Tag Archives: TARP

WAYNE ALLYN ROOT: Barack Obama: The great jobs killer

Jul. 04, 2010

As former President Ronald Reagan might have said, “Obama, there you go again.”

The current occupant of the White House claims to know how to create jobs. He claims jobs have been created. But so far the score is Great Obama Depression 2.2 million lost jobs, Obama 0 — a blowout.

Obama is as hopeless, helpless, clueless and bankrupt of good ideas as the manager of the Chicago Cubs in late September. This “community organizer” knows as much about private-sector jobs as Pamela Anderson knows about nuclear physics.

It’s time to call Obama what he is: The Great Jobs Killer. With his massive spending and tax hikes — rewarding big government and big unions, while punishing taxpayers and business owners — Obama has killed jobs, he has killed motivation to create new jobs, he has killed the motivation to invest in new businesses, or expand old ones. With all this killing, Obama should be given the top spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

Meanwhile, he has kept the union workers of GM and Chrysler employed (with taxpayer money). He has made sure that most government employee union members got their annual raises for sleeping on the job (with taxpayer money). He made sure that his voters got handouts mislabeled as “tax cuts” even though they never paid taxes (with taxpayer money). And he made sure that major campaign contributors collected billions off government stimulus (with taxpayer money).

As far as the taxpayers — the people who actually take risks with our own money to create small businesses and jobs and pay most of the taxes — we require protection under the Endangered Species Act.

You won’t find proof of the damage Obama is doing on Wall Street, but rather on Main Street. My friends are all part of the economic engine of America: Small business. Small business creates 75 percent of new jobs (and a majority of all jobs). I called one friend who was a wealthy restaurant owner. He says business is off by 60 percent. He’s drowning in debt. He won’t last much longer. His wealth is gone.

I called another friend in the business of home improvement. He says business is off 90 percent from two years ago. My contractor just filed personal bankruptcy. She won’t be building any more homes. The hair salon where I’ve had my hair cut for years closed earlier this year. Bankrupt. But here’s the clincher — ESPN Zone just closed all their restaurants across the country. If they can’t make it selling cheap food and overpriced beer with 100 big screens blaring every sporting event on the planet to a sports-crazed society, we are all in deep, deep trouble.

I’ve polled all my friends who own small businesses — many of them in the Internet and high-tech fields. They all agree that in this new Obama world of high business taxes, income taxes, payroll taxes, capital gains taxes, and workers compensation taxes, the key to success is to avoid employees. The only way to survive as a business owner today is by keeping the payroll very low and by hiring only independent contractors or part-time employees provided by temp agencies.

The days of jobs in the private sector with big salaries, full benefits, and pensions are over. We’ve all seen where those kinds of jobs get you as a business owner — in Bankruptcy Court or surviving on government welfare like GM and Chrysler. Or in the case of government itself — completely insolvent, but surviving by ripping off taxpayers and fraudulently running printing presses at the Fed all day and night to print money by the trillions.

Unfortunately, small businesses don’t have the power to impose taxes or print money. So unlike government, we’ll just have to cut employees and run lean and mean.

It has now become clear that, outside of the burgeoning field of Census takers, there will be no major increase in new jobs for years to come. Outside government, Obama has created a wasteland of economic ruin and depression that looks much like the landscape of Mel Gibson’s first movie “Mad Max.” Without a printing press in Obama’s world, you’re just plain out of luck.

The days of believing the Obama propaganda about a jobs recovery are over. The trillion-dollar corporate handouts (neatly named “stimulus”) may have kept big business in the money for the past 18 months, and artificially propped up the stock market, but small business is the real canary in the coal mine.

My small business-owning friends aren’t creating one job. Not one. They are shedding jobs. They are learning to do more with fewer employees. They are creating high-tech businesses that don’t need employees. And many business owners are making plans to leave the country. In a high-tech world where businesses can be run from anywhere, Obama has a problem. His one-trick pony — raise taxes, raise taxes, raising taxes — is chasing away the business owners he desperately needs to pay his bills.

