Tags: Mike Huckabee

House Democratic Retirement Watch: 29 Members Are Age 70 or Older


In an era that has seen Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy, a lawmaker’s retirement should never be assumed. But most members of Congress eventually decide to hang it up at some point.

Until recently, Democrats felt reassurance from the fact that they had no announced retirements in their House caucus, but in the part two weeks, two members have surprised their districts by announcing they’re riding off into the sunset: Dennis Moore of Kansas, age 64, and John Tanner of Tennessee, age 65. It seems safe to conclude that age is a factor in the decision to retire from Congress, and so let’s presume that members of Congress usually begin thinking about retirement sometime in their mid-60s.

There are a lot of House in their mid-60s or older:

John Dingell, Michigan, age 83.
Dale Kildee, Michigan, age 80.
John Conyers, Michigan, age 80.
Louise Slaughter, New York, age 80.
Charles Rangel, New York, age 79.
Sander Levin, Michigan, age 78.
Pete Stark, California, age 78.
Ike Skelton, Missouri, age 77.
John Murtha, Pennsylvania, age 77.
Diane Watson, California, age 76.
Leonard Boswell, Iowa, age 75.
Jim Oberstar, Minnesota, age 75.
Donald Payne, New Jersey, age 75.
Edolphus Towns, New York, age 75.
John Olver, Massachusetts, age 73.
Eddie Bernice Johnson, Texas, age 73.
Lynn Woolsey, California, age 72.
Grace Napolitano, California, age 72.
Bill Pascrell, New Jersey, age 72.
Nita Lowey, New York, age 72.
Paul Kanjorski, Pennsylvania, age 72.
Soloman Ortiz, Texas, age 72.
Jim McDermott, Washington, age 72.
Lois Capps, Califorina, age 71.
Maxine waters, California, age 71.
Maurice Hinchey, New York, age 71.
David Obey, Wisconsin, age 71.
Henry Waxman, California, age 70.
Steny Hoyer, Maryland, age 70.

By my count, there are 29 House Democrats age 70 or older, and another 39 are between 64 and 69.

Barney Frank, Massachusetts, age 69.
David Price, North Carolina, age 69.
James Clyburn, South Carolina, age 69.
Ruben Hinojosa, Texas, age 69.
Mike Honda, California, age 68.
Sam Farr, California, age 68.
Howard Berman, California, age 68.
Lucille Roybal-Allard, California, age 68.
Danny Davis, Illinois, age 68.
William Delahunt, Massachusetts, age 68.
Bob Etheridge, North Carolina, age 68.
Norman Dicks, Washington, age 68.
Bob Filner, California, age 67.
Marion Berry, Arkansas: age 67.
Parker Griffith, Alabama: age 67.
Walt Minnick, Idaho, age 67.
Gary Ackerman, New York, age 67.
John Spratt, South Carolina, age 67.
Anna Eshoo, California, age 66.
Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut, age 66.
Jose Serrano, New York, age 66.
Charlie Wilson, Ohio, age 66.
Lincoln Davis, Tennessee, age 66.
Alan Mollohan, West Virginia, age 66.
Susan A. Davis, California, age 65.
Doris Matsui, California, age 65.
Janice Schakowsky, Illinois, age 65.
Collin Peterson, Minnesota, age 65.
Emanuel Cleaver, Missouri, age 65.
Carolyn McCarthy, New York, age 65.
Silvestre Reyes, Texas, age 65.
George Miller, California, age 64.
Jane Harman, California, age 64.
Allen Boyd, Florida, age 64.
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Michigan, age 64.
Melvin Watt, North Carolina, age 64.
Robert Brady, Pennsylvania, age 64.
Charlie Gonzalez, Texas, age 64.
Jim Moran, Virginia, age 64.

Setting our potential “retirement watch” age a bit lower, to 61, we find another 30 House Democrats:

