- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

SHREWD MOVE

“I have given some reasons … why Sonia Sotomayor might be an especially controversial pick with conservatives and some centrists - not to mention yours truly,” Stuart Taylor Jr. writes at www.nationaljournal.com.

“So what political calculation might underlie President Obama’s decision to nominate her anyway, despite his various suggestions that he would like to make a consensus pick?” Mr. Taylor asked.

“It’s possible that Obama was simply wowed by her up-from-modest-circumstances life story, her supposed ‘empathy’ for the poor and powerless, her summa cum laude performance at Princeton University, her judicial opinions on obscure subjects or her performance when Obama interviewed her.

“But the political payoff of naming the first Hispanic justice - and a woman to boot - seems to me the key. This is a shrewd nomination politically, if not necessarily a good one jurisprudentially, and not only because of the obvious payoff with Hispanic voters.

“The choice of Sotomayor also puts Republicans and moderate Democrats who may be deeply unhappy with her jurisprudence in a lose-lose position, and Obama in a win-win position.

“If Republicans attack Judge Sotomayor’s more controversial actions, they risk provoking a backlash among Hispanic voters, who have already been moving into the Democratic column in droves.

“On the other hand, if Republicans hold their fire to avoid offending Hispanic voters, the president gets the benefit of installing a justice who seems deep into Democratic identity politics without the cost of an especially contentious confirmation battle.”

THE WINNER

“By goading a sitting president into responding to his arguments on his terms, Dick Cheney won the contest with Barack Obama last week before either said a word. And his re-emergence onto the public square seems to be driving everybody nuts,” the Wall Street Journal says Tuesday in an editorial.

” ‘Cheney has popped out of his dungeon, scary organ music blaring, to carry on his nasty campaign of fear and loathing,’ wrote Maureen Dowd in her New York Times column earlier this month. A talking head on cable declared the former vice president’s speech last Thursday ‘as sleazy a presentation by a vice president as we’ve had since Spiro Agnew.’

“Other news outlets resurrected the image of Mr. Cheney as Darth Vader, the iconic ‘Star Wars’ villain. And of course fellow Republicans Tom Ridge and Colin Powell rushed in to reassure their audiences that Mr. Cheney didn’t speak for them,” the newspaper said.

“Ironically, it was left to Chris Matthews - one of the vice president’s most unrelenting critics - to offer the best take on last week’s dueling speeches. On his Sunday show, he put it this way: ‘I saw something from Barack Obama I never even saw in the campaign, a sense he was listening for footsteps, that he could hear Cheney coming at him and he was defensive.’

“Think about that. Back in those heady days after the 2008 election, anyone who suggested that Mr. Obama might find himself playing defense to Dick Cheney on Guantanamo would have been hauled off as barking mad.”

THE NEXT TAX

“During the presidential campaign, I thought Obama made only one big policy mistake. He criticized John McCain for proposing to tax all employer-provided health benefits,” Robert Reich writes at www.salon.com.

“McCain’s overall health plan was regressive - he would have turned the savings into tax credits for purchasing health care - but he was right about where the revenues should come from. I worried that Obama would come to regret the position he took,” said Mr. Reich, who served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration.

“Half a year later, it appears that the president will need to tax employer provided health benefits in order to finance universal health care. Or at least the tax-free benefits now enjoyed by higher-income employees. Many in Congress and in the White House are convinced it’s the only good option. Max Baucus, chair of Senate Finance, explicitly put it on the table last week. Peter Orszag, the president’s budget director, has told Congress the option should remain on the table.

“The White House is in a revenue bind. The president had intended to raise money for health care by limiting the income tax deductions that wealthy taxpayers can claim. This would have generated some $318 billion over 10 years, about half of Obama’s proposed ‘health care reserve fund.’ But the proposal ran into a buzz saw of opposition from congressional Democrats. Not only did Baucus balk but so did Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“With deficit vultures already circling, Obama has to come up with a far more reliable way to fund health care. That’s where employee health benefits come in.”

DEAD TERRORISTS

“We made one great mistake regarding Guantanamo: No terrorist should have made it that far. All but a handful of those grotesquely romanticized prisoners should have been killed on the battlefield,” New York Post columnist Ralph Peters writes.

“The few kept alive for their intelligence value should have been interrogated secretly, then executed,” Mr. Peters said.

“Terrorists don’t have legal rights or human rights. By committing or abetting acts of terror against the innocent, they place themselves outside of humanity’s borders. They must be hunted as man-killing animals.

“And, as a side benefit, dead terrorists don’t pose legal quandaries.

“Captured terrorists, on the other hand, are always a liability. Last week, President Obama revealed his utter failure to comprehend these butchers when he characterized Guantanamo as a terrorist recruiting tool.

“Gitmo wasn’t any such thing. Not the real Gitmo. The Guantanamo Obama believes in is a fiction of the global media. With rare, brief exceptions, Gitmo inmates have been treated far better than U.S. citizens in our federal prisons.”

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

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