- The Washington Times - Monday, August 10, 2009

‘TERRIFYING’

“We have entered uncharted territory in the fight over national health care,” Peggy Noonan writes at www. opinionjournal.com.

“There’s a new tone in the debate, and it’s ugly. At the moment, the Democrats are looking like something they haven’t looked like in years, and that is: desperate,” Miss Noonan said.

“They must know at this point they should not have pushed a national health care plan. A Democratic operative the other day called it ‘Hillary’s revenge.’ When Mrs. Clinton started losing to Barack Obama in the primaries 18 months ago, she began to give new and sharper emphasis to her health care plan. Mr. Obama responded by talking about his health care vision. He won. Now he would push what he had been forced to highlight: Health care would be a priority initiative. The net result is falling support for his leadership on the issue, falling personal polls, and the angry town hall meetings that have electrified YouTube.

“In his first five months in office, Mr. Obama had racked up big wins - the stimulus, children’s health insurance, House approval of cap and trade. But he stayed too long at the hot table. All the Democrats in Washington did. They overinterpreted the meaning of the 2008 election and didn’t fully take into account how the great recession changed the national mood and atmosphere.

“And so the shock on the faces of congressmen who’ve faced the grillings back home. And really, their shock is the first thing you see in the videos. They had no idea how people were feeling. Their 2008 win left them thinking an election that had been shaped by anti-Bush, anti-Republican, and pro-change feeling was really a mandate without context; they thought that in the middle of a historic recession featuring horrific deficits, they could assume support for the invention of a huge new entitlement carrying huge new costs.

“The passions of the protesters, on the other hand, are not a surprise. They hired a man to represent them in Washington. They give him a big office, a huge staff and the power to tell people what to do. They give him a car and a driver, sometimes a security detail and a special pin showing he’s a congressman. And all they ask in return is that he see to their interests and not terrify them too much. Really, that’s all people ask. Expectations are very low. What the protesters are saying is, ‘You are terrifying us.’ ”

JIMMY CARTER II?

“What we’re seeing in Washington these days is beginning to look like Jimmy Carter II,” Kansas City Star columnist E. Thomas McClanahan writes.

“Carter, like Barack Obama, started out with the idea of stimulating the economy,” Mr. McClanahan said.

“His plan was to give every taxpayer $50, then throw in a few billion for tax cuts and public works programs. Simple, right? Wrong: In Washington, this soon became very complicated. Within a month, the package grew from $20 billion to more than $31 billion - a significant amount in the 1970s.

“Special-interest groups piled on. Unions, minorities, the sugar lobby, bankers, shoe manufacturers - all clamored for a piece of the pie, all wanted to know: ‘Where’s mine?’

“In April of his first year in office, Carter finally threw up his hands and scrapped the whole idea. He had dithered for four months. He had nothing to show for the effort. By then he was fatally diminished, his authority substantially eroded.

“With the Obama administration, a similar unraveling is well under way and gathering momentum. Voters are increasingly restive. The country is souring on Obama’s gargantuan policy ambitions. The sense is growing that he has grossly overplayed his hand.

“Like Carter, Obama looks increasingly like a president out of step with the times. Like Carter, there is a large gap between what voters expected based on the measured and moderate tone of his campaign and what began unfolding after his inauguration. Obama ran as a centrist, but he is governing from the left.”

JERSEY BLUES

“Deep-Democrat-blue New Jersey is on a direct course to go Republican-red this fall, and it does not look like even Obama-esque hope and change can stop that,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Salena Zito writes.

“To the middle-right (the only way New Jersey can reasonably go red) is former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. To his left is Gov. Jon Corzine, running in one of two (Virginia is the other) off-year gubernatorial elections.

“RealClearPolitics’ average of recent polling shows a 51-39 lead for Christie. For an incumbent, being not only behind, but far under 50 percent, is deadly. Just ask Pennsylvania’s former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, a Republican whose numbers in a 2006 race against now-U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. mirror Corzine’s.

“One highly respected national pollster for the Democrats admits privately he sees in this race that ‘this may be over’ for Corzine.

“Says political scientist Bert Rockman: ‘Corzine has been around the block,’ with two U.S. Senate terms and one as governor, so ‘his Republican challenger may be able to look like a plausible alternative’ to tired voters.

“Corzine was not helped when 44 mayors, state lawmakers and miscellaneous public officials - many of them Democrats - were arrested as part of a bizarre live-organ, Gucci-handbag racketeering ring.

“Last week, Corzine, feeling boxed-in by his own personality flaws and lack of traction, played the ‘Bush card’ - with an ad tying his opponent to the former president.

“In last year’s hope-and-change cycle, that would have been a big hit. This year, not so much.”

DOG’S BEST FRIEND

“Portuguese water dogs, like Bo Obama, are apparently experts on personality. Just ask Elias Zerhouni, former director of the National Institutes of Health,” Nikki Schwab writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

“Zerhouni, a George W. Bush appointee, had to meet with Ted Kennedy, who was chair of the confirmation committee in the Senate, to get the gig. ‘I was told that the meeting with Kennedy was the key meeting- “If he likes you, you’re in, if he doesn’t like you, it’s all over,” ‘ Zerhouni recalled this [past] week at the Lasker Foundation and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health awards ceremony.

” ‘Throughout the meeting, his Portuguese water dog stayed by my side,’ says Zerhouni. ‘Ted ended up by saying, “I’m going to support you, because my dog likes you.” ‘ ”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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