It’s Cens-mas!

The Census Bureau today released the official reapportionment figures from the 2010 Census, which will determine (1) what states gain and lose House seats and thus will be prime targets for redistricting and (2) what states correspondingly gain and lose votes in the Electoral College for 2012.
By and large, the news was good for the GOP. For the immediate impact, I’ll focus on the Electoral College, although it’s worth noting how many of the redistricting states – especially the two biggest gainers, Texas (+4) and Florida (+2), and one of the two biggest losers, Ohio (-2) – are now under heavy GOP control (and the GOP just recently took control of the NY State Senate, assuring a place at the table in the other state losing more than one seat, as NY is also -2).

Continue reading It’s Cens-mas!

It Was Ever Thus

Republicans, so long as I can recall, have faced an endless barrage of attacks from Democrats and their media allies derived from the theme that today’s Republicans are mean, scary extremists not like those Republicans of the past who won elections because they were moderate and civil and whatnot. The only really good Republicans, to these critics, are dead ones (or live ones who lose elections), although past Republicans do come in for some rehabilitation as soon as they can be used as a club against their successors – we’ve already seen some examples of George W. Bush being cited by liberals on issues like immigration and the Ground Zero Mosque controversy.
Now, it’s true, of course, that political coalitions grow and change all the time as different issues rise in importance, and that the GOP in particular has been influenced by the growth of systematic conservative thinking on a variety of fronts. But let’s not fool ourselves that this is a new development. In 1854, Abe Lincoln – six years before he became the first Republican president – was already defending himself against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas’ contention that Lincoln’s anti-slavery position on the Kansas-Nebraska Act showed him to be out of step with those sane, moderate Whigs of the past, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster (by then, both dead). Here is Lincoln’s response:

Continue reading It Was Ever Thus

The Mandate

I haven’t had a chance to review it or collect my thoughts yet, but here’s the just-issued opinion from the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia holding the individual mandate portions of Obamacare to be unconstitutional on the grounds that it exceeds the scope of Congress’ Article I power over foreign and interstate commerce.
UPDATE: One of my Redstate colleagues has a thoughtful analysis of some of the practical issues.

The Race

The problem with hiring a guy because of his race is, it gets very hard if you have to fire him.
Barack Obama is likely to face a primary challenge in 2012, but the question of the day is whether it will be some minor fringe-like protest candidate like Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel or a more serious challenger like Howard Dean or Russ Feingold. Jamelle Bouie, an African-American* columnist for the liberal magazine The American Prospect, says what other Democrats may be thinking but afraid to vocalize: Obama’s race is the biggest obstacle to a serious primary challenge to the president in 2012 because black voters would look at such a challenge through the lens of race. The Politico flags the issue:

Continue reading The Race

The Lamest Duck?

What will happen to Barack Obama’s presidency if his tax compromise is shot down with the help of his own party? The House Democratic caucus just voted against it, which puts the deal on life support, at best. Can Obama recover from that?
One of the great questions of the past two years, ever since it became obvious that Democrats would suffer significant setbacks in the 2010 elections, was how President Obama would respond to life with a Republican Congress (or, as it turns out, a Republican House and a weakened Democratic majority in the Senate). On the one hand, you have the fact that Bill Clinton managed to use the “triangulation” strategy to win re-election in 1996, and surely Obama is capable of being equally cold-bloodedly dismissive of his now-depleted Congressional troops. On the other hand, Obama is naturally much more ideological than Clinton and doesn’t have Clinton’s deft political touch, his decade-long track record as an executive or his experience winning multiple elections outside deep-blue territory, all of which suggests that even if the spirit is willing, Obama may not be competent at executing the same strategy.
Bowing to the results of the 2010 election, Obama has taken at least some tentative, temporary steps towards accomodation with the center. The first of these, which already irritated his base, was the announcement of a “pay freeze” for federal workers (actually just a freeze on annual cost-of-living salary adjustments). Now, he’s struck a deal that gives GOP leadership nearly everything it had asked for on taxes – a two-year extension of all the Bush income tax rate cuts, a payroll tax cut, and a lower estate tax than what would return under current law after the 2010 moratorium in the tax, all in exchange for extending unemployment benefits as far out as three years for some recipients.
Now, both liberals and conservatives are up in arms against the deal, and it’s hard to see how it passes even the House when the Democratic caucus is against it. What happens if the deal falls through?

Continue reading The Lamest Duck?

Apologies For Olbermann

Via Allahpundit on Twitter, Pat Sajak looks back at his role in putting Keith Olbermann on national television for the first time. The video clip, from Super Bowl week in January 1989, is kind of sad, really; Olbermann, complete with Ron Burgundy mustache, is affable, relaxed, and low-key, not the bundle of psychotic vein-popping rage, smarmy smugness, egocentric rants at personal enemies and neuroses about women we see on air today. (Sajak, by contrast, remains a tweener, funny for a game show host but not funny enough for a late-night talk show host). While I found Olbermann off-putting when he first started on SportsCenter, I came to enjoy his work with Craig Kilborn in what has to be the golden age of the show; back then they did shtick, but (1) it was their shtick, not an imitation of somebody else’s, (2) it was new and different from everything else on sports TV, and (3) because nobody expected shtick to be the focus of the show, it was much more restrained than it later became.

Apples and Oranges

One of the favorite sports of poll junkies after an election is to grade the pollsters, and that process is in full swing already, and should be. Neil Stevens, however, has an excellent post cautioning against putting too much stock in Nate Silver’s latest effort to attach Rasmussen. The biggest specific problem he identifies is that Rasmussen offers two separate types of polls – its own polls and the POR polls, which are done at the request of paying clients under their own terms, among other things using a different margin of error – and Silver’s analysis lumps the two together as if they’re the same thing.
Polling involves a certain amount of art as well as science; evaluating the accuracy of polls after the fact, however, ought to be a task that can be done through a consistent and transparent methodology, for example comparing pollsters’ accuracy at similar distances from Election Day. It doesn’t appear that Silver’s critiques are using a sufficiently objective methodology to be trustworthy guides to making sense of the pollsters.

Independents’ Day

At ground level, Republicans win elections by doing one or more of five things:
1) Get more Republicans to vote;
2) Get more people to become Republicans, and vote;
3) Get fewer Democrats to vote;
4) Get fewer people to be Democrats;
5) Get more votes from independents, i.e., people who are neither Republicans nor Democrats.
There’s been a lot of talk about the “enthusiasm gap” in turnout between Republican and Democrat voters, about how the Democrats registered a lot of voters to vote in the “historic” 2008 election who may not be likely to vote again, and about how the developments of the past two years have driven more people to register as Republicans. I won’t attempt to evaluate those arguments here. But let us focus on one simple point, #5 on the list above: Republicans won so many elections on Tuesday because they benefitted from an enormous swing in independent voters from the Democrats to the GOP.

Continue reading Independents’ Day

Election Predictions

Busy day, I didn’t get to anything I’d meant to blog about, even with the World Series in full swing and the elections tomorrow.
Quick predictions.
HOUSE: GOP definitely takes the majority (+39 seats required), and I’ll be surprised if the gains are less than 60 seats, which seems mind-blowing but there are a lot of good arguments floating around for numbers even crazier than that. Alan Grayson is toast. We’ll know we’re through the looking glass if people like Barney Frank and John Dingell lose, but I’m not prepared to believe Steny Hoyer is actually in trouble. But Charlie Rangel should win easily and proceed to trial.
SENATE: If I had to bet it would be GOP +8; I’m guessing 7-9 pickups, but I don’t expect the +10 to retake a majority (+9 puts Joe Biden in the Senate as a tiebreaker). I’d been assuming the Reid-Angle race would go to a recount, but Angle seems to be putting it away at the end. Colorado, Illinois and possibly Washington could all be nail-biters. Russ Feingold is the biggest surprise casualty among races that are no longer in doubt.
I think Joe Miller will pull it out in Alaska. I’m expecting O’Donnell to lose in Delaware by maybe 8-9 points (I do think it will be closer than some of the polls), but if she wins, well, you can throw all my projections out the window and the Democrats are in for a night we haven’t seen the likes of in living memory.
GOVERNORS: Not following the tote board on these as closely, but I’m guessing a net of around +8 for the Republicans, who could swipe as many as 13 or 14 Democratic-held Governorships but stand to lose a number as well (unlike in Congress, where Democratic pickups will be nearly nonexistant outside the Delaware at-large House seat and maybe 3 or 4 others). I’m more guardedly optimistic now that Rick Scott will hang on in Florida, the most important of the contested governor’s races (I feel pretty confident about Bill Brady in Illinois).
Down the ballot, also look for the GOP to finally break the last remnants of the post-Confederacy Solid South by retaking some Southern legislatures it hasn’t held since Reconstruction.
And I meant to write a better plug for him after attending a fundraiser last week, but if I don’t get the time: vote for Harry Wilson for NY State Comptroller. He’s a really impressive guy and, among other things, the first statewide challenger since Pat Moynihan in ’76 to be endorsed by the Times, the News and the Post (the Wall Street Journal doesn’t endorse but has been giving him a lot of coverage).

More Of That Delicious Foreign Money

As noted below, the Democrats’ fumfer about outside money is ludicrous on its face, given the help they get from their union allies and the corporate money that helped Obama two years ago. Another avenue of attack is their claim that the GOP is being helped by foreign money, mainly on the theory that outside corporate groups get money from US subsidiaries of foreign companies – but it turns out that 49 of the 59 Democratic Senators have taken PAC money from subsidiaries of foreign companies. Three Senators now up for re-election – Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray and Kirsten Gillibrand – have each accepted over $100,000 from subdiaries of foreign companies. In Illinois, Alexi Giannoulias accused Mark Kirk of “economic treason” over a fundraiser in China…but went and held his own fundraiser in Canada. (And this is on top of the fact that the Obama campaign in 2008 deliberately removed safeguards against accepting donations by credit card from foreign nationals.)
So much for that argument.

