Tags: Congressional Republicans

Coming Soon to Syria: Some Sort of U.S. Military Action Against ISIS


Do we do covert surveillance anymore? Do we really need somebody to announce every step we take to keep an eye on the bad guys?

U.S. surveillance flights over Syria have started with President Obama’s go ahead, a step that will provide potential targets if airstrikes against Islamic State militants are approved.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that an unnamed U.S. official said the flights had begun. USA TODAY reported Monday that the flights will provide information on potential targets for strikes in Syria if Obama approves.

What next, a formal announcement?

Dear ISIS,

You are cordially invited to air strikes on Syrian territory beginning Friday, September 29, just after dusk. Please keep all personnel, vehicles, command posts, artillery, and stockpiles of weapons in place until that time. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Courtesy, the United States of America

Meanwhile, the editorial board of the Washington Post calls for U.S. “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria:

No serious approach to the group can focus only on Iraq, as the United States has done thus far. The extremists treat Iraq and Syria as one area of operations, and the United States must do the same. In that theater, as Mr. Obama has said, the United States must find partners: Kurds in Iraq and Syria, Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq, the Iraqi government if it can become more inclusive, what is left of the Free Syrian Army. Aiding them does not require a U.S. invasion, but it will need “boots on the ground,” as Mr. Obama already has acknowledged by sending close to 1,000 special forces back to Iraq. They will be needed for training, to assist in air targeting and perhaps more. As The Post’s Greg Miller reported Sunday, the United States suffers from “persistent intelligence gaps” in Syria; these can be filled only with a human presence in the region, not by drones or satellite technology alone.

Peggy Noonan offered a wise thought that will probably be ignored by the administration: “Go to Congress for authorization of force, showing the world we have gained at least some semblance of unity.”

If President Obama asked Congress for authorization for expanded operations against ISIS, would congressional Republicans vote “yes”?

If President Obama asked Congress for authorization for expanded operations against ISIS, would congressional Democrats vote “yes”?

For President Obama, the easiest option, thought not the wisest, is to go ahead with any operations he deems necessary and ignore congressional complaints about the War Powers Act.

Tags: Syria , ISIS , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans , President Obama

Leadership Race Vote Totals Kept Secret From Republican Conference


House Republican leadership didn’t release the vote totals in Thursday’s leadership races to the press or even the Republican rank-and-file in an attempt to present a united front after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s unexpected defeat in the Virginia Republican primary exposed the fault lines between the Tea Party and establishment wings of the conference.

“They didn’t tell us the numbers,” North Carolina representative Richard Hudson, who supported Illinois representative Peter Roskam for whip against eventual winner Steve Scalise of Louisiana, told reporters after the vote. The candidates for majority leader and whip agreed before the vote took place not to release the vote totals, as has been the practice for the last four congresses, according to a Republican aide.

Roskam was the early favorite to replace Kevin McCarthy of California as majority whip, but Scalise outpaced him by mobilizing what a GOP aide described as a “grassroots” voting operation to convince the conference that he was the best choice. “He had, from what I understand, nearly 50 whips working for him,” the aide told National Review Online. 

McCarthy won his leadership race, but didn’t have the coattails to deliver the victory to Roskam, who was McCarthy’s chief deputy whip. After the results were in, Roskam moved to have Scalise declared the victor by unanimous consent.

“Everyone always gathers around our entire team and we did this time,” Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions of Texas told NRO. “All the races were unanimous.”

That doesn’t mean everyone was perfectly happy. “I think this was our best shot to change leadership, not November,” Representative Justin Amash told reporters, referring to the regularly-scheduled leadership races that will take place at the end of the year. “Because in November the leadership team has the advantage of handing out committee assignments and chairmanships to win over votes. Right now, those positions are already locked in place, so it’s very difficult for them to persuade members the way they can a few months from now.”

Amash supported Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho for majority leader. “Raul, I’m confident, pulled very good numbers,” he said.

The new leadership team will have a chance to consolidate support, though. “I want them to succeed, and everybody that walked out of that room, I think, wants them to succeed,” Representative Steve King, who tweeted after Cantor’s defeat that he wants a majority leader who “have a record opposing amnesty” told NRO. 

“I think all the candidates said they were opposed to amnesty,” King said. ”Now, we just need to get to the point where we all agree on what that means.” The Iowa lawmaker said that several members of the conference emphasized that they want to see bills passed through regular order, as well.

King said that his “sense” was that McCarthy and Scalise both received “a solid majority” of votes. ”That means the conference is unified behind a majority leader and a whip; that’s a good thing,” he said.

Tags: Congressional Republicans , House Republicans

Obamacare’s Never-Ending Dance of Delays


From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obamacare’s Never-Ending Dance of Delays

How the Obamacare discussion has progressed, in short-play form:

Congressional Republicans: Obamacare’s new rules are eliminating plans that people like.

