Political Math

Diane Ravitch has another of her infuriating exposes of politicization of education:

Partisans of social-justice mathematics advocate an explicitly political agenda in the classroom. A new textbook, “Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers,” shows how problem solving, ethnomathematics and political action can be merged. Among its topics are: “Sweatshop Accounting,” with units on poverty, globalization and the unequal distribution of wealth. Another topic, drawn directly from ethnomathematics, is “Chicanos Have Math in Their Blood.” Others include “The Transnational Capital Auction,” “Multicultural Math,” and “Home Buying While Brown or Black.” Units of study include racial profiling, the war in Iraq, corporate control of the media and environmental racism. . . .Teachers are supposed to vary the teaching of mathematics in relation to their students’ race, sex, ethnicity and community. . .
It seems terribly old-fashioned to point out that the countries that regularly beat our students in international tests of mathematics do not use the subject to steer students into political action. They teach them instead that mathematics is a universal language that is as relevant and meaningful in Tokyo as it is in Paris, Nairobi and Chicago. The students who learn this universal language well will be the builders and shapers of technology in the 21st century. The students in American classes who fall prey to the political designs of their teachers and professors will not.

The mischief just never ends, does it?

Harmonic Convergence of Wingnuttery & Moonbattery

Crazy gay-bashing preacher Fred Phelps has taken to disrupting the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq:

A Kansas preacher and gay rights foe whose congregation is protesting military funerals around the country said he’s coming to Idaho tomorrow to picket the memorial for an Idaho National Guard soldier killed in Iraq.
A flier on the Web site of Pastor Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church claims God killed Cpl. Carrie French with an improvised explosive device in retaliation against the United States for a bombing at Phelps’ church six years ago.

UPDATE: This guy has pictures. What loathesome characters.

Strange Tales

Via Redstate, WorldNetDaily has this story:

A Kansas City abortionist is out of business after investigators discovered a grisly house of horrors at his clinic – with fetuses kept in Styrofoam cups in his refrigerator and one employee accusing him of microwaving one and stirring it into his lunch.

But is the story accurate? The Kansas City Star makes no reference to the more explosive allegations, and if I recall correctly, WorldNetDaily doesn’t seem like the kind of outfit I’d rely on if it’s alone in its reporting (in fact, that’s a good rule of thumb for any news organization). Count me skeptical for now.

The Constable Blundered

Go read Captain Ed’s thorough summary of the new report on the FBI’s failings leading up to September 11. Of course, it’s easy to find law enforcement errors with the benefit of hindsight; investigation’s a tough job. But the blow-by-blow both emphasizes why the Patriot Act was needed and underlines the damage done by fear of racial profiling.

The Truth Leaks Out

Not that I think college transcripts tell you a whole lot about a presidential candidate, but it’s emblematic of the way the media let John Kerry get away with hiding things a Republican would have been pilloried for that we’re only now discovering that his college grades at Yale were just as bad as Bush’s, despite the incessant claims of Kerry’s supporters that he was a much smarter, more complex and nuanced thinker. We did also get Kerry’s tax returns very, very late in the game. The rest of his military and medical records are still, ahem, AWOL, although this Globe article does hint that they may be available.
UPDATE: Jay Tea notes that the military records are now available, but only to the Boston Globe. The Globe says there’s nothing to see, and that may be the case, but until the records are more widely available, it’s wait-and-see.

Quick Links 6/4/05

*Interesting battle in Michigan over a bill – opposed by Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm – to require abortion clinics to make ultrasound images available to mothers contemplating abortions, so they can see the baby before they decide it isn’t a human being worthy of being given a chance to live. Of course, the stickier issue would be the more intrusive step of requiring the clinic to show the images; if that’s not required, I doubt that many abortion mills would go out of their way to make the option known. What’s a little unclear from the article is whether most clinics already have ultrasound equipment (if not, this is an expensive new burden); I would think, given the nature of the business, that they would have to for safety purposes.
*I’ve been skeptical of claims that Robert Byrd is vulnerable, but this West Virginia blogger says polls show his likely Republican opponent is well-positioned to make it a real race. via Instapundit.
*Wizbang on the Left’s use of the heckler’s veto.
*Yes, the seedy lobbyist tied to Tom DeLay was also a big backer of Harry Reid, Tom Daschle, Patrick Kennedy and Dick Gephardt. Don’t the Democrats ever investigate these things before making these kinds of charges?
*Scrappleface has breaking scientific news.

2006: The Terrain

There’s been a lot of talk, more than usual this early in the election cycle, about the 2006 Senate races and the odds of either party picking up seats and changing the dynamics in a Senate now perennially deadlocked over judicial nominations and other business. In fact, much partisan strategy over these battles will, as always, be shaped by the prospects for the next election – where the parties hope to gain, where they fear to lose, and whether they expect to be dealing from a stronger or weaker hand come January 2007. With that in mind, let’s take a look, using some hard numbers, at the political terrain for the 2006 Senate races.
There are polls, of course, but polls this early are volatile. Before we get to the polling data, there are two main pieces of hard data – actual votes – that we can use to evaluate the political climate in a state entering the beginning of a Senate race. The first is the red/blue issue: when people were paying greatest attention, which party did they side with? The polarizing nature of the 2004 election, with a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat, sharpened that distinction. The second is the history of this Senate seat: how did the incumbent do in his/her last election? This second item is of particular importance where the incumbent is running again, although you do have to bear in mind that you are dealing with election results from six years ago, before 9/11, the Iraq War, the Florida Recount, Enron, judicial filibusters, Terri Schiavo, blogs, etc., etc., etc. Rather than rest on one or two of these data points, let’s combine the two. I present a ranking of the Senate seats to be contested in 2006, from most to least likely to change parties, based on adding (1) the incumbent party’s percentage of the vote in the last race for this seat (S%) to (2) the incumbent party’s percentage of the vote in the 2004 presidential election (P%) (all numbers from FEC sources here, here and here):