Pretending The Union Money Doesn’t Exist

Desperate Democrats have been hyperventilating for the past month over money being spent by corporate and other groups, notably the Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, to run campaign commercials. To conservatives, running commercials to attempt to persuade voters in advance of an election is known as “free speech,” and turnabout is fair play after corporate money went heavily for Obama in 2008, but let’s play along here; how much of an advantage does the GOP have here?

Well, according to Greg Sargent, the Washington Post’s in-house left-wing activist, it’s huge: “The total on the right: $74,733,356. On the left: $9,868,057. And the groups on the left, unlike on the right, consist of well-known names like the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife.” This is the standard spin from the Democrats, and Sargent is nothing if not a reliable source for whatever the standard spin from the Democrats happens to be on a particular day. But conspicuously absent from Sargent’s list are the largest unions, led by unions of public employees whose taxpayer-funded salaries are funneled into compulsory union dues and then passed on to the people who set those taxpayer-funded salaries. The lead article on the front page of this morning’s Wall Street Journal tells the story – check out the Journal’s telling graphic:

That’s right, three of the five largest campaign spenders this year are not business or pro-business groups but unions afffiliated with the Democrats and dominated by public employees.

Continue reading Pretending The Union Money Doesn’t Exist

Left-Wing Bloggers Say The Durndest Things!

Somebody should ask Robert Gibbs if he agrees with the assessment of a leading left-wing blogger that President Obama hasn’t been “even half-competent in the White House.”
See, every now and then, I engage in back-and-forth on Twitter with some of the left-wing bloggers. Sometimes it’s pointless, but sometimes it’s revealing, and this is one of those examples. I and a few others were tweaking Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos over this October 2008 post in which, reviewing the 2010 Senate map, he declared John McCain “delusional” for saying the GOP would cruise to “three or four or five” fairly easy Senate pickups in 2010. Instead, Moulitsas asserted:

[O]ff the bat, we have 13 potentially competitive GOP-held seats, and few Democratic takeovers. So no, 2010 won’t give Republicans 5-6 “easy” pickups. That’s ludicrous.
Things will be much different in 2012 and 2016 when we’re slated to play HUGE defense (defending our gains from 2006 and this year). Republicans can brag about the gains they’ll make those years because chances are they will. But 2010? Heck no. At this pace, we’re headed toward a 65-70-seat Democratic majority in the Senate by the end of 2010.
Yup, those are gaudy numbers, and it’s never wise to count your chickens before they hatch — political winds can change quickly as Republicans just found out. But assuming the current trends remain and Obama is even half-competent in the White House, we’ll have little to worry about in 2010. Our majorities should be safe for some time.

Note the use of the plural in that last, “majorities.” I asked Moulitsas if he still stood by that prediction, and his response was “That I stand by. GOP not taking Senate.” Which may turn out – narrowly – to be true, but it’s only one majority. A very different tune, these days.
But his more telling response was what he quoted in response to my question if he still stood by having 65-70 Democratic Senators by the end of 2010:

“assuming the current trends remain and Obama is even half-competent in the White House”. Caveats didn’t pan out.

There’s that plural again. Kos, by traffic at least the most prominent of the left-wing bloggers, based his assumption of an ever-growing Democratic majority in the Senate on the assumption that President Obama would be “even half-competent in the White House.” And now, he’s basically reduced to absolving his own hubristic projections by admitting that Obama hasn’t lived up to that standard.
Tough times.

The Anti-Liberal Vote

John Podhoretz makes an interesting point about why 2010 may actually represent a much more dramatic turnaround than 1994:

In 1992, the election that preceded the one in November 1994, the non-Democratic vote for president nationwide was 57 percent (Bush + Perot), and Republicans actually picked up 9 seats in the House. It is true that the 1994 elections came as a huge surprise, but that was in part due to an odd misreading of the election results in 1992 by pundits and pollsters and Bill Clinton, who staked his first two years on a massive government health-care plan rather than taking account of the fact that 19 percent of Americans had just voted for a lunatic single-issue candidate who spent a year yelling and screaming about the size of the deficit. Those Perot voters took a look at Clinton and simply integrated themselves into the GOP electorate.
The story of America since 2006 is radically different. In the two elections preceding this one, Democrats outperformed Republicans nationally by a margin of 53-46 both in the 2006 midterm and the 2008 Obama triumph. The results in 2010, if they go as it appears they will, are unlike those in 1992 because there was nothing in 2008 that anticipated them.
An 8-to-15 point Republican margin in 2010, which seems increasingly possible, will represent a partisan and ideological turnaround of 15 to 24 percent. That is without precedent in the modern era.

Hence the comparisons to 1894. The lesson for Democrats is obvious: the voters, having been given a taste of unvarnished liberal governance, remembered (or in some cases learned for the first time) why it’s a disaster. The lesson for Republicans, of course, is a dicier one; on the one hand it is clear that the GOP will be given an opportunity at redemption it hasn’t entirely earned, and will thus be on a short leash as far as doing more than being not-Obama; on the other hand, the Perot-ish Tea Party movement will (rightly) demand that newly elected Republicans start undoing not only the big-government excesses of Obama, Pelosi and Reid but also the big-government excesses of Bush, Lott and DeLay, and doing so into the teeth of certain vetoes.

Mark Halperin Denies Obama A Third Time

The opening of Mark Halperin’s column about President Obama’s political problems is a classic of Beltway conventional wisdom:

With the exception of core Obama Administration loyalists, most politically engaged elites have reached the same conclusions: the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters. This view is held by Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and governors, many Democratic business people and lawyers who raised big money for Obama in 2008, and even some members of the Administration just beyond the inner circle.

The complete absence of named sources makes this diagnosis more than a little questionable – not the merits of it, of course, but it’s unclear exactly how many of Halperin’s friends (in his famous “Gang of 500” press corps) and sources he’s speaking for. Jake Tapper, for example, has been fairly skeptical of Obama from the beginning (Tapper’s a liberal, as his pre-ABC employment history makes clear, but is also a guy who tries to play it down the middle and has given Obama all sorts of fits dating back to the 2008 primaries), Tweeted that “Just as a general rule: no pundit definitively saying THIS IS WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS THINKS is ever speaking for me, ever ever.”
But in Halperin’s case, the significance of the column is that it got written at all, as this shows the extent to which Halperin (1) has come to this opinion, although he feels it necessary to couch it in groupthink (Halperin’s been a skeptic of Obama and his adoring press coverage for a while, see here, here, and here for some examples) and (2) feels comfortable enough that this is an opinion shared by his colleagues and sources that he won’t look silly to them writing it.
Anyway, the perhaps more interesting point is his observations about Obama’s tendency – in marked contrast to his predecessor – to go personally on the attack against his partisan opponents:

Throughout the year, we have been treated to Obama-led attacks on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Congressman Joe Barton (for his odd apology to BP), John Boehner (for seeking the speakership – or was it something about an ant?) and Fox News (for everything). Suitable Democratic targets in some cases, perhaps, but not worth the time of a busy Commander in Chief.

There’s a reason why presidents have traditionally not done this sort of thing very much themselves, and it bodes ill for Obama’s ability to accept and accomodate himself to election results this fall that are likely to show a majority of voters rejecting his attacks and excuses.

Oh, Now, He’s Against Foreign Money

Michael Barone and Erick Erickson note the absurd spectacle of Barack Obama, whose 2008 campaign flouted the laws against foreign campaign contributions, suddenly becoming shocked by the concept.
UPDATE: Over at, longtime campaign finance reporter and crusader Brooks Jackson (I read his book “Honest Graft” in college) says there’s not much to the Obama attack anyway.

Science and its Enemies on the Left: An Update

Scientific integrity and scientific progress continue to take a beating from the Left.
In Part I of my series of essays on Science and its Enemies on the Left, I looked at the toll of junk science, quackery and anti-technological Luddism and the role of the social and political Left in promoting all three. In Part II, I looked at politicized science (both the misuse of science by politicians and the politicization of scientists themselves) and the temptations presented to scientists by their ability to gain power through science.
I’m overdue to finish Part III of the series, but in the meantime, there have been enough additional examples of my thesis that it’s worth taking an updated look at the myriad ways in which the agenda and interest groups of the political Left stand in the way of scientific integrity and scientific progress.

Continue reading Science and its Enemies on the Left: An Update

Going Under

To follow up on yesterday’s Alan Grayson item, Ace notes the latest poll showing Grayson down 7:

Grayson’s whole schtick, of course, is that toxic Democratic idea that the way to be “tough” is simply to be obnoxiously dishonest. “Republicans win that way,” they tell themselves, and “tough Democrats” fight fire with fire.
Meanwhile they make monsters of themselves. But that’s “tough.”

This is what I refer to as cargo-cult politics: the Left creates a caricature of the Right and then seeks to pattern itself after the caricature. And then wonders why people find this distasteful.
OK, Grayson is the kind of guy who thinks you’re a moron and like the Taliban if you, say, voted for George W. Bush. But George W. Bush carried Grayson’s district in 2004. You can sustain this sort of thing for years in a district like Pete Stark’s or Nancy Pelosi’s, but in a swing district in the South, it’s a perilous path.
UPDATE: James Richardson notes that the poll in question was taken before the “Taliban Dan” ad aired, but of course after years of Grayson’s similar antics.

