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Hither and yon

Following up a quarter of political stories

On numerous fronts:

A few Republicans have finally broken the party's thunderous silence about Arizona's pioneering "papers, please" immigration law, the one that empowers cops to stop anyone who might seem suspicious. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush voiced concerns about the law yesterday, as did Karl Rove and Senator Lindsey Graham. But the most noteworthy critic is Marco Rubio, the imminent Florida GOP Senate nominee and the darling of conservatives everywhere. In a statement released yesterday, Rubio said:

"I do have concerns about this legislation....I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with 'reasonable suspicion,' are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration, we have seen that when government is given an inch, it takes a mile."

Read that italicized sentence again. Rubio is challenging his fellow conservatives to demonstrate some intellectual consistency and condemn the Arizona law as a fresh example of governmental overreach.

The tea-party people who scream that health care reform is a threat to their personal freedom have been conspicuously silent about the new Arizona law that poses a threat to personal freedom. Gee, I wonder why. Perhaps it's because the virtually all-white tea-party people can't seem to muster outrage about governmental overreach that potentially imperils the freedom of brown people. Apparently not all government "tyranny" is created equal.

Rubio clearly wants the tea-partiers to speak out, and show some consistency of principle. Good luck with that.


Speaking of Rubio, his rival for the GOP nomination will decide by Friday whether to bolt the party and run for the Senate this autumn as an independent. As I mentioned here last week, moderate Gov. Charlie Crist has been virtually shoved out of the Republican race by the right-wing base. This is merely the latest ideological purge staged by conservatives who can't abide the presence of moderates who might be inclined on occasion to work across party lines.

But Crist isn't the only casualty. Check out what's happening these days in Utah, where Bob Bennett, a veteran Republican senator up for re-election, is on the verge of being sacked by the party purists. A new survey of delegates, slated to attend next week's Utah GOP convention, shows that Bennett could finish third in the balloting for the '10 nomination; under Utah party rules, only the top two finishers can proceed to a primary.

It speaks volumes about the conservative purge mentality that Bennett is even in trouble at all. This is a guy who gets 90 percent ratings from the Christian Coalition, 100 percent ratings from the Chamber of Commerce, an 84 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, 90 percent ratings from Americans for Tax Reform (perhaps the most influential anti-tax group in Washingon), zero percent ratings from Planned Parenthood, zero percent ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America, and. not long ago, a zero percent rating from ACORN....and yet not even Bennett is deemed by the purists to be sufficiently conservative.

His unpardonable sin? Last year, he co-sponsored a health reform bill with a Democratic colleague, Ron Wyden of Oregon. The bill was designed to prompt greater consumer access to the private insurance market. Emphasis on private. But because the bill required that government play a role in making this happen, the conservative Club for Growth went nuclear with a Utah TV ad claiming that Bennett wanted "massive government control of health care."

The message to all Republican lawmakers: Don't dare work with the other side on anything. No wonder so little gets done in the Senate anymore. In the words of Arlen Specter, quoted this morning in the Allentown newspaper, "Coalition-building has gone out of style in this wing of the building."


As noted here on Monday, President Obama and the Democrats have launched a major push to stoke the '08 young voters in the hopes that they'll return to the polls this November and help the party keep control of both congressional chambers. But a newly released Gallup poll suggests that the effort may well fail.

Only 23 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 say they are "very enthusiastic" about voting in this year's congressional elections - whereas 44 percent of voters aged 50 to 64, and 41 percent of over-65 voters, feel that way.

Gallup points out that "voter turnout typically skews older" in midterm races, and says that "so far, 2010 provides no exception to this traditional pattern." And that's bad news for Obama, because the poll also shows that if young voters did decide to show up, they'd support the Democratic congressional candidates by a 51 to 39 percent margin - whereas voters aged 30 and older generally favor the GOP candidates.

For many young people, the '08 novelty has clearly worn off, but I suspect that the undertow of the economy has also put a damper on their enthusiasm.


Speaking of Democratic undertow, is there a bigger disaster than the Illinois Senate race? It was embarrassing enough when the party coughed up Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts seat; arguably, it would be even worse to cough up Obama's former seat. But that seems likely, given the fact that the Democrats have wound up with a '10 Senate candidate, former Obama basketball buddy Alexi Giannoulias, who made his bones as an executive of a Chicago bank that gave big loans to sleazy and mob-connected characters.

And now, to top things off, the bank has gone belly up. It was padlocked last Friday by the federal regulators at the FDIC.

A political candidate's worst fate, in the middle of a campaign, is to be caught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl. So goes the old joke. But given the prevailing mood in 2010, surely the next worst fate is to be known, from now until election day, as "failed banker Alexis Giannoulias."

Maybe it's already old news that Giannoulias, during his bank tenure, oversaw loans of more than $11 million to a convicted bookmaker and prostitution ring promoter; and loans to corrupt political insider Tony Rezko (the same guy who helped Obama swing a sweet deal on his Chicago house), among others. But the "failed banker" tag is fresh and resonant - a gift to his rival, moderate Republican Mark Kirk. So is the evidence that the bank indulged in risky subprime loans.

Obama aides have reportedly been worried for a long time that Giannoulias would be heavy baggage, and it's clear that Obama would love to see the guy quit the race and clear the way for a better last-ditch candidate. (The latest ringing endorsement from the White House: "The president intends to help Democratic candidates in Illinois up and down the ballot.") But the failed banker, not taking the hint, seems determined to stay. What a farce. The Democrats deserve to lose this race.


Meanwhile, earlier this week, the aforementioned Jeb Bush gave us the best-ever description of James Carville:

"He looks like a fish that swam too close to a nuclear reactor."