January 16, 2012
By Fredreka Schouten
“It’s going to be hard to defeat the guy who as all the money in the world. Obama is like the Yankees of politics.” –KTRN
President Obama and the Democratic Party have raised more than $240 million for his re-election, swamping his rivals’ fundraising as the president races to build a war chest to defend against the eventual Republican nominee and deep-pocketed GOP “super PACS.”
Obama collected more than $42 million during the closing three months of the year, his campaign announced Thursday, while more than $24 million went to the Democratic National Committee, to help build a national campaign infrastructure ahead of the November election.
The fundraising puts Obama roughly on par with the amounts raised by President George W. Bush at this point in his 2004 re-election effort. But this year’s contest is markedly different.
Aggressive new super PACs, empowered by 2010 federal court rulings, now can unleash unlimited amounts of corporate and union money to denounce or defend politicians as long as they operate independently of candidates. So far, Republican-leaning super PACs have outraised Democratic independent groups, threatening to undercut the president’s financial advantage. These groups are already shaking up the early GOP primary contests with millions of dollars in attack ads.
Obama “will need every penny” to deal with the Republican onslaught, said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. “He’s facing a very long general-election fight.”
In a video and e-mail to supporters early Thursday morning, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina called the fundraising a “pretty good start” and said more than half a million people had contributed during the October-to-December fundraising quarter.
September 27th, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Ryan Grim
The 12-member super committee created to slash the federal deficit is powered by the threat that if it doesn’t come up with $1.2 trillion in savings, automatic, across-the-board cuts will be instituted to reach that same goal, with half of those cuts hitting the Pentagon.
Don’t believe it.
The supposed across-the-board cuts aren’t slated to go into effect until January 1, 2013. Put more simply: They might not ever go into effect.
The automatic cuts — known as sequestration — are often discussed in Washington as if they’re certain, an inevitability that Congress won’t be able to prevent. But on the same day those cuts would go into effect, the Bush tax rates, which President Obama extended for two years, are set to expire, leading to an “automatic” tax hike that is treated in Washington as anything but inevitable. (That the two coming policy changes are approached so differently — cuts are expected; expiring tax breaks for the wealthy are brushed aside — is a window into Washington’s priorities.)
A host of other tax cuts and credits will expire on the same day, including the alternative minimum tax, ethanol tax credits, renewable energy credits and others important to businesses, the wealthy and the middle class.
A lame duck Congress would have two months after the 2012 election to stave off the expiration of both that tax policy and the super committee’s “automatic” cuts.
The most likely scenario: The super committee locks up along partisan lines and, after the 2012 election, bipartisan negotiators deal with the tax cuts and the super committee’s sequestration cuts, along with a basket of other expiring provisions, in one set of negotiations. Democrats will be pressured by the coming sequestration, while Republicans will be motivated by the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. And all of their negotiations will take place in a political and economic climate impossible to predict today.
“All of this at some point comes together,” said Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) of the Bush tax cuts and the sequestration. “One thing about this place, the paces just keep repeating themselves.”
While many have portrayed the super committee as having some sort of automatic axe, other observers haven’t bought the idea. Stan Collender, a Democratic budget expert and consultant to Wall Street and Washington lobbyists, saw through it quickly, writing a report for Qorvis Communications downplaying the likelihood of the automatic cuts.
“There is a high probability that the super committee won’t be able to agree on a deficit reduction deal and that the across-the-board spending cuts that are supposed to be triggered if that happens will NOT go into effect as scheduled in 2013,” he wrote. “Federal budget agreements have seldom, if ever, gone the distance. Instead, they have always been changed, waived, ignored or abandoned.”
Former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who is running again for an Orlando seat, noted in a blog post Monday that the Constitution is not on the side of those pushing for automatic cuts.
“Under Article I, Section 7 of our Constitution, each Congress has the same right as another other Congress to legislate. This includes ‘raising Revenue’ and ‘Appropriation of Money,’” he wrote. “So our 112th Congress can ‘pass a Bill’ setting the federal deficit for this year and next year, but that’s about it. Anything that goes beyond the first week of January, 2013, when the 113th Congress will be sworn in, is subject to change by that Congress, and every subsequent Congress.”
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate’s tax-writing committee and a member of the super committee, told HuffPost that the panel is looking at the Bush tax cuts as well as other expiring credits.
“The committee is sure talking of those provisions and there are others too, and we are talking about all of them,” he said.
Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), whose more than two decades in the Senate have made him witness to his share of negotiations, said that both the Bush taxs cuts and the sequestration cuts will be negotiated as one large piece during the lame duck session. “At that time, at that time,” Harkin said. “Not now. At that time.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who recently resigned from leadership so he can spend more time on bipartisan legislating and less on partisan messaging, agreed with HuffPost that the automatic cuts were not necessarily automatic.
