Is declared the winner at the time of the polls’ closing. He is the personification of the Tea Party candidate — an outsider and a conservative. He will instantly become a GOP superstar. He’s said he’s not running for anything else. We’ll see. VP? Not out of the question by any stretch of the imagination.
Rep. Mark Kirk is stretching out his lead in Illinois. The last time his opponent led in a poll was October 11.
Pat Toomey is finishing strong in Pennsylvania.
If Obama is thinking of dumping Joe Biden, he can select Katie Couric as his VP. She sounds just like him: “Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls ‘this great unwashed middle of the country’ in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.” Boston is the middle of the country?
Obama’s human rights policy is baffling. “On Monday, the Obama administration waived sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, paving the way for new military cooperation with four countries with poor human rights records — despite their use of underage troops. … So the Obama administration has determined that deepening military relationships with brutal dictatorships and unsavory regimes is the best way to reform them? That seems like a pretty big shift in policy. It still remains unclear what military assistance the United States actually plans to give to countries like Sudan, Chad, and Yemen, as well as how it will use its engagement to protect child soldiers.”
Rudy Giuliani (after one of the more bizarrely inept campaigns in recent memory) is considering another presidential run? I suppose this time he would compete before the Florida campaign.
Released from the hospital, Carly Fiorina is returning to the campaign. The race is still close, but no poll has shown her ahead.
If Obama is meeting with liberal bloggers less than a week before the election, the Dems are in a heap of trouble.
John Bolton sure is sounding presidential: “Dramatic developments in Europe in the past few weeks have graphically demonstrated the importance of America’s upcoming November 2 elections. Coming midway through President Obama’s term, there is little doubt these elections constitute a referendum on his philosophy, policies and performance. Any U.S. citizens who doubt the significance of their impending votes need only contemplate Europe to see the consequences of further pursuing the Obama agenda.”
Joe Biden was apparently selected as Obama’s running mate for his experience and foreign policy gravitas. It is only in Washington D.C. that longevity can be confused with wisdom; Biden has plenty of the former and precious little of the latter, having been wrong on almost every national security issue for the past 30 years.
But as things would work out, Biden’s running mate, known for his charisma and political prowess, is proving to be a bore and politically toxic. So the job of rallying the base for the midterms falls to Biden. As this report explains:
Now, at 67, in an election season when his party feels beaten down, when voters are angry and afraid, when the cool, cerebral detachment that seemed so appealing in Mr. Obama in 2008 is raising questions about whether he can “connect,” Mr. Biden is trying to fill the void — even as strategists in both parties see Democrats’ prospects dimming.
Mr. Biden has been zipping around the country to places like Columbia, S.C., and hard-hit Rust Belt cities like Akron, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, while Mr. Obama has been confining himself largely to friendlier settings like college campuses and big-dollar fund-raisers.
Unfortunately, Biden isn’t much better at politicking than he is at foreign policy. He tells a crowd that they are the dullest he’s ever encountered. His “recovery summer” blather is now mocked by pundits and political opponents. But just as no one ever really votes for the vice president in presidential elections, no one in the midterms really pays too much attention to the VP:
“Democrats have it in their heads that he is still more popular in a lot of blue-collar districts where Obama is having a toxic effect,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “To most voters, a Biden campaign visit doesn’t make President Obama disappear.”
For all his troubles, Biden may be traded to the State Department for Hillary Clinton in 2012. And then we can really see all that Biden knows about foreign policy. Well, he probably wouldn’t be any worse than the current secretary.
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.
Thanks a lot, Harry. A Chris Coon spokesman: “Chris is not anyone’s pet and will not be a rubber stamp for anyone.”
Thanks to the president, who decided his October surprise would be a class-warfare vote on the Bush tax cuts (and the threat that the speaker would be dethroned), Nancy Pelosi has now opened the door to a full extension of those cuts. Minority Leader John Boehner should send her flowers.
Thanks a lot, Joe. The VP lectures the liberal base to step it up. In case they didn’t know, there is much at stake.
Thankfully, every school district in the country would want her: “As soon as it became clear that D.C. voters had rejected incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in favor of D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, the talk of the town turned to someone not on Tuesday’s primary ballot: D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Because Rhee’s effort to reform D.C. schools has been so closely tied to the Fenty administration, and because the controversial chancellor has clashed with Gray, speculation is rampant about whether Rhee will stay or go.”
