Commentary Magazine


Topic: Chuck Schumer

Why Hagel Is a Fight Worth Having

The stakes will be high when Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, meets with New York Senator Chuck Schumer. Along with Republican John McCain, Schumer is the key to the question of whether critics of the appointment can rally enough votes to derail Hagel’s chances. Though he is understandably reluctant to pick a fight with the Obama administration, Schumer takes a dim view of Hagel’s antagonism toward Israel and the pro-Israel community as well as his soft stands on Iran. The question is whether Hagel’s rapid backtracking from these positions is persuasive enough to convince Schumer that trying to take him down is not worth the effort.

But regardless of the outcome of that meeting, the discussion about Hagel is bound to heat up in the coming days and weeks. Hagel’s past bragging about standing up to the “Jewish lobby” and his history of opposition to sanctions or the use of force against the Iranian nuclear threat places him outside of the mainstream of American opinion and also could create the dangerous impression that U.S. policy could be shifting. But there is a still a genuine reluctance on the part of many in the Jewish community to turn this nomination into an all-out battle that would pit the administration against the pro-Israel community. The dangers of such a confrontation, especially if Hagel were to survive a close vote, are real. But the argument here is that win or lose, this is a battle worth fighting.

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The stakes will be high when Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, meets with New York Senator Chuck Schumer. Along with Republican John McCain, Schumer is the key to the question of whether critics of the appointment can rally enough votes to derail Hagel’s chances. Though he is understandably reluctant to pick a fight with the Obama administration, Schumer takes a dim view of Hagel’s antagonism toward Israel and the pro-Israel community as well as his soft stands on Iran. The question is whether Hagel’s rapid backtracking from these positions is persuasive enough to convince Schumer that trying to take him down is not worth the effort.

But regardless of the outcome of that meeting, the discussion about Hagel is bound to heat up in the coming days and weeks. Hagel’s past bragging about standing up to the “Jewish lobby” and his history of opposition to sanctions or the use of force against the Iranian nuclear threat places him outside of the mainstream of American opinion and also could create the dangerous impression that U.S. policy could be shifting. But there is a still a genuine reluctance on the part of many in the Jewish community to turn this nomination into an all-out battle that would pit the administration against the pro-Israel community. The dangers of such a confrontation, especially if Hagel were to survive a close vote, are real. But the argument here is that win or lose, this is a battle worth fighting.

The downside of a confrontation over Hagel is that it will further antagonize President Obama, reducing the ability of pro-Israel groups to influence his decision making about another return to a policy aimed at forcing the Jewish state into foolish concessions in a vain attempt to revive the Middle East peace process. It might also make him less, rather than more, inclined to adopt policies toward Iran that would match the tough rhetoric he has used on the subject. There is also the question of who would get the job if Hagel were rejected. Would it be someone even worse?

These are serious points to consider. But though the possibility of turning Hagel into a rerun of the disastrous 1981 battle over the sale of AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia in which the Reagan administration overcame the opposition of AIPAC are not negligible, the risks are not as great as some make them out to be.

First of all, it needs to be understood that if anyone has picked a fight here it is the president and not the friends of Israel. By choosing a man who was one of the most openly hostile senators to Israel and the pro-Israel community, President Obama has invited this battle certain that a re-elected president won’t have his choice for the Pentagon thwarted over his comments about Israel, the Jews and Iran. In doing so, the White House has placed the bipartisan consensus on Israel and Iran in jeopardy and it is up to both Republicans and Democrats who care about these issues to ensure that it is not completely destroyed by the president’s bad judgment.

The process by which Hagel is being called to account for his comments about standing up to the “Jewish lobby” and for his desire for engagement with Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran is actually quite helpful to restoring that consensus. The plain fact is that if Hagel wishes to survive what should be a difficult confirmation process he’s going to have to keep walking back his past statements and beliefs. Cynics are right to question the sincerity of any such retractions or attempts to spin his long history of hostility to the pro-Israel community. But in doing so, Hagel will be put in the same position that the 2012 campaign put Obama. Over the course of the last year, the president was forced to first disavow any thought of containing a nuclear Iran or making a deal that would allow them to retain a nuclear program. That’s painted the administration into a very tight corner on an issue where there’s little doubt the White House would prefer to have more room to maneuver to craft an unsatisfactory compromise that might be a disaster for Israel and the West.

As for the alternatives to Hagel, the idea that the president could come up with someone worse than the former Nebraska senator seems a bit far-fetched. It’s unlikely that there is any possible candidate, no matter how liberal, that would bring the kind of baggage that Hagel carries with him. To ponder the alternatives is to make plain just how much of an outlier Hagel is.

If the president is thwarted on Hagel or even just seriously challenged, he will be upset about it. But does anyone think that will make him even less favorably inclined toward the current Israel government or those Americans who support it? The president’s temper tantrums directed at Israel over the past four years have already exposed his antagonism. Stopping Hagel won’t make him any friendlier, but it is doubtful that it could produce anything nastier than his May 2012 ambush of Netanyahu about the 1967 borders.

Most of all, the notion that friends of Israel or Jews should fear being singled out for opposing the president or that they should seek to avoid raising the hackles of the foreign policy and defense establishment is absurd. Those who don’t like Israel or the Jews need no excuse or extra motivation. Were those who care about Israel to be silent about Hagel, advocates of the pernicious Walt-Mearsheimer thesis would not stand down or seek trying to isolate the Jewish state or stigmatize its friends. The Israel-haters and the critics of AIPAC will be just as loud even if not a word is said about Hagel.

There are times when it is better for Israel’s friends to keep their own counsel rather than seeking to contest the administration on every possible point of contention. But this is not such a moment. Hagel’s nomination is a chance for Congress to reaffirm the U.S.-Israel alliance and to put Iran on notice that its expectation that a second Obama administration will be no obstacle to their nuclear ambitions. Whether or not Hagel gets the job, this is very much a fight worth having.

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Hagel Should Be the Red Line for Pro-Israel Dems

Senator Chuck Schumer hasn’t publicly taken a side in the Chuck Hagel debate yet, but as Politico reports, his final decision could tip the scales:

Schumer, the most powerful Jewish Democrat in Congress, has been noncommittal in his public statements on Hagel’s nomination. But privately, several sources say he has told senators it would be “very hard” for him to support Hagel as the next defense secretary because of his positions on Israel over the years. In New York, Schumer has told allies and power brokers in the Jewish community that he’s uneasy about Hagel’s nomination, a concern he reiterated at a private breakfast in Manhattan’s posh Park Avenue Winter restaurant on Wednesday.

If Schumer were to oppose Hagel, it would almost certainly amount to a fatal blow to his candidacy since a number of pro-Israel Democrats who are squeamish about the nominee could very well be influenced by the No. 3 Democrat’s position. It would also give bipartisan political cover to Republicans and neocons fighting Hagel’s nomination.

Still, Schumer could also provide critical support for Hagel’s nomination. Should he support Hagel, it very likely would ride on what the former Nebraska GOP senator eventually says on Israel at an upcoming one-on-one meeting with the New York Democrat and during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Schumer declined to be interviewed Thursday for this story. The White House also declined to comment.

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Senator Chuck Schumer hasn’t publicly taken a side in the Chuck Hagel debate yet, but as Politico reports, his final decision could tip the scales:

Schumer, the most powerful Jewish Democrat in Congress, has been noncommittal in his public statements on Hagel’s nomination. But privately, several sources say he has told senators it would be “very hard” for him to support Hagel as the next defense secretary because of his positions on Israel over the years. In New York, Schumer has told allies and power brokers in the Jewish community that he’s uneasy about Hagel’s nomination, a concern he reiterated at a private breakfast in Manhattan’s posh Park Avenue Winter restaurant on Wednesday.

If Schumer were to oppose Hagel, it would almost certainly amount to a fatal blow to his candidacy since a number of pro-Israel Democrats who are squeamish about the nominee could very well be influenced by the No. 3 Democrat’s position. It would also give bipartisan political cover to Republicans and neocons fighting Hagel’s nomination.

Still, Schumer could also provide critical support for Hagel’s nomination. Should he support Hagel, it very likely would ride on what the former Nebraska GOP senator eventually says on Israel at an upcoming one-on-one meeting with the New York Democrat and during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Schumer declined to be interviewed Thursday for this story. The White House also declined to comment.

It’s hard to overstate Schumer’s power in this debate. Pro-Israel Senate Democrats who aren’t getting much guidance on this issue from AIPAC (at least not officially) will look to Schumer for cues. This is particularly important in the case of his fellow New York Senator, Kirstin Gillibrand, whose vote on the Armed Services Committee could be the deciding factor in whether Hagel’s nomination is referred to the floor.

But If Schumer backs him, it would essentially give Hagel’s views the kosher seal of approval, letting the White House claim that any criticism of his Israel record is a faux controversy drummed up by the GOP. Politically, Schumer probably has an interest in doing this: the White House would owe him a major favor, and he’d be able to dodge a high-profile fight he has a real possibility of losing.

