On the Horns of the Democratic Dilemma

President Obama seems to have teed up the Democrats this week, and once again the Republicans are looking to hit one out of the park. Were this story found in a Nero Wolfe mystery we might have called it, “A Muddle of Mathesons.” The question which we, as observers, are left to wrestle with is, was it a case of blatant nepotism and bribery or simply astoundingly tone-deaf idiocy?

In case you missed it, the story in question is two-fold. Part one consists of President Obama appointing Utah jurist Scott Matheson to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Nothing unusual there. The President has to make these appointments all the time, and by all accounts I’ve seen, Scott is highly qualified and has been on the short list for a while.

Part two of our tale involves the President (also yesterday) calling a dozen or so wavering House members in for a chat about health care reform. Again, no big surprise there. The health care reform battle is in real trouble for the Democrats and Obama is scrambling for every bit of support he can find. Again, this is perfectly normal and Obama is within his rights to do so.

The story leaps from there straight into Bizzaro World, however, when we discover that one of the House members invited in for the cozy chat was Utah Congressman Jim Matheson. And no, the name is no coincidence. The Congressman is Scott Matheson’s brother. And these two events took place only a few hours apart. Now tell me… what’s the first thing that leaped to mind when you read that?

Of course, when asked, all parties concerned declared that any suspicions about some sort of quid pro quo being in the air were just silly. The always enjoyable Steve Benen, an unabashed Obama cheerleader, was quick to point out the obvious reason why there was no sort of a deal going on. Because they said so! Weren’t you listening?

Rep. Matheson’s spokesperson called the question “patently ridiculous.” A White House official called the question “absurd.” …

Is there any evidence — anything at all — to suggest the Matheson nomination is related in any way to getting his brother’s vote on health care? No. There’s literally nothing.

And of course, Steve is correct. If this were some sort of shady deal, both the President and Congressman Matheson would have had to complete and file a copy of Federal Form 2010-EYE-KAN-BE-BRIBED. No such form was submitted, so clearly you’re all a bunch of suspicious nanny nanny boo-boos.

But seriously, the sad part of this story is that there may actually not be anything going on under the covers here. But in some ways, that’s almost worse than a back room deal being struck. After the cornhusker kickback and the Louisiana Purchase, we’ve grown somewhat accustomed to the Democrats slinging around cash and favors to find votes for their health care scheme. But No-Drama Obama was supposed to be – if nothing else – a consumate politician with the instincts required to win these sorts of battles. Could he not see what the optics of this would be? As my radio partner, The Lady Logician points out, it’s all about the timing.

In light of Ben “the Cornhusker Kickback” Nelson and Mary “Louisiana Purchase” Landrieu, the electorate is not going to see this as a qualified candidate getting a well deserved appointment. They are going to see this in the worst light possible – that this is an overt attempt to bribe Jim Matheson to vote for this bill. Whether he realizes it or not, President Obama just threw Jim Matheson under the bus. For whether he votes for Obama Care or not, the perception of impropriety is already there. Nothing Congressman Matheson says or does will remove the taint.

I’d go one step further than that. Obama may have just ensured that he lost another vote on health care. How can Matheson possibly vote for it now? He would be virtually taking out a political advertisement stating that his vote was up for sale. If this wasn’t a votes for favors scandal – and it likely wasn’t given the judge’s credentials – it was one of the stupidest political moves seen in a season already chock full of ham handed wowzers.

Much like the Lady Logician, I rarely find myself nodding my head in agreement with Michelle Malkin, but I have to say she’s spot on here.

Is the White House so fantastically blind and tone-deaf that it failed to detect the blood-red flags and blaring alarm bells that Scott Matheson’s judicial nomination would raise coming on the very day President Obama is wooing his brother, Jim?

It would have been so easy to either leave Scott’s appointment on the back burner until later in the year or simply not invite Jim to the meeting. Either one would have turned this into a non-story. And yet the administration couldn’t see this coming. It’s stunning, really. But not in a good way.