So who is going to pay Obama’s taxes? Not his voters. They want government to pay them. Who is going to create Obama’s jobs? Not his voters — they’ve never created a job in their lives.

So what is Obama going to do? Maybe he can get Pamela Anderson on the line.

Wayne Allyn Root, a former vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, writes from Henderson. His column appears every other week.

Advertisements

Obama, the Dreamer-in-Chief, and the vision thing

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, June 18, 2010

Barack Obama doesn’t do the mundane. He was sent to us to do larger things. You could see that plainly in his Oval Office address on the gulf oil spill. He could barely get himself through the pedestrian first half: a bit of BP-bashing, a bit of faux-Clintonian “I feel your pain,” a bit of recovery and economic mitigation accounting. It wasn’t until the end of the speech — the let-no-crisis-go-to-waste part that tried to leverage the Gulf Coast devastation to advance his cap-and-trade climate-change agenda — that Obama warmed to his task.

Pedestrian is beneath Obama. Mr. Fix-It he is not. He is world-historical, the visionary, come to make the oceans recede and the planet heal.

How? By creating a glorious, new, clean green economy. And how exactly to do that? From Washington, by presidential command and with tens of billions of dollars thrown around. With the liberal (and professorial) conceit that scientific breakthroughs can be legislated into existence, Obama proposes to give us a new industrial economy.

But is this not what we’ve been trying to do for decades with ethanol, which remains a monumental boondoggle, economically unviable and environmentally damaging to boot? As with yesterday’s panacea, synfuels, into which Jimmy Carter poured billions.

Notice that Obama no longer talks about Spain, which until recently he repeatedly cited for its visionary subsidies of a blossoming new clean energy industry. That’s because Spain, now on the verge of bankruptcy, is pledged to reverse its disastrously bloated public spending, including radical cuts in subsidies to its uneconomical photovoltaic industry.

There’s a reason petroleum is such a durable fuel. It’s not, as Obama fatuously suggested, because of oil company lobbying but because it is very portable, energy-dense and easy to use.

But this doesn’t stop Obama from thinking that he can mandate into being a superior substitute. His argument: Well, if we can put a man on the moon, why not this?

Aside from the irony that this most tiresome of cliches comes from a president who is canceling our program to return to the moon, it is utterly meaningless. The wars on cancer and on poverty have been similarly sold. They remain unwon. Why? Because we knew how to land on the moon. We had the physics to do it. Cancer cells, on the other hand, are far more complex than the Newtonian equations that govern a moon landing. Equally daunting are the laws of social interaction — even assuming there are any — that sustain a culture of poverty.

Similarly, we don’t know how to make renewables that match the efficiency of fossil fuels. In the interim, it is Obama and his Democratic allies who, as they dream of such scientific leaps, are unwilling to use existing technologies to reduce our dependence on foreign (i.e., imported) and risky (i.e., deep-water) sources of oil — twin dependencies that Obama decried in Tuesday’s speech.

“Part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean,” said Obama, is “because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.”

Running out of places on land? What about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the less-known National Petroleum Reserve — 23 million acres of Alaska’s North Slope, near the existing pipeline and designated nearly a century ago for petroleum development — that have been shut down by the federal government?

Running out of shallow-water sources? How about the Pacific Ocean, a not inconsiderable body of water, and its vast U.S. coastline? That’s been off-limits to new drilling for three decades.

We haven’t run out of safer and more easily accessible sources of oil. We’ve been run off them by environmentalists. They prefer to dream green instead.

Obama is dreamer in chief: He wants to take us to this green future “even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet precisely know how we’re going to get there.” Here’s the offer: Tax carbon, spend trillions and put government in control of the energy economy — and he will take you he knows not where, by way of a road he knows not which.

That’s why Tuesday’s speech was received with such consternation. It was so untethered from reality. The gulf is gushing, and the president is talking mystery roads to unknown destinations. That passes for vision, and vision is Obama’s thing. It sure beats cleaning up beaches.