Pro-Israel Democrats should ask themselves this. How did they get to a point where the leader of their party is nominating one of the most anti-Israel senators who ever walked the halls of the Capitol–a man who routinely made the anti-Semitic Washington Report of Middle East Affairs’ annual Congressional Hall of Fame list?

The party is shifting around them. The ranks of the pro-Israel Democrats in Congress are shrinking. Representatives Rothman, Frank, Berman, Ackerman, Weiner, and Senator Joe Lieberman are gone. The advocacy groups and think tanks incubating the next generation of Democratic leaders are increasingly moving against Israel.

There is still a strong up-and-coming generation of pro-Israel Democrats. But they have fewer leaders to look to and fewer roles to fill in the party. If people like Schumer won’t stand up against Hagel, what message would this send to these young activists and operatives working in the trenches? That they should either change their opinions or their party affiliation?

Hagel is the red line. He is the most anti-Israel defense secretary nominee in memory, chosen at a time when Iran is on the verge of nuclear weapons capability. If pro-Israel Democrats cave on his confirmation, what would they possibly stand against?

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Bloomberg’s Quest for a Celebrity Successor

In December, I wrote about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to find a big-name successor, which focused on Hillary Clinton. Clinton is at the very least keeping her options open for a possible 2016 presidential run, which would have to start far too early to take on a responsibility like running New York City. But according to a report in the New York Times today, Bloomberg has been a one-man search committee, floating not just Clinton but also Ed Rendell, Mortimer Zuckerman, Chuck Schumer, and former Bloomberg deputy Edward Skyler.

That’s quite a list, and says much about how Bloomberg views the job. New York City is the media capital of the world, the front lines of 21st century homeland security, and a powerhouse when it comes to urban policymaking, especially with regard to fighting crime. There’s a reason that, as Rendell put it to the Times, he often hears it described as “the second most difficult job in the country.” There’s no doubt Bloomberg believes this–after all, he’s been in office three terms and still hasn’t gotten it right. But Bloomberg’s opinion of what it takes to run the city diverges both with precedent and the judgment of New Yorkers.

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In December, I wrote about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to find a big-name successor, which focused on Hillary Clinton. Clinton is at the very least keeping her options open for a possible 2016 presidential run, which would have to start far too early to take on a responsibility like running New York City. But according to a report in the New York Times today, Bloomberg has been a one-man search committee, floating not just Clinton but also Ed Rendell, Mortimer Zuckerman, Chuck Schumer, and former Bloomberg deputy Edward Skyler.

That’s quite a list, and says much about how Bloomberg views the job. New York City is the media capital of the world, the front lines of 21st century homeland security, and a powerhouse when it comes to urban policymaking, especially with regard to fighting crime. There’s a reason that, as Rendell put it to the Times, he often hears it described as “the second most difficult job in the country.” There’s no doubt Bloomberg believes this–after all, he’s been in office three terms and still hasn’t gotten it right. But Bloomberg’s opinion of what it takes to run the city diverges both with precedent and the judgment of New Yorkers.

Of that list of five names, Rendell is the most interesting, because he is in some ways both the most and least logical of that list. He was born and raised in New York City. And he was also a (successful) big-city mayor in the Northeast, having run Philadelphia quite competently beginning in 1992, just two years before Rudy Giuliani would begin his first term in New York. But he is also far removed from his New York days, and has a keen understanding of why he would also be a poor choice to run New York City. “I’m not sure how many times I’ve stepped foot in Brooklyn,” he told the Times. “I have no understanding of Queens and no understanding of the Bronx.”

New York City is far more than just Manhattan, a fact which explains why the current crop of mayoral candidates is so underwhelming. The perceived Democratic frontrunner is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Manhattanite. There is no viable candidate with strong roots in the outer boroughs. Like it or not, this is what would have made Anthony Weiner the putative frontrunner, had he not stumbled over a sex scandal.

Although Bloomberg has taken Quinn under his wing, these stories are fairly insulting to Quinn, since Bloomberg appears desperate to prevent her succession. And if a Manhattanite barely has the New York street cred to be mayor, a Philadelphia transplant most certainly has even less. Chuck Schumer wouldn’t have this problem, but he’s staying put in the Senate, having a clear shot at the Democrats’ top Senate leadership spot if Harry Reid retires (or is defeated) in 2016.

That leaves, of the five, Skyler and Zuckerman. Skyler is a relative unknown, and it’s far from clear that even with Bloomberg’s backing he could overtake Quinn. That leaves Zuckerman, the controversial billionaire publisher of the New York Daily News. He, too, is flattered by the suggestion but will be passing on the race:

“I would love to be in that job,” said Mr. Zuckerman, a student of policy who has no party affiliation and weighed running for the Senate a few years ago.

He insisted that Mr. Bloomberg’s suggestion had an informal “teasing” feel, even as he acknowledged a longstanding call to public service in New York.

“If I could be appointed, I’d probably be serious about it,” he added, wryly.

This whole quest is a classically Bloombergian love letter to the city. Bloomberg thinks highly of New York, and even more highly of himself. So he wants someone with the star power to keep New York at the top of the map. But New York doesn’t need his help to do so, and all signs point to Bloomberg’s legacy being a failed technocratic experiment anyway.

Bloomberg should notice something about the other candidates who are either running or considering it. In addition to Quinn and other Democrats, former Giuliani aide Joe Lhota is seriously exploring a run. Lhota is leaving his post as a well-respected head of the city’s transportation authority. And Republicans are apparently still trying to get Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to run. Kelly is popular and has obvious real experience running an essential part of city governance. The street-level experience, the granular knowledge of life in New York, and the years spent paying their dues by working to craft city policy are all things they have in common.

If Bloomberg’s time in office has demonstrated anything, it’s that the city would be ill served by a celebrity figurehead. Bloomberg may love New York, but he needs to have more faith in New Yorkers.

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Solid Case Against Birth Control Mandate?

More than 40 religious institutions, included Catholic universities and charities, filed simultaneous lawsuits against the Obama administration’s birth control mandate yesterday, As The Hill reports, the biggest threat to the mandate in court is a 1993 religious freedom law, which was originally introduced by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and then-Rep. Chuck Schumer, of all people:

RFRA sailed through Congress with broad bipartisan support in response to an unpopular decision by the Supreme Court that was seen as curbing Native Americans’ religious freedom to use peyote, a traditional hallucinogen.

Now it will force the government to prove that federal regulators did not have another way to expand women’s access to birth control that would be less burdensome on religion — an argument experts say conservatives can win.

The law puts the onus on the federal government to show that it had a compelling interest in requiring Catholic employers to provide birth control coverage, and that it couldn’t have achieved these aims another way. The Hill reports that legal experts think this case is solid:

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More than 40 religious institutions, included Catholic universities and charities, filed simultaneous lawsuits against the Obama administration’s birth control mandate yesterday, As The Hill reports, the biggest threat to the mandate in court is a 1993 religious freedom law, which was originally introduced by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and then-Rep. Chuck Schumer, of all people:

RFRA sailed through Congress with broad bipartisan support in response to an unpopular decision by the Supreme Court that was seen as curbing Native Americans’ religious freedom to use peyote, a traditional hallucinogen.

Now it will force the government to prove that federal regulators did not have another way to expand women’s access to birth control that would be less burdensome on religion — an argument experts say conservatives can win.

The law puts the onus on the federal government to show that it had a compelling interest in requiring Catholic employers to provide birth control coverage, and that it couldn’t have achieved these aims another way. The Hill reports that legal experts think this case is solid:

“I think the odds are pretty good for the plaintiffs here,” Marc DeGirolami, an assistant law professor at St. John’s University, told The Hill.

Because of the law, courts now have to apply certain standards to federal actions that might inadvertently infringe on religious liberty. In one sense, laws under scrutiny must aim to achieve a “compelling” government interest. In another sense, they must be designed in a way that burdens religion as little as possible.

It’s much smarter for Catholic groups to fight this in the courts than through Congress. The legal challenge will refocus the issue on religious freedom, and make it much more difficult for Democrats to argue that opposition to the birth control mandate is all about waging a “war on women.” And the administration will be forced to argue against a religious freedom law backed by the late Ted Kennedy and Democratic attack dog Chuck Schumer, who helped push the war on women narrative.

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Chuck Schumer and Chris Christie

Chuck Schumer is a senator from New York. He is upset that Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, canceled an ill-conceived and wildly expensive rail project that would have dug a new tunnel between the Garden State and the Empire State. According to today’s Wall Street Journal,

Schumer, a Democrat, also called Christie’s decision to cancel that tunnel “one of the most shortsighted in New York’s history.”

OK, but the thing is, Christie isn’t from New York. He’s from New Jersey. So maybe Christie didn’t think it was shortsighted for New Jersey.

