Commentary Magazine


Topic: Virginia

Follow the States, But Only the Right Ones

This report makes the point that, unlike the federal government, state officials have had to make hard choices to balance their books. The impression one gets listening to the mainstream media and incumbent politicians is that budget balancing is nearly impossible. The states have shown otherwise:

In the past three years, 29 states have raised fees on, or cut services for, the elderly and people with disabilities, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research group. Fifteen states raised sales or income taxes in 2009 or 2010, according to the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington research outfit.

Let’s see if you notice the pattern:

One popular state tactic has obvious—and ironic—national implications. New Jersey, Indiana and Minnesota, among others, have trimmed state spending by sending less money to local governments. That pushes onto local officials politically tough decisions about raising taxes, cutting spending or finding major money-saving efficiencies. …

Now, in Illinois and California, “the political system has done little more than lurch to the end of the fiscal year.” While in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Indiana, governors pushed for real fiscal reform. A sample:

New Jersey’s Chris Christie has cut pensions for future state and local employees, vetoed a tax increase on income over $1 million and cut $1.26 billion in aid to schools and municipalities, which local officials said would drive up property taxes. …

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a second-term Republican and the former White House budget director for President George W. Bush, moved the state from deficit to surplus by paring spending in good times. Indiana swung from a nearly $200 million deficit in 2004, the year Mr. Daniels was first elected, to a $1.3 billion surplus last year. It was not without controversy: On his second day in office, Mr. Daniels issued an executive order that ended collective-bargaining rights for state employees. …

In May, Minnesota lawmakers approved a budget widely seen as a victory for outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, because it ratified spending cuts he had made unilaterally and it didn’t raise taxes.

And, likewise, Bob McDonnell got elected in 2009 in Virginia on the promise to balance the budget without raising taxes. And he has done just that.

OK, you see point. These budget balancers and spending cutters are successful Republican governors, all of whom have been mentioned as 2012 presidential contenders. And in the 2010 midterms, their ranks expanded with Republicans elected in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. That’s a lot of GOP governors who have the opportunity to lead on fiscal discipline.

Not only does this dispel the liberal myths that we need massive taxes to balance our books or that the public won’t accept reduced services; but is provides Republicans with a wealth of talent for the 2012 and future presidential races. The country seems poised to get serious on tax and budget reform and has grown weary of a president whose not much into governance. That suggests a unique opportunity for these GOP governors — provided they stick to their  sober approach to governance.

And on the other hand, we have the example of California which has yet to get its spending and public employee unions under control. It’s the beauty of federalism — 50 labratories in which we can see what works and what doesn’t. So far a lot of GOP governors are showing how to do it right.

This report makes the point that, unlike the federal government, state officials have had to make hard choices to balance their books. The impression one gets listening to the mainstream media and incumbent politicians is that budget balancing is nearly impossible. The states have shown otherwise:

In the past three years, 29 states have raised fees on, or cut services for, the elderly and people with disabilities, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research group. Fifteen states raised sales or income taxes in 2009 or 2010, according to the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington research outfit.

Let’s see if you notice the pattern:

One popular state tactic has obvious—and ironic—national implications. New Jersey, Indiana and Minnesota, among others, have trimmed state spending by sending less money to local governments. That pushes onto local officials politically tough decisions about raising taxes, cutting spending or finding major money-saving efficiencies. …

Now, in Illinois and California, “the political system has done little more than lurch to the end of the fiscal year.” While in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Indiana, governors pushed for real fiscal reform. A sample:

New Jersey’s Chris Christie has cut pensions for future state and local employees, vetoed a tax increase on income over $1 million and cut $1.26 billion in aid to schools and municipalities, which local officials said would drive up property taxes. …

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a second-term Republican and the former White House budget director for President George W. Bush, moved the state from deficit to surplus by paring spending in good times. Indiana swung from a nearly $200 million deficit in 2004, the year Mr. Daniels was first elected, to a $1.3 billion surplus last year. It was not without controversy: On his second day in office, Mr. Daniels issued an executive order that ended collective-bargaining rights for state employees. …

In May, Minnesota lawmakers approved a budget widely seen as a victory for outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, because it ratified spending cuts he had made unilaterally and it didn’t raise taxes.

And, likewise, Bob McDonnell got elected in 2009 in Virginia on the promise to balance the budget without raising taxes. And he has done just that.

OK, you see point. These budget balancers and spending cutters are successful Republican governors, all of whom have been mentioned as 2012 presidential contenders. And in the 2010 midterms, their ranks expanded with Republicans elected in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. That’s a lot of GOP governors who have the opportunity to lead on fiscal discipline.

Not only does this dispel the liberal myths that we need massive taxes to balance our books or that the public won’t accept reduced services; but is provides Republicans with a wealth of talent for the 2012 and future presidential races. The country seems poised to get serious on tax and budget reform and has grown weary of a president whose not much into governance. That suggests a unique opportunity for these GOP governors — provided they stick to their  sober approach to governance.

And on the other hand, we have the example of California which has yet to get its spending and public employee unions under control. It’s the beauty of federalism — 50 labratories in which we can see what works and what doesn’t. So far a lot of GOP governors are showing how to do it right.

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Thanks, but I’d Rather Not

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?'”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?'”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

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It’s the Whole Country

David Brooks zeroes in on the Democrats’ meltdown in the Midwest:

Over the past two years, these voters have watched government radically increase spending in an attempt to put people back to work. According to the Office of Management and Budget, federal spending increased from about 21 percent of G.D.P. in 2008 to nearly 26 percent of G.D.P. this year. There was an $800 billion stimulus package, along with auto bailouts aimed directly at the Midwest.

Economists are debating the effects of all this, but voters have reached a verdict. According to exit polls on Tuesday, two-thirds of the Americans who voted said that the stimulus package was either harmful to the American economy or made no difference whatsoever. …

On Tuesday, the Democrats got destroyed in this region.

That is all true, but this was not simply a Midwest wipeout. The Democrats lost five House seats in New York and would have lost more had the top of the ticket not been pathetically unelectable. Tennessee, Arizona, Virginia, and Texas each had three seats swing to the Republicans. Four Florida seats swung as well. And those gubernatorial losses included Maine and New Mexico.

Brooks’s analysis of the Midwest is thus equally applicable to the country as a whole:

Some Democrats believe their policies have nothing to do with the debacle. It was the unemployment rate, they say. But it was Democratic economic policies that first repelled these voters. There’s been a sharp rise in the number of voters who think the Democrats are “too liberal.” Signature policy initiatives like health care remain gigantically unpopular. Republicans didn’t score gains everywhere unemployment was high (see California, for example). But they did score gains nearly everywhere where disapproval of President Obama and his policies was high.

We see from the exit polls that the Democrats’ thumping was delivered by the middle and upper classes, by the middle-aged and the old, by whites, by men and women, by Republicans and independents, by Protestants and Catholics, and by suburban, small-town, and rural voters. Moreover, although the Midwest went strongly Republican (54 percent), a higher percentage in the South voted for Republican House candidates (60 percent). And despite Californians’ inexplicable loyalty to the Democratic Party, the vote in the West was evenly split (Democrats won by a statistically insignificant margin of 49 to 48 percent).

So is this a Midwest problem or a nationwide problem for Obama? The evidence says it is the latter. As far as the midterms went, the Democrats have been reduced to a Dukakis-like shadow of its 2006-08 self. Blacks, Hispanics, Ph.d.’s, high school dropouts, the poor, limousine liberals, and big-city urbanites stuck with the Democrats. The Republicans won a majority of virtually every other segment of the country. In some respects, it is remarkable that the Democrats didn’t do worse. To paraphrase candidate Obama, there are not Blue States and Red States; there is a much Redder United States.

Is this permanent? Pshaw! It’s a cautionary tale that you can’t treat the American people as an annoyance and the country like a petri dish and stay in office. So if Obama and the Democrats persist on that course, their shellacking will continue.

David Brooks zeroes in on the Democrats’ meltdown in the Midwest:

Over the past two years, these voters have watched government radically increase spending in an attempt to put people back to work. According to the Office of Management and Budget, federal spending increased from about 21 percent of G.D.P. in 2008 to nearly 26 percent of G.D.P. this year. There was an $800 billion stimulus package, along with auto bailouts aimed directly at the Midwest.

Economists are debating the effects of all this, but voters have reached a verdict. According to exit polls on Tuesday, two-thirds of the Americans who voted said that the stimulus package was either harmful to the American economy or made no difference whatsoever. …

On Tuesday, the Democrats got destroyed in this region.

That is all true, but this was not simply a Midwest wipeout. The Democrats lost five House seats in New York and would have lost more had the top of the ticket not been pathetically unelectable. Tennessee, Arizona, Virginia, and Texas each had three seats swing to the Republicans. Four Florida seats swung as well. And those gubernatorial losses included Maine and New Mexico.

Brooks’s analysis of the Midwest is thus equally applicable to the country as a whole:

Some Democrats believe their policies have nothing to do with the debacle. It was the unemployment rate, they say. But it was Democratic economic policies that first repelled these voters. There’s been a sharp rise in the number of voters who think the Democrats are “too liberal.” Signature policy initiatives like health care remain gigantically unpopular. Republicans didn’t score gains everywhere unemployment was high (see California, for example). But they did score gains nearly everywhere where disapproval of President Obama and his policies was high.

