Tag Archives: New Majority

The President Went To Dover


Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner

Pete Hegseth at The Corner:

I appreciate Kathryn’s post on President Obama’s visit to Dover Air Force Base to “[meet] with family members and [pay] his respects as the bodies of 18 Americans killed this week in Afghanistan were returned to the United States.” It was a classy move that I believe underscores the serious nature with which President Obama is approaching his forthcoming Afghanistan decision.

As much as anyone else, I want the president to make his decision as soon as possible — American lives, and commitment, hang in the balance. But if he has to take a few extra days to get it right — and become convinced of the rightness of General McChrystal’s approach — then the extra time is worth it.

Many more flag-draped coffins will be returning home to Dover in the coming months and years. I just hope the president’s visit to the tarmac underscores, for him, that if we are going to pay such a heavy price in America’s best and bravest, we must only do so in pursuit of battlefield success — with a decisive mission and the necessary manpower.

Anything less would be morally indefensible, both to the souls he saluted in the darkness and the families he consoled in their grief.

David Frum at The New Majority:

Give the man credit: This was the right thing to do, but it cannot have been easy – especially as he is making the decision that may lead to more such sad homecomings.

Rick Moran:

President Barack Obama may be a cussed liberal, a naive child in some respects, a player of “Chicago Way” politics, and an arrogant chief executive with a thin skin.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t see him as a human being. And the burden he carries as Commander in Chief was brought home to him, I’m sure, last night with his unannounced trip to Dover Air Force Base to welcome home fallen heroes.

Obama is a complex man who is still something of a mystery to the American people – at least those who don’t see him as the devil incarnate trying to set up a socialist dictatorship. There is a lot of fakery in being president no matter who you are, but when the genuine moments peek through, we get a glimpse of the real man whose job it is to protect us and the nation.

Some things, you just can’t fake. Clinton at Oklahoma City. George W. Bush talking about his son’s torments. Ronald Reagan at Point du Hoc.

And now, Obama at Dover

Ed Morrissey:

Even apart from the politics of this, Obama is the Commander in Chief, and recognizing the last full measure of devotion from these soldiers is the right thing for a President to do.  I suspect that Obama wants to meet McChrystal halfway, and if there is any political calculation in this at all, it may be to tell the Left that he’s well aware of what the sacrifice means.  Let’s hope that politics won’t play a part in this recognition at all.

Steve Benen:

For all the talk in recent years about whether American media should be allowed to cover — and whether the American public should be allowed to see — flag-draped caskets as fallen U.S. soldiers return home, it was good to see President Obama pay his respects this morning at Dover Air Force Base.

It was apparently the president’s first trip to the air base. The trip was not announced in advance and Obama arrived shortly after midnight. Obama stood at attention to salute Army Sgt. Dale Griffin of Indiana, whose family gave permission for this morning’s coverage.

The NYT reported, “The bodies returning to Dover Air Force Base shortly after midnight included seven Army soldiers and three agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency who were killed when their helicopter crashed on Monday in rural Afghanistan. The bodies of eight soldiers killed in an attack on Monday also arrived on an Air Force C-17.”

Obama also met with family members in the chapel of the Air Force base. The AP added, “Most of the event was closed to media and journalists were only allowed to see the transfer of the last casket.”

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Filed under Military Issues, Political Figures

This Is Why New York Is A Blue State

Tom Fornelli at Fanhouse, in a post back in 2008:

When the Yankees are officially eliminated from the playoffs in a few weeks, there’s going to be a lot of blame going around. Fans will blame Alex Rodriguez for never coming through in the clutch, Brian Cashman for never making the deal for Johan Santana, and Hank Steinbrenner for forcing Joe Girardi to move Joba Chamberlain to the starting rotation.

They’ll also be blaming the Rays and Red Sox for having superior teams. Still, there’s one person who probably deserves more credit for the Yankees demise than anybody else, it’s just that most Yankees fans probably don’t even realize it. That man is President of the United States, George Bush.

Are Yankees fans also Barack Obama supporters? The Yankees have won eight world championships during Democratic administrations in the past 50 years but haven’t won a title with a Republican in office since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958. Since then, the Yankees have won titles during the terms of John F. Kennedy (1961-62), Jimmy Carter (1977-78) and Bill Clinton (1996, 1998-2000).

Mike McDermott:

And, of course, the last Democratic president to serve during a Red Sox championship season was Woodrow Wilson, back in 1918.

David Frum at New Majority:

All of that changed when my son Nathaniel at age six discovered baseball, and the New York Yankees came into our lives. “Why the Yankees?” is a question to which Nat has never offered a very satisfactory answer. He lived in New York for all of four months, through which entire time he could not walk, let alone handle a remote control.

Whatever the origin of the infatuation, a lifelong decision had been made. My son’s mental health would rise or fall on the ability of a far-away bench of multi-millionaires to hit a ball with a stick.

In our household, there was one special complicating factor. Since the Eisenhower administration half a century ago, the Yankees have never won a World Series with a Republican in the White House.

Nathaniel was inclined to favor the Republican, George W. Bush, and not only because his parents did. He had heard a speech of George Bush’s on television. The speech had addressed the subject of education, and it had included the phrase: “No school across America …” Nathaniel did not need to hear one syllable more. He was sold.

But — what if the old rule held true? Would a Bush presidency doom his team. “It’s just a coincidence,” I insisted.

The rule did hold true. The Yankees, so dominant in the 1990s, fell apart almost as soon as the ballots were recounted in Florida. Year in, year out, they lost and lost again. In 2004, the hated Red Sox up ended them in the American League pennant race — and went on to win the World Series. I happened to be in Boston on the night the Red Sox gained the prize. I can still hear, in painful memory, the sounds of the triumphant car horns in the streets below.

Not that I cared personally. I didn’t, still don’t. But Nat did, and so his mother and I had to. Every autumn through the Bush years, his mother would deliver pep talks, cheering him out of his gloom. And then finally: It was election year 2008. Decision time.

Nat had little use for Barack Obama as a man or candidate: “Making this guy president of the United States is like promoting a little league coach to run a professional league team.” Besides, he wasn’t old enough to understand the difference between causation and correlation. Ridiculous to think that the party affiliation of the president could sway the performance of a sports franchise!

But now … who can be sure? Under the first Democratic president in a decade, the Yankees are heading toward their first championship in a decade.

Erik Loomis:

So I have this theory.

Every four years God and Satan have a meeting. They agree that there can only be some much good and so much evil in the world. It’s a very yin-yang thing. But they have to decide how to split it up. So they consider the twin institutional towers of evil–the Republican Party and the New York Yankees. They chat, have a few beers, and figure out who will have what for the next four years. Because when Republicans are in power, the Yankees rarely do well. And when the Democrats control the presidency, Yankee dynasties almost always take place.

The Yankees have won 26 championships. Of those, 19 came in Democratic administrations. The Yankees dominated during the Roosevelt years. They were still great under Truman. They were excellent under Kennedy. They were bad for part of the 70s, but as soon as Carter took over, a new dynasty began. That ended when Reagan came to power, but the Clinton years were hell on Yankee haters. And now, after 8 years when Yankee evil was waning, it has come back with a vengeance under Obama.

Of the 7 Republican titles, 3 came under Eisenhower, which just goes to show that he wasn’t a real Republican to begin with. The other four came in the Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover years, when they were just another team and before their real evil was made known to the world

The real exception to this rule in Lyndon Johnson. The Yankees did not win a World Series in the Johnson years. I think this goes to show just what a great president Johnson was. The Great Society and Yankee sucking. How can one beat that? Moreover, this totally makes up for Vietnam.