Grayson Sinks Lower

Politics ain’t beanbag, and every election cycle we are treated to some ads that are vicious, some that are false or misleading, and some that are both. Neither party, nor any level of government or region of the country has a monopoly on these, although there are differences in style.
But in the more than two decades I’ve been following politics, I can’t recall seeing a campaign run two distinct ads that were as off-the-charts in both viciousness and dishonesty as the two ads run by Florida Democratic Congressman (and left-wing ‘netroots’ darling) Alan Grayson against his opponent Daniel Webster (yes, really), discussed by Caleb Howe here and here (Caleb also reviews some of Grayson’s many offenses against elementary decency, integrity and sanity over the past few years). Just when you think the rank fraudulence and chutzpah of the “draft dodger” ad can’t be topped, you watch the original clip from which the “Taliban Dan” ad is taken and you marvel that anybody could be quite this sleazy. But that’s Alan Grayson for you.
UPDATE: Erick looks further at Grayson’s background here.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Vote

The Senate today mustered only 56 votes – four short of the necessary 60 – to break a filibuster and bring to a vote a defense appropriations bill containing two highly controversial provisions: (1) a measure repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy (a Clinton-era policy) that permits gays to serve in the military only if they are not openly gay, and (2) the DREAM Act, which permits illegal aliens to earn citizenship either by military service or enrollment in college. Leaving aside Harry Reid (who voted against cloture for procedural reasons*), the opposing votes included all present Republicans as well as Arkansas’ two Democratic Senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor.
The DADT vote was the headliner, and the subject of much anguish among liberals/progressives and their Hollywood allies who see ending DADT as a key unfulfilled Obama campaign promise. But the fact is, the Democratic leadership was never serious about using this vote to overturn DADT. Let us count the ways.

Continue reading Don’t Ask, Don’t Vote

Who I Voted For In New York Today

Quick roundup. I voted around 7am this morning, and was the sixth voter at my polling station, and the first Republican. The bad news is that the new optical-scanner voting machines seem a real downgrade in ease, reliability and privacy from the old mechanical machines in use for so many decades in New York.
The sort of sad thing, but emblematic of the poor odds of the candidates I had to vote for, is that while I’ve been carefully following numerous races across the country, I was basically down to looking stuff up the night before the election on the races I actually voted in.
Senate (Gillibrand): David Malpass. The most conservative of the three candidates, had at last check a few million in the bank, so he should be able to meet the minimum standard of making voters aware he’s running. Malpass won’t win unless we’re dealing with a much larger GOP wave than anybody anticipates, but he’s a serious policy guy. Only thing that gave me pause was that Joe DioGuardi has the Conservative line, despite being more of a typical NY establishment Republican . This is a story for another day, but while the Conservative Party has its uses (see, Doug Hoffman), on balance I resent the coercive practice of giving a third party November ballot line to one of the participants in a primary, and think the presence of a separate Conservative Party – a thing that doesn’t really exist in any of the other 49 states – has retarded the process of reforming and reviving the NY GOP.
Senate (Schumer): Gary Berntsen. The ex-CIA spy is also a serious and impressive guy, albeit a sacrificial lamb of the highest order.
Governor: Carl Paladino. This is a protest vote; Rick Lazio is a loyal Republican and a reasonable guy with a well-thought out agenda (and also has the Conservative nomination), while Paladino is something of a bomb-thrower and only intermittently a Republican. But Lazio screwed over the state’s Republican voters by sitting out the winnable Gillibrand race (remember, his experience is as a Congressman) in favor of a doomed bid for governor, in which he’s getting crushed by Andrew Cuomo, down more than 30 points in the polls. A vote for Lazio is wasted anyway; may as well go with the deep-pocketed Paladino, who promises to make life difficult for Cuomo. Given the many other races on the ballot and the fact that Lazio’s no more likely to make a race of this, I’m not worried that a poor showing by Paladino will depress turnout.
House (NY-5): Liz Berney. Berney ran against Gary Ackerman in 2008, and is a known quantity. Her opponent, Dr. James Milano, is less so, although he does have – yet again – the Conservative Party endorsement, for reasons that are really no clearer than the DioGuardi endorsement. Apparently, Milano is a registered Democrat, having switched parties in the spring of 2009 (this according to a Berney mailer; I couldn’t find better information from Milano disputing this). I was also turned off by noticing that it’s hard to find a decent picture of Milano, the news feed on his website hasn’t been updated since July, and perhaps most damningly an article in the local paper on the race was unable to get a comment from Milano on his candidacy – all of which when added up suggest a guy who isn’t running the kind of operation needed to make himself available in case the voters turn on the 14-term incumbent, Gary Ackerman.

What’s At Stake In Delaware

Tomorrow, the voters in seven states and the District of Columbia go to the polls to conclude the primary election season. The most closely-watched race on the ballot will be the race between long-time at-large liberal Republican Congressman Mike Castle and Tea Party-backed conservative insurgent Christine O’Donnell for the Republican nomination for the open Senate seat previously vacated by Joe Biden. Because the election is a special election, the winner of the seat will be seated immediately (as with the Illinois Senate race) and serve until the general election in 2014.
There have been a long series of contested primaries in the GOP this year, albeit not all of which ended up getting resolved at the ballot box. Just in the Senate races we’ve had victories of one sort or another for the conservative insurgents in Florida, Pennsylvania, Utah, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, and Kentucky, victories for the moderate establishment candidate in Indiana, Arizona, California, Washington, and (likely on Tuesday) New Hampshire, victories for conservative establishment figures in Ohio and Missouri, and less clear-cut ideological battles in Connecticut, Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin (New York’s another story entirely). In only one state (Illinois) has a liberal Republican won a race against any sort of opposition, and prominent and experienced liberal Republicans have gotten crushed in Connecticut (Rob Simmons) and California (Tom Campbell). Notably, a few of the moderates who did fend off a conservative challenger (e.g., John McCain and Carly Fiorina) did so with the help of an endorsement by Sarah Palin, the lightning rod of this primary election season.
The Castle-O’Donnell race has become perhaps the most divisive primary of this cycle within the conservative movement, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment. There are a couple of important questions at stake that are worth considering, which really go to the heart of what kind of party the GOP should be; but it’s equally important to recall that we are compelled to face those questions only because of the particular weaknesses of these two candidates and the conditions in Delaware. The result is that there are good arguments on both sides of this one. As I’ll explain, I come out on the side of backing Castle, but the case for backing O’Donnell can’t be dismissed out of hand and deserves serious reflection.

Continue reading What’s At Stake In Delaware

Unorganized for America

That was then:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eights years from now, you will have to be engaged.

This is now:

The outfit that put upwards of 8 million volunteers on the street in 2008 – known as Organizing for America – is a ghost of its former self. Its staff has shrunk from 6,000 to 300, and its donors are depressed: receipts are a fraction of what they were in 2008. Virtually no one in politics believes it will turn many contests this fall. “There’s no chance that OFA is going to have the slightest impact on the midterms,” says Charlie Cook, who tracks congressional races.
…By the time they realized they needed more troops, says longtime consultant Joe Trippi, “their supporters had taken a vacation from politics.”

Continue reading Unorganized for America

Rave Reviews For American Taliban

So the reviews have begun to come in for Markos Moulitsas’ book “American Taliban,” which argues that American conservatives are just like the Taliban, and they’re…well, let me start with Jamelle Bouie’s review at the left-wing The American Prospect:

Given the subject matter and his own influence, Moulitsas is sure to find a large audience for American Taliban. This wouldn’t be a problem if the book were a careful comparison of populist nationalist movements, highlighting similarities, underscoring differences, and generally documenting points of congruence between the U.S. conservative movement and populist nationalist groups around the world. But it isn’t.

As Bouie notes, “Moulitsas elides glaring contradictions in his argument and routinely misrepresents his evidence,” and is completely lacking in perspective:

Now, it’s true that certain tendencies on the American right have analogues in fundamentalist Islam; for example, and as Moulitsas points out in his chapter on sex, right-wing conservatives share a hatred of pornography with fundamentalist Iranian authorities. Of course the similarities end there; conservatives boycott pornography, Iran punishes it with death.
But, this gets to the huge, glaring problem with American Taliban; ultimately, any similarities are vastly outweighed by incredibly important distinctions and vast differences of degree. I’m no fan of the right wing, but the only possible way it can be “indistinguishable” from the Taliban is if conservatives are stoning women for adultery, stalking elementary schools to throw acid in girls’ faces, and generally enforcing fundamentalist religious law with torture and wanton violence.

Bouie could have added that American feminists have also campaigned against pornography, which doesn’t make them the Taliban, either. Bouie’s conclusion:

Yes, progressives are depressed and despondent about the future, but that’s no reason for dishonesty and scaremongering, and it doesn’t excuse the obscenity of comparing our political opponents to killers and terrorists.

The whole thing is well worth reading. Kos’ sort of reductionism barely deserves the label “thinking”; it’s shtick, as Bouie observes: “Moulitsas seeks to classify right-wing conservatism as a species of fundamentalist extremism, for the purpose of spurring progressive action.” Matt Yglesias, a progressive blogging contemporary of Kos, reaches the same conclusion, and thinks it’s not even effective as shtick:

This stuff doesn’t win votes anyone [sic] because, after all, it’s a form of preaching to the choir. Which is fine-the choir needs some sermons. But there’s no real upside in lying to the choir. Political movements need to adapt to the actual situation, and that means having an accurate understanding of your foes. You need to see them as they actually are so that you know the right way to respond. Either underestimating or overestimating their level of viciousness and evil can lead to serious miscalculations. Which is just to say that getting this stuff right is more important than coming up with funny put-downs.

