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Obama 2012: “Not the Barack You Knew in 2008!”

May 26, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

obama postcard
Image by Mr. Wright via Flickr

President Obama’s strategy for helping fellow Democrats win in the 2010 midterm elections is apparently to campaign against George W. Bush.

At a fundraiser two weeks ago, Obama declared of Republicans’ desire to take back leadership of Congress, “After they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back.  No!  You can’t drive.  We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch.  We just got the car out.”

Emory University political science professor Merle Black recently characterized voters’ likely reaction to Obama’s emerging campaign strategy: “If you’re the leader of a large corporation and you’re in power for a year and a half and you start off a meeting with your shareholders by blaming your predecessor, that wouldn’t go over very well.”

Now, why do you suppose Obama wouldn’t have any idea how the leader of a corporation should behave?  Wait—it’s on the tip of my tongue…  I know!  Do community organizers have actual responsibilities?

Perhaps at one point Obama intended to assist other Democrats by trumpeting his own record in office, a gambit that was based on the assumption he would whisk Senators and Representatives into power via the same sweeping electoral coattails he possessed before people saw him actually doing something besides campaigning.

The results over the past six months of Democratic candidates’ riding Obama’s gravy train seem to have dissuaded him of the wisdom of that approach.

In last November’s off-year gubernatorial elections, Obama campaigned vociferously for John Corzine in New Jersey and Creigh Deeds in Virginia, including making multiple appearances with them at campaign rallies, and failed to help either one get elected—and possibly hurt both.

Ditto for The Grim Reaper’s efforts to facilitate the election of Martha Coakley to Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts to save the 60th Senate vote for his signature health care bill.

Three weeks ago, incumbent Republican Senator from Utah Bob Bennett, who voted for the unpopular bank bailout that Bush instituted and Obama supported, failed to win his party’s primary nomination at the state GOP convention.

Two weeks ago, 14-term incumbent Democratic Representative from West Virginia Alan Mollohan, who voted for ObamaCare and was chastised by his Democratic opponent for having done so, lost his party’s primary election.

In contrast to the efforts he made for Corzine, Deeds, and Coakley, Obama tried just tossing his endorsement to Arlen Specter in Specter’s primary bid, and letting grassroots group Organizing for America do the dirty work of campaigning for Specter, but that didn’t help, either.

Pennsylvania Democrat Mark Critz ran for John Murtha’s seat on a platform opposing the following: ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, a national sales tax similar to Obama’s proposed Value Added Tax, gun control, abortion, and efforts to derail Arizona’s immigration law—i.e., what one might term the “Polar Opposite of Obama Platform”—and beat a similarly conservative Republican last week in a district with twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans.

Last Saturday, Republican Charles Djou won a vacant House seat by running on an explicitly anti-Obama, pro-Tea Party platform in a special election in Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District—the district where Obama grew up—thus becoming the first Republican Representative from Hawaii in almost 20 years.

Meanwhile, many Congressmen up for reelection this November seem less than thrilled at the prospect of a visit from Barack “Kiss of Death” Obama.

In a subtly titled article called “Freshmen Run Away From Obama,” CQ Politics cites freshman Pennsylvania Representative Kathy Dahlkemper: “‘You have to be an independent, no matter what…’  Dahlkemper said that while she would be ‘very happy to welcome’ Obama to her district, she didn’t know how much of a help or a hindrance he would be.  ‘I just think we don’t quite know yet where his popularity is…  I’m much less concerned about who’s going to come in and campaign for me.’”

In everyday language, this political-speak translates as, “Obama had better stay the hell away from my district this year.”

CQ Politics also quotes freshman Colorado Representative Betsey Markey as saying that “she didn’t think it would make much difference either way if the president stumped in her district.  ‘It’s always an honor when the president makes an offer to visit.  But this is a Colorado race.’”  In normal people-talk, this means “Please, Obama, I’m begging you—don’t put on your fake cowboy hat and visit the Rocky Mountains this fall.”

Thus, the growing preference among candidates of both parties who actually face voters this fall seems to be to campaign, not against George Bush, but against Barack Obama.

This whole turn of events leads me to the seemingly absurd but actually logical conclusion that Obama’s best hope in 2012 is to find a way to run against… the first term of President Obama.  Why not?  It sort of worked for Clinton in 1996.

At least when Obama throws himself under the bus, he’ll be able to do it gently.

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Requiem for a Flip-Flopper

May 19, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2010

Arlen Specter
Image by talkradionews via Flickr

Senator Arlen Specter was a registered Democrat in Pennsylvania from the age of 21 to 35.  Like any sensible person, he became a Republican in his 30s, even though he switched parties not so much to suit his changing political philosophy as to be able to challenge an incumbent Democrat for the job of district attorney in Philadelphia in 1965.