We see from the exit polls that the Democrats’ thumping was delivered by the middle and upper classes, by the middle-aged and the old, by whites, by men and women, by Republicans and independents, by Protestants and Catholics, and by suburban, small-town, and rural voters. Moreover, although the Midwest went strongly Republican (54 percent), a higher percentage in the South voted for Republican House candidates (60 percent). And despite Californians’ inexplicable loyalty to the Democratic Party, the vote in the West was evenly split (Democrats won by a statistically insignificant margin of 49 to 48 percent).

So is this a Midwest problem or a nationwide problem for Obama? The evidence says it is the latter. As far as the midterms went, the Democrats have been reduced to a Dukakis-like shadow of its 2006-08 self. Blacks, Hispanics, Ph.d.’s, high school dropouts, the poor, limousine liberals, and big-city urbanites stuck with the Democrats. The Republicans won a majority of virtually every other segment of the country. In some respects, it is remarkable that the Democrats didn’t do worse. To paraphrase candidate Obama, there are not Blue States and Red States; there is a much Redder United States.

Is this permanent? Pshaw! It’s a cautionary tale that you can’t treat the American people as an annoyance and the country like a petri dish and stay in office. So if Obama and the Democrats persist on that course, their shellacking will continue.

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Senate Shifts

Fred Barnes makes a key observation:

Ten Democrats whose seats are up in 2012 come from right-leaning states or saw their states scoot to the right this week: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jim Webb of Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Jon Tester of Montana, and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.

It’s a good bet that some or all of them will be sympathetic to cutting spending, extending the Bush tax cuts, scaling back ObamaCare, and supporting other parts of the Republican agenda. With Democratic allies, Republicans will have operational control of the Senate more often than Majority Leader Harry Reid and Mr. Obama will.

And let’s not forget Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who ran and won by repudiating Obama’s agenda. You may be skeptical that self-styled moderate Democrats will buck the president. Certainly, their track record in that regard is poor. But the 2010 midterm elections and these lawmakers’ own re-election have a way of focusing Democrats on the perils of Obamaism. And to give you a sense of the danger these Democrats face, Ohio, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, and New Mexico will all have Republican governors — and, if those officials do their jobs properly, a taste of what a conservative reform agenda looks like.

Will the Democrats at risk in 2012 desert Obama all the time? Of course not. But in key areas, it certainly will appear that there is a bipartisan consensus on one side and the president on the other. With Harry Reid — he of gaffes and never a sunny disposition — leading the Senate Democrats, this could become quite entertaining and, for the electorate, illuminating.

Fred Barnes makes a key observation:

Ten Democrats whose seats are up in 2012 come from right-leaning states or saw their states scoot to the right this week: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jim Webb of Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Jon Tester of Montana, and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.

It’s a good bet that some or all of them will be sympathetic to cutting spending, extending the Bush tax cuts, scaling back ObamaCare, and supporting other parts of the Republican agenda. With Democratic allies, Republicans will have operational control of the Senate more often than Majority Leader Harry Reid and Mr. Obama will.

And let’s not forget Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who ran and won by repudiating Obama’s agenda. You may be skeptical that self-styled moderate Democrats will buck the president. Certainly, their track record in that regard is poor. But the 2010 midterm elections and these lawmakers’ own re-election have a way of focusing Democrats on the perils of Obamaism. And to give you a sense of the danger these Democrats face, Ohio, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, and New Mexico will all have Republican governors — and, if those officials do their jobs properly, a taste of what a conservative reform agenda looks like.

Will the Democrats at risk in 2012 desert Obama all the time? Of course not. But in key areas, it certainly will appear that there is a bipartisan consensus on one side and the president on the other. With Harry Reid — he of gaffes and never a sunny disposition — leading the Senate Democrats, this could become quite entertaining and, for the electorate, illuminating.

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LIVE BLOG: Not About Obama?

In 2008, Obama carried Virginia, the first time a Democrat had done so since LBJ. This time he personally came out to campaign for Tom Perriello. Perriello has now gone down to defeat. The VA-9 has gone to the GOP and the Republican leads by 10 points in the VA-2. In my district, a Democratic bastion of late, Rep. Gerry Connolly is trailing narrowly. It is hard to say that all this is not a repudiation of the president’s agenda. As for his coattails, they seem to be negative ones.

In 2008, Obama carried Virginia, the first time a Democrat had done so since LBJ. This time he personally came out to campaign for Tom Perriello. Perriello has now gone down to defeat. The VA-9 has gone to the GOP and the Republican leads by 10 points in the VA-2. In my district, a Democratic bastion of late, Rep. Gerry Connolly is trailing narrowly. It is hard to say that all this is not a repudiation of the president’s agenda. As for his coattails, they seem to be negative ones.

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LIVE BLOG: Virginia

In early returns, 14-term Democrat Rick Boucher, who voted for cap-and-trade, is trailing by 12 points. This is coal country, and his vote on the mammoth energy bill, which never came to a vote in the Senate, may well be his political death knell. Chalk up another victim for Nancy Pelosi.

In early returns, 14-term Democrat Rick Boucher, who voted for cap-and-trade, is trailing by 12 points. This is coal country, and his vote on the mammoth energy bill, which never came to a vote in the Senate, may well be his political death knell. Chalk up another victim for Nancy Pelosi.

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Diversity Disappoints

Yesterday the Washington Post ran a front-page story on Thomas Jefferson High School (known commonly as “TJ”), a Fairfax County high school for select, über–academic achievers (i.e., Virginia’s Bronx Science). The curriculum is rigorous (its college-level courses are not offered at regular high schools), and the workload is grueling. The Post‘s beef is that “diversity is not working”:

[African American students] amount to less than 1 percent of the Class of 2014 at the selective public school in Fairfax County, regarded as among the nation’s best. “It’s disappointing,” said Andrea Smith, the club’s faculty sponsor. “But you work with what you got.”

The count of Hispanic freshmen is not much higher: 13.

Years of efforts to raise black and Hispanic enrollment at the regional school have failed, officials acknowledge. The number of such students admitted has fallen since 2005.

There are two major reasons. Admissions decisions are generally made without regard to race or ethnicity, despite a policy meant to promote diversity. And initiatives to enlarge the pipeline of qualified black and Hispanic students in elementary and middle school have flopped.

To be clear: admissions are made without regard to race, and the school makes every effort to ferret out every qualified minority student in the district. There are plenty of Asian students. But there are only a few African Americans and Hispanics who can meet the school’s standards. That is defined as a failure — by the school. What the Post and the controversial ex-admissions director (whose championing of diversity at the price of maintaining standards of excellence met with a furious backlash) are upset about is that, without quotas, there aren’t “enough” African Americans and Hispanics (that is, enough minority students proportionate to their percentages in the population):

For more than a decade after its founding in 1985, the school actively sought to diversify its enrollment, even if that sometimes meant admitting students with lower test scores than others. In 1997, the school admitted 24 Hispanic students and 25 black students.

That year, several federal courts struck down school affirmative action programs, and attorneys advised Fairfax school officials to end any racial or ethnic preferences. The number of black and Hispanic freshmen plummeted.

It’s not like the professional ethnic bean counters didn’t try. (“Then admissions panels, mostly teachers and administrators from other area schools, consider subjective criteria such as essays and teacher recommendations. At that point, race and ethnicity can come into play. But generally they don’t.”)

Frankly, TJ has done everything right. No one is discriminated against. (Although Asian parents complain that the number of Asian students is artificially depressed to prevent the school from becoming nearly all Asian.) There is no lack of mentoring and assistance programs for minority students. The results are not a sign of failure by the school. They are, to be blunt, a sign that students and their parents in certain ethnic and racial groups are not matching the effort and the output of those from other groups. The results should be a warning signal not to the school but to those parents and children. You want to join the elite of the elite? Work as hard, place a priority on academic achievement, and make use of the ample resources in the public schools to promote success.

The left considers “bad” numbers a sign that our institutions are biased or haven’t done enough. Maybe it’s time to ask the parents and students to do more.

Yesterday the Washington Post ran a front-page story on Thomas Jefferson High School (known commonly as “TJ”), a Fairfax County high school for select, über–academic achievers (i.e., Virginia’s Bronx Science). The curriculum is rigorous (its college-level courses are not offered at regular high schools), and the workload is grueling. The Post‘s beef is that “diversity is not working”:

[African American students] amount to less than 1 percent of the Class of 2014 at the selective public school in Fairfax County, regarded as among the nation’s best. “It’s disappointing,” said Andrea Smith, the club’s faculty sponsor. “But you work with what you got.”

The count of Hispanic freshmen is not much higher: 13.

Years of efforts to raise black and Hispanic enrollment at the regional school have failed, officials acknowledge. The number of such students admitted has fallen since 2005.

There are two major reasons. Admissions decisions are generally made without regard to race or ethnicity, despite a policy meant to promote diversity. And initiatives to enlarge the pipeline of qualified black and Hispanic students in elementary and middle school have flopped.