President Obama: That’s not true. We said, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

People: Hey, our insurance plan just got canceled!

President Obama:I am sorry that [you] are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances [you] got from me.”

Congressional Republicans: You have to repeal the law. The law is what’s causing these plan cancellations.

President Obama: No, it isn’t. And no, we don’t have to repeal it. We’re not going back.

Congressional Democrats: Yeah, what he said. It’s. The. Law. We’re not going back. We’re all united behind Obamacare as is it currently written!

Red State Democrats: Whoa, whoa, whoa. What’s all this “we” stuff?

President Obama: Besides, this only impacts a very small number of people on the individual market.

Congressional Republicans: That’s several million people. The whole point of this thing was to cover the uninsured, and your law, passed without any of our votes, is creating more uninsured.

[Red State Democrats attempt to quietly slink out of the room]

President Obama: This is not a big problem.

[The people get angrier.]

President Obama: Okay, fine. I’m reinstating the old plans for a year.

Insurance companies: What, do you think we have these things hooked up to light switches? We can’t just flick them back on.

State Insurance Commissioners: Ahem, Mr. President, I think you’ll need our approval for this.

President Obama: Okay. If you liked your old plan, and if the insurance companies decide to offer it again, and if the state insurance commissioner signs off, you can keep your old plan.

People: Gee, thanks a heap, champ.

Congressional Republicans: The employer mandate isn’t going to work!

President Obama: Yes, it will! Yes, we can!

Congressional Democrats: They’re just nay-saying because they’re bitter, and hate the president, and they want sick people to die quickly.

(looks around)

Hey, where did the Red State Democrats go?

[The deadline for the employer mandate gets closer.]

Business community: These rules are unworkable.

President Obama: Due to unforeseen problems no one saw coming, I have instructed Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to delay the employer mandate until after the midterm elections.

Congressional Republicans: What do you mean, unforeseen? We told you it isn’t going to work! And you don’t have the authority to just unilaterally decide some parts of the law are delayed!

President Obama: Yes, I do. Yes, we can!

Congressional Democrats: Why are you complaining about him doing this? You were the ones complaining about the employer mandate before.

Congressional Republicans: The delay doesn’t change much. The employer mandate still isn’t going to work!

President Obama: Yes, it will! Yes, we can!

[Time passes.]

Business community: These rules are still unworkable. All you’ve done is give us more time to deal with a set of rules that make things more complicated and more expensive, and create perverse incentives to eliminate our existing coverage for employees, pay the fines instead, and tell our employees to buy insurance on the exchanges.

President Obama: Due to unforeseen problems no one saw coming, I have instructed Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to delay the employer mandate until 2016.

Congressional Republicans: Here we go again.

Congressional Democrats: What are you complaining about? He’s giving you what you wanted!

(looking around)

And where the heck did our red-state guys go?

Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.V.): “There’s bipartisan support for legislation postponing the implementation of the entirety of the Affordable Care Act until 2015.”

Fox News counts 28 major delays in Obamacare so far.

Tags: Obamacare , President Obama , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans

Why the Debt Won’t — and Shouldn’t! — Go Away as a Campaign Issue


A few posts below, you’ll see that Republican representative Steve Daines of Montana, running for Senate, pledges he’s “fighting for more jobs and less government,” and he touts his bill that says if members of Congress can’t balance the budget, they won’t get paid.

On the trail in the coming year, incumbent Democrats will probably brag, “we’ve cut the deficit in half!” hoping that enough people mix up the terms “deficit” and “debt” in their heads. Deficit measures how much more we spend than we take in each year; debt represents everything the U.S. government owes, and that sum goes up, year in, year out. We had a surplus during the late-1990s dot-com boom, eliminating the deficit, but the debt still increased a bit each year, because the excess funds were “invested in interest-bearing securities backed by the full faith and credit of the United States” as required by law. (More on this here.)

The new numbers:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the 2014 ”baseline” federal budget deficit will be $514 billion, $166 billion lower than in 2013 ($680 billion). If the 2014 deficit projection is achieved, it would mark the fifth straight year of deficit declines since the deficit reached $1.4 trillion in 2009.

Democrats will hope that reducing the federal government’s annual deficit from the worst-ever to sixth-worst-ever counts as a major achievement in the electorate’s mind.

If Republicans want to remind the electorate of the consequences of ever-increasing debt on the here and now, perhaps they can emphasize the amount of money the federal government pays in interest on that debt:

In fiscal 2013, which ended Sept. 30, net interest payments on the debt totaled $222.75 billion, or 6.23% of all federal outlays. (The government paid out an estimated $420.6 billion in interest, but that included interest credited to Social Security and other government trust funds, as well as a relatively small amount of offsetting investment income.)