Reality of America’s fiscal mess starting to bite

By Gillian Tett

Financial Times

Published: June 17 2010 16:15 | Last updated: June 17 2010 16:58

If you pop into a toilet on the Seattle waterfront this summer, you might see over-flowing bins. The reason? A polite notice explains that “because of 2010 budget reductions”, the Seattle government can no longer afford to “service this comfort station” each day. Hence the dirt.

Investors would do well to take note. In recent months, America’s fiscal mess has assumed a rather surreal air. On paper, the country’s federal-level deficit and debt numbers certainly look very scary. But in practical terms, the impact of those ever-swelling zeroes still seems distinctly abstract.

After all, so far the federal government has not been slashing spending; on the contrary, there was a stimulus bill last year. And, as my colleague John Plender pointed out this week, Treasury bond yields have been falling as investors flee the eurozone woes. As a result, those scary numbers still seem to be a problem primarily concocted in the world of cyber finance.

But there is one place where reality is already starting to bite in America and that is in terms of state finances. Just look at the statistics. A report from the US Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued last month estimates that in fiscal 2010 the US states collectively posted a $200bn-odd budget shortfall, equivalent to 30 per cent of all state budgets.

Last year, that pain was partly eased by Barack Obama’s stimulus package(s). But that spending splurge is now fading away. And in fiscal 2011 and 2012, the states are expected to face another combined budget deficit of $260bn, with the 2011 shortfall in places such as New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada and Arizona projected to be more than 35 per cent of last year’s budget.

So far, the municipal bond market has been dangerously complacent about all this, with yields on 10-year municipal bonds hovering just above 3 per cent. But even if markets seem relatively relaxed, the key point is that the state statistics are already having a very real world impact – in contrast to the federal debt.

Never mind the trivial matter of Seattle’s comfort stations; as it happens, Washington State’s finances are better than most. In New Jersey schools, classes are being cut. In California, public sector employees are not getting paid. In New York, a subway extension has just been cancelled. And in places such as Illinois and San Diego, pension benefits are being renegotiated altogether, breaking numerous taboos.

This, in turn, begs a bigger question: what will be the wider economic and psychologal impact? One obvious, immediate consequence of these cuts is that they appear to be undermining consumer confidence, over and above the damage already being inflicted by the stubbornly high unemployment rate. The pattern may also be fuelling some subtle shifts in terms of how investors view the future.

In Seattle, for example, local insurance companies have recently changed the message they are giving to customers. For though financial planners used to steer households into tax-deferred products (such as 401K), since they assumed that employees would pay lower taxes when they retired, the new mantra is “tax diversification”. That is based around the idea that households should not defer tax payments, since taxes wll inevitably rise in the future, as the fiscal squeeze takes hold. And that, in turn, raises another question: namely what all of this real-world squeeze in Seattle (and eslewhere) might – or might not – do to the bigger debate about the federal debt.

It is a fair bet that eventually the debate about state spending cuts will encourage investors and voters to start paying more attention to the seemingly abstract federal fiscal numbers.

That might spark more market upheaval. it might also create more political upheaval. Just look at the rise of the Tea Party for signs of that.

But if you want to be optimistic, it is also possible to put a more upbeat spin on this. For all the gloomy statistics about state deficits and spending cuts, what has not received as much attention is that some states are now trying proactively to tackle their woes. Illinois, for example, is facing a big crunch due to credit downgrades; but it is also doing some imaginative things, such as raising the retirement age for local state employees.

That may not please voters. Nor will it necessarily save Illinois from further downgrades to its debt. But this is the type of step that needs to embraced at the federal level, too. So if places such as Illinois can actually break these taboos, it could be a reason for cheer; conversely, if it sparks too much social unrest, it will be a powerful warning sign. Either way, holders of US Treasury bonds had better keep a close watch on what happens to state budgets this year; even in the all-too-tangible world of the Seattle waterfront.

It’s time to consider cutting instead of spending!!

Prune and Grow

By DAVID BROOKS

NEW YORK TIMES

Sixteen months ago, Congress passed a stimulus package that will end up costing each average taxpayer $7,798. Economists were divided then about whether this spending was worth it, and they are just as divided now.

