3.31.2004

FAN-F*%KING-TASTIC


Schwarzenegger says raising taxes may be unavoidable

The Associated Press
March 31

SACRAMENTO Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hinted that raising taxes may be unavoidable, acknowledging he is under extreme pressure to increase the state's revenue to offset a $14 billion budget shortfall.

Schwarzenegger, who has opposed new taxes, said on Tuesday it would be "wishful thinking" to assume the state would not increase taxes.

"I'm going through wishful thinking that I'll never have to go there," Schwarzenegger said. "Because I just don't like it. I try to work around and find ways so we don't have to do that. So that's the stage I'm in right now."

He said increasing taxes would punish ordinary Californians for the state's mistake of overspending.

Though Schwarzenegger didn't rule out a tax hike, he said he needs to further review budget forecasts in the next weeks to decide whether to raise taxes. "When I look at the numbers, I can make up my mind about what that means," he said.

Schwarzenegger's communications director, Rob Stutzman, said the governor was not changing his opposition on taxes but "expressing his optimism for a solution without taxes."

Stutzman added, "Once he is set on a direction, he's relentless, and he is set on solving the budget without tax increases."

In an interview with The Oakland Tribune, Schwarzenegger said his political advisers were doing extensive polling on workers' compensation insurance reform and may also be asking voters for their opinions on possible tax increases.

"It could easily be that my campaign staff, that is dealing with workers' compensation, that they're throwing that in," Schwarzenegger said.

Some lawmakers said Tuesday they have not been notified the governor intends to raise taxes, nor did they suspect he was sending out feelers to gauge reactions.

"We've never had that discussion," said Assembly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from Bakersfield.

3.30.2004

END OF THE WORLD


Open primary proposal headed for state ballot
2 candidates from same party could meet in a general election

John Wildermuth, Chronicle Political Writer

A political battle that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court is about to be fought again as an initiative to allow California voters to chose any candidate in a primary election is poised to go on the November ballot.

The initiative would transform California primary elections, virtually eliminating political parties from the mix and opening the way for November elections that could feature two Democrats or two Republicans, a system similar to one governing elections in Louisiana.

"People want real electoral reform,'' said state Controller Steve Westly. "I'm proud to be a Democrat, but both parties want to cling to the way things have always been.''

"The open primary will help break the partisan gridlock so we can begin solving the problems facing California,'' state Secretary of Education Richard Riordan, former Los Angeles mayor and Republican candidate for governor in 2002, added in a written statement.

If support for the proposed initiative is bipartisan, so is the opposition. State Democratic and Republican party leaders pledged to battle the new attempt to end California's partisan primaries.

"We're absolutely going to fight this,'' said Duf Sundheim, chairman of the state Republican Party. "It's such a bad idea on so many fronts.''

"I don't see a need, and I don't see a benefit,'' added Art Torres, state Democratic Party chairman.

In 1996, both major parties also fought against Proposition 198, the first open primary measure. The effort was fruitless, as the measure collected nearly 60 percent of the vote and won in every California county.

It eliminated the state's traditional partisan primaries and dumped every candidate, Democrat, Republican, Green or whatever, onto a single ballot. Voters, regardless of party, could choose the candidate they wanted. But the top finisher in each party was still selected as the party's candidate in the November general election.

The open primary was used in 1998 and 2000, but in June 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court backed the party leaders and declared the open primary law unconstitutional on a 7-to-2 vote.

California was "forcing political parties to associate with those who do not share their beliefs'' by opening the primaries to members of other parties, said Justice Antonin Scalia.

Supporters of the new open primary measure collected more than 900,000 signatures for the groundbreaking initiative, far more than the 598,000 required. The signatures now are being verified, and backers expect the measure to be approved for the ballot sometime in April.

The new initiative deals with the constitutional concerns by turning the election process on its head. Instead of using primary elections to pick each party's candidate for federal and state offices, the new system would wipe out party primaries. Instead, it would create an open primary with the top two finishers, regardless of party, advancing into a November election.

In more liberal parts of the state, such as the Bay Area, two Democrats could face off in November. Orange County voters, on the other hand, might chose between two Republicans.

That already happens in local, nonpartisan elections, said Garry South, a Democratic consultant who's running the open primary campaign.

"In 2001, James Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa, two Democrats, were on the final ballot for mayor of Los Angeles,'' said South. "This year, there are two Republicans in the runoff for mayor of San Diego, and no one thinks anything of it.''

While parties could endorse candidates in the new primaries, they will have no official say in who gets to run, South added.

That's not the way it will happen, argued Sundheim, the GOP leader. Both parties would be forced to limit the field in each contest to keep from getting shut out of the November race.

"If I have four Republicans running against two Democrats, I'm going to have to knock off three of those four because it's in my best interest,'' he said.

The initiative would have no effect on presidential primaries, since voters technically don't pick candidates but choose representatives to their party conventions.

Opening the primaries to all voters will result in candidates who better represent the majority of Californians, initiative backers argue. They say the present system favors the conservative and liberal extremes over moderates of any party. The surge in voter turnout for the open primaries in 1998 and 2000 also shows it's what the voters want.

"We are opening up the electoral process to increase voter choices and voter participation so that sensible candidates in both parties can win public office in California,'' Riordan said.

That's one reason moderates like Westly, Riordan, former GOP state Sen. Rebecca Morgan of Los Altos and former Democratic Rep. Leon Panetta of Monterey are co-chairs of the initiative effort.