Barbara Lee, California, age 63.
Corrine Brown, Florida, age 63.
Bobby Rush, Illinois, age 63.
David Scott, Georgia, age 63.
Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts, age 63.
Dutch Ruppersberger, Maryland, age 63.
Ed Markey, Massachusetts, age 63.
Carolyn Maloney, New York, age 63.
Marcy Kaptur, Ohio, age 63.
Dennis Kucinich, Ohio, age 63.
Lloyd Doggett, Texas, age 63.
Rick Boucher, Virginia, age 63.
Vic Snyder, Arkansas, age 62.
Mazie Hirono, Hawaii, age 62.
John Yarmuth, Kentucky, age 62.
Jerrold Nadler, New York, age 62.
Eliot Engel, New York, age 62.
G.K. Butterfield, North Carolina, age 62.
Peter DeFazio, Oregon, age 62.
Al Green, Texas, age 62.
Ciro Rodriguez, Texas, age 62.
Gene Green, Texas, age 62.
Peter Welch, Vermont, age 62.
Robert Scott, Virginia, age 62.
John Larson, Connecticut, age 61.
Jim Marshall, Georgia, age 61.
Bennie Thompson, Mississippi, age 61.
Rush Holt, New Jersey, age 61.
John Hall, New York, age 61.
Earl Blumenauer, Oregon, age 61.
Allyson Schwartz, Pennsylvania, age 61.

Obviously, a lot of these members come from safely Democratic districts, and probably a good chunk of them intend to serve until they die or are physically unable to any longer. But there are a lot of House Democrats getting long in the tooth, who may be thinking about spending their golden years in a more relaxed pace… to say nothing of the possibility of some of these members getting suddenly called to that Big District Office in the Sky. We’ll see in the coming months how many decide there are other things they want to do besides run for reelection in an angry, anti-incumbent year.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

That Stupid American Public!


New York magazine’s latest cover piece, on the troubles of the Obama administration, laments the “American public, with its chronic impatience and a collective attention span measured in angstroms.”

(A couple of readers point out that an “angstrom” is a unit of length, not time, so isn’t appropriate in the measurement of attention spans.)

UPDATE: Now they tell us: “Obama’s was not a candidacy, to put it mildly, in which substance played a starring role.”

I like John Heilemann, his articles and perspective are always interesting, but if you’re going to say something like that, you probably ought to acknowledge whether you’re just noticing this now, or whether you noticed it then and just ignored it because you liked the candidate so much.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Why I like Heilemann: His ability to get quotes like this one:

For Obama, the problem is less acute than it is for congressional Democrats up for reelection in the coming mid-terms. But a problem it still is – not only for his own reelection effort three years from now, when the effects of reform will still be minimal, but because of the atmosphere the entire health-care endeavor has engendered in his party on the Hill. “The House is angry at the Senate, the Senate thinks the House is crazy, and they’re all pissed at the White House for not exerting adequate leadership over the process and for taking its eye off the ball on the economy,” says the Democratic strategist. “I don’t think the White House understands what’s going on or how bad it is.”

Had Emanuel or Axelrod been present two weeks ago when the members of the House Democratic caucus held their weekly meeting in a windowless room in the Capitol, the picture would have been all too clear. The frustration with Obama’s perceived fecklessness on unemployment was simmering, with open attacks on his economic team and emotional calls for a second stimulus. The next day, Pelosi announced she intended to introduce a jobs bill before year’s end, while across the Hill, Reid signaled his interest in doing the same in early 2010 – although congressional aides noted tartly that the White House had “yet to get onboard.”

These rattlings presage the sort of conflict that’s likely to attend the critical, maybe seminal, hundred days that lie ahead for Obama. The White House may or may not climb aboard a jobs bill, but its enthusiasm for the prospect is roughly equivalent to that of a 6-year-old confronted with a plate of cauliflower. Obama and his budget chief, Peter Orszag, have been sending clear signals for weeks that the administration intends to focus in its upcoming budget on fiscal restraint “on at least mapping out the path it will take to wage an assault on Mount Deficit. But congressional liberals have close to zero appetite for such a hike. “If the White House comes out in January all deficit hawkish,” says the strategist, “House and Senate Democrats are going to have an anti-Obama tea party of their own.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another “wow” quote: “One Democratic congressman predicts that fully half of his caucus will oppose the escalation. ‘Obama is going to get his ass kicked on this,’ the congressman says.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Some Perspective on Which House Democrats Are Vulnerable, and Why


Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report notes that of the 60 House races he deems potentially competitive, 45 are in districts currently held by Democrats.

While I can’t begrudge a Republican for smiling at that news, it’s pretty much what one would expect in a Congress that has a lot more Democrats than Republicans. In 2006 and 2008, Democrats won just about every seat that could be considered “low-hanging fruit.” There are a few pickup opportunities left, but they mostly represent seats where a Republican won in unique circumstances (Joseph Cao in New Orleans) or open seats (Mike Castle’s seat in Delaware, Mark Kirk’s seat in Illinois, Jim Gerlach’s seat in Pennsylvania).