That leads to another question–is the sacrifice of 58,000 Americans worth a bad Yankee team?

The answer is obviously yes.

Many societies have understood this phenomenon in one form or another. We think it’s a big political question, wasting the lives of our young men, blah blah blah. Other peoples would call it sacrificing to the gods. The Aztecs clearly understood this, plus they were smart enough to capture people to sacrifice. Other societies have thrown young virgins into volcanoes. We fight pointless wars in horrible places. It really doesn’t matter. It’s satiating the gods desire for blood. Johnson’s genius was understanding this and acting upon it. And Bush, as a former baseball owner himself, also understood it. After all, this theory is at least a good a justification for Iraq as the nonsense the administration actually offered.

Now Obama comes around, God and Satan have their meeting, good and evil realign and the Yankees begin winning again. I know we might get better healthcare out of it, but what’s a little premature death in the face of seeing Derek Jeter get another ring? Obviously, the sacrifice is worth it.

So now I have to sit and watch the rest of the baseball playoffs, knowing that the Yankees will inevitably win. It makes me sad, though I would be happier if I placed large sums of money on the outcome like I should, since I have the secret.

Instead, I just have one thing to say: Palin/Bachmann ’12! Do it to fight evil, do it for America!

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner:

Still, if one wanted to develop a completely unsubstantiated hypothesis, however, one could posit that the explanation for this correlation is that under a GOP president, the mercurial owner of the Yankees faced fewer contraints to royally f**k up interfere in the management of the team, resulting in some spectacular flame-outs on the diamond.

It’s not true, of course, but it’s a more entertaining urban myth than Obama’s citizenship status or Bush’s role in the 9/11 attacks.

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Filed under Politics, Sports

Gold Diggers Of 2009

Paul Krugman, from a week or so ago:

One lesson from the Great Depression is that you should never underestimate the destructive power of bad ideas. And some of the bad ideas that helped cause the Depression have, alas, proved all too durable: in modified form, they continue to influence economic debate today.

What ideas am I talking about? The economic historian Peter Temin has argued that a key cause of the Depression was what he calls the “gold-standard mentality.” By this he means not just belief in the sacred importance of maintaining the gold value of one’s currency, but a set of associated attitudes: obsessive fear of inflation even in the face of deflation; opposition to easy credit, even when the economy desperately needs it, on the grounds that it would be somehow corrupting; assertions that even if the government can create jobs it shouldn’t, because this would only be an “artificial” recovery.

In the early 1930s this mentality led governments to raise interest rates and slash spending, despite mass unemployment, in an attempt to defend their gold reserves. And even when countries went off gold, the prevailing mentality made them reluctant to cut rates and create jobs.

David Frum at The National Post:

The price of gold has zoomed past US$1,000 an ounce, reaching an all-time record of US$1,070 on Wednesday. Suddenly, talk radio and cable television are jammed with ads urging small investors to buy coins and bars. One vendor pushes its product with this amazing slogan: “Gold has never been worth zero!” (You’d think the more relevant question might be: “Has gold ever been worth less than I’m about to pay for it?”)

Gold is a strange investment vehicle. If the typical small investor were to hear a pitch for investment in copper, zinc or molybdenum, he or she would probably react negatively. “The metals market? Are you crazy? That’s no place for me.” But if the metal is gold, suddenly everybody wants to play.

People think of gold not as a metal, but as an alternative form of money. $1,000 worth of copper will weigh as much as a sub-zero refrigerator. Molybdenum makes a lousy Christmas present. Gold is sold in coin form, and looks and feels like cash.

Unfortunately, also like cash, gold yields no return. If you put a roll of coins in a safety deposit box, a decade from now you’ll have the same roll of coins — and in the interim, you’ll have paid 10 years’ rent on the box.

That may be a price worth paying for a hedge against inflation. At today’s prices, however, investors should ask themselves some hard questions about how real the inflation risk is — and how much it is worth paying to insure against that risk.

Most U.S. indices continue to warn of deflation ahead, not inflation.

Consumer price indexes are dropping, not rising. Average weekly wages are dropping too. For the first time since 1975, there will be no cost-of-living increase in U.S. Social Security payments to retirees. (President Obama is proposing to distribute an additional $250 per retiree anyway, but this largesse will require a vote in Congress.)

Matthew Yglesias (responding to Frum’s post):

The inflation fears we’re seeing are some kind of macroeconomic moral panic. Surely we’re going to reap the whirlwind for all this spending! But the evidence suggests that we’re not. And the very same evidence also suggests that it’s not the case that we’re in some kind of special kind of business cycle downtown that can’t be remediated through stimulation of aggregate demand. As long as inflation is abnormally low, we need to (a) stop worrying about inflation (b) engage in more expansion.


David Frum at New Majority:

I know I shouldn’t succumb, but I can’t resist replying to this blogpost at LewRockwell.com which nicely sums up what is wrong with goldbugs…

“Neocons like Frum-Yglesias also love the Fed and its counterfeiting presses, and the perpetual wars they make possible. What a surprise.”

Rockwell then links to a brace of posts by Matt Yglesias and myself.

Now hear this: Making investment decisions because you “love” or “hate” the underlying asset is a very good way to get poor. I love bread – that does not mean I must always go long on wheat. I love Apple computers. Doesn’t mean I want the stock at any price. I hate driving. But I still think there’s opportunity in oil stocks right now.

Gold is nice. It makes attractive cufflinks. But at $1070, it’s a dangerous place for a small investor to be. Even more dangerous because so many of those marketing it treat it like an object of religious veneration or a symbol of political protest, rather than one of many commodity metals traded in highly volatile markets. Gold is currently trading at record highs. In my lexicon, “record high” is almost always a “sell” signal. Maybe you think differently. Fine! That’s what markets are for. But a caution. I have no position in gold. But many of the people touting the stuff do. Be careful.

Robert P. Murphy:

David Frum — former Bush speechwriter, ambitious author, American Public Radio commentator, and all-around guru — has been lecturing Ron Paul supporters about the gold standard. After three such lectures (a National Review Online blog post, an NPR commentary, and finally a National Post article) I decided to throw my hat in the ring and defend the gold standard in this article. Frum responded in a quite confident blog post, unfazed by my arguments and in fact further convinced that he is surrounded by friggin idiots. In the present article I’ll try one last shot at defending the gold bugs.


Fundamentally, the gold standard is a constraint on the government. It puts a severe limit on the increase in the supply of US dollars, when foreign banks (and better yet, when any private citizen) can turn in those green pieces of paper in exchange for a specified amount of actual gold. This is not at all analogous to the government “fixing” minimum wages or maximum apartment rents. It is rather a pledge on the part of the government to always trade a specified amount of gold for US dollars.

This pledge doesn’t per se restrict anybody else; people are free to buy and sell gold at other prices — it would just be silly to do so, from either the seller or buyer’s point of view. By the same token, under the classical gold standard the participating nations all had “fixed” exchange rates between their currencies. Again, this wasn’t a reflection of a modern-day price control, the way some tinpot dictatorship might impose restrictions on the foreign exchange market. Rather, the fixed exchange rates merely reflected the fact that the governments pledged to redeem their own currencies in specific weights of gold, and hence arbitrage ensured that the currencies themselves traded in specific ratios.


Matt Phillips at WSJ:

For David Einhorn — the hedge fund whiz kid who made a name for with some prescient calls warning of Lehman Brothers frailty ahead of the firm’s collapse — buying gold isn’t so much a bet against inflation. Rather, it’s a bet against Washington pulling in the reins on spending.

