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1/23/2010
WHAT’S ALL THE HUB-BUB ABOUT CAMPAIGN FINANCE?

Wow, the Citizen’s United decision seems to have unhinged a whole bunch of people who claim membership in a “reality based” community. The fact is, I can’t for the life of me figure out what everyone is so upset about.

Am I missing something here Keith?

Today, the Supreme Court, of Chief Justice John Roberts, in a decision that might actually have more dire implications than “Dred Scott v Sandford,” declared that because of the alchemy of its 19th Century predecessors in deciding that corporations had all the rights of people, any restrictions on how these corporate-beings spend their money on political advertising, are unconstitutional.

In short, the first amendment — free speech for persons — which went into affect in 1791, applies to corporations, which were not recognized as the equivalents of persons until 1886. In short, there are now no checks on the ability of corporations or unions or other giant aggregations of power to decide our elections.

None. They can spend all the money they want. And if they can spend all the money they want — sooner, rather than later — they will implant the legislators of their choice in every office from President to head of the Visiting Nurse Service.

This quote was after 500 turgid words trying to explain why Dred Scott was the worst Supreme Court decision evah, and the Chief Justice at the time, Robert Tawney, the 19th century equivalent of Olby’s popular segment “Worst person in the world.” This may indeed be true; but equating the Citizen’s United decision with Dred Scott?

(”Legislators” in the Visiting Nurse Service office? Does anyone read what he writes before he says it on air? Obviously not.)

It gets worse:

It is almost literally true that any political science fiction nightmare you can now dream up, no matter whether you are conservative or liberal, it is now legal. Because the people who can make it legal, can now be entirely bought and sold, no actual citizens required in the campaign-fund-raising process.

And the entirely bought and sold politicians, can change any laws. And any legal defense you can structure now, can be undone by the politicians who will be bought and sold into office this November, or two years from now.

And any legal defense which honest politicians can somehow wedge up against them this November, or two years from now, can be undone by the next even larger set of politicians who will be bought and sold into office in 2014, or 2016, or 2018.

Good thing the above scenario is only “almost literally true.” Had me worried for a minute.

But here’s a question for Keith and the rest of the hyperbolic left who have been falling all over themselves trying to outdo one another in the outrage quotient of their screeds condemning this decision:

Were politicians less beholden to corporate and union interests between 2002-2010 when McCain-Feingold was the law of the land than they were prior to 2002 when the exact same rules will now apply again? Anyone who answers yes, please go back to sleep.

The facts are a little more prosaic:

While the Court held that the ban on corporate political speech is unconstitutional, it did uphold the disclaimer and disclosure requirements. Also, corporate contributions to candidates, national party committees, and the hard money accounts of state and local party committee are still prohibited.

No direct contributions to candidates or parties by corporations, with full disclosure in the ad regarding who or what is sponsoring it. Olbermann’s massively overemoted diatribe is nonsense - unless you believe, as I point out above, that McCain-Feingold actually lessened the influence of corporations and unions on the electoral process.

Many on the left are trying to make the point that corporations are not “people” and therefore, do not enjoy any free speech protections. This is a novel idea. It presumes that non-humans run the companies, work for them, and invest in them. It also presumes that these same non-humans have no interest in democracy, and are uncaring of who might want to regulate them, and legislate for or against their interests. The left evidently believes that the non-people who work for corporations should be at the total mercy of politicians with no ability to influence the outcome of electoral contests where the sub-human’s vital interests are involved.

Why stop with preventing them from speaking out? Why not just take away the right to vote of these non-people too? I see no logical reason why this shouldn’t be the ultimate goal of those who seek to silence corporations and unions whose members, employees, and shareholders have a vital stake in who makes the laws that govern their life and death.

Politicians will be no more beholden to special interests than they are now - which is to say, it’s hard to exaggerate how beholden most members are to corporations and unions prior to the Citizen’s United decision. Corporations and unions will not be able to buy any more access to Members of Congress than they currently enjoy - largely because that access is at Max Q now.

McCain-Feingold - as all previous efforts to “reform” campaign finance laws - only made the situation worse. Every single effort since the 1970’s to remove the influence of corporations and Big Labor from campaigns has only made lawyers versed in campaign finance law rich, and has not achieved even a modicum of success in eliminating the supposed dastardly influence of large institutions on the electoral process.

It is heartening that the Supreme Court continues to recognize political donations as an important form of free speech. And I consider it a triumph for the First Amendment that they also recognize that organizations made up of individuals have a right to participate in the electoral process and make their voices heard.

The problem, I gather, is that these issue committees that will be funded by unions and corporations are wont to make devastatingly effective ads that skewer their opponent. Their very success is a detriment. It is perceived to be unfair by some to highlight an idiotic position taken by a politician, or a vote for an unpopular piece of legislation, or even that his brother in law consorts with criminals.

