Saturday, January 23, 2010
That old gang of mine: Obama with (l-r) Robert Gibbs, David Plouffe, David Axelrod
In the aftermath of the disastrous (for Democrats) victory of Scott Brown in Massachusetts and with the President's standing with voters declining while opposition to his policies is on the rise, the White House has finally sent out a call for outside help. Well, sort of outside help.
According to the Washington Post, Obama's 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe -- generally regarded as a political and organizational whiz -- "will be taking on an expanded role as an outside adviser to the White House."
I was expecting something like this, because when a President is in as much trouble as Obama is, the usual course is to bring in some fresh blood or fire a few people or both. When he faced similar problems after the 1994 mid-terms elections swept the GOP into power on Capitol Hill, Bill Clinton turned to an old advisor who had not been part of his 1992 campaign or early administration, Dick Morris. Despite fierce backbiting from other top Clinton aides, Morris helped the President to shape a new governmental approach and political strategy that was decisive in Clinton's strong comeback and victory in 1996.
But Plouffe is no Morris. Part of the same tight-knit crew in Chicago that ran Obama's 2008 campaign, along with key political aides David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, Plouffe may not have the independence or the inclination to rock any boats -- although all signs point to Obama's White House needing some serious boat rocking and maybe one or two capsizes.
Indeed, Plouffe has an op-ed in today's Washington Post in which he advises that the Administration and Congress's response to the popular unpopularity of their programs should be to put heads down and barrel through as if nothing had happened in Massachusetts -- or Virginia or New Jersey.
Of course, Plouffe may be putting up a smokescreen, affirming publicly that the plans forged by his colleagues have been right all along, while intending to advise the President to change course. Something tells me this won't happen. Plouffe's new role looks an awful lot like a way to gin up some new sales strategies for stuff that no one is buying.
What do you think? Post a comment.
Kirsten Gillibrand and her patron, Chuck Schumer
Nobody likes big banks -- especially after the Great 2008 Wall Street Panic that sparked a year of agita for everyone with a 401k, required hundreds of billions federal bailouts to restore stability, and helped drive a deep, long recession.
So, as ticked-off Massachusetts voters prepared to bang Washington on the head last week, President Obama rolled out a new "populist" theme to channel voter anger against the banks in the form of a proposed tax on about 50 of the nation's largest financial institutions.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg immediately denounced the proposal, pointing out that the financial services industry is the lifeblood of New York's economy and the source of a huge chunk of the tax revenues of both New York City and New York State. "The way we pay our cops, firefighters and everybody else in the city is from tax revenues," Bloomberg said. "And if you want to see what happens to a city when their major industry fails, just take a look at Detroit." The Mayor added, adding, "I certainly hope our legislators in Washington will fight to protect our industry here."
No such luck. New York's senior Senator, Chuck Schumer, gave the tax his full support. But while Chuck is a news hound known to put out as many as 10 press releases in a single day, there was no release about this one. I guess Chuck isn't eager to trumpet it to his constituents.
Junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed a year ago by accidental Gov. David Patterson and has since largely disappeared from public view, vaguely expressed "concern" about the proposal, adding that it "is far better than some proposals." Courageous leader, eh?
Interestingly, on her website, Gillibrand makes a big deal of how she's much committed to the successful rebuilding" of New York's financial industry because it is "responsible for 20 percent of the state's revenues and hundreds of thousands of jobs" and "the future well-being of New York City is dependent on the recovery of the financial sector."
She's right, of course, even if her actions don't reflect her words. In fact, prior to the recent downturn, the financial industry’s contribution to total New York City wages and salaries peaked at more than 35% in 2006. In FY 2001-08, Wall Street was responsible for nearly a quarter of wages and salaries statewide. Those controversial bonuses notwithstanding, as the industry is still clawing its way out of recession, a state report projects that proportion will be only about 19% in FY 2010-11.
These numbers means that Bloomberg is not exaggerating when he says that the city's ability to pay its cops and firefighters depends on Wall Street's health and growth. The financial services industry pays a huge portion of city and state revenue from personal and corporate income taxes, existing bank taxes, and commercial real estate taxes (and even residential real estate taxes, since Wall Street employment drives much of New York's housing market). The city's and the state's current crippling budget deficits are largely attributable to cutbacks on Wall Street.
What's more, Wall Street drives the whole New York economy, not just its governmental budgets. Take Wall Street out of the picture and New York wouldn't have all those trendy neighborhoods that have sprung back from decay and crime over the past three decades and morphed into trendy refuges for a burgeoning urban gentry -- Manhattanville, Tribeca, Alphabet City, DUMBO (don't ask), Williamsburg, etc. And that's not to mention the surging prosperity of the rest on Manhattan's older upscale neighborhoods in the same period.
People who think that New York can continue as the world capital of finance regardless of how it treats financial companies all of which now operate globally should learn more about London, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The bank tax is not the only recent issue on which Schumer and Gillibrand have put the supposed interests of their national party ahead of the concrete interests of the state they represent. Both have doggedly backed the Senate's health care proposal, even though it would severely disadvantage New York and has been panned for that reason by both Gov. David Patterson and Mayor Bloomberg, who called it a "disgrace." While Mary Landrieu got her state the "Louisiana Purchase" and Ben Nelson got his the "Cornhusker Kickback," between them, Schumer and Gillibrand got bubkis for their constituents.
Pols can get away with this kind of disregard for the people they represent only so long. Gillibrand may face a primary this year from Harold Ford, Jr. -- and I sincerely hope she does. She's also not been polling well against Republicans, and after Massachusetts, she may find herself on the endangered list. As for Schumer, he's also up for reelection in 2010 but far more deeply entrenched than Gillibrand. Still, there are rumblings of a challenge from TV business guru Larry Kudlow and even an online draft Kudlow movement. Better watch out, Chuck!
Any thoughts about these two Senators? Post a comment.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Scott Brown's stunning upset victory in Massachusetts was driven by deep voter discontent with the economy, taxes, wild spending and misguided health care "reform." But terrorism was a big issue, too. Massachusetts voters were disturbed by the Obama Administration's decision to try key 9/11 terrorists in a New York federal court. Then, when the abortive Christmas Day bombing occurred and the culprit, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was quickly Mirandized and given a court-appointed lawyer who advised him not to talk, Brown made it clear that this was no way to protect the nation -- and voters agreed.
For more than three weeks, we were told, hey, no problem, because the FBI interrogated Abdulmutallab and he talked his head off -- albeit only until his lawyer advised him to clam up -- and we gained lots and lots of good intelligence from him. While I was skeptical about this, I gave the Administration the benefit of a doubt. After all, I assumed, Obama's national security team had put their heads together and made a judgment, based on much more knowledge than I have. So I respected that.