Chuck Schumer is a senator from New York. He is upset that Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, canceled an ill-conceived and wildly expensive rail project that would have dug a new tunnel between the Garden State and the Empire State. According to today’s Wall Street Journal,

Schumer, a Democrat, also called Christie’s decision to cancel that tunnel “one of the most shortsighted in New York’s history.”

OK, but the thing is, Christie isn’t from New York. He’s from New Jersey. So maybe Christie didn’t think it was shortsighted for New Jersey.

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So Much for Civility: Dem Senator Likens Tax Cutters to “Terrorists”

When establishment kibitzers talk about the need to restore for civility, there isn’t much doubt whom they are complaining about. In the last year and a half, Tea Party insurgents helped change the nature of the political conversation in this country from one that assumed that President Obama’s election meant a return to orthodox liberal big-government solutions to one where even Democrats are talking about lowering taxes. So it’s clear that the lack of civility being deplored is the rudeness liberals encountered from angry independents and conservatives on the hustings and at the ballot box, not the liberal backlash at the temerity of the unwashed masses.

But the pious bleating we’ve been hearing from the chattering classes in recent months about how political speakers needed to behave was always delivered via a double standard. Angry taxpayers who gave politicians hell at town meetings were portrayed as little better than terrorists, while liberal politicians who regularly demonized their opponents were either ignored or praised as truth tellers.

But just as the carrying-on about civility was reaching its peak, we can thank an influential member of the Senate Democratic caucus for reminding us just how hypocritical much of this discussion has been. At a press conference with other Democratic leaders yesterday, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) likened Senate Republicans who disagree with him about tax cuts to “terrorists.”

Menendez expressed his frustration with Republicans who believe all and not just some of the Bush tax cuts should be preserved, thereby avoiding a major tax increase next year, with the following statement: “Do you allow yourself to be held hostage and get something done for the sake of getting something done, when in fact it might be perverse in its ultimate results? It’s almost like the question of do you negotiate with terrorists.”

A Menendez spokesman later dismissed those who questioned the statement by saying it was taken out of context. But the implication of his remarks was clear. Republican ideas about tax cuts aren’t just wrong; they’re “perverse.” His opponents aren’t just standing firm on their principles; they’re like “terrorists.” Again, it’s a case of a liberal stooping not just to class warfare but also to the demonization and delegitimization of those who disagree with him.

As for the merits of the issue in question, Menendez undermined his own argument about taxes by falsely claiming that tax cuts for wealthier citizens would mean “taking money out of your [the middle classes’] pockets.” The point is, raising taxes on anyone, especially the richest Americans, who are the likeliest source of investment in the private sector, at a time of layoffs and recession isn’t an economic plan; it’s an exercise in politically inspired rabble-rousing, albeit not one that has shown much sign of attracting a lot of support for all the Democrats’ confidence in the idea that the word “millionaire” will give the willies to the Republicans. It also reflects the liberal mentality that sees everyone’s private income as somehow really belonging to the government. To people like Menendez, every dollar you have that the government doesn’t take from you via taxes is to be viewed as stolen from the government or from other citizens who would like it to be redistributed to them.

If anything, Menendez’s absurd rant — which was uttered while Democrat Chuck Schumer chuckled and leered behind him — reflects his party’s inability to cope with the political realities of life in the Tea Party era. It knows that the public wants to hear less hyper-liberal talk about the expansion of government power and more about tax-cutting. But it can’t seem to manage it without resorting to its familiar rhetoric, which attempts to label all opposition as being beyond the pale. So much for liberal civility.

When establishment kibitzers talk about the need to restore for civility, there isn’t much doubt whom they are complaining about. In the last year and a half, Tea Party insurgents helped change the nature of the political conversation in this country from one that assumed that President Obama’s election meant a return to orthodox liberal big-government solutions to one where even Democrats are talking about lowering taxes. So it’s clear that the lack of civility being deplored is the rudeness liberals encountered from angry independents and conservatives on the hustings and at the ballot box, not the liberal backlash at the temerity of the unwashed masses.

But the pious bleating we’ve been hearing from the chattering classes in recent months about how political speakers needed to behave was always delivered via a double standard. Angry taxpayers who gave politicians hell at town meetings were portrayed as little better than terrorists, while liberal politicians who regularly demonized their opponents were either ignored or praised as truth tellers.

But just as the carrying-on about civility was reaching its peak, we can thank an influential member of the Senate Democratic caucus for reminding us just how hypocritical much of this discussion has been. At a press conference with other Democratic leaders yesterday, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) likened Senate Republicans who disagree with him about tax cuts to “terrorists.”

Menendez expressed his frustration with Republicans who believe all and not just some of the Bush tax cuts should be preserved, thereby avoiding a major tax increase next year, with the following statement: “Do you allow yourself to be held hostage and get something done for the sake of getting something done, when in fact it might be perverse in its ultimate results? It’s almost like the question of do you negotiate with terrorists.”

A Menendez spokesman later dismissed those who questioned the statement by saying it was taken out of context. But the implication of his remarks was clear. Republican ideas about tax cuts aren’t just wrong; they’re “perverse.” His opponents aren’t just standing firm on their principles; they’re like “terrorists.” Again, it’s a case of a liberal stooping not just to class warfare but also to the demonization and delegitimization of those who disagree with him.

As for the merits of the issue in question, Menendez undermined his own argument about taxes by falsely claiming that tax cuts for wealthier citizens would mean “taking money out of your [the middle classes’] pockets.” The point is, raising taxes on anyone, especially the richest Americans, who are the likeliest source of investment in the private sector, at a time of layoffs and recession isn’t an economic plan; it’s an exercise in politically inspired rabble-rousing, albeit not one that has shown much sign of attracting a lot of support for all the Democrats’ confidence in the idea that the word “millionaire” will give the willies to the Republicans. It also reflects the liberal mentality that sees everyone’s private income as somehow really belonging to the government. To people like Menendez, every dollar you have that the government doesn’t take from you via taxes is to be viewed as stolen from the government or from other citizens who would like it to be redistributed to them.

If anything, Menendez’s absurd rant — which was uttered while Democrat Chuck Schumer chuckled and leered behind him — reflects his party’s inability to cope with the political realities of life in the Tea Party era. It knows that the public wants to hear less hyper-liberal talk about the expansion of government power and more about tax-cutting. But it can’t seem to manage it without resorting to its familiar rhetoric, which attempts to label all opposition as being beyond the pale. So much for liberal civility.

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Dems Try to Muscle Jews into Backing Russian Treaty

The call by Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Carl Levin for AIPAC to back passage of the stalled START treaty with Russia speaks volumes about the growing desperation of both the White House and its Senate allies.

The administration is reportedly going all-out to push Jewish groups to lobby for the treaty, but it is unlikely that AIPAC will succumb to the pressure. The group has been scrupulous about sticking to its agenda of working only on behalf of Israel-related issues, a policy that keeps it strictly neutral on arms control measures like START. Nevertheless, Schumer and Levin claim that friends of Israel are obligated to back a measure that is key to Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia because it is the price the United States must pay to keep the Medvedev/Putin regime on board with the effort to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capacity.

That’s an argument that the liberal-leaning Anti-Defamation League as well as Obama’s cheering section at the National Jewish Democratic Council and J Street have accepted, though the latter group seems to be backing it more out of a knee-jerk reaction to any appeasement measure rather than concern about Iranian nukes. But this selling point is based on a false assumption about both Russia’s intentions and its interests.

While the need to build an anti-Iranian coalition is something all friends of Israel care about, it is far from clear that Obama’s impulse to sacrifice America’s own defense interests in the cause of making the authoritarian regime in Moscow more comfortable is something that will tangibly impact the ability of the international community to confront Tehran. The Russians have exacted a high price from Obama for their half-hearted support for tepid sanctions on Iran that are clearly inadequate to the task, even though it is obviously just as much in their interest to stop Tehran as it is in the rest of the international community’s.

Moreover, once we strip away the talk about this treaty’s being essential to Iran policy, it is easy to see that its passage has more to do with Obama’s fetish about arms control agreements than anything else, and it is on the merits of that issue alone that this issue should be decided.

As for Jewish groups that might be tempted to wade in on START, they also need to understand that the push to pass the treaty before the end of the year in Congress’s lame duck session smacks of the sort of partisanship that groups like AIPAC and the ADL ought to avoid. While Jewish Democrats are fond of castigating the GOP for attempting to win votes by comparing its record on Israel to that of the Democrats, what’s going on here is a far more blatant instance of Jewish groups carrying the water for one side of the political aisle. The Senate ought to wait until January, when newly elected members are seated and will have a chance to consider this treaty. And Jewish and pro-Israel organizations should stay out of a fight that has everything to do with the Obama administration’s foreign policy obsessions and little to do with the defense of Israel.

The call by Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Carl Levin for AIPAC to back passage of the stalled START treaty with Russia speaks volumes about the growing desperation of both the White House and its Senate allies.

