- The Washington Times - Monday, August 24, 2009

KENNEDY’S WISH

“Let’s be honest. Ted Kennedy’s last wish is not about principle. It’s about politics,” Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi writes.

“He said it’s about giving Massachusetts voters a voice in Washington. But it’s really about giving Senate [Majority Leader] Harry Reid 60 votes on health care reform,” the columnist said.

“Kennedy did not worry about leaving Massachusetts voiceless in 2004, when he asked lawmakers to repeal a law that gave the governor the power to fill a Senate vacancy. He did not want Gov.Mitt Romney to appoint a Republican if Sen. John Kerry won the White House. Massachusetts legislators did what Kennedy wanted. They passed a new law, calling for a special election within five months of any vacancy.

“Now Kennedy is asking those lawmakers to partially reverse themselves and authorize the governor to appoint an interim senator for five months, should he die or resign. His request puts pressure on Gov. [Deval] Patrick and the Democrats who control the legislature. Bay State voters, already angry over tax increases and assorted examples of government incompetence, will view this as another example of raw politics as usual, because that’s what it is.

“If the governor were a Republican, Kennedy would not be trying to change the law.”

DOUBLING DOWN

“We could call it doubling down on a mistake. Or drawing a partisan line in the sand. But this is Barack Obama and his favorite movie is - I’m not making this up - ‘The Godfather,’ so let’s stick with the mob theme,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“The Obama Family is going to the mattresses.

“With his charge that critics of his health care overhaul are ‘bearing false witness,’ the holy roller president has declared war on the GOP. It’s another sign his White House can’t shoot straight because Obama is unloading on the wrong target,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“Republicans don’t have the votes in Congress to block anything, so they can’t possibly be the sticking point. Democrats have huge majorities in both houses, but it is centrists and conservative Dems blocking the health bills.

“They are also saving Obama from making a huge mistake. The vast overhaul he favors is unpopular and unworkable. He ought to be thanking the refuseniks instead of twisting their arms.

“But when a president is determined to squander an irreplaceable mandate of public trust, as Obama apparently is, even his friends aren’t safe. His threats to have Dems only pass a budget-buster, industry-wrecker bill the public doesn’t want makes no sense for him or his party.”

ANGRY LIBERALS

“We’ve spent the month of August talking about alleged right-wing rage, but it’s really time we started discussing the Angry White Liberal,” Matthew Continetti writes in the Weekly Standard.

“When things aren’t going his way, the Angry White Liberal wails and gnashes his teeth, rends his garments and hurls invective at the opposition. His rhetoric and prose is so heated, it’s gotten to the point where you need to put on oven mitts before opening the paper. He is so convinced of the righteousness of his positions that he lashes out uncontrollably at anybody who disagrees with him. For the Angry White Liberal, dissent is anathema. Antagonism is illegitimate. Only conformity to prevailing liberal opinion is enough to still his rage,” Mr. Continetti said.

“It’s been awhile since the Angry White Liberal was spotted in the wild. He’s been in hiding since 2006, when the electorate started handing victory after victory to the Democratic Party. For a while there, whenever a liberal surveyed the political scene, it looked as though the country had finally come to its senses. Americans no longer deigned to elect conservatives to high office. In 2008, voters fell for the dulcet tones of a young, charismatic liberal senator from Illinois. A ‘new progressive era’ was about to begin. James Carville’s latest book, published earlier this year, promised to explain ‘how the Democrats will rule the next generation.’

“Then something bizarre began to happen. As Barack Obama’s presidency unfurled, his approval ratings fell. The public showed skepticism at his major initiatives. The federal government bailed out GM and Chrysler over widespread public opposition. The costly economic-stimulus bill appeared not to be working. The climate-change legislation that the House of Representatives passed on a party-line vote was DOA in the Senate. And even though ‘health care’ is not the top voter priority, even though the budget deficit stands at more than a trillion dollars, President Obama decided that this was the moment to remake one-sixth of the American economy.

“The more Obama talked about health care reform, the further his numbers dropped.”

BACKLASH

President Obama will return from his island idyll to a political landscape completely remade,” David Shribman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“He still will be greeted by swooning crowds and enthusiastic cheers. But his signature domestic policy is weakened, the result of a resurgent Republican Party that only months ago was on life-support,” Mr. Shribman said.

“The irony here is that the Republicans played little role in their recovery, and are instead the innocent and passive beneficiaries of a grass-roots (and radio-inspired) insurgency that, if they examine it carefully, may yet bite them as fiercely as it has bitten the president and his congressional allies.

“But the conservative backlash against Republicans who supported big-government bailouts of the financial-services, insurance and automobile industries may not be evident for another eight or nine months, when primary challenges to GOP lawmakers may provoke political bloodshed. The damage to the Democrats will be evident before school starts.

“The administration already is backing away from a government-run health insurance program that was the centerpiece of its plan to overhaul the way Americans receive and pay for medical care, which accounts for almost a fifth of the entire national economy. It is doing so as the president’s public-approval ratings are slipping and as lawmakers are discovering that perhaps the blandest of midsummer exercises, the mind-numbing congressional town meeting, suddenly has been transformed into an inferno of anger, some of it real, some of it mainly theatrical, some of it based on legitimate fear and fact, some of it fueled by fantasy and folklore.

“This is one of those times when the people are speaking, even if it is not all the people and even if what they are saying is inchoate, inaccurate and irrational. A lot of what the Vietnam moratorium marchers were saying and chanting was inchoate, inaccurate and irrational also. In both cases, the nation paid attention.”

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

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