Scene above: Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2010
SIGNS OF DESPERATION ALREADY? – AT 7:55 P.M. ET: The Democratic Party is pursuing a campaign strategy that shows just how much progress American politics has made in the age of Obama:
WASHINGTON — Democratic candidates across the country are opening a fierce offensive of negative advertisements against Republicans, using lawsuits, tax filings, reports from the Better Business Bureau and even divorce proceedings to try to discredit their opponents and save their Congressional majority.
Opposition research and attack advertising are used in almost every election, but these biting ads are coming far earlier than ever before, according to party strategists. The campaign has intensified in the last two weeks as early voting begins in several states and as vulnerable incumbents try to fight off an onslaught of influences by outside groups.
As they struggle to break through with economic messages, many Democrats are deploying the fruits of a yearlong investigation into the business and personal histories of Republican candidates in an effort to plant doubts about them and avoid having races become a national referendum on the performance of President Obama and his party.
Yeah, that last part is a gem. We must avoid any judgment of The One. Well, it's religiously consistent. We don't judge devine creatures.
A debate has broken out among some Democratic officials about the effectiveness — or wisdom — of running such pointedly negative advertisements with five weeks remaining in the campaign. But party strategists said candidates did not have the luxury of waiting until the final stretch to go negative, particularly if the goal is to localize the races.
I know, I know. Sensing when to smear is such a fine art, and there just aren't enough practitioners to go around. And you know whose fault that is? BUSH!!
Republicans must counter every charge, and throw in plenty of their own. Theirs is a target-rich environment.
WASHINGTON: It's a bizarre example of juggling work and home life — a 37-year-old mother of two in the US robbed a bank on her way to pick up kids from school, a media report said. Erica Anderson went into an Umpqua Bank branch in Grants Pass and handed the teller a note demanding cash with one special request — not to call the police for 15 minutes as she had to pick up her kids from school.
And people say we don't produce responsible mothers. Nonsense.
OH JERUSALEM – AT 9:48 A.M. ET: We haven't been discussing the Israel-Palestinian talks at Urgent Agendabecause nothing much has happened. No breakthroughs. No agreements. The talks may actually break down today.
The issue is Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Israel recently imposed a moratorium on new construction in those settlements, the better to advance peace talks and satisfy Washington. That moratorium expires tonight. The Palestinians, in their usual blundering way – which has gotten them nothing in 62 years – are demanding that the moratorium be extended or they'll leave the talks. In other words, it's the standard Palestinian position – give us 100% or we walk. Brilliant.
The problem is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is presiding over a fragile coalition that includes pro-settlement elements. It could break apart if he extends the moratorium, essentially collapsing the peace talks and probably requiring a new Israeli election.
Some flexibility is going to be required on both sides for the talks to continue. Apparently, the Israelis are open to compromise, but the Palestinians, thus far, are not. This merely adds to the suspicion, widespread among Israelis, that the Palestinians are not serious, and are setting the talks up for failure, which would then be blamed on the Israelis.
Negotiations are intense right now. There may be news late in the day.
ON THE OTHER HAND – AT 9:32 A.M. ET: In contrast to the more somber political news coming out of California, as reported in the post just below, the picture in the Midwest looks entirely different. From The Politico:
Two years after President Barack Obama swept the Midwest, Democratic fortunes in the region are sagging, with the GOP poised to make big gains by scooping up disaffected independent voters in a wide swath of states hit by job losses, budget woes and political scandal.
From Ohio to Iowa, there’s a yawning stretch of heartland states whose citizens voted for Obama and congressional Democrats in 2008, but who have lost patience waiting for an as-yet undelivered economic revival that was first promised in 2006, and then two years later. Now, they look set to stampede toward the out-of-power party.
“There's little doubt that the Midwest is the Democrats' toughest region this year,” Democratic pollster Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling wrote on the firm’s website Friday, adding that the firm is also finding an enthusiasm gap of about 10 points down from what existed in 2008.
“If the election was today the party would almost certainly lose the Governorships it holds in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. It's also more than likely at this point to lose the Senate seats it has in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Indiana, miss out on a once promising pick up opportunity in Ohio, and quite possibly lose their seat in Illinois as well. And there are too many House seats the party could lose in the region to count,” Jensen noted.