To be clear: admissions are made without regard to race, and the school makes every effort to ferret out every qualified minority student in the district. There are plenty of Asian students. But there are only a few African Americans and Hispanics who can meet the school’s standards. That is defined as a failure — by the school. What the Post and the controversial ex-admissions director (whose championing of diversity at the price of maintaining standards of excellence met with a furious backlash) are upset about is that, without quotas, there aren’t “enough” African Americans and Hispanics (that is, enough minority students proportionate to their percentages in the population):

For more than a decade after its founding in 1985, the school actively sought to diversify its enrollment, even if that sometimes meant admitting students with lower test scores than others. In 1997, the school admitted 24 Hispanic students and 25 black students.

That year, several federal courts struck down school affirmative action programs, and attorneys advised Fairfax school officials to end any racial or ethnic preferences. The number of black and Hispanic freshmen plummeted.

It’s not like the professional ethnic bean counters didn’t try. (“Then admissions panels, mostly teachers and administrators from other area schools, consider subjective criteria such as essays and teacher recommendations. At that point, race and ethnicity can come into play. But generally they don’t.”)

Frankly, TJ has done everything right. No one is discriminated against. (Although Asian parents complain that the number of Asian students is artificially depressed to prevent the school from becoming nearly all Asian.) There is no lack of mentoring and assistance programs for minority students. The results are not a sign of failure by the school. They are, to be blunt, a sign that students and their parents in certain ethnic and racial groups are not matching the effort and the output of those from other groups. The results should be a warning signal not to the school but to those parents and children. You want to join the elite of the elite? Work as hard, place a priority on academic achievement, and make use of the ample resources in the public schools to promote success.

The left considers “bad” numbers a sign that our institutions are biased or haven’t done enough. Maybe it’s time to ask the parents and students to do more.

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Debating Israel in Virginia

J Street’s worst nightmare: “Virginia House candidates battle over Israel in final debate.” It seems that candidates who actually are pro-Israel are making the case that their opponents’ records should be scrutinized. What’s wrong with that? Well, those being scrutinized don’t like explaining themselves. In fact, the candidates under attack sound bewildered, as if their J Street backers didn’t fully explain that the positions they were taking and the documents they were signing were, in no meaningful sense, “pro- Israel.”

The Hill reports on a debate sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater between Republican Scott Rigell, Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Va.), and Independent Kenny Golden. With the race neck-and-neck, “many of the questions revolved around Washington’s relationship with Israel and the Muslim world.” Rigell discussed the Juan Williams firing (he was against), the Ground Zero mosque (against), and the Gaza 54 letter (against). The Gaza 54 letter made for an interesting discussion:

Some 300 people crammed into the Simon Family Jewish Community Center in Virginia Beach to hear the candidates’ final debate. The Jewish community, which leaders say numbers about 6,000 families, has some sway in Virginia’s 2nd district. And all three candidates sought to highlight their pro-Israel stances.

“They have a right, a true right and an unquestionable right, in my view, to occupy that land,” Rigell said, before criticizing a letter Nye signed onto that urged President Obama to seek an easing of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. “By sending that letter,” Rigell said, “it is creating doubt of where America stands with our ally, Israel.”

The letter was signed by 54 members of Congress, including Nye, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

“We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups,” the group wrote. “This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.”

Rigell said he wouldn’t have signed that letter.

Nye disputed Rigell’s characterization of the letter’s intent and said he supports what Israel has to do to ensure its survival.

“Israel is an important ally; they need our support. We have to continue to work to ensure that they have and maintain a military so their neighbors cannot defeat them,” Nye said.

It’s not a “characterization” of the letter that is at issue. The letter itself takes Israel to task for “de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip” and calls for Israel to relax the blockade that was put in place to, as Nye would say, “ensure its survival.” So Nye was either flim-flamming his audience, or he really didn’t get what the letter was about — another J Street gambit to undermine the Israeli government and help mainstream the Hamas propaganda line.

No wonder J Street is in a tizzy. It’s not easy to explain to informed pro-Israel activists why you are taking money from Richard Goldstone’s handlers and why you’ve signed documents that advocate steps that would imperil the Jewish state.

J Street’s worst nightmare: “Virginia House candidates battle over Israel in final debate.” It seems that candidates who actually are pro-Israel are making the case that their opponents’ records should be scrutinized. What’s wrong with that? Well, those being scrutinized don’t like explaining themselves. In fact, the candidates under attack sound bewildered, as if their J Street backers didn’t fully explain that the positions they were taking and the documents they were signing were, in no meaningful sense, “pro- Israel.”

The Hill reports on a debate sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater between Republican Scott Rigell, Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Va.), and Independent Kenny Golden. With the race neck-and-neck, “many of the questions revolved around Washington’s relationship with Israel and the Muslim world.” Rigell discussed the Juan Williams firing (he was against), the Ground Zero mosque (against), and the Gaza 54 letter (against). The Gaza 54 letter made for an interesting discussion:

Some 300 people crammed into the Simon Family Jewish Community Center in Virginia Beach to hear the candidates’ final debate. The Jewish community, which leaders say numbers about 6,000 families, has some sway in Virginia’s 2nd district. And all three candidates sought to highlight their pro-Israel stances.

“They have a right, a true right and an unquestionable right, in my view, to occupy that land,” Rigell said, before criticizing a letter Nye signed onto that urged President Obama to seek an easing of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. “By sending that letter,” Rigell said, “it is creating doubt of where America stands with our ally, Israel.”

The letter was signed by 54 members of Congress, including Nye, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

“We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups,” the group wrote. “This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.”

Rigell said he wouldn’t have signed that letter.

Nye disputed Rigell’s characterization of the letter’s intent and said he supports what Israel has to do to ensure its survival.

“Israel is an important ally; they need our support. We have to continue to work to ensure that they have and maintain a military so their neighbors cannot defeat them,” Nye said.

It’s not a “characterization” of the letter that is at issue. The letter itself takes Israel to task for “de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip” and calls for Israel to relax the blockade that was put in place to, as Nye would say, “ensure its survival.” So Nye was either flim-flamming his audience, or he really didn’t get what the letter was about — another J Street gambit to undermine the Israeli government and help mainstream the Hamas propaganda line.

No wonder J Street is in a tizzy. It’s not easy to explain to informed pro-Israel activists why you are taking money from Richard Goldstone’s handlers and why you’ve signed documents that advocate steps that would imperil the Jewish state.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Terrible news: Carly Fiorina is hospitalized.

Rotten outlook for the Dems from Charlie Cook: “The Cook Political Report’s pre-election House outlook is a Democratic net loss of 48 to 60 seats, with higher losses possible. A turnover of just 39 seats would tip majority status into Republican hands. The midterm maelstrom pulling House Democrats under shows no signs of abating, if anything it has intensified.”

Dismal outlook for Virginia Democrats: Dick Boucher may be denied his 16th term.

Noxious moral equivalence from the UN: “‘Israeli officials slammed UN special envoy Robert Serry’s comments Tuesday equating alleged settler vandalism against olive trees to terrorism, saying such an equation was “absurd” and “reprehensible.” As for the use of the word “terror,” does he want to make believe that there are Israeli suicide bombers attacking Palestinians buses?’ [Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor] said.  ‘One cannot understand this absurd equation. The Israeli government has acted with determination against violence directed against Palestinians, with a number of offenders brought to trial and an unambiguous approach by the Israeli justice system to this problem.'”

On the good-news front, many sharp GOP foreign policy gurus will have new prominence in Congress. Josh Rogin has the rundown.

Fabulous entertainment value ahead: “Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) will likely represent himself at his mid-November ethics trial, setting up a potential spectacle less than two weeks after what’s expected to be a disappointing — if not devastating — election for Democrats.”

A positive development for conservative Hoosiers: “House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence  of Indiana is considering stepping down from his post in the GOP leadership in preparation for a possible bid for president or governor in 2012. Pence, a darling of the conservative movement, would leave the leadership job with a blunt explanation to colleagues that he can’t commit to a two-year term in House leadership, a source familiar with his deliberations told POLITICO Tuesday.”

Terrible news: Carly Fiorina is hospitalized.

Rotten outlook for the Dems from Charlie Cook: “The Cook Political Report’s pre-election House outlook is a Democratic net loss of 48 to 60 seats, with higher losses possible. A turnover of just 39 seats would tip majority status into Republican hands. The midterm maelstrom pulling House Democrats under shows no signs of abating, if anything it has intensified.”

Dismal outlook for Virginia Democrats: Dick Boucher may be denied his 16th term.

Noxious moral equivalence from the UN: “‘Israeli officials slammed UN special envoy Robert Serry’s comments Tuesday equating alleged settler vandalism against olive trees to terrorism, saying such an equation was “absurd” and “reprehensible.” As for the use of the word “terror,” does he want to make believe that there are Israeli suicide bombers attacking Palestinians buses?’ [Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor] said.  ‘One cannot understand this absurd equation. The Israeli government has acted with determination against violence directed against Palestinians, with a number of offenders brought to trial and an unambiguous approach by the Israeli justice system to this problem.'”

On the good-news front, many sharp GOP foreign policy gurus will have new prominence in Congress. Josh Rogin has the rundown.

Fabulous entertainment value ahead: “Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) will likely represent himself at his mid-November ethics trial, setting up a potential spectacle less than two weeks after what’s expected to be a disappointing — if not devastating — election for Democrats.”