No - they will not be the most edifying ads, that’s for sure. But they will be protected speech, guaranteed by the First Amendment. And, as Matt Welch asks, “What’s Worse, “Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment,” or Burning it?” Putting up with speech we disagree with from people we abhor is as American as apple pie.

At least, that’s what we’ve been told by those who have been chewing the carpet over the Citizens United decision.

By: Rick Moran at 11:40 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (51)

1/22/2010
NEW BANKING REGS A BOON FOR MAIN STREET

In the midst of doing a lot of things wrong, the Obama administration appears to be about ready to take some steps in regulating the big banks on Wall Street that, if the details are carefully drawn, will make our financial system more secure while reining in institutions that were determined to be “too big to fail.”

The Wall Street Journal:

On Thursday, Mr. Obama proposed a plan that would prevent banks that receive a federal backstop from investing their own money in financial markets—what is known as proprietary trading. He also pushed for new limits on the size and concentration of financial institutions. Both moves echo the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era banking curbs that was repealed in 1999.

The proposal marked the return of Mr. Volcker to center stage in the Obama White House. The 82-year-old chairman of the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board consulted closely with Democrats in the House and Senate as they drafted their proposals to address “too big to fail” entities, referring to financial behemoths whose collapse might bring down the economy. Mr. Volcker spoke frequently with Mr. Obama as well.

But he faced a philosophical divide with others on the economic team.

The Geithner-Summers axis in the White House has been opposing the virtual re-imposition of Glass-Steagall for months. This decision by the president makes me think that one or both of them is on their way out - and soon. Geithner is the logical choice to take a long walk off a short pier, having angered just about everybody but executives who benefited from his bank bonus policies.

My guess is the ax will fall right before the State of the Union speech, perhaps as soon as this weekend. Obama will use SOTU to probably ask for a fresh start from the American people and he’s not going to be able to do that without some heads rolling - especially among those who have been responsible for implementing his economic policies.

The experiment of having a financial system free of Glass Steagall constraints has failed. Jim Manzi at American Scene, in an excellent summary of the new regs, explains why:

Finance professionals, like members of all occupational categories, attempt to build barriers that maintain their own income. One of the techniques used is to shroud what are often pretty basic ideas in pseudo-technical jargon. The reason that it is dysfunctional to have an insured banking system that is free to engage in speculative investing is simple and fundamental. We (i.e., the government, which is to say, ultimately, the taxpayers) provide a guarantee to depositors that when they put their savings in a regulated bank, then the money will be there even if the bank fails, because we believe that the chaos and uncertainty of a banking system operating without this guarantee is too unstable to maintain political viability. But if you let the operators of these banks take the deposits and, in effect, put them on a long-shot bet at the horse track, and then pay themselves a billion dollars in bonuses if the horse comes in, but turn to taxpayers to pay off depositors if the horse doesn’t, guess what is going to happen? Exactly what we saw in 2008 happens.

If you want to have a safe, secure banking system for small depositors, but don’t want to make risky investing illegal (which would be very damaging to the economy), the obvious solution is to not allow any one company to both take guaranteed deposits and also make speculative investments. This was the solution developed and implemented in the New Deal. We need a modernized version of this basic construct, and as far as I can see, this is what President Obama has proposed.

Glass-Steagall put up a wall between commercial banks and those banking institutions that make their living on Main Street. What was seen as an antiquated, outdated notion in 1999 when it was repealed, makes a lot more sense in retrospect. The deregulators forgot one gigantic truth about human nature; we are a fallen species, and if an opportunity presents itself to aggrandize one’s own wealth and power at the expense of another, few will resist such temptation.

Manzi’s point about risk is also well taken. We cannot overregulate to the point that risk is discouraged - especially in the competitive global business environment we find ourselves today. Intelligent risk taking is the essence of entrepreneurship and the government will have to walk a fine line between mandating responsible behavior by big investors while still allowing the magic of the market to bring new products and new ideas to the fore.

While some of the administration’s rhetoric on this issue has bordered on anti-business, the political ramifications of slapping Wall Street with new regs that will force them to act more responsibly to the economy as a whole are profound. Manzi again:

The political aspects of such reform are compelling. People are disgusted at recent bank bonuses. I’m a right-of-center libertarian businessman, and I’m disgusted by them. Make no mistake, many banking executives right now are benefiting from taxpayer subsidies. Even if they pay back the TARP money, the government has demonstrated that it will intervene to protect large banks. This can’t be paid back. And this implicit, but very real, guarantee represents an enormous transfer of economic value from taxpayers to any bank executives and investors who are willing to take advantage of it. Unsurprisingly, pretty much all of them are.

The “populist” observation that the fact of a bunch of well-connected guys each pulling down $10 million per year while suckling on the government teat constitutes almost certain evidence of self-dealing is accurate, and all the fancy finance talk in the world can’t get around it. President Obama has a clear political incentive to pursue this proposal. I assume Republicans will see that they have a clear political incentive to go along, rather than standing up for such a situation. Hopefully, this will create the political dynamic that will allow real, positive reform.