Obama says the poor should be thanking him: “President Barack Obama, responding to a report that the poverty rate in 2009 was at its highest since 1994, on Thursday said his economic stimulus spending has kept millions of Americans out of poverty.”
Cliff May argues that American Muslims should be thankful they live in such a tolerant and inclusive society. Read the whole thing.
Thanks to about 1,600 voters (Ayotte’s margin in the primary), it looks like Republicans will keep the New Hampshire Senate seat. “The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Ayotte picking up 51% of the vote, while Hodes, a congressman, draws support from 44%, his best showing to date.”
In 2008, voters had a choice between two senators. In our entire history only two senators before Obama, Warren Harding and JFK, have won the presidency. We’ve never had a face-off between two senators (JFK beat VP Richard Nixon, Harding beat Ohio Gov. James Cox). Perhaps there is a reason. After all, senators aren’t responsible for much of anything. John McCain was in no position to make the case about executive experience in the 2008 race, but there sure is a powerful argument that we shouldn’t do this again — that is, elect someone with zero executive experience.
Granted, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has a huge vested interest in making this argument, but he’s nevertheless right when he asserts that chief executives of states can’t pull what Obama has:
When Obama entered office, he inherited a budget deficit that reflected the toxic combination of recession, bailouts and runaway entitlement programs. But rather than getting the government’s finances under control, Obama and his allies in Congress poured gasoline on the fire with trillion-dollar boondoggles. …
As the governor of a state that, like most others, has been facing recession-driven budget shortfalls recently, I understand the challenges in front of the president. What I don’t understand is his refusal to do anything about it. During my two terms in Minnesota, we balanced every biennial budget without raising taxes. We set priorities and cut spending. As the economy continues to struggle, more challenges lie ahead for both federal and state governments.
He proceeds to give Obama a summary of Executive Leadership 101 (e.g., set priorities, establish two-tiered entitlement programs so newer works get less generous benefits).
Whether it is Pawlenty or some other candidate who captures the nomination, it may be high time to hire someone who’s run something, turned a profit, maintained a payroll, balanced a budget, or hired and fired people. There is something terribly adolescent about Obama — an infatuation with himself and with pretty words, a lack of decisiveness, an inability to make tough choices, and an unwillingness to take responsibility for his own actions. By 2012, the country may be ready — desperate, even — for a grown-up executive.
Sally Quinn thinks Hillary Clinton has done a swell job. Actually, it sounds like she’s nominating Hillary for Girl Scout of the year (my observations in brackets):
Clinton has done an incredible job as secretary of state. [No, argument there. It's incredible we could have annoyed so many allies and come up with no viable plan to keep Iran from going nuclear.] First of all, she has worked harder than anyone should ever be expected to. ["Hard work" is the sort of compliment liberals pay themselves for good intentions and poor results.] She has managed to do the impossible: She is the ambassador of the United States to the world [Doesn't every secretary of state do this?], maintaining her credibility [Do we think the Brits, Israelis, Hondurans, not to mention our enemies, find her credible?] while playing the bad guy to President Obama’s good guy, such as with North Korea [How bizarre is it that Obama plays "good guy" to the world's largest gulag?], Iran and Israel [According to polls, only a few percent of Israelis think he's the "good guy"], and still looking good. She has been a true team player. If Clinton is dissatisfied with her role, you would never know it. She has been loyal and supportive to the president and has maintained a good relationship with him and with others in the White House. [Is any of this extraordinary?] If she is being left out of the policymaking [Yes, not really doing her job is a drag], or being sent on trips to keep her out of town, she has not shown it. She is cheerful, thoughtful, serious and diligent. [Clean, modest in dress, and polite too? Good golly, imagine describing Henry Kissinger or George Shultz or any other grown-up secretary of state in such terms.] There are no horror stories about her coming out of the State Department. [One would have to have ideas and be influential to make enemies] Most notable, though, is that Bill Clinton has not been the problem that so many anticipated. He has been supportive of her and of Obama, and he has stayed out of the limelight and been discreet about his own life. [Excuse me, but is "keeping husband out of scandal sheets" an accomplishment worth touting?]