A funny thing happened when Senator Specter turned 79 last year: he decided that his 21- to 35-year-old political self had been wiser than his 35- to 79-year-old self.  (Given his voting record for most of his Senate career, it’s hard to quibble with this point.)

Arlen Spectacle (as Mark Levin calls him) categorically stated in March 2009, “To eliminate any doubt, I am a Republican, and I am running for reelection in 2010 as a Republican on the Republican ticket.”  A month later, after genuine conservative Pat Toomey had thrown his hat into the ring for the Republican nomination, Specter announced that, to eliminate any doubt, he was a Democrat, and was running for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat on the Democratic ticket.

Specter inarguably changed parties to avoid a repeat of his close race in 2004 with Toomey, whom Specter beat with a measly 51% of the vote, despite the advantages of incumbency and overwhelming support from the national and state party establishments, including President George W. Bush and fellow Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.  As early as April 2009, just three months into Obama’s presidency, Specter must have sensed that the burgeoning anti-incumbent mood would smother him by the 2010 primaries, and so he deserted the GOP.

Arlen “Act Like a Lady” Specter claims he didn’t leave the party—the party left him.

It’s funny how the exact same thing recently occurred to that paragon of political integrity, Charlie “Lincoln” Crist of Florida, who just happened to be down in the polls to Marco Rubio before he decided his newly evolving political ideology compelled him to become an Independent.

And it’s a bit funny that Specter used the exact same line to explain his own party-hopping move back in 1965.  As the Boston Herald quoted him on the campaign trail, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party…  The party left me.”

The Senator’s party affiliation isn’t the only thing he’s flip-flopped on.  In May 2009, The Sphincter (Monica Crowley’s nickname for him, not mine—honest!) was asked whether he supported a government-run public option in Congress’s health care overhaul bill, and insisted he did not.  By July, when it looked as though momentum were on the side of the public option, he was for it.

Specter voted in favor of pro-union leadership card check legislation in 2007; then announced he was against it in 2009; then, after switching parties, announced he was in favor of it again.

The Philadelphia Enquirer’s Dick Polman summarizes Benedict Arlen’s vast matrix of flip-floppery in recent years: “He has seemingly been everywhere, which arguably leaves him nowhere.  He says he voted for Bush-Cheney and McCain-Palin… but says he’ll vote for Obama in ‘12.  He voted against Elena Kagan for solicitor general, but says he has ‘an open mind’ about her ascent to the Supreme Court…  He voted against Robert Bork for the high court, but famously defended Clarence Thomas and voted for John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., although now, with respect to Roberts, he says that he made an error in judgment.”

Specter doesn’t just flip-flop—he does double lutzes and triple toe loops and tops it all off with a quadruple salchow, all before his supporters and opponents can catch their breath and figure out where he stands on an issue and whether his position has changed in the past five seconds.

FiveThirtyEight.com documents that Arlen Sepulcher voted 58% of the time with Democrats from January to March 2009, before Pat Toomey joined the Pennsylvania primary race.  After Toomey entered, but before Specter had switched parties, Specter voted 84% of the time with Republicans.  Then, during the period after Specter had switched parties but before liberal Joe Sestak had entered the race, he voted 69% of the time with Democrats again.  Finally, after Sestak emerged as his primary challenger, Specter tacked to the left and voted a whopping 97% of the time with Democrats.

The clincher that Specter is all about expediency, not principle, is that Obama’s grassroots group Organizing for America worked furiously to get Specter elected—even though there was a bona fide left-wing liberal, Joe Sestak, in the race—in exchange for Specter’s votes last year on the stimulus and health care bills.  With the cozy Obama-Specter alliance firmly in place, what does Obama need with a politician who might actually vote for his policies out of principle?

In a final ironic development capping Specter’s dishonorable career (proof of such: Time magazine named him one of the U.S.’s 10 best senators in 2006!), Specter discovered yesterday that his party switch was all for naught, and even harmful to his aspirations.  Specter recently admitted, before he was trounced in yesterday’s primary, “Well, I probably shouldn’t say this.  But I have thought from time to time that I might have helped the country more if I’d stayed a Republican.”

Democrats will no doubt claim that Sestak won the race because the country is clamoring for more socialism.  But really it’s because Americans loathe political opportunists like Specter.

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Does Saudi Arabia Allow Gays in the Military?

May 14, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Gay Rights

Kagan-3
Image by Harvard Law Record via Flickr

As the newly appointed Dean of Harvard Law School, Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan decided, in the middle of the War on Terror, to cripple the Reserve Officer Training Corps’ recruitment capability on campus by denying it crucial access to funding, operating space, and assistance from the Office of Career Services.