That’s $223 billion that could have been spent on anything else the federal government does: schools, fighter jets, veterans’ benefits, border security, Interstate highway repair, medical research. Or it could have been returned to taxpayers! For perspective, $223 billion represented the total sum of all individual contributions to charity in the United States in 2012. You could build 17 new aircraft carriers with that sum. Every penny the U.S. pays in interest on the debt is a penny not spent on actual, tangible stuff that even the lowest of low-information voters appreciates.

The amount the federal government will spend on interest on the debt will look much worse if interest rates go up. Here’s what the CBO projected on that front:

We pay for our borrowing, which is why we have to spend less.

Tags: Debt , Deficit , Steve Daines , Congressional Republicans , Congressional Democrats

Shocker: 58 Percent Say They Trust GOP More on Handling Health Care


The lead in today’s Morning Jolt:

Shocker: 58% Say They Trust Republicans More on Handling Health Care

A new poll arrived in my e-mailbox this morning, indicating how quickly the conventional wisdom about the issue of health care has been turned upside down:

Loyalty prevails among partisans, but among independents, 42 percent trust the Democratic Party more when it comes to handling healthcare compared with 58 percent who trust the Republican Party more. . . . 

Forty one percent of registered voters approve of the law compared with 53 percent who disapprove. . . . 

Since September, Democrats have shifted 11 points away from let the law take effect as is, Independents have moved 10 points away from let the law take effect as is, and Republicans are 10 points more likely to support repealing law. . . . 

One in five registered voters have or know someone who has received an insurance cancellation notice. . . . 

Sixty-five percent are more likely to agree with a statement that cancellation notices show President Obama has broken his promise that Americans can keep their current insurance, while 35 percent say the notices will improve policies by requiring them to meet minimum standards.

(Notice this pollster doesn’t allow the option of “don’t know.” Interesting what happens when you push people off the fence.)

Twelve percent of voters say these notices are the single most important issue in their 2014 vote, 57 percent say it’s one of the most important.

This figure is pretty stunning: Among Democrats, 22 percent say Obama deserves “a lot” of the blame for insurance cancellations, 45 percent say “some,” and 33 percent say “none.” Among Republicans it splits 80 percent “a lot”, 18 percent “some”, and 3 percent “none” — yes, it comes to 101 percent, so I presume some figure is rounded up. Among independents, 59 percent say Obama deserves “a lot” of the blame, 30 percent say “some,” and only 11 percent say “none.”

Obama gets the most blame for the cancellations, then Congressional Democrats, then insurance companies, and Congressional Republicans get the least blame:

Today’s Jolt also includes the three discussions that the country always has about John F. Kennedy, and a short summary of last night’s fun here in Boston.

Tags: Obamacare , Congressional Republicans , Congressional Democrats , Barack Obama

The Sequester Fight, Not Following the Left’s Playbook


The Thursday Morning Jolt examines the reports, and repercussions, of claims of chemical weapons being used in Syria, and then this development, closer to home:

Liberals Are Starting to Wonder if They Won’t Win the Sequester Fight After All

Sure, congressional Republicans have a long and distinguished history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. And nobody should speak too soon; we’re only 21 days into the national Fallout 3 Simulation that is called the sequester.

But for now, there are some signs that the GOP actually handed the sequester right.

You’ll recall last week I wrote:

Nobody wants a government shutdown; thus it is extremely unlikely that you’ll see one. The GOP is winning the sequestration debate, or at least they think they’re winning the sequestration debate, because the public hasn’t really noticed the cuts. Certainly the markets don’t mind.; A government shutdown would be noticed and for Republicans, they would come across as not merely anti-waste but anti-government and a government shutdown would probably also be bad news for Obama.

Apparently both parties got the memo:

The U.S. Senate today passed legislation to avoid a partial government shutdown, in a rare example of bipartisan cooperation on federal spending. The chamber voted 73-26 to forward on to the House a measure that would keep agencies’ lights on through Sept. 30, the end of the 2013 fiscal year. Republicans there probably will clear it for President Barack Obama’s signature. Legislation currently funding the executive branch expires March 27, and without action by Congress, agencies would begin running out of money.

Now let me offer part of a column from Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, who is usually the last guy to declare that the Democrats are in trouble, and that the Republicans have played any cards right:

Maybe I’m wrong about this. But it’s looking more and more like progressives and liberals are going to be facing a tough question: Which is worse, indefinite sequestration or a grand bargain that includes serious entitlement cuts? Seems to me that sooner or later, major players on the left are going to have to stake out a position on this question.

