The Hunt for Sarah October
Democrats understand Sarah Palin is a formidable political force who has upset the Obama victory plan. The latest Washington Post/ABC Poll shows John McCain taking a 12-point lead over Barack Obama among white women, a reversal of Mr. Obama's eight-point lead last month.
It's no surprise, then, that Democrats have airdropped a mini-army of 30 lawyers, investigators and opposition researchers into Anchorage, the state capital Juneau and Mrs. Palin's hometown of Wasilla to dig into her record and background. My sources report the first wave arrived in Anchorage less than 24 hours after John McCain selected her on August 29.
The main area of interest to the Democratic SWAT team is Mrs. Palin's dismissal in July of her public safety commissioner. Mrs. Palin says he was fired for cause. Her critics claim he was fired because he wouldn't bend to pressure to get rid of a state trooper, Mike Wooten, who had been involved in a bitter divorce battle with Mrs. Palin's sister. Mr. Wooten is certainly a colorful character. He served a five-day suspension after the Palin family filed a complaint against him alleging he had threatened Mrs. Palin's father. They also accused him of using a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson, drinking in his patrol car and illegally shooting a moose.
Mrs. Palin will return to Alaska for the first time in nearly two weeks on Wednesday night, when she is scheduled to arrive in Fairbanks. Local Republicans will hold a "Welcome Home" rally for her. You can bet some of the Democratic opposition research contingent will be in the audience taking notes. They'll be the ones arriving in rental cars and wearing fancy dress shoes from back east.
.-- John Fund
Hillary and Sarah Strike a Truce
Hillary Clinton threaded her way carefully through the debate over Sarah Palin's presence on the GOP ticket in a campaign appearance for Barack Obama yesterday in Florida.Mrs. Palin had singled out Hillary Clinton for praise at the announcement of her candidacy for "making 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling" of American politics, a reference to the number of Clinton votes in the Democratic primaries. In turn, Mrs. Clinton was careful not to disparage Mrs. Palin, even as she told voters that a McCain-Palin ticket "are not the change that we need" from Bush administration policies."It is a great accomplishment," she said of Mrs. Palin's selection. "Women as well as men make their decisions after they weigh the evidence."Former Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson says Democrats who expect Mrs. Clinton to sink her rhetorical teeth into Mrs. Palin are going to be disappointed. "Don't hold your breath," he wrote in the New Republic. "Clinton-Palin might drive ratings and sell magazines, but it wouldn't be good for the Democratic Party, or the cause of women's rights. Some might enjoy the spectacle, but don't expect Hillary Clinton to play along."Some members of her audience certainly tried to stir things up. One supporter interrupted her speech in Tampa yesterday by shouting "Tell us about Palin!" She politely declined by commenting: "You know what? I don't think that's what this election is about. This election is about the differences between us and the Republican Party."If Team Obama is looking for an attack dog against Mrs. Palin, they may have to make another trip to the political pound.
-- John Fund
Quote of the Day
"The more Obama has to explain why being a community organizer -- or a state legislator, or a one-term senator with few accomplishments under his belt -- is better preparation for the presidency than being a mayor or governor, the more he volunteers his own shortcomings when compared with McCain. Besides, on paper, Obama doesn't stand up very well against Palin. All of the mythic themes of Obama's political narrative -- the ethics reformer, the bipartisan, the new kind of politician -- all look like press-release material next to Palin's accomplishments. Obama voted the Democratic Party line more often (97%) than McCain voted in accord with President Bush (90%). In Washington, Obama's supposedly 'sweeping' ethics reform -- which forces congressmen to eat lobbyist-provided meals standing up instead of sitting down -- and his feckless reforms in Illinois make him look the Bambi to Palin's Godzilla"
-- Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg.