The president’s economists ran the numbers through their model and predicted that the stimulus package would create or save at least three million jobs. John F. Cogan and John B. Taylor of Stanford and Tobias Cwik and Volker Wieland of the Goethe-University of Frankfurt argue that the White House methodology is archaic. Their model suggests the stimulus will create about a half-million jobs.

Edward L. Glaeser of Harvard compared the change in employment in each state to the amount of stimulus money it has received. He found a slight relationship between stimulus dollars and job creation, but none at all if you set aside three states: Alaska and the Dakotas.

Over all, most economists seem to think the stimulus was a good idea, but there’s a general acknowledgment that we know relatively little about the relationship between fiscal policy and job creation. We are left, as Glaeser put it on The Times’s Economix blog, “wading in ignorance.”

If the economists are divided about what just happened, the rest of the world is not divided about what should come next. Voters, business leaders and political leaders do not seem to think that the stimulus was such a smashing success that we should do it again, even with today’s high unemployment.

They seem to see the fiscal floodgates wide open and that the private sector still only created a measly 41,000 jobs last month. That doesn’t inspire confidence. Furthermore, they understand something that is hard to quantify: Deficit spending in the middle of a debt crisis has different psychological effects than deficit spending at other times.

In times like these, deficit spending to pump up the economy doesn’t make consumers feel more confident; it makes them feel more insecure because they see a political system out of control. Deficit spending doesn’t induce small businesspeople to hire and expand. It scares them because they conclude the growth isn’t real and they know big tax increases are on the horizon. It doesn’t make political leaders feel better either. Lacking faith that they can wisely cut the debt in some magically virtuous future, they see their nations careening to fiscal ruin.

So we are exiting a period of fiscal stimulus and entering a period of fiscal consolidation. Last year, the finance ministers of the G-20 were all for pumping up economic activity. This year, they called on their members to reduce debt. In this country, deficits are now the top concern.

Some theorists will tell you that if governments shift their emphasis to deficit cutting, they risk sending the world back into recession. There are some reasons to think this is so, but events tell a more complicated story.

Alberto Alesina of Harvard has surveyed the history of debt reduction. He’s found that, in many cases, large and decisive deficit reduction policies were followed by increases in growth, not recessions. Countries that reduced debt viewed the future with more confidence. The political leaders who ordered the painful cuts were often returned to office. As Alesina put it in a recent paper, “in several episodes, spending cuts adopted to reduce deficits have been associated with economic expansions rather than recessions.”

This was true in Europe and the U.S. in the 1990s, and in many other cases before. In a separate study, Italian economists Francesco Giavazzi and Marco Pagano looked at the way Ireland and Denmark sharply cut debt in the 1980s. Once again, lower deficits led to higher growth.

So the challenge for the U.S. in the years ahead is to consolidate intelligently. That means reducing deficits while at the same time making the welfare state more efficient, boosting innovation in areas like energy, and spending more money on growth-enhancing sectors like infrastructure.

That’s a tough balancing act.

The biggest task will be to reduce middle-class entitlement spending. Alesina found that spending cuts are a more effective way to stabilize debt than tax increases, though we’ll need both.

The second biggest task is to consolidate while addressing another problem: labor market polarization. According to a Hamilton Project/Center for American Progress study by David Autor, high-skill sectors saw no net loss of jobs during the recession. Middle-skill sectors like sales saw an 8 percent employment decline. Blue-collar jobs fell by 16 percent.

In other words, the recession exacerbated the inequalities we’ve been seeing for decades. Somehow government has to cut total spending while directing more money to address the trends that threaten to hollow out the middle class.

During the period of consolidation, in other words, the government will have to spend less, but target better. That will require enormous dexterity and intelligence from a political system that has recently shown neither.

Obama Defeats Specter

The American Spectator

By on 5.20.10 @ 6:09AM

Wait a minute.

Let’s back up and stay focused on why, exactly, Arlen Specter lost this race — and had his career ended.

Two words: Barack Obama.

Story time.

