Tuesday, October 28, 2008




Running Against Reid, Pelosi and What's-His-Name.

Senator John McCain's snake-bit campaign may finally have hit on a theme that could resonate with independent voters in the runup to next Tuesday's election.

He has begun raising the specter of what a complete Democratic takeover of Washington would mean. He told a crowd in New Mexico last weekend that if Mr. Obama were elected, the public would have no effective brake on the liberal agenda of Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Senator Obama's tax increase would put even more people out of work," Mr. McCain said. "But that is exactly what's going to happen if the Democrats have total control of Washington. We can't let that happen. Are you ready for Obama, Pelosi and Reid?"

Other Republicans are raising the dire prospect of one-party government. Senator Liddy Dole of North Carolina is running an ad warning voters not to hand Democrats "a blank check."

All of this harkens back to one of the most successful GOP rescue operations in recent political history. As Bob Dole fell behind the charismatic Bill Clinton in 1996, Republicans boldly appealed to independents to vote in favor of divided government. They put out ads featuring a fortune-teller gazing into a crystal ball showing over-the-top scenes of Biblical devastation, plague and conflict. An announcer warned: "Remember the last time Democrats ran everything? The largest tax increase in history. Government-run health care. More wasteful spending. Who wants that again? Don't let the media stop you from voting. And don't hand Bill Clinton a blank check."

It worked. Republicans kept control of Congress. Haley Barbour, then GOP national chairman and now governor of Mississippi, said at the time voters had responded to the idea of an insurance policy against one-party rule. With time running out, the GOP is resurrecting this golden oldie in hopes that independent voters may not like the idea of having the government completely controlled by the trio of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

-- John Fund

The Disarming Mr. Obama

There's at least one government program Democrats are planning to cut deeply next year. Rep. Barney Frank last week told the editorial board of his home district's South Coast Standard-Times that defense spending will be slashed by 25% in the next Congress. He said such dramatic cuts would likely force the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and a rollback in Pentagon plans for high-tech weaponry. "We don't need all these fancy new weapons," the Massachusetts liberal told the paper's editors.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has made similar comments on the campaign trail. In a video circulating on the Web (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnTaWTfwsFU&feature=related), he says he intends to cut "tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending" at the Pentagon. "I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our investments in future combat systems." He also would institute a new oversight panel to monitor the DoD's existing planning panel to make sure "it is not used to justify unnecessary spending."

On his campaign Web site, Mr. Obama says he also wants to increase the size of Army by 65,000 and the Marine Corps by 27,000, while expanding health care, special ops, civil affairs and other specialties and introducing a "Military Families Advisory Board." The Pentagon has worked in recent years to reduce overhead and increase what it calls "the tooth to tail ratio." Mr. Obama's clear agenda is to invest in more military tail, less tooth.

-- Brendan Miniter

Ted Stevens Joins the Pantheon

We now know that the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" championed by Alaska GOP Senator Ted Stevens did indeed lead somewhere: to the end of his career.

The senator was convicted yesterday on seven felony counts of failing to report gifts from the Alaskan oil-services company Veco on his financial disclosure forms.

Make no mistake. The fall of Ted Stevens was tied directly to his endless quest for earmarks -- pork barrel projects -- he could drag home to Alaska. While the federal indictment did not allege a clear quid-pro-quo, Veco CEO Bill Allen was demonstrably seeking earmarks from Mr. Stevens when he helped renovate the senator's house in suburban Anchorage while forgetting to send the senator most of the bills.

I vividly recall a conversation with Mr. Stevens about the earmark process back in 2006, when the testy senator was chairmonster of the Appropriations Committee. Our talk was surreal as he claimed "discretionary federal spending isn't out of whack," despite all evidence to the contrary.

But he also had moments of blinding candor. He acknowledged that a lot of the spending earmarks wouldn't have passed Constitutional muster before the Great Society. "Back when I was a lawyer in the Interior Department under Eisenhower, we wouldn't have dreamed much of this was anything but a state and local responsibility," he said. "But now that these are the rule, there is no one more tenacious in seeing my state is taken care of."

Sadly, Mr. Stevens also took care of himself, accepting gifts "on loan" for his house that ranged from a used La-Z-Boy recliner to an awful fish sculpture that he never reported on his financial disclosure forms.

There hasn't been a more sordid end to a Congressional career since former House Speaker Jim Wright resigned over bulk sales of a vanity press book or former House Ways and Means Chairman Daniel Rostenkowski went to prison for pilfering postage stamps and office furniture from the House.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"[A]ccording to The Huffington Post, Obama's lack of experience is immune from criticism because he attended Ivy League schools, ‘was a serious and successful student,’ is a well-traveled, published author, and has a diverse background. Heck, he's me! Yet, in every one of my encounters with America's rural communities, the diversity of my privileged experience was eclipsed by the depth of theirs. I had rhetoric; they had well-measured speech, punctuated by forbearing silences. I had easy answers; they knew there was no such thing. It is not that the Republican base is anti-intellectual, as David Broder claims; they are anti-elitist. An Ivy League education is hardly a universal signal of competence in anything other than the liberal cultural canon " -- Joan Chevalier, a New York City speechwriter and essayist, writing in the Boston Globe.

From Joe the Plumber to Joe the Non-Taxpayer

Under Barack Obama's tax plan, millions of Americans who have zero federal income tax liability would nonetheless receive tax rebate checks from the government. Liberals claim these handouts are not really handouts, but would partially offset what recipients pay in FICA taxes for Social Security and Medicare. That's how Mr. Obama can claim 95% of Americans would receive a "tax cut" under his plan.

How big is the bill for Mr. Obama's rebate program? A new study from the Heritage Foundation counts a prospective 10 million net new recipients of federal dollars, who would receive an average of more than $2,000 each year. That adds up to a massive $20 billion-a-year new welfare program. The left-leaning Tax Policy Center similarly forecasts a massive increase in spending on Obama's "refundable tax credits."

Now we know where a President Obama would spend some of the money he takes from Joe the Plumber. With Washington staring at a near-trillion-dollar deficit next year, his interest in "spreading the wealth" clearly isn't a sideshow. It's a central priority even amid the country's unprecedented economic troubles.

-- James Freeman

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