- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 4, 2009

BLUE STATES

“We know because he said so, in the first of many famous speeches, that Barack Obama doesn’t see Red America or Blue America, he only sees the United States of America. But as the president contemplates his faltering poll numbers and his stalling health-care push, he might want to consider a more colorful perspective,” Ross Douthat writes in the New York Times.

“The red-blue contrast is often overdrawn. But it’s a sensible way to understand Obama’s summer struggles. On health care, energy, taxes and spending, he’s pushing a blue-state agenda during a recession that’s exposed some of the blue-state model’s weaknesses, and some of the red-state model’s strengths,” Mr. Douthat said.

“Consider Texas and California. In the Bush years, liberal polemicists turned the president’s home state - pious, lightly regulated, stingy with public services and mad for sprawl - into a symbol of everything that was barbaric about Republican America. Meanwhile, California, always liberalism’s favorite laboratory, was passing global-warming legislation, pouring billions into stem-cell research, and seemed to be negotiating its way toward universal health care.

“But flash forward to the current recession, and suddenly Texas looks like a model citizen. The Lone Star [State] kept growing well after the country had dipped into recession. Its unemployment rate and foreclosure rate are both well below the national average. It’s one of only six states that didn’t run budget deficits in 2009.

“Meanwhile, California, long a paradise for regulators and public-sector unions, has become a fiscal disaster area. And it isn’t the only dark blue basket case. Eight states had unemployment over 11 percent in June; seven went for Barack Obama last November.”

SHAKY DEAL

“House Blue Dogs are rightly worried how home-state constituents will view the health-care ‘deal’ they cut with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, and they can add to their list of worries the possibility they’ve been duped,” the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley A. Strassel writes at www.opinionjournal.com.

“To listen to South Carolina Democrat James Clyburn, a member of the House leadership team, the ‘concessions’ they secured from Mr. Waxman aren’t so secure after all,” the writer said.

“Mr. Waxman claimed victory last week when he convinced a handful of rebel conservative Democrats to buckle to his health-care agenda. Mr. Waxman gave up $100 billion, slightly watered down his ‘public option,’ and exempted some small businesses from certain proposed health-care taxes. In return, the Blue Dogs got praise from top Democrats for ‘compromise,’ but remained having to defend any number of provisions - including an onerous surtax on individuals and businesses - that won’t sit well in their more conservative districts.

“Turns out they also have no assurances. Asked by ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl if the Blue Dogs’ ‘concessions’ would remain in a final bill, Mr. Clyburn, the House majority whip, responded: ‘We have absolutely no idea. Remember this bill has to be squared with the product of two other committees. … We have three different tracks running in the House. Now, when the Energy and Commerce Committee finishes, we’ll try to meld these three documents into one, and what that final document will be is certainly not going to be exactly what comes out of [the Energy and Commerce Committee]. People understand that.’ ”

HE’S EVERYWHERE

“Since occupying the White House, Barack Obama has hosted 15 town-hall meetings; appeared in more than 800 images on the White House Flickr photo-stream; and held four prime-time press conferences, the same number held by George W. Bush in his entire presidency,” Jennifer Senior writes in New York magazine.

“He’s sent a video message to the people of Iran. He’s given an address in Cairo that was translated into 14 languages. He’s sat on Jay Leno’s couch, where he riffed about the supreme strangeness of having his own motorcade (“You know, we’ve got the ambulance and then the caboose and then the dogsled”), and he’s walked Brian Williams through the White House, where he introduced the anchor to Bo the dog.

“Two weeks ago, when he made a controversial comment at a press conference (that the Cambridge police had ‘acted stupidly’ toward Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.), he followed up with yet another press appearance in the White House briefing room - and an exclusive interview on ‘Nightline.’And that was before he sat down for a well-publicized beer with Gates and the offending officer … .

“Such are the president’s media habits. It’s gotten to the point where one expects to see and hear from him every day. He’s in the information business almost as much as the policy business. ‘This is president as content provider,’ says Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman and adviser to George W. Bush. ‘It’s like when Rosie O’Donnell had a show and a magazine and a blog.’ ”

DELAWARE’S HOPE

“It’s been a long time since tiny Delaware distinguished itself as it did way back in 1787 when state fathers huddling at Dover’s Golden Fleece Tavern became the first to ratify the Constitution,” Deb Bell writes in the Washington Whispers column at usnews.com.

“Now, more than two centuries later, Delaware is back as the state of firsts. And not just because Joe Biden is the first vice president from Delaware. The Mid-Atlantic coastal state could finally get its first national park, a goal championed by Biden in the 1990s. And he’s now in a position to make sure it happens,” the writer said.

Leading Delaware’s charge is Democratic Sen. Tom Carper, whose bid to revive the national park effort was buoyed by support from President Bush’s interior secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, and now has the backing of President Obama’s interior chief, Ken Salazar. ‘If you thought Dirk Kempthorne was helpful,’ Carper says Salazar told him, ‘you’ve not seen nothing yet.’

“Delaware doesn’t have what most national parks do - vast acreage. But at the suggestion of First State citizens, Interior is looking at a unique model that would connect historical and cultural landmarks in a collection of spoke and hub patterns, like a bike.”

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

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