Last April, in 2009, Senator Arlen Specter, then the Republican senior Senator from Pennsylvania, stopped in Harrisburg for a meeting with a group of Pennsylvania conservatives. This was a fairly routine thing for Specter to do. He had had a career’s worth of disagreements with conservatives, but he had also had some serious agreements. While his famous opposition to Robert Bork is prominent among the former, among the latter was his fierce support for Supreme Court nominees Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Sam Alito. Less publicized but equally strong was his support for Reagan and Bush lower court nominees, support that was critical due to Specter’s long-running role as a senior member or chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In the past, Specter would eagerly walk into the lion’s den and dazzle with his command of the issues and his candor. Furious conservatives would relent, grit their teeth, shake their heads in begrudging admiration — and life would go on. After Specter came close to losing his 2004 re-nomination to then-Congressman and conservative champion Pat Toomey, things appeared to have settled in, with the recognition that Specter would get his one and presumably last term — his sixth. Toomey had given repeated signals that he had no intention of taking on Specter again and was instead focused on a race for governor. Specter was in the clear for an uncontested re-nomination to that sixth term.

But on this April day, trouble was in the air. You could almost smell it.

In February, Specter was only one of three Senate Republicans (Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins the other two) to break ranks and support the Obama $838 billion stimulus package as it passed the upper chamber on a 61-37 vote. Barely a month into Obama’s term, Americans were uneasy — and this was months before the explosion that was ObamaCare.

Sitting across the table from Specter, I listened in silence as he was peppered with questions about his stimulus vote. The people in this room were furious. There was no being dazzled here today. There was no silent gritting of teeth. This was something else entirely.

The stimulus vote had taken place in the Senate on February 9. And this very day — April 15th — Pat Toomey had announced he had changed his mind about running for governor. Spurred by the overwhelmingly bad reaction to Specter’s vote for Obama’s stimulus, Toomey had changed course and plunged into the Senate race.

On the spot what had once been a sure-thing re-nomination for Specter — by Republicans — was under siege.

The meeting over, I asked for an interview. Like a lot of Pennsylvanians, I have known Arlen Specter a long time. He is tenacious, a fierce competitor. The pluperfect example of the unglamorous underdog who wins simply because he persists and refuses to give up. Over the years he had lost races for district attorney of Philadelphia, mayor of Philadelphia, Senator from Pennsylvania, Governor of Pennsylvania. Even for president. And each and every time, like Philadelphia’s favorite fictional fighter Rocky Balboa, Specter had gotten up and climbed back into the ring, finally winning a Senate seat in 1980 on the undisputed coattails of Ronald Reagan. He would serve for thirty years, becoming the longest serving U.S. Senator in Pennsylvania history.

But there was something going on here this morning, as the atmosphere in that roomful of conservatives had just attested. The questions were barely polite, sharp. The atmosphere tense. No one could understand why Specter — or any rational, thinking person — would sign onto Obama’s so-called “stimulus.” Everyone thought it not just a waste of money but dangerous, a threat — a serious threat — to the American economy that was (correctly, as it turned out) but a precursor to even more reckless spending and indebtedness to come.

We stepped outside the building. I scrambled for notepaper and pen. Specter said he would have an aide tape the whole interview and e-mail the audio. He wanted to talk.

The polls that April morning, the very day of Pat Toomey’s formal announcement, showed Specter getting trounced. And I do mean trounced. Pennsylvania Republicans — reflective of the people we had just left in that room — were furious with him. Yet Specter was determined, not in the least an unusual posture for this man.

He began by launching on Toomey. What I was listening to was a virtual declaration of political war. Even standing there looking at him face to face I had no idea how much I was underestimating the situation.

“I’ve been sitting back for the last six years taking insistent criticism from him,” he seethed. “The campaign is underway and I intend to fire back. It’s hardball. Hard hardball.”

Toomey had spent the years between his 2004 loss and today’s announcement to run against Specter again as the president of the supply-side oriented Club for Growth, a group dedicated to raising money to defeat candidates — Republicans included — who had abandoned the success of Reaganomics, the classical principles of economic prosperity that had provided an almost unbroken record of a quarter century of economic growth from Reagan through the end days of George W. Bush. Specter pounced on the Club.