Yglesias also notes that “the jacket copy heavily features a misleading out-of-context quote from Rush Limbaugh,” and on Twitter he’s even blunter about Kos’ thesis:

This is false: “in their tactics and on the issues, our homegrown American Taliban are almost indistinguishable from the Afghan Taliban”

And mind you, this coming from a guy who has asserted that “Some day I will write a list of conservative writers who I respect. It will be a short list” and that “most liberals are not nearly condescending enough to conservatives.” But Kos’ shtick is a bridge too far even for Yglesias. Kevin Drum, who’s now at Mother Jones, likewise sniffs, “I haven’t read American Taliban and don’t plan to. I figure I already dislike the American right wing enough, so there’s little need to dump another load of fuel onto my own personal mental bonfire.” The Atlantic rounds up more negative reviews from the Left.
I will give Yglesias and Drum the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re genuinely put off by Kos’ tactics, and not merely jealous that his visibility and influence have eclipsed theirs (although Kos has come down in the world of late; he lost his TV gig on MSNBC and is apparently bombarding his website’s email subscribers with messages touting the book, while releasing it only in paperback and planning a fairly modest book tour). Either way, it’s clear that even fairly committed activists on the Left aren’t buying what Kos is selling.
Where Bouie, Yglesias and Drum miss the mark, however, is in drawing a parallel to Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism, to the point where I wonder if any of them read the book, or even made it all the way through the introduction. Bouie at least notes that “Goldberg sought to make a historical connection between American liberalism and European fascism for the purpose of ‘clearing the record,'” but then blathers that “books like Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism or Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny present a world where liberals are the embodiment of cruel statism.” Drum asks, “Did Liberal Fascism get any similarly incendiary reviews from mainstream conservatives writing in any of America’s premier mainstream conservative publications?” Yglesias refers to the “apocalyptic ‘my enemies are totalitarian madmen’ strain of Birch/Beck/Goldberg conservatism.”
I haven’t read Levin’s book and won’t get into the other parallels, because this does an awful disservice to Jonah and his excellent, serious and thoughtful book. Goldberg’s starting point, of course – as you’d know if you’d read his columns for the decade leading up to the book’s publication – was defensive, against the decades of effort by liberals to characterize Nazism as a movement of the right closely akin to American conservatism. Goldberg took great pains, over and over and over again in his book, to note the very real distinctions between, say, the Nazis and modern American progressives, and to explain that he’s not calling anybody a Nazi (although he does make a fairly compelling case that the Wilson Administration during World War I was perilously close to a European fascist state like Mussolini’s Italy). While Goldberg is harsh in dealing with some of the truly disreputable characters he chronicles, like Margaret Sanger and Woodrow Wilson, he treats many modern liberals not as evil people but as fundamentally well-meaning but misguided people who don’t even understand the intellectual history of their own movement and its common roots with those of European fascists. His use of the smiley-face on the cover is explained explicitly as showing how “nice” modern liberals are, or at least believe themselves sincerely to be. That said, Goldberg’s parallels, such as they are, are sufficiently unforced that they continue to be predictive. The book was written in 2007, before the rise of Barack Obama (who merits only two brief mentions in the book), yet it perfectly captures the strains of both liberal and fascist rhetoric and policy that have recurred through Obama’s tenure. The rhetorical tropes Goldberg details at length are particularly on display everywhere in Obama’s speeches – the invocations of a nonideological Third Way, the veneration of youth, the insistent demands for the Man of Action (“the time for talk is over,” Obama so loves to say). Ditto for policies and ideas, from substitution of politics for religion, to the coopting of business and labor into an unhealthy symbiosis with government, to the persistent efforts to use government hectoring to create a New Man. But the purpose of these parallels is not to defame the good intentions of supporters of liberal politics or diagnose them as demented perverts, as Kos does, but simply to illustrate that ideas have consequences and these particular ideas are dangerous.
The correcting-the-record part of this is Goldberg’s point that conservatives are forever told to do daily penance (and nothing else) for the bad parts of conservative intellectual or political history, while the progressive movement doesn’t even address its own history. And indeed, the historical treatments of Mussolini, Wilson, Hitler, Sanger and FDR are the best parts of the book (especially the explanations of the roots of European fascism in the thinking of American progressives), careful and detailed in their presentation of both the commonalities and the divergences. Color me doubtful that Kos’ book has any similar historical perspective, especially on where the Taliban’s ideas come from; that I can pretty well guess even without reading the book, from the way he talks about the book and the blurbs from people who purport to have read it. Here’s an excerpt from an email from Kos:

The values and tactics that make Jihadists so despicable are the same values and tactics embraced by our own homegrown fundamentalists — the American Taliban.
That’s why I wrote the book American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right.
In the book, I show how similar both the American Taliban and Islamic Jihadists are — from their fetishization of violence and guns, to their love of theocracy, to their hatred of women and gays, to their fear of scientific progress and education, to their weird hangups about sex, to their disdain for popular culture.

That’s right: not only does Kos draw a direct parallel, he argues that conservatives are objectionable for exactly the same reasons as the Taliban. Which is ignorance of recent history so vast it can’t begin to be described.
Or consider the blurbs, from calm and unbiased commentators like John Aravosis and Amanda Marcotte and noted historians like David Coverdale of Whitesnake, lauding among other things the book’s “outrage and profanity”:

“It isn’t possible to understand American politics now without understanding the worldview and arguments of Markos Moulitsas. If you still believe the beltway caricature of the squishy, compromising, conciliatory American left, American Taliban should disabuse you of that notion.”
-Rachel Maddow, The Rachel Maddow Show
“Moulitsas alerts us to a clear and present danger in America: radical zealots who disregard our Constitution and our freedoms and who disguise themselves as patriots.”
-Roger Ebert, film critic
“I can’t remember a time in my life when anti-intellectualism and intolerance-from America’s prejudice against evolutionary science to its reactionary condemnation of a scholarly African American president-has been more pervasive. The time has never been more ripe for a book such as this. American Taliban reminds us that fanaticism isn’t always an import.”
-Brett Gurewitz, Bad Religion
“A thorough compendium of right-wing hypocrisy and selective memory that is either hilarious or tragic, depending on your mood. And it’s all lovingly couched in outrage and profanity.”
-David Cross, I Drink for a Reason
“While not afraid to laugh at the American Taliban, Markos Moulitsas sees the culture warriors for the insidious, dangerous force they present to a free and democratic society.”
-Amanda Marcotte, Executive Editor,
“Markos writes with a conscience and armed with facts to let you know: no, you’re not crazy. What you suspected all along was true-America’s right wing lives on a myth of self-constructed lies about the Other, with a juvenile disregard for reality, and Obama’s presidency has further radicalized an already radical conservative movement.”
-Janeane Garofalo, comic and actor
“Markos Moulitsas vividly exposes how the radical right and many leaders in the Republican Party, contrary to their incessant claims, actually hate the cherished American values of freedom, justice, tolerance and diversity of thought and expression. With sparkling clarity, American Taliban sounds the alarm on the well-funded, highly-placed authoritarians in this country who work daily to strip away civil liberties and viciously malign gays, women and other groups, and shows why they are treacherous to American democracy. We better listen.”
-Michelangelo Signorile, The Michelangelo Signorile Show, Sirius XM Radio
“American Taliban makes it clear that in a blind taste test the only way you’d be able to tell the difference between the GOP and Taliban philosophies would be beard hair.”
-Sam Seder, author, F.U.B.A.R: America’s Right Wing Nightmare
“Markos Moulitsas exposes Limbaugh, Palin, Beck, O’Reilly, Boehner, Gingrich, the Teabaggers, and the Birthers as mullahs of a modern American Taliban hell-bent on imposing their narrow-minded political jihad on us all.”
-John Aravosis, editor,
“American Taliban shines a blinding light on the conservative right’s dark agenda. Anyone who genuinely cares about America should read this book.”
-David Coverdale, Whitesnake

Nothing in there is anything like Goldberg’s declaration, right up front, that

Now, I am not saying that all liberals are fascists. Nor am I saying that to believe in socialized medicine or smoking bans is evidence of crypto-Nazism. What I am mainly trying to do is to dismantle the granitelike assumption in our political culture that American conservatism is an offshoot or cousin of fascism. Rather, as I will try to show, many of the ideas and impulses that inform what we call liberalism come to us through an intellectual tradition that led directly to fascism. These ideas were embraced by fascism, and remain in important respects fascistic.

As Goldberg writes today of the parallels:

While I do not smear all of my political opponents as monsters (people who say I do this, again, have either not read the book, are too blinkered to understand it, or are lying), it seems pretty clear that’s exactly what Kos sets out to do.

Kos’ book is getting poor reviews from his own side because his thesis is ridiculous, his tone excessive, and his perspective warped. But don’t throw Jonah Goldberg in the same remainder bin, as none of those things is true of his book.

Et Tu, Harlem?

It’s debatable what’s the most loyally Democratic district in the country, but NY’s 15th District would have to be in the running. The district, centered in Harlem, went 87% for Al Gore in 2000, 90% for John Kerry in 2004, and 93% for Barack Obama in 2008, is rated D+41 by Charlie Cook, and in various formats has been represented in Congress since 1971 by arch-liberal Charlie Rangel, who took the seat when his predecessor, Adam Clayton Powell jr., was enveloped by a decade-long series of scandals and ultimately booted from office by the House Democratic caucus after 26 years in office.
But in 2010, with the now scandal-marred Rangel facing a primary challenge from Powell’s grandson, Adam Clayton Powell IV (who he defeated previously in 1994), the NY Daily News finds even the Democratic voters in NY-15 dispirited by their choices, in an article helpfully titled (in the print edition) “Pick Rangel or Powell for Congress? Yuck!”:

“Everybody wishes there were better options,” said Pax Williams, a 33-year-old party promoter who plans to vote for Rangel because “you don’t want to get anyone worse.”
Rangel faces a House trial on 13 ethics charges, including tax evasion, and, as the Daily News reported Thursday, Powell took thousands in campaign cash – which he is returning – from an ex-con strip-club king.
“You don’t know what else is coming out of the bag with either of them,” said 73-year-old Leo Mobley of central Harlem….
“This is the problem in Harlem. They haven’t developed a generation of young leadership,” said one high-profile Rangel supporter.

That’s your energized base, Democrats.
Of course, I should point out here that there is a Republican running even in NY-15 (the GOP has fielded candidates in a record 432 of the nation’s 435 districts, for which the RNC and NRCC deserve some credit), former NY Jet and now pastor Rev. Michel Faulkner. RedState’s Moe Lane talked to Rev. Faulkner back in June.