Shockingly, it turns out that they did not put heads together. In fact, at Wednesday's Senate hearing into the matter, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified that he was never even consulted about how to treat Abdulmutallab. Michael Leiter, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told the Senate that they had not been consulted either.
So who did make the decision to question Abdulmutallab for "at least two hours," charge him, give him his Miranda warnings, and provide him with a taxpayer-paid lawyer? The President? The Attorney General? The FBI Director? It's not entirely clear whether someone higher up in the Justice Department had a hand in it, but FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said that he, too, wasn't in the loop. He explained lamely that FBI agents on the ground made the decision to read Mr. Abdulmutallab his rights and get him an attorney. "It happened so fast that there was no time, really, at that point, where the transfer was made very quickly, given the moving circumstances, to determine whether alternative arrests could or should be made," said Mueller.
So, the opportunity to question a foreign terrorist who tried to blow up an airplane had to be made so "quickly" that no one could lob a call into Blair, Mueller, Leiter, Panella, White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan, National Security Advisor James Jones, someone, anyone? And not one of these people heard about the bombing and thought, gee, maybe I ought to make a few calls and dip my oar in on this decision?
In his testimony, Blair said that he disagrees with the decision to question Abdulmutallab as a criminal suspect and not interrogate him as an ienemy combatant (better late than never):
Mr. Blair...revealed a previously undisclosed disagreement among the Obama administration's top officials over the handling of the Nigerian who is accused of attempting to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253.
The intelligence chief said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should have been questioned by the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, a special panel established by President Obama.
"We did not invoke the HIG in this case. We should have. Frankly, we were thinking more of overseas people. And, you know … that's what we will do now. And so we need to make those decisions more carefully,"
"That unit was created exactly for this purpose," Mr. Blair added. "To make a decision on whether a certain person who's detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution, or for some of the other means."
The is appalling. But it's not too late. President Obama still has the clear-cut authority to declare Abdulmutallab an enemy combatant, drop the civilian charges, and place him in military custody where he can be questioned by that HIG. No one can say that we won't learn anything more from him than we did in that brief window when FBI agents questioned him, because absolutely no one knows what he does or doesn't know.
Mr. President, it's up to you.
What are your thoughts? Post a comment.
California Sen. Barbara Boxer with the ubiquitous Chuck Schumer*
It's nice to see that Senate Democrats agree with my analysis that in the aftermath of Scott Brown's explosive victory in Massachusetts, they are all in trouble -- at least those up for reelection in November. Politico reports:
The Republican victory in Massachusetts has sent a wave of fear through the halls of the Senate, with moderate and liberal Democrats second-guessing their party’s agenda — and worrying that they’ll be the next victims of voters’ anger.So does that really mean everyone? Apparently, yes, it does:
“If there’s anybody in this building that doesn’t tell you they’re more worried about elections today, you absolutely should slap them,” said Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).
Several Democratic incumbents said later that none of the 19 Democratic seats up this year are safe — and that fundamental parts of the agenda need to be re-examined to win over voters back home.What's the problem? At least one Senator is willing to say on the record that it's Democrats' own over-reaching agenda, particularly on health care:
“Every state is now in play,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who faces the toughest reelection battle of her career — most likely against wealthy Republican Carly Fiorina.
Asked if red-state Democrats up in 2010 and 2012 should be nervous about the electorate, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) told POLITICO, “Oh, yeah.”Well, at least Conrad got the message.
“I think part of the problem is the agenda itself,” said Conrad, who doesn’t face voters again until 2012. Instead of spending so much time on health care reform, Conrad said Democrats should have focused first on reducing the national debt and a bipartisan energy bill — and that President Barack Obama should have done a better job of explaining that the economic situation he inherited was “far worse” than he’d originally thought.
My take yesterday that the Democrats could be reduced to 51 seats after November got a boost from respected independent analyst Larry Sabato who says the Democrats would wind up with 52 seats if the election were held today. While the Democrats can take heart from the fact that the elction is nearly 10 months away, giving them time to get their act together, Sabato adds more gloom by suggesting that even such hitherto untouchable incumbents as Minnesota's Russ Feingold and Washington's Patty Murray (as well as New York's Kirsten Gillibrand and Indiana's Evan Bayh, both on my list of the newly endangered) could be in trouble.
* According to a recent Marist poll, Schumer may have his own problems with an approval rating dropping seven points in a few months as he's visibly fronted for health "reform."
What are your thoughts? Post a comment.
RELATED -- Stuart Rothenberg has moved Blanche Lincoln's Arkansas seat from a "Toss-up" to "Lean Advantage" to the GOP.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
So today, for the first time, the prospect of the Democrats losing control of the Senate is actually a possibility. Here are my nominees for formerly "safe" Democrats who should seriously rethink their automatic support of foreign and domestic policies pushed by the left wing of their (and my) party:
1. New York's appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
A former Blue Dog representative when she held an upstate House seat, Gillibrand has spent her year as a Senator flip-flopping to burnish her liberal credentials and head off a primary challenge. Other than that, she's been a cipher -- a nobody who follows Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer blindly. An astonishing 38% of New Yorkers still don't know enough about her to rate her, and those who do split 30-32 favorable-unfavorable. She may yet be challenged in a primary by former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (who gets my vote if he runs), and while she beats him handily in a recent poll, Harold hasn't even started yet. Worse for Democratic prospects, the poll shows tired old former GOP Gov. George Pataki crushing her by 14 points. Imagine if she had an exciting GOP opponent?) This is Hillary Clinton's seat in "blue" New York. But post-Brown, Gillibrand has a big target on her back.
2. Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal
Next door to Gillibrand in Connecticut, Democrats were breathing easier after dead-man-walking Chris Dodd opted to retire, leaving the field to the state's popular attorney general, Richard Blumenthal. Unlike Dodd, polls show Blumenthal running way ahead of both of his possible GOP rivals, former Rep. Rob Simmons and wealthy businesswoman Linda McMahon. The trouble is that Blumenthal is another conventionally ideological Democrat, much like that other popular state attorney general, Martha Coakley. McMahon, who can finance an aggressive campaign, says she's staying in to challenge Blumenthal. And guess what? Connecticut voters are even more independent than their neighbors in Massachusetts. In the current toxic environment for Democrats, if I were Blumenthal, I'd tie myself to Joe Lieberman, not Harry Reid.
