Quick Links 12/3/07

*Charles Krauthammer and Jonah Goldberg on the complete and total vindication of President Bush and other opponents of public funding for embryonic stem cell research.
*Spitzer’s DMV strikes again:

Arno Herwerth, a 21-year veteran of the New York Police Department, said he requested the “GETOSAMA” plates earlier this month to send a political message. He said he was surprised to hear, after receiving the plates, that the DMV wanted them back.
In a Nov. 15 letter to Herwerth, the agency cited a regulation prohibiting plates that could be considered “obscene, lewd, lascivious, derogatory to a particular ethnic group or patently offensive.”

Oh, really – offensive to whom?
*Of all the planted-question issues with the debates (see here, here and here), this video of Obama unwittingly giving away that he knew a questioner is perhaps the funniest.
It’s like something out of Matlock.
*Hillary throws stones from a glass house:

Clinton closed out her Sunday with an appeal to voters in Bettendorf to caucus for her, but earlier in Cedar Rapids, she took Obama to task over his health care plan and disputed his claim he doesn’t take lobbyist money.
When a reporter asked whether she is suggesting Obama has “issues of character, the New York senator said, “I’m going to let voters make that decision but it’s beginning to look a lot like that. It really is.”

For those of us old enough to remember the Clintons and their surrogates arguing incessantly that character is wholly irrelevant to the presidency and that campaigning on such issues is a sign of being defeated on the issues – heck, go back and watch “The American President,” their propaganda movie devoted to this theme, albeit while re-casting the facts in the most favorable possible light – this is hilarious, as is this:

Clinton said she wanted to win the caucuses — and, next year, push the state into the Democratic column in the general election.
“I want a long term relationship,” she said. “I don’t want to just have a one night stand with all of you.”

*And, for a little humor, this, via Ace. We’ve all been on the other end of conversations like this, though perhaps rarely quite so graphically.

Billion-Dollar Marty

When I looked at the long list of tax hiking Democratic Governors back in the spring, I gave an incomplete grade to Maryland’s new Democratic Governor, Martin O’Malley, not out of any illusions about whether he was anything but a standard-issue tax-and-spend liberal but simply because he hadn’t done anything yet.
Well, no need to wait longer for the verdict. E.J. Dionne, predictably, hails O’Malley’s billion-and-a-half dollar tax hike, passed earlier this week:

Facing a $1.7 billion budget deficit, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — who offered the above observations in an interview — led the legislature this week to approve $1.4 billion in taxes and $550 million in spending cuts. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that kind of balance from the federal government.
At the same time, the legislature extended health coverage to 100,000 residents and approved new money for transportation, education and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. . . .
The final budget package contains its share of questionable concessions to this group or that. The middle class bears more of the burden of the tax increases than O’Malley had hoped. The income tax hike for those earning over $500,000 a year — the rate goes from 4.75 percent to 5.5 percent — is a modest step in the right direction.

Continue reading Billion-Dollar Marty

…And A Tax Hike

As if he hasn’t had enough stumbles, NY Governor Eliot Spitzer is now considering breaking outright his campaign promise not to raise taxes, which he previously bent rather severely with proposed business tax hikes and aggressive sales tax enforcement against Native Americans. He’s apparently pondering an income tax hike:

Governor Spitzer is considering a proposal to raise income taxes on wealthier New Yorkers, according to a labor-backed political party that is pushing for the increase….
Support for a tax increase is coming from one of Mr. Spitzer’s firmest backers, the Working Families Party, a grassroots operation financed by a coalition of labor unions and community groups….
Party leaders have not finalized details of the plan, but they are expected to call for raising the income tax rates of New Yorkers earning at least $200,000 to $500,000 a year.

This is on top of Spitzer’s new plan to tax Internet sales and new MTA fare hikes. Because really, the first thing people think of in New York is that taxes are so low and the business climate is so friendly…

NJ Voters Reject Corzine’s Half-Billion Dollar Stem Cell Boondoggle

Democrats nationwide have been operating on the assumption that taxpayer funding for stem cell research is endlessly popular with the voters (for all the talk of “banning” research on embryonic stem cells, remember that nobody has advanced a serious proposal to make such research illegal; the issue is whether to spend taxpayer money on it despite the substantial moral/ethical objections of a significant number of taxpayers).
Yesterday in New Jersey, that theory was put to the test, and appears to have gone down in defeat before what is usually accounted as a liberal Northeastern electorate:

Continue reading NJ Voters Reject Corzine’s Half-Billion Dollar Stem Cell Boondoggle

Rue-less Joe

The ant-war wackos who tried, and failed, to throw Joe Lieberman out of the Senate now have to live with the fact that Lieberman is free to say what he thinks – and whatever his sorrow-not-anger shtick, I suspect he is relishing being a thorn in the side of his former party’s presidential contenders.
Lieberman is dead right about the irresponsibility of Senators who voted to deny the role of Iranian units in arming terrorists:

“I thought it was so direct, factual, based on evidence the U.S. military has given us of the involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in training and equipping Iraqi extremists who… have been responsible for the killing of hundreds of American soldiers.”
Chuckling a bit, apparently in disbelief, Lieberman asked, “How can you vote against a request that the administration impose economic sanctions on a group that the U.S. military has presented us ample evidence is a terrorist group killing American soldiers?”

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Michael Gerson

Remember the scene in Wedding Crashers where Owen Wilson tells a woman he’s trying to seduce, “You know how they say we only use 10 percent of our brains? I think we only use 10 percent of our hearts”?
Read everything Michael Gerson says to yourself in Wilson’s voice and imagine he’s saying it to get a girl in bed. It makes so much more sense that way.

The Joys of Democratic Governance

Congressional Democrats have been discovering, after 12 years out of power, that actually governing is a lot harder and less fun than griping from the cheap seats; but as long as George W. Bush is in the White House, they retain a convenient scapegoat for the gap between their rhetoric and reality.
Democratic governors, the numbers of which have proliferated in recent years, have no such luxury; having sold the pie in the sky, they actually have to bake it. I’ve been warning of this since the spring in regard to tax hikes, and Eliot Spitzer’s disastrous illegal-immigrant-driver’s license plan is only one of many other examples of Democratic governors reminding people why there were so many Republican incumbents in the first place.
Add now the Chicago Tribune to the list of the disenchanted, to the point of arguing that the Rod Blagojevich era demonstrates why Illinois needs a mechanism to recall a governor:

Continue reading The Joys of Democratic Governance

Will Hillary Abandon Spitzer Over Illegal Immigrant Driver’s Licenses?

I’ve written previously here and here about NY Governor Eliot Spitzer’s foolhardy and politically disastrous plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, and NY Senator Hillary Clinton’s evasive response to questions about the plan that “I know exactly what Governor Spitzer’s trying to do and it makes a lot of sense, because he’s trying to get people out of the shadows” and “it’s unfortunate that too many people are using this to demagogue the issue,” wink, wink, while, as Jim Geraghty notes, sending her chief strategist out to argue that the families of illegal immigrants “may be the most powerful political force in the country,” nudge, nudge.
But just because a Clinton takes a non-position doesn’t mean it can’t change, and the NY Post’s veteran Albany correspondent, Frederic Dicker, reports that a panicked NY Democratic Party is planning to throw Spitzer under the, er, steamroller – and some believe that Sen. Clinton may end up getting on board with that effort:

Top Democrats fear that Gov. Spitzer’s controversial plan to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens has endangered their party’s candidates across the state — and even threatens the presidential prospects of Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Post has learned.
A half-dozen senior Democrats told The Post that Spitzer’s licensing plan is producing what one called “a mass exodus” away from the party’s candidates that may lead to unexpected losses in November’s local elections.
They are also warning that growing voter unhappiness with Spitzer on the licensing and other issues – illustrated in several recent polls – could carry into next year and end the Democrats’ hope of winning control of the GOP-dominated state Senate.
“The driver’s-license issue is a killer for us in the suburbs,” a senior party strategist said. . . .


