"Now, it's time for the happy recap." - Bob Murphy
Politics 2002-03 Archives
December 31, 2003
POLITICS: Inspector General
Good to see that Ashcroft has recused himself and put a professional prosecutor at the head of the Valerie Plame leak investigation. I don't personally know Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney for Chicago, but I know him by reputation and know people who know him; he's a career prosecutor who made his name with the first World Trade Center bombing cases (among other things, I believe he was the lead prosecutor on the trial of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman); I'm sure he'll be thorough and dogged, but unlike outside prosecutors (i.e., Independent Counsels), he has other things to do and won't spin this into an endless investigation if more pressing matters need the resources. A good call.
I still maintain that the best way to handle politically charged investigations would be to create a separate department of an Inspector General. Such a department could be built around the current Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice, which has a perenially full caseload with corruption in state and local governments, contracting, police corruption, etc., and thus would not be like an Independent Counsel, tempted to blow one investigation out of proportion. But the head of the department could be someone less political than the Attorney General (whose role in law enforcement, Supreme Court litigation and sometimes judicial selection makes him or her an inevitably controversial figure) and selected specifically for the trait of bipartisan respect. Once selected and nominated, an IG would be nearly impossible to fire over a single investigation in the absence of obvious abuse. And you could also consolidate the civil IG offices of various executive departments, which can be prone to the same problems as IC offices, thus avoiding the usual trap of new departments that duplicate existing ones.
And pay for the savings by abolishing the Commerce Department. Everyone wins!
December 30, 2003
POLITICS/LAW: From The Department of Not Moving On
Another one you might have missed, that I noticed I never got around to blogging: in August, the D.C. Circuit rejected most of Bill and Hillary Clinton's request for reimbursement for their attorneys' fees incurred in the course of the Whitewater and related investigations (although President Clinton did not seek reimbursement for the Lewinsky investigation, as per his agreement with Robert Ray resolving the charges arising from that case). The Clintons argued that they were statutorily entitled to reimbursement on the theory that the fees "would not have been incurred but for the requirements of" the Independent Counsel statute (the Ethics in Goverment Act) -- i.e., that "1) if not for the Act, the case could have been disposed of at an early stage of the investigation; and 2) they were investigated under the Act where private citizens would not have been investigated."
Two years before the appointment of Independent Counsel Starr, a criminal referral was submitted by the Resolution Trust Corporation to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas alleging illegal activities involving Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association, and naming the McDougals as suspects and the Clintons as witnesses. When in early 1994 the Attorney General appointed Robert Fiske as regulatory independent counsel, she gave him broad authority to investigate the Clintons' relationship with, inter alia, Madison Guaranty and the Whitewater Development Corporation. And when we appointed Kenneth Starr as statutory independent counsel in the summer of 1994, at the request of the Attorney General we granted him investigatory authority almost identical to Fiske's. The IC's final report on the Whitewater matter states that "[t]he breadth of the criminality already uncovered by the Fiske investigation in part contributed to the length of time necessary for the statutory Independent Counsel to complete his work." See Robert W. Ray, Final Report of the Independent Counsel, In Re: Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan Association, Vol. I, 21 (2001). Taking all of the above into consideration, we harbor no doubt that in the absence of the independent counsel statute the allegations surrounding the Clintons, Madison Guaranty, and Whitewater would have been similarly investigated and prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
POLITICS/RELIGION: Random Thought
From a friend, who asks: why is there so much overlap between (a) those Americans who criticize our foreign policy for being too "unilateral" and (b) those Americans who feel that American branches of world religions need to ignore, if necessary, criticisms from their overseas branches when pressing for changes in doctrine (e.g., relating to abortion, ordination of women, homosexuality, etc.)?
But then, "unilateral" means "in opposition to Continental Europe," whereas criticism from Third World Christians generally gets discounted; they apparently are supposed to be seen, not heard.
POLITICS: Changing the Subject
The Weekly Standard had an interesting and sympathetic profile of Dick Gephardt some weeks ago, including some good Dean-bashing. I tend to like Gephardt when I'm just reading about him - on paper, you can make him sound like Harry Truman - but every time I see the guy he's just so full to the brim with idiotic cliched soundbites that lack even a semblance of logic or coherent thought that I have to turn off the TV. He probably is a decent guy, but listening to him drives me up the wall. The problem is one that's endemic to many Democratic politicians (Howard Dean is actually a rare exception): he talks down to his audience like he's speaking to a bunch of grade school students.
Barring a catastrophe in the war on terror or a major economic reversal, I still can't see Gephardt going anywhere, or the Democrats winning in November, unless something happens that forces the candidates to change the subject from war and taxes. Dean is Bush's ideal matchup -- and the one the true believers on the Left want -- because they both want to run on war & taxes, and the two are diametrically opposed on both questions. Other than Gephard't's trade-war talk, none of the other Dems have been able to change that definition of the agenda. And as we know, he who sets the agenda usually wins.
One thing I've been kicking around is whether the cultural issues will matter. A friend suggested that culture issues are bigger now than they were in 1992, but I don't really buy it; if anything, the cultural fissures were more pronounced that election year. 1992 saw Buchanan's "culture war" speech - the battles of that era seem tame only because we've gone so much further down the slippery slope. 1992 was "the year of the woman." Dan Quayle v. Murphy Brown. It was 1992 that the Supreme Court upheld Roe v Wade (or, as Scalia pointed out, completely rewrote Roe under the guise of being bound by precedent). The LA riots were in April 1992. And, of course, Bill Clinton was one big walking cultural issue.
Culture is a big subtext, particularly if Dean wins. But the main topics will still be taxes and war.
This NY Times article on programs to keep African-American men enrolled in college has an interesting sidebar on the Times' site: the "Times News Tracker" says you would receive an email about the article if you had chosen one of the following four topics as one of your alerts:
Teachers and School Employees
Now, I'm really no expert on political correctness, so maybe this is just me, but isn't it considered bad form these days to use the term "Blacks" as opposed to "African-Americans" or, failing that, "black people"? Just has a ring of Strom Thurmond about it, as in, "I'd like to get the news about the Blacks."
December 20, 2003
POLITICS: It Gets Late Early Around Here
For a little perspective on the Democratic primaries -- or, perhaps, perspective on how they've changed in 12 short years -- check out at least one national poll for the Democrats in December 1991 (source: Daily Kos), which in theory should be the same point in the process as we're at today:
Mario Cuomo - 33%
Of course, #1 never entered the race, which is much like the current polls would look if they were still listing Hillary! in every poll. It may be harder for anyone today to roar from the back of the pack this late in the game, especially where Howard Dean has already pulled the same trick.
December 19, 2003
POLITICS/WAR: Quotes of the Week
Saddam Hussein, on the American GI: "Why didn't you fight?" one Governing Council member asked Hussein as their meeting ended. Hussein gestured toward the U.S. soldiers guarding him and asked his own question: "Would you fight them?"
A US official, on Saddam's capture: "We can now determine," he said, "if he is the mastermind of everything or not." The official elaborated: "Have we actually cut the head of the snake or is he just an idiot hiding in a hole?"
And two from last week:
Tom Maguire, on Howard Dean: "[W]ill centrists peer in confusion at their television screens and wonder, who is this little man yelling at me, and why is his face so red?"
Tom Burka, with a little humor: "Gore To Claim He Invented Dean, Says GOP"
(Read the whole thing; link via Plum Crazy)
Posted by Baseball Crank at 05:49 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Dean Doctrine
Howard Dean's major foreign policy address on Monday was probably a mixed bag politically; while Dean's anti-war crusade was yet again upstaged by reality, he once again succeeded in framing the public debate as Dean vs. Bush, and in the primaries, that's what you need.
On the substance? Well, Dean argued that he wouldn't abandon the idea of pre-emption, but (1) would stage a preemptive attack only where an "imminent" threat existed and (2) doesn't think Iraq met that test. It's a politically clever tactic, since it wouldn't necessarily tie down his own freedom of action as President in another case as dramatically as if he rejected preemption entirely, although it does call into question his judgment and does indicate a return to pre-September 11 policy (i.e., Operation Desert Fox vs. Gulf War II as the logical response to Saddam). Of course, I disagree completely with Dean on this.
Read More »
The core of the Bush Doctrine of preemption is the idea that we don't have to wait until a threat is imminent. . . .There's actually now a couple of Bush Doctrines:
Bush Doctrine #1: States that sponsor, harbor, or encourage terrorists are as culpable as the terrorists and will be treated as enemies
Bush Doctrine #2: The United States reserves the right to launch a pre-emptive strike against our enemies when we believe they represent a serious and developing threat to our security, whether or not we have established that the threat is imminent. (As announced, I don't think this doctrine extends to threats to our interests, but more narrowly to direct threats to our physical security).
Bush Doctrine #3: The United States is pursuing a "forward strategy of freedom" by which it seeks to encourage reform and/or directly undermine or overthrow undemocratic regimes and replace them with more democratic regimes.
It's still not entirely clear to me what regimes are necessarily subject to this approach. Options: (1) Regimes that sponsor, harbor, or encourage terrorism? (2) Regimes in the region of the Middle East and/or the Islamic world, from which the terrorist threat arises? (3) Regimes that present a threat of proliferating weapons of mass destruction to terrorists? (Thus, it's not clear whether the strategy extends to North Korea). A corollary to Bush Doctrine #3 is the Administration's position that democratic reform of the Palestinian Authority must be a precondition to recognizing a Palestinian state or conducting negotiations directed towards that goal.
#3 is more a policy or strategy than a doctrine. The strategy is definitely the same as Reagan's - like Reagan, Bush has moved from containment to rollback. Like Reagan, he's realistic about the practical limits of rollback (e.g., neither tried to overthrow China). Of course, the return to an active policy of rollback is premised on the threat posed by the regimes to be rolled back. I sometimes see Left/liberal writers draw a false dichotomy between power politics and a policy of democratization. When the enemy is a group of states and non-state actors who oppose and can be opposed by freedom, then a policy of rollback serves both ends at once. But it's not at all inconsistent to stage a crusade of liberation in the Middle East while living with some useful tyrants elsewhere. My own feeling is this: the US is a permanent friend of democracies, but is and should be a faithless and fair-weather friend to useful dictators, and we should feel no remorse over double-crossing them when they no longer serve our interests.
Via Andrew Sullivan, the Washington Post captures well why Howard Dean is out of even what passes for mainstream among the Democrats these days:
[M]ost Americans understand Saddam Hussein for what he was: a brutal dictator who stockpiled and used weapons of mass destruction, who plotted to seize oil supplies on which the United States depends, who hated the United States and once sought to assassinate a former president; whose continuing hold on power forced thousands of American troops to remain in the Persian Gulf region for a decade; who even in the months before his overthrow signed a deal to buy North Korean missiles he could have aimed at U.S. bases. The argument that this tyrant was not a danger to the United States is not just unfounded but ludicrous.
(Emphasis added). Read the whole thing. I haven't paid enough attention to notice whether the Post has remained as reliably liberal as in the past on other issues, but its editorials have been very solid on the war on terror.
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 05:41 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Ruben the Cat
Kevin Drum linked last Friday to a page on the White House site about India, the Bushes' cat. I, too, had been unaware that the Bush family had a cat, but more amusing is this tidbit:
Named for former Texas Ranger baseball player, Ruben Sierra, who was called "El Indio"
Just cracked me up that the President of the United States has a cat named after Ruben Sierra.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 04:58 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Now 81% Pro-Bush!
So I took this online quiz to see who I support for president (duh!), and here's what I got:
1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
(Link via Tung Yin)
No surprise at the top, although I'd have thought it was closer to 90%. Can it really be that I agree with John Kerry more often than not? I mean, I know Kerry's been all over the map on a number of issues, but I've been listening to Kerry for years (particularly when I was in school in Massachusetts for seven years), and I can't ever remember him saying anything I agreed with, whereas I can think of several issues on which I've agreed with Lieberman, from war to capital gains tax cuts. It's also interesting to note that for all his "electability" talk, Clark is even further away from my side of the political spectrum than Dean is, which I take as a sign that unlike Dean, Clark hasn't been thinking seriously about politics long enough to dissent from his party's line on anything.
December 14, 2003
POLITICS: Not Even An Issue?
Atrios and a bunch of other far-out Lefty bloggers accuse John Kerry of "the Willie Horton campaign tactic of linking Howard Dean to Osama Bin Laden" for an ad (follow the link) that does nothing but show bin Laden's picture while (1) stating that America has evil enemies who plot against it (incontestibly true, no?) and (2) questioning Dean's inexperience in foreign affairs (a legitimate issue in any campaign, if a sometimes overstated one).
This is batty. Nothing in the ad accuses Dean of being soft on Al Qaeda, or even mentions any of Dean's policies. This is awfully tame stuff, in fact. By arguing that you shouldn't be able to raise the issue of whether a presidential candidate is equipped to deal with international terrorists like bin Laden, isn't Atrios effectively arguing for taking the issue of terrorism off the table entirely? Leaving aside the tactical insanity here -- the prison furlough issue worked precisely because the Democrats had spent years arguing that crime was a subject beneath discussion -- how can anyone believe that a candidate's ability to deal with the leading national security issue of the day shouldn't be an issue?
Or are Atrios and friends just saying that you can say that argument, but you can't dramatize it by referring directly to bin Laden?
December 12, 2003
POLITICS: Thought for the Day #1
Watching the Kerry, Lieberman, Edwards, Graham and Mosely-Braun campaigns dissolve in various levels of disarray and ignominy, I'm reminded yet again: Senators are the presidential primary equivalents of the guys in red shirts on Star Trek. You know how, when they'd beam Kirk, Spock, McCoy and two unnamed guys in red shirts down to a planet -- you could always tell which ones were there just to get frozen in mid-air or fed to brain-eating plants or whatever. Somebody has to bite the dust to show what peril the named characters were in.
Consider the campaigns by US Senators since the early 70s or so (many of whom flirted with running more than once): besides the five named above, we've got McCain (2000), Hart (1984, 1988), Glenn (1984), Bradley (2000), Dole (1980, 1988, 1996), Muskie (1972), McGovern (1972, 1976, 1984), Gore (1988), Tsongas (1992), Harkin (1992), Kerrey (1992), Hollings (1984), Hatch (2000), Bob Smith (2000), Cranston (1984), Simon (1988), Kennedy (1980), Gramm (1996), Lugar (1996), Biden (1988), Howard Baker (1980), Birch Bayh (1976), Byrd (yes, Robert Byrd ran in 1976), Bentsen (1976), Scoop Jackson (1976), Church (1976), . . . and I'm probably missing a few. Add in sitting or former Senators who'd also been Vice President and you can toss in Quayle (2000) and Humphrey (1972 and 1976).
Lotta red shirts. We'd better be more careful here, Bones.
December 07, 2003
POLITICS: Another Milestone
Way back some years ago -- all right, in August of 2002 -- Lileks predicted that
Once vulgar words are commonplace in the papers and the television, there’s no going back - and public life just gets cruder and cruder. I know it’s a losing battle. Fifty years down the road a presidential candidate will say “My opponent says I’m soft on the military, and to him and all his advisors, I can honestly say: f**k you.” He’ll be celebrated in some corners for connecting with the genuine people, with those not bound by musty conventions. The authentic people! The ones who really f**kin’ live!
(Expletives deleted). As with most dire predictions about society going to Hell in a handbasket, this one was inaccurate only because he overestimated how long it would take us to land at the bottom of that slippery slope; we're there now.
December 05, 2003
POLITICS: Self-Parody Watch
I'm sure by now you've seen the "Turkeygate" story (see here for the essentials of the story, and see here for some perspective from someone who was there), but this post from Democrats.org . . . well, the P.S. just says it all about the depth of the obsessions of the president's critics, doesn't it?
November 30, 2003
POLITICS: Probing Dean
You can tell that Michael Isikoff is going hard on Howard Dean when he leads with this photo:
The underlying story - Dean's decision to keep his records as Vermont governor sealed - isn't something I get hugely exercised over, but Dean won't be able to hold the line on this if he gets the nomination (just ask any candidate who's ever tried to avoid releasing his tax returns; Bill Simon comes prominently to mind). It's also another example of how Dean's own record and biography contains so many of the things liberals love to attack Bush over (in this case, secrecy).
I had the same general reaction to stories about Dean's draft record; it may be fun for his critics to call Dean a "Draft Dodger" or get quotes where even his own mother admits of his medical deferment for a bad back -- that didn't keep him from skiing or working at odd jobs like pouring concrete -- "Yeah, that looks bad." Again, if Dean is the nominee, his vulnerabilities on this point may help immunize Bush against (idiotic) attacks on Bush's military service record, but the fact is that the military has some physical specifications for soldiers that are different from other demands of everyday life. Don't forget that in the 1950s, when Mickey Mantle was the best athlete on earth, he failed his draft physical due to bad knees. Just because Mickey could hit a ball a mile, run 90 feet like the wind and show up ready to play everyday no matter what he'd been out doing the night before didn't mean he had the stamina to march 5 miles with a heavy pack on his back, and so he didn't have to serve.
WAR/POLITICS: Trading Places
Peter Beinart (in a column that's now web-accessible only to subscribers of The New Republic) suggested some weeks back that, given the GOP's skepticism about nation-building during the Clinton years and the hesitance of some Republicans to support the Clinton Administration's policy on the war in Kosovo, one might assume that if the Democrats still held the White House, the Republicans would be playing the same role of petulant anti-warriors currently filled by the Democrats. Beinart's a reasonable enough guy, and he understands national security issues well, but he clearly doesn't understand much about Republicans if he thinks we would have been calling for a President Gore to restrain his response after September 11. Did Republicans castigate Harry Truman for being too much of a hard-line anti-Communist? I think it far more likely that if Gore were in the White House on September 11, Republicans would have been calling for a much more belligerent response, full of Old Testament-style smiting and wrath.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 09:01 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 25, 2003
POLITICS: No Hobgoblins Here
[I]t has become obvious since he took office that, far from being a "uniter not a divider," George Bush is in fact (a) radically conservative and (b) does everything he can to hide the fact.
I think that both liberals and conservatives have made the mistake of convincing themselves that Bush is a hard right ideologue . . . But if you look a bit more closely you'll see that he's not.
November 24, 2003
POLITICS: 'Strong Leader Form of Government'
Speaking of strange news articles, this item from last Wednesday on Albany's reaction to the Massachusetts decision contains this head-scratcher:
In New York, which has a strong leader form of government, it is almost unheard of for legislation to be approved in the Senate without the majority leader’s backing or in the Assembly without the support of the speaker.
(Emphasis added). Now, I suppose the meaning is clear enough -- the state legislature is run by the leaders -- but this conjured up images of downtrodden New Yorkers walking to work under the shadow of massive graven images of George Pataki.
POLITICS: Whose Turf?
Instapundit linked on Thursday to an article about a handful of AARP members burning their membership cards to protest the group's support for the Republican-backed Medicare prescription drug bill, which contains some tepid reform provisions but is objectionable to the Left mostly because it's supported by President Bush and might help him get re-elected.
Now, if you read his blog, you know that Josh Marshall is perennially outraged -- shocked, shocked -- about what he calls "Astroturf" -- events designed by professional political activists and calculated to look like genuine grass-roots uprisings. Now, my first instinct was that the AARP protest by 'ordinary senior citizens' -- coming on the very day that Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton were tearing into the AARP in a coordinated attack -- smelled to me an awful lot like the same thing. Turns out, in fact, that MSNBC reported that "[t]he protest was organized by two liberal advocacy groups." Hmmmm.
Anyway, I checked Marshall's blog just to see if he was suitably shocked, but assuming (given the increasingly partisan tone of his writings lately) that he would just be silent on the issue, and be shocked and outraged only when he sees such tactics used by Republicans. Ah, how naive I was. On Thursday -- the very day of the Democrats' publicity offensive -- Talking Points Memo had this item:
Money talks, and AARP walks.
To find out more about the ugly truth and what you can do to make your voice heard, go to this page at the Campaign for America's Future website.
The page being one that carries a picture of an AARP member burning his membership card, under a blaring headline Attention AARP members, and directs AARP members to take the following actions:
:: Organize your own protests in your community.
It's Josh Marshall's turf. Don't you try to play on it.
November 20, 2003
POLITICS: Burning the Flag
Wesley Clark is drawing some fire from his fans on the left for his support for amending the constitution to prohibit flag-burning. Personally, I'm all in favor of keeping flag burning legal. Why stop the enemy from identifying himself? Every time some nitwit college student burns a flag on camera, that's one less idiot who can ever run for public office.
POLITICS: Pelosi vs. The Old Folks
I've tried to follow the whole prescription drug bill story, honest, but it can be hard to keep score of which way the bill is going. This has to be good news, though: Nancy Pelosi, Tom Daschle and Ted Kennedy are vowing to defeat the bill. Assuming they're doing this out of something other than mere partisan pique, this means that (1) the private choice provisions are not just window dressing, but are substantial enough to worry Ted Kennedy, and (2) if they succeed in stopping the bill, Democrats will get the blame for scuttling a popular but expensive and imprudent new entitlement. Win-win!
Seriously, the more interesting tidbit here is this:
In her remarks at the rally, Pelosi also took a swipe at the AARP and its leader, William D. Novelli. The seniors organization endorsed the bill this week and is advertising on television to help secure its passage.
The Californian noted that Novelli wrote the preface to Gingrich's recent book on health care, and she said, "AARP's leadership has been in the pocket not only of the Republican leadership in the House, but they helped write Newt Gingrich's book on how to destroy Medicare."
Now, the AARP is one of Washington's most powerful lobbies, and like the NRA, its power comes not from money or organization but from the simple fact that millions of its members take the organization's guidance seriously in deciding how to vote. And the AARP has led the charge in some past Democratic campaigns to scare the old folks (think back to 1982 or to the catastrophic health insurance debacle). The idea that the organization may be on the GOP's side has to warm the heart of any Republican partisan.
November 19, 2003
POLITICS: The Leno Primary
POLITICS: Senate Stuff
I'm overdue to update my seat-by-seat rundowns of the Senate races from last November. One thing that's changed is that rumors of John McCain's retirement haven't panned out, and McCain seems likely to cruise to re-election now that Congressman Jeff Flake has dropped a potential primary challenge. Moreover, as to desultory rumors of McCain challenging Bush in 2004, "McCain . . . answered the question of what he's going to be doing in 2004 pretty decisively when he signed on as co-chair of President Bush's re-election campaign in Arizona. "
Then there's Louisiana, a Democratic lock if moderate John Breaux runs for re-election but another major potential GOP pickup in the South if he doesn't (notwithstanding the Louisiana Democrats' last-minute survival in the 2002 and 2003 elections). Breaux is still mulling whether he wants to spend at least the next four years in the minority, but he's promised to serve out his term rather than let new Democratic governor Kathleen Blanco appoint a successor. The GOP would presumably like to run Bobby Jindal, who ran a respectable race for governor and whose biggest liability may be his youth, but another thought occurs to me: isn't Tommy Thompson leaving office at HHS next year? Maybe Bush will appoint Jindal to succeed him. He's almost certainly the most qualified guy for the job.
November 16, 2003
POLITICS: Unfit to be Commander-In-Chief?
Tom Maguire pointed me to this devastating New Yorker profile of Wesley Clark and his Kosovo record. There were a few interesting tidbits in the first half of the piece, which generally paints Clark as an admirable guy: I didn't know that was ethnically Jewish (his stepfather changed his name from Kanne) and had converted to Catholicism (combined with being raised a Southern Baptist, this gives him a real smorgasbord of religious background), or that Clark had first met Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld when he was detailed to the Ford White House. The account of the Kosovo campaign also includes some amusing tidbits:
When [Madeliene] Albright flew to Rambouillet [the site in France where negotiations were held between Milosevic and Albanian Kosovar leaders] in the hope that her presence might help to move things along, the Albanian delegation, working late at night, mistook her for a cleaning woman and told her to go away.
To which I ask: wasn't she traveling with security? The article also strongly suggests that Clark basically ran US policy in the Balkans without supervision while Clinton was distracted by impeachment, which of course reflects badly on Clinton moreso than on Clark.
Anyway, the real importance here is the damning picture painted of Clark's failings as a general:
*Clark in Kosovo did exactly what the Democrats accused Bush and Rumsfeld of: he projected a best-case scenario and went to war without a plan B:
[Prior to negotiations,] Clark had assured the White House that Milosevic would acquiesce, but the Serbian leader did not, and the talks ended in March.
“If you look back at the basics of it,” one Clinton Defense Department official recalls, “Wes’s strongly held view was ‘If we just threaten to bomb, he’ll fold, I know this guy. This won’t last forty-eight hours.’” . . .
President Clinton had publicly ruled out sending ground troops into the Balkans . . . More than once, [Air Force General Michael Short] came close to quitting his command in frustration. Short had complained to Clark about the lack of targets, but Clark assured him, “This will be over in three nights.”
NATO was unprepared for even this restricted version of war. There were no American aircraft carriers nearby when the war began, and only a third of the aircraft that would eventually be required. Milosevic had positioned his forces on the Kosovo border, and when the bombing commenced they swept into the province and dispersed, thus avoiding the long-distance strikes of the nato bombers. As the Serbs moved in, the Albanian Kosovars moved out, nearly emptying the country in an exodus to the hills, and subsequently posing a humanitarian crisis in the neighboring states of Albania and Macedonia.
When Milosevic refused to fold after just a few days of bombing, the NATO bombers quickly ran out of approved targets, and were failing to destroy, or even to seriously erode, the Serb force inside Kosovo. . .
Thus, not only did Clark rely too heavily on an over-optimistic assessment of the chances of a swift victory; he was also wrong.
*Clark was massively insubordinate, constantly looking to work around direct orders by appealing up the chain of command. I know they do this constantly in the movies, but this can't be a good thing in the real Army, and I suspect it's what Gen. Hugh Shelton meant about Clark's "integrity" issues. Consider the vignette where Clark has dinner with Tony Blair to sell him on a ground invasion that the Clinton Administration has already publicly and privately vetoed: a uniformed officer lobbying a foreign head of state to change his own country's policy?
*The Pentagon had to leak Clark's firing to the papers to stop him from appealing outside the chain of command yet again.
*Or consider this horrifying assessment of Clark's plans for a ground invasion:
Clark continued to focus on preparations for a ground war, and the plan he ultimately proposed was greeted in Washington with astonishment. "Gallipoli springs to mind," one defense expert, who made a study of Clark's plan, says. Clark advocated an invasion of Kosovo with a force of two hundred thousand troops, mostly American. The force would move into Kosovo through Albania, because Macedonia had declared that it would not allow its territory to be used for launching an attack. Aside from the most obvious difficulty with Clark's plan-that a major American-led ground invasion in the Balkans could not win the support of Congress, the Pentagon, the White House, or nato-there was a real problem regarding Albania. The country was already in chaos, and had almost no infrastructure. There was only one major road, and it was only partly paved, and there were few bridges that could support the mammoth tanks and fighting vehicles of the American Army. . . Clark outlined the plan to the Joint Chiefs in a video-teleconference, and they were starkly unsupportive. Dennis Reimer, the Army Chief of Staff, made it clear that he considered Clark's plan ludicrous. General Shelton refused to go forward with any real planning for the invasion. A Clinton Defense official recalls, 'Any of those elements of his most expansive plan would have, in our view and in the view of a number of thinking people, derailed what was a fairly fragile situation. And, in the judgment of many, many military professionals, it wouldn't have worked anyway. It called into question the real military judgment being put behind it.'
Fred Kaplan, the resident military analyst in Slate's stable of left-leaning pundits, tries gamely to defend Clark. Kaplan argues that the piece gives only the views of Clark's (numerous) critics in the military, but of course the sheer number of senior officials with an axe to grind against Clark has to be taken seriously when you consider that his long military career is virtually his only credential for public office. Kaplan thinks the New Yorker unfairly attacks Clark for being pig-headedly "certain about the rightness of his views," but then that's also a common complaint by the Clarkniks about Bush&Co.; if Clark's the same way, why should we expect the promised new and improved diplomacy and tact we've been promised?
Kaplan does convince me that the New Yorker piece misrepresents Clark's influence on Clinton Administration policy -- but as I noted above, that implication isn't as damaging to Clark as to his bosses anyway. Kaplan argues that the war on Kosovo was a good idea anyway -- but for a campaign that has argued relentlessly that the problem was how Bush got us into the Iraq war, the "how" of Kosovo is certainly a relevant question.
The bottom line here, and one Kaplan admits to, is that the New Yorker piece shows Clark as a guy who showed poor judgment in assessing an adversary he loudly proclaimed to know and understand:
Clearly, Clark made mistakes. Like many, he thought that merely threatening Milosevic with airstrikes would make him back down; after that didn't work, he thought three nights of bombing would crack his resistance. (The bombing campaign lasted 11 weeks.) But Clark was far from alone in this miscalculation; Clinton and Albright shared it.
Bad, but no worse than Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright. Some defense.
POLITICS: Jindal Goes Down
Very disappointing to see that Bobby Jindal has lost his bid for governor of Louisiana after recent polls seemed to show him pulling ahead; Jindal, a 32-year-old health care policy wunderkind and an Indian-American, seems like a rising star in the GOP, and would have been a wonderful asset. As with last year's narrow victory for Mary Landrieu, high turnout by the Democratic base for a Saturday election following a series of big national Republican wins seems to have been a factor.
November 09, 2003
POLITICS: Democrats in Chaos
So, let's review the past week or so of news for the Democrats:
*Howard Dean couldn't stick to his guns (so to speak) and issued a groveling apology for having said that he wanted guys with Confederate flags in the backs of their pickup trucks to vote for him (but not before issuing a James G. Blaine-style declaration that "We’ve got to stop having our elections in the South based on race, guns, God and gays").
*Terry "Florida Forever" McAuliffe is under fire yet again as the 2003 gubernatorial fiascos in California, Mississippi and Kentucky (with Louisiana possibly to follow) lead to the usual ritual denunciations:
Giving up on the South and taking African-Americans for granted: “Terry McAuliffe is out there on his own agenda, which does not involve the South,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the only black member of his state’s congressional delegation. “It does not involve African Americans to the extent that they need to be."
Putting Beltway-based consultants first and ignoring local issues: A [Democratic Governors Association] spokeswoman said it had been hard raising money to channel into state races. “This is a federally focused town,” the DGA’s Nicole Harburger said.
Fighting to the death for appalling incumbents rather than knowing when to police their own ranks: Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) said Democrats in Washington had complicated congressional Democrats’ efforts to hold on to the governorship. National party figures had impeded efforts to rally around Davis and, at the same time, come up with a viable alternative, she said. . . . “We were fought publicly, privately, by Democrats, by Davis’s people, of course, donors, party people, people who believe they are the major structure of the Democratic Party,” Sanchez said. She added that national party leaders had been “dismissive” of California’s 33-member Democratic delegation.
*Kevin Drum noted that the Democrats, mirroring their obessessive preference for all things European and their lingering grudge against the Electoral College, have established a primary system where nearly all the primaries distribute delegates proportionally, rather than winner-take-all, a system that seems likely to make it difficult to winnow the field and settle conclusively on a front-runner.
*Al Sharpton, of all people, breaks ranks to demand a floor vote on the likely-to-be filibustered nomimation of Janice Rogers Brown to the DC Circuit;
*Wesley Clark, who's reminding me more and more of of Jerry Brown every day, even down to the black turtlenecks ("touch my monkey!"), calls for Paul Bremer to be replaced by - well, really anybody, as long as it's not another one of those horrid Americans, and adds the following (note that, in fairness, this is a paraphrase):
"To crimp the flow of terrorists into [Iraq], he said the United States should find ways to work with Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia and make safeguarding the borders the highest priority."
So much for the idea that Coalition Man was going to follow Bob Graham's calls to get tough with the Saudis.
A tough week for the Dems. Is there anybody left to offend?
November 03, 2003
POLITICS: No On Question 3
Expect light blogging the rest of the week, as I'm swamped at work. But before the polls open, I wanted to get my two cents in: I intend to vote "no" on Question 3 on the New York City ballot tomorrow morning. Question 3 proposes to change the city's mayoral and city council primary system to eliminate party primaries and have runoff elections among the top two candidates from an open field -- sort of like having the California recall every two years, with a touch of the Chirac/Le Pen race thrown in for good measure.
Seriously, I'm completely opposed to this, and not just because a partisan primary may have saved my life two years ago. As I explained at much greater length in this post, I'm a big believer in the value of political parties in promoting accountability, and specifically in the two-party system's ability to sharpen the two sides of major issues and present them within a mainstream framework.
No on 3.
October 31, 2003
POLITICS/LAW: Levin Family Values
Turns out that one prominent filibusterer of Bush-appointed judges may be willing to make a deal to get a judgeship for his cousin's wife.
October 30, 2003
POLITICS: Sharpton vs. Dean
This whole business of Al Sharpton accusing Howard Dean of having an "anti-black agenda" is just endlessly amusing on many levels, but also revealing. The charge itself is bogus, of course; Sharpton picks two facially race-neutral issues that have killed the national Democrats in the past (guns and the death penalty), and lumps them in with Dean's 1995 statement (apostasy!) that "I think we ought to look at affirmative action programs based not on race but on class," which of course Dean instantaneously disavowed and promised to have no other gods but race-based affirmative action, thus forestalling the inevitable plagues of frogs, locusts and boils.
First of all, this is a big moment for Dean: you haven't really arrived in American politics until you've been called a racist by Al Sharpton.
Second, it is almost certainly not a coincidence that this comes immediately on the heels of Dean gaining the endorsement of Rev. Jesse Jackson, and I suspect it has a lot more to do with Jackson than it does with Dean. [UPDATE: My bad. It was an endorsement by Jackson's son, who's a Congressman. The larger point remains valid, since Sharpton timed his attack to coincide with the first significant African-American support for Dean]
Third, it's pathetic that Dean won't respond in kind. I know the front-runner needs to look above it all; and I know that most Democrats figure they will look like racist bullies if they go out of their way to make an issue of Sharpton and his long record of hate-filled ranting and dishonesty. But Sharpton took a swing at the king in the bluntest terms possible, and was disingenuous in doing so; surely if he's ever going to be fair game, it's now. This should be every Democrat's dream: a chance to denounce Sharpton and everything he stands for in a context where you won't get blowback for being "divisive" as you would if you went out of your way to go after him. Instead, Dean runs scared. If Dean doesn't have the cojones to criticize Al Frickin' Sharpton, the man's got no business running for president.
Fourth, notice how all of Dean's statements giving a little ground to the Right -- on affirmative action, Medicare, etc. -- are from about 1995, right after the Gingrich sweep of Congress. That says something too: Dean smelled which way the wind was blowing in 1995, and floated some trial balloons to see if he could position himself as a moderate. One wonders if he was thinking nationally already at that point, or just worried about keeping his job in changing times. Either way, he's clearly decided to set a different course since then.
October 29, 2003
POLITICS: Free Drugs For The Rich!
It still amazes me that Tom Daschle and other Democrats have seriously considered holding up the (unfortunately) popular prescription drug entitlement in protest over a "means testing" proposal that would deny federal handouts to the Hated Rich. (Link via Kaus). Is there a worse combination of bad policy and dumb politics? I mean, the only justification here is the Dems' "if we let somebody out eventually everyone will leave" theory (see also school choice, Social Security, etc.), but that's a hard argument to get people to swallow.
UPDATE: Lileks has a slogan for those who want to link this type of thing to cost savings from not spending $87 billion to rebuild Iraq: Insurance for those who can already afford it, and screw the needs of our conquered nations!
October 26, 2003
I noticed last week that The New Republic's website was running banner ads in its righthand column for "Shattered Glass," the new movie about Stephen Glass, the reporter who used TNR's pages to perpetrate a journalistic fraud as notorious, in its day, as Jayson Blair's. Presumably -- unless I'm missing something -- those ads were paid for by the studio. I know it's been years now -- Glass is gone and his editor, Michael Kelly, is dead -- but shouldn't TNR be ashamed to get advertising revenue from a fraud on its readers?
(Blair's fraud, by the way, has now inspired episodes this season of at least two of the "Law & Order" serieses - dramatic overkill, anyone? Doesn't Dick Wolf have the power to let one L&O know from which headlines the other is ripping?)
POLITICS: Partisanship and Accountability
Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias mull the helplessness of the Right in Britain and Canada, the feelbleness of the Left in Israel, and the pitiful condition of Britain's Left in the 1980s, but don't seem to understand why this happens to opposition parties in parliamentary states. In fact, American liberal commentators generally don't seem too interested in exploring why it is that politics in parliamentary systems is different from politics here in the U.S.; but in fact, the differences are fundamental and go a long way to showing the superiority of the American system, as well as the ways in which our own system could be improved upon:
Read More »
Mark Steyn has a big part of the answer: the absence of federalism and separation of powers means that voters never really get the chance to compare and contrast a variety of policy proposals in action at the same time, nor do individual leaders have a chance to arise from varied regions or walks of life or on the basis of strong personal characteristics; instead, all voting is simply voting for The Party, as led by leaders acceptable to the rest of the party's functionaries. The voters never get to say, "we like this guy and his new ideas.. Live with him."
The result, of course, is that the parties are immune to U.S.-style voter revolts until the ruling party has grown so hopelessly corrupt and out of touch that it collapses into ashes. Steven den Beste notes another aspect of the problem: whereas the American system rewards the ability to build coalition parties that both include and moderate the more radical elemsnts, European states often have fairly ideologically lukewarm parties of the center living in coalitions with extremist parties. Rather than factions on the Right or Left learning to develop a coherent program, this encourages governments that steer clear of any issue that could split their coalitions.
The result of all this is less strong leadership, less ideology, less responsiveness and accountability, and more need to use the anti-populist tools of coalition-building (e.g., patronage) rather than appeals to popular sentiment.
All of this is, among other things, why I'm generally opposed to the current push on in New York City to have nonpartisan elections; having clear divides and distinctions between the two parties is the best known way to encourage real accountability, both the accountability of an adversarial system (i.e., each side wanting to hang bad news on the other) and the accountability of parties needing to police their own ranks to avoid bad press.
None of which is to say that the American system is flawless. Weakened parties in the U.S. are still susceptible to ideological extremism; look at the leftward drift of the national Democrats, and you still hear people like the son of Paul Wellstone calling for even more leftism. But the Democrats will almost certainly lose big in 2004 if they run a left-leaning, high-taxes-and-pacifism campaign, and out of that defeat they may finally learn something about which of their principles are worth sticking to and which need to be jettisoned, as the GOP learned after 1964 to push a comprehensive conservative agenda but stop fighting losing battles to eliminate the New Deal and not nominate someone who would stand on federalist principles in the face of legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or as the Democrats after the 1980s generally abandoned their love affair with soft-on-crime executives.
Stephen Green also notes a recent Daniel Henninger op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and asks why our own system's ideological partisanship has grown so nasty lately. I think Henninger is right that a large share of the blame goes not just to the transfer of power to unelected judges, but specifically to the graven-in-stone nature of judicial decisionmaking. And it's not just the judiciary; entitlement programs, current-services-baseline budgeting, gerrymandering, incumbent-friendly 'reforms' -- and yes, wars -- all allow a momentary advantage in the partisan complexion of our political bodies to be translated into near-permanent changes in the nation. Polarization is a direct result of the recognition that to today's victors belong not only today's spoils, but tomorrow's, and tomorrow's, and tomorrow's.
Check out this recent Kevin Drum post on Social Security and the comments thereunder for an example of the phenomenon; like most liberal commentators, Drum's key mantra on changing Social Security is that transition costs would be too expensive. I'll get to the merits of that some other day, but the key point here is that the Democrats in general are more interested in making it too expensive and difficult to ever change any of their programs than in designing things that stand up well to regular review by the public. To see where this leads, look at California's budget crisis; a huge part of the problem is a variety of entitlement programs and constitutional straitjackets that make it exceptionally difficult for any governor to change the direction of the state.
In either case, here or in Europe, the fault lies not in our stars but in a lack of trust in ourselves. Democratic systems work best when they stay close to the people, responsive to our concerns and changeable when experience shows that the old ways aren't working.
« Close It
October 24, 2003
POLITICS: CIA Cover Stories
Former CIA operative Reuel Marc Gerecht writes in The Weekly Standard about Valerie Plame and what CIA cover stories are really about, and characterizes the charges of Bush Administration critics who have jumped on the story as "wildly overstated":
Cover is the Achilles' heel of the Operations Directorate. If you have a basic understanding of CIA cover, you can figure out why the over-the-top charges against the Bush administration in the Wilson matter make no sense. . . .
The key fact about CIA cover is that the vast majority of all case officers overseas "operate"--try to spot, develop, recruit, and run foreign agents--with little or none of it. . . .
The Bush administration's critics in the Wilson affair should be commended for worrying about the possible "blowback" on foreign contacts when operatives like Valerie Plame are exposed. The odds that any of her contacts are suffering, however, are small: Casual, even constant, open association with CIA officers isn't necessarily damning even in countries that look dimly upon unauthorized CIA operational activity within their borders. . . .
And if Plame, as has been suggested, was overseas as a non-official cover officer, known in the trade as a NOC, her associations are even less at risk, since foreigners have vastly more plausible deniability with NOCs, who are not as easy to identify as officially covered officers. It is important to note that if Plame was ever a NOC, her associations overseas were jeopardized long ago by the Agency's decision to allow her to come "inside"--that is, become a headquarters-based officer . . .
This officially sanctioned "outing" of NOCs is a longstanding problem in the CIA, where non-official cover officers regularly tire of their "outsider" existence ("inside" officers dominate the Directorate of Operations). It is not uncommon to find former NOCs serving inside CIA stations and bases in geographic regions where they once served non-officially, which of course immediately destroys the cover legend they used as a NOC. Foreign counterintelligence services naturally assume once a spook always a spook. Since foreign counterespionage organizations often share information about the CIA, this outside-inside transformation of NOCs can readily become known beyond one country's borders.
