- The Washington Times - Friday, January 16, 2009

Train wreck

“You would think people would learn. The recount in the contest between Norm Coleman and Al Franken for a seat in the U.S. Senate isn’t just embarrassing. It is unconstitutional,” Michael Stokes Paulsen writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“This is Florida 2000 all over again, but with colder weather. Like that fiasco, Minnesota’s muck of a process violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, the controlling Supreme Court decision is none other than Bush v. Gore. …

“Minnesota is Bush v. Gore reloaded. The details differ, but not in terms of arbitrariness, lack of uniform standards, inconsistency in how local recounts were conducted and counted, and strange state court decisions,” said Mr. Paulsen, professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis and formerly associate dean of the University of Minnesota Law School.

“Consider the inconsistencies: One county ‘found’ 100 new votes for Mr. Franken, due to an asserted clerical error. Decision? Add them. Ramsey County (St. Paul) ended up with 177 more votes than were recorded election day. Decision? Count them. Hennepin County (Minneapolis, where I voted - once, to my knowledge) came up with 133 fewer votes than were recorded by the machines. Decision? Go with the machines’ tally. All told, the recount in 25 precincts ended up producing more votes than voters who signed in that day.”

As matters stand now, Mr. Paulsen said, “the Minnesota recount is a legal train wreck. The result, a narrow Franken lead, is plainly invalid. Just as in Bush v. Gore, the recount has involved ‘unequal evaluation of ballots in several respect’ and failed to provide ‘minimal procedural safeguards’ of equal treatment of all ballots. Legally, it does not matter which candidate benefited from all these differences in treatment. (Mr. Franken did.) The different treatment makes the results not only unreliable (and suspicious), but unconstitutional.”

No partisans

“On the night before Barack Obama is sworn in as the nation’s 44th president, his inaugural committee will host a series of dinners honoring public servants it deems champions of bipartisanship. To be feted are Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Colin Powell, and John McCain, whom Obama vanquished last November,” Kevin Drum writes in a blog at www.motherjones.com.

“At the McCain dinner, the GOP senator, who managed to suppress his bipartisan tendencies during the hard-fought 2008 campaign, will be introduced by one of his closest Senate confidants: Sen. Lindsey Graham. But McCain’s No. 1 booster during the last year will not be among those hailing McCain. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, his controversial running-mate, will not attend the dinner, Bill McAllister, a Palin spokesman, tells Mother Jones. …

“According to McAllister, Palin will spend next week in her home state preparing for the legislative session, which begins on Tuesday, and for her State of the State address on Thursday.

“Was she even invited? ‘I don’t know if she was invited,’ McAllister says. Don’t know? How could that be? It’s hard to miss an invitation from a presidential inauguration committee. For its part, Obama’s inaugural committee has declined to say whether an invitation was sent to Palin. Repeated phone calls to its press office produced no answer to this simple question.

“The committee has announced that the McCain dinner will be held at the Hilton Washington and that Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will be the master of ceremonies. It notes that the attendees of all three bipartisan dinners will include ‘leaders in Congress from both sides of the aisle and Americans of both parties from across the country.’ Just not one particular American from up north.”

Celebrity in chief

“Sure, all new presidents wear a halo shined up by an adulatory press,” Sandy Grady writes in USA Today.

“Dwight Eisenhower’s arrival was as full of hullabaloo as Obama’s. Jack Kennedy in his inaugural top hat brought youthful glamour. Gerald Ford was welcomed to end our national nightmare. Bill Clinton came in on a hopeful saxophone riff,” the writer said.

“But Barack Obama is our first Celebrity President. You can blame it on the multimedia gush, his photo-ready family and the fact that he’ll be the first biracial president.

“On worldwide TV screens, Obama’s images tower as if he’s a political Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali or - let’s face it - Britney Spears.

“Walk by any newsstand. On publications from People to tabloid rags to, YES, Spider-Man comics, there’s the Celeb Prez, his Celeb Family and, eventually, the Celeb Dog. A Time cover painted Obama as FDR with a jaunty cigarette cover. Now, TV networks try to squeeze bucks with Obama DVDs shamelessly titled Yes We Can!

“When paparazzi shot photos of Obama’s well-toned torso emerging from Hawaii surf, the beefcake pictures stirred heavy-breathing headlines (‘Buff Bam is Hawaii hunk!’). You’d think the presidency were a Gidget beach movie.

“Are the media trivializing a president-to-be in a bleak time? Guilty. But that same hope-fueled celebrityhood is why people have been standing in frozen nights outside the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington to glimpse Obama. And why a few million folks - many of them young people who had knocked on doors in Iowa or South Carolina - will mob the National Mall next week. They want their moment in history.”

Making work

“Committed to the belief that bigger government is always better, Media Matters and Campaign for Americas Future are pushing back data showing that the New Deal never solved unemployment,” the Heritage Foundation’s Conn Carroll writes at heritage.org.

“Cutting through their rhetoric, both leftist organizations make the same narrow objection: that the data we use does not count make-work government programs like the Civil Conservation Corps as employed,” the writer said.

“Now we will always maintain that not counting government work programs as employment is the more accurate measure. It is the way the government counted the numbers back then, it is the way the government counts the numbers today, and as George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok blogs, ‘If we counted people on work relief as employed then eliminating unemployment would be very easy - just require everyone on any kind of unemployment relief to lick stamps.’

“But for the sake of argument, let’s cede the point that anyone receiving government employment assistance is ‘employed. Does that end up changing the impact of New Deal spending on unemployment? No. … [E]ven when using the numbers preferred by the leftist proponents of big government, the story is still the same: Unemployment never made it near the 1970-2008 5.5 percent normal unemployment rate until well after the U.S. entered World War II.”

cGreg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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