If the result of these regs is that we never hear the words “too big to fail” again, that will be fine by me. I am a little more convinced a year later that the intervention by government at the time was at least partly necessary, although I ask would it have been possible for the government to have tried a little harder to effect mergers and controlled bankruptcies rather than shelling out such huge amounts of taxpayer dollars. We’ll never know, which is why creating a regulatory regime to make sure that we never - ever - put the taxpayer in that position again is of paramount importance.

By: Rick Moran at 9:48 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

1/21/2010
ZUCKERMAN’S LAMENT, KRUGMAN’S DISGUST
CATEGORY: Government, Politics

I’m not even an Obama supporter and I found Mort Zuckerman’s towering rant yesterday against the president painful to read. I genuinely feel for this fellow, who by many reports has been one of the nice guys in the media over the last few decades. Editor in Chief of US News and World Report, as well as publisher of the New York Daily News, Zuckerman has been a moderate liberal voice in the Democratic party for a generation.

An early Obama supporter, and great admirer of the president still, Zuckerman went off on Obama’s policies and performance like there was no tomorrow in a piece entitled “He’s done Everything Wrong”:

Obama punted on the economy and reversed the fortunes of the Democrats in 365 days.

He’s misjudged the character of the country in his whole approach. There’s the saying, “It’s the economy, stupid.” He didn’t get it. He was determined somehow or other to adopt a whole new agenda. He didn’t address the main issue.

This health-care plan is going to be a fiscal disaster for the country. Most of the country wanted to deal with costs, not expansion of coverage. This is going to raise costs dramatically.

In the campaign, he said he would change politics as usual. He did change them. It’s now worse than it was. I’ve now seen the kind of buying off of politicians that I’ve never seen before. It’s politically corrupt and it’s starting at the top. It’s revolting.

Five states got deals on health care—one of them was Harry Reid’s. It is disgusting, just disgusting. I’ve never seen anything like it. The unions just got them to drop the tax on Cadillac plans in the health-care bill. It was pure union politics. They just went along with it. It’s a bizarre form of political corruption. It’s bribery. I suppose they could say, that’s the system. He was supposed to change it or try to change it.

I’ve been reading Zuckerman’s writings for nearly 30 years and the only other examples I can think of where his emotions pour forth in such a raw, uncorrelated way is when he talks of the dangers facing Israel. But this is truly remarkable. The entire article is, in internet parlance, a “screed.” It’s structure is haphazard. There is no attempt to clean up the rank emotionalism that dominates the piece. There isn’t much reason and less logic. It is the wailing lament of someone who obviously feels betrayed, or more relevantly, of a man who has had the scales fall from his eyes.

Obama’s ability to connect with voters is what launched him. But what has surprised me is how he has failed to connect with the voters since he’s been in office. He’s had so much overexposure. You have to be selective. He was doing five Sunday shows. How many press conferences? And now people stop listening to him. The fact is he had 49.5 million listeners to first speech on the economy. On Medicare, he had 24 million. He’s lost his audience. He has not rallied public opinion. He has plunged in the polls more than any other political figure since we’ve been using polls. He’s done everything wrong. Well, not everything, but the major things.

I don’t consider it a triumph. I consider it a disaster.

One business leader said to me, “In the Clinton administration, the policy people were at the center, and the political people were on the sideline. In the Obama administration, the political people are at the center, and the policy people are on the sidelines.”

I’m very disappointed. We endorsed him. I voted for him. I supported him publicly and privately.

Specifically, Zuckerman rails against the stim bill and health care reform as examples of what we on the right have been accusing Obama of for months; farming out the writing and shaping of major legislation to the Pelosi-Reid axis in Congress:

I hope there are changes. I think he’s already laid in huge problems for the country. The fiscal program was a disaster. You have to get the money as quickly as possible into the economy. They didn’t do that. By end of the first year, only one-third of the money was spent. Why is that?

He should have jammed a stimulus plan into Congress and said, “This is it. No changes. Don’t give me that bullshit. We have a national emergency.” Instead they turned it over to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who can run circles around him.

It’s very sad. It’s really sad.

The final criticism is perhaps the most disturbing; despite being popular overseas, Obama is not respected:

He’s improved America’s image in the world. He absolutely did. But you have to translate that into something. Let me tell you what a major leader said to me recently. “We are convinced,” he said, “that he is not strong enough to confront his enemy. We are concerned,” he said “that he is not strong to support his friends.”

The political leadership of the world is very, very dismayed. He better turn it around. The Democrats are going to get killed in this election. Jesus, looks what’s happening in Massachusetts.

Mr. Zuckerman and other cold war liberals don’t get it. The president has made a deliberate decision to curtail American power and influence in the world, going so far as to say in Cairo that no one nation should dominate. The unipolar world is history - partly due to our own misguided attempts to influence events but also because the president sees us as equal partners with the UN. There is less emphasis on our alliances, a stepping back from some of our closer relationships as demonstrated by a pulling away from the “special” relationship we have had for 130 years with Great Britain.

