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WEDNESDAY, MAY 26, 2010
THE WORST WAY TO BE A HOUSEHOLD NAME – AT 8:55 P.M. ET: Three weeks ago, Democratic Attorney General Dick Blumenthal of Connecticut was on his way to an easy ride into the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Chris Dodd. Blue state, reputable guy, no problem.
Then it came out that he'd lied about his military record. It wasn't a little white or even multicultural lie. It was a big fib – he said he'd been in Vietnam, and he hadn't gone near the place.
Now Blumenthal is the buzz of much of the political world. He also may be entering the political vocabulary of the nation in the worst possible way, as ABC News reports:
Vice President Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden hosted a poolside barbecue for wounded veterans and their families last night at the Vice president’s residence, one complete with bluegrass music, honey-mustard-pulled-pork, and a Bidenism.
Speaking to the veterans -- residents of the Mologne House at Walter Reed Army Medical Center -- the Vice President spoke about the experience of troops returning from Vietnam.
"I didn't serve in Vietnam,” he noted. “I don't want to make a Blumenthal mistake here -- our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him."
The vice president was referring to the recent admission by the Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal that at times he has exaggerated his war record. Blumenthal served in the Marine Reserves during Vietnam, but never actually went there, though at times he has told audiences about being “in” Vietnam.
Later on in his remarks, the vice president added "I have a bad habit of saying exactly what I think."
COMMENT: Message to Blumenthal: Maybe it's time to go. Run an antique shop. Maybe paint landscapes. Many things to do in this world, Dick.
Amazing what a little newspaper exposure can do to a guy.
Oh, another message to Blumenthal: If you do run an antique shop, and someone comes in with an original copy of the Gettysburg Address, don't say you heard it live.
May 26, 2010 Permalink
IS SESTAK NEXT UNDER THE WHITE HOUSE BUS? – AT 7:35 P.M. ET: The brilliant Barbara Ledeen, wife of the equally brilliant Michael Ledeen, alerts us to the latest installment of Joe Sestak's employment news.
Sestak, a former Navy vice admiral, is the Dem candidate for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, having defeated Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary. But Sestak opened his mouth some weeks back, and, reflecting his apparent resentment, revealed that someone in the White House had offered him a high position in the administration in return for his dropping out of that very primary. If true, a serious crime may well have been committed, and Republicans are not giving it a rest: From ABC News:
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder today, all seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee "urge the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Congressman Joe Sestak's claim that a White House official offered him a job to induce him to exit the Pennsylvania Senate primary race against Senator Arlen Specter."
The seven – Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jon Kyl or Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma – allege that the offer would appear to violate federal criminal laws, including 18 U.S.C. 600, which prohibits promising a government position “as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity” or “in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office.”
Rep. Sestak, D-Penn., who defeated Specter in the primary last week, told Comcast’s Larry Kane in February that the White House had offered him a position in exchange for not challenging Specter. White House senior adviser David Axelrod said on Monday that White House lawyers had looked into it and judged everything “perfectly appropriate.”
COMMENT: Well, we're sure the White House lawyers found everything good, but the Republicans are absolutely correct in demanding a wider probe. Holder is on the record as rejecting the notion of a special prosecutor, but Holder can be reversed if Obama decides he needs at least the appearance of rectitude.
This story will grow. There's no downside for the Republicans, and no upside for the Democrats.
May 26, 2010 Permalink
YIKES-A-ROOTIE – AT 7:16 P.M. ET: As readers know, we've been following closely the president's decline in the Rasmussen poll. It's sort of like watching the Titanic, and rooting for the iceberg.
The latest report continues the relentless slide:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 23% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-five percent (45%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -22. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet measured for this president.
Overall, 43% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the president's performance. Fifty-five percent (56%) disapprove.
Obama is moving toward the thirties, at least in this poll. If he hits that magic number of 39, he'll be in George W. Bush territory, and he's barely moved into the White House. Call the movers back.
There's more goodness from Scott Rasmussen:
Among men, 20% Strongly Approve and 50% Strongly Disapprove. Among women, those numbers are 27% and 40%.
There is some good news for Obama, but not from the Rasmussen poll. Other polls show that the Hispanic vote is firming up for the Democrats, in response to the Arizona anti-illegal-immigration law, which Obama strongly opposes and which Republicans generally favor.
