Tales from the Trail

Frum Obamacare to Waterloo: Where do Republicans find themselves?

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Have Republicans really met their Waterloo? George W. Bush’s former speech writer David Frum thinks so. And he may have a point, though making it in public has proved costly.

Only six months ago, Republican opposition to healthcare reform was whacking away gleefully at President Barack Obama’s approval ratings. An army of conservative Tea Party activists were flooding Washington’s National Mall in a show of force against the Obama legislative agenda. And Republican nice guy Scott Brown was on his merry way to a Senate upset in bluest of blue Massachusetts.

Now healthcare reform is law and newly energized Democrats are moving to counter those evils of Wall Street that voters love to hate. The grass-roots army has brought Republicans one or two liabilities. And Obama’s job approval rating shows signs of firming up.

USA-HEALTHCARE/Meanwhile, whatever happened to Scott Brown? Well, he actually took that bipartisan independent-thinking stuff seriously and  joined Democrats to approve the Senate jobs bill.  As a result, people back home say his folk hero victory has backfired on the GOP.

But Brown and Frum may not be the only Republicans at odds with the straight and narrow. Before Frum left the American Enterprise Institute, Joe Klein says he privately disclosed that the think tank had ordered its scholars to keep schtum about Obamacare. Why? Because they agreed with too many of the president’s objectives.

Armey says “unreliable” Republicans are Tea Partiers’ only hope

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Dick Armey says the Tea Party movement is willing to back Republicans for office, but only if they agree to reform their sinful ways when it comes to fiscal dangers like the budget deficit and the federal debt.

In fact, he predicts that Tea Partiers and their conservative allies will be around for a long time to make sure Republicans who get into office avoid the perils of backsliding on the road to fiscal purity.

“If we’ve got any hope at all, we must put it, as unreliable as they are, with the Republicans and try to rehabilitate them, reform them … and manage their behavior,” the former House Republican majority leader told a National Press Club luncheon.

from FaithWorld:

Karl Rove says did not ask for gay marriage fight

Karl Rove, the political operative widely credited with the electoral successes of former U.S. President George W. Bush, says in his new book that he did not choose gay marriage as a wedge issue but that circumstances thrust it his way.

Conventional wisdom, at least in some circles, has it that Rove masterminded gay marriage as an issue in the 2004 White House race  in a bid to get conservative evangelicals -- a key base for the Republican Party, especially during the Bush years -- to the polls. There were ballot initiatives in about a  dozen states that year to ban gay marriage (or, supporters of such measures would argue, to defend traditional marriage).  Many political commentators have said such tactics are in keeping with the "Rovian" strategy of ginning up the base to clinch narrow victories.

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Rove, in "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight,"  says the ballot initiatives made little difference to the outcome that year and that they were not his idea anyway.

McCain says he was misled, but not everyone agrees

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John McCain says he was misled by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson into supporting the Wall Street bailout.

“We were all misled,” the Arizona Republican told NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend.

Misled in what way?

With the economy showing every sign of burning to the ground, McCain says Paulson told Congress the Bush administration wanted to buy up toxic mortgages blamed for the conflagration. But he turned around and gave the money directly to Wall Street.

Bush, Cheney meet for first time since leaving office

Former President George W. Bush and his former vice president, Dick Cheney, got together Thursday for the first time since they left office in January 2009.

The meeting took place at Cheney’s house in McLean, Virginia, just three days after the former vice president suffered a mild heart attack and was hospitalized overnight. An ABC News camera captured the moment.
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“Mr. President, welcome,” Cheney said as Bush stepped from the back of a sport utility vehicle.

“Looking good,” Bush said.

“Holding up alright,” Cheney replied.

“Looking good,” the former president said again as the two shook hands warmly.

Obama, a news junkie?

Lots of American presidents liked to pretend they didn’t dwell on the news — too busy attacking big problems for such a trifling. But then they would reveal themselves as news junkies (See 1992 presidential campaign and George H.W. Bush’s slogan: Annoy the Media — Re-Elect Bush).