Meanwhile, the vulnerable Democratic seats come in bunches and can be classified in different categories. You have a couple of retirements and open seats created by folks running for higher office, like John Tanner in Tennessee, Dennis Moore in Kansas, Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania, and Paul Hodes in New Hampshire.

You’ve got your perennial at-risk Democrats who have hung on because of the party’s momentum in recent cycles, like Jim Marshall and John Barrow in Georgia, and Allan Mollohan in West Virginia.

You’ve got a couple of how-did-a-Democrat-win-that-Republican-leaning-seat outliers, like Walter Minnick in Idaho, Parker Griffith and Bobby Bright in Alabama, and Frank Kratovil in Maryland.

You’ve got states where the Democratic brand is rapidly being damaged, usually with an unpopular incumbent governor: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Colorado.

You’ve got the-mouth-is-a-time-bomb incumbents like Alan Grayson in Florida, and perhaps Steve Kagen in Wisconsin and Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire. If Baron Hill keeps acting like his first name is a title, maybe he could be tossed on this pile, too; the reaction to the town meetings elicited a lot of “I don’t answer to you rabble” comments from Hill that could make good ad fodder next year.

The most dominant theme I’m seeing are states where Republicans did well in the first part of this decade, but where their candidates collapsed as President Bush’s popularity tumbled further and further: New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa. (Unsuprisingly, these are the states that have switched from red to blue between 2000 and 2008.) Anger, frustation, and exhaustion with Bush drove a lot of Democrats to victory in 2006 and 2008, making a lot of states look bluer than they really are, if this year’s elections are any indication.

What does this mean for Republican hopes for the House in 2010? A lot of the groundwork has been laid, but there’s still a long road ahead; getting anywhere near the 40 seats needed would require a big wave and almost everything bouncing their way.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

A Jobs Summit Hosted by Folks Who Have Never Hired Anybody


Newt asks a valid question: Who in this White House has ever created a job? He notes the president’s cabinet has the least private-sector experience of any administration in more than a century.

By the way, I can’t help but notice that Obama is hosting a summit on creating jobs when there are some actual government jobs awaiting warm bodies:

Nearly 200 top jobs in the administration remain vacant a year after Obama began planning his ascension to power, the result of stalled nominations, new ethics rules, lengthy background checks and delays in Senate confirmations. More than half the vacancies are at five departments: Justice, State, Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security.

Some of that is Congress’s fault, but not the positions where there isn’t even a nominee
yet . . .

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Perhaps a Bit of Drama in a Maryland Democratic Primary


In most years, a successful primary challenge to a sitting House Democrat seems like a longshot. But in Maryland, the expected decision of Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey to challenge Rep. Donna Edwards might be one worth watching.

Edwards herself was one of those rare successful primary challengers last cycle, sending Rep. Albert Wynn to an early retirement.

Ivey appears to have a better résumé and base of support than your average primary challenger, and as a first-termer, Edwards hasn’t had much time to build a record or get the district used to supporting her. Add up a strong anti-incumbent mood in the suburbs of Northeastern states lately, and this seems to be the year we’re most likely to see a relatively moderate challenger knock off a relatively liberal incumbent in a Democratic primary. Ivey’s chances probably aren’t much better than 1 in 3, but it’s a race worth keeping an eye on . . .

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Tough Year, Mr. President, Tough Year.


If you think you’ve had a rough year, think of how our friends on the left must feel. On January 1 of this year, they probably thought . . .

A stimulus bill would create jobs and lower the unemployment rate.

ACORN was a noble and trustworthy organization.

The data proving climate change was reliable (and could be found!).

Reaching out to Iran could yield dividends.

Fewer than 115,000 U.S. troops would be in Iraq, ten months after Obama took office.

An executive order requiring the closure of Guantanamo Bay within one year couldn’t just be ignored.

The Republican party was dead in places like Virginia, and was long since irrelevant in places like New Jersey.

Gay marriage would be voted into law in New York and Maine.

While some drop was inevitable, President Obama’s approval rating would be consistently above 50 percent at the end of the year.

More than 60 percent of Democrats would indicate they would vote in the 2010 midterm elections.

With 60 Democrats in the Senate and 250-plus Democrats in the House, passing a health-care bill with a public option would be smooth sailing.

