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The New Model for Female Politicians

Daniel Henninger writes how Sarah Palin is a threat to the traditional model of a female politician. She breaks the old feminist model.
For starters, a lot of women voters don't live in New York, Boston, L.A. or San Francisco. Maybe Sarah Palin from Wasilla is a lot closer to the way many women today see themselves than the standard feminist model. Gloria Steinem, one of the many mothers of that ideal, is 74. Sarah Palin is 44. Times change.

Many younger women didn't learn what it means to be an achieving woman from dormitory feminism. She didn't abandon her hometown for the big city. She stayed home, had babies, helped her snowmobiling husband with his commercial fishing business and with him, tried to assemble a life.

She got into politics in Wasilla with zero connections -- no famous father, no financing husband, no mentor, nothing. She got elected mayor. She got into politics to improve her community, not to launch herself on some career path she had figured out while in college.

Then came the interesting part. Under the standard model, you deploy your superb IQ to maneuver upward around the oppressors. Sarah Jock, learning her self-discipline in such weird pursuits as morning moose-hunts with her dad, ran at the system. Doing something few women and no males would do, she went after the men who run Alaska's inbred politics, the machine. And cleaned their clocks. The people elected her governor.

I asked a number of women this week to account for Sarah Palin's sudden appeal. Here are the common threads.

The angry woman-as-victim drives them nuts. They hate victimology. As one woman said, "The point is that across the ages women have been doing pretty much what Sarah Palin has been doing: bearing children, feeding families, bringing in an income, working to improve their communities."

Another woman said, "Her story reflects a more normal reality" of active women; "the harder you work, the luckier you get." Hillary Clinton still plays the victim card. Sarah Palin gives off no victim vibes. These women mentioned her grit, determination and character.

They also said the Roe v. Wade litmus test has become too knee-jerk. Simply writing off Sarah Palin as "pro-life" caricatures pregnancy and motherhood.

Let's stipulate that not all "liberal" women share the Roe-dominated test of which women in public life get a pass and which are shunned. But this notion of sisterhood as a rules-based club is the public face of the feminist message, and in politics message is all -- until it no longer makes sense.

Sarah Palin looks like the old model's first real political challenge. They will be gunning for her. Good luck with that.
Whether there are enough women of this new model to help McCain is the question. But remember, she doesn't have to win over all the women's vote for McCain. She just has to steal away a few percentage points from Obama's support. And to get those votes in those crucial swing states.

Continue reading "The New Model for Female Politicians" »

Senate to Coburn: Stop Delivering Babies for Free

Senator Coburn is ready for a showdown with the Senate Ethics Committee. At issue is his practice as an obstetrician. When he became senator he had to give up charging for delivering babies because senators are not allowed outside income. But Coburn has continued and is just not charging the women. He is paying his own malpractice insurance himself. The problem that the Ethics Committee has is that the hospital where he delivers the babies is a for-profit hospital and Senate rules forbid such potential conflicts of interest. Coburn, who is one tough guy, is willing to bring the whole issue out into the public and force a vote on whether he should be penalized for delivering babies for free even if the hospital he does it at is trying to make a profit.

If the Ethics Committee actually gets to the point where it calls for a public reprimand, Coburn can appeal to the full Senate for a vote, and he's betting that he'd win a vote if 100 senators were asked whether he should be allowed to deliver babies for free -- especially since most of his patients are "at risk," meaning they could be drug users, uninsured or poor patients, or women with high-risk pregnancies.

Coburn also insists that, with all the high-profile ethics scandals facing Congress -- leading off with Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens' federal criminal trial this fall -- the Senate would look petty by going after someone who is donating his money and medical services to help pregnant women.

Senate aides would not comment on the record, but ethics experts on and off Capitol Hill say the Senate Ethics Committee needs to be consistent in applying its conflict of interest rules, even if Coburn presents a sympathetic case.

Aides also point out that many senators have given up their professional lives when they were elected. Sen. John Ensign gave up his Nevada veterinary practice, Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia stopped selling real estate and former Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee stopped performing heart and lung transplant work. All three are Republicans.

The committee's case against Coburn is based on Senate rules that prohibit senators from being involved in professional affiliations that would create a conflict of interest.
This would be such an embarrassment to the Senate to try to stop Coburn's efforts. The differences with those other senators is that Coburn is volunteering his efforts.

And the real corruption we have to worry about is not his tangential association with a for-pay hospital, but the benefits that politicians, whether they are in the Congress or running for higher office, receive from rich people who just want to do them favors. Senator Stevens's scandal demonstrates how easy it is for senators to try to preserve their deniability by saying that they just didn't know that the real estate company was undercharging him on his house renovations. Rather like Senator Edwards saying he just didn't know that his moneybags friend, Tony Baron, was paying for Edwards' mistress to move out to California and live in a multi-million dollar mansion. These guys just happen to have friends who do that sort of thing for politicians without even telling them about it.