A positive development for conservative Hoosiers: “House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence  of Indiana is considering stepping down from his post in the GOP leadership in preparation for a possible bid for president or governor in 2012. Pence, a darling of the conservative movement, would leave the leadership job with a blunt explanation to colleagues that he can’t commit to a two-year term in House leadership, a source familiar with his deliberations told POLITICO Tuesday.”

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Will Obama Learn Anything from the Midterms?

Michael Gerson conducts a must-read interview with Charlie Cook. In addition to predictions of a massive GOP wave, there is this discussion about Obama and the Democratic agenda:

Question: What lessons should Obama’s aides take away from these likely political reverses?

“It was the political aides,” counters Cook, “who lost the arguments. Rahm [Emanuel] knew they should cut a deal on health care, get to the economy.” But Obama held a different view of himself and his presidency. “He had already been first at everything. He wanted to be something other than the first — to be historical, game-changing, to have grand influence like FDR or LBJ. But he missed out on the day job,” which was jobs and economic growth.

Some, Cook says, “are told all their lives that they are the most brilliant people on the planet. They don’t get less bright, but hubris kicks in. [Obama] just assumed that he was going to be a success, as he had always been in life.”

According to Cook, this reflects a lack of experience. “Experience is not an end, it is a means to an end: judgment.” Cook said that a few years in the Senate “don’t give an understanding of institutions and their dynamics. If [Obama] had been in the Senate six or eight years, he might have accumulated the wisdom to match the intelligence.”

That’s about as devastating a critique as you are going to get from a neutral observer. Obama’s arrogance got the better of him; he knew better than everyone and will now pay the price.

But there was more going on than simply picking the wrong agenda items or refusing to temper his own ego. Obama’s ideological rigidity and policy preferences ran headlong into Americans’ skepticism about big government and their sense of moral outrage. The Tea Party is a movement grounded in the belief in limited government. But it was also born out of a sense that we have lost track of fundamental values — thrift, discipline, and humility, for starters — and as a result are seeing irresponsible spending, massive debt, and liberal statism.

Obama did not listen to the health-care town-hall attendees or to the voters of New Jersey, Virginia, or Massachusetts. Why should he? He didn’t pay attention to more sober-minded aides, polls, or his own nervous congressional allies. His absolute certainty in his own vision combined with his lack of understanding of the American polity and substantive policy (from economics to the Middle East). As his poll ratings and party’s electoral prospects continue to dive, he reacts with annoyance at the rubes in America who fail to appreciate his brilliance. Will such a president actually reverse course after an election? I have my doubts.

Michael Gerson conducts a must-read interview with Charlie Cook. In addition to predictions of a massive GOP wave, there is this discussion about Obama and the Democratic agenda:

Question: What lessons should Obama’s aides take away from these likely political reverses?

“It was the political aides,” counters Cook, “who lost the arguments. Rahm [Emanuel] knew they should cut a deal on health care, get to the economy.” But Obama held a different view of himself and his presidency. “He had already been first at everything. He wanted to be something other than the first — to be historical, game-changing, to have grand influence like FDR or LBJ. But he missed out on the day job,” which was jobs and economic growth.

Some, Cook says, “are told all their lives that they are the most brilliant people on the planet. They don’t get less bright, but hubris kicks in. [Obama] just assumed that he was going to be a success, as he had always been in life.”

According to Cook, this reflects a lack of experience. “Experience is not an end, it is a means to an end: judgment.” Cook said that a few years in the Senate “don’t give an understanding of institutions and their dynamics. If [Obama] had been in the Senate six or eight years, he might have accumulated the wisdom to match the intelligence.”

That’s about as devastating a critique as you are going to get from a neutral observer. Obama’s arrogance got the better of him; he knew better than everyone and will now pay the price.

But there was more going on than simply picking the wrong agenda items or refusing to temper his own ego. Obama’s ideological rigidity and policy preferences ran headlong into Americans’ skepticism about big government and their sense of moral outrage. The Tea Party is a movement grounded in the belief in limited government. But it was also born out of a sense that we have lost track of fundamental values — thrift, discipline, and humility, for starters — and as a result are seeing irresponsible spending, massive debt, and liberal statism.

Obama did not listen to the health-care town-hall attendees or to the voters of New Jersey, Virginia, or Massachusetts. Why should he? He didn’t pay attention to more sober-minded aides, polls, or his own nervous congressional allies. His absolute certainty in his own vision combined with his lack of understanding of the American polity and substantive policy (from economics to the Middle East). As his poll ratings and party’s electoral prospects continue to dive, he reacts with annoyance at the rubes in America who fail to appreciate his brilliance. Will such a president actually reverse course after an election? I have my doubts.

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Christie Momentum?

Earlier this week, I remarked on Chris Christie’s YouTube stardom. I’m not the only one who’s taking him seriously. Matt Continetti thinks Christie may be the candidate the GOP base is looking for:

The New Jersey governor is touring the country in support of Republican candidates. He’s taken on the public sector unions. He’s made some hard calls. He speaks in a blunt, confrontational style. Yet he remains popular. Most striking, he’s a Republican from the Northeast who has national appeal. Last week Christie won a Tea Party presidential straw poll–in Virginia. In September, he came in second in another straw poll–held in Chicago.

Christie denies any interest in the top job. But he’s clearly a born executive. A pro-lifer, he has none of the social-issues baggage that has harmed Northeast Republicans in past primaries. He has a record to be proud of. He’s incredibly well spoken. Other than Paul Ryan, I can’t think of another Republican officeholder who gets conservatives as excited as Christie does.

He doesn’t have explicit foreign policy experience, although he did successfully prosecute a terrorist. (Nor do I see many other foreign policy mavens, other than John Bolton, considering a run. Now there’s a ticket!) And he says he really isn’t interested. But then so did Barak Obama a mere two years before he was elected president.

The Christie buzz will be followed by buzz for and about other potential candidates. But it reminds us that the field has hardly been set and that conservative activists are still shopping around for someone to excite them.

Earlier this week, I remarked on Chris Christie’s YouTube stardom. I’m not the only one who’s taking him seriously. Matt Continetti thinks Christie may be the candidate the GOP base is looking for:

The New Jersey governor is touring the country in support of Republican candidates. He’s taken on the public sector unions. He’s made some hard calls. He speaks in a blunt, confrontational style. Yet he remains popular. Most striking, he’s a Republican from the Northeast who has national appeal. Last week Christie won a Tea Party presidential straw poll–in Virginia. In September, he came in second in another straw poll–held in Chicago.

Christie denies any interest in the top job. But he’s clearly a born executive. A pro-lifer, he has none of the social-issues baggage that has harmed Northeast Republicans in past primaries. He has a record to be proud of. He’s incredibly well spoken. Other than Paul Ryan, I can’t think of another Republican officeholder who gets conservatives as excited as Christie does.

He doesn’t have explicit foreign policy experience, although he did successfully prosecute a terrorist. (Nor do I see many other foreign policy mavens, other than John Bolton, considering a run. Now there’s a ticket!) And he says he really isn’t interested. But then so did Barak Obama a mere two years before he was elected president.

The Christie buzz will be followed by buzz for and about other potential candidates. But it reminds us that the field has hardly been set and that conservative activists are still shopping around for someone to excite them.

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The Voters Won’t Notice?

The Hill, in two separate reports, details the efforts by Democrats to run from their party. First, pretend you are neither a Democrat nor an incumbent:

With voters in an anti-incumbent mood and a national headwind against their party, some freshman Democrats are touting themselves as unaffiliated outsiders — and it may help them win reelection.

Running against Washington isn’t easy when you’ve got an office on Capitol Hill. But Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) has effectively positioned herself as a challenger in her race against Republican Mike Kelly.

So far, it’s not working — Kelly leads in the polls.

Then the candidates from the mystery party who have occupied a job of unknown origin try to flee from the Democratic agenda:

House Democrats in tough races are running away from their party’s legislative record as they face an electorate that’s skeptical of what the party has accomplished over the past two years and rates Congress at historic lows.

A Gallup tracking poll from the end of September shows that only 18 percent of voters approve of the job Congress is doing while landmark legislation like healthcare reform and the stimulus remains unpopular.

My Democratic congressman person running for office, who has been in office somewhere, is a case in point:

“It’s not everyone’s cup of tea,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who is a Republican target this fall. “Moderates and Blue Dogs in our caucus have grown increasingly antsy about that agenda and whether it was or is overly ambitious.”

Connolly voted in favor of healthcare reform, the stimulus and Wall Street reform, but over the past two months the Virginia Democrat has emerged as one of the loudest Democratic voices urging the leadership to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts, even for the wealthiest Americans.

He also voted against adjourning without a vote on the Bush tax cuts. But Connolly’s elective-eve conversion isn’t carrying the day. Here, too, the challenger, Keith Fimian, is leading, running tough ads pinning Connolly down on his record.

It is rather silly to suppose that the most engaged voters — those who turn out for a midterm election — can’t figure out who the incumbent Democrats are and can’t recall what the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda has been for the past two years. It does suggest, however, that any survivors from the mystery party will be wary of once again putting their careers on the line by following the White House’s lead.