“That’s a good point,” he said. “Congress can always pass a law if it chooses to do that, but the president can veto it, and 40 senators can stop it. So I think while it’s technically possible for that to happen, I think there’s the fact that 38 senators of both parties signed a letter encouraging the committee to think even bigger. It’s a very good sign that something is likely to happen here.”
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the Senate minority whip and a super committee member, also saw roping the tux cuts and sequestration together as an option.
“I don’t think sequestration will take place, for one thing,” he said, saying there are “lots of different options, possibilities. Who knows?”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said that the committee should think of the possibility of automatic cuts as motivation, but agreed that they’re heavily dependent on Congress.
“The automatic spending cuts take effect not based upon the joint committee; it’s based upon congressional action,” he said.
Dealing with the spending cuts and expiring tax cuts together will give Democrats a negotiating advantage, highlighting how tax policy has contributed to budget hole, Democrats said.
“Since those tax cuts and Bush deregulation and the two wars and the bailout to drug and insurance companies in ’03/’04 created almost all the deficit, clearly that should be part of the solution,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
“Speaking for the Democrats, we want to see a comprehensive approach,” said Cardin. “We think the revenue issues need to be on the table. We have been pretty clear about what we think about the Bush-era tax rates for the higher income.”
There may also be political will to prevent the automatic cuts from going into effect, if only to save the Pentagon’s budget.
“I am very concerned about broad cuts across the board, particularly as it relates the Department of Defense,” Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) told HuffPost.
And the cuts already agreed to earlier this year, as part of the bargain that created the super committee, may end up being just as fantastical.
“[T]he approximately $900 billion in spending reductions put in place by the Budget Control Act are far more likely to be projected rather than realized,” Collender wrote in his report. “Although the agreement put spending caps in place every year through fiscal 2021, only the $30 billion or so projected for fiscal 2102 — which will start in about a month on October 1 — should be considered likely to occur. The presumed spending reductions for fiscal 2013 and beyond will occur after the 2012 presidential and congressional elections and during the time frame when virtually all other federal budget agreements have fallen apart or changed. In all probability, that will happen in this case as well.”
September 26th, 2011
The New York Times
By: Jackie Calmes
President Obama on Sunday criticized not only the Republicans vying to defeat him but also their party’s conservative base – symbolized by the audiences at recent candidate debates — in a busy day of four West Coast fund-raisers to collect money and rally dispirited Democratic donors.
In Woodside, Calif., an affluent community between San Francisco and San Jose, Mr. Obama hit his stump-speech theme that the 2012 election will be “a contest of values,” and then suggested that some in his audience might well be former Republicans “puzzled by what’s happening to that party.”
“I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately?” he asked. Referring to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who has sought federal aid to fight wildfires caused by a prolonged drought, Mr. Obama said: “You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change. It’s true. You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay.”
“That’s not reflective of who we are,” Mr. Obama said. “This is a choice about the fundamental direction of our country.” Obama advisers in the past have said he does not watch Republicans’ debates. But by his remarks, Mr. Obama showed he is well aware that a recent string of debates produced moments in which reactions from audiences of Tea Party sympathizers became as widely discussed afterward as anything the candidates said – prompting some of the candidates to distance themselves later from the expressions of intolerance or hardheartedness. Besides the episodes Mr. Obama cited, at another debate the loudest applause came at the mention of the numerous executions Mr. Perry has sanctioned.
To the relief of many Democrats, Mr. Obama has become more assertive lately in attacking Republicans and drawing contrasts with them. At Sunday’s first fund-raiser, one of two in the Seattle area, he said a Republican president would institute “an approach to government that would fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.”
Depending on the event, donors gave from $100 to $35,800. Those in Woodside, on the expansive and sumptuously landscaped lawn of John W. Thompson, chairman of Symantec, gave the maximum amount, to be split between the Democratic Party and Mr. Obama’s reelection campaign. He addressed them as “my stockholders.”
There and elsewhere, Mr. Obama acknowledged that many of the donors would probably pay higher taxes after 2012 under his proposals to raise taxes on high-income households, both to offset the short-term costs of his job-creation plan in Congress and to reduce future annual budget deficits. Citing Republicans’ criticism that his proposals amount to “class warfare,” Mr. Obama delivered what has become his standard response – he is a proud warrior for the middle class – and drew applause.
Celebrities made appearances at several events. Lady Gaga was at the final function, held at the Atherton, Calif., home of Sheryl Sandberg, an executive of Facebook who was a Treasury official in the Clinton administration. The singer, extravagantly attired as usual, was about two feet taller than Mr. Obama thanks to her towering heels and upswept hair.