ST Incumbent P Notes S% P% R% D%
NE Ben Nelson D B 51.00 32.68 83.68
RI Lincoln Chaffee R 56.85 38.67 95.52
ND Kent Conrad D 61.37 35.50 96.87
FL Bill Nelson D B 51.04 47.09 98.13
MN Open (Mark Dayton) D A 48.83 51.09 99.92
MI Debbie Stabenow D A 49.47 51.23 100.70
PA Rick Santorum R 52.41 48.42 100.83
WA Maria Cantwell D A 48.73 52.82 101.55
NJ Jon Corzine/Open D B 50.11 52.92 103.03
MO Jim Talent R A, E 49.80 53.30 103.10
NV John Ensign R D 55.09 50.47 105.56
VA George Allen R A 52.26 53.68 105.94
DE Tom Carper D A 55.52 53.35 108.87
MT Conrad Burns R 50.55 59.07 109.62
CA Dianne Feinstein D D 55.84 54.31 110.15
OH Mike DeWine R D 59.90 50.81 110.71
NM Jeff Bingaman D 61.70 49.05 110.75
WI Herb Kohl D 61.54 49.70 111.24
ME Susan Collins R 68.94 44.58 113.52
NY Hillary Clinton D B 55.27 58.37 113.64
CT Joe Lieberman D 63.21 54.31 117.52
MD Open (Paul Sarbanes) D 63.18 55.91 119.09
WV Robert Byrd D 77.75 43.20 120.95
TN Open (Bill Frist) R 65.10 56.80 121.90
MS Trent Lott R 65.88 59.01 124.89
TX Kay B. Hutchinson/Open R 65.04 61.09 126.13
IN Richard Lugar R 66.56 59.94 126.50
HI Daniel Akaka D 72.68 54.01 126.69
AZ John Kyl R C 79.32 54.87 134.19
MA Ted Kennedy D D 72.69 61.94 134.63
UT Orrin Hatch R 65.58 71.54 137.12
WY Craig Thomas R 73.77 68.86 142.63

Observant readers will note that I’m missing a state, Vermont. The problem is that Jim Jeffords ran there as a Republican in 2000, so it’s hard to make anything of his 65.56%-25.42% thumping of his Democratic opponent. Kerry won 58.94% of the vote in Vermont, so if you double that and throw out the Jeffords anomaly, the D% should probably be 117.88, ranking the state near Maryland as an open seat the Democrats ought to be able to defend.
A=Unseated incumbent in 2000 (or 2002, in Jim Talent’s case)
B=Won open seat in 2000
C=Ran unopposed in 2000
D=Ran against divided opposition in 2000
E=Won special election in 2002
These notes are important. John Kyl is in a very strong position, but he ran unopposed in 2000; he’s not quite as bulletproof as he looks. The Democrats may seem weak in several spots because they ran the table in close Senate races in 2000, but several of those candidates knocked off incumbents last time around, and will start in a stronger position this time around with the headwind of incumbency at their backs rather than in their faces. I figured “divided opposition” where the two main candidates pulled below 96%, leaving a number of voters on the table, but since Ted Kennedy beat his opponent 72.69%-12.86% in 2000, that doesn’t amount to much.
I’d hesitate to say what threshhold indicates a realistic chance of a seat changing hands, but obviously anyone below 100 has to be viewed as an opportunity for the other side, and anyone above about 110 is – other than open seats – an extremely tough race. You can see that most of the most competitive races, based on this criteria, involve Democratic-held seats.
Of course, all of this is prologue; the 2006 races will be fought, like every election, with a new backdrop of issues and partisan mood and momentum, which so far seems to be favoring the Democrats. The number of genuinely competitive races is bound to be reduced if credible challengers can’t be located, as was the case in 2004 in Nevada, for example, where Harry Reid was vulnerable but the GOP couldn’t get a serious challenger. But the numbers above at least provide a solid guide to where the needle stands entering those races, and how far it has to move to save or defeat the incumbents listed above.
UPDATE: Don’t miss Gerry Daly’s effort to tweak some of the variables here to create a more accurate measure. I don’t necessarily agree that the other Senate seat is all that instructive, as demonstrated by longstanding in-state splits: D’Amato and Moynihan, Grassley and Harkin, Domenici and Bingaman, etc. and the fact that some states just get in the habit of re-upping incumbents. For example, the persistence of Robert Byrd does nothing to help Jay Rockefeller. On the other hand, for similar reasons, I’m inclined to agree with a commenter at RedState that the last Senate election isn’t that useful in evaluating open seats, at least not in the case of someone like Frist or Sarbanes who ran as an incumbent six years ago.

Continue reading 2006: The Terrain

Cease Fire

I can’t add a lot to the rivers of pixels that have been expended on the filibuster “deal.” Obviously, it’s not a good deal for Republicans, who for the future get only vague assurances of not filibustering except in “extraordinary” cases, which means nothing. Plus, as with cease-fires in war, an agreement of this nature is only useful if the will to enforce it can be summoned at the first violation. Making a deal when you have your forced mobilized always makes it harder to rally them again later.
Then again, it’s not such a great deal for Democrats, either, as the Republican promises in the deal are entirely unenforceable once the Democrats filibuster again on ideological grounds. Thus, the only thing the Democrats get is to step back for a while from the brink at a time when the GOP may or may not have had the votes.
In that light, the deal’s not a disaster overall – both sides went home unhappy, and Bill Frist got humiliated, but Bush does get a floor vote on three appellate court nominees, so unlike the typical Trent Lott-era deal at least there should be something lasting to show for all this.
Anyway, the pressure will only increase now on both parties not to compromise again at the next stage, when a Supreme Court nominee comes up. It’s gonna be ugly.

Health Savings Accounts

Matt Yglesias argues:

But let’s say conservatives are right. Let’s say the main problems with the US healthcare system really are overconsumption (i.e., third party payment encourages people to use health care services they don’t really need) and overregulation (i.e., mandated features on insurance plans designed to make them better just price them out of the range of too many consumers) and that, therefore, HSAs are a good solution. Isn’t universal health care still the way to go?

I think Yglesias undercounts the conservative objections, which also include lack of individual choice, erosion of the profit motive needed to drive further innovation, and the interposing of unnecessary third-party insurers. But anyway, let’s look at his solutions:

First, eliminate the tax preference for health insurance as compensation vis-à-vis money.

This would politically difficult, but I’d certainly agree that having people go through their employers to get health care involves an extra level of intermediary that does no good.

Next, implement a national catastrophic care program where the government will pick up the tab for any health expenses you incur over a “deductible” of $X which you need to pay out of pocket. Providing catastrophic care to the entire under-65 population shouldn’t be particularly expensive.

I’d agree with this – the present system is backwards. Insurance should be there, whether public or private (and in some cases public makes sense) to pick up costs that we can’t handle, not to pay ordinary expenses.
Of course, this still leaves Health Savings Accounts as a logical solution for those intermediate-cost expenses, things that you can and should save for – Yglesias doesn’t get to those.

