The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.
It’s Wabbit Season!
“White House Press Secretary Totally Ducks Mika Brzezinski’s Ebola Czar Question”—headline, Puffington Host, Oct. 21
It’s Duck Season!
“Coburn Blasts Government Spending on Rabbit Massages”—headline, TheHill.com, Oct. 22
Unidentified Flying Obama
According to Gallup’s latest three-day rolling average, 41% of Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing, while 54% disapprove. That adds up to 95%, which raises the question: Who are the other 5%?
Some of them, it seems, are Democratic officeholders seeking re-election. At a debate last night—Breitbart.com has video—New England Cable News reporter Alison King queried Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat who rode Obama’s coattails to her first term six years ago: “Imagine you are at home, wearing your New Hampshire citizen hat, and you get a call from a pollster asking the following question: Do you approve of the job President Obama is doing? Now, there will be a chance to follow up, but this is a yes-or-no answer. Do you approve, yes or no?”
Shaheen’s reply: “In some ways I approve, and some things I don’t approve.” That, Breitbart notes, “caused the audience to start laughing.” The discovery of Shaheen’s previously unrecognized comic talent may be coming at just the right time, since there’s a chance she won’t get to keep her day job. She leads challenger Scott Brown, but by only 2.6 points in the RealClearPolitics average. If Brown wins, that would likely be the Republicans’ 10th Senate pickup (Nos. 1 through 9 being seven states Mitt Romney carried plus Colorado and Iowa, not necessarily in that order).
The senator went on: “Like most questions that we deal with as policy makers, there aren’t simple answers, yes or no.” It’s very nuanced!
Except that the questions lawmakers deal with are ultimately reduced to yes-or-no—i.e., to votes for or against legislation. King tried again, noting that “Scott Brown often says—I don’t need to tell you—that you vote with President Obama 99% of the time.”
Whereupon Shaheen changed the subject: “Scott Brown talks a lot about one survey, and 99% of the time that I voted with the president, but the numbers I’m proudest of are 359—259 people who are now working at the Berlin [federal] prison because I was able to get the prison open after it sat empty for two years . . .”
If you’re wondering what’s going on, here’s the unwieldily named Debbie Wasserman Schultz to explain it to you: “Barack Obama was on the ballot in 2012 and in 2008,” the Hill quotes Democratic National Committee chairman as telling MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough this morning. “The candidates that are on the ballot are Democratic and Republican candidates for Congress, for the U.S. Senate and governors across the country.”
Hey, thanks for the civics lesson, Deb.
Wasserman Schultz, a safe bet for re-election in her own South Florida House seat, was facing essentially the same question that vexed Shaheen: She “was asked three times if voters who cast a ballot for a Democratic candidate next month would be voting for a continuation of the president’s policies.”
She eventually “conceded it was ‘a legitimate question,’ ” then proceeded to evade it. “If you vote for Democrats, you are voting for candidates who are focused on creating jobs, getting the economy turned around and continuing to move us forward, creating more opportunities for people to succeed,” she responded. She didn’t specifically mention the Berlin prison.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews notes that two more Democrats in tight Senate races, Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska and candidate Michelle Nunn of Georgia, were recently approached by Republican “trackers” with video cameras and asked if they voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Both of them dodged the question (though Nunn has acknowledged elsewhere the answer is yes, which a New York Times editorial, in a rare flash of wit, observes is “pretty forthright” by “this year’s standards”).
Describing the tracking videos, Matthews said: “That’s the way people walk past guys who are trying to get a buck or a quarter from somebody. . . . It’s like Obama’s got Ebola. ‘I wasn’t near him! I didn’t touch him!’ ”
In a political as opposed to a clinical sense, Obama does have Ebola—and the Islamic State, and the Veterans Administration, and the Secret Service, and the IRS, and ObamaCare, and slow economic growth. The list could go on. The Associated Press reports that “most likely voters have a negative impression of the Republican Party, and 7 in 10 are dissatisfied by its leaders in Congress.” Nonetheless, “by a growing margin” the AP’s poll respondents say “they’d like to see” a GOP victory Nov. 4.
For as the AP notes, “the Democrats win few accolades themselves”:
Impressions of the party among likely voters have grown more negative in the past month. In fact, Democrats are more trusted than the GOP on just two of nine top issues, the poll showed.
The economy remains the top issue for likely voters—91 percent call it “extremely” or “very” important. And the GOP has increased its advantage as the party more trusted to handle the issue to a margin of 39 percent to 31 percent. . . .
Among all adults, 38 percent say they’d like the Democrats to wind up in control of Congress, to 36 percent for the Republicans. But the GOP holds a significant lead among those most likely to cast ballots: 47 percent of these voters favor a Republican controlled-Congress, 39 percent a Democratic one. That’s a shift in the GOP’s favor since an AP-GfK poll in late September, when the two parties ran about evenly among likely voters.
That Times editorial, by the way, is a hoot. It identifies the problem as a “panicky . . . flight away from President Obama”—a classic example of mistaking the symptom for the disease. “One of the reasons for his unpopularity,” the Times insists, “is that nervous members of his own party have done a poor job of defending his policies over the nearly six years of his presidency, allowing a Republican narrative of failure to take hold.”
So Obama would be FDR if only Debbie Wasserman Schultz had the expository skills of a New York Times editorialist. Here’s an example of those skills in application:
The Affordable Care Act, one of the most far-reaching and beneficial laws to have been passed by Congress in years, gets little respect even among the Democratic candidates who voted for it. Though none support the Republican position of repeal, most talk about the need to “fix” the health law, as if it were a wreck alongside the road rather than a vehicle providing millions of people with health coverage.
The Times allows that “many of these candidates are running in difficult political environments and are being careful about what they say or don’t say in hopes of preserving Democratic control of the Senate,” but observes, accurately enough, that such risk aversion is itself risky:
They run the risk, though, of alienating important constituencies who prefer a party with a spine, especially black voters, who remain very supportive of Mr. Obama. By not standing firmly for their own policies, Democrats send a message to voters that the unending Republican criticism of the president is legitimate. There is much that is going right in this country, and there is still time for Democrats to say so.
Here’s the tell: “a message to voters that the unending Republican criticism of the president is legitimate.” Look at this headline from Salon: “Dem Candidates’ Awkward Balancing Act: Needing Black Voters While Trashing First Black President.”
When Republicans were “trashing” Obama, we heard endlessly from the Times, Salon and others that it was because of racism. Now that Democrats are doing it, it’s an “awkward balancing act.” But maybe Obama would have done a better job as president—and the Democrats would not be in quite such dire electoral peril today—had his supporters not been so determined, as the Times still is, to stigmatize criticism of him as illegitimate.
For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”