With Republicans seemingly refusing to yield on new revenues, it’s looking increasingly as if they are going to stick with sequestration and gamble that they can ride out the politics until sequestration-level spending becomes the “new normal.” Brian Beutler has a gloomy take on why this is looking likely. Obama, of course, will continue to push for a “grand bargain” that trades entitlement cuts for new revenues, on the theory that the bite of the sequester really is going to be felt over time — the Huffington Post details that job losses really are starting to happen — which could force at least some Republicans back to the table.

It’s unclear to me which of those two endgames is going to happen. But one thing that appears very unlikely is the preferred progressive endgame: As the sequester grows increasingly unpopular, Obama and Dems rally public opinion to force Republicans to replace it with a deal that combines new revenues with judicious spending cuts that don’t hit entitlement benefits. I’m just not seeing any way this happens.

That means that at some point, liberals may well be faced with a choice — should they accept the grand bargain that includes Chained CPI and Medicare cuts, and join the push for that, or essentially declare the sequester a less awful alternative, and instead insist that we live with that?

If you need a moment to go, “mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,” please take one.

Now maybe within a month or so, the public’s view will change, they’ll hate the sequester with a roaring passion, and endorse tax increases to avoid the continued pain of this 2 percent cut. Or maybe you’ll hear more of an uproar about the potential expense of the Air Force’s fantasy football league.

Tags: Barack Obama , Budget , Congressional Republicans , Sequester

Our Newest National Catastrophe: Obamacare Premium Hikes


At the conference I’m going to today, one of the topics of discussion will be whether Obamacare will be altered in the coming Congress.

My first instinct is that any reform of Obamacare is unlikely to pass, because the major factions in Washington have completely different priorities. Most Republicans would like to stop it in its tracks, repeal it entirely or almost entirely, and replace it with free-market-oriented reforms and tort reform and so on. As Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said yesterday:

I am proud that Senate Republicans stood united today and voted unanimously to defund Obamacare. While I’m disappointed that the amendment did not pass, we will not give up. And today’s vote demonstrates that the fight to repeal Obamacare is far from over.

There are some Democrats who want to delay or repeal parts of Obamacare, such as the new tax on medical devices. Senator Al Franken (D., Minn.) calls it a “job-killing tax.” But there are probably very few Republicans who are eager to save congressional Democrats from the consequences of their actions. You passed it, guys, now you explain the consequences to your displeased constituents.

Of course, unifying Democrats behind a series of reforms to Obamacare will present its own challenges. There are quite a few who would prefer that any changes to Obamacare bring it closer to single-payer. Last year, all 75 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said they would push for a single-payer system if the Supreme Court struck down Obamacare.

And of course, President Obama would want changes to the bill to be minimal or little-noticed, as each change represents a concession that he and his allies didn’t get it right the first time.

(“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”)

So my conclusion is that it would take some sort of really catastrophic consequence to get all the factions in Washington united on changing Obamacare as is.

Enter a really catastrophic consequence, stage left:

Some Americans could see their insurance bills double next year as the health care overhaul law expands coverage to millions of people. The nation’s big health insurers say they expect premiums — or the cost for insurance coverage — to rise between 20 and 100 percent for millions of people due to changes that will occur when key provisions of the Affordable Care Act roll out in January.

A giant increase in the cost of health insurance, driven by the “Affordable Care Act,” might drive a national fury that will make the 2009 and 2010 Tea Party rallies look like . . . well, actual tea parties with little finger sandwiches and cloth napkins.

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans , Obamacare

Public’s Top Priority: Reducing the Deficit by Cutting Spending!


The headlines about this morning’s Pew Research survey are likely to focus on how President Obama has a much higher approval rating than Congressional Republican leaders — 51 percent to 25 percent. But there’s a bit more to find in the numbers, results that challenge the Beltway narrative of a masterful president with a huge advantage over his hapless congressional opposition.

First of all, what is the public’s top priority, by a wide margin? Deficit reduction. Well ahead of immigration, gun control, and climate change:

What’s more, the vast majority of Americans want the deficit to be brought down by spending cuts or mostly spending cuts (73 percent) rather than tax increases or mostly tax increases (19 percent). Folks, that is a consensus that reaches across the partisan divide.

While respondents say they trust the president more than congressional Republicans on a host of issues . . .

. . . they don’t actually approve of how Obama is handling most issues.

With Obama at a 51 percent job approval but in the low to mid 40s in his handling of most issues, discussion of the president should note that a certain segment of the population likes him, personally, a lot more than his policies.

Chalk it up to his appearances in non-political programming like The View, The Tonight Show, and ESPN, or chalk it up to the happy images of him spending time with Michelle and his daughters. Obama is a lot more effective at getting people to like him than at persuading them.

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Republicans , Pew , Polling

Voters Undecided on Obama Leaning to GOP for Congress?