Whether or not Valerie Plame was engaged in serious work inside the Agency's Non-Proliferation Center, one has to ask what in the world her bosses were doing in allowing her husband, a public figure, to accept a non-secret assignment which potentially had a public profile? Journalists regularly learn the names of clandestine-service officers. Senior agency officials may well have thought very little of Ambassador Wilson's "yellowcake" mission to Niger, which explains CIA director George Tenet's statement about his ignorance of it. They may have thought Wilson an ideal candidate for this low-priority, fact-finding mission. But neither is an excuse for employing a spouse of an undercover employee if senior CIA officials thought Plame's clandestine work was valuable. The head of the Non-Proliferation Center ought to be fired for such sloppiness.
Read the whole thing.
POLITICS: The Leaker
(The site I'm linking to, by the way, is playing pretty fast and loose with their domain name).
October 22, 2003
Eugene Volokh complains that he got the following non-response from ESPN.com to his email about Gregg Easterbrook's firing:
From: ESPN Support
Thank you for contacting us.
We appreciate your interest, but that is currently not a feature on ESPN.com.
He then notes that other readers got the response I got:
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2003 08:54:13 -0700
Thank you for contacting us.
We appreciate your comments and are considering your opinion. We will
It appears that Volokh's problem was that he selected"Other" rather than "NFL" in the drop-down subject menu on ESPN's contact page.
Meanwhile, Ralph Wiley throws out the ceremonial first race card in ESPN.com's post-Limbaugh/post-Easterbrook era:
Dub's theory on baseball curses is that everybody sort of avoids what he calls the truth about them; teams that were -- or are -- historically dismissive and smugly cruel about its black folks -- those are the teams that stay cursed. . . . Maybe one day the Cubs and the Red Sox will get out of historical denial, ante up and kick in, pay off whatever their psychic debt is, and move on.
Um, a little history? Since the breaking of the color barrier, six all-white teams have won the World Series:
The Yanks waited nine years to integrate -- longer than the Cubs but not as long as the Cardinals (three World Championships since 1947), and when they finally brought in Elston Howard, Casey Stengel reportedly watched him in spring training and remarked, "they had to go and get me the only n_____r in the world who can't run." But that history's lost on Wiley and his race-is-everything meme. (Wiley also throws in a shot about the Marlins playing "non-sabermatrician style," but I'll leave that for another day).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:00 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Football | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 17, 2003
POLITICS: A Lie, But Not Clark's
Spinsanity does a good job of unraveling the controversy surrounding Wesley Clark's much-touted supposed claim that people close to the White House had called him on September 11 to urge him to falsely claim a connection between Saddam Hussein and the September 11 attacks. The conclusion: what Clark actually said amounts to a lot less than what people on the Left claimed he'd said; commentators like Paul Krugman and Michael Moore exaggerated Clark's statement, and commentators on the Right - in their zeal to disprove the claims of Krugman, Moore and others - unfairly claimed that Clark had made more sweeping and unfounded accusations than what he'd actually said. Here's The Krug's version of this particular Big Lie:
Literally before the dust had settled, Bush administration officials began trying to use 9/11 to justify an attack on Iraq. Gen. Wesley Clark says that he received calls on Sept. 11 from "people around the White House" urging him to link the attack to Saddam Hussein.
It appears that the truth is just that in the days after September 11, Clark talked to a guy at a pro-Israeli think tank in Canada who thought Saddam might be behind the attacks and urged Clark to raise the possibility. But the real fault here has to lie with the paranoids on the Left who used and abused Clark's statement to attack the Bush Administration. And people wonder why conservatives think Krugman can't be trusted?
October 16, 2003
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Baseball and Politics
Dan Drezner has a post on the connections between sports and political affiliations. I don't really buy it, but it's interesting reading. Maureen Dowd uses a Cubs lede to a typically incoherent column. And Jonah Goldberg rips on something I'd meant to get to: the ridiculous New York Times editorial (No longer web-accessible) effectively rooting for the Red Sox, which is practically a parody of the old line about a liberal being a man too fair-minded to take his own side in an argument. Leaving aside the Times' bias (i.e., the fact that the paper part owns the Red Sox), the sentiment is wholly one of, shall we say, guilt at siding with the winners.
It's not that I object to New Yorkers rooting for the Sox; like most Mets fans I know, I'm pulling for them mostly out of hatred for the Yankees. And I wouldn't object to the same sentiment from an out-of-town paper; I was pulling for the Cubs, after all. It's that the Times is supposed to be one of the Yankees' home town papers, and has certainly never been exclusively a paper of Mets partisans. But the Times won't take the side of its own readers.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:36 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 14, 2003
POP CULTURE/POLITICS: The Other Arnold
Gary Coleman turns out to be one of the California gubernatorial candidates who comes out of the recall looking better than he did before; Coleman has landed a gig as a political commentator for the All Comedy Radio Network. (Presumably, this is a different venture from Al Gore's rumored youth-targeted news network, although both sound like pale imitations of The Daily Show).
Personally, I thought Coleman's campaign was good-natured and appropriately tongue-in-cheek; he didn't take himself too seriously, but he gave due respect to the overall seriousness of the election. And it turns out that it got him a job. Not bad.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:01 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 11, 2003
POLITICS: Plame Links 10/11/03
Follow these to the latest news: Tom Maguire and Kevin Drum on an unsourced column by Nicholas Kristof of the NYT about the CIA angle and Valerie Plame's career, and TalkLeft with some speculation about White House emails mentioning the Wilsons.
One noteworthy point: if the disclosure of Plame's name made it easy to blow the cover of her CIA front company employer (Brewster-Jennings) by checking FEC records, and if the CIA knew her identity had possibly been compromised years before by Aldrich Ames, why was she making a $1,000 political contribution and listing Brewster-Jennings as her employer, knowing that this put a connection between her and the company on the internet for all to see?
October 10, 2003
POLITICS: The Latest on Valerie Plame
Newsweek and Instapundit pick up on an idea I first saw floated by a commenter at Calpundit about a week ago, and which seemed at the time to be immediately more credible than the alternative: that the "leak" story is much narrower than critics of the Bush Administration had been hoping, and in a way that is almost certain to disappoint Joseph Wilson and others who had hoped to see Karl Rove "frog-marched" out of the White House in irons. (Calpundit himself notes the new theory but is agnostic, and Mark Kleiman also backtracks a bit).
To summarize, if you haven't followed this saga, the critics suggested that the leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative must have been part of a coordinated campaign by the White House, based on three things: (1) the anonymous Washington Post source who leaked the existence of the leak investigation said that six other reporters were contacted, but only Bob Novak ran the story; (2) Wilson claims that a reporter told him "I just got off the phone with Karl Rove, who said your wife was fair game." and (3) Bush and everyone who works for him is evil.
Well, (3) is an article of faith for some folks, but it looks like there's just nothing but hope to support (1) and (2). On (1), the Newsweek story suggests that what really happened is that some senior administration official on the national security side -- perhaps someone like Lewis Libby who'd had meetings with Plame's colleagues and may have just assumed (stupidly) that she was a known Langley-based analyst (it appears this is consistent with her job duties over the last 5 or 6 years) without thinking about the fact that she could have previously been a covert operative -- blabbed her CIA status to Bob Novak as part of a broader theory of what was wrong with Wilson's Niger mission, and calls to any other reporters happened only after Rove's people read Novak's Monday morning column. This makes sense -- Rove seems more likely to have found out this type of detail from the newspapers, and I'm sure Novak is a must-read for Beltway insiders. As to (2), Newsweek suggests that the blunt formulation of "I just got off the phone with Karl Rove, who said your wife was fair game" was Chris Matthews talking (after Novak's column ran), and anyone who's watched Matthews' show can see him summarizing a conversation that way, where Rove says the real angle is that Wilson's wife picked him for the Niger assignment, and Matthews boils it down to "Karl Rove is after your wife."
Looks like this story could be a lot smaller than its proponents hoped. Which is not to say there's no scandal here, but rather one that doesn't reach very far. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Several of the sources I linked to above note that Atrios is pushing this item from the original Washington Post story as conclusive proof that Newsweek's story is a fraud:
Another journalist yesterday confirmed receiving a call from an administration official providing the same information about Wilson's wife before the Novak column appeared on July 14 in The Post and other newspapers.
The journalist, who asked not to be identified because of possible legal ramifications, said that the information was provided as part of an effort to discredit Wilson, but that the CIA information was not treated as especially sensitive. "The official I spoke with thought this was a part of Wilson's story that wasn't known and cast doubt on his whole mission," the person said, declining to identify the official he spoke with. "They thought Wilson was having a good ride and this was part of Wilson's story."
Assuming that the WaPo's unidentified source is credible, this supports the idea that Novak's source told essentially the same story to one other journalist. That doesn't undercut Novak's account of how the conversation unfolded, it doesn't necessarily implicate anybody but the people implicated by Novak, and it's consistent with the idea that Novak's leaker (who we'll call Source A) simply didn't realize that Plame was a former undercover operative whose indentity was apparently still classified.
Who's at fault here? Besides Source A, there's Source B (the guy who confirmed this to Novak by saying, ''Oh, you know about it'') and the idiots at CIA who not only didn't expend too much energy waving Novak off the story but then compounded the problem by confirming Plame's identity to other news outlets who called after seeing the Novak column. Clearly, Source A needs to be fired no matter who he is, and the CIA people should as well. (Source B might have an excuse here, for example if Source A is his boss or someone whose judgment on security issues he'd trusted, but it doesn't look so great for Source B at the moment either).
October 08, 2003
POLIITICS: Coalition Man
Let's review the Wesley Clark file for a second: Clark has no domestic policy experience, has only recently worked in the private sector, and has never held elective office. So, his credentials are strictly national security/foreign policy. Is he a more decisive leader than Bush? Hardly; his waffles on Gulf War II are already the stuff of legend. Would he have run the war itself better? Clark himself, in an April 10 London Times column, praised the Bush Administration's war-fighting strategy.
What does that leave? Well, the very core of Clark's message is his idea that we have neglected our alliances and need to work with a broader coalition. He's Coalition Man.
Which is why this latest story is so damning: Clark's campaign manager has quit, upset that Clark's DC-based political consultants have given insufficient respect to the grass-roots internet-based "Draft Clark" movement. Now, this story has a few angles, like the idea (noted here and here) that the Democrats generally are too beholden to inside-the-Beltway consultants, and the observation that Clark has forgotten that you can't conquer America by occupying Washington. But here's the key one: if Clark is selling himself to us as Coalition Man, what does it say about his qualifications that he can't even hold together a coalition of his own supporters for an entire month?
Mark Kleiman charges the White House with "an unspeakably sleazy trick that makes sense only as part of a cover-up" in the fact that documents that have been requested from White House employees by the Justice Department will be reviewed by the White House Counsel's office first and will be turned over to DOJ in two weeks. (Link via Calpundit; the same post is now up at Kleiman's new Movable Type blog).
My reaction: Kleiman and others complaining about the "two weeks" really have no clue about the work of laywers. For the White House Counsel's office to just turn over the file without reviewing everything would be irresponsible and tantamount to legal malpractice. I know we'd all love to see total, non-adversarial cooperation, but once you turn over the whole file to the Justice Department, you've got a heck of a time then arguing that the stuff is privileged when Larry Klayman and his ilk come knocking with FOIA requests (he could argue that you've waived any privileges by handing things over, and he'd have some legal support for that position). Two weeks to do a document production of this nature is not even close to a foot-dragging time frame.
I'm not suggesting the White House should take an aggressive position on privileges (or start inventing new ones, a la Bill Clinton). But any time you pull a big file of stuff, there may be things you shouldn't produce - attorney-client privileged communications, embarrassing and irrelevant personal stuff, and in this context, classified national security information that doesn't need to be spread around anymore than necessary. You do have to be careful if you don't want this one leak to open the door to more sensitive disclosures. Ask any lawyer who's represented a government agency, corporation, church, or other organizational client whether they would turn all this stuff over without anyone reviewing it.
Kleiman further claims that
This would be completely routine in a civil case. . . But in a criminal case it's unheard-of: investigators don't usually let the lawyer for one of the defendants take a look at all the documents submitted by the other potential defendants and key witnesses, even if that defendant happens to be the boss of all the others.
This is just not true, and Kleiman, a non-lawyer academic, obviously doesn't know what he's talking about. If a corporation gets a grand jury subpoena, and the company orders its employees to gather evidence, even if the investigation focuses on individuals rather than the company, you bet the company's lawyer will look at the documents. They are, after all, the company's own records. As Kleiman conveniently forgets -- and as Bill Clinton was wont to forget -- the White House counsel represents the institution of the presidency, not the president personally, and the people at issue here are employed by the executive branch. (I assume that the evidence being gathered here is people's work-related records, pursuant to requests made to the White House).
I haven't really gone into the whole Plame thing very far yet, in part because of the baseball playoffs and in part because there's only so much new I would have to add. But this particular gripe is just way overblown and a sign that guys like Kleiman are losing their grip on reality.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Conrad from The Gweilo Diaries agrees with me. And Kleiman backtracks and tries to pretend that he didn't call this . . . well, "an unspeakably sleazy trick that makes sense only as part of a cover-up."
October 05, 2003
POLITICS: The Barbarian
Andrew Sullivan, I think, gets it precisely right in measuring the distinctions between the allegations against Arnold Schwarzenegger and those against Bill Clinton, particularly the fact that Clinton's conduct involved the abuse of public office to perpetuate and cover up his misbehavior.
Now, to say that a man is not as unfit for public office as Bill Clinton is to damn him with faint praise indeed, and this really doesn't help Arnold's case on the merits. But it does point out that anyone who defended Clinton has no standing to get upset when similar and lesser charges are made against a Republican. As James Taranto pointed out, this is especially the case for MoveOn.org, a group whose sole founding principle is the idea that a politician's sexual advances, welcome or otherwise -- or anything else he may do to conceal them -- are no grounds to deny him public office.
What does this all say about Republicans? Well, most of us were, at a minimum, unwilling to accept the Democrats' idea -- which was made the basis of several 1992 Senate campaigns (notably in Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Washington) -- that it is scandalous for anyone to disbelieve any allegation of sexual harrassment against a public official, or even to question such allegations. Suffice it to say, that idea didn't get much of a hearing from its former proponents in the 1990s. Frankly, I was never really convinced by Paula Jones' story, although I thought that the people who brought us "they just don't get it" deserved to reap what they had sown by the creation of that and other autopilot, judgment-free scandal machines (the late and unlamented independent counsel statute was another). And once the courts got involved, the merits of the original case got to be rather secondary . . . but that's another post.
Are we hypocrites? The real truth is, most of Clinton's harshest critics are either supporting McClintock or were already unhappy with Arnold but backing him in the absence of better alternatives. (I'll come right out and say here what I'm sure a lot of social conservatives are thinking about Arnold, as they thought about Bob Packwood as well: the man's social liberalism may in part be driven by a sense that he couldn't take the heat for being, say, pro-life, because his behavior towards women would make him vulnerable to attacks, and he needed a credential that would look "pro-women" to his critics. The wages of sin are paid by the innocent.)
Is Arnold unfit to be president? Quite likely yes. The presidency is a position of special trust, and things that wouldn't disqualify a man from a lesser office are bigger question marks when the White House is involved. We tolerate things in our governors and legislators, however, that we wouldn't accept from the president.
Is Arnold unfit to be governor? He's hardly the guy I'd choose first, but I'd have to say, no, not compared to the alternatives. Remember, the whole point of the recall is that the ordinary political process in California has broken down so badly in dealing with the state budget, the energy crisis and the banes of runaway litigation and regulation that it's become necessary to hold open auditions for the job. And we have seen allegations (admittedly, less well-sourced than those aimed at Arnold) of even worse behavior by Gray Davis even on top of the man's comprehensive catalog of other flaws. Bustamante? Let's face the bottom line: Bustamante's basically just more of the same thing that got California into this mess. If you're a California voter who's happy with the status quo, by all means, go vote for him.
In a better world, I wouldn't want Arnold as my governor. But if I lived in California, I'd probably pull the lever for him on the outside, desperate hope that maybe he could do something, anything to change the morass that the state's government has sunk into. Barbarian, or no barbarian.
POLITICS: The Ashcroft Solution, Part Two
October 04, 2003
POLITICS: El Rushbo
ScrappleFace nails the Limbaugh drug allegations but good: "When I say I do this show with half my brain tied behind my back, I'm not kidding."
October 02, 2003
POLITICS: Losing the Plame Game
Now, the current controversy is not something you can gloss over by changing the subject. But it's symptomatic of a larger political problem: the Administration and the GOP haven't done one single thing since Bush's aircraft carrier speech in May to seize the newsmaking agenda or advance conservative policies. Every single thing that's happened since the beginning of May has been either (1) managing ongoing initiatives, (2) doing stuff behind the scenes, or (3) damage control. When that happens, you get to be a big, slow target for potshots; any idiot can say "the implementation of the policy isn't working," usually on the basis of an isolated anecdote, and the burden shifts to you to explain things in context, which is boring and difficult and not a story the media wants to tell. And when you lose the initiative and go to full-time siege-mentality mode, that's when people make mistakes and start worrying more about shooting messengers than about how to steal a march, grab a headline and move the chains.
It's all about managing the initiative. It's key in politics, it's key in sports (think of shortening your stroke with an 0-2 count), it's key in litigation. Right now, we've got the White House, narrow majorities in both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, but we don't have the initiative (the one exception to this is what is usually the GOP's weakest link, California electoral politics). The Plame controversy may well blow over if a culprit is swiftly identified, in stark contrast to Clinton-era controversies where administration stonewalling dragged everything out far beyond its natural lifespan. But even if that happens, unless the Bush Administration does something to start rolling out new ideas of its own, the Right will be forced back on the defensive again very quickly.
POLITICS: The Ashcroft Solution
Can Bob Novak and other journalists be subpoenaed to reveal who leaked Valerie Plame's name to them? (The question assumes that there were leaks to other journalists besides Novak, but it still seems at least equally likely that the much-touted leaks to "six other journalists" were people who got calls from folks in the White House political operation after Novak's column appeared in the papers, and those would hardly count as "leaks" at all). Eugene Volokh notes some of the obstacles presented by the Justice Department's internal guidelines on subpoenas to reporters.
POLITICS: Sound and Fury
The latest White House press briefing by Scott McClellan is really a masterpiece of the art of nothing-saying. A sample:
Read More »
Terry, there is a process in place that was followed. The CIA has a process to look at classified information if it is leaked, and they followed a process and that process has moved forward. And the Department of Justice is looking into it. I don't know the specific time period, but the process was followed, and the President expects the process to be followed, and that process was followed, and that what the President expects, because leaking classified information is a very serious matter.
Q That's what I'm asking about. He said that -- I want to know what he's done about it. This story broke in July. Did he know in July that an undercover CIA official had been outed and that the person who outed that undercover CIA official attributed it to senior administration officials?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think there -- no, I understand what you're saying. But I think there are certain assumptions you're still making in your remarks. The Department of Justice is looking into this to determine what you're saying about the potential leak of classified information concerning an undercover CIA agent. And there have been some news reports that I saw back to that period, some that have been cited recently, talking about how some of this information may have been well-known within the D.C. community.
Q Fair enough. But when did the President know it?
MR. McCLELLAN: But, see, that's what I just told you, Terry. The process is in place, and it followed that process. I don't know, in answer to your first part of your question. But the President expects the process to be followed for something like this, and it was. The CIA followed the process and information has been provided to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice is looking into it. But, remember, back in July, when this issue came up and I was asked about it, it was an anonymous source in the newspaper. There are plenty of anonymous sources in news reports on a daily basis, and we could spend all our time trying to track down the information from those anonymous sources. But we want to be able to focus on the people's business --
Q Right. But you were asked about it in July --
MR. McCLELLAN: And I made it very clear back there in July, too, that there was no information beyond the media reports with anonymous sources to suggest any White House involvement. But the process was followed, and that's what's important. The President believes it's important that the process was followed, because the President believes the leak of -- the leaking of classified information is a very serious matter.
Q Fair enough. If you get a chance, if you could establish for us when it came to the President's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, that was back in July and I --
Q Is that not knowable? That's knowable, right? It's checkable?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- just don't know. I looked into it and I just don't know.
Q Do you know if anyone has yet come forward to offer any information to the Department of Justice about this?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you need to talk to the Department of Justice about that. They're the ones who are doing this investigation and they would be the appropriate ones to ask that question.
Q Would you know? Would you know? Are you trying to stay away from it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any reason -- I don't have any reason to. That's the Department of Justice, that's their role, and the criminal division over there.
Q Scott, in the past, the Justice Department has used polygraph examinations in sensitive leak investigations. The President has said he expects full cooperation. If I work at the White House and down the road in this investigation the Justice Department came to me and said, we want you to submit to a polygraph investigation, the President would expect the answer to be?
MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate the hypothetical, but that is a hypothetical and that is not where the process is. The process is that the Justice Department has asked the White House to preserve any and all material related to the specific information they put in their letter. And that's --
Q Well, let's set that specific hypothetical aside. If an FBI agent or the Justice -- somebody on the Justice Department team made a request of a White House official that is consistent with past practices in a similar investigation, would the President expect someone on his staff to comply with that request?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has directed the White House to cooperate fully, that message was sent as soon as he learned of the investigation. He made it clear to White House Counsel, and White House Counsel made it clear to senior staff the other day -- that was the President -- at the President's direction. We will cooperate fully with the investigation and make sure that we preserve the integrity of the investigation. So that's where things are right now.
Q Ambassador Wilson says that he was told by a reporter that Karl Rove said, "Wilson's wife is fair game." I know you've spoken with Karl, does he deny that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Does he deny that he ever used those words, "Wilson's wife is fair game"?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the issue here, and this came up earlier, the issue here is whether or not someone leaked classified information. That is a serious matter and it should be pursued to the fullest. I have seen comments from Mr. Wilson. And I have seen him back away from those comments later. It seems to be, he said one thing previously about Karl Rove, and then he backed away from it. And now he's saying other things. There's a changing of the issue here all of a sudden. The issue here is did someone leak classified information, and, if so, who was that person, and then the appropriate action should be taken.
Q You have said previously from the podium that these types of accusations against Karl are "ridiculous."
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q On the very line that Ambassador Wilson says that Karl used, "Wilson's wife is fair game," is that wrong?
MR. McCLELLAN: I've just said, he has said a lot of things and then backed away from what --
Q Scott, I want to know --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and then backed away from what he said. So I think part of your role is to do some further questioning there.
Q I'm asking you, that's why we're asking, to make sure -- I mean, we don't want to continue to report something that's inaccurate.
MR. McCLELLAN: If Mr. Wilson -- well, he made some comments earlier and then he backed away from them, and those comments were reported previously.
Q Does Karl deny that he said that?
MR. McCLELLAN: What were the words again?
Q "Wilson's wife is fair game."
MR. McCLELLAN: And who did he say it to?
Q To a reporter that then repeated it to Wilson.
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this is -- the issue here -- what is the issue here? Did someone leak classified information? Is that the issue?
Q It could be about changing the tone, too.
MR. McCLELLAN: All of a sudden now, we're trying to change the topic in this room.
Q There's a legal issue, there's an ethical issue, too. Going after a man's wife is unethical.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me make it very clear. As I said previously, he was not involved, and that allegation is not true in terms of leaking classified information, nor would he condone it. So let me be very clear. But I'm not going to -- we're not going to go down every single allegation that someone makes. That's just -- we can do that all day long. Let's stay focused on what the issue is here.
Q You said the issue here was whether someone leaked classified information. As I understand the applicable laws here, isn't the real issue whether someone knowingly leaked classified information?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, yes, you may -- I may stand corrected on that, you'll have to look at the law. I'm not going to play a lawyer from here. But the leaking of -- I'll go back to what I have said and what the President has said, and what he has always said, that the leaking of classified information is a serious matter and it should be pursued to the fullest extent. And the Department of Justice is doing that now.
« Close It
POLITICS: Recall Sunset
You know, when they're writing your obituary a week before the election and scarcely two weeks after polls had you as the front-runner, things aren't going too well. But, of course, to Democrats the name of the game is still what they can do after the votes are cast to change the result.
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: More McNabb
While I tend to agree with my co-blogger The Mad Hibernian that some of the outrage at Rush Limbaugh over his comments on Donovan McNabb is rather artificial (Howard Cosell got away with worse), the fact is that this was a really idiotic thing for Rush to say, and one that will probably doom his second career as a sportscaster. Let's put this in perspective: Rush has a new job. He comes with a reputation. Ex-ballplayers have to prove to the audience that they're not just dumb, inarticulate jocks. Dennis Miller had to prove that there was a place for a comedian in the Monday Night Football booth. The one thing Rush has to prove is that he can keep his politics out of his football commentary. Responding to questions about the NFL's silly minority-hiring mandates is one thing; the network asked him to give his take on that controversial subject.
If Terry Bradshaw or John Madden said Donovan McNabb was overrated in part because of his race, it wouldn't be news. Bill Simmons, last Friday:
I can't imagine any QB in the league playing worse than McNabb did two weeks ago. Is he even that good? It's like the Ben Affleck thing -- everyone keeps telling me that Ben Affleck is a major movie star, enough times that you even start believing it ... but check out his filmography on IMDB.com some time. Not exactly a bevy of hits. Same goes for McNabb. For a few years, he was a winning QB on a very good football team. Doesn't make him a superstar.
But a lot of people will now just say, "Limbaugh. We knew he was a bigot." And that doesn't help Rush's ability to get people to hear his political message, either.
UPDATE: I seem to be behind the news cycle a bit on Limbaugh - more on the broader story later.
October 01, 2003
POLITICS: Novak Speaks Again
Bob Novak's column this morning is about . . . well, about Bob Novak:
To protect my own integrity and credibility, I would like to stress three points. First, I did not receive a planned leak. Second, the CIA never warned me that the disclosure of Wilson's wife working at the agency would endanger her or anybody else. Third, it was not much of a secret.
* * *
During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he said: ''Oh, you know about it.'' The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.
If you're keeping score at home, Novak is dropping some minor hints on who the leakers were . . .
POLITICS/WAR: More from the Plame Wars
I don't have the ambition to do a big post on this yet -- but Sparkey over at Sgt. Stryker noted something vurrrry interesting: Joseph Wilson is employed by the Middle East Institute, a think tank funded by my friend and yours, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (He's also apparently an advisor to a lobbying firm for the Turkish government).
Now, let's assume for the sake of argument that Valerie Plame really was a covert operative -- or even an analyst with access to sensitive information and responsibility for interpreting it -- working on sensitive WMD intelligence issues. Am I the only one who finds it scary that, at the very same time, her husband is on the payroll of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is (to put it mildly) at least an arguably unfriendly government? At the risk of sounding like Tailgunner Joe here, how many other people on the CIA's Middle East/terrorism/WMD beat are financially supported by the Wahabbis or other hostile/fanatical foreign powers? And if there isn't a law against this, shouldn't there be?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:37 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 26, 2003
POLITICS: Crazy From the Heat
France revises the death toll from August's heat wave upward to 14,000. The methodology (counting as heat-related any number of deaths beyond the deaths in the same period the prior year) still seems a bit flimsy to me, but a spike of a few hundred over prior periods could be chance; a spike of 14,000 means that probably something over 10,000 is the real number actually caused by the heat.
This is a Bangladesh-size humanitarian disaster. Maybe we can get a benefit concert going to buy air conditioners for elderly Frenchpersons. Call it Cool-Aid.
September 25, 2003
POLITICS: "[I]ntegrity and character issues"
Yesterday's big news was retired Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Hugh Shelton's statement at a college forum hinting at why he wouldn't support his former colleague Wesley Clark for president:
"I've known Wes for a long time. I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote."
(Emphasis added). Now, this is a little too tantalizing, and while General Shelton may not have expected the Drudge Report to circulate his comments nationally, he should have known this could be newsworthy. He can't stop at this statement, because he's left us with two possibilities:
1. Something in Clark's record of service as Supreme Commander of NATO - beyond what we already know - reflects poorly on his "integrity and character" and resulted in his unceremonious termination from that post. If this is the case, given that Clark now seeks the most powerful job on earth on the basis of a resume that is painfully thin on conduct that has been subjected to public scrutiny and at a time of great danger for the nation, Shelton's got an absolute responsibility to the public to tell us the whole story. (I should add that, if there's something unsavory or just unflattering here, some people who have been falling over themselves to line up behind Clark are going to have some mighty big egg on their faces, especially people from the Clinton Administration who'd be in a position to know such a thing).
2. Shelton's vague reference is just a value judgment on what we already know about Clark's sometimes bristly relationship (typical of many civilian-military relationships) with the political branches or with other generals, in which case Shelton's statement has the effect of unfairly smearing Clark's reputation by implying something darker. I've made this point before about publicly floated rumors about Tom Cruise, Barry Bonds and Mike Piazza: don't imply something if you're not willing to come right out and say it, and don't do either if you don't have some evidence to back it up.
On another note, Shelton also related a story that reflects very, very badly on an unnamed (probably Republican, I'm guessing) member of Congress:
Three days after Shelton took office as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his commitment to the integrity of the military was tested. When U.S. planes in the Iraq no-fly zone were attacked, a member of Congress suggested that perhaps "we" could fly a U-2 spy plane so low over Iraq that it could easily get hit. Then we'd have a reason "to kick Saddam out of Iraq." After Shelton responded that he would order that "just as soon as you are qualified to fly (it)," he was not asked again to compromise his office.
"Sometimes people in a position of power lose perspective on right and wrong," Shelton said.
You could say that.
September 23, 2003
POLITICS: Friendly Fire
Josh Marshall has noted the unsavory tendency of Howard Dean backers to tear into fellow Democrats who aren't Clean for Dean, or whatever. Kevin Drum, reviewing Dean's reaction to the Wesley Clark boomlet, picks up the same theme, and frets that Dean himself is showing signs of confusing himself with the greater good of the Democratic Party.
I've been saying this for a while now: Dean's campaign and personality have so much in common with John McCain's, that the real test of whether he's got what it takes to win the nomination will be his ability to avoid McCain's fatal mistake, which was turning his guns away from the opposing party and on to his own party's troops. Dean's followers have been escalating the friendly fire already, but things will unravel for Dean very badly if he responds to the Clark phenomenon by opening a second front against the Clintonites who control the party machinery and who have been none-too-subtly pushing Clark precisely as an alternative to Dean.
POLITICS/BASEBALL: This Means War
The Command Post reports that John Kerry has accused Howard Dean of being - gasp! - a fan of the Hated Yankees. Dean, of course, is a transplanted New Yorker, and that wouldn't go over well in New Hampshire. Dean is denying this scurrilous charge.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:28 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 22, 2003
POLITICS/POP CULTURE: Just Plain Chicks
The Dixie Chicks have essentially divorced country music. This was an inevitable development; there's no art form quite like country music in terms of the fans' demand for an emotional, one-of-us connection with the artists. The Chicks may have impaired that bond with Natalie Maines' ill-chosen anti-Bush and anti-Texas remarks, but if they'd left it at that, it would have been all. But once the Chicks started portraying themselves as First Amendment martyrs (probably the key moment was the nude magazine cover), they basically set themselves into a melodrama with their own fans cast as the villains. You'll win a lot of new friends in Hollywood that way, but you can never again go back to the country crowd once you've sided with people like Bob Herbert (who called country music fans "flag-waving yahoos").
How long until the "Dixie" is dropped from the band's name?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:55 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Reagan In His Own Hand - Again
Looks like another collection of Reagan's writings is about to be published, this time his letters.
POLITICS: War of the Rhodes
Now, I've known only two Rhodes Scholars in my time (at least that I can think of offhand), and neither particularly well, but doesn't Andrew Sullivan appear to be overgeneralizing a wee bit, in his haste to attack Wesley Clark, when he says that "[a]lmost to a man and woman, they [Rhodes Scholars] are mega-losers, curriculum-vitae fetishists, with huge ambition and no concept of what to do with it."
September 19, 2003
POLITICS: Stryker on Clark
About the only thing worth examining on Wesley Clark's resume -- at least as far as his qualifications for high executive leadership are concerned -- is his leadership of the Kosovo war. For this reason, attention has focused on the charge that Clark risked starting a war with the Russians with aggressive operations at Pristina Airport until cooler heads prevailed. The charge is deeply ironic, since it casts Clark as precisely the hot-headed, unilateral, overly aggressive cowboy that his supporters love to caricature George W. Bush as being.
Sergeant Stryker has taken an enlightening closer look at this incident, and while there remains fair grounds for dispute over Clark's judgment, it's clear that he showed good instincts -- not backing down from aggression just to keep the allies happy -- and that his reaction was one of the reasonable options. Where you ultimately come out on the proper resolution of this particular crisis depends in large part on what you think of the whole murky Kosovo operation, a subject that I admit I paid little attention to at the time and on which I never bothered to form a strong opinion.
Andrew Sullivan, by contrast, has a much more damning take on Clark's 2002 article in the Washington Monthly, in which he lauds the value of running foreign policy by committee.
POLITICS: One Too Many
Ted Kennedy has gone off the deep end with a recent interview in which he bellowed about the Iraq War that
There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud, . . . [Referring to costs of the war, Kennedy added that m]y belief is this money is being shuffled all around to these political leaders in all parts of the world, bribing them to send in troops . . .
Yup, Ted K, he knows his frauds. Hey, wasn't Vietnam made up in Hyannisport? Just asking . . . . the Democrats keep raising the stakes with all this vitriol, and maybe they need to; people don't generally vote out the incumbent if they aren't mad at him. But they seem hell-bent on alienating anybody who isn't steaming mad at the president, and that is how they could wind up with an Alf Landon-sized disaster.
POLITICS: The Outsider
I remember how Reagan almost never used the word “Democrat” when criticizing his opponents. I always assumed that this was because he wanted every possible Democrat to vote for him, and he figured that blasting the party by name would make its members defensive and less likely to support him. So he always said things like “there are those who would undermine our security…” or “my opponents say…”
POLITICS: Scent of Failure
Man, you can just smell the desperation in the comments by Democrats lining up to support Wesley Clark for president:
It's very bad for me as a Democrat to be tagged as somebody who doesn't support the military," said Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind. "He takes that issue back for us." Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a decorated veteran of the Korean War who is backing Clark, said the former NATO supreme commander "is Teflon to the question of being a patriot." Democrats "need someone who'll stand up with Bush and doesn't have to say, 'I'm as patriotic as you are, now let's debate the issues,'" Rangel said.
Translation: "we don't care if he can win, at least he won't make us look like America-hating, stuck-in-the-Sixties, tie-dye and Birkenstock-wearing peacenik wusses in the process." Of course, it's a ridiculous canard that Republicans question the patriotism of anyone with dangerously bad judgment in foreign policy, but then a good chunk of Howard Dean's support comes from people who really are unpatriotic, in the sense that they can't or won't agree with James Lileks' simple mantra about Iraq: I hope we win.
Tennessee Rep. John Tanner, a member of the Blue Dog coalition, said many in the group like Clark's emphasis on fiscal discipline as well as his military background. Tanner said Clark brings a perspective that needs to be heard in the presidential race. When asked if he would support Clark, Tanner said he already pledged to support Gephardt early in the race.
Translation: there's nobody in the race like that now.
South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, whose support is being sought by several presidential candidates, said Clark called him Tuesday night to let him know he was entering the race. Clyburn said he will consider endorsing Clark.
"I think having Wesley Clark demonstrates very forcefully that we are soldiers, we are patriots, we are lovers of this country," Clyburn said.
Translation: you couldn't get that from the other Democrats in the race. Note that Clyburn all but comes out and says that Clark is really just there to cast a warm protective glow of military experience around a party that has been more than a little cool towards the military.
[Long Island Democrat Steve] Israel said no other candidate in the race can confront Bush so effectively on national security.
"When the president is debating Wesley Clark and has to call him 'General,' it becomes highly problematic for the president," Israel said.
In other words, nobody else even causes a ripple in the president's support on national security. Of course, what's more relevant experience: being a general or being the Commander-in-Chief?
The problem for the Democrats is the down-ticket issue: if Bob Graham and John Breaux don't run for re-election, the Dems could wind up defending open Senate seats in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana, plus an incumbent in Arkansas. Who wants to be a "Howard Dean Democrat" in those races?
Finally, the quote of the week, from Mickey Kaus, on the other celebrated military veteran in the race:
Watching [John] Kerry thrash, flip-flop, and nuance his way to humiliating primary defeat will be one of the few pleasures of the upcoming presidential campaign.
There hasn't been a train wreck that was this much fun to watch since Mark Green.
September 18, 2003
POLITICS: The Dean Record, Part 2: Spending
Continuing from yesterday:
This is the part of Dean's record that is the subject of the most contested talking points on each side. Dean's backers, eager to show that he is really more fiscally conservative than President Bush (I'll leave the issue of when the Democrats became the green eyeshade party for another day), love to point out that he repeatedly balanced Vermont's budget and even ran surpluses, despite the fact that Vermont (unlike most states) does not have a constitutional requirement of a balanced budget.
At first glance, it's a good record. McClaughry grouses that some of this was smoke and mirrors:
On several occasions during those years he was forced to make some spending cuts. In his earlier years, he favored directing his department heads to reduce their spending. In later years, he became adept at fund raiding and cost shifting. On the former point, Jack Hoffman, the longtime liberal commentator for the Vermont Press Bureau, observed in 2002 that "Dean's proposal to squeeze the education fund looks less like an exercise of fiscal restraint and more like an old fashioned raid on the one account that's still healthy."
This, to me, sounds like par for the course for state governors; Al Gore made essentially the same charge about Bush's budget-balancing record in Texas. Let's accept, for now, the idea that Dean kept a close eye on discretionary spending. There are still two caveats here.
First, of course, there are a variety of reasons why balancing the Vermont budget in the 1990s is a lot easier than balancing the federal budget today. Vermont has just over 600,000 inhabitants, a fact I still find shocking; New York City has a third of that in a single police precinct, and Texas has 21 million people. Like the Scandanavian countries it chooses as a model, Vermont is heavily rural (Dean has never had to contend with the problems of a major city), almost absurdly ethnically homogenous (96.8% white and just a third of the national average speaks a language other than English at home), which reduces a number of the social frictions that create government headaches, and of course, Vermont has no defense budget. You could institute Platonically ideal policies for Vermont that still wouldn't work at the national level. The stock market boom of the 1990s made everyone's job easier. Also, as Kevin Drum noted the other day, it's easier to balance your budget when your state is a net recipient of federal tax payments, as is Vermont (again, unlike, say, Texas).
Second, and far more significantly, while it's true that the GOP has not been diligent about policing spending, the real gripe conservatives have with the Democrats is that their policy proscriptions invariably involve creating big entitlement programs that, once set in motion, can never be cut or eliminated. As Steven Moore notes, that's exactly what Dean seems to have done in Vermont, creating:
a state-funded universal health care system (which as president he would take nationwide), government-subsidized child care (even for the rich), . . . a mega-generous prescription drug benefit for seniors with incomes up to four times the poverty level, . . . and taxpayer-funded campaigns.
The NR piece I noted yesterday contended that Vermont's new Republican governor had found it necessary already to trim the sails of Dean's healthcare plan to keep the budget in balance. And, as with taxes, that is the question voters have to ask themselves about Dean: what does he propose to do? The answer, of course -- as I'm sure we'll discuss in more detail as the campaign goes on -- is still more big entitlement programs.
Dean kept the budget of a tiny state in balance during boom years. That's not nothing, but it bears about as much resemblance to balancing the federal budget as does balancing your checkbook.
September 17, 2003
POLITICS: Savoir Faire Eez Everywhere
If you turn on CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN right now, you'll see that Wesley Clark is being interviewed on all four at the same time.
POLITICS: The Dean Record, Part 1: Taxes
The Wall Street Journal ran an article some weeks ago by John McClaughry, a conservative former Vermont state senator who twice ran very unsuccessfully for governor against Howard Dean (in 1992 and 1994; the first time, Dean won 202,115 to 62,805), criticizing Dean's record as governor. The National Review ran a big piece a few months back that was largely sourced from McClaughry, and a Google search reveals him as probably the main critic of Dean's Vermont record. There's nothing wrong with that -- McCalughry is obviously the most prominent of the state's few conservatives -- but there's a danger in letting all the anti-Dean memes arise from one man's point of view.
So, what's McClaughry's line? I haven't gone back to Vermont sources myself; I'm just evaluating what McClaughry, the NR piece and some the major pro-Dean articles (including a surprisingly favorable review from supply-side firebrand Stephen Moore) have cited as Dean's major pros and cons. Let's start with:
1. Taxes. Dean apparently never raised income taxes in his years as Vermont governor, and even managed an across-the-board 4% cut in 1999. That's a major plus, one that shows a guy willing to work outside his party's usual rut and who isn't enamored of high progressive tax rates simply for their own sake. (The fact that Dean may have done this with one eye on his political future is not a knock on him; a Democrat who at least thinks that cutting taxes is in his political best interests is halfway there). McClaughry blasts Dean for using the income tax cuts as cover to hike other, less visible taxes:
During his last eight years Mr. Dean signed into law increases in the sales and use, rooms, meals, liquor, cigarette, and electrical energy taxes. In 1997 he raised the corporate, telecommunications, bank franchise, and gasoline taxes. Dwarfing all of these was his approval of a state education finance "reform" built on a new 1.1% state real property tax.
Moore, who pulls no punches even in attacking Bush on tax and spending issues, is less charitable:
This is the second-highest taxing-and-spending state in the country, with collections about $600 per person above the national average . . . At one time or another, Dean raised just about every tax he could get his hands on. During his 12 years as governor, he upped the corporate income tax rate by 1.5 percentage points, the sales tax by 1 percentage point, the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack, and the gas tax by 5 cents a gallon. Sure he balanced the budget every year--by digging deeper into Vermonters' wallets.
This is actually a common gripe raised at tax-cutting Republican governors, but it's a fair criticism. McClaughry doesn't give us perspective on the relative sizes of the various tax hikes and cuts.
