Republicans Target Hillary

Posted August 8th, 2013 at 9:40 pm (UTC+0)
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Hillary Clinton has not announced whether she will run for president in 2016, but Republicans are preparing to oppose her. Photo: AP

An Early Start on the 2016 Campaign

Democrats aren’t the only ones taking an early interest in a possible presidential run by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.  She is already popping up in a big way on Republican radar screens as well.

 

They’ve been watching the formation of the “Ready for Hillary” organization that hopes to have a grassroots network and funding mechanism in place if and when Clinton decides to run for president in 2016.  This group includes some veterans of the Obama campaign efforts in 2008 and 2012, including some of the fundraisers who helped Democrats raise more money than the Republicans.

 

Republicans would love to take a page from the Obama campaign playbook and do some early work to discredit any potential Clinton candidacy and raise questions about her fitness as a candidate.  Many Republican leaders believe the president benefitted during last year’s campaign when he was able to pound Mitt Romney with negative ads between the end of the primaries and the party conventions, when Romney did not have enough money to spend to mount a response.

 

By the time the general election campaign got underway in September, Romney was already damaged goods in the eyes of some voters because of the ads highlighting his involvement with Bain Capital.  His comments secretly recorded at a Florida fundraiser about the infamous “47 percent” of Americans who depend on government and support the president compounded his image problem with voters.

 

Hillary Goes Hollywood

 

Now the Republicans are upping the ante by threatening to punish TV networks that have announced projects in the works about Hillary Clinton.  NBC Entertainment is planning a mini-series on Clinton starring Diane Lane.  CNN is going to produce a feature length documentary about her that will have an initial release in theaters.

 

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus is threatening to bar NBC and CNN from hosting Republican candidate debates during the 2016 primary cycle if they go ahead with their projects.  Priebus told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program that the threat is real because, in his words, “I cannot have companies in the business of making what I consider to be promotional movies about the life of Hillary Clinton,” then agree to host debates among Republican White House contenders.

 

Republicans love to slam the so called “mainstream media” because it stirs up grass roots conservatives who believe the main TV networks (except for Fox News) are sops for President Obama and the Democrats and outright hostile to conservative ideals.

 

The networks are not going to stop their Clinton projects because of this threat.  It may play well with some conservative activists, but it also feeds a narrative that too often Republicans like talking to themselves in an echo chamber, but seem to do little to reach out to others beyond a narrow ideological spectrum.

 

Romney Warns on Shutdown

 

Yeah, that Mitt Romney.  He told Republicans meeting in New Hampshire that it would be a mistake for congressional Republicans to force a shutdown of the federal government when the current funding bill expires at the end of September.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is warning his party against causing a government shutdown at the end of September. Photo: AP

A sizable conservative faction is trying to promote the idea of demanding that the president’s health care law, known to many as Obamacare, be defunded as part of any compromise to fund the government past October 1st.  Romney thinks this is a bad idea.  While he says he’d like to see Obamacare “go away”, he fears Republicans would get the blame for another government shutdown and would suffer in upcoming elections.

 

Now, you can bet the faction leading the charge to defund the health care law, people like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, have little use for Romney’s advice.  But the fact is a lot of the Republican establishment probably agrees with Romney even if some of them would be reluctant to say so publicly.

 

One of those in a tight spot on this issue is the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.  McConnell faces a potentially tough primary challenge next year from a Tea Party inspired conservative candidate.  And even if he survives that, he will face a Democratic candidate who is currently neck-and-neck with him in some early polls in Kentucky.  So McConnell may be constrained in playing the same kind of lead compromise role he did on budget issues earlier this year with Vice President Joe Biden.  The question is, which Republicans will be willing to step up and talk compromise just as the 2014 midterm election cycle is about to begin.

 

Christie Riding High

 

A recent Granite State public opinion poll found a surge of support for the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie among New Hampshire voters considering potential Republican presidential candidates in 2012.  Christie led the field in the latest survey with 21 percent support, followed by Rand Paul at 16 percent, former Florida governor Jeb Bush at 10 percent, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan at 8 percent and Florida Senator Marco Rubio at 6 percent.  Christie jumped up from only 11 percent in the same poll in April.  Rubio meanwhile was at 15 percent in the April poll but dropped considerably in this latest survey.

 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would be a strong presidential candidate for the Republicans in 2016, polls show. Photo: AP

Christie is heavily favored to win a second term as New Jersey governor this November.  The latest Quinnipiac poll has him leading his Democratic opponent by a margin of 58 to 30 percent, with 30 percent of Democrats saying they will vote for him.  That should impress Republican Party elders looking for a candidate who can appeal outside of the party’s conservative base in a presidential election.

 

But it’s unlikely to impress many of Christie’ potential rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.  Other likely candidates like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are likely to question Christie’s commitment to conservative values, and we will probably see a bit of a re-run of the 2012 Republican primaries where a slew of candidates kept trying to outdo one another in trying to appeal to conservative voters.

 

Romney finally emerged from that fight as the winner despite complaints from some party activists that he wasn’t conservative enough.  It remains to be seen whether Christie can follow a similar script or if he will be derailed by a Republican Party more interested in a true believer candidate than one who could have appeal to moderate and perhaps even Democratic voters.

 

Waiting for Hillary

Posted July 31st, 2013 at 7:20 pm (UTC+0)
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Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton would be a favorite to win the presidency in 2016 — if she chooses to run. Photo: AP

Is She a Lock for 2016?

Busy week for Hillary Clinton.  A private lunch with President Obama at the White House, and the next day breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden.  Clinton has said little about her plans for 2016, but with her rock-star status these days she doesn’t have to.  From now until she announces whatever she’s going to do in 2016, the next presidential election cycle will be largely all about Hillary.

 

Public opinion polls show she would be the odds-on favorite to win both the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and the presidency in 2016.  The good news is she’s been there before.  She was in the same position leading up to the 2008 race with then-Senator Barack Obama.  The bad news is she’s been there before.  A heavy favorite against an untested rookie senator, Clinton was defeated in a lengthy and at times bitter primary contest with Mr. Obama.

