GOP cmtes “and conservative groups have spent” $100K or more in 77 different House races compared to 43 races where Dems spent that amount, according to Washington Post analysis. “The pattern is similar in the Senate” where GOPers have spent $1M or more in 12 races while Dems have spent that amount in only 6.
The advantage has allowed GOPers to “take to the airwaves sooner in an attempt to define” their opponents. Dems, meanwhile, are spending “in liberal strongholds” like WA, CA and DE, leaving “less cash to fund candidates facing strong” GOP challengers in swing states.
“With outside groups going on the air” for many GOPers, the NRSC “has had more flexibility in choosing which races to fund early.”
NRSC spokesperson Brian Walsh: “The landscape has allowed us to use our money for more offensive purposes. The Democrats have had to cut a bunch of their candidates loose” (Eggen/Farnam, Washington Post, 10/9).
“FiveThirtyEight’s” Silver writes: “Our model now estimates that” GOPers have a 72% “chance of taking over the House, up from” 67% last week. “Moreover, they have nearly even odds of a achieving a net gain of 50 seats; their average gain in a typical simulation run was between 47 and 48 seats.” GOP “gains this week are mostly the result of factors at the local level; the national environment is roughly stable” (New York Times, 10/8).
What’s Up, Gov?
GOPers “are well-positioned to pick up a substantial number” of GOV seats “with potentially far-reaching effects on issues like the new health care law,” redistricting and presidential politics. GOPers have “the upper hand in many of” the 37 races up for grabs, “including those in crucial political battlegrounds” — GOP candidates “have pulled away from their opponents” in IA, MI and PA.
The GOP “is also increasing its investment” in Dem-leaning states like IL, MI and OR.
“Much of the focus has been on” GOP “efforts to win control of Congress, but a wave of” GOP GOV victories “could have just as significant, and potentially longer lasting, implications.”
Dems “are bracing for deep losses. But party officials are already pointing to races in several states, particularly” CA, FL and TX where Dem GOV nominees “have run stronger than candidates for the House or the Senate, a sign, they say, that the party has not entirely collapsed” (Zeleny/Davey, New York Times, 10/10).
Ra Ra Ooh La La
Though many GOP candidates “haven’t even read the ‘Pledge to America’” and Dem candidates “aren’t really bothering to attack it” — the document has become a focal point for Pres. Obama and House Min. Leader John Boehner (R-OH), in “an almost daily debate” that could be “a preview of Washington in 2011.”
Boeher, 10/9 in OH: “The Pledge to America is a break not only from the direction in which President Obama is headed but also a break from the direction Republicans were headed when we last had the opportunity to govern.”
Obama, 10/8 in Chicago: “The Pledge to America, it’s the same stuff they’ve been peddling for years. They’re trying to hoodwink you once again.”
But “despite both men’s focus on the pledge, it’s not clear that either is winning the argument” — 2/3 of Americans say they’ve never heard of it (Bacon, Washington Post, 10/9).
Even as Boehner heads to south FL 10/11 to campaign for him, one GOP candidate went so far as to dismiss the Pledge entirely. FL-22 nominee Allen West (R) “signaled that he’s not completely ready to embrace the GOP establishment” and “dismissed” the Pledge “as more ‘rah rah’ and ‘boilerplate’ from Washington” GOPers.
West “said the ‘Pledge to America,’ championed by Boehner, deserves a grade in the ‘D’ range. He said it was missing key policy plans on immigration, earmarks and term limits. The section on national security was ‘same old stuff … missile defense, rah, rah, rah.’
West: “It’s very important that in the first 90 to 120 days that the Republican Party very quickly has to earn the trust of the American people once again. And I don’t think that the Pledge to America went very far in gaining that trust. It’s what we call in the military, boilerplate. … If John Boehner is speaker, I’m going to hold his feet to the fire. And I think that’s important” (Sherman, Politico, 10/11).
