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PRUDEN: A bad season for plugs and ducks

- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Barack Obama isn't the only Democrat who's flailing about in a swamp of unexpected incompetence and irresolution. He's got company in South Carolina, Arkansas, Nevada and other places where voters aren't acting like they're supposed to, and we're not even through with June.

The president was back on the Gulf Coast again Monday, looking for a plug to stuff into that hole in the bottom of the sea (or at least the hole in his approval ratings). He can't find a plug, so he plugs on with his vilification of hapless BP. This is satisfying, in the way of chunking rocks at a vicious dog, but it doesn't plug a hole, and the oil gushes on. The president threatens to get "tough" with Big Oil, but it's not clear what the feds can do about the risks and imperfections of technology beyond churning up more hysteria. His only remaining option is a congressional resolution demanding that the Gulf quit gushing.

Harry Reid, leader of the Senate Democrats, has his own problems at home, trying to avoid having to look for a real job after the November elections. He's hotly pursued by a lady who takes no prisoners, so he can only imagine what happens when she catches him. Sharron Angle, who won the Republican nomination to oppose him, threatens to make the kind of senator who turns other senators into quivering potbellies of lemon-lime Jell-O. When she was only a state legislator, she used her own money to sue her colleagues when they imposed an enormous tax increase by a simple majority instead of the two-thirds majority required by the state constitution. She won, and the state Supreme Court reversed its earlier approval and reinstated the constitutional two-thirds requirement. As a member of the State Assembly, she voted against greedy consensus in the 42-member body so often that such votes usually were described as "41-to-Angle."

Harry Reid couldn't believe his good luck when Mrs. Angle won, that he would get to run against someone the newspapers called an "extremist." The first post-primary polls show her with a double-digit lead going toward November.

The results of their Senate primary in South Carolina have so rattled Democrats that they want to nullify the results, get a federal investigation or hang or shoot somebody, or maybe all of the above. Losing an election certainly can make a body feel that way. The only thing anybody knew about Alvin Greene, the winner and Democratic nominee against Sen. Jim DeMint in November, was that he faces a felony rap for showing Internet pornography to a 19-year-old college student. Nevertheless, he got 60 percent of the vote against the candidate of the Democratic establishment. Rep. James E. Clyburn, the Democratic whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, wants investigations by state and federal authorities because he discovered something "untoward" was going on. Who would have believed "untoward" politics in a Democratic primary? The state Democratic chairman sniffs a plot to "subvert the democratic process." Mr. Greene is unemployed and needs a job, so you might think Democrats eager to help the poor find work would be more sympathetic.

Blanche Lincoln's struggle to keep her seat in the U.S. Senate may be the most fascinating looming Democratic disaster of all. She's an incumbent in what is shaping up as another "year of the woman," and incumbents are rarely threatened by man or other beast in the South. But she barely survived the Arkansas runoff and now runs far behind her challenger, a thoroughly respectable Republican in the usual beige. Beige may be what the voters want after a particularly bitter summer struggle between Miss Blanche and the lieutenant governor, Bill Halter, a Rhodes scholar distinguished mostly by money and ambition out of proportion for a lieutenant governor.

Miss Blanche must credit her survival to the kindness of strangers, in the persons of the leaders of several big national unions who dumped $10 million into the Halter campaign.

The returns indicate that Mr. Halter was propelled into the runoff primary by unexpected forces and the unions could have kept their money and achieved the same result. The good ol' boys in the rural counties, which is most of them, used the lieutenant governor like a wooden duck, a decoy to lure enough votes to get rid of Miss Blanche. John Brummett, a columnist for several Arkansas newspapers, wrote that it was the work "of good ol' boys who either didn't know what they were doing, or didn't care, both entirely plausible."

Disposing of the wooden duck would be no problem in November, which is never a happy month in Arkansas if you're a duck.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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