COMMENT: The Midwest has often been the heartbreaker for one party or the other. This year it's the Dems' turn to go away weepin' and wailin'. When you don't deliver what you promise, this is what happens.
For me, the most important Senate races are in Pennsylvania and Illinois. I don't want Democrat Joe Sestak elected to the Senate from Pennsylvania. He's a zero, despite his Navy background. Pat Toomey, the GOP candidate, has substance and is an articulate carrier of the GOP message. I want to see our side take Obama's Senate seat in Illinois. Mark Kirk has proved a lesser candidate than we'd hoped – his exaggerations of his service record are not helpful – but he stands skyscrapers above his corrupt opponent, and will be a solid senator.
Some of the Dems possibly heading for defeat are decent people, like Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. But they're carrying the wrong message this year.
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' – AT 9:17 A.M. ET:Well, the effort is there, but recent polls in California are trending away from a Republican victory in either the gubernatorial or senatorial races.
California is one of the bluest of the blue states, so this is not entirely surprising. And there is still more than a month to go before the election, so fight on we will. But California Democrats, apparently determined to make matters worse in the once-golden state, are coming home to Barbara Boxer. I mean, who would want to come home to Barbara Boxer? From Politics Daily:
Three-term Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is leading Republican challenger Carly Fiorina by 47 percent to 41 percent with 12 percent undecided, according to a Field poll conducted Sept. 14-21. The margin of error is 4.1 points.
Boxer's margin over Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, has been creeping up ever so slightly compared to previous Field polls. In March, she led 45 percent to 44 percent; in July, her lead was 47 percent to 44 percent.
In surveys by other pollsters that we have reported, Public Policy Polling had Boxer ahead by 50 percent to 42 percent in a poll conducted Sept. 14-16; Boxer led 46 percent to 44 percent in a poll conducted Sept. 11 by Fox News/Pulse Opinion Research; Fiorina led Boxer 48 percent to 47 percent in a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted Sept. 6; and Boxer ran ahead of Fiorina 48 percent to 44 percent in a CNN/Time/Opinion Research poll conducted Sept. 2-7.
The other bad news is that former governor Jerry Brown is pulling ahead of Republican challenger Meg Whitman.
One reason for our reversal of fortune in California is that President Obama, in contrast to national trends, remains solidly popular in the state. Midterms are often a referendum on the national administration. If that's the case in California, we're running uphill.
Miracles are still possible. Neither Boxer nor Brown are in landslide territory. Battle on. But the facts thus far are not all that encouraging.
YOU WANNA WORK THERE? – AT 6:23 P.M. ET: What an example of the way Washington really works. Even weddings aren't sacred. From The Politico:
Peter Orszag, the former White House budget director, won’t have the West Wing firepower he’d hoped for when he marries ABC News anchor Bianna Golodryga in Manhattan on Saturday.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and senior advisers David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett have all sent regrets.
The New York Post's “Page Six” gossip column reported: “The Obama power trio were expected at the lavish nuptials, but decided not to come at the last minute. The snub comes after Orszag, who resigned as budget director in late July, wrote an op-ed column that clashed with the Obama administration's stance in favor of raising taxes on earners of more than $250,000 a year.”
Now, of course, anonymous sources assure The Politico that the terrible trio had never planned to come in the first place. You mean, all three? You believe that?
Look, it's the game down there. Once you leave, you're toast. If you say anything negative after you leave, you're burnt toast.
Harry Truman once famously said that if you want a friend in Washington, get a cocker spaniel. But, the way things have degenerated, even a cocker spaniel would have sent regrets to Orszag.
I'm sure it will be a lovely wedding without the White House staff, and a good time will be had by all.
Oh, there's some leftover food from three empty places. Anyone interested?
IT'S GETTING BORING, IT REALLY IS – AT 10:31 A.M. ET: Will someone please send President Obama a note? Please say something like, "Dear Mr. President, it really isn't a good idea to talk about all the options you have on Iran, when everything you've done to stop the Iranians has failed. I'm falling asleep, sir, I really am."
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday there are a "host of options" available to the United States and its allies if sanctions against Iran fail to thwart its nuclear ambitions.
How about naming a few, Mr. Prez.
Obama, speaking in an interview with BBC Persian, said he prefers a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with Tehran but that would require a different attitude from Iran.