The Fed “is facing a new source of anger: the Tea Party movement. “They have made the Fed a target of their ire, linking it to their criticisms of” the stimulus and Wall Street Bailouts.
SEN nominee/ex-Jon Huntsman gen. counsel Mike Lee (R-UT) “has accused the central bank of trying to ‘monetize the debt’ by printing money to buy government bonds — a motivation that Fed officials have hotly denied.” SEN nominee/Weld Co. DA Ken Buck (R-CO) “has called for ‘shining a light on the Federal Reserve,’ saying it is too cozy with private interests.” And SEN nominee/ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R-KY) “has argued that the Fed is devaluing the dollar and causing boom-bust cycles through its easy-money policies.”
“Criticism of the Fed has been more of a simmering undercurrent” this cycle “than a dominant theme, … but Fed officials … have become increasingly attuned to the probability that their critics will have a louder voice in the next Congress.”
Ex-House Maj. Leader Dick Armey (R) “blames the Fed for abetting the crisis by keeping interest rates too low for too long after the 2001 recession.” And a few Tea Partiers, including Lee, “have come close to urging a return to the gold standard.”
The “ire at the Fed may be broad but not very deep. … Even so, the anger has been strong enough to raise some concerns among” GOPers.
Ex-Rep. Vin Weber (R-MN): “The positions that have become almost mainstream, at least on the right, used to be extreme positions. Only the John Birch Society used to call for the auditing of the Federal Reserve.”
Josh Barro wrote, for National Review in June: “There’s always a problem with unaccountable government agencies, but on the other hand the Fed has had a free hand to do things that have been necessary and unpopular. If Congress had had the power to stop all the asset purchases the Fed has done, we might have dropped into deflation the last couple of years” (Chan, New York Times, 10/10).
Taking A Tea Test
“A record number of Tea Party activists” gathered at the VA Tea Party Patriots Convention in Richmond 10/8. Speakers included VA Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and ex-Sens. George Allen (R-VA) and Rick Santorum (R-PA), leaving “some worried that the establishment was taking over their grass-roots movement.”
Manassas Tea Party chair Dan Arnold: “Some number of elected officials make sense, but we don’t want to come off like this is the establishment. Our job is to hold the establishment accountable.”
But “organizers of the two-day convention — the largest such gathering in the nation — were quick to say they would not let elected leaders give speeches, … but instead asked them to answer questions as part of panels.”
McDonnell and VA LG Bill Bolling (R) “received standing ovations and prolonged applause when they talked about” Va’s “legal fight” over health care. “The governor also fired up the crowd when he committed to a proposed constitutional amendment giving states authority to repeal federal legislation.”
McDonnell: “Now, I realize the tea party is a movement - it is not a political party per se. But I think it’s important to engage people that were largely Republican and frankly may have lost confidence because they saw some Republicans get elected, not govern as fiscal conservatives, come up with more big-government solutions or higher taxes, more regulation, and they got disenchanted” (Kumar, Washington Post, 10/8).
The right-leaning ed. board of the Richmond Times-Dispatch “has suggested it was hypocritical of the convention to have” ex-CNN host Lou Dobbs give a keynote 10/9 pm, given a recent Nation article quoting “illegal immigrants employed by a company Dobbs hired to help maintain the grounds” at his FL home. But Convention organizer Jamie Radtke said the group did not consider revoking the invitation.”
Radtke: “I have not had one person at the entire convention come up to me and talk to me about the Nation. Frankly, they don’t read the Nation.”
Dobbs, responding to the article: “It would seem to me that what the Nation was arguing for, frankly, was racial profiling. And I would not participate in such a thing” (Helderman, Washington Post, 10/9).
Over 2K people “signed up for the event.” Members from 30 local and regional Tea Party groups participated (Sluss, Roanoke Times, 10/9).
Americans for Tax Reform pres. Grover Norquist writes, for Financial Times: “The party and its energized Tea Party activists have a habit of becoming distracted by ‘shiny’ things — issues that captivate radio talk show hosts but fail to move voters. Arizona’s restrictive immigration law and the proposed mosque in lower Manhattan are obvious examples. Speculating on the precise location where Mr. Obama was born is another. Some social conservatives are trying to push to the fore the issue of gay marriage or gays in the military, and that too is a distraction.”