The musician Bruce Hornsby performed at the Woodside fund-raiser. And the former pro basketball players Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens introduced Mr. Obama at Seattle’s Paramount Theater. At each stop, Mr. Obama gave a rundown of his administration’s record, including taking credit for rescuing the economy, decimating Al Qaeda and killing Osama bin Laden, ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy against openly gay service members, tightening financial industry regulations and – “as long as I get a second term” – implementation of the law expanding health insurance.
But Mr. Obama acknowledged that many Democrats, especially liberals, are disheartened that he has not been more successful in overcoming the obstructions of Congressional Republicans. “Shake off any doldrums,” he told supporters at the Seattle theater, and “get to work.”
In Woodside, he urged donors to “push back” against friends and neighbors whose criticisms are based on “inadequate information” from Fox News or Wall Street Journal editorials. “And in some cases,” he told them, “I may need you to have some arguments with our progressive friends.”
“We’re going to have a stark choice in this election,” Mr. Obama added. “But I have to make sure that our side is as passionate and as motivated and is working just as hard as the folks on the other side because this is a contest of values.”
Quoting his vice president, “my friend Joe Biden,” Mr. Obama said, “Don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative.”
January 25th, 2011
Wall Street Journal
By: By Douglas A. Blackom and Sam Schechner
Cable-news network MSNBC briefly suspended liberal host Keith Olbermann last week for crossing a line between the media and politics when it learned he donated $2,400 each to three Democratic Party candidates. But that line is increasingly porous—especially in the rough-and-tumble world of talk radio.
In radio, a lot of money is already flowing in the other direction. A handful of the top talk-radio hosts in the U.S.—including Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity—are being paid to use their voices and faces to promote politically motivated groups. Messrs. Beck and Hannity also have highly rated television programs on Fox News.
Mr. Beck, whose radio program averages 10 million weekly listeners, has given paid endorsements on the show since May for FreedomWorks, a Washington, D.C.-based libertarian advocacy group that worked closely with tea party groups to support dozens of conservative candidates in last Tuesday’s election. As part of what are called “live-read” advertisements, Mr. Beck has urged listeners to join FreedomWorks—a group he also had expressed support for prior to the commercial advertising arrangement.
Mr. Beck declined to comment directly, but Christopher Balfe, president and chief operating officer of Mr. Beck’s production company, said in a statement the spots are no different than any other advertising and Mr. Beck won’t endorse any service or product he doesn’t believe in. Mr. Beck previously has also dropped at least one advertiser after he no longer supported the company, Mr. Balfe said.
Big buyers of pro-Democratic political advertising including Moveon.org, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Healthcare for America Now, and Service Employees International Union, said they haven’t purchased live-read advertising in the past, but did not rule out doing so. A spokesman for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the union had bought live-read ads “on occasion” in the past but did not disclose details.
The line between non-partisan news and political commentary on television and radio has increasingly blurred—and is often difficult for media companies to police. TV and radio personalities across the political divide were headliners at major rallies this year. Some conservative talk show commentators, including Mr. Hannity, broadcast from nearby locations during tea-party rallies during the past two years. An October rally featuring Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert attracted Democratic groups. The Democratic National Committee greeted buses arriving in Washington for the rally, seeking volunteers for get out the vote efforts. However, Fox News was not a sponsor of the tea-party rallies, saying it pulled Mr. Hannity from one in April. Comedy Central said no political groups were sponsors of the event featuring Mr. Stewart.
In the past it remained uncommon for media celebrities to be paid in connection with their support for political causes. The commercial nature of the endorsements is acknowledged on the radio shows, generally referred to as a sponsorship or a “partnership” between the host and the advertiser.
Ads voiced by radio hosts date back to the dawn of the medium, and are sold at a premium because they impart the host’s personal imprimatur. But paid live-read commercials asking listeners to support or give money to electoral causes have reached a new level in the most-recent election cycle, according to some industry experts.
September 21, 2010
The New York Times
By: Peter Baker
Some of the critical players in President Obama’s national security team doubt his strategy in Afghanistan will succeed and have spent much of the last 20 months quarreling with one another over policy, personalities and turf, according to a new book.
The book, “Obama’s Wars,” by the journalist Bob Woodward, depicts an administration deeply torn over the war in Afghanistan even as the president agreed to triple troop levels there amid suspicion that he was being boxed in by the military. Mr. Obama’s top White House adviser on Afghanistan and his special envoy for the region are described as believing the strategy will not work.
The president concluded from the start that “I have two years with the public on this” and pressed advisers for ways to avoid a big escalation, the book says. “I want an exit strategy,” he implored at one meeting. Privately, he told Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings, and while Mr. Obama ultimately rejected it, he set a withdrawal timetable because, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”
But Mr. Biden is not the only one who harbors doubts about the strategy’s chances for success. Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the president’s Afghanistan adviser, is described as believing that the president’s review did not “add up” to the decision he made. Richard C. Holbrooke, the president’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is quoted saying of the strategy that “it can’t work.”