Kagan’s action fits into a shameful history of antiwar college administrators’ kicking ROTC off university campuses nationwide, most visibly at Ivy League schools, out of opposition to the Vietnam War in the late 60s and 70s.  After the war ended, officials extended the policy out of supposed concern over the military’s ban on gays in the 80s and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the 90s.

After the Solomon Amendment barring federal funding to universities that ban military recruitment on campus was fully implemented at Harvard in 2003, Kagan signed on to a legal challenge to the amendment.  The Third Circuit Court overturned the amendment in 2004, but stayed its ruling pending Supreme Court review.  Kagan, impatient with the vagaries of the legal system, decided to force Harvard back onto its anti-ROTC policy, even though the law hadn’t yet been changed.  The Supreme Court unanimously overturned the Third Circuit ruling in 2006, at which point Kagan reversed her actions to comply with the ruling.

Gay rights supporters defend Kagan’s actions as a necessary stopgap against government-sponsored military discrimination.

It is instructive to reconsider Kagan’s stance in the context of the role our military plays, the people and the rights it protects, and our enemies’ attitudes toward individual liberty and their treatment of gays.

Who, for example, benefits from the protections the U.S. military provides its citizens—only straight people, or gays as well?

Who protects the rights of citizens of our country, in which gays may live more or less as they please; form relationships with same-sex partners; enter (in a growing number of states) into civil unions, domestic partnerships, and marriages; adopt (in a growing number of states) and raise children; file lawsuits if they believe they have been unlawfully discriminated against; push to change laws to promote equality with heterosexuals; protest for their rights and hold rallies and parades in America’s major cities; and engage our political leaders in debate about allowing gays to serve openly in the military?

How do governments treat gays in countries that are our adversaries—in particular, those that fund, sponsor, and sympathize with the war to defeat gay-tolerant Western civilization and promote radical Islam around the world?  Do these Islamic governments have the same enlightened perspective on gays as the U.S., or do they condemn gays and throw them in jail or execute them for homosexual behavior?

The left in this country has traditionally demonized or devalued the military—at worst, it is for them a barbaric, fascist, industrial complex that sparks unnecessary wars and engages in brutal imperialist conquests.  At best, it is for them a largely unseen, slightly tacky presence whose benefits they take for granted, just as they take for granted our capitalist economy’s wealth, which they seek to appropriate and redistribute with no concern for the effort required to create it.

As many soldiers pointed out during the Iraq War, our military protects the right of antiwar liberals to protest the military’s actions.  What a slap in the face it is to bar or hobble the military in recruiting the brightest students from the best universities across the country to help complete its mission.  Imagine if military recruiters were similarly barred from other U.S. institutions and were unable to recruit enough members to fill its ranks.

As liberal, DADT-opposing Peter Beinart wrote, “The United States military is not Procter and Gamble.  It is not just another employer.  It is the institution whose members risk their lives to protect the country.  You can disagree with the policies of the American military; you can even hate them; but you can’t alienate yourself from the institution without in a certain sense alienating yourself from the country.”

Kagan’s ROTC-bashing position is also counterproductive, in that it further isolates the military from liberal views and entrenches in the left the mindset that the military is hard-line and unreformable.  And how is spitting on ROTC fair to soldiers, commanders, and potential recruits who oppose DADT or might be gay themselves?

The American Spectator’s John Tabin, who also supports repealing DADT, notes, “[I]f you want a military leadership with more liberal views on homosexuality, you should be more reluctant to entrench this cultural estrangement, not less.”  The policy of banning or restricting ROTC is just another example of leftists prematurely deciding that debate on an issue is over, those who disagree with them should no longer have a voice in the conversation, and dissenters do not deserve to be persuaded out of their positions or treated with respect.

Although DADT is misguided, treating recruiters shabbily is merely one way for liberals to disguise their contempt for the military and its unapologetic defense of American values around the world.  The day that DADT is repealed, leftist college administrators will be scouring the horizon for some other excuse to ban recruitment at their schools.

As Beinart wrote, “Barring the military from campus is a bit like barring the president or even the flag.”  But liberals can’t ban the American flag, can they?  Oh, wait—yes they can!

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Obama: There Since Cinco de Cuatro!

May 07, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Environmentalism

Deepwater Horizon Fire - April 21, 2010
Image by SkyTruth via Flickr

I’ve got it—an excuse the Obama administration can use to explain why it waited so long to take substantive action in dealing with the Gulf oil spill, an account that also manages to stick it to George W. Bush: Obama was so busy cleaning up Bush’s messes that he didn’t have time to clean up the mess in the Gulf!

