February 17th, 2009
05:08 PM ET

Obama's permanent campaign

Amy Holmes l Bio
AC360° Contributor

Viewers can be forgiven for mistaking today's bill signing with a campaign rally. Introduced by the Colorado governor in front of a screaming and adoring crowd (who goes to a bill signing anyway?), President Obama did his best to spin and sell the $787 billion spending stimulus package that was passed along almost entirely partisan lines.

Which brings me to a political observation that has gone overlooked. Typically, a bill signing takes place in the East Room, or in the Rose Garden if the weather is nice. The president is flanked by the bill's co-sponsors who get to share in the glory and bask in the reporters' flash bulbs and television cameras.


Filed under: Amy Holmes • Economy • First 100 Days
February 2nd, 2009
06:05 PM ET

Today's statesmen, tomorrow's spenders

Amy Holmes
AC360° Contributor, CNN Political Analyst

Yesterday, on the Sunday talk shows, Democrats unveiled their new stimulus talking point. The Democratically-led House may have added unnecessary, interest group spending, but "The Senate" (unfurl the flags and blare the trumpets here) is where legislation goes to be improved upon by the gray-haired wise men and women of the greatest deliberative body.

Uh, what?

In my three years working for then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, I recalled pitched battles where Senators of both parties attempted to lard up bills with unrelated and, often times, unnecessary spending. Remember the Bridge to Nowhere? That boondoggle came to you via Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens.

My former boss even urged the President to threaten a veto on the emergency Katrina relief bill back in 2006 because Senators were going hogwild. In fact, the Republican-led House bill totaled less than the President's request, while the Senate version exceeded it by $14.4 billion. Some extraneous items managed to get cut like $15 million for seafood promotion and $1million for a study of Hawaiian dams and reservoirs. But Senators did not show superior restraint to their House counterparts. My former boss, it should be said, did, and voted against the lard-ridden legislation.

I called my former colleague, Marty Gold, the unofficial dean of the Senate who teaches incoming Senators the legislative ropes, and who has literally written the text book on Senate procedure. I asked him what he thought about the new Democratic talking point on the upcoming Senate debate. He was elegant, but blunt.

"It's not that the Senators are inherently more politically mature. They're cut from the same the cloth, but are operating in chambers where different rules apply. Once you get into these pork barrel emergency bills, then the normal deliberative process goes out the window. It's their natural instinct to do that."

So who puts the brakes on?

"If the idea is that the Senate is a break on the House, it requires a filibuster sustaining minority. You need a Senate minority that has sufficient power, or a White House veto. In this case, the President is not likely to apply the brakes. If he gets a bipartisan bill, it will be because bipartisanship was forced by the rules of the chamber. Senate Democrats are dealing because they have to deal. If they didn't, you'd see the same interest groups. Look, many of the same Senators came from the House."

And as for President Obama's overtures to Republicans? The Super Bowl watch party, and paying the Republican caucus a visit. Marty points out that it's smart politics. "A bipartisan vote helps to neutralize Republicans. And if they resist his overtures, it makes them look small. He can say he tried and got the back of the hand. He has every incentive to reach out."

And one last thing, Marty pointed out that if you give the Democratic majority what they really want - a filibuster-proof majority - today's talk of sober bipartisanship will be a quaint and distant memory. Without the political restraint of a potential filibuster, the restraints on the majority evaporate.

So, Norm, if you're reading this blog out there in Minnesota, Senate Republicans are counting on you to keep up the fight.

And Judd, get that Senate seat deal signed, sealed and delivered before you make the Commerce post yours.

Filed under: Amy Holmes • Economy • Raw Politics
October 2nd, 2008
11:22 PM ET

How'd they do? The best political team's analysis

Amy Holmes: 10:40p ET – Palin: A+. The plus is for wildly exceeding expectations. She more than held her own. She was polished, direct, folksy, and on message. She stressed her personal experience both as a mom and as a governor, from the kitchen table to the executive branch, her record as a reformer and bipartisan deal maker. She even got Biden to agree with her. Read more...

Roland Martin: Expectations are high for Palin AND Biden. Many of you read my commentary this week on CNN.com and I haven’t changed my opinion.

I’m tired of Washington journalists continuing to say that the expectations are low, and the bar even lower, for Gov. Sarah Palin.

And the same goes for Sen. Joe Biden.

