- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

WEAK CANDIDATE

“The instant reaction to Arlen Specter’s decision to switch parties was that it is a sign of GOP weakness. My take is that it is just as much a sign of Arlen Specter’s weakness,” Jay Cost writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“As I wrote [Wednesday], I think this decision was due to Specter’s problems in the state,” Mr. Cost said.

“The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has consistently had a three- to five-point Democratic tilt to it. Yet this did not stop Republican John Heinz from winning re-election in 1982 with 59 percent of the vote (a great year for Democrats), and then with 66 percent of the vote in 1988. This is the mark of a senator who has cultivated a good personal relationship with his state.

“Specter’s numbers are much less impressive. He won just 53 percent of the vote in 2004 - despite outspending his opponent 5-to-1. He had an extremely close call in 1992: After he went after Anita Hill on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he squeaked by Lynn Yeakel with just 49 percent of the vote. His biggest triumph was in 1998, when he won 61 percent of the vote. Yet he ran against a candidate who spent just $180,000 - and the best he could do was three in five Pennsylvanians.

“Specter has never been a particularly strong candidate - and we can talk about the narrow intolerance of the Republican Party, but the fact is that the GOP money machine has consistently had to kick in tens of thousands of dollars every cycle in case Snarlin’ Arlen gets himself into trouble, which he regularly does. So, when we’re talking about the GOP’s intolerance, we’re talking about some ill-defined subset of the party, as those who have supported Specter include Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, George W. Bush, the Pennsylvania Republican Party, the Pennsylvania Republicans who have consistently voted for him in the general election and so on.

“So, let’s assume for a moment that this ‘the GOP is a shrinking, pathetic rump’ meme had not already taken hold in the press prior to Specter’s departure. What would we infer about his decision? It’d be pretty simple: The guy is a lousy candidate who had finally worn out his welcome with his own side.”

WAR CRIMINAL?

Comedian Jon Stewart did not appear to be joking this week, when he labeled former President Harry S. Truman a war criminal on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” It came during a debate about torture with Clifford D. May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“It comes at about the 5:50 mark,” Michael Goldfarb writes in a blog at www.weeklystandard.com. “Cliff May asks Stewart whether Truman’s use of the atomic bomb was a war crime, Stewart ruminates and then responds with an unequivocal ‘yes.’

“He’s certainly not the only American who would take that view, but it’s a useful reminder that the most vocal and popular criticism of the Bush administration’s war on terror policies comes from people who, if they were being as honest as Stewart, would also judge Lincoln (suspension of habeas), FDR (internment) and Truman (use of nuclear weapons) as war criminals or tyrants or worse,” Mr. Goldfarb said.

“Stewart repeats the charge again later in the interview, but you have to wonder whether this was one of the rare times that he just got outmaneuvered on his own show. Serious people have debated Truman’s decision for 60 years, but even those who disagree with that decision rarely describe it as ‘criminal.’ And if it was criminal, whatever crimes the left alleges of President Bush seem pretty trivial in comparison.”

FORGET THAT OATH

“Patients count on their doctor to do whatever is possible to treat their illness. That is the promise doctors make by taking the Hippocratic Oath,” Betsy McCaughey writes in Investor’s Business Daily.

“But President Obama’s advisers are looking to save money by interfering with that oath and controlling your doctor’s decisions,” she said.

Ezekiel Emanuel sees the Hippocratic Oath as one factor driving ‘overuse’ of medical care. He is a policy adviser in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and a brother of Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff.

“Dr. Emanuel argues that ‘peer recognition goes to the most thorough and aggressive physicians.’ He has lamented that doctors regard the ‘Hippocratic Oath’s admonition to “use my power to help the patient to the best of my ability and judgment” as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others.’

“Of course, that is what patients hope their doctor will do.

“But President Barack Obama is pledging to rein in the nation’s health care spending. The framework for influencing your doctor’s decisions was included in the stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“The legislation sets a goal that every individual’s treatments will be recorded by computer, and your doctor will be guided by electronically delivered protocols on ‘appropriate’ and ‘cost-effective’ care.

“Heading the new system is Dr. David Blumenthal, a Harvard Medical School professor, named national coordinator of health information technology. His writings show he favors limits on how much health care people can get.”

OFF THE AIR

“It’s the end of the road for ‘The Beltway Boys,’ Fox News Channel’s Saturday evening political chat with newsmen Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

“Whispers hears that the show has run its course,” Mr. Bedard said.

“A Fox spokesman confirmed this when contacted for comment. No replacement has been named.

“Theirs was a fun mix of the week’s politics, a peppy version of some of the other Saturday media political reviews. They talked about ‘hot stories,’ the week’s big events, and sized up personalities in the ‘Ups and Downs’ segment.

“While it’s now off the air, those in the know say that Barnes and Kondracke remain hot properties within the Fox family and will stay on to discuss political issues during special broadcasts and Bret Baier’s nightly ‘Special Report.’ ”

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

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