Quick Links 5/24/05

*A Vietnamese reporter for TIME Magazine during the Vietnam War apparently used his position to spy for the enemy.
*This probably means less than meets the eye. But if it doesn’t . . .
*Is Cuban dissident Luis Posada Carriles a terrorist or a freedom fighter? I say both, and we should hold him accountable for terrorism. Should he be turned over to Cuba or Venezuela? I’d say he should be. Of course, some may disagree on the grounds that Cuba, in particular, has a record of torturing prisoners. Presumably those who are opposed across the board to “rendition” of prisoners to countries with outstanding warrants and records of torturing prisoners in the past will oppose extradition of Carriles.
*Speaking of Cuba: Down with Fidel.

Three Links

Poliblogger has another systematic look at obstruction of judicial nominees, and why it’s particularly unprecedented to see this level of obstruction when the president’s party controls the Senate. Unfortunately, the data only goes through 2003. Via Wizbang.
Dale Franks has a good discussion of income inequality and (1) its connection to the fact that people who make more money tend to work more and (2) the fact that people tend to make more money as they get older. Neither of which should be news except for the New York Times’ persistent efforts to oversimplify the issue. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of hardworking people who make peanuts, but the broad generalizations drawn from statistics on the subject are almost always misleading.
And Ann Coulter has a typically blistering column comparing Newsweek’s willingness to run a poorly sourced Michael Isikoff item on Koran-flushing with Newsweek’s unwillingness to run extensively sourced Isikoff items on Clinton scandals. (Standard disclaimers about Coulter columns apply).

Really Bad Advice

Brendan Miniter wants Mitt Romney to run against Ted Kennedy in 2006 to promote Romney’s chances of running for president in 2008. This is horrendously bad advice. First of all, you don’t run for a new job two years before you run for president. It’s too hard and looks too transparently careerist. Second, Romney fought the good fight vs. Ted once, and if Ted couldn’t be beaten in GOP-friendly 1994 he never will be. Third, you lose and it rubs some of the luster off no matter how expected. Fourth, to be a serious 2008 challenger Romney probably needs to get re-elected, hard as that may be.
Maybe, maybe, if Romney wanted to run in 2012 and had a chance of winning this race, I’d advise him to consider it. But I still would balk at that advice. If he wants to go to the Senate, wait until Kerry retires or Ted dies.