They've also picked up some high-powered financial support for the open primary effort, collecting nearly $2.4 million.

Many of the people tapped for the campaign are the same Southern California-based philanthropists and business leaders Riordan sought out when he was mayor. Charles Munger, head of Pasadena-based Wesco Financial, gave $200,000, while Otis Booth, Stewart Resnick and Jerry Perenchio gave $100,000 each, and Eli Broad, Haim Saban and Robert Day each donated $50,000.

Countrywide Home Loans gave $350,000 to the initiative effort, while the Association of California School Administrators, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Camarillo businesswoman Elizabeth Rogers and Riordan donated $100,000 each. Morgan and former Gap Chairman Donald Fisher gave $50,000, while Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers and Hewlett-Packard each contributed $25,000.

My Take:As if what California needed was Louisiana-style campaigns, this really is just an effort by moderate Republicans to put conservatives, and by moderate Demos to put liberals on the Endangered Species List. Riodan, the crapweasel he is, outright says it - "so that sensible candidates in both parties can win public office." DAMMIT!!!

The only silver lining is that this is ABSOLUTELY consultant welfare. The people who run campaigns' profits will double or triple should this pass. Campaigns are going to become more and more expensive, and in the long run people are going to start complaining about skyrocketing campaign costs, and will surely whine for some tighter Campaign Finance Reform...GREAAAAT!!!

3.28.2004

Why the Pledge of Allegiance Matters

A Column by Senator McClintock - March 24, 2004

There is a great principle at the heart of the movement to strike the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance – and from our national customs, our currency, and our public ceremonies. It has very little to do with atheism. It has a great deal to do with authoritarianism.

The philosophy of the American founding is unique among the nations of the world because of a bedrock principle that was given expression with words in the Declaration of Independence that are old and familiar, and yet not often pondered these days.

In the American view, there is a certain group of rights that are accorded absolutely and equally to every individual and that cannot be alienated. The existence of these rights is beyond debate – “self-evident” in the words of the Founders. And their source is supreme - “the Creator.” “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”

What are these rights? They are rights that exist as a condition of human life itself. If an individual were alone in the world, the rights he has are those rights the Founders traced to “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” In their words, “…that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The right to the fruit of our own labor, the right to express our own sentiments, the right to defend ourselves, the right to live our lives according to our own best lights – in a word, freedom..

But how do we secure these rights in a world where others seek to violate them? We form a government servient to these God-given rights – or more precisely, a government under God. “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…” In the American view, the only legitimate exercise of force by one individual over another, or by a government over its people, is in the defense of these natural rights.

This concept is the foundation of American liberty. And because it defines limits to the powers of government, it is supremely offensive to the radicals of the left. They abhor the words “under God” because these words stand in the way of an all-powerful state.

The French and American revolutions were waged on precisely the same declared rights of liberty and equality. One was a ghastly failure that ended in the reign of terror; the other, a magnificent success. Why?

In the philosophy of the French Revolution, the rights of man were defined by a governmental committee and extended at the sufferance of that government. In the American view, these rights come from God, their existence is preeminent and their preservation is the principal object of government.

If the source of our fundamental rights is not God, then the source becomes man – or more precisely, a government of men. And rights that can be extended by government may also be withdrawn by government.

Words matter. Ideas matter. And symbols matter. The case now before the Supreme Court over the Pledge of Allegiance must not be devalued as a mere defense of harmless deistic references and quaint old customs. The principle at stake is central to the very foundation of the American nation and the very survival of its freedoms.

I SAY AGAIN, ARLEN SPECTER MUST NOT WIN!!!


I know I've posted this article before, but it is so important. Read it, and then give some money to Pat Toomey, (it's even better to donate via the Club for Growth)!!!

The Awful Specter of Yet Another Term
Conservatives need a friend in Pennsylvania.

by John J Miller

“I'll go straight to the point," said Arlen Specter, shortly after sitting down to dinner with Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation in March. "I've got a primary and I'm being hit from the right. I want your support."

The Republican senator from Pennsylvania wasn't going to get it merely by breaking bread. Says Weyrich: "I told him I was disgusted with how he comes around just before his elections and asks for conservative endorsements, when we all know he won't give us the time of day later on." In years past, Weyrich has traveled to Specter's home turf and urged conservatives to stick with one of the GOP's most liberal members. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do this time."

The choice for Weyrich — and the whole conservative movement — is whether to make another uneasy peace with Specter in the prudential belief that no party holding a one-seat majority in the Senate should dump an incumbent who has won four previous elections in a swing state. The alternative is to rally behind Pat Toomey, an impressive congressman from Allentown who has launched an energetic primary bid against the man who has done more to frustrate conservative goals over the years than perhaps any other member of his caucus. Specter may not be the most unreliable GOP senator — he faces strong competition in that category from Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — but he is almost certainly the most harmful, because he is smart, ruthless, and influential.

Weyrich's complaint is a common one: Specter votes like a Democrat until late in his term, when he remembers that he will need at least some conservatives on his side if he's going to win another six years. "Arlen is not a team player, but we're getting a little more cooperation out of him this year," says one GOP senator. In 2001, for instance, Specter was in his usual form, helping slash the Bush administration's tax cuts by $250 billion. This year, however, he embraced the president's tax-relief proposals early on. "There's more reason for an economic stimulus now," he says. Skeptics think it's not the economy he's trying to jump-start as much as it is his Republican base — which he'll need in next April's primary.