What’s that saying? “Man plans, God laughs”?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

The Bottom Falls Out: Americans Disapprove of Obama on Terrorism, Economy, Health Care, Jobs, and Afghanistan


The honeymoon is over; in fact, Americans are pretty much realizing . . . this is not the Barack Obama they knew.

The latest Gallup poll is full of astonishingly bad news for President Obama. This poll of adults shows majorities (or near-majorities) disapproving of his performance on every issue except energy policy and global warming.

Obama Job Approval / Disapproval
Energy Policy: 49 / 35
Terrorism: 45 / 47
Global Warming: 44 / 36
The Economy: 44 / 53 (chart)
Health Care: 40 / 53 (chart)
Creating Jobs: 40 / 55
The situation in Afghanistan: 35 / 55

I wonder what the comparable numbers are among registered voters and likely voters.

Maybe it’s a particularly anti-Obama sample. Perhaps Obama can come back. But I think he’s going to need more than big speeches on any one of these areas; he’ll need tangible results: killed or captured high-profile terrorists, real signs of economic growth, a decline in the unemployment rate, some sort of health-care reform that generates tangible benefits quickly, and a sign that our enemies in Afghanistan are being pummelled.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Well, He Probably Has McCain’s Endorsement Wrapped Up


Republican Lang Sias will make his campaign for Congress official tomorrow; he’s running against incumbent Democrat Ed Perlmutter in Colorado’s 7th House district. He was the national veterans’ director for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign one of his recent columns can be found here.

He would have primary competition; Ryan Frazier, who was thinking of running for Senate until Jane Norton jumped in, is already declared.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

He Says That He Really Does Want to Spend More Time With His Family. Really.


Every once in a while, you hear a statement from a lawmaker that leaves you shaking your head and muttering, “Come on, man.”

Last night, upon hearing about the retirement of Tennessee Democratic congressman John Tanner, I wrote – perhaps a bit overdramatically – “John Tanner took a long look at the gospel-singing farmer [likely GOP rival Stephen Fincher], and chose to retire.”

Today, Tanner says his decision had nothing to do with his Fincher:

Republican tough talk almost made him change his mind and run for re-election. “My competitive juices got flowing,” he said. “They almost got me to run, but you don’t run for office just to beat someone. When you run, you should run to serve.”

Look, going up against a longtime incumbent, Fincher’s chances against Tanner were probably in the neighborhood of 50/50 at best. But I really have a hard time believing that an unknown challenger outraising Tanner 5-to-1 in the last quarter had no impact on his decision to not seek another term.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

A Three-Way Race in Nevada Next Year?


A dedicated race-watcher tells me, “Republicans just won next year’s Nevada governor’s race.” He exaggerates a bit, but word is that Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman, a Democrat, is filing papers to run for governor as an independent.

Obviously, there are no guarantees; there’s a reason they run the campaigns. But in a three-way race between a Republican, a Democrat, and a Democrat-turned independent, the GOP can feel pretty good. A poll on this scenario has already been conducted:

If Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman runs as an independent candidate for governor, he would pull more support from Democrat Rory Reid than Republican Brian Sandoval in a three-way match up, a Nevada News Bureau poll shows.

The automated poll of active voters conducted Friday and Saturday generated 3,080 responses, with 35 percent supporting Sandoval, 28 percent supporting Goodman, 21 percent supporting Reid and 16 percent preferring some other candidate.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Rob Simmons: ‘Afghanistan is not Iraq, and the same prescription of a troop surge cannot be counted on to achieve the same results.’


Former congressman Rob Simmons, one of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate taking on Chris Dodd, just released a statement in reaction to President Obama’s address on Afghanistan that is a bit different from what some might have expected. Simmons doesn’t seem all that enthused about the surge, and would prefer to see the U.S. purchasing the crops of Afghanistan’s poppy farmers.

The President’s strategy appears to rely too much on the idea that a troop surge can do for Afghanistan what it did for Iraq. There is a role for a surge in a counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan, but what the President presented last night is far from a comprehensive strategy for lasting success. I am not yet convinced that, as a whole, the strategy he outlined will ensure the swiftest, most efficient, least costly, and most of all, least bloody victory, or perhaps even victory at all.

Afghanistan is not Iraq, and the same prescription of a troop surge cannot be counted on to achieve the same results. Afghanistan presents numerous, unique challenges – no history of a strong centralized government or security force, intense rivalries among tribes, an economy in shambles, and grueling terrain, to name a few. Further, this war is not accommodating to the sort of urban ‘clear and hold’ strategy that was so successful during the surge in Iraq. Our enemies in Afghanistan are hiding in the caves and crevices of the mountains and deep in the countryside and porous border regions of Pakistan.

