OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – November 16, 2007

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Best of the Web Today – November 16, 2007

    Today’s Video on WSJ.com: James Taranto on the current controversy over a 27-year-old Reagan speech. Plus, courtesy of the Reason Foundation, Drew Carey on a government effort to shutter the Community Youth Athletic Center and replace it with condos.

    Editor’s note: James Taranto is on assignment and will return Monday. This is a sample of our premium email newsletter, Political Diary.

    In today’s Political Diary:

Triangulation Gone Wild

Hillary Clinton effectively batted back attacks from her Democratic rivals in last night’s CNN debate, but laid the seeds for future Republican attacks on her trade positions, which to be charitable appear evasive and tricky. She’s an effective debater, but in large part because she so clearly manages to avoid answering specific questions about her views.

Asked if she agreed with Ross Perot that the 1993 NAFTA free trade agreement her husband pushed through Congress was a mistake, she immediately commenced evasive maneuvers. “All I can remember from that is a bunch of charts.” When pressed, she would only say: “NAFTA was a mistake to the extent that it did not deliver on what we hoped it would.”

Mrs. Clinton is clearly trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, she waffles on NAFTA and calls for a “timeout” on any new trade agreements. But she also doesn’t want to explicitly repudiate her husband’s free trade record. As the Los Angeles Times reported last month: “Appearing before free-trade supporters, she has praised the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement, which is loathed by many unions. But speaking to a union audience as a presidential candidate, Clinton said NAFTA hurt workers.”

One of the biggest problems for Mrs. Clinton is Mrs. Clinton, who effusively praised NAFTA in her best-selling 2003 memoir, writing that “a free trade zone in North America — the largest free trade zone in the world — would expand U.S. exports, create jobs and ensure that our economy was reaping the benefits, not the burdens of globalization.”

Is it any wonder that former Senator Bill Bradley, a 2000 Democratic presidential candidate, openly questions if Democrats are being given enough information about what a Hillary Clinton presidency would be like? “We don’t know what Hilary would do,” he says, “because she hasn’t gotten down to the three or four things that she’d do.”

— John Fund

The War Over Judges

President Bush signaled last night that he is opening a new offensive on Democratic efforts to block his judicial nominees.

Speaking before the conservative Federalist Society’s 25th anniversary dinner, Mr. Bush lambasted the Senate leadership for imposing “a new and extra-constitutional standard, where nominees who have the support of the majority of the Senate can be blocked by a minority of obstructionists.” He reminded his audience that today “too many interpret ‘advise and consent’ to mean ‘search and destroy.’ As a result, the Senate is no longer asking the right question — whether a nominee is someone who will uphold our Constitution and laws. Instead, nominees are asked to guarantee specific outcomes of cases that might come before the court.”

Mr. Bush preceded his speech with a slew of new judicial appointments, including two to fill critical appeals court vacancies. Should Democrats continue their slow-walking of judicial nominations, watch for Republicans to raise the issue in Senate races next fall. In 2002, arguments about Democratic obstructionism helped Republicans win several tight races — especially in the South — and also played a vital role in 2004’s unseating of Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle. Target No. 1 next year is likely to be Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, who has never won her seat with more than 52% of the vote.

— John Fund

Tancredo Bombs the Mall

Presidential candidate Tom Tancredo’s new ad for early primary states combines the image of a backpack exploding in shopping mall with a message about the dangers of immigrants who take our jobs. It’s pretty rough stuff — the commercial ends with a blank screen and the sound of an explosion — and has been denounced by some Iowans as “fear mongering” etc.

On the Congressman’s Web site, viewers are met with a plea to “help keep this important message on the air — Donate now!” Back in September a high-schooler asked Mr. Tancredo, whose polls hover in the low single digits, what it would take for him to become more widely known. “I’m waiting for someone to drop $300 million on me,” the congressman said.

With his new ad, Mr. Tancredo is upping the ante in his single-digit, single-issue candidacy, though whether voters will appreciate the ominous imagery just as Christmas shopping gets underway remains to be seen. In a Washington Monthly interview, he sounds a simultaneously phlegmatic and philosophical note. He likens himself to a labor union acquaintance who would “go in and scream for red revolution and settle for an increase in the pension plan” and considers it a triumph that, in one of the recent GOP debates, fellow candidates spent the first half-hour discussing immigration.

He adds: “If I had actually set out to become president, then of course it would be ludicrous for me to do it in the way I’m doing it. I don’t have that as my goal; I never have. The only way I can get on that plane and go to Iowa or New Hampshire and spend night after night in hotels in places you’ve never even heard of is by saying, ‘Think about why you’re doing this, Tom. It is because the issue is important. You are the person that is advancing it.'”

— Collin Levy


Quote of the Day

“There’s definitely something weird and cultish in the sycophantish cathexis onto Hillary of the many nerds, geeks and vengeful viragos who run her campaign — sometimes to her detriment, as with the recent ham-handed playing of the clichéd gender card. I suspect the latter dumb move, which has backfired badly, came from Ann Lewis (Barney Frank’s sister), a fanatical Hillary true believer who has been spouting beatific feminist bromides about her for the past 15 years. Hillary seems to have acolytes rather than friends — hardly a reassuring trait for a potential president whose paranoia has already been called Nixonian. Isolated monarchs never hear the bad news until the people riot and the lynch mob is at the door” — liberal cultural critic Camille Paglia writing at Salon.com.


Georgia on HIS Mind?

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue is the subject of much chatter around the blogosphere for leading several hundred Georgia citizens in a public prayer for rain. Georgia has been in the midst of a drought this year, which is ruining agriculture crops and causing water shortages. So Mr. Perdue asked for divine intervention on Georgians’ behalf. He and colleagues came together Tuesday to “pray for a storm.”

Sure enough, two days later, an unpredicted cloudburst dropped an inch of rain over the southeast. But the rain wasn’t everybody’s idea of a happy ending. The Atlanta Freethought Society staged a public protest against the holding of a religious observance at the seat of state government, saying the rain vigil violated the separation of Church and State. An AP headline sourly noted: “US South gets rain after a governor prays for it, but not enough to ease historic drought.”

Mr. Perdue, traveling in Canada on Thursday, was statesmanlike in his response: “We’re not gloating…. We’re thankful for the rain and hopefully it’s the beginning of more.” Meanwhile, the successful gubernatorial initiative has some in Georgia wondering why the governor doesn’t apply his new technique to issues more suitably within the powers of his office. “He should pray for lower taxes,” says one email circulating among taxpayer activist groups.

— Stephen Moore

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