

Another new low for Obama in the Gallup poll.

John McCain on cap-and-trade: “‘Their start has been horrendous,’ McCain said Thursday. ‘Obviously, they’re going nowhere.’ McCain has emerged as a vocal opponent of the climate bill — a major reversal for the self-proclaimed maverick who once made defying his party on global warming a signature issue of his career.”

Bradley Smith: “Harry Reid actually said this debate is about whether Americans will live ‘free from the fear of illness and death,’ and says these things can be prevented by the Pelosi/Reid/Obama approach to healthcare. This must be a really good plan! Of course, you won’t be able to live free from the fear of being thrown in jail for buying the wrong health insurance coverage, but hey, there are trade-offs in life.”

Another bad news item on hiring: “Employers already are squeezed by tight credit, rising health care costs, wary consumers and a higher minimum wage. Now, the surging jobless rate is imposing another cost. It’s forcing higher state taxes on companies to pay for unemployment insurance claims. Some employers say the extra costs make them less likely to hire. That could be a worrisome sign for the economic recovery, because small businesses create about 60 percent of new jobs. Other employers say they’ll cut or freeze pay.” Which suggests that we should be lowering, not raising, taxes and reducing mandates, not increasing them, on business.

The debate has begun: “Republican senators went on the offensive against the Democratic healthcare initiative the morning after the bill moved forward on a procedural vote, blasting the bill as a job-killer and mechanism of ‘excessive government control.’ … ‘We don’t often ignore the wishes of the American people,’ [Mitch] McConnell (R-Ky.) said, noting ‘it’s hard to handicap’ the outcome.”

Sen. Ben Nelson has started things rolling: “Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who is uncommitted moving forward, said he has delivered two pages of proposed changes to Majority Leader Harry Reid. … ‘There will be a lot of discussion back and forth about what might get enough votes,’ Nelson said after the vote. ‘There will have to be fairly significant changes for others as well, not just me. Nuance will not be enough.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer says there aren’t any new taxes. Sen. Jon Kyl disagrees: “If you have insurance you get taxed. If you don’t have insurance you get taxed. If you need a lifesaving medical device like a stint or a diabetic pump you get taxed. … The Congressional Budget Office says and the Joint Tax Committee says that these taxes imposed on others will be passed through.”

Republicans are focusing on the controversy over mammography guidelines to make their point about ObamaCare: “GOP lawmakers said the Democratic health care plan, which the Senate allowed to inch forward Saturday night and remains President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority, would set the nation toward massive government control. ‘Do these recommendations make sense from a cost standpoint? Absolutely, from a cost standpoint, they’re right,’ said Rep. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who is a medical doctor. ‘From a patient standpoint, they’re atrocious. And that’s the problem with a bureaucracy stepping between a physician and their patient.’”

In case you had any doubt about the three-ring circus: “The five men facing trial in the Sept. 11 attacks will plead not guilty so that they can air their criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, the lawyer for one of the defendants said Sunday. Scott Fenstermaker, the lawyer for accused terrorist Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said the men would not deny their role in the 2001 attacks but ‘would explain what happened and why they did it.’”

Another new low for Obama in the Gallup poll.

John McCain on cap-and-trade: “‘Their start has been horrendous,’ McCain said Thursday. ‘Obviously, they’re going nowhere.’ McCain has emerged as a vocal opponent of the climate bill — a major reversal for the self-proclaimed maverick who once made defying his party on global warming a signature issue of his career.”

Bradley Smith: “Harry Reid actually said this debate is about whether Americans will live ‘free from the fear of illness and death,’ and says these things can be prevented by the Pelosi/Reid/Obama approach to healthcare. This must be a really good plan! Of course, you won’t be able to live free from the fear of being thrown in jail for buying the wrong health insurance coverage, but hey, there are trade-offs in life.”

Another bad news item on hiring: “Employers already are squeezed by tight credit, rising health care costs, wary consumers and a higher minimum wage. Now, the surging jobless rate is imposing another cost. It’s forcing higher state taxes on companies to pay for unemployment insurance claims. Some employers say the extra costs make them less likely to hire. That could be a worrisome sign for the economic recovery, because small businesses create about 60 percent of new jobs. Other employers say they’ll cut or freeze pay.” Which suggests that we should be lowering, not raising, taxes and reducing mandates, not increasing them, on business.