America’s only vital interest in Afghanistan is to deny al Qaeda terrorists a secure base from which they can train and launch attacks on Americans and our allies. But these terrorist encampments are highly mobile, and large fighting forces are not necessarily nimble enough to track and destroy them. That’s why I have long held that special operations and intelligence forces are critical to success in Afghanistan, but the President’s speech left me unconvinced that he appreciates the central role they must play, or that his plan takes necessary steps to sufficiently expand their use.

Further, we must understand the nexus between security and the Afghan economy. The Afghan economy is heavily dependent on the opium poppy trade which supplies 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Unlike Iraq, there is little water and no oil. The bitterly poor poppy farmers rely on the Taliban to protect their fields so their product can make it to market, and fund the Taliban to the tune of $300 million a year in exchange for their services. The U.S. strategy until very recently, on the other hand, has been to antagonize the Afghans by destroying and degrading poppy fields, leaving them even more dependent on and sympathetic to the Taliban. And the current policy of encouraging a shift to production of crops like wheat appears to be insufficient. 
The U.S. should seriously explore a fundamentally different approach similar to one successfully employed by President Reagan to combat the heroin epidemic. In 1981, President Reagan gave protected market status to poppy farmers in Turkey and India allowing the U.S. to purchase the raw product for conversion to medicinal uses. Now, we should consider contracting with tribal leaders in Afghanistan to relieve their economic dependence on the Taliban, dry up Taliban finances, reduce heroin supply, and build lasting economic partnerships with the Afghan people. 
Finally, I am deeply concerned that the President seems to be establishing an artificial timetable for withdrawal, regardless of conditions on the ground. Our troops, their families, our allies and our enemies need to know that the American Commander-in-Chief has the resolve to finish the job. I share the President’s urgency for completing the mission, but am highly skeptical that the strategy he has outlined can achieve his definition of success on his own timetable, and that the timetable itself will only extend the enemy’s resolve as it projects our lack thereof. 
I look forward to learning more about the details of the President’s strategy in the coming weeks and hope he will more fully explain his plans and how he will execute a comprehensive strategy for victory.

Interestingly, a Connecticut paper characterizes Dodd’s position as that of a “supportive skeptic” of Obama’s Afghan plan, and that doesn’t sound terribly different from where Simmons stands. (UPDATE: Dodd’s office reaches out to Campaign Spot, declaring, “You say Dodd describes himself as a ’skeptical supporter.’ It would be accurate to describe as a ’skeptic’ as the story you link to does . . . As Dodd said in the story, he remains skeptical and is looking forward to consulting with our military leaders and senior diplomats to evaluate the president’s proposal.”)
UPDATE: U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon issued the following statement:
The President’s announcement on Afghanistan this evening is important because, while there is no policy proposal on Afghanistan that is without valid criticism, lack of a clear policy endangers the lives of American troops on the ground. Now that a policy decision has been made, and tens of thousands of additional troops have been committed to Afghanistan, it’s critically important that the Commander in Chief commit himself fully to achieving success. Our troops must know that we are committed to their success. And our allies and the Afghan people must have confidence that we are determined to succeed or they will never become effective partners in the effort to defeat the terrorists.

Like most Americans, I do not want to see another multi-year escalation of conflict. I’m gravely troubled about the human costs of war, and I’m apprehensive about the economic repercussions a protracted war will have on our country at a time of double-digit unemployment and record federal debt. However, in my judgment, we cannot ignore the risks inherent in allowing Afghanistan to become a safe haven for the Taliban and a launching pad for additional al-Qaeda attacks. I am particularly struck by General McChrystal’s warning that delay of a comprehensive strategy ‘risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.

It is my hope that we bring our troops home safely as soon as possible, but we should bring them home responsibly and in victory, not defeat.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Simmons campaign manager Jim Barnett has a minor objection to the description above:

Regarding your post, I just wanted to clarify with regard to Rob Simmons’ position, he does not prefer the purchasing of poppy crop over the surge. He simply believes that for a surge to result in lasting success, it must be part of a comprehensive plan and among those things we should consider is the poppy crop issue, as well as greater reliance on special ops and intelligence forces. Not a huge deal, but the nuance is important. It’s not a one or the other. Its for one to succeed you need the others too.