The 73-year-old Specter is one of the Senate's best-known but least-liked members. His notoriety dates back to 1964, when, as a young lawyer serving on the Warren Commission, he invented the "single-bullet theory" to explain how Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy. Ever since, conspiracy groupies have blamed him for a major cover-up. In Oliver Stone's movie JFK, Kevin Costner's character labels Specter "an ambitious junior counselor" behind "one of the grossest lies ever forced on the American people."

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have much better reasons for disliking him: They regard Specter as one of the prickliest pols in Congress — a humorless man who is cold to colleagues and cruel to staff. Late one night several years ago, Senate majority leader Trent Lott needed Specter to sign off on an appropriations bill. Specter agreed to do it, for a price: Lott would have to attend two fundraisers in Pennsylvania. Lott made the deal, but this sort of legislative hostage-taking doesn't win fans. "There are two kinds of senators: Republicans who don't like Specter and Democrats who don't like Specter," says a former leadership aide. In a Washingtonian magazine survey, Hill staffers rated him the Senate's meanest member. This has given rise to one of Specter's nicknames: Snarlin' Arlen.

Being "mean" isn't necessarily a bad quality in a politician. When Weyrich stumped for Specter in 1992, he made a simple point to his conservative listeners: "Arlen Specter is a jerk, but he's our jerk." A former Senate staffer puts it this way: "If there's a tough debate going on, you definitely want Specter on your side."

The problem for conservatives is that Specter isn't their jerk nearly enough. He is an abortion-rights absolutist, a dogged advocate of racial preferences, a bitter foe of tort reform, a firm friend of the International Criminal Court — the list is long. When Citizens Against Government Waste recently listed Specter in its "Pig Book" as one of the Senate's most profligate spenders, he shot back: "If they left me out, I'd be worried." In 1995, Specter briefly ran for president and pursued the unique strategy of attacking the base of his own party: His announcement speech lobbed a grenade at "the intolerant Right." After pressing this theme for several months, one poll showed him attracting support from a grand total of 1 percent of Republicans. The senator's lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union is 42 percent (Pat Toomey's is 97).

In July, Specter disappointed conservatives yet again when he blocked a school-choice proposal that would have granted vouchers to 2,000 poor students in the District of Columbia. Prominent Democrats, including D.C. mayor Anthony Williams and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, support the plan. So did Specter six years ago, when he voted in favor of a similar measure. "I've regretted it ever since," he now says. "I believe school choice violates the separation of church and state. It's unconstitutional." But didn't the Supreme Court rule otherwise last year? "It was a 5-4 decision. The court may change its mind." Specter's own children attended private school in Philadelphia. "They didn't have access to a good public school," he explains. So what would he say to a mother in D.C. who insists that her kids don't have access to a good public school either? "There are charter schools available. I've led the way to improve the quality of education in America."

Specter's biggest impact probably has come on the Judiciary Committee. That makes sense, because he was a prominent lawyer before arriving in Washington. In addition to his work on the Warren Commission, he was twice elected district attorney in Philadelphia, where he earned a tough-on-crime reputation. On the Judiciary Committee, he has been tough on Republican judicial nominees. In 1986, Ronald Reagan selected Jeff Sessions of Alabama for the federal bench, but Specter joined his Democratic colleagues in defeating the nomination — it was only the second time the Judiciary Committee had turned down a nominee since the FDR era. Attorney general Ed Meese called it "an appalling surrender to the politics of ideology." Sessions didn't vanish from public life; in 1996, he was elected to the Senate. Now he sits with Specter on the Judiciary Committee. The two men don't talk about what passed between them 17 years ago, but Specter admits he made a mistake: "I've gotten to know him. I regret my vote."

Specter doesn't regret a more famous vote that took place the following year, on the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork. This was a watershed moment in Washington politics, when left-wing histrionics began to play a leading role in judicial confirmations — and the term "borking" was born. Bork had an impeccable record as a law professor and judge, but the debate over his nomination was dominated by the fevered rhetoric of his enemies, who said that confirming him would condemn women to back-alley abortions and blacks to segregated lunch counters. Fresh from his first re-election a few months earlier, Specter couldn't make up his mind about what to do. He questioned Bork for hours in his private chambers and at public hearings. In the end, he decided to vote against confirmation. "He called and said that he couldn't be sure about me," says Bork.

"I've never known what he meant by that." Specter's announcement doomed the nomination. As Bork lobbyist Tom Korologos put it at the time: "Specter hit the game-winning RBI." Conservatives, of course, resent that he was batting for the wrong team.

Specter likes to think that he redeemed himself in the eyes of the Right four years later, when he was a strong defender of embattled nominee Clarence Thomas. With his next election a year away, he was indeed looking to win points with the Right. His strong prosecutorial skills became an important asset to Thomas, in hearings that polarized the country even more than Bork's had. It is possible to believe that without Specter's aggressive interrogation of Anita Hill, including his accusation that she may have committed perjury, Thomas would not have been confirmed.