3. California veteran, Barbara Boxer
Out in California, where Obama cruised to victory in 2008, longtime Senator Barbara Boxer has been vexed by crummy poll numbers, which has drawn a well-financed challenge from Republican Carly Fiorina, who ran only three points behind Boxer in the most recent poll. And that was before Massachusetts! Fiorina is a tough opponent with money. Now, she also has on her side a climate in which Californians may want to throw out the bums in Washington.
4. Indiana's Evan Bayh
Indiana is more a reddish purple than a blue state. Still, Obama did squeak out a victory there in 2008. More to the point, Sen. Evan Bayh (also a former governor who won statewide five times) is as solidly established a Democrat as you can find in the nation (his dad, Birch Bayh, represented the state in the Senate from 1963 to 1982). So far, Bayh has been regarded as one of the safest Democrats running for reelection. But the Massachusetts result, combined with that reddish tint of the state, is bound to fuel GOP determination to unseat Bayh. Unlike so many of his colleagues, though, Bayh has hewed to a moderate course throughout his career, which might keep him safe. That said, all it might take to make this race competitive is a viable GOP candidate.
Apart from these four, Democrats were already in serious danger of losing seats in at least four other states that are often in the "swing" category. Harry Reid is in deep trouble in Nevada, where he has been running behind all of his possible GOP opponents. Byron Dorgan's decision to retire has all but handed his North Dakota seat to Republican Gov. John Hoeven. In Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln is on life support, in part due to her mindless backing of Reid's deeply unpopular health "reform" bill. And Colorado's appointed senator, Michael Bennet, is widely expected to go down.
There are yet more currently Democrat-held seats that were on the endangered list before Massachusetts. In Pennsylvania, where Republican Pat Toomey has a good chance to defeat either erstwhile GOPer Arlen Specter or his primary opponent, Joe Sestak, Toomey's odds just got better. In Delaware, popular GOP Rep. Mike Castle was set to run a competitive race against Beau (son of Joe) Biden. Now, the younger Biden may consider other options, boosting Castle's stock considerably. And in the Illinois race for Barack Obama's old seat, GOP Rep. Mark Kirk, always a strong contender, is all the stronger.
Of course, the GOP must defend some seats this fall, too. But Republican hopes of holding most of them just got better, too. In New Hampshire, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina and Louisiana, GOP candidates now will be running in a generally more favorable climate.
Assuming the GOP holds onto all of its open seats and takes all those I've listed above from the Democrats, the Republicans would go from 41 to 52 seats. To be sure, that won't happen. But here's a scenario that might just: the GOP picks up eight of 11 for a total of 49, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman becomes the 51st vote to pass anything, not the 60th vote for cloture. How about that?
What's your take? Post a comment.
So how and why did Scott Brown win in Massachusetts, that supposedly deepest "blue" among "blue" states? Because the vital center of the American electorate -- the purple center -- is now in open revolt against Washington policies it simply cannot stomach.
The familiar blue-red depictions of election returns has grossly distorted the reality of the American electorate -- as a whole and in most states -- by ignoring the fact that most voters are independents or moderate-minded Democrats and Republicans. As it happens, most Massachusetts voters fall into one of those categories.
I use the image above (courtesy of the University of Michigan's Mark Newman) as the emblem of this blog because it provides a more accurate picture of the electorate by using shades of purple, not just red and blue, to indicate relative margins of victory by county. What you see in Massachusetts and across New England is a lot of purple. If Democratic Party leaders from President Obama down had this understanding of America voters, they would not have made the mistake of driving so hard to put in place left-leaning policies that may appeal to the 20% of voters who call themselves "liberal," but worry or even alarm the other 80%!
Unfortunately, there are no exit polls to give us breakouts of the Massachusetts, but if we use the independent polls taken over the final weekend as a rough proxy of the election, Scott Brown's winning coalition looked like this:
-- More than two-thirds of independents, who comprise about one-half of all voters, voted for Brown;
-- So did about one-quarter of the registered Democrats, who comprise about 35% of the electorate; and
-- He swept as much as 90% of the Republicans, who comprise about 12% of the electorate.
While Brown crushed Democrat Martha Coakley among independents, he would not have won without the support of a sizable chuck of Democrats -- the centrist Democrats who many Democratic Party leaders try to pretend don't exist.
This came together for Brown because the same moderate independents, Democrats and Republicans -- the purple center -- who repudiated Bush and gave Obama a huge 26-point victory in Massachusetts 14 months ago are now in open rebellion against arrogant, out-of-touch one-party rule in Washington. They want a check against that power. In particular, they have seen the monstrosity of a health care "reform" bill and reject it. No, they aren't ignorant of its supposed benefits and will feel better when they learn more about it. They know perfectly well that it slashes Medicare; raises taxes and premiums; endangers their current plans and health care quality; gives insurance companies big new profits by forcing people to buy expensive policies they don't want or pay stiff penalties; jacks up the huge federal deficit further; imposes enormous new burdens on the fiscally strapped states; is riddled with offensive special deals for special interests from Big Pharma to labor unions; and for all that, leaves millions uninsured.
Sure, Martha Coakley was a lousy candidate, but she would have won this election handily a year ago before the sheer radicalism of the Washington Democrats' agenda became apparent.
This was not just a "wake up call." There have been many of those. This was a last chance warning. Democrats who ignore it will do so at their peril. Many more Democratic-held seats in the House or Senate are no longer "safe." Fortunately, moderate Democrats like Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman and Jim Webb do seem to get it and have already said publicly that Democrats have to step back and rethink what they are doing. The rest had better listen.
What are your thoughts about the Massachusetts revolt? Post a comment.
UPDATE -- Evan Bayh warns that Democrats risk "catastrophe" if they ignore Massachusetts and must avoid the "furthest left elements of the Dem party attempting to impose their will on the rest of the country." He's got that right.
RELATED -- Scott Brown's top strategist tells Politico that the campaign's polling showed terrorism was a bigger issue for Brown than health care. Brown campaigned against giving terrorists the rights of U.S. citizens, which resonated loudly with Mass. voters after the near-disatrous Christmas terror attack.
UPDATE 2 -- Rasmussen has a poll of how Mass. voters cast their ballots. Brown's margin was even higher among independents than I speculated above -- a whopping 73%! And he won 23% of Democrats, just about what I thought.
Monday, January 18, 2010
The issue now is not whether Brown wins but by how much. From Politico.com:
A new InsiderAdvantage poll conducted exclusively for POLITICO shows Republican Scott Brown surging to a nine-point advantage over Martha Coakley a day before Massachusetts voters trek to the ballot box to choose a new senator.