Continue reading "Senate to Coburn: Stop Delivering Babies for Free" »

The Democrats' Straw-Man Argument

Rand Simberg takes on a trick of arguing that has long irritated me. The Democrats have been setting up a false argument that they say the Republicans support and then ridicule that position.
When war opponents declare that there is no military solution, they are attempting to imply that those with whom they politically differ believe that there is not only a military solution, but that it is the sole component of the solution, and that no other solutions (e.g., diplomacy, reform of a corrupt government, etc.) need apply.

There is an additional false implication that the military will play no part of the solution -- that only their solutions are useful. Hence their extremist demands for years that the troops be brought out of Iraq immediately. After all, if there is no military solution, what is the military doing there, and what harm can there be in removing it?

Similarly, when we are told that we can't drill our way out of our current energy problems, they falsely imply that those who favor expanded domestic exploration believe that this is a panacea, and that no other measures need be taken to solve the energy shortage. But I'm aware of no proponent of looking for more sources at home who believes this.

He is exactly right. By simplifying the Republicans' position, they can demagogue their refutations of the straw-man that they themselves created. For both of these issues, the Republicans had a much more complex position, but the Democrats have been successful in minimizing those positions.

Republicans do the same thing when, for example, they pretend that Obama's sole energy plan is to inflate our tires.

This is where the media could help us all out. Every time a politician played this straw-man argument, the journalists should call them on it and clarify for the public what is going on. Instead, too often all we get is a quote from a Democrat and one from a Republican and the journalist thinks he or she has done the job of presenting a fair picture of the arguments involved.

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page

Please Explain the Constitution to Gloria Steinem

Chrystia Freeman in the Financial Times had lunch with Gloria Steinem and talked a bit of politics. Steinem had this to say about whether or not Hillary Clinton should take the vice presidential nomination if Obama offered it.

She believes women will vote for Obama even if Clinton doesn't get the much-mooted consolation prize of the vice-president's spot on the Democratic ticket - a job Steinem doesn't think is good enough for her anyway. Why? "It's not an independent position, to put it mildly. I would rather see her as the president of the Senate."

Oops. I guess that Steinem doesn't understand that the vice president is, under the Constitution, automatically already president of the Senate. And it's not a powerful position anyway. All he can do is preside over the Senate (hence the name) and break a tie. Perhaps she needs some remedial civics.

I'll give Steinem credit for not blaming Clinton's loss on being a woman. I'm sick of all the whining about how Clinton was treated because she is a woman. However, Steinem does overreach when she talks about how it's still so terrible to be a woman today.
Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life.

I think that poverty or a bad family background without a father around and a teen mother is a lot more restricting than being a woman.

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page

It Always Comes Down to Racism

Why can't the know-it-alls get it through their heads that it's perfectly possible to not want to vote for Barack Obama for reasons that have nothing to do with the color of his skin? This Sunday we have Maureen Dowd rambling on with some inexplicable comparison between Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice and Barack Obama. She meanders about from complaining about Clinton dead-enders to those women in the Wall Street Journal article who were wary of Obama because he's too fit.

But Dowd's insight this week is that Obama is actually Mr. Darcy, good-looking and cool, but proud. And the Elizabeth Bennets in the electorate out there find him just too full of himself. And that's where the rest of the extended metaphor come in - you guessed it - people don't like Obama because they're prejudiced. Not prejudiced against Mr. Darcy's arrogance, but against Senator Obama's race.
In this political version of "Pride and Prejudice," the prejudice is racial, with only 31 percent of white voters telling The New York Times in a survey that they had a favorable opinion of Obama, compared with 83 percent of blacks.

And the prejudice is visceral: many Americans, especially blue collar, still feel uneasy about the Senate's exotic shooting star, and he is surrounded by a miasma of ill-founded and mistaken premises.

So the novelistic tension of the 2008 race is this: Can Obama overcome his pride and Hyde Park hauteur and win America over?

Can America overcome its prejudice to elect the first black president? And can it move past its biases to figure out if Obama's supposed conceit is really just the protective shield and defense mechanism of someone who grew up half white and half black, a perpetual outsider whose father deserted him and whose mother, while loving, sometimes did so as well?
Oh, please. I'm not sure which poll results Dowd is referring to. This July 15 poll from CBS and the New York Times finds that 37% of white registered voters polled say that they plan to vote for Barack Obama. This Pew poll from May 29 finds Obama with a 41% favorability rating from whites polled. Even with Dowd's figure of only 31% favorability from whites polled, that is not all that different from John Kerry's share of the white vote in 2004 at 41%. The Democrats haven't won the white vote since LBJ's landslide in 1964. Even in 1996, Clinton still only won 43% of the white vote. OSo, rather than jumping to the conclusion that people aren't warming up to him because of his race, Dowd might want consider the possibility that he's facing a bias against Democrats rather than one against his race. In fact, considering that McCain is only getting 2% support from registered black voters in the CBS/NYT poll, perhaps it's time to talk about racist black voters who won't support a white candidate. OR when asked if John McCain's age would make the job too difficult for him to do the job, 55% of the Democratic respondents said yes compared to 13% of Republicans. Why not talk about the ageism of Democrats? Of course, if the Democratic candidate were the one who is 71 what do you want to bet that those numbers would be reversed?