In the end, though, none of this really matters, because whatever credit Dean deserves for his state record on taxes, he's made a crystal-clear promise to repeal every jot and tittle of Bush's tax rate cuts, and I take him at his word on that promise. Dean may be hoping that he can use his mixed record on taxes in Vermont to convince the public that because he's a reasonable guy, his belief that we need to jack taxes back up to pre-2001 levels should be taken seriously. But then, Dean's campaign persona comes off as a lot less sober and reasonable than Walter Mondale's, and look where the tax hike pledge got Mondale (I haven't seen polling on the issue lately, but I suspect that the Bush tax cuts mostly remain popular and that most people don't favor repealing the whole thing). Raising taxes isn't just bad policy, it's bad politics as well.
BLOG/POLITICS: Starting Back Up
OK, I've been off the blogging routine a bit lately. Yesterday I finished a gigantic time suck, as we wrapped up refinancing our mortgage, so that's out of the way.
Of course, it's also been a depressing time to write. The Mets have long since been down the crapper, their one exciting young player is done for the season, and the Hated Yankees are leaving the Red Sox in the dust again. And, of course, the Bush Administration went through its usual pre-Labor Day snooze (a trend dating back to the 2000 campaign); while I don't think things are going that badly overall, it's hard to deny that conservatism and the Bush Administration have been playing nothing but defense all summer, with no major initiatives out there -- on the domestic or foreign policy fronts that promise to do anything but consolidate recent gains.
But the fray needs to be rejoined, so I hope to be starting to get back on schedule soon.
September 12, 2003
POLITICS/POP CULTURE: O'Rourke
Interview with the indispensable P.J. O'Rourke over at the Onion, including a classic O'Rourke story that combines Animal House with stock options and some well-earned contempt for Rick Reilly. (Link via The American Scene). On the difference between himself and Hunter Thompson:
His political stuff is just wonderful, but basically nothing happens. It's all about his reaction to a situation. And my stuff is much more externally driven. He brings a lunatic genius to ordinary events, and I bring an ordinary sensibility to lunatic events.
On the plague of lawyers:
I buy a tractor two years ago, and four-fifths of the tractor manual is about not tipping over, not raising the bucket high enough to hit high-tension wire... not killing yourself, basically. The tractor itself is covered with stickers: Don't put your hand in here. Don't put your d___ in there. And in that manual, I found out—and it cost me a thousand dollars—that when the tractor is new, 10 hours into use of the tractor, you have to re-torque the lug nuts. If you don't, you will oval the holes. This is buried between the moron warnings. I never found it. I take the tractor in for its regular servicing, and they say my wheels are gone. A thousand dollars worth of wheels have to be replaced because I didn't re-torque after 10 hours. How am I supposed to know that? "It's in the manual." You f___ing read that manual! You go through 40 pages of how not to tip over!
And some good advice for bloggers and other creatures:
O: Do you ever have a crisis of confidence when you're writing, where you say, "Man, I don't know if I'm right about this?"
PO: If I do, I say so. That's the only way out of that. If there are three words that need to be used more in American journalism, commentary, politics, personal life... it's the magic words "I don't know." I mean, there are certain basic principles... There are certain things that I feel pretty confident about. But when I get in deep water, I prefer to announce that I'm in over my head.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:30 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Pop Culture | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Ahscroft 1, Franken 0
Eugene Volokh has an amusing story with links to a groveling apology Al Franken had to issue to John Ashcroft after sending him a bogus survey mocking the idea of waiting for marriage to have sex. Franken's contempt and incomprehension at the concept and anyone who would practice it is, unfortunately, all too typical of the political Left.
September 08, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: Hall of Mirrors
The president's speech last night contained few surprises. Bush said what he needed to say:
Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front. Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there -- and there they must be defeated. This will take time and require sacrifice. Yet we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom and to make our own nation more secure.
All the key concepts in what has been called the neoconservative battle plan were on full display: the idea that the struggle against terrorism is a single, multi-front war; the idea that the fight in Iraq is part of "a systematic campaign against terrorism" that began after September 11; the idea that "[t]he Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations . . . Everywhere that freedom takes hold, terror will retreat"; the analogy to the rebuilding of Germany and Japan after World War II; and the repeated references to democracy as the goal of our rebuilding in Iraq.
Then the president finishes up, and (on NBC, where I was watching this), Joe Biden gets on, says he likes the speech but characterizes it as a 180 degree reversal from what "the neoconservatives," who he identifies as "Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz" have been telling Bush. Huh? I mean, Biden does identify some conflicts: he notes that some of the difficulties and troop requirements had been prefigured by hearings held by Richard Lugar and Biden before the war, as opposed to some administration sources. But the core message here is the "neocon" strategy 101.
As for the request for UN help . . . as I noted, I'm not a fan of letting the UN decide anything here, but as more attentive commentators have noted, Bush is just asking for UN auspices to add additional troops from other nations that would remain under US/UK command. Which is what the UN was supposed to be about anyway. This isn't new ground . . . the whole idea of the UN was that it was supposed to be more effective than the League of Nations in stopping aggressive tyrannies, in part because it would abandon the League's pretenses at imposing rules on the great powers (which were a big reason why the US refused to join in 1919) and would instead serve primarily as a vehicle for concerted action. In short, the UN was established with the intent of eliminating barriers to collective action, so long as such action didn't infringe on the interests of any of the permanent members of the Security Council.
Thus, the idea that it is the UN's role to arbitrate the international legitimacy of war with Iraq was always misguided, and remains so now; the only proper question for the UN is whether it is in the interests of enough members of the international community to justify using the UN as a vehicle to organize a division to participate in rebuilding Iraq. Period.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:59 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 07, 2003
POLITICS: Double or Nothing
The GOP's hopes of picking up Senate seats to solidify the majority got brighter today when John Edwards announced that he would not seek re-election so he could focus on his campaign for the presidency, notwithstanding his complete failure to get any traction in polls in the first three primary states (including neighboring South Carolina). Of course, Edwards was far from a sure thing to get re-elected anyway, but the Republicans now have to be favored to pick this one up.
September 05, 2003
POLITICS: Evidence of Bias
Another item from last week that I meant to comment on at the time -- an entry from CalPundit, linking to South Knox Bubba, on the charge that a corporation fought efforts to rename the street its headquarters is on after Martin Luther King. Kevin Drum's sarcastic comment:
STILL SOME WORK TO DO....Racism? A thing of the past. And everybody loves Martin Luther King these days, right?
Apparently not quite everybody.
This is a typical entry in left/liberal bloggers' campaign to keep alive the charge of racism (although in fairness to Kevin Drum, he at least has had a healthy skepticism about racial preferences). But it's one heck of a weak example; if you scan the comments at the two sites, you'll see among other things that this happened in 1981.
But there's a larger point at work: if stuff like this is your Smoking Gun proving the continuing existence of Racism in America -- given that it happened 22 years ago, there are other not-entirely-racist reasons why one might do this, and that nobody was personally affected by this decision -- it might well be that you are grasping at straws. I don't think that anybody really believes that racism is dead and gone; stories like the now-infamous whites-only prom in a small town in rural Georgia are reminders that it is not. But it's a totally false choice to make one side bear the burden of proving that it is. The fact is, it is the Left that makes the argument for governmental and private initiatives, including but not limited to racial preferences, that are designed to fight racism. Nearly everyone agrees that these initiatives would be stupid, unfair or a waste of taxpayer money if there is not a significant amount of racism to combat in the particular case of each such initiative. And yet, the evidence that racism exists in the US today in sufficiently extensive scale and effect to justify the measures being proposed is almost always laughably thin, based on fairly isolated anecdotes, based on bald assertions that it is racist to even question the evidence of racism, or extrapolated from statistical differences in the situation of groups without any consideration of possible alternative factors. But the party proposing a government solution to a problem always has the burden of explaining why the problem is so big that we can't fight it any other way. (The lack of proportion and reliance on faulty statistics and overblown anecdotes to justify government programs is hardly limited to race -- the same tactics are too common in debates about the environment, for example.)
In other words, saying that racism exists is like saying that a disease exists, people have it and people are dying of it. Well, OK: but before you propose to do something about that, it makes sense to question how many people have the disease, and what proportion of them are actually dying of it. Otherwise, you may wind up using a hammer to swat a fly.
September 04, 2003
POLITICS: Friends Like These
Liberal Slate writer (as if there's any other kind) Will Saletan is just brutal in his assessment of John Kerry, calling him a political coward who's less animated than a triple amputee. If anything, Saletan hates Kerry even more than Mickey Kaus does.
Hypothesis: liberal writers who lived through the Gore campaign don't want to spend another year with a Democratic candidate who shares essentially all the same faults.
August 29, 2003
POLITICS: Is Kerry Toast?
Yes, it's too early to win a race like this -- but it's not too early to lose.
New polls showing Howard Dean with a commanding lead in New Hampshire have convinced me: John Kerry is toast. He's losing ground and losing press coverage and trailing badly in native-son territory. Kerry doesn't excite anybody; he had relied on the aura of a frontrunner, and that's history now.
This shocks me, since I have suspected for some time that Kerry would win the nomination by virtue of most nearly straddling the middle of his party. I still think that can be done, but not by a guy so obviously trying to do so. Maybe the Dems have learned something from the Gore fiasco.
But Edwards, who I predicted to win the nomination back in January, has been a disaster, running in fifth place at 4% (to Dean's 38%, Kerry's 17% and Gephardt's 11%) in New Hampshire and fifth place at 6% (to Dean's 25% and Gephardt's 21%) in Iowa, and (in a poll done about a month ago), tied for fourth with 5% (to 13% for Lieberman and 8% apiece for Gephardt and Al Sharpton) in neighboring South Carolina. The only obvious explanation for this is Edwards' obvious unreadiness to be commander-in-chief, even when compared to someone like Dean, who would be a foreign policy disaster but at least has strong opinions on the subject.
August 27, 2003
POLITICS: Clark Not Turning Into Superman
Jeff Quinton, the Backcountry Conservative, has a roundup of links to an assortment of attacks on Wesley Clark from the Right, the Left, and sources in between (especially his record in Kosovo, which after all is his sole claim to fame), although I'm not sure I would grant a lot of credence to far-Left sites like zpub.com. I guess this is a sign that people are starting to think seriously about Clark as a presidential candidate riding to rescue the Democrats from Howard Dean.
POLITICS: Wrong Pelosi
This is probably good news for the Democrats, actually -- it's a sign that Nancy Pelosi hasn't made a big impression on the national scene when the NY Daily News can run headlines about "Pelosi" and they're talking about somebody completely different. It's one thing to not have reached the status of being identified by one name, but when somebody else claims your name, you haven't made it yet with the public.
August 14, 2003
POLITICS: Consider That a Divorce
So the Democrats have fanned out accross the airwaves, telling us that recalling a sitting governor is a terrible idea; commentators on the left (and even skeptics of unbridled democracy on the right, like George Will and Jonah Goldberg) have told us that the sky will fall if the people can up and pull the rug out on an incumbent who only just got re-elected, out of pique over the budget.
I am reminded of Jane Galt's comment about the French election fiasco of 2002: "They're completely missing the point, which is that it's hilarious." The fact that the recall is an expensive, complicated three-ring circus full of celebrities and celebrity wanna-bes, many of whom know nothing of politics or even decency, and that even the guy who lost to Davis less than a year ago is running again -- that's actually all for the good, for two reasons. First, how much bigger a signal of anger can the public send to a special-interest-captured political class than to mock them by making us listen to Larry Flynt and Gary Coleman and making them run in fear of a bodybuilder with a thick Austrian accent? And second, the farcical nature of the recall is also a useful reminder to voters that nobody really wants to go through this again if it's not really necessary.
Shouldn't recalls be saved for the most extreme cases, like corruption? I agree that a recall should be sparingly used (although there have been recall petitions circulated against every California governor in memory). But this is a situation that calls for it: Davis' record as governor is entirely indefensible, and his popularity (30% approval rating on the day he was re-elected, down to around 23% now) is so narrow that a plurality candidate really wouldn't have measurably less support anyway. And his integrity, while not about to get him out of office via indictment, is also a serious problem, given his long rap sheet of skirting the ethical limits of obsessive fund-raising.
Is the recall badly designed? Well, yes. There ought to be a runoff. But, like the fact that Bill Simon turned out to be a dreadful candidate, this isn't really an excuse to make Californians and the nation live with Davis for three more years. The McLaughlin Group's Tony Blankley gets this right.
The recall is California's only remaining weapon against Sacramento. It can't help but produce better government than what the Golden State has now.
August 12, 2003
POLITICS: It's "Super W."
A George W. Bush action figure can lead to many jokes. Personally, I wonder if "Actual figure may vary slightly from item shown" means they may ship yours in a Vietnam-era Air National Guard aviator uniform.
POLITICS: Steyn on Arnold The Amateur
OK, this has been linked to all over the place, but you must read Mark Steyn's analysis of Arnold's campaign in California; highlight (emphasis added):
Yes, he's not a professional politician. And that's a disadvantage? The professional politicians are the ones who got California into this mess. This is a "throw the bum out" election, so the successful challenger will be the one who looks least like the bum. Gray Davis has been on the public payroll his entire adult life: he represents the full-time political class. Arnold represents the other California: entrepreneurial energy, wit and invention, the California that understands that if Hollywood and Silicon Valley were run by "qualified" people like Davis we'd still be watching flickering silents and you'd need union-approved quill-feathers to send e-mail.
Arnold made his first business investment at 19, using savings from his bodybuilding contests to buy a failed Munich gym. He turned it around. The first really big money he made in America in the early 1970s came when he and a fellow bodybuilder started a bricklaying business. He's one of a very few actors who was a millionaire before he ever acted. And, if you think it's no big deal being the world's highest-paid movie star, you try it - with a guttural German accent so thick you can barely do dialogue and a body frame so large you're too goofy for playing love scenes. From his gym to his mail-order company to his masonry business to his shopping malls, Schwarzenegger has shown a consistent knack for exploiting the fullest financial value from even his most modest successes. Who would you say best embodies the spirit of California? The guy who has made all his own money? Or the fellows who've squandered everybody else's?
August 11, 2003
POLITICS/RELIGION: The Catholic Card
Bob Novak has the latest on rising tensions in the Senate over the religious dimension of opposition to Bush judicial nominees.
August 08, 2003
POLITICS/BASEBALL: That Face!
(OK, not everyone's going to get that joke. Actually, I've been reading Jim Bouton's Ball Four -- for the first time, it will surprise some of you to learn -- and Bouton describes Mossi as looking "like a cab going down the street with its doors open")
Posted by Baseball Crank at 09:48 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: It's Not a Rumor
John Fund discusses Arnold Schwarzenegger's remarkable ability to keep the real truth about his plans to run for governor quiet until the last minute. But here's something I didn't know about his consultants: "Several played a pivotal role in Boris Yeltsin's come-from-behind re-election campaign for Russian president in 1996."
Go back to 1984. You are leaving the theater after watching "Terminator", and somebody tells you that in less than 20 years, not only will Arnold be running for governor of California, but he'll be using campaign consultants with experience in Russian elections.
What a world.
POLITICS: Over The Top
If you want a picture of a party that has gone mad with its purism, look at what labor demands of the California Democrats.
August 07, 2003
POLITICS: Bad Day For Literacy
Hillary Says Buying Books A Luxury For Most People
Hillary Clinton on NBC Leno: "But people have been terrific. You know, they come to the line, they have stories, they tell me this is the first book they've ever bought or they bring their daughters to meet me."
Leno then asked whether "if they're an adult and this is the first book -- doesn't that say something about our education?"
Clinton replied, "Well, it might say something about their income. You know, books, for a lot of people books are a luxury. You know, maybe they go to the library instead."
Discussing protestors at her book signings, Leno said, "And for most of them, it would probably be the first book they ever bought." Hillary replied, "Or read."
What's really depressing here is the thought that some of these folks are going to come away with the idea that all books are like this one. I opened it at random in a bookstore at Penn Station a few weeks back, and within a few sentences, the thing was just unreadable -- a thick soup of cliches and trite sermonettes. No human being talks like this. A nonfiction book needs to take one of three approaches: (1) a conversational tone, (2) a stirring polemic, or (3) a gripping yarn you could tell over a campfire. Hillary's book is none of the above. At least nutjobs like Ann Coulter and Michael Moore can write.
POLITICS/BASEBALL: Straight Talk?
I knew there was a reason I still like the guy: John McCain's recommended summer reading list includes "Moneyball." (It also includes Margaret Carlson's book; McCain understands that the way to the Beltway press corps' heart is to plug their books on a national radio show). Then there's his latest "Pork Report":
From the Defense Appropriations Bill:
*$12 million for the 21st Century Truck. This program has been around for years and not once has the Department of Defense requested funding for it. While I'm sure we all would love to jump into a truck that could be in a James Bond movie, I'm not sure it is appropriate for the Department of Defense to pay for it.
*$3.4 million for the Next Generation Smart Truck. I suppose this is what we will drive before the 21st Century Truck is ready.
James Taranto has rightly wondered whether politicians can blog, but McCain is one of the few who at least has the right attitude: he's contrarian, he's sarcastic, he speaks before he thinks, and he doesn't much care who he offends. Come to think of it, those are the same reasons why he unraveled as a presidential candidate.
Now if only he'd renounce his support for Shoeless Joe Jackson . . .
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:16 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Lileks is Back
In fine form: "If Arnold is the savior of California, I guess that means that Jesse Ventura was his John the Baptist." Plus, his thoughts on the new Episcopal bishop.
August 06, 2003
POLITICS: The Brew Test
One of the questions political people ask about a candidate -- especially a presidential candidate -- is, "would you want to have a beer with this guy?" It may be unfair, and it may be a male-oriented question, but the political reality is that the voting public tends to look for a relaxed, easygoing manner in their president -- partly as a signal of some fundamental stability, partly because we are inviting this guy into our living rooms for four years, and don't want to wind up like that Saturday Night Live sketch where President Al Gore is giving droning lectures and pop quizzes to the nation. This phenomenon crosses party lines; Reagan and George W. Bush benefitted from the perception that they were guys you could have a relaxing chat over a beer with, and so did Clinton and JFK.
So how do today's Democrats survive the brew test? Here's one man's ranking:
1. Joe Lieberman. Lieberman suffers with Democratic voters from the perception that . . . well, as Jon Stewart put it, "Lieberman is the candidate for people who like George W. Bush but think he's not Jewish enough." Conservatives like me tend to like him for the same reason, although Lieberman's actual voting record, at least on domestic policy, is fairly conventionally liberal. (In fact, outside of the Big Two issues of national security and taxes, Lieberman may be more liberal than Howard Dean).
But Lieberman's personality may actually be one of his secret weapons; he seems like a fundamentally sane guy (his religious upbringing is undoubtedly a plus), and yet he's got just enough dry humor to avoid coming off as dull as, say, Bob Graham.
Of course, this isn't a consensus. Will Saletan of Slate finds Lieberman as dull as dishwater, and he's seen a lot more of him on the stump than I have. And some people find "pious Joe" and his moral pronouncements grating. But I still think he's a guy you wouldn't mind having a normal conversation with.
2. Dick Gephardt. First of all, you can see the Geniality Gap in stark relief when Dick Gephardt is my second choice to share a beer with. This is totally subjective, but while Gephardt speaks in soundbites, you get the sense that he's not so much a focus group guy as more like a high school debater who thinks politicians are supposed to sound like this if they want to push their constitutents' buttons about "The Rich." The fact that Gephardt comes from a fairly humble background also gets some points for normality here.
3. John Edwards. Ditto on that last point for Edwards, but by now we're already into the territory of people I would actively dislike even if they weren't running for president. Edwards just seems too damn satisfied with how smooth he is, and doesn't seem like a guy who could turn that "off" to stand around a barbecue grill on a summer day and just shoot the breeze.
4. Al Sharpton. OK, I really, really hate Al Sharpton; you have to be from New York to truly understand why. But at least he'd tell some entertaining whoppers. Downside: you'd have to pick up the tab.
5. Carol Mosely-Braun. By default. Her personality doesn't make much of an impression.
6. Bob Graham. 7-7:15: Consumed beer with blogger. 7:15-7:20: Took a leak.
7. John Kerry. Kerry has cornered the market on the elusive Al Gore Grand Slam of personality traits: he manages to come off as simultaneously mean, boring, condescending and insincere. Try it sometime -- it's not easy. Like Gore, you get the sense that Kerry -- also a son of privilege -- decided to run for president by looking in a mirror and thinking, "I really look presidential."
8. Howard Dean. The New Hampshire Primary has historically been very good to angry candidates and scrappy insurgents. Not so for the general election, as Andrew Sullivan notes. It's easy to get caught up in the guy who's angriest at the other side; I did myself in 2000, when I backed McCain in the primaries. You may have forgotten this, but McCain's campaign took off at the precise moment when his stump speech turned up the heat on Clinton and Gore and their lack of integrity in ways Bush seemed afraid to do. One of the risks, of course, is that like McCain, Dean will turn his anger against his own party (we've seen the beginnings of this with his sniping at Kerry and now Lieberman; wait and see if he goes after the DLC the way McCain went after social conservatives).
Ever seen Dean try to smile? It's frightening (Jon Stewart did a good bit on this last night). And everything I've read about Dean's career as Vermont governor backs up the idea that bristling anger is his default mode and not just some act for the benefit of the primaries.
9. Dennis Kucinich. Nothing spoils a good beer like a stern lecture about how our society cruelly oppresses hops and barley.
August 03, 2003
POLITICS: The Libertarian Moment
For years now, libertarians have been promising us that they have a better way, superior to the two major parties. The blogosphere in particular is home to many, many well-known self-identified libertarians. And the Libertarian Party keeps telling us things like, "Don't be a sellout, vote your principles."
But all of this can be advocated from the safety of the sidelines, as true libertarians -- as opposed to libertarian-leaning Republicans -- are rarely in any danger of assuming substantial public office. No longer. Because we now have the ideal situation brewing in California for a libertarian to assume the governorship of the nation's largest state, one that's suffering terribly from an addiction to Big Government, and prove that a libertarian can actually govern.
The recall in California, especially if there's a crowded ballot, will present the ideal conditions for a third-party run: a candidate with a well-honed message could win the race with just 15-20% of the vote. The Democrats have yet to put a major, big-name alternative candidate on the ballot, and the Republicans may split the vote between conservatives like Bill Simon and more liberal GOP candidates like Richard Riordan (it remains to be seen if Ah-nold will jump into the race this week, but if he doesn't, the field remains more open).
The Republican dilemma in California has, for some time, been based on two problems. First, the GOP's social conservatism, on issues like abortion, has been a major handicap; pro-lifers may be popular in most of the country, but not California. Second, lingering bitterness over Proposition 187 and other divisive issues -- some of it unfairly, but for these purposes that's beside the point -- has made it nearly impossible for the GOP to reach not only the ever-growing Latino community, but many moderate white and Asian-American voters as well, who have bought into the Davis machine's rhetoric about the "right-wing" menace.
A libertarian candidate could overcome these obstacles. There'd be other problems, of course: You'd need to pick just one candidate; you'd need someone who's got some name recognition from business, show biz or some other field; you'd probably need a candidate who could fund much of his or her candidacy, in the absence of an established libertarian fundraising network.
And you'd have to be practical. Instead of calling for repeal of the drug laws, focus more narrowly on fighting the Justice Department's position on medical marijuana and advocate more limited reductions in some drug laws and penalties. Offer other ways to cut back government that go deeper than GOP remedies without getting locked into debates about privatizing the fire department. A libertarian would have the burden of proving that he or she could actually go to Sacramento and get something done.
But if it can't be done in California now -- when the state Democrats are thoroughly discredited, the GOP is divided and not entirely innocent of the whole mess, and the electorate is irate -- it can't be done. It's the libertarians' moment -- will they take it?
August 02, 2003
POLITICS: It Depends on the Definition of . . .
I chuckled when USAToday's headline after Bush's press conference was "President Defines Marriage". Imagine that headline for his predecessor.
POLITICS: Over a Million Taxpayer Dollars to Rehash Paul Krugman!
Byron York has the scoop over at NRO: that nutty Berkeley study about how conservatism is a form of mental illness (1) was heavily underwritten by you and I and (2) relied heavily for its governing assumptions about today's Republicans on -- I swear I am not making this up -- that noted scholar of conservatism, Paul Krugman's columns in the New York Times.
July 31, 2003
POLITICS: Smearing Ashcroft
July 29, 2003
POLITICS/POP CULTURE: Dixie Chicked?
The lefty side of the blogosphere -- and the media -- has done a good bit of hyperventilating about the charge that radio congolmerate Clear Channel Communications supposedly ordered a nationwide ban on playing the Dixie Chicks on the radio, depite the company's denials. Washington Post media critic Tom Shales charged that "Clear Channel stations led a ridiculous national campaign to smear the musical group the Dixie Chicks after one of its members insulted President Bush. The group's songs were banned on its stations for a time." Paul Krugman stopped just short of pinning this on Clear Channel, but some left-wing news outlets have pushed the story. The argument goes that the network's reach shows the evil of media concentration, and Clear Channel has been Exhibit A in the case against FCC deregulation of media ownership.
I hadn't followed this story all that carefully, but then I stumbled accross an interesting fact. You know what company is the promoter of the Dixie Chicks' current concert tour?
That's right: Clear Channel Entertainment.
This isn't exactly a secret; Clear Channel has touted the success of the Chicks' tour to the business press, and you can go to the company's website to buy tickets to their shows.
Moral: maybe you should distrust what you hear on the radio, but don't believe everything you read, either.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:50 AM | Politics 2002-03 | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/LAW: Racial Privacy
Via The Corner, conservative opponents of Ward Connerly's Racial Privacy Initiative raise an issue that I aired as early as last September: that, if passed, it would hobble efforts to expose racial preference programs that produce the kind of massive disparities (with preferred groups having many, many times better chances of admission) that were on display in the Michigan cases. Also, Kevin Drum has news that the initiative might get pushed up to this November to be on the ballot with the recall election.
Politically, I suspect that this will greatly hurt the chances of a Republican succeeding Gray Davis, by bringing out larger African-American turnout (Mickey Kaus also thinks those voters will help Davis, but I'm not so sure). But there's also a flip side: by taking Connerly's initiative off the March ballot, you (a) improve its chances of passing (March will be Democratic presidential primary time) but possibly (b) depress turnout for the presidential primary (I'm not sure how that cuts, but fewer African-American and Latino voters is probably good news for Howard Dean, whose supporters are decidedly upscale and white).
July 24, 2003
POLITICS: Still Spinning
Just another day for the front page of the New York Times: an article on the recall in California quotes numerous Democrats griping about democracy "run amok," the difficulties of dealing with initiatives, and calling the recall supporters "right wing" before it gets to quoting a lone Republican, who is quoted describing himself as a "wacko." The article also quotes unnamed "experts" (presented without rebuttal) supporting the Lieutenant Governor's strange theory that he doesn't need to let the voters pick a replacement for Gray Davis but can just step in himself.
Then there's the front page article on the shooting at City Hall, which conspicuously omits the fact that the shooter and the victim were both Democrats. (The article also ignores the fact that both men -- as well as the hero cop who killed the assailant with five direct hits from 45 feet away -- were African-American, although I can't fault the Times for being color-blind for once).
July 23, 2003
POLITICS/WAR: Big Bag of Magnanimity
Sometimes, Bill Clinton's need to be a part of every story has some good results; Clinton tells Larry King that he feels George W.'s pain over the Niger issue:
"I thought the White House did the right thing in just saying 'we probably shouldn't have said that,'" Clinton told CNN's Larry King in a phone interview Tuesday evening.
"You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president. You can't make as many calls as you have to make without messing up. The thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do now."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:59 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Miller Time
The Weekly Standard has a great interview on Dennis Miller's journey to conservatism; Miller has too many great lines to excerpt here. A sampling:
I knew [John] Kerry was going to have to run for president because his features are so chiseled, his actual skull could be on Mt. Rushmore. The guy looks like an Easter Island statue in a power tie. Howard Dean can roll up his sleeves in public all he wants, but as long as you can see that heart tattoo with Neville Chamberlain's name on his right forearm, he's never going to get off the pad. I hope they send Howard Dean out to do battle with Bush because he'll get his ass handed to him quicker than someone who just got out of liposuction surgery.
(Link via Jane Galt)
July 22, 2003
POLITICS: Stark Raving Loony, Part II
With the (forced) retirement of Cynthia McKinney, the title of "worst member of Congress" is up for grabs. I nominate Fortney "Pete" Stark, who cemented his reputation last week by calling Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas a c___sucker, repeatedly calling Congressman Scott McInnis a "fruitcake" and challenging him to a fight, and generally acting in a sufficiently threatening manner that Thomas (probably overreacting to the situation) called the Capitol Police.
(FOX News, by the way, says that McInnis "is married and by all accounts not gay.").
It turns out that Stark has an incredibly long history of picking up the nastiest slur handy for whomever is in his way:
Stark has a long history of making outrageous remarks. He once called Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson "a whore," and said former Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan is "a disgrace to his race."
Sullivan, wisely, responded, “I don’t live on Pete Stark’s plantation.”. But wait, there's more:
+In 2001, Stark "called the Bush budget 'the embodiment of the anti-Christ,' saying that it was 'infamy' to use the Easter season to release a budget 'that flies in the face of all Christ's teachings.'"
+Later that year, he "falsely accused House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts of having children who 'were all born out of wedlock.'," and The Washington Times recounted more history: "Mr. Stark is something of a legend in the House for making offensive remarks. He has accused Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, Connecticut Republican, of learning about health care from 'pillow talk' with her husband, a doctor. In 1991 he blamed 'Jewish colleagues' for supporting the Persian Gulf war and called Rep. Stephen Solarz, New York Democrat, as 'Field Marshal Solarz in the pro-Israel forces.'"
George Will also had some fun with Stark's excesses during the Iraq debate:
During the House debate on authorizing the use of force against Iraq, Rep. Pete Stark, a paleo-liberal from northern California, cried, ``Rich kids will not pay; their daddies will get them deferments." He meant draft deferments. It is almost unkind to awaken Stark from his dogmatic slumbers to notify him that there has not been a draft since 1973. And the Beatles have broken up.
Where exactly is Stark's district? Gee, I'll give you one guess -- "the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay"
I know he's not in the leadership, but there comes a point when even a back-bencher merits some sort of rebuke from his party. This guy's a disgrace.
POLITICS: California Polling
Bush is losing ground in the polls in California. This underlines two things:
1. As I've been saying for some time, Bush has a better shot of reviving in NY (where the war on terror is especially close to home) than in CA. I'll believe a Republican winning in California when I see it.
2. Bush has nothing to lose from a recall of Gray Davis, and much to gain; if things just fester in California, voters won't be itching to reward any incumbents.
On a related note, CalPundit (actually doing some California punditry in a break from his all-Niger routine) has a hilarious story of Democrats plotting to force a budget impasse in California for partisan advantage-- in front of an open mike.
Just imagine if Newt Gingrich got caught saying some of the stuff in this article.
POLITICS: State of The Union Aftermath
No, not on the Republican side; Washington Governor Gary Locke, who delivered the Democratic response, has decided not to run for reelection, citing the desire to spend time with his family. You'll recall my vigorous fisking of Locke's response at the time. I guess I won't have Gary Locke to kick around anymore.
July 21, 2003
POLITICS: Is Our Children Learning?
Teachers in Lowell, Massachusetts are outraged that they are being required to speak English as a condition of employment. The horror!
July 20, 2003
POLITICS: Dean, The Blog
Starting here and scrolling down, you can catch some of Howard Dean's blog entries as guest blogger last week at Prof. Lawrence Lessig's blog. First of all, a nonpartisan hat's off to Dean; while most presidential candidates are too busy to do a running blog, it's a great way to showcase a candidate early in the race if it's taken seriously, and Dean appears to have tried to be genuinely responsive to feedback.
But then there's the substance of these posts. Where to begin?
People asked what can be done about media deregulation. I think we need to re-regulate the media that has clearly abused its authority by censoring information that should be made available to the American people.
Someone asked about the Patriot Act-we should repeal those parts that violate our constitution.
Well, it's good to see that Dean understands that we should repeal things that are unconstitutional, whereas our current president has been known to sign things into law (ahem, McCain-Feingold) that he thinks are unconstitutional, and leave the courts to do the dirty work. But I don't necessarily agree with Dean's selections:
I have real problems authorizing the FBI to obtain library and bookstore and video store records simply by claiming the information is “sought for” an investigation against international terrorism. It’s also clearly unconstitutional to detain indivduals and deny them access to a lawyer.
Frankly, the library thing just doesn't bother me that much. And it isn't "clearly unconstitutional" to deny counsel to non-citizens or to combatants in a war.
I believe that the only way we are ever going to come to a real solution on any of these issues is if we all stand together against the special interests in Washington. There are now 33 lobbyists for every member of congress. How do we change that? By working together.
Actually, working together is precisely how you attract lobbyists, who love the smell of bipartisanship in the morning. The only known way to get rid of lobbyists is to get the power over their interests out of Washington.
Facts are a better basis for decisions than ideology.
Ah, "competence, not ideology." Where have we heard that one before?
July 17, 2003
Matt Welch compares the media to the dumb baseball owners who get mocked by the sabermetric crowd. You could extend the analogy and say the NY Times is the Mets in this picture, wasting its prime position in the op-ed market by overpaying for a bunch of untalented or over-the-hill columnists (Dowd, Herbert, The Krug, Safire) and ignoring the vast pool of cheaper or free talent out there (even on the Left). (Or maybe I just like comparing Krugman to Mo Vaughn). Seriously, wouldn't you rather read 2 columns a week apiece from a selection of good bloggers like Kevin Drum or Megan McArdle and less-nationally-known columnists like Josh Marshall, Mark Steyn or Lileks than 3 a week from Dowd and The Krug? You could easily replace the whole slate, keep the page as a liberal page with 1 or 2 conservatives/libertarians/other non-liberals, and vastly improve the quality (even some of Krugman's fans think he's better suited to a weekly magazine piece on economics than 3 hack jobs a week).
But that would be the smart thing to do.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:34 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 16, 2003
POLITICS: The Gray Davis Recession
One thing that's worried me for some time about Bush's ability to get the economy moving again -- both long-term for the national good and short-term for the 2004 election -- is the fact that something like 1/6 of the economy is California, which remains under the hammerlock of the Democratic Party more than any state in the nation (Dem governor, Dems control both houses of the state legislature, Dem state AG, two Dem Senators, Dems dominate the Congressional delegation, etc.). And what a party it is: a governor who's unprincipled and almost universally unpopular riding herd over a state party dominated by the hard cultural Left and the rent-seeking special interest groups (government employee unions, the plaintiffs' bar, etc. -- government by the people who make a living off of government). The result is a $38.6 billion budget deficit, a spiral of downgrading of California's bonds, and a basket case of a state economy. (While the California GOP isn't innocent of all this, they've been too powerless too long to bear much of the responsibility. But if you want to blame Pete Wilson -- the man who did more for the Democratic party in the last 15 years than anyone else -- go ahead).
Part of the problem, and one that reaches outside of California, is litigation and regulation run amok. For example, even Steven Breyer recently recognized that California has gone too far in handing over regulatory powers to the plaintiffs' bar and that "[a]s far as I can tell, California’s delegation of the government’s enforcement authority to private individuals is not traditional, and may be unique . . . "
Mark Steyn recently noted that the May employment figures showed a net gain of 4,500 jobs for the other 49 states -- but a 21,500 job loss in California. I'd be fascinated to see a deeper analysis to show exactly how much of the nation's lingering economic hangover is concentrated in the one place where the writ of conservative economic policies barely runs.
If this keeps up, look for the Democrats to blame Bush's national policies for their own local problems. Maybe that's why Bush wants Davis to stay on -- so he can point to the source of the problem and say that things aren't so bad anywhere else. But to my view, this is reason enough to support a recall: the rest of the nation can't afford Gray Davis anymore.
July 14, 2003
BASEBALL/POLITICS: I Called This One
"I guess the "Soysage" backers at PETA are saying they knew the Milwaukee Sausage Race would lead to violence some day ("Now you see the violence inherent in the system!")"
"Now, PETA recommends that, in order to set a nonviolent example to offset the recent brawls and 'beanings' in MLB, the Brewers should field a Sausage Race participant that does not represent the violence inherent in meat production"
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:41 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 11, 2003
BUSINESS/POLITICS: Social Conscience
Ricky West has some thoughts comparing Warren Buffett's anti-tax-cut social justice rhetoric to the reality of Berkshire Hathaway's treatment of its employees. Of course, Buffett has a duties to the other Berkshire Hathaway shareholders to maximize their profits rather than pay unnecessarily high salaries; he has to let the other shareholders decide for themselves how much money they want to devote to giving their fellow man a better deal than the market demands.
But then, shouldn't that also be true of George W. Bush?
July 08, 2003
POLITICS/LAW/POP CULTURE: Judge Ponch?
This story from a few weeks back is simultaneously amusing, humbling and a little depressing about how little attention the average American pays to inside-the-Beltway power plays: a Democratic pollster not only finds that 61% of Latino voters are unaware of President Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada for the DC Circuit, but concludes that
it was clear many of those who supported Mr. Estrada were also confusing him with actor Erik Estrada, who was on the 1977-1983 television police drama "CHiPS" and is now a popular Spanish-language soap-opera star.
Hey, anybody who can talk his partner out of giving a traffic ticket to H.R. Puffenstuf is ready for the D.C. Circuit . . .
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:38 PM | Law | Politics 2002-03 | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Coulter and Dowd
POLITICS: Steyn on Dean
As a New Hampshirite, Mark Steyn has had the opportunity to watch Howard Dean up close for the past decade. To no one's surprise, he's unimpressed:
Vermont . . . was colonised in the Sixties by ponytailed granola progressivism and summed up by a remarkably prescient 1972 article in Playboy, headlined 'Take Over Vermont': 'Get 225,000 counterculturalists to settle in the Green Mountain State and exercise their franchise -- and you've begun a unique social experiment.' Or more to the point: just because these ideas are a surefire vote-loser everywhere across the country doesn't mean they won't catch on if enough of the tiny minority that believes in them moves to one small underpopulated jurisdiction.
So 30 years on, the unique social experiment is almost complete, and Howard Dean's state is not terribly friendly to any kind of business other than folksy boutique capitalism as represented by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company and Ben & Jerry's, the hippy-dippy ice-cream-makers who sell 'Peace Pops' in flavours like 'Cherry Garcia'. And even these most famous exemplars of the Green Mountain State's caring capitalism flopped out. A couple of years ago, Ben & Jerry's got taken over by Unilever, even though one of them - Ben or possibly Jerry - wasn't too happy about it. But the one who was - Jerry or maybe Ben - insists that UniBen or Jerrylever or whatever it's called now is still just the same bunch of committed activists raging at the greed of multinational globalised capitalism, even though they're now a wholly owned subsidiary thereof. . . . In other words, Ben & Jerry's are full of it. And so's Howard Dean. In Ben & Jerry terms, he's a thousand pints of Lite, a masterful Clintonian triangulator who's taken the but-I-didn't-inhale approach to political viability into far more ambitious territory. Although he did part of his medical training at an abortion clinic, he's always claimed he never actually performed one himself: he may have dilated, but he never extracted. Hardcore Vermont liberals - especially the environmentalists - got sick of Dean's slipperiness long before he decided to run for president.
But out of state the activists don't know that, and in a field split between five lacklustre Congressional compromisers . . . and three fringe wackos . . . , Dean's done a superb job at positioning himself as the heart of the party. . . . The reason he's piling up all the big money from out of state boils down to two words: civil unions. Three years ago, Vermont became the first state in the nation to recognise a form of legal union for same-sex couples, and that puts Dean on the cutting edge of the issue du jour. . . . Dean now says bringing civil unions to Vermont was 'the most important event in my political life'. At the time, he was going round the state telling folks he was only doing it because the Vermont Supreme Court made him, and, instead of the usual showboating public ceremony, he signed the legislation behind closed doors. But out in Hollywood all Barbra Streisand and the other high rollers know is that, if gay marriage is your big priority rather than Iraq and national security and all the other peripheral junk, then Dean's your man. In a way, he's the first gay candidate, the first beneficiary of a prominent, organisationally effective, big-money gay bloc in the Democratic party. This year, gay is the new black.
* * *
July 05, 2003
POLITICS: Hating The Clintons
Speaking of Hillary, one of the common lines from Bill's defenders (like Sid Blumenthal) is that hatred of Bill Clinton was all about his "progressive" politics; meanwhile, Hillary's defenders often argue that people who hate Hillary "have a problem with strong women" or some such. Talk to a lot of dyed-in-the-wool Clinton-haters (I've mislaid my card, but it's around here somewhere), and you'll quickly realize that the psychoanalysts on the Left have it precisely backward. The people who hate Bill hate him, first and foremost, for his character; talk to them about another "New Democrat" like John Edwards or Joe Lieberman, and you won't hit anywhere near the same vein of animosity that accompanied Bill from the very beginning. The problem with Bill is a problem we all have with that one guy we know who can get away with damn near everything, and with the way in which he symbolized all the worst aspects of a generation that was, as it so happened, second to none in its generational self-image.
As for Hillary, there are certainly plenty of people -- even liberals -- who hate her for her personality, but few of them focus on her as an abstract generalization. The real core of Hillary-hating relates to her politics more than her character; people didn't hate her for trying to be Lee Hart to Bill's Gary; they hated her from the outset out of fear that she was disguising her perceived role as the voice of the Left in Bill's ear.
I overgeneralize, of course; my own least favorite fact about Hillary is her tendency, and that of her defenders, to recast every criticism of this emeninently criticizable public figure as being an Attack On All Women -- she's effectively tried to hijack the sympathies of an entire gender, which is one reason why the depth of Hillary-hatred among men is childs' play compared to the way some women (not all of them conservatives) hate her. But the generalization, I submit, is true: people first came to hate Bill mostly for his character, and Hillary mostly for her politics.