It’s not as if the president was trying to hide his policies. In fact, this aspect of his presidency is one of the few that receives any support from his progressive base. If Zuckerman is just catching on to this now, he has only himself to blame for his myopia.

You can’t say that if Obama has lost Mort Zuckerman, he’s lost the center left of the Democratic party. But you can say that if he’s lost Paul Krugman, he’s lost an important voice among far left progressives:

Health care reform — which is crucial for millions of Americans — hangs in the balance. Progressives are desperately in need of leadership; more specifically, House Democrats need to be told to pass the Senate bill, which isn’t what they wanted but is vastly better than nothing.

[...]

Maybe House Democrats can pull this out, even with a gaping hole in White House leadership. Barney Frank seems to have thought better of his initial defeatism. But I have to say, I’m pretty close to giving up on Mr. Obama, who seems determined to confirm every doubt I and others ever had about whether he was ready to fight for what his supporters believed in.

“Fight for what his supporters believe in?” What about what the president believes in? Presidents don’t pick up the fallen standard of their fringe supporters and go into battle in order to commit suicide. That might be fine for the Krugmans of the Democratic party who don’t have skin in the game. The Times columnist isn’t running for anything, which gives him the luxury of cheering on the combatants from the safety of the peanut gallery.

And, of course, Krugman isn’t making any new charges against the president by the progressive wing of the party. His thoughts find an echo in many online activist’s critique of Obama and his administration.

But coming on the heels of Zuckerman’s tirade, and several other scathing criticisms of the president in other venues - all the result of the Massachusetts debacle - Krugman et al might legitimately ask, “What now, Mr. President?” Whither Obama? Where goes the left?

Some of this is certainly hand wringing by the usual suspects. Massachusetts was, after all, only one senate race although a great, big, red warning sign of a race for the president. But in the end - and I tried to make this point on my radio show on Tuesday night - there are other issues where one or two Republicans could be pried away from their caucus to support the administration. For example, a dramatically scaled back health care initiative would probably pick up close to a half dozen Republicans, including Snowe, Collins, Grassley, Graham, McCain, and probably Scott Brown himself. All have announced support for some of the goals of Obama’s health care reform and the right package could elicit what the president so dearly desires; a bi-partisan bill.

The Krugmans of the party would scream bloody murder and such a bill might not even fly in the House. But it is indicative of the fact that the Obama presidency is not over - if the president and his people would take what the Massachusetts voters were trying to say in a constructive manner and switch gears.

Not a turn to the right or a “pivot” necessarily. These are liberals after all and one shouldn’t expect the impossible. Recalculation might be a better term. More emphasis on the economy is good advice everyone is giving the president. Cutting the deficit substantially would ease a lot of fears among centrists. Modest health care reforms, an energy policy that makes sense, and perhaps a shot at reforming immigration are all on the table, and doable with the right kind of leadership.

In short, the situation is salvageable if there is a noticeable and substantive change in course. Low approval ratings are not set in stone, nor is the growing perception of his administration being incompetent.

I suppose I should be rooting for epic fail from this crew. Indeed, I cheer the demise - if true - of the monstrosity of Obamacare. But this country has big problems that must be addressed. Anyone who cares about America realizes this and hopes that the political leadership can get their act together in order to deal with them.

Politics may be a zero sum game but that’s no reason governance should be. Party men and ideologues will no doubt damn me for my apostasy, and there is little hope that the kind of government we need will arise from the ashes of the political wild fire that raced through Massachusetts.

But America is in crisis - economically and otherwise. While some see paralysis in government as a blessing, the only result of such will be the continued decline of our economic fortunes, and a lowering of our standard of living. That, and a people living in fear of the future is what awaits us without a dramatic change in Washington. Flipping the House and Senate will not be the answer. The same kind of obstructionism and partisan hatred will simply be transferred from the Republicans to the Democrats and still, nothing will get done.

Obama will never get my vote. But he can earn my respect by trying to deliver on his promise to change the political culture in Washington. So far, he hasn’t impressed me, Zuckerman, or Krugman for that matter.

We’ll see if he can change that.

By: Rick Moran at 9:28 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (19)

1/20/2010
IN FOR A PENNY, IN FOR A POUND: MORE EYOREISM ON BROWN

My post yesterday drew the usual praise and congratulations from some of my friends on the right. I am always heartened when such open mindedness, thoughtfulness, and attention to nuance pours forth from such a perspicacious crew. They always reinforce my core beliefs about many conservatives who have set themselves up as gatekeepers and arbiters of acceptable thought.

And I am heartily glad that I make a conscious effort to eschew their anti-intellectual, anti-reason, pro-conformist worldview.

Disagreeing with someone because you believe they are wrong is fine. Posing counter-arguments based on logic and rationalism is the goal of enlightened discussion. But trying to suppress, or otherwise condemn reasonable points of view by making unsupportable attacks on my intellectual integrity and character bespeaks a mind incapable of prudent, reflective discourse.