The administration is reportedly going all-out to push Jewish groups to lobby for the treaty, but it is unlikely that AIPAC will succumb to the pressure. The group has been scrupulous about sticking to its agenda of working only on behalf of Israel-related issues, a policy that keeps it strictly neutral on arms control measures like START. Nevertheless, Schumer and Levin claim that friends of Israel are obligated to back a measure that is key to Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia because it is the price the United States must pay to keep the Medvedev/Putin regime on board with the effort to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capacity.

That’s an argument that the liberal-leaning Anti-Defamation League as well as Obama’s cheering section at the National Jewish Democratic Council and J Street have accepted, though the latter group seems to be backing it more out of a knee-jerk reaction to any appeasement measure rather than concern about Iranian nukes. But this selling point is based on a false assumption about both Russia’s intentions and its interests.

While the need to build an anti-Iranian coalition is something all friends of Israel care about, it is far from clear that Obama’s impulse to sacrifice America’s own defense interests in the cause of making the authoritarian regime in Moscow more comfortable is something that will tangibly impact the ability of the international community to confront Tehran. The Russians have exacted a high price from Obama for their half-hearted support for tepid sanctions on Iran that are clearly inadequate to the task, even though it is obviously just as much in their interest to stop Tehran as it is in the rest of the international community’s.

Moreover, once we strip away the talk about this treaty’s being essential to Iran policy, it is easy to see that its passage has more to do with Obama’s fetish about arms control agreements than anything else, and it is on the merits of that issue alone that this issue should be decided.

As for Jewish groups that might be tempted to wade in on START, they also need to understand that the push to pass the treaty before the end of the year in Congress’s lame duck session smacks of the sort of partisanship that groups like AIPAC and the ADL ought to avoid. While Jewish Democrats are fond of castigating the GOP for attempting to win votes by comparing its record on Israel to that of the Democrats, what’s going on here is a far more blatant instance of Jewish groups carrying the water for one side of the political aisle. The Senate ought to wait until January, when newly elected members are seated and will have a chance to consider this treaty. And Jewish and pro-Israel organizations should stay out of a fight that has everything to do with the Obama administration’s foreign policy obsessions and little to do with the defense of Israel.

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Wishing Thinking, Again, by the Gray Lady

There is a whole genre of New York Times front-page articles that can be called “wishful thinking by the left.” These pieces usually allege that some bad thing happening on the right — dissension, racism, etc. — but never quite get around to providing many (sometimes any) evidence thereof. Its “G.O.P. and Tea Party Are Mixed Blessing for Israel” is precisely this sort of piece.

You’d think the voluminous polling showing that conservatives and evangelicals support Israel to a much greater degree than do liberals and nonbelievers would cause the ostensible reporters to rethink their premise. The gap in support for Israel between Republicans and Democrats is apparent to everyone who has looked at this issue — except the Times reporters. And indeed, the only example the reporters can come up with on the Republican side is Rand Paul. No mention that it was exclusively Democrats who signed the Gaza 54 letter. No whiff that it was Republicans, led by Rep. Peter King, who went after Obama’s tepid support for Israel during the flotilla incident. No suggestion that it was Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer who pulled their punches while Obama condemned Israel for building in its capital. The real story, of course, is that Democrats’ support for Israel has been declining to an alarming degree and that the left is quite upset when groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel point this out.

In short, the Times story is bunk. The fact that there are so many anti-Israel Democrats (e.g., Joe Sestak, Mary Jo Kilroy, Kathy Dahlkemper) who lost is undiluted good news for Israel. The fact that exuberant friends of Israel like King will hold committee chairmanships is reason for Israel’s friends to celebrate. And the election of senators like Mark Kirk, Marco Rubio, and Dan Coats who have been boisterous defenders of the Jewish state and critics of the administration’s anemic approach toward Iran is more reason for Israel’s friends to cheer. In other words, Israel would be lucky to have many more “mixed blessings” like the 2010 midterms.

There is a whole genre of New York Times front-page articles that can be called “wishful thinking by the left.” These pieces usually allege that some bad thing happening on the right — dissension, racism, etc. — but never quite get around to providing many (sometimes any) evidence thereof. Its “G.O.P. and Tea Party Are Mixed Blessing for Israel” is precisely this sort of piece.

You’d think the voluminous polling showing that conservatives and evangelicals support Israel to a much greater degree than do liberals and nonbelievers would cause the ostensible reporters to rethink their premise. The gap in support for Israel between Republicans and Democrats is apparent to everyone who has looked at this issue — except the Times reporters. And indeed, the only example the reporters can come up with on the Republican side is Rand Paul. No mention that it was exclusively Democrats who signed the Gaza 54 letter. No whiff that it was Republicans, led by Rep. Peter King, who went after Obama’s tepid support for Israel during the flotilla incident. No suggestion that it was Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer who pulled their punches while Obama condemned Israel for building in its capital. The real story, of course, is that Democrats’ support for Israel has been declining to an alarming degree and that the left is quite upset when groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel point this out.

In short, the Times story is bunk. The fact that there are so many anti-Israel Democrats (e.g., Joe Sestak, Mary Jo Kilroy, Kathy Dahlkemper) who lost is undiluted good news for Israel. The fact that exuberant friends of Israel like King will hold committee chairmanships is reason for Israel’s friends to celebrate. And the election of senators like Mark Kirk, Marco Rubio, and Dan Coats who have been boisterous defenders of the Jewish state and critics of the administration’s anemic approach toward Iran is more reason for Israel’s friends to cheer. In other words, Israel would be lucky to have many more “mixed blessings” like the 2010 midterms.

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Obama Shouldn’t Bet on the GOP Messing Up

Gallup reports:

Americans’ opinions of House Republican Leader John Boehner, who is in line to be the speaker of the House in the new Congress, improved after the midterm elections. Though 4 in 10 Americans are still unfamiliar with Boehner, more Americans now rate him positively than negatively, a shift from three prior 2010 readings, including one taken in mid-October. …

Boehner’s counterpart in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, is somewhat better known, though one in three still do not have an opinion of him. Unlike Boehner, Reid is viewed much more negatively than positively. In the latest poll, 25% have a favorable opinion of Reid and 43% an unfavorable one. That is little changed from the prior measurement of Reid from May.

We shouldn’t put too much stock in poll numbers, which come in advance of anyone doing anything. But still, this suggests the problem for the Dems: their leaders in Congress are the same old unlikeable figures; the president is exasperating even his own party; and, meanwhile, the GOP leadership is comprised of fresh faces to much of the electorate and is trying its best not to overplay its hand.

The Democrats would have been wise to dump Reid, but after the voters of Nevada refused to do their dirty work, neither Chuck Schumer nor Dick Durbin had the nerve to challenge him. And when you throw in the possibility of Nancy Pelosi in the minority leader’s chair, you see that the “change” party has become the defenders of the status quo. And, my, how negative they are – nixing the debt commission, nixing tax relief for Americans, nixing  revision of ObamaCare. It’s almost like they are the “party of no.”

Gallup reports:

Americans’ opinions of House Republican Leader John Boehner, who is in line to be the speaker of the House in the new Congress, improved after the midterm elections. Though 4 in 10 Americans are still unfamiliar with Boehner, more Americans now rate him positively than negatively, a shift from three prior 2010 readings, including one taken in mid-October. …

Boehner’s counterpart in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, is somewhat better known, though one in three still do not have an opinion of him. Unlike Boehner, Reid is viewed much more negatively than positively. In the latest poll, 25% have a favorable opinion of Reid and 43% an unfavorable one. That is little changed from the prior measurement of Reid from May.

We shouldn’t put too much stock in poll numbers, which come in advance of anyone doing anything. But still, this suggests the problem for the Dems: their leaders in Congress are the same old unlikeable figures; the president is exasperating even his own party; and, meanwhile, the GOP leadership is comprised of fresh faces to much of the electorate and is trying its best not to overplay its hand.

The Democrats would have been wise to dump Reid, but after the voters of Nevada refused to do their dirty work, neither Chuck Schumer nor Dick Durbin had the nerve to challenge him. And when you throw in the possibility of Nancy Pelosi in the minority leader’s chair, you see that the “change” party has become the defenders of the status quo. And, my, how negative they are – nixing the debt commission, nixing tax relief for Americans, nixing  revision of ObamaCare. It’s almost like they are the “party of no.”

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Round Two: Jerusalem Is Not a Settlement

Never let it be said that Obama has learned from past errors. He is not a man to divert course based on mere experience. No sir. His standoff with Israel earlier this year led to a war of words, strained relations with American Jewish groups, and a fraying of the U.S.-Israel relationship? Oh, well. Let’s try that again!

It does seem like deja vu all over again. This report bears an eerie resemblance to those from March of this year:

The US State Department on Tuesday responded immediately to claims made in a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office that east Jerusalem construction had no bearing on the peace process.