Another senior Democrat predicted that Sen. Clinton, who has repeatedly refused to say whether she backs Spitzer’s plan, would soon be forced to reject it.
“The immigrant license issue is one of the most politically dangerous in the nation, and Hillary will have to come out against it,” the Democrat said.

H/T Geraghty. Stay tuned.

That Ol’ Clinton Straddle

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s plan to document the undocumented by giving drivers licenses to illegal aliens has been yet another fiasco for the Empire State’s unpopular new governor, bleeding his support even among Democrats who are in the country legally and leading other Democratic officials to keep their distance. But what does New York’s junior senator, running now for President, think of the state’s unilateral effort to hijack federal immigration policy? Up to now, Hillary Clinton has been quiet on the subject, but in an interview she finally had to answer the question:

I think it’s important to bring everybody out of the shadows. To do the background checks. To deport those who have outstanding warrants or have committed crimes in the United States, and then to say to those who wish to stay here, you have to pay back taxes, you have to pay a fine, you have to learn English, and you have to wait in line. And I hate to see any state being pushed to try to take this into their own hands, because the federal government has failed.
So I know exactly what Governor Spitzer’s trying to do and it makes a lot of sense, because he’s trying to get people out of the shadows. He’s trying to say, “O.K., come forward and we will give you this license.”
But without a federal policy in effect, people will come forward and they could get picked up by I.C.E. tomorrow. I mean, this can’t work state-by-state. It has to be looked at comprehensively. I agreed with President Bush and his efforts to try to approach this. He just didn’t have the political capital left by the time he actually got serious about it.
And it’s unfortunate that too many people are using this to demagogue the issue, instead of trying to solve it: you know, people in politics, people in the press, and there’s a kind of unholy alliance.

Spitzer’s camp immediately rushed to claim this as support:

“We are gratified that many state leaders understand the security value of bringing people out of the shadows and into the system,” said spokeswoman Christine Anderson.

The NY Times and NY Daily News, however, recognized this for what it is: a typically Clintonian effort to have it both ways without answering the question and taking some responsibility for the answer. What else is new?

Continue reading That Ol’ Clinton Straddle

Lake Woebegon Arithmetic

From George Will’s column today:

SCHIP is described as serving “poor children” or children of “the working poor.” Everyone agrees that it is for “low-income” people. Under the bill that Democrats hope to pass over the president’s veto tomorrow, states could extend eligibility to households earning $61,950. But America’s median household income is $48,201. How can people above the median income be eligible for a program serving lower-income people?

Incidentally, though there are some very significant differences, Will also notes that Hillary Clinton’s 401(k) proposal does contain some crucial concessions to the Right’s longstanding arguments for Social Security reform:

Clinton’s idea for helping Americans save for retirement is this: Any family that earns less than $60,000 and puts $1,000 into a new 401(k)-type plan would receive a matching $1,000 tax cut. For those earning between $60,000 and $100,000 the government would match half of the first $1,000. She proposes to pay for this by taxing people who will be stoical about this — dead people — by freezing the estate tax exemption at its 2009 level.
A conservative case can be made for something like Clinton’s proposal. It is a case for reducing the supply of government by reducing demand for it, and doing so by giving people ownership of enlarged private assets as a basis for their security. It is a case for raising the nation’s deplorable saving rate and simultaneously encouraging the nation’s economic literacy and temperance by giving more people a stake in equities markets.
George W. Bush made this case in his advocacy of personal accounts financed by a portion of individuals’ Social Security taxes and invested in funds based on equities and bonds. When he proposed this, Clinton stridently opposed him, and not just because she thought it would undermine Social Security’s solvency and political support. She also said it was a dangerous gamble that would make retirement insecure by linking retirement savings to the stock market. Echoing a trope from Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, she said investing retirement funds in the stock market was a “risky scheme.”
Today her Web site calls her proposal a way to save for “a secure retirement.” After an undisclosed epiphany, she belatedly recognizes that 401(k) funds invested in equities are a foundation for security.

Of course, Clinton – as usual – is proposing this in addition to Social Security (while she has been suggesting that Social Security taxes be raised, as well as estate taxes and all the various other things she proposes to pay for with new taxes), and like many Clinton plans it involves careful slicing and dicing of the economy via “targeted” tax cuts. Still, the movement is in the right direction.
The great strategic error that Bush made in 2005 on the Social Security battle was in many ways a reprise of the WMD fiasco in the run-up to the Iraq War: he banked on the wrong arguments and gave short shrift to the better ones. Bush tried to argue that personal, semi-private* accounts were necessary to fix Social Security’s projected shortfalls. The problem is, we are already in a hole on Social Security benefits that are owed without the ability to pay for them under current tax/benefit policies, and the personal-accounts system would do nothing to make the hole smaller; all it would do is stop digging new holes for the future. That’s a great virtue of the proposal – it would make the system perpetually self-financing, rather than financed on a Ponzi scheme footing of using current receipts to pay current benefits without any necessary connection between the two – but Bush oversold the extent to which it could pay for the massive unfunded debts we already have.
*Semi-private in that the accounts are subject to private control and ultimate ownership; they would still be part of a mandatory government program.

I Love Political Correctness

Sometimes it’s just so cute. Apparently, according to Lynne Cheney, Dick Cheney and Barack Obama are eighth cousins. “The common ancestor was Mareen Devall, who the Chicago Sun-Times said was a 17th century immigrant from France.” (Noted in the Diaries here).
The wire story by Reuters explains why this is surprising:

The two men could hardly be more different. Cheney is an advocate for pursuing the war in Iraq to try to stabilize the country, while Obama wants to get U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Yeah, that’s the first thing I would notice to look at them …

Best Maureen Dowd Column Ever

Granted, it’s a low hurdle, but Dowd hands over most of her column to Stephen Colbert, with hilarious results:

Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream is driving a bulldozer into The New York Times while drinking crude oil out of Keith Olbermann’s skull…


Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.
There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too.

Read the whole thing. What makes Colbert so funny when he’s on is the two-sided nature of the satire (of the type Jon Stewart himself used to do): the ability to satirize right-wing blowhards of the Bill O’Reilly variety while using that persona to throw legitimately funny barbs at the left. It’s harder than it looks.
Also: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Al Franken Spending Money But Not Getting More Well-Liked

The graphic comes from this Brian Maloney story, which goes through how Franken has outraised Norm Coleman in the race for Coleman’s Senate seat but has been burning through cash (in part because Franken still has a serious primary opponent, wealthy trial lawyer Mike Ciresi) to the point where Coleman has twice as much cash on hand, $5 million to $2.45 million.
The result:

Republicans gloated that while Franken burned more than $1 million in the second quarter, a recent Minnesota Poll gave him only a 27 percent favorable rating, compared with 52 percent for Coleman, who faces his first reelection test next year.