 

Of course she went on to serve as his secretary of state, and by most accounts a lot of political healing has taken place between the two camps since 2008.  Some Obama campaign veterans are now poised to join the Clinton team if she decides to go for it in 2016 when her main Democratic primary competition would likely be Vice President Biden.

Vice President Joe Biden is not saying yet whether he will run for the presidency in 2016. Photo: AP

 

Biden may feel a bit like the odd man out at this point.  But he recently told GQ magazine that he’ll decide on his own when the time comes about running for president and whether he is the best person to “move the ball.”  A Clinton-Biden matchup in 2016 could be divisive for Democrats, but it’s hard to see how Biden might win if Democratic women activists line up solidly behind Hillary Clinton.  Biden has been a champion of women’s issues in the Senate for years, but his presidential bid could be eclipsed simply because many Democrats will wind up deciding that it’s Hillary’s turn and time to put a woman in the Oval Office.

 

Republican’s Health Care Roulette

 

Immigration reform has been a big deal in Washington for much of this year.  But I think it’s about to be pushed aside by a looming battle over funding President Obama’s health care law.  There is a rising faction on the right of the Republican Party that sees an opportunity to drive a stake through Obamacare once and for all, and the strategy is tied to the broader debate over funding the government beginning October 1st.

 

Among those leading this effort are Tea Party heroes like Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.  They are putting enormous pressure on fellow Republicans in both the Senate and House of Representatives to fall in a line with a move to strip funding for implementation of the health care law from any bill to fund the government in the new fiscal year beginning in October.

 

These conservatives are itching for a fight over Obamacare even though it was passed into law early in President Obama’s first term and a key part of it was upheld last year by a divided Supreme Court.  Ted Cruz told reporters this week that “We either stand for principle now, or I believe we surrender to Obamacare permanently.”

 

By the way, I noticed in a recent speech that even the president sometimes refers to the Affordable Care Act as “Obamacare.”  I guess that’s one fight the White House sees no point in continuing.  The president was on Capitol Hill this week trying to reassure Democrats that they are on the “right side of history” for supporting the health care law.  Some of them are worried about public reaction to the implementation of the law as they prepare to face voters in congressional town meetings over the August legislative recess.

 

Litmus Test for 2016

 

Republican congressional leaders have yet to embrace this tactical fight of denying funding for the health care law.  This could be the latest issue to split the party and could also become a key litmus test for Republican presidential hopefuls in 2016.

 

Senator Ted Cruz, a conservative from Texas, would be a strong contender among potential Republican Party presidential candidates. Photo: AP

Ted Cruz recently won a Republican straw poll among western conservatives meeting in Denver and his bid to defund Obamacare is also drawing support from two other likely Republican contenders in 2016, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.  Rubio appears to be anxiously looking for ways to regain the confidence of Tea Party conservatives who were not happy with his role in helping to pass a comprehensive immigration bill in the Senate that includes a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the country.

 

But some senior Republicans worry that threatening to shut down the government over funding Obamacare could hurt their party with moderate voters who may prefer a more bipartisan tint both in next year’s congressional midterm elections and in the 2016 presidential contest.

 

Cruz may be crazy like a fox here.  Even if the effort ultimately fails, he will get credit from Tea Party believers and conservative activists shopping for a true-blue conservative candidate for 2016.  It could give him a leg up over Paul and Rubio, not to mention another possible contender, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

So remember, the political stakes for Republicans over the effort to defund Obamacare extend well beyond this year’s budget fight, all the way to the presidential caucus and primary battles in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington’s Summer of Discontent

Posted July 26th, 2013 at 6:43 pm (UTC+0)
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Demonstrators march in front of the White House in Washington July 24, calling for reform of U.S. immigration laws. Photo: AP

Budget, Immigration Clouds on Horizon

Washington, D.C., so the story goes, was built on a swamp.  Over time the swamp got covered over by buildings and monuments.  But all of that has not prevented the political quagmire that Washington now finds itself in, and the prospects for that worsening seem to be growing by the day.

Two important deadlines loom later this year.  The first is the September 30th expiration of the current funding bill for the federal government.  The second will come in October or November when Congress will be asked to raise the debt ceiling so the government can borrow enough money to cover its bills.

Amid this impending budget showdown are continuing efforts to pass some sort of immigration reform through Congress.  The Senate has passed a comprehensive package with some Republican support that shores up border security and sets out a lengthy path to citizenship for many of the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.  The House Republican leadership has vowed not to take up the Senate immigration bill and will proceed to consider smaller bits and pieces instead.  The outcome, obviously, is very uncertain.

 

Dysfunction or Compromise?

 

President Obama is looking for common ground with Republicans on immigration and the economy, and prospects look dim. Photo: AP

The record on Congress and President Barack Obama finding common ground on big issues like the budget and immigration is not encouraging.   Already, both sides are staking out sharply opposed positions and talking points on the budget stalemate.  That doesn’t preclude some kind of compromise.  But it doesn’t look good right now either.

The president recently embarked on another effort to refocus on the economy and helping the middle class.  Democrats want to roll back the sequester budget cuts and find more ways government can stimulate the economy, especially job creation.

Republicans are coming from a far different place.  They insist the sequester cuts must remain as part of any deal to renew government funding and there is a Republican movement in both the House and Senate to try and defund the president’s health care initiative as part of any agreement to raise the debt ceiling later this year.  Both sides are already talking about the prospect of a government shutdown, complete with their own talking points as to why the other party should get the blame.   Can you say “train wreck?”

 

Public Pessimistic

 

The latest public opinion polls have plenty of bad news for politicians from both parties.  President Obama’s approval rating is on a downward slope.  The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has him at 45 percent approval, about where George W. Bush was at this point in his second term.  By comparison, Bill Clinton was at 56 percent at a similar point in his presidency.  Of course, that was pre-Monica Lewinsky.

But the news for Congress as a whole is even worse.  Lawmakers got an 83 percent disapproval rate in the WSJ/NBC survey, and 57 percent of those asked said they would replace EVERY member of Congress if they could.  Republicans get more blame than Democrats for the dysfunction in Congress.  But it also seems like it’s getting to the point that the public doesn’t really differentiate between them that much anymore.