“There clearly is a link in the sense that it is incumbent upon both parties … they are responsible for creating conditions for a successful negotiation,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

“To suggest that this kind of announcement would not have an impact on the Palestinian side I think is incorrect.”

The back-and-forth of statements between the Obama administration and the Prime Minister’s Office was over Israeli plans to advance 1,345 housing units in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.

For his part, Bibi was having none of the same old, same old from Obama:

Netanyahu, in turn, sharply defended Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem, which it claims as its eternal united capital, even as the Palestinians claim the eastern party of the city as the capital of their future state.

“Jerusalem is not a settlement. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the government had never agreed to place any restrictions on construction in Jerusalem, which has 800,000 residents.

So now we have a test of sorts — for pro-Israel congressmen of both parties, for Jewish groups, and for the administration. The last time around, Democratic congressmen and pro-Israel groups gave Obama a wide berth to go after the Israeli government. But the world has changed since then — and Obama is no longer in a commanding position domestically. So Chuck Schumer, Howard Berman, et al. — what say you? Now’s the time to dispel the image that you place partisan toadying above principled defense of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Never let it be said that Obama has learned from past errors. He is not a man to divert course based on mere experience. No sir. His standoff with Israel earlier this year led to a war of words, strained relations with American Jewish groups, and a fraying of the U.S.-Israel relationship? Oh, well. Let’s try that again!

It does seem like deja vu all over again. This report bears an eerie resemblance to those from March of this year:

The US State Department on Tuesday responded immediately to claims made in a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office that east Jerusalem construction had no bearing on the peace process.

“There clearly is a link in the sense that it is incumbent upon both parties … they are responsible for creating conditions for a successful negotiation,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

“To suggest that this kind of announcement would not have an impact on the Palestinian side I think is incorrect.”

The back-and-forth of statements between the Obama administration and the Prime Minister’s Office was over Israeli plans to advance 1,345 housing units in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.

For his part, Bibi was having none of the same old, same old from Obama:

Netanyahu, in turn, sharply defended Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem, which it claims as its eternal united capital, even as the Palestinians claim the eastern party of the city as the capital of their future state.

“Jerusalem is not a settlement. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the government had never agreed to place any restrictions on construction in Jerusalem, which has 800,000 residents.

So now we have a test of sorts — for pro-Israel congressmen of both parties, for Jewish groups, and for the administration. The last time around, Democratic congressmen and pro-Israel groups gave Obama a wide berth to go after the Israeli government. But the world has changed since then — and Obama is no longer in a commanding position domestically. So Chuck Schumer, Howard Berman, et al. — what say you? Now’s the time to dispel the image that you place partisan toadying above principled defense of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

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Now It’s All About Pelosi

Republicans are gleeful. Sober Democrats are horrified. But many liberal columnists — the very ones who cheered on ObamaCare, ignored and disparaged the Tea Party, and rooted for Obama in 2008 — are rushing to defend her. It’s all about Nancy Pelosi. In more ways than one.

Those defending her effort to remain the House Democrats’ leader seem as obsessively indifferent as she is to the meaning of the midterm elections. We are told, “She’s losing her job not because she does it poorly but because she does it so well.” That, as Bill Clinton would say, depends on the meaning of “well.” If “well” is piling up a mound of red ink with nothing to show for it, she did well. If decimating her own caucus is “well,” then she’s second to none. If passing a hugely unpopular health-care bill that has already proved to be more fiscally irresponsible than anyone would let on, she is a superstar.

Now, of course, the left is obliged to defend her. She pushed the agenda for which they rooted and embodies the statist liberalism they adore. But Americans plainly hate that agenda, and the economy remains in the doldrums, in large part because that agenda has freaked out employers. If a politician advances neither the public good nor her party’s interests, isn’t it time to give her the boot? The left would rather have a “historic accomplishment” quite likely wiped out in the next few years than it would a viable governing majority. Republicans reply, “Way to go!”

There is another school of thought on the left. We have to indulge her, we are told, because she is so darn admirable. She ignored the voters, ridiculed the Tea Party, refused to hold a vote on the Bush tax cuts, and recognized that the voters punished her party because those jobs, jobs, jobs never emerged. So naturally, they insist, we should let her stay. They realize that it might not be the best thing for the party, but gosh, what a spunky gal she is. It has become a “boost Nancy’s self-esteem” movement on the left. Swell for her, not so hot for a Democratic Party struggling to assure the public that it “gets” the message the voters are sending.

Others point to the “unfairness” of allowing Harry Reid to keep his job while Pelosi is, her non-deluded colleagues hope, hustled offstage. To that I can only say, “Take it up with Chuck Schumer.” He’s apparently not nervy enough to make a play for Reid’s post. And, Reid’s defenders would argue, at least he didn’t lose the majority for his caucus like Nancy did for hers.

Unless the rump leftist caucus comes down with a case of common sense, Pelosi is likely to remain atop the House Democratic caucus. Even more troubling for Democrats who aspire to pull out of their party’s tailspin, the “Damn the voters, full speed ahead!” mentality may also dominate the White House’s thinking. If so, the tsunami of 2012 will make 2010’s results look like a ripple.

Republicans are gleeful. Sober Democrats are horrified. But many liberal columnists — the very ones who cheered on ObamaCare, ignored and disparaged the Tea Party, and rooted for Obama in 2008 — are rushing to defend her. It’s all about Nancy Pelosi. In more ways than one.

Those defending her effort to remain the House Democrats’ leader seem as obsessively indifferent as she is to the meaning of the midterm elections. We are told, “She’s losing her job not because she does it poorly but because she does it so well.” That, as Bill Clinton would say, depends on the meaning of “well.” If “well” is piling up a mound of red ink with nothing to show for it, she did well. If decimating her own caucus is “well,” then she’s second to none. If passing a hugely unpopular health-care bill that has already proved to be more fiscally irresponsible than anyone would let on, she is a superstar.

Now, of course, the left is obliged to defend her. She pushed the agenda for which they rooted and embodies the statist liberalism they adore. But Americans plainly hate that agenda, and the economy remains in the doldrums, in large part because that agenda has freaked out employers. If a politician advances neither the public good nor her party’s interests, isn’t it time to give her the boot? The left would rather have a “historic accomplishment” quite likely wiped out in the next few years than it would a viable governing majority. Republicans reply, “Way to go!”

There is another school of thought on the left. We have to indulge her, we are told, because she is so darn admirable. She ignored the voters, ridiculed the Tea Party, refused to hold a vote on the Bush tax cuts, and recognized that the voters punished her party because those jobs, jobs, jobs never emerged. So naturally, they insist, we should let her stay. They realize that it might not be the best thing for the party, but gosh, what a spunky gal she is. It has become a “boost Nancy’s self-esteem” movement on the left. Swell for her, not so hot for a Democratic Party struggling to assure the public that it “gets” the message the voters are sending.

Others point to the “unfairness” of allowing Harry Reid to keep his job while Pelosi is, her non-deluded colleagues hope, hustled offstage. To that I can only say, “Take it up with Chuck Schumer.” He’s apparently not nervy enough to make a play for Reid’s post. And, Reid’s defenders would argue, at least he didn’t lose the majority for his caucus like Nancy did for hers.

Unless the rump leftist caucus comes down with a case of common sense, Pelosi is likely to remain atop the House Democratic caucus. Even more troubling for Democrats who aspire to pull out of their party’s tailspin, the “Damn the voters, full speed ahead!” mentality may also dominate the White House’s thinking. If so, the tsunami of 2012 will make 2010’s results look like a ripple.

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RE: Senate Shifts

As I noted yesterday, the new Senate will have more Republicans and, just as important, many more nervous Democrats. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is thinking along the same lines:

“I think the most interesting thing to watch in the next Congress is how many Democrats start voting with us,” McConnell said.

“Every one of the 23 Democrats up [for re-election] in the next cycle has a clear understanding of what happened Tuesday,” he said. “I think we have major opportunities for bipartisan coalitions to support what we want to do.”

There are roughly three groupings of these Democrats. First are those who already cross the aisle now and then. “Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has voted with Republicans about 32 percent of the time during this Congress, according to the Washington Post. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri has broken with her party on about 1 in 5 votes.” Yes, this is deceptive because on the really big issues (e.g., ObamaCare), these two voted with the White House. Still, their proclivity is not knee-jerk agreement with their leaders.

Next are those up for re-election in 2012. “Sen. John Tester, who’s up for re-election in 2012, represents red state Montana. And Senator-elect Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has to run again in two years for a full term, has already promised to take aim at Democratic policies — literally.” You can add in Kent Conrad. And Jim Webb.

And finally, you have the Blue State senators whose states aren’t all that Blue anymore. “Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin will say goodbye to Badger State delegation colleague Russ Feingold; Pennsylvania’s Sen. Bob Casey and Florida’s Bill Nelson will be joined on the Hill in January by conservative Republicans instead of by fellow Dems; and Sen. Sherrod Brown witnessed the Democrat in Ohio’s Senate contest beaten by almost 20 points.” In short, they risk being shown up by their states’ more-conservative senators.