Continue reading "It Always Comes Down to Racism" »

Democrats Don't Care About Saving the Planet

Charles Krauthammer does today what he does best - apply logic and intelligence to the prevarications and illogic of politicians. He takes on the Democrats' avowals that they are, as Nancy Pelosi vowed, trying to save the planet. As he points out, just because we limit exploration for American oil does not mean that we will be limiting the world consumption of oil. So, in order to protect American landscapes, the drilling shifts to areas of the world that won't be as concerned with protecting the environment.

A lovely sentiment. But has Pelosi actually thought through the moratorium's effects on the planet?

Consider: 25 years ago, nearly 60 percent of U.S. petroleum was produced domestically. Today it's 25 percent. From its peak in 1970, U.S. production has declined a staggering 47 percent. The world consumes 86 million barrels a day, the United States, roughly 20 million. We need the stuff to run our cars and planes and economy. Where does it come from?

Places such as Nigeria, where chronic corruption, environmental neglect and the resulting unrest and instability lead to pipeline explosions, oil spills and illegal siphoning by the poverty-stricken population -- which leads to more spills and explosions. Just this week, two Royal Dutch Shell pipelines had to be shut down because bombings by local militants were causing leaks into the ground.

Compare the Niger Delta to the Gulf of Mexico, where deep-sea U.S. oil rigs withstood Hurricanes Katrina and Rita without a single undersea well suffering a significant spill.

The United States has the highest technology to ensure the safest drilling. Today, directional drilling -- essentially drilling down, then sideways -- allows access to oil that in 1970 would have required a surface footprint more than three times as large. Additionally, the United States has one of the most extensive and least corrupt regulatory systems on the planet.

Does Pelosi imagine that with so much of America declared off-limits, the planet is less injured as drilling shifts to Kazakhstan and Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea? That Russia will be more environmentally scrupulous than we in drilling in its Arctic?

He goes on to point out the damage that we're doing with the congressionally mandated use of biofuels. We're driving up the prices of food which adversely affecting poor people around the world. And biofuels are not the panacea for the environment that supporters would like to contend.
The other panacea, yesterday's rage, is biofuels: We can't drill our way out of the crisis, it seems, but we can greenly grow our way out. By now, however, it is blindingly obvious even to Democrats that biofuels are a devastating force for environmental degradation. It has led to the rape of "lungs of the world" rain forests in Indonesia and Brazil as huge tracts have been destroyed to make room for palm oil and sugar plantations.

Here in the United States, one out of every three ears of corn is stuffed into a gas tank (by way of ethanol), causing not just food shortages abroad and high prices at home but intensive increases in farming, with all of the attendant environmental problems (soil erosion, insecticide pollution, water consumption, etc.).

Given the illogic of the Democrats arguments about how they're trying to save the planet while causing unintended consequences that harm the planet, we're left to wonder what is really going on. I think that they are so dependent on environmentalists who oppose any increase in America's oil exploration that they don't care about what happens elsewhere. They just don't want to give Republicans a victory on this since they've been opposing expanded drilling for so long. Instead they'll make accusations about speculators or oil companies somehow holding off on exploiting the leases they already have. These accusations make no economic sense, but they sound good in soundbites and give the Democrats something to say when people complain about oil prices. Their arguments are phony, but who cares if they can make a good soundbite in an election year?

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page

Forced Political Donations

The Wall Street Journal
highlights how some labor unions are getting the tens of millions of dollars on this year's election.

The mighty Service Employees International Union (SEIU) plans to spend some $150 million in this year's election, most of it to get Barack Obama and other Democrats elected. Where'd they get that much money?

That's a question the Departments of Labor and Justice are being asked to investigate by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Specifically, the labor watchdog group wants Justice to query a new SEIU policy that appears to coerce local workers into funding the parent union's national political priorities.

The union adopted a new amendment to its constitution at last month's SEIU convention, requiring that every local contribute an amount equal to $6 per member per year to the union's national political action committee. This is in addition to regular union dues. Unions that fail to meet the requirement must contribute an amount in "local union funds" equal to the "deficiency," plus a 50% penalty. According to an SEIU union representative, this has always been policy, but has now simply been formalized.

No other major institution could get away with its bosses demanding that every single one of its workers step in line behind its political preferences. This is the sort of imposed political obeisance that infuriates so many workers and turns them away from unions.

And once the Democrats get increased majorities in Congress plus a Democratic president, they will pass the oxymoronic check-off provision to allow unions to win a vote without having secret ballots. Using peer pressure and intimidation, they'll attempt to spread unionization in places where it's been declining. And if the SEIU gets away with these forced contributions this year, expect other unions to follow their example.

Even when the FEC later decides that some of the actions of private groups have violated the law, the fines were dwarfed by the actual contributions that those groups made to the election.

The Federal Election Commission later imposed a $775,000 penalty on ACT for violating campaign finance laws, the largest ever against a 527. Big as it was, the fine equaled less than one cent on the dollar for the $100 million that ACT improperly used to influence a national election. [SEIU President] Mr. Stern was only a founder of ACT. But the political lesson is that the benefit of breaking the rules and potentially winning an election far outweighs a minuscule financial penalty well after the outcome is decided.

The fines should match the amount spent. Now that would be a deterrent.