OK, there’s not a single thing Hillary has done that is deserving of praise. So Quinn thinks she needs a promotion to VP. No, no, it’s easy:
After the president announced the switch, majorities in both houses of Congress would have to confirm Clinton to her new position, following the rules laid out in the 25th Amendment. She could then immediately begin campaigning for Obama for 2012, and she would also have at least two years in the White House as vice president to give her unassailable experience, clout and credibility. For his part, Biden would simply need Senate confirmation to get to work in Foggy Bottom.
Thunk. I’m reasonably certain that as inept and ham-handed as the White House has become, there is no one with the nerve to suggest this to Obama, nor a single senator who’d want to rubber-stamp such a harebrained idea.
Forget Hillary for a moment. Is Quinn serious, or is this an entry in a “Write a column so silly, not even Maureen Dowd could come up with it” contest? If it’s the latter, it’s sheer genius.
Last November, which seems like a lifetime ago, in the context of anti-terror measures, a sharp observer spotted a common thread that connected Obama to his attorney general. Of Eric Holder, she remarked:
The dispassion, the self-reverence, the blindness of the man, are marvelous to behold, and so perfectly reflect the president he so perfectly serves. “Neutral and detached” people shall “understand the reasons why” he made those decisions, shall see he has left “the politics out of it,” and shall recognize what’s right–something the rest of us, benighted and bellicose souls that we are, have never managed to do with respect to the disposition of those committing mass murders of Americans in their ongoing war against our civilization.
It is more true today in the wake of excising “jihadist” and “Islamic fundamentalist” from our lexicon. Indeed, it extends to every area of governance. The public doesn’t appreciate the gift of ObamaCare. The voters fail to understand that “costs” (that would be taxes) are needed to enact a massive cap-and-trade scheme. The Jews don’t comprehend that Obama has their interests at heart — go self-reflect, he instructs them. And he tut-tuts Jewish leaders who don’t “get” how his master plan for peace in the Middle East is unfolding. He judges, evaluates, and criticizes us — remaining above the fray.
Even Maureen Dowd stumbles upon the truth: “President Obama’s bloodless quality about people and events, the emotional detachment that his aides said allowed him to see things more clearly, has instead obscured his vision.” (And rendered him ineffective and increasingly unlikable.) Robert Reich similarly edges to the core problem:
The man who electrified the nation with his speech at the Democratic National Convention of 2004 put it to sleep tonight. … [H]e failed tonight to rise to the occasion. Is it because he’s not getting good advice, or because he’s psychologically incapable of expressing the moral outrage the nation feels?
When Obama drops the mask of detachment and reveals true emotion, it is for himself. What spurred the angry denunciation of Rev. Wright? Wright’s personal attack on him. What gets his goat? The media, which impose a 24/7 news cycle on him. What gets his blood boiling? The “insult” he perceives to him when Israel dared to announce a building project while his VP was visiting. Why was Obama annoyed with Daniel Ortega? He implied that Obama was responsible for the Bay of Pigs when he was but a child.
So we have a curious president — cold and distant when it comes to dangers from foreign foes, economic catastrophe, and environmental disaster, which wreck havoc on our lives, but filled with outrage at the slightest offense to himself. Now Bill Clinton was and is a renowned self-pitier. But at least he had the political smarts and acting skills (and to be fair, a real emotional connection to his fellow citizens) to project empathy and to tell us that he felt our pain. Obama can’t muster that. The lion’s share of his concern and emotional energy is reserved for himself. As his presidency comes crashing down around him, his self-concern will grow, the yelps of self-pity will intensify, and the complaints about dull-witted Americans and duplicitous opponents will multiply.
Another Supreme Court nomination is in the works, so it’s time for another round of inanity on court appointments. The latest dose of condescension comes from Peter Beinart, who thinks it’s time for not just a woman but “a mom with kids.” (Is three better than two? What about a single mom? A divorced dad with sole custody?) Why does this matter — so they can decide cases in favor of women? No, really: he wants a woman justice “because female justices, on average, will be more sensitive to the problems women face. Since they will have likely encountered gender bias themselves, they will be more likely to support government action to remedy it.” In other words, they will violate their oath of office and give the gals a break. And then there is the old standby: we need more tokenism:
It’s not just that they may alleviate gender injustice through their rulings; they may alleviate it through their example as well. Just as Barack Obama empowers African-American kids to believe that there are no limits to what they can achieve, female Supreme Court justices send the same message to young women. As anyone who has ever watched their daughter eye a Barbie Doll can attest, role models matter.