The White House would like to boost the president’s numbers in the run-up to next year’s congressional midterm elections.  The theory is that a stronger President Obama will help Democrats in the congressional races.  At the same time, Republicans hope to target supporters of the president in their congressional campaigns.  They hope to pick up seats in both the House and Senate, which historically happens for the party that does not control the White House in a president’s second term.

 

The Immigration Wild Card

 

Immigration reform has consumed a lot of political oxygen in Washington in recent months.  That could shift come September when lawmakers return from their August recess and begin to focus on the budget issues.

There seems to be a loose consensus among the pundits right now that it might be possible for Congress to agree on some limited path to citizenship for the so-called “Dreamers,” the children of illegal immigrants.  Some key Republicans, and I emphasize some, have hinted they might support a compromise that would allow the kids to eventually become legal, if it includes beefed up border security.

But many of the Dreamers don’t like the idea that their parents would be left out in the cold in terms of their status. It’s possible some Democrats might reject this kind of compromise too and try to hammer the Republicans with the immigration issue in the 2014 elections.

House Speaker John Boehner is trying to rally fellow Republicans to unite on immigration and the budget, but is having trouble getting a consensus. Photo: AP

There are Republicans who want to do something on immigration reform, fearing that if they don’t they will be condemned to Mitt Romney-like support among minority voters for decades to come.  But many others, especially in the House, are less worried with the party’s national image than with the re-election prospects in their own congressional districts.

The redrawing of congressional districts based on the 2010 census has solidified a lot of Republican districts to the point that those lawmakers worry more about conservative challengers in a primary than they do about Democrats in the general election.  The result of that is a lot of conservative Republican House members who have little incentive to make a big push on immigration.

Then there are the special cases, like Iowa Republican Representative Steve King.  He’s made a national name for himself as a crusader against immigration reform, but his latest controversial comments drew fire even from fellow Republicans.  King told a conservative Web site that for every young undocumented immigrant who is a valedictorian, there are another 100 out there who “have got calves the size of a cantaloupe because they are hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”  King refused to back away from this even after condemnations from House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans.

Unlike the budget issues, which tend to unify Republicans in Congress, the immigration debate has great potential to cause a divide within the party that could continue to play out right into the 2016 presidential race.  Florida Senator Marco Rubio was a key player in the Senate compromise bill on immigration.  He is now trying to find favor with Tea Party types again after some conservatives criticized him for his role in the immigration debate.

On the other side of the issue is another potential contender in 2016, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who remains firmly opposed to anything that could be construed as amnesty for illegal immigrants.  No matter what the outcome of the immigration debate in Congress this year, count on it being front and center in the Republican presidential debates for 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Cheney’s Senate Bid

Posted July 18th, 2013 at 7:57 pm (UTC+0)
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Rocky Mountain Showdown

It just seems that Liz Cheney has been itching to get into elective politics for years.  You could see it in her numerous appearances on political TV talk shows.  She most likely got the bug from her dad, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and has finally settled on a Senate seat in Wyoming as her target.

Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is challenging incumbent Republican Mike Enzi for his seat in the U.S. Senate next year. Photo: AP

There are only a few hitches with this plan.  First, the Senate seat in question happens to be occupied by a popular Republican incumbent, Mike Enzi, who is running for a fourth term next year.  And second, until late last year Liz Cheney was a resident of Virginia.  True, the Cheney family has roots in Wyoming dating back to the 1850’s.  But she might find it tougher than she thinks to convince some of those small-town Wyoming folks that they need to throw out Enzi and put her in the seat.

In the Web video announcing her candidacy, Cheney talked about the need to send a new generation to Washington and that it was time for Republicans to stop cutting deals with Democrats.  Cheney is also a fierce critic of President Barack Obama, especially in the areas of national security and foreign policy.  But it might be tough to build a Senate campaign in Wyoming around the idea that the U.S. needs to be more aggressive with its adversaries around the world.

 

Tough Fight Ahead

The primary election has all the earmarks of a battle royal in the shadow of the Grand Teton mountains.  Wyoming’s other U.S. Senator, John Barrasso, and lone House member, Representative Cynthia Lummis, have already fallen in behind Enzi.  Enzi, in fact, says Cheney once promised not to run for the seat if he decided to seek another term, adding, “I thought we were friends.”  Cheney says Enzi is “confused” and that she never made such a promise.

Senator Mike Enzi may be tough to dislodge. Photo:  AP

The Cheney bid has also split some national Republicans.  The National Republican Senatorial Committee is supporting Enzi, as is Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a possible GOP presidential contender in 2016.  Former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer warned on Twitter that there was no need for a divisive Republican primary in Wyoming.

But another veteran of the Bush-Cheney White House, Republican strategist Mary Matalin, told Politico that the “so-called ‘Establishment’ should let the voters decide” in the Wyoming race.  Other Republicans believe Cheney will be able to raise a lot of money and will be a formidable candidate.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in Wyoming by more than three to one, so whichever Republican emerges from the primary will be the odds-on favorite to win the seat.

 

Biden-Hillary Face-off in ’16?

The latest issue of GQ magazine features a piece on Vice President Joe Biden and whether he will run for president in 2016.  Biden says his judgment call is determining how much he wants to run.

Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton were close collaborators when they were both in the Senate in 2007, but could be opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Photo: AP

“First of all, am I still as full of as much energy as I have now?  Do I feel this?”  Biden went on.  “Number two, do I think I’m the best person in the position to move the ball?”  And finally, this: “I can die a happy man never having been president of the United States of America.  But it doesn’t mean I won’t run.”

Many Democrats are excited by the prospect of a Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016.  Women activists in particular are urging Clinton to make another presidential run, believing she is the best hope ever of shattering the glass ceiling in the White House.  There is considerably less clamor for a Biden candidacy, though he remains popular with Democratic voters.

Former Bill Clinton aide James Carville says when it comes to Hillary there has not been such a strong non-incumbent frontrunner since Republican Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.  But other Democrats aren’t convinced that will necessarily deter Biden.  Some weeks back, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson told ABC’s “This Week” program that Joe Biden is “somebody who always wanted to be president.  He’s got the eye of the tiger…I think there could be a face-off.”