Senate Smart Bomb

With the showdown on judicial filibusters escalating, Republicans have an opportunity rare in Washington: they possess the raw political power to do essentially whatever they want, in the sense that on most or all of the filibustered judges they possess the 51 votes neeed both for confirmation and to change the rules to eliminate obstacles to confirmation. The debate has thus focused on two questions about how they should use that power: whether they will suffer an electoral backlash, and whether changing the Senate rules or otherwise ramming through nominations will come back to haunt them when, some day, the Democrats regain a majority in the Senate.
Let’s review the options:
1. The “Nuclear Option”: Changing Senate Rules to require 51 votes rather than 60 for “cloture” of debate on a judicial nomination, i.e., to break a “filibuster” and force a floor vote.
Pro: Will eliminate possibility of Democratic filibusters for the remainder of Bush’s term. This is particularly appealing now that Harry Reid has threatened to filibuster a Bush Supreme Court nominee. (Link via Daly)
Con: There are three downsides here. One is that Republicans will suffer at the polls. I’m not convinced of that – breaking the filibusters should help solidify the conservative base, and couldn’t inflame the liberal base more than it is already. And to the extent that moderate swing voters pay attention to judicial fights at all, the GOP has probably taken its lumps with them already for the nomination of conservative judges, which Bush has broadcast widely. (Although I will concede that the phrase “nuclear option” is the winningest Democratic spin since the government shutdown). Certainly, almost every Senate race in which judicial nominees was a major issue went to the GOP, except for Mary Landrieu and Ken Salazar, both of whom got elected/re-elected in part by making promises of support for votes on judicial nominees (promises they never intended to keep, but that’s another story).
The second is that the GOP would be disarming itself in future battles over the judiciary. First of all, I don’t buy this, because it assumes that if Republicans don’t change the rule, Democrats won’t either. Yeah, and I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. Banking on future Democratic good faith is foolhardy in the extreme. Democrats aren’t even pretending to promise that they won’t support the same thing later; consider their past track record on changing the filibuster rule to suit their purposes.
The third concern is a related one, one that is of more concern and is openly discussed by liberal pundits: that disregarding the availability of the filibuster for judges will give political cover to wholesale elimination of the filibuster for legislation. This concerns me more, because the filibuster as a brake on bad, complicated legislation is a check and balance that conservatives have depended upon in the past (see: Hillarycare), and may again. Unlike the judicial filibuster, which I suspect Democrats will bulldoze as soon as they are in position to benefit from doing so, eliminating the filibuster entirely would be seen as a radical move even by the media – but perhaps less so if the filibuster were completely eliminated for nominations.
The filibuster for legislation is, as a matter of policy, more sensible – while Mickey Kaus argues that the filibuster’s compromise-forcing function is more important in judicial nominees, I disagree because compromises in legislation are easier to reach – and more likely to yield intended results – because both sides can be assured of what they are getting. Judicial nomination compromises often wind up a lose-lose situation for principled conservatives; should we accept a system in which “compromise candidates” wind up as Souter or Blackmun?
Bottom Line: I’m willing to live with the “nuclear option,” but I’d prefer the more targeted solution I discuss below.
2. The “Conventional Warfare” Option: A number of commentators (see here) have suggested that Republicans should force the Democrats to live up to their rhetoric and actually stage an old-fashioned, talk-to-exhaustion filibuster. I’m not sure if this requires an actual rule change or just an announcement or interpretation of the rules, but you’d need a majority of the Senate to enforce it.
Pro: Filibustering is hard work, and Democrats would quickly get exhausted by the talkathon. A filibuster would spotlight the issue, putting pressure for a resolution that the GOP could use to its advantage.
Con: Several. First of all, the media would likely buy the Democrats’ argument that the GOP was shutting down the government if the old-time filibuster ended up squeezing out all other Senate business. Second, anything that raises the public stakes makes it harder for Democrats to visibly back down. Third, I gather that – although I’ve forgotten where I read this – the old rules would only require a single filibusterer to be present, while the whole majority would have to be there (although I see no reason why that couldn’t be altered by rule change). And when a Supreme Court nominee comes up, the Dems would never budge.
Bottom line: This ain’t gonna happen, because it’s physically taxing on the Senators themselves, none of whom wants to be martyred to a debate about judges. I’m also less and less enthusiastic about how it would play out in the media.
3. The 60 Seats Option: Change nothing, and use the judges issue again in 2006 in hopes of getting to 60 seats.
Pro: Judges have been a winning issue, and the zero-sum nature of the issue keeps social conservatives motivated and mobilized. The map favors the GOP: Republicans are defending 15 seats to the Democrats’ 18, one open seat to the Dems’ three, and are defending fewer seats in states they lost in 2004. A gain in Senate seats is very possible.
Con: A decent chance at a net gain, yes; but 5 seats would be a shocker, and the most likely outcome is no more than a 1-seat net pickup, as both sides have their vulnerabilities and hurdles to clear. Local conditions (e.g., poor challengers) always reduce the number of seats truly in play, and sooner or later the trend against the incumbent party is bound to catch up with Republicans. In the meantime, nothing gets done. Plus, social conservatives may start to feel disenchanted if nothing out of Washington-as-usual gets attempted.
Bottom Line: Fear and greed both suggest that this option could happen, as nervous Republicans yet again kick the issue down the road. But the momentum and logic of the battle, plus Frist’s presidential ambitions, makes this an unsatisfying outcome. Besides, how often do you get to rewrite the rules to fix the process? It’s time to use that power.
4. Cut a Deal: Trent Lott seems to have taken a stab at this, but was swatted down by Bill Frist – cutting a deal where the GOP tables the rule changes but some of the nominees get a vote.
Pro: Get a few judges in.
Con: The underlying stalemate remains, the stakes escalate for a Supreme Court battle, and even the Democrats look hypocritical for changing direction on people they’ve tabbed as “extremists”.
Bottom Line: The Senate loves deals, but I just don’t see what’s in it for either side to cut one.
5. The Advice-Without-Consent Option: Patterico suggested, back in November, having Republicans vote on non-binding resolutions of support to (a) formalize the fact that filibusters were blocking nominees with majority support and (b) force fence-sitting Democratic Senators to come out from behind the procedural battle and admit that they oppose these nominees.
Pro: Put people on the record.
Con: Voting to filibuster a nominee in perpetuity is basically a stronger form of voting them down. Can we shame the Democrats into changing positions? I don’t think so – the liberals are proud of what they’re doing, and the rest are already cemented in place by intense pressure from party leadership. And you might lose a few liberal Republicans who oppose the filibuster but don’t support the nominees.
Bottom Line: This should have been tried before the elections. But it’s a PR stunt, not a solution.
6. The Smart Bomb Solution: OK, we’ve been through the rest. Some of the options above are ones I can live with. But the GOP shouldn’t be satisfied with a solution that’s temporary, and shouldn’t demand one that goes further than necessary to fix the problem. And thinking long-term in politics means not only blocking tactics abused only by the other side, but removing powers you yourself have used – like tying up nominees in committee and “blue slips” that enable single Senators to hold up certain nominees – if they have contributed to the overall problem.
What’s the problem? Not the filibustering of judges per se, but the open-ended, indefinite delay of floor votes on judicial and other nominees, especially by a minority of the Senate. The filibuster is a new and extreme addition to the arsenal of delay, one not used before; the lone precedent Democrats can cite is Abe Fortas, but that was a short-term filibuster (with bipartisan support, of an already-sitting Justice) designed at getting more information about ethics charges. That’s a function we shouldn’t preclude: the use of the filibuster, of delay in committee, or even of “blue slips” to delay a nominee long enough to get information and build opposition.
But there is a world of difference between the use of parliamentary delaying tactics to allow the opposition to coalesce and using those tactics to allow the losing side to delay any action at all once the lines of support and opposition have hardened. Neither the Constitution nor the historical advice-and-consent practices of the Senate (by “historical” I mean, more than the past three Administrations or so) provide any support for a minority power to perpetually obstruct nominees with majority support. The judicial filibuster is not, perhaps, a wholly new creation, but it’s a plant that has grown up rapidly in recent years to obstruct and choke off all the other traditional growths around it. The best solution isn’t to pull the old fellow up by the roots but to prune it back to reasonable size.
There are various ways to do this, but I would suggest a sliding scale: initially, 60 votes needed for cloture, for forcing nominations out of committee, or for overriding a “blue slip.” Once the first cloture vote fails, the threshold starts dropping, say, by one vote every 30 days or some such until you get to 51. The goal should be to ensure that every nomination (except for those truly made at the last minute) gets an up or down vote within about a year, sooner of course if there’s broader support or if the White House can successfully exert pressure for a vote, as will generally be the case for a Supreme Court vacancy.
This is a stable solution that could become permanent. It meets the needs of majorities while preserving a role for the opposition. It also, of course, allows a Senate of one party to bottle up nominations by the other party, which was the source of tension between 1991 and 2002, a tension many voters thought they were resolving by turning over the Senate to the party of the President. But the descending threshold ensures – I think* – that such opposition will have to go on the record repeatedly and will have to be uniform across 51 votes, enabling the president to take his case to the people and target the wobblers. (* – This assumes that the minority can make a motion for cloture. I believe that’s the rule but I could be wrong).

Secrets and Smears

Byron York, Kevin Aylward and Captain Ed all note the impropriety of Harry Reid smearing Sixth Circuit nominee Henry Saad by saying that the Democrats are holding up his nomination because:

“Henry Saad would have been filibustered anyway,” Reid said. “He’s one of those nominees. All you need to do is have a member go upstairs and look at his confidential report from the FBI, and I think we would all agree there is a problem there.”

Now, look: if there’s something really nasty in Saad’s record, Bush should pull the nomination. And I am, in fact, uncomfortable with the idea of keeping genuinely material information from the public. But given the nature of FBI files – which tend to be loaded with unverifiable hearsay and gossip – that’s unavoidable.
Either way, given the confidential status of a nominee’s FBI file, the Democrats just should not go smearing the guy with dark hints about his secret files. There’s also an elephant in the living room that York and the others ignore: the uniquely explosive nature, in the current climate, of dropping hints about the classified FBI file of an Arab-American (I believe Saad, if confirmed, would be the first Arab-American to sit on a federal court of appeals, but I could be wrong about that). If that’s not McCarthyism, I don’t know what would be. As far as playing to crude stereoytpes, that’s like calling a black judge stupid (whoops, Reid’s already done that). Where’s CAIR and James Zogby on this one?

