Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 13, 2010
POLITICS: Quick Links 1/13/10
*Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson looks at the declining quality of President Obama's rhetoric, while, Michael Barone and Noemie Emery look at the contrast between Obama's reputation for erudition and the extent to which the Tea Party movement has proven much more focused and energized on substantive issues than Obama's own supporters. The common thread here is that because Obama's rhetoric and appeal have always been more about him personally than about a coherent set of policy proposals, he was able to extend his original support far beyond the people who were signing on to any such agenda - and thus he's found himself with broad but shallow support that can dry up at any moment because it's not really a stable coalition built on common support for his agenda. Relatedly, and on Gerson's point about Obama's "cool," one thing I've noticed is that Obama has fairly limited range as a communicator - he's great at a few limited types of speeches, but but there are just too many types of things he can't do.
*David Dayen at the far-left blog Firedoglake, which has been crusading belatedly against the Obamacare bill since it dropped the public option, counts the noses and sees that the Democrats are probably already one vote short in the House (where the original bill passed by a 3-vote margin, one of whom has since left office). Meanwhile, the site's proprietor, Jane Hamsher, attacks the White House and its allies among the pundit and blogger class for failing to disclose that a key academic supporter of the bill was actually on the Administration's payroll. At this point, even Obama has to concede that "That's what's been lost this year...that whole sense of changing how Washington works." Yet Obama's camp still finds time to accuse the insurance industry of lobbying queitly against the bill - as if (a) anyone expected them not to lobby and (b) there weren't also a truckload of people lobbying for the bill and donating to Democrats.
*Pat Robertson's repetition with the Haiti earthquake of his God-blames-the-victims comments from the aftermath of 9/11 and Katrina shows that he really didn't get the message of Luke 13:1-5, let alone any common sense. Joe Scarborough, on Twitter, argues that Robertson should be given credit for his deeds, not his words - his organization did great work in the aftermath of Katrina, for example - but at this point, it's Robertson's own fault and he just needs to shut his trap permanently. He's said this stuff too many times to be an accident.
That said, you can bet that Robertson's remarks will get much wider play than Robert F. Kennedy Jr. blaming Haley Barbour for bringing down Hurricane Katrina on Mississippi.
*Martha Coakley may not succeed in losing the Massachusetts Senate race - while she's down by more than 40 points among independents in some polls, Massachusetts still has a colossal registration advantage for Democrats - it won't be for lack of trying. Don't have all the links handy here, but her campaign has veered from gaffe (her claim that there are no terrorists in Afghanistan) to comedy (misspelling her own state's name in an attack ad) to ham-handedness (a staffer barrelling over a Weekly Standard reporter trying to ask about the Afghanistan gaffe) to outright panic in her communications with national Democrats, who are now tapping into their House campaign fund to prop her up. It's been an appallingly poorly-run campaign against a savvy opponent. I can predict that Scott Brown will run a close race next Tuesday, but whether the energy and indignation of the Brown voters will outnumber the Democratic machine remains anyone's guess.
*Former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler is back, as Chris Christie's education chief. Schundler was a failure as a statewide candidate but remains a hero to conservatives for his advocacy of school choice and his diligent if predictably futile efforts to win over inner-city African-American voters.
A big part of Christie's victory was in convincing New Jersey voters to move beyond cultural issues (guns, abortion) over which the state government has comparatively little power or is unlikely to do anything and focus on the things that are actually a major part of the job at the state level and the Democrats' catastrophic failure to accomplish them. But Christie also came to office with a fairly vague mandate beyond his platform of opposing tax hikes and fighting corruption. Schundler could give Christie a chance to make lasting and meaningful reform in the state and not just coast in the job - but not having run a campaign heavy on the school choice issue, Christie will have to commit some serious political capital to make the sale to voters.