And I think the Dodd comment has cleared up the other issue. Dodd is coming from an anti-war perspective. Rob is not. He believes we have to stay and win, but does think the President’s strategy for doing so, as it currently is understood, leaves a lot to be desired. So, their positions are not similar, though both are skeptics.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

‘Nobody saw this coming.’


About a week ago, I discussed the dramatic shift in suburban voting patterns between 2008 and 2009, and cited Republican Ed Mangano, who led incumbent Democrat Tom Suozzi in the race for county executive in Nassau County, Long Island, New York.

Suozzi conceded defeat Tuesday, declaring, “Nobody saw this coming.” Somehow I suspect we’ll hear more incumbents saying that in the coming year.

Nassau County is home to roughly 1.3 million people; more than 250,000 people voted in the county-executive race. By comparison, roughly 140,000 people voted in the special election in New York’s 23rd congressional district.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

‘This Looks Tough, but We Can Win This Together, Right, Buddy? . . . Buddy?’


This seems a little ominous for Democratic governor Chet Culver of Iowa: not too long after polls show him losing by a wide margin to former governor Terry Branstad, Culver’s campaign manager Andrew Roos resigns.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Able Baker Charlie Shows He’s Able to Raise a Ton, and Quick


He’s going to be in a three-way race, which may complicate things, but we may have another GOP rising star in Massachusetts:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles D. Baker raised more than $500,000 last month, his campaign said yesterday, yet another strong fund-raising haul in his bid to unseat Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat. Baker’s campaign raised $516,123 during the month, significantly more than any other candidate. Baker, a former health care executive, has raised more than $1.5 million this year from more than 5,000 donors.

By contrast, Patrick raised about $138,000 during November and about $1 million so far this year, according to his campaign.

(Headline inspired by the subtle wit of Richard Scarry, on my nighttime reading list to the Little Guy.)

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

How Likely Is Grayson to Fade to Black?


Stu Rothenberg offers his 12 most endangered House seats for 2010 (noting there are at least a half-dozen others that you could make a case for). One is an incumbent Republican (Joseph Cao in Louisiana); one is Republican-held (Mike Castle is running for the Senate in Delaware). The other ten are held by Democrats, including incumbents Tom Perriello of Virginia, Frank Kratovil of Maryland, Steve Driehaus and Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio, Harry Teague of New Mexico, and Bill Owens of New York…

…and the potty-mouthed Alan Grayson of Florida.

He does speak like a man who doesn’t expect to have the spotlight much longer, doesn’t he?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Matalin and Noonan on Reality Television, Our Culture, and President Obama


It’s not as big or as pressing an issue as Afghanistan, but on the home page, I conclude the recent news of aspiring reality television stars crashing a White House state dinner provides a good opportunity for President Obama to start talking about our national culture, and the destructive impact of widespread, obsessive, reckless, narcisstic pursuit of fame, driven in large part by the growth of reality television.

I can hear the objections now: Jim, he epitomizes a lot of the problems you’re talking about.

I bounced the idea off several of the smartest Republicans I know, and want to share the assessment of two of them. Mary Matalin is one of the sharpest political consultants and a woman who knows a thing or two about politicians venturing into the culture wars, and she contends Obama no longer has cultural authority to speak on our national values, if he ever had it:

I think a 21st century cultural arbiter is a good concept to explore, but not in the same breath as Barack Obama. As we say in Louisiana, “you got the right string, baby, but the wrong yoyo.”

Maybe there was a time for him, but it is long past. First, where do you get he is so respected? He is dramatically and demonstrably polarizing and the last poll I looked at relative to his credibility, 59% of Independents said he just says what he thinks you want to hear.

Further, he (and most of his people) lack the fundamental ingredient of a cultural leader: humility. They all exude hubris and arrogance and condescension, the opposite of what compels people to cultural civility.

They posses the most repulsive of characteristics in any time, but the most demanded of troubled ones: that is they are consistent and shameless hypocrites: no unkind word for the Rangels of their party after slandering Republicans as cretins of corruption; they rail themselves hoarse about mean spirited hate-mongering where none exists, while their base of vile bloggers are as close to certifiably sociopathic as ever a movement could possess; their leadership consists of blaming others, creating straw men and endless other forms of irresponsibility and buck passing.