POLITICS: PJ O'Rourke on Snoozing Through Hillary
THIS is a must-read -- PJ O'Rourke's review of Living History is good enough to make you forget that the Weekly Standard already had Matt Labash write a savage review of this book:
There's "the trip to Russia when Hillary and Mrs. Boris Yeltsin 'laughed our way through a day of public appearances and private meals with local dignitaries.' I hesitate to think there was a logical explanation, but Hillary does say, 'Ireland invigorated and inspired me, and I wished we could bottle up the good feelings and take them back home.' It's been done before."
"We must recognize Hillary's principled outspoken feminism as elucidated in her U.N. Conference on Women speech: 'It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.' . . . And understand her stupidity. Now, Hillary's stupidity is of a Monday's-homework-done-on-Friday-night, 1,400 on her SATs kind, but nonetheless stupid for all that. She has lunch with Jackie Onassis, who 'cautioned me that Bill, like President Kennedy, had a personal magnetism that inspired strong feelings in people. She never came out and said it, but she meant that he might be a target.' Was Jackie talking about the grassy knoll or about a different kind of mons?
Hillary serves roasted eggplant soup and sweet potato puree to Jacques Chirac and doesn't get the joke when Chirac says, 'Of course, I love many things American, including the food. You know, I used to work in a Howard Johnson's restaurant.' After listening to Jiang Zemin explain that the Tibetans had been liberated by the Chinese, Hillary concludes, 'I don't think Jiang . . . was being quite straight with me on Tibet.'"
O'Rourke's vicious conclusion:
"[I]t says something unflattering about our era that prominent political figures--who used to write declarations of independence, preambles to constitutions, Gettysburg addresses, and such--now use the alphabet only to make primitive artifacts, like the letter-inscribed tablet that Charlemagne is said to have put under his pillow each night, in the hope he'd wake up literate."
(Link via The American Scene).
July 01, 2003
POLITICS/LAW: Charity Begins
In a previous Impromptus, I wrote of Kathy Boudin, the Weather bomber and Brinks murderess who's always up for parole. At her latest hearing, she talked about how guilty she'd felt that she was white. (You remember: "white skin privilege.") I said what she ought to feel guilty about is killing people - including Waverly Brown, the first black police officer on the Nyack, N.Y., force. It took forever to get him there. And then Kathy and her friends took him away.
Anyway, my homegirl Michelle Malkin wrote me to say that a scholarship fund had been established in his name, along with that of Edward O'Grady, another officer murdered by the Boudin crew. Money goes to students who pursue careers in law enforcement. Checks can be made payable to: O'Grady-Brown Memorial Scholarship Fund, Inc., P.O. Box 1024, Nyack, N.Y. 10960.
As MM says, "Fight left-wing domestic terrorism. Send your check today."
I grew up in Rockland County, NY (Nyack was a few towns over), and I can remember how the Brinks story dominated the news. When I worked in the Rockland DA's Office my first summer during law school, they took us to an exhibit on the Brinks case in the Rockland County Sherriff's Office. One exhibit that made a particular impression was the front winshield of the armored car -- it must have been several inches thick -- with a hole blown in the glass more than six inches in diameter from machine gun fire. The armored car drivers and the cops killed in this incident never had a chance.
June 20, 2003
If you're inclined to waste your time on Sidney Blumenthal and Whitewater, this is an amusing battle in which Blumenthal accuses the New York Times of being part of a right-wing attack machine (re-read that carefully, I'm not kidding), mostly on grounds that the Times reported Whitewater at all (in March 1992) and then failed to report on various Whitewater developments later that purportedly cast the original article into doubt. Former editor and current interim editor Joseph Lelyveld responds by tearing Blumenthal's smoke-and-mirrors critique to pieces. (I noted Lelyveld's review of Blumenthal's book here).
Dick Morris, meanwhile, charges Lelyveld's Times with pro-Clinton bias on Whitewater, and as usual with Morris' charges, he himself is a prime conspirator. (Take anything Morris says with a grain of salt, although the evidence he cites of the puff piece he describes is certainly supportive.) Ironically, Morris and Blumenthal both cite the Times' non-reporting of Whitewater stories as indicative of bias.
The funny thing is how Clinton partisans try to attack the Times and investigative reporter Jeff Gerth for bringing Whitewater to light at all. Why is that so important? Well, because much of the Clintons' subsequent misbehavior in response to the investigation can only be justified if you start with the premise that there was nothing at all that should ever have been investigated.
June 19, 2003
POLITICS/LAW: Jane Roe
Like Eugene Volokh, I can't see, legally, what will be accomplished by the motion filed by Norma McCorvey (aka Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade) attempting to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in Roe 30 years ago. But her affidavit still makes for some rather powerful reading.
POLITICS: Reg'ler Guy
This Washington Post profile of John Kerry, which opens with an account of him hunting, is obviously intended to show that he's a regular guy and not some ivory tower Massachusetts anti-gun nut.
POLITICS: Labashing Hillary
This is just savage (and justifiably so) -- Matt Labash of the Weekly Standard, on the unreadable Hillary memoir:
Who else could seriously write of her grade-school appointment as "co-captain of the safety patrol" "This was a big deal in our school. My new status provided me my first lesson in the strange ways some people respond to electoral politics." . . . Every detail of her life is wrapped in a tidy little pre-package--containing all sorts of do-goodnik asides ready for a campaign bio or a stump-speech moral. Conceiving Chelsea? "We weren't having any luck," she writes, "until we decided to take a vacation in Bermuda, proving once again the importance of regular time off." Most people would just be happy to be having sex in Bermuda. She has to prove the importance of taking regular time off. Her delivery of Chelsea? An excellent opportunity to work in the factlet that Bill accompanied her into the operating room for her C-section--an "unprecedented" move at Baptist Hospital, though "soon thereafter the policy was changed to permit fathers in the delivery room during cesarean operations."
A hike through Yellowstone with Chelsea and Bill? "America's national parks have provided a model and an inspiration for other nations to protect their national heritage," and oh, by the way, she almost forgot to mention: "Bill announced a historic agreement to stop a large, foreign-owned gold mine on the border of Yellowstone from threatening the pristine environment." Vince Foster, one of Hillary's best friends in the world, committing suicide? She interrupts news of his death to tell us that right before she was notified, she'd been on a trip to Japan, where she "met with a group of prominent Japanese women--the first of dozens of such meetings that I held around the world--to learn about the issues women were facing everywhere."
Even when Hillary is going through her lowest moments, she manages to find a sanctimonious silver lining. . . . Remember the Rose law firm billing records that turned up in a White House closet months after they were subpoenaed by prosecutors? They got lost in the shuffle when "we found ourselves in the midst of a major renovation of the heating and air-conditioning systems to bring the White House up to environmental energy standards."
Even the failure to stop genocide can be turned to political advantage. The death of one million Rwandans which the administration did nothing to stop? "It would have been difficult for the United States to send troops so soon after the loss of American soldiers in Somalia and when the Administration was trying to end ethnic cleansing in Bosnia," she explains. "But Bill publicly expressed regret that our country and the international community had not done more to stop the horror." Public regret? How do you say "thanks for nothing" in Tutsi?
June 17, 2003
For a good laugh, go to Democrats.org, click on "Supreme Court Countdown" New Flash Animation about half way down the page toward the right.
This is really, really going to get ugly, considering how nasty this stuff is before Bush has even announced a Supreme Court pick. Much uglier than the partisan smear campaigns against Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer (oh, wait . . . ). The funny thing is how the Democrats may be arguing that a Supreme nomineee is a right-wing lunatic compared to Rehnquist. I bet the Chief Justice gets his reputation rehabilitated in one heck of a hurry if he steps down.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:50 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (3)
For a good laugh, go to Democrats.org, click on "Supreme Court Countdown" New Flash Animation about half way down the page toward the right.
This is really, really going to get ugly, considering how nasty this stuff is before Bush has even announced a Supreme Court pick. Much uglier than the partisan smear campaigns against Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer (oh, wait . . . ). The funny thing is how the Democrats may be arguing that a Supreme nomineee is a right-wing lunatic compared to Rehnquist. I bet the Chief Justice gets his reputation rehabilitated in one heck of a hurry if he steps down.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:50 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (3)
POLITICS: Watch The Trailing Leg
Let's face it: there's really nothing the Democrats can do to defeat George W. Bush in 2004. Which is not to say he can't be beaten, just that what can do him in is mostly a combination of external circumstances (the economy, setbacks in the war) and missteps by the Administration. The only Democrat I'd feared in terms of his ability to create his own buzz independent of pre-existing anti-Bush sentiment was John Edwards, but Edwards increasingly looks like just a pretty face who's in over his head.
Rand Simberg notes the more interesting question, one that the Democrats have to think long and hard about: how will the presidential ticket affect the rest of the ticket, in terms of turning out the Democratic base without turning off the mainstream? Among other things, this is one reason I'm not excited about the idea that Al Sharpton could run an independent campaign: who do you think Sharpton's voters will support for Congress?
I suspect, contrary to Simberg's speculation, that a far-Left candidacy like Howard Dean's would be a bad thing for the Dems, since it could convince a lot of voters that the party has lost its mind, and put a lot of moderate candidates in the same bind that swallowed so many moderate Senators in 2002. I'll have more thoughts as we go about what the best answer is.
Of course, if you wanted to design a perfect candidate to challenge Bush, you'd want someone who could pose as a moderate; who had impeccable national-security credentials; who's got a long record as a spending hawk; and who is personally identified with opposing the cozy relationship of big money to power in Washington.
Then again, we've seen that perfect candidate already, and he lost to Bush in the primaries in 2000.
POLITICS: Mort! Mort! Mort!
Lileks compares Bill O'Reilly to Morton Downey jr. (if you don't remember the late 80s, let's just say that Downey was the original right-wing TV populist, and he smoked like a chimney). Vodkapundit still thinks Pat Buchanan is a better analogy. I tend to agree with Lileks that O'Reilly's the classic example of a guy who rises, and falls, for a reason. If he's lucky, like Rush Limbaugh, he'll survive passing his prime without crashing and burning like Downey.
POLITICS/LAW: "[N]ot just the right last name"
Patrick Ruffini notes the irony in a rather egregious example from John Edwards of what, if said by a Republican, would almost certainly be a career-threatening racial slur: the charge that Miguel Estrada is unqualified to be a federal appeals judge, and was nominated just for his ethnicity:
"I think we need more Hispanics on the federal bench, but we should choose people because they have the right record, not just the right last name"
I know Bush hates demonizing his opponents, but somebody needs to very publicly tear Edwards a new one over this comment. As Ruffini notes, the real irony is that Edwards is the one who's painfully short on qualifications (to be president, that is). Estrada has a resume to die for, and is, if anything, overqualified; every job he's had is an extremely hard one to get in the legal world, and he's done them all with great distinction. But apparently it's OK to run down those qualifications because he's Latino.
I've been slow to consider the Democrats' behavior in this case to be racist or a genuine problem with Latino voters -- I always thought it was completely bogus for Clinton to play the race card every time one of his African-American nominees got held up -- but there's no question in my mind that Estrada has been targeted (in ways that other equally conservative white male nominees haven't) specifically because the Democrats fear that his nationality and life history, combined with his evident brilliance, would make him a potent Supreme Court choice.
Targeting a man for defeat to public office because of his race -- isn't that the sort of thing Democrats were supposed to be against? (Don't bother answering that).
(Link via The Corner).
June 15, 2003
POLITICS: Presidential Candidate's Review
Gearing up for the 2004 election, this weekend's newspapers have a slew of articles providing background information on presidential candidates: the Boston Globe on local favorite, John Kerry; the Washington Post on Joe Lieberman ; and the NYTimes on a potential GOP candidate in 2008, George Pataki. Note that, for the Democrats, 2004 may be the year of John Kennedy -- both Lieberman and Kerry are claiming a connection to JFK.
June 14, 2003
POLITICS: Correction of the Week
Correction: In Monday's "Ballot Box," referring to presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, I wrote, "Somebody toss a dollar in his guitar case so he can buy a quart of milk." Kucinich, a vegan, does not drink milk.
LAW/POLITICS: Frightening Specter
I see that Chuck Schumer has suggested that Bush appoint 73-year-old pro-abortion Republican Arlen Specter to the Supreme Court, which would let Democratic Ed Rendell pick his immediate replacement. Nice try, Chuck.
POLITICS: Lazy Europeans
A piece in last Sunday's New York Times had some fascinating details about the decline in the number of hours worked by the average European, its connection to the decline of the European economies, and a possible explanation: the demise of the Protestant Work Ethic. Of course, this raises some chicken-and-eggery with regard to the European cradle-to-grave welfare state . . .
Here are the key numbers:
According to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average working American spends 1,976 hours a year on the job. The average German works just 1,535 — 22 percent less. The Dutch and Norwegians put in even fewer hours. Even the British do 10 percent less work than their trans-Atlantic cousins. Between 1979 and 1999, the average American working year lengthened by 50 hours, or nearly 3 percent. But the average German working year shrank by 12 percent.
1,535 hours; by my count, that means that if the average German worked an 8-hour day 5 days a week, he or she would get . . . 14 weeks of vacation??? (Yes, I'm aware that part of the issue is shorter workdays and sick leave and part time jobs, but still).
POLITICS: Who Is Greg Packer?
Ann Coulter is your classic preaching-to-the-choir polemicist, a columnist who bypasses argument and goes straight to the invective (much like the New York Times' Maureen Dowd). Coulter can be very entertaining sometimes when she's locked on a deserving target, but she's justifiably viewed with some suspicion both for her rhetorical excesses and her sometimes cavalier attitude towards fairly and accurately presenting the facts.
Her recent and much-discussed expose of professional "man on the street" Greg Packer, though, is just good journalism:
Another average individual eager to get Hillary's book was Greg Packer, who was the centerpiece of the New York Times' "man on the street" interview about Hillary-mania. After being first in line for an autographed book at the Fifth Avenue Barnes & Noble, Packer gushed to the Times: "I'm a big fan of Hillary and Bill's. I want to change her mind about running for president. I want to be part of her campaign."
It was easy for the Times to spell Packer's name right because he is apparently the entire media's designated "man on the street" for all articles ever written. He has appeared in news stories more than 100 times as a random member of the public. Packer was quoted on his reaction to military strikes against Iraq; he was quoted at the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Veterans' Day Parade. He was quoted at not one – but two – New Year's Eve celebrations at Times Square. He was quoted at the opening of a new "Star Wars" movie, at the opening of an H&M clothing store on Fifth Avenue and at the opening of the viewing stand at Ground Zero. He has been quoted at Yankees games, Mets games, Jets games – even getting tickets for the Brooklyn Cyclones. He was quoted at a Clinton fund-raiser at Alec Baldwin's house in the Hamptons and the pope's visit to Giants stadium.
Are all reporters writing their stories from Jayson Blair's house?
(Mickey Kaus has more).
June 13, 2003
POLITICS: Teaching Hypothetical Average Students
The Boston Globe has a story about a terrible idea at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School: "heterogeneous classrooms" mixing the best, worst and every other student in between in terms of ability, to cure the problem of "a pattern in which Cambridge's white students -- the minority in the school -- were succeeding while African-American and Hispanic students were falling farther behind."
Well, I'm sure they'll cure the first part . . . as one student puts it:
"The worst [teachers] are the ones who try to teach to the middle," says Lang. "Because there's no one there."
June 12, 2003
POLITICS: Go Away Already
One of the joys of being a civil litigator is that my job gives me mechanisms to catch and expose lies by adversaries. To do that effectively, of course, you need to keep something of a 'grudge file' -- keep careful track of past statements in writing and orally (take good notes), and know when to pull it all out to expose flip-flops and outright whoppers. Sometimes you catch the other guy in an obvious one, and sometimes you just get to show some inconsistency.
Every now and then, though, you run across somebody who's such an exceptional and prolific liar that the job of keeping opposing counsel honest winds up all but overwhelming the actual litigating of the case -- the lies come in too fast and too varied, and require refutation that's too lengthy and detailed, to effectively rebut them all without the judge thinking you've gotten lost in some vendetta. After a while, this gets exhausting, and demoralizing.
This, basically, is how I feel about the Clintons at this point, particularly Hillary (Bill, thankfully, seems unlikely to wind up with any responsibility ever again). You need enormous reserves of energy to keep up with their serial deceptions; no matter how clearly you debunk something they or their defenders say, it pops back up a few years later and you need to go back to the file. And if you wade into a debate with their bitter-ender supporters, you need to go back to the grudge file to keep straight all the various charges (which is not to say everything pinned on the Clintons was true, but there's plenty enough there) or get accused of being some sort of fraud; if you do keep it all straight, they say you're obsessed and living in the past.
At least with litigation, I get paid to do this; I don't get paid to keep a grudge file on the Clintons, and I refuse to spend the time necessary to revisit again all those controversies. But I'm glad there are professionals out there who haven't forgotten. As for me, and I think a lot of conservatives, I just wish the Clintons would go away.
POLITICS: Sauce For Who?
Byron York had a funny story last week about the Democrats' willingness to put their stock in Clinton-bashing Larry Klayman's Judicial Watch just to tar a GOP judicial nominee.
POLITICS: Hatch 2004!
I've decided that Bob Graham is the Orrin Hatch of 2004. You remember Hatch - almost certainly the most qualified of the GOP presidential contenders in 2000, a distinguished and dignified senator of longstanding who spent his entire campaign mounting increasingly harsh attacks on Bill Clinton. Granted, they were justified, and I was certainly one of the people who argued at the time that a tougher line on the Clinton-Gore camp was a prerequsite to the job. But Hatch wound up expending some of his good will with the press for the benefit of a marginal campaign. (Jay Nordlinger takes a similar view).
POLITICS: Richard Mellon Moyers
You may recall Kevin Drum's plea of a few weeks ago for "liberal cranks like [conservative Richard Mellon] Scaife willing to fund liberal think tanks?" Well, leaving aside the Sulzbergers, one such liberal crank has been thoroughly investigated by Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard: Bill Moyers. In fact, typically, Moyers does Scaife one better: he not only funds left-wing causes and conspiracy theories, he also showers them with taxpayer-funded publicity.
(I noted the last round of Hayes' battle with Moyers here).
June 10, 2003
POLITICS: RIP Don Regan
Don Regan has died at the age of 84; Regan was a colorful character, although as with a lot of Reagan-era figures besides the President himself, I wasn't really old enough at the time to judge the man independently of his caricatures in the press.
Regan took up painting in his retirement:
"After Wall Street and the government, I decided there had to be more to
June 08, 2003
LAW/POLITICS: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Stuart Buck wonders why the Democrats are sending up signals that they intend to pitch a bitter battle over Supreme Court nominees no matter who Bush nominates. There's an important point here: if Bush is convinced that he faces a massive battle no matter who he puts up, then his only incentive to pick a more 'moderate' candidate is if he faces defections from Republicans. The Dems certainly give no reason to suspect that they will give Bush any credit no matter what he does.
June 02, 2003
POLITICS: He's No Friend Of Mine!
An amusing correction: somebody evidently bothered to write in to Slate to correct the misimpression that NY Times reporter James Bennet was a friend of Sidney Blumenthal. I don't think I've ever seen a correction before that denied a friendship.
May 30, 2003
POLITICS: The Man Who Came To Dinner
Lately I've been thinking that the one good thing about Hillary! and her presidential ambitions is that it would keep Bill from campaigning for a repeal of the 22d Amendment.
Naturally, I was wrong.
I'm actually not opposed, in principle, to Clinton's proposal (changing the limits to two consecutive terms rather than two terms per lifetime). But still . . . I mean, please, just go away.
POLITICS: Times-Bashing Roundup
You may have seen some of these:
Andrew Sullivan: "The choice at the Times is between frauds and ideologues."
"Yes, you can take some stringer's notes and compose a story, but the difference between that an[d] a piece you wrote from your own research is the difference between a Penthouse Forum letter and your recollection of your wedding night."
May 29, 2003
POLITICS: Goldberg's Back
Not that he went anywhere, but a classic Jonah Goldberg column yesterday on the NY Times' latest attempt to determine whether young Republicans are actually human. Jonah's work has tended to be more serious lately, as befits the times; this one's more of the old G-File style of full-out mockery.
May 26, 2003
LAW/POLITICS: Judges And Politics
Josh Marshall, who's been hung up on redistricting in Texas lately, argues:
Many of those who are defending -- professionally or otherwise -- the DeLay power-grab are arguing that courts simply should not be involved in drawing congressional maps, period. . . . we have an established system and DeLay & Co are changing it . . . the courts-out-of-elections mantle hangs rather heavy on a crew whose president owes his office to a judicial ruling.
Hmmmm. Dr. Marshall's memory of Florida 2000 is rather selective indeed if he expects us to believe that Al Gore would have won Florida if only the courts hadn't gotten involved! For those who have forgotten: there was a long established practice in presidential races of respecting the Election Day outcome, even when (as was the case in 1960 but not in 2000) there were credible bases to believe there had been fraud by the winning party. It was the Bush camp that argued all along that the courts shouldn't be involved in picking presidents, and it was the Gore team that pushed at every turn for a larger role for the court system, including asking the courts to disregard express statutory language enacted by the Florida Legislature and to disregard rulings of the Florida Secretary of State, to whom substantial authority was delegated under the Florida statutes.
In a similar vein, Yale law professor Jack Balkin has been arguing on his blog lately that Democrats are justified in breaking down traditional barriers in another way -- by filibustering appellate court nominees on purely ideological grounds -- because of their anger over Bush v. Gore. Balkin makes the hypocrisy/inconsistency charge a centerpiece of his argument that
[t]he five conservatives were the least likely, one would think, to extend the Warren Court's equal protection doctrines in the area of voting rights. Indeed, one member of the majority, Justice Scalia, is on record as opposing novel interpretations of the Equal Protection Clause that undermine traditional state practices. It is hard to imagine that if the parties had been reversed-and Vice-President Gore had been ahead by 537 votes-the five conservatives would have been so eager to review the decisions of a Republican Florida Supreme Court that was trying to ensure that every vote had been counted. The unseemliness of Bush v. Gore stems from the overwhelming suspicion that the members of the five person majority were willing to make things up out of whole cloth-and, equally importantly, contrary to the ways that they usually innovated-in order to ensure a Republican victory . . . The Justices could have avoided the appearance of a conflict of interest by simply remaining out of the fray . . .
(emphasis added). The quotation is from a Virginia Law Review piece by Balkin and Prof. Sanford Levinson.
Of course, "traditional state practices" is precisely what was not at issue in Bush v. Gore; the central and inescapable fact about the case is that it involved the Court's review of a judicial remedy, one crafted after the election, without any statutory basis, without precedent in history, and without anything but arbitrary standards to guide its implementation. I've posted here my reaction to Bush v. Gore written the day after it was decided, and the more I read about the case, the more I stand by my initial gut reaction to the decision; here's the key excerpt:
"[T]he Court went out of its way to limit this to the facts at hand, and to show how the current system wasn't so much discriminatory as it was lacking in any rational basis. Far more to the point, as far as consistency with conservative principles is concerned, the Court made clear that its decision does not (at least on its face) apply to the conduct of elections generally ("The question before the Court is not whether local entities, in the exercise of their expertise, may develop different systems for implementing elections"). Rather, the Court's decision focuses in on, and arguably applies a higher standard for, judicial proceedings to review elections ("[W]e are presented with a situation where a state court with the power to assure uniformity has ordered a statewide recount with minimal procedural safeguards. When a court orders a statewide remedy, there must be at least some assurance that the rudimentary requirements of equal treatment and fundamental fairness are satisfied") (emphasis added). The net result is to counsel state as well as federal courts to be more circumspect in the future in ordering remedies in election cases where the remedy has not been explicitly set out in advance in a statute. It is this aspect of the decision that essentially constitutionalizes the James Baker Doctrine: you can't go to court to change the rules after the election."
In that sense, the Court's decision is deeply and profoundly conservative, and it is not surprising at all that the conservatives on the Court would have found the Florida court's approach so troubling, and so hazardous in its gravtitational pull of courts into what Balkin calls the "low politics" of partisan side-taking. By imposing a higher standard of scrutiny on post hoc judicial remedies in election cases, the Court has (admittedly, at some cost to its own short-term credibility with the public) erected a barrier to the use of courts, state or federal, in such adventures in "low politics" in the future.
As to the idea that the Justices could have "remain[ed] out of the fray" -- that's an awfully convenient bit of ledgermain, given that the matter had already been pushed into the court system. This is why I find it particularly laughable that some commentators have invoked the political question doctrine in this context: the doctrine says that some issues are just not suitable for courts to resolve. How can you apply that to say that courts can not review what are judicially crafted remedies in the first place?
What was clear to me at the time -- something that should have been familiar to any practicing litigator, though perhaps less so to a law professor -- was the extent to which the Court was reacting to the procedural posture of the case and the behavior of the court below.
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The Court, particularly Justice O'Connor, acted as if they saw the antics of the Florida Supreme Court as being irresponsible and unprecedented; the Court's view in its second decision in the case clearly appeared to be colored by the Florida Supreme Court's insistence on rewriting the deadlines for the protest phase in its initial decision. Balkin, in a Yale Law Review piece on the case, dismisses this possibility mostly on the grounds that the Court did not level any accusation of "invidious motive" at the lower court - but such things are commonly unsaid in appellate opinions that reek of mistrust of a runaway court below.
Consider this exchange, from the oral argument:
BOIES: ... I think, at that point, then you can conclude that what it has done is it's changed the law. But I think the standard is the standard this court has generally applied in giving deference to state supreme court decisions.
O'CONNOR: But is it, in light of Article II? I'm not so sure. I mean, I would have thought that that bears on the standard, frankly, when it contemplates that it is plenary power in the legislature. Does that not mean that a court has to, in interpreting a legislative act, give special deference to the legislature's choices insofar as a presidential election is concerned? I would think that is a tenable view anyway, and especially in light also of the concerns about Section 5.
BOIES: I think, Your Honor, that if the Florida Supreme Court, in interpreting the Florida law, I think the court needs to take into account the fact that the legislature does have this plenary power. I think when the Florida Supreme Court does that, if it does so within the normal ambit of judicial interpretation, that is a subject for Florida's Supreme Court to take.
O'CONNOR: I'm sorry. You are responding as though there were no special burden to show some deference to legislative choices in this one context. Not when courts review laws generally, for general elections, but in the context of selection of presidential electors, isn't there a big red flag up there, "Watch Out"?
BOIES: I think there is in a sense, Your Honor. And I think the Florida Supreme Court was grappling with that.
O'CONNOR: You think it did it properly?
BOIES: I think it did do it properly.
O'CONNOR: That's, I think, a concern that we have. And I did not find, really, a response by the Florida Supreme Court to this court's remand in the case a week ago. It just seemed to kind of bypass it and assume that all those changes in deadlines were just fine, and they'd go ahead and adhere to them. And I found that troublesome.
O'Connor, remember, was a state legislator herself; it is unsurprising that she would be particularly offended by the cavalier attitude of the Florida Supreme Court towards state statutes. And as I've noted before, the Court was wise to be more skeptical than usual of the state court below, because the siren song of what Balkin calls "low politics" is all the stronger when a state court's decision will have an impact that reaches outside its own state.
Getting back to Balkin . . . oddly, the Balkin-Levinson Virginia Law Review piece 's reference to "traditional state practices" cites in a footnote to Scalia's dissent in the case regarding admission of women to the Virginia Military Institute - which is very much a case where the federal courts sought to change traditional practices of long standing in a state, rather than simply prevent a judicial remedy forged after the fact from creating its own new reality. In other words, it's a red herring.
In fact, the Virginia Law Review piece says little about the substance of Bush v. Gore at all; for that, you need to go to Balkin's Yale Law Review article. The Yale piece goes in some detail on the Florida statutory arguments, and I won't rehash all that here; it's sufficient to note that I've discussed another law review piece at some length that I found a good deal more persuasive on the matter. (Either way, it is clear that the questions of Florida law can not be separated from the federal constitutional issues).
But the guts of Balkin's argument, and the core of his disagreement with both the majority and the concurring Justices, is his insistence that the Court drew an improper distinction between state courts and state legislatures, while failing to give adequate respect to the difference between state law and federal law. Which is why his protests are ultimately so ironic. Because if Bush v. Gore has any lasting impact on the law, it will be - as Justice Stevens recognized - to draw more firmly a line that places state and federal courts on one side, and legislatures on the other, and a "Do Not Cross" sign in the way of courts of all types. And for anyone concerned about keeping courts out of elections, that's a good thing.
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May 23, 2003
POLITICS: Son of Blair
Reading the New York Observer's bizarre interview with Jayson Blair and its story on his quest to make money off his own misdeeds brought to mind a few points:
1. I had initially been deeply skeptical of why the U.S. Attorney's Office would get involved in something like this, where you'd think that Blair had been punished enough by being fired, publicly humiliated, and almost certainly never working in journalism again. Now, I'm not so sure; at a minimum, there's got to be a way to keep him from laughing all the way to the bank with the proceeds from a book based on his fraud.
2. Consider Blair's taunt: "I fooled some of the most brilliant people in journalism . . . They’re all so smart, but I was sitting right under their nose fooling them." Maybe Tim Blair's theory was right: "if I worked for the NY Times, I'd be tempted to destroy its credibility too. Here's to Jayson, the Evil Blair, bringing them down from the inside!."
3. An alternative and banal explanation for the federal prosecutors' interest in the case: Blair freely admits he was using cocaine. Let's say they drop the anvil of a big grand jury investigation on him over the fraud on the Times, then they start asking: hey, maybe you can tell us who your dealer was. A plausible explanation of the feds' motives? Maybe.
POLITICS: The Clinton Bitter-Ender
Christopher Hitchens' review of Sid Blumenthal's new book is now available online. Fortunately, adherents of the permanent campaign to the contrary, someone still remembers what the battles of that sorry era were all about. Hitchens details the extent to which Blumenthal has given himself over so thoroughly to Clinton that he is unable to even address many of the most inconvenient facts. My favorite passage:
I always thought that it was very clever of Clinton to make a mystery where none existed about when, and even where, he had touched Monica Lewinsky. Since his denial was made partly under oath, and involved a legalistic definition even of certain orifices and appendages, it necessitated a minute inquiry. And this allowed Clinton's defenders to paint his critics-his critics-as "obsessed with sex."
May 22, 2003
POLITICS: The Agenda-Setter
Or, as Glenn Reynolds would put it, oh, that liberal media: Michael Kinsley admits what conservatives have been complaining about for years: the vast influence of the New York Times in setting the agenda for news organizations everywhere, a position of "near-universal dependence" that gives the increasingly left-leaning Times power far beyond its own circulation:
[M]uch or even most American news reporting and commentary on national issues derives - uncredited - from the New York Times. . . Even if you don't read the Times yourself, you get your news from journalists at other media who do. The Times sets the news agenda that everyone else follows. The Washington Post and maybe one or two other papers also play this role, but even as a writer who appears in the Washington Post -- a damned fine newspaper run by superb editors who are graced with every kind of brilliance, charm, and physical beauty - I would have to concede that the Times is more influential. . . it is the imprimatur of the Times or the Post that stamps the story as important before sending it back down to other papers - as well as up to the media gods of television.
In fact, I would go so far as to cite both the Times' longstanding liberal slant and its influence on the national media agenda as Conservative Truth #2 in my continuing series.
POLITICS: The Base
Instapundit cites an article worrying about Bush's ability to motivate the conservative base. This is mostly bunk. The article cites conservative worries about the GOP's tepid efforts to cut spending and the growth of government, but this isn't nearly as important to the base voters as war, judges and taxes. Concerns about the judiciary are more significant, but I have no doubt that that issue will escalate as we grow closer to 2004, especially if one or more Supreme Court slots open up. And the idea that Bush's foreign policy is unpopular with the GOP base is just unhinged from reality.
POLITICS: Who Is Neo?
Great G-File yesterday wrapping up a 3-part series on media misunderstanding and abuse of the term "neoconservative." Money quote: "Victory has many neocons, failure few - and all Jewish."
May 20, 2003
POLITICS: Why Tacitus Is Not A Democrat
A lot of liberal bloggers have been trying to get Tacitus, their favorite conservative, to switch sides. In this excellent post, he explains why he can't and won't.
My own list would put the judiciary a clear second (behind national defense).
POLITICS: One More Observation
Christopher Caldwell, on Jayson Blair and the Times:
The Times has been drifting more and more towards front-page stories on trends and passions and tough-to-capture states of mind. This is what leads to all the talk about "resonating pain" and "acute hurt" and (as the Times puts it elsewhere in its Blair account) "emotionally charged moments." Some of these stories are backed up with polling numbers, some with a handful of sources speaking in the abstract. And many are excellent. But they do not stand and fall on facts and they are the farthest thing from all the news that's fit to print. They're the door through which Jayson Blair's devious idea of journalism entered the nation's greatest newspaper.
May 19, 2003
POLITICS: Ignoring Incentives
Following up further on my post on Conservative Truth #1 - that the results of government initiatives will inevitably be affected by how the initiative changes individual incentives - I couldn't have asked for a bettter illustration of how some purportedly mainstream liberals completely ignore this point than this op-ed piece in last Thursday's New York Times by Yale Economics Professor Robert J. Shiller. Shiller argues that inequalty of wealth is "truly frightening":
According to the Census Bureau, the bottom 40 percent of American families earned 18 percent of the national income in 1970, but by 1998 they earned only 14 percent — and that figure could fall to 10 percent before too long. On a global scale, too, inequality is a problem. Per capita gross domestic product in India in 2000 was only 7 percent of that of the United States, and for China the figure was 11 percent. Such a difference could increase the possibility of greater inequality within America.
(Note that he identifies America's wealth relative to other nations as a problem, which becomes more ominous when you examine his proposed solution). The "cure":
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[F]uture tax brackets and rates should be contingent on the extent of future inequality. Tax law should be based on a principle that might be called inequality insurance: the taxes would be collected in such a way as to insure that the level of inequality, after taxes and transfers, does not exceed the levels present when the law was enacted. If such indexing were put in place today, the brackets and rates would adjust whenever inequality worsened beyond today's levels.
If the nature of the economy changes, and a small number of people capture the lion's share of pretax income, then the tax rates on them would automatically rise, and the tax rates on lower-income people decline, until today's level of inequality was restored. Higher taxes on the high incomes would be imposed exactly at a time when the few are suddenly becoming enriched relative to the many. There would be no delays while politicians debated whether taxes should be raised or cut.
This is just daffy. Shiller blandly asserts that "[t]he new system could be designed so it would always be just as easy for people to attain the same relative economic status that the upper segments of society enjoy today. There is no reason to worry that more wealthy people will feel any less of an incentive to work hard than they do now." But his automatic-tax-hike program would surely place an escalating burden on high earners, and throw in an added level of uncertainty to boot. Worse, the program has only a fig leaf of concern for people at lower income levels; the program has absolutely nothing to do with raising the overall standard of living and everything to do with freezing the ceiling on today's highest earners in place forever.
Then there's this:
Reframing the tax system in this way could help deal effectively with one of the world's most serious problems, which is the potential for growing inequality. Highly talented, educated and hard-working people living in less developed countries often earn only a small fraction of what their counterparts in advanced countries earn. As Americans increasingly compete on a world market, there is a serious risk that their jobs will be given to people overseas and their incomes will drop precipitously — producing sudden profit opportunities for other Americans and creating sharp increases in inequality here.
So, we should tax ourselves more if other nations prosper?
This is an economist from one of the nation's leading universities, writing in what is supposed to be the nation's leading newspaper, and yet he completely ignores everything we know about the effects of high taxes on human initiative. Unbelievable.
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POLITICS: Blair Wrapup
I was debating whether to write more on the Jayson Blair affair. The bottom line: yes, as I've already explained, race was a legitimate story here even before Howell Raines admitted it, even though I don't think it was the only or necessarily even the main reason for the problem. This was clearly something of a perfect storm of blind spots at the Times (affirmative action, the "star" system, Blair's sucking up to top management, etc.), but two additional features of the modern workplace have attracted perhaps too little notice:
1. The union. Blair belonged to a guild with a collectively-bargained contract:
In April 2002, according to Raines, the Times issued Blair a formal warning saying that further errors "could lead to your separation." Raines notes that people on the outside have wondered why Blair wasn't fired at that point. However, says Raines, the Times' guild contract prohibits summary dismissal for anything short of plagiarism for personnel, like Blair, working in the "intermediate reporter" program.
I'm not totally against unions, which have important uses, but one of their worst features is the tendency to protect the incompetent and the corrupt from being fired.
2. The ADA culture. The Times' own exhaustive account (now archived - you can't read it online anymore) points in two directions on this. On the one hand, there's at least the implication that Blair may have had severe emotional problems and/or a drinking problem (note the passage that says Blair "was unavailable for long stretches" without further elaboration); it is left unexplored to what extent this was known and ignored. Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a company that knows an employee has such problems actually finds itself less able to discipline that employee for fear of legal liability, even when common sense says that the guy's problems getting the facts straight are probably not coincidental.
But here's the whopper: when Blair was assigned to the sniper case, under national editor Jim Roberts, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd - the men who run the Times
did not tell Mr. Roberts or his deputies about the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Blair's reporting. "that discussion did not happen," Mr. Raines said, adding that he had seen no need for such a discussion because Mr. Blair's performance had improved, and because "we do not stigmatize people for seeking help."
You see the problem: it's not just that Raines didn't tell Blair's new boss that he had personal problems, but that he didn't tell him about Blair's problems with the truth because it might lead to questions about his personal problems or somehow relate to his "seeking help." In other words, by seeking psychological help, Blair - just like many of the worst offenders in the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandals (an apt analogy made by many commentators) - was able to build a protective shield around his professional problems.
I could say more; but Lileks has the last word on two other loose ends from the Blair scandal.
May 14, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: National Disgrace
From a review of Sid Blumenthal's new book by Joseph Lelyveld in the New York Review of Books, hardly a conservative source, on Blumenthal's account of Kosovo:
Even after the staff has been shaken up and Clinton is supposedly master in his own house, speechwriters stick a line promising not to use ground troops in Kosovo in his speech to the nation and Sandy Berger, his national security adviser, fails to take it out. Clinton, we are told, is furious because his options have been limited (though it then takes him more than two months to allow other options to be prepared). Berger is "snookered" by the Pentagon when it forces the NATO commander who had been too blunt in his demand for ground troops, General Wesley Clark, into retirement. "I'd like to kill somebody," Clinton tells Blumenthal.
Um, shouldn't the President of the United States read his own policy speeches before he gives them? Or was he too busy on other parts of the speech to care about the national defense parts? You know, the boring stuff? (And remember, this is an account by one of Clinton's friends).
You never know where the buck will stop. Clinton, it seems, is a prisoner of his own administration, in addition to having to face a baying press and savage opposition. Nowhere is this more the case than in the President's "intense battle with terrorism, a mostly secret war that was largely screened from the public." FBI director Louis Freeh, a Clinton appointee, becomes "a prime mover of scandal promotion against the Clinton administration," to the point that "Freeh's hostility to the White House dictated his lack of cooperation with the war against bin Laden." Clinton wants to do more than fire a few cruise missiles at the al-Qaeda leader; he wants to drop special ops troops into the mountains of Afghanistan in a surprise attack. Powell's successor as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Henry Shelton, recoils from his commander in chief's idea, saying such an attack would be too risky.
Clinton could always have fired Freeh, if he really believed this and thought the war on terrorism was as important as the battle for high approval ratings. Obviously, he didn't.
And who says a president can't overrule his military commanders? Nobody told George W. Bush that.
(Link via The American Scene)
Posted by Baseball Crank at 08:19 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Fields of Cash
SO, IT TURNS OUT that Major League Baseball has been berry berry good to members of Congress (about 60/40 to the Democrats), notably Dick Gephardt and James Sensenbrenner (the latter is chairman of a committee that oversees baseball's antitrust exemption), although frankly the amounts of money involved (at least for the individual members) isn't that much (you can't buy a guy like Gephardt for $5,000).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 08:00 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Race and Blair
Some commentators have argued that there's something wrong or pernicious in raising questions about whether affirmative action had anything to do with the New York Times' willingness to keep promoting Jayson Blair in the face of mounting evidence that he was incompetent and/or dishonest. There are, to my mind, two obvious reasons why this is a story:
1. It is awfully hard to explain, rationally, why he got away with this, given the huge number of people who expressed doubts or even called for him to be fired. When rational motives fail, try invidious ones. If the shoe fits . . .
2. Had this happened at a less self-righteously PC publication than the Times - say, The New Republic, for example, let alone a conservative paper like the Wall Street Journal - the race point might have been ignored by most commentators. Scam artist being black: not a story. Scam artist being black and working for a paper that loves to talk about its own 'diversity' and editorialize in favor of affirmative action: story. I guarantee that's why people like Kaus and Howard Kurtz are quick to read it this way. In that sense, conservatives have jumped on the Times for this for precisely the same reason liberal commentators jumped on Bill Bennett (albeit with the difference that a massive fraud on the public is a wee bit bigger deal than a guy spending his own money on slot machines): because the Times has been such a scold on issues of race and trumpeted its own willingness to promote "diversity," there's a natural impulse to put them on the spot when a beneficiary of such programs blows up in the paper's face.
And in one very important respect, that instinct has been dead-on: although its now-famous probe of itself referred, among other things, to the fact that "[t]he Times offered him a slot in an internship program that was then being used in large part to help the paper diversify its newsroom," the Times has steadfastly resisted the idea that any preference was given to Blair that would not have been given had he been white.
You must see the problem for the Times: the paper has repeatedly editorialized that it's perfectly OK to use even the stark racial preferences exposed in the Michigan affirmative action cases - but when pressed, the Times is unwilling to admit that it would give preference to an inferior journalist on the basis of race! In other words, when the paper's own credibility is on the line, it won't stand up for racial preferences, even when the alternative explanation is that the Times just doesn't give a damn about the quality of its newspaper.