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page

What a Gift from the New York Times!

The NYT has handed John McCain a small gift by refusing to publish his column answering Barack Obama's column from last week. In his reply to McCain, NYT editorial page editor, David Shipley spelled out what he wanted McCain to say in a rewritten draft.

It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq. It would also have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory -- with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the Senator's Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan.

It's awfully kind of David Shipley to decide that McCain's plan for Iraq has to include elements such as troop levels and timetables that McCain has specifically said should be determined by conditions on the ground and not by American political concerns. The translation of Shipley's demands are - believe what we and Obama believe or we will not publish you.

If McCain's column had been published, few would have cared. As you read the text of the column as posted on Drudge it's just the standard stuff that McCain has been saying over and over on the campaign trail. But by refusing to publish McCain's column after they published Obama's, the NYT has given McCain the bonus of a talking point on media bias. And conservatives, who are suspicious of McCain, can't stand the New York Times. Every time the Times shows such blatant bias, there are probably some conservative voters somewhere deciding that they can hold their noses and vote for McCain. Nothing unites conservatives more than their dislike of the MSM. And during a week when the networks are displaying their bias in favor of Obama, the NYT is kind enough to pile on some more.

Continue reading "What a Gift from the New York Times!" »

Why is O'Reilly Making Excuses for Jesse Jackson?

I couldn't get very worked up about Jesse Jackson's bitter rant against Barack Obama. Jackson seems so yesterday. All he did was display how jealous he is of Obama and his criticism of Obama for speaking out about the responsibilities of the African American community made Obama look so much better in comparison.

I was rather disgusted at Bill O'Reilly's unctuous defense of himself for not revealing that Jackson had used the n-word in his little rant. O'Reilly said that he wasn't interested in making Jackson look bad. So what? It was definitely news that Jackson, who has led boycotts against Seinfeld because Michael Richards used the n-word was using it himself. Debra Saunders exactly nails O'Reilly's hypocrisy on this.

So why did O'Reilly withhold mention of the more offensive n-word?

O'Reilly told viewers that Jackson had uttered other ugly words, but that he would not air them because they "did not advance the story in one way, shape or form."

Later he said, "I'm not in the business of hurting Jesse Jackson -- because it does hurt Jesse Jackson -- and I'm not in the business of creating some kind of controversy that's not relevant to the general subject: one civil rights leader disparaging another over policy. So we held it back. Some weasel leaked it to the Internet."

Some readers might consider Jackson's remarks off-limits as they represented pre-show chitchat not intended for public consumption. But Jackson is hardly the first public figure to get caught in this snare. He knew he had a microphone on his lapel, that people might hear him, and that what he was saying was in poor taste.

He simply could not help himself.

Granted, whether it should be or not, it is different when a black person, as opposed to a white person, uses the two-syllable n-word.

But when a civil rights leader disparages the very people whom he is supposed to champion -- that's news. And when the black person who uses the n-word word is a civil rights leader who challenged the entertainment industry not to use the word and called for a boycott of "Seinfeld" DVDs after one of the series' stars, Michael Richards, used the slur as a standup comic -- that's big news.

It is news that buries whatever credibility Jackson retained.

Which makes O'Reilly's decision not to broadcast the racist n-word incomprehensible. O'Reilly was giving a pass to Jackson -- something he would not do for an 18-year-old girl who posted a sexual photo on the Internet.

Continue reading "Why is O'Reilly Making Excuses for Jesse Jackson?" »

The Truth About ACORN

ACORN is a nonprofit group whose goal is to register new voters and other activism efforts to help low income groups. Ostensibly. Mostly it is a leftist organization that wishes to put more liberal politicians in office. It has been involved in several voter registration scandals for its loose system that actually encourages phony registration because they pay low income people per person registered which provides those workers to submit phony names. Most recently it was involved in the biggest case ever of voter registration fraud in Washington state. While ACORN and the Washington prosecutors deny that ACORN officials were directly involved, their system of pay per registration only encourages such fraud. John Fund reported on this last year.

But the most interesting news came out of Seattle, where on Thursday local prosecutors indicted seven workers for Acorn, a union-backed activist group that last year registered more than 540,000 low-income and minority voters nationwide and deployed more than 4,000 get-out-the-vote workers. The Acorn defendants stand accused of submitting phony forms in what Secretary of State Sam Reed says is the "worst case of voter-registration fraud in the history" of the state.

The list of "voters" registered in Washington state included former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, New York Times columnists Frank Rich and Tom Friedman, actress Katie Holmes and nonexistent people with nonsensical names such as Stormi Bays and Fruto Boy. The addresses used for the fake names were local homeless shelters. Given that the state doesn't require the showing of any identification before voting, it is entirely possible people could have illegally voted using those names.

Local officials refused to accept the registrations because they had been delivered after last year's Oct. 7 registration deadline. Initially, Acorn officials demanded the registrations be accepted and threatened to sue King County (Seattle) officials if they were tossed out. But just after four Acorn registration workers were indicted in Kansas City, Mo., on similar charges of fraud, the group reversed its position and said the registrations should be rejected. But by then, local election workers had had a reason to carefully scrutinize the forms and uncovered the fraud. Of the 1,805 names submitted by Acorn, only nine have been confirmed as valid, and another 34 are still being investigated. The rest--over 97%--were fake.