According to the survey conducted Sunday evening, Brown leads the Democratic attorney general 52 percent to 43 percent.
"I actually think the bottom is falling out," said InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery, referring to Coakley's fall in the polls over the last ten days. "I think that this candidate is in freefall. Clearly this race is imploding for her."
Brown is crushing Coakley by 41 points among self-described independents in this poll.
Up there in the Bay State, don't forget to vote for Scott Brown tomorrow!
RELATED -- Suffolk University polling shows Brown with an astounding double-digit lead in three "bellweather" communities, chosen because they reliably reflect statewide trends. All three!
Pollster.com looks at all the surveys and concludes that Brown is ahead by between 4 and 11 points.
Stuart Rothenberg moves his analysis of the race from a "Toss-up" to a "Lean Takeover" for Brown.
Any guesses about the Brown margin of victory? Post it in the comments.
I was there in August 1963, which actually doesn't seem like all that long ago. Dr. King was an extraordinary leader, murdered in his prime. But there were many others, now all gone, without whom the vast changes in American society since that day might not have happened.
The 1963 March on Washington, which is often referred to these days as "Dr. King's march on Washington," was actually the brainchild of A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin.
Randolph was the grand old man of the civil rights leadership at the time. President of the all-Black railroad Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (wow, how archaic does that seem!) and a Vice President of the AFL-CIO, Randolph was arguably the only person who could have forged the alliance of all the major civil rights groups, key labor unions and white liberal organizations that made the March happen.
Bayard Rustin, a veteran of decades of pacifist, socialist and civil rights causes and an advocate of Ghandian non-violent resistance, might well be regarded as the most important organizational and political thinker and organizer behind the civil rights protests that emerged in 1950s and 1960s. Rustin was a prime mover behind the creation of the activist Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). His was the strategic brain behind the 1956 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott that catapulted King into the movement's leadership. He and King organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) the next year. SCLC, its youth arm, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and CORE were the groups that propelled the movement through a decade of turmoil and advances. And it was Rustin's organizational genius that made the 1963 March a resounding success. (Rustin always took a back seat publicly because his brief youthful flirtation with the Communist Party and his homosexuality made him an easy target.)
All that said, of course, Dr. King gave the movement its crucial inspirational leadership. At no moment was that more obvious than on August 28, 1963 when his stirring speech at the Lincoln Memorial made history.
Any thoughts on this day? Post a comment.
In a new Public Policy Polling survey, Scott Brown leads Martha Coakley by five points, 51-46. Brown is beating Coakley by a two to one margin among independents. PPP's last poll a week ago had Brown up by only 1%.
Another poll from Pajamas Media by CrossTarget has Brown ahead by a whopping 9.6% among likely voters. As I pointed out here, Pajamas Media is an online conservative outlet, so some might want to take its results with a grain of salt.
Maybe not, though, since a survey by another independent pollster, Merriman River Group is out with the exact same result as PJ/CrossTarget: Brown leads by 9.6%.
Internal Democratic campaign polls must be showing similarly dismal results for Coakley, because CNN is reporting that "multiple advisers to President Obama have privately told party officials that they believe Democrat Martha Coakley is going to lose." Can't get more pessimistic than that.
Like I said on Friday, Brown is winning this thing. Martha Coakley is toast.
RELATED -- Lots of good pro-Brown blogging here, here and here.
UPDATE 1/18 -- And another! American Research Group's final poll out today puts Brown 7 points ahead of Coakley, 52-45. That's a big jump up for Brown from ARG's last poll taken less than a week ago when he led 48-45. Brown is taking two thirds of independentd, 97% of Republicans and crucially, nearly a quarter of Democrats.
What's your take on Tuesday? Post a comment.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
I've been told reliably that Martha Coakley's internal poll for Friday night showed Republican Scott Brown leading by two points, 47 to 45 percent. Her campaign's three-night average for Friday, Thursday and Wednesday is the same -- a 47 to 45 lead for Brown.
This is, obviously, not great news for the Democratic nominee. But it does suggest that Brown's momentum -- which took him from a double-digit gap to the lead in Coakley's poll in about a week's time -- has been arrested. On Wednesday night, Coakley's poll put her ahead by two, 46 to 44. On Thursday night, Brown surged ahead by three, 48 to 45. And on Friday, it was back to a two-point race. In other words, a nail-biter on Tuesday looks likely.
Although this result is in line with the close race depicted by many public polls, color me a bit skeptical. Someone in the Coakley camp keeps leaking her own internal polls which conveniently show that Brown has peaked and Coakley is clawing her way back -- just in time! Would it be a surprise if the next leak showed her dead even again or just a teensy weensy bit ahead -- not enough for her supporters to relax but just enough to urge them on?
Campaigns usually keep their own polls closely guarded, although since Coakley's campaign has often seemed like a football game between two blind teams, so indiscipline may be rampant. Still, although I've noted the leaks of internals from both sides, I'm giving the real weight to the public, independent polls, which have shown Brown building momentum throughout the past 10 days, and all the other evidence of much higher energy, commitment and enthusiasm on the Brown team.
Any thoughts? Post a comment.
RELATED 1/17 -- Unusual Sunday report from analyst Charlie Cook says he nows sees Brown as a slight favorite.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Scott Brown is zeroing in on a stunning upset victory
Now, it's American Research Group out with a poll that gives Scott Brown a three-point lead over the hapless Martha Coakley, 48-45 with only 5% undecided. One interesting thing here is that Coakley is doing much worse among Democrats than Brown is among Republicans, while Brown sweeps independents, 58-37 with a mere 1% undecided! And note that the largest group of undecideds -- 8% -- is among the Democrats, pointing to the potential for Brown to wind up with many more.
More confirmation of my judgment that Martha Coakley is toast.
Got an opinion on the race? Post a comment.
Referring to the imminent huge upset victory by Scott Brown in Massachusetts, Ed Schultz, self-appointed "progressive" and MSNBC talk show host, said on his radio program, “I’d cheat to keep the bastards out." He said he'd vote 10 times to keep Brown from winning. Listen to the whole thing.
Like some other talk show guys with big mouths, Schultz is a big fat idiot. It's clowns like him that are going to destroy the Democratic Party. Democrat Martha Coakley is a clueless, nasty party hack, but Schultz is worse. He's a true believer, and for that reason, I take him at his word that he would rig elections to prevail.
What's your take on the fat man? Post a comment.
Click on image to enlarge
I knew before that Martha Coakley was a clueless party hack. Now she's desperate and panicked since Scott Brown is about to clean her clock on Tuesday. Still, her latest campaign effort is handily the lowest, most repulsive piece of lying crap I've seen in any campaign over the 30 years I've been involved in politics.