Said Specter evenly:

“Toomey represents the Club for Growth which has engaged in cannibalistic tactics. When they fought [recently defeated GOP Senator Lincoln] Chafee in the Rhode Island primary, spent all his money, beat him in the general, that cost us control of the Senate. In the Senate…we would have controlled the Senate had we retained Chafee’s seat in 2007 and 2008.”

I had written a book several years earlier detailing Specter’s resolute fight for a conservative Bush nominee to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, detailing his opposition to the hard-left interest groups that sought, in their typical fashion, not simply to defeat the nomination but destroy the nominee. Specter had stood up to them — from Ralph Neas and Nan Aron to the National Organization for Women. In 2008 I saw him at another of these meetings and he greeted me with a grin: “Are you going to write another book and make me the hero?” Everyone had laughed.

No one was laughing this morning, but knowing of my interest in placing conservatives on the court, Specter segued into the issue in an almost stream-of-consciousness moment.

“Bush left 13 circuit judges on the table and I think about 24 district judges on the table who could have been confirmed had we had Republican control and I had been the chairman [of the Senate Judiciary Committee],” he said, angrily underlining what he felt was the Club’s role — which is to say Toomey’s role — in losing control of the Senate in 2006.

Meanwhile, even as we stood in the cold air of a gray April morning, Specter’s campaign was on television going after Toomey. Toomey was guilty of having worked on Wall Street, selling “risky derivatives and swaps.” Most negative political ads of this type feature an announcer’s voice whispering dark, accusatory somethings about the opponent, the candidate himself or herself never seen. Not this time. This time, there was Arlen Specter himself, bluntly accusing Toomey, saying “it’s derivatives and swaps that have now plunged us into this financial mess.”

Clearly, Specter had no intention of backing away from that stimulus vote. He would try and make the case that the whole economic mess was Toomey’s fault — an argument that had just fallen flatter than a run-over pancake only moments ago in a roomful of conservatives.

No matter. The same day a letter had gone out to Toomey, signed not by the usual campaign aide but by Specter himself. The letter was as in-your-face as the TV commercial, accusing Toomey of being — an investment banker.

Specter shifted gears once again, looking me steadily in the eye as he finished venting about judges. This time he brought in the 2006 defeat of then-Senator Rick Santorum. “There’s no way Toomey can win a general election,” he said. “You know that the Santorum experience is conclusive on it. Toomey is to the right of Santorum. Santorum’s lifetime conservative record is 88, Toomey’s is 97. Santorum spent $31 million [in his losing 2006 race against Democrat Bob Casey, Jr.], two-term senator, number three in leadership and he lost by 18 points.”

Now he tried another approach. “The only check and balance on the Democratic sweep with the White House and the House is 41 of us in the Senate. Because if Toomey is the Republican nominee and my seat goes, the Democrats get 60 votes. And they run rough shod on increasing taxes and bringing card check and a lot of other things that are anathema to Republicans.”

His last words, delivered with a sudden wry smile, were about sending Toomey a message. “After this I’m going to send a tough one.”

The message came thirteen days later. It was stunning. He had given no clue of it that day in Harrisburg — or in retrospect, maybe he had and I just didn’t have the wit to pick up on it.

Standing in front of microphones in the Senate press gallery in Washington, the man who had won his first Senate election as a Republican on Reagan’s coattails in 1980 said this of his support for the Obama stimulus:

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

And with that, whether Specter understood it or not when he chose to cast his vote as he did, Barack Obama had taken his first political casualty as president.

Only months earlier Arlen Specter was poised for an easy re-nomination to a sixth term as a Republican. There was no one of any real stature on the horizon on the Democrats’ side seen as capable of beating him — Pennsylvania Democrat Congressman Joe Sestak included.

But going out on a limb for Obama was a limb too far.

By August, Specter was making his usual round of town hall meetings across the state. These events had historically been quiet affairs over the years, a scramble by Specter aides to fill rooms on hot summer days and nights when most Pennsylvanians are on vacation or working or would rather watch the Phillies or the Pirates with a cold beer.