Continue reading "The Truth About ACORN" »

Is the Senate Broken?

Norm Ornstein details how more and more maneuvers are being used to block action in the Senate. It's more than just the filibusters. An individual Senator can place a hold on a bill or a nomination and thus block action.

So what is different now? For one thing, everybody is an obstructionist in today's Senate, thanks to the dramatically expanded and different role of the hold. What is a hold? It is an informal procedure--nowhere mentioned in Senate rules--where an individual senator notifies the body's leaders that he or she will hold up a bill or nomination by denying unanimous consent to allow it to move forward. The hold was originally employed simply as a courtesy--a way to delay action for a week or two if a lawmaker had a scheduling conflict or needed time to muster arguments for debate. But over the past 30 years, it has morphed into a process where any individual can block something or someone indefinitely or permanently--and often anonymously. Now, at any given time, there are dozens of holds on nominees for executive positions and judgeships, and on bills. Of course, bills can be brought up even if there is not unanimous consent, but to do so is cumbersome and often requires 60, rather than 50, votes to proceed.

Read the rest of Ornstein's article about the expanded use of the filibuster for ordinary bills and not just a tactic that the minority resorts to in rare instances.

But after the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the filibuster began to change as Senate leaders tried to make their colleagues' lives easier and move the agenda along; no longer would there be days or weeks of round-the-clock sessions, but instead simple votes periodically on cloture motions to get to the number to break the log-jam, while other business carried on as usual.

As so often happens, the unintended consequences of a well-intentioned move took over; instead of expediting business, the change in practice meant an increase in filibusters because it became so much easier to raise the bar to 60 or more, with no 12- or 24-hour marathon speeches required.

Still, formal filibuster actions--meaning actual cloture motions to shut off debate--remained relatively rare. Often, Senate leaders would either find ways to accommodate objections or quietly shelve bills or nominations that would have trouble getting to 60. In the 1970s, the average number of cloture motions filed in a given month was less than two; it moved to around three a month in the 1990s. This Congress, we are on track for two or more a week. The number of cloture motions filed in 1993, the first year of the Clinton presidency, was 20. It was 21 in 1995, the first year of the newly Republican Senate. As of the end of the first session of the 110th Congress, there were 60 cloture motions, nearing an all-time record.

This is a bipartisan problem. When a party is in the minority they resort to these tactics and as each party expands their use, the other party is taking notes and getting ready for their time in the minority. The Democrats perfected these maneuvers when they were in the minority and the Republicans have picked up where they left off. If the Democrats were to return to the minority, it would be the same story.

We have gotten to the point that it takes 60 votes now to pass most bills. You could argue that this is not all bad and necessitates each party to move to the center to pick up votes from the other side.

Since the Constitution gives each House the power to make their own rules, there is no way to change these shenanigans unless the Senators themselves agreed to limit the power of the minority. And there really seems no hope that either party would vote for such limitations because they each want to be able to use those powers when they are in the minority. So don't expect this to change anytime soon.

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page

How to Fool Colombian Guerrillas

The story of the rescue of the hostages being held in Colombia is just wonderful. Kudos to the Colombian government for a well-executed deception of the FARC terrorists to make them think that an order had come from their leaders to release the hostages and that a helicopter had been sent to transport them. And how do you convince a bunch of terrorist guerrillas that national soldiers are really other guerillas? Well, you just have to don their recognized costume!

Yesterday, two white helicopters arrived in a jungle clearing where the hostages were being held. The men in the helicopters looked like guerrillas, Betancourt later said, describing details of the rescue at the military airport.

"Absolutely surreal," she said, noting that some of the men who got off the helicopter wore T-shirts emblazoned with the iconic image of the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. "I thought this was the FARC," she said.

Their hands bound, the hostages were forced aboard the helicopters, wondering where they would be taken next in their long ordeal. But once aboard, Betancourt said, Cesar and another guerrilla were overpowered and the crewmen announced that the passengers were now free. "The chief of the operation said: 'We're the national army. You're free,' " she said. "The helicopter almost fell from the sky because we were jumping up and down, yelling, crying, hugging one another. We couldn't believe it."

How sublime that the government was able to free the hostages by donning the FARC garb - Che Guevara T-shirts. I guess that is the standard guerrilla uniform.

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page

Stop Demonizing Lobbyists

Kimberley Strassel addresses what has been bothering me about both candidates - their rhetoric to act as if lobbying was by its very nature a dirty and corrupt profession and thus they forswear having lobbyists involved in their campaigns. The campaigns and their supporters now trade accusations as they comb through the backgrounds of everyone working on the campaigns who might have had a job as a lobbyist.
The folly of campaign finance was thinking that it was wise or possible to outlaw free speech in the form of campaign contributions. The folly of lobbyist restrictions is thinking it is wise or possible to outlaw free association, in the form of men and women who are employed to petition government, many of whom also (unsurprisingly) take a passionate interest in politics. Start down the path of weeding out every "conflict" and you'll be weeding from now until November.