Obama is taking steps to strengthen his base, such as inviting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to the White House for a kiss-and-make-up session next week, and advancing action on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. But beyond the base, the Democrats see little reason for joy.
May 26, 2010 Permalink
CAMERON BEGINS – AT 9:05 A.M. ET: Although hobbled by the need to form a coalition with the lefty Liberal Democrats, conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is off to a hard-hitting start in presenting the unvarnished truth to the British people. From the Daily Mail:
David Cameron pledged to rebuild Britain after 13 years of 'recklessness' today after unveiling a radical blueprint for sweeping political and social reform.
The Prime Minister launched a savage attack on the previous administration, accusing them of leaving the country in tatters with their economic profligacy.
In his address following this morning's Queen's Speech, he accused Labour of leaving an 'economy that's nearly bankrupt, a society that's broken and a political system that is bust'.
Mr Cameron said Labour had left an 'appalling legacy' with a vast budget deficit that is bigger than Greece's and vowed his coalition government would act in the national interest to put it right.
Evoking the rhetoric of Margaret Thatcher, he promised to return Britain to 'good housekeeping' and end the years of 'recklessness and big government' that mushroomed under Labour.
He claimed his reforms, which include allowing people to run their own schools and a rolling back of the state, would hand back power to the people and deliver a new start for Britain.
'In just two weeks, this Government has done more for our economy than Labour managed in the last two years. No more spending beyond our means, no more reckless borrowing, no more taxing of the poorest to pay for the mistakes of the few,' he told MPs in the Commons.
COMMENT: Good start and fine rhetoric. But Cameron faces the reality that Britain is now a nanny state, and most Brits like nanny. He will have to do a Thatcher, and risk the political attacks that come with it. Same for the GOP here, if it has the backbone.
May 26, 2010 Permalink
GREAT! – AT 7:32 A.M. ET: Just as the Dems seem to be embroiled in civil war, testing whether that party, or any party so conceived and so dedicated can long endure, the GOP is coming alive with, finally, a coherent plan for governing. From ABC News:
House Republican leaders are beginning the process of crafting a 2010 version of the "Contract with America " that proved so successful for the party in the 1990s. GOP leaders hope that the election-year agenda will help the party shed the "party of no" moniker that Democrats have sought to pin on them during President Obama's administration. They kick off the effort at a Tuesday press conference in Washington, D.C.
"There are a number of seats that you get just by being 'no,'" Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican spearheading the effort, told ABC News. "But you don't get a majority by just being 'no.' You've got to say what you're for."
Absolutely correct. Applause and whistles.
The GOP's effort to craft an election-year agenda, which has been dubbed "America Speaking Out," was inspired by the way in which former House Speaker Newt Gingrich , R-Georgia, used a 10-point "Contract with America" to fuel the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress . Although polls indicated that the 1994 vote was motivated more by animus towards President Clinton than by familiarity with the Contract's provisions, Republican leaders found the document to be a useful governing tool as they led the first GOP House majority in 40 years.
There will be voter input as well, another good idea. The whole effort will be called "America Speaking Out."
COMMENT: It's critical that whatever emerges place proper emphasis on foreign policy. Americans often don't list that as high on their priorities, but it's one of those silent issues that can wreck a party if handled poorly. Americans expect the country to be properly defended, and the Dem policy of weakness and indifference is political fodder.
May 26, 2010 Permalink
THE DEMOCRATIC CIVIL WAR – AT 7:19 A.M. ET: Its political position more than precarious, the Democrats are turning on each other. Apparently, Obama did not bring peace on Earth and good will toward men. From the Washington Examiner:
...the real civil war this year is going on in the Democratic Party -- and it is going largely unreported...
...So in this month's primaries we saw a skirmish between Arkansas Senate incumbent Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who suggested but did not quite promise he'd support the card check bill that would effectively abolish the secret ballot in unionization elections -- and whose campaign received something like $1 million from unions. That race will be decided in the June 8 runoff
Another incumbent challenged on the left was Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, who got only 55 percent in the Democrats' state convention and could lose the June 22 primary to a supporter of the health care bill.
The Democrats' one big victory, in the Pennsylvania 12 special election, was won by a pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-health care bill, anti-cap-and-trade candidate. That platform sounds more Republican than Democratic...