Yet Specter wasted little time in distancing himself from the man he helped elevate. He has described the Thomas-Hill episode as a kind of sensitivity seminar on sexual harassment: "The hearings were a learning experience for me and, for that matter, for America, too." He has also expressed his "disappointment" in Thomas's performance on the Supreme Court. Specter refuses to use the same word today, though he's clearly not comfortable with Thomas's conservative record. "He's grown a lot in the last twelve years," says the senator. But Specter still won't commit to voting for Thomas if he were nominated as Chief Justice. "I'd want to think about that," he says. What about Antonin Scalia for chief justice? "I'd want to think about that, too."

The impeachment trial of Bill Clinton occurred before the full Senate rather than the Judiciary Committee, but many people believed Specter again would play a memorable role. And in fact he did, though his performance was most noteworthy for its weirdness. Senators were supposed to determine whether Clinton was "guilty" or "not guilty" of impeachable crimes. Specter, however, wanted a third option: "Under Scottish law, there are three possible verdicts: 'guilty,' 'not guilty,' and 'not proven.'" He said that the president had not received a proper trial, in the sense that no witnesses were called — and therefore senators didn't have enough information to convict. When Specter announced "not proven" during the roll call, Chief Justice William Rehnquist ordered his verdict to be recorded as "not guilty." Specter continued to claim that the distinction was meaningful, and suggested that perhaps Clinton should face a criminal trial in an actual court after leaving office. Yet he clearly doesn't have a low opinion of the former president; two pictures of Clinton decorate the foyer of Specter's Senate office.

During the George W. Bush administration, Specter has supported most of the president's picks for the federal bench. In May, however, he forced the Judiciary Committee to send the nomination of Leon Holmes to the Senate floor without a recommendation — an embarrassing setback for the White House. (As of this writing, there still hasn't been a floor vote on Holmes.) In July, he voted to approve Bill Pryor's nomination, but not before announcing that he might change his mind and vote against Pryor on the Senate floor.

This behavior is no surprise, though it would take on added significance if Specter were to become the next chairman of the Judiciary Committee, as he is now in line to do. Orrin Hatch of Utah is the current chairman, but he's term-limited in that position. Next comes Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who isn't expected to give up his control of the powerful Finance Committee. After him sits Specter, who has wanted the top job at Judiciary for years. "There's a lot I would like to do," he says, citing violent crime, antitrust law, and privacy as leading concerns. Several of his colleagues on the committee, however, are worried about the prospect of a Chairman Specter in 2005. "He could take the committee in a more liberal direction," says one of them. "It would definitely be a challenge."

Perhaps this is the clinching argument against Specter: He may in fact be the GOP's best bet for holding Pennsylvania's Senate seat, but his re-election also represents the best shot liberals have for influencing an important committee in a Senate they don't otherwise control. What's more, if Specter wins a fifth term in 2004, he'll be 80 years old in 2010 and perhaps ready to retire. If he knows he doesn't have to face voters again, conservatives may not even get the one or two years of leverage over him they've come to expect.

Specter's Pennsylvania colleague Rick Santorum, a committed conservative, supports Specter over Pat Toomey. "There's no question that Arlen's an independent guy, but he also understands the concept of team," says Santorum. "This race could draw resources away from other states, where there's a big difference between a Democrat and a Republican rather than a small one between Specter and Toomey." This party-line loyalty is remarkable, because Specter tried to complicate Santorum's first Senate primary by recruiting a pro-abortion woman to run against him. His first choice was Teresa Heinz, widow of the late Republican senator John Heinz (and now the wife of John Kerry). When she said no, Specter turned to state auditor Barbara Hafer, who looked like a candidate for a few weeks but didn't get in. Specter was forced to abandon his efforts. Santorum captured the GOP nod and won the general election — showing that true-blue conservatives can prevail in Pennsylvania if they invigorate conservatives and run respectably among the state's many Reagan Democrats.

Anybody launching a primary challenge against an incumbent faces long odds, but Toomey is optimistic. "I wouldn't be doing this if I weren't convinced I could win," he says. Specter is taking the primary seriously, which is good news and bad news for Toomey: good because it suggests that Specter really does feel vulnerable, bad because Specter won't fall victim to Lazy Incumbent Syndrome. At the end of June, Specter had nearly $9 million in the bank, compared to about $1.5 million for Toomey. "I won't be out-hustled," says the senator.

Yet the 41-year-old congressman remains confident. "I never thought I was going to raise more money than Arlen Specter," he says. "But I am going to raise enough to get out my message." Most experts think he'll need at least $4 million to have a real chance to win. He may yet succeed: In 1998, Specter faced two nameless primary opponents who spent next to nothing on their campaigns, and they attracted a combined 33 percent of the vote. This suggests that Toomey — not an unknown, but a conservative standout in the House who has won three elections in a Democratic-leaning district — begins with one-third of Republicans already in his pocket. He will only go up from there. And nobody should regard Specter as invincible in the general election: In 1992, Lynn Yeakel came out of nowhere and almost beat him, holding Specter to 49 percent of the electorate and drawing 46 percent for herself.

Much of the GOP establishment nevertheless is getting behind Specter, including the White House. But Toomey is making gains. Two dozen members of the state legislature support his insurgency, as do Pennsylvania right-to-life groups and national organizations such as the Club for Growth. Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist also back him. The Pennsylvania primary is closed, meaning that only Republicans can vote in it; conservatives therefore will have a lot to say about who wins the nomination. Specter believes there's a conservative case to be made on behalf of his re-election. On primary day, though, conservatives might well make a different declaration: "Not proven."