President Barack Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, publicly boasted about ignoring most of what the press wrote and said about him. In reality, he had read the major newspapers by 6:45 a.m., while not paying much attention to television news.

OBAMA/Which brings us to Obama. He is making no bones about being a real news hound — even while holding the craven media mavens at arm’s length, as shown by his having avoided holding solo news conferences for seven months until a surprise appearance on Monday.

Obama reminds Americans he inherited the high deficit from Republicans

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Lest there be any doubt, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, blames Republicans for leaving him a huge deficit when he took office.

Heard that before? Many times, probably. The president, who is under pressure for spending associated with the $787 billion stimulus package, bank bailouts and car company rescues, introduced his budget on Monday with another reminder of what he faced when he came into office.

“The fact is, 10 years ago, we had a budget surplus of more than $200 billion, with projected surpluses stretching out toward the horizon,” Obama said.

State-of-the-Union Bingo!

LEISURE PLAYBOY JAZZYes, of course, President Obama’s State of the Union address is a serious occasion, full of solemn portents for the nation and the world. But even Washington wonks have to have a little fun. Strangely enough, they’re likely to have fun this year by playing SOTU bingo.

For the uninitiated, SOTU bingo involves modified bingo cards, usually filled in with various words or phrases the president is likely to utter. It’s pretty easy to figure out which bingo-card-makers are friendly to Obama and which are foes. Some simply want to push a cause and hope Obama brings it up when he talks to Congress on Wednesday night.

The Center for Global Development offers a sober-sided set of bingo cards, with terms like “G-20,” “security,” “foreign aid” and “globalization” on its grid. “Will President Obama mention global development during his first official State of the Union address? Will he discuss girls’ health, immigration, or the environment?” the group asked on its Web site, urging folks to tally up whether Obama mentions any of these as they fill in their cards.

Is Obama a party animal? U.S. political trends make it so

The folks at Gallup say Barack Obama is easily the most ‘polarized’ first-year president of the postwar era — and they’re not talking about pre-digital camera snapshots.
    
They mean that Obama, like his immediate predecessors,  is the object of growing partisanship within American public opinion.
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Obama finished his first year in office on Jan. 19 with an 88 percent job approval rating among Democrats but only 23 percent approval among Republicans.
    
That leaves a 65-percentage-point gap between the two partisan lines, eclipsing the previous first-year polarization record of 52 points, held by Democrat Bill Clinton.
    
If Obama’s numbers don’t change, he will exceed Republican George W. Bush as the most polarized of post-World War II presidents. (Over the course of Bush’s presidency, Republicans and Democrats were 61 points apart on average.)
    
But there’s something more afoot than the individual horse races.
    
Gallup says its findings illustrate an upswing in voter partisanship since the time of Republican Ronald Reagan. Before the 1980s, partisan approval gaps ranged from a low of 19 percent for Democrat Lyndon Johnson to a high of 34 percent for Republican Richard Nixon.
    
“Obama — like his immediate predecessor Bush — sought to bring Americans together after periods of heightened political polarization in the United States. But despite their best intentions and efforts, both men’s approval ratings have been characterized by extreme partisanship,” Gallup said.
    
“The way Americans view presidents has clearly changed in recent decades, perhaps owing to the growth in variety, sources and even politicization of news on cable television and the Internet, and the continuing popularity of politically oriented talk radio.”

Click here for more political coverage from Reuters

Photo Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama)

Clinton says Haiti’s development prospects can still be good

Former President Bill Clinton, who is helping to coordinate global relief for Haiti with former President George W. Bush, CLIMATE/COPENHAGEN-BILLCLINTONsays the quake-stricken country could bounce back much more quickly than people might think.

Clinton told NBC’s Today show that Haiti had made it onto the path to modernization when the earthquake struck on Tuesday. But he denied claims that the devastation may have set the impoverished country’s development back by half a century.

“Because they started from a low base, we can reconstitute where they are quicker than everyone thinks. I just do not agree that they’ve been set back 50 years,” he said. “If we go back to work, we’ll be all right.”