...In Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. reportedly is ready to endorse Republican Senate nominee Mark Kirk over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, whose family bank gave loans to mob-related individuals and then failed last month. In New York Andrew Cuomo began his gubernatorial bid with a platform that puts him on a collision course with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and differs notably from the record of his father, Mario Cuomo, in his three terms as governor.
What we're seeing here are attempts to scramble out of trouble by members of a party whose big government policies have proved, to their surprise, to be highly unpopular. Some move left, some move right, some just run around.
The Democratic Party at its best is a group of disparate constituencies united in support of a common program able to win large majorities around the country, as it did in November 2008. The Democratic Party at its worst is a collection of panicked politicians engaged in civil war. Which one does it look like now?
And the guy at the top seems remarkably uninterested. After all, he's not on the ballot.
May 26, 2010 Permalink
GUESS WHO'S COMING FOR DINNER, OR A SNACK – AT 7:07 A.M. ET: Much buzz this morning over the sudden invitation issued by President Obama to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the White House next week.
Netanyahu was already scheduled to visit France and Canada, and now will detour to Washington.
Now, the reason for the invite is perfectly clear. Obama made a fool of himself recently by mistreating Netanyahu when the PM visited Washington, apparently browbeating him, then abandoning him and his staff while The One dined with The First One in the White House living quarters.
But Obama has invited the Palestinian almost prime minister to the White House for later in June. He'll want to put on a good show for the Muslim world and the sympathetic American left. There'll be photo ops, maybe a joint press conference. But he can't do that without memories of Netanyahu's last visit surfacing among Israel supporters. So he's asked the Israeli leader for a do-over. You can be sure the charm will flow next week as Obama tries to rehabilitate himself. Much talk of the "unshakeable" bond between the U.S. and Israel. Maybe a defense deal.
And it will mean nothing.
May 26, 2010 Permalink
TUESDAY, MAY 25, 2010
CONNECTICUT TURMOIL – AT 7:36 P.M. ET: With the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate heavily damaged by revelations that he lied about his service record, the GOP has a chance in this very bluish state. But does it have the candidate to capitalize on the chance? From USA Today:
Former congressman Rob Simmons has announced he's disbanding his campaign for Connecticut's GOP Senate nomination, citing former World Wrestling executive Linda McMahon's money advantage. McMahon won the endorsement of the Connecticut GOP activists at a weekend convention, but she's not popular with all Republicans.
Razor-penned conservative pundit Ann Coulter has accused Republicans of trying to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" in the contest to win the seat being vacated by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. Coulter dismissed McMahon as an "impressario" and praised Simmons, a veteran of Congress, the Army and the CIA. Simmons also had the backing of Jonathan Bush, uncle of former president George W. Bush and brother of former president George H.W. Bush.
Simmons issued this statement:
"We understand the mathematical reality of competing against an opponent with unlimited financial resources who has already invested over 16 and a half million dollars in this campaign - by far more than any Senate candidate in the country - and who has an unlimited ability to continue spending at an extraordinary rate.
"On this basis we have decided, reluctantly and prayerfully, to scale back the campaign. We will release staff to pursue other opportunities and curtail campaign activities. This is not an easy decision or a happy decision. But we believe it is the right decision."
COMMENT: That is sad. This is strictly a "money talks" situation, and those who think the money issue in politics is minor might contemplate for a few moments.
Simmons has not endorsed McMahon. The whole thing is a mess. You'd think Connecticut Republicans could unite around a first-rate candidate.
I realize some readers disagree, and have scolded me for not giving Ms. McMahon a chance. But I want to maximize the potential for a GOP victory, not minimize it. I can just imagine the Democratic attack ads, showing bleeding wrestlers and people being hit on the head with chairs. The first thing the Dems will try to do is define McMahon, and they may succeed.
May 25, 2010 Permalink
THANKS FOR COMING, BUT... – AT 7:21 P.M. ET: The president met with Republican senators today. It did not go well:
WASHINGTON (AP) - If President Barack Obama thought having a private lunch with Republican senators would ease partisan tensions in Congress, he grabbed the wrong recipe.
The president walked into a remarkably contentious 80-minute session Tuesday in which GOP senators accused him of duplicity, audacity and unbending partisanship. Lawmakers said the testy exchange left legislative logjams intact, and one GOP leader said nothing is likely to change before the November elections.