The timeline of events since the explosion of the British Petroleum-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20 reveals a less than flattering picture of the acuity and alacrity of the government in fulfilling its role in handling the crisis.

Three days after the explosion, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted to reporters that the catastrophe would not affect the President’s plans to open several microscopic pockets of our vast offshore oil reserves for drilling, the only reassuring result of this debacle.

It is important to understand that in Obama WhiteHouseSpeak, Gibbs’ statement is tantamount to announcing, “It’s a teeny-tiny spark that’ll be put out by morning, and we’re not remotely worried about it.  Why bow over spilt milk?”  The administration that popularized the saying “Never let a serious crisis go to waste” and would love any excuse to backtrack on its recent Democrat-infuriating promise to minimally expand drilling would not have let the opportunity to renege on its promise go by if it had truly apprehended the full extent of the impending disaster.

True, the first Deep Horizon oil leaks were not discovered until the next day, after the Coast Guard had called off its search operation for the missing rig workers.  Yet somehow it took until the following Tuesday, a full week after the explosion, for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to announce that he would be launching an investigation into the incident.

One might wonder whether the department had fully grasped the enormity of the situation even then, given that on the same day, Salazar’s chief of staff, Tom Strickland—whom Salazar had assigned to be the “point person” on this issue—set off with his wife for a three-day “work-focused” trip to the Grand Canyon that apparently included a day of “work-focused” rafting.

Days later, when the potential danger of the spreading oil spill was beginning to dawn on department staff, the National Park Service rushed a helicopter to the 55th state to airlift Strickland out of the Canyon and whisk him off to New Orleans.

In the meantime, Homeland Security Secretary Janet “The System Worked” Napolitano, whose department was supposed to be working closely with the Interior Department to address the crisis, told reporters that the Defense Department had no involvement in addressing the spill: “If and when they have something to add, we’ll certainly make that known,” she snapped.

Just as Napolitano had changed her answer regarding the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing from “The system worked” to “The system didn’t work,” three days after her disavowal of Defense Department involvement in the cleanup she told “Meet the Press” that the Defense Department had been in the Gulf “from Day One.  This was a situation that was treated as a possible catastrophic failure from Day One.”  (The administration later flirted with the idea of claiming Napolitano had actually said “May One,” but then decided even they weren’t dishonest enough to pull that off.)

To reconcile her conflicting comments, a department spokesman claimed that in her latter statement, Napolitano had been referring to the presence of the Coast Guard, which had been in the Gulf since Day One.

Yes, the Coast Guard was very probably on the scene since Hour One, since that is their mission whenever such an accident happens at sea.  For Napolitano to claim that a search mission by the Coast Guard was equivalent to sending Defense Department resources to the area to deal with “a possible catastrophic failure” is like saying that flight attendants collecting trash from passengers on Northwest Flight 253 reflected the Transportation Security Administration’s initiative in helping stop underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

At least Obama is pointing the finger at BP for their role in the disaster—a potential conflict of interest, one might think, given the recent revelation that Obama is the federal candidate who has received the greatest amount in campaign contributions from the oil company over the past 20 years.

Normally I wouldn’t rag on Obama for failing to address the oil spill crisis sooner, but he brought it on himself when he parachuted into New Orleans as a newly elected Senator in 2005 to make a big show of mouthing off, Kanye West-style, about the incompetence of the Bush administration in dealing with the Katrina aftermath.  Obama stepped into this oil slick all by himself, so to speak.

To paraphrase two unfortunate Kanye West quotes: “BP, I’ma let you finish cleaning up the Gulf… But Barack Obama doesn’t care about Louisiana jumbo shrimpers!”

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Crist Drops Out of GOP, Cites Political Health Reasons

May 01, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2010

A cropped version of :Image:Charlie Crist.
Image via Wikipedia

Everyone’s bemoaning Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s “political” decision to run for Senate as an Independent instead of a Republican, since he knows he’d lose the primary to Marco Rubio.

Everyone’s missing the point.

The political rule-bending is tied to the ideology.  Liberals and centrists are more likely to bend the rules to win elections and votes than conservatives.  It’s part of their political philosophy.