Hard-core Hillary supporters would no doubt like Joe Biden to simply step aside and cede the 2016 Democratic nomination to Clinton.  That may yet happen.  But if it doesn’t, and Biden decides to run, Democrats could be in for yet another lengthy and divisive primary campaign pitting two of the party’s most experienced and formidable personalities against one another.

 

 

 

Palin Hints at Possible Comeback

Posted July 12th, 2013 at 4:40 pm (UTC+0)
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Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate, is leaving open the idea of running for the U.S. Senate. Photo: AP

Can she Overcome Memories of 2008?

 

Well, I guess she’d been out of the spotlight for too long.  Sarah Palin has raised the possibility of running for the Senate next year.  The former Republican vice presidential candidate told conservative talk show host Sean Hannity she has considered a possible challenge to incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Begich of Alaska.   She says it’s because people have asked her to consider it.

Palin said Begich, a moderate Democrat, should be replaced and hopes “some new blood, new energy” will emerge on the Republican side in Alaska to challenge him.  But it sounds like if that doesn’t happen she’s thinking about it herself.

Palin went from an early sensation as John McCain’s vice presidential running mate in 2008 to fodder for “Saturday Night Live” skits and late night television comedians.  She has been a regular commentator on Fox News and it seems she likes the life of celebrity speaker and conservative guest star at conferences and on right-leaning radio and television programs.

She’s presumably making a lot of money and has her fan base intact.  A Senate bid, even in Alaska, could be risky.  Palin would face renewed criticism for her decision to quit as governor before her term expired and she’d have to defend some of the loopy comments she made during the 2008 presidential campaign.

It seems a lot of analysts don’t see her taking the chance next year.  But then again, is Sarah Palin capable of surprises?  You betcha!

 

Rick Perry’s Future

 

Let’s see, the last Texas governor before Rick Perry?  Why that would be George W. Bush!  Perry has been in office since Mr. Bush won the presidency in 2000 and recently announced he will not seek another term.  Predictably, that has sparked speculation about Perry’s political future and whether he would make another run for president in 2016.

Texas governor Rick Perry is allowing speculation that he might run again for the U.S. presidency in 2016. Photo: AP

Some pundits would love that and have the laugh-track machine ready on pause.  How can we forget Perry’s momentous gaffes from the 2012 campaign, especially his inability to remember one of the three agencies he would cut from the federal government during a televised Republican candidates’ debate.

So far, Perry is being coy about his political future, but the recent history of presidential contenders is that candidates like to get going earlier and earlier in advance of a presidential campaign.  An early start may be fine but a key question for Perry is did his 2012 performance do him permanent damage with Republican voters?

Perry will have plenty of competition if he decides to get into the 2016 race, including the possible candidacy of fellow Texan and freshman U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.  Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are also getting a lot of mention as Republicans begin to put together their White House wish list.

 

Hillary versus Christie in ’16?

 

The latest poll from our friends at Quinnipiac University shows former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton besting New Jersey Governor Chris Christie by a margin of 46 to 40 percent in a potential presidential matchup in 2016.  Clinton also easily defeats another potential Republican White House contender, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, by a margin of 50 to 38 percent.

The news is not as good for Vice President Joe Biden in the Quinnipiac poll.  Biden trails Christie by 46 to 35 percent in a head-to-head matchup, and is dead even with Rand Paul, 42 to 42 percent.

Pollster Peter Brown told me he’s impressed with Chris Christie’s favorability rating in the latest survey.  Christie is viewed favorably by a margin of 45 to 18 percent among all respondents, and Democrats are favorably disposed toward him by a margin of 41 to 19 percent.  So there is lots of good news for Christie in this latest poll.  Now if he can just find a way to convince enough fellow Republicans that he is the party’s best hope in 2016.  What say ye, Tea Party fans?

 

Waiting for Hillary

 

Speaking of the former secretary of state, senator and first lady, Clinton is getting a lot of media attention as speculation mounts about her plans for 2016.

Public opinion polls indicate former secretary of state Hillary Clinton would be a formidable contender if she decides to run the the presidency in 2016. Photo: AP

On one hand, who wouldn’t want the attention?  But Clinton has been down this road before and it didn’t end well.  Remember, she was the prohibitive favorite for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, and though she waged a fierce campaign, she was ultimately upset by a political newcomer, Barack Obama.

This could be a challenging period for Clinton.  She has to keep up enthusiasm among her base supporters but not whip them up into such a frenzy that momentum for her peaks too soon.  And of course if she doesn’t run, she will disappoint millions of Democrats and leave a much more open primary field in 2016 led presumably by Vice President Biden.

So for now, she may adopt the Goldilocks political strategy—not too much interest, but just enough to keep her name out there while her supporters keep their engines warming, waiting for the “go” signal.

Immigration’s Uncertain Future

Posted July 2nd, 2013 at 6:41 pm (UTC+0)
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House Speaker John Boehner could face a backlash from his Republican colleagues if he agrees to consider the Senate’s new immigration reform bill. Photo: AP

Boehner in the Hot Seat

Immigration reform advocates were justifiably excited when the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that strengthen the security of U.S. borders and establishes a lengthy — some would say arduous — path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

The Senate margin was 68-32, which in these polarized political times is pretty good.  The thinking was that the higher the vote margin in the Senate, the more likely it will be that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would have to bow to public pressure and pass some kind of reform as well.  Well, don’t hold your breath.

In the old days, like the 1990’s, you could bring political pressure to bear from the middle of the political spectrum to force results.  For example: the welfare reform effort in the mid-1990’s that eventually passed because President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich were able to find common ground and win the support of moderates from both parties.

It’s much more difficult today.  Just ask the current House speaker, John Boehner.  Boehner has already said the House will do immigration reform in its own way, basically ignoring what just happened in the Senate.  Boehner also says the House will likely only consider a measure that has support from a majority of House Republicans, which right away cedes a lot of power to the activist conservative wing of the House Republican caucus.

Boehner has little choice.  It would be politically risky for him to try to pass something that draws mainly Democratic votes in the House with massive defections among his own Republican caucus.  In fact, his job as speaker could be on the line.  It’s no secret that a number of younger, aggressively conservative House Republicans would like to replace the current speaker at some point with one of their own.  Caving to outside pressures to pass an immigration bill would anger conservatives and could be the spark that would put Boehner’s job in jeopardy.