The problem is that Obama still thinks he's Divine, and that Republicans aren't.
"He needs to take a Valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans," Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told reporters. "He's pretty thin-skinned."
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said he addressed Obama, "trying to demand overdue action" on the giant oil spill damaging Gulf coast states. He said got "no specific response" except Obama's pledge to have an authoritative White House official call him within hours.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Obama's 2008 presidential opponent, said he pressed the president on immigration issues. McCain said he told Obama "we need to secure the border first" before taking other steps. "The president didn't agree," he said.
The president sees immigration in strictly political terms. However, later in the day the White House announced that National Guard troops are being sent to the southern border. Way overdue.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., complained to Obama about the partisan genesis of the health care law, enacted without a single Republican vote in Congress. Administration aides repeatedly have said GOP input was welcome, but none within reason turned up.
It's hard to know if Obama genuinely thought his luncheon visit would melt some of the partisan iciness. Several Republican senators and aides in the room said he seemed to be going through the motions, not making real efforts at consensus.
COMMENT: We're shocked that anyone would accuse Barack Obama of a lack of sincerity. Choke now.
May 25, 2010 Permalink
STUNNING – AT 9:41 A.M. ET: Day by day, we've watched the president's approval drop dramatically in the Rasmussen poll, ending the period of stability that he enjoyed. Today's report should be especially alarming to the White House:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 24% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-four percent (44%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20.
Overall, 42% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the president's performance. That is the lowest level of approval yet measured for this president. Fifty-six percent (56%) now disapprove of his performance.
COMMENT: The midterms are five months away. The president's approval rating will affect Democratic performance. Yes, of course that rating can improve, but it's hard to see how. What victories are on the horizon?
The Dems argue that the economy is improving, but where? And Obama's groveling to President Calderon of Mexico last week reminded voters of who he really is.
And yet, Republicans have no reason to feel completely confident. Many GOP candidates are weak, and the party still lacks an overall program. An opportunity taken, or an opportunity missed? It's up to the GOP. The races that will decide whether the Republicans take control of Congress will probably be decided by a few points. There's work to be done. The president's bumbling can't do it all for us.
May 25, 2010 Permalink
GRIM, AND MORE GRIM – AT 9:17 A.M. ET: The private economy is shrinking, the public economy is growing. From USA Today:
Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year, a USA TODAY analysis of government data finds.
At the same time, government-provided benefits — from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs — rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.
Those records reflect a long-term trend accelerated by the recession and the federal stimulus program to counteract the downturn. The result is a major shift in the source of personal income from private wages to government programs.
The trend is not sustainable, says University of Michigan economist Donald Grimes. Reason: The federal government depends on private wages to generate income taxes to pay for its ever-more-expensive programs. Government-generated income is taxed at lower rates or not at all, he says. "This is really important," Grimes says.
COMMENT: What isn't reported here is that median government salaries now exceed median private salaries. We are becoming Europe. Is that what America voted for?
May 25, 2010 Permalink
I'M SHOCKED, SHOCKED, THAT BIAS IS GOING ON HERE – AT 8:42 A.M. ET: It has been discovered that colleges and universities are biased toward the left when it comes to inviting commencement speakers. I did not know that. From the Washington Times:
The Obamaites are proving a much bigger hit than the Bushies ever were on the cap-and-gown circuit.
A survey by the conservative Young America's Foundation found that nine officials from the Obama administration have been invited to speak at commencement exercises at the nation's 100 top-ranked universities this spring alone — compared with 14 officials from the administration during President George W. Bush's eight years in office.
Foundation officials say the results, part of an annual survey conducted for the past 17 years, show that the liberal dominance of graduation day has only increased under President Obama.
Who woulda guessed it? Colleges are on the left?
Despite disclaimers from university officials, Evan Gassman, program officer at the Young America's Foundation, said there is no denying that a bias exists.
"You can see there is a trend," he said. "Every single year for the past 17 years, these commencement speeches have contained over 50 percent of liberal ideologies, where conservatives are left out of the conversation."
He added, "You'd think that the officials at the Obama administration would be dealing with the war in Iraq or the 9.5 percent unemployment rate, but it seems they're all tied up. You think they're busy but they're not."
COMMENT: This story is more than just a curiosity. I've long believed that some people in government, and a large number in journalism, angle for those commencement invitations and those honorary degrees. Careers, and career judgments, can easily be compromised.