Every now and then, the bilious rants, unthinking diatribes, and ignorant bombast directed at me by legions of right wing conformists becomes too much to ignore and I feel that some kind of response is necessary. The trap, of course, is that complaining about it automatically brands one as a “whiner.” This tactic, employed by those without the chops to argue on the merits of the proposition thus shielding themselves from their own stuporous inanity, is similar to the left’s stratagem of calling anyone who disagrees with Obama a “racist,” - an ironic juxtaposition for the ages.

I reject the idea that talking about the ugliness, the stupidity, the outright fallaciousness of one’s detractors is indicative of “whining.” I consider it a large part of my continuing critique of modern conservatism. After all, the whole point of their philippics are that I am not a conservative - by their shallow and benighted definition of the term.

I suppose I shouldn’t let it bother me after all these years but celebrating one’s own ignorance by glorying in ad hominem attacks is more than an internet phenomenon. It is the same kind of crap pushed by Hannity, Limbaugh, and other cotton candy conservatives whose influence on the base is so profound. Parroting such louts does not make one sound intelligent. It makes you sound like, well, a parrot who’s been taught to screech obscenities.

Yeah I’m guilty of the same thing at times in response. I’ve tried being reasonable in the past and it’s like talking to a brick wall. I’m supposed to be “reasonable” in responding to this?

It was the Tea Party Movement that just won Mass…and…and…I was going to put something in that was nasty. But victories by the Real Roots of Conservatism, that part which doesn’t require big names and big money to be successful, make me giggle about some of the sanctimonious posts you have made, Rick.

LOL! :giggle:

Do you really think you have a part in the future of conservatism? And if you do…why?

Can an adult reason with a two year old? I would think a spanking would be more to the point.

The ugly truth is, many who call themselves “conservative” today haven’t a clue what that means - not because they disagree with me but because their conformist mentality - the palpable fear of being caught thinking differently than the cool conservatives on the radio and TV - drives them to view any deviation from what they know as “conservatism” as enemy propaganda. Nuance is suspect because conservatism is something you should feel in your gut, not reason out with your mind. And for many, intellectualism equals elitism - the “ism” most in bad odor these days.

Allow me to say that I am pleased as punch at Scott Brown’s stunning win yesterday. I am buoyed by the fact that in 6 months, I will still feel that way while the overwhelming majority of my detractors will be spitting blood at Brown for being a traitorous wretch, a RINO, an apostate, and an ungrateful lout.

Tom Blumer:

The worries about Brown’s vulnerability to selling out only grow when one learns, as Politico reported on Monday, that Brown’s campaign was “filled with staffers who once worked” for Romney. Expect Romney, who I believe is the only potential GOP presidential candidate guaranteed to lose in 2012 if nominated, to take major credit within party circles for Brown’s win in an attempt to revive his flagging viability and to quietly attempt to minimize the importance of tea partiers and others on the ground and throughout the country who did the dirty work. Sadly, top-echelon Republican leaders are still enamored of Romney based on his money and supposed charm. They don’t call it the Stupid Party without reason.

“Selling out?” To whom? For what? I think it significant that Brown did not utter the words “tea party” last night in his acceptance speech. The base may have rallied to his candidacy but to believe that Brown would commit political suicide in Massachusetts by redefining himself in the image of a Rush Limbaugh conservative is idiocy. For about 80% of the country, Scott Brown is plenty conservative enough; a fiscal hawk, supporting tax cuts, against Obamacare, and interested in a robust but reasonable kind of federalism.

But in a couple of months, the Blumers of the movement will realize that Brown also believes in - gasp! - spending tax money on stuff like education, alternative energy, infrastructure, and unholy of unholies, health care reform. This will be enough for apoplexy to set in among some conservatives who either didn’t bother to read where this guy is coming from, or who believed that because “true conservatives” supported him, he’d change his stripes and start thinking as they do.

A telling poll done by Rasmussen on how Bay State voters viewed Brown:

In the end, Brown pulled off the upset in large part because he won unaffiliated voters by a 73% to 25% margin. The senator-elect also picked up 23% of the vote from Democrats. [Our polling shows that 53% of voters in Massachusetts are Democrats, 21% Republican and 26% not affiliated with either party.]

[...]

Twenty-eight percent (28%) say Brown is Very Conservative politically; 44% say he’s Somewhat Conservative, and 22% view him as a political moderate.

Two-thirds of Brown’s fellow Massachusettians see him as a moderate conservative or a political moderate. And how much further left are political independents in Massachusetts than anywhere else in the country? When Brown ends up disappointing those who believe he is the future of the Republican party due to his strong conservative beliefs, they will have only themselves to blame. Blinding oneself to reality is what many conservatives are all about these days.

And Scott Brown will pay the price for their myopia.

