- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

POLL-DRIVEN

“Americans are now seeing the damage that polls and focus groups can inflict on White House decision-making,” Karl Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal.

President Barack Obama is no longer shaping the public dialogue on health care reform. Instead, he is losing control of his agenda and resorting to rhetorical tricks and evasions,” said Mr. Rove, who was senior adviser to President George W. Bush.

“Every administration has to take into account public opinion. Without doing so, Abraham Lincoln said, little can be achieved. But too much polling doesnt raise presidential vision. It narrows and pulls it down. Substituting a weekly dose of opinion surveys for thoughtful consideration is causing White House aides to find new scapegoats whenever administration policy initiatives get into trouble.

“We see this on health care reform, which the presidents pollsters told him - six months into the debate - he must instead call ‘health insurance reform,’ a phrase he repeated five times in his prime-time news conference and at least 20 times in five days of appearances since.

“The problem is many Americans remember Mr. Obama started his health care push by focusing on covering the uninsured and reducing costs, not knocking insurance companies upside the head.

“Public support for his plans shrank when Americans saw the trillion-dollar-plus price tag, recoiled from the intrusive expansion of government into patient-doctor decisions, and came to understand the plan was financed in part by huge cuts in Medicare and large tax increases.

“So, after running into heavy opposition among congressional Democrats and growing public hostility to his plan, Mr. Obama has now recast the debate as an attack on insurance companies, with the president serving as savager-in-chief. This would be more credible if he hadnt surrounded himself with insurance CEOs and lobbyists when he kicked off his effort in March.”

UNION MUSCLE

“In the past few days, liberal activists have started to plan their counterattack on the conservative opponents of health care reform; now, the AFL-CIO says it will get involved, too,” Chris Good writes in a blog at TheAtlantic.com.

“In a memo to presidents of national and international unions, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called on affiliate unions to launch a 30-day campaign of activism in support of health care reform - and, perhaps most significantly, to turn out union members to town hall meetings. Part of the plan is to ‘organize major union participation in Congressional Town Hall meetings, both live and virtual Tele-Town Hall Meetings. A list of these meetings will be sent to you as soon as we receive it along with the list of approximately 50 high-priority districts,’ the memo states.

“Labor unions have traditionally provided the foot soldiers in Democratic politics, waving signs, phone-banking and turning out votes. … Now they’ll play in town halls, where conservatives have been outperforming liberals in attendance, shouting down reform and generally dominating both the meetings and the national news coverage of the White House’s reform effort,” Mr. Good said.

“Liberal activists have one significant advantage over conservatives in the race to turn out more supporters to these town halls: They can coordinate attendance with Democratic representatives, and they’ve worked with these lawmakers before. Earlier this week, Health Care for America Now!, a liberal coalition of which the AFL-CIO is a part, issued its guidelines for the new town hall fight; the AFL-CIO’s campaign, however, signifies a targeted effort to win these battles in the swing-vote districts conservatives have gone after.”

TROUBLING ISSUES

“We sort of expect liberal ex-presidents (think Jimmy Carter) to conduct personal diplomacy for humanitarian purposes. But that said, and apart from the general euphoria of having two Americans returned from the clutches of a nightmarish regime, there are some troubling issues here,” Victor Davis Hanson writes in a blog at NationalReview.com.

“One, Bill Clinton is not just an ex-president and private citizen, but also the husband of the current secretary of state. Like it or not, that status lends a quasi-official air to anything that he does abroad. So we must ask of his trip to North Korea: What were the quid pro quos involved, and did the short-term gain of freeing two journalists justify the concession of meeting publicly with a blood-soaked tyrant who has become even more dangerous in his nuclear brinksmanship?” Mr. Hanson said.

“Two, there is something untoward about Al Gores murky role in all this. Gore seemingly used his insider contacts with the Clintons (and, by extension, with the Obama administration) to rescue two employees of a company in which he has a large stake - a company that foolishly sent two of its journalists into the territory of a belligerent regime. In the future, will President Clinton go to Iran, or back to North Korea, if employees of particular corporations are kidnapped? We can understand his good intentions when lives are at stake, but the precedent established here is disturbing.

“Three, at some point, the Obama administration should stop insisting, ‘Wow, were out of the loop in all this.’ No one believes that a former Democratic president and spouse of the secretary of state would do any diplomatic freelancing without the current Democratic president (his wifes boss) being briefed.”

HIGH-FLIERS

“The Democrat-controlled House wants to buy nearly $200 million worth of private jets so lawmakers and a few high-level bureaucrats can travel in style. We truly have an imperial Congress,” Investor’s Business Daily writes Thursday in an editorial.

“Just last week Washington announced it would cut $100 million from the federal administrative budgets and acted like that was some big achievement. Now this week we learn that about the same time those cuts were made public, the House OK’d the purchase of the private jets,” the newspaper said.

“The taxpayer money the House plans to spend is to be used to buy three Gulfstream G550s at roughly $65 million each. These are long-range business jets with large, palatial interiors and three temperature zones. …

“Congress isn’t short of hypocrisy. Most of the Democrats and their environmentalist allies are reflexively opposed to private jet travel because of its excessive carbon footprint. Or, at least, they are opposed to private jet travel for others.

“Neither does it recognize irony. CEOs of the Big Three automakers were excoriated for traveling in their private jets last year to testify in Washington.”

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

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