Einhorn has been a bit of a gold bug this year. In July, Greenlight Capital, the hedge fund Einhorn runs, told clients the fund had shifted its entire gold exchange traded fund holdings to physical gold. Greenlight started buying gold in January, citing inflation concerns.

But in a speech yesterday — which is making the rounds online — at a financial conference, Einhorn detailed a bit more of this thinking on the yellow metal.

“I have seen many people debate whether gold is a bet on inflation or deflation. As I see it, it is neither. Gold does well when monetary and fiscal policies are poor and does poorly when they appear sensible. Gold did very well during the Great Depression when FDR debased the currency. It did well again in the money printing 1970s, but collapsed in response to Paul Volcker’s austerity. It ultimately made a bottom around 2001 when the excitement about our future budget surpluses peaked.

Prospectively, gold should do fine unless our leaders implement much greater fiscal and monetary restraint than appears likely. Of course, gold should do very well if there is a debt default or currency crisis.”

David Hunkar at Seeking Alpha

Nick Godt at Marketwatch:

Gold futures fell early on Wednesday, with investor sentiment on hold as the dollar steadied against major counterparts ahead of a key assessment of the U.S. economy by the Federal Reserve.

Gold for December delivery fell $8.20, or 0.8%, to $1,050.40 an ounce in electronic trade. The less-active October contract fell $7.10, or 0.7%, to $1,050.70 an ounce.

The thinly traded October contract gained 0.05% to finish at $1,057.80.

Until this week, gold prices marched higher in eight out of the previous nine weeks. Last week, the benchmark contract gained 0.3% and briefly topped $1,070 an ounce, a new intraday high.

On Tuesday, gold finished slightly higher, as the dollar hovered near 14-month lows and crude-oil futures touched a new high for the year above $80 a barrel.

The precious metal still finished well off morning highs as weak U.S. housing data and mixed earnings eventually led investors to sell stocks and oil and to buy dollars, reducing gold’s appeal as a hedge against a weaker currency and rising prices.

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Filed under Economics, The Crisis

Scozzafava V. Owens V. Hoffman V. GOP Establishment V. Blogosphere

William Kristol in TWS:

A new poll in the November 3 special election for the congressional seat, NY-23, vacated by Army Secretary John McHugh, confirms what knowledgeable observers have suspected for a while: The candidacy of the official Republican nominee, liberal Dede Scozzafava, selected by local party officials and supported by the national Republican establishment, is collapsing. The Republican who has a real chance to defeat Democrat Bill Owens is Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate—a Republican with a profile far more like the popular McHugh, and one far more in sync with the district. What’s more, if elected, Hoffman would caucus in Congress with Republicans—whereas Scozzafava could well pull an Arlen Specter and defect to the Democrats.

Two weeks ago, the Siena poll had Scozzafava at 35%, Owens at 28%, and Hoffman at 16%. Now Scozzafava, at 29%, trails Owens by 4—and leads Hoffman, who has risen to 23%, by only 6, compared to her 19 point lead over Hoffman two weeks ago. This despite a full-court press for Scozzafava by the state and national GOP establishment—including press releases from the National Republican Congressional Committee attacking Hoffman.

The new poll shows Democrats are coming home to Owens, and that Hoffman is leading among independents. (Scozzafava is running third among independents.) This suggests he’s a far more viable candidate than Scozzafava in the stretch run, especially if Republicans were to begin to coalesce around him—which might well happen if the GOP establishment stopped propping up Scozzafava. Most tellingly, the more voters learn about Scozzafava the less they like her: 67 percent of voters have seen a Scozzafava commercial (only 33 percent have seen a Hoffman commercial). But, by an amazing margin of 28-12 percent, those who’ve seen Scozzafava’s commercials say those ads make them less likely to support her. Overall, Scozzafava’s favorable-unfavorable rating has gone in the last two weeks from plus 13 (33-20) to plus 5 (37-32); Owens has been stable at about plus 10: and Hoffman has gone from plus 3 (16-13) to plus 8 (23-15).

So Hoffman has the momentum and a chance to win, while Scozzafava is fading. It’s probably too late for the national and state Republicans to reverse their foolish initial blessing of Scozzafava—but surely they could at least stop attacking Hoffman, spend what money they’re going to spend attacking Owens, give up on pressuring high profile Republicans not to go in to help Hoffman, and therefore give Hoffman a decent chance to win.

Today, the Wall Street Journal has a story on the race with the headline Tea-Party Activists Complicate Republican Comeback Strategy. The truth is the opposite: The GOP establishment complicates the Republican and conservative comeback strategy.

Matt Lewis at Townhall (careful, the link to Erickson links you somewhere else and sorry that I couldn’t get it into a proper quote):

“Newt Gingrich’s endorsement of liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava for the NY-23 special election has drawn harsh words from RedState’s Erick Erickson:

Newt endorsing Scozzafava aligns him with Markos Moulitsas who declared Dede the most liberal candidate in the race.

That aligns Newt with ACORN, which has twice endorsed Dede.

That aligns Newt with Planned Parenthood and NARAL, active supporters of Dede.

That aligns Newt with the SEIU, the AFL-CIO, and a host of other left wing interest groups including the gay marriage lobby.

Today Newt Gingrich stands athwart history and pees on the legacy of 1994, where it is no longer about principles, ideas, ideals, and integrity, but the raw acquisition of power for the sake of power. He aligns with a candidate to the left of the Democrat.

The GOP will not take back power until it repents of its sins that caused it to lose power. And chief among those sins was the abandonment of principle for the sake of power. But when a political party stands for nothing, it fails to stand.

At least we can thank Newt today for declaring himself out of the 2012 race. Or, should he stay in, conservatives at least no longer have to feel under any obligation to stick with him, since he makes clear in NY-23 as he did in MD-01 that he feels under no obligation to stick with conservatives.”

Michelle Malkin:

Yes, it’s time for the upside-down elephant. The Stupid Party is at it again. The subject of today’s column: An abomination in the NY23 special congressional race to replace former GOP Rep. John McHugh, who accepted President Obama’s Army Secretary position. Way to go, Beltway GOP establishment. Grass-roots fiscal conservatives are fired up over ACORN, the SEIU, tax-and-spend radicals. Grass-roots social conservatives are battling radical abortion and gay marriage policies. You have been asking movement conservatives to give you money to fight the ACORN-friendly, union-pandering, tax-and-spend, radical Democrats.

Then you use their money to try and elect Dede Scozzafava, an ACORN-friendly, union-pandering, tax-and-spend radical Republican. And you use that money to fight Doug Hoffman, a viable, bona fide conservative candidate in the race who is closing the gap in the polls.

Watch your campaign coffers dry up, NRCC.

Malkin posts a piece from Doug Hoffman

Dan Riehl:

What I am observing and commenting upon is seeing the same old political machines exploit current sentiments for their own ends. I have, in many cases, no idea what those ends might actually be. I am seeing the same old players playing the same old games and I am sick of it all around.

I had hoped to read Hoffman’s guest post and find something that told me he was worth supporting. For whatever reasons, the decision was made to present nothing more than, well, I am not her.

Great. But I am sick of a politics that too often results in people being compelled to vote for someone because they are not the other guy, or gal. I’ve watched it play out for years and I haven’t seen it bring an ounce of real change in our politics. Period.