Buried deep in this column by Charlie Cook:

Polling focusing on the undecided voters reveals they are a deeply pessimistic and angry segment of the electorate and don’t particularly like either candidate (fitting, because they don’t tend to like politicians). But they show signs of being more conservative than not. One unpublished analysis gives Republicans a 10-point advantage on the generic congressional ballot test among those undecided about the presidential race. Close analysis of the numbers shows that Obama might have an edge with between a third and a quarter of the currently undecided bloc. That’s cutting things awfully close.

My one caveat to this finding: A good portion of the remaining undecided are the notorious “low-information voters,” whose views seem particularly fickle and easily swayed. While the instincts of these voters are conservative, they probably shouldn’t be thought of as actually conservative voters.

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Republicans

On the President’s Own To-Do List...


At the official taxpayer-funded White House Twitter account, Jesse Lee shares the White House’s “To Do” list for Congress: “Reward American jobs, not outsourcing; refinancing for responsible homeowners; tax credits for small business jobs; clean energy manufacturing; veterans jobs corps.”

It’s good to see the president finally sharing House Republicans’ frustration with the obstructionist mentality of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Perhaps Obama could call up his friend Harry and get him to bring to the floor House-passed bills like the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, the Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act, the North American-Made Energy Security Act, the Jobes and Energy Permitting Act of 2011, the Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act, the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act, the Small Business Tax Cut Act, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, the Consumer Financial Protection & Soundness Act, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, the Regulatory Accountability Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act.

Again, regardless of whether one likes those bills or not, one would think that they deserve at least an up-or-down vote, if not passage.

But the president has some things left on his to-do list, as well. Among them:

  • Come up with a serious plan to reduce the deficit. Maybe he could talk to Alan Simpson or Erskine Bowles more frequently than he talks to, say, his caddie or Jimmy Fallon.
  • Come up with a serious plan to reform entitlements and ensure the long-term stability of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, instead of scaring seniors and demonizing those who come up with reform plans.
  • Nudge the Senate Democrats to come up with a budget.
  • Build the other half of the Keystone Pipeline, the half that actually requires presidential approval.
  • Get his “all of the above” energy policy to stop eliminating options like ANWR, continental shelf drilling, ensure that the EPA will continue to approve fracking, etc. so that it actually meets the “all of the above” standard.
  • Interview new solicitor general candidates.
  • Cut back on the campaign fund-raisers, because as a famous man once said, “I do think that at a certain point, you’ve made enough money.”

Let’s get cracking!

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans

The Debt Ceiling Fight as a ‘Kobayashi Maru’


One of my regular correspondents sends in a thoroughly depressing report. It is anecdotal, so take it with as many grains of salt as you deem necessary, but rest assured, this correspondent wants to see conservative Republican victories in 2012 and beyond…

The hardcore Republicans may not feel this, but take this from a guy surrounded by independents all the time, and in the liberal state of New Jersey: the GOP is losing the independent vote big time here. The GOP is now viewed as unreasonable, can’t govern, and get this – don’t have a plan except cutting Medicare and Social Security! Obama is taking a hit as well, but as you say – he is strangely quiet.. well, it has helped him ! The independents saw his address Monday night, they don’t see him fighting, yelling on TV and they think he is the most reasonable man in the house.. When I say, “he has no plan,” my independent friends say, “well, at least he is not cutting Medicare and Social Security.”

I would note that we may be erroneous in thinking that there is a winning scenario for the GOP here. If the debt ceiling negotiations result in a good outcome for the economy, Obama will take credit – even if Boehner negotiated him down to the most rightward plan that could get through both the House and Senate. The spin from the White House will be that the reasonable Obama compromised, refuting all of that talk that he’s a liberal, and that saved the economy, blah blah blah. If – as it seems a bit more likely – that the debt ceiling negotiations result in a bad outcome for the economy, Obama will blame Republicans, no matter how negotiations turn out. If there is no deal, he’ll argue that the deal would have saved the economy. If there is a deal, and the credit rating still drops, he’ll argue that tax hikes would have saved the AAA credit rating. The only way to take away Obama’s blame-shifting maneuver is to pass precisely his preferred option — a “clean vote” to raise the debt ceiling, with no budget cuts? — and that’s just not something Republicans will do.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the American people will believe the White House spin. The awful GDP numbers out today will provide the GOP for some hefty evidence that the economy was slowing to near-stall long before the debt ceiling negotiations go front and center.

But for everyone convinced that their preferred strategy is certain to lead to a great political victory for Republicans, it is possible that this circumstance is a “Kobayashi Maru” — a no-win scenario that ends with Obama either taking credit or shifting blame, that message being eagerly carried by a friendly media, and that message resonating with low-information voters who don’t like to follow the details of budget debates.