H/T HotAir. Coleman’s is one of the Senate seats we need to hold in 2008; hopefully, he will get some help from this sort of bumbling by one of his potential opponents.

Spitzer Loses Interest In Law Enforcement

NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer has kicked up yet another firestorm with his latest genius idea, to issue drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens:

All New Yorkers are now entitled to earn a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status, under an administrative policy change Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced Friday.
The controversial change was hailed by supporters as a necessary measure to make roads safer, increase the number of insured drivers and protect immigrants’ rights. Opponents said it will threaten homeland security and could put driver’s licenses in the hands of terrorists.
Reversing a post-9/11 state policy that made it impossible for undocumented workers to obtain licenses, Spitzer and Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner David Swarts said Social Security numbers no longer will be required to obtain a license. A passport or other valid identification can be used instead. The initiative is aimed at identifying unlicensed drivers on the roads. The DMV estimates that could include 10,000 people.
“I applaud the DMV and Commissioner Swarts for making this common-sense change that deals practically with the reality that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants live among us and that allowing them the opportunity to obtain driver licenses in a responsible and secure manner will help increase public safety,” Spitzer said in a statement.


New anti-fraud measures will be implemented to increase the security of licensing, officials said. The DMV will use new document verification technology, photo-comparison tools, and staff specially trained in foreign-source identifications. People need to prove New York residency to obtain a license.


The Social Security number requirement was implemented in 1995 as part of an effort to punish parents for not paying child support. In 2002, the state began allowing people ineligible for Social Security numbers to apply for licenses. A subsequent administrative policy change required proof of ineligibility from the Social Security Administration, a document only available to legal immigrants, thus making it impossible for illegal immigrants to get licenses.

Unsurprisingly, this issue has unified New York’s Republicans and Conservatives, ranging from Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani to State Senate President Joe Bruno to erstwhile Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg to the state’s bumptious Conservative Party:

“Today’s directive to the Department of Motor Vehicles to no longer require provide Social Security numbers, or proof that they are eligible for Social Security cards, will certainly make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain valid identification to blend into society,” said Michael Long, state chairman of the Conservative Party.

The State Senate isn’t just talking, either, and it looks as if it may have the votes to force a showdown with the ham-handed Spitzer:

In an effort to stop what they deem an ill-advised order from Governor Spitzer that could jeopardize the safety and security of New Yorkers, the New York State Senate will act on legislation next month to prohibit the state from issuing drivers licenses to illegal aliens. The legislation would require a social security number or proof of authorized presence in the United States to obtain a New York State drivers license.
“The Senate has made its’ opposition to the Governor’s plan very clear,” Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said. “The Senate passed a bill earlier this year that would have prevented illegal aliens from obtaining drivers licenses and we will act on a new bill when we return for a special session next month to stop the Governor’s plan. We need the Assembly to join us. We need the Speaker to bring the Assembly back into session, pass our bill, and deliver a strong message to the Governor that the people of this state oppose his plan and it must be stopped.”


The legislation the Senate will take up next month is similar to bills proposed by Senator Frank Padavan (Queens) that would require applicants for a drivers license or non-driver identification card, to submit satisfactory proof to the Department of Motor Vehicles that the applicant’s presence in the United States is authorized under federal law (S.74); and legislation (S.6250), passed by the Senate in June, sponsored by Senator John Flanagan (R-C, East Northport), that would require the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to obtain proof from any applicant for a drivers license or nondriver identification card who cannot provide a social security number, that they are ineligible for a social security number. The Assembly did not act on this bill.

More here from a Staten Island Republican, and here for more from Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola, who insists he will not follow the new policy:

“I’ve been with the DMV 20 years, I’ve seen a lot of crazy things. This is the worst,” Merola said of the governor’s plan. “My stomach is in knots. I just don’t understand how I can issue a driver’s license to a person who can’t prove they’re here legally. If they want to put ‘undocumented’ across the top of it, that would be just fine, but they went just the opposite.
“Osama bin Laden could be standing in my lobby and I’d have to give him a driver’s license.”
He said licenses issued by his office after Monday no longer have a temporary stamp that show license holders are not permanent, legal residents meaning the licenses are good for eight years though the driver may no longer be legally in the U.S. by then.
After Pataki’s 2002 order, Merola said, county clerks collected Social Security numbers from drivers’ license applicants and checked the numbers against Social Security records. They found 120,000 cases of bogus Social Security numbers that were used to apply for driving privileges.

Giuliani, who has been under fire from Mitt Romney for policies tolerant of illegal aliens while Mayor but who has been running on a platform of requiring better identification of those who enter the country legally, ripped the plan:

“I think it would just create an even further level of fraud and confusion in what is already a very confusing picture,” said Mr. Giuliani . . .
“The reality is there is so much traffic in false documents that creates part of this problem,” he said. “It is the reason I am so much in favor of a tamper-proof ID card for people who come in from foreign countries and want to work here.”

Like Mayor Giuliani, I’m sympathetic to the problem of how you deal with a large illegal alien population without exacerbating the problem by having – in this case – scores of uninsured drivers on the roads. But so long as the drivers’ license is used as a proxy identification card for broader purposes (which it will be in practice for some time despite federal efforts to improve on the situation), licenses that do not in any way reflect on their face that they were issued without proof of legal residency will only make the situation worse. Spitzer seems to have forgotten yet again that New York is particularly vulnerable to terrorism:

Certain facts about terrorist operations are beyond dispute, and as the 9/11 Commission noted, one is that terrorists cannot function without I.D. The sixty-three authentic U.S. driver’s licenses the 9/11 terrorists held (from Virginia, Florida, Maryland and other states) permitted them to blend in as ordinary U.S. citizens; permitted them to rent cars, open bank accounts, rent hotel rooms, obtain credit cards, etc. They used them when purchasing flying lessons. And on the morning of 9/11, their U.S. licenses were the “valid ID” that got them on board the planes they used as missiles.
Those authentic, U.S. issued drivers licenses were the tools that allowed the terrorists to hide in plain sight among millions of other illegal aliens and to obtain all the goods and services they needed to plan, rehearse, finance and carry out their attacks.

Naturally, Spitzer’s allies on the Left are lining up behind him – the AFL-CIO, the NY Civil Liberties Union, and of course, the NY Times. These are, of course, the same folks who invariably line up to protest requirements that even the most basic forms of identification – such as, yes, the drivers’ license – be presented before you can vote (an issue now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court). All of which suggests the real priority here, which is to find new and different ways to enlarge the Left’s political base outside of the pool of U.S. citizens.

Hey, Big Spender

When you adjust for inflation and remove defense spending and entitlements, which recent presidential terms had the highest and lowest rates of discretionary government spending growth?
Neil Stevens has the full story. Remember to consider changes in control of Congress during terms, notably Reagan’s second (the Senate went Democrat) and Clinton’s first (the 1994 elections); it takes three parties (the White House, the House and the Senate) to spend, and credit and blame alike need to be shared.

Fraud By The Left To Smear The War Effort

An admission of guilt:

A Washington man, whose claims to have slaughtered civilians as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq were seen by millions on YouTube, admitted in federal court in Seattle today that he was a fake and a liar.
Jesse Adam Macbeth, 23, pleaded guilty to charges he faked his war record. “He was in the Army for 40 days before he was kicked out of boot camp for being unfit,” said U.S. Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. “He was never in Iraq.”…
Macbeth’s story of killing men and women as they left a Baghdad mosque included claims that he was a U.S. Army Ranger and had received the Purple Heart for injuries suffered in combat in Iraq.