For years, the conservative base has grumbled about the least-conservative members of the Senate caucus (the two Maine gals and Snarlin’ Arlen before he switched parties). Now it’s the Dems’ turn to wrestle with the least-liberal members on their side. Harry Reid’s headaches didn’t end on Election Day, and his own narrow escape from a highly vulnerable opponent will serve as a warning to members who don’t have the influence and seniority of a minority leader.

McConnell, with 47 on his side and more to poach from the Democratic side, will be a potent force. Prepare to see him run rings around Reid. Chuck Schumer can take some small consolation that he isn’t going to be the victim of McConnell’s parliamentary skills. And a final point: with a working majority of Red State Democrats and Republicans, prepare to see the liberal intelligentsia defend the wondrous filibuster. Just you wait.

As I noted yesterday, the new Senate will have more Republicans and, just as important, many more nervous Democrats. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is thinking along the same lines:

“I think the most interesting thing to watch in the next Congress is how many Democrats start voting with us,” McConnell said.

“Every one of the 23 Democrats up [for re-election] in the next cycle has a clear understanding of what happened Tuesday,” he said. “I think we have major opportunities for bipartisan coalitions to support what we want to do.”

There are roughly three groupings of these Democrats. First are those who already cross the aisle now and then. “Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has voted with Republicans about 32 percent of the time during this Congress, according to the Washington Post. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri has broken with her party on about 1 in 5 votes.” Yes, this is deceptive because on the really big issues (e.g., ObamaCare), these two voted with the White House. Still, their proclivity is not knee-jerk agreement with their leaders.

Next are those up for re-election in 2012. “Sen. John Tester, who’s up for re-election in 2012, represents red state Montana. And Senator-elect Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has to run again in two years for a full term, has already promised to take aim at Democratic policies — literally.” You can add in Kent Conrad. And Jim Webb.

And finally, you have the Blue State senators whose states aren’t all that Blue anymore. “Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin will say goodbye to Badger State delegation colleague Russ Feingold; Pennsylvania’s Sen. Bob Casey and Florida’s Bill Nelson will be joined on the Hill in January by conservative Republicans instead of by fellow Dems; and Sen. Sherrod Brown witnessed the Democrat in Ohio’s Senate contest beaten by almost 20 points.” In short, they risk being shown up by their states’ more-conservative senators.

For years, the conservative base has grumbled about the least-conservative members of the Senate caucus (the two Maine gals and Snarlin’ Arlen before he switched parties). Now it’s the Dems’ turn to wrestle with the least-liberal members on their side. Harry Reid’s headaches didn’t end on Election Day, and his own narrow escape from a highly vulnerable opponent will serve as a warning to members who don’t have the influence and seniority of a minority leader.

McConnell, with 47 on his side and more to poach from the Democratic side, will be a potent force. Prepare to see him run rings around Reid. Chuck Schumer can take some small consolation that he isn’t going to be the victim of McConnell’s parliamentary skills. And a final point: with a working majority of Red State Democrats and Republicans, prepare to see the liberal intelligentsia defend the wondrous filibuster. Just you wait.

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LIVE BLOG: Lots of Upset People

Sens. Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer are bummed. They were already fighting over the majority leader’s seat. Also upset, Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers, who have seen a second, untested outsider beat more electable GOP establishment types — and then lose in winnable states. Don’t think Palin’s potential 2012 opponents won’t be making hay out of this one.

But you know, there are worse things for the GOP than to have Harry Reid as an ongoing symbol of the Democratic Party.

Sens. Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer are bummed. They were already fighting over the majority leader’s seat. Also upset, Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers, who have seen a second, untested outsider beat more electable GOP establishment types — and then lose in winnable states. Don’t think Palin’s potential 2012 opponents won’t be making hay out of this one.

But you know, there are worse things for the GOP than to have Harry Reid as an ongoing symbol of the Democratic Party.

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LIVE BLOG: New York

New York remains deep Blue at the top of the ticket. Both Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand win, as does Andrew Cuomo in the gubernatorial race. But keep your eye on those House seats. The GOP was looking to pick up 4 to 6 seats. However, with the top of the ticket running so poorly, those House Republicans may have a tougher time of it.

New York remains deep Blue at the top of the ticket. Both Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand win, as does Andrew Cuomo in the gubernatorial race. But keep your eye on those House seats. The GOP was looking to pick up 4 to 6 seats. However, with the top of the ticket running so poorly, those House Republicans may have a tougher time of it.

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Senate Coming into Focus

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a “tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad'”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a “tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad'”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

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Not Charming, Are They?

For those who imagine that the Obama team is finally “getting it” with regard to the Middle East or that it has taken to heart the complaints of Jewish supporters, it will be a surprise when the president and his crack diplomatic crew repeat precisely the same error and employ the identical tactics that have been their modus operandi for nearly two years.

Israel resumes building in its capital, in a “Jewish neighborhood.” (The term is objectionable, of course, because it implies Jews can’t live where they please.) This is not some remote “settlement.” This is the sort of building in Jerusalem that has gone on under multiple prime ministers. But the Obami are frustrated and embarrassed, so they double down, reiterating their insistence that Israel cough up more concessions (a building freeze) while the Palestinians freely announce they won’t be recognizing a “Jewish state.” This report explains:

“We were disappointed by the announcement of new tenders in east Jerusalem yesterday. It is contrary to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties,” said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley to assembled reporters at a weekly briefing.

However, Israel has already announced it won’t be reimposing a settlement freeze, certainly not in Jerusalem. The Obami are mute on whether the walk-out by Abbas is “contrary to [their] efforts” as well.

Now no nation can be less peeved than the U.S., so Jordan chirps up:

Jordan’s State Minister for Media Affairs and Communications Ali Ayed issued a statement condemning building plans, and calling on the international community to “stop Israeli provocations” and do whatever possible to resume and see through successful negotiations.

But things have changed here in the U.S. since the Obama team “condemned” such building last March. Obama now is politically toxic, the American Jewish community has had it with the bully-boy-ism, and liberal elected officials have discovered that there really is no there there on J Street (i.e., no alternative pro-Israel faction — other than Soros and the Hong Kong mystery gal — that approves of Obama’s approach).

Don’t take my word for it. A J Street endorsee and liberal Democrat Gary Ackerman blasts away in a statement:

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It is not a settlement. As such, the resumption of construction in Jerusalem is not a justification for a crisis, a showdown, a meltdown or even a hissy fit. Ramot and Pisgat Zeev are going to be part of Israel in any conceivable final status deal and to pretend otherwise is pointless.

As I have said, those who earlier complained about the inadequacy of Israel’s unilateral and uncompensated settlement freeze, who chose to waste those ten months instead of diving aggressively into direct talks on peace, cannot reasonably now turn around and complain that the end of the freeze and the resumption of Israeli construction in Jerusalem—Israel’s capital, and the singular geographic center of the hopes and aspirations of the Jewish people for three millennia—is either a shock or an insurmountable obstacle to  peace.

Israeli construction in Jerusalem, in two already well-established neighborhoods is neither a show of bad faith, nor a justification for avoiding negotiations aimed at achieving a final status agreement. The legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians are not going to be achieved by violence and they’re not going to be achieved by the equivalent of holding their breath until their lips turn blue. Direct negotiations are sole pathway to their goal and the sooner they recognize this fact, the better.”

I don’t think Soros is getting his money’s worth from Ackerman. He sounds like he’s echoing the position of the Emergency Committee for Israel.

As belated as Ackerman’s outspokenness may be, it is still welcomed. And it is, I would suggest, the silver lining in the Obama era. There is now the opportunity for Democrats to correct course and demonstrate that their pro-Israel bona fides are just as sound as their Republican colleagues. In the new Congress, perhaps Ackerman and other prominent Democrats (Chuck Schumer, Howard Berman, etc.) will cease carrying water for the Obama administration’s flawed Israel policy. The Congress has the power of the purse, the duty of oversight, and the ability to use resolutions and public statements to push back on the administration. All of that is long overdue. Let’s hope Ackerman’s reaction is the beginning of a trend and not simply pre-election political expediency.

For those who imagine that the Obama team is finally “getting it” with regard to the Middle East or that it has taken to heart the complaints of Jewish supporters, it will be a surprise when the president and his crack diplomatic crew repeat precisely the same error and employ the identical tactics that have been their modus operandi for nearly two years.

Israel resumes building in its capital, in a “Jewish neighborhood.” (The term is objectionable, of course, because it implies Jews can’t live where they please.) This is not some remote “settlement.” This is the sort of building in Jerusalem that has gone on under multiple prime ministers. But the Obami are frustrated and embarrassed, so they double down, reiterating their insistence that Israel cough up more concessions (a building freeze) while the Palestinians freely announce they won’t be recognizing a “Jewish state.” This report explains:

“We were disappointed by the announcement of new tenders in east Jerusalem yesterday. It is contrary to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties,” said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley to assembled reporters at a weekly briefing.