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Republicans , Independents

Obama Winning or Tying the Debt-Ceiling Fight, Losing 2012 Battle?


Polling on the debt-ceiling debate suggests that Republicans aren’t winning the public debate, or at least not decisively; they’re still on the hook for considerable blame if the country does default, and their overall approval is low.

Yet at the same time, Gallup offered the surprising result of Obama trailing a generic Republican Candidate, 47 percent to 39 percent, and the president’s approval rating remains pretty lousy even during the debt crisis — 44 percent in Gallup, 46.2 percent in the RealClearPolitics average.

My regular correspondent Number Cruncher checks in, trying to make sense of the contradictory signals:

Conventional wisdom is that Obama is winning the debate (how many times have we read that the past 10 days?), and that the GOP has not played its cards correctly.  I won’t argue that the GOP has an amazing ability to shoot itself in the foot.  But the numbers don’t square up to the conventional wisdom:

1. Obama’s approval rating (based on 3-day average) — I turn to the two gold standard polling trackers, specifically Rasmussen and Gallup.  With Rasmussen we have Obama at a 44% approval, the last time Obama received 44% approval in Rasmussen was April 11th — in those days Bin Laden was breathing oxygen, dreaming about killing Americans and catching up on porn.  What is slightly notable here is that on July 14th Obama was at 49% — I am not ready to say Obama is falling (at least not yet), but clearly his media blitz did not help.  In order to test Rasmussen I turn to Gallup.  The three day polling ended on 7/17 indicates that Obama has an identical 44%.  These levels are also among the lowest in Obama’s Presidency.

2. We have seen a lot of preferential polls, many indicating that the GOP would get the blame if the government “Defaults”.  In tracking Rasmussen’s party preferential poll the data doesn’t appear to square up to the media narrative. Yesterday Rasmussen released their weekly Generic Congressional Poll.  The GOP lead this poll 44% to 38%, last week the poll was 44% to 38% zero change (despite the Obama media blitz).  On July 2nd it was 43-40%, which might have been an outlier as the June 6th Poll was 37%-43%.  Once again, despite the rhetoric the polling indicates that there has been very little change.

Perhaps the numbers would change if there is an “event” which moves the voters.  However from what the numbers show is that the voters appear to be trending away from Obama.  Perhaps more frustrating for the Obama is that voters have been unmoved despite the President’s use of the Bully Pulpit (and may in fact be moving away).

To play off your favorite line . . . Obama’s oratory effectiveness has reached its expiration date.

I think he’s largely right, although I would leave open the possibility that Rasmussen’s likely-voter screen is too “tight” and results in a sample a bit too favorable to Republicans. I suspect that when it comes to the debt ceiling and the overall problem of the runaway debt, the American people’s analysis is in line with that of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update expert, Oscar Roberts:


The Ryan plan, budget cuts, entitlement reforms — these changes sound painful and scary, and so plenty of Americans prefer to believe the happy illusion that the budget can be balanced just by cutting unpopular programs like foreign aid. When the president and the Democrats go on and on about tax breaks for corporate jets and yachts, I suspect plenty of folks believe that a debt-crisis solution is a few easy tax hikes away.

However, when it comes to the economy as a whole, the last few months of the unemployment rate creeping up have shaken the already weak case that the country was in a significant recovery. Americans may think that Obama is right, or less wrong, than Republicans on the debt-ceiling fight. But they seem increasingly skeptical that he’ll be the right answer in November 2012.

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Republicans

Any Real ‘Adult in the Room’ Doesn’t Demand That Title.


In Mike Allen’s morning newsletter, we read:

Huge three days ahead, with the sharpest intersection of high-stakes politics and government since the midterms: President Obama’s 1:35 p.m. address on his long-term plan for deficits will be covered as the first speech of the 2012 campaign. Team Obama wants the American public to see the president as “the adult in the room,” and views this is a chance for POTUS to steal beyond-the-Beltway momentum from House Republicans.

1. I’m pleased to hear it, but do you remember reading anything recently in the mainstream media about House Republicans having “beyond-the-Beltway momentum”? We heard a great deal of credit to Paul Ryan for having a serious and detailed plan. But somehow, we never hear much about Republican advantages or momentum until the narrative is that Democrats are “making their comeback.”

2. If your staff has to leak that you’re the “adult in the room,” you’re not actually the adult in the room.

3. How revealing is that metaphor? The deficit and debt are huge. Despite the allegedly improving economy, this year’s “deficit is on track to set a new record, with economists at the Congressional Budget Office forecasting an imbalance of $1.5 trillion this year, exceeding the old record of $1.41 trillion in 2009.”