Can there be a better illustration of why racial preferences are immoral? When even their most determined champions won't admit to them in the harsh light of day? Bill Bennett, at least, never preached in favor of gambling. The Times wants to discriminate on the basis of race - but only in secret, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. That, in the end, is a much bigger story than one reporter.
POLITICS: . . . and Liberal Craziness
Part of the goal of kicking off the Conservative Truths series was as a way to distinguish the sane and reasonable types of people on the left from the bitter-enders who refuse to concede an inch to reality. There are Liberal Truths as well, and perhaps I'll post some if I can't get someone to bite on running an opposing series that has some sense to it.
The first response I got was revealing of the kind of attitude that conservatives often make fun of, usually to the response from liberal commentators that "nobody really thinks that." But here it is in print, and I swear I'm quoting this guy directly:
Liberal Truth #1: Tax cuts are government spending just like the military and welfare are government spending. It takes government revenue and spends in on a certain program. In this case, the money is spent every year on certain income earners in order to (supposedly) get them to reinvest the money in businesses and production. Tax cuts allot a certain portion of government revenue to supplanting taxed income, leaving the government with less money than it had before - in other words, the government's money is spent on tax cuts.
Wow. Cutting taxes lets you keep "government revenue." Your income, or the return on your investments, is "the government's money." Only out of the goodness of the government's heart does it let you keep any of it at all.
Sanity check: who is it that works for the money? And, come to think of it, whose government is it anyway? If I quit my job, can the government come after me next year and say I still owe the same amount of taxes? This ain't child-support we're talking about; I don't owe the government any obligation, and there's no Platonic ideal of 37% or 50% or 75% marginal tax rates that's being defiled by rate cuts. It's my money, and while society has a right to ask me to chip a portion of it in to pay for various necessities, that doesn't mean that the government has a claim on howsoever much it wants.
Now, when you move away from tax rates to some of the more complicated deductions ("do this and you can keep X that we otherwise would have taxed"), I'm more sympathetic to the argument that you've really got a spending program in disguise as a tax cut. But the basic idea that cutting taxes gives away "the government's money" -- well, that's a sign of a complete loss of perspective on which of us exists for the other's benefit. It's our money, and it's our government.
POLITICS: Conservative Truths . . .
Well, looks like the kickoff of my "Conservative Truths" series really knocked over the beehive, attracting a bunch of comments here and over at CalPundit's site, and we had by far our biggest traffic day ever on Monday (391 unique visitors), which had to be the result of the link from Kevin Drum (although we'd set records on Thursday and again on Friday, in part due to a link from Steven Den Beste).
The buzz is a good thing; the long-term goal here is to build a framework for making sense of political arguments. (Some people weren't happy with the level of generality in my observation about incentives, but the idea here is mostly to work on a general level and refer specific posts back to the theory).
If I made one mistake, it was picking the dividend tax cut, which is intensely controversial and on some level unpredictable in its effects, as the prime example; a more obvious example is simply the Congressional Budget Office scoring system, under which you traditionally assume that there will be no changes in behavior resulting from a tax cut and no economic growth flowing therefrom; the Democrats must be quite aware that these projections are bogus, and yet they and their friends in the media have tended to treat these numbers as gospel truth. And, of course, the entire Great Society welfare system was constructed essentially without regard for how the system would change incentives to work and to keep families together; the failure to account for the incentive effect of such programs was the Achilles heel of the entire initiative.
Another famous example was the luxury tax imposed during the Bush I years; the Democrats argued that they could soak the rich buyers of yachts, but instead, yacht consumption dropped by 70%, with devastating effects on the yacht-building industry, and had to be swiftly repealed. (Granted, The American Prospect argued that the tax still brought in several times more revenue than projected, but that didn't do the guys at the dock much good). The refusal of Democratic policy-makers to consider incentive effects in the way they develop and promote their initiatives remains one of the critical dividing lines between the two major parties.
May 12, 2003
POLITICS: Ever Hear of Vietnam?
Couple of quick comments to this article about a speech given by Ted Sorensen (registration required):
1. Most importantly, why is it newsworthy? Does the Times provide equal coverage to speeches in favor of the war that are given by former Eisenhower speechwriters?
2. He conveniently forgets Vietnam. I suppose that was LBJ's fault, or better yet, Nixon's?
3. He states, "He added, "It will be the law of the jungle in which every warlord has his own weapons of mass destruction, and the first or biggest bomb wins." But, wasn't part of the reason we went to war with Iraq to avoid this?
Posted by Kiner's Korner at 05:56 PM | Kiner's Korner | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Good Enough For the People of Massachusetts, But . . .
You know, sometimes I think I could make a living on this site just keeping an eye on the doings at my alma maters, Holy Cross and Harvard. This controversy, in which students at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard are protesting the selection of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as commencement speaker, is just rich with idiocy:
[A]bout 100 of the school's 500 graduating students, and another 20 who are not graduating in June, signed a petition criticizing the choice because, they say, the governor is more businessman than public servant, lacks international stature, and has displayed a ''profound lack of courage'' in office.
So Romney "lacks international stature." Since when is running the freaking Olympics not "international"? Maybe they should've invited the US ambassador to Canada (Paul Cellucci)? That's an international job.
The students' letter to the dean recommended several other speakers, Republicans among them, who they said ''exemplify personal sacrifice and service to the public,'' including Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency administrator and former New Jersey governor; Senator John McCain, Homeland Security director Tom Ridge, and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The sense of entitlement here is staggering. I mean, I know the K-School is a big deal, but isn't it possible that some of these people were, you know, busy? My college graduation, we had an obscure bureaucrat from the National Institute of Health. My Harvard Law School graduation, the university speaker was a different obscure bureaucrat from the National Institute of Health. At the Law School's separate graduation ceremony we had Ted Turner, who was drunk, off his meds or both (he started rambling about how "we should never have split the atom. Those are dangerous little buggers.") The Governor's coming to speak at your school. That's not bad.
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[A]t a school where a growing number of graduates go into public service, they said, the speaker should have a clear commitment to the public sector.
* * *
''It might be more reasonable in a few years, when [Romney] has a record in office, but it's not the right time now,'' said Rabin.
The Kennedy School, founded to train students for careers in government service, has struggled in the past decade to balance the lure of the private sector with its public mission, as a significant number of graduates have used their Kennedy degrees to land high-paying jobs in business. School officials have sought to reverse the trend, and earlier this year, Harvard became the first university in the nation to establish a schoolwide fund to encourage more graduates to take lower-paying jobs in public service.
Ric Arthur, a third-year student from California who plans to go to work for a nonprofit film production company after graduation, said the selection of Romney feels out of step with the priorities of the school.
''With most students heading toward a life in public service, people question whether a career businessman and new politician has the experience to speak to our concerns,'' he said.
Now, the crux of the matter: Romney was a career businessman! The Shame! These people obviously aren't old enough to remember Romney's Senate campaign. But what scares me is the idea that it is positively bad to be a businessman. I mean, government service is a noble calling, but it really frightens me to hand governmental power to people who think that people who work in the private sector are to be looked down on, which is the attitude that comes through here. (Of course, it might occur to more thoughtful observers that Romney went into private business precisely to make some accomplishments of his own before running for office, since his dad had been Governor of Michigan and at one point was seen as the front-runner in a presidential primary campaign.)
The Kennedy school should be training people who understand that the private sector is ultimately the iceberg in our society, and government is the tip. Sounds like some people aren't getting the message.
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POLITICS: CONSERVATIVE TRUTH #1
First in a series.
As you may have noticed, one of my running themes here of late has been the difficulty of finding intellectually honest people on the other side of political arguments. This is particularly infuriating because I know plenty of decent, honest people who are politically liberal. Yet, the combination of professional Democrats and leftist bloggers too often leaves me feeling like I'm dealing with people who are immune to both reason and reality.
Liberals and conservatives, or Democrats and Republicans, or Left and Right - however you define the two sides - disagree on a lot of basic assumptions about how the world works. Some of those gaps can't be bridged by even the most fair-minded commentators. But on others, one of the things that drives me berserk is when the other side just refuses to admit to something that is frankly impossible for a reasonable person to argue with.
So, in an effort to focus on the things I see as litmus tests for honest commentary, I'll be starting a periodic series on The Conservative Truths and The Conservative Beliefs. Both are things that many or most conservatives believe; the former are those that we feel any intellectually honest liberal or leftist should have to admit. (I would, of course, welcome a similar initiative by someone on the other side). I'm not putting them in any particular numerical order.
Today, we start with Conservative Truth #1: Incentives matter. Government initiatives that give rewards or punishment as a result of individual or corporate behavior will change people's incentives and therefore, applied to a large population, will change behavior. The result is that any estimate of the effects of a government program will be erroneous if it fails to take account of the incentive effect.
This seems astoundingly obvious, and yet discussions by politicians and the media of the effects of things like tax cuts, welfare plans and health care plans have far too often completely ignored the incentive issue. About the only time you hear the Democrats admit that taxing something will change it is when they tax smoking - the one good whose sales won't be much affected by taxes because the buyers are addicted. Congress has for many years institutionalized this resistance to reality by "scoring" the revenue effects of tax cuts or tax hikes on the assumption that nobody ever changes their behavior in response. And critics of tax-cutting Republicans invariably cite these transparently fraudulent estimates as Exhibit A on the "cost" of tax cuts. How can an honest person take such criticisms seriously?
Now, for Conservative Belief #1, and I'll classify this as a Belief because I recognize that it's more controversial: that the incentive effects following from most government initiatives are, in general, larger and more powerful than the dollar size of government intakes or outflows on the initiative. Here's an example:
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Democrats often propose "temporary" tax cuts as a counter to long-term rate cuts. The problem with a "temporary" tax cut is that it ignores the fact that the incentive effect is the centerpiece of conservative thought on tax cuts. Yes, tax cuts are good because they push cash into the economy and stimulate demand, and for that purpose, the more cuts for the low end of the income spectrum, the better. And yes, tax cuts are good because they push cash into the hands of investors and stimulate supply, and for that purpose, the more cuts for the high end of the income spectrum, the better. And yes, there is (although quantifying it is intensely controversial) a wealth effect where cuts targeted at the stock market will make people feel richer and more optimistic about the economy.
But the #1 reason for tax cuts is to affect incentives, or more properly (from a conservative or libertarian perspective) to remove tax-driven distortions from incentives. An explicitly short-term tax cut is not only useless but counterproductive for that purpose: the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't cut will drive more people to arrange their affairs to get the short term cut rather than to get long-term growth.
Critics have charges that Bush's dividend tax cut plan (the big tax initiative of the day) is too tilted to wealthy shareholders. Even crediting this sort of study (I'm skeptical but I haven't looked under the hood myself), if you look at incentives, the obvious effect of a dividend tax cut is to encourage people to put more money in stocks, and specifically to encourage those eeeevil top however-many percent to invest their income (after it's been sliced the first time by high marginal rates) in stocks. (I'm leaving out the reason why dividend cuts got pushed onto the agenda in 2002, which is corporate-governance related). More investment in equities is precisely how to stimulate supply and job growth.
You may disagree with the idea that stimulating investment is better for the economy than passing out spending money. Fair enough. But you simply aren't making a serious argument if you ignore the difference between the improved incentives to invest under a dividend tax cut and the absence of any positive incentives from a temporary cut.
In short, the cash-to-spend/cash-to-invest debate is two ways to look at how far the tax cut dollar will go. But changing incentives doesn't just affect the dollar that's been cut; it affects the calculus for every dollar in the economy. That is why conservatives argue for rate cuts rather than 'targeted' relief: changing incentives is the one and only way to get more bang than just the size of the cut multiplied by some X or Y effect that's linked to the number of dollars put back in the economy. In other words: Incentives matter.
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POLITICS: Tax Cut Silence?
Matthew Yglesias asks why more conservative bloggers haven't rushed to defend Bush's tax cut plan. Leaving aside the obvious fact that he mostly cites self-identified libertarians, there's an obvious reason why many bloggers focus on war and legal and social issues rather than economics, which is that arguing about taxes and spending is awfully number-intensive. In the specific case of spending, it's easy enough to look at the aggregate numbers and see that the government is spending too much on the domestic side, and similarly to highlight press reports about the worst abuses. But wading through the budget to figure out exactly where the most money is wasted is exceptionally time-consuming work. Which is why most of us, even when we support tax cuts, are apt to focus our fire more on other issues.
May 11, 2003
POLITICS: Stuff Your Sorrys In A Sack, Mister
I know I'd finished up with the Bill Bennett controversy, but this quote struck me as interesting on a number of levels, so I'll just present it without further comment - here's Bennett, speaking to Ronald Reagan just before a speech Reagan was to give on the Iran-Contra affair:
"Word is you're going to take responsibility and acknowledge mistakes, and that's fine. But, sir, don't underestimate what your enemies want from you. They want you to humiliate yourself; they want the hair shirt. But you can't do that, sir. You're the leader of the free world. You're the leader of a great and proud country, and you can't abase yourself . . . if you don't give them what they want they'll say you didn't go far enough. That'll be the line."
(From Peggy Noonan's indispensable book What I Saw At The Revolution)
May 10, 2003
POLITICS: Clinton's Principles Abandoned!
Jonathan Chait complains that Bush-hatred "has made liberals embrace principles . . . to which the Clinton administration never adhered."
Is there any other kind of principle?
May 09, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: AWOL Bush? Not Exactly
Back before I decided that it was mostly a waste of my time to read the most popular far-left blogs, I used to be bothered by the incessant accusation that George W. Bush had been AWOL from his service in the Texas National Guard and had thus essentially gotten away with avoiding his commitment to serve. This bothered me for two reasons:
1. I considered the charge a serious one, if true. Military commitments must be kept. Maybe it doesn't evince the sort of anti-military cast of mind as Clinton's adventures in draft avoidance and protest on foreign soil, but it doesn't speak well of a commitment to keep the most important sorts of promises to soldiers.
2. Nobody who I viewed as having any credibility ever addressed the accusations (positively or negatively), which makes it hard to get a fix on whether it has any substance (although that's usually a clue).
The issue came to life again recently following Bush's much-ballyhooed jet flight to the USS Abraham Lincoln; Bush made references to having been a pilot, and The Krug (who's often indistinguishable from the anonymous far-left bloggers in terms of venom and disregard for the facts), sprang into action with a column repeating the charge.
Now, spurred on by an item on Andrew Sullivan, Bill Hobbs has looked into the question in some detail, reviewing the major media reports as well as some of the purported primary sources, and come up with a pair of posts here and here that fairly well lay to rest the idea that there's anything to the charges but, at best, wild speculation and conjecture premised on a lack of good recordkeeping on the part of the Texas National Guard. You've probably read Hobbs' posts already - they've been linked to all over the blogosphere - but if you haven't, I'd suggest you do. Some things I hadn't known:
1. Gore was discharged early, leaving his and Bush's service time basically the same. Wonder why he didn't press this issue? He made vague references to Bush's service record, but never openly made the charge.
2. When Bush volunteered for the TX Guard, they were actually being sent to combat in Vietnam. He joined what looked, at the time, like potentially a combat unit. (It was still a better deal than getting drafted into the infantry, to be sure).
There are two other sources that are worth reading on this point, and I'll quote from them at length here because they didn't appear on the front pages of these sites and you might have missed them:
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First, Sparkey over at Sergeant Stryker (all the bloggers there are military veterans), had a post following up on Hobbs. Beyond the post itself, Sparkey also had some lengthy followups responding to leftist trolls in the comments section that are worth reading:
Because he had so many days of active duty, he had exceeded the requirements set forth in his enlistment contract. And that, tbogg, is the reason why the story got no traction from the NYT, Globe, George, etc., and why the insulting and insipidly brainless little ad you link to is so useless. With Bush being "Non-Obligatory" what does it matter if he was there or not? BTW: I spent a year on a similar list/unit for the exact same reason. There is no shame in meeting or exceeding your contractual obligations. That's why I find this whole smear campaign so insulting, especially since the lies come mostly from those who never served and who generally look down on those who do.
By the way, don't you find it funny that you can use the New York Times to back up your arguments, but when I do, I'm ridiculed as using an "unbiased" source.
No I don't, it's rather sad and disturbing. Note that George Mag, the Boston Globe, and the NYT were looking to spin the story as negatively as possible. It's also not funny when some of the leading newspapers in the country begrudgingly admit that the facts don't measure up to their expectations. Plus, what you have to understand is this: it's one thing to quote statements of fact out of a news article (from a source that you consider to be traditionally hostile) that bolsters your case, it's quite another to quote editorials which are in fact opinions and therefore by definition, biased; from sources which you consider to be traditionally friendly.
As to the poor records well, all I can say is welcome to the world of the United States Guard & Reserves. Everyone must realize that being at the bottom of the DoD food chain, the Guard/Reserves have had, and still have massive paperwork and record keeping problems. It was bad when I was in the Navy Reserves in the late 80's. And everyone who'd been there agreed that things had greatly improved from the 70's!
The Navy Reserve officers I drilled with spent 75% of their drill time on paperwork - and never caught up. What would happen is this, if someone didn't squawk for something, it got put on the back burner until forgotten. So gaps and other problems with Bush's record don't surprise me in the least. Look at it from the unit's perspective, being non-Obligatory, why go to the effort to keep accurate records when he (Bush) wasn't worried about the year counting for retirement? If Bush wasn't going to push, the unit certainly wouldn't. As to the Cornel not remembering Bush, well why would he? With Lt. Bush being Non-Obligatory, he wasn't someone he (the Col.) really needed to keep track of. Bush would have simply dropped off the Colonels radar screen.
Also, I don't blame Bush one bit for not wanting his records released, I wouldn't either. We have no dea what's really in those records. There are portions of a service member's records one never gets to see. I don't want to know.
* * *
Bush was suspended for not going to a physical he was not "Obligated" by the contract he signed with the United States Government.
If I refused to go to the DMV for an eye test my drivers license would be suspended.
Once Bush had completed his compulsory duty days, (which he did more than required as the Globe admitted in earlier reports but conveniently left out of their op/ed - isn't that special?) The government could not force or otherwise punish him for not doing something he wasn't obligated. And even if that were not the case, the kinds of records needed are frequently lost in the Guard Reserves - deal with it. And If those records were not with the Units, you can bet your next paycheck they are not in his records. The most reliable location for record protection would be the unit's files, not the service record.
* * *
From the 5/23/2000 Boston Globe:
Those who trained and flew with Bush, until he gave up flying in April 1972, said he was among the best pilots in the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. In the 22-month period between the end of his flight training and his move to Alabama, Bush logged numerous hours of duty, well above the minimum requirements for so-called "weekend warriors."
Indeed, in the first four years of his six-year commitment, Bush spent the equivalent of 21 months on active duty, including 18 months in flight school. His Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore, who enlisted in the Army for two years and spent five months in Vietnam, logged only about a month more active service, since he won an early release from service.
Hey, and guess what, under the contracts written at that time, the servicemember were obligated to attend X number of duty days, after that you could transfer into the inactive guard/reserve which is what he did.
Address the contract issue, please, or shut up. I'm tired of dealing with people who won't face facts. Like martin posting that Globe piece, yet he still doesn't address what Bush's contractural obligations were.
BTW: I have at least three "not been observed" entries in my record, no doubt. Even after I received notification of my IRR (Inactive Ready REserve) status, every three months I'd get a very polite letter from the local drill center (they had to be polite because they knew I was non - obligatory). They weren't even in my chain of command anymore. I still have my good conduct pin from my reserve time and my honorable discharge.
Second, an anonymous letter-writer at Andrew Sullivan's site (4th letter down; all letters to Sullivan are posted anonymously, but take this for what it's worth) adds some valuable insights into the context the Guard was operating in in 1972-73:
ON BUSH'S GOLDBRICKING:
It should also be recalled that, by 1972, the F-102 that Bush's unit operated was a frightfully obsolescent, maintenance-intensive aircraft and weapons platform powered by a fuel-gobbling old-tech turbojet. Designed in the early 50's to intercept, by flying in a beeline at supersonic speed, Soviet bombers arcing ponderously over the North Pole to attack the U.S.A., the turn and roll rates of the delta-winged F-102 were terrifyingly inadequate: F-102 pilots shuddered at the notion of dogfighting in the beast, especially after the Vietnam air war had shown that America's unmaneuverable 1950's-era jets got routinely outmaneuvered by the VPAF's nimble MiG-21's.
Okay, obsolescent, gas-guzzling, MiG-fodder F-102's in a post-Vietnam scarcity of defense spending, right? Vital then to know what came next: the Great Oil Crisis of 1973. Suddenly the cost of operating and maintaining this single-mission, fuel-craving aircraft of dubious effectiveness went through the stratosphere, at the same time as the cost of keeping thousands of discharged-from-active-duty reservists and guardsmen was already straining the constrained fiscal capacity of the Pentagon. F-102 units had become nearly superfluous to America's defense, especially since the nuclear threat from Soviet bombers had taken a distant back seat to the threat from ICBM's and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Nobody wanted to know; nobody cared. America's war weary polity wanted to not see, to not think about anything military, and to continue slashing defense spending ruthlessly. And this was before Saigon fell in 1975; but Congress had already slashed defense spending so drastically that reserve and guard units, already and always in those days the low men on the funding totem pole, had to "get creative": they had to allow lots of sailors and soldiers and airmen to "get lost in plain sight." It was an unspoken policy, but it was necessary because the traditional mindset of the military could not shift itself to granting thousands of unnecessary, superfluous, badly trained, poorly equipped, scarcely funded reservists and guardsmen early releases from their reserve commissions and enlistments. So people like me and George Bush muddled through our time in badly managed, dreafully underfunded, flabbily overmanned reserve and guard units.
I don't blame President Bush one bit if he'd gone with the flow that was sweeping away and eroding America's reserve and guard serviceability and readiness. It's easy nowadays - now that our military is again efficient, effective, respected, and honored - to point fingers at what post-Vietnam reservists and guardsmen "got away with". But in those days Americans just wanted the war, and anything and anybody that had anything to do with the war, to just go away. Indeed, funding parsimony made much of the old military go away: this experience gave a huge impetus to the Pentagon's subsequent, breathtaking improvement of the reserves and the guard to augment active duty units - the very system that guaranteed American victory in the 1991 and 2003 mideast campaigns. Thus no one should imagine that President Bush didn't learn valuable lessons from his service in an underfunded, underequipped, undertrained Air National Guard unit.
So what if President Bush didn't volunteer for the regular Air Force? Compared with what Bill Clinton did not do, George Bush did alright by me and by the standards that applied in reserve and guard units of that period. In a time of widespread ingratitudeand hostility toward the services and their men and women, George Bush paid his service dues as the powers-that-were in that time saw fit to exact, or inexact, those dues. From his guard experience President Bush learned the value of keeping the reserves and the guard up to snuff. Just ask whatzisnameitz...oh yeah: Saddam.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:47 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
May 08, 2003
POLITICS: Early Line on IL Senate Race
Archpundit on Political State Report carries word that former GOP governor Jim Edgar has the early lead in hypothetical matchups to replace retiring GOP Senator Peter Fitzgerald.
Politics: Background on Bob Graham
The Sunday Washington Post Magazine had an extensive article here on presidential candidate Sen. Bob Graham. (I didn't know that his half-brother was Phil Graham, of Washington Post and Katherine Graham fame.) Scary to think about it, but I do believe Graham has a point -- while Bush has been successful, to date, in bringing the war to the terrorists, I have a nagging feeling that we still are too vulnerable to another attack. That being said, I'm not sure I buy the conventional wisdom that another terrorist attack would make Bush politically vulnerable. Rather, I suspect it may actually drive up his ratings for three reasons: (1) Bush has shown he can handle such events with true leadership, (2) I suspect the public recognizes that Bush is doing a lot to protect us and another attack would underscore why we need him in office and (3) natural, patriotic instinct.
Posted by Kiner's Korner at 09:48 AM | Kiner's Korner | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Bennett Wrap
My initial gut reaction to the Bill Bennett controversy was, among other things, that this was a complete waste of time. Maybe I overreacted a little, if only because I'd read Josh Marshall's teaser ahead of time and expected a much bigger story than legal gambling that Bennett could afford.
I'd have to agree that the scope of Bennett's gambling does, at least, raise questions about his fitness for public office. But, of course, Bennett hasn't held public office in more than a decade (I don't know, he may have been on some advisory commission or something, but it's not the same thing), and nobody's suggested that he was gambling millions of dollars when he did. That's one of the innumerable distinctions from the Clinton situations (take your pick which one). The level of public scrutiny that's appropriate depends very much on how much power we give the person, which is why presidents (and, to a lesser extent, Supreme Court justices) are really in another league even from legislators, let alone pundits like Bennett.
I'm also not so quick as Andrew Sullivan to characterize casino gambling as something done in "privacy" - Bennett's "privacy" has perhaps been invaded to some degree, but it's not one of the more serious violations I can think of.
And some good has come of this: much unlike our 42nd president, Bennett is subject to the very social pressures of shame and disapproval that he has championed, and he is (apparently) willing to take personal responsibility, pay his debts (by all accounts, he has always done so) and stop going to casinos.
In the end, perhaps Jonathan Last was right: it may be a legit story, but one that would have been better served as a side item and not trumpeted as a big deal. And those critics who hope to strangle Bennett with the story and silence his voice for a moral society should still be ashamed of themselves.
May 07, 2003
POLITICS: John Kerry's Albatross
Teresa Heinz -- excuse me, Teresa Heinz Kerry -- has a reputation for being outspoken. The impact this will have on the presidential campaign trail has been the topic of much speculation for some time now in the Boston media, but I'm not sure how much attention the national media has paid to this issue. Read a bit about it here.
POLITICS: Bennett Revisited
I may go back to the Bill Bennett flap at some point, although it would be hard indeed to top Jonah Goldberg's devastating take; for now, Ross Douthat has some valuable points about why conservative Catholics shouldn't let Bennett off so easily.
POLITICS: Daniels Leaves The Lion's Den
The departure of White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels (leaving to run for Governor of Indiana) is sad, but inevitable; a budget director who lasted 4 whole years without making enough enemies to make his job impossible, probably wouldn't be doing the job in the first place. Slate marks the occasion with an excellent column noting one of the Bush Administration's few (so far) successful anti-pork initiatives: taking on the Army Corps of Engineers, which despite its name has a huge bureaucracy and bloated budget that have nothing to do with war.
POLITICS: The Gender Gap
Erin O'Connor has some interesting statistics about the gender gap in college:
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 698,000 women received bachelor’s degrees in 2002, while 529,000 men did. Some other chilling numbers: women outnumber men by a four to three ratio on American campuses (that means there are almost two million more women in college than men). Only 43% of all college degrees go to men. Things are worse within minority populations: two black women earn bachelor’s degrees for every black man; 60 percent of Hispanic college graduates are women.
What's particularly amusing is the reaction of some gender feminists to these figures:
Jacqueline Woods, executive director of the American Association of University Women, denies that men's declining enrollments is a crisis or even a gender issue. She notes that those concerned about boys' sagging educational performance are "playing a zero-sum game" and says "I refuse to play."
Remember that line next time one of these ideologues complains about men supposedly getting better pay than women.
May 06, 2003
POLITICS: QUOTE OF THE WEEK
From Margaret Carlson, of all people:
"[H]as anyone ever gotten more out of sexual favors she didn't dispense than Sen. [Hillary] Clinton?"
I think she meant sexual favors someone else dispensed, but the double meaning sounds just fine.
May 03, 2003
POLITICS: Makin' It Up As They Go
Seems the New York Times had to fire a reporter who exceeded even the Times' tolerance for sloppy journalism, albeit due to plagiarism rather than egregious factual misstatements. Howard Kurtz's writeup notes a jaw-dropping figure: "the paper has run 50 corrections on his stories" since 1999. But then, that's probably nothing compared to some of the paper's front-page veterans.
POLITICS: Snake Eyes
I never thought much of Bill Clinton's cry of "politics of personal destruction" whenever he got caught abusing the powers of his office. But personal attacks really can get out of hand sometimes. Josh Marshall ran a teaser that turned out to be a little smoke but not much fire: Bill Bennett likes to gamble. And he's probably lost a lot of money doing it. But there's no claim that he's got any of the serious problems we associate with gamblers, like tax trouble, debts he can't pay, etc. More like a Michael Jordan-type gambling issue: he loses money other people couldn't afford to lose.
This seems like a pathetically weak case for calling 'hypocrite' to me, which makes this really nothing but the exposure of a man's private life for no useful purpose. At worst, it suggests that Bennett has pulled punches on this particular vice because he doesn't see it as that bad, perhaps in part because he enjoys it.
But what's really sickening about investing major investigative resources and running this kind of story is the idea that you can discredit the entire notion of morality by showing that individuals who speak out for moral standards are, in fact, sinners themselves. Bennett never said he was perfect; if only perfect people could speak up for right over wrong, wrong would have the floor to itself. There are people who wish that were so. But I would have hoped that a seemingly reasonable guy like Marshall wouldn't be one of them.
May 02, 2003
POLITICS: The Height of Arrogance
An amusing story that appears to be true. Amazing that an 18-year old feels sufficiently emboldened to weigh in on senior level staff decisions of the US Air Force.
May 01, 2003
POLITICS/RELIGION: Cross To Bear
I'm not sure I have a lot to add to this one right now, but I can't very well let pass this story about the controversy at my alma mater, Holy Cross, involving the decision to give an honorary degree to pro-choice alum Chris Matthews. The main lesson here: the president, Father MacFarlane, has not covered himself in glory with his ham-fisted treatment of dedicated alumni and his repeated decisions to side with the PC crowd (including an incident, not mentioned here, where he was slow to come to the defense of a secretary who was forced, shortly after September 11, to take down a flag near her desk by a professor who objected to the flag).
POLITICS: Kerry v. Dean, Part 1
On the subject of stuff I've seen on Calpundit's site, he linked to an analysis arguing that John Kerry's latest broadside against Howard Dean (more on this in the next post) was tactically brilliant because it helps boost Dean's visibility and create the perception that Kerry v. Dean is the real race. I don't disagree with that, but . . . well, I've previously noted here and here that Kerry's temperament and his staff choices suggested that he would be The Mean Candidate in the primaries, and in recent Democratic history, it's always The Mean Candidate who wins, always the guy with the most ruthless will to power. As a Democrat, cheer if you will at the idea that Kerry is an ace at tactics -- but hasn't the Democrats' problem in the last two elections been largely that they put too much faith in tactics and not enough in ideas and honest debate about the issues? Look at the way Kerry aide (and former Gore and Gray Davis aide) Chris Lehane tries to bully Howard Dean into taking a position completely off the table, and tell me that anything at all has been learned from 2000 and 2002.
POLITICS: Taxes and the Rich
Calpundit touched off a liively debate in the comments section (complete with a thorough debunking by Jane Galt) with his call for more taxation on "millionaires." One thing that got to me about this: "millionaires" is a deceptive term when you talk about taxation; we don't generally tax wealth (with the exception of the estate tax), we tax income or capital gains. And a person with a high income in one year or a large amount of capital gains in one year is not always going to be "rich" over the course of their lifetime. The obvious example of this is a senior citizen who liquidates her investments in a one-shot deal, maybe to pay for a big medical bill, or a grandchild's college, or heck, even to get her son a good criminal defense lawyer. Is she "rich"? Or what about an illiterate guy who makes $500K a year for his three-year NFL career, and retires at age 26 with bad knees and no useful skills?
I've previously noted Noam Schrieber's theory that the Democrats are too beholden to a small coterie of inside-the-Beltway pollsters and political consultants, who have an undue influence on the party's ideas, rhetoric and tactics. Howard Fineman's latest 2004 presidential race rundown supports this thesis:
Winning campaigns usually, though not always, are led by candidates and managers who haven't been around Washington and the upper echelons of electioneering. Recent examples include the Reaganites, who came out of California circles, and the Clinton campaign, which was led by a cadre of younger hands who hadn't managed a presidential campaign before.
April 28, 2003
So much for the Democrats' faith in the tolerance of their own primary voters:
A senior advisor to another campaign scoffs at the idea that Lieberman will appeal to the largely rural voters who go to the polls then: "Lieberman's got endorsements in Oklahoma, but, when it comes to Oklahoma voters--." There is a long pause. "Enough said."
(From The New Republic; registration required).
POLITICS: Santorum and the Church
OK, one more post on Santorum to wrap up. To recap, there are three things that are controversial about the substance of Santorum's remarks:
1. His legal argument that the Constitution does not provide a "right of privacy" that prevents the government from regulating sex between consenting adults in a private place.
2. His political argument that sodomy laws are good public policy.
3. His moral argument that homosexual acts are immoral.
There are two additional controversies about his remarks:
4. Questions about whether Santorum acted offensively even by raising the subject.
5. Questions about whether Santorum expressed his opinions in a way that was offensive.
I've covered a few of these already (I'm with Santorum on the legal argument but against him on the political argument); I'd like to focus mainly on the moral argument.
Read More »
A number of people have argued that, by making a moral argument against homosexual acts, Santorum has shown himself to be 'hateful' or a 'bigot'. John Scalzi's argument (linked by Instapundit) is perhaps the clearest distillation of this. Andrew Sullivan makes a similar argument, although Sullivan leans more heavily on the political argument and the nature of Santorum's remarks about the Church scandals.
Matthew Yglesias makes the argument (to be fair, he does seem to grasp the important distinction here) that Santorum's sincerity of belief is not a defense. Well, if you are arguing that his views are bad policy or that they are hateful and dangerous in and of themselves, that's true enough. We don't let radical Islamists off the hook for their sincerity.
But Santorum went quite out of his way to explain that he had no problem with people being gay as a matter of orientation; he simply argued that gay sexual activity is immoral. But saying that you disapprove of people's activities of a particular type merely makes you a person with a conscience; it has nothing to do with 'hatred' or 'bigotry.' Like I said in a prior post, I deal with people all the time (gay and straight) whose sex lives I either disapprove of or likely would disapprove of if I knew more about them. I don't have a problem with that; it's a big world.
Sullivan makes a comparison to religious animus . . . but let's say for the sake of argument that I believed that all Jews and Muslims are going to Hell for rejecting Jesus - indeed, let's say for the sake of the analogy that I believed the same of all Protestants as well. (I don't think this is the Catholic Church's position anymore, but I think it effectively was at one time). That might be a view associated with intolerance, as in the real world it often was, but it can just as easily be associated simply with the idea that I, as a Catholic, am right and you are not. The fact that you disagree profoundly with someone else's moral or religious choices does not mean you hate them.
To make 'hatred' of people out of the moral argument alone, you have to essentially argue that the moral argument is just a cover for some deeper bias, and if you are going to do that, as Scalzi does, it then becomes extremely relevant that Santorum's position is precisely the same as the teachings of the Catholic Church.
One final moral point: Sullivan, in particular, argues that gay sex must be moral because it is so essential to his identity as a gay man; that the Catholic Church's position ultimately leaves him with no recourse to express his deepest desires. I'm sympathetic to this position, but by itself it is not a moral argument; it's the precise mirror image of the argument that gay sex is immoral because it's 'unnatural.' In either case, one is arguing morality from biology, and that's not enough. While I can understand why the analogy of consensual adult sex to pedohilia offends people, the illustration in this instance (like Yglesias' Hitler analogy) is a useful one: the pedophile's acts are not moral simply because they are the result of deeply held desires. Moral argumentation demands more.
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April 26, 2003
POLITICS: Marshall on Santorum
I'm about ready to wrap up the Santorum issue shortly; one or two more posts to go. I was wondering when Josh Marshall would finally weigh in - seeing as he was the leader of the pack on the Lott fiasco -- and here he is:
Now you have the President supporting Santorum and calling him an "inclusive man." For the reasons Eleanor Clift sets forth here, I guess the president doesn't feel it's possible to criticize Santorum -- which tells you a lot. But "inclusive"? I can think of a number of words he could have used. 'Principled'? Maybe they're bad principles, but he's principled. 'Deeply religious'? Okay. But 'inclusive'?
One thing that hurts politicians more than anything is saying things that make them sound ridiculous. Calling Rick Santorum 'inclusive' makes the president sound ridiculous.
I have to agree. Bush had trouble avoiding being ridiculous during the 2000 primaries, but he's been much improved since then. I think his response here was along the lines of when he said Putin had a good heart.
POLITICS: The Boston Globe
In the vein of smartertimes.com, this blog does a great job pointing out the biases and idiocies of the Boston Globe. For those in the Boston area, check it out -- its worth a look.
POLITICS: Goldberg and Santorum
I largely agree with Jonah Goldberg on the outcome on sodomy laws: they should be repealed, but they aren't unconstitutional. One quibble; Goldberg says:
Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign -a leading gay rights organization, led a chorus of liberal critics saying in response: "When Trent Lott made similar comments, he lost his position as majority leader, and it is time for the Republican Party to consider similar steps with Senator Santorum."
First, let's cover a little history. The Civil War was America's bloodiest conflict. It cost nearly 1,100,000 casualties, claimed 620,000 lives in perhaps more than 10,000 armed clashes. The war divided the nation for generations after it ended.
The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s didn't claim nearly as many lives, but it, too, transformed American life, rearranging institutions, public and private, and rewriting the language of the nation. And, you know what? None of it had anything to do with gay people.
Brother didn't fight brother over gay marriage or homosexuals in the military. Men didn't brave police dogs and fire hoses to overturn sodomy laws and the National Guard was never called in to restore order after gays were allowed through the schoolhouse door. Gays weren't kidnapped in Africa and brought to America against their will to toil in our fields.
It's important to keep all this in mind as the chorus of comparisons between Santorum and Lott gets louder, demanding that Santorum step down from his leadership position as Lott was forced to do.
When Trent Lott defended Jim Crow, he was defending something that had been rejected by two generations of Americans. Countless elections, debates, movies, books, marches and court decisions stand as testimony to the fact that America is resolved to put Jim Crow behind us. Lott dug up a skeleton that everyone wanted to remain buried, and he was punished for it.
Santorum, meanwhile, was giving an opinion about an existing law that is currently being debated in the Supreme Court. In short, homosexuality and race are just different things. They describe different things. They have different roles in our history and culture.
I know what Goldberg's driving at here, but the fact that Jim Crow is dead could just as easily cut the other way: because Santorum is advocating a position that still has support, if you find his views offensive or dangerous, then they are worse because they can still command respect.
More to follow.
POLITICS: Bush and Santorum
I'll probably have a few more posts on the Rick Santorum controversy; I don't relish the topic, but as with my coverage of the Trent Lott imbroglio in December, we conservative webloggers have an obligation to wrestle with the tough questions of what is, and isn't, a reasonable application of conservative principles.
This is not the debate Bush wants to have right now, as we try to segue into domestic policy and ramp up the fight on judicial nominees. But it's his own damn fault; he could've pardoned those guys in Texas either as Governor or President, on a "the government has more important things to do" platform, which would effectively have struck a death blow to sodomy laws without the need to offend religious conservatives by making a statement that would be read as saying "this is OK."
Then again, the key primary for the Dems in 2004 is South Carolina, so other than Howard Dean, none of their presidential candidates is likely to relish a fight about sodomy just right now (especially since unlike Trent Lott, Santorum's not going anywhere and may yet be Senate Majority Leader when Frist retires in 2006).
April 25, 2003
POLITICS: New York, New York
April 24, 2003
POLITICS/RELIGION: Santorum, Sodomy, and the (Back)Lash
WELL, there's certainly been plenty of commentary on Rick Santorum's controversial comments on the Texas sodomy case presently before the Supreme Court. Predictably, critics like the New York Times disapproved, without bothering to explain why Santorum was wrong. Let's go through this in some detail.
What did he actually say?
The San Francisco Chronicle helpfully reprints the whole interview, and before you jump to criticize Santorum -- or to defend him -- I'd suggest you read it all.
Read More »
We start after Santorum broaches the subject in answering a question about the Catholic Church's sex-abuse scandals and why they can be tied to an 'anything-goes' culture:
SANTORUM: In this case, what we're talking about, basically, is priests who were having sexual relations with post-pubescent men. We're not talking about priests with 3-year-olds, or 5-year-olds. We're talking about a basic homosexual relationship. Which, again, according to the world view sense is a a perfectly fine relationship as long as it's consensual between people. If you view the world that way, and you say that's fine, you would assume that you would see more of it.
AP: Well, what would you do . . . should we outlaw homosexuality?
SANTORUM: I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who's homosexual. If that's their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it's not the person, it's the person's actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions.
Up to this point, Santorum is making a moral distinction between orientation and acts, a distinction that is entirely consistent with the Catholic Church's teachings. Does that matter? Well, one link I found states that:
A devout Catholic, Senator Santorum regularly attends Mass. He is also a weekly participant in the Senate Prayer Breakfast and Senate Chaplain's Bible Study. In 1997, the Catholic Campaign for America presented Senator Santorum with the Catholic American of the Year Award.
So far, he's basically taking a moral position that is consistent with his faith, albeit one that's hugely controversial in society as a whole. (More on that later).
AP: OK . . . so if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?
SANTORUM: We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family.
Here's where things get dicier: a lot of conservative Catholics, myself included, would basically agree with the moral argument (personally, I believe that any sex outside marriage is wrong, but I well recognize that I am very much in the minority in hewing to that traditional position, and if you take that view, you learn early that you will have to accept people who don't live by it or you're not gonna have any friends). Of course, as Andrew Sullivan frequently points out, this view leaves gays with no realistic option but celibacy, and I'm not unsympathetic to the bind that leaves them in. It's not an easy question.
But Santorum argues, taking a position I wouldn't touch and nor would most conservatives these days, that the sodomy laws are actually a good thing: that even allowing homosexual sex to be legal is bad because it undermines the family to permit people to have sex outside it.