I can state for a fact that I have witnessed a be more tolerant, grow a bigger party, ignore the hardcore base guy ginning up resentment across the base in this race simply because someone else is paying the freight. Why the hell should I buy that as anything other thanpolitical games being played by people only out for themselves?

So, what are the real agendas here? All I have to go on is what I have observed. What the hell is Gingrich’s game in endorsing Scozzafava? I have no idea, as I’ve observed him moving away from conservatives for years.

But what about Thompson? Well, frankly, how the hell should I do, or why should I trust him? If he was dead set for a conservative resurgence he was sitting in the catbird seat just over a year ago and he didn’t step up. He balked and supported the disaster that was McCain, not just once, but twice, before and after he allegedly ran. Why should I trust him as the true champion of the conservative cause? Because, I don’t.


mrnewman at Redstate:

In the past 2 weeks, her Conservative opponent and Protection Pledge signer Doug Hoffman has gained quite a bit of ground. In those two weeks, Scozzafava has changed her mind and decided to sign this taxpayer pledge. The associated press release states that this provides a “…clear indication of where Hoffman and Scozzafava stand on taxes.” I disagree on this statement.

Instead of providing a clear picture of Scozzafava’s stance, it shows a clear picture of character. Scozzafava is willing to sign any pledge and do anything to get elected. If she was principled in her moderacy, I could at least respect that. I now have no respect for her principles on the issues. As polls show her losing support amongst conservatives, she jumps onto an anti-tax pledge she does not believe in. This is a display of a self-serving nature and the people of the 23rd District deserve better.

An independent minded alternative has stood proudly for fiscally conservative principles the entire time. He has not wavered from week to week based on polling data. Doug Hoffman is the right candidate for this district and his opponents actions make this clearer by the day.

Patrick Ruffini at The Next Right:

Sadly, the RNC and NRCC are doubling down on a flawed candidate with little chance of generating any significant momentum in the last 16 days. In many ways, this should be a situation like Bernie Sanders’ many elections in Vermont, or Joe Lieberman’s election in 2006, where there should be no harm and no foul in supporting a viable, like-minded independent over a non-starting major party nominee.

Instead, this looks set to go down as yet another misfire by DC Republicans, drying up the small donor base to the committees with a shortsighted “all Republicans are created equal” approach to supporting liberal Republicans when perfectly acceptable conservative alternatives exist.

I’m not one to suggest that the party should go out of its way to anoint candidates who can’t win in blue states. Rather, I am suggesting that there is a pragmatic case for the NRSC and NRCC to stay neutral in more primaries or support conservatives in a way that doesn’t lose elections — and makes it more likely that Mitch McConnell will prevail on the Senate floor more often.

Take everyone’s favorite example, the Florida Senate race. There is no doubting the fact — even amongst conservatives — that Charlie Crist is practically unbeatable in a general election. Let’s peg his chances against Kendrick Meek at 95 percent.

The problem is that Marco Rubio is no slouch in this department either. The polls I’ve seen have him up double digits over Meek. Assume that Rubio’s chances in a general election are between 80 and 85 percent.

Looking at electability only, Crist would still come out ahead. But that doesn’t necessarily give Senate Republicans their best outcome. Notice I said Senate Republicans, not conservatives.

Naturally, the national party is going to go for the “W” wherever it can in order to bolster its number of seats. And if this were the only thing that mattered, electability alone would be king.

The problem, as we are finding out in the health care debate, is that it’s not enough to have 60 Democrats to break a filibuster, or 41 Republicans to sustain one. How your members vote in that process matters to the outcome. In deciding which candidates to support, the national party committees — not just activists — should be looking at whether the candidates are likely to support leadership on key floor votes. If Rubio is just 10 or 15 percent better than Crist on key votes, Crist’s electability advantage is nullified from the perspective of Leader McConnell and the Senate Republican Conference.

To me, this could go either way given that Crist is not liberal in the way that Olympia Snowe is, and that his maverickness has always been more about staking out a particular brand in Florida than currying favor with a liberal electorate. But even so, the PR advantage of having a high-profile Hispanic conservative with a potential national career ahead of him tips the scale in Rubio’s favor.

The same would go in California. Carly Fiorina does not have a particularly strong electability advantage over Chuck DeVore, and her celebrity CEO past renders her vulnerable to rookie mistakes and greater scrutiny of her private sector activities. It would be one thing for the NRSC to support Fiorina if she were polling 10 to 15 points better than DeVore against Boxer, but she’s not.

In deciding whether to support conservatives like Hoffman, Rubio, and DeVore, there is a reasonable middle ground between craven winnerism and a kamikaze strategy that ignores electability. The committees should factor in adherence to core Republican principles (in addition to electability) because the job of a political party is not just to win elections, but to win votes on the floor. And though the impact of an errant member is much less in the House than it is in the Senate, Scozzafava’s not-so-veiled threats to switch parties if she isn’t treated nicely should render her completely unacceptable to Michael Steele and Pete Sessions, who should make it clear that they won’t be blackmailed.

David Frum at New Majority:

Two races – two standards.

Race one: the special election for New York’s 23rd congressional district. New York Republican leaders engineered the nomination of Deirdre Scozzafava, a leader of the Republican minority in the state assembly.

Many conservatives find Scozzafava an uninspiring candidate,  and not only because of her liberal social views. Deeply embedded in the crony culture of Albany, Scozzafava was chosen above all for her fundraising skills.

So conservatives have rallied to the third party candidacy of Doug Hoffman. (See the Club for Growth’s anti-Scozzafava ad, here.)

Result: a 9-point lead for Democrat Bill Owens.

Race two: the New Jersey gubernatorial election.

Here too a third-party candidate has upended the race. Only this time, the third party challenger is a more liberal Republican, former EPA administrator Chris Daggett. Daggett’s good government record, his highly detailed fiscal plans, and his appealing personality have boosted him to 13.6% in RCP’s average of state polls. (See here for a Daggett ad that amusingly lampoons Democratic governor Jim Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie.)

Result: Christie’s lead over Corzine, 10 points in mid-summer, has vanished to 0.8 points in October.

My good friend Jim Geraghty observes at National Review: “I realize this statement will break the heart of supporters of Chris Daggett, the independent running for governor in New Jersey, but he’s acting as incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine’s bodyguard.”

Here at NewMajority, John Vecchione likewise derides Daggett as a spoiler.

From an electoral point, Geraghty and Vecchione are exactly correct. But isn’t the same thing true of Doug Hoffman? Yet the electoral arithmetic that seems all-important in New Jersey matters not a bit in NY-23, where national conservative leaders have queued to endorse Hoffman over Scozzafava.

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Francisco Franco, Abe Vigoda, Morrissey, Ayatollah Khamenei… Living Or Dead?

Michael Leeden:

This story has been floating around the net for the past day or so, but this report comes from a person who is in a position to know such things.  As I know very well (having been gulled into wrongly announcing Khamenei’s death a while back), it is easy to be misled, and Khamenei has had previous medical emergencies in the past, and recovered, but the source is excellent. Nonetheless, it’s always smart to apply the Reagan Caution:  Trust, but verify.  I’m doing my best.

Here is what he/she says:

Yesterday afternoon at 2.15PM local time, Khamenei collapsed and
was taken to his special clinic. Nobody – except his son and the
doctors – has since been allowed to get near him.
His official, but secret, status is: “in the hands of the gods”.

Reportedly this collapse is natural. Many would like him to move to his
afterlife but reportedly the collapse was not ‘externally induced’
[no poisioning]. The few insiders who know about the collapse see
this development “as a gift from the gods”.