The above flyer, which is being mailed to voters by the Massachusetts Democratic Party, has utterly no basis. It's pure malicious crap that is beneath contempt. It's so outrageous that liberal blogger Greg Sargent and Politico's Ben Smith have already called it "brutal" and "over the top."
The good news for Brown is that everything the hapless, dim-witted Coakley does turns into good news for Brown. In this case, the charge against Brown is so vile that no one will believe it. Instead, even more Democrats will say to the themselves, "Wow, this Coakley is really a nasty, despicable loser. I'm voting for Brown."
Much more on the race here, here and here.
Any thoughts? Post a comment.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Hakimullah Mehsud as he looked before a Hellfire missile mashed him up
Hakimullah Mehsud took over the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban only last August after a CIA drone-fired missile strike killed the previous Taliban kingpin, Baithullah Mehsud.
Now, another CIA missile strike may have killed Hakimullah in Pakistan's wild North Waziristan region:
A CIA drone strike on a suspected militant hideout today killed 12 people in an attack aimed at killing the top Taleban commander in Pakistan.
A local tribal leader said Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in the early-morning raid, but the Taleban insisted he was still alive. Pakistani officials have not yet made any claim over his fate.
In the strike a pair of missiles hit a mud-walled compound which previously housed an Islamic seminary in Pasalkot village in North Waziristan where Mehsud, the chief of the Pakistani Taleban movement, was believed to be staying.
Pakistani security officials confirmed Mehsud was the target. He had succeeded Baithullah Mehsud last year after he was killed in a drone strike on his house in South Waziristan last August.
Since the December suicide bombing attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA personnel, far from dealing CIA operations a blow, the missile strikes have come faster and more furious:
The drone strikes have intensified in the region since then. As many as 45 people have been killed in eight strikes in the past two weeks. Last weekend, a Jordanian militant who served as a bodyguard for al-Qaeda's third in command is believed to have been killed in one of two strikes close to Mir Ali.
We last saw Hakimullah just days ago when the mass murderer was trying to glom onto some "credit" for the attack on the CIA:
If confirmed, the death of Mehsud would come as a very serious blow to the Taleban, which has been responsible for most of the deaths of over 700 people in terrorist attacks inside Pakistan in the past year.
Last week the Taleban released a video showing Mehsud sitting with the Jordanian double agent who carried out the suicide bombing at the CIA base. The attack demonstrated the close links between Pakistani Taleban and al-Qaeda.
If he escaped this time, there will be a next time -- probably very soon.
Thoughts on the demise of this scum? Post a comment.
UPDATE -- The Times of India reports that the Taliban says Hakimullah Mehsud was "injured" in the missile strike but is not dead. We'll see. When Baithullah Mehsud was killed last August, the Taliban was loathe to confirm his death, in part due to an immediate internal struggle for leadership.
Martha Coakley: fading...fading...faded...
I'm calling this one right now. With four days to go to the special election to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, Democrat Martha Coakley is already toast, and GOPer Scott Brown is headed for an bombshell upset victory.
-- The latest public poll shows Brown with a a four-point lead over Coakley, 50% to 46%.
-- The only polling outfit that surveyed the race twice showed Brown surging from nine points behind 10 days ago to within two points of Coakley three days ago.
-- Reports are circulating that Coakley's own internal campaign polls show Brown nipping at her heals, which has set off a panicky feeling of looming disaster.
-- Coakley and company are sure looking and acting panicky, flooding the airwaves with negative attack ads designed to knock down the high favorable rating all the polls show Brown has with voters. Going negative a few days before an election rarely works and can alienate the very voters you want to persuade. It's a desperate Hail Mary.
-- On Thursday, taking all this into account, the respected non-partisan political analyst, Stuart Rothenberg, changed his rating of the race from "Narrow Advantage" for Coakley to a "Toss-Up."
In short, Coakley is in lousy shape and getting desperate. Brown is in great shape and has all the momentum on his side as he rolls into the final weekend. While the idea that a Republican might win Ted Kennedy's seat in "blue" Massachusetts seemed a bit crazy two weeks ago, it's now Brown's race to lose.
Why? Three simple reasons:
-- People are pissed. I mean, mighty pissed -- at the seemingly endless recession and unemployment, the whacky zillion-dollar bailouts, the stimulus that failed to stimulate anything, and that Frankenstein monster of a health care "reform" bill that plods on with a life of its own threatening to slash Medicare and raise taxes and premiums on everyone who already has health insurance (which includes, not incidentally, nearly everyone in Massachusetts) while not reducing health costs or the federal deficit.
-- Coakley is a perfectly lousy candidate. Apparently, she was deluded into thinking that she was a shoo-in by virtue of being a "popular" state attorney general who won a multi-candidate Democratic primary for Senate in a low-turnout special election. After her primary win, smugly confident of annointment on January 19 as the Democratic Party's choice for "Ted Kennedy"s seat," she went into hibernation while Brown was out on the hustings cleaning up. Since waking up the week before last, she has demonstrated a party hack's affinity for fat cat lobbyists, an unattractive thuggishness, and an amazingly impolitic capacity to say things that show distain for the little people whose votes she seeks.
-- Scott Brown is a smart, attractive guy, a pragmatic, hard-working state legislator, and a moderate, anti-tax and spending conservative who doesn't scare anyone with right-wing baloney.
The people of Massachusetts -- moderate Democrats and independents as well as Republicans -- are about to send Washington the message that they don't like untrammeled one-party power. They don't want a Coakley who will go to Washington and do what she's told (it would be a different matter if the Democrats had a candidate with both brains and backbone like this guy). They want Scott Brown to go down here and act as a check on runaway ideological government. I'm with them.
What's your opinion? Post a comment.
UPDATES -- Another new poll, sponsored by Pajamas Media, has Brown ahead by an astounding 15 points. Even if you figure that conservative PJ is not an independent or impartial poll commissioner, it's really hard not to see the Brown-surging trend in this survey too.
Like Stuart Rothenberg, Charlie Cook, another independent analyst, looks at the signs of Brown's momentum in the Massachusetts race and moves it to a "toss up."
Byron York reports in the conservative Washington Examiner that a well-connected Democrat has told him that internal Coakley polls show her trailing by five points.
Steve Kornacki has heard inside dope too -- that Coakley's internal tracking poll Thursday night showed her trailing Brown by three, 47-44.LOTS MORE smart blogging about the Brown-Coakley race at Legal Insurrection.