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Highlights From McCain Blogger Call

John McCain held another blogger call, beginning by highlighting his differences with the Democrats on the economy. (“If people want their taxes raised,” he said, “I’m not their guy.”) But the most noteworthy comments came on the subject of Hamas and Bill Ayers.

I asked about Hamas’s endorsement of Barack Obama. McCain bluntly responded, ” It’s clear who Hamas wants to be the next President of the United States.” He continued “I will be Hamas’ worst nightmare” and said that he “never expects” to hear a Hamas official say they want him as President. On the subject of Bill Ayers, McCain displayed none of the hesitancy he has shown about discussing Reverend Wright. He said he was “a bit surprised” the media had not made more of Obama’s association with “an unrepentant terrorist” and Obama’s equation of his relationship with Ayers to his friendship with Senator Tom Coburn. McCain said he was “offended” by the latter and that a “repudiation and apology” are due from Obama to the American people.

Bottom line? McCain is not above going after his likely opponent on his association with radicals (and his apparent popularity with extremists worldwide)–so long as the subject is not Reverend Wright.

John McCain held another blogger call, beginning by highlighting his differences with the Democrats on the economy. (“If people want their taxes raised,” he said, “I’m not their guy.”) But the most noteworthy comments came on the subject of Hamas and Bill Ayers.

I asked about Hamas’s endorsement of Barack Obama. McCain bluntly responded, ” It’s clear who Hamas wants to be the next President of the United States.” He continued “I will be Hamas’ worst nightmare” and said that he “never expects” to hear a Hamas official say they want him as President. On the subject of Bill Ayers, McCain displayed none of the hesitancy he has shown about discussing Reverend Wright. He said he was “a bit surprised” the media had not made more of Obama’s association with “an unrepentant terrorist” and Obama’s equation of his relationship with Ayers to his friendship with Senator Tom Coburn. McCain said he was “offended” by the latter and that a “repudiation and apology” are due from Obama to the American people.

Bottom line? McCain is not above going after his likely opponent on his association with radicals (and his apparent popularity with extremists worldwide)–so long as the subject is not Reverend Wright.

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McCain Takes On Bill Ayers

John McCain, in an interview on Sunday, went on the offensive against Barack Obama on the subject of Bill Ayers:

Because if you’re going to associate and have as a friend and serve on a board and have a guy kick off your campaign that says he’s unrepentant, that he wished bombed more — and then, the worst thing of all, that, I think, really indicates Senator Obama’s attitude, is he had the incredible statement that he compared Mr. Ayers, an unrepentant terrorist, with Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Coburn, a physician who goes to Oklahoma on the weekends and brings babies into life — comparing those two — I mean, that’s not –that’s an attitude, frankly, that certainly isn’t in keeping with the overall attitude… And it’s very insulting to a great man, a great doctor, a great humanitarian, to compare to him with a guy who says, after 2001, I wish we had bombed more. . . But how can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings which could have or did kill innocent people…”

And he wasn’t buying Obama’s excuse that he was only eight at the time of the bombings:

But he became friends with him and spent time with him while the guy was unrepentant over his activities as a member of a terrorist organization, the Weathermen. I don’t — and then to compare him with Dr. Tom Coburn, who spends so much of his life bringing babies into this world — that, in my view is really — borders out outrage.

And so it went. Obviously, this is an issue it makes sense for McCain to focus on: it raises questions about Obama which McCain wants voters to ponder. You can expect to hear from his team about Obama’s support from groups like Hamas and his association with individuals like Wright and Ayers. The challenge for Obama will be to explain why voters shouldn’t hold his associations with Wright, Ayers, and many others against him.