Now, all hell had broken loose.

The meeting in Philadelphia, with Obama Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius at his side, had erupted on television screens across the nation. This was Philadelphia — Arlen Specter’s home turf, his base, a town filled with Democrats — and the cameras showed angry Philadelphians yelling and shaking indignant fists. They were furious — this time not just over his stimulus vote but his support of ObamaCare.

Not long afterwards, on August 11, the Senator came to bucolic, nearby Lebanon, the epitome of small town Pennsylvania. I drove over to see the spectacle. And it was that — a spectacle. There was no way to get inside his town meeting — the line stretched literally around the block. An astonished local cop told me there were at least 1,000 — that’s one thousand people in the streets of this small town. I had no doubt.

A flashy red convertible that reminded of Stephen King’s Christine, the novel about a car possessed by the forces of the supernatural, slowly made its way through the main blocks. Taped to its sides were huge sides that read “Dump Arlen” or some such. The driver was greeted as a conquering hero to thunderous applause. All morning he circled, getting huge applause upon every re-appearance.

Homemade signs bobbed everywhere, including one directed at Speaker Nancy Pelosi that read:

I am not a Nazi
I am not a Mob
I am not a Wacko
How dare you…

I walked the streets, tape recorder and video camera in hand. The accusation was flying, beginning with Pelosi, that the presence of crowds like this one was nothing more than “astro turf” or rented crowds. So I asked. Were you told to come here? No, came the answer, repeatedly and emphatically. No, no and no again. The very question they found insulting, with one sign making the point clear: “If it’s Astroturf why are you trying to mow it?”

Said one middle-aged woman to me when questioned, clearly furious: “I’m a wife, mother and a homemaker. I don’t even know anybody in the insurance business. I really resent the fact that Nancy Pelosi has deemed me a mob and a Nazi!”

Lurking, several people in the purple shirts of the SEIU appeared, vastly outnumbered. All but one refused to talk.

Inside Specter’s townhall meeting, things were barely much better. As with the crowd outside, Pennsylvanians had come from all over the area. The Senator was berated, the anger of his constituents as palpable on television screens that night as it was in person outside on the streets.

“You have awakened a sleeping giant,” a 35-year old Katy Abraham told Specter, to the indignant applause of the crowd.

Actually, Ms. Abraham was only half right. The sleeping giant is indeed awake. He now roams the land from Massachusetts to New Jersey to Virginia to Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

But the man who awoke that sleeping giant wasn’t named Arlen Specter.

The man who awoke the sleeping giant that is the American people is the same man who snuffed out Arlen Specter’s career — a career once on track to an effortless re-nomination and probable re-election as a Republican.

That man’s name is Barack Obama.

Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He has worked on the nominations of seven Supreme Court nominees. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.


People never forgot the Scottish Law cop-out

The admiral sinks Specter
By: Shira Toeplitz of Politico
May 18, 2010 10:50 PM EDT

Rep. Joe Sestak knocked out five-term Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in a closely watched Democratic primary Tuesday night, tapping into a wave of anti-incumbency to bring a dramatic halt to Specter’s 30-year Senate career.

For the most part, low turnout in southeastern Pennsylvania — especially in urban Philadelphia — devastated Specter’s hopes of reelection, despite his having the backing of organized labor, the state party and, for a while at least, the White House in his first bid for Senate as a Democrat.

“It’s been a great privilege to serve the people of Pennsylvania,” Specter said with a pained voice to a small but appreciative audience that chanted his first name at the beginning and end of his remarks at his election night headquarters.

Standing alongside his wife, Joan, and speaking slowly, Specter thanked his supporters, including President Barack Obama. He said of Sestak, “I will support him in the election.”

Sestak will take on the other Senate primary victor Tuesday evening, former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a fiscal conservative who once headed the Club for Growth.

A relative newcomer, in the House since 2006, Sestak has the kind of resume national Democrats are looking for — a former Navy admiral who saw action in Afghanistan. Democrats quickly closed ranks and declared Sestak the kind of outsider who voters are looking for this fall.

