Divided GOP unites in New Orleans against Obama
By Ben Pershing
Divided over Michael Steele and undecided on a 2012 frontrunner, Republicans are nonetheless united this week in New Orleans on the failings of President Obama and the importance of ousting him in two years.
Ron Fournier ledes: "Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a potential presidential candidate in 2012, called Barack Obama on Thursday 'the most radical president in American history' who oversees a 'secular, socialist machine.' ... Highly charged words, for sure. But that's standard fare at the three-day GOP gathering that is drawing several presidential hopefuls. ... Gingrich has not declared his intentions for 2012, but his appearances in New Orleans had all the trappings of a fledging presidential campaign, from an intimate meeting with tea party activists -- his staff photographer took grip-and-grin pictures of Gingrich posing with every activist -- to his wade-through-the-crowd entrance at the GOP conference, with the thumping beat of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" drawing the crowd to its feet. ... Gingrich offered Republicans an antidote to Democratic accusations that GOP leaders do little more than oppose policies -- the so-called party of no. He said Republicans should underscore the policies they favor -- yes on tax cuts, a lower deficit, fewer regulations and a sensible energy plan." Raise your hand if you actually think Gingrich will actually run for president. The Wall Street Journal says "Gingrich tonight did not deny he is mulling a 2012 presidential bid, but said decision time won't come until early next year. 'In 2011, probably in February, [wife] Calista and I will have to make a decision about whether or not I will run,' he told the 3,500 in attendance at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference here."
The Los Angeles Times writes on the star of Friday's show: "As Republican superstar Sarah Palin puts the finishing touches on her state of the common-sense drive speech for this afternoon's Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, a new poll emerged showing some improvement in her unfavorable image in the minds of many Americans. ... A new CBS News poll finds that after all the negative press, an impressive 24% (think that'll get Palin-haters going?) of its sample views her favorably. CBS found that a mere 38% view Palin unfavorably, a whopping three-point improvement from her 41% unfavorable rating in January. By comparison, Gallup recently found Reid's unfavorable rating to be 45% and Nancy Pelosi's unfavorable rating to be 54%. So how's that healthcare change working for ya?" The Associated Press previews Palin's appearance at the event Friday, while noting: "At least four possible candidates passed up the event, choosing instead to do their political leg work elsewhere. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who many party insiders consider the front-runner after his failed 2008 candidacy, was in the midst of a book tour. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was on John McCain's 2008 vice presidential short list, was addressing the activists by video so he could welcome home returning troops. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, was focused on his cable news show. And Sen. John Thune, a rising Republican star, was attending to his South Dakota constituents."
The Wall Street Journal goes to New Hampshire and does its version of the "Romney's dilemma" story: "But as Mr. Romney tours to promote his new book, some people have been posing an uncomfortable question: If he opposes Mr. Obama's health-care policy, why did Mr. Romney shepherd a near-universal health-insurance system into law as governor of Massachusetts? ... The exchanges highlighted the unique political problem facing Mr. Romney as he tries to capitalize on conservative anger over the new health-care law. Like Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney's signature policy achievement was enacting a plan that covers nearly everyone and gives subsidies to some people to help them afford insurance. In three appearances this week in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney attacked the Obama law as a "government takeover" of the health-care system that raises taxes and cuts funding for the Medicare Advantage programs that insure many seniors. By contrast, he said, the Massachusetts plan was a state-level solution, not a federal 'intrusion' on the constitutional guarantees of states' rights." Ben Smith notes an omission: "Five years after President Bush's failed response to a natural disaster in New Orleans deeply damaged his party's credibility and helped sweep them from power, top Republicans speaking to supporters in New Orleans tonight made no mention of Hurricane Katrina."
In case you haven't heard, Michael Steele has been having a rough time of it. But the Washington Post writes: "A few hours after North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer called for RNC chairman Michael Steele to resign, other Republicans were saying just the opposite. ... J.C. Watts said the results of recent elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts and the dollars Steele has raised speak louder than the string of controversies that have surrounded Steele's tenure. ... Another state party chairman, Pat Mullins of Virginia, said much the same. Mullins condemned the RNC's latest controversy -- revelations that the committee spent nearly $2,000 at a sex-themed Hollywood nightclub -- but said he believes Steele's claim that he knew nothing about it." Hotline On Call reports, "In the wake of a member's call for his resignation, RNC chair Michael Steele's allies are calling other committee members rounding up support for a letter expressing support for the embattled chairman." Jill Lawrence has an idea: "Somebody needs to make Michael Steele an offer he can't refuse. I nominate Roger Ailes and Fox News Channel. Fox is already the Republican home away from home, a refuge for has-beens, wannabes, and all who strive to stay relevant. ... Right now the party seems ripe for a rescue and Steele, trying to put bondage-gate and other problems behind him, seems ripe for a TV contract."
