- The Washington Times - Friday, November 27, 2009

MS. NICE GUY

Sharon Lerner, a writer for the left-wing magazine the Nation, says pro-choice activists lost a key vote on abortion in the House health care bill because they were too nice - and said pro-choice activists won’t make that mistake again.

“The Senate bill offers pro-choice advocates hope of reversing the disastrous House vote” on an amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat, the writer said. “But to keep Stupak’s restrictions out of a Senate bill and, most importantly, the final legislation, it’s necessary to understand why the well-organized and well-funded women’s health movement wasn’t able to avert the ‘Saturday night massacre’ in the first place,” she said at www.thenation.com.

At least some of the Stupak problem, she said, “was about how women’s advocates played the game: extremely nicely. Women’s groups were measured in their politics, trying hard to get along and keeping their gripes and dissatisfactions to themselves. But such good behavior rarely does well in Washington. And against the kind of strong-arm techniques that the [Catholic] bishops and anti-choice Democrats wielded, it didn’t stand a chance.

“Stupak is even more of an insult to pro-choice groups when you consider what they really wanted: to have abortion be treated as an integral part of health care.

“To their credit, NARAL and Planned Parenthood are have already shown their willingness to do what’s necessary to win this next round. They have threatened to withhold funding from Ciro Rodriguez and Harry Teague, the two members of Congress who got money from the groups in the last election cycle and proceeded to vote for Stupak anyway. And Planned Parenthood has announced its intentions to pull its support from any reform bill that includes Stupak.”

ETHICS MESS

“As House Democrats try to avert political disaster by limiting their 2010 losses to about 16 seats, the norm for post-World War II presidents’ first midterm elections, dealing with their members’ ethics problems may be one of their toughest tasks,” Charlie Cook writes at www.nationaljournal.com.

“With health care reform off their plate for now, House Democrats are showing that they understand the tightrope they must walk - address unemployment without exacerbating worries about the size of government and the federal deficit. Meanwhile, though, the ethical clouds over House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.; Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee; and several other members of that subcommittee bring back memories of the House Bank and Post Office scandal, which in 1994 helped end 40 years of Democratic rule in the House, and the scandals involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Republican Reps. Bob Ney of Ohio, Tom DeLay of Texas, and Mark Foley of Florida that helped topple the GOP majority in 2006.

“Independent voters, who swung toward Democrats by an 18-point margin in 2006 and cost Republicans their majority, are particularly sensitive to ethics charges. They will be watching to see whether Democrats clean their own House,” Mr. Cook said.

“The Defense Appropriations subcommittee smells like a cesspool, one that is threatening to foul the entire Democratic Congress. Several subcommittee members look as if they have been engaging in ‘pay to play,’ with campaign contributions being accepted in exchange for earmarks and with government spending decisions linked to jobs or consulting deals for relatives and former staffers. Democrats not on that smarmy subcommittee will likely suffer if they fail to clean the mess up.”

WAR TAXES

Rep. David Obey, the Democratic majordomo of the House Appropriations Committee, is proposing an income-tax hike, something that Democrats are congenitally disposed to do, with one familiar condition - its only on the ‘wealthy’ (wink, wink) - and one slightly less common condition - its presented as a dedicated surtax to fund the war in Afghanistan,” Kevin Williamson writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“The politics of the move are vulgar and obvious (The rich can afford it! Why dont you support the war? Taxes are patriotic!), but theres a bit of history with temporary emergency war taxes on the rich that ought to make Americans wary: They are not temporary, they outlive their emergencies, and they end up punishing Americans who are far from rich. (Not that even the rich need to be taxed any more than they already are.)

“The most irksome example of such a tax is the 3 percent levy Americans pay on telephone services, which they also paid on long-distance charges until 2006. That tax was a temporary emergency levy on the rich adopted in 1898 to pay for the Spanish-American War,” Mr. Williamson said.

“At the time, a telephone was a very high-end item - something that only businesses and the wealthy might have. The Spanish-American War lasted four months (We won! Cuba libre!), but the tax is now into its second century. And the only reason it was partly repealed in 2006 is that Uncle Sam lost a lawsuit challenging its collection as illegal (on baroquely complicated technical grounds having to do with changes in the way long-distance bills are collected).

“In 2009, when people of very modest means own iPhones, nobody would think that the mere possession of an old Bakelite rotary landline set qualifies a family as belonging to the gentry, but many of the poorest Americans still pay this tax for the luxury of access to 911 services and the occasional chat with Grandma. Damn the Monroe Doctrine.”

OBSESSED

“Our account of the media’s reaction to Sarah Palin’s book would not be complete if we were to neglect those who ostentatiously advertised their being above it all,” the Weekly Standard’s “Scrapbook” column says.

“It took blogger Damon Linker 412 words to conclude that all Palin ‘deserves is silence.’ Time’s Joe Klein blogged that he’s engaged in a ‘continuing effort to not write a word - to not give any additional publicity - to a certain former vice presidential candidate who has “written” a “book” this week.’ Klein’s colleague Amy Sullivan chimed in, ‘I’m joining Joe as a conscientious objector to Palinmania. (Did anyone else start twitching less than a minute into the Barbara Walters interview?)’

“Even in pretending to ignore Palin, they betray their obsession.”

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

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