This is too far; while I'm somewhat ambivalent about some of the related legal issues (there are too many questions about how conservatives should approach gay rights issues to address in one post), sodomy laws are mostly stupid and pointless, and any uses they might have can easily be remedied by more specific laws directed at particular problems. In a free society, a free conscience should be given the room to commit sin, not least because in a free society people can reach different conclusions about what is and isn't sinful.
On the other hand, the wisdom of sodomy laws are a state-level concern; Santorum's opinions on them don't amount to a hill of beans. Let's pick him up where he left off:
And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold [v. Connecticut] -- Griswold was the contraceptive case -- and abortion.
Strangely, this has become the most controversial excerpt, but what Santorum is saying here is, as Eugene Volokh notes, a perfectly legitimate "slippery slope" argument: that if we start saying the constitution protects homosexual sodomy, we may wind up at the bottom of the slope having no principled way to ban incest and bestiality (or, as Ramesh Ponuru notes, prostitution). I think there's more than a few counters to that, but there's a lot of wisdom in noticing that once the question of what is "constitutional" no longer has any relationship to the actual Constitution, you can wind up in a heap of trouble. Griswold is the perfect example of this: hardly anybody cared much that Connecticut couldn't outlaw contraceptives anymore, but the Court had broken free of the Constitution's text, and it would use that freedom 8 years later to enact a revolutionary ban on laws against abortion. And for conservative Catholic politicians, the folly of the abortion decisions is always the starting point of constitutional analysis.
And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out . . . You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong, healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.
Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality _
Back to the 'threat to the family' stuff, which Glenn Reynolds mocks. Personally, I think the threat is more indirect - what Pat Moynihan referred to as "defining deviancy down," in the sense that at some point, failing to say "no" to so many things leaves us paralyzed in the face of genuine and direct threats.
At this point, the reporter - this has to be a rookie reporter here, not somebody who smells a front-page story - gets cold feet:
AP: I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.
(Tim Russert would've been thinking, "Senator talks about 'man on dog' - I'm leading the news cycle with this one")
SANTORUM: And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society.
AP: Sorry, I just never expected to talk about that when I came over here to interview you. Would a President Santorum eliminate a right to privacy -- you don't agree with it?
SANTORUM: I've been very clear about that. The right to privacy is a right that was created in a law that set forth a (ban on) rights to limit individual passions. And I don't agree with that. So I would make the argument that with President, or Senator or Congressman or whoever Santorum, I would put it back to where it is, the democratic process. If New York doesn't want sodomy laws, if the people of New York want abortion, fine. I mean, I wouldn't agree with it, but that's their right. But I don't agree with the Supreme Court coming in. (emphasis added)
I'd be interested to know if Santorum has supported the Human Life Amendment, which would contradict what he says above about leaving abortion to the states, but that's neither here nor there.
Anyway, there's been plenty of commentary. James Taranto was dismissive of the controversy. Lileks argued that this was dumb politics, and Calpundit called for Democrats to make hay from it, although the answer may be that most Americans don't live in Minnesota or California. Jacob Levy disagreed with co-blogger Volokh on whether the moral and constitutional arguments were legitimate points or beyond the pale of discussion.
I have to disagree with people who think that even discussing the morality of homosexuality is beyond the pale; they tend to be the same people who generally refuse to provide justifications for their own opinions.
And if they do take this view, then they damn well better never take issue with anyone's religious beliefs, which is similarly on the line between 'immutable characteristics' and 'chosen beliefs/conduct'. Basically, if you find Santorum's opinions wrong and dangerous, criticize him; if you think his stance on this is that important, don't vote for him. But don't tell me that no civilized person may be permitted to speak such opinions. That way lies France, where serious dissent on major issues is all but nonexistent and nothing ever changes, or worse, the Netherlands, where the speaking of uncomfortable truths is justification for shooting politicians. Even gay politicians.
The 'this is bigotry and hate speech' position really underestimates the American public, if you ask me. Santorum stuck doggedly to the Catholic Church's "love the sinner/hate the sin" dichotomy, and he laid out a reasoned argument. You can disagree with that, but this is just not the stuff of hate and violence; it's the very essence of people trying to have a civil disagreement over fundamentally differing worldviews.
Turning to a related issue . . . speaking of immutable characteristics, by the way, I think on some level that everyone from gay rights advocates to fundamentalists is deeply afraid to definitively resolve whether homosexuality is genetically determined or not. Both tend to want it both ways (so to speak). For example, if somebody like a Jerry Falwell says being gay is a sickness, he gets attacked. But if the orientation is genetic, then on some level it is like a "sickness" or "disorder", except for the normative weight of those terms; it's certainly the same in the sense that any genetic deviation from the norm is a sickness or disorder. (The fallacy that some conservative Christians fall into on this point is in assuming that what is 'natural' or 'unnatural' determines what is good. If our morals were nothing but the sum of our natural impulses, we wouldn't be human. The irony is that this kind of moral reasoning is essentially Darwinian, which you don't expect to hear coming from creationists).
And, of course, if it's genetic, we can test for it, and anti-gay abortions can follow. Nobody can think this is good.
But if the preacher says it's a sinful choice, they get mocked. But if it's not genetic, then on some level it is a choice. Either that, or the orientation is the product of environment. Nobody wants to go there either, since 'environment' ties into the question of gay parents.
Like I said, it's not just the Left that seems to fear answering that question; I think the implications of either position are frightening to people who have strong feelings on all sides of these issues. They stare into the abyss, and they turn away. And we end up having fights over whether politicians can even skim the surface of the issue.
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April 23, 2003
Robert "Man Without Qualities" Musil has two interesting posts: first, he catches a typical example of Atrios quoting someone far, far out of context to make a point; then he notes that Bill Clinton seems to be serving the same role that Hillary did when Bill was the candidate: feeding red meat (or, in this case, beige tofu) to partisans on the Left, while letting his wife keep her distance from the more obviously irresponsible statements.
Before you can have the courage of your convictions, you need the intellectual clarity to recognize them. I wasn't initially too sure what I thought about Tom Daschle being warned by his local bishop not to keep identifying himself as a Catholic, but Jane Galt (who's not even Catholic, but is instead from Manhattan) puts Catholics like me to shame with a stirring defense of the Church's ability to do this.
POLITICS: Thought for the Day
"We prize as the greatest of freedoms the freedom to choose. But we are not really free to choose until we become sufficiently disciplined to know what the results of our choices will be."
April 22, 2003
POLITICS: The Crits Abandon Theory?
Also from the Corner, this amusing story about a panel featuring notorious academic postmodernist theorists who seemed unwilling to even try to defend the relevance of their own theories to the real world.
POLITICS/LAW: Not Exactly Pro-Choice
I just knew this was coming: somebody from NOW objects to a murder charge for Laci Peterson's child, fearing that giving any legal protection to a child carried nearly to term would help the pro-life cause: "If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder" Jonah Goldberg is right that this is just one county-level NOW rep, but it's still all too characteristic of the mindset that places the value of abortion above even the prohibition on murder.
POLITICS: John Edwards' Money
The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have the details on John Edwards' impressive fundraising, more than half of which comes from lawyers, mostly the plaintiffs' bar (and including some fishy items like legal secretaries donating the maximum $2,000 at the same time as their bosses). This is what I've always thought would be Edwards' Achilles heel: not that he himself is untrustworthy because he's a plaintiffs' lawyer - he paints himself in a fairly sympathetic light - but that his background as a plaintiffs' lawyer, combined with financial dependence on the plaintiffs' bar, would make him blind to its faults, resistant to even the most reasonable reforms, and ultimately easy to caricature (fairly) as a tool of a single interest group, and one that most Americans have at least some distrust of.
April 21, 2003
POLITICS: Gary Ha . . Haaah . .
Reading this blog entry is a good shorthand for why Gary Hart - even if he had stayed active in the public eye the last 15 years, which he hasn't - would be such a lousy presidential candidate: he spends too much time talking about how complicated and intricate everything is, and too little time explaining anything clearly. He's like Dukakis or the pre-1999 Gore this way. It's a combination of pedantry and self-satisfaction that's just toxic in presidential politics. Ask any litigator: your job in explaining things to people who haven't heard them explained before is to make everything as simple as possible - not dumbing it down, just stripping issues to their essence.
Unsuccessful candidates tell you they have a vision. Successful ones make you see it.
And do we really want a Leader of the Free World who has Hesiod on his blogroll?
April 19, 2003
SCIENCE/POLITICS: Good News
This has to be good news: a sharp drop in pollution in the U.S. between 1995 and 2000, even without drastic remedies like the Kyoto treaty. Give some credit where it's due: this occurred on Bill Clinton's watch, and under the auspices of the Clean Air Act forced on George H.W. Bush by Congressional Democrats. On the other hand, it happened without anything more radical, much to the undoubted chagrin of the Gores and Naders of the world.
POLITICS: Daschle In Trouble?
It's way early yet, but Republicans have to be encouraged by polls showing Tom Daschle trailing his likely potential opponent (John Thune) in a 2004 Senate race.
April 17, 2003
POLITICS: Gray Skies
Gray Davis gets "the lowest rating for a Governor in Field Poll history" and a plurality now supports removing him from office.
Yep, that's the Democrats' most prominent governor. No wonder the presidential candidates are mostly from inside the Beltway.
April 16, 2003
POLITICS: Fitzgerald Bows Out
With the Senate hanging in the balance, the sudden retirement of the GOP's most vulnerable incumbent, Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois, does not bode well, although it's early enough to get someone else in the race. We'll wait and see if there's more to this story.
POLITICS/OTHER SPORTS: The Masters
I guess the whole Masters protest story turned out to be a big dud:
What appeared to happen here was more evidence that dissent on the left is a dying lifestyle. It is firmly the era of Nobody Wants to Hear It. While tens of thousands more antiwar activists were not turning out to protest the Iraq war (or to call for an end to all war-occupation-aggression-racism-injustice) on the same day in Washington, hundreds were not disembarking from buses to join the attack against Augusta National's old-boys club.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:40 AM | Other Sports | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
April 13, 2003
POLITICS: Bad Words
While I tend to be suspicious of academics who try to penalize speech they don't like, this story of a campus newspaper being shut down over an offensive April Fool's issue seems like an example of free speech rights being legitimately outweighed by decency and common sense. The reasons why are exactly the same reasons why Columbia, for example, would be acting not only legally but appropriately if it fired that professor who called for "a million Mogadishus." With rights come responsibilities, and particularly in the example of a privilege like operating a campus newspaper funded by the college, there is such a thing as going beyond the pale.
April 11, 2003
POLITICS: Panhandler Airways
This chart on the latest corporate-welfare bailout of the airlines is just appalling.
BLOG: Hesiod and Atrios
I do try to read left- or liberal-leaning blogs, both to fairly hear the other side and to find bad ideas to stamp out; sometimes I'll even try to engage people in the comment sections. But two blogs that I've about had it with are Atrios and mini-Atrios (aka Hesiod). There are many reasons for this; Hesiod in particular has become totally unhinged by the war, lurching off into 'black helicopter' territory and mumbling about a 'Bush Fedayeen' that's out to murder critics of the president. But another reason is their hatred and contempt for Christianity. Check out this post from Hesiod, which is an extreme example. And there's this, from Atrios, who basically quotes a preacher preaching and thinks it's a punchline.
Gotta find me the loyal opposition. These clowns ain't where it's at.
April 04, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: Kerry 2000
Isn't it a little silly for John Kerry to make an issue of Bush's pre-presidential foreign policy experience? The guy's presided over unprecdented crises, two wars, made multiple speeches to the UN, met with innumerable foreign leaders. Whatever you think his relevant experience was, that's not an issue. But in the Democratic primaries, you have to remember that 2000 (and September 2001) never happened.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:40 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
April 01, 2003
LAW/POLITICS: McCain-Feingold in the Courts
Election law blogger Rick Hasen has the transcript of an NPR report discussing unusual behind-the-scenes details of the divisions on the three-judge court considering the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold. Hasen also follows up on a comment by Volokh Conspiracy blogger (and my law school colleague) Orin Kerr on the same subject. (Links via Howard Bashman)
March 31, 2003
POLITICS: Market Failure?
Donald Luskin has a pair of interesting posts on the California energy crisis of 2001, the recent FERC report on same, and Paul Krugman's misreading of both.
March 26, 2003
POLITICS: Tax Cut Cuts
Larry Kudlow thinks there's no reason for tax-cutters to panic over the Senate's vote slashing the "size" of the President's tax cut package to $350 billion from $725 billion. This is all inside baseball type stuff, as he points out; there's still plenty of time for the conference report to decide the ultimate fate of the tax cuts. A few thoughts:
+This should qualify for Kaus' competition for sneaking a story out in the fog of war - the Dems get to vote for higher taxes while nobody's looking.
+The vote was on the overall size of the package as measured by static revenue estimates -- but that tells us very little about what the final package will look like. To my mind, the most important parts are that the package should accelerate whatever cuts are going through, and should cut dividend taxes to give the stock market a shot in the arm.
+The "static" revenue estimates are, of course, fraudulent, and everyone knows it, not least because they assume that nobody changes behavior in response to tax cuts (which is idiotic) but also because they rest on predictions of the unpredictable several years down the line. Unfortunately, that's the only way Washington measures these things (what ever happened to the idea that a GOP Congress would change the scoring system? That's far more important and far-reaching than most of the other things Congress does).
+This is partly a response to the House increasing the size of Bush's proposal, which is also a negotiating position.
+It'd obviously be very good to totally eliminate the dividend tax, since a tax that's repealed is much harder to restore than it is to raise a tax that's been cut. But Bush was originally expected to propose just cutting it in half. Which gets to the strategic issue: yet again, Bush has shifted the terms of debate to whether he gets the whole tax cut package or just another big tax cut. Once again, the Democrats are reduced to wasting their fire on the boldest initiatives, and have to concede most of the ground Bush really wants.
But, of course, we know Bush isn't that smart, right?
March 20, 2003
POLITICS: Forgotten Men
Two African-American cops are murdered on Staten Island, and Al Sharpton and friends, the supposed 'champions' of the community these cops came from, are silent. Tireless NYPD advocate Heather MacDonald has the story. (Link via Kaus).
POLITICS: His People
Turns out that John Kerry embraced his Jewish heritage for the jokes.
March 11, 2003
LAW/POLITICS: Rethinking Bush v. Gore
On the flight, I caught up on a fascinating draft law review article by Peter Berkowitz and Benjamin Wittes, defending the Bush v. Gore decision against an attack by Laurence Tribe (the article is a working paper and hasn't been cleaned up for legal citation, but I assume it's fair grounds for comment since they put it on the web; link courtesy of Stanley Kurtz at NRO).
The thesis of the article is that both the majority and concurring opinions in Bush, despite the scorn heaped on them from liberal legal academics, were at least reasonable resolutions of the issues before the Court. The authors are careful to point out that the Court really could have gone either way on the Equal Protection ground and could likewise have declined to hear the case at all; they are more definitive in arguing that (1) Tribe is totally wrong and overwrought in claiming that the terms of the Twelfth Amendment (which gives the Senate the job of counting the electoral votes) barred the Court from considering the issue (they note that Tribe himself did not make this argument in representing Gore before the Supreme Court); (2) that the Florida Supreme Court's decisions were not only unreasonable but a clear departure from the statutory scheme and (3) that this departure gave strong support to the concurring justices' conclusion that the recount procedures that were ordered violated Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution.
They make two particularly interesting arguments. First, they note that Tribe essentially concedes all the key points of federal law -- i.e., that a sufficiently arbitrary or extreme departure from state law or from equal treatment of voters could justify overturning a recount under both the Equal Protection Clause and Article II -- and thus that his quarrel with the Court is really about Florida law and the facts of the case. This, alone, shifts the ground of the dispute away from the idea that the Court bent or twisted constitutional law, and onto the ground where the Court's critics are on their weakest ground, which is in trying to defend the Florida Supreme Court and the Gore camp's absurdly biased legal strategy. They particularly note the utter lack of justification for the Florida Supremes in counting only a partial recount of Miami-Dade County that tilted to the county's most heavily Democratic precincts.
Second, they note that the Florida Supreme Court was completely unjustified in disregarding the clear statutory mandate of deference to Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris' reading of the election laws, which the Court's critics have apparently elided by looking solely at the recount provisions of the Florida election code and ignoring that the Secretary of State was given authority to interpret the entire election code. This is not the kind of mistake that experienced law professors should make, at least not if they're being intellectually honest.
The authors clearly sympathize more with the Article II argument, and the more I read about the issue, the more I agree with them.
A few of the federal law questions are not addressed by the authors, such as Bush's standing to intervene and raise the Equal Protection challenge, which after all involved not his rights but the rights of the voters (on the other hand, if anyone had standing to raise the Article II issue it would have to be the candidate or possibly the electors). I'd also be interested to see a discussion of whether the political question doctrine would ever justify a federal court in vacating the state court remedy rather than deciding that a political question unsuitable for court decision must therefore be resolved by the state courts.
POLITICS: Kerry v. Sharpton?
Speaking of John Kerry's burdens as frontrunner, TNR argues that he's the one Democrat who can take the short-term heat for denouncing Al Sharpton in the primaries. True enough, as far as it goes; but the problem with Sharpton is November 2004, when he could decide he's been 'disrespected' and pull the plug on Democratic efforts to get out African-American voters in New York and possibly other cities as well. That could hand New York State, at a minimum, to George Bush, and possibly undercut Chuck Schumer's re-election as well if he's facing a decent opponent (if I'm Schumer, I'm quietly doing everything possible now to secure the loyalty of the black churches outside of Sharpton). There are a number of states where even a small swing in the African-American turnout could give Bush the state -- Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri. Losing New York, of course, would be a death blow to any Democrat's hopes of winning the White House, and as I've argued before, the combination of a conservative upstate climate and the intense focus of NY City voters on the war on terror could easily put NY in legitimate play for Republicans on the presidential level for the first time since 1984.
POLITICS/WAR: Jim Moron
I can't resist the temptation to pile on Jim Moran, the idiot Democrat congressman from Virginia and (I am embarrassed to add) alumnus of my own Holy Cross College, who had a Trent Lott/Cynthia McKinney moment last Monday:
"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this," Moran said, in comments first reported by the Reston Connection and confirmed by Moran. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should."
Moran's a fool, and should be shown the door in 2004, like Earl Hilliard and McKinney before him; hopefully his largely white constituency will have the same good sense that Hilliard's and McKinney's African-American constitutents showed, and will dump him in the primaries. In the meantime, the Democratic party could use to have at least someone prominent denounce the guy (John Kerry, as a former Irishman, might take a whack).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:03 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 06, 2003
Liberal blogger Atrios is outraged, rightly, at vicious anti-Semitic and pro-Hitler statements made by the Reverend Moon. This is nasty, nasty stuff, and totally inexcusable.
Atrios has another point in mind: discrediting the crusading conservative newspaper Moon owns, the Washington Times. Like a lot of bloggers on the left, he wants to analogize this to the crucial organizational role played in annti-war protests by ANSWER and other groups run by Communists.
I don't buy the analogies, for two reasons:
1. The anti-war movement pretends to be a popular mass movement; much of its efforts have been directed at getting publicity for the size of the crowds it draws, etc. Thus, it's exceptionally relevant to show that such a movement is being directed by Stalinists.
2. The anti-war movement has invested a huge amount of emotional capital in criticizing and demonizing the motives and financial backing of those who support war, usually as a way of avoiding the merits. Turnabout is always fair play.
Again, I'm not disagreeing with Atrios' condemnation of Moon, just his preferred use of the information.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:04 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Which Biased Media?
Mindles Dreck with some thoughts on Alterman, Bernard Goldberg, and media bias; of particular significance is his observation that the leftist critiques of the media come from people who are quite far to the left, and who think of mainstream Democrats as being "conservative." It's also worth noting that the two sides focus on different issues: Goldberg is talking about social issues, while Alterman and his ilk seem obsessed with labor-management disputes.
WAR/POLITICS: Liquid Resolve
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:49 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Barbara Boxer: "People have to wake up in this nation . . . We cannot take for granted the gifts we have. And right now, these gifts are going back to the store, and the refunds are going into the pockets of the privileged." Uh, does that mean that Boxer thinks that America's "gifts" are indulgences granted by the wealthy? Or, specifically, that our "gifts" are really all wealth redistributed from the welalthy by taxes? (I suspect the latter). (Registration required; link via OpinionJournal)
March 04, 2003
POLITICS: McCarthy, Objectively
POLITICS/LAW: Eenie Meenie
Kathleen Parker on a lawsuit claiming that "eenie meenie miene mo" is an irretrievably racist phrase giving rise to liability for damages. She's not kidding, unfortunately.
March 01, 2003
POLITICS/LAW: That Depends What The Meaning of 'Impartial' Is
I think I'd have to agree that, especially if I'm a prosecutor, I wouldn't want Bill Clinton on a jury.
February 28, 2003
POLITICS/LAW: Dahlia Lithwick on Affirmative Action Jujitsu
Slate's Dahlia Lithwick, a supporter of affirmative action, on why the debate over the Miguel Estrada nomination, particularly the debate among Latino groups, is yet another example of Bush destroying his political adversaries by doing exactly what they ask for:
This, then, is what the discussion has come to: a battle about who is Hispanic enough to warrant the racial preferences that most Americans oppose in the first place. What the Hispanic groups on both sides don't seem to understand is that, with all this infighting, they are managing to dismantle every single argument for affirmative action and making the case that race should play no role at all in public life.
* * *
[The attitude of Estrada's supporters who argue for him on the basis of his race regardless of his views] reflects several justifications for affirmative action: Break down racial barriers, remedy past discrimination, and create minority role models. All these arguments decline to look past skin color in the interest of getting the bodies onto the bench. But this argument has boomeranged badly in the past, not only because the Clarence Thomases have simply not been better for blacks than the David Souters, but because this kind of single-minded race-consciousness can only denigrate the minority in question. By ending the discussion at skin color, it sets up the implication that minorities succeed only because of preferences, that they couldn't have achieved such successes on their own merits. Could Miguel Estrada or any other minority candidate really sleep at night knowing that half his supporters would support a Honduran Hannibal Lecter as readily as they support him?
* * *
[The argument of opponents who say that Estrada is not a 'real' Hispanic because he is a conservative] decimates the only other justification for affirmative action (and the only one that now counts as a matter of law)—the argument that racial preferences automatically generate "diversity" of experience. To his detractors, Estrada's principal failing is that his privileged upbringing in Honduras and beyond were too "white" somehow—too Columbia and Harvard Law and Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher. He was not born in squalor, nor did he rise from the barrio. As a result, he does not represent the "Latino experience." By making this argument, Estrada's detractors are merely proving that race is indeed not a proxy for diversity—and that if you really want to guarantee diversity of experience, favoring minority candidates over poor or rural ones is the absolute wrong way to go.
Meanwhile, another racially charged issue that I continue to follow, the Washington Times points to some anecdotal evidence that Southern African-American voters may not be willing to embrace Joe Lieberman, because Lieberman is Jewish, has questioned affirmative action, is a longtime member of the DLC and has said nice things about Strom Thurmond. Quote from Al Sharpton: "They don't call themselves the Dixiecrats now; they call themselves the DLC." I've said all along that, contrary to the media's popular wisdom, the people most likely to hold Lieberman's Judaism against him are Sharpton and his African-American supporters, not conservative white Southern Protestants. The interesting question is whether Sharptonism and its fellow-traveler, anti-Semitism, will sell in the South as well as it sells in urban areas in the Northeast and the West Coast; the WaTimes points to bitterness over Cynthia McKinney's ouster, but remember that it was her own African-American constituents who dumped McKinney, and the same for Earl Hilliard. The counter-argument also focuses on the resovoir of good will for Lieberman having gone to Mississippi as a young 'Freedom Rider' in the Sixties, when it was legitimately dangerous to do so. I'm still not sure how it will all shake out, but without a real regional base, Lieberman will need to do well among African-American voters in the South if he wants the nomination.
February 26, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: Grab Bag
Lord knows I'm no Noam Chomsky fan, but it still shocked me to read Chomsky's visceral contempt for Vaclav Havel and his gratitude to America at the collapse of the tyranny that ran Havel's country. (link via Instapundit)
Joshua Micah Marshall has an interesting argument on why he thinks Dick Cheney is incompetent.
A great Goldberg File today, in defense of McCarthyism, then and now.
The Economist sums it up for all those who are reluctant supporters of war with Iraq:
"it would be wise [for the United States] to secure support for its threat through the UN, both to make the war less risky and to make the post-war peace more likely to be durable. But, in the end, the reality remains: if Mr Hussein refuses to disarm, it would be right to go to war. Saddamned, perhaps, if you do; but Saddamned, also, if you don't."
Count the uses of "I" by Bill Clinton in this item. Clinton even manages to make the death of Richard Nixon's press secretary about himself, saying that Ron Zeigler was "wise in the ways of Washington, and battle-scarred as I am."
Why am I not surprised that the mere existence in office of Jennifer Granholm has already pushed liberal writers to stump for abolishing the constitutional prohibition on foreign-born presidents?
Andrew Sullivan carries a reminder (second item) that it was also France who killed the League of Nations, in part by refusing to respect an oil embargo against Italy.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 09:23 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Mean John
I asked here and here, in handicapping the Democratic presidential candidates, who would be the Mean Candidate. I think Mickey Kaus is right that John Kerry's addition of both Bob Shrum and Chris Lehane to his campaign team gives Kerry exactly the combination of advisers and temperament that produces the Gore-like candidate: mean, divisive, completely incapable of nuance or intellectual honesty, unwilling to concede even the possibility that the opponent and his supporters are anything but an eeeevil conspiracy. A successful candidate has to be tough and unsentimental about cutting the other guy's legs out from under him, to be sure, and this approach has had its successes in congressional and gubernatorial races. But a campaign like this is totally unsuited to attracting the broad middle in a presidential campaign. Why?
1. Presidential candidates have to look, well, presidential. The public knows a rabbit-puncher when they see one, and sometimes appreciates sending such people to Congress ("I'll fight for YOU to get money for OUR state and not send it to those big cities back East!"), but do people who think Bush isn't diplomatic enough really want our leader to be a Manichean populist?
2. The Shrum divide & conquer campaign style requires picking out the fissures in the electorate and living with the consequences of completely alienating everybody on one side of several of them. It's a lot easier to predict the consequences of that and wind up on the right side of the splits when you are dealing with a state or district; applied nationally, there are just too many ways to bet the wrong horse (think of Gore's alienation of gun owners and coal miners), and its logical conclusion is the candidate who wins landslides in culturally liberal precincts on the coasts but winds up getting screwed in the electoral college because he couldn't build a critical mass of support in any state that lacked a large urban African-American population (the one group that, for better or worse, will avoid being splintered by divisions on multiple wedge issues). Sound familiar?
Some time when I've got more time to blog, I intend to look more closely at the related issues of civility, intellectual honesty and mean-spiritedness in politics, media, punditry and blogging. But for now, I'll just say that adding Shrum gives Kerry the inside track at the nomination just as it pushes him further from electability by solidifying precisely the weaknesses that did in Gore. I can almost hear Kerry sighing already . . .
POLITICS: It's Everyone Else Who's Crazy
Ratings flop Phil Donahue accuses the American viewing public of being part of a right-wing cabal!
Well, actually he accused MSNBC of trying to imitate FOX by sacking him to hire more right-leaning talk show hosts, but Donahue apparently ignores the little matter of his flatlining ratings. Donahue's call for more patient management might ring truer if it were not for two facts:
1. His ratings weren't going anywhere. Donahue compares his situation to the time it took FOX to overtake CNN, but FOX was a whole new channel (people gotta find it on the dial) and it was trending sharply upward for a long time. Phil's show was stuck in the cellar with no prospect of improving.
2. I don't have figures, but you have to assume that Donahue's name recognition is still tremendous. Everyone knows who he is and that his show was out there; people just didn't want to watch it. No amount of time will change that. Sure, NBC gave a little-known show called "Seinfeld" time to build name recognition -- but there was no need to do that for, say, the Chevy Chase late night show; if it didn't start well, it wasn't going to get any better. Like Chase, Donahue just couldn't recapture the magic of the mid-seventies. He should have had the grace to just admit that. But in Donahue's world, it's always somebody else's fault.
Big Oil, maybe?
POLITICS/WAR: Buchanan on The Sick Bear
Pat Buchanan, who is nothing if not a believer in demographics as destiny, has some provocative insights about the toll of abortion on Russia's population.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:27 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 22, 2003
POLITICS/SCIENCE: A RESPONSE TO DOUG TURNBULL
Doug Turnbull has set out, at some length, a thoughtful explanation of why he thinks that the case for a space program is just as grounded in impractical romanticism as much of modern environmentalism:
Can anyone come up with an argument for manned space flight that couldn't, with a few changed words, also be used to support a ban on ANWR drilling, or almost any pro-environmental position, for that matter? Both seem to rest on a fundamental romanticism--in the one case of space, in the other of wilderness and wildlife here on earth. Both involve large economic costs to pursue this romantic goal, with either no economic payoff, or a highly questionable economic payoff in the distant future.
So why are so many of the same people who sneer at environmentalists' arguments about preserving wilderness, who happily whip out their cost benefit analysis thinking caps when such arguments come up, perfectly willing to jettison any semblance of rational thought or cost-benefit considerations when it comes to space exploration?
* * *
I've seen others make this point, and it's a fair criticism. Certainly much of the terms in which the space program is described by its admirers is explicitly aimed at our imagination rather than any hard grip on the day-to-day world the rest of us inhabit. Charles Krauthammer's stirring call to Mars is one of the best exemplars of this phenomenon.
In the end, though, I think that a fair distinction can be made between the two. Let's count the ways (albeit with a lot of overlap between my arguments):
1. The Costs of The Space Program Are More Explicit. The space program costs money, a lot of money; Turnbull pinpoints the cost of the Space Shuttle and International Space Station at $5.5 billion/year. But we can see that cost, and publicly debate it. The big problem conservatives have with environmentalism isn't the EPA's budget, which I suspect (without checking) is a good deal larger than NASA's. The problem is with all sorts of costs imposed by regulations on businesses, which impede economic growth in ways that are hard to measure and thus far less immediately subject to public scrutiny than NASA's budget.
2. The Costs of The Space Program Are Far Smaller. As I noted above, the cost of the space program as a whole is unlikely, in the near future, to exceed the very low 11 digits. Now, $10 billion may be a lot of money, but that's peanuts compared to the costs that would be imposed if we ever had to follow, say, the Kyoto Treaty.
3. The Space Program Places No Limits On Human Liberty. Costs aren't only measured in dollars. The space program costs us nothing but taxpayer money, and while I don't underestimate the cost of taxpayer money, environmental regulations impose other serious costs -- restrictions on businesses, impositions on communities and their livelihoods, barriers on the aspirations of working people who want to be self-sufficient.
4. We Don't Force Poor Countries To Have Space Programs. The environmental movement is forever trying to get the United States to insist on environmental restrictions on foreign countries, where people are trying to escape subsistence economies and raise standards of living to points that we take for granted in terms of our health and longetivity. The space program asks nothing of farmers in Zambia or the Amazon jungles, just the people who pay federal income taxes -- and we know who they are.
5. A Private Sector Space Program Would Be Even Better. Most conservative thinkers about space would gladly see a larger role for the private sector in the space program -- maybe not an exclusive role, but a larger one. Come to think of it, they're the same people who think that voluntary private sector efforts on the environment can be good for the economy. (Krauthammer, by the way, is quite explicit in explaining that he thinks government is just better at things like the space program that involve linear goal-driven projects rather than ham-handed attempts to screw with incentives in private conduct).
6. The Space Program Does Not Harm Our Sovereignty Or Infringe On Democratic Self-Government. Again, I get back to things like the Kyoto Treaty -- the environmental movement has made many efforts to get us to accept the dictates of international bodies our people did not elect. The space program makes no such demands, and instead proudly flies the American flag, even planting it on the moon (sorry, got a little emotional at the end there).
7. Space Has Military Applications. Now let's talk turkey -- as John Miller of the National Review noted (actually, I think he was quoting someone but I lost the article), space is "the ultimate high ground" -- by pushing our space program further, we can develop more military applications that have enormous usefulness in dangerous times. Miller's latest piece, on the use of Global Positioning Systems to improve the accuracy of our aerial bombardment and coordinate troop movements, underscores this.
8. Our Space Program Is Awe-Inspiring. I'm talking about the kind of awe that has practical uses: fear in the hearts of our enemies, respect of our friends. You can't buy the kind of propaganda, in the backward and dysfunctional societies where we must now seek to win hearts and minds and strike terror in those who wish to do so to us, than being the only nation ever to put a man on the moon. What that says to people who can't even get decent plumbing . . . it's incalculable. Mars? They can barely even see Mars.
But we can go there. And it will cost us much less than capping our smokestacks and reining in our standard of living.
POLITICS: California and New York
There are few hardier perennials in the world of conservative journals of opinion than the article assuring us that, really, this time, Republicans are gonna start winning in California. It's right up there with "any day now, African-American voters are gonna wake up and realize that the Democrats take them for granted!" (The Wall Street Journal's John Fund is a master at both of these genres). Hugh Hewitt had a recent species of this in the Weekly Standard: Barbara Boxer's a loony leftist! Bush is gonna win the state! Hey, Cubs fans find a way to have hope each spring, so I guess California Republicans can too. Me, I'll believe it when I see it.
Here in heavily Democractic New York, though, I think Bush really can make inroads in 2004. My reasoning is simple:
1. Upstate New York has traditionally been good territory for the GOP, and Republicans have also proven competitive in the suburbs and on Long Island. In short, if Bush can neutralize Democrats' huge advantages in the City (in 2000, he lost Manhattan by more than a million votes), he's definitely in the game.
2. Voters in New York City have proven their willingness to vote for Republicans -- albeit more liberal ones than Bush -- when they feel their physical safety is at stake. Hence, we've had Republican mayors for the past decade.
3. Nobody cares more about progress in the War on Terror than New Yorkers. We're the City With The Big Bullseye, and everybody knows it. We were the opening battleground of this war. If Bush can convince people that he has made real progress on ths front by the fall of 2004 -- no major domestic terror strikes, Saddam gone, perhaps a new regime in Iran, maybe Osama's head on a spike -- he can be very competitive in the City, and maybe win the state.
It will all turn on the war -- but then, if the war is seen as going badly, Bush will be packing his bags in 2004 rather than counting electoral votes anyway.
POLITICS: The Note
ABC News' The Note has a fascinatingly detailed rundown on the Democratic presidential hopefuls in "The Invisible Primary".
POLITICS: The Pie-Eyed Pipers
The New Republic's Noam Scheiber has a great article (registration required) on the inside-the-Beltway pollsters and consultants who dictate the Democratic Party's message, and why Republicans' ideology prevents them from falling into the same trap.
February 21, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: Grab Bag
As if I even have to tell you, don't miss Mark Steyn on that unilateralist cowboy Jacques Chirac, Jonah Goldberg on why liberal talk radio can't be funny, and James Lileks on sword-wielding Iraqi imams and the idiotarians who love them ("When [Tony] Blair shows up in the pulpit cleaving the air with a scimitar, let me know. . . It takes a particularly rarified variety of idiot to look at a Jew-hating fascist with a small mustache - and decide that his opponent is the Nazi.").
Posted by Baseball Crank at 08:10 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 20, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: 10% Solution
When a federal program finds that some 90% of applications are fraudulent, that's usually a sign that it was not well thought-out, no?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:56 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: Who Speaks For Michigan?
POLITICS: SO MUCH FOR LEGISLATIVE INTENT
I just love our elected officials sometimes -- Reason magazine points out that many in Congress have been shocked to discover the draconian provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill -- even though they voted for it! (Link via NRO and Instapundit)
POLITICS: Oxley Gored
The Washington Post's allegation that GOP congressman Michael Oxley is using the threat of congressional investigations of the mutal fund industry to pressure the Investment Company Institute to hire Republicans as lobbyists does not reflect well on Oxley, to say the least.
POLITICS: Dick Is In
Dick Gephardt formally announces that he's running for president (I was surprised to discover he hadn't announced yet), promising to raise taxes and create a massive new federal health care entitlement. Presumably, an endorsement from Walter Mondale is in the offing. Gephardt does stick by the president on Iraq, though, despite some silly carping about "the president's go-it-alone rhetoric."
In a not-unrelated story, Canada has basically admitted that the costs of its program of socialized medicine (just the costs, leaving aside the crummy services you get for all this money) will spin out of control over the next decade.
February 19, 2003
POLITICS: 2004 Illinois Senate Race
February 12, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: Sullivan on Bin Laden & Alterman
Andrew Sullivan thinks Osama's trash talking is giving the U.S. military some good locker-room material before the big game (second item).
He's also got a quote from Eric Alterman wishing Rush Limbaugh had gone deaf, as well as a link to Rush's justifiably smug response. Put aside the politics and the radio here: Alterman is a big music buff (specifically, a Springsteen fanatic, which as far as I know is Alterman's only redeeming quality), and if he's ever actually listened to Limbaugh he'd know that Rush is a big music lover himself. And he wishes that Rush would have lost that joy forever in his life?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 09:30 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: GREAT MOMENTS IN LOCAL BUREAUCRACY
A NY Daily News investigation finds New York City school system educrats giving false information and browbeating parents who call a hotline for information about transferring their kids out of failing schools under the federal "No Child Left Behind Act."
POLITICS/WAR: GREAT MOMENTS IN FEDERAL BUREAUCRACY
Two INS employees in California have been indicted on charges that they "shredded as many as 90,000 applications in an effort to reduce the backlog of pending cases" last spring.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:11 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 11, 2003
POLITICS: Democrats' Petards
Democratic presidential candidates are hoist by their own petard in trying to campaign in a state they claim to be boycotting. Meanwhile, Peter Beinart says they will live to regret not confronting Al Sharpton. I still think Sharpton has major potential to have a falling out with the Democratic front-runner, especially if it's Lieberman (given Sharpton's long history of animosity with Jewish Democrats) and wind up killing the party in November. Even if Bush is looking to win in a walk, that could be disastrous for down-ticket Democrats, since Sharpton's supporters are more likely to stay home than to vote for Bush.
POLITICS: Peter And The Oppressed Creature
I still think this story, about Bill Clinton and Gorbachev recording a retelling of Peter and the Wolf that will "tell the story from the point of view of the wolf, faced with the encroachments of urbanisation on his dwindling forest habitat" has got to be a hoax. This is just beyond satire.
POLITICS/LAW: Race at Princeton
This story, about Princeton University cancelling a summer program for minority students over concerns that it might be illegal, actually disturbed me; I know the program is a benefit of sorts and its admission criteria are race-conscious, but this type of outreach falls on the side of the affirmative action line that we ought to be encouraging. (Either that, or this is the university equivalent of the 'Washington Monument strategy' - Princeton is trying to suggest that a ruling against the University of Michigan will kill all programs of this nature, which is just not so).
POLITICS: Not Like Clinton
David Frum, one of the Bush Administration insiders who's often cited by those who think this Administration is too political, explains why the use of polls by the Bush team isn't in the same league with the Clintons. His example of the stem-cell controversy is a good one.
POLITICS: Ted K
Ramesh Ponuru notes that Ted Kennedy got caught in a racial stereotype about Latinos.
February 07, 2003
REMEMBER WHEN A CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT IN 2000 DISENFRANCHISED VOTERS through an intentional campaign to interfere with their ability to get to polling places? Lots of people think they do; this is part of the regular litany of the 'black helicopter' crowd on the Left. But the New York Sun reports that one candidate actually did try to keep his adversary's voters from reaching the polls.
February 06, 2003
BASEBALL/WAR/POLITICS: Bill James, Sabermetrics, Conservatives, and Bloggers
Dr. Manhattan has a great post - with links aplenty -- discussing the influence of Bill James on the thinking of 'warbloggers' including yours truly. I can't agree more - when I first read the 1983 Abstract (I was 11), James taught me how to think critically, a skill I regularly employ in my baseball columns, my blogging on war and politics, and my day job as a litigator. No one outside my immediate family has had a more profound impact on my life.
1. Dr. Manhattan argues that "When you consider his methodology and the amount of BS he hacked through, Bill James has a valid claim to be the first “anti-idiotarian.”" I'd agree that he fits the profile, but no way is James the first - while it depends how far back you want to go in your intellectual histories, George Orwell would fit that description to a T, and would probably also be cited as a direct inspiration by many in the blogosphere, most notably Andrew Sullivan. Not only did Orwell take a buzzsaw to cant of all types, but he often used the 'Fisking' modus operandi, quoting and methodically demolishing the foolish notions of even the highest and mightiest (read his assault on Leo Tolstoy's pamphlet on Shakespeare, where he starts off picking apart Tolstoy's reading of King Lear and winds up indicting Tolstoy's entire life).
2. I've long wanted to expand on the parallels between sabermetric baseball analysts and political conservative media:
+Both distrust and despise mainstream media, especially the NY Times and network talking heads and their tendencies to echo each others' smug assumptions.
+Both often refer derisively to "conventional wisdom".
+Both took to the Web early, seeking to connect with like-minded people alienated by the mainstream media.
+Both have a near-unshakeable faith in logic, a suspicion of emotional decisionmaking, and a belief that their ideas will ultimately triumph.
+Both tend to rely heavily on principles of basic economics and statistics, with a little Social Darwinism (not the racial type, but the basic idea that better ideas will invariably prevail) thrown in.
+Both are heavily populated by males age 25-40, who were heavily influenced by ideas that have a long pedigree (ask John McGraw or Bill Buckley) but that came of age in the 1980s.
+Both rely heavily on sarcasm, wit and other sometimes impolitic but entertaining methods common to 'outsiders,' due in part to a lack of connections with those on the 'inside.'
+Both are often denounced by the 'mainstream' on charges of being disconnected from reality.
+The ideas of either are rarely confronted on the merits by mainstream analysts who take them seriously.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Blog | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (2)
POLITICS: Daft Gore
Believe it or not, there are people out there looking to draft Al Gore in 2004! Maybe they're still hoping he'll resolve this unanswered question. Well, except that nobody asks Democrats about that stuff.