UPDATE - 1/16 - Brown moves ahead on Intrade.
RELATED -- Blogger Sissy Willis zeroes in on a key part of Brown's support -- Democrats.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
No sooner had I posted my exhortation to Massachusetts voters to elect Scott Brown to the Senate next week to check one-party power in Washington than his Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley, turned in a stunning performance as exactly the sort of clueless party hack that all of us can do without.
Last night, Coakley was on her way out of a big-ticket fundraiser in D.C. where dozens of lobbyists for the health care and other industries ponied up to back her bid to take Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in a special election next Tuesday. She paused on the sidewalk to answer a few questions from reporters, including one from CNN. Then, John McCormack, who writes for the conservative Weekly Standard, asked her whether she stood by the foolish or confused or uniformed answer she had given at a debate with Brown the night before about terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's a fair question about a major topic in anyone's campaign for Senate. She could have used McCormack's question to clarify what she said at the debate. Instead, she ignored him and said, "I'm sorry, did someone else have a question?" She then answered another reporter's question and walked away.
McCormack tried to walk along with her, asking why health care lobbyists were chipping in big bucks to support her -- another fair and obvious question.
Any classy candidate with an ounce of wits would have given the guy an answer - some answer! How about, "Our campaign has broad support from every quarter, especially from the people of Massachusetts."
Instead, a beefy guy by the name of Michael Meehan stepped into McCormack's face, either shoved or backed him into a metal railing causing him to fall, demanded to see his press credentials, even though they were on the public street, and body blocked him from getting close to Coakley again. Turns out that Meehan is the head of an outfit called Blue Line Strategic Communications and a long-time media consultant (no kidding!) for various Democratic Party organizations and candidates, currently on loan from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to help Coakley's campaign.
I hope Coakley can trade Meehan in for some money or something, because this guy clearly knows nothing about handling reporters or helping candidates with their communications. On the contrary, he's helped Coakley create what could be an election-losing disaster for her.
But it's not Meehan's fault, even if he is a lout and a goon. He was taking his cues from Coakley, who could have just given McCormack an answer. Even if it was a stupid answer, how much harm can a guy who writes for an online conservative publication do to her by posting the unflattering answer on his blog?
I knew before that Coakley is a party hack. Now I know she's clueless too, unable to stand up to scrutinizing inquiries or to defend or explain the positions she's taken on critically important issues that will come before the United States Senate. All the more reason to elect Scott Brown.
Here's some video of Meehan executing his communications strategy.
Any thoughts about this? Post a comment.
Former Rep. Harold F. Ford, Jr.
Harold F. Brown, Jr., who served five terms in the House of Representatives and narrowly lost a race for the Senate in his native Tennessee, now lives in New York and is seriously thinking about running for the Senate again -- this time in a New York Democratic Primary against the current appointed cypher, Kirsten Gillibrand.
As a New Yorker with a vote in that primary, I say, go for it, Harold!
Ford is a smart, tough, dynamic, young (39) guy with deep experience in politics and government and mainstream liberal Democratic views on most issues, anchored by his southern background and chairmanship of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Ford says that if he runs, he would campaign as a strong independent in the mold of the late Daniel Patrick Moyhihan who would fight for New York and take no guff from his own party's leaders, including Harry Reid and New York's senior Senator, Chuck Schumer.
This would be in marked contrast to Gillibrand who, after being appointed a year ago by accidental Governor David Patterson at the end of an embarrassing process, seems to have disappeared except to phone in her vote for whatever Harry and Chuck want. Her juvenile deference to the preening Schumer is especially annoying to New Yorkers, since she's got the seat that was held by a series of tough cookies from Robert F. Kennedy to Moynihan to Hillary Clinton. Shouldn't a Senator from the Empire State at least be noticed for something in the course of a whole year? Not Gillibrand.
The knives are already out for Ford. It's said that he's not a New Yorker, which is true except for the last few years. But Bob Kennedy and Hillary Clinton had even less time in New York. For my money, Ford's experience and qualifications trump Gillibrand's, even if the latter's ancestors founded New Amsterdam.
Ford's moderate record in Congress in Tennessee is already being used against him by New York City liberals who have pledged their troth to Gillibrand. It's really laughable, since until last January, Gillibrand, as a member of the House from an upstate district, belonged to the Blue Dog Coalition, supported the NRA and held a host of conservative positions. She's flip-flopped on all that to head off a primary challenge from one of several downstate liberals who hoped to capitalize on her ideological deviationism. So it's hard for her to point the finger at Ford for making the same "adjustments" to some of his positions.
When push comes to shove -- and I think it has already come, with the recession, the terrorist threat and multiple wars, and all the other pressing problems we face as a nation -- I'd rather have a guy like Ford who's willing to step up to a fight as my Senator than an opportunistic tool like Gillibrand.
What's your take on Ford? Post a comment.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Elect Scott Brown to the Senate -- Put a vital check on the one-party monopoly of power in Washington
Scott Brown, running for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts
In the special election to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy next Tuesday (January 19), I hope Massachusetts voters will elect the GOP candidate, Scott Brown, for one compelling reason: to put a critically important check on the total monopoly of power now held by Democrats in Washington. By reducing the Senate Democrats' filibuster-proof majority by just one, the Democrats will have to work with at least a few Republicans -- or even just one -- to pass major legislation. And that's a good thing for the country, Massachusetts and, I would argue, the Democratic Party.
I'm a Democrat. But over the past year, it's become clear that holding total power, with the White House and huge majorities in both Houses of Congress, has caused the Democratic Party to go off the deep end. Democrats in Washington have forgotten that to make real progress, they must attract and hold the vital center in American politics -- the moderate and independent voters who gave Barack Obama the Presidency and provided the margin of victory for scores of Democrats in 2006 and 2008. Wielding big majorities, the leadership of the party has pushed a lot farther to the left on many issues than those voters want to go. In the process, politics being what it is, they have dragged the more moderate Democrats on Capitol Hill along.
No where is this more obvious than in the case of the Senate health care "reform" bill. As it stands, this wretched mishmosh of a "reform" will slash Medicare by a devastating half trillion dollars, impose heavy new taxes on union workers and middle class families fortunate enough to have so-called "Cadillac" plans, force young people to buy expensive insurance they may not want, and stick states already facing huge deficits with massive new unfunded mandates. Meanwhile, it will leave millions of the uninsured still uninsured and won't reduce health care costs but increase them, notwithstanding the phony 10-year accounting designed to make it look otherwise. Plus, the bill is filled with dodgy deals for individual Senators. Driven by the fervent wish of the party's left to achieve "reform," Congress is on the verge of enacting this monstrosity.
