Republicans at a sex/bondage club?! Unfortunately for the Republican National Committee and its chairman, Michael Steele, that’s part of a new scandal over recently reported RNC expenditures. Filings with the Federal Election Commission show expenditures for more than $1,900 at a Southern California club that features topless dancers wearing horse bridles and, well, you get the idea. It was part of an outing to cultivate youngish, future GOP donors. The RNC put out a statement saying Steele was nowhere near the sex club and that a staffer who approved the expense had been fired. As damning, though, are other listed expenses Steele was party to: $17,000 for private jets, more than $35,000 for upscale hotels and another $43,000 in non-air travel expenses for the committee’s winter meetings in Hawaii. They certainly don’t fit the image of fiscal responsibility coveted by the party and suggest real tone-deafness for current economic conditions. And, it allows Democrats free shots such as this one by spokesman Brad Woodhouse: “We think their extravagant spending and their high burn rate speaks for itself.” Touche.
There’s a nice boost for Sarah Palin in Monday’s Wall Street Journal from neocon icon Norman Podhoretz, who likens the scorn Palin has generated to the flak Ronald Reagan received 30 years ago. “Now I knew Ronald Reagan, and Sarah Palin is no Ronald Reagan,” Podhoretz writes, but the “criteria by which she is being judged by her conservative critics — never mind the deranged hatred she inspires on the left — tell us next to nothing about the kind of president she would make.” Podhoretz, the former long-time editor of Commentary magazine, writes regular Americans see Palin as one of them, able to “stand up against the contempt and condescension of the liberal elites,” in whose ranks he includes President Barack Obama.
With a nod to modern conservative patriarch William F. Buckley Jr. (who once said he’d rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than the Harvard and MIT faculties), Podhoretz concludes: “As for me, after more than a year of seeing how those ‘prodigious oratorical and intellectual gifts’ have worked themselves out in action, I remain more convinced than ever of the soundness of Buckley’s quip, in the spirit of which I hereby declare that I would rather be ruled by the Tea Party than by the Democratic Party, and I would rather have Sarah Palin sitting in the Oval Office than Barack Obama.”
Dang those open microphones! Vice President Joe Biden fell victim to one at President Barack Obama’s health care bill signing ceremony Tuesday. After introducing the president, Biden turned and told his chief, “This is a big (bleepin’) deal!” Somehow, we suspect Obama knew this already. Just the same, Joe Biden — God love him! — is managing to keep himself in the limelight with his mouth. Last week he was toasting Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen at a St. Patrick’s Day event and referred to Cowen’s deceased mother — except that Cowen’s mom is still very much alive. Now Tuesday’s four-letter gaffe. Coulda happened to anybody … well, maybe not.
President Barack Obama made good on his pledge to donate his Nobel Peace Prize winnings to charity, identifying 10 that will share the $1.4 million cash award. The largest chunks, $250,000 and $200,000, will go to Fisher House and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, respectively. Fisher House provides housing for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and veterans’ medical facilities. Six groups will get $125,000 each: the American Indian College Fund, the Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation, College Summit, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Posse Foundation and the United Negro College Fund. Two charities involved in global outreach will each receive $100,000: Africare and the Central Asia Institute. Worthy causes all and graciously given by the president, to his lasting credit.
How tight are things in Washington over health care? Pretty dang tight if the strange tale of Democratic U.S. Rep. Eric Massa of New York is true. Late last week Massa announced he wouldn’t seek re-election this fall, and it was reported he was being investigated by the House ethics committee for “inappropriate” comments he allegedly made at a New Year’s Eve party. Now Massa claims he’s the victim of a leadership move to oust him because he’s a “no” vote on Obamacare. It gets more interesting. In a radio interview, Massa went off on the strong-arm tactics of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who was a member of the House before joining the Obama administration. Massa said Emanuel once confronted him in the shower area of the congressional gym — when both were in their birthday suits — and castigated him for opposing the president’s budget. “Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil’s spawn,” Massa said. “He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive.” Stay tuned …
It’s not as though the sirens for a political tsunami in November haven’t already been sounding for Democrats. They knew they were paddling into the teeth of a strong headwind with a struggling economy and an American public soured on deficit spending and a controversial health care reform plan. Bad enough, but now there’s Charlie Rangel. The veteran Democrat from New York, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is up to his eyeballs in ethics problems. He’s stepped down from his chairman’s post while the House Ethics Committee checks into a raft of claims of malfeasance — including one that Rangel didn’t pay federal tax on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic. Naturally, there’s a photograph of Rangel snoozing on a beach lounger down in the D-R circulating on the Web. So you’ve got unhappiness with Democrats’ total charge of Washington and the tinge of scandal. Republicans know it’s a toxic mix. In 2006 they had the Abramoff scandal and Rep. Mark Foley’s salacious e-mails and instant messages to congressional pages dragging them down, and they lost control of Congress. If they were giving advice to the Dems, it would probably be this: Batten down the hatches. Too late to do anything else.
From the Danged If You Do, Danged If You Don’t Hopper: Democratic U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas probably is the most vulnerable Senate incumbent for a number of reasons, led by the fact Republican John McCain carried “The Natural State” by nearly 20 points in 2008. Add in Lincoln’s vote for Obamacare in December and it’s not hard to see why most of the state Republicans vying to oppose her in November lead in individual matchups. How bad is Lincoln’s situation? The word around Washington was that while Lincoln, a moderate, was key to health care’s passage, her re-elect numbers were so poor the White House and Democratic leaders didn’t bother trying to buy her vote like Ben Nelson’s (“Cornhusker Kickback”) and Mary Landrieu’s (“Louisiana Purchase”). Now Lincoln has a problem on her left flank. Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter says he’ll oppose her in the Democratic primary. That puts Sen. Lincoln in a real box on health care. If she opposes it the next time around she might not survive the Democratic primary; if she votes for it again she’s toast in the general election.