Not Sarah Palin as VP, mind you. And Madeleine Albright, Condi Rice, and Hillary Clinton don’t suffice. Neither do the two women currently on the Court. More role models! But what’s with the kids? Beinart explains it’s the role models (again):
It’s important because otherwise, the message you’re sending young women is that they can achieve professionally, or they can have a family, but they can’t do both. And without quite realizing it, that is the message our government has been sending. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of American women over the age of 40 have children. But look at the women who have held Cabinet posts in the last three presidential administrations. Only two of the Clinton administration’s five female Cabinet secretaries had kids. (Attorney General Janet Reno got her job only after two women with children, Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood, were dinged for hiring illegal immigrants as nannies). In the Bush administration, the figure was two of seven. In the Obama administration, so far, it is two of four. And if Obama chooses Elena Kagan for the High Court, the figure there will be one of three.
There’s nothing wrong, of course, with appointing childless women (or men, for that matter) to high office. But our government is actually doing a pretty good job of providing role models for the 20 percent of American women who don’t want kids. Where it’s failing is in providing role models for the 80 percent that do.
But Sandra Day O’Connor had three children. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has two children. Don’t they count? Well, maybe they have to be young. So what we need is a woman justice with at least two children under the age of 10 so that other women with children under the age of 10 will know that they too can be on the Supreme Court. Thunk.
Beinart is a smart fellow. So maybe this is a sly parody of the rampant racial and gender preferences that have overtaken Supreme Court selections. They have turned these into embarrassing “diversity” rackets in which the White House searches for the person most likely to tip the scales for this or that interest group or to bolster the self-esteem of some key demographic. So if Beinart meant to show up all that and urge us to get back to the old-fashioned notion of merit, then bravo! If not, he should be embarrassed.
Joe Biden’s Israel trip has turned into a semi-fiasco, as David has noted. He was a poor substitute, the Israelis thought, for Obama. Then he condemned the Israelis’ decision to build 1,600 homes in their nation’s capital:
“I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem,” Biden, currently in Israel, said in a statement. “The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”
“We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them,” Biden continued. “This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict.”
Biden showed up an hour and a half late for dinner tonight at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence, the pool reporter Janine Zacharia reported, suggesting the reason was U.S. consultations over the Interior Ministry’s housing announcement today. Biden and Netanyahu “took no questions,” Zacharia wrote. “In fact nobody took any questions all day.”
Well, that’s pretty much par for the course. Obama wanted to focus on settlements? Well, that’s what the U.S. and Israel are now discussing at high decibels in a very public way – during what was supposed to be a fence-mending visit.
And notice the language Biden employed: “condemn.” A Capitol Hill Republican leadership adviser sends this keen observation:
What kind of language is this? Isn’t “condemn” reserved for things like beating dissidents, or even terror attacks? Whatever you think of the decision, the Obama administration couldn’t have said they felt it undermined the peace process, were “very disappointed,” saw it as “a step backward” or something like that?
A quick search of the White House website shows that in June, Gibbs said Obama “condemned the violence” in Iran.
In May, Obama released a statement on Aung San Suu Kyi, saying, “I strongly condemn her house arrest and detention, which have also been condemned around the world.”
The same month, Obama “strongly condemn[ed]” a North Korean nuclear test and missile launch.
In July, Obama said, “I strongly condemn the attacks that occurred this morning in Jakarta.”
The October bombings in Baghdad prompted Obama to say, “I strongly condemn these outrageous attacks on the Iraqi people…”
Last month, we had this: “The United States and the European Union condemn the continuing human rights violations in Iran since the June 12 election.”
The adviser wonders whether Obama and company really think a housing complex is ”on the same plane as all these things that rightly deserved condemnation.” In Obama’s skewed vision, it seems so. For this crowd, allies are fair game for vitriol, but diplomatic niceties take priority over criticism of despots.
Bashing Israel, frequently and publicly, is what passes for smart diplomacy by the Obami – as is sending the VP in the president’s place (in contrast to Obama’s visits to the “Muslim World” to deliver his fractured version of Middle East history) and converting a housing issue into a nasty public spat.