Turning The Page

I’d meant to work this into something larger on Obama’s speech last night, but it’s an interesting fact in its own right on how our politics have, in their natural course, mostly moved on from the Iraq War debate (for better and for worse): of the 77 Senators who voted to authorize the war back in October 2002, no more than 32 of them – 17 Republicans and 15 members of the Democratic caucus (i.e., including Lieberman) will still be in office come January (less if some fail to get re-elected, although Harry Reid’s the only one of the 32 in much hot water; of course, Hillary and Biden have moved on to higher positions). 14 of the 23 who voted against the war could be back, although three of those are currently embattled (Feingold, Murray, and Boxer). Any number of major figures on our national scene now, including Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, had yet to win statewide office at the time.
That’s reflective of a number of things, but most of all the changing of the guard as a lot of the Senate’s longest-standing veterans have died or retired and the rate of turnover has been accelerating with big Democratic gains in 2006 & 2008 and likely big Republican gains this year. The GOP will be getting a very fresh start – by January, we’ll have only 32 GOP Senators left who were elected before 2010 (and only 11 GOP Governors elected before 2010, including 2009-elected governors like Christie and McDonnell).

Hallowed Ground

I didn’t watch Saturday’s Glenn Beck-run rally in DC and don’t have that much to say about it, but the orgy of apoplexy flowing from the rally’s critics on the left has been hilarious. The most extreme example is Bill Press claiming that God should not be mentioned on the spot where Rev. Martin Luther King jr. spoke these words:

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Perhaps Press was thinking, in looking at the Lincoln Memorial of Lincoln himself, and the words of his celebrated Second Inaugural Address:

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Or maybe not.
Dave Weigel, meanwhile, gets it at least half right in the reactions to Beck & co. praising Dr. King’s vision of a colorblind America:

Every January and (to a lesser extent) August, conservatives write columns arguing that King believed that we’d reach racial transcendence when we judged “the content of character” over the color of skin. Liberals rebut that by pointing out that King was a man of the left who worked for social justice and racial uplift and opposed the Vietnam War, and was condemned by conservatives for all of this. Liberals have the facts on their side; conservatives have the fact that King has become a secular saint, honored not for all of his politics but for a few specific achievements. Schoolchildren don’t learn about the social democratic politics; they learn about him Having a Dream. So when Beck said he identified with MLK more than with the founding fathers, it was ironic; figuratively, he’s been carved in marble for decades.

Of course, it’s a dicey business to guess what Dr. King, like Lincoln or the elder Kennedy brothers, might have believed had he lived another decade or two, and seen the political realities that led the Great Society and its era to ruin and the nation rightward by 1980. Perhaps he would have drifted leftward, like Jesse Jackson; perhaps rightward, and come to be horrified by the politics of racial preferences and racial grievance. We can’t know; we can only know what he did with the time that was given to him.

Does Paul Krugman Understand Finance?

When it comes to the ‘framing’ of public discourse on entitlements, Paul Krugman is accustomed to writing columns that are more about issuing commands than making arguments; he has railed in the past even against President Obama for admitting that yes, we do have a problem paying for the explosive present and future growth of entitlements. But even for this genre of “there is no crisis” column, his latest is a head-scratcher:

Continue reading Does Paul Krugman Understand Finance?

Obama Chooses Sides In Favor of the Ground Zero Mosque

Last night, as part of a Ramadan celebration, President Obama waded into the controversy over the Cordoba Initiative mosque within sight of Ground Zero. In so doing, he unambiguously chose sides with those who see this deliberate provocation as a positive good.
It is unsurprising, given what we already know about him, that President Obama would decline to support using government power to block the mosque project, and would decline to support withholding the various government favors needed to build it (although he carefully avoided mention of the State Department’s employment of the mosque’s Malaysian imam) – but he could have at a minimum used the opportunity to denounce in no uncertain terms what broad majorities of the public in and out of New York recognize: the fact that whatever the law says, the project itself is deeply and intentionally offensive. Especially when the president feels a matter is beyond his formal power, this is what the presidential bully pulpit is for. He has certainly not been shy in the past about speaking forcefully to denounce matters as provincial as a dispute between a professor and local cops in Cambridge. Instead, Obama offered only a tepid nod that failed to suggest he personally saw anything wrong with the selection of the Ground Zero location for a mosque:

Continue reading Obama Chooses Sides In Favor of the Ground Zero Mosque

Ted Stevens Killed in Plane Crash

Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens has been confirmed killed in a small-plane crash in Alaska this morning. Stevens was 86. It’s ironic that Senator Stevens would meet his end in a plane crash; he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross in World War II and survived a 1978 plane crash that killed his first wife.
Stevens was a monumental figure in Alaska politics and the Alaska GOP, and had a long and fascinating life – I’d recommend taking a few minutes to peruse his biography on Wikipedia (for want of a better source, though the Anchorage Daily News will doubtless have a more comprehensive profile shortly) for samples of some of the now-uncontroversial parts of his life story, from delivering newspapers with news of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping to why he didn’t become a fighter pilot to his days as a cigar-chomping frontier prosecutor to his Incredible Hulk neckties. (For example – more on which here – Stevens was instrumental in overcoming then-President Eisenhower’s concern that Alaska statehood would leave Alaska vulnerable to Soviet invasion given its proximity to Russia). Stevens throughout his career was a proponent of a strong military. During World War II he flew C-46 and C-47 transports behind enemy lines over China, earning him decorations as well from the Nationalist Chinese government.
While at the end of his decades-long Senate career he became something of a poster boy for Senators who’d stayed in DC too long and grown too cozy with its big-spending, favor-dispensing ways – one of RedState’s most controversial editorials was when we advocated for him to be voted out of office in 2008, after which it was revealed that he’d been wrongfully convicted of improprieties by Justice Department misconduct – those later years and the various political and policy disagreements that inevitably surround long-serving Senators shouldn’t obscure the whole of the man’s life.


Harry Reid finally reads the health care bill, discovers that it’s bad for Nevada and pleads with HHS for relief. This would be hilarious if what the bill visits on the nation wasn’t so sad.
There are few people in politics more embarrassing to watch than Harry the Insult Comic Senator, a nasty little man who lashes out at better men, who famously and wrongly declared the Iraq War lost, who had to apologize for touting Barack Obama on the grounds of his lacking a “Negro dialect,” who never can see above bitter and petty partisanship. The fact that he’s now reduced to begging for exemption from the very legislation he championed is a fitting coda to Reid’s career.
UPDATE: Jim Geraghty takes a look at Reid’s and Sharron Angle’s campaign strategies, and mentions a few more Reid lowlights I had passed over, like his insistence that no illegal immigrants work in the construction industry in Nevada (granted, most of Nevada’s construction industry is unemployed these days).

The Prop 8 Decision: Having It Both Ways

Judge Vaughan Walker, the chief district judge of the US District Court for the Northern District of California, handed down his post-trial decision yesterday in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, holding that Proposition 8 – the referendum approved by California voters in 2008, amending the California Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman and thus deny recognition to same-sex “marriages” – violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution. In a larger sense, the lawsuit, seeking to overturn judicially a status quo that has existed for essentially all of human history and was only recently reaffirmed by the California electorate, is yet more proof that it’s not conservatives who are on the offensive in the ‘culture wars’. But even focusing on the judicial process, and setting to one side its reliance on the oxymoronic concept of “substantive due process,” Judge Walker’s decision is fundamentally flawed in three ways, two of which represent failures of reasoning and the third of which highlights the structural problem with substituting judicial “factfinding” for the collected judgment of a democratic electorate. Specifically:
(1) Judge Walker’s decision is internally, logically inconsistent in its treatment of the worth of cultural values, arguing that morality and tradition are not a valid basis for supporting the legal status of marriage, but at the same time finding a Constitutional violation from the fact that the same-sex alternative (domestic partnerships) lacks the social and cultural status that marriage has…and which it derives from its grounding in longstanding moral, cultural and religious traditions;
(2) Judge Walker’s decision ignores the compelling state interest in promoting childbearing and childrearing within the context of opposite-sex marriage, and the absence of such an interest in same-sex marriage, specifically ignoring the fact that heterosexual relationships produce many more children than homosexual relationships; and
(3) the whole idea of leaving core judgments about a society’s most central and longstanding values to a single judge rather than respect the collective wisdom of a diverse electorate is fundamentally anti-democratic.
Let’s review these one at a time.

Continue reading The Prop 8 Decision: Having It Both Ways

The Not-So Popular Party

Much of the behavior of Democratic Senate candidates can be explained by one simple fact: very few of them are going to get 50% of the vote this fall. Even the candidates who have a good chance to win are going to struggle to get to 50%. Let’s take a quick look at the RealClearPolitics polling averages for the 22 Senate races that RCP lists as being in play, or where there’s no average the last listed (generally Rasmussen) poll, just focusing on the Democratic candidate – as you will see, in only 4 of those 22 races is the Democrat polling 50/50 or better, and in only 7 of the 22 is the Democrat even polling above 43%:
CT-Blumenthal 53%
OR-Wyden 53%
WV-Manchin 51%
NY-Gillibrand 50%
These are the few popular Democrats. Wyden, Blumenthal and Manchin are all popular figures (an incumbent Senator, AG and Governor, respectively). The first two are solid favorites; Manchin could face a tough race if the GOP can tie him to the Obama Administration, which is deeply unpopular in West Virginia, but for now he’s in a good place. Gillibrand has suffered soft approval ratings but for now has little known opposition.
WA-Murray 47%
NV-Reid 46%
CA-Boxer 46%
Three incumbents in jeopardy (an incumbent polling below 50 is always considered in danger) and facing vigorous challenges, but all stand a fighting chance. Harry Reid, while he’s revived from being down below 40%, simply can’t crack 50% – neither can his son, running for governor – which is why his strategy is almost entirely built around the national media battering Sharron Angle and letting third-party candidates siphon off enough votes to let him win below 50 as he did in 1998.
CO-Bennet/Romanoff 43%
WI-Feingold 42%
MO-Carnahan 42%
KY-Conway 41%
PA-Sestak 41%
OH-Fisher 40%
Only Feingold and Bennet are incumbents here, and so a number of these races still have a lot of undecideds. (In Colorado, the Senate primary is something of a proxy war, with President Obama actively backing Bennet after failing to bribe Romanoff to drop out of the race, while former President Clinton is backing Romanoff). But again, voters don’t seem too enamored of any of them, which is why the Democrats will be running an almost entirely negative fall campaign focused on driving small numbers of voters from the GOP to third parties.
Below 40%
NH-Hodes 39%
IL-Giannoulias 38%
NC-Marshall 37%
IA-Conlin 37%
FL-Crist 37/36%, Meek 16%, Greene 17%
DE-Coons 36%
LA-Melancon 34%
AR-Lincoln 33%
IN-Ellsworth 30%
Not all of these races are uncompetitive – incumbent Richard Burr is listed at a weak 46% in North Carolina, Mark Kirk is even below Giannoulias in Illinois, and of course in Florida the establishment Democrats are abandoning their own candidates to line up behind the incumbent, nominally Republican governor (a man the DNC stood ready to demonize if McCain had chosen him as a running mate in 2008), Charlie Crist. But once again, the divide-and-conquer strategy is basically the only way they can play this hand.
If the Democrats manage to hold onto the Senate, it won’t be because the people of more than a tiny number of the states voting this November have actually given their performance a thumbs-up.