Mr. Woodward, the longtime Washington Post reporter and editor, was granted extensive access to administration officials and documents for his account, including an interview with Mr. Obama. The New York Times obtained a copy of the book before its publication by Simon & Schuster, scheduled for next week. The White House had no comment on the book Tuesday night.
Although the internal divisions described have become public, the book suggests that they were even more intense and disparate than previously known and offers new details. Mr. Biden called Mr. Holbrooke “the most egotistical bastard I’ve ever met.” A variety of administration officials expressed scorn for James L. Jones, the retired Marine general who is national security adviser, while he referred to some of the president’s other aides as “the water bugs” or “the Politburo.”
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thought his vice chairman, Gen. James E. Cartwright, went behind his back, while General Cartwright dismissed Admiral Mullen because he wasn’t a war fighter. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates worried that General Jones would be succeeded by his deputy, Thomas E. Donilon, who would be a “disaster.”
Gen. David H. Petraeus, who was overall commander for the Middle East until becoming the Afghanistan commander this summer, told a senior aide that he disliked talking with David M. Axelrod, the president’s senior adviser, because he was “a complete spin doctor.” General Petraeus was effectively banned by the administration from the Sunday talk shows but worked private channels with Congress and the news media.
And the book recounts incidents in which Adm. Dennis C. Blair, then the national intelligence director, fought with Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, and John O. Brennan, the counterterrorism adviser.
During a daily intelligence briefing in May 2009, Mr. Blair warned the president that radicals with American and European passports were being trained in Pakistan to attack their homelands. Mr. Emanuel afterward chastised him, saying, “You’re just trying to put this on us so it’s not your fault.” Mr. Blair also skirmished with Mr. Brennan about a report on the failed airliner terrorist attack on Dec. 25. Mr. Obama later forced Mr. Blair out.
Beyond the internal battles, the book offers fresh disclosures on the nation’s continuing battle with terrorists. It reports that the C.I.A. has a 3,000-man “covert army” in Afghanistan called the Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, or C.T.P.T., mostly Afghans who capture and kill Taliban fighters and seek support in tribal areas. Past news accounts have reported that the C.I.A. has a number of militias, including one trained on one of its compounds, but not the size of the covert army.
The book also reports that the United States has intelligence showing that manic-depression has been diagnosed in President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and that he was on medication, but adds no details. Mr. Karzai’s mood swings have been a challenge for the Obama administration.
As for Mr. Obama himself, the book describes a professorial president who assigned “homework” to advisers but bristled at what he saw as military commanders’ attempts to force him into a decision he was not yet comfortable with. Even after he agreed to send another 30,000 troops last winter, the Pentagon asked for another 4,500 “enablers” to support them.
The president lost his poise, according to the book. “I’m done doing this!” he erupted.
To ensure that the Pentagon did not reinterpret his decision, Mr. Obama dictated a six-page, single-space “terms sheet” explicitly laying out his troop order and its objectives, a document included in the book’s appendix.
Mr. Obama’s struggle with the decision comes through in a conversation with Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who asked if his deadline to begin withdrawal in July 2011 was firm. “I have to say that,” Mr. Obama replied. “I can’t let this be a war without end, and I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”
September 20, 2010
By Greg Bluestien
Former President Jimmy Carter said Monday he sees parallels between today’s tea party and his own campaign for the White House in 1976. But he doesn’t think the movement will be much of a factor beyond this fall’s elections.
The Georgia Democrat told The Associated Press he rode a wave of voter discontent to the presidency on the heels of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal that felled President Richard Nixon, much like tea partyconservatives are now earning support by voicing anger at the nation’s economic woes.
“I was a candidate that was in some ways like the tea party candidate,” Carter said in an interview. “I was a complete outsider. I capitalized legitimately on the dissatisfaction that was permeating our society.”
“I think they’re going to be quite a major factor in November,” he said. “I think there’s already a process of absorbing them into the Republican Party. I think they will be much less of a factor in 2012 and in future years.”
The comments came the same day the former president’s new book, “White House Diary,” was released.
In the book, Carter said he pursued an overly aggressive agenda as president that may have confused voters and alienated lawmakers. But he said the tipping points that cost him the 1980 election were the Iran hostage crisis and the primary challenge by U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.
“Had we not had the hostage crisis, I would have won,” he said in the interview of his defeat to Republican Ronald Reagan, adding: “Had I not had Kennedy as my opponent, who sapped away a portion of the Democratic wing, I would have been re-elected.”
Carter said in the book that he is proud of his accomplishments during his presidency, but that pushing controversial decisions such as the end of U.S. control of the Panama Canal and working to normalize relations with Communist China cost him political support.
