Capital Briefs July 13, 2009

THE PAIN OF PALIN PULL-OUT: If Sarah Palin plans to seek the Republican nomination for President in 2012, she didn’t help herself last week by announcing her resignation as governor, according to a just-completed Rasmussen Poll. The survey found that 40% of Republican voters nationwide believe her decision to quit as governor of Alaska July 26 hurts her chances of winning their party’s presidential nomination in 2012 and only 24% feel it helps her chances. The remaining 36% say it will have no impact on the race.

: In an interview (audio here) with HUMAN EVENTS Editor Jed Babbin, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton followed up on a column he had written a week earlier on a possible Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear program. Asked what he felt the chances were on a scale of 0-to-100 that Israel would make a strike before the end of the year. “My bet: in the 80s or 90s,” Bolton told Babbin. “I think it’s a very high likelihood.” The former U N ambassador and State Department official noted that Israel struck at Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in 1981 and destroyed a North Korean-built reactor in Syria two years ago. “They are not afraid to do what they need to do to defend themselves,” said Bolton. “I don’t think a decision has been made, I think they wanted to see how the Obama Administration effort will play out, at least give them a chance. I don’t think those diplomatic efforts are ever going to get off the ground, but in any event, time is growing very short.”

WILL AUGUST BE ‘TEACHING TIME’ ON SOTOMAYOR?: Faced with the possibility that Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) might try to strong-arm the Senate into a vote on Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court before Congress attempts to recess in early August, a nationwide coalition of 120 conservative opinion leaders called on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to “engage all the tools that Senate rules allow” to ensure the nomination is not considered until after the summer recess. “The people have a right to discuss the Sotomayor nomination with you over the August recess and to debate it also without rush,” Manuel Miranda of the Third Branch Conference wrote McConnell. “This will guarantee the ‘teaching moment’ that [Alabama Republican] Sen. Jeff Sessions has imagined.” Head-counters privately estimate that, whenever her confirmation is voted on by the full Senate, Sotomayor will probably coast through with 30 votes at most cast against her.

CAP AND TRADE “DOOMED’ IN SENATE, PREDICTS INHOFE: Although the House by a narrow 219-to-213 vote passed the Waxman-Markey energy tax bill that contains a controversial “cap and trade” scheme, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee says that the measure is “doomed” in the Senate. “They just don’t have the votes to pass it,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R.-Okla.) told HUMAN EVENTS, noting that Senate Democrats led by freshman Mark Begich of Alaska (who also serves on the environment committee) have serious reservations about what “cap and trade” and a likely carbon tax could do to U.S. manufacturing. Inhofe said the current debate over Waxman-Markey is almost identical to that in 1993 over the Clinton Administration proposal for a British Thermal Unit tax (a tax on the energy content of a fuel source). The BTU tax passed in the House by a vote of 218-to-213 — almost the same as “cap and trade” this year — but died after Senate Democrats (who held at 57-to-43 seat majority at the time) made it clear they would not accept the tax in the final conference report on the bill. Democrats also remember that the BTU issue was used effectively by the GOP in the 1994 elections that turned out so disastrously for them.

COURT PULLS PLUG ON WIRETAP SUITS: The legal assault on telecommunications companies for wiretapping without warrants under a program approved by the Bush Administration after 9/11 is apparently over, at least for now. A recent ruling in federal court tossed out more than three dozen lawsuits claiming that AT&T and other telecommunications titans had acted illegally in the wiretapping. While conceding that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and civil liberties groups filing the suit raised important issues, Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker of U.S. District Court in Northern California nevertheless concluded that Congress left no doubt about its “unequivocal intention” when it passed a measure last year granting immunity to phone carriers. As a Democratic senator from Illinois, Barack Obama had at first opposed the immunity provision in the federal wiretapping measure and threatened a filibuster — only to wind up voting for it. The Obama Justice Department continued its predecessor’s efforts to kill the lawsuits and Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler called Judge Walker’s decision “the appropriate result based on the law.” The plaintiffs quickly announced they would appeal the decision to the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

LOOK WHO’S WORKING FOR KARZAI’S OPPONENT: Although it is not uncommon to find American political consultants working for office-seekers in other countries, one such arrangement in Afghanistan raised a few eyebrows last week. As Afghan President Hamid Karzai seeks re-election August 20, his leading opponent is getting assistance from one of Bill Clinton’s top political strategists — James Carville. The “raging’ Cajun” told the Associated Press that he is in the camp of presidential candidate and former World Bank official Ashraf Ghani because he feels “there is very little confidence in Afghanistan in Karzai as a leader” and that it is important to “let the people of Afghanistan know that there is an alternative.” Although Carville insisted he is working as a private citizen, his ties to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. envoy to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke are raising questions abut the political gun-for-hire’s role in the election.