His condition had already seriously deteriorated over the last
months, aggravated by his nervous condition due to [1] his
inability to solve the problems created by his manipulation of the
election results and the refusal of [a large part of] the
population to accept this, plus [2] his loss of religious authority
by means of the repeated condemnations of events by senior clerics

Reportedly the principal aims of Khamenei of the last couple of
weeks, if not months, were to ensure [1] a positive reputation as
his legacy and [2] the physical survival of his family members and
their wealth, reportedly now largely in Syria and in Turkey (remember the truck convoy of $8.5 billion in cash and gold that was seized by the Turks?).

Outlook is uncertain but speculation is – considering that he is in
coma since more than 24 hours – that he may not come out of his coma and/or that he may die very soon.

If he dies it is expected that immediately a bloody clash will
develop between the powers behind Rafsanjani, who will immediately
claim temporary religious authority and overall control, and the
powers behind Achmadinejad who will scramble in order to regain
control and ensure their survival.

weekend update2

Gateway Pundit

George Stephanopoulos

Allah Pundit:

We’ve been burned before so I was going to ignore it, but now Stephanopoulos has picked it up. Good enough for ABC, good enough for Hot Air!

Michael Ledeen says he’s in a coma, the Antimullah site says he’s dead and that it’ll be announced tomorrow morning. Let’s get a jump on it, in the very unlikely event that it’s true.


Before the summer uprising, the odds-on choice to succeed him was Rafsanjani, the “pragmatist” head of the Assembly of Experts (a.k.a. Shiite College of Cardinals) that’s charged with electing a new supreme leader. But Rafsanjani was sympathetic to the protesters in June, so presumably the Revolutionary Guard — the real source of power in Iran — won’t let him come to the throne. So, then … who? One possibility is the Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, Ahmadinejad’s own personal “spiritual advisor” and a jihadist so hardcore that his top disciples have already come out publicly in favor of Iranian nuclear weapons. If he’s the pick, it’s panic time. Another possibility is that the Guard will simply finish the process started this summer and stage a full-blown military coup, installing Ahmadinejad or Jafari as dictator and taking things from there. The tricky part, obviously, would be the risk of alienating religious Iranians by doing away with clerical rule, which is why the third possibility is the likeliest — namely, finding a puppet from among the clerical ranks who can be sold to the west as a “pragmatist” or “reformist” while letting the Guard control things behind the scenes. That’s basically the scam they’re running now, although an infusion of fresh blood at the top would give them new possibilities for jerking the U.S. around with promises that the next supreme leader is someone “we can do business with.”

The odds are low but the stakes are high, so here’s your thread to speculate. Fire away.

Dave Noon: (sorry can’t get the quote marks to work on this)

“Michael Ledeen, December 5, 2006:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is lying in a “royal suite” in the spiffy Vanak hospital (that’s its old name, which most Tehranis use) in Tehran. He wanted to leave today but the doctors would not permit it. I guess doctors have the last word, even in a dispute with the Supreme Leader. Heh. He arrived there late yesterday afternoon local time, after feeling cold, breaking out in a cold sweat, and losing feeling in his feet. The initial examination found low blood pressure and a slow pulse rate. They originally feared internal bleeding, but have tentatively concluded that he “only” suffers from a weakened heart.

And on October 13, 2009, quoting someone “who is in a position to know such things”:

Yesterday afternoon at 2.15PM local time, Khamenei collapsed and was taken to his special clinic. Nobody – except his son and the doctors – has since been allowed to get near him. His official, but secret, status is: “in the hands of the gods”.

Reportedly this collapse is natural. Many would like him to move to his afterlife but reportedly the collapse was not ‘externally induced’ [no poisoning]. The few insiders who know about the collapse see this development “as a gift from the gods.”

Good god. Even Perez Hilton hasn’t gone back to the “X World Leader is So Totally Dead well, but Michael Ledeen is nothing if not persistent.”
abe-vigodaJean Granville at New Majority:

The rumor has been spreading since yesterday that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is dead or in a coma, following a stroke or something similar.

Except for a limited number of people around Khamenei, nobody knows whether there is any truth to the rumor, so there is no point in speculating about his succession. Besides, whoever succeeds him, we will not be much better off as long as the regime holds.

But a few comments can be made anyway.

First, the death of a totalitarian leader is often preceded by rumors and then some explicit signs. When Radio Moscow played classical music all day, a good news day was to be expected (they played a lot of classical during the 80’s). In France, that just means public radio employees are on strike.

Second, when they cut off most means of communication during the post-election troubles, the Iranian authorities exposed themselves to what is happening now. Means of transmission like the internet and mobile phones make fact-checking easier. Right now, it seems that Twitter is still the main source of information on what is taking place in the streets of Tehran, and Twitter is an unreliable channel of communication. Maybe it is untrue that black has been displayed on Tehran official buildings, or that Basij units have taken position in the streets, but we simply don’t know, and Iranians outside Tehran may not be sure either.

Third, the rumor itself may trigger a new round of instability, as happened a number of times through history. During the 1830’s, the French government decided to nationalize the optical telegraph, for fear that a revolt could spread from one city to another before the government had time to take the appropriate measures to stop it. That didn’t work. First, that led to the public monopoly on telecom which lasted until the 90’s. Second, clandestine networks were put in place, and third, agitation ceased only when universal suffrage was instituted.

But more importantly, cutting off transmissions in order to keep people from rising also means that the government doesn’t know what is going on. Gorbachev was the first to be surprised at how much the Soviet people positively hated the regime when his glasnost made it possible to say it publicly. Iran has gone in the opposite direction last spring, and has subsequently come closer to a Soviet-like totalitarian state (it was never very far): A closed box inside which nobody knows what is going on. We don’t, but they don’t either.

Dudi Cohen denies it.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald on Leeden, Stephanopoulos

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What Up? Not Much, And You?


The RNC went through a redesign.

Ben Smith at Politico:

This is, a youngish Republican points out to me this morning, a bit of an unfortunate place for an empty page on the Republican National Committee’s nifty new website.

That would be the “Future Leaders” page.

Steve Benen:

So, did the RNC get its money’s worth with its newly-redesigned site? A few things jump out.

* The site includes a new two-page section on Republican “heroes.” It features quite a few historic African Americans — note to the RNC: you’re trying way too hard — including legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson, who wasn’t actually a Republican.

* Steele has a blog on the site. It’s called “What Up.” The first sentence reads, “The Internet has been around a while, now.” Seriously, that’s exactly what it says.

* The site features a timeline of Republican Party “accomplishments,” dating back to 1860. The last entry is from 2004, and refers to directing federal funds to private religious schools in D.C., in a voucher program that’s failed in a variety of ways. The previous “accomplishment” was the launch of the Iraq war in 2003 (the piece also spells “Iraq” incorrectly). According to the RNC’s own new website, the Republican Party hasn’t had any accomplishments in the last five years.

* The RNC created a page for “future leaders” of the party. It’s literally blank.

* Steele’s first blog post asks readers, “Why are you are Republican? Think about that for a minute.”

That’s good advice, actually.

James Richardson at Redstate:

As Politico’s Ben Smith points out, the RNC’s “Future Leaders” page is curiously—or perhaps candidly—blank.

The Democratic National Committee gleefully noted the error to reporters this morning, echoing the “it’s funny because it’s true” criticisms voiced on Twitter today.

Suggesting the blank page is somehow emblematic of the GOP’s withering crop of leaders, one DNC spox told Talking Points Memo “there are no future leaders in the GOP. As the GOP continues to champion the same failed policies of the past, recycle the same failed leaders of the past like Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich, and fails to get that the American people aren’t looking for a party that just says ‘NO’ to progress, we rate this claim ‘True. So, very true.’”