 

Obama’s Return to Reality

 

After a whirlwind Africa trip, President Barack Obama returns to Washington and some unpleasant political realities.  The administration remains on the defensive over leaks about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.  Europeans are upset that they were reportedly targeted, so now the president has his hands full with critics abroad and angry civil libertarians at home.

The Internal Revenue Service scandal has been somewhat muted in recent days, but you can expect Republicans will stoke that fire when they return from congressional recess after the Fourth of July holiday.

President Barack Obama got enthusiastic welcomes on his trip to Africa this past week, but tough problems await him back in Washington. Photo: AP

The administration continues to hope that improving economic news will blunt the impact of some of the other controversies.  But it does seem as though an early onset of “second-term-itis” is already setting in, with Republicans eager to pounce and try to improve their prospects for next year’s midterm congressional elections.

History shows that the second midterm congressional elections for two-term presidents are usually rough.  It’s often a question of whether the president’s party can limit the damage.  But in this case, with the right driven by the IRS scandal and some Democrats likely to sit home next year rather than get out and vote, Republicans smell some pickups in the Senate and maybe even in the House.

Recent opinion polls show the president’s approval rating down a bit, but not dangerously so.  Last month’s ABC News-Washington Post poll had Mr. Obama’s approval rating at 53 percent, with 44 percent disapproving.  That’s down from 60 percent approval back in January.  A scan of other recent national polls show the president treading water—about equal numbers of Americans approve of his job performance as disapprove.  Something to build on, perhaps, in the months ahead.  But if there are further policy setbacks or scandal revelations, also room for his ratings to plummet.

 

 

 

Immigration Fast Track

Posted June 25th, 2013 at 8:08 pm (UTC+0)
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Immigrants from Egypt, Albania, Iraq and Lebanon take the oath of allegiance to become United States citizens at a ceremony in Dearborn, Michigan. Photo: AP

Beware the House

Things are moving quickly in the U.S. Senate on immigration reform.  Some key Republicans were able to put together a border security plan that will draw enough of their own to get the final vote tally up near 70, which would be an impressive bipartisan achievement in Washington these days.

It’s clear that a number of Senate Republicans have decided now is the time to act on immigration reform.  They obviously paid close attention to last year’s election returns, noting the devastating numbers for Republican candidate Mitt Romney among Hispanic voters, 71 percent of whom went for the President Barack Obama.  So, Republicans now get it, right?  Well, not so fast.

Even assuming some kind of immigration reform bill gets through the Senate, an even tougher test awaits—the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.  The idea has been that a big bipartisan vote in the Senate for immigration reform would somehow pressure enough House Republicans to go along and support at least a watered-down version of immigration reform.  Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate last year, told CBS that the strengthened border security provisions in the Senate bill make it more likely that the House will eventually agree to something.

But the signs emerging from the Republican caucus in the House are not encouraging.  Some top Republicans are talking about putting together a bill in piecemeal fashion.  That would likely conflict with the Senate approach and could result in no bill at all.  The recent demise of the farm bill in the House is a cautionary tale for those who might doubt the power of the conservative caucus in the House.

The House Republicans have little reason to give President Obama a victory on immigration and many of them feel safe in their districts.  The only thing they fear is a primary challenge from the right and that could become more likely if they support an immigration bill perceived to be too soft.

 

Rubio in the Crosshairs

 

Speaking of immigration reform, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is drawing fire from conservative groups for supporting the bipartisan bill in the Senate.  Rubio’s name came up at a recent news conference up at the Capitol held by immigration opponents, and when it did there were boos in the crowd.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has been the leading Republican supporting immigration reform and could pay a price for that among conservative party members who oppose it. Photo: AP

Remember this is the same Marco Rubio elected to the Senate from Florida in 2010 with strong support from the Tea Party movement, and now it appears some of them are ready to disown him.

If the immigration bill does pass the Senate and eventually makes its way into law, Rubio will no doubt get kudos from the center and perhaps even the left of the political spectrum.  But he risks a backlash on the right and they aren’t likely to forget in 2016 if Rubio make a bid for the White House.   Already, some conservative activists in Iowa have taken note of Rubio’s lead role in the immigration debate.  Iowa, of course, plays a crucial role as the first test for Republican presidential aspirants with its caucus voting, a process that traditionally kicks off the U.S. presidential campaign selection process.

 

Waiting for Hillary

 

Looks like some folks are trying to get a jump on the Democratic side for 2016 by urging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president.  One group is called “Ready for Hillary” and is trying to create enough buzz to get Democrats excited about another Clinton run for the White House, as well as jump start the fundraising machine.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, shown here in a 2012 photograph, is not talking about any possible plans to run for president in 2016. Photo: AP

Clinton has been quiet about her 2016 intentions and seems to enjoy the guessing game about will she or won’t she run three years from now.  Somewhat similar buzz back in 2006 and 2007 made her the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination in 2008 and we all remember how that worked out.

But this time Clinton would seem to benefit from an expected surge in intensity among women Democrats who were sorry to see her lose to Barack Obama in 2008, and who are more determined than ever to put the first woman president in the White House.

The Clintons can be very good at this kind of waiting game and stringing people along.  But there’s also the risk the public will get tired of waiting and demand she make a decision sooner than she’d like to.  As for tapping big Democratic fundraisers, they might have to wait a bit longer.  Those folks are all tapped out from 2012 and want a breather before the next electoral war in 2016.

 

High Stakes Immigration Debate

Posted June 18th, 2013 at 5:01 pm (UTC+0)
2 comments

Republicans Remain Divided

Immigrant groups around the country are closely watching the ongoing debate over immigration reform in the U.S. Senate.  So are the political pundits.  Because what happens in the Senate over the next few weeks could have a big impact on the future political prospects for the Republican Party.