The Hill, in two separate reports, details the efforts by Democrats to run from their party. First, pretend you are neither a Democrat nor an incumbent:

With voters in an anti-incumbent mood and a national headwind against their party, some freshman Democrats are touting themselves as unaffiliated outsiders — and it may help them win reelection.

Running against Washington isn’t easy when you’ve got an office on Capitol Hill. But Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) has effectively positioned herself as a challenger in her race against Republican Mike Kelly.

So far, it’s not working — Kelly leads in the polls.

Then the candidates from the mystery party who have occupied a job of unknown origin try to flee from the Democratic agenda:

House Democrats in tough races are running away from their party’s legislative record as they face an electorate that’s skeptical of what the party has accomplished over the past two years and rates Congress at historic lows.

A Gallup tracking poll from the end of September shows that only 18 percent of voters approve of the job Congress is doing while landmark legislation like healthcare reform and the stimulus remains unpopular.

My Democratic congressman person running for office, who has been in office somewhere, is a case in point:

“It’s not everyone’s cup of tea,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who is a Republican target this fall. “Moderates and Blue Dogs in our caucus have grown increasingly antsy about that agenda and whether it was or is overly ambitious.”

Connolly voted in favor of healthcare reform, the stimulus and Wall Street reform, but over the past two months the Virginia Democrat has emerged as one of the loudest Democratic voices urging the leadership to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts, even for the wealthiest Americans.

He also voted against adjourning without a vote on the Bush tax cuts. But Connolly’s elective-eve conversion isn’t carrying the day. Here, too, the challenger, Keith Fimian, is leading, running tough ads pinning Connolly down on his record.

It is rather silly to suppose that the most engaged voters — those who turn out for a midterm election — can’t figure out who the incumbent Democrats are and can’t recall what the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda has been for the past two years. It does suggest, however, that any survivors from the mystery party will be wary of once again putting their careers on the line by following the White House’s lead.

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Part 2: Immigration and the Golden State

In this post I continue my responses to Peter Robinson’s thought-provoking questions about the degree to which immigration has contributed to California’s current predicament (e.g., fiscal ruin, economic stagnation, political dysfunction). Peter’s second question concerns the political impact on the Republican party. He asks:

Q:  There’s plenty of evidence that, as Hispanics move into the middle class, they begin voting Republican, following the same pattern as previous immigrant groups. In California, though, the Hispanics that do indeed join the middle class are always hugely outnumbered as the influx of poor Mexicans continues — and, as these recent arrivals begin voting, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The state that gave us Reagan has now become dark blue. … With California out of play, the GOP stands at a permanent disadvantage in presidential politics.  Isn’t all that too high a price to pay for loose immigration policies?

Let’s break this down into legal and illegal immigration. No critic of lax efforts to cut down on voter fraud has been more ferocious than I. But, honestly, I don’t believe that there are huge numbers of illegal immigrants who flock to the polls. And if there were (as well as for other reasons, which I have amplified in other writings on Obama Justice Department), we need to clean house at the DOJ. One way to start would be to make sure the Department, contrary to the directions of Obama appointees, enforces Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to clean up their voter rolls.

But I think we’re principally talking about Hispanic citizens. Here, the GOP’s problem, I would suggest, is entirely one of its own making. If a party cannot connect with and make its case to a large segment of the electorate, which actually shares many of its fundamental values (e.g., family, the sanctity of life, economic opportunity), there is something wrong with the party. (Let Obama blame or write off voters.)

The argument that “We’ve tried, but nothing works” is a cop-out. (I’m not persuaded by the argument that John McCain’s inability to attract Hispanic voters in 2008 is proof of this. McCain essentially reversed course on immigration in the campaign. Moreover, McCain couldn’t even connect with New Englanders.) In Virginia,  now Gov. Bob McDonnell told me in late 2008 that Republicans had done a poor job of explaining that it is the illegal part they object to — not the immigrant part. And, in the 2009 campaign, he went to Hispanic communities explaining why conservative positions on education, family, low taxes, reasonable regulation, crime, etc. are good for them. If Republicans tried that over an extended period of time, continued to demonstrate that they are a diverse party (Marco Rubio and other Hispanic candidates and officials help in this regard), and tamped down on the over-the-top anti-immigrant rhetoric, they might improve their standing. “We don’t know that!” critics say. True, but why not give it a shot? (Given current polling data, this might be an opportune time to start.)

The question also touches on comprehensive immigration reform. If we legalize them all, the argument goes, then they will stream to the polls and the GOP will be toast. My response is two-fold: 1) see the preceding paragraph and 2) let’s consider what would happen if many of the current immigrants were legalized. For that discussion, let’s turn to Peter’s final question:

Q.  The 2.6 million immigrants in California illegally consume hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public services each year.  They pay sales taxes—but only sales taxes.  On balance, isn’t it likely that they represent an economic drag on the entire state?  “[T]he several million illegal aliens in the state,” Victor Davis Hanson wrote recently, “might make California’s meltdown a little bit more severe than, say, Montana’s or Utah’s.” Isn’t Victor on to something?

Victor is always on to something! But as I discussed in Part 1, the picture is a bit more complicated than anti-immigration activists would have us believe. The data is mixed regarding the net cost-benefits at the state level. Moreover, there are some illegal immigrants who pay more than sales tax. Do they pay property taxes? Do they, if they’ve managed to get on a payroll, pay Social Security taxes (perhaps under a phony Social Security card)? Some do. I think that saying they act as a drag on the state goes too far. The data cited here and in Part 1 suggest that while state expenditures might be stressed, the overall economy benefits tremendously by immigrants.

Still, I’ll concede that in the short run, new, poor immigrants may use more social services than they pay for in taxes, as compared to the rest of the population. But then — Peter sees this coming — let’s figure out how to naturalize the vast majority of them and get them to start paying all their taxes into the system. Am I arguing for “amnesty”? Amnesty is a free pass. I favor allowing otherwise law-abiding immigrants who want to pay a fine, contribute their share to taxes, and go through background checks and a waiting period to legalize their status. Then they can begin to contribute fully to the coffers of California and every other state.

Comprehensive immigration reform would also entail serious border enforcement, temporary worker rules, and employer verification measures. The constant stream of “poor Mexicans” then would slow down. Then we could get down to the business of discussing appropriate levels of legal immigration and an increase in visas for skilled workers.

I come back to Peter’s basic query: Is immigration (legal and not) a significant factor in California’s mess? In my view it isn’t, especially in comparison to Californians’ enormous self-inflicted wounds (e.g., state constitutional chaos, misguided reforms, public-employee union corruption and excess). Certainly, we should should address the issue. We might get around to it if Obama ever started treating immigration reform as a serious policy matter instead of a political football.

In this post I continue my responses to Peter Robinson’s thought-provoking questions about the degree to which immigration has contributed to California’s current predicament (e.g., fiscal ruin, economic stagnation, political dysfunction). Peter’s second question concerns the political impact on the Republican party. He asks:

Q:  There’s plenty of evidence that, as Hispanics move into the middle class, they begin voting Republican, following the same pattern as previous immigrant groups. In California, though, the Hispanics that do indeed join the middle class are always hugely outnumbered as the influx of poor Mexicans continues — and, as these recent arrivals begin voting, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The state that gave us Reagan has now become dark blue. … With California out of play, the GOP stands at a permanent disadvantage in presidential politics.  Isn’t all that too high a price to pay for loose immigration policies?

Let’s break this down into legal and illegal immigration. No critic of lax efforts to cut down on voter fraud has been more ferocious than I. But, honestly, I don’t believe that there are huge numbers of illegal immigrants who flock to the polls. And if there were (as well as for other reasons, which I have amplified in other writings on Obama Justice Department), we need to clean house at the DOJ. One way to start would be to make sure the Department, contrary to the directions of Obama appointees, enforces Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to clean up their voter rolls.

But I think we’re principally talking about Hispanic citizens. Here, the GOP’s problem, I would suggest, is entirely one of its own making. If a party cannot connect with and make its case to a large segment of the electorate, which actually shares many of its fundamental values (e.g., family, the sanctity of life, economic opportunity), there is something wrong with the party. (Let Obama blame or write off voters.)

The argument that “We’ve tried, but nothing works” is a cop-out. (I’m not persuaded by the argument that John McCain’s inability to attract Hispanic voters in 2008 is proof of this. McCain essentially reversed course on immigration in the campaign. Moreover, McCain couldn’t even connect with New Englanders.) In Virginia,  now Gov. Bob McDonnell told me in late 2008 that Republicans had done a poor job of explaining that it is the illegal part they object to — not the immigrant part. And, in the 2009 campaign, he went to Hispanic communities explaining why conservative positions on education, family, low taxes, reasonable regulation, crime, etc. are good for them. If Republicans tried that over an extended period of time, continued to demonstrate that they are a diverse party (Marco Rubio and other Hispanic candidates and officials help in this regard), and tamped down on the over-the-top anti-immigrant rhetoric, they might improve their standing. “We don’t know that!” critics say. True, but why not give it a shot? (Given current polling data, this might be an opportune time to start.)