February 03, 2003
Instaman spotted this entry noting a hilarious mangling of history by John Kerry.
POLITICS: TIME For Tax Cuts
This TIME magazine column suggests that Bush should abolish double federal income taxation of Social Security and Medicare taxes. It's a very persuasive argument, although like many of the arguments favoring sanctions and inspections in Iraq, it's funny how liberal writers only get enamored of this type of tax cut when they're trying to come up with an alternative to Bush's more vigorous proposals. Bush is looking for an economic shot in the arm, which - along with the argument that it will improve corporate disclosures - is why he's targeting the dividend tax. This proposal certainly belongs in the basket for the next round of tax cuts. Maybe this will go in the 2004 platform . . .
POLITICS/LAW: Boddie on Preferences
On Thursday, Slate ran a piece by Elise Boddie, a former Harvard Law classmate of mine, attacking President Bush's position on affirmative action. There are a few decent points here, but also several crucial fallacies. Let's walk through:
Bush still professes to favor racial diversity, but he opposes the use of race to create it. Sort of like saying that you like meatloaf but prefer preparing it without hamburger.
This does capture the mealy-mouthed nature of Bush's support for racial "diversity" as a permissible goal of a taxpayer-supported insitutions.
Bush claims there is another way, under his "colorblind" "affirmative access" proposal. This refers to the law adopted by Texas in the aftermath of the 1996 court ruling in Hopwood v. Texas abolishing race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas. Similar versions have been enacted by California and Florida. The Texas law mandates the admission to university of all high-school seniors graduating in the top 10 percent of their class; California and Florida give a boost to the top 4 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
Many commentators have already pointed out the glaring problems with these percentage plans—not the least of which is that their success in creating racially diverse student bodies at the college level depends in significant part on the continued racial segregation of the state's high schools. They also don't affect admissions in private universities or in graduate or professional schools; and, in California, there is no guarantee of admission to the state's flagship institutions. There is some indication that minority first-year admissions at Texas universities have increased under the percentage plan, following the post-Hopwood plunge. But such admissions have yet to reach the heights achieved in the years prior to Hopwood, and at least some of the increase is due to a rising college-age black and Latino population in Texas.
First of all, arguments that assume that the sole end goal of admissions policies should be to increase the proportion of students "of color" -- on a zero-sum basis -- are deeply problematic. Boddie then goes on to say that preferences aren't so bad because the number of white students who lose out isn't that high, although, presumably, it would rise in the near future "due to a rising college-age black and Latino population" in places like Texas.
Second, to object to the public university plans on the grounds that they assume large racial disproportion in high schools . . . well, yes. Racial disproportion -- segregation, if you want to call it that, although it's principally caused by housing patterns - is precisely what supports the argument that there's any need for affirmative action in the 21st century at all. African-American students who attend top high schools are hardly the oppressed and downtrodden in need of a hand, after all. The "percentage plans" are a Band-Aid aimed directly at the problem of students trapped in bad schools, and are designed to ensure that the best students from those schools get preferential treatment. It's still open to fair question whether this is in their best interests -- whether some students are getting promoted beyond what they've been academically prepared for -- but it's at least a solution that's designed to be proportionate to the problem.
[W]hile most of the public scrutiny concerning affirmative action has been on the qualifications of African-American and Latino students admitted to Michigan, it is scarcely mentioned that other white students are also admitted with SAT scores or GPAs lower than those of the plaintiffs (and lower than those of rejected minority applicants). Nor is much attention paid to the other racialized dimensions of Michigan's admissions policy that favor whites. The preference given to the children of alumni (including, incidentally, Patrick Hamacher, one of the plaintiffs challenging Michigan) disproportionately benefits whites, as does the enhancement given for candidates from Michigan's predominantly white Upper Peninsula, and the points awarded based on the quality of the candidate's high school and curriculum.
Well, the Upper Peninsula plan seems to be basically another form of the percentage plans, and it's presumably driven by in-state politics, which is a hazard of any public university. I would tend to agree that alumni preferences should be eliminated in public universities, however; they don't serve any academic purpose and they do institutionalize the past racial and other makeup of the student body. The main justification for such preferences in private colleges -- and I'm somewhat skeptical there as well -- is that alumni preferences help build loyalties that are essential to fundraising. Even if you buy that argument, it loses support when the college is financed by the state.
Opponents of affirmative action have spent the past two weeks repeating what seems to be their main, patronizing argument: that race-neutral admissions are better for racial minorities because affirmative action stigmatizes its beneficiaries as inferior (while at the same time denying their own agency in perpetuating such stereotypes). But the "stigma" is one-sided. It isn't applied to legacy admits; and it isn't applied to white Anglo Saxon Protestant men admitted to universities before the 1970s. Until affirmative action kicked in, these groups had a virtual lock on admissions at selective institutions because white women, blacks, Asians, and Latinos were either excluded from selective institutions altogether or were admitted in token numbers. Yet one never hears that this de facto affirmative action has "stigmatized" white males.
A funny thing about this argument is that it ignores the scorn usually heaped on George W. Bush for being a guy who would never have gotten into Yale without alumni preferences (see this Michael Kinsley article for a sample); conservatives tend to hurl the same stuff at Ted Kennedy. Of course, it may be unfair, but the main reason the stigma isn't more prominent is that you can't tell someone is a child of alumni just by looking at them. Still, I think most people knew some people in college who were clearly there just because their parents got them in. Also, go to any Ivy League campus and try to talk up a classical education in the Western canon and tell me there's no stigma attached to the writers for being dead white males . . .
In any event, this is a classic example of the false dichotomy set up by proponents of preferences -- between rich old-money WASPs and poor African-Americans. Meanwhile, your typical middle-class/working-class white kids, whose parents and grandparents got shut out of the old order, get told "meet the new privileges, same as the old privileges." And Jews and Asians need not apply.
Studies repeatedly document the continued pervasiveness of discrimination in housing, employment, health care, and in the criminal justice system, and the persistence of racial segregation in elementary and secondary education. President Bush and others who oppose affirmative action may well preach "colorblindness," but really they are just willfully blind to the continuing relevance of race.
Well, so make the case that "the continuing relevance of race" in those other areas is a bad thing - don't celebrate it as an excuse to give upper-middle-class African-American kids a leg up in admission to elite colleges.
POLITICS/WAR: Lame Duck Norman
Bob Novak reports that President Bush would have fired Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta - the Cabinet's token Democrat - months ago, except that Mineta has been ill and essentially left management of the department to underlings.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:36 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/BUSINESS: Charles Schwab Steps Down
Charles Schwab stepped down as CEO of his firm Friday, while remaining on as chairman. This looks like just a sensible combination of corporate governance reform (Schwab's explanation) and the 65-year-old Schwab beginning the transition to the next generation of leadership for his company. But you do have to wonder, his denials to the contrary, if Schwab would be a candidate for public office. I assume from some of his public positions that he's a Republican, although whether a moderate or a conservative, I've no idea. But he's got huge name recognition and deep pockets.
In the end, probably the biggest hurdle is that he'll be 69 when Gray Davis' term ends. Guys like Schwab are generally better suited to be governors than senators. Still, in a California GOP desperate for winners, he'd be a guy worth talking to.
January 29, 2003
POLITICS/WAR: Fisking Gary Locke
Man, the Democrat who did the response was a weenie. I mean, the response to the State of the Union is always miserable - I've felt sorry in years past for the pitiable responses the Democrats do, and I was incensed during the Clinton years at the weakness of Republican responses. It's not a partisan thing; it's just impossible to compete with the president on his big night. But the Dems picked a small state governor who's in serious political hot water back home. The response itself is an awful mishmosh; let's walk through it, skipping a phrase here and there:
Good evening. I'm Gary Locke, the governor of Washington state. It's an honor to give the response to President Bush on behalf of my family, my state, my fellow Democratic governors and the Democratic Party.
Note who comes last on the list. ("Mr. President, the Locke family has a bone to pick with you!")
My grandfather came to this country from China nearly a century ago and worked as a servant. Now I serve as governor just one mile from where my grandfather worked. It took our family 100 years to travel that mile. It was a voyage we could only make in America.
Yup, still talking about the Locke family.
Many of the young Americans who fought in Afghanistan, and who tonight are still defending our freedom, were trained in Washington state.
If Rick Perry said something like this, it would come off as, "Texas can kick Afghanistan's ass all by itself." Coming from Locke, it adds to the overall impression that the speech is more about "hey look at me, ma!" than anything the rest of the country cares about. Joe Sixpack just got up to get a beer.
But the war against terror is not over. Al Qaida still targets Americans. Osama bin Laden is still at large. As we rise to the many challenges around the globe, let us never lose sight of who attacked our people here at home.
Meaning, presumably, NOT IRAQ. And since when do we know for a fact that bin Laden is at large, as opposed to MIA/KIA? Who knows? GARY LOCKE KNOWS!
We also support the president in working with our allies and the United Nations to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Make no mistake: Saddam Hussein is a ruthless tyrant, and he must give up his weapons of mass destruction.
Unless the French say we shouldn't do anything about it. Then, we would be making a mistake. But I get ahead of myself.
We support the president in the course he has followed so far: working with Congress, working with the United Nations, insisting on strong and unfettered inspections.
I suppose the "We" is now the Democrats, as opposed to the Locke family, but I could be wrong. Some of them sure didn't sound like they supported the course President Bush followed throughout 2002. But then, "yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone . . . "
Implied here, of course, is that when the going gets tough, "we" won't be so supportive.
We need allies today in 2003, just as much as we needed them in Desert Storm and just as we needed them on D-Day in 1944, when American soldiers, including my father, fought to vanquish the Nazi threat.
Back to the Locke family's need for international cooperation. As Jonah Goldberg has pointed out, the allies were a little more militarily important on D-Day than they are now.
He must convince the world that Saddam Hussein is not America's problem alone; he's the world's problem. And we urge President Bush to stay this course, for we are far stronger when we stand with other nations than when we stand alone.
"He," I guess, is the President (either that, or it's Locke's dad again). More seriously, it's amazing that the Democrats are still speaking in the future tense about this. The case has been made to the point of being a dead horse; granted, the president laid out some new allegations last night that will need to be backed by evidence before the Security Council, but anybody who's not listening by now is never going to. There's the same false dichotomy again between standing "with other nations" and "alone," ignoring the real possibility of standing with many nations but not all of them.
I have no doubt that together, we can meet these global challenges.
Except that we won't be behind you when the crap hits the fan, Georgie Boy. Then, you're on your own. Brave, brave Sir Gary!
Democrats have a positive, specific plan to turn our nation around.
To be fair, this is where I turned the radio off and read the rest this morning. If you read on, you will note that unlike the president's tax plan, the Democrats' is too "specific" to explain the specifics so the average American can understand what they actually plan to do. Just a general commitment to some undefined tax credits.
Some say it's a recovery, but for far too Americans, there's no recovery in our states and cities.
At this point, I get the sneaking suspicion he's talking about state and city governments.
There's no recovery for working Americans and for those searching for jobs to feed and clothe their families.
Ah, those "working Americans" again, as opposed to people who pay taxes on the income they make from . . . doing what?
States and cities now face our worst budget crises since World War II. We're being forced to cut vital services from police to fire to health care, and many are being forced to raise taxes.
Now, we've got the real gripe here, and the real reason they picked a governor. After all, when the Democrats in Congress vote to raise taxes, they can't well say that Bush is "forcing" them to do it. Of course, I assume that none of these states and cities spend money on anything less vital than police, fire and emergency health care.
Our plan provides over $100 billion in tax relief and investments, right now. Tax relief for middle class and working families immediately.
But we think that it's reckless for the president to ask for tax cuts to be accelerated. If the president's plan is too expensive, why boast about the size of your own? Me-too-ism stinks no matter which side of the aisle it comes from.
Substantial help for cities and states like yours and mine now. Extended unemployment benefits without delay for nearly a million American workers who have already exhausted their benefits.
More relief for governments! And we can't get the economy moving again if we've got a bunch of people around who want to work, can we?
President Bush has a very different plan. We think it's upside down economics; it does too little to stimulate the economy now and does too much to weaken our economic future. It will create huge, permanent deficits that will raise interest rates, stifle growth, hinder home ownership and cut off the avenues of opportunity that have let so many work themselves up from poverty.
Like the "permanent" deficits from the Reagan years, remember them?
We believe every American should get a tax cut.
Well, except that we're against any plans for tax cuts for some of those people, plus we were against the president's last plan to give everyone a tax cut. But other than that.
In 1999, an Al Qaida operative tried to enter my state with a trunk full of explosives. Thankfully, he was caught in time.
If only Gary Locke had been governor of New York, September 11 would never have happened!
Now, a year and a half after September 11th, America is still far too vulnerable. Last year Congress authorized $2.5 billion in vital new resources to protect our citizens: for equipment for firefighters and police, to protect ports, to guard against bioterrorism, to secure nuclear power plants and more. It's hard to believe, but President Bush actually refused to release the money. Republicans now say we can't afford it. The Democrats say: ``If we're serious about protecting our homeland, we can and we must.''
This sounds like a valid criticism, although there's more than this to many of the disputes over the routing of funds. But note that distributing some earmarked appropriations to Governors Like Gary Locke! is absolutely the only deficiency he identifies in our homeland security. Bold new ideas, this party has!
In my state we have raised test scores, cut class sizes, trained teachers, launched innovative reading programs, offered college scholarships, even as the federal government cut its aid to deserving students. Democrats worked with President Bush to pass a law that demands more of our students and invests more in our schools. But his budget fails to give communities the help they need to meet these new, high standards.
Same basic theme here: all would be peaches and cream, if only the president would send Gary Locke more money!
On this issue, the contrast is clear. Democrats insist on a Medicare prescription drug benefit for all seniors. President Bush says he supports a prescription drug benefit, but let's read the fine print. His plan only helps seniors who leave traditional Medicare. Our parents shouldn't be forced to give up their doctor or join an HMO to get the medicine they need. That wouldn't save Medicare; it would privatize it. And it would put too many seniors at too much risk just when they need the security of Medicare.
As usual, no proposal by Democrats to "save" Medicare, just load more freight on a sinking ship.
Environmental protection has been a tremendous bipartisan success story over three decades. Our air and water are cleaner.
Gee, now they tell us. Back in the Reagan years, there was nothing but bipartisan success on this issue! Says the Democratic Response! And they even admit that the sky is not falling!
But the administration is determined to roll back much of this progress.
[I]nstead of opening up Alaska's wilderness to oil drilling, we should be committed to a national policy to reduce our dependence on oil by promoting American technology and sustainability.
I guess he missed the stuff about hydrogen cars; to be fair, I've always hated the fact that the "response" by either party just ignores whatever the president just said. Lawyers have to wing it on some details their closing arguments; can't politicians add a few things off the cuff? Just turn off the teleprompter for 30 seconds and talk turkey?
We will fight to protect a woman's right to choose, and we will fight for affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity in our schools and our workplaces. Above all, we will demand that this government advance our common purpose and not pander to narrow special interests.
Do I even need to point out the contradiction in those two sentences?
This is not an easy time. But I often think about my grandfather, arriving by steamship 100 years ago. He had no family here. He spoke no English. I can only imagine how he must have felt as he looked out at his new country. There are millions of families like mine, people whose ancestors dreamed the American dream and worked hard to make it come true. They transformed adversity into opportunity. Yes, these are challenging times, but the American family, the American dream, has prevailed before. That's the character of our people and the hallmark of our country. The lesson of our legacy is, if we work together and make the right choices, we will become a stronger, more united and more prosperous nation.
Besides finishing the speech back under the shade of the Locke Family Tree, this closing stinks because it contradicts the gloom-and-doom substance of the speech. Locke wasn't selling hope here, he was selling Hard Times. If he was going to be consistent, he could at least mention how the McKinley Administration helped out his grandfather by giving block grants to the governor of Washington . . .
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:46 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Violence In Prime Time
If Bill Clinton's presidency was X-rated for explicit sexual content, last night's State of the Union Address had to be at least PG-13 for graphic violence:
The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages — leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained — by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.
Sometimes, the truth hurts. I'm obviously familiar with all this, but for a good number of viewers at home, it must've been jarring stuff; it was good to hear it all laid out.
On Iraq, Bush made it very plain that -- unlike Ted Kennedy, who fatuously insisted in post-speech comments that inspections were working and should be given more time -- the inspections game is over, and no more stock need be put in it:
U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them — despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them. . . . The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary; he is deceiving. From intelligence sources we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses. . . . Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.
Saddam might be given a little more time to have a "Scrooge on Christmas morning" type conversion between now and when the Security Council, following next week's meeting, comes to a resolution (I expect it will take 2-3 weeks). But Bush finally gave away his assumption that war is coming, despite his repeated recent protests that his mind wasn't made up yet:
[A]s we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies — and freedom.
Granted, this is qualified by the prior sentence's "if war is forced upon us," but it sure sounded like the president knows this is coming now.
Other thoughts on the speech:
Read More »
+Bush's delivery (I was listening on the radio) was pretty flat until he got out of the country and started talking about AIDS in Africa, blackmail in North Korea, torture chambers in Iraq and missing drums of anthrax. I didn't sense the same level of intensity when we was talking about hydrogen cars and Healthy Forests. I think the main Dem tactic - apparent in the early press reaction - will be to paint him as George H.W. II, too wrapped up in foreign affairs. That may not work, given that foreign affairs aren't so foreign anymore, but I'd have to agree that the domestic parts of the speech were clear but not that strong.
+I'm all in favor of the goals of building non-oil-powered cars and fighting AIDS in Africa, but the traditional Democratic solutions on those issues tend to be either too expensive, too burdensome on business, or just a big corporate welfare boondoggle (sometimes all three at once). I'd like to hear more on the details, like how we ensure that R&D funds on electric cars don't just wind up as a subsidy to GM, how we fight AIDS without committing to solve every disease and every problem in Africa, and what we intend to do to protect the intellectual property of US drug companies who are the Arsenal of Modern Medicine.
+No new members in the Axis, but he did spend serious time on each of the three - the Iranians were not forgotten.
+The commentators should just shut their traps; immediately after the speech, the radio people on 1010 WINS were debating the furrowment of the president's brow. Give it up.
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:41 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 28, 2003
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Dale Murphy
Mac Thomason at Braves Journal notes a report that Dale Murphy may be running for Governor of Utah as a Republican.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 27, 2003
POLITICS: Gary Hart Soundbite
I saw Gary Hart on CSpan the other night; he was before some highbrow audience bemoaning the fact that debates reduce candidates' positions to slogans. It's true as far as it goes, to a point, but:
1. Not if done well - the 2000 debates were quite substantive.
POLITICS: The Springer Party
First Al Sharpton for President, now Jerry Springer for Senate! What more could a Republican ask for?
POLITICS: Howard The Dean
"Son of an affluent Long Island stockbroker (George W. Bush's grandmother was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Dean's grandmother), Dean attended private schools, then Yale, before moving to Vermont, a state whose most famous company is an ideological ice-cream maker (Ben & Jerry's) and whose one congressman, Bernie Sanders, is a New York-born socialist. Dean signed the law that made Vermont the first state to give legal standing to same-sex unions."
Jonathan Adler's able two-part defense of the SUV against attacks by Greg Easterbrook of the New Republic (part two is here) is persuasive on most points, but the central question is unanswered: is it right to have cars on the road that present, by their size, weight and high bumpers, such a high risk to others? Adler isn't really sure:
While shrinking SUV size might improve car safety, it is incontrovertible that increasing the weight of passenger cars by 100 pounds would almost certainly reduce highway fatalities by over 300 per year. These results are consistent with other studies, such as that by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety which concluded that "the high risks of occupants in light (and small) cars have more to do with the vulnerabiltiy of their own vehicles than with the aggressivity of other vehicles. "Traveling in a larger, heavier vehicle reduces your risk of being killed in a crash," notes Dr. Leonard Evans, president of the International Traffic Medicine Association. "There is no more firmly established conclusion in the vast body of traffic safety research." In other words, if the primary aim is to increase automotive safety, the Easterbrook's target should not be SUVs, but smaller, less-expensive cars. "Upsizing the car fleet may well be the most important step we could take toward improving safety," notes Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
To his credit, Easterbrook admits that federal studies make clear that "the most dangerous vehicles for their occupants are compact and sub-compact cars," not SUVs. He even suggests that the government should ban such "econo-boxes." Yet all this demonstrates is Easterbrook's willingness to tell other people what to drive. He evidently places little value on the ability of consumers to purchase the cars of their own choosing.
In other words, people driving smaller cars are risking their lives, but they should be able to make that choice. As a matter of theory that makes economic sense, and maybe I'm grouchy about this issue because I just had to buy a minivan after my car got totalled by a minor fender-bender with a high-riding SUV. But Adler doesn't really answer the question: assuming (as is the case) that many people drive small cars because that's all they can afford, shouldn't there be a greater burden placed on SUVs for the hazards they present to such drivers? (Granted, trucks present even greater risks, but trucks (1) serve a valuable economic purpose and (2) are subjected to stringent regulations, including a separate licensing regime). At a minimum -- and I don't know if this is true -- the auto insurance market should be made to internalize, for SUV drivers, the cost of accidents between SUVs and non-SUV vehicles.
In short, I'm sympathetic to Adler's individual-autonomy concerns, as well as to the more general sense in Easterbrook's pieces that people who drive SUVs in urban or heavily populated areas tend to be unreasonably aggressive drivers. There has to be a solution that lets people choose SUVs for their virtues while compelling them to bear the SUV's social costs.
POLITICS: Bad Acid Test
Noemie Emery of The Weekly Standard thinks that NARAL's latest litmus fest has harmed the Democratic candidates who swore fealty to its agenda last week. Meanwhile, Stuart Buck has had a lot of useful thoughts lately about the politics and justice of abortion.
January 22, 2003
POLITICS: I Have A Holiday
I actually rather like this proposal to relocate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to August, to commemorate the March on Washington and the "I Have A Dream" speech.
POLITICS: Hired Gun
If you wondered, as I have, who the mean candidate will be in the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries, here's one early indication: Al Gore/Gray Davis hatchet man Chris Lehane signs on with John Kerry. Lehane was one of the people who, to me, symbolized the mindlessly partisan, tactics-oriented, soulless mean-spritedness of the Gore campaign. I mean, I'm all for negative campaigns, if it means holding the other side accountable for its follies, and every politician has weaknesses that can and should be exploited. But there's a certain breed of politico that instinctively goes for the cheapest shot possible, for the smear that takes 10 seconds to launch and works precisely because it takes more than one news cycle to get the truth out in return. The Republicans have some of those guys, to be sure - the worst example I can think of was Al D'Amato's 1998 campaign against Chuck Schumer, where D'Amato focused on preposterous attacks on the workaholic Schumer's attendance record in the House - but they seem to have gravitated heavily to the Democrats in recent years, and both Gore and Davis have hired nothing but these types of people, entirely eschewing anything that would resemble a positive, optimitsic message, a constructive solution, or an intellectually honest position.
POLITICS: Mosely Braun's Friends
Maybe it's just me, but it seems that if Democratic operatives, including Terry McAuliffe and Donna Brazile, are encouraging Carol Mosely Braun to run for president, their goal must either be to (1) undercut Al Sharpton or (2) generally fracture the African-American vote in a way that reduces its influence in the primaries. The former, at least, is a laudable goal. It's also possible that they are just eager to get the former senator out of the race against Peter Fitzgerald - their best bet for capturing a GOP Senate seat in 2004 - and afraid of the bad press in the black community if they just tell her to go take a hike.
January 19, 2003
POLITICS: Public School Madness
I just have to recommend this City Journal Piece "How I Joined Teach For America -- and Got Sued For $20 million." A better illustration of the insanity of big city school districts, you could not invent.
January 16, 2003
POLITICS: 2004 Notes
Bob Novak's Saturday column had some good notes, including John Edwards ducking Tim Russert. Joe Lieberman was on Conan last night; I guess he's warming up for Leno and Letterman, who must shake their heads when they think of how their shows have become important stops for any aspiring Leader of the Free World. Want your finger on the nuclear trigger? First you have to sit down with this guy from Indiana who made his name wearing a suit of Alka-Seltzer and dropping bowling balls and watermelons off a tower . . .
POLITICS: Steyn on Ted K
How many changed lives justify leaving Miss Kopechne struggling for breath for hours pressed up against the window in a small, shrinking air pocket in Teddy's car? If the Senator had managed to change the lives of even more Americans, would it have been okay to leave a couple more broads down there? Such a comparison doesn't automatically make its writer an a------, but it certainly gives one a commanding lead in the preliminary qualifying round.
But among the orthodox left the Clymer/Pierce view is the standard line: You can't make an omelette without breaking chicks. This is subtly different from arguing that a man's personal failings are outweighed by his public successes. Rather, they're saying that a man's personal flaws are trumped by his ideological purity, regardless of whether or not it works.
January 12, 2003
POLITICS: GOP in NYC
Liberal NY Daily News columnist Lenore Skenazy has some good lines in a piece on how New York will welcome the GOP convention in 2004 ("Starbucks introduces special convention drink: Trent Lattes. They're all-milk!")
January 10, 2003
POLITICS: What Do All The People Know?
Ryan Lizza at the New Republic blows the whistle on the scandalous truth about the Bush Administration's proposal to cut the dividend tax: turns out that it's all motivated by politics, because the Administration wants to help its chances for re-election by having a better economy in 2004! Where's an independent counsel when you need one? (Link via Andrew Sullivan)
Sullivan also cites a letter from a reader noting that Bob Graham will never win the Democratic nomination because he stands for Jim Crow, starving poor people, women in burkas and nuking cities for entertainment. OK, not literally, but he endorsed Reagan over Mondale in 1984, and for a big chunk of Democratic primary voters, it's the same thing (remember Al Gore torching Bill Bradley for some of his pro-Reagan votes in 1981?).
Of course, that's not the only old news from the 80s that may make a comeback. Remember Willie Horton, the convicted rapist who raped again while on a "furlough" from prison under the Dukakis administration? The furlough policy was one of such colossal idiocy that even Democrats (led by Al Gore, of course) used it against Dukakis in the primaries. Today, that whole story has been boiled down to "the Republicans were racist for mentioning the furlough issue because Horton was black," but it's still a legitimate issue -- and if memory serves correctly, Dukakis' lieutenant governor at the time was John Kerry.
January 08, 2003
POLITICS: Keep On Kicking
Even though he's out of the race and the article is on another topic, Democratic insiders just can't stop bashing Al Gore:
Another source, noting that Lieberman gathered a lot of chits in 2000, added, "Most importantly, everybody remembers Joe brought life to a campaign that had none."
Another source contrasted Lieberman's post-2000 behavior to that of Gore. "Gore went to his house and shut the door for two years. Joe sent out thank-you notes to everyone and continued to raise money."
I may also be wrong about Lieberman's ability to connect with African-American voters:
A new CNN-USA Today Gallup Poll showed support for Lieberman among African-American voters, a key Democratic constituency. Lieberman even outpolled civil rights activist Al Sharpton. Lieberman spent a lot of time rallying support in black churches during the 2000 campaign. Said one long-time activist, "Lieberman went to Mississippi during the height of the civil rights movement. People remember things like that."
Al Sharpton is a grizzled veteran in playing the anti-Semitism card, and he skillfully eviscerated the past campaigns of Bob Abrams (1992, Senate) and Mark Green (2001, NYS mayor). But maybe I'm being too pessimistic about whether that will fly. There's certainly evidence that African-American voters in the South aren't buying that particular brand of snake oil anymore; witness the primary defeats of Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard, both of whom played the "J-E-W-S" card (as McKinney's father put it) with reckless abandon against their (black) opponents.
POLITICS: Daschle Stands Down
Well, I can take some satisfaction in having predicted that Tom Daschle wouldn't run for president. NRO noted that South Dakota law would have prevented him from running for re-election to the Senate in 2004 if he'd run. I think the bigger motivator was the fact that he'd have to give up the Senate minority leadership for a long-shot bid. The fact that he considers that a big loss suggests that he's in no danger of a mutiny in his own ranks (which is unsurprising; his number 2 is a colorless loyaltist, Harry Reid, and except for Chris Dodd, most of the potential challengers are looking to the White House). Meanwhile, Dick Gephardt is leaving the House after 2004; that was inevitable once he left his leadership post, and if he's not elected president this is as good a time as any to leave the arena and go make some money for a few years.
POLITICS: 1787 in Brussels
I still think that this whole EU consititutional convention is an underreported story. The ultimate structure and allocation of powers in the new Europe could have a profound effect on the freedom and prosperity of what remains one of the world's most important regions, with millions of people and a huge economy. Plus, it's a deliberate experiment in political philosophy to rival that of 1787 in our own country. I suppose there will eventually be a massive debate on the whole project in Europe, but why don't we hear more today?
POLITICS: Capital Comments
The Washingtonian's Capital Comments had loads of interesting items this month, including continuing rumors about Orrin Hatch as a Supreme Court candidate, a rundown on the potential First Lady candidates among the Democratic wives (I hadn't known much about Elizabeth Edwards, for example), and Grover Norquist's quest to name stuff after Reagan ("Norquist keeps a list of geographic sites with names, such as Squaw Valley, that Native American organizations object to: “We talk to the tribes and tell them, ’Hey, it’s no problem. We have a substitute name ready.’").
This comment about Daschle's wife from some meathead lobbyist irritated me no end: “Rush [Limbaugh] and his ilk can’t stand the fact that she’s a good-looking woman with a brain.” This is typical Dem-speak; criticize a man for the fact that his wife is a lobbyist for Big Bidness, and it must be because you are somehow threatened by intelligent women. Nothing conservatives say can possibly be taken at face value, while women in the Democratic party must at all times be insulated from the scrutiny that attends everyone else. Ask yourself: does Rush get offended by good-looking women with brains who are conservative Republicans (Condoleazza Rice is the most obvious example)? Does he heap scorn on Republicans with active or outspoken wives (Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell, Phil Gramm)? If not, isn't it possible that his real concern is ideology, not gender? Nah, couldn't be that. It's not possible that anyone would dislike Hillary Clinton because of her politics, for example. Who could disagree with her?
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: Searching For A Black Parcells
I got quite a laugh out of Rich Lowry's column on how the Dallas Cowboys are catching heat for hiring Bill Parcells without interviewing African-American candidates. I mean, could the proponents of race-counsciousness in the hiring of coaches pick a worse battle? This sounds like something PETA would do. There are only a handful of other coaches with similar qualifications to Parcells, and most of them (like Don Shula) are old and retired. None are black. Dennis Green? Green's got a decent resume - a lot of playoff appearances despite a perennial revolving door at QB, but also a lot of playoff failures. Parcells, he's not, any more than Randall Cunningham was John Elway.
At any rate, if people are serious about affirmative action in the NFL, their campaign should focus on getting more African-Americans considered for posts as offensive and defensive coordinators, which is the key stepping-stone job into the head-coach network, plus there are twice as many of those jobs and they open up more frequently. (Also, you can't fairly compare a guy with head coaching experience, whatever it may be, to a guy without any; the decision to hire an experienced coach is common in risk-averse organizations, and makes sense in some situations.)
January 06, 2003
POLITICS: Early Predictions On The 2004 Democratic Race
The New Republic, desperate for a fresh New Democrat voice, thinks Florida Senator Bob Graham will be a strong presidential candidate in 2004. I have to say, his argument that we shouldn't limit the fight to Iraq makes a heck of a lot of sense. TNR makes a few good points in his favor.
Graham at least has a rationale for running ("Floridian serious about foreign affairs"), as do Lieberman ("centrist hawk"), Edwards ("champion of Regular People"), Sharpton (I don't have to explain this one), Dean (pure leftism, undistilled), and to some extent Kerry ("He'll Keep Us Out Of Vietnam - war veteran who speaks as voice of multilateral diplomatism"). The guys who don't are Daschle, Gephardt, and some of the darker horses like Biden. It's what killed Bob Dole; the leaders of the party in congress have to keep their lips simultaneously planted on so many behinds, and spend so much time immersed in procedural tangles, that it's impossible to distinguish themselves as unique spokesmen for any point of view.
Graham running would pull votes about equally from Edwards, as the electable southernor, Kerry, as the Master of Gravitas, and Lieberman, as the hawk, and most of all would destroy the dark horse Gary Hart and Wesley Clark ideas.
OK, it's time for the pundits, amateur and professional, to start handicapping the Democratic primary race. At the end of the day, the winner will need to be at or near the top in (1) raising money, (2) winning over the the African-American vote; (3) endorsements from AFSCME, and (4) endorsements from the teacher's unions. If one candidate takes all four, they win automatically, no matter their electability, charisma or press notices (See Mondale, Walter).
Here's my power ranking:
1. Edwards. The Kennedy/Clinton youth/electability thing, the populism. Needs to avoid the Big Gaffe and prove he can raise the big dollar, although he should do well raising money from the plaintiffs' bar. Left-wing voting record will reassure the unions.
2. Kerry. Fairly well embodies the party line. Deeeep pockets. Looks presidential. Kwise Mfume of the NAACP thinks Kerry will get the nod.
3. Gephardt. Has run before, knows the ropes. Many people owe him, will raise money effortlessly, and nobody has stronger ties to labor. Not to be underestimated for his lack of charisma, but pro-Bush Iraq vote was seen as treason by party faithful and undercut many of the Senate Democrats who wanted to tie the issue up in procedural knots.
4. Graham. Boring, neurotic, no name recognition, and Democratic primary voters won't go for the guy who sounds like a unilateral hawk. But he can win South Carolina and everyone knows he'll be competitive in Florida, which would give him serious momentum.
5. Dean. Governors still have some advantages, especially when the base thinks the DC establishment has sold them out, and the whole establishment is running. New Hampshirites know him and love quirky guys. Prepare for the Goldwater/McGovern/Mondale comparisons: Dean would strip the party down to the base. A Dean candidacy would be the worst outcome for Hillary '08, since it would create a backlash against northeastern liberals and pressure to try a Southern centrist.
6. Lieberman. Technically the front-runner, I guess, but urban African-Americans just won't go for him, and neither will the tye-dye Leftist types who think he's a puppet of Generalissimo Bush. Sharpton will kill him, because he will go after Lieberman relentlessly if he looks like he's going to pull ahead.
7. Field (includes the total chances of Hart, Biden and numerous others, including a draft-Hillary movement, a Gore reversal, Wesley Clark, Chris Dodd, Gray Davis, Jerry Brown (he's more likely due to run again in 2008), Tom Vilsack, Evan Bayh, and Lord knows who else). Hey, you never know.
8. Daschle. I still don't think he'll run; he's everyone's favorite scapegoat, and he doesn't stand for anything or anyone in particular. Gephardt will KO him in Iowa if he runs.
9. Sharpton. Will create havoc and will win a primary somewhere with 27% of the vote, I suspect, but the Democrats aren't this stupid.
January 03, 2003
POLITICS: Working Families vs. Regular People
Andrew Sullivan notes that John Edwards' repetitions of the phrase "regular people" indicates that he's moving away from the phrase "working families," a Democratic staple the last few years. The term, when tied solely to the lower tax brackets, always galled me - the Democrats seem to think that people who work 40 hours a week are "working people," but people who work 80 hours a week aren't. But aside from that, I wonder if the new term suggests that the new Democratic linguistic orthodoxy is moving away entirely from the term "family," in light of Al Gore's book-length argument for a new conception of the term?
One of the hallmarks of a good politician is consistency of message, which includes using consistent terminology. But always beware of people who refuse to call a thing by any but one chosen name - this is often a sign of the use of language as a shield against the encroachment of free and open debate.
POLITICS: Pretty Boy Edwards
Instapundit, among others, has been running an extensive list of links lately on John Edwards; check them out. One I would highlight is this New Republic item noting that Edwards may be running now, rather than waiting until he's more seasoned, because he's in danger of not being re-elected in North Carolina, a conservative state where he won with 53% of the vote in 1998, a Democrat-friendly year and one when the ballot was not headed by a popular Republican president running against (assuming Edwards doesn't get the nod) what is likely to be a liberal northeasterner. Edwards' voting record is very liberal himself; he's seen as a moderate mostly because he's from North Carolina. On the other hand, if Edwards runs a decent campaign but loses the nomination - like Gore in 1988, for example - he could announce that he's not running for re-election, and plot for a later moment to run for Governor if he wants to build his White House resume. Or he could just be an arrogant SOB who thinks nobody can say no to his charm. Lawyers have been know to fall for their own BS before.
Like most Republicans, I fear Edwards more than any of the other Democratic candidates - he's pretty, he's a Southerner, and he's awfully slippery. (The guy I fear the least, other than Al Sharpton or a nonentity like Howard Dean, is John Kerry, an able campaigner with a good biography and a deep war chest but a guy who will be incredibly easy to pigeonhole as an elitist Massachusetts liberal). On the other hand, don't forget that no sitting member of the House or Senate has been elected President in living memory, though many have tried. If you count Bob Dole, who resigned after locking up the nomination, the last three to get the nomination are him, McGovern, and Goldwater - not the best track record (throw in John Anderson if you're counting major third party runs). The last southern congressman to run in November was Strom Thurmond. Comparisons to Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are off-base, because they ran as governors; Edwards is in a Senate minority jammed with presidential contenders; his fellow Democrats won't bend over backwards to help him (word is, as the junior Dem he may be shoved off the Judiciary Committee, which will lose him the chance to grill Supreme Court nominees on national television), while Republicans in the Senate are sure to look for opportunities to put Edwards, Kerry, Daschle, Biden, Graham, Lieberman, Hillary!, Dodd, and anybody else who comes to mind on the record as often as possible with politically uncomfortable votes on taxes, partial-birth abortion, etc. Bet your buttons that Edwards' record on tort reform issues will be closely watched.
We also, except for Gephardt, Sharpton (a veteran instigator of internecine warfare) and super-longshot maybe-candidate Gary Hart, haven't seen how any of the Democratic contenders will fare under 'friendly' fire in a presidential primary, or how they will dish it out. Who will show a glass jaw, like Bill Bradley, Ed Muskie and Bob Kerrey in campaigns past? (My bet's on Daschle). Who will show a Gore-like thirst for the jugular? (Kerry's nasty but not really a street fighter; Edwards may prove meaner than we think). Who will drop out gracefully in the early going (I bet on Daschle again - I think he won't run), and who will stay in the race after he's dead, throwing bombs (Sharpton will, but will someone else fill Jerry Brown's 1992 role?). One reason for Dems not to get too high too early on Edwards is that unlike Clinton, he has to climb over a mountain of prominent party veterans; say what you will, except for Hillary and Gore we are likely to see the best the Democrats have to offer in this campaign.
Hillary, of course, is another reason why Edwards may be in a hurry. The 2004 field may be crowded, but she's made it quite clear that she's running in 2008 and not before. That gives everybody else a tremendous motive to get out of her way, given her fundraising network, her tremendous popularity with party faithful, and the fear of being branded a he-man-woman-hater if you criticize her.
January 02, 2003
POLITICS: Not it!
At this point, it's more newsworthy when Democratic Senators announce they're not running for president. The candidates should form their own caucus; by now, they've got more members than the CBC.
National Review Online today had a useful note of caution: don't fail to take John Edwards seriously.
December 30, 2002
POLITICS: The Southern Strategy
I don't usually link to Pat Buchanan, but Pitchfork Pat was present at the creation of Nixon's 'Southern Strategy,' and he has a few words for its critics:
Richard Nixon kicked off his historic comeback in 1966 with a column on the South (by this writer) that declared we would build our Republican Party on a foundation of states rights, human rights, small government and a strong national defense, and leave it to the "party of Maddox, Mahoney and Wallace to squeeze the last ounces of political juice out of the rotting fruit of racial injustice." In that '66 campaign, Nixon -- who had been thanked personally by Dr. King for his help in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1957 -- endorsed all Republicans, except members of the John Birch Society. In 1968, Nixon chose Spiro Agnew for V.P. Why? Agnew had routed George ("You're home is your castle!") Mahoney for governor of Maryland but had also criticized civil-rights leaders who failed to condemn the riots that erupted after the assassination of King. The Agnew of 1968 was both pro-civil rights and pro-law and order.
POLITICS: Steyn on Barry
The incomparable Mark Steyn: the "sub-Carvillian hit-job on Trent Lott's replacement, Bill Frist, is even more pathetic than usual, resting as it does on the notion that attacking Marion Barry is an obvious 'racial code.' If Democrats really want to take the view that an incompetent crackhead is beyond criticism because of his race, then feel free."
December 29, 2002
WAR/POLITICS: Rangel's Grandstand
Charles Rangel calls for a return to mandatory military service. Now, I don't dismiss out of hand the possibility that this may be necessary at some point, although it doesn't seem at the moment that a lack of manpower is our primary national security problem. But Rangel doesn't even pretend to be talking about national security needs:
The Korean War veteran has accused the Bush administration and some fellow lawmakers of being too willing to go to war with Iraq. . . . "When you talk about a war, you're talking about ground troops, you're talking about enlisted people, and they don't come from the kids and members of Congress," he said. "I think, if we went home and found out that there were families concerned about their kids going off to war, there would be more cautiousness and a more willingness to work with the international community than to say, 'Our way or the highway.'"
