Kagan’s Trite Opening Statement

She won’t deliver her actual opening statement until later this afternoon, but the White House has already released excerpts of Elana Kagan’s remarks. From what they’ve released, it comes off as careful boiler plate, such as:

“The idea is engraved on the very face of the Supreme Court building: Equal Justice Under Law. It means that everyone who comes before the Court – regardless of wealth or power or station – receives the same process and the same protections. What this commands of judges is even-handedness and impartiality. What it promises is nothing less than a fair shake for every American.

Read more excerpts here.

Replacing Byrd

Paul Kane explains why the succession plan for deceased Sen. Robert Byrd is unclear, and lends itself to legal challenge:

A quirk in West Virginia’s laws appears to state that the replacement will likely hold the seat for the remainder of the late senator’s record ninth term, through 2012; therefore, Byrd’s death would not impact the partisan makeup of the chamber, nor would it directly impact the pending 2010 elections. However, there is some ambiguity in the law that has left some election experts questioning the what should happen with the seat.

State law mandates that, if a Senate vacancy occurs more than 2 1/2 years before the term is up, a special election be held to fill the seat. There were exactly two years, six months and five days left in Byrd’s term when he died.

However, the law states that the special election would only occur after a candidate “has been nominated at the primary election next following such timely filing and has thereafter been elected.”

Because West Virginia held its 2010 primary almost two months ago, many election law experts read that provision to mean that the “next” primary would not be until spring 2012, before the general election in November, 2012. Some legal experts, speaking privately out of deference to Byrd’s family, wondered whether this wording could open a legal challenge and force a special election this November, similar to those happening in Delaware and New York to fill the remainder of Senate terms vacated by Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Defending Dave Weigel

Washington Post reporter/blogger Dave Weigel, who is tasked with covering conservatives, has come under fire in the past several days for derisive comments he’s made about some conservatives on the liberal listserv JournoList. You could read more background on the story here. I should disclose at the outset of this post that I consider Dave a good friend. So you can dismiss what I have to say if you want, but I felt compelled to add some broader context to this latest media controversy.

To start with, it’s important to note that all of the comments at the center of the recent uproar were made on a private email list that was supposed to be off the record. Just for a moment, think of the things that you’d say if you were joking or venting anger among friends, and imagine if they became public with context removed. If everything we said privately were public, I wonder how many of us would be able to maintain jobs or friendships. Weigel is being attacked for writing that the world would be better if Matt Drudge could “set himself on fire.” But people make off hand remarks like that all the time without literally wishing bodily harm upon other humans.

This and other private comments by Weigel have contributed to the charge that he’s hostile toward conservatives and a standard issue liberal, but I don’t think that’s accurate. I could just as easily report on private conversations in which he’s revealed a fondness for Ronald Reagan, a willingness to vote for Bobby Jindal as president, and agreed that Van Jones should have been fired for his 9/11 trutherism. Plus, it should be noted that in the past, he’s even contributed to the American Spectator.

It should also be noted that he went on Keith Olbermann’s show and shot down a story about Sarah Palin committing perjury that had been lighting up the liberal blogs and defended Cato’s Michael Cannon against a “dishonest and unfair hit” by the Center for American Progress.

I’ve disagreed with Weigel on a number of occasions, and have called him out when I’ve felt he’s placed an inordinate amount of focus on fringe characters or extreme statements made by conservatives. But I also know that he isn’t some “drive by” journalist. He knows his subject matter well, reads constantly, goes to lots of conservative events, maintains friendships with conservatives, and talks to a lot of conservatives for his articles and quotes them accurately.

UPDATE: Since I posted this, it’s come to my attention that Dave Weigel has resigned.

When Fallon Resigned, Dems Criticized Bush for Punishing Truth Tellers

Today’s ouster of Gen. Stanley McChrystal was the just the latest in a line of conflicts between top military commanders and presidents. But what’s interesting is that the ouster of McChrystal is being portrayed as the proper course of action to restore unity and reinforce civilian control of the military, but when Admiral William Fallon resigned as head of Central Command in 2008, it was covered as if the Bush administration couldn’t handle disagreements, and Democrats went on the attack.

For instance, here‘s the Bloomberg account:

Admiral William Fallon’s resignation as U.S. commander in the Middle East provoked criticism that President George W. Bush won’t tolerate dissent and fed speculation his Iran policy could become more confrontational.

“Congress needs to determine immediately whether Admiral Fallon’s resignation is another example of truth tellers being forced to the sidelines in the Bush administration,” said Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who lost to Bush in the 2004 election. “His departure must not clear the way for a rush to war with Iran.”…

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a U.S. senator from New York, called Fallon a “sensible voice” that supported “engaging Iran.” She urged her colleagues to back a bill requiring Bush to get congressional approval before taking any military action against Iran.

Meanwhile, here was Sen. Harry Reid’s statement:

“I am concerned that the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and a military leader with more than three decades of command experience, is yet another example that independence and the frank, open airing of experts’ views are not welcomed in this Administration.

“It is also a sign that the Administration is blind to the growing costs and consequences of the Iraq war, which has so damaged America’s security interests in the Middle East and beyond. Democrats will continue to examine these matters very closely in the coming weeks and months.”