DeLay Not DeOnly One

I’ve generally not blogged about the various ethics claims raised against Tom DeLay, mainly because it’s hard to stick a toe into the subject without triggering insistent demands to denounce anything and everything DeLay-related without exception. My general impression from the things I’ve read thus far is that the charges against DeLay are something of a mixed bag – some are self-evidently bogus (like giving jobs to his family), some are ethically indefensible but apparently legal and commonplace, and on some the jury is still out as far as the facts.
I would generally agree that the aggregation of charges can ultimately justify the need to get rid of even an effective political leader even if no one charge is fatal, and of course I don’t want to fall into the various traps of the Clinton bitter-enders, such as (a) assuming that because some of the charges are bogus, they must all be, or (b) accepting “everybody does it” as a complete defense even when your guy is by far the worst offender. On the other hand, a political party, like any other large organization, does owe its members some loyalty, some willingness to give their own guy the benefit of the doubt on the close calls, and the fact that a practice is common is always relevant to the degree of its impropriety. Short answer: I haven’t entirely made up my mind yet on whether there’s sufficient basis for Republicans to dump DeLay.
With that caveat out of the way, this is a very interesting study on privately-funded Congressional travel. Turns out that, to no one’s surprise, the Democrats live in one very large glass house on this issue, and while DeLay is one of the worse offenders, he certainly doesn’t stand out, with the top 8 slots all going to Democrats, including moderates like John Breaux and Evan Bayh and far-left nutballs like Maxine Waters, Maurice Hinchey and Jim McDermott. (It’s also amusing that Henry Waxman is right behind DeLay).

Health and Freedom

I agree completely with the Radley Balko post on pharmacists and abortion quoted in the third item of Jon Henke’s post here. I also agree with Henke, in his second item, that “pro-choice” feminists are being hypocritical (what else is new?) in opposing freedom of women to choose whether to have silicone breast implants. I’m no fan of implants, but given the shoddy plaintiff-lawyer science used to attack them, the choice should really belong to the women who want them.

Filibuster Buster

Dale Franks argues in favor of a Dick Morris proposal to force the Democrats filibustering judges into an old-fashioned full-time round the clock Jimmy Stewart/Strom Thurmond-style shut-down-all-other-Senate-business filibuster. It’s a good idea both now and in the future, and in many ways preferable to formally abolishing the filibuster entirely. There will be times when it’s worthwhile to do a real filibuster; the Abe Fortas nomination in 1968 was an example, where the nomination was delayed only a week on grounds that more time was needed to air serious ethics charges that ultimately caused Fortas (a sitting associate justice nominated for Chief Justice) to resign entirely from the bench. But the need to do real filibusters would end the practice of multiple indefinite filibusters on strictly partisan or ideological lines.
I don’t agree that the first shot at this should be one of the less nationally significant judges, though; the Republicans might as well lead with their strongest cases.
Meanwhile, Orrin Judd thinks it’s a death knell for the Democrats’ filibuster efforts when Al Gore gets involved.

Conflict of Interest

Well, look at who’s confusing his roles of public prosecutor and campaigner:

Eliot Spitzer was accused on Wednesday of blurring his role as New York attorney-general with his political ambitions to run for state governor after his campaign office paid Google to link a search for “AIG” to a website promoting his gubernatorial bid.
AIG, the world’s largest insurer, is at the centre of investigation by Mr Spitzer and others regulators into alleged improper accounting.
The linked website on Google www.spitzer2006.com collects campaign contributions and posts messages to supporters. It is headlined Spitzer for NY Governor, with the message: “Good Guys Can Finish First. Sign up Now and Join The Fight!”

The thing about Spitzer is, of course, that he’s never yet been put to proving one of his high-profile cases in court; he generally targets heavily regulated public companies, and such companies generally can’t survive a court battle with the government. But it makes for good press.

Screw Up

Turns out that the memo pushing the legislation to save Terri Schaivo’s life on, among others, raw partisan political grounds was after all created by a GOP staffer working for Mel Martinez, who apparently – I assume without reading the thing, unless he’s a complete idiot – handed it to arch-liberal Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, who in a rare display of aisle-crossing was supporting the bill but obviously was not doing so for purposes of putting heat on other Democrats. Instapundit has the links. (UPDATE: Patrick Hynes has a more direct apology).
I like this quote, from hyper-partisan New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg:

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a member of the Rules and Administration Committee, wrote to the panel’s leaders last week to ask for an investigation into the “document, its source, and how it came to be distributed.”
“Those who would attempt to influence debate in the United States Senate should not hide behind anonymous pieces of paper,” he said.

And this one:

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said in an interview Friday that he considered it “ludicrous” to suggest that his party created the document and said Republicans were using such talk to divert responsibility.
“I guess the best defense is a good offense — that’s their theory,” he said.

And this one:

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said he believed that the memo originated with the GOP because it is “totally consistent” with how the Republicans have operated for the past four years. “They just shouldn’t lose their memos,” he said.

And now that that’s settled, I hope Lautenberg, Reid and Biden can all get to a substantive discussion of these memos circulated among Senate Democrats.

Not This Again!

The Powerline guys are hot on the trail – maybe too hot, because this doesn’t look like a slam dunk just yet, but they may have a point – of showing that a memo purportedly circulated by Senate Republicans touting the political advantages of the emergency legislation on the Terry Schiavo case is actually a hoax, maybe perpetrated by Democratic staffers. Of course, we shouldn’t get carried away with the need to show this is a hoax. To any mature adult, after a little reflection, the memo’s not that damaging – what, you think politicians don’t care if something’s a political issue? Grow up. (We elect people with known convictions so the convictions will act as a check on political opportunism, but we don’t expect poiliticians to act in a vacuum as to the electoral consequences of their acts; precisely the contrary).
That said, it’s certainly worth figuring out if the WaPo and other news outlets got hoaxed here, and by whom.

In Praise of Claudia Rosett

Hugh Hewitt argues for a Pulitzer Prize for the Wall Street Journal’s Claudia Rosett (hat tip: Roger Simon) for her work on the Oil-for-Food scandal, her dispatches on North Korea, and more. Rosett has done tremendous, tremendous work, and should indeed be honored for it.
(And, it is worth noting these days, she didn’t need Susan Estrich to get her a job, either, any more than did Susan Lee, Peggy Noonan, Dorothy Rabinowitz, or Mary O’Grady – the WSJ has quite the stable of brilliant op-ed page reporters and writers who are women).