Congressional Democrats insist the problem can be dealt with by raising the top tax rate to 47 percent and ending all U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2012, cutting defense by $674 billion over four years. Congressional Republicans are by and large backing the Ryan plan: entitlement reform, repealing Obamacare, simplifying the tax code, replacing the corporate income tax with a business consumption tax, and a binding cap on total federal spending in proportion to GDP. Choices ranging from the politically difficult to the politically impossible. Ideas ranging from the insane to the innovative.

The Obama response? “Oh, you crazy kids. What a mess you’ve made. Don’t worry, Daddy’s here to straighten this all out.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans

Obama Rebounds... to Even.


CNN finds Obama’s approval rating rebounding to even, at 48-48.

His lowest point appears to have been in September 21-23, with 42 percent approving, 54 percent disapproving.

The poll also finds that when asked, “Do you think the policies being proposed by the Republican leaders in the U.S. House and Senate would move the country in the right direction or the wrong direction?”, 44 percent respond right direction, 51 percent say wrong direction. As bad as that seems, apparently those are the best numbers for the Congressional GOP since August 2006.

Of course, this is a poll of 1,008 adult Americans, not registered voters or likely voters.

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Republicans

A Thin Reid Finally Snaps


In the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Harry Reid Finds Himself Omnibusted

We’re not used to watching the good guys win in spending fights very much. But last night, that’s just what happened: “Speaking now on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) says he is ‘sorry and disappointed’ to announce that he does not have the votes for the omnibus spending package. Instead, he will work with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to draft a temporary continuing resolution to fund the government into early next year. Reid says nine Republican senators approached him today to tell him that while they would like to see the bill passed, they could not vote for it.”

Jen Rubin is stunned at the scale of Reid’s miscalculation: “After exposing his party, the White House and himself to an avalanche of bad press and bipartisan criticism over the earmark-stuffed omnibus spending bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a sort of political Dunkirk moment, gave up and fled. Just moments ago, he fessed up that he did not have enough votes for cloture on the omnibus spending bill. So instead, as the Republicans had demanded, there will be a continuing resolution, and the Republicans will get their shot to manage the budget next year. Think about it for a moment. Reid, for no good reason, forced the president out on a limb (recall that President Obama endorsed this mess of a bill) and helped the Republicans to cement their image as the more fiscally disciplined of the two parties.”

It’s later than we wanted, and in a different context than we wanted, but I still love hearing people say, “Harry Reid lost.”

Over in the Corner, the boss lays out what this suprising result might mean: Tonight may indeed may be a “seminal moment,” as McCain said. This was to be the appropriators’ last hurrah. In the end, they couldn’t see it through, and it’s not going to get any better for them next year. Why did it go down? You had Jim DeMint rallying outside opposition, and pushing Reid’s back against the wall procedurally with the threat to have the whole monstrosity read on the floor; that was time Reid presumably couldn’t afford to waste given everything else he wants to jam through. Then, you had Mitch McConnell on the phone all day with Republican appropriators — Reid’s base of support on the bill–twisting their arms to come out against it. My understanding is that by the end he had all the appropriators committed against it, with the exception of two who were undecided. McConnell told the appropriators that passing this bill, and passing it this way, would represent a rejection of everything the mid-term election was about, and ultimately he prevailed. And, finally, there was McCain. He was out there, too. On “Hannity” last night, he sounded like a tea-partier, urging people to use social media and to flood the phone lines in opposition . . . Altogether, a heartening night . . .

Rand Simberg cheers, “On the anniversary of the first Tea Party, the Tea Partiers have won a great victory . . . Mr. Smith has come to Washington, again.”

RightKlik, writing at Left Coast Rebel, chuckles, “Dems got run over by the Omnibus.”

Jay W. at Say Anything dishes out some credit, but observes that there’s a lot more work to be done: “It would be easy to say that the publicity surrounding the large number of earmarks in the bill belonging to Republicans led to this reversal. It would also be a trivial matter to claim that the successes of Tea Party candidates in the recent midterms is planted firmly in the minds of those Republicans who were denouncing earmarks in speeches and press conferences while at the same time holding out their hands for their share of the lucre. That’s because these things are undoubtedly true. The Republican victories in the midterms were a start, but by no means the end of the journey to fiscal responsibility. Pressure from the incoming Congresspeople who ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and the continued vigilance of citizens are needed to continue the push for smaller government, smaller deficits, and transparency in how our tax money is used. This bill being pulled is a start.”

ADDENDA: Michael Vick wants a dog: “I would love to get another dog in the future,” Vick told “I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process. I think just to have a pet in my household and to show people that I genuinely care, and my love, and my passion for animals.”

As I said last night on Hannity, let’s start small. Let’s get him an ant farm. And if he can take care of them, and not start any ant-fighting rings . . .

Tags: Barack Obama , Congressional Republicans , Harry Reid , Mitch McConnell

Gangsters? These Guys?