His interview was translated into Arabic and distributed in the Middle East, said the U.S. attorney.
“Macbeth’s lies fueled hostility to our servicemen in Iraq and here at home,” Sullivan said.

That’s the end result of lies like those of Jesse MacBeth or Scott Thomas Beauchamp: they assist the enemy, who of course depends on winning in the propaganda war battles that can not be won against American soldiers in the field.
For shame.

Paul Krugman’s Dream World

Paul Krugman apparently has a blog at the NY Times site (now that they are giving it away for more than it is worth), and Tom Maguire actually read an entire post there, on how Krugman’s utopia – reduced income inequality – requires a revival of the FDR years. Maguire:

Of course, as a policy prescription, urging Dems to inflict a depression and world war on the rest of us in order to achieve Krugman’s vision of greater income [equality] may seem a bit harsh, so I can see why he shies away from that.


Krugman wants to return us to a happy place we reached by way of war and depression, a place where minorities and women could not work, and where illegal immigrants toiled in the fields but nowhere else. And he wants to pretend that is not how we got there, and not where we were. Good luck. Let’s hope his subsequent blog offerings show a bit more of a basis in reality.

Good luck with that.

Harry Reid Draws A Line In The Sand

One of the basic rules of political power is never to stake everything you have on a fight you are not sure of winning. But with rumors swirling that former Solicitor General and Reagan Justice Department official Ted Olson might be tabbed as the next Attorney General, the Senate Majority Leader yesterday laid down an ultimatum on which he was willing to stake the full prestige of his office:

“Ted Olson will not be be confirmed by the Senate,” Reid said after a Capitol news conference. “I intend to do everything I can to prevent him from being confirmed as the next attorney general.”

Reid may well be betting on a sure thing, as the rumor of the day is that Olson is no longer the frontrunner for the job, perhaps due to White House concerns over a messy and difficult confirmation process for Olson in spite of his stellar resume, unquestionable qualifications for the job, past confirmations by the Senate and undoubted ability to best any Judiciary Committee Senator in verbal combat. But for a Senate leader who has accomplished little and failed at many of his goals since gaining the majority, betting it all that Ted Olson will never be confirmed is a risky gamble.

The September 10 Party

Nancy Pelosi is visiting Ground Zero today to promote…a health care bill. No, you couldn’t make this up if you tried:

The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, will meet with Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Spitzer today and tour the World Trade Center site on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The trip coincides with a new proposal, the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, a bill to be introduced tomorrow in Congress that would provide comprehensive medical coverage and financial compensation to those who became ill after being exposed to dust at ground zero.

Now, I’m not necessarily opposed to compensating people, especially those who worked (formally or informally) for the government in clearing the site and got sick as a result. Although of course with any such bill creating a new spending entitlement there will be issues of how exactly the government will decide what sort of proof is required to tie illnesses or claimed illnesses to the site.
But it’s so typical of the Democrats that they are most comfortable dealing with soldiers, cops, firemen, etc. when they can get away from endorsing anything they actually do and treat them solely as passive victims to be nursed by the federal government.

Neither A Surgeon Nor A General

Koop.jpgYuval Levin had an interesting article in the most recent National Review (subscription only) explaining, against the backdrop of recent charges by Congressional Democrats of undue politicization of the Surgeon General’s office, that the Surgeon General job really has nothing else to do but make politically provocative pronouncements, given that the real responsibilities of the office have long since been given away to the Department of Health and Human Services and subsidiary agencies like the CDC and NIH:

When the post was created in 1871, the surgeon general was head of the Marine Hospital Service, which cared for American merchant sailors. Under the first surgeon general, John Maynard Woodworth, the MHS took the form of a uniformed pseudo-military service, and was assigned some crucial public-health responsibilities, most notably the maintenance of quarantines. In 1889, the larger U.S. Public Health Service was created, and the surgeon general was made its head. The MHS, meanwhile, was folded into the PHS and became its Commissioned Corps, a uniformed service assigned to help prevent the spread of disease and bring medical care to areas in need. Today, it continues to perform these functions through its roughly 6,000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, engineers, and other uniformed officers.
The surgeon general’s duties, in short, fit the grandeur of his title. But since 1953, when another reorganization created the cabinet-level office now known as the Department of Health and Human Services, the surgeon general’s duties have gradually contracted. In 1968, the responsibility for running the PHS was moved to the assistant secretary for health, to whom the surgeon general now reports.

This is much the same problem that besets the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. All government agencies are inherently political to one extent or another, but agencies that have no real executive responsibilities have no check on becoming simply mills for churning out propaganda.
Levin’s argument, which is worth reading at length, is that the Surgeon General has basically come to be an oracle of public health, one of the last bastions accepted by the Left – along with environmentalism – for the role of public moralizer (albeit the kinds of morals promoted on the Left). But really, the article can just as easily be read as a brief for abolishing the office entirely. There are more than enough agencies already charged with actually carrying out the job of improving public health. We shouldn’t have to pay another one to preach the government’s gospel to us.

Compare and Contrast

Rod Dreher offers some pointed exemplars of why it’s preferable to raise teenagers in a culture, or subculture, that is supportive of avoiding unmarried teen sex than, well, the culture in which so many teens in this country are saturated. It’s another example of why we can’t let the periodic failings of individual political or religious leaders convince us to abandon the goal of defending virtue.