The BP Shakedown

If you want to see a rank example of the unhealthy symbiosis between Big Government and Big Business, consider this morning’s announcement by BP that “it will set up a $100 million charitable fund to support unemployed oil rig workers experiencing economic hardship due to the deepwater drilling moratorium imposed by the Obama administration.”
At first glance, you might say, this is a good thing: a penitent corporation doing charity to help people harmed, at least indirectly, by its actions. But let’s count the things wrong with this picture.
First, there is little doubt that BP is doing this, at least to some extent, due to explicit or implicit pressure from, or desire to buy off trouble from, the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats. It’s the invisible foot of a government with a known propensity to monkey in the marketplace – companies learn to act defensively to cater to political favor rather than focusing on being profitable businesses by serving their customers.
Second, if BP was solely bowing to political pressure by assisting people it’s harmed, that would be one thing. But what it’s doing here is assisting people the Democrats have harmed, by a moratorium on offshore drilling by companies other than BP. In other words, the Democrats have used the leverage of fear of government to get BP to pay to cover up the damage caused by their own policies.
Third, consider this dynamic in the context of the vastness of BP (the company’s size is the only reason it hasn’t been run out of business by the spill). Other oil companies are big, too, but not everyone in the industry is on the same scale as BP, and equally able to buy off an angry government or weather the storm of the moratorium. This entire process of shaking down companies for political favor is designed with large corporations in mind – if you’re a smaller business, you’re not worth shaking down (or can’t afford the extra burdens of unionized workforces and heavy regulatory obligations on top of paying off politicians) and can be left to whither on the vine as collateral damage of insane economic policy.
Fourth, OK, BP has helped the oil workers. What about other innocent parties? What about the retirees across Britain whose pensions are heavily funded by BP stock? What about consumers who are denied access to the oil? And even as to the workers – is it really a fair substitute to give working men charity instead of the opportunity and dignity of earning a living with their own hands?
Fifth, are we 100% certain that BP has adequate resources to pay everyone directly injured by the spill? Maybe we are, but one of the reasons to be skeptical of greenlighting a run-on-the-bank attitude towards wrongdoing corporations is that sometimes, in the stampede, there ends up not being enough money left for the people with the most legitimate claims (the long, sad story of asbestos litigation at times illustrated this).
We have seen this, over and over and over again under this Administration, in industry after industry: a combination of coercion and collusion that amounts to a protection racket run by Democratic politicians to grant favor on large, pliable corporations and their executives in exchange for money going where the Democrats want it – to Big Labor and other favored constituencies, to support for Democratic legislative priorities, to campaign cash and personal enrichment. It’s fundamentally corrupt, and it needs to end.

Who Do You Trust?

New annual poll from Gallup on who America’s most trusted institutions are – and it’s almost entirely bad news for the Left.
Topping the list? Five institutions consistently targeted and mistrusted by the Left: (1) the military (trusted by 76%), (2) small business (66%, the only other institution over 60), (3) the police, (4) church/organized religion, and (5) the medical system. The bottom? Congress (11% – “half of Americans now say they have ‘very little’ or no confidence in Congress, up from 38% in 2009 — and the highest for any institution since Gallup first asked this question in 1973” [i.e., when the Presidency was at the height of Watergate and the military at the end of Vietnam]), and near the bottom organized labor and TV news. The institution to take the biggest hit since last year’s poll? The presidency (down from 51% to 36% – gee, I wonder who’s responsible for that). The only institutions to improve by more than a point? The medical system and big business. Note that churches still poll far ahead of public schools (universities were mercifully exempted from the poll).
(Methodological note: this is a poll of all adults, and thus is likely to skew more to the left than a sample of registered or likely voters, as Neil Stevens noted yesterday in looking at Gallup’s switch from polling registered voters to adults on the generic Congressional ballot).
Liberals can take comfort that big business and HMOs are still broadly mistrusted and thus make for useful scapegoats, but the bottom line here is the public remains much more in tune with the conservative view of what institutions are most and least worthy of trust.
Lesson for the Right? Well, all institutions are human and necessarily flawed both by their humanity and by the dynamics of any institution, particularly large ones. But the Right is on solid ground supporting the institutions to which public remains broadly willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
But as always, the GOP in particular should remember not to be the party of big business, but rather the party of free markets. That means sometimes defending big business against unreasonable attacks, but it also means remembering what the public instinctively knows and what economic theory predicts: large businesses are necessarily self-interested, and their interests are not always the same as the pro-free-market position. Indeed, much of what needs to be done in Washington over the next few years is not just saving businesses large and small from the predations of government, but specifically disentangling the unhealthy rent-seeking relationships between and among big government, big business and big labor.

Swallowing The Rule

Randy Barnett looks at the radicalism of the legal theory invoked to defend Obamacare. Barnett admits that he himself adheres to a particularly narrow view of the scope of federal powers and particularly broad view of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, but as he points out, even if you don’t buy his vision of the Constitution, the counter-argument would all but eliminate the existing limits on Congress’ enumerated powers. Key excerpt:

[W]e are all looking at the law as it currently exists and observing that the Supreme Court has never upheld the use of the commerce power to mandate that everyone engage in economic activity. All it has ever done is regulate or prohibit those who choose to engage in economic activity. As such there is no existing authority for extending the Commerce Clause this far.
This is an entirely conventional legal argument….[T]he claim that this power is unprecedented is demonstrably true. If the commerce power had ever been used like this before, these lawprofs would have been able to produce an example….
[Y]ou want to know another claim that is unprecedented? The claim that Congress may require any person in the US to do anything it deems to be in the public interest or pay a fine or penalty to the IRS. I do not know who first came up with this theory, but whoever it was was pushing the envelope of federal power beyond anywhere it had ever gone. The Tax power has never been used to impose a mandate on the American people and the Supreme Court has never recognized such a power.
So I will make this prediction: If five justice vote to uphold the individual mandate, they won’t use the Tax power theory because (a) its implications are just too radical and (b) there is zero public support for such a constitutional proposition.

Read the whole thing.

Deficits Are A Symptom. The Problem Is Spending.