If the Senate leadership had been obliged to negotiate in good faith with even a single Republican -- say, Maine's Olympia Snowe, a smart, responsible moderate -- that process would have resulted in the elimination of many of the bill's faults and in some added improvements. Snowe did work with Democrats early on and voted to report a bill out of her committee. Then, she was shunted aside and humiliated so that not surprisingly, she opposes the current bill.
Electing Brown next week may not change the outcome on health care, since the Democratic leadership may find a way to push the bill through before he gets to Washington (or in a pinch, the House could pass the Senate version, eliminating the need for another Senate vote). But it will change the dynamic on Capitol Hill for the rest of the current Congressional session. Isn;t the essential ingredient of responsible bi-partisanship in our politics to make sure that both parties are really needed to some extent to make a decision?
Of course, the Democrats will still wield enormous power. It just won't be quite so unchecked. That's' good for everyone, including the Democratic Party. The way things are going now, Democrats will suffer a huge defeat in the 2010 elections, possibly even losing their majorities.
Brown's Democratic opponent, state Attorney General Martha Coakley, is the adequate but undistinguished candidate of the all-powerful but stultifyingly dull Massachusetts Democratic Party machine. No "Liberal Lioness," that's for sure, Coakley seemed ready a week ago to accept coronation and head to D.C. to cast votes robotically in tune with Harry Reid.
Brown is a smart, attractive, seasoned state legislator. He's a moderate conservative, a tax-conscious Republican cut pretty much from the same cloth as Mitt Romney, Chris Christie and other northeastern GOPers. He's pro-choice with narrow exceptions. He's not about to launch any Tea Party revolutions.
But the main thing about Scott Brown is this: Harry Reid will not have Brown's vote in his pocket.
What's you take on the race to fill Teddy seat? Post a comment.
Related: A new Rasmussen poll puts Brown and Coakley withing two points.
Much more about the Brown campaign at Legal Insurrection and Sissy Willis.
Welcome Sissy Willis readers.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Huge upset developing in Mass. race for Teddy's Senate seat, as new poll show Republican Scott Brown pulling ahead
Scott Brown, GOP candidate in special election to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat
A year ago, Barack Obama carried Massachusetts over John McCain by a whopping 62% to 36%, and John Kerry glided to victory in the Senate race with 63% of the vote. In 2000, Ted Kennedy was releected to the Senate with 73% of the vote. In 2006, he won 69%.
Now, a new poll shows a virtual tie in the race to fill the seat held by Kennedy in the Senate since 1962 -- with Republican Scott Brown actually edging democrat Martha Coakley. Brown's election would end the Senate Democrats' ability to control the Senate with a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority. Since Massachusetts is the bluest of all the blue states -- it was the one and only state that George McGovern won in 1972 (he also took D.C.) -- a GOP victory would be a huge upset, a bombshell, a true game changer, a political upheaval (add your own cliche; they're all on the mark):
The Massachusetts Senate race is now a toss up.
Buoyed by a huge advantage with independents and relative disinterest from Democratic voters in the state, Republican Scott Brown leads Martha Coakley 48-47. Here are the major factors leading to this surprising state of affairs:
-As was the case in the Gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia last year, it looks like the electorate in Massachusetts will be considerably more conservative than the one that showed up in 2008. Obama took the state by 26 points then, but those planning to vote next week only report having voted for him by 16.
-Republicans are considerably more enthusiastic about turning out to vote than Democrats are. 66% of GOP voters say they are 'very excited' about casting their votes, while only 48% of Democrats express that sentiment- and that's among the Democrats who are planning to vote in contrast to the many who are apparently not planning to do so at this point.
-Brown has eye popping numbers with independents, sporting a 70/16 favorability rating with them and holding a 63-31 lead in the horse race with Coakley. Health care may be hurting Democratic fortunes with that group, as only 27% of independents express support for Obama's plan with 59% opposed.
-In a trend that's going to cause Democrats trouble all year, voters disgusted with both parties are planning to vote for the one out of power. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Brown's standing is that only 21% of Massachusetts voters have a favorable opinion of Congressional Republicans...but at the same time only 33% view Congressional Democrats favorably. And among voters who have a negative take on both parties, who account for more than 20% of the electorate, Brown leads 74-21.
-Because he's basically been untouched so far, Brown's favorability spread is a remarkable +32, at 57/25. For some perspective on how good those numbers are, Bob McDonnell was at a +20 spread with Virginia voters in our final poll there before going on to a 17 point victory.
PPP goes on to point out that Coakley is very much still in the race and can pull it out by energizing reliable Democrats to vote, linking her campaign to Ted Kennedy's legacy and tying Brown to the national Republicans -- not a popualr bunch in Massachusetts.
Still, this is the first competitive Senate race in the Bay State in a long time.
Thoughts? Post a comment.
Related: Hmm...on the other hand, the Boston Globe has just released its survey which shows Coakley ahead by a comfortable 15-point margin! The PPP poll has a larger sample and a smaller margin of error. Also, PPP is a Democratic polling firm, so it's not a GOP shill. Overall, I'd say put your money on the PPP poll, since special elections have notoriously low turnout numbers. The Globe results probably reflect accurately voters' preferences in a larger turnout.
Friday, January 8, 2010
So I watched a portion of Conan O'Brien's first two shows. Both times, I had to turn it off before the first half hour was over. I never had the slightest inclination to giggle and the whole thing was not so much boring as senseless. That's it for me.
With stories that Conan badly laggied in ratings and that NBC affiliates were complaining that Jay Leno's 10 pm show provided a weak lead-in to their late news shows, I decided to try out Conan again and see if anything had improved.
No, nothing improved. Conan still sucks -- big time!
OK, so maybe it's an age or generational thing, you say. Conan appeals more to the younger viewers -- the supposedly desirable demographic for advertisers, right?
Wrong. Young people think he sucks, too:
Mr. O’Brien, meanwhile, has had his ratings suffer on “The Tonight Show.” He has trailed the “Late Night With David Letterman” on CBS by about two million viewers a night; Mr. Leno had easily been the winner in that time period previously. Mr. O’Brien has been more successful against Mr. Letterman among the younger audiences that NBC most wants to reach (because they are preferred by many advertisers). But he has fallen below Mr. Leno’s ratings in the 11:30 time slot in every audience age group, even the youngest ones.Leno has been having his rating troubles, too, but his audience of five million isn't such a bad deal for the network since the low cost of his show vs. prime time dramas jacks up NBC's profit margin. Still, affiliates want a stronger show before 11 pm, and NBC wants a winner at 11:30 pm.