John McCain, in an interview on Sunday, went on the offensive against Barack Obama on the subject of Bill Ayers:

Because if you’re going to associate and have as a friend and serve on a board and have a guy kick off your campaign that says he’s unrepentant, that he wished bombed more — and then, the worst thing of all, that, I think, really indicates Senator Obama’s attitude, is he had the incredible statement that he compared Mr. Ayers, an unrepentant terrorist, with Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Coburn, a physician who goes to Oklahoma on the weekends and brings babies into life — comparing those two — I mean, that’s not –that’s an attitude, frankly, that certainly isn’t in keeping with the overall attitude… And it’s very insulting to a great man, a great doctor, a great humanitarian, to compare to him with a guy who says, after 2001, I wish we had bombed more. . . But how can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings which could have or did kill innocent people…”

And he wasn’t buying Obama’s excuse that he was only eight at the time of the bombings:

But he became friends with him and spent time with him while the guy was unrepentant over his activities as a member of a terrorist organization, the Weathermen. I don’t — and then to compare him with Dr. Tom Coburn, who spends so much of his life bringing babies into this world — that, in my view is really — borders out outrage.

And so it went. Obviously, this is an issue it makes sense for McCain to focus on: it raises questions about Obama which McCain wants voters to ponder. You can expect to hear from his team about Obama’s support from groups like Hamas and his association with individuals like Wright and Ayers. The challenge for Obama will be to explain why voters shouldn’t hold his associations with Wright, Ayers, and many others against him.

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The Flag Question

He must have known he would be asked about why he doesn’t wear a flag pin. Yet he stumbles and shifts, putting it in the negative ( “how could I but love this country”). But why not wear the flag pin? He doesn’t say and then he fudges, saying that he never said he doesn’t win the pin. But he did.

He says sure he’s friendly with former terrorist Bill Ayers but then he’s also friendly with U.S. Senator Tom Coburn. Uh oh. I think that’s not a good analogy. Hillary offers up some further facts pointing out that Obama was on a board with Ayers.  Oh my.

He must have known he would be asked about why he doesn’t wear a flag pin. Yet he stumbles and shifts, putting it in the negative ( “how could I but love this country”). But why not wear the flag pin? He doesn’t say and then he fudges, saying that he never said he doesn’t win the pin. But he did.

He says sure he’s friendly with former terrorist Bill Ayers but then he’s also friendly with U.S. Senator Tom Coburn. Uh oh. I think that’s not a good analogy. Hillary offers up some further facts pointing out that Obama was on a board with Ayers.  Oh my.

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McCain Blogger Call

John McCain just completed another blogger conference call. He began by saying he was pleased with the results last night (and pointed out that despite bad weather in Northern Virginia the final tabulation showed he won the state by 9 points and won among conservatives, although not “very conservative” voters). He stressed, as he did repeatedly during the call, that he respected Governor Huckabee and was not going to pressure him out the race. He also reported that he had completed a positive meeting with the GOP House conference and the leadership had endorsed him following the meeting. He emphasized (and repeated during the call) that he understood the importance of uniting the party and is “confident that we will.” He reiterated that he would make the differences between him and his eventual opponent on taxes, government regulation, healthcare and especially on Iraq clear. (He mentioned the recent actions by the Iraqi Parliament and said that the same people who said the surge would not work also said that the Iraqi’s could not make progress in governing themselves and that they were “wrong on both counts, on both counts.” He tried out perhaps a new catch phrase, explaining he will be happy to “draw differences on principles, philosophy and specifics and not platitudes.”

I asked him about Barack Obama’s votes on Iraq and on FISA and his endorsement by MoveOn.org and what that said about his readiness to be commander in chief. He declined to say that Obama lacked the judgment to be president but said Obama was wrong on toop withdrawal, the ability of the Iraqi government to function and on the surge, saying “we’ll all be responsible for our record.” (He also reminded everyone that the same MoveOn.org which endorsed Obama had run the “General Betray- us” ad.) On FISA, he said that the telecom companies “of course” would expect immunity for assisting the government in the war on terror.

Other highlights: 1) He has not begun the VP selection process but did praise Senator Tom Coburn and Governor Mark Sanford (without acknowledging they are on a short list) as two excellent conservatives; 2) In the strongest terms I have heard he endorsed the legal system in place for the 6 Guantanamo terrorists and declared that nothing in the Geneva Convention or our experience with the World War II war crime trials suggested these people were entitled to the same legal protections as U.S. citizens; and 3) repeated his determination to eliminate earmarks, although offered to work with members of Congress on how to phase them out.

