- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2009

RESTRAINED

”This has been the Republican strategy since Obama took office: Refrain from criticizing the president directly and praise his stated desire for bipartisanship; trash congressional Democrats as irresponsibly liberal and poor stewards of taxpayer dollars; offer alternative solutions to the country’s problems even if the media pay them no attention,” Stephen F. Hayes writes in the Weekly Standard.

”The reasons for doing this are plain. The country was broadly enthusiastic about Obama’s inauguration, and his popularity remains high. Concerns about the economy have led many voters to abandon - or at least set aside temporarily - their skepticism about big government. ‘There will be a time when we need to launch a full-scale assault on Obama,’ says Republican strategist Todd Harris. ‘But congressional liberals are the soft underbelly of fortress Obama, and they’re on the ballot sooner.’

“ ‘People are rooting for the guy,’ says one Republican strategist who agrees with the current GOP strategy. ‘In that sense, attacking him means attacking voters’ own hopes, dreams and ambitions.’

“ ‘We are not going to be personal,’ says one Republican leadership aide. ‘We are not going to call him a Communist. But we will be aggressively going after the policies.’

“It’s a tough balance. Making congressional Democrats the focus of Republican attacks during the debate over the stimulus made some sense since Obama had, in effect, outsourced the writing of that legislation to Nancy Pelosi,” Mr. Hayes said.

“But avoiding criticism of Obama on the budget will be much tougher. It’s his budget, after all. Challenging the policies without mentioning Obama fails to identify the policies as his. It renders the critiques weak and ineffective. And a growing number of conservatives on Capitol Hill are becoming impatient with the forced restraint.”

BY THE NUMBERS

”Americans are not a happy bunch, according to our new Whispers poll from Synovate,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

”The latest downer: Those polled say the income-tax break that amounts to about $13 a week is so small that they won’t even notice it. And practically nobody said it was enough to even prompt a McDonald’s splurge. Asked what they will do with the much-heralded $13 when it arrives beginning in April, a whopping 63 percent said that it is so small that they won’t even notice it,” Mr. Bedard said.

”Twenty-five percent said that they would simply apply it to bills. And a combined 12 percent said they’d either go to the movies or take the kids to McDonald’s. Men were especially depressed, with 66 percent telling our pollster that the break was chump change. And women sounded more responsible, with 28 percent pledging to use the money to pay down credit card bills.”

ABOUT-FACE

”A sound, if cynical, policy for elections is to never vote for a candidate whose policies match your own. Since politicians often renege on their promises, you are better off voting for a candidate who says he’ll do the opposite of what you want - and trusting that he’s a liar,” Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman writes.

George H.W. Bush, after all, gave an emphatic promise not to raise taxes and then raised taxes. Bill Clinton vowed to crack down on China’s human rights abuses and didn’t. George W. Bush championed a humble foreign policy,” Mr. Chapman said.

Barack Obama opposed the war in Iraq from the outset, promised to bring our troops home in short order and criticized John McCain for his ‘stubborn refusal to end this misguided war.’ Without his stance against the war, he would not have won the Democratic nomination and he would not have won the election. But the meaning of his speech Friday at Camp Lejeune is that we shouldn’t have believed him.

“During the campaign, Obama pushed a plan to withdraw one or two combat brigades per month until they were all out. Only two things have changed in Obama’s 16-month departure plan: It will take longer than 16 months, and we won’t depart.

”Instead of May 2010, the target date has been pushed back to August of that year. Nor will he bring back one or two combat brigades each month. Instead, the New York Times reports, Obama plans to withdraw only two between now and December, or one combat brigade every five months.

“The administration claims it will speed up the pace of withdrawal next year. But if someone says he’s going to sober up tomorrow, it doesn’t mean he will definitely do it tomorrow. It just means he definitely won’t do it today.”

CENSUS QUESTIONS

President Obama’s decision to name former Washington Gov. Gary Locke as his third choice to be Commerce secretary has all the charm of a multiple ‘do-over,’ John Fund writes at www.opinionjournal.com.

”Still, Mr. Locke is getting thumbs up from even his Republican opponent when he ran for re-election in 2000. ‘One of his hallmarks as governor was expanding trade and opening doors to international commerce, particularly with China,’ says John Carlson, now a successful radio-talk show host in Seattle. ‘He’s a huge celebrity in China, being America’s first Chinese-American governor.’

”No doubt Mr. Locke will win confirmation, but he can expect to be grilled about the key issue that helped prompt GOP Sen. Judd Gregg to withdraw as Commerce nominee. House Republican leader John Boehner has already signaled that senators should demand to know if Mr. Locke will ‘promise to keep politics out of the Census by retaining control over a fair and accurate count in the Commerce Department. Hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are distributed based on Census data, and politicizing the process could open the door to massive waste and abuse in the expenditure of taxpayer funds.’

“Mr. Locke was known for deflecting political footballs during his two terms as chief executive in Washington state, but he certainly could smooth his path in Washington by assuring GOP senators that the politically charged Census will be run by Commerce’s statisticians and professional staff rather than by White House aides.”

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


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