NOFZIGER SPEAKS



Imagine my suprise when this morning in New York Times of all places there is an op-ed from my hero, Lyn Nofziger...And adding to the fun, his advice exactly sums up warnings I've been giving to my friends in the Bush campaign...

Don't Forget About Your Conservative Base
By LYN NOFZIGER


On the surface, President Bush's re-election campaign seems to be doing those things necessary to bring about victory. The president and his surrogates have begun attacking the record and remarks of Senator John Kerry. Television advertisements are being broadcast. The organizing needed to identify and get his supporters to the polls is well under way. And fund-raising, already at a record level, continues apace.

And yet, the effort appears wanting in one key area: the president has not secured the support of that part of his conservative base still inspired by former President Ronald Reagan, which has been slipping away from him for more than a year. Early in his term many around the president, aware that his father had walked away from both the Reagan philosophy and its followers, liked to refer to the tenure of George W. Bush as "the third Reagan term."

It is difficult to do that today. True, some of the president's decisions have pleased the cultural conservatives who were a substantial part of the Reagan base. He has appointed conservative judges, signed legislation outlawing partial-birth abortions and announced his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. His tax cuts have met with general conservative approval.

But these have not been enough to overcome the rising and increasingly vocal discontent with the president for moving leftward in efforts to woo more moderate supporters. While many of his decisions can be rationalized on their own merits, taken together they have many conservatives thinking that he is more like his father than his father's old boss.

President Bush's proposal to legitimize the presence of roughly 10 million illegal aliens, as well as what appears to be his indifference toward tightening border security, makes many conservatives irate. Also on their list are runaway deficit spending, the No Child Left Behind education act (which they see as interfering with states' rights) and the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act (which many believe violates the right to free speech). Many also are unhappy about the president's request to increase spending for the hated National Endowment for the Arts. And then there is the muttering on the right — as well as the left — about the Patriot Act, which many see as a threat to civil liberties.

The Bush administration may be moving leftward in the belief that Reagan conservatives have no place else to go. If so, it is a colossal mistake. Reagan conservatives do have someplace to go: it's called home. They can sit on their hands and not vote at all.

If the president is concerned, as he should be, about losing the Reagan right, he must take steps to reassure these voters. Sending Vice President Dick Cheney and other conservative surrogates out on the stump will help. Yet the president himself must also re-emphasize his conservative beliefs and accomplishments, and convince conservatives of the merits of proposals like his guest worker program and the need for the Patriot Act.

When the president's father took conservatives for granted, he lost. The son must prove that he has learned from his father's mistakes.

GOP Success: It's the Principles, Stupid

Liberals don't get the forces behind the right's rise

By Matthew Dallek, Matthew Dallek is the author of "The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan's First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics."


WASHINGTON — Although conservatives control Congress, the Supreme Court and the White House, liberals in recent months have put President Bush on the defensive. They have stepped up their political organizing and successfully criticized conservative leaders at the highest levels of government.

Financier George Soros, for example, has committed millions to defeating Bush, and the Media Fund political committee has attacked Bush for "eroding the American Dream" in commercials running in 17 battleground states. MoveOn.org, a prominent Web-based organization, is urging Congress to censure Bush for misleading Americans about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Air America Radio will soon broadcast "The O'Franken Factor" on the first 24-hour liberal radio network, giving progressives their long-awaited answer to Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. (The network will begin operation in Los Angeles and two other cities on Wednesday.) Meanwhile, a new think tank, the Center for American Progress, led by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, has skewered the Bush White House, generated favorable press in recent weeks and started to articulate bold progressive policies — on matters ranging from taxes and jobs to terrorism and Iraq.

The liberal resurgence is music to the ears of many Democrats. But the progressive left is simply, for the most part, imitating the right's organizational successes and ignoring the ideas and styles that made the conservative counterrevolution possible. While citing reasons for the success of conservatives — think tanks (the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute), media outlets (Fox News, Clear Channel) and pugnacious commentators (Peggy Noonan, Ann Coulter, Limbaugh, O'Reilly) — progressives miss the interlocking intellectual political and social forces underpinning the conservative movement's ascent.

The conservative edge of the Republican Party in the 1950s crafted a political philosophy, adapted it to the social turmoil of the '60s and deepened its popular appeal in the '70s by donning the mantle of political insurgency. When World War II ended, conservatives were isolationist in foreign affairs and adrift on domestic matters. Following Sen. Robert Taft's death and Sen. Joseph McCarthy's demise in the 1950s, they were what Sidney Blumenthal and others have called a "remnant." At the time, liberal commentators described conservatives as crackpots out of touch with modernity and progress.

Conservatives wore such epithets like medals of honor. The National Review, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote in the magazine's 1955 premiere issue, "stands athwart history, yelling 'Stop,' at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it." Conservatives logged long hours behind the scenes in pursuit of a political philosophy — not policies and electoral strategies. Far from monolithic in outlook, they relished ideological debates among themselves. Leading conservatives gave speeches to business organizations and exhorted fellow travelers at anti-communist rallies. They wrote books called "Witness" and "Up From Liberalism" and "None Dare Call It Treason." In addition to writing in the National Review, conservatives propounded ideas in Human Events and other magazines and pamphlets. "It is not the single conservative's responsibility or right to draft a concrete program — merely to suggest the principles that should frame it," Buckley noted.