Hoping to recover from their early-morning fumble, the RNC updated the page to reflect Steele’s belief that ‘action begins with the individual, and that grassroots activism holds the key to future GOP success.’

“Who are the future leaders of the Republican Party? You are — you, the people who make America work,” the new site reads.

The page does not currently feature any prominent Republican elected official or activist, but says supporters may send an email to FutureLeaders@GOP.com to acknowledge “stand-out, Republican leaders who don’t get the acclaim they deserve.”

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

In 2008, Democrats took the lead in using online tools to generate campaign activity, but Republicans aren’t so un-savvy across the board: GOP lawmakers were the first to put Twitter to work during the 2008 energy debate, when they stayed in DC to occupy the House floor as everyone else had left for August, tweeting their dissent under the #dontgo hashtag.

New media was also part of Chairman Michael Steele’s promise as incoming chairman, so the new site could be something of a signature move for him. If there’s any doubt, watch what happens when you open the site for the first time: Steele actually walks out across the page and personally introduces the “forward-looking, open platform for the party of new ideas.”


The best aspect of the newly redesigned Republican Party website — aside from that amazing “What up?” thing — is the ability to refresh and refresh and refresh the homepage, for hours, to see all of the “GOP Faces” in circulation in the upper left corner, between the “G” and the “P,” where, what, a “Y” is supposed to go? But it’s just some random person’s head instead? Well your editors Jim and Juli have seen most or all of the “GOP Faces,” and analyzed them. Click the clicky to meet the members of what must be some secret “other” Republican Party in an alternate dimension, what with the youth and the diversity and the albino.

Meredith Jessup at Townhall:

As Jillian subtly points out, GOP chairman Michael Steele is not 13-years-old and, therefore, should not have a blog entitled “What Up?”

But along with the chairman’s new blog, a new GOP site has been unveiled as the party attempts to re-brand itself.  “Something is happening at GOP.com,” booms the voice of Steele as the page loads.  No joke: a digital Michael Steele struts across the computer monitor to explain the new website and how “that something new — is you!”  Sure this tiny Michael Steele and cheesy line is enough to make you roll your eyes, but it gets worse.  Much worse.

In fact, it gets downright embarrassing.

Playing into all the medias’ favorite stereotype, the RNC seems so desperate to avoid being labeled the party of “old, white men.” After sitting and clicking for a while, it becomes embarrassingly apparent how the RNC is seemingly desperate for female and minority voters.  Instead of showing pictures of all different kinds of people, the RNC has singled-out these people and, more specifically, their votes–a petty political maneuver and one of many reasons disillusioned Republicans are so fed up with the party in the first place.

“It’s the new GOP.com. It’s a forward-looking, open-platform for the party of new ideas. If you’re a Republican activist, this is your space,” Steele’s digital likeness says.  As a conservative with traditional conservative values, it’s clear the Republican institution did not learn any of the lessons from the last election and/or the rise of the modern-day tea party movement.  People aren’t showing up at town hall meetings of Democrats AND Republicans because they are looking for “new ideas”–they just want the “conservative party” to remember its conservative roots and shape new ideas today in the mold of our traditional values handed down to us by previous generations of Americans.

The “Republican Heroes” page includes seven African Americans, one Hispanic-American, four women and four white men.  I’m not exactly sure how baseball hall-of-famer Jackie Robinson is a Republican hero, or even if he was a Republican, but I think it’s disgraceful the GOP can’t come up with a list of AMERICANS who have shaped the party and the country; a list of people who succeeded in moving the country forward while holding onto tradition.

It’s absurd that the list of “heroes” at GOP.com does not include even a single one of our nation’s Founding Fathers.

Charles Johnson at LGF:

Someone please tell me that Michael Steele’s “blog” on the newly redesigned GOP website isn’t really named “What Up?

And even worse, the new website violates one of the cardinal rules of web design: web pages should never make sound without the visitor’s consent. The GOP home page has a little Javascript-animated Michael Steele who comes walking out and starts talking, like one of those incredibly annoying advertisements you see on cheesy websites.

It’s the political party with a website that’s not safe for work.

Christopher Orr at TNR:

In related news, Chairman Michael Steele has a blog on the site. It’s entitled, I kid you not, “What up?”, which is possibly the most painful attempt to sound hip I can imagine short of “What up, dog?” It’s certain to be an early morning stop for any blogger looking for material. I’d link to it but, in its avant garde way, the site is down.

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

10. In a section devoted to “future leaders,” there were none.

9. In the subsequent rush to get up a “future leaders” page, they choose “you.”
8. The last GOP accomplishment cited on the accomplishment page was from 2004.
7. The what’s up page — hip! starts with this sentence: “”the internet has been around for a while now”
6. Administrator passwords were accidentally posted.
5. When the RNC hosted a kick-off conference call, the website was down.
4. The website cites Jackie Robinson as a GOP hero. Robinson wasn’t a GOPer, and he criticized the GOP on race.
3. The first question on the conference call was from an Hispanic Republican who asked why the GOP site didn’t have a Spanish-language page and noted that the White House had one.
2. Bragging about web redesigns is so 2004.
1. It’s not timed with the start of any major advocacy campaign — or political campaign. And it portrays itself as something it’s not: diverse and ready to embrace new ideas. That may be what the party leadership aspires to, but, at least when it comes to diversity, a few pictures of Hispanics and African Americans doesn’t make up for … well, the history of the party.

UPDATE: Will at The League

David Frum at New Majority

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Can You Taste It? It’s So Close, Can You Taste It?

Brian Beutler at TPM’s live-blog

Ezra Klein:

The vote in the Senate Finance Committee was 14-9. Snowe voted with the majority, and no Democrats defected. Health-care reform passes go, collects one Republican. Next comes the merger of the two bills.

Ed Morrissey:

History?  Certainly, we don’t often see Congressional committees passing summaries instead of writing legislation, so that’s one for the history books.  We also don’t often see Congress passing trillion-dollar bills in a rush, although to be fair, they managed to do it earlier with Porkulus — a bill on which Snowe also helped make “history”.  Unfortunately, we see Snowe often crossing over on critical votes, so that’s neither history nor a surprise.

This does give Democrats momentum on the floor.  Snowe’s approving vote makes it tougher for Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson to buck their caucus and oppose it.  Joe Lieberman’s opposition may make that a little easier, and a negative CBO score when the language gets written may push Snowe back into opposition.  It’s more likely, though, that the CBO won’t score it in time to make a difference in the floor vote on cloture.

David Gratzer at New Majority:

Much work remains to be done and problems remain for the Democrats.  Polling suggests that Americans are against new taxes to finance new healthcare programs – and taxes will rise with their proposals.  The insurance industry is pushing back hard.  It’s even possible, though quite unlikely, that Senator Snowe will drop her support (her endorsement this afternoon was hardly robust).

Make no mistake, however: Democrats took a major step forward today.  And the path ahead is obvious: a Senate compromise that largely favors the Baucus bill over the HELP Committee draft, with the House then passing this with few (if any) amendments.

Health-reform legislation by year’s end.  Maybe earlier.

The true cost?  The practicality of the Medicare cost cutting?  The impact of the tax hikes? These questions will almost surely remain unanswered.

The Democrats have been skillful in their politics.  America will soon find out if good politics makes for good policies.