There's an old saying that there are million-dollar-a-year executives who'd give anything just to walk down an aisle with a sixty-thousand-a-year college professor. It's true. It's always been true. Colleges have ideological influence, and it isn't always healthy.
May 25, 2010 Permalink
KOREAN TENSIONS GROW – AT 8:23 A.M. ET: While Americans are thinking ahead to the Memorial Day weekend, a crisis brews on the Korean peninsula. Question: How far will we be pushed this time? From AP:
SEOUL, South Korea - Tensions on the Korean peninsula soared Tuesday as North Korea's leader reportedly ordered troops ready for combat and the South resumed propaganda broadcasts into the North in retaliation for the deadly sinking of a warship.
A North Korean monitoring group said Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il last week ordered his 1.2 million-member military to get ready for combat, shortly after South Korea officially blamed his regime for the March 26 sinking of its warship Cheonan.
The South's restarting of psychological warfare operations was among measures it announced Monday, along with slashing trade, to punish Pyongyang for the March torpedo strike that sank a navy warship and killed 46 sailors.
The U.S. has thrown its full support behind South Korea's moves to retaliate, which also include bringing North Korea before the U.N. Security Council. China — North Korea's main ally and aid provider and a veto-wielding member of the Security Council — has so far done little but urge calm on all sides.
COMMENT: We will now see what "full support" means. This is Obama we're talking about. He knows there's plenty of room under that bus should he decide to throw another ally there.
This story is growing. The North Koreans engaged in a naked act of war. My guess is that the Chinese will not agree to anything substantial, and that we will back down from "full support" to support of a tut-tutting resolution in the U.N. And then we'll "move on."
May 25, 2010 Permalink
MADNESS IN NEW YORK – OR AS MARK TWAIN SAID, "I REPEAT MYSELF" – AT 8:01 A.M. ET: New York State is almost bankrupt. More people are leaving New York than any other state. Ultra-establishmentarian Andy Cuomo, son of a three-term governor, is running for his father's job as an outsider, and the GOP can't find candidates for the Senate or governorship in a Republican year.
Now, you would think, with all this, that New York politicians would get serious. Are you kidding? Why get serious when there's a race card to be played? Consider this dribble:
City cops are livid over a legislative proposal that could handcuff the brave officers involved in life-and-death confrontations every day -- requiring them to shoot gun-wielding suspects in the arm or leg rather than shoot to kill, The Post has learned.
The "minimum force" bill, which surfaced in the Assembly last week, seeks to amend the state penal codes' "justification" clause that allows an officer the right to kill a thug if he feels his life or someone else's is in imminent danger.
The bill -- drafted in the wake of Sean Bell's controversial police shooting death -- would force officers to use their weapons "with the intent to stop, rather than kill" a suspect. They would be mandated to "shoot a suspect in the arm or the leg."Under present NYPD training, cops are taught to shoot at the center of their target and fire their weapon until the threat has been stopped.
Explanation: The "controversial" police shooting death of one Sean Bell was controversial only in the eyes of the left. Mr. Bell was killed fleeing arrest and aiming his car at police officers, an unhealthy act characterized by a lack of sportsmanship.
"These are split-second, spontaneous events -- and officers have to make a full assessment in a fraction of a second," said an angry Michael Paladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association. "It is not realistic, and it exists only in cartoons.
"It's moronic and would create two sets of rules in the streets if there is a gunfight. This legislation would require officers to literally shoot the gun out of someone's hand or shoot to wound them in the leg or arm. I don't know of any criminal who doesn't shoot to kill. They are not bound by any restrictions."
"The legislators have their heads buried in the sand, and we would not be able to fully protect the public or ourselves."
In fact, NYPD officers and detectives hit their targets only 17 percent of the time because of the incredibly stressful circumstances surrounding a shooting.
COMMENT: Welcome back to the 1960s. Ever since the election of Barack Obama, the sixties crowd has wallowed in a kind of nostalgia for the whacked-out "ideas" of that era, this being one of them.
In fact, police killings of citizens are rare in New York, and are almost always justified. But attacked the cops – all cops – is so sixtyish. Ah, wasn't it a time.
This legislation will likely go nowhere in its current form. But an alternative bill, with language that only a tort lawyer could love, may well emerge.
May 25, 2010 Permalink