However, Israel has already announced it won’t be reimposing a settlement freeze, certainly not in Jerusalem. The Obami are mute on whether the walk-out by Abbas is “contrary to [their] efforts” as well.

Now no nation can be less peeved than the U.S., so Jordan chirps up:

Jordan’s State Minister for Media Affairs and Communications Ali Ayed issued a statement condemning building plans, and calling on the international community to “stop Israeli provocations” and do whatever possible to resume and see through successful negotiations.

But things have changed here in the U.S. since the Obama team “condemned” such building last March. Obama now is politically toxic, the American Jewish community has had it with the bully-boy-ism, and liberal elected officials have discovered that there really is no there there on J Street (i.e., no alternative pro-Israel faction — other than Soros and the Hong Kong mystery gal — that approves of Obama’s approach).

Don’t take my word for it. A J Street endorsee and liberal Democrat Gary Ackerman blasts away in a statement:

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It is not a settlement. As such, the resumption of construction in Jerusalem is not a justification for a crisis, a showdown, a meltdown or even a hissy fit. Ramot and Pisgat Zeev are going to be part of Israel in any conceivable final status deal and to pretend otherwise is pointless.

As I have said, those who earlier complained about the inadequacy of Israel’s unilateral and uncompensated settlement freeze, who chose to waste those ten months instead of diving aggressively into direct talks on peace, cannot reasonably now turn around and complain that the end of the freeze and the resumption of Israeli construction in Jerusalem—Israel’s capital, and the singular geographic center of the hopes and aspirations of the Jewish people for three millennia—is either a shock or an insurmountable obstacle to  peace.

Israeli construction in Jerusalem, in two already well-established neighborhoods is neither a show of bad faith, nor a justification for avoiding negotiations aimed at achieving a final status agreement. The legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians are not going to be achieved by violence and they’re not going to be achieved by the equivalent of holding their breath until their lips turn blue. Direct negotiations are sole pathway to their goal and the sooner they recognize this fact, the better.”

I don’t think Soros is getting his money’s worth from Ackerman. He sounds like he’s echoing the position of the Emergency Committee for Israel.

As belated as Ackerman’s outspokenness may be, it is still welcomed. And it is, I would suggest, the silver lining in the Obama era. There is now the opportunity for Democrats to correct course and demonstrate that their pro-Israel bona fides are just as sound as their Republican colleagues. In the new Congress, perhaps Ackerman and other prominent Democrats (Chuck Schumer, Howard Berman, etc.) will cease carrying water for the Obama administration’s flawed Israel policy. The Congress has the power of the purse, the duty of oversight, and the ability to use resolutions and public statements to push back on the administration. All of that is long overdue. Let’s hope Ackerman’s reaction is the beginning of a trend and not simply pre-election political expediency.

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Another Attempt to Distract, Another Losing Issue

Obama’s attack on the Chamber of Commerce for its imaginary foreign donors hasn’t succeeded in distracting voters. Gallup reports:

Creating jobs and securing the country’s borders are most top-of-mind when Americans are asked what the federal government is currently not doing that it should be doing. …

The poll also asked the reverse question — what is the federal government currently doing that it should not be doing? Overall, Americans are somewhat less likely to offer a specific response on this question (71% do), with healthcare legislation most commonly mentioned, by 18%.

Let’s see, the items voters care most about are the items Obama has done nothing about (immigration reform) or has made worse through his policies (taxing, regulating, passing mandates on employers).

Aside from it’s falsity, the Chamber of Commerce attack is peculiar. It’s not directly aimed at the GOP. (What is he saying, “Don’t elect Republicans because they may have taken money from the chamber, which I am accusing without evidence has foreign contributors“?) And it blows to smithereens the White House’s claim that the administration isn’t anti-business. Liberal blogger Greg Sargent observes:

The full-scale assault from the White House and Dems on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s groups shows no signs of abating. But is it already a political flop?

Some commentators are rushing to proclaim this offensive a political failure. Mark Halperin, for instance, wondered allowed today: “I’m not sure how this appeals to voters.” Halperin then stated this as outright fact: “It’s just not relevant to voters.”

Republicans are now entering the fray — and they, too, agree it’s a political flop, claiming that it will make Dems look anti-business. “All that Democrats have done is remind people of their anti-business fervor while drawing attention to the fact that their anti-growth policies have failed to put Americans back to work,” reads a statement from Eric Cantor’s office.

Well, it’s not the first, nor I suspect the last, desperate stunt and irrelevant issue Obama will toss out in the next three weeks. And it sure isn’t going to help Chuck Schumer raise big bucks from Wall Street. Like much of what the White House does, the chamber gambit has very little upside and quite some downside for the Democrats. The GOP can hardly believe its good fortune.

Obama’s attack on the Chamber of Commerce for its imaginary foreign donors hasn’t succeeded in distracting voters. Gallup reports:

Creating jobs and securing the country’s borders are most top-of-mind when Americans are asked what the federal government is currently not doing that it should be doing. …

The poll also asked the reverse question — what is the federal government currently doing that it should not be doing? Overall, Americans are somewhat less likely to offer a specific response on this question (71% do), with healthcare legislation most commonly mentioned, by 18%.

Let’s see, the items voters care most about are the items Obama has done nothing about (immigration reform) or has made worse through his policies (taxing, regulating, passing mandates on employers).

Aside from it’s falsity, the Chamber of Commerce attack is peculiar. It’s not directly aimed at the GOP. (What is he saying, “Don’t elect Republicans because they may have taken money from the chamber, which I am accusing without evidence has foreign contributors“?) And it blows to smithereens the White House’s claim that the administration isn’t anti-business. Liberal blogger Greg Sargent observes:

The full-scale assault from the White House and Dems on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s groups shows no signs of abating. But is it already a political flop?

Some commentators are rushing to proclaim this offensive a political failure. Mark Halperin, for instance, wondered allowed today: “I’m not sure how this appeals to voters.” Halperin then stated this as outright fact: “It’s just not relevant to voters.”

Republicans are now entering the fray — and they, too, agree it’s a political flop, claiming that it will make Dems look anti-business. “All that Democrats have done is remind people of their anti-business fervor while drawing attention to the fact that their anti-growth policies have failed to put Americans back to work,” reads a statement from Eric Cantor’s office.

Well, it’s not the first, nor I suspect the last, desperate stunt and irrelevant issue Obama will toss out in the next three weeks. And it sure isn’t going to help Chuck Schumer raise big bucks from Wall Street. Like much of what the White House does, the chamber gambit has very little upside and quite some downside for the Democrats. The GOP can hardly believe its good fortune.

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Does Schumer Care About CAIR?

Chuck Schumer, the wanna-be majority (minority?) leader for the next Senate, is doing a fundraiser for the hapless Joe Sestak in Philadelphia tonight. The Toomey camp has jumped on this, challenging Sestak to answer questions about his association with CAIR. In a statement, Toomey’s campaign reminds us that in 2003, Schumer declared in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “We know [CAIR] has ties to terrorism.” So the Toomey camp wants to know if Sestak now agrees with Schumer, and if he thinks it’s appropriate to keynote for CAIR and praise “its good work.” The campaign also tucks in this bombshell: “Will Congressman Sestak return the $2,000 he has received from officers of CAIR?”

Wait. Sestak keynoted for them, praised them, and then got money from them — a group that refuses to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups and that has had multiple officials indicted for and convicted of terrorist activities? In fact, Sestak received donations from the then-president, treasurer, and chairman of the Pennsylvania chapter of CAIR. He is plainly the group’s choice candidate. (These donations were made between 2006 and 2009.)

So let’s get this straight: Sestak took money from Soros Street (which wrote Richard Goldstone’s defense case and escorted him around Capitol Hill) and from CAIR, which the Democrats’ leader-in-waiting has deemed to have terrorist ties. Sestak may already be a dead duck. But what is Chuck Schumer, the great friend of Israel, doing with this guy? Schumer has had it both ways of late. He’s made heartfelt speeches to AIPAC and grumbled about Obama in the Jewish media, but when it comes to the national Democratic stage, he seems to jettison all those concerns. At some point, Schumer’s pro-Israel supporters may want a more consistent advocate for their cause.

And in the meantime, Sestak should disgorge this money.

Chuck Schumer, the wanna-be majority (minority?) leader for the next Senate, is doing a fundraiser for the hapless Joe Sestak in Philadelphia tonight. The Toomey camp has jumped on this, challenging Sestak to answer questions about his association with CAIR. In a statement, Toomey’s campaign reminds us that in 2003, Schumer declared in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “We know [CAIR] has ties to terrorism.” So the Toomey camp wants to know if Sestak now agrees with Schumer, and if he thinks it’s appropriate to keynote for CAIR and praise “its good work.” The campaign also tucks in this bombshell: “Will Congressman Sestak return the $2,000 he has received from officers of CAIR?”