The question also touches on comprehensive immigration reform. If we legalize them all, the argument goes, then they will stream to the polls and the GOP will be toast. My response is two-fold: 1) see the preceding paragraph and 2) let’s consider what would happen if many of the current immigrants were legalized. For that discussion, let’s turn to Peter’s final question:

Q.  The 2.6 million immigrants in California illegally consume hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public services each year.  They pay sales taxes—but only sales taxes.  On balance, isn’t it likely that they represent an economic drag on the entire state?  “[T]he several million illegal aliens in the state,” Victor Davis Hanson wrote recently, “might make California’s meltdown a little bit more severe than, say, Montana’s or Utah’s.” Isn’t Victor on to something?

Victor is always on to something! But as I discussed in Part 1, the picture is a bit more complicated than anti-immigration activists would have us believe. The data is mixed regarding the net cost-benefits at the state level. Moreover, there are some illegal immigrants who pay more than sales tax. Do they pay property taxes? Do they, if they’ve managed to get on a payroll, pay Social Security taxes (perhaps under a phony Social Security card)? Some do. I think that saying they act as a drag on the state goes too far. The data cited here and in Part 1 suggest that while state expenditures might be stressed, the overall economy benefits tremendously by immigrants.

Still, I’ll concede that in the short run, new, poor immigrants may use more social services than they pay for in taxes, as compared to the rest of the population. But then — Peter sees this coming — let’s figure out how to naturalize the vast majority of them and get them to start paying all their taxes into the system. Am I arguing for “amnesty”? Amnesty is a free pass. I favor allowing otherwise law-abiding immigrants who want to pay a fine, contribute their share to taxes, and go through background checks and a waiting period to legalize their status. Then they can begin to contribute fully to the coffers of California and every other state.

Comprehensive immigration reform would also entail serious border enforcement, temporary worker rules, and employer verification measures. The constant stream of “poor Mexicans” then would slow down. Then we could get down to the business of discussing appropriate levels of legal immigration and an increase in visas for skilled workers.

I come back to Peter’s basic query: Is immigration (legal and not) a significant factor in California’s mess? In my view it isn’t, especially in comparison to Californians’ enormous self-inflicted wounds (e.g., state constitutional chaos, misguided reforms, public-employee union corruption and excess). Certainly, we should should address the issue. We might get around to it if Obama ever started treating immigration reform as a serious policy matter instead of a political football.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not going to happen: “Specifically, the smartest thing Obama could do in replacing outgoing Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel would be to pick an outsider who can address some of the obvious weaknesses his administration has. … It is critically important that Emanuel’s replacement have strong ties to the business community, a history of good relations with both parties in Congress, and the independence and integrity to be able to tell the president ‘no’ when he is wrong.”

Not going to be a good Election Day for Virginia Democrats. Three of the  four at-risk House Democrats trail GOP challengers, two by double digits. The fourth Republican trails narrowly.

Not close: “Republican Marco Rubio continues to hold an 11-point lead over independent candidate Charlie Crist in Florida’s race for the U.S. Senate. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Florida finds Rubio with 41% support, while Crist, the state’s current governor, picks up 30% of the vote. Democrat Kendrick Meek comes in third with 21%.”

Not even handpicked audiences like him. In Iowa: “Holding the latest in a series of backyard meetings with middle-class voters, Obama heard one small businessman’s fears that his tax plans could ‘strangle’ job creation. The president also fielded concerns about high unemployment and the impact of his healthcare overhaul. It was a marked contrast to the enthusiastic university crowd that greeted Obama on Tuesday in Wisconsin when he sought to fire up his youthful base of support, and showed the obstacles his Democratic Party faces in the Nov. 2 elections.”

Not only Sen. Joe Lieberman is calling for Obama to get tough on Iran: “Barack Obama’s policy to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability is under pressure from members of Congress, who argue that Washington should make clear it will consider military action unless sanctions yield swift results. … Howard Berman, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, said recently the administration had ‘months, not years’ to make sanctions work. He added that military action was preferable to accepting an Iran with nuclear weapons capability.”

Not encouraging: “One of the most remarkable aspects of Bob Woodward’s new book, ‘Obama’s Wars,’ is its portrait of a White House that has all but resigned itself to failure in Afghanistan.” In fact, it is reprehensible for the commander in chief to order young Americans into war without confidence and commitment in their mission.

Not a fan. David Brooks on Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “I can’t imagine what Murkowski is thinking. The lady must have too many admiring conversations with the mirrors in her house.” Ouch.

Not a vote of confidence from one of Soros Street’s more sympathetic observers: “Will J Street even be around in its current form in coming days, now that it is enveloped in a scandal (more of a cover-up than a crime, in the traditional Washington style)?”

Not going to happen: “Specifically, the smartest thing Obama could do in replacing outgoing Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel would be to pick an outsider who can address some of the obvious weaknesses his administration has. … It is critically important that Emanuel’s replacement have strong ties to the business community, a history of good relations with both parties in Congress, and the independence and integrity to be able to tell the president ‘no’ when he is wrong.”

Not going to be a good Election Day for Virginia Democrats. Three of the  four at-risk House Democrats trail GOP challengers, two by double digits. The fourth Republican trails narrowly.

Not close: “Republican Marco Rubio continues to hold an 11-point lead over independent candidate Charlie Crist in Florida’s race for the U.S. Senate. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Florida finds Rubio with 41% support, while Crist, the state’s current governor, picks up 30% of the vote. Democrat Kendrick Meek comes in third with 21%.”

Not even handpicked audiences like him. In Iowa: “Holding the latest in a series of backyard meetings with middle-class voters, Obama heard one small businessman’s fears that his tax plans could ‘strangle’ job creation. The president also fielded concerns about high unemployment and the impact of his healthcare overhaul. It was a marked contrast to the enthusiastic university crowd that greeted Obama on Tuesday in Wisconsin when he sought to fire up his youthful base of support, and showed the obstacles his Democratic Party faces in the Nov. 2 elections.”

Not only Sen. Joe Lieberman is calling for Obama to get tough on Iran: “Barack Obama’s policy to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability is under pressure from members of Congress, who argue that Washington should make clear it will consider military action unless sanctions yield swift results. … Howard Berman, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, said recently the administration had ‘months, not years’ to make sanctions work. He added that military action was preferable to accepting an Iran with nuclear weapons capability.”

Not encouraging: “One of the most remarkable aspects of Bob Woodward’s new book, ‘Obama’s Wars,’ is its portrait of a White House that has all but resigned itself to failure in Afghanistan.” In fact, it is reprehensible for the commander in chief to order young Americans into war without confidence and commitment in their mission.

Not a fan. David Brooks on Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “I can’t imagine what Murkowski is thinking. The lady must have too many admiring conversations with the mirrors in her house.” Ouch.

Not a vote of confidence from one of Soros Street’s more sympathetic observers: “Will J Street even be around in its current form in coming days, now that it is enveloped in a scandal (more of a cover-up than a crime, in the traditional Washington style)?”

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J Street’s Dead End

Easy prediction: the revelation that J Street has been underwritten by George Soros, who has used the anti-Semitic canard that Jews cause anti-Semitism, and a mystery woman from Hong Kong, and that it has lied about its Soros connection, will spell the end of J Street. It might limp along, but its days as a player — or wanna-be player, more precisely — are over. The Jewish press has excoriated it. Mainstream Jewish leaders are doing the same. Eli Lake, who broke the initial  story of the Soros connection, reports:

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Monday that The Times story was important because it exposed how Mr. Soros was funding J Street despite previous denials from the group. … Mr. Hoenlein said “this is further evidence of the duplicity that they have manifested all along, portraying themselves as something they are not, and engaging in attacks against others when they should have been taking care of their own house.”

More important, it has become politically radioactive. The White House wouldn’t comment on Soros Street or whether it will enjoy the same cozy relationship it did when it concealed its Soros ties. Minority Whip (soon to be Majority Leader) Eric Cantor turned up the heat:

In an interview Monday, Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and House minority whip, said: “The White House needs to disassociate itself from J Street, denounce J Street and cut off all ties.”

Mr. Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, added that “I am hopeful this revelation will now cause people to begin to ignore what they say. They are not reflecting the mainstream position of the pro-Israel community in America, nor do I think they help benefit the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

J Street’s beneficiaries, like Rep. Steve Cohen, are offering a nominal defense, but it’s hard to see others throwing themselves on Soros’s grenade.

Joel Pollak, who is running against J Street endorsee Jan Schakowsky, is calling on his opponent to give back the Soros money:

Jan Schakowsky is one of the top recipients of campaign cash from J Street, the far-left organization that opposes Israel at every opportunity. It turns out that J Street has taken $750,000 from George Soros, despite the earlier denials of J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami. And J Street took even more money–almost half of its budget–from a foreign donor in Hong Kong. The organization has lost any credibility it may have had.

Thus far this election cycle, Schakowsky has received tens of thousands of dollars from J Street–close to $50,000, according to OpenSecrets.org, and perhaps twice as much in reality. J Street has made me their #1 target in the 2010 election, because I have taken on their leaders and their misguided policies–and also because I received the endorsement of Alan Dershowitz, whom J Street attacks, among other Jewish leaders. … In February, Jan Schakowsky boasted: “I’ve been a supporter of J Street since its inception.” In June, she thanked J Street for its money. Today, it’s time for her to cut her ties to J Street and give back the cash.

How long before others do the same?