The Oil Tax Cut
The housing and job markets may be continuing to sink, but that bad news has masked the very bullish news of lower oil prices. Falling fuel prices could be a salvation for the McCain camp, because it may very well steer the economy out of recession.The price of oil fell below $106 a barrel on Monday, which is still historically high adjusted for inflation, but a $41 decline from its peak price of $147 in July. Who knows whether the roller coaster price of oil will continue to fall, or whether it will rise back up again on more bad news about hurricanes or turmoil in the Middle East or Russia. But for now, the economic impact is equivalent to a large and welcome stimulative tax cut. The U.S. swallows up almost 20 million barrels of oil a day, of which 10 million are imported. So every 24 hours America saves almost $800 million from the tumble in fuel costs, $400 million of which would otherwise flow to foreign countries. This is the equivalent of close to a $2,000 savings per U.S. household on an annual basis, if these low prices hold up. Unlike gimmicky tax rebates that are borrowed from future tax payments, lower oil prices are a genuine market-based rev of the economic engine.There are two explanations for the lower oil price. The dollar has been rising relative to other currencies and gold. The near 20% fall in gold from its $1,000 peak earlier this year has driven down the price of oil, just as the collapse of the dollar relative to gold from 2001-2007 explains about 90% of the rise in the oil price over that period.The other reason oil prices are drifting downward is consumption of oil has fallen sharply. Energy Information Administration data show that demand in the first half of 2008 dropped by 800,000 barrels a day. This is the sharpest drop in 26 years. Demand for oil is proving to be more price elastic in the short and medium term than experts previously thought. We don't need costly government energy conservation programs when oil prices are high. Markets work in energy and if you don't believe that, go into a Hummer dealership if you can still find one.Consumers may be thrilled by lower oil and gas prices, but environmental groups and liberal commentators have applauded high oil prices as a way to "save the planet" from fossil fuels and to appease the Gods of renewable energy. (Democrats in Congress declared this summer they wouldn't approve new drilling even if gas hit $10 a gallon.) If oil falls much below $100 a barrel, many of the fad technologies, like wind and solar, that Uncle Sam is dousing with dollars become big money losers. That may explain why we are starting to hear louder recommendations for higher oil or gas taxes as prices comes down. Apparently, there's never a wrong time to tax energy: When oil prices rise, we are supposed to tax it (through windfall profits taxes on companies) and when oil prices fall we are supposed to tax it (through what we might call windfall profits for consumers). The left wants to tax oil, they just don't want to drill for more of it. And to think this is the crowd that beats up the Bush administration for high oil prices and a failed energy policy.
-- Steve Moore
Palin's Apostasy on Taxes
Talk about strange bedfellows.
Ultraliberal Mother Jones magazine is attacking Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a "tax raiser" and similar hand wringing is coming from some Republican supply-siders. Why? An oil industry tax bill she pushed last year.Not only did the bill raise an existing tax on oil production. It also increased a windfall profits provision. Previously, oil companies paid a tax on a sliding scale that kicked in at $55 a barrel. The new tax Gov. Palin signed into law kicks in at $30 a barrel and increases at a faster rate than the old tax. It's a record that suggests Mrs. Palin didn't have one eye on this year's GOP veep nomination, but was trying to be an effective governor -- because her efforts cleared a stench of corruption around oil-tax policy and opened the way for a long-stalled pipeline project to deliver natural gas to the lower 48.Let's look at what actually happened. In 2006, in the waning months of his administration, Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski called a series of special legislative sessions to ram through his embattled plan for a new pipeline to deliver Alaska's untapped natural gas reserves to the upper Midwest. He failed, but succeeded in changing the oil tax, which previously had been tied to gross revenues. As a concession to his opponents, a sliding scale was also imposed that would increase with an increase in the price of oil -- essentially a windfall profits tax.Within weeks of the bill passing, federal investigations revealed evidence of extensive bribes paid to lawmakers from oil lobbyists. Meanwhile, the bill proved very unpopular with the public, and failed in its aim of smoothing agreement on the pipeline. Enter Ms. Palin, who had defeated Mr. Murkowski in a Republican primary that August and won the general election in November. She called her own special session and enacted a revised tax bill that increased the profits tax to 25% (from 22.5%) and also included the windfall profits tax. But she also succeeded where Mr. Murkowski had failed -- winning agreement on the pipeline. The state is now accepting bids to begin construction.Ms. Palin clearly wasn't going to reopen the tainted tax law without somehow signaling to the public that the new bill was on the up-and-up. The reality is, Alaska had been trying for decades to get its huge undeveloped gas reserves to market. Now energy production is finally getting ready to take off, a slightly higher tax rate notwithstanding.
-- Brendan Miniter
(REPRINTED FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL'S POLITICAL DIARY ONLINE)