Overall, this was one of his more impressive calls. His tone was calm and confident, his rhetoric in taking on the Democrats more forceful than it has been. You can slowly sense that he is doing his level best to transition from maverick to nominee and party leader.

John McCain just completed another blogger conference call. He began by saying he was pleased with the results last night (and pointed out that despite bad weather in Northern Virginia the final tabulation showed he won the state by 9 points and won among conservatives, although not “very conservative” voters). He stressed, as he did repeatedly during the call, that he respected Governor Huckabee and was not going to pressure him out the race. He also reported that he had completed a positive meeting with the GOP House conference and the leadership had endorsed him following the meeting. He emphasized (and repeated during the call) that he understood the importance of uniting the party and is “confident that we will.” He reiterated that he would make the differences between him and his eventual opponent on taxes, government regulation, healthcare and especially on Iraq clear. (He mentioned the recent actions by the Iraqi Parliament and said that the same people who said the surge would not work also said that the Iraqi’s could not make progress in governing themselves and that they were “wrong on both counts, on both counts.” He tried out perhaps a new catch phrase, explaining he will be happy to “draw differences on principles, philosophy and specifics and not platitudes.”

I asked him about Barack Obama’s votes on Iraq and on FISA and his endorsement by MoveOn.org and what that said about his readiness to be commander in chief. He declined to say that Obama lacked the judgment to be president but said Obama was wrong on toop withdrawal, the ability of the Iraqi government to function and on the surge, saying “we’ll all be responsible for our record.” (He also reminded everyone that the same MoveOn.org which endorsed Obama had run the “General Betray- us” ad.) On FISA, he said that the telecom companies “of course” would expect immunity for assisting the government in the war on terror.

Other highlights: 1) He has not begun the VP selection process but did praise Senator Tom Coburn and Governor Mark Sanford (without acknowledging they are on a short list) as two excellent conservatives; 2) In the strongest terms I have heard he endorsed the legal system in place for the 6 Guantanamo terrorists and declared that nothing in the Geneva Convention or our experience with the World War II war crime trials suggested these people were entitled to the same legal protections as U.S. citizens; and 3) repeated his determination to eliminate earmarks, although offered to work with members of Congress on how to phase them out.

Overall, this was one of his more impressive calls. His tone was calm and confident, his rhetoric in taking on the Democrats more forceful than it has been. You can slowly sense that he is doing his level best to transition from maverick to nominee and party leader.

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McCain Conservatism

I just got off a conference a call with a feisty John McCain in South Carolina. The big news in his campaign is today’s endorsement by Senator Tom Coburn. Coburn’s sterling conservative credentials may help McCain get some votes among the fiscal and social conservatives who’ve had their doubts. (The ones who call for his head are another story.) It will certainly enhance McCain’s ability to further blur his version of conservatism with that of the staunch ideologues in his party.

In reviewing Romney’s Michigan win, he cited the hometown angle and the fact that he refused to promise people the return of their old jobs. Here one sees, as John Podhoretz put it in contentions last night, McCain’s “political rigidity based on a sense of his own personal rectitude.”

A questioner challenged the Senator on his 2006 recommendation of James Baker as Middle East peace envoy. McCain took the question as a cheap shot on his support for Israel. The Senator briskly stated that he respects Baker while disagreeing with him on various points, and that he stands on his own decades-long record as a friend of Israel.

Things turned a bit revelatory when the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb asked McCain about his environmental stand. The Senator offered the boilerplate “most scientists etc. . .” but I was surprised and relieved to hear that he considers the question of climate-change severity an open one. I’m eager to see John McCain’s self-confessed truth addiction keep him on point when this comes up in the public arena. He could use some distance between himself and the global warming alarmists on the Left. Things got combative when Goldfarb questioned McCain’s support for a cap-and-trade emissions approach as opposed to a carbon tax. The Senator launched into a hearty defense of cap-and-trade as the obvious free market conservative’s choice. What’s interesting about Senator McCain among all the frontrunners is his detractors have meticulously highlighted his weak spots for him. With targets painted, it’s now a race to cover up before the shots ring out.