This captures perfectly why people don't trust the Democrats, as a party, to deal seriously with wartime issues. Rangel wants to make a political point, and in many ways a racial point (he 'explained' his vote against war with Iraq as being based on the fact that there were too many African-Americans in the military) - and to do it at the expense of having a serious policy on national security. Disgraceful. And, of course, a racially charged argument like this is a hand grenade thrown into the foxholes of the various Democratic political contenders, most of whom will likely show the courage of their convictions by trying to ignore it.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:04 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 23, 2002
POLITICS: "State-funded Jew-hating Canadians"
Mark Steyn with a great column on David Ahenakew, the Native Canadian "leader" whose pro-Hitler remarks have provided a mirror image on the Trent Lott controversy for the left north of the border:
Re-run the video of Strom Thurmond's birthday party: After the usual Viagra and Hooters gags, Senator Lott says he's proud his state voted for Strom in 1948. There's a bit of nervous laughter -- it's audibly different from the Viagra yuks -- because the crowd can sense this is a step in a direction most of them don't want to go. Strom himself has long since disavowed his segregationist past. And then Lott goes and says, if Strom had won, we wouldn't have had all these problems we'd had over the years. And that nervous laughter dies. You can hear an intake of breath. The audience understands a line has been crossed.
Nothing like that happened at that FSIN meeting. Mr. Ahenakew was supposed to be addressing health issues but lurched off instead into his historical digression. And the crowd took it in their stride, as if it's perfectly routine for their "respected elders" to start droning on about how the Jews started the Second World War. The sense of when a code has been breached is very important to a society's health. Senator Lott did not call for the return of lynching. He didn't say that the sight of those fellows hanging from trees taught an important lesson to uppity Nigras. But, even so, his audience understood. Mr. Ahenakew's didn't, and that speaks poorly for them, and their grubby third-rate leaders . . . FSIN Vice-Chief Lawrence Joseph blames the media: "It's f---ing garbage. What was your intent to print that story?" he told the paper. "It should not have even been pursued."
* * *
State-funded Jew-hating Syrians are pro-Syrian. But state-funded Jew-hating Canadians, like Mr. Ahenakew, hate Canada, too. What a fine testament to our tolerance: Our intolerant bigots are intolerant even of us, and we don't mind! In fact, we encourage it! Fire on law enforcement, and we back away, promising to be more "sensitive" in our policing. The Supreme Court of Canada in its April 23rd 1999 ruling that judges must pay "particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders" all but formalized the de facto two-tier justice system. If Mr. Ahenakew ever did get to "fry" six million Jews, the Supreme Court would rule the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal an infringement of his aboriginal rights and insist that he can only be brought before a First Nations "sentencing circle."
Kathleen Parker, on the other hand, notes that at least in the U.S., hate speech like Mr. Ahenakew's is legal - and why that's a good thing.
December 20, 2002
POLITICS: The Great White Defendant
The Trent Lott saga is over, a week after it should have ended, as Lott steps down as Majority Leader but will remain in the Senate. The finishing blow for Lott seems to have been the decision by one of his two chief rivals, conservative stalwart Don Nickles, to throw his support behind the White House's favored candidate, outgoing National Republican Senate Committee Chairman Bill Frist. Our good friend Larry said about a week ago that Lott would last until today, so he gets the prognosticator's prize.
In a way, the conservative furor over Lott reminds me of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, in which he talks about cops and prosecutors in the Bronx, sick of taking race-related heat for prosecuiting so many African-Americans and Latinos, and their excitement at finally getting their hands on "the Great White Defendant." I've about beaten this issue to death here - I'm hoping to "move on," like the man said - but a lot of the visceral reaction from conservatives was the opportunity to show that we are not, in fact, the racist lynch mob that the Democrats and their media allies would have people believe. And how better to prove that - and also, how better to prove that we're not like the sycophantic Democrats who rallied around Clinton when he finally got caught - than to take down one of our own?
As to the likely new Majority Leader, my all time favorite Frist quote is from the press conference when he took over the NRSC two years ago:
"I spent every day for twenty years waking up, training in the morning, working through about every other night for one thing, and that is to be within forty-five seconds, within forty-five seconds, to be able to cut out the human heart." After some uncertain laughter among his leadership colleagues, Frist added, "Under anesthesia."
Funny how this controversy, like most other political and international controversies over the past three years, has worked itself out exactly the way George W. Bush wanted it to. Branch Rickey - whose fingerprints are also on this particular controversy, if you think about it - used to say that "Luck is the residue of design." Bush gets lucky way too often to assume that it's coincidental.
Meanwhile, Drudge picked up on a report of a Democratic Senator with kind words for someone much worse than Strom Thurmond circa 1948. Will this story have legs? Probably not, especially coming the Friday before Christmas, but it's a nice reminder of the kind of thinking that does not deserve to hold responsible positions of authority.
December 19, 2002
POLITICS: The Weekly Standard on Lott
The Weekly Standard, doing its share of the all-Lott-all-the-time routine, has two priceless quotes.
On Jan. 28, 1931, in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill expressed his disgust at Ramsey MacDonald's government: "I remember, when I was a child, being taken to the celebrated Barnum's Circus, which contained an exhibition of freaks and monstrosities, but the exhibit on the program which I most desired to see was the one described as the 'Boneless Wonder.' My parents judged that the spectacle would be too revolting and demoralizing to my youthful eye, and I have waited 50 years to see the Boneless Wonder sitting on the Treasury Bench."
POLITICS: Yeah, More On Lott
Conservatives and Republicans are right to be indignant at Lott, and we're now seeing examples of precisely why.
EXHIBIT A: You knew if the race cards were being played somewhere, Bill Clinton would pull up a chair and say, "deal me in and I'll raise you."
Read More »
Asked if Lott should be removed, Clinton said, "That's up to them, but I think they can't do it with a straight face."
This from the expert in saying things with a straight face.
"I think the way the Republicans have treated Senator Lott is pretty hypocritical since right now their policy is, in my view, inimical to everything that this country stands for," Clinton said.
Now, if President Bush said that Democrats were pursuing policies that were "inimical to everything that this country stands for," he'd be pilloried for McCarthyism and questioning people's patriotism. (Note that Bush, last week, accused Lott of being un-American - "recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country" - but that's different). What policy? Clinton doesn't say, of course. All of them, presumably, especially the ones Clinton himself signed into law.
"How do they think they got a majority in the South anyway?" Clinton told CNN outside a business luncheon he was attending Wednesday. "I think what they are really upset about is that he made public their strategy."
By supporting segregation? Or is the centerpiece of Republican strategy the giving of pointless speeches at birthday parties?
As the Weekly Standard points out, Clinton's mentor, William Fulbright, voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964; so did Al Gore's dad, and so did Robert Byrd, still a key vote for Senate Democrats today. Most Republicans voted in favor. I'll get to this more later, but northern liberal Democrats seem to think that race is the only thing people down South care about. Clinton can't be that dumb - he was governor of Arkansas for 12 years - but he is that dishonest. Let's ask two easy questions. Do you think it's possible that the two major parties have different views about national defense, and that people in southern states may prefer the Republican position? Also, do you think it's possible that the two major parties have different views about social/cultural/religious issues having little to do with race, such as the public role of religion or abortion, and that people in southern states may prefer the Republican position?
Bill Clinton doesn't.
The former president then said, "He just embarrassed them by saying in Washington what they do on the back roads every day."
You mean, stump for 100-year-old segregationists. Not just segregationists, but segregationist Democrats. This is a growth segment in the electorate, y'know?
He accused Republicans of "trying to run black voters away from the polls" in states such as Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida. Clinton also cited recent gubernatorial elections in Georgia and South Carolina, won by Republicans.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good theme, huh? Of course, Republicans lost the big races in Arkansas and Louisiana, in part (at least in the latter case) because of heavy black turnout. Besides, the Democrats scream "vote suppression" and "racism" whenever Republicans lift a finger to examine very real possible cases of voter fraud, or to prevent such frauds.
"They try to suppress black voting, they ran on the Confederate flag in Georgia and South Carolina, and from top to bottom the Republicans supported it."
The "Confederate flag" story is the emerging Democratic myth about the GOP sweep in Georgia, and it may well have had some marginal effect on the elections there, but again this ignores, among other things, the sharp contrasts between Saxby Chambliss and Max Cleland on national defense issues and the impressive vote-turnout machine assembled by former Christian Coalition political director Ralph Reed. But was it really a factor in the South Carolina race?
EXHIBIT B: TIME magazine's ironically named race-baiting columnist Jack E. White wants Republicans to denounce Ronald Reagan, too. The idea here, as with Clinton's attacks, is to blur what makes Lott's comments offensive, and then try to fit other Republicans into the same blur:
The sad truth is that many Republican leaders remain in a massive state of denial about the party's four-decade-long addiction to race-baiting. They won't make any headway with blacks by bashing Lott if they persist in giving Ronald Reagan a pass for his racial policies.
The same could be said, of course, about such Republican heroes as, Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon or George Bush the elder, all of whom used coded racial messages to lure disaffected blue collar and Southern white voters away from the Democrats. Yet it's with Reagan, who set a standard for exploiting white anger and resentment rarely seen since George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door, that the Republican's selective memory about its race-baiting habit really stands out.
See, here the idea is to claim that any Republican policies that appeal to white voters must be "coded racial messages." Put criminals in jail? Code words! Equal justice under law? Code words! Oppose massive expansions of federal power? Code words! Cut tax burdens on individuals and businesses? Code words! Restrain runaway federal spending on entitlement programs, and fight fraud and abuse in federal programs and federal spending? Code words! Once you get in the habit, you can stop damn near any Republican or conservative argument in its tracks.
As a young congressman, Lott was among those who urged Reagan to deliver his first major campaign speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were murdered in one of the 1960s' ugliest cases of racist violence. It was a ringing declaration of his support for "states' rights" — a code word for resistance to black advances clearly understood by white Southern voters.
Now, I suppose the specific choice of Philadelphia, Mississippi can be quibbled with. Then again, Reagan had early supporters in Mississippi, and he was rallying the troops. Would White have preferred that Reagan burn the town to the ground and sow salt on its ashes, so no speech could ever again be given there? But on the merits, White makes no attempt to argue here that Reagan was in any way insincere about his commitment to federalism, or that he had a hidden agenda. No, it's enough to say that he used arguments that bad people used in the past, and some of them voted for him.
White's other point is that Reagan - in a decision that touched off a huge firestorm of criticism at the time - authorized his Justice Department to file an amicus brief on behalf of Bob Jones University, arguing that the IRS couldn't revoke the university's tax exemption on "public policy" grounds because it didn't like the university's racial policies. I hold no brief for Bob Jones, who also thinks that Catholics like me are satan worshippers or something, but it's obvious from a simple perusal of the case that bigger principles were at stake; imagine what the critics of the administration would have said if it had instead been defending the Reagan IRS in revoking a tax exemption on "public policy" grounds because a university's faculty, known for attending 'Ban the Bomb' rallies and supporting the Sandanistas, broke U.S. law by visiting with Fidel Castro.
There's no question that Nixon, in 1968, had a "Southern Strategy" to win disaffected white southern voters who were never going to vote Democrat again because of LBJ's civil rights position. OK. But first of all, the constant harping on this theme assumes that the world has not changed since 1968, which is actually a common misimpression on the left. John Kerry's running for president as the candidate who will stop the war in Vietnam, after all. Second, Nixon wasn't in any way arguing for segregation, just promising not to let the movements unleashed by the civil rights movement - most notably, unchecked growth of federal judicial power - get out of hand.
In any event, if you really want to argue that all subsequent Republican victories in the South are thus morally tainted, you have to also agree that every Democrat who stumps for Social Security or any of the rest of the New Deal's superstructure is a racist, because FDR was elected and pushed his agenda through Congress with an express decision to leave segregationists to their own devices. He put an Alabama Senator, formerly with the KKK, on the Supreme Court. He opposed anti-lynching laws; the Dixiecrats who bolted the party with Strom Thurmond in 1948 had supported FDR, and were rebelling against changes in Democratic party policies.
The real problem with Trent Lott's comments isn't the making of comments that could be read, through some super-secret Racist Decoder Ring, as similar to positions taken by segregationists. Given the wackos out there on the Left, the Democrats don't really want to get into this game of who has the worst fringe supporters; when Democrats engage in class warfare, after all, they are invoking the same type of rhetoric used to justify the deliberate murder of tens of millions of people in the twentieth century. The problem is that his comments gave open approval to the worst types of racism seen in this country in his own lifetime, in his own backyard. That can't be defended or explained away. It's not a capital crime - Robert Byrd's just as bad, and he hasn't been expelled from the Senate - but it does make him unfit to be the Majority Leader precisely because discrimination on the basis of race is not what the Republican party stands for, has ever stood for, or ever can stand for. And keeping him on will just give more credence to the Bill Clintons and Jack E. Whites of the world, who want to keep all conservative ideas out of the public square by branding them, every last one, as a Trojan Horse to bring back Jim Crow.
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POLITICS: Bush's Trumpet
America's news service, the Voice of America, carries the Bush vs. Trent Lott story to the world - but note the headline here: "Bush Rebukes Senate Leader Over Racially Sensitive Remarks." Shouldn't it be racially insensitive remarks?
Another sign of bad news for Lott - I get the RNC's "eChampions" emails, and the latest one (Friday) prominently touted Bush's rebuke to Lott (but said nothing about Lott's apologies). When your own party is looking to get distance from you in its mailings to party faithful, that's bad news.
December 16, 2002
POLITICS: Lott Critics In The Open
National Review publishes an open letter from the incoming Republican majority leader of the Colorado state senate, calling for Trent Lott to be replaced. His conclusion: "I can't forget my experience 30 years ago during Watergate. As a young Nixon staffer torn between partisan defensiveness and principle, I learned the importance of not letting ourselves be paralyzed from holding our own leaders to a high standard, merely because we are so offended by the motives and methods of those on the other side who are howling for blood. The hypocrisy of Lott's enemies in no way excuses the wrongness of his statements. Republicans can find a better Majority Leader. We should do so."
What the writer neglects to mention - though as a Watergate-era staffer he must remember it - is that while many GOP leaders took sides against Nixon in that battle, one of the GOP congressmen on the House committee to vote consistently against the would-be impeachers was Mississippi congressman . . . Trent Lott. Of course, Lott wasn't the only one; George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole were also among the bitter-enders defending Nixon. But the parallel is telling: in 1973, Lott didn't know when it was time to tell a Republican president when to leave, and in 1998, he wasn't willing to pitch a battle to tell a Democratic president when to leave. In 2002, he hasn't shown any awareness that it's his time to leave.
(UPDATE: Dave Kopel's companion piece on NRO points this out as well, noting that Lott did eventually vote to convict Clinton after having hobbled his trial, and noting that Thurmond did the same after having defended Nixon to the bitterest end).
POLITICS: More albatross hunting
BASEBALL: HALLELUJAH! FREE AT LAST!
This weekend was open season on albatrosses, and I'll have more on the rest later (for starters, Andrew Sullivan has some good shots at Al Gore, Trent Lott and Cardinal Law). But I loved the opening of the NY Daily News' writeup on the most indefensible of the bunch:
Rey Ordoñez's late-September declaration that Mets fans are "stupid" proved to be his final act as a member of the team. The shortstop was dealt last night to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a team short on fans.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 08:42 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Real Al Gore
It's the real Al Gore!
POLITICS: Dicks For Trent
Somehow, the fact that Dick Morris vouches for Trent Lott ("I have known Lott for 15 years and have had, perhaps, a hundred or more meetings with him. I got to know him better than any American politician other than Bill Clinton") doesn't help. Morris on Strom: "His current senility is a vast improvement."
POLITICS: Behind the Singing Senators
VH1's "Behind the Music" should get to work on The Singing Senators. Even Milli Vanilli didn't break up this spectacularly.
December 13, 2002
POLITICS: Paging Senator Freud
Lord knows I'm no fan of Al Gore, but the opening paragraph of this item is just a horrendous piece of pop-psychoanalysis masquerading as a 'news' article:
Al Gore, the defeated presidential candidate in 2000, has indicated to friends he is to abandon the quest to become president that his domineering father urged on him as a child.
Indeed, one of the reasons why Gore thinks the media has a conservative bias is because the media in general have been very hard on Al Gore. In most cases fairly, I should add; in some cases unfairly and in others too soft on Gore by a long shot. But Gore's perspective on the media is first and foremost shaped by how they treat him.
POLITICS/LAW: The Lott Fallout
The National Review Online continues its saturation coverage of the Trent Lott story with a blaringly headlined editorial calling on Lott to resign as Republican Senate leader, and noting that NR had called for Lott's head four years ago. The succinct statement of Lott's moral culpability:
Minority leader Tom Daschle's initial reaction . . . to Lott's remarks was essentially sound — Lott misspoke. But Lott misspoke in a particular way, one freighted with symbolic significance. Many southern whites of a certain generation have a shameful past on civil-rights issues. This doesn't necessarily make them reprehensible people, or mean that they are racists today. But, when they are public figures, it is reasonable to expect from them an honest reckoning with their past, and, of course, an awareness that a reckoning is necessary.
This is basically the same point the Supreme Court seemed to be leaning towards making in the cross-burning arguments this week: sometimes, words and symbols have a history, and you invoke that history at your peril. That's why being a Nazi is merely scorned in the United States, but illegal in Germany.
The Wall Street Journal also essentially asks Lott to step down. It's not entirely accurate, as the Journal suggests, to say that conservatives led the charge against Lott's remarks, but certainly many more conservatives outside of politics piled on the issue early than did liberals in journalism or the other usual sites of outrage. The Journal also strangely suggests that John Kerry has been the most vocal of the Democrats' presidential hopefuls on this, which he hasn't; to his credit, albeit with his usual smarmy overstatement, Al Gore was 'fustest with the mostest' in this fight. Peggy Noonan also has a wonderful column accusing Lott of playing the race card and telling him to go; it's worth reading in its entirety.
On the legal front, I have to think the number one casualty of the Lott brouhaha is Charles Pickering. George W. Bush has suggested that some of the judicial nominees killed in committee - namely, Priscilla Owen, the Fifth Circuit nominee who became a key issue in the Texas Senate campaign - would be revived, and with Pickering's son elected to the House from Mississippi and Lott stepping back up as majority leader, it seemed like Pickering would be back too. But Pickering is a white Mississippian, he was charged with racial 'insensitivity,' he was basically sponsored by Lott, and in the current circumstances, that combination will almost certainly make him too hot to handle. It's unfair to him, but that's the way it goes; at least he's still got that life tenure as a US District Judge.
POLITICS: Lott Is Toast?
Drudge is reporting that Trent Lott has scheduled a 4:30 press conference today in Pascagoula Mississippi. Looks like Instaman's prediction of a Friday afternoon resignation is gonna come through on the nose. Politicians tend to announce things like this on their home turf.
POLITICS: Mary Matalin Out
Mary Matalin is leaving the White House. With her ties to the disastrous Bush/Quayle '92 campaign and her marriage to James Carville, Matalin has always been viewed with some suspicion by conservatives. She seems personally likeable, but she will not be missed.
December 12, 2002
POLITICS: Trent Lott Pig-Pile
The Trent Lott pig-pile continues, with the President jumping aboard. Now TIME magazine reports that Lott fought successfully as a college student to keep his fraternity segregated. It's time to step down.
POLITICS: Trent Lott on the Brain
OK, I've had Trent Lott on the brain this week - as Rick Brookhiser points out on NRO, Justice Thomas' comments were probably triggered in part by the same thing - but I've got to pass on the link you can use to do something, especially if (like me) you are in a state with no GOP senators. (In fact, New York borders on five other states, four of which also have no GOP senators). You can send a message to the RNC here. Here's what I wrote:
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I write as a deeply committed and deeply concerned lifelong Republican. I have donated money to the RNC, the RSCC, and several Republican campaigns in my state and around the country. I've held signs in the rain on election day, attended rallies, stuffed envelopes for GOPAC back when Newt was still talking about making Bob Michel the Speaker, interned with a Republican congressman, debated College Democrats, served as a College Republicans officer and president of the Harvard Law School Republicans. I'm on your eChampions email list. I vote in primaries. I maintain a weblog with conservative political commentary. I am your base.
Trent Lott must step down, or be made to step down, as a member of the leadership of our party in the Senate. First, his comments themselves are appalling in their nostalgia for the Jim Crow campaign of the Dixiecrats; at a minimum, they represent a complete failure to understand how the comments would be heard. This is our messenger? Second, his apologies have been too little, too late. Third, these comments and similar blindness to public perception with regard to race relations have not been isolated; there is a long record of the Senator making these kinds of foolish statements. Fourth, he has singlehandedly given credence to the Democrats' favorite charge: that any and all Republican policies are motivated by racism and a wish to roll back all social progress of the last half century. We will now be forced to choose: try to disprove that charge by forcing out Senator Lott as majority leader, or try to disprove it by caving in to all the Democrats' ruinous policy demands. Senator Lott's public statements suggest that he may pursue the latter strategy, with disastrous results for the president's judicial nominations as well as nearly any other fruits of the 2002 election. Finally, Senator Lott's record as Senate leader has not otherwise inspired great confidence in his willingness and ability to press the agenda that is in the party's best interests, nor to fearlessly advocate responsible government and respect for the rule of law.
The 2002 elections were a great victory, and one of the prime architects of that victory, Senator Bill Frist, would make a fine majority leader. As would Senator Nickles, and many other GOP Senators. We have a great team in the Senate, and a great message. As party, we can not afford to throw that away by following a leader who simply doesn't understand what the Party of Lincoln must stand for and how it is perceived.
For the good of the party, Trent Lott must leave the Senate's leadership.
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POLITICS: Lott Loses Ground; Who's Friedman?
Jeff Jacoby has a good column on Trent Lott. But he's hardly alone, even (or especially) among conservative commentators; Instapundit has a lot of the links, but they're damn near everywhere on the Right and among the blogs. More interesting is this American Prowler item, which is the first sign that Republicans on Capitol Hill may be getting the message. (Black conservatives have also been on the march; see here). Meanwhile, the New York Times continues ignoring the story, while its columnists argue that dumping Lott is pointless because all Republicans are Dixiecrats at heart. This type of smear job is precisely why so many conservatives, Republicans, and conservative fellow-travelers (i.e., guys like Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan who lean conservative on more issues than not) have gone ballistic on this issue: because it gives ammunition to people who want to argue that we are all Jim Crow Dixiecrats in disguise. That's personal, and it's deeply offensive.
I saw on the CNN crawl on Saturday, "Bush picks Friedman to head Council of Economic Advisers" and the only Friedman I could think of was Milton. Who's perfect for the job, except he's about 93 years old.
POLITICS/LAW: Just What Bush Needs
Questions about his new pick for SEC chairman. Of course, virtually anybody who's been a corporate CEO has been named in a class-action lawsuit, and believe you me, the fact that such a lawsuit is filed - by itself - is absolutely no reason to believe that there has been wrongdoing. I didn't have a high opinion of securities class actions when I was in law school, but after practicing in this area for more than six years, I've often been shocked at how little merit is behind many claims.
Of course, pointed questions about the issue are perfectly fair game; we don't need any unpleasant surprises. And I'm not, myself, familiar with the lawsuit in question. But the favorable quote from Chuck Schumer in this story seems to support the idea that Donaldson is not really in any trouble at this point.
Click here if you want to express your support for Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate.
December 10, 2002
POLITICS: Bush and Lott
PejmanPundit thinks that Bush has to stay out of the Senate Republicans' hair in deciding whether to dump Trent Lott. I agree that there are risks, and Bush needs to avoid being too publicly associated with a dump-Lott move, but he can clearly make a major difference by signalling privately the importance to the national party of replacing Lott.
POLITICS: Less Krug Is More
Daniel Drezner on Paul Krugman: "His effect on [public] discourse would be more positive if he contributed less frequently." I couldn't agree more. Today's column by Krugman, though, is a sample of what the GOP is in for if Trent Lott isn't removed as leader: The Krug argues that any opposition to massive federal entitlement programs must be explained only by racism.
POLITICS: Right Wing News on Trent Lott
Right Wing News on Trent Lott: "Lott's remarks were so idiotic that I'm finding myself inclined to agree with Al Sharpton."
Not a lot of support out there on the net for the Trentser, lemme tellya.
POLITICS: MORE ON LOTT
Orrin Judd thinks the logical successor would be Dr. Bill Frist of Tennessee, who chaired the Senate Campaign Committee that helped elect all those new GOP Senators. Frist's a great choice, has tremendous ties to the White House, and a guy with instant credibility on healthcare issues to boot (he's a heart surgeon).
Instapundit, of course, has been nearly all-Trent-all-the-time on this story: I count 25 posts so far.
POLITICS: Daschle, Clinton and Lott
As I noted below, in the point about Al Gore, Byron York at NRO says Daschle is getting slammed by the Congressional Black Caucus for being soft on Trent Lott. How much worse can things get for Daschle when he gets the blame even when his opponents screw up? Meanwhile, NRO contributor Mark Levin says Bill Clinton is just as bad as Trent Lott.
In the immortal words of Mark Steyn, "if we members of the vast right-wing conspiracy don’t get back to our daily routine of obsessive Clinton-bashing, then the terrorists will have won."
POLITICS: Let's Talk About Trent
Let's talk about Trent Lott, shall we? Robert George does a good takedown on Lott in today's National Review Online, as part of a larger pile-on of frustrated conservatives who (1) have been waiting years for the chance to dump Lott, (2) were genuinely horrified by the sentiments contained in Lott's comments and (3) are eager to distance themselves from any nostalgia for Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign and demonstrate that, unlike today's leading commentators on the Left, they are willing to denounce one of their own when he goes off the reservation.
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For those who have missed this particular dustup, Lott gave a talk at a celebration of Thurmond's 100th birthday and his retirement from the Senate after approximately six centuries of public service; Lott added, in a string of compliments to the Senate's elder statesman, "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." Of course, Thurmond had run a third-party campaign on the States Rights Democrat ticket against Harry Truman - an incumbent from his own party - and Republican Tom Dewey in 1948 on a platform of segregation and, well, not much else. Some people have suggested that maybe Lott was referring more broadly to Thurmond having championed the principles of federalism, but Thurmond in those days was a New Deal Democrat - he wasn't running against overweening federal authority over wetlands and hunting rifles and mattress tags, he was running against civil rights for black people, period. His running mate was Jim Crow. George quotes the official sample ballot statement for Thurmond's party in Lott's home state of Mississippi: "A vote for Truman electors is a direct order to our Congressmen and Senators from Mississippi to vote for passage of Truman's so-called civil rights program in the next Congress. This means the vicious…anti-poll tax, anti-lynching and anti-segregation proposals will become the law of the land and our way of life in the South will be gone forever."
A Lott spokesman first said on Friday that "Senator Lott's remarks were intended to pay tribute to a remarkable man who led a remarkable life. To read anything more into these comments is wrong." Under increasing fire, Lott issued a terse apology yesterday: "A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embraced the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement."
Some Democrats have been uncharacteristically mute on this whole flap. Tom Daschle, who has shot himself in the foot with his mouth a few times lately, has to work with Lott and doesn't want to set a precedent of uprisings against Senate leadership, has basically said he thinks this was all a misunderstanding. The New York Times was unusually slow to pick up the story. At the other end of the spectrum, like a starving man jumping on a sandwich, Al Gore rushed to call Lott's comments 'racist' and call for him to be censured by the Senate:
GORE: Trent Lott has made a statement that I think is a racist statement, yes. That's why I think he should withdraw those comments, or else the United States Senate should undertake a censure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you're not prepared to go one step farther and say he is.
GORE: I can't look inside his heart. He has the opportunity to apologize for those comments and to withdraw those comments. And I think he's capable of doing that. I would sincerely urge him to do that, for the country's good, for the Senate's good, and for his own good.
SO, WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? I don't think this one comment is exactly enough to convict Lott of being a racist and nostalgic for Jim Crow, but it's really impossible to read the comments any other way than as saying he was proud that his state voted for Jim Crow in 1948. That's appalling, and it's really much worse than just making an 'insensitive' remark. Face it, most of us have said things at times that would rub somebody or other a very wrong way, but when a government official makes a fairly unambiguous endorsement of a policy of discrimination, repression and, yes, turning a blind eye to terror - there's no good way to excuse that. Ask Germany's now-former Justice Minister where it can get you when you start playing around with the very thing your constituents should be most ashamed of in their history. And George notes that Lott has flirted with this kind of stuff before. A guy who's willing to play the race card in this manner, just because some of the folks back home like the sound of it, is unfit to be the elected leader of the party in the Senate. Period.
It's true, of course, that Lott made the comments not on the Senate floor or at a campaign rally, but at a testimonial dinner - he wasn't stumping for votes, just trying to make an elderly colleague feel good. That's a mitigating factor here, and it's why I think Gore's call for a censure is so obviously nothing but hypocritical opportunism (where was Al calling for a censure when the issue was obstruction of justice? Oh yeah, he was leading a pep rally on the White House lawn) at the expense, mostly, of other Democrats who will now look soft on lynching if they don't call for something harsher ("SENATOR KERRY CALLS FOR PUBLIC FLOGGING OF GOP LEADER"). Censuring Senators for ill-advised remarks, even offensive ones, is a bad precedent as well as a largely pointless and symbolic one; the price paid should be political in nature, and it will be.
Lott has failed on numerous occasions either to present the public face of the Republican party to the nation well or to get the job done on the Senate floor or at the bargaining table. He failed to force a public trial on the bill of impeachment, which at least one incoming GOP Senator (Thurmond's replacement, Lindsay Graham) should remember. His appetite for pork-barrel spending has brought him endless battles with John McCain. He once traded off lifetime appointments to the federal bench in exchange for a post for a crony. The latest flap demonstrates, at a minimum, that he has no clue how the things he says will be received outside Mississippi, and there are times when I wonder if he even cares how he will be received outside Mississippi.
There is a fairly large class of new Republican Senators coming aboard - Graham, Dole, Talent, Coleman, Sununu, Cornyn, Chambliss, and whoever Murkowski appoints to replace him in Alaska. That's 8 of 51 with no particular ties to Lott's leadership. Add on McCain and some of the moderates, especially from the northeast, or senators up for re-election in states with big black populations, who may want to distance themselves from this kind of thing (Collins, Snowe, Chaffee, Specter, Santorum, Fitzgerald, Gordon Smith, Voinovich) as well as senators who may have ambitions that will be blocked by Lott (Santorum, Don Nickles), and you've got the power base for a leadership challenge. Nickles is probably the best choice, a solid conservative, although I'm also partial to Santorum, a young, articulate northeasterner of unwavering conservative convictions.
As is true with almost anything in the Republican Party these days, though, such an uprising won't happen without pressure or at least a tacit green light from the White House. This is a dicey issue; the Senate will need to be on the same page with the Bush Administration if anything is to get done the next two years, and supporting a failed insurrection against Lott would be a catastrophe of Jimmy Carterish proportions for the president. But it's the right thing to do, and let's not forget that Bush himself has to face the voters in two years, and African-American turnout will be the single biggest thing the Democrats need to unseat him if the election is in any way close. The last thing he needs is a barrage of ads linking him with the Thurmond '48 campaign platform. Plus, deposing Lott over this is the right thing to do, and would give Bush the legacy he craves as a 'uniter, not a divider' and founder of a less monochrome Republican majority as well as a little political cover if he decides to also do the right thing and have his Justice Department argue against racial preferences before the Supreme Court next spring in the University of Michigan cases. (Stephen Hayes over at the Weekly Standard makes this connection explicitly in calling for Lott's head).
Bush will need the courage of his convictions here. He's shown the willingness to fire people already - ask Linda Chavez, Paul O'Neill, Harvey Pitt and Larry Lindsey. I'm not a fan of people who argue that African-Americans like Tiger Woods have some special obligation to lead political crusades, but on this one, if he's in any way in doubt, Bush will badly need the advice of Colin Powell and Condi Rice to firm up his backbone. It is very much the role of these top and trusted advisers in an elected government to bend the president's ear and remind him of precisely how bad all this sounds in the black community. But at the end of the day, Bush himself will have to take responsibility for sending the message that any sentiment of approval for racism is not acceptable in Republican leadership. If it's delivered now, it's a lesson that won't soon be forgotten.
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December 05, 2002
POLITICS/BASEBALL: Strom Thurmond's Birthday
Shoeless Joe Jackson fan Strom Thurmond turns 100 today. For a little perspective, check out the A's roster the year Thurmond was first elected to public office. Note the presence of Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Eddie Collins. Cobb, in fact, hit .323 that year.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 09:04 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A New Angle
I had to click on this because it seemed such an obvious cliche: Tonight on Donahue: "Angry White Men."
December 04, 2002
SCIENCE/POLITICS: NOW WE KNOW WHO REALLY CREATED THE INTERNET
POLITICS: Moyers' Tiffs
It's worth revisiting the battle between Bill Moyers and The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes, now that Moyers is taking out full-page ads to dispute a column on him written by Bill O'Reilly (the ads even take a gratuitous potshot at Hayes).
POLITICS: No Noonan
I missed this when it ran last week - Peggy Noonan tells Tom Daschle that he's not half the man she is.
WAR/POLITICS: Giving Away The Game
Maureen Dowd can't help but admit that Bill Clinton's "preoccupation with the Monica threat to his future might have diluted his focus on the Qaeda threat to our future."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:38 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 03, 2002
POLITICS: Larry Elder on Guns and The Children
Larry Elder says that Dr. Phil has fallen into the usual array of statistical fallacies about "accidental" gun deaths of "children." The fact that an argument is so frequently buttressed by deceptive statistics makes you wonder.
POLITICS: The Krug That Didn't Bark
The really telling thing about The Krug's column on supposed conservative bias in the media is what's missing:
1. Any specific examples of biased coverage. Give any conservative with half a brain and some free time a week - even a day - and he or she will come back with a list of examples of egregious liberal biases as long as your arm. Scroll down this site and see how many you find. Krugman couldn't cite one.
2. Any discussion of the political biases or motives generally held by network anchors, editors of major newspapers, etc. The Krug doesn't bother to claim that anybody much besides Brit Hume is likely to have ever voted Republican.
3. Biases about ideas. Even when the media is tough on Democrats, they often prefer liberal policies. Does The Krug dispute this?
4. The 800-pound donkey in the room: The Krug's own newspaper. I mean, would Slate run an article on the nefarious influence of corporate ownership on media without mentioning Microsoft? Yet, The Krug assumes that the little alternative daily he writes for has neither influence nor a point of view.
(Go here for more smack on The Krug's latest tantrum)
POLITICS: GRAY DAVIS APPOINTEE ATTENDS TALK BY SPEAKER WHO USES RACIAL SLUR
The New York Times recently picked up a story, reported earlier in local media, that William Jones, a Gray Davis appointee to the San Diego Regional Government Efficiency Commission, attended an inflammatory talk at which the speaker made anti-gay remarks and used a racial slur. No public comment yet from Davis on this growing scandal . . .
OK, I'm selectively leaving out some key details here, but hey, smearing reputations is all in good fun, no? The Wall Street Journal thinks the Times should know better.
December 02, 2002
POLITICS: Tough Times
Big, big day for New York Times bashing: Newsweek wakes up to the paper's conversion into an ideological crusade; Howard Bashman calls the Times on its uncritical reliance on an error-filled chart produced by the left-wing group the Alliance for Justice; Howard Kurtz takes the paper to task for refusing to run a letter to the editor on the Citibank-AT&T story; and Andrew Sullivan takes on a rather large error in an article designed to make David E. Kelley look like a critic within the Catholic Church. As the Newsweek piece points out, this is all great for business - the Times' sharper edge is helping boost circulation. But as with the Democratic party, that sharper edge may gradually wear away at the patina of respectability that used to make the Times a paper whose product appealed to the majority of Americans.
POLITICS/WAR: Vietnam Veteran Kerry The Vietnam Veteran
Way to launch a presidential campaign - the New Republic savages John Kerry, while David Frum calls him a 'Wahhabi Democrat.' Mickey Kaus is even running a contest to get to "the root of Kerry's loathsomeness." Personally, I saw the clip of Kerry telling Russert about the 1991 Iraq vote, and there was so much weaselling involved that he might as well have just said, "Tim, that's how I voted, but I didn't inhale."
Problem: he puts EVERYTHING in terms of Vietnam. Guess what, JFK minor? See that guy going into the voting booth who will be 40 years old in 2004? He wasn't paying attention to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution when it passed because he was too busy playing with his chew toys and learning to walk. He was nine years old when Nixon abolished the draft. He wasn't even a teenager when Saigon fell. The first news story he heard from Southeast Asia as an adult probably included the words "Pol Pot" and maybe "genocide." If he had a kid when he was 21, his kid's old enough to vote too, and the kid doesn't even remember "Platoon," let alone the real thing.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:19 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 30, 2002
POLITICS: Letting It Rip
Speaking of Ricky West, he has a link to an article from Jeff Jacoby, noticing that the "new, spontaneous" Al Gore who's supposed to "let it rip" is not only a song we heard before, but even the same lyrics. As West puts it, "So, we've been mistaken: the new, new, new, new, new Al Gore is really the new, new Al Gore. Please update your registries accordingly."
POLITICS: LET'S NOT DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN
Bob Novak has the DLC's response to the word from Democrats who want the party to step to the left . . .
November 29, 2002
This weblog, maintained by Ricky West, has a hilarious continuous counter counting down the days, minutes, etc. until Bill Clinton's suspension from the practice of law in Arkansas expires.
POLITICS: General Wesley Clark
General Wesley Clark has been making presidential-candidate type noises. The National Review's John Miller is on the case, and thinks the Democrats should give serious thought to whether Clark should be on the vice presidential ticket in 2004. Meanwhile, check out this blog for the latest on Vermont Governor Howard Dean's uphill bid to recreate Jimmy Carter's 1976 outsider campaign for the Democratic nomination.
POLITICS: Indymedia vs. Tha Po-lice
Bill Clinton's Oklahoma City opportunism notwithstanding, you can't blame a movement for the existence of a few crazies in its midst or spouting its dogmas. Still, this story of a leftist ideologue murdering a police officer in California to protest the power of corporations doesn't reflect well on the type.
POLITICS: Cash It Out
Mickey Kaus likes Robert Reich's Nixonesque solution of expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and eliminating all other wealth transfer/income assistance programs. This is basically similar in design to the Jane Galt Tax Plan.
November 28, 2002
POLITICS/WAR: Steyn Is Online
I had planned not to blog today, but some news is too big to wait: Mark Steyn now has his own website, marksteyn.com ("The One Man Global Content Provider"), with links to his commentary in outlets the world over. including his latest, on George W. Bush's Achilles heel: his refusal to recognize the Saudis as our sworn enemies. The sun truly never sets on Steyn's empire of warmongering good sense. (Thanks to Tim Blair for pointing this out).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 08:37 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 27, 2002
POLITICS: The Silencers
Mr. Instantaneous points to a column by Neal Boortz suggesting that Daschle's and Gore's assaults on the media may be part of a long-run campaign to outlaw talk radio, perhaps through the campaign finance laws. I don't think the Democrats would go that far (I've been wrong on that score before), but they may be hoping to 'shame' the mainstream media outlets into tilting further to the left. Unfortunately for the Democrats, money talks, and the competitors of Fox News, for example, seem to have figured out that their target audience - people who are interested in news - includes an awful lot of people who think the media is too liberal and want to hear at least a semblance of objective reporting, respectful treatment of conservative ideas as such, and opinion commentary by conservative voices. Thus, NBC had Rush Limbaugh doing commentary on Election Night, which is probably one of the things that set so many Democrats off.
POLITICS: Stress Relief
POLITICS: Emily's Blacklist
One sign of a party losing its discipline and focus is when moderates in critical elections get abandoned by activists over a single issue. A good party has to purge the occasional extreme apostate in a primary, but dumping Mary Landrieu will almost guarantee that the GOP holds the Senate for the next four years. Yet, the American Prowler reports that Emily's List is doing precisely that, over a single vote to ban partial-birth abortion. The Prowler even quotes Paul Begala ripping the group for its extremism.
Just don't hold your breath for the New York Times to bellow that divisions over abortion are splitting the Democratic party.
POLITICS: This is Rich
Al Gore is mad at right-wing dominance of the newsmedia, as an example of which he cites . . . Frank Rich! Glenn Reynolds notes that at least Gore is also willing to demonize postmodernism as well.
POLITICS: Even Conason Has His Limits
Andrew Sullivan notes that Joe Conason (or, actually, a reader he cites with approval and interestingly placed elipses) cites a bunch of examples of why voters are supposedly motivated solely by a preference for the nicer, friendlier guy in a presidential race. Significantly omitted from his list is Bill Clinton. Wassamatta Joe, couldn't bear to apply this particular chestnut to the Prophet WJC?
November 26, 2002
POLITICS: Al Gingrich
Leaving aside the usual Times spin, this poll has very, very bad news for Democrats, and is consistent with the conventional wisdom that the 2002 election was principally a battle between a popular and trusted president and an opposition party stuck badly in reverse. The two big findings are the rising number of people with an unfavorable impression of the Democratic Party generally, and the horrific numbers for Al Gore: a 19% favorable rating vs. 43% unfavorable. Those are Gingrich-like numbers, or worse, and suggest that Gore would have an enormous task ahead of him just trying to hold onto the votes he got two years ago. If Gore's own polls show similar results, he will really have to be consumed by his own obsessions to run again. Is he really that far gone?
November 25, 2002
POLITICS: The First Step
Alec Baldwin is seeing an "anger management therapist" in London. I guess Henry Hyde can sleep easier now. Maybe there'll be a 12-step program where he has to go on TV and annouce that he's over the Florida recount . . .
POLITICS: If You Can't Beat 'Em
POLITICS: Bogus Issue of the Week
GOP Senate candidate Suzie Terrell says Mary Landrieu "threatened me" by saying, after a debate, "This is your last campaign." There's always been a higher standard for candidates running against women, and apparently it even applies to how a woman Senator speaks to a female challenger. Then again, as Glenn Reynolds points out, this sort of thing is fair game for Republicans under Daschle's Rules of Debate.
POLITICS: The Skinny
POLITICS: Those People
This piece on the EU's rejoicing over the collapse of Austria's government just drips with establishment EU thinking: "The great era of right-wing populism appears to be over," said Gernot Erler, deputy whip of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats. Haider's government did indeed appear to be a bunch of nuts, but the sentiment clearly extends to anyone who would oppose the undemocratic establishment in Brussels.