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Inside Politics

- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2009

MOVING RIGHT

"As with most presidents at the end of their first year in office, BarackObama's approval ratings have slipped in 2009, though not as much as the clamor of his critics would suggest," Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, writes at PewResearch.org.

"He is almost exactly where Ronald Reagan was at the end of 1981, when he too was struggling with the bad economy he had inherited," Mr. Kohut said.

"What's really exceptional at this stage of Obama's presidency is the extent to which the public has moved in a conservative direction on a range of issues. These trends have emanated as much from the middle of the electorate as from the highly energized conservative right. Even more notable, however, is the extent to which liberals appear to be dozing as the country has shifted on both economic and social issues.

"Pew Research surveys throughout the year have found a downward slope in support both for an activist government generally and for a strong safety net for the needy, in particular. Chalk up these trends to a backlash against Obama policies that have expanded the role of government.

"More surprising is declining support for gun control, a fall in support for abortion rights, and a rise in public doubts about global warming. Much of the change on these issues has come from independents, a category now populated by many former self-identified Republicans. But a lack of passion among Democrats - and liberals in particular - is also a part of the story of this conservative trend among the public at large.

"For example, over the course of the year, strong opposition to health care reform has topped strong support in every survey Pew Research has conducted."

NEW SCANDAL

"First it was the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia playing fast and loose with scientific data, manipulating it to produce desired results while discarding much of the raw data. Now, according to a report in Britains Telegraph newspaper, the Hadley Center for Climate Change, part of the governments British Meteorological Office, did some data-cooking as well, leaving out temperature records for about 40 percent of the Russian landmass in calculating recent temperature trends," John Steele Gordon writes at CommentaryMagazine.com.

"Since Russia constitutes 12.5 percent of the worlds landmass, much of that a byword for brutal winters, that is no small omission. And the data from weather stations that were omitted do not show substantial global warming in recent decades," Mr. Gordon said.

"Climategate is beginning to seem more and more like its namesake, Watergate. Those around in those days remember how, day after day after day, new revelations came out and ever more desperate attempts to minimize their significance or to explain them away were made. ...

"The constant water drip of revelations and Nixons attempts to explain them and prevent further ones from leaking slowly but surely destroyed the Nixon presidency. The chronology of Watergate as it evolved over a year and a half is a fascinating window into the greatest scandal in American history as it slowly reached critical mass.

"Climategate bids fair to be equally interesting, and it seems that we are getting nearer and nearer to that critical mass. I suspect that Al Gore, flying around in his private jet telling everyone else to walk, is not too happy right now."

CYNICAL STRATEGY

"Typically, when a law is passed or a regulation proposed, its champions believe that the action will be beneficial to society. But thats not the case when it comes to steps that the Obama administration took last week, when Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson issued an 'endangerment' finding that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are harmful pollutants and therefore subject to EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act," Max Schulz writes at city-journal.com.

"Jackson issued the finding largely because the Obama team believes - or at least thinks that Congress believes - that EPA regulation of CO2 would be devastating to the economy," Mr. Schulz said.

"The endangerment finding was designed to strike fear into the hearts of those worried about the economic harm of severe government action. The aim is to terrify industry and move public opinion to such a degree that Congress feels compelled to pass cap-and-trade legislation - no matter how economically harmful it would be - in order to pre-empt a much worse, EPA-imposed regulatory regime. It is, essentially, environmental blackmail.

"Up to this point, Congress has seemed unwilling to pass global warming legislation, largely because of the perceived economic damage that would ensue. A 2007 MIT study suggested that cap-and-trade would cost the average American family $3,900 each year in economic losses and taxes. A more recent Heritage Foundation study reached a similar conclusion.

"Even candidate Obama said, 'Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.' What Obama is saying to Congress today is: If you dont pass cap-and-trade, which I have already acknowledged is costly, Ive got something coming down the pike that will be even costlier. Its a very cynical and very risky strategy."

HE'S BACK

"Larry Klayman made a name for himself investigating backroom deals in the Clinton and Bush administrations, like Bubba's China-gate fundraising scandal and former Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force meetings. Now it's President Obama's turn to face Klayman and his latest public-interest group, Freedom Watch," Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at usnews.com.

"[Tuesday] at 5 a.m., Klayman tells Whispers, he tried to serve a legal document on the White House asking for all papers, e-mails and meeting notes related to the administration's discussions with outside groups on health care reform. He told us he is especially interested in any communications or meetings with Planned Parenthood, the American Medical Association, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

"What's more, the letter demanded that he be allowed into any future meeting on the topic with outside groups, claiming that such sessions amount to meetings that should legally be open to the public. Failure to act by [Wednesday] afternoon, he said, will result in further legal action. 'I'll bring a lawsuit,' he promised."

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