I just got off a conference a call with a feisty John McCain in South Carolina. The big news in his campaign is today’s endorsement by Senator Tom Coburn. Coburn’s sterling conservative credentials may help McCain get some votes among the fiscal and social conservatives who’ve had their doubts. (The ones who call for his head are another story.) It will certainly enhance McCain’s ability to further blur his version of conservatism with that of the staunch ideologues in his party.

In reviewing Romney’s Michigan win, he cited the hometown angle and the fact that he refused to promise people the return of their old jobs. Here one sees, as John Podhoretz put it in contentions last night, McCain’s “political rigidity based on a sense of his own personal rectitude.”

A questioner challenged the Senator on his 2006 recommendation of James Baker as Middle East peace envoy. McCain took the question as a cheap shot on his support for Israel. The Senator briskly stated that he respects Baker while disagreeing with him on various points, and that he stands on his own decades-long record as a friend of Israel.

Things turned a bit revelatory when the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb asked McCain about his environmental stand. The Senator offered the boilerplate “most scientists etc. . .” but I was surprised and relieved to hear that he considers the question of climate-change severity an open one. I’m eager to see John McCain’s self-confessed truth addiction keep him on point when this comes up in the public arena. He could use some distance between himself and the global warming alarmists on the Left. Things got combative when Goldfarb questioned McCain’s support for a cap-and-trade emissions approach as opposed to a carbon tax. The Senator launched into a hearty defense of cap-and-trade as the obvious free market conservative’s choice. What’s interesting about Senator McCain among all the frontrunners is his detractors have meticulously highlighted his weak spots for him. With targets painted, it’s now a race to cover up before the shots ring out.

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McCain’s Guarded Optimism

I just got off a conference call with John McCain, and, interestingly, the Senator seemed more sober in his new frontrunner status than he did when I spoke with him after Mike Huckabee took Iowa. New Hampshire had always looked promising for McCain, after all; what lies ahead is a bit trickier—especially considering the near-uselessness of polling.

The Senator spoke of the “transcendent struggle” that faces us, and stressed that national security, particularly the fight against Islamist terror, remains most important. He predicted that by November we’d see enough success in Iraq to prove him right on the war and the surge. McCain credits his “no surrender” tour and his ability to beat down the Webb Amendment with getting his national security message across. Additionally, he feels that people are ceasing to think of his immigration plan as amnesty. (Undoubtedly, some contentions readers will take exception here.)

When asked about potential VP’s, he playfully floated Phil Gramm, but stressed that seriousness on national security was the most sought after quality. Concretely, McCain stated that he backs Senator Tom Coburn’s push for earmarks on wasteful spending and, if no other means could be employed, would support an executive order to make it happen.

Other than that, the Senator sees hard work ahead. He takes obvious pleasure in (and has a gift for) townhall meetings, which he’ll continue to hold throughout the campaign. John McCain has a strong belief in the power of local effort and its ability to turn things around in the eleventh hour. And he may be onto something. The one thing most pundits agree on today is that the late undecided voters played a major role in last night’s results.

I just got off a conference call with John McCain, and, interestingly, the Senator seemed more sober in his new frontrunner status than he did when I spoke with him after Mike Huckabee took Iowa. New Hampshire had always looked promising for McCain, after all; what lies ahead is a bit trickier—especially considering the near-uselessness of polling.

The Senator spoke of the “transcendent struggle” that faces us, and stressed that national security, particularly the fight against Islamist terror, remains most important. He predicted that by November we’d see enough success in Iraq to prove him right on the war and the surge. McCain credits his “no surrender” tour and his ability to beat down the Webb Amendment with getting his national security message across. Additionally, he feels that people are ceasing to think of his immigration plan as amnesty. (Undoubtedly, some contentions readers will take exception here.)

When asked about potential VP’s, he playfully floated Phil Gramm, but stressed that seriousness on national security was the most sought after quality. Concretely, McCain stated that he backs Senator Tom Coburn’s push for earmarks on wasteful spending and, if no other means could be employed, would support an executive order to make it happen.

Other than that, the Senator sees hard work ahead. He takes obvious pleasure in (and has a gift for) townhall meetings, which he’ll continue to hold throughout the campaign. John McCain has a strong belief in the power of local effort and its ability to turn things around in the eleventh hour. And he may be onto something. The one thing most pundits agree on today is that the late undecided voters played a major role in last night’s results.

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