There's a particularly big risk for Mr. McCain here. One of his biggest attributes is his reputation as a reformer. His record should say it all, yet he has now set a new standard on which to be judged. And the irony is that those doing the judging will be the 527s and other big-dollar funds that gained new power thanks to McCain-Feingold.

Groups like Fund for America - a 527 backed by George Soros - are training their efforts at sullying Mr. McCain's reformist reputation. kicked it off with a mudslinging TV ad targeting McCain adviser Charlie Black's lobbying work. A Democratic 527 called Campaign Money Watch is also hitting him for perceived campaign-finance transgressions.

Mr. Obama also has a reformist reputation to worry about, but the newbie's bigger risk is that he'll have to purge his campaign of the wisdom it needs to run a national campaign, or even a White House transition. Plenty of candidates have, like Mr. Obama, pitched themselves as Washington "outsiders." But the successful always understood that they needed people behind the scenes with expertise and experience in national politics.

We should have learned from the whole campaign finance reform fiasco that there is no law we can write that would guarantee purity in election campaigns. And lest we forget, lobbying is guaranteed by the right of petition in the First Amendment. This taint by association with lobbying creates a dangerous precedent that will cut off experienced people from politics and contains the danger of spreading to other professions. We've practically established the pattern that anyone who has worked in the oil industry is now presumed to be corrupt and shouldn't work in government. What other professions will follow? Those who work for pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, bankers? Are we going to arrive at the point that the only people deemed pure enough to work in politics are those who have worked only for the government all their lives?

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page

Obama's Judgment

For a man who is trying to sell the American people on the idea that his judgment is so superb that it trumps whatever experience his opponents have, Barack Obama has certainly had to admit that he has shown bad judgment in picking his friends. As Patterico points out, Obama is using the same defense about his friendship with the convicted Tony Rezko as he did with Jeremiah Wright: the guys that the public are seeing are just not like the guys he was friends with. And I bet he'd offer up that same defense of Michael Pfleger or Bill Ayers. Funny how this man of such superb judgment that he's trying to ride that judgment all the way to the White House kept getting fooled by his friends.

Odd how Obama felt it was perfectly fine to accept all sorts of monetary benefits from his friendship with Tony Rezko including that incredibly fishy deal with the land for his house all the while, as Stephen Spruiell points out, the Chicago papers were quite public about the suspicions being cast on Rezko.

The following fact pattern was out in the open long before Obama severed his ties to Rezko (sometime in late 2006): In 1983, Rezko started raising a lot of money for Chicago politicians. In 1989, he and his partner Daniel Mahru started vacuuming up deals with the city to develop low-income housing, despite having virtually zero experience in the field. They proceeded to obtain over $100 million in city, state, and federal grants and bank loans to develop 30 run-down properties into affordable-housing projects, earning $6.9 million for themselves. By 2007, the city had sued them numerous times for failing to heat these properties; over half of the properties had fallen into foreclosure, and six of them were boarded up.

Obama helped put one of these deals together during his time as a junior associate at Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland. Other lawyers at Davis Miner helped Rezko acquire half of the properties that fell into disrepair. And many of these properties were located in the district Obama represented as an Illinois state senator. Nonetheless, Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times that he was unaware of Rezko's growing reputation as a slumlord until he read Sun-Times reporter Tim Novak's two-part series on the subject. So we are to believe (yet again) that Obama was the last person to know what one of his longtime friends was up to.

Now that may well be true -- but still, it indicates that Obama is the kind of Democrat who cares a great deal about securing the funding for liberal programs like subsidized housing, but very little about what happens to the money after that. In Rezko's case, it appears to have been doled out based on which developer had the right political connections, not which one could actually do the job.

Even if Obama can claim plausible deniability about the deteriorating shape of Rezko's slums, he faces a more difficult challenge in explaining why he entered into a real-estate deal with Rezko after the Chicago papers had run over 100 stories about the clouds gathering over Rezko's head. When the Obamas were looking for a new house in the summer of 2005, Rezko helped them buy their dream home by purchasing an adjoining lot they could not afford, then selling them a strip of the land on which they wanted to build a fence.

You can well imagine the hay that liberals would be making of this if it were a Republican involved in such shenanigans. Now they'll tell us that all of Obama's less-than-savory associations from Chicago are a "distraction" from what people really care about. What they won't be able to claim is that any of these so-called distractions say anything positive about Obama's judgment.

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page



The Wall Street Journal highlights a proposal that a Republican state legislator in New Jersey has introduced to reduce the cost of health insurance for New Jersey citizens.

New Jersey is about the last place one might think to look for free-market policy reform. But this week Jay Webber, a Republican Assemblyman in Trenton, will introduce legislation to let Garden State residents buy low-cost health insurance from any registered policy in any of the 50 states.

Mr. Webber's proposal is a state version of Arizona Congressman John Shadegg's federal legislation to let individuals buy insurance across state lines, and John McCain has also endorsed the idea. But New Jersey would be a perfect test case, because its multiple mandates have made insurance too expensive for hundreds of thousands of families.