Speaking of Republicans, it appears that Florida's governor will remain one. The Fix writes that "Charlie Crist put to rest -- again -- speculation that he is considering running as an independent for the Senate with something very close to a Shermanesque statement released by his campaign Thursday. 'Governor Crist is running for the United States Senate as a Republican,' the statement read. 'He will not run as an Independent or as a No Party Affiliation.'" The Orlando Sentinel says "the statement was the most direct and far-reaching denial that Crist would consider leaving the GOP. Previously, the governor and his campaign had insisted that he was "running as a Republican" but generally stopped short of an iron-clad pledge that he would not entertain other options. The statement came a day after Rubio announced he had raised $3.6 million so far this year - as much as he had raised all of last year. When Crist didn't immediately respond with his contribution numbers for the quarter, most pols figured the governor's totals would be substantially less and the Crist-as-independent speculation increased."
While Republicans plot for 2010 and 2012, President Obama was in Europe being presidential. "U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a treaty to cut their nuclear arsenals in a ceremony that both men said marks a new era of cooperation between the two nations," Bloomberg ledes, adding: "The promise of cooperation by the two leaders comes as Obama pushes the international community to escalate pressure on Iran over its nuclear program and take steps to stop the spread of atomic material that can be used for weapons." The New York Times looks at the challenges that remain: "The celebratory mood in the majestic, gilded hall of Prague Castle masked stubborn divisions on matters like missile defense and European security. Mr. Obama avoided any public criticism of Russia's human rights record. And while they resolved to seek even deeper cuts in nuclear weapons, such an agreement would be much harder to reach than the one they signed Thursday. The overthrow of the government in Kyrgyzstan likewise could quickly test the new bonds proclaimed in Prague given that the two countries have vied for influence there in recent years. As both sides struggled to figure out what the violent uprising would mean, the United States took a cautious approach while Russia embraced the new government and a senior official in Mr. Medvedev's delegation told reporters that Moscow still wanted an American base in Kyrgyzstan closed."
Roll Call reports: "Senate ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is far from assured, with Democrats and Republicans lining up on opposite sides within hours of President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signing the document on Thursday.Leading Democratic and Republican Senators Thursday evening squared off in a joint television interview, with Select Committee on Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) arguing for immediate ratification and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) expressing several reservations. Ratification of the treaty requires 67 votes, meaning eight Republicans must support it if the Democratic Conference offers the document united backing." AP is more optimistic: "Despite near gridlock in the Senate, Republicans were expected to swing behind a new arms control treaty with Russia that President Barack Obama said they will like, even though some are reserving judgment until Obama can assure them the pact won't set back U.S. defenses against other potential foes such as North Korea and Iran. ... Republicans, however, did not rush to either praise or criticize the treaty. They want Obama to promise it won't undercut the nation's ability to set up missile defenses to protect against an attack from Iran or North Korea. They also want assurances that the agreement will preserve what's known as the 'nuclear triad' -- the nation's ability to deliver nuclear weapons from the air, land and sea."
The forthcoming nuclear summit in Washington hasn't just guaranteed a traffic nightmare in DC. It's also increased tension between the U.S. and Israel. Politico writes: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has abruptly canceled his plans to attend President Barack Obama's nuclear security summit next week, creating an embarrassing distraction on the eve of a high-profile meeting the White House has sought to carefully choreograph. ... Netanyahu's about-face came as the New York Times and Washington Post published accounts suggesting that Obama was considering presenting his own detailed peace proposal to Israel and the Palestinians if the so-called proximity talks the U.S. is trying to conduct fail." The offcial reason for the decision, the Wall Street Journal reports, was that "Netanyahu concluded that some Muslim states were planning on making Israel's nuclear weapons an issue at the conference, according to a person briefed on the Israeli decision. 'The Turks and the Egyptians were going to make it an anti-Israel opportunity,' said the person."
Charles Krauthammer says the administration's nuclear policy "is quite insane. It's like saying that if a terrorist deliberately uses his car to mow down a hundred people waiting at a bus stop, the decision as to whether he gets (a) hanged or (b) 100 hours of community service hinges entirely on whether his car had passed emissions inspections. Apart from being morally bizarre, the Obama policy is strategically loopy. Does anyone believe that North Korea or Iran will be more persuaded to abjure nuclear weapons because they could then carry out a biological or chemical attack on the United States without fear of nuclear retaliation?" David Satter agrees: "After a long and exhausting negotiating process, it seemed that no one wanted to suggest that the treaty was, at best, meaningless and, at worst, an impediment to American strategic planning. But for anyone attuned to nuances, this implication was hard to miss. ... The Obama administration, in celebrating this latest triumph for the "reset" in U.S.-Russian relations, is mistaking illusion for reality. Real improvements in relations result from changes in Russia's internal situation. Despite the pomp in Prague, any progress unrelated to Russian progress on human rights exists largely in the eyes of the beholder."
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