“I overburdened Congress with an array of controversial and politically costly requests. Looking back, I am struck by how many unpopular objectives we pursued,” he said, adding: “We were able to achieve a remarkable amount of what we set out to do, but ultimately the political cost—of my administration and for members of Congress—was very high.”
Carter, 85, compiled the book from thoughts and observations he dictated several times a day in tapes turned over to his secretary. Thirty years later, he condensed and annotated the diary with recent reflections. The book was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The former president said in the interview that he neglected his role as the party’s leader, opening a vacuum that cost some of his chief legislative supporters their jobs. He said there were 20 senators up for re-election in 1978 who voted for the Panama treaty—and only seven came back to the Senate the next year.
“One of the things I could have done better is I could have been a better leader of the Democratic Party. I didn’t feel comfortable,” he said.
Carter said he decided to publish the diary because it “may be my last chance to offer an assessment of my time in the White House,” he wrote.
August 13, 2010
By: Nile Gardener
The last few weeks have been a nightmare for President Obama, in a summer of discontent in the United States which has deeply unsettled the ruling liberal elites, so much so that even the Left has begun to turn against the White House. While the anti-establishment Tea Party movement has gained significant ground and is now a rising and powerful political force to be reckoned with, many of the president’s own supporters as well as independents are rapidly losing faith in Barack Obama, with open warfare breaking out between the White House and the left-wing of the Democratic Party. While conservatism in America grows stronger by the day, the forces of liberalism are growing increasingly weaker and divided.
Against this backdrop, the president’s approval ratings have been sliding dramatically all summer, with the latest Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll of US voters dropping to minus 22 points, the lowest point so far for Barack Obama since taking office. While just 24 per cent of American voters strongly approve of the president’s job performance, almost twice that number, 46 per cent, strongly disapprove. According to Rasmussen, 65 per cent of voters believe the United States is going down the wrong track, including 70 per cent of independents.
The RealClearPolitics average of polls now has President Obama at over 50 per cent disapproval, a remarkably high figure for a president just 18 months into his first term. Strikingly, the latest USA Today/Gallup survey has the President on just 41 per cent approval, with 53 per cent disapproving.
There are an array of reasons behind the stunning decline and political fall of President Obama, chief among them fears over the current state of the US economy, with widespread concern over high levels of unemployment, the unstable housing market, and above all the towering budget deficit. Americans are increasingly rejecting President Obama’s big government solutions to America’s economic woes, which many fear will lead to the United States sharing the same fate as Greece.
Growing disillusionment with the Obama administration’s handling of the economy as well as health care and immigration has gone hand in hand with mounting unhappiness with the President’s aloof and imperial style of leadership, and a growing perception that he is out of touch with ordinary Americans, especially at a time of significant economic pain. Barack Obama’s striking absence of natural leadership ability (and blatant lack of experience) has played a big part in undermining his credibility with the US public, with his lacklustre handling of the Gulf oil spill coming under particularly intense fire.
On the national security and foreign policy front, President Obama has not fared any better. His leadership on the war in Afghanistan has been confused and at times lacking in conviction, and seemingly dictated by domestic political priorities rather than military and strategic goals. His overall foreign policy has been an appalling mess, with his flawed strategy of engagement of hostile regimes spectacularly backfiring. And as for the War on Terror, his administration has not even acknowledged it is fighting one.
Can it get any worse for President Obama? Undoubtedly yes. Here are 10 key reasons why the Obama presidency is in serious trouble, and why its prospects are unlikely to improve between now and the November mid-terms.
1. The Obama presidency is out of touch with the American people
In a previous post I noted how the Obama presidency increasingly resembles a modern-day Ancien Régime, extravagant, decaying and out of touch with ordinary Americans. The First Lady’s ill-conceived trip to Spain at a time of widespread economic hardship was symbolic of a White House that barely gives a second thought to public opinion on many issues, and frequently projects a distinctly elitist image. The “let them eat cake” approach didn’t play well over two centuries ago, and it won’t succeed today.
2. Most Americans don’t have confidence in the president’s leadership
This deficit of trust in Obama’s leadership is central to his decline. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, “nearly six in ten voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country”, and two thirds “say they are disillusioned with or angry about the way the federal government is working.” The poll showed that a staggering 58 per cent of Americans say they do not have confidence in the president’s decision-making, with just 42 per cent saying they do.
3. Obama fails to inspire
In contrast to the soaring rhetoric of his 2004 Convention speech in Boston which succeeded in impressing millions of television viewers at the time, America is no longer inspired by Barack Obama’s flat, monotonous and often dull presidential speeches and statements delivered via teleprompter. From his extraordinarily uninspiring Afghanistan speech at West Point to his flat State of the Union address, President Obama has failed to touch the heart of America. Even Jimmy Carter was more moving.