In this, Biden and the rest of the Obama team have made clear, in case there were any doubt, that there is little reason why Israelis should rely on, or have confidence in, the American negotiating team. And if “proximity talks” require the presence of a trusted interlocutor to visit with both sides and probe for common agreement, we can imagine those talks will be perfectly useless, and indeed, another counterproductive exercise in raising expectations and deflecting attention from the real issue. That, by the way, is not housing complexes. It is the refusal of the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors to recognize the Jewish state. Until that happens, and until the Palestinians definitively repudiate terrorism and establish a state with functioning institutions, the smart diplomats are spinning their wheels. When they aren’t inflaming the situation, that is.
Colin Powell was an enthusiastic backer of Obama’s presidential candidacy. Asked on Face the Nation if he regrets it — the shared assumption being that he might, because Obama’s presidency has been a bust so far — Powell insisted that he didn’t regret a thing. But “I’m afraid he put too much on the plate for the American people to absorb at one time.” And on national security:
He admitted he was “surprised” by the lack of coordination among different agencies in dealing with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the Christmas Day bombing attempt of an airliner.
“Should he have been given his Miranda rights either after 90 minutes or 15 hours? The story kept changing,” Powell said. “I would have thought after all these years we would have had a process in place – either in the previous administration or in this administration – that when you get somebody like that, we all know how to respond and how to interrogate him, or not interrogate him. But he’s in jail. He’s facing trial. I don’t think it will be a difficult trial to handle. And also he’s still talking. They found other ways to interrogate him.”
Well, that’s Powell for you — as Max memorably said when the general endorsed Obama, a bit “incoherent” in his rationale. Powell’s reasons for endorsing Obama were never all that compelling. But now that Obama has proved to be none of the things Powell and his co-validators claimed (not moderate, not competent, not post-racial), what’s the general going to say?
Powell’s not alone, of course. There were those Republicans (Powell included) who claimed that they couldn’t vote for John McCain because his VP choice showed such poor judgment and they couldn’t bear the thought of such a person just a heartbeat from the Oval Office. Despite Biden’s gaffe-a-thon and Obama’s frequent disdain for his own VP, we’ve seen no mea culpas on that front. Then there were those who proclaimed Obama’s fiscal moderation and careful approach to governance. Despite the spending jag and the serial extremism of one left-wing agenda item after another, we haven’t heard many recantations on that front. And what of those who were convinced Obama would be a stalwart defender of Israel and tough on the mullahs? They sure went out on a limb, only to be proved tragically gullible. (Or are we to believe that “This was all predictable from the day Obama won the election. Only innocents thought otherwise.” Oh, really?)
The pundits and pols who vouched for Obama are in a bind. Maybe that’s why you hear such wailing that America is ungovernable and too partisan. It can’t be Obama’s fault, after all — that would mean that Obama’s supporters were badly snookered. It’s never easy to say you were wrong, especially when the stakes are so high.
One former VP, a former (and current) presidential aspirant, and a future rock star came to the CPAC gathering today. Two of them aren’t running for president in 2012, and you can bet the other is.
The star of CPAC continued his rise in the Republican Party on Thursday with a story about his American Dream. Marco Rubio, who has surged to near-even with Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, used his speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bash President Barack Obama, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter and, by connection, the centrist Crist.
Rubio suggested that Crist would be another senator in the mold of Specter (D-Pa.), who in the face of a tough reelection last year fled the GOP to become a Democrat.
“We already have one Arlen Specter,” Rubio said, adding: “We already have one Democratic Party.”
Ouch. But it’s clear that his invocation of the American dream, his staunch position on the war against Islamic fascists, and his full-throated conservative economic message are a hit with the base, and will likely transfer comfortably to a general-election race.
Cheney and Rubio made clear that they will not be running in 2012. But Mitt Romney surely will. Ben Smith summed it up:
Mitt Romney has gone from being an overeager suitor to being a favored son of the Conservative Political Action Conference since he ended his presidential campaign here in 2008, and his speech today was well-calibrated to an audience basking in a conservative resurgence and eager for attacks on Obama.
Sen. Scott Brown introduced Romney, sharing a bit of his new star power with the former governor, whose aides ran Brown’s campaign, and calling him perfectly qualified “to fix a broken economy.”
Romney’s prepared remarks lace into Obama on an array of issues, all hinged on a single theme: Obama has departed from American values.