BASEBALL/ When The Bronx Was Burning

cover.bronx.jpg I recently finished reading Jonathan Mahler’s book The Bronx is Burning, the companion piece to ESPN’s miniseries of the same name concluding tonight (which I have not had the opportunity to watch). The title comes from the final collision between Yankee mayhem and civic disorder, when Howard Cosell intoned “There it is, ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning,” as a massive fire raged in view of the TV cameras during Game Two of the 1977 World Series at Yankee Stadium.
The book is well-done and a brisk read, and successfully weaves together the story of Reggie Jackson’s first year with the Yankees with a series of portraits of the political scene and atmosphere in New York City in 1977. Since I was five years old at the time I remember a lot of this stuff only in an impressionistic fashion, but the 1977 Yankees were really the first baseball team I hated – the first baseball team that was really bought on the market in the fashion that is at least partly true of all successful teams since – and the summer of 1977 was about the time I started to understand that there was something seriously wrong with the City of New York. Mahler does a fine job of bringing both to vivid life.
The key storyline, though told in large part from Reggie’s point of view (Billy Martin and Thurman Munson are dead, and Steinbrenner’s old and not talking), is as much Billy’s story as Reggie’s, and in some ways is more sympathetic to Martin than to Jackson, who comes off as even more of an insufferable egomaniac than I had remembered, which is saying quite a lot. Reggie hadn’t really started to feud with George yet, so the battle lines are Reggie vs Billy, Billy vs George, Reggie vs Thurman, Billy vs himself, and Reggie vs the press and his own big mouth. At the end, Reggie’s 3-homer game to win Game Six and the World Series is Reggie’s triumph, but merely a respite for Billy, who suffered the same constant threat of being fired the following year until George finally sacked him in July.
If Mahler’s treatment of the baseball side can be faulted, it’s for an unduly narrow focus; whether out of a desire to avoid re-covering ground previously trod in many other books or due to a drive to produce a quick and compact book, he leaves a lot of famous one-liners on the cutting room floor and focuses so entirely on the Reggie and Billy stories that he either ignores or relegates to a single supporting anecdote many of the colorful characters on that Yankee team – Mickey Rivers, Sparky Lyle, Graig Nettles, Lou Piniella, Mike Torrez. You would never know from reading the book that Nettles led the team in homers and Lyle won the Cy Young Award. (Fran Healy gets more ink in the book than Nettles). He also inexplicably leaves out the single best line of 1977 for tying the action on the field to the city’s meltdown, Lenny Randle’s crack after the blackout of ’77 cancelled a Mets home game a month after the trading deadline: “I can see the headline now: Mets trade Kingman, call game for lack of power.”
Since Mahler’s subject is the Yankees he skips quickly through the other huge New York baseball story of 1977, the Mets trading Tom Seaver, and it’s also where Mahler (who I presume is a liberal) makes his most tin-eared gaffe of the book, referring to Seaver’s nemesis Dick Young of the New York Daily News, the Lavrenti Beria of the New York baseball press corps, as “the press box equivalent of a neoconservative,” proof if any were needed that Mahler (like many on the left) has no clue what that word means.
As for the political side, I didn’t count pages but Mahler actually appears to spend less than half the book on baseball. While he takes in a lot of different threads in the City’s horrible summer as well as the cultural ferment beneath (from Studio 54 to punk rock to the development of SoHo), there are two major episodes in the book (the July blackout and the Son of Sam manhunt), one major running theme (the 1977 Democratic mayoral primary) and one minor theme (January 1977 was the beginning of Rupert Murdoch’s ownership of the NY Post). On the latter, Mahler is unsparing on the Post’s reckless tabloid attitude towards the truth and towards its readers, but seems to recognize that the introduction of a right-wing tabloid into a liberal city with liberal papers was nonetheless a very healthy development. One detail I had forgotten, that Mahler discusses in the course of the transformation of the Post back to its Hamiltonian roots and away from its more recent incarnation as a sleepy liberal paper: its film critic when Murdoch bought the paper was Frank Rich.
The dramatic high point of the book is Mahler’s treatment of the chaos that surrounded the slightly more than 24-hour blackout in July, the looting and arsons that did for New York’s image (and self-image) what Rodney King did for LA in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina did for New Orleans in 2005. It’s all here, concentrated in his account of the blackout from the streets of Bushwick: the wholesale destruction of local business, the cops arresting more people than the system could process and having to resort to just beating guys until their nightsticks broke to keep a poor substitute for order, the collective suicide of whole communities. I was actually amazed, on reading this, that the blackout wasn’t longer; we’ve had longer ones since 1977 but without the same social meltdown. In that sense, as in many other ways, the book is an inadvertant campaign commercial for Rudy Giuliani, just as is Tom Wolfe’s novel Bonfire of the Vanities, set a decade later; Mahler’s portrait of a city whose social structure and self-confidence were wrecked by liberalism stands in stark contrast to the city as it has been since the mid-1990s.
As for the mayoral race – which was entirely determined by the Democratic primary – Mahler traces the improbable rise of Ed Koch and the self-destruction of Bella Abzug as the city began to rebel against the hapless liberal status quo.* Most notably, Mahler returns again and again to the opportunities handed on a platter to Mario Cuomo – endorsements he could have had, themes he could have pressed, voting blocs he could have wooed – and how Cuomo frittered them away in his pride, arrogance and stubbornness. As in 1994, a major contributor to his downfall was his insistence, even obsession, with martyring his political career over his determination to impose his moral objections to the death penalty on an unwilling populace (a stance ironically at odds with Cuomo’s later claim to be morally opposed to abortion but unwilling to impose his own morality).
All in all, not by any stretch a comprehensive history of the period or the Yankees, but a fine attempt to bring together all the elements that created the mood of the city in which Reggie, Billy and George made headlines.
* – New York in 1977 had a Democratic Mayor, City Council, Governor, State Assembly, President, Senate and House, plus a U.S. Supreme Court dominated by liberal Republicans (Brennan, Blackmun, Stevens), a liberal Democrat (Marshall), moderate Republicans (Burger, Powell, Stewart), and a moderate Democrat (White), with only one conservative (Rehnquist). Only the Republican-led State Senate was any sort of counterweight.

Gonzales Out

The Attorney General steps down, joining Karl Rove and Tony Snow as August departures from the Bush Administration. Whatever his other merits or faults, Gonzales had to be one of the most politically incompetent people ever to hold such a high position in Washington. It’s hard to think of anything he touched in six and a half years in Washington that didn’t end up getting President Bush the worst possible press (with the arguable exception of when he advised Bush not to put Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court).
I have to assume that Larry Thompson and/or Michael Chertoff will be the replacement. Both are quality guys, although not without their faults – Chertoff alienated a lot of conservatives during the immigration battle and took some heat for Hurricane Katrina.
UPDATE: Chertoff seems to be the rumored candidate…his record at Homeland Security has been checkered, and I always thought he was more suited for the AG job anyway. But like Gonzales he has a serious political tin ear. Of course, a Chertoff nomination means having to get a new Homeland Security head as well. Apparently Paul Clement will run DOJ for now, although I’m sure he will be more than happpy to get back to his day job as Solicitor General as fast as he can.

BASEBALL/ You Must Not Read the Sports Pages Too Often

Posted by Dr. Manhattan
Ross Douthat is exactly right. I have seen variations of Brad DeLong’s complaint over the years, and every time it only makes me wonder whether the complainer has ever read the sports pages.
I wrote about some related topics on my own blog a long time ago (a piece much of which, ahem, has been massively overtaken by events). One item that still holds up is the common creation myth of the Bill James revolution and the blogosphere generally – the outsiders rising up against the hidebound (baseball/political/media) establishment and changing the game. This paradigm applies equally to the liberal blogosphere that arose after I wrote my piece and the conservative blogosphere from the heady days of early 2003. There is a reason that Benjamin Wallace-Wells, in profiling Markos Moulitsas for the Washington Monthly, compared Moulitsas to Bill James.