4. The United States is drowning in debt
The Congressional Budget Office Long-Term Budget Outlook offers a frightening picture of the scale of America’s national debt. Under its alternative fiscal scenario, the CBO projects that US debt could rise to 87 percent of GDP by 2020, 109 percent by 2025, and 185 percent in 2035. While much of Europe, led by Britain and Germany, are aggressively cutting their deficits, the Obama administration is actively growing America’s debt, and has no plan in place to avert a looming Greek-style financial crisis.
5. Obama’s Big Government message is falling flat
The relentless emphasis on bailouts and stimulus spending has done little to spur economic growth or create jobs, but has greatly advanced the power of the federal government in America. This is not an approach that is proving popular with the American public, and even most European governments have long ditched this tax and spend approach to saving their own economies.
6. Obama’s support for socialised health care is a huge political mistake
In an extraordinary act of political Harakiri, President Obama leant his full support to the hugely controversial, unpopular and divisive health care reform bill, with a monstrous price tag of $940 billion, whose repeal is now supported by 55 per cent of likely US voters. As I wrote at the time of its passing, the legislation is “a great leap forward by the United States towards a European-style vision of universal health care, which will only lead to soaring costs, higher taxes, and a surge in red tape for small businesses. This reckless legislation dramatically expands the power of the state over the lives of individuals, and could not be further from the vision of America’s founding fathers.”
7. Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill has been weak-kneed and indecisive
While much of the spilled oil in the Gulf has now been thankfully cleared up, the political damage for the White House will be long-lasting. Instead of showing real leadership on the matter by acing decisively and drawing upon offers of international support, the Obama administration settled on a more convenient strategy of relentlessly bashing an Anglo-American company while largely sitting on its hands. Significantly, a poll of Louisiana voters gave George W. Bush higher marks for his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with 62 percent disapproving of Obama’s performance on the Gulf oil spill.
8. US foreign policy is an embarrassing mess under the Obama administration
It is hard to think of a single foreign policy success for the Obama administration, but there have been plenty of missteps which have weakened American global power as well as the standing of the United States. The surrender to Moscow on Third Site missile defence, the failure to aggressively stand up to Iran’s nuclear programme, the decision to side with ousted Marxists in Honduras, the slap in the face for Great Britain over the Falklands, have all contributed to the image of a US administration completely out of its depth in international affairs. The Obama administration’s high risk strategy of appeasing America’s enemies while kicking traditional US allies has only succeeded in weakening the United States while strengthening her adversaries.
9. President Obama is muddled and confused on national security
From the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the War on Terror, President Obama’s leadership has often been muddled and confused. On Afghanistan he rightly sent tens of thousands of additional troops to the battlefield. At the same time however he bizarrely announced a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces beginning in July 2011, handing the initiative to the Taliban. On Iraq he has announced an end to combat operations and the withdrawal of all but 50,000 troops despite a recent upsurge in terrorist violence and political instability, and without the Iraqi military and police ready to take over. In addition he has ditched the concept of a War on Terror, replacing it with an Overseas Contingency Operation, hardly the right message to send in the midst of a long-war against Al-Qaeda.
10. Obama doesn’t believe in American greatness
Barack Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, and has made apologising for his country into an art form. In a speech to the United Nations last September he stated that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.” It is difficult to see how a US president who holds these views and does not even accept America’s greatness in history can actually lead the world’s only superpower with force and conviction.
There is a distinctly Titanic-like feel to the Obama presidency and it’s not hard to see why. The most left-wing president in modern American history has tried to force a highly interventionist, government-driven agenda that runs counter to the principles of free enterprise, individual freedom, and limited government that have made the United States the greatest power in the world, and the freest nation on earth.
This, combined with weak leadership both at home and abroad against the backdrop of tremendous economic uncertainty in an increasingly dangerous world, has contributed to a spectacular political collapse for a president once thought to be invincible. America at its core remains a deeply conservative nation, which cherishes its traditions and founding principles. President Obama is increasingly out of step with the American people, by advancing policies that undermine the United States as a global power, while undercutting America’s deep-seated love for freedom.
August 10, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
By: John Fund
As President Obama sinks in the polls, Democrats and liberal pundits inevitably are searching for a scapegoat. The most likely victim appears to be gaffe-prone Vice President Joe Biden, who has become the focus of speculation that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just might replace him on the 2012 Democratic ticket.
Former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, his state’s first African-American governor, touched off the controversy. Writing at Politico.com last week, Mr. Wilder argued that Mr. Biden’s tenure has been undistinguished and chock full of “too many YouTube moments.” He charged that Mr. Biden “has continued to undermine what little confidence the public may have had in him.”