Several things were noteworthy in his speech. First, unlike his potential competitor Tim Pawlenty, who’s taken to slamming the GOP and, indirectly, George. W. Bush, Romney wasn’t going there:
When it comes to shifting responsibility for failure, however, no one is a more frequent object of President Obama’s reproach than President Bush. It’s wearing so thin that even the late night shows make fun of it. I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly — he pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9/11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is — a war, and he kept us safe.
Classy, and, after a year of not-Bush in the Oval Office, I suspect the message will resonate with conservatives.
Second, Romney, who struggled to find footing with social conservatives and to establish his bona fides on abortion and other such issues, focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and the economy. When he did talk about “strengthening families,” it was education and health care, not abortion and gay rights, that were his focus. If 2012 will be about “letting Romney be Romney,” then you’re going to hear less of the hot-button issues that rang as not quite authentic last time around and, rather, more of this: “Conservatism has had from its inception a vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda.”
Third, he has clearly found his focus, which is a conservative economic message that goes after the Democrats’ statist agenda and touts his own business background. He is laying the case that Obama simply doesn’t understand how the economy works and isn’t prepared, even now, to be president:
As he frequently reminds us, he assumed the presidency at a difficult time. That’s the reason we argued during the campaign that these were not the times for on the job training. Had he or his advisors spent even a few years in the real economy, they would have learned that the number one cause of failure in the private sector is lack of focus, and that the first rule of turning around any troubled enterprise is focus, focus, focus. And so, when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs, and to succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived healthcare takeover and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus, and so he failed.
And finally, there is a reason Romney is saying nice things about both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — he’s running against the not-Bush (and Cheney) national-security policy:
We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers. And conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed! On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, “You have the right to remain silent!”
Romney never quite clicked with the conservative base last time. But Republicans are notoriously forgiving types and have a habit of going back to the runner-up. If he’s going to run as Romney the businessman, experienced executive, free-market advocate, and tough-as-nails commander in chief, it will be quite a contrast with Obama. But first he’s got to wow the conservative base and get by some formidable competition. Bringing along Scott Brown to introduce him was one small sign that he understands the need to connect with not just mainstreet Republicans but also with the grassroots tea party movement, which carried Brown into office. No easy task, but then again, we should all get a grip — it is still 2010.
You sometimes wonder whether the Obami are trying to commit political suicide. They come up with the idea of trying KSM in a civilian court in New York. New Yorkers, along with the rest of the country, think the idea stinks. They retreat, at least as to the venue. And now they pick a fight with New York:
It’s a sign of just how angry the White House is at having its plans to hold terror trials in New York City thwarted. Vice President Joe Biden took a swing at Mayor Michael Bloomberg, accusing him of inflating estimates of the trial’s security costs. Both Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly put the estimate at $200 million a year for five years, saying it would be an expensive proposition for the City. Biden, however, disputes the numbers. “The mayor came along and said the cost for providing security to hold this trial is x-hundreds of millions of dollars which I think is much more than would be needed,” Biden said. Biden’s surprising outburst is an indication of just how upset President Barack Obama is at having one of his foreign policy goals – showing a kinder face to the Muslim world – meet a solid wall of opposition in New York.
Ever since his stalwart defense of the administration’s funny stimulus numbers (funny in both senses of the word), Biden has apparently become the designated spokesman to spin unsubstantiated, losing arguments with a paucity of evidence. Needless to say, New York officials did not welcome the VP’s criticisms:
City officials are irked at Biden’s assertion. “I will leave the security of New York City up to the mayor and police commissioner. I think Joe Biden should have talked to City officials. No city should have to put up with the burden and risk of the trial so the administration can have a terroristic pony show,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Queens).
Yes, it’s hard to believe Biden would be arguing the point because no one thinks the KSM trial will take place in New York. Many of us suspect that no city or state will want it and that we will soon be back, where we should be, to trying terrorists in the war against our civilization in a military tribunal.
We have come to expect flawed decision-making from the Obami. But it does seem as though the longer they stay in office, the dumber and more inept they become on the pure politics of it all. For people waging a perpetual campaign complete with rallies and Potemkin Village summits (the bipartisanship rather than the buildings is fake, in this case), they sure have lost their political touch.