Do deficits matter?
The Obama Administration has been in something of a quandary lately as to whether to primarily emphasize its plans to spend more taxpayer money as “stimulus” or to paint itself as fighting against deficits. The former has the advantage of looking like the White House is doing – or trying against GOP opposition to do – something about the economy and its still-listless rates of growth and job recovery; the latter has the advantage of allaying voter fears that the Democrats have been doing too much and digging us into a fiscal hole, as well as offering at least the possibility of bipartisanship or faux bipartisanship that helps (whether Republicans accept or reject Obama’s offers) blur the lines between the parties on deficits and spending. Remember that the one thing Obama has sought from Day One of his stimulus strategy, and has largely failed at, is to avoid presenting a clear contrast between the two parties on spending and the size of government, that being an argument he cannot win.
With a deficit commission working on proposals that will be delivered after the fall election, some liberal pundits/activists like Ezra Klein of the Washington Post and Matthew Yglesias of ThinkProgress are trying to keep both options open by arguing that conservatives are somehow hypocritical for complaining about massive deficits under Obama and the Democratic Congress while promoting tax cuts to help with the lack of economic growth. But read their work and notice, as with Obama, what’s missing: they talk only about deficits, not about spending – you will search Klein’s column in vain for any indication that anyone should care how obese government gets, as long as it’s feasting on current tax revenues instead of on deficit financing. And naturally, when and if Obama tries to do something about the deficit, he too will view it mainly as a revenue problem, not a problem with spending and the size of government. Indeed, history shows that even Beltway Republicans have tended to fall into the trap of assuming that the problem is mainly one of raising revenue, or at least that any deal to fix the deficit can only attract Democratic support if it includes Democrats’ beloved tax hikes.
This is going about the question all wrong. Would you rather have a federal government that spends 15 cents of every dollar earned in this country, while taxing 12 and making up the difference by issuing debt – or a federal government that takes in and spends 30 cents of every dollar? I’d much prefer the former. The Democrats don’t want to have that conversation at all.
Either way the spending is financed, the amount spent by government is a portion of the economy that cannot produce meaningful growth. Yes, wise government can play a role in a better growth environment, and yes, at times the government produces a little growth on its own, e.g., government scientists invent things that can help the economy grow. But by and large, a dollar invested in the public sector is a dollar that will never bear more than a dollar in fruit, and next year the government comes looking for another dollar, while a dollar left in the private sector can grow and be used later in either private or public hands. (In Biblical terms, the dollar in the public sector is like the servant who buried his master’s money in the back yard) All of the growth we take for granted as producing increasing wealth over time comes from the portion of the economy that is not consumed by government. So, using our oversimplified example, which obviously excludes the state and local public sector, you have one economy in which 70 cents of every dollar goes back to the private sector to grow, and one in which 85 cents does. Which economy do you think will have more money after a couple of generations of this? Even at a paltry private-sector growth rate of 2% per year, the first economy has produced $1.59 at the end of three years for every dollar, and the second has produced $2.27. As I said, this is a vast oversimplification, but there’s simply no way for the first economy to grow faster unless you believe – contrary to the most fundamental tenets of economics and history – that the public sector can produce economic growth at a rate comparable to the private sector.
Moreover, within reason, running a modest deficit can make sense, for reasons somewhat analogous to why a corporation issues bonds as well as stock to raise capital, or why even well-off families (especially under the present tax code) may take out a mortgage: sometimes, debt is cost-effective. As long as it is a safe bet to repay its debts, the US federal government can borrow funds more cheaply than any other entity on earth, and while debt requires us to pay interest, which means mandated spending, if the money not taxed is growing in the private sector at a faster rate than the interest rate paid by the government, then deficit spending makes sense for the same reason why you might buy stocks instead of paying down your mortgage – the rate of return is better. Also, the federal government should never run a surplus, since if the government is collecting, say, 20% in taxes and spending 18%, it’s the 20% figure that represents the bite taken out of the private sector. So, the target for revenue should always aim for a little below spending.
But the fact that deficits can make economic sense under the right conditions does not mean that all deficits do – the bigger the debt, the more interest is paid on it (thus, more spending), and the higher rates must be paid (because too-large debt makes bond markets worry about credit risk); and the higher proportion of government spending that’s financed by deficits, the worse are your odds that the money left in private hands will grow faster than the interest rate. At some point, deficit financing becomes a very bad bet. And of course, there are situations where the government may need to run a surplus if it needs to use the difference to pay down enough debt to get back to its usual position of running a manageable deficit, a strategy used in the past after the federal government took on excessive debts in a short stretch to fight wars.
So, why are conservatives up in arms now over deficits? Two reasons. One – which the Democrats seem determined to ignore – is that public concern about deficits is often linked to concern about spending and the size of government. Huge deficits can be a major symptom of overspending. But they’re the symptom, not the disease. I have a chart below the fold showing federal revenue, spending, deficits, debt and interest as a percentage of GDP, as well as deficits and interest as a percentage of spending (the Def% and Int % columns) and partisan control of the White House, House and Senate from 1947 through 2011.
Until the 2006 elections, we hadn’t been over spending 21% of GDP since the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress, and hadn’t been over spending 23.5% of GDP in the postwar period. But the first year of the new Democratic Congress took us to 20.7%, then 24.7%, with spending projected to crack 25% for 2010 and 2011 for the first time, as the deficit – never above 6% before, below 4% since 1993 and often below 2% during the era of GOP control of Congress – soars to 9.9% in 2009 and projected 10.6% in 2010. This is simply more spending than the economy can bear, and the deficit is a symptom of that problem.
And two, we’re in a situation now where the proportion of deficit spending is itself out of hand. Check the Def% column in the chart – in fiscal years 2009 and (projected) 2010, we’re paying for over 40% of government spending by issuing debt, while it had topped out at 18.1% during the years the GOP controlled Congress and 25.5% as the postwar high. It’s not at all unreasonable to be unconcerned when you’re borrowing 10% or 15% of your budget – when you’re borrowing 40%, you’re living beyond your means. And anybody who thinks you can fix that by collecting a quarter of GDP in federal taxes is insane.
Spending has to come down. That’s the only way to fix the deficit problem and the growth problem.

Continue reading Deficits Are A Symptom. The Problem Is Spending.

Not In Charge

President Obama should fire General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, for a highly impolitic interview Gen. McChrystal gave to Rolling Stone magazine (of all places) mocking the Vice President and the U.S. Ambassador in Afghanistan, among others, and making evident his disdain for the Administration’s civilian management of the war effort. Obama should fire him – but he’s painted himself into a corner in which doing so would be damaging to him politically and to the nation’s war effort. Let’s review why.
When Barack Obama came into office, he had an Afghanistan problem. Obama had won crucial credibility with the anti-war Left, and thus the Democratic presidential nomination, by opposing (at times) the Iraq War. At the same time, he marketed himself as being serious about national security by touting his support for the war in Afghanistan. Coming into office, he needed to reassure the military, the Afghan government and other U.S. allies, and the existing domestic supporters of the Afghan war (many of whom were Republicans unenthused about supporting any Obama initiative) that he was really serious. Complicating matters, the Democrats had spent the prior several years building a narrative in which the Bush Administration had sinned by not listening to criticism from the brass, and in which military men like Gen. Eric Shinseki (now Secretary of Veterans Affairs) were all but sainted for publicly splitting with the Bush Administration’s war management. Obama, having little credibility of his own on national security matters, could scarcely hope to survive a public battle with his own military leadership.
Obama got off to a rough start. First of all, he came to office with no executive experience, no national security experience (in the Senate he’d never bothered holding hearings on the subcommittee he chaired overseeing Afghanistan) and no military service record; his Vice President, while schooled in foreign affairs, was likewise a career legislator with no military service record, ditto his Secretary of State. He ended up with yet another legislator running the CIA after his first choice was seen by the Left as too tied to the intelligence community. To balance this team out (Presidents always lack something and need balance from their advisers, but Obama lacked more than most), he had to lean heavily on holdovers: he kept Bush’s Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, and gave wide latitude to General David Petraeus, architect of the Iraq War surge that Obama, Biden and Clinton had opposed with varying levels of scorn. He also picked a military man (Gen. James Jones) as his National Security Advisor, although that has worked out poorly.
Then, as I detailed back in September, Obama backed off his original promises for more troops in Afghanistan and sacked the commander there, General David McKiernan, in May 2009 after McKiernan asked for more troops. McKiernan was replaced with General Stanley McChrystal, a blunt-spoken counterinsurgency specialist and ally of General Petraeus who had something of a track record – known to those around him – of speaking out of turn.
McChrystal quickly lived up to that reputation, with speeches and an assessment of the Afghan situation (leaked to the public) that increased the public heat on Obama to come up with more troops for the mission. McChrystal’s actions at the time tiptoed up to the line of undermining the all-important chain of command, but they were also critical to moving the public and the President in support of the war effort. The President eventually gave in, delivering a substantial troop surge, albeit one with a good deal fewer forces than McKiernan or McChrystal had asked for and with a bunch of promises to his own supporters about withdrawal timetables.
Now, months later, McChrystal has plowed over that line, and done so for no such obviously good purposes, and with plenty of notice about what the article would look like. Military men in a theater of war are prone to strong opinions, and it’s hard to say that Vice President Biden and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, among others, haven’t earned Gen. McChrystal’s contempt. But doing so in public is insubordination, plain and simple, and completely inconsistent with our tradition of a chain of command and civilian control of the military. A military man who wants to open both barrels in public against the political leadership has a time-honored way to do that: resign his commission and enter politics. As Harry Truman understood when he fired Douglas MacArthur – then a national hero – at great political cost, a president who doesn’t show the generals who is boss is no longer running anything. That’s bad for civilian-military relations and bad for the president’s and the nation’s credibility, as subordinates learn they can get away with more and allies and enemies wonder who they should listen to. While it speaks well of Gen. McChrystal that the Afghan government is publicly backing him, a president who lets foreign governments, even key allies, have any say in picking his own military officers has lost face he can’t recover.
So, to preserve his own credibility and authority and secure the chain of command, Obama must fire General McChrystal. But doing so isn’t so easy. As Dan Foster notes, the conclusion of the prior dust-up over troop strength showed that much of the public’s trust in Obama was based on the credibility of McChrystal’s recommendations. The champions of Gen. Shinseki will look – rightly – like contemptible hypocrites for sacking a distinguished commander for saying what he thinks. The troops in the field, always prone to regard civilian meddling as foolhardy, may regard the firing of a blunt commander – barely a year after the last commander was sacked after disagreeing with the White House – as a sign that the civilian leadership can’t take some hurt feelings. Obama is also simultaneously cruising for a divisive showdown over ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a change that is sure to be opposed in at least some corners of the military. More significantly, in the short run, McChrystal’s experience and expertise may be hard to replace overnight.
And worst of all for Obama, a credible declare-victory-and-begin-to-draw-down scenario, as was attained by the success of the surge in Iraq by mid-2008, is not on the horizon:

Underlying everything is a far bigger problem. Obama’s strategy of shifting the military’s focus – and 30,000 troops – from Iraq to Afghanistan hasn’t yet yielded a major breakthrough.
The disaster in the Gulf has obscured a steadily increasing drumbeat of bad news and ill omens on Afghanistan. After mixed results in the campaign to re-take Marja, the Pentagon was forced to delay a critical summer offensive in Kandahar, the cradle of the Afghan Taliban insurgency. Earlier this year simmering tensions between the administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai broke into the open with U.S. officials sharply criticizing Karzai on issues ranging from corruption and nepotism to the fitness of the country’s fighting forces to electoral reform – set against the backdrop of a resurgent Taliban.
That lack of tangible success seems to be splitting official Washington, slowly but inexorably, into hawks and doves camps, with Gates bearing the flag for those who favor a relatively open-ended large-scale commitment of troops with Vice President Joe Biden and others pushing for a far more scaled down approach and Obama himself somewhere in the middle.
People close to Obama say the president recognizes the crisis isn’t just about any one general, but recalibrating policy after a delay of the summer offensive in Kandahar and harmonizing a fractious team of military and civilian advisers.