Behold the following Democratic party-hoppers in recent years:

•    Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republicans in 2001 to swing the balance to Democrats early in George W. Bush’s first term, after being promised cushier arrangements by Democratic leaders

•    Liberal Mayor Mike Bloomberg switched from Republican to Independent in 2007 to garner greater support for his nanny-state governing style in New York

•    Arlen Specter left the Republicans for the Democrats last year in anticipation of a difficult primary race

•    New York Senate Democrats Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada, Jr. became Republicans temporarily last summer in an attempt to enhance their leadership positions, then switched back to being Democrats when their bid failed

•    RINO Dede Scozzafava endorsed Democratic candidate Bill Owens over conservative Doug Hoffman after dropping out of NY-23 last November

Also witness the following liberal rule-bending over the last decade:

•    Al Gore’s campaign pushed for hand recounts using loosened standards in select counties in the 2000 Florida presidential recount

•    Democrats won other elections by finding judges to approve different counting standards in Minnesota (Al Franken, Senate) and Washington (Christine Gregoire, Governor)

•    New Jersey Democrats put Frank Lautenberg on the ballot in 2002 after their candidate Robert Torricelli was hit with corruption charges, despite a law on the books against changing candidates so late in the election

•    Massachusetts Democrats withheld the right of Republican Governor Mitt Romney to appoint a successor in 2004 if John Kerry became president, then changed the rules in 2009 so Governor Deval Patrick could install a Democrat to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat until the special election

•    Mayor Bloomberg successfully pushed in 2007 to change the rule he had argued for in 2001 that had prevented Republican Rudy Guiliani from serving more than two terms, so that Bloomberg could go on to serve three terms himself

•    Democrats recently maneuvered to pass their health care bill, including using budget reconciliation to overcome a non-filibuster-proof Senate majority and an unenforceable executive order banning abortion funding to overcome their absence of a House majority in favor of the bill

In contrast, whenever a conservative abandons Democrats, it’s almost always due to newfound disdain for the party’s agenda.  It also almost always seems to happen at a completely inconsequential time, when there’s no crucial vote at stake or favors to be handed out, or even when the candidate has something to lose.

Alabama Representative Parker Griffith switched parties last December, citing revulsion over the direction in which House leaders were taking the country.  Griffith did not switch to join a majority party like Specter or improve his electoral chances like Crist—he did it because, as he put it, Democratic leaders “continue to push an agenda focused on massive new spending, tax increases, bailouts, and a health care bill that is bad for our healthcare system…  [A]fter watching this agenda firsthand, I now believe that the differences in the two parties could not be more clear, and that… I must align myself with the Republican party.”

New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg rejected President Obama’s offer of Commerce Secretary last year, after having met with Obama about the position and coordinated with Governor John Lynch to name a replacement Senator.  When Gregg got a closer look at Obama’s massive stimulus proposal and plans to politicize the Census, he ran for the hills.  There was nothing opportunistic above Gregg’s move—if anything, it cost him a prestigious position and soured his relations with the new administration.

Texas Representative Ralph Hall became a Republican in 2004 after 54 years of being a moderate Democrat.  Rumors had been circulating since the Republican Revolution that he would switch parties, but he didn’t do so when it was expedient, preferring instead to “pull my party back toward the middle.”  Hall was instrumental in forming the moderate coalition of Blue Dog Democrats.  After years of watching his party bash President Bush over Iraq, Hall changed parties, explaining, “When the country is at war you need to support the president.  Some of my fellow congressmen have not been doing that.”  Far from showering him with plumb assignments, Republican leaders refused to allocate funding for Hall’s district—as Hall said, “the only reason I was given was that I was a Democrat.”  The party eventually embraced him; but the point is that Hall did not switch for political opportunism, but rather at great cost to himself.

Virginia Representative Virgil Goode switched parties in 2000 after Democrats gave him hell over voting for three of the articles of impeachment against President Clinton.  Goode is rather ideologically conservative anyway, having voted for the Iraq War, the surge, and tough anti-amnesty immigration and veterans’ rights legislation.  He won reelection in 2000 as an Independent—a politically risky move, but one that genuinely reflected his evolving ideology—before joining the Republicans in 2002.

While hawkish Senator Joe Lieberman did leave the Democratic Party in 2006 to run in the general election as an Independent Democrat, he at least had the guts to face his opponent Ned Lamont in the primary first.  Lieberman did not, like Crist, go around quoting Abraham Lincoln, saying that he was switching parties so he could better serve the cause of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” and that his change in party had nothing—absolutely nothing!—to do with his reelection prospects.

There’s a reason liberals and moderates are more likely to switch parties or bend election rules in their favor.  They do not, at their core, all the way down, believe in a stable, predictable rule of law, as clearly stated and adhered to by all citizens in a system of government known as a republic.  They believe in doing whatever they can get away with, if they can convince enough people at the time that it’s right for them to do it—hence the “democracy” in Democratic.

Show me a DINO who bolted for the Republican Party for ulterior motives, and I’ll show you a rare creature indeed.

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