By way of contrast, Mr. Wilder says that Hillary Clinton has excelled in her role. “Clinton has been nothing but a team player who has earned good marks since being asked to serve as secretary of state.” Having Mrs. Clinton join the 2012 ticket, he said, would revive the Democratic Party and reestablish the party’s working-class voters who found her appealing during the 2012 primaries against Mr. Obama.
Pundits jumped on Mr. Wilder’s comments and expressed near-universal approval. On his syndicated national show, Chris Matthews of MSNBC assembled a panel to discuss the Wilder intervention. Howard Fineman of Newsweek, a longtime Hillary watcher, said Mrs. Clinton would accept a place on the 2012 ticket “in a second.” John Heilemann, a reporter New York magazine, said the major obstacle would be to “figure out a way for Biden to slide aside happily” and suggested that Mr. Biden replace Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State.
Along the way, Mr. Heilemann outlined why President Obama just might want to have a steadier hand at his side for his re-election campaign: “The Republican attack on Obama is going to revolve around ‘too liberal,’ but also ‘too incompetent.’ . . . They’re going to say, ‘Look, you hired this guy. He was too young for this job. He didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t have the experience, and look what’s happened.’”
Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the campaign Mrs. Clinton ran against Barack Obama in 2008, complete with that infamous commercial asking voters who they wanted in the White House when a 3 a.m. crisis call came in.
July 12, 2010
The New York Times
By: Abby Goodnough
In a private meeting with White House officials this weekend, Democratic governors voiced deep anxiety about the Obama administration’s suit against Arizona’s new immigration law, worrying that it could cost a vulnerable Democratic Party in the fall elections.
While the weak economy dominated the official agenda at the summer meeting here of the National Governors Association, concern over immigration policy pervaded the closed-door session between Democratic governors and White House officials and simmered throughout the three-day event.
At the Democrats’ meeting on Saturday, some governors bemoaned the timing of the Justice Department lawsuit, according to two governors who spoke anonymously because the discussion was private.
“Universally the governors are saying, ‘We’ve got to talk about jobs,’ ” Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, said in an interview. “And all of a sudden we have immigration going on.”
He added, “It is such a toxic subject, such an important time for Democrats.”
The administration seemed to be taking a carrot-and-stick approach on Sunday. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, in town to give the governors a classified national security briefing, met one-on-one with Jan Brewer, the Republican who succeeded her as governor of Arizona and ardently supports the immigration law.
About the same time as that meeting, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on a taped Sunday talk show that the Justice Department could bring yet another lawsuit against Arizona if there is evidence that the immigration law leads to racial profiling.
Ms. Brewer said she and Ms. Napolitano did not discuss the current lawsuit. Instead, in a conversation she described as cordial, they discussed Arizona’s request for more National Guard troops along the border with Mexico, as well as other resources.
The Democrats’ meeting provided a window on tensions between the White House and states over the suit, which the Justice Department filed last week in federal court in Phoenix. Nineteen Democratic governors are either leaving office or seeking re-election this year, and Republicans see those seats as crucial to swaying the 2012 presidential race.
The Arizona law — which Ms. Brewer signed in April and which, barring an injunction, takes effect July 29 — makes it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant there. It also requires police officers to determine the immigration status of people they stop for other offenses if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that they might be illegal immigrants.
The lawsuit contends that controlling immigration is a federal responsibility, but polls suggest that a majority of Americans support the Arizona law, or at least the concept of a state having a strong role in immigration enforcement.
Republican governors at the Boston meeting were also critical of the lawsuit, saying it infringed on states’ rights and rallying around Ms. Brewer, whose presence spurred a raucous protest around the downtown hotel where the governors gathered.
“I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that almost every state in America next January is going to see a bill similar to Arizona’s,” said Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska, a Republican seeking re-election.
But the unease of Democratic governors, seven of whom are seeking re-election this year, was more striking.
“I might have chosen both a different tack and a different time,” said Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado, a Democrat who was facing a tough fight for re-election and pulled out of the race earlier this year. “This is an issue that divides us politically, and I’m hopeful that their strategy doesn’t do that in a way that makes it more difficult for candidates to get elected, particularly in the West.”
The White House would not directly respond to reports of complaints from some Democratic governors.
But David Axelrod, the president’s senior adviser, said on Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the president remained committed to passing an immigration overhaul, and that addressing the issue did not mean he was ignoring the economy.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t have a good, healthy debate about the economy and other issues,” Mr. Axelrod said.
Mr. Obama addressed the economy last week during stops in Kansas City and Las Vegas, and has been calling on Congress to offer additional tax relief to small businesses.
The nation’s total federal debt next year is expected to exceed $14 trillion, and Mr. Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, and Mr. Bowles, a Democrat and the White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, offered a gloomy assessment if spending is not brought under control even more.