“Joe Sestak has a compelling life story and a powerful message of change. He knows what is wrong with Washington and, if elected to the Senate, will shake up how business is done in the Capitol,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who heads the Senate Democratic campaign arm.

Moments later, Menendez issued a memo, calling Sestak “a former naval officer who has proven he takes a back seat to nobody when it comes to shaking up Washington and taking on the establishment. Joe, an energetic campaigner, has a compelling personal profile and a message of change that resonates with voters, especially in this political environment.”

At one point, the race seemed Specter’s to lose, with sky-high name recognition in a state where he served for three decades. But he was a fixture in Washington politics at a time when that was toxic. And as primary day approached, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden — both of whom had boasted of luring the longtime Republican into the Democratic ranks last year — steered well clear of the state and Specter himself.

The White House rebuffed an 11th-hour plea from Specter for a presidential visit on his behalf. Biden was in Philadelphia Monday night to give a commencement speech but did not make a campaign appearance for his longtime friend in the Senate.

In the Philadelphia suburbs of Montgomery County, state Rep. Josh Shapiro (D) said he had noted more enthusiasm for Sestak than Specter.

“I can just tell you more anecdotally, just around Montgomery County today, there seemed to be a lot more energy today around the Sestak campaign,” said Shapiro, who is neutral in the Senate race.

In defeating Specter, Sestak unseated one of the most recognizable U.S. senators, a formidable former prosecutor who survived two bouts with cancer. He rose to national prominence as a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who drew notice — and, to this day, anger from some women’s groups and Democrats — for his tough questioning of Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

He was one of only three Republicans to vote for Obama’s stimulus bill in early 2009, and shortly thereafter — after heavy entreaties from Biden — Specter made the party switch, effectively acknowledging the difficulty of holding onto his Senate seat in a state that has been trending Democratic in recent elections.

Although Specter led Sestak in public polls during most of the race, the two-term congressman climbed back in the polls in the last few weeks of the race once he started airing television advertisements. In particular, Sestak’s campaign put up a spot in heavy statewide rotation that showed Specter alongside former President George W. Bush and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Although Specter boasted a 30-point lead among Philadelphia voters, Sestak won with strong turnout in the collar counties around the city. Sestak won every one of the five suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia with double-digit margins except Montgomery County. Ironically, Specter used to count on Republicans in that same region to win the GOP nomination and general election in his previous bids.

In the final weeks of the election, Democratic leaders in Pennsylvania and Specter supporters emphasized that Specter would be a more formidable general election candidate than Sestak. After all, they said Specter had a proven track record of crossover appeal when he ran for reelection as a Republican.

“I think Joe Sestak would have more building to do than Specter in the general election,” said former Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.). “The Sestak campaign concentrated on bringing on board a Democratic constituency and hasn’t had to reach beyond it. I think that Joe Sestak would have to seriously reposition himself in the fall for the general election.”

And in the also populous southwestern part of the state, campaign operatives said turnout was marginally better than in the Philadelphia area. That was a good sign for Sestak, according to Pennsylvania Democrats’ Southwestern Caucus Chairman John Hanna.

Sestak won Allegheny County, which is the most populous county in southwestern Pennsylvania, by 4 points. The slightly higher turnout in western Pennsylvania also likely boosted Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato’s bid for governor, although polls showed him leading the crowded Democratic primary field by double digits until Election Day. Onorato won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday evening, while Attorney General Tom Corbett captured his bid for governor in a crowded GOP primary field as well.

And while Specter might have fallen Tuesday evening, House incumbents with primary challenges won reelection by sizable margins. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) staved off a spirited challenge from Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O’Brian, 49 to 36 percent. Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.) also defeated his primary challenger, attorney Sheila Dow-Ford, by a two-to-one margin.

Attorney Keith Rothfus easily defeated a GOP candidate who was once touted as a top recruit by the national party, former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, 67 percent to 33 percent, and will face Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) this November.

In two other potentially competitive House districts, businessman Mike Kelley (R) was the front-runner and former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino (R) was the winner in their respective races in the 3rd and 10th House districts.