I’m starting to detect some doubts among mainstream Republicans that an immigration bill will in the end become law.  Republican strategist Ed Rogers, writing in the Washington Post, says the debate over immigration has left the party in a “no-win situation.”  Rogers argues that most Senate Republicans will oppose the current bill because it won’t be deemed tough enough on securing U.S. borders.  So even though something will probably emerge from the Senate, primarily with Democratic support, it will have virtually no chance in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.  So Republicans will get little credit for anything that comes out of the Senate and if the House fails to act in any significant way, Republicans will once again get pounded by the media and pro-immigration groups for blocking meaningful reform.

 

Avoiding the ‘Death Spiral’

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warns of a Republican “death spiral” if immigration reform fails. Photo: AP

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is warning his fellow Republicans that if they don’t pass some form of immigration reform, his party will enter “a demographic death spiral” because of an inability to attract many Hispanic supporters.  President Barack Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote last November and 73 percent of Asian-Americans voters, huge numbers that helped make up for the president losing the white vote to Mitt Romney.

Graham and other Republicans worried about immigration believe that if the party is blamed for sinking immigration reform this time around they will pay an enormous price at the polls for years to come, especially during presidential election years.  Former Republican governors Jeb Bush of Florida and Haley Barbour of Mississippi have warned that improving the party’s image among Hispanic voters is crucial to making Republicans competitive in future elections.

 

House as Roadblock

Even if something on immigration does pass the Senate, it’s hard to see how the House will follow suit with anything approaching a similar bill.  House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte told USA Today that any House bill would have to win a sizable majority of Republican votes in the House and not rely on cobbling together a majority of Democrats and some less conservative Republicans.

House Speaker John Boehner faces a tough choice on immigration. Photo: AP

But it’s unclear what House Speaker John Boehner will do in the end.  He reportedly wants some form of an immigration bill to keep the wolves at bay who are trying to depict the Republican Party as anti-immigration.  The question is will Boehner eventually embark on a track in the House where the only type of legislation that is capable of passing is one that draws virtually all Democrats and a handful of Republicans?

Conservatives say the main sticking point is border security.  They fear that no matter what the Senate does, whatever the House approves in terms of stringent border security will largely be ignored or watered down by the Senate in any eventual conference committee negotiation.  So a lot of House conservatives are wary of whatever comes out of the Senate.

 

Democrats on the Spot

You could also have a situation where Democrats continue to compromise in the Senate to accommodate Republican concerns over border security to the point where they anger some immigrant groups that are essential to Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts.  Then even if a compromise bill eventually passes the Senate, it goes nowhere in the House, leaving both sides with a bad aftertaste.  And remember, a number of Hispanic political activists are counting on the White House and Democratic congressional leaders to make reform a reality this year. Democrats don’t want to head into the 2014 election cycle with large numbers of them disappointed just when they need them for organizing and fundraising.

Of course if the immigration effort in Congress fails this year, you can be sure Democrats will use it as an issue in next year’s midterm congressional elections, where they are already seen at a bit of a disadvantage.  Democrats are defending many more seats than Republicans in the Senate, and the recent political scandals touching the Obama White House likely will depress Democratic turnout next year and could fire up conservatives and their Tea Party base.

 

Republican Divisions

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is also pressing Republicans for an immigration reform bill, but is facing stiff opposition. Photo: AP

The post-election tensions continue to surface within the Republican Party and immigration remains a central reason why.  Some of the differences played out at the recent Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington where scores of social conservatives met to discuss the future of their movement.  The conference drew a variety of speakers from various wings of the Republican Party, from Jeb Bush to Rand Paul to Sarah Palin.  Bush is among those appealing to the party to support some form of immigration reform, while some of the hardliners like Palin want to make any changes contingent on border security improvement.  Palin, in fact, took issue with some of Bush’s comments on immigration and she loves to grouse about the “old boy’s network” that she believes has led the Republican Party down the path of moderation and sure defeat in recent years.

Of course there are questions about Palin too.  What exactly is her role in the party now?  Sometimes she comes off like a warm up act before a game show, someone aiming to rile up an audience with anti-Obama barbs, all the while reminding them of why she is not quite ready for primetime.  I guess her role will be guest speaker for the foreseeable future, willing to address any conservative group for a price until the party faithful get tired of her and move on.  Some already have — to up and coming heroes of the right like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

 

Play Christie for Me

One prominent no-show at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  Some of the attendees reportedly were put off by the fact that Christie was in Chicago appearing with former President Bill Clinton at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. The Associated Press quoted one conservative attendee disappointed that Christie skipped the event as saying, “People who neglect us are sorry.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could face trouble from the more conservative wing of the Republican Party. Photo: AP

Christie may find out how sorry if he enters the Iowa caucuses in 2016, the first stop on the road to the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.  Christie has done a lot of late to make himself more appealing to moderate voters, from his appearance with Clinton to his decision to hold a special Senate election in New Jersey later this year to complete the Senate term of the late Frank Lautenberg.

But before Christie can use his charms on moderate and independent voters, he will have to win the GOP nomination and that means competing in conservative bastions like Iowa and South Carolina.  Both Mitt Romney and John McCain, the last two Republican nominees, understood this and managed to weather the conservative gauntlet before they got the chance to make their case to independent voters in the general election.

The other wild card for 2016 appears to be Florida Senator Mario Rubio.  Rubio remains a key player in the immigration debate in the Senate, but lately seems to be hewing back toward the conservative side of things, perhaps wary of alienating his Republican base in the 2016 primaries by getting out too far on the issue of immigration and a path to citizenship.  Rubio’s tightrope walk is likely to only get more complicated in the weeks ahead as the Senate slowly makes progress on immigration, with conservatives like Alabama’s Jeff Sessions eager to use any tactic to slow down and eventually kill the bill outright.

Security versus Liberty

Posted June 10th, 2013 at 8:16 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

 

Big Brother Really is Watching

Twelve years after the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001, we are still dealing with the fallout.

Edward Snowden, who says he is the person who leaked secret information about the U.S. National Security Agency’s monitoring of telephone and Internet communications, speaks with a reporter of the Guardian newspaper. Photo: AFP

Twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden is now the central figure in what has become a renewed debate over security versus civil liberties in the age of terror.   Snowden has owned up to being the person who leaked details about secret National Security Agency surveillance programs that sifted through endless phone records and Internet communications, including those of ordinary Americans.  The stories appeared in the British newspaper, The Guardian, and in the Washington Post.