So Jay will be back in the late slot again soon, and Conan will either swallow hard and return to a post-midnight hour, or NBC will buy out his contract and go elsewhere.
I'm happy. What about you? Post a comment.
Mass killer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi supposedly dying in a Libyan hospital last August
On December 9, I asked the question here why the infamous Lockerbie Bomber wasn't dead yet. He had been released in August by Scottish authorities ostensibly on "compassionate grounds" after serving only 8 1/2 years of his life sentence for killing 270 people, mostly Americans, on Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. Al-Megrahi was said to be afflicted with "terminal prostate cancer" and given only three months to live. He received a hero's welcome on his return to Libya. Soon after, the above photo of him in the hospital was released. Then, he dropped from sight, and by all accounts is still very much alive.
That was four months and 19 days ago. So what's going on?
Daily Beast editor Lloyd Grove tried to find out and got a run-around from British and Scottish officials. Grove was able to establish that, unbelievably, the British-Scottish responsibility for monitoring Megrahi's release is in the hands of the Community Health and Care Partnership of the East Renfrewshire Council -- sort of like your local town health department. Ah, but the Council guy told Grove that he couldn't comment on Megrahi's health since "the privacy of the client's medical details must be respected." Megrahi is a "client," no less, not even a parolee. much less a convicted terrorist!
This whole thing stinks to high heaven. From the outset in August, it was clear that the British government had sold out the Lockerbie victims to smooth the way for a huge BP oil deal with Libya and had persuaded the Scots to release him “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom."
Megrahi's three months are up long ago, and he's still not dead. The families of his victims deserve at least an explanation, but no one is talking. President Obama must demand an accounting from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. And the British press and people would be doing everyone a favor if they raised hell themselves.
What do you think? Post a comment.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Tweet race: comparation of Twitter rankings of Brown and Coakley (click to enlarge)
Over at Legal Insurrection, conservative blogger William A. Jacobson has been keeping close track of the Massachusetts special election on January 19 to fill the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. A big booster of GOP candidate Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley, Jacobson spotlights in a post today an intriguing new way to track how the candidates are doing -- the number of Tweets they're getting on Twitter, followers they're attracting on Facebook and other measures of online popularity.
Of course, after Barack Obama's campaign used the internet to generate excitement among younger voters and rake in zillions in small contributions, there is no question that how a candidate is doing online is potentially a big deal.
So how are they doing? According to Jacobson, Brown is way ahead and surging. Of course, in usually reliably Democratic Massachusetts, Tweets and Facebook friends from outside the commonwealth may not matter much. But then again...?
Any thoughts? Post a comment.
Related -- The respected, non-partisan Cook Political Report has changed its categorization of the Massachusetts Senate race from "Solid Democratic" to "Leans Democratic."
What happened to FBI's "internal inquiry" about why G-men ignored Fort Hood killer's contacts with a radical jihadist in Yemen?
While we're waiting for the President to tell us who failed to "connect the dots" to nab the Pantybomber before he boarded a Detroit-bound flight and nearly killed 288 innocent people, here's a related question: What ever happened to that FBI "internal inquiry" into how and why our domestic intelligence whizzes failed to act in time on the knowledge that the Fort Hood jihadist killer, Nidal Hasan, had been emailing a radical imam and al Qaeda recruiter in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki?
We now know that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab met with Awlaki when the Nigerian suicide bomber was in Yemen for talks with al Qaeda big wigs. We also know that U.S intelligence and the Yemeni government regard Awlaki as a dangerous guy and, in fact, tried (unsuccessfully it appears) on December 24th to kill him.
Unmistakably, Awlaki has been known to the U.S. intelligence community of which the FBI is a key part as a very bad guy. Yet, as I blogged shortly after the Fort Hood murders, National Security Agency intercepts of up to 20 emails between Hasan and Awlaki were sent to the FBI which "analyzed" them and decided that the chummy relationship between a serving Army officer and a jihadist mouthpiece did not warrant any further scrutiny of Hasan. Had anyone at the FBI bothered to look, they would have found a wealth of other "dots" to connect with this one, namely reports from Hasan's Army colleagues and bosses that the guy was, at the least, unhinged.
Remember, immediately after the Fort Hood massacre on November 5th, while the blood was still on the ground, unnamed FBI "sources" were telling the media that there was no "terrorism nexus." For many days, the agency did its damnedest to keep feeding confusion about the glaringly obvious fact that Hasan was a jihadist. As late as November 10th, after reports about Hasan's contacts with Awlaki were all over the media, the FBI had this to say to an incredulous CBS News:
"At this point, there is no information to indicate Major Malik Nidal Hasan had any co-conspirators or was part of a broader terrorist plot. The investigation to date has not identified a motive, and a number of possibilities remain under consideration."A number of frigging possibilities?
It's 100% clear that the FBI was stalling and evading for weeks because it dearly wished to escape blame and accountability for its patent failure at dot connecting. The agency's leaders knew that if they shuffled long enough and eventually launched an "internal inquiry," the heat would die down and they'd be in the clear. They were right, weren't they? When was the last time you heard anything about the inquiry, which is being run -- get this -- by former FBI Director William Webster?
The most amazing political and bureaucratic success story of post-9/11 period has been the FBI's ability to fend off any encroachment on the domestic counter-intelligence role it has held since before World War II. In the old days, maybe it was because everyone in Washington feared (with good reason) that J. Edgar Hoover had some dirt on them. But what's the reason now?
Yesterday, President Obama appeared to be standing by his whole national security team, even while declaring that the "system failed." Let's hope he takes that a step further today and actually holds someone responsible -- for the failure at Fort Hood as well as the one on Christmas Day.
What's your opinion? Post a comment.
UPDATE -- I just watched President Obama's remarks on action following up the latest security review. Unfortunately, he's sticking to his no-blame approach, saying the problem was "systemic" so "reforms" are needed and in any case, the buck stops with him. Here's the thing, though: unless he really knocks heads and someone gets fired, a couple of months from now, the modified "system" will slip back onto auto pilot.
UPDATE 2 -- Hmmm. Today, someone leaked to CBS News a portion of the still-classified and unreleased Pentagon report on the dot-connection failure in the Fort Hood case. My take? The FBI did it on the classic PR theory that it would go largely unnoticed on the day Obama, Napolitano and Brennan dominated the media on the Pantybomber. Yet, it would be regarded in the future as a story already covered and, thus, "old news" by most of the media. Notice that the CBS story barely mentions "FBI."