By: Rick Moran at 10:59 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (22)

1/19/2010
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: BAY STATE BRAWL

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome AT’s Rich Baehr and Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey for a discussion of the Massachusetts senate race and what it means for both parties.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 5:32 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

DOES A BROWN VICTORY POSE A DANGER FOR THE GOP?
CATEGORY: PJ Media

My latest at PJ Media is up and it talks about the danger for Republicans if Scott Brown, as expected, wins today.

A sample:

There were other problems with the health care issue for Democrats, including their arrogance about it, their obsessiveness with getting it passed at all costs, and their failure to address economic issues in lieu of health care reform. But the important thing to remember is that a majority of indies still want some kind of health care reform, and killing Obamacare is only half the equation.

Moderate and Blue Dog Democrats know this which is why they might be tempted to vote for a much more modest, realistic, and — dare I say — conservative version of health care reform. Meanwhile, the GOP base (many of whom see nothing wrong with our health care system at all), will settle for simply blocking the Democrats from accomplishing anything.

Is that a viable strategy for going into the 2010 mid-terms? I suppose it’s going to have to be since the chances of Boehner or McConnell lifting a finger to address any problem facing the country are just about nil. And that brings me to the danger posed by Brown’s victory raising expectations among independents nationwide.

On the one hand, there is the danger that if the GOP were actually to cooperate with Democrats on issues of mutual concern, they wouldn’t get any credit for their efforts from the voters. On the other hand, there is the real danger that the charge of “obstructionism” by Democrats may carry a little more weight given the circumstances of Brown’s victory.

Threading the needle on expectations is going to be an interesting problem for the Republican leadership, one made more complex by the activism of the tea party movement. Paralysis may be the only viable option when so many are so angry at so much of the inside the beltway elite. “Responsible” governance might require that the GOP work with the Democrats to at least, bring the economy out of its horrible doldrums. But anything proposed beyond tax cuts would probably be met by fierce resistance from those who see any government spending to stimulate the economy as worse than useless; an actual betrayal of conservative principles.

With the economy in such horrible shape, voters are demanding action. It may be good politics to block a second stimulus bill but with Brown in the picture, it may force the Democrats to be a little less grouchy about targeted, temporary tax cuts as a way to move the economy off the schniede.

Who would be blamed for failure on this and other issues? Do the Republicans want to find out?

By: Rick Moran at 11:40 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (23)

1/18/2010
Jack Bauer’s Lonely Crusade Continues
CATEGORY: "24", Newsreal Blog

This article originally appears on Newsreal Blog.

Jack is back! The eighth season of 24 got underway last night and promises the usual chills and thrills for fans of the long running drama.

But it is the character of Jack Bauer that fascinates us - has fascinated America - in that the changes undergone by Bauer in the previous seven incarnations of the show have mirrored our own conflicts and doubts that have arisen since the debut of the show a few weeks before 9/11/01.

Jack Bauer, is one of the most consequential fictional characters ever created for dramatic television. He has been the subject of numerous cover stories and articles in Time, Newsweek, and other news magazines, while being featured in long articles for publications as diverse as The New Yorker, and Mother Jones. He has even been the topic of scholarly dissertations and was even used as a subject for a Heritage Foundation symposium.

If that weren’t enough, Bauer may very well be the only fictional character ever accused of inspiring war crimes. Indeed, the US army’s professional interrogators were so concerned about Bauer’s impact on their men that they sent a high level delegation to the set of 24 last year, pleading with the producers and writers to portray the results of physical torture more realistically. Their point; that torture doesn’t work, but that Bauer’s continued successful utilization of the tactic was having a bad affect on their men:

The third expert at the meeting was Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator in the war in Iraq. He told the show’s staff that DVDs of shows such as 24 circulate widely among soldiers stationed in Iraq. Lagouranis said to me, “People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen.

But it is the evolution of the character of Bauer that has been the most remarkable gauge of how America sees itself and the War on Terror over the last decade. The fictional hero has gone from a super-patriot with a telling devotion to duty and fanatical desire to win, to a conflicted man, burdened by conscience, whose forays into the deepest recesses of the corrupt American state are animated more by personal vengeance than national security.

Some of this is certainly a result of how Jack’s adversaries have changed over the years. The show has gone from being one of the only dramas to portray extremist Muslims as the true terrorist enemy to having Jack face off with rogue elements in the American government and big business.

Many of Bauer’s foes today are the same enemies that liberals believe are ruining the country; neo-cons, corrupt, power hungry officials, and greedy businessmen. Last season’s biological attack during the show was planned by a Blackwater-type private security firm worried about losing Defense Department contracts. The premise was so laughably and outrageously unrealistic that even critics panned it for its idiocy.

The presence of a shadowy, military-industrial complex with contacts in the executive branch, the FBI, and other government agencies who facilitate their lawbreaking breathes life into liberal conspiracy theories that have dominated since the early Bush years. Stand ins for not only Blackwater, but Haliburton have been used. Even a Nixon-like president, ordering assassinations and terrorist attacks on his own country, was utilized as an evil Bush twin.