“If Republicans stay focused on spending they will triumph. But the Democrats know that, and will throw a shower of bling into the air hoping to distract both voters and their challengers. To win, these diversions must be ignored” (Knickerboker, Christian Science Monitor, 10/10).
Justice Clarence Thomas wife Virginia Thomas gave a keynote at the convention. “This year she has emerged in her most politically prominent role yet”: as Liberty Central founder/chair, an org “dedicated to opposing what she characterizes as … leftist ‘tyranny’ … and to ‘protecting the core founding principles’ of the nation.” V. Thomas says it will “be bigger than the Tea Party movement.”
“It is the most partisan role ever for” a Justice’s wife and to some who study judicial ethics “is raising knotty questions, in particular about her acceptance of large, unidentified contributions for Liberty Central.” Liberty Central “reported the initial” $550K on its ‘09 “tax return, though the identities of the two donors are redacted.”
Stanford Univ. prof. Deborah Rhode: “It’s shocking that you would have a Supreme Court justice sitting on a case that might implicate in a very fundamental way the interests of someone who might have contributed to his wife’s organization. The fact that we can’t find that out is the first problem. And how can the public form a judgment about propriety if it doesn’t have the basic underlying facts?”
Northwestern Law prof. Steven Lubet: “I think this is the world we live in, where two-career families are the norm and there are no constraints on the political activities of judicial spouses.”
NYU prof. Stephen Gillers: “There’s nothing to stop Ginni Thomas from being politically active. She’s a private citizen and she has all of her constitutional rights” (Calmes, New York Times, 10/8).
Newsweek’s Miller writes: “Barring the appearance of Clarence Thomas at a Tea Party rally, even reasonable critics can’t find any ethical impropriety in Ginni’s public role. … Liberals may not like Ginni — or Clarence—Thomas — but it’s hard not to see her ascendancy as a good thing”: historically, SCOTUS wives were either completely overshadowed by their husbands or played the role of hostess (10/9)
I Speak For Him
SEN nominee/atty Joe Miller (R-AK), in an interview with National Review: “I think there’s an understanding that the mood of the nation has changed in such a way that there is not going to be toleration of business as usual. If that means shutting down the government, so be it. I mean, we’ll do what it takes.”
Miller, on Senate Min. Leader Mitch McConnell’s support for a shutdown: “There was a comment made at breakfast this morning about shutting down the government, and he reacted in a positive way. I’m not going to quote him, but I think that he recognizes that that’s on the table.”
A McConnell spokesperson: “He has not called for shutting down the government. … We have much more work to do in order reverse the trend of massive growth in government we have seen under Democratic Control in Congress. We can get there without shutting down the government, but it will require Democrats to join our effort” (Weiner, Washington Post, 10/8).
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 10/10 “dismissed ‘rumors’ that the GOP is trying to persuade moderate” Dems “to switch parties” (Hunt, Politico, 10/10).
While Bill Clinton “is busy on the campaign trail,” George W. Bush is “holed up” in TX. “Aides say he has no plans to be a figure in this year’s elections.” GOP “strategists are quick to say they respect the former president but add they are not begging him to join candidates at rallies” (AP, 10/9).
As many of my friends and colleagues from around the world converged on a town in Lebanon to bid farewell to Anthony Shadid, I spent the past days reading his latest book, House of Stone. It had been sitting on my desk for several weeks; I’d been waiting to read it, ready to savor his tales of the idiosyncratic behavior of the villagers in Marjayoun, where he was rebuilding his great-grandfather’s house. I was looking forward to laughing over anecdotes that I, also of Lebanese descent, could easily picture.
But with Anthony’s tragic death last week at age 43, there was no time for leisure. So it was bittersweet to open his book and hear his voice. It is still too raw to accept that I can never ask him about stories that made me laugh out loud, or those that made my hands tighten in mourning.