From the Monday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Republican Leaders, Tough as Gangsters? We Wish!

I’ve mentioned in the past that when I was a cub reporter, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, an extremely liberal Democrat, was one of the nicest guys and most patient about answering questions. This may have been because the weighty Nadler couldn’t outrun any reporter. He describes his Manhattan Congressional district as stretching “from Nathan’s to Zabar’s” and he’s always had a particularly vivid way with words.

His latest: “Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) called Republicans “a bunch of gangsters” who blackmailed Democrats to ensure that the nation’s wealthiest retain their tax cuts.   Nadler, appearing Sunday morning on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” characterized the Republican stance on the bipartisan compromise on extending the Bush-era tax cuts of “nice middle class tax cut you have there, pity if something would happen to it unless you give millionaires and billionaries” a tax cut. “Unless you give the wealthier a tax cut we’re not permitting the middle class to get it.”

Yeah, Congressional Republican leaders are a regular bunch of Dick Tracy mobsters: Mean Man Mitch,  Cantor the Cutter, Johnny Orange.

Weasel Zippers turns to George Lucas for an appropriate visual image, while the Jammie Wearing Fool wonders why no one is worried about this violent rhetoric inspiring violent acts: “Earlier this week the Republicans were hostage takers. Now they’re abunch of gangsters, according to bloated New York Congressthing Jerrold Nadler. Imagine what they’ll be called when they’re actually in the majority. It’s overheated rhetoric like this that puts lives in danger. This jerk Nadler is the guy who back during the 2000 recount said he detected a whiff of fascism. I think he was just smelling the bacon grease dripping from his lips.I distinctly recall after the election the Democrats were all calling for “compromise” and wanted to work together. Calling people gangsters and accusing them of blackmail sure is a curious way of going about it.”

Tags: Congressional Republicans , Jerrold Nadler

Did the GOP Compromise Too Early?


In today’s Morning Jolt, equal time for an argument contrary to my own views:

Did the GOP Concede Too Early?

A few moments of equal time here, for a theory that I’m not quite on board with, but is worth hearing nonetheless. Hugh Hewitt is convinced the GOP erred greatly by agreeing to this deal at this point. His argument is twofold: First, the GOP shouldn’t be cutting deals with Obama behind closed doors less than a month after winning great victories by pledging better openness and accountability in Washington. Second, he suspects that even a week later, the GOP would have been able to force Obama to even greater concessions, including potentially a permanent extension of all of the Bush-era tax rates.

Hugh makes his case: “As Rush pointed out on his show this past hour, the GOP could have gotten so much more. President Obama would never have allowed taxes to go up on the middle class. Never. What the D.C. GOP failed to grasp and what is now the source of anger among its supporters beyond the terms themselves is that for the past two years the D.C. GOP has been complaining bitterly and appropriately about being excluded from the process of governing. No sooner does the D.C. GOP get welcomed into the governing councils of the Beltway but they in turn exclude the people who sent them there, and not just the scores of newly elected representatives and senators who were not consulted on this “deal,” but the millions of people who worked and contributed to the victory of November 2. All it would have taken was a a request for input on various terms from the Republican negotiators to the new members of Congress and an invitation to the public to weigh in. But the old guard took it upon themselves to decide for the rest of the country what should be in the deal, and in so doing reverted to the form that brought about the Gang of 14 and immigration fiasco.”

Last night on Hugh’s program, South Carolina Jim DeMint sounded like he was inclined to agree with that position: “You know, I hesitate to pounce right on them and criticize them, because I wasn’t in the room doing the negotiation. And they may have felt after being there that this was the best we can do. Frankly, I don’t think the President is going to let us leave town without extending tax rates for at least the middle class. So I think we had a lot of leverage. I don’t want to second-guess my leadership, but frankly, I think we need to come away with a lot better than this. We cannot increase the deficit, or keep increasing deficit spending. So again, I’m trying not to be too hard on the people who’ve done this, but we’ve worked too hard, and Americans worked too hard to elect us. And like you said, I think our new members should have a say in what we’re doing here. So it wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all if we pushed this whole things into next year.”

I also was on Hugh’s show last night, and my counter-query to Hugh was what he thought the GOP’s highest priority in the negotiations should have been. I’d submit that preventing the higher tax rates from taking effect January 1 was near the top, if not at the top. Sure, eventually some sort of full or partial tax cut plan would go into place later in the year, but the New Year’s Day tax hike would have been a serious kick in the ribs for an economy that’s already on all fours and coughing. Sure, the resulting economic pain would have probably hurt Obama, but the partisan benefit would have come at great cost to the national interest. Besides, having this whole debate again the fall of 2012 seems pretty appealing right now.

Tags: 2012 , Barack Obama , Congressional Republicans , Jim DeMint

Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review