Disdaining both Democrats and mainstream Republicans as big-government liberals, conservatives successfully adopted three bedrock beliefs: anti-statism, anti-communism and pro-moral authority. These beliefs formed the foundation of the movement's success over the next four decades.

True, conservatives had some organizational triumphs in the 1960s. They took over the Young Republicans and statewide GOP organizations, including the California Republican Assembly. They established Young Americans for Freedom, a direct-action political organization that supplied shock troops at rallies and stumped for conservative political candidates.

But the right faced an uphill struggle. In the early 1960s, Barry Goldwater joked of lobbing a nuclear weapon into the men's room of the Kremlin. Robert Welch, leader of the John Birch Society, called former President Eisenhower a "dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy." Prone to hyperbole, especially in the struggle against communism, conservatives struck many voters as extremists outside the political mainstream. In the 1964 presidential election, Goldwater lost his White House bid by 16 million votes.

As the '60s progressed, however, right-wing jeremiads aimed at totalitarian ant heaps were replaced by a single-minded focus on public morality and law and order. Running against riots, crime, anti-Vietnam demonstrators and student dissent, conservatives appealed to whites — some racist — angry at Democratic support for civil rights. Conservatives shattered the liberal political order by ostracizing fringe figures like Welch and promising to restore traditional values to schools and streets. In 1966, Ronald Reagan complained that California's city streets resembled "jungle paths after dark." As governor, he had a sign near his office that read: "Observe the Rules or Get Out." In 1968, George Wallace, who had then abandoned the Democrats and was running for president as an independent, used the language of law and order and "values" to win votes in white, working-class communities. Conservatives soon appropriated Wallace's themes, denouncing "acid, abortion and amnesty," as Richard Nixon's running mate, Spiro Agnew, put it, which helped them further refine their populist message.

By the 1970s, conservatives were routinely using insurgent imagery and language to identify with middle- and working-class voters. In 1978, Howard Jarvis spearheaded his "tax revolt," Proposition 13, by attacking the liberal establishment for thwarting people's will and giving ordinary people's money to minorities and other so-called special interests.

In the aftermath of Vietnam, neoconservatives, calling Democrats weak on security, promised to win the Cold War by taking the struggle to communists, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua. Appealing to pride and patriotism, conservatives wrapped themselves in the flag. To this day, Democrats still wrestle with this foreign policy critique.

Today, conservatives are entrenched, politically dominant and often intransigent — exhibiting some of the proclivities that predated the liberals' crackup in the 1960s. Against this backdrop, the left's challenge is to stop obsessing over the right's organizing successes. Instead, it should articulate its bedrock beliefs, then unite and figure out which buttons to push to maximize its appeal in a country where "order" — the war on terror — remains a central concern. Liberals must drum out of their ranks figures like Ralph Nader who are now part of the fringe and seek a balance between philosophy and strategy, internal dissent and political cohesion. By taking these steps, they will finally be able to claim Buckley and Reagan's conservative counterrevolution legacy.

3.10.2004

A WIN FOR FREEDOM


Arlene Wohlgemuth last night was victorious in her Primary fight. Running in the 17th Congressional in Texas, Arlene was a Club for Growth candidate. As Steve Moore wrote, "If Margaret Thatcher were in the Texas Legislature, she'd be Arlene Wohlgemuth." That's a hellofa reccomendation!

If she can complete this victory into one in November - it'd add another strong voice for freedom to the Congress!!!

3.06.2004

"The Worst Republican Senator: Why Pennsylvania should get rid of Arlen Specter"

By John Miller, NATIONAL REVIEW

Article

Friday, August 15, 2003

I’LL go straight to the point,” said Arlen Specter, shortly after sitting down to dinner with Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation in March. “I’ve got a primary and I’m being hit from the right. I want your support.”

The Republican senator from Pennsylvania wasn’t going to get it merely by breaking bread. Says Weyrich: “I told him I was disgusted with how he comes around just before his elections and asks for conservative endorsements, when we all know he won’t give us the time of day later on.” In years past, Weyrich has traveled to Specter’s home turf and urged conservatives to stick with one of the GOP’s most liberal members. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do this time.”

The choice for Weyrich—and the whole conservative movement—is whether to make another uneasy peace with Specter in the prudential belief that no party holding a one-seat majority in the Senate should dump an incumbent who has won four previous elections in a swing state. The alternative is to rally behind Pat Toomey, an impressive congressman from Allentown who has launched an energetic primary bid against the man who has done more to frustrate conservative goals over the years than perhaps any other member of his caucus. Specter may not be the most unreliable GOP senator—he faces strong competition in that category from Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island—but he is almost certainly the most harmful, because he is smart, ruthless, and influential.

Weyrich’s complaint is a common one: Specter votes like a Democrat until late in his term, when he remembers that he will need at least some conservatives on his side if he’s going to win another six years. “Arlen is not a team player, but we’re getting a little more cooperation out of him this year,” says one GOP senator. In 2001, for instance, Specter was in his usual form, helping slash the Bush administration’s tax cuts by $250 billion. This year, however, he embraced the president’s tax-relief proposals early on. “There’s more reason for an economic stimulus now,” he says. Skeptics think it’s not the economy he’s trying to jump-start as much as it is his Republican base—which he’ll need in next April’s primary.