The U.S. president, in New York for a session of the U.N. General Assembly, used the Farsi-language broadcast to send a message to Iran, whose leadership has defied Washington's efforts to curb Tehran's nuclear program.
"We are willing to reach out with an open hand, to the Iranian government and the Iranian people," Obama said as he reiterated his willingness to engage diplomatically.
How many times has he said this? Notice the Iranian reaction.
The Obama administration has recently pushed through new sanctions in the U.N. Security Council and imposed unilateral U.S. penalties. "We do think that the sanctions raise the costs for the government," he said.
Asked what other actions could be taken if sanctions do not work, Obama said: "There are a whole host of options. And these options would be exercised in consultation with the international community."
Oh, I can't wait for that "consultation." I look forward to the wisdom from Libya, or South Africa.
Obama, who did not specify what additional options he had in mind, said a diplomatic solution remained possible. "But it is going to require a change in mindset inside the ... Iranian government."
He doesn't have any other options in mind. That's the problem.
The United States and other Western powers suspect Iran seeks to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says it only wants nuclear technology for civilian electricity generation.
Yes, all those hardened plants are there just to power iPods and hair dryers. In the spirit of multicultural understanding, I accept it.
AND THEY DON'T SPEAK FRENCH EITHER – AT 10:04 A.M. ET: Knowledge is such a wonderful thing. We've struggled to find the explanation for all the anger out there, and the massive shift in the GOP's direction. We needn't have struggled. John Kerry has the explanation. We are relieved. From the Boston Herald:
A testy U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday blamed clueless voters with short attention spans for the uphill battle beleaguered Democrats are facing against Republicans across the nation.
“We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening,” Kerry told reporters after touring the Boston Medical Center yesterday.
You know, I really knew it all along. It's the voters' fault. Why do we still insist on giving these people a ballot?
Conservative political blogger William Jacobson, who writes Legal Insurrection, immediately pounced on Kerry’s comments, saying that attitude is why voters are looking to shake up Capitol Hill by electing upstart candidates such as U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.
“It just continues the Democrats’ theme that the reason people are upset is because they don’t understand. They’re not smart enough. That sort of rhetoric just gets people even more upset,” said Jacobson.
COMMENT: This man Kerry was one state shy of being elected president in 2004.
Oh, by the way, I wonder if Kerry believes the voters were also stupid in 2008, when they elected Obama, and a Democratic House and Senate. It must be a recent problem.
A TALE OF TWO ELECTIONS – AT 9:48 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
KABUL, Afghanistan — Evidence is mounting that fraud in last weekend’s parliamentary election was so widespread that it could affect the results in a third of provinces, calling into question the credibility of a vote that was an important test of the American and Afghan effort to build a stable and legitimate government.
The complaints to provincial election commissions have so far included video clips showing ballot stuffing; the strong-arming of election officials by candidates’ agents; and even the handcuffing and detention of election workers.
When Catherine Engelbrecht and her friends sat down and started talking politics several years ago, they soon agreed that talking wasn’t enough. They wanted to do more. So when the 2008 election came around, “about 50” of her friends volunteered to work at Houston’s polling places.
“What we saw shocked us,” she said. “There was no one checking IDs, judges would vote for people that asked for help. It was fraud, and we watched like deer in the headlights.”...
...“Vacant lots had several voters registered on them. An eight-bed halfway house had more than 40 voters registered at its address,” Engelbrecht said. “We then decided to look at who was registering the voters."
COMMENT: If I may be permitted a question: Why is it that The New York Times, and the bulk of the mainstream media, only show an interest in election fraud if it takes place in a foreign country, but show no interest at all in the massive fraud committed in American cities?
It is likely that fraud will be substantial this November...in the United States. Disturbing signals coming from the Justice Department suggest that corruption and intimidation will not be investigated if it's committed by favored groups. And yet, only Fox seems interested.
I think it's quite possible that several close races could be decided by corrupt practices. Indeed, it's quite possible that Al Franken is in the Senate today because of voter fraud in Minnesota in 2008. Where is the outrage from the institutions that claim to be "the eyes and ears of the public"? I don't see it.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
- Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
Part I of this week's Angel's Corner was sent late Wednesday night.
Part II was sent late last night.
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