J Street operated under the guise that it was a legitimate grassroots, pro-Israel organization. Its positions have demonstrated that it is anything but pro-Israel. The Soros revelation demonstrates that it is not a genuine expression of  “liberal Zionism” (we’ll leave discussion of that oxymoron for another time). If Democrats are really concerned with the influence of shadowy money in politics, cutting ties and returning the dirty Soros Street loot is the best way to prove their concern for the health of our democratic process. And you don’t need a law that tramples on the First Amendment to do it. Just give back the cash.

Easy prediction: the revelation that J Street has been underwritten by George Soros, who has used the anti-Semitic canard that Jews cause anti-Semitism, and a mystery woman from Hong Kong, and that it has lied about its Soros connection, will spell the end of J Street. It might limp along, but its days as a player — or wanna-be player, more precisely — are over. The Jewish press has excoriated it. Mainstream Jewish leaders are doing the same. Eli Lake, who broke the initial  story of the Soros connection, reports:

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Monday that The Times story was important because it exposed how Mr. Soros was funding J Street despite previous denials from the group. … Mr. Hoenlein said “this is further evidence of the duplicity that they have manifested all along, portraying themselves as something they are not, and engaging in attacks against others when they should have been taking care of their own house.”

More important, it has become politically radioactive. The White House wouldn’t comment on Soros Street or whether it will enjoy the same cozy relationship it did when it concealed its Soros ties. Minority Whip (soon to be Majority Leader) Eric Cantor turned up the heat:

In an interview Monday, Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and House minority whip, said: “The White House needs to disassociate itself from J Street, denounce J Street and cut off all ties.”

Mr. Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, added that “I am hopeful this revelation will now cause people to begin to ignore what they say. They are not reflecting the mainstream position of the pro-Israel community in America, nor do I think they help benefit the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

J Street’s beneficiaries, like Rep. Steve Cohen, are offering a nominal defense, but it’s hard to see others throwing themselves on Soros’s grenade.

Joel Pollak, who is running against J Street endorsee Jan Schakowsky, is calling on his opponent to give back the Soros money:

Jan Schakowsky is one of the top recipients of campaign cash from J Street, the far-left organization that opposes Israel at every opportunity. It turns out that J Street has taken $750,000 from George Soros, despite the earlier denials of J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami. And J Street took even more money–almost half of its budget–from a foreign donor in Hong Kong. The organization has lost any credibility it may have had.

Thus far this election cycle, Schakowsky has received tens of thousands of dollars from J Street–close to $50,000, according to OpenSecrets.org, and perhaps twice as much in reality. J Street has made me their #1 target in the 2010 election, because I have taken on their leaders and their misguided policies–and also because I received the endorsement of Alan Dershowitz, whom J Street attacks, among other Jewish leaders. … In February, Jan Schakowsky boasted: “I’ve been a supporter of J Street since its inception.” In June, she thanked J Street for its money. Today, it’s time for her to cut her ties to J Street and give back the cash.

How long before others do the same?

J Street operated under the guise that it was a legitimate grassroots, pro-Israel organization. Its positions have demonstrated that it is anything but pro-Israel. The Soros revelation demonstrates that it is not a genuine expression of  “liberal Zionism” (we’ll leave discussion of that oxymoron for another time). If Democrats are really concerned with the influence of shadowy money in politics, cutting ties and returning the dirty Soros Street loot is the best way to prove their concern for the health of our democratic process. And you don’t need a law that tramples on the First Amendment to do it. Just give back the cash.

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Madam Secretary, Do You Care About Human Rights?

The Obama administration fancies itself as a defender of human rights. Obama spoke quite a lot about his commitment to human rights and democracy at the UN last week. Well, here’s a test for the president and his secretary of state.

When last we left the story of Western Sahara, the Polisario Front had nabbed the former inspector general of police, Salma Mustafa Ould Sidi Mouloud, who had the temerity to leave the camps where Sahwaris are warehoused and speak out in favor of the autonomy plan put forth by Morocco. Human rights activists appealed to the UN (good luck with that). Yesterday, Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, (R-Fla.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) sent a letter to Hillary Clinton, urging her “to work to seek the immediate release of Mr. Sidi Mouloud.” They explain: “He, and everyone in the refugee camps, should be allowed the right to movement, freedom of speech, and liberty.”

Well here’s the Obami’s chance to prove their attention to human rights and multilateral diplomatic skills. Will Clinton do anything more that bear witness to the abduction and silencing of a critic of the Polisario Front?

The congressmen remind Clinton that Sidi Mouloud has been charged with “espionage” and “treason.” In other words, unless international pressure is applied swiftly, his prospects for survival and release are dim.

The Obama administration fancies itself as a defender of human rights. Obama spoke quite a lot about his commitment to human rights and democracy at the UN last week. Well, here’s a test for the president and his secretary of state.

When last we left the story of Western Sahara, the Polisario Front had nabbed the former inspector general of police, Salma Mustafa Ould Sidi Mouloud, who had the temerity to leave the camps where Sahwaris are warehoused and speak out in favor of the autonomy plan put forth by Morocco. Human rights activists appealed to the UN (good luck with that). Yesterday, Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, (R-Fla.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) sent a letter to Hillary Clinton, urging her “to work to seek the immediate release of Mr. Sidi Mouloud.” They explain: “He, and everyone in the refugee camps, should be allowed the right to movement, freedom of speech, and liberty.”

Well here’s the Obami’s chance to prove their attention to human rights and multilateral diplomatic skills. Will Clinton do anything more that bear witness to the abduction and silencing of a critic of the Polisario Front?

The congressmen remind Clinton that Sidi Mouloud has been charged with “espionage” and “treason.” In other words, unless international pressure is applied swiftly, his prospects for survival and release are dim.

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Tim Kaine Struggles as Dems Face Tsunami

At one time, Tim Kaine had a promising career. He was on Obama’s short list for VP and was mentioned as a possible Cabinet member. But instead, he was slotted as the head of the DNC and now watches as his party’s fortunes go down the drain. It’s hardly his fault; he’ll be no more responsible for the Democrats’ losses than Michael Steele will be for the GOP’s gains. But still, he makes a hapless spokesman for his party. And it is obvious that his task is to defend Obama, not to help his struggling congressional and Senate candidates.

On Candy Crowley’s State of the Union, he didn’t really have an explanation as to why so many Democrats are running against ObamaCare. The best he could muster was a plea to stop doing it:

KAINE: Well, Candy, I travel all over the country. I guess I’ve been in about 42 states, and most Democrats that I see on the trail are very proud of the accomplishment and they’re talking about it.

But you’re right, some, particularly House members in districts that, you know, can often get gerrymandered and become tough districts are distancing themselves from the health care bill. I don’t tell people how to run their races, but I’ve been on a ballot seven times and won seven races, and in my experience, you ought to be proud of what you’re doing and promote the accomplishments.

Now, obviously, folks who voted against health care, they’re going to talk about why. But I think for the Democratic Party, generally, this significant achievement for the uninsured, for people who have been abused by insurance company policies, for small businesses, for seniors, is something that we should be very proud of and we should be talking about.

I think he means that those in unsafe seats can’t win by defending their votes but that they should take one for the team. Then he struggled with this one:

CROWLEY: The Democrats have argued that because Republicans want to extend them for everyone, they are standing in the way of extending them for middle-class voters. Can’t you say the exact same thing about those 30-plus Democrats in the House and a handful of senators, all Democrats, who also think that even the wealthy should have their tax cuts stay in place? Aren’t they also standing in the way and holding middle-class taxes hostage?

KAINE: Well, it’s not standing in the way yet. We’re still in the debate and the dialogue place, and then we’re going to get to, eventually, having to vote. And I think that the comment that the speaker made in the clip that you showed is a good one, which is, if there’s uniform agreement — and there is — that we should extend tax cuts to middle-class folks and small businesses, then why do we need to wait until we fight out the other battle to go ahead and do what everybody agrees needs to be done?

CROWLEY: My point is that–

KAINE: I think uniform commitment by both Republicans and Democrats is important to act on, so we can give the middle class and small businesses tax relief.

CROWLEY: I guess my point is, you are slamming Republicans for holding the middle class hostage while they fight for the wealthy. Can’t the same be said for those Democrats who are now agreeing with Republicans on this extension?

KAINE: Well, they’re certainly expressing their preference. Now, I don’t think they’re expressing a preference to do exactly what the Republicans want to do. What the Republicans want to do is extend these tax cuts, make them permanent to the wealthy, and the CBO has estimated that would double the deficit projections going forward for the next couple of decades. This is from a Republican Party that’s been griping about deficits.

What I think the Democrats have been doing, that number that you mentioned, has been talking about some kind of a temporary extension for those at the top end. Obviously, this is going to be a hot debate in Congress between now and the end of the congressional session, but there isn’t any reason why if everyone agrees that tax cuts should go to middle class and small businesses, we can make that happen.

OK, she won that round. The Democrats’ class-warfare gambit doesn’t work, what with 38 Democratic House members and numerous Senate Democrats agreeing it’s dumb to raise taxes on anyone in a recession.