There Goes Da Judge

Gerry Daly has a great why-didn’t-I-write-that post breaking down the rates of Senate confirmation for each president’s noominees for the federal Courts of Appeal going back through Truman. The numbers here punch a hole in the Democratic talking points that seek to obscure what’s going on by lumping in District Court nominees, who will wield a good deal less national influence.
Here’s the key table, showing the percentage of nominees to get approved, although you should be sure to read the whole thing:

President %
Truman 81.8%
Eisenhower 90.2%
Kennedy/Johnson 89.7%
Nixon/Ford 89.1%
Carter 91.8%
Reagan 81.3%
GHWBush 77.8%
Clinton 61.3%
GWBush 40.7%

One of these things is not like the others . . . Gerry traces the break in the pattern to Reagan, although I’d point to the last years of the first President Bush, when George Mitchell decided to bottle up all of his nominees and run out the clock to the election. Either way, things got significantly worse under Clinton, but the Clinton experience was nothing compared to the wholesale obstruction we’re seeing today, which is all the worse because it’s obstruction of nominees with majority support.
UPDATE: I fixed the Bush number up from 36.8% to 40.7% – Gerry had been counting in 9 judges who were actually nominated by Clinton in January 2001, due to the fact that the Congress elected with Bush was already in session. I agree with him that those shouldn’t be counted for Clinton, either, since they were basically lame-duck stunt appointments (although John Marshall might disagree).
SECOND UPDATE: Dales explains why the number looks high:

I went to the Library of Congress search engine on Presidential nominations, and chose a search on all nominations referred to the judiciary committee during the 107th Congress, and then counted how many nominations were to Circuit Courts. The correct number is 61.
It took me a while to find exactly why the numbers were different.
The difference is thanks to Tommy Daschle, who (in another unprecidented move) adjourned the Senate for sufficient time in the summer of 2001 so as to return all of the pending nominations, forcing the process to start over for all of them.

That’s technically true, if you’re counting nominations rather than judges, and it does give a flavor of the duration of the obstruction at issue here, but I would not count those guys twice. Then again, I’m not sure how many judges are similarly double-counted in the prior administrations, since he appears to use a consistent methodlogy (i.e., this also double-counts anyone Clinton renominated in consecutive sessions). I’m pretty sure we’re still at a number significantly lower than the Clinton years once you adjust, but I can’t have a lot of confidence in the table at this stage.
THIRD UPDATE: Gerry has more in the comments, one conclusion of which is that – as far as the actual percentage of different individual nominees who were confirmed, the numbers are 73% for Clinton and 61% for Bush. Note that a lot of the Republican efforts to stymie Clinton gave way in his second term, while the Democrats are pledging to shut down the Senate over this. (Also, Clinton nominated two Supreme Court justices who have been reliably liberal votes on nearly every significant issue, and both were easily confirmed; just try to imagine Democrats giving similar consideration to Bush appointees who would vote as consistently conservative as Ginsburg and Breyer have been consistently liberal).
I actually don’t object to the use of the filibuster for limited purposes in judicial confirmation fights – to delay a nomination sufficiently to ensure adequate fact-finding and to buy some time to build opposition to a nominee. Although, in the usual case, most of that function is discharged by the process of having the Judiciary Committee conduct a reasonable investigation of the nominee. But that’s worlds away from the present system, in which the Democrats are insisting that it is right and proper that a nominee chosen by a duly elected president and supported by a majority of duly elected Senators can and should be prevented indefinitely from getting a vote.
Of course, even this analysis assumes that conservative and liberal judges are otherwise equally fair game. But they aren’t; despite an extensive scholarly and media campaign dedicated to obscuring this reality, the simple fact remains that in the great majority of cases involving liberal/conservative splits over Constitutional matters, adopting the conservative position creates rules that can be overriden by democratically elected legislators, either in Congress or in the states, whereas in a large proportion of such cases, the liberal position, often with little or no explicit textual support in the Constitution, removes issues – the death penalty, abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. – from democratic debate (whereas the more “activist” conservative rulings, other than on the issue of racial preferences, at most tend to allocate power as between Congress and the states, leaving one or the other with the power to act). It is all the more illegitimate to use the tactics adopted by the Democrats in the service of permanentlt stripping democratically elected bodies of power to decide issues of importance to the public.
UPDATE: Dales also discusses the filibuster of Abe Fortas, which is precisely the type of limited filibuster I would approve of, but which may fall by the wayside as collateral damage of the Democrats’ recent abuse of the filibuster. And, of course, the ability to filibuster legislation is an entirely separate controversy that shouldn’t be affected by any of this.

Jeff Gannon, Call Your Office

OK, for all the folks up in arms about Gannon asking the president a loaded, biased question, let’s take on another White House correspondent, Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times:

Bumiller described Wolfowitz as “a chief architect of one of the most unpopular wars in history.” The president was clearly surprised by the opinionated slant of the question, as was just about everyone in the room. After laughing, President Bush responded, “That’s an interesting start.”

Here’s the full exchange:

Q Paul Wolfowitz, who was the — a chief architect of one of the most unpopular wars in our history —
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) That’s an interesting start. (Laughter.)
Q — is your choice to be the President of the World Bank. What kind of signal does that send to the rest of the world?

The Status-Quo Based Community

Jonah Goldberg absolutely nails a point I’ve been meaning to make, and in precisely the same terms: that if you actually paid attention to the anonymous quotation from which many left-wing bloggers draw the phrase “reality-based community,” and the real-world context in which it was offered (assuming the quotation’s accuracy, which with Ron Suskind is far from certain), what many on the Left are proclaiming fealty to is really a status quo-based community, in which present realities – in particular, present governments – are assumed to be unchangeable. Applied to the Arab/Muslim worlds, the Left has spent its time trying to argue over how we deal with the existing regimes, rather than how to change them. Applied to Social Security, it means arguing about the cost of transitioning from the current system rather than starting with the question of what kind of system is sustainable and beneficial over the long haul.
At first glance, this seems ironic: isn’t it conservatives who have spent years mocking liberals for promoting unrealistically utopian plans for radical change, and isn’t it liberals who used to use the mantra, popularized if not coined by Robert Kennedy, of not seeing what exists and asking “why” but dreaming things that never existed and asking “why not”? Well, yes. But there’s a critical difference. When the Left has proposed radical changes, they tend to involve things like altering social structures (say, to eradicate gender differences), or instituting big, complicated government programs with all sorts of potential for unforeseen consequences (think HillaryCare). In other words: trying to change human behavior. Whereas conservative initiatives aren’t about changing the longstanding nature of the people to suit the government, but about changing governments to suit the longstanding nature of the people. Democracy in the Middle East? Well, it’s worked for hundreds of years and has been successfully installed in many and varied other situations. More private control over Social Security, health care, education? Well, all of human experience shows that people are more responsible when making decisions for themselves. Nothing in conservatism says you have to worship the status quo, but you do have to respect tradition and history as guides to how people behave. The status quo based community somehow manages to take the stasis without getting the reason for it.

Where’s The Hypocrisy?

David Corn, who’s nobody’s idea of a right-winger, thinks the “hypocrisy” angle in the Gannon/Guckert story has nothing to support it. Link via Andrew Sullivan, who – unsurprisingly given his history – is outraged at the attacks on Guckert. I wouldn’t go as far as Sullivan does, but it’s consistent with his well-known views on the subject.