Politically and morally, he has missed so many opportunities to do the right thing, say the right thing, so often said the exact wrong thing (the Cambridge police comes to mind, among others) that entry into the cultural arena now would be seen as what it would be: opportunism.

More generally, he has broken all his “cultural” promises: more accountability, transparency, responsibility; there is irrefutably less of all and dangerously so.

And then of course, there is all that protestation of American Exceptionalism. He doesn’t believe in it, by his own loud admission, so could hardly be attractive as the beacon of our inner greatness.

Ostensibly off point, but think about it: a significant contributor to our coarsened culture is, ironically, political correctness. No one can be judged; there cannot even be the kind of subtle community disapproval that kept the parameters of civilization in place as recently as a generation ago.  And of course, the scourge of PC  can and should be laid directly at the feet of liberals, for whom Obama reigns as King.

There is a differentness between hero desire and celebrity gawking. We look up to heroes; we cannot look away from the train wreck that constitutes celebrity seeking. I think we desperately want and need real heroes and are almost daily disappointed (Tiger Woods); our attraction to creepy celebrities is a distraction from turbulence and an affirmation of our own goodness in comparison. We do still admire meritorious celebrity, even of the TMI 21st Century version (America’s Biggest Losers).

I suppose you will chalk up my vehemence to his epitomizing what you are seeking to my partisanship, but I assure it is not. I feel betrayed, actually, by such great promise being squandered for such cheap return.

It is indeed time to set aside childish things, but he is sadly a man-child.

My candidate for what you describe is Mitch Rapp or John Galt.

A lot of those objections are good points. My primary counter-point would be to think of the audience we would want this speech to influence, and which figures have credibility with them. You or I or Miss Manners can make this argument and they or we will be largely ignored, while Obama may be able to nudge people to rethink their behavior.

Few writers delve more deeply into the American character than Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, and she, too, questions whether Obama is the right man for this message:

“One wonders first why he would be best person on this subject,” she says. “In the past such critiques and commentary and guidance have tended to come from ministers, artists, priests, novelists and essayists. In the 20th century, figures such as Billy Graham, H.L. Mencken in his way, Scott Fitzgerald too. But none of our artists and pastors have the big microphone a president now has. In fact, novelists and artists barely register. Why is another question, but think of what Sinclair Lewis would have done with the Main Street that produced Balloon Boy’s father.”

Beyond that, there is the question of stature; Noonan notes, “People won’t mind if a president of some years, experience and hard won perspective — an Eisenhower, a Reagan — weighs in on some aspect of our national character, which is what we’re talking about. But a new president who is young and still not fully understood by the American people? That might be… complicated.”

But she homed in on why Obama might be an effective messenger: “If the emphasis of the speech were on personal dignity, an aspect of character, that might be helpful from Obama,” Noonan says. “He seems to put a high premium on his conception of personal dignity. This might be helpful for the young, and start a new conversation. It could serve the president well also.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

I Support the Decision; I Fear the Expiration Date.


It is a strange and unfamiliar feeling: this is the first time President Obama has come to a decision that I think is in the neighborhood of the right call.

I’m no military expert. I don’t know the precise formula for the quickest, most thorough, and most lasting victory in Afghanistan. General McChrystal seems like a smart, tough, determined guy; if he says 40,000 troops are needed, then he probably needs something close to 40,000 troops. I see all the objections and frustrations of the war critics, but I just don’t see a better option that really improves our security. If this war could be fought on the cheap with unmanned drones, the world would be a better place. It’s not; no point in fooling ourselves about the hard realities of the situation.

There was a lot in this speech to not like: endless recitations of what had gone wrong under the Bush administration, as if this war would be easy if Bush had made this decision or that. We didn’t need the umpteenth reminder that then-state senator Obama opposed the war in 2003. We didn’t need more references to “the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression” and a lamentation of the unemployment rate. There was a little kitchen sink quality to this speech: the differences with Vietnam, a reference to the deficit, a lamentation of the “rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse.” A moment ago, Chris Matthews said the speech had a “Rube Goldberg quality.”

My relief at Obama’s decision comes with a nagging sense of having written about expiration dates. I think he’s making the right call tonight; I hope he sticks by it, if, say a year from now his approval numbers are ten points lower, the base of his party is in revolt, flag-draped caskets are returning home, and the sense is that all of our progress has come at a supremely high price.