Amy Holmes: 9:40p ET – Were those Katie Couric interviews a devious head fake? I've heard Biden say at least twice now that he agrees with Palin. First on the issue of windfall profits, and then on the issue of gay marriage. Regarding the first, he actually said he and Obama would like to do what the Governor did in Alaska. Economic conservatives won't like it. But for debate purposes: advantage Palin.

Candy Crowley: 9:35p ET – Palin veers off course — the question is about helping consumers with crushing debt, and she's responding with energy policy. Politicians frequently change the subject, but this was a pretty obvious 180.

Read more

September 26th, 2008
01:17 PM ET

Running for cover

Amy Holmes | Bio
CNN Political Analyst

The current Democratic spin is that House Republicans are stalling the bailout plan. Just one problem. House rules let the majority party, and that would be the Democrats, rule the roost. If Nancy Pelosi wanted to roll over the minority’s objections and pass this bill, she could.
Me thinks Pelosi is playing this out for as long as she can.

Yesterday, Congresswoman Melissa Bean, D-Illinois and self described “Obama Mama,” told me that the bailout is deeply opposed by the folks back home. Constituents are outraged that Congress is giving away $700 billion taxpayer dollars to greedy and incompetent Wall Street fat cats (okay, she didn’t actually use the term “fat cats”.) She told me in no uncertain terms that she believes that the banking system is genuinely on the brink, and legislators have no choice but to pass the bill and face an angry public and explain their vote. And it ain’t gonna be pretty.

One can reasonably presume that Pelosi knows all of this. She wants it both ways. And for at least the next six hours, she’ll get it. Duck the blame on a massively unpopular bill by running for cover under the objections of the Republican minority. Claim frustration that her party’s noble and principled efforts to do the necessary and difficult thing are being thwarted by small-minded Republicans. Don’t let Democrats get the blame for an unpopular bill, or suffer voter backlash for irresponsible inaction. Get Republicans on the hook, one way or another, squirming right alongside Democrats..

Filed under: Amy Holmes • Raw Politics
September 8th, 2008
09:18 PM ET

Obama questioned community organizing, too

Editor’s Note: Amy Holmes is an independent conservative who has not endorsed any candidate for president.

Amy Holmes | Bio
CNN Political Analyst

Republicans have been getting heat for knocking Obama's community organizing. It turns out that back in the day Obama knocked it, too. In a lengthy investigative piece in the New Republic, John Judis reveals that, "[w]hen Obama came to South Chicago, he believed in community organizing; within two-and-a-half years... he was clearly growing disillusioned."

For the whole story - what Barack Obama won't tell you about his community organizing past and why Obama actually agrees with Republicans - click here.

Filed under: Amy Holmes • Barack Obama • Raw Politics
September 8th, 2008
11:25 AM ET

Girl Fight! Part Two

Amy Holmes | Bio
CNN Political Analyst

On Friday, the Obama campaign put out the spin that they were deploying Hillary to take shots at Palin. Upon reading it, I wrote that it was rather awkward to tout the woman they passed over as the answer to the woman the other guy chose as his VP.

I also wrote that a female democratic strategist told me, "Don't think that Hillary hasn't noticed."

I don't know if that same strategist brought my blog to Hillary's attention, or if the irony of the situation was just too glaring.

But in less than 24 hours, Hillary has made it known that she intends to go after McCain, not Palin. Check it out.

Filed under: Amy Holmes • Raw Politics
September 5th, 2008
04:42 PM ET

Girl fight!

Editor’s Note: Amy Holmes is an independent conservative who has not endorsed any candidate for president.

Amy Holmes | Bio
CNN Political Analyst

McCain has a strong woman? Well, the Obama campaign wants voters to know they've got one, too, and they're going to deploy her to crush the moose hunting hockey mom from Alaska. In a strange twist of logic, the Obama campaign is touting the woman they passed over as the woman they need to beat the woman the other guy picked.

The New York Times reports that "Mrs. Clinton's campaign event in Florida, her first for Mr. Obama since the Democratic convention, will serve as a counterpoint to the searing attacks and fresh burst of energy that Ms. Palin injected into the race with her convention speech on Wednesday, Obama aides said."

So, let's get this straight. They didn't choose her and her 18 million voters to put on the ticket. They gave the VP spot to Joe Biden. But now that Sarah Palin has arrived on the political scene, they're promoting Hillary as the female answer to the Republican VP nominee. Awkward, to say the least.

And as one female democratic strategist tells me, don't think that Hillary hasn't noticed.