Whether Obama chooses to start abandoning the war effort or again to face down calls from his own base to do so, he will need the credible backing of trusted military leaders – and shoving out the architect of the current plan (who may well respond by issuing blunter critiques from the outside if he’s pushed out) and bringing in a third commander in Afghanistan in 14 months is no way to win confidence from the public, the military or our allies.
These are tough decisions, and precisely why the presidency is not suited for on-the-job training for people who have never run anything before, or for politicians like President Obama who have built up no basis for trusting them on critical issues of national security. Obama has been walking a very narrow tightrope on Afghanistan, supported largely by the generals. He may be about to fall off.

Primary Colors

Ben Domenech looks at the possibility that President Obama could face a primary challenge, possibly from Hillary Clinton, in 2012. As Moe Lane notes, Obama’s people are busy reworking the primary system so as to make a repeat of 2008 less likely. Historically, presidents who get re-elected have a unified party, while those who face non-frivolous primary challenges (Bush in 1992, Carter in 1980, Ford in 1976, LBJ in 1968) lose. The last president to get re-elected despite a serious rift in his own party was Truman in 1948.
Obviously, whether Obama faces a primary challenger depends in largest part on his perceived strength in mid-late 2011, which we can’t predict now. Ben focuses on some key issues, like where gay fundraising mogul Tim Gill is going to put his money. My guess is that while Hillary may yet have a renewed appeal to centrist voters within and without the party (odd as it remains to think of her as a centrist, but the contrast with Obama has done wonders in that regard) based on the contrast she can offer less in ideology than in experience and perceived competence, she’s not likely to mount a challenge unless and until someone on the left (which is openly disgruntled at Obama for discarding some of his most utopian campaign themes and promises) goes first, as Eugene McCarthy did in 1968, encouraging Robert F. Kennedy to enter the race. That would allow Hillary to avoid a straight right-left battle (which the centrist will generally lose, especially when Obama is guaranteed 90+ % of the African-American vote under any conceivable circumstance) as well as avoiding the disloyalty issues that would arise if she threw the first stone at him.

Piggy Bank

Duncan Currie at National Review notes the fiscal mischief that the since-defeated Vitter Amendment was intended to preclude:

Democrats are seeking to increase taxes on oil companies as part of their vaunted “tax extenders” legislation. The new revenue would flow into the federal government’s Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which was created following the 1989 Exxon Valdez crash. But the trust fund is not a “lock-box,” and Democrats are effectively double-counting the revenue as (1) a source of money for the Gulf cleanup effort and (2) an offset for separate spending provisions in the tax bill. This makes the deficit impact of the legislation appear significantly smaller than it actually is.

Vitter wanted to bar the federal government from raiding the new spill-cleanup fund for other purposes, but Senate Democrats voted down his amendment. The same theme repeats withn the $20 billion that British Petroleum would have given directly to individuals and companies damaged by the Gulf oil spill, but which BP – colluding, under pressure, with the Obama Aadministration – instead handed over to the Obama White House without any safeguards to prevent it from being paid out for other purposes:

[A] government-administered fund more or less guarantees a more politicized payment process. The escrow administrator will be chosen by the White House, and as such would be influenced by the Administration’s political goals. Those goals would include payments to those harmed by the Administration’s own six-month deep water drilling ban. That reckless policy will soon put thousands of Gulf Coast residents out of work, but the White House knows that BP isn’t liable under current law for those claims. The escrow account is an attempt to tap BP’s funds by other means to pay the costs of Mr. Obama’s own policy blunder.
Every $1 spent to pay for damages caused by the moratorium is also $1 less available for the oil-spill victims for which this money was intended. And that’s before other interest groups popular with Democrats, such as the plaintiffs bar, plead their cases to the escrow fund’s King Solomon.

This has been a common theme throughout this Administration: when there are pots of money to be handled – even, as in BP’s case, money the company concedes should legitimately be paid out to people damaged by its actions – Obama’s people want that pot under their control to hand out to those who find favor with the government. Former Obama car czar Steve Rattner is the first Obama Administration official to be sanctioned by the federal government for his involvement in trading official favors for a piece of the action, and he likely won’t be the last. If you take as an article of faith that money changing hands must pass through the approval of a government functionary, you are necessarily encouraging the further corruption of government and business alike.

None of the Above

Excellent profile of Alvin Greene’s Senate candidacy in South Carolina. Given the demographics of the South Carolina Democratic primary electorate, I suspect the racial angle (i.e., that black voters could tell just from their names that Vic Rawl was white and Alvin Greene was black) is probably the Occam’s Razor explanation for how he won. Interesting that the national media’s paid a lot of attention to Greene without mentioning that it actually is a milestone for the party of John C. Calhoun and Strom Thurmond (back in the says when Strom was a segregationist) to nominate an African-American for the Senate for the first time since Reconstruction.
Yes, Greene is a ridiculous Senate candidate, and a less-than-appealing storyline given the obscenity charge and what appears to have been less than honorable discharges from the Army and Air Force. But it would nonetheless behoove Jim DeMint to debate Greene and treat him with the respect afforded to any opponent, and the media to hold off a bit on making fun of him. Greene’s the epitiome of an ordinary citizen nominated by his fellow citizens, and while he seems pretty ignorant of even basic civics, that didn’t prevent him from serving in the Armed Forces; plenty of men have died for this country knowing no more of its governance than Alvin Greene. That doesn’t mean anybody should vote for him, but a little common decency and respect for the power and dignity of ordinary Americans would go a long way in this season of popular discontents.
(By the way, I very much doubt the one outlier poll purporting to show Rawl within striking distance of DeMint. Yes, Republican incumbents face an electorate that’s not that happy with them either, but this is South Carolina, and DeMint has given voters no reason to ultimately desert him).

But The Media Was So Nice To Bush!1!1!

There’s probably nobody on the web more in love with really, really dumb arguments than Media Matters and Eric Boehlert, and Matt Welch absolutely destroys their contention that the LA Times – which in some alternate universe MMFA thinks suffers from right-wing bias for employing one conservative columnist in a sea of left-wing reportage, the delightful Andrew Malcolm – would never, ever hire a columnist so disrespectful of a Republican president. (Patterico has some fun with one of Boehlert’s related claims). Welch does this, by the way, without even scratching the surface of the venom directed at President Bush by other columnists at the LAT or elsewhere.

Worse Than Smear

The really damaging thing about he-said-she-said allegations in politics, especially in the weeks close to an election, is that long experience makes voters hesitant to ever totally discount the allegation. Hence, my awarding in years past of the Bedfellow Awards for particularly late-breaking hits.
We’ve had a doozy recently in the South Carolina Governor’s race, where conservative Nikki Haley is looking to carry on the reformist, anti-establishment legacy of Mark Sanford, without the baggage of Sanford’s messy extramarital affair. Haley has the endorsement of Jenny Sanford, and promoting her candidacy has long been a project of Erick Erickson at RedState, as part of Erick’s broader promotion of a slate of candidates who are trying to break the GOP away from the spending excesses and related scandals that doomed the party in 2006. Haley recently surged into first place in the race for the June 8 GOP primary (there’s a June 22 runoff if no candidate clears, I believe, 50%) upon receiving the coveted endorsement of Sarah Palin (Palin’s endorsement was also vital to surges in the polls by Rand Paul in Kentucky and Carly Fiorina in California).
South Carolina, however, is one of a handful of states whose politics are most notoriously vicious at the retail level (Louisiana, Illinois, and New Jersey are others), and lo and behold, Haley’s campaign has been hit by a sensational attack: former Haley staffer and blog gadfly Will Folks claims to have had an unspecified “inappropriate physical relationship” with the married Haley.
The left-blogs and the national media immediately ran with this story; it seems that local press in South Carolina, being more familiar with Folks, has kept a little more arms length from him, seeing this as potentially more like the guy who claims to have had a gay affair with Barack Obama. But the more we see about Folks and the more we hear from him, the less credibile he seems and the more holes appear in his story. (Speculation appears to be that Folks is bitter at Jenny Sanford, who he blames for getting him fired from speechwriting gigs in both the Sanford Administration and the Haley campaign, and/or that he’s on the payroll of a rival camp).
Ben Domenech has the best roundup, including a creepy you-have-to-see-to-believe video mock interview produced last year by Folks in which a cartoon version of Folks, who has a rap sheet for domestic violence, repeatedly refers to a desire to hit the cartoon version of Haley in the face. But make sure to follow a bunch of Ben’s links to Ace, who is all over this story.
Combined with the nasty history of stalkerish to the point of criminal behavior aimed by Democrats at Palin and her family, including the latest news that writer Joe McGinnis has moved in next door to her after failing at a $60,000 bid to buy dinner with her, and you can see why this looks like the same old m.o. of character assassination.

“History Happened”

Julian Sanchez actually has a perceptive column on Rand Paul and the limits of libertarian theory (he also has some wise words for liberals/progressives, who regard the civil rights movement less as a cause than an excuse for across-the-board bulldozing of private rights), which perhaps inadvertently underscores the distinction between conservatives and libertarians that I discussed here: conservatism may embrace many of the same principles as libertarianism, but ultimately it is formed by the real world, by tradition and experience. The problem I’ve had with Ron Paul on a whole number of fronts – aside from his shady association with conspiracy theorists, racists and foreign policy crackpots of varying stripes – is his devotion to theory at the expense of realities of various kinds. His son has made some real efforts to avoid the worst aspects of Paul-ism, and there’s a good case to be made (as I did for years with his father in the House) that one guy like that can do a good deal of good in the Senate, plus of course there’s the usual array of other reasons to discount the criticisms of him (such as the pervasive misquoting of his remarks and the fact that there is no practical chance that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is going to come up for a vote again), but at the end of the day, Paul does have to come to grips with the fact that his principles can’t be applied in a vaccuum.
I mostly sat on my hands during that primary – I wasn’t willing to go in for any son of Ron Paul, but his opponent seemed too tethered to the problematic status quo in Washington. In any event, either of them was always going to be preferable to yet another Democrat. But if you’re looking for candidates who can contribute to the future direction of the GOP, I think we can safely leave Rand Paul out of the conversation.