PRICKLY, PRICKLY The 73-year-old Specter is one of the Senate’s best-known but least-liked members. His notoriety dates back to 1964, when, as a young lawyer serving on the Warren Commission, he invented the “single-bullet theory” to explain how Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy. Ever since, conspiracy groupies have blamed him for a major cover-up. In Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, Kevin Costner’s character labels Specter “an ambitious junior counselor” behind “one of the grossest lies ever forced on the American people.”

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have much better reasons for disliking him: They regard Specter as one of the prickliest pols in Congress—a humorless man who is cold to colleagues and cruel to staff. Late one night several years ago, Senate majority leader Trent Lott needed Specter to sign off on an appropriations bill. Specter agreed to do it, for a price: Lott would have to attend two fundraisers in Pennsylvania. Lott made the deal, but this sort of legislative hostage-taking doesn’t win fans. “There are two kinds of senators: Republicans who don’t like Specter and Democrats who don’t like Specter,” says a former leadership aide. In a Washingtonian magazine survey, Hill staffers rated him the Senate’s meanest member. This has given rise to one of Specter’s nicknames: Snarlin’ Arlen.

Being “mean” isn’t necessarily a bad quality in a politician. When Weyrich stumped for Specter in 1992, he made a simple point to his conservative listeners: “Arlen Specter is a jerk, but he’s our jerk.” A former Senate staffer puts it this way: “If therea tough debate going on, you definitely want Specter on your side.”

The problem for conservatives is that Specter isn’t their jerk nearly enough. He is an abortion-rights absolutist, a dogged advocate of racial preferences, a bitter foe of tort reform, a firm friend of the International Criminal Court—the list is long. When Citizens Against Government Waste recently listed Specter in its “Pig Book” as one of the Senate’s most profligate spenders, he shot back: “If they left me out, I’d be worried.” In 1995, Specter briefly ran for president and pursued the unique strategy of attacking the base of his own party: His announcement speech lobbed a grenade at “the intolerant Right.” After pressing this theme for several months, one poll showed him attracting support from a grand total of 1 percent of Republicans. The senator’s lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union is 42 percent (Pat Toomey’s is 97).

In July, Specter disappointed conservatives yet again when he blocked a school-choice proposal that would have granted vouchers to 2,000 poor students in the District of Columbia. Prominent Democrats, including D.C. mayor Anthony Williams and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, support the plan. So did Specter six years ago, when he voted in favor of a similar measure. “I’ve regretted it ever since,” he now says. “I believe school choice violates the separation of church and state. It’s unconstitutional.” But didn’t the Supreme Court rule otherwise last year? “It was a 5–4 decision. The court may change its mind.” Specter’s own children attended private school in Philadelphia. “They didn’t have access to a good public school,” he explains. So what would he say to a mother in D.C. who insists that her kids don’t have access to a good public school either? “There are charter schools available. I’ve led the way to improve the quality of education in America.”

Specter’s biggest impact probably has come on the Judiciary Committee. That makes sense, because he was a prominent lawyer before arriving in Washington. In addition to his work on the Warren Commission, he was twice elected district attorney in Philadelphia, where he earned a tough-on-crime reputation. On the Judiciary Committee, he has been tough on Republican judicial nominees. In 1986, Ronald Reagan selected Jeff Sessions of Alabama for the federal bench, but Specter joined his Democratic colleagues in defeating the nomination—it was only the second time the Judiciary Committee had turned down a nominee since the FDR era. Attorney general Ed Meese called it “an appalling surrender to the politics of ideology.” Sessions didn’t vanish from public life; in 1996, he was elected to the Senate. Now he sits with Specter on the Judiciary Committee. The two men don’t talk about what passed between them 17 years ago, but Specter admits he made a mistake: “I’ve gotten to know him. I regret my vote.”

Specter doesn’t regret a more famous vote that took place the following year, on the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork. This was a watershed moment in Washington politics, when left-wing histrionics began to play a leading role in judicial confirmations—and the term “borking” was born. Bork had an impeccable record as a law professor and judge, but the debate over his nomination was dominated by the fevered rhetoric of his enemies, who said that confirming him would condemn women to back-alley abortions and blacks to segregated lunch counters. Fresh from his first re-election a few months earlier, Specter couldn’t make up his mind about what to do. He questioned Bork for hours in his private chambers and at public hearings. In the end, he decided to vote against confirmation. “He called and said that he couldn’t be sure about me,” says Bork. “I’ve never known what he meant by that.” Specter’s announcement doomed the nomination. As Bork lobbyist Tom Korologos put it at the time: “Specter hit the game-winning RBI.” Conservatives, of course, resent that he was batting for the wrong team.

Specter likes to think that he redeemed himself in the eyes of the Right four years later, when he was a strong defender of embattled nominee Clarence Thomas. With his next election a year away, he was indeed looking to win points with the Right. His strong prosecutorial skills became an important asset to Thomas, in hearings that polarized the country even more than Bork’s had. It is possible to believe that without Specter’s aggressive interrogation of Anita Hill, including his accusation that she may have committed perjury, Thomas would not have been confirmed.

Yet Specter wasted little time in distancing himself from the man he helped elevate. He has described the Thomas–Hill episode as a kind of sensitivity seminar on sexual harassment: “The hearings were a learning experience for me and, for that matter, for America, too.” He has also expressed his “disappointment” in Thomas’s performance on the Supreme Court. Specter refuses to use the same word today, though he’s clearly not comfortable with Thomas’s conservative record. “He’s grown a lot in the last twelve years,” says the senator. But Specter still won’t commit to voting for Thomas if he were nominated as Chief Justice. “I’d want to think about that,” he says. What about Antonin Scalia for chief justice? “I’d want to think about that, too.”