Steve Benen:

Time will tell how the process unfolds from here, but health care reform has faced a variety of high hurdles, and gone up against some enormous pressures. It had five committees in two chambers to get through, and as of this afternoon, it’s cleared all five.

Americans have been waiting for health care reform for far too long. And as of today, reform is headed to the House and Senate floors for the first time ever.

The sausage-making process, which has at times been ugly and messy this year, isn’t going to get any easier in the coming weeks, and lawmakers have some heavy lifting to do, not to mention huge questions to answer.

But as of this minute, health care reform is so close we can taste it.

Michelle Malkin:

Now, in a sign of how bass-ackwards Washington is, they’ll start actually writing up the legislative language to fill out the shell they all just voted for.

David Weigel at The Washington Independent:

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) brings the heat on Twitter, offering one of what will be many friendly fire attacks on Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

Picture 41

UPDATE: Paul Krugman

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Well, It Is Nowhere Near As Embarrassing As Tonya Harding

So I guess you heard: Chicago didn’t get the Olympics.

Via Kevin Drum, we have:

Ramesh Ponnuru at The Corner:

Chicago is out of contention. Obviously I had way too much confidence in the Obama administration’s political skills. But I’m sure that Obama will be a lot more persuasive with the Iranians.

John J. Miller at The Corner:

Wow, what an embarrassment for Obama. If he can’t work his personal magic with the Olympians, why does he expect it to work with the Iranians?

Last week, I wrote that if he made the trip to Copenhagen, then Chicago’s success was probably a done deal. Others have said this as well. In the scheme of things — health-care legislation, the fate of Afghanistan — this is small potatoes, and probably a blessing for the people of Chicago. But the symbolism looms large.

Rich Lowry at The Corner:

We Can Take Some Comfort . . .   [Rich Lowry]

. . . in this distressing hour that the Iranians, Russians, Chinese et al. are push-overs compared to the International Olympic Committee. Right?

And Drum:

You know times are tough when the NR gang all have to use the same gag writer to produce their lame jokes.  Of course, the real loser in all this is Oprah, but I notice that none of these guys has the guts to take her on.  Probably wise thinking.

Matthew Cooper at The Atlantic:

I wrote a few days ago that it was a risk for Obama to go to Copenhagen, and now we know it didn’t pay off. Will it be a big blow in the long run? I doubt it. It takes a whack out of his global superstar image, but if he had not gone and Chicago didn’t get it, then he might have taken a hit, too. I suspect Obama’s got to be angry that Chicago was eliminated so quickly and that the Americans clearly didn’t have a sense of that, or he wouldn’t have gone. No Illinois pol is going to dis the president for going. Now if he doesn’t go to Copenhagen for the Climate summit this winter…

David Frum at New Majority:

I’m stunned. I had been telling friends for days that Chicago must have the thing in the bag, because there was no way any half-way competent White House staff would allow a president to travel to a foreign city and make a public request for something without certain knowledge that the answer would be “yes.”

The rejection of the president’s suit is a humiliating rebuff. It’s also another ominous warning that for all the talk of this White House’s Chicago Way toughness, in the clinch it reveals itself credulous, placating, and soft. I wonder what they are thinking about Obama in Tehran today? Actually, I don’t wonder. I can guess.

Doug J. (being sarcastic, of course):

This presidency is over. How can Iran and Russia and North Korea and all the Hitlers of the world take us seriously now that the Olympic committee has laughed in the president’s face?

The bipartisan thing would be for Obama to resign now.

Josh Marshall at TPM:

Good for Obama, for trying to get the Olympics for the USA and for his home town. But I have to say I’m not terribly surprised if the Olympic big-wigs were not crazy about being big-footed by the American president. Maybe it had nothing to do with it at all. Apparently South America has never hosted the Olympics, making Rio a logical choice.

(I think I may go insane if I hear one more cable news yakker say they’re “shocked” and “stunned.” I mean, 9/11 it ain’t, right? I think we’ll recover.)

Rio De Janeiro will host the Olympics.

UPDATE: Peter Feaver in Foreign Policy

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Oh, The Health Care Posts We’ve Had And Haven’t Had And Wish We Could Do


First, let’s talk reconciliation:

Ken Strickland at MSNBC:

What is reconciliation and why is it used?
As mentioned above, it takes 60 votes to pass anything controversial in the Senate, due to the threat of a filibuster. But in 1974, in an effort to cut the nation’s soaring deficits, Congress passed a law creating a procedure that could NOT be filibustered and would only need a simple majority of 51 votes to pass.

Without a filibuster-proof procedure, lawmakers reasoned, the Senate would face difficulty passing bills that would make cuts in Medicare and Medicaid — popular programs which take up a significant portion of government spending. In an “explanation” of why reconciliation is needed, the Senate Budget Committee wrote in 1998:

These changes are considered difficult because the very nature of the programs involved often necessitates changing tax rates or placing restrictions on very popular social programs in order to achieve budgetary savings.

In addition to needing only 51 votes to pass, floor debate is limited to only 20 hours. Adding amendments that are unrelated to the bill are also prohibited. These rules are intended to speed up the legislative process and prevent opponents from gumming it up with deliberate procedural dawdling.

Mark Schmitt at Tapped:

Strickland writes, “In 1974, in an effort to cut the nation’s soaring deficits, Congress passed a law creating a procedure that could NOT be filibustered and would only need a simple majority of 51 votes to pass. Without a filibuster-proof procedure, lawmakers reasoned, the Senate would face difficulty passing bills that would make cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.”

The thing is, deficits were not “soaring” in 1974. The federal budget deficit that year was $6 billion, or four-tenths of 1 percent of GDP. This year’s deficit will be about 13 percent of GDP. Reconciliation was not designed to force cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, which were not yet growing rapidly. When I was in the middle of the reconciliation process in 1993, trying to push a complex provision, I suddenly understood the process in a way I never had from the books: It was an effort to impose a modern, public-management type of budget process on top of the existing congressional process without disturbing the powers that be. It was a kludge. Before 1974, the president wrote a budget, but there was no overall congressional budget. The authorizing committees created programs, the appropriations committee funded some of them, others, like Social Security and Medicare, were funded automatically, based on the rules of the programs. There was no overall plan for spending or taxes. The Budget Committee (also created in 1974) was empowered to produce a plan, but in itself that plan would have no power.


The reason this history is important is because it is a reminder that reconciliation was not designed to create a “50-vote Senate.” It was really a limited scheme intended to connect the old spending process with the new.

In the lead-up to the Iraq War, there was a saying among neoconservatives: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” Now, among progressives, one might say, “Everyone wants to do health reform. Real men want to use reconciliation” to cut out all Republicans and a few Democrats. But legislative strategy, like foreign policy, is not a test of manhood. It’s a very arcane and limited process that will leave many key provisions behind, and a weak and limited health plan.

One way or another, we’ll have to compromise. We’ll either compromise with the most conservative Democrats and one or two Republicans, or we’ll compromise with the limits of a process that was designed for a totally different purpose. The political question is simply going to be which compromise is worse.

Ezra Klein:

I’ll just add that the most committed skeptics of reconciliation that I run into come from some of the most liberal offices on the Hill. It has not, in my experience, been even mildly split along ideological lines. In part, this is a simple matter of staffing. These sources would prefer that power remained with Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman, Harry Reid and the White House. Reconciliation empowers the Senate parliamentarian and the chairmen of the budget committees. In the Senate, that’s Kent Conrad, who hasn’t distinguished himself as a particularly fire-breathing lefty.