Snowden will be a hero to some and a traitor to others.  Civil liberties groups were outraged with the disclosures about the secret NSA surveillance programs because they seem to cast, in their view, such a wide net without enough safeguards to protect the public at large.  But security-first types will no doubt focus on Snowden now as the real threat to democracy and will demand prosecution and punishment.

 

Political Battle Lines Forming

 

Republican Senator Rand Paul is taking the lead in criticizing the Obama administration’s telephone and Internet monitoring programs. Photo: AP

Political battle lines are already forming over the NSA surveillance revelations, with a familiar libertarian twist that brings together some liberal Democrats and a handful of conservative Republicans.  Those who think the government has too much power in this area include some familiar libertarian voices like Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.  Paul is eyeing a 2016 presidential run and has become the leading proponent of trying to expand Republican supporters by trying to appeal to conservatives with a libertarian bent, especially young people.  Paul made a name for himself earlier this year with a Senate filibuster in opposition to the Obama administration’s drone program. Now, he’s already making the cable news show rounds on the NSA controversy.

But don’t forget that congressional majorities have backed the NSA surveillance programs as a necessary tool in the war on terrorism, and I noted a bipartisan hesitation to condemn the surveillance efforts in the wake of the revelations.  I think the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon served to remind the public that the terrorist threat persists, and I’m still trying to get a handle on where the public comes down on the whole question of security versus privacy.

Civil liberties advocates had their moment last week to complain about the NSA disclosures, but I still think a sizeable “silent majority” of Americans is probably willing to accept some of the intrusions as a necessary price to pay to keep the country safe.

 

Obama Remains in the Hot Seat

 

The NSA story helped to keep the Obama administration on the defensive, coming as it did on the heels of the story about abuses by the IRS tax agency, lingering questions about the attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya last September and the controversy about the government secretly accessing phone records of the Associated Press.

President Barack Obama says he welcomes more debate on the issue of privacy versus security. He will get it. Photo: AP

Some of the president’s core supporters are no doubt disappointed that Mr. Obama’s promises on civil liberties as a presidential candidate in 2008 don’t quite square with his record as president.  And some are clearly upset that the Obama playbook on national security and dealing with terrorists has closely followed the one drawn up by his presidential predecessor, George W. Bush.

But from the beginning of Mr. Obama’s campaign for the White House, it was clear that he was not going to allow himself to be portrayed as weak on national security and foreign policy.  The highlight was taking credit for the raid that killed Osama bin laden in 2011, which was prominently featured in the president’s successful re-election campaign the following year.

Now the president says he welcomes a more debate on the question of security and civil liberties.  Good thing because I think he’s going to get it.

 

Republican Rumblings for 2016

 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was one of the headliners at a recent Republican gathering hosted by former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  Christie was joined at the event by Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, Romney’s vice presidential running mate last year, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, the darling of libertarian-leaning Republicans.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is positioning himself to be the major Republican Party candidate for the presidency in 2016. Photo: AP

All three men are potential presidential contenders in 2016, but of the three it seems to me that Christie is far and away the Republican most likely to appeal to non-Republicans in a presidential contest.  Christie’s decision to schedule a special election later this year to fill out the remaining term of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, clearly disappointed conservatives who were looking for the bolder move of appointing a Republican for the remaining time, giving that person a leg up in any eventual election.

But it looks like the latest evidence that Christie is positioning himself as someone who could appeal to moderates from both parties, a centrist candidate who would risk the ire of the Republican right wing to make him more viable with the general election voter.

Of course the problem here is leaning too far to the middle would make Christie a target in the Republican primaries in 2016.  Perhaps his best hope is splitting the conservative vote among several contenders and emerging as the favorite of mainstream Republican voters.  Let’s see, the last two to do that were John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama’s Summer of Discontent

Posted May 21st, 2013 at 8:59 pm (UTC+0)
3 comments

The Watergate hearings in the summer of 1973 led eventually to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Many Republicans are hoping President Barack Obama’s current troubles will end up the same way. Photo: AP

Hijacked by Hearings

This could be it.  How the Obama White House copes with the next few months could determine whether the president and his people will have a successful second four year term.  If they don’t weather it well, they risk falling in line behind the other recent two-term presidents who lost their way after re-election.

It looks like a busy summer.  Several congressional committees are looking into the scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service — the IRS, targeting conservative groups that had applied for tax exempt status.  We can also expect more on the Benghazi affair from last September when four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, were killed in a terrorist attack.  And lawmakers are also looking into the Justice Department’s decision to secretly access the records of 20 Associated Press phone lines in connection with a leak investigation of a foiled al-Qaida plot to attack a U.S.-bound airliner.

But of the three “scandals” or “controversies” or whatever you want to call them, clearly the most dangerous for the White House is the IRS affair.  So far there has been nothing to suggest that President Obama was aware of what was going on when conservative Tea Party groups were being targeted, supposedly by low-level IRS functionaries.  Republicans will push as hard as they can to find any shard of evidence that White House higher-ups knew something about the IRS activity.  We can expect this will involve weeks, if not months, of hearings by committees from both the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratically-controlled Senate.

 

Political Consequences

So far, some recent public opinion polls suggest the accumulation of problems is not doing much political harm to the president, at least not yet.  A recent CNN-ORC poll found his approval rating at 53 percent, while a Washington Post-ABC News poll had him at 51 percent positive.   This could change over time, especially if new revelations emerge about the IRS scandal that would more closely tie the White House to abuses.  But so far that is not happening.

President Obama is holding his own in the public opinion polls despite his latest batch of troubles. Photo: AP

Polls show both Republicans and Democrats are disturbed by the IRS targeting conservative groups, and this is the scandal that clearly presents Republicans with an opportunity to make political hay.  But the stable numbers on the president’s approval ratings also suggest the improving economy is providing Mr. Obama with an underpinning of support that may not be easily chipped away.

Polling also shows the public remains split on the Benghazi controversy, with Republicans much more willing to believe that the administration is at fault in some way than Democrats.  As for the story about the Justice Department accessing phone records on the Associated Press, the public seems to have a balanced view about protecting the rights of the free press and ensuring that leaks are pursued if they could be harmful to national security.