Two Cheers For The Hypocrites

A few weeks back, Washington DC buzzed with the news that Louisiana Senator David Vitter, a conservative Republican, admitted (a step ahead of public disclosure, possibly by hard-core porn magnate Larry Flynt) that he had frequented a prostitute. The response on the left was numbingly predictable, attacking Vitter not for his immorality but on grounds of hypocrisy because of his socially conservative campaign themes and voting record, such as his opposition to same-sex marriage. A common theme was the idea that Vitter should not be able to argue again for such positions, because his private sins compromised his public positions. Even Glenn Reynolds got into the act, suggesting “How about moving to make prostitution legal in the District instead [of apologizing]? It would be an appropriate penance, and D.C. would be a . . . fitting . . . place to start.”
This is wrong, and dangerous. Our politicians and civic leaders have never been saints, but the punishment for their sins should not fall on the rest of us. I would much prefer to see a wicked man be a hypocrite and vote for what is right and good, rather than choose consistency and advocate for wrongdoing.
The left’s argument on this front – usually implicit, sometimes made explicitly – is that immoral behavior, especially in matters sexual, proves that moral standards are impossible to satisfy, and thus that the whole project of promoting virtue is a fool’s errand. Go and do what feels good, you can’t be expected to know better.* But nobody ever said that moral standards are easy, or the history of human behavior and philosophical and religious thought wouldn’t be littered with battles over what is right and wrong and how to get people to choose the former.
Moreover, the critics set an impossibly high standard when they claim that a moral failing in one area should cause a man to abandon the advocacy of virtue in others. Thus, we hear that Bill Bennett, because he has had a gambling problem, should not be heard to speak on other issues of public and private morals, ranging from sexual mores to drugs to obstruction of justice. But with rare exceptions, the same logic isn’t applied to the champions of vice. The left never argues that figures like Madonna or Hugh Hefner, just to pick two examples of people who have built decades-long careers on championing sexual immorality, are hypocrites because they don’t also have gambling problems. Pursuing this asymmetrical line of reasoning can only have the result of unilaterally disarming one side. If only saints can defend right and good and virtue, they will be undefended, while the ranks of the defenders of wrong and sin swell to bursting.
In any event, the left’s champions are no less frequently guilty of advocating standards they don’t follow or impose on themselves. They call for limits on the use of energy, while galavanting around in private jets and high-powered SUV motorcades. They argue that society benefits from keeping poor kids in public schools without a choice to leave, while sending their own kids to expensive private academies. They hire picketers and leafleters to protest low wages and benefits, and pay them a pittance and no benefits. They press for strict gun controls, then hire armed private bodyguards of their own. The greatest moral controversy in recent memory, the Clinton impeachment, came about when a variety of rules created by moralizing liberals – the independent counsel statute, sexual harrassment litigation, liberal rules of discovery in civil litigation – were turned against one of their own, with predictable howls of outrage.
None of this is to suggest that a man’s private immoral or illegal behavior is irrelevant to his fitness for public office. Voters certainly have to judge the totality of a candidate’s character – moreso in the case of candidates for executive or judicial positions, who exercise broader individual discretion, but it’s not irrelevant for legislators either – and the private and public behavior are all a part of this. The fundamental question Louisiana voters will need to ask about Sen. Vitter is whether this changes their view about his ability to do his job, keep his promises and avoid misusing his office. You don’t take the public man in isolation, but neither do you take the private man in isolation; the whole must be examined and judged as one.
But in asking that question, Sen. Vitter’s continued willingness to fight for the things he campaigned on should be a plus. If you are a Louisiana voter who thinks prostitution is bad for your community, why should you have to live with it because of a Senator’s private sins? If you are a Mississippian who thinks racial preferences are bad policy, why should you have to live with them because of Trent Lott’s mouth? In fact, the courage to stand up for the right thing to do even when it exposes you to the hypocrisy charge is one of the most important attributes of a leader, the facet that makes it possible to pursue justice and virtue without constantly checking to trim your positions to fit your own failings. Consider the “chickenhawk” charge, the assertion that Presidents Clinton and Bush should have been hesitant to use military force, not having served in combat themselves. It was apparent, watching Clinton at work, that while he sent the military hither and yon on ‘humanitarian’ interventions, he was nonetheless hypersensitive to the argument that he should avoid using the military, precisely because of his own personal history; it is equally obvious that Bush does not put stock in such arguments, and makes his calls as he sees them. I much prefer to see Republicans who will stand up against abortion, for example, regardless of the state of their private lives, than those who feel that they have to take a squishily pro-choice position because they fear the scrutiny of the anti-moral scolds.
It takes a truly twisted perspective to see a man who commits private sins while arguing in public for virtue, and choose to take issue with the latter.
So, two cheers for the hypocrites. Even if they don’t do right by themselves or their families – even if, at times, they deserve to be punished by the law or defeated at the polls – they should still be proud to have done the right thing in their time in public service.

Continue reading Two Cheers For The Hypocrites

Quick Links 7/30/07

*Pedro Feliciano’s meltdown on Saturday can probably just be chalked up to nobody being perfect (Wagner, whose ERA is down to 1.39, is almost certainly overdue for one of those games), but with Joe Smith down in the minors, it’s also a reminder that guys like Feliciano can go south on you in a hurry if overworked. The Mets don’t have the juice for a Mark Teixeira deal at this point, so the deal they need to make is for another arm in the pen.
*Via Bob Sikes: Bill Robinson has died. Robinson always seemed like a classy guy, and as a ballplayer he was (along with Mike Easler) one of the guys rescured off the scrap heap in mid-career to help build the Pirates into a championship team in the late 70s and early 80s: Robinson was a 31-year-old .235/.386/.281 hitter and busted ex-prospect when he came to Pittsburgh, but batted .276/.477/.313 (114 OPS +) over 8 seasons at Three Rivers. RIP.
*David Pinto makes an excellent point about changing sizes of ballplayers: scrappy little Craig Biggio is the same listed height and weight as Willie Mays and Carl Yastrzemski.
*For all the guff David Wright takes, recall that in 2007, he is batting .295/.516/.423 with runners in scoring position and .333/.611/.400 in the late innings of a close game.
*I banged out a quick column on Spitzergate last week that I never got around to cross-posting here. Mindles Dreck and Prof. Bainbridge both point out that Spitzer would not have cared whether corporate executives claimed, as he does now, not to have known of their subordinates’ misconduct.
*Ryan McConnell aptly sums up my feelings about Glavine:

I’ll be honest: I hated when Steve Phillips and the Mets signed Tom Glavine five years ago. I thought it was a stupid, misguided attempt to steal away a rival’s player and a complete waste of money. But, while Glavine’s never been a personal favorite — I’m Irish, grudges don’t fade as easily for us — he’s far outperformed any reasonable expectations of him while behaving in the most professional, likeable manner possible. He may not be dominant any more, and he seems particularly prone to giving large leads away lately, but I’ll always remember the tremendous performance he turned in during last year’s playoffs. And I’ll be thrilled to see him finally achieve his 300th win.

He also quotes this bizarre statement from Wallace Matthews:

Historically, he may be the best pitcher the Mets have had on their staff since Tom Seaver was run out of town 30 years ago…

How soon they forget. Has Matthews never heard of Pedro Martinez?
*Jaw, meet floor: Byron York notes Obama’s pledge in last week’s debate “to meet, one-on-one, in his first year as president, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashir Assad, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Kim Jong Il.”
They never learn. They never, ever, ever learn.
*There are many reasons to doubt the veracity of TNR’s formerly pseudonymous mil-blogger Scott Thomas Beauchamp, but Megan McArdle, as usual, cuts to the root of why the stories set off people’s BS meters even beyond the parts (e.g., the Bradley dog-hunting tales) that seemed to clash with physical reality:

It beggars belief that 100 or more people silently watched some pottymouthed privates taunting a cripple who had acquired her injuries in the line of duty. I’m moderately well-versed in the stories about battle-hardened veterans committing atrocities in World War II. I’ve never come across a single story about making fun of your own side’s wounded.
Atrocities, and just plain barbaric behaviour, do happen, even on the good guys’ side. But the fact that they happen doesn’t mean that anything can happen. AFAIK, the taboo behaviours soldiers engage in tend to fall into fairly well-defined patterns: rape, pillage, looting, revenge exacted on innocent but handy targets, graveyard jokes, taking trophies from the enemy dead. There’s a kind of primitive logic to them that may sicken you, but still ultimate[ly] makes some sort of emotional sense. Beauchamp’s stories defy that logic, which makes me distrust them.