You know, I’m no expert on Social Security or macroeconomics, so I try to confine my commentary on the subject to obvious examples of logical fallacies and factual whoppers. But those somehow seem all too easy to find. Take this, from Will Saletan:

Republicans won’t raise taxes; Democrats won’t cut benefits. It looks like there’s no way out. But there is a way.
Every time Social Security has drifted into trouble, Congress has tweaked one formula or another to bring it back into balance. We’ve raised the payroll tax rate, means-tested benefits, and indexed them to consumer prices. But one variable has never been properly adjusted. That variable isn’t a tax or a benefit. It’s the retirement age.

Now, raising the retirement age is certainly a defensible idea, and one worthy of discussion. But I suspect Saletan – who details later on how much money this would save in outlays – is being deliberately deceptive here in order to sell his idea when he says it’s not a “benefit.” What he’s talking about is eliminating two whole years (or more) of benefits – and for people who die between 65 and 67, eliminating their benefits entirely. I mean, everybody knows this – saying that raising the retirement age isn’t a benefit cut is like saying that a baseball team that offers a player $10 million a year for 5 years is offering the same amount of money as one that offers the same player $10 million a year for 7 years.
By the way, have you noticed that the same people who keep telling us that private accounts aren’t really that much better a deal for workers than the current system . . . are also the same ones who keep saying we can fix the system with more taxes and fewer benefits? But Eliminating the contribution caps and slashing benefits will greatly increase the number of workers for whom Social Security will produce a net negative return on investment.
As for the frequent charge that private accounts aren’t really a fix to the financing problem – a debate I won’t get into directly – look: the system has accrued huge unfunded liabilities that we will not be able to cover with the existing structure of receipts. Private accounts won’t help us pay those off, but they will stop the bleeding by replacing part of an unsustainable system that’s continuing to rack up liabilities with a system that will be inherently sustainable over the long run without repeated crises. Saying that private accounts do “nothing” to fix the financing problem is like saying that cutting up your credit cards does “nothing” to get you out of debt – it ignores the fact that at least you’ve stopped making the problem worse.
The private accounts option is like the way FIRREA worked with the S&L bailout, or the way the IMF is, at least in theory, supposed to work: a condition of bailing out the current system is that Social Security lock up the booze cabinet and hand over the car keys.

Closing Ranks

Instapundit links to this article by Joseph Curl of the Washington Times, which gets the reactions of three prominent White House correspondents to Daily Kos’ destruction of James Guckert, a/k/a Jeff Gannon. To their credit, the reporters who are quoted recognize that reporters with an axe to grind aren’t exactly a novelty:

“We all ask all kinds of questions; we all come to the briefing room with different points of view; we all serve different corporate masters,” said Terry Moran of ABC News. “I don’t know anything about Gannon’s—or Guckert’s—private life, and frequently he sounded like a shill for the administration. But he also challenged the White House from time to time with pointed questions—from the right. And that always struck me as valuable and necessary.”
Moran’s point is food for thought. Although Guckert’s question to President Bush in the Jan. 26 press conference—about how Bush planned to work with Democrats “who seem to have divorced themselves from reality”—clearly crossed a line, the Talon News reporter occasionally held the president’s feet to the fire. Guckert asked questions about GOP discontent over such issues as immigration, pressed the White House on conservative issues and drew out the administration’s perspective on Democratic initiatives.
While many White House reporters oppose advocacy journalism in the briefing room, Moran vehemently objected to the course of action that led to Guckert’s resignation.
“Whatever the ostensible rationale, it seems clear to me that Gannon’s personal life was investigated and targeted by some bloggers because they did not like the ideas he expressed in his questions. That is chilling to me,” he said.
John Roberts of CBS News agreed that “the liberal blogosphere”—not the White House press corps—drove the onslaught against Gannon. But he also said that Guckert’s “presence at the daily briefing was not an issue with me.”
“There are other people there with a clear agenda as well,” he said.
Judy Keen, the sage White House correspondent for USA Today, closed the loop.
“Gannon—or whatever his name is—certainly isn’t the only reporter whose point of view is reflected in their questions. Anyone who regularly attends the gaggles and briefings knows that there are other reporters there whose questions suggest a certain hostility toward the administration,” she said.
Regular briefing attendees know that only too well. Helen Thomas, a former reporter turned columnist, despises Bush and once called him “the worst president in all of American history.” Her daily rants come from the hard left, including this question during the lead-up to war in Iraq: “The president claims he’s compassionate, but he’s on the warpath against Iraq, Iran, North Korea, the Philippines, and this new report he would use nuclear weapons whenever he gets the urge. Is he trying for dictator?”

Of course, a major offense by Gannon in the question at issue, and of which Thomas has often been guilty, is speechifying – asking a question where the reporter is basically making a statement more than trying to elicit information.
It’s not surprising, though, that White House reporters like Moran (formerly of the New Republic and one of the more open Bush antagonists) would be deeply appalled by the use of Guckert’s sex life to drum him out of the business and publicly humiliate him; I’m sure every reporter can imagine how allies or foes of an administration could start using similar tactics against unfriendly reporters.

Makings of a Conservative

Continuing on the theme of the Left’s tendency towards scorched-earth tactics against people who agree with them some but not all of the time, Patrick R. Sullivan wonders in the comments to this Jane Galt post whether Harvard president Larry Summers will still be a Clintonian liberal when he’s through getting burned in effigy by leftists on the Harvard faculty.
On the other hand, while I think the reaction to Summers’ comments has been absurdly overblown, it’s just a bit simplistic to complain that attacks on Summers are inconsistent with academic freedom. It’s not unreasonable to argue that people with unpopular opinions should be secure in their tenured professorships but at the same time complain when such people become university presidents or department chairs. (Much like the reasons why the GOP was right to tell Trent Lott he couldn’t be Majority Leader anymore).
UPDATE: Gerry Daly has another example, wherein Kos gives the floor to a Democratic insider who plays the race card against Donna Brazile:

She’s cookin’ with heat, that’s for sure. But as usual, Donna’s fry pan contains more sizzle than steak. . .
Donna is to the party what Jeese, her mentor, is to the business community. She knows she can exact whatever she wants. . .
[T]he first “reform” action you ought to take is to show Donna the door. Her ‘Sister Soulja’ moment is long overdue.