Republicans have landed a serious challenger to incumbent Sen. Evan Bayh: former senator Dan Coates. Coates will join a field of lesser known GOP contenders, but I suspect will soon clear the field. In addition to his time in the House and in the U.S. Senate (he filled Dan Quayle’s seat when Quayle became VP), Coates served as ambassador to Germany under George W. Bush. (He also was the “sherpa” for Supreme Court nominees Harriet Miers and Sam Alito. The former couldn’t be helped, the later needed little assistance, but assigning the task to Coates was some indication of his standing among former colleagues.) Charlie Cook moves the race from “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” with Coates’s appearance in the race.
It’s not likely that in an ordinary election year Coates would venture back into electoral politics. But this is no ordinary year. Coates no doubt sees what other Republicans (as well as neutral observers) do in an increasingly long list of states: the chance for a solid conservative to take out a Democratic incumbent laboring under the burden of an unpopular ultra-liberal agenda in a state far more moderate than the Beltway Democratic leadership. In the short term, Coates’s candidacy will, one suspects, act to restrain Bayh from adhering too closely to his party’s liberal agenda. Indeed, in recent weeks, as high profile Republicans’ names were tossed about for the race, Bayh has been voicing more vocal opposition to the Obama agenda on everything from health-care reform to terrorism policy.
The problem for Bayh, however, are his votes. He was one of the 60 votes (the Democrats all are the 60th vote, remember) to jam through ObamaCare last Christmas. He also voted for the 2009 stimulus bill, which most voters consider to be a bust. He’ll have more opportunities this year to demonstrate whether he really is a fiscal conservative or just talks like one when viable challengers appear back home.
Michael Gerson certainly nails the central issue for Obama. As he says, “Obama’s problem is not a vice president behind his right shoulder who can’t stop his distracting, sycophantic nodding — though it was certainly annoying.” (A slight disagreement: the inanity of his VP is a constant reminder that Obama is a terrible chief executive, one of whose key responsibilities is to select credible people to surround him.) What’s at stake, Gerson points out, is the economic future of the country:
The Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that unemployment will average more than 10 percent for the first half of this year, before declining at a slower pace than in past recoveries. On this economic path, Obama’s presidency will fail. Many Democrats in the House chamber tonight will lose their jobs. And the nation will enter a Carter-like period of stagnation and self-doubt.
All the measures he proposed either are unconnected to the economic recovery or may impede it (e.g., cap-and-trade). Gerson explains:
His proposal to cut the capital gains tax for small business investment seems positive. His other ideas — taking money from some bankers and giving it to other bankers and a temporary hiring tax credit — are a caricature of job-creation policy. For the most part, Obama defended a continuation and expansion of the stimulus package, which promises to bring prosperity on high-speed trains. Compare Obama’s speech to John Kennedy’s State of the Union in 1963, which called for permanent tax cuts that would allow America to move toward full employment. Some Democratic presidents have actually understood how the economy works.
There was no rendezvous with reality in the speech, no serious policy initiative or vision to restore private-sector growth. Maybe he imagines the economy will limp along and recover just enough by 2012 to give him a shot at that second term, provided he wants one. But that’s small consolation to Americans now and to his own party, which must run congressional, Senate, and state elections in a year in which the administration offers not a single serious measure commensurate with the nature of the economic problems we face. There is no one, apparently, in his administration with enough creativity and gumption to bring forth even the most obvious measures (a payroll tax cut, a corporate tax moratorium) that might induce businesses to relocate and hire here. And that “no one” includes the president, who seems to know even less about market economics than he does about the Supreme Court’s latest ruling.
The general election presidential debates can elect a candidate or send one home. So, it was standing room only at Café Milano as politicos gathered to watch the transfer of power from long-time Commission on Presidential Debates Democratic Co-Chairman Paul Kirk to former Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry.“We’ve got to make [the debates] more relevant so that young people enjoy watching them; that’s what we’re going to be working on between now and 2012,” McCurry told POLITICO Monday.
I’ve got a better idea: get rid of the debates. They not only aren’t relevant to young voters; they really aren’t relevant to the job of being president. Like well-prepped standardized test takers, most politicians can get through one of these things after the practice rounds, the coaches, and a healthy amount of memorization. But the ability to get off one-liners, repeat pabulum on cue, and answer any question with the same prearranged answers isn’t really the sort of thing that makes for great leadership or effective presidents.
Moreover, the debates perpetuate the myth that verbal acuity is the most prized quality in a president. It doesn’t hurt, but is it more important that executive prowess, a well-grounded appreciation of America’s role in the world, and a basic understanding of market economics? We’ve spent the past year learning that the answer is an emphatic no.