*This study doesn’t sound too promising by itself, but it is true that fantasy baseball is a great microcosm of how humans learn and adapt – getting your butt whipped in a fantasy league, and the desire to avoid doing so again, is a great motivator for not just gathering information but also learning how to sift between the useful and the fool’s gold (similarly, I have crammed years of lessons about, say, the value of on base percentage into the past year by playing Strat-O-Matic with my son).
*John Kerry, Genocide Denier.
*Yes, Bush has been more stymied than Clinton in getting judges through the Senate.
*Who else but James Lileks would describe the young Hugh Hefner as being “built like a bag of yardsticks”?
*Bonobo apes: not so politically correct after all (somebody tell Maureen Dowd!).
*How Roger Clemens ruined Michele Catalano.
*Crazy Pooh.
*Hanson is back. I actually thought those guys had talent, if not much depth to them (unsurprising, at their age back then). I’ll be interested to see if they’ve done anything useful with it now that they have grown up.
*Shockingly, Justice O’Connor’s case-by-case approach to the law has left her jurisprudence with little influence now that she is not there to vote on particular cases.
*NCLB – hated on the Left, distrusted on the Right, but getting results?

How’s That Workin’ Out For Ya?

I’ll have more on the David Vitter saga later, but in the meantime, I just had to laugh at this angle to LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s affair with a newscaster:

The new mayor was actually born Antonio Villar. In 1988, he and his new wife, Connie Raigosa, combined their surnames into the more colorful, but less pronounceable, Villaraigosa.

So, what’s his name now?

The Libby Fallout

Patterico offers up criticisms of the Libby commutation. Now, I should start by saying that I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the decision; I still think there was an arguable case for prosecuting Libby and that he was probably guilty, but the decision to commute his prison sentence nonetheless strikes me as a reasonable call, and maybe the right one. I mostly enjoyed the spectacle of the brain-bending hypocrisy of the people who think anything less than years in prison is too small a price for perjury…but also that being guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice should be no obstacle to staying president and even being returned to the White House in 2008; people who think that this pardon is some horrible abuse of power, yet pardoning fugitive traitors for cash and terrorists for votes is no reason not to vote Clinton again in 2008.
Anyway, for background I’ll repeat here what I said in the comments of the last thread:
My two cents, since I was too busy to comment when the verdict came down? First, I think Libby’s conviction will be overturned on appeal due to the limitations on his ability to impeach the star witness against him, Tim Russert. Second, I do think Libby was trying to hide the truth, but I also think he suffered from a lousy memory and that Russert was untruthful – I doubt very strongly that he intended to tell a story that much at odds with the chronology, I think he misremembered what happened and tried to shade it further. That’s not a defense of Libby, it’s just what I think happened. Also, I have never ripped Fitzgerald, and I’m not joining the caucus that says he was horribly abusive, but I do think all things considered he should probably have pulled the plug on his investigation once he knew who the leak had come from. He didn’t prosecute Armitage, which strongly suggests that he knew that there was no legal basis for a prosecution based on the leak. Instead, he called Libby and Rove and others repeatedly to the grand jury for no other reason than to investigate their statements to the FBI. Under the circumstances, that strikes me as a waste of resources and poor prosecutorial judgment. And I do think the people in the media he chose not to question strongly suggests there were answers he wasn’t interested in hearing.
That said, Patterico – who was in favor of the prosecution – offers three main criticisms of the commutation. One is that Bush didn’t work through the usual pardon process (in fact, he seems to have reached the decision while fishing with Vladimir Putin). This strikes me as a minor quibble in this case; the main purpose of the process is to vet the submission that goes to the president to make sure that he gets a fair presentation of the facts rather than the slanted perspectives of one side in a criminal case. Here, Bush was already familiar with the players and the facts (we all are, by now, but Bush knows them personally). Granted, the process also provides another benefit (the professional staff can provide perspective on how similarly situated defendants are sentenced), but fundamentally, this was a judgment call Bush was well-entitled to make himself.
The second criticism, from Orin Kerr, is a little more substantial: that Bush has scarcely used the pardon power at all (no doubt in large part due to the bad odor from the previous Administration), and thus this is more in the nature of special treatment than is usually the case for presidential pardons of associates of the President.
That’s a fair argument, but at bottom I think the motive here is Bush’s belief – as has been the belief of past presidents, fairly or otherwise – that Libby would never have been prosecuted in the first place were it not for his political position (it was only the political firestorm over the Plame leak that forced the appointment of a Special Prosecutor in the first place). High executive branch appointees do get special treatment the rest of us don’t, but they also face a risk of criminalization of their daily activities that ordinary people don’t. It cuts both ways. On some level, letting Libby go to jail would have been a legitimazation of the kind of criminalization of foreign policy that the Democrats specialized in during the 1980s, and that is a kind of calculus that makes this decision wholly unlike the situation of ordinary criminal defendants.
Third, Patterico argues that the GOP will pay a terrible political price. Maybe I’ve grown more cynical after the 1990s, but I doubt it. Bush is unpopular, to be sure, and the Democrats have had great success with the “culture of corruption” mantra in convincing the public that the Republicans are up to their eyeballs in shady land deals and defense contracts and freezers full of cash, plus Democratic candidates are busy working to mislead the public about what Libby was actually prosecuted for. But first of all, this is an instrumental argument – that Bush should have let the electoral impact of the decision govern his judgment. Second, I think political people consistently underestimate the built-in cynicism of the average voter with regard to politicians. Third, this story hasn’t had nearly the cache with voters that it has with bloggers, who have obsessed about it endlessly since July 2003 (I’ve certainly posted about it enough, and I’m far from one of the most obsessed bloggers), and there will be a lot of other water under the bridge by November 2008. Fourth, the Democrats remain highly likely to nominate Hillary.
Bush had a tough decision to make. I think he made a reasonable call, given the nature of the underlying prosecution and the political origins of the entire investigation.
UPDATE: WSJ Law Blog says that some criminal defendants will be asking judges for the same treatment Libby got. But judges are not the president; the pardon power has always been the exception to the rule of law.

Bush Commutes Libby Sentence

Just hours after the DC Circuit affirmed the order requiring Scooter Libby to face jail time pending the appeal of his conviction, President Bush used the presidential pardon power to commute Libby’s sentence, thus sparing him jail time while leaving in place the conviction – in other words, an unsentenced conviction for a victimless crime:

President Bush Monday spared former vice presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby from going to prison for 2 1/2 years for obstructing the CIA leak investigation, a White House official said.
The official said Bush “has commuted the prison sentence … leaving intact the probation and fines handed down by the court.”
“That means he is not going to jail,” the official said.

Now, we get to hear what Hillary Clinton thinks about the proper uses of the pardon power and whether losing your high position in federal office is insufficient punishment for perjury.
UPDATE: What do I mean by “victimless crime”? Libby was convicted for misleading an investigation into a whodunit where the investigators already knew whodunit and didn’t prosecute. Granted, Libby’s false statements to the FBI (unlike his grand jury testimony) preceded Fitzgerald’s appointment and Armitage’s confession, but even so, the “harm” to the investigation was pretty fleeting and had no real consequence.
I don’t underrate the seriousness of perjury, but in sentencing, or using the pardon power, you consider mitigating factors. Unlike the Paula Jones case, no individual litigant was harmed by obstruction of the discovery process. And unlike the Sandy Berger case, there was no successful coverup.

