- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2009

PERFECT VILLAINS

“‘Tis the season for Frank Capra movies, and not just ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’” New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“The schmaltzy tug-of-hearts dubbed ‘Capra-corn’ gets me every time, especially the populist politics of ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ (right) and ‘Meet John Doe.’ Both were on Turner Movie Classics the other night, as was ‘State of the Union,’ a Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn gem,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“Alas, the films don’t do any favors for President Obama. Seeing his actions through Capra’s all-American prism adds to the disappointment in his presidency.

“In fact, inserting modern Washington into the plots leads me to conclude Capra would be the scourge of Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Their big-government, special-interest-driven schemes, cloaked in the misleading rhetoric of reform, mark them as perfect villains for his worldview.

“The health care debacle alone would make a classic Capra morality tale. The naked vote-buying that enabled Reid to get 60 was the very sort of insider corruption the three-time Oscar-winner despised.

“His reel heroes, including Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, would be denouncing the bill as crooked and stacked against honest, ordinary Americans.

“Yet there was Obama, who promised to change the culture of Washington, heralding the sleazy outcome. How fitting that the end of his first year also marks the end of any pretense he is a reformer.

“He is now the very opposite of what he promised. To support the health payoffs is to support corruption.

“Ditto for Obama’s signing a defense-spending bill containing over $4 billion of earmarks. His promise to eliminate the rigged practice is soooo last year.”

PARTY SWITCHER

“News from the Obama re-alignment watch: Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith announced [Tuesday] that he plans to switch parties and become a Republican,” the Wall Street Journal observed Wednesday in an editorial.

“At a press conference, the oncologist-turned-politician said he could not continue to align himself with a Democratic Party pushing a health care bill that is ‘bad for our doctors … bad for our patients, and … bad for the young men and women who are considering going into the health-care field.’

“Other than that, how do you like the bill?

“Party switching often happens after a big election, as lawmakers try to retain legislative clout or join a new majority (Arlen Specter). A small boatload of moderate Democrats flipped to the Republican party after the Gingrich Revolution in 1994, including such Democrats as Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, and Southern Congressmen Billy Tauzin, Nathan Deal and Mike Parker.

“Far rarer is a mid-Congress conversion such as Mr. Griffith’s, which comes a year before an election and from a party that has a 41-seat majority. It’s true that Mr. Griffith is from Alabama, and only 38 percent of his district voted for President Obama. Mr. Griffith also voted against the stimulus and cap and trade, and this summer he said he wouldn’t vote again for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker because she is ‘divisive and polarizing.’

“On the other hand, Republicans haven’t held the seat since Reconstruction. And if last year’s Democratic sweep truly signaled a sharp national swing to the left and a new majority that is likely to be lasting, then Mr. Griffith would have every incentive to stay a Democrat,” the newspaper said.

“Our own view is that Mr. Griffith is the first Blue Dog casualty of this year’s hard-left Democratic policy turn, but he decided to switch rather than fight next year. Many other Blue Dogs who voted for the stimulus, cap and tax, and health care are likely to experience a different kind of exit from the majority.”

OVER THE TOP

“In just his first term in Congress, Orlando’s Alan Grayson has become the toast of the blogosphere and a sought-after interview on cable news channels. He has done it with a series of inflammatory statements and stunts. But he may have jumped the shark last week,” the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel said Wednesday in an editorial.

“In a letter to U.S. Attorney GeneralEric Holder, the 8th District Democrat asked that a Lake County woman behind a Web site critical of Grayson be investigated, prosecuted, fined and imprisoned - for five years.

“Mr. Grayson’s four-page letter to Mr. Holder reads like a legal brief. It lays out in detail the congressman’s allegations that Angie Langley of Clermont has misrepresented herself as his constituent and illegally raised funds against him through a committee and Web site called MyCongressmanIsNuts.com.

“It’s a sophomorically named parody of a Web site started by Mr. Grayson’s campaign, CongressmanWithGuts.com. That site helped his campaign raise more than half a million dollars in a day last month,” the newspaper said.

“The parody site, by contrast, had raised less than $11,000 as of mid-afternoon Tuesday, according to the running total on its home page. Which makes Mr. Grayson’s appeal to the nation’s top law enforcement official look like going after a gnat with a bazooka.

“Being the target of rough criticism is an occupational hazard for public officials, especially those as high-profile as a U.S. congressman. Any politician who pursues legal action against critics, even critics who may not have followed the letter of the law, calls into question his commitment to the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.”

LOOKING AHEAD

“In 1994, the year of the ‘Republican revolution,’ John Podesta was the Clinton White House staff secretary. So he has a pretty good sense of whether the Democrats are again doomed to lose control of the House, as some Republicans of that era are now predicting,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at usnews.com.

” ‘This isn’t exactly 1994,’ says Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, and he’s confident that Democrats are prepared for a tough battle. But GOP pollster Ed Goeas says 2010 looks a lot like 1994. The economy is a mess, GOP voter intensity is sky high, and independents are leaning Republican. One indicator: In 1994, his voter-turnout model favored the GOP by 5 percentage points. It now gives a 10-point Republican advantage.”

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