I always thought that Anthony, an award-winning reporter for The New York Times, wrote English in Arabic. He was lyrical, in the way that Arabic is. It’s an evocative and colorful language. People don’t merely say Good morning to you, for example; it’s rather Morning of flowers. I felt in his writing the color and texture of a place and its people, their conflicts and poisoned choices recounted in an unflinching way that, thankfully, made it to the front pages of newspapers — most recently The Times — forcing others to read and perhaps gain some understanding of what war really meant to those who had to endure it.
In 2006, after Israel obliterated much of Lebanon’s south in its war with Hezbollah, Anthony decided to restore the stone house that his great-grandfather Isber Samara built in the early 1900s.
It’s a sentiment I understood. While Anthony was clearing broken tile and glass shattered by an Israeli rocket on the sunken second floor, I was downing endless cups of bitter coffee with the mayor of Jdeideh, a Beirut suburb. I was persuading the mayor to give me a copy of the registry listing all the Tarabays who had lived there. Weeks later, he handed over to me a red manila folder cataloguing my grandfather, his wife, their 14 children, and my great-grandfather and his wife and all their children; the earliest entry was the late 1800s. That was when Hana Tarabay left his mountain village of Baskinta to work the rolling farmlands of Beirut. Any further Tarabays, Mayor Youssef Safi told me, I would have to go up the mountain to find. I always wanted to get there, but Baghdad and other wars called me instead.
He took a year out of life to live in Marjayoun, which means “field of springs.”
But Anthony stayed. He took a year out of his life to live in Marjayoun, which means “field of springs.” There he stayed to cajole, berate, inflame, and pay, pay, pay to bring back Isber’s house — a house in which, as an “heir to Isber Samara,” he owned barely a 1 percent share. He did it for his daughter, Laila, whose name he weaves throughout his book in a final letter of love to the young girl he says has been betrayed by his career. At one point, lonely in Marjayoun, he writes: “I often picture my daughter Laila walking past the stone wall, up the buckling driveway, and toward the antique door I was determined to save. I thought of the day I would bring her here, to a house she could call hers.”
At the core of Anthony’s book — between the infuriating contractors, meddlesome villagers and relatives, and a war sputtering in the background — is the need for a home. The Arabic word is bayt, and as he writes: “Home, whether it be structure or familiar ground, is, finally, the identity that does not fade.”
Home is in the heart of every person transported to a new life, whether in a different town or a different country. Tumult took Anthony’s ancestors from the village of Marjayoun to America, from Texas to Oklahoma. It’s what took millions of other Lebanese to new lives in Africa, Australia, and South America. It’s what’s taking people away from the carnage in Iraq, Syria, or Libya — places they may never see again.
When he explains the trajectory of Isber Samara’s life, interwoven with his own quest to restore the stone house, Anthony casts a light on the near-universal experience of the immigrant, whether political or economic. A man might be a doctor in his hometown, but in a new land where electricity runs 24 hours and uniformed men don’t care what sect you belong to, he is a taxi driver, a janitor, or a grocery-store owner.
That feeling is what lives in the heart of everyone who knows they have a home somewhere and dreams they may one day be able to see it. Anthony finished the house and harvested olives; he imagined eating some with his daughter from the tree he planted for her when he began the renovations.
We know what we’ve lost in a journalist whose unparalleled dispatches from the Middle East summoned us into broken lives struggling to survive. We know what we’ve lost in a friend who, in a world of egomaniacs and bullet chasers, never threw his success in anyone’s face. But more than anything, we know what Anthony’s family will never again have, and that is the greatest loss of all.
Late one afternoon over the weekend, I played soccer with my 3-year-old son, acutely aware that Anthony would never see his son, Malik, mark his second birthday. In the face of that pain, I smiled at my boy, chased the ball around our garden with him, and thought of my lost friend as the sun disappeared into the gray sky.
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