Finally, A Man Harry Reid Can Respect

Was it the pork? The filibusters against civil rights? The white sheet?
Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid calls Robert Byrd “this unusually brilliant man.”
Well, that’s a change of tune. Consider what Harry the Insult Comic Senator has had to say about a number of other distinguished public servants:
Reid on Justice Clarence Thomas:

I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don’t think that he’s done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.

Reid on General Peter Pace:

Pace is also a yes-man for the President. I told him to his face, I laid it out last time he came in to see me. I told him what an incompetent man I thought he was.

Reid on General David Petraeus (here and here):

I don’t believe him. . . isn’t in touch with what’s going on in Baghdad.

Reid on President Bush: “a loser” and “a liar”
Reid on Alan Greenspan: “one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington.”
Reid on Bill Frist: “no institutional integrity”
Given the company, I’m quite certain I’d rather be criticized by Senator Reid.

Independent Mike and The First Law of Third Parties

So Mike Bloomberg’s brief membership in the Republican party has ended, now that he made the cover of Time Magazine. (H/T)
Bloomberg and the GOP were always a marriage of convenience; a lifelong Democrat until he ran for Mayor, Bloomberg is your basic Northeastern centrist, liberal on social issues, fiscally moderate, but disdainful of the interest-group pathologies of the Democratic Party. The marriage made sense for both sides: Bloomberg needed a party and found an easier path in the GOP, which lacked longtime officeholders to get in his way; the GOP needed a successor who wouldn’t dismantle the progress – especially on law enforcement – made by Rudy Giuliani, and wouldn’t be beholden to the Al Sharptons of the world. By running as a Republican, Bloomberg made both sides happy, without ever really governing as a genuine Republican as opposed to a neoliberal. Now that he is term-limited from running again, the reason for the marriage has evaporated.
That said, the biggest winner from this announcement is Eliot Spitzer. Bloomberg would have been a formidable challenger for the governor’s mansion, running as a self-financed, widely-known, moderate Republican with executive experience but no ties to Albany. I can’t see him taking out an entrenched incumbent as an independent, and his decision to leave the party suggests a disinterest in going in that direction.
Speculation is rife, of course, that Bloomberg has his eye on national office. Think he will run even a semi-serious third party campaign for president? Think again. Remember the first, and perhaps only, rule of even modestly noteworthy third parties in our system: they must be organized around some issue on which the two major parties agree. The gravitational pull of the major parties is too strong to overcome simply by fielding a candidate who is charismatic (as the bloodless Bloomberg most assuredly is not – it’s not that he lacks the warmth and empathy of Bill Clinton, it’s that he lacks the warmth and empathy of Mike Dukakis) or who picks a different set of positions from the menu than either major party candidate. I’ve argued for some time that the sweet spot for an impact third party in 2008 would be anti-abortion, anti-war, anti-immigrant, anti-spending, anti-trade and perhaps anti-racial preferences – in short, a candidate with populist appeal to isolationist, socially conservative blue-collar voters – and almost none of that describes Bloomberg. I can’t think of any issue on which he is likely to dissent alone from a consensus shared by the two major parties’ nominees, and without that he would lack a rationale other than “let’s elect a really, really rich guy.”
Despite his various forays into nanny-state-ism, Bloomberg is, by New York City standards, not a bad mayor; like I said, he’s a technocratic caretaker who has done a lot to consolidate Mayor Giuliani’s gains. But he will not get 10% of the vote in any state in November 2008 if he runs.

Kerry Campaign Busted Spending Limit – On Customized Jets

Dignity. Integrity. Duty.
Aw, heck, why not just blow it all on fancy airplanes?

Sen. John Kerry broke spending limits by nearly $1.4 million during his 2004 presidential bid, including some funds spent on customizing his campaign jets, a Federal Election Commission draft audit concludes.
The FEC could rule that Kerry’s campaign must reimburse the government. Because his general election campaign was taxpayer funded, Kerry would have to pay back the U.S. Treasury.
Much of the disputed money was spent on customizing jets used by Democratic presidential nominee Kerry and his running mate John Edwards, according to auditors.

Continue reading Kerry Campaign Busted Spending Limit – On Customized Jets

Tax Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants: Paying Taxes is For Suckers

As I have explained at great length before, there are two types of amnesty for violations of the law: complete amnesty, meaning no penalties whatsoever, and partial amnesty, by which people are absolved from consequences for lawbreaking for some penalty less than the full force of the law. It’s been obvious for some time that the current immigration bill would provide a partial amnesty for people currently in the U.S. illegally. For people who oppose any type of amnesty, that’s reason enough to oppose the bill. For people like me, who are willing to support a ‘legalization’ process under the right circumstances, the question is the details. But one thing should be absolutely non-negotiable: anybody who wants to stay in the U.S. legally has to pay their taxes.
The bill currently under discussion appears to fail that test. The immigration bill would bestow a massive tax amnesty on illegal immigrants. The supporters of this bill think that you, as an American citizen, should pay taxes – but illegal immigrants can become legal residents without paying their own share. This is scandalous. The bill should be rejected for that reason alone, and its supporters should be made to explain why they didn’t want illegal immigrants to pay the taxes they already owe.

Continue reading Tax Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants: Paying Taxes is For Suckers

Forget the War, Taxes, and Abortion

John Hawkins, who I usually respect, is joining the caucus that is ready to blow up the Senate GOP over immigration. As I have said, I’m not thrilled with where we seem to be headed on this issue, and I understand the concern of people who think that more immigration will damage the GOP electorally (and help offset the Democrats’ natural demographic disadvantage that flows from being the party of people who don’t bear or beget children).
But I can’t sign on to going bonkers over this issue. There’s a war on. There are still fundamental differences between the parties on scores of core issues – taxes and economic liberties, life, the courts, the rule of law. Face it, we have lived with bad immigration policy for decades. We should fix that – but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t, and electing Democrats, of all people, won’t help.

Why Harry Can’t Reid

Regular readers will know that immigration isn’t exactly my top issue. The system is broken in many ways, unfair to legal immigrants, impotent in the face of mass illegal immigration and unlawful entry by criminals and terrorists, and lethargic and undermanned even when it takes action, but I remain skeptical that our political system is even capable of dealing seriously with these issues. I’m in favor of comprehensive reform, but only if it contains real enforcement teeth; I’m OK with more legal immigration and fine with allowing present illegals to become citizens, but only if there is a substantial price of entry paid for the privilege of citizenship (I discussed the “amnesty” issue at much greater length here).
All that said, there is no reason whatsoever for the Senate to be rushing a vote on the massively complex immigration bill when there will barely be time for Senators to read the thing and no ability for the public to examine its provisions and peaceably assemble to petition for redress of grievances with the bill.

Sandy Berger Won’t Say

Allahpundit notes that Sandy Berger has surrendered his law license rather than face cross-examination about his destruction of original classified documents to obstruct the investigation of the 9/11 Commission. Allahpundit thinks that Berger would have been able to assert the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering those questions, but I’m not so sure; after all, he has already been sentenced for the conduct in question, and in light of the Double Jeopardy Clause the right against self-incrimination no longer attaches after sentencing.
Unless, of course, there are other crimes he could still be charged with besides the ones he was convicted and sentenced for.