Wait. Sestak keynoted for them, praised them, and then got money from them — a group that refuses to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups and that has had multiple officials indicted for and convicted of terrorist activities? In fact, Sestak received donations from the then-president, treasurer, and chairman of the Pennsylvania chapter of CAIR. He is plainly the group’s choice candidate. (These donations were made between 2006 and 2009.)

So let’s get this straight: Sestak took money from Soros Street (which wrote Richard Goldstone’s defense case and escorted him around Capitol Hill) and from CAIR, which the Democrats’ leader-in-waiting has deemed to have terrorist ties. Sestak may already be a dead duck. But what is Chuck Schumer, the great friend of Israel, doing with this guy? Schumer has had it both ways of late. He’s made heartfelt speeches to AIPAC and grumbled about Obama in the Jewish media, but when it comes to the national Democratic stage, he seems to jettison all those concerns. At some point, Schumer’s pro-Israel supporters may want a more consistent advocate for their cause.

And in the meantime, Sestak should disgorge this money.

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A Shot Across Their Bow

On Friday, Democrats (other than Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer, who are vying to lead their party in the Senate) got some bad news that, for a change, was not economic: “The National Rifle Association declines to endorse Senator Harry Reid, citing his votes for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, which is a blow, since the group backed him in the past.”

This is significant for several reasons. First, the NRA’s endorsement is critical in a large number of states. No less a political guru than Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA “made Gingrich the House speaker” in 1994 and  toppled Al Gore in  2000. Granted, ardor on the Second Amendment may have cooled as Democrats have sought to downplay the issue and since the Supreme Court affirmed it is both a personal right and binding on the states. However, the NRA continues to be a powerful interest group that can provide troops on the ground and critical advertising for its preferred candidates.

The announcement is also important because it signals that the group thinks Reid is a dead duck. Otherwise, why risk annoying the Senate Majority Leader? Its political calculation may influence donors and other special-interest groups to dump Reid and place their bets and money elsewhere.

And finally, this is a fitting and unmistakable warning about Supreme Court nominees. For years, Democrats and some Republicans felt their votes were “free” — they could, with impunity and without regard to their constituents’ views, vote to confirm nominees whose records reflected outright hostility to the Second Amendment. The NRA is making it clear that lawmakers are going to be held responsible for their votes. So Lindsey Graham, who voted yes on both the Kagan and Sotomayor nominations, is on notice: don’t expect the NRA’s support.

On Friday, Democrats (other than Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer, who are vying to lead their party in the Senate) got some bad news that, for a change, was not economic: “The National Rifle Association declines to endorse Senator Harry Reid, citing his votes for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, which is a blow, since the group backed him in the past.”

This is significant for several reasons. First, the NRA’s endorsement is critical in a large number of states. No less a political guru than Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA “made Gingrich the House speaker” in 1994 and  toppled Al Gore in  2000. Granted, ardor on the Second Amendment may have cooled as Democrats have sought to downplay the issue and since the Supreme Court affirmed it is both a personal right and binding on the states. However, the NRA continues to be a powerful interest group that can provide troops on the ground and critical advertising for its preferred candidates.

The announcement is also important because it signals that the group thinks Reid is a dead duck. Otherwise, why risk annoying the Senate Majority Leader? Its political calculation may influence donors and other special-interest groups to dump Reid and place their bets and money elsewhere.

And finally, this is a fitting and unmistakable warning about Supreme Court nominees. For years, Democrats and some Republicans felt their votes were “free” — they could, with impunity and without regard to their constituents’ views, vote to confirm nominees whose records reflected outright hostility to the Second Amendment. The NRA is making it clear that lawmakers are going to be held responsible for their votes. So Lindsey Graham, who voted yes on both the Kagan and Sotomayor nominations, is on notice: don’t expect the NRA’s support.

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Ummm … Let’s Say It’s a Conservative Dilemma Too!

Politico pronounces: “The debate over the proposed mosque near ground zero, which has tied Democrats in knots, turns out to be just as tricky for their adversaries on the right—particularly those in the tea party.” This is simply nonsense. In a lengthy article, little support is offered for the assertion that the Tea Party movement is tied up in knots, and absolutely none to demonstrate that it is “just as tricky” for Tea Partiers as it is for Democrats (who are engaged in what the media would refer to as a “civil war” if it were the GOP’s problem).

It seems some Tea Partiers think the Ground Zero mosque is not a Tea Party issue (since the movement generally focuses on economic issues). And some don’t. But where’s the evidence that the percentage of opponents is any lower than the voters at large (68 percent) or that a single Tea Party–backed candidate is out of step with the voters? The best the report can do is this on Rand Paul:

On Monday, a spokesman for the Kentucky Senate campaign of Rand Paul, a tea party standard bearer, issued a statement seeming to beg off the issue by invoking states’ rights. “We don’t want New York intervening in our local Kentucky issues,” read the statement from Gary Howard to a Kentucky political blog, “and we don’t look to interfere with New York’s local issues.”

But asked to clarify Paul’s stance, Howard on Tuesday sent POLITICO a statement emphasizing Paul’s personal opposition.

“While this is a local matter that should be decided by the people of New York, Dr. Paul does not support a mosque being built two blocks from ground zero,” Howard said in the statement. “In Dr. Paul’s opinion, the Muslim community would better serve the healing process by making a donation to the memorial fund for the victims of Sept. 11.”

Well, compared with the White House, this is political sophistication of the highest order. And it sure sounds like Paul is handling it better than Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who seem to have gone into a witness protection program to avoid responding to an issue of deep concern to their electorate.

This sort of moral-equivalence reporting is nothing new for the media. Whenever the Democrats are on the rocks, their media fan club strains to concoct the argument that, oh yes, the Democrats’ great misfortune is not the Democrats’ misfortune alone. It’s the same syndrome we see at work when the media insist that the anti-Democratic sentiment sweeping the country is really anti-incumbent sentiment. If you ignore the historic lead for the GOP in congressional generic polling, Obama’s plummeting approval numbers, the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans, and the rise in support for conservative positions, it almost makes sense.

The “conservatives are in trouble too!” reporting is one of the more transparent gambits the media engage in, and the kind of “journalism” that gives false comfort to the objects of their affection. And in the context of the Ground Zero mosque, I’d wager even the Journolist gang would recommend against it.

Politico pronounces: “The debate over the proposed mosque near ground zero, which has tied Democrats in knots, turns out to be just as tricky for their adversaries on the right—particularly those in the tea party.” This is simply nonsense. In a lengthy article, little support is offered for the assertion that the Tea Party movement is tied up in knots, and absolutely none to demonstrate that it is “just as tricky” for Tea Partiers as it is for Democrats (who are engaged in what the media would refer to as a “civil war” if it were the GOP’s problem).

It seems some Tea Partiers think the Ground Zero mosque is not a Tea Party issue (since the movement generally focuses on economic issues). And some don’t. But where’s the evidence that the percentage of opponents is any lower than the voters at large (68 percent) or that a single Tea Party–backed candidate is out of step with the voters? The best the report can do is this on Rand Paul:

On Monday, a spokesman for the Kentucky Senate campaign of Rand Paul, a tea party standard bearer, issued a statement seeming to beg off the issue by invoking states’ rights. “We don’t want New York intervening in our local Kentucky issues,” read the statement from Gary Howard to a Kentucky political blog, “and we don’t look to interfere with New York’s local issues.”

But asked to clarify Paul’s stance, Howard on Tuesday sent POLITICO a statement emphasizing Paul’s personal opposition.

“While this is a local matter that should be decided by the people of New York, Dr. Paul does not support a mosque being built two blocks from ground zero,” Howard said in the statement. “In Dr. Paul’s opinion, the Muslim community would better serve the healing process by making a donation to the memorial fund for the victims of Sept. 11.”

Well, compared with the White House, this is political sophistication of the highest order. And it sure sounds like Paul is handling it better than Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who seem to have gone into a witness protection program to avoid responding to an issue of deep concern to their electorate.

This sort of moral-equivalence reporting is nothing new for the media. Whenever the Democrats are on the rocks, their media fan club strains to concoct the argument that, oh yes, the Democrats’ great misfortune is not the Democrats’ misfortune alone. It’s the same syndrome we see at work when the media insist that the anti-Democratic sentiment sweeping the country is really anti-incumbent sentiment. If you ignore the historic lead for the GOP in congressional generic polling, Obama’s plummeting approval numbers, the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans, and the rise in support for conservative positions, it almost makes sense.

The “conservatives are in trouble too!” reporting is one of the more transparent gambits the media engage in, and the kind of “journalism” that gives false comfort to the objects of their affection. And in the context of the Ground Zero mosque, I’d wager even the Journolist gang would recommend against it.

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