Their other argument is that reconciliation, which is a surefire process for policies that directly change spending but a very uncertain process for everything else, seems better suited to things that centrists want than things that liberals want. Liberals are very worried about consumers, while conservatives are very worried, at least in theory, about spending. The reconciliation process favors spending concerns over consumer protection. Regulating insurers, for instance, is almost certainly ineligible. But taxing health benefits and tightening Medicare’s belt will sail right through.

My conclusion has been that a reconciliation bill should not look like the current health-care reform bill. It should be an expansion of public programs: Bring Medicaid up to 150 or 200 percent of the poverty line and allow people from 45 to 65 to buy into Medicare and give some of them tax credits to do so. I don’t know if there are votes for that strategy. But it wouldn’t run afoul of the Senate parliamentarian.

Moving  on, Ed Morrissey:

A month ago, as Congress prepared to return to Washington DC in total disarray on overhauling the American health-care system, the White House proclaimed that Barack Obama himself would draft a proposal to restart the process.  His joint speech in Congress mentioned no such plan, however, and the media quickly shifted its focus to the Senate Finance Committee, where moderates would have more influence than in Nancy Pelosi’s House.  Today, though, Roll Call reveals that the White House did craft its own plan — but wants to keep it under wraps now that Congress has returned to its own deliberations


This creates another problem for Democrats.  Both moderates and progressives in their caucus need traction over some contentious points of the plan, especially the public option.  With the White House super-secret plan known, members of both chambers may demand to see it to gauge where they stand with the administration.  Both groups would also be concerned, as Roll Call notes, that Obama was preparing to “sell them out.”

Mike Lillis at Washington Independent:

They might not need it. Despite sweeping Republican opposition to the Democrats’ plans, the Senate Finance Committee is carving through the hundreds of amendments to its proposal this month, with hopes that the bill will reach the Senate floor next week. With the arrival of Sen. Paul Kirk Jr. (D-Mass.), the Democrats now have a 60 members in the upper chamber. And without a public plan, the Finance proposal just might attract all of them.

Jennifer Rubin in Commentary:

So where does that put us now? It seems there are several possibilities. As occurred with social security and immigration reform under George W. Bush, the entire health-care reform effort may simply implode without resolution. Liberals insist on a public option while everyone else says no. Everyone goes away mad, vowing to blame the other guys. The public breathes a sigh of relief.

Alternatively, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid may realize they cannot become the death panel for the Obama administration. They assemble a package of discrete reforms that could have been enacted months ago. There are many pilot programs and study groups. Obama declares “victory,” liberals are furious that their moment of triumph has turned to mush, and the Obama agenda limps on.

And then there is the possibility that out of the morass of conflicting measures and without any assistance from the president (who plainly has no inner LBJ), some sort of comprehensive bill emerges. This alternative now seems the most difficult to imagine, which suggests how far we’ve come and how badly the president has fared. What would be in the bill? Could the Democrats use the reconciliation process to jam it through? We still have no answers to these basic questions. Why?

David Frum at New Majority:

Until now, the threat of a government-run healthcare plan has deterred Republicans from negotiations with the administration. They were (reasonably) afraid of being mousetrapped into a philosophically unacceptable deal. But if the single most threatening element of such a deal has been voted down by Democrats, the field looks different. Instead of worrying about worst-case scenarios, Republicans now can begin to think: are there things we want? Might we successfully wedge centrist Democrats away from the Chuck Schumers? Until now, Republicans have clung to the untenable healthcare status quo in great measure because they feared the likeliest alternative would be worse. But what if the alternative might be an improvement over the status quo? Suddenly the deal option begins to look a lot more interesting.

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Go Rogue On November 17th At A Borders Near You


Mike Allen at Politico:

Sarah Palin’s publisher plans to announce Tuesday that the title of her eagerly awaited memoir will be “Going Rogue: An American Life.”

Publication is being moved up from spring to Nov. 17 in order to catch the holiday book-buying season. The former Alaska governor has been in huge demand as a speaker, and continues to harvest a bounty of media attention.

A mammoth first printing of 1.5 million copies has been ordered — the same first run as “True Compass,” the memoir of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Palin had a deadline of Sept. 15 for her manuscript and turned it in a bit early. Copy-editing and fact-checking are now underway in a race to meet the crash publishing schedule, which has been accelerated four or five months because of the huge anticipated demand.

I’m intrigued by the title, not only because it promises dish about the sniping from McCain staffers but because it hints, perhaps, at her positioning herself as the libertarian alternative to “orthodox” Republicans like Mitt and Huck. Meanwhile, Politico claims that “[c]opy-editing and fact-checking are now underway in a race to meet the crash publishing schedule,” a detail bound to intoxicate liberals eager to find, flag, catalogue and crow about every last typo. Exit question: Which avid audience will buy more copies, the Palin-lovers or the Palin-haters?

David Frum at New Majority:

Sarah Palin’s admirers defended her resignation as governor of Alaska on the grounds that the decision would free her to study the issues deeper and deliver some major statements on national policy.

Detractors countered that Palin resigned in order to cash her sudden and enormous fame. The “issues” were the last thing to interest her.

These contrasting hypotheses are about to be tested. Reuters reports that the publication date of Palin’s memoir has been brought forward to November 17, meaning that the book must already be substantially finished. The deal was signed in May – meaning four months of writing time. Obviously, we can’t evaluate the book before it’s published. But the schedule sure casts doubt on the “all about the issues” thesis – and lends credence to the alternative hypothesis that with Palin, it’s all about the Benjamins.

The Mudflats:

But those of us who live in Alaska, and who have been following this story from the beginning know the real root of that phrase, and will understand the ugly irony of Palin’s title.

During the ethics investigation of Sarah Palin now known as “Troopergate,” that phrase became seared into the collective consciousness of Alaskans.  Palin’s spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton used that word referring not to Palin, but to the former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan.  Palin had pressured Monegan to fire her ex-brother in law Trooper Mike Wooten whose nasty divorce from Palin’s sister had left bitter feelings.  Monegan refused to fire him, and was subsequently dismissed by the governor, leaving the Department of Public Safety without leadership, and leaving many Alaskans with a bad taste in their mouths.

In a stinging press conference, Stapleton said that Monegan, a particularly well-liked and respected public servant, former police chief and ex-Marine had displayed “egregious rogue behavior.”  Stapleton, who had been a respected news anchor before her association with Palin, suffered withering criticism from Alaskans on both sides of the political spectrum.  Alaska is a small town. Monegan was no “rogue,” everyone knew it, and the use of the term disgraced her.

What had Monegan done, according to the governor, that earned him this brand?  He had planned a trip to Washington D.C. to seek funding to help combat sexual assault in a state that leads the nation in that category.  Rogue, indeed.

Steve Benen:

In January, when Palin first found a publishing agent, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews raised a point that many are likely to wonder about: “The question is who, actually, will write the Palin book.”

The answer, apparently, is Lynn Vincent, Palin’s ghostwriter in San Diego, who has already signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Andrew Sullivan:

That’s Sarah Palin’s achievement for Jonathan Burnham, who runs the marketing company, Harper Collins. Several questions naturally arise. Did she actually write those 400 pages? Please. Her peregrinations in the  couple of months since she quit her “day-job” do not exactly reflect a period of personal reflection and diligence. She wrote that book as thoroughly as she wrote her speech in Hong Kong. The book was written by a hardcore Christianist; the speech by a hardcore neocon. She remains the hood ornament for a marketing campaign that now passes for the conservative movement.

The title itself lets us know that if anyone harbored any doubts about her own view of that disastrous campaign, she is immensely proud of it.


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