“This debt is like a cancer,” Mr. Bowles said. “It is truly going to destroy the country from within.”
Still, the issue of immigration commanded as much attention as anything here this weekend.
Ms. Brewer, who was trailed by television cameras all weekend, called the lawsuit “outrageous” and said the state was receiving donations from around the country to help fight it.
“I think Arizona will win,” she said, “and we will take a position for all of America.”
Immigration was not the only topic at the Saturday meeting between Democratic governors and two White House officials — Patrick Gaspard, Mr. Obama’s political director, and Cecilia Munoz, director of intergovernmental affairs. But several governors, including Christine Gregoire of Washington, said it was a particularly heated issue.
Ms. Gregoire, who does not face an election this year, said the White House was doing a poor job of showing the American public that it was working on the problem of illegal immigration.
July 7, 2010
The Washington Post
By: Philip Rucker
The Democratic Party is moving faster and more aggressively than in previous election years to dig up unflattering details about Republican challengers. In House races from New Jersey to Ohio to California, Democratic operatives are seizing on evidence of GOP candidates’ unpaid income taxes, property tax breaks and ties to financial firms that received taxpayer bailout money.
n recent weeks, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has circulated information to local reporters about Republican candidates in close races. Among the claims:
– That Jim Renacci of Ohio once owed nearly $1.4 million in unpaid state taxes.
– That David Harmer of California received $160,000 in bonus and severance pay from a firm that got a federal bailout.
– That Jon Runyan of New Jersey got a legal break in property taxes for his 25-acre homestead by qualifying for a farmland assessment thanks to his four donkeys.
Renacci’s campaign said the candidate did not believe he had tax liabilities for a trust fund and eventually paid all that he owed. A spokesman for Harmer said criticizing him for the money he lawfully earned is a “severe twist of the facts.” Runyan’s campaign said his actions were legal.
Jon Vogel, executive director of the DCCC, said Democrats are merely pointing out that some Republican recruits in competitive House races are “flawed candidates.”
He added, “We have made this election a choice. . . . They’re trying to run this national message in part about fiscal discipline, but they’ve recruited a number of candidates not credible to carry that message.”
Opposition research has been a part of political campaigns for decades, but the 2010 cycle is different. In many states, Republicans have steered clear of candidates with long political track records — eschewing state representatives and veteran city council members who have cast thousands of votes ripe for scrutiny — in favor of political outsiders. The top GOP recruits include several former professional sports stars, as well as doctors and businessmen.
“We can win the contrast, but not the referendum,” Democratic strategist Steve Murphy said. “What is critical in this election cycle is for Democratic candidates to hold Republican candidates accountable for their views.”
Republicans see the Democrats’ strategy as a sign of weakness.
“When the issues are cutting against you, it is typical for a party in trouble to resort to other means,” said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “With the unemployment rate unacceptably high and President Obama‘s approval rating falling, they have nothing left to run on other than character assassination.”
Democratic officials are advising campaigns to hire trackers to follow their Republican opponents to public events with video cameras, ready to catch any gaffe or misstatement. And the Democratic National Committee last week issued a call to the public to submit any embarrassing audio or video of Republicans, as well as copies of their direct-mail advertisements.
Party officials would not say how many staffers are working on opposition research. Such work used to be farmed out to campaign consultants, but the DCCC brought research operations in-house in 2008 to be more nimble. “It may appear to be more aggressive this cycle because what we’re finding on Republicans is so rich,” Vogel said.
In Ohio, Democrats are trying to exploit Renacci’s business record in his race against Rep. John Boccieri (D). Renacci, who owns a Chevrolet dealership, nursing homes, real estate investments and sports teams, among other interests, has faced a string of lawsuits related to his businesses.
Democratic operatives circulated a report in April that Renacci owed nearly $1.4 million in unpaid state taxes, interest and penalties. Renacci fought the assessment, believing the money he was holding in a trust was free of state tax liabilities. But after losing a dispute over his liability, Renacci paid everything he owed, said his campaign manager, James Slepian.
“This is a story that the DCCC was pushing pretty hard,” Slepian said. “It’s unfortunate that John Boccieri has chosen to conduct his campaign by slinging mud from behind Nancy Pelosi‘s desk rather than talking about the issues that really matter.”
But Democrats say the strategy paid dividends in the May special election for the Pennsylvania House seat of the late Democrat John P. Murtha. Republican Tim Burns framed the race as a referendum on Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), both unpopular in a district that Obama lost to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. But Democrat Mark Critz won handily after tailoring his message to local concerns and attacking Burns for saying he would protect tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.
“Some years you ride the wave, and other years you paddle your canoe,” Democratic strategist Paul Begala said. “Democrats, they’ve got to paddle like hell. So what you do when you’re paddling is, as the Republicans seek to nationalize, you localize and personalize.”