The average national cost for a family health plan is $5,799, according to America's Health Insurance Plans, but in New Jersey that same plan costs $10,398 on average. The state's politicians have driven up these costs by forcing insurers to provide gold-plated coverage - even for such voluntary medical services as in vitro fertilization. New Jersey also follows New York and Massachusetts - two other high-cost states - in requiring so-called "guaranteed issue." That allows New Jersey residents to avoid buying health insurance until they get sick, which means they can avoid paying premiums until they need someone to pick up the bill.

This one-policy-fits-all system tends to cause the young and healthy to drop insurance, which only raises the cost of insurance for the sick, which in turn makes coverage unaffordable for ever more families. It's no accident that about 1.2 million people - one of every eight residents - is uninsured in the state.

Under Mr. Webber's choice proposal, New Jersey residents could buy policies chartered in more enlightened states. For example, a healthy 25-year-old male could buy a basic health plan in Kentucky that now sells for $960 a year, about one-sixth of the $5,880 it would cost him in New Jersey. Residents of Pennsylvania pay health premiums that are one-half to one-third as high as do Garden State policy-holders. A new study by the National Center for Policy Analysis estimates that the availability of lower cost plans would reduce by 25% the number of uninsured.

Opponents of interstate insurance say families would be pushed into bare-bones health plans. Not so. Families could still buy the more extensive coverage, but those with modest incomes would have options other than going uninsured. The goal of public policy shouldn't be to cover every medical procedure or doctor's visit, but to prevent families from catastrophic expenses due to a health problem that is no fault of their own.

Continue reading "JerseyCare" »

Kennedy and Khrushchev

Obama has been citing Kennedy's meeting with Khrushchev as an argument why he believes that his proposal to meet without preconditions, but with preparation, with the leaders of Iran is the right policy. Yes, Kennedy did meet with Khrushchev, but not quite as Obama described it. Obama seemed to be placing the meeting of the two leaders during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

When Kennedy met with Khrushchev, we were on the brink of nuclear war."

The Cuban Missile Crisis took place in October of 1962. The two leaders did not meet during that crisis. But they had met over a year earlier, in the Spring of Kennedy's first year in office in June, 1961 in Vienna. And the results were not pretty as Nathan Thrall and Jesse James Wilkins write today in the The New York Times.

Continue reading "Kennedy and Khrushchev" »

Putting Down McCain's Military Service

Ed Morrissey sees a trend in how Democrats are denigrating John McCain's military service as his being someone who got into the Navy riding on his family's prestige and then didn't serve very long in combat before he was shot down and didn't do any fighting on the ground so his air combat just doesn't matter as much as if he'd been in the infantry.

Now we have at least three Democrats and Obama supporters on the record as attacking McCain's 24 years of service in the Navy: Gillespie, Jay Rockefeller, and Tom Harkin, as well as unnamed "colleagues" in the Matt Bai hit piece in the New York Times. The criticisms sound remarkably similar; all of them question the quality of his service, claiming that he grew up as a child of privilege and had his career handed to him, in a role where he didn't know what combat was really like. He had a "silver spoon", was "Navy royalty", and so on.

This sounds like someone wants to fight the elitist stink that has attached itself to the Barack Obama campaign through the intrepidity of the candidate himself. Obama scorned middle-America voters as bitterly clinging to guns and God because of a lack of wealth redistribution in America, while his wife told audiences that she only starting taking pride in America when people supported Obama's bid for the presidency, and his pastor and friend talked about the US government's creation of the HIV virus as a genocidal tool against people of color. Team Obama has argued ever since that McCain is the real elitist, and not the Harvard-educated man who sat on boards with William Ayers and never knew he had befriended an unrepentant domestic terrorist.

Remember how upset Democrats got about the Swivt Boat Veterans for Truth for questioning John Kerry's short service in Vietnam. So some of these Obama supporters are now in the position of saying that it was despicable to criticize anything about Kerry's service, yet McCain's is fair game. I doubt whether they're going to get anywhere dissing McCain's military background. Sure, lefty blogs and their mouthpieces in the press will take up the cry, but they just aren't going to get much traction with these sorts of attacks.

The question is why experienced politicians would try this tactic. Perhaps they really fear the aura of hero that McCain has due to the courage he showed as a POW. Or maybe they just don't get the military and deep down dislike the military. John Hawkins has compiled quite a list of comments that liberals have made about the military. For people who think that way, McCain's record of service is not a plus, but a negative that can be exploited.

I'm not saying that Obama feels this way or is dumb enough to make such accusations in public, but Morrissey is correct about the emerging trend of Obama supporters going on the attack against McCain's service.

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page

No wonder George McGovern Likes Obama

Obama offered up this proposal last night in Montana.

Americans need real relief, Obama said, saying he will pass a law to give each family $1,000 a year to help them pay for higher gas prices and other rising costs.

Shades of McGovern's 1972 proposal to give every family $1000 except that Obama has neglected to adjust for inflation.

Why not just cut taxes instead of granting out money to everyone?

McCain's idea of suspending the federal gas tax is equally futile. The prices we're facing today are a result of demand exceeding supply. Giving out money whether through a $1000 grant or through lower federal taxes will just increase demand and keep prices high.