For the president, the likely effect of extended congressional investigations is freezing his agenda in place.  Gun control was already on the back burner after a bill to expand background checks failed to advance in the Senate.  Now the question is whether all the focus on the IRS scandal and other two controversies will deal a fatal blow to bipartisan efforts to craft a comprehensive immigration bill.  They might not.  Enough Republicans realize they must do something to change their image with Hispanic voters, though they are mainly in the Senate.

Later this year Congress and the White House will have to revisit raising the debt limit, and there is still the issue of what to do about the budget and sequester cuts once the 2013 budget year ends on September 30th.  Will a prolonged battle over IRS allegations help or hurt the prospect for cooperation on issues like these?  Hard to see how they will help, that’s for sure.

 

Tea Party on Boil

I note that Virginia Republican leaders made several references to the IRS scandal at their state convention in Richmond, the state capital.  Every time the issue was brought, up it sparked roars of approval from the crowd.  This IRS thing has handed Republicans a custom-made issue on a silver platter.  I can’t think of better way to rile up Tea Party folks who were depressed following last year’s election than to hand them evidence that the government led by Barack Obama was, in fact, targeting them for special treatment because of their political beliefs.  I can’t tell you how many times I used to hear such sentiments at Tea Party rallies over the past few years, claims that most fair-minded people would dismiss out of hand.  Now they get to run around and scream, “I told you so!” while they wave their flags and strut around in their colonial costumes.

And all of this comes just in time for the 2014 midterm elections.  The Tea Party people made their first major showing in the 2010 midterms, helping Republicans take back control of the House.  Now the IRS scandal threatens to be the fuel that helps turn out loads of conservative activists next year eager to deal a punishing blow to an administration desperate to do something big in its second term.

We can expect that the Republicans will slowly build off the hearings and investigations in Washington and will do everything they can to fire up a conservative base that became disillusioned after President Obama easily won a second term last November.  Republicans in Congress may not seem eager to work with Democrats, but they do know how to take an issue like the IRS and ground their opponents into dust come November of 2014.

 

Republicans Love to Overreach

There is a battle already going on among Republicans who want to pursue both the IRS and Benghazi stories.  Some of the cooler heads like the congressional leadership are urging some of the more hotheaded members to just focus on the facts and not get ahead of themselves by comparing the controversies to past scandals, including Watergate.

Tea Party conservatives such as Congresswoman Michele Bachmann are hoping the president’s troubles will block his agenda on taxes, medical care and other issues. Photo: AP

But they are having a hard time getting everyone on the same page.  Some of the high profile conservatives in the House such as Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota have already accused the White House of orchestrating a cover up on some of these issues, and of outright lying to the public.  Many Democrats believe it’s only a matter of time before more Republicans start mentioning the possibility of impeachment, dredging up memories of going after President Bill Clinton in 1998 over the Monica Lewinsky affair.

The real question is whether Republicans can convince anyone beyond their own circle that the president needs to pay a political price for these controversies.  The right wing talk show echo chamber is already working overtime hammering away at the White House on all these issues.  But it will take some as yet unknown revelation concerning the IRS before the political consequences reach anything close to a critical mass.

 

Another Watergate Summer?

I remember being riveted by the Watergate hearings in the summer of 1973.  The testimony before the Senate Select Committee unfolded like a mystery novel, complete with all kinds of quirky characters and that includes senators, White House witnesses and assorted oddballs.

But looking back, I remember having this strong sense that layers of a scandal were being peeled away and that it was going to lead to something big.  Nobody at that point knew how big, of course.

President Nixon flashes the V-for-victory sign and waves goodbye to his staff August 9, 1974 after the Watergate scandal forced his resignation. Photo: AP

I was about to begin my freshman year at college and President Richard Nixon was not popular among younger people at that time, mainly because of his lengthy quest to find “peace with honor” in Vietnam.  To many people, that seemed an excuse to prolong the war.

But as details emerged at the Watergate hearings of Nixon campaign attempts to go after Democratic candidates like Ed Muskie, Hubert Humphrey and Ted Kennedy, Watergate took a new meaning.  Never before had Americans been exposed to the details of such a widespread effort to discredit the president’s political opponents.  What also struck me then, and even more so now, is how relatively even-handed the committee conducted the investigation, especially compared to say, the Clinton impeachment hearings by the Republican-controlled House in 1998.

To be sure, the Watergate hearings had plenty of partisan moments but overall, it came off to the public more as a bipartisan search for the facts.  There were plenty of moments of drama during the hearings, such as Nixon White House counsel John Dean testifying that he told the president that the Watergate cover-up was like a “cancer” growing on the presidency.  And who could forget when White House aide Alexander Butterfield disclosed the existence of an Oval Office taping system that in many ways would lead to Nixon’s ultimate downfall.  But beyond the drama, you sense the public had confidence in the investigation and that elected members of Congress were, for the most part, interested in finding out facts more than political grandstanding.

 

So Far Watergate is a Stretch

At the moment, we’re a long way from anything approaching Watergate.  The White House has acknowledged that some aides were told weeks ago about the IRS abuses, but they are adamant that no one told the president.  The explanation is that the inspector general’s report on the matter was not complete and they wanted to wait for that before telling the president.  You can bet this will be a key point of inquiry during the upcoming “summer of hearings.”

It’s more likely that the Obama White House will have to confront the kind of political challenges faced by many second term predecessors who found themselves on the defensive at a time when they had hoped to maximize their political capital and work on legacy achievements.  At the rate things are going now, getting some sort of immigration reform compromise through Congress in the midst of these investigations and sharp partisan warfare would rank as a major achievement.

 

 

 

Jim Malone

Jim Malone

After a stint in the Peace Corps in Swaziland, Jim joined VOA in 1983 as a reporter and anchor on English broadcasts to Africa.  He served as East Africa correspondent, then covered Congress in the early 1990’s.   Since 1995, Jim has served as VOA national correspondent responsible for coverage of U.S. politics, elections, the Supreme Court and Justice Department.  Jim has been involved in VOA’s election coverage since the 1984 presidential campaign and has co-anchored live VOA broadcasts of numerous national political conventions, candidate debates and election night coverage.

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