NO END TO APOSTASY? The impeachment trial of Bill Clinton occurred before the full Senate rather than the Judiciary Committee, but many people believed Specter again would play a memorable role. And in fact he did, though his performance was most noteworthy for its weirdness. Senators were supposed to determine whether Clinton was “guilty” or “not guilty” of impeachable crimes. Specter, however, wanted a third option: “Under Scottish law, there are three possible verdicts: ‘guilty,’ ‘not guilty,’ and ‘not proven.’” He said that the president had not received a proper trial, in the sense that no witnesses were called—and therefore senators didn’t have enough information to convict. When Specter announced “not proven” during the roll call, Chief Justice William Rehnquist ordered his verdict to be recorded as “not guilty.” Specter continued to claim that the distinction was meaningful, and suggested that perhaps Clinton should face a criminal trial in an actual court after leaving office. Yet he clearly doesn’t have a low opinion of the former president; two pictures of Clinton decorate the foyer of Specter’s Senate office.

During the George W. Bush administration, Specter has supported most of the president’s picks for the federal bench. In May, however, he forced the Judiciary Committee to send the nomination of Leon Holmes to the Senate floor without a recommendation—an embarrassing setback for the White House. (As of this writing, there still hasn’t been a floor vote on Holmes.) In July, he voted to approve Bill Pryor’s nomination, but not before announcing that he might change his mind and vote against Pryor on the Senate floor.

This behavior is no surprise, though it would take on added significance if Specter were to become the next chairman of the Judiciary Committee, as he is now in line to do. Orrin Hatch of Utah is the current chairman, but he’s term-limited in that position. Next comes Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who isn’t expected to give up his control of the powerful Finance Committee. After him sits Specter, who has wanted the top job at Judiciary for years. “There’s a lot I would like to do,” he says, citing violent crime, antitrust law, and privacy as leading concerns. Several of his colleagues on the committee, however, are worried about the prospect of a Chairman Specter in 2005. “He could take the committee in a more liberal direction,” says one of them. “It would definitely be a challenge.”

Perhaps this is the clinching argument against Specter: He may in fact be the GOP’s best bet for holding Pennsylvania’s Senate seat, but his re-election also represents the best shot liberals have for influencing an important committee in a Senate they don’t otherwise control. What’s more, if Specter wins a fifth term in 2004, he’ll be 80 years old in 2010 and perhaps ready to retire. If he knows he doesn’t have to face voters again, conservatives may not even get the one or two years of leverage over him they’ve come to expect.

Specter’s Pennsylvania colleague Rick Santorum, a committed conservative, supports Specter over Pat Toomey. “There’s no question that Arlen’s an independent guy, but he also understands the concept of team,” says Santorum. “This race could draw resources away from other states, where there’s a big difference between a Democrat and a Republican rather than a small one between Specter and Toomey.” This party-line loyalty is remarkable, because Specter tried to complicate Santorum’s first Senate primary by recruiting a pro-abortion woman to run against him. His first choice was Teresa Heinz, widow of the late Republican senator John Heinz (and now the wife of John Kerry). When she said no, Specter turned to state auditor Barbara Hafer, who looked like a candidate for a few weeks but didn’t get in. Specter was forced to abandon his efforts. Santorum captured the GOP nod and won the general election—showing that true-blue conservatives can prevail in Pennsylvania if they invigorate conservatives and run respectably among the state’s many Reagan Democrats.

Anybody launching a primary challenge against an incumbent faces long odds, but Toomey is optimistic. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I weren’t convinced I could win,” he says. Specter is taking the primary seriously, which is good news and bad news for Toomey: good because it suggests that Specter really does feel vulnerable, bad because Specter won’t fall victim to Lazy Incumbent Syndrome. At the end of June, Specter had nearly $9 million in the bank, compared to about $1.5 million for Toomey. “I won’t be out-hustled,” says the senator.

Yet the 41-year-old congressman remains confident. “I never thought I was going to raise more money than Arlen Specter,” he says. “But I am going to raise enough to get out my message.” Most experts think he’ll need at least $4 million to have a real chance to win. He may yet succeed: In 1998, Specter faced two nameless primary opponents who spent next to nothing on their campaigns, and they attracted a combined 33 percent of the vote. This suggests that Toomey—not an unknown, but a conservative standout in the House who has won three elections in a Democratic-leaning district—begins with one-third of Republicans already in his pocket. He will only go up from there. And nobody should regard Specter as invincible in the general election: In 1992, Lynn Yeakel came out of nowhere and almost beat him, holding Specter to 49 percent of the electorate and drawing 46 percent for herself.

Much of the GOP establishment nevertheless is getting behind Specter, including the White House. But Toomey is making gains. Two dozen members of the state legislature support his insurgency, as do Pennsylvania right-to-life groups and national organizations such as the Club for Growth. Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist also back him. The Pennsylvania primary is closed, meaning that only Republicans can vote in it; conservatives therefore will have a lot to say about who wins the nomination. Specter believes there’s a conservative case to be made on behalf of his re-election. On primary day, though, conservatives might well make a different declaration: “Not proven.”


The Answer? Give to Pat Toomey