What I don't get is the disconnect between the calls for Americans to use less energy and the efforts to lower gas prices. What could be better suited than high gas prices to get every American to limit his or her gas usage?

Continue reading "No wonder George McGovern Likes Obama" »

Obama's Excuses

Barack Obama has some creative explanations for why he's going to lose in Kentucky.

"What it says is that I'm not very well known in that part of the country," Obama said. "Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it's not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle."

Obama has been trying to introduce himself to Kentuckians using a series of biographical TV ads, as well as fliers, including one that shows him at a pulpit in front of a church's cross and pipe organ.

He acknowledged that he's trying to "reverse a lot of misconceptions" about his background. He is a Christian, although some e-mail chains have said he is a Muslim.

"Part of it is because there have been these e-mails that have been sent out very systematically, presumably by various political opponents, although I don't know who," he said. "And there are a lot of voters who get their news from Fox News. Fox has been pumping up rumors about my religious beliefs or my patriotism or what have you since the beginning of the campaign."

He had the same excuse for his loss in West Virginia.

Greg Pollowitz helpfully supplies a map of the United States. In case the senator from Illinois needs a review - Kentucky and Illinois actually border each other. Historically a lot of Kentuckians helped settle Illinois. Think of Abraham Lincoln's family. Arkansas just isn't so close.Last week, Obama attributed his 41-point loss in the West Virginia primary, in part, to his short tenure on the national stage.

"I'm not well-known there," Obama said. "You know, some of these e-mails and rumors that have been talked about penetrated in West Virginia [more] than they have in some other states."
According to Obama, West Virginians and Kentuckians are so behind the times that they haven't heard enough about Obama to get to know him. Maybe they don't get TV or the Internet there in Kentucky and can't find out about the probable nominee of the Democratic Party? Maybe they've missed the six times he or his wife have been on the cover of Newsweek in the past year. Maybe they've missed Oprah's announcement of her support of Obama. It must be that they just don't get any TV or newspapers there.

Continue reading "Obama's Excuses" »

Labor Buying the Government

Dave Weigel at Reason Magazine looks at how labor has been investing so much in the Democrats and will be getting their reward by passing labor's desired goal of banning secret elections when workers vote on whether or not to unionize. Unions have been steadily losing membership over the years and this is their big effort to stem that decline - prevent workers from voting against unionization by handing them a card that they have to check off in front of fellow workers. And the unions have been pouring millions and millions into electing Democrats so that they can achieve that goal. Forget all the efforts that have gone into achieving a secret ballot for other elections. And try to figure out why it is that labor unions don't want people to be able to vote in private about whether they want unions. Perhaps it is because they don't like the way the votes have been turning out.

Continue reading "Labor Buying the Government" »

Blaming His Staff

Jake Tapper has been having fun keeping a running tally of all the times that Senator Obama is asked about some embarrassing contradiction between one of his previous stands that is politically uncomfortable today and Obama wriggles out of the story by blaming someone on his staff. Add in when some contradiction emerges between Obama's claim to be a new sort of candidate who doesn't go negative on his opponents.

Continue reading "Blaming His Staff" »

What Went Wrong with Bill Clinton?

John Brummett, the Arkansas columnist, ponders the various reasons why Bill Clinton was so inept in campaigning for his wife. Brummett has a Machiavellian explanation for how disastrous Bill has been for his wife's campaign.

Here's the other thought: Clinton walks around irritated, even angst-ridden, over this whole thing. His legacy, which is all a former president has, gets minimized either way.

If his own wife becomes the first woman president, he will be recorded merely as her and history's forerunner, like John the Baptist.

If Barack Obama becomes president, Clinton will be recorded as a mere interlude, a president of eight years marked by decent government and personal scandal. He will be recorded as somebody filling the gap between the conservative transformer that Ronald Reagan was and the generational and cultural transformer that Obama was. He will be the man footnoted for history for having been prematurely anointed as our first black president. He will be the one who managed near the end to sully his otherwise sterling reputation on matters of race.

Decades hence, they'll ask on Trivial Pursuit: Before Barack Obama actually became the first black president, which president had been called the first black president? Everyone will miss it. They'll say FDR or JFK. Everyone will be astonished to turn the card and read "Bill Clinton."

The best thing that could happen for Clinton's legacy would be for John McCain to win and continue the post-Clinton Republican ineptitude. He would need for both Hillary and Barack to fail.

You don't think? Naw. Can't be. Nobody could be that smart and manipulative.

Perhaps. I prefer the explanation that we've just seen the real Bill. He has always had a bad temper and has been prone to amazing solipsism acting as if every event was really all about him even if he had to exaggerate or just plain lie to insert himself into every story. Remember his heartfelt, yet fictional, memories of black church burnings during his childhood? It was just that the media wasn't buying his shtick this time around. He was no longer the glorious scamp for whom people seemed ready to forgive anything. He was just that old guy trying to preserve his legacy and willing to say anything to keep the cool new guy from taking over the party that Bill Clinton had led for so long. He's yesterday's news and without that patina of being the GOP-slayer, the media and Democrats just don't have much time for him anymore.

Cross posted at Betsy's Page