(Providence, Rhode Island) – Happy Birthday! This column is two years old today! I get a lot of comments and feedback from around the country, about my weekly offering of political nuggets and observations. So thanks to my readers nationwide and here's to many more years of political brunch!
"Can You Hear Me Now?" – The White House has been besieged by all sorts of controversy the fast few months, so it did not need the latest revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) was culling through Verizon phone records (and, yes, I am a Verizon customer, so this affects me, too). I'll take the explanation at face value that this is needed for national security and no one is actually tapping my phone. But here's the problem. The President met with the leader of China Friday, and one central issue up for discussion was Chinese cyberspying on the U.S., especially the Pentagon. The Verizon revelations simply undercut President Obama's moral authority to pressure the Chinese to stop. They were probably laughing all the way back to Beijing.
"Same Song; Different Verse" – Speaking of the NSA, Susan Rice with be the new National Security Advisor in the White House. The U.N. Ambassador, who came under fire for mishandling the explanation of the Benghazi attacks, was earlier blocked from becoming Secretary of State. That's because she needed to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, but didn't have the votes. The NSA job is a White House staff position, so she does not need Senate approval.
"Same Song; Different Verse, Part 2" – Republicans are outraged by the President's promotion of Rice to NSA, but they may be suffering from short memories. In 2005 President George W. Bush made a recess appointment of John Bolton to become Ambassador to the United Nations. Presidents are allowed to make such appointments – and bypass a Senate vote – when the Senate is in recess. Most Presidents have done this –particularly with Federal Judgeships – as a way to get around Senate opposition. Yes, the Rice and Bolton situations have differences, but they have one important thing in common. Both were "in-your-face" political moves by an angry President at an angry Congress. Check and checkmate!
"Get with the Program!" – Last week in this column I urged the two candidates for the U.S. Senate special election in Massachusetts, to step up what has been a ho-hum campaign. This week Democrat Ed Markey responded with attack ads against Republican Gabriel Gomez and his stances on gun control. Gomez did not respond locally with any TV ads of his own. There's an old saying in politics: "Don't let your opponent define you, before you can define yourself!" Gomez really needs to ramp up his campaign and his media buy, before he becomes an asterisk is Massachusetts political history. Gomez has a compelling story to tell. So, tell it!
"Hillary Watch 2016" – A new poll from Bloomberg News has a mixed bag of results for Hillary Clinton and her chances to become President in 2016. First the bad news. Since December, he favorability rating has dropped from 70 to 58 percent, mostly due to criticism of her handling of the Benghazi attacks. Now the good news. Three-quarters of Democrats who responded to the poll are supporting Mrs. Clinton, and for now, so too, are 33 percent of the independents. In truth, she'll probably need 60 percent of the independents to win the White House, but it's early and most people have not made up their minds. She's off to a good start, but remember; she had a similar glide path this time in 2007, but did not win the nomination in 2008.
"Weiner a Winner?" – People laughed a few weeks ago when disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) entered the race for Mayor of New York City. But guess what? Weiner is gaining slightly in the polls. He support has risen from 15 percent in mid-May, to 19 percent now. Frontrunner Christine Quinn has dropped from 26 to 24 percent. While Weiner still has ground to make up – and he has a lot of time from now until the September election – he is a viable candidate, jokes and all. By the way, next week I will run down a whole host of sex scandals, where the politician survived and even thrived. You can't make this stuff up, as I always say!!