Filed under: Amy Holmes • Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • John McCain • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
September 3rd, 2008
11:42 AM ET

Pro-Life Republicans and Pro-Choice Voters

Amy Holmes | Bio
CNN Political Analyst

Much has been made of whether or not a staunch pro-life candidate can attract the pro-choice vote. And how could Joe Lieberman throw in his liberal lot with, gasp, social conservatives? Wonder no more. In 2004, Bush won 25% of voters who believe abortion should always be legal and 38% of those who believe it should mostly be legal. While Bush didn't draw a majority of pro-choicers to the Republican ticket, he certainly earned a healthy chunk. Bush also won 23% of the gay and lesbian vote (roughly the same percentage he received in 2000.)

Kerry, the pro-choice candidate, won 22% of those who believe abortion should always be illegal and 26% of those who believe that it should be mostly illegal. (see poll)

In other words, Bush actually did better at attracting voters who do not share his views on abortion than did Kerry. It could be that Kerry simply didn't articulate his position well. In one of the debates, he stumbled through his answer to a young woman as to how he reconciles his pro-choice position with his Catholic faith. For some inexplicable he didn't repeat the formulation that had been so successful for Clinton: that he believed abortion should be safe, legal and rare. But that was Kerry for you.

Every four years, the media and liberal Democrats promote the misconception that choice vs. life neatly divides voters into two camps, Democrats vs. Republicans. But as Joe Lieberman told voters tonight, do not be fooled. The truth is that past election statistics say differently, because voters themselves say differently in the privacy of their polling booths.

Filed under: Amy Holmes • Raw Politics
September 2nd, 2008
01:35 PM ET

Bristol Palin and sex ed

Bristol Palin, daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, poses as a member of the Juneau-Douglas High School junior varsity basketball team in February 2007.

Bristol Palin, daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, poses as a member of the Juneau-Douglas High School junior varsity basketball team in February 2007.

Amy Holmes | Bio
CNN Political Analyst

Editor’s Note: Amy Holmes is an Independent conservative who has not endorsed any candidate for president.

Here's what we know. Bristol Palin is pregnant. And that's all we know. We don't know if she was unaware of how babies are made, or how to acquire contraception. As the eldest of five children, it's hard to imagine that she was not acquainted with the basic facts of life. And none of it is our business.

If we want to turn someone's personal life into a teachable moment, may I suggest John Edwards? "Warning: Extra-marital sex may result in messy paternity rumors and derail national political ambitions."

Do they teach that in sex ed?

Filed under: Amy Holmes • John Edwards • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
August 30th, 2008
08:47 AM ET

Sarah Palin and the broad conservative tent

Amy Holmes
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

As CNN viewers may know, I'm pro-choice. My former boss, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a committed pro-lifer, had no problem hiring me despite that (shocking!) news. Indeed, I became a conservative working for a women's organization that took no position on the issue. We welcomed women from all sides. Our ethos was that women are not defined by our ovaries. We care about taxes, national security, free markets and classic notions of equal rights. Abortion should not be a gender test.

I say all of this because I have been frustrated by the insistence in the media that John McCain's choice for vice president, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is defined by her pro-life position, as if that is the beginning and end of Governor Palin and of conservative women - and that her pro-life position is extreme. When one looks at the polling data on this issue, it's clear that it is not.

We've seen a concerted effort by the media to marginalize her as a far right-winger, out of touch with moderate and pro-choice women. This is unfair to her, and to all of us who respect her admirable decision to carry to term a child diagnosed in utero with Down's Syndrome. It's been noted that 90% of parents who receive the news that their child will be born with this disability choose to terminate. Governor Palin put her principles into practice. And as a pro-choicer, I can say with sincerity that I admire her act of character and love.

A few summers ago I was at a friend's beach house, and the topic of pro-choicers who work for pro-lifers came up (that's Washington for you). I made the argument that Republican elected officials are far more tolerant of differing views on this topic than Democrats. Count the number of pro-lifers on the staffs of senators Boxer, Clinton, Schumer, Durbin or any of the Democratic leadership. I'm certain the number is negligible, if not zero. Apply the same test to Republican leadership. I guarantee you, the number is much higher, pro-life Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey included.

The media would like to label conservatives as intolerant on the abortion issue and, as a result, intolerant of women. But the truth is the conservative tent is much broader than that caricature. And it's much broader than what the other side allows.

Filed under: Amy Holmes • John McCain • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
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