But through it all, Jack Bauer has persevered. The enemy is not as consequential to Bauer as much as winning has been. Defeating the designs of evil men by bending, stretching, and even breaking the law has been a hallmark of Bauer’s crusade and that is not likely to end this year, despite the fact that our hero is now a grandfather and desperately wants to stay out of the game.

In last night’s premiere, Bauer was pulled back into action by both his sense of duty and his loyalty to an old friend. These are qualities that have endeared him to conservatives in the past. And while it is doubtful the show will give us a realistic portrayal of our enemy, many of us will continue to watch if only to follow the exploits of Bauer who remains, despite everything, the iconic post 9-11 hero.

By: Rick Moran at 3:44 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

1/17/2010
SUPPORTING SCOTT BROWN: PRAGMATISM OR PRINCIPLE?
CATEGORY: PJ Media

My latest at Pajamas Media came out yesterday and it deals with the idea that many conservatives who have made Scott Brown their latest darling will drop him like a hot potato sooner rather than later.

A sample:

You can’t pigeonhole Scott Brown. He’s a conservative — but he’s not. He’s a squishy RINO — but he’s not. He’s pro-choice, pro-gun, pro-consumer protection, pro-free market, and pro-environment. He opposes gay marriage but supported a regional cap-and-trade scheme — a vote he now says was a mistake. He supported the Massachusetts health insurance plan promoted by Mitt Romney with its individual mandate, although he now says that they need to get costs under control.

The picture that emerges after examining this fellow’s record and his position on the issues is one of an independent thinker with conservative principles who doesn’t allow ideology to dominate his thinking or his politics. Prudent, pragmatic, reasonable, but not squishy about where he stands (see his fight to repeal the sales tax increase and his battle over gay marriage).

He appears to be thoughtful and nuanced. His abortion stance mixes classic libertarian thinking with the concerns of a parent with two daughters. He grants women the right to choose and opposes partial birth abortions, but he wants strict parental notification requirements as well.

[...]

So what will conservatives make of such a man? A hit with labor unions and environmental groups — sometimes. Strong anti-tax cred. Pro-choice, but not in-your-face about it. Beloved of teachers unions — sometimes. Proven fiscal hawk. A man’s man who loves triathlons, has served in the National Guard for 30 years, has a beautiful wife, and drives a GMC Canyon truck with nearly 200,000 miles on it.

Right now, he is the darling of the right, with endorsements from the tea party groups and online conservative activists. He is, after all, that coveted “41st vote” on health care reform. But beyond destroying Obama’s dream of a government takeover of health care, how “reliable” a vote will he be for Republicans in the Senate?

I should mention that I think the enthusiasm among tea partiers, evangelicals, and other true conservatives for this guy is amusing. In six months, they will be condemning Brown for being just another stinking RINO.

That’s if Brown wins. Many things are pointing to a Brown win on Tuesday - polls, enthusiasm, self destructing Democrat - but the electoral apparatus is in the hands of one party in that state and the stakes are enormously high.

Of course there will be cheating and stealing votes. The trick is not in carrying it off, the trick is in not getting caught. A study done a couple of decades ago showed that anywhere from 1-3% of all votes in a national election are the result of some kind of chicanery. In a state like Massachusetts where one party has been entrenched in power so long and the infrastructure for cheating has been in place forever, that number is probably slightly larger. My estimation is that Brown will have to win by 3% or more to have a chance to make it to the senate. Anything less, and the Democrats will “find” enough Coakley votes and “lose” enough Brown votes to flip the election.

Then there’s the outside chance that enough Democrats will hold their nose and go to the polls and vote for Coakley anyway - especially after being inspired to do so by President Obama’s visit today. With a 3-1 Democratic advantage in registration, that scenario is not out of the realm of the impossible.

The point being, the giddy celebrations going on at Republican haunts on the web today are a little premature. By all rights, Brown should win. But the only poll that counts happens on Tuesday. And what happens in the dead of night at the precinct level following the vote could spell the difference for Brown’s chances.

By: Rick Moran at 12:46 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (18)

1/16/2010
SCOTT BROWN BITES THE HEADS OFF LITTLE CHILDREN AND DRINKS THEIR BLOOD
CATEGORY: Politics

The charge against Scott Brown made above is a follow up to the one the Democrats in Massachusetts are making today in a mailer:

1-6

The justification for this outrageously exaggerated, and deliberately falsified charge is that Brown voted for a provision that would allow hospital workers not to inform rape victims of the availability of the “Morning After” pill if their religious convictions prevented them from doing so.

Not exactly - or even remotely similar to - “turning away” rape victims from hospitals but hey! Who’s keeping track, right?

A side note of reality; there has never been a recorded instance of any hospital worker refusing to give the morning after pill to a rape victim if it was requested. In fact, those workers who are uncomfortable informing rape victims of this option invariably bring someone else into the consultation who will. That’s the way the system works and the Democrat’s ad is as much an indictment of hospital workers with religious convictions as it is Brown.