McChrystal Out, Petraeus In

President Obama just announced that Gen. Stanley McChrystal is out as top commander in Afghanistan, and was replaced by Gen. David Petraeus. The move ensures the continuity of policy in the war, and puts the man who led the turnaround in Iraq in charge of the difficult task ahead in Afghanistan. The move represents a tremendous sacrifice on the part of Petraeus, who was in charge of the whole Middle Eastern theater as head of Central Command, based in Tampa and able to spend more time in his family. Now he’ll have to return to combat duty and take over yet another war that has been written off as unwinnable.

NYT Says ObamaCare Regulations Didn’t Go Far Enough

Yesterday, I noted how President Obama was laying the groundwork to blame insurers for the premium increases that will naturally result from his new health care law. While ObamaCare forces insurers to justify rate increases deemed “unreasonable,” it stopped short of directly setting rates. This was a major disappointment to the New York Times, which lamented in an editorial today that, “Unfortunately, the reform law did not give the federal government the power to regulate premiums.”

It’s amazing enough that the Times‘ editors still believe in discredited economic theories like price fixing — as if the government declaring that something should cost x, doesn’t have adverse market ramifications. But in this case, it’s even more incredible. The health care law forces insurers to offer more extensive coverage. So how do you force a business into offering a more expensive product, and then force them not to raise the price? I wonder how the Times editors would feel if the government passed a law saying that they had to pay a new industry-wide newspaper tax, had to have more articles, more sections, more color — and then couldn’t increase the cost of subscriptions, purchasing the paper at the newsstand, or ad rates.

Obama Preemptively Blames Insurers for Higher Premiums To Be Caused By New Law

President Obama on Tuesday laid the groundwork for the administration to blame insurers when health care premiums rise as a result of the new law he signed in March.

During the health care debate, critics of the legislation warned that premiums would rise as a result of the raft of new regulations placed on insurers. If government requires people to purchase policies that offer more generous benefits, it stands to reason that those polices will cost more money. Today, as part of a speech unveiling a new set of health care regulations, Obama gave us a preview of how the administration is likely to respond once premiums inevitably rise as a result of the law. He said:

The point is that there are genuine cost-drivers that are not caused by insurance companies. But what is also true is we’ve got to make sure that this new law is not being used as an excuse to simply drive up costs. So what we do is make sure that the Affordable Care Act gives us new tools to promote competition, transparency and better deals for consumers. The CEOs here today need to know that they’re going to be required to publicly justify unreasonable premium increases on your websites, as well as the law’s new website — healthcare.gov. As we set up the exchanges, we’ll be watching closely, and we’ll fully support states if they exercise their review authority to keep excessively expensive plans out of their insurance exchanges.

None of this is designed to deprive insurance companies of fair rates. And as I mentioned when we were meeting with the CEOs, there are a lot of cost-drivers other than those that are within insurance companies’ control.

This is a pretty audacious strategy by Obama. Pass a law that makes insurance more expensive, and then blame insurers for the increase in costs.

Poll Shows Republican Up 54 Points in ND Senate Race

A new Rasmussen poll finds Republican Gov. John Hoeven opening up a 73 percent to 19 percent lead over Democrat Tracy Potter in the race to replace retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan. The same poll also finds that North Dakotans favor repealing ObamaCare by a 64 percent to 41 percent margin. Those numbers do not bode well for Rep. Earl Pomeroy, North Dakota’s lone Congressman who must be elected state wide. The most recent Rasmussen poll had Pomeroy trailing Republican challenger Rick Berg by 7 points.

Rolling Stone: McCrystal “Disappointed” In Obama

Gen. Stanley McCrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is coming to Washington after being forced to apologize for a Rolling Stone profile in which he and his aides are quoted making derisive remarks about Obama administration officials, and even the president himself.

The full article is available here. A taste:

Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn’t go much better. “It was a 10-minute photo op,” says an adviser to McChrystal. “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”

Marc Ambinder has more excerpts.

Big Government Hayworth

I understand why many Arizona Republicans would want to dump John McCain for a more conservative Senator, but I’ve never understood those who argue that J.D. Hayworth is the conservative who should replace McCain. Hayworth, after all, was a top recipent of donations linked to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and was a reliable vote for President Bush’s big government agenda.

The weakness of Hayworth’s claim to be a small government conservative was brought into sharper focus with the release of this 2007 infomercial that Hayworth recorded for the National Grants Conference, which offers seminars on how to people can get free money from government through grants.

The video clip below, reported  Dan Nowicki (and which I saw via Dave Weigel) features people bragging about how they get money from the government.

“I was able to get a grant for $13,000 for my roof, for the electrical work — I don’t have to pay any of this money back,” one woman boasts at the beginning of the video.

Hayworth chimed in, “You may think what you’ve heard is too good to be true, but let me assure you, it is real. It’s available. And it’s something you should take advantage of.”

Even more disturbingly, Hayworth invokes Ronald Reagan to justify it and argues that people deserve all of this government largesse because it’s really their money. This takes a completely collectivist view of taxes and doesn’t take into account how much any given individual actual pays to the federal government.

You can watch the whole sorry thing below.