UPDATE: Chris Matthews has made a lot of outrageous, is-he-sober comments over the years, but I don’t know if he’s ever uttered something quite so reprehensible as, “he went to the enemy camp, tonight, to make the case.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Blue Dog John Tanner Contemplates Race Against Gospel-Singing Farmer, Chooses to Retire


Big news, and perhaps a big leading indicator for Democrats in 2010: “Rep. John Tanner (D-TN), a leading Blue Dog Dem, will retire at the end of his current term, Dem sources tell Hotline OnCall.”

Back in October, I wrote:

Democrat John Tanner has represented Tennessee’s eighth district in Congress since 1989. The last time he faced serious opposition was 1994. He ran unopposed last year and won 99.97 percent of the vote. He is the epitome of a longtime, well-known, well-established Democratic Blue Dog with a wide-ranging network of connections and supporters.

Stephen Fincher is a farmer and gospel singer who has never lived outside of the perfectly named Frog Jump, Tenn. His biography prominently mentions his work as a Little League coach and performances in the family singing group since age nine. He is the epitome of a not-well-known, non-traditional, unlikely political candidate and longshot challenger.

Last quarter, Tanner raised $62,000. The gospel-singing farmer who’s never run for office before raised . . . $300,000.

Put this race on your must-watch list.

John Tanner took a long look at the gospel-singing farmer, and chose to retire.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Whether Huckabee Knows It Or Not, His 2012 Chances Are Gone


If Mike Huckabee aspired to be the next president of the United States, he always faced an uphill climb; it’s tough to see what advantage he would have had this time that wasn’t in play in 2008, where he was the fresh face, surprise winner of the Iowa caucus, etc.

As Ed Morrissey noted, Huckabee commuted the lengthy sentence of Maurice Clemmons in 2000, “despite a lifetime pattern of violent crime and erratic behavior, nine years before Clemmons shot four police officers to death in a coffee shop.” Joe Carter, probably the best part of Huckabee’s presidential campaign, notes that the candidate really saw this issue differently from almost everyone else in the political world, for better or worse: “The governor seemed genuinely surprised that he was held responsible for the criminal acts committed by those whose sentences he had commuted as governor. It was as if he believed that simply having noble intentions and a willingness to make tough decisions would provide political cover.”

Carter notes, accuately, that “the politically prudent tactic would have been to simply refuse to grant any leniency—ever. Other governors with their sights set on higher offices had learned that doing nothing—even to correct obvious instances of injustice—was unlikely to cause any long-term political damage. Keeping an innocent man in prison is less harmful to an ambitious politician than freeing someone who may commit other crimes.”

Lots of Americans make mistakes, and lots of Americans make bad decisions and commit acts they’re not proud of; forgiveness and compassion are not alien concepts to them. But not many Americans commit violent crimes, and they have a hard time imagining a good reason to let a violent criminal out of prison before the sentence is completed.

But two decisions by Huckabee since the shooting have effectively crushed what chance he had at the 2012 nomination. When Clemmons murdered four policemen, there wasn’t much to say; while obviously Huckabee had no idea that Clemmons was so dangerous, Huckabee’s hand in putting him back on the street represented an awful lapse in judgment.

Huckabee’s initial statement, declaring, “should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State” seemed to be deflecting his share of the blame. The criminal justice system in Arkansas, for example, was going to keep Clemmons behind bars until the year 2098 until Huckabee stepped in.

Today Huckabee went on Joe Scarborough’s radio show, and finally used strong language – not to criticize his earlier decision, but to denounce critics of the decision as “disgusting” and lamenting “how sick our society has become that people are more concerned about a campaign three years from now than those grieving families in Washington.”

It takes a particular bravado for a man in Huckabee’s circumstances to contend that his critics are the ones who should hang their heads in shame; some people might find letting violent criminals go free early out of a misguided sense that they’ve changed their ways a clearer reflection of a sick society.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

The Stimulus: What Was It Good For?


This news item is easily overlooked, and revealing: “Highway-construction companies around the country, having completed the mostly small projects paid for by the federal economic-stimulus package, are starting to see their business run aground, an ominous sign for the nation’s weak employment picture.”

The month the stimulus passed, February of this year, 6,593,000 Americans were employed in construction; in the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5,966,000 Americans were employed in that field. In other words, while all of this stimulus-based construction was going on, the profession lost 627,000 jobs.

Not only did the stimulus fail to create a significant number of jobs in the overall economy, it had little or no impact in the one area that provided that much-hyped slogan: “shovel ready.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson


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