Now, if you’re a Republican, it does absolutely no good to condemn this ad. That’s because some mouth breathing, thumb sucking liberal will come back and throw up the equivalency thing in your face. Never mind that it takes someone with the mind of a 5 year old to essentially say, “Yeah, well yous guys does it too - and worse!” No matter. What counts is that nothing Democrats ever do is worse than any one thing a Republican has done. I will faint dead away if a Democrat were ever to categorically and without reservation or qualification condemn an ad like this.

This is the way of the world as it is perceived in the “reality based community.”

Correction:

Apparently, I was wrong about there not being any instances of health care workers denying morning after pills or contraception to patients out of conscience.

As a pro-choice humanist with great respect for the individual’s exercise of conscience - on both sides of the issue - it was my understanding that states where this “conscience law” was in force had urged medical facilities to develop guidelines for everyone from intake clerks to doctors and pharmacists on what to do when confronted with a case where their religious convictions conflicted with the patient’s right to receive the care they desired. The goal was to satisfy both needs and this was accomplished by, where possible, allowing other medical workers to handle the case or, referring the patient to another provider who would.

Of course, in Coakley’s world, it is sneeringly believed that if you hold those religious beliefs, you shouldn’t work in an emergency room. I personally think that if Coakley believes that, she shouldn’t be a politician.

Oh, wait…that’s right.

By: Rick Moran at 2:16 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (28)

5 HEALTH CARE REFORM SCENARIOS IF BROWN WINS

The panicked Democrats are thrashing about trying to come up with a way to save health care reform if Republican Scott Brown wins the special election in Massachusetts on Tuesday to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat.

The first scenario involves challenging the results of the election, no matter how much Brown wins by. The Democrats have already deployed their crack team of election law lawyers who will attempt to muck up the process of counting the ballots, challenging machine counts, trying to force a recount if the result is close enough, and generally throwing a monkey wrench into the proceedings.

The Massachusetts Secretary of State must certify the results within 10 days of the election. That means it’s likely that the earliest Brown could be seated would be January 29 - barring challenges to the vote. It would only be earlier if the Democrats in the senate agreed to swearing Brown in before certification - good luck with that one.

If a Brown victory is within the 3-5% margin, it will be days, perhaps weeks before he is sworn in. The watchword will be “Delay” and if it’s close enough, they will probably succeed in keeping the caretaker senator Paul Kirk in his seat until health care reform is safely passed which, according to ABC’s Rick Klein, won’t be until February 2 at the earliest.

But suppose Brown wins by a large margin or the Democrats run out of challenges before reform is passed? Then things can get a little sticky.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

As the likelihood grows that Republicans could win the special election in Massachusetts, it’s worth thinking again about alternatives for health care reform in case that happens. I see three, in descending order of preference:1. Finish up the House-Senate negotiations quickly and hold a vote before Scott Brown is seated. Republicans will scream, but how could they scream any louder? It’s a process argument of murky merits that will be long forgotten by November.

2. Get the House to pass the Senate bill, and maybe use a reconciliation bill (which only needs a Senate majority to pass) to implement as many House-Senate compromises as possible.

Option #3 is to flip Olympia Snowe. The Maine senator may very well end up voting for the revised package since, according to Chait, all of her concerns about the bill have been met. Her calculation now is purely political; how badly does she want to remain in the Republican party?

Mainer Andrew Ian Dodge insists that Snowe is never likely to bolt the GOP in Maine, even if the national Republicans would strip her of her seniority or punish her in other ways. But former Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords bolted for a lot less than the Dems would offer Snowe to switch parties. It is a distinct possibility given the alternatives.

Obviously, #3 would be the preferred route. The fact that #1 is almost certainly off the table giving the time period I mentioned above, the only other option is to blow up the senate by using reconciliation to pass reform.

If the Democrats were to employ reconciliation in getting health care reform passed, the Republicans would have no choice but to bring the senate to a standstill. If they didn’t, the Democrats would be able to ride roughshod over them for the rest of the year, not to mention destroying the principle of minority rights. It is a scorched earth option that the Democrats use at their own peril.

The only other option the Democrats have is to vote to get rid of the filibuster entirely. This, I don’t see happening. Saner heads in the party realize that they will not always be in the majority and that the filibuster is a useful tool to block legislation. Besides, they would need a supermajority to change the rules of the senate which means several Republicans would have to go along with the scheme - not very likely.

The most likely scenario? If Scott Brown pulls off the upset and is seated before health care reform is passed, I think reform will die. It may not even be able to pass the House as a couple of dozen members take note of what happened in the most Democratic state in the union and resist voting for this unpopular monstrosity of a health care reform measure.

Welcome news, indeed. But first, Brown has to win.

This blog post originally appears in The American Thinker

By: Rick Moran at 10:37 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (19)