- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

MORE THAN A TRICKLE

“Monday morning’s announcement by Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., that he would not seek re-election certainly stirred things up on Capitol Hill,” Charlie Cook writes at NationalJournal.com.

“It’s an exaggeration to say that the dam is breaking for House Democrats as incumbents in tough districts retire. But it’s an understatement to say that four such members announcing their retirements in four weeks is a trickle,” Mr. Cook said.

“One can understand the indigestion building in Democratic leadership offices in seeing Reps. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., John Tanner, D-Tenn., Brian Baird, D-Wash., and now Gordon all stepping down and opening up seats that will be difficult to defend. Add to that number the open seat created by Rep. Charlie Melancon’s Senate run in Louisiana; it’s a goner.

“Gordon’s contest had been rated by the Cook Political Report as Likely Democratic until Nov. 19, when it was shifted to Lean Democrat. With his departure triggering an open seat, and with its Cook Partisan Voting Index at R+13 - meaning that in presidential balloting it votes 13 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole - it is now rated likely Republican.

“Quite simply, not enough House Democratic members in tough districts have retired to cost the party its majority, but if a trend were to develop, it would start pretty much as this has so far. …

“Probably the best way to look at the Democrats’ situation is to look at relative levels of security of each of their 435 seats compared to early June.

“The Cook Political Report now has 174 seats in the Solid Democratic column; 44 others rated as Likely Democrat, meaning not yet but potentially competitive; and 23 more seats in the Lean Democratic column, meaning competitive.

“There are 19 seats rated as Toss Up, in which neither party can claim a clear advantage. There are eight seats in the Lean Republican column, 16 in the Likely Republican group and 151 rated as Solidly Republican.

“Put in a more understandable format, the current number of Solid and Likely Democratic seats is 218, coincidentally the barest possible majority.”

DOUBLE TALK

“The Obama administration desperately wants a strong economic recovery, or so it says, but does it have any idea how to encourage one?” the Wall Street Journal asks in an editorial.

“It says it wants job growth, but its policies keep raising the cost of creating new jobs. It says it wants small business to take risks, but it keeps reducing the rewards if those risks succeed. And it says it wants banks to lend more money, even as it keeps threatening to punish bankers if they make too many bad loans or make too much money,” the newspaper said.

“The last contradiction is again on display as President Obama rolls out his latest populist blame-the-bankers campaign. This is becoming a White House financial staple. Recall how the president joined the Congressional posse amid this year’s earlier AIG bonus uproar, until it threatened to run out of control. Later Mr. Obama targeted Chrysler’s bond holders who weren’t eager to accept the government’s meager dictated terms. The bond holders rolled over, but everyone in financial markets got a message about what this Administration thinks about the sanctity of contracts.

“Now, amid Democratic panic over 10 percent unemployment heading into an election year, the president is attempting a double populist play: Blame the bankers for causing the financial crisis and recession by lending too much, and blame them again for causing high joblessness now by lending too little.”

OBAMA VS. DRONES

“A clandestine CIA search-and-destroy program, which launches missile strikes from remotely piloted drone aircraft, has killed more than a dozen senior leaders of al Qaeda during the last two years,” Mark Hosenball writes in Newsweek.

“Among the dead: Abu Khabab al-Masri, reputed to be al Qaeda’s top expert on weapons of mass destruction, and Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban and reputed mastermind of the murder of [former Pakistani Prime Minister] Benazir Bhutto. U.S. government spokesmen won’t even confirm the program’s existence, but a U.S. national-security official - who, like others cited in this article, declined to be named talking about sensitive information - says the program has been so successful that some counterterrorism officials want to expand it.

“They say the drones have been effective not just in killing terrorists, but also in keeping them on the run and disrupting their ability to plan new attacks. They have asked for authority to target terrorists in more densely populated areas of Pakistan,” Mr. Hosenball said.

“One person standing in the way of expanded missile strikes: President Obama. Five administration officials tell Newsweek that the president has sided with political and diplomatic advisers who argue that widening the scope of the drone attacks would be risky and unwise.

“Obama is concerned that firing missiles into urban areas like Quetta, where intelligence reports suggest that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and other high-level militants have sometimes taken shelter, would greatly increase the risk of civilian casualties. It would also draw protests from Pakistani politicians and military leaders, who have been largely quiet about the drone attacks as long as they’ve been confined to the country’s out-of-sight border region.”

BITTER PILL

Sen. Joe Lieberman announced [Tuesday] that he is ready to support ‘health care reform’ now that both a new, government-run insurance option and the ill-fated Medicare ‘buy in’ idea have been stripped from the legislation,” James C. Capretta writes in a blog at NationalReview.com.

“It’s not really surprising that Sen. Harry Reid and the White House, desperate to pass anything called ‘health care reform,’ would succumb to Sen. Lieberman’s demands to get his vote,” Mr. Capretta said.

“Still, though long in coming, the jettisoning of all flavors of the so-called ‘public option’ - to appease Sen. Lieberman, of all people! - must be an awfully bitter pill for the left to swallow. After all, what is the Reid plan now that those provisions are out? In essence, it’s a requirement that all Americans pay health insurance premiums to secure qualified coverage. And if there is no government-run option, the public will have no choice but to pay their premiums to private insurers.

“Yes, that’s right. The Democratic Party is on the verge of enacting a requirement, enforced with federal tax penalties, which would effectively require hard-working Americans to hand over even more of their wages to profit-hungry, private insurance companies.”

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

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