You see the problem. Kaine is Obama’s chosen chairman and owes his position and loyalty to the White House. But that’s not much help to Democratic candidates this year, who need to figure out how they can distance themselves from the president and his toxic agenda. As for Kaine, his mediocre tenure as Virginia governor looks positively brilliant in comparison with his current performance. Well, he’s just one of many Democrats to find their careers imperiled by Obama.

At one time, Tim Kaine had a promising career. He was on Obama’s short list for VP and was mentioned as a possible Cabinet member. But instead, he was slotted as the head of the DNC and now watches as his party’s fortunes go down the drain. It’s hardly his fault; he’ll be no more responsible for the Democrats’ losses than Michael Steele will be for the GOP’s gains. But still, he makes a hapless spokesman for his party. And it is obvious that his task is to defend Obama, not to help his struggling congressional and Senate candidates.

On Candy Crowley’s State of the Union, he didn’t really have an explanation as to why so many Democrats are running against ObamaCare. The best he could muster was a plea to stop doing it:

KAINE: Well, Candy, I travel all over the country. I guess I’ve been in about 42 states, and most Democrats that I see on the trail are very proud of the accomplishment and they’re talking about it.

But you’re right, some, particularly House members in districts that, you know, can often get gerrymandered and become tough districts are distancing themselves from the health care bill. I don’t tell people how to run their races, but I’ve been on a ballot seven times and won seven races, and in my experience, you ought to be proud of what you’re doing and promote the accomplishments.

Now, obviously, folks who voted against health care, they’re going to talk about why. But I think for the Democratic Party, generally, this significant achievement for the uninsured, for people who have been abused by insurance company policies, for small businesses, for seniors, is something that we should be very proud of and we should be talking about.

I think he means that those in unsafe seats can’t win by defending their votes but that they should take one for the team. Then he struggled with this one:

CROWLEY: The Democrats have argued that because Republicans want to extend them for everyone, they are standing in the way of extending them for middle-class voters. Can’t you say the exact same thing about those 30-plus Democrats in the House and a handful of senators, all Democrats, who also think that even the wealthy should have their tax cuts stay in place? Aren’t they also standing in the way and holding middle-class taxes hostage?

KAINE: Well, it’s not standing in the way yet. We’re still in the debate and the dialogue place, and then we’re going to get to, eventually, having to vote. And I think that the comment that the speaker made in the clip that you showed is a good one, which is, if there’s uniform agreement — and there is — that we should extend tax cuts to middle-class folks and small businesses, then why do we need to wait until we fight out the other battle to go ahead and do what everybody agrees needs to be done?

CROWLEY: My point is that–

KAINE: I think uniform commitment by both Republicans and Democrats is important to act on, so we can give the middle class and small businesses tax relief.

CROWLEY: I guess my point is, you are slamming Republicans for holding the middle class hostage while they fight for the wealthy. Can’t the same be said for those Democrats who are now agreeing with Republicans on this extension?

KAINE: Well, they’re certainly expressing their preference. Now, I don’t think they’re expressing a preference to do exactly what the Republicans want to do. What the Republicans want to do is extend these tax cuts, make them permanent to the wealthy, and the CBO has estimated that would double the deficit projections going forward for the next couple of decades. This is from a Republican Party that’s been griping about deficits.

What I think the Democrats have been doing, that number that you mentioned, has been talking about some kind of a temporary extension for those at the top end. Obviously, this is going to be a hot debate in Congress between now and the end of the congressional session, but there isn’t any reason why if everyone agrees that tax cuts should go to middle class and small businesses, we can make that happen.

OK, she won that round. The Democrats’ class-warfare gambit doesn’t work, what with 38 Democratic House members and numerous Senate Democrats agreeing it’s dumb to raise taxes on anyone in a recession.

You see the problem. Kaine is Obama’s chosen chairman and owes his position and loyalty to the White House. But that’s not much help to Democratic candidates this year, who need to figure out how they can distance themselves from the president and his toxic agenda. As for Kaine, his mediocre tenure as Virginia governor looks positively brilliant in comparison with his current performance. Well, he’s just one of many Democrats to find their careers imperiled by Obama.

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Trouble in VA-11

My congressman in the Virginia 11th district, Gerry Connolly, is having a tough time with the White House. TPM reports:

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told TPM pointedly he wants at least a temporary extension, saying that he’s on the same page as former OMB director Peter Orszag. He said it “could do some harm” if the tax rates go up when the tax cuts expire as scheduled.

I told Connolly that the White House cited his support for extending the cuts temporarily as a wrinkle in their big plans. “They said that? I sure don’t want to complicate anything for anybody,” he told me.

He added, “A strong majority of the caucus is of the point of view to keep them for $250,000 and under, and they will stay there. Ours is the minority view, even though we’re gaining some.”

Connolly is in a jam. He’s blindly followed Obama on his leftward quest, eschewing the middle-of-the-road and pro-business line that kept Republican Tom Davis in office for 14 years. Now he is struggling with his leadership and the White House, which seems to think it’s not all that important that the Democrats hang on in VA-11.

What is Connolly’s message now — “I have no influence with my far-left leaders, but my heart is in the right place?” And what’s his excuse for not fighting them on cap-and-trade, the stimulus plan, and ObamaCare? You can see why the district is in play.

My congressman in the Virginia 11th district, Gerry Connolly, is having a tough time with the White House. TPM reports:

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told TPM pointedly he wants at least a temporary extension, saying that he’s on the same page as former OMB director Peter Orszag. He said it “could do some harm” if the tax rates go up when the tax cuts expire as scheduled.

I told Connolly that the White House cited his support for extending the cuts temporarily as a wrinkle in their big plans. “They said that? I sure don’t want to complicate anything for anybody,” he told me.

He added, “A strong majority of the caucus is of the point of view to keep them for $250,000 and under, and they will stay there. Ours is the minority view, even though we’re gaining some.”

Connolly is in a jam. He’s blindly followed Obama on his leftward quest, eschewing the middle-of-the-road and pro-business line that kept Republican Tom Davis in office for 14 years. Now he is struggling with his leadership and the White House, which seems to think it’s not all that important that the Democrats hang on in VA-11.

What is Connolly’s message now — “I have no influence with my far-left leaders, but my heart is in the right place?” And what’s his excuse for not fighting them on cap-and-trade, the stimulus plan, and ObamaCare? You can see why the district is in play.

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Obama Decides It’s Time to Emote

Obama is so desperate to regain his popularity that he’s even emoting — kind of. Sam Youngman reports:

President Obama told a small crowd in Fairfax, Va., on Monday that he would stand in the hot sun with them and “feel their pain.”

He was meeting with a Fairfax family for a backyard discussion on the economy in an effort to improve voter perceptions about his empathy with ordinary people.

Unlike former President Clinton, who famously felt the pain of voters during a recession, Obama has not connected emotionally with voters over their worries and fears.

So on his list of things to do: show some emotional connection to the American people. It’s been a worry for some time among Democrats that his cool demeanor and nasty habit of demeaning Americans makes it, well, hard for voters to think he’s all that interested in their concerns:

Democratic strategists worry the president is seen as too aloof, and that this gets in the way of the administration’s message that the economy is slowly but surely recovering. … Democratic strategists worry this disconnect will lead to losses for Democrats at the polls in November, when the party fears it could lose control of the House and Senate.

“The problem is he doesn’t seem like he’s always trying to be empathetic,” said one Democratic strategist.

So now he’s dialing up the emotions.

Not unlike the “charm offensive” with American Jews, when the president’s policies fall flat he decides to persuade the skeptics that he really, honestly, truly is on their side. Granted, “politicians” and “sincerity” generally don’t belong in the same sentence, but Obama’s play-acting is so transparent and so obviously at odds with his personality and policy choices that it’s hard to believe he’s helping his cause much. It does however remind us that Bill Clinton was, as Holly Golightly’s friend put it, a “real phony.”

Obama is so desperate to regain his popularity that he’s even emoting — kind of. Sam Youngman reports:

President Obama told a small crowd in Fairfax, Va., on Monday that he would stand in the hot sun with them and “feel their pain.”

He was meeting with a Fairfax family for a backyard discussion on the economy in an effort to improve voter perceptions about his empathy with ordinary people.

Unlike former President Clinton, who famously felt the pain of voters during a recession, Obama has not connected emotionally with voters over their worries and fears.

So on his list of things to do: show some emotional connection to the American people. It’s been a worry for some time among Democrats that his cool demeanor and nasty habit of demeaning Americans makes it, well, hard for voters to think he’s all that interested in their concerns:

Democratic strategists worry the president is seen as too aloof, and that this gets in the way of the administration’s message that the economy is slowly but surely recovering. … Democratic strategists worry this disconnect will lead to losses for Democrats at the polls in November, when the party fears it could lose control of the House and Senate.

“The problem is he doesn’t seem like he’s always trying to be empathetic,” said one Democratic strategist.

So now he’s dialing up the emotions.

Not unlike the “charm offensive” with American Jews, when the president’s policies fall flat he decides to persuade the skeptics that he really, honestly, truly is on their side. Granted, “politicians” and “sincerity” generally don’t belong in the same sentence, but Obama’s play-acting is so transparent and so obviously at odds with his personality and policy choices that it’s hard to believe he’s helping his cause much. It does however remind us that Bill Clinton was, as Holly Golightly’s friend put it, a “real phony.”

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