There’s more there, some of it substantive and quite probably justified, but yet again Kos shows that he will use whatever ammunition you put in his hand, even against enemies in his own party. Brazile has, at times, shown that she’s willing to be civil, even friendly, with people like Karl Rove and Jonah Goldberg, which apparently makes her (like Summers) a heretic who must be burned. If you want to purge the likes of Donna Brazile from your party, be my guest. You’re gonna need a smaller tent.

Jordan and Guckert

I haven’t blogged on either story thus far – I suppose I should have blogged about Eason Jordan when I first read the story in Opinion Journal’s Political Diary – but Jonah Goldberg nails the difference between the two: Jordan, much like Howell Raines and Dan Rather before him, was a senior executive with a news network with hugely influential global reach, while Jeff Gannon, a/k/a James Guckert, was an obscure member of the vast White House press corps working for a tiny, openly right-wing news service almost nobody seemed to pay any attention to (Captain Ed makes the same point here). In this sense, of course, the two were typical of the positions held in the media by liberals and conservatives; outside of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, it would be inconceivable for a guy with Guckert’s politics to rise to a position like Jordan’s. And yet, to the Left, the real scandal is not the pervasive reach of guys like Jordan but the tiny toehold of guys like Guckert.
(For the uninitiated, here’s the official Daily Kos press release summarizing the Guckert story, as well as Tom Maguire’s take on one aspect of the story that’s been greatly exaggerated).
Of course, some are now bemoaning the fact that Jordan lost his job. Yes, that seems extreme, and it’s odd that he didn’t first try to get the tape of his actual remarks out there and see if things died down. But let’s recall what the Jordan story is about: the problem with Jordan’s treatment of Saddam’s regime (i.e., his admission in 2003 that CNN pulled punches on stories of atrocities while reporting from Saddam’s Iraq so as to retain access) and with his comments at Davos (where he reportedly received effusive praise after the panel from Arab attendees after claiming without evidence that the American military was deliberately murdering journalists in Iraq) was two instances of the same thing: a CNN exec telling anti-American audiences what they want to hear (or not saying what they didn’t want to hear) as a way of buying access at the expense of the truth. (Powerline also noted that the Davos comments were not an isolated incident with Jordan). You couldn’t find a more perfect example of the polar opposite of ‘speaking truth to power,’ which supposedly is the mantra of journalists. Why this type of behavior should be defended by anyone in journalism is beyond me.
On the other hand, Guckert’s main offense is a little hard to pin down. Yes, he asked some oddball questions, a few of which served up softballs for the White House, but anybody who’s seen a Democrat on the Today show, for example, knows that softball questions aren’t exactly a rarity in this business. Yes, he used a pseudonym, but so did George Orwell and Mark Twain. Did the White House know his real name? This part I missed, since obviously concealing his true identity from the Secret Service would be a major grounds for revoking his press pass to the White House, and would probably justify a thorough review of screening procedures. The Kos press release makes much of Guckert’s paltry credentials, but I don’t see why Guckert’s credentials are less impressive than those of Kos himself, who has had press passes to a number of big events (maybe it’s Kos’ Solomonic impartiality). All that’s really left is that a hack journalist had a creepy sex life on the Internet. I guess that’s disturbing news, but it does seem like the kind of thing that the party of Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy and Barney Frank shouldn’t be getting itself too worked up about.
UPDATE: I shouldn’t let this post end with a reference to Frank’s role in sex scandals a decade and more ago without noting that I agree with others on the conservative side of the aisle that Frank should be commended for standing up to Jordan at Davos; it was really Frank who made this story. He was served up an opportunity where the petty partisan thing to do would have been to spread Jordan’s smear and use it as further ammunition against Bush and the Iraq war, and the patriotic thing to do was to defend the honor of the United States before a foreign audience, and Frank chose the latter. If Democrats made that choice more often when flimsy charges are levelled against America’s conduct overseas, perhaps they wouldn’t be in the same pickle today.

Prospects For The Future

American Prospect editor Michael Tomasky has a thoughtful piece on why liberals need to do some rethinking and decide which are really their first principles. It’s instructive, of course, to see the defensiveness in his explanation to readers of why TAP would run articles critical of Michael Moore and of pro-choice rhetoric.
Tomasky also makes an interesting point about the differences between contemporary liberals and Goldwater-era conservatives:

Some will say at this point: But wait. When conservatives were at the bottom of the well, they didn’t spend a lot of time engaged in namby-pamby navel-gazing. They went out and said what they believed, repeatedly, loudly, unapologetically. And they won. And, therefore, that’s what our side needs to do now.
There’s some justification for this point of view; certainly, one of the Democratic Party’s biggest problems these days is that people don’t know what they stand for, and just standing for something — anything! — is better than always appearing to be backtracking, soft-pedaling, trying to prove they’re just as tough or patriotic as Republicans. It’s a pathetic thing to watch. And here’s one point on which I want to be very clear: Self-examination does not mean inevitably moving to the middle. Adopting a centrist pose can be every bit as knee-jerk and shallow as insisting that nothing’s changed since 1974, and it can be even more debilitating politically than going (or staying) left.
But the historical analogy to the 1960s conservatives breaks down here. In 1964, conservatism was not in the position that liberalism is in today. Conservatism at that point had never been the country’s reigning ideology for a long period of time. Of course, the America of the 1920s, and of the 19th century, was a very conservative country by today’s standards. But in those days, conservatism wasn’t yet an ideology in the way it became in the 1950s, under the leadership of people like William F. Buckley Jr. and others. Movement conservatism of the sort that nominated Barry Goldwater and elected Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush didn’t really exist until the postwar period.
In other words, the conservatives of the 1960s had never been in power. So they didn’t have a legacy to contemplate, because they hadn’t been in the position to make one.
Liberalism, though, has been in power, and for a good long time — from 1933 to 1980, generally speaking (Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon weren’t movement conservatives). And as we know all too well, conservatives have spent probably hundreds of millions of dollars discrediting it, and it’s worked pretty well: In the 1960s, about 40 percent of Americans were willing to call themselves “liberal,” and today the number is half that (I’m sometimes amazed, and gratified, that it’s still even that high).
And so, our side ran things in this country more or less for decades (and then again, of course, during Bill Clinton’s presidency; obviously, he wasn’t really a liberal in the old sense, but if you parse his administration’s record item by item, it was much more liberal than not). So, unlike the conservatives of the 1960s, our side has had real power, and hence we have a track record.

Of course, Tomasky doesn’t draw any conclusions from this – such as the fact that this means that most of liberalism’s best ideas have already been tried, or that the Democratic party is much more encumbered by interest groups that don’t want their existing honey pots taken away. But it’s an interesting essay, and worth reading the whole thing.