Morning Must Reads -- Coakley Chokeley 

Boston Herald -- Poll shocker: Scott Brown surges ahead in Senate race


The rapid series of misfires by Massachusetts Democratic Senate nominee Martha Coakley – attending a health-industry lobbyist fundraiser in D.C., mocking her opponent for standing outside shaking voters’ hands, misspelling her state’s name in a TV spot, saying there are no terrorists in Afghanistan, etc. – have taken their toll.

The Suffolk University Poll, which seems to have a representative sample of Democrats, Republicans, independents and the right gender and geographic compositions, shows Republican nominee Scott Brown leading 50 percent to 46 percent – the first lead he’s had in any major poll.

The survey found that half of Bay Staters, already paying for their own government health plan, oppose the Democrats’ health bill in Washington, and 61 percent say the plan is unaffordable.

Brown, whose campaign has exceeded all expectations, was 8 points ahead on favorability (57 percent -- about the same as President Obama among Massachusetts voters) while Coakley’s 41 percent unfavorability was 22 points higher than Brown’s.

Writer Jessica Van Sack explains:

“Bellweather models show high numbers of independent voters turning out on election day, which benefits Brown, who has 65 percent of that bloc compared to Coakley’s 30 percent. [Independent, unrelated candidate Joseph] Kennedy earns just 3 percent of the independent vote, and 1 percent are undecided…

While Brown has 91 percent of registered Republicans locked up, an astonishing 17 percent of Democrats report they’re jumping ship for Brown as well.”


New York Times -- Accord Reached on Insurance Tax for Costly Plans

Could Democrats find a less appealing way to move this health plan?

Meeting in private with union honchos, President Obama and congressional leaders agreed to rework the health legislation in Congress to exempt union workers from new taxes on deluxe health plans until 2018. The rest of the working world would be on the hook, but the 12 percent in unions will have eight years to get ready for the change.

If the plan were to pass, regular workers with high-end insurance will likely see perks like dental and vision plans wiped out as employers look for ways to avoid the tax.

Writers Robert Pear and Steven Greenhouse should be reading Examiner colleague Susan Ferrechio, and talking about how this creates new problems for passage, even as it gets labor on board.

Such a change means that there will have to be fresh votes in both Houses and with a politically moribund majority leader and panic spreading among incumbent Democrats, the final job will be tough. As Kimberly Strassel points out in today’s Wall Street Journal, Democrats from swing districts who bucked the vote the first time are faring better than those who followed Pelosi’s lead.

After cutting the deal, Obama spoke to the House Democrats at their annual retreat. He promised to be out on the trail this year relentlessly selling the plan and their candidacies. No discussion of how that’s been working out in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. A president who rails against special interest and then accommodates them is a bigger liability than one who simply accommodates them quietly.

“‘Let me tell you something,’ Mr. Obama said, pointing to elements of the legislation he said would increase access to health care. ‘If Republicans want to campaign against what we’ve done by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over American families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have.’”


Associated Press -- US said to eye DC for Gitmo trial

Writers Matt Apuzzo and Devlin Barrett tell us that the terrorist responsible for the al Qaeda nightclub bombing that killed 202 Aussie tourists and locals in a 2002 bombing at a resort town in Bali is likely going to trial in Washington federal court.

The Obama administration is bringing Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, to the District from Guantanamo Bay or trial after 9/11 architect Kahlid Shikh Mohammed goes to trial in New York.

With the boom in homegrown terrorism in the U.S., this Guantanamo push may be the most politically destructive avenues for the administration.

“Conducting a trial in the nation's capital would be a symbolic repudiation of the policies of former President George W. Bush, who portrayed Hambali as a success story in the Bush administration's program of interrogating terror suspects in secret CIA prisons overseas.

Bush said such interrogations, which included the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding, helped crack alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and led authorities to Hambali. Under intense questioning at a CIA ‘black site,’ Hambali revealed a plan for another wave of suicide hijackings in the U.S., Bush said.”


Los Angeles Times -- Handling of Ft. Hood shooting suspect could bring discipline


The Army is lowering the boom on supervisors who gave Ft. Hood gunman Nidal Hasan a pass over the years, even when he was extolling the virtues of jihad in his presentations and railing against American occupations of Muslim lands. A Pentagon report found that in addition to the signs of radicalization, Hasan was written up for being out of shape, sloppy and difficult. By busting him down just for being a poor officer, the Army might have avoided the terrorist attack But even there, P.C. seemed to play a role.

Writer Julian Barnes explains:

“‘Had those failings been properly adjudicated, he wouldn't have progressed,’ and could have been forced out of the armed services, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the review's findings had not been made public.

Instead, the investigation found that for much of Hasan's career, supervisors were blinded by his resume, believing they had found a rare medical officer: someone with a stellar undergraduate record, prior service in the infantry and intimate knowledge of the Islamic faith.

‘The Army thought it had hit the trifecta,’ the official said.”


David Brooks -- The Underlying Tragedy

Reading David Brooks on culture and sociology makes you wish he would just stop writing about President Obama and politics altogether.

Brooks looks at the real tragedy of Haiti – American and other foreign aid that has encouraged failure by limiting consequences for bad decisions. Brooks calls for aid that matches the values we cherish as Americans – hard work, honesty, fair play, competition – instead of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

“On Oct. 17, 1989, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck the Bay Area in Northern California. Sixty-three people were killed. This week, a major earthquake, also measuring a magnitude of 7.0, struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Red Cross estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 people have died.

This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services. On Thursday, President Obama told the people of Haiti: “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” If he is going to remain faithful to that vow then he is going to have to use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty. He’s going to have to acknowledge a few difficult truths.”

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About The Author

Chris Stirewalt


Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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