But the debates have become rituals of campaigns, as indispensable as the convention balloon drop and the suspense surrounding the selection of the VP. So I really don’t think they’re going to disappear entirely. But I think the angst about how to get more voters to watch is pointless. (Debates already get big TV audiences.) We’d do better to think long and hard about why we’ve let the media mavens and political consultants convince us that this is an effective way to assess presidential candidates.
The juicy Game Change book, which landed Harry Reid in political quicksand, is even more damaging to Joe Biden and, by extension, to the president’s own image as chief executive. As Politico recounts:
The relationship between Barack Obama and Joe Biden grew so strained during the 2008 campaign, according to a new book, that the two rarely spoke and aides not only kept Biden off internal conference calls but refused to even tell him they existed. Instead, a separate campaign call was regularly scheduled between the then-Delaware senator and two of Obama’s top campaign aides — “so that they could keep a tight rein on him,” write journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. … The tensions began in September of 2008 [when] word got back to Obama’s campaign headquarters that Biden had told reporters on his campaign plane that he was more qualified than his running mate to be president.
“A chill set in between Chicago and the Biden plane,” Halperin and Heilemann write in the book, to be released Monday. “Joe and Obama barely spoke by phone, rarely campaigned together.”
And when Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was asked about having Biden dial into the nightly campaign conference call, he responded: “Nah.” Instead, Biden had his own call with Plouffe and senior campaign adviser David Axelrod.
Obama himself was growing increasingly frustrated with his running mate after Biden let loose with a string of gaffes, including a statement that paying higher taxes amounted to patriotism and criticism of one of the campaign’s own ads poking fun at John McCain.
But when Biden, at an October fund-raiser in Seattle, famously predicted that Obama would be tested with an international crisis, the then-Illinois senator had had enough.
“How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?” he demanded of his advisers on a conference call, a moment at which most people on the call said the candidate was as angry as they had ever heard him.
Well, we knew Joe Biden was a loudmouthed buffoon. Indeed, most people knew that before he was selected as Obama’s VP. His gaffes were well known, his penchant for cringe-inducing boasts was no secret, and he was, after all, bounced from one presidential campaign for appropriating Neil Kinnock’s life account as his own. But here’s the thing: Obama selected him anyway. So what is the real message here — that Biden was a goofball, or that Obama showed atrocious judgment in making the most important personnel call, one that cannot be reversed until 2012?
If Obama was furious at his VP, he should perhaps have thought back to the vetting process. Surely, Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy didn’t let him down by failing to take their candidate through Biden’s shortcomings chapter and verse, right? Obama nevertheless made the decision to hire someone for whom he had contempt. Nice work.
Moreover, in office Biden has not only lived up to his reputation for gaffes; his judgment, most especially on Afghanistan, has been (as it has been for 30 years) faulty. To Obama’s credit, Biden’s advice was rejected on the surge, although one suspects the process would have been less excruciating and prolonged had it not been for Biden’s efforts to override the advice of all our military commanders.
Obama hasn’t distinguished himself as an executive. His Afghanistan policy-making process was tortured, and he has outsourced much of that policy making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid — who proceeded to junk up the stimulus and come up with the worst-of-all-worlds health-care bill. He flunked the 3 a.m. telephone-call test on the Christmas Day bombing. But it’s in his personnel selection — from the hapless and ethically challenged Tim Geithner to the decidedly unwise Sonia Sotomayor to the goofy James Jones — where he has demonstrated his utter lack of executive competence. And the prime example is the man who sits the proverbial one heartbeat away from the presidency.
The latest Rasmussen poll tells us:
Fifty-eight percent (58%) of U.S. voters say waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques should be used to gain information from the terrorist who attempted to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day. . . [while] just 30% oppose the use of such techniques, and another 12% are not sure.
Not only is the terrorist not being waterboarded, he’s clammed up. He’s a”defendant” now, fully Mirandized and with lawyers at his side. The Obami, we are told, were “hoping” he’ll cooperate.
Really, what must the average American think of an administration that facilitates non-collection of information? When the Obama administration lashes out at a former VP or insists that they are being true to our “values,” it is entirely at odds with the American people. The voters are coming to the realization that their government isn’t doing what is needed to keep us safe